Yearly Archives: 2013

Fear me

Fear me. I want everyone to tremble in my presence. Or even just at the idea of my presence, of being in my presence. And my presents, I want the very mention of my presents to instill a type of almost primeval terror in the souls of those unfortunate enough to receive a package in the mail with my address on the return label. “A present? For me?”


Fear me! Because just because my presents are wrapped up all shiny with a red bow, it makes them no less horrifying. They’re actually even more horrifying. Because there is no return address. That was all a lie, I want you to think there’s a return address. And the wrapping, you’ll get excited, “Oh, how nice!” and when you open it up, well, I shudder for anybody unlucky enough to be standing in the same room as you while you unwrap the box, your facial expression alone, the very embodiment of panic, it’ll be like second-hand fear, you, stone-cold scared, everyone looking at you, just slightly less scared, but still that’s really, really scared, much more afraid than they’ve ever been before.

Seriously, be scared of me. Like, you see me coming down the street, sure, I’m waving at you, maybe I’m smiling, maybe not, it doesn’t matter. Be alarmed. Don’t say I never warned you. “Oh, but Rob looks so nice, very friendly. What’s that, he’s extending his hand to me to say hello? Well I don’t see what could be so scary about …” BZZT! Trick handshake. It’s from one of those prank stores, the kind that give you a very mild shock when you touch the metal sensor. And sure, once in a while you’ll shake a little too hard, and I’ll get a little bit of that residual shock energy, but I can take it.

Don’t even think about high-fives. Don’t even think about going to the bathroom. One time when I was in college, my roommate Ben pulled a prank on me when I was taking a shower, the old filling-up-a-pitcher-full-of-ice-cold-water-and-dumping-it-on-your-roommate-when-he’s-taking-a-hot-shower trick.

Classic abrupt temperature change. Shocking? Yes. Infuriating? Oh my God, I’m seriously still pretty pissed off about it. But scary? Not very scary at all. Fear me. That’s all I could think about as I stood there in the stall simultaneously shivering and scalding myself with water that took about a minute and a half to change temperatures after I turned the shower knob.

Fear me. That’s all I could think about as I got up at four in the morning, not really certain when Ben had to get up for swimming practice. All I knew is that it was early, much earlier than I ever woke up. I’d always get out of bed in the morning and there he’d be, already like three quarters of the way done with his day, so much free time to sit around, planning his next prank, what would it be this time, almost-boiling water? Or water even colder than before? Like ice, like an unflavored Slurpee?

It was the most boring hour and a half of my life, me crouched in the shower, the bathroom door closed, the lights off. “Fear me,” I had to repeat to myself, over and over again, because I was actually getting a little spooked myself, sitting there in the damp, dark, I thought I heard something. I did hear something. It was Ben’s alarm clock.

The bedroom door opened. Ben walked into the bathroom and I waited just a heartbeat to make sure he didn’t see me right away, and then I pounced, “Fear me!” I screamed as I exploded out of the shower, “Ahhh!” Ben stumbled backward out of the bathroom and tripped on his computer desk.

If we’re at work, and you look over at me from way across the other side of the room, and you’re thinking to yourself, “Is Rob staring at me? That’s weird, I can’t tell if he’s staring at me or not.” I am staring at you. And it’s not weird. It’s frightening. Tell everyone how scared you were. Nobody’s going to want to get locked in my impenetrable gaze. That’s how it starts, with a simple look, and then your stuck, everything’s set in motion. You won’t know when, but …

Boo! Fear me!

The Wolf of Wall Street, and other random thoughts about the movies

For a while I was going to the movies every week. I’d pick out a new release and see it either Thursday night at midnight or early Friday morning. And then I’d come back and write up a review. This lasted for a while, all the way from last March up until I saw Gravity. But then I missed a week and I just never got back in that groove again, which is too bad, for me anyway, because going to the movies is great.


I’ve seen a few since Gravity, but I didn’t want to get right back into the reviewing. For example, I saw Twelve Years a Slave, but way after the initial release, and so I didn’t want to show up much later with my two cents. There was also this rule that I made up where I wasn’t allowed to read other reviews before I had seen the movie, and I found that, if I wasn’t doing it immediately, of course I’d wind up reading a review, or even just hearing other people talking about it.

Like Anchorman 2, I haven’t seen it yet, and I haven’t even read any reviews. But I heard that it was terrible. Which, I have no idea what my original reaction would have been had I just seen it before talking to anybody else. Maybe I would have laughed. But now, I’ll never know, I’ll eventually see it, either just before they pull it from the theaters or, more likely, sometime much later after it’s out on TV or Netflix, and I’ll go into it thinking, eh, not that funny.

