Tuesday, August 31, 2004

It's Sing Along With Judgment Call!

Ektorp and Grundtal
And stuff for our kitchen
Hopen and Malm and a bowl for our kitten
Nominel desk chairs and teapots that sing
These are a few of my favorite things

Förhöja boxes with chalkboards for writing
Pine Alvy table for dinner inviting
Kaxås and Ellne, Aneboba bling
These are a few of my favorite things

With the meatballs
And the cheesecake
And the lingonberries
I simply remember my Ikea things
And then moving's not so scary!


Um, yeah, so BIG shopping trip to Ikea today. Perhaps the most successful ever. Jenn rented a car and drove to the new-ish branch in Paramus, which is much closer to Manhattan than the Elizabeth one. They also don't do the free shuttle busses on the weekends like Elizabeth does, so there's less of the feeling that you've just missed a stampede of wildebeests. And, well, middle of a Tuesday during the Republican Convention.

But the amazing thing is, they had everything we wanted. Well, one style of dishes has been discontinued, but all the big stuff, the pain-in-the-ass-need-a-car-for-it stuff they had, including the 32 shelves we needed for the giant unit I've designed for an entire wall of the living room. I didn't even notice until we got home that the posts for those shelves have a notch at the back bottom for the baseboard (so they can be flush against the wall), and a little adjustable foot at the front in case your floors are uneven. When I discovered this, I had a little Ikeagasm.

Of course, everything's at the new place, and we can't do much until after we paint anyway, so I'm denied the pleasure of putting something together. The trip feels incomplete without at least a little construction. But there'll be time enough for that soon!

Monday, August 30, 2004

Game Reviews

Here's the thing about a broken GameCube: There are only a handful of places to get one fixed, according to Nintendo's website, and not a single one in the NY metro area is at all convenient to people who actually live and work in the city. GameStop will give you $50 for a trade-in...then charge you $35 for refurbishing, although having them fix it and return it to you is impossible (at any price). So that's what I did, and of course I couldn't walk out of there without games too, though that's mostly because something I've been eyeing for a while was seriously marked down.


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is one of the best games I've ever played. It's from the same people who made Eternal Darkness, so this is unsurprising. It looks and feels very similar to that game, though the premise is very different. It's a pretty basic action/adventure game, lots of running and fighting and jumping, but the gimmick is that you can control time. Sometimes this takes the form of very standard slow-motion, Matrixy stuff, but the most handy feature is that you can rewind. This won't always help you, but it takes away a huge amount of the frustration these games often have when, if you accidentally fall off a ledge, you can go back and try again. Also, the Prince gradually loses most of his clothes as the story goes on, and, though it's never explained, he appears to be an Olympic-level gymnast. He's a whiz on the parallel bars. Seriously. And he can run on walls and all that good stuff, which makes for some cool gameplay with a slightly different tilt from similar titles in the genre. There's just the right amount of puzzle-solving mixed in with the fighting, where you use the Prince's acrobatic skills to unlock things.

Lastly, the game is fucking gorgeous. And we all know how much that matters to me. Every single visual element is stunning, beautifully designed, and pretty realistic (in as much as sand zombies can be realistic). They use the Middle Eastern and Indian settings creatively without getting offensive. The story is lame, but better than most, and the voice acting is generally superb (the cast includes Barry Dennen, who played Pilate in the film of Jesus Christ Superstar). And like Eternal Darkness, the sound design is phenomenal, from footfalls to sifting sand, really adding to the experience.

I played through quickly, but didn't find it overly easy. But I didn't find it annoying either, in that way that some tasks can seem arbitrary and counter-intuitive. It was just challenging enough for me, so that it stayed entertaining throughout.


And then there's Reign of Fire, a rotten game based on a rotten movie that even Christian Bale couldn't save (maybe if he, like the Prince of Persia, had been more naked). I was drawn to it because you get to play a dragon, and that sounded like fun for a $10 game. Only when I started it up did I learn that you don't get to choose to play the dragon. I don't actually know how you get to burn humans to a cinder, but I assume it happens somewhere in the story. I didn't get to the story though. I played through the "training mission," and after the third time I was unable to drive my jeep up a very slight incline and landed in a lake, I gave up. It might not have been so bad if they hadn't managed to find voice actors even worse than Matthew McConaughey. It's even more annoying than it sounds. I suppose at some point when I have nothing but free time I'll pick it up again. If I ever get to the dragon, I'll let you know.


The latest obsession is Spider-Man 2, which Boy got me for my birthday. I was a big fan of the game from the first movie, mostly because of the way it took 3-D to a new level, with the way Spidey can walk on any surface. Walk into a wall, you keep going, walking right up it. The original was a pretty typical linear story game: make your way through an environment in a more or less straight line, fight some stuff, fight a boss, move on. The new game is not like this at all. You're plopped down in New York (well, a version of it) and you can pretty much do whatever you want. There is a story, but you're not locked into it. Every once in a while the game will tell you to go someplace or do something, and when you go there or do it, the next section of the story will pick up, leading you on a series of tasks with some semblance of plot, the completion of which will unlock new skills, etc. But if you don't feel like going there, you can just swing around and explore and solve random crimes or save construction workers from falling off buildings (this happens a lot). People will ask for your help, and sometimes you'll find a crime in progress, or a reckless driver, or an incredibly annoying child who has lost her balloon.

