Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The 'E' word

I've been following the big Enron trial a little more closely than I probably would have done previously for two reasons: 1) I saw that great documentary on Skilling, Lay and co. (The Smartest Guys in the Room) and 2) I just finished up my first-ever criminal trial as a juror, so I know the ins and outs more readily than before. A really great blog that's been closely following all the proceedings is Enron: TrialWatch, written by staff at Enron's hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle. Can't say I'll be reading for all four expected months, but for now it's pretty interesting.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Cookie culture

Being a New Yorker now, I figured it was about time I tried Mallomars. For whatever reason (perhaps their scarcity in the rest of the country?) I don't recall ever eating them as a kid. I think I might've come across the name at some point or another, but never had I tried them before this week, when there appeared before me a display of the cookies in my local Key Food, and I had to buy a box. I can't say they are suddenly my all-time favorites or anything, but they're certainly up there. They're sort of like s'mores, with graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate, but the chocolate is of the dark variety, not milk chocolate, and the marshmallow isn't toasted. So they have their own unique taste, but they're also reminiscent of Moon Pies.

G-Span, just a boy from the 'hood

Outgoing Fed chief Alan Greenspan, representin' the Heights: "Born in New York City in 1926, Greenspan was the only child of Rose and Herbert Greenspan. His parents divorced when he was young and he was raised in a small apartment in the Washington Heights section of New York with his mother and grandparents."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

'It's gonna be cold. It's gonna be grey. And it's gonna last for the rest of your life.'

Groundhog Day's next Thursday, and what better way to celebrate than to watch, as I did this evening, Groundhog Day, an underappreciated comedy that actually has a lot of philosophical ideas embedded in it. When offered a given set of recurring (and not 100% appealing) circumstances, how are we to react? Run amok, as "Phil" (Bill Murray, not the groundhog) does in the first part of the movie ... improve merely for personal gain, as he does in the middle ... or try to live as much for others as for ourselves, like he does on the final day of his test. I actually found myself tearing up first during the scene in the diner where he sits down with Andie MacDowell's character after doing a tour of all the customers' lives and then recites some of her childhood memories and persistent dreams. It was at that point, I guess, that the selfish funk I've been stewing in for part of today finally got thrown back in my face. It's easier said than done, of course, but what I've so often been told about cheering yourself up by trying to do for others really does make sense.

Today wasn't all that bad. Went jogging in Fort Tryon Park. Picked up some things at Target. Got new sneakers. Tidied the house. Went to church. Attempted to see the Adaptation-esque Tristram Shandy starring Steve Coogan (whom I've loved since 24 Hour Party People and snippets of Alan Partridge), but it was sold out (surprise, surprise—second day, Saturday night, Loews Lincoln Square). Poked around for a place to eat, finally settling on Pappardella. Then reveled in the greatness that is Bill Murray back at home.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Book signings site

One of my favorite usually-free things to do here in the city is go to author readings and book signings. Barnes & Noble always seems to have a great selection of appearances scheduled, but there are a host of other notable places that sponsor such events. StillJohn.com is a great compilation site of such readings in the area.

James Frey update

If you haven't been following the scandal over James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, he basically has been forced to admit (after The Smoking Gun did an expose) that he embellished or made up a fair amount of his "memoir." Even Oprah has turned on him! Now comes this release from the publisher, Doubelday/Anchor:
We bear a responsibility for what we publish, and apologize to the reading public for any unintentional confusion surrounding the publication of A MILLION LITTLE PIECES.
We are immediately taking the following actions:
• We are issuing a publisher’s note to be included in all future printings of the book.
• James Frey is writing an author’s note that will appear in all future printings of the book.
• The jacket for all future editions will carry the line “With new notes from the publisher and from the author.”
• Although demand for the book remains high, we are not currently reprinting or fulfilling orders until we make the above changes.
• The publisher’s note and author’s note will be posted prominently on the randomhouse.com website.
• The publisher’s note and author’s note will promptly be sent to booksellers for inclusion in previously shipped copies of the book.
• An advertisement concerning these developments will appear in national and trade publications in the next few days.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Warming my shoes by the fire I made myself (a scene from the Poconos)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Coming late to the banquet

1) Watched the first installment of "Bleak House" on PBS. Dickens is so great (and so is Andrew Davies). Can't wait for next Sunday's part.
2) Loving In Cold Blood by Capote. Should've read it long ago. Had totally judged the book by its true-crime title. His prose is so gripping, he makes you care despite yourself.

