Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I had my court trial on Friday for bumping a car and not leaving a note nearly a year and a half ago. For those of you out of the loop, a quick summary:

During SXSW 2003, Professor $1.50 wanted someone to drive her downtown in her car, so she wouldn't have to park and walk to Emo's in her heels. I had a music wristband too, so after dropping off the Prof, I searched fruitlessly for a spot, until I found myself at 12th and Guadalupe, no closer to the action than my house (my house at that time, stalkers!) at 9th and Nueces. But I couldn't park at my house. That would be defeat. And I wanted success. Which isn't exactly what I got when I plowed into a parked car. I got out and checked for damage. The Professor's car was damaged all right, but that was old news. I didn't see any fresh damage on the other car either. Saved! I could move the car, but nah, that would be admitting that I did something wrong. So I took off running toward downtown, cause it's quicker to run than to walk.

I got about a block and a half away when I realized that if I didn't move the car, I would worry about it the whole night. So I turned and headed back, only to see a menacing crowd of angry do-gooders circled around the two vehicles, scrupulously checking for dents and marks. I panicked and ran to my house.

My plan seemed fail proof in the abstract recesses of my mind. I would change my clothes so that I wouldn't be recognized as I innocently approached the guilty vehicle, unlocked the passenger side door, jumped over to the driver's seat, and burned rubber! Oh, and I'd bring a pen and paper in case I had any script ideas.

But sometimes even the most perfect plan suffers when it ventures beyond theory. The things life throws at you, my God! As I approached the star-crossed intersection, I saw police lights flashing in the distance. Hmm. That's kind of strange. Could that have something to do with the car I bumped, I wondered. Just in case, I stopped and tried to formulate a new plan. That didn't work. So I sashayed up to the cars. Yep, the police were at the Prof's car all right.

As I later learned, the smash was loud enough to wake up a woman who was sleeping in a nearby car. She saw me run from the scene (apparently running seemed suspicious in these circumstances), and called the cops, really just tattling on herself.

I kept sashaying, trying not to look guilty while glancing at the horrible accident. With my new clothes, I could easily slip past that two car pile-up without a word. But what if they towed the Professor's car? They might be more merciful if I confessed. I was indecisive and this momentary weakness ruined me. One of the officers caught me looking nervously at the cars. He asked me if the guilty one was mine. "Uh... no," I stammered and paused. "But I was borrowing it."

And so the wheels of injustice began their spirit-crushing turn. My martyred soul would be their grease.

I suffered indignity piled upon indignity. The cops chastised me for not writing a note, and called me a suspicious character for going home and changing my clothes. I got nervous and contradicted myself left and right, lying about things I had no need to lie about, but ultimately I offered a pretty solid claim: I went home to get a pen and paper to write the note, and while I was there I changed my clothes to be more SXSW appropriate.

One of the cops all but challenged me to a playground duel: "Ooooh, that's such a lie! You're so obviously lying!" I was lying, but that's no excuse for childish name-calling, sir. This is the same peace officer that conducted the weapons and drugs frisk on me. When he found the pen and paper in my pocket, he was speechless for about five seconds. Had I so obviously been truthing before? Oh well, he thought, and tossed it aside. If I hadn't made myself look like such a lying fool before, I might have protested this slight of my "evidence."

Next came the sobriety test. The owner of the bumped car wasn't going to press charges, and they had to get me on something. Luckily sobriety comes naturally for me, and I handily passed every parlor trick they threw my way. I regret not doing better on the balancing on one leg test, though.

"You clearly haven't been drinking or doing any drugs, and we appreciate that," the officer effused. "Now can I search your car for drugs?"

It's not that I didn't know my rights, but I kind of forgot them, and moreover thought that being a pushover could only be to my advantage. So I mumbled, "Well, it's not my car. But... I guess." And with this half-hearted consent, the smiling tyrant jumped in the air, tapped his heels together, and began his search for cop gold.

While the cannon fodder ransacked the Professor Mobile like it were an acre of public grazing land and he were the tragedy of the commons, I struck up a conversation with his partner in crime.

"What could I have done, besides going home, if I didn't have a pen and paper for the note," I asked.

"If you don't have a pen and paper," he said with complete seriousness, "you should write the note on a leaf."

His statement was so ludicrous that responding at all seemed like it would be positively counterproductive. It needed to hang in the air and ferment. I looked miserably at the other, more depraved officer, who was enthusiastically peeking into the Professor's dark, contradictory soul as he meticulously studied all of her potentially illegal possessions.

"I guess I could have said no to the search, huh," I moaned glumly to Officer Hanson.

He shook his head. "If you'd done that, it would only have taken longer. We would have brought over a drug dog to sniff for drugs from the outside."

"Why is he searching the car for drugs anyway," I asked, grasping desperately to my naïve (and presently dead) view of police as selfless public servants. "He knew that I was sober and hadn't done any drugs."

"It was really suspicious of you to go home and change your clothes," he said mechanically, beating that old drum.

"But what does that have to do with drugs," I kept pressuring.

"Well, you never know. We find drugs on all sorts of people. Like just recently, we found cocaine on an old gray-haired businessman that you would never have suspected. You'd be surprised who we find drugs on."

So it had nothing to do with probable cause. When you can search for drugs, you should, because you might get lucky and find some. You never know! And this time, that search first rule almost worked out for them.

"I found something," the privacy-abusing grunt shouted to my new friend, after overturning everything the Professor had packratted into her abused and violated car. He proudly held up the end of an old, smoked joint - the contraband white stub that could have been my swan song. Everything I'd worked for my entire life, wiped out with a small scrap of paper (probably minted by Zig Zag, as my Oat Willie's experience had taught me) and a few burnt, shredded leaves that I had never seen before, and certainly had never smoked. And even if I had, so what? The evil power of the war on drugs to steamroll over thousands of lives suddenly became terribly clear to me.

Damn it, I thought, how could I have been so stupid as to let cops search the car of THE Professor $1.50?! But the fiend reassured me. "This joint is so old, it could have been here for years," he lamented. "So we can't use it against you. But if this were fresher, you'd be going to jail tonight." At least they didn't try to get me on violating expiration date law. But this wasn't even my car! Still, even I had to admit that the irony of a drug free health nut going to jail for utterly preposterous possession charges stemming from a gently bumped car would have been juicy indeed.

