September 2003 Archives
Just flew in from San Francisco and boy are my arms tired.
As some of you may have noticed, the title of this blog changes on a monthly basis, usually a familiar quote, song lyric, or verse passage that features the name of the month.
As I am shortly leaving to go to California for a wedding and will most likely be sans internet access until I get back, all tired and bleary-eyed, on Monday morning (all told, some eighty-eight hours unplugged), I'm opening the comments to nominations for next month's (that'd be October) title from the floor.
The winner will get their website (or the website of their choice) linked at the top of the great rotating list of permalinks over there on the left for the entire month of October!
The rules are pretty simple: the quote must be in English (or reasonable facsimile thereof), you must cite the original source (or, if it's short enough, just include the entire damn thing), and it should have the word "October" in it. Entries should be in by 9 a.m. (Eastern Time) Monday morning, and I'll do the judging. Yeah, I know it's a stupid contest. Feel free to slag off on other people's nominations.
I find this Times feature (click on the slideshow link) in their "House&Home" section today (titled "Not Lost In Translation") preaching the virtues of chinoiserie rather offensive.
No, I'm not talking about the gratuitous use of a movie title in a headline (last item). And no, I'm not talking about the orientalisim involved (on the one hand, I like to think that my ancestors had good taste most of the time; on the other, the whole fetishization of Chinese artifacts and displacement from their cultural context is a bit disturbing). I'm talking about the grotesque use of Mao as an icon.
Mao Zedong was the greatest mass murder of the twentieth century (and, by extension, of all time). He killed between 40 and 50 million of his subjects. These are not typos. By comparison, Hitler and Stalin were pikers. The total toll from the Holocaust was 12 million (6 million Jews, 6 million "other undesirables" -- Gypsies, homosexuals, and so on). In the three years of the Great Leap Forward, thirty million Chinese died. That's two-and-a-half times the number of total deaths in the Holocaust.
It's not like these numbers are secret and only available to a mysterious cabal of China scholars; fifteen seconds with Google and the research is done. Obviously the Times wouldn't dare suggest that you decorate your house with a Warhol silkscreen of Hitler: could they be suggesting that killing 40 million yellow orientals is somehow more acceptable than killing a third that number of white Europeans?
What's next? Idi Amin fingerbowls and Pol Pot tea cozies?
Well, if I had anything to do with it... (step one is the banning of margarine: it's an offense to humanity)
I really wonder why do so many people keep naming things after me: Haunted House: Frankenstein's Fortress
Ken's epic tale of love and loss, "On Passing by Miss Ohio Wandering Down the Atlantic City Boardwalk at 11:30 the Night of the Miss America Pageant", kinda reminds me of the time I was in the same room as Daljit Dhaliwal (except for that bit about being down 2 large).
I can't say that I remember much else about that day, save the fact that I woke up in a storage closet a few hours later with a restraining order staple-gunned to my oddly shirtless chest.
Be afraid. Be very afraid: The World Beard and Moustache Championships in Carson City.
Sofia Coppola's new film Lost in Translation is an amazing, beautiful film. I gotta put it at the top of the list for movies I've see this year (yeah, even beating out American Splendor (though not by much, as they are very different movies)). As many others have said, the movie is built around an astonishing performance by Bill Murray that opens up the actor in ways I've never ever seen before. It's a masterful piece of work; the actor plays against all expectations and delivers an understated portrait of a man who's tired, lost, and, above all, human. There's a hilarious scene where Murray is filming a commercial for Suntory whisky (translated from the Japanese here); the man is utterly confused by what's going on yet pulls it together like the pro that he is.
More importantly, though, is how Murray's understated performance opens up the film for his co-star, the wise-beyond-her-years Scarlett Johansson. While Murray provides the grounding and structure for the movie, Johansson is the emotional heart of the film as the young woman (apparently based on Coppola herself) who is tentatively trying to find herself.
See this movie. Seriously.
Advil Liqui-Gels work much better than greasy food when one is trying to kill off a hangover—and they work really fast, too. Where did the canard about eating really greasy food come from, anyway?
Of course, never ever having had a hangover in my life, this is all what "friends" have told me.
- The Times discovers real barbeque in New York. Noted BBQ fans Gothamist add their two bits.
- Goldstein is back, and he's pleased to present The Illuminated Donkey Festival, featuring such memorable discussions as "Reformatting the Server Whatsits to Clear the Flibber-Flabber" (with yours truly as one of the panelists), "Peanut Butter Jelly Time: a charming and memorable performance for kids", and the not-to-be-missed "Thirst, Alcohol, and the Single American Woman: A Sequential Panel Discussion", hosted by Mr. Goldstein himself. Get your tickets now!
