Thursday, August 7, 2008

Good Night, and Good Luck.

Kindhearted readers, I bear sad news.  Earlier this week the highest of the higher-ups at my place of employment released a memorandum officially decreeing it against company policy for employees to maintain blogs such as this one (to be clear: blogs of the semi-anonymous, semi-personal, link-heavy, sometimes opinionated, current-events-driven, politically mouthy, and generally frivolous variety).  In the days and hours since its distribution to all employees, the new policy has been republished on several industry sites and has been the subject of much internal and external discussion. Prior to this, blogging guidelines at my office had been vague at best; it seemed safe to assume that my particular brand of bonhomie was a low-risk recreational endeavor.  Several months ago, however, the controversial(-ish) personal blog posts of one worker bee on my floor brought the issue to the fore. The perp was promptly fired, and ta-da: A new no-blog bottom line emerged.  What I'm getting at is that in the interest of bread and butter, I've decided it's best to not attempt to have my cake and eat it too, or something like that, so to speak. Until circumstances change, I'm putting this menagerie of friendly curios to sleep.  But in the meantime, fear not -- I'll be channeling the energies that once made their way onto this page into raucous emails to the likes of you, old-school pen-and paper diary entries, and a couple of creative projects I've been meaning to get around to for some time.  (And, I suppose, my "day job.")  At any rate, be well, do good work and keep in touch.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Piano Tops, Flying Slippers, and Dymaxionmania

A few months ago, Elizabeth Kolbert had a thoroughly enjoyable article about Buckminster Fuller in The New Yorker.  Here's a paragraph from that piece that highlights just why this fellow was a through-and-through eccentric genius:

In addition to flying cars, he imagined mass-produced bathrooms that could be installed like refrigerators; underwater settlements that would be restocked by submarine; and floating communities that, along with all their inhabitants, would hover among the clouds. Most famously, he dreamed up the geodesic dome. “If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top . . . that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver,” Fuller once wrote. “But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings.” Fuller may have spent his life inventing things, but he claimed that he was not particularly interested in inventions. He called himself a “comprehensive, anticipatory design scientist”—a “comprehensivist,” for short—and believed that his task was to innovate in such a way as to benefit the greatest number of people using the least amount of resources. “My objective was humanity’s comprehensive success in the universe” is how he once put it. “I could have ended up with a pair of flying slippers.”
Though I wasn't able to mobilize myself to make it out to any of the Buckminster Fuller Institute lectures/celebrations in June, I finally did head to the Whitney this weekend to take a look at the very cool Fuller exhibit on display there.  (If you can't make it to the museum, this slideshow hits some of the highlighted photographs and sketches that were on display).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Go Obama!

Here's a bit of Hendrik Hertzberg's commentary on Barack Obama's "world tour" in this week's New Yorker
Obama gained nothing in the polls during his nearly flawless, arguably triumphant grand tour. Still, after seven years during which, even among our closest allies, contempt for Bush bled into resentment of the country that returned him to office, one would have to be an awful grouch not to be gratified by the sight of a sea of delighted Europeans waving American flags instead of burning them and cheering an American politician instead of demonstrating against one.

Back home, one such grouch had ample reason to be grouchy. McCain’s luck last week was as bad as Obama’s was good. McCain rode in a golf cart with Bush senior; Obama rode in a helicopter with General David Petraeus. Obama was hailed by the German multitudes; McCain, his planned photo op at an offshore rig preĆ«mpted by an oil spill and rained out by Hurricane Dolly, held a press gaggle in front of Schmidt’s Fudge Haus, in Columbus, Ohio. Obama got a big kiss (“Obama? C’est mon copain!”) from the new President of France, a dashing conservative with an exotic background and an unusual name; McCain stood athwart the cheese aisle of a supermarket, complaining.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Apartment

Speaking of public spectacles, I made it out to see The Apartment at Bryant Park as part of HBO's Monday night movie screenings. It was excellent. If you haven't seen it before (and why wouldn't you have? it only came out 48 years ago), here's an excerpt from the original New York Times review to whet your appetite:

YOU might not think a movie about a fellow who lends his rooms to the married executives of his office as a place for their secret love affairs would make a particularly funny or morally presentable show, especially when the young fellow uses the means to get advanced in his job.

But under the clever supervision of Billy Wilder, who helped to write the script, then produced and directed "The Apartment," which opened at the Astor and the Plaza yesterday, the idea is run into a gleeful, tender and even sentimental film. And it is kept on the side of taste and humor by the grand performance of Jack Lemmon in the principal role.
That's right. Taste and humor and one more elusive quality, ladies and gentlemen -- timelessness. What's great about The Apartment is that nearly 5 decades later, it retains just enough of the right cultural signposts to still resonate with an urban audience. The (mostly young, tipsy) Bryant Park crowd responded loudly when Jack Lemmon's Buddy Boy confessed what he paid for rent for his place in the Upper West Side. And Shirley MacLaine's sharpest lines (addressed to a lover) got a similar reaction. Apparently some things about 1960s New York are pretty much the same today -- like the desirability of prime real estate, the rituals of corporate culture, the hazards of dating, and the versatile wisdom of McLaine's final sweet words to Lemmon: "Shut up and deal."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Crowd Control

