October 1, 2004
My friend Julien turned me on to this website by The Hound. It features radio show highlights from one of WFMU's most interesting DJs. The mp3s are literally recorded from the radio show (often with lead ins) so most are not worth saving for your ipod, but there are some top notch tracks here...
Example of how pregnant ladies use their condition like a mallet:
Jenn: Let's go into town and get a laundry hamper.
me: Let's order online so we don't have to carry it on the subway.
Jenn: No we need it.
me: But I don't want to carry it all the way here in the rain... if we order now, it will be here by Monday.
Jenn: I want to get one today. I'll carry it if you don't want to... but then everyone who sees us together will start booing you. "Boo on the husband making his wife carry the heavy package. Fie, fie on the husband. Boo. Bad man." (pause) So let's go.
October 2, 2004
In the great pantheon of annoyance, lathering up to shave with a 3 week beard and not having a razor is certainly just a minor cubbyhole. But lathering up, not having a razor, unlathering, discovering you actually do have a razor, relathering, and accidentally knocking your one razor in the toilet... that has to merit a broom closet at least.
I hung about 50 paintings today. The house is starting to feel like home.
We are 2 months from the expected due date and have lots of baby stuff already. Stroller. Crib. Too many clothes. I was looking at the stroller sitting empty in the hall this morning and was haunted by Hemingway's shortest story: "Baby shoes. Never worn. For sale."
October 3, 2004
Roger Ebert called Undertow (by David Gordon Green) a masterpiece. Ebert's getting soft I think. We just saw the film at the New York Film Festival. I found it badly miscast (is Dermot Mulroney always the kiss of death?), but watchable with a few nice moments. Despite being muddled, it feels original with a deep sense of place an a feel for a region rarely seen except as parody or caricature on screen.
Jenn gave it a 3 out of 10 (I think she was overly negative because of the cheesy Philip Glass score and the looking-back-to-the-70's freeze frames which she didn't get). The problem I think is that David Gordon Green was overpraised for George Washington (which was a beautiful little film), was quickly a declared genius, and was allowed to run free without adult supervision. Now everyone expects each of his films to be some sort of revelation. A tall order for anyone. The result in this case is a minor southern gothic mess that most audiences won't put up with, but that critics will praise because because of it dares to aspire to that great tradition of auteur filmmaking almost gone from the American scene.
We walked over the bridge today... I got Jenn to do one of the silly jumping pictures we like to do. This is Jenn landing:
October 3, 2004
I'm hanging our retablo/ex-voto collection in the bedroom. After years of flack for mixing antlers and retablos, I take it as a minor victory that Jenn walked in, studied the wall and said, "Needs horns."
October 5, 2004
At the Film Festival we saw Danielle Arbid's In the Battlefields. This film exemplifies what the NY Film festival is all about--a showcase of brutal honest filmmaking by a first time director from a country most people in the US know little about. The movie is an autobiographical coming of age tale of a young girl struggling with her disintegrating family in wartime Beirut. The story is told almost without sentiment from a completely interior/personal point of view. While it will probably not get distribution in the US, if you see it listed at upcoming festivals, try to catch it.
Ms. Arbid spoke afterwards. Jenn and I both noted she seemed super cool. The type of person you'd like to meet for dinner, drinks, and a long discussion about life...
We like riding in empty subway cars at night:
October 5, 2004
Trials and travails of getting phone, cable, & DSL in this house. This is uninteresting, but I want it recorded if only to refer back to it.
We set up phone service.
We move in, there is no dial tone. We call via cell phone to get Verizon to fix the problem. I order Directv. directv says the guy will arrive in 2 days to do the install.
The phone people come, do their thing, leave. Only one jack out of 20 in the house works. It's in the most inconvenient corner of the house on the top floor. DSL works. Voicemail works. I call about the other jacks. Apparently the townhouse is listed by floor. They suggest canceling the phone or floor 4and moving it to floor 3. They say DSL will continue to work, voicemail and everything else will just be transferred. It will happen by morning.
Day 12: In the morning the other jacks do not work. We start getting our neighbor Kate's calls. Kates calls are also ringing in her house. This is confusing. Voicemail has been canceled. DSL has been canceled. The directv people never show up. I call Verizon, but it's too late to place a new repair order.
