Thursday, December 30, 2004

What the devil is a blog?

I don't know how these online blog things are supposed to go. I never even heard of one until this year. Even then, it was a celebrity who had created that one, so I could at least begin to understand the appeal of reading it. But my own?

I'm not sure if they're like message boards or like a website or like a journal or like a poetry forum. How detailed and how personal do I go? Do I write about my day to day life? Am I supposed to write every day? Every week? Do I have to try and make it interesting for others to read? Entertaining? Or should I pretend that it's only for me and type what I'd type if it were my personal diary? Things like "Well, I finally killed Tom today. With a shovel. I really should've laid down plastic first."

If not, what is appropriate or entertaining for those who might stumble upon it? Certainly not junk like "I finally bought that treadmill, like it or not. It took forever to put it together, and when I finally got it running, it was so unpleasant, I may never use it again." Right?

I know a guy here at work who is madly in love with Jaclyn. It's really embarrassing. He likes to make lists, and earlier in the year, he decided to list what Jaclyn wore every day for a month, how she wore her hair, and how beautiful she was on a scale from 1 to 10. It produced entries such as:
"July 2nd; tight black sleeveless shirt with high neck, khaki capris; combed straight down; 9.4."
Now, whether I'm unhealthily obsessed with Jac--er, the person who did this is obsessed with Jaclyn or not, is this something appropriate to post as a blog? Wouldn't that make my, uh, friend look like a raving psycho?

And maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe blogs are something for children or teenagers, writing each day and sharing with their friends. Like they used to say, "If it's too loud, you're too old," maybe if I don't get it, I'm too old.

I really don't know, though. I like the idea of this online musings page. Maybe I'll try different things on different days. Maybe I'll try nothing.

Perhaps I should read a book instead.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

What 2004 song are you?

I didn't find 2004 to be that great a musical year. Around December 31st every year, I make a list of the top 10 movies and top 10 songs of the past twelve months. Usually, it's an easy list to make (and this year's movies are no problem), but not this year. This year, I'm at a loss to think of five songs I loved and/or remember enough to type up.

Maybe I listened to too much Classic Rock and not enough of the new stuff. I was reminded of this by one of those stupid little time wasters where you answer a couple of questions and are told something misleadingly general about yourself. In this case, it was, "What 2004 Hit Song Are You?"

It just takes a minute, and you regret it for the rest of your life!

After hitting Submit, they (and I know not who they are) claim that "This Love" by Maroon 5 is my song, or the song that most fits me, or the song that they oughtta play at my funeral, or something (I don't know, I wasn't paying attention) . Since I don't know the song (though the band name is definitely familiar), I'm wondering what other people got chosen, and how many songs are possible.

I don't subscribe to these silly things that can guess who your soulmate should be or how old you'll be when you die by answering a bunch of random questions like "What is your favourite colour?" "What month makes you happiest?" and "When did you last crap the bed?" But I've got to change my life (for the better), so I'm willing to take this on faith. As soon as I get home, I will track down this song, give it a listen, and see if it really does fit me. If it does, maybe I can be a bit more believing, a bit more positive about popular music, and optimistic in the new year.

If not, I'll probably take a nap.

Rish Outfield

Monday, December 20, 2004

To Secret Santa or not to Secret Santa

Since growing old and bitter, Christmas hasn't been as big a deal for me as it used to be. As a child, wow, it was probably the second greatest day of the year (after Halloween, which CONTINUES to be the greatest day of the year), and later on, during my religious phase, it was pretty sweet to me then.

Even now that the storm clouds have come, I'm still pretty Christmas-centric. My favourite book is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. I love It's A Wonderful Life. I still pick up gifts for my family and come home every December (even though it can sometimes be torturous to visit the Outfield clan), and I haven't stolen presents from the Whos in ages.

Here at the office, they do a Secret Santa extravaganza every year. To those of you who worship Shabiba, the jackal-headed goddess of apathy and Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome, the Secret Santa ritual is where you draw a name at random and then must give an anonymous gift to that person. Here in the office, it's five gifts over five days, starting on Monday, then a major gift on Friday (wherein you get to reveal yourself to your victim--er, giftee). And that sounds like fun, right?

Well, just like asking a girl to the prom in my high school escalated to a Sisyphusian ordeal to outdo the competition (I could write a treatise on that sometime soon), here at work, everyone struggles to be the most creative, the most outlandish, the most complicated, the most sneaky. And more so than last year.

