July 2002 Archives

Now That You Know What You Are

To ponder:

Let's say you have a large pile of clean laundry. And in this pile are x pairs of clean socks (assume that each pair of socks is distinct; i.e. each sock has one and only one matching sock).

I haven't worked out all the math, but it seems to me that you'd have to pull out slightly more than x/2 socks before the odds were in your favor for picking out a matching sock (the equation is y=n/(2x-n), where y is the odds of pulling out a matching sock on the next try, n is the number of single socks already pulled out of the pile, and x is the number of pairs of socks).

Why is it, then, that to get a matching pair of socks, one must pull out every single odd sock before finally getting a match?

One, Two, Three...

Sasha Castel has reorganized her links by Cole Porter song title. I've been filed under "From This Moment On".

Every Time He Call Her On The Telephone

I'm getting a head start on next month's contest:

If you're a devoted reader of the F.A.Q. (and if you're not, you should be), you know that many Chinese proverbs are rather obscure. In fact, they're often so obscure that the only way to understand them is to know a convoluted story involving a folk hero, a minor emperor, and a constipated horse.

I say, who's got time to comb through tens of thousands of Chinese folk tales?

Make Your Own Explanation For A Real Chinese Proverb!

The rules are simple: Take the real Chinese proverb "The old man at the frontier lost his horse", create your own meaning for it, write up the backstory, and send it to me before the end of the day on August 9, 2002. Best explanation wins a fabulous prize!

Jungle Man Corner

Throne Of BloodWent and saw Throne of Blood on Saturday night. It's an adaption of Macbeth, reset from Scotland to Japan. It was playing as part of the Film Forum's Kurosawa/Mifune film festival.

It'd been a long time since I'd seen it, and I'd never seen the film in a theater. It really is an astonishing film -- Mifune's grimacing from scene to scene; the incredibly long takes that Kurosawa uses; the visual rigor and careful framing that gives the film such an amazing look.

One of the things that Kurosawa does is he doesn't over-edit the film; he uses very long takes, giving his actors time and space to work with. The heart of the ghost scene is done in one shot; Kurosawa moves his camera around the set, showing -- and then not showing -- the ghost without special effects, and letting Mifune register his character's increasing desperation and growing insanity without resorting to cinematic tricks.

The acting, too, is amazing. Kurosawa has his actors work in a very un-naturalistic manner; they owe more to kabuki and noh than they do to Stella Adler or Lee Strasberg (Kurosawa did the same thing in his other great Shakespeare adaption, Ran). Yet the (obviously) highly stylized acting really works, in that it draws you deeper and deeper into the action and the characters. I'm not a student of acting, and I can't tell you why it works; I can just say that it does work.

The Film Forum showed a new print of the film; it looked really good. It's hard to capture the snap and the pop of a really-well shot black & white film on video. The contrast ranges aren't really the same, and subtle shadings tend to get block up and get muddy. They also used a new translation; since I don't speak Japanese, I can't attest to how good it is, but it seems to be capture the film well enough.

As a side note, the Japanese title of the film doesn't translate as "Throne of Blood". It's "Spider Web Castle", which is the name of the castle in the film. "Throne of Blood" is a better title; however, I doubt that it would have been all that politically correct for Kurosawa to name his film that in post-war Japan.

Anyway, if you're at all interested in film, cinema, asian film (you know who you are), or if you just like good movies, you really owe it to yourself to go on down the Film Forum and catch the rest of the series (if you don't live in New York, you can at least rent many of the films in the series on VHS or DVD).

Throne of Blood has its last showings today, so if you want to see it (you really should) you've got one more chance to catch it.

Is This A Dream Or Something For Real?

I'm actually writing this on the 27th, but since the 27th has only about 5 minutes left (EDT), I'm marking it as the 28th. That, and the fact that it will be the 28th when it gets posts. That, and the fact that making this tomorrow's entry will lessen my guilt about not writing an entry tomorrow. Got that?

