31 October 2003

By the way, Netflix stock is currently trading at around $70.00 per share, which means that I would have made ten times my original investment if I'd held on to those shares that I bought last October, instead of selling them a couple of weeks later at $9.00 apiece. That old financial saying holds true: the thought of a blown opportunity is infinitely more painful than the memory of an actual loss. Love sometimes works that way, too.
Retired tennis star Michael Chang is starting a hedge fund. All he needs now is a PhD in chemistry, and he'll be the perfect Chinese son. (He's straight, right?)
Ebert notes that the plotline of Brother Bear was originally meant to be inspired by King Lear, although not much of that original inspiration seems to have survived. Bearing in mind (sorry) that The Lion King was clearly rooted in Hamlet, it appears that we've stumbled across an active Disney strategy for finding new stories. Not sure if there's anything like this in the pipeline, but I'd love to see a version of Macbeth among the rabbits.
Salon's review of The Human Stain also blows the secret quickly with no spoiler warning, again I think on the principle that everyone must already know the book.
From the New York Times: Rice Faults Past Administrations on Terror.

Oh, Condi, Condi, Condi. Why couldn't you have been a nice former provost?
As usual, Roger Ebert is much more considerate. His review of The Human Stain begins with the following disclaimer:
"The Human Stain" contains a significant secret about one of the characters. This review discusses it. "There's no way we can contain the secret, and we're not even trying to," the film's producer, Tom Rosenberg, told me at the Toronto Film Festival. "It's out there already with the Philip Roth novel. And this isn't a movie like 'The Crying Game,' which is really about its secret."
Well, maybe. But this still doesn't excuse reviewers from blowing the secret for viewers who haven't read the novel (or those who began but never finished it, like me).
If you have a few hours to kill on a nice day, I recommend kayaking in San Francisco Bay. It's good exercise, the views are great, and riding 5-foot waves is a blast.

However, I do not recommend underestimating the current, paddling farther out than you can paddle back, letting it get dark, falling in the Bay while you're trying to mount the rental place's jet ski to get a ride home, and becoming utterly cold and miserable.
So yesterday I was cycling west down University Ave., and came to the intersection where northbound Shattuck makes a T with University. Since I was in the far right lane and there was no road on my right, I went straight through the red light, close on the heels of another cyclist. As we were both stopped at a light further down, a cop drove up, rolled down his window, and told me, "I'm going to give the other guy a ticket because he did it first, but you shouldn't run red lights."

The fine for running a red light in California is $271. You don't get a discount for being on a bike.

My advice: don't run red lights.

30 October 2003

I don't know what the matter is with the New York Times movie page: they have some of the best film critics in the country, but they also have this maddening tendency to casually reveal crucial plot points in the course of a movie review without so much as a spoiler warning attached. There was their infamous capsule plot summary of Magnolia, for example, which happened to reveal in the course of a few sentences the film's climactic, um, "amphibious landing." And now there's A.O. Scott's review of The Human Stain. Basically, if you have any plans to see this movie whatsoever, you'd better skip the eighth paragraph of this review...and the ninth, come to think of it. Really, you'd be better off skipping the whole article entirely. Trust me.
Of all the web sites that I visit on a weekly basis, Box Office Guru tends to be the most annoying and shoddily written, but I can't stop, if only because you'll occasionally get observations like this: "Last weekend, Brother Bear opened on 2 screens and had a per screen average of almost $146,000. With Bear expanding to around 3000 screens, if that per screen average holds, Bear would make approximately $438 million this weekend."

29 October 2003

They need to give jerry sloane coach of the year soon... The Jazz just won their first game of the post-stocktontomalone era with double digit scoring from: harpring, kirilenko, a journeymen backup named arroyo, raja bell (ditto), and pavlovic (a rookie).
What I'm reading this week: Shoot Out by Peter Bart and Peter Gruber, a juicy look behind the scenes at the modern movie industry. One of the highlights is their discussion of the movie Beyond Borders, which was originally conceived as a film about a daring volunteer doctor, written and directed by Oliver Stone and starring Kevin Costner, with Catherine Zeta-Jones (or possibly Julia Roberts) as the hero's love interest (in what was then a minor subplot). Unfortunately, Zeta-Jones passed, Costner, Stone, and Roberts dropped out, Gwyneth Paltrow and Meg Ryan took too long to decide, and so the studio was left with Angelina Jolie and no male star.

As a result, Beyond Borders was transformed from a politically-charged adventure movie about a heroic doctor (a movie that Oliver Stone certainly could have made interesting, or even phenomenal) to a love story about a woman who falls in love with the aforementioned heroic doctor. Obviously, nobody would want to see the latter movie, and nobody did: Beyond Borders opened last weeked with a pathetic $2 million dollars, not even enough to make the top ten. All in all, it's an interesting story, especially if you've ever seen the poster for a new movie and wondered, "Why did they think that anybody would want to see that?"
Noah's quote about Nietzsche reminds me of one of my favorite philosophical point-counterpoint exchanges:

Czeslaw Milosz: "What is not pronounced tends to nonexistence."
Nietzsche: "We find words only for what is already dead in our hearts."

And the debate rages on....
So last week I went to a concert on Friday, and sent an e-mail on Wednesday night to 8 or so people asking if they wanted to come. By Friday evening I had gotten zero responses. On Sunday I got two saying "sorry, was busy, let me know next time." Is this the new way to politely decline an invitation -- not acknowledge it until after the fact? Have any of you experienced this?
Today's quote (regarding the fact that there is no commercial enterprise of any sort within a mile radius of the house where Noah and I are living): "Milk is the limiting reagent of our life."

28 October 2003

There's something nice about walking into a bookstore one rainy night with Badly Drawn Boy's song "You Were Right" playing on your headphones (if only because it's the first song on the first playlist that comes up when you press Play on your iPod these days), noticing that a revised edition of Nick Hornby's Songbook is finally in paperback, flipping to the back of the book, and seeing that among the tracks in a new list of Hornby's favorite songs from 2002-2003 is...Badly Drawn Boy's "You Were Right." Why, it's almost enough to make you cry.
One of my favorite financial lists: Forbes's Top-Earning Dead Celebrities. It's reassuring, in a way, to know that you needn't be a rock star or movie star to leave your heirs with a perpetual multimillion-dollar royalty stream: you can be a cartoonist, a bookish professor with a fondness for hobbits, or Dale Earnhardt. The top ten:

1. Elvis
2. Charles Schulz
3. J.R.R. Tolkein
4. John Lennon
5. George Harrison
6. Dr. Seuss
7. Dale Earnhardt
8. Tupac Shakur
9. Bob Marley
10. Marilyn Monroe

Also on the list is Dr. Robert Atkins, whose diet book, Forbes notes, has topped the New York Times paperback self-help list for 333 consecutive weeks. And all I see when I go outside are fat, fat children.

