This morning's roundup of the stories you may as well be reading rather than doing actual work.
1. Cult Status
Last year my girlfriend and I were sitting outside a little place on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood grabbing brunch when a guy who we assumed just happened to be walking by on the sidewalk stopped and offered to take our picture. He looked harmless enough; we'd seen him in the area a couple of times before, not surprising given the heavy foot traffic around there, most of which is made up of regulars. She and I were holding hands, so he approached us with a smile, pulled out his cell and asked if he could get a shot because we seemed so happy. What the hell, we figured -- since we were in fact happy and we'd each just had a really strong Bloody Mary -- so we let him snap a picture then I gave him my cell number to send it to. Like an idiot.
I never got the picture. Now granted, I never got my identity stolen or wound up being bombarded with offers for cheap Viagra or anything like that, either. So the question quickly became: Why did he take our picture and why did he ask for my cell number? My girlfriend's theory has always been conspiratorial, but not outlandishly so when you stop and think about it: The restaurant we were eating at sits directly across from the Church of Scientology "Celebrity Center." If you're not already aware, Scientology basically owns a good portion of Hollywood -- from the L. Ron Hubbard theaters and memorial shrines to his majesty down at the end of Hollywood Boulevard near the Chinese Theater, to the "Testing Center," to the Celebrity Center to the management complex, which looks like a big blue hospital, on Sunset. Everywhere you look in central Hollywood you'll find poor, dumb doofs in faux-naval gear shuffling back and forth for the glory of L. Ron, his name be praised. But if you look even closer, you'll see something else. You'll see the nondescript men in everyday street clothes who stand quietly just off the boulevard and who wouldn't in a million years catch your eye in a place as teeming with people as Hollywood -- that is were it not for the tiny earpieces in their ears. This is the creepy cloak-and-dagger paranoia of life in the heart of Scientology.
Over the past several years, I've had a number of pieces run at my little corner of the internet and much more prominently at the Huffington Post that either ridiculed or lambasted Scientology for being the ridiculous but still highly dangerous cult that it absolutely is. Is there a file on me somewhere in the bowels of the organization's own Room 101, an electronic dossier stored on a Suppressive Persons server next to the giant supercomputer that runs on L. Ron's reconstituted brainwaves? Who knows?
I don't believe I'm in any way important enough for Scientology to give a crap about me. But I do kind of believe that Scientology is crazy enough.
Hold on, I think I hear my phone ringing.
Oh, and why do I bring all of this up in the first place? No reason.
2. Taking Sides
If you have a brain, it'll make you happy to know that the American people for the most part are putting the blame for the mess our political system is in right where it belongs. No, it's not Obama's fault when it comes to negotiations -- such as they are -- with the House and the minority in the Senate, and no, it's not a case of "both sides are the same." It's the Republicans, stupid, who will almost literally burn the country to the ground if it means they can have even a chance of stymying the Obama administration and hanging responsibility for the disaster squarely around its neck.
3. The Famous Mr. Ed
Several outlets are reporting that two Russian human rights officials will be meeting with Edward Snowden at the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport to discuss his case today. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov say they're excited for, and humbled by, the opportunity to speak to a true civil rights hero and hear his stories of political persecution at the hands of a dangerous, intrusive, and all-powerful police state.
Truly awesome news for anyone who thought that Skyfall was pretty much the best Bond movie in the history of the franchise: Sam Mendes is officially on-board to direct Bond 24, along with Daniel Craig and, I'm assuming, the great Roger Deakins, who turned every shot of the last movie into a thing of artistic glory.
5. So Sorkin-y
God I wish I'd thought of doing something like this. Daniel D'Addario over at Salon puts together a series of "potential plotlines" for episodes of the upcoming season of HBO's The Newsroom and it is truly worthy of a slow clap standing ovation. If you love the show, it's a must read. If you love to hate the show, it's absolutely a must read. Also, why the hell did I never notice how much McKayla Maroney's name actually sounds like something created by Sorkin?
Happy Friday, kids. Try to stay out of trouble.