Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's More Fun to Compute

Last night, while the more tech savvy Internet nerds were at the WIRED Nextfest press event, I went to a book blogger panel discussion at the Housing Works Café. Four prominent journalists/bloggers -- Lizzie Skurnick, Laurie Muchnick, Maud Newton, and Frank Wilson -- were discussing the future, or lack there of, in newspaper and magazine book reviews versus the more fast paced and growing world of online book blogs.

Moderating the panel was John Freeman, a real stud of a book nerd, but I was mainly there to see Maud Newton, because if I had a hero blogger, it'd be her. Her site presents a gold mine of book related information that she concisely compresses and presents in an engaging fashion. Actually, it's where I get most of the links for this blahg.

I've let my own blahg go a bit in the past week or so (ok, fine, month), and my five readers don't really seem to mind because they understand that sometimes life takes precedence over blahging.

Maud, however, runs a real blog with a real readership and admitted last night that she once reached the point where she was blogging about books more than she was reading books. That would be tragic.

Anyway, the discussion went back and forth, back and forth -- bloggers versus journalists, the decline of print, blogs are taking over the cyber waves, bloggers aren't critics, bloggers are critics -- following the the usual hum drum course of conversation that has been going on since, what, 2003?

Not that I mind; I like flip-flopping my views in that conversation. Considering that I just began an Internet related job, which did not exist five years ago, I will let you guess which side I lean more heavily towards.

But it was the old newsy, Frank Wilson, who really brought sense to the discussion. I describe him as such only because he kept referring to himself as 'old', as he has been working at the Philadelphia Inquirer for 26 years now. As the editor of the books section, he has seen his budget cut by 80% in the course of one day and so it is no wonder that he is a bit fatalistic about the state of print.

As he postulates, however, it is a shame that the newspapers are so quick to support Darwin's theories of evolution, yet have so sense of adaptation themselves. Print publications that do not maintain blogs will die out sooner than those that do because they are failing to keep up with the world wide conversation that is the Internet.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

For Those of Us on Foot


Last night, after dinner, post drinks, I met up with my new coworkers to see The Blow at Sin-E. The Blow was not bad; I know I've seen that show before but I can't remember where or when. It's kinda like watching a less somber, more poppy, Mirah.

But that's beside the point. More importantly, I remembered how stellar it is to go out with coworkers. It's been a while, but that is the way it should be: you should want to hang out with your coworkers outside the office.

The Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Science of Mediocrity

Friday, September 22, 2006

New York is a Friendly Town

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The World According to Nouns

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Brighten the Corners

Dear Job.

I once mentioned how much I loathe this sort of thing. Let’s do I say it? It’s over. It’s not that I did not enjoy spending my summer days editing nursing manuals in a cube that was twenty below zero. I just have to move on now.

No, job, I don’t want you to think that I’m ungrateful for everything you gave me. Our time together was brief, but I’ll remember it all: the hurried lunch breaks in Bryant Park, the enlightenment of the nursing & self-help industry, the cushy summer hours, the pay checks.

And my dear, dear cubicle. Oh how I’ll miss your suffocating embrace, the haven you offered when I would tumble into work after only four hours of sleep, not really fit to concentrate on anything more than a stodgy manuscript with ‘Symphonological’ in the title. You were so cute with your little made up words.

Alas, job, you were a summer fling and nothing more. Now I am sorry to report that I have fallen for another. Isn’t he a beauty? Indeed, the most stunning site in all of cyberspace. Sure, he’s younger than you, and offers less security, but how could I possibly turn that down? Others agree. Sorry, job, you'll just have to come to terms with the fact that I am not meant to be pussyfooting around in a 9-5 cubicle farm just yet.

Fondly Yours,

Monday, September 18, 2006

When Harpo Played His Harp

Last weekend, I went to Philadelphia to visit my great aunt and suss out what they refer to as 'The Sixth Borough'. I didn’t get to see most of the city but from what I could tell, Philly is kind of like a more casual version of New York.

