Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lou & Me

Cory and I went to see Lou Reed read from his new book of collected lyrics at the Paula Cooper Gallery. It was a good event; interesting to hear what he did with the songs without the element of music, and I really liked the moments when a line would remind him of something and he'd stop the reading to extemporize on the memory/free association. And there was a little discussion with Hal Willner afterward, where they sifted through questions that had been written on little scraps of paper by audience members and dropped in a bowl.

Then afterward a ton of people waited on line for Lou to sign their books and records (he also had some photography books for sale) and get some photos. He refused to look at the camera even when we assured him there'd be no flash (ok, I'll be kind: he declined to look at the camera), but we talked about Poe a little. A very little.

Hey - you don't go to Lou Reed for warm and friendly, now do you?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Chat about Baseball and Steroids

Here's a slightly edited version of an IM conversation I had with Sue today. For those of you keeping score at home, this would be Boston Sue, not to be confused with Williamstown Sue, or 14th Street Sue, or San Francisco Sue, or any of the other assorted Sues in my life. The discussion presupposes a little bit of knowledge about the situation, but if you've got that, we do a pretty good job of conveying my opinions on the Baseball Juicing Scandal.

It opens up with a quotation Cory sent to me today.

from the A-Rod press conference:

Freudian Slip of the Decade:
“I’m here to take my medicine.”
Alex Rodriguez, February 17, 2009

Sue: oh that's an unfortunate choice of words.
Me: hehehe
Sue: personally i think all the steroids stuff is b.s. - as far as calling out individual players.
Me: oh i totally agree
Sue: 1. mlb knew damn well it was going on, but it was filling the seats, so they were completely happy to look the other way
Me: at least for things that happened before 2004
Sue: 2. it wasn't even illegal when some of these guys were doing it.
Me: well, it kind of was, but it was awfully fuzzy until '05
Me: and a LOT of them were doing it
Sue: 3. the ones who were able to stay ahead of the testing or who were just better at hiding it will never be called to the carpet.
Sue: let the past go. set a competent testing (and punishment) policy now and just move forward already
Me: and while it's kind of fun to watch mr. rod wriggle around and try to sell the idea that he had no IDEA what his 'cousin' was shooting into his ass (other than that it was purchased over-the-counter in d.r.)
Me: it would be one of the all-time peaks of hypocrisy for MLB to punish him for it at this point
Sue: exactly
Me: what's more, i haven't spoken to a single baseball fan who disagrees with us
Me: but, of course, i live in fake america, not real america
Sue: lol!
Sue: but even what they're doing to reputations, future hall of fame chances, etc. is disgusting
Me: the sports writers are vying for attention
Me: the hall of fame and MLB record keepers know better
Me: and hopefully will act like it
Sue: i dunno. people are already saying clemens won't make the hall of fame after his debacle
Me: it's a pity that mcgwire became the poster boy for juicers so early in the discussion

Me: because i don't think that his not getting into the hall had anything to do with 'roids*
Me: clemens not getting in would devalue the hall of fame to the point of reducing it to an homage to the past

Me: it would be a HUGE mistake
Me: bonds too

Me: a-rod too
Sue: agreed
Me: and now that we've solved everything, it's time for me to go home!
Sue: woo-hoo!!!
Me: thanks once again for the brilliant and witty I-correspondence

So there that is. Let me clear up a something before people get all yitzy. I am not endorsing or advocating the use of anabolic steroids, for ballplayers or anyone else. I am opposed to them. They're bad for you. Really bad.

A co-worker of mine said something to the effect of "I have no problem with steroids. I like home runs. Baseball players are like horses - they should shoot up with whatever they want if it makes the game more entertaining for the fans." Now, I disagree with that on a whole bunch of levels. That said, I also disagree with the notion that pro athletes are a good compass for healthy living and/or ethical behavior. That ideal hasn't been particularly valid since World War II, at least not in this country. Henry Aaron, who was and is one of my all-time baseball heros, admits in his book I Had a Hammer that he 'tried using' amphetamines, as was common in his era to increase alertness and endurance over the long season on the road. We don't know for sure how much he used them. And I don't care. He was a great baseball player. If you think the fact that he took speed compromises his claim to being a great man, so be it. I actually think there's an argument to be made that Hank Aaron may be a 'great man.' (You'd have to look far and wide to find someone who'd say that about Barry Bonds.) No one is perfect. And, once again, I think one would be ill-advised to turn to Major League Baseball for models of healthy living.

To sum up:

A bunch of guys (including but not limited to Bonds, Rodriguez and Clemens) took steroids.

A bunch of guys (including but not limited to Hank Aaron) took speed.

Don't know how you'd call it a performance-enhancing drug, but Doc Ellis threw a no-hitter while he was on LSD.

