#Snobraham2014

Incoming to the DC area tonight is the biggest snowstorm in four years.

I am ever so excited.

Work hasn’t announced a closure yet. Well, officially. The big boss ordered pizza for lunch for everyone in our division (200+ people) and closed the office at 4 so we could all get home safely.

I’ve got toilet paper. I’ve got bread and milk. Bet your ass I’ve got beer.

With Presidents Day on Monday, this could be the start of a five day weekend.

I love snow.

The Monuments Men (2014)

I was going to lead this post off with the Churchill quote, about how he’s asked how can money be spent on the arts during a war, and Churchill replied, “What then are we fighting for?” Too bad, it’s a made-up quote. Oh, the internet.

I went up this afternoon to see The Monuments Men at The Uptown. What isn’t to like, right? Based on the non-fiction book by Robert Edsel about a team of art specialists put together to recover what the Nazis had looted and stolen from across Europe, co-written, directed, and starring George Clooney, with a supporting cast including Matt Damon, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray (!!!), Jean Dujardin (the guy from the silent film The Artist, also starring Goodman), and Hugh Bonneville (from Downton Abbey, as a washed up drunk offered a chance at redemption).

It isn’t that the movie is bad. It isn’t even that the movie isn’t good. It’s that the movie doesn’t feel cohesive – story? We can work something together! And I don’t know how I can make this claim as I haven’t read the book, but it feels like if I had read the book, I would understand better how what amounts to an hour and a half of almost seemingly unlinked vignettes link together. Call me silly, but I think I should be able to watch a movie without having to reference a book to try to puzzle my way through the plot – there’s a whole bit about Matt Damon being smuggled into France with the French resistance to get him into Paris ahead of the Allies, but when he arrives in Paris, he’s in full uniform, sort of implying the Allies are there too — did the American troops just arrive earlier than expected? Was Damon delayed? It wasn’t clear to me.

I think, when people are making films of non-fiction books, there’s a tug of war between scripting a good movie, and scripting a historically accurate movie. Monuments Men makes the case that if you’re interested in being historically accurate (and I can’t say – haven’t read the book), just make a damn documentary.

I didn’t feel like I’d wasted going to see the film. At the same time, I would have been happy waiting until it was out on DVD or streaming on Netflix.


And ironically, as the movie was about art, can we talk about the missing artwork at The Uptown?

The Uptown, built in 1936, is a historic movie theater in Washington, DC, located in Cleveland Park (near the Zoo). Cleveland Park, waaaay back in the day, was where the hoighty-toighty of the District would take their summers to escape the city heat. The theater is a single screen with a large balcony, owned and operated by AMC. After my own heart is this little fact: the Uptown was one of only 36 theaters in the U.S. to screen Star Wars on opening day in 1977 (it would, of course, go wider).

The first movie I saw at The Uptown was Dances With Wolves, and this had to be 1989 or 1990. Went with my folks. I remember being bored to tears by the movie; I was like twelve, okay? I found an appreciation for it in later years. The second movie I saw here was Contact, with a couple of friends. And then I moved to DC many years later, and live only a short walk away. I can’t even count the films I’ve seen here in the last five and a half years: The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises; Harry Potter 6 and 7 and 7 part 2; Oblivion; Argo; State of Play; Star Trek Into Darkness; Hunger Games; Skyfall and Quantum of Solace; American Hustle; Red Tails; more that I’m sure I’ve forgotten.

It used to be that the upper level of the theater, behind the balcony, there were large posters of classic films. I mean, classic if you grew up in the 80s and 90s: Back to the Future, Cape Fear (which I’ve never actually seen), City Slickers. And when I say oversize, I mean larger than your regular 27×40 movie posters.

Well, sadly, they’re gone. I noticed for the first time that they were gone when I went to see American Hustle on Christmas Eve. There was repair work done to the theater (notably to a bannister that looked like it had been ripped off the wall and was sort of gently placed back in the wall), and maybe a fresh coat of paint, so I thought perhaps the posters had been taken down temporarily and would be back up at some point.

