Monday, February 28, 2005
Here's an excellent way to waste time at work. You can pit two keywords of your choice against one another to see which one gets more Google hits. New York and Los Angeles were neck and neck until New York pulled ahead by about 14 million hits. When duking it out against Hollywood, however, New York only won by 5 million hits. The site claims to list the last 20 fights, so you probably don't want to take on your archnemesis by name.
Posted by escapegrace at 7:59 AM
Sunday, February 27, 2005
I think I've been witness to a rampant takeover of the popular imagination by a three-word phrase. Two weeks ago, my boss described himself as being "loaded for bear." I had no idea what he meant, but I determined from the context that it meant something along the lines of being ready for an altercation. I imagined a hunter with a big ol' gun facing a big ol' bear. Now my boss has a superhuman command of the English language, so it is not unusual for him to use obscure vocabulary that gives me pause. However, within the past week, I have heard this phrase used on television, seen it used in print, and then yesterday, heard it used again by an acquaintance. Coincidence? I think not.
loaded for bear
Fully prepared for action; also, spoiling for a fight. For example, Bill tackled his new sales route loaded for bear, or When Martin was three hours late, his wife was loaded for bear. This term, dating from the mid-1800s, alludes to the heavy charge of powder or lead that hunters use for large animals like a bear.
Posted by escapegrace at 7:54 AM
Christo's Gates will be dismantled beginning tomorrow (with a strong police presence to prevent pilfering) and The Somerville Gates, after being unveiled at the Somerville City Hall, are no more. Both installations got people talking to each other, a result which may not be the primary goal of art, but cannot be ignored as an important contribution to urban life.
Posted by escapegrace at 7:34 AM
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
This is actually two weeks' worth of Netflix. I was done in by a flu-like attack this weekend and easily could have gone through four movies, but I ran out. Netflix almost has a built-in discipline tool...unless, of course, you sign up for eight films at a time.
Vanity Fair: This film was decent for what it was, another unremarkable period piece. It did nod slightly toward images of imperialism, but not far enough. I don't recall it getting good reviews, possibly because it was haunted by two imposing phantoms: Thackeray's original, much more complex novel Vanity Fair and Mira Nair's excellent previous film Hysterical Blindness.
We Don't Live Here Anymore: My God. This movie cured me of ever, ever wanting to be a married English professor. I've pretty much had it with the rash of films these days that chronicle the lives of whiny cheaters.
Flashes from the Past
The Rapture: I rented this film based on the strength of a scene I remembered seeing somewhere that never occurred in the actual film. I wasn't too disappointed though. It was worth it to see David Duchovny's bad-ass mullet.
Six Degrees of Separation: This film was much more comedic than I thought it would be. It was simultaneously a realistic portrayal of how experience becomes anecdote and an over-the-top Pygmalion fantasy. I'd like to have a cocktail with Stockard Channing.
Posted by escapegrace at 2:17 PM
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Saturday, February 19, 2005
The Guardian reveals the shocker that P. Diddy is "not a poet starving in a garret" in an interesting article arguing that procrastination has been linked to integrity all the way back to Proust and beyond.
Still, a worrying precedent is being set here. What will the world of literature come to if every late-delivering author is held to account? Authors have been slow to deliver ever since Moses came down from Mount Sinai with his tablets of stone (40 days and nights late, according to his editor).
Posted by escapegrace at 8:21 AM
Thursday, February 17, 2005
I've been wandering around on edge for years. When people ask why I'm moving west, I often cite my need to feel settled - a cost-prohibitive venture for me here - and my lust for an easier life. No one in New York ever asks me what I mean by that.
Apparently, there is now scientific evidence, outlined in New York magazine, that this city is the ultimate anxiety-producing climate you can find.
