Monthly Archives: August 2003

No longer chillin’

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That room is SO insulated. I’m going back in with more foam later, but that’s just icing on the cake, just belts and suspenders, just a band with two drummers, just . . .

Know what will dull a utility blade, just. like. that? Fiberglass and kraft paper. Luckily, back in about 1985 I bought the Stanley Lifetime Utility Blade Supply. I’m not even halfway through it, which is good, ’cause I plan on being around for a few more years.

Nutritional information on the side of everything you can imagine eating can be a plus or a minus. Currently, recent readings have placed marshmallows much higher on my list of desirables than previously they had been; Twizzlers, however, are on the shit list. Three crummy Twizzlers make 120 calories? Who knew!?

Culture Corner

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It’s “Massive Gunshot Wound Weekend” here in the DVD corner. “Phone Booth,” which was quite well-done and very stylishly presented. The first director to figure out that there are ways to present two points of view without just dividing the screen in half. The result is slick and magazinish. The ending is unsatisfying, and I question the decision to have Colin Farrell sound like he’s really in a phone booth, with all kinds of ancillary noise, but to have Kiefer Sutherland, on the other end of the phone, sound like he’s coming in on the best direct digital stereo connection you’ve ever heard. But these are the kinds of thoughts that make you realize that you’re turning into Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.

Also this weekend, “The Road to Perdition,” which I was never sure I wanted to see. Not a big Hanks fan, and in this one he seemed to feel the need to butch down his voice to a monotonal grumble. But I’m willing to see just about anything with Paul Newman in it (and Lee is more than willing). I can’t believe it’s been nearly 10 years since “Nobody’s Fool”, which I think is his greatest performance. Okay, he was great in “Hud”, too, but who can notice him with Patricia Neal smoldering up the set? And now I learn that he’s to play Max Roby in the movie version of “Empire Falls.” That’s fitting, since Sully and Max are just different variations on the same theme (Richard Russo, don’t ya know). “Perdition” was good, despite a lot more blood and shooting than I can normally tolerate. When it was over, I started scanning the channels for something that didn’t involve blood-spattered walls. The first thing I hit on was “Gun” on Trio’s “Brilliant But Cancelled.” CLICK! Next: “The Untouchables” on Bravo. CLICK! I gave up and went to bed.

Non-gunshot wound movie: “What a Girl Wants,” which was for the girls. Bekah apparently found the whole thing too much, the thought of a girl who doesn’t know her father practically did her in. Well, it would do me in, too, but it’s a movie. She cried a lot and kept saying, “This is not my kind of movie.” Now they both popped out of bed at 7:00 this morning to watch it again. And again.

Books? Finished “You Shall Know Our Velocity,” as I may have said. Fantastic. One of those books you wish you could live in for a very long time. Then I went back to some old Hammetts, having delivered a screed against the old boy not too long ago. Found “The Red Harvest” to be terse, witty, exciting. Finding “The Dain Curse” to be the major drag I’ve always found it to be. It’s just about impossible to follow. Better luck with “The Glass Key,” I hope. And then I started in on a wonderful little book about bicycle racing, called “The Long Season: One Year of Bicycle Road Racing in California”by Bruno Schull. Very nice writing, lovely descriptions of races, and some gentle instruction in the intricacies of bicycle racing (though not as good as Lance Armstrong’s explanations, I will say — better off here having some understanding going in.)

Today: Insulation Day! (Seems like there should be a U2 song about that).

Not for the faint of heart

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But if you’re bored and wondering just what kind of sick search requests are going on out there, you should check out Disturbing Search Requests. The deal is this: you don’t find out if someone found your site in a search request unless they actually visit your site as a result. So what’s truly alarming is that someone typed in “hot xxx housewife ass” or “whores of schenectady new york” and, seeing a summary of my blog, decided that either a) yes, this was indeed the place to find information on these subjects, or b) my blog writing is vastly better than hot xxx housewife ass and worth checking out. It doesn’t seem like either of these things is true, does it? That’s what makes it disturbing!

