Saturday, March 31, 2007

Baton twirling competition, Hamilton, NJ 10:30-12:30

Jackie and Margaret were performiong, so Natalie, Graham and I accompanied David to a middle school in Hamilton.

There, on one of the seemingly endless hallways of lockers, there was a "Photogenic contest" on the wall. Pictures of twirlers by age group. Best picture with mom. Best picture with grandma. Gave us a hint of what was to come.

The order of the day was, make-up, sequins, even hose. Twirling participants had an initial judging in which they walked back in forth in front of the judge and made I contact and smiled. I kid you not. Jackie and Margaret competed separately in "marching," as in, now twirling. Again, formal stride, knee up chin, smiling. Smiles are important all around.

In the lunch room, where alll the vending machines had suspicious signs saying "Out of order" (they should have said "Would-be Squandered Revenue Opportunity"). 8 people working the lunch table. I made a $3 purchase with a ten dollar bill. The woman took it and rolled her eyes up in her head, ten said slowly "Umm, you're change is $7". So she got it right.

Rarely have I felt class divides so palpable. We were the only people from Princeton there, the only upper-middle class people, and everybody knew it. I wonder if the kids could sense it. The girls from our team were out there in plain leotards, nothing sparkly, no make up. They probably lost points for lack of adornment.

I gotta teach Natalie to play ultimate.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Amy Feiman, in memoriam

Amy was commemorated and layed to rest today in North and South Brunswick, both curiously south of New Brunswick. After 6 years of fighting breast cancer, almost the entire period I've known her, she lost at the age of 49.

It was a memorable service. Her husband Aryeh got up and spoke movingly, but with the calm and restraint of someone who was not surprised by a loved one's death. Of how they met by the copier, were engaged three days later, and married on a mountaintop in Israel. Compare with Forrest Whittaker getting both the Golden Globe and the Oscar, the latter he should have seen coming. On both occasions he was so overwhelmed that he could barely get a coherent sentence out. Either way works.

Many of the speakers chose to bracket their emotions with formal point by point recollections. I'm sure that's about all I could muster. I was impressed that her daughters had it together to speak as well as they did.

There was much wailing. I, personally, was a salt-faced mess, thinking of my sister going through breast cancer at the same time, and how it must be to be her family, etc.

And as I saw Jewish funeral rites for the first time (some beautiful singing, the assembled shovelling dirt in the grave as a "last act of kindness", intensely uniform gravestones), I was both impressed and acutely aware that I was the foreigner here, not just in this congregation, but in this Garden State, so lacking in red clay.

I'm donating to the Dana Farber Center for cancer research.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Another way to get Googled

So I sent a resume in to Google for a job in New York a month or so back. And then a recruiter (Kim) from Google calls me about a different job out in California. And I was like "I don't know if I'd want to move, I'd rather look at something in NYC, but send me the description and I'll take a look at it." And I wait. No description. I go through the spam folder of my Yahoo mail, thinking that Yahoo might not like google emails, but I don't see it.

A couple days later I call Kim back and ask that she send the description in a voicemail. A day or two later I get a call from John, also out in Mountain View, wanting to schedule an interview with Amanda about the New York job. So I'm stoked. They think I look Googlish enough that they'll flip me back to my original job, I think.

So today I've got a phone call scheduled with Amanda. She calls me 10 minutes late. "Sorry" she says. OK. Then she wants to talk to me about the California job. Paints a pretty picture indeed. I tell her to send me the description and I'll think about it. She does so. It gets stuck in the Yahoo spam folder.

Not one word of apology. They act like the name Google is so prestigious that all prospects are just gonna jump for joy and hop on planes to Cally. But you can't put google on your gravestone.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

47th St near 5th, 2:45 PM

A guy in his late 40s, dressed casually, with a duffle bag with a yellow sweatshirt poking out, says loudly to himself as if through his teeth: "You gotta be in it to win it," as he strides purposefully westward.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Oh yeah

As I left DMV yesterday there was a Waspy guy in his 50s there, with what hair he had worn long around a balding crown, in jean shorts and sockless pennyloafers, and it occurred to me that, except for him, I was the sole Waspy guy there, which in turn led me to reflect that the world in which I live, this so-called Prince-ton, isn't really all that representative of reality.

