Monthly Archive for February, 2003

The Quiet American

Review: A

I saw The Qui­et Amer­i­can last week, and I want­ed to do a quick review. Faith­ful to the Gra­ham Greene nov­el, on which the film is based, it’s a com­pli­cat­ed movie with char­ac­ters that are both flawed and hero­ic.

Con­trary to Miramax’s fears, the movie is _not_ anti-Amer­i­can or unpa­tri­ot­ic– still, it’s a film worth see­ing at this time of renewed Amer­i­can adven­tur­ism. Michael Caine and Bren­dan Fras­er give excep­tion­al per­for­mances, and the pro­duc­tion design is faith­ful to the peri­od, with­out get­ting nos­tal­gic, ala Auto Focus and Con­fes­sions of a Dan­ger­ous Mind.

McSweeney’s Quarterly Issue 10

mcsweeneys-10.jpgMcSweeney’s Mam­moth Trea­sury of Thrilling Tales arrived in the mail today, and it’s some­thing to behold. Guest-edit­ed by Michael Chabon, it revives the notion that short-sto­ry writ­ing can be as var­ied in theme and form as longer for­mat writ­ing. It’s the celebri­ty issue: Neil Gaiman, Michael Crich­ton, Dave Eggers him­self, Har­lan Elli­son, & Rick Moody, & all pro­ceeds to ben­e­fit 826 Velen­cia.

Com­pli­ment­ing this tru­ly won­der­ful writ­ing, is the design, which resem­bles a pulp pub­li­ca­tion from the 1940s, a time when the short-sto­ry could take the form of a west­ern, sci­ence fic­tion, detec­tive, or hor­ror. The illus­tra­tions are fun, and many orig­i­nal adver­tise­ments are includ­ed as well.

Hold­ing this issue makes me hap­py to be alive! No, real­ly.

Disciplining Cats

Our kit­ten Katya is start­ing to piss me off. She is such a good kit­ty, usu­al­ly, how­ev­er I am amiss at how to dis­ci­pline her for bad behav­ior. Spilling glass­es of water and knock­ing clut­ter off of a dress­er while Pres­ley and I are asleep is some­thing I must make her fear.

Right now, we usu­al­ly remove her from the offend­ing envi­ron­ment, shout a stern “NO!”, and let her run off. Late­ly, this isn’t suf­fi­cient, so I’ve been giv­ing her a lit­tle swat on her ass, but she thinks that I’m play­ing a game. It’s all about atten­tion… she wants it, and knows how to get it.

So, today, I’m try­ing a dif­fer­ent tactic—I’m giv­ing her forced baths when she gives me atti­tude. It focus­es her atten­tion for a while on clean­ing up and dry­ing off.

How do you dis­ci­pline kit­ty? Let me know below.

Bruce on Dave… Also, Regis and John McEnroe

I turned on David Let­ter­man wednes­day night, and guess who is emer­gency guest-host­ing? Bruce Willis.

The tru­ly sad thing is that the pro­duc­ers made him talk to Dan Rather about his recent inter­view with Sad­dam Hus­sein. Mr. “Die Hard” hard­ly smiled on cam­era, mum­bled inco­her­ent ques­tions, stared at the desk, and … wait, I’m talk­ing about the Jim­my Kim­mel Show.

It’s always been my dream to do the Bruce Willis show…” — com­ic Bri­an Kiley

How dis­ap­point­ed was this com­ic? You wait all your life to per­form for David Let­ter­man, and Hud­son Hawk is there to greet you. At least he’s inten­tion­al­ly fun­ny.

And while I’m rat­ing talk show hosts, I’m enjoy­ing the new shows of both Dave Chap­pelle, and Bill Maher. I laughed at Ali G, but it’s just not that good. Just like South Park is not that good… sor­ry kids.

mcenroe.jpgUPDATE: OK, thurs­day night, the guest host for Let­ter­man was John McEn­roe!

He did a real­ly good job, and the staff excused Paul Shaf­fer for the night.… and brought in Fred Schnei­der of the B-52s !

The best part was when John sent a cam­era crew back-stage to a ben­e­fit at the Rose­land. It was hilar­i­ous, as the crew caught up with Michael Impe­ri­oli (Christo­pher Molti­san­ti from the Sopra­nos), and Macaulay Culkin…

Next door at Rose­land, a ben­e­fit gig is sched­uled and a lot of the big stars are there. We send a cam­era crew out­side to take a look-see. Expect­ing to be stopped before enter­ing, we thought this would be a “quick and done.” Nope. We made our way in and explored.

