Monthly Archives: August 2004

squashing hopes

8/17/04

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Okay, I take it back: apparently I CAN enjoy something I’ve grown this year. Whilst dorking around the Union Square Farmers Market this spring, I saw a tiny seedling that said “butternut waltham.” I stuck it in the ground, and two months later the bastard took over my garden.

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The fruits (I guess it’s a fruit) grew to the size of bowling pins and I started hauling them into the kitchen, not knowing what the hell to do with them. Then Tessa sliced one in half, baked it with a little butter for 20 minutes, told me to put brown sugar on it, and JESUS CHRIST that shit is good!

I now have enough Waltham Butternut Squash to power the town of Marion, Iowa. And I was thinking, if you can make banana bread and zucchini bread, can’t you make squash bread? I mean, assuming you stuff it full of rendered hogfat and high fructose corn syrup? If any of you have recipe ideas (something you like), please let me know, and I’ll post the results.

hello cruel world

8/16/04

Ladies and gentlemen, my family. I despise people who play up their family in that sort of “my big fat” precious oh-so-wacky kind of way, so suffice to say THANKS FOR FILLING IN! My hope is to someday have the sort of blog that Kos has, where a revolving cadre of respected guests gets a spot every week or so. Obviously, I can’t do this current format forever, and neither would any of you read it forever, but I’d gladly give my mom a day a week here. As you can see, she’s awfully culturally literate for 72. And cute, too!

My beloved blonde and I just got back from Maine, where we like to go every chance we get, because, well, we’re white. We stayed at the Black Point Inn, and speaking of white people, that place is The Inn That the Preppie Handbook Never Forgot.

Tessa said it best: it’s as if every prep in America were waiting for Izods and braided belts to come back into fashion and breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when they did. We saw periwinkle sweaters tied around necks, madras pleated shorts and docksiders with no socks, Laura Ashley dresses and school ties from Exeter. They were not fucking kidding around.

Of course, Tessa and I eschewed our preppie past and covered ourselves in drawn butter and the deliciousness of a hundred lobsters. The beach, a craggy, intense shard of twisted rock straight out of the wreckage of Pangea, was insanely beautiful.

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We found out we must ship out to Los Angeles for September and October, which is fantastic career-wise, but it also means I will not get to taste one thing I’ve grown all year in the garden. Hours of backbreaking labor, and it will all go to the deer, or to houseguests willing to try heirloom tomatoes.

This sounds stupid, I know, but the one thing that kept me sane this spring – while we were being dumped, courted, raved about, ignored and blessed in Hollywood

Sean in New York

Savin’ the best for last, as usual. It’s me, Sean, and I have my own damn blog in which I like to bitch. In fact, I made a promise early on in my blog to not tell what I did that day, because all I usually do is knit, take care of my cats, practice origami and wonder when Mr. Right’s finally gonna break down and call.

But, since this is Ian’s blog, I can break my promise and give you a breakdown of an average day in a bohemian jackass’s life.

I woke up this morning before my wife did and I thought, “this’ll be awesome. I’m gonna wake her up by pulling the hair out of her face and telling her I love her. It’ll be just like the movie I’m always pretending I’m in.” So I brushed her little mini payes off her Ojo Brojos and whispered, “I love you darling…” She smiled in her sleep, opened her eyes, frowned, figured out who I was and then said, “I was just dreaming about Trey Parker. We were making out.”

Fifteen minutes later, Jordana came back in the room (she had lept out of bed to micromanage something) and said “Okay, you have two choices. You can make me breakfast, or you can take me out to breakfast.” So, naturally, I did the latter. We’re both doing shows right now (separate shows, it turns out) and neither of us have time to clean the kitchen. By which I mean, she doesn’t have time to clean the kitchen, and I’m a bum.

Over breakfast, we talked about the show we saw last night… oh, wait, I was *in* that show. Gutenberg! The Musical! is a show that has been running for about a year at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater, and I was asked to be in the show last night, because I’m AWESOME!

