Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Open Letter

I am by no means a professor of music at any conservatory, notable or otherwise. But if I were, I may offer these words of inspiration to my students:

"You probably subscribe to the notion that the people you listen to and admire are successful and well off, that they have 'made it.' More likely, they live in Section 8, have no health insurance, and compete for the same 50-cent restaurant gigs that you do. Welcome to the life of a jazz musician in the 21st century.

"You will never have a chance to play any of these tunes you're practicing right now except at jam sessions, which will be populated with obnoxious jazz school kids, such as yourselves, and young lions, both of whom you will learn to despise. Neither will you make any money from playing these tunes. Rather, you will be paid moderately well for making up expendable parts to Russian techno tunes you've never heard before.

"You will not be judged on whether or not you can play 'Donna Lee' in all twelve keys, but on whether or not you know the horn line on 'Ladies' Night.' Practice all you want, through the night and into the morning, but the guy who gets the gig will get it not because he practices eight hours a day, but because of his skill in conversationally fellating the bandleader — and also because he knows the horn line on "Ladies' Night."

"You will know all the words to 'I Will Survive' long before you win a contract with Blue Note. While the guests who demanded 'I Will Survive' feast on filet mignon, you will discover the magic of the "bandwich" in the kitchen.

"You will no longer see the tuxedo as an indication of class and distinction, but a mark of servitude. You will continue to wear yours for years after it loses buttons and wears out. After a while, you will no longer be offended when people ask you for another basket of rolls and will just learn to ignore them.

"You will play bebop, but no one will write about your performance in the same ecstatic voice with which Kerouac wrote about seeing Bird. That was 50 years ago. Bird is dead. No one will write about you.

"And remember, what they say is bullshit: Musicians don't get the chicks. Investment bankers do.

"Never give up on your dreams. There's always room for excellence."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I returned to the city at 6am Monday morning from a whirlwind tour of Russian-Jewish weddings and bar mitzvahs. Can you tell? To be continued...

Friday, May 26, 2006


A funny thing happened last night on the way to pick up my dinner. I crossed Manhattan at Nassau, turned left, and saw a guy laying on the ground right in front of my destination, Amarin Thai Cafe. Here in Greenpoint, if not the city at large, it's not entirely uncommon to see some drunk passed out on the sidewalk or street at all hours of the day, so in true New York fashion, I wondered if I should just sidestep him (a la Annie Hall, that's the one, right?) and bring myself that much closer to the consumption of the oh-so-tasty pad see ew waiting for me inside. Such thought processes are a shame to admit, but unfortunately, that's the depth of dissociation and alienation to which the city can drag a person.

Here's where the situation took a turn. As I approached, it looked like he might be vomiting, but no, a couple more steps and I could see that was just the volume of blood that was draining out of an abrasion above his right eye. Seeing as no one else had attended to the scene, I got down on the ground to help. He was obviously drunk — speech slurred, barely coherent, breath telling any secrets that the mouth might have kept — so I assumed that he'd just taken a dive and knocked his head on the pavement. For what seemed like the next 10 minutes, I stayed with him until the ambulance arrived, trying to convince him not to fall asleep, getting him to hold the wad of paper towels firmly against the wound to stop the bleeding, supporting his sizeable and uncooperative frame in a manner to encourage consciousness. He had a name (Carl), which he told me long before he told the police, and though he had to ask mine at least four times, he didn't hesitate to express his gratitude.

After the whole experience came to a conclusion, the weight of it hit me like a dump truck, and I'm still trying to figure out why the magnitude was so great. I think the meat of it lies in the disparity between "another drunk bum on the ground" and "man bleeding badly from the head." The first is nearly invisible, the latter, completely humanized — or, in this case, rehumanized. Is that the pathetic state we've come to, where a person has to suffer visible injury in order to regain visibility, to be real, to awake a sense of compassion in the rest of us? "Invisible" as a descriptor is problematic; these people don't go unnoticed, but judging from he superficial reaction of those passing by, one can almost come to that conclusion. Then one picks up a heightened sense of unease, a palpable discomfort, maybe even a whiff of guilt. Desensitization is learned, partially as a defense mechanism, partially out of selfishness, but it never sits well within. I attribute a large part of this to the belief that compassion is innate, yet continually repressed, and another to, possibly, a more subliminal impression: How far away, really, am I to being there?

