Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Miss Sowards Gripes For The Rest of the Week

I saw MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY on Saturday night, and thought it was very charming.

As many of you know, I never -- I MEAN, EVER -- read movie reviews of films I haven't seen yet (ever since Roger Ebert decided to show his contempt for a movie by revealing it's biggest plot twist without a "spoiler" warning, the rat bastard!).

I figured I'd be safe reading a review on MISS PETTIGREW, because I'd already seen the film, and instead, ran into my second-biggest pet peeve with movie critics. This one -- Hilda Yeshigian from my very own Cal State Northridge's Daily Sundial -- hadn't seen the film. Or perhaps she HAD seen most of the film, but decided to go to the ladies' or make out with her boyfriend during a couple of crucial scenes. In any case, her lapse in attention caused her to make two fairly obvious and egregious mistakes to anyone who had actually seen the film from beginning to end -- and hadn't made out with their boyfriend, or anyone else they happened to be sitting nearby (though I did see it at the DGA, and the guy sitting next to me was tres yummy!).

I won't reveal her errors, lest I pull what I've come to refer to as an "Ebert" for those of you who haven't seen it. Suffice it to say that such review boo-boos are not limited to college/university journalists. I can't tell you how many times I caught Richard Schickel, of no less venerable publications than the LA Times and Time Magazine, in what I've now come to call a "double Ebert" -- an unannounced spoiler that reveals a major plot point that never actually happened in the film! So Miss Daily Sundial is in good company.

Truly, I didn't disagree with the overall premise of her critique, but because she seems to be lacking a familiarity with a certain style of film made in the mid- to late-thirties, she kind of... well... missed the point. Again, this is not at all unusual. There are very few truly good film critics in the world. Schickel's predecessor at the Times, Charles Champlin, wasn't bad. Paid attention. Wrote well. Didn't (as far as we could tell) engage in nookie with the concessions girl instead of actually watching the film. (I should say, "isn't bad" because I think he's still considered "emeritus" at the Times, and reviews special releases from time to time.)

Anyhoo... this is a gripe I've had for a while. I love the movies -- I love going there, I love watching trailers, I love sitting in the theater, waiting for the lights to go out and the film to start. I even love the little dancing hot dog. I love it all. I love the experience of movies. And I generally hate most movie critics, mostly because the vast majority of them not only don't know anything about movies, but don't really like them in general, and it shows. I wonder sometimes how interested most of them are in the history of film. Or even in old films, without the history (I'm not much of a trivia buff, for certain.) I'm sure our Miss Daily Sundial has seen Titanic, but has she seen A Night At the Opera, with the Marx Brothers? Maybe she has. Who knows? I guess the question is really, did she manage to make it all the way through to the end without turning away from the screen to snog her boyfriend?



Friday, March 21, 2008

And Then, There Was None

I've been driving by the House on Carpenter occasionally to see what the new owner had in store. For a long time, dumpsters in the front didn't indicate whether we were looking at a demo/new build, or just a flip.

Today, I had lunch with Jim B. and his daughter, Maddie (and also Amelia Bedelia, but that's another story -- or two -- or twelve), and as I drove home, I thought I'd swing by and check out the House on Carpenter to see if there was any progress.

I think the question of demo or flip has finally been put to bed.


Once and for all.

'Night, 'night, house. Glad no one else will be living in you. The house to be built will be someone else's house. That makes me happy. Earlier, while walking back from lunch, Jim pointed out that today is the first day of spring. A perfect day for the dying of the old and the sprouting of new growth.

Closure. An idea whose time has come.


(cross-posted at MySpace)

Monday, March 17, 2008


So, perhaps St. Patrick's Day is not the day that one typically associates with gratitude and thankfulness. I would wager that's because one has never sat beside friends one has met at a Santa Monica pub -- your first, their thirty-second (the number 32 symbolically representing, of course, all the counties on the Emerald Isle, which I gather can only be wrestled to unity from British clutches if expatriated Irishmen and wannabes get sloppy, falling-down drunk once a year on March 17th).

All you have to do is sit beside one of these sweet drunkards, especially the one that usually has the most bitter, sarcastic sense of humor, and hear how grateful he is that he has his beautiful wife, and his gorgeous children, and such good friends (at which point, he turns and belches in your face as he squeezes your shoulders so tightly, he tears your rotator cuff), and a good, good life, to know that St. Patrick's Day is a day for giving thanks.