Reg­is Philbin is sched­uled to host Fri­day night… I’m going to assume he’ll do a fine job… What KIND of NAME is CODY?!

Libeskind PR Affront

Today, the a pan­el in NYC will decide on which of the 2 final designs will replace the World Trade Cen­ter. Libe­skind has been every­where, as Gawk­er points out… but it looks like the Think team will get the call. I’m glad, despite the tin­ker­toy lat­tice­work. Stay tuned…

UPDATE: Aw Hell no. Every­one spoke too soon… Libe­skind Design Cho­sen for Rebuild­ing at Ground Zero (NY Times)

The Hotel Commonwealth


Ken­more Square, Boston, has always had a rep­u­ta­tion for being a lit­tle bit seedy—much the way Times Square used to be. It boasts a major Sub­way inter­change, the best Ball­park in the Amer­i­can League, if not all of base­ball, and it used to be home to a diverse group of small busi­ness­es and restau­rants.

When I first moved to Ken­more Square, in 1996, there was a Methadone clin­ic, a punk-rock venue called the Rathskeller, a late-night restau­rant called Deli-haus, a grit­ty cof­fee house called Fuel, and a bunch of oth­er busi­ness­es housed in the clus­ter of Brow­stones on the oppo­site side of the Square. In 2003, chalk these land­marks into a new chap­ter of Lost Boston.

When Boston Uni­ver­si­ty pro­posed bull­doz­ing much of the south side of the square, and replac­ing the cen­tu­ry-old brown­stones with a “Euro­pean-style” hotel, city and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers large­ly sup­port­ed the idea… large­ly, I sus­pect, because BU was will­ing to pay gen­er­ous­ly to relo­cate affect­ed busi­ness­es with neigh­bor­hood asso­ci­a­tion ties, such as Cornwall’s Pub. Also, the uni­ver­si­ty is giv­ing mil­lions to upgrade the Sub­way sta­tion and traf­fic con­fig­u­ra­tion in the Square.

Whether or not you iden­ti­fy with my bemoan­ing the loss of a funky piece of an oth­er­wise bor­ing city, what is not in ques­tion is the pub­lic reac­tion when the work­ers final­ly unveiled the facade. For a hotel look­ing to project Con­ti­nen­tal lux­u­ry and flair, it looks like a repro­duc­tion on the back lot at Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, or, per­haps, Main Street USA, Dis­ney­land. Tacky, cheap, and an insult to a city with tru­ly excep­tion­al archi­tec­ture.

I am not, I think, and elit­ist when it comes to archi­tec­ture… I think clas­si­cist ideals of style and mate­ri­als are prefer­able to 90% of all avant-garde rub­bish of the past 50 years. But, BU and the devel­op­ers cheat­ed by try­ing to copy the style of the French Sec­ond Empire, while using mate­ri­als com­mon on a Wal-Mart job site. Instead of lime­stone, let’s use fiber­glass. Brick too expen­sive? Sub­sti­tute fiber­glass for the real thing. And, the dorm­ers can just be cut-outs—I mean, who looks that close­ly, right?

The fact is, this hotel would look pret­ty good from your car on the Inter­state at 75 MPH, if it were locat­ed out in the sprawl belt of I-495 and 128. It’s car­toon col­or and fea­tures would blur from the high­way strip. But, this hotel is in the heart of the city, with thou­sands of pedes­tri­ans walk­ing by each day. And it looks Mick­ey Mouse, com­pared with the sur­round­ing build­ings.

The pho­tos I took, unfor­tu­nate­ly, fail to show how bad the facade real­ly is. Trust me, it looks as if they were try­ing to save a few bucks… which is pre­cise­ly not the image you’re going for in a 4-star hotel that wants to charge hun­dreds of dol­lars a night. Appar­ent­ly, BU and the devel­op­ers are going to spend $2 mil­lion to “fix” the facade. Good luck.

745

tugboat annie home pageTurns out that our friend Romo bought the down­town Buf­fa­lo build­ing once occu­pied by mem­bers of the indie/emo band Tug­boat Annie. In fact, there is a song called “745” on their 1997 LP Wake Up and Dis­ap­pear, that is sup­pos­ed­ly about the famed Buf­fa­lo address: 745 Main Street. The lyrics are con­cerned with watch­ing 4th of July fire­works on the roof, which has, I can tell you, a beau­ti­ful view.

