Monday, February 28, 2005

A gay cut

For years I've patronized gruff Italian barbers who don't talk much, save to tell me they're from Sicily, and a motley assortment of women in various places who really don't seem to care much about my hair. Like that bored 19-year old at the mall in Lincoln, Nebraska who put the buzzer on 2 and went to town while examining her nails. Mostly I have done this in support of a "get a cheap cut whenever it's convenient" policy.

Finally, I've decided to play the extra 10-15 dollars for a more quality cut, and have found a convenient gay male to do the cutting. Gay guys combine a genuine interest in male hair with an ability to hold down a conversation that straight barbers and women cannot combine. All the great feathering haircuts of my youth were done by gay men, as well as some of the classic mullets.

However, this guy rambled on a little bit too much, telling me all about his boyfriend "in the AV industry", who lives up in Bergen County, wants to retire but is only 53, just sold his business, found a great job with a former competitor, likes to go on long weekends to Europe every quarter, how they fight jetlag with a couple of drinks and a sleeping pill, and so on and on and on. He seemed to have forgotten that the conversational bit is to pass the time of haircut, not draw it out interminably. I should have suggested that he start a blog.

And I should have have him take off a little more.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

More cute things Natalie says (or has historically said)

Just saw that this was marked "draft." If anybody out there remembers other good stuff (that means you, family), use the comment feature.

Age 2 and down
Cockdaloo -- (for "Cock a doodle doo")
Mom -- (when speaking to Dad, and vice versa)
Basteers ("Downstairs")

Age 3
Waters. As in, "Look at the waters" or "Can I have some waters?"
Moneys Underwears Bacons shaushiges
Gigine (for "Vagina". It's great when she says this while standing on line in stores)
Today night
Jelly and sandwich
Buckley pancakes (for Buckwheat)
What's that making sound?
Wha're you got?
Way up high the sky

Age 4 and up
How down it goes ("Make the window how down it goes")
How on it goes ("Turn the light how on it goes")
Alladem. As in, "Which one is your favorite?" "Alladem"
Thassalot. As in, "How many minutes are you gonna snuggle wis me?" "7" "Thassalot"
("No. no. You're not supposed to like alladem")
Is I gonna...?
Wheoo ("Wheoo's there?")
Tweoo ("One, tweoo....")
I don't like to (As in "Pick up your toys now." "I don't like to pick them up."
Momta -- (As in. Clark: "I'll do that for you" Natalie "No, Momta")
Fer -- As in "What's that fer?"

Saturday, February 26, 2005

I luv Huckabees

The critics were of pretty mixed mind about this flick, but we weren't. It's funny. Sure there's lots of hokey stuff going on, and it's all undermotivated, but we laughed often and vigorously. The most distinctive sex scene in quite some time. Lily Tomlin's in it. Isabelle Huppert. Markie Mark doing his best work yet. A definite renter.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Boarding at Jay Street / Borough Hall

After seeing some people on Wall Street, fuzzy headedly sit down on the A train going the wrong way, to Brooklyn. My cold's getting to me (while back in Princeton Mary tells me Graham's screaming his head off for like the third day in a row. Natalie's listless, or just pretending to be to watch TV). I need to make Penn Station by 3:01 to catch the express.

And at 2:34 I look up and see that I've slipped under the East River to Borough Hall. Doooohhh. Exit, cross over to train going the other way. An A train comes quickly. Across from me a rather large couple plunks down. In their 50s, she in some sort of fake fur, he in a leather jacket and some sort of black satiny pants with white piping down the seams, with a wierd combover and mutton chop sideburns that joined seemlessly with a bushy moustache. Caucasian. And they're eating candy, that's the kicker. She's got a Reese's Peanut butter cup, held between long black nails, and she's savoring it, taking small, slow bites, like Natalie would. He, on the other hand, prefers some sort of M & Ms in a tan bag, and is snarfing them, pouring them two or three at a time into the palm of his hand, popping em in his mouth. More like I would eat them, if I ever bought candy. Who buys candy like that at that age? Walking down the street, you know, I think I need some candy.

