Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dept. of Unsettling Land Development Promotion (Residential Division)

On my commute through the Ballston neighborhood of north Arlington, I see a sign advertising a future condominium development. It's posted in the parking lot on one of the few plots of land in Ballston that hasn't already been converted into high-density retail and/or yuppie habitation space.
Underneath the name of the development, the slogan reads: "Exclusivity is just the beginning!" I find that creepy. What do they have planned for the end, outright genocide?
The plot currently contains a funeral home, which faintly reinforces my discomfort with whatever's in store.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

He Will Eat You if You are Wrong

To levitate my mini-parade of downer posts today, here's some Mathman on YouTube. Mathman was a Pac-Man parody on Square One Television, a mathematics-themed children's variety show that we watched on public TV when we were kids. Mathman runs around a maze in a helmet swallowing answers to math problems; when he eats a wrong one he's pursued and then disintegrated by a grumbly, sentient tornado named Mr. Glitch. Here Mathman takes on the subjects of decimal numbers, modular arithmetic, and general pro-math propaganda.

Mathman's primary influence on my adult life is his tendency to repeat his name over and over along with the particular problem type at hand, which occassionally co-opts my stream of consciousness when I'm walking around gridlike environments such as grocery stores ("Mathman, Mathman, plain nonfat yogurt, Mathman...") It would be nice to say I learned some math from it too, but to be honest I was pretty good at math before I started watching the show and Mathman's habit of impulsively swallowing wrong answers without talking through his reasoning kind of cuts the educational value. (Why would he think 0.51 is less than 0.5? Was he just hungry?) Valuable educational tool or not, it's still pretty awesome. Too smart!

Cogito Ergo Something Something

I'm auditing another class this semester over Tuesday and Thursday lunch hours, this time a survey of modern philosophy that starts with René Descartes and ends with Immanuel Kant. I hope this stays interesting; mostly this is to get some exposure to philosophy, which will help me if I turn out to be serious about academic editing work, though it also checks off one of the few remaining humanities I didn't catch on my undergraduate sojourn through the liberal arts.

Today was the second class I attended. The syllabus starts with Descartes' Meditations, and today included an exhilarating realization: watching a sport-jacketed and gray-haired professor stand at the front of a classroom, chalking "Cogito ergo sum" onto the blackboard and talking about its meaning, is the consummate stereotypical Ivy League experience. Wow! I thought, this is totally iconic.

After that I went back to feeling generally skeptical about whether drawing out fine-grained but likely incorrect arguments in 350-year-old writings is entirely relevant. Really what I wanted to know today was why my sweater and pants were suddenly so much more charged with static electricity than usual, and if there was anything I could do to fix this short of disrobing entirely.

The last really iconic experience I think I had was about a year and a half ago, watching the current incarnation of the Martha Graham Dance Company put on Appalachian Spring at the City Center in NYC. This felt like a genuine American cultural experience, and the degree of tenderness I felt about taking part in it as an American surprised me.

State of the Union

William Shakespeare, Sonnet LXVI:
Tir'd with all these, for restful death I cry,
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplac'd,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgrac'd,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill.
Tir'd with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

Another Possibly Instructive Tip Regarding Word Usage

Here's an instructive lesson in word choice. The mid–State of the Union headline in the New York Times, at least at this moment, reads Bush Offers Broad Goals for Last 2 Years. Now, note the subtle meaning distinction here between the word they use, "Last," and another word that many writers often use interchangeably with it, "Past." The headline clearly indicates that they're talking about Bush's goals for the "Last 2 Years" of Bush's presidency, meaning 2007 and 2008. Were they to write "Past 2 Years," they would wrongly imply that everything we're tasked with accomplishing now should really have been accomplished between January 2005 and today. And this is, uh . . . clearly not . . . yeah, you know, never mind.

Still, the grammatical lesson stands. "Last 2 years" refers to the final two years of a period of time; "Past 2 years" refers to the two years immediately preceding the present day.

