Friday, August 07, 2009

Goodbye to All That (Blogger)

I'm going to be using a new blog service from here on out, so change your bookmarks (if you have me bookmarked) to either or Both will go there.

I hope you like the new site, Dear Reader. I have a new post up about the High Line and various light!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tell Amazon What's What

Recently, Amazon deleted some George Orwell books from users' Kindles. The reason the company did this was because the books "had been mistakenly published." I saw this in the news, and didn't think much of it until I read this piece by Farhad Manjoo, published today on

Manjoo writes:

The power to delete your books, movies, and music remotely is a power no one should have. Here's one way around this: Don't buy a Kindle until Amazon updates its terms of service to prohibit remote deletions. Even better, the company ought to remove the technical capability to do so, making such a mass evisceration impossible in the event that a government compels it.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, with his company's Kindle e-reader.

If this book-deletion episode bothers you, do this: Write Amazon a quick email, demanding what Manjoo recommends. Here is the link to write Amazon a note. (If you don't have an Amazon account, just click the "Skip sign in" button at the bottom of the form.)

And here is a basic draft of what you should send (feel free to use this verbatim):
To Whom It May Concern:

I was disturbed to hear about Amazon's recent remote deletion of George Orwell books from users' Kindle devices. I understand the reasons why you did so, but I do not believe that any company should have the power to remotely delete books from a computer or other similar devices.

As per Farhad Manjoo's article on, I am writing today to request that you update your terms of service to prohibit remote deletions or, better yet, remove the capability to do so. I will not purchase a Kindle until this is done, and I will encourage my friends and family to do the same.

Thank you for your time.


Power to the people right now.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We Thought You'd Left Us

It's been far too long since I've blogged.

This, too, will not be a full-meal blog, a gallon of water after days in the desert. No, rather it'll just be a quick collection of what's been occupying my headspace of late.

One, I have a new web address, It currently points to this blog, so it's not much of a change, but it's nice to have the domain name.

Two, after being inspired by my brother, I'm currently working on transitioning this blog to WordPress. It's still in progress, so it's yet rough, but go take a look and let me know what you think. It's a little buggy, and when I imported my old posts from this blog, many came through duplicated one, two, or even three times. Anyone else have that problem and know how to fix it?

Third, I made a hot summer jamz 2009 "mixed CD." The reason I call it a mixed CD is because once, an old girlfriend of my brother's gave him a mix CD and called it, on the disc, a "mixed CD"—I guess that was what she thought it was called, and it always cracked us up: a mixed CD. It's all mixed-up.

Anyway, if anybody out there in TV Land who reads this blog wants one (and hasn't already claimed one via Facebook or Twitter), hit me up in the comments (or via email) with your mailing address, and I'd be happy to send one out, in plenty of time for summer listening.

It is highly recommended for cookouts.

Here is the tracklist:

And finally, I got a bike. Haven't owned one for ten years, since Oxford. I bought it used, from B's Bikes on Driggs in Greenpoint. $250, and I talked them into throwing in a bike lock and helmet ($70 value) for $50. I'm loving it. Each of the past four weekends I've ridden down, for various reasons, to Prospect Park and, wow—It really just changes the way in which you interact with the city, expands your radius. And riding up Kent Avenue on a breezy schoolnight, with the Manhattan skyline bright off across the East River, and the wind whipping around you, is a glorious thing.

Here is my bike:

I love it. But now I want one built by these guys.

Monday, June 29, 2009


The end of the weekend ended
as most of my recent weekends
have been ending—with a sense
there was something I’d forgotten
or someone to see about something.

But after reading Sam’s poems,
which are similar to but better
than poems I’d formerly written,
the feeling went via confirmation
of the identical feeling in another:

That last winter was the best winter,
parties at an old house far superior
to the parties currently being thrown,
missing a girl on a goddamned mountain,
and all of one’s best friends leaving.

To which I say: All of one’s best friends
are always leaving, a sense of falling
suspended in mid-air, or the bottom
always dropping to pace the falling.
same as the way that I was feeling

at the wedding the day before:
I was arriving and had arrived,
dancing and having had danced,
the people across the wide lawn
receding as I paced toward them.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Liberty & Fountain

In honor of Summer Fridays (the first of which I might take today, if I can get my work done), here's a poem I wrote a few years back and which I've always been kind of proud of. Dig it. (And forgive the small type; I had to shrink the font size to make the line breaks appear correctly.)

Liberty & Fountain

Yes, we sat and stood at the curb and corner of
Liberty & Fountain, where we’d walked to and ridden buses to
from first Jamaica and earlier Astoria and before Roosevelt Island
It’s Dutch. It’s gotta be Dutch. Roosevelt / Gansevoort
Over the Queensboro Bridge from the city, whose definition grew bigger
as we moved to and from different boroughs.

Yeah, we’re at the corner of Fountain & Liberty we kept saying,
pleased with ourselves for having seen so much unseen
by our fellow hipsters, tourists all, I disdained them.
You were more forgiving.

From the sculpture park where we’d seen art and children saw toys
I studied the cartoon deer lawn statue and we discussed what
the pedestals meant, the junk embedded, the geologic strata –
then the Filipino girl ran up and climbed up and she
rode that cartoon deer with as much if not more intent
than what we’d just brought to bear on What does this piece mean?

I straightened up and thought, well
Of course that’s what it means. Deer are for riding,

So we took the Q something bus on out to where the 7 rushed and rucked
overhead, to where we stood under overpass and
stood forever waiting for the Q60. White faces dropped off
and the bus filled and we felt self-conscious
I don’t know why. I don’t know why that should be so.
But it was so even though I wished it wasn’t. Wish it weren’t.
A cop car slides suspiciously up: Y’all need to get outta here
in a gravel-rough granite-deep voice, or at least that’s how I kept saying it
to lighten the mood.

You and I both laughed but what is laughing but
making loud noises to scare off whatever’s bad out there.
The corner of Fountain & Liberty. Liberty between Fountain & Logan, really.
We kept on saying that. You kept on
laughing and I kept on making you laugh. I was trying.

I was trying to know who Rufus King was,
who had the house that was the reason for the park
where the wedding photos were being taken in Jamaica,
but I didn’t have that information in my mind. Of the information I did have
there was one item which told me I liked parks like Rufus King’s
whoever he was
parks with trees with big tall trunks and lots of rich green leaves
and benches like would not look out-of-place in Savannah.
Broad green lawns and black babies, barbecue
and a sort of blent mist, gauzy, that hung among the upper branches
and seemed a sort of benediction.

We couldn’t stay long, though. We had a plane to catch.
We had a train to catch. We caught the Q8 instead,

and headed back west toward Brooklyn, following our progress
on a bus that filled with only black faces on an MTA map
that didn’t much correlate to reality, but worked alright enough.
Growing up, the idea grows that not much correlates. Nothing’s to scale.

You said you missed John as it was getting late
at the corner of Liberty & Fountain, or more really
Liberty between Fountain & Logan. You laughed
and missed John. Or more really you missed John in between laughing.
Or you laughed in between missing John. Which is the way
I’m beginning to believe life & living just are.

When the Q12 did finally come you were cold, and you cursed air-conditioning.
I agreed. The bus filled up with black faces and you were cold
and hungry. I pressed up against you and once sat forward
You pulled me back and said stay there.
I stayed there.

That bus ride was by far the longest, and when we made Prospect Park
it was as if we’d been in the hinterlands, East New York &
Woodside & Ozone Park, Tibet to Kathmandu, &
that girl you worked with you told me about with the tattoo of an ampersand.

