31 December 2003

This is as good a time as any to make some resolutions for the new year, especially because, in all honesty, last year was the first year of my life about which I feel more or less completely dissatisfied: I only wrote one short story, I wasn't ever in love, and as John Rhys-Davies might say, I had quite a few bad dates. On the bright side, I bought an expensive couch, learned a lot about index and hedge funds, and finally saw a story published (although it was a story that I had written three years ago and revised the year before). All in all, not much of a year. How to make the next one better? Well, I'm open to suggestions...

28 December 2003

I never did see Elephant, I'm still waiting on Cold Mountain, and there are literally dozens of good movies still in theaters that I would probably love. (The big one: The Company, which I'm hoping to see with a friend later this week.) But all the other film critics are compiling their Best of the Year lists right now, and I'm feeling left out. Here, then, is my provisional, subject to revisional, top ten list for the year:

1. Spellbound. Easily the funniest and most suspenseful movie of the year, with the most memorable cast of characters. I often write about those rare movies that grow in your imagination after the initial viewing, and this is one of them.
2. Kill Bill Vol. 1*. For all I know, Vol. 2, due in February, could be terrible. But what we have at the moment is a slice of pure, violent, aching cinema that gloriously embodies most of the less reputable, and totally indefensible, reasons that I go to the movies.
3. Big Fish. The critics are surprisingly divided on this movie; I have a hunch that if you're closer in age to Albert Finney than Billy Crudup, you'll dismiss it as a bunch of hooey. But I'm still young enough that I haven't been divested of all the romantic notions about love with which I commenced life, and I found it almost unbearably beautiful. Not sure how well it will hold up over the years, but there we are.
4. The Return of the King. So much better than its predecessors that I'm at a loss to explain why. Maybe Peter Jackson grew up in the intervening years, or maybe he just learned how to edit an epic movie, but the result is far better than anything I would have expected.
5. Master and Commander. Another miracle; I would love to know how such an intelligent, exciting, uncondescending movie came to be made for $120 million. Almost absurdly rich and satisfying.
6. Capturing the Friedmans. Comes closer to a guided tour of hell than just about any movie I've seen. Interviews, home movies, suburban interiors, and then suddenly: the abyss.
7. The Fog of War. Robert McNamara is much too intelligent and too articulate to stumble into the abyss that Elaine Friedman (or Gollum) unwillingly enters, and he stops just short of the rim. That's a disappointment, but only a small one, and what we're left with is merely fascinating, terrifying, essential.
8. Lost in Translation. A great, beautiful movie about a foreign city at night where nothing much happens, worthy of putting alongside Wong Kar-Wai's movies about Hong Kong. Silences, unheard conversations, slapstick, rain, light.
9. Finding Nemo. It doesn't quite hold up to repeat viewings, but my first glimpse of this movie was possibly the most exhilarating evening I've had at the movies this year: awe-inspiringly beautiful, gut-bustingly funny.
10. Pirates of the Caribbean. Yes, there's way too much skeleton-on-skeleton violence, but with Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, and Kiera Knightley happily devouring the goofiest roles of their careers, this is a movie I'd happily rewatch any night of the week.

And what about The Last Samurai? Well, heck. Tom Cruise had to drop off the list one of these days, and this happened to be the year. And if the last five minutes had been removed, would The Last Samurai have made this list? Maybe. Yes; just possibly maybe.
The great British character actor Alan Bates, of King of Hearts and Gosford Park and damned near everything in between, died today. He will be missed.
I returned to the office on Sunday to find a message on my voicemail from a Newsday reporter asking about the FAO Schwarz acquisition. Here's the article she wrote about it in my absence. As she puts it, "[Company] officials didn't return calls seeking comment."
From the submission instructions for the Times wedding annoucements: "Couples posing for pictures should arrange themselves with their eyebrows on exactly the same level and with their heads fairly close together." Does this mean that highbrows and middlebrows shouldn't get hitched?
It's always helpful when the media reveals that you're a member of a cultural subgroup that you weren't aware existed. And if what a recent Times article says is true, I don't mind being a member of Generation E.A. "E.A." stands for "Ethnically Ambiguous," of course, and apparently it's quite chic these days. I feel like quoting the entire article, but I'll try to restrict myself to a few snippets:
On a recent evening Pedro Freyre, 26, an artist of French, Mexican and Spanish heritage, was strolling [in New York] with his cap tilted to accentuate his cheekbones. "We are the new mix," Mr. Freyre said, borrowing the language of the D.J. booth. "We are the remix."