The geography is totally fucked up, of course, but it doesn't bother me the way it did in the movie. If the game city were a grid it would make things too easy, and if it were actual size it would be much too large (it's already pretty damn big). They've included lots of major landmarks, and climbing the outside of the Empire State Building is so freakin' cool, who cares if it's in the right place? There's even a little Ground Zero, which isn't as tacky as it sounds. There's a pretty faithfully rendered version of the WFC, and across from it is a tiny empty plot of land with searchlights making the Towers of Light memorial. They're about 20 times too small, but I thought it was a nice touch for them to include it, and more appropriate than just ignoring it.

The physics here are amazing. In the first game, you could attach your web to pretty much anything, including the sky. There were ground-based levels, and rooftop levels, but never both at once. Here, if you want to swing, there has to be something to swing on. You can climb anything, and jump off anything, and if you fall too far without catching yourself on a web, you die. It's very well designed.

Which makes the things that are badly designed all the more surprising. It's like they spent all their time on this stuff and then went out and saw the movie. The plot stuff is mediocre at best. Most of the "boss" fights are repetitive, basically dodge and counter attack over and over again. Doc Ock is especially tedious. The writing is atrocious, and the voice acting even worse, even Tobey Maguire's and Alfred Molina's (actually, especially theirs). There are only a couple of voices for incidental characters, and several of them sound like Butterfly McQueen. There are only a handful of models for the passers-by, so you run into the same people all the time. The city looks great from a distance, but when you scale buildings they're completely flat. Some of the cinematics look like Finding Nemo, but most look like I drew them. It's like they ran out of time.

None of that really detracts from the gameplay, or the overall value of the game as a purchase. I'm done with the story now, annoying bosses and all, and I'm still just over 50% done with the game (according to the status menu). It's the perfect game to play in little bursts: stop a purse snatcher here, pick up a skyscraper token there, save (which you can do whenever you like) and go back to your life. It's very freeing.


And all of this, I think, explains why I packed the GameCube today.

Best. Book. EVER.

I think I'm in love with Chuck Klosterman. Boy has nothing to worry about, of course. I've never actually met Chuck, and he's straight, and he's not at all physically attractive. But he has written the best. Book. EVER. So I guess what I mean to say is that I'm in love with his book.

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto is a work of pure genius. Evil genius. Fucking genius. Klosterman is clearly one of the smartest people on earth, but rather than cure cancer or work for world peace or do really hard math, he's devoted his brain power to giving far more thought than anyone should to Saved By The Bell. These aren't faux academic essays on pop culture; they're witty, snarky, often laugh-out-loud hilarious, and surprisingly insightful. There are pieces on The Sims, The Real World, Moby, "Love is a Battlefield," and how Lloyd Dobler ruined everything for straight men of my generation.

My favorite so far, though, is an essay on the correlation between The Empire Strikes Back and Reality Bites entitled "Sulking With Lisa Loeb on the Ice Planet Hoth." I hope Chuck doesn't object to me printing copyrighted material here, since I'm doing it to convince people to buy his book (even though I did just call him ugly)...

It's clear that Luke Skywalker was the original Gen Xer. For one thing, he was incessantly whiny. For another, he was exhaustively educated – via Yoda – about things that had little practical value (i.e., how to stand on one's head while lifting a rock telekinetically). Essentially, Luke went to the University of Dagobah with a major in Buddhist philosophy and a minor in physical education. There's not a lot of career opportunities with that kind of schooling; that's probably why he dropped out in the middle of the semester. Meanwhile, Luke's only romantic aspirations are directed toward a woman who (literally) looks at him like a brother. His dad is on his case to join the family business. Most significantly, all the problems in his life can be directly blamed on the generation that came before him, and specifically on his father's views about what to believe (i.e., respect authority, dress conservatively, annihilate innocent planets, etc.).

...Darth Vader tells Skywalker he has to make a decision: He can keep fighting a war he will probably lose, or he can compromise his ethics and succeed wildly. Many young adults face a similar decision after college, and those seen as "responsible" inevitably choose the latter path. However, an eight-year-old would never sell out.... And what's intriguing about Gen Xers is they never really wavered from that decision.


Nothing like making half a blog post out of someone else's stuff. But he's a better writer than I am and it's a busy week, so I may just quote him every day instead of writing real posts.

Seriously, go buy this book!

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Adventures in Moving

Boy and I went to Homo Depot today and spent $200 on paint and paint accessories (most expensive individual purchase: a $35 drop cloth that we thought was $16 but were too lazy to deal with once we started checking out). I suppose this is old news to the suburbanites among you, but I was enthralled by the self-serve checkout. I've used these before, but never when I've brought my own shopping cart. We tried to put something back in the cart after scanning it, and the machine knew we were up to something because it knows how much everything weights and something wasn't right in the "bagging area." Technology is cool when it works properly.

We still don't have a confirmed move-in date, but in a fit of optimism I added a countdown to this page. If it suddenly goes up instead of down, you'll know something has gone horribly wrong.

The other big event that's making this all feel real is that I started packing. I actually started packing a couple of weeks ago, which I suppose wouldn't be noteworthy except that we're not actually moving for three weeks, possibly later. It's just that the last time I moved I didn't sleep and the movers ended up helping me pack because I still wasn't finished when they arrived. The only drawback to hiring professional movers, as far as I can see, is that if you're behind schedule you're fucked.