For further political commentary, I'm gonna have to refer you back to the Swear-O-Tron. God damn, I hate canned political speeches.

All Your Ice are Belong to Us

The most memorable quotation from an AP piece about a global warming report:
Andrew Weaver, a Canadian climate scientist and study co-author, went even further: "This isn't a smoking gun; climate is a batallion of intergalactic smoking missiles."
Weaver went on to suggest that the only thing that can save Earth now is an elite squadron of giant robots piloted by teenaged Japanese girls. Or he would have if he weren't just using a striking but incoherent metaphor.

Processing information about climate change with any level of seriousness makes me feel tired and depressed.


Hadn't posted in a while, and found myself thinking about one of my favorite beers: Xingu. Their bare-bones website actually makes me like it that much more. I like that it was sourced and is imported by women, for instance, since women seem to have such a minimal role in the brewing world anymore. In fact, especially relative to historic times, the role of women has been entirely reversed, apparently. Most brewing-type-people until modern times were in fact women, as brewing was more of a at home or in the village type of activity.

Also, I feel like mentioning, I had another potential post stymied earlier this week because, so far as I can tell, there isn't a single picture of a Burple anywhere on the entire internet.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Lefty McThump

The big Pittsburgh sports news of the day is the Steelers' hiring of Mike Tomlin as their new head coach -- I don't have anything to add to the commentary around that, except that I think Tomlin bears a passing resemblance to comic bit actor and onetime Mr. Show cast member Jerry Minor.

Also of note, though, is that last week the Pirates picked up Adam LaRoche, who fits the long-elusive profile of a left-handed power-hitting first baseman, in what appears to be a surprisingly favorable trade with the Braves. (The Pirates sent closer Mike Gonzales to Atlanta; minor league prospects were exchanged as well.)

LaRoche would seem to offer some hope for the team's lineup next year (perhaps they'll even look better than the modified lineup Jack recommended at last season's nadir); I imagine any Sean Casey bobbleheads left over from last season can be retrofitted with his visage. The Post-Gazette's Pirates Q&A feature from the day of the announcement is amusing for the fans' very atypical praise of general manager Dave Littlefield. Hopefully this trade will remain a visible feather in his cap while he spends the rest of the offseason failing to sign a starting pitcher out of free agency.

I.C. Wieners

Greater D.C. got a modest winter medley of light snow and freezing rain yesterday and last night, which slicked up the roads enough to cancel (among other functions) all Arlington County Public School services, including this evening's camera class. For good measure I worked from home for the better part of the morning -- mainly to let the untreated parking-lot slush between my parked car and the road melt off -- before driving the 15 or so miles out to the office. Snow day drives actually feel a lot safer than most fair-weather ones around here, since the roads are rarely bad compared to what you get most places north of the Mason-Dixon line and most of the would-be traffic just doesn't bother.

One open suggestion to the rest of NoVA commuterdom, though: How about brushing the ice off the roof of your car before getting on the highway? It is pretty neat to watch a sheet of frozen snow sluice off of your vehicle at 75 mph and explode in a festive white puff as it hits the pavement immediately in front of the car behind you, but it's not as much fun if you're in said car immediately behind. Not as though I'd expect drivers here to learn any kind of winter-weather driving etiquette, despite the fact that it does manage to snow here a few times every year, or indeed any kind of driving etiquette at all.

Dept. of Entertaining Vowel Combinations

See, this is the sort of thing I just find unaccountably interesting: if you capitalize a Dutch word that starts with their "ij" vowel, you capitalize both the i and the j. For an example, refer to "Fast Eddy" van IJzendoorn, the Dutch professional cyclist.

I learned this today from a manuscript that cited Fast Eddy for his work in the area of childhood psychoanalysis.

. . . Okay, it may have been a different van IJzendoorn, but don't rain on my parade here. I googled "IJzendoorn" to see if the capitalization pattern was legit, and Fast Eddy here was the first result. If you can find a better name than "Fast Eddy" van IJzendoorn, I want to hear it.