A few minutes earlier, I saw another rarity for my uptight breed: back behind the counter where they make licenses, a black guy in his late 20s, maybe gay, came up behind an Italian-American woman in her 40s-50s to show her something. He made a lot of physical contact with her, roughly half of his upper body pressed against hers with an arm around her, showed her the picture, and they both jumped up and down laughing.

I wanted to see the picture. More importanly, Wasps don't touch each other like that in the workplace. It was remarkable.

Monday, March 26, 2007

NJDMV, Quaker Bridge Road, 1:21 PM EDST

I was number 81, waiting to be called to get my new license. Which is much worse than it sounds. They were at 63 already, and it wasn't that crowded. An old lady with number 84 came by with a walker. "Young man" (not me) she says, "Can I sit next to the wall? I'm 81, it's so much easier for me to get up." She sat down and took a breath. Then she got going, ranging around with her head, making eye contact everywhere. "... So the guy who drove me here, lives across the street, sweetheart he is, he shows up in his wife's new caddy last week to take me to the store and I'm like, are you sure this is OK?" And he's like, "yeah, she said you can ride in it, she's just gonna check out the back seat when we're done." Uproarious cackling. More jokes about old people having sex. About funny cell phone music playing during funerals. I can't even recall.

I go up to get my license. She's called soon. She breaks out her original birth certificate, 81 years old, falling apart. A wedding certificate that looks like it was handwritten by the minister. "We don't accept documents from religious institutions, ma'am. Only from municipal authorities."

It was sort of out of Kafka. There was no way she was gonna get a license today, didn't have enough ID certification. But, at the end of the day, she didn't really care, much as she complained. She just wanted somebody to talk to, and something to rail about.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Old School, 2.0

Talked to a guy today who writes, but then can't get himself to write much and what he does, he sends to publishers and then never hears back from them. But he has no blog.

If you want to write, seems to me, there's a cheap and easy place to do it and you don't get rejected. In the same way, at least. And that's right hear on the good old fashioned internet. Our sweet gift from little Baby Jesus.

Oh yeah, the Tar Heels brought an uneven year to an apppropriate end tonight. This team didn't belong in the Final Four. If people come back, next year they should, but not this year. Too flaky.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

GUS dry pomegranate

One of the little-noted benefits of Americans' recently developed distaste for soda is the way it has set the soda makers to scrambling. They're all working hard to create new product and get it in front of the soda-loving minority, which would include me. Today I saw a Diet Pepsi Jazz soda in a case. Never heard of it. If I hadn't had a coffee in hand, I would have snapped one up, and I probably should have despite the coffee.

Earlier in the week, in Grand Central Station, I had a Ting, a Jamaican grapefruit soda. It was not bad. Sadly, they gave me only 10 oz of it.

Later that evening, in Philadelphia, the gods graced me with a Canada Dry Lime Soda, which was OK but too sweet and a suspicious green.

But I was delighted tonight to see at our neighborhood grocery store that there's a new line of sodas in town: GUS, or "Grown Up Soda". They have sugar in them, but less, about 60% of what you get from a mainline soda. I know people have been selling sophisticated sodas in health food stores for some time, and, yes, I've been drinking them, but GUS has funky flavors, like the dry pomegranate soda I have next to me right now. It's good, maybe soda of the week.

And then, and then.... On the way down the main soda isle, I spotted litres of the rare San Pellegrino Rosso, and snapped on up for a special occasion. If only we could find the sublime San Pellegrino Pampelmo, which nobody seems to import, and which I've only spotted once stateside, at the Trenton Farmer's Market back in '01 (bought a case). Then should I be happy.

To Lambertville

Mary looked for dining room chairs. I took the kids.

This time Graham held my hand as we crossed the street, and as we crossed the bridge from New Jersey into Pennsylvania. Only technically a spring day, it passed without incident. No injuries, no purchases, except pizza. Perfect!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The middle of life

Had lunch with a friend today. I had always marvelled at her ability -- as a trained cultural anthropolist -- to stay seemingly so engaged with her soul-numbing corporate job. Today she informs me that she has joined the mid-life freak-out club, and is moving along the old decision tree towards the proverbial next step, lest it not be off a cliff.

