Friday, September 24, 2010

$#*! I Saw On TV Last Night

While I was anxiously awaiting the season premiere of Fringe last night, N. happened to notice "$#*! My Dad Says" in the TV guide that hovered before our eyes.

What better way to kill a half an hour, which would otherwise seem like an eternity as I counted the nanoseconds between 8:30 and 9:00? When the fate of Olivia Dunham, trapped in a a bizarro universe, facing such threats as brainwashing, a partner she doesn't have in her own universe, who will probably become a super-villian like Darkman because of a time travel accident that left his face horribly mutated, and her mother who is dead in her own world? How will she survive? Will she become bizarro Olivia???

Anyway, so I watched "Bleep My Dad Says," as they called it on TV last night.

I knew right then, before the show even started, that things weren't going well.

They said bleep.

They didn't even say "shiz" or "stuff" or, really, anything other than "bleep" which just sounds so...


The premise is pretty simple. Kid in his mid-20's loses his job and has to move in with Dad. Dad's an old curmudgeon and doesn't make this easy. Though it sounds mind-bogglingly one dimensional, it is. Not that many a fine show wasn't based on a stupid premise. Take "Seinfeld," for example. Sadly, this is no "Seinfeld."

William Shatner didn't come close to saving it. I love him to death. He brings charm, wit and flair to almost everything he touches.

There were a couple laughs. Shatner successfully delivers a few of the watered-down raunchy truisms of the sort we have loved from the twitter feed that started it all. But watered down they were.

The edgiest things got was when the son (whose name I can't even remember) was taking too long to clean up the kitchen, and dad says, "How can you still be cleaning? We just had dinner, we didn't accidentally kill a hooker." That was kind of funny.

Compare that to this scene from Family Guy, more than a decade ago. Stewie is sitting on an actual hooker's lap and says, "Tell me the truth. Is there any tread left at all, or is it like throwing a hot dog down a hallway?"

Now that is disgusting, shocking, and hilarious. And technically not in violation of Federal broadcast laws.

The only hope for this show is that it becomes a new Married with Children. If you have one-dimensional characters, boring stories, and no obvious direction to go that hasn't been well traveled by Three's Company, then you can still make it work by walking right up to the FCC line, bending over, and farting onto the other side.

There's a place for raunchy humor in our TV culture.

There's no place for raunchy humor with a G-rated filter.

This show has to get nasty or get lost.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hoarding & The Human Tragedy of Eviction


I arrived home to Columbia Heights from work yesterday to a remarkable scene. The sidewalks in front of my house, indeed, up and down the block, were piled high with boxes, furniture, and all manner of things. Cleary, someone had been put out of their home. Or had the entire block been put out? If my entire neighborhood had been siezed through eminent domain, I had missed the notice.

My neighbor a few doors down had lost her job and had been evicted. She is a Venezuelan woman who had moved here more than two decades ago, and her passion was to collect things that may seem like basics of life to people in the United States, but were priceless to people from her native country. Before she became unemployed, she would periodically fill a shipping container with the objects she collected, send them to Venezuela on a boat, and meet the cargo there, to distribute it to people there who could use it.

TBD said "It's unclear how long she had been keeping the items she said she intended to donate, or whether she had ever sent anything." TBD apparently didn't talk to her for very long. I remember seeing the sidewalk storage container in front of her house a couple years ago, and though I didn't know its purpose at the time, another neighbor of mine confirmed that she had indeed been doing this periodically for a long time.

It is hard to express the sadness that I felt in looking around at this scene. My neighbor had apparently lost her job about a year ago, and couldn't afford to go again. I was told by another neighbor that she had been working as a housekeeper since, but it wasn't enough.

To be sure, she could have made different decisions. I thought about all the different things that could have been. Yes, she was clearly a hoarder. If she had just started selling some of these things, maybe she could have paid the bills for a bit longer. But a middle-aged Venezuelan woman with limited English probably didn't think well heck I'll just start up an ebay company.

DSC_0007But, at the same time, society failed her. The U.S. Marshalls, whose job is to perform these evictions, did not need to handle this like any other situation. This woman has lived there for more than a decade. They did their job, and apparently, their job is to remove the contents of a home and put it on the sidewalk without any consideration for the situation or the consequences.

Nobody knew what was in her home until its contents were expelled onto the street.

Someone could have decided let's just take a deep breath. Let's give her another month. Let's see if we can connect her with someone who can maybe help her turn all this stuff into enough cash to keep going for a little longer. Maybe there's an answer that can prevent this tragedy and even use the very items that make up this spectacle to prevent it.

It's sad that the letter of our laws are more important than human beings.

Jim Graham was there late into the evening, and arranged for police to stay on the scene overnight to ward off looters. He and his staff arranged for a couple pickup trucks to come and transport her most important possessions to a safe place. I give him credit for at responding and offering some help to a woman in a most desperate situation.