The park opened up like the mouth of a whale made of forest.
We passed its cold marble teeth gleaming dully in the half-moon
The moon in the arms of the sun
and were inside this gigantic green thing, breathing.
You and I were breathing and so was the park and
so was the lake with the lights that brought to my mind
Lake Hamilton in Arkansas, and college nights spent in the dark
on the lake with boats moored and cold beer,
the boats tied together and the lights across the lake
with the engines off and the sound of water, some slipping naked into the dark water,
and so was the bullfrog that was in the lake,
he was breathing too.

We walked along the paths of the park, lit by lovely lamplight
and talked and I told you to breathe in the riot of greenery.
You did so and I did so, us both breathing like a couple
of bullfrogs, struck stupid by art.
The rushes in the lake were six feet high if they were an inch.
And nothing got us.

When we left the park, the townhouses were lit by lamplight or candlelight.
Let’s say the latter.
They were three or four stories tall and for all
I knew this was Paris. Some magic come down from
the heavens to live on Earth. The air perfumed, permeated
with June, finally, in this year of too-long winter
and overmuch rain. But overmuch rain makes the greenery grow
thick & pungent, and that is heavy worth it.
The breathing-in bears out that this is heavy worth it,
regardless of the misting-up and the missing.

For there’s the laughing at Liberty & Fountain, near Logan,
and all of the cupcakes and all of the barbecue and the beer,
all of it, tired legs in the morning and maybe missing, too,
but deep sweet sleep before and summer hours again next Friday.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rain, Rain, Get Lost

Lately, it seems that just about everyone in New York City—myself included—has been complaining about the never-ending rainfall we’ve been having. But how bad is it, really? I decided to do some digging and find out. The following data comes from the National Weather Service Forecast Office, and covers from 1869 to present, with measurements taken in Central Park*. Here are the soggy facts:

The city has had 5.32 inches of rain thus far this month (we had 5.17 inches in all of May). Average June precipitation is 3.84 inches—so, with 12 more days to go this month, I’d say we’re going to beat that by a mile. (Average May precipitation is 4.69 inches, so we topped that, too.)

Q. What was the wettest May ever?
A. In 1989, 10.24 inches fell on the city during the month of May.

Q. What about the wettest June?
A. Our wettest June ever was actually quite recent, in 2003, when we received 10.27 inches. That was the wettest June in 100 years, in fact, since 1903.

Q. How about the wettest 24 hours ever in the city?
A. That would be over October 8 and 9 in, again, a well-soaked year—1903. A staggering 11.17 inches fell from the skies in that 24-hour period … that’s double what we’ve had throughout the past 17 days of June!

Q. So which way is this trending? Is the city getting wetter or drier?
A. Wetter, or at least it seems to be. Three of the top ten wettest years on record in New York City were in the last decade. Even more impressive, eight of the top ten wettest years were in the past four decades. (All ten have happened since 1903.) The most recent wettest year on record was 2007, at No. 4 on the list. That year the city got 61.70 inches of precipitation.

Q. Are we on track to beat 2007?
A. Not likely. By the end of May in 2007, we’d seen 25.91 inches of precipitation, including an epic 13.05-inch April (remember that storm?). By the end of May this year, the city had only received 15.52 inches of rain—respectable, and worth complaining about, but not looking like a record-breaker.

So that’s the verdict: Contrary to what you might believe, the rain has been much worse, and as recently as 2007. And yet....

(In the middle of writing this, I saw that the Times beat me to it. Oh well.)

* Final fun fact: From December 1868 to December 31, 1919, weather measurement for the city was conducted in Central Park, at the Arsenal Building on 5th Ave between 63rd and 64th streets. But on January 1, 1920, measurement moved to the Belvedere Castle Transverse Road, near 79th and 81st streets, where it remains today.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


This gorgeous, knockout excerpt from the last chapter (the Molly Bloom chapter) of Ulysses, by James Joyce, showed up in my co-worker's inbox yesterday, in the daily Writer's Almanac email. Get a little sensuousness up in you, how 'bout:
"O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Mr. Obama Goes to Cairo

This morning I woke to the calm, measured tones of President Obama giving a speech addressed to “the Muslim world” at Cairo University in Egypt. It was a good way to wake up. I wasn’t able to listen to the whole speech this morning, as I had to get ready to go to work. But I just now, at lunch, read the entire speech, which can be found here; I highly recommend that everyone give it a look.

The speech is pure genius. Its purpose was, as the president said, “to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition.”

If the previous administration’s mission statement was, “You are either with us or against us,” here the president was laying out a new mission statement for the U.S. and the Muslim world, one that Obama has been preaching for many years now: We are all in this together. In his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Obama—then a state senator from Illinois, and a candidate for the U.S. Senate—eloquently expressed this view as it related to Americans. He said:
“The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?”
What Obama was advocating today at Cairo University was a politics of hope for the entire world; what Bush and his administration advocated for the past eight years, and what former Vice-President Cheney, along with other outspoken Republicans, continue to advocate today is a politics of fear and cynicism.

The president made his case in part by using a very powerful rhetorical tool when communicating with people of faith: by deploying key passages from that group's chosen holy book—in this case, the Koran. For example, in one part of the speech that dealt with terrorism, Obama noted that, “The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.”

This rhetorical trick didn’t seem cynical because Obama, of course, has personal experience with Islam. As he said in today’s speech, “Part of this conviction [‘that the interests we share as human beings are more powerful than the forces that drive us apart’] is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.”

But the finest deployment of scripture came at the end, when Obama quoted from the holy books of all three Abrahamic faiths. He said:
“We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written. The Holy Koran tells us, ‘O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.’ The Talmud tells us: ‘The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.’ The Holy Bible tells us, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.’ The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you."
I agree wholeheartedly. God’s vision is for all people to live together in peace; not for all people to be Christians; not for all nations to be democracies; not for one nation to dominate any other. I think that all men and women of faith—whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, or any other—should be able to get behind that sentiment. Provided, that is, that they truly follow and believe in the teachings they claim to.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Facebook and Twitter Are Eating the World; also, Lewis & Clarke

Lately I've noticed something: I'm posting way less to this blog, yet I'm posting way more to Facebook and Twitter (notice the new Twitter feed just to the right of this post; also, you can find me on Twitter here). Which is fine, I suppose, though I get the feeling—at least with Facebook—like I'm working on Maggie's farm, providing Facebook with free content for its advertisers to sell against. Has anyone else out there in TV Land been getting this feeling?

The problem is this: It's so easy to post content to Facebook. On practically every web page one might come across these late days, "Share" is an option (right alongside "Print," "Email this Story," and the like). You click the Share button and a selection of sites on which to share the story pops up; Facebook is always on there, and Blogger never is. So you click the Facebook button and then you're inside Facebook, which provides a few lines of the story, a headline, and even a photo tied to the story in question. Modern science! But it makes me neglect this blog and then, when I return, post self-indulgent junk about how, lord have mercy, I find myself posting on some sites more than others.

Sounds like I'm in need of retooling.

At any rate: In the meantime, here's a link to the links I've been posting on Facebook lately, many of which have some nice discussion from friends of mine under them. A sad substitute, but it will have to do until I figure out some way to quit feeding the Facebook machine. Anyone out there know a blog site that more easily allows you to share or post stories from other sites?

Before I go, though, one quick recommendation from Yr. Faithful Correspondent:

The other night, as I often do before bed, I was listening on my radio to NPR's New Sounds show, which is all over the place in terms of content, but is consistently good and affecting and beautiful. But so the theme for this particular night's broadcast was "new folk," and in the show I heard an amazing, delicate song that bloomed midway out into cacophony before falling back to earth and subsiding. After, I waited to hear who it was, and I'll be damned if it wasn't the band Lewis & Clarke, with whom my good friend Karen has been playing cello as of late. The song is called "Comfort Inn," and it's off Lewis & Clarke's latest album, Blasts of Holy Birth (it came out in 2007, and the gently psychedelic album cover can be seen above). Lewis & Clarke's Myspace page does not have the song, but I found it here on You should absolutely give it a listen, preferably late-ish at night and when you're in a contemplative mood. It's very worth it.

