Monday, August 31, 2009

Fatty McPitchPitch Goes to Hell!

Just when you thought we were done posting about the Pirates (only, of course, to start posting about the Steelers, here, on or around the 10th of September), another must-mention from Dejan Kovacevic's stellar Pirates blog over at the post-gazette. This time for his best-of/worst-of list for the Pirates every-year-since-I-was-11 losting streak.

What in particular? That's right, Jimmy Anderson made the list as the losing streak's worst left-handed starter. My disdain, from the first time I ever saw him pitch on (and my basking in his doing even worse for the Reds), was, like totally confirmably right!

Kovacevic, on Anderson:

"Best remembered for his belly poking out from under his jersey, Anderson also had some weighty numbers: 24-42, 5.24 ERA and a home run every 10 innings. "

This Week in the Week Before Last's Creativity

Y'all demanded it, clogging out comment sections with cries for high-resolution images of actual poems written on the spot by yours truly, as part of my weekender role as a modern day troubadour with the miami poetry collective and our totally-profitable "Poem Depot." So here they are, with the usual explanation: these were written on a street corner in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood, for random passersby during the art walk that takes place there once monthly (these poems coming from the August shindig), written in on average 5 minutes on a topic of the purchasers choosing (the topic requested is in all cases the title of the poem):



It's about time someone put Ohio in its place!

As you can see, the speed of the operation does cause a certain number of typos to be present, but it's no big deal (though I cringe at the missing "he" in the last line of "Forever and Ever"). You can find other pictures of other collective member's poems and some random pictures of the depot in action here.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Brian Bixler, Bixler among Bixlers

It's maybe unfair to rag on the Pirates so soon after an inspiring homestand, but here's an ironclad rule of following the Pirates: it is bad, bad news if the game story ends up framed around Brian Bixler.

Nate's idea of calling the Pirates' forgettable late-season callups in general the "Bixlers" is probably unfair to all of them who will strike out less than two-thirds of the time. But I agree it captures a certain truth of the situation.

The infield situation may be hopeless, but the late-season callup I'm waiting for concerns the outfield. Here's an email exchange I had with Nate right after the Nyjer Morgan trade:
[Jack to Nate]
SUBJECT: whoa, forget Jeff Salazar

The Pirates have a triple-A outfielder named Larry Broadway? We need to call him up. That's an awesome name. I see him as a down-on-his-luck, early-middle-aged Jewish theater composer from the 1930s. Also fictional.

[Nate to Jack]
"Aw, jimmies, Mr. Huntington, ya just gotta send me up to the big show! Sure I ain't gonna be any kind a Hank Greenberg out there but I'm tellin ya, this Tin Pan Alley revue thing I been workin on is gonna revolutionize the game a baseball! Can I play ya the catchy little number a guy's gonna sing when he gets ta second base? I admit my own lyrics ain't much but I have it on good authority that Ira Gershwin is very interested. Don't walk away, Mr. Huntington, I'm beggin of ya! ...Aw, why ya gotta take Salazar for? The guy's gotta singin voice like a barn owl! Mark my words, Larry Broadway's gonna be a big name in the game a baseball someday! I'm tellin ya, big!"

-- Larry Broadway (born Liev Brodenfarb), three hours before his death in an Indianapolis trolley accident in June 2009

[Jack to Nate]
OK, that cracked me up.
The actual Larry Broadway is on the disabled list, but he isn't dead. He's 28 and hitting .220 in Triple-A, but he isn't dead.

sure are showing the right vital signs, though.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm English, I'm Suddenly English!

Here's a brief little West Side Story followup: as of last week the Spanish-language "A Boy Like That" has been easily assimilated back into English, along with a little bit of "I Feel Pretty." So those "One of your ow-w-wn kind, Stick to your ow-w-wn kind" lines are back in their lurching original glory.

I always found that word setting more charming than not, really, although I can't identify why. I think the movie version with Rita Moreno will back me up on that. The syncing is off in that YouTube clip; but if that's too bothersome you can always watch Moreno's excellent later work on the Muppet Show instead.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Advantage Ram

Every summer New Haven hosts the Pilot Pen tennis tournament, over at the Local Ivy League University tennis stadium, drawing pro players of subtle enough reputation that I have no idea who they are. My friend Kate from work -- one of my seeming few friends from work who hasn't quit since the beginning of the summer -- and I went over last night for a couple of matches, obtaining Triple-A-discounted tickets and watching a mellow dusk fall over a half-full crowd. Yes, when you start thinking that coastal Connecticut is maxing out on mild upper-middle-class summer entertainment, you can always go watch tennis.

