The Cranky Professor

February 16, 2011

Just shut up, sit there and look pretty for me.

Filed under: Uncategorized — cranky @ 2:43 pm

I have a problem with celebrities who comment on political issues of the day. Correction:  I  have a problem with people who listen to celebrities comment on political issues of the day.

For all I know, Sean Penn might be the most brilliant political mind in America.   Perhaps George Clooney has a PhD in International Relations, with a specialty in geopolitical issues in Africa.  I don’t know what their background is.  I  guess I could Wikipedia them, but the last time I did that I found out Hitler was alive and living in Argentina.

The point is that most actors were slinging hash in any number of greasy spoons around Los Angeles as recently as a few months ago.  Do you ask the lady who just served you Moons Over My Hammy what she thinks about overseas investment fund profiteering during a period of economic uncertainty?  I mean, she could just be fetching you more coffee because it’s her passion, when really she belongs in a think-tank somewhere.  Most people would just ignore her, though, if she started lecturing them on Afghanistan.  Why don’t they do it with actors?

This is not to say that waiters or actors are not entitled to political opinions.  Of course they are, this is America.  Everyone, no matter how fucking stupid (or brilliant), can open their cake hole and let fly with what they think.

But here’s the thing, deep down it turns out I DO have a problem with actors spouting off about politics, and I know it’s wrong.  When George Clooney starts talking about Darfur, all I hear is “blah blah blah.”  That’s because most of me is thinking, “Isn’t it cute that the handsome guy had a thought?  I wish he’s just shut up, sit there and look pretty for me.”

I know, I know.  Bad Cranky.

Well, I have to go now.  Time to go see The American.  I’m go to sit in the back.  In the dark.  By myself.

October 18, 2010

The Greatest Film Ever? Compiled for Your Pleasure

Filed under: Uncategorized — cranky @ 10:34 am

Photo By Carlos Porto

The assignment in my Motion Picture Appreciation Class: Watch Citizen Kane. Then write a short page about whether you think it’s really the greatest film ever made. Don’t worry about what I think. It’s all about you this time.

The results:

# who thought it was pure genius: 6

# who thought it was Great, yeah. The greatest? Maybe not: 32

The acting was bad: 2

it was slow/boring: 9

The narrator sounded “weird”: 1

It was “somewhat depressing”: 1

Looks “cheap”: 1

It was “ mediocre”/ lacked originality: 3

It lacks “cohesive elements” and “most things didn’t add up or were left out” : 1

The number who misspelled Kane as “Cane”: 1

It was “not a waste of my time”: 1

The “filmotography” is unique: 1

Hated it the first time I saw it, but now enjoy it: 2

I didn’t enjoy it because it’s black and white: 10

I loved it despite it being black and white: 6

I fell asleep during part of it: 2

My ass fell asleep: 1

The number who Googled the movie instead of watching it: 3

Thought it would be better with Leonardo DiCaprio: 1

“It was crappy like Catcher in the Rye“: 1

Not as good as Two Lane Blacktop/Gone in 60 Seconds/Fast and the Furious/Matrix/Aliens/Terminator/Predator: 1

Couldn’t figure out what Rosebud was/why the rich guy adopted that boy/what happened to Kane’s son: 2

September 23, 2010

That high pitched tone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — cranky @ 10:08 pm

I’m bad at picking up on social cues.  I never knew when boys liked me and I never know when snobby people are being condescending or patronizing.  But today, I figured it out about the patronizing part.

I was sitting with another mother and the subject of schools came up.  Here in Los

Photo by Arvind Balaraman

Angeles, this is a big topic.  I don’t know what it’s like in other cities, but I assume that it’s more like it was when I grew up:  you turn 5 and you go to the school near your house.  There’s no trying to petition to go to the one a mile away because it has better scores.  There’s no applying for magnets, there’s no faking of addresses, there’s no trying to get a work permit.   In most places, I suppose, it’s not even a topic of conversation between moms.  It would be like having a conversation about whether the sky is blue:  why would you even discuss it?

