Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cranes and beams

Today in downtown Princeton where the new 5-story building is going up the guys were swinging steel girders with a big assed crane. Sadly, Graham was in school.

Three showings of the house today, and three more tomorrow. The ones who were supposed to be out at 1 stayed till 1:20. I was starving for the chicken quesadilla in the fridge, but stood across the street talking to a neighbor, scarcely feigning to care.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The limits of virtuosity

Of late I've been smitten with both Neko Case and the New Pornographers, a band she's been a member of on and off. One great song is this one. It's slow for 2:30, let it keep rolling.

I initially assumed the female lead must be Neko, but it isn't, it's Kathryn. Neko sings backup. You can see what accents she adds in this live version.

Now, one of the commenters on the live acoustic version notes how great Neko's voice is and that she "blows away everybody else" or something like that. And yes, her voice is great, but she's singing backup, it's not her song, she's part of a delicate harmonic arrangement and what is she doing blowing her teammates away? She's part of an ensemble, for Christ sakes.

And this is the frequent problem with virtuosity. It is not lost on its practitioner. Stephon Marbury was a great point guard, then something happened.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


After much hustling and scraping, our house is listed and there will be a broker's open house tomorrow, to be attended by 40 or 50 brokers. The listing can be viewed here.

While it is nothing but sad to be selling this house, it's good to be done with the initial stages of prepping it. Now we just have to wait through the agony of keeping it clean until somebody snaps it up.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rites of passage

It's difficult enough getting to the point where your own children don't want to hold your hand. But it will be as poignant in its own way to move away from a place where other people's children are comfortable taking your hand.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rachel Getting Married

This Jonathan Demme film apparently got very good reviews, and it has many excellent qualities about it. Great music. Generally a picture of the kind of wedding many of us would have liked to have had in the Connecticut house we would also liked to have had.

Anne Hathaway, in the lead, plays a disturbed girl with a long history of substance abuse and associated mayhem. In general, she overplays, or is rather overdirected. Demme, at least, spares us overwrought reconciliations at the end.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Home improvements

I feel like I've been through this before. After years of abiding imperfections in the crib, you get energetic and polish it up right when it's time to move, and then you're like: "this is a great place!" Or maybe it's just me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The birds

We had window cleaners by the house yesterday, and, working on the second floor windows, they broke a shingle, exposing a hole, which in turn exposed the blown-in cellulose insulation we paid good money to some scumdog contractor for a couple of years later. In no time flat some clever little birds figured out that they could get in there and snag cellulose with which to feather their nests. I had to shoe them away with a broom and then climb out onto the the roof over the back porch to wedge some shimmies in that hole, and then color their heels with a walnut marker so the opening would not draw the attention of any prospective buyers.

Monday, April 20, 2009

On leaving a place of wealth

There is a sadness and at the same time a relief at leaving a place of tremendous wealth: Princeton, Westchester, New York metro as a whole. The houses, the old buildings, the whole 9, wealth creation has been going on for a long time here, more or less continuously, and it has accreted and sedimented notably. Even if your own crib is modest, when you tool amongst the manses, you feel it rub off on you. Sort of. And it is, at least, pretty, in an excessive way.

On the other hand, it's all vaguely oppressive. You have to imagine how hard people have to work, what kind of assholes they must be, to live in houses that big, to care that much.

And then there's all the dirt poor people 10 miles away.

Demons of the dust

I remember -- digging twenty years back -- reading a poem called "Demons of the Dust" by the Russian symbolist poet Valerii Briusov, who wasn't really a great poet. In fact, his idea of being rad and avant-garde was to crawl under a table for a photograph, as we see above. Small wonder that he is not celebrated in world culture as a must-read guy.

But anyway, this poem is all about dust and memory and imagination and whatnot, and the scene of the action is pulling books off of shelves. And, as I prepare to move nine years of crap accumulated in Princeton, on top of 10 years of accumulated junk from New York, back to North Carolina, this whole dust-imagination-memory nexus keeps cropping up. Mostly I have to try to ignore it to just get things done. The internet has changed the scope and shape of memory, after all, and I myself draw ever nigher to the dust as I dawdle. Time to pare shit down and move on, as if to show that You Can Go Home Again.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Homeward bound

And so, after many months nay years of hair pulling and soul rending, the Grouse and his Mary brood will relo to the land of the man pictured at left, therein to gaze from on high at the waters of Eastwood, until, perhaps, more suitable accomodations can be found.

