Thursday, July 29, 2010

Weekend Slider

1. I have made $8.75 from my Ads on my blog via Google Adsense. It just took three months!

2. Friends, after six years of allergy shots, I am finally done. It is time to celebrate one less maintenance-y thing in my calendar. Pass the Claritin.

3. I still like to play the guitar.

4. I do not understand why poorish people (and I include the middle class in this one) are Republicans. I was at a birthday party tonight at a penthouse overlooking all of Manhattan. These people were Democrats. Why are the swanky people so happy to give money away (of course, they’ll have lots of money anyway, no matter what the government takes) but the poorer people are so terrified of ever being at the receiving end of this largesse?

5. From up high in New York, you can really see the capitalism. I understand why the poor drink. It is very stressful to be poor.

6. I would have no problem living in a penthouse. But isn’t it weird that the plumbing vent pipes come up right through the patio? Not something I would want.

7. I am getting used to the humidity. You just have to not mind being sort of filthy.

8. There are many sensitive, creative, smart people on earth. You just have to wait.

9. I want a dog.

10. But does a dog want me?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Directed by Luca Guadagnino, I Am Love is so worth seeing I can’t believe you’re sitting here reading this stupid blog entry when you should be online buying your tickets.

Look, the story is not so new. Oh well. I am not spoiling anything here as we all know that Tilda Swinton gets carried away by this earthy chef in gorgeous Italy.

But really, this movie is not about the story. It’s about the design, the shooting and the incredible costumes, sets and music and of course, acting. I don’t usually put much stock in design stuff (I completely walked out of The English Patient). But this movie? It’s a damn thrill, the sensual nature of it. Everything about it is so beautiful, it makes me proud to be half Italian, though the Italians that I hail from are more the servants in the movie than the industrialisti that are the center of the story.

Tilda Swinton heads a cast of such beautiful and well dressed Milanese, you’ll wonder how you are ever going to show your decent face and your ugly wardrobe again in any social setting. Tilda is Oscar bound, what with her Italian and Russian.

The music by John Adams is also Oscar bound.

So get your ballots out and mark them now.

John Adams starts with some very Copland xylophone stuff, giving the movie a very 1955 feeling. And the music keeps changing as the story gets into very different territory.

The sex/nature scenes are unbelievable. You guys! See it.

When the story does turn toward the end, I didn’t buy it. And upon reflection, I still don’t. But it’s hard to make a perfect movie, always has been. I’m letting it go.

See it in a really good movie theatre with a big screen with great sound.

Go out for a great meal when you’re done. Order the shrimp.

I Am Love

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


From FDR:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Name Playground

Have fun with this one! Find out how common your name is, when it was the most popular, all of that, at Name Playground.

Apparently, Donald experienced its peak popularity in 1934 and has been going downhill ever since. (My father was born in ’38 and I am named after him.) 1934 was the year when Donald was the name of 3.07% of the male population and was the sixth most popular name. Now, Donald is the 303rd most popular name. Quack, quack.

Names have changed so much. Because I never had a kid, I never spent much time on this sort of thing. (Except for my pooch.) But I had fun looking at names when they were at their peak.

Roger and Dianne both peaked in 1945.

Alan and Kathryn had their peak in 1951.

Michael peaked and was the number one name in 1954.

Most popular names for 2006? Jacob and Emily.

What a surprise, right?

Apparently, almost everyone named their son Gregory in 1962.

But for now, I think I’ll name my next dog Ethan or Madison.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Kids Are All Right

We did it. We went to see that LA movie about the lesbian couple whose late teen children form a relationship with their sperm donor dad and then he ends up having sex with Julianne Moore (as people do) and then everyone learns a little bit of something, the whole time speaking leftover touch-feely verbiage from the early 1990’s with Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson hauling out quirky, brilliant performances under the watchful, tasteful eye of director Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids are All Right.

It is worth seeing if you are in the mood for something kind of smart and adult, a little bit wry, and sexy but not really sexy at all.

Fun thing, too, my friend owns the hunk of an old brick building that stands in as Mark Ruffalo’s restaurant where I have spent many a fun party, so I felt like I was spending time with old friends. Plus it is lovely LA, the part of the U.S. that has a Mediterranean joy to it. Angst against it looks lovely.

The story was something you could see hurling at you like an Impala across a Kansas prairie. And the dialogue was sort of smug, sort of send-up and not particularly satisfying.