Hail Melissa Plaut.

The female cabbie blogger of New York Hack has been revealed! Turns out M.P. = Melissa Plaut. Her media blitz began with this AP story. And continues with the requisite TV catch-up on ABC. (173 comments!) Rock on, M.P. Here's hoping all the fame doesn't make her clam up now online or become too recognizable. Then again, the latter is a bit unlikely.
Female NYC Cabbie Blogs About Being a Hack [AP/WP]
15 minutes and counting down [NewYorkHack]

S is for subway

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Bad day, good day

Today was supposed to be the worst day of the year, scientifically or mathematically, according to some professor from Wales who gets lots of stories written about his research every year. Well, it started off pretty bad for me. I had one of those back-in-college dreams where I've forgotten to do some massive assignment and it's due tomorrow and I don't have time or the willingness to do it. Then I woke up later than I wanted and wasn't all that well rested and the internet wasn't running very well, either. The line at the post office was horrendous. I made poor choices about getting to work. There was traffic on the West Side Highway and some supposed fire on the 1 line. Finally I get to work and things start to turn around after I happened upon free food in the conference room. Went to Trivia with D. et al for the first time in weeks, after having chowed down on the $2.75 special at whatever they call that Grey's Papaya imitation stand near the West 4th St. station. We won 2nd place with our massive team, which began as a threesome and just kept growing. A well-made audio round in which each clip included only 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 ... notes, although I only knew about half the songs. Then, on my way uptown, I ran into M., my official transit acquaintance, yet again on a subway platform, so I had a friend for the ride home.

Monday, January 23, 2006

'I caught you a delicious bass'

· Napoleon Dynamite Soundboard [Albino Blacksheep]

Buttercup

CBS' How I Met Your Mother is an awesome TV show. Have I mentioned that before? I probably have. I'll mention it again. Because tonight's episode reminded me of why it's so much fun. It has great writing that keeps you guessing and a cast of enjoyable characters that have different goals and different attitudes (and different senses of humor). This episode, "Drumroll Please," reminded me a lot of "The Pineapple Incident," because of the way it leaps back and forth in time, between the night before and the morning after, to tell the story. And seemingly inane comments (in this case, say, about the crazy delicious wedding cake) end up becoming very important later on in the show. The whole premise of the show — a father telling his children about their parents' meeting story 25 years in the future — is mirrored in this technique. Plus, there's another awesome quasi-NYC reference: Buttercup Bakery (a stand-in, perhaps, for Buttercup Bake Shop).

Friday, January 20, 2006

Virtu-Kitties

Cat bloggers like Callalillie (who also happens to rock the NYC-net in many other blogging categories as well) let me enjoy the highs and lows of cat ownership without all the nasty sneezing and eye-scratching that usually accompanies such moments of feline intimacy for me.
The Box [Callalillie]

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The magazine motherlode has been purged

Remember this picture? Well, there was a much needed intervention on Monday. I didn't so much toss away the magazines as the magazines were tossed away on my behalf while on the sidelines I kind of wimpered at the imminent loss of all that potentially great reading material.

(Who are we kidding? I was never going to get around to digesting them all. If I were unemployed, perhaps ... but then I wouldn't be able to pay the rent to house all the magazines in the first place.)

I'll admit it, despite seeing all those New Yorker stories bite the dust, it was a relief to be able to start over. After all, one need only wait for the new issues to arrive to let the collection begin again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The verdict is in

All in all, jury duty wasn't that bad. I didn't have to be there all eight hours each day, and I met some fun people in the process. Now I'll also be able to critique fictional courtroom scenes on TV and in the movies. Plus, I'm good for four to six years, having served on a trial.

Manhattan snuggles up with Chicago


It looks like this site's been around for a while now, but I just happened upon it. Made the map nerd and Manhattan nut in me laugh. It compares the scale of our fair island to other major cities by imagining what it would look like moored in the appropriate bay, river or lake.
The Errant Isle of Manhattan [RadicalCartography]

Monday, January 16, 2006

Chip Kidd at B&N Chelsea

Chip Kidd read from his coffee-table book (a strange thing to do, he admitted) Friday at the Chelsea Barnes & Noble. It's basically a collection of his book-jacket designs and other things called Chip Kidd: Book One, Work: 1986-2006. I'd say nearly 150 people turned out for the event. He seemed genuinely befuddled by his rock-star status. Or perhaps it's just an act, and he doesn't want to appear jaded by it all.

