Thursday, January 31, 2008

Four from Shrigley

Why? No reason. It's going to be a shit tomorrow, can't wait for the weekend...

Reinvente Ton Jeu

I wish.

The Missing Indian Skyline

Walking down Fifth Avenue recently, I noticed an advertisement for a bank (I forget which bank) that displayed an imaginary skyline comprised of iconic buildings from the financial centers of the world. Without being certain, I felt there were many notable inclusions: Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, Kuala Lampur, Dubai, Paris, London, New York, Chicago, San Francisco. Notable in its omission (or inconspicuousness) was any iconic building from India.

This got me thinking a little bit about Indian cities, and particularly, buildings in Indian cities. That the physical environment of India has a distinct characteristic is undeniable. Being in Mumbai, in Delhi, in Kolkata are all unmistakable experiences. India also has a rich heritage of iconic architecture: Red Fort, Victoria Memorial, the Taj Mahal, the Gateway of India. All of these monuments, however, are legacies of the Raj era, the British, or earlier periods. To my knowledge (and I am not as familiar with Chennai or Bangalore), there are not many iconic modern buildings in India.

Why should this be important? No reason, really, other than iconic modern buildings have a way of announcing the importance of the city to the world - hence the interest in China's CCTV building. And the recent growth in India's economy, as well as the rise of iconic architecture throughout the developing world, marks the absence of a signature Indian building as a curious absence. Which led me to this article, answering the question, but in a way that leads me to wonder if the collection of Indian architecture represented will truly become iconic? Or will they take on the utilitarian lack of character that you find at the end of so many Silicon Valley office parks, which appears to be the spiritual kin of the buildings portrayed in this slideshow?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Three from Ted Kooser


"There's never an end to dust
and dusting," my aunt would say
as her rag, like a thunderhead,
scudded across the yellow oak
of her little house. There she lived
seventy years with a ball
of compulsion closed in her fist,
and an elbow that creaked and popped
like a branch in a storm. Now dust
is her hands and dust her heart.
There's never an end to it.


Today you would be ninety-seven
if you had lived, and we would all be
miserable, you and your children,
driving from clinic to clinic,
an ancient fearful hypochondriac
and his fretful son and daughter,
asking directions, trying to read
the complicated, fading map of cures.
But with your dignity intact
you have been gone for twenty years,
and I am glad for all of us, although
I miss you every day—the heartbeat
under your necktie, the hand cupped
on the back of my neck, Old Spice
in the air, your voice delighted with stories.
On this day each year you loved to relate
that the moment of your birth
your mother glanced out the window
and saw lilacs in bloom. Well, today
lilacs are blooming in side yards
all over Iowa, still welcoming you.

Sure Signs

So many crickets tonight --
like strings of sleigh bells!
"A long hard winter ahead
for sure," my neighbor says,
reeling a cobweb onto
a broom in his garden.
"Crickets and cobwebs," he says,
"sure signs. In seventy years
(he looks out over his glasses
to see if I'm still there)
you get to know a thing or two."

Imagineria Scifi

Found randomly on Flickr, from Flickr user Juanpi1. George H. White is apparently the nom de plume of Spanish writer Pascual EnguĂ­danos. Who knew?

Groucho in the Pooper

Drug writing very rarely pays off, as far as either drugs or writing is concerned. I can't vouch for the whole of The Psychedelic Shakespeare Solution's "My Acid Trip with Grouch," but it seems like one of those unique moments you could have only had at a certain point in the late 60s/early 70s, dosing with Groucho Marx. Highlights (and feel free to even skim through these:)
We ingested those little white tabs one afternoon at the home of an actress in Beverly Hills.

Groucho was interested in the social background of the drug. There were two items that particularly tickled his fancy.

One was about the day acid was outlawed. Hippies were standing around the streets waiting for the exact appointed minute to strike so they could all publicly swallow their LSD the exact second it became illegal.

The other was how the tour bus would pass through Haight-Ashbury and passengers would try to take snapshots of the local alien creatures, who in turn would hold mirrors up to the bus windows so that the tourists would see themselves focusing their cameras.


After a while, he started chuckling to himself. I hesitated to interrupt his revelry. Finally he spoke: "I'm really getting quite a kick out of this notion of playing God like a dirty old man in Skidoo. You wanna know why? Do you realize that irreverence and reverence are the same thing?"