The Great Escape

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Fabulous day yesterday at The Great Escape (nee Storytown, for those of us who go back to the days of Wild Windy Bill McKay, the Marshal ’round those parts. Oh, wait, he’s still there). Held off on telling the girls anything until morning, just in case. Then as we kinda rushed them around in the morning, they knew we were up to something, but couldn’t guess what. Hannah’s best guess was the Shaker Museum (I think the Shakers would have made fabulous rollercoasters, with stackable, ladderback cars that hung up next to the track at the end of the day). I ended up making them play Charades to figure out what it was — I gave them “sounds like 8” and “x” and then ran around with a blanket draped over my shoulders, pointing at it, which they finally figured out was a “cape”. They nearly wet themselves. I don’t know why I resent the gigantic moneysuck that is the Great Escape — I gleefully accept the moneysuck that is skiing. But resent it I do, and so we have only been there once before, and it was just Hannah and me. This was vastly better, because the grownups could do the rides they wanted to do, and the girls could take on the others by themselves. (I have an irrational fear of heights, and an entirely rational fear of cheap steel bolts maintained by minimum wage carnies, though the fixed nature of the rides and the fairly tattooless state of the operators at the Great Escape gives me more comfort than I get from the traveling midways.) (These parentheticals have got to stop.) (Now.)

We had an incident at a wonderful little amusement park in Montreal, LaRonde — which, if I had any parentheses left, I would point out is also now owned by Six Flags, as is the Great Escape — several years ago. I think Bekah was only three, and the greatest trouper in the world, for we had her walking all over Montreal. We went to this little park and they were riding “Chats et Souris”, cat and mouse bumper cars. Grownups were not allowed to ride, and Hannah really wanted a car to herself, so we let Bekah ride by herself. We told her what to do to get going, and she seemed to get it, but after a minute she had banged into someone and couldn’t get going again, and I don’t remember anymore if she had just decided to change cars or if she was scared and trying to get out, but she just got up out of her little cat car and started walking across the bumper car floor. The music was very loud, so she couldn’t hear us calling to her, and the attendant was yelling to her in French, which was perfectly reasonable on a ride called “Chats et Souris,” but it didn’t make much impression on her. She got scared and we had a little bit of a scene, and we had to calm her down and then get her to go on it again so she wouldn’t be afraid anymore. (I think Hannah agreed to ride with her the second time.) She’s a tough one, and she did it and was thrilled with herself once she figured it out.

Since then, because we are parents and cannot remember particulars of what happened but cannot forget what it is like to watch your daughter running between bumper cars, just waiting for her to get crushed, we have a certain concern about her and amusement park rides. It’s never happened again, but still, that fear lingers. So, yesterday, after we’d already done one big scary ride (a giant pendulum thing that swings you over the top and scares the daylights out of me — I got out my Lamaze breathing exercises for that one) and a couple of lesser ones, they wanted to go on the thing where each rider is in an individual swing, and you just get raised in the air and swung out in a circle. Not a big deal if you place your faith in chains, but the kind of thing where we were nervous she might suddenly change her mind mid-ride and get scared or worse. But the memories of the incident de la chats et souris were wiped from our consciousness as she sat up in the swing and screamed as loud as she could, “FASTER! FASTER! IS THAT ALL YOU’VE GOT??!! BRING IT ON!!!”

Other highlights: The new Canyon Blaster coaster. Fun, no upside-downs. Stops quick, though, and Bek bonked her nose the second time through, but they brought her ice right away and treated it very seriously, which impressed me. About all the coaster I can take. The Comet looked like it went way too fast for me, way too high in the air. The dive show was really good. The waterpark was a little limited, having lost a lot of its lifeguards to the opening of college, and a number of obnoxious patrons were giving Long Island a bad name by acting like Long Islanders and berating a poor lifeguard at the top of the tube slide who was just doing her job. (Nothing against my Long Island readers, but you know what I’m talking about.) All the old Storytown stuff is still there, the Alice in Wonderland walk-through, the cow jumping over the moon, Moby Dick . . . all of it a little lame but very sweet to those of us who grew up with it. They’ve actually done a nice job integrating the old with the new, keeping the park a reasonable, walkable size, and, most miraculous of all, maintaining shade trees throughout the park. On a day like yesterday, that was critical to enjoyment. That and a big-ass Camelbak.

So, a delightful day. We were there 10-7 with nary a complaint or breakdown (well, a couple of little ones), and then we had a lazy supper on a patio down the road, and both my little wonders fell asleep while I listened to the latest Weakerthans on the way home. What could be better than that?

Thank you, nachi worm!

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Arrive at work at 8:30. Big note on screen. Agency infected. New virus scan will be required before we can log in to the network. 45 minutes of scanning brings a clean bill of health for the man with 567 unopened e-mails (and I don’t even GET spam on my work account). I don’t have time to open the stuff I should open, let alone the infected garbage people pass along. Then, four freeze-ups while I try to log in. Windows, Windows, Windows — it’s almost impossible to “End Task” by accident. Why must you ask me if I really meant it? So my normal 10-minute startup (no kidding, it’s 10 minutes before everything is done running and my machine is ready to accept a command from me, its lowly owner) turned into an hour and a half. Tonight I’ll go home, press the sleep button on my Mac, and I’ll be on the web in less than 5 seconds. I don’t want to get into a big Windows/Mac thing; I’m just saying.

