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.