"If they're not, then it's a misuse of your power to make people laugh"


"Everybody has their own Laurel and Hardy," he mused. "A miniature Laurel and Hardy, one on each shoulder. Your little Oliver Hardy bawls you out-he says, 'Well, this is a fine mess you've gotten us into.' And your little Stan Laurel gets all weepy -"Oh, Ollie, I couldn't help it, I'm sorry, I did the best I could. . . '"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Distilled in New York / Fashion Photographer

MM makes clothes for the hip and stylish. He was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to be a fashion photographer at a real live New York City fashion show last Sunday -- at the Blue Collective men's fashion show. It was awesome. I'd ask you to support Distilled, but, heck, he doesn't even need it any more. He's got clothes in Bloomies!

MM backstage, running the show.

My fashion photographer look

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Old Photos, Still Good

ENW forwards a great find - a Flickr collection of photos from the Library of Congress. I'm sure this will come in great use later, but let's go ahead and get started. No doubt, there's treasure in these hills...

Dolphins: Friendly Enemies

Courtesy JJK. Add to the list of creatures we need to be wary of, in that they seem smart, can out-maneuver us on their home territory, and have a better idea of what life is for (i.e., making air rings underwater) than we do (i.e., working).

Additionally, they are ruthless, violent, and sociopathic. I'll save for another day a real dolphin tirade, but please check out the links above, and beware of fun-loving dolphins. They may not be that fun-loving.

In the meantime, if we have to make peace with the dolphins, I suggest we send these girls to do it.

Pancho and Lefty

People ask lots of dumb questions. In real life conversations, and in fake conversations, i.e., interviews. One line of questioning that I always find difficult to answer is "What's your favorite book/movie/singer/song?" Favorite, of course, being a useless qualifier. More apt would be, what book still haunts you? What movie have you had to re-watch year after year? What song can you listen to over and over?

Townes Van Zandt's "Pancho and Lefty" is one of those songs that I can listen to over and over. In three taut verses, Pancho and Lefty manages to canvass an emotional territory as wide as Texas -- of sadness, pride, violence, guilt, regret, and embarrassment.

I offer you four versions of the song, none of which are perfect. The perfect version, as far as I know, exists on TVZ's Live at the Old Quarter. In fact, each of the versions provided, although three of them (the only ones that weren't huge hits) have distinct values, are sort of parodies... of the genre, of the song, of Bob Dylan. Still, in all cases, the song transcends the flaws of the performance. Enjoy.

Friday, January 18, 2008

White Whale

Via SuperTouch, courtesy SM at work. By way of explanation:
Though only in the earliest stages of conception, French designer JEAN-MARIE MASSAUD’s concept for a floating hotel, the glorious whale-shaped “Manned Cloud” promises to be a transcendent thing of beauty should it ever reach the clouds. Developed in conjunction with French national aerospace research body ONERA, the massive designer dirigible combines the early 20th century trend of Zeppelin flight with the futurism of modern design to create a new form of luxury touring the likes the world has never before seen.
JWW's immediate response? "Whosoever of ye raises me that same white whale, he shall have this gold ounce, my boys!"

Just A Little Dusty...

... early in the morning. Walked into an almost empty office this morning, having slept not well at all, and DL had decided to start the morning off with Dusty In Memphis. One of my favorite albums, by far, and an album that is wholly and criminally under-appreciated, Quentin Tarantino's best efforts included...

Space Girl Dance

Courtesy SR, via BoingBoing. Continuation of a theme, I guess...

Look Elsewhere

A lot of people (well, some people) arrive at this site looking for alien sex. Why? This post, I imagine. Needless to say, I feel like I am disappointing these people. You people. So I headed over to Flickr and grabbed the most interesting photos tagged with "alien sex."

Don't say I didn't try.

While you're here, you can feel free to check out what this blog is actually about. Articles that may be of interest?

- Music, movie, and book recommendations from 2007;
- Some thoughts on I'm Not There;
- A review of Anatole Broyard's Kakfa Was The Rage;
- The outstanding web video serial "Clark and Michael;"
- Some photographs of rural, Soviet-era bus stops;

And, presuming you're new to my little corner of the web, feel free to check out the other blog, too:

- Notes on the documentary Why We Fight.
- Uninformed political speculation, in this case, discussing the depth of talent available to the Democratic party;
- Links to some political values quizzes, in case you don't already know for whom you are voting;
- Idle thoughts on trends on Indian culture, and a link to Blogbharti, an interesting aggregator of Indian blog commentary.

As always, thanks for reading. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Some Records / Some Faces

From "YaDogg," via the always excellent Dust Congress.