Well: six weeks later, still no posters. It’s ironic to go to a movie about recovering lost art and realize that the theater you’re seeing it in is suffering from some lost art of its own. Hopefully those posters will find their way back to The Uptown.

Help My Buddy Find His Stolen Bike

Help my buddy Matt locate his beloved, stolen bicycle:

So, it turns out that my bike (which was stolen last September), was fenced, ‘donated’ to a local Arlington bike shop, then sold at an off-site event that said bike shop was hosting at Big Bear Cafe in the city on December 7 2013. If you see it, please let me know.

matt cooley bicycle

This picture was taken by a buddy working for Capital Bikeshare who saw it on the corner of M and New Jersey SW on December 17th 2013. A stolen property report and the serial number of the bike are on file with the Fairfax County Police Department and with MPDC, so if you know who’s riding it around, please let them know they’re riding my baby and I’d really love to get it back! Share, circulate, etc. Thanks everyone!

If you see the bike, or know who “owns it”, you can contact Matt here!

precocious

I was at Target yesterday morning. By this point, I was in the checkout lane. It was 8:20 or so. Early. I’d unloaded my cart: a kitchen cleaner, a bag of cat food, a bunch of Hot Wheels cars for my niece’s Christmas gift, two rolls of wrapping paper under my arm.

A woman with one item asked if she could cut in front of me so she could get to her bus. Sure.

The cashier started ringing me up. A woman came in line behind me and unloaded some Monster School toys. The cashier asked her if her daughter, who was standing next to the customer, was a fan. Another Target employee came over.

“I don’t understand,” the customer and both cashiers said, referencing the popularity of what I assume is a TV show.

“You just don’t get it,” the little girl rolled her eyes.

Really Shaken Up

Thursday night was the holiday party. This is my second holiday season at work, but the first holiday party I could attend – I was at a funeral during last year’s. I was one of the first in, I was one of the last out. Traffic in Foggy Bottom, courtesy of a bomb threat at the Swedish Embassy (in Georgetown), was a slog fest. Got on a bus with a couple of coworkers. Got home eventually.

Today was a relaxed day. Many were already starting their holiday vacations, not to return until the new year. Many spent the day de-cluttering file cabinets and cleaning desks. I stared at spreadsheets and databases and wondered why the time moved so slowly.

A good friend of mine was back in town from San Francisco, where she moved earlier in the fall. Happy Hour at 5, and I ducked out 4:30, walking to 20th & M to catch the number 37 bus.

An ambulance, a firetruck, and police cars were on the street, lights flashing. 20th Street was reduced to one lane northbound. I crossed to the north side of M Street. There was a red scooter. Broken glass. A sock. I crossed 20th.

A former coworker of mine was at the bus stop. We worked together at Border’s. We sometimes see each other on the L-route buses.

“I saw what happened,” she told me. “The woman on the scooter was clipped by that car.” She pointed. “The car was turning right from the wrong lane, she was on the inside lane. He didn’t hit her that hard, just tapped her, but she went down and skidded across the road. I called 9-1-1. Helped lift the scooter off her. Her leg is all fucked up, her arm is broken, her shoulder is dislocated.”

She pointed at a guy standing on the road, the driver. “He handled it right. He stopped. I’m really shaken up.”

The 37 still wasn’t coming. A dude in a suit started cursing.

“I don’t understand why that ambulance isn’t moving. She’s been in there for ten minutes. I think they should take her to the hospital.”

A guy got out of the back of the ambulance. He was smiling. “Maybe they gave her pain-killers?”

An older fellow with a big shaggy gray beard observed, “That’s a good sign.” The D6 pulled up and almost pulled away. He jumped off the bench and started screaming at the driver.

“He is so drunk.”

The police stopped traffic so the ambulance could back up and drive away on M Street. The police waited as a tow truck worked to load the scooter.

There was still no bus.

