Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Neko and Morrissey

I don't recall exactly what tipped me off that Neko Case must be a Morrissey fan, something about the trilling and yodelling from the heart. But the clincher, which Sasha Frere-Jones unwittiingly called out in her New Yorker article on Case, was her citation in "Vengeance in Sleeping": "I'm not the man you think I am," which echoes the Smiths "Pretty Girls Make Graves."


Neko and her Boyfriends

I'm not the man you thought I was
My love has never lived indoors
I had to drag it home by force
Hired hounds at both my wrists
Damp and bruised by
stranger's kisses on my lips
But you're the one that I still miss
you're the one that I still miss
And the truth is that it comes as no surprise

I'm not the man you think I am
I'm not the man you think I am

The Smiths

Upon the sand, upon the bay
"There is a quick and easy way" you say
Before you illustrate
I'd rather state :
"I'm not the man you think I am
I'm not the man you think I am"

Monday, June 29, 2009

Hurray for grammar! Huzzah for innovation!

Check out the new Saturn slogan: "Wonder where the car business is headed? It's here.", as reported in the Wall Street Journal but, oddly enough, not yet reflected on the Saturn web site. This just doesn't make grammatical sense at all. You could say "it's headed here," and that would be OK. But it wouldn't be a good slogan. Not that this one is catchy either.

North, South, and Entropy

I've been shuttling from North to South and back again recently, a process which will slow when I retransplant to my native kudzu-choked climes later in the summer. In doing so, a number of things jump out at me.

  • The breeze. A little-appreciated virtue of the NorthEast, even as far inland as Princeton, which is largely lacking in the South, where stasis hangs languidly over the land as we stare out at it from within our air-conditioned homes. Rob confirms that the renewable energy community has measured the South in aggregate as being low on wind and (surprisingly) solar resources.

  • Decay. I love my compost pile as much as the next guy. Probably more so. But the heat and humidity of the south mean that outdoor wood furniture turns disturbingly quickly into breeding ground for lichens and moss. Hence the plastic lawnwear.

    Cold preserves things better. This at least partially explains why the South seems to have more of a tear-down culture than the North, where structures abide for longer and people pile cash into o.

  • Place. The South therefore renews its physical infrastructure more rapidly than the North does. The social infrastructure of the south, however, sticks around longer than that of the north. Because they can, people don't move, and people's sense of home is rooted in an absolute sense of place which tolerates physical change rather than a relative sense of place which roots itself in simulacra of the past (Martha Stewart, the apple cider donut industry, etc.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Todd Snider

Thursday, June 25, 2009


A common theme I've been encountering recently (The Numerati, Supercrunchers, recent Economist article on cellphone-generated data) focuses on the problem of having more data than we know how to use. There are ambitious initiatives to pull it all together (beyond Google, the crappy WolframAlpha and the semantic web, see Gapminder.org, Pachube.com). Everybody in the corporate world knows that MIS, Business Intelligence, etc, are evergreen and perennial questions.

But let's just say you've got terabytes of structured and unstructured data (as we do), how do you pose questions of it? The tabula rasa of the Google screen speaks volumes.

Where is the discipline and art of question formation taking shape, save for in the secretive halls of Madison Avenue and Langley?
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


  • Underground parking at the Greenwich Hospital is, get this, free! I remarked upon this to the Septagenarian candystriper in the elevator on the way out, and he said "It's Greenwich. The patients pay for it." Or, he might have said, the insurers pay for it, and thus we do.

  • After many months if not years of not washing his hair, averting little blonde dreads only through relatively frequent cuts at, a certain itchiness of scalp convinced Graham to let me apply baby shampoo today. This was, to be sure, huge.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dubai is in India!