I don’t know why I had to go into my movie watching lull now, the one time of the year where there are like twenty-five huge movies released every week. When I was doing the weekly reviews, I’d have back-to-back weeks where all of the options were terrible movies. Like Burt Wonderstone, or The Host, or The Internship. And now it’s like, even if I wanted to play catch up, there’s no way I’d be able to watch everything. American Hustle is out, there’s a new Cohen brothers movie.

Tonight I saw The Wolf of Wall Street, which came out on Christmas, so yeah, it’s too late for a review. But I wanted to write something about it, and so this is what I’ve got so far, half a blog post about movies in general. But this movie, and here’s the spoiler warning, lots of spoilers, I’m basically going to be writing here as if everyone’s already seen it, so if you’re at all interested in not having someone who has seen the movie talk to you about what happened in the movie, stop now.

The whole movie, it’s about this real life guy who makes a ton of money as a con man on Wall Street. I was sitting there in the theater, I was thinking, OK, there’s not much going on here. Leo is making tons of money and living like a rich prick king. There’s nothing really being said, it’s just the main character acting like an asshole, leading up and up and up and finally he gets in trouble and goes to jail.

I was thinking, it’s boring, there’s not much of a story. And then there’s the ending. He’s out of jail and he’s giving a speech at one of these “How to get rich” seminars somewhere in New Zealand. And he’s just doing the same shit, over and over again, and the camera faces the audience. The last shot is of the people in their seats, looking up.

I thought, man, it’s like a mirror, everybody in this theater looking at the screen, everybody in the movie looking back in the opposite direction. The film ends, the screen goes black and a title card reads, “Based on the book by …” and I don’t even want to write this guy’s name, I don’t want to acknowledge his presence more than I already have, I don’t want this blog post to pop up on a list of results for his name.

But it was this huge joke. He goes to jail, whatever, he’s still a rich con man. He wrote a book. He optioned the movie and a huge director took on the project. And here I am, I’m staring at these people in New Zealand thinking, man, who shells out money for these garbage seminars? And then it hit me, I’m sitting here, I just shelled out twenty bucks for this garbage movie, a plot as cheap and nonexistent as the junk he peddled on Wall Street.

And so yeah, he got me, I contributed to this guy’s fortune, his fame, even totally unknowingly, I was still part of this mass fleecing. I thought, wow, I’m so stupid, but really deep for having such a great insight, but mostly stupid, but also really, really deep.

Snow shoveling, soon

A couple of weeks ago we got a pretty big snowstorm, big for New York anyway. I’m sure the people of Manitoba or Vladivostok have different definitions of pretty big snowstorms, but this was enough that I had to go down to the basement and find the old snow shovel. So yeah, it was snowing, the snow was accumulating, there was a lull, and I went out to dig. And then a few hours later it picked up again, I had to go out again a few hours later, I sprinkled some salt, and I called it a night.snowshove

And then the next day it was this gross, warm rain, everything sort of melted, but not really, the whole city turned into this charcoal gray slush pit. The next day while I was at work, apparently there were a couple more inches of snow still floating around in the clouds, and that eventually made its way to the sidewalk. Then the temperature dropped.

It was so cold that, by the time I made my way home from work at like two in the morning, there was a giant lumpy sheet of ice covering the sidewalk in front of my house. I immediately recognized my civic duty, to at least try to clean this stuff up so that no pedestrians would take a tumble in front of the property, but I was tired, I said to myself, I can do this tomorrow. Besides, I pulled out all of these rationalizations, how I’d already shoveled the day before, twice, how all of that shoveling proved to be a huge waste of time, seeing as how the rain melted everything not even twelve hours later.

I left it. And the next day was even colder, so I left it again. A few of my neighbors had left theirs, I figured, all right, as long as I’m not the only one, whatever, I’ll get to it soon. Which, and at this point in my life, I’m even more than halfway conscious of the fact that whenever I say that I’ll do something soon, it really means that I’ll never do it.

When I got home from work that night, I found that it was just me and this Greek guy next door that were the last two houses on the block that hadn’t even made an attempt to clear out a path. But it was still so cold, I told myself, even if I wanted to shovel right now, I wouldn’t be able to. It was pure ice. I made a plan to do it tomorrow, as soon as the sun was out, maybe there would be a little melting to make everything easier.

And it was significantly warmer the next day. Unfortunately I got up pretty late, late enough that the Department of Sanitation had time to write out tickets for both my neighbor and me. It basically amounted to, you guys didn’t even try to clean up the sidewalk, so pay up, a hundred bucks.