In Los Angeles, it’s different.  Whole books have been written about it (Mother on Fire, by Sandra Singh Lo, for example).  The Los Angeles Unified School District has a crappy reputation, but it’s not universally a  bad place to educate your kids.  Kind of like Los Angeles itself, you have your good schools and your bad schools, and if you’ve ever been here, you know that you could be in the fanciest of neighborhoods and then somewhere along the way you cross an invisible line and you’re in the ghetto.  Two minutes later you’re back among the mansions.  So it is with the school system.  You have some awesome elementary schools, but they feed into the scariest of junior highs.  You’ll have a dismal high school, but their math and science magnet rivals the finest schools in the state.

Then there are a myriad of private schools.  Now I know every town has private schools, Catholic or Christian, mostly.  Los Angeles takes to it a new level.  For every kind of educational philosophy, there is a private school built around it.  Some are super academic, and for your $30,000 a year, your kid better be able to pull his weight or he’s out on the curb.  Some are French immersion, which is an interesting choice .  I knew a kid who went to one where every class had both the regular teacher AND a yoga teacher.  They didn’t assign grades there.  I don’t know what went on, but I know that kid’s folks had so much money that if she became a poet after graduation, she’d still be able to hire a macrobiotic chef and get her colon cleansed regularly.

Some of my son’s classmates in preschool will be attending the absolute fanciest, hardest to get into private schools.  My son will be on the other end of the spectrum.  Our local elementrary is a Title One school, which means most of the kids there probably qualify for free lunches.  Over 20 different languages are spoken there, but although the children have these obstacles, it has excellent standardized test scores.

It has one other advantage for my child because  my kid is Caucasian.  Why does being white factor in?  Because the Los Angeles School District ironically gives extra magnet points to white kids if their home school is primarily not white.  The district wants to stop “white flight” in minority schools, so they offer white students something that will keep them around for the time being, but in the future will allow them to go to whatever school they choose.

So I’m going to play that game.  I’m going to rack up as many magnet points as I can until it’s time for him to go to the scary  Junior High, which makes me feel like I should be packing heat whenever I drive by it.   Unless I can get him into Valley Alternative, which takes the guesswork out of the equation by going from K-12.  Get into that school and your work is done.  On the other hand, just the name makes me think that all the teachers are dirty hippies.

So this leads me to my moment of epiphany, when I realized this wasn’t the smartest choice in another mother’s eyes.  She was too polite to say it.  She just used that high pitched tone when I said he was going to the local school:

“Oh, yeah!  That’s a great school!”

“No, yeah!  People are really happy there!”

We still say hello when we run into each other during the morning drop-off at the nursery school, but I can tell that I’m never getting the invitation to the cocktail party at her house.  And that’s OK.  “No, yeah!  I’m sure it’s just an oversight!”

Note to readers:  it’s been a year since I wrote this and I can give a status report on that other lady’s kid.  He didn’t get into any of the fancy private schools, because he is a spaz.  The mother was absolutely despondent that he was going to have to go to one of the finest public schools the LAUSD has to offer.

May 24, 2010

Do They Really Want to Sell Books or What?

Filed under: Uncategorized — cranky @ 12:42 pm

I felt compelled to send this email to the morons at MacMillan Press.


I’m an instructor who would like to consider Technologies of Seeing: Photography, Cinematography and Television but I’m very frustrated by your website.  Why can’t I look at a table of contents on your site?  Why can’t I view an electronic copy or at least a bit of the book that way?  Why is your website so 1995? I have ordered an exam copy that should arrive in a couple of months.  A couple of months?!  Is it arriving by pony express?  What the heck goes on in your fulfillment department?  I wouldn’t even need that exam copy if I could get a better idea of the book by viewing it online.   I’m sad, because this book looks perfect and I could just choose it for my class and be done with it if you had more options available to me.

There are all these buttons on the website so that I can Facebook and Tweet this book.  Like anyone does that.  Too bad they can’t add something useful to the page like a freaking table of contents.  Are your web designers idiots?

Please, I beg of you, add some content to your page.  The picture isn’t doing it for me.


January 3, 2010

The Definitive Clarisonic Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — cranky @ 7:01 pm

Do you need this? Maybe!

