Bottom of the 9th

Okay, I'm back from a busy but enjoyable wedding weekend in Seattle (mostly Whidbey Island) and entering my final week in NYC. I do need a post at some point on just the weddings I've attended this year. By the end of October, I will have attended 8 out of 11 weddings, a record for me (I'm not the only one who climbed a wedding peak this summer). I had hoped to see many people in Seattle, but too much of travel is consumed by long security lines at airports these days (I'd been told to get to the airport three hours early for domestic flights, but the security lines turned out to be about the same as they were prior to the whole elemental profiling campaign against liquids). I will have to return to Seattle again soon, though. The summer weather there is perfectly neutral, such that you don't feel hot or cold, just an equilibrium between skin and air.

I made one concession to my culinary memory and stopped at Salumi for a sandwich. Salumi, an Italian Salumeria exported to the Pacific Northwest, is the creation of Armandino Batali, Mario Batali's father. It's my favorite Seattle restaurant, and they've begun shipping meats online through their website.

Things may go dark here for a bit as I'm canceling cable and Internet service in the next day or two, though I will try to siphon an hour or so of Internet oxygen through my neighbor's Linksys wireless router from time to time. But most of my time will be spent packing and walking the streets of New York, trying to swallow the anguish of leaving this, the city of my heart.

One of the things that will serve as a weekly rebuke of my departure for the West coast will be the weekly arrival of The New Yorker and the NY Times. So many sections of The New Yorker come to life when you actually live in the city, from Tables for Two and every other section of Goings on About Town to Hilton Als's and Anthony Lane's reviews of local theater and cinema. Before I lived in NYC, I just ignored Goings on About Town. Now that I've lived here, I will peruse it each week from afar and weep at the cultural riches just out of reach. Why would I torture myself thus? I don't know, but I believe Odysseus would empathize. Odysseus had his men stuff their ears with beeswax and tie him to the mast of his ship when sailing past the Sirens so he could hear their irresistible song but not chase after it.

Speaking of The New Yorker, this week's issue is a good one, including Malcolm Gladwell again on the silliness of having companies supply health insurance and pensions, a system that cripples companies when their dependency ratios soar; George Saunders helping Iran to find some alternatives to popular English phrases that have infected its language; and James Surowiecki on the dubious ethics of management buyouts.

Okay, back to boxing and taping.


It's been about 100 degrees in Manhattan the past two days. Sometime yesterday morning, my air conditioner lost its will and started spewing out hot air. Welcome to hell.

I thought it was a temporary failure, so I turned it off to let it rest and went to the gym in the late afternoon. The air conditioning at the gym is solid, but after a half hour on the treadmill, I was sweating buckets. The only time I can recall sweating more was on my bike ride up Mont Ventoux in 2002, when a literal waterfall of sweat formed on my nose.

In the locker room, I returned my towel to the laundry bin, the towel so soaking wet it was as if I'd dropped it in the hot tub. Outside, the pavement was disgorging all the heat it had soaked up from the sun during the day. I felt like the city was trying to sweat me out of its pores.

Back home, I stood in front of my air conditioner, muttered a little prayer under my breath, and turned it on. For a few seconds, cold air emerged, but the chill began diminishing at a steady rate. I hopped in the shower and took turned the water to the coldest setting and sat under it for as long as I could bear. It's probably not healthy to expose one's body to such extreme temperature swings, but I felt like I was overheating.

As soon as I got out of the shower, I started sweating again. I haven't stopped sweating since. My super still hasn't shown up. Last night I had to crash on my brother's sofa. I may try to sneak into Sephora tonight with a sleeping bag and crash behind the cosmetics counter. It feels like the North Pole in there.

Every now and then, something happens and my air conditioner works again for about a minute. Those moments remind me of those occasional euphoric highs, when for some reason one's internal chemistry aligns in a perfect eclipse of any anxiety or sorrow.

I think it was on a day with heat like today's that violence erupted in Do The Right Thing, or that Merusault shoots that guy on the beach in The Stranger.

To terrorize or not to terrorize

Two Tuesdays ago, I attended the NY premiere of the opera "Grendel." Elliot Goldenthal was the composer, and his partner Julie Taymor (seemingly most well-known for Broadway's musical "The Lion King" and for directing Titus and Frida and for her acclaimed production of Die Zauberflöte at the Met last review of that here) was director, co-librettist, and puppet designer. George Tsypin, who collaborated with Taymor on Die Zauberflöte, reunited with her as set designer.

