Monday, August 29, 2005

Record Geek

I've been putting together some mix CD's and iPod playlists while I've been recuperating. So this article in this week's New Republic really hit home. It's about how the easy availability of even obscure rock tracks is making Rock Snobs, "usually young men, of argumentative tendencies who have lorded their encyclopedic musical knowledge over others," obsolete. You need a subscription to view the whole thing, but here's the money graf for me, about a girlfriend to whom the author gave an iPod:

She promptly plugged it into my computer and was soon holding in her hand a duplicate version of my 5,000-song library--a library that had taken some 20 years, thousands of dollars, and about as many hours to accumulate. She'd downloaded it all within five minutes. And, a few months later, she was gone, taking my intimate musical DNA with her.
This afternoon, I accidentally clicked on an arrow next to a Monkees' track in one of my playlists in iTunes and opened the Music Store. And this wasn't just your basic "Last Train to Clarksville" or "Daydream Believer," but one of those tracks left off the original albums back in the '60s and traded in bootlegs by Monkees geeks for decades.

My screen instantly listed every Monkees' track available for downloading, plus mixes involving a Monkees' track or two that other customers had put together under names like "Ah, the 60's" and "Guilty Pleasures." Most of these lists had over 100 songs. So anyone with the Internet and a credit card could click a button and within minutes they would acquire:

In short, a collection that took forty years to put together--and that I've mostly replaced myself with CD's, MP3's and AAC's over the past five years--could belong to somebody in the time it took them to get a cup of coffee.

So does this mean that all that time, effort and hard-earned money were for nothing? No, no more than Around The World in 80 Days is no longer literature. Those C-60's and C-90's, products of, "Oooh, if I give you a tape can you make me a copy?" have their own treasured history long after you've ceased being able to find a decent repair service for the equipment to play them on. The initials of a stranger in ballpoint on a piece of masking tape stuck to a 45 attest to the fact that somebody cared enough somewhere along the way, and then you inherited that care just long enough before passing it along to Bleeker Bob's to be cared for by somebody you'd never meet.

And eventually, these little digital files will take their place in the continuum with their own stories. The fact that the author of the article had enough of an idea to write an article and get paid for it and that I could get inspired by that article and write a blog post, is proof that those files have become part of the larger story already.

So off I go, to burn a few more digital cave paintings.

Friday, August 26, 2005

I'm Back

By the grace of God and Percoset, I have returned.

It's amazing what they can do these days. This used to be a surgery that kept you in the hospital for two weeks and then you'd have a big scar. I remember when I was a kid, LBJ said to reporters, "Wanna see my scar?" and then he showed them.

Now you're in the hospital for two days, and I have five bruises across my midsection, covered with this dressing derived from Krazy Glue. Rather than major surgery, it looks like I was in a minor auto accident.

I'm still looking for how to add Blogroll links in the Template provided by Blogger. So far I've figured out how to change the color of the little band on top. It's a start. Maybe after the painkillers wear off, I'll figure out the rest.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Blogrolling in Blogger

The Mighty Middle has added this blog to his Blogroll of Moderate Blogs. I'm honored.

And it's time for me to get a Blogroll going, too. The only problem is, I don't know where you enter this information in Blogger.

I figured by this point, after six months, I'd have a whole new homepage going and then just link the blog to it. But that's still on the back burner, so it's time I learned how to augment this Blogger page.

So, can anybody tell me how to add a Blogroll in Blogger? I'll be around all day, then tomorrow I'm at Mt. Sinai getting my gallblogger removed. I mean gallbladder.


Friday, August 19, 2005

The Kinkanator

Hey, I'd move to Austin if this guy got elected governor:

How do you explain the Moose's attraction to the Kinkster? From the New Yorker,

"Kinky, in his life and work, has always felt most comfortable as an outsider: a Jew in Texas, a Texan in New York, a reactionary in progressive circles, and a progressive in conservative circles. "Too smart for country, too country for the intelligentsia," as the journalist Larry Sloman -better known as Ratso, who in the mysteries plays Watson to Kinky's Sherlock- once put it."

Kitchen Confidential

I bought Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential after I read this:

A proper saute pan should cause serious head injury if brought down hard against someone's skull. If you have any doubts about which will dent--the victim's head or your pan--then throw the pan right in the trash.

I'd thought at first that this book was a cookbook, and when I realized it was the "Bad Boy Chef's" autobiography, I was disappointed but for a nanosecond.

