Saturday, September 30, 2006

Let's Do the Time Lord Again

We caught the season premiere of Doctor Who last night. I have to get used to David Tennant, who doesn't have the presence or wit of Christopher Eccleston but does have a geeky, Buddy Holly-like charm that grows on you after a while. Of course, it was hard to tell last night because he spent most of the first episode recharging his batteries, or whatever the Doctor does when he morphs into another actor.

I'm not familiar with any of the previous Doctor Who series, but my husband used to watch the classic Tom Baker one and confirms my suspicions that the one that Sci-Fi Channels' been running this year has a little more satire about contemporary stuff than the previous ones, with sly jabs at national security, eternal youth and reality TV.

It's also a little darker and more violent than previous series. It's a Doctor Who for people who usually don't watch space monkey operas. It's gritty and edgy, like the London housing project of the Doctor's teenage protegee. It's a Doctor Who for people who like Trainspotting, or Cracker.

It's also a Doctor Who with a commercial every five minutes, so I think they're really showing it in the States as an infomercial for the box set.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Couple From Apartment Therapy Had Their Baby This Morning

She'll be coming home to a 250 square foot apartment in the Village that her parents have just finished renovating to make room for her. And yes, it's a rental.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

One Rent-Stabilized Building (Not Mine)

I often tell people, "I'm a libertarian until somebody talks about ending Rent Stabilization." The fear is that landlords, building owners and real estate speculators in New York City are so out-of-control that if they were not penned up by a bunch of restrictions, they would go wilding.

One of these restrictions is that the rent can only go up when the tenant renews his lease, and it can only go up by a certain percentage. What that percentage is gets determined at annual meetings of the Rent Guidelines Board:

Economists have long debated the wisdom of rent stabilization. Tenants and landlords debate it, too—but at a much louder volume. In June, the Rent Guidelines Board’s vote on the size of the next increase incited protests so vigorous that the clamor, for the first time ever, temporarily shut down the process. In an atmosphere close to a Tammany-era riot, the board ushered in a hike of 4.25 percent.

This New York Magazine article gives you a great, in-depth look at how the rules and loopholes play out in a rent-stabilized building in the East Village, on a block that was a drugs-and-crime-hellhole ten years ago but has now been washed over by gentrification. It also explains the phenomenon of how one tenant is paying over $2,000 a month and another only $600 for the same sized apartment. And when you're finished reading it, you'll have some idea of why rent-stabilized tenants hang onto their apartments as if they were riding a mechanical bull, and why I'm paying out of my own pocket to renovate a place I don't even own.

P.S. I just typed "removate" instead of "renovate." I'm taking this as a Freudian slip of the fingers: Either I want to remove myself, or we've had to remove tons of junk we've had for decades to make room for the repair guys.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Knit Witty

I started feeling the urge to get into knitting again, and I went into one of those trendy new knitting cafes to get some worsted weight acrylic.

Knitting cafes are a new phenomenon since the last time I knat. As the name implies, they're little places where you can have a cup of coffee or organic chai and buy knitting supplies and sit at a little table and sip and knit.

As I entered the knitting cafe, I felt out of place. All the women there were half my age and weaving a giant Ani DeFranco to bring to Lillith Fair.

The store owner said they didn't carry acrylic, but she did show me some yarn made from soy.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Take The Dante's Inferno Test!

Which Circle of Hell do you belong in? Take this quiz.

Since I'm forever consigning myself to the 9th Circle, I was pleasantly surprised to find I only qualify for Level 1: Limbo

Hmm...a virtuous pagan illuminated by the light of reason. Sounds good to me.

Finally, The New Wardrobe Cabinet

See the new wardrobe cabinet.
Pretty, pretty new wardrobe cabinet!
I ended up buying the new wardrobe cabinet
from the same place
where I returned the other wardrobe cabinet two months ago.

"Sometimes you have to go a long way out of your way in order to come back a short distance correctly." -- Edward Albee

Friday, September 15, 2006

But Enough About Me. No, Really, Enough.

At the company where I work, the back-office (Graphics, Research, etc.) departments are taking part in one of those effectiveness workshops, and we're supposed to fill out this online assessment--sort of like those Kiersey Temperament things*--of our behavior and how we think we interact with people.