Mr. Jimenez, [a] model, said that being perceived as a racial hybrid "has definitely opened doors for me." He added, "suddenly there is a demand for my kind of face."

Ahmed Akkad, 44, a New York artist who is Turkish and Albanian, said that being an ethnic composite "sometimes gives you an edge, a certain sexual appeal."

But some multiracial 20-somethings view their waxing popularity with skepticism. "Back home in Minneapolis, I sometimes feel like a trophy," said Ryoji Suguro, a 28-year-old lighting director of Sri Lankan and Japanese descent. "When you're introduced, it's sometimes like, 'Oh, here is my exotic friend.'"
All right, guys, 'fess up. Am I just your exotic friend? I mean, it's not like I haven't noticed the trend towards multiracial, especially Eurasian faces in the media: three enormous billboards on the street where I work all feature models with distinctly Eurasian features. As a guy quoted in this article says, "Today what's ethnically neutral, diverse or ambiguous has tremendous appeal."

So not only am I a bourgeois bohemian member of the American meritocracy with Ivy League credentials, I'm also ethnically ambiguous and a walking example of "melting pot chic." So why don't I have a girlfriend? (Maybe it's time I bought a hat to accentuate my cheekbones....)
I've recently taken to reading the Times wedding announcements on a weekly basis. Not sure what this means. Am I just fascinated by these glimpses of the ruling class, envious, or wistful at the happiness of others? In any case, this story is particularly awww-inspiring.

27 December 2003

Speaking of Santa, I seem to be developing a reputation here: for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Winter Solstice Extravaganza I received four martini glasses, a cocktail shaker, a cocktail recipe book, and a bottle of Absolut Citron.

I guess I'll be holding a cocktail party sometime soon. If I can manage to haul all of this stuff back to Berkeley, that is.

26 December 2003

Wow, talk about Bad Santa! A few days ago I went shopping in San Francisco, hoping to drop by the landmark FAO Schwarz toy store in Union Square to buy a Kermit the Frog doll for my mom. However, upon arriving at the old location, I discovered that the entire chain had recently filed for bankruptcy. This came as a surprise to me, although apparently FAO Inc. has been in and out of Chapter 11 all year. Anyway, I just noticed an article about the bankruptcy on the New York Times website, and clicked on it, curious to see who had purchased the company.

And it turns out that, uh, well, we did. My company just bought FAO Schwarz. Obviously I picked a pretty lousy time to go on vacation.

Anyway, I'm pretty blown away by this news, which is by far the highest-profile deal my company has ever undertaken. (In terms of media coverage, anyway. In financial terms, this $20 million purchase is actually on the smallish side.) I probably can't comment on it any further, but rest assured that this is an interesting deal in all kinds of ways, especially in the direction that it bodes for my firm as a whole.
Our old Spanish teacher stopped by today and chatted for a while. At one point he started asking me about what church I was going to and whatnot and I really desperately wanted the conversation to stop... So I piped up that I was thirsty and would anyone else like some water. By the time I was back with a few glasses he and jesse were talking in spanish about teaching. It was remarkably subtle and effective. Laura would have been proud of me.
Just played our 2 on 2 basketball game... All the games were really close, either 7-5, 8-6, or 9-7 in games to 7. I lost 4 of them though. I only won one of the two games that I had AJ on my team. Played well though. I had a few really pretty passes.