The other thing I love about Dutch is that it can sometimes come out understandable in English, as in the phrase "Welkom op de officiële website van Eddy van IJzendoorn."

Some Small Span of Time in Review

Kind of quiet and off-radar this past week, mostly occupied with waking up in time for work and pushing through the first season of Battlestar Gallactica on DVD (the ably executed new version on the SciFi channel, as opposed to the venerable-but-apparently-cheesy original series that I've never seen)...

On Saturday morning I went to Theodore Roosevelt Island to take pictures with a group of other Arlington County adult ed photography students. Thus I spent an agreeable hour and a half or so taking shots of frozen mud and otherwise enjoying the park, which is wooded and marshy and scenically placed on the Potomac between north Arlington and D.C. I resolve to go back sometime when the temperature is more decisively above freezing, though it will be more crowded then too...

The NFL postseason so far has made for better watching than usual, I think, with lots of drama if not always solid execution (see Tony Romo). Though I have no love for either of the AFC teams that were still in contention as of this morning, I'm happy enough that the Colts spared us another Patriots title and that Peyton Manning will finally be on TV in February in non-credit card commercial form. Kudos also to the Bears, against whom I think Indy will put up a basketball-like point total...

Due to an inadvisable failure to pack a lunch on Friday, I wound up going with some coworkers to Taco Bell. That would be exactly the second time I've eaten at a Taco Bell (the last time being sometime in I think the fall of 1999) and still not something I'd recommend. I easily understand most fast food menus, if only through years of familiarity, but theirs struck me for several minutes as an unintelligible board full of a la carte food items and made-up Mexican words. It is cheap, though, and you don't forget you ate it right away...

My recent drivetime listening has consisted almost entirely of Sufjan Stevens' Illinois and Arthur Honegger's Jeanne d'Arc au Bucher, both of which are sprawling and sonically adventurous in their own ways. Stevens' work rewards casual listening more since it's more lightly whimsical and doesn't depend on a sense of spectacle that you can only get onstage, though it does lack an Ondes Martenot and a grotesque trial administered by animals...

How's my hyphenation so far? Jack's friendly nitpickery on the matter is making me a lot more self-conscious about it than I usually am...

I still can't believe Jack posted about that Twinkie Pie photo before I did. I feel like I should explain it in full eventually, though the main point is that we made up that recipe off the top of our head as we were writing our email submission to the Hostess website.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Awwww, BABY PANDAS! They're so cute and fuzzy. Every office has at least one person who can be counted on to forward around emails of things like baby pandas.

Look at them all just, like, crawling all over everything and each other. Seriously, I challenge you to artificially impregnate 38 of something and get this cute a result.

A most adorable photo-op. Still, you have to feel a little bad that all these pandas are sequestered alone from such a young age, only so they can be exported and put on display for national pride's sake. I mean, it's not like they're some kind of gymnastics team. Shouldn't they be out in the wild eating, what, I think it's bamboo? Or possibly insects?

SICHUAN, China — One zoo in southwest China has its hands full with 16 baby pandas. The Sichuan Wolong Panda Protection and Breed Center is dealing with the results of a breeding boom — 16 pandas have been born since July, 2006. The brood includes five sets of twins. The cubs are weighed and measured every five days (see pics). The heaviest tips the scale at just over 24 pounds, while the lightest weighs about 11 pounds. The pandas are due to stop suckling by February, 2007 just about the time they'll start learning to walk. Once weaned, the panda cubs will attend panda kindergarten. In the meantime, more little ones are expected at the center since 38 giant pandas were artificially impregnated.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I Did Not Sign-Up for This

Oh, life's little personality tests. Say the only thing in your mailbox one evening is a junk mail postcard for Lavalife. What side of the postcard do you spend considerably more time looking at?

1. The side with the attractive smiling blonde woman in a revealing evening dress

2. The side with the marketing copy that appears to contain grammatical errors

In my defense, the smiling blonde really wasn't really that attractive, and there were a lot of grammatical errors. Thousands of "local member's profiles," indeed.

