Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Survey of Film History, Part I of LXXX-something; Also, Public Display of Hostility

The recommendations feature of the Blockbuster online rental service is very nearly useless — at least in my case. A significant portion of the movies they recommend to me are movies I have already rated (i.e., already seen). Another useless feature is the "Don't show me this movie again" level in the rating system; it apparently has no bearing on whether you will actually avoid seeing on the site again, as a number of these show up in my recommendations as well (which makes the "We think you'll like..." heading on the recommendations page more than a little ironic). The saving grace of the Blockbuster online rental service is their vast library.

Last week, after having received no useful recommendations in recent months and seeing that my queue had 7 movies remaining, I went through a number of AFI "Top 100" lists and "Top 10" lists (which inexplicably had different contents than the top ten of the "Top 100" lists), as well as the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" list and added anything I hadn't seen that was major or sounded interesting to my queue. The end result: my queue now contains an additional 80+ movies (yes, 80 out of over 1000) ranging from 1924 to 1989 which I will be watching in a sequence that will approximate chronological order, some or most of which I may have something to say about.

Somehow, first up was a light comedy produced in 1938 called Bringing Up Baby. Starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, it was a rather spectacular box office failure at the time, and came near the end of a string of unsuccessful movies that actually succeeded in putting Katharine Hepburn out of work for a short time. However, it is now considered a classic and has made a number of "Top X Movies of All Time" lists, including #14 on AFI's Top 100 Comedies. Well, they were right. I think I laughed more at this movie than I have at the past five recent comedies that I have seen combined. Katharine Hepburn was fantastic and, well, I never knew Cary Grant was funny. Very entertaining and definitely recommended.

The following glimpse into the seedy underworld of grocery store clerking was being (unintentionally?) broadcast over the loudspeakers to the entire parking lot as I exited Tom Thumb tonight:
Female Voice: "— called you five minutes ago and you haven't answered my question yet. All I wanted to know is whether there are any plastic bags back there so, are there any plastic bags back there?"
Male Voice (thirty seconds later): "Tiffany, 10 minutes is all I ask.
Ah, such angst. A series of bleeps followed, but I think it was a phone being dialed, not anything actually being censored.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

The Torments of a Somewhat-Blind Man, Episode II: The Landlord Strikes Back; Or, Adventures in Property Management

I got evicted this weekend. It's OK though, because I went and knocked over all their bikes and said, "You better take it back!" and they did.

Alright, so that's not exactly how it happened. Read on.

I got home from work at about 6:20 on Friday and found a letter in my mailbox from the property managment company that owns my building. The letter was written mostly in capital letters and said that because I had an upaid balance of $406.00, I was required to vacate the premises within three days. This was rather surprising, given the fact that sometime last year they required all of their residents to sign up for automatic debits, thus taking me out of the loop altogether. The note held out one ray of hope: "HOWEVER, IF YOU WISH TO DISCUSS REINSTATEMENT OF YOUR RIGHT TO CONTINUE LIVING IN THE DWELLING, PLEASE CONTACT US." Contact them I did, only to find that anyone remotely important went home at 6:00. When would they be back? "Maybe Saturday. If not, then definitely Monday."

I proceeded to leave voicemail messages for several different people demanding (alright, requesting) an explanation, and sending an email to another, making a point of noting in each message that the first I had heard of any problem was an eviction notice. I repeated the process on Saturday, only to find that the person who sent me the letter on Wednesday was no longer employed there on Saturday. As my friend and I both said, "Hmmm, that's telling."

Cut to Monday morning at 9:30. My fourth attempt to get ahold of someone led to the following conversation:

Landlord's Employee #1: "It looks like they just charged you some month-to-month fees when they shouldn't have. I'll take those off and send you a copy of the ledger showing a zero balance."
Me, very doubtful: "Zero? Are you sure?"
Landlord's Employee #1: "Yes, I'm sure."
Me: "Any idea why no one contacted me earlier about this problem? The first I heard of it was the eviction notice."
Landlord's Employee #1: "Yeah, we don't have a 'friendly' letter. The one you got is the only one we send out."
Imagine my shock to find that the all-caps (paraphrasing) "GET OUT OR WE'LL BUTCHER YOUR FINANCIAL FUTURE" note wasn't the "friendly" letter. Think that's the end of it? No? I guess the "#1" gave it away. Well, five minutes later, one of the people I had left a voicemail for called me back, and we had the following conversation:

Landlord's Employee #2: "Well, since you never signed a new lease, you have to pay a $100.00 month-to-month fee."
Me, not very surprised to be having this conversation: "Actually, I did sign a new lease in February, and I have a copy. In fact, when I signed it and turned it in in February, I gave it to you."
Landlord's Employee #2: "Oh really? Well, let me look then." [Pause while she did the research she evidently didn't do before.] "Yeah, here it is. OK, then it looks like they just charged you some month-to-month fees when they shouldn't have. I'll take those off, and then you'll have a balance of $6.00."
Me, very doubtful (again): "$6.00?"
Landlord's Employee #2: "Yes, $6.00."
Me, playing along: "OK, where is the $6.00 coming from?"
Landlord's Employee #2: "Let me see. When you signed your new lease your rent went up and your utilities went up so, yeah, that's where the $103.00 is coming from."
Me, tasting bittersweet vindication: "Wait, $103.00?"
Landlord's Employee #2: "Yes, $103.00. They billed you incorrectly in May and June."
Me: "How about I drive over to your office and we can take care of this there?"
I had anticipated this outcome over the weekend, so I had two blank checks with me (sorry, you're too late, you should have mugged me sooner). Twenty minutes later, after I finished filling out a new auto-debit form, Landlord's Employee #2 and I had the following conversation:
Me: "So, how much do I need to write the check for?"
Landlord's Employee #2: "$96.00."
Me, no longer even slightly surprised: "You're sure?" (The last thing I wanted was to get evicted again in August for having a $7.00 balance.)
Landlord's Employee #2: "Yes, $96.00. She credited you a little extra."
For future reference, judging from the copy of the ledger they sent over later, "She credited you a little extra" is apparently property manager code for, "She didn't actually credit you a little extra, I just didn't want to have to admit to having done the math wrong again."

And, scene.

In case you were wondering, no, my ex-optometrist Dr. ______ still hasn't gotten me my new glasses.