Monthly Archives: November 2002

11/20/02 A short respite of


A short respite of warmer-than-usual breezes wafted through Brooklyn today, and most people were out taking advantage of it; when you grow up in any of the inclement climes offered by states north of I-40, you grab your good fall days anywhere you can get them. On the first real warm day of spring, half the population of Chicago, whether they have jobs or not, can be seen frolicking up the beaches and rollerblading down Lake Shore Drive. The same thing happens on this side of the winter, because we all know pretty soon it’ll be sunsets at 3pm and wind gusts that stick icy hands of misery up your sweater. They say you should always get ten minutes of direct sunlight per day (meaning no sunglasses) to stave off seasonal affective disorder. There are entire swaths of time up north when that is actually quite difficult.

Speaking of difficult, I had to begin a regimen today to determine why I’m getting these kidney stones. In other words, I have to collect my day’s pee into a giant jug and carry it around with me all day. As Tessa and I walked through the West Village (after seeing the Tar Heels’ thrilling comeback over Rutgers), few people on 6th Avenue were probably carrying around their day’s collection of urine. In fact, I’d wager very few were. I’d go so far as to say I was the only guy lugging around a bucket of his day’s pee in a backpack.

Who thought getting into your thirties would reduce a man to this? And to think I have another whole 24-hour period of being Johnny Has to Carry His Pee to look forward to.

We did some good work on the movie today, despite another round of technical hell. We’ve decided to work in those delicious windows between system crashes and “kernel panics,” and managed to turn the beginning of the movie from “draggingly oblique” into “only-slightly-confusingly funny.” Which is damn fine work if’n you ask me. Tomorrow, more editing on the 2nd and 3rd reel.

Oh, and more peeing. *sigh*

11/19/02 To commemorate us actually


To commemorate us actually getting some editing done today, I wanted to post a picture of three intrepid Asset chicks who always do well under pressure (despite the aggressive unhelpfulness of technical support morons): our editor Jessie Weiner, associate producer Kim Ludlow and my sweet chunks of burning goodness Tessa (co-producer and co-director). This is on the roof of our sound mixer, 15 floors up on the corner of 14th and 8th:

11/18/02 I know the full-scale


I know the full-scale dedication to a sports team seems onerous to many of you reading this blog; indeed, my Iowa youth was filled with Vikings fans (distended-bellied swine with cheeto flakes in their moustaches, polishing off cans of Schlitz while screaming at their Zenith TV sets) who made me queasy at the whole notion.

And I probably would have gone on with my life with very thinly-tethered sports affiliations, rooting for the underdog in every game as I still do in those late-night hoops games from the West Coast. But I never thought I’d go to school where Dean Smith was coaching, and within thirty seconds of my arrival in Chapel Hill, I suddenly understood why people hung their school hats on the irrational hook of school pride. In short, Dean Smith, and everything he is, represents the kind of patriarch I want to be in my own family, should I be lucky enough to have one.

In my junior year at Carolina, I was blessed to serve with the finest staff ever to grace the pages of the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. Silly name, yes, but this is a paper that produced Charles Kuralt, Ed Yoder, Jeff MacNelly and a host of famous journalists. In my day, we had the Dream Team of Jean Lutes, Laura Pearlman, and Matt Bivens in the editorial office, making my job as columnist a total dream. Writing for the paper with Pete Corson and Greg Humphreys as cartoonists was almost unfair.

I had an incredible run for those years, avenging almost all of my childhood trauma and getting to have sex with a variety of sorority girls from towns like Blowing Rock, NC. Two of my columns managed to make that magic leap to the refrigerators and dorm doors about town: one was about buying condoms at the Rite-Aid, and another about why I hate fuckin’ Dook so much. The latter got me in good with the Sports Information people back then, and serves as a reminder that one should always “go with what you know” for me, loathing Duke University is like shooting fish in a barrel. When I turned in the first draft, I was worried that the editorial staff

11/17/02 Let me tell you


Let me tell you a little something about this stew.

– first attempt at making the stew failed on Friday because we couldn’t get out of New York on time

– second attempt at making the stew failed because the Saturday afternoon “Harry Potter” was sold out

– third attempt successful this Sunday afternoon; Tessa manufactured stew while I staple-gunned insulation to the ceiling of the basement

– Tessa put about 300% too much salt into stew, and then had to travel to Great Barrington, Massachusetts to get more meat to offset it

– still wasn’t enough meat to calm down the salt, so we added more coconut milk

– then added cow milk

– still salty but more just weird, Tessa put in another round of spices: turmeric, chili powder, etc.