27 October 2003

Last week, I sent an e-mail to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (jeff@amazon.com) about their new Search Inside the Book feature, a letter essentially identical to my post of a few days back. The response:
From: Powers, Alice
Sent: Monday, October 27, 2003 4:07 PM
To: N-L, Alec
Subject: RE: Search Inside the Book!

Dear Alec, I hope you don't mind my responding on Jeff's behalf. Although he does read his own email his schedule doesn't allow him to respond personally.

I wanted to get back to you quickly and tell you how much we love getting emails such as yours! The fact that you took a few minutes out of your day simply to share your thoughts is genuinely appreciated!

I also appreciate your concern. I'm not sure I have a witty response that can truly address your well thought out email. I guess it's the price we pay for progress......

Thanks for being an Amazon.com customer and try not to worry too much.

Kind regards,
Alice Powers
Awww, that's the nicest thing a corporate behemoth has ever said to me! (I should point out, for the benefit of our occasional readers, that Jeff Bezos used to work at my firm before going off, founding his own company, and becoming wealthier than our entire client base combined...so I guess I was halfway hoping for a personal response. Still, I'm touched.)

26 October 2003

The MVP of the world series is our age...
One of my friends relayed a random quote that amused him:
"After all, Nietzsche is, in certain respects, morally hopeless too, albeit more loveably so."

For some reason all I can think of is haiwen, and I can't figure out if it's because someone would say it about him, because he'd say it about someone else, or about himself...

Incidentally, one of the funny things about friendster is that it forced me to answer yes to the question: "Is Haiwen really your friend?"
I'm finding it hard to comprehend the fact that although it is 26 October and the weather in Minneapolis is "windy, raw" and 45, here it was 92 and I went to the beach.
Is there something wrong with the fact that when asked what my favorite movies are my first action is to google "noah snyder" top 10 films? Or should I be more bothered that it worked?

25 October 2003

Looks like I might be spending June in the Netherlands.
A few words on the Indiana Jones trilogy, finally released this week on DVD:

Watching these movies again, along with the sublime documentary features included on the bonus disk, I can only conclude that this is the greatest movie trilogy of all time. (Take that, Godfather!) It's amazing, given that the films were separately filmed and conceived, how deeply they seem to complement each other. You can make arguments for each installment as "the best" of the three, but from this vantage point, more than twenty years after Raiders was first released, it's hard to imagine the energy of Raiders without the darkness of Temple of Doom or the heart of The Last Crusade. Taken together, they provide a damned near complete picture of the reasons that we go to the movies in the first place, and one of the most complete heroes that the movies have ever given us. (Another ounce of introspection, and Indy might even overtake the fictionalized Lawrence of Arabia as our greatest movie hero.)

Of the three, my favorite would have to be The Last Crusade. Maybe this is for sentimental reasons; it was the first of the three I ever saw, I think, and it's probably the one that speaks most urgently to the bright eleven-year-old who still lives somewhere inside me. (I'm still occasionally tempted to bid on the many Grail Diaries that appear on eBay.) Looking at it objectively, the level of the energy and sense of discovery in The Last Crusade possibly, just possibly, falls slightly short of the first two. But it's still got a corker of a screenplay, with a great supporting cast, and it's the best movie I've ever seen about fathers and sons. Best of all, it's one of the last great action epics that still seems crafted by hand, not by computer...and I think that this is a big reason why it still stirs me so deeply. Steven Spielberg ends the documentary on The Last Crusade with praise for the carpenters, the plasterers, the painters, the electricians who made it possible, and tactile, and real. Hear, hear!

24 October 2003

Today is the eleventh anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah. I still don't think it's right that I can remember things that happened eleven years ago. (Or 12 or 15, for that matter.)
Thanks to the good folks at the BBC:
Sales of Marmite grew by more than two million jars a year, after it switched its advertising approach to highlight the fact that loads of people loathe it.
Donald Rumsfeld's defense of using the phrase "long, hard slog" to describe the current situation in Iraq may be my favorite piece of spin ever: he claims that "his preferred definition was spelled out in the Oxford English Dictionary as slog — to hit or strike hard, to drive with blows, to assail violently." Now, Rumsfeld's a pretty smart guy, and I have no doubt that he's literate enough to know and use this particular definition. Two points, though: 1) The definition that he gives is for a verb, not a noun, and the only comparable definition given of the noun "slog" in the OED is "a blow; a hard hit at cricket." And while it's true that a blow can be hard, it's tough to picture how it could also be long, even in cricket. 2) And really now, a hard hit at cricket? Somehow I never pictured Rumsfeld as a British cricket hooligan. Is Colin Farrell drafting Defense Department memoranda these days?
Russell Arben Fox, assistant professor of political science at Arkansas State University, e-mails me to point out a prophetic science-fiction version of Amazon's new search function. He also writes: "You guys have got a great blog going there, by the way."
Stupid iTunes isn't windows 98 compatible. So there's still no good way for me to legally download music. Maybe I should pirate a windows upgrade and then get music legally.
Hrm, they don't seem to have Like Water for Chocolate archived, which means I still can't find the context of the quote

"they were the product of crafts that have, unfortunately, gone out of style, like long dresses, love letters, and the waltz."

I'm also enjoying searching for my favorite sections of books, that take a moment to find just flipping through, like this page from The Name of the Rose (SPOILER ALERT!).
Wow, the amazon search feature is amazing... After nearly 8 years of wondering, i finally know that the quote (which erin sent me in an email once, and of which meg once said, "yes, if words could describe erin these they would be) "I don't want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! ... I don't tell the truth, I tell what ought to be truth," is from a streetcar named desire.

Though it turns out you can find it in google too, so I had no excuse.

