Monday, October 31, 2005

Apple Workshops

The Apple Store in Soho has daily workshops for a host of Mac applications. Jim and I went there this past Saturday afternoon for the iLife series and found it to be more of a thorough demonstration of all of the softwares' features than a hands-on workshop. Some people had laptops and were playing along, except for one Moby-looking guy in front of us who was doing an elaborate sketch of the iLife interface on a legal pad, and another shaved-head guy who was jumping ahead and creating some kind of death metal video in iMovie.

As it turns out, thorough demonstrations, even of software you've been using for a while, are not a waste of time. I usually teach myself a new program by doing a project that involves that program. The problem with that is, even the most complex project will leave out the use of some of the features...even the most basic ones. So I'll know how to scan and clean up something in Photoshop like an expert, but end up the first day on a new job trying not to let my new employers know that I don't know what the heck the little lasso doohickey with the magnet is supposed to do.

So I learned some exciting tips and tricks that have nothing to do with the video I'm currently digitizing, but will come in handy with future projects I wish I were doing instead right now.

The woman to my left, who looked like Dieter from Sprockets, kept clutching my arm and exclaiming"Waaanderful!" Jim, who had previously regarded Garageband as something that could have come from Emenee, was impressed and looked forward to going home to try out the new knowledge.

The Apple Store has a Genius Bar where you get an expert to help you with a Mac question or problem. We were mocking the title, "oh, Geeenius Bar" and rolling our eyes, and yet I thought, well, if I were hired for that job and I kept hearing "Yes, that woman is one of our geniuses, she'll help you." it would do wonders for my self-esteem. But then, I know myself well enough to realize that eight hours of customer service on my aching feet would turn me from a confident genius to the Evil Queen from Snow White.

As we left, I checked out the new 60 gig iPod and kootchy-kooed the cute little itty bitty Nano. It's very tempting, this new Nano, and the fact that it only holds 4 gigs doesn't faze me, since I tend to treat my iPod as some kind of glorified mix tape. But to a New Yorker who depends on the subways and is in the middle of crowds all week, the corollary to "You'll hardly even know you're carrying it" is "you'll hardly even know when it gets stolen."

We went to get something to eat. As recently as ten years ago, you could easily find a place in Soho to get a halfway decent burger or salad, nothing fancy. But for the past few years, Soho's turned into nothing but stratospherically-priced boutiques that ain't even that hip, combined with big box and chain stores. (Since when does L'Occitane have a salad bar...and what, pray tell, is in the dressing?) We plunked ourselves down at a little table in a pub, only to have the hostess rush over and say that there was a half-hour wait. She pointed to a knot of people at the bar; there had been no "Please Wait To Be Seated" sign where we came in.

We ended up hiking the few blocks north to the Village, where we grabbed a Footlong at Subway and trundled home. So if you're going to check out the Apple Store and need some sustenance, your best bet is to go either north of Houston to the Village, or east of Broadway to Nolita. That's a neighborhood that used to just be NOrth of LIttle ITAly, and is now getting as trendy as Soho.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

"Send Me A Tape"

Humor columnist James Lileks is promoting his new book, and is preparing to make the rounds of the TV talk shows. Today he describes the trials and tribulations of putting together a clip reel:

They really want to know two things: are you affected with noticeable gargoylism, and can you talk while cameras stalk you like giant monocular predators?

So once you know what your purpose is, it's easier pinpoint your problem and find a solution:

I found a way to get around the whole no-clip problem: I said I had clips, and here they are, and then I spliced in a 50s Civilian Defense film about biological warfare. After 15 seconds of that I admitted I had bupkis, and went on to explain that all my clips are old and irrelevant. But let me tell you more about the book, and show how I can talk about it! If nothing else they’ll know when to turn it off, since I added subtitles halfway through that said “I just go on and on after this; blah blah, have me on your show. Rather sad. You can eject now.”

Now, I could talk about how this reminds me of the Saga of Getting a Good Tape when I was doing stand-up in the '80s. About how comedians would sit at the bar, or in the diner, and exchange tales of "what the bookers wanted in a tape" that were usually as colorfully off-base as our concept of what somebody wanted in a romantic relationship--which was a good clue as to why we all had too much time to sit in a diner.