In fact, just crossing New York City borders is enough to set your teeth on edge. In 1999, Nicholas Christenfeld, a psychology professor at the University of California, examined the national rates at which people die of heart attacks. In New York, he noticed, the rates are 55 percent higher than the national average. “It stands out like a red light on the map,” he says. Then Christenfeld examined the rates of heart attacks among visitors to New York. Amazingly, those numbers were also elevated—34 percent higher than normal. The reverse was also true—when New Yorkers travel to other parts of the country, their rates drop below the city’s norm by 20 percent.
Turns out your paranoid mother was right: The city really will kill you. “It’s incredible,” Christenfeld marvels. “Just by visiting New York, you pick up half of the stress effect of living there. And you can shed half of it by leaving.”
Posted by escapegrace at 1:56 PM
I'm illin' today, but I think I'm still going to try to make it to The Gates tomorrow. I will not be swayed by the cranky art kids interviewed in The New York Times today.
"They just wasted their money on nothing," declared Ikim Powell, 10, who attends P.S. 368 in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. "They should at least have paintings behind them."
His classmate, Tyre Brooks, felt "The Gates" was an unnecessary artificial imposition on the park's natural beauty. "Now it looks like a stage, like on wrestling," he said. "I just want to ride my bike and play. I'd like to come back to the park when the flags aren't here. They look cheap."
Posted by escapegrace at 10:59 AM
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
As I struggle to complete my dissertation, I can take solace in the fact that at least I'm not being sued. Maybe Mikal Gilmore is free now to help me out...
"Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a sheet of blank paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." - Gene Fowler
Posted by escapegrace at 5:06 AM
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
I saw Neko Case (pictured above, not really dead, from the cover of her album Furnace Room Lullaby) last night at the Bowery Ballroom and it was the best antidote to Valentine's Day I could have asked for. There were covers of Hank Williams, Buffy Saint Marie, The Shangri-Las, Catherine Irwin, and even a little Bad Company and Blue Oyster Cult, not to mention a staged sapphic double suicide to annoy Dubya. I found myself looking forward to the banter as much as I did the songs. Thanks, NC.
Posted by escapegrace at 2:14 PM
Monday, February 14, 2005
The above song title - listed on the back of Poison's Open Up and Say...Ahh! as "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" - has always stayed with me as the one of the most widely distributed grammar snafus I'd ever seen. This typo may not reach a comparable audience, but all I gotta say is ouch.
Posted by escapegrace at 7:53 AM
Friday, February 11, 2005
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Scenestars has two downloads from hot item Brendan Benson: "Spit It Out" and "I Feel Like Myself Again" from his new release The Alternative to Love coming out in March. (They also have an interview.) He's not new to recording, but The Alternative to Love is being heralded as his big breakthrough. (I love the 70s lettering on the cover. It makes me think of Leif Garrett for some reason.)
Posted by escapegrace at 1:56 PM
Of the Progress of the Soul: The Second Anniversary
...Forget this rotten world, and unto thee
Let thine own times as an old story be.
Be not concern'd; study not why, nor when;
Do not so much as not believe a man.
For though to err, be worst, to try truths forth
Is far more business than this world is worth.
The world is but a carcass; thou art fed
By it, but as a worm, that carcass bred;
And why shouldst thou, poor worm, consider more,
When this world will grow better than before,
Than those thy fellow-worms do think upon
That carcass's last resurrection?
Forget this world, and scarce think of it so,
As of old clothes, cast off a year ago.
To be thus stupid is alacrity;
Men thus lethargic have best memory.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:35 AM
Congrats to the most patient mistress ever! They've been together since I was born.
The Prince first met Mrs. Parker Bowles at a polo match in Windsor in 1970. Their relationship continued over the decades, including during Charles's 15-year marriage to Diana...Last June, Mrs. Parker Bowles was mentioned in the prince's accounts, moving her into a new realm of acceptance. Mrs. Parker Bowles will take the title Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall, after the wedding.
Posted by escapegrace at 6:26 AM
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
This Salon article discusses a newish social networking website, 43 Things, where people can "post their goals, resolutions and grand designs, and meet others who share the same ambitions," an activity called tagging. (I didn't know you could reappropriate a term that means something else so culturally ubiquitous, but there it is.)
