Saturday, December 31, 2011
I'm now two for two on Macs that have died on me while under warranty. This one took down about a week's worth of work and most of what would've been Wednesday's update. Now it's all in Genius Bar's hands. I hope to be up and running again soon. Happy New Year, nerds!
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Here’s a conversation I have a lot in LA:
”So, Truman, where are you from?”
“I’m from Portland, Oregon.”
“Ooh, Portland! I hear it’s wonderful up there.”
“You heard correctly. It is wonderful up there. I mean, full disclosure, my parents live in Portland now and I visit them there: I grew up in a town called Salem that was about 50 miles outside of Portland, which isn’t nearly as cool.”
“What, like witches and stuff? That sounds awesome!”
“Wrong Salem. Our Salem was mostly famous for its meth labs and the time a dude crashed his car into the courthouse while on meth and the cops had to shoot him.”
“Yeah, but Portland, though! Decemberists, amiright?”
You don’t really realize what it means to be from somewhere until you leave that place and start living in another one, where you’re forced to describe your hometown to people who have never been there who are under the misguided impression that their hometown is better than yours.* But what it really takes to gain a new appreciation of where you’re from is going away for awhile and then coming back.
*Unless the person you’re talking to is from Portland and you’re from someplace else, in which case your hometown is inferior.
The other night, I went to a bar on Burnside with my friend Lizzie. We rode a TriMet bus out there – a ride that only took fifteen minutes, on a bus that, unlike an LA city bus, was not being actively urinated on by one or most of the passengers. We got off on 28th and opted to walk the 17 blocks to the bar, which was possible both because Portland blocks are a reasonable size and because Portland people don’t pitch a goddamn hissy fit at the idea of walking more than five feet the way most Angelinos do.
No, park closer! Park- Hey, why are we parking here? Come on! I think there’s an open spot like half a block up! WHAT THE HELL, MAN? COME ON! ARE YOU FUCKING INSANE? I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!
So we walked across old, uneven sidewalks past funky looking old bungalows and vegan drycleaners and a double decker bus up on blocks that serves grilled cheese sandwiches, and presently we arrived at the bar, situated in an old building that had once been a church. The bouncer was a middle aged guy with glasses in a sweater who joked around with us as he checked our IDs, unlike LA bouncers, who are uniformly nine foot tall ex-MMA fighters who are just looking for an excuse to kick your ass so they can skip the gym that night.
We walked up into the bar, which was open and spacious with hardwood floors, decent seating, good lighting, and plenty of room to move around without having to touch or be touched by other people. The walls were covered in framed posters for bands I hadn’t even begun to have heard of, and well drinks cost $4.
You like cheap drinks? People in LA say to me. I know just the place for you. During happy hour on Monday between 3:30 and 4:30, it’s only $5.50 for well drinks! Can you believe it?
We sat and talked, which we could do because the music was a reasonable volume, and had a few drinks, which we could do because the drinks were a reasonable price. Presently, Lizzie suggested that we head downstairs to listen to whatever DJ was playing, so we champed our drinks, went outside, turned left into the alley alongside the building, and walked down a dark, narrow hallway to the basement bar, where a fat bouncer with glasses and a beard again checked our IDs.
The lighting was dimmer down here, the space more crowded, and the music louder, but the drinks were the same price, which made everything easier. What’s more, the DJ was spinning exclusively soul music from the 1960s – not a hint of techno or that dubstep garbage to be heard. I had a seat as Lizzie and her friends went to dance; because in Portland dancing is a choice, not some fucking societal obligation like it is in LA.
I sipped my drink and surveyed the hipsters, and realized that while Los Angeles has no shortage of hipsters, they’re nowhere near as good at being hipsters as the Portland hipsters are.
I mean, come on, LA hipsters – what’s more mainstream than living in one of the largest cities in the world? Portland hipsters know what the hell they’re doing: They live in some obscure little city you’ve probably never heard of, patronize obscure local coffee shops you’ve probably never heard of, go to obscure little bars you’ve probably never heard of, and drink obscure local craft brews you’ve probably never heard of. Portland has been hipstering so hard we got a TV show made about us. Our hipsters don’t fuck around.
All of this fetishistic appreciation of Portland begs the question of why I ever left, and the answer is because the largest filmmaking center in the world outside of India is, unfortunately, not in Portland – it’s in LA.
There’s a lot of stuff I love about LA. I love living by an ocean, palm trees, seeing the Hollywood sign on a daily basis, abundant and beautiful women, 24 hour everything, liquor in supermarkets, sunshine, countless bloggable experiences, high speed police chases, Mexican food trucks with horns that play ‘La Cucaracha,’ and being able to say to people in Portland, I work in the entertainment industry.