This was an adaptation of the novel by John Gardner that retells the story of Beowulf from the monster Grendel's perspective. I've not read the novel, but if the Goldenthal-Taymor adaptation was faithful, then both transform Grendel from a mindless beast into a Hamlet-esque brooder, an introverted philosopher wearied by the weight of his own thoughts. As with the revisionist musical Wicked, the opera traces his monstrous soul to mistreatment at the hands of cruel children in his youth because of his physical appearance.

I enjoy opera, but most are a bit long for me. It would be a lie to say I've survived all three hours of any German opera without my eyes and ears and mind wandering around the theater more than a few times. "Grendel," an English (of the new and Old variety) opera, is no exception, but a few things helped to focus my attention. Taymor/Tsypin always provide a dazzling palette for the eyes, and by the oohs and aahs of the opening night crowd, that might be enough in and of itself to earn a checkmark. Tsypin's main contribution is a gigantic, rotating wall with a pivoting cutout in the center that swings back and forth like a drawbridge. Taymor's puppets include those with her trademark geometric grandeur, including a massive dragon head. Constance Hoffman's costumes supply a pleasing contrast to the puppets, some of the other monsters in Grendel's cave looking like some first grader's terrifying crayon scrawls come to life.

I enjoy me some Taymor puppets dancing around Tsypin sets as much as the next guy, but the music is what stays with you. Goldenthal is most known to me for his film score work, and "Grendel" reminded me at moments of a Stravinsky-influenced film score. Much of the vocal line given to Grendel (hard-working bass Eric Owens, looking from my cheap seats like a man in a slate-colored body cast) reverberated past me, literally and figuratively, and I had to read the notes to the opera to catch all the nuances of the story.

At times, the opera includes a bit of welcome post-modern humor. I recall one scene, or perhaps it was the first act, ending with Grendel shouting, "Bullshit!" His first line upon appearing on stage: "And so begins the twelfth year of my idiotic war."

At the opera's conclusion, the crowd gave an enthusiastic ovation, and the snippets of conversation I heard in the mass exodus all concerned Taymor's puppets, Hoffman's costumes, and Tsypin's monolithic wall.

"Just beautiful, wasn't it?"

"Oh, it was just so gorgeous. Just wonderful to look at."

I won't go so far as to refer to "Grendel" as "The Lion King" for adults or with loftier aspirations, but sometimes I think you could set Taymor puppets on a Tsypin set to music from a CD and people would turn out eagerly, so visually starved are opera fans.

One benefit of attending opera (and theater) is that it's one of the few remaining social outings that makes me feel young, the average age of the audience at the Met skewing into another generation. One of the countless reasons I'm so depressed to be leaving NYC is that the Met's upcoming season includes more than one show I'd love to see: Anthony Minghella's interpretation of "Madame Butterfly," Tan Dun's "The First Emperor" starring Placido Domingo (with help on the libretto from novelist Ha Jin and some production assistance from Zhang Yimou), and Franco Zeffirelli's production of "La Boheme."

Bone marrow

In this interview, Anthony Bourdain lists Fergus Henderson's roast bone marrow with parsley salad as his "last meal before you die." I saw that in another article also, maybe it was in GQ. Here is the recipe.

If you're in NYC, perhaps the closest you'll come to trying this dish (without cooking it yourself, of course) is at Blue Ribbon Manhattan with their beef marrow and oxtail marmalade appetizer. Spread it over some crostini, sprinkle on some sea salt...soooo delicious. It's my favorite late night post going-out munchy cure.

Henderson has written a book titled The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, the first edition of which is a treasured tome among foodies and chefs.

The Bourdain interview is a hoot, by the way. On vegetarians: "Joyless, angry, frightened, anti-human, and just plain rude. How can you travel and be a vegetarian? I don't like my grandma's cooking, but at least I try it."

On amuse bouches: "I think I've had enough amuses. I'm not amused anymore."

On non-smoking laws: "I'll stand out in the cold and smoke until I drop. All the cool people are outside anyway. In New York, there are people who actually pretend to smoke, because that's where all the cool women are."

On Rachael Ray: "A bad tipper. Come on -- ``$40 a Day''? I find her relentless good cheer terrifying and distrust anyone who could stand in front of a camera and eat mediocre food and say it's good. Be honest and say it sucks."

