Friday, September 30, 2005

Poise with pink

Walking through the Fashion District this morning, I noticed a man up ahead of me carrying a tube of pink fabric tagged with an order slip. But instead of holding it at his side like most, he was balancing it perfectly on top of his baseball-capped head. It didn't seem to be that heavy, but for whatever reason, he seemed to prefer that method. Nothing seemed to trouble him -- cars, traffic lights, other pedestrians, swinging doors, etc. -- and he didn't in the space of several blocks need to readjust the tube at all.

Dar at Town Hall

I was first introduced to Dar Williams' music early on in high school by a camp friend. It was exciting. Her songs were literate, tuneful, and yet indie and not-so-well-known. I felt like I’d gotten in on a secret. After all, I’d grown up on classical music and had only recently been exposed to phenomena like Dave Matthews and the like. So whenever I get a chance to see her perform, it feels like reuniting with an old friend.

She played with her band earlier tonight at Town Hall, and I have to say I loved every song she played. It’s nice to have a few artists out there who rarely disappoint you. You know what to expect, and they deliver and sometimes even surprise you.

Her new album, My Better Self, is as good as ever, and she played several songs from it, including two of my favorites – “Echoes” and “I’ll Miss You Till I Meet You” – which feel like instant classics. The first time I heard them, I knew they’d fit in well with the rest of her repertoire.

Favorites from past albums that made appearances included “The Beauty of the Rain,” “The One Who Knows,” “As Cool As I Am,” and “Are You Out There.”

As her first encore, she played the touching “Babysitter’s Here” – which everybody seems to want to hear at every concert, complete with the child-narrator’s cute asides (and who can blame them really?). She messed up on it midway through, joking: "It's not like I haven't played this song 2,000 times." The audience didn't seem to mind, cheering her on instead. Then the band returned to finish with a thrilling, singing-it-out-the-door cover of Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.”

If you’ve never heard Dar Williams, something that she really does well is write story songs that modulate in perspective or mood or plot about three-quarters of the way through. They start off being one kind of song, and then by the end, have transformed into something slightly more nuanced or complicated, deeper or more interesting.

“Teen for God” is a good example from the latest album. Others that I love are “When I Was a Boy” and “It Happens Every Day.” The babysitter song fits that bill as well.

Another must-listen is "Mortal City" -- a quiet seven-minute masterpiece with minimal music, spoken and sung with the perfect mix of frostiness and warmth, to match the setting and mood.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

My psychic powers released Judith Miller

OK, not really, but for whatever reason, the Times reporter languishing in the pokey popped into my head just this very evening -- while I was far away from any news outlets. I thought to myself, I wonder how long Judy Miller’s going to be stuck in there until she or someone she spoke to realizes how dumb the whole situation is. And now, here it is, I come home and check out the Times online site: Lo, and behold, "Scooter" (I. Lewis Libby) reportedly figures the poor gal has spent enough time away from her notepad and her deep background, and "voluntarily and personally" lets her scoot on home and/or to the courthouse.

In other news, Lil’ Kim is still in jail and won’t be getting released from incarceration nearly as soon, but at least her new CD is out.

Something we can all agree on, right?

When the going gets tough (Freedom Center nixed), the tough go shopping ("Retail Plan for Ground Zero Is Unveiled").

Because really, after all, the mall is much more of an American institution than anything involving dissent, "geopolitics" and "struggle."

Loving, falling out of love with Bill

You've-Got-Sleepless-In-Harry-Met-Bewitched writer Nora Ephron has a pretty funny but also mildly damning op-ed piece today -- FREE for the TimesUnSelect! -- about the rise and fall and rise of Mr. Clinton in the hearts, er, heart of one American woman (Nora).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Fug, blog, dog, slap, Brit

The WSJ, once again proving that it rolls like that, devoted an A-hed (i.e., Journal-speak for the daily front-page feature) to the phenomenon that is Go Fug Yourself. Someone somewhere is just jumping for joy because they managed to get those three words on Page 1. Apparently, it's two reality-TV scribes who taught the world how to love the fug. I'd link to the story, but then I'd have to charge you for it. Of course, if you're one of those people who actually has the magical golden key to, the title of the story is: "Fashion Trash Talk Is a Big Blog Hit For the 'Fug Girls.'"

And in other news about the Internets, a PR firm in the UK surveyed some of the least likely people to be staring at a computer screen for eight hours a day about what's hip, wow, and now among those who do happen to be staring at computer screens for that length of time: "A survey of British taxi drivers, pub landlords and hairdressers -- often seen as barometers of popular trends -- found that nearly 90 percent had no idea what a podcast is and more than 70 percent had never heard of blogging."

Hmm. Color me surprised. I guess this is one trend that doesn't really come up too often when you're rushing home to watch Corrie, downing a pint, or getting your fringe trimmed. It's the same reason this T-shirt is not exactly the hippest of apparel. It's something we do, but don't admit to talking about.

But apparently, according to the survey, "assaulting people while capturing it on video with their mobile phones" and "watching couples have sex in semi-secluded places such as out-of-town car parks" are activities you do talk about with your friendly neighborhood cabbies, barmaids, and stylists.

Those crazy Brits, you never know what they'll be into.

Can't always bear it; can't live without it

Time Out New York has a pretty amusing 10th anniversary special issue this week that’s worth picking up even if you’re not a subscriber. There’s a whole bunch of top 10 lists themed to New York and the last 10 years. Here’s a selection from “10 things we do regularly that we didn’t ten years ago” – Swipe our MetroCard again at this turnstile. Tether ourselves to our iPods. Order from FreshDirect. Sleep with people we met while sitting at a computer. Take photos with a cell phone. Sit in the park and go online using Wi-Fi. Reminisce about how the first George Bush wasn’t so bad … Any others to add?

TONY is one of those magazines that’s not always really a cover-to-cover must-read, especially since half of it is just listings. But the moment your subscription expires, you have a free night and you wish you had a copy nearby to let you know what’s going on.

Oh, and in case you haven’t read the mag’s latest motto, it’s “telling you where to go for ten years.” Yup, they went there.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I've seen pre-calculated tips at the bottom of credit-card bills before, but I've never seen any implication that the data is there for the aid of "foreign visitors." [Spotted tonight after some yummy tomato thyme soup and a cheeseburger at the Noho Star in, well, Noho.] In their defense, I guess tipping isn't a worldwide phenomenon. And of course, "foreign" may also here mean "unacquainted with proper New York City tipping techniques."