"They want a prop comic, but a monologist, who can work clean, yet blue, and who's intelligent, yet stupid...oh, and they don't like women."

And I could talk about my various escapades and debacles in obtaining said tape back when the technology wasn't easily available to everybody. You'd either have a friend, spouse or another comic shoot you with a hand-held video camera, which back then was the size of a Pontiac and always gave you that shaky Video Verite look that said, "My friend is taping me with a home video camera on Open Mike Night."

Or you would go the professional route and book one of the few professional videographers who specialized in taping comics at comedy clubs, and pay to have that person come in and set up at the next decent gig you had in town...or pay their transportation to the next decent gig you had out-of-town. Once you did this, one of the following was guaranteed to occur:

Considering the perils involved in the enterprise, it's amazing any of us got booked at all. Or that any of us ever wised up to the fact that most often, a booker said "Send me a tape" as a stalling mechanism to put off rejecting you until they saw whether or not somebody else would give you the seal of approval, because none of them wanted to be responsible for turning down the next Eddie Murphy or Robin Williams.

Fortunately, sooner or later, we'd get sick and tired of trying to follow all of the "shoulds" and sources of misguided wisdom that were killing off anything that made us funny to begin with and say "What have I got to lose." And that's when good stuff would happen.

So, I could talk about all this, but I'm swamped, so I'll do the cop-out thing and say go read Lileks, there's always something that gives me a laugh there.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Extra Innings

Sleepy. I went to sleep last night as the Astros and the Sox were beginning their tenth inning.

My pesky sciatica kept waking me up; I've got to force myself to leave my cubicle for a good walk at regular intervals.

My husband, who had been forcing himself to stay awake through the first nine, kept watching. So every time I woke up, he gave me a recap:

"Eleventh inning."

Half-hour later:

" 'welfinnin'."

Some time later:


I gathered that the last was some reference to the Sox winning, because when I turned on NY1 this morning, the Sox needed one more game to sweep the Series. Yep, I thought to myself, they really are our surrogate Yankees this year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

iPod Cooties

Lately, I've been getting less and less time from every recharging of my iPod's battery. I've done all the things they tell you to do: Used the Hold key, avoided using the Backlight, waited patiently for less desirable tracks to play out rather than overuse my Fast Forward. But I've had this iPod for two years, and the batteries never last as long as they're supposed to. And of course, they're not covered by my Apple Care policy.

I found a site that will sell you a battery along with a little tool kit so that you can change it yourself. This is guaranteed to result in a bunch of non-user-serviceable pieces that will get shoved into a drawer for the next ten years.

Apple will do it themselves if you send them your iPod and a check for sixty-five bucks. But what they will do is replace your iPod with another iPod. And they don't even make the ten gig iPod anymore, so what I will get back is a refurbished iPod, and not even my own, with my fingerprints and memories all over it. I'll get back somebody else's iPod that they had put their songs on. Even though the hard drive will be erased and their songs will no longer be on it, I'll feel like I'm getting somebody else's cooties.

It's like when you take your coat out of the closet at work or at a party, and you've got one of those coats that everybody has, like a peacoat or a black trench coat, and you put your coat on but it's not your coat. It's a coat that looks exactly like yours, but the pockets have been shaped a little differently from somebody else's hands, and somebody else's stuff is in the pockets. You want your own coat back, even if the one you took by mistake is in better shape.

Windy State

I spoke to some relatives in Broward County, Florida last night. They're in Hallandale, just west of the evacuation zone. Their power went off at 7:20 yesterday morning, and the worst of Hurricane Wilma hit from about 8 to 10. It tore through like a buzz saw, ripping out a big tree in the backyard.

Fortunately, they live in a row of town houses in a development built in the early 80's, so they had the houses on either side of them for protection. But the trailer park behind them, a relic of an earlier, ungentrified age, got totaled. Sides got sheared off the trailers as if they were sardine cans.