So I thought I'd get a head start this time. It's important for this move that I get rid of stuff too, and packing at a leisurely pace is a great way to sort things out. So rather than throwing stuff haphazardly into a carton, I've got the box I'm packing in the middle, a box of stuff to go to the upcoming Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS flea market on one side, and a big trash bag on the other. Note these early seeds of OCD, they'll come into play later.

I think I've mentioned this before, but I'm not sure so bear with me.... When I moved into my current place, I got renter's insurance (something everyone should do and which I was dumb to not do for my old place). Ever since, I've been meaning to inventory all my stuff properly to make sure I actually have enough coverage, and just in case – god forbid – something actually happens to it. Also a good project to combine with packing. I downloaded an inexpensive bit of software that catalogs books, movies, music and games by reading the UPC or ISBN and getting detailed information, including the current price, from Amazon, and I bought a super-cheap barcode scanner on eBay (a modified CueCat, which has to be one of the stupidest inventions ever). This would be Scary OCD Moment #2.

So I started the packing process with my books. Many of them went into the flea market box, and the others were scanned on their way into the moving carton. I put the boxes back on the shelves where the books had been to get them out of the way. Brilliant. I moved on to the videos, which I already cataloged and purged a few weeks ago after The Great Dust-Bunny Massacre of 2004, when I dusted everything off and put them in storage boxes from church. So that went quickly.

I did sweaters and winter coats and bags I never use. I did dress shirts, ties and blazers in the optimistic hope that I won't have to temp for the next month. I was in such a frenzy the first couple of days, my fear had been that I'd run out of stuff I didn't need and still want to pack and be frustrated. But that's not what happened. What happened is that I ran out of steam with at least one project in each room unfinished. Half of my CDs are packed. The living room looks like a bomb went off. So now I have open boxes everywhere, the place is a mess, and I have no particular desire to do any work, but I still have to live here. I'd been so proud of myself when I started, because for all my typical anal-retentivity, this is exactly the sort of thing I'm usually bad at. Whether it's packing for a weekend trip or boxing up my entire life, I always wait until the last minute, and I always do it badly. And apparently that's still true. And suddenly I'm insanely busy and have no time. It's a bit of a disaster, though granted a different kind than the one I was trying to avoid.

I just feel like this wouldn't be a problem for a normal person.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

They're everywhere!

There's an ad campaign on the subways advising us to "be suspicious." They're referring, of course, to unattended packages and other possible terroristy behavior, but I took it to heart for the first time today. There seemed to be more tourists around than usual for this time of year. I was confused, until I suddenly realized: There are Republicans everywhere! Anyone could be a Republican! There's no escape! Trust no one! ORANGE ALERT!!!!

Friday, August 27, 2004

29 Going On 11

I watched 13 Going On 30 last night. I figured I'd enjoy it because Jennifer Garner can do no wrong, but I was a little surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I really liked the basic premise – Jenna doesn't simply wake up one day in an adult body, as Tom Hanks did in Big (a vastly overrated movie, in my opinion), she fast forwards to age 30, skipping the life lived in between. It's actually kind of terrifying. "It's like she has a psychological disorder," said Boy. "She just completely lost 17 years of her memory!" It's kind of fucked up, really. But it raises more interesting issues – how would your 13-year-old self react to you now? How do the things you thought you wanted at 13 relate to your adult reality? Of course I'm over-deepening the film, but it's definitely more intriguing to me than simply skipping puberty.

Mostly, I liked the constant connection being made between being 13 and being totally stoned. I think every major adult character asks Jenna at least once if she's high, or what she's on, or why she's so hungover. It's partly because she has no memory, of course, but also because she's a total spazz. I like that. I also like Jennifer Garner being a total spazz.

I was IMing with Jenn while I watched it, and she commented that the music in the film had bugged her. The movie is set in the present, 2004, which means Jenna was 13 in 1987. So there's a lot of 80s music on the soundtrack...none of it from 1987. I'm usually a stickler for this kind of thing, and anachronisms drive me nuts, but I wasn't bothered. They didn't use any music from after 1987, and pop music wasn't quite so readily disposable then, especially if you were a 13-year-old with little concept of trends. To this day, three of my favorite albums are the first ones I remember owning: She's So Unusual, Like A Virgin, and one of Jenna's favorites, Thriller, all from 1983.

Plus, 1987 was just a bad year for popular music. To prove my point I went to the iTunes Music Store's very handy Billboard Charts section and began to peruse 1986-87. And the unexpected result was that I was reminded of this...

In the 1986-87 school year, I was not quite Jenna's age, but 11, and in the sixth grade. So the year ended with graduation from my elementary school in a ceremony that included (because we were pretentious) actual diplomas, and the entire class singing several songs. The summer before, our music teacher had left suddenly. Everybody had to take chorus every year, and fifth and sixth graders all had to take an instrument. One man taught almost all of it, which would have been no easy task even if lots of his students weren't there under duress. He had us singing The Beatles and playing Tears For Fears (since I took percussion, this meant playing the little-known bongo part on "Everybody Wants To Rule The World"). He was loved.

His replacement...not so much. She was a young woman, I suppose. Since I was 11 I don't really have a clear sense of how old she was, except that she wasn't as old as the teachers we knew were really old. But she clearly wasn't "cool" like her predecessor was. For graduation, we sang "Stand By Me," which was big that year because of the movie. But she made us enunciate the chorus like this: "Sta-a-a-a-and. By. Me." Which I suppose might be how it's written on the page in the most literal sense, but had she actually never heard a recording of the song before?? We tried to sing it the right way, but she wouldn't let us.