Two and a half symptoms. Diagnosis: Another lame sitcom.

New York Hack rocks!

After recent mentions on Gothamist and Kottke, this blog -- by a female cab driver occasional photos -- has been attracting a lot of readers, me included. "M.P." has some great insights into the life of the 24-hour city from behind the wheel; she has to put up with a lot of the crap dished up by "fares" of all stripes as well as by fellow drivers and hacks, cops, thugs, inanimate obstacles, etc.
She even offers some tips on tipping: At least a dollar for fares less than $10. 15% to 20% thereafter. More for nice service or waiting curbside. And it's easier to give drivers the fare and tip at once, instead of asking for exact change from the fare, then handing them back the tip.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Try it; you might like it

It used to be the only free discs that arrived unexpectedly in the mail were the umpteenth attempts by AOL at signing you up as a new member, after you’ve exhausted your 101, 203, 499, or 1003 free minutes, of course. But recently this year, the samplers have improved. I’ve started getting musical theater samplers occasionally, as I noted before. The latest CD is for The Color Purple; I haven’t gotten around to listening to it yet, but I do intend to.

And not just that, but TV shows are also marketing themselves via free DVDs attached to magazines, the latest being Everybody Hates Chris. Even with all the good press this show has been getting [Slate], I doubt I would’ve sought it out regularly (I’m not a very committed TV watcher in general) if I hadn’t seen the premiere episode on DVD. The verdict? It’s funny but sweet, and rather fresh as well, which was surprising to me but not unwelcome.

It’s pretty amazing that the cost of production on these discs has come down so much that they can be spread around to the public so readily, but I have to admit they seem to be succeeding at rising above the clutter, in ad speak.

If you didn’t get the DVD of Chris, Google Video is getting in on the marketing action with this streaming video, which also pops up on the sponsored links if you do a search using the name of the show.

Christo spinoffs update

Reminded of The Gates the other day, I wondered about when we could expect to see Albert Maysles' upcoming documentary of Christo & Jeanne-Claude’s work -- from planning through fruition. It was supposed to have been released this fall on HBO, but I sent an e-mail to one of the PR people, who told me that it's been pushed back to next spring at this point.

Also, this unofficial blog about Over the River popped up on my comments the other day.

"In other news ... the dead walk the earth"

I joined the millions of other Americans to see Tim Burton's Corpse Bride this weekend, and came away not feeling all that bad for once about the $10.75 going rate for a movie ticket these days.

What a wonderful mix of artistry and playful wit! I'm not always a Burton fan, but he had me at the opening titles. As many reviewers have noted, the underworld of the dead is a more colorful and lively place than the land of the living in this movie's tale. Its structure reminded me of Shakespeare and his green world narratives: where the forest is a place of more spunk and freedom, while the court in town feels restrained, dowdy and unappealing.

There are so many great moments of word play that I'm sure I missed quite a few. In the skillful hands of the filmmakers, they come across as endearing and witty instead of forced and self-congratulatory like they could be.

Lastly, Burton seemed to know exactly when to end the movie without overdoing the denoument, leaving us with just enough -- a virtue that I think is sorely lacking from a lot of movies.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Gap-toothed CPW

There's a rare perspective of Central Park South and environs to be had from about Broadway and 62nd these days, while work on Robert A.M. Stern's 15 Central Park West remains well below the scaffolding. It's kind of like the Mayflower Hotel was the baby tooth that fell out and the adult tooth is taking its time growing in -- in the most expensive mouth around, of course.

Oh, and someone should probably tell the people over at Yahoo! Travel that they're not taking any more reservations at the Mayflower. Also, click on one of the final reviews of that dearly departed rooming house: "This hotel gets 1 star because there is no way to give NO stars. We stayed here in Sept 2004. Rumor has it the place is being torn down. That might explain why the place is in the condition it is. But where to start. The shower pressure was great. Now that the [positives] are over: The shower pressure was great at the expense of the pressure needed to flush the toilet. The carpet throughout was worn and dirty. The furniture is old and stained. The 2 double beds were hard as rock and sat low to the floor. The [building's] lobby and elevators had no a/c and were very warm. On a warmer day, it would have been unbearable. The room had 2 [in-window] a/c that had seen ... better days. The elevators are small and slow. My advice would be spend a few dollars more or less and stay somewhere else. The location doesn't overcome the conditions."

The developers of 15CPW better be hoping the site isn't cursed.

Saturday night subway story

So I ran down to the uptown platform at Columbus Circle after a night out, and found an A train sitting in the station. There were a few people standing in the doors, one foot in, one foot out, and I asked one why. He said the train crew and dispatchers were deciding whether to go local or stay express (it was that time of the night). Living way past the point where this matters too much to me, I decided to hop on. Then a debate ensued. The conductor was gabbing into the microphone about what the next stop would be: 72nd or 125th. Those on my car decided to try and sway the decision, some (the Upper West Side riders) yelling out “local,” with others (we of the Heights and Harlem) crying “express.” I joined in the fun: Express! Express! Sadly – well, not really all that sadly – my team lost, as the conductor settled on 72nd. Half of the riders let out a collective dejected sigh, and settled in for the slightly longer ride. The conductor cried out: “This is an uptown A train going local … loco, loco.”

Saturday, September 24, 2005

"Would-be art pirates" ...

Spotted off the coast of Floating Island Thursday. [NYT]

A powerboat-borne Gate -- ripped off from Christo -- chasing Smithson's posthumous "jewel-box version of Central Park." You knew it was bound to happen sometime, in a city bound to be full of jokers and artistes. I wonder if the UN was monitoring the situation.

As for Christo & Jeanne-Claude? Watch out Coloradans. They're planning their next big thing (Over the River) for -- at the earliest -- summer of '08. Can Through the Woods be very far behind?

L.E.S. and ... C.G. ?

I ate and drank at ‘inoteca on Rivington for the first time last night with Kim and co. They have a nice selection of Italian wines by the glass and carafe – I shared some white Frascati – and a pretty unique menu. Reading up on the place now, I realize I probably should’ve tried one of the panini; instead, daunted by some of the perplexing names on the menu, I just had the assorted bruschetta, which was delicious. I followed it up with a warm lemon and sugar crepe, because that little creperie is just around the corner on Ludlow, and I hate to pass it up.

