Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Lookingglass Alice

This show at the McCarter Theater is pretentious crap. Sophomoric philosophizing (pot calling kettle black, I suppose) Solid acrobatics. A few laughs. Who cares?

After the Big Apple Circus, where the performers were fully dedicated to each bit as opposed to glibly indicating to the audience when it was time to laugh, it all rang distinctly hollow.

Natalie laughed, but then I could have just tickled her a bunch without shelling out sixty bucks.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Picked up my new glasses today. Am mildly, perhaps embarassingly naively, surprised at how they make things bigger, as well as better. As our frequent guest commentator may point out, perhaps they will make my penis bigger as well.

Just snapped up a lobster sandwich at Bouley's takeout place in Tribeca. The bread tastes almost like pound cake.

Am totally obsessing about Antony, of Antony and the Johnsons fame. When we first saw him in that Leonard Cohen tribute film, I thought he was a total freak. Which I guess he is. But then we got the soundtrack and I started listening to his song over and over again. Transcendent. The dude sings his soul out. Have ordered CD (like the Troglodyte I am) and will obsess about him further.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Young wanderlust

Natalie was yesterday telling me about all the business travel Maisy's dad Frank travelling and living all over the world. I explained to her (and to Graham, who was listening) that I had sacrificed quite a lot to not travel so that I could come home and read them stories before bedtime. I'm not sure she gets it.

This is what I get for living in a place like Princeton, where 6 year olds are already playing status games based on world travels and those of their parents. Natalie was also asking me "is the farthest I've been from home North Carolina?" Like I'm depriving her.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Natalie has reached the age where she wants privacy while changing. All good.

But she doesn't mind parading naked through the hall on the way to the tub, nor does she mind if we mill around the bathroom as she immerses herself.

But the desire for discretion returned when she exited the tub. Go figure.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


At long last, my aging eyes are giving out, ever so slightly, and it's time to get glasses. Glasses both groovy and nervy, most likely some Oliver Peoples Rydell 49s (see above). Celebrities wear these glasses, I tell you, the fabulous set. One more trip to Lenscrafters may disabuse me of this, but I doubt it. I hope they will impute authority.

OK. One more trip didn't do it. I'm still getting the fancy ones. But looking at myself in the mirror in a bunch of similar glasses did make me realize that I'm not looking for an Elvis Costello effect, much less a Clark Kent one. I'm trying to look like Morrissey.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Devotion 2.0

Chasing on YouTube after Rufus Wainwright's performance of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," so inexplicably left off the soundtrack of I'm Your Man, I stumbled onto a veritable cache a heartfelt, alone in the bedroom, gaze intermittently at the camera cover versions of this tune by sensitive boys and girls from all across the big blue marble. They vary substantially in quality, but scarcely a whit in earnestness. This song, not really all that convincing in Cohen's original, with quasi-orchestral and choral backing, was seemingly plucked out (by Wainwright and some Jeff Buckley character) and made into the ultimate hymn.

The most powerful instance of user-created content I've yet seen.

There are a lot of covers of the Cohen "Hallelujah." More than there are of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You." There are none of Elvis Costello's "Long Honeymoon." But you wanna talk about "Free Bird" or "Stairway to Heaven," there's no contest. You could spend a week listening to the covers. I may just.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Don't be eeeeeeeeeeeevil

Google does lots of good stuff, I must say. I'm a fan.

So why does our benevolent master of information make it so frickin hard to give feedback and make requests? Had a problem with some blogger functionality, found lots of good FAQs and support mechanisms, but had difficulty finding a place to send an email to ask for something. Same deal with Google spreadsheets. There's no place in there to bitch about stuff. Most vendors fairly beg you for feedback on their products. It's like free money for them.

But what, does Google already know what I'm gonna say? Maybe Borges told em.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lookingglass Alice

This show at the McCarter Theater is pretentious crap. Sophomoric philosophizing (pot calling kettle black, I suppose) Solid tumbling. A few laughs. Who cares?

Natalie laughed, but then I could have just tickled her a bunch without shelling out sixty bucks.

Friday, January 19, 2007


On way back from dentist stopped in to old lunch counter ("Midland Deli"?) in the middle of Manville. Curvy counter. Old dark panelling. Pictures of celebrities, from Marilyn to the
Fab 4. Woman with a beehive hairdo at the counter. On the menu there's a sandwich "Capicolla & Prosciutt." Was I wrong to think that meant prosciutto? I guess so, for she gave me prosciuttini, distinctly inferior.

But I'm going back there soon. The place has class.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

We jam Econo

Shout out to Kevin on this one.

This documentary about the Minutemen, those percussive philosophers of Pedro, fairly takes my breath away. Riding around Pedro in a van with Mike Watt, it's hard to describe. It's not that he's really that smart or deep. And the performances, while showing how singular their sound was, don't sound that good.

But the spirit, the energy, the props they get from Ian McCaye and Thurston Moore and everybody under the sun, the tales of the magical hook-ups with Black Flag at the Clash concert in '79 and Saccharine Trust living downstairs in some shitbox, it takes me right back to the day, though we never rocked quite as good in NC. And yes, in some sense we're still living that life right here in Princeton, NJ, in a crib dense-packed with eclectic goodies no catalog would ever touch.