What this means is that now everyone I know who got a PhD in a liberal art and then pulled a sneak move into the for-profit zone is, at the very least, reconsidering their terms of engagement with that world. Which tells you a lot. Perhaps we're just a bunch of spoiled whiners, or perhaps we're just deep.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

On an errand

Just ran out to lunch and to pick up a birthday cake. Took my glasses case so I could read at lunch. Of course, I forgot to put them on, and read without them. When I got back, my glasses were right next to my laptop, right where I had left them.

And then I sat down in my chair and I thought my cellphone was vibrating in my pocket. But then I saw my phone on my desk. Meaning that the vibrations in my side were strictly gastric in nature.

Tonight, in the kind of geekfest only Princeton and a few peers could offer, Ted's lecture on "Attention, Reputation" and something else. Guy's night out indeed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Circle jerk sublime

At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Columbia Alumni Association kicked it into gear with some dope hors d'ouevres and a fly trio by the main staircase. And then, to make us pay for the fine vittles, we were shoved downstairs into an auditorium for a speech by President Lee Bollinger. But first, the head of the local Alums got up and praised a bunch of people, including Bollinger's wife. And then a local class of 2010 girl got up and praised this wealthy benefactor guy who was paying for her education. And then that guy got up and praised Bollinger's wife for a a number of diverse accomplishments. Like I give a fuck.

And then Bollinger gets up and, not surprisingly, carries on about how Columbia needs to expand into Harlem in a big way to be great. Which is actually OK, I lived up there and I know that the neighborhood could use a capital improvement. And he also talks about how Columbia needs to have a physical presence on all continents. Dunno. Smacks of imperial pretensions. I just think he looks a little too much like Chuck Norris to be taken all that seriously. But I'm sure he'll have most of his way. He is, after all, el presidente.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Freaks on a Train

First, a bearded kid in a parka and a knit cap and with the hood pulled up over it (despite the fact that it’s 45 out) misses his stop, even though the conductor tapped him on the shoulder and told him it was coming up. This kid was in all likelihood tripping. He made a minor scene and the conductor scribbled something on the back of his ticket so he get on the train headed south at Newark Airport.

Then some skinhead kid was arguing with the same conductor about his ticket. I didn’t really catch what their argument about, but the skinhead pointed out that the bathroom hear in our car had been busy forever.

So the conductor goes and bangs on a door and this mini-Ramone homeless weasil comes out, claiming to have been cleaning himself up. And then he looks for his ticket for like 15 minutes while the conductor is trying to throw him off. And then he finds the ticket and gives it to the conductor, who goes: “This isn’t even the right ticket”. And for some reason, the conductor doesn’t throw him out, and he’s saying “I know you, you been on my train before and you do the same thing, hiding in the bathroom.” And the weasil is like, “no way man, I’m homeless and I’m in there freshening up, changing my socks and whatnot. Look, I still got soap on my face…”

As we exit the train, the blonde woman behind me says “I’ve seen him on the train before. He does do the same shit over and over.”

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Knight bound

Is it just me, or is there something creepy about that Pontiac G6 commercial where little miss fricking house on the prairie is driving to the game and it turns out she has Bobby Knight tied up in the back seat? I mean, I hate Knight as much as anybody, I used to be kind of cutting edge in the art of hating the guy, but it's odd to have GM plumping for forceable abduction. I guess the golly gee whiz vibe of giving out G6s on Oprah has kinds of worn down, and they decided to rebrand the car a touch.

The thing is

The thing is, there is so much stuff on the internet, I just can't seem to read it all.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Martin Cornick of Somerville, Periodontist

This morning I was in Somerville for my quarterly cleaning, this time at the office of one Martin Cornick, who shares his practice with his son Peter and the low, modest building with another son, who's a lawyer serving an elderly clientele. That's good affinity marketing.

Dr Marty, as they say, is not just a periodontist but a rabbinical figure. Looking all too much like Gene Wilder, the man has a way, which is not to say his way, with clients. I'll never forget the time when he was drilling deep into my sorry jaw to put an implant in there and, despite the intense amount of drugs he had pumped into me, it hurt like fuck. I sat there thinking about Mary giving birth soon and at least it didn't hurt like that. He had my head held in his armpit to keep me from squirming, and, right at the height of the pain, he lets go of my head momentarily and goes, "ya havin fun their, kid?" or somesuch nonsense. It was well-timed, perfect comic release.