We went in without checking what the matches would be beforehand. The women's match played first could have just as well been conducted by correspondence, with the tall and imposing Danish player Caroline Wozniacki easily dispatching an overmatched Roumanian opponent in consecutive 6–0 sets. (Interviewed afterwards, Wozniacki gushed that she "just played some great tennis today.") The men's match was better pitched, squaring off the Americans Mardy Fish and Rajeev Ram. Fish I saw play at Pilot Pen last year, in the finals match, which he lost to a possibly Albanian kid whose name and exact national origin elude me now; Fish seems to be the local favorite, judging by crowd response then and now. The first couple of sets went to deuce, with the serves more punishing and the exchanges more impressive: so, Game On.

I decided early in the first set that there was an astrological significance in play here, for me personally: I was born on the cusp of Pisces and Aries, and here the only tennis match I will watch live in 2009 features closely matched opponents named "Fish" and "Ram." The obvious and sensible deduction is that the match constituted a manifest allegory of two halves of my personality, or destiny, if you will, settling matters once and for all. Would my imaginative, sensitive, compassionate side emerge dominant behind the crushing serves of Fish? Or would my competitive, headstrong, forward-forging nature break out thanks to the long-armed reach and court coverage of Ram? An hour and a half later, my fate was fully determined: Ram won a pair of 6–3 sets.

Clearly the moral here is that I am to engage my more fiery nature, no more dreamily ruminating about how to live but rather plunging confidently into the rest of my life. The only other interpretation, maybe, would be that this is some kind of generic all-purpose life lesson drawn from a random coincidence. But we all know that the universe doesn't operate that way. Look, I've done okay with myself to date, but if the signs are telling me to start bending my life strategies to the outcome of a Pilot Pen tennis match, I'm not going to say no.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Go Kayak Go

Here's possibly the best morning I've had outdoors in Connecticut: Sunday, out at the mouth of the Hammonasset River east of here, renting kayaks with Stu and Emily and paddling all around a bunch of marshes and marinas for three or four hours. We had elementary-school-style bag lunches right about when the shoulder going was finally getting tough, on a slender strand of beach on a soundside jut of land. The threat of possible rain never materialized; despite not being all that far from other people there was a pleasing feeling of seclusion.

The key, I think, to living in Connecticut is to stock up on outdoor enjoyment in the summer and fall and then try to ride out the winter on university classical concerts.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Loops and Verses

John Adams is a great deal of fun to watch conduct: animated, gangly, amiable, white-haired but youthful-looking. Mostly Mozart had him as a resident composer this summer (largely connected with a production of "A Flowering Tree" last Thursday, which I did not get to see), which is why he was up with the International Contemporary Ensemble in the newly refurbished Alice Tully Hall on Monday night. (Alice Tully Hall has gotten rave reviews since said refurbishment, by the way, and they're accurate.) They put on a concert that, as a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation will demonstrate, was not mostly Mozart, being rather an Adamsian traversal of the celebrated Shaker Loops (1978), the clarinet concerto Gnarly Buttons (1996), and his more recent Son of Chamber Symphony (2007).

I hadn't really had the ICE on my radar; they started up in 2001, and I hadn't seen them perform before. They're visibly youthful (see: cellist mohawk) and damn good. They must have rehearsed the program down to its last flittering eighth notes, because they were tight beginning to end, jaw-droppingly so in the chaotic last movement of Son of Chamber Symphony.

Shaker Loops was Adams's first big coming-out piece, back when he was emerging from Glass- and Reich-style minimalism, and it still stands out as an thrilling demonstration of the dramatic potential that can be pumped out of minimalist textures. The ICE did the string septet version, which is concentrated and punchy, at least when it's not subliming into its equally winning, glinting wisps of high harmonics. Alternately Adams works you into a trance, winds up tension, releases it, blisses out again, starts up an engine that chugs away in unpredictable momentum: once and always an exciting new piece of music, this one.