But the direction and acting were way up there. You do not get to see this kind of thing almost ever. I also loved Ms. Cholodenko’s 1998 High Art.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Entertainment Service Announcement


I know you’re trying to save money. But you can’t sit home every night. You have to go out, see things, have a cone.

And why stand on that TKTS line in the middle of Times Square jostling for a ticket when you can much more readily and much more comfortably go online to and buy your tickets there at a deep discount?

I’ve done it for years. (Thanks S.B. for the tip).

I am also a member of other things that I can get through my unions, etc. But is open to all and frankly has the greatest variety of shows at a great discount.

Use it. You know you like to see a show or two a year. And who the hell likes to pay full price?

Have a great weekend. Go to clean, peaceful beaches. Eat healthy food. Drink plenty of water.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

8 Reasons Why I Like Thursdays

1. Because you get all that stuff done so you can be free to do exactly what you need to do on Friday.

2. Because people like to go out to lunch on a Thursday.

3. And people start softening into the weekend on Thursday night. Maybe a drink, maybe a show, maybe a vampire slaying.

4. It is not called hump day.

5. It’s a good day to fly. But not as good as Tuesday or Wednesday.

6. No one ever said, really, “I just hate Thursdays.”

7. Tone gets lighter on Thursday.

8. I was born on a Friday, so Thursday is my birth eve.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

So I'm Rewriting this Screenplay

I’m having one of those years when you have to do a lot of work, which is great. At times it is intimidating. But really, it’s what I asked for.

So I wrote this screenplay for these guys who made a couple of famous movies and they are very smart and very helpful. The screenplay is my idea. The working with me is their idea. Together, this thing is going well.

However---I was in the mood to write something funny, surely, but a little more French and moody. In the end, I wrote something that was funny, surely, but a little unfocused in tone and action.

So I got their great notes and I am using them fully and these notes are working well and the rewrite, which I am in the throes of every day, is coming together. And now I realize exactly what I am writing. I am writing the movie that is playing at the mall that you THANK GOD is playing at the mall because everything else that is playing at the mall is not so great but this one is fun and funny, and damn, let’s go in and enjoy ourselves.

Sometimes, I take myself too seriously. And really, my strong suit is comedy. Dark comedy, sure, but comedy. If you can take an idea and turn it into a story with solid characters and somehow make it all funny, well why wouldn’t you do that? People need it.

Coming to a mall near you: my movie. Pick up some groovy shirts while you’re there. And maybe those special curtain thingies you’ve needed forever from Restoration Hardware.

Of course, you can wait a while and just see it on a plane for free.

Monday, July 19, 2010


A good friend of mine, writer of Postcards from Hell’s Kitchen, suggested that in addition to drinking lots of water, it is also essential to get plenty of sleep.

And with that, I say goodnight.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Time Travel For Dummies

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This is a picture of downtown Suffern, New York from a fifteenth story window that faces North in the Mahwah Sheraton, that rocket looking building you see where the I-287 meets Route 17 and the New York State Thruway.

I grew up in a pass-through town.

But it was a fine one. In fact, I feel very lucky to have grown up there as my family (including me) had been living in a less gemutlichkeit place only five miles away until I finished the fifth grade. I had no friends in the old town. I mostly bought black mollies for my aquarium, nursed their Ick infections, played pop songs on my guitar in my bedroom and read Peanuts classics.

But then we moved to Suffern where the kids were a little more old fashioned, certainly more friendly, smarter, engaged, fresh faced, even beautiful and generally positive. And I made friends there and I still have friends from this place. Spent seven great formative years, had a class trip to Paris, worked summers in a truck stop, then headed off to Boston for college. It was not traumatic, any of this. It was, at times, depressing. It was usually fun. It certainly was a great place to take all those good high school classes and join things, whatever you were into. It was well funded. It was quite a building with a planetarium and an indoor pool and a monster theatre and, well, I just have to say it, ramps. And all kinds of kids went there---a cross section---like something you would find at a decent suburban DMV. Plus, I think we were section 9 champions in every sport but curling, or something.

Now, reunions. You know, it is best going expecting nothing. This keeps you more in the moment. You just leave yourself open to the field. You go on the Easter Egg hunt and you find all these people that you knew when they were only eleven years old, some people that you’ve known since they were twelve and then some since they were fourteen, depending on what year your classes merged together. (And now, all these years later, as you hop around with your basket, you have to accept that it is the women who all still get to keep their hair.)