In the middle of all of this, the dog needed to go outside. They couldn't just let her out into the backyard, since the falling tree and the storm had torn down power lines. And although they're on a hill and didn't get flooded, the backyard was still full of puddles. So the house had no electricity, but the ground in the backyard would have turned the dog into a crispy critter. So the only way to handle the walking thing was to go just outside the front door and put her down long enough to do her business. And it's a little yippy yappy yahooey dog, so you put her on a leash during a hurricane and basically, you're flying the dog like a kite.

They're going to email me when the power goes back on. Meanwhile, the land lines and cell lines were working all right.

The effects of the storm hit here in New York last night, and the wind that turned my umbrella inside out this morning had a hint of the ocean in its smell. I pulled the hood of my raincoat over my head and I felt like the French Lieutenant's Woman. Or a Hobbit.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Retro Metro

Went up to the Rockefeller Center area on Saturday to get my hair cut and colored. I wussed out on "getting it cut short and letting the white show like Joan Baez." Maybe next year.

Afterward, I went browsing in H&M, which seems to be on a 1940's kick lately. A lot of tweed suits with flaring trumpet skirts, jackets nipped in at the waist with big fake fur collars. The last time this era was in, was back in my teen years. My friends and I would go to our jobs in the Mall dressed like film noir sirens.

Those of us who subscribe to the kind of minimalist lifestyle preached by sites like Apartment Therapy usually don't go in for costumes and fads. We get a handful of stuff you can wear all the time and just shed the wool layer during the Summer. But H&M looked like fun and I had a couple of hours free, so I grabbed a bunch of mix and match pieces and waited for the fitting room.

When I looked at myself in the mirror, I realized why adults had grimaced and said, "You're young; you can get away with anything." I looked like I was in a community theater production of "Wonderful Town." Back I rushed to the shelter of minimalism.

On the Fifth Avenue bus downtown, I passed Lord & Taylor's windows, which were showing a more subtle and refined version of that post-WWII "New Look" thing. It was part of a display showcasing the D.A. Pennebaker short film "Daybreak Express," which is showing continually on screens in the store's windows.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Match Point

Watch this movie trailer, here. (I got the link off Listen Missy.)

When you see the director's credit at the end, if you say, "You are so f*ckin' kidding!" then you're me.

The Letter From Radiology

"Can you read it for me? I can't look!"

"Let me put on my glasses."

"This is stupid. I should be able to take it. I can't look." Jim put on his glasses, and I lived the Last Seconds Before The News.

" 'Normal.' "

"Yippee!" And there was much rejoicing in The House of Clean Scans.


When I got to the subway station this morning, I noticed that the closer I got to the platform, the more it smelled like a mini-9/11. I took the iPod phones out of my ears long enough to hear a blaring announcement followed by a klaxon, and then firetrucks.

We were shuffled along from one platform to another before being evacuated from the station. There were choppers overhead and more sirens all over Sixth Avenue, where I waited twenty minutes for a bus that never showed up. So I called my office and told them I was going to be late, and then went over to Hudson to get the bus up Eighth. The streets I walked through were pretty, gray and quiet and it was drizzling a little, and I just decided to enjoy the detour and MOJO Magazine's free "I Love NY Punk" CD.

As I listened to the various tunes about heroin abuse, the Eighth Avenue bus passed dozens of streets that just a few years ago had nothing but abandoned warehouses and dilapidated factories and they've now been renovated into luxury condos. I remembered what New York City had been like in the late 70's, when I first got out of school and was first living on my own.

People had given up on New York, the president had told it to "Drop Dead," and there were a lot of neighborhoods that had abandoned warehouses and dilapidated factories, strewn with tetanus-inducing trash, hookers and drug addicts. Punk music reflected that New York.

The boss at my first day job treated me as if I were a hooker and a heroin addict just because I was a young girl who lived on my own. Not everybody did that then. There were a lot of repressed guys from Long Island at that job who thought that girls who lived on their own in New York were wild hippies and put out. Ha ha ha ha! Were they ever disappointed!