I enjoyed Kitchen Confidential and could relate to it, even though my experience with restaurants has mostly been that of an eater. First, it's funny and reads almost cinematically: You can imagine Jack Black playing the crazed baker Adam Real-Last-Name-Unknown, wrestling with a huge fermenting machine while the Ramones blare in the background.

Second, in the chapter "A Day in the Life" where Bourdain gives a detailed description of what it takes to run the kitchen at Les Halles, he could be describing doing the production on an off-Broadway show or getting a periodical to print, both of which are familiar to me.

And third, he's about my age and made his bones in his chosen field at the same time that I was breaking into the wonderful world of fringe theaters, corporate temping and comedy clubs here in New York City: the Yuppified, coke-addled 1980's. In the chapter "Owner's Syndrome and Other Medical Anomalies," he tells us how four out of five restaurants fail, and the changes the owner makes as the business goes into its death throes:

He thrashes around in an escalating state of agitation, tinkering with concept, menu, various marketing schemes. As the end draws near, these ideas are replaced by more immediately practical ones: close on Sundays...cut back staff...shut down lunch. Naturally, as the operation becomes more schizophrenic--one week French, one week Italian--as the poor schmuck tries one thing after another like a rat trying to escape a burning building

What he doesn't mention is that one of the things the owners tried in the 1980's was "Open Mike Comedy Night." Buoyed--or rendered delusional--by talk of The Comedy Boom, one dive after another would announce an open mike night. It would take about a minute and a half for the news to get out to the hundreds of stand-up comics all over the city, and the following week the dive would be full!...of comics, who would never buy anything.

So then the open mike night would go through its own death throes: You have to buy two drinks to watch yourself perform, you have to bring two people. Then they would change the promoter (usually another comic getting ten percent of nothing). They'd do that a few times. Then you'd be at some other dive and you'd be telling your peers, "Oh yeah, I've got a spot at The Hungry Taco next week" and one of them would say, "It closed."

"You mean they're not having comedy anymore?"

"I mean the whole place closed."

"Oh. I didn't know they were doing so badly."

And then the conversation would have devolved into "I hear they were mobbed up" and other speculations on why these things tank, most of us as clueless about why the businesses failed as we were about our acts not hitting. We saw the beleaguered restaurant staff as our allies in the battle of Them vs. Us, compatriots who would slip us an extra drink or a snack if they liked us or our acts. In fact, Bourdain would have been the kind of guy I probably would have dated a couple of times and then a few weeks later I'd be saying to my friends, "Oh, the chef? He was a little too...uh...chemically induced for my liking. And he...uh...broke my Billy Joel records."

The conversational style in Kitchen Confidential reminds me of another tough-talking writer who went to an Ivy League school, Richard Price. From me, that's high praise. The tough guy thing can wear thin after a while, though. Bourdain bashes those celebrity chefs to whom the celebrity has become more important than the food, but constant casual references to threats of murder, maiming and castration become as hackneyed as "fuzzy" Emeril's schtick.

Besides, when you look a little closer, under the outlaw and the tough guy are some good old fashioned values. He sings the praises of Bigfoot, a restaurant owner who instilled loyalty and accountability in his employees. He's quick to credit the real backbone of the restaurant business, the Central and South American line cooks who can tirelessly reproduce whatever the chef invents with accuracy and efficiency. The chapter, "So You Want To Be A Chef?" is practically a handbook on ethics and integrity. And for all the talk about casual sex, he's married to his high school sweetheart.

But he's right about the saute pan.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Pavlov's Cat

We've had to give Chico a post-dental-work antibiotic twice a day this week. Unlike Ashley, he's completely impossible to pill. So we have to crush the pill and hide it in a small glob of the smelliest food we can find, which is usually Friskies Sea Captain's Choice. Yar har, maties. And then, since he always steps aside and lets Ashley eat from his dish, we have to isolate him in the bathroom with the dish of pill food until he's finished.

So every morning and evening, I put the pill food in the dish, walk to the bathroom with it, and Chico runs into the bathroom and I shut the door behind him until he's finished.

This morning, after Chico had finished his pill and I let him out, I decided to let Ashley have a little of the Sea Captain's Choice, too, since she was making completely pathetic little sounds.

So I took the plastic lid off the can again, and Chico ran back into the bathroom.

Cat Yoga

"Are You Wearing Pantyhose?"