Day 13: I call directv and tell them their guys never showed up. They claim I never put in an order. I make a new order. They tell me the guys will show up in 3 days. I place a repair order with Verizon.
Day 14: Verizon shows up and physically wires all the lines from upstairs and downstairs together in a box. We have phones that ring to our number! Voicemail does not work. DSL does not work. We are told DSL will be available in 10 days. No way to expedite the order.
Day 15: We call about voicemail and are told it will work in the morning.
Day 16: Voicemail still does not work. We call again and are told it was shut off, but it would work in the morning.
Day 17: Voicemail still does not work. The directv guys show up. Install everything. But it doesn't work. Directv claims I have a bad card and that it will take 2-7 days to get a new one (what kind of spread is 2 to 7 days?). We call Verizon again and are told in will work in 2 hours. I am told to "hold my horses".
Day 17 (two hours later): The voicemail still doesn't work. I call again and a nice woman named Mrs. Petroski says she will personally fix my voicemail. She says she'll call back at 2:00.
Day 17: 2:30, Mrs. Petroski calls, the voicemail is fixed!
Status: waiting on DSL, waiting for directv
October 5, 2004
We just returned from a party (which was preceded by a book reading) for David Gilbert celebrating the release of his new book The Normals. The reading went well (funny and interesting) and then we walked a few blocks to the party. It was a lively crowd (all Kerry supporters) of architects, designers, and book people. Unlike parties in LA there was not a single discussion of diets, grosses, or celebrities. Jenn said that when everyone broke from the party to watch the debate in the back bedroom she knew she was home. This crowd was 100% Kerry. Maybe these are the French wine drinking New York intellectuals Bush is always talking about.
October 6, 2004
I'm doing my taxes today. Need I say more?
October 8, 2004
10 days ago Verizon told me my DSL was scheduled to be turned on today. Today they told me it would be 10 days from now. They claim there is a problem with the line or alternately that the line isn't provisioned. What is especially annoying is that DSL was working before and there was no problem on the line. The only thing that happened is that the main office tried to do something called a move order to move the service from one jack to the other jack (move orders are normally done when someone moves from one house to another house) and then cancelled the move order when it didn't work, but the DSL people never heard about cancellation and so it's still listed as a move order on the DSL side. My guess is that because it's still the same number and the same address the computer is confused and keeps delaying the order (who would move to the same address). This is exactly what happened with our voicemail (which only got fixed when we managed to get someone who actually cared about our dilemma on the line). But the DSL tech people are not trained to deal with these kind of situations so they just hand me off to something called the move department and the move department (seemingly staffed by people who don't know how to deal with anything out of the ordinary) hands me back to the tech people. The absolute unwillingness of people in those departments to do anything to get you out of this morass or even to clearly explain the problem is maddening.
I'm going to let it go ten days more then I cancel the order and go with another company. This is a perfect example of how companies lose customer good will. I, the customer, am stuck in a situation where nobody seems to know exactly what problem is, in which there is no escalation path so that a supervisor can actually get into the account to understand the big picture, and where the problem seems to get worse with every attempt to fix it. I'm starting to associate Verizon with incompetence and will definitely switch companies if I can. All this is in marked contrast to SBC the monolithic phone company on the other coast. When there was a problem over there I was always able to go up the chain until I got to someone who actually understood the problem and could solve it or at least give me an accurate timetable. In addition to losing me as a customer they are also losing hours and hours of time for all the calls back and forth while people dither.
October 8, 2004
I had a haircut and a shave today from my Uzbek barber Ellis, who I've been visiting off and on for 15 years. (he's on 2nd and 69th)
Getting shaves in barber shops is one of those arcane pleasures almost forgotten by the modern man. In the hands of an skilled barber with a sharp blade, the right tonics and hot towels, you barely feel a thing... and your face will be light years smoother than a do-it-yourself job. It's also pretty darned relaxing.
When I travel I find on-the-road shave to always be highlights of the trips.
For example in Amritsar I had an expert shave and haircut from a Sihk (Mr. Singh of course) in a shop simply titled "The Good Barber". Mr. Singh wrapped my face with hot towels soaked in boiling water and mint leaves. He not only cut my beard with a blade, but also cleaned up eyebrows, stray ear hairs and such. At the end of the shave he demonstrated his mastery of the blade by running it over my closed eyelid while chuckling. The irony of a Sihk in his profession was lost on him.
