30 September 2003

The Return of the King trailer is up. What is it, 2.5 months?

29 September 2003

One of the things I really miss about Harvard (well and Ross too) was not having to worry about what people's reaction will be when they ask you where you went to school. I was especially reminded of this the other day when I was talking to this girl at a party and she said she went to princeton and my internal reaction was "phew, now I don't have to worry about her thinking I'm obnoxious"

So that got me thinking, which schools do I feel like I don't have to worry about alums making a big deal over Harvard... Its hard to start listing without actually coming accross as obnoxious, but its an interesting thing to think about... Which schools prompt that "whew I'm safe" reaction?

P.S. Somehow the point of this was missed, which is a) that I hate the way all conversations end when people ask me questions and I have to say "harvard" and "math" and b) its really fun to make lists of things that have little in common. For example with this one if someone went to school anywhere in boston then it won't kill the conversation cause you can start chatting boston stuff. If they went to princeton you can start playing the "who do you know" game, which though dumb is at least better than the "oh now I don't want to talk to this person anymore cause he went to Harvard and so is obviously not worth talking to."

I'm thinking of removing this post as its resulted in the closest thing to a flame war this site has seen and half the point of the post was that I was sick of people I don't know not liking me for no reason but where I went to school, and the comments only reinforce this point, so I shouldn't have posted anything. What do you guys think? Should I take it down?
I finally saw Lost in Translation. It's funny how I'm drawn to movies about lonely people in a big city at night: Chungking Express. 25th Hour. Even Eyes Wide Shut, in a way. Of all the movies I've seen, these are the handful that take root in my imagination and grow. It's probably too early to tell, but Lost in Translation could be another one.
Here's a Times article on Netflix. It confirms my belief, stated many times on this blog, that Netflix is a great little company, despite attempts by Wal Mart and others to steal its thunder. However, this article is heartbreaking, too. Back in October, I bought one hundred shares of Netflix at the company's IPO. The shock was then trading at around $7.00. I cashed out my investment a few weeks later when the stock jumped to $9.00, clearing a tidy profit of $200 or so. I was pretty pleased by this, but ever since then, I've avoided checking the price of Netflix stock, because seeing the price of an investment you used to own is a little like running into an old romantic prospect on the street: you're just asking for trouble if you say hello, because she'll always turn out to be engaged to that tall guy from your Ec 10 section. Well, case in point: Netflix stock is now trading at over $34.00 a share. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm not cut out for trading. This is why I'm sticking to index funds.

28 September 2003

This just in from the Making Noah Proud department: they've announced the times for the Division Series this week, and it looks like I'm going to have to skip class on Tuesday to watch Game 1. Fricking west coast time.
We had our housewarming party last night, and the consensus is that it was quite a success. A large number people showed up, and there was drinking, hot-tubbing, pool-shooting, and even some dancing. I dropped a cup of wine on my pants, but other than that I don't think I did anything more embarrassing than confessing that I know all the words to "Cherish" by Madonna. And of course, in keeping with tradition, we were paid a visit by the police, who yelled at us to keep it down, then drove off.
Here's an interesting Times article on product placement for the new twenty dollar bill, which the government is hoping to feature on shows like CSI and The West Wing to increase public awareness of the change.
One contribution: "Is it because / is it because I've lost my lunch?" -- Elvis Presley, "Dark Moon"

Oh, and of course there's Queen's "Get Down, Make Lunch."
If you ever update that page, to correct your "??" entries:

"Do you believe in life after lunch?": Cher
"Silly lunch songs": Paul McCartney

This reminds me, of course, of Thom Yorke singing "Salad...Salad..." in "No Surprises."

27 September 2003

Coming up with "lunch songs" takes far too much of my free time these days... Here's a page of some of the best ones we've run accross...
Google tip of the day: If you're going to buy something from an online retailer, try typing the name of the store + "coupon" into Google and see what comes up. Nine times out of ten, you'll find a coupon code for a 10% or 15% discount or something even nicer. I've tried this for bn.com, Target.com and Gap.com, and almost always get results. It makes me feel frugal, even when I'm being bourgeois.
So I saw the twentieth anniversary re-release of Scarface last night with Haiwen in Times Square, and I seem to be headed out to see it again with my brother tonight. That's no accident. If there's a better, more exhilarating, more visceral movie in theaters right now, I haven't heard about it. See Scarface on the big screen, as it was meant to be viewed, hopefully with the Dolby cranked high enough for the Giorgio Moroder score to rattle your fillings, and see Al Pacino say "Look at dem pelicangs fly!" and introduce a horde of mob killers to his "little friend." I'm sure it's playing somewhere nearby. See it.
I wish the Minnesotan party was here...I need to find somewhere to watch the playoffs next week! Googling "Minnesota club of Berkeley" turns up nothing. I may have a lead through a random person met a month ago, but she doesn't have cable. The woes we go through for our Twins.