My 91-year old Aunt Bea (yes, I really have an Aunt Bea) has been living there her whole life and, from her point of view, nothing is what it used to be; she laments the city’s alterations like she mourns the dying out of her generation. The apartment building she has lived in for over 37 years, which is directly across from the art museum and the Rocky steps, is now starting to appear rundown.

Even the food has depreciated, she carps, after we have moved tables in one restaurant to avoid a draft. “Young man,” she flags down the waiter, “these crab cakes are not as full as they used to be.”

At lunch, I offered her a piece of my bread pudding, but she declines, telling me that she has gone 91 years without tasting bread pudding and she is not about to start any time soon. The same goes for yogurt, because she doesn’t like the way it sounds.

Eventually, she sent me back to New York with an assortment of (now) vintage beaded handbags. I also collected a real leopard-skin pill-box hat, as well as her life story.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Wayward Hum

Last night we saw Vashti Bunyan at the Bowery Ballroom and it was lovely and flowery in the very best way possible. The folk songstress is an obscure legend and I think this is her first US appearance in something like thirty years.

She is so charming and modest and radiant. Yes, radiant is the right word. She prefaced each song with a bashful explanation, like, "I wrote Feet of Clay in 1963, he he he." Because she must have thought that we, a room full of New York twenty-somethings, would think that was ancient.

All of her songs were written for her beautiful children, the beautiful man she spends her life with or the beautiful man who once broke her heart. She even wrote quite a few songs about the 700 mile, horse-drawn wagon journey she took in 1968, from London to the Scottish isle of Hebrides. That was really beautiful.

David Byrne was in the audience, not more than five feet away from us, solo, with a bicycle helmet in one hand. So for part of the show, I watched a legend watch a legend, but I made sure not to stare.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New Monster Avenue

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wash the Day Away


It is not my place, I feel, to reflect on 9/11. So instead we went to a Billy Collins reading last night because it is so obviously the poet’s job to do such things. Former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins was reading at a little wine shop on West 19th, where they were offering free wine and cheese. Not a bad deal at all. Apparently, it’s not a bad gig for Collins either, who joked that he was getting a free case of wine out of the deal. It was a lighthearted affair, as most of his poems are playful in tone and substance. He read his 9/11 poem and then he ended with the poem about the bread and the knife, which is my favorite of all of his poems.

After dinner, as we were walking down Broadway towards Union Square, we saw twin spot lights that spirtualized the fallen towers for the evening. It's not like I had an epiphany or anything. It’s just that overlooking 9/11 makes me feel even more uncomfortable about its existence. The tragedy, as tragic, stupefies me only insofar as a defined memory of the crime is crucial to recognize its legacy. Truth be told, those lights were a spectacular sight to see. I suppose a poet would search for symbolism in the fact that 9/11 was the first chilly night of autumn but I was just mad at my sleeveless self for not checking the weather report before I left my apartment.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Obliterati

I forgot to leave Manhattan last weekend. After giving rain checks to Astoria and Greenpoint and Bushwick, I instead opted to cover a great deal of distance over the thirteen mile stretch of the island. There was a scampy art exhibit in Chelsea, a claustrophobic, yet festive, Indian meal on 8th Avenue, the usual tomfoolery on the Lower East Side, a coed patio on the Upper West Side, a greedy juke box in the East Village, an omelet in Yorkville, and a traumatic trip to Bed Bath & Beyond (hell) in the Upper East Side. Also somewhere in there, I was one half of a pair of the only white girls at an off-off-off Broadway Black Power play.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven

abiding, adamant, adamantine, affectless, aghast, aguey, aguish,
algid, amaranthine, anesthetized, appalled, arctic, ashen,
astounded, at a standstill, autistic, awed, awestricken,
blanched, blast-frozen, blue with cold, blunt, catatonic,
changeless, chattering, chill, chilly, cold, cold as charity,
cold-blooded, coldhearted, congealed, constant, continuing, cool,
cowed, deadly pale, deathless, dispassionate, dithery, drugged,
dull, durable, embalmed, emotionally dead, emotionless, enduring,
ever-fresh, everlasting, fadeless, firm, fixed, frigid,
frostbitten, frosted, frost nipped, frosty, frozen solid,
frozen to death, gelid, glacial, gray with fear, half-frozen,
heartless, horrified, horror-struck, ice, ice-cold, ice-like, icy,
icy-cold, immobile, immortal, immotile, immotive, immovable,
immutable, impassible, impassive, imperishable, incorruptible,
inflexible, insusceptible, intact, intimidated,
inviolate, irremovable, lasting, never-dying,
objective, obtuse, out of touch, pale as death, pallid, paralyzed,
passionless, pat, permanent, perpetual, persistent, petrified,
quick-frozen, quiescent, remaining, rigid, scared stiff,
scared to death, self-absorbed, shaky, sharp-frozen, shivering,
shivery, solid, soulless, spiritless, stable, standpat, static,
stationary, staying, steadfast, stunned, stupefied, sustained,
terrified, terror-crazed, terror-haunted, terror-ridden,
terror-riven, terror-shaken, terror-smitten, terror-struck,
terror-troubled, torpid, unaffectionate, unaltered, unchangeable,
unchanged, unchanging, unchecked, undestroyed, undone, undying,
unemotional, unfading, unfailing, unfeeling, unimpassioned,
unimpressionable, unloving, unmanned, unmovable, unmoving,
unnerved, unresponding, unresponsive, unshifting,
unstrung, unsusceptible, unsympathetic, untouchable, unvaried,
unvarying, unyielding, with chattering teeth

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Stop The World (And Let Me Off)

The last couple of times I went home to visit, I noticed the strangest thing: Nashville is getting hipper. This is strange to me because it’s Nashville, my hometown. Sure, I’ve always defended it against idiots who ask if people in Nashville wear shoes or own refrigerators, but that was more of a defense of myself than my hometown.

My usual line of argument was always proudly boasting that Nashville is deemed the “Athens of the South,” for its several major universities, and variety of culture. Yes, culture.

Naturally, however, I spent my teenage years devising ways to get as far away from Nashville as possible, which is one of the reasons I landed in Seattle.

Lately, though, lately I’ve noticed little parts of Nashville that are starting to closely resemble little parts of Brooklyn or Capitol Hill.

Nashville is getting hipper because it’s growing fast.

Nissan just moved there, it’s going to get the country's fourth largest skyscraper, a brand new symphony hall just opened, and, finally, Nicole Kidman lives there now. It’s an industry town full of transplants from other cities, kind of sort of like LA or New York.

Is this what happened to Austin, Texas?

Nashville is not a town to cross on foot; you must own a car. And one of the greatest changes I’ve noticed over the past five years is that each time I go home, which is every couple of months or so, I am stuck in traffic for about five minutes longer.

Yet they have also produced a series of bike paths.

Now, compared to New York living, Nashville doesn’t look so bad.

As a little blue county in the middle of a red state, it is rapidly becoming what every city is built for in the first place: a thriving haven for all the small town “eccentrics” who were never able to come out of the closet or wear whatever they please or speak their minds, for fear of getting the shit kicked out of them by half the football team.

The dive bars are real dive bars; the rent is appallingly cheap; and I’ve found that you can get better Mexican food there than in New York.

And the kids, the kids are starting to look pretty damn cool. Still takes a while for fashions to trickle down/over, but not as long as it used to, I guess because of the Internet?

Although I still spotted a kid in the airport wearing a t-shirt that read,
Things to Do:
1) Your sister
2) Your mom

Of course you have the music. Obviously, there’s the country music and all of the legendary personalities encompassed by that industry, but there’s also a budding indie scene that’s kind of cute and still on the cusp of the conventional, the way that sort of genre is supposed to be.