25 December 2003

Here's a great headline: "Former Miss South Africa attacked by hippo."

I wonder though how that gets classified as "Space and Science."
My family went to see Cold Mountain, which, after a rather slow start, turned out to be really good. Renée Zellweger was especially good; Nicole Kidman did the strained romantic heroine bit, and our good friend Natalie even made an appearance. As was the case when she dined in Adams House, I didn't recognise her until she was pointed out to me.

I got my sister Pirates for a Winter Holiday Celebration present and we watched it from 1 to 2.45 am last night. Yo ho!
My family just went on its now annual christmas movie outing (earlier we reconstructed what they've been: prince of egypt, castaway, ali, the two towers) and this year we saw the last samurai which we all rather liked (though my brother jesse didn't like tom cruise, and my brother joel didn't want to see it because he hates when tom cruise has long hair, but ended up liking the film anyway). I must say though, tom cruise does find a novel solution to the old all girls already have boyfriends problem.

24 December 2003

Ach, it's come down to this -- blogging on Christmas Eve. I got hit with some bug this week, and I'm still getting over it. Usually everyone in Santa Fe worships fire on Christmas Eve (as we do at select other times of the year as well), but since I'm still recovering I'm staying in.

Dave, for a belated answer to your question about authors of this blog skiing, Santa Fe is at least in part a ski town. We can't compete with the biggest resorts in the country, but we get our share of visitors for our modest mountain (which is far superior to anything east of the Mississippi, to be sure). The elementary schools here have ski programs, where kids can ski at reduced rates one school day per week during the winter. It's quite popular, especially because it means you only go to school four days out of the week for a few months. It's a great deal for the ski resorts (every other ski town in the country that I know of has a similar program) because they hook young skiers for life and put these kids on the slopes during the week, when it's normally slow.

The last time I went skiing was at Taos (which is the best ski resort in the state and can hold its own with the big resorts in other states) last year, the day that the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated. It was interesting the way the news spread -- all the new skiers who descended the mountain were treated to the news, and then when they went back up they spread it to the people they came across.

23 December 2003

You know, I was never as impressed by the Lord of the Rings movies as most of my friends were. Fellowship had some wonderful qualities, but to me it seemed like the same old sword-and-sorcery in slightly newer jars, and it also suffered from some astonishing lapses of taste; I don't think I'll ever forgive Peter Jackson for blowing Galadriel's big speech to Frodo. The Two Towers was an astonishing technical achievement, but shapeless and carelessly cross-cut. And knowing that all three films were shot at the same time, I didn't expect much in the way of surprises from The Return of the King.

As many, perhaps most, of the readers of this blog already know, boy, was I wrong. Return is so much more satisfying than its predecessors, I'm flabbergasted. It has all of the qualities that I stubbornly refused to see in the first two: it's beautiful, visionary, thrilling, moving. It's more generous to its supporting cast, especially Eowyn and Samwise. The action is sharp and transcendent. I'm not sure how a movie shot contemporaneously with its prequels can seem infinitely more mature and vivid and assured, but this one does. I'm humbled; not only will this movie sweep the Oscars next near, but I damn near think it deserves to.

22 December 2003

Hello from the Apple Store in Southdale Mall, Edina, Minnesota (which by the way was America's first enclosed shopping mall way back when...leave it to Minnesotans to figure out how to avoid the elements). I have spent far too much time in this mall in the past four days: Friday I went holiday shopping with Robby, Saturday I went holiday shopping with Derek (who was in town for 24 hours...his stepdad flew his private plane up from Kansas City so his brother could go to a Vikings game), and today I'm having my computer fixed (the optical drive started chewing up CDs). Minnesota life is very quiet; I sleep a lot, eat, read, and watch movies. I saw The Return of the King the other day, which was quite entertaining. I also rented Top Gun while I was sick last week. A bit much fighter plane action for my taste, but so much great 80s music! I made Lisa promise to take me to an 80s club when I go to Oregon in January. (Oh yeah, I'm going back to Oregon, for almost a week. Hmm.) Any other recommendations for classic 80s/early 90s movies I surely missed out on during my youth? Not much else going on; I should go see whether my computer's ready. Later.
One more for the "i feel old" list and the "most people i know don't have serious relationships but the closer they get to me the most likely they are to" lists that i'm always complaining about: my "long lost ex-pseudo-girlfriend" (i.e. the girl i sort of kindof dated sophomore year of highschool (what can i say? I was kind of stupid then)) just got engaged.