  • "Dubai is in India! It totally is!" So said some snot-nosed 14-year old outside the Manor Beach Beach in Larchmont today, as I headed out huffing and puffing in the humidity on my run. His friends argued with him, but he insisted he was right. This is just what I would have done at that age, made some wild assertion like that and stood by it stubbornly. I mean, the name Dubai does sound like it could be in India, right?
  • Meanwhile, this morning Natalie and I went together on a daddy-daughter trip to the phlebotomy lab, where they took three units of dad's blood and one of hers. Trouble was, the lab tech had a hard time finding the vein in her right arm, and poked around a bit, before deciding to go with the left after all. Natalie stared right at the pokey needle, her tension audible in her stiff nose-breathing, but she got through it. And then we were off to pepperoni pizza at Sal's in Mamaroneck, which I recommend.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I just tried to watch the video of this woman Neda dying in the streets of Tehran and was unable to roll forward with it as the blood started to spurt out of her nose and spill into a puddle on the ground. It is at once like and not at all like the movies.

The situation in Iran is rather tricky for us. We obviously can't just roll the tanks in and declare victory like we did in Iraq. And yet, we'd all like to see the regime fall. This may be the midnight phone call for Obama, but it's ringing all day, every day.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Monsoon season drags on

Night tennis rained out, David ushered me into the parallel universe of the New Jersey firehouse, where we worked out in the deluxe gym donated by a liquor store owner and watched the 2008 Federer-Nadal Wimbledon final.

Some fire districts (Hamilton, for example) have the ability to levy taxes independently of municipal authorities, think about that. "Just give us money so we can build Taj Mahals to our shiny engines," they say.

Preposterous. Which reminds me of a song.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hot day on the hill

Down in Chapel Hill.

Checked out some cribs.
Hot as fuck.
Soon we'll know where we're headed.
Drank Cheerwine, of course.

Left my copy of Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again on the plane headed down.  Was shocked to find that there were no copies of it or any other of Chapel Hill's most famous adopted writer at the Bookshop on Franklin St.  Things change.   Inventories there were generally low.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Off to North Carolina for a quick one-day tour of possible relo destinations.  Unfortunately, the weatherman is not cooperating and promises "near record-high" temperatures, short for "record-high" temperatures.  Will not warm the heart of my Yanqui bride.

As of now, the native bugs of the Garden State -- the two-stroke engine, the 747 way overhead and the traffic on the street 35 feet behind me -- drone outside.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Healthcare: How 'bout prevention?

Every time you pick up a health zine it says one thing: eat less -- but more fruits and vegetables, and exercise more. This is the best way to manage a wide range of health issues, from cancer to heart disease to depression to the more obvious, especially obesity.

Now, between them, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are big killers, with clear long-term etiologies. So, if we really want to decrease health care costs, we should be throwing much more substantial resources at getting these messages out, right? I mean, the middle class and up knows this stuff, but actually executing on this is much harder than knowing it. So, while commercial time is cheap during the recession, why isn't the government tossing out a bunch of public safety announcements like the anti-smoking or anti-drugs ones?

And while we're at it, why don't we build in some taxes around the externalities of obesity and meat consumption, from greenhouse gas taxes on bovine flatulence to needing SUVs to haul fat people around? If Big Oil isn't paying it's way, nor is Big Grease.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


  • I wasn't sure what the tooth fairy should give Graham, a dollar or 50 cents.  Mary said he had asked for "a whole dollar," so I went with that, folding it up neatly and putting it in the plastic tooth necklace they had given him at school.  I had five dimes that I put down somewhere else.  In the morning, Graham said "Look what the tooth fairy gave me," and showed us the dollar and the fifty, which he had come across somewhere.  I guess the temptation to dissemble about money starts very early.
  • I rode my bike out to Lambertville today.  Good ride.  When I got there, I noticed for the first time that there was  a fencing academy out there.  Also archery lessons.  So I guess we can feel pretty secure.  I ended up with linguine with clam sauce at the local pizzeria, though I found myself coveting the veal or chicken parms these dudes were laying into.  Next time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How things change

Here's a stunning sentence from the 1965 barnburner Banking and Insurance in New Jersey: A History:

Of the eleven New Jersey life insurance companies, the Prudential is the largest and is, in fact, the third largest private company of any kind in the world in terms of assets, coming after American Telephone and Telegraph Company and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York.
No longer true, but it gives you an idea of the place of insurance in the order of things. As of today, about one dollar in ten or eleven goes to insurance cover of one sort or another. And that excludes pensions and social security, etc. However you slice it, the amount of money set aside for things that might happen is pretty stunning.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Notes in brief