Not all experiences were good. In Siem Reap back in the early 90's I showed up at a barber shop much to the surprise of the locals who had, I think, rarely seen a foreigner close up. When I made it clear that I wanted my beard removed, a small panic went through the place. Eventually a trembling girl was brought in with a bar of soap and rusty looking old blade. I was terrified, the girl shaving me was terrified (sweating bullets), but felt obligated to stay. I think I made it through 2 swipes of the blade each of which drew blood, before I bolted out.
But the good experiences make up for the bad. In Danang visiting a barbershop meant sitting in a chair and being attended by no less than 6 woman. One each to wash and massage my feet. Another pair to massage my hands and arms and one to clean my ears (she used long sticks and wore a miner's helmet). A final one did the actual haircutting. I was in such bliss that the fact that my hair was being dyed dark went unnoticed until I was lifted up and shown a mirror. For about 2 weeks I went from being, raul to Raul! with jet black hair. Sort of changed my personality.
Today's shave was not nearly so memorable. Ellis and the woman who helps him with him hummed along to a Russian video playing on the TV as I was shorn. I left fresh as an apple.
October 10, 2004
Tonight, two satisfying films:
We just returned from Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers which is loads of fun despite a muddled ending. It's a better movie than Hero and should be a bigger hit. Zhang Ziyi was lovely as usual although she showed up before to greet the audience before the film in a cheesy bridge and tunnel outfit (once the movie started rolling it took a few minutes to mentally erase the tight pants and midriff... come to think of it I shouldn't use the bridge and tunnel pejorative since now we're part of that crowd!). Flying Daggers has several great set pieces one the one in the forest is pure giddy action sure to set the bar for quite a quile... I'm sure it is only a matter of time before we see half baked imitations this scene American movies. I should note Jenn hated the film deeming it cheesy... but she was also sleepy and not feeling well.
Ultimately more satisfying was the first movie we saw, a Korean film Woman is the Future of Man by Hong Sangsoo. This film felt revelatory both for it's frank sexual themes and portrayal of Korean urban life. The story is simple. Two old friends meet in a restaurant and begin remembering the intense relationships each of them had with the same woman. They seek the woman out to see what's happened to her (and perhaps searching for closure)... Of course they find her and of course things quickly get even more confused. The filmmaking is top notch, funny and melancholy, and reminded me at various times of Kieslowski and Antonioni... but really it was it's own thing. The soft spoken filmmaker was verbally attacked by several audience members afterwards. In general they thought the film was sexist. One girl said she wanted to "kill the director". I think the people speaking were confusing the culture the film portrays with the filmmaker himself. If anything the film was not reveling in sexist attitudes, but was showing how alienating and shallow certain aspects of male behavior can be and using that behavior to illuminate larger truths...
October 11, 2004
...we are getting set up.
It took us one week to get to about 70% moved in.
It has taken us another 2 weeks to get to about 85%.
Every room is messy, but semi-functional.
Those last boxes are always the killers.
Spectacular fall weather. Makes you feel good to be alive.
October 12, 2004
Here's a blog from a guy who headed
west. Way way west.
Mrs. Wiggens at Verizon is my DSL heroine. She patiently listened to my DSL issues, went in, expedited and expertly fixed them. If I had her address, I'd send her flowers. Mrs. Wiggens wherever you are I love you.
October 13, 2004
Overheard diner conversation between an older Russian man with a pinkie ring & a bad suit and a young Latina with an overly fluffy sweater & big Japanese looking shoes.
girl: It's only money.
man: Money. Why do we always talk about this? Six thousand.
girl: We won't have to talk about it if you write the check.
Silence for a minute or two
man: I write check and we don't talk about these things.
girl: Write it now.
man: Six thousand.
girl: Seven thousand five hundred.
Silence. She slurps her drink.
man (quietly): ok
He pulls a check from his wallet and makes it out. The girl inspects it. Folds it carefully and puts it in a wallet in her purse.
girl: Let's go.
They leave holding hands.