Is A Woman

ED was kind enough to invite me to a reading up at Symphony Space the other night, on behalf of 826 Valencia, in Brooklyn. ED gets to be judgmental because well, hell, she's a teacher. And she bought the tickets. I'm not and I didn't, so I don't have too much to say, as way of criticism. Charming and doing-good and maybe a little too-sweatery-and-cutesy, and yes, maybe Park Slope didn't need it the most. But whatever, and whatever.

The evening featured Zadie Smith moderating, George Saunders (looking like the Civil War himself), Vendela Vida, and Maggie Gyllenhaal (foxy, but also sister of foxy, and dating foxy, so whatever, whatever) reading the story "Roy Spivey" by Miranda July (foxy). And not to stir up controversy, but I'm pretty sure Peter Sarsgaard beats up on Jake at family picnics and whatever. At least, I hope they fight. And Sarah Vowell introducing and Dimitri Martin in the crowd. He's funny, my impression from ladies I know in New York is that he makes ladies swoon. But he seemed goofy, and I've seen him in the bookstore on Prince, and his hair seems like it takes a lot of time to get it that helmet-like.

There's probably a lot to say about the reading, but only one notion of consequence caught my attention. Zadie Smith said that Miranda July wrote about what it felt like to be in a woman's body better than anybody she could think of (sic, right?) and that held my imagination. After staring at people on the subway, ED and I took up this idea, although ED seemed to think that it meant only that Miranda July did an exceptional job describing what it felt like to be inside a specific type of woman's body (the gangly, awkward, overly self-aware type), or perhaps, that only a certain type of woman would recognize themselves in Miranda July's characters (either the gangly, awkward types or the self-aware types, and, of course, the Venn diagram intersection of the two types). ED's argument, as she indicated by a fat woman sitting across from us, and a snub-nosed girl reading a novel (that ED recognized by cover alone), was that most women aren't reflective enough to see themselves in their own bodies. No, they'd rather read The Devil Wears Prada or The Nanny Diaries or whatever, because they delude themselves into thinking that they actually are like those girls. Or that's what I got.

Maybe so, but this isn't what caught my imagination, and I don't think it is what Zadie Smith was getting at. Put differently, I don't think I'd do a good job writing about what it felt like to be in a man's body, although I could probably do a great job writing about what it feels like to be in my body. But that's because I think my body probably doesn't work exactly like most men think their bodies work... by which I mean the sweat and the stench and, especially, the blue balls. But it's an interesting idea, and one that I don't know I have a great example of -- who writes what it feels like to be inside of your own body (in my case, a man's body) exceptionally well. What it feels like to hang on the bones, and feel the skin, and understand the muscles and the blood and the pulses, strains, awkward twangs, and heat of the muscles. That there's such a thing that you could writePublish Post that would be commonly recognizable -- that this is a man's body, different from a boy's body, and different from a woman's body. And a hell of a compliment for Zadie Smith to play Miranda July.

EDITOR'S NOTE: ED has informed me that I got everything wrong, so you can't hold it against her.

Top 10 Favorite Moments in The Jerk

"Escena Romantica En La Playa"

I watched The Jerk again the other night. As I've said before, people don't get it, not nearly enough, the sort of genius that Steve Martin was, starting with The Jerk in 1979, through til LA Story in 1991. Funny, weird, innocent, honest, and beautiful. He projected a world, entirely, but a world that you'd only be overjoyed to be in.

My top (hey, it worked out!) 10 favorite moments in The Jerk:

1. The kiss on the beach, above.

2. Navin finds his special purpose
Patty: "(she lies down on the bed) You know what I'd like to do?"
Navin: "What?"
Patty: "Guess your weight."
Navin: "Hey, that would be interesting for me, no one has tried to guess my weight! You see, I guess their weights..."
Patty: "Put your arms up."
Navin: "This will give me a whole different perspective on this. (Patty squeezes Navin's backside) Hey! You're really trying to be accurate! Is it getting hot in here? Wait a minute - what's happening to my special purpose?"
3. Navin avoids the homicidal sociopath:
Navin: "Get away from those cans! (Navin runs inside the station)"
Navin: "There's cans in there too! (the gas station window breaks)"
Navin: "More cans!"
4. Navin defends himself against racist stereotypes:

Navin: "Select class. Very, very good."
Boss: "We'll keep the eggplants out!"
Navin: "Ah good! We don't want any vegetables."
Con Man: "Na, na. The jungle bunnies!"
Navin: "Oh of course! They'll eat the vegetables!"
Con Man: "Boss, could I talk to him? We're going to keep out the niggers!"
Navin: "The what?"
Boss: "The niggers! We'll keep 'em out."
Navin: "Sir, you are talking to a nigger!"