All I could think about was the hundred dollars that my grandfather had just given me for Christmas. Come on, it’s like why does the universe always have to take away just as easily as it dishes out? I had plans for that hundred bucks. Well, not any concrete plans, really. But I did plan on keeping it in my pocket for as long as possible, trying to hold off on spending it until I had no other money left in there, and then I’d break it and I’d use it guilt-free on all sorts of little purchases until there was nothing left.

So I made up my mind to actually attend the hearing and mount a defense. They’ll let me off, I thought in my head as I stood before the city official in charge of hearing these cases, “Come on,” I told the guy, “I’m really sorry. I work nights. It was so cold. This is my first offense. I definitely won’t wait next time.” Halfway through I realized that I probably should have planned out my defense a little better, none of whatever I was saying sounded any better than a little kid trying to weasel his way into explaining to the teacher why he didn’t do his homework the night before. By the time I caught myself about to use my grandfather’s hundred dollar gift as an excuse, I gave up. But not before saying, “The defense rests.” I thought it would be funny, but nobody laughed, and I immediately felt like an idiot.

“Sorry pal,” the guy told me, “Better get up earlier next time.” And that was it. A hundred bucks for Christmas, a hundred bucks to the city for not shoveling my sidewalk. And I’m stuck here thinking, wondering if only I had made up a really good sounding excuse, like if I pretended to have the flu, or if I just left out that idiotic joke at the end, maybe I could have gotten out of it. Whatever, I’m going to buy a ton of rock salt and I’m just going to blanket that stuff outside at the first hint of snow. I’m not even going to let that stuff have a chance to accumulate. That’s what I’m going to do, soon, I’m going to go to the Home Depot and get a better shovel, one with an ice pick on the other side. Definitely soon.

I’m feeling blessed

I’m feeling so blessed lately. It’s more than a feeling, actually, I am blessed. Blessed be my name. I think it’s from last week, I was at the grocery store, this lady and I were heading toward the cashier at the same time and, even though I knew exactly how it was going to play out, her with that little granny-cart filled to the brim with produce, I smiled and waved her on through. Even though it would’ve taken me maybe a fifth of the time have just my dozen or so items scanned through, I’d have paid with my credit card, swipe, done, see ya.


But it was even worse than I could have imagined, everything she had in that cart, there was some sort of a corresponding coupon, somewhere in her hand, if only she could just match them up one by one. If she wasn’t such a sweet looking old lady, I might have started tapping my feet impatiently, like you know how people do it, right? They fold their arms and they tap one foot on the ground really aggressively, a very quick, constant tapping, and they look right at you.

And this whole process just kept snowballing, it was more and more unbearable to watch, the item got scanned, “Wait, wait, wait, I have a coupon.” And the cashier would be like, “I know. I know you have a coupon. You gave it to me already.” And the old lady would be like, “Really? Well, why does that only say twenty-seven cents saved? I though my coupon was for thirty-two cents.” And they’d have to go back and double check that, yes, unfortunately it was only a twenty-seven cents savings, all the while the lady was just shaking her head, unable to process why the grocery gods had forsaken her, those five extra cents.

But she was really old, maybe she reminded me of my grandmother. She kind of smiled at me when I let her go ahead, even though, like I already said, I would’ve been much, much quicker. But I guess statistically speaking, she’s the one with less time. If I make it to be an old man, I certainly don’t want to have to waste any of my precious minutes left waiting behind the younger generation at the grocery store.

That half-smile she gave me as she waltzed on through to the cashier, I couldn’t even tell if she was smiling, not a conscious smile, it could have been one of those etched-on smiles that old people sort of settle in to after a whole lifetime of smiling. Or frowning. It could go either way. Have you ever seen an elderly person trapped under the weight of a lifetime of scowling? No, this lady had clearly been I’d say at least generally happy, maybe a little confused, like she was at that moment, studying the screen as each item popped up after being scanned, like, is this right? Did I really pick this stuff out? Weren’t there supposed to be more savings?

And then as she was counting out the exact change needed to pay for everything, that painstaking process of taking out her really, really big wallet, getting her fingers to pry apart the leather insert that separated her cards from her cash from her coupons, I probably could have stood to maybe mind my own business a little better, but I couldn’t take my eyes away, I swear, it was like that wallet was ninety-five percent filled with cut out pieces of paper.

But like I said, somewhere in this eternal process of paying in exact change, she knocked the quart of milk off of the conveyor. And I guess that it was a good thing I was paying way too much attention to every little detail unfolding in slow motion right before my eyes, because I was ready, I saw that quart go down, maybe I could have even stopped it from getting knocked over, but I was locked in, I wanted it pushed over that edge.

I swooped down, maybe a little too dramatically, I caught it with one hand, returned it to the counter before the old lady even had a chance to register what was happening. But thirty seconds later, it must have sunk in, because her perma-smile got just a little bit smilier, like remember how I was saying before how I couldn’t tell if her smile was really a genuine one? This one was definitely genuine. And she said, “Bless you!” which I thought, ha, bless you, what an old-fashioned thing to say.