On 43 Things you state a goal, such as "write a novel." That immediately links you to all the other people who have the exact same goal. But you also attach tags to your goal -- essentially key words that you choose -- such as "writing," "novel" and "fiction." Tags are not selected from any pre-codified hierarchy set by the site designers. They simply arise from the grass roots -- you and others like you. Now you're suddenly connected to everyone with similar goals, such as "write a good novel" and "write a book and have it published" and "finish my novel."
Since I have a friend currently looking for mates to join her for a version of National Novel Writing Month, I could see this taking off.
Posted by escapegrace at 11:58 AM
I feel like I'm exaggerating using this term, but I was verbally assaulted on the subway this morning. I was sitting, reading, and minding my own business when a seat opened up next to me. There was plenty of space between me and the next person over, so I was surprised when someone sat so close to me as to be practically in my lap. When I looked up, I saw a mentally disturbed man, shaking and grumbling to himself, who was pressed up against me with space left over on the other side of him.
While in any other situation you would quickly remove yourself, I actually hesitated, having been brainwashed by this city to tolerate all kinds of invasions of private space. I did get up, however, and walked to wait by the nearest door since the next stop was mine. As soon as I did this, the man began yelling at me for the next three minutes or so, "Do you think you're special?! You're not goddamn special!" and other lovely sentiments. In between curses, he glared at me. I pretended to read Alice Munro. As the train approached the station, he got up and approached me to tell me to my face how unspecial I was. I'm pretty sure he followed me off the train, but I escaped into a crowd.
The worst part is that - besides feeling angry and frightened - I felt guilty. I felt mean for hurting the crazy man's feelings and not putting up with his behavior. Why should I have to even be in a scenario like that? This is the kind of dilemma I just don't want to deal with anymore.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:03 AM
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
I'm all for cultural studies, but is this maybe going just a little too far?
CALL FOR PAPERS: THE WITCHING HOUR
A Harry Potter Symposium
October 6-10, 2005
The Witching Hour is an interdisciplinary symposium designed to allow scholars and adult enthusiasts of the Harry Potter series to gather and share research. The conference programming will engage attendees in a broad exploration and understanding of the Harry Potter texts and phenomenon, as well as foster dialogue between academics and fans. The theme of the symposium - as befits the season, locale and current tone of the series - is choice, moral ambiguity, and the darkness within everyone.
Five days! Who knows? Squillions of readers must be on to something. Or maybe not...
I'd much rather go to this:
Glory Days: A Bruce Springsteen Symposium
September 9-10, 2005
West Long Branch, New Jersey
Proposals are now being accepted for papers for this first-of-its-kind conference for educators, journalists, historians, musicologists, and anyone interested in the life, work, and influence of Bruce Springsteen. Papers will be considered on, but will not be limited to, the following topics:
Springsteen and American Folklore
Springsteen and Critical Theory
Springsteen and Dylan's American Dreamscapes
Springsteen and Musicianship
Springsteen and Politics of Culture
Springsteen and Musical Legacy
Springsteen and Musical Contemporaries
Springsteen and Rock-n-Roll Iconography
Posted by escapegrace at 1:55 PM
Monday, February 07, 2005
First of all, if you aren't signed up for Netflix, you should be. (Don't sign up for the Blockbuster online version. They're evil.) You can store up to 500 films you want to see and adjust their order at will. You can almost always get new releases as soon as they come out - no sold out video shelves. Even more importantly, no late fees! I used to pay approximately $8 per movie if I didn't return it on time, which was almost always. Now I pay an average of $2 per movie, less if it's a particularly anti-social month. As long as you have access to a mailbox, delivery and return are as simple as pie. The only complaint I have is the lagtime between returning movies and getting them back. If you want them for the weekend, you need to mail the old movies by Thursday morning. Luckily, I'm never as desperate for movies as this boy.