26 September 2003

I was looking in the newspaper at events for the weekend, and they were advertising a Minnesotan party for graduates of the University of Minnesota. I briefly considered going and masquerading as an alum after my favorable experience pretending to be a prefrosh. However, in this case, you'd sorta need to do a lot of homework -- for instance, where's the university located in the first place? What's their mascot? Is is the Golden Weasel or something? What are some of the dorms/streets on campus? I decided not to do it, though, when they said there was a $15 fee. If I'm gonna do all that homework, I don't see why I should be paying them.
I can guarantee without a doubt that 8 Seconds did NOT go straight to video in rural New Mexico. It was the only movie playing for weeks. (Not that I was actually in rural New Mexico when this happened, but my sources are reliable.) If you could make the sappiest, most tear-jerking country song into a movie, it would be 8 Seconds. I like taking "Cowboy Up" as a rallying cry -- it's a lot better than "Out for Blood" or some other cries that I've seen teams take before.
The wire services are saying that George Plimpton died today. It's a shame; I always wanted to hang out with George, if only because he was the best guest voice that The Simpsons ever had. ("Well, now off to do whatever it is that I do...")
I don't know if anybody else saw this, but Noah Feldman had an op-ed in the Times on Wednesday.
Ebert agrees with me about Walken, in his surprisingly positive review of The Rundown: "[The Rock's] mission takes him to a town named El Dorado, run by the evil Hatcher (Christopher Walken, whose first appearance, as usual, cheers up the audience)."
Quote of the day, apropos of nothing in particular:

"We fell in love. Well, I fell in love. She just stood there."

(Woody Allen, Bananas)

25 September 2003

Errr... Nat... Have you heard about the BoSox adopting "Cowboy Up" as their rallying cry this year? Here's one article on it:

"Notwithstanding the fact that "8 Seconds" rode straight to video, more or less, "cowboy up" has managed to buck the odds and hit linguistic pay dirt, having been branded onto everything from clothing lines and bumper stickers to bull-riding documentaries and coffee-table tomes about the Wild West."
Today's pop culture question: Who is the most beloved actor in America?

My nominee: Christopher Walken. Having recently seen Gigli and sat through trailers for Envy and this weekend's The Rundown, I can attest that there's no other actor whose unexpected appearance onscreen sends such a frission of pleasure through a New York audience. We're just happy to see the guy in a movie. Not sure when this happened, but I'm guessing that his scene with Dennis Hopper in True Romance may have been the turning point.

Other possibilities: Johnny Depp and Jack Nicholson. Depp, of course, is famous these days for finding plum roles in Hollywood action spectaculars and making movies watchable just by being in them. Nicholson has been around forever, but I was reminded of why he's such a star by the trailer for Something's Gotta Give. Not the most promising movie, I'll admit: it's an older female-skewing romantic comedy co-starring Diane Keaton, for chrissake, but when Nicholson came onscreen, an audience that had been sitting with mild boredom through a series of uninspiring previews suddenly got happy. That's what makes someone a movie star; it's like enduring a dull party only to have your best friend walk through the door.
As for the whole Stephen King controversy, this is just another reason that I've grown increasingly disillusioned with Harold Bloom. Yes, he's an invaluable guide to Shakespeare, but his recent literary criticism has consisted mostly of sweeping praise or condemnation (usually praise) without particular insight. Note that he doesn't mention the title of a single book by King in that article, or even quote a line that might illustrate King's inadequacy on a "sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis." That's quite a ringing dismissal, but it isn't criticism if you don't bother to back it up. And assuming that you can make a point about Stephen King by criticizing J.K. Rowling reveals a rather uncomfortable indifference towards distinctions in pop culture. That's like me saying that Steven Spielberg can't be a good director because Attack of the Clones was a lousy movie.

I read most of King's books when I was twelve or thirteen years old, and haven't picked one up in a while. But he's a real writer who tells good stories without cynicism and cares deeply about craft and character. Lumping him together with Danielle Steele is a cheap shot. (Of course, I haven't read any Danielle Steele either, so maybe saying this is also a cheap shot.) True, King has written some bad books, but he's also written a handful of big, ambitious novels (The Stand, The Talisman, Pet Sematary, and especially It) that are considerable imaginative achievements. It especially stands out in my mind as one of the most richly characterized and imagined novels I've read in any genre, and I'd probably take The Talisman over Tolkien.