I drank a lot of water the week before I went, thinking it might help with that puff-face thing. Did not get too much sleep the night before. Ironed my shirt.

I like a party. I like talking to people. I am what I would call warmly shallow. Having lived in California for years where people are absolutely warmly shallow, I have come to enjoy the breeziness of these drive-by encounters with others.

But then, at times, you see someone and their image lights up a part of your brain, a memory, and your emotional life is re-contextualized. And it’s good to let that happen, that slide into the past, because there IS context there, a place of connection, and isn’t that why people go to reunions? Not as a study of specimens but as a kind of awakening of younger and less jaded (or tired) parts of the self? I think so. It is a very enjoyable experience. And all the people around you are doing the same and they reveal things to you like “The first time I did this or that adolescent wrong doing was WITH YOU!” Ah, but you do not take any blame. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else! And people get a little embarrassed. Some people want to fall in love again. Some people profess their crushes that they had, all of that. (None of that for me.) So the breeziness gets deeper.

I spoke for a while with another guy from my class who was also gay. It was very comforting.

I got to talk to some “Mounties” that I really did not know at all. And I certainly had complete conversations with people that I knew very well. Facebook helps. It re-solidifies. In fact, some sociologists are saying that Facebook is actually getting people to spend MORE time in the flesh with other people. Could be…

Glad I went. It was warm hearted. It was open hearted, even. And though at times it felt freaky, that was only when you thought about it too much. Because really, it’s just a middle aged prom, except you don’t have to have a date, you can afford it, you can wear something that is hanging in your closet, and you don’t have to go down to the Jersey Shore afterward and rent some filthy house for two or three nights.

And there is humor. A lot of it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Let's Talk About Water

This is the story.

Most of us are dehydrated.

That cranky feeling that you feel? It’s a lack of water.

The sort of confusion that you feel at times? It’s a water shortage.

The inexplicable exhaustion that you feel for no good reason? Get thee to the cooler.

You guys! Drink water. Lots of it. I know, I know, you have to drive somewhere or be on a subway or train or you have to go to bed. And who wants to be running to the bathroom every hour?

So try to get your water in early in the day. If you’re working, there’s no better place to drink water. Lots of it. Sit there and drink a ton of it. And the bathroom breaks are good for you. Gets you to walk around. If you are more of a runaround Sue in your daily life, well, you’ll have to figure it out. You can do it.

Headachy? You’re thirsty.

Irritable? Evian.

Strange sensation of impending doom? You need the spigot.

Drink water. It melts fat. It helps to maximize all metabolic reactions in your body. It increases your ability to focus. It gives your skin that twenty-something glow.

Your kidneys are up to the task.

Your membranes need it.

You can be the best you. It’s simple. Just add water.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thursday List

1. New York City is really a beaver swamp. It always was and always will be. Just add beaver.

2. Being more accepting of gay people might truly make more people experiment with being gay. But is that so bad? (I do see it happening. Maybe the social conservatives have a right to be scared. However, though they say Rome fell---last I heard, Rome is still there.)

3. It’s good to lose the weight. Now, what to do with the extra skin…

4. Obama’s ratings are low. But then, whose aren’t?

5. I saw Winter’s Bone tonight. My friend John Hawkes is in it. Amazing. Check it out. It got the grand jury prize at Sundance. Damn good acting. Cool story. Beautifully shot. And wait ‘til you see the squirrel skinning and what they do with a chain saw! Winter’s Bone. Newcomer, Jennifer Lawrence (at least new to me) was fresh and real and appealing.

6. I actually don’t believe in peanut butter.

7. I cut boxes to size for shipping. In other words---I sold an Eames chair on Ebay and used two speaker boxes, refitted for the chair. Anything to recycle. But I have to say, it does take time out of your day. And it’s a mess. And I use a steak knife.

8. Garbage trucks are aggressive.

9. Did you relax at all, today?

10. Love, when administered without ego, is often not trusted. People think you’re a kook. Might as well wear clown shoes and a skirt made out of neck ties.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I meet people lately who are older than me and I let out a sigh of relief. I used to be the youngest person ever. Then, you know, you get older and you find yourself being the oldest person in the room a lot.

Then—you meet older people and you’re not.

Older people are cool because they were the people you looked up to when you were in elementary school. They already had a car, freedom, a guitar, maybe very interesting sandals.

They were certainly more liberal than you were because they were the final march of the Sixties. And because they were more liberal, they went on to do more things for others.

