251 degrees Kelvin. Seriously.

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Okay, okay, I know . . . enough with the Kelvin joke. But that’s what makes it bearable, because it’s -7 on the creaky old Fahrenheit scale (and don’t get me started on Celsius).

Yesterday it got up into the low teens and was very sunny, a perfect day on the slopes, and I went to Mount Snow and had one of my best ski days ever. I got in nearly six hours on the slopes, conditions were fantastic, and there was hardly anyone there. I took on some terrain I hadn’t tried before and really did nearly the whole mountain except the diamonds — I need to try those with someone who knows them. Some twenty-something flew off the lift with the admonition “Go hard! Take chances!” I didn’t get a chance to explain the No Injuries Policy&#174 to him, but I took him up on the first part. I got in a little bit of the taking chances part when four o’clock was approaching and the sun was sinking behind the mountain, the light got so flat that it was impossible to read any terrain and I had to go on the “keep it between the trees” theory. Otherwise it was a day of fast, good turns, more boldness going over the big mounds, and only one fall when I skitched across some ice above a set of moguls that I quickly got out of. I was tired last night but not sore, and today my body feels fantastic. Nothing better in the world than hard exercise in cold air and sunshine.

The Unlikely Book Club

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Second in a series of books that I wouldn’t have been likely to read: The Virgin of Bennington, by Kathleen Norris. (First in the series was Nick Tosches’s “Trinities,” an international mob drug novel.) Tripped on this one in the stacks, and the Bennington connection caught my eye, though it turns out to have almost nothing to do with Bennington, other than that she went to Bennington College, which figures for about half a chapter in the book. It’s the memoirs of a poet who was in the midst of the New York poetry scene in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Unfortunately, it is written with the sensibilities of someone from an earlier time, and the structure skips around mercilessly. She drops little bombs but they barely go off because she hasn’t given them any context or elaboration: “One would hardly think that the publication of a small book of verse could be so disruptive, but Falling Off turned my life inside out, and made such wreckage of the year 1971 that it seemed a good idea to retreat at Christmas.” No further evidence of the wreckage is forthcoming, and then she tells us very little of use about her retreat. I made it 90 pages, now I think I’m done. You would think that someone who was there when Patti Smith fused poetry with rock ‘n’ roll would have something more to say than “I learned that Smith had developed a unique style, rock poetry half sung, half chanted to the accompaniment of an electric bass. She left her audience exhilarated, and I rode the subway home believing more than ever in the power of art to illuminate and transcend the ordinary.” Whatever.

Ice on the Hudson

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The ice breaker came through this morning to try to keep the river open. About an hour later, you couldn’t tell. With the ice, the river is very high, so we may be headed for some flooding around here. The ice breaker is fun to watch — it’s not all that big, but it makes a hell of a wake and really churns up the river, breaking up the ice layer into pancake ice. But this morning it’s cold enough that the pancake just came right back together and refroze. Why do we care? Heating oil comes by barge. That’s why. We need it most when it’s hardest to get, like right now.

Had hits on the blog from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia this morning. No guess as to why. Odd, though.

Even the Bee Gees? Yes, even the Bee Gees

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Maurice Gibb’s death was overshadowed by Pete Townshend’s arrest, but let’s take a minute or two to think about the Bee Gees. Yes, I know, I was there, and it is important to hate them for disco. It may have happened without them, and it may not have. Hip-hop may or may not have happened without disco. Hard to say. But there was some other stuff there, too, in the years before disco, and some of what they did really stood out. One of my earliest albums was Bee Gees Gold, which pre-dated all the Saturday Night Fever stuff, and was mostly simple, interesting songs sung in falsetto harmony. In the days before Walkmans, grocery store stockboys had to memorize music they wanted stuck in their heads, or else The Carpenters and other, far more insidious stuff from the grocery store muzak would creep in and invade your brain. So, I had Bee Gees Gold memorized, in song order, and could play it over and over in my head as an early form of white noise to block out the muzak. I want to make this perfectly clear: You must block the muzak, at any cost. (Joe Jackson: “In the supermarket there is music while you work / It drives you crazy, sends you screaming for the door / Work there for a year or two and you can’t get to like it / I don’t work in supermarkets anymore”).