That said, I don't really know whether King deserves to win that award or not. These days, I only read books about money.
I heard there was a new contraversy involving literary snobbery and Stephen King getting some award, and I was surprised that Alec hadn't posted on it yet since it seems the sort of thing he tends to have interesting opinions on. Anyway here's a link to an article.
One of the reasons I really like Cary Tennis, aside from his combination of harsh pragmatism and hopeless romanticism, is that, although much of his advice is run of the mill and uncertain, every once and while you get something that you know comes from a deap old wound and he doens't hide it... Like today:

I wish I knew everything because then I would know what is in your wife's mind. I would know whether she is extremely unusual. I would know how much she is drinking and whether she intends to continue. I would know whether she just needed a dance partner to get out of the marriage or whether this new love came on her unbidden like a storm. I'd know what to tell you for sure.

As it is, I'm just a guy you wrote a letter to, and I can only tell you what's happened to me. What has happened to me is that once a woman has left she has never come back. Never. Maybe I have only known decisive women, or maybe that's how most women are. My belief, based on my experience, is that women don't come back.

Every now and then a hurricane will turn on its heel and go back where it came from and the meteorologists will clap their hands over their mouths and stare in blank astonishment. Every now and then a woman will come home. But if you were my friend and I cared about you, I'd tell you not to count on it. I'd tell you to move on.

23 September 2003

Go Twins!

The Twins in the playoffs brings back fond memories of 1 am trips to Trumptington Street last October...this year I should be able to watch them at a more reasonable hour. Yankees suck!

22 September 2003

Apparently my home town doesn't even merit a mention in this article on traveling on either side of it.
By the way, it looks like I'll be auditing a class on Bankruptcy and Reorganization at the NYU Stern School of Business this fall. Jesus, my life is a tangled web. (Two guesses as to where the professor of that class works.)
I watched the Emmys last night. Now I know how the Oscars feel to someone who doesn't care about movies.
I know that we usually avoid posting teen magazine-type quizzes on this blog, but I just can't resist:
1. You spend your evenings:

A. On the phone with your girlfriends, chatting exclusively about your latest flame.
B. Hanging out with your family.
C. With friends, always with friends, looking for the guys.
D. Calling your crush and hanging up.

2. How far would you go to spot your crush?

A. Be sure to take the long route to class, checking out his locker.
B. Drive the long way home from school, past his house or football practice.
C. Buy tickets to a concert you know he's gonna be at.
D. Not much, maybe just sit at his table at lunch.

3. How many times have you looked at wedding magazines in the last year?

A. Less than 3.
B. 3-10.
C. 11-15.
D. More than 15.

4. Have you practiced writing your name with his before?

A. Yes.
B. No.

5. Have you prayed for him?

A. Yes, on my own.
B. Yes, at a small group.
C. No.


1. A=5, B=0, C=2, D=4.
2. A=2, B=5, C=3, D=0.
3. A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4.
4. A=5, B=0.
5. A=3, B=5, C=0.

If you scored between 17 and 24, you are totally crushed out!
Chill out, girl. God's gonna provide a man when the time is right. No need to become a stalker. Check your priorities.

If you scored between 10 and 16, you are boy-crazy! Okay, you're a little boy-crazy, but not abnormal. Still, you might want to get in the Scripture and refocus on God.
Remember all your fulfillment is in Him.

If you scored between 0 and 9, you are level headed!
Right on. You're not carried away about guys. Sounds like you've got your priorities in order!

Anyway, this is a quiz from Revolve, a new edition of the New Testament rather astonishingly disguised as a beauty magazine, the better to market it to teen girls. (Thanks to my dad for the link.) I think I might have to buy a copy (for Drew Hu, of course), or at least browse through it discreetly at Barnes and Noble. The cover sort of sucks you in: What are those beauty secrets that you've never heard before? ("You need a good, balanced foundation for the rest of your makeup," quotes this article. "Kinda like how Jesus is the strong foundation in our lives.") How can a you tell if you're dating a godly guy? Best of all, who are these "guys" speaking out on tons of important issues? (Is one of them Ashton?)

As the ABC article above points out, this sort of bait and switch isn't a new thing. (I remember having a terrific-looking fire and brimstone comic book when I was younger called Exorcists that was Christian propaganda disguised as a Tales From the Crypt-type shocker, with dialogue like: "Did you know that the Hindu pantheon has over 600 million gods, all of them Satanic?")

But you know what I really think about all this. Anyone who isn't reading the New Testament in ancient Greek is just slacking off.