Howard Dean in 2004

steal this button!Albany Dan sent me a fea­ture arti­cle on Howard Dean in Salon, and it was an enjoy­able read. I like his can­dor, hon­esty, and will­ing­ness to stand up to Bush, and these luke-warm Dems.

Sen. Ker­ry him­self said that he’d like to fash­ion his cam­paign along the lines of John McCain, yet his lan­guage is pep­pered with “bend-me-over” Daschle get-along talk like this.

Now, I like John Ker­ry just fine—and Edwards, Lieber­man, and the oth­er Sen­a­tors run­ning are also fine peo­ple. But, to pick a per­son to lead this par­ty at a time when we’re again search­ing for our souls—well, I’ll go with the Gov­er­nor Doc.

When I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work on the 2000 cam­paign, as Pres­i­dent of my col­lege chap­ter, I was strug­gling to set­tle on the sup­port of Al Gore. I mean, Bill Bradley was from the north­east, and he was such a cool cat. This elec­tion, I have no desire to go with anoth­er safe bet. Dean’s my guy. He signed gay civ­il unions into law, he sup­ports a mul­ti-lat­er­al for­eign pol­i­cy, and he says what he means. What more could the Democ­rats need at this moment? And sup­pos­ed­ly, he’s been faith­ful to his wife.

500th post on Suckahs DOT org

I was hap­py to recap the ori­gins of the Suck­ahs domain… we’re up to our 500th Entry, which is so impres­sive to me. The pur­pose of the main Suck­ahs site was to allow a bunch of friends from Williamsville East High Shool in New York, to stay in touch. Since then, it has grown to include oth­er friends, per­son­al sites that show­case art or short-sto­ry writ­ing, offer movie reviews, and stu­pid com­ments from an unem­ployed mouth.

WAP? Web-enabled?

lookie hereSooz took a pic­ture of this web­site on her Sanyo Sprint PCS phone… and it actu­al­ly looks cool. Because the lay­out is CSS, the site degrades pret­ty grace­ful­ly.

Come to think of it, brows­ing the web on your cell phone must be a lot like using netscape 1.1 in 1995. No?

Shoot the Weather-people

OK, so I spent the week­end in Albany, at an inter­state Court­yard by Mar­riott, because I met my par­ents there (half-way between Boston & Buf­fa­lo). I went swim­ming, shopped at the mon­strous Cross­gates Mall, and saw The Recruit.

This was all fine. Until I had to decide what to do about the com­ing storm…

Albany Dan was com­ing back from New York, and I want­ed to go out and have some drinks… so we checked with the Weath­er Chan­nel, and they seemed to think that the storm wouldn’t start pound­ing New Eng­land until the after­noon, mon­day. LIARS!

I left Albany at around 11am, and imme­di­ate­ly ran into the shit on I-90 East… I mean, do you peo­ple plow your roads in New York State? There nev­er was a prob­lem with vis­i­bil­i­ty– only with the road sur­faces. So it was 25–40 MPH all the way into Our Fair City. I got in at 4:30pm, a full 5.5 hours lat­er! eek.

Sor­ry if this comes off as a teenaged rant, but Weath­er-peo­ple must be hanged!

Fire up the Flash Skills

Good news, mes cama­rades! Just when I thought my job search had hit anoth­er record low, a woman from a mul­ti­me­dia local­iza­tion com­pa­ny con­tact­ed me to do some Flash work.

They take Eng­lish mul­ti­me­dia and web­sites, and trans­late them for inter­na­tion­al audi­ences. Then they hire peo­ple to swap out the eng­lish for the Japan­ese, Span­ish, etc. It sounds like grunt work, but I’m just hap­py to say that I have anoth­er inter­view for next week.

Valentine’s Day

Just thought I’d do a quick hol­i­day adjust­ment on the site. Hit refresh if you don’t see it.

Has any­one found any good Valen­tine links? I haven’t.

Home (page) From Nowhere

Meg­nut points out that James Kun­stler, author of many excel­lent ama­teur urban plan­ning books, has a web­site that is just AWFUL. Mr. Kunstler’s obser­va­tions have influ­enced my per­cep­tions great­ly– I’d love to hear him weblog­ging about the ongo­ing debates sur­round­ing the rebuild­ing of the World Trade Cen­ter site.

Site Updates

Two minor lit­tle updates to this site:

That is all.

Presley’s Vox Amp

Pres­ley ordered a lit­tle Vox Pathfind­er 10 gui­tar ampli­fi­er, and it came in the mail today. I thought I’d give it a spin, and found that it sounds pret­ty good with just the clean Rick­en­backer. I don’t think it would be of much use out­side your liv­ing room though, because it’s palm-sized.