The Crazy Story Of How “Clue” Went From Forgotten Flop To Cult Triumph

When I was a kid, Clue used to scare the crap out of me.  My parents always regretted showing it to me and my sister because after every viewing we would see hidden passages everywhere, and imagine assassins behind every door.

And then I didn’t see it for years and years, and as an adult, actually get some of the jokes that previously went over my head.  Now I understood what it meant after Mr. Green shot Wadsworth and said he wasn’t a fruit, he was a plant.

There’s a great article on Clue, and its production, and its legacy on, of all places, Buzzfeed.  It’s well – and I do mean well – worth the time to read: Carrie Fisher was originally cast as Miss Scarlet?!  And more:

In point of fact, while Lynn certainly allowed for a loose and convivial set, he exercised the most control when it came to his script. “Jonathan is a by-the-book guy, and if it was written, that was the way we did it,” says Mull. “For Madeline, of course, that’s like telling Cicero not to speak, you know what I mean?” Indeed, while most Hollywood comedies today are often largely improvised, all the actors I spoke to said there was really only one time Lynn allowed anyone to significantly break from the screenplay: Madeline Kahn’s “Flames on the side of my face” speech.

It lasts only 20 seconds, but for many Clue faithful, this is The Moment, when the movie passes through the threshold from genuine enjoyment to something approaching love — think Roy Scheider saying, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” in Jaws. It comes toward the very end of the film, when Mrs. White is confronted with her hatred of Yvette for sleeping with her husband. “All that was written was, ‘I hated her so much that I wanted to kill her,’ or something like that,” says McKean, still smiling from the memory. “But she just kind of went into a fugue about hatred. She did it three or four times, and each time was funnier than the last. I thought that they could have strung a bunch of them together because they had plenty of cutaways of all of us going, What the fuck is she talking about?

Needless to say, between the actors’ natural talents, and all the concentrated time they spent having so much fun together on set and off, it really is no wonder that they played off each other so well in the film. On the other hand, all that good cheer did occasionally make it difficult for the actors to do their jobs, no more so than for Tim Curry, who often had to unfurl lengthy globs of exposition at the brisk, Howard Hawksian clip Lynn desired. “Tim is a very disciplined guy,” says McKean. “Every time when Marty and I would be goofing around — we thought quietly — between takes, Tim would give us a look like, I’m trying to remember the fucking phone book here. And he can give a good look.”

“There were an awful lot of instances where it was impossible to keep a straight face,” adds Mull. “In fact, we were laughing so much, one thing that has stayed indelible in my mind is before every take of every scene, Michael McKean would say to everyone in the cast, ‘Something terrible has happened here,’ to try to bring us back to the reality of where we were. It got to be quite a funny little catchphrase.”

And if you haven’t seen Clue in years, buy a copy here and help a guy out, m’kay?

 

They Rolled On

There was this odd booming sound coming from our right.

My friend R.W. and I were walking past the Capitol.  It was past 10pm and there are few streetlights.  It was very dark.  Ahead of us, framed by buildings and trees, was the lit-up Washington Monument.

“Is that thunder?”  I asked.

“No,” she replied.

“Construction, maybe?”

It actually kind of sounded like gunfire.

I, and a number of others, had been out across from Eastern Market (the actual building, not the Metro station) a few blocks away celebrating two friends who are relocating to Baltimore City next weekend.  I had been expecting to get out to Capitol Hill by 3, with works closing at 2:30 for the holiday weekend, but things being what things are, I wound up stuck at my desk until 4.  $2 Yuenglings? I really couldn’t complain.

People came, people left money for the tab, people left.  The check itself was a clusterfuck (thank goodness I brought cash!) and our server got a $120 tip on $290.

Finally it was time to leave.  A cab was flagged for our Baltimore bound friends, and people made their way home on foot, by bus, or by train.  I volunteered to walk R.W. most of the way home by Waterfront — I would detour to the blue line once we were in that quadrant.

“Oh, look!”  R.W. said, pointing south as we came down the hill and had an unobstructed view of Nationals Park.  The weird booming echoing sound were fireworks detonating over the stadium, celebrating a New York Mets’ victory.  (That’s weird, right?)