Not all are delighted, but we will persist and then some.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An end to content

Sitting at the airport the other day, my mind wandered, as it does, to the subject of the economy. What, I thought, is not happening in the economy? How do things shut down, how to spigots turn off, and how does it get reversed?

Then I began to think: what is the role of content in this ecosystem: books, movies, etc.? What if the production of all narrative or content was banned or simply became unfeasible, what would become of us then? It's really the premise of a dystopian novel. Or is it really what we've already got: a bunch of crappy reality TV and cooking shows? Hmmmm.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Growing up

Natalie has in general not wanted to let me snuggle with her at bedtime, but I thought last night she might make an exception, since we were at Grandma and Grandpa's.  But no.  So I ask her, directly, why she won't let me snuggle with her anymore.  "Because I'm growing up," she says, word for word.

OK.  Hard to argue with that.

(West) Palm Beach

An article on the impact of Madoff on Palm Beach quotes people saying they live in Palm Beach when in fact they live in West Palm Beach which, as anyone who lives there knows, isn't the same at all. But people fudge things to give an impression of affluence.

When I was growing up in North Carolina, my neighbor's grandparents had a place in Palm Beach, but they always said it was in West Palm Beach, presumably to minimize the impression of their true affluence. But of course, being from resolutely middle class North Carolina and having never been to the Palm Beach area, we had no clue. It all sounded pretty swank to us.

It was only when I actually visited many years later and saw the place that I got it. And it was pretty swank.

This was, of course, the early 80s, when the country had been through a similar economic trauma.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

This time, in a band

Here's Neko Case in the New Pornographers, a band enhanced by her.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Still to ragged out to write

Thursday, April 09, 2009

In Larchmont

Talking on the phone. A flurry of emails, then of flower petals.

Spring is here. For what it's worth.

Monday, April 06, 2009

How bout em?

Somebody paint it blue for me.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Winner takes all continues to crumble

The Texas private equity group that bought the Texas Rangers from George Bush and a group of other Texan cronies has defaulted on an interest payment on a $525 million loan secured by his ownership interest in the Rangers and hockey's Dallas Stars. They have retained Merrill Lynch to help them find an investor. Maybe Merrill can shop the interest to Lonestar and get 22 cents on the dollar. Or, yetter bet, Merrill could sell it to BofA.

First off, let me ask you, how big can the interest payment on a $525 million package of loans be? $50 million? Who knows, but not that much money for these people. Basically, they're pulling an Ecuador, saying, OK, we've decided not to honor this commitment. They coulda sold something. And if private market participants opt not to honor contracts like that, what does it say to the argument that the government wading into compensation agreements like AIG debases the sanctity of contracts?

Lastly, and most importantly, this is an indication that sports compensation, like executive compensation, will regress towards a mean, and pay differentials will narrow. Similarly, we read that Hollywood stars are less able to cut favorable deals these days. This is all for the good.

And I think that hockey should retreat to the North anyway.

Power Lunch Smackdown

Not that I bother watching it, but I do see it in the kitchen at work, and it has recently come to my attention that the World Wrestling Federation is marketing a big pay per view event every day at lunch on CNBC. Now what does that say about the status of the investing public? If that's who's trying to figure out how to make money by watching TV at lunch, how can you blame Wall Street for trying to fleece them? Then again, the guys on the trading floors are also thugs.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

From the files of Joe Wolin

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Onion

Balzac famously declined to have his photograph taken for fear that the apparatus would strip away his person, his soul, like the layers of the onion.  These days I kind of think Obama should take this kind of thinking to heart.  Sure, I love the guy, and I'm happy to have seen lots of him.  But I think he is hogging the camera a little right now.  He is a great leader, and now he needs to learn to be more of a manager.  Delegate and empower his team, pull them to the foreground, before his charisma is laid bare by overexposure.

The redneck rebellion that's a brewin' in the heartland demonstrates that Hillary, in particular, may have been stuck in the wrong slot.  She should be domestic-facing.  Somehow this very elite woman developed a rapport of her own with Joe Sixpack which is wasted on Beijing.