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

I attended the taping of The Daily Show yesterday. I'd tried to get tix a few times before, to no avail, but this time I included a sob story about how I'm leaving New York in the fall (true story) and perhaps that melted the heart of the person on the other end of my e-mail. The show is taped at a fairly nondescript studio out on 11th Ave. between 51st and 52nd St. A sign hangs over the entrance: "Abandon news all ye who enter here."

I arrived a bit after 2pm and was fifth in line. Hmm, maybe I was a bit too early, but since no one is guaranteed a seat, I thought I'd better be safe than sorry. Thank goodness it was one of the cooler days in recent memory. I stood as still as possible, trying not to sweat. They finally opened the doors to us between 5:30 and 6:00pm.

I always enjoy when various young folks come out to greet us in line with phrases like, "Jon is very excited to see all of you." It sounds so odd, and yet people get excited upon hearing it. The next time I have people over for a party, I'm going to hide in my bedroom and send out a few greeters.

"Eugene is very excited to see you. He'll be out shortly. Now remember, turn off all your cell phones and make lots of noise. Lots of noise! Eugene does not use a laugh track."

The studio seated 200 according to my rough scan. A warmup guy, the audience fluffer, so to speak, came out and made comedic banter and led us in rehearsals of wild applause and screaming. If you're the type of person who turns his nose up at such behavior, preferring to stand with hands in your pockets or arms folded, the warmup guy will single you out and force you to rehearse in front of everyone else, so if you're such a person, best to stay home and watch on TV. If, like me, you've wondered why the audience of The Daily Show sounds like a mob of drunken frat boys, know that they encourage that. The audience actually consists of a fairly normal cross-section of society, but the warm-up guy and the ear-thumping soundtrack they pipe in the studio gets everyone worked up to a froth.

The studio consists of Jon's chair and desk in the center and three large screens arranged in a semicircle behind him. Jon came out to field a few questions before the show. Among them:

Who is more vile, Ann Coulter or Karl Rove?

Ann Coulter, because she has succeeded in dehumanizing those who disagree with her. I honestly don't think she'd feel a thing if they were killed in front of her. But someday, she'll learn the true meaning of Christmas.

When is Rob Corddry getting his own show?

I believe we have him through October, then he moves over to his own show on Fox(?). His brother is already gone. You have to watch out for those Corddry's, they'll f*** you. When we found him, he was just an orphan, emaciated, abandoned. I found him behind a dumpster, fed him, raised him, and what do I get? A knife in the back.

What size are your shoes?

[beat] Size 14.

On somewhat of a slow news day, the field report was from Samantha Bee, reporting from San Andreas (the Grand Theft Auto neighborhood). They shoot those segments right next to Jon Stewart, in front of a greenscreen, so the studio audience can see Bee or Corddry or whoever is the field reporter. The guest this evening was Anderson Cooper, fresh off a two hour interview with Angelina Jolie, who Stewart referred to as the "Bono of hotness."

Before recording the usual check-in with Stephen Colbert, Stewart and Colbert chatted for a bit. Stewart complained about fatigue from raising his two kids, and Colbert responded, "It's like wrestling inexhaustible midgets." As with many of these live tapings, most of the funniest moments are the ones not shown on TV, when hosts like Conan O'Brien or Stewart just ad lib and chat with the audience.

Colbert screwed up the punchline of the check-in segment so they had to record it a second time. Then Stewart recorded the lead-in for the international edition of The Daily Show which airs on CNN International. I saw that a few times while on vacation in E. Europe. It packages a week's worth of Daily Shows into one long Daily Show.

One more item to cross off the NY checklist.

Doubt, the movie

After the performance of Neil Labute's Some Girl(s) at the Lucille Lortel Theatre last night, John Patrick Shanley came on-stage for a talkback (fancy word for mini-interview and Q&A) with one of the MCC Theater's resident playwrights. I didn't realize Shanley had won the lifetime triple crown: an Oscar for best screenplay Moonstruck, a Tony and a Pulitzer, both for Doubt. He also wrote and directed Joe Versus the Volcano. Shanley mentioned that just yesterday, he closed a deal to adapt and direct Doubt as a movie.

"People who are utterly certain are vulnerable to a brand of foolishness that people who maintain a level of doubt are not," Shanley has said. It's clear that he was referring in part to a certain sitting President, especially as compared to said President's most recent electoral opponent who was crucified for changing his mind about the Iraq war.

Tiny bubbles

How can best put $1 to use? The author's conclusion is to lend it via a microfinance organization.