Two years ago, I participated, trying to be cute and clever. Last year, I participated again, trying hard to trump myself. But this year . . . ? I just wasn't sure.

And I wasn't alone. A lot of folks at the office were hesitant to participate in Secret Santa this time around. Some of them plead poverty, some of them claim they don't have the time, some of them have a funny notion that Jews shouldn't participate in Christmas activities. But mostly, it's just too hard.

One complaint I heard time and time again this year was that people weren't going to do Secret Santa because, in the past, they had given much better than they got. Yeah, I guess I can see the disappointment with that, but mine was an upbringing with the crazy notion that Christmas was about giving, not getting.

Hell of a lot of balm for those who received a half bag of Doritos, bloodstained coathangers, or a Cutthroat Island lunchbox, though, isn't it?

Well, I thought a lot about it in the days leading up to the sign-up deadline, and as much toil, expense, and mental anguish as it requires, I felt that the regret I'd feel if I DIDN'T do it would outweigh the inconvenience of doing it. And since I have neither girlfriend nor drug habit to keep me occupied this year, I chose to rise to the Secret Santa ritual challenge. I drew a name and concocted a scheme to pretend my giftee was a secret agent and his special mission was to rescue Santa Claus, who had been kidnaped by terrorists. Each day another mission briefing would come and each day was more difficult. When all the dust settled, I was glad I had elected to participate.

And yes, I am the world's greatest Secret Santa.

After Hanukkah Harry, that is.

Rish Outfield

Thursday, December 16, 2004

children's names

First things first: I have no children.

The way things are going, I'm never going to.

But pretty much everyone else does. It's the law where I come from, and apparently, it's built into the psyche and genetic structure of women everywhere.

But what also seems to be built into people is the need to name their children something odd, something distinctive, something no other kid in their grade will be named (of course there are exceptions; I've heard people say that a friend of theirs named their kid Teleste or Anferny or Obsidia, and they just HAVE to name their spawn that too).

I understand that you want your child to be unique, but what you don't seem to be considering is that he or she has to live the next eighteen to ninety years with that moniker.

This is on my mind, I suppose, because Julia Roberts got the world all abuzz by naming her twins Hazel and Phinneus Moder a week or so back. It got me thinking about all the awful names people come up with to be special or offbeat, from the Zappa family to the Phoenix family to people I know.

My best pal named his daughter after a month of the year, and his son after a character in his favourite book. Weird, but it could have been weirder.

I often tell anyone who will listen the drunken tale of my sister deciding what to name her baby. One day, she told me, "I like the name Travis. I think I'll name it Travis if it's a boy. If it's a girl, what do you think of Travisty?" No joke.

Of course, she didn't name the child travesty, but she did purposely misspell the name she did choose, just in case there was another kid with the same name somewhere down the line. We'll get used to it, in time.

My pal's brother, a big Star Wars fan, decided, in 1999 or 2000, to name his baby son Anakin, after the cute little Aryan boy in The Phantom Menace. From what I've heard, he was not even close to alone.

Still, how will it be growing up, for that youth to be named after the burned, cybernetic man who tortured his own daughter, cut off his own son's hand, wiped out the best and brightest the galaxy had to offer, and ruined Return of the Jedi by smirking while being digitally inserted into the ending? It's not even a surprise that Anakin goes bad; why didn't he think about the name before he gave it to his kid?

At least he didn't name the kid Smeagol.

Oh, and what is this insanity of naming your children all with the same letter? It's enough to make Dr. Seuss vomit. Or worse, giving them rhyming names, like Brian and Ryan, Carol and Cheryl, Jan and Dan and Spam? That's only cute in a fairy tale or a preadolescent girl's head, isn't it?

My pal Merrill did the first letter thing, and when he broke the vicious cycle by naming his third child with a different letter than the first two, he was chided for it by his--surely insane--in-laws. Shouldn't he have been complimented? Lauded?

I can guess what you're thinking: How is this any of your business, Rish? How does it hurt you? They're my children, I can do what I want.

And you're right, I guess, it is none of my concern. So name your kid Apple Paltrow if you want to. Name your kid Talullah Belle Willis. Name your kid Pilot Detektor Lee. Name your kid Ezekial Vengeance Is Mine Sayeth The Lord And I Will Repay Bowman for all I care. It's just something I've noticed lately. I guess people get tired of mutilating their bodies with tattoos and decide to start in on their children.