During the second half of the evening, I met up with M+J, who were venturing out to Brooklyn for the first time (I know, I know) to visit a newly minted graduate student friend of J’s. We got off at the Carroll Street F stop, and found our way to the corner of Henry and Union streets in Carroll Gardens. Said graduate student lives practically above the new Royal’s Downtown, a moderately pricey but elegant restaurant that had emptied of diners by the time we opened the little black gate and slid up to the bar for some drinks and bar snacks. (Mmm. Bar snacks.) I had a Madame Royal, the featured drink of the evening, chalked up on the board beside the bar. It’s a mix of Chambord, Crown Royal and mint, and it was delicious. They must’ve been giving us a discount or something, because the total for M+J and I came to less than I’d expected for a classy place like that.

Marketers’ dream quote of the evening came from J: “I didn’t know there were rules to having a social life in New York; one of them is you have to have a weekly subscription to Time Out New York.”

Friday, September 23, 2005

Alas, poor Libeskind

The snazzy rendering of the proposed New Globe -- you know, the one hoping to land on Governors Island -- popped up on Curbed today, and it got me thinking. Take a look at the background. Something's a little off, right? I'm sure at the time the artists thought they were being all progressive by including Libeskind's hot, hot (and now all but dead) Freedom Tower design in the picture, as if it were a sure thing and fully constructed. If Norman Foster and co. want to score a better chance of having their (fairly impressive, I think) theater ever see the light of day (or its first 8 p.m. curtain), perhaps they should be penciling in Childs' Fort Zero (Oh, that this too too sullied design would melt ... ) in the back. Or better yet, drawing the skyline of Lower Manhattan as it stands today, just to be certain.

You can never be too sure these days: One starchitect can't always rely on his/her compatriots to make it to the party on time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's not much, but it's something

I saw Thom Pain (based on nothing) tonight at the DR2. The original actor in the one-man show has been replaced by a new guy, and he must not be drawing them in the way the first one was, because there have been a lot of comped tickets floating around. I’m glad I saw it, but I’m also glad I didn’t pay real money for it. You could describe the show, which runs just slightly longer than an hour, as an anti-sermon or an attempt at the opposite of vaudeville. Instead of someone getting up and putting you at peace with wise words or entertaining you with predictable banter or antics, “Thom Pain” gets up there and looks uncomfortable a good bit of the time and looks confused and distracted and attempts to make you uncomfortable by constantly asking questions and pointing people out in the audience. Several times people didn’t know whether to respond and play along or whether it was more appropriate to just play dumb and be the silent audience member. There is something of a narrative running disjointedly through the piece, but the show is mostly about its own style and also generally standing agog at the inexplicable ineffability of modern life.

Wouldn't towing be less cruel and unusual?

This sign, spotted in the West Village, reads: "Air will be taken out of tires [and] license plates removed from unauthorized parkers."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Poor advertising choice of the day

Perhaps you've read about New York magazine's made-fresh-daily transit campaign? I see some problems. On the one hand, changing the content of the ads every day is a cool idea, and it seems to be working OK, at least for the ones that people walk by. But then there's the peculiar case of the billboards on the empty platform at Columbus Circle (see above). The text is too small, and the impact is just lost on those squinting from the occupied platforms. In case you're wondering what that is in the middle, it's the floor plan to a condo going for $1.4 million somewhere in Midtown, and the static tagline at the bottom is "This is New York." Other recent executions of the ad included Yankees-Red Sox box scores and some quotation about fashion and another by Frederick Douglass. There's a chance that these particular ads might be more visible from the trains themselves, but who's more likely to look at them: those who see them in a few seconds through grimy windows or those staring at them for 10, 12, 15 minutes? The better ads for this space are not the ones that require small-text-reading and thought. The Deuce Bigalow ads there recently were -- if not better -- at least more appropriate for the site.

What it feels like to get an endoscopy

When my PA first told me it was something that should be done, I was mildly freaked out. My inner geography is something I’ve always preferred stay something of a mystery. I don’t really want to know what my stomach looks like, let alone someone else. But as the days went on and the appointment approached, I learned how to stop worrying and love the accompanying sedation. After all, my primary-care happens to be a specialist in internal medicine, so I didn’t even have to go elsewhere to have it done.

A technician shepherded me into the preparation room this afternoon and told me to take off my shirt, put on one of those blue smocks, and lie down on the gurney. While I waited my turn with the doctor and the anesthesiologist, the classical music played and we talked about – what else – neighborhoods. She asked me whether where I live is actually Manhattan or feels like it even, and I replied yes and a little bit. No, we don’t get many tourists (except those headed to the Cloisters and the occasional especially devout Catholic who knows where Mother Cabrini is enshrined), but there are still numbered streets. It’s just that if they were degrees, they’d be approaching the boiling point here.

Finally, they opened up the doors to the adjacent room and rolled me in. My doctor and the anesthesiologist greeted me and told me what to expect. The only bit of pain was when they put the IV in my arm, and that was slight. They rolled me onto my side, inserted a plastic mouthpiece, and turned out the lights in the room. I felt a slight not-unpleasant tingling throughout my body, and then I was out.

When I awoke, it felt like I’d just woken up from a nap. It had been less than half an hour. I sat up from the gurney, then put my shirt and shoes back on and talked with the technician again. I thanked her as if she had been the one to make the procedure so painless, and realized I was acting like I was a little drunk. But by the time the doctor came in to speak with me later, I was almost back to normal and feeling fine, if a bit hungry. (I hadn’t eaten and drank anything for 12 hours – 6 of which had been prescribed to me.)

The good news was that my stomach looked normal, but the inherent bad news was that if I continue to feel persistent pain, they need to find some other explanation. I’m just hoping that the sample pills they gave me work and make whatever it is that’s bothering me go away entirely. I made an appointment for two weeks from now and left.

For more on the upper endoscopy procedure, the NIH has a site explaining things.

Monday, September 19, 2005

"Oh, it’s a snug little island!"

At long last, I found Smithson's Floating Island. It was meandering its way around Pier 45 this evening, with the aid of its faithful tug, the Rachel Marie. For the record, there were no pirates or land grabbers or any sign of forced embarkation.

The "island" swayed back and forth beside the pier, the trees staying always perpendictular to the barge, lashed as they are with thin wires. I kept hoping for some birds to alight on the trees, but it didn't happen. Standing at the railing, snapping photos of it, I thought of two things: How it is not all that strange to create new land; just think of Battery Park City, hidden in the back of the frame. It was created out of landfill dredged during the creation of the World Trade Center. And also, I thought of the fable of "The Sixth Borough," probably one of the better, simpler and more honest works by Jonathan Safran Foer, in which the origin of Central Park is explained via the existence of a mystical, forgotten other borough.