To clarify: The "i was stupid" was meant to explain why i was "kindof sortof maybe" dating someone instead of actually dating them (not meant to imply anything about the girl in question, whom i should have dated). If there's anything the last 10 years have taught me it is that if you're "not dating" someone, then you really should be dating them. "not dating" has all the disadvantages without the advantages.
It's always nice when the media reminds you of anxieties you didn't know you were supposed to have. This article on holiday tipping from the New York Times is one example. The whole article is fascinating (and somewhat terrifying if you happen to live in a Manhattan apartment), but here's my favorite bit:
Convinced that their holiday tip can be the ticket to 12 months of preferred service, [New Yorkers] engage in a kind of pre-emptive gambit. One financier, who lives on the Upper East Side, said he calculates holiday tips based on "who can be helpful or hurtful."

Under this scheme, the newspaper delivery man has little leverage because his options for retaliation are few--too bad for him. A doorman, garage attendant or the person who takes squash court reservations at his club--all of whom have the opportunity to favor him over someone else--come in for heaping largess.

"Let's say the super can come to me or come to you," he said. "If the expected tip is $300 and I gave him $500 and blow him away, he's coming to me first."

The financier, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to give away his competitive strategies to other building residents, said that he has used elevator conversations to throw off rivals. "You say, `Oh, I give $100,' so everyone underbids," he said. "Then you give $500."
See, the bourgeosie aren't so bad!
Pirates is a jolly good movie, all right. Just finished rewatching it myself. A bit too much skeleton-on-skeleton violence, though; all that hacking and rehacking of dead bodies offers you a glimpse of how dull and embarrassing it might have been if it weren't for that surprisingly witty screenplay and the most delectable cast of the year.

21 December 2003

The other big takeaway moment from the movies this year: Johnny Depp's entrance as Captain Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Carribean. Alec, I know you're partial to The Third Man but this is my favorite entrance of any character in film.

Speaking of Pirates (which i just resaw), I think I will add to our list of datability movie criteria (e.g. Alec's anyone worthwhile would like Casablanca, Nat's "anyone who didn't like Being John Malkovich wouldn't appreciate my sense of humor), is that any girl worthwhile prefers Captain Jack Sparrow to Will Turner.
Sorry I haven't been blogging more, but it's been quite a week. Noah was here until Tuesday, of course, and on Wednesday I went to see The Caretaker, a Broadway revival of Harold Pinter's odd black comedy with Patrick Stewart and Kyle MacLachlan in the leads. My date K. and I have been MacLachlan fans going way back to Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet, of course, and we were both generally pleased by the production. K. may have been the only person in the audience who didn't know who Patrick Stewart was; squinting at the program, she asked, "Oh, didn't he play Captain Nemo?" Boy, did I love this girl once.

Then, on Thursday, I attended my company's holiday party at the Temple of Dendur, an extravagant ballroom-sized location at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a vast skylight along one wall and the ruins of a Hellenistic temple in the center of the room. My date, a certain farmgirl in a very fetching five-dollar dress, compared the evening to something out of the Cena Trimalchionis, and she wasn't far wrong: small, delicately cooked crustaceans were served by tuxedoed waiters; a Israeli string ensemble, flown in from Jerusalem, played tastefully within the temple itself; and the usual assortment of quants, accountants, and financial associates floated around the room, huggy and high on champagne.

