Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Eve, 7:24 PM

Trey: Do you know where your eyepatch is?

Lillet: Yes, honey, why?

Trey: Can I borrow it?

Lillet: Sure, sweetie -- why do you need my eyepatch?

Trey: I just want to be Phil from Harvey Birdman tonight at work.


Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you for a year of true blograderie.

Bisoux et bon courage,

Lillet & Trey

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Redemption TV

I have always preferred Japanese reality TV to its timid American counterpart. Years ago I saw a program in which two men with
no common language (one was Japanese, the other a Cantonese speaker from Hong Kong) were blindfolded and flown to a foreign country. Their mutual task: get to Stockholm by any means but air transportation. They had been dropped in (unknown to them) South Africa, which is particularly dastardly when you think about it.

The American version of this — The Amazing Race — was a complete failure of imagination by comparison. And never mind the bikini girls dunked in vats of hot water — what about
the brilliant Don't Do It, Electroboy in which a young man is placed in a room and must provide for himself by winning sweepstakes? The chubby young man's first win was a pair of women's panties. And not a bad win it was, as he began the program with nothing but what was necessary to enter the sweepstakes.

That's my kind of makeover: naked Japanese guy wins a pair of panties. Seeing some marketing assistant get a $500 haircut, not so exciting. But now that I've witnessed the taping of exactly that kind of show I confess to a certain fascination. I'd tell you which show it was if only I knew. I don't know and sort of don't want to. It was just an odd coincidence that they happened to tape part of an episode in my bar a few Sundays ago.

Concept: young lady goes through breakup, is depressed, then is rescued by friends and reality TV pros; gym, hair, makeup, dress; she then has her coming out party at my bar, dancing away a wild Friday night to live music.

Only it was Sunday afternoon, still light even at this time of year. Easy enough to make it look like Friday night, to make a handful of Makeover Girl's friends look like a crowd. Easy enough to hire a band for the afternoon.

What wasn't so easy was to get Makeover Girl's two closest friends to say something, anything, appropriate to the program or even coherent. These additional marketing assistants were dressed just as you might be for a wild Friday night of dancing. Well, maybe not as you might be, but as a 20-something marketing assistant living in New York might be. The first — Makeover Girl's best girlfriend — was sporting some sort of hydraulic Wonder Bra and as assets-forward as that was she found it necessary also to talk about her breasts, as well as those belonging to her friend.

I hope that Amy is wearing something tight and rocking her ta-ta's ... because that's something we both have ... ...

There was no script. If only! But there was a great deal of coaching. Okay, tell us what you think Amy will look like when she gets here ... What do you hope she will be wearing? ... Okay, say something about her "depression sweatpants" ... What about her makeup? Say something about her makeup. And, Okay, what else about the ta-ta's?

I hope that Amy is really rocking her ta-ta's ... because that's something we both have ....... and enjoy!

Next up was Best Friend's boyfriend. How do you hope Amy will look tonight?

I hope Amy's up off that couch and ... umm ... dancing like wild ... umm ... having a great time!

Okay ... tell us what you hope she will look like. And say something about the sweatpants.

Oh ... I hope Amy is out of her sweatpants and ... I hope Amy's taken a shower ... I hope she looks more like she used to in college ... and she's ... umm ... out of those sweatpants!

I found these performances after a
while to be kind of touching. These people wanted to be on television so badly and so desperately wanted to please the director and producer. It was at this point that I realized that this was not a reality TV show, but a hyperreality TV show. What made it "real" wasn't the fact that they were "real people." What made it "real" was that it was on TV. This was Jerry Springer for college graduates: makeovers instead of paternity tests.

We were at this point still waiting for Amy to arrive. The producer made efficient use of time by taping Best Friend and BF's boyfriend's reactions to seeing Amy before they had seen the results of her makeover. This was when the serious product placement began.

Okay, tell us what you thought when you first saw Amy.

Umm ... okay ... Ohmigod! Amy looked fabulous! Ohmigod! And her hair ... her hair was great ...

Her hair by Michael Angelo ...

Right. Ohmigod! Her her by Michael Angelo looked so amazing! And ...

Say something about her dress.

Right. Okay. Ohmigod! Her dress! Amy looked so hot in her dress ...

