January 2002

Thursday, January 31, 2002
Today's randomness:

  • Snow day! Unfortunately, I still managed to get roped into working.
  • At the supermarket today, I saw a woman wearing a shirt with "Fuck you, you fuckin' fuck" written on it.
  • I made potato leek soup tonight. It tasted pretty good, but it looked like boiled grass.
That is all.

Wednesday, January 30, 2002
I had some time to kill earlier, and I didn't feel like going home, so I ducked into a Dunkin Donuts to get some tea and read a little. I hadn't been in one since like 1983, and they haven't changed a thing. I think I might switch to reading and hanging out there instead of the local coffee shop. I know the local coffee place is independently owned and operated, but they charge like $2.50 for a cup of tea, and they close at 11. Tea at the DD was a buck, and they never close. It was just like being eight, except I didn't get hot chocolate, my mom wasn't there to pay, and eight year olds don't read Tolstoy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002
In this month's Wired, a particularly good article about the Disney machine, its global effects, and the ethics of America imposing its media and culture on other parts of the world. Reading it was insightful, but it also made me feel kind of...I don't know...icky.

Monday, January 28, 2002
Something I learned today: there is no black at Abercrombie & Fitch. No, it's not racial -- my god, they'd never get away with that. It's strictly about clothing color. None of the items on sale at Abercrombie stores contain a significant amount of black, and the employees are forbidden to wear any black apparel while on the clock -- shoes, belts, and socks included. I'm surprised, then, that the store does so well in New York, given New Yorkers' affinity for black. (Hell, at least 50% of my wardrobe is black, and I don't even have some weird goth look going on or anything like that.)

The lack of black in the store also automatically eliminates it from the uber-cool fashion phrase "the new black" (as in, "This season, orange is the new black"). Sure, a new black usually isn't black, but I think you have to have the black before you can have the new black. Besides, sometimes the universe comes full circle, and black, having been the old black for so long, once again becomes the new black.

I once heard a New York-based stand-up comic explain that New Yorkers only wear black because we can't find anything darker, but when we do find something darker, we'll switch to that.

Sunday, January 27, 2002
Had Korean food for the first time the other night -- some squid dish called Ojing Uh Bokum. It was good and very spicy, but not in an immediately spicy wasabi-type way. It was more spicy in the way that it doesn't feel so hot at first, but then you realize you're on your third glass of water and you're only halfway through eating. That kind of spicy.

Saw three movies this weekend:

  • Rushmore: I liked The Royal Tenenbaums so much, and I hadn't seen Wes Anderson's previous films, so I started here. Very good, very dry, but I think I liked Tenenbaums better (and I think I'm in the minority here).
  • Husbands and Wives: An ongoing project of mine is to see all of Woody Allen's movies. I picked this one up on a recommendation from a friend, and now I'm recommending it to you. Good story, fun camera work, and interesting narrative technique. Probably my favorite of the three listed here.
  • The Ice Storm: Man, lots of hype around this movie and, in my opinion, very little payoff. The characters didn't seem fleshed out at all, which might explain why I didn't like or relate to any of them. It was basically two hours of watching people I didn't like do a bunch of things I didn't care about. I think I remember hearing that this was on everyone's ten best lists from a few years ago, but maybe I'm remembering wrong, because it just wasn't that good.
Thursday, January 24, 2002
New look. Like it? I thought it was time for a change.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002
A student told me this morning that I should check out her Vanilla Sky soundtrack because it was awesome. So I did. I guess it's a pretty good disc, and I like most of the performers on it, but I was surprised to see "Have You Forgotten" by the Red House Painters on there. That song always hits me in all the right places, and I used to listen to it over and over and over (and over and over). Lately, though, I had kind of forgotten about it, for whatever reasons you forget about things that used to mean a lot to you. So it was a good reminder. I'm on my third listen of the night, and if I didn't have to go to band practice, I'd probably get in a dozen or so more.

Tuesday, January 22, 2002
I don't understand lawn ornaments. To me, a lawn ornament is a tree. But I understand that lots of people disagree with me and choose to put all kinds of plastic crap on the grass in front of their house. And that's cool -- I mean, it's their property. But I don't understand why people buy these silly lawn ducks that they can put little outfits on. When I lived in Maryland, a house down the street had a lawn duck that was always dressed for the season. Cold and snowy out? The duck had a hat and a scarf. Hot and sunny? Sunglasses and an inner tube! Orioles doing well? Baseball jersey and ballcaps! People who have these things probably don't treat their own kids with such loving care.

