Monday, January 30, 2006

Uncommon Woman

Wendy Wasserstein died.

Any actress who's used a monologue or a scene from Uncommon Women and Others for an audition or a scene study class owes her a debt of gratitude.

Finally Got A Digital Camera

Here's a picture of the cats.

"I Just Got Hit By A Cab..."

Comedian Jen Dziura liveblogs her auto accident:
I just got hit by a cab. Hit by a cab. And what am I doing? Blogging about it. Blogging while waiting for the cops. I am blogging ... about being hit by a cab.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

"That's Not the New Leadership I Had In Mind"

A prescient cartoon from 2002, from one of my favorite cartoonists.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Celluloid Pantry

My friend Nora Maynard has kicked off a new feature at Apartment Therapy: The Kitchen. It's called "The Celluloid Pantry," and it will feature food and drink from movies not typically thought of as food and drink movies: "No Big Night, Babette's Feast, super-recent or super-commercial." (Hey, am I the only cook in existence who's seen "Big Night" and not yet attempted a Timpano?)

Today's movie is "The Thin Man," and a near-forgotten cocktail called "The Bronx:"

In The Thin Man (1939), suave, dry-witted detective, Nick Charles takes things into his own hands and shows the barmen the way to mix a drink: "The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you always shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time."
I can feel myself flooded with Myrna Loy-ness as we speak.

Monday, January 23, 2006


My winter coat had surpassed "old" and "out of style" and was on its way to "vintage" last Fall when I finally found a suitable replacement. It was perfect in every way except for the Mandarin collar, which looked as if it were scaled for a giraffe. Wearing it gave me that "Master Peter Cratchit" look.

A couple of weeks ago, I brought it to my regular dry cleaner, who's a magician with a hemline. I put the coat on and she stared at the collar, perplexed. Then she folded it down. It's not the kind of collar that's supposed to be folded down, so I spent the rest of my grocery shopping and errand-mongering waiting for it to pop back up again, and feeling as if I were being strangled.

I went back to the cleaner, who said, "You need pattern-making. We don't do that here."

She referred me to Hong Kong Tailor Jack, whose shop I've passed for years on the way to the subway. The window of this shop always looks clean and spare, with a mannequin wearing a half-finished marked-up suit jacket. My instincts have always said "Expensive. Not for you."

But my new coat had the potential to look perfect, so I took a chance. I rang the doorbell, thinking, Oh man, a shop where you need to ring a doorbell. Definitely out of your league. An elderly Chinese man answered and before I could finish saying, "How much do you charge for..." he drew an imaginary line across my collar and said, "Forty, forty-five dollar."

That sounded about like what I'd expected. Tailor Jack measured and marked, and I left the coat there. I reflected that even after more than two and a half decades, you can't take Archie Bunker-land out of the girl: Forty, forty-five dollars is what my parents would say you should spend on the entire coat!

But for me, it works. I tend to get a lot of classic pieces that I wear until they fall apart. It makes sense to spend a little extra to have it fit the way I want it to. If I had not gotten the collar shortened, I would have started looking for excuses not to wear the coat, or felt ridiculous when I wore it. And eventually, assuming I hadn't thrown out the receipt (okay, just looked and I haven't), the coat and I would have shown up at Macy's sometime in March, with me pleading to a salesclerk, "Look, I know I bought this four months ago, but..."

The alterations were ready a week later, and the coat is now proportioned for a human female and not a giraffe. And it's occurred to me that my league may be somewhere above Archie Bunker, or my incarnation as a starving artist, which was one degree above street urchin. I no longer have to feel like Tiny Tim, and am no longer a Master Peter.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

"No, What I Meant Was, First You Take Vanilla Extract and Six Eggs..."

New Republic's blog "The Plank" had a good observation about New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin's MLK Day remarks about God wanting New Orleans to be a "Chocolate City":

All joking aside, however, Nagin is, in his own blundering way, making a worthwhile point. While he was certainly dumb to say that God wanted New Orleans to remain a majority-black city, the issue of how the city is rebuilt--and whether, in the process, it gets intentionally whitened--is a serious one. And Nagin, and other black New Orlineans, aren't being paranoid when they worry that some white people in the city are secretly, and not so secretly, hoping that a rebuilt New Orleans is decidedly more vanilla, or, to use Nagin's terminology, white milk-like.

A bunch of conservative blogs had a field day with Nagin's statement. Which isn't surprising, considering that Nagin's impassioned televised cries for help during Katrina were a source of embarrassment for the Bushies and "Brownie." And if Pat Robertson is a gold-plated @$$hole for saying that God struck down Ariel Sharon for giving Gaza to the Arabs, then it's only fair that nobody else have unauthorized dibs on the Almighty in order to make their point.