Her dress ... Marc by Marc Jacobs

Right. Amy's Marc by Marc Jacobs dress was so hot!

And so on.

During all of this I had to contend with a very rude woman, someone I took to be one of Amy's friends, someone who had already had far too many makeovers, all seemingly applied atop one another. She was just too ... too much makeup, too many items of clothing, too many hair products, too loud a voice. It should not have been my concern that she ruined take after take by talking at an obliviously high volume, but this sort of thing bugs me, so I tried to nudge her into consideration. Once the takes were taken, Wendy chatted me up.

Wendy: So, is this bar always closed on Sundays?
Trey: Actually, it's never open. It's not really a bar at all. There's so much TV and film going on in the West Village now that several production companies chipped in and built this place just as a set.
Wendy: Oh! So ... you're an actor?
Trey: Maybe you've seen my Amaretto di Saronno commercial? (gestures to imaginary customers) Di Saronno martini, Di Saronno sour ... Di Saronno on the rocks.
Wendy: Oh my GAWD!

Wendy played a major role in the rest of the program. It was she who introduced Amy upon her arrival. Wendy was told to enter the bar, take one step forward and say Hey, everyone! Here's Amy! Wendy took not one step but six or seven and walked right past the camera before delivering her line. Incredibly, she did this three times before getting it right. She also managed to flub the band's name four or five times.

Eventually Wendy's tasks were completed successfully and Amy and her friends pretended to have a wildcrazyfun time dancing Friday night away on Sunday afternoon, which is probably exactly what they do on Friday nights, too. Amy was confident with her Michael Angelo hair and Marc by Marc Jacobs dress and came right up to the bar to get a "cosmo shot and a Corona Light," for the time had come for the band to pretend to ask Amy to sing a song with them. She belted out Summertime and I mean she belted it. It was if she had saved every bit of breath for this one moment. Maybe she had. Amy's TV moment. She's a star. This is reality.

I'm pretty sure that Amy's performance was not intended to conjure thoughts of the Frankfurt School in any way, but as I heard her answer the musical question, What if Minnie Ripperton had gone to Syracuse on money from her dad's Buick dealership, all I could think of was Adorno: "At the last, soul itself is the longing of the soulless for redemption."

That's it. It's not Reality TV, it's Redemption TV.

Oh, and Wendy. She turned out not to be a friend of Amy's at all. She turned out to the be the host of the show. She turned out to be the person who is paid $20,000 per week.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Fun With The American Family Association

In my hungover back-at-work web surfing, I came across this American Family Association petition against a new NBC show that "mocks Christianity", called The Book Of Daniel. Here is part the synopsis provided by the AFA:

NBC is touting the network's mid-season replacement series "The Book of Daniel" with language that implies it is a serious drama about Christian people and Christian faith. The main character is Daniel Webster, a drug-addicted Episcopal priest whose wife depends heavily on her mid-day martinis.

Webster regularly sees and talks with a very unconventional white-robed, bearded Jesus. The Webster family is rounded out by a 23-year-old homosexual Republican son, a 16-year-old daughter who is a drug dealer, and a 16-year-old adopted son who is having sex with the bishop's daughter.

At the office, his lesbian secretary is sleeping with his sister-in-law.

Network hype – and the mainstream media – call it "edgy," "challenging" and "courageous." The hour-long limited drama series will debut January 6 with back-to-back episodes and will air on Friday nights. The writer for the series is a practicing homosexual. [...]

Then there is a link to send a letter to Mr. Wright, Chairman of NBC. The sample letter starts:

Dear Chairman Wright:

I am disappointed that NBC has decided to air "The Book of Daniel." I know that AFA will keep us posted on which companies desire to underwrite this program.[...]

The AFA said that they encouraged me to modify the text of the sample letter if I chose. So I complied.

Dear Chairman Wright:

Although the AFA is all upset about this "Book of Daniel" show, their description made me eager to see it! Broadcast television needs more programming that explores the complicated nuances of human beings and their lives. I do not watch much television, but I will definitely tune in to "Book of Daniel". Kudos to you for your innovative programming decisions!

Don't listen to the AFA. They are a minority of close-minded, paranoid hateful people.