In any event, I had long since rejected the Bee Gees, sold the vinyl, atoned for my disco sins, etc. But there was always a long, rambling, intensely ’60s rock-n-roll Eric Burdon and the Animals cover of “To Love Somebody” that I deeply enjoyed (from their way-too-much acid days, a double album with a grand total of 8 songs). Then last year I heard the Bee Gees do a live, acoustic version of “To Love Somebody” on Howard Stern, and it just blew me away. Simple, direct, beautiful (unfortunately, haven’t been able to find a copy of it). Made me rethink their songs and let one or two of them back into my head. I used to say that I loved defunct bands best because they couldn’t disappoint you (they hadn’t invented the permanent reunion tour yet then, although the Beach Boys were pioneering it) — you knew their stuff, knew when they had gone bad, and you could just stay away from the dreck. The same, then for the Bee Gees — I know their awful stuff (and really, none of that SNF stuff has any lasting merit except as background music for period movies), but there was some awfully good stuff that came before that.

Enough of that.

Too cold to breathe

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Three degrees at the airport (no, not the baggage conveyor reunion of a ’70s soul-sound band), 7.9 degrees on the outside of my garage. For Christmas I got a nice new remote thermometer, ostensibly so I can dress properly for running without going downstairs to check the other outside thermometer. We’ll see when spring comes whether this gets me out the door more or gives me more reason to lie abed. I tell myself that I’m willing to run down to about 25 degrees, but I’m a lot more likely to do that when the sun is shining than in the pitch black. Completely different experience, thermally and emotionally. Unfortunately, I missed two perfect days for running last week because things came up at work. In fact, I got held up on Thursday by a couple of attorneys who needed to go over some things, and I reluctantly gave up my run to get these things done. Then, once we were done and I was on to another meeting, I ran into one of them in the elevator bank, with her gym bag and her running shoes, on her way out the door. I cried foul. It did no good.

In any event, the upside of being trapped by circumstance into two car payments at once is that I have two vehicles guaranteed to start in any weather, so there’s none of that glug-glug-sluggish grind stuff in the morning when you wonder whether you’re going to have to run to catch the bus and then figure out what to do later.

The G4 is running again, and I’ve installed OS X onto the other disc, so if I want to play with betas in the future I can do it there. Haven’t had a problem like that in a very long time . . . lots of software that just plain doesn’t work, but nothing that killed the system. Should have read the message boards, like I usually do, before I installed Safari. Oh well — live, reboot, and learn. Tonight I need to install the replacement Zip drive, which shouldn’t take half an hour. But one never knows.

Beta Blues!

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My profession of love for Apple’s new Safari browser was premature. Is it fast? Oh, it’s fast. Is it sharp? Oh, yes, it is gorgeous on the screen (though I could live without the brushed metal look, but pages draw beautifully). Does it automatically install downloads and clean up after itself? Oh, it does all that, all right.

It also frags your system . . . and that’s if you’re lucky. The unlucky ones are losing hard disk data. I was cocky . . . when I had none of the bad mojo that people were experiencing with the previous build, I went ahead and blindly installed the newer build, which Apple said would take care of the problems people were experiencing. Then, ran Safari once, and OS X, which is pretty damn crashproof, started crashing all over the place. And then it wouldn’t restart. Beta?!! It’s not even alpha! So, my evening has been spent rebuilding the system. Didn’t lose anything other than some preferences, but it was a major annoyance much closer to a Windows experience than an Apple experience. I’ll report back on Safari 2.0; until then, I’ll put up with the slowness of Internet Explorer or the inadequacies of Chimera. Right now, I’m posting on the kids’ iMac. No matter what system you have, it’s almost necessary to have two these days in order to keep things running.

