Tuesday, July 29, 2008

what, me worry?

There's a lot of talk these days about carbon footprints and how we can all reduce them. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
I give this thought, from time to time, when I'm not swigging from my plastic water bottle or after I have forgotten (again) to bring the reusable bag to the supermarket, so opt for plastic. Sorry, it's easier to carry multi-plastic bags on the walk home...

The New York Times recently had a small piece on just these sorts of issues that prick our conscience and how not to think about them. I hate to admit it, but I love the idea. I am a worry wort by nature, so anything I can knock off my running list, is welcome. The Times has a short but interesting list, including reducing gas emissions, cell-phones, plastic bags, BPA and those plastic water bottles - all things that have crossed my radar. But wormholes? Wow, I never really was too concerned about them, unless it was during an episode of the much-beloved and sorely-missed Farscape.

I believe in global warming and Al Gore, but on a quest to simplify my life, I guess what I am really looking to do is to try to live the best way that I can, and if I can reduce some of these carbon footprints during my daily routine (like not running the water while I brush my teeth) than all the better. But I will not spend a half hour every night running around unplugging appliances to save some energy. My down time is too limited and too precious and I already have enough routines to follow in this hectic life. And it's such a pain having to reset that DVD clock, isn't it?

But I have compiled my own short list of ways to reduce waste:
  • No more travel/meetings - there is such a thing as the conference phone - it's not necessary to use up gas, charge expenses, etc. Meet virtually.
  • More flexible schedules - why are we still so married to 9-5? Traffic would be eased if folks could swing in later, or earlier, as desired. This goes for school schedules too. Different ages and classes could start at different times. School days could be a little shorter for younger children. Why are kids expected to pull 8-10 hour shifts like their parents?
  • Remember to bring that reusable bag to the store. It's much better than paper or plastic.
  • Close some of those Starbucks - oh, never mind, that's already happening...
  • Don't cruise the gossip/entertainment sites - they might be fun sometimes, but it's such a waste of time and it exposes one to just how foul-mouthed and bored the average internet poster really is, not to mention the intellectual level of the subjects of the gossip.
  • Adopt the $5 rule.

Friday, July 25, 2008

That's not your mother, it's a man, baby!

I haven't see the Love Guru (nor do I plan to), but I've been scratching my head wondering - what the heck happened to Mike Myers? Did someone tell him he was the new Peter Sellers? He obviously had been watching The Party. But he's not even close. He needs to leave the Sellers catalog alone. They didn't exactly hire him for Casino Royale. And I will personally come after him if he goes anywhere near Dr. Strangelove, After the Fox or Being There.

I understand about being an Anglophile. Myers is definitely trying to play off his British roots. The first Austin Powers rocked, making fun of the swinging 60's Michael Caine-esque super spy with horrible teeth. But the movies got steadily worse as they progressed. And his other character, Dr. Evil, became more fun than Austin. Horrifyingly, he has recently announced that he plans a #4 to honor his late father. I'm afraid it will be, like so much of his potty humor, #2.

I saw Wayne's World the other day and it was still a lot of fun. I won't mention the sequel - it's not worthy. Myers should steer clear of sequels, unless they're animated. Shrek remains a fun character, even if it is a milder riff of his brilliant portrayal of transplanted Scotsman, Stuart Mackenzie, the best thing about the mostly lame So I Married an Axe Murderer. Anthony LaPaglia was fun as a wannabe Serpico in that mess of a movie, too.

But being able to do a passable Brit accent doesn't automatically equal funny. Which is why Dr. Evil worked. He's funny (in the first movie) because he's evil - and loves it. Not too far from Myers's portrayal of Steve Rubell in 54. Indulge in the evil, Mike Myers. But quit spewing sequels. Unless it's Shrek, which also happens to feature Eddie Murphy's best work. Maybe ever.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I guess I"m in a nostalgia phase, because the Clash sure sound good to me now. I was a huge fan in the 80s, and then, after Combat Rock, didn't listen for years. I won't even comment on po st-Mick Jones Clash. But with Jones making some new music and getting airplay lately, radio djs are also playing more "vintage" Clash and I have to admit that it is really fun to hear Rock the Casbah again. Who knew?

One of the reasons I loved the Clash in the first place, aside from their rocking beat, was their desire to blend politics and music. Sometimes the mix wasn't always successful, but they tried. They had a point of view.

What musicians today have a point of view? I guess U2 is still trying to carry on, but let's face it, they're geezers, too. What young bands have something (anything) to say? I like a pop song as much as the next guy, but shouldn't there be someone out there who wants to share an opinion? Hip-hop tries, but it's subject matter seems narrow more often than not. And I prefer rock music.

I guess I want to hear a world-view, set to music. But not "world music!"

