Saturday, May 28, 2005

Celebrity Sightings

Yesterday, eating at the sidewalk cafe portion of Florent, Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Eating a pair of salads, drinking wine, everyone else on the sidewalk completely oblivious to her shocking red hair.

Last Saturday, Mario Batali, in his typical uniform, walking down Waverly Place, all by his lonesome, towards Babbo. I gave him the head-fake, like "hey, what's up," but alas, he did not reciprocate.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Rebuild the World Trade Center

Donald Trump and I agree on few things, but I very much like his proposal to rebuild the world trade center essentially as it was. I know that he is a showman and is using this to get ratings for tonight's Apprentice finale, but it's not his idea anyway--people have seriously talked about doing this since September 12 of 01.

Imagine you live in Colorado Springs. Everyday you wake up and look out your window and see Pike's Peak. When you get lost driving around, you look towards Pikes Peak and know you are heading west. When your tourist friends come to town, you take them to the top of the mountain and they get headaches and eat hot mini-donuts up there. Then imagine terrorists blow it up and it is now a whole in the ground, a former graveyard. A huge part of your orientation with the physical world is thrown out of whack. And imagine that after almost four years of hokey designs approved only by politicians, with a big gaping whole still sitting there in the ground, someone comes along and says, "you know what, I think I'd like something more like a mountain there. I miss it. I need it. I'll pay for it and build it in less time than these ass-scratching politicians can," well, I think I'd listen to that.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Publishing is in big trouble

College Libraries Set Aside Books in a Digital Age

Students attending the University of Texas at Austin will find something missing from the undergraduate library this fall.


By mid-July, the university says, almost all of the library's 90,000 volumes will be dispersed to other university collections to clear space for a 24-hour electronic information commons, a fast-spreading phenomenon that is transforming research and study on campuses around the country.

Uggh. A building without books is no longer a library. Of course libraries should have computer labs, but taking away more and more shelf space reaches a ridiculous conclusion when all of the books have been replaced with computer hardware.
"The library is not so much a space where books are held as where ideas are shared. . . . It's having a conversation rather than homing in on the book."

What a crock of bullshit. I've never had a conversation or "shared an idea" at any library ever.

Librarians know that books will never be replaced completely by anything intangible, but they know that scholars and readers are demanding more and more electronic "products". I mean, is this what Jorge Luis Borges had in mind when he said, "I have always imagined paradise as some kind of library / 24-hour electronic information commons."

I am pretty firmly in the camp of Nicholson Baker, who created such horrible controversy when he claimed that the primary duty of a library is to house and preserve books and papers. In Double Fold, Baker exposes the underbelly of the library world, wherein preservation requires destruction and "shelf space" is too finite. I sincerely believe that problems arise when books are treated as "content" instead of books. Of course the internet has revolutionized "access to content", but it does not compare with the thrill of searching for and eventually finding a book on a shelf.

I want new books to be published in print form forever and I want larger and larger stacks of them, gigantic, cavernous, luxurious buildings where there is nothing to do except browse, sit, and read.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Your Gas Sickens Me

Overview: I'm tired of people bitching about gas prices.

Why: It's a few bucks, dude.

Imagine if you had a hybrid or a Chevy Cavalier (something with a 10 gallon gas tank). I know that those cars aren't dirt cheap and that insurance can be pricey, etc., but gas is almost a non-factor with them. If the price of gas has doubled in the past 6 years, then you are paying roughly $10 more per tank. These are not the folks doing the bitching. It's the soccer mom and dad trying to use a Ford Expedition with a 30-gallon gas tank for a station wagon. Seriously folks, you don't need an SUV, get a Subaru station wagon, a Volvo, a mini-van, anything on a car-chassis, better yet: take the bus. Otherwise, stop yer bitching.

Google News Search Results: 