It's not really a surprise to me that my first association with the phrase "Sexy like minded singles" is Hey, you need to hyphenate "like-minded." Still, this is an issue that I'd rather my junk mail didn't feel free to raise.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lively and a Bit Cerebral

Ken Jennings, the Mormon guy who ran up that string of Jeopardy victories a couple of years back, has a blog that turns out to be really entertaining. Already I've learned the truth about lactic acid, for example. And I will refuse to believe you if you tell me that this quality ranking of car names when spelled backwards is not awesome.

Meanwhile, Stu passes along this performance by recently deceased jazz saxophonist Michael Brecker, who I had not heard of until now. Lively and a bit cerebral. Parts of this number sound to me like bizarre riffs on the song Yakkity Yak.

One of my workfriends has the official book of Twinkie recipes, which Hostess evidently released earlier this year. Sadly, the "Banana Java Twinkie Supreme" recipe that Nate submitted to their website with his freshman year college roommate is not included, though you can still find that online with an impressive professional photograph of the result. Disclaimer: do not, for the love of God, make or eat this pie.

My new roommate for the spring semester is here; I can hear him outside my room showing a friend the apartment. His friend just related the sentence "This is like Escher meets Louis Kahn," which I take it means that he's high, or that (more likely) he's talking specifically about the staircase from the landing to the living room, which does have a mod, railingless kind of right angle to it. I think Escher and Kahn would have put their heads together to insulate the windows a bit better, though.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


1. The doors to the university gymnasium locker rooms are locked with electronic combination keypads. Each keypad is in mint condition, except that the ink has worn out on the three numeric keys that correspond to the room number, posted on a placard directly above the keypad, and also the pound key. Someday I fear a crack team of hardened thieves might just bust this code.

2. Since I don't like getting sweaty with earphones on, I'm helpless against the gymnasium-grade music piped into the fitness center. Now and then a song will come on that's actually pretty good, like Money For Nothing, and then for five minutes, purely out of comparison, it's like Money For Nothing is the greatest song in the universe and you just didn't notice it till now.

3. Sometime last week this R&B song started up and I thought Shit, this is "My Humps," which I only heard once about eight months ago but can't get out of my head entirely even though I hate it. Then it turned out it wasn't "My Humps," so I'm doing the lower back machine and listening to this godawful song and thinking Man, I dodged a bullet there, I thought that was "My Humps."

4. I would like the gymnasium slightly less if it didn't look like some towering gothic ediface from the outside. I would like the gymnasium slightly better if there wasn't a highly visible tribute to former university athlete George H. W. Bush in one of the downstairs hallways.


I've been informed by reliable sources, specifically a friend-of-a-friend who I'll never see again and The Internet, that the film adaptation of Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh eliminates the character Arthur. At first I assumed this was a sawing-off of the gay part of the story's central love triangle, but apparently Art will have a gay thing going on with Cleveland instead.

This seemingly promises to send ripples of Not Being Nearly As Good through the story, but I guess we can wait and see. I'd reread the book to firm up the "real" version in my mind, but I must have lent it to someone a few years ago and forgotten who. Maybe not a huge loss; it was a paperback, and the text alignment on the pages was awful anyway.

Well, I s'pose books just up and change when they become movies. And Mysteries doesn't sound as badly butchered as the next Chabon adaptation, "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay & Eddie Murphy in a Fatsuit."

Meanwhile, I'm very happy to report that Little Miss Sunshine satisfyingly stands up to a second viewing. The DVD extras include four alternative final scenes that they shot and then discarded; they're all fairly close in tone but not as good as what they went with. I suppose that if there was a superior ending that they subsequently replaced, they wouldn't put it on the DVD.

In the course of conversation at the viewing shindig, someone entertainingly described a movie that apparently hasn't aged as well, 1999's "Chill Factor." I trust that this videocassette trailer sums it up accurately.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hey, Do You Like Orchestral?

Oh, The Onion. Hooray, tiny sliver of classical awareness peeping through into mainstream humor.