That's all for now, but coming soon to fighting fire with unlit matches (or, hell, maybe Facebook): A discussion of President Obama's stunning, insightful biography Dreams from My Father, which I will shortly be finishing.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Turning onto Rodney

Rodney Street looks brightly lurid
as I turn north onto it from Broadway
at 1am. Not that Broadway,
which I was on earlier, slowing through
the crush of crowds after seeing Waiting
for Godot, the Shrek crowds, Times
Square tourists; but rather the busted Broadway
under the JMZ trains, screeching overhead.
Trash flattened, pancaked into pavement,
an overgrown lot above the B.Q.E.,
which, passing, I thought I could set up a tent in.
The traffic lights staggered down Rodney
bathe the asphalt in reds and greens,
the streetlights' sodium-lamp yellow
and all of the things I will never do.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekend Roundup

Let's kick off this week with this amazing picture, to which I was alerted by my friend Katie:

The kid wanted to see if his own haircut felt like the president's haircut. (For more great daily pictures of Obama and others in the White House, see the Official White House Photostream, which currently features a picture of the president talking to a pirate.)

At any rate, this picture of the kid resonated with me all the more because right now I'm reading Dreams from My Father, Obama's first book.

Here's a favorite passage of mine from the book, which I highly recommend:
For the rest of the day and into the next, I thought about Ruby’s eyes. [Obama had noticed that Ruby, a black woman, was wearing colored blue contacts, and he kind of called her out on it.] I had handled the moment badly, I told myself, made her feel ashamed for a small vanity in a life that could afford few vanities. I realized that a part of me expected her and the other leaders to possess some sort of immunity from the onslaught of images that feed every American’s insecurities-the slender models in the fashion magazines, the square-jawed men in fast cars-images to which I myself was vulnerable and from which I had sought protection.
I love that Obama gets it about "the onslaught of images." That's why I want to start a band called The True Iconoclasts. Smash images. It's like Sex and the City and Friends, like magazines and movie stars; even though you know that the images are glossed and styled and Not Real, they provide a nonstop background noise against which, reflexively, you measure your own life and look and, of course, find them lacking.

Then there are these lines, from a story in this Sunday's Times about good deals for first-time renters now being more available than before in the city:
Maggie Hawryluk, a freelance publicist, graduated from Hofstra University last year. She decided to look in Astoria because she knew some Hofstra alumni who had settled there. She shares a $1,600 two-bedroom with another Hofstra graduate, a dancer who works as a waitress when she’s not auditioning.

“I guess it’s the same idea as immigrants — they find ways to stay near one another,” Ms. Hawryluk said. “When I’m out on the weekends, I’m constantly running into people that I know from college, and it’s nice to see a familiar face.”

I like that take on things. It's much more forgiving and clear-eyed than most of the vitriol that gets spouted and hand-wringing that gets done over gentrification. People want to live near others who are like them, simple as that—Trinidadians with Trinidadians, Russians with Russians, liberal arts school graduates with liberal arts school graduates.* No one ever complains about the former two groups clumping together, so why the latter?

Also RE: gentrification—I'm pretty much 100 percent over feeling at all bad about it, because A) That's the way the market works and B) What's the alternative? That no one should ever be allowed to relocate from the town in which they were born? Or, if you are a college graduate and you do move to New York City, that you should be required by law to live in the West or East Villages and disallowed elsewhere?

It's just not workable. People have to be able to move wherever they feel like. That's kind of an essential American value, I think. Now, of course, the government does have a role in preventing or mitigating some of the inherent predations of the market, in real estate and in all other areas. But swinging the pendulum too far in the direction of regulation is a bad idea.

Finally, I'm now on Twitter. If you want to follow me, my name is hrslaton. Here's a link to my page.

* Whether or not this—people desiring to clump together with others like them—is a good or bad thing is another story entirely; but I do think it's a very human thing. And arguing against human nature is a losing battle.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Robots Are Disappointing Me

Last night, in a fit of misguided hope, I OnDemanded the movie Transformers for an hour or so before bed. I'd never seen it before. What I saw of it, though, was hilarious. Literally within the first 30 seconds Michael Bay deploys no fewer than six cliches about American military men: There's one guy who speaks Spanish (everyone reprimands him, "English!") and talks fondly about his mother's cooking; another who says all he wants to do "is hold my baby girl for the first time"; and another who waxes rhapsodic, in a you've-gotta-be-kidding-me Boston accent, about a ballgame at Fenway, "a cold hot dog and a flat beer." At any rate, it's kind of hilarious how rapidly the movie hurls its stereotypes and cliches; it's like a kid gorging on candy because he's afraid some adult is seconds away from taking it from him. So I turned it off and went to bed.

This summer, like every summer, is a big one for big, dumb movies. Some are dumb and fun, but most are dumb and insulting, and make you feel sad and disappointed for even hoping against hope that maybe a summer movie could live up to its firecracker hype, maybe make you feel how seeing Independence Day at the dome theater that one summer in Little Rock made you feel: frisson, sexy, excited; cordite on the air, rolled-down windows, wind whipping, girls.

Mostly they are not like that. There are reasons why. Guess who knows them: David Foster Wallace (I know, I know). Here's the first two paragraphs from his excellent dissection of James Cameron's T2, which is apropos given the imminent arrival of the fourth Terminator movie:
1990s moviegoers who have sat clutching their heads in both awe and disappointment at movies like "Twister" and "Volcano" and "The Lost World" can thank James Cameron's "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" for inaugurating what's become this decade's special new genre of big-budget film: Special Effects Porn. "Porn" because, if you substitute F/X for intercourse, the parallels between the two genres become so obvious they're eerie. Just like hard-core cheapies, movies like "Terminator 2" and "Jurassic Park" aren't really "movies" in the standard sense at all. What they really are is half a dozen or so isolated, spectacular scenes -- scenes comprising maybe twenty or thirty minutes of riveting, sensuous payoff -- strung together via another sixty to ninety minutes of flat, dead, and often hilariously insipid narrative.

"T2," one of the highest-grossing movies in history, opened six years ago. Think of the scenes we all still remember. That incredible chase and explosion in the L.A. sluiceway and then the liquid metal T-1000 Terminator walking out of the explosion's flames and morphing seamlessly into his Martin-Milner-as-Possessed-by-Hannibal-Lecter corporeal form. The T-1000 rising hideously up out of that checkerboard floor, the T-1000 melting headfirst through the windshield of that helicopter, the T-1000 freezing in liquid nitrogen and then collapsing fractally apart. These were truly spectacular images, and they represented exponential advances in digital F/X technology. But there were at most maybe eight of these incredible sequences, and they were the movie's heart and point; the rest of "T2" is empty and derivative, pure mimetic polycelluloid.
Here's the link to the full thing. You'll need to be prepared if you plan to plunk down $12 (that's New York City prices) to see the new Transformers or Terminator FXtravaganzas this summer.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

On the Poles

When people learn that I worked on Antarctica for a while, the first thing they usually ask, with a hint of incredulity, is "Why?" I usually tell them that I've always been obsessed with the place, and that it's probably the closest thing to being on another planet I'll ever get to experience ... but beyond that I don't really get into the metaphysics of Antarctica, and its psychic pull on me.

