Sunday, October 31, 2004

Fun With Playlists #8: The 200

I was listening to my Purchased Music playlist in iTunes yesterday, and I noticed with some surprise that I've downloaded 200 tracks from the iTunes Music Store in the 10 months since I've had my iPod. (This is actually not everything since the store's launch, since the playlist organizes itself based on the Music Store's unique file format, and pre-Pod, I used to burn purchased tracks to CD and re-rip them as MP3s so I could use them on discs in my MP3/CD player, so those aren't in there). Now, these aren't necessarily all things I've paid for; it includes a bunch of the weekly free downloads, a couple of speeches from the DNC, stuff like that. Still, I was amazed to see so many songs.

I hate to get all cliché and say iTunes has changed the way I shop for music, but, well, it has. I haven’t bought a CD in months, and the last few I did buy were cast albums (which are often incomplete on iTunes and which I like having proper liner notes for). I go to iTunes now and pay my 99 cents these days without even thinking about Limewire, and I actually think I'm spending less money on music than I used to by buying individual songs instead of albums I won't listen to half of.

So, since it's been a while since a Fun With Playlists, here are some of my more interesting downloads about which I haven't blogged before. (Links require the iTunes application and a music store account.)

History Repeating
-Propellerheads & Miss Shirley Bassey
Big Spender (Wild Oscar Mix)
Goldfinger (Propellerheads Mix)
-Shirley Bassey
My most recent and probably strangest downloads. TBS used "History Repeating" in the commercials for its Sex and the City reruns, and it was super-catchy, and then I heard the whole thing in a store last week and really liked it. Links in iTunes led me to the Shirley Bassey remix album, and I've become a little obsessed with "Big Spender." It's peppy and catchy, and in a bizarre way stays true to the original. It's not a cheesy dance remix at all, just a fun update of the song, which is arguably sexier and truer in spirit to the context of the song in Sweet Charity than Bassey's original.

Why Go?
-Faithless and Boy George
Not sure how I found my way to this one. Faithless has a song on the Cruel Intentions soundtrack, but I don't think that was it. It's a beautiful ballad with melancholy vocals by George (who also co-wrote the song). A must for any Boy George fan.

Hair
-Original Broadway Cast
Buyer beware! This is sold as a complete album but it's actually missing two tracks. Grar! Still, a classic.

Come Undone
-Duran Duran
Duran Duran has been getting so much press lately, and while the samples from the new album don't do much for me (aside from the single, "Sunrise," which I love), it's had me listening to the classics and I was missing this one.

Vertigo
-U2
Yeah, I'm a sucker. It's just so damn catchy! The incessant iPod commercials don't even play the best part of the song. The verses have a really cool rhythm and it's the first U2 song in years I've liked this much.

The Way We Get By – Spoon
Rain City – Turin Breaks
Paint The Silence – South
Orange Sky – Alexi Murdoch
Dice – Finley Quaye and William Orbit
Trouble Sleeping – The Perishers
A Lack of Color – Death Cab For Cutie
If You Leave – Nada Surf
Maybe I'm Amazed – Jem
-Music From The OC: Mix 1 and Mix 2
This is the kind of thing I absolutely love iTunes for. You know how I love The OC, but these are not albums I need. There are some great songs in the show though, and some that really stick out, so they're perfect for individual downloads. I especially like "Maybe I'm Amazed" and "If You Leave." Covers are so often either boring, or travesties. These each put their own spin on things in a tasteful way, and were used very effectively on the show.

Wonderwall
-Melissa Rebronja
I have no idea who this woman is but I like her version of this song a lot. It's another OC purchase, indirectly. They used a version by Ryan Adams on the show, and I dislike Ryan Adams on principle, but in my search I found this one.

Hallelujah
-Jeff Buckley
Another OC-inspired download, though I've loved this song ever since it was used a few years ago on The West Wing. I actually didn't know what it was then and thought it might have been recorded just for West Wing, it fit so seamlessly into their story and they use pop music so infrequently. So when The OC used it too I went looking.

Mr. Blue Sky
-Electric Light Orchestra
How sad that the best thing about LAX is its bouncy, fun theme song? This was also in Eternal Sunshine... and featured heavily in its commercials.

The Saga of Jenny
-Dee Dee Bridgewater
A jazz rendition of a Kurt Weill song? Oh yeah, baby.

Isolation
Working Class Hero
-Marianne Faithfull
Maybe even weirder than that, Marianne Faithfull covering John Lennon? Yeah, but somehow it works. Her ravaged voice is almost a better fit for these bitter numbers than Lennon's sweet one.

Rebel Never Gets Old
-David Bowie
A mash-up of old Bowie ("Rebel Rebel") and new ("Never Get Old").

Novocaine For The Soul
-Eels
Another one I found randomly clicking around the music store, and now one of my favorite songs. It has a really cool rhythm and an unusual structure that sort of pushes the song forward. Makes me happy.

Bunnies
-Pansy Division
"I got the carrot, You got the stick / You start to nibble I start to lick / And we get our bodies all hot And sweaty and runny / Then we fuck like bunnies" 'Nuff said.


And that seems like a good note to end on!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Ikeaaaaaaaiiiiiiiieeeeeeee!!!

I've seen more of New Jersey this weekend than I ever really needed to. For those of you who aren't local, we have two Ikeas (Ikeae? Ikeot?) just across the Hudson, and they're both fairly easy to drive to. The older one, in Elizabeth, offers a free charter bus from Port Authority on the weekends. This is a great service, but it makes for a very crowded store and even if you rent a car and go during the week, it's notorious for not having basic things in stock, and it tends to have a messy, picked-over feel. Paramus, on the other hand, is like the Ikea Holy Grail. The store is maybe two years old, and without the insane weekend traffic from the City, it looks pristine in comparison. I've been there a couple of times now and I love it, but I've only been with friends' or rented cars.