What did get lost here was the point itself. Too many times, when a poor neighborhood is wrecked, it gets rebuilt as a playground for Yuppies. This brings in needed tourist bucks, but buries a piece of American history, where the only thing left of a vital culture is some animatronic statue of Louie Armstrong.
Of course, the most important thing is that the city be rebuilt in a way that not only allows its black residents to return there, if they so choose, but also allows them to return to neighborhoods that are not squalid and dysfunctional and impoverished in the way they were before Katrina. I don't know if Nagin has any sort of gastronomic analogies to make that point, but I'd love to hear them.

Then again, maybe I'm totally wrong and Nagin wants New Orleans to be run by Parliament-Funkadelic. What do I know.

P.S. Harry Shearer huffs and puffs on Huffington Post, with a slew of lively comments following.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Baby Penguins

It's been Arctic-ly cold in the city for the past couple of days. I was in Union Square today doing a little shopping, and stopped into Virgin Records. They were having their Big Red Sale: everything $10 except the stuff you're looking for.

I went downstairs to the video department, and several screens were showing the movie about the penguins. I got caught up in it and stood there, transfixed, watching the penguins walk and slide to their mating ground, and the father penguins tucking the eggs under their bellies and walking on their heels.

A pimply-faced young sales clerk asked if he could help me. He looked concerned. He tried to interest me in a sale on "Napoleon Dynamite."

"No, thanks. I'm fine." And went back to watching the penguins fend off predators. One mother penguin was full of anguish because she'd lost her chick, and she tried to steal another penguin's chick, but the group closed ranks and fought her off. The camera showed a close-up of the baby penguin safe between its mother's legs, its baby birdy face looking directly into the camera with sharp black eyes. I wondered if it would need penguin therapy when it grew up.

I gave in and bought the movie, which was on sale. I went down into the subway and past the newsstand, where the headlines on the News and the Post screamed, as they have for the past four days, about the seven-year-old girl in Brooklyn who was beaten to death by her stepfather. I kept the DVD in my pocket, the baby penguins being warmed by the down of my coat.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

We Won't Pay to Cut Your Toenails, But We Will Pay to Cut Off Your Foot

From today's New York Times:

Insurers, for example, will often refuse to pay $150 for a diabetic to see a podiatrist, who can help prevent foot ailments associated with the disease. Nearly all of them, though, cover amputations, which typically cost more than $30,000.

One Bird, Hold the Oil

Humorist Lileks picked his daughter up from her after-school program in time to hear the end of a lecture about the environment, and she clued him in:

“And we saw a bird covered with oil. It died.”

Jeebus wept. “They showed you a dead oily bird?”

She nodded, nonchalant. “It looked like this.” She spread her arms out and twisted her neck to the side.

“Well, people help birds that get oil on them. They wash them off so they can live.”

“Not this one. It died.”

He hastens to add that he's not against being responsible for the ecology; just that it should begin at home and not by a buncha state-sponsored do-gooders:

Actually, it was a reminder of another obligation and duty of parenthood: to teach your kid to believe in something--in this case, conservation & ecological good-citizenry--based on rationality and facts, not emotion and anecdotes and sad pictures. It is bad to hurt birds with oil, yes, but the final lesson isn't “oil is bad because it hurts birds.” Oil is God's way of saying "your house should be warm in winter and fresh green produce should be available in February, and never mind the birds. Oh look! I just made another billion birds! Like that! Because I can! So shut up and go drive somewhere. Floor it! I command you!"

Uh, James, I despise political correctness as much as you do, but I don't think the Almighty is telling us, "Crunch all you want. We'll make more."

Monday, January 09, 2006

Love of Camera

Back from a weekend of codeine-induced sleep punctuated by household chores.

About a month ago, I was going to shop for a digital camera, since the only people who don't have one yet are me and the Unabomber. I saw this on SONY's Web site, and decided to wait until January 20, when it was officially released. Okay, make that "January 20 and a few days until it goes on sale at Circuit City."

My reason for choosing this one is that I could take pictures of the cats without using the flash, because it has that Image Stabilization thing that lets you use available light. But I stopped by Circuit City to try some other SONYs, and wasn't thrilled with how it felt in my hand.

And besides taking pictures of the cats, the other big thing I'd use it for was to throw it into my bag and whip it out to take pictures of whatever interesting thing was worth uploading that day. Okay, so maybe this means I'm a cheapskate, but $450 and "throw it into my bag" do not belong in the same sentence.

What I'm really looking for is the successor to my all-time favorite camera, my Pocket Instamatic. To anyone who's taken a professional photography course--and I took two back in school--this is blasphemy. It would have been like admitting I liked bubblegum music when I was 13. Like Lenny Bruce said, "It's not hip to wanna ball Frank."