Instead, reined in by some modicum of sense that must accidentally have slipped into the law books, they had to console themselves by ticketing me for "Failure to Comply with Duty Upon Striking an Unattended Vehicle" (not leaving a note on the car I bumped), and for not having a copy of the Professor's insurance in the car. "You're lucky," they told me. The other driver could have pressed charges for hundreds of dollars for the two paint chips they found, and I could have gone to jail for life for that joint. On the other hand, they admitted it was incredibly rare for anyone to get saddled with that failure to comply charge. Most people who bump a car and forget to leave a note are smart enough to just drive away. I took my ticket without protest, relieved that my life was still my own. When the time came to pay the $100 fine, I demanded my most precious of American rights: a trial by jury.

That was a year and a half ago. Oh how much I've learned since then!

To call Friday's scandalous perversion of our government's supposed balance of powers a "trial" would be too kind, since the lawmakers, police and black-robed miscreants are all in alliance against me. Apocalyptic orgiastic circus of injustice is more like it. Actually, it wasn't too bad. It went down like this:

Professor $1.50, my star witness, picked me up in the very car that had caused me and the State of Texas so much grief. During our trail of tears to court, I coached her on what to say. Highly illegal, sure, but you gotta fight fire with fire.

"Ms. $1.50, whose car was I driving on the night of March 14, 2003?"

"You were driving my car, Rhys."

"No, no no!" I shouted. "You have to call me Your Honor, or they'll lock both of us away for contempt! Listen, just tell them that you didn't have a pen and paper in your car, and that's why I had to run home, and we're golden."

"But I probably did have a pen and paper in there somewhere," my perjurous witness countered. "It sounds contrived to say I didn't. Your point should be that the car was so messy, it was actually quicker to go to your house five blocks away to get the pen and paper, than to look for it in my car."

"They jury will believe what I tell them to believe," I fumed, "and you're my witness, so you're going to say to say what I tell you to say. Capiche?"

"Yes, sir," she saluted sarcastically.

My eyes narrowed ferociously. "Remember, your fancy heels got me into this mess, and if I go down in this swamp of state vengeance and rehabilitation, I'm dragging your sorry ass with me. Got it?"

So that was a solid running start.

Originally -- a year and a half removed from when I was to actually set eyes on the jury that would decide my fate -- Brooke convinced me to make the writing a note on a leaf comment the leather gloves of the case. Once I finally badgered Officer Hanson into confessing his foolish comment ("Oh, no? Officer, do you realize that you are UNDER OATH?"), I would give him a leaf from the scene of the bump and demand that he write a note with his name, phone number, and insurance information on it -- without a pen. When he finished, I would hold up the leaf, now torn to shreds with illegible finger nail carvings, and the case would be settled: "Innocent beyond belief!"

When my trial was first scheduled in January, and then in March, I had every intention of turning the justice system on its head with over-the-top performance pieces like that. I believe I stated in this very blog that when I was through with it, the Texas Justice System would essentially cease to exist. I even collected some leaves from 12th and Guadalupe, which would have been the exact same quality of the leaves on the night of the bump. But that was months ago. A lot can change in that time. I have responsibilities now. A steady job at a macrobiotic restaurant, feeding Austin's most finicky, who would likely fast themselves to death without us. A fabulously popular Website that turns worthless nobodies into stars. A bi-daily blog that attracts fans from all corners of the world. A pretend wife who would be utterly lost without me. And projects, projects, projects!

Would I be willing to throw all that away just for a quick tap dance on the head of an arch-backed, blood-shot, smoke snorting justice system that would buck me long before my 8 seconds were up? A few months ago I might have said yes. The difference now is simple: maturity. Oh, and cowardice.

The Professor, more concerned with her own amusement than my freedom, insisted that I bring the leaf this time. But if I had as much fun with the case as I'd wanted, I could have turned what would have been a $100 ticket into life in prison. I decided to save my contemptuous courtroom showmanship for the Sean Connery Golf Project trial. We went inside.

Somehow, the metal detectors failed to catch the deadly time bomb ticking away in the Professor's lovelorn heart, and we got through. I veered straight for Justice Herb Evans' office, to log my official appearance. No, no, they weren't going to get me on a technicality, not these ones, not this time.

"I'm scheduled for a trial at 9 a.m.," I thundered to the depressed looking women hiding behind the files, typewriters, and stacks of paperwork. Their eyes shot to the clock. Damn it, the kid made it on time. I showed them my cause number (J5-CR-3-04592), and one of them went to the back to rummage through the files. After minutes of rummaging, she wandered back empty-handed, looking confused. She whispered to one of the other women, glancing at me now and then. They seemed surprised that I was there. But I'd called earlier in the week to confirm that indeed I did have a trial that day.

A clean-cut young man with short curly blond hair and a stiff demeanor walked out. If that's not the prosecutor, then my name isn't Rhys Jarrett, I thought. The bewildered woman whispered to him, and he looked over at me. Then they all congregated, talked, and then just stood back there and said nothing for a while. Then the first woman gave the curly haired guy a folder. Finally he came up to me.

"Are you here for the trial?"


"It's your trial, then?"


"Could you come back with me?"

"My witness is out there, should I bring her?"

"No, not yet."

We went back to his office and sat down. He acted all nice and non-intimidating, while I was as passive and obedient as I could be. He opened the folder and pulled out some papers.

"Says here your trial was postponed last time because there was another trial scheduled that day. That's the way we do things here."

Your way sucks I thought, and smiled politely at him.

"There's another trial scheduled today too."


"Not looking forward to that one. It's been a real thorn in my side."


He took out a copy of the police report, a report I'd made a motion to see back in January, but never received. He gave it a quick skim and then like magic seemed to know everything there was to know about the state's grievance against me.

He looked me in the eyes with compassion, ready to give me the benefit of the doubt.

"Tell me honestly. How much damage was there to the other car?"

"After searching for 15 minutes with flashlights, the police officers found two paint chips," I said in legalese. "But those could have been there before, and that's not the issue, because the driver of the car didn't press charges."

"I noticed there was no victim here," he admitted, playing right into my hands.

"The issue was that I didn't leave a note on the car," I continued, taking advantage of his apparent sympathy. "But I actually went home to get a pen and paper to write the note. It's just that the police and the owner of the car were already there when I got back."

"I see that here too," he said.