23 October 2003

Of course, the first thing I did with Amazon's new feature was to search for my own name. Nothing came up, alas, so there aren't any references to me in books that I haven't heard about. This reminds me, for some reason, of the episode of The Simpsons where Homer is reading about himself in the magazine Art in America: "It's the first time I've been mentioned there...that I know of."
If you haven't been to Amazon.com in a while, go. Their Search Inside the Book feature, which allows you to search and browse 33 million pages worth of material from 120,000 books, is just about the most intoxicating online toy I've ever seen. But it terrifies me at the same time. Between this monstrous djinn and Google.com, I have no excuse, no excuse whatsoever, for not writing a grand synthetic essay of everything, or a brilliant, glittering, Pynchonesque novel...because millions and millions of beautiful connections between people and ideas are already out there, at my fingertips, ready to be made without effort or erudition. I hate to say this, but it's all up to me now. The burdens of research have suddenly been lifted. No excuses. The answers are all right there. The only question is, What do you want to know today?

One example. I spent months writing a thesis on Amphiaraus, an obscure figure from the Theban epic cycle who survives mostly in scraps and fragments. Near the end of the thesis process, more than a year ago, I got to the point where was browsing through books at random in the Smyth Classical Library, poring through indexes and concordances, hoping to find a few stray pieces of information that I'd missed in my more systematic searches. Whenever I found something, and I often did, it was magic, witchcraft: tapping into the order of the universe, trusting my inner oracle. Now, a quick Search Inside the Book uncovers 170 textual references to Amphiaraus in translations, handbooks, dictionaries, novels, The Anatomy of Melancholy, Casanova's Memoirs.... All the things I missed...all the things I overlooked. Now there's no excuse to not knowing your sources...to not knowing what the Library of Babel contains. Jesus.
News of Elliott Smith's death reminds me that I once chose his cover of "Because" as one of the songs I'd want played at my own memorial service. (I think I was talking to Noah about this at the time. This is the sort of thing that we used to discuss on a regular basis.) Interestingly enough, this cover of "Because" is also on my list of the best closing credit songs of all time, thanks to its use in American Beauty. This probably isn't a coincidence.
So I've been playing the soundtrack to Kill Bill Vol. 1 a lot lately. It's great, but it has me wondering if I love the soundtrack because of the movie, or love the movie because of the soundtrack. Tracks like "The Flower of Carnage" or "The Lonely Shepherd" give my memory of the final scenes in Kill Bill an emotional resonance that the movie itself doesn't justify. After playing the album a few times, you find yourself caring for the movie's characters a lot more than before. Which is like falling in love with someone, as Rob puts it in High Fidelity, because of "a great chord change in a Pretenders single." (Or, in my case, because of that *%#! Moby.)

Sometimes I wonder how many movies I've fallen in love with because of a great chord change. All of my favorite movies have great soundtracks, of course, but which way does the causal arrow run? Would Chungking Express mean as much to me if it weren't for "Dreams" by The Cranberries? Was Anton Karas really a genius on the zither, or was he just lucky to have The Third Man as a backdrop? Sometimes I'll get to the point where the soundtrack actually usurps the movie itself. I'm always vaguely disappointed whenever I watch Twin Peaks these days, because Twin Peaks was just a TV show, but the soundtrack took root in my dreams. Something similar seems to be happening with Vanilla Sky. I saw that movie a perplexing four times in the theater, and it was mostly for the sake of the first five notes of "Everything in Its Right Place," which sound really, really good in Dolby Digital.
Hmmm, turns out that Andrew Tobias is a fan of Robert Evans on audiotape, too. Go figure.

And how could Comedy Central's Kid Notorious, which is basically a narcissistic ode to Evans's voice, face, and persona, end up being such a dull cartoon? Could it be that if you're among the .001% of people under forty who cares about Evans, this cartoon couldn't be nearly as interesting as the real thing? You bet your ass it couldn't.

As you can probably tell, I like Evans a lot. Anybody who ends his autobiography with the words "Resolved: Fuck 'em all, fuck 'em all" can't be that bad.
Many thanks to my parents for digging up this copy of the actual Pokemon movie review that I wrote for Student.Com way back in 2000, or thereabouts. Note that when this article originally appeared, the editors attempted to switch it from the present tense back into the past, but somehow only changed every other verb, making it sound incredibly retarded. If it weren't for that, this article would probably have ended up in my clip portfolio:
As I enter the theater for the preview screening of "Pokemon: The First Movie" a wave of indescribable melancholy sweeps across my heart. The auditorium before me is packed with hundreds of children and their reluctant parents, and as I attempt to survey the crowd with the dispassionate eye of a critic, I realize that I'm getting older. Pokemon is the first kiddie craze that has left me completely in the dark. I've survived Cabbage Patch Dolls, Care Bears, Smurfs, even the tail end of the Power Ranger phenomenon. But Pokemon? I know nothing about Pokemon.

Desperate for insight, I decide to interrogate the kid in front of me. Ben is almost eight years old and cute enough to inspire his own line of cuddly merchandise, but I'm not deceived by appearances. Beneath his innocent exterior, I sense the steely-eyed presence of a Pokemon fanatic. So I switch on my tape recorder and pump my source for information. "Pokemon is short for 'pocket monsters,'" he says, "and there are tons of them, like, there's tons of Pokemon, and I can't even explain everything. I don't know everything yet, and that's why I'm watching this movie."

Well, great. Guessing that there may be a Pulitzer in store for me if I can get this kid to talk, I prod him further and finally emerge with a refreshingly coherent explanation of Pokemon. Apparently these creatures, which are collectible in card or video game form, wage feverish battle under the command of their trainers, who gain experience points for successful fights and are thus enabled to train more lethal and/or fuzzier monsters. The hero of the "Pokemon" TV series is ten-year-old Ash, who travels the world searching for various kinds of Pokemon, whom he then proceeds to enslave (or something like that — my notes are a little hazy on this point).

And so the movie starts. First the audience is treated to a fifteen-minute short subject entitled "Pikachu's Vacation," which stars the cutest and most ubiquitous Pokemon of them all, that puffy yellow thing you've probably seen before. As I settle into my seat, I become aware of a number of obstacles lying in the way of my comprehension of this movie: 1) there are several billion characters, and 2) all of them speak in indecipherable gibberish. Looking back, I can't recall too much of the experience. (At one point, according to my notes, I scrawl the phrase "My brain is dying.") But it's all very bouncy and harmless, and adorable in a creepily Dadaist kind of way.

And the "Pokemon" movie itself? Well, let's see. Ash and his friends get an invitation to visit the fortress of the world's greatest Pokemon trainer, who turns out to be a brooding, ominous figure who was cloned from the most ancient Pokemon of all and now bears a bitter grudge against man and Pokemon alike, hoping to conquer the world with a legion of superpowered Pokemon clones, and there's a big laboratory and explosions and a thing and oh, never mind. I could discuss the film's audacious disregard for three-act structure, and its refreshingly minimal concern with characterization and meaningful plot development. Or maybe not.