- The Times does a beer tasting of stouts. I wanna work for the food section there...
- You might want to boycott JetBlue and CheapTickets (not to mention Avis, Budget, and any other subsidiaries of Cendant). Why? Well, it looks like they'll be opening up travel dossiers on their customers and giving them to the government. Seriously, you don't have to be paranoid to be scared by this.
- William Grimes reviews Rocco's on 22nd and, surprisingly, gives it a fairly favorable review. I'm still not sure if I'd actually want to eat there...
- And finally, if you're tired of your current desktop, you'll probably find one you'll like over here.
Really rather inevitable, like a giant storm: hurricane personals from craigslist.
The Guardian's Lisa Hilton, on oysters:
Been playing around about with the styles on this site. It would probably behoove you to hit reload to force your browser to reload the style-sheet. And in other news, I was at the Manhattan MovableType/TypePad-Meetup and I have to report that the Trotts were not dressed in coordinated red-and-white outfits.
Some fun things to do with Flash (on a slow Friday afternoon):
- Apparently from the creators of the Teletubbies, this (vaguely reminicent of The Manhole) might be best appreciated under the influence of synesthesia-inducing substances: http://www.boohbah.com/zone.html
- This appears to be some kind of experiment in mapping. Or maybe not: http://jlapotre.free.fr/6306R4PH1C/
- Tokyoplastic appears to be some kind of art exhibit. I think. I can't tell, I don't-can't-read Japanese.
- Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries may be a one-trick pony, but it's a hellofa trick.
- And finally, this is kind of a fun, funky little adventure "game" (it reminds me a bit of the Real World/Peter Gabriel title Eve (click on the "Eve" button in the bottom right corner of the screen): http://www.freshsensation.com/samorost.swf
I can't be the only one to notice the irony in how the whole will-she-or-won't-she Elizabeth Spiers/Gawker/New York Magazine affair has turned into exactly the kind of essentially meaningless, navel-gazing and narcissistic New York media circus that Elizabeth skewered so expertly at Gawker, can I?
In the event that you missed the whole feeding frenzy, it all started with this piece from Women's Wear Daily, which was picked up by Jeff Jarvis, followed by Gawker itself chiming in and the ever-lovely Ms. Spiers offering her side of the story (executive summary: Not Exactly True). MemeFirst has weighed in, as has Xeni Jardin over at BoingBoing and the good folks at Gothamist. Perhaps the second-most amusing part is that Jason Calacanis, a serial entrepreneur with one-and-a-half mostly useless magazines and a demonstrated inability to use the apostrophe properly to his credit, is attempting to hire Elizabeth away (from whom?) by offering her 50% equity (in what?), a new laptop (ooh, how generous—I'm shivering with excitement), and Soho House membership; however, he seems to have left out what is for most of us the most important part of any job—the paycheck.
The most amusing part is, of course, Choire's observation that "No Comment" is a complete sentence.
This is my personal account of what happened two years ago today.
This is my brother's account—he was at school, only a few blocks away from the World Trade Center.
Here are some pictures I took in lower Manhattan in the days after 9/11.
And finally, here's a story about the curious case of Dr. Sneha Ann Philip, a Battery Park City resident who vanished into thin air the night before the attack and who is often erroneously listed as a victim. Plus her family's official site.
From Eurotrash, things that run through a woman's head whilst having sex:
Dear God, will this ever end?
I'm getting lockjaw.
Porn. Think of some porn. That might help.
What's his name again?
Wow. That was good. [Rare, that one]
Check out the rest of the list at her site.
From the NYT: Edward Teller Is Dead at 95; Fierce Architect of H-Bomb.
In my inbox this morning (after having cleared all my spam filters):
I have a significant number of clients, some of whom are seeking information on Hunting Safaris. If you are able to provide detailed information to my clients, then please contact me or provide your phone number.
I wonder if Dave Hyatt got the same email?
Tonight, as I was closing up a bar tab, the bartender (who was wearing about $0.50 worth of red polyester—seriously, if that's all you're going to wear, why bother with clothes at all (not that she didn't look good; in fact, she looked spectacular, but I suspect that she would have been just as spectacular, if not more so, without the fifty cents worth of fabric)?) gave me a lip-liner pencil to sign the credit card slip with.
I believe her claim that it was her first night (she managed to forget to give me the actual bar tab along with the credit card slip), but seriously, she couldn't tell the difference between lip-liner and a ball-point pen? I thought that I was the one who was supposed to be drunk...
Well, that was one of the most boring football games I can remember. As John Hall was lining up for the winning field goal, I was thinking "I want him to miss it, but if he does, that means this game is going into overtime..."