Desensitization as defense is arguably necessary up to a point, for if we tried to save the world by patching up every individual leak we stumbled across, we'd find leaks sprouting at a rate greater than we could patch them. A few months ago, though, I saw a girl who completely defied this urban M.O. of detatchment, and it left quite the impression (I actually got about 75% of the way through an entry about the experience, and then never finished). We both got on the Queensbound E train down at 14th Street, sometime past midnight. There were three homeless men sleeping on the train, and as soon as she saw them, she went to each one, gave them food, even money, talked with them, not afraid to touch them. After 20 minutes, when I got off, she was still at it. For me, and for others on the train, it was stunning, watching this angelic girl act (impulsively? compulsively?) with no regard to expectation or traditional rules of engagement, and I could almost hear everyone asking questions of themselves.

Where's the point at which a healthy defense mechanism turns into selfishness and insensitivity? I'm not sure, but the New York walk-on-by doesn't quite sit. Two days ago, I walked by, and watched plenty of others pass by, a homeless woman and her child huddled in a doorway on Lexington Ave., and couldn't help thinking, "Really!? Are you kidding??" A kid, even. Smack in the middle of the wealthiest zip code in the nation, and nearly invisible. So, that point: I don't know exactly where it is, but it has to be a little better than that.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bad Ideas

"Carbon Dioxide: They call it pollution. We call it life."

This is the closing line from a TV ad, which, at first glance, seems to have come straight out of the SNL lineage of faux commercials, following such classics as Quarry cereal, Crotchbat, The Love Toilet, and Levi's Three-Legged Jeans. Then we realize that it's actually quite the serious "PSA" released by the Competitive Enterprise Institute
to counter Al Gore's global warming awareness movie, An Inconvenient Truth, which opened yesterday in New York. Amazing, the levels of objectivity and clarity that can be attained by a think tank funded at least in part by Exxon and other oil companies. For your viewing pleasure:

Unbelievable. I'd like to see them sit in a room full of it and find out how lifelike they feel after half an hour.

CEI has a couple other equally asinine spots posted on their streams page, though neither are quite as good as the first.

On an arguably lighter note, but continuing with our theme of humor/despair mash-ups, I believe I may have come up with possibly the worst idea for an XM Radio channel: Drum solos. Continuous drum solos. Call it The Throne. No need for stylistic exclusivity; I see no reason why one shouldn't fade directly from Buddy Rich to Lars Ulrich to Shelley Manne to Jabbo Starks to Jack DeJohnette and so forth. Actually, scratch the Jabbo, that might groove too much and inspire happy feelings. The single condition would be that only 25% of the solos featured could actually be in time. Just imagine the horror. The CIA would have something new to play for hours on end in the cells of suspected terrorists. And what if your office made you choose between that or the New Age channel!? What kind of a choice is that?!?

Just a thought.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Park-playing day today. Rain and thunder, gone away, come again, but not today. There's nothing like the few days of relentlessly brisk high-pressure wind and sunlight following a couple weeks of solid storm. I guess it's mother nature's way of cleaning house, drying out, setting it all straight.

69th Street was dead. The oppressive generator monopolized the fountain. And Ralph had staked his claim on the promenade. What were we to do? Go north, young men! Forge ahead, brave the unknown, blaze new trails! Yarr. And so we packed our gear, hired a small cohort of Sherpas, and headed off into the hinterlands of Central Park. After several months of grueling travel, during which we battled lions, scurvy, altitude sickness, and winos, and several of our merry band succumbed to the gravity of the Reaper, we arrived at the southern edge of the Met: a few paces from 79th Street, right next to a well-attended playground.

Bringing instruments to a playground is a little like eating a sandwich on the beach. As soon as I pulled my saxophone out of its case, the seagulls descended. The first to arrive was a gregarious Japanese boy, face smeared with chocolate, soon joined by a sandy-haired,
equally gregarious compatriot.

Japanese boy: "I'm eating a cookie! Hahahaha!"

"Wow, that's cool. Good, eh?"


Sandy-hair gets up in the mix. He's carrying a piece of bark and chewing on something.

"Mloff blugh sphff bluh-bluh pthhh!"

"You're not eating that piece of bark, are you?"