You Have To Climb Some Fences

Ladies, Gentlemen, and the rest of you usual suspects, I present the lovely Ravenwolf:

Ravenwolf wearing a this is not my beautiful beer t-shirt

She's seen here (click on the image for a larger version of the pic) modelling the practical and attractive "This Is Not My Beautiful Beer!" T-shirt. If you'd like your own shirt, you can try to win one of the contests that periodically show up on this site, or, if you're the impatient type, you could just visit the the Paul Frankenstein Light Industry & Manufacturing Emporium and order one for yourself!

Like The Way I Do

I was cleaning up in the kitchen tonight and I passed the calendar on the wall. It was still on the month of May.

Does this mean that June never happened? And that most of July followed it?

Or does it just say something about how I live my life?

I changed it to July.

Let This Be A Sermon

This is fucking insane. Seriously not safe for work. Via Dawn Olsen.

Or I Won't Know Where I Am

Ladies, Gentlemen, and all the rest of you riff-raff: I present the fabulous Mr. Mike Whybark!

Mike Whybark, looking rather dashing

Doesn't he look dashing in that snazzy T-shirt? Well, you too can look just as snazzy when you shop at the Paul Frankenstein Light Industry & Manufacturing Emporium!

So don't delay! Order yours today!

I Can Dream For Miles

A brief roundup of the bits of the blogosphere I haunt, in no particular order:

Damn, that's a long list.

Hope I didn't forget anyone.

You're Always The Sun

Cabbies who need anger management courses really shouldn't be on the road, don'chathink?

Oh No, Not Again

Updated and revised the FAQ page, for all your Paul Frankenstein questions.

Just Find Your Spot On The Floor

I am guest blogging today over at Tony Pierce's Busblog. Not to be too much of a sycophant, but Tony Pierce is one of the smartest men on the internet.

This makes me happy.

Mollusk Mania!

Giant squid washes up on the beach in Australia. At 60 feet and some 500 pounds, that's one heck of a mollusk. You know, squid makes for some good eatins...

Just Come On Down To 54

I seem to have totally missed the one-year anniversary of this iteration of this website.

Well, for the historically inclined, you can go back and read through the archives, over there on the right.

Enjoy looking through the non-evolution of the site. Walk down memory lane. Let me know what you think my greatest hits are (sorry about the lack of permalinks).

Young And Old Are Doing It I'm Told

Is This You? Random photographs found on the London Tube. Shades of Amelie, actually.

And don't forget the sister site, Is This Yours?

Freak Out!

We have a winner.

Caryn's reason why she should go see the show was:

I think you should give the tickets to me because ... if I do go, I'll be able to write a review of it for my friend's New York travel site, which will improve my writing career. So, in short, giving me these tickets will improve my career prospects.

Caryn, enjoy the show!

I Just Can't Hold On Much Longer

Who would have thought that trying to give away theater tickets was harder than trying to give away free pizza?

Trust me, folks, you really want these tickets.

Quickie Contest

I have two free tickets to an Off-Off-Broadway play here in the city called The Darling Family. Here's a review so you guys know that it's a good show, worth seeing (particularly for the low low price of free), and that I'm not just trying dump tickets that I wouldn't use anyway.

First person to email me with a good reason (be creative, folks) why they should get the tickets gets them.

(Oh, and since this is a NYC show, this special offer is only open to New Yorkers (and people in the New York vicinity), unless you're willing and able to come to the big bad city on very short notice (it closes on Sunday) to see the show)

Jump! Jump! Jump!

As of 1 p.m., the Dow is down a good 300 points.

I can hear the screaming from here.

The Far-Away Look In Her Eyes

The Independent looks at the work of Ansel Adams and discovers that there is indeed, some there there.

Often criticized because his work seemed to be simply pretty without content, Adams was (and still is) unmatched in his technical skill. His invention of the Zone System revolutionized black and white photography at the time. Photographers today still refer to him, half-jokingly, as "St. Ansel". It's not an exaggeration to say that he has influenced every serious photographer to follow him. He's certainly the most popular photographer ever.