Best regards,

Lillet Langtry
Brooklyn, NY

In the words of the AFA, "Send Your Letter Now!" And be creative. Be creative for JESUS.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Strike Zone

NY1, New York's all-news cable channel, isn't very good, but their reports are sometimes inadvertently revelatory. Yesterday evening while I waited for Lillet to make her three-hour commute home I watched their coverage of the transit strike. Now let's see how real New Yorkers are coping! The second person interviewed was a man in his mid-30's. He was taking the first day in stride — no anger — but he expressed deep concern about a continued strike: My worry is what will happen if the strike is still going on when we all need to get to the airport to go home for the holidays.

I was born here but I have an abiding respect for New Yorkers who have become so by choice. It's not an easy thing to do. But a lot of people who live in New York aren't
New Yorkers. It's reasonable — isn't it? — to expect a "real New Yorker" to think of New York as his home. Not only is this guy going to the airport to go "home for the holidays," he seems to think that we all are, to which I can only say, dude ... don't forget to give your dorm key to the RA or they'll charge you like fifty bucks. I mean, really. I don't wish you any inconvenience or additional expense in getting to LaGuardia, but once you land in Minneapolis dad will pick you up in the Suburban and your biggest worry over Christmas will be remaining mindful of everything your therapist said in your last session.

Let's face it: lots of "New Yorkers" think that striking transit workers are watching Oprah and eating potato chips, laughing at the rest of us who have to fight over taxis to take us between Bloomingdale's and SoHo, or to the airport to go "home." But "home" for the transit workers is New York — it's Morisiana and Washington Heights and Jamaica and Ridgewood. These are people who count on mass transit as much if not more than the rest of us do. And there is no other "home" for them to go to.

So much rhetoric surrounding this strike highlights the fact that New York has become a two-tiered city, yet no one seems to want to acknowledge this. I also saw on NY1 last night an interview with Roger Toussaint. He was asked can union members afford the one million dollars per day fine? It was a ridiculous question and was left unanswered. The interviewer pushed and Toussaint snapped, of course not — no one can afford a million dollars a day!

Well, Peter Kalikow could, for a while at least. And, hell, Mike Bloomberg could afford a million a day.
Even if we fined him via direct deduction it would be several months before he so much as blinked at the ATM screen. Are we supposed to think that it is mere coincidence that the city is being run by wealthy men, that workers must negotiate with billionaires?

When I listen closely to Bloomberg talk about Roger Toussaint I hear something very ugly. I am reminded of Dan Quayle as he and Bush I prepared to run for re-election, concerned that Mario Cuomo might run against them. Quayle would intone "Mario" over and over, trying to make it sound as strange and un-American as possible. Bloomberg is not so simpleminded but when I hear him repeat "Toussaint" over and over I hear Toussaint — black man with an accent from one of those taxi-driver countries.

I heard Bloomberg say that Toussaint and the TWU have no respect for the people they serve, as if they were indentured rickshaw drivers, coolies. Hey, Mike, you work for me, too. Or do you? My impression is that you work not for me but for that tier of New Yorkers who — like yourself — come here to make their fortunes or else to play for a while and then go home (or to Bermuda) for the holidays.

Now we're hearing that TWU officials may be facing prison time. It is, after all, illegal for public sector employees to strike. I would not be at all surprised to see union officials jailed. On the other hand, government surveillance of U.S. citizens without warrant is also illegal, but I will not be holding my breath waiting for anyone to do jail time for that much more chilling crime.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

You Forgot Poland Again

Lillet and I were to have a holiday Christmas celebration with Mega and a handful of other friends at a little trattoria on the Lower East Side this evening. But Lillet is still stranded at work and Mega and I are stranded in Brooklyn — she can't even get into Manhattan to see her best friend's newborn baby.

So I had to call our ringleader, Alessandro, a recent transplant from Italy, to tell him that the whole thing is off. He asked me what I thought of the strike and I said I thought that it was great because being inconvenienced by a rail strike might be the closest I ever come to living in Europe.

Be careful, he told me. Your president ... he is listening. But maybe you will be lucky and go to prison in Cuba instead of Romania.

The trattoria, Mangiami is excellent and very reasonable and I recommend it highly.

Yes, Virginia, There Is A Sanity Claus

Well, Well, Well

Go, Transit Workers Union!