This is the kind of shit that pops up only on the subway.

I made my train.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Another big day

The guy at National Tire and Battery picked up the phone like this the other day: "It's a great day at National Tire and Battery!" He had great cadence and verve, and I was almost convinced, and might have run down there, were it not for the fact the TireRack is the greatest web retailer ever and will eventually run the brick and mortar tire people out of business. But you gotta love the guy on the phone, really putting his heart into it for whatever minimal hourly wage they give him. He was not kidding.

Driving the Subaru this week after a little Check Engine light incident over the weekend, so that if it has a reversion Mary won't be in there with the kids. Time for me to bond with the old girl, all 150 odd thousand miles of her. Today the turn signal light went off for a spell after I used the hazards, just like the cruise control crapped out one day and then worked the next. Is the electrical system a little moody. Hmmm.

No CD player, so I break out a bunch of old tapes. Try one of Mary's, old New Order it says on there, looking for one old song ("Oh you've got green eyes, oh you've got grey eyes....") that was on the CD New Order released in 1982 following Ian Curtis's suicide, and then remastered and rereleased in the 90s in an act of savagery. The tape is in fact a mixed party tape with an outsize portion of New Order, but also with other 80s goodies, some of which I listened to, some of which I never would have. But all told it fleshes out a picture of Mary as someone I would have totally gone out with in college, no question. I see us at this party, dancing, drinking, smelling, smoking, loving those Brits and their synths.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Long and short around the house

There's an eternal struggle around the house about how the money flows out. Tell me something else new, I hear you saying.

I don't know if there's a standard gender breakdown, but I know in my household Mary is long in orientation, biased towards making purchases of furniture and other durable goods, ready to cost-control on a day by day basis to do so. I tend to view a lot of that stuff as adding overhead: it can get messed up, it needs to be maintained, it generally ups the ante so that it makes other stuff look cheaper. It also needs to be carried out when you move. And the old stuff it replaces needs to get carried out of the house, which is easier said than done.

I, on the other hand, have a short-term bias. I want to spend money on things that relieve stress in the short term. Mostly we're talking about take out, which removes the need for stressful cooking and dishwashing. Or going out, for the same reason. It's wasteful, but there's not future labor commitment built into it. The same goes for travel. I'm all for it, just too lazy to get it done.

On the other hand, for some perverse reason, I always feel somehow enriched after doing real and quasi-real capital expenditures. I got a warm fuzzy after plowing 700 odd bucks into brakes for the 1996 Subaru the other day, as if it brought me and the car closer together. Not really rational.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Trip to the mall

I made a rare appearance at the mall yesterday, being in need of respectable looking casual clothes to wear to social events so as to reflect well upon and please the eye of Mary. The black jeans I took through Moscow in 97-98 with holes in the crotch somehow weren't making it.

Once I hit the mall, I fell quickly into strutting and swaggering mode, what with all the high-schoolers around setting the tone. The best clump of them was a mixed-race, totally stoned bunch of 4 in all kinds of baggie whatnot coming through Lord & Taylors. I think they were looking for ascots.

It's hard to shop when you have no particular image you want to project. Who am I supposed to be in my off hours these days? I have no frame of reference. This didn't used to be a problem. Now most of the time I see people in suits, so ties and shirts for the office are easier. I know what I want to look like there. But casual shoes? I don't want to look unhip, but all the hip shoes look like something out of a Japanese comic books.

I left the mall with a tie and some black socks. All on sale at Macy's.

Why is there a booth selling tub backsplashes for at the mall? It doesn't seem like a big walkby item. Must be a front for Al Qaeda.