We then adjourned to the Hotel Chelsea, but stayed only for an hour or so: louder music, harder liquor, but I had to be at work the next morning. S. then forced me to walk fifty blocks back to my apartment on the Upper West Side instead of taking the subway or a taxi like a reasonable human being; "After all," she pointed out, "when's the next time you'll have a bumpkin visiting you?" True, true. But S. is now legendary among my colleagues for accidentally revealing to my coworker's girlfriend's brother that said coworker was planning to propose to said girlfriend. Silly me; I should told S. Bumpkin that this was a secret. But all in all, S. was an ideal date, the recipient of some admiring looks and one ill-advised pass to which she responded in her inimitable fashion: "How dare you, sir!" she exclaimed indignantly. "There, there!"

And so to bed, or in S.'s case, to my expensive couch, which she admitted was, in fact, more than passably comfortable. Then more work, interviews of young college seniors who are infinitely more accomplished than I ever was, tying up loose ends, some holiday shopping, and now suddenly I'm in my parent's house at Castro Valley, CA, going through my old papers from elementary school and wondering what in God's name to keep. Happy holidays, all.

17 December 2003

What a difference a year makes. Over a year ago, I interviewed for an internship at New York magazine, and didn't get it. Today the news is that the magazine has just been bought for $55 million by a famed Wall Street deal maker, and my first thought is: Hey, I just read that guy's book!

15 December 2003

Big Fish really is wonderful, by the way. It's beautiful, funny, and satisfying. Of all the movies released this year, only Spellbound gave me more moments to remember and turn over lightly in my mind after the movie was over.

These "take-away" moments are what movies are really about, and there were some great ones this year. A few that come to mind: The five-alarm I'm-gonna-kill-you camera zoom into Uma Thurman's face in Kill Bill Vol. 1; Ewan MacGregor brushing aside suspended bits of popcorn as time stops in Big Fish; Geoffrey Rush growling "Arrr!" to Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Caribbean; those two shy, electric kisses on the cheek in Lost in Translation; and those three kids standing at the schoolyard fence in Spellbound.
Yes, The Return of the King is opening on Wednesday, but I'm finding myself much more excited about The Fog of War. Errol Morris is one of the most consistently fascinating filmmakers in the world, and with the possible exception of A Brief History of Time, I've never seen a movie or short feature by Morris that I haven't loved. A couple of them (notably Gates of Heaven and Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control) have entered into my pantheon for all time. (However, his short feature on Rick Rosner, the math-loving bouncer who faked his identity to repeat high school four times "until he got it right," and who later sued Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, may be his single most engaging portrait.)

As Noah mentioned somewhere below, The Fog of War is distilled from 23 hours of interviews with Robert McNamara, and is structured as a series of "lessons" from his life and work. On a somewhat related tangent, this New York Times article about the film mentions a similar vade mecum called "The Rumsfeld Rules," which Donald Rumsfeld circulated to Pentagon employees shortly after assuming his current office. Formerly available on the Department of Defense's official site, it has since been removed, but you can find an online copy here. It's actually a rather charming read (Rumsfeld's a smart guy), but there are certainly aphorisms that take on a different flavor when read in light of recent events. My favorite: "The oil can is mightier than the sword."

Oh, and one for this past weekend: "First role of holes: If you get in one, stop digging."
From last week's Page Six:
Tim Robbins is sorry he called the Bush Administration and most of Congress "chicken hawks" in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "I regret using that term. I meant to refer to their militarism without actual war service but I was also aware that chicken hawk refers to older gay men who go after young boys," Robbins told Webster Hall curator Baird Jones. "I just used the wrong words."
Well, we certainly wouldn't want any confusion on that point. (The next thing you know, the Wall Street Journal will be apologizing to all those bears on Wall Street....)
Just got back from a great weekend at John's house in Tahoe. I'll recap later (after I've finished the take-home exam due tomorrow), but I was wondering: was this the first time any author of this blog has gone skiing?