As I got to my office an hour later, I thought: Okay, so I'm a hundred now, but at least when I say I'm late because of a fire, people believe me, unless they have really severe paranoia. And the radiology place didn't "Red Flag" my mammogram, or I would have gotten a phone call by now. I'm going to have my lungs checked out to see if there's anything scary there from smoking or 9/11 or subway fires. Oh yeah, and my ears checked out from listening to punk and other loud musics.

All in all, great to be a hundred and respectable.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Fun game that's been making the rounds of blogs. I read about it on Ambivablog. You Google "[your name] needs" in quotes and then blog the results:

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Very Superstitious

I just made an appointment for a haircut for Saturday.

I was going to wait until I got the results of my mammogram, because when you're waiting for results on a test like that you figure, "Is this going to jinx it?" Like, what if they find something on the mammogram and I get chemotherapy and my hair falls out...why should I bother getting a haircut when my hair is going to all fall out?

But having been through the cancer experience by proxy with my husband--who just got a clear brain MRI today--I know that this is jumping the gun by several steps. Between "there is something abnormal on your test" and all your hair falling out from chemo are about half-a-dozen tests to confirm the cancer, and tests to see where else the cancer went, and then there's surgery and radiation.

So I went ahead and booked the haircut, because by the time all that other stuff would have time to happen, the haircut would grow out anyway.

If all is well and my hair stays on my head for the foreseeable future, I've considered not coloring it for a while and letting the white grow out a few inches, and then getting the colored part cut off. I wonder if I would look distinguished, or just washed out. Actually, I would probably look like either Susan Sontag or Pepe Le Pew.

Monday, October 17, 2005

"Across the Universe"

When I got out of the subway station this morning at 51st and Sixth, a bunch of people were standing around in 40's retro clothes. I then noticed that it was unnaturally bright, and a crane with a camera on it was swinging around, and then it dawned on my sleepy Monday morning brain: Oh, a movie.

I passed a couple of crew guys and asked, "What movie is this?" And they answered with an attitude that let me know I had probably been the 89th person to ask this in the last two minutes. "Across the Universe."

"Oh," I replied. "Nice costumes," and as I put my iPod phones back in my ears, the crew guys laughed, Haw Haw Haw. I wondered if I should be insulted or if I came off as some kind of fool. When I got to my office I Googled "Across the Universe movie" and got this:

A romantic musical told mainly through numerous Beatles songs performed by the characters. A young man from Liverpool comes to America during the Vietnam War to find his father. He winds up in Greenwich Village, where he falls in love with an American girl who has grown up sheltered in the suburbs. Together they experience the sweeping changes of America in the late 60's


I also saw this on Curbed:

Yesterday, we reported on the technicolor dreamcoat enveloping Rivington Street on the Lower East Side. We knew there was some sort of movie shoot going on, which accounts for the first urban renewal seen east of on Rivington Street since the city plan was laid out, but we didn't have the scoop.

Now, a reader tips us that the film is called Across the Universe, starring Rachel Wood, Eddie Izzard, and Bono. (Oh yes.) It's—brace yourself—a romantic musical featuring Beatles music, directed by Julie Taymor, which means it will be delightful to look at but ultimately incoherent. Naturally, we can hardly wait.

So, apparently my remark about the "nice costumes" garnered Haw Haw Haw's because this is some kind of glorified music video, and the retro costumes and colorful scenery are basically what it has going for it, and when people come out of the theater they're going to be saying, "Nice costumes."

Then again, it's Monday morning and I could easily be a fool.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Kitty Porn

Kitty Porn
Originally uploaded by brunobaby.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

New iPod Introduced

iLounge is blogging from Apple's "One More Thing..." event and they have pictures of the newest model iPod.

It plays videos and movies and has an extra wide screen that makes my current iPod look like my grandma's old Philco.

It also turns all your songs into Japanese.

Okay, only kidding about that one.

A couple of friends of ours have a cell phone that plays movies. They showed us a little Quicktime movie of their cat eating.

Yet another technological learning curve to master.

