Sunday, January 31, 2010

Be All This as It May

I had some people over for a get-together last night, and conversation turned to studying romance languages. This topic tends to come up eventually in my apartment, since there are index cards with Spanish vocabulary words taped to household objects all over the place. I put them up sometime last semester because I decided it was more fun than actually studying for one of the exams. By now I barely notice them, so I forget they're even there until people come over. I should probably take them down, but partly I'm lazy and partly I'm worried that if I stop subliminally teaching myself then I'll forget how to say things like "light switch" and "houseplant" in Spanish. Now that I'm auditing second-semester Spanish, what I really need is index cards identifying various verbs in the preterite and the imperfect, but it's very difficult to tape index cards to verbs, especially when they're in a past tense.

Anyway, one of my friends is an Italian instructor at the university, and we were comparing how quickly each language curriculum got to the subjunctive. (Italian beat us to it, although we did learn travel vocabulary before they did.) A more general exchange on the subjunctive:
ANNIE: Well, the subjunctive pretty much blows no matter what language you're speaking.
JACK: Really? But I don't know what we would do without it.

I thought this was a fairly droll and subtle line, even if instead just floating wittily into the conversation it made everyone groan and brought conversation to a grinding halt. But I did some further research this morning, and that's not the subjunctive! Turns out I'd confused the future subjunctive with the conditional. Party foul! So now I'm frightened about learning the subjunctive in Spanish, since its analogues in English are more difficult to understand than I thought. Good thing I'm not some kind of professional grammarian.

My favorite English subjunctive is the archaic-sounding present one, detectable in "Suffice it to say," "Truth be told," and "I / Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free, / Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee."

If there weren't all these fucking linguistic modalities, we'd have an easier time of everything. Reading Wikipedia about irrealis moods really drives home the benefit of learning a language before the age of five. Also, what the hell am I doing with my weekend all of a sudden?

Also at the party: Connecticut wines! Connecticut does have some wineries, although I'm told that they tend to import their grapes from Long Island. Connecticut wines are like most of everything else in Connecticut: totally fine to live with, but not very interesting.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Los Padres, la Ciudad

Looking back, I don't remember all that many times that I've spent one-on-one time with Mom and Dad. Practically none, I think, even in adult life. But they came into New York City for the weekend, so I got most of Saturday with them and also Sunday brunch. It taps into a subtle but still detectable sense of deferred attention-seeking from childhood, like it's nice not to have so many brothers around for once. No offense to anyone, obviously! Haha, you guys are all great too.

So I may not have been the specific attraction for the padres, who came in for a friend's Saturday night retirement party and also went to the marvelous West Side Story on Friday night. But! We did have a fine time together, heading to the ever-interesting Lower East Side Tenement Museum (following brunch at the first satisfactory restaurant we passed on Lafayette Street). In the afternoon we went into Williamsburg for the tour at the Brooklyn Brewery and a late pizza lunch at a place right by the subway stop called Fornino, where a window sign claims their pizza was voted best in the city in 2006. It's pretty good in 2010, too. The Brooklyn Brewery tour is a stationary affair, only involving one room. But you don't need too much of an excuse to hang out in their sunlit industrial space (previously a small steel plant and then a matzo ball factory) enjoying the warm air and that comforting new-beer smell. And the actual beer. And the presence of their invincibly calm brewery cat, hanging out atop a pallet of barley unbothered by the hundreds of human strangers in its midst.

Sunday morning we did brunch again: buckwheat crepes at Bar Breton in midtown, with Mandy along, since I'd crashed for the night with her & Tabitha up in Washington Heights.

So that is that. Parents, now back in the home suburbs, are no doubt enjoying their time with Mike now that he's back stateside for Chinese New Year month. Mike, for his part, must be totally used to the individual attention, being the youngest child and all. Lucky little bastard.

Rounding out the weekend: Saturday night, dinner at Havana Alma de Cuba on Christopher St. with college pals Kathleen (who was an '02-'03 Astoria roommate as well) and Andrea, and Andrea's husband Conrad, who's a chocolatier. Plantains! You need good plantains in your life. Sunday afternoon, solitary football watching at a Philly cheesesteak bar on 9th Ave. called Shorty's. (Pro: a small but good beer selection! Con: that one skinny and nasal-voiced Indianapolis Colts fan who won't shut up!) On the train ride home I had a pleasant conversation with the mother of my sophomore-year dorm RA. By coincidence, Bonnie (the RA) was seeing off her mother (Meryl) and they happened to wander into the car I was sitting in.