This week, I watched three films, two that I was glad to have seen, one that I was not.
Ray: I was predisposed to like this film after seeing Jamie Foxx's Golden Globe award speech, but it was quite entertaining and informative. I had no idea Ray Charles had such a heroin problem. All biopics seem to have the same vibe, but the music was great and Jamie's got my vote for the best male performance Oscar.
The Forgotten: This movie also had an important element to recommend it to me, filmed as it was in DUMBO, my favorite neighborhood I can't afford. However, if there's one thing I hate, it's plot sloppiness. Someone once said, in relation to something slightly more salacious, that a clean plot is a happy plot, and I wish Joseph Ruben and Gerald Di Pego had embraced that notion quite a bit more.
Some Kind of Monster: If you have ever wondered what's it's like to be a rock star trying to grow up and keep your street cred, or if you have ever been to therapy, or if you like to bang your head, or if you are fascinated by public figures spilling their guts, or if you have ever tried to collaborate on a creative project with friends, this is the film for you.
Posted by escapegrace at 3:40 PM
I took the first step toward moving today and went to check out the rental truck I will be driving to LA. The rear storage was more spacious than I had imagined when trying to check out similar trucks parked on the street. Interestingly, the height inside was almost exactly as tall as I am, so that will be an easy way to measure things. I sat inside the cab and though comfortable size-wise, this particular truck was quite filthy. The man in charge assured me that I would get a nice, new, clean truck since I was going so far. I bought four boxes to start packing my books, so I guess the move has begun.
Posted by escapegrace at 3:34 PM
Yes, I've (slightly) changed the name of this blog. While I liked the connotations of "rascal" that went along with the definition of "scapegrace," I didn't quite fit the "lacking a moral center" meaning. "Escapegrace" seems to convey more of what I'm chronicling here. The URL remains the same, so no need to do anything on your part.
Posted by escapegrace at 7:57 AM
Saturday, February 05, 2005
It's a beautiful day here in Gotham, after getting off to a somewhat chilly start (but that's what I get for heading to work at 7 on a Saturday). I'm thinking of going to see Christo's latest project for Central Park, The Gates. Scroll down to the pictures. There's even a blog to go with it.
Posted by escapegrace at 12:11 PM
Friday, February 04, 2005
Matt Tobey lists his votes for the The 500 Best Songs Ever! but as Emma Garman asks on the Maud Newton site...Where are all the girls?
Emma also reveals that the role of Jonathan Safran Foer in the film version of Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated will be played by Elijah Wood. The Manchurian Candidate directs.
Posted by escapegrace at 1:24 PM
Thursday, February 03, 2005
As if turning 35 and then reading Joyce Carol Oates's Middle Age weren't bad enough, I now qualify for anti-wrinkle cream focus groups. In the demoralizing entrance interview, I had to characterize whether I had "fine lines" or "deep wrinkles" and quantify the amount of "sagging" I was experiencing. (Fortunately, five minutes in the sun burns my Celtic cheeks to a crisp, so a lifetime of pastiness has me faring well for now.) Two weeks ago, I went to pick up the product I was to be testing (and, of course, the cool fitty in cash). For the past 14 days, I have struggled to find new ways to describe applying a thin lotion to my face. "Smooth" can only take you so far in the anti-wrinkle world. The day there was a slight burning sensation, I was delighted to have something novel to say. Now I'm off to have my fine lines examined for magical restoration. Wish me flawlessness.
Posted by escapegrace at 11:13 AM
Bookslut has a link to an article in The Orlando Sentinel, in which Oprah discusses the upcoming TV movie Their Eyes Were Watching God (discussed earlier here).
"Occasionally, I'm still surprised how many people are not aware of her or haven't read [Hurston's] books," Valerie Boyd [a Hurston biographer] says. "This TV adaptation will change all that. It catapults her into pop culture, into the mainstream. What's more mainstream than ABC and Oprah Winfrey and Halle Berry?"
