Tuesday, May 30, 2006

La Lunon

After I wake up groggy on my couch after yet another ill-advised weeknight nap (the proximate causes of this one were some microwaved spaghetti and the first episode of Tanner '88 on DVD) I gather the recyclables in my kitchen and walk them out to the apartment complex's closest dumpster, tucked away from the street behind the car wash station and directly across the fence from some poor homeowner's back lawn. Over one of the other low, red-brick apartment buildings I see the thin, very red crescent moon, which reminds me unaccountably of the box art for Atari's release of Space Invaders.

(Moon visible in lower left of box art.)

I don't think it's a visual similarity as much as a shared level of general oddness, in the case of the real moon due to the color. Plus the slightly surreal feeling that always comes from walking half-awake into the clingy but fading mugginess of the night.

Addendum, re: Tiny Ants

Nate, regarding this week's slogan, I believe the act of relating the insect life in one's apartment to a terrifying dystopian vision has already been adequately satirized by the professionals. So I have nothing to add there.

I believe that the best weapon against Tiny Ants remains Moving Someplace Else in Four Weeks Or So. Works against my Tiny Ants.

Oh Man, What a Fabulous Sound from 1958

Currently: listening to the "Rockin' Richard" show on 88.7, enjoying a Buzzard's Bay lager and the cool evening. I agree with that guy from the one song: I want to be a 50s doo-wop bass man too. But that's unrealistic for so many reasons I don't even know where to start.

Today I interviewed for an open position in the manuscript editorial department, which I think went about as well as it was going to go. We'll see; they're interviewing a bunch of people, is about all I know. I also have my hat in the ring for a permanent marketing assistant position. . . this should sort itself out within a couple of weeks.

This also required my taking an editorial test, situated in a fallow corner of a cubicle farm in the university HR building. It's frustrating to realize how many words you're not sure how to spell. Millennium? How can this be so hard? . . . didn't we just have one of
those? . . .

But, overall not too stressful, and it gave me an excuse to call the afternoon off early and hit the ol' Payne Whitney for some treadmill-based blowing off of steam, while watching gymnasium-grade television with the sound off. I cannot hear the arguments presented, Judge Judy, but I strongly recommend ruling against the guy with the mullet.

After getting a late start this morning I drove the Green Car in today, instead of cycling, and refilled the tank on the way home. On the previous tank, I'd made about 17 miles to the gallon; for the last two weeks I've been driving as judiciously as possible, not accelerating towards stop signs, drifting down hills, etc. This pushed the last tank up to 17 3/4 miles to the gallon. Oh well.

Even more currently: listening to the "Go Kat Go!" show on 88.7. I have a total crush on the girl's voice who does this show. Not the girl, mind you, just her voice. I think it'd break the spell if I were actually to meet her in person, or probably even if she were to talk about something besides Rockabilly music.

Hooray for radio!

The Street that I Live on is Too Loud

So it suddenly over the weekend turned into summer here in Boston. Most of the windows in my apartment now spend most of their time open, but the street that I live on hosts a level of traffic that tends to very between moderate to extraordinarily heavy between the hours of 5 AM and 12:30 AM so the base-level volume on both the TV and my stereo have moved up to a noticable degree. As I was eating my lunch of coffee (Trader Joe's Double Dark blend (a delightful mix of Mexican and Costa Rican beans)) and pistachios (Trader Joe's brand again, this the 50% less salt variety (with the light blue rather than dark blue label)) and trying to watch TNG on the TV it was actual a struggle to hear the dialogue as the story surrounding Riker's apparent insanity on a distant planet unfolded.

So I decided not to renew my lease. I'm going to move at the end of August. I don't know exactly where to yet, but I think it's a step in the right direction. New York City is the obvious choice as a destination (by which I mean Queens or Brooklyn, in terms of place for actual inhabitance), but the idea of having to craigslist random roommates again is not a very pleasant one. I'm also trying to determine the specfics of what exactly it will take to go to Germany to study the language in an immersive setting, and trying to do that in the fall instead of just moving. The idea of just putting all of my shit into self-storage somewhere and taking off for a while actually appeaks to me greatly.