This thing is three and a half hours long. More later I'll bet.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It was Robert Belknap who pointed out to me that balance and order in a work of art -- the marriage at the end of a comedy, neatly rhymed iambic pentameter, harmony -- have a cosmological upshot: they tell us that the world is well-made. Discord and dissonance make the opposite point, hence the favor they find in the hands of youth and critics.

What the fuck, then, are we to make of a cappella singing? I was at an alumni event over the weekend which included an all-female (two named Natalie) singing group from ye olde alma mater. I was pre-cringing, but I decided I'd go anyway and see if there was anyone worth talking to there, anybody looking to hand me money or something. When the group came on, I had grabbed my coat and formulated an exit strategy, and not for naught. They led off, these 12 attractive young women in black evening wear in the afternoon, with a rousing rendition of "The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B." I'm sorry. It's 2007. It was wierd. They were swaying to the music, bugging their eyes out for emphasis, smiling from ear to ear like little Miss Americas (when not on coke). Back to the theme of order, it all hung together perfectly, smarmily, and yet it evoked a "methinks thou dost protest too much" from the kid. It reminded me that though a performance may try to tell you that all is well, it ain't necessarily the case.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Guess who's not coming for dinner

Last night we watched the Golden Globes, as you saw above, and many lovely globes that were not in fact golden. The statues were received by a bunch of worthy performers, many of more recent (i.e. millenia post-Olduvai) African descent, including Eddy Murphy and Forrest Whittaker. Also classic Hollywood liberal types like Warren Beatty, Meryl Street, etc. And how many of them mentioned Martin Luther King Jr, on our man's holiday? Not a one, that I heard (OK. We missed the first half hour). For shame.

MLKJ day is the most undercelebrated holiday. Yes, it comes inconveniently close to the New Year. The markets close. But my company stayed open, though one of the principal's is a staunch liberal democrat, proud supporter of Howard Dean, and the other -- though once proclaiming his Republicanism -- would seem to have beaten a retreat in the face of our current reign of error. True, we could have taken our "floating" holiday (sounds vaguely like a well-formed turd) but I, for my own shame, did not.

Perhaps most shamefully, the History Channel last night showed a documentary on Jim Jones and the mass suicides in Guyana back in 1978, as if to intimate a connection between King's transformational and liberative message and a miasma into which it is supposed to have declined, as Stalin flows inexorably from Lenin and Trotsky.

It was a bad night for TV, if you weren't cleavage.

Check out junior

For those of you who lack print subscriptions to the paper of record check out this

A real post will follow later today. Deep.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The award for award acceptance goes to

America Ferrera of Ugly Betty, for having the most disarmingly gee whiz golly I can't believe it delivery, much like Renee Zellweger used to play before she got all Hollywood, or those rappers from Hustle and Flow a year or two back who were just stoked, stoked to be on stage.

You know she's workin it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Princeton at Harrison and Franklin, 10:30 am, 1/14/07

Saw a 65-70 year old guy throw a kleenex on the ground between the sidewalk and the street. Whassup with that? He was carrying a CVS bag over his shoulder, which indicates he had walked a mile or so. Was he old and poor, and thus disaffected? But then I saw an old woman put down a styrofoam cup on the side of the street near Butler last year.

What is it with these old people? Don't they know the Grouse is watching? Or is this some peculiar form of geriatric disenchantment? Nobody litters anymore, unless they feel utterly disenfranchised. It's ambulatory nihilism.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Taking down the tree

It's time to take down the Xmas tree, ushering in perhaps the most dismal part of the year, the downslope to spring, and then summer. Spring's nice when it gets here, and even nicer when it's been earned through actual and seasonally appropriate cold.

By contrast, September for me is a time filled with optimism, with a long ramp-up to the holidays. I suspect this is vestigial thinking from my long academic days, as September marks the return to the bosom of the academy, where I'm always comfortable, whereas January points towards the uncertainty that accompanies summer's freedom: months off, how do you make em work?

Friday, January 12, 2007

All the news that's fit

This is a left hand menu from the FoxNews website, in the US section. Don't ask how or why I found it. I think it pretty much speaks for itself. These are the big news categories for Fox. Astonishing. In the "World" section there's a whole subheading on natural disasters. Oh please. That's a key frickin news category.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Science, fair, or Consumer Reports Jr.

Natalie and I were nosing around a science fair website tonight looking for inspiration for a science project (found it!). It was interesting to see that the two projects we looked at were both concerned with cost effectiveness or unit cost. One tested the lifespan of batteries, and hypothesized that more expensive batteries would last longer (though he didn't dig down to unit cost). The other tested the effectiveness of tile cleaners, and did make it through to the unit. It was pretty interesting that both the students were concerned, at such a tender age, with brand and value. They didn't try to dig in and figure out what physical properties of the things made them better, they just correlated them with wallet impact.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


On the street in Manhattan, got a call on the phone from Karla informing me of snow in Princeton. 21 floors up, 10 minutes later, we saw snow out the window. 10 minutes later, there was none.