Next up was Dionne Warwick and Friends' "That's What Friends Are For." The obvious hit of 1987 for sixth graders to sing. Demoralizing for us, but straightforward and predictable enough.

Finally, we got to pick one song ourselves. I don't remember how the selection process went, and in my memory it was unanimous, which is, of course, impossible. But what we chose was Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now." It was a hot single, more lasting than the film it came from (Mannequin), and while it was technically a love song it worked great for a graduation: "And we can build this dream together / standing tall forever / nothing's gonna stop us now." (Before you mock, remember the time, and remember that the year before on the very same stage I played the bongos in an orchestral arrangement of "Everybody Wants To Rule The World!")

So our teacher goes out to find the sheet music for this Starship masterpiece, and comes back with an entirely different song called "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now." When we complained, she said, "But this is the song you guys asked for!" When we told her it wasn't, she refused to believe us. We actually had an argument about it. She won. I can't put into words how bad this song was. Well, I sort of can: It was even worse than the Starship one. But we had to sing it anyway, tragically and awkwardly.

It doesn't sound like a terribly scarring experience, I know, but now whenever I hear "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" (the right one), it has way more emotional resonance than it should. And trust me, that's traumatic.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Toys for everyone!

With plans for the move progressing (still no clue as to when it will happen, but we're decorating), I decided to purchase a laser level. I don't actually know that I'll need it, but there is one project in mind for which it would be handy, and I've just always wanted one because they're cool.

However, any pretense of me being butch or handy or good with tools went out the window when I discovered that I'm far more interested in entertaining my cat than in making a straight line. (Excuse the mess, I'm in mid-packing.)

Brilliant

Click here (work safe).

I'm not sure if that link will work without being a Salon subscriber, so let me know if you have problems and I'll fix it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Ack!

I'm going through a stack of old magazines and dealing with things I've marked (books to read, movies to rent, songs to download) so I can throw them away, and in the process I've just maxed out my Netflix rental queue!!

I guess this means I have to start watching more movies!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Kiss Your Balls Goodbye

It's been two weeks now since we took our little boy in for tutoring, and he doesn't seem to have gotten any smarter.

I've always been a fan of this (copyrighted, reprinted without permission, please don't sue me) Far Side cartoon...

tutored

...so in an effort to keep Radish's trauma (and, okay, our own) to a minimum, we've mostly avoided the N-word, instead telling Radish how smart he'll be after his trip to the vet.

I don't think he believed us.

The lady who runs the shelter where we got Radish had given us info for the Humane Society, so since we don't have our own vet yet, it was easy to get to, and the price was right (not that you want to bargain shop for surgery, even when it's routine, but we figure these guys know what they're doing), it seemed like the best place to go.

Problem number one: We had to be there at 8:30. In the morning. Problem number two: It wasn't so easy to get to. It should have been, but of course that's not my life. Boy and I got up early, allowing an hour to take what should have been a half hour trip, afraid to take Radish on the subway at the height of rush hour. The kitten didn't seem too cranky about not having been allowed to eat or drink since midnight, and he got into his carrier with no fuss. We walked to the train, and caught a nice empty 7. When we got to Queensboro Plaza, there was a nice empty N waiting across the platform. From there, it would be one stop into Manhattan, and then a short walk to the Humane Society, which is at the foot of the 59th Street Bridge.

Only the N wasn't going anywhere. There was, typically, "an incident" at Union Square, so nothing on the line was moving. It was now 8:00, and we still had plenty of time, so we waited for a bit to see if it would move. This being New York, we weren't alone, despite the many announcements that everyone had to get off the train. After about 5 minutes we gave up and went back across the platform to the 7.

By now, of course, the 7 was crowded, and as we moved closer to 8:30 each train that came would only be more crowded, so there was no point in waiting for another. Generally I have no problem shoving, pushing, and hitting people with my bag if they don't get out of my way. Especially the idiots who stand in the doorway, or who try to shove onto the train without letting people off first. Only this time, my luggage contained a sleeping, terrified kitten. Boy had the carrier and I was trying to run interference. Anyone who actually noticed that we had a cat was, of course, instantly awed by Radish's cuteness, but most people were in the rush hour zone and were oblivious. Boy and Radish both seemed mostly unfazed (the latter seems to respond to these situations by curling into a ball and going to sleep, which must be nice), but it made me intensely nervous.

Without the N train, we had to transfer at Grand Central Station. And y'know the expression "It's like Grand Central Station in here" for someplace that's really busy? Yeah, there's a reason for that. Up a long staircase to the Lexington Avenue line, thousands of commuters somehow oblivious to our preternaturally adorable baby, who is still mostly asleep. Only one stop on the second train (fourth if you count the aborted transfer in Queens), but when we get there it's like a mile up a broken escalator to the street, poor Radish bouncing up and down, Boy and I sweating and panting.

I tend to be immune to the noise of the city unless something really out of the ordinary happens, or maybe if I'm trying to have a cell phone conversation. But as we emerged on the corner of 59th and Lex, I felt like I was seeing the world from Radish's point of view. And the world was loud. Impossibly loud. Loading docks and garbage trucks and for all I knew a fucking saw mill. I was terrified. Radish was asleep.