I don't know though, all I know for sure is that it's too damn loud here.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sweet Springtime is My Time is Your Time

I was out of town for much of this Memorial Day weekend for my friend Nic's wedding (about which I'm trying to compose some thoughts, though they're running a bit long) but I fear that in my absence the D.C. area has officially moved past the sweet spot of spring, after the pollen count is too low to savage the inside of my head but before the weather becomes oppressively muggy. By my usual standard -- my car's air conditioner no longer being able to cool the cabin down to a comfortable level at full blast when I'm stuck in highway traffic at midday -- then yesterday's drive back from BWI tells me that the swampy, heavy part of the year is upon us. Nonetheless I'm happy just not to see my car covered in an allergenic green-yellow dust every morning, be pelted on windy evenings by high-velocity winged seedpods from the ash trees standing in front of my apartment, or otherwise be made to feel like nature is waging a war of unprovoked aggression against me.

A side benefit of being away for the bulk of the weekend has been not hearing much of the constant rumble of bikers flowing into, and then out of, D.C., as happens over the Memorial Day weekend every year. One of my apartment's windows is about 25 feet from U.S. Route 50 and while seeing and hearing the steady influx of motorcycle traffic is neat at first it does get old long before America runs out of bikers.

On the Town

Back from my first NYC weekend in a while -- did more things there than usually I'd come up with over two weekends while living there, which makes me think that maybe I missed out on a lot over three years. On the other hand, it's not entirely unlikely that I'll end up having to slink back there at the end of June, and in that case maybe I'll be motivated to do more New York Stuff on a regular basis.

Since it was Fleet Week, there were bunches of sailors in town wearing their white uniforms and sailor hats. It seems to me that they should be dancing around to Bernstein music in this situation, but they don't.

More later. For now, Happy Memorial Day (Observed).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Three Places in New Haven

Last Saturday I watched, on a somewhat premeditated whim, a matinee performance of All's Well That Ends Well at the Yale Repertory Theatre, which was very snazzy: not too many props or much decor, but all of it well-placed, and fine costumes (set in 30s/40s France & Italy), and good acting. I don't have much by way of theater-review chops, but I can say that I was really drawn in & especially enjoyed the second act, which closes with a string of several really colorful scenes.

Can I just mention a mild pet peeve about spelling it "Theatre"? If the Yale Center for British Art on the same block can spell "Center" the American way, so can this Theater.

Two Sundays back I went on an even less premeditated whim to a folk-band show at the Little Theatre, which also spells it "theatre" but otherwise lives up to its name very well, just being a little theater at the end of a residential block in town. The band was The Mammals, who have some fine-sounding bluegrassy songs (you can hear some on their website, which is what drew me in) but they amplify their instruments, which takes some of the magic away for me. (Though some of their more folk/pop styled songs drew some neat colors out of the amped strings.) The vocals were nice but their original songs usually don't have very interesting lyrics. (Especially the anti-war songs. What's with all this "alone on the homestead" and "bones of the fallen"? Okay, we're in a war, but it's not the Civil War. At least not our civil war.) As far as the scene went, I was about the only person there who wasn't a middle-aged pacifist-looking ex-hippie. So, not quite as hip as the M. Shanghai String Band in Brooklyn. But, still enjoyable.

Two Wednesdays ago I finally went for the first time to Modern Pizza, one of New Haven's famed pizza places, with a recently acquired friend. We split what is one of the main attractions, the Clams Casino pizza. Very good when very hot, especially. (If you're not familiar with Clams Casino: it's like gambling for bacon, and everyone wins!) You'd like this pizza, Pete, the crust is thin and the edge of it gets scorched in the oven. Their bacon was soft and chewy. That was more bacon than I consumed between 2004 and 2005.

At a party I went to the following Friday there was also Modern Pizza, which had been delivered, but it was a bit on the cold and soggy side, possibly because my bottle of Stella Artois foamed over and I had to catch it with my plate. Okay, that was exactly why the pizza was like that. We are swift indeed with the party skills. At least it was onions and green peppers. Someone there must have been on my wavelength.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Coming This Summer: Craggy Island Homecoming Tour 2K6

I'm not an American Idol follower. I'm happy to see that Taylor Hicks won this year's competition, though, solely because promotional clips of that prematurely gray contestant always remind me of the late Father Ted.


(Or is it Taylor?...)