The kids seem to enjoy it, though. The appearance of each new Pokemon is greeted with a smattering of applause from the audience, and at one point — as Pikachu narrowly evades a threat to his cuddly well-being — I hear a seven-year-old voice squeal "Thank you, Lord!" I will admit to being impressed by the movie's ability to espouse a message of nonviolent resistance even after an hour or so of its characters pounding on one another. And I exit the theater with a feeling of newfound respect for my parents, who, in my own foolish youth, had accompanied me to everything from "The Chipmunk Adventure" to "Masters of the Universe" without a word of complaint — although I suspect that none of the treasured films of my childhood managed to reach the level of insipidity that "Pokemon: The First Movie" achieves. This is "Fight Club" for preschoolers.
God, I miss being a film critic.

22 October 2003

Time for NBA fantasy again. After winning last year in my first try I am back for more... This year we're doing this weird version where you go head to head against other teams for a week at a time and get a point for whether you beat them in each of 9 categories: (pts, assists, boards, steals, blocks, A/T, free throw %, 3 pt shots made, and field goal %). It is an 8 team league... My picks by round were (i picked 5th in the odd rounds and 4th in the even ones):

Dirk Nowitzki (center eligible!), Stevie Franchise, Starbury, Elton Brand, Mashburn, Vince Carter, Ricky Davis, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Nick the Quick (in the 9th round!!), Odom, Manu Genobili, Van Horn.

As much as I hated to give him up, I just dropped Manu and picked up Olowokandi to play some center. I really like this team, I think it is pretty loaded.
The famous sushi memo, as mentioned in the New York Times. Upon reading the article, I was sure that an enlightened look at the memo itself would reveal the whole thing as a joke, but now I'm not so sure.

20 October 2003

Am I just going to blog about television from now on?
I'm not sure if I've ever really discussed Unwrapped in this space before. I could try to describe it, but it's like the Matrix; not even the Food Network itself is quite up to the task:
Ever wondered where the tiny marshmallows in your breakfast cereal came from? Have we got a show for you! Each week, Unwrapped uncovers behind-the-scenes details on classic American food, from peanut butter and chocolate syrup to French fries and bubblegum. Join host Marc Summers as he explores the test kitchens and the secrets behind lunch box treats, soda pop, movie candy, and more. Unwrapped--the show for everyone who's ever worn a pair of wax lips.
All right, this description is accurate enough, but somehow it seems to overlook the...I dunno, the existential dread at the heart of every episode of Unwrapped. Candy, soda, hot sauce, processed cheese...all seem to be pressed and extruded in the same joyless box factory, by the same oppressed minorities wearing the same hairnets. In "Deutsches Requiem," Borges wonders whether a man might go crazy if the same image (the map of Poland, for example) were constantly before his eyes. What if you saw ten thousand boxes of Juji Fruit being cranked out, all day, every day?

And then there's your host, Marc Summers. What is it about Marc Summers that I find so fascinating? Why am I tempted to take out an option on his autobiography, Everything in Its Place, as my first project as a screenwriter? My memories of Double Dare and Marc's own battles with obsessive-compulsive disorder probably have something to do with it. More likely, though, it's a general fascination with the idea of the professional emcee. Groomed, polished, always ready with a quip...but who are these game show hosts? Who is Regis Philbin, or Alex Trebek, or Marc Summers, really? There's something terrifying about the effortless way in which Marc Summers switches smoothly back into game show mode, after all these years, in the redundantly titled Triva Unwrapped, a new Unwrapped spinoff in which Summers poses trivia questions to a trio of contestants, in front of a nonexistent studio audience. There's the canned applause, the banter and handshakes with the contestants, the fabulous kitchen set prizes. But it's just Summers and three considerably less animated contestants in an empty studio, and you can hear the crickets chirping in the background.
Did I really get cable television just so that I could watch The Next Joe Millionaire? I hope not. But so far, the evidence isn't encouraging.

(Paul the Butler to the new Joe Millionaire: "The first thing that I want to talk to you about is our relationship." Where's Haiwen when you need him?)

19 October 2003

Incidentally, I'm blogging from home for the first time since June, 'cause I just got cable and broadband installed in my new apartment. Oddly enough, my quality of life does not seem to have improved.

Well, that's not entirely true. I've finally been able to access the iTunes music store, and it's pretty great. Things started off with a small disappointment (the iTunes store hasn't heard of The Beta Band) but I've since test-downloaded a copy of the Avenue Q soundtrack, and the whole thing worked like a charm.

Still, after flipping through eighty cable channels, I'm reminded of why I've found it so easy to live without TV for so long. At this point, I can't see myself watching much more than 24, The Simpsons, Queer Eye, and the Food Network. I could be wrong, of course. If nothing else, it's nice to have Unwrapped again.
Why didn't anybody tell me about this reality series?
Two weeks after their initial encounter at Wollman Rink, [reality TV producer] Mr. Burnett called Mr. Trump and pitched "The Apprentice,'' a reality TV show set in the business world. Sixteen contestants would live together in a video-monitored space in an undisclosed location (Mr. Burnett is notoriously guarded about his productions; he forbids people to reveal any details until the shows air). But instead of manipulating each other in the Amazon, they would backstab each other in New York.

Every week the show's host would assign various business tasks: contestants might be told to run a hot dog stand, say, or to open a store in a crime-filled neighborhood. Someone would be fired during each show; at the end, the winner would get a six-figure salary and a one-year position as a president or co-president of a division of the Trump Organization, of which Mr. Trump is president and chairman. The host of the show would be the original Joe Millionaire, Mr. Trump himself.

"This is Donald Trump giving back," Mr. Burnett said. "What makes the world a safe place right now? I think it's American dollars, which come from taxes, which come because of Donald Trump. All these buildings. How many carpenters, steelworkers, construction guys, cleaners, bellboys and maids are working through the Trump entrepreneurial vision? And what Donald Trump is doing and what 'The Apprentice' is about is to show Americans that you have to be an entrepreneur."

MR. Trump said that when he was considering whether to do the show, he was swayed by the educational factor, and by the idea that it would be as brutal and real as any business transaction. Applicants came out in droves: 215,000 people in 13 cities auditioned for 16 slots. The show began shooting in September and is scheduled to air on NBC in early January. Isaac Mizrahi, Regis Philbin, George Steinbrenner, and the Fab Five - the men from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" - have all made cameo appearances.

