Tuesday, November 18, 2008

RIP Sharp QT-CD44 (1990-2008)

Like a beloved pet that lived far longer than its usual life expectancy, my old trusty Sharp CD boom box ("QT-CD44 stereo radio cassette recorder with compact disc player") kept hanging on through the 2000s, even as the term "mix tape" become horribly outdated. It was my first ever CD player, circa 1990, and so I had a fondness for it. But lately, it just hasn't been the same anymore. In its final years, I had to start any disc spinning by hand (no joke!), then slam the lid shut and press play in order to have any hope of hearing the music. Then that part broke and I used it mainly for listening to the radio in the kitchen. Now, it's not even doing that. Time to say goodbye to what's probably been my longest continually running piece of electronics. You've served me well.

Friday, November 14, 2008

`You know ... for kids!'

The winning "Hoop" design for the city's new bike racks made me think of that famous line from the Coen brothers' movie The Hudsucker Proxy. I haven't used any of the prototypes yet, but they look like they'll provide a reasonably good way to string a chain through the frame and front wheel and rack without having to stretch that far, while the design also evokes their purpose: They look like bicylce wheels, after all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Content placement?

One of my favorite guest-character arcs in "How I Met Your Mother" involved "Victoria," one of Ted's girlfriends in Season 1. She was played by Ashley Williams, who sort of disappeared -- from my radar screen at least -- after her story in the show was over. Now she's resurfaced in something called "Novel Adventures" on CBS.com. Not CBS, CBS.com -- it's a "web original." From the very start, something was fishy: They kept mentioning Saturn in the same breath as the show. Then I watched it. Let's just say I was less than three minutes in and they'd already plugged Saturn like half a dozen times in the script or the set. Ashley's character's husband actually works at a Saturn dealer. Now I enjoy a well-written, witty commercial, like the best of 'em. But what are we to make of a show written entirely around a brand? Move over, product placement, this is a lame attempt at content placement. As much as I like that actress, I can't bear to watch an eight-part ad for something I'll probably never buy. I hope this isn't a sign of things to come. Back in the day, when broadcast shows were sponsored by one brand, at least they had enough self-respect to actually produce content worth watching, right? Or is this not actually that much beyond the pale in television history terms?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This is what deep discounting looks like

So you know how you read recently that retailers are slashing prices to move their inventory, a good news/bad news sign of the economy? Proof in the pudding: I just bought jeans at Banana Republic that originally cost $78 for less than $8, thanks to a slew of discounts that included my having a credit card from the store. That's about 90 percent off when all is said and done.

Dog and pony show

If Road Show, the renovated Sondheim musical formerly known as Bounce and playing at the Public through the end of the year, had been written by any other composer, I would've walked out thinking that wasn't half bad. But with Stevie, the bar is set rather high. The book -- inspired by the Mizner brothers, known for picaresque misadventures and society beach cottages in Florida -- is John Weidman of Pacific Overtures and Assassins fame. Those two shows left me feeling about the same way that I did after this latest one. They were entertaining enough in the moment, but don't really leave me with all that much to go home with. Direction is by John Doyle, whose work on Sweeney Todd and Company was excellent. This time around, the actors aren't playing any instruments and the live musicians are off stage the whole time. One of the central motifs of the musical is the idea of throwing a lot of money around, made literal in the several dozen times that characters actually toss piles of cash into the air to have the bills flutter around like autumn leaves. I'd argue that this bit of direction might've been overused just a little bit, but it certainly unites the different aspects of the brothers' lives. The costumes worn by the ensemble work better: They are made of fabric printed with architectural drawings of the kind that Addison Mizner draws for his rich clientele in New York and Florida. (At first, I thought they were bank checks, which also would've worked.) The set is basically a mountain/wall of brick-a-brack, filled with props that come in handy for various milestones along the Mizners' road(s). Alexander Gemignani and Michael Cerveris do a decent job of highlighting the shades of gray in the Mizners' journeys. They're not quite crooks and they're not quite successful businessmen either. The Playbill notes nod at real estate bubbles past and present. The show's about 100 minutes without intermission. I paid full price, which I regret somewhat. If you can get in to see it for anything less, it might be worth it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday, November 09, 2008

When big news hits ...

People still flock to the front page of newspapers, even if it's just online: Obama Wins over and over again on the Newseum's Web site.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Papa was a rodeo

I used to be a blogger. That was part of my self-imposed job description. I loved it. It was part of who I was. Is it still? These past few months have been really pretty harrowing on a lot of levels. I'm thankful that I still have a job, as do the people around me. Work seems to have sucked up all my words. I'm left with little to none at the end of the day. All I can muster is that one line on Facebook: the status report. A one-sentence blog? Sometimes there's satisfaction to be had in that small space. Not always, though. I tallied up the story count from the past 12 months: 1,000 takes. A little more than that actually. And the more I write, the less they pay me for every story, it occurred to me. My doctor says I'm stressed. I can't really disagree, but is it only stress? Is there something else that's wrong with me? Is he a therapist or a general practitioner? I should make another appointment. Will he spend most of the time talking about how stressed I look again? I got a five-minute chair massage today. It was a little bit rough toward the end, but that's probably because I'm so tense. No harm done, in the end. I need to go again, to the train station. I wish it weren't so late.