"Noooo, I'm eating a cookie. Hahahaha!"

And so the tone was set.

I hang around with kids far too little. This is what I discovered today. Mid-20-somethings just hang out, for the most part, with other mid-20-somethings and 30-somethings, which is probably one of the reasons why most of us are fucked up in the head, endure a constant what-am-I-doing-with-my-life crisis, and seem convinced that any social situation has to involve at least a few beers. The last two weeks have been something of a low point, but two hours with these lil' terrors blew it apart like wind to the clouds. They know way better than most of us how to grab a moment by the balls and live it up to the start of the next, soaking in it for all it's worth.

After chocolate-face had asked what the big hole at the end of the horn is for, and I'd blown a low B-flat in his face to show him, something of a game took shape. A small mob of them would converge on me when I was soloing, and I'd find a semi-musical way to work in a few good low-end honks, at which they would scatter briefly, running and laughing, only to gang up again and come back for more. So it continued, all of 'em dancing, screaming randomly, falling over each other, trying to pull each others' pants down. And I'm glad to know that the Poo-Poo Pee-Pee song is still alive and well, although if they think they wrote it, they ought to know that WE penned that one back in the day.

Then come the questions. They want to KNOW, and they're not going to let you bullshit your way out the back door. Sandy-hair made me explain why every piece of the saxophone is necessary for it to work and sound the way it does. I showed him how it sounded in just about every possible configuration: no reed and no ligature, reed but no ligature, no mouthpiece, no neck — they loved this one, blowing trombone-style into the body, which elicits a sound reminiscent of broken wind. Is that wood? Why does it have to be wet? What happens if...? What happens when...? Ok, I'm gonna play and you press this... see? Cool!

I think I need to find a way to be around the younglings a little more often. Not saying that I want one anytime soon (emphatic, bold-faced NO), but a little more contact would be good for the soul. I have the feeling that, in a wider sense, the healthiest arrangement for each generation is to be in constant contact with all others in existence, younger and older. Without, it's just way too easy to lose perspective.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Two events transpired last night that were deemed Worthy of Blog.

First, I somehow decided while drinking a bit of Wild Turkey, neat, that I didn't want to shoot the remainder, but instead just wanted to have a substantial sip. This resulted in an epic sneezecough, which propelled the entire volume of the sip-thus-far directly into my nasal cavity with enough force to strip paint. Have any of you ever sneezecoughed a good quarter ounce of distilled spirits into your tender nasal membranes? It feels about as good as brushing your teeth with steel wool. I thought the burning would take at least half an hour to subside, and prayed for a jar of nasal irrigation saline solution to appear beside me, magically or otherwise. Fortunately, after a couple minutes of awkward snorting and incessant schnozz-blowing, the pain and discomfort lowered to tolerable levels.

I would not recommend to anyone that you try this home. Although experiential learning perhaps leaves the strongest impression, it is through the wonder of language that we can let other people stick their hands in the fire and still understand the meaning of "burn" quite well ourselves.

Second, I had one of those classic, "New York's not infinitely large like you think it is!" moments. Anonymity, here, is treated as a given, and thus, taken for granted. Disappearance seems perfectly feasible; one thinks, "Why should I ever have to see anyone if I don't actively try to see them?" It's hard enough to see someone even if the both of you make a persistent effort. If, for example, a relationship heads south, it seems a reasonable expectation never to see the other again, provided there's no significant intersection of social circles or daily patterns. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I turned around and discovered that a girl I'd gone out with a couple times a way back was a guest at the wedding for which I was playing (coincidentally, a few moments before the Wild Turkey incident). I wouldn't say we went our ways on bad terms, we just didn't call each other. Though we never shared a moment of mutual acknowledgement, I did catch her pointing me out to a couple people.

A bit of an ass-chapper, the whole event. If I made a list of situations in which I would least like to stumble across someone I'd dated, even briefly, playing someone's wedding would probably be right there near the top. Thanks to that vapid movie of a few years back, those of us who occasionally perform at private events have enjoyed a fresh stigma branding. "You mean you went out with a wedding musician!?" Fuck you, Adam Sandler. No one wears those tuxes nowadays, we're not all old and bitter, and some of the bands don't suck.