P.S.: Here's some more info on it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Extraordinarily Busy Lately

Getting slammed with quarterly reports at the job, and by night I've been digitizing and editing a bunch of videotapes.

At least, thank heavens, I won't be distracted by the Yankees anymore. You know your team is having a bad year when it's the eighth inning and you're saying "Put this thing out of its misery already so I can get on with my life."

Maybe by next Spring, they'll be building a new dynasty, and I will have mastery of my editing equipment.

Friday, October 07, 2005

I Accidentally Watched the Mayoral Debate Last Night

I was doing an analog-to-digital transfer of some videotape and the TV was set to NY1, so every time I hit "stop" to fast-forward or change tapes, there was the mayoral debate. We got caught up in it as it was going on, and then they repeated the broadcast again right afterward.

This debate has been the topic of controversy for the past few days because Bloomberg chose not to participate. Since he's financing his campaign himself, he's allowed to skip debates. He'll be at the other two debates closer to Election Day.

Bloomberg's absence had the effect of having the other two candidates continually rank on him, giving him more publicity than he would have had if he had attended. I wouldn't be surprised if this was why he skipped it. (Nothing would surprise me anymore, although fate should not take this is a challenge to have really bad things happen to me.)

The Democratic candidate, Ferrer, always seems to be swinging this melodramatic cloak of righteous indignation whenever he answers something. You wanna tell him, "Get off your high horse!" But he did bring up the subject of affordable housing...although I don't see anybody with an actual plan for this, of course, and it seems to be a national problem right now.

The Conservative candidate, Ognibene, has, what, two percent of the vote in polls? He criticized Bloomberg for not being a real Republican, just a Democrat who switched sides to win an election. He represents the Queens district in which I grew up, where they called me "The Liberal." I agreed with a couple of things he said: Yes, there is no good reason for ninth graders to go to school with handguns, and oh yeah, when you come to live here in New York from another country, learn to speak and understand English!

I'm totally serious about that second one. If you work in or own a store or are doing any kind of service job in which you have to speak or understand English and you don't, I am not obligated by the Lord to be a walking Berlitz course! Once I had to leave a message with, I kid you not, an answering service where the operator did not understand English. At the time I figured, "Oh, this will make a funny story for The Tonight Show," and I felt like I was in an old-timey sitcom with these horns behind me going, "Bwah-bwah-bwah-bwaahhhhh." Fortunately, this was not a life-or-death situation, or it wouldn't have been so funny.

I know I'm outing myself as politically incorrect over this, and it sounds like I want to whitewash everybody's multiculturalism and have everybody be little all-American WASP-y androids. But my family, when they came to this country, made it a point to learn to speak English, they still suck at it, but they knew it was their obligation as potential citizens. And they didn't become bland and whitewashed. They and people like them changed American culture and made it a little less white, so that one day Steve Allen could use the word "Smock."

Long-Stemmed Ashley

Long-Stemmed Ashley
Originally uploaded by brunobaby.
Ashley, Spring 2005

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Pyramid Scheme

Here's a site that's all about the "new" food pyramid. You enter your age, gender and level of physical activity, and it tells you how much food from each "stripe" of the pyramid you should eat every day.

Apparently, I'm supposed to limit my "solid fat and sugar" intake to 130 calories, which amounts to a bite of somebody else's danish.

I Don't Know How She Does It

Every day on my way to the subway, for months now, I've been passing this young woman who's been walking in the opposite direction. At first, during coat season, I had thought she had a broken arm with a cast hidden under her coat. But as the weather got hotter and people donned short-sleeved shirts, I noticed that her right arm is actually missing just below the elbow.

But here's the thing: Her hair and her make-up are impeccable, and her clothing is always neat and pressed.

Now, I've got two perfectly good hands and I go to work in the mornings looking like someone chased me out of bed in the middle of a nightmare.