Babe Ruth's regimen of high-fat food, beer and cigars is the stuff of legend.

And while we're on it, baseball's alcohol consumption has never exactly been limited to the champagne at the end of the World Series.

Let this be a reminder to the people who want to start pasting a bunch of asterisks all over the record books and bolt the doors of the Hall of Fame.

I think it's good that Baseball is getting serious about making sure that its athletes don't take steroids. (If it is in fact serious - Baseball had no trouble with steroid use when all those home runs were bringing back disillusioned fans. If you believe that the owners and coaches - and sportswriters - weren't aware of what was going on, I've got a stadium in the Bronx to sell you.) And while there's still a civil libertarian part of me that thinks that there should be a wide berth of freedom in terms of a person's right to put things into his or her own body, I think an honest and enthusiastic national education effort about the effects of anabolic steroids (not to be confused with a big ol' propaganda campaign) would be a great idea. While they're at it, maybe they wouldn't mind covering things like food additives, high fructose corn syrup, livestock antibiotics and growth hormones, and the environmental ramifications of agribusiness.

We can hope, right?

Meanwhile, the full teams are reporting to Spring Training. Can we shut up and play ball?

*For those of you who don't really follow baseball - I think the media stink about Mark Mcgwire being excluded from the Hall of Fame because he admitted juicing is just more fog. He didn't get into the Hall because his career didn't warrant it, steroids or no steroids. He was, as dad would say, a One Tool Player. He could hit for power. Period. And not necessarily when you needed him to. Argue with me if you want (by all means!) but I think that you'd almost have to admit that if they let in Mcgwire, they have to go back and let in Roger Maris.

Friday, February 13, 2009


With a capital W.

...Judge, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care.

And people say Amy Goodman is a wacko alarmist for referring to the Prison Industrial Complex. Yes, ok - I realize this is an extreme example (though I don't think it's unwarranted, if you'll pardon the pun, to ask how many cases like this there are where the creeps responsible just haven't been caught), but it's also a symptom of a society in which Private Security is one of the fastest growing industries.

Epic fail, people. Epic. Fail.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

So, Today Is Kind of Important

I mean, not important like my birthday or anything. But it is Abraham Lincoln's 200th Birthday. Which is pretty cool.

And, as if that weren't enough, it's also Charles Darwin's 200th Birthday.

Think about that! Two of the most important minds of the millenium (am I exaggerating? I don't think so.) born on the exact same day. That's pretty rad. I don't think they ever hung out though. What if they did? Maybe Tom Stoppard should write a play about it.

One guy from Arizona out there is trying to lump Edgar Allan Poe into the party, but I'm not having it. Don't get me wrong: Poe was great. I love him. I love that he gets claimed by New York, Boston, and Baltimore. One of the most important writers of the 19th Century, for sure. But - his birthday? January 19. Sorry, guy from Arizona: close isn't good enough. Edgar Allan can suck it. We're celebrating February 12 today.

AND - as if that weren't enough - today is also the day that pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. Do you think they did it on purpose?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Maybe the Biggest Music Geek I Know

This morning I listened to the Pete Townshend album White City. One of the tunes popped into my head, and I started thinking about how I own the LP of that record, and have the tape around my place somewhere, but that I didn't have it on CD and that's just a shame, so I downloaded it and popped it onto my ipod for the commute in.

Listening to it on the bus, I began to think about the parallels between it and U2's The Joshua Tree.

Before long, I had outlined a whole presentation in my head on the subject - basically a compare-and-contrast lecture/article that I could deliver, including musical and lyrical elements, the projects' places in the context of rock music and popular culture, and the balance that the two albums struck in terms of exploration of the American Landscape and British Urban life. Then I started thinking about this presentation being a part of a course on the subject of rock and pop music seen through the prism of theater.

This was all brought on by a nice close listen to an underappreciated masterpiece of a rock record that I hadn't heard for a while.

It was a pretty good trip to work.

Then work happened for a while (as it will). And we were having lunch and one of the directors mentioned how her mother played dulcimer and is featured on a number of CDs. I asked "Plucked or hammered?" She said that her mom plays a mountain dulcimer, the plucked kind, and one of my other colleagues turned and looked at me with a look of mild astonishment and bemusement. "How do you even know to ask that?"

And I mumbled something about being into an eclectic variety of music, but I probably should have said something like - it's because I may be the biggest music geek I know.