Give both men credit, I guess, since they have their respective strengths. By which I mean one of them is a genuinely talented entertainer, while the other one is still alive.

An Open Letter to Mike

Dear Michael,

Do not forget to capture a hobbit on your upcoming vacation to New Zealand.


Things that have gone missing from my apartment.

1) A metal folding chair, from the front porch. There used to be two folding chairs out there, now there is only one.

2) A metal spoon with strips of white plastic making up the handle. I used to have two of these spoons, now I only have one.

Okay, well, I thought that this list was going to be a bit longer, but I guess I underestimated. But still, what's up with that? Where are my spoon and folding chair? The folding chair isn't actually that big of a deal, I mean, I've still got two more folding chairs, so I'll let that one go, for now.

Where is my spoon? Why would anyone disappear one of my utensils? I only showed up to this place with three utensils (the two aforementioned spoons and a bread knife), so, clearly, taking away one of those spoons leaves me in a tight spot.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tuesday (Two Acts & Epilogue)


I ride my bicycle to work. This feels good. It is a clear and cool morning, and cycling to work does not require driving the car. Driving to work makes me feel unhappy, but cycling to work makes me feel good.

Driving to work requires the consumption of one third of a gallon of gasoline, at $3.15 a gallon. Cycling to work requires the consumption of one sixth of a bunch of bananas, at $1.80 a bunch. The math is favorable.

I believe that we should brush aside our wimpy, bleeding-heart environmental concerns and aggressively drill for bananas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The bicycle ride to work is largely uphill. My legs feel like pure muscle. I wear a fleece jacket, sweatpants, a shiny red bicycle helmet, clip-on sunglasses, and a backpack. I look like a champion. With my hand signals I point to the horizon like the optimistic frontiersmen in socialist propaganda posters.

Cycling to work takes forty minutes. I feel the wind on my face. I shower at the gym. I have changed neither size nor shape since yesterday, but I look like a classical god. My hair tousles majestically.

I feel like discussing wind resistance with people. I try to arrive at a satisfactory nickname for my bicycle. Cycling to work makes me feel fresh all morning. Cycling to work impresses the cute girl who works upstairs in copywriting.


I have been cycling to work for one day.


Last thing before leaving the office: I have made a rare transcription error in the email newsletter I composed last week. The Germanic first name of a prominent and dead art theorist has been improperly Anglicized. My department manager notes this.

This happens very infrequently. This also happens in an email newsletter that the art marketing manager decides to send to the estate of aforementioned prominent and dead art theorist, as an example of recent marketing activity.

Do so many people need to hear about this? This happens very infrequently. Does this have to have happened to 50% of the email newsletters I have composed? The percentage will decline if I write more.

I do not think that this will impact my chance of being hired permanently. I think.

The bicycle ride home is largely downhill. My legs do not feel invincibly strong, but they do feel stiff. Will I feel better? Will a healthy dinner and dessert help?

I listen to some soothing music. Well, I find it soothing. Erreur du jour, va va va...

EPILOGUE (Neither Here Nor There)

Did you know that someone designed a Peanuts-themed Tarot card deck, which was praised by Peanuts fans and Tarot enthusiasts alike for its faithfulness to both worlds? This is apparently difficult to find online due to the Peanuts folks having taken it away; you can see most but not all of them via the Wayback Machine. Rarity makes it more interesting.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


This is hilarious: the BBC broadcast a business story featuring a routine talking-head type interview, but due to a case of mistaken identity, brought onto the set a similarly named man who was only there to interview for a job. The look on the guy's face as he's introduced is priceless. I hope they had the courtesy to hire him.

Sure, It's Not 1985 Now, But Who Knows What
Tomorrow Will Bring?

I suspect that you will become extremely happy by watching the preview for the Pixar Cars movie.

This looks like it has a good chance to be the BEST MOVIE EVER, retroactive to when we were about five. Is there a way to go back? Why didn't we as a society make Talking Car Movie technology a priority when it counted?

Meanwhile, there's a Transformers movie slated for next summer. I will be satisfied if it does not cause me to burst into terrified fits of sobbing like the last one did. Granted, I was younger then.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Super Unsolicited Book Advice Bros.