Oh well. All in all, it was pretty entertaining. And just think, I could've been the caterer responsible for her table.

There you have it. In the last few days, these two things are about all that's happened in this life of mine that could possibly be deemed blogworthy. Chalk it up to hermit-like tendencies and general malaise. Don't you entertain any ideas that I've given up, oh loyal reader! I may have to recycle old material, or finish some partials, but, by Jove, the Blog shall persevere!

*roll inspirational soundtrack*

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

ADD Tuesday Afternoon

I've been waking up each morning to either a masonry saw or a small, perosonal-sized jackhammer, both directed, with the aim of dismantlement, at my front stoop. A couple months ago, they tore out the windows, then there was the fucco ordeal. And now this. I'm not sure what was wrong with the old one! If you've never had the good fortune to endure a masonry saw for several hours on end, don't stop with nails on a chalkboard, no, think more of dragging your teeth across a chalkboard. In the words of Sam Malone, I would rather "...shave my head with a cheese grater while chewing on tinfoil." Yum.

Don't think that the smaller jackhammer resembles a child's toy in any respect other than appearance. It can chip up cement and instill fear just like the big boys. It's especially entertaining when they're working on something which is directly connected to the frame of the house. The whole damn thing resonates. I woke up the first morning around 8:30 thinking I was trapped inside a giant bassoon playing the world's longest low F. Took a while to recover from that one.

Sunny ArizonaMy dad sent me this picture yesterday from Arizona, where my parents have been vacationing for the last week or so. If you look very closely, you can see what he's saying. They sent me a good deal of other ones as well, including a wonderful shot of Japanese tourists taking pictures of each other, and if they were really up on everything, they'd get themselves a Flickr account so everyone could see them. But now, they're back in Traverse City, MI, where their weather looks like this, too. But colder. Ha!

I found out yesterday that WNYC is hosting their first ever singles event tonight, where unattached fans of public radio can drink, mingle, and find that special someone (or just a very well-informed hook-up). Evidently, Brian Lehrer is hosting a news quiz at S.O.B.'s, a West Village bar and performance space. I'm almost curious enough to go, except for the $25 ticket price, somewhat prohibitive. Surely, it could lead to some great stories for the kids: "When I met your mother, we were discussing the most recent edition of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!. I thought she was a little mousy at first, but when she started talking about her admiration for Carl Kasell, and how she, someday, would win his voice on her answering machine, her eyes lit up with passion, and I knew then that I had, at long last, found my true love."

Sweet Jesus.

On the topic of NPR, it was suggested by one of Brian Lehrer's guests during the "Monday Morning Politics" segment of yesterday's show that readers of political blogs were mostly people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, and not those more net-savvy 20-somethings. They, on the other hand, spend most of their time surfing sites for social networking (porn), dating (porn), and music (porn). Smells like elitist hooey (porn), and I have no idea what he's talking about (porn).

That should do it for today. Gotta go hit MySpace—if I put in another hour, I might cross the 300-friend threshold!


Sunday, May 14, 2006


It's a Friday. * And, dear readers, as Friday begs for levity, I shall dispense with the more contemplative posting I've been drafting since yesterday, and will instead attend to less consequential matters. As mentioned in my profile blurb to the right, it's all about the donut shop. This statement may submit slightly to hyperbole, but one cannot deny that it has become an irreplaceable thread in the tapestry of Greenpoint living. Possibly no other establishment is quite as deserving of ode than this place, and so I continue.

Muffins Donuts Coffee. This was the message adorning the old red awning in block white letters. As there was no other name conspicuously posted, we blessed it with the obviously-derived moniker by which it is known to this very day: MDC. When finally we did expose the shop’s real name, we were so sorely disappointed that I refuse to mention it here. For those of you whose curiosity is now tearing your insides apart, organ by precious organ, you can see for yourself, as the awning of yore has been replaced by a flashier substitute, bearing now the name that should have been forever banished to obscurity. Just take a walk down Manhattan Ave., it’s on the west side between Norman and Meserole, next to the drugstore.

Magda with donutsMDC is staffed with a host of charming Polish girls, including the beautiful and talented Magda, pictured to the left. They are equally adept at serving you your pastry and beverage of choice as they are at serving up a double-helping of sass, usually well-deserved, as well as choice Polish translations, such as for the inquiry: “Is that a donut in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” Green smocks are a requirement, some vestige of 30 years previous that seems to have endured, against all odds, much to the chagrin of those who must don them at the beginning of each shift.