A great deal of the criticism that he took during his lifetime had to do with the fact that he was not a 'socially engaged' photographer, and that he didn't address the crises and changes that America was going through at the time (unlike, say, Dorthea Lange or Walker Evans).

But Adams did have a social agenda -- to document and preserve the open spaces of the American West, before it fell prey to the encroachments of man. I suspect that as a native Californian of the early 20th century, Adams instinctively understood that the mountains and scenescapes that he loved would eventually succumb to the pressures of development and the United States' inevitable western migration.

In 1943, perhaps in part to answer his critics, Adams did something incredibly brave: he went to Manzanar.

Manzanar was one of the Japanese-American internment camps set up in central California.

The following year he published the Manzanar photographs in a book he titled Born Free and Equal.

The photographs are something of a departure from his idiom, and I don't think that anyone would call them exemplars of his art. But they have an arresting simplicity and straightforwardness that serves his purpose well. These are Americans, he's saying, yet their American dream has been denied.

To the best of my knowledge, Adams was the only American artist of any sort to ever visit an internment camp. That, I think, says more about the artist and the man than 10,000 volumes of art criticism ever could.

Colliding With The Very Air She Breathes

I've mentioned Hayseed Dixie before. In short, they play rock-'n'-roll songs as straight traditional bluegrass. Their rendition of "Feel Like Making Love" should not be missed.

Well, last night at the Bottom Line, they opened for a band called Brave Combo. Brave Combo is... well, they're a polka band.

Yep. You heard me right.


They play straight polka -- German, Mexican, Polish, Swedish -- and they also play what can only be described as rock polka.

Huh? Rock Polka?

Yep. Basically, just imagine that rock music, instead of being blues-based, was polka-based instead. That's what they sound like.

That's weird.

Yeah, but it works. They also do a cha-cha version of "Louie, Louie", and a few other things. In fact, the only blues-based number they played all night was a funk cover of "The Hokey-Pokey".

The Hokey-Pokey?


The one where you put it in and you put it out and then you shake it all about?

One and the same. Anyway, they're a really amazing band, at least live. So if they're coming to your town, check them out. Really. I mean it.

He Grew Up In A Small Town

Ken Goldstein has a posse

I Haven't Seen This Place Before

You know it's the 21st Century when:

  • Girl moves to the big bad city.
  • Girl racks up $20,000 in credit-card debt.
  • Girl sets up website and asks total strangers to pay off her debt for her.

I'll give her credit for

  1. Creativity
  2. Massive amounts of chutzpah.

Still, there are a few problems with her approach: for example, the domain name involved is registered with Register.com, which charges $35 for one year of registration. Domainmonger.com charges $17 per year; Joker.com charges $8.57 per year; godaddy.com is $8.95 per year; and if you wan to engage in a some minor forex speculation, gandi.net is 12 Euros/year ($11.92 at current exchange rates).

If she were a guy, I'd say that she had cojones the size of Rhode Island.

Pulled Down By The Undertow

Yes, I'm feeling better, though not 100% just yet. Thanks for the thousands of get well soon cards.

The Winter Here Is Cold

Another thing that sucks: All-Star games that end in ties. If I were in charge of that thing, I would have called both mangers over at the end of the 11th inning, and told them to tell their pitchers to serve up batting-practice fastballs until someone won.

That Didn't Go From A Blessing To A Curse

Things that suck, an on-going series:

  • Waking up in the middle of the night on a holiday weekend and feeling sick.
  • Getting up in the middle of the same night and taking two Advil to make you feel better.
  • Waking up the following morning still feeling like shit.
  • Going to work having taken two extra-strength aspirin and feeling like you've been hit by a truck (and yes, I have been hit by a truck, so I know what it feels like (well, actually, it was more like I hit the truck, not the other way around, but same difference))
  • Health insurance web-sites that have badly outdated doctor contact information.

But in other news, the weekend was lots of fun.