He read a "true story" from his book that recounts his first book-cover design assignment at college (he seems a very proud Penn Stater, mentioning it quite a few times, or maybe that's just me projecting). Kidd's from the Reading area, and is also tangentially acquainted with John Updike's family or circle or something, so thus he felt like he had a lock on things when the teacher told the students to design a new cover for Museums and Women, by Mr. Shillington himself, which features some scene in a well-known (to county residents, at least) museum in Reading. So he cobbles together some freshman attempt, all very proud of himself, and the teacher proceeds to tear him apart in front of the class, saying something like, "If you were considering book jacket design as a career, you should consider something else." He says that what that teacher told him were valid critiques, and proof that he wasn't born some genius, but there was still a sense of pride, he admitted, in eventually getting to design Updike's books for real at Knopf.

Speaking of "true stories," Kidd mentioned the now infamous book by James Frey (A Million Little Pieces) in passing because the cover was designed by one of his students ("my greatest creation," he said in a Dr. Frankenstein voice) at SVA, whom Chip thought of as a fuck-up in school, but who turned out to be a real success in his work.

Other than that, there were lots of jokey mentions of drinking and happy hour and rehab, along with lots of air quotes and silly voices. I found him pretty amusing, but perhaps he wasn't what everyone expected because a lot of his flamboyance seemed to fall flat in terms of getting a rise out of the audience.

The Q&A session began with some interesting thoughts, but ended with the inevitable (groan-inducing) "What are your influences?" and "What advice do you have for the struggling book-jacket designer?" ("Find another field" was his answer. "I don't need the competition") and another question about what overriding principles or theories he has. Kidd very charitably gave some answers, although he was basically rewording something he'd said during his initial discussion: that he relies on the content of each new book to inspire him, and doesn't try to carry with him Great Big Ideas that he imposes onto someone else's writing.

Oh, and someone also asked him whether Chip Kidd is his real name. And he said, only inasmuch as his mother came up with it as a nickname for Charles (his birth certificate) when he was a fetus.

Plus, he was wearing a snazzy faded-green blazer with burgundy trimming over a pink and white striped shirt. And he has this off-center haircut that he's always flipping back and forth.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Attempts at Exercise, Part 194

Went jogging/walking/dragging-my-butt through Central Park this afternoon. I actually made it around the whole loop (counter-clockwise from the northern perspective), but it took me longer than anyone who's actually in shape and does that sort of thing on a regular basis: about two hours. Still, as much as I like to be prepared with my bag around the city, it felt good to go out with only keys, wallet and phone for a change.

Teany, tiny

Teany is back. Sort of. Looks like a Friday-Sunday sort of place for the moment. Say what you will about Moby, this was the site of one of my first NYC celeb sighting experiences a few years ago, so it has a warm place (with techno beats) in my heart.
teany reopens with tiny schedule [NewYorkology]

Friday, January 13, 2006

Favorite PostSecret of the moment

You can drink free at the YMCA

'Twas great fun last night to meet Craig and Lisa and Joyce and MissR and Brownstoner (without his disguise) and PropertyGrunt (partying in full diguise) with booze and nibbles in a swanky space. Word is, there's an offer for $10 million on the table to buy the place.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Saw Casanova starring Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller this afternoon at a practically empty AMC Times Square. A perfect light, fluffy confection for a rainy Wednesday matinee. No great art or great satire, but a very passable farce that kept me laughing throughout.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Dyckman Street 1 train

Knickerbocker

Knickerbocker
Ever since reading this David Dunlap column that mentions plain-view artifacts on the shuttle platform of the Times Square-42nd Street subway station, I had to go check them out. And while I couldn't find the remnants of the "underground entrance to The New York Times headquarters," I did locate the old way into the former Knickerbocker Hotel at Broadway and 42nd Street, which closed in 1920, Flickr-linked above.

Morningside heights


Morningside heights, originally uploaded by jskrybe.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Night of 1000 Davids, or Two

I got to meet David Rakoff tonight after his reading at Mo Pitkin's House of Satisfaction on Avenue A. (Is that a great name for a venue or what?) He read from his new book, which I've been enjoying very much this past week and a half. Plus, I got to him to confirm that the civics nut Sarah in the first essay about him getting his U.S. citizenship (he was originally Canadian) is indeed Sarah Vowell. Apparently they all know each other: Rakoff, Vowell, David Sedaris, Amy Sedaris. Perhaps via This American Life, perhaps because they're all just New York essayists of a certain age and temperament.