21 September 2003

Go see lost in translation.
My sister's current away message: "i definitely got hit in the head too many times today."

20 September 2003

In other news, I finally gave up on my boxes mailed from England ten weeks ago ever reaching me, and called to try to get some kind of compensation. They said they'd mail me some claim forms. Today I received these forms in the mail, addressed to:

David Freeman
1295 Kamcus Drive
Bickley, CA 54708

My respect for the US Postal service has increased significantly.

(The error arose, I believe, because the shipping service I used is based in Glasgow, and I had a horrible time communicating with the person who answered the phone as I don't speak Glaswegian.)
This week was kind of a crap week. I slept through my morning classes twice (on Monday a brief power failure killed my alarm, and on Thursday I set the alarm for 7 pm), which made me kind of grumpy. Then I did relatively shoddy jobs on my math homework because I had to spend too much time doing work for my musicianship class. The class is one of those rites of passage for music majors, kind of like an intro language class -- you have to do work for every class and keep up, and a lot of it is partner work. I wanted to take just a theory class, but the people in the music department said I need musicianship too, which makes sense, considering my written skills are miles ahead of my practical skills. So I was attempting to take two music courses and three math courses, but this is proving to be an untenable scenario. So the musicianship class has to go, which is quite sad, since I actually want to have those practical skills. However, the math department and NSF would much prefer I gained some mathematical knowledge this semester. Anyway, other things that happened this week included Tuesday Night Dinner at our place -- I made a roast pepper & mushroom risotto and Noah made a big salad with lots of vegetables & stuff, and about 20 people showed up, which was quite impressive. Also impressive was the number of girls that showed up, seeing as this was a math gathering; at one point I counted half of the guests as female. In fact, there were so many women there that two of them had the same name, which led to a bit of confusion. Thursday night involved much sushi and much beer, which has led to a quiet Friday in which I talk on the phone and piddle about on the internet. Our housewarming party is next weekend. All regular readers of this blog are invited. E-mail for details.

But I ramble. Bedtime now.

17 September 2003

In our neck of the woods, this is the big story of the week. This reporter hung around with Richardson during the presidential debate (I saw the guy at the time but didn't realize he was a reporter) and he showed a side that not everyone gets to see. He also bleeps out words like "screw," which makes Richardson look like his vocabulary is more foul than it really is.
I'm now officially Doing My Part to Save the World by riding a bike to work. I had an SUV honk at me yesterday, which I suppose constitutes some sort of rite of passage. I greatly prefer the 360 degree view from a bike -- you actually feel like you're present on the street you're on, rather than looking at it from a moving carriage.

The ironic thing is I started biking to work the same week I finally got my parking permit. I've been on the waiting list for a permit for six months, but now with my bike I literally get to park a couple of yards from the entrance in a protected parking garage. I am quite pleased with the arrangement and I'm considering leasing my permit (under the table of course) to the unfortunate souls who are still on the waiting list.

15 September 2003

More money talk: Some of you may remember the book Everything Men Know About Women, which lived for a few years on our bookshelf at Adams House and was unwittingly browsed through by more than one female visitor. (The book is blank on the inside.) What you probably don't know is that this book was self-published by a woman named Cindy Cashman, who sold 500,000 copies of it on a $3000 investment and became incredibly rich in the process. She now spends her time giving motivational talks, publishing feel-good bestsellers like The Book of Smiles, and jumping on a trampoline. That's the kind of career path I'll be lucky to have someday.
My favorite online read these days is the old-school blog of Andrew Tobias, financial writer and treasurer of the Democratic National Committee. I've been reading way too much about finance these days for my own good, of course, but Tobias is ten times funnier and more practical than just about anyone else out there: his Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need is the best financial book I've read, period, so good that I've sent a copy to my parents and am seriously considering buying copies for my friends. (Not sure how to do that gracefully, though.) Even if you don't feel like reading his book, do check out his archived columns page, which contain chatty thoughts on everything from personal finance to the Bush tax cut to interesting Google tricks to how to de-seed a slice of watermelon. (Answer: drop it onto a clean surface from a height of a few feet or so.) Interesting note: Tobias is also the author of The Best Little Boy in the World, a famous coming-out memoir that was originally published under a pseudonym twenty years ago. I'll have to check that out, too.

14 September 2003

Yesterday I went into SF with a math friend to bike across the Golden Gate bridge. We had a nice ride, then stopped for a bite in Sausalito and took the ferry back. Throughout, I kept saying to myself, 'I still can't believe I actually live here.'