Gnarly Buttons brought out the leather-jacketed and invincible clarinetist Michael Collins, who premiered and recorded the work back in the day. Playing this thing from memory makes it all the more impressive. I've never been a huge fan of the piece on CD, but the brighter and better quality of the real clarinet in the room makes it shine: the chalumeau tangles of the opening lines, the quirky Stravinskian parody-neoclassicism of the central hoedown movement, and the tender, troubled invisible lyrics of the closing song ("Put Your Loving Arms Around Me," traced in a recurring figure set above the same gentle accompanying pulses that a couple of years later would feature more epically in "Naive and Sentimental Music"). The chamber orchestra has a funky little orchestration, with mandolin highlights and an odd wind section (English horn and trombone being prominent), and probably a little too much hazy synthesizer against just a handful of string players. It's a piece with personality and range, though.

"Son of Chamber Symphony" is named sci-fi style after Adams's earlier Chamber Symphony, from the mid-90s, one of his best pieces; the Son is less riotously tangled up in crazy counterpoint, but it is a great headlong rush of a throwback for Adams. Actually it is quite literally a throwback, with a last movement that goes all Will It Blend on some yet-recognizable figures from the first couple scenes of Nixon in China. I think this is the first time Adams has gone in for self-quotation; there's nothing not to like, especially if you miss the old 80s-vintage Adams churning out simple brassy harmonies. The first movement, meanwhile, puts some Nancarrow-reminiscent competing pulses to the trademark figure of the scherzo from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and spins out an appealingly boppy movement; the second movement returns to the textures of that first movement of Naive and Sentimental Music. You can listen to the piece online, thanks to the Carnegie Hall website, and I really recommend doing so: it's really a pleasure.

Towards the end of that third movement, the work starts winding down, and a slight note of melancholy slides into the uproar; the throwbackiness of the music starts to imply a more bittersweet nostalgia, maybe. A glimpse of luminous, even-textured eighth-note chords in the piano part, and even more so the once-characteristic woodblock whocking that enters with surprising gentleness, seem to carry the music off into a receding distance. The end itself is puckish and sudden, and it drew an appreciative murmur of a laugh from the audience: there's your Adams-style personality and humor. I wanted to hear the whole concert top to bottom a second time, but you take, as always, what you can get.

We Have to Take This to the Streets!

So I'd read reviews of the new West Side Story production, a few months back, but any description of the show doesn't do justice to the overwhelming enjoyment of seeing a high-end live staging of it. Dan and I got rush lottery tickets: Dan's name was called for the pair of them; I don't know what the odds were, like one in three maybe -- Dan says he has good luck with this sort of thing, which he deserves, as a fan of musicals who isn't in New York all that often. So we had seats in the front row, right up by the orchestra pit, and we were both just having the time of our lives beginning to end.

The big innovation in the production was putting some of the book and a couple of second-act songs into Spanish, but that's not a huge change, and otherwise the setup was straightforward and ungimmicky, which is of course perfect. (Incidentally, "I Feel Pretty" and "A Boy Like That" suffer a little for losing their crisp Sondheimian English, but the overall effect is a good one.) They kept or at least adapted much of the Jerome Robbins choreography, I think, or at any rate it looks classic and true to the original; the gangs don't do that swaggering snapping thing, but instead do their snapping rooted in place, looking very tense. It works -- I mean, the gangs are only going to look so hard-boiled, but they pull it off. Put it this way: I wasn't reminded of Tobias's dancing street gang from Arrested Development. And you're well aware of how many things remind me of something from Arrested Development.

The dance at the gym was unbelievably fabulous, the whole dancing corps wearing sexed-up 50s outfits and throwing all this violent energy out during the mambo.

Most memorable by a long shot cast-wise are Josefina Scaglione, who plays Maria with an uncanny, almost diaphonous presence, and Karen Olivo, whose Anita is basically the burning center of every scene she appears in (she won a Tony for it this year, too). Bernardo is played by a guy named George Akram, who does a great job creating some gravity for a character who's more essential to the plot than the dialogue or music. The Jet side of the cast is maybe less notable; John Arthur Greene is fine as Riff but I wanted more charisma, or something; and if there's a weak link it's Matt Cavenaugh as Tony, who only goes so far dramatically, and moreover sings too often in that unfortunate constricted-sounding musical theater style. "Gee Officer Krupke" was the right kind of firecracker set-piece, though, as was "Cool." Easy, Action!

But the main thrust of it all is remembering that you know and love West Side Story and then watching that procession of unbelievably good numbers unfold up on stage, with a tight full orchestra underneath it. An excellent, excellent way to spend an evening.