5. When Navin confounds the hoodlums by tying their bumper to the nave of a church.

6. When Navin writes home about the job that Patty is going to give him next week.

7. Pizza In A Cup

8. Navin on love:

Navin: "Marie, are you awake? Good. You look so beautiful and peaceful, you almost look dead. I'm glad because there is something that has always been very difficult for me to say. I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit. I've never been relaxed enough around anyone to be able to say that. You give me confidence in myself. I know we've only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days and the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days and the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in the evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down, but I can show it to you tomorrow if you want to see it. Anyway, I've decided that tomorrow, when the time is right, I'm going to ask you to marry me, if that's o.k. with you. Just don't say anything. You've made me very happy."

9. When Navin sets Shithead free.

10. The denouement:
Navin: "And I don't need any of this! I don't need this stuff, (he pushes all of the letters off the desk), and I don't need you. I don't need anything except this (he picks up the ashtray) and that's it and that's the only thing I need, is this. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game and the remote control, and that's all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that's all I need. And that's all I need too. I don't need one other thing, not one - I need this! The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. Well what are you looking at? What do you think I am, some kind of a jerk or something? And this! And that's all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair."

Wintry Mix

Yeah, one of those nights. It's been one of those weeks, and one of those months, and they've been adding up. A lot of longer, harder, drearier than I'd like days and weeks, cut by small, good moments (a lot thanks to ED). I got out of work early, for once, at my own discretion. Walked up town in the rain, the sleet, the snow, yeah, the wintry mix, to the record store, for some retail therapy. Bought a few things I need (Magnetic Fields, Dylan, Kinks), and a few things more, that I don't need (INXS).

Took the Q train home, it was crowded.

Thought ER would be by at the apartment, slowly reclaiming his things, leaving me in desolation, so when I got back to Brooklyn, I wandered out again into the wintry mix. Wandered up Vanderbilt, which is always a little more desolate than you'd expect, on which minivans drive a little faster than you'd think. Headed over to Soda Bar, for a burger and a couple of beers. I sat near the window, so I could watch the snow fall down. It looked cold and beautiful.

Brooklyn is a funny place. To my right were a couple of new-to-Brooklyn and not-with-it gay men. Unattractive for straight men, but fine enough for gay men, I suppose. They said things like, "I live near Bushwick. There's a lot of hipsters!" and "Where is DUMBO?" and "You really should go to Prospect Park, it's pretty big." They were new. New to town. On my right were two guys in their shirtsleeves. Truth be told, I was in my shirtsleeves, too. But they had their Blackberries out and were talking about 54th and Lex., and seemed to be concerned that somebody had posted losses of $9.8 BILLION the other day. They asked where Jeremy was, and speculated that he was at dinner, on Flatbush, with her. Jeremy showed up, and she turned out to be like magic, ensconced in quiet and a hood and Japanese. Jeremy said a lot and she didn't say much and you could tell who had a lot to say.

A girl at the bar wore a sweater-dress, tight and white, and she was a little heavy set and a it looked off. A couple at the bar sucked face all night, which was a little out of place, because we're Brooklyn, yo, hipsters and yuppies, and we keep our shit in check. There was another woman at the bar, the sort of woman who I don't physically match up well with, but whom I love. Like a mouse-brown haired Neko Case, tall, a little tawdry, but smart in the mouth and hips -- that sort of girl. Pale white skin above the belt, below the sweater, on a cold, cold night. Not my type, and not my style, but the sort of woman who has the sort of dad that I'd love to meet.

I asked the waiter for a pen, to take down some notes, for my 2007/2008 notes, to friends far flung and near. (It's coming, give me a day or two to doctor some photos). The bartender had a good shirt on, and played good music. Matthew Dear, and then the White Rabbits. The most under-appreciated band of 2007, unless this Angels of Light record is as good as JW/JP/ER say it is. I'll soon find out. And then I came home and put on Sigur Ros, which I've been happy to re-discover. Yeah, have a listen...


Truth is, I'm the sort of man who doesn't know how most things work, exactly. I'm not incompetent, I have a basic idea of physics, finance, and a woman, and I'm neither stupid or incurious. I might take the charge of lazy from time to time, but that's not really fair. Unpracticed is probably the level aim.