And now Dr. Pete, as they say, is running the shop and well, but I miss the old gum rabbi. Surely he's off having well-earned fun, I'm sure. Last time I saw him he had on hiking shoes to complement his mass of frizzy white hair.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Great Cycle of Nature

And so it goes, the great cycle. Disspiriting news at work beget furious storms of self-doubt, anxiety, and anxiety-doubt. At home, some comfort from warm children's bodies lying against me as I read stories. And then, dinner and a fight, about life goals, the relative import of career, family, houses, friends, geographies, money. And then a backing off, a mild rapprochement before bed (mild, mind you). And then pharmasleep, followed by premature wakie wake time at 5 AM and a heightened if silent revisiting of the prior day's and night's themes.

And then, after a suitable pause, up, eat, shave, shower, suit, car, work, paycheck, work, good news, lunch, work, snack , work, bad news, work, home. Colored check marks on the task list mark the passage through the day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Male enhancement cream

Much as I sometimes mentally tout my own persistence with this blog, let me give a shout out to our constant commentator, who so diligently dreams up variants on the theme of penis enlargement and then scoots off under a cloak of anonymity into his member-enhancing lair. While I wouldn't say that exhaustive efforts have been made to identify this fellow, there are indications that he suffers from certain neurological traits, which serve as an engin driving speculation that he is derived from a moose.

Keep it up, masked creamer!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Saks Fifth Avenue, 2 PM 3/13/07

I need new shoes, I think, and the last place I got them was Saks, back in the fall of '01, in the shadow of 9/11. So I return to the scene of the crime, through jewelry, up what turns out to be 6 well burnished escalators, populated mostly with skinny done-up women of multiple vintages. To a one, they did not saw howdie.

Round about the 4th floor, a particular done up african american young woman in fur is coming down my way. In her hands she holds a card: "Exotic fur." Oh, I get it, a model. Later a similarly lanky young model in black and desperately uncomfortable looking shoes hobbles her way across the floor with a sign for some Italian like "Unnelio Quargredettoncini" or something. I wanted to put her out of her misery.

I felt vaguely like Augustine entering into Carthage, "a cauldron of hissing lust," though it wasn't me doing the hissing.

On the men's floor, ties cost $145, and everything gleams, and I'm thinking: "Do I really belong amongst all this money?"

Unsurprisingly, I found no shoes.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

This movie works, despite leaning too hard on Miguel de Unamuno's classic Niebla, despite telegraphing the plotline and playing off of stereotypes (Emma Thompson as neurotic novellist, Queen Latifah as the sassy black woman, eccentric cafe dwellers as, well, eccentric cafe dwellers).

In the end, it is, sweet, uplifting, and compelling.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Global Warming

I don't know how anybody can say there's global warming. It's usually so much warmer on the first day of daylight savings time.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Enronstvo i Yukosshchina

According to the NY Times, the Putin government has raided Price Waterhouse's offices looking for incriminating papers around the Yukos affair. The government has apparently likened Yukos to Enron, which is a pretty smooth move. Russia is so opaque that noone will ever be able to assess how much sense this analogy makes, but enough Russians will buy it for it to stick.

Me, while being on record as to Khodorkovsky's lily-whiteness (i.e. not), think he's generally a more appealing figure than Putin. He gives a fuck about civil society, which is nice. He's certainly a lot cuter. It would be interesting to see how Putin does without strong oil revenues. Would they love him so then?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

No fun

Ted's remark that there are no bobble-headed dolls on the desks at my current work place rings true: there are none. We are a fairly lame and square lot, sitting around in our suits looking at computers. I had never really thought of it like that.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Those crazy guys

Up in Connecticut for a conference Monday and Tuesday. Lots of fund manager types weighing in on how their "integrity" is the single thing they can't get back if they lose it. So I went and visited a new hedge fund newsletter's website, and what do I see:

High profile hedge fund manager Albert Hsu was arraigned in Superior Court in Norwalk, Conn., today on charges of attempted kidnapping and sexual assault.