Now that was interesting. The cops that ticketed me did make a big deal about how I ran home and came back, and how suspicious they thought it was, so it's not surprising that they noted it in their report. But my spin easily swayed the prosecutor into thinking that the police report agreed that I went home so I could write a note (when actually I took the pen and paper for an unrelated writerly issue). The harsh face of the State of Texas was practically rooting for me to win. I pressed forward, ever more confident.

"Last time the police officer didn't even show up to the court," I complained.

"He didn't?"

"Is he here this time?"

"I don't think so, not yet."

"Is that grounds for dismissal?"

The prosecutor stretched his bottom lip across his teeth and slapped his tongue against the inside of it, making a clicking noise.

"Could be," he said noncommittally. "We'll see whether the officer arrives, and then we'll go from there."

He seemed weak, so I kept striking.

"This has been kind of a nightmare," I exaggerated. "I want my life back."

"I understand."

"This happened almost over 2 years ago. I'm a changed man. I mean, I was innocent, but I'll never make a mistake like that again. A completely legal mistake, I mean."

"I see you rejected the $100 fine. It rubbed you the wrong way?"

"Exactly. I didn't think I'd done anything wrong."

He nodded thoughtfully. I went for the wrap-up.

"So when do we decide that the officer hasn't shown up?"

"What time is it? It's 9:00 already. Hmm. Okay, we're going to give the officer a little more time. If he doesn't show, then we might be able to dismiss. If he makes it, then we'll have to come back here and talk. Go ahead and wait out there. And try not to say anything. There's a lot of jury members out there."

I walked out of there, floating on air. I was going to be free!

Just as the prosecutor warned, the hallway was full of people holding cards with numbers on them, looking proud, dutiful and patriotic. The Professor was sitting awkwardly amongst our carefully selected and sorted peers (strangely none of them were our Friendsters). I whistled and jerked my head to the right, and she followed me around the corner.

"We have to be quiet," I told her as she settled on the empty bench, safe from prying ears. "They don't want me disturbing the vacuum of justice."

I gushed about my impending freedom and we went back to the benches with the jury members, so we wouldn't miss the prosecutor when he came out with the good news. Unfortunately, the professor and I have so many peers that there was only one empty bench spot on each side, so we couldn't sit together. We sat directly across from each other, and The Professor pulled out "The Bell Curve" to read while we waited. I guess it was too dense though, because she put it away after a minute. The rest of the time we glanced around and tried to avoid each other's gaze.

Nothing against me or her, but looking at someone without talking to them, even if it's a pretty close friend, is always horribly awkward. Bob and I once stared at each other for a good five minutes at Starseeds as an experiment, and it was one of the hardest things I'd ever done. It was too bad that the Prof and I had to be sequestered like that. I thought of some pretty funny things to say while watching the hapless civilians coming in through the metal detector, and I bet she did too. Like when this older woman walked through and got beeped, I would have said, "Oh, you know she's carrying." And Prof probably would have mustered a forced guffaw, if not a genuine chuckle. I would have crackd this joke to a jury member, but I didn't want to bias him.

Apparently there's a lot of behind the scenes negotiating and such that goes on at courts, because it took a while for the prosecutor to get his justice-meting ass out there. The wheels of justice are a little cloaked, I'm afraid to say. But this gave me more time to observe the workings of the system. What stood out was how much of a novelty the jury members were at this municipal court, which was so used to tools rolling over and paying their tickets without a fight. The jurors were almost like celebrities, except instead of asking for autographs, people kept asking the jurors to settle their disputes. Most memorably, two security guards were bickering about a debt that one of them allegedly owed the other. They presented their arguments to the jury members who whispered to each other for a while, and pronounced their verdict: the one who was owed the money could take a pound of flesh from the debtor. Old school, but fair, I thought.

The prosecutor arrived before we could see justice done.

"We're going to dismiss your case," he whispered conspiratorially to me, practically going for a high five. So I was right. What an anti-climax! The Prof and I followed him and the jury members into the small, intimate courtroom. I knew I was safe, but still couldn't shake the feeling that I was trotting into a slaughterhouse.

Justice Herb Evans stepped in, and we were all about to leap to our feet, but His Honor, obviously grieved about something, outstretched his commanding, honorable hand and stopped us. "Don't stand," he insisted, and we sat obediently, like the non-contemptuous courtroom subjects we were.

The Judge paused. He was not eager to be the bearer of bad news.

"There will be no trial today," he said remorsefully.

The jury was literally dumbstruck with disappointment and non-contemptousness.

"I'm not proud of it, but the state witness, the police officer, didn't show up today. He didn't show up last time either, and you only get two bites at the apple at my court," Ol' Herb said with a folksy twang, like a less self-conscious Jim Hightower. "That's the way it happens sometimes."

Lesser judges would have left it at that, sending the jury members back to their oppressive paper pushing jobs, with no blood on their hands, nobody sent to the gallows, nothing to show for their morning.

But Herb had to leave them with something. So he busted out a civics lesson, giving a sincere, moving speech on the "precious American right of a trial by jury." "In America, you don't have to have a government official pronounce your sentence. You can have a jury of your peers weigh the evidence against you, and this precious right keeps the government in check," etc. When he was done, the jury left, and I got my official dismissal.

I was hoping for a giant hand with a stamp to slam down on a piece of paper, splashing "Dismissed!" on it. Instead it said this: "The State of Texas Vs. Rhys Southan (I beat Texas!!). In the Justice Court Precinct Five Travis County, Texas. Motion for Dismissal. To the Judge of Said Honorable Court: Comes now STATE OF TEXAS on July 9, 2004 requesting that this complaint be dismissed for the following reason(s): In the interest of justice – no complaining witnesses. ORDER. The above Motion to Dismiss is herby GRANTED." Signed with a glorious HE for Herb Evans. So our justice system actually works, flawlessly. If Officer Hanson had been the judge and jury, for instance, I would have been found guilty 100 times over.

The prosecutor told us to wait while he made a copy of the dismissal, so we chilled in the declawed court, now completely impotent to wrest the freedom out from under me.

In the meantime, a defense lawyer from a case that had settled out of court earlier approached the stand and struck up a conversation about some wonderboy lawyer that he and the judge both knew. "He's a great trial lawyer," he gushed. "Not just a great trial lawyer," Herb corrected. "A great lawyer in general.") And then the defense cleared his throat and prepared himself for a matter of the utmost importance.

"I'm going to tell you something, and I'm serious about this, Judge," he said, followed by a long pause. "The team that played these last two games is not the same team that made it to the finals."