Not that I'd last five minutes on a show like that, but it would have been fun to apply. Haiwen probably would have done better, though.

Christ, I don't know. Ask me again in January.

Well, all right. As of this morning, I think that Return of the King is the movie to beat. Doesn't matter that nobody's seen it yet. Beyond that, I'd say that Mystic River and Cold Mountain are the only other sure nominees. Seabiscuit came out too early in the year (see Road to Perdition). Contrary to what you might expect, the Academy isn't a big fan of star-driven epic vehicles, so I'd cross out Master and Commander and The Last Samurai, unless one or both actually turn out to be good. The Human Stain? Maybe. Dark horse: Elephant, which could do the whole Pianist thing and become the art house movie that Hollywood can't ignore.

Otherwise, while it's been a decent year for movies, it hasn't been very good for the sort of film that Hollywood loves to award. The other day, I actually made up a provisional list of the best movies I've seen so far this year; if you're curious, it goes something like Kill Bill Vol. 1, Spellbound, Capturing the Friedmans, Finding Nemo, American Splendor, Lost in Translation, School of Rock, Dark Blue, 28 Days Later, and Phone Booth. (You'll notice that the list seems a bit padded near the end. That's what happens when you make a list like this in October; any longer, and it probably wouldn't have been long before Gigli made an appearance.)

Of those films, can you imagine even one of them getting a Best Picture nomination? Maybe, just maybe, Lost in Translation could pull it off...but I doubt it. Otherwise, all of the above are disqualified for one reason or another: the Academy doesn't like animated films, comedies, documentaries, or movies that didn't make money, which wipes out Nemo, School of Rock, Spellbound, Friedmans, and Dark Blue right there. American Splendor was too offbeat, and nobody saw it. 28 Days Later and Phone Booth are ridiculous on principle. As for Kill Bill, yeah, maybe the Academy would nominate the first half of a two-part film...but not this one.

At the moment, it's more fun to speculate about offbeat acting nominations. Could we really see three actors nominated for essentially comic performances, which the Academy hates? Probably not, but given the roster so far this year, it'd be hard to leave off Bill Murray, Jack Black, and (drumroll, please)...Johnny Depp, even if Paul Giamatti goes unrecognized. Actresses? Uma Thurman will be hard to ignore. Nicole Kidman's gotta get nominated for something. And, what the hell, Cate Blanchett for Veronica Guerin. Just remember, I'm the guy who predicted last year that My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination...so you never know. At least, I never do.

18 October 2003

So Alec, what's the oscar buzz?
In order to further help my recovery from thursday I've made a top 5 list of the most heartbreaking sports moments in my lifetime as a sports fan:

1) November 8th 1995, the Cleveland Browns move to Baltimore. There's just no beating this one.

2) January 17th 1988, the Cleveland Browns lose the AFC Championship game the second of three consecutive years to the Denver Broncos this time on Earnest Byner's fumble on the three yard line. The Browns still have never played in a Super Bowl. Why is this up at the top of this list above all the other heartbreaking game endings below? Well, I was 7, and as Rob Gordon put it: "If you really wanted to mess me up, you'd have got to me earlier."

3) October 16th 2003. I really just don't want to talk about it. Sport's guy has a great column though. The highlight: "If the Red Sox were a girl, you would probably just break up with them. You would call them on the phone, explain to them calmly that you can't take it anymore, let them down as gently as possible, then move on with your life. But sports aren't like that. You're stuck with your teams from childhood. It's like being trapped in a bad marriage. You can't get out."

4) June 2nd, 2002, the Kings lose to the Lakers in Game 7. This was the first year I managed to get really into basketball. I watched most games in the playoffs, and my main goal was rooting against the Lakers (the Yankees of basketball). I really really thought we had them in this game. So close...

5) Oct. 26, 1997. Before I went to college and became a Red Sox fan I had grown up an Indians fan (my dad's from ohio). This was game 7 of the world series. We had a lead in the 9th and blew the save and lost in 11. To boot it wasn't even to a real team, the Marlins were sold at auction the next year, and thus the great Indians team of the 90s lost their best chance at a world series win.
Interesting article in defense of scalpers.

17 October 2003

Appropriately enough, today's daily poll on imdb.com asks: "Best use of voice-over narration in a feature film?" If documentaries weren't disqualified, I'd vote for Evans. As it is, I hate to be predictable, but I gotta go with Chungking Express.
Did I see a good movie last night? You bet. The film? The Kid Stays in the Picture, by and about legendary producer Robert Evans. Why am I talking like this? Because the narration by Evans, full of polished anecdotes and self-satisfied rhetorical questions, is hard to get out of your head. I've already gone ahead and ordered the audiobook version to get the full Evans experience. For a taste, check out this brilliant parody, with Evans playing himself in an episode of The Simpsons:
(Afraid of dying in his sleep, Homer stays awake to watch Charlie Rose interview movie producer Robert Evans.)
Homer: Can't sleep -- gonna die. Can't sleep -- gonna die.
Rose (on TV): We're back with legendary producer Robert Evans. Now, before you did The Godfather, there was Love Story. Tell us about that.
Evans: Ah, Love Story -- the little picture that could. Was Paramount chomping at the bit to make it? Heh, heh, you'd better believe they weren't. But once that tear-jerker hit John Q. Popcorn, it was boffo-boo-boo box office all the way. (Chuckles.)
Rose: And the critics loved it, too. I remember Vincent Canby said, (turns to the camera) "I'm going to kill you, Homer. You are so dead."
Homer: (screams)
Rose: Now Chinatown was a classic, but you had problems with the sequel, The Two Jakes?
Evans: Oh, boy. Disappointed? I had the blues like Chasen's had chili. I said to myself, "Evans, you forgot Hollywood Rule #1: (turns to the camera) Kill Homer Simpson."
Homer: (screams and ducks under a blanket)
(Marge and the kids walk down the stairs)
Marge: You should see a doctor, Homey. A head doctor.
Homer: I'm not crazy. It's the TV that's crazy! (yells at the TV set) Aren't you, TV?
Evans: The crisis? Charlie Bludorn's birthday. The solution? A snappy banner. Out comes the phone, in flies Bobby Towne, and six drafts later, I had myself a party.
Homer: You see? Gibberish, all gibberish!

16 October 2003

As I read the coverage of the first Chinese manned spaceflight, for some reason this paragraph stood out:
After the landing, helicopters and trucks rushed to retrieve [astronaut] Yang. Reports had said he would be armed with knives and possibly a gun to protect himself against animals and other threats in the Inner Mongolian grasslands where the ship was to touch down.