Older people have an idea of life that is different than yours. Not by much, so you recognize it, but different enough so that you have to really pay attention.

I am talking about people who are only like five years older. But it does make a difference.

Older people are usually calmer than you and their egos are worn down a little bit more than yours. Unless, of course, they are of a certain type whose ego gets wilder.

Aging is interesting. I like it. You get a bit more gnarled. Feet and things. More aches, for sure. Less hair, some teeth radically altered by drills and fillers.

Hopefully, all your major organs are working so you’ll have them for when you get really old.

I have enjoyed spending time with people who are older than me after having spent so many years usually surrounded by people who are younger than I am.

But even better, it feels best to be around people of all ages at once. When you do that (especially by water) you see how pointless it is to worry about age at all since all ages are represented at once and so existentially they are there forever and you don’t matter so much.

Age is not that important. As I get older, I feel both older and younger. However, the dentist said I grind my teeth. He asked me, “Do you have an appliance?” I said, “Yes.” And he said, “Do you wear it?” And I said, “No.” He knew the answer before I said it but he had to ask.

Let’s all get old together. Just go light on the simple carbs.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Roman Geography: Today

New York is Bread

Los Angeles is Circus

So Washington D.C. can go to war.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010


For two weeks, an auto mechanic at a generic four bay repair joint on Northern Boulevard and 88th Street in Queens tried to fix two simple things on our Ford. The trunk latch which would not lock. And the battery light kept coming on when the car was idling, indicating that the alternator was not charging the battery properly (and this happened to us, too, 10 months ago and the car died on the Palisades Parkway, so it had to be taken care of.)

The more the guys at the shop worked on the car, the worse it got. The trunk button, when pushed, would click over and over again. The trunk would not lock. When I showed this to the mechanic, he tweaked if for a second. It worked once. Never worked again.

They replaced the alternator twice. Then the battery. Still, they could not get it to work properly. All the while, they were running off to chop shops, getting faulty refurbished parts that simply did not work. And they continued to charge me more and more money. Finally, I saw the game and realized they were going to keep me there forever, diagnosing, making a mess of things until I was living in a cardboard box near CitiField.

So I complained to the evening guy in charge, quite a bit, said I was taking my car back and bringing it to my brother’s Ford Dealership in New Jersey and that I wanted a large credit back on my card. The evening guy called the owner, told him the story, put his hand over the receiver and said, “Give me a number.”

So I was dealing with negotiation over a return of money for the work they did not do, the further mess they made of things. I gave him a fair number, which was about ¾ of the amount. No budging. I was told I had to come see the owner the next morning.

Which I did. And I made my case. And he gave me a credit back for almost the full ¾. Meanwhile, I went out to NJ with the Ford. Left it with my brother, got my parents’ car they leave at my sister’s house for when they come up to visit.

Went upstate and had a fabulous time in Ancram. Southern Columbia County. Certainly. On the way home, in my parents’ car, near Peekskill on the Taconic, I heard this thumping and I thought, “It’s not me. I always think it’s me but it’s not me.”
And I looked at the cars in my rearview mirror, seeing them approach, knowing the sound would get louder and louder because it must be, for sure, them, and not me. And it did get louder and louder and the car started to shake.

Total tire blow out. Like instant rubber garbage.

Side of the road, hiding behind the guard rail. Calling Triple A. The Taconic is set up so that Triple A cannot do any towing. The State troopers have to call in someone (and then Triple A reimburses. Whatever. Mob. Mob. Mob. This East coast. Everyone fighting for their revenue.)

Nice Trooper came and checked on us. Set up flares. Ten minutes later, nice tow guy changed our tire right on the side of the road, using his huge truck as a tank-block for protection.

We got off fine.

Strange car Karma. Some sort of sign, like, “You are kind of stuck and you need to fix shit up.”

I do not believe too much in that stuff---but what was rather freaky is the car shredded its tire EXACTLY at the exit off the Taconic where I was born. Sort of saying, “Go back. Start at the beginning.”

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Facebook Problem

Okay, what do you do when you have this code of acceptance? I was one of those guys who pretty much accepted all comers. I knew you from high school, sure, friend. We met at a party at so-and-so’s, sure, friend.

But then you see that these people are venomous about Obama or they give praise to God just one too many times, or whatever…and you think, “You know, I really think S is a great soul. I do. And I am open. But, like, when they post strong hating stuff, I am so unhappy it is on my wall.”

And then you start to think. Is it time to remove that person? And then you think, maybe it is.