I didn't really relax once we got to the office, and Radish seemed a little skittish too (still a big fluff ball, but clearly awake and breathing hard now). The place didn't smell too good to me, with the many animals (the many dogs, feh), so I can only imagine what it would smell like to a cat. But while we waited we all started to relax and make friends with the other patients. Almost all of us were there for playing or tutoring. There were animals there that I wouldn't have liked in any other context but found charming and adorable here. The same goes for the owners, I suppose. Everyone's favorite was a little brown dog named Smokey who tried to hump every bitch that came in. Um, dude, that's why you're here, you're not helping your case any. Radish was by far the cutest cat there, including the batch of tiny kittens that was brought in for adoption. And they were pretty darn cute.

I wanted to open the door of the carrier just enough to get my hand in and pet Radish, who was still curled up and didn't seem likely to bolt, but Boy, wisely, wouldn't let me. "It's a big rite of passage for you," he said (to the cat).
"Right," I added, "it's like your Bar Mitzvah, Radish! Today you become a man."
"Um, except not at all."
True. But I said the shehekyanu anyway, just for good measure.

They finally called our name and we took Radish in. He was examined by an obviously gay young vet who would have been cute if he hadn't had so many tattoos and Flock of Seagulls hair, but still I felt like the kitten was in good hands. Everything checked out okay, and it was time to leave him. In the hall. I mean, in his carrier, with an ID sticker on it, but just against a wall in the hallway. Yeah, the Humane Society is a little ghetto.

It was a beautiful day and I couldn't face going back through the noise to the train, especially if the N still wasn't running. So when Boy headed off to work I walked over the Queensboro Bridge and got the train to go the last couple of stops home on the other side. It was a good way to not worry about the kitten, and get some exercise knowing I wouldn't make it to the gym.

I tried to nap and failed. I headed into my GM's office to do some paperwork for the show and couldn't concentrate. Finally it was 3:00 and time to go pick Radish up. A very nice woman, who I gathered was the one who actually did the surgery, brought him out to me and told me he'd been very well behaved. He was still asleep and didn't look too much the worse for wear.

Even if we hadn't had the subway nightmare earlier, I'd planned to take a cab home. I got one quickly, but it turned out to be almost as bad as the train, with a jerky driver and bad shocks. Radish looked up at me with creepy still-anesthetized eyes with too much pink. I just hoped he was too groggy to be freaked out.

The Humane Society people gave me post-op instructions when I checked him out. I wished I'd gotten them when we checked in, since they included removing the litter from his box and replacing it with newspaper for a week until his incision fully healed. And of course I had no newspaper in the house. So when we finally got home (the driver untipped) I had to leave him in the carrier and run out for the Post, which seemed like the best thing for him to poop on. By the time I got enough of it shredded to line the box, he was awake and wanted out. But that was the closest he came to being agitated all day, so I considered it a victory.

I let him out and kind of enjoyed watching him wobble around like a little drunk kitten. They'd shaved his butt, including a little stripe up the tail. This still hasn't grown in all the way and it makes me laugh. Aside from the Brazilian and the shrinking scrotum (we researched neuticles for about five seconds before deciding it was even sillier than it had sounded), within about an hour it was as if nothing had happened to him at all. Radish's strange learning curve is annoying when we actually want to teach him something, but it's incredibly useful when something potentially traumatic happens. Of course, when I say "it was as if nothing had happened to him at all," that includes his behavior. Radish can, at times, be a little aggressive. It's all just play, and he's never hurt us, but he does get a little bitey when he's excited. And he does get awfully excited. We were hoping this would stop when the testosterone dropped, but, well, not so much.

Though I suppose I'd bite the hand that feeds me too if it put me in a cage and took my testicles away.

Monday, August 23, 2004

And knowing is half the battle!

I'm moonlighting a little bit on the off nights of my regular show, and tonight's gig involved juggling flaming torches. I wasn't doing the juggling, mind you, just stage-managing the event in which the juggling occurred. Anyway, I handed the fire extinguisher to the person whose job it would be to stand by with it just in case something went horribly wrong, and she -- a full-grown woman in at least her early 20s -- said to me, in all sincerity, "How does it work?"

I just looked at her. In my head I actually heard myself blink like in a cartoon.

"Seriously," she said.

"You're kidding, right?"

"No."

So here's my Judgment Call public service announcement of the week:
To use a fire extinguisher, 1) Pull pin, 2) aim hose at fire (unclip if necessary), 3) squeeze handle.

Seriously, kids, it's a useful skill to have, even if no one is juggling torches. And if you can't handle it, well, I hope you get caught in a fire and save future generations from having to read this post.

The Sublet Saga Continues

Apparently, I didn't obsessive compulsive disorder them enough.

It was entirely my own fault. I completely missed the part of the instructions on the sublet application that said we needed to submit three copies. This is no simple form we're talking about, it includes tax returns and pay stubs and reference letters and bank statements. All told it's 184 pages. So it's totally reasonable that the burden of making and paying for these copies should fall on the applicant, and not the management company.

But here's the thing: They sent me a letter about it. In the mail! Blah blah, you did this wrong, if we make copies it will cost blah blah (this is how I know how many pages it is) or you can make the blah blah, please let us know what you plan to blah blah. Perfectly straightforward, but why did they send me a fucking letter instead of picking up the phone and calling me?? Because of course I got the letter on Friday night, which meant nothing could be done about it until today. If they'd just called me when they sent the letter, I could have dealt with it right away. The new copies did not get even a single binder clip of OCD beauty.