I'm looking forward to the continuing family time this winter: Mike on the east coast sometime before mid-February; Pete and the padres in Bradenton for Pirates spring training in March; Nate in NYC for Shostakovich's Nose at the Met Opera right after that.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

And all the clouds that lour'd upon our House

In the spirit of what will eventually be James Cameron's Avatar trilogy (not that I ever intend to watch the first one, let alone the inevitable sequels), I figured I'd go ahead and cap out my bitching-about-the-cold posts with a third part. If this is Godfather-esque, this post will be pretty crappy, not unworth watching, passably entertaining, but mostly, like, not good. Hopefully, though, this will be more like the Karate Kid franchise, the third entry of which was probably the best (I'm not kidding; Karate Kid III (not to be confused with The Next Karate Kid is amazing and super entertaining)).

So in this post, it was actually warm enough outside that I was able to take off my winter hat and mittens while riding my bicycle, and though I was still wearing a long-sleeve shirt under two hooded sweatshirts, I unzipped both sweatshirts upon arriving at campus. Big improvement!

So I biked to the beach. To re-declare the Miami-ness of my situation. I didn't go in the water or anything, but did at least touch the water and looked at it for a little bit. I thought to shout, "Fuck you, cold!" but didn't, figuring that the gesture of going there at all was sufficient.

It's supposed to be back up into the upper 70s by the weekend anyway, so it's probably no big deal.

Monday, January 11, 2010

It's Still Cold / Third Wheel Legend

I've consulted with several other folks from the Northeast about this. It is worse for people from cold places in Miami when it gets cold here (well, not entirely true... it's the worst for, like, the crops and the old people (not sure how the vultures are faring)), because we expect it to be warm, whereas the local-types are aware that every few years it gets stupid cold down here.

Also, I've been reluctant to flip my indoor-weather-control-box to "heat" mode, since I've never used it, and, as per uzh, can only imagine the worst case scenarios where I die in an apartment fire in my sleep, instead of the more probably scenario where my apartment is comfortably warmer than its current 58 degrees or so.

I went to a movie last night, third-wheeling with a friend of mine and his girlfriend whose visiting from out of town, to that Up in the Air movie starring George Clooney. Not very good. Not bad. But not good either. I realized part way through that I once read the first few pages of the book it's based on, which totally blew. Except for a cameo by Sam Elliot (in the movie, not the book), for which I laughed through everything he said, missing his actual dialogue under my constant whispering of Big Lebowski quotes to my friend's girlfriend (which, of course, makes me an awesome third wheel).

But I also got to test my new formulation (which is cobbled together from a couple different conversations I had over Winter Break) about George Clooney (which I will probably go explore further over at Culturology (well, not that much farther; I've been slacking pretty extensively recently on the other blog)):

George Clooney will always be disappointing to me because I perceive him as wanting to be Jimmy Stewart when he's really James Cagney.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ravens 33, Patriots 14

There are very few circumstances where I'll end up cheering for the Ravens. Actually, today may have been the first time. But I am more than happy to watch them embarrass Tom Brady to the tune of 17 first-quarter points off turnovers.

To the Steelers, the Ravens are like the spy-movie villain who meets the hero in a dark alley and gives the speech that goes, "You see, you and I are not so different after all . . ." I think they deserve our respect, even if they are a bunch of thugs. Meanwhile, the Patriots are obviously just obnoxious. So it's not hard to decide to to pull for.

My friend Andy drove in from Danbury and we watched the game at local bar/grill Archie Moore's, which is hard to beat for neighborhood beer-drinking comfort. There were a surprising number of people there cheering for the Ravens! Maybe it was just harder to identify Pats fans since they had very little to get vocal about. Andy, for his part, is from Buffalo, so he didn't have much difficulty cheering against the Patriots.

All that said, I probably won't mind seeing the Colts put down the Ravens next week. You don't want your nemesis getting too strong, and anyway I can never seem to work up any serious dislike of Peyton Manning.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Window View, 7:30 AM

Looks like it might be below 60 degrees here, Pete, I might have to wear my mittens too.

Connecticut hasn't been any colder than usual, as far as I've gathered, unlike the parts of the country in a serious cold snap.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Living in . . . The Future

All right, 3-D television! I don't expect to watch 3-D television any more than I watch 2-D television, but I'm still happy. Nothing says "Welcome to The Future" like "There's 3-D television now." I only hope they allow the programming to be determined by an underground computer the size of three football fields.

What is the next exciting development The Future is likely to bring us? Some are saying it will be the election of popular state attorney general Richard Blumenthal to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Connecticut's Christopher Dodd, but I've got a gut feeling it might just be hoverboards. Come on, hoverboards!

It's Cold Out There!

I had to (well didn't have to, but chose to) wear mittens today on my bicycle commute to school in order to keep my hands from freezing (feeling too cold). Mittens! As the kids on the internet say, WTF?!?