But The Bullet and I were discussing how great the UCB theater is versus the Fringe as we perused the Fringe catalog and decided which shows we would try to go see. At one point this week, I am going to hopefull see three shows and be in a fourth all in one day.

Again, because I’m awesome.

We talked a little bit about the fringe show I’m in Suicide/Joke. Actually we didn’t, but I want to mention it here, with the link, so the poor slobs who are producing the show will actually get an audience. The Fringe Festival aint gonna help ’em, that’s for sure.

I’m not going to talk shit about the Fringe for two reasons. One, because I’m telling you about my day, and my day as far as the Fringe goes was awesome and two, I have my own damn blog for talking shit. Click on the link on the left where it says “awesome”.

After Jordana’s mandated breakfast, I stole away for a moment and caught the last half hour of “A Mighty Wind”. When Mitch and Mickey start playing their song and the rest of the musicians are so moved they have to gather in the wings just to hear them… that’s what it is. That’s why you practice your damn scales, why you memorize your lines. No hyperbole, to me it is one of the most beautiful moments in recent film memory.

The afternoon was Jordana’s rehearsal for Mac Roger’s play “Roll” where I was being their stage manager. I had forgotten how gorgeous that play is, I guess because since I originated the role of Tim in its first production, I couldn’t really appreciate it from the audience until today. This particular production, the third for this piece, has the strongest cast I’ve seen in it, and Jordana is a perfect director for Mac’s words. The combination of Mac’s fearlessness and Jordana’s affection when it comes to character development is a perfect marriage. Especially when I’m one of the actors.

Want to know why I originated the role of Tim? I think you know why.

We then made our way downtown for the first Fringe show I’ve seen this year (the third one I’ve *tried* to see, but I’m not here to bitch). It was called Gork! The Retard Always Wins.

I broke my own rule in going to see the show, as I had promised myself that I wasn’t going to see any one person shows where people learn. But there was an Iowa connection, the retard was the actor’s brother, they were telling a true story and there was a fairly good chance they were going to shoot straight.

Man, was it great. It was just fantastic. There was a flicker or two that let you know this was opening night, and the Fringe had failed to provide any box office help (what the hell do you people do?) and it was still the best one person show I’ve seen in years and years. Autumn Terrill was fantastic, the show was gorgeous and heartfelt. Even Jordana’s icy heart started to melt right away. I wish to God I had time to see it again.

Hey, seriously, if you’re in New York go see this show, or something like it. There’s a lot of crap, I know, and Ian will tell you that the seats are uncomfortable, but the hour you spend in the theater watching this show, or a show even half this good, stays with you and changes who you are. So you really should go.

Unless you are already awesome.

On the way home I called my sister Melissa in Iowa City to see if she knew the Terrill’s, as they live in her town and she owns a hippie clothing store that counts as the local five and dime. Melissa might know the family, her description (Nordic, gorgeous) certainly seemed like the right family. After I got off the phone, Jordana realized that our friends Lori and Adam are producing a series of one woman shows at those really bitchin’ theaters on 42nd Street, and that Gork would be great there.

Man. How do I know all these fascinating people and have all this amazing stuff happen to me? Why, Sean? How is it that you get to do all this incredible stuff and there aren’t any celebrities around to photograph?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because I’m awesome.

The Facial Expressions of Dumb Terminals

Steve, here, again. Ian’s older brother, and the host of most of the family web sites, (except for Kent’s LiveJournal).

And the one sibling who doesn’t actively blog. Why? I’m too much of a perfectionist, still seeking the perfect blogging tool.

I last wrote in this space last year, when Ian was detained as a security threat or a drug addict or something, we’re still not sure, trying to return from Canada. He’s in Maine, now. Don’t know whether he’s planning to drive up to the border to moon that Customs officer before returning to Columbia County.

When Ian asked me to set up Michelle to stand in here a couple of nights ago, it took me several minutes of cognitive struggle to remember which blogging tool Ian uses. He started out with Blogger, back in the days when Blogger had occasional outages and no comments. Sean and Michelle still use Blogger, making good use of the new features added since Blogger was bought by Google.