I saw the last of my film festival movies tonight - The World, by Jia Zhangke. Jenn was movied out so I went alone. She missed out. Thumbs up on this one. If you love Beijing, this film is for you. Set in a huge amusement park featuring "architecture of the world" including a large scale Eiffel Tower, World Trade Center and pyramids it follows a love affair between two young immigrant workers. Zhangke has a light touch he tells a lyrical sad story but always with good humor. It's one of the first films I've seen set in modern Beijing that shows the city the way I experienced it. I enjoyed the slow poetic rhythms of the film and feel it will stick with me for some time. The afterglow of the picture made the late night subway home feel moody and cinematic. The Donald Byrd and Screamin' Jay Hawkins on the iPod only increased the mood.
October 14, 2004
Not much to report today. It's rainy and I'm swamped with work. My office is in the attic. It's a bit mad scientist up here, but the rain is nice and I like the old skull and crossbones someone painted on the wall as well as all the scores of names scratched onto the walls over the last 160 years. I'd prefer a window to the skylight, but the skylight allows me to escape up onto the roof where I can just see Statue of Liberty beyond the rooftops and chimneys.
Here are some links to keep you busy:
Mr. Cartoon has a cool site (great navigation bar).
I love bad architecture.
We've been getting into letterpress printing. The Five Roses site has been an invaluble resource.
Abandoned places' navigation is a bit obtuse but there are some nice images there.
The Yossi Milo gallery always seems to showcase interesting photographers. Today the work of Alessandra Sanguinetti caught my eye. In the past they've shown Loretta Lux and Paul D'Amato. I've got to get myself up to 24th street for a visit.
This issue of Colors is fantastic (and particularly interesting for me, a collector of 3rd world studio portraits). I just killed 20 minutes studying this issue after unpacking it in a box full of interesting stuff. What do do with old magazines like this that you don't want to throw out despite your lack of space?
October 18, 2004
I've been a bit busy and haven't posted in a few days. My head has been overstuffed. Partially I blame it on the unpacking or lack of unpacking. Unless my stuff is organized I feel disorganized. It's my touch of OCD.
We're looking for vintage steel barrister bookcases. Does anyone have ideas on where to find them locally? I know they can be found in Los Angeles at Sonrisa (for too much money). Here in NY Bergen's normally is a good source, but right now they are out. Any more ideas?
In looking for these I've once again discovered the value of local Google.
Dogs at the butchers.
This painting by my friend Thorina Rose scares Jenn.
My masks also scare Jenn (hence their exile in my office).
We've started to put the baby room together.
October 18, 2004
I just watched several Tivoed copies of The Wire. Is it just me or is this season a bit weaker than last season? I continue to think it's one of the strongest shows on television and still love the characters, but the hook just isn't there for me... at least not yet.
Of note around the web:
If you know what RSS is, you'll find this article interesting. If you've never heard of RSS, don't bother.
A new version of Windowshade (which I swear by) is out. Too bad it doesn't include minimized windows in Expose. I've been waiting for this feature for months....
Kayak.com is a new meta-search travel site. It gathers info from many other travel sites in one convient, ad-free, window. Clean friendly design. Let's hope it stays ad-free. I prefer the HTML version of the site to the Flash version. Why even bother with flash these days?
The Tamil government says that the bandit Veerappan is has been killed. I've been following Veerappan's exploits for years. The man had one hell of a mustache.
If you are fascinated by la lucha libre, Mexican gangs, and punk rock you should check out Locas: A Love and Rockets Book a collection of work by Jaime Hernandez.
David Hillard is a photographer with a good eye. He uses a technique I like to use myself (taking photos at intervals and then putting the images next to each other to capture a sense of time).
October 20, 2004
My desk is still cluttered, but this will end soon. In two days I vow my office will be organized.
My Directv audio/video keep falling out of sync. Especially annoying when tivoing.
I have to stop pulling all nighters. They leave me feeling miserable.
Nikon D70 owners, I highly recommend you use a card reader as opposed to using the default USB cable. If you use the default USB cable the camera battery drains quickly. If you use a card reader (I found one by eFilm for about $15 online), the battery can last up to several weeks on one charge.
I like this new keychain device that turns off airport and restaurant TVs.
Brooklynites might be interested in this story of some folks canoeing the Gowanus Canal (brave souls).
These blogs/sites have caught my eye recently:
October 22, 2004
A long time ago Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom did a show on sea cucumbers. I remember Marlon Perkins saying there are more of them then there are of us, and that they move across the ocean floor in herds scavenging for fish leftovers falling from above. Sometimes on quiet nights I'll lie awake and think of them moving like silent buffalo across the ocean plains always on the lookout for their enemies the sea turtles and, in their quiet moments, wondering about the world beyond.