So yesterday, with a clear mission to finish our shelving unit in the living room (some errors in buying and some last minute re-design), Boy and I braved the New Jersey Transit bus to Ikea Paramus. It's about three dollars from the GWB Depot, and it goes right to the store grounds. There are a couple of problems though. First, it's a plain old commuter bus, with no cargo bins or luggage racks. We'd brought our shopping cart to ease our travels, and even that, folded, was tricky on the bust out to Jersey. So we realized our plans were a little too ambitious, and had to decide on the way out what we were going to pick up on this trip.

Second, a much bigger problem: there's no bus back to Manhattan. Now, we knew this. It's clearly printed on the timetables and online. "Passengers leaving from IKEA, in the Eastbound direction, towards New York are directed to use the pedestrain [sic] walkway over Route 4 to reach the bus stop located on Route 4 east service road in front of Nordstrom’s." Yeah, here's the thing. There is no walkway (pedestrain, pedestrian or otherwise) of any kind over, under, or through the highway to Nordstrom's, which we could plainly see as we circled the entire Ikea grounds. Undaunted, we waited for a westbound bus, and asked the driver where we could connect to our bus heading back to the City. After some tricky negotiations with her accent, she dropped us and another hapless Ikeaer on a stop basically in the middle of the highway, where she said we'd be fine. Yeah. About ten minutes later, an "express bus" came by. This is a little minibus that basically follows the NJ Transit route and poaches their passengers for $2.50. So we got on, juggling our Ikea bags (and still-folded cart) on the tiny bus with some noisy teenagers who made me fear for the future of humanity. It was a damn good thing we decided to get less stuff.

So today I embarked on the free bus to Elizabeth to get the 7-foot tall posts we needed for our shelves. They're actually light and easy to carry, but they needed to go in the cargo bins under the big bus. It was a quick trip, easy to avoid the crowds with a clear and short mission, I had a hankering for Swedish meatballs, and I was very relaxed about the whole thing. Until the bus driver got lost. Let's say that again: The professional bus driver, who was hired to make a very simple trip from tunnel to turnpike to exit with giant blue-and-yellow building just off of it, got lost. For 45 minutes. We literally drove in circles, stopping to ask for directions twice at the same place. Various passengers tried to help, and to the driver's credit and ours, everyone was pretty good-natured about it all. I was sitting up front and tried to call the store for help, but no one answered.

But I got there eventually, and refused to stress. When I returned Boy and I finished the shelves, and they make me very happy. I had multiple Ikeagasms. We've got two unused tickets to Paramus now, so now that I know how it works I think I'll go back later in the week and get some window treatments we liked but didn't buy which, of course, they were out of at Elizabeth. We were looking at chairs, and some of them have miniature versions for kids. We actually had a sincere conversation about getting one for Radish. Terrifying. Though not nearly as terrifying as the idea of being stranded in Paramus!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The exceptional drama is over...the everyday drama is just beginning

Finally, all the major work on the apartment is done. The kitchen is finished (it turned out there was nothing wrong with our stove, the leak was in the valve on the wall, easily replaced by our super), so there are just a few nagging maintenance things to finish; we're going to Ikea tomorrow to replace the shelves that we bought in the wrong size (oops); the boxes are all as organized as they can be without actually being unpacked (which Boy doesn't want to do until we're officially moved in, and I'm fighting every obsessive-compulsive must organize impulse I have in order to join him in his patience); and we just scheduled a tentative date and time for our closing.

So naturally, it's time to meet the crazy neighbors.

It's inevitable that in an apartment building there will be some crazy neighbors. It's just a given. One of the things that made me happiest about moving out of my old place was leaving behind the nutcase who lived upstairs, who had surround sound and a taste for action movies that would literally make my walls vibrate. She had no concept of how loud she was, or, no matter how often I told her, that the situation could be fixed if she just turned down the bass. At times, I actually fulfilled that old tenement cliche and banged on the ceiling with a broom handle.

When you're buying a co-op they tell you to look through a couple of years' worth of board meeting minutes, hoping to find clues about problems with the building, noise complaints, or feuds between neighbors. I did this diligently, but found nothing alarming. Apparently, though, my streak with adjacent weirdos continues, only this time it's my floor getting banged on. Only problem is I'm not actually living in the apartment yet! I stopped by last week to pick something up at the new place on my way home, and on the way out I ran into a couple who, seeing a new face, asked if I was one of the new people in 5R. I said that I was, and they introduced themselves as 4R. I thought they were being friendly, but then they started to complain about all the noise we've been making. Late at night.

"That's strange," I said, trying to remain cordial. "Because we don't actually live here yet."

"Well someone is making a lot of noise, like moving furniture at like 1 or 2 in the morning," said the woman.

"10 or 11 at night," corrected the man.

"Yeah, well in either case we haven't moved in yet, so that's really not possible. I've never set foot in the place after midnight."

"Well someone's been in there! Moving furniture!"

"Well, no one has keys except me and my partner. Not even the super, or the old owner. So I really don't see how that's possible."

"noise! Noise noise noise noise noise!" (Clearly, at this point, their argument broke down.)

"Look, I'm sorry, but we don't live there yet, so I really don't know what to tell you."

"I complain to super!"

"Um. Okay. Go ahead."