Not much about the décor or layout seems to have changed in the last 30 years either, from the white Formica coating the countertops and donut display shelves to the spin-top stools lining the counter. There are 16 of them surrounding a counter shaped something like this: []__| |__|, with the [] being a donut case, and the lines representing seatable areas. Several years ago, they redid the floor, one consequence being that it’s now around 6 or 8 inches higher, and they simply reinstalled the old stools without adjusting the height. Thus, the countertop-to-stooltop distance is appropriate for older children and some midgets, but a bit uncomfortable for us Big People.

Do not assume for one second that the available edibles are limited only to muffins and donuts. Oh no. They offer quite the selection of baked goods, including those previously mentioned, bagels, rolls, cinnamon buns, and cakes. And I do believe they make the tastiest bacon-egg-and-cheese on a bagel in Greenpoint. In no way, though, do I mean to disparage the donuts, so beautifully displayed behind Magda. On the contrary; quality of donut here is superb, far superior to your run-of-the-mill Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme. My usual: two fried & cheese on a bagel, toasted, for first course, and a Bavarian creme éclair to round out the second, although sometimes I’m in the mood for a muffin instead.

Beware of the coffee. It succeeds only in inducing epileptic fits and greasing the bowels.

The deadliest donutAlthough quality is never an issue at MDC, wisdom of consumption is. Pictured to the right is the variety of donut I would choose if ever I needed a projectile suitable for knocking someone out cold, and all I had at my disposal only a variety of baked goods. A glazed, old-fashioned-donut shell of immense density (think depleted uranium) encases a deadly core of custard, which bursts forth through the top like an alien pod birthing some sentient blob. It’s got the size and heft of a shot-put ball, maybe even a little more mass. Incapacitation of subject can be achieved either by direct cranial impact, or forced consumption. I made it through almost half of one once and couldn’t move for the rest of the day.

As an honor to this wondrous establishment, Jon and I once proposed to spend an entire day eating one of everything. As it would be impossible for one to accomplish alone, it would have to be a group endeavor. We have yet to attempt such a feat, but when the day comes, you, dear reader, will be the first to know.

* Ok, ok, I know it’s not Friday, but I wrote most of this ON Friday, and I rather like the first paragraph. And so it stays.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ralph Attacks!

Last Wednesday, I spent the afternoon busking in Central Park with the Blue Vipers. As our normal spot at 69th and 5th Ave. was taken, we had to choose between playing on the Promenade, where there was Ralph, and Bethesda Fountain, where there was a very big machine making a very loud noise. Now, the very big machine is self-explanatory, but Ralph requires elucidation. Ralph is an older (ie. 50ish) saxophone player who camps out, without fail, at the southern end of the Promenade just about every day, regardless of season, temperature, or weather. He's not very good. He plays the same, endless, tiresome licks over the same ten tunes, never with much regard for time, always noodlicious. Not exactly finger-snappin' music. Tourists love him. I guess a photo with a real-live, black saxophonist in Central Park adds a certain level of authenticity to their experience. But to many, us included, he's a nuisance. Anyway, Billy voted to deal with the machinery, because something about Ralph wasn't sitting right, but Chris and I could only think of the impending insanity brought about after half an hour of dealing with that god-awful noise, and so we settled at our spot on the Promenade.

The Promenade is pretty spacious. There's plenty of room for two groups if they set up at opposite ends. Sonic interference isn't much an issue, and independent crowds can form around each (group of) performer(s). We're always mindful to keep as much space between Ralph and us, and as of then, we'd never had a problem. We started playing, everything was going as usual, maybe a little slow, but normal for a Wednesday. After each tune, Billy would look over at Ralph, then say something like, "Man, that guy's really creeping me out today." At first, Ralph was playing, looking over occasionally like he usually does, then he stopped and sat down on the bench, talking to a Japanese girl. I thought nothing of it, neither did Chris. Hell, I'd take a long break to talk to a cute Japanese girl, why shouldn't he? Billy, though, continued his over-the-shoulder glances, still not at ease.