Stopped to by the sick Natalie a glow-in-the-dark necklace from a quarter machine by the door. Homies ( are also on sale. I was shocked when I first saw these caricaturish little guys and gals in the bathroom by the food court in the Lincoln, Nebraska, mall. I thought it was a toy for redneck kids. Now I see that it's a respectable groove in the ghetto. Wierd.

Monday, February 21, 2005

An honest church?

Natalie's sick again. Why is there so much puking going around this year? Surely there's some sort of conspiracy theory and/or eschatological subtext here. There always is.

Anyway, if Graham just stops screaming for a little while I should have time to catch up on reading some of these magazines around the house. The Economist was just reporting on the deep and continuing schism in the Episcopalian Church, caused by the ordination of a gay bishop and the tentative endorsement of gay marriage. The grouse is already on the record about gay marriage: don't let em both wear white and make sure the appetizers are good, that's whay I say. But openly gay clergy? Hmm. I guess it probably is better to force them, as the Catholic Church does, to stay in the closet and abuse altar boys. As if you're ever going to be able to coop a bunch of guys up together for a long time and not let them have sex. I know I can go years without having sex, and it doesn't bug me at all.

It's ridiculous. Gay clergy have been a fact of life forever. What the conservative wing of the church is opposing is honesty, or, as the financial markets would have it, transparency. Suppressing gay clergy is like saying to Enron that it should keep all its off the book entities hidden because it's unseemly to have them. This is, in fact, much like what the Japanese banking system has been doing with its bad loan portfolios for well over a decade. That's worked great!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Ladies Night

Mary read a good review of the USA Network original dramatic presentation Ladies Night, in which Starsky swindles and kills a bunch of women, so we watched it. I hadn't watched any USA programming for over a decade, since I quit drinking, really, and there is a correlation between the two. Nothing has changed. It's a wierd parallel universe, the USA world, I guess it's much like most network TV, but I never watch that easy. Everybody's always swaggering around in and out of convenience stores, malls, pawn shops, ogling each other and trying to act clever and jump bones. All the actors are good-looking, but unknown (i.e. cheap). The dialogue appears to have been autogenerated. Only cheap cars are used in chase scenes. I think this is the America I don't live in. It's more appealing if you're drunk around midnight. Then maybe it makes sense.

Also learned that Pizza Hut has new pizza strips for dunking with three separate sauces (I think Pizza Hut is illegal in New Jersey). And Dunkin Donuts has new apple pie. And couples fight over driving the Mercury. I thought those were just for renting.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Holiday weekend closure

Somebody remind me not to buy cheap suits. I'm embarassed to say how little I paid for it, but it's pretty scratchy. And, get this, I just looked at it, because I thought I was wearing the even scratchier one. Now that's bad.

Anyway, a long week draws to a close. Good meeting today up at the hedge fund. Feeling positive about making a big-assed sale, and keeping on walking to work for 5 months before we even get into overruns.

And last night we settled with the Russian developers across the fence. They pushed their big ugly houses 10 feet further from my property and made it a little smaller. Probably not less ugly, but what can you do?

I realize this is all pretty lame and prosaic, but hey, sometimes things actually happen. I could tell you the story about how Word mucked up some complex formatting on my document, but that's not very fun either. Better just stop.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A big day!

Things are moving here in the heart of NJ, my friends. Here at work, we're pulling together a fat "deliverable" out of a hodgepodge of documents made in various Microsoft apps: from Word to Powerpoint to Visio to Excel. Delight! The client always loves it when we break out the pictures and the color. But first we have to pass it by our boss, so he can sprinkle holy water on it.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it looks like 20 months of wrangling with the delevopers over our back fence is coming to a close. We've beat them down pretty good, got some reasonable concessions, but still there's gonna be a McMansion kinda thing I can see out my back window where now I gots trees. At least I won't have to go to meetings.

Also, all you NC people. I see you're coming by the site and I asked you a question. Are you going to be in the Triangle for Memorial Day? Is that too much to ask? Let me know.