Therein flock the hipsters. Hipsters need moral freedom, more spaces (bars, clubs, cafes) and cheap rent. Also, a city without hipsters is unconscious. A hipster is a city in the condition of self-reflection, awareness, consciousness.

The city’s growth, its cheap rent, and its effort in becoming a valid blue sanctuary for those whose beliefs/desires/needs are at odds with the conformist logic of small, red towns, provide a temptation in the face of the ghastly rent and job competition in New York.

But then again, these kinds of changes take time, a little too much time if you ask me. Nashville is still my hometown, scarred forever with the effect of ennui which is a hard thing to forgive, no matter how good the barbeque.

Honestly, though, I think every city would be a better place if it followed Nashville’s example in having a downtown strip where failed musicians sing old Johnny Cash covers for free.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Top Floor, Bottom Buzzer


And the noise! I can still hear the sidewalk flower salesman outside Sam Goody (also gone) trying to entice people racing for their trains: “Bee-yooo-ti-ful flowers! Bee-yooo-ti-ful flowers!” At 1:30 in the morning, from a loading dock across the street, garbage trucks would begin removing the trash from all 77 floors of the Chrysler Building.

The apartment bore signs of its past and wasn’t perfect. The dumbwaiter had been turned into a pantry. The kitchen cabinets didn’t close all the way, and the wooden floors were hidden by beige industrial tiles. Then there were the plumbing ghosts. My toilet flushed randomly, all by itself, and the sink in the kitchen filled up with bubbles when the lady upstairs did her wash.

Like many houses in the neighborhood, it used to be a boardinghouse. At one time it was two separate apartments, so it had two bathrooms. There was a small, dark one in the back, facing east, and a big, bright one in the front right off our bedroom, facing west. This one had a large frosted window right above the tub.

My room was a windowless 8-foot-by-10-foot drywall cubicle with a sleeping loft that I rationalized made the room bigger by half. My head avoided impact with the ceiling as long as I remembered to crawl to and from bed. I relied on the glowing numbers of my digital clock to determine whether it was morning or I was insomniac.

the whole building is oozing with personality and it’s probably my favorite apartment in all of manhattan. since she got such a great deal on the place, she’s never giving it up so it’s a real home, you know? i went to bed with a clear view of the empire state building (i need to buy curtains) and because we’re on a quiet little side street, i slept very well. today, when i woke up, i looked out every window in the apt onto other apartments and fire escapes and pigeons and it's totally urban -- perfect. of course, in my dreams, there’s more counter space in the bathroom.

the apartment is just has dirty cement floors and is just another sloppily constructed loft. the walls are super thin and we can hear stoned idiots playing play station loudly like they’re in our apartment with us. there's no fan or light in the bathroom, and the shower head is so low it comes up to my nipples.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back in Black

There is something slightly disquieting about riding the train to work the morning after taking a long weekend. Aside from the fact that you are returning to the cubicle after a four day leave of replenishing your sleep supply, you also have to face the rest of the working slobs.

While there is a sense of camaraderie on that train ride, it is blaringly immediate as to who had a vacation and who didn’t. Those who did (and I fall into this category), look rejuvenated, ready for a new day, a new season, a new challenge, and those who didn’t, just look pissed off. Like wolves, the non-vacationers can spot the vacationers and so you (the rested) have to try, at all costs, to avoid their stares of guilt-ridden bullets.

One tell tale give away is in the eyes. I’m talking about under eye circles. From what I have gathered, you are not a New Yorker until you acquire a set of permanent grey circles that fall a quarter of an inch under your pupils. Because all New Yorkers have these circles, it’s the one constant in fashion no matter the season. I lost mine sometime between last Thursday and Monday and I expect them to make their reappearance sometime between this Thursday and Monday.