13 December 2003

Oooh: History of Math and Classics!
So I was working on this final thursday while my friends with real jobs
are all off working. I was trying to remember exactly how the long exact
sequence of homotopy groups for a fiber bundle works... And ran accross
this article written by my officemate at school.
Still at Alec's...

After a wonderful day at the Met with Tamara and Anna M. (the patron's lounge is ridiculous, maybe i should sell out someday...) and a long dinner Alec and I went to see Big Fish

I liked it, but, more than that it made me realize something:

Growing up I wasn't taught to think of love as a fairy tale of the "happilly ever after" off in the distance sort. I was taught that love was work, but I was taught another sort of fairy tale... That you meet someone and decide to love them (and "to your father there were only ever two women: your mother and everyone else") and that yeah there's a lot of work and effort and sadness but if you put in the love it'll be appreciated and 25 years later she'll still be there. In the past year I've lost a lot of things, many of which needed to be lost, but above all I think I lost that fairy tale. I know that it isn't true anymore... It's just a good story, and life doesn't always turn out that way, and maybe never does. However, it's a damn good story, and when it comes down to it even if it isn't true it's a story worth believing.

12 December 2003

Blogging from Alec's where I spent the afternoon doing math and watching DVDs. I needed two of them that wouldn't distract me too much from my math final but were really good, so I went with "High Fidelity" and "North by Northwest."

Tonight I went to Karaoke with Bessie, Alec, and Tamara for a night of lost in translation inspired revelry. Highlights were saranading Dave on his brithday with all you need is love and birthday by the Beatles, and Tamara's stunning renditions of I Will Always Love You and My Heart Will Go On.

I was sufficiently inspired to make three dedications... One was to alec for Kiss Me Goodbye and Nothing Compares To You: "To Alec who introduced me to many many movies and exactly two songs." I was drunk at the time, but I think the other two were "I'd like to dedicate this to Erin Lawrence who I danced with exactly once 7 years ago to this song" (ob-la-di of course) and "This song is for Laura: "Fuck You"" (Time Goes By).

We ended with: The River, No Surprises, and Lean on Me.

Oh and if you ever get a chance Alec's rendition of Prince's Kiss is absolutlely to die for.

11 December 2003

The more I learn about Schilling the more I like him. This article explains all the weird clauses he put into his contract. The big one? A $2 million bonus the next year "when the red sox win the world series."

10 December 2003

To satisfy a dispute at work, I just did the most boring Googlefight ever: nihil sub sole novum vs. nihil sub sole novi. I wouldn't dream of telling you who wins.
GOAT, the enormous Taschen coffee table book about Muhummad Ali, is the first book in a while to be advertised in terms of its weight and other vital statistics: 75 pounds, 792 huge pages, 3,000 images, and an unbelievable 600,000 words. It's modestly advertised as "the greatest gift of all time," and more:
We were on a mission to do something that was significant and meaningful and could pass on knowledge and philosophy, as well as something that's a piece of art. We all shared the vision that this is more than a coffee-table book, but the most comprehensive piece of work ever done on anybody in the history of mankind, period.
All in all, it sounds like the sort of vaguely terrifying Uberbuch that Borges might have dreamed up. (Well, maybe not.) None of this comes cheap, of course; at $3,000, GOAT is approximately the price of six Codexes Seraphiniani, so it might be a while before I pick up a copy. If it were about Tom Cruise, well...

09 December 2003

Spike Jonze and Sophia Coppola, arguably the world's coolest couple, are filing for divorce after four years of marriage. Sigh; I guess there really aren't any happy endings in Hollywood. It does make you wonder about the autobiographical aspects of Lost in Translation, though.

08 December 2003

I have heard a rumor that Arnold Schwarzeneggar has made several high-profile pardons in his first few days in office. Unfortunately, I have been unable to verify this on the web. Have any California readers heard about this?
I just spent a weekend in Clayton, New Mexico, which was an eye opener in terms of the economic realities facing small towns everywhere. It's historically been a ranching town, but I don't think there's a theoretical limit to how few ranchers America needs to supply its beef habit -- ranches can consolidate and ranching, like many other industries, can be outsourced to foreign countries. So what's Clayton's best shot at not becoming a ghost town? Well, it's on a nice road. And that means that it's a great place for Texans to stop over for the night while they travel to the ski resorts of Colorado and New Mexico...