In the evening I went with John and his roommate to a party hosted by some Stanford kids in the Sunset. I was just walking about minding my own business when some kid pointed at me and said, 'Hey, you went to Harvard and took Linguistics 120 in Spring 2000!' I was a bit taken aback, but couldn't deny the accusation. Later that night I met someone who said, 'Hey, you were my TF for linear algebra!' Fortunately it was for the class in which I didn't get a letter from the dean regarding my poor CUE ratings.

13 September 2003

There are some advantages to not listening to some music for a year, when you start again you're pleasantly surprised at how good it is... By which I mean that this month I've started listening to Suzanne Vega again, and it's good stuff. I should have gone to her concert this summer, just wans't ready yet.
My mother got issued a warning and had her description called into headquarters for eating in the DC Metro. Aparrently this is illegal. Anyone know why? I'm assuming it has something to do with getting rid of trashcans, and that getting rid of trashcans is blamed on some sort of security nonsense, but I'm not sure.

12 September 2003

Apparently to be employed by a UC one has to sign in the presence of a witness that:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

Goodness knows how crucial it is to have people grading History of Math sworn to defend the state against her enemies...

11 September 2003

I'm trying to publish this math paper, and so I looked up on the NSF website what I'm supposed to write acknowledging their funding. Here's how the disclaimers section reads:
An acknowledgment of NSF support and a disclaimer must appear in publications including World Wide Web pages of any material, whether copyrighted or not, based on or developed under the project being reported, in the following terms:

"This material is based upon work supported under a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship."

Except for articles or papers published in scientific, technical, or professional journals, the following disclaimer should be included:

"Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation."

So what do you guys think, does this weblog need to have the latter disclaimer on it somewhere? or only if I ever post anything vaguely having to do with math?
Oh no... why does the onion have to run things like this?

45-Year-Old Fails To Make Someone
Very Happy One Day
NEW MEADOWS, ID—In spite of predictions to the contrary, Larry Naering, a 45-year-old research scientist, has failed to make someone very happy one day, his mother Nancy reported Monday. "He's always been such a handsome, responsible boy," said Nancy, who used to look forward to having grandchildren. "I always told him that some girl was going to discover a real hidden treasure if she took the time to look at him. I guess I was wrong." Nancy said her son's chances of finding that one-in-a-million love have dwindled to one in 50 billion.
Classic Savage Love advice, and the opposite of how I was brought up:

"When in doubt, CONFUSED, always assume the other person is an asshole."

10 September 2003

In other news, I am in first place after week 1 of fantasy football. I wisely benched Donovan McNabb, my first round pick, and started Jeff Garcia instead. However, my top wide receiver, Joe Horn, is questionable for next week. Is it too early to put in the rookie Charles Rogers?
This weekend was the 23rd annual Seton Village Pie Baking Contest. A good time was had by all, but inexplicably we were shut out of the winner's circle. My pie was a meatless mince pie which was a little too sweet (it could have stood some nuts, which I couldn't find in the store). Almea made a nice ginger peach pie and the peaches looked like apples because they were white peaches. The most talked-about pie belonged to my brother Chris, who decided to bake an apricot-green chile pie. It tasted more or less how you would imagine. However, this being Santa Fe, people have a strange attraction to all things with chile in them, so it attracted a lot of attention. He's a sample conversation I overhead:

Woman: Have you tried the apricot-green chile pie?

Man: Yes. It was awful. Everyone is cooing about it, but personally I thought it tasted medicinal.
Update: I've checked on Alan Riding, author of Leni Riefenstahl's obituary. He's fine.
Here's someone else whom I half expected would outlive us all: Edward Teller is dead. Interestingly enough, this is another case (along with Bob Hope's) of a New York Times obituary where the author (in this case, the late science writer Walter Sullivan) died before the subject of the obituary did. Apparently this happens more often than you'd think. (I haven't checked the status of the author of yesterday's Leni Riefenstahl obituary, but I'm worried about him.)

09 September 2003

Subconsciously, I think I'd always assumed that Leni Riefenstahl was somehow immortal. Certainly she was the most frighteningly robust 100-year-old woman in the world; I think that she actually directed a documentary a couple of years ago, which would easily make her the oldest director of all time. For whatever reason, she lived long enough (even in exile) to outlast every other filmmaker, actor, or actress from the earliest era of movies, which I suppose is a weird kind of victory, albeit a bitter one.
It's probably some sort of ominous commentary on my life these days that while watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy yesterday with Tamara, I recognized the Pottery Barn on Broadway and 67th Street where I had gone shopping only a few hours before. Still a great show, though.
It's a bit frustrating when you arrive home at 10.30 from choir rehearsal and discover all of your housemates sitting around and drinking but you have four questions left on your problem set due at 8 am tomorrow morning. This never happened in England.