What amuses me most about this bit is that it features the Boston Philharmonic, a part-year orchestra that I hadn't heard of till now. Maybe the writer was thinking "Boston Symphony" and just didn't know better, but I prefer to imagine that it's an intentional tribute to the surprising depth of high-quality orchestras you can find in our great nation.

Keep building on this, The Onion! America demands more jokes involving Morten Lauridsen.

Bonus link: one of my favorites, the bygone Onion bit about the Atony Awards. Still hilarious despite its sacrilegious mischaracterization of Olivier Messiaen's music.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The First Emperor

So I wasn’t really planning ahead to see any of the much-discussed movie theater broadcasts the Metropolitan Opera is doing this year, but yesterday things fell into place to see the new Tan Dun opera The First Emperor at a theater in nearby Branford. The presentation’s quite good; I’m not usually a watch-opera-on-television type but I can tell that having it on the big screen is a big plus. It’s a high-definition broadcast, and the picture & sound are both quite good.

The hilariously bizarre highlight may have been one of the intermission featurettes, a short live interview with Placido Domingo given by Beverly Sills. At some point during this mini puff piece, Sills came out with a sentence that started “Clearly you’re one of the greatest tenors of all time” and somehow ended with “. . . and now we’ve got David Beckham coming to the United States to play hockey, to bring hockey to the Americans for the first time.” Domingo quietly corrected her and went on to state earnestly, fully costumed as a Chinese emperor, that he appreciated all American sports and believed that there was room for soccer here too.

The opera itself doesn’t hold up well, especially in the second act, which drags mercilessly towards the end. Tan Dun’s music is worthwhile listening, and there were enough musical high points to get by, particularly in violent percussion-driven sections. His lyrical writing leans heavily on Chinese-style melodies, and too heavily on tenderly moderate tempos and similar orchestral underscores. Domingo was fine as the emperor, and Elizabeth Futral sang fantastically as his daughter, but the characters are weakly drawn and the word setting is awful, with lines awkwardly smushed into their melodies. There are all kinds of things wrong with the dramatic pacing and plot: the story takes forever to get started, and at the end, climactic events that could easily have been portrayed onstage are instead described after the fact.

A long prelude scene introduces the opera against an epic historical backdrop, the founding of the Chinese empire; but the course changes immediately into a smaller character-driven story with little relation to the time or place. You can read a synopsis of the plot here; the story tries to be about both forbidden love and artistic morality, but the two themes don’t ever intertwine or reinforce each other.

Most of the dialogue is bland, and some of it is downright awful. During a seduction scene the princess uncorks the line “Taste my kissing soup”—try to describe this without using the word “euuuggh.”

Tan Dun, with a collaborator, developed the story and wrote the libretto, and it seems like he’s in over his head there.

But, worth going to. At least in movie form. The rest of the Met run is sold out anyway, and I doubt this opera is going to resurface too much in the future.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Scott's Peanut Butter Mittens

A small accumulation of food-related notes stored over the past couple of days in an otherwise empty e-mail draft since they had nowhere else to go. By the end of any given work week it seems all that's left in my head is a few such thoughts blowing around. Happy Friday.


Scott's Peanut Butter Mittens: The name on a box of candy left for all takers in the office kitchen. I eat one; a little mitten-shaped chocolate filled with very sweet processed peanut butter filling. For a few seconds it sticks to the inside of the mouth and sort of burns there silently. Trans-fat-tastic.
About 8 oz. of ice water accidentally spilled in my lap by a coworker at lunch. Being in the middle seat against the wall at a corner table at Uno's there was nowhere to go. By 2:30 pm I notice how pleasant it is to be entirely dry again.
Those small birds that French gourmets eat whole: Ortolans.

Let Us Now Thank God It's Friday

So, speaking of re-running Nate's workday doodles from his old unhappy job, here are some crudely drawn but funny cartoons dating from December of last year. I'd emailed him a link to a trove of oddball Christian cartoons on the web; he didn't think they were interesting so he made his own.