And that was that, but I walked away worried, because Boy and I are night people, and we have a very playful and nocturnal kitten, and the previous tenants had had intensely ugly but undoubtedly sound-proofing wall-to-wall carpet.

So then yesterday the super and I were doing work up there, and the super did some stuff in the bathroom. He went away for a while and later came back to report that there was a leak downstairs that was probably coming from our bathtub or our toilet. Great.

This is, of course, a normal part of apartment living, and I'm happy it's being dealt with now and not when we're all moved in. But did it have to be the nutjobs downstairs? I don't want them to have a legitimate beef with us...even something that's in the walls and completely beyond our control!

It did, however, give me a good chance to ask the super about them. "Oh, yeah, he's a troublemaker!" Great.

I actually hope he complains a lot. Complain to management. Complain to the board. Do it now while they know what he's telling them is impossible. Because I so won't be able to deal if they start bitching every night about our 9 pound kitten.

The other option is that they're not crazy and the place is haunted. Now that would be cool.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog, already in progress...

It's finally -- finally! time to talk about the Fall TV Season. With all the moving mishegas and being separated from the Explorer 8000 Home Entertainment Server right as the season started up, I got a little behind on my TV. I set up the DVR to happily record in solitude at the new apartment, but it was there alone for about two weeks and it built up quite a backlog. I even took some shows off my list to make sure I didn't run out of room. I'm finally more or less caught up, so here, in the order in which the premiered, are my reviews so far.


I got sucked in to Everwood late last season for (of course) the tawdriest of reasons -- the Ephram-losing-his-virginity plot, and I got hooked and stuck around. I used to think Gregory Smith was cute in a jailbait/euro-porn kind of way, but now watching him makes me twitch a little bit. It's not the actor's fault, I'm just tired of all the whining on this show. I guess they're going for a somewhat realistic portrayal of the small town high school experience, but y'know what? Unless you're living through it, that's boring. Even the more out-there, soapy plots are irking me. Dr. Brown is a world-renowned brain surgeon, so one would think he'd be smart enough to know that if you've paid off your son's ex-girlfriend to move away and keep her pregnancy a secret, perhaps the one person you really shouldn't tell is your son's current girlfriend's father. Scott Wolf is amusing and adorable as ever, but if his hyperactive shtick doesn't go somewhere soon it's going to be as grating on the audience as it is on the other characters. We're slipping into latter day Dawson's territory, where it's just hard to care much about any of these self-obsessed nimrods anymore.


Speaking of not caring much, I gave up on LAX after four or five episodes. (I will say that part of my low tolerance for some of these shows, including LAX, Everwood and Jack and Bobby (coming up) may be because they were backlogged on the DVR and I watched many episodes in a row, without the usual week to breathe. Of course, if a show's really good, that shouldn't matter.) I wanted to like LAX, but in the end the theme song is the best thing about it. Heather Locklear is a close second, but as nice a compliment as "She's the only actor in the world who could make lines like that work" is, it doesn't change the fact that someone is making her say lines like that. At first it was exciting -- I don't think we've ever had a workplace drama set in an airport before -- but ultimately the setting hurts them. It's both too sprawling and too boring. The day to day stuff is mundane, and getting the audience to care about the plight of passengers just passing through is hard. It's like The Love Boat without celebrities. Or love.

Mostly, I think the show suffers from poor structure. Each week they seem to set up these big character things and plot points that should carry through the series or the season, but then they don't seem to matter the following week. And for all that, I don't know who these people are. Why do we care about a cop hitting bottom if we've never seen him anywhere but the bottom? Are the clowny security guards and baggage handlers supposed to make us feel safe? Unsafe? Racist? It's just not clear to me what they're trying to do. I wish they'd take more opportunities, as they've done a couple of times (one week's C plot about the birds springs to mind), to enlighten the audience about the inner workings of an airport, the way ER once did for medicine and CSI does for forensics. There's got to be cooler shit out there than Blair Underwood. This one's off my DVR list, but I'll probably catch it again from time to time.


I don't have much to say about Survivor, except that I don't know how people have followed it consistently from the beginning without shooting themselves. I've watched a total of two seasons (the first, and the pirate-themed one), and I'm already bored with the producers' sad attempts to make these challenges seem different. But mostly I'm stunned by how incredibly stupid some of the contestants are. I suppose they were cast because stupid can make for some good TV, but the liability insurance must be staggering. Want some unsolicited advice? Don't go on Survivor if you can't swim!!! How "Bubba" has not been voted off yet simply for being incredibly annoying is beyond me. I can't understand half of what he says. And what's with that t-shirt? I imagine the meeting where the powers that be decided to merge the tribes went something like this: "Quick! We need a merge before they vote off all the cute guys!" That was a truly terrifying strategy. It terrified me anyway. Oh well. I'm hooked now, so I'll keep watching.


After two episodes I really liked Jack and Bobby. After five, I'm lukewarm, but still curious enough to stay tuned (unlike some people). Christine Lahti and John Slatterty are two of my favorite actors, and Greg Berlanti is one of my favorite writers (perhaps his focus on this new show is behind Everwood's descent into annoyingness -- the same thing happened when he left the Creek), and the two boys are completely charming, but the premise doesn't really excite me, and I still think it's the show's weakest point. For anyone who doesn't know, we're watching teen brothers Jack and Bobby in the present, along with clips of some sort of talking head documentary from 2040-something in which Bobby is (or has been) President of the United States. The flash-forwards are actually my favorite thing about the show -- they're an endless parade of Hey It's That Guy actors, playing both people we know as teens and other members of the McAllister administration and his political rivals. They do get a little gimmicky (there's an AIDS vaccine! the VP is a woman! the "media secretary" presides over a webcast!) but given the current political climate a little bit of mucking about with future hopes is to be expected. But take those away and you've pretty much got Felicity's Creek, 90210. With Berlanti and Thomas Schlamme both involved, the show is literally Dawson's Creek meets The West Wing, but it often feels like Berlanti did his present-day section and Schlamme did his documentary section and the two men never actually met. The (often heavy-handed) lessons Bobby is learning in high school are supposed to somehow affect the President he becomes, but it's not like we're talking about Superman here, and if Smallville is as dull as it is, what made them think this wouldn't be?