Because shouldn’t your wall reflect you? Or is that just narcissism online?

I love Facebook. I understand its popularity. But you have to face and face.

Maybe this is where we really feel the harshness. It used to be in the center of town.

Speaking of which, have you ever been to Weimar? Go. The town square is fantastic.

Facebook---you bring me so much. But you shard me, too. Vinegar and crushed glass.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wednesday's Glory

I put on Christmas music today. The Charlie Brown stuff. It helped.

As much as I try to avoid it, I find myself eating street hot dogs. But let’s be honest, I don’t try to avoid it. And if the guy just threw a few into the hot water and you order one and you ask, “Is it hot?” and he answers, “Yes.” And then you bite into it and it is cold in the center…don’t’ be surprised.

Some writers wake up in a state of depression. Usually it is around rewrites. You have these thoughts, “Oh, why bother? No one cares. This is useless. People in offices get a weekly check.” Then, you eat, procrastinate, (isn’t eating a form of procrastination?), play some music—70s Pop hits—and you sit down and get to it and you start fiddling with it here and there and you go, “Oh, that’s fun.” And, “I like this scene. But could be stronger.” And, “Okay, rewriting doesn’t have to be so terrible. This is how it goes. We’re not painters, here.” And your mood elevates. And you feel you have purpose. And you continue and then it comes time for dinner and you don’t want to stop working but you have to. And then you go see friends.

Disposable contact lenses really should be disposed of when their time is up.

Heat dissipates.

There is strength in spending much time alone. I am drawn to being very social. But when you are alone, you do see who you are. Sometimes, you sort of can’t believe it. Sometimes, you think it’s kind of cool. Sometimes, you wonder how it all happened. To be able to be at rest while alone, interesting. Work in progress.

Items. You don’t need most things. However, I have noticed that things give one a certain feeling of being grounded. So though many of us look down our noses at the grand materialists, really what they are expressing is this trait. They just want to feel safe.

I love the alphabet. I only wish the alphabet was spelled abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz, but you still pronounced it, “The alphabet.”

Please recycle more assiduously.

Oil drillers are getting closer to the spill. Isn’t it strange how we have all gotten used to the geyser? Oh, yeah, that’s the geyser. Was it so bad that Obama remained calm? I envy him. I wish I could stay calm under extreme circumstances. Actually, I do. I do not remain calm under medium circumstances.

I eat steak.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Weather

You sometimes forget about the weather on the east coast. You stay inside and you ignore it.

Summer and Winter.

Just half the year.

It is puzzling to live in a place that is so often physically uncomfortable. Seasons affect work habits, too. There is a greater pace of work and effort in the colder weather. No wonder the Yanks won the Civil War.

Seasonal situations must certainly drive economic fluctuation. Maybe this is good. You end up being subservient to something greater—nature.

In the United States West, the booms and busts are more severe. Housing markets go into sine curves. Gold is found. Then it is not found again for a long time. Or too much of it is found, confidence is inflated and then the gold is lost.

But in the east, there is no gold. Though there is a lot of cash. A transactional place. I see people taking greater pleasure in selling than in making. But for a purpose.

Since there are these seasons to contend with, the most important thing is to be ready for them. And in order to be ready for them one must have a steady power source, which of course is money. This leads to a certain cap on creativity and a dip toward conservative behavior.

Conservative behavior is reliable behavior.

I believe the Greeks became free thinking and Democratic because the weather was so good. They could relax. They could try things out. There was plenty to eat and it was nice out most of the year. It was quite a boom. But now they’re in a bust.

I prefer boom-bust weather. Must be careful.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Cummings Family Reunion: Parents of the Boom

There were 8 of them, two of them did not have children, the other six had 27. My Dad is first on the Left.

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Cummings Family Reunion: Baby Boomers

Half of the 27 first cousins made it to the reunion.

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Cummings Family Reunion: Generation ZZ

My nephew. I have two. (One is a horse? No.)

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Canned Soup

We keep some cans of Trader Joe Soup around. Just in case. Tonight was a just in case night. It was late. I was hungry. I opened it, heated it up and ate it.

It must be poison.

Something about food that has been frozen in time in some can…how can that be good for you?

It was calories, I guess.

There were the little chicken chunks.

The little gummy noodles.

Some spice. Carrots grown in some pesticide field.

Chicken with chemicals, right?

What was this stuff that I just ate?

It had its day. And it will go away.

But really, must we ever eat this?