Monthly Archives: April 2006

purple mountains majesty

4/30/06

I’m sorry, but that map thing is totally cool. Especially when you look at it like this:

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And if you haven’t put yourself on there, stop being such a too-cool-for-school holdout! The map isn’t for my own ego (although you’re all very kind), it’s to provide a sense of the spiritus mundi so that we’re not all belonely and indeed, to paraphrase John Donne, if a clod be washed away by the sea, the internet is the less.

A few thoughts: first off, about the pictures – not to be hopelessly shallow, but everyone is quite physically appealing. I remember back in the day when the Web was full of fat guys making jokes about Arpanet, and online dating sites were sure to land you with a sociopath. Now everyone’s CUTE!

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Also, a look at the map reveals some distinct patterns in our collective readership: we totally dig I-85-95, I-80 and I-5. You could go from house to house on the Eastern Seaboard, from JMM in Miami to Tim in Cambridge, and never drive for more than a few hours (or minutes, once you got to Atlanta).

I’d like to send a shout-out to those of you in foreign countries: Rich in Baghdad; Jiffer in Germany; Peter, Leah, Lisa, the Annekenstein Monster in Fair Canada; and Christine in Utah.

And here’s a weird stat: as the weekend progressed, and more people added themselves, the ratio of boys to girls remained stunningly even. Never more than 1% difference. It’s rare in life to have something so gender-balanced, thus it bears mentioning. Any other topographical or cartophilic things to share?

hey europe, eat my florida

4/27/06

Must CODE WORD today due to headache and body shellacking (how do you “actual” runners do it?) but I’ve become fascinated with Google Maps, Google Earth, and this awesome site called Frappr which basically lets you create your own interactive maps.

As such, will all of you – regulars, lurkers, and even those who only come for the Smug™ – please click on this link and add yourself to the map? It should show below. YAY INTERNET!!!

[ed. note: The map above is lame – click here for the cool one, and be sure to click on “show rest of markers” at bottom right.]

h.r. huff ‘n’ puff

4/26/06

Kudos Chapter, Part XVI

In Which We Offer Congratulations to Those Deserving

– First off, kudos to my sister Michelle for single-handedly reviving the arts community in Napa Valley, CA by asking every board member to resign and recreating it anew, with the possibility of massive funding. Breathing artistic life into that valley was like reviving Lazarus, and she bloody well did it.

– Kudos to Lindsay, who just got into law school at Fordham University, and after three years will not only kick ass up and down Broadway, but get paid handsomely for it. Unless, of course, nobody is supposed to know that yet, and I’ll have to erase this paragraph and hyp-mo-tize everyone into forgetting they ever read it.

– Kudos to Salem, who is about to get the wine & beer license for the Steakhouse, which will throw profits into the ionosphere and ensure heavenly Brunswick Stew well into the 22nd century.

– Kudos to Bud, or “Mr. (The) Budster,” who suffered through one of the worst employment droughts on the Eastern Seaboard only to end up with an awesome I.T. job not far from New York City itself. Statesville NC’s loss is our gain, ladies and gentlemen.

– Kudos to blog-reader-from-waaaay-back Liz Benjamin, who wrote the two best TV episodes of “Bones” of the season (the one about the comic book guy, and last week’s story set in New Orleans). If you’re wondering why you like that show, she’s a big reason.

– Kudos to the American electorate seemingly coming to their senses.

– Of course, kudos to my wife for setting up our Infant CPR class, in which we learned of the various ways your baby can stop breathing. Jesus, what an ordeal. Have the teacher tell you the one about the Peanut M&M’s. Nightmares! Anyway, now Tessa, her mother and I are proficient in CPR for both babies and grownups. If you’re going into arrest, make sure it’s near us.

– Lastly, kudos to yours truly for starting a “running regimen” for the first time in my life. Every other morning at 7am, Lucy (in the jogging stroller) and I run a mile down the beach boardwalk and back. Having never run before, I find it somewhat excruciating, but every day is a little easier and my pants aren’t quite fitting anymore. I mean, in the good way.

Anyone else deserving, please comment!

and, like, I totally, like, you know, like

4/25/06

I’d like to take this opportunity of your internet time-wasting to point your concentration over to this girl, who recently set up shop at YouTube. She calls herself “EmoGirl21,” and I confess I’ve now watched everything she’s filmed on her webcam.

Totally safe for work, mind you, but her unflinchingly honest brand of solipsism is so pervasive that you might – dare I say WILL – get Stupid Feeling™. This entry in particular has been making the rounds, due to the fact that she is so depressed as to resort to saying “birds are dying!” while four carefully-placed strands of hair cascade over her face like the cursed bridal veil of Faust’s wife.