So, are there bears in Inner Mongolia?

15 October 2003

A new top 100 books list
Me too. This is the funniest News in Brief I've seen in a long time:
MacArthur Genius Grant Goes Right Up
Recipient's Nose

ALBANY, NY—According to friends, the $500,000, five-year, no-strings-attached MacArthur Fellowship awarded to Jim Yong Kim earlier this month went right up the 43-year-old scientist's nose. "Kim's efforts to eradicate drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis in Russian prisons and Peruvian ghettos amazed everyone—as did his appetite for top-grade cocaine," Marisa Amir said Monday. "As soon as that first check arrived, Kim was on the phone with his dealer, and two hours later, he was in a hot tub full of strippers." His first installment of money gone, the scientist then returned to the task of developing a whole-cell cholera toxin recombinant B subunit vaccine.
I love the onion.
From Chicago Sun-Times critic Phil Rosenthal's article on the new season of Joe Millionaire:
If we are to believe Fox's promos -- a dangerous proposition unto itself -- the gimmick of this season's "Joe Millionaire" will be to have an American cowboy lie to a bunch of foreigners. About oil money.

Like we haven't seen that before.

14 October 2003

Interestingly enough, with regards to Haiwen's comment below, Tarantino is a big fan of the Japanese movie versions of Lone Wolf and Cub, as this article indicates. Given his obsessiveness in other ways, I have no doubt that he's read the books, too.
Here's an article on the discovery that emotional pain and physical pain actually affect the same areas of the brain. This article, or a similar one, led to the following classic exchange this weekend:

Haiwen: Did you know that when your feelings are hurt, you actually feel physical pain?
Alec (after a pause): Yes.
While browsing recently in the music section of the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble, I discovered a short shelf of books called Thirty Three and a Third, a new series of paperbacks about classic pop albums like Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Dusty in Memphis. Most of the books are straightforward works of criticism and appreciation, but one, Joe Pernice's Meat is Murder, stands out: it's actually a work of fiction inspired by the Smiths album of the same name. Which strikes me as an incredibly nifty idea. I think it'd be fascinating to see a series of novels inspired by famous pop albums, and it's too bad that the Thirty Three and a Third series doesn't include more of them.

Noah pointed out a while back that a musical based on the songs of Bruce Springsteen would be a great idea, because the story is already there. Similarly, with some albums, it isn't hard to imagine what the novelization would look like. Meat is Murder could only be about a depressed teenager in the eighties, and is. OK Computer, which is scheduled to have a Thirty Three and a Third book of its own out soon, would have to be huge, paranoid, and Pynchonesque. (And who else could write it but Pynchon, or maybe Neal Stephenson?) Not to preempt Noah or anything, but I'd love to read a book called Automatic For the People. And a few months ago I was giving serious thought to writing a screenplay called The Bends, which oddly enough was going to be autobiographical.

13 October 2003

My firstborn son is going to be brought up to be a knuckleball pitcher.

Incidentally after the 9th inning I think for a pitcher facing the yankees and only needing one out with no one on you've gotta be pretty happy to have soriano coming up. I mean sure he's an MVP candidate and all, but did you see that at bat? Pitch six inches outside for a swinging strike, repeat, miss high, repeat. Strike out, with no pitches even being close to strikes.
Yes, Val Kilmer's comments were not the most well-received comments ever. His defense wasn't much better than, say, John Rocker's; I find it highly unlikely that the reporter would just make up stuff out of his mouth.

That said, he is apologizing and trying to make amends, and that means, according to a co-worker, that a lot of charities in New Mexico are going to wind up grateful for that article. I tend to agree.
After receiving a couple of startling credit card bills, I've decided to swear off online auction shopping for good. In its place, I've started to waste time at work by browsing through the personals of eligible 18-24 year-old women on Match.com. My first thought: this is way more fun than eBay.
Val Kilmer denies calling New Mexico a state of drunken murderers, and Bill Richardson is there. (Why am I posting this?)
Today is October 13, 2003. Believe it or not, there was actually a time in my life when my first thought after seeing that date on a calendar would be: "Hey, it's Agent Mulder's birthday."

12 October 2003

Oooh, Eddie Lee started a weblog. It currently looks rather like ours... Red Sox, math, REM, and TMQ. Anyway all you Ross readers probably wanna give it a surf.

11 October 2003

In case you need anything else to psych you up for today's game, here's the classic Sports Guy article "Is Roger Clemens Really the Anti-Christ."
Two thoughts on Kill Bill, Vol. 1:

1. Miramax's decision to release the film in two parts probably makes sense commercially, but from an artistic standpoint, it misses the point completely. Not only would Kill Bill play better at three hours, it would arguably play better at eight hours. I'd happily watch it until my senses gave out completely. Watching it in two halves is like checking out after the first two hours of Magnolia: there's plenty of stuff to love, but the film needs time to expand inside your brain. Like Magnolia, there are entire reels in Kill Bill that are of questionable quality, but that's understandable when a director goes wild and shoots all the scenes he's ever dreamed of filming. A movie like this needs to be a three-hour monster, because it takes at least an hour for it to wipe the audience's mind clean of habitual standards of taste and restraint. Kill Bill and Magnolia are the cinematic equivalent of amusement parks, and who wants to spend just a couple of hours in an amusement park?

2. That said, we've been left with half a loaf. And it's obviously impossible to attempt a review of half of a movie, so there's going to be a big fat asterisk in my list of the year's best movies. But I'll be seeing it again. It's the sort of movie that demands to be seen from the first row, or at least from close enough that the screen fills your field of vision. You want to jump inside of it, or maybe inject it into your body a la William Gibson. It's absorbing on the level of a video game rather than that of a movie, but it's also a reminder of how absorbing video games can be. I do kinda miss the presence of believable human moments, the sort of moments that you could find in Jackie Brown and parts of Pulp Fiction, but you know something? This has been a pretty good year for believable human moments in movies, but not much of a year for purely cinematic bliss. As much as I loved American Splendor, Lost in Translation, School of Rock, Spellbound, and Capturing the Friedmans, I badly needed to see a movie about movies. (I hadn't seen a good one since City of God.) Kill Bill is that movie, and it comes just in time.

10 October 2003

Not at face value indeed...