We had finished a tune, probably the sixth or seventh, then Ralph was upon us, saxophone over his shoulder, booze on his breath. He got right up in Billy's face (I could have lit his breath), and began cursing him out. "You one disrespectful motherfucker. Outa everyone I ever known, you the most disrespectful motherfucker all'um. You're not a fuckin' musician. You no musician." Billy tried to talk to him, reminding him that when he first came to the park, he'd asked Ralph to play with him, had made efforts to establish a rapport. He told Ralph that we try to stay off the Promenade, but certain conditions that day cut off other options. It was obvious at this point that Ralph was beyond reason, and diplomacy was not an option. "You a disrespectful motherfucker. I gonna knock your fuckin' head off if you say another word. Say somethin'. Say somethin' so I can knock you the fuck out." And so on.

Tactically, we were at a hell of a disadvantage. Billy and I were sitting, instruments in lap, and Chris was standing with his bass. If someone started swinging, it was going to be messy. So naturally, none of us said a word, and Ralph eventually walked away with his little Japanese girlfriend. An European tourist, who obviously hadn't put two and two together, had been patiently waiting during Ralph's tirade, and now tried to get us to pose for a picture. Though, as Billy put down his guitar and took off his coat, anger spilling out from the seams, I knew it wasn't going to end here. (After everything was over, Billy mentioned, almost nostalgically, "Man, makes me think of New Orleans, shit like this happen 'bout every day.") He stood up, no regard for the photographer, and yelled after Ralph, "You threatening me? I hope you ain't threatening me!" Seconds later, Ralph was charging Billy like a drunken buffalo, chasing Billy around the promenade, more winded with each lunge. Someone called the cops, and by now, at least a couple people were filming.

Chris is one of the nicest guys I know. I can't imagine anyone having a problem with him. But I guess when he snaps, he snaps. He's a short, stocky Italian guy who goes to the boxing gym four times a week, and I would never want to be the object of his snapping. Evidently, the injustice of the situation had blown past some neural threshold, and he screamed at Ralph, "You're crazy!" Of course, he was right. In three seconds, there was the projectile called Ralph, pushing Chris to the ground, bass falling over, guitar crashing off the bench. Chris shot back up like a rubber band and popped Ralph right in the eye. They tangled for a bit, glasses flying, and even Ralph's Japanese friend got a solid shove when she tried to break them apart.

(It's worth mentioning at this point, for the U of M alums, that some of Ralph's business cards spilled all over the pavement during the struggle, and I found out that his last name is Williams. Lovely.)

Around this time, a parks service car and two police cars showed up. Ralph insisted that nothing of what had just happened actually did happen (along with his lady friend, which leads me to believe that maybe love is, literally, blinding). Thanks to our legion of techno-savvy, readily-documenting witnesses, his claim was quickly debunked, leaving us with the question of whether or not to press charges. Since, thankfully, no one was hurt and nothing was damaged, we decided to let it slide, but made it very clear that if he so much as broke wind when one of us walked by, he was going to jail. After he walked off, the parks people readily voiced their irritation with Ralph, as this wasn't the first time they had showed up to find him involved in such a situation. Plus, they can't stand his playing. One guy in particular kept on ranting: "It's all goddamn licks, over and over, day in day out. Play a MELODY sometime, for Christ's sake!" They'd love a reason to kick him out, but then there's that pesky 1st Amendment, which seems to protect people like Ralph and Nazi protesters.

And so concludes another episode in the Adventures of Park Musicians. Although it makes for a good story, it frustrated me to no end. I'm a skinny short guy, not much of a fighter, but fortunately, I can usually talk people down long before it comes to fists. But what do you do when someone is impervious to diplomacy, when they set the rules of the game such that anything you say is a license for them to punch you in the face? It makes me shudder, but apparently, there exist situations where you can get backed into a corner, and your only choice is to swing back or get pummeled. And I wouldn't opt for the latter. Anyone know a good place to study Aikido in the City?

Soon, I might have pictures. And video...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Life Beyond Gore

I just learned, from the DJ on whatever insipid radio station was playing in the cab, that "Beautiful," by Christina Aguilera, has now been elevated to "classic slow jam" status. Al Green, eat yer frickin' heart out. Marvin Gaye? Just go home.