"I have to disagree," the judge said in his finalizing, objective voice. "It's not whether you win, it's how you play the game."

"Of course," the Defense objected, "But they have made more errors in the past two games than in the 20 games before that, combined."

"That's what sticks in the craw," his honor said, shaking his head., "That's what sticks in the craw. I would have gone to the game with you, but I had a wedding to go to."

Whoa! Judges and lawyers consorting! Precious right my ass! This fucking system is rotten to the core! Burn it to the ground! Blast it to oblivion, shoot all the corrupt bureaucrats behind it, and start from scratch!

Aww, what do I care? I got off!

So then I took the Professor to breakfast. Well, she drove and we paid for ourselves. I SHOULD have taken her to breakfast though, probably. That is what you do in those situations, right? I just won my freedom, the year and a half long albatross was off my neck, I'd escaped a ginormous fine, and Professor was there at my side having only gotten three hours of sleep. Surely I could have afforded a measly $5, right?

Well, yeah, if it had occurred to me. I guess I'm kind of an asshole, because the shameful fact is that for a second there, I thought she was paying for me! In my defense, she did say, "I got your back," when I was digging through my bag for money. But what she meant was that she would pay for both of us and then I would pay her, so I could avoid the Mr. Natural middlemen. My theory is that the Professor was originally going to pay for me, then thought better of it and didn't know how to correct her mistake. Her way of getting "my back" was nothing but a pointless hassle since I only had a twenty, and Katherine, who was working the Mr. Natural cash register for the first time in a year (she was away at school in Maryland) had to call over a superior to help her make change so I could pay the Professor instead of them.

Anyway, that's my court trial story. So yeah, it was dismissed. What, you thought there was going to be some sort of twist? You want twists, read Kathryn Jane's blog. I dish it straight here! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more on my adventures in Chicago, the Windy City!

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Last night was perhaps the best night of my life. I did my first real cooking (as opposed to vegetable chopping) at Casa de Luz, making the corn bread. Wayo, the owner of Casa de Luz - if such a thing is possible - never gets seconds. But last night he got seconds on the cornbread and nothing but the cornbread. I defy anyone to prove that they ever got more satisfaction from anything they've accomplished than I got from making that cornbread.

My summer is more or less going as planned. Besides visiting my parents in Dallas this week, I've mostly avoided human contact outside of Casa De Luz (though I am at the computer lab now, and Will talked to me, but such instances will become history once I get internet in my house). I do only four main things every day. I work on my script, I work at Casa, I work on the World Star Gazette, and I read. Has ever a life been more luxurious than mine?

I finished reading Son of the Revolution while I was in Dallas, and on the Greyhound back to Austin, I was reminded why you have to select your bus reading material very carefully indeed: bored people on the bus who aren't afraid of strangers will sometimes ask what you are reading.

Unfortunately, I hadn't planned for this, and when the small town Texas girl with the country twang asked me what I was reading, I had to expose myself as a pretentious "brain type," stuttering, "Oh, hi, yeah, um, I'm reading 'Intellectuals' by Paul Johnson, author of 'A History of the Jews' and 'The History of the World From the Twenties to the Eighties.' It's about those people who claim to know how to build a better society from scratch, and try to tell people how to live their lives. Then the book delves into the horrors that their hubris unleashed on the world by helping to justify the ideological dictatorships of the 20th Century."

"Oh," she said with a crooked smile. "Neat!"

If my description of "Intellectuals" to the country lass was a little over the top, I've since learned that it's inaccurate too. "Intellectuals" is mainly about how Marx and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and all those 19th Century fancy-pantses liked to sleep around a lot and were cruel to their wives and their servants. Johnson often makes the (correct, I think) point that people who are unable to deal with humans as living, thinking individuals often try to make up for it by professing a love of all humanity.

Still, Johnson comes across as a bitter Salieri in this book, aghast that exceptionally flawed "humbugs" like Percy Shelly and Leo Tolstoy crafted such beautiful art. "From now on we are enemies, You and I. Because You choose for Your instrument a boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy and give me only the ability to recognize the incarnation."

Poor Johnson. This book isn't everything I hoped for, but it's worth reading, and it's made me realize that if I wish to be a full-on creative genius, I'm going to have to get a lot nastier. So once I come out of my hiding... watch out!

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Last night, one of the volunteers at Casa - an older man who is trying to get a job there - asked me what I had been up to (and yes, he ended on a preposition so I feel obliged to do so here). Until he broke the silence, my mind had been awash in images and ideas and fascinating concepts, but of course my mind went dead the moment he spoke. So I robotically mumbled a few of the latest Rhys ventures. I told him I was doing a lot of writing, but then quickly changed the subject so he wouldn't ask me what I had been writing. I told him I'd been doing a lot of reading also, a much easier topic to deal with... or... so I THOUGHT.

The Cougster: "Oh, you've been reading, huh? What have you been reading?"

Rhys: "Well, just a few days ago, I got inspired to buy some books about Mao. Cause I was reading about modern Chinese history, the fifties and sixties and seventies and so on, the decades of love and revolution, the good times ya know, and I realized that though I knew a bit about the Russian Revolution, and the American Revolution, and even a little about the French revolution, I didn't know anything about Mao's Chinese revolution. And I'd always assumed that the Russian Revolution was the most tragic and thus the most fascinating, but then I found out that Mao was actually responsible for more deaths than Stalin and Hitler combined, and I thought, hey, maybe I'm missing out on something here.

"So I got this book called Son of the Revolution, written by this guy who grew up in the Sixties in China, and it's just so gripping how Mao's regime tore this guy's family and his life apart. For instance, in the fifties Mao started a policy called 'Let 100 Flowers Bloom,' where people were allowed to make criticisms of the Communist Party. And this guy's mom was in love with the party. They gave her a job afterall, as the leader of her local party organization. There was nothing she loved more than the communist party. So she couldn't think of any suggestions. But being the group leader, her underlings said she needed to make some suggestions to set a good example. So she made three minor suggestions. However, the policy of letting 100 flowers bloom soon turned into The Anti-Rightist Campaign, and anyone who made any critiques was called a Capitalist Rightist and was sent to the labor camps.

"So his mom was sent to the camps for three years, and when she got out, her husband divorced her, because he didn't want others thinking there was a rightist in their family. And then the whole family including the kids had to ostrasize her, or risk being labeled "Son or Daughter of a Rightist," and not be able to get into the better schools, and get beat up and harassed, and never be able to get into the Communist Party, which was the only road to success in China at that time. But it didn't work because the party never forgets, and everyone knew this family had a supposed rightist capitalist background..."