Dan has already written about this (along with the Adams concert I'm about to recap, too): pay attention to his account of the delicate, crucial moment onstage at the end of "One Hand, One Heart," because I was too distracted by the chord progressions in the strings to be paying attention to it.


August has started behaving like August in the last week, serving up a procession of the hot humid days we've been inevitably waiting for through the cooler, rainier early summer. Consequently I'm in an air-conditioned coffee shop with one of the Large Iced Coffees I've been scrupulously avoiding all summer on account of the benjamins involved. (At approximately 0.03 benjamins each, they add up!) Lack of writing hasn't been because of the heat, but because of being in NYC last weekend and having various social goings-on in the evenings. Otherwise the month has been a matter of shifting some significant relationship strife out of the front of my mind (I'm not going to get into it now) and orchestrating the sort of mild improvements in daily routine and spending habits that feature heavily in every new year's resolution but don't bear extended talking about. And work has lulled into a single tedious copyedit (clean chapters, so all the work is in notes and bibliography) that has me casting wistful looks at my deskside window in the afternoon, even after I've closed the blinds to keep the temperature down.

Incidentally, speaking of the weather, my first thought when I heard about Hurricane Bill last weekend was "Oh yeah, it's hurricane season; I hope Pete will be OK in Miami." And on Tuesday I heard it was coming up north, and I thought "What the hell? Why isn't this thing aiming for Florida like hurricanes are supposed to?" Sorry, Pete: I'm hoping for the best for your safety, but not if it's at my expense. (You've got your Republican governor looking out for you, anyway.) Bill, of course, has swung well east of here.

My college friend Dan was visiting two weeks ago, and it was great to have a few days to hang out with him. He's the musicologist PhD candidate, so he was in town deciphering some Ivesian scribbles over in the manuscript library. Every time we hang out, I re-evaluate whether or not I should be getting a PhD in musicology, but the answer is always "no." You may recall Dan as my Boggle nemesis, and he beat me again the one time we played, something like 85 to 70 over ten rounds. I hold the edge in Wii tennis and Dr. Mario, but that's basically because Dan doesn't play Wii as much. Other evening activities: pizza at Pepe's; watching the new Apatow "Funny People," which is well worth a screening; cooking a veggie/pasta dinner with farmer's market materials; chatting, catching up, talking animatedly about various classical music topics, listening to the entire Henry Brant orchestration of Ives's Concord Sonata on CD in the living room. (You can read Kyle Gann's rave description of that recording from a couple years back, by the way, and see if you can resist immediately ordering a copy of the disc.) Having Dan around to talk about music with is a great thing.

Dan and I were both down in NYC afterwards, both of us staying with Mandy and Mandy's girlfriend Tabitha up in Washington Heights on Saturday and Sunday night. Much of the weekend I spent in various parks: Fort Tryon, the marvelous hillside park by the Cloisters and the Hudson, for a Shabbat picnic with Mandy and one of her friends (soon to depart NYC, sad for Mandy; but with a boyfriend who just moved down the block from me in New Haven, happy for me); the recently opened High Line park down in Chelsea, extending like a noncommercial boardwalk over an abandoned elevated train line for twelve streets; Riverside Park, up near Columbia, to hear my friend Andy conduct the summer incarnation of the Columbia wind band in a sprawling, enjoyable, old-fashioned kind of program (marches, light classics, Gershwin, South Pacific, etc.) fortunately located someplace where there was some shade. Dan and I lucked into lotteried rush tickets to West Side Story on Broadway on Saturday night, which was tremendous fun; Monday night we caught John Adams conducting the International Contemporary Ensemble up at Lincoln Center, which was also tremendous fun.