Did I want to wake up extra early today? No.

But I say fuck Bloomberg and fuck the MTA. You don't go crowing about your billion dollar MYSTERY surplus and then deny people's pensions to shave a dollar from the fare for ten days, saving tourists a buck when travelling between The Olive Garden and Jekyll and Hyde.

Yes, the strike is a total pain in the ass at the worst time of the year. But it's a vaulable reminder in these times of percieved helplessness and outrage fatigue that solidarity can make a difference (as evidenced by the ridiculous line I saw to get onto the Williamsburg Bridge this morning.)

Bloomberg bitched all over TV yesterday how a strike would cost the city $300 million a day. Here's a thought douchebag -- maybe that means THE TRANSIT WORKERS PROVIDE A VALUABLE SERVICE AND SHOULD BE RESPECTED? As someone who takes the subway nearly every day, I don't want my life and my fellow citizens' lives in the hands of a disgruntled, poorly trained person.

It's a good thing for us all to be reminded that the right thing is often "inconvenient." GO TWU!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Empire of Soda

I recently read Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science, which I recommend just in case you are feeling that there is not quite enough despair in your life right now. While my reactions to Mooney's detailing of Republican lies about and twisting and misuse of science mostly took the form of, sigh, yes, I know, there are more than a couple of holy shit no fucking way moments.

Take for example Mooney's description of a memo written in 2004 by William Steiger of Health and Human Services.
"Effective immediately," Steiger declared, the WHO [World Health Organization] could no longer ask specific U.S. experts to serve as scientific or technical advisers. Instead, the WHO would have to submit requests to Steiger's office, which would then identify and "appropriate expert" to participate. Steiger's letter also stated that U.S. government scientists must represent the U.S. "at all times and advocate U.S. Government policies."
We learn subsequently that under Steiger scientists had to clear visits to the D.C. offices of WHO as "foreign travel."

About a year ago I wrote a blog about freedoms that exist only in America. Yet if we changed just a few nouns of Steiger's memo it would sound scarily like the pronouncement of a Soviet apparatchik, and could be cited as an example of the inevitability of the failure of Communism.

What was it that led to HHS's
Stalin-like clampdown on U.S. scientists? It was a WHO report (to which U.S. scientists had contributed) that identified a link between soft drink consumption and childhood obesity. Yes, a reality-based U.S. scientist went out on a limb and suggested that maybe having our kids pour sugar and food coloring down their gullets all day long isn't the best thing for them. And HHS jumped to the rescue ... of Coke, Pepsi, and the Sugar Advisory Board.

There was a time when the world's greatest scientists all came to this country, in part to have the freedom to pursue their work without government interference. Now they're leaving.

Even if you believe Cheney-Bush to be on the ropes today the kind of damage they've already done will not be undone easily, certainly not with one election.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Greene Bacon and Lillet

You are no doubt familiar with the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. But did you know that Lillet's Bacon Number is 2? That is to say, she has been in a motion picture with someone who has been in a motion picture with Kevin Bacon.


You can check your own Bacon Number at The Oracle of Bacon, supposing you have had a role in a for-real movie. My own Bacon Number is infinite, as I have never appeared in a major (or minor) motion picture. I do, however, have a finite Erdös Number. Paul Erdös was an incredibly prolific mathematician who wrote so many papers with so many people that it is reasonably interesting to track the collaborative distance from Erdös to someone else. Erdös had an Erdös Number of 0. If you published a paper with Erdos you have an Erdös Number of 1. If you published a paper with someone who published a paper with Erdös, you have an Erdös Number of 2. And so on, as with Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.


Rather ridiculously, I have an Erdös Number of 3, as I once published a paper with my graduate advisor, who in turn had published a paper with one of Erdös' collaborators. That paper is not only slight but is also on a topic that is no longer of interest to anyone. Moreover, my contribution to the paper was minimal. Still, technically, I have an Erdös Number of 3. Einstein's Erdös Number is 2. John Nash — that Beautiful Mind guy — his Erdös Number is 4. My Erdös Number is about the same as the average of the Erdös Numbers of Fields Medal winners, which is something like Corey Haim having the same Bacon Number as John Gielgud,

which in fact is the case, as Corey Haim was in Silver Bullet (1985) with Julius LeFlore and Julius LeFlore was in In the Cut (2003) with Kevin Bacon, and John Gielgud was in Haunted (1995) with Aidan Quinn (I) and Aidan Quinn (I) was in Cavedweller (2004) with Kevin Bacon. I mean, it would be like that if Kevin Bacon were to acting what Erdös was to mathematics, which he isn't — at least as far as I can tell. Lillet will have final say in this blog on that matter.