There's a potential there (like in Bobby?) that I like, mostly in the snappy dialogue and direction (typical of Berlanti and Schlamme), and, like I said, in the talented actors. The best thing about the pilot was that we didn't know until the end which brother would become president, and the episode was constructed very cleverly to keep us guessing. It was fun. They couldn't have kept that gimmick up for long, but its spirit was helpful. In recent weeks they've dropped a couple of big plot teasers in the documentary sections, and I'd like to see those get resolved before the show's inevitable cancellation. But on the other hand, who cares? So the media secretary suspected that the President had an affair with the Vice President. So what? We only know the VP as a talking head, and we only know the President as a 12-year-old boy. Yet this little tidbit is somehow more compelling to me than any of the high school plots. It really is a strange little show. Some rescheduling and DVR weirdness took it off my list for this week, but I'm sure I'll check in on it from time to time in the weeks to come.


One of the things I enjoy about CSI: Miami (the member of the CSI family I've watched the most) is the way they use the peculiarities of the locale to craft their stories. I say this having never been to Miami, and knowing that most of the show is shot in and around Los Angeles, so I suppose it would be more accurate to say that they do a great job of appearing to use the peculiarities of the locale. But on a very basic level, you have one sister series set in the desert, and one set on a swampy peninsula, and you have two shows that, while similar in structure and formula, each has its own distinctive character. So of course I was excited by the prospect of CSI: NY, despite the fact that it too is shot almost entirely in LA. With good writing and location scouting, that shouldn't matter, and the City seems like a natural, unique locale for the franchise. So why is the show so boring? More importantly (to a New Yorker anyway), why does it feel like it could be taking place absolutely anywhere?

To be fair, I only watched the pilot, but one scene pissed me off so much that I was done wasting DVR space on it afterwards. Gary Sinise and Melina Kanakaredes have a photo of a murder victim and they're trying to figure out where she is. In the background of the picture on camera-left of the girl is the Chrysler Building, and on camera-right is the Citicorp Tower. Since they know the heights of the two buildings and their distance from each other, and the height of the dead girl, they use this fancy computer program to take that data and the measurements from the photo and figure out the girl's distance from the buildings. Then the computer makes a triangle on a map and shows Sinise and Kankankaredes where the photo was taken. Cool, right?

With excitement, Kankarededededededes says, "Queens!"
Then, smugly, proudly, Sinise says, "Long Island City."
And I screamed at the TV, "DUH!!!" They needed a fancy computer for that!?? The only place you'd see that particular view of Manhattan that close-up is in eastern Queens, just across the river and pretty much between those two landmark buildings. Now, I know this, and I just live here. I don't get paid to know the city like the back of my hand or, y'know, have a degree in forensic science.

It's entirely possible that the other two CSIs are just as annoying to people who live in their cities, but they certainly seem less generic to me. :NY just seems to me like it could be taking place anywhere. Which might be okay if the cast or the cases (okay, the single case that I saw, two if you count the :Miami crossover from last season) were even remotely interesting. But they're not. I'll probably check it out again, but in the interest of saving space, I took it off the DVR list.


Ah, finally something not just good but freakin' great. Lost is by far my favorite thing this season. I tried not to get my hopes up too much, just based on the pedigree of the show's creator (anyone remember Harsh Realm?), but JJ Abrams has scored again. I don't want to say too much about this one in case anyone out there is planning to watch it and is at all behind, but this show is good. What's maybe most impressive about Abrams is how different each of his shows has been. Lost has more in common with Alias than Felicity, of course, but aside from a bit of mystery and the sense that everything must mean something, it's a whole different genre. I can't think of another TV impresario (Sorkin, Carter, Spelling, Berlanti...) who can do that so well. I think the premise would be brilliant even without the mysterious supernatural element, though it can be a real challenge, since they can never add new characters to the mix (though there are all those extras milling about who haven't spoken yet), so they have to really make sure everything works. So far it does. The actors are terrific (and by the end of Party of Job, I never thought I'd enjoy Matthew Fox), the writing is sharp and believable, and hey, it's the second gayest Hobbit! The show is shot beautifully, with a gorgeous-yet-creepy location, and those intensely disturbing flashbacks to the plane crash.

A lot of viewers seem to be overthinking the show. I guess three seasons of Alias have taught us to be on high alert for clues to the larger mystery. You know what? I don't care. Abrams is a brilliant storyteller and I trust that he knows what he's doing. I'd much rather enjoy the show than second-guess every throw-away line or background prop. Part of the fun of the first season of Alias was the way the story unfolded before we knew how intricate it would become. As it got more complicated, it got more exciting. I don't want to put too many expectations on the show, just enjoy it as it happens. So I'm staying off the message boards, and not replaying anything...too much.