08 September 2003

Ooooh, Greg Easterbrook, aka Tuesday Morning Quarterback, has a new blog on the new republic online. Todays highlight quote:

When I lived in Pakistan, the newspapers attributed every national setback to "the Zionist-Hindu conspiracy." Now it turns out there actually is a Zionist-Hindu conspiracy!
Yesterday I finally got the page proofs for "Inversus," the novelette I sold to Analog way back in March. (Actually, the proofs were mailed to my old address in Astoria more than a week ago; it took me a while to figure out where they were.) They're very satisfying to page through. Also, I have a tentative release date for the story: it's scheduled to appear in the January/February issue of Analog, which means that it should hit the newsstands right around Christmas.

07 September 2003

So last night I went to see R.E.M. perform at the shoreline. Its been 4 years since I last saw them, so it was a little strange to look back and think how much things have changed since then. That was the end of the summer after my freshman year of college... It's amazing how time flies and how different a person I was then. I'd just met Laura that month. I went down to Virginia to pick up ben from his first month of college, we drove up, saw the concert, got our 5 lyric sheets, and then dropped him off at a bus terminal for a 2am busride back from D.C. to blacksburg. He had just recently been dumped by Allison, yeah, its that long ago... Then I went to St. Johns and arrived at 3am to visit meg who was in her second week at college and crashed on her floor. This was long enough ago that not only was I surprised that my parents didn't disapprove of my crashing on the floor of a platonic female friend's room, I also probably wouldn't have done it if they did think it was wrong... The next day Meg's friends were teasing her relentlessly about liking some guy in their class, and she was insisting she didn't and was ticked off at me for not agreeing with her... Of course she just got engaged to this guy last month.

Anyway, enough silly noah what has changed in the last 4 years stuff... Here was the playlist:

1. Begin the Begin
2. So Fast, So Numb (one of my favorite upbeat R.E.M. songs)
3. Drive (slow like on the album, not like the monster tour version)
4. Animal (a new song, didn't care for it much)
5. Fall on Me (!)
6. Orange Crush (surprisingly great fun live, especially with the megaphone)
7. Bad Day (another new one, better than animal, but still not great)
8. The One I love (accoustic and slow, just piano and accoustic guitar, haunting)
9. Daysleeper
10. Imitation of Life (better live than on the album)
11. So. Central Rain (!!!)
12. At My Most Beautiful
13. Nightswimming
14. Don't Go Back To Rockville (this was great fun, and mike mills sang)
15. Losing My Religion
16. She Just Wants to Be
17. Walk Unafraid
18. Man on the Moon
------ Encore
1. Everybody Hurts
2. Weclome to the Occupation
3. Country Feedback (every bit as good as you'd think it'd be)
4. Permanent Vacation (announced as the first time they've played it in the states since 1981, he had to say at the end, "oh I forgot to say that wasn't a cover. We wrote that song, when I was 21.")
5. The End of the World as we Know it.

All in all an excellent show. Michael was rather on speed at the beginning, but got in plenty of bizarre remarks. South Central Rain was a definite highlight, "go build yourself another dream, this choice it wasn't mine... I'm Sorry..."

06 September 2003

It's so nice to deal with a huge company that actually has good customer service. For some reason I got charged San Francisco County tax for this month's mobile bill even though I had changed my address to Berkeley. I called Verizon, and after one minute on hold I talked to a person who understood my problem, figured out what was wrong, fixed it, and credited me back the wrong taxes, all the while apologising profusely for the inconvenience.

So if any readers of this blog are in the market for a mobile phone, I highly recommend Verizon. Plus, that way I can call you for free during peak hours!

05 September 2003

Ebert's review of this movie hits a little close to home.
As Noah has mentioned, we got a new kitty last week. Her name is Tilly (short for Matilda). Here are some pictures.

04 September 2003

Last night I watched The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, an incredibly moving, witty, and beautiful film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, whom I'm increasingly beginning to regard as the two greatest directors in British history (and yes, I'm counting Alfred Hitchcock). At the moment, I can't think of any other artist in any medium whose career I admire more than Powell's: his films provide a thrilling example of what popular entertainment can and should be, and he's increasingly become my role model as a writer. (My role models have always been more cinematic than literary.)