Peggy Lee died. Unfortunately, every time I think of Peggy Lee, I think of that Simpsons episode in which Mrs. Krabbapple sings "Fever" wearing a dress made out of balloons that she keeps popping and Bart comments, "This both sucks and blows."

Monday, January 21, 2002
After driving around looking for a place to get dinner, we landed in a cheap take-out-with-three-tables Thai place in a dying mall a few miles away. And it was surprisingly good. Granted, I haven't had Pad Thai in so long that I've kind of forgotten what it's supposed to taste like, but the huge pile of Pad Thai I had was really good. I also got a fortune cookie. I don't think fortune cookies are Thai, but they're really not Chinese either, and since a lot of people in Kalamazoo are culturally unaware and tend to put all Asian cuisine under the umbrella of "Chinese food," I guess it makes sense. My fortune read, "Depart not from the path which fate has you assigned." It sounds like something my grandmother would say. The fate stuff, I mean. Not the awkward English.

Saturday, January 19, 2002
Last night I went to this dueling piano bar that just opened up in town. The premise of the place is that two people play pianos and sing, and they take requests, and they want the crowd to sing along. It was sort of fun, sort of like being dropped into an episode of Ally McBeal (I never watch it, but whenever I flip past, they're always in some bar with someone playing piano and singing), and sort of like the worst sweet sixteen party ever. Oh, and it kind of gets old after about 45 minutes. Still, the place was packed, and I am both surprised and embarrassed that I still know all the words to Scenes From An Italian Restaurant.

Speaking of new places in town, there's a new coffee shop down the street. It's called The Scone Zone. The Scone Zone. Holy crap, that's such a bad name it's hard to believe it's an actual place. It's like I live in a cartoon land, and my cartoon self goes to some stupid cartoony coffee shop called The Scone Zone and gets a cartoony cloud-like blob with bright round flecks for breakfast. Let me say right now that I am never going to walk through their doors. If the proprietors are dumb enough to call their business The Scone Zone, I can't imagine their products are any good.

Thursday, January 17, 2002
In a lot of ways, Fear of a Black Hat is better than This Is Spinal Tap. Most of these ways depend on your knowledge of hip-hop history and cliches. The movie is a mockumentary of a (fake) rap group and employs all kinds of hip-hop-isms. ("I'm-a-bust a cap in yo ass" -- that kind of thing.) I guess if you don't know much about Public Enemy or Snoop Dog, you might not appreciate the references, but if you do know about groups like these, you'll love it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2002
Dig this cool sketch of me by my awesome friend Drew! You'll notice I'm in my Godfather pose, which I seem to do a lot. Perhaps I'm making someone an offer they can't refuse, or perhaps someone is calling upon me to do a favor. Maybe I'm even doing my impression of Mo Green before he gets shot in the eye. Those of the more religious persuasion might think I'm praying. I'm not, but who knows? I have to say that for a quick marker drawing, I think it looks remarkably like me.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002
As heard on NPR's All Things Considered today, 'round five-ish: The hot new hobby for people my age? Knitting. Knitting. Knitting! As in, my grandma knit me this ugly sweater and my mom makes me wear it. Knitting! Except now it's cool, and you do it with other women at a little get-together known as a Stitch and Bitch. Umm...yeah. Somehow I don't see myself doing this. Guess I'm not that trendy.

Monday, January 14, 2002
Heat's back. Can't type. Too busy standing on the vent. Mmmm.

Sunday, January 13, 2002
So it's January, it's cold, I live in Michigan, and -- guess what? -- my furnace blew last night! Oh, and guess what else? It might be a few days before they get the part they need to fix it! This is so, so, so bad. We've got three space heaters on loan, and I guess that's better than nothing, and I know that there are homeless people who deal with the elements every night, and I should be happy that I have a roof over my head and food in the refrigerator and several layers of clothes that are clean, and so on and so on, but it still totally sucks.

I watched American Movie last night. It's a documentary about this Mark guy in northern Wisconsin who's obsessed with making films; the timespan of the movie covers him working on two productions. You also meet his family and his weird best friend. In one way, I truly admire that he's so driven to do film projects, and how dedicated he is to his craft, but on the other hand, these guys are such fucking losers! Watch the movie and you'll see what I mean.

Saturday, January 12, 2002
I just noticed that the graphic on the stop button on Internet Explorer is remarkably similar to the logo for the new Xbox. I also recently noticed that the bottle Frangelica comes in looks a lot like the Mrs. Butterworth's syrup bottle. Mmmm...imagine pouring Frangelica on your french toast!