All of this is apropos only of the fact that I learned today of the Erdös-Bacon Number. This is the sum of one's Erdös and Bacon Numbers, and, as you might surmise, there are very few people who have finite E-B Numbers. Brian Greene — the Elegant Universe guy — is one. He (comme moi) has an Erdös Number of 3, but also, by virtue of his appearance in Frequency, has a Bacon number of 2, resulting in an impressive and not-yet-bettered Erdös-Bacon Number of 5.


Lillet and I excitedly realized this evening that if she and I were to co-author a mathematical paper she would have a Brian Greene-tying Erdös-Bacon Number. We thought this because a) we have trouble distinguishing between ourselves, so we believed that her Erdös Number would be the same as mine, and b) we get excited about silly things and oh also sometimes drunk.

The truth is that once we co-author this paper Lillet will have an E-B Number of 6 which is still really fucking impressive, more impressive than the E-B of anyone you happen to know, unless you happen to know Brian Greene. We leave it up to you, our readers, to decide the topic of our paper. We figure the Discovery Institute will publish it. They'll publish anything.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The First Of Many Posts Concerning My King Kong Obsession

As you may or may not know, the finance company’s lobby over which I preside as receptionist sports a very expensive flat panel television that usually broadcasts CNN.

Yesterday I witnessed yet another absurdity: in a segment on the release of King Kong, an intrepid CNN investigator had taken it upon herself to bring a small portable television to what appeared to be the Bronx Zoo’s Congo Gorilla exhibit, in order to show footage from King Kong to the resident gorillas and observe their responses, at one point, attemping to get a young gorilla to give a “thumbs up? Or thumbs down?” She seemed to find this hilarious.

A big “thumbs down” from me, or rather, a big “head collapsing atop arms on desk”: the inrepid CNN lady was utterly oblivious to the King Kong trailer, which portends a grand tragedy of the cruel and destructive obliviousness of Cartesian hubris and anthropocentrism.

This CNN/ gorilla bit made me think of many things, foremost being the following passage from Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals, [ ] which I will share with you.

“Sultan is alone in his pen. He is hungry: the food that used to arrive regularly has unaccountably ceased coming.

“The man who used to feed him and has now stopped feeding him stretches a wire over the pen three metres above ground level, and hangs a bunch of bananas from it. Into the pen he drags three wooden crates. The he disappears, closing the gate behind him, although he is still somewhere in the vicinity, since one can smell him.

“Sultan knows: Now one is supposed to think. That is what the bananas up there are about. The bananas are there to make one think, to spur one to the limits of one’s thinking. But what must one think? One thinks: Why is he starving me? One thinks: What have I done? Why has he stopped liking me? One thinks: Why does he not want these crates anymore? But none of these is the right thought. Even a more complicated thought – for instance: What is wrong with him, what misconception does he have of me, that leads him to believe it is easier to reach a banana hanging from a wire than to pick up a banana from the floor? – is wrong. The right thought to think is: How does one use the crates to reach the bananas?

“Sultan drags the crates under the bananas, piles them one on top of the other, climbs the tower he has built, and pulls down the bananas. He thinks: Now will he stop punishing me?

“The answer is: NO. The nest day the man hangs a fresh bunch of bananas from the wire, but also fills the crates with stones so that they are too heavy to be dragged. One is not supposed to think: Why has he filled the crates with stones? One is supposed to think: How does one use the crates to get the bananas despite the fact that they are filled with stones?

“One is beginning to see how the man’s mind works.

“Sultan empties the stones from the crates, builds a tower with the crates, climbs the tower, pulls down the bananas.

“As long as Sultan continues to think wrong thoughts, he is starved. He is starved until the pangs of hunger are so intense, so overriding, that he is forced to think the right thought, namely, how to go about getting the bananas. Thus are the mental capabilities of the chimpanzee tested to their uttermost.