Oh, and I went on about people being jailed or executed for writing things like "Down With Mao," city people being sent to the country to learn how to be proletariats, and the mass famines that resulted leading to millions of deaths, the constant fear of being labeled anything politically dangerous like a counterrevolutionary, Mao's red guards who were teenagers who went around routinely searching apartments and burning books and destroying property and beating up people and smashing stuff in the name of the revolution, the polical consequences of even having a great-grandfather who had been a landlord before "Liberation," and so on.

And then I concluded with, "I guess I just like studying despots and totalitarian regimes."

But the Cougster didn't seem at all moved by the plight of Chinese people under Mao. He had just sort of grunted at the enslavement or murder of people labeled rightists and capitalist roaders. Instead, he had another angle on his mind.

The Cougster: So, you like studying despots and totalitarian regimes? Have you ever studied Bush and the United States?"

Instead of just absolutely roasting this guy as I should have, I just blandly responded, "Well, yeah, I think Bush is bad, but ultimately there's something kinda boring about domestic politics. Which is weird, right, cause domestic politics have more of a direct impact on me. But I don't feel all that oppressed really, and certainly Bush isn't on the level of Mao as far as tyrants go."

The Cougster looked at me and cocked his eyebrow mysteriuosly. "Yet," he said.

Oh, man.

Every once in a while you meet a real nut at Casa. It's rare, but it happens.

Anyone who thinks that Bush is the worst tyrant in history, or has the potential to be, which you would have to think if you're comparing him unfavorably to Mao, has some catching up to do on modern history.

Really, if Bush ends up directly killing more people than Mao did, or even forcing people to write self-critiques every night, I will cut off my right arm and eat it. And don't think me couragous for that. Bush will be forcing me to do it for saying something bad about the No Child Left Behind Act.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

So I'm rockin' the Pokemon T-shirt today (props to the Nicoolster!), a gaudy, bright red celebration of pop-culture irony that for some reason acts as a truth serum on everyone who sees it. "You there! You look like a man I can trust! Let me tell you what's been on my mind!" I've heard some pretty appalling confessions from people of all walks of life today (you name a gender, it's represented), enough to make me sick to my stomach, and want to retire this shirt for good. Dear God, why would I want to hear about your sadistic pyromaniatic childhood, your drug-fueled murder sprees, your belated incestuous fantasies, your aspirations to do nothing but work 10 to 4 in a government office filling out the necessary paperwork for withholding the latest life-saving drug or incinerating thousands of political prisoners for their defiant protests, or the time you went potty in the woods and wiped with moss because you were living authentically? These horrors are a burden on your soul for a reason -- you deserve to be damned! Confiding in innocents like me merely corrupts you further. I don't believe that we have any responsibility for our actions, but we can control our thoughts and desires at least, so keep your deviations under wraps!

I've been reading a lot of blogs lately. And that's the good news. The bad news is that I've been living life too, which is fine if you write blogs, but that's just not something I do anymore. Living life is a luxury that only the established and content can afford.

Yes, as I've maintained for the past couple of years, working at Casa is the best job in the world. I know this for a fact now because I work there. Full time. Starting Tuesday. I will never be a volunteer or an intern for anything ever again for as long as I live (not sure how the afterlife works, you probably gotta get your foot in the door and work your way up the same way, so I can't make any promises there). Not only does Casa pay 25 cents more per hour than my last job, it has benefits too. A steady diet of macrobiotic food is better than all the health and dental coverage in the world. Besides that, the atmosphere is vibrant, the customers are aglow with health (if a little picky sometimes... no onions or garlic? Come on!), and I'll never have to buy food or eat out ever again.

That's the life that everyone in their right mind dreams of. So why do I feel the need to strive for more? Maybe it's that American agnostic work-ethic that everyone talks about. Except I don't think I have that. True, everytime I'm "having fun," I feel like I have to justify it to myself as some sort of means to an end. "Oh, I'm watching reality TV, this will give me some insights into popular culture that I can use in my writing." "Oh, I'm hanging out with friends. This will be a great time to observe how other people interact and express themselves, which will help me create more realistic characters and dialogue in my next project." "Oh, I'm eating. This will give me nutrients as well as deliver glucose to my brain so that I can think straight and concentrate on the task at hand." "Oh, I'm writing a script. This will be good writing practice for later scripts, and might make me some money that I can use to support myself while I write more scripts." "Oh, I'm dating. This will teach me about romantic relationships, very important for understanding how humans think, and I might get to make-out." Clearly, making out is an end unto itself. Just kidding. "Oh, I'm making out. This will be good experience for when I'm trying to convince someone to marry me." This isn't work ethic. It's just common sense.

There comes a point, however, where the excuses stop adding up. "Oh, I'm hanging out with friends... again. This time I'll pay even closer attention to the way people talk and interact, and I'll pick up on subtleties I missed before that I can use to build the back-stories of my supporting characters, which I can talk about on the commentary track on the DVD." Uh, nice try dude, but that one just doesn't fly.

I'm reaching that point where every email I get is a conspiracy to stop me from achieving, every friendly invitation to a gathering is a violent oppression, every hug hello is the kiss of Judas, and every phone call just to chat is the cruelest cut of all. PS: Everyone listed as one of my friends in my second blog entry ever is excempt from all this, as are most of my more recent friends too. I'm mainly just talking about Sony.

So let me clarify. I will always enjoy hanging out with friends because it allows me to observe how people interact, BUT... I do see a bright side to everyone leaving this summer. It's click-it or ticket time. Can I accomplish all my goals now that I have relative isolation, or will I end up in "Spring Break Wristbands," Dirty's style? If I can't finish all my script, book and article ideas with in two months with only World Star Gazette and Casa in my way, then I have no discipline whatsoever and will never be a successful writer.

Actually, that's not necessarily true, because all the time I gain by my friends being gone, I lose by having my old roommate J-Lo back. And as much as I like J-Lo, she is a talker. She ropes me into long conversations no matter how much I need to get done, even when I am late for something and am standing in the doorway, trying to leave. "Did you notice how the wind felt against your face when you opened the door? It's a lot more humid here than in El Paso, not nearly as bright, though. El Paso was named the sunniest city in the country by Weather.com, which I learned the hard way when..." When I enter the house, there she is, the gatekeeper, the one to sneak past to get to my room and get to work. But she will never let me by without saying "hi," which can only lead to "hello," which inevitably turns into an hour-long discussion about Wren's surgery and fruitless web surfing for cancer preventatives, even if J-Lo herself has a test the very next day that she desperately needs to cram for. If someone is willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of a warm chat, she will definitely sacrifice you.