– stew put in back of car and driven to New City, NY where Jamie did the new voiceovers for the Pink House movie trailer; stew now so large that Susan remarked that it “would have been served to troops in the Civil War”

– ate half the stew; still tasted a little funny, but was hot and filling

– drove rest of stew back to Brooklyn in sheets of freezing rain; only parking space available was on 6th Ave. and Lincoln

– took turns carrying pot of stew a half mile up the hill (through gusts of ice needles) to our apartment; both of us remarked that it was insanely painful to carry

– at the door of our apartment, Tessa sees me carrying the stew like a Nigerian shopwoman (on my shoulder, because my back had long given out)

– she breaks down into fits of uncontrollable laughter because we had struggled so hard to lug this stew we don’t even like halfway across the country

– stew now sits in our refrigerator, living to torture us another day

11/16/02 If a movie ever


If a movie ever needed two directors, it’s the new Harry Potter flick; I feel like Tessa and I brought invaluably complementary strengths to the The Pink House; two cerebral cortexes full of right and left-brained ideas that were only hamstrung by our lack of money. The “Potter” series, making more money than the country of Uruguay, have no such limitation and easily could have hired someone else to bring a little… I dunno, magic to the equation. Chris Columbus is nice and all, an affable schlocky dude who can deliver any movie you want with all the fixins laid out neatly by your plate, but he lacks the tiny edge of madness, or the hint of impenetrable darkness that would make “Chamber of Secrets” close to J.K. Rowling’s sad heart.

I have only idle conjecture to base this on, but I largely suspect Rowling’s divorce plays a big role in the way she writes men: only the sexually discharged Dumbledore and Hagrid come off as benevolent in her books. Everywhere else, her men are murderous, untrustworthy, sadistic or at best, pusillanimous like Mr. Weasely. Snape, Vernon Dursley, Lockhart, Filch, the Malfoys, and everyone on up to Voldemort himself are a laundry list of the worst aspects of men. Rowling’s too good a writer to fall into many traps (which is why Sirius Black’s transformation is so beautiful), but all of her male relationships are terrifyingly complicated.

Which makes you wonder why there aren’t many more stronger women involved. Like Kelly said in the car on the way home, Hermione is the smartest, but she still needs rescuing. McGonagall is formidable, but still answers to Dumbledore. It’s a man’s world, this wizarding, and it’s too bad that boys don’t read books with female protagonists.

Either way, Chris Columbus needed a Dark Partner to help him make this movie, and he didn’t have one film dorks like me have high hopes that Alfonso Cuar

11/15/02 I was reminded today,


I was reminded today, as it is the premiere of the second Harry Potter movie, that exactly one year ago I left for a cross-country drive to see my dad for Thanksgiving in Napa Valley (after seeing a 10am matinee of the first movie). It was a drive fraught with AM radio (as I had nothing else), containing the worst opinions of right-wing nutsos on talk shows, and their slightly-more disturbing callers, phoning in to wax racist about the “towelheads” that had recently imploded the World Trade Center. It was that kind of trip, through the fallow, brown cornfields of Nebraska and dead desert of Nevada, where you truly get the scope of America, and how beautiful and awful it is at once.

A year later and not a thing has changed: still a band of monkeys running the White House, stark warnings from the FBI about the likelihood of another attack, and a cold winter brewing depression for anyone enamored of the sun. The only thing I can hope for this winter is to avoid another descent into madness, staved off partly by pills, partly by therapy, and mostly by exhaustion.

It’s just that I don’t know how much longer this country can do this dance: shots fired at our feet by a government that knows only how to peddle fear to make us complacent, and a band of terrorists who make daily threats against anyone siding with America. This dance, I suppose, will last until the next big terrorist spectacle, after which there might be a spot of relief to those who survived it: a lot like what Liz said about Washington during the sniper spree. Apparently, there was a rush on gas, grocery and shopping every time there was a shooting, because they knew the sniper would be laying low for a day or two.

It’s a pathetic way to live, one that makes me want to be a farmer. The truth of this era seems to be this: whatever you worry might happen, the actual outcome will be worse, but somehow more interesting.