I'm also really enjoying Desperate Housewives, though it's a little hard to figure out. The tone is inconsistent, alternating between camp sitcom and high drama. But it's interesting, and certainly compelling. I've always been a fan of Marcia Cross, Felicity Huffman, and Brenda Strong, and they're all doing good work here. I'd like to see Huffman used a little better. Her character perplexes me; I refuse to believe that a woman with her background and her resources, with children as purely evil, wouldn't have brought boarding school into the picture by now. But no one plays strong-yet-easily-flustered quite so well. Teri Hatcher is completely charming (I never watched Lois and Clark, so this is a discovery for me), and her Gilmore-esque daughter is funny and cute. Cross proves her versatility here; true, she's playing crazy again, but this is a very different kind of crazy from her Melrose days. And then there's that hot gardener! So the cast is happy-making. The writing is clever, but the what-did-Mary Alice-do plot seems to me like an afterthought. I'd like it to either become a more major plotline or go away, since it seems disingenuous now.


The most recent season premiere, last week's West Wing (see, I'm not that far behind) picked up where last season left off. Which isn't necessarily a good thing. But I like where things are going. There are some interesting actors joining the cast this season, and I like where the plot seems to be headed. I still miss the Sorkin touch, and I wish it hadn't taken them a whole year to find their footing again, but I still appreciate it as one of the smartest shows on television, especially in the midst of the election. It's nice that someone (besides Jon Stewart) is willing and able to make politics entertaining.


I watched about ten minutes of the first Real World episode and it kind of made my head hurt, so I took it off the DVR list. Of course, it's on constantly, so I've managed to stay pretty up-to-date against my better judgment. In fact, I'm watching it now. In his book, Chuck Klosterman notes that long-time Real World watchers like to bemoan that the participants have gotten younger and stupider, when in fact we've actually gotten older and smarter. I haven't watched an old enough season recently to test this theory, but I think it's probably true. And as each "cast" gets more aware of the power of TV, their inevitable bizarre celebrity, and (this is also Klosterman's) the tried-and-true RW characters they were hired to play, the show becomes less and less "real."

I tuned in to Philadelphia mostly because they broke with tradition and cast two gay guys this season. How egalitarian! Now they have the same opportunity to hook up in-house as everyone else! Not that it matters though, because one of them has already run into and gotten back together with an old boyfriend who he "just happened" to run into. And I "just happened" to catch the episode last week where they made some MTV porn in the shower. Boy (also "just happening" by) pointed out that even in this day and agey, there was an awful lot of man-on-man action for basic cable. Sure, the absence of boobs lets them shoot more and blur less, but they also gave it more time and more taste than they often give the straight couplings. Of course, I was distracted thinking about how there were at least two other people in the room (camera and sound), and wondering how anyone could be that un-self-conscious and not be thinking about weather their dicks would end up on the internet. I laughed out loud at the next scene though, in which the two "straight" boys "couldn't help" peeking at the homos going at it, making us wonder if they had cast four gay guys after all.

The other homo has the added pressure of being RW's obligatory "angry black man." But he also -- in what may be the smartest move in RW history -- has decided not to hook up on camera, since his family still has issues with his sexuality and may not want to see it on national TV. If only the dozens of cast members who've cheated on their significant others as if it wouldn't wind up on DVD were so sensitive. This bunch actually seems to be smarter than the last few casts, but at least there's the girl who said "I don't like a lot of attention" after going down on a banana in a bar contest -- on The Real World!!


See, and this is me not watching RW! With the move I actually took some things off the DVR list before they even started. So I still haven't seen the new casts of either of the old CSIs or Law and Order, and I have yet to watch even a little bit of America's Next Top Model. But who needs Tyra Banks when there's Manhunt: The Search For America's Most Gorgeous Male Model? Just go to the website, it speaks for itself. It's the guiltiest guilty pleasure yet, and I downloaded the screen saver.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Jon Stewart is My Hero

I finally saw a tape of Jon Stewart's much-talked-about Crossfire appearance. No matter which side of the aisle you're on, if you haven't seen it, you must go here at once. I've never been so proud of someone I've never met before.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Adventures in Home Owning: It's a Gas

It was supposed to be simple. It's not like we're buying a ramshackle Victorian that all of our friends will help us fix up in a montage in the third act while a Starship song plays in the background. But even with an apartment, even with a super and common areas and a pretty fair guarantee of structural soundness, there are things we just never thought about when we were renting. First there was buying the appliances, and now there's getting them to work without killing us.

I had hoped to post photos of the kitchen today with its orange stripe and Ikea goodies and shiny shiny appliances, but, well, not so much.

I got up at the ass crack of dawn this morning (after a hideous transit drama getting home last night) to go over to the new place and wait for the gasman to come turn on the gas. He was early, the process was fast, and everything worked fine. Only when he was gone I still smelled gas. A lot. So I called them and told them I had a leak. Enter gasman number two, who reeked of alcohol, which didn't exactly inspire confidence. He seemed to have his shit together though, so to make myself feel better I decided he was hungover instead of currently drunk. Anyway, turns out there's a faulty valve in the oven. So he turned the gas back off, and I called GE to schedule a repair, then called Keyspan to schedule having the gas turned back on.

I guess I should explain, this is all so important because it's tied (somewhat inexplicably) to our mortgage. It seems when you buy a co op, and the bank appraises the place, it matters to them that it has a "working" kitchen. I don't really understand this, since people buy places and fix them up all the time, and most buyers don't have the luxury of all this time to do work prior to closing that we've had, but there it is. So when we had our inspection a while back, they appraised the apartment but said that they have to come back when the kitchen is finished to finalize it, and until that's done we can't lock in the mortgage. It's all intensely frustrating. To say nothing of how excited I was to install my Grundtal dish rack today.