John Mayer's Waiting On The World To Change pretty much sums it up - today's lazy louts are just sitting around waiting for the regime to change. Does his generation even get what a non-messsage song this is? Not too impressive. If I want a pure, simple, straight-forward song, I'll listen to Dylan-fils, whose song doesn't aspire to be more than a nice, easy song for summer driving, but somehow has more meaning than Mayer's ever could.

For a more rocking tune, I like Green Day's version of Lennon's Working Class Hero, but again, it's borrowed, pre-packaged, spirit, from someone who already really put himself out there.

The Clash's Joe Strummer is sorely missed. One of the great rock voices, he always had something to say. Being the son of a diplomat probably helped with his world view. But he was also a great, fun, rock 'n' roll singer, even from his early days with the 101ers. Joe, we hardly knew ye.

p.s. Just for fun...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Why do we find it so hard to believe that "ancient" people were able to build massive monuments, perform surgeries, etc., etc.? Do we really think that mankind has evolved so much, that we are so much smarter?

We eat better, live a little cleaner - maybe. But is the accuracy, invention, and innovation that is required to come up with computer chips and Velcro really all that different from what was accomplished by the folks who were able to precision-align Stonehenge or Abu Simbel?

I'd like to get back to Stonehenge. It's been the subject of a lot of new attention lately, as it appears to be even older than anyone originally thought. Evidence of settlements, and possible uses of the site are constantly being explored. Which again argues for the smarts of people, no matter what the century. But no one can come up with a definitive answer for how or why it was created. Sort of like the pyramids.

People like mysteries. As for the how of Stonehenge, probably the easy answer is that a lot of strong folks spent a lot of time pulling and pushing huge stones. But I guess that isn't a sexy enough answer. As for the why? You might as well ask why any human being does anything. Build cathedrals, pyramids, the Empire State Building - just reaching for the stars, baby.

p.s. Turn your volume up to 11 and enjoy the genius of Spinal Tap, Nigel Tufnel's eyeliner, and "Stonehenge"...

Monday, July 21, 2008

This ain't no Mudd Club, no CBGB, I ain't got time for that now...

Contrary to popular opinion, there is life outside of the Big Apple. But man oh man, that city is still and will ever be, a part of me. I tried to stay away, I really did, but the pull was too great. And what did I find when I returned? Basically the same city, with a shiny digital veneer, but one I could still navigate, fiercely (both Project Runway's and the Webster's version of the word).

I was a lot younger when I first lived there. This was pre A-Rod Yankees, people. CBGB's was still open for business, and it had probably the most terrifying restroom I'd ever seen. Now NYC is kid-friendly to the extreme. Every store is a theme park, with large ferris wheels and costumed characters inside, waiting, and ready to give you an "experience."

Times Square both repels and fascinates me. What used to be a sleazy area to try to walk through as swiftly as possible on your way to somewhere else is now the ultimate tourist destination. The Blade Runner-ification of New York is simply amazing. Everywhere you look there is a digital screen, talking and pulsing at you. And as New York leads the way, I'm sure the rest of the country will follow suit. D.C. already has a mini-me version in its Chinatown Verizon Center.

I love technology. I'm no Luddite. But there is something about the talking cabs, talking subway posters, talking, talking, talking, everywhere that freaks me out. Do we really need all this stimulation? How about a little quiet space? There is actually some terrific architecture to look at too, some of the greatest art in its museums, a cool walk through Central Park...OK, excuse me while I check how long the line for the Iphone is...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

red shirts need love, too

If you've ever watched the classic Star Trek series you will immediately know what I'm talking about. If not, suffice it to say that anytime Captain Kirk and any of the main cast went down to explore a new planet, they would take along a few red shirts - crewman wearing red uniforms, who would invariably meet their end before the opening credits, killed by the monster- or villain-of the-week.

In the Trek spoof Galaxy Quest, Crewman #6 realizes that his days could be numbered, because, as far as the main cast is concerned, he has no last name. Luckily for him, he is redeemed from red shirt status by the end of the film.

But it seems that in most jobs today, the powers that be still have a red shirt mentality. The majority of the staff, their lives, their dreams, are not considered. We're all just Crewman #6, 7, 8, etc. I'm not sure what the upper tier is really afraid of. That the red shirt will steal the spotlight and become lauded by their upper tier? Red shirts aren't in it for the glory. They understand that their contributions take place mostly behind-the-scenes. But that doesn't mean that they are pieces on a chessboard to be pushed around, or that they don't desire the occasional acknowledgment or pat on the back.

I am surrounded by folks who forget how important the red shirts really are. Hierarchal structure and management systems are so 80s. Work life has changed. Most people can phone or email in their work. We don't need all that structure. We don't all need to all beam down to the planet (or sit in endless meetings.)

I'm a red shirt and I'm proud.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse...

You know how sometimes once you get interested in one thing, you become of aware of a whole lot of other related things? They may have been there all the time. Or you might just be dipping into the shared unconscious. Who knows?

I've always been interested in history, through art. Hated art history at school, which was mostly about dates, something my brain refuses to process. But I love reading about the folks in the paintings and their life, their world.