  • Just read Josephine Tey's first novel, the 1926 The Man in the Queue. Good stuff, different groove.
  • Last weekend's flick here at the crib was Zach and Miri Make a Porno. Worth watching, though formulaic.
  • David and I were out on the tennis courts today at the high school. This rather large woman came out of the building at 5:01 and fastidiously pulled something sticky (turned out to be duct tape) off the sign in front of her parking spot, which read "Reserved for Athletic Secretary," before toodling off in her Taurus. It was clearly important for her to defend her station in life.
  • I have, in fact, also been doing some work.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Loose tooth #1

Graham is about to lose his first tooth. He says it hurts, but, from the looks of it, it hurts so good.

Friday, June 12, 2009

New enthusiasm

Graham is keen on going to toy store, so is attacking few chores with unprecedented zeal, even stopped filibustering at bedtime. Most excitingly, he has gotten into dumping compost on to the big pile. Not that it doesn't sadden me to have my own favorite responsibility taken off my hands, but it's good to get him into the compost, that steaming allegory of everything, at such a young age.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The jargon of authenticity

I've been going to more AA meetings recently. I've recently heard this young woman tell exactly the same anecdote, exactly, in meetings a couple of weeks apart, about how she saw a tender scene that made her value life.

AA has the great virtue of being a place where people can speak in semi-public about their problems and fears, as if directly from the heart. But when you hear people repeating themselves like this, really performing their respective personae over and over again, it's clear that there's a fine line between direct authenticity and a mask of the same.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Posture and being

In their book on Kafka and minor literatures, Deleuze and Guattari make a big deal out of head postures in Kafka: the way K's head is ever prostrate before the court, the contrast between bending and being upright and what that implies about relations of power. When I was in college I didn't really get it. I thought the book seemed cool and it was a nice bright orange and I like Kafka, but I didn't get their point.

I've got an OK desk chair that I've had now for about a decade. Wrote my dissertation in it, and then have learned much of markets and earning a living in it. But as my eyes have gone and my laptop screen has gotten progressively smaller over the years, I find myself scrunched over, shoulders bent forward, slumped. Bad energy. Bad chi. And it translates into back pain.

So I have to force myself to sit up straight, and when I do that, I have more energy. Probably exposes some chakras or something. But, inevitably, I find myself slumping again.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Adieu, adieu

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Slow to post

I must say that if anyone other than myself could be blamed for the occasional lack of posts here on the blog, it would have to be our old Durham Academy nemeses Mike and Brendan Moylan, who with their many-tentacled empire of soccer-related enterprises are top sponsors of the Fox Soccer Channel, which is the one thing that sucks me into the couch on weekend afternoons. Right now Serbia is outlasting Austria in a World Cup qualifier. What's not to like?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Quote of the day

Watching French Open semifinal between Robin Soderling and Miguel Gonzalez, Carol opines that Soderling should lose "on facial hair alone." This didn't happen, though it made sense at the time.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

From the Archives

Combing through my draft posts from years past, I've found some interesting stuff that never saw the light of day. Below, a sampling.  I'll do more of this later.

10/24/07  The Joys of Labor

Here's actual text (translated from stilted scholarly Russian) that I've been taking in for a project I'm working on (and they're not paying me half enough). From the journal Defense and Security.

"When carrying out special operations Ministry of the Interior employees must come into contact with professionally prepared and equipped criminals, who know well the tactics of law-enforcement agents, the composition and structure of their armaments, as well as defensive measures to minimize the damage from any special means employed."

I.e. tear gas, pepper spray, what have you. That's all kind of intuitive, but here's something truly fun:

"Another thing that diminishes the effectiveness of special measures is the fact that the combatants are also under the influence of psychotropic narcotics."

The implication is that the forces of law and order have to figure out the right cocktails of "non-lethal weapons" to get around whatever drugs the baddies are taking. They've been working on this.