Interactive population growth map. Covers the world from 1955 through 2015, helping to visualize the growth in urbanisation.

Man jokingly rents out tree house for $150/mo in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and receives 30 offers. Do you count as a rural or urban dweller if you live there?

As seen on the Chappelle Show, perhaps: the pre-sexual agreement.

Not happy with comments from Frederic Rouzaud, managing director of Louis Roederer, about hip-hop's long association with Cristal, Jay-Z has switched his allegiance to Krug and Dom Perignon. As a show of allegiance to my Man, I'm switching to Krug and Dom to fill my hot tub.

Cat Power at Town Hall (June 9, 2006)

I took friends to see Cat Power last Friday night at Town Hall. I'd seen her once before, a long time ago, opening for Liz Phair, and I braced my friends for the worst. Cat Power, real name Chan (pronounced Shawn) Marshall, is notorious for her sometimes jumbled concerts and jittery onstage persona. When her Memphis Rhythm Band appeared on stage and began playing, the microphone standing there alone at the center of the stage, I tensed. Maybe Marshall had decided not to come onstage? Maybe, like Eminem in 8 Mile, she was throwing up in a backstage bathroom, overcome with stage fright?

The band consisted of two guitars, a bass, two violins, a cello, drums, two backup vocalists, a piano, saxophone, and trumpet/coronet(?). I may even be leaving someone out. After an overture or two from the band, they jumped into the opening bars of "The Greatest." Still no Cat.

And then she appeared from stage right, barefoot, dressed in a sleeveless black top and black capri-like pants, dancing around like the crazy alternative girl you see on the dance floor grooving, doing her own thing, the one you think might be crazy but who is also unsettlingly alluring. She jumped into "The Greatest," flashing a smile and flexing her biceps after the opening line: "Once, I wanted to be the greatest." We had a perfect view from our seats in the sixth row, center Orchestra.

That voice. It seems to carry a built-in reverb, a raw purr that, like its owner, seems sexy, wistful, and fragile all at once. Having heard her mostly on CD up until now, it was clear during this concert that her voice is best appreciated live, in performance, when its warm density gives it a texture that seems palpable. On a cold night you could wrap it around yourself like a blanket of smoke.

For most of the concert, she seemed happy and at ease on stage, prowling back and forth on the stage, standing on her tiptoes, gesturing with her arms like Q’Orianka Kilcher's Pocahontas in The New World. Whispered speculations and the requisite drug use jokes could be heard from time to time in the seats nearby us, but I think she was much more at ease on stage than I remembered her being the last time I saw her. Her band and her fans seemed to be encouraging her, cushioning her, trying to blanket her with their love like they would a newborn infant.

Mid-concert, she disappeared midway through the ballad "Where Is My Love," leaving the band to carry the tune for an extended series of reprises. Finally, after everyone in the band had done their turn, a few members of the band could be seen peering towards stage right. "Where is my love?" sang one of the backup vocalists, and she shrugged as the audience realized that even the band had no idea where Marshall had disappeared to.

When she finally reappeared, I almost didn't recognize her. She had changed into a white strapless dress, and she'd pulled her hair back, allowing her attractive face to come out from behind her bangs. I was aware of a new train of thought disrupting my focus on the music. Cat Power was hot.

It's like revisiting an old high school buddy years later and discovering that his little sister has grown up to become a knockout. Perhaps the bangs are a security blanket, or a defense mechanism, but with her hair pulled back, Marshall was like a gangly but lovely swan. She sang the refrain one last time and brought the song to a close, and then the band left her alone on stage. She proceeded to sing a few songs alone, on guitar or the keyboard, and for the first time the fidgety Cat Power returned.

She started one song, and while strumming the guitar just ended it abruptly, saying, "Anyway." She started another tune, stopped and asked someone to remove a rolling snare, started the song again, then stopped to complain about a buzzing monitor. She fiddled with her guitar strap. Later, the keyboardist Rick Steff(?) gave her a smooch on her lips, and when he had his back to her, she wiped her lips as if grossed out (Steff, or whoever it was, seemed very touchy-feely with Cat Power, adding a creepy subtext to their interplay).

But Marshall never seemed at risk of falling over the edge. At one point, after moving her cup of water back and forth a few times like someone with OCD, she joked about herself, "Whatever keeps you sane!" At another point, she smiled between songs and proclaimed, "Sober!" From time to time she'd wave at friends in the crowd, and that voice. She covered The Animals "House of the Rising Sun" by herself, just a guitar to accompany her voice. It was lovely. Her voice needs little adornment, and using it she not only covers songs but makes them all her own.