Sunday evening, after the High Line wandering, we had the strange experience of hearing someone shot on the next block; we'd sat down on the large elevated patio of the Maritime Hotel on 9th Avenue, which houses a not unreasonably priced Italian restaurant. (I'd discovered this a week and a half prior while meeting my friend Blair for a midweek NYC evening that featured just about the same agenda: wander up and down the High Line towards dusk, then eat pasta on 9th Ave.) Anyway, in front of one of the Robert S. Fulton Houses' buildings on the next block there was a firecracker burst of automatic gunfire (there were enough people in the area to tell from street-level reactions that it was in fact gunfire); we couldn't see anything from the patio, but within a couple of minutes the cop cars arrived, the ambulance within a couple of minutes after that. This was in basically broad daylight around 6 pm, by the way. We saw the guy being wheeled and lifted into the ambulance, but had no news till the next day's tabloids; surprisingly he wasn't killed, considering the 6 or 7 shots, but was in either stable or critical condition (depending on the tabloid) at St. Vincent's nearby. The altercation was sudden and unexplained, apparently. I don't know what else we'll hear about him; no more shots are going to be fired and I doubt it's really "news" whether he lives or dies now. Dinner had a pall over it at first, then a pall mixed with weird vibes from the surrounding tables who had much quicker gotten over their pall and back to enjoying their conversations. I had the gnocchi.

It's a strange feeling to be still remote but less literally remote from violent housing-project crime. We walked down the block afterwards, where the police had taped things off and a medium-sized crowd of residents had collected around; there was a small bloody pile of clothing they'd cut off the guy there, a backpack, a Yankees hat, like the man had been violently evaporated.

Sunday night I browsed the Strand with Dan and stayed up late-ish to catch the new Paul Giamatti film "Cold Souls" up at Lincoln Plaza; the New Yorker had run an intriguing review of it last week, but it is a boring film, especially after 10:30. Monday I spent most of the day hanging out with a bagel and/or coffee and reading, around getting lunch with Lisa and drinks later with Andy (they're engaged now). Andy and I had a long conversation about wind band music, with a disturbing digression into the crime-of-passion murder-suicide that claimed a couple of community band members in the spring (an act by a trombonist's boyfriend; I'd been acquainted with the trombonist, but not known her well); some memorial donations to the summer band in her name are allowing Andy to take it nonprofit. Strange world we live in, after all.

Sometime during my drinks with Andy the Strand bag containing my book was snatched from under the bar. I hope whoever stole it has a decent literary sensibility; I'd only finished the first third of Paul Auster's "New York Trilogy," finding it excellently readable and high-concept, suitably so for postmodern detective fiction. That deluxe paperback edition isn't available on Amazon, so it seems gone gone gone: enjoy it, unknown bar thief.

I hadn't spent a whole weekend in New York for several months, maybe even a year. Resolved: to do this more often. Probably after the heat subsides again.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Birthday Soapbox

I've been meaning, for a little while now, as the blog's resident strict vegetarian (nigh on vegan now that I'm back in Miami (my egg&dairy consumption is always way higher back parentside (not that I mind that--it's for financial reasons as much as dogmatic ones that I don't eat such things more often down here))), to comment on Jack's still-relatively-recent posts about incrementally vegetarianizing ones lifestyle. I've mostly put it off because I came home in August feeling like I'd been as annoying as a vegetarian as I've ever been this summer--some combination of being recently reinvigorated on the subject personally and then being goaded (probably asked politely, but you know what I mean) into actually stating my reasons rather than using my familiar stock answers (either a) "I just think it's something I can accomplish." (the earliest answer) or b) "Because the moral highground must be maintained at all costs (the now-middle-early ("early" remaining because I'm hypothetically now, on my 27th birthday, as Nate mentioned to me in a Glueckwunsch email today, only (or already) 1/3 of the way through a life of expectable length) answer)).

I've preferred stock answers because most people aren't going to become vegetarians, and certainly aren't going to do it because of me (it's much much easier to convert beer snobs, let me tell you), and, believe it or not, I oftentimes prefer not to be abjectly annoying (or just not that brand of annoying, anyway). But I felt annoying, even if I wasn't (not that I'm ever wrong--I'm completely in the right about this particular subject), but since it is my birthday, I'm giving myself the present of writing this post (and, given it's already-digressive nature and unshyness about using parenthesis, you can pretty well tell it's a self-indulgent birthday post (again, not that I'm wrong about this stuff, my logic for being meat free is fucking airtight). The annoyance-self-feeling also was probably magnified by a strange tendency of mine to state opinions about what one should expect in terms of what a sustainable globalized world community might be in a way that made it sound like I was wishing the deaths of billions of third-world citizens (not the case, to be sure; just an error of words intended to evoke a desire for the dismantling of the first world and its network of oppression).