I just finished reading John Hodgman's book, The Areas of My Expertise, which reads quickly because it's mostly structured as a jumbled parody almanac of "complete world knowledge" that is almost entirely made up. Hodgman, as has been pointed out, has been a commentator on the Daily Show lately, but the book's more like the couple of his This American Life segments that I've heard, ranging from obscure daffiness to a kind of muted melancholy. A lot of it is hit-or-miss -- I found the repeated mentions of hoboes and mermen tiresome (this does not include the almost sublimely odd list of 700 hobo names) and he tends to drift into slightly too clever, Dave Eggers-y territory (for instance, most of the "Jokes That Have Never Produced Laughter") -- but the best of it is just hilariously weird. The high point for me is an only somewhat falsified synopsis of The Muppet Movie that nonetheless warps it into a horrifying postmodern exercise ("Then the roof of the soundstage smashes in and a powerful rainbow shines down and obliterates everything, including a plywood imitation of the fake rainbow that had appeared in the first scene. The frog and bear and pig simulations panic as the fake/real and real/fake worlds nearly destroy each other") in which Hodgman makes a cameo appearance. I'm also fond of his short list of "failed palindromes", which capture the forced, cryptic style of real palindromes but don't manage to spell the same thing out backwards as forwards (i.e., "Slow speed: deep owls"). Anyway, I recommend it, if only for the bizarre sensation, after reading a lot of it in one sitting, of not being able to tell whether a stated point of fact is just one of Hodgman's quieter, less egregious falsehoods, or is actually true...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

That's Some Mighty Good C-O-2

Yeah, carbon dioxide has a totally bad rap. It's about time someone set the record straight.

You know, back when I was in College Radio, one of the looseleaf sheets in the public service announcement binder (which was full of industry-lobby PR releases) argued that fossil fuels were good for forest growth and agriculture, on account of the C02. I didn't think arguments like this found their way out into legitimate media, but apparently this commercial is actually on TV.

Coming soon: folksy harmonica music sets the tone for a 30-second spot called "Methyl Isocyanate and Me."

(Actually, this angle makes a lot of sense: that it's more about clouding media coverage than actually persuading anyone. I think the answer remains, call a spade a spade, and laugh your ass off at it.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fire, Will Robinson, Fire!

Near the house where I live is a firehouse. This is near the quiet little municipal airport, which is a good thing to put a firehouse nearby, at least if SimCity taught me the right lessons. Outside the firehouse is what has become one of my all-time favorite statues.

I like how cute and cartoonish it is, and how the firehouse number is stamped on its left wheel, and how easily you can imagine it speaking a language of R2D2-like bleeps and bloops. Clearly, more of our public art should point optimistically to the day when our problems will be solved by benevolent robots.

The Fourth Brother

First I have to think of something clever and interesting to post. It's hard keeping up with all the hilarity; I don't want to drag the blog down. However, I figured for my first contribution I might just stick to the basics, do what I always do, and excitingly describe to my older brothers all the cool things happening in my life at the moment. So here they are, in no particular order:

Cedar Point is getting a new coaster next year. The coaster-enthusiast world is going crazy over all sorts of speculation. Whatever it is it'll be something fun, but right now I'm more excited about my trip up there tomorrow.

I just finished up my first year at Carnegie Mellon last Friday with my calc-for-humanities-majors final. It wasn't very hard and I did well. All in all college is good. You guys went through it so you know how it was. So just picture that, only with more Chinese characters.

Not exactly news, since fish don't generally do anything newsworthy, but I figured I could use this spot to show my fish. He's a pretty cool fish and I hope he doesn't die soon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Be Like Mike

Whoops, I mean we like Mike. Where's Mike? Mike's name is now on the Contributors list, but Mike hasn't written anything. Don't tell me you've got finals to study for or anything either.

Turn for the Better

The weather today was unbelievably dark and rainy, just utterly miserable. And then around 4 it stopped raining, and by after-work hours it was sunny and, eventually, almost completely cloudless. With fresh and superbly clear air, too, on account of the rain.
I got home & hopped into some sweatpants and onto my bike, and rode around East Haven for a while - leafy suburban streets, a quiet little regional airport, potholes, puddles. Street riding is comfortable here, even on a couple of the busier roads. If the route all the way into New Haven stayed pleasant enough to bike, it would be a nice morning workout to commute. Maybe I can scout out an alternative to Route 1 that would be safe at night & doesn't go right by the oil refineries.