Sorry no real with today.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

All that traffic

Lots of people coming by the grouse today, can't figure it out. Because I was making fun of the press blitz around the swimsuit issue yesterday? That's pretty sad.

One kindly lad, terms himself the Hittite, seems to have misunderstood me. It's not that I'm shocked that SI can make $10 mln off the swimsuit issue. My point is that $10 million is not money. The guy in the office across from me is probably worth 30. The point is that it's not news.

Here's the big news. Last night Graham started making guttural consonant sounds, either a "g" or a "k" followed by an unaccented schwa. I had never heard him making these sounds. And then, when I started saying "daadaa" to him, he responded "daadaa." He's working on it. When he speaks, you'll know.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

And there's more

Not to be outdone, CNN's Money cobranded link off its front page informs us that the Sport Illustrated swimsite edition has spawned at $10 million industry. Think about that. Ten million dollars. Whew. For perspective, the US economy is only $10 trillion. My employer only grosses in the $10 million range annually. Wow. That's big news, and its front page placement has nothing to do with the fact that SI is a fellow TimeWarner property.

Read all about it!

USA Today weighed in with a monster scoop today, proclaiming "Florida model to be on cover of Sports Illustrated." This made my day. Florida models have had a hard time of it, of late, and for no good reason. They are every bit as beautiful and cheery as Czech models, Montanan models, or Iowan or Brazillian models. It's good to see that order is restoring itself in the universe.

Monday, February 14, 2005


Sadly, I'm working today and haven't been thinking much. Maybe that's better for all of us.

In any case, Chew Your Grouse is very happy to announce the betrothal of its brother-in-law, known in the house as Uncle Rogoboggoli, to a certain Candice, also known as Kansas, a most pleasant radiation oncologist with a very nice dog. There were times we weren't certain that Rob was going to hook up, despite his model-like good looks and boyish charm, but in the end he's done rather well for himself and the family as well. Lets all raise a virtual glass.

We're also working on scheduling becoming traditional late spring trip to North Carolina. If any of our Tar Heel readership has a strong bias against a Memorial Day weekend lake party at Joan's house, weigh in here or give me an email.

Gotta go. Bladder and work both call.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Garden State, pt 2

Again, a little too hokey, too Linklateresque. I had hoped for a little more, and a little more New Jersey. But still one of the better movies we've watched recently.

I'm so sure

I saw in the store that Yoga International magazine features an article this month entitled "Everyday yoga in Bali." Yeah right. Even my friends with second homes in Bali find it hard to make it out there regularly on weekends. There's nothing everyday about it. Yoga in Bali is always a really special treat.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Garden State, pt 1

Basically a good movie, if a little bit more bittersweet and Miramaxy than I thought from the reviews. Less edge.

The infelicitously named Natalie Portman (who with Merchant is driving up the popularity of our daughter's name) is good if a little excessive in the "perky-girl-who-helps-the-out-of-touch-with-his-feelings guy" do, guess what. Is she trying to recharge her career with a little indie cred, or was she square from some Sci-Fi pix I never watch? Dunno. Looks wise, she's a little reminiscent of Gerda Stein in this picture.

Feels like NJ, though. He's got that OK. And without close-ups of italian sausage or shots of the skyline in the distance (yet).

I'll weigh in on the second part tomorrow. Time for bed now.

Mr. Popularity

"Heaven forbid, Clark, that anyone should dislike you -- isn't that it? And the more admirers the better"
--N, New Haven, 1987

I found that in an old box of letters when I was cleaning out the attic at my mom's house. It was written by a young woman, who shall remain nameless, who had recently been drenched, along with me, back in 1987, with beer flung from a plastic cup at the Rockingham Club on Howe Street in New Haven, a pseudo-aristocratic shithole which surely long since vanished from the face of the earth. The beer had been flung by another jeune femme, also remaining nameless, who was underjoyed to see me with the co-drenchee, and with whom I ran off that night. Needless to say, my actual girlfriend wasn't in town that night.