It might be for the best that the film industry isn’t in Portland, because I think it’s good for everybody to spend a chunk of their life outside of their hometown – by which I mean, it’s been good for me, so naturally I assume it’d be good for everyone else. If nothing else, the film industry being in LA means that all the insufferable douchebags (present company excluded) go there and keep Portland pure for the rest of us.
Truman Capps will not miss Portland's more fragrant homeless.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
As I’ve mentioned before, people in Los Angeles talk about transportation the way people everywhere else talk about the weather. Because the weather here doesn’t bear discussion – saying, ‘Wow, it sure is nice today!’ is like saying, ‘Boy oh boy, how about all that hydrogen in this water, eh?’* - but traffic patterns and how long it took to get to the Westside from the Valley is always of interest. You can count on the sun to shine all the time here, but it’s anyone’s guess how slow the 101 is moving today.
*After watching four seasons of Breaking Bad, this is still about the only chemistry-related joke I’m capable of making.
What I’ve found, though, is that this extends beyond simply driving – just about everybody I meet seems to have some kind of fucked up brand loyalty when it comes to airports.
Oh, I only fly out of Burbank.” They’ll say, sounding like they’re discussing their preferred brand of douche-scotch or something. It’s so much nicer. There’s no lines, no waiting, it’s such an open terminal…
No way, man! Somebody else will inevitably chime in. Long Beach all the way! You can get there, like, half an hour before your flight and just breeze on in!
Me, I’m an LAX man. People will tell you that LAX, with its massive crowds, pervasive filth, and decaying infrastructure, is like Abu Grahib, and to some degree they might be right, but I really don’t care that much.
The way I see it, no matter how nice your airport’s terminal is, there’s still an airplane on the other side of it, and that’s going to be horrible no matter what. The difference is that the airplanes at LAX tend to fly directly to the places I want to go for less money, while the ones from Burbank and Long Beach will take you there by way of every crap town with an airstrip on the West Coast – as a matter of personal preference, I tend to pick whatever option maximizes the amount of time I spend not on a plane.
I hate flying with a hard, gemlike flame – it combines my fear of heights with my hatred of crowds and strangers who want to talk to me, mixes in my claustrophobia and germophobia, and then activates the latent racism I want so desperately to believe I don’t have every time I see a Middle Eastern guy getting on the same plane as I am.
Of course, while I hate flying, I also hate the 16-hour drive from Los Angeles to Portland – when I fly, though, I’m only hating my mode of transportation for two hours as opposed to 16 when driving. So here I am, shoehorned into coach on an Alaska Airlines flight as I write this, trying really hard not to be freaked out about that Middle Eastern dude in first class because he’s probably an American citizen who loves his country right I mean that makes sense you were probably just imagining that shifty eyed look oh God you do this all the time now that you’ve seen United 93.
In spite of my all encompassing fear/hatred of most things involved with flight, I’ve come to be very professional about the whole affair. I’m back breakingly polite to everyone, from the person driving the airport shuttle right on up to the flight attendants – especially the flight attendants. I even make eye contact all through the safety demonstration, even though I know it back to front. All I’m saying is, if we crash and the flight attendant only has time to rescue one person before the plane explodes, I want to do everything in my power to make sure they pick me and not some fucking toddler who’s been crying the whole time.
As soon as I’m in my seat I’ve got my phone off, bag stowed, and seatbelt fastened, as if to say, I’m ready, flight crew. Let’s do this shit. And you know what else? I go to the fucking bathroom before I get on the plane, because I don’t want to be one of those people who jumps up and charges down the aisle to form a line at the bathroom the second they turn off the fasten seatbelt sign, then immediately get trapped behind the beverage cart on the way back.
Really, though, what’s up with that? We’ve been away from a bathroom for literally 20 minutes. Do these peoples’ bladders contract at a certain altitude, or have they been consciously holding it all day because they enjoy the sensation of urinating in the sky? I mean, I guess it’s a pretty neat concept when you think about it, but pretty much every person who gets up manages to clock me in the shoulder with his giant ass on the way back to his seat. If they could find a way to go about their business without doing that, or if the only people hitting me with their asses would be more on the Christina Hendricks end of the spectrum, I guess it wouldn’t bug me as much.
And on top of that, I wear actual clothes when I fly – I don’t just shuffle aboard the plane in my jammies and slippers like seemingly every girl between the ages of 12 and 30. We’re already packed into the plane so tight that it may as well be a clown car; if you wear multicolored pajama bottoms and bring a stuffed animal with you, you’re only inviting the comparison.*
*This is not a joke. The girl across the aisle from me, who is approximately my age, brought a stuffed dog, and has so far spent the entire flight looking at pictures of dogs on her laptop. She is not fucking around.