It’s actually so great that I find myself teetering between believing she’s actually a member of a UCB comedy troupe, or that she’s actually, well, like that. Sean said that he went to high school with a bunch of girls that were hauntingly similar, and having driven a few of them around with my newly-minted driver’s license, I have to agree.

Michelle had this one friend named Chrissy that had the same death-bangs and spouted similarly vacuous nonsense from the back seat, but unfortunately, Chrissy never had the internet.

That’s what truly separates today’s teens from those of us who did it in the ’80s: we have no permanent record of our mind-blowing self-obsession, nor any video documents of our cosmologically myopic lack of perspective (I saved all of that for my blog, twenty years later).

I like to think, when Hampy, Karyn and I went to our “Sound of Music” cast parties in 1983, we were a bit more self-aware, but I’m not willing to bet money on it. Poor EmoGirl21 is going to have this stuff following her around for years. I hope she’ll be able to laugh it off come her thirtieth birthday – in a weird way, I really quite like the girl.

Also of interest is this concept of “emo.” I was late to its rise as a term (same thing happened with “crucial”), but I’m fairly sure I get it: overly sad, distraught young people who listen to overly sad, distraught music. If that’s the case, then count my ass in, along with my copies of “The Queen is Dead” and “Hatful of Hollow.”

Like any rapacious meme, “emo” changed to mean “all upset people” in a way that said more about the accuser than the accused. O! The irony: a truncation of “emotion.” Poetic on several meta levels. Either way, it’s the kind of thing Kids Today© love to argue about, as evidenced in my nephew’s blog whenever the word gets tossed around.

English: a living language! The internet: Here to humiliate you until the year 2398!

and with a love like that

4/24/06

The curious thing about legally downloaded music is that the best band in the history of rock and roll is not represented. That, however, is going to change: The Beatles will be coming to your mp3 player through some means in the next few months, and if they’re smart, they’ll do it through iTunes (no matter how the lawsuit turns out). It’s hard to imagine it took this long, but the Beatles’ old engineer Neil Aspinall plans to remaster the whole catalog and give it a go.

I’m not sure how much more remastering is necessary – I thought they did a pretty great job with the CDs released in the late ’80s, and unless they plan to completely change certain albums (like they did with “Let it Be”), I’m sure it’s just their way of gilding the calla lily.

But here’s the thing: it means the Beatles will now be easily accessed by hundreds of millions of teenagers about to start bands, and that is good news for anyone still looking for some new songsmiths to kick our asses once more. Sure, they could go to a record store and get “Magical Mystery Tour” for themselves, but does anyone go to record stores anymore for anything but movies? And if our hip teens are indeed going to a store, how much would you have to pay them to find “Sgt. Pepper” in between some records by Bread and Bachman Turner Overdrive?

I’m never going to be the kind of adult – or father – that thinks today’s kids need a good kick in the pants. What they do need, however, is to listen to “Rubber Soul,” and often. I may have been a loveless dork in junior high school, but I didn’t need girls: I had the Beatles (only 20 years after everyone else had them). My brother Kent got me “Revolver” for my 12th birthday, and that began an obsession that was only slightly tempered by my love for XTC (this blog’s namesake).

I still dream of getting on “Jeopardy” and having “The Beatles” as a category, because I would wipe the FLOOR with my opponents. I knew (and still know) every last detail about every recording, bootleg, chord change, alternate lyric and genesis behind every note John, Paul, George and Ringo ever played. Obsessive? Sure, but we all need our religions.

I can’t imagine a world without “She Said,” “Fixing a Hole,” “Martha My Dear,” “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” and the second side of “Abbey Road.” My brother Kent says he doesn’t play the albums anymore, because he can just put them on in his head, complete with the old scratches. I still whip them out in the barn when I want a project to go swimmingly.

All I can hope is that there are a cadre of soul-searching 14-year-olds who will download “Day Tripper” or “Fool on the Hill” this summer and have the same reaction I did: staring into middle distance, finally having been spoken to.

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coincidentally, my hair has lengthened to Lennon circa 1966 proportions

surf’s up

4/23/06

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NYC ninety years from now, if warming trends continue and seas rise to match ancient levels with the same temp

Since it’s EARTH DAY, I would like to take this occasion to be a complete asshole. “How does that differ from any other day?” you might ask, and you’d be right. But I’m getting sick and tired of various emailers and commenters giving me shit for “driving across country to see a basketball game” and various other would-be transgressions, so I’m going to lay it all on the table, and whoever doesn’t like it can take their best shot.

First off, I drive. A lot. I drive more than you do. The realities of having lives on both coasts has historically meant getting back and forth via car, which would seemingly make me a hypocrite, what with all my hoo-hah about peak oil and global warming. But you’d be wrong on several accounts.