I'll be posting more shots to the "floating island" tag on Flickr.

[The title quote is by one Thomas Dibdin.]

Monday afternoon island update

It appears the Floating Island has charted a new course -- away from any potential international intrigue. 
From the website of public art organizer Minetta Brook: "With the UN in session, the Floating Island will not be visible from points north of 23rd Street on the East River until September 23rd when it will return to its normal route." What: Is this uninhabited island a threat to international security or something? Are they afraid that some pirates are going to board the barge and launch an attack on the world body's HQ?
For an "island," this thing sure is proving hard to nail down.
More on the art's new route here.

Free jazz (the price, not the style) on Conservatory Water in Central Park. This quartet -- the drummer is behind the bassist, with only one of his sticks visible here -- was drawing quite a crowd Sunday afternoon.

Captain Quack-beard has commandered someone's vessel!

The city's backyard.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

That elusive island

Still no up-close-and-personal for me and the "island." I attempted to get over to the river on the Upper West Side today, but didn't plan very well and ended up having to bail on my attempt when it got late. But through the magic of Flickr, there are some other amateur photos to see. Check out the "floating island" tag. There are 32 shots as I post this. According to the time stamp on some of them, it appears the island was very late in arriving on Saturday night -- it says after 7 p.m. on a few of them.

Bad island. Be more punctual next time!

The Island was a no-show, the food was not

My parents visited yesterday. I met them at the bus terminal, then we took the M11 down to the Meatpacking District, got out, and headed for Hudson River Park. It was a beautiful late summer evening with the sun getting ready to set over the opposite shore, but there was no Floating Island as promised. We arrived at Pier 46 where this opening was supposed to be, but while the reception was scheduled for 5 to 7, there was no art by 6, only lots of people cramming onto the pier and tiny samplings of foie gras being passed around. Perhaps the organizers wanted the "island" to make a grand entrance, but we didn't stick around to find out.

Instead, we headed over to Philip Marie, a New American restaurant on Hudson Street. It's across from Mama Buddha, the "Chinese diner" where I like to eat and can afford to eat on a more regular basis. I had baked brie with endive and asparagus salad to start and grilled salmon with grilled vegetables and jack cakes for my entree. I'm not sure what jack cakes are made of, but they certainly tasted good. I want to say there was a cornmeal base involved, but I can't be sure.

Our evening together was capped off with a stop at Tasti-D-Lite and a walk uptown.

Yes, I really like that place and their soft-serve and will go there willingly.

Saturday night, the new Columbus Circle fountain.

Saturday afternoon, Church of the Guardian Angel and the High Line, 10th Avenue, Chelsea.

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll coo at the nameless, flightless birds

I’ve never been one to be captivated by nature programs or glue myself to Animal Planet, but everyone’s been talking about March of the Penguins so I figured it was time to see it last night. And I was really pleasantly impressed. The music, the scenery, the narration, the story, and the animals themselves combine to create a really touching documentary. It probably helped that I knew so little about the emperor penguins, except that they make for cute plush toys. You can’t help but think about their fateful mating season and child rearing in human terms, and that’s what makes it so great, because as much as we endure and as much as we do for our children as humans, our lives would rarely seem so austere or brave. (We also can't go without food for 125 days.) It certainly has some staying power at the box office, too. First released here in June, it’s now showing in more than 2,000 theaters and has grossed about $68 million. It’s so popular in fact that "Mad TV" did a (pretty dumb) skit with Morgan Freeman describing someone's backyard animal life, joking how every movie he narrates or acts in seems to end up doing well.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

(Early) Saturday morning reverie

The A-C-E subway platform at Times Square can be a lively place at 1:15 a.m. after a Friday night. The trains just don’t come so frequently, so there is a lot of time to kill and watch the goings-on. This weekend, there was a guy with a guitar accompanied by another man with a flute playing a lot of oldies and Motown, whom I sometimes see at the same spot, perched on the same bench and standing by the same stairway, during the daylight hours.

Along comes another man – very tall and wearing what looks like a velvet track suit. He shakes the hand of the guitarist and rests for a moment on the bench next to me, before rising up and starting to dance. Well, sort of dance. It looks more like a crazy acrobatics routine, a lot of twice-to-the-left and twice-to-the-right and up and back and this way and that. And it’s not like it really fits with the music, but in this atmosphere of drowsiness and drunkenness and maybe a healthy dose of craziness too, it’s cool.

People who are listening to the music with one ear also keep one eye on the tall man in the track suit, who looks like a massive marionette being jerked around on strings. Whereas at a normal hour of the day we might play the game of avoiding eye contact and pretending not to notice the funny New-York-City-underground things that are happening, in the early morning, when everyone wants to just get home or otherwise have resigned themselves to being here on this platform for however long necessary, they betray their interest and their curiosity a little more than usual.

My bench fills up and eventually a young guy comes over and asks me whether he can have my seat to sit next to his girl. He asks it with the intention of offering me the next seat over, but I get up and choose to stand up near the pillar, instead, not minding much, I say, because I wouldn’t want to take Mr. Marionette’s seat in case he needed a breather. Of course that doesn’t stop someone else from sitting down in my place.

I stand around and listen to the guitarist playing a drawn-out, jazzy version of “Stand by Me” – one of his favorites, because I remember it from a previous daytime set – and reach into my bag for some change. I grip it inside my fist for a while, and then hear the A train barreling up the track. It arrives, I toss my coins into the guitar case on the floor, a few mothers push their strollers with closed-eye babies onto the train, and I hop on as well, and we’re off, headed uptown to pause for something like seven seconds at every station up the island.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The first sighting

It appears the tug boat is taking Smithson's Floating Island for another early spin. I just spotted it rounding the Battery, passing the ferry terminal, and heading up the East River at a leisurely pace. I wonder if the people on the Circle Line boat were confused.