She came back onstage for one encore, and then she was gone. As I filed out, I felt relaxed, all the tension having drained out of me. Our little baby had grown up.

Tonight, his journey ends

Tuesday morning, parts of Spiderman 3 were shot in Manhattan at the Broadhurst Theater (slideshow).

Deadspin has an anonymous source that claims that one of the people named in Jason Grimsley's affidavit as a person who referred him to an amphetamine source is Chris Mihlfeld who happens to be Albert Pujols' personal trainer. No one wants to find out that Pujols was on any illegal substance. It's bad enough thinking back to the Sosa-McGwire home run battle of 1998 that supposedly saved baseball and thinking that both of them were more artificially enhanced than Joan Rivers.

That short Samantha Bee American Idol-esque video retrospective on al-Zarqawi on The Daily Show last night caused me to laugh water out my nose. "Tonight, his journey ends. Let's take one last look back." It was set to that cheesy pop tune; I'm not sure of the name or artist. I wish the video was online to link to; perhaps it will be in a day or two.

UPDATE I: The tune accompanying shots from al-Zarqawi's terrorist training clip montage, a helpful reader informs me, was Daniel Powter's "Bad Day."

UPDATE II: Here we go, the Samantha Bee clip is in the middle of this clip.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Google Browser Sync is a Firefox plugin that syncs your Firefox browser settings across all your computers. Useful to me because I'm always bouncing between my desktop and laptop.

Al Qaeda leader Zarqawi is dead, killed in an air strike north of Baghdad.

Jon Stewart vs. Bill Bennett on gay marriage. If you wanted to send someone from the right to match wits with Jon Stewart on this issue, Bill Bennett probably isn't on the shortlist.

The Yoda backpack makes it seem as if Yoda is hanging on your back so you can look like Luke in The Empire Strikes Back. Pair this with a Force FX lightsaber and, well, you might as well lop off your manhood and put it in that backpack because it won't be getting any use.

Speaking of Star Wars, the DVDs for the original, unaltered Star Wars trilogy, Eps IV through VI, are being released in September, and the fans are already killing them with customer reviews on All three DVDs currently average about 2 out of 5 stars in customer ratings. It's not just that fans are being forced to buy yet another set of Star Wars DVDs but that the original, unaltered movies will be released in non-anamorphic widescreen and will not have a new Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix. Some fans say it's just the original laserdisc transfer (I own those laserdiscs, by the way). Oh, the horror.

An online strategy guide to rock, paper, scissors. There's even a book in print called The Official Rock Paper Scissors Strategy Guide. I went to a book reading/signing by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner today. It was fun to finally meet them in person. They mentioned that they're going to write a sequel to Freakonomics to be titled SuperFreakonomics. Their talk strayed to the topic of rock, paper, scissors. Phil Gordon is going to throw a $50,000 rock, paper, scissors tournament so Levitt can study the play. It just so happens that Levitt is studying the human ability or inability to randomize. He mentioned some initial studies that indicated that football (I think he meant European football) players are superior strategy randomizers. He's not sure why. If given 4 strategies to employ against each other, the optimal mix is something like 40/20/20/20 (or so Levitt said), and football players do that naturally. Rock, paper, scissors is a good test of that human ability. Gordon believes that some people are gifted randomizers and can consistently win at rock, paper, scissors, but it sounds like Levitt's skeptical since different people make the rock, paper, scissors finals each year.

Chip Kidd is the guest blogger at PowellsBooks this week. Among the his to-do's for the week:

  • Design a cover for Christina Garcia's forthcoming novel, A Handbook to Luck.

  • Construct and photograph a miniature set for Martin Amis's new novel, House of Meetings. By Thursday morning.

  • Redesign a poster for a Pedro Almodovar film festival.

  • Do the mechanical for Robert Hughes's Goya, newly in paperback.

  • Get an approval on a jacket for a book on the history of relations between Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Middle East (by Zachary Karabell).

  • Do research on a poster for Sofia Coppola's upcoming film, Marie Antoinette (I'm so, so behind on this and Sony's being very patient).

  • Design a cover for a play by Cormac McCarthy, entitled Sunset Limited.

  • Do same for Kim Deitch's new graphic novel, Alias The Cat, which I am also editing. And which rules.

  • Reconfigure my design for the Surprise CD by Paul Simon in order to adapt it to, of all things, vinyl.