I think we file this one under "winning and losing at the same time"

Friday, February 06, 2009

More Pix of the Hawk

Haven't seen him again. If I do, what should I name him?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Don't Fuck with Opera Fans

Last night, Cory and I went to see the HD screening of the Metropolitan Opera's Orfeo ed Euridice at a theater in Chelsea. It was a great idea - catch this Mark Morris-directed and choreographed interpretation of Gluck's piece, and be done in time to go home, have dinner and watch the Duke/Clemson game. Don't know if you're familiar with this Met Opera HD series, but it's actually pretty fantastic (and it's not New York-specific: there are screenings across the country). For a selection of Operas, there are live screenings, and then they'll repeat the screenings once or twice to give people another chance to see them. Excellent camera work, pretty good sound (weird echo sometimes), interesting features beforehand and during intermissions - it's a really good way to get to know the pieces, and you feel more a part of the production than you do in even the best seats at the Met. I mean, ok: no - you're not there live and in person. That can't be replicated. But I guarantee there is not a seat in the house with a better view of the performers' faces, or costume and set details. And the tickets cost less than all but the very worst seats in the Met. It's a very safe bet if you're in the mood for an opera.

But [you knew there was going to be a "but"] not last night.

Last night there were some "technical difficulties" which prevented the screening from happening. Man, you have never seen so many senior citizens (this was one of those occasions when I was one of the youngest people in the room) get so pissed off in your life. The theater sent up four people (count 'em - four) to make the announcement and organize the fallout. Before the first sentence was out of the manager's mouth, people were groaning and whining and shouting things. The scene at the Simpsons Premier Fail was nothing compared to this. People started complaining and would not rest.

And the people at the theater did a pretty good job of helping the situation (or trying to). They offered a full refund, a screening there and then of a different opera they had in stock, and/or a voucher for a different movie if you didn't want to stay for the second-choice opera. You'd think that would mollify people who, essentially, had no alternative at their disposal anyway.

Ummm... no.

They wanted to see this opera. Now. They wanted other choices. They wanted their choice of alternate operas to win (even when there had been a vote and it clearly hadn't won). They wanted a more accountable vote. And I suspect that if there had been another vote, there would have been a hanging chad issue to whine about too.

In their defense (I guess), this was the final encore screening of a tight, compact opera that has received all-but-unanimous raves, and which is finished for the season. Which means: this may have been the very last time in the history of ever that we had a chance to see this company perform this production. (Though I'm holding out the hope that it will be shown on PBS or released on DVD or something.) The winner of the alternate opera vote, Richard Strauss' Salome, while one that I like a lot, is not for all tastes. [Oh, and that led to more fun with disgruntled patrons: as the poor cinema employees were reading off the options and pronounced it 'Suh-LOAM' there were appalled shrieks of correction 'SA-lo-may!!!!!!' You can't really imagine it.]

It was pretty hilarious. Though not, of course, for the poor people working there, who had to wrangle the Strauss fans back into their seats and corral everybody else (Cory and I chose to take a voucher and head home - we'll go back and catch Milk or something) out into the lobby for the interminable process of crediting people's accounts (God help you if you bought your ticket with cash).

So we were sad to miss Orfeo, but hopefully we can catch it next year. And the entertainment value of the Debacle of Supreme Whininess? It was messy and not artful at all, but it was a pretty good consolation prize. The Greatest Generation making themselves heard in the most ridiculous way. Pure New York.

Props to the good people working at the Clearview Chelsea. I feel for you.

Now that Duke/Clemson disaster is another story...

Guess Who's Standing in the Window?

In the years I've lived in my place, I've gotten used to the pigeons in the window. They weren't there much when I had a cat, but in the years since, they've gradually made themselves at home there. Yes, it's a mess; no they're not nearly as cute or as happiness-making as the mourning doves who nested in my window in Illinois; no I haven't gotten around to putting up pikes or other deterrents.

Yesterday morning, though, I saw something I have not ever seen in the years I've lived in Hoboken. As I was getting ready to make coffee, I looked out the window, and saw this guy standing on the fire escape.

That would be a hawk. A hawk! Right there out my window on a snowy day.

The light was great, so I snapped a few shots. He stayed there valiantly (though he did not deign to step out of that shadow crossing his body). I'll post a tighter shot when I get back to my computer at home, but I like the composition of this one. See the hawk's shadow on the brick wall to the right?

I'm not enough of a naturalist to know what breed of hawk this is. Red Tailed, maybe? If you happen to know that kind of thing, give a shout.

So that was a good start to my day. And perhaps you'll notice that there are no pigeons anywhere in this photo. Nor were there any on my windowsill. This could turn into a real win-win situation.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Lost in Translation

Really lost.

This is a ridiculous but very funny feature showing movie posters from around the world. These are so very wrong they are tough to resist. You gotta wonder about the thinking that goes into something like this Russian poster for Star Wars...

Help us, graphic design team: you're our only hope.

NYC Legos

Ok, this is the second one of these that I've reblogged in about as many months. Christoph Niemann seems to have a pretty good track record with these online segments, this one being his Lego Ode to New York.