But after she was done, when it was my turn to run my groceries through, it turned out that there were all sorts of savings that applied to my purchases, discounts and promotions that I was completely oblivious of. And then outside the store, I found a five-dollar bill on the ground. I started to think about it, that blessing business from before, could it have been more than just a polite gesture? Did this lady actually bless me?

And I’d have to conclude that, yes, I’m feeling really blessed. Like I went to work the next day and my boss said, “Hey Rob. Nice haircut. Looking good.” And I said, “Thanks boss.” But I hadn’t gotten a haircut in weeks. I’m telling you, blessed. I’m not sure how long this blessing is good for, but I’m just raking in all the good karma. I’m telling you, it pays to be nice, especially to little old ladies. You never know what sort of lifetime supply of blessings and good-wishes they have tucked away in those giant old-lady purses, just ready to bestow upon whichever good looking young lad happens to let them ahead at the grocery store, or saves their quart of two-percent from making a mess at the register.

You’ve got to watch this great documentary

I had this thought earlier today, like I could be a great documentarian if I wanted to, that if only I had the equipment, and the knowledge of how to use that equipment, I’d make some of the best documentaries in the history of film. Like these headphones that I’m holding in my hand right now. Where were they made, in China? Where? That’s where I’d start. I’d take my crew, my top-of-the-line cameras and lights and unobtrusive microphone packs.


If only I had the time, and the money to be able to commit to supporting myself while I figured out which Chinese factory these headphones came from, and then even more money to book a flight, to gain access to the assembly line. I’m sure I’d have to talk to some sort of a party official. I guess I’d have to learn how to speak Chinese.

If only I could speak Chinese, I’d make one of the most gripping documentaries about Chinese people making mass-consumed cheap throwaway products, stuff that we get for free over here, like when we buy a cellphone, or when we fly on a plane. I’d follow around just one guy, like his story would embody my story, the story being, look at this man, he’s just a cog in the machine. But he’s a person.

I’d probably have to either bribe my way through whichever party officials would be in charge of allowing an American to just waltz in and paint this cinematographic representation of how bleak factory life must be for the average Chinese laborer, “Bleak, but tinged with hope!” again, my Chinese would have to be spot on, or I’d have to pay a lot of money for a translator clever enough to understand exactly what I’m trying to say, in English, while at the same time being able to deceive the party officials into making it like I’m trying to capture all of the positive aspects of China’s industrial workforce.

I’m sure it wouldn’t be as simple of pointing and shooting, like, there would probably have to be planned out questions, all of the filming employing multiple cameras, so that while he’d be pondering the answer to some existential question, something like, “What does it all mean?” I’d be able to switch between the two cameras, one of them aimed just off of the center of his face, his pensive stare positioned just behind where I’d be if you could see me standing behind the camera, and then the other camera would be a profile shot, and it would have some grainy filter, and it would be in black and white.

I hadn’t considered subtitles. I’d have to use subtitles, right? Yeah, definitely, if even just for my own sake, you know, assuming that I hadn’t learned Chinese. No way I’d be able to learn Chinese. I mean, I’m not saying that it’s impossible. I’m sure that if I absolutely had to … what I mean is, I think that my brain is physically capable of learning Chinese … but subtitles, definitely subtitles. What font would I use? Do documentarians have to outsource the font work, like they do in comic books? Couldn’t I just pick out something myself?

If only I was well versed in documentaries. I think I’ve only ever seen like maybe six or seven documentaries, total. That’s not a lot of real-life documentary experience to then use as the basis for my very own documentary. Or maybe that’s what I’d need, a complete outsider’s perspective. I’d show up at the documentary film awards and everybody would be like, “Who is this nobody?” and I’d win every category hands-down, even the judges wouldn’t be able to close their mouths, hanging wide open in shock, like, he did it, this guy just completely changed the genre forever, for the better.

I remember when I was in college I saw that documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. There’s this opening scene where George W. Bush is making some broad generalization about something, you know, I don’t even remember what he was talking about really, but the camera zooms out and it turns out that he’s golfing, he says something like, “Now watch this drive.” I remember thinking, man, fucking George W. Bush. If that guy spent less time golfing and more time governing, well, whatever, fucking Bush.

But now it’s like, every once in a while I’ll see something on right-wing news, when it’s a slow news day they’ll point the finger at Obama, taking a vacation, or playing golf. They throw out barbs like, “This president has spent more time on the golf course than any other president in history!” And I get so mad, I’m just like, back off, all right? He’s the president. That’s a tough job. Everybody’s got to unwind, right?