And it can't be that she loves talking to me in particular, because I hardly say anything interesting, for fear of giving her new avenues for pontificating. Sometimes, I masochistically feel the need to contribute something just to be polite, and it's always to the demise of my productivity. After all the talk of what Wren should start taking to make sure this doesn't happen again was over, J-Lo asked how Wren was feeling after the surgery. If I'd said "fine," that would have limited her options for pressing on, but no, against my better judgement, I gave her exactly what she wanted. I told her that Wren had a headache. "Oh, really, what kind of a headache?" "I don't know." "If it's a migraine..." That blunder lost me another 20 minutes.

Nevertheless, with my friend-free time already bartered away and accounted for, there will be one change with everyone gone. For once, I can be myself.

With Joe and Prentiss in New York for the summer (They'll be back by August, I guarantee), I can stop pretending to care about whether a libertarian societal framework would allow people to sell themselves into slavery.

With Wren gone to Utah this summer, I can curse and make fun of God again.

With Forrest gone, I can wear my "Voting is For Old People" shirt every single day.

With Nicole in the snowy North, I can stop pretending to care about books and learning and stuff.

And with Nicky and Erica gone... well, I'm pretty much myself around them anyway. Aww, forget it, here's what's really important: OMG, last Sunday Woody Harrelson came into Casa de Luz, and he almost looked at me! I'll tell you all about it next time!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Somehow I can't escape so-called friends who see me as an all too stoic foil that needs to be humiliated and corrupted.

My Daily Texan friends got me first when they took it upon themselves to adultify my roller skating, showbiz pizza, cartoon watching 21st birthday party. And in fact, Carrie seemed downright disappointed when she learned that she and Joshua were not responsible for the first coerced lap dance I'd had to endure.

Even more disappointing, perhaps, is that the first one was far more traumatizing. There was a girl I had a crush on at my 21st birthday party, but after she and a large group of friends had to watch as a random woman shoved my face in her breasts and knocked my head around... well, it was a little too awkward to talk to her after that. As far as I know, there are no similar consequences to this one, but Josh still got his money's worth; he said that watching me sit through the dance with a pissed off expression on my face made his night. Joshua technically bought the lap dance for me, but as he pointed out later, he was really buying it for him.

I should have known better than to think that Josh wanted me to join him at The Yellow Rose for his last night in town just because he wanted my company. "Come on, Rhys! It'll be fuuuuun!" I let myself get talked into going after I heard that Erica was going to be there. The last time I saw Erica, she was condemning her friend for being a topless bar regular, so the fact that she was going somehow made it okay. And to be fair, the Yellow Rose is boring, pointless, and unpleasant, especially if you don't like sports, but horrific and apocalyptic it's not. In fact, it even boasts one brilliant dancer, once of Cirque du Soleil fame, who proved that pole dancing can truly be a beautiful art form.

It's not the Yellow Rose I have a problem with, though I don't like that at least one dancer there won't take no for an answer (or even "no thanks.... here's why... no") when she's been paid to give an unwilling participant a lap dance. What disturbs me more are people who enjoy making you do something, not because it's good for you, but solely because you don't want to do it.

Originally Josh was going to secretly buy the dance for Brazos and tell the dancer that Brazos had a foot fetish (hilarity surely would have ensued), which seemed odd, since that's the sort of prank that people would usually reserve for me. And indeed, Josh thought better of it when he realized it would be "more ironic" to buy it for me. I wonder how often people buy lap dances for the ironic value. Even better would be lap dances for the sake of symbolism, or better still, for onomonopia... though I don't know how you'd pull that one off.

I lose points here for not saying anything against Josh's plan to surprise Brazos with an un-requested foot in his face, because I was just relieved it wasn't for me. When the lap dancers were coming for Brazos, I said nothing, because I wasn't Brazos. When the lap dancers were coming for me, there was nobody left to speak up. Well, except for Erica, who later regretted not doing more than giving Josh angry scowls.

The best part is that Josh and Carrie could point out that by not doing everything I possibly could have to escape (it's true, I could have run), I was somewhat complicit. And because I didn't explode in a fury afterwards, denouncing Josh and Carrie to the hills and severing all ties immediately, I couldn't have been that unhappy about the whole thing.

I include Carrie in this critique even though it was primarily Josh's idea, because she organized it, and also seemed to have some stake in it. Earlier, she complained when I refused to join Josh at the stage to give dollar bills to the dancers. "Come on, Rhys, you can't come here and half ass it!" "I came here to hang out with Josh." "And look, Josh is over there! Go hang out with him!" "That's okay." "You just have to stand behind him!"

Oh, I have to. Guess I better do it. And stand behind Josh I did. But Josh was too clever to leave it at that. As the dancer approached the end of the stage, Josh jumped out of the way and pointed at me. Har, har. I smiled politely and shook my head as she advanced, and the dancer went back to Josh, who was quite disappointed with me afterward. Later he said, "If you'd just given her a dollar, I wouldn't have bought you that dance." Pause. "No, actually, I still would have bought you the dance."

Josh, always the scientist, had an academic distance from the experience for most of the night, theorizing about what he would have to do to objectify a woman, and how "normal people like us" wouldn't objectify women once we left, but others might. I'd like to hear his theories on why the world’s "fun-lovers" feel so compelled to "corrupt" the stoics, ascetics, crusty deans, and poindexters of the world.

I'm not saying that this experience was at all corrupting. It was more annoying than anything else, far from life-changing, and probably worth little to no consideration if not for what it says about my friends, and people in general. Whoa, the Yellow Rose is like a microcosm, man.

My friend Courtney used to hate that I wouldn't drink around her when she was drinking, because she thought I was judging her. I told her I wasn't, but she didn't believe me, and eventually talked me into drinking a margarita. Carrie has told me she was proud of me on two occasions that I can remember: first when I had a sip of whiskey at her 23rd birthday party, and second when I came to the Yellow Rose last night. But what exactly did she get out of these experiences? What's so fun about seeing others do things they avoid as a matter of habit or principle? Is it an ingrained response to people who seem to be looking down at you? Kinda like how meat-eaters will robotically respond "Where do you get your protein?" the moment they find out you're vegetarian? Am I above enjoying seeing other people reluctantly doing things that are out of character for them?