But Ian couldn’t wait for Google to accelerate Blogger’s growth, so, after he wheedled me at length, I finally converted this site to Movable Type. Oh, we evaluated TypePad, too, but it just wasn’t flexible enough. (Primarily, TypePad couldn’t preserve Ian’s many inbound links. We weren’t willing to give up our position as the sole Google result for "Lisa Kudrow’s shady film career.")

Only a few weeks after the move to Movable Type, Ian phoned me in a panic. This blog was the victim of severe comment spam. After a long, bi-coastal session deleting comment spam, we installed MT-Blacklist. I was skeptical, but it seems to be working well, and I see that Ian still does the one-click thing to delete comment spam when it happens.

Then, during the hubbub over Six Apart’s changing the pricing of Movable Type, I started to read comments by people who bit the bullet and converted from Movable Type to WordPress in order to ensure they were using a platform guaranteed to be free and open for good. I was especially influenced by Mark Pilgrim’s clear explanation of why Movable Type, as a proprietary product, and WordPress, as an open product, each serve valid markets. As a longtime tinkerer, I realized that an open source product would suit me better, so I knocked up a WordPress blog on one of my servers. I’ve only begun to hack that tool.

So, when Michelle called and asked for the password to Ian’s blog, I couldn’t remember where it was! WordPress, right? No, wait, Blogger? No, oh, yeah, Ian’s on Movable Type. Then I couldn’t remember my password.

IBM 3270 terminal of the 1970s era. All these tools floating around in my head made unexpected connections with last night’s BayCHI program, a panel of several internet application visionaries talking about and demoing cutting-edge stuff that makes our blogs look like green screens. Oh, sure, blogs are a good example of plain old hypertext documents, accessible, linkable, searchable.

But authoring a blog through a web browser? Yech. Blog authoring, indeed any sort of document authoring, is like any other interactive application. It’s fun to have a blog, but it’d be a lot more fun if we didn’t have to struggle with web forms, snippets of HTML, and uploading images. Web forms are a return to the old green screen dumb terminal days. The web is a huge step backward for applications, even if it gives great document.

Which is why it was fun to see Ethan Diamond’s demo last night at BayCHI of Oddpost, the innovative rich email application that preceded Google’s Gmail by a couple of years. I tried Oddpost when it first became self-aware, but never signed up for a paid account, primarily because it only worked in Internet Explorer for Windows. Oddpost is all built in complex, browser-specific DHTML, so Mac users and those who prefer not to run Microsoft Virus Culture need not apply.

And, more interesting parallels: Google bought Blogger, Blogger improved quickly, and then Google made a big splash by announcing Gmail, which, like Oddpost, is far easier to use than the current crop of web-based email services (Hotmail, Yahoo!, and so on). And what just happened? Yahoo! just bought Oddpost!

And now Oddpost is improving quickly: Last night, Diamond demo’d lots of new Oddpost features, with lots of drag and drop and, notably, an RSS aggregator and (ding!) one-button blog posting: Want to post a comment on an friend’s interesting blog entry (or email)? Read it and add add it to your Blogger/TypePad/Movable Type blog, right in Oddpost, with drag and drop. Now that’s not like using a clunky web form.

But Oddpost is, I can only imagine, a deep and sticky morass of browser-specific code. (Or, now, two morasses, since Diamond demonstrated Oddpost running in Firefox last night. But maybe it’s all valid XHTML and DOM, what do I know?) I doubt that kind of effort can be sustained every time somebody wants to build a new application, even with Yahoo! doing the hiring. Is there a better approach? In particular, what will we be authoring blogs in next year?

The BayCHI panel also included Mike Sundermeyer, a Macromedia V.P., and David Temkin, founder of Laszlo Systems. Let me tell you why they made interesting dance partners. We all know that Macromedia makes Flash, a.k.a. the bane of all web surfers. Macromedia will burn in hell one day, but that’s not fair, really, because any tool can be used for evil. Flash is just a more powerful tool for good and evil.