Son of The Gates

The next big work of public art aimed at tweaking the city's landscape and tweaking our perception of it -- after this winter's Gates in Central Park -- debuts tomorrow. It's the 1970 concept (and 2005 execution) of Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan Island by the late environmental artist Robert Smithson of Spiral Jetty fame. Despite the hype and of course the anticipated backlash to the hype, I love when public art manages to invade the news. With all the other forces that affect our consciousness -- war, terrorism, natural disasters -- it's great to be able to enjoy and watch and discuss and dispute human-imagined changes to the city's environment. For anyone who works, lives and/or plays near the rivers, the Whitney has a viewing guide to help with spotting the mobile, waterborne work. The Times also wrote about it today. The "island" will be with us through Sept. 25.
Feeling sick and not knowing why can be a real drag. But it's also giving me another chance to practice the art of focusing on what I can change and what I cannot, on enjoying what can be enjoyed and trying not to worry any more than necessary. All of which isn't so easy.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Daryl on Romenesko -- twice!

Ex-blogger Daryl is certainly getting a lot of attention on another well-read blog, thanks to his new day job. He scored not one, but two mentions on Poynter's must-read journalism blog Romenesko.

First, there was the piece about the latest disaster photo to evoke Michelangelo's Pieta -- the famous shot of the firefighter holding the bloody infant in Oklahoma City also comes to mind, although on a different scale.

Then, he got to the bottom of that photo I mentioned last night -- the Bush bathroom-break one -- and that also earned a mention. Rock on, D! Way to keep your finger on the pulse of daily visual culture.

"Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders."

I was practically falling asleep in the middle of the day, but when I got home, the DVD I bought on eBay had arrived in the mail, and I ended up watching it despite my sleepiness. It was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

What a great movie! Charlie Kaufman is a genius! I'd seen it before in the theaters, but it was still very entertaining to see a second time, since I forgot what happens at certain points. I think something that makes Kaufman's scripts so great is that they have really intriguing premises, but he doesn't relax after establishing the premise. He runs with it and takes it in all sorts of directions. Too many movies just seem to conk out after they've established their premise, hitting autopilot somewhere midway through.

One bit of trivia that I learned from the DVD extras: The scene where Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet's characters are watching the circus elephants marching through Midtown was not planned as a scene, but the crew happened to be filming when this annual event was going on outside, so they rushed over and did some spontaneous shooting. Much more trivia (it is a Kaufman movie after all) is tabulated at IMDB.

[The quote is from the movie ... and Nietzsche, of course.]

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

We all need bathroom breaks now and again

Even President Bush ... [Reuters photo] Can this photo really be true? I mean it's no scandal or anything, but isn't it funny to see the "leader of the free world" confering about such topics?

Yeah, but the arrangement could've been better

If you're looking for video of the Penn State Nittany Lion Blue Band playing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" at the Marc Jacobs fashion show in the city this week, you can find it at the designer's site; click the link in the middle. Being a fan of the Blue Band, I should probably love this, but it seems a little hokey to me, Nirvana references notwithstanding.

Know your cormorants

Our team came in second place last night at Trivia, thanks in part to Daryl's mad ornithological skills.

Then some of us headed uptown to crash a primary election night party. It was fun to slip in among all the supporters and media milling about, chatting, watching the big TV screens. It would've been even better if there had been an open bar, but oh, well. After a while, I felt a little bit out of place, because I was working at the last election night shindig I visited. This time, I wasn't on the job at all, so I felt unsure of what to do, how to act. I'm proud to vote in every election that I can, but it's rare that I'm ever around campaigners without my own separate task at hand.

This morning, it's off to the doctor's -- yet again -- before work. It's not a place I like to be dropping by so often.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Civics alert

I know it's not the most exciting election ever, but the New York State primary is tomorrow (Tuesday). Some of the races will be decided this week, b/c there are no GOP candidates running. Get out and vote if you're registered, even if you're less than thrilled about your choices. Polls are open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Subway mystery

The subway can offer up small mysteries, especially if I’m sitting next to people conversing loud enough for me to hear and they happen to reveal the hints of an interesting history.

Coming home tonight on an A train, I sat next to a woman who appeared to have just arrived in the city to visit a man of similar age. They were talking. He stood most of the way uptown, standing over her rolling suitcase. He was dressed in casual business attire (which he referred to at one point as a “monkey suit”); she had dyed red hair, a punk-plaid skirt and black knee-length boots.

The man remarked on how she’d finally get to see where he lives. She talked about her child, who – from what I could gather – is somewhere between 8 and 12, based on things she said about him seeing or not seeing PG-13 movies. She owns a car and lives in a townhouse or duplex somewhere not in the NYC metro area – perhaps somewhere in Minnesota, as it said on her luggage tag. I couldn’t tell whether the father of the woman’s son was in the picture, but I gradually realized that the man and the woman on the train must’ve known each other as teenagers, because they kept alluding to the secret things they did together as kids.

And then, somewhat to my surprise, they leaned in and kissed. The PDA floodgates opened. They started acting like long-lost lovers, kissing long and intensely after the man finally got a seat next to the woman. At 175th St., they got up, leaving me to silently ponder their situation. Who was the father of this woman’s child? Who was taking care of the kid? When was the last time these two had seen each other? Had they dated as kids, then grown apart, and now were rekindling their relationship? Was this a secret visit?

Any ideas?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Love and agoraphobia in the time of Wal-Mart

Kristina and I saw the Great American Trailer Park Musical Saturday afternoon at Dodger Stages. It was a hoot! It’s probably not very politically correct or red-state friendly, but it had us laughing the whole time, and the music isn’t that bad, either. It’s basically a send-up of every trailer-park-associated cliché you can imagine, and then some, but it’s done in a witty way that kept us listening closely to the lyrics. Still in previews, and the opening night was just extended, perhaps because there’s a scene that involves mention of a hurricane.
On a happy note, one of my best friends announced that she got engaged last weekend. I'm so happy for her and her fiance. A while ago, I kind of thought that as some of the people I know started to plan weddings and get married that I'd be sad on some level, but all I feel now is excitement for them and what they've found in each other. I want that feeling of joy in other people's happiness to grow and blossom -- it's a good feeling.
Watching the reading of the names this morning, it still brings a tear to my eye to see all these siblings calling out to their lost brothers and sisters, saying how much they miss them and love them. The third moment of silence is in a few minutes.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Thoughts on this September weekend

Can it really be four years already? The thing about this relatively recent event in American history is that while it happened not so long ago, it already feels like it’s been etched in stone, like it’s not really a part of “current events” anymore. For the people who lost someone that day, I can only imagine that there might be a different and harsher sensation to this new touchstone we have, but for me, it seems like it’s all been boxed and sealed and shipped long before it rightly should have been.