It could be that this woman lives with a professional stylist, or that, unfortunately lacking a limb, she's somehow been gifted with perfect hair and a great complexion. But I can't help thinking about what my second grade teacher used to tell me: "You're just not making an effort."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Making Tracks

I had my iPod hooked up to the computer the other night, adding some tracks to its library. On impulse, I clicked on one of my 60's playlists so that it would play through the computer's speakers. Since it was a 60's playlist and not 80's synthpop, my husband was enjoying it and flipped the switch that connects the computer with the stereo system, so that the music would come out of the big speakers.

"It sounds compressed," he remarked.

"Of course it's compressed. It's made to be listened to on an iPod through earphones. Like when you upload a picture to the Web, you don't use a tiff, you use a jpg."

"But you lose the dynamics."

"Sure, you lose them if you're playing the iPod through room speakers. When you print out a jpg it looks all fuzzy. That's why the iPod sites tell you if you're going to a party and you're bringing the music, instead of bringing your discs you bring your iPod but you use aiffs instead of compressed files."

But then I thought, the tracks sound kinda compressed on the iPod when I play them through earphones/earbuds, too. They don't sound as deep and resonant as they did on my old mix tapes. And they're quieter: I have to push the sound up, especially when I'm in the subway station, and that eats the battery, which never lasts as long as it's supposed to anyway.

So then, since the unexamined life is not worth living, I asked myself, "Why do I have an iPod?" Well, 'cause 80% of the time when I listen to music, it's when I'm on the run, so I have to have something portable. Until two years ago, I was getting along perfectly fine on the Walkman/mix tape method. My first Walkman, which I purchased in 1987, lasted eight years. My next one lasted about five, and then came a succession of Walkpersons that would be trundled back to the store or back to SONY/Panasonic/whatever within months of purchase.

And my personal disc player is fine for the 20% of the time that I listen to music in one place. But when I had to run around with it, I found that no matter what the claims of "skip-proof," I had to carry the player flat in front of me as if I were playing a snare drum in a parade.

And so two years ago, I gave in and got a 10-gig second-generation iPod, and began to digitize whatever was in my collection that was not already digitized. And since I'm Old School when it comes to mixes, instead of compressing a bunch of tracks and then making a mix on the iPod through iTunes, I burn the playlist to a disc as aiffs and then compress the tracks for the iPod.

I consider the iPod to be like an envelope to carry the tunes in. Even when the mix is in progress on my computer's hard drive, or I've downloaded an AAC file from iTunes Music Store, I consider those tracks to be "in limbo." They aren't safe until they're burned onto a permanent round thing I can hold in my hand, just as I used to consider a vinyl LP to be the permanent way to keep my music in the old days.

The advantage of my iPod is that I now have the equivalent of over three dozen mix tapes on it and it's still only a little over half-full. It's less than half the size of my smallest Walkman without any mechanical parts to go wonky.

But I still tend to listen to the same dozen or so playlists on a regular basis, just like I used to grab one or two of the same dozen mix tapes on my way out the door every morning.

Given the way I personally use the thing, it would make sense to put the tracks on the iPod uncompressed. I'd be able to fit about a dozen discs on there at a time. If I wanted to replace some or all of those dozen, I wouldn't have to worry about backing them up--they'd already be backed up. It would take some advance planning, since I wouldn't have so many choices at my fingertips at all times, but I would get more enjoyment from the tracks that were on there.

There are a few things I would miss about having the sheer volume of tracks. The other day I was bored with my existing playlists and just decided to play all the songs in alphabetical order by artist. Since there are about 1500 songs on there now, there were some things I'd forgotten I'd put on there. Also, I had the artists listed first name first. So I would expect to hear the Animals and instead be treated to Al Green, the Alan Parsons Project and then Albert Hammond. (Eww, did I have to use so many tracks from the "Have A Nice Day" collection?)

I also like the little "Name That Tune" thing under "Games," but I missed half the clues this morning when the D train roared in.

It seems as if the iPod has been around forever, and I think having the same one for two years would probably lose you your citizenship in Japan. But the truth is that this technology is still relatively new. It may have been intended by its creators to be used in a particular way, but the technology is versatile and people are resourceful. There may not ultimately be a "right" and a "wrong" way to use it. . . except jumping into a swimming pool with it is probably very, very wrong.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

nyc bloggers map