There are many things in this world that I need to work on.  Being a better person.  Losing 10 pounds so I can fit into my work pants.  Cutting back on my rather shocking bacon intake.  My skin is probably at the bottom of the list.  Oh, it doesn’t happen all by itself.  I have regular visits to the dermatologist and when I roll in, I tell him to get out his prescription pad because there’s a lot of work to do.  Have I botoxed yet?  Nope, but I have considered it.  There’s this little  vertical line that I get between my eyebrows after a full day of scowling at students that doesn’t go away, even after I take what I like to call “the teacher’s retreat”:  a muscle relaxant and a martini.  (Just kidding — I choose one or the other, never both at the same time.  Any ideas I had about combining the two were eliminated after  I had a friend who did it one time and promptly fell asleep and then wet the bed).

So one day I was cruising the web and ran across the obscenely expensive Clarisonic “Skincare System.” Just one trip to Google to read the user reviews had me convinced that this thing could actually be a life-changing appliance.  I had to try it.

Retailing at well over $200, I turned to my best fried Ebay and got one for $175, brand new. To say that it’s a “system” is a little much.  Made by the same folks who brought us the Sonicare toothbrush, it’s basically a giant vibrating brush.  You soap up, flip it on, and lightly apply the soft brush to your skin.   The instructions say to use it for 20 seconds on your forehead, 20 seconds on your nose and chin, and 10 seconds on each cheek.  A timer beeps when it’s time to change areas to scrub.  So in all, it takes one minute to use and it is waterproof, so I just kept it in the shower.

I decided to give it a test.  I used it on half my face for three weeks.  On the other half of my face, I just washed normally, with my hands.  For cleanser,  I used what I normally do:  Dove soap.   According to the Clarisonic website, you can use any kind of soap, but they send along three samples of their “optimized” cleansers, so on my neck I used the Clarisonic all over, but I washed with Dove on half of my neck and one of their “gentle” cleansers on the other side.

The results?  Hard to tell.  Periodically I would ask my friends what they thought, and they thought that the side of my face that didn’t get any Clarisonic treatment looked tighter and the pores smaller, but the Clarisonic side was glowing and was softer to the touch.   I could definitely feel the difference in texture.

On my neck, the side where I used the Clarisonic cleanser was noticeably redder than the Dove side.

I decided that someone else should try the Clarisonic, so  I gave it to a friend to use for a couple of weeks.  After a week and a half, people were complimenting her without any prompting on her skin.  They used words like “smooth” and “glowy.”  She was convinced that she needed to buy one.

About a week after my Clarisonic arrived, I was trolling around Bed, Bath and Beyond and I came across this:  The

The Knockoff

Pretika Sonic Dermabrasion Facial Brush. It retails for $49.99 and appears to be a knockoff of the Clarisonic.  Reviews are good for this item, the only complaints being that the brush could be a little softer and there isn’t a choice of brush firmness as there is for the Clarisonic.  Also some folks have been disappointed by the battery life.  Otherwise, people are thrilled with the results.  I’m encouraging my friend to buy this one and I’ll let you know how she thinks it compares.

As for me, I’m not sorry I bought the Clarisonic.  I do notice a difference in my skin when I’m using it, and since I suffer from Rosacea, I probably couldn’t get by with the brush on the Pretika, judging by what I’ve read.   However, if money is an issue or if you have nice, normal skin, I’d probably jump at the Pretika.

December 6, 2009

Three of My Favorite Ornaments

Filed under: Uncategorized — cranky @ 10:51 pm

I know it’s wrong, but these crack me up every time I hang them on the tree.

Here we have a scantily clad cocktail waitress serving champagne to a man who has passed out after apparently winning a million dollars.  Perhaps he was playing a poker slot, because a royal flush graces the top of the scene.  Note also the server’s awesome feathered ‘do.  Plated in 24-karat gold, this ornament screams class!

Viva La$ Vega$!

Viva La$ Vega$!