Update from TBD

TBD says "Diaz tells ABC 7 News she was also evicted from her apartment on Rock Creek Church Road one year ago. She abandoned her belongings that were set out from that residence. Diaz says she accumulated all of her belongings that were pulled from her home in Northwest within the past year. She says she's been evicted many times before, but the latest is "the most historic." Diaz hasn't worked full-time in 2.5 years, but has done odd jobs. She is currently three months behind on her rent."

This does not at all match with what I have been told by my neighbors who have lived on the street for far longer than I. I don't know what the truth is, and I have a very hard time believing that anyone could accumulate this much stuff in a year. Whatever actually happened it doesn't change my belief that this shouldn't have happened.

Update 2 - There Is Good In The World!

First NBC reports what I previously had been told - that she'd been in her home here for 15 years.

But they conclude with this bit of heartwarming news:

"While NBC4 was reporting on the story Wednesday morning, numerous calls were made to the newsroom with offers of help, including an offer from JK Moving and Storage in Sterling, Va. The company said it would pack up and store her belongings for a month for free, and then move them to a new home -- wherever that may be."


Monday, September 20, 2010

Got Hitched

Technically, we were already. We got married last month (8/9/10) for numerological reasons. But we had planned a ceremony and had reserved the garden at the Old Stone House in Georgetown on Saturday for this purpose. A good friend who is an ordained minister (in the Church of Universal Life) performed the ceremony in front of a few onlookers and our photographer. I'll shill him once we see the pictures, but he was great to work with and I think they will be awesome.

We created quite a specatacle, with N. in her gown and I in my tuxedo as we traipsed around Georgetown having pictures taken in various settings. It was as crowded as it gets on a nice Saturday afternoon, and I the experience was incredible. Dozens of people we didn't know congratulated us, it felt very much like being a celebrity. Even as the sidewalks were packed, not a single person interruped a picture. In fact, in one sitaution, where the photagrapher was actually trying to take a picture of us as people walked by using a long exposure, we had to literally ask people to keep going about their business, because nobody would walk in front of us! And the photographer was all the way on the other side of the street, too. It was really something.

The one little bit of sour grapes goes to an apartment building or hotel (not sure which) on K street under the Whitehurst Freeway. We tried to take a picture against the wall of their entry area. We were shut down not once, but twice by a manager or doorman. Not a big deal, really, as we had lots of other great shots, but to what end? We could take a hundred pictures of their building from the sidewalk if we wanted to, and they couldn't do a thing as long as we were two steps away on the public land. Rules like this are silly. It's amazing that anyone would be so dedicated to the pointless rules of their job that they would kick a bride and groom out of the space in front of their bulding.

Well, here you go, paranoid georgetown apartment building: the wall we tried to use, as captured by Google Street View in all it's glory! Moouhahahahahaha...

It was a wonderful day and the ceremony was perfect. I love you N.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fenty's Alter Egos

In the wake of Vincent Gray's victory over Adrian Fenty, we are starting to see blackberries show up on Craig's List for sale, and people are wondering who's going to stay and who's going to go.

The name that comes to most people's mind is Michelle Rhee, the hard-nosed, controversial school chancellor who was the centerpiece of Fenty's reform efforts. Few expect she'll be sticking around, since she pretty much said that as far as Fenty's concerned, she's made out of glue. But anything's possible.

In order to better understand the personalities, I've delved into their alter-egos in the hopes that we might reach some clarity on how these people might fit in with a Gray administration... or not.

Michelle Rhee: Ozzy Osbourne

Michelle Rhee has been about as divisive as a meat cleaver. Some people have lauded her as the second coming of Christ and the savior of a dysfunctional school system. Others think that she's the devil incarnate, and that her reforms are coming at too high a cost. We're not here to debate her effectiveness. We're here to figure out who she really is.

The Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne, fits the bill perfectly. He takes no prisoners, eats his young, and is batshit crazy. The trademark of his career, like Rhee, has been "reform," though in his case, that reform had more to do with the Betty Ford Clinic than the public school institution. Both have been sued and both have legions of ardent fans and rabid foes. Both have been the subject of movies, though I think that "The Decline Of Western Civiliation Part II: The Metal Years" will have a more enduring legacy than "Waiting for Superman."

The verdict for the Princess of Darkness? Leaving on the first crazy train. There's no way Gray would keep around someone who bites the head off bats.

Cathy Lanier: Sarah Connor

Police Chief Cathy Lanier has done pretty well for herself. Of course, that's not too hard when you replace someone like Charles Ramsey, best known for beating up and hog-tying about 400 hippies having a sit-in at Pershing Park.