Thursday, January 10, 2002
One gummy strawberry thing: good.
A few more gummy strawberry things: still pretty good.
A whole bag of gummy strawberry things: oooh -- not so good.

Here come the articles blasting the new iMacs, like this one. Sure, a wireless keyboard would have been cool, but what the hell are you going to do with it? Type to a screen across the room? No one who uses computers on a regular basis has the eyesight required to do that, so I don't see a problem with tethering the keyboard to the base unit. And it's entirely unfair of Mr. Coursey to judge everything that comes out of Apple by the failed Lisa project. Like Apple is the first company to ever have an idea that didn't go over well? Okay, add the Newton and maybe (maybe) the G4 cube in there, even though people like the cubes and designed better than any other computer out there. That's three products that fizzed. Comparing everything a company comes out with to their three failed past offerings isn't just unfair, it's stupid. That's like saying that you'll never drink Coke again because "New Coke" was so awful that the Coca-Cola company couldn't possibly put out any more good products.

Tuesday, January 8, 2002
Fun word for today: Sprezzatura. It's sort of graceful nonchalance. An important concept during the Renaissance, in Italy in particular, it was the mark of the true Renaissance man. Discuss high art? Naturally, of course. Compose a poetic lyric on the spot? Naturally, of course. Perform a piece of music? Naturally, of course. Of course, you had to study up on these things, so while in public you came off as just nonchalantly knowing about everything art-related, in private you rehearsed and perfected your actions to appear polished off the cuff. Still a relevant idea? I think so.

Monday, January 7, 2002
Okay, so it looks like a vanity mirror, or maybe like the head of a Jetsons-ish robot, but jesusmaryandjoseph, with a CD-RW/DVD-RW drive standard, a G4 processor, 800 MHz, and a flat-panel screen, how can you not love the new iMac? Oh man, I sound like a Steve Jobs automaton. How insanely lame.

Tomorrow is:

  • The birthdate of Elvis Presley. Happy birthday, E, wherever you are. (Burger King, Stuckey's, the Circle K...who knows?)
  • One year since I bought my first car ever.
  • Day two back at work after a long two-week break. Blech.
Sunday, January 6, 2002
Holy crap, The Royal Tenenbaums so totally thoroughly fully completely kicked all kinds of ass around the block ten times. Go see it. Now. And don't be like those morons three rows behind me who walked out halfway through it. (They must have had an emergency or something.) Great story, funny as all hell, and camera work that rivals Goodfellas. Someone tell you they didn't like it? Ignore 'em. They're obviously confused.

Friday, January 4, 2002
Finally finished reading Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. You know: that book that Oprah chose for her book club but the author wouldn't appear on her show because he thought Oprah was too "middlebrow." Yeah. That one. Franzen calls himself the next Don Delillo. I don't know about that, but he is an incredible writer, and the story was pretty intense (and my dad called it "one of the best novels I've ever read" -- surely a ringing endorsement).

Something I learned this week that will not help my nasty procrastination habit: Frank Lloyd Wright designed Fallingwater, a building that many consider to be his masterpiece, in about three hours. I had an article due today, and I could have started it last night, or yesterday afternoon, or even three weeks ago, but did I? Noooooo. Wright did Fallingwater in three hours, so surely I could come up with 600 words in that amount of time. So yeah, I didn't start writing until about 8:30 this morning. And you know what? I was ready to drop it off at my editor's at one, and I think I wrote a pretty good article. Oh, this is so not good for me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2002
I've been listening to nothing but Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown for about a week now. Highly recommended: Gold, Heartbreaker, and Pneumonia. Really good music about being really darn sad. Call it "alt-country" if you need to call it something.

Tuesday, January 1, 2002
The biographical vignettes on the NY Times's Portraits of Grief are beautiful. Focusing on anecdotes in the lives of those who died on September 11 rather than simplified and general obits, they put even more humanity to the tragedy. Each Sunday, they've been running two page's worth in the printed edition; on the site there's a large but still incomplete list of victims. According to this past Sunday's Times, a book containing portraits of everyone who died in the attacks will be published in the coming year.

This was perhaps the laziest first day of any year ever. Sat on the couch all afternoon. I would have sat on the couch all morning too, but I was still sleeping. Read a lot, ate a few burritos, took a nap, and basically waited for something to happen. Nothing really did. Everyone has the day off.

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