“At every turn Sultan is driven to think the less interesting thought. From the purity of speculation (Why do men behave like this?) he is relentlessly propelled toward lower, practical, instrumental reason (How does one use this to get that?) and thus toward acceptance of himself as primarily an organism with an appetite that needs to be satisfied. Although his entire history, from the time his mother was shot and he was captured, through his voyage in a cage to imprisonment on this island prison camp and the sadistic games that are played around food here, leads him to ask questions about the justice of the universe and the place if this penal colony in it, a carefully plotted psychological regimen conducts him away from ethics and metaphysics toward the humbler reaches of practical reason. And somehow, as he inches through this labyrinth of constraint, manipulation, and duplicity, he must realize that on no account dare he give up, for on his shoulders rests the responsibility of representing apedom. The fate of his brothers and sisters may be determined by how well he performs.


“In his deepest being Sultan is not interested in the banana problem. Only the experimenter’s single-minded regimentation forces him to concentrate on it. The question that truly occupies him, as it occupies the rat and the cat and every other animal trapped in the hell of the laboratory or the zoo is: Where is home, and how do I get there?

Another thing: I have wondered aloud many times why so many anti-evolutionists publicly protest at being kin to apes: "You're gonna tell me I'm descended from a MONKEY?" Buddy, let me tell you something. My maternal grandfather was a rapist, a wifebeater, and a pedophile. I'm thankful on a daily basis that I have my other inheritance to draw upon.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Oh My God You Guys

Last night I heard a high-pitched sound that recalled a car alarm.

I looked out the bedroom window onto the street and thought I saw sheets of snow, until I saw the siren lights and smelled smoke.

I went outside to see if I would need to evacuate with the cats.

And guess what I saw?


Fortunately, no one was hurt. However, I am wondering if there is a cursed Native American burial ground underneath the McGuinness Boulevard exit ramp.

Friday, December 09, 2005

America Hates You, Too

Please read Harold Pinter's remarkable Nobel Prize Lecture.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Neighborhood #18 (Ma Ma Buddha, 3 AM)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

And A Little Moron Shall Lede Them

You know, instead of bombing Al-Jazeera, let's do the world a favor and wipe the New York Times off the map. The Old Grey Mare, she ain't what she used to be — in fact, she is KNACKERED.

Oh no, you say? Then what in the fuck is this?
And the new "King Kong" has come to New York "in an incredible moment," Mr. Burns said. "It is a time of two powerful absences - the building that is not there, and the building that is going to be there."

But Kong may have lost much of his power to menace. "The threats to our architecture have surpassed the giant ape," said Debra Burlingame, a member of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation board whose brother, Charles F. Burlingame III, was a pilot of the plane that hit the Pentagon. "Airplanes with jet fuel were far more dangerous than any primate, however big."

In the future, then, will some filmmaker perpetrate another remake depicting a noble, misunderstood ape battling airborne weaponry atop the Freedom Tower, or other skyscrapers as yet unborn?

Yet more 9/11 pablum wrung from a sad old rag.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Everybody Digs Bill Evans

It is nearly 4 AM, Sunday night/Monday morning and I'm just now home from work, having kissed Lillet, who is asleep, her alarm set for less than four hours from now. I have closed the door between this room and our bedroom, just as she does for me on Saturday and Sunday mornings. At those times, not quite half-awake, I can sometimes hear her typing or talking quietly on the phone to neighborhood friends, making plans for brunches I cannot join because my hours mean I must sleep well past noon on the weekend.

It used to be that after leaving work I would go to another bar until nearly dawn, sometimes well into Monday and Tuesday daylight. For the past two years, though, I've been more likely to unwind after work by reading Wikipedia, darting from entry to entry without much rhyme or reason.
I know that before leaving for her job early in the morning Lillet may glance at the browser window I left open to see which entry sent me off to bed — the Brouwer Fixed-Point Theorem, Bill Evans, or maybe she noticed that I noticed that Carl Dreyer, like Paul Auster, has a birthday one day after mine (and Ashbloem's) — and she will glean from just this more information than most people can learn about another in a lifetime of observation, just as I can from seeing that tonight while I was at work she googled dino ironbody.