Lanier's tenure has been marked by some high-profile, if publicity-stunt-like efforts to fight crime, such as All Hands On Deck, and the Trinidad checkpoints, since found unconstitutional. But through it all there's been a dramatic drop in crime. Never mind that it precisely matches the national trend.

Sarah Connor, similarly, tirelessley fights for the future of mankind, even as that effort often requires some rather unfortunate violations of due process and legality to get the job done. After all, the she knows the future that awaits us: the world will be taken over by machines. The lives of a lot of innocent people along the way are of little consequence, since without her heroic efforts, they'll all be dead in a few years anyway.

The verdict: stays on to fight the terminators. The phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range will become the standard issue service weapon in 2012.

Gabe Klein: Curly

"What is this you're doing?" "The elevator dance." "Elevator dance?" "Yeah, there's no steps to it." -- from The Three Stooges, "Soup to Nuts", 1930

The DDOT director's name is probably known to far fewer than the previous two, but he's made a reputation for himself nonetheless. A tireless advocate of cycling and alternative transit, he's been responsible for the bike-laneification of DC, pushed forward on the streetcar project, brought us bike sharing, and also installed a lot of speed bumps. In many ways, he took a conventional city and turned it into something of a 3-ring circus. There are all kinds of crazy parking meter machines everywhere, a new bicycle traffic light that is, er, interesting, and something called a barnes dance in chinatown that lets people walk willy-nilly through a busy intersection, to name a few.

Progress? Well, it's different, anyway. Gabe's nothing if not willing to give stuff a shot. Like Curly, he's got all kinds of wacky ideas, and unbridled enthusiasm. To the outsider, it may look like he doesn't know what he's doing, but still, things seem to work out for him. Mostly.

The verdict? Stays, though may need to buy a new suit. Gray's been a transit advocate, and even though Gabe might look like a hipster on his way to an interactive art show opening, he's not doing an awful job. He's also been smart enough to keep out of the fray, so there's no real public sentiment either for or against him.

And with that, our final contestant.

Peter Nickles: Gollum

You know, this one was just too easy. Little love will be lost on Fenty's much loathed Attorney General. The man, in a role that supposedly represents an oversight of the DC government, has blatantly polticized this role, literally campaigning for the mayor. He's defended corruption, and he's stonewalled Federal courts.

Like Gollum, it's not clear where he lives: is it in a cave in Chinatown, or down near the Great Falls in the Mines of Moria? He always seems to pop up when he's not wanted, and when you really need him, he promises to help you, but ends up screwing you and trying to steal your ring.

Verdict: Will grab a pile of gold, run, cackling, away from DC, and trip and fall into a volcanic vent on his way out.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Electageddon: Can You Eat Sausage?

Vincent Gray, and alter ego Vincent Price. Courtesy of DCist.

Adrian Fenty, and alter egos Frank Capone, and Zorro. I am not
making any kind of statement with these pictures, just sayin'.

The day is upon us, when we must choose our fate. A referendum on our future awaits us at the polls. Few people are voting with unbridled enthusiasm. Indeed, few can forgive the mayor for his many missteps, but well, "the devil you know." People fear that Gray is symoblic of a return to times past.

Fenty: Hero to some, Gangster to others

We like the direction the city has come in recent times, but we don't like the way that Fenty has gotten us there. Some feel that when things reach a breaking point, the ends justify the means. Should we be willing to look the other way, ignore what's behind the curtain, as long as things seem to be on the right track? Should we live with vigilante rule, as long as the girl seems to be getting saved?

So some are choosing to "hold their noses" and vote for Fenty, a phrase that comes up often enough that I'm now starting to understand the stink in my neighborhood. I thought it was the hobos.

Gray: Gray

Others are choosing to wander into a "Gray" area and put their faith in a man who, while by all accounts is intelligent, honest, and inclusive, may not have the cajones to get things done the way Fenty has. We think we like him, but he's a bit of a mystery. He's intriguing yet unknown.

How to resolve this impossible dilemma?

You must ask yourself how much you worry about that soylent green we've been eating. Sure, it tastes pretty good, and it keeps us all going, but what the hell is that stuff made of? Should we be asking more questions, or, is ignorance bliss? Are there terrible truths behind the curtain? Or, is our fear of the unknown, life without soylent green, greater than our fear of the ingredients?

It is an age old question of what cost success. Can we stand by while things that make us cringe keep happening, because we like the results? Or, will we reject that paradigm and demand to see the inside of the sausage factory - knowing full well that we might not be able to stomach sausage any more once we see it being made.

That is the vote before you. Choose your meal. But whatever you choose, go vote, because regardless of what Rush (the band, not the blowhard) might have you believe, if you choose not to decide, you have NOT made a choice: you've let someone else make it for you.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Repent Ye, For The Apocalypse Is Upon Us

I know I talk a lot about the apocalypse, but this time, I can say without hyperbole, it is absolutely upon us.

