November 9, 2004

After my haircut post. I received this bit of odd bit of SPAM:

You too can have gorgeous hair.





Hair that other men envy and women can't resist. You will be a Samson and your Delilahs will come flocking.

If you want the best man hair buy....


November 9, 2004

To my European friends who look at our red/blue electoral maps on CNN and think we are all right wing rednecks, I offer this graphic by Jeff Culver at the University of Washington. It shows a US map proportional to it's electoral votes (and hence roughly proportional to population) and shaded by the intensity of the vote. This election was awfully close, in most places that matter... a landslide only in the eyes of someone who lost the popular vote last time and then declared victory.

This page by some folks at the University of Michigan offers a few more interesting cartograms.

Robert Vanderbei of Princeton also has some informative election maps.

Speaking of Princeton. This was the scene November 1986, 18! years ago:

Tom Wolfe's Hair

November 8, 2004

Ellis, the Uzbek, cut my hair again this morning. Apropos of nothing he asked, "Could you get me Mr. Tom Wolfe's phone number?"

"The writer?" I replied.

"Yes. The writer. I cut his hair for 30 years. Then he stops visiting. For three years nothing. Nothing! I thought he was my friend. I want to call and see if something is wrong."

Mr. Wolfe, if you are out there, stop by. Ellis misses hanging out.


November 6, 2004

I generally steer clear of images of sunsets, fall foliage, or kittens (cats are evil), but sitting on the roof tonight watching the sun go down behind the statue of liberty was awfully nice.

Local Color

November 6, 2004

Jenn and I have been debating the feasability of travelling with the baby during it's first year. My theory: while the baby is breastfeeding, travelling is relatively easy. Strange food is not an issue. The kid is still relatively light and emotionally undemanding. & The baby will open up all sorts of dialog with the locals. Jenn's theory: I'm crazy.

Feeling woozy

November 5, 2004

Because of the previous post, I've received a couple of emails today asking me about traveling around Amdo... I keep going back to this area and over the years things have gotten progressively easier, but one thing hasn't's still basically many many hours in buses...

...but busses are cool because when you arrive someplace you always get invited in for tea:

If you want more detail I refer you to an old series of travelogue emails I originally sent to a Sino-centric travel list run by Peter Neville-Hadley. You can join the travel list by sending an email to this address.

Nothing much to report from Brooklyn. I have a cold. It's raining. I'm swamped with work and annoyed that I'm sick three weeks before Jenn is due (it could be any day now).

Demon Chasing Festival

November 3, 2004

As I've been in scanning mode all week I've finally been looking at hundreds of images I took two years ago when visiting a Demon Chasing Festival in Amdo (they've been sitting in boxes the whole time). It's funny how certain images stand out. These two were right next to each other on a roll of Kodachrome taken as I was waiting for the festival to begin.


November 3, 2004

We stayed up late last night watching returns and now we're both to depressed to blink. My friend Kevin wrote a letter from Europe that sums it up neatly.

At least our house is coming along and we have a nice place to mope.

Election Day

November 2, 2004

This election is making me super nervous. I need it to be tomorrow.
This is a cool map.

Manhattan Bridge

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...

Kodachrome Part II

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 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 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.

Last day home

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.

Mothers and daughters

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.

Sea Cucumbers

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 20, 2004

My desk is still cluttered, but this will end soon. In two days I vow my office will be organized.

A couple of years in and I still enjoy the Mirror Project. I've posted a bunch of stuff on there over time.

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.

Three random songs recorded from old records playing at this location at around 4:30am: Karl Denver, David Kaonohi, Lydia Mendoza.

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:

The Wire

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.... 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).

Barrister Bookshelves

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.

Rainy Day

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?

The World

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.

in the other direction

October 12, 2004

Here's a blog from a guy who headed
. 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.

Slowly slowly...

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.


More Festival Updates

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...

Close Shave

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.


More Verizon DSL Frustrations

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.


tax hell

October 6, 2004

I'm doing my taxes today. Need I say more?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50
« Previous Post (Notes for college interviewees i.e. How to prepare for your college interview.)