The comment struck me as so perceptive when I read it 8 months ago, so indicative of the psychological acuity that would later make her an award-winning writer. And very polite, when she had every reason to want me dead at the time (including reasons not disclosed here). When I dug the letter out a few weeks ago looking for blog fodder, the insight seemed less riveting, what's more striking is how strongly I took it, and how symptomatic that is of my own insecurity.

Like you give a fuck about that. You just want more stories about women throwing beer at me.

But it's still true, how rejection averse I am. I've been known to curry favor with assholes half for the sport of it, half because I scarcely know how not to. That's OK, right?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Soft Evangelism, plus

Moderate evangelicals say that the "evangelical" part of their name is from their devotion to the principle of outreach, of seeking to convert. Mainline churches in fact say that they do the same thing, but do even less of it. It sounds potentially offensive, but, on the other hand, it's epistemologically similar to the paradox of aesthetic judgment: everyone is always seeking to universalize judgement, otherwise why bother expressing opinions? There's no difference between saying "X is good" and "In my opinion X is good", since everybody knows that, in the latter case, it's just one person talking. The difference is only of rhetorical strategy, how hard you're trying to sell. So the "evangelicals" who never try to push Christ are actually just doing a really soft sell.

Plus, I can't believe North Carolina didn't get a shot off against Duke at the end of last night's game. Morons. I tuned in at the very end, and I thought, from the way we were holding the ball, that we were up. Whoops. A team for the ages, my friends were telling me. OK.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

This Wilco album is growing on me. They've got their own sound, the Pavement I noted before leavened with Moody Blues and Steely Dan, and it's not always my sound. But on balance it's pretty solid. And Tweedy is a real songwriter.

Driving with the family last weeked, I'm hearing these lyrics "Tall buildings shake, voices escape singing sad sad songs... skyscrapers scraping together, last cigarette is all you can get". And I just started losing it, having a mild panic attack thinking about the jumpers. I think it's emblematic of the fact that there's so little real popular art about 9/11. Sure, lots of pious documentaries about firefighters and architects and whatnot, and there are lots of clever and ironic pictorial juxtapositions of towers and this or that, but very few songs, movies, or works of fiction that I know of. I mean, it's only the defining event of a generation. [Or it was, until Bush fucked up so royally (pun intended) with Iraq]. We've come to terms with representing the Holocaust, but not 9/11.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Where's Jim?

Can't type for long, as I continue to feel like crap, but I just want to say that I'm outraged at my inability to find the Rockford Files anywhere on daytime TV. All those channels and nobody's showing Jim. And with Garner teed up to get an Oscar for lifetime achievement (I read about it in People!). It's beyond comprehension.

The singing stomach

Looks like this year's gastrointestinal greatest hits have caught up with me. After placing all of dinner in the toilet using traditional technique, I started sipping on ginger ale. I had the chills. At about 1am I woke up to go to the bathroom, had a swig. Back in bed, my stomach started in on a little song. Buzzing softly, every five seconds or so, like a cellphone on vibrate. About 30 times. Under other circumstances, it would have been charming.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Pix of Russia

After looking at some children's book about Russia, went through my Moscow pictures from 97-98 when I was doing dissertation research. While it was nice to see the old churches and streets and stuff, the astonishing thing was really how moving it was to see all these pictures of Mary from that long ago and think how simultaneously moving and impressive it is to have been married for so long. It was extremely sentimental to see all this, even though I knew, rationally, that we had been arguing about some ridiculous demand of hers immediately prior to taking the picture, that she had surely bitchily manifested her stunning inability to admit that I had been right.

No but seriously. Back in the 70s and 80s when I was growing up, everybody was always getting divorced (or else should have), and at some level whole marriage thing seemed like a joke. If it wasn't affairs there was always alcohol and wife beating to round things out. I remember thinking that surely I'd get married and that I'd try very hard to make it work, but thought it a pretty quixotic enterprise, all told.