Earlier today, I finished the last transcription of what has been a nearly consistent two-week transcribblethon. I really don't want to see a keyboard for a few days; my back and wrists feel like RSI-in-training. But aside from the physiological consequences, this has actually been quite the engaging run. I've been transcribing all the interviews for a reporter who's doing a full-length profile of Al Gore in a prominent regional magazine, meant to coincide with the New York release of his movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Several of the interviews were with Gore himself, others with members of his White House staff, major players in the 2000 campaign, etc. At the end of the day, I'm pretty impressed. The guy is brilliant, charismatic, humorous, nothing like the square caricature of himself we saw in 2000. It's painful, though, to listen to him speak, considering the depth of the arguments and even the humor, because one has this nauseating feeling that the modern American political stage just doesn't have the patience for someone like him.

The movie is based on a slideshow he's been giving on global warming for the last 20 years, thus the climate change topic is central throughout, and it looks like he's been right all along (not that this should really be surprising, although I do know people who, even in the last couple years have earnestly argued that global warming is, in fact, being caused more by trees than by humans). Al Gore + slideshow → movie? Yeah, sounds *really* interesting, right? Believe it or not, I haven't heard anything except praise from those who caught the previews. Everyone says it's extremely powerful, and that Gore is the first one who's come along and been able to synthesize all the science and deliver it in a way that's both passionate and palatable to non-geoscientists. I'm curious.

An Inconvenient Truth comes out in New York on May 24th, then other cities over the following weeks. I encourage everyone to check it out if and when you have the opportunity. New York peoples: let's get toghether a posse in a couple weeks. In the meantime, have a look at the website: www.ClimateCrisis.net. Hell of a trailer.

All this from a guy hunting ManBearPig. I didn't see the episode, but if anyone finds a link online, lemme know...

And now, what do I do with myself, if not transcribe?!? I think the current answer lies somewhere between whiskey and Hitchcock. Na zdrowie!

Go HOME, Marvin.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Vanguard of Hipness

I can't say that I've got everyone in Brooklyn running out to buy the same glasses as I got or anything, but I do live in one banger of a trend-setting house. Refelect, for a moment, on the series of postings concerning the facade renewal effort of several weeks ago. I wondered if there were others out there who subscribed to this suspicious method of applying styrofoam sheet and molding to the side of a house, coating it with something like cement, and then painting it, to achieve a wanna-be stucco, living-in-the-Keys effect. Well, if they weren't before, they certainly are now. And I like to think that it was our pad that inspired several others on the block to give in to the pressure.

We decided that this particular facade treatment needed a nice name instead of "That Weird Coated-Styrofoam Shit." So, after riffing on the idea, journeying to the way-outersphere, then re-entering Earth's atmosphere, Adam and I arrived at our naturally entropic conclusion: Fucco. A simple mash-up of fake (or faux, if you roll that way) stucco. How much better can it get? Fucco: Occum's Razor in effect, yo.

Hey Fucco!Behold, the actual application of fucco to a building in our backyard, just across the way. Such followers, they. This is a great shot, because it reveals a couple different stages of fucco installation. On the right, we see the freshly-applied styrofoam sheeting. The chicken pox dots are plastic mesh things through which a nail is driven, similar to a drywall anchor. After these have been plopped into place, a thorough sanding of the styrofoam is required. The sanding process releases thousands of tiny particles into the air, which swirl around like gleeful, out-of-season snowflakes. After a while, the fucco flakes land on just about everything, hang around for a couple thousand years, and eventually break down into candy. (If you enlarge the picture, you can clearly see the virtual snowstorm. Consequently, our rear windowsills and screens are layered with little, staticky bits of fucco foam. Yum.)
Each of the chicken pox must then be daubed with the concrete-ish stuff, and sanded down. On the left, you can see the next stage, which is a freshly-applied layer of concrete-ish stuff: the actual fucco itself! After drying, the fucco will be ready to receive paint. I've been told that it only takes certain colors: peachy, pinky, or yellowy pastels, maybe a sky blue or a lavender here and there.