And then, we're supposed to invite other people to go to the site and fill out the assessment of our behavior and how they think we interact with them.

The "Other People" part, we've been advised, is "Optional." Sort of the way it was
"Optional" for the Manson Family not to fill out a handwriting exemplar when the DA was trying to figure out who wrote "Helter Skelter" in blood on the walls.

What I want to do is send the facilitator an e-mail saying, "Since my one, big, overreaching personality trait is that I'm too concerned with how other people see me, instead of having them fill out my assessment I would rather have the option of jumping into a pool of sharks with a pork chop in my mouth."

Then again, I'm not the only person taking part in this workshop, so this could be interesting...I'll get to watch other people carve each other up for a change.

*BTW, I'm an INTJ. Also an Autumn.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wilder Than I Used To Be

Gene Wilder's autobiography came out a year and a half ago. Last week, I read it. If a Gene Wilder autobiography had come out in 1977, I would have killed actual other human beings in order to be first in line at a book signing. But a Gene Wilder autobiography in 1977 would have been a pretentious piece of crap.

A more down-to-earth Wilder is in charge of a breezy narrative here. It's like listening to stories from a cool older dude over a great meal, with wine. In fact, I'm going to borrow the CD next, so that I can hear him read it. Everything's here that I'd expected: The early gigs, the early marriages, Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor, his marriage to Gilda Radner, her battle with cancer, his battle with cancer.

What was most refreshing to read were a couple of experiences that confirmed what I'd always suspected: That under the misty-moisty exterior, Mr. Wilder is one tough sumbitch. The experiences both had to do with a pre-fame Wilder standing up to authority: To a scene-trampling Carol Channing in a regional theater production, and to acting guru Lee Strasberg who was directing Gene in a musical revue. The experiences read like a scene from a Gene Wilder movie: Not the kind of scene where he gets hysterical over a blue blanket, but the kind where he faces his opposition with the complete calm of the utterly insane.

The acting student I was in 1977 would have regarded standing up to a celebrity or an acting class guru as an act of insanity. It would have been like slapping God. And it would have been regarded as such by my peers. We wanted so badly to reach the status of the Gene Wilders, the Al Pacinos, the Meryl Streeps, that we would have junked all integrity over the side of the ship and accepted outright abuse to get there.

What we had to learn is something that nobody's autobiography could have told us: You have to risk slapping false gods, and being slapped back, to have anything worth having.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"It Was You And Me"

A while ago, I was listening to the Stones' "Sympathy For the Devil" with a friend. When Mick sang the line:
"I shouted out, 'Who killed the Kennedys'
When after all, it was you and me." friend mumbled something about liberal guilt, "yeah, sure, we're all responsible for killing the Kennedys."

"I don't think that's what he meant by 'you and me'," I replied. "He's singing this as the Devil and he's saying that the Devil, in partnership with this case, Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan...killed the Kennedys. I don't think he's saying, 'I, Mick Jagger, and my audience, killed the Kennedys and we should feel guilty about it and blame ourselves."

A lot of songs back then were supposed to induce liberal guilt, but I don't think this was one of them. My interpretation could also rest on the basis of my exposure to Catholicism, where the Devil is treated as a real entity. Even if you don't think he's a real entity, Catholicism does, and if you're a kid you accept this (which Catholic grown-ups told me was so different from believing in fairy tales, of course.)

So it's easy for me to picture Mick in character as the Devil, saying things as the Devil, in the first person, and doesn't come as second nature to my friend, who was not exposed to Catholicism.

Of course, my interpretation could be totally out to lunch, and so should I right now.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I Didn't Have A Cell Phone Yet

Surprisingly enough, many civilized people didn't. But I had a pager, and carried it around all the time. I had been laid off in the spring and needed to be notified of temp assignments at a moment's notice. And then if the two of us were out together, we would have our calls forwarded to the pager.

On the morning of September 11, I had set the alarm for 9 AM. I had an interview with a headhunter at 11:30 and figured that would give me enough time to pull myself together.

At 8:45, I was awakened by the phone ringing. Once.

"I forgot to take the forwarding off," I said to my groggy spouse. "And I turned the pager off."

"They'll call back."

"What if it's a temp assignment? They'll think I'm unreliable." I got out of bed, took the forwarding off the phone, and turned on NY1.