Maybe this is a reflection of how disappointed I feel with how our country stands four years later. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq do not feel like they have in any real way answered for what happened here on this island, and in my native state, and just outside our nation’s capital, on Sept. 11, because that day, that 9/11 as we call it now, was given too much significance too soon and too recklessly. It all became too much like it used to be too quickly. This was supposed to be a new kind of disaster, one that reshaped the way we thought about our place in the world. But rethinking it all would’ve taken too long, would’ve required too much questioning, too much debate. And that is not what America does, or at least not what we are meant to do.

We are people (men?) of action. We look at a situation and know it at once and understand what must be done to right the wrong. All of which sounds very much like the conditioning of military training to me, which perhaps is all too apropos of a comparison. But it doesn’t do much in terms of convincing me that we live in a more evolved world, a country that learns from its mistakes somehow.

Now the forces of nature – upon which we may or may not have some immeasurable impact – have shown how ill-prepared we can be when faced with an enemy not as easily conquered. The aftermath has only made me more disappointed in light of tomorrow’s anniversary. In the must-act-now wake of 9/11, we reshuffled some of our bureaucracy and gave it a new name, but in its first large-scale test, it seems to have failed to secure our homeland in vital ways. Yes, many people share culpability in not doing more, and we are thankful for all those who did give their best and still are giving of themselves to improve the situation. But it still doesn’t do much for that pride feeling we’re supposed to have on national days of remembrance like tomorrow.

Let it be said: I am glad to live here and call this nation, this state, this city my home. But it is not the only way to live and if anything should be taken from this moment, it should be that we do not have it all figured out. We still struggle to help those who need it the most. We still do too much afflicting of the afflicted. And while we strive to be proud of what we as individuals and we as a still comparatively young nation have achieved, those feelings are weighed down by a sense of shame.

In case you missed it

Not one but three caring Americans have been quoted in recent days trying to find the silver lining in all this Katrina mess for those poor, poor people now getting all this lovely "help" from government and/or Mother Nature.

First there was former First Lady Barbara Bush: "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."

Then there was House Majority Leader Tom DeLay: According to DomeBlog, DeLay stopped to chat with three young boys resting on cots [at one of the shelters]. The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?" They nodded yes, but looked perplexed.

Now, I learn of Louisiana's U.S. Rep. Richard Baker speaking to lobbyists: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." [Via Eric Umansky]

Friday, September 09, 2005

The many peaces of Lennon

Saw the new John Lennon musical tonight at the Broadhurst. I hadn’t really been dying to see it, and I understand it’s been getting mixed reviews, but cheap tickets came up and I’m a Beatles fan, and I haven’t seen anything officially on Broadway in a while.

It was pretty enjoyable if you like his music and don’t go in expecting a whole lot. At times some of the nine actors (who all represent John Lennon at some point in the show) seem like they’re trying too hard and singing too loud. But at other times, especially during the ballads, some really hit their marks and perform well. The story is a loose recounting of Lennon’s life, with a heavy emphasis on his relationship with Yoko Ono Lennon – who happened to be in the audience at tonight’s show – but not as much about the Beatles as hardcore Beatles fans perhaps would like. But part of what the show seems to be saying is that Paul, Ringo and George were only part of his life – a big part, but not the only part. Those who agree with the by-now-cliché statement that Yoko broke up the band may not love that about the show, but I’m a fan without being a fanatic, if you understand the difference, so it didn’t bother me much.

A quick tangent: Two of my other favorite musical groups – Dar Williams and the Barenaked Ladies – have written their own versions of the John and Yoko story – from different viewpoints, too: Dar’s “I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono” and BNL’s “Be My Yoko Ono.” I enjoy both perspectives.

The other thing that was a bit precious – if not entirely inaccurate – was the indulgence of the “Give Peace a Chance” message. Hmm. Nixon, Bush, Vietnam, Iraq. There are no parallels here, right? Even if I’m inclined to agree with the general message, it seemed a facile bit of overemphasis. Then again the show did get Yoko’s imprimatur and her bio does say she “remains passionate about crusading for the peaceful world” she and John dreamed of, so I guess she’s just doing her job.

Perhaps that’s what could have made this show better, if it hadn’t been so obvious in many ways. I’m reminded of last year’s Ears on a Beatle at the DR2. The two-person show focused specifically on the FBI’s investigations of Lennon, and featured an excellent performance by Dan Lauria of “Wonder Years” fame. That show had subtlety and wit and managed to really capture Lennon’s worldview at the time without hammering it home the way the musical does. But I guess, maybe, when you’re trying to capture the 40-year arc of a proto-rock-star’s life, you can’t afford to be coy and subtle the whole time. Still, not knowing much about Lennon’s life after the Beatles break-up, I was intrigued by some details of the story in Act II, and even liked the touch of the cop describing Lennon’s last moments and the way it resonates with the beginning.

So the show wasn’t that bad, and I have to go out and listen to more of Lennon’s own music now, but I still scrolled through to my Beatles greatest hits collection on the iPod going home on the 1.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bender reading

Aimee Bender read at the Astor Place Barnes & Noble tonight, and as I’d feared, it was packed and everyone had to cram into that tiny space they have there. But it was nice to see her in person.

She read “Off” from her new book, Willful Creatures. The story was actually not one of my favorites in an otherwise exceptionally good collection, mostly because I don’t think the narrator is really very endearing to the reader. And I don’t think it was a great representative for a set of stories most of which are filled with fantastical elements (magical realism, surrealism). The story elicited some occasional laughs from the audience, but not as many as I would imagine. I missed the middle of the story, though, after my contact lens got dislodged and I had to run to the bathroom to straighten things out. I made it back in time for the Q&A.

I asked her whether she goes into a story with the fantastical motif in mind, or whether she has a narrative in mind and then finds a peculiarity to drive that story. She said it’s almost always the former. Something about the physical world has been altered (pumpkins for heads, keys for fingertips), she said, and it’s her task to figure out how those new rules affect the characters and their story. Later, she acknowledged that she had dampened her writing at one point in her development to try to make it more “adult” and “grown-up,” but later openly embraced the genre of fairy tales. And she’s been all the more successful because of it, I think.

The reading was also an opportunity for her to plug off-off-Broadway performances of her first collection of short stories, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, as adapted for the stage. The show’s at Walkerspace – a small Tribeca black box theater – next month, beginning Oct. 12. Tickets are $15, according to TheaterMania.