I started laughing at this while I was still in line at the library's check-out: the end of the day, the temp agency's biggest banana called to tell me that the assignment I'd expected to last at least a couple of weeks was to be terminated effective immediately. My chair! "We need to talk," she said. "Are you wearing pantyhose?"

I'd been taught to blow a whistle in the receiver, hang up, and phone the police in response to such a question, but given the circumstances, I had a hunch why she was asking. "Yes," I lied. "I mean, no. I mean, I was, but I got a big run in them on my way to work, and I didn't think they'd want me to be walking around looking like I had a big ladder on my leg."

If you've ever temped (or had a job that was preceded by the word "day") while you're getting your degree or trying for your big break in your chosen field or some form of the arts, you'll relate to a lot of the stories in Job Hopper. Although Ayun Halliday's got me beat...I've never worn a giant Bert head in JC Penney's or any other retail establishment.

Eventually, Ayun trained to be a massage therapist, moved to New York with her husband and started writing, among other things, a monthly column about raising their two kids. That column is my favorite part of the post-feminist mag, BUST. And eventually, I waxed my legs and joined the wonderful world of corporate desktop publishing. But ah, the memories.

P.S. Ayun did one of those "Guide" things for called "So you'd like to... Take This Job and Shove It!" (Hmmm, great idea for some free publicity for your own book.)

My favorite on her list:

'Blown Sideways Through Life : A Hilarious Tour de Resume' Now that I've finally finished writing my job book, I can read the job book that everyone asked me if I'd read when they heard I was writing a job book.

Yeah, that's the one people asked me if I'd read while I was reading Job Hopper.

She also recommends Kitchen Confidential, and I'll be blogging about that one later. Really.

Monday, August 15, 2005

"First Let Me Say..."

First let me say, that it gives me a little thrill in a kind of "Ralphie Beating Up Scut Farkus" way to see conservatives in a position to say, "First let me say..."

After all, the "Blame America First" folks on the left and right had their chance after 9-11 when they said, "First let me say that I sympathize with everyone who has lost someone in this tragedy, but..." The anti-war crowd had a go with it in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, with "First let me say that I think Saddam is a brutal dictator, but..."

So now it's the conservatives' turn, and what they're saying is: "First let me say that I sympathize with Cindy Sheehan for the tragedy of losing her son in the war, but..." And then go on to contend that 1) the "liberal" media has featured this woman at the top of every newscast every night, and 2) that they're doing it to make the president look bad.

I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that perhaps they are watching a different network newscast than I am. In my house, we generally watch ABC, NBC or CBS. Perhaps they're watching some type of NPR television network that I've never heard of.

On the TV newscasts that I've seen, Ms. Sheehan hasn't been the first or second story, but somewhere in the middle of the newscast. I can distinctly remember this exchange between my husband and myself as we first glimpsed Ms. Sheehan on the Nightly News last Tuesday night:

Hubby: That's when the tide started turning with public opinion on Viet Nam...when Gold Star Mothers started returning their Gold Stars.

Me: It's a quarter to seven. Are we ordering out or what?

Also, as far as trying to make the president look bad, I'm sorry to say that regardless of the ability of the media to put a spin on a story, this particular commander in chief has often had a way of accomplishing this without their help. And I say this (first) as someone who has never been a gratuitous Bush Basher. (And not because I'm a fan of the guy or I'm particularly fair-minded, but because I'm a snob and nothing so easy could ever touch me.)

Conversely, I've noted liberal bloggers, commenters on blogs and members of at least one liberal e-mail list I'm on remark that the "mainstream" media is trying to make Ms. Sheehan look like a left-wing wack job. Again, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they may have been watching a different newscast than I, and maybe a different newscast than the conservatives, since they're calling the media something different.

My own snap judgment of Ms. Sheehan was that she would have more cred with Mainstream, America if she hadn't arrived at the Western White House in a bus with a sign that said "Impeachment Tour." It made her look like one of the Merry Pranksters. People see that and they figure, it's the same kind of people who've been protesting the war since Day One. It doesn't change anyone's mind. (It also doesn't give anyone a clue as to what we should do about our involvement in Iraq, but don't be silly, nobody knows that.)

Second, I was always taught when I was a kid that appearances count. Standing vigil in t-shirt and jeans and unkempt hair just reinforces people's ideas that anti-war protestors should not be taken seriously.