By the way: cold? Oh, yes, it’s cold.

Coldness: Witch’s [Broomstick] Levels

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It’s 9.7 degrees out. That’s Kelvin, kids, so bundle up!

The news about Pete Townshend’s arrest just makes me sick. No matter how much I try to separate the art from the artist, there are some things that will color my perceptions. Hell, Roger Daltry running an aerobics studio colored my perceptions, so this certainly will. It’s mostly just sad. Went through this art/artist confusion just a couple of weeks ago when I bought a DVD of “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” for the kids. They already love Pee-Wee, have had tapes of the Playhouse show for years, and yet had never seen the movie. And the movie is incredibly funny. But it wasn’t so long ago that he was arrested again, and in this instance, it’s really hard to accept the space between art and artist. When someone who focuses on children turns out to have ulterior motives, that’s sickening and dismaying, and normally I wouldn’t have anything more to do with it. And I’m concerned that at some point they’ll hear something about the man who played Pee-Wee, and it’ll be a shock or scary to them that they can’t trust this character they think is so funny. Not sure how to handle that just yet, but it seems like I need to talk with them pre-emptively.

Had I mentioned that we’re measuring things with the Kelvin scale this morning?


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The weekend whizzed by. It started early, sort of, because I had a fantastically frustrating conference call on some litigation on Friday. It was supposed to be the settlement call, but the litigants got greedy and I ended up storming out of the room, yelling “We’re done! The State of New York is done!” In retrospect, it was probably pretty funny, but it didn’t seem it at the time. Came back up to my office, got a couple more things out of the way, and then dramatically announced that I had to either leave or quit, so I was leaving. My exec dep very sweetly called me a few minutes later to make sure things were okay, which I appreciated. It’s pretty rare that I’m a drama queen; it was probably pretty alarming.

So, I got home before the kids and plopped myself down with Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4. I was never much of a button-masher, so doing required combinations is just beyond me at this point, but I finally unlocked a second level so I can pick up a few more skills and go back to the previous level and beat some things. Great game. Then the girls wanted to go to the school’s drama club talent show in the evening, which started at 6:30 and went until, say, midnight. At least it felt that way. It was all very sweet — most of the talents involved lipsynching or singing along to songs I really never needed to hear, the top hits of the day and a bunch of country tripe. It took a very long time. There was a very long intermission with popcorn and soda and all that stuff, and then back in for Act II as we’re approaching bedtime. Bekah was getting quite restless, and the guy sitting in front of us had a serious gastrointestinal issue going on. To put it mildly. Not something I’ve experienced in a public setting in a long time. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and we went on home to fight over getting ready for bed.

On Saturday, I had to take Hannah out to deal with the problem with her skis. We had a lovely lunch together at a little cafe in Glenville, just the two of us sitting and chatting and have a delightful time. She’s such a spectacular little creature, bright and lively and considerably smarter than I was at that age. It’s inconceivable that she’s going to be 10 years old in just a few weeks. Then we went to deal with the skis, which proved a frustration. The place we rented them from had nothing to offer us in return, and wasn’t helpful at all. The issue with them is fairly evident on snow, but not so much on carpet in the store. I know somebody who knows the owner, and I could get it taken care of that way, but it really bugs me to have to do that. In any event, they would have replaced them if they had something, but they didn’t, of course, so I had to decide what to do. I didn’t want her to lose the chance to improve her technique in a season that’s likely to be long, so I ended up going somewhere else and just buying her a simple ski package at a decent price that I believe will get her through next season as well. Frustrating, though. And by then it was snowing like crazy where we were, so I had to beg off meeting up with an old friend I had been looking forward to seeing, but I had spent half an hour driving through fairly blinding snow. It wasn’t accumulating at all, but you couldn’t see a thing. Of course, as soon as we crossed the river, there was nothing. Ah well, next time.