The most annoying thing about Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is that the characters are so damn principled that everything they say and do is completely predictable. Whether good (egoistic) or evil (parasitic), every word a Rand character utters and every action they perform is completely consistent with everything else they've said or done. They never say weird things, pick their noses, stutter, question themselves, consider other points of view, fart, or make small talk. Every thing they say, especially the heroes, is perfectly constructed, and every movement they make is brilliantly planned and has some rational purpose. These characters are so frustrating because they just don't seem... alive. End with a preposition for once in your lives, bastards! Who wants to be around someone who seems to have no contradictions, faults or follies?

To some extent, Rand and her followers were like that too (Scott, a modern Rand follower, pisses people off with his principles, which require him to walk out of movies the moment they do something he doesn't like), which is why it's funny that Rand had an extra-marital affair and got dumped, then died of lung cancer.

So perhaps it was perfectly natural for Jay and Kurt to grab a baseball bat and a bike lock, wave them at me, and lock the door to the Daily Texan entertainment office when I refused to eat a Christmas cookie that Kurt made, because I didn't eat sugar or dairy. Of course they weren't going to physically harm me if I refused to eat the cookie. In fact, they lowered the stakes and said it would be okay if I just licked the cookie. Finally, after half an hour of cajoling, empty threats, mockery and "Come, ooooooonnnnnnn!"s, I licked the cookie. The mood in the room did a sudden flip-flop, and Jay and Kurt suddenly felt really bad. There are far worse things than licking a cookie, but that was just the McGuffin. They regretted it because for no good reason, they made someone do something they didn't want to do. Maybe it was wrong of me not to want to lick a cookie (though you won't think that after reading Sugar Blues), but that doesn't matter. Sometimes you gotta take people as they are or leave them.

Maybe I'm too agreeable and adverse to conflict, because sometimes I take the quicker and easier path of giving in and doing what other people want. Sure, I could have protested more forcefully, and I could have run (last night at least, not with the cookie licking incident), which is exactly what Joe did one time when someone was making out with him that he didn't want to make out with. But for me, it sometimes just seems easier to give up. Even the South Beach Vegan ate some fish because she didn't want to rock the boat at a company party celebrating her boyfriend's new job. I left a stern comment on her blog for that one, but that was just me being hypocritical. On the other hand, maybe if I were even more agreeable, people wouldn't care enough to make me do things I'd rather not in the first place.

Before I left, I told Josh that there were no hard feelings, because the experience was obnoxious but not intolerable. I guess I've changed my mind. I guess. Do I need to have higher standards for friends? Maybe, except, even some of my very best, most well-intentioned, these are the best people world friends have made me do things I didn't want to do. There was the time that Emily, one of the most virtuous, kind-hearted people I know, came over to Royal the night before I was going to wake up early and drive to Dallas, and made me drink wine with her and pray, even though she knew I didn’t drink or do Jesus. I had a hang-over the next day and was annoyed with her, but it wasn’t long before I saw the light, was reborn, and invited Emily back into my heart. I'm still good friends with everyone from my 21st birthday party, and in fact the person most responsible for the first lap dance is slated to be a World Star Gazette editor, so I certainly got over my indignation about that one.

Maybe this entry should just say, "Josh bought a lap dance for me last night, and I was so pissed, LOL!" My objection to all this is intellectual, not emotional. I don't feel wronged. I just know it's stupid, and sometimes really really bad, to make people do things they don't want to do. And anyone who makes a habit of that could eventually become a really really bad person. So stop that!

Saturday, April 24, 2004

I apologize. I've got the post birthday blues, exasperated by a niacin flush hangover, a sink full of dishes to clean, a dead cop to bury, flowers that need watering, and a dog that needs walking. Keep your expectations low.

Of all the wonderful people who dropped by my party last night (10+!!), only one was a complete stranger. Which is odd, since I overwhelmed Friendster's bulletin boards with birthday posts, and I can't know more than half of those people. The culprit: Mary Sleed brought a Chicago friend along with her frozen, tragically neglected pudding. For this she apologized profusely, because the gathering was so imtimate (not small, mind you, intimate) and he really stuck out. Not because no one knew him. It was his strange speaking habit that set him apart. I had never seen this before, so I'd think this was a dream if others from the party hadn't confirmed it later. The Chicago Guy would open his every statement with, "A one, and a two and a three," like he was about to sing a song. Which would make sense if he spoke in rhyme like old people and foreigners. But no, he spoke like a modern American, aside from his intro. For instance, the first thing he said when he came in was, "A one, and a two and a three. Hey, where's the punch in this dump?" I said that I didn't know of any punch at my "dump," but if there was any, it would be in the kitchen. This just riled him further. "A one and a two and a three. Hey, I don't want that punch if it's spiked. I've got Candida albicans up the wazoo, I'm low on grapeseed extract, and according to Dr Susser, alcohol suppresses the immune system, disturbs the whole adrenal axis, and makes anyone with candida worse. So you can count me out, boy." He's moving to Austin in the fall. I think we'll become very good friends.

I don't mean to. But I can't help it. I always fall in love with anyone who gives me a mix CD. In general, it's hard not to love anyone that you understand completely. And as the most honest communication God has yet devised, mix-CDs, not eyes (which are usually glazed, teary or bloodshot) are the true window into anyone's soul. So the trouble comes when you get more than one mix CD at once. It's physically impossible to love more than one person at once, so what do you do? I got a mix CD from everyone who came to my birthday party. Which really complicates things. Lovin' Spoonful's "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind" speaks to me at moments like these. Well, I made up my mind. I picked Sony. As for everyone else, "You're Fired." (inside joke) Lest you object that Corinne will never let her little petit ami friend have a thing on the side with me, keep in mind, Sony and I only make out with our hands covering our mouths. Completely harmless.

Happy birthday, everyone!

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

See, it pays to check this blog every day.

I met death and beat him at chess today. It was at the corner of MLK and Pearl. ... No, no, I can't blog about something real. My brain is putting up barricades that don't seem to be there when I'm biking around, thinking. I'm trying, fans, but my mod synapsi aren't firing anymore. It's the florescent lights. Or maybe my new obsessions are pushing out the old.