That Pocket Instamatic was my faithful picture-taking companion from the mid-Seventies into the early Nineties, and the only reason it was retired and subsequently given away is I could no longer find flashbulbs for it. Sure, the closest you could get to your subject was three feet away, and it didn't have a telephoto lens or a wide angle lens or any lens or exposures except for the one built into it. But it took great snapshots with good color, and I could throw it into my bag at the beach and forget about it.

As for taking pictures of the cats, after the demise of the Original Cats, I reorganized every box, envelope and album of photos and very few of them had that "Kitties of the Damned" look. There were plenty where you could see the yellows of their eyes. And no matter how unique you think the cat's pose is at the time, when you look over years of photographs, sometimes the only thing that distinguishes one year from another is what color the bedspread was.

So my quest is to find my new Pocket Instamatic, only with the immediacy of digital. While I was being picky and choosy, other people were creating countless megabytes of perfectly adequate pictures, and sometimes adequate is perfect.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Back To My Bookmarks

About a month ago, my system software at home crapped out, eating my bookmarks. When the holidays and their vacation days started, I hadn't yet copied my bookmarks file from my office computer. So over the past couple of weeks of net surfing at home, I've only been going to the favorite ones that I know by heart.

I got back to surfing at the office this morning and found I could delete all the ones I hadn't been to at home. I hadn't really missed them that much. Weed out the old, ring in the new.

My cough is out of the "bark" stage and has mellowed into an occasional allergic, wheezing jag that frightened an entire subway car this morning. And even that's getting better. And I got a seat.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Creeping Crud

Sunday night, around the time when we were watching the Twilight Zone about the Martian and the diner, I began to sneeze uncontrollably. I chalked it up to the dryness of the air in the apartment from a furnace that was finally beginning to work properly for the first time all weekend. Then I woke up yesterday with my throat in flames and said, "Dammit, man, that was no furnace!"

I stayed home all day with a high, barking cough and watched my temperature climb from 99 to 100 as I consumed every over-the-counter and herbal remedy in the house. I figured I would sleep it off and be okay, if a little sniffly, for work this morning. But every time I laid down, I started coughing uncontrollably again. Why is that? Is your throat heavier when you're lying down? Plus, I was shivering and freezing. Around 3 AM I gave up the "going to work" idea and left voicemails for my supervisors. Then I wrapped myself in a down coat and three blankets and went back to sleep.

I awakened at about 10 and my first thought was, "I'm not going to take my temperature because I know it's going to say a hundred and one and I'll have to do something about it."

"Did you take your temperature?" said my husband.

"No, I want to eat first." Because when they take me away to the hospital I don't want to go on an empty stomach. Sure enough, I took it and it was over a hundred and one.

"Call the doctor!" Jim said. "Call the doctor!"

"I don't want to call the doctor. She's gonna make me come in. I'm gonna have to go all the way up to the Upper West Side and I don't feel well!" This is my new fear, replacing the childhood "She's gonna give me a needle!"

I called the doctor. "You'll have to come in."

So at three this afternoon, I entered the waiting room, where five other people had my high, barking cough. I conducted them.

The nurse practitioner took a look at my inflamed throat and other ailing vitals.

"Well, it's not strep. This is definitely viral. I'll prescribe you some codeine so you can sleep." Then she excused herself to hustle off to the other five barking patients.

The rest of the prescription was to go home and sleep, and take tomorrow off from work and sleep. So I left my supervisors another voicemail. Nurse practitioner's orders. Two teaspoons of codeine and a couple of slices of Goodfella's pizza later, I'm feeling more human, and after a little more hibernation tomorrow, my new year can begin.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Zoned Out

We've been watching the Twilight Zone Marathon and I swear, they're showing ones I've never seen before. There's one now with Robert Duval and a museum, and there was one with Jack Klugman as an astronaut: Hour-long episodes. I'm wondering if they've been shown on previous marathons during the few hours that I've slept, or if they're "lost" episodes that Serling was keeping in a vault somewhere.

During my old favorites, I've been enjoying the depth of the restored black and white photography and the sets and props. The one where Ellie Mae is running through this totalitarian hospital in a little gown, I was saying, "look at that great Mid-Century Modern lamp."

It's amazing how many of the actors are smoking, even in hospital settings. The doctors and nurses are lighting up. The sponsor must have been a tobacco company. Serling himself has a smoke going in half the intro's. He was a really intense guy, which is probably why he only lived to be about as old as I am now. But what a legacy he left during those years.

We'll probably be watching this for most of the day and evening, the way we've done since there has been a Twilight Zone Marathon. It's good to have some kind of continuity to prepare you for the unknown looming in front of you for the next 364 days.

Oooh, Barbara Barrie's wearing really cool glasses.

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