I picked up some General Tso's chicken at a place up near "downtown" East Haven and brought it home in my backpack. (Not, despite their claim, The Best Food in Town; and that's probably not been the case Since 1983 either. Still pretty satisfying; I was hungry.) The evening turned into one of these pink, Edward Hopper northeast coastal sunsets, which is just inordinately pleasant.

In other words, a really nice, completely unexpected outside evening. I couldn't be much more content.

Richness of the Inner Life of the IT Drone

Do you know what is an excellent way to spend a quiet, contemplative Monday evening at home? Sip at a tasty, slightly too-warm craft brew, which turns out upon later examination to contain twice as much alcohol by volume as most beers, while watching the tender opening to Act IV of an English National Opera production of Britten's Billy Budd on DVD. I am just kidding. This is an excellent way to fall asleep on your couch for more than three hours.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Burgh Ball

As the AP drily notes today, the Pittsburgh Pirates have "extended what has become the franchise's second-worst start since the 19th century" and "were dominated by one of the majors' least-effective starting pitchers," Florida's Brian Moehler, who took a shutout into the eighth inning despite not having won a game since last July.

Jim Tracy has been criticized for sticking with an ineffective lineup, and has responded by saying that he has few options to change. I don't think that's true, and I'll even put my money where my mouth is: here is what I believe would be a much improved starting lineup using the Pirates' current resources.

New spot: Leadoff
Old spot: Second

Tracy has said that it would be unfair to move Jack Wilson from the second spot, which he prepared for specifically & where he's found success. A fair point. Jack Wilson, if you're reading this, here is the key to making the change: Batting leadoff for the Pirates is exactly the same as batting second, except there's always one less out.

New spot: Second
Old spot: Third or cleanup

Sure, Bay will knock in more runs from the third spot. But being that Bay is the one Pirates hitter worth watching, it's crucial to have Bay see as many at bats as possible, every game, so that we can watch him bat as much as possible, every game. At least until the end of 2009, after which point he'll be being paid $30 million to bat sixth for the Yankees.

New spot: Third
Old spot: Manager, Bradenton Pirates (Gulf Coast Rookie League)

With Joe Randa injured, the Pirates are in desperate need of a middle-aged holdover from the 1997 season. It's a bit unclear how well Ward will perform at the plate, but after they rebuild the right field fence out of drywall, he'll be able to smash through it routinely. Now that's good baseball!

New spot: Cleanup
Old spot: Outside PNC Park

The sight of Stargell majestically standing in at the plate should be inspiring to the other hitters. Also we'll finally have that hitter who can display some patience, and he's got to have some power due to his size. On the minus side, he is made of bronze. I say give him a chance.

New spot: Fifth
Old Spot: Detroit Tigers

Here we need to take a page from the playbook of another late great Pittsburgher, specifically Mr. Rogers. Using our imaginations, let's all play pretend that the management didn't lose Chris Shelton to the Rule Five Draft three years ago.

Can you imagine Chris Shelton batting now? Can you think of the way he looks holding his bat? Can you picture him holding his bat, in your mind? Now let's pretend that he just made an extra base hit with runners on base late in the game. Did you see him make the hit? I'm proud of you, I knew you could do it.

New spot: Sixth
Old spot: Pierogi race

Oliver Onion isn't a big statistical improvement here, but his failures at the plate will be wackier and amusingly narrated in the stadium by a guy with a comical Pittsburgh accent:

"Nah it's Olivirr Onion's tirrn ta bat!... Aw no! Where izzy!?... What's he dew-in up on tha Doo-quesne Incline!?... Nah he's runnin' across tha Strip District!..."

PLATOON: CHEESE CHESTER (vs. left-handers), JEROMY BURNITZ (vs. right-handers)
New spot: Seventh
Old spot: Pierogi race/fifth

"Aw no, what's Cheese Chester dew-in chasin' that awff-speed pitch way ahtside tha strike zone!?... Naw wait, that's Birr-nitz."