Anyhoo, specifically, I wanted to address a particular concern about incremental vegetarianism that was brought up to me by our mother (I take it as a potentially widespread thought about the notion (not believing, too much, in "individualism"--with usual reference to the Hofstadter article on voting contained in Metamagical Themas)): that buying one or two fewer packages of meat a week won't affect anything, because relative to the amount of meat purchased by the more-and-more typical big box grocery stores is too large that that kind of blip on their ordering sonar would lead to anything but that same quantity of would-have-been consumed meat being ordered, produced, and thrown away. A valid concern, me thinks (and not just because she's me ma), especially because it calls into question my own basic tenet from the beginnings of my own meatlessness, that not eating that shit is one of the few things that makes a difference even based on a hypothetically individual action.

Which means that I'm unwilling to go with the indiviudal/group action explanation for why that wouldn't matter: because if you don't eat meat one day less a week, that also means that your demographic--or some subset of other people that have read the same topical piece of research and altered their behavior in a similar matter--doesn't eat that meat either, which turns a single package of disgusting, harmful, industrial bland-mill chicken into entire cases of diseased, nutritionally vacuous, tasteless chicken no longer demanded or then produced. That's not enough of an answer, just in case there is such a thing as "indiviudal action" relative to the American "free" market.

So other ways to make this incremental vegetarianism still work, assuming that your meat is still just being thrown away by your local (almost never "good" (unless, to an extent, you live in Wegmansville)) "super"market? One way is just to take bigger chunks of increments, so rather than eating meat one day less a week, eat no meat one week less a month instead. Or shop at a smaller store, where the spoils overhead will be way lower--I realize that this is easier said than done, but even the difference between a store the size of, say, a Trader Joe's, would be different than your typical Giant Eagle (terrible terrible stores, I was reminded whilst back in Pittsburgh) (this, of course, being based somewhat on my experience as the guy-that-ordered-the-meat for the nation's smallest Trader Joe's, where if even five people a day didn't buy meat for a couple weeks on end the ordering pattern would've downshifted (this was before my rise to cheese guy, and before my revolutionizing turn as the grocery orderer (was told, in so many words, that I had saved the store an absolute fuckload of money)--they (the first set of bosses I worked for (assholes)) initially had me order meat because they thought it was funny since I was a vegetarian (I still amaze myself that I worked for that store for so long in Boston, given how miserable it was for the first eight months that I worked there))).

Also, then, if you're eating way less meat, it can become more of a luxury, so funnel all that money you're saving by not throwing ground chuck into food that doesn't need it (chili, spaghetti sauce, hamburgers, &c), and find a real butcher and buy a real piece of real cow and cook it real nice. This way, you're never buying meat from the stores where it's hard to conceive of it mattering, and never buying there anymore will make a difference, epsecially if you're buying meat on every trip to the store. And don't buy frozen chicken, since it can sit in the freezer a long long time, and thus is a harder thing to affect the buying-at-store-level of.

In terms of the sorts of large-scale attitude shifts that need to happen, the making-luxurious of what have been typically middle-class lifestyle habits can make a huge impact. (And I really do believe that, if you find yourself doing something, that means that other similar people (and there are inevitably other similar people (even when you're as special a little snowflake as I am)) are doing it too, and that's what can make small-scale or grassroots thing into bonafied community developments, the recognition that we're all doing this, that we're in it together (vegetarian potlucks are always a good time).

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Near Brush With Hollywood

My bicycle commute to campus today was interrupted and lengthened because the bike path that I take through a mangrove swamp to get to school was blocked off due to the area being used by the television show "Burn Notice" for filming. I dropped an f-bomb on cop, but luckily it was a thoroughly exasperated outburst, not angry or staccato at all, but more like Eeyore. Plus I said it like "Fuck-oops! It's hot out here." The cop didn't seem to mind, then very politely explained to me the situation. I asked if I could just be in "Burn Notice" instead, but that was a no-go. Not that adding an extra mileandahalf to my bike ride was all that painful--it was actually relatively mild out today (only the upper 80s, not quite as humid).

But once I got here to school, I looked up "Burn Notice," 'cause I guess it's one of those shows, like CSI:Miami, or the old Miami Vice, that takes place in Miami, but doesn't haven't the helpful "Miami" in the title. Or maybe, it was just passing through Miami this week. Who knows (I didn't look like looking any more fully into it (notice also, the lack of links to Burn-Notice-information-having webpages)). But, sadly, it turns out that Bruce Campbell is in Burn Notice! Damn. I should busted through that barrier, gotten a chance to meet him.