But Tim Wu, in a great piece published today on Slate, does. Here's a couple of key (and beautiful) paragraphs that come after he compares the North and South Poles to Eden:
The signs of Eden are everywhere in Antarctica. The penguins and seals don't seem to have learned, as most animals have, that humans are fallen creatures, best avoided. In the far south, the penguins spring out of the sea and waddle over to meet you, acting more like kindergarten children than wild birds. You feel you're at a reunion with lost friends and wonder why we have such bad relations with most animals.
That's very true. The penguins will just walk right up to you, and the skua birds (scavengers) are totally fearless ... they will divebomb you if you are carrying a blue tray from the galley, which they have learned means food.
Every so often, an iceberg floats by that is grander and more beautiful than any cathedral, though it lacks any history or even a name. What's almost as shocking as its appearance is its anonymity: beauty untainted by fame. Most of these perfect objects will never be seen by human eyes. They float around and slowly melt by themselves, unappreciated and utterly indifferent to that fact.
Again, very true, though I didn't see any icebergs (I was on land). But I did sit atop Observation Hill in the lee of a rock and look out onto the frozen sea with the sun hanging in a sentient, old way over it; and the quiet of the sea ice and the quiet of the mountains, the boundless white, hypnotized me.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Kitchen Conspirators

Back last September, my friend Michael Cirino, along with a newer friend, Danielle Florio, and two of her "co-conspirators" (keep reading) hosted a Panamanian-themed dinner at their loft apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The dinner was filmed for a new Food Network show called Kitchen Conspirators (in which Danielle and her two co-chefs star; Michael, who some of you may know from the pig roasts I've talked about on this blog, was the guest chef for the evening). Below is the dinner portion of the episode, in which I and my friend Jessica Wurst, who I brought with me, can be seen several times. Check it out—It's a great video, and was a lovely dinner: peach gazpacho, shrimp and risotto served in half a coconut, and for dessert, iced coffee served with tobacco-infused whipped cream. Here's the home page for the Kitchen Conspirators series, where you can find the recipes for these dishes, and here's a link to a video of the dinner (I had to take down the embedded video I had up earlier because it was automatically playing whenever you loaded this page).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


The way you pronounced your home town—
boy see—still sticks with me
half a decade later
when my boss stops by my cubicle
to suggest a city—boy zee—for my story.

I don’t correct her; rather
I allow myself a brief reverie
of saying goodbye on the ice runway
on a sun-wracked January Monday,
when someone took a picture of us
"because we looked so sad."

Monday, April 27, 2009

All of the Beer and All of the Cupcakes

Last Friday was my niece Emma’s first birthday. I spent a good portion of it doing one of the favorite Little Rock activities: running errands. But after the party, which was at the park across the street from my parents’ house, where I lived throughout high school, I went to see my friend John Beachboard at his restaurant, Zaza, a salad and wood-oven pizza joint in the Heights, Little Rock’s progressive and old-money enclave.

I first met John at Dunbar Junior High, where we both went but didn’t run in the same crowds. I vaguely knew of him since then, but didn’t hang out with him until college, when I met him again through my best friend and roommate Joe, with whom John’d been in a band in high school. John was overweight then, and his party trick was to flex his glutes and let people to touch his bottom, which, as a result of carrying around his bulk, would be hard as wood when flexed. John could drink copious amounts of beer, and was mostly a gentle giant, but when messed with could fight like grizzly bear.

But it wasn’t until after college, after Fayetteville and Oxford, that I really got to know John, in New York. He and his longtime friend and bandmate David Slade came up to New York around when I did, right after we all graduated from school. I lived in the East Village my first year in the city, and John and David and another guy lived on the northwestern edge of SoHo. Right after they got the apartment, which was a beauty (though small), I was over at their house and we were up on their roof, and John was marveling to me about where he lived.

“All my life I’ve heard about SoHo,” John said, “and now I fucking live here.”

I knew how he felt. Though I hadn’t lusted after New York for much of my life at all—I hadn’t even really thought about it much until my senior year of college, when I was trying to figure out what to do—when I got there I got swept up quick in the romance of it all, a humming city that lived out on the street.

We spent a lot of nights on John’s roof. I came to think of it as John’s roof more than John’s and David’s, since John and I hung out much more. We’d sit out in chairs on the roof and drink beer and smoke cigarettes and look at the Empire State Building, which dominated the northern view. Sometimes we would cook up on the roof, on a little grill John had, and would sit on a piece of cardboard and eat barbecued chicken and get real messy and roll around drunk.

That was a good time. I was working a couple blocks away on Hudson Street and oftentimes I’d come right over after work, in that first late summer, and sit up on the roof with John. After a few beers I’d walk home to the East Village.

Then September 11th happened. While the planes were hitting the Twin Towers, I was in the shower. I walked out onto East 7th Street and turned west, to walk to Hudson Street, when I saw a fleet of emergency vehicles, fire engines, and cop cars scream down First Avenue. I turned south onto First and saw, way down south, smoke way up high. The Towers themselves were obscured by other buildings, but I knew that nothing downtown was that high up, and that it must be the Trade Center. When I got to where I could see the Towers themselves, I saw massive burning holes in both buildings.

I kept walking to work because I didn’t really know what else to do, and my cell phone wouldn’t work, so I wanted to be able to use the landlines at my office, which I figured would be better. So I made my way over southwest, toward SoHo. Near NYU I passed the upper deck running track, which is in full view of the towers, and was shocked to see someone working out, running around the track as if it were just another blue fall Tuesday. I stood at the corner of Thompson and LaGuardia Place and watched as the first tower fell. Everyone in the street was crying, myself included, and some were screaming. Everywhere cars were opened to the street with their radios on, with groups of people gathered around, listening.

After the first tower fell I went on in to work, to see about my co-workers and to use the phones. A few people were there, including my British boss, Martin Dunford, who looked gray-greenish and like he was about to be sick. Martin told us to go home.

So of course I went over to John’s. I didn’t know what else to do, couldn’t imagine being alone at that time, and didn’t know how to get in touch with anyone else. I buzzed the buzzer and John came down, and we went up onto the roof, to see what we could see. While I was in my office, the second tower had fallen, and the southerly view from John’s roof was blocked by other buildings, so there wasn’t much to do but speculate on what had happened and look at the dark plume of smoke that towered toward Brooklyn. We hung out on the roof for a while in the bright sunshine, looking down over the edge of the building onto the street below, when an eighteen-wheeler, like a sparrow blown off course in a tornado, appeared below us, on Charlton Street.

The truck seemed to be stuck, and this caused the nearby cops to freak out and order the driver from the cab at gunpoint, fearing the out-of-place truck to be part of a second wave of attacks, via truck bomb. The driver laid facedown on the pavement and cops swarmed John’s building, guns drawn, telling everyone to get out, which we did, hustling down the stairs and across the street with everyone else, fearful ourselves of a bomb—it seemed like anything could happen that day, as I suppose it did.

We decided we would go over to my apartment in the East Village, because I had a TV where we could see what was happening. We walked over there and got 40-oz. beers along the way. I needed a drink. When we got to my apartment we went inside the cave of a studio room, which I shared with a friend of mine, and turned on the TV. I only had a few channels, on account of no cable service, but we saw that all of the non-news channels had suspended their programming. I remember the Food Network being just being a static screen announcing that programming had been suspended. We clicked to the New York 1 news channel and cracked the beers. But after the first few sips of beer, which normally I never turned down, it began to feel wrong to be drinking, and John agreed. So we decided to leave and go up to Beth Israel to give blood.

But this isn’t about September 11th. It’s more about John, and his leaving New York for Arkansas, and his success now, and my missing him and those days.

More TK (that means "To Be Continued")

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Fight Over Aggregation, and TimesDigest

Today on Slate, Jack Shafer has an interesting story about the online “newspaper” The Huffington Post, and how “the media giants have put the Web's journalistic ‘parasites’—blogs, aggregators, Google—on notice that they will no longer allow them to pinch their copy without reimbursement.” Check out HuffPo here.