New spot: Eighth
Old spot: Eighth

Don't get me wrong: I think Jose Castillo has, really, some great potential. Could be a twenty, twenty-five home run a year guy someday. Some day. Maybe until that day, we'll leave him batting eighth? Good?

So, there you have it. If they keep losing, don't blame me.

Nate's Crazy Tomato Poem

Well, I was gonna just throw this in as a comment under Jack's poem, but due to its length and form, a new post suits it best. I find it interesting that in my archives, rather than having this particular file saved as "tomato scherzo" it is (aptly?) named "Nate's Crazy Tomato Poem."

Tomato Scherzo

Jaunty tomato! A burst of primary colors –

Flaring red-orange, you shamelessly seize the eyes’ attention;
Gently taunting tomato odor rolls through the air.
Affably rubbery to the touch
(Firm, but never serious!)
Radiating good humor, humming happily to yourself, demanding
to be eaten.

unlike the solemn crimson apples
or the mundane starched roots and tubers
Your bright complexion resounds,
“World, here I am!”
Amid the staccato bursts of fanfare trumpet leaves.

You do not shrink from the teeth but burst forth,
Lively drops of tangy essence splashing against the world.
No mourning for the loss of juice and seeds –
Delighted at the request to release your pent-up redness,
Your peculiar-sharply scent announces itself stronger.

against the drumbeat of the eggplant-dirge
no dour deep green zucchini-requiem
The rollicking angular Tomato-scherzo blares
Above all sounds
With its immutable pipes, brass, and tambourine ~

Tomato! not bound by laws of nutrition,
You transcend fruititude,
You defy vegetability.
No one can stifle your deep-hued jollity
or match the wit
of your spiky leaves.

Soaked in life, dripping with energy, Forever sending tomato waves to
every corner of the world
Transmitter of festivity, Repository of humor,
You will not be silenced!

Poetry in Motion

Since my old employer took back my company-issued laptop a few weeks ago, I've been spending more time with my own relatively ancient computer. One of the files archived on it that I stumbled onto lately is a poem Jack wrote for one of our high school English classes. For a couple of days the district sent in a "resident poet" of some kind who gave us an assignment on sensory imagery. We were told to bring in a piece of fruit and then draft a poem in class (free verse, of course -- no constraints of rhyme or meter here) describing how the fruit looked, smelled, tasted, etc., which we revised that night as homework. Anyway, Jack, having brought an apple to class, turned in a printed copy of the following piece with more or less the same formatting and coloration:


Apple sits in front of me,
Mottled red simplicity
That hearkens mind as well as tongue
To ponder on its purity

Ripened in an orchard green
Back where the crowds are seldom seen,
It came of age thus undisturbed
In wondrous beauty, yet pristine

(Though, alas, I only guess –
I saw it first at Food - 4 - Less,
And thus, the history of Apple
Can’t be known - but I digress)

Apple stands before me now;
My thoughts bestow some praise - See how
The rustic beauty complements
Its rich outdoorsy flavor… wow.

Texture soft, and touch just cool
Enough to soothe; forever true
Will be my memories preserved
Of Apple, that I brought to school.

[Footnote: Food-4-Less is, or was, a grocery store about a quarter mile down the road from our high school.]
Unbelievably, the resident poet commented to Jack with an utter absence of irony that she thought his poem was very strong, but didn't he feel like its formal structure limited his self-expression? My own semi-serious effort, which I don't seem to have saved a soft copy of, described a tomato -- a subject that seemed a little subversive to me, since I had to take a bite out of the thing at my desk for the sake of sensory observation and who eats a raw tomato? -- and read like a clumsy imitation of a poor, utilitarian prose translation of something by Yevtushenko. (That's exactly what it was, in fact, since the only poetry I had been exposed to around that time came from the liner notes of my CD of Shostakovich's 13th symphony.) I respected Jack's poem a lot more: Not only was it better at being what it tried to be, but he managed to undermine the whole purpose of the exercise, even more than the other uninterested kids who, you know, just didn't put in any effort. Even after majoring in the stuff in college it's still one of the more successful student poems I've read.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

24-Hour Periphery People

Went to a going-away apartment-party for a coworker tonight, attended largely by a startlingly high number of office colleagues in their mid to late twenties; had a good time, though not without the inevitable ten minutes spent at the fringe of a crowd, munching on baby carrots in an attempt to appear not completely unoccupied.