Wait, no, Macromedia is a little evil: They don’t give me control over which Flash animations may run on my computer. It’s all or nothing (unlike most web advertisements, which are easily and selectively disabled by Junkbuster). Nothing, in my case, as I’ve removed the Flash player from Internet Explorer. I switch to Firefox if I need to use a real Flash site.

If Macromedia weren’t at least a little evil, they’d give us a buttons to disable ads but enable useful Flash apps. I’m a true Flash hater, but lately I’ve become enthusiastic about Flash applications that replace green-screen web forms with interactive, responsive applications like we had on our desktops before 1995.

Imagine a blog authoring tool that’s WYSIWYG, with drag-and-drop images and links, interactive searching, actually useful calendars, and so on. The blog itself should still be a simple web document, since it’s meant to be read (and searched and copied and used in derivative works and parodied), but authoring, yes, authoring is an application.

So, given that Macromedia is slightly evil (and wholly proprietary), what’s a web developer to do? That’s where Laszlo comes in. Laszlo’s framework supports attractive, animated applications delivered as Flash applications. But they’re not built in Flash. Rather, Laszlo applications are built in a more open, transparent framework that compiles to Flash today, but tomorrow they might compile to a different (hopefully more open) client. ("Client," that’s what we programmers call your web browser, Flash player, whatever.) Laszlo uses what’s out there in millions of web browsers today, but lets us developers stay independent of that slightly evil client, and promises a more open world tomorrow. I know little about Laszlo specifically, but it gave me a vision of how we may build this stuff in the future.

Naturally, David Temkin had no ill words for Macromedia, especially as they were sitting right there. And Flash does work, for good or evil, after all. But he made a few sly comments that I took as healthy independence of Macromedia.

I see good things ahead. The green-screen web is a good place for our collective knowledge, accessible to us all (and to Google-like entities). The web was never meant to be a one-way "publishing" medium, from the authors on high to the readers below. The web was meant to be an interactive medium. But green screens just don’t work for most people, and we didn’t have the CPU horsepower or the vision of the framework that would support more interactive applications, until just about now. We’re on the cusp of making our ‘puters useful again, this time with networks. That’s exciting stuff.

Now, if I could just remember that password…

Guest Host

Hi, I’m Ian’s oldest brother Kent. Some of you may have met me, at Ian’s Wedding, or Sean’s Wedding. Some of you haven’t. Yer loss.

I could tell embarrassing stories about Ian’s childhood, but as near as I can tell he’s already done way better than I could ever do. Or, I could go off on one of the patented Williams Family political rants, but it would be preaching to the choir, and the few right-wing nutjobs who got here by mistake. I could teach you how to make an attractive bookend out of a shoebox and a brick. But I won’t.

Instead, since most of you probably don’t read my live journal I’m just going to recycle some of my Amazing Discoveries from the World Wide Interbahn.

Before the InterWebbe, there was Usenet News. Usenet was (and is still) a completely free, chaotic sort of international rugby scrum made entirely of ASCII text. The easiest way these days to see most of it — minus the pirated software and pornography is through Google Groups

That’s where I found this exchange: Suddenly and without warning, John Kerry comes into your bed !

What do you call a cold refreshing carbonated beverage?

Ever wonder what a goth guy from Des Moines who writes songs of gloom and dispair looks like? PS he isn’t kidding.

Who among you can resist the charms of the Cheeky Girls?

And who hasn’t wondered what famous actors and musicians would look like if they were achondroplastic dwarfs?

Crazy People run for seats on the Michigan State Bench.

From there to here, from here to there. Funny things are everywhere.

Blog Intruder

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, IAN AND TESSA!!!

Howdy, folks, Ian’s little sister Michelle here, giving Ian a break as he and Tess go cavorting off for a little year-anniversary lovin’. If you weren’t at the wedding a year ago today, you missed one heck of a good time. In fact, of all the five-day events I’ve witnessed in the last several years, it was the best. It’s really hard to believe that it was a whole year ago. Tonight, one year ago, I had a wee too much wine and tore the lining of my dress cuz I just couldn’t stop dancing. Tonight, this year, I ate a zucchini from my garden and I’m going to bed early. Ha-cha-cha! But if you wanted to read about my blooming garden and less fertile romantic life, you’d be wasting time at MY blog, not Ian’s. So let’s move on to a much more interesting topic: that’s right: my cat Fezzik.