On Thursday, my sister and I drove up to Rhode Island to visit my brother for the holiday. We had a little picnic (in a somewhat crowded park), and then we went to this giant mall (really, coming at it from off the freeway, it looks like a baseball stadium, it's that big) in the middle of town with the stated intent of seeing Minority Report. However, they weren't showing that for a couple of hours, and since we had to get back to the big bad city, we went to go see Lilo and Stitch instead. Lilo and Stitch is a very different movie than your traditional Disney flick (which is probably why the marketing campaign totally fails to capture the spirit of the movie); I think that in tone, it owes more to the anarchic spirit of the great Warners Brothers cartoons than the great, majestic Disney tradition. The main character is a gleefully anarchic force of nature; there are numerous references to previous Disney films (a Chinese restaurant spotted in the film is called "Mulan Wok"); and the story, departing somewhat from the standard Disney template about a teenager trying to find him/herself, is really an updated version of the Frankenstein story. It's also very, very funny (even though it slows down somewhat in the third act). It was also nice to see a film about Asian-Americans in the mainstream. I give it a very solid four stars (out of five).

Anyway, once the movie was over, we dropped my brother off at his dorm and commenced on the long drive back to the city.

On Friday, we drove down to Philadelphia. Though we had other business there, it was rather appropriate to visit the birthplace of our nation on the 4th of July weekend (even though it wasn't actually the 4th itself). We wandered around the historic downtown area (very pleasant) and then had lunch at Morimoto. It's really, really good. I'd say that it's on a par with Nobu. It's really that good. The only thing I have to regret is that we were not able (limited by budget, time, and the size of our stomachs) to try everything on the menu. If you're ever in the city of Brotherly Love, you really owe it to yourself to drop by. Try going for lunch -- it's a little less expensive than dinner and they have some really scrumptious lunch specials.

Then we drove back to the city.

As you might imagine, Saturday was spent mostly asleep. Saturday evening we did get to go see Minority Report. Very good movie. There are some third-act problems (mostly it's too long), but it's really well done. It actually paints a really bleak vision of the future, but it doesn't hammer you over the head with it. A lot of the issues it touches on, it does just touches on: privacy rights, the growing commercialization of our public spaces, the rights of the one versus the rights of the many, and so on. Spielberg just presents these as integrated parts of the future. And Tom Cruise actually does do some acting. I give it four stars -- nay, four-and-a-half stars.

Sunday we saw Men In Black II. It's a good sequel -- you need to have seen the first one before you see this one -- but it's not a good movie. It really feels much more like a episode of a long-running TV show than a movie. There are a lot of jokes that are recycled/referenced from the first film. And they don't have Linda Fiorentino, who was one of the best parts of the original. I give it two-and-a-half stars. Rent it on video, I say.

And then I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like shit. C'est la vie, eh?

His Turn At Bat

You Could Say That I Lost My Faith in Science

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Shun Our Dessert!

I'm Hungry, Aren't You?

Happy 4th of July, everyone. Time to chow down on the potato salad and the hot dogs.

Hot Pants!

High of 94 yesterday. Projected high of 97 today. And it’s humid.

Now I Know How My Last Lover Felt

Well, that was fast.

We Have A Winner!

Mike Whybark correctly surmised that the number of dots I use is the largest prime factor of the number of each month. He will soon be receiving his Fabulous Prize, and we here hope that he greatly enjoys it.

We hope that you have all enjoyed playing, and stay tuned for another fantastic contest next month!

As Buster Poindexter Once Said...

And when they say she's en fuego, they mean it, literally: Soprano catches fire at Royal Opera.

Blame South Park

Happy Canada Day!


Here's this month's contest:

What is the numeric significance of the number of dots (the big ones, not the small ones) that I use to separate each entry?

Here's a hint: the number of dots changes depending on which month it is.

First person to email me with the right answer will win a Fabulous Prize! And you'll win not only a Fabulous Prize, but you'll also be Immortalized Forever in the annals of this website! How spectacular is that!