Gal with a sweet and wiry indie-rock voice plugs in an electric guitar and sings; 80%-ironic conversations with various guys involve endless deflections of straight answers; some lobe of my brain determines to convince me that the gal who professes sympathetic interests and the same difficulty with reading maps is Someone You Should Spend the Rest of Your Life With, Don't Come Up With Excuses; I admit to never having read Beckett; room buzzes, dance music on the CD player, throat getting a bit sore; more baby carrots. I definitely did not notice that guy with the trench coat, Mets cap, and plastic-rimmed glasses come in, and why don't his eyes focus on anything in particular?

Later, in the car, I narrowly avoid getting onto I-91 North and shortly thereafter find myself on a foggy, dead-end industrial road down by the river, listening on the radio to ambient and minimalistic music of unknown provence. Impressions of distant refinery buildings lumber up out of the mist. And I think, This is very evocative, but I should drive someplace where I know where I am.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


A little while ago I noticed this news article about Norway's first dinosaur. There's a little bit of noteworthy information about deducing the lineage of a long-dead animal from a fossilized knucklebone found deep beneath the sea but I was most struck by the accompanying illustration:

I'm in no position to judge the scientific validity of this depiction of a Plateosaurus, but it bears a suspicious similarity to Gertie the Dinosaur, the subject of the groundbreaking animated film by early 20th century cartoonist Winsor McCay:

Now, I'm not saying that the Plateosaurus drawing is necessarily inaccurate just because it was cribbed from 90-year-old paleontological theories as fancifully rendered by the creator of Little Nemo in Slumberland. But while modern research has borne out some of Gertie's behaviors, such as eating tree leaves and walking upright out of water, some of her actions would be considered doubtful by contemporary paleobiologists, including but not limited to:

  • Walking with her elongated neck held upright.
  • Eating the entirety of the tree in addition to its leaves.
  • Throwing a boulder at a wooly mammoth.
  • Allowing early 20th century cartoonist Winsor McCay to ride on her back.

I'll leave it to the Sam Neills of the world to decide how realistic it is but color me skeptical.


I'm feeling, once again, correct about my feelings towards this time/place is; shown once again to be as fucked up as I've thought it is. The NSA really was collecting everybody's phonecalls, and the inquiry into the prior matter with NSA phonetaps was stopped because the NSA wouldn't give the lawyers security clearance? What the fuck?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Nightly News

A short litany of things going right on a Wednesday evening: a comfortable haircut, cloudy but fairly warm weather, plasmatic Sun-Ra squiggles giving way to a breathy Jethro Tull flute solo on 88.7, home-toasted ham & swiss melt on the second-to-last of a dozen Astoria bagels personally shlepped on the Metro North a couple of weekends ago.

Supposed to rain buckets this weekend unfortunately. Meanwhile, have you heard of Paper City Brewery, out of Holyoke, Mass? I picked up some of their Winter Lager this evening & it's pretty tasty. If not exactly seasonal any more.

What about Mike?

Hey - Seeing Mike over the weekend reminded me - should we invite him to this thing too?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Unsolicited Music Criticism, Obscure Polish Orchestral Division

Karol Szymanowski’s greatest hit is a Stabat Mater that I still haven’t listened to, but I’m hooked on his Fourth Symphony (1932), also titled “Symphonie concertante” and shaped like a piano concerto more than anything else. There’s a lot of Bartok in it, percussive timbres and folky themes, but Szymanowski’s more of a late romantic composer at heart – big expressive high points, and a splashy finale. The first movement has a kind of oriental-exotic sparkle to it, which Andsnes and Rattle ratchet up into a somewhat demented energy in this recording, à la the Ravel Left Hand Concerto. (The first recording of this I heard was more earnest and straightforward, and it works that way too.) Totally convincing piece, melodies you remember, late romantic style in a distinctive voice – this is one of those pieces which should get performed a lot more often.

The two violin concertos are fine, too, especially the second one (1933), which weaves a lot of music out of relatively simple melodic material & never gives up its restless energy. It bears a family resemblance to the Bartok Violin Concerto No.2 (which it predates by a few years) but has a more tightly cabled-together intensity, instead of Bartok’s soaring expansiveness.