What Shafer is talking about is the practice of excerpting news stories and other content, with attribution and a link to the full story. Oftentimes, though—at least in the way The Huffington Post practices it—the excerpted stories can appear, to the untrained eye, like original content. And some are up in arms about this.

Shafer goes on to outline the long and colorful American tradition of stealing stories and rewriting them (I am aware of the irony in what I am doing right now), citing the turn-of-the-century newspaper wars between the New York Journal (led by William Randolph Hearst) and the New York World (ditto Joseph Pulitzer).

Shafer then discusses how print media titans like The New York Times could learn a thing or two from The Huffington Post, and even points to an example in which The New York Times already has an in-house answer for this: the TimesDigest.

Unfamiliar with what the TimesDigest is? Well, I was, too, until I went down to Antarctica for six months to work as a dining attendant (read as: dishwasher) at McMurdo Station. Every day in the galley (dining hall) at McMurdo, there would be copies of the TimesDigest, an eight- or nine-page digest of the top stories, opinion pieces, and more (including the crossword!) from that day’s New York Times. We all read it, and failed, as the week progressed, at doing the crossword.

It was a lovely connection, while marooned down on the Ice, to the outside world and the U.S. It contains the same stories as in The New York Times, just slashed and cut down. For Jack Shafer’s review of the TimesDigest, see here on Slate. Apparently the TimesDigest is mostly distributed to cruise ships, hotels, military bases, and the like, but you can download a sample copy of today’s issue (in PDF format) here.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I have been thinking about interiority

This all arose or re-arose, bubbled back up, on the C train the other day, when, pulling out from the station, we passed the platform entrance and the station agent booth, which was strung on the inside of the glass with a strand of multicolored Christmas lights. The colors looked supersaturated, like old big good glass-bulb lights, and the interior of the booth looked warm and bright—at least it did as I glimpsed it through the windows.

How lovely to be sitting on a high, cushioned chair in that warm booth, with all the workers streaming past in their rain-flecked black, and to be nodding off, chin on chest and hands folded across stomach. A radio on, a stillness—But a peopled, a warm stillness, a cozy outpost in the middle of the chilly, wet city; Not like the stillness at home, home sick from work, when the daytime TV is bad and sad and it feels like everyone has left. Nor tapping a knife on one’s wrist, Law & Order a sick muddle. The couch.

But this dream of interiority began longer ago. The first time I remember was when in junior high I would ride with my dad in his red Mazda hatchback to school. We took the back way out of the neighborhood—which was a little rough around the edges and from which, within a couple of years, we moved—past the brick square that used to seem so high and that we used to climb on and which, from a valve on its front, sometimes gushed water; past the road that ran down to the low-rent pool and the poisoned pond beyond; then up the hill and a right down the hill, past the Easter Seals on the right.

The way I remember it, it was always cold. The car was small, its metal thin, the seats vinyl, and by that early point in the weekdaily trip the heat hadn’t yet kicked in.

From my place in the passenger seat, I could see across the Easter Seals parking lot and into the building through a portrait window. The room had overstuffed armchairs and sofas, and a TV. It looked very bright and warm, a little tableau vivant. I do not remember ever seeing people inside. (If I had, it might have depressed me, as Easter Seals was an organization that worked with the physically and mentally handicapped.) Before it was an Easter Seals, it was a roller-skating rink, called, I believe, 8 Wheels. But that was when I was way younger. I don’t remember skating at 8 Wheels.

So we would drive on, past Easter Seals and onto Cantrell and then I-430, which connected to I-630 which connected to downtown where my dad worked and I went to school. I imagine rainslick streets, a mist of gray rain, not a thunderstorm because a thunderstorm has its own excitement, when an electrical excitement is small and giddy in the middle of your chest, thrilled, like the leaping electricity at the center of one of those globes on which you put your fingers and the lightning leaps to your fingers.

No: This was a different rain I remember, and the junior high was a sad place on days like that, a damp, brown, hard place of marble, brick, and stone, and the hallways and classrooms felt like the end of something.

All I wanted was to be in that room at Easter Seals, or in my dad's Mazda after the heat'd kicked in, the oldies station on the radio, the smell of my dad's aftershave and the leather or vinyl of the car's seats. Inside, contained within, warm.

Another time I had a dream of interiority. Freshman year of college, and I'd driven in my 1974 sky-blue Volkswagen Bug up to Columbia, Missouri, to visit my girlfriend, who was going to school at Mizzou. It was a long drive up, in the fall I think, through the severe ridges and pines of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, highways slashed across the land and feeling very on my own, in a thrilled way.

I visited my girlfriend and did not behave as I would have liked. I was jealous and said dumb things about the length of a bathrobe. I met her roommate and friends and was very judgmental and self-righteous.

But pulling into town was something else, on my own, one of the first few times I'd ever done such a thing, and it felt like arriving, coming over the bluff and seeing the city and feeling very separate from everything, seeing a place I'd never seen before on my own.

On the way home it was raining, hard. The highway in a VW Bug in a hard rain is not a place to be. The eighteen-wheelers scream by and buffet the car, and you have to keep a steady grip on the wheel, ready to correct, so you don't get blown off the road.

After a while my car started to stop working. I misremember what exactly happened, but I made it to a auto repair shop on the side of the highway, up on a hill (which seemed like a counterintuitive altitude at which to erect an auto shop). Raining hard and the auto shop was dark inside, though open. It was cold. They could fix my car but it would be a few hours.

I went into the waiting room of the shop, which was dark and empty, save for a few chairs and a TV. It was drowsy warm in the room, and there were no people. I turned on the TV and Mission Impossible, with Tom Cruise, was on. I watched it and I was maybe as happy—"not hating anything, not wanting anything"—as I have ever been, quiet, warm, and safe inside during a rainstorm in a waiting room in an auto shop on the highway home to Arkansas.

Friday, April 10, 2009

On Coffee

All across the city, everybody is making coffee.
In the shops, the bodegas, McDonald’s, diners,
apartment kitchens, depreciated condominiums:
Turning on kitchen lights with a clack or click
and reaching down the filters or French press,
then grinding the beans or uncapping canister,
slinging grounds, swishing sound, into the filter.

Then a scent which is like a presence or person
appears as everyone stands, sleeping, eyes shut
waiting for the coffee to perc. Going back into
half of a dream, dream epilogue, denouement,
the flutish sound of the Vltava River receding
in Smetana’s “Moldau,” night visions receding.
Wrapping things up and the day getting going.

So a person comes into the room, as in winter
when home for Christmas, coming downstairs,
the coffee’s already on and your house is full
and alive. Living alone, one can set the maker
the night before, but the effect is hollowed out.
Still it is some sort of sacrament, the moment
coffee is tasted: One rare undegraded example.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

An Oldie But an Oldie

Austin Poem

And what it all came down to was
faces sheened with sweat and beer cans,
cigarrettes held dangling and hesitant,
eardrums pulsing and heads throbbing
while the waves washed over and into
and through bodies in tight jeans worn
with years and snuff cans, wallets
and token key trinkets given by girlfriends
long gone and friends miles away,
for remembering.