When the going gets linky

One of the great/funny things about blogs is the way they can shift (i.e., you can make them shift) in tone so sharply from one post to the next, especially if the author(s) isn’t particularly tied to a certain voice. Regular readers of this space might notice that one moment I can be sappy and sentimental, the next straightforward and matter-of-fact, and sometimes even attempting whatever amount of snark I can muster. It was with a hint of that last tone that I wrote this recent post. It also included some other key linkable elements: mention of Park Slope (where 97.3% of all NYC bloggers live), anti-corporate graffiti, and a visual to dress it all up. As a result, both Curbed and Gawker liked it enough to toss me some love, and it also sparked quite a conversation among the comments, which could just be two or three people going at it, back and forth, but still looks good for this little node of the web.

Update: I know it's not very hip to brag about page views, but today's 1000+ visitors just totally messed with my daily pattern.

Three real live books and a virtual album

I'm in three-book mode at the moment, reading three books at different times of the day, depending on my mood and place.

1. Ordinary Resurrections: Children in the Years of Hope by Jonathan Kozol (file under sociology/religion)

2. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (poetry)

3. Here Beneath Low-Flying Planes by Merrill Feitell (short fiction)

Also, why has it taken me so long to listen to and love Death Cab for Cutie? I just got their new album, Plans. I especially like "Different Names for the Same Thing" and "Soul Meets Body," but it's all very good. How did you -- if you are a fan -- first discover this band?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Could NYC become another New Orleans?

Built as it is on a series of islands, this city does present a flood risk in certain areas, and the municipal government has been touting this "Hurricane Evalution Application" ever since Katrina. Type in your address to see if you are in one of the three primary flood-risk zones, or happen to not be in any evacuation zone, where flooding is extremely unlikely. My apartment in this latter category, which I guess should make me feel a little safer than, say, the people in Lower Manhattan, but I work down there, so if the deluge hits unexpectedly around 3 in the afternoon, I guess I'd be in the danger zone. Still, even if my apartment building were not flooded or evacuated, if the power went out for any length of time the way it has in N.O., I'd be quick to leave.

Some say Governors Island is haunted

The white horsey didn't move when I was there ... [NYT]

What are you going to name her?

Talking about baby names usually reminds me of college for whatever reason – one of those many late-night conversations, I guess – but I came across a really neat site the other day that helps you answer the question: Were your parents early, late or right on time in terms of the name they chose for you and how popular it was at the time? Were you perhaps named Jessica and lots of parents happened to be naming their baby girls Jessica during the decade you were born? (It was one of the top names in the 1980s and 1990s, by the way.) Or was your name way ahead of its time? (Like Ethan was back in the ’80s.) Retro, even? (Like Mary nowadays.) Check out the Baby Name Wizard’s NameVoyager [requires Java]. There’s even an associated blog, which points out such nuggets as: “The standard length for an English boy's name is four to seven letters.”


That's another word I usually don't associate with people spreading out within a particular country, but it's being used more frequently now to describe the way residents of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans are having to craft new lives (whether temporary or permanent) elsewhere in the nation. Diaspora is usually something associated with an ethnic group like Jews, Ukrainians, or Armenians, but now it may be said of New Orleanians who've picked up and may not return, even after the city becomes inhabitable again.
In another trend, according to BlogPulse, it appears that on or around Friday, about 6% of all blog posts (and probably more) mentioned New Orleans and/or Katrina, but that trend seems to have peaked and dropped off somewhat to about 3% as of yesterday.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Super heroes and quesadillas

Not one but two trips to Park Slope were made this weekend.

One place I recommend, whether or not you are ready to admit that you are a superhero: The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co., a not-so-hush-hush storefront and perpetual fund-raiser for the writing and tutoring center in the back called 826 NYC [previously]. Upon entry, you are encouraged to sign your superhero name and secret power(s) in a big old ledger book that looks like it was sent via time machine to us here in the future from some time in the middle of the 20th century, back when superheroes were more popular and frequently chronicled in comic books. Besides the capes and grappling hooks and cans of anti-matter and economy-priced force field and balls of helium gum, there are books as well. I bought one of these. In order to buy something, you place it into a “vault” and then the attendant enters a big tall booth and her voice booms out over the entire store and she asks you to recite the superhero oath of loyalty – complete with your real name and superhero name – before she takes your payment and gives you your item(s) and receipt. And yes, they possess the super powers necessary for you to pay with credit cards.

Also to be recommended: Los Pollitos II, a reasonably priced Mexican restaurant, also on Fifth Ave. I had one of their cheap specials the other night: pumpkin-flower quesadillas. Yum!

Gas price update

Those gas stations that I saw here last week below $3? Not anymore. Regular unleaded was posted as $3.399 and $3.499, respectively. That's a rise of 54 cents each in a matter of days.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

An out-of-the-way house of treasures

Visiting the Hispanic Society of America today, a somewhat forgotten museum and library devoted to Spanish art and artifacts in Upper Manhattan, was a rather strange experience. The art was definitely worth the trip – several notable works by Goya, Velazquez and El Greco, to name just a few – and the price was right (free, with a no-pressure donation box). But the place has a deserted feeling to it. The imposing neo-Classical facades at Audubon Terrace seem a little worn around the edges, although they still stand out from the neighborhood. Inside the doorway a lone attendant sits reading at a table. His job isn’t really to greet visitors so much as to be an official presence for the airy exhibition space. There appeared to be only one or two other “official” people on hand. There’s a small collection of things for sale in one corner. But other than that, you’re really on your own to enjoy the collection of sculptures big and small, artifacts pre-historic and more recent, and paintings of all varieties. Most of the works are labeled – some better than others – but there isn’t really uniformity to the labeling the way you’d see at most other admission-charging art museums. It all has the feel of a rich family’s collection, now left for your enjoyment. Of course, the Frick Collection might also fit that description, but even there, one will find more uniform aid to the viewer. Still, it’s worth a visit to the place, even if you’d never think to visit Broadway and 155th St. While there today, I probably saw a total of about a dozen other people in the galleries, so crowds don’t seem to be a typical concern, either.

The Hispanic Society of America

The main entrance to the Hispanic Society of America, a free museum in lower Washington Heights.

An interior view.

Some of the paintings by El Greco.

The Ecstasy of Mary Magdalene.

An outdoor sculpture of El Cid seen from inside the museum.

One of the Goyas.

Kind of like the roaming gnome

Another batch of PostSecrets are up! I like this one, because it reminds me of Amelie. Speaking of which: There is an Amelie fan list site called "nobody's little weasel."