So I would suggest a makeover for Ms. Sheehan. Sure, cotton is more breathable when you're out in the 100-degree Texas heat, but they're doing marvelous things with synthetics these days, and Ann Taylor has some lovely transitional pantsuits.

Of course, with a pantsuit and a new hairstyle, the O'Reillyniks will be quick to point out Ms. Sheehan's resemblance to "feminazi" Hillary Clinton. But you can't please those people anyway, unless you're handing them a big steaming platter of Diced Anyone Who Disagrees With Them.

Seriously, an Ann Taylor pantsuit. I have coupons.

P.S. About the "snap judgment" thing, amba of Ambivablog has made the same observation in the "Comments" section of The Mighty Middle. Maybe we're getting the same channel.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Whew, Part 2

Came back from the cafeteria (Festival of Beans) and waited a respectable three minutes past the two o'clock the vet's office had told me to call.

"They're waking him up now. Everything is fine."

No extractions and no pain meds were needed. Gotta make sure they take "extractions" and "pain meds" off the bill.

So unless there is some kind of phenomenon I've never heard of with some name like Post-Recovery Implosion (sounds like something you should ask Alan Greenspan about) I can pick up Chico at around 6:00.

Kitty Teeth, Part 2

Today it's Chico's turn for the dental. This meant "No Food After Ten" last night, which didn't faze Chico and Ashley very much because with the prolonged heat waves, they've been doing a lot of sleeping. Even in an air conditioned apartment, somehow they know.

This morning, however, was a different story. The cats started bouncing on the bed singing their food song as soon as the alarm went off. I figured, there's no reason Ashley can't eat, so I'll put Chico in the bathroom and feed Ashley.

Wrong! As soon as I put Chico in the bathroom and put a dish of food in front of Ashley, she ran under the bed glaring at me as if to say, "Why is Chico in the bathroom? I want answers!" So neither cat ate.

We got Chico into the carrier with a minimum of disturbance, which is to say about fifteen minutes' worth. I was lucky enough to grab a cab in front of the building and made good time.

In the vet's waiting room, for some reason, it was Dogs in Pairs day. One woman had a brace of greyhounds who danced over on their toes and nervously sniffed Chico's carrier. Chico gave them a shrieking "Heyyyyy!" of protest. Another woman had two brown and tan puppies who bounced into the examining room straining at their leashes, still at the stage where they were thrilled with everything: A vaccination, a cookie, what's the difference? Oh boy!

The receptionist showed me the estimate (yikes!). I mentioned to her that Chico's bloodwork had come back showing slight dehydration last Saturday, so if he's still slightly dehydrated today do you still do the dental?

"We give fluids during the dental, and if he needs a little hydration, we'll give him a little more fluids before you take him home tonight."

"Basically, he's a young and very healthy cat," I said, as if I were selling him.

The tech picked him up to bring him to the back. "Say goodbye to Mommy!"

"Bye, Cheeckster, see you tonight with nice clean teeth!" Waaaahhhhhh!

So now begins the usual Day of Worry. Okay, sure, I was worried sick about Ashley and she turned out just fine and they had her out an extra long time to take care of the ear problem. Okay, sure, but it's the ones you think it won't happen to that something happens to! Geez, am I superstitious or what? Maybe I should paint myself blue and dance sky-clad.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Surgery in the Key of Bob

The September issues of British music mags Mojo and Uncut both have Dylan cover features and an accompanying free CD of artists who've covered Dylan. Uncut's is strictly covers of "Highway 61," whereas Mojo's is a bit more eclectic--my favorite is Nancy Sinatra's rendition of "It Ain't Me Babe." You can almost see the Hullabaloo dancers waving their arms in front of her.

This morning, I had to meet with a surgeon because it has been conclusively determined that the pains in my stomach are not stress, but a malfunctioning gallbladder which is scheduled to be removed two weeks from tomorrow. So I was filling out forms, and the line asked for "Next Of Kin" and now I can't get this out of my mind: "Best notify my next of kin, this wheel shall explode!"

And then there's the ever-popular, "Like A Rolling Gallstone."

Monday, August 08, 2005

Faces of Venice

Venice Guys
Originally uploaded by brunobaby.
Our friend Bill Napoleon is having an exhibition of photographs he took on a recent trip to Venice. He was visiting Burano, an island famous for its lace, and when the tourists went home in the evening he went around snapping pictures of the locals.

The pictures include a few with these three guys, but I like this picture the best. Although I wouldn't tell them the joke about "How do you make a Venetian blind?"