Thanksgiving 2001 in St. Helena, CA everyone in this picture is speaking at the same time; I have “depression sideburns”

11/14/02 Today’s blog goes out


Today’s blog goes out to a girl named Heidi Downing. I don’t know where she is, I don’t know if she’s married, or has kids, or if she is even still with us, but Heidi was the first girl who ever thought I was cool enough to like. Almond-eyed and cute in that effortlessly English sort of way, she sat right behind me in Miss Scrivener’s 3rd Form class (the equivalent of fifth grade) at the Dollis School in London, where I spent the years 1977 and 1978.

When I started my first day of school in London, I was already pissed off: it was June, and Americans had been on summer break for a month, but there were still six weeks of the school year left in London. The curious habits, dress code, and indecipherable accents of my class had me mute for weeks. But gradually my Americanhood, and subsequent coolness, won out, and for the first time in my life, I was considered cute, popular and funny. It was all to end disastrously as we were shipped back to Iowa two years later (and I got the shit beat out of me again) but for those English school years, I was in heaven.

Heidi teased me relentlessly, sprayed me with paper-mach, gossiped, spoke rudely of her parents and her idiotic girlfriends, and made me feel like I was the coolest guy in Mill Hill. Together with my best buddy Adam Regis, we were truly as inseparable as Harry, Hermione and Ron – and I developed a deep, soulful love for the girl. It was the kind of affection that was effortless and obvious, it was one I never even worried about. I looked forward to school on Sunday nights. I remember one kid taunting me saying, “You like Heidi, don’t you?” and my immediate reaction was “Of course I do, you twit.” This kid’s comment, coming from some other era where I “wasn’t supposed to like girls” seemed so… un-evolved to me.

The problem with trying to find girls you’ve known is that their names tend to change. The whole sexist surname-changing thing makes Google an ineffectual tool to find half of your old friends. I can only hope that Heidi is out there somewhere, perhaps searching for her own name, finding this site, and understanding this: that she taught me so much about relaxing, that she made my 10-year-old body understand the idea of a non-traumatic love, and that she was the first person who made it possible to be with the incredible woman I find myself with today:

with Tessa at Prospect Park this afternoon we were screwing around, and it wasn’t supposed to look like a Christmas card, but…

11/13/02 One of the problems


One of the problems with being a raving technophile (no, not the dancing kind) is that you stand on the front line of all new gadgets and cool electronic stuff and take a lot of arrows for your trouble. It happened with the satellite radio, when we couldn’t get signal anywhere from W. 26th St. to Bleecker (XM Radio said that the National Security Agency were broadcasting on the same frequency), and it happened with the Pink House movie, where we were the first to marry DV, 16mm film and ten different kinds of animation.

It happened this week as well forced into a bit of a computer scarcity, we bit the bullet and bought the best Mac currently for sale, a dual-processor 1.25GHz G4 with Final Cut Pro 3. It’s the sort of system we spent afternoons dreaming about, particularly the afternoons spent waiting for the old G3 to render video. It has more hard drive space than the Siberian plains, and it starts up so fast that it takes a few times to get used to it.

Problem is, it doesn’t work. At least for us making movies. There are so many weird balls in the air when it comes to Final Cut Pro the editing program doesn’t particularly like OS 10 yet, you have to have QT 6, the “media” has to be on separate drives, and there are “capture” issues. In fact, there are “so many” niggling little “problems” that I have to put it in “quotation marks” because I have “no idea” what is going on past a certain point.

Wow, that last sentence looked like a Zagat review.

Anyway, our intrepid editor Jessie spent damn near four hours on the phone with Apple, then logged another 3 hours with the people who sold us the computer, then with the people who sold us that G3 years ago. Tessa took her turn for two hours, with Support Professionals determined not to help us unless we spent the requisite $799 for a year of tech support. In my book, that’s highway fuckin’ robbery for a product that should work in the first place. It makes me believe that the G4 computer itself is a loss leader, something Apple sells for no profit as a way to get you to buy all the crap surrounding it. One of the biggest loss leaders in business are the burgers at fast food joints; McDonald’s loses money on a Big Mac, but the profit margin for cokes and fries is astronomical.