If today was any indication, it's going to be a long season for the Jets. Paul Hackett's play-calling was generally conventional and uninspired (if you're going to run on first down all the time, it would help if you had an offensive line that can open holes); receivers consistantly ran their third-down routes short of the first-down marker; the defense couldn't get off the field. They need to get better, and fast.
To: The Guy on the Bike On Third Avenue
Re: Talking on Your Cell Phone
I know that it's your business if you don't want to wear a helmet. And I know that lots of folks ride their bikes against traffic in Manhattan. And you know, it's your cell phone; you can do what you want.
But really, I think that if you want to survive into your thirties, you might want to stop doing all three things at the same time during rush hour. Just a tip.
Oh, and to the guy eating the chocolate Hostess cupcakes? It is rather impressive that you can fit the whole thing in your mouth, but please don't. Thanks.
I also saw a whole bunch of movies this weekend—I was trying to catch up on all the summer movies that I haven't seen but have been meaning to (that, and pretty much the entire population of Manhattan had abandoned the island for the long weekend, so I didn't have all that much else to do). To review them, I'm enlisting the help of my imaginary friend Herb (not to be confused with my other imaginary friend Frank). You could say that it was a mini-film festival, kinda sorta.
Paul: This is a beautiful, plotless film about birds. Yeah, the things that fly up in the sky and have feathers. Made over four years, it has absolutely stunning cinematography and quite a few "oh my gosh, how did they do that" moments. It tracks the seasonal migration of a number of different kinds of birds: assorted kinds of geese, cranes, puffins, eagles, and so on (they even spend some time with penguins!). Because the camera operators were able to get so close to the birds, you can actually see how they fly, and some of the different solutions that each species uses to solve some of the same problems of flight. It's an ornithologist's wet dream. It also managed to achieve a rare grace and elegance; it's 87 minutes of visual poetry. One curious thing is that the birds featured tend to be waterfowl of one kind (geese, ducks) or another (albatrosses, puffins, cranes). Highly recommended, and highly recommended that you see it on a big screen. I saw it as a 35mm print projected onto an IMAX screen, which was probably not the best way to see it, but it was still pretty amazing.
Herb: No plot, no girls, no gunfire. Next!
Paul: For the past few years, Jackie Chan has split his time between making Hong Kong-style films (Who Am I?, The Accidental Spy) and big Hollywood films with western stars (Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon, The Tuxedo). The Medallion is an attempt to meld the two genres: made in Hong Kong and Ireland, it features an international supporting cast (Julian Sands, Lee Evans, John Rhys-Davies). It also features Claire Forlani as the female lead/love interest, which is a horrible, horrible mistake, as the two of them are utterly unbelievable as a romantic couple, despite their best thespian efforts. It was certainly an entertaining diversion and there are some very funny bits from Lee Evans, but it's hardly one of Mr. Chan's best efforts.
Herb: I don't think that I'm giving anything away by telling you that half-way through the film, Jackie Chan's character dies and then comes back to life as a supernatural power. Up to there, it's a by-the-numbers chopsocky flick, with some great, great stunt work. After the guy dies, though, it's turns into a computer-generated extravaganza. Put it this way: it turns bad. Real bad. And the whole love interest thing doesn't work on so many different levels. People were laughing at it when I saw it. For one thing, Claire Forlani is about 30 years younger than Jackie, and for another, when she smiles, she's got waaaaaaaay too many teeth. Plus the fact that they have zero—ZEEEEE-ro!— chemistry doesn't help.
Paul: It's cool, it's sexy, it's got a great twist at the end, and it's completely different than the director's previous film, 8 Women. It's also the first English-language film for Ludivine Sagnier, who gets around the accent problem by playing a Frenchwoman (it also helps that for much of the film, she's not burdened by much—if anything—in the way of a costume) who's at that uncomfortable age straddling the border between being a girl and being a woman. Charlotte Rampling is fantastic as a overly-buttoned up English writer of Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries -- it's a performance that's measured in millimeters, and it's a wonderful display of the actor's art. One of the things that I really liked about the film was how it moves naturally between French and English, similar to the way that Wings of Desire flipped between multiple languages (a pet peeve of mine is when movie characters indicate that they're speaking a foreign language by adopting ludicrously heavy accents).
Herb: Whoa. Hot naked French chicks and a surprise ending? Ok, it moves a bit slow (ok, very slow), but I can live with that.