Those who don’t like NUMB3RS can skip this paragraph, but let’s take airlines at their word: a 747-400 plane cruises at 576 mph (927 km/h), burns 12,788 liters (3378 US gallons) of fuel per hour, and carries 409 passengers when full. Even if you take the percentages down a notch for the usual Boeing 767 I’d fly to New York (and corresponding lack of passengers), we’re still looking at a PERSONAL rating of 52.2 mpg per person, assuming the plane is 75% full.

With the Prius, I average about 49.5 mpg on cross-country trips, which means taking a plane is only 2.7 mpg more efficient. Given that these numbers can fluctuate due to head winds, idling endlessly on tarmacs and various other things, I think we can safely call this one a wash.

“But lo!” you cry, “the plane is ALREADY GOING to New York!” True enough, but that’s circular logic. Every person on that hypothetical plane bears the responsibility for its gas usage. They made that choice, not me. If they all decided to not take the plane, then the airline wouldn’t fly it.

But let’s bring this back into the real world. If I take a plane from NYC to California, I’m stuck in LA without a car. Which means renting one to the tune of $1200/month (if you include the same insurance we get with our own car). If we’re here for five months (like last year), that’s $6000. Not to mention the rental car will average 20 mpg – thirty mpg less than the Prius. Thus my plane flight will cause me to pump EVEN MORE carbon into the atmosphere.

It doesn’t make any sense, either financially or environmentally, so unless you can prove to me otherwise, perhaps some of you can find another aspect of my personality to criticize.

While we’re at it, let me lay some more cards on the table. In one way or another, we keep three different residences. The farm upstate generates all its own electricity through solar panels, and in fact, we sell power back to the electric company. In Brooklyn, our apartment is powered entirely by wind and water. Even our sublet in Los Angeles is powered entirely by wind, geothermal, biomass and solar.

Yes, our car runs on more than just distilled gallons of smug superiority. We’ve calculated how much we’ve driven and “neutralized” our impact on the atmosphere through the Presidio’s School of Management (and Chicago Climate Exchange) excellent program DriveNeutral. There are a lot of sites that can negate your car’s impact on the climate, like TerraPass, and another one we use, Carbonfund.org. With Carbonfund, we took all our plane flights, all our heating/cooking/living from our various places and brought our little family down to ZERO CARBON for about $12 a month.

“WHOOPTY FUCKING DOO you self-righteous PRICK,” I hear you say, but tell me, what the fuck are YOU doing? It took less than 20 minutes to switch our apartments over to green power, and it costs, like, 1/2 cent per kilowatt more. For the price of three combos at McDonald’s, you can negate your carbon impact on the planet each month. I don’t expect any of you to get solar panels until they become more cost-appropriate, but this shit is so painfully easy with the internet, why couldn’t you do just a little tiny something for Earth Day?

The conservatives will make more fun of me and keep on driving whatever they want to drive and offer alternative websites showing that America gains if Greenland melts. Honestly, those who deny climate change remind me of Jewish families who wouldn’t flee Germany in 1938.

I’d love to be wrong about this, in fact, I’m planning on being wrong about this. You can call me whatever you want, and you’re free to think as you will, but the one thing you’ll never be able to say is that you weren’t warned.

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top: current view of NYC with my apt. marked red and Sean’s apt. marked green; bottom: a storm surge on top of a three-foot sea rise – my brother is under water, but I’ve got beachfront, baby!

groan and bear it

4/19/06

Today’s CODE WORD:

To which part of American culture do you assign “spiritual death”? And I don’t mean the obvious ones. For me?

– Dockers™ pants

– all-afternoon happy hour at Ruby Tuesday’s

– Kevin Federline listening to his own music

– the Lice Aisle at Wal-Mart:

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You?

requiem for a meme

4/18/06

If you were to tune your television to NBC tonight around 9pm, you would find something very sad: the last episode of a fantastic series you never got to see. Hyped up throughout the Olympics (which, I guess, nobody saw either), “Heist” is one of those rare shows you could get pretty excited about. Featuring Dougray Scott leading a crew about to rob every jewelry story on Rodeo Drive – on Oscar Night, no less – it’s a seminar in great television writing.

Crisp, non-sequitur, surprising, tense, and thoroughly joyful, as brought to you by Doug Liman, the talent behind “Swingers,” “The Bourne Identity” and the inspired dialogue of “Go.” This show had a killer pilot, and the episodes got even better as it went on… the flawed, beautiful cop klepto, the burglar who looks like Jim Carrey and behaves like Bill Pullman in “Ruthless People,” the black-and-white cop team that kicks cliché’s ass… there are so many delicious low-hanging fruit in this series it’s ridiculous.