Emceebard

Emcee­bard relaunch­es this week­end, pow­ered by Move­able Type, and look­ing smart, I think. Matt is a friend, who is a music writer in NYC. I love the rotat­ing pho­tos, how­ev­er it was a pain to type the small-caps cap­tions into Pho­to­shop! Let me know if any­thing is funky.

A Sort of Conclusion

I seem to have cer­tain threads going through this weblog, and I can final­ly put to rest one such top­ic. A few days ago, I wrote about a con­ver­sa­tion I had with some­one in my cof­fee house, in which I got the feel­ing that she was being more than friend­ly. Hav­ing been with the same girl for over 6 years, I didn’t real­ly trust my radar in that regard.

But, today, this some­one decid­ed to take the plunge and ask me out… which imme­di­ate­ly turned me red in the face, and I mum­bled that I wasn’t real­ly avail­able and that it was flat­ter­ing… but, no I couldn’t.

Case closed. I feel like an ass for not point­ing this out in the begin­ning, but I hope that she doesn’t hate me, I guess. I can’t imag­ine being sin­gle– there isn’t any code or what­ev­er to com­mu­ni­cate avail­abil­i­ty. I think wed­ding rings would prob­a­bly get the mes­sage across, but who gets mar­ried these days?

Temporary Purple?

The oth­er day, my hair was bleached white. This time around, I didn’t have great luck. One shouldn’t try and go too many shades dark­er than one’s nat­ur­al col­or. In this case, I’ve gone extreme­ly dark, and the result has pur­ple tones that are just awful.

Public = Avant Garde ??

The ProposalsI read a lit­tle piece in the Times today con­cern­ing the two final­ists cho­sen by the LMDC for the World Trade Cen­ter, and I have a few reac­tions.

Let us read some of what Mr. Muschamp writes:

[Daniel Libeskind’s design] is an emo­tion­al­ly manip­u­la­tive exer­cise in visu­al codes.

Alright. Does any ordi­nary user of the World Trade Cen­ter — work­er, tourist, sub­way rid­er, etc. — have any idea just what Mr. Muschamp is talk­ing about? Why has archi­tec­ture become this jar­gony realm of intel­lec­tu­al non­sense?

I don’t know. The death and destruc­tion of WWI caused a huge shift in West­ern val­ues, specif­i­cal­ly because sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy was employed so suc­cess­ful­ly in the killing of a gen­er­a­tion of men. In the decades after the war, the long-held ide­al­ized notion that tech­nol­o­gy would ush­er in peace and pros­per­i­ty was dashed, and many of the pre­vail­ing assump­tions in the arts were also vacat­ed. It was in this void that the Mod­ernists arrived– along with their avant garde aes­thet­ics and their intent to social engi­neer.

So what has Mod­ernism accom­plished? Well, not much good. We’ve still got the rich and poor, yet we have ugly civic space. For instance, the orig­i­nal WTC was a wind-swept, anar­chis­tic struc­ture, cut off, and hor­ri­bly out of scale from the sur­round­ing streets and neigh­bor­hood. When you stood in the Plaza look­ing up at the struc­tures, it was dif­fi­cult to feel any­thing but dread. In fact, that seems to be a pre­vail­ing require­ment of the Mod­ernists– your build­ing must impart DREAD. Unless, of course, you are one of the ini­ti­at­ed. You have to be edu­cat­ed for sev­en years at MIT to under­stand the beau­ty of the Bru­tal­ist form.

Any­way, back to Mr. Muschamp:

And… the longer I study Mr. Libeskind’s design, the more it comes to resem­ble the bland­est of all the projects unveiled in the recent design study: the retro vision put forth by the New Urban­ist design­ers Peter­son Lit­ten­berg. Both projects trade on sen­ti­men­tal appeal at the expense of his­tor­i­cal aware­ness. Both offer visions of inno­cence ? nos­tal­gia, actu­al­ly.

Peter­son Lit­ten­berg is nos­tal­gic for Art Deco Man­hat­tan cir­ca 1928, before the stock mar­ket crash caused the Unit­ed States to aban­don the pre­vail­ing ide­ol­o­gy of social Dar­win­ism. Mr. Libeskind’s plan is nos­tal­gic for the world of pre-Enlight­en­ment Europe, before reli­gion was exiled from the pub­lic realm.