Even Danny Meyer's wife and kids have to wait in line at the Shake Shack.

Faith Healer, and my Tony-nominated friend

One of the things I hope to recover when my desktop computer returns is my iCal calendar. I spent a good part of yesterday trying to recall big upcoming events in my life by looking over credit card receipts. To my surprise, I had two tickets to a matinee showing of Brian Friel's Faith Healer this afternoon. Who buys two tickets to a Wednesday matinee?

I spent a futile day trying to find someone to attend an afternoon matinee of serious theater with me, to no avail. Fortunately, a series of glowing reviews, and perhaps the presence of Ralph Fiennes as the lead, had attracted a huge audience this gorgeous afternoon day. I found a taker for my extra ticket in the cancellation queue, a man who handed over a tattered $100 bill with a furtive glance over both shoulders, a gesture that left me feeling like a drug dealer.

Faith Healer is not a conventional play. Rather, it is a series of four monologues or soliloquys. Frank Hardy (Fiennes) delivers the first and last, and in between we hear from Grace Hardy (Cherry Jones) and Teddy (Ian McDiarmid). They each tell stories about the same events, but their recollections differ in revealing ways.

Frank is an Irish faith healer, Grace his wife or mistress, depending on who you believe, and Ted is Frank's manager. They recall a time when they drifted about the Scottish and Welsh countryside staging "performances," as Frank refers to his healing performances.

Frank's healing ability comes and goes. He carries with him a press clipping about one of his triumphs, a time when he healed all ten people who came to him in a Welsh town. Those triumphs surprise even himself, and yet he is haunted by his failures. "I always knew when nothing was going to happen." Frank represents every artist who has prostrated himself at the foot of his Muse in desperation, anger, and incomprehension. For the most part, he paints his past in such grand and overly theatrical prose that one suspects him of artistic vanity and insecurity, but Fiennes manages to flash enough of his self-loathing at the audience to earn its pity.

Grace is both transfixed by Frank's gift and disgusted by his abusive treatment of her. She was a lawyer once but ran off with Frank, drawn to the his magnetism and the allure of the arts. Ted's soliloquy begins the second act and begins with a welcome comic embrace, what with Ian McDiarmid's Cockney accent and ghastly combover.

As the monologues unfold, a sense of dread creeps through the theater. Frank Hardy is a maelstrom into which Grace and Ted have been drawn, and that they are not on stage together augurs badly.

The acting is first-rate. Though I found myself yearning for a close-up shot of some of the actors during their intimate confessions, all three were skilled enough on the stage that their emotions registered with me in row L. Fiennes gives one of the best performances on Broadway by a silver screen star that I've seen in my time in NYC, and I've seen quite a few, and Cherry Jones gives a strong followup to her Tony-winning performance in Doubt. Ian McDiarmid proves that he was no fluke as the best actor in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

The play requires the viewer to pay close attention. At times my thoughts wandered into reverie, and I'd struggle to catch up with the narrative sudoku, trying to balance three competing recounts of various events. It's no simple task for my hyperlink-addicted mind to remain focused on a single storyteller for nearly 3 hours, nor was it a cinch for many of the middle-aged to older audience in attendance this night. At times, the play left me yearning to see the three actors on stage together interacting in a more dramatic situation.

And yet, to structure the play any other way would be to undermine one of the play's more haunting messages, and that is the loneliness of human existence. How could three people who cared so deeply for each other offer such varying accounts of events they were the only people to experience? As each of them twists and kneads their memories on stage, they come to seem like, each of them, a ghost, doomed to forever struggle to communicate to each other across scenes, but doomed to forever appear on stage alone. Only the audience hears all of their stories, and yet the task of weaving them together into a single coherent narrative is like trying to visually resolve an optical illusion.

The old woman next to me dozed in and out, occasionally waking with a start before drifting slowly off again. At the end of the play, she proclaimed grumpily, "I didn't understand that."

"I guess you had to be there," I said.

Happy footnote: Along with the regular Playbill, I was given a special Playbill focused on the 2006 Tonys. I'd already heard the good news from Peter, but seeing it in print was still a thrill. Klara had been nominated for a Tony in the category of Best Scenic Design of a Musical for her work on Jersey Boys. I'll be watching and rooting for her on TV on June 11.

From the Tony website:

Prior to Jersey Boys, Klara Zieglerova designed the set for the Broadway revival of Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner's The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. This is her first Tony nomination.

