Sunday, October 25, 2009

Westside rentals sucks

Westside Rentals is a gigantic apartment/landlord/tenant connector for the greater Los Angeles area. Basically, it's the craigslist housing section with an added cost. It's been over a year since I lost all hope in their service and can only wonder if things have improved.

In 2008 I needed to move, so I decided to pay for a membership - after all, Westside Rentals's network is huge. You can't go anywhere in LA without seeing a "FOR RENT" sign by WSR. What I soon found after joining was that, much like Craigslist, WSR has listings that lack information, photos, and reliable landlords to assist you. I swiftly asked for my money back:

Westside Rentals,

My girlfriend and I recently purchased a dual membership to find a new apartment. Over the past two weeks, we have become frustrated and extremely disappointed in your service and are asking for a full refund.

Our complaints with your service vary from website detail to landlord communication. The fact there are listings without both meaningful written descriptions and a single photo is a waste of time to consider. Most of the photos on your website are of poor quality in resolution, composition, and quantity. We have contacted many listings on your website and were extremely disappointed in their poor return rate; many phone calls, voicemails, and emails were never returned. One landlord emailed me back a week after my inquiry of a phone message and email, telling me that their unit was "JUST leased." Another landlord I contacted and scheduled a viewing of their unit cancelled on me twice: both 1 hour before our scheduled meeting. Needless to say, I couldn't afford to schedule a third meeting.

One of the listings we visited to see was distorted greatly in their listing. Not only did it clearly state that it was the second floor (when it was the first floor) – the pictures online were not of the unit available for rent. We are asking for a refund for the full amount that we paid for our membership. Not only did we fail in finding an apartment through Westside rentals, we also endured stress and loss of time and money trying to manage our search using your service.

Refund our payment and cancel our account immediately.

Soon after, we were refunded HALF of our payment. No letter or explanation. Half? I had to waste more time to find out that they refunded only half because I used the service and therefore, should have to pay for it. I was pissed so I posted a review on YELP, not that this was the solution, but just a side note before making calls and more faxes:

If I could give WEST SIDE RENTALS a negative rating, I would. They are terrible and a waste of time. I could write a short novel here, but I'll try and keep it short and simple: poor pictures (if any), poor descriptions, faulty descriptions (I went on scout and the places I saw were grossly incorrect from their listing), poor communication from the landlords who posted listings (would never call back, or call back a week later), over priced listings, lacking search criteria. DO NOT waste your time with this place.

I bought a dual account for $70 and got nowhere after 2 weeks, wasting much of my time and energy trying to find a place with them. After everything went wrong, I demanded a refund and it was nearly impossible to get a hold of anyone to do so. After 4 weeks of struggle, they gave me $35 back from my $70 stating that since I didn't complain earlier, I will not be getting the full refund.
Craigslist is much better. Of course, craigs is the best and worst of both worlds, but it is free and for the most part, has more information and any landlord who knows what he/she is doing will create a good listing.


This was interesting because it sparked the interest of the refund manager at WSR. He called both me and my girlfriend asking about this "David G" review on yelp. After several calls and pointless conversations, he agreed to refund us the rest of our payment back. What a mess.

Friday, October 9, 2009

5 Things I Should Not have Eaten

Mystery Sphere Pastry
When I was very young I ate a donut hole type pastry that contained nuts. I was a picky eater and thankfully those times have passed (I virtually eat anything now that I don't object morally to), but back in the day in my youth, I hated many things from tastes, to consistencies, to just downright textures. What I remember from this night was my parents having a get together at our house. My brother and I were banished to the second floor to take care of ourselves and keep quite during these events, and for some reason I came strolling down the stairs to see what my parents were up to. A crowd gathered in the dining room and a long table held bowls and bowls of desserts. And boy, did they look good. I grabbed a sugary sphere and ate it. And that is what my memory kept from the night. To what my parents tell me is that they stupidly told me to try the pastry, knowing it has nuts and "wierd" things in it. I took a bite and threw up. I was probably 4. Not my fault.