The way light reflected from shoulderblades
and shadows marked cheekbones with hollows
and high points that could be read like Tarot,
the shape of hips and tanning, sandals,
and uncertainty – where go? what do?
Listen: it will explain itself, in time,
if only you shun earplugs and sunglasses,
if you let yourself believe you can be witness
to something big, that something big, even if it’s small,
is still possible, like the fixin’ to die rag,
or a gong and different camera angles:
don’t watch the TV, on the screen up there,
because it’s not real, even if it looks close:
your angle is the best, much better than all the rest,
don’t you know that? And how many times
have I told you I love you? And how many times
won’t you believe me? How many times
will you shake off and turn left, 90 degrees from me,
and fold arms, slipping them, one, after, the other,
under and above each other, until they come to rest,
like a sigh, like a dream, layered and comforting
each other, when I’m left here holding a tired joint
and glasses whose frames you used to like,
flicking a lighter, on, off, flame, no-flame,
with a snick each time, our relationship’s metronome.

Here are sideburns frayed like newsprint,
red hair close-cropped and boyish, but in the style,
flower prints on summer dresses and old shirts
with patterns and holes and bits of paint and white-out,
and eyes drifting like smoke, like empty river rafts,
hunting a place to put in for the night,
find some saltback and a biscuit,
a campfire and a scarred guitar, and later on,
embers and the smell of trees, the haunt of crickets
and nightbirds, coming from everywhere, surrounding
from all points and permeating until the tingle comes
and the first rays of the rising sun break.

Streetlight humming and heightening,
light from the Tower spilling down and shaking,
still nervous after these several decades,
but also, still there.
Talk and blonde hair and eyes furtively met,
the glint of green or hazel and thinking of cats
creeping at night through dark alleyways full
of stumbling and linked arms and silly songs
sung by friends, off-key and maybe not remembered
in the morning – let’s not consider years from now,

No, let’s be now.
Skipping and lions and tigers and oh my
when he kisses you for the first time, unexpectedly,
against redbrick and white cement crumbling,
but wanted oh so badly for so long,
for all your life it seems, ever since you were in the womb,
longing for a twin, doesn’t even have to be identical,
fraternal even, just somebody to be there and hold
your hair back when you’re drunk in the street
and steadying a concrete curb with a shaking wrist,
or when your dad dies and your mom drinks whiskey,
bottles of it, in his honor, as a tribute, she says,
with mascara running and hair graying and you
pulling away, twisting in your head side to side
with arms out, flailing, looking for a doorjamb
to steady yourself under and hide from the falling plaster
and asbestos: your fault’s quite overdue.

And for you, somebody to be there so you can feel,
and not be afraid, somebody to touch your hand
in that way and have it speak encyclopedias and dictionaries,
when two decades of preachers haven’t filled you
with anything but nervousness
and a contingency plan.

Breeze through bushes and light off freshly-washed cars,
seeing the moon big in the sky, like in a movie
set in the Pacific, starring a volcano and sex.
Bicycles and cardboard, skateboards,
held hands and married couples far too young
to be anything but clutching.
Smells of beer, cops, pizza, Chinese food,
take-out in those boxes that you’ve always wanted
to have in a fridge to share with that girl
who’s never yet appeared, but the poster that flutters
across the pavement and smacks flat across the street,
on a telephone pole, just so you can read it,
makes you hope that maybe, maybe.

Neon and argon and pitchers of beer collecting drops
while lungs collect tar and nicotine ebbs and flows,
stilling the seas of turbulent growing up
and giving the flotsam and jetsam a time
to be what they are, and be good for that.
Pool cues and blue chalk and the echoing crack
of the break and the thunk-thunk of a lucky shot,
two stripes solid in the hole, quarters stacked,
chinking, chinking, plans made, broken, made again,
feeling good about having a friend who drives a stick
and drives your car okay, so you don’t have to worry.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Will to Blog Apparently Rising


All this brief bus ride I have been writing
two poems in my head: One a screed against
our fame-drunk nation—I feel sorry
that Natasha died, but she is no more
than anyone; she is not some blonde god—
and the other a thing addressed to You,
and the semi-sexual sound you make—
mmff—when I put my hands on your hips
and you sling your slim arms around my neck,
clinging like a baby animal to its mother.


This morning I was whistling in the mirror and noticed
how, though the sound changed dramatically—slid up and down, filliped
over the notes—my lips, poised in an "O," did not move one bit.
I thought of how much my tongue was flipping and flicking inside
the dark, small cavern of my mouth while I whistled,
how it's like the unseen flopping of thoughts behind placid faces
waiting on the early-morning subway. And on the subway, the read-out
that shows the next stop and the current time was scrambled, a chaos
of red, green, and yellow LED lights as we crossed over the bridge.

And then at work I found out that a man
I emailed with and interviewed two weeks ago
had been killed in a car crash, at 57. He was nice to speak to,
had a good email manner, and seemed like a friendly sort.
If I emailed him again
there would no longer be anyone at the other end.

The Obamas + Where the Wild Things Are

This is a great story in the Times about the Obamas getting out in Washington, going to basketball games, restaurants, parts of the city not often visited by former presidents. Of course, theories are put forth as to why they are doing this—Is it just because that's how they are, or is it for political capital? I, for one, would like to believe it's just how the Obamas are; they've always lived in cities—Why wouldn't they want to get out and enjoy one of America's greatest metropolises?

At any rate, it's a cute article. I just really like that family.

Another thing I really like: The trailer for this fall's live-action Where the Wild Things Are movie, which was just released and is available in a variety of formats here. The trailer uses what sounds like a different version of a great Arcade Fire song, "Wake Up," and, though it (the trailer) gets a little bit "In a world where... ," I am confident the movie will be much weirder than it looks. Why? Because it's directed by Spike Jonze, of Being John Malkovich fame, and the big main monster is "played" by (his movements and facial expressions were recorded, and then digitally transferred onto the monster—or at least I think that's how it went, according to a friend of mine who did some camera work for the film) James Gandolfini, aka Tony Soprano, who is a supremely weird and complex actor. I want to go see him in this new play on Broadway, God of Carnage, which just got a killer review (scroll down to the jump in the middle of the page) this week in The New Yorker.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Too Long

My will to blog seems, slowly, to be dying. Oh well.

Three things:

One: Wednesday is the two-year anniversary of my apartment building burning up. I had a scare last week: I woke up in the middle of the night to a smoke alarm going off, and my room filled with what appeared to be smoke. I opened the door from my bedroom out into my apartment and I couldn't see a thing—The whole room was filled with white. I was confused, didn't know what to do, wondered if the whole building was going up, and if I should try to go down the stairs or out the fire escape, what to grab, what to take ... then my mind starting piecing stuff together—the wet, the loud hissing noise; it wasn't a fire. The cap on the radiator in my living room had blown off, and the radiator was gushing steam into my apartment. So I ran downstairs and got my super and he shut off the boiler and we opened the windows and let the steam escape and eventually the pressure died and the gushing stopped and the next day he fixed it and none of my stuff was ruined. A bit of a scare, though. 1am smoke alarm wake-up calls aren't fun.

Two: Not sure if others of you have discovered this, but Gmail's search function can really ambush you. The problem? Nothing goes away, ever. So today, when I searched for the seemingly innocuous word "GPA," trying to discover if I'd written what my college GPA was anywhere in an email, Gmail dredged up an exchange between myself and an old girlfriend of mine, one who I'm not entirely over. Which of course led to me reading that email, and then more, and dots of water in my eyes. "Jesus Christ," I said, kind of having to laugh at it.

Three: Last week a friend of mine who's recently been experiencing some romantic relationship-based psychic pain related to me what his friend once told him about the pain of break-ups and lost loves. "The pain doesn't ever get any smaller," my friend's friend said. "You just get further away from it."

I like that, and I think it's very true. Only problem is when Gmail, in a flash on an unfairly cold March afternoon, finds some old bit of ocean-lost pain and holds up a funhouse passenger-side mirror to it: "Objects in the mirror appear closer than they actually are." And this will just go on, for the rest of your life—Think about it: If you stick with Gmail, theoretically you could be searching for some word 20 years down the road and instantly be tossed back into that old upheaval.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hunter Is Interviewed Part 2

A friend of mine recently interviewed me for her and another woman's blog, Whateverishly: The Greatest Blog Ever Hula'd. Here is the link.