Andrzej Panufnik died in 1991 and most of his orchestral performances apparently followed behind him, which is a real shame – especially in his later music, he wrote in a strongly unique compositional voice and could control a big orchestral palette with unusual sensitivity. His Ninth Symphony (“Sinfonia della Speranza” = Symphony of Hope, 1986/1990), as a one-movement 40-minute landscape, doesn’t exactly figure to spark a popular Panufnik revival anywhere, but at least there’s a recording that Panufnik made with the London Symphony, reissued a couple of months ago.

The symphony begins with a broadly sweeping, hymn-like melody, gradually turning over a series of small melodic shapes, while brass instruments shadow it with trills and tattoos on sustained chords built out of the same harmonic stuff. True to Panufnik’s form, the rest of the symphony is built out of carefully related variations on the same musical material. Similarly broad melodies metamorphose gradually between instrumental groups and registers, become more impassioned and build to climaxes that evaporate suddenly into quiet stillness. In the middle it all explodes into angry Stravinskian churning for a while; the symphony reverses course and follows an arch back to an inverted version of the original hymn.

Anyway, it’s good, and expresses a kind of thoughtful reverence that not a lot of composers aimed for, much less hit upon. Here’s hoping that some conductor revives it eventually.

Panufnik’s Piano Concerto from 1962, also on the disc, is growing on me too – the slow movement has some crystalline, almost-completely-still moments that are really something special.

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me

Pete, I found out the title and author of that book I tried to recommend to you last night. It's Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, by Richard Fariña, who went to Cornell with Pynchon in the 50s, was a friend and fellow musician to Bob Dylan in New York in the 60s, and got himself killed in a motorcycle accident when he was 29, two days after the book was published.

The book's a fun and quick read, and has a lot of qualities in common with Pynchon -- goofball energy with a dark undertow, a parodistically baroque conspiracy-based plot, bunches of odd side characters with odd names, and snatches of pop culture references (especially, if memory serves, to blues music and Winnie the Pooh).

I also thought of you when I heard this punk song on the radio (WNHU, New Haven University) driving home from work tonight:

Lead Singer: I ain't got no job!
Band: No job, no future!
Lead: I ain't got no job!
Band: No job, no future!
Lead: I ain't got no job!
All: [unintelligible]!!!

Hang in there. I mean, at least your job is a job.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Odds -n- Ends

I have no bizarre coincidences of personal acquaintance to report like Nate does, though I suspect that's one of the stranger ones any of us are likely to encounter. I have no idea whatsoever how that split transpired, or what kind of terms they were on... hopefully not too bad though. No one really ever talked about her, huh?

Instead, I've got a small compendium of trivial observations:

An unknown co-worker last week deposited on the office-supplies counter a bag of Twizzlers "Tweeterz", which are bits of chopped-up Twizzlers coated in a sugary candy shell. Fortunately they are only a seasonal Easter candy; eating one Tweeter is fine, but consuming two or more Tweeterz at once sends your heart into uncomfortably fluttery territory. ... Did you know that the books displayed at the front of Barnes & Noble and other bookstores are there because the publisher has paid the store to act like they're notable or recommended? If you can explain to me how this differs from illegal radio payola, I'll give you a cookie. ... Stephen Colbert's correspondents' dinner speech is less funny than the buzz would have you think. ... Someone on my street has a vanity license plate reading, simply, PORK. There must be a congressman joke in there somewhere, though it would be hard to account for why a congressman would be living in East Haven or driving a gray Ford Escape. ... Let's hear it for newly drafted Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Do you have any gadget plays? Do you?!? We're not kidding, man, we need you to bust out some gadget plays!!


I usually try not to praise ads for actual companies but I find Wes Anderson's American Express commercial genuinely charming. I like that it has his directorial thumbprint on it (self-consciously tidy-yet-busy compositions; a character driving earnestly, if naively, toward some quixotic goal) and I think it's clever how it sits somewhere between gentle self-parody and a Wes-Anderson-style romanticization of Wes Anderson's own creative process. Maybe his unalloyed quirkiness is just easier to take in a thirty-second burst than in a dose the size of, say, "The Life Aquatic". At any rate, I'm ready to believe that this country's sprawling debt industry is in fact lovably eccentric on the inside...