Just look at this last week. And technically, it's still summer! Nothing is supposed to happen in the summer.

Psychopath terrorizes Discovery channel.

It all began with the now infamous event that, fortunately, ended with loss of life to none but the lunatic.

Sharks moving in to Potomac

The river that, along with the Anacostia, girdles the nation's Capitol, used to be a safe haven for leisure boating activities and, occasionally, swimming. No more. Not one, but two eight-foot monsters were caught here this week. Sharks have moved in, and they're here for two reasons: to chew gum and kick ass. And it looks like they're fresh out of gum.

Mass Suicides

Like a bad M. Night Shyamalan movie, people are wantonly killing themselves this week. Well, at least one person tried to, two if you count squirrel boy from the first story. But the timing is highly suspect.

Innocent Public Transit Outposts Attacked

A bus shelter in Adams Morgan was destroyed, absolutely, for no reason at all. Yet neither MPD nor WMATA can confirm that the incident happened. Strange things are afoot, indeed.

Trees Trimmed On My Street

Signs were posted for "no parking" on my block, and yesterday morning, city workers were conclusively spotted trimming the trees. This is stunning for any number of reasons. First, the chances of someone doing anything when "no parking" signs are posted is about zero, be it moving, road work, or anything else. In fact, the only thing that usually happens when "no parking" signs are posted, is that I get a parking ticket.

This time, people actually came and trimmed the trees. I have not yet figured out what kind of conspiracy is behind this bizarre action, but it is certainly a cover for something insidious. I will report back as details emerge.

And that is not all.

A fire broke out at the Philips Collection. It's September and still over 90 degrees. Adrian Fenty seems poised to lose the election despite having more money than God. A hurricane is at this very moment destroying the outer banks. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the Gulf of Mexico, another oil rig catches fire.


I blame the squirrels. Of course, the squirrels.

There's no question, either things can only get better after this week, or the world is about to end. Either way, your problems are over, so everyone have a great holiday weekend!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Discovery Channel's Nutjob Finally Loses It

I am LOOKING for solutions so that we may not NEED electricity and all that stuff."

- James Jay Lee, 1/29/08

What you cannot see in this picture is the actual Discovery Channel building.

Hey, everyone! I just got back from a lovely weekend in Maine with my wife, and not even halfway through my first day back, there's a lunatic threatening to blow up a building two blocks from my office.

Being the voyeuristic type, I ran out to check it out, and took a few decidedly unexciting pictures, such as the one at right. I swear, it was mayhem: I heard nothing but sirens for two straight hours. The sound, apparently, of every single emergency vehicle in MoCo being scrambled to Ellsworth & Georgia Avenue. I got yelled at by one cop for being in the wrong place, but otherwise, nothing happened in my brief time at the scene.

The web, being what it is today, had already done all the sleuthing work necessary to give a detailed history of the individual involved here. God help me if my name ever makes the news in the wrong way. He goes way back with Discovery.

Silver Spring Singular, a blog about the town not called Silver Springs, has lots on this guy.

In March 2008, he threw around thousands of dollars at passersby, causing mayhem! That sounds awesome, actually. I wish I had been there.

A month before, he had organized a protest of Discovery, but by "organized" what he really did was pay homeless people to protest. I kinda remember this.

He tries to recruit people to his lunatic fringe on weird chat groups. He blames Discovery Channel for most of the world's ills:

"I disagree. Discovery is hugely responsible for what is happening and their ineffective programming must be protested and dealt with. The time for pussy-footing around the subject is done. It's time to protest them until they start changing their stupid message. They ARE glorifying the damned fishermen who are overfishing the planet and I would think that you would see that for yourself instead of defending them."

-- James Jay Lee, 1/24/08

As of now, he has posted a rather insane list of demands that mostly center on Discovery Channel programming. This list is on his web site here as well - but too much traffic to get it from the source as of this posting.

Demand number 4 is among my favorite:

"Broadcast this message until the pollution in the planet is reversed and the human population goes down!"

This could be a very long hostage crisis....

It's worth reading, though, and the list itself is a very compelling argument against too much sugar in children's diets.

In all seriousness, I hope everything works out OK, and that this is not one of the last photographs ever taken of the Discover Channel Building. As of right now, there are hostages being held. I am crossing my fingers that this ends peacefully.

PICT0085Another lame photograph taken during the crisis that might as well have been taken on a random Sunday morning, for all the activity you can make out. At this point I went back to work, realizing I would learn a lot more online than a block from the Discovery Channel.

Update: Suspect Shot, Hostages Safe!

At 4:50 PM, police shot the suspect. All hostages are safe, it's over! Good work MoCo police. This ended much better than Die Hard.