04 December 2003

Moviefone.com currently lists the stars of The Last Samurai as Tom Cruise, Timothy Spall, Billy Connolly, and Tony Goldwyn. Hmmmm. Looks like Asian actors don't count, presumably because they don't have a large enough fan base...as opposed to, say, Timothy Spall, whose vast following should be out in droves this Friday. (I'm being unfair. Spall's great in everything he does. But Ken Watanabe has a shot at becoming a star; he's got terrific presence and charisma, and his English is several notches better than, say, Chow Yun-Fat's. He might even be tall.)
The National Board of Review, traditionally the critics' opening volley in the movie awards season, has named Edward Zwick its Best Director of the year for The Last Samurai. I like the movie a lot, but in a year that included Peter Weir's far superior work in Master and Commander, not to mention Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill and Sophia Coppola's Lost in Translation, that's pretty inexplicable.

03 December 2003

Yen's comment about the ending of A.I. got me thinking about unnecessary endings to great, or nearly great, movies. Both The Last Samurai and Mystic River run, in my opinion, about five minutes too long (although a decent argument can be made for the ending of the latter). Identity, like many thrillers, had one twist too many. The all time winner, however, would have to be Psycho, which ends with a five-minute explanatory speech so ill-advised that it makes the conclusion of Vanilla Sky feel like a model of restraint.
According to the Daily News, there will be a "big surprise" at every theater nationwide showing the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy marathon on December 16. Hmmm...They couldn't send John Rhys-Davies to all ninety-nine theaters, could they?
My only comment on The Simple Life is that even in full makeup and couture (as opposed to, say, videotaped in an unflattering position using the "night vision" feature of an off-the-shelf camcorder) Paris Hilton is almost painfully unattractive. Much too thin and blonde.

I should also point out that so far as teenage hotel heiresses are concerned, Liesel Matthews, star of A Little Princess and heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, is everything that Paris Hilton isn't: talented, smart, undeniably beautiful, and a billionaire, at least if her multibillion-dollar lawsuit against her own family is a success. (Paris Hilton's own net worth, by contrast, is a paltry $30 million at most.)

02 December 2003

I found this New York Times article on sidewalk congestion in Times Square especially interesting, because I wade through this sea of people every morning on my way to work. Lots of interesting tidbits here. For example, current laws on sidewalk vendors date back to the Civil War, "when the state entitled disabled veterans to use almost any sidewalk to sell their wares." And: "In a worse case, [a consulting group] found 6,959 people walking in the street from 8:30 a.m. to midnight on Oct. 25 in front of the Virgin Music Megastore on Seventh Avenue between 45th Street and 46th Street." Yeah, tell me about it. This was the highlight, though:
The sidewalks of Times Square are also impeded by stationary groups of smokers outside their office buildings, massive concrete planters on the sidewalks designed to block suicide bombers and screeching crowds of teenagers who gather below a second-story window of the MTV studios.
I'd always wondered why those planters were there. Makes you feel safe, doesn't it?
It's Bored Farm Girls, the TV series:
Viewers [of Fox's The Simple Life] are supposed to laugh at the harebrained heiresses in their high-heeled shoes and Von Dutch baseball hats, but not too harshly; these days relatively few Americans of any age or background have much experience hand-plucking chickens or milking cows. The promos suggest that the "Simple Life" reality was molded to conform to a storybook arc: as time passes, the girls end up performing barn chores that might make a grown lawyer faint. The girls, who share one bathroom with the entire family, do complain a lot. Nicole even tells a proud middle-aged farmer at a barbecue that she finds rural Arkansas boring. [Italics added.]
S., do you have a television set? We desperately need some expert color commentary.