And if you REALLY want to know more about me, here's a link to a similar thing another friend of mine did back in July of '07.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Longest Letter to the Editor Ever

Dear Esquire,

I loved Tom Junod's recent ode to Waffle House, as part of your magazine's "Best Breakfasts in America" round-up. He hit the nail on the head with his "multiplicity within the homogeneity" observation. I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, which had its share of Waffle Houses. There was one on Bowman Curve, which me and my high school friends frequented, and one on Shackleford Road, where my college buddies, who went to different high schools and who I hadn't really known then, went.

But we all came from the same town, so when we would come home from school (in Northwest Arkansas) for Christmas or Thanksgiving, we would invariably get sick of our families and all go out drinking. More often than not, these nights ended at Waffle House.

You might see what's coming: We'd be at the bar, finishing up, or on the way home, humming down I-630, and we would get into a pointless yet fierce argument about which Waffle House to patronize.

Junod is right: All Waffle Houses are exactly alike. But the two of us who went to Catholic High and the Bowman Curve Waffle House would argue with the two who went to Central High and Pulaski Academy and the Shackleford Road Waffle House about which to go to. I don't even know why; the Bowman Curve one was just "our" Waffle House, and so we naturally loved it and hated theirs—it's similar, I think, to the pride and loyality assigned to local sports teams.

Somewhere along the way during college, though, my friend and I from Catholic began to relent and go to the Shackleford Road Waffle House. The reason was that, in the interim between my leaving high school for college, a quasi-bohemian clique had taken over the Bowman Curve Waffle House, where I used to go after Marine Corps JROTC events with fellow cadets.

Once, home from college, I walked alone into my Waffle House and felt utterly alienated. The place was packed with proto-hipsters. Facial hair, fedoras and porkpie hats, clove cigarettes (this was around 1999/2000, mind), and all manner of pretention had invaded it. One kid was even sitting at the counter playing a goddamned violin. I walked out and rarely returned. Now you can't even smoke in there anymore. The boho clique has cleared off. The fickle wheel of Waffle House history has turned yet again.

In our college town, there was one Waffle House we could agree on. That's because there was one Waffle House. It was out on Sixth Street, near the highway and the tiny liquor store where my roommate, with his fake ID, used to buy us beer, which we would sneak into our dorm in an empty box for a computer printer. The Waffle House was situated in a near-desolate lot that looked like it used to house a Wal-Mart. It was tiny, as Waffle Houses go, and near the road. We used to go in there, sober, and get the All-You-Can-Eat special. Like the baseball rule that you have to touch all bases when running around them, we said that you had to eat a hash browns with each plate, or else it didn't "count."

Count toward what, I don't know.

Once a few of us went and ate there, freshman year, All-You-Can-Eat. I think I did "four laps," which in the parlance meant four entrees plus four plates of hashbrowns. My friend Joe always used to say that, if you were working on an All-You-Can-Eat effort, you wanted to finish with the waffle, because the waffle was like "an expand-cake," and, if eaten first, would swell uncomfortably in one's stomach, limiting the amount one could consume.

You also were kind of required to end with a waffle; it was like sticking the landing.

After this gluttonous effort—which we really did just because we were bored, and had that delicious expanse of free time particular to college life, and which really never comes again—I went out into the parking lot with my friends and leaned, doubled over, groaning against my sky-blue VW bug. I thought I had damaged myself. They asked if I needed to be driven the 0.5 miles home. (I declined.) Keep in mind we were stone-cold sober.

I got back to my dorm, curled in a fetal position on my bed, and waited for the end. At some point I went into the bathroom and tried to make myself vomit, fearing what would happen if I succeeded. (This remains the lone time I have ever tried to make myself vomit in which alcohol was not involved.)

But so that ended, and I got better. Another time, a spring afternoon during my sophmore year, Joe and I went to Waffle House by ourselves. It was a contemplative visit. School would be over soon, and I would move to Austin for the summer, and thence Oxford, in England, for the following year. Our little band would be breaking up, in some ways permanently. All leavings are like that.

Joe and I got the All-You-Can-Eat, but our hearts weren't really into it. I think we had two laps apiece. It was too nice a day, with that spring smell of fresh in the air, to gorge oneself. We talked laconically, easily, in the way of friends who don't have to say much to have a good time with one another. The door to the Waffle House was open out onto the spring day and Sixth Street. I was looking out of the door when I saw a chicken walk calmly and with no great hurry across the parking lot and across the road, entirely untroubled by traffic.


Hunter Reaves Slaton

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

We Have a Serious Problem

According to the Nielsen Co.'s "Three Screen Report" for the fourth quarter of 2008, the average American—average, mind you—watches 151 hours of TV a month, or about five hours a day.

Think about that for a minute: More then one fifth of an average American's day is taken up by sitting and watching a screen. Thirty percent sleep, 35 percent work, 20 percent TV—leaving just 15 percent of one's time free for actual human interaction.

That's the worst thing I've ever heard. I'm very glad that I basically don't ever watch TV, and so am totally outside of that particular statistic. Lately I've been watching, like, one episode of The Simpsons on DVD before I go to bed, and that's virtually all I ever watch.

Take heart! Turn them off!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Simpsons Gets a New Opener

Can you believe The Simpsons has been on for 20 years? Incredible. I don't get to see the show much anymore, but whenever I do see it something always cracks me up at least once per episode.

This past Sunday night, coinciding with The Simpsons' switch to HD, the show got a new opening sequence. It's well worth watching, with a lot of in-jokes that long-time fans will appreciate:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Whither New York?

This is where I live:
“The epicenter of the crisis
and the nation’s largest city.”
I do not have the best job.
I do not live in Manhattan.
I don’t even work in Manhattan!

But I do live in Brooklyn, where I am afforded
the opportunity to leave for work
at seven a.m. and encounter
a sky that, upon exiting my apartment building,
which often smells of good cooking,
pork chops and Dominican food,
makes me gasp with its gaudy beauty.

The blues and pinks!
The clouds and sky that seem, like an animation cel,
to be lit joyously from behind
by a beneficent light.
Then the greens
and reds of changing stoplights, the rust
Don’t Walk and white Walk symbols
that, if you listen on a quiet corner, change
with a clunk-clunk.

I have all the coffee
and cigarettes I need. I fit my fingers
under my living-room window,
to facilitate a cross-breeze.
I write quickly—if not well—
with a cheap pen that pleases me.

Songs apply to me. “Back
in the New York Groove.” “A New York
State of Mind.” They can’t take that away from me.
They cannot kill or jail me.
They cannot make me leave.

Though I may choose to leave. When it comes,
if it comes,
it will be hard. I’ll hate to go.
I’ll say goodbye to people and,
almost more importantly, places:
Corner Bistro, Central Park in the fall on Marathon Day,
the whipping flags of Rockefeller Center where once
I laid on my back on the stone slabs
and mourned a girl I no longer mourn.

The city has become a part of me
and I have become a part of it.

It does not matter if the city doesn’t know it.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Defriending People on Facebook; or, The Times Gets Bitchy

There's a fun article in today's Times about the etiquette and practice of "defriending" (or, as the paper asserts is the more accepted parlance, "unfriending") Facebook friends. The germ of the article came from a recent online promotion by Burger King that allowed you to "sacrifice" ten of your Facebook friends in exchange for a free Whopper. Until it was shut down by Facebook for violating a user agreement clause, Burger King claimed it had ended 234,000 friendships.