Paul: This is an amazing movie. It's based on the comic book series American Splendor, wherein Harvey Pekar, file clerk for a VA hospital in Cleveland, chronicled his grimly sardonic and frequently hilarious life. You'd think that a film about a chronically depressed and angry man who lives in Cleveland would be depressing, but it's not. It's actually kinda uplifting. The film, which also features the real Harvey Pekar as himself, not to mention his wife and his co-worker Toby as themselves, veers between biography, docu-drama, and outright documentary (real clips of Harvey visiting the David Letterman show are used, for example). Paul Giamatti, the actor who plays Harvey, wanders throughout the film with a curled lip that seems poised halfway between puzzlement and hostility; an unrecognizable Hope Davis plays his wife Joyce in a long black wig and huge glasses. What's interesting is that the real Harvey Pekar is actually better-looking than the actor who plays him in the movie (he's kind of a cross between Carl Sagan, Neil Young, and Earl from the comic strip Red Meat), but Giamatti looks more like the comic-book version of Pekar than Pekar himself (since Harvey can't draw, the comic books are illustrated by a number of different artists, the first of which was Robert Crumb).
Herb: This movie blew me away and made me realize that my suck-filled imaginary life could be a lot worse. Definitely check it out.
Paul: The English-language debut of another French ingenue, this movie by Stephen Frears is a small, dark thriller set in a demimonde of illegal immigrants in London about a doctor who's a wanted man in his native Nigeria; a Turkish immigrant who's seeking refugee status, and a sinister trade in human kidneys. Mostly set in and around a small, semi-sleazy hotel in central London, the film has a star-making performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor as the doctor on the run. Audrey Tautou, the luminous star of Amelie gets around her accent problem by playing a Turk and adopting a fairly indeterminate "foreign" accent (for what it's worth, either she's really really good at learning scripts phonetically or she spent a lot of time working very hard on her English, 'cause I remember when she was doing PR for Amelie and her English was only slightly better than my French (which itself begins and ends with "steak frites, c'est vous plait"). It's not a great, landmark, groundbreaking film, but it's certainly a very entertaining diversion.
Herb: Yeah, it was pretty cool. I dug the Chinese guy who worked as a porter at the morgue. You could see the twist at the end coming a mile off, though. Note: despite what the movie poster promises, ya don't get to see Ms. Tautou with her shirt off. Still, I say check it out.
First, the weather:
August 31 was a clear, beautiful, sunny summer day (which is why I spent a large part of it indoors, watching movies -- but more on that in another post). September 1 was a dark, gray, foggy, misty, rainy day (and, for that matter, so is today and it looks like the rest of the week will follow). It is as if the weather was reading the calendar and slammd shut the door on a soggy and all-too-brief summer.
Monday night I had dinner at the Outback Steakhouse on 23rd Street. I've eaten at other Outbacks before and not been overwhelmed, but I gotta say that the ribeye I had last night was really, really good. I think that the difference is that I went for the "Prime Ribeye" this time; if it's not marked "Prime" on their menu, Outback uses Choice beef, which is neither as tender nor as flavorful as Prime beef. Of course, Prime is more expensive, but ya get what you pay for.
On the other hand, the sides and the appetizers were nothing to write home about -- not exactly inspired and simply competantly executed. The cheesecake was pretty good, even it it was drenched in a too-sweet rasberry sauce.
So what did you do for Labor Day weekend?
Why does the Bush administration feel obligated to lie to the American public?
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, August 25th:
The road we traveled was very difficult. 1945 through 1947 was an especially challenging period. Germany was not immediately stable or prosperous. SS officers—called 'werewolves'—engaged in sabotage and attacked both coalition forces and those locals cooperating with them—much like today's Baathist and Fedayeen remnants.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, same day:
One group of those dead-enders was known as "werewolves." They and other Nazi regime remnants targeted Allied soldiers, and they targeted Germans who cooperated with the Allied forces. ... They plotted sabotage of factories, power plants, rail lines. They blew up police stations and government buildings, and they destroyed stocks of art and antiques that were stored by the Berlin Museum.
The truth, though, is far different. As Daniel Benjamin at Slate points out, "the total number of post-conflict American combat casualties in Germany—and Japan, Haiti, and the two Balkan cases—was zero." In fact, the so-called 'werewolves' were mostly terrified teenaged conscripts who were only successful in murdering the mayor of Aachen—and that assassination occurred during the war, not after it had ended. The fact is that there was no organized post-war resistance; in fact, there was essentially no post-war resistance at all, organized or not.
Could Condi and the Donald be trying to deflect attention from the fact that more U.S. troops have been killed since the end of the war than were killed in the war itself? Could they perhaps be trying to distort the historical record to cover up the fact that not one but apparently two different groups have risen up to oppose the U.S. occcupation of Iraq?
One would hope that they would know better.