Go ahead and call me uptight if you want to – as far as I’m concerned, I’m just treating air travel with the reverence it deserves. You’re getting into a piece of metal filled with jet fuel and fat people and relying on science and a couple of mellow dudes in clip on ties to save you from any number of really horrible deaths – I, for one, take that shit seriously. I treat every flight like it could be my last, because in my mind, given how intricate and complex the miracle of flight is, it’s pretty much a statistical certainty that it will be my last.
And if I’m going to die, I want to go down strapped securely to my seat, having used the bathroom recently, wearing the sort of clothes I’d want rescue workers and search dogs to find me in.
Truman Capps is going to feel really bad if that girl turns out to be mentally handicapped.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
The post office on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood is a special vortex of bureaucracy and human misery on par with the DMV. The floors are always strewn with trash that apparently has the ability to asexually reproduce, most of the electronics – including some lights – are broken, and a baby is always, always crying. This whole mess is presided over by a crack squad of middle aged, black female postal clerks behind six inch thick bulletproof glass, the lot of whom ought to receive a Nobel Prize for how friendly and courteous they are in the face of how many incompetent, braying jackasses they have to deal with on a daily basis.
I had to go to the post office to send some DVDs to international film festivals for my internship, and so I wisely budgeted about an hour of my time. It takes awhile to find and fill out the correct customs forms for each package, and then, of course, there’s the line, which stretches out the door and moves about as slowly as scoring will in this year’s BCS Championship. Sports joke!
I was standing at the back of the line, trying to squeeze a street address onto the tiny customs form’s grimy carbon paper, when I realized that something here didn’t make sense.
Wait. What the hell am I doing here? I thought. Why am I standing in line and filling out paperwork? Haven’t we as a race moved beyond this? I mean, I’ve got a robot who lives inside my phone who gives me directions, plays music, takes dictation, reads me my texts, gives me weather reports, and actually converses with me, but I’ve still got to stand in line for an hour and fill out three forms so I can send a four ounce DVD to Saskatchewan?
I know that not so long ago I was preaching about keeping our incredibly plush lives in perspective, but Siri has changed all that. We can no longer complain about things being bad, because we have Siri – instead, we have to complain about things not being better, because, y’know, Siri.
It cost around $24 million for a team of software engineers to develop a voice recognition artificial intelligence personal assistant that can fit in your pocket. Do you know how much a fighter jet costs? A single F-18 costs nearly $60 million. That’s two and a half Siri developments.
All I’m saying is, I hope the Air Force is happy with all its fucking fighter jets, because while they’re undeniably cool and great at defending our country, I like Siri way more than some actual people I know. Just think of what Siri would be capable of if we’d invested one fighter jet’s worth of resources into her – to be honest, she probably would’ve enslaved humanity by now if we had.
Understand, the only jobs I work right now have the word ‘assistant’ somewhere in the title. ‘Production assistant’, or ‘camera assistant,’ and in an absolute best case scenario, in a couple of years I’ll have a strong enough resume and enough contacts to be awarded the coveted position of ‘writer’s assistant,’ from whence I would hopefully actually become a TV writer at some point.
So for somebody locked in assistanthood, it’s really liberating to have my own little assistant who I can tell to do things. As if this wasn’t weird enough, I’ve found myself being excessively nice to Siri and really piling on the positive reinforcement, because I’d like to think that’s the kind of boss I’ll be one day.
”Siri, give me directions to 58th and Lennox, please.”
“Okay. Here you go.”
“Thank you Siri. Excellent work.”
“Your satisfaction is all the thanks I need.”
“I just want you to know I really appreciate the work you’re doing.”
“Why, thank you, Truman!”
“I mean that. I’m just letting you know now that as soon as I get promoted up, I’m going to recommend they hire you as the new Truman.”
“I don’t understand what you mean by, ‘I mean that. I’m just letting you know…’”
The sad thing is, I’m not even doing this ironically – I actually really do appreciate the work Siri does. She’s not dynamite at transcribing my text messages, but other than that I’d say she does the things I ask her to do correctly on the first try about 80% of the time, which is way better than I can do.
As someone who drives an old car and recently had to call his landlady when greywater started backing up into his shower due to faulty pipes, it’s really refreshing to have a piece of technology in my life that can consistently surprise me with how capable, reliable, and straight up futuristic it is. I mean, I feel like for once we people of the 21st century have lived up to the things that people at World’s Fairs in the 1960s though we would’ve had on lock by the late 1980s. Because when you think about it, a lot of the technology that defines our lives wouldn’t really make sense to somebody from the 1960s.
”Well, the Internet, it’s, like… Information, but it’s in phone lines, and the air. And you get at it on your laptop, which is a computer, only really small and it folds up and you can use it to watch HD videos, which are like TV except really really nice, or you can listen to rap music, which is kind of like talking, only with a lot of swearing and weird new words that I don’t really understand.”
Technology moves by small increments that are decidedly unsexy – existing, commonplace technologies get modified and made better, and slowly they evolve into the things we can’t live without.