He gave a talk at CMU once, which I attended, but I didn't have a chance to stand in the autograph line to meet him (I had to go to Horn Choir or something similiar). My friends though, rather (anecdotally) famously, got Bruce (his talk was super entertaining, also, by the way) to sign a gas-station picture of Jesus and my friend Brett's copy of the DVD of the movie Willow--particularly funny because Bruce Campbell wasn't in Willow (and also, my friend Nick said his name was Dick, so Bruce signed the DVD with the phrase "Hey Dick" on there as well). Super guy, that Bruce. Wish I coulda, like, sweatily biked right past him.

My hope now is that, for the sake of the show, they decided to upgrade the path into some higher level of awesomeness (I'm holding out for an improved walkway across one of the two outlets from the swamp to the bay). ("Holding out" seems like the wrong phrase--more suitable for Scott Boras clients--what do I mean?)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Re-Reno? No.

For the past three weeks or so I've been putting more emphasis on getting enough sleep at night and doing some household chores every day, which has reduced my workday-afternoon cases of the sleepy-angries and somewhat thinned the layer of bachelor grode coating my entire apartment, but reduced my already half-assed blogging efforts to quarter- to eighth-of-a-cheek levels. But I feel moved to break this near-silence to note a fairly meaningless thing that I read in my daily Internet foraging, namely that Comedy Central has apparently cancelled Reno 911!.

Reno's the kind of show that I ignore for a couple of years and then watch a couple seasons' worth of DVDs of over Netflix -- which in fact I've been doing lately -- but I have a pretty sizeable soft spot for it. It's the sort of show that I can best describe with a slot machine metaphor that I picked up some time ago from a Slate feature on the web cartoon Toothpaste For Dinner -- sometimes when you pull the lever you get a chuckle and sometimes not, which keeps you coming back more than a consistently funny product would.

Anyway, I wouldn't say I'll miss it, really -- I have at least two seasons left to watch, plus I think a feature film -- but I can say that I like the show and I'll be surprised if it's replaced by something any more worth watching. And despite the intermittent payoffs from most of their bits I've consistently liked the show's faux-awkward commercial and public service announcement TV spots:

RENO 911!
Reno Sheriff’s Academy
Joe Lo TruglioFunny Cop Videos

...That and any of the sketches where Patton Oswalt shows up as a D&D player or Renaissance Fair participant.

Also I guess it's as worth noting here as elsewhere that Kerri Kenney-Silver (who plays the most warped and consistently funny character on the show, Trudy Wiegel) was part of an all-female alt-rock band, Cake Like, somewhere in the 1990s, which despite seemingly being maybe three-fourths of the way along the path from fake band to real band put out at least a couple of pretty good songs, by my kind of lax pop music standards.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Stopping Following Again, as of Now-ish

You know your baseball team is bad, and quite probably horribly managed, general managed, and owned, when your friends from Miami, diehard Marlins fans, give you shit for your team's embarrassing state of existence. I'd imagine Nationals fans have a similar attitude, especially given their team's not-necessarily-coincidental-with-arrival-of-Nyjer Morgan improvement, and the Pirates' recent eight-games-at-home losing streak. Usually I've given up following the Pirates this late in the summer, nor do I have a reputation for being fascinated by the grotesque (I still haven't forgiven Nate & Jack for taking me to the Mutter Museum back around the turn of the Millenium), but, somehow this summer I can't help myself--a combination of being home for a while in early July and a genuine hope that Neal Huntington isn't as dumb as he might be (if you throw enough spaghetti at the wall, maybe you make a flying spaghetti monster that could be powerful enough to be a wild card contender).

That being the case, Matt "In need of a suitably derogatory nickname but hopefully he won't be a Pirate long enough for me to bother" Capps--his batting practice fastball, 2-7 record, and 3 blown saves--is now officially my most hated Pirates pitcher since Fatty McPitchpitch Gotohell (with the usual props to Mike "The Saddest Closer" Williams as well (unfortunately, I can't find the picture of Williams where he really looks like the saddest baseball player ever to go to an All-Star game with an ERA over 6)).

Sunday, August 09, 2009

If It's an Inexplicable Postcard, It's from Pete

I received this one back in July:


verso [lightly redacted]

Click for larger. The text on the back reads: "This map highlights major connections between MTA subways, buses and railroads, as well as connections to selected services from other transit providers. Because of space constraints, some details of service and scheduling have been omitted."