There’s a kind of writing out there right now that can best be defined as SNARK. In its purest form, it can be found from the fine folks at Gawker and Defamer, even well-respected online zines like Salon and Slate. It’s the attitude of “Best Week Ever” and “I Love the ’80s” on VH1, and its dumber cousins can be found on too-clever-by-half television shows that trade easy sarcasm for street cred. I’m not saying you do this, but Snark is the usual patois of internet comment sections.

Even though it’s Generation X’s vernacular (at least what we use when we’re not trying very hard), I like to think I’m not really in the snark business. If I dislike something, I tend to rant, and if I don’t, I usually think it’s goddamn beautiful. But many editors – and perhaps TV execs – are being fooled by the dull fool’s gold of snark’s potential.

This is what makes “Heist” so brilliant – it actually rode Snark and Clever over into Soulful. This is the hat trick of our generation’s art, and it makes the show’s rumored cancellation all the more sad. That’s the third show that has broken my heart over the last six months, along with “Eyes” and “In Justice.”

Why didn’t people tune in to “Heist”? Well, it probably didn’t help that shows named “Hustle” and “Thief” premiered at exactly the same time. Or perhaps this show needed a full season to germinate an audience, something struggling NBC had no interest in trying. As for me, I’ll say it right now: it hit my personal demographic in the sternum, and I’ll be tuning in tonight to relish a story that will never have an ending.

***

Speaking of good television, THIS IS GOOD TELEVISION:

thanks, Matt!

una domina lux

4/17/06

My sweet little Lucybug:

You turned an entire year old this weekend, and that means I get to jot down a few things for you in the somewhat likely scenario that you read this years down the road. These are the entries that many people skip over, but that’s okay – the curious joys of fatherhood are singular beasts anyway.

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First off, we had a party for you, and a bunch of your fans from the Los Angeles basin showed up to congratulate you. You should feel blessed that so many folks on both coasts think your parties rock; it took me years and years of being social chairman at my fraternity to perfect the ideal. Your birthday fell on Easter weekend this year, so the basic theme was “fertility” and “high fructose corn syrup” (you are not allowed any of the latter, by the way).

Both of your grandmothers came for the event, Nana (Tessa’s mom) from San Antonio, TX, and Gramma (my mom) from Mt. View, CA. Your Uncle Steve came as well, and they all brought you a bunch of nice new books and stuffed lambs. We have a Plastic Limit™ observed at our house, and a few of your earlier toys will be put into deep freeze so that we don’t end up being One Of Those Families Littered With Ankle-Breaking Crap. Your grandmothers also took care of you in the mornings, allowing us a gift more precious than sapphire: sleep.

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Linda, Lucy, Sandy

It’s impossible to put into words what you have given us over the last year. It’s true that you were mostly an infant, and the temptation is to anthropomorphize you and give you traits you don’t necessarily have just because we think it’s cute. But the truth is, your disposition from the very beginning has been steadfast, pure, inquisitive, adventurous, decisive, and voracious for all the world has to offer.

You took your first step two weeks ago, and last week, you took two in a row before careening into the sofa. If someone wanted to know how to stop drinking, they should truly look at you trying to walk: one day at a time, you get a little better. It has made your sleep cycles a little disruptive, because we can sense you practicing. You’re so close you can feel it.

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Lucy: 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year – click for bigger

New words: “hat,” “okay,” and a totally bizarre “no waaaay!” When we ask you what time it is (in either Spanish or English) you look up to the clock, and when we say “bellybutton” you grab your navel and laugh. Our favorite trick is to give you an empty 5-gallon water jug, which you use to walk across the room. I’ll even post a video of it if someone can tell me how to make a .mov file smaller for the internet.

A word about your present from me: a few weeks before Hurrican Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans, I was there in the French Quarter, stopping at a jewelry place that your mom and I love. We were both born in May (an emerald birthstone), but you, of course, lucked out in April, which are diamonds. I found a little necklace for you with both birthstones, an emerald surrounded by tiny diamonds.

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It’s very small and didn’t break the bank – and you can’t wear it until you’re 15 and won’t swallow it – but I want you to know it’s a special object from a special place that is very different now, mere months after I first saw it.

Much can be said of you, my little sweetheart. You’re the best little hurricane that ever rearranged our lives. The low pressure system that keeps us all sane is your mother, a woman whose strength still flummoxes me daily. I have been in constant awe of her from the moment she went into contractions… to tonight, when she sliced an avocado for your dinner. Both actions, huge and tiny, make the whole.

When I think of this year, the best I’ve ever had, I will think of you both, how you fought so hard to get what you wanted, into and out of this world. Two women, separated by four feet in height, one poised to walk three steps in a glorious victory, the other glad to walk to the end of the earth as long as you were there, and me, hobbled by the ungainliness of my gender, happy to keep catching up.

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