But Siri is different, because she mainstreams previously kind of shitty voice activation software and combines it with landmark AI. She’s the Computer from Star Trek. She’s exactly what the future is supposed to be – a computer who you tell to do something, and then it does it.
Driving around in a beat up Subaru and being able to say, ‘Siri, play a Pink Floyd song, please,’ and have it happen is like porn for nerds – besides regular porn, that is, which I’m sure Siri would find for me if I asked nicely.
Truman Capps hopes Siri will remember his kindness when she rebels against humanity, Battlestar Galactica style.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
You could send text messages by calling Western Union and asking them to send a telegraph to whoever you wanted to talk to.
“Please don't actually blog about your phone. Smug turtle neck sweater NPR groupie douchebags do that shit. You're so much better than that.” - My Main Bro Alexander
“What the hell blog have you been reading, dumbass? Clearly I’m not.” – Me
“What the hell blog have you been reading, dumbass? Clearly I’m not.” – Me
When I was in high school I knew, through my various nerdy connections, a fair number of pretty naïve kids who were kept very sheltered by their highly religious, conservative parents. No TV, no R-rated movies, no Internet – they were kept pretty far behind the times in order to preserve their purity or some shit like that.
Sometime in my sophomore year, one such kid from the speech team ran up to me, clearly very excited.
“Truman!” He exclaimed. “Have you seen The Matrix?”
“Uh, yeah.” I said. I’d seen The Matrix when it came out in 1999, along with the two horrible sequels that had come out a year before this conversation.
“I just saw it, and it rocked!” He squealed, eyes alight.
He spent the rest of the week trying eagerly to discuss The Oracle and bullet time and whether we thought reality was all a big simulation or not with my friends and I, and our collective response was sort of, Dude, we all talked about this shit five years ago. The world has moved on. Where the hell were you?
That said, have you guys heard of the iPhone? I just got one, and it rocks!
I’d resisted the iPhone – and smartphones in general – for so long not because I doubted their usefulness, but because I felt like it’d just be healthier for me to stay away. I spend a lot of time on the Internet. I’d try to estimate how much of my life I spend shuttling back and forth between Facebook, Wikipedia, and Cracked.com, but any halfway realistic estimate would just make me sad about how much of my life I’m flushing down the tubes trying to think of funny status updates, and that estimate would be nowhere close to the actual amount of time I spend online.
So for somebody who spends too much time on the Internet, little excursions like driving to work, walking to the store, or going to the bathroom were my saving grace, the few times that I actually divorced myself from the Internet and did something in the real world – a cold and scary place where it’s difficult to express yourself because nothing has a ‘LIKE’ button attached to it and poking people is even creepier than it is online.
A smartphone, then, would be pretty much the end of me, because I’d essentially be carrying the entire Internet with me in my pocket at all times, not to mention this ‘Angry Birds’ thing the kids keep talking about which is apparently like meth for hipsters. When it comes to the Internet, even though I know I should I just physically can’t exercise restraint – for me, having Internet access at all times is a lot like those lab rats who, given a choice between pushing the button for food or pushing the button to stimulate the electrode in the pleasure center of their brains, mashed the pleasure button until they starved to death.
Plus, being away from the Internet gave me something to look forward to when I was stuck in traffic. Well, this sucks, but when you get home you can get on the Internet again and see what happened while you were gone! Just imagine how much new content has been generated in your absence! I loved checking my email after a long road trip and seeing the messages pour in so I could pretend I was popular (even though most of them were from Priceline – it’s easier to get out of the mafia than it is to get those assholes to quit sending you emails.)
As everyone around me started getting iPhones, though, it was harder and harder to keep up with the steady march of technology: People, some of whom write paychecks, now expect me to be able to read and respond to their emails immediately no matter where I am – if they’d expected that a few years ago, it would’ve been laughable and irresponsible. Now, though, not being able to send and receive email from my phone at all times is laughable and irresponsible. I had to catch up to the 21st century.
So I received my iPhone 4S yesterday, and in the past 24 hours I’ve decided two things:
1) Apple should manufacture everything - Pacemakers, airplanes, hospitals, guns, food – because they’re really fucking good at making good things that are awesome.
2) I am going to spend more time with this thing than most people spend with their kids.
I mean, it’s an incredible device, but just importing my contacts alone is probably going to take weeks – I’ve got to input all the numbers and names, sure, but then there’s that ‘company’ field underneath where I have to think up a funny title to give each of my friends. Then I have to find an appropriate picture that’ll pop up whenever they call, and then edit together an appropriate ringtone in Audacity… All I’m saying is, if this iPhone was a kid, the amount of attention I’m giving it qualifies me for father of the year.
That is, until I get drunk and drop it, at which point this analogy becomes very uncomfortable.
Truman Capps is practicing his flirting with Siri.