This is always the argu­ment of these elite intel­lec­tu­als against clas­si­cism — that some­how, orna­ment, scale, pro­por­tion­al­i­ty and human­i­ty are to be despised as Impe­r­i­al. Now, obvi­ous­ly both plans are far from Clas­si­cism, but, in the inter­est of democ­ra­cy, why cry his­tori­cism when the alter­na­tive is intel­lec­tu­al­ized ugli­ness?

The gen­er­al pub­lic, I believe, longs for dig­ni­ty in pub­lic archi­tec­ture. I pre­fer the Think project, but the lat­tice work looks like Tin­ker­toy, and I find it tacky that they have pods with­in the lat­tice­work. How intim­i­dat­ing would it be to get in an ele­va­tor, and shoot up 100 floors to a “cul­tur­al space”, know­ing full well that there is noth­ing but air and Tin­ker­toy beneath you? Fright­en­ing. The Eif­fel Tow­er it is not.

No doubt what­ev­er gets built at the WTC site will be very mod­ern, and cut­ting-edge. It is my hope that it exem­pli­fies the dig­ni­ty and pur­pose human beings deserve and crave. Let the peo­ple choose, not the intel­lec­tu­als.

Temporary Platinum

I’m in the process of dying my hair brown again. Why bleach first? Well, my hair is so baby-fine and limp– it has no tex­ture or depth what­so­ev­er. In fact, physi­cists tell me that it actu­al­ly does not exist in this uni­verse… What you see is actu­al­ly a rift in the fab­ric of space-time. So, I have to do this, then dye it a respectable brown. This makes it look nor­mal in col­or, and tex­ture. And it’s eas­i­er to style.

Never a Good Moment

Q: When you’re in your local cof­fee­house, and a mem­ber of the oppo­site sex sits down, and you start talk­ing about exis­ten­tial phi­los­o­phy and music, is it appro­pri­ate to men­tion to this per­son that you’re in a hap­py, sta­ble, 6+ year rela­tion­ship?

A: You can nev­er be assured of anybody’s inten­tions, and it seems some­what pre­sump­tu­ous to assume that they’re inter­est­ed in you. I have all of five friends, and I might be over­re­act­ing a bit here. Can’t peo­ple just be friend­ly? You tell me.

Monday Afternoon

My lat­est install­ment in my forth­com­ing book, How to Make the Most of Unem­ploy­ment: or Fail­ing That, At Least Get By, focus­es on Mon­day after­noons and what to do about them.

For instance, when a mon­day after­noon falls on, or near the first of the month, take a few min­utes to slip into your neigh­bor­hood bank branch (mine is a Fleet) and cash some child­hood sav­ings bonds. Not only will this activ­i­ty inject you with some much need­ed cash, to say, pay your land­lord, but more impor­tant­ly it will enter­tain you to wit­ness the hoops the Teller must jump through just to cash the damn things. The process is ardu­ous. The minor annoy­ance of hav­ing to sign your name and address to each one is eas­i­ly off­set by the amus­ing­ly end­less key­strokes, stamp­ing, and shuf­fling required on the part of the Teller. (Note to edi­tor, cut those adverbs out of that sen­tence)

So, after enjoy­ing the show, for the bet­ter part of thir­ty min­utes, you’re hand­ed a lit­tle slip of paper “for tax pur­pos­es”. This is bonus enter­tain­ment, for you know damn well that not pos­sess­ing an income negates the require­ment that you file a 1099. Ha!

Now that you’ve left the bank, and you’re prob­a­bly dread­ing the walk back home, where you spend 22+ hours a day, I’d sug­gest you stop into the liquor store for a 12-pack of What­ev­er Is On Sale, and a bag of cheap rolling tobac­co. Noth­ing livens up a Mon­day after­noon like a few beers and a hand-rolled fun stick. You may even ash your cig in the garbage can, because hell, you’ll be there to take care of it, should the thing ignite.

Presto! It’s already 3:30. You’re almost home free. Now, just rinse, repeat, and you’ll be ready for when the wife/husband/employed room­mate gets home.

12″ Powerbook

Todd, of What do i know, got his 12-inch Power­book, and it’s got this Dell XP user drool­ing.

Columbia

9:30am- I just got back from the Cof­fee­house this morn­ing, hav­ing just read the morn­ing Globe… and Albany Dan just told me that it appears that the Space Shut­tle Colum­bia has explod­ed over Texas. I’m sure we will all hear about this more over the next hours and days, but I hope no one else on the ground is hurt.

UPDATE: A Chill­ing log of the Shuttle’s last min­utes, cour­tesy Space­filght Now.