I was probably 8 years old when I made this guy over at my grandma’s house one afternoon.  He had about 8 friends that I also made, but he’s the only one who has survived the abuse of all of my moves.  Some of his “brothers” had yarn hair.  Some had nail polish smiles.  He has a jaunty mustache.  Well, I never really thought much about him until one day in college I unpacked him to put on the tree and I thought, “That mustache makes him look like Hitler.”  I know that’s bad, but when I was 8, I didn’t even know who Hitler was.    Now I can’t help but think “Hitler Elf” every time I see him.  For a while, I used to put him in the back of the tree because I thought everyone would notice the resemblance and think I was some sort of anti-semite, but now I just call him the “Chaplin Elf” or the “Oliver Hardy Elf” if anyone notices.  I still think “Hitler Elf.”  I know that’s awful.  I can’t help it.

Hitler Elf

Hitler Elf

This fellow is a new edition to the tree this year.  He is hand-painted and has a bashful, somewhat embarrassed grin.  The first time I saw him, I thought, “Why does he have that expression?  It’s like he was caught doing something he shouldn’t.”  Then I looked at his hands and realized why he looked that way.



May 10, 2009

The Daily News: Geniuses or Assholes? You be the judge!

Filed under: Uncategorized — cranky @ 1:04 am

There are basically two ways to make money with a newspaper:

1.  Sell advertising

2.  Sell subscriptions

Somewhere between numbers 1 and 2, there is a profitable sweet spot.  Lower the subscription rate, and theoretically you can garner more subscribers and stick it to the advertisers to make money, because you’re delivering a giant audience.  Charging more for subscriptions can be profitable, but you’ll lose some folks in the bargain.  Lose too many subscribers and you can’t charge so much for advertising.

Well, apparently the Daily News is having trouble finding the sweet spot.

I will be mailing the following letter Monday:

May 11, 2009

Edward R. Moss
Publisher and President
Los Angeles Daily News
P.O. Box 4800
21860 Burbank Blvd. Ste.  200
Woodland Hills, CA  91367

Dear Mr. Moss,

Congratulations.  You got me.  I give up.   I will forever be your unwilling subscriber.  What I want to know is whether this some sort of premeditated, fiendish plan?  Let me explain:

A week ago, I received a letter from the Daily News saying that although I purchased a pre-paid subscription, I will be billed me an extra buck a week because advertising has dropped off due to the economy.

The letter said that I’d soon be receiving a bill for this extra amount.  If I didn’t wish to continue under these new terms, I could call and cancel my subscription.

It isn’t the cost that bothers me.  It’s the fact that I shouldn’t be made to pay for the Daily News’ marketing mistake.  If you can’t afford to deliver the newspaper and make a reasonable profit while allowing for dips in advertising income, then that’s a problem with your business model.  Why should I have to pay for that?

I called the number to cancel.  I touch toned my way until a voice said I’d be transferred to a customer service representative.  The voice said I might hear some clicking while I’m being transferred.  I heard a click.  Then I heard a dial tone.  This happened 4 times.

So I went to the Daily News website, I logged in to my account and I sent customer service an email.

An anonymous representative responded the next day by telling me that I can’t discontinue my service by email.  I have to call.

Now, I must admire the genius of this system.  Who runs your organization?  Mr. Burns?  Does Homer work in customer service?

The email I received suggested that I could subscribe to the electronic version of the paper for $65 a year.  This strikes me as an odd suggestion, given your online capabilities over at the Daily News.  I mean, I can do all my banking online, but you don’t have the technological ability to cancel my $20 subscription over the web?

I guess the purpose of this letter is to figure out if you’re all a bunch of diabolical masterminds over there at the Daily News or if you’re just a bunch of lucky assholes.


The Cranky Professor

I’ll let you know what happens.

PS:  Here’s a particularly goofy picture of Edward R. Moss and an article naming him something called a “BJ Publisher.”

Followup:  They kept sending me bills, some threatening to cut off delivery and send me to collections. At the same time, salespeople were calling my house to try and sell me a new subscription.  Eventually everything stopped — the phone calls, the bills and the paper delivery.

More followup:  FUCK FUCK FUCK it’s happening again!  Some poor sorry son-of-a-bitch high schooler showed up at my door selling subscriptions.  I felt bad for the poor bastard so I bought one.  I gave him a check for the duration of the subscription and told him to put anyone else’s name on the subscription, that I didn’t care who he gave it to, but that I didn’t want to see a newspaper on my doorstep.  Not ever.  Three weeks later the paper started arriving.  Now I’m getting billed again.  Fuck.