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Bikes and Haircuts (Nothin' New)

On my bike ride into campus today--the usual route--a particular stretch of the mile (or so)-long road which actually has a bike lane was host to a strange concentration of dead pigeons in said bike lane. This would be, I suppose, from one of the buildings there poisoning the birds, and them falling to the road right there? It was strange though, and not much fun to suddenly find myself running a slalom of dead pigeons (clouds of black flies scattering like powdered snow in a downhill skier's run). It's too bad the vultures won't be back until November; they'd have had quite a feast.

It's nice to be biking around every day again, but it is hot in Miami. August 3rd marked the beginning of my third year as a Miami resident (though, like many other Miami residents, I've never been there during July since becoming a resident), and I think with this year I must admit that I'm semi-used to the heat (it's as hot at night as it was during the day in Rhode Island, but without the sun it feels colder) down here; I was expecting it to be hotter. Number-wise it's 92 or 93 degrees out everyday, with a heat index somewhere between 100 and 105, which is probably 5 degrees colder than what I've claimed in past years.

What with the heat, it only took me a couple of days of re-residence in Miami to go get a haircut, at my local neighborhood super cuts (close enough that I could bike there and not show up all sweaty and expecting a stranger to come in close contact with my headandhair). The usual kind of cut that I've been getting for over a decade now, short on the sides, but letting the curls flourish on top. When I described to the Supercuts cutter/stylist--a young woman, a few years younger than me (24)--the haircut where I wanted, she said "you don't want that. A weird mushroom like that? Some people want a weird mushroom, but you know it's not 1992 anymore." After a moments equivocation, I coalesced against my request and let her cut my hair in a way she felt to be more appopriate, which isn't all that different, like a mushroom in the front, but with the rest of the haircut pretty short and "blended". So far I've acheived two unprompted comparisons to Eraserhead, with out even maintaining a stunned look on my face.

So I just, uh... I just cut them up like regular chickens?

So, somehow, 1992 isn't cool by Supercuts standards, but nightmare-1977 is. The haircut, also is not dissimilar from Homer's stylish haircut in the episode where he gets hair growth chemicals via insurance fraud.

Not entirely dissimilar. 1990.

And if I let it grow long enough, maybe it will grow long enough to look like the drummer from the Minutemen's hair, back in its hey-day (also painfully outdated).

Front mullet awesome.

So, in case you were wondering, yes, I am still fond of my own hair. Oh well. So vain. It was awesome to have my sense of style dissed at Supercuts. A high point in recent hair history (it having been dull since the buzz cut of last summer's occupation).

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Incremental Veggie-tism II

Okay, to follow up: you don't need to poke around the web too long before finding information about relative carbon intensity of different food groups. See here and here for rundowns of a Carnegie Mellon study (woooo Tartans) from last year. The basic short answer is still "avoid red meat." Transport matters a lot less for carbon output than production does -- like production is over 80% of the total -- so "eat locally" is a lot less powerful than "avoid red meat." As in, "eat locally" is like "avoid red meat one day out of every five." The study itself is readable but requires some time and attention.

"Carbon output" is actually misleading here, because meat/dairy production releases nitrous oxide (fertilizer use) and methane (self-explanatory) in quantities of similar significance to carbon dioxide.

Anyway, to wind towards the first question in my mind, about eggs and dairy: talking greenhouse-gas-per-calorie, eggs, along with chicken and fish, are relatively fine -- actually about where fruits and vegetables are. Cereals & carbs are significantly better. Dairy is somewhat worse, and red meat is twice as bad as that. Here's a deceptively complicated graph from the study; the third grouping from the left is the output-per-calorie comparison. This is all relative to red meat, which is why red meat is always up at 1.

My gut tells me that per-calorie is the most legitimate of the three normalizations they give, but of course my gut is not the gut of a dietitian.

Cat Act

They could have assembled as many YouTube orchestras and Twittered as many live concerts as they wanted, but Classical Music wouldn't have entered the Internet Age until there was video of an orchestra accompanying Nora the Piano-Playing Cat. (via)

Serious props are due to the splicing and composing skills of Lithuanian conductor Mindaugas Piečaitis. Can you call this a crossover thing? Because if so, this is hands down the best piece of crossover classical music I've ever heard.

Nora the Cat is pretty good too. I mean, for a cat.