But it turns out their was a deeply misguided ideology of self-actualization afoot, which guys (and ladies, to be sure) used to paint themselves the victims of marriage, work, etc. and justify any number of misconceptions and misdeeds. As if facial hair made the man.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Mongolia, how I miss thee

The late 80s early 90s ushered in a small wave of Mongolian-set films, including Ulrike Ottinger's slow but lovely and sometimes intense Joan of Arc of Mongolia and Nikita Mikhalkov's Urga, released in the States as Close to Heaven. I think even Wim Wenders snuck out there at some point in time. Mongolia is always presented as the purest of modernity's others, an otherworldy pastoral idyll subject to various incursions by modernity, be it in the form of elegant Euroladies, a drunken Russian soldier (himself scarcely modern), television, computers, etc.

But The Weeping Camel, now in the video stores, is probably the best version of all. The modernity theme is secondary. What we get is really intense and compelling footage of camels and their complex family dynamics. Seriously. And slow, respectful footage of real people doing human stuff, coming of age stuff. No chase scenes, gunplay, or silicone, but worth watching nonetheless.

Nowhere do they mention the necessity of eating boiled mutton all the time, though we do get to see fermented camel's milk. I remember when Ted used to take El Paso taco mix to Ulaan Bataar so that Soros's office manager could have a fix. That dude was bored. That's the dirty little secret about Mongolia. It's a fine place to watch a movie about, but it's dead boring.

Friday, February 04, 2005


I used to be blown away with the volume of correspondence that a Turgenev, George Sand, or any other number of 19th century writerly types used to crank out. Now that I have email and (dare I say it) a blog, I can see how you can churn out a ton. If you're reading and thinking a lot and staying in touch with people, number of combinations and connections of ideas, people, and things seems limitless. Correspondences beget correspondence. And if you have a lot of free time, you just keep cranking and cranking.

It is really impressive that they did it with pens. My hand aches from taking a bunch of notes this week. Boring but bill-paying stuff. I can't imagine hand-writing as much as they did, particularly with all the floral phraseology ("I was most delighted to be informed of your potential upcoming visit to our sun-blessed little corner of Alsace, particularly as the market fair is approaching, promising a plethora of most compelling repasts..."). All those adjectives and parenthetical must have added up.

(This post was actually half-canned and waiting to be finished. I think it's pretty clear that the basic thought is sort of stale and uninteresting. But I want to post something, if only to reward my loyal if paltry readership. Most of the posts that I leave up on the shelf in draft form end up kind of bloodless, even if they seem interesting.

I'm also shocked and hurt. I feel like posts were lost by Blogger server over the last couple of days. Or maybe I fucked up the dates. Whatever. Gotta go work).

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Consignment to hell, bitches

(Whoops! Looks like I published my notes to myself last night instead of hitting draft. Whatever. It's a blog.)

Certain of you may have noticed that I have arrogated the right to consign people to hell here on the Grouse. So far John Ashcroft and James Earl Ray have been shipped out. And you may have asked yourself, who is this guy to be sending people to burn in eternal damnation?

I can explain. First, let me cite as precedent the fact that I, as a charter member in the Young Amateur Byzantinist Society, was involved in the routine arbitration of orthodoxy in the modern world. Collectively, we admitted Led Zeppelin, Absolut vodka, Wheat Thins (not the low-salt variety), Bob Dylan, and chicks (with a couple of explicit exceptions) into the realm of the orthodox. The Minutemen, sadly never made it through because of a filibuster on the part of some classic rock fanatics.

And that was when I was in college. Since then, I've matured considerably and grown wiser too, so that now I've taken on the weight of the hell or no decision. It really doesn't even take up much of my day. I mean, who else is gonna do it? The Christian Right? I don't think so. Carrot Top? Too busy. No no. I've got this one under control.