Posted by escapegrace at 10:51 AM
The LA Weekly has a review of Gottlieb et al's The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City, which examines the legacy of lefty luminaries Upton Sinclair, A.L. Wirin, Carey McWilliams, Charlotta Bass, and Dorothy Healey, among others. The prognosis is somewhat grim.
Here, Louis Menand also chimes in with a review of several recent entries in the Hollywood nonfiction camp, including David Thomson's The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood:
In any normal history of Hollywood, “Star Wars” is kind of important, and if you are someone who believes that “history” means a maximum of information presented with a minimum of opinion, then “The Whole Equation” is not the book for you. But if you think that our interest in movies has everything to do with our feelings about them, and if you have a tolerance for repetition, digression, first-person indulgence, and general narrative shagginess, then you are not likely to find a more affecting and intellectually absorbing book on film as a popular art. Thomson’s subject is not, strictly speaking, the history of the movies; its subject is the history of caring about the movies. That calls for something more than just the facts.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:08 AM
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
...here are the Top 25 censored stories of last year. As a companion to the first topic, I highly recommend Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America.
Millions of Americans work for poverty-level wages, and one day Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that any job equals a better life. But how can anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 to $7 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich moved from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, taking the cheapest lodgings available and accepting work as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing-home aide, and Wal-Mart salesperson. She soon discovered that even the "lowliest" occupations require exhausting mental and physical efforts. And one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors.
For a similar take on trying to get by as an adjunct professor, see Corrina Wycoff's "The Adjunct" in The Clear Cut Future.
Posted by escapegrace at 2:54 PM
I acknowledge it's hard to find a musician that wouldn't place me in the situation above, but I'm afraid my imaginary affair with Conor Oberst has come to an end. I know this is old news and he was just a pup back then, but like Beck et al before him, I just can't help but judge.
Posted by escapegrace at 7:55 AM
I had a visceral reaction to a commercial I saw last night advertising the latest Oprah translation of a classic African-American novel to the screen: Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. The memorable protagonist, Janie Crawford, is to be played by Catwoman Halle Berry. Despite discovering the teleplay is written by the impressive Suzan-Lori Parks, I just still can't get behind the casting. I had similar qualms about Oprah as Sethe in Beloved, which proved to be not so bad, but the fame and questionable dramatic talents of Ms. Berry have me worried. I've spent some time with the Zora Neale Hurston canon and Janie Crawford never struck me as a stand-in for a Bond girl. That was a significant element of her charms. I will watch the TV movie and if you tune in as well, do yourself a favor and read the book first.
Posted by escapegrace at 7:04 AM
There's a bill called the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act which will require insurance companies to cover a minimum 48-hour hospital stay for patients undergoing a mastectomy. It's about eliminating the "drive-through mastectomy" where women are forced to go home hours after surgery against the wishes of their doctor. Lifetime Television has put this bill on their web page with a petition drive to show your support.
Posted by escapegrace at 6:59 AM
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Now that my unemployment is imminent, I fantasize about projects I could undertake with all my free time. Why not read all the contenders competing in the The First Annual TMN Tournament of Books? Maybe after reading them, I could engage the books in more physical battles, like being shipped via media mail to California.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:42 AM
While reading about LES music venue Tonic's financial woes, I recalled many a pleasant evening I've spent there. I also remembered one particular night when the men's and women's rooms were both out of order, surely a sign of problems ahead. Patrons were instructed to try the Lansky Lounge across the street. I held out for as long as I could before venturing into the entirely empty L Lounge, at which point a seated bartender told me that the restrooms were reserved for customers only (though I feel like they must have agreed to the arrangement at some earlier time). My current state of searching the streets made me a little cranky, so I had to point out the imaginary nature of these L Lounge customers to the bartender before I received a much more welcome reception at Schiller's. And yet I returned to Tonic again after that evening. That's saying something.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:25 AM