I'm still impressed by some of the details he can apparently work out with a standard paint program. Sunsets 'n' Psalms I want on a coffee mug someday.

Happy Weekend, people. (Click these to see them larger.)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

CDs in Brief

I finally got a hold of a legitimate CD of Joanna Newsom's recent album, which is titled, for no evident reason, Ys (pronounced to rhyme with "bees"). Still as deft and bittersweet as the live show, even with a separately recorded orchestral underscore tacked onto it. I kind of wish the CD presentation wasn't as overdone as it is, though. Rule of thumb: if the cover art includes a painting of you posing in medieval-style garb, you've probably gone too far.

Modern-classical aficionados should learn the name Erkki-Sven Tüür, which belongs to a 47-year old Estonian composer of brusque and kaleidoscopic orchestral pieces. His Violin Concerto (1998) is extremely good: swirling violin riffs going round and round like polished stainless steel blades while the orchestra storms luminously forward. Dramatic stuff; Paavo Järvi conducts & Isabelle van Keulen plays violin. (I haven't heard of van Keulen before, but she & Järvi are teaming up on Berg's Violin Concerto in Cincinnati this very weekend, the internet reveals; I'm gonna wish I was there, now.)

Meanwhile, Tüür's string orchestra piece Action-Passion-Illusion ('93) features two darting movements of neo-baroque rough-and-tumble surrounding one of the best modern slow movements I think I've heard, a transfixing meld of layered melodies that search upwards and dissolve at their climax into a disconcerting atonal cloud. (Think Gorecki's Third Symphony condensed to the length of Barber's Adagio for Strings and invested with a profound existential crisis.) This is good stuff, and there's a lot more Tüür on disk that I haven't heard yet, too.

And lastly, if I'm going to listen to the Tarantella from John Corigliano's Gazebo Dances once, I'm going to have to listen to it four or five times in a row. That's just the way it is: dangerously catchy undertow to that piece.

Odds-N-Ends 2K7

Are you ready to be indifferent to some football? I know I am. I watched the Giants lose last weekend with my Giants-fan workfriend & now I'm out of ideas about who to root for even passively . . . A baby shower in the office this week was actually the first baby shower I've ever been to. Turns out it involves a lot of cooing at footie pajamas . . . April is not the cruellest month. When January feels like April for a week, and then goes back to being January: now, that's cruel . . . Having eaten at a Hibachi restaurant for the second time in six months, I'm ready to admit that the most authentic Hibachi dining is probably not to be found in Connecticut or Rhode Island strip-mall plazas . . . Turns out there's a nice Malaysian restaurant in town, though . . . I would describe the recent movie adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil in more detail if I thought it was worth going out of your way to see. I did like it, though, and I kind of want to read the novel. Partly since the movie does not explain what its title is supposed to mean . . . Maybe I'm just old-fashioned already, but it surprises me when parents will be seen in public with a 12-year-old son wearing a shirt that says "Boobies Make Me Smile." How about a shirt that just says "My Parents Are Indifferent and Not Upwardly Mobile"? I don't care if you're just in an airport security line, keep it at least kind of classy, huh?

Thursday Link-lend

Everything Kyle Gann has written during the last two or three weeks has been unusually good, but make sure you read his squirrel anecdote from late December. Small gem of writing there.

Accessible to a wider audience than his usual postmodern music theory beat, too. (Nothing against that, of course. Neat bit on Morton Feldman recently, too.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Not-So-Fresh Vegetable

Since Jack's rerunning old email content, I did what's usually the most illuminating search I can run on my email archives: Looking for all outgoing messages containing attachments. Those attachments by and large break down into two categories, namely (1) doodles made with the free paint software on my old work laptop, generally during normal business hours, mainly sent in the 2 to 6 months prior to my quitting that job, and (2) copies of my resume, mainly sent in the 1 month prior to my quitting that job.