"Thanks for buying this round." "Thanks for (the Orange County Irish band)
The Fenians." "Thanks for the corned beef and cabbage." "Thanks for Mr. Guinness and for Mr. Bass (or, if you're a purist, Mr. Harp's*)." But I'm thankful for a couple of other reasons.

I'm thankful that this is the last St. Patrick's Day spent at this desk, in this cubicle, at this job. It's been good to me, but I've spent 13 St. Patrick's Days here. Time to move on.

I'm thankful that I have friends who believe in my art enough to push me to pursue it.

I'm thankful I got a little bit of good, old-fashioned dosh that will allow me to pursue it.

I'm thankful that I have enough friends who are supporting themselves as artists that I can see with my own eyes that it can, in fact, be done.

I'm thankful that I limit myself to, at most, one Black 'n' Tan on St. Patty's Day (and rarely finish that one). (Actually, I'm usually more thankful for that on March 18th.)

I'm thankful that soon, what Owen Wilson makes a day in per diem, how many trailers Jennifer Aniston needs to ready herself for her long, arduous day in the "dog movie," who styles whose hair, who makes up whose face, and how much their assistants get paid will be someone else's problem, and not mine.

I'm thankful that I won't have to choose between writing OR going to the gym, but will be able to write AFTER I go to the gym.

Finally, I'm thankful for this new life that scares the bejeebers out of me, but probably not as much as it should.

Oh, yeah... and thanks to Mr. Albert Guinness and Mr. William Bass (cuz I'm no purist) for the Black 'n' Tan.


*I know, I know... there was no "Mr. Harp" behind Harp Lager, per se. Please don't write to school me on this. I was being funny. Comics' license. Did I mention I'm thankful I have readers who get humor without trying to muddy with facts? Well, I am, by golly.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dangerous Suspect Freed on Technicality (i.e., No Proof of a Crime!)

This scary character at the left is Treffly Coyne. She's got a mugshot on file somewhere, though we've never seen it. Oh, sure. She looks pleasant enough. But beware. Treffly Coyne is a wanton, dangerous criminal. No, seriously. Getta load o' this!!! Oh, believe me. This woman is a fiend... A FIENNDDDD, I tell you!

On December 8, 2007, Treffly Coyne, mother of three in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park, Illinois, was loading her youngest, Phoebe, age 2, in the carseat after a day of Christmas errands in nearby Crestwood, when the toddler fell promptly to sleep. Coyne's two older daughters and a little friend of theirs wanted to donate coins they'd collected for charity to a Salvation Army bell ringer standing on a curb, fewer than ten yards from Coyne's car.

It was sleeting, so Coyne decided to leave Phoebe in the warm, dry car. She turned on her emergency flashers, locked the car doors, activated the alarm, and walked the three little girls to the where the bell ringer stood. The car was NEVER out of her sight. She snapped a few photos of the girls making their donations (because she's obviously a hateful, uncaring, unloving mom), then walked back to the car. As she arrived there, a Crestwood police officer was waiting for her. The female officer -- who has yet to be named, but I can't wait to find out so I can make it public -- began yelling at Coyne that she was endangering her daughter and promptly told her she was being arrested, handcuffing her in full view of her two older children, who were standing on the curb in the sleeting rain. Immediately after hearing she was to be arrested, Coyne telephoned her husband, who (wisely, I think) told her to stay mum and not say a word until he arrived on the scene. Irritated that Coyne refused to speak with her further, including refusing to divulge Phoebe's name to either the officer or the child welfare worker, the cop added "obstructing a police officer" to the charge of "child endangerment." ("You have the right to remain silent....")