By the end of the summer, I'm predicting that the entire block will have been fucco'd. I'm already looking for a palm tree to plant out front in the sidewalk, and may finally break down and buy a Jimmy Buffet record.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Oh, little dog

First, an introduction is in order. Hi, my name is Nicole. I am Dave's first "guest blogger" and I am just tickled to be posting on this site. TICKLED!!! This fortunate occurence is the result of the following three events occuring almost simultaneously at 603 this morning:
  1. Dave noted that he was in "transcription hell" again
  2. Adam and Nicole ripped on Dave for not posting anything on his blog recently
  3. Nicole noted that her working-at-home day had very little actual work involved, resulting in massive unexpected free time
Nine hours later, it looks like I spent most of my free time printing photos in a dark, dark room, but I'm at a computer right now, sending out a little ditty just for you, As I write, there is a 3 lb maltise-poodle (matoodle? pootise?) on my lap. Gracie the dog This little thing has managed to pee and poo on me (both!) in the last two minutes. The pee incident occured because she started to go on the rug, to which I said, "Stop, Gracie! Stop!" as I courageously lifted her into the air. Lifted her away from the carpet, across my legs, and into my loving arms. All while her little 3-lb-self continued to pee. Little drops. Everywhere.
I thought I was safe when I saw her go poo on her wee-wee pad. Ahhh, finally she's going in the spot where dogs are supposed to go, a designated square paper thingy called a wee-wee pad. Millions of years of evolution just instinctually make her want to go on a piece of paper. Really. Well, she's gone poo and now we can sit down together at the computer while I compose my thrilling guest post. We can sit together and enjoy this lovely office. Lovely office. Lovely lovely office. Lovely lovely office that smells like poop. Poop? Why does the office smell like poop????
Skip ahead five seconds to see me put together the dampness on my arm, where Gracie rests, with the realization that someone has AWFULLY long fur on her butt.
At this point in my first guest-blog posting, I am realizing how much time it takes to write a posting and it looks like I've gotta run, leaving you with thoughts of little dog poo. I'm sorry there's not time to write something more entertaining, like my story for what I saw at the site of the Greenpoint warehouse fire today (not much was left). I took some shots of the demolition, and I'll be putting them up in the next day or two, so.....stay tuned. With any luck Dave will invite me back.

Going There

I apologize to all for the apparent neglect of this precious blog. Really, I have so many things to write about, but I have been transcribing way too much, and the last thing one wants to do after a solid day of typing is more typing. I hope you can understand. Next week, I'll post like seven times on Monday. Promise.

Four days later, I still wake up and smell the Greenpoint warehouse fire, which is still burning, I believe. So strange that after the house fire across the street Sunday night, Tuesday morning would put me less than a mile away from NYC's biggest fire in 10 years (not counting the Trade Center). I haven't poked around yet with the camera, but the NY Times article, linked above, has an amazing slideshow.

Anyone looking for a 10 minute distraction? Check out the latter portion of Stephen Colbert's speech at the White House Correspondents' dinner. Wow. You'll spend the whole time cringing, cheering, and thanking God for the 1st Amendment. If you want the full-length, 26-minute, higher quality version, it can be found here.

Coincidentally, scroll down the Crooks and Liars page to This is not "Hot Air", which is also one of the best/worst things I've seen lately.

I may have a guest posting later on today. Keep checking...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Information Overload

Wowie zowie, it's been a busy last few days. Had a great idea for a posting on Saturday, but then lots of other stuff happened. Even on the train when I was writing, stuff was happening. Damn stuff! Now, I really shouldn't even be writing about anything, I should be transcribing. Bad me. But, what to focus on here? Options include:
  • the guy who rolled and started smoking a blunt right across from me on the G train
  • my first contact with Staten Island (all five boroughs, baby)
  • playing for NYC's most successful Russian-Jewish citizens at a fundraiser event in the UN building at which Hillary Clinton spoke * (and I forgot to take the *@^#ing camera, so sorry, no visuals)
  • the Russian-Jewish-specializing club date band which enabled the last two potential topics
  • last night's house-fire across the street
  • the hot pink CD-holding portion of my new Al Green CD's jewel case
  • long-awaited purchase of Ray Charles's Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (yabaaaaiii!!)
  • finding "black music" in Greenpoint
  • the effect of technology marketing on personal freedom
I'm paralyzed by the choices. Perhaps I should come back later and see which muse blows flirtatiously in my ear. Yes yes. Check back later for expansions. I suppose I can also take requests.

* Next posting will include a sentence having even more prepositions.