I am not wholly innocent in this, though. If I had my way, I'd name my daughters after a Harrison Ford character and Spider-man's dead girlfriend.

But I should suffer for my thoughtlessness and conceit, not my child. Right?

Rish Outfield

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Filmmaker Protocol

Over the years, I've been able to talk to several filmmakers about their work. They range from the extremely famous (Kevin Smith, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi), the semi-famous (Jay Roach, Irvin Kershner, John Landis) to the relatively obscure (Jim Wynorski, Fred Dekker, Rodman Flender). Sometimes they're more than happy to talk about their films (Guillermo Del Toro), and other times, they're less friendly (Michael Crichton). And that's fine.

Not long ago, I went to a special screening of Blade: Trinity in Hollywood, and its director, David Goyer, was there to talk about the movie. Because I was a fan of the first two films in the series, I was excited and eager to talk to Goyer about them (he wrote all three). Unfortunately, Blade: Trinity was as bad as the other two were good. It failed on many levels, especially since it had the potential to be great, or at least a worthy sequel. And most of the blame must fall on its director. After all, it said, "A Film By David S. Goyer" as the credits rolled.

So, when it came time to talk to him, I was at a loss as to what to say. I heard one fan complain, and Goyer took it in stride, but I still chose to take the high road. I told him I liked the humour of the secondary characters, since Blade himself is always so sober and humourless. And I quickly changed the subject to Batman Begins, then went my way. Maybe I shouldn't have handled it that way, but that's just me.

I remember the first time it happened. The night Armageddon opened, I cajoled a bunch of people into going to it with me, and Michael Bay (the director) was there, hanging around afterward, asking people what they thought. In retrospect, I imagine he was actually trolling for groupies, looking for hot young things to get into his limo with him, but maybe not, maybe he really wanted to hear people's opinions.

Well, I really disliked Armageddon. I thought it had mediocre performances, a weak script, and absolutely terrible directing (it was as if a nearsighted epileptic had shot it hand held while having a sneezing fit). So here was its director, the man most responsible, shaking hands, accepting blowjobs, and getting feedback from his fans. What should I say? If he asks me what I thought, do I lie? Do I omit certain details of what I thought and focus on the positive?

In the end, I just told him I liked The Rock and looked forward to his next flick (which turned out to be Pearl Harbor, a film that I was one of maybe two fans worldwide). I got a bit of a razzing for not being honest or true to my principles, and maybe I deserved it. Nobody likes a hypocrite.

That wasn't my only opportunity to criticize filmmakers. Joss Whedon (the writer of Alien: Resurrection) and I spoke a bit about the fourth Alien film, but I was hesitant to ask him what went wrong and how awful I thought it was. So, I figured, why not talk about something he's proud of, like the "Buffy" show or Toy Story? As an artist myself (I've been told not to refer to myself as an aspiring artist, or an aspiring anything . . . you either are or you aren't, even if you're not paid for it), I'm sensitive to criticism, and being told that something you worked hard on sucks can't be easy, no matter how thick a skin you've developed.

Maybe I overcompensate because of that. When I ran into Barry Pepper, I talked to him about Saving Private Ryan, even though the first flick I thought of was Battlefield: Earth. I didn't lie and tell Jeannot Szwarc that Jaws 2 was better than Jaws 1. Hell, I even saw George Lucas once, at the American Cinematheque. Though I didn't talk to him, what might have come out of my mouth if the subject of the Prequels had come up?

But, what is the protocol? What if you honestly didn't like the movie you just saw with them or happens to be the subject of conversation? What do you do if the maker of your least favourite flick asks you if liked it? What if he just asks if you've seen it?

I don't know that there's an answer to this question. Regardless of what The Refreshments sang, what's good for you may not necessarily be what's good for me. Some fans might not have a problem telling Janusz Kaminski that Lost Souls sucked monkeyballs, or tell Roland Emmerich that you didn't go to the movies for a year after seeing his Godzilla. I suppose some artists/creators will be receptive to negative comments and some will be offended. Some might even lose their temper.

With me, I guess I'll keep doing it the way I have been. I'll focus on the positive and try not to mention what I didn't like unless they ask. I'll try to remember that all artists have off days (or off projects). Everybody misses the mark once in a while. It's like that old Spanish saying, "Aun Spielberg hizo Hook."

Rish Outfield