October 23, 2004
October 24, 2004
October 25, 2004
Sometimes when I encounter childhood friends I have not seen in almost 20 years there is a subtle instinctual reaction of recoil and sadness before the hellos and hugs. We look at each other's faces trying to push away the years and see the person that was. Perhaps the sadness comes from seeing our own aging reflected or perhaps it comes from all that we have missed from each other's lives and of friendship unraveled. Voices don't change much though. Speaking bridges the gap and helps bring us back. A familiar laugh can do much to ease the divide.
I ran into a friend this morning. She was shopping with her 17 year old daughter who was born when her mom was 19. The daughter looked more like my memory of the mother than the mother did and I had to stop myself from staring. When the daughter waved goodbye she sparked the memory of the last time I had seen the mom... it was a late night high school graduation party out near Zed Creek. She was holding court on a diving board above a pool full of revelers and caught me slipping out the back gate. She alone noticed my exit, smiled, and waved for me to come back... Although I wanted to, I acted like I hadn't seen her, turned my back, and walked into the darkness. I remember the stars above the pines that night. I remember standing out by my truck looking back on the scene and I remember the Earnest Tubb on the radio as I drove away down the gravel road.
That whole complicated humid evening of June 85 came back to me complete in the moment of the daughter's wave... but of course I said nothing, waved back to mother and daughter, and continued on.
October 25, 2004
In Lufkin they call Mr. Maldonado good people.
This place features fresh squeezed grapefruit poured over ice shaved from a big block--so good it will make you forget your name.
A girl I liked in the 7th grade used to live here.
October 27, 2004
New York not being a swing state, there are virtually no presidential politcal commercials playing (there were none in Texas either)... if you want to see some nice Kerry ads check out Errol Morris' site.
I can't get enough of gizmodo.
John Peel was a minor deity to me. I discovered his radio shows on my little grundig shortwave while trekking from Kulu Manali to Leh in Ladakh.
Peel's punk flavored shows were a blast of fresh air in the musical detritus that dominated the airwaves. It was a 40 day trek and nobody spoke English so I relied on that radio quite a bit. I would count the days between shows and even stopped sort of an 18,000 foot pass in the snow to listen in. I've been listening ever since, first on shortwave and later on the web. Dead of a heart attack in Peru. He was the coolest 60-something around. The man will be missed.
October 28, 2004
When I was in Texas I passed the time by going through old family pictures. The photos are well worn and familiar from years of browsing. On this trip I also picked up boxes of Kodachrome slides and have begun scanning them. Looking at the slides on my nice 23 inch monitor (as opposed to holding them up to a light bulb and squinting) has taken me down several interesting personal culdasacs... half remembered family trips, photos of long gone great aunts, and so on...
These were the first 2 slides out of hundreds scanned this morning...
This is my mom pregnant with my little brother. April 1970.
Puerto Vallarta. August 1974. I'm the dork with the hat.
October 29, 2004
I know it's normal for parents to dress their kids in ridiculous outfits... all part of the scarring process. We intend to dress our daughter in little chick suits for example. But some of my childhood clothes were particularly bad.
Here I am as Little Lord Fauntleroy:
(the socks really make the outfit)
And here I am with a bonnet!
And this is my star trek outfit:
I'm sure it was cute at the time, but it seems almost cruel now.
October 30, 2004
Tonight's fog reminded of another foggy day two and a half years ago on another part of the globe.
I was on the road, near Langmusi saying with some yak herders who had invited me to their homegod ceremony. The ceremony is simple. Everyone walks up to the peak of the highest nearby mountain, throws prayers in the air, shouts for joy, and goes home. I thought I might get some good photos.
The day began clear enough. We walked into the city to the temple to gather some printed prayers, but as we headed up the mountain the fog got thicker and thicker until someone had me hold onto a horse's tail for fear of losing me on the mountain. Horses walk faster than men. I don't think I've ever been more out of breath in my life, but I kept going for fear of being stranded. The ceremony was done in a thick pea soup and photography was virtually impossible but I managed to get a few ghostly long exposure images. Of course virtually the minute the ceremony was over, the fog cleared...
Anyway that's what I was thinking about as I drove with friends across the Manhattan Bridge, belly full of Chinese food, not able to see the city below...
October 31, 2004