Nevertheless—That's not what I want to talk about. You can, and should, read the Times article, which is here. The part I want to show is this weird breaking of the Times' businesslike remove in this article. Here are the few paras—The last one is the best, but you have to read up:
Nor does Facebook care to be a party to what might be called punitive unfriending, banishing someone from your network for violating one or more of your personal rules of conduct. Perhaps someone annoys you by posting an obsessive number of status updates, or expresses himself in a way that you consider obnoxious?

Those were the excuses that Ehren S., a former co-worker of mine who apparently unfriended me sometime this past spring, offered up recently for giving me the digital heave-ho.

“I believe it was based on a passive-aggressive update of yours to which I sighed, kinda shook my head and pressed ‘delete from friends,’ ” she confessed by e-mail. “I find negativity a bit tiresome and don’t have the patience for it.”

Fine. Though forgive me for pointing out that Ehren, who asked that I not use her full name, initially tried to fib her way out of the awkwardness by saying she did it for a Whopper.
Ha! The writer basically just said, "Fuck you, Ehren" in the pages of the world's most widely-read newspaper. (I don't know if the Times is actually the world's most widely-read newspaper, but whatever.)

Things I Find Hilarious and/or Amazing

I don't know why, but I find this, from the front page of today's, hilarious:
There's just this weird desperation and panicky-ness to the headline, don't you think? You can easily imagine an explanation point after "aid": "Ford Has Its Worst Year Ever but Won't Ask for Aid! And You'll Never Meet a Nice Girl If You Don't Go Out!" Love it.

Item: I received the following email earlier this week from a good friend of mine. I laughed harder than I have in a long while. This friend writes:
I just glanced at the NY Times crossword puzzle. The clues for 21 and 23 across were "deface" and "into a pill bottle," respectively. When I merely glanced, my mind saw "defecate into a pill bottle." I thought to myself, "Wow, there is a single word or phrase for that other than the phrase itself."
Follow-up note: Clue 23 had actually been "info on a pill bottle." But nevertheless.

And finally, a great paragraph from a story in yesterday's Good Old Times, about a smoked bacon and sausage concoction called The Bacon Explosion:
He bought about $20 worth of bacon and Italian sausage from a local meat market. As it lay on the counter, he thought of weaving strips of raw bacon into a mat. The two spackled the bacon mat with a layer of sausage, covered that with a crunchy layer of cooked bacon, and rolled it up tight.
That is just an incredible handful of sentences: "The two spackled the bacon mat with a layer of sausage." That reminds me of the Simpsons wherein Homer, at the breakfast table, orders Bart for some reason to "butter his bacon"—and then, of course, to also "bacon his butter."

For the Bacon Explosion recipe (with amazing or, depending on how you feel about it, horrifying photos), go here.

For the full Times story about the Bacon Explosion, go here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

On the Closing of Guantanamo

In this op-ed piece published in The Daily News on Sunday, Michael Burke, the brother of an FDNY captain killed on 9/11, speaks out against the closing of Guantanamo. I sympathize with Burke, but what he advocates is wrong—and, thankfully, with the inauguration of President Obama, it looks like we are moving away from this being the dominant mode of thinking.

The whole op-ed piece is sort of insane, but here are a few highlights:
Obama and the Democrats have had a blind spot for 9/11 and have yet to show they have an ounce of understanding what happened that day.

Here is why we were attacked: Muslim extremists hate Americans and want us dead. Our policies in no way influenced the vitriol perpetuated on innocent Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.
Is that it? They “hate our freedom”? Why? What do they care about our freedom? In fact, what they—the largely Saudi highjackers—hated was U.S. support for the Saudi government, plus our backing of Israel vs. the Palestinians.

Contrary to what Burke says, our policies greatly influenced the “vitriol perpetuated … Sept. 11, 2001.”

Burke goes on:
And we do not enhance our Constitution by applying it to those it was never meant to serve. Rather, the move diminishes and threatens the foundation on which our laws are built.
It’s true, the Constitution may not have been intended to serve non-U.S. citizens, but that’s what’s called following the letter and not the spirit of the law. There is another founding American document that pretty clearly addresses how we should treat others, even those who have committed great crimes against us. It’s called the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Got that? All men. Not just Americans. In addition: If America is meant to be a “Beacon on a Hill,” as so many on the Right maintain, shouldn’t we treat all individuals according to the same Bill of Rights that we live under, namely the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth amendments?

More from Burke:
It is impossible to fight the war on terrorism, like every war, under the Constitution. Consequently, we cannot convict our enemies under it. They will get off. Once free, they will, despite having enjoyed the benevolence of our constitutional rights, strike us again. The Constitution then becomes a means of our destruction.
It's true, the Constitution will become the means of our destruction—but not in the way Burke is saying. Rather, if we erode the rights established by the Constitution in dealing with criminals or suspected criminals, we move one step closer to eroding the safety, security, and—most importantly—liberty of our own citizens. As Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Finally, Burke closes his op-ed with this:

With this order to close Guantanamo, the countdown to the next attack has begun.

That's just stupid, hysterical, and fear-mongering. I would say I expect more from The Daily News—but I don't.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Think Our Losing Streak Is Done

It's a been a good week.

On Tuesday, my officemates and I gathered in our company's boardroom to watch Obama take the oath of office. As you may know, Chief Justice Roberts and President Obama stumbled a bit over the oath, prompting a "re-do" (just to be on the constitutional safe side) of the oath on Wednesday.

I think, though, that Barack's reaction to the stumble on the part of Justice Roberts was telling. What did Obama do, at a mistake made during one of the most important points in his life thus far? He chuckled. Now that's the temperment I want in office.

Another exchange this week between Barack and Republican lawmakers, that I just read about in a New York Times story, is also telling:
Yet in a polite but pointed exchange with the No. 2 House Republican, Eric Cantor of Virginia, Mr. Obama took note of the parties’ fundamental differences on tax policy toward low-wage workers, and insisted that his view would prevail.

At issue is Mr. Obama’s proposal that his tax breaks for low- and middle-income workers, including his centerpiece “Making Work Pay” tax credit, be refundable — that is, that the benefits also go to workers who earn too little to pay income taxes but who pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. Republicans generally oppose giving such refunds to people who pay no income taxes.

“We just have a difference here, and I’m president,” Mr. Obama said to Mr. Cantor, according to Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, who was at the meeting. Mr. Emanuel said that Mr. Obama was being lighthearted and that lawmakers of both parties had laughed.

Mr. Cantor, in an interview later, had a similar recollection. He said the president had told him, “You’re correct, there’s a philosophical difference, but I won, so we’re going to prevail on that.”

“He was very straightforward,” Mr. Cantor added. “There was no disrespect, but it was very matter-of-fact.”

I like that. It demonstrates Obama's reasonableness and good humor—something that's been sorely missing from our past eight years of government. Here's to keeping up this tone.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Blog Is in Great Abeyance

Yesterday a plane crash-landed on the Hudson River. Everybody lived, thanks in large part to the pilot, who sounds like an all-around stand-up, cool-headed fellow. Maybe we should elect him president? OH WAIT WE ALREADY DID AND HE GETS SWORN IN ON TUESDAY.

But so: Today, in one of the Times stories about the crash, I came across this paragraph. Usually you don't see such poetic language in Times news stories, so this was refreshing to read. It paints a perfect picture of the scene yesterday afternoon, in the middle of the cold, cold river:
Over the next hour, as a captivated city watched continuous television reports and the Hudson turned from gold to silver in the gathering winter twilight, all of the passengers, including at least one baby, and both pilots and all three flight attendants, were transferred to the rescue boats — a feat that unfolded as the white-and-blue jetliner continued to drift south.
Beautiful. More TK. I promise I haven't forgotten you all.