Anyway, I've probably said this before, but if you haven't seen The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, Peeping Tom, or Colonel Blimp, you should. These are films that have nothing obvious in common except astonishing visual imagination, wonderful plots, and endless ingenuity, and The Red Shoes especially comes close to the limits of what movies can do. (To my mind, The Red Shoes is significantly more entertaining and moving than Citizen Kane, and just about as ingenious.) But Colonel Blimp is wonderful, too. This entry from imdb.com does a nice job of summing up what makes this movie unique:
Imagine if Tim Burton was given the opportunity to make a movie based upon the exploits of the dirty politician from "The Simpsons", "Diamond Joe" Quimby. Imagine if, instead of a riotous send-up, an excoriating lampoon of politics and stodgy ideals, what Burton delivered was a sentimental and very sympathetic portrait of Quimby as a young man, who is turned into a shyster politico by time and public tides. You'll then have some idea how confused the British were in 1944 to see The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Colonel Blimp was a caricature of ineffective Brit bureaucracy and the old home guard, created by cartoonist and humorist David Low for The Evening Standard. But when Archer Production's master filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger drew their bow on Blimp they had other ideas in mind. We first see Blimp as he was often found in Low's cartoons, wrapped in a white towel in a Turkish bath, but soon we're transported to 35 years earlier and we encounter a young Clive Candy (the unforgettable Roger Livesey), who'll one day mature into the barrel-chested Col. Blimp. Clive is reckless. He duels with Germans over questions of honor. He falls in love (with the reoccurring Archer favorite Deborah Kerr) and he grows old. His swagger becomes a waddle and his adventurous nature turns into complacency. It's ironic that Winston Churchill was advised by his staff to oppose the release of Blimp (it was supposedly going to be anti-military) and yet he's often the one ascribed with reiterating the Bismark quote, "He who is not liberal when young has no heart, and he who is not conservative when he's old has no head." That's essentially the storyline that Powell and Pressburger chose to tell about their poor, misguided, heroic, tragic, Col. Blimp.

Incidentally, for some unknown reason, Netflix doesn't carry Colonel Blimp on DVD, even though it's readily available at most large DVD stores. (I had to buy my own copy off Amazon.) This is just about the only shortcoming I've seen in Netflix to date.

03 September 2003

It is with a kind of unbelieving vertigo that I see the date "9/3/2003" on the e-mails in my inbox. I've been at my job for a year today. Scroll down through the list, and a handful of e-mails dated "9/3/2002" appear at the very bottom. I've never been so aware of the earth's cyclical movement around the sun.

02 September 2003

Since it's been about two months since I started using Netflix, I feel like doing a roundup of what I've been watching recently. As of this weekend, I've rented Bonnie and Clyde, Grand Illusion, Sunset Boulevard, The Fury, L'Atalante, L'Avventura, Frenzy, Taste of Cherry, Strangers on a Train, The Wages of Fear, Marathon Man, El Mariachi, Desperado, The Rules of the Game, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Blood Guts Bullets and Octane. Of the above, a few were rentals of old favorites, but mostly I've been trying to fill in the gaps of my cinematic education. Many were wonderful (Sunset Boulevard, River Kwai), and only a few were disappointing (The Fury, L'Avventura). Taste of Cherry was inexplicable, but the metafictional ending comes closer to my idea of what death must be like than any other movie I've seen (the camera stops rolling, the crew appears, a character's life is revealed as a fiction). The best of the bunch was Grand Illusion, which everyone who loves movies needs to see as soon as possible. Next in my queue: The Deer Hunter; Oliver Twist; Network. No patterns that I can see, except that of the first five movies I rented, two (Grand Illusion and Sunset Boulevard) starred Erich von Stroheim, and two (Grand Illusion and L'Atalante) starred Dita Parlo, and I have no explanation for that.
My new favorite read this month is David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary of Film, an amazingly opinionated and comprehensive encyclopedic essay of 800 pages that just begs to be browsed and devoured. I remember this book from my local library; when I was fourteen or so, I would spend hours standing up with this book by the reference shelf, reading entry after entry (but unable to check it out). I stumbled across it at the Strand bookstore yesterday, and found myself doing the same thing (just browsing and reading while standing in front of the shelf) before realizing that I could actually buy myself a copy. Which I did.

It's a great book, mostly because it never pretends to be objective and provides endless fodder for argument. (Thomson doesn't care much for Kurosawa, for example.) It's also quite prescient. Check out the following entry for Arnold Schwarzenegger, written back in the early nineties:
I remember how a friend came back from a visit to the set of Stay Hungry ('76, BoB Rafelson) with reports that the not unobservant Rafelson was saying that this hulk with the impossible name was the smartest person on the picture, and that he was going somewhere. Fifteen years later, we think we know where. But consider: Arnold may have more dreams yet behind that rippling grin…What will the world do if, on learning the explanation that anyone born in Ganz, Austria, cannot be president, Arnold says "Why, baby?" Paul Verhoeven once said that this man could be as big as Charlton Heston -- which may be Verhoeven's one recorded instance of naivete.
Here's the homepage of Rick Lyon, one of the puppeteers/performers/singers from Avenue Q. He seems to have had an immensely satisfying career.
So my parents have started reading this blog (which might be interpreted as a disturbing development). My mom has rather devastatingly summed up the typical post on this blog as "Hey, a girl looked at me yesterday!" (See samples here and here.)