William Napoleon
Faces of Venice
A.S. Photo Lab
11 East 17th Street
until August 31, 2005

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Private Worlds

One of the things I don't take enough advantage of in this city is the film series at the Museum of Modern Art. Each series always includes lost gems that you never see on video or on TV. Until August 15th, they're showing the work of director Gregory La Cava, of "My Man Godfrey" fame. Last night my friend Linda and I caught "Private Worlds," a 1935 movie about love and office politics among the staff at a loony bin.

The theme of this movie is that sane or insane, we all have our own private worlds, that there is sometimes a thin line between sane and insane, and the only difference between "normal" and "crazy" is that the crazy people can't get out of their private worlds.

I was cynical about this theme at first, since it seemed to smack of that "you shouldn't have value judgments" crap that I tuned out after the 70's. "Oh yes," I would say to myself back then, "there is too a difference between me and the crack-addled homeless guy I tripped over on the way to a job I hate that I do responsibly anyway." But La Cava skillfully presents the way some seemingly normal people can come close to crossing over the line given the right circumstances.

Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea are a team of progressive psychiatrists--apparently very progressive, since their work involves both laboratory research and therapy. When Claudette isn't looking at something through a microscope, she's turning a hulking psychotic into a blubbering bowl of mush with a few kind words.

Conflict comes into the picture with a new superintendent, Dr. Monet (Charles Boyer), a conservative Frenchman who doesn't think women are cut out for the unfeminine work of psychiatry, and he assigns her to a less demanding gig. McCrea is incensed at the breaking up of the partnership, and neglects his work in favor of partying with Dr. Monet's sociopathic sister (Helen Vinson), driving his emotionally fragile wife (Joan Bennett) to a nervous breakdown.

But, what do you know, it turns out that Dr. Monet is really a sensitive guy under his misogynist exterior, which Claudette helps to draw out. And in the days before you could slap a sexist creep with a big fat lawsuit, her determination to keep being good at her job without anger or bitterness wins him over to her side.

There's also a hilarious turn by Esther Dale as "Matron," who could be every battle-scarred old corporate Sergeant-At-Arms whose actions constantly overstep the limits of their authority, but the place wouldn't be the same without them and they're not worth the trouble that would ensue to fire them.

By the end of the movie, all the major characters have changed the private worlds that were doing them more harm than good: McCrea dumps Vinson and goes back to his wife. Boyer ends his co-dependent relationship with his sister, kicks her butt out from under his roof and tells her to get a job. And Claudette stops burying herself in her work in order to escape the memory of her lover who died in The War, and she and Boyer start on a new world together.

This is one of those movies that seems surprisingly sophisticated for its day. I found myself saying "I didn't know they had 'edgy" when my mom was a kid!" The relationships and the theme have a very contemporary feel. Of course, there are some things that are going to be unintentionally hilarious anachronisms no matter how contemporary something seems. For example, Dr. Monet comforts an elderly dying patient identified only as The Arab, a piece of ethnic stereotyping designed to make Edward Said spin in his grave. Only the decorum of being in a movie theater prevented me from MST3K'ing my own dialog:

Nurse: What is the Arab saying?

Boyer: He is praying.

Arab: Allah Akbar!

Boyer: Let me go to him. I understand Arabic. We used to own Arabia.

And I wonder why I had to see this movie in a theater in order to see it, why I hadn't heard of it until my friend told me, and why I had never seen it on AMC or on video. It was a well-restored print, so someone had taken the care and expense to restore it. It could be that whoever owns the rights to it doesn't think it would attract enough of an audience, except at places like MOMA. Which makes places like MOMA that much more valuable.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Heat Wave

Busy as all getout lately, between the job and the medical tests.

The temperature's been in the 90's all week and will be in the 90's until the weekend.

Fortunately, I don't have to leave the building for lunch. The company I work for has recently opened an employee cafeteria, and the food is generally tasty and reasonably-priced compared to most semi-decent places in Midtown. You have different counters with your basic hot meal of the day, sandwiches, salad bar, sushi. There's a "Farmers Market" table with a different "Festival of Produce" every week. Last week was "Festival of Corn" and this week is "Festival of Tomatoes."

You pay at the register with your employee ID card, which you fund like a debit card. So it's like being in a little separate foreign country, Jobtopia, where you have your own currency, the weather is always temperate, and you have your very own calendar of festivals.

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