I'll save for another time the task of separating the chaff from the somewhat less embarrassing chaff and deciding what, if anything, from that body of material is worth displaying. But for the moment here's a not entirely seasonal item that defies the categorization above: A picture of the jack-o'-lantern I made at a party a couple of Octobers ago. I was pleased that it came out how I wanted it to.

Anyway, Happy, um, Halloween. 2005. I'll contribute something up to date eventually.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


[Do you feel like blogging recently? No? How about pasting a link-embedded email you sent to your brothers like a year ago? That takes less effort.--ed.]

Do you own furniture? Do you live below the poverty line? Then you need to read these couch slip-covering tips!

Or perhaps you just need to tend to those three magic words, Ferret Proofing Checklist.

Or perhaps, you seek information on how to secure your couch cushions with pieces of elastic that you screw into the back of your couch. Congratulations! Google cannot help you on this count. There is no information about this on the internet. There are only vaguely amusing tips for people who are in non-applicable couch-related situations. Meanwhile, I will be at the hardware store, getting surly looks for asking about an object I can barely describe, though my girlfriend's mother claims that such a thing exists.

Bonus tip: don't bother entering "couch cushion screws" into Google. These are not, repeat, NOT tips that you need.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Let's Get the Hell Out of Here

So Pete . . . you understand that I can appreciate your Christmas gift to me and be honestly thankful for it, even if I didn't enjoy watching it, per se, right? Just making sure. You'd rather have the honest opinion, I'm sure. Right?
Yeah, so Alphaville. What the hell is up with this? It does make me want to see more Godard films, since if the man is a titan of Frenchy-French cinema he must have really made up for this one somewhere.
So some of the shots are nice, and on some level I can appreciate mingling a sci-fi with a classic noir, but that's where it ends for me. Is the man unable to keep up any kind of dramatic pace or engage in character development, or just uninterested? Did he choose by coincidence to challenge exactly those conventions of filmmaking that require a budget for set design or a talent for putting together a script? Can we avoid using "light-years" as a measure of time from now on? These and other questions boggle the mind.
And for an artist to describe a future dystopia where the only attribute of interest is the squashing of creative identity is narcissistic, morally vacuous, and bland. The whole film is mindlessly self-absorbed, fixated on its central artist-symbolizing character. The theme's been done anyway, and better. Speaking as a denizen of the future (relative to the mid-1960s) let me clarify that the creative spirit lives on, and that people might be idiots but they're not drones, even if they don't appreciate symbolic Frenchy-French cinema.

In Non-Goat Related Local News...

...Looks like Bill Cowher is resigning from the Steelers for sure.

I also see that a Hyde Park steakhouse has opened on Pittsburgh's North Shore, between the stadia. I ate a few times at two of their Cleveland restaurants while assigned to an otherwise ill-fated travel project by my previous company, since it was a favorite of the two fellow consultants I was working with. The Post-Gazette's reviewer seems to have quibbles with the new Pittsburgh restaurant's atmosphere and service, but I liked their menu -- I'd recommend the bone-in filet mignon, rare, with as much of the total cost as possible defrayed by a corporate per diem allowance. Portions of lots of things were indeed startlingly ginormous. The "wedge" mentioned in the review was a favorite of one of my compadres, though since it is literally just a huge wedge of iceberg lettuce that somehow also incorporates bleu cheese dressing and bacon about the nicest thing I can call it is "Atkins-friendly". Also noted is their penchant for naming steaks after local sports heroes; I'm pretty sure the "Steak Lemieux" threatens to relocate to Kansas City unless it's served in a new restaurant facility containing a slots casino, but whatever. It should be worth a try the next time you're looking to spend a lot on red meat in Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

O Delicate Furnacecraft

One of the most satisfying mini-revelations I've had recently is that I really, really like Louis Tiffany's glasswork. I've tuned into this first from the exhibit at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh (picture from their website) over Thanksgiving, and then last Friday another exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, which I wandered through with Dan, who was on an east coast visit.