Now I understand that many pet owners are a little nutty, a little overboard, a little loony when it comes to their pets. i don’t mind being treated like one of those loons when I go to an animal hospital, because I know that these people have to win over the crazies. Also, I’ve spent my fair share of time blubbering over a little animal while just waiting for them to get their shots, so I guess I am a little weird, too.

But… when I went to pick up Fezzik from his surgery last Wednesday, I noticed that there was something all over his Elizabethan collar. I was about to ask why they gave me a dirty one when I realized that it was covered in stickers. Shiny, colorful stars and hearts, and right where you tie the bandage, a big ‘ol sticker of Babar the Elephant. I certainly read all the Babar books when I was a wee thing, and I probably even had some Babar stickers. But those stickers clearly aren’t for Fezzik. He does not suffer the indignity of a lamp shade around his neck a little less because of the sparkly stars. Those stars are supposed to be for me. Somehow, they are supposed to ease the pain of the welts on my legs that are Fezzik’s “thank you” for the medicine I’ve been giving him twice a day. Somehow, those stickers are intended to make me feel better when Fezzik is head-banging me in the middle of the night with his lamp shade because he feels it is time to be petted. Those stickers are meant to make it easier for me to look at the stitches in my sweet cat’s ear and not be nauseous at the thought of how much it hurts him.

I mean, it’s not even funny anymore when he runs into the wall, face first, and stays with the Elizabethan cone pressed into the wall for minutes at a time because he’s not quite sure what to do next. He has to wear that collar for over two more weeks. Babar isn’t cutting it.

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Anyway, happy day, Ian and Tessa. I hope Chopes is having a better time on your anniversary than Fezzik is. Buckets ‘o’ love to both of you.

i fancy a brandy

8/8/04

I know this doesn’t make me a very good shoulda-been-gay slightly-twee married fop, but I’d never experienced a Noel Coward play until Sunday. Along with the enchanting Geoffrey Nauffts, Michael Mastro and Julianne Hoffenberg, we went to see “Design for Life” in Williamstown, MA and I found it positively a hoot. Funny how a comedy about bisexual threesomes could keep you from starving during the Depression.

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Tessa, Marisa Tomei, Julianne, Geoff

Marisa Tomei is a friend of Tessa’s crowd (she was a Naked Angel back in the day) and she gave a remarkable performance alongside Campbell Scott and Steven Weber.

I saw Campbell Scott’s glasses after the show, and instantly recognized his crappy eyesight as my own: -7.5 at least. He said he was -7, and I told him that LASIK is the best chance I ever took. He said he was too scared to get it done, but I’d just like to put out a public service message to everyone out there in blogland: if you have shitty eyes, get your ass down to a reputable hospital and have them lasered. You’ve got a better chance of going blind while driving there.

My life from 1975 to 1999 was a constant misery of dopey eyeglasses, scratchy contacts, migraines, saline solution, and lost prescriptions. I hated my glasses so much that I rarely had my picture taken in them. They fogged up in the winter, and slid down my face in the summer.

I looked like a… well, shit, why don’t I just show you:

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That was my senior yearbook picture, and NO, it wasn’t taken in 1970. It was 1985, and everyone else looked normal, it was ME who maintained a zork-spaz relationship with haircuts and eyewear. Why nobody intervened… I dunno. Perhaps everyone was busy.

Anyway, I got contacts the next year, and though I looked like I had a body wave:

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at least I was presentable. So all you glasses and contact lens sufferers, please, borrow money from your parents or 401K and get zapped.

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more Impressionist picture fun with Tessa’s Treo 600 “camera”

pangea? i hardly know her

8/5/04

I’d like to talk about something that has been creeping me out for a long time. Of course you know the topic: I’m talking about PANGEA.

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Fans of tectonic plate shift (party mothafuckas in the house say HO!) know what Pangea was