Hsu, managing director of fund of funds Anchor Point Capital, allegedly went onto the Internet posing as his ex-girlfriend and described a fantasy of being abducted and raped, according to Ricki Goldstein, a deputy assistant state's attorney. He also posted personal information about the unnamed woman, including her address and her travel schedule...

Hsu’s court appointed lawyer, Dawn Bradanini, reportedly said that Hsu is “thoroughly embarrassed” by his actions.

I'm not sure embarassed is the word. All that money goes to a fella's head, I reckon.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Flashing lights

Graham pulled away from my hand yesterday in Chester as we crossed the street and face planted and when I picked him up, blood was spewing from his head somewhere I didn't know and man, was I freaked out. Not good crisis management. But then Mary came across the street and we stanched the bleeding and then the EMTs and cops they did come, oh, plentifully. Flashing lights, as Graham says.

And he was visibly fine and yet they decided he should go to the emergency room. And as long as we were headed to the emergency room, we might as well stabilize his head and neck with a brace thingie and take him in an ambulance. Flashing lights.

And Natalie and I trailed along behind, spooked, though rationally I knew that he had been moving limbs and all. And at the hospital, CAT scan results and two stitches and 4 hours, he was fine. But the whole thing gave a certain perspective on life and stress and all. Today he insisted on school.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


There are some good things about this movie, and it's well shot, but mostly it's just silly. Kate Blanchett shows her much-noted range by writhing and grimacing and being blonde. Brad Pitt demonstrates some wrinkles (which don't really age him that much) and a soft side. There's a Mexican wedding, complete with chicken neck-wringing and gun-firing. We tour the clubs of Tokyo on ecstasy with no panties on. Woo hoo!

Seriously, the Japanese deaf-mute character is pretty well-developed. The rest of it is like a long after-school special cum music video. I don't know how it could be nominated for anything except for cinematography.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Great to good

I know it's pathetic that I get my rock and roll from the Economist, but the video below from OK Go is pretty fricking cool. Observe....

And yet, and yet, even as I extoll the video's virtues, this band pretty much proves my point from earlier in the week that the stars of YouTube are in some sense not quite ready for prime time. OK Go, which has a good sound, nice hooks, and one brilliant video, went out and made other videos based on the same shtick. And they're fine, they just light nothing on fire.

But we should all do something as sublimely clever as this once. 15 minutes of fame well-earned.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Khodorkovsky, big swinging dick for 2007

Misha's Letter from Siberia in the Economist

The year ahead will show which strategy the developed countries are going to choose to work their way out of their looming energy crisis.

1. Reindustrialisation based on a “new competitiveness” deriving from an energy-efficiency advantage over the industry of China and other developing countries.

2. New colonial wars—this time for energy resources.

3. New leadership: abandonment of the model of increasing material consumption in favour of improvement in the quality of life, an increase in the intellectual component of the consumer basket.

Hard to figure him out. As much money as he's got he must be some kind of a crook, esp. in Russia, and yet he's not kidding. But at the end of the day he's a typical Russian, Westerners cain't write this kind of stuff.

Except, of course, for evangelical Christians, who talk along the lines of point #3 all the time. Even as they live in McMansions and drive big fat SUVs. Some of them.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Better beta

When markets tanked in 2000-2 I did some stupid panic selling. A 400-point day would have caused me stress.

In 2007 less so. Have I adjusted better to volatility, having lived through a nasty down cycle? And with 2000-2 marking the first down cycle in which a substantial portion of the populace had direct exposure to equity markets, are there millions of people who are now wiser and more seasoned out there? Might this limit -- and be limiting -- the downside?

We'll see if this retrenchment has legs, and what happens to my mindset if it does. Stay tuned.

Children's books, adult infantilization

There's a substantial literature on the Jungian aspects of children's books, how it gives them all these nice archetypes and whatnot. But what about what the books do to us, the readers? They are, on the one hand, nice and soothing after a long day of this, that and -- all too frequently -- the other. But might they also dim our brains with little lambs and nice green rolling hills and windmills and all that? Might they not leave us too with the erroneous impression that life might be like that, only to find us collared with a forearm as we cross the office threshhold?

Anyway, they're so cute. Especially the ones about bunnies.