Look, here's the thing. I've lost my voice. You know the voice you hear when you think? And how for no good reason it sounds basically like your own voice, except kind of distant and dreamy? And if you really try to hear what you're thinking, this voice runs and hides and then your head starts to feel warm and headachy? Yeah? Well, I feel sorry for you, sucker. The voice in my head is rational and efficient. It sounds just like that robot voice in "Fitter Happier," articulating only the vital survival thoughts that I need at any given moment, and leaving all the emotional, self-reflective stuff to flit around in the eternal obscurity of my subconscious.

Now, does that sound like something that belongs on it's a mod mod mod mod world? Hell, no. If this were my blog, I would be talking about how I often have thoughts I don't believe. And I would wonder, "Why am I thinking this if I don't believe it? And if I am thinking it, how do I know I don't believe it? What part of my brain digs up these disagreeable comments and waves them in front of me for me to dismiss, and what part of the brain keeps my actual beliefs locked safely away where these random thoughts can't interfere with them? Is this similar to how you can think 'move your left arm' and nothing happens, but then when you really want to move your arm, it just moves?" No, that last bit is even less like my blog. But Joshua easily could have posted it on his blog without alarming anyone. Actually, I hope I'm not plaguarizing.

This is what happens when you spend every day reading blogs and not writing them. You forget what you're supposed to sound like. If I went back and read my archives I could probably figure it out. But I'd rather be reading other blogs, because I might be able to post those on The World Star Gazette.

I'm going to have to take baby steps. First, a list of what happened today.

Today on my way to work, I broke a woman's heart. She was sitting at the bus stop, crying, because she knew I would never love her. I never met the woman before in my life, and I don't think she's ever met me, but there she was, all distraught over this kid on a bike who didn't bother to ask her the time of day, or put his jacket over a puddle for her. I don't mean to be callous, but that's what you get for falling in love with someone who isn't perfect. And believe me, I have my flaws.

The time I bumped that car with Carrie-Anne's car is still haunting me. Today I went to the court to find out the date of my postponed trial (from February to March to July 9) and they informed me that I had a $30 fee for not faxing them my car insurance info on time (a separate issue). I had faxed it, but to the DMV, not the Travis County Court. I found myself not wanting to live in a world with fees for paperwork not properly completed, because that is a world I won't do so well in. But then I just found myself not wanting to pay the fee, which is more reasonable, I think. Though unpleasant, this latest reminder of the world's flaws didn't change my view on whether there is a God or not. As a mod, I still think there might be, or there might not be. But I lean closer to might. I said, lean, Julian and Greg, lean! That's all!!

(Juilan, by the way, has a good blog entry about why he doesn't believe in God, here http://www.juliansanchez.com/2003_12_01_notesarch.html#107257505065312418).

My grandmother became an atheist recently. She leads a fairly lonely life, doesn't get out much, and isn't very happy. So, she realized, there must not be a God. She still goes to church, purely for social reasons. But she's so devout an atheist already that when I tried to talk to her about "The Passion," her eyes glazed over in boredom. Hey, no cataract jokes, jerks! She just finds all that holy junk tedious, really!

My dad has been an atheist since the day I was born. But his conversion was more a gut reaction, I'm afraid, and had nothing to do with 19th century German philosophy. I've only heard him really talk about it once. My brother and I were little ducklings, crawling into my dad's silver beat up Toyota (the fact that the car had the word "Toy" in it made it so much more fun for Miles and I), and a prostelitizer came up to the car with Christian pamphlets before my dad could get the dying car started. So he had to talk to her. "If there is a God," he said in his rebuff, "Why is there so much suffering in the world?" Oooooh, he really put the fear of God in her with that one! I could offer a few retorts here, almost 20 years later, but that wouldn't be fair. My dad probably doesn't even remember saying that. Plus he's not here to retort back, "Oh, yeah, Rhys, if there might be a God, walk on that water!"

My younger brother realized there was no Santa Claus before I did, and it took him a while to convince me. He was an atheist from the day he was born, and the bible camp my parents sent us to out of guilt didn't change that. I, however, came back parroting that we were all sinners and deserved to go to hell, and my parents never sent us to that camp again. In high school, my brother had a shirt he made that said, "I (heart) Atheism," which made me blush every time he wore it in public. I remember one time in particular. At a Souper Salad, the waiter couldn't make out all the words, and asked Miles what it said. "I love atheism," he said non-chalantly. "Oh!" the waiter exclaimed in shock and scampered away.

My mom once said she was "spiritual, not religious," which would be a total lie if the phrase had any meaning whatsoever. She has always said that maybe she will become a Buddhist some day. That would be a tragedy, because there is little more intolerable than a White American Buddhist. But I don't worry. If she didn't accept Buddha into her heart after September 11 put the fear of Ganesh in her, she never will.

Now, you would think that being surrounded by all this disbelief in God, I would rebel and become a member of whatever religion most believes in God (Islam?). I did have a Christian phase in middle school, when my best friend was a Christian Athlete. But then in my French class sophomore year, I overheard two atheists talking about the usual (The only phrase I remember is, "There's no room in this world for God") and they'd converted me in less than a month. But my atheist phase was short lived too, and I became a mod. Check it: that means there may be a God and there may not be. It doesn't matter, because I'll watch the ultra-Catholic The Passion and godless Reality TV either way. By the way, my prediction: Kwame will get hired.

My dad hates Bush and Republicans almost to the point of fanaticism. I told him that the Travis County court pushed my trial back, and he said, "Damn Republicans." I don't think he really believed that compassionate conservatives were to blame for the delay, though. I think he just wanted to say "Damn Republicans."

I work in PR now. Just for now. Soon I'll be working in M-B at CdL.

I saw the Alamo a couple of nights ago. If you live in Texas, and thank the rubber duckie every day that you're not ruled by a Mexican dicator, it would be hypocrisy not to see it. And, I'm in it. My mom was crying tears of joy after she me flash on the screen in a few different shots. Which is strange, because the whole movie, I kept trying to get her to look over at me, sitting right next to her, but she wouldn't take her eyes off the screen. "Where are you," she kept saying, and I kept telling her, "Right here!" and she just got annoyed! Look, I'll be straight, the flick is flawed as the world is mod. See it, though, because I'll be there. More on The Alamo later.

And that's what happened today.

So it appears I'm back on the horse. My next task: A Good-Bye Joe column. And I promise, it will be full of parallels to The Passion.

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