R.W. and I parted company, she heading south for home, me walking a block east to Federal Center SW.  I waited a few minutes and got on an empty Metro car.  It filled with baseball fans at the next station.

It rolled on.

 

Sometimes you win the bus lottery…

Sometimes you win the bus lottery.

For example, last week, I was up early on Saturday to do a quick run to Target before catching the bus up to Chevy Chase Circle to meet my dad at 9:30.  You can imagine my panic when I got home at 9 and saw that, according to NextBus (now iCommute?), the next bus wasn’t actually arriving for seventy minutes.  But what if there was a Ghost Bus, i.e., a bus running the route which isn’t being tracked by GPS?

So I figured I’d go to the stop and wait.  The worst that would happen is I would wait forever for a bus.  But I had a big thick book.  And sure enough, I’d been at the stop for only a few minutes when an L2 pulled up.

Same deal this whole week: I’d walk from work to Farragut Square and catch the bus idling before beginning the route, or one day, coming to Farragut from Capitol Hill, emerged from the Metro just in time to jump on a bus before the driver took off.  Today, for example, I wanted to head up north to catch my favorite used book sale.  I jumped off the Circulator at 18th and Columbia hoping I would only have to wait a few minutes for an L2: it pulled up the moment the Circulator pulled away.

Sometimes you win the bus lottery.

And sometimes you don’t: with a bag full of used books, a gallon of milk, and a sandwich for lunch, I was waiting for an L2 back home.  And I only had to wait a couple of minutes and one pulled up, great right?

Sometimes I get on a bus, and I don’t smell great.  I’ve had a long day of work, and then a half mile walk to the bus stop, I’m a little sweaty, right?  Or I’ve gone for a six mile walk one way and am catching the bus home from Capitol Hill, I’m probably not smelling great here either.

And as the bus has started its route and we’ve gone about three blocks, I realize — it took me a little bit — that the bus just fucking reeks of urine.  There’s a guy I’ve seen on the route before sprawled across the back seats, he’s got several bags stuffed full of other bags, and this odor is the most disgusting thing I’ve smelled in a long, long time; it’s like he’s been using his pants as a toilet and never cleaning them.

I seriously thought about getting off the bus and just waiting 20 minutes for the next one; hey, I have a big thick book with me, right?  Right!  But I also had perishables, and so long as I didn’t take a breath, the smell was … tolerable.

I was so happy when I reached my stop … I took a long deep breath of clean city air as soon I hopped off the vehicle.

All was wonderful … right up to the moment I walked into my apartment and stepped in a gigantic pile of soft cat shit on the foyer carpet.

Sometimes your cat is a real asshole.

“I want my father back, you son of a bitch!”

I remember being a kid, maybe nine years old, and my dad was taking my sister to see The Princess Bride and asked if I wanted to come along and my thought process was something like “Princesses, ew. Brides, ew.”

And of course now it’s one of my favorite movies.

Came across this above clip today, Mandy Patinkin on his motivations in playing Inigo Montoya.  Powerful.  And also, if you’re a fan of the movie, might I ask if you’ve read the book?

 

The Personalized Used Book

I’ve bought a lot of books, and I’ve bought a lot of used books, and while this isn’t the strangest or most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever found, it does spark my imagination.  From the title page of a used copy of 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart (a fantastic read so far, by the way) which I picked up last week:
20130820-190609.jpgWas Meredith truly Adam’s “colleagues, comrade, and fellow”?  If so, how did her copy of this book wind up sold used from Amazon?  Did she accidentally include it in a stack of books dropped off as a donation, or abandoned on a train, or a taxi?  Was it in her purse when she was mugged, or stolen when her home was burgled?

It’s a mystery!

Is Meredith reading this right now and raging that I informed on her “accidentally” removing the book from her collection?

Well, she’s probably not reading this …

… but if by some chance she is, I’d really like to find a $20 bill in one of these used books I’m buying, m’kay?