Note the last one is SOLD OUT at $400 each for the cheapest tickets...
From espn.com: Win or lose, last career start or not, all we know for sure is that [Clemens] and Pedro will pitch Saturday and you'll have a better chance finding a headline that reads "Big Dig Finally Completed'' than an offer for a ticket at face value.
Back to Alec's question "Who is the most beloved actor in America?" I just watched the trailer for Big Fish and had a very happy "oh, Ewan McGregor's in this movie" reaction of the sort you're describing...
I kinda miss seasons.

09 October 2003

An enormous billboard featuring a forty-foot image of the new twenty dollar bill has been posted across from the Times Square subway, right where I emerge on my way to work every morning. The subliminal effects of this message remain to be seen. Who knows? I might become materialistic and obsessed with money.
If anyone out there is getting tired of their current playlist, check out Rings Around the World by Super Furry Animals. It's utterly strange and utterly familiar at the same time: maybe I listened to it in high school in an alternate universe. Think Pet Sounds with a dash of Radiohead and The Style Council. The song "Presidential Suite" is almost frighteningly good. They have a newer album, too, that I haven't bought yet...but I will.
Quick multiple-choice question: Why is it important for airport security to check carry-on luggage for bombs?

A. The bomb's batteries could leak and damage other passenger bags.
B. The wires in the bomb could cause a short to the aircraft wires.
C. Bombs can cause loss of lives, property and aircraft.
D. The ticking timer could worry other passengers.

For more challenging questions like this, check out today's Times article on the written test given to airport trainees.

(P.S. The answer is "C.")

08 October 2003

Well, it's the time of year again when this turns into a baseball blog. Tonight's morsel:
Before that swing [in the 9th inning Tuesday], Sosa owned more career homers (539) than any player in history who had never hit a postseason homer. Now Ted Williams (521) reclaims his lead in that category. But it's no coincidence that the next four names on the list (Ernie Banks, Dave Kingman, Andre Dawson and Billy Williams) are all ex-Cubs.
Since the Red Sox won game 1 an hour or two ago we've gotten 3 google hits for "yankees suck."

Saturday is Pedro vs. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named at Fenway. I wish I could be there...
I forgot the most important thing... Here's my new genealogy. Most of the lines go back to Chebyshev or Gauss.
Film critic David Thomson's 1995 article on Schwarzenegger, referenced here before, seems more prophetic each time I read it. There's a paragraph where Thomson notes that Schwarzenegger has had to deal with a lot of abuse and mockery, but has responded by sequestering it in "some dumping ground of the soul" and grinning even more broadly, becoming even more self-deprecating, even becoming a Kennedy by marriage. "And wonder if, for all the bomhomie," Thomson notes, "there isn't yet a seed of revenge -- a seed as revolutionary as those Jack got for his cow..."

Not the most elegant simile, perhaps, but the insight isn't a bad one.
Silver lining: Proposition 54 was soundly beaten.
In better news, I have an advisor! That means I'm halfway to having an advisor and a girlfriend. (I even have a lunch date on saturday, so who knows...)

So my new advisor Prof. Reshetikhin is more than a little spacy. And due to a comment he made once I'd started joking that he might already think i was his student, just cause he can't keep track of this sort of thing. So today I went to talk to him about this reading course we're doing, and after we talked about what I was reading I asked him if he'd be interested in having me as a student... He gave me a funny look and then said he had somehow already thought that I was. So that made things simple.

Anyway, here's his homepage and his list of publications on mathscinet (subscription required) and some other publications without subscription here.

I'll likely be studying the reprsentation theory of some sort of hopf algebras . If Reshetikhin gets his way it'll likely be some sort of quantized universal enveloping algebra of some infinite dimensional lie algebra. If I get my way it'll likely be some sort of finite quantum group.

Anyway enough nerdiness, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

07 October 2003

What a rotten day: the Cubs waste a two-out-bottom-of-the-9th game-tying homerun by Sammy Sosa, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is my new governor.

06 October 2003

This just appeared on my credit card bill:

October 2, 2003 23.34

Now, I'm pretty sure I ordered something from "Everything Home," but as I recall it was a replacement head for my electric shaver, which as far as I can tell has nothing to do with bagels. I'll let you know what shows up.
This weekend I also saw In This World, famously praised by the critic for the Daily Telegraph as "the best British film of my lifetime." I wouldn't go nearly that far, but it's still worth seeing. This begs the question, of course, of what is the best British film of my lifetime? And the embarrassing thing is, I can't think of a single one that I'd go to bat for. Very strange. This isn't to say that I'm indifferent to British cinema: as I've said before, my favorite directors these days are probably Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, with Hitchcock somewhere close behind, and I still think that the arguably British The Third Man is the most perfect film ever made. But I'm hard-pressed to think of a single British film from the past twenty years that has really made it into my personal canon. (I can't bring myself to name something like The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, although that comes about as close as anything else.) I'll have to think about this a bit more, obviously.
This weekend I passed on the chance to go to my first real wedding ceremony. (I didn't have a date, didn't think I'd know anyone there, and figured that everyone else would be in their thirties anyway.) However, I did get a vicarious sense of the different ways that men and women perceive these things. My officemate and my manager, both female, just spent half an hour discussing the ceremony, the food, the guests, the setting, the dress, the cake, the dancing, and various gossip, in sometimes excruciating detail. Compare this to the following exchange between me and another male colleague, here reprinted in its entirety: "How was the wedding?" "It was good. It rained."
So, yes, it's nice to see that Barry from High Fidelity is finally making a meaningful contribution to society, and yes, it's clear that Jack Black is the most appealing physical comedian in the movies right now, and yes, he could even play Haiwen…but is School of Rock really the best live-action family film ever? Yes. At least, the best since Mary Poppins. It's so graceful and assured and funny, and it avoids so many opportunities to be sentimental or formulaic or condescending, that by its very example it suggests that most other directors of "family" movies just don't care. The fact that you can easily imagine School of Rock as a spinoff of High Fidelity only sweetens the entire package. This is a great movie.

05 October 2003

It's odd when you run accross a new study whose results are genuinely surprising. Well here's one that slate comments on claiming that parents prefer having boys to girls enough that they're more likely to stay married if they have sons than daughters. Every once and a while you get a little shock that reminds you how backwards the world still is in some ways. I'd really like to see ampersand's take on this one...
You all know how obsessed I am with what music gets associated to what weird things... I realized this morning that I'm well on the way to Weezer always reminding me of driving lauren's car back to her house in the mornign after parties with her and alex where everyone else is too drunk to drive. It's an oddly specific thing to have music associated with.
The good part of being a designated driver: I now have a way to do grocery shopping for this week.

