Sunday, August 27, 2006

Jake Who?

I present to you today some rather startling news about a beloved celebrity. In an age when some of our most famous faces — Mel “Sugar Tits” Gibson, Tom “Unemployment Line” Cruise, Lindsay “She’s Drunk Driving Over You As You Read This” Lohan — are generally acknowledged to be the high-profile equivalents of meth-addled hobos squatting in a ditch and snorting king prawns up their noses, we really can’t afford to lose another celebrity to the global shit list. But as a journalist, I really can’t hold this one back. Here it goes.

Jake Gyllenhaal hates literacy. Not only that, Mr. Donnie Darko himself hates children and wants them to grow up to be slack-jawed dolts.

There. Honestly, now that it’s on the outside, I feel better.

You may very well be wondering how I came across this information. The answer to this lies in my brief trip down to Los Angeles this weekend. The UCLA campus hosted the southern California installment of “Revenge of the Book Eaters,” a traveling show that aims to raise money for 826 Valencia, the chain of after-school tutoring centers founded by You Shall Know Our Velocity author Dave Eggers, who, if you haven’t heard, is apparently the voice of the generation. Quite possibly yours. Ours, even. Look into it.

Ostensibly, the show purported to end the debate over whether music or words is truly better by pitting a series of word people — Eggars, NPR sprite Sarah Vowell — against more sing-songy types — The Mountain Goats, Jenny Lewis and Aimee Mann. Gyllenhaal was also included in the line-up, presumably representing the faction of performers who neither write nor sing but have diddled Kirsten Dunst at some point.

All in all, everyone did a thorough job demonstrating why they are famous. Jenny Lewis, for example, played the best of solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat, as well as a new track that she recently finished work on, “Jack Killed Mom.” Little Sarah Vowell read an essay about Charles Pruess, a German-born cartographer who accompanied John C. Fremont on his expedition through the then-undiscovered western regions of the United States. A dour and humorless man, Preuss used his diary as a forum to complain about the lack of salt and butter available on the expedition and ultimately hanged himself outside Washington D.C. upon his return. Funny stuff. Aimee Mann, whom I love, played the standards you’d expect from her, like “Save Me” and “Video” and sadly not “Pavlov’s Bell,” but I really can’t complain since I’ve never seen her perform before and she’s just that great. Skinny legs, that Aimee Mann.

And then we come to the portion of the show where Jake Gyllenhaal should have read “Leppy’s Love,” a short story collaboratively written by some of the students and 826 Valencia. Only he wasn’t there and instead we had to hear the story told by John Krasinski from “The Office,” which is still nice, technically. I guess. But knowing we could have heard it directly from Jake Gyllenhaal just kind of put a damper on the whole evening. Seriously, I think I saw some people weeping. It’s a slap in the face, really — and not just to the people at Royce Hall but to the children. Oh, the little writing children with their stories! Seriously, Gyllenhaal should have just gone and slapped them himself, if he wasn’t so busy pretending to be Lance Armstrong all the time. (Between you and me, I heard he’s actually illiterate. Not many people know that he brings his sister to the set of all his movies to mouth the words to him from behind the camera. No shit.) So clearly, Jake Gyllenhaal just hates reading and writing and children.

I’m also slightly miffed that the show never officially decided whether music or words is better, though I didn’t really expect them to. In my estimation, I would have to say that music won, since Gyllenhaal’s absence made the word side of the equation a little lackluster. So boo to that.

Other things that happened: I saw Busy Philipps, though I didn’t realize it at the time. She’s way nice and donated $170 dollars to 826 Valencia during the pledge drive portion of the evening, during which Dave Eggers walked around with a bucket and would hug anyone who put in more than a $20 bill. (I put in $10.) Now that I think about it, this is the third time I’ve mentioned Busy Philipps on this blog in the last two weeks. She’s fast on her way to becoming the new Sanam.

Also: I saw Rider Strong and immediately recognized him as someone I knew, but thankfully realized that I only knew him from a bygone television show before I said hi. But I feel like that’s understandable, since he’s not actually famous. You know, anymore. So it’s closer to the kind of relationship where you see somebody you know, just from school or work or something than it would be to an actual celebrity sighting, like — oh, I don’t know — Jake Gyllenhaal.

Oh, and Andy Richter was there too.

[ you make my spots stay on ]

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