Saturday, September 03, 2005

"The last thing this corner needs is a [bank]."

Gotta love rough-and-ready site-specific development commentary. This message was at the back of a block fenced off to make way for a new Commerce Bank [Curbed, see #3] on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. What I want to know is: Was the orange shading over the word "bank" made by the first disgruntled graffiti artist, a subsequent one, or someone from the construction company? Also, if a bank is the "last thing," what is the first thing this corner needs? Affordable housing? An independent coffee shop?

The Brooklyn Bridge, from a different angle.

Hitting the pavement

Park Slope was plastered with what appeared to be freshly posted Weiner for Mayor signs today. And then, later, we were sipping beer at The Gate, a bar on Fifth Avenue, and there was Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-Queens and Brooklyn, himself, trailed by a cadre of eager sign-toting supporters. Sorry for the bad picture; it was taken through the bars of the bar's patio fence.


Lots of people had it this week – including those who will get reported on because of their rage, or who are in fact doing the reporting. There was CNN’s Anderson Cooper and his don’t give me that political doublespeak with Louisiana Sen. Landrieu. And New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin with his expletive-laced radio interview. Then, last night, apparently, rapper Kanye West had some things to say.

Friday, September 02, 2005

My vote is not for all the mail

The primary election in New York is coming up two Tuesdays from now, and I’ll be glad of one thing: an end to all these campaign mailers. How is it possible that I’ve gotten about five separate glossy ads for the same candidates? And not even different “executions” as ad people call them, but the same one, over and over again. I am not voting for the candidates who keep sending me more and more junk mail.

Even a less-than-ally wants to help

Here’s a man-bites-dog item if ever I read one: Fidel Castro of Cuba is offering to send aid in the form of doctors and medicine to our country to help with the hurricane relief effort. Will the U.S. accept? And will they all have to fly through another country first to get here?

A blue and white fact

I’m a sucker for random trivia, especially if it has to do with places near and dear to my heart. So I was flipping through a mailing from the Penn State Alumni Association. Turns out, many PSU alumni don’t stray too far from State. Out of alumni living in the U.S., two in five can be found in one of just five metro areas, and at least one in seven can be found living in or near Philadelphia. The second through fifth cities on the list are Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, New York and Washington.
Daryl yesterday posted a great interview with a NYT photographer who captures what it's like to be doing your job in the disaster zone. The guy says: "This is by far the most logistically difficult assignment I've ever covered, and I've done some wars and some conflicts." [PDN]

Does Condi *heart* the disaster zone too?

Hey, I love musical theater as much as anybody, and Spamalot tickets are hard to come by these days, but you'd think that Condi Rice would get a clue and postpone her recent little visit to New York while the Gulf Coast is falling apart. I'm sure someone could've arranged to get tickets a few weeks from now for the Secretary of State, but is it too much to ask that she focus on the dire needs of her state this week? It's just a small thing, yes, but leadership is often about looking like you're in charge.

An important question from Slate's Jack Shafer

Why aren't most media outlets mentioning that so many of the people stranded and dying in flooded New Orleans are black and likely poor?

And this unwillingness to mention race and class comes as CNN is reporting: "The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Thursday those New Orleans residents who chose not to heed warnings to evacuate before Hurricane Katrina bear some responsibility for their fates."

Some people are acting like it's just a case of stubborness, when it might instead be explained thusly (by Shafer): Why not have "... a paycheck-to-paycheck victim to explain that he couldn't risk leaving because if he lost his furniture and appliances, his pots and pans, his bedding and clothes, to Katrina or looters, he'd have no way to replace them. No insurance, no stable, large extended family that could lend him cash to get back on his feet, no middle-class job to return to after the storm."

UPDATE: An article in Friday's Times finally addresses this issue.

Top 10-ish tops

On a less heartbreaking note, the Skyscraper Museum has released the results of a survey of people involved in architecture: They asked them to vote for their favorite New York skyscrapers from a list of 25 notable ones. I was a little surprised at the list of candidates – it seemed like they left a lot out of the running – but the overall winner was not a surprise. It was the ever-photogenic 75-year-old Chrysler Building. The ESB, tallest in the city, came in fifth. Those are two of my favorites, but not limiting myself to the museum’s list, here are some of my other favorites: The Citigroup Center, the MetLife Tower, the Sony Tower (formerly the AT&T Building), Manhattan’s Municipal Building, the McGraw-Hill Building, and of course, the Eldorado.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I cannot believe it

Pardon me if this post is a little hysterical, but people are DYING in the streets in Louisiana, as if it were medieval times and this were the plague. The survivors are meanwhile starving to death and becoming dehydrated and they are surrounded by those who did not make it, unable to give the dead any proper final care. It seems they're having too much trouble trying to get people out of New Orleans and surrounding areas that not enough resources are being delivered to those still waiting to be evacuated. It's just unfathomable to me how we could let this happen, in what feels like slow motion, in our own country. Why wasn't there a plan to rescue and save these people in place? Why weren't emergency supplies and help waiting at the state lines Monday, ready to push into this new ground zero after the storm passed? This is not all Mother Nature's doing; people are dying long after the hurricane ended.

American refugees

It's a phrase that's been emerging this week, as noted this morning on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show. American refugees are not something we usually hear about, because for so many years, this country has been a place to flee to, a place to seek refuge from elsewhere, and not the opposite. But now that vast swaths of one of our sizable cities will be a no-go zone for the near future, we have all these people who are refugees in their own country. To me, it speaks of government unable to protect its citizens on some levels, and now, of government struggling -- and too often failing -- to provide for them in their time of need. And while we can complain that so many of the people now being rescued should have evacuated the area to begin with, it's hard to generalize about everyone's situation. Perhaps they couldn't afford to leave or didn't have the means. Perhaps they were limited by ailments or the need to watch over others ailing. Some we won't get to ask.

Local gas price watch

I passed two gas stations this morning in Upper Manhattan, and while regular unleaded was expensive, it was still below the $3 ceiling. One was selling it for $2.859 and the other was advertising $2.959.

Bender appearance

Just found out that Aimee Bender, author of Willful Creatures [previously], is scheduled to be doing a Barnes & Noble reading at the Astor Place location Sept. 7 at 7 pm. Which, based on the size of that store's reading area, could mean two things: They're not expecting many people, or they've really underestimated the fan base and it's going to be very crowded.