Supposedly we're going to have to meet with the board, which may or may not be meeting this week, and I've made very clear to everyone that I work at night and don't have the kind of job I can just pop away from for a couple of hours for a meeting, but it doesn't seem to be sinking in. And I keep hearing "the end of the month" as if it's some far off notion and not this week. We were hoping to move on September 13th, and we've already changed that to the 20th. Which makes more sense anyway, but it's all contingent on these random people allowing us to move in before closing at all. And if they do, there's painting to be done, shelves to be built, a refrigerator and stove to be purchased, movers to be hired. All while both Boy and I are working six days a week. So every day counts, and they send me a goddamn letter in the mail??

On the bright side, the management office is close enough to the apartment that I figured I'd bring some stuff out there and spend a little time (with the set of keys I'm not technically supposed to have yet), and that improved my mood greatly. I think whenever something goes wrong with it I just need to go and look at the absurdly large living room and the gigantic (by NYC low-to-middle-income standards) kitchen and my spirits will be lifted.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

What a relief!

The truth is, I hadn't thought about Playing it Straight at all in weeks until I mentioned it here the other day. I was just looking at my original post about it, and I decided to go over to Fox.com and see if the show's website was still up. It is, and although the show never finished airing, they've updated it with the gaydentities of the contestants. I was pleased to see that Boy and I were mostly right, except for a couple that we over-thought ("he can't be gay because he looks really gay so they must have cast him because he's really straight").

I feel like a huge weight has been lifted.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Yay, anteaters!

I don't understand this trend of fake high school gym shirts, and I never wear yellow, but for $8 I had to get one of these.

Hee. Anteaters.

Fuck Governor McGreevey....um, wait, that's not what I meant.

I suppose I'm a little late to this party, but I'm officially mad at Governor McGreevey. First of all, too many Es in his name. Second of all, I'd love it if a prominent politician held a press conference a year into his term and said, "By the way, I'm gay, and I've got three more years in office, suckers! HA!" But not someone with a wife who he was cheating on, and not someone who's going generate the most absurd he said/he said plot since Melrose Place.

What drove me over the edge today was the media's coverage of this new guy who claims to have been involved with McGreeeeeveeeey's "mistress" (I keep wanting to call him Golan Heights, which, now that I think about it, would be an awesome drag name), who is, in turn, claiming to be straight and a victim of sexual harassment. The reporting is pretty straightforward, but everyone insists on using the term "gay lovers." As in, "This new guy says that he and Golan Heights were also gay lovers, casting doubt on Mr. Heights' claim that he and the governor were not gay lovers." Dude, we're talking about two men – what other kind of lovers would they be??

Remember when Mike Tyson was beating up his wife who was on Head of the Class and she was never referred to as anything other than "Actress Robin Givens?" It's kinda like that, but far more annoying.

In case some of you out there aren't getting the same extensive coverage of all this as we are locally, I should mention that this new guy who said he had a gay lover is also a fucking loon. Oh yeah, these people are doing a fabulous job to further the image of homosexuals as "normal," stable, family-loving people. No, these guys don't deserve a fabulous, even sarcastically. Of course we all know that there will always be plenty of people, gay and straight, who are slutty, opportunistic, adulterous, or downright perverted. But you just know that if this entire saga were exactly the same but the mistress were a woman, it would all be playing out much differently.

I can't believe I'm nostalgic for the days of Playing it Straight.

Edited to add: Boy points out that Gaza Strip would be an even better drag name, and I couldn't agree more!

Exciting!

Blogger has replaced the ads at the top of my blog (well, everyone's blog here, not like I'm special or anything) with a very snazzy "NavBar." Snazziest of all is the new search feature, which means I can get rid of that awful clunky 3rd party search that I had in the sidebar.

It's clearly been a slow week if this is the kind of thing that turns me on.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I hate everyone

Conversation overheard in the locker room today:

Man 1: I've got to stop eating at 'Philly Cheese' [a new-ish Long Island City establishment, actually called "Yummy Philly Steak," that skeeves me out and you couldn't pay me enough to go into], I'm getting fat.

Man 2: What they got at Philly Cheese that would make you put on the pounds?

Man 1: Well, um, the cheese steaks for starters.

Man 2: Really? What's wrong with those?

Man 1: What's
not wrong with those? There's nothing healthy 'bout them at all!

Man 2: (after a pause) There's cheese. Cheese is healthy.

Man 1: Um...

Man 2: And steak is good for you.

Man 1: Man, that is one greasy sandwich.

Man 2: (another pause) What about bread? Bread is good for you, right?


When Man 2 emerged from the other row of lockers and I saw that he was skinny and appeared to be in good health I decided I really hated him.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Adventures in Mass Transit

This is the first of several posts I started last week but never got around to finishing. I decided not to backdate anything, since none of it's very timely. And not much interesting seems to be happening now, so the timing worked out well.


Last Sunday, as we got off the 7 train on our way to meet my mom for lunch for my birthday (did I mention it was my birthday?), Boy's cell phone fell out of his pocket and onto the tracks. We were at the end of the line for the route, so the train sat there for a while, and we could clearly see the phone lying there between the train and the platform. The engineer walked by on his way from one end of the train to the other to turn it around, and he sort of laughed at us and said "Well, you can't get it now." Oh, really, Einstein? "You'll have to wait for the train to leave." Then, as if reading my mind, he added, "But you can't just be going down there. You need to go over there and tell them –" he indicated the dispatch booth at the other end of the platform "—so they don't let another train come in here, and they'll get someone to help you."

So Boy went off with Mr. MTA Genius, while I stayed to make sure we didn't lose the location of the phone (or the phone itself to some intrepid scavenger). The train pulled out, and I resisted the urge to just jump down and get it. There are little levers on the tracks that flip up automatically when a train leaves, and flip down again when it's a full train-length away, unless they're locked by a dispatcher – they're emergency brakes, designed to prevent trains from getting too close together (every once in a while I squeeze in some Discovery Channel between trash TV shows). I kept my eye on these and knew I'd be safe at least until they popped down again. But I didn't want Boy to come back with an MTA employee to find me down there, or walk up to him at the office and say "Never mind, we got it." We are at orange alert, after all, and I feel like gallivanting around on the subway tracks would be frowned upon.

I saw the lights of a train on the wall, but the brakes were still up and it pulled into the other track across the platform. I had totally had time.

Boy came back, annoyed, because they had made him wait and wait at the dispatch booth only to tell him he needed to go upstairs to get help. Suddenly feel less bold, I said, "Or we could just go and get it."
Boy looked at me. "I'm scared."
"Me too… But I've kind of always wanted to do this."

So I hopped down, gingerly. The third rail was all the way on the other side, but without really thinking about it I avoided the track too, carefully touching down between the metal and the platform. I was immediately aware of how much crap I was standing on. It felt sort of like standing on a beach, only instead of sand it was six inches of dirt, trash, and god knows what else.

Aware of the filth now, I picked up the phone with two fingers, as if it were a dead rat, and handed it up to Boy. The little brakes were still up, and the other train was still across the platform, but I wasn't about to hang out down in the pit now that my mission was accomplished. Now, here's the thing you need to know in case you should ever find yourself in this situation: The platform is much higher than it looks. It came to about mid-chest on me, and I'm 5'11". Not prohibitive, just a good push to get over it, but unless you're far more athletic than I am, it's impossible to get out of there gracefully or without getting completely dirty. And I, of course, was on my way to a nice-ish restaurant and wearing less black than usual.

Mom was annoyed that we were late, even after hearing our tale of transit woe. I headed straight for the bathroom and cleaned off Boy's phone (which was in a neoprene case and had thankfully landed face up) and the knees of my khaki pants. No major harm done, I suppose, and it was all kind of exciting. And I guess now I can scratch "Explore Subway Tracks" off the list of things to do before I turn 30.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Hee hee

Saw a tourism commercial for New Jersey last night. In it, Governor McGreevey, on-screen, says "Come out to New Jersey and see what you've been missing."

It's the little things that make my day.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Noooo, not a new one!

All the token booths in the NYC subway system (we still call them "token booths" although we no longer use tokens) have white dry-erase boards in the back behind the clerk, for various service announcements and, depending on the sense of humor of the clerk, helpful tips. I walked by one that said "Single Ride cards available in MVM Machines."

MVM Machines? I thought. What the hell is an MVM Machine?

Oh... Metrocard Vending Machine... Machine!!!


Aaaargggh!!!

Friday, August 13, 2004

Making new verbs

I haven't written much about my impending move. There is a long, irritating, and hopefully entertaining in hindsight story about the highly stressful process, but I'm not blogging about it until every paper is signed, every T crossed, every penny spent. Call me paranoid, but too many things have gone strangely, slightly wrong so far. So you'll have to wait until November for the whole saga. But wait, aren't you moving next month? Ah, well, this is part of the drama.

For reasons unclear to us, the woman whose apartment we're buying can't/won't close the sale until November. Something to do with her taxes/mortgage. But since the apartment is vacant, and has been for months, she said we could move in whenever we wanted and just pay the maintenance. Since our own mortgage wouldn't kick in until the closing, this is actually a fabulous, money-saving (or at least money-delaying) deal for us.

Also in our favor, the apartment is "sponsored," which means that we don't need approval from the co-op board to buy it. The seller can do whatever she wants with it, which saves us all the stress of applying to the board, having our potential future neighbors get all into our business and our finances, and then grill us in an interview.

But here's the thing: The board does have the right to approve or deny us permission to sublet the apartment. Which, if we live there before the closing, is technically what we're doing. We have access to the place now, and we're allowed to paint, move stuff in, etc., just as long as we don't actually live there. Which is clearly absurd. We were given an application package that included elements of both the paperwork for subletting and purchasing, and it was entirely unclear what exactly we needed to do. So we just did it all, resentful, but trying to avoid giving them any valid reason to screw us over.

I was putting the massive package together last night, and stressing over a couple of elements that we were missing. I suddenly went into a bit of an organizing frenzy. A small binder clip on my tax returns, and another on Boy's, a large clip to put the two packets together. Staple the bank statements, paper clip the reference letters.

I turned to Boy and said "We are going obsessive compulsive disorder these people into submission!"

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Busy busy busy

This week and the tail end of last have been remarkably stressful and oddly-scheduled (even by my usually oddly-scheduled standards), and all my blogging plans have been torn asunder. As, apparently, has the filter in my brain that keeps me from using phrases like "torn asunder." Anyway, I've started several posts only to get sidetracked and not finish them, so at some point next week (I hope!) I will finish them all and put them up, perhaps back-dating them to their intended deadlines.

Just wanted to check in and say hi to anyone who's still bothering to read this.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Time Flies

Where the hell did July go? I mean yeah, I know we're seven days into August and I'm still asking myself that question, but I've been genuinely confused for like two weeks about what day it is. In the last few days several people have asked me if I'm doing anything fun for my birthday, and I swear to god I keep forgetting that I have one. I mean, obviously I have a birthday, I just keep forgetting that it's today.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Not at all like rain on your wedding day

Madison Square Garden, site of the Republican National Convention:


Somehow I doubt that the GOP brass will appreciate the irony the way I do.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Not so relaxing

There was a substitute teacher in my yoga class this morning, and she was French Canadian. Now, nothing against the French, or Canadians, or the many visitors to our country who don't speak English as a first language, but I feel like if you can't pronounce the letter H maybe you shouldn't pick a career that requires you to say the words "inhale" and "exhale" every minute or so.

She also had trouble with Ds and Bs, and seemed not to know the word "front," which caused some pretty serious confusion. Furthermore, she was obsessed with "internal organs." Our regular instructor (in this very basic class) will often tell us to visualize breathing into various parts of ourselves, and trying to be aware of everything going on in our bodies, but this lady sounded awfully literal about it, and I hope there were no new students in the room who might not have understood.

Here's a typical instruction: "In'ell deeply, massage the internal organs, and as you excel, extended your leg and grabbing your tuloc. For the tuloc, wrap your first two finger and your tongue around your big too. Now bend back over your knee."

The hell? Oh, toe-lock, thumb, and, I assume, forward.

My favorite moment was when, in tree pose, she told us our toes should be pointing at the ceiling, rather than the floor. I'm pretty sure even the most experienced yogi doesn't bend that way, and I briefly imagined all of us being wheeled out on stretchers with broken ankles.

Of course, if I ran the class, we'd spend the entire hour in relaxation pose, so I guess I shouldn't judge.

Monday, August 02, 2004

It Takes A Village

Saw The Village last night. Goooood movie. I have quibbles now that I'm sitting down to write about it, but in the theater I was totally absorbed for every second of it. It's a very different movie than The Sixth Sense or Signs, but M. Night Shyamalan has that sort of signature suspense thing going on and I was on the edge of my seat all night. It's also got a very different sort of twist, not the kind of plot-hinging thing we're used to from Shyamalamalan, and maybe that's why I didn't see it coming at all. I was so embarrassed. I'd figured out Sixth Sense in about ten minutes and I was extremely proud of myself.

Bryce Dallas Howard, in her debut (more or less) is quite a find. Not like she was found at a cattle call or anything, she's Ron Howard's daughter, but she turns in a fine and really charming performance with what could easily have become a very hackneyed character (slightly crazy maybe psychic blind girl).

Sigourney Weaver is even better than usual.

Michael Pitt is even worse than usual. Makes Dawson's Creek look like high art.

Joaquin Phoenix is getting doughy, which makes me sad.

Adrien Brody is kind of awful. He already has an Oscar, why does he need to play a mentally challenged man?

M. Night Shyamalamalamalamalan has the most egregious cameo ever, or at least the most annoyingly shot. If we spend an entire scene very pointedly not seeing a character's face, it really should be for a better reason than that he's being played by the director. At least he was fair enough to give himself the clunkiest exposition in the film.

The whole thing is just beautifully put together. Really gorgeous locations, stunning cinematography, and a haunting score. Good, good stuff. Check it out, and get ready for lots of creepy.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Hoodwinked!

I've been swindled! Bamboozled, even! It's my own damn fault, I guess. I suppose it's what I get for defying the Apple gods.

Boy has been having lots of computer trouble lately (with his Windows machine), and as part of his troubleshooting process he downloaded and ran a free anti-spyware program that found an astonishing number of bastard little foreign agents strewn about his system. I've had some smaller problems of my own of late, and I've also noticed a huge increase in my spam email volume, so I was inspired to run my own check. So I went searching for a Mac application that would do the job and found Internet Cleanup (from the same company that makes that Mac perennial, Stuffit) and downloaded the demo....

...The demo which (wisely, I suppose, from a retail point of view) offers every feature of the full program except the spyware search. All right, fine, so I shell out the $29.99, too lazy to Google around for a free app from some unknown developer that'll do who knows what to my hard drive, and I run the damn thing.

It found nothing. Of course it found nothing! Like viruses, no one bothers to write spyware for the Mac; the market is too small to make it worthwhile. This doesn't mean that something couldn't still be lurking around and taking up space, even if it wasn't sending data back to some nefarious marketer, but Safari (Apple's browser) has a pretty good handle on that, and so, it's worth mentioning, does the Mac version of Explorer.

Okay, well, let's see what else this thing can do. I ran the cookie cleanup module to see if my browser was up to no good on a slightly smaller scale. It turned up (as I would have known it would if I'd stopped to think about it) exactly one file, called obviously cookies.plist, in which all of my cookies are kept. It's not a hidden file, I know exactly where it's kept, and if I wanted to delete it I could simply drag it to the trash. If I want to go through it and see what's in it and get rid of things individually, I can do that very easily in Safari as well.

I'd love to say something about how Macs are better than PCs (while we're at it, this is one of my pet peeves -- can we please come with a shorter term for "computers running Windows" other than "PCs," since a Mac is a personal computer too?), but since any computer is really only as smart as its user, I don't think I have the right to make any such declaration right now.