Watching The Tudors got me into well, the Tudors, and that lead to reading about the French court of Francois Premier (who was a huge fan and patron of Leonardo [back to art again]) and then backwards in time about Richard III. Then all of a sudden I found a great book, The Sunne in Splendour, by Sharon Kay Penman, about Richard and his brother, Edward the IV, and the other night Looking for Richard, starring and directed by Al Pacino was on. Finger on the pulse?
Pacino obviously understands evil schemers. And I'll hand it to him, he wasn't Michael Corleone with a hunchback. But for me, he can be really awful or really good. Sometimes, just distracted. So his improv-like take on Shakespeare's poetic vilification of Richard was at times really hard to take. Also his choice of collaborators was odd. Some of the choices were great - Kevin Spacey, of course. Some of them - Winona Ryder - huh? A great scene in the play where Richard seduces Lady Anne, over her dead husband's coffin ran sort of like this:

Pacino : Iambic pentameter without an accent, but giving it a good shot.
Ryder: Duh?

I'm not a Ricardist - one of those folks who think Richard was robbed by history. I also don't believe everything I read, so the truth is probably somewhere between Shakespeare's monster and Penman's hero. But another recent read, Alison Weir's The Princes in the Tower seems just like a load. A historian (but now also novelist) firmly in the Tudor camp, she is completely unable to be objective, spinning her "facts" to suit popular interpretations. The only thing she concedes is Richard may not have had a hunchback. Many other theories abound, and another popular book, and a great read, Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time clears Richard of the murders.

What is so fascinating about history and art is the folks who inspire it and make it. And the endless interpretations that it can take. Which is why someone like Richard III or Anne Boleyn and their hard-to-understand behavior can still seem so interesting today. Because don't we try to understand (mostly unsuccessfully) behavior of folks we know, actions that make no sense at all, every day?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Office Space is still so relevant

Milton Waddams: [talking on the phone] And I said, I don't care if they lay me off either, because I told, I told Bill that if they move my desk one more time, then, then I'm, I'm quitting, I'm going to quit. And, and I told Don too, because they've moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels, and they were married, but then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn't bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it's not okay because if they take my stapler then I'll set the building on fire...

I wish that the sort of petty bs that goes on day after day in our work lives didn't exist. Does that make me an idealist or a cynic? Sometimes I think they are intertwined, that one breeds the other. Excuse me while I go put on my corrosive cynicism button...

Monday, July 14, 2008

mirrors, windows and walls

I like Spanish painting, but don't love it. Italian Renaissance painting, ancient Egyptian wall painting or a Degas drawing is more my style. But there is no denying that Velasquez's Las Meninas is probably one of the greatest works of art. Ever. And when I was in art school, Michel Foucault's analysis of this masterpiece in The Order of Things (Les Mots et les choses) really made me think about Painting with a capital P and whether I wanted to make paintings that work as mirrors, windows or walls (Van Dyck, Matisse or Marden, for example.) Foucault was hardly alone in trying to work out all the ins and outs of Las Meninas. There are plenty of theories. For me, the fact that I can still go back to Las Meninas after all these years and want to look longer, deeper, is what makes this painting, and art, so essential.

happy bastille day!

vive la revolution!

would someone like to start a revolution with me?

Malibu Barbie

I so desperately wanted the Barbie beach house and Van when I was a kid that John helped me make one out of cardboard (!) What a great brother—sometimes I forget. But then of course our next-door neighbors the Faulkners got the real thing and I was crushed. I didn't want to play with it or my Barbies with them anymore. They always clicked into our cool ideas—and then they (their parents) had the $$ to run with it...

Ahhh memories...

You too, can learn to love country music

When I'm feeling low or lonely, every song on the radio, from the most trite to the most poetic, seems written expressly for me. For the first time in my life, I can not only stand country music, I can understand it.

O.K., so I still flip right past that station looking for rock, but you get my point.

The New York Yankees are more than just a team to me

So here I am, with a little more time on my hands. Thank God for the New York Yankees. It's not that I haven't always liked the team. In fact, following the Yanks is very definitely connected to my love of my late father, who taught me how to score a ball game, and was a huge fan from his Bronx childhood.

But I also had a major crush on the fantastic left fielder Roy White when I was a kid. And it doesn't hurt to be able to watch a lot of handsome athletes earning their keep when the testosterone level has drastically dipped in your household. This is the time when you contemplate that the line of Andy Pettite's jaw resembles a Mayan (or is it Aztec?) carving, or notice how green Derek Jeter's eyes are...

love is all you need

To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love, but then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer, to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love, to be happy then is to suffer but suffering makes one unhappy, therefore to be unhappy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down - Love and Death

Hearts will never be practical until they are made unbreakable - Wizard of Oz

Lili Von Shtupp: A wed wose; how womantic. - Blazing Saddles