Yesterday, skiing at Bousquet. First time I’ve been cold — the wind was just howling. But everything is open this year, and they’ve got so much snow they set up a little tunnel for the kids to ski through on the way down Drifter, which is pretty cool. I hit some of the diamonds early and had a good time. Diamonds at Bousquet are primarily just steep, not extraordinarily tricky, which is fine with me. Anywhere else I’d stay off the blacks, but on my home hill I can handle them. Then we went to a birthday party that started at a skating rink. When all that was over, I was just done. Kids to bed, a little TV, then me to bed. Still more than a little tired.

Two movies this weekend. “The Good Girl,” which I honestly forgot that I had seen in a theater, but which was well worth a second viewing. Jennifer Aniston isn’t likely to turn into one of our great actresses, but she’s crafted herself a clever career in little movies doing characters that aren’t just extensions of her “Friends” character, and she was very good in this. Tim Blake Nelson gives off a scary kind of common, backwoods evil. John C. Reilly is the straightforward schlub he usually is. Best line is when Jennifer asks the brooding rebel-wanna-be “Holden” why his parents call him “Tom”: “That’s my slave name.” Also saw “13 Conversations About One Thing,” the first movie in ages in which Alan Arkin is given something to do. That alone would have been worth the rental. It’s quite good, a nice little interweaving of lives in a New York that doesn’t look quite like the New York that’s usually in films, which made it interesting. The neighborhoods weren’t so familiar, the street scenes not the ones we’ve seen in so many other films. The settings alone gave it a slight edge. There was a sudden shift in the timeframe for one of the stories that surprised me at the end, when it turned out that its timeline had played out well in advance of the rest of the stories. Maybe there were other hints at that and I had missed them, but it caught me off guard. But very nice little bit of filmmaking.

Music: Jill Sobule, “Pink Pearl.” Why has it been two years since I listened to this? Ditto for Southern Culture on the Skids, “Dirt Track Date.” I got all the Christmas discs put away. Now if I could just find the energy to deal with the tree itself…

My Non-Corporate Lunch

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Current favorite lunch spot is a little space up on Maiden Lane called Dave’s. At Dave’s they know your name because that’s how they take your order. You give them a number and your name, and they call you when it’s ready. They know their regulars. The woman at the register is a tattooed hippie chick, nearly original vintage. Very nice. Wide variety of offerings, including the mystical Italian Burrito, #42. As you’re standing waiting for your name to be called, you can look at the wall of photographs of Dave’s family. The story, according to the notes on the wall, is that Dave didn’t know he had a brother and had never met his mother until he was 49. Dozens of photographs of his old family and his newfound family, including a pic of Dave and his mom on which someone has drawn a replica of Dave’s mustache on his mom in order to show the family resemblance. You won’t find this at a restaurant with a registered trademark for a name.

I’m no links monkey, but . . .

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Websites and blogs that are primarily collections of links were real exciting back in, say, 1995. Even though I look at a lot of stuff on the web, I shy away from linking stuff here; it’s just not that interesting. However, with the caveat that the server is quite slow, I think I would be doing a disservice if I kept The Dondero High School Symphony Band and A Cappella Choir’s versions of Sweet’s “Fox on the Run” and Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” to myself. So, click here and be prepared to wait. It will be worth it. The site it’s from provides a different obscure and very slow-loading MP3 each day.
Also, over at AimeeMann.com, under movies, there’s a delightful video for “Ghost World” I hadn’t seen before.

Everyone I know is acting weird
or way too cool
they hang out by the pool
so I just read a lot and ride my bike
around the school
‘Cause I’m bailing this town-or
tearing it down-or
probably more like
hanging around

I got caught up in “Almost Famous” last night, which was an even better movie than I had remembered, and I had remembered it as pretty damn good. That geeky rock-writer wannabe was me (and a million others like me). “I’m a journalist. I write for Creem magazine.” Everyone in it shone. There are some very sweet moments in it all, but my favorite scene in the whole movie is the one with everyone on the bus singing along to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”. Now I’ll have to hear that when I get home tonight.