Comme ci, comme ca

What if someone steals your Mac laptop? Undercover is a piece of software for just that type of scenario. Report your laptop stolen, and the next time it connects to the Internet it will send network info and snap pics with its iSight. 10 minutes later, a team of Delta commandos armed with semi-automatics will crash through the skylight and neutralize the perps with tear gas and rubber bullets (okay, I made this part up, but it would be fantastic as a premium plan). If authorities fail to recover it promptly, the software will simulate a screen failure.
One other thing that Europe has over the U.S.: sunscreens with mexoryl which do a far better job of blocking UVA rays. Unfortunately, mexoryl is still banned by the FDA. The NYTimes covered this a while back. Mexoryl-based sunscreens are thought to reduce wrinkles, so as you can imagine, a healthy bootlegging trade has cropped up here in NYC, where you can get your hands on it, at a ridiculous price, if you ask at the right drugstores on the Upper East Side. You can also purchase it online from Canadian pharmacies. I'm kicking myself for forgetting to snag a couple tubes while in Europe.
The puggle: half pug, half beagle. For the NY bachelor who needs a NY-pint-sized dog that is, in the words of Thrillist, "passably masculine."
A Frankensteinian commencement speech spliced together from celebrity commencement speeches across the country in 2006. Did Jodie Foster really quote Eminem? Oh Clarice! My guess is that line was received with the silence of the lambs.
Ryan Seacrest breaks bad news.

Must. Have. Sugar.

Last week I invested in some new running shoes. My previous pair, the Adidas Supernovas, had carried me through the NY Marathon, but only when paired with off-the-shelf insoles. The Supernovas didn't offer much arch support, and without the new insoles they left bruises on my arches. I have really, really flat feet, so I'm prone to overpronation, so to speak.
Fortunately, most motion control running shoes are cheaper than the average running shoe. Most manufacturers' top-of-the-line running shoes aren't motion control models. This time around I didn't want to have to buy separate insoles. I ended up with a pair of Saucony and a pair of New Balance motion control shoes to alternate with. Both had wide toe boxes to accommodate my toe-side-wide flippers.
Though stores let you test shoes out on treadmills or out around the block, you still never know just how well a pair of shoes fits you until you've put a few miles into them, which is why I cruised down the East River Park to the Brooklyn Bridge last Friday afternoon. The weather has been erratic lately, but on my return trip the sun was strong. Back at my apartment, I had to sit for a long time to cool off before jumping into the shower. I hate getting out of the shower while my core temp is still high and sweating some more. By the time I'd dressed, I didn't have time for dinner before catching a showing of The Odd Couple down on Broadway.
While waiting for the subway uptown, I bought a roll of SweeTarts and a tiny bag of gummy bears, two of my favorite candies. During the show, as Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick mugged on stage, I snuck one candy after another into my mouth, trying to chew discreetly. By intermission, I'd consumed all my sweets. You medheads can probably sense where this horror story is headed.
After the show let out, about 10:45pm or so, the plan was to grab dinner. My friend got called back into work, though, so I walked her back to her office and then headed out in search of food. A bit past 11:00pm, another friend called and said a bunch of folks were congregating at Katz's Deli for food and drinks in half an hour. Could I wait and join them there for a meal?
My stomach wasn't rumbling, so I agreed. As I walked towards the nearest subway stop, I started to feel hot inside, an odd sensation on such a cool evening. I pulled off my jacket, but it didn't help. I started to sweat, at first a little, and then a lot. I've never sweat like that in my life. Then my head started to spin, and my legs went weak. I could barely stand up, and at each street corner I held onto lampposts for dear life. What was happening to me?
My only thought was that I probably needed food. I'd bonked on a bike before, but it felt nothing like this. I staggered into the next restaurant I saw. The name of the place escapes me. A red lantern with a Japanese character on it was hanging out front, and I practically fell through the front door, a few smokers out front shooting quizzical looks my way. The hostess inside gave a start when she saw me, perhaps because I looked like I'd just emerged from four hours in a sauna. I signaled for 1 with my index finger, and she escorted me to the bar, where I sat and put my head down on the counter.
The bartender brought the usual Japanese restaurant amenities. I've never been so thankful for a wet towel, which I used to wipe my face and neck. I couldn't stop sweating, and now my hands were shaking. I ordered a coke, then called Alan and Sharon. Thankfully Sharon was up, and when I told her what was going on, she calmly diagnosed hypoglycemia and recommended something with sugar, like a fruit juice. When my coke arrived, I chugged it like I was chasing something awful, then immediately ordered another. A few appetizers dropped in front of me, and they disappeared just as quickly. By the time my meal was over, I'd stopped sweating and no longer felt like passing out.
Let's rewind to the start. After the run, my blood sugar was low. Then I shocked my system with the candy, and the sugar overload caused my body to release insulin. By the time the show was over, my body was entering insulin shock. I only know this now because Derek told me that researchers study hypoglycemia by doing roughly what I did to myself, except they give patients glucose drinks instead of SweeTarts and gummy bears. Self-experimentation isn't all that safe when done outside a controlled environment. Passing out on a dark street late at night in NYC? Not priceless.