03 October 2003

The trailer for lost in translation at apple describes it's genre as: "Drama, Light Comedy."
Hey, even Schwarzenegger uses index funds! (Not very consistently, though, as a glance at the rest of his investment portfolio reveals.)
I just realized that I am now older than either of my parents were when they were married.
By the way, the CD I just opened using the method below is Iron & Wine's The Sea & The Rhythm, purchased at the suggestion of Sharon Harvey. It's sort of wonderful.
I feel obliged to share the most useful tip I've gotten so far from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: To open that annoying seal on the top of a new CD, just scrape the CD case at an angle against the edge of a desk, and the seal will peel right off. I've tried this a bunch of times, and it works!
This morning a production crew in front of my building was filming a scene from New York Minute, an upcoming direct-to-video epic starring the Olsen twins. I was quite eager for my first glimpse of Olsenhood, but, unfortunately, when they yelled "Action" all I saw was a heavily pancaked stunt double riding a bicycle. On the whole, everyone on set seemed pretty stressed and tired. I was reminded of William Goldman's observation that your first day on a film set will be the most exciting day of your life, and the most boring day of your life will be all of the days that follow.

The plot synopsis for New York Minute is actually quite intriguing. Here's what imdb.com says about it:
Over a 24 hour period, 17-year-old sisters Jane and Roxy Ryan, adversaries who begrudgingly journey together from their Long Island home to New York, where overachiever Jane is due to deliver a speech to qualify for a prestigious college scholarship abroad. Meanwhile, laid-back punk rock rebel Roxy hopes to get backstage at an underground music video shoot for punk pop band Simple Plan so that she can slip her demo tape to the group. However, Roxy and Jane's plans go awry when a mix-up involving Jane's day planner lands them in the middle of a shady black-market transaction. Pursued by an overzealous truant officer (Eugene Levy) and accused of kidnapping a dog belonging to a senator, the Ryan's must find a way to work together to thwart the forces threatening to jeopardize Jane's college dreams and ship Roxy off to a convent school.

Why isn't my life more like this?
As regular readers of this page will recall, I've been bitching for months now about the playing of 'God Bless America' during the seventh inning stretch. Well, here's another argument against it.

Go Twins!

02 October 2003

Tommorow my union is going on strike... It's kind of odd.

he UAW Local 2865 Bargaining Team has called for a 1 day unfair labor
practice strike at all UC campuses on Friday, October 3, to protest the
University of California's continuing pattern of unfair labor practices in
our contract negotiations.

Striking means we don't perform any of our assigned work duties including
teaching, consulting with students about class work, and emailing or
posting assignments. It also means not making up "struck work" later in the term.

UAW Local 2865 members should report to the main picket site at Telegraph
and Bancroft from 7:30 am to 5 pm. We are encouraging people to go on
campus and demand the services that aren't there because of the strike over UC's
unfair labor practices.

Finally, if your department communicates anything to you concerning this
strike, it is vital that you forward it to the Union office. For more information, contact the Union office.

I can't really see myself picketing, but not grading tommorow in support of the strike doesn't seem like such a bad idea...

I really just want to see haiwen's comment on grad students pretending to be "workers."
Of course most people playing low stakes are bad at poker. That's why you should play with them!

And I still haven't gotten into the psychologically analyzing thing so much yet, I'm mostly just learning how to play the cards and the odds. I figure that's the first step. Like in diplomacy, first you need to know the rules, then you can start thinnking about how to convince people to do what you want.
Noah, I happen to work down the hall from the author of the soon-to-be-bestselling memoir Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers, which was released to significant acclaim by Random House this past August. I asked Katy (whose siblings are world-class poker players and whose father is this famous punster and verbivore) how she can tell whether someone is a good poker player. "High stakes or low stakes?" she asked. Low stakes, I replied, remembering that Noah had been playing to get his $6 back. "Well, everyone at low stakes games usually sucks," she said.

I pressed her for something more useful, and finally she gave me this tip: A good poker player will often wait until everyone else has made a bet to look at his cards, because his time is usually better spent looking at the other player's faces. Beyond that, there aren't any good rules. Someone who talks a lot and tries to get into your head may be an excellent poker player and skilled at manipulation, or he may just be trying to pick you up.
Here's Robert Novak's original column on Joseph Wilson's wife and his response, if you're curious.
Oooh, it's a movie about Tatyana Ali's freshman dorm. Oddly enough it doesn't look very familiar...
Poker didn't go so well tonite... First I completely misread the first hand and lost at least a dollar on that. I also didn't realize till two-thirds of the way through the night that the friend visiting from socal was actually good at poker. At some point he checked on a three of a kind which was obviously the high hand, and so I bet high thinking no one had a good hand and ended up losing another 75 cents or so on that. At any rate I very quickly ran through my initial $3, then my bought in $2, then another bought in $1... But then things started going ok, and I won my way back to $5. Which still put me down a dollar.

I can't complain since playing with this crowd has put me about about $8 over three nights. But still today was very disapointing. I need to know how to analyze quickly whether someone is good at poker or not.

01 October 2003

Good news for basketball fans in Minnesota and just about everyone else. I like seeing people stay put, and I want to see how the team they've put together works out.
So I'm taking this reading course and a regular course with prof. Reshetikhin (I'm late for the regular course right now) who is a representation theorist in the dept. who I'm thinking of working with with whom I'm thinking of working. (If you ever start dating someone who likes correcting "whoms" for "whos" stop. You'll hear her voice in your head every time you use the wrong one for the rest of your life. (on the other hand, roomates who make fun of your spelling of ridiculous are ok.)) He's this big nice russian guy who's about as unorganized as anyone I've ever met. This makes tuesday afternoons endlessly amusing because he tells everyone to meet him then, so several people show up and he's inevitably busy with something he forgot about.

Yesterday the best moments were when my friend peter showed up to talk to him and discovered me in his office but no prof; when he told peter he'd need to reschedule cause he forgot about a seminar so "could we meet at 3:10 at tea, because there will be bagels" (bagels here are only on thursday, they've always been only on thursday, everyone else knows this); and when another prof. came by at the end to make sure that he actually went to the seminar he'd forgotten about.

It's charming in a mathematician sort of way and makes my tuesday afternoons always fun.
Many of you may be amused to discover that I'm playing Risk tonight.

Ed--Turns out I'm playing poker instead. One of my goals this semester was to become a decent poker player, and I think I've succeeded. When I play with bad players I make money and with decent players I don't lose money, which isn't bad.