I talk about the weather fairly frequently, I think. Partially because it's generally safe small-talk, or, like, less annoying to me than some other variants of small talk (or all the pop-culture related small talk that I'm generally too clueless to make (not that I'm ever making all that much small talk; I don't mean to imply that)), partially because it's generally the one thing in Miami that I don't complain about. I mean, winters down here are wonderful.

But it's been colder this week during the day than it typically is at night. Which pretty much blows, especially when one has finally, while up north for the holiday season, allowed oneself to actually look forward to the warm weather. Though, of course, it is much warmer than Pittsburgh or New York was. I'm wearing a t-shirt, a rugby shirt, and a hoodie. Which is two layers less than the long-sleeve t-shirt, t-shirt, flannel shirt, hoodie, leather jacket (when outside) combo I sported up north.

It's going to warm up tomorrow, just in time to get even colder this weekend. At least it's cold everywhere.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Forty Ouncers are the Tailgate Bowl VI Champions!

It's official: I'm my fantasy football league's 2009 League Champion. This means that the league trophy which I co-designed with my good friend Zac way back in 2004 will finally be in my hands again (once the trophy is engraved and gets to me I'll get some pictures up here of it).

This also means that once I get my winnings, I'll have be up, money-wise, for at least the next two or three seasons, which is nice (keeping the whole thing account-neutral takes the edge off my more usual losing seasons (though I did come in second in this league as well once upon a time)).

You may be thinking that now you should ask me, or come to of mild interest next year during football season (because football season is over now (at least for of mild interest)), for, like tips and advice and stuff. But I'll go ahead and share my secret:

I had the fewest points-against in my entire league. That's all it took, was for every other team that I went up against to do their worst against me. Though, during the playoffs, my team scored the second-highest total points each round overall, so I finished strong as well.

I ride in the front seat today!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Today Is the First Monday of the Rest of Your Decade

New Haven has been frigid and windy ever since I came back on Saturday night, and sidewalks are treacherously icy. Roads are slushy, too, since the city does a horrible job with snow plowing. You'd think we were in Virginia or something. I look at it as another benefit to not driving a car.

I woke up at 4 this morning out of a mild nightmare concerning a trip to Disney World. (Disney World, in this case, featured no rides or Disney characters, just a steep hillside park with paths sadistically designed to catch you in the grasp of murderous carnivorous plants.) Waking up for real at 7:30 bought me a lovely view of the creamsicle-colored sunrise directly east of me over Orange Street. Nonetheless it was hard to ignore how goddamned cold it was. I had better man up to this or else it'll be a long way to springtime.

I'm feeling wistful about those long-ago days when morning life meant apple pie and coffee for breakfast and watching the bird feeder through the kitchen window.

Our office Christmas party, back on December the 23rd, was held in the manuscript library, which had been festively decorated with streamers and several dozen blue and white balloons hung across the room from the balconies. I'm not sure if this was a Hannukah shout-out, or just secular avoidance of Christmas colors, but the overall effect was that of an Under-the-Sea-themed junior prom. In any case, the streamers and balloons, sadder-looking and deflated, were still hanging there until about 3 pm today, when various members of the office Party Planning Committee had finally gotten around to removing them all. Sad balloons are an appropriately depressing grace note to the first workday back from the holiday. I did have a productive day, though.

My main pet peeve about wintertime in the office is that the afternoon sun presents itself directly through my south-facing window, so I have to close the blinds from 2:30 till sunset. And every day I think, ruefully, "This is the little bit of sunlight I have to hang on to, and here I am shutting it away again."

I'm not sure to what extent anyone wonders about what my day-to-day work life looks like, but you can figure that until about March it will look mostly like this. Although mostly I'm concentrating on page proofs and not the ambiance, and we won't have sad balloons any more.

Oh, the cold months of the year! Love 'em.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Steelers 30, Fish Mammals 24; Steelers out of Playoffs

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang
But what the hell
I still can't believe they lost to the Browns.

-- T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year!

2010! It never bothered me that 2000 was popularly seized on as the start of the new millennium, but somehow I'm a little bugged that everyone is taking this new year as the start of a fresh decade. Maybe because the aughties, geopolitically speaking, have been a crummy set of years -- there's still one more left to turn things around, people! Nonetheless, with the year 2000 acting so long as a universal signpost for things yet to come, 2000-plus-a-decade feels pretty far out there to me. It's the future! It's beyond the future. We're in the later, less visionary sequel to the future, starring Roy Scheider and John Lithgow.

Like Jack, I'll turn 30 this year and also like him I'll save any decade-in-review reckoning for the milestone birthday. But Kyle and I ran out 2009 comfortably -- Indian food at East India Company followed by Pink Martini's later of two sets at the Schnitz -- and personally I'd say the years since 2000, encompassing almost my entire adult life, have been good ones. I wish everybody a happy 2010, whether you choose to take it as the intro to the next ten-year grouping or not...