Zevon’s last

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Well, I screwed up my courage and watched the VH1 special on Warren Zevon’s final abum the other night. It took courage because I’m a little touchy about this whole idea that he’s dying, and because these tributes are usually so very awful. But this one struck almost the perfect tone. I sure could have done with a whole lot more on the history of Warren Zevon, starting back with his high school duo “Lyme and Cybelle”. (The “First Sessions” disc carries the old White Whale label, which would explain how The Turtles came to record “Outside Chance” at a time when no one would have heard of Warren Zevon — they were label-mates. I’ve wondered about that since about 1980.) But that history will come. This was about making the new album. And despite a raft of well-knowns involved in the album, the show stayed focused on Zevon (though I have newfound respect for Bruce Springsteen for his guitar work on “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”). His new stuff sounds terrific, too (though I’d buy it even if it didn’t, of course). Somehow it deals with his dying without becoming maudlin or sentimental, and Zevon sets the tone himself, though Carl Hiaasen gets in the best line, pointing out that Zevon’s logo is a skull smoking a cigarette. All in all, it was an excellent work that left me wishing there was a little more . . . a very rare thing in television these days.

But then VH1 hobbled the ball. They presented it commercial-free, so it ended at an odd time. They went into some other filler, and I started flipping around and found, on sister station VH1 Classics, video after video by Warren Zevon, including a presentation of songs from the new album (set to video from the special) and all his old stuff. Don’t you think they could have promoted that?

The man who wrote “Splendid Isolation” and “Searching for a Heart” doesn’t owe us anything, but this new album sounds excellent. And they are starting to digitally remaster his older albums, which need to be rescued from ’70s California laid-back production values.

There are no mosquitoes in Los Angeles!

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Gotta pronounce that with a hard “g”, by the way. Loss Angle-esz. It’s a “Barton Fink” thing.

Point being, there is some kind of creature that lives in the mudflats at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers, a creature that even the Iroquois feared but had no name for. Or at least not a name we bothered to ask them for. But if they had had one, it would translate as “Some kind of bug in the mud that eats your ankles while you’re pushing your canoe into deeper water and leaves gigantic welts that itch for days.” Benadryl doesn’t even touch the itch. I hate nature.

Meaning of Tribeca

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Man, I’ve gotten a lot of hits lately for “meaning of tribeca.” What do I look like, Robert DeNiro? Jeez, with the meaning of tribeca here. How do I know what it means? I mean, the words, yeah, it’s “triangle below canal.” That what you’re looking for, pal? Okay. Happy now? But, the meaning of Tribeca? I mean, what it means to be from Tribeca? Get outta here.

Now would be a good moment to recall a time when I was doing election work down in the Howard Beach section of the city, and some city union guys from District Council 37 were ferrying us around, showing us every restaurant where there’d been some famous mob hit or another, and one of the local sites was the basketball court where they used to play with Bobby DeNiro. “Bobby da Horse, dey called him.” Why was that, we asked? “Dunno, just Bobby da Horse. It’s just what we called him.”


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As in, “The Weekend is too short.” But you know that. Finally, alone among weekends this year, this one included some canoeing. The Hudson hasn’t been much below flood stage since it thawed, and with everything else going on, the canoes took a back seat this year. But we finally got out this afternoon. Problem? The water was so low at Peebles Island that we had to muck out into the quicksand to launch the boat. Then we paddled upstream on the Mohawk below the dams, and suddenly the current was so strong that we couldn’t even get up it. We spun around and went back out to the Hudson for a while, and when we came back the river had risen considerably. Odd. But a beautiful day to be out on the water.

Yesterday was a 7-year-old’s birthday party at a town beach, which was very nice. The lake was massively warm and dangerously turbid. I snuck in a nice two-hour bike ride with some killer climbs. I don’t think I went 20 miles, and about 4 of them were on dirt-and-gravel roads. Know what works well on dirt-and-gravel roads? NOT MY BIKE!! A perfect September day, plunked down in late August.

My CD player knows it’s a year old, almost precisely, because it was making an alarming noise before. We found all the warranty information and everything else and were preparing to open fire on the people of Harmon-Kardon so hard they wouldn’t know what hit them. Then, just because, I tried the time-honored repair of hitting the appliance. No more alarming noise. Now I almost wish it hadn’t worked, because if it ever comes back, it’ll be post-warranty. But if I take it in now, they won’t be able to find anything wrong. (Like my truck, which has a squealing noise that is annoying deaf people, but which the mechanics can’t seem to hear.)