As a tourist to the city years ago, I remember peering out on New York from the World Trade Center. "There are six million people down there," my brother told me, so I took a good look at the little buildings and vehicles and trains below and tried to take in the millions of huddled masses spread across the five boroughs. Since moving to New York, that unnamed multitude (now 8 million strong) has remained a source of fascination for me. And after three years out and about in about in the city -- and plenty of hours on ACRIS and Social Explorer -- there's still lots to wonder about, especially on sunny days when public spectacles bring out city-dwellers (and visitors) in droves.  I'm talking about the free performances and movie nights and of course the annual Times Square New Year's Eve celebrations which fill public spaces with innumerable bodies.  There's something great about the fact that city officials have trouble keeping count of city revelers in public spaces, the fact that no one knows exactly how many people and which people come out to partake in the collective celebrations. I hope to never see that never change in this city. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On Reliable Sources

To round out the recent series of Wahoo-wa posts, I present to you this profile of Washington Post "Reliable Sources" columnist Amy Argetsinger which was recently published in UVa's Arts & Sciences magazine.  Backstory: A few years ago when I was finishing college and trying to figure out what to do next, I scavenged the alumni career database and found Amy's contact info (at the time, she was working for The Washington Post out of the west coast). Over a series of emails and phone calls, Amy proceeded to give me some very candid and useful career advice like, "The frustrating thing about embarking on a journalism career out of college is that the hiring process is much more slapdash than what you see your classmates heading for the corporate or consulting jobs are going through." And, "The ugly truth is that I spent nearly a year living with my parents and waiting tables and substitute teaching before I got that first job." At any rate, Christina Tkacik's interview (which first appeared in The Dec) brought me up to speed with Amy's thoughts on her new position as DC's gossip columnist extraordinaire. (Incidentally, Christina also gives pretty savvy advice herself --"The Mister Darcy Delusion" totally has the makings of a bestseller/feature-length film/TV series, no?)

Miss Hoo?

Speaking of college compatriots, the other day my brother forwarded along news that Miss New York is a UVa '07 grad (theater major) and former Miss Hampton-Newport News who seems to have grown up in my neck of the woods (looks like we probably squared off on the field hockey or soccer field at one point).  Also, she lives in Manhattan, but actually won her state pageant crown (tiara?) by way of a victory in the Miss Brooklyn competition a few months ago.  At any rate, she's clearly a winner. Congrats Leigh-Taylor Smith! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Go Obama!

This afternoon Leah alerted me to this week's Talk of the Town. It showcases the GMail account of one of our college compatriots who opted to claim the address "" when he realized that all common permutations of his own name were unavailable. "From the beginning, I had no intention of manipulating anyone," Guru Raj tells The New Yorker.  But then ...

Friday, July 18, 2008

New Museum Block Party

This weekend The New Museum, the Bowery Poetry Club, the LES Tenement Museum, Chinatown's YMCA, Bowery Whole Foods and others are throwing a free block party.  It's Saturday from noon til 7p.  I hope they serve watermelon!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Real Lemons, Real Sugar, and Ice

This week's New York Magazine features a series of interviews with lemonade stand proprieters on how to cope with the squeeze of rising lemon prices. A random slice of the cuteness (from 10-year-olds Elinor Weissberg and Oliver Goldberg-Lewis) below:

How do you make the lemonade?

ELINOR: Real lemons, real sugar, and ice.

Do you sell anything else?

ELINOR: We sometimes tell people’s fortunes.

What kinds of fortunes?

ELINOR: We usually pick bad ones. Like this woman walked up and we said, “You’re going to grow a beard.”

Where do you put the money?

OLIVER: In a jar, but you have to hide it under the table. Otherwise, they will say, “Oh, you already have too much money! We’re not going to buy lemonade!”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Philharmonic in the Park

Last night at Manhattan's biggest and baddest tailgate, the New York Philharmonic in the Park, conversation turned to Didi and Oscar Schafer, the generous sponsors of the summer series whose names graced the cover of the concert program. How much does it take to sponsor such an event? According to the program, the Schafers contributed over $500,000 -- their exact gift, I confirmed today, was actually ten times more than that. Curious about these philanthropists, I dredged up their 1964 New York Times engagement announcement (click to enlarge) this morning. For the extra nosey: The wedding announcements of the parents and children of these long-time New Yorkers can be found in Times archives too. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What the Midnight Can Show Us

By happy coincidence, I ran into Julia on the way home from work -- she said she'd just been scoping out Museum 52 on Rivington between Orchard and Ludlow, where several of her paintings will be on display as part of the gallery's What the Midnight Can Show Us exhibit (running July 16 through August 13). Now I'm having flashbacks to the art classes we took together as kids. Wild. In any case, I'm very much looking forward to the exhibit's opening!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The 14th of July

From McSweeney's Bastille Day Party how-to by Jim Stallard: 

The final event is obvious: Let them eat cake! If you're ambitious, you can serve it dressed as Marie you-know-who. Just make sure each "peasant" gets a fair portion or you may find a barricade in your driveway! 

Yeah, that's a guillotine cake. Happy Monday!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Amigo! Amigo!

This man puts the lame in lame duck like no other. From today's Times
“Amigo! Amigo!” Mr. Bush called out cheerily in Spanish when he spotted the Italian prime minister. “How you doing, Silvio? Good to see you!”
 More from Matthew Yglesias and ThinkProgress via my brother.