May 5, 2009

Oh, Barbie!

Filed under: Uncategorized — cranky @ 1:20 pm

So Barbie has a tramp stamp. I think we all knew that was inevitable since she started hanging out with her pregnant friend Midge.

I asked my mom what she thought of the new “Tramp Stamp” Barbie, and she said that she thought it was OK. I said I thought it was offensive. She basically said that she didn’t think a tramp stamp was any more offensive than the rest of her (by which I think she meant the pointy tits, but I don’t want to put words in her mouth).

May 4, 2009

40-Something Men: You Might Have Something to Worry About

Filed under: Uncategorized — cranky @ 3:50 pm

 <p><a href=There is an interesting trend that I’ve noticed among my unmarried friends in their 30s and 40s: they want man candy.

Take, for example, an old friend of mine. She was married and it wasn’t the world’s greatest relationship. She was supporting the two of them. They weren’t planning on having kids. He didn’t have a whole lot cooking in the career department. There were other problems in their relationship, but one day, she said, she looked at him and said to herself “If I’m supporting you and doing everything in this relationship, you should really be A LOT hotter!”

They split not long after that.

I’ve noticed that many women in my age group who aren’t married and aren’t planning on having kids are going for younger, hotter men. I think it’s an interesting sign of what the women’s movement has given us: back in the day, women were supposed to find a man and marry him. He would probably be older and more established, because it was his job to be the provider. Your job as a woman, to attract that good provider, was to be as attractive and fascinating as possible.

By the time women reach my age, they usually have their own money and their own life happening. They don’t need anyone to provide for them. These babes are established.

And remember how women who were over 30-something would have trouble finding dudes in their age group to date? They used to have to go older, because all the 30-something men were after the 25-year old hottie? Well, I’m fearing for the poor 40-something men. You better start working out, boys.

May 3, 2009

About Dating and Getting Married

Filed under: Uncategorized — cranky @ 8:24 pm

<p><a href=

OK, so no one has asked me advice about dating, but since no one asks me to make snarky remarks about my workplace and I do it anyway, I’m just going  to go ahead and give you my dating advice.

One of my friends recently said that her shrink told her that women of my generation were raised with this idea that we need to be “picked.”  We generally have the attitude that some dude is going to pick us; we don’t do the picking.  I would say that this is generally true.  I know that I spent my 20s, really up to and before my first marriage, with the wrong attitude toward dating.  I guess I knew I was a pretty good catch — it wasn’t low self esteem or anything — I just didn’t think in terms of meeting a guy and evaluating all that he was bringing to the table.  I dated a series of fun guys.   Guys that made me laugh, were fun to be with, but not dudes that I was going to spend the rest of my life with.    And I guess that’s what your 20s are for.  You need to explore relationships and make your mistakes with the Mr.  Wrongs, so you know more about yourself and what you want when you meet Mr. Right.

Well, then I married one of those dudes of my 20s.  And I think the reason I did that was because I wasn’t quite sure what my goals were — I was flexible. (That’s probably why I couldn’t properly evaluate the men I was dating:  if you have that flexibility, almost any guy will work for you).  If I’d had some clarity in the goals department, I don’t think I would have married that guy.  I don’t blame the cloudy goal issue on why we divorced…we didn’t divorce over diverging life paths.  We divorced because he couldn’t keep it in his pants.  But I’m wondering if I would have picked him if I was the woman I was in my 30s.  Instead, I let myself get picked.

During my divorce I had to really look at what I wanted, which for me was being married with at least one kid.  So as soon as that became clear to me, I started dating, which is something I used to hate to do.  The second time around, I loved it.  I would meet a fella for coffee or whatever, and as soon as he did something annoying, that was it.  Move on to another guy.  Maybe he’d get another chance, but probably not.  Move on.  Another coffee and another guy.

By the time I found a guy that I could spend a weekend with and he didn’t  drive me crazy, I knew I’d found a real contender.  And I think that should be your goal:  find someone who doesn’t make you nuts.    Forget the other stuff.  Just find someone that doesn’t annoy the fuck out of you and then marry him if you want.

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