Now, I’ve always been Apple’s biggest defender: I have one of the first Macs ever made (the Mac 128K), I cut my teeth on the 512K then spent three years on a Mac Plus, and followed that up with three more on a Quadra 660AV (still working) and a Powerbook 1400 (regrettably sold on eBay to make room for this very iBook I’m typing on now). But Jessie may be on to something when she says that the move from OS 9 to OS X which is a shift from Apple’s old system code to a more universal, UNIX-based system

11/12/02 Today’s blog is brought


Today’s blog is brought to you by a Fisher-Price Record Player and the song “She’s a Beauty” by the Tubes.

This particular record player is a replica of my first one (which was white plastic) given to me for my fifth birthday or thereabouts. I had three 45rpm singles: “Love is Blue” by Paul Mariat and his Orchestra, “Sunny,” and the Fifth Dimension’s “Up, Up and Away.” I played these songs so incessantly that the babysitters usually took them away. By the time I was 8 or so, I’d figured out how to rig the record player to play LP’s (it involved a soldering iron on the sly), and put on Vince Guaraldi’s Oh, Good Grief! until the locals went nuts.

Last year, while I was biding my time at That Internet Job and drifting into impenetrable lapses of afternoon-long glumness, I would hop on eBay and start bidding on all the things that made me feel giddy when I was young. Among the cooler purchases were a Fisher-Price Happy Houseboat (actually floats!) for Michelle, and an original Gnip-Gnop game for Sean, complete with ping-pong balls I painted the appropriate day-glo colors. One of these purchases was this Fisher-Price Record Player, which came with a selection of really bad 45rpm singles.

Anyway, yesterday I heard “She’s a Beauty” on the 80s XM Satellite Radio station (you know the song: “step right up, and don’t be shy”) and today I broke out the F-P player and found my single of the very same. Thus over the last two days I heard the Tubes song in the newest possible way, and the oldest possible way. Not to be a sentimental drag or anything, but young kids do miss out on the physical quality of albums; just to feel your young fingerprints against a 45 of your favorite band… of course, CDs make so much more sense. We were playing an old album on the ancient Phillips turntable upstate last week, and I was stunned at how quickly a side ends. Just for the hassle of constantly turning records over, I’d like to thank the digital revolution.

Oh yeah, and thanks for Zaxxon too. That game was awesome!

11/11/02 Like many of the


Like many of the best things about the web, the Babelfish language translator has been around since the beginning. I’ve been using it a fair amount lately to massage my French back into working order; one good trick is to take a web page you know, then translate it to French and read it back to yourself. There are lots of little vocab words I’ve let dangle by the curbside of my brain, easy words like “laid,” which ironically means “ugly.” It’s remembering this crap that helps you get by in another country.

Of course, the translator isn’t perfect, and you can get some pretty surreal stuff back. One of my favorite things to do is take an English page, translate it to French, then translate that translation back to English. It’s like a game of “Operator,” as the meanings get more and more diffused by their ancient Latin roots.

Take one of my blog entries from last week:

“My fellow Americans:

What the fuck is wrong with you?

It was in tonight’s fading hours that I realized the same horror that I had sublimated almost two years ago: it’s not the Republicans I can’t stand, it’s you. Exactly what mass delusion are you suffering from, the one that told you it was okay to let one party take over the White House, both chambers of Congress and the Supreme Court? It’s one thing to tolerate a political party that doesn’t like black people, that wants to keep women earning 73 cents to a man’s dollar, to start an era of coat-hanger abortions, to unilaterally attack any country full of brown people that they want, and to fuck up the environment so bad that my grandkids will have to wear 450 SPF sunscreen just to go play on a jungle gym it’s quite another to put them in control of OUR ENTIRE FUCKING COUNTRY.”

And here it is in French turned back into English:

“Americans of mine:

What kisses are erroneous with you?

It was in hours of obliteration that I carried out the same horror that I had sublimated almost two years ago: they are not the Republicans whom I cannot be held, he is you. Exactly from which delusion of mass do you suffer, that which indicated to you that it was correct let a part ensure White Home, the two rooms of the Congress and the Court Supreme? It is a thing to tolerate a political part which does not love the black people, that wants to continue women to gain 73 hundreds with the dollar of a man, to begin one era of the abortions of coat-clotheshanger, to attack unilaterally any completely brown people whom they want, and for shit in the environment so bad that my grandkids will have to carry the SPF 450 sunscreen just to go play on a gymnastics of jungle. It is completely another to put them in the ordering of OUR WHOLE COUNTRY KISSING.”

I guess you could keep translating it from there, go into Portuguese, Spanish, German, and then back into English, but I think I’d like to end with our whole country kissing.