10/18/07 E to 53rd @ Park
28ish rail-thin Asia-hip Chinese woman reading McKinsey Report ("The Asset Management Opportunity in China") on the train. I have not yet opened that McKinsey email.

28ish woman in high heels and a skirt bending forward like a cripple as she walks up the stairs from the E Train. Turns out she was not a cripple. It was the shoes.

28ish guy with pasty skin and a suit with no tie sucking on a Starbucks Iced Venti like it was his mother's teat. I too was inspired to buy one.

28ish corporate blonde comes up to the cashier at Starbucks and wonders if she can get a receipt. Reminds me to get one.

At work (where I'm doing a project), 28ish Duke grad doesn't even know where He's Not Here is. Redounds to his credit, but also means he probably didn't get much.

Ahhhh... To be 28ish again.

SEC has sent out warnings about people impersonating its inspectors. Very Gogolian.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Princeton Public Library, 3:30 pm

Kicked out of house for a showing, Natalie and I descend upon the library to further her quest of hoovering up all age-appropriate books before we leave town later in the summer. As she continued on to the 3rd floor, I diverged onto the 2nd, grown-up floor, where a pretty high school girl in turquoise pants was walking with her sweatshirt hood pulled gratuitously over her head.

At a table nearby sat four Mormon guys -- resplendent in white short sleeve shirts with ties, square hair cuts, and promotional brochures in their breast pockets. At least two of them furtively but distinctly turned their heads to check out the girl's butt as she went by.

Latter Day Saints my white ass. They had Big Love in mind.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Community Park Field Day

Despite the torrential downpour at around 8:30 when I went to read to Graham's class at Riverside, Field Day was on at Community Park, so I threw on shorts and headed over. Natalie's class was at the soccer station when I got there, and Pers was leading the show mightily, though he had to shout over some awful din coming from over behind the giant hedges by the Princeton public tennis courts and paddle tennis courts (yes, readers, you read that correctly). Sounded like power washing or jack hammering, one.

So, since I didn't want to direct kids doing this soccer thing anyhow, I sidled around the monumental hedge around the courts to see what was up. Some dude in a hazmat suit was sandblasting the tennis practice wall. Brilliant.

So I made my way over to the Rec Department offices to see what was up. Didn't seem like a good idea to sand blast with hundreds of kids and adults trying to have fun 50 yards away. After working past a couple of clock-punching admin types, I found myself in the presence of a generously girthed apparatchik in jeans. He explained to me that there was a tennis tournament scheduled for Thursday, and this was the only day they could get the sandblasting contractors and they needed to get the job done because (gasp!), there was some graffiti on the tennis wall!

In the end, he agreed to have the guy in the space suit work on the other side of the wall so that the sound would bounce the other direction while the kids were on the field. In any case, it is certainly comforting to know that, in times of dire fiscal crisis, our tax dollars are hard at work attending to crucial matters like sandblasting offending gang tags.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Death of an Icon

When I got home from playing tennis at 10:30 or so, Mary had MSNBC on the television, and I saw Michael Moore through the window with the words "the death of an icon" under him and I thought for a second, "wow, Michael Moore is dead," then I realized they were talking about GM.

Later, Keith Olbermann, in a moment of rare clarity, sobriety and cogency, advocated for a "quarantine" of Fox News on account of the excesses of Bill O'Reilly, Glen Beck, etc., specifically in their support of terrorism against abortion providers like George Tiller.

Virtuosity in developing socieities

As an inveterate punk rocker, I am in general not all that impressed by skill and virtuosity. I heard some opera singers at the New York Philharmonic a few weeks back doing a modern piece of poems set to music and was not impressed, not in the slightest (though a performance of a Mahler piece later that night was quite something).

But I was in an art museum the other day with the kids, who were not in good moods, and caught a quick gander at an illuminated manuscript, and I must confess that it's hard to imagine the impression an illuminated manuscript or, for that matter, stained glass window or vaulted nave -- would have made in Medieval Europe. There is a raw power to artisanship, a transcendence, in the context of developing societies, where all outside is chaos.

I'm sure this is Art History 101 level thinking, but it did strike me at the time. Which is something these days.