APC hack

This hack may only be of use in Manhattan, where the lines at the post office for human post office clerks are never short.
Much to any tech-saavy customers delight, he USPS joined the customer self-service movement a while back by installing machines/kiosks called Automated Postal Centers at many of their branches. By following directions on a touch screen, you can weigh letters and packages and purchase postage using your credit or debit card. This saves customers the trouble of waiting in line for their most common mailing needs.
The reliability of these machines, though is poor, and the glitch in the interface is that the APC often allows you to go all the way to the end of the process before informing you that, due to one error or another, you have to go to wait in line for a clerk after all.
When that happens, I've found a workaround that seems to be effective most of the time. From the opening screen, instead of hitting the "Mail a letter or package" button, press the button that says "Look Up Information." Then, press "Look Up Domestic Mailing Costs." Weigh your letter or package, type in the destination zipcode, and the machine will tell you the postage. But then it will also offer an option to purchase that postage. You can then proceed to purchase the stamp with your credit/debit card.
For some reason, that method always works, even when proceeding down that "Mail a letter or package" branch of the menu fails.


Wednesday night I went to the Strokes' first concert of their 2006 tour at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Great show, and I don't have anything to add to Stereogum's summary of the concert (and setlist). The last time I saw The Strokes was in 2003 in Seattle at the Exhibition Center, just an awful place to see a concert.
The Strokes came complete with their own fly girl, Lucy Liu, dancing up a storm in the lower stage left box with uber-Strokes-celeb-groupie Drew Barrymore, who was content to tilt her head back and mouth the lyrics towards the ceiling with a stoned grin while squeezing a cigarette between her fingers.
I left the show with just the right amount of deafness in my ears and blood racing through my head. I want to be Julian.

Whatever People Say I Am Thats What I Am Not

Google Pages is a free, online web page creation tool.
Whatever People Say I Am Thats What I Am Not, the mega-hyped new album from maybe the most hyped new band of the last year, released yesterday. The good news is the album is a whole lot of damn fun, and the hype is forgivable because the band allowed MP3s of their tunes to float around the Internet for a long time before they released their work. That helped to build the buzz and a fan base. Even before their CD released, they sold out a few concerts in NYC before most people could hit redial on their phone. It helps to be good, yes, but it also helps to realize how to feed the machine that is the Web hype monster with some choice cuts. Cheap, efficient marketing.
NYTimes food critic Frank Bruni reviews NYC's midtown Hooters in his new blog. "They may wear skimpy attire, but they have big hearts."
The Manhattan Trader Joe's could be opening in mid-March, ahead of schedule. Some localization will occur: Two-buck Chuck will be three-buck Chuck due to Manhattan inflation.
Tiger Woods annihilates his first opponent in The Accenture Match Play Championship, 9 & 8 (basically, Tiger won every hole of the match, nine in a row, with 7 birdies and 2 pars). Even I, with my terrible game, might have been able to eek out a tie on one hole on the front 9. Before the match, Ames had made a comment about Tiger's driving to the press, saying, "Anything can happen, especially where he's hitting the ball." After the match, when asked if he had any response to Ames' comments, Tiger responded, "9 & 8." Just this once, it would have been great if trash talking was allowed in golf. Every time Tiger sank a birdie putt, he could've turned to Ames and said, "How do you like where I hit that ball, you $*@#!?" Everyone knows if trash talking were allowed, Tiger would be even more dominant than he is. He'd be like Jordan, just cruel and relentless.
I forgot to point out yesterday that Sports Guy's latest column, summarizing his NBA All-Star Weekend trip, was awesome.
236 phrases/keywords censored by a Chinese blogging service. Among them:
  • Set fires to force people to relocate
  • Hire a killer to murder one's wife
  • Fetus soup