My relationship with my vas deferens probably started and ended in the seventh grade, with Ms. Tufts, the junior high volleyball teacher/stereotypical lesbian who doubled-down as our Health Ed instructor. It ended there, or a period later, in Mr. Gomes incongruous Ecology class. The only black teacher in twenty miles, soft-spoken, a naturalist, and unable to relate, at all, to Sharika. Sharika was a girl, and she killed the flour baby she was given in Health Ed. Killed it on the floor, in a smashing fashion, in splayed out lumps and then grains. Probably some of that flour baby still is on the floor of the science wing.

I don't really know where a vasectomy would start. Without really thinking to much, I don't know where the incision would start. Or stop. Or what it would be trying to do, physiologically. Or even what it would really stop me from doing, physiologically. Admittedly, it's a weak spot. I need to bone up. Because, to my recollection, the vas deferens were named after a Dutchman, a scientist. Let me check Wikipedia. Nope. I was wrong.

Michael Lewis wrote an article in about getting a vasectomy. It wasn't very good, it wasn't up to his par, but I don't think less of him for it. It contained this good, and true, bit:
I should have fought for my reproductive rights, like other men. A friend of mine, when his wife suggested he might go and get himself gelded, had just laughed and said, "What if I want a trophy wife one day?" Another had declined his wife's invitation to a beheading by saying, "What if you and the kids go down in a plane crash?" Other men I knew refused on the grounds of rumors they'd heard about the operation's side effects. "I have a friend who had it done and he couldn't feel his dick for 10 months," a guy at a dinner party told me, knowledgeably. "After that I said, 'No way.' "

And these were men who lived in Berkeley, Calif.! Imagine the conversation in the red states, where men were men.
I can only think of one friend who has gotten a vasectomy that I now about, AK, and he is, by far, hands down, the coolest person that I know. Not cool in a sunglasses, jacket, and jeans sort of way, but cool in a kids, wife, and job sort of way, in that, he's got life figured out, better than anyone else I've ever met who wasn't born rich and well-adjusted. I found out over dinner, with a client, a client whom I'd just met, in a Cuban restaurant in Philadelphia. Apropos of something, but not something like a vasectomy, something more like "How much would it cost to retire in Nicaragua?" AK said, "Oh, sure, I got my tube tied. I made a deal with Mrs. AK. I'd get the operation, and she'd let me take a vacation for two weeks every year, to go surfing in the Indian Ocean, while she took care of the kids." And he didn't blink, and ate his ropa vieja.

Now, isn't that cool?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Soviet Bus Stops

I can vouch that MM had the idea long ago, of photographing bus stops around the world. We should have done it. But we didn't. So in its place, you get these great photographs of bus stops from the Soviet Union, by Christopher Herwig. Soviet Union, what were you doing?

Also via today and tomorrow

Houses of Tomorrow

And here I found the endlessly engaging today and tomorrow. Trawling through their architecture section unearthed a number of charmers, including each of the above, in order from top to bottom: Ring House by TNA Architects, a super-mod dental clinic (?) by Hiroki Tanabe, a very cool restoration project by a German architecture firm, and Rotterdam's Didden Village project.


Here's the presser on Kent Rogowski's sufficiently fucked-up art project, Bears:
Bears, is a series of portraits of the most unusual sort: ordinary teddy bears that have been turned inside out and restuffed. Each animal's appearance is determined by the necessities of the manufacturing process. Simple patterns and devices never meant to be seen are now prominent physical characteristics, giving each one a distinctly quirky personality: their fasteners become eyes, their seams become scars, and their stuffing creeps out in the most unexpected places. Together these images form a topology of strange yet oddly familiar creatures. They are at once hideous yet cuddly, disturbing yet endearing, absurd yet adorable, while offering a metaphor for us all to consider. These bears, which have lived and loved and lost as much as their owners, have suffered and endured through it all. It is by virtue of revealing their inner core might we better understand our own.
Emphasis mine. Via the stumbled upon, and likely to stumble upon again, blog called "The Breadboard"

Shreddin' (and Puzzlin')

RM, JWW, JZ and I headed up to Windham Mountain for a little snowboarding 101. A little boarding, a lot of falling, a lot of being sassy wise-asses to our hapless instructor. We did ourselves as proud as we could. At least we weren't as obnoxious as this guy (I don't think).

Later that evening in Cold Spring, JWW showed me this one-of-a-kind, hand-made puzzle of personal Brooklyn landmarks that he received from JZ. How cool is this?