Rakoff led off the reading, and then segued into the act of another guy named Dave Hill, who either is or isn't employed by Doubleday to drive writers to East Coast readings. I'm going to go with isn't, but that was the role he played in a funny little short starring the two Daves about a supposed trip to Boston for a reading by Rakoff. Being that there is a passing-traffic shot that's repeated about a dozen times in the short film, I'm going to have to assume that it was all just a bit of fun, and wasn't shot in Boston at all. After all, most writers have to get to book signings on their own, right? Dave Hill deadpanned from his "forthcoming memoir," which included a mildly funny rumination on crazed chimps.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

MulchFest '06

MulchFest pile
This is about all that's left of some 80 Christmas evergreens, now ready to become mulch, after they were chipped up by the parks department's big orange chipper machine. I hauled my small tree off to Inwood Hill Park this afternoon to add to the yearly recycling effort. The remains of the trees are then used to fertilize plantings around the park. The smell was especially pungent as the chipper performed its noisy deed — almost like a massive pine-scented air freshener spray, chopping through all the bark and sap and needles.

Mulchfest in action

Inwood 9/11 memorial


Inwood 9/11 memorial, originally uploaded by jskrybe.

Heading off to mulch my bitty Christmas tree this afternoon, I happened upon this 9/11 cross, created with beams from the World Trade Center. It's outside the Church of the Good Shepherd at Isham St. and Broadway. I've passed the church before on the M100 or the Bx7, but never saw the memorial, as it's located on the side street. There is also an area nearby where each of the local people (almost all men, from what I could tell) killed that day are commemorated with plaques near the ground.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

PSA: 39 cents!

First they keep the impending Olympics a secret from us, now they're practically mum on the postal rate increase! As of tomorrow, it'll cost you 39 cents to send that first-class rent check to your landlord, if you even have to do that. (Thank goodness for online bill paying otherwise.)

Chip Kidd in the Penn Stater magazine



There's a great interview with Chip Kidd, Knopf book designer extraordinaire and author of The Chesse Monkeys (which I still need to read!), in the Jan./Feb. issue of the Penn Stater. Sample exchange: DP: So were you at the forefront of this movement? CK: A movement implies that we all had a rally down at Union Square and decided this. Above, a picture of the Kidd himself as a member of the Blue Band drum line back in the '80s, snapped at the exhibit of his work in Cooper Union, running through Feb. 4.

Previously: Kidd, Ware [CS]

Friday, January 06, 2006

These things are all the rage at the moment


Make your own cryptic MTA-like subway diversion sign!

Favorite PostSecret of the moment

It says: I teach English Lit and I've just about had it with this guy.

Luck, art

I've run into people on the subway before, but never before tonight have I run into someone that I had been calling just a few moments ago. That bit of serendipity happened tonight. M., whom I met the first day of the transit strike, happened to come downstairs to the Prince Street uptown NR platform just after I did this evening, and luckily, we noticed each other. I joined her on the way uptown to the Met Museum, where we checked out the Robert Rauschenberg: Combines exhibit, which opened two weeks ago. A fun New York evening.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Talk about a dearth of buzz

The Turin Winter Olympics are in 36 days! Who knew? Check out the mascots: a snowball and an ice cube, with legs!

Subway lines

Subway lines

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Getting comfortable with Rakoff

With apologies to whomever happened to sit nearby me on the trains these past two days, I have to recommend a great book of essays that's been making me laugh out loud every few pages. It's "This American Life" contributor David Rakoff's latest, Don't Get Too Comfortable. (The subtitle is "The Indignities of Coach Class, the Torments of Low Thread Count, the Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems.") And as for anyone who's happened to read this book already: I had to wonder whether the civics nut "Sarah" mentioned in the first essay about the author getting his citizenship actually is Sarah Vowell? Even if not, it's fun to think that the author I read recently makes an appearance in the latest book I'm reading.

Monday, January 02, 2006

On the NJT train

Guy got on at Princeton Junction. Later, makes a call. To whom? Not sure. Only line I heard: "Do you have the Cliff's Notes for A Midsummer Night's Dream?"