The officer called child welfare and had Phoebe taken into protective services -- did I mention that the three older girls were left standing in the sleeting rain -- STILL? Child welfare drove off with little Phoebe. And the three older girls were left standing in the sleeting rain. Still. Ignored by both the police officer and the child welfare worker (apparently, there's a cut-off in Illinois as to how old a child has to be before the city of Crestwood gives a crap. Once you hit three, kid, you're on your own!) Luckily, as the officer was shutting the back door of the squad car with the murderous, dangerous Treffly Coyne safely handcuffed in the back seat, her husband drove up. They were barely able to exchange a few words, when the female cop -- stalwartly protecting the safety of all children in Crestwood (in diapers, that is) -- drove away without a backward glance to make sure the three little girls she left standing in the sleeting rain had been claimed. Coyne's husband found them crying just outside the Wal-Mart. But I'm sure they were perfectly safe, now that they'd been freed from horrifying clutches of killer soccer mom Treffly Coyne by the heroic Crestwood peace officer. (Peace officer? Hmmm...)

This morning, Coyne was set to stand trial, where she faced one count each of child endangerment and obstructing a police officer. Had she been convicted, she could have served a year in prison and been forced to pay a $2500 fine. Instead, amazingly, the prosecutor dropped the charges, stating that his office could not meet the burden of proof that Coyne actually committed a crime.

Timothy Sulikowski, police chief for Crestwood, believed that the prosecutor made a huge mistake letting this hardened criminal go. Why, she'd brought it all on herself, he told reporters, by refusing to give the police officer her daughter's name. Had she simply given the officer Phoebe's name, Sulikowski said, there would never have been an arrest. There is some dispute on this, however, as Coyne claims her call to her husband -- in which he advised her to keep quiet --was a result of being told she was, in fact, being arrested, and she wanted to let him know (lest the remaining three children be left in the SLEETING RAIN! We just can't emphasize that point enough, can we?). It was only after that call that Coyne refused to speak to the arresting officer, so Sulikowski's story does not exactly jibe with both the officer's and Coyne's account of the arrest. "Still," according to CNN, "he claims that while police were obligated to report the case to the state’s child welfare agency, Coyne would not have been arrested had she cooperated and not refused to give them basic information, including the child’s name."

"'By not providing us with that information and the information of her child, at that point we don’t know that that child is hers. We don’t know if that child has been listed as a kidnapped child or a missing child,” he said. “Absolutely, she forced this.'”

Yes, we get it, Chief Sulikowski. I mean, just look at her. She looks like a hardened criminal. That low-slung brow -- those beady eyes -- that wide, slack jaw... Oh, wait... sorry... I was looking at a photo of Curly Howard from The Three Stooges. My bad....

In any case, we can all still see that it's suburban criminal scum like Coyne that really keep the Crestwood police department hopping on sleety, rainy nights when cruising a parking lot full of Volvos and mini-vans at Christmas time is way harder than, say, busting meth labs in downtown Chicago (I mean, those downtown cops have it cherry!). By the way, did she also force the part about your officer leaving her other children on the sidewalk, sobbing -- IN THE SLEETING RAIN? I guess your cop showed that witch Treffly Coyne, huh! Teach her to screw with the Crestwood PD! (Gee, I hope real criminals looking for a place where police presence is kind of soft don't read this.) I do find it interesting that, during initial interviews after Coyne's arrest, when it was pointed out that she had moved away from the car for a very brief time, Chief Sulikowski was quick to say, "A minute or two -- that's when things can happen." Seriously, Chief? It's too bad, then, that Officer Great-Big-Stick-Up-Her-Butt didn't get that memo when it came to the other three children she left as she sailed away, safe in the knowledge that she had just protected Crestwood from the next Bonnie Parker. You remember those kids, right, Chief? The ones you've absolutely failed to mention in EVERY SINGLE INTERVIEW YOU'VE GIVEN, as if they didn't exist -- kinda like your own officer, and the child welfare worker that night.

So, now that Coyne is out on the streets again, free to shop and take her kids to ballet class, Tinley Park can never quite feel safe again, knowing that any day now, she could move more than 30 feet from any of her children (though they're still within her sight), leaving them in the world unprotected and unattended. And then being sure that, should a police officer arrive on the scene, she might then commit the heinous act of refusing to speak to him or her. She's dangerous, I say, and she should be locked up. You know who else should be arrested? That Salvation Army bell ringer. I mean, do we even know who this guy was that lured Treffly Coyne into her infamous crime spree? I think this guy needs some investigating. It could be a ring -- a huge sindicate, where Salvation Army bell ringers lure the older children of suburban soccer moms into their dark web of coin donation, tempting them to leave their toddlers in warm, dry, locked, alarmed cars thirty feet away.