I was supposed to spend the morning with the super doing the rest of the little repairs that are needed, but since we'll have to hang out there for two days next week and I was tired and cranky, I asked if he minded doing it next week and came home to nap with the kitten.

If I were in a better mood, I'd find much more humor in the fact that I myself am also extremely gassy today.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Past Time

Why do people think they can talk to me about baseball? Do I look like someone who gives a flying fuck about baseball? Those of you who don't know what I look like, trust me, I don't. As I got into the elevator tonight a man I'd never seen before asked me if I know "the score." Um, to what?? Okay, I don't live in a box, so I knew to what, but how the hell would I know? I said a more polite version of this, and he told me what it had been when he checked it last, and, stuck in the elevator with the man I found myself trapped in a conversation about baseball. And this is not an isolated incident. Random strangers have been bringing this shit up in elevators and on subways and in line at the store all week.

I will never ever understand spectator sports. I like to play things occasionally, but I can think of few things less exciting than watching other people -- strangers no less -- do it. Now, there are plenty of people who will never understand musical theater, so okay, to each his own. But what I don't get is how worked up people get. When I see a bad play, I don't take it personally, and when I see a good one I don't take credit for it! "We won! We won!" Um, no, they won, and they'd get paid more money than you or I will ever see in our lives even if they hadn't. And these people get so damned upset when they lose! Again, you weren't playing. You've done nothing wrong. Unless you're a betting man, this does not affect your life one iota. It's only a game, people, let's keep it in perspective. I hope the Yankees lose just so I can stop hearing about it.

So no, I have no fucking idea what the score is.

March of the Falsettos

Okay, we are long overdue for a pop-culture critique here at Judgment Call, which is running the risk of becoming Real Estate And Whining About Broken Electronics Call. An exhaustive TV post is on the way (I've had a lot of catching up to do!) but in the meantime here's a smidgen of pop music.

The other day I was inspired to take a harder look at The Scissor Sisters, whom I disparaged here not long ago. I like the whole neo-glam thing, in theory, and frankly the lead singer is hot, so I decided it was unfair to judge them based on one obnoxiously overplayed single.

iTunes to the rescue. I don't hate the Scissor Sisters after all, though I do still hate "Take Your Mama" very much. More broadly, I hate the fact that more than half the songs on the album are sung in falsetto. Why would anyone do this? I mean, reach for the occasional high note, sure, but it's not like screeching like you've just been kicked in the nuts makes your voice sound better. It's especially mystefying because the lead singer actually has a lovely rock voice when he uses it normally.

So I listened to the samples and downloaded only those songs on which he doesn't sound like a wounded animal (those would be "Lovers in the Backseat," "Music is the Victim," "Better Luck Next Time," "It Can't Come Quickly Enough," and "Return to Oz"), and they make for a nice little EP.

They're unabashedly queer, which I like (there's at least one reference to a male lover), and their most obvious influences are ones I really like. In a way, I think five songs is the perfect amount, because any more and it might start to feel like an exercise in writing a song in the style of _________ rather than any kind of original pursuit. It just happens I like all the ________s. One track sounds like early Bowie, one like Brian Eno, one like Elton John, and one (I swear it popped into my head after 2 bars) like Men Without Hats. My favorite, the trippy ballad "Return to Oz," sounds a lot like Pink Floyd, which is only worth pointing out separately because the album actually contains a cover of "Comfortably Numb" ...sung entirely in falsetto. I can totally forgive the blending of references to Oz and The Dark Crystal because Skeksis rock in any context.

So I hope these guys aren't a flash in the pan and can produce some more stuff that makes me this happy. Maybe a whole album's worth? And, especially with the Internet on my side, I will try not to be so harsh on entire oveures based on singles along. Though please don't get me started on Los Lonely Boys. They have a bad single and an even worse name.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Ouch

I went to the gym yesterday for the first time in about two months, and today I stayed home but did 8-Minute Abs, Arms and Legs. I think my limbs might fall off. But that's good, right? Of course right.

In the last few weeks several people have told me I look like I've lost weight. Of course, none of these people have seen me naked. I suppose it's possible that stress and exhaustion have actually made my face look thinner, but I certainly don't feel in shape. The scale is packed somewhere, so I can't really check anything other than how I look and feel. I'm tempted to Atkins for a couple of weeks, but I don't really want to bother, and with most of my kitchen stuff packed it would be a challenge anyway. So instead I've decided to attempt a Week Without Desert (except maybe some fruit), and to attempt to work out every day.

Right after I made this decision, I went grocery shopping, and they had both of my favorite hard-to-find Ben and Jerry's flavors (Oatmeal Cookie Chunk and Uncanny Cashew). So I guess I'll start tomorrow.

Adventures in Real Estate: The Final Battle??

Boy and I met with three of the seven co-op board members on Thursday night. They were lovely. As we'd suspected, they knew next to nothing about our situation and our long tale of drama. They hadn't even been given our application package for a month after we turned it in. In a way, this is good news, because it means our neighbors, and the people who run the building, are not crazy or unreasonable after all. They were very nice, entirely logical, and a little bit appalled to hear what we'd been through. And one of them was very gay.

The bad news is, this means that every time I spoke to the woman in the management office, she lied to me. She never spoke to the board, the board never rejected our application (hell, they never got our application!), and they took our money to process it all and then didn't actually do anything with it. In fact, it seemed as though, had they known about it, the board would have approved the sublet, since they all seemed to think it was a little ridiculous.

I'm more happy that the meeting went well than upset that management fucked us over. There's a satisfaction to knowing that they're going to hear about this from the board (which, technically, employs them, and can fire them if they choose), and in knowing that the people who really matter are on our side. We're settled in at Boy's, and our current schedule is working out well. Fingers crossed, this is the end to drama!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Eyes Front!

Here's the post I was about to put up when my computer died.

As I emerged from the subway onto the rainy corner of 40th and 8th this morning, I saw a youngish, smallish, ethnicish woman collide with an oldish, largish, whitish man. The man was carrying a bright pink umbrella. I didn't actually see the moment of impact, so I can't say whose fault it was (if anyone's), but the man turned his head to glare and mutter at the woman. Only he didn't stop walking while he did this, and as a result he and his pink umbrella bumped into me.

The words "Watch where you're going" have never felt so satisfying.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Don't know what you've got 'til it's gone

I didn't even realize how burnt-out I was until the end was in sight. My show is closed a couple of weeks ago. Well, my main show. I was kinda conflicted about it. Of course, the timing couldn't have been worse, with the move and the sudden emptying of my savings account and all. I'm also sad because it was the kind of work experience that was too good to be true, especially after the nightmare that was known here as Show #1 some months back. But it was also nice to have a job that felt like a gift instead of a chore, and a run of any length was something to be grateful for.

Meanwhile, it's awesome that I've been employed consistently as a stage manager since the first of the year. This too is rare, and a welcome change from the six months off I had last year. I've been going non-stop for a while, with the two full-time shows overlapping, as well as the various side projects in the last couple of months (which will continue for a little while). On the two major shows I was the production stage manager, or the man in charge. Both shows were actually "small" enough that I didn't have an assistant. I like the work and I'm good at it, but it was exhausting.

So the positive side to all this is that I desperately need a break! And as the last week of the show approached my exhaustion overwhelmed my sadness. Only it wasn't over yet. I ended up doing a reading that rehearsed the last week of the show and went up two days after we closed. Okay, and then I get a day off, right? Nope. I had sent out a massive amount of resumes (it rarely yields much but I figured I had such a good year I should brag a little) and late in the week I got a call from a Broadway show that needed a sub last-minute. This is good. Very good! And I don't want to sound like I'm complaining about it at all. It's just that I was gearing up for a break mentally and physically, and suddenly it would be another week. I was also scheduled for several shifts in the box office.

So, new job good, money good...finally getting a day off even better! On Monday and Tuesday I got to sleep in, but I still had places to be in the afternoons and evenings. Wednesday was my first proper day off in about two months, and I declared it Personal Maintenance Day. I started off with the dentist, then took a lovely walk across the Park to the chiropractor, who was a little bit shocked at the amount of tension in my neck. Intent on rejuvenating, even if it's gross, I had a colonic (uneventful, all things considered), and topped the day off with a haircut and a manicure (my nails were so badly bitten they were getting disgusting).

Relaxed, refreshed, and feeling vaguely healthy, the best news of all came from Tekserve, where my laptop was ready and its hard drive had not been erased. And they didn't charge me for the data backup. I'm not sure if this was a mistake because I'd paid for the new drive already, or an attempt to make amends for all the disastrous customer service, but I'm not complaining either way.

I worked on Thursday, and then yesterday had a full day with nothing scheduled at all. This is a beautiful thing. I'd love to have a story to tell, but I didn't actually do anything except catch up on computer work from the last two weeks.

So that's the boring story of what I've been up to. If I can manage to make it to the gym and stop eating so much ice cream, I'll be all set.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog, already in progress.

Help!

Okay, real post for today to come (actually, the real post I never got around to yesterday to come), but first I need your help.

The theme for Jenn's Halloween party this year is "Come as your LEAST favorite celebrity." This should be easy for me, but I'm completely stumped! I need advice. Last time she had a party it was a TV theme and I was Three's Company. Yes, all three of them. So I have a high standard to live up to!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

So sad

I caught a bit of Broken Hearts Club on TV this morning, and it made me cry a little.

Not about anything sad in the plot, just about how much cuter Zach Braff used to be.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Technical Difficulties

It seems the debacle with my Earthlink account (which has been resolved, email-wise) resulted in the deletion of everything in my FTP/webspace there, including all the image files associated with Judgment Call. So please pardon our appearance until my laptop comes home and I can upload everything again.

Real post for today below!

People are even dumber than I thought!

I've been a little disappointed that my not-so-triumphant return to the world of Ticket Services has yielded little blog fodder. Yes, there are the daily conversations with idiots, but nothing really exceptional.

Until today, when one of my coworkers received the following call from a cell phone.

"Hi. Can't you guys open another window?"
"Excuse me?"
"There's a huge line down here."
"Really??" (The phone room is in a different part of the building from the box office proper, but being as small as we are the likelihood of there being a "huge line" at this theater is slim.)
"Yeah. There are all these people waiting to buy tickets to [Broadway Show Playing Next Door To Us] and I just want to pick up my tickets for [Our Show]."
"Okay, sir, you're in the wrong theater."
"No I'm not."
"Yes, sir, you must be at [Broadway Show Playing Next Door To Us] and this is a different venue. Go outside... Okay, now make a left... Do you see the steps there? And the glass doors...?"

It actually took her about five minutes to guide him the twenty feet down the block. People really never cease to amaze me.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Unbe-fucking-lievable!!

Boy, it's a good thing I called to check up on my computer this morning, because -- ready for this? -- Tekserve never sent it in to Apple! Apparently they thought that the drive I purchased to back up my data was out of stock...even though I held it in my hand as I paid for it and watched the guy bring it back to the service area where my laptop was sitting. They also claim to have left me a message 3 days ago, but I never got it, which seems highly unlikely.

So let's review... No laptop and no proper email until sometime next week, and all due to other people's massive fuck-ups.

Maybe I should just chuck it all and go live in a cave. I think you'll all manage to survive without my blog.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

This has to be some kind of sick joke

Okay, I could handle losing my iPod. I could handle my Palm Pilot crashing mid-sync and erasing itself. I can handle the laptop being ill. All of these things, while annoying, are relatively easily reparable. But now my fucking email isn't working. Somehow, the genius at Time-Warner Cable cancelled my Earthlink account. But they can't fix it, Earthlink has to fix it. But they can't fix it now, it takes 72 fucking hours!

The guy I spoke to on the phone swears that any messages left on the server will still be there when they reinstate the account. They'd fucking better be, since I haven't had my laptop for over a week and if they're not on the server they're obviously not in Outlook either and they're gone forever.

Thankfully, the address I give to people is a forwarding service through my college, and I just changed it to go to my brand new .Mac account. But of course that will confuse anyone who I write TO utterly, and it means .Mac will get all the spam that Earthlink so nicely blocks.

I've always been such a friend to technology, why is it turning on me now???

Continuing Adventures in Home Owning

The other day, Boy got a strange message on his home machine – a number he never gives out – from a heavily accented woman who appeared to have something to do with our co-op board. He called back and got a machine, and left both of our cell phone numbers.

Yesterday, the same woman called my general manager’s office looking for me. Now somewhere in our huge pile of information this is listed as my employer's number, but of course I work at the theater and not in the office. Meanwhile, both of our cell numbers are all over the application, and on our letterhead, and this woman still hasn't called either of them.

Anyway, so I called her back and got her instead of a machine, and much confusion ensued. First there was the issue that I could barely understand a word she was saying, and I suspect she wasn't doing much better with me. Then, after I tried to give her the right numbers for us (not sure if I was successful), she announced that we had a meeting with the board on Saturday morning.

Um...okay, first of all, we both work on Saturday. And second of all, what's this meeting for?

"You want to buy apartment, right?"

"Riiiight, but we don't need board approval for the sale."

"What?"

"Apartment 5R is unsold shares, we don't need approval."

"Then why do I have a package for you?"

Thus began a long and not entirely successful explanation of the sublet situation.

"Oh, no... you can't do that! You can't move in before you close!"

"Yes. I know."

Now, of course, we're happy, if not downright anxious to meet the board. They're going to be our neighbors, after all, with a fair amount of control over our lives, and we've been dumped into an unusual and awkward situation. So I set up a different time for this meeting to happen. The upsetting thing is that this woman, who supposedly was part of the process that denied our sublet application in fact knew nothing about our sublet application. This implies that the management company (which arguably will have even more control over our lives) never really communicated the situation properly (or, perhaps, never included the lovely cover letter I wrote with our sublet application) and has been fucking with us all along.

The board meeting is next week, and I just pray that someone in the room speaks English so I can properly recap our situation and try to get to the bottom of this. 'Cause I am pissed off.


In happier apartment news, our shiny new appliances arrived yesterday. Okay, so the oven door doesn't open because there's a radiator in the way. So what? And the fridge is a little bigger than we expected – we never quite accounted for the depth properly. But it's all good. The super is going to move the counter over so we can move the stove over and open it properly, and we think swapping the fridge door to the other side will help us out there. Both pieces look fabulous, and have exactly the effect we'd hoped for with the orange stripe. As soon as I get my laptop back (hopefully tomorrow?) I'll post photos.


Okay, the cable guy's here! Boy's is feeling more and more like home every day!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Small victories

Remember my heartbreak over Ben and Jerry's Oatmeal Cookie Chunk? Well it's back, baby! No longer limited, and marked "By popular demand."

After a long and stressful couple of weeks, it's nice to know I have enough kindred spirits out there to affect a major corporation's product line! It's also awfully nice to have some ice cream.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The etymology of breakfast pastries

I stopped into Pax yesterday morning for a breakfast pastry, and this very large woman was taking a very long time to order and yammering on about some sort of discount, clearly to the dismay of the nice people behind the counter. I wasn't terribly impatient for a change, but the thing is, the woman was standing directly in front of the pastry case, and occasionally leaning her entire body onto it. Now, Pax (a chain that's growing in New York at the alarming rate of a Starbucks virus) doesn't necessarily have the same thing every day, so not being able to peruse the selection while I waited was a problem. But what do you say? "Excuse me ma'am, you're too fat for me to see my breakfast?"

She finally stepped back while waiting for her smoothie, and I passed her on the line and ordered a chocolate chip scone.

"What is a scone anyway?" she suddenly asked me. Her face, which I hadn't seen was nearly as frightening as her rear, and her voice cut through the music in my headphones like a very whiny knife.

"Um...it's a pastry," I said, with a definite tone of duh. Not that everyone in the world should have intimate knowledge of scones, but there are several right in front of you!

"Oh. Is it like a cookie?"

"Not really. It's sort of dry and dense, but usually pretty sweet."

There was a pause and I prayed we were done. How long did it take to put a scone in a bag?

"Well why is it called a scone?"

I don't know where this came from, but: "Why is anything called anything? Why is it called a cookie? Or a bagel?"

Missing my point completely, she said, "Well I just thought you might know, since you're eating one."

"Nope. I just know it's tasty. Um...it's English."

"Ah." Curiously, that seemed to satisfy her. At least until whatever she had ordered arrived so she could complain about that.