Gefilte Fish
When I was in high school I joined a BBYO Jewish Youth Group Chapter. (Bereshis - the same chapter that Gene Wilder belonged to in his youth in Milwaukee). Anyways - we had a dinner at a Rabbi's house. There were 8 of us, I'd say, along with our advisers. It was going well and we were brought our first dish. It looked delicious! A piece of toasted bread with yummy salsa/tomato sauce atop. MMMMmmmmm. It looked good. It sat on our plates, staring at us. Knowing very little about Jewish customs or anything Jewish in general, I waited for the others at the table to act first, seeing how they were brought up as actual Jews, not a secular Jew like I did. It was time to eat the bread! I cut a large piece with my fork and took a big bite. INSTANTLY I knew something was wrong. Something... awful. Something... terrible. I was gagging and hid it as far as I could. It was the most repulsive thing I could ever imagine - and to think i shoved a large fork-full into my mouth and swallowed a little bit. I was already thinking how lucky I was that I didn't throw up everywhere. I looked over at my friend Andy, whose plate was untouched. He looked at me and smiled. What the FUCK did I just eat? "Hmmmm if anyone doesn't want their fish I'll have it," I heard one of my chapter members say. My GOD! Fish!? BREAD!? The the hell was I thinking? If i have to cut a piece of bread with a FORK - why would I continue to think it was bread. I tried another small swallow. No dice. I gagged again. This was a no go. I had to spit this out. And spit it out I did. Into my cloth dinner napkin. The taste was still in my mouth for quite some time. So disgusting. When the meal was over, I had to unwrap my napkin carefully to make it seem like I wasn't wrapping disgusting food in it for the Rabbi's wig-wearing wife, who did all the cooking and cleaning. (Why?). Wow. What a lesson I learned that night. First, don't be so stupid to eat something you obviously are too stupid to know what it is and two - be careful when you stuff your mouth with unknown objects.

Laffy Taffy (the whole thing)
Laffy taffy was first introduced in the 70s, but they sort of re-branded in the late 80s and I seized the day! My family was on vacation in the Colorado rockies and thankfully, since we were doing a lot of site seeing, my parents tended to give in to my requests to shut me up while we did "boring" things. (Yes, I appreciate them now. Very much). One of these requests was a super-large bar of laffy taffy. My God is was delicious. I remember to this day. I sucked on that thing for hours, or so it seemed. Eventually, I started to feel a little sick. Crazy, right? Maybe I shouldn't have been eating sugar for so many hours on end. (Maybe another fault of the parental units?) We reached our destination in our rented jeep and took a hike to explore the lay of the land. I really wasn't feeling well. And that's when it happened. I threw up. Threw up within 50 feet of the continental divide. Very poetic, I must say.

Tootsie Roll
My mother is allergic to everything under the sun. Thankfully, I received my Dad's genes where the only flaw is migraine headaches. When I was younger though, the Docs thought I was allergic to things too. Therefore, I was allergic to milk. I can't believe it this to this day. If I had a milk-less childhood, I might me in a crazy-ward right now. I grew up eating mac and cheese. It made me who I am. I don't remember if it was a post-Halloween or what reason I had some candy, but I wanted to eat a Tootsie roll - something I was not familiar with. It looked really good. I was probably 5 or 6 at the time and my Dad read me the ingredients and let me know it had dairy in it. "No, I'm sorry you can't eat this." I was pissed. CANDY!? I CANT EAT THIS!? He left, I picked it up and quickly ate it. It was good.

Natural Spring Water
Back in the Colorado Rockies, this time in Steamboat, Colorado, I was on a spring break skiing trip in high school. It was with a ski group called SnowStar and my friend and I took this trip with the group, straying in a condo-hotel with a few other kids and an instructor. This instructor came back one day with bottles of self-filled water. He was so fascinated with the water, as he told us. Natural Spring water with all sorts of nutrients. I don't remember really, I probably never paid attention in the first place. He told us to try it. We each grabbed a bottle and opened it up. ASS. It smelled bad. Sulfer, ass, you name it - it didn't matter, it was bad. He assured us it wassn't as bad as it smelled and it was a must try - the locals drink it and it was good for your bones and health. I took a sip. Just about as horrible as the smell. He had a good laugh.