The prosecutor may have given up on this case, but I haven't! I'm determined to save Tinley Park from this frightening thug. It's not too late to rehabilitate Ms. Coyne from her flagrantly felonious life. I'll save you, Treffly. I'll save you and show you the error of your ways. By the way, next week, we'll be surgically attaching all three children to various parts of your body, so you can never be more than 20 to 30 centimeters from them at any given point in time. No need to thank me -- the future safety of your children and hapless citizens of suburban Chicago is thanks enough.


P.S. and totally off-point: Treffly Coyne gets this quarter's award for coolest name in a blog post subject.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Small Stuff

It's kind of mind-boggling that people's lives become so inextricably interwoven with yours that, after they are no longer here, you spend months and months stumbling across the little dribs and drabs -- stuff that never occurred to you after the initial loss, that keeps coming up over and over. The responsiblities that fall immedately post-mortem -- the sorting, the cleaning, the disposal of property, the dispersion of assets, taxes, death certificates -- that's all the stuff you're expecting. The Big Stuff.

But there's the other stuff... the stuff that you never think of, until like little emotional Claymore, you trip the wire and everything kind of goes... boom. It's the small stuff that's killer.

Today, my electronic calendar sent me a message to let me know that my father's birthday is a week from tomorrow -- so, presumably, I shouldn't forget it (as I had done in years past) and make other plans, instead of making the yearly pilgramage to the House on Carpenter to either take him to dinner, or when he stopped leaving the house, take him dinner, a card, some chocolate peanut butter ice cream, and then high-tail it out of there as quickly as possible.

This year, there'll be a small gathering to celebrate the event, undoubtedly for the last time ever. I will not be attending the party in Maui, which will culminate in the scattering of his ashes in the lovely, balmy waters of Maalea Bay, just south of Lahaina. I have plans to go in July, when the Hawaiians will take to me to one of the holiest places on the island -- the crater at Haleakala -- where I can say good-bye myself, in my own way.

Meanwhile, I have celebrated the occasion in my own way -- by deleting his birthday from my calendar. (Open the birthday note, click "All future dates," click "Delete"... gone.) I guess after this year, March 18th is just the day after St. Patrick's Day.


Friday, March 07, 2008

The Death of Common Sense

I'm just wondering when Common Sense passed away. No. Seriously. Because I hadn't even heard It had a cough.

Today in Orlando, Florida, a mother was arrested after a do-it-yourself car wash surveillance video showed her spraying her two-and-a-half year old daughter with a power sprayer. I contemplated whether to put a link to the video in this post, but decided against it. I'm linking to the story instead, which contains a link to the video. I just don't want to have such stupidity so close to my intellect. It might be contagious.

In case you're wondering, most car wash power sprayers push water at about 1200 psi. That's enough to flay a full-grown human at full-blast. The mother claims it wasn't full-blast, but I gotta tell ya... I regularly wash my car at a DIY car wash, and there is no "half-blast/full-blast." You pull the trigger. Period. The water comes out at the pressure it comes out at. It's designed to blast grease and hardened dirt off a car's exterior as quickly as possible, so the next person can move into the space and put more quarters in. Finesse is not a part of the equation. There is little consideration for an automobile's paint job, let alone a little girl's skin.

People, what in the name of God and all that's holy is going on here? People shooting total strangers in fast food restaurants and malls. A Marine throwing (or appearing to throw) a little puppy off a cliff for the sheer entertainment of it. This adle-pated idiot mother power-spraying her toddler for throwing a tantrum.

I'd be willing to bet that this woman is not evil. I'd even be willing to go as far as to say she is a fairly well-intentioned parent most of the time. Any truly honest person who has ever spent all day caring for a cranky two-and-a-half-year old will tell you that sometimes using riot-control measures, like high-pressure water cannons and tear gas, are often considered as possible methods of thwarting chaos and reestablishing order and peace. But once we take a drink of water and have a quick shot of espresso, the more sensible and intelligent among us abandon these strategies as being impractical and uncalled for.

Except Our Lady of Perpetual High-Pressure Water Discipline, of course.

I think this woman just needs to attend some intensive parenting and anger-management courses to teach her better ways of coping with the ups and downs of raising a toddler. And while we're at it, perhaps we can get her into a remedial course in Common Sense.