"Oh no, the World Trade Center's on fire." They were saying a plane flew into the building. Drunken pilot, I thought. Private planes do that a lot. Although that hole looks too big for a private plane. I wondered how they would fix the hole.

I went into the kitchen to make coffee. When I came back, the other tower was on fire.

"Oh look, the fire spread to the other building." But as I became more awake, it dawned on me that the other building was a tad too far away for a fire to leap. Then I heard Patrick Kiernan on NY1 say something about a second plane.

And then: Sirens. Nothin' but sirens.

I didn't have a blog back then. Surprisingly enough, many civilized people didn't. But almost everyone I knew had e-mail. And as I ran to the computer, I was transformed in an instant from unemployed person to war correspondent.

We found out later that the 8:45 phone call had been from a neighbor who worked at the Equitable Building, across the street from the South Tower. He called us after the first plane hit, and everyone was looking out the window of the conference room. And then everyone in the building ran screaming as the second plane came straight at them before banking and hitting the tower.

That was one story that day. We would hear dozens of others. And today, I'm reading hundreds.

Here's My Pet Peeve

People who were unquestioning liberals before 9-11 and then they became unquestioning conservatives because they confused that with moral clarity.

And then they tell you, smugly, "I was a liberal until 9-11," implying that they have matured and you have not.

And what I want to tell them is, "Hey, buddy, I've been an independent, politically incorrect, questioning pain-in-the-ass bitch for over 20 years! When are you going to grow up and be like me?"

Back soon with the obligatory "Where I Was" post.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


My father, who will be 82 on Friday, has marched in the Labor Day Parade every year since 1960. Yesterday, though, he had to sit it out. He's recovering from a hernia operation he had last Tuesday, which was hot on the heels of recovering from a cataract operation. Like many guys of his generation, his crumbling infrastructure can't keep up with his energy.

Labor Day was originally created to celebrate trade unions, which aren't as popular now as they were when my father joined one. Now, Labor Day just means the end of summer, Jerry Lewis, and sales. Jerry is almost as old as my father, and it's not inconceivable that one day there will no longer be a Jerry. The original meaning of Labor Day has been obscured already, and 100 years from now it could be something else entirely, if it's still celebrated at all.

I wonder how people will commemorate September 11 a hundred years from now. "Prices are crashing down!"

Probably not. It'll be more like the JFK assassination, with TV specials, docudramas, examinations of conspiracy theories, stuff like that. In fact, we've got a jump on the future already, because that's how it's being observed right now.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Primary Day is coming up, next Tuesday. So this morning as I passed Sheridan Square with my iPod and sunglasses on, half-a-dozen people stuck flyers for attorney general candidates under my nose.

I gave them my well-thought-out opinion:


This is why I would not make an effective political blogger.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Rained In

When I was a kid, we would go away for Labor Day Weekend with The Families--these guys my father had grown up with and their families, who all had kids around my age. Everyone had kids around my age back then. We would spend a long weekend at a resort in the Poconos, or at a lake in New Jersey.

We'd look forward to this weekend for the whole Summer, and once in a blue moon, the weather would have the nerve to rain. We kids would then be trapped in the cabin or the hotel room, playing cards, reading Archie/True Romance/Horror comics and coloring (with my "travel" crayons, the 8-pack, having had to leave the 64's at home.) In these closed-in quarters, we would wait for the slightest let-up in the downpour so we could burst out the door like lunatics and head straight for the pool or the lake again.

I spent this afternoon looking for a picture of me and my honorary cousins in our closed quarters, but couldn't find any in my collection. My guess is that the parents had put away the Instamatics and took a much-needed nap for their hangovers, safe in the knowledge that they didn't have to keep a constant eye on us for a while.

There are plenty of pictures of us actually in the water, or just out of it with big towels wrapped around our shoulders, lips turning blue and hair like drowned rats. This is before puberty made us conscious about our hair.

This weekend in New York is a washout, but rather than playing War! or Gin or Old Maid, I'm writing, reading, listening to Internet radio and making a big pot of soup consisting of garlic and things that can be chopped with a chef's knife. You really don't want to get cabin fever when holding a chef's knife.

I've long thought of Labor Day as the Workaholics' Yom Kippur, so I'm reassessing where I've been since last September and where I'm going in the months ahead. Or maybe I'll read an Archie comic.

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