I remember the strange feeling of first happening across the Wikipedia entry for my graduate advisor. Hello! As if I were in a wax museum looking at a lifelike but all-too-lifeless figurine of a man who was for a brief period like a father to me. A
common 4 AM tangent: Of the people I have met, which have had someone write a Wikipedia entry about them?

(Ten such people, chosen more or less at random: Paul Cohen, Peter Dinklage, Edward Gorey, Stephen Jay Gould, Sir Stuart Hampshire, Phillippe Petit, Gilda Radner, Condoleeza Rice, George Schultz, Cecil Taylor.)

What a nice, strange selection of people. I am very lucky to have met these people,
to have been shown so many beautiful and useless things. It's odd to me that no one has yet written entries for, oh, Allegra Kent or Willem Breuker, but odder still to realize that I have met two Secretaries of State!? George Schultz I found to be very nice, even charming, and these are qualities that Dr. Rice absolutely did not evince on the day I met her, leaving me here, now, wincing at my own nostalgia for the Reagan era.

It is 4 AM, Sunday night/Monday morning and Twiggy is "makin' biscuits" on Trevor, the tiger peluche that Lillet resuced from a Goodwill before she was my wife or even my girlfriend. (Was she ever my girlfriend?) And I am listening — on headphones, so as not to disturb her — to Bill Evans, because Bill Evans is the new Ana Ng.

There have been lots of new Ana Ngs — wine, chess, algebraic topology, dogs, the taxonomy of Indo-European languages, Jess Franco movies, the Tour de France. It's just Lillet's code phrase for what someone else might call my little local obsessions, sudden flareups of the Asperger's syndrome that is usually in remission. But she knows it's more than that. She knows that these new Ana Ngs are the particle trails in the cloud chamber of my head-and-heart.

How odd that anyone should see this, let alone care about it.

One of my greatest fears about retiring from smoking was that I had become so good at it. As I smoker, I was without peers. Why would I want to stop doing something that I did so well? I have also been very, very good at being lonely. When I sat in bars until other men my age were suited and briefcased and on their way to work I was not at all locally lonely. I had dozens of friends, genuine friends. But I was lonely in particular.

Anyone who thinks joy to be a superset of happiness cannot really have experienced it. And as lonely as I've been and as unhappy as I've been, I experience joy all the time, thanks to all the new Ana Ngs, thanks to the trope of turning towards, thanks to assent. Lillet is that to which I am always turning towards. She gives form to the contents of my thoughts even when I am at my weakest and most fearful, even when I am afraid of no longer being lonely.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Neighborhood #18 (Oil and Water)

While making dinner for Lillet on Wednesday night I decided finally to do something about the severely diminished flow of water through our on-tap filter. Here's what I discovered, before and after cleaning.

I apologize for the poor quality of these photographs — our camera is really not built for this sort of thing — but you get the idea. Note that this is not the Brita filter proper, not microfiltration, not what we paid $40 for. This is just the little mesh pre-filter. It's what we'd have gotten had we just run the tap water through a standard kitchen strainer for a few months. In other words, what you see in the "before" picture are big, nasty chunks of who-knows-what kind of crap.

New York is known for having the best municipal drinking water in the country, and it does. At the source and at most points of delivery it tests best in terms of cleanliness, safety, and taste. But some neighborhoods are better than others, and if you are concerned about pollution — groundwater and otherwise — ours would be one of your very last choices for where to live in this city.

Remember the Exxon Valdez spill? Okay, now imagine an oil spill 50% larger than that one. And imagine it happened in the most populous county in the country. Well, that's exactly what happened in 1978 on the Brooklyn-Queens border. Here, look.

I've added the three arrows. The first points chez Lillet and Trey, where we live today — just South of the map's border. Arrow #2 points to where Lillet lived when she and I started dating. The third arrow points to the cemetery where both of my maternal grandparents are buried.

I'm sure it goes without saying that the cleanup of this nearly 30 year-old spill is still a matter of litigation. What you perhaps did not know is that the US Olympic Committee planned to build the Olympic Village for the proposed 2012 Olympics on top of this toxic site.

Which will come first, cleanup of the neighborhood or high-rise condos?