But there was some.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I'm your man

Just watched this movie about Leonard Cohen. Not a great movie, but it's got a great soundtrack. Teddy Thompson is one standout, somewhat mainstream but deeply felt where most the others seem to be revelling in Cohen's the eccentricity, Thompson hits the heartstrings. Rufus Wainwright is pretty great, and on the soundtrack this guy Anthony, the wierdest of all on screen, proves to be a soulful singer.

It's worth watching, but more worth listening to.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Chang or Chong

Overheard in a hallway in the MidWest.

First 45ish woman: "My son did real well on that, what do you call it, not the ACT?"
Other: "The SAT"
First: "Yeah. He got a 1260. I think it goes up to 1600 or something. They published the best scores in the paper, but I didn't recognize any of the names. It was all Chang or Chong, nobody you would know."

Yeah, I reckon not. Or you'd have a better job.

Sensitive girl on plane

There was a skinny 19-year old girl on the plane the other day, an wan existential tomboy with Robert Smith (he of the Cure) bangs and an old school (think Bad News Bears) baseball jersey on. She sat back by the bathroom and wrote her innermost thoughts in a bulbous hand in an unlined notebook. In this day and age, she should really have had a blog, is what I say.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Update from the road

Gene and I just had sushi. It was delicious.
Now I'm back at the hotel.
Really, what more is there to say?

Meanwhile, back in NJ, Graham asked for and received shoes. Brown ones.

Soon I'll be back in NJNY, where more things happen.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Big Apple Circus, Redux

I’ve touted them before, and I’ll do it again. The Big Apple Circus is flat out fabulous. It’s intimate and the performers are devote. This year there were no animals bigger or more exotic than horses, which were, to my taste, pretty boring. But, to judge by her face, Natalie felt otherwise.

The dogs, however, were another matter. The trainer looked like a filthier version of Dan Zanes, and when he was cavorting canineless amongst the general circus performers at the opening, I thought him perhaps deranged. And, in truth, he was, what with all the litlle mutts casually sidlinh about, climbing latters, sliding under each other on doggy high-wires, dancing with each other and smooching, and so on.

And then there was the French guy on the trick bicycle, who, amongst other hijinx, popped a wheely, lost his front wheel, which wheeled in a circle, and then, while bantering continually with the audience, stayed in a wheely, retrieved the wheel, jacked himself up on the fork, and replaced the wheel, without the fork ever touching the ground. This is talent.

And there was much much more, good clowning, general glee, with faint echoes of Chaplin and Tati. Look em up and go see it.


Recently I unearthed Squeeze’s ArgyBargy from the pile of forgotten tapes, popped it into the car stereo, and was impressed initially by the deceptively erotic wordsmithery of it all,

Behind the chalet my holiday’s complete,
and I feel like William Tell,
Maid Marion on her tiptoed feet,
pulling mussels from a shell.

It’s almost Nabokovian in its indirection.

So I keep driving, and a few tunes later the song wraps with a dulcet-toned repetition of this line "to be perhaps the one who, will forever love you." And I’m struck with deep nostalgia for its unthinkable purity of sentiment. Who sings pop songs like that?

My initial thought is the old fuddy duddy line: “We were so pure in our day, not like today’s kids.” Like fuck we were. We were all about progressing around the proverbial bases, and then (OK, some of us) bragging about it. But beneath the surface (I thought), many of the scarcely bepubed pink-and-green wearing badasses would very much have preferred this kind of platonic idyll, had the idea of pursuing it not scared the living shit out of us. This is where John Hughes found Molly Ringwald.

So later I went out an snapped up the lyrics to the Squeeze song in question, Vicky Verky. On closer inspection, the song describes perfectly the arc from carnality to ideality that so eluded us. Thems is some lyrics. Fish and chips smell indeed.

With her hair up in his fingers
The fish and chips smell lingers
Under amber streetlamps
She holds the law in her hands
The moistness of the damp night
Falls silent through the lamplight
Although she's only fourteen
She really knows her courting
And up the railway sidings
There's him and her
They're lying
Hand in hand they whisper
You're my missus and I'm your mister
The moon as white and virgin
And she was on the turning
Remember your first nibble
When best friends were so little

They really trooped the colours
When walking with each other
And all her mates would giggle
As ladylike she'd wiggle
All along the high street
They'd splash out on an ice cream
He'd sometimes really treat her
But he'd done his mother's meter

Well he went off to Borstal
He said that he was forced to
Rob the flats of Hi Fi's
Cuz she was ill
And she would cry
Each morning she got sicker
Her mother sometimes hit her
If she'd have known the story
She would have been so sorry

He received a letter and admitted it
There was nothing else to do but get rid of it
Lonely in his dormitory
He'd sit and stare
If this is for real
And is it really fair

Summer came so they went
Down to the coast in his tent
She cooked upon his primus
And sampled local cider
She told him in his rucksack
I think I want that chance back
To be perhaps the one who
Will forever love you