I finally made Calzones. Not that it was a lifelong goal, but it has been on my mind to make for a few months now ever since I finally made deep dish pizza from scratch. Using a cook's illustrated cookbook, I did quite a good job for my first time. More or less, it's all in the wrapping, which only looked better and better with each calzone (too bad I didn't have enough to make 100). All in all, it was a great success and left very little to improve for my next calzone adventure, aside from the fact using a pizza stone was in the instructions and I merely used a cookie sheet.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Kaffir Tree Timeline (part 3)

A few more weeks have passed and I decided it was time that the unhatched 9 or so kaffir seeds were a lost cause. Worry not, I still managed to sprout 2 and by all means, that's better than 1 or even 0. I transplanted the trees into larger pots with fertilizer in hopes they can now grow like wildfire despite the cold season approaching. And when I mean cold season, I mean slightly chilly weather with the sun shining down starting at 11AM. After all, this is Los Angeles.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Top 5 Time Travel Movies

There are many options to choose from and to make such a vast selection into a top 5 is somewhat limited. Then again, creating a top 10 list for a very specific, limited genre would be not be limited enough. How many films feature time travel vs. the number of books that exist? Not as many as there should, which is why a top 5 list was created.

12 Monkeys
Insanity, without giving anything away, is a great realism into time travel. It's safe to say no one knows of anyone who has traveled through time, so if you were lucky enough to meet someone who did, you would probably believe him or her to be insane. And should you travel through time, you, I hope, would have the common sense to doubt reality and your own mental stability. 12 Monkeys was adapted from an artistic, well executed short film featuring only still photos and voice over. It presents an isolated world, reliving the same moment (memory or the future?) again and again. 12 Monkeys is one of the few films that took a simple idea, expanded it, and kept it thrilling while adding countless engaging plot twists and themes.

Groundhog Day
There are not nearly enough comedic science fiction films, not to mention ones dealing with time travel. Groundhog day is a brilliant mix of comedy, slapstick (without stretching too far from reality), and drama. When a man relives the same day over and over, there are bound to be comedic and dramatic aspects to his life; Groundhog Day catches them. Capitalizing on Bill Murray's cynical humor and distaste for ignorance and most human interaction, it is somewhat of a modern Scrooge tale, thrown into the far end of the universe. Sometimes, the best stories and characters are unleashed only when you introduce them into extreme environments of comedy and drama alike. Harold Ramis went on to complete his quirky sci-fi triology with Multi-plicity and Bedazzled, but they fell somewhat short of memorable films, despite how ever amazing Michael Keaton is.

Planet of the Apes (1968)
This film encompasses so many science fiction themes and all of which are done magnificently. Time travel beginning, exploration of a foreign environment and culture clash/theory middle, and a social commentary ending. Not to mention that the novel was weak and bland and Rod Serling turned it into an epic. It's a damn shame this original was torn apart by the sequels. Do not, I repeat, do not satisfy your curiosity and watch any - it will leave a bad taste in your mouth far worse than not having seen them. Not only are the films full of cliches and poor writing, but the "science fiction" in them is weak and only contradicts all aspects of the original. It's a sad, sad saga.

Terminator 1 & 2
I am grouping these two films together. While they are completely different films altogether and I find the second to be a superior, is it less engaged in the element of time travel than the first. Both are excellent films and unleashed a new fear for what the future has in store for us. Unlike many time travel films, The Terminator is a horrific realization that we are the problem to someone else's reality (vs. us traveling to someone else's time with something to fix). There are far few films and stories involving the "innocent" being visited for someone else's gain; we are merely stuck time after time following the time traveler and treating their world as the present.

The Time Machine (1960)
It's hard to ignore this original, classic gem. Traveling through time, horrified with the future until finding a peaceful land of mindless sheep (actually people). You can't sum up the human experience much more than that. (Oh, and there's conflict too).

Honorable Mentions
Back to the Future & Back to the Future II
Star Trek 4
Time Crimes

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Scanners and the Netflix Spoiler

I recently watched David Cronnenberg's SCANNERS for the first time via Netflix. I didn't know that much about it but was excited to see it regardless. To my surprise, the movie description on the dvd pocket gave away a major spoiler that takes place in the last 10 minutes! Seriously? I won't go into detail to what this spoiler is, but it's one of those THINGS that shouldn't be readily available since it is a reveal/surprise to the main character (more or less the audience). It wasn't as bad as revealing the catch of The Sixth Sense per say, but somewhere along the line of saying Darth Vader being Luke Skywalkers father before watching episode 6. It didn't ruin the movie, but I certainly put it all together well before it was intended.