01 September 2003

Its always odd pulling out music you haven't listened to in a while. The other day I played a mix a friend made me last octoberish which i listened to a lot last fall... I'd forgotten just how much time I'd spent listening to the section that went: breakfast at tiffany's (a cappella)/love will come to you/hard candy.

Also my newest line of the week is "i heard the eternal footman bought himself a bike to race" from pretty good year.
Meg and I were arguing the other day over whether this was a parody or real. In either case it is pretty funny, though at points its just a little too familiar to me to laugh...
Speaking of Israel... There's an interesting T-Shirt going on in my history of math class (it's an undergrad upper level math class). On monday there were no interesting shirts.

On weds someone showed up with this shirt that said on the front "anti-racism anti-imperialism anti-zionism" and on the back it had this big malcolm x quote about how the zionist argument for the Jewish occupation of Arab palestine had no legal or historical basis, and then had this rant about ending the occupation...

Then friday someone else showed up with an IDF shirt... I can't wait to see what happens monday.
Interesting factoid from this weeks NYTimes magazine: Israel got the nuclear bomb from France?!? Who knew?
Alec, who does the singing in Avenue Q? Is it all voiceover?
It's a good thing it's a long weekend, I didn't really do a good job last week of adapting to the school year starting last week... There's only so many nights I can stay up till 3am dancing at a club in the city in a tux and a moose hat (more "hey bulwinkle!" remarks I've heard in my life). I'm not sure if it was the tux or the hat, but somehow this resulted in girls flirting with me. So i highly recommend both tuxes and moose hats. (Saturday I went back out without the hat or tux and it was back to normal.)

We finally have a living room (bought a sofa, a comfy chair, etc.), which is very exciting, it's nice to have somewhere to plop down when you return home. At the cat has moved in, which has been quite exciting. She's very cute and kittenish.
By the way, if you're ever in New York, you've got to see Avenue Q, which is the funniest, fuzziest, most beautiful musical I've seen in a long, long time. The concept is easy to explain, but it's difficult to convey how pitch-perfect the execution is: it's Sesame Street for neurotic recent college graduates, complete with Muppets and educational animated clips that tackle such touchy topics as one-night stands, Internet porn, unemployment, and Schadenfreude. The plot follows a young Muppet named Princeton as he tries to find his purpose in life while learning to live with a street of eccentric puppet neighbors, including Katy Monster, Lucy The Slut, and the closeted gay couple Ray and Nicky. (Any resemblance to Bert and Ernie is, of course, completely coincidental.) It sounds tasteless, but it's actually wonderfully respectful and affectionate towards Sesame Street. Best of all, it's educational for twentysomethings in the way that Sesame Street was when we were toddlers. Sample songs: "What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?"; "If You Were Gay"; "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist"; and of course, "I Want to Go Back to College." I wish there were a cast album so that I could all point you to the lyrics page.

Watching it, I felt a little like I felt when I saw High Fidelity back in 2000: someone had made a movie (or, in this case, a musical) that said so many things worth saying about my own life that my own attempts at autobiographical fiction seemed superfluous. It's astonishing how much I found myself relating to these puppets. I especially liked the Bad Idea Bears, who appear out of nowhere with such bright ideas as: "Have a beer!" or "Make a pass! She's wasted!" I want to buy tickets for all of my friends, except I'm afraid they'd recognize too much of themselves (and me) in the characters. But even if you aren't twentysomething and terrified of the real world (and if you aren't, what are you doing reading this blog?) Avenue Q is worth seeing just as a technical tour-de-force: the cast are all experienced puppeteers, usually with eight to ten years' experience on Sesame Street, and because they're always visible along with their puppets, the technique on display is just staggering. According to the program notes, there are only about 40 active puppeteers in New York, and they're all so used to working together that they have natural rapport onstage. In its own way, it's encouraging and inspiring how these puppeteers were able to make it big and to Broadway, even in today's wintry economic climate.
Rachel has a blog now. Jesus. It's just about exactly what you'd expect, if you know Rachel. (I mean this only with the greatest affection, of course.)