I've never paid Tiffany glasswork much heed till now, but all of a sudden it's incredible, every vase and translucent panel. I love that it's generous at heart and so intentionally beautiful, and how it wears its modernity so frankly. Even a small bit of functional demand ("be a window!") seems to ground a design and keep it from seeming overly mannered.
Of course it's the colors and textures, more than anything else. That all art should let the light through like that . . .

Beer Me Later

Here's a topic for discussion in this post's comments: I've acquired one last six-pack of Mad Elf Ale to age for a year, per Pete's suggestion. What condition should I try to store it in? I'm assuming dark, but I don't know about temperature.

Dull Richard's Almanac

Around 6:30 this morning, the local NPR station that my clock radio woke me up with made this weather announcement: "Sunrise this morning at 7:27 AM. Currently 34 degrees and sunny in the nation's capital."

I looked at the window; though the blind was down it seemed pretty not sunny to me out there. Reset the alarm for 7:30. If I have to get up for work for the first time in a week and a half I'll at least wait until daybreak.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I've never been a particular fan of New Year's as a holiday. It feels too arbitrary to me. So far as I know, its a completely political construct, alienated from any sort of natural source. Why the hell is January 1st January 1st and why is January January?

If it were up to me, everyone would just celebrate their own personal new years every 365 days, starting from the day they were born (366 days every fourth year). And the year as we know it would be divided into two: Cold Year and Warm Year, the prior starting on the autmunal equinox and the latter on the vernal equinox. Beyond Warm New Year's and Cold New Year's, there would several other widely celebrated holidays, the most prominent being the celebration of the Cold Solstice, the Warm Solstice, and the Great Harvest.

I am, however, a fan of the Power-Joy, a joystick-based game that plugs into your TV and contains 84 of your favorite games from the 1980s, highlighted by such favorites as Arkanoid, Gradius, and Pandamar.

Oh, Local News

A midday check of the Post Gazette website revealed no news about Bill Cowher's apparently imminent departure from the Steelers, but there was this story about an "unidentified goat" found tied to a mailbox on Polish Hill.

The goat was unharmed and offered no speculations on when Cowher might announce his decision.

Meanwhile, the Pirates may have been unsuccessful in tracking down a left-handed power hitter, but they did manage to sign Jose Hernandez again.

Monday, January 01, 2007

If You're Not Part of the Resolution You're Part of the Problem

As long as I'm writing these down, I may as well put them on the blog:

1. Find chamber music partner(s), begin playing again.

2. Begin composing again, even in whatever limited or small capacity.

3. Set goals at work for training up to higher level editing. Keep better tabs on how I'm advancing along that learning curve.

4. Cook at least once a week. Cook something new from a recipe at least once a month.

5. Start actively dating.

6. Do something unusual, or at least interesting, or at least savor some kind of interesting observation, at least once every day and then write it down so I don't forget it.

7. Read the three books in Richard Ford's "Sportswriter" trilogy.

8. Hold social events in apartment. Bring apartment up to standard befitting social events, furniture- and decoration-wise.

9. Open mail as it comes in; do dishes as they get dirty.

I feel like I should have a tenth, for round numbers' sake. Suggestions welcome.

I was in NYC Friday and had dinner with Mandy, and she showed me her 2006 day planner, which still had my resolutions from last year written in it. (I think I wrote them down when we were on the subway coming home from something or other.) Many of them are recycled above.

I did come through on my biggest resolution from last year, finding a new job. The one I muffed the most was probably "Spend more date nights and quality time with Mandy," which came out more like "Break up with Mandy and move to a different city." At least we're in a good place with it.

In With the New

I guess I'll be the first to wish everyone a happy 2007. I rang it in pretty quietly in Arlington, hanging out with a couple friends from my old job; wine and brie and beer (happily the local Whole Foods still had some Mad Elf on hand) and pausing Love, Actually on DVD long enough to watch the ball drop. Today it's gray and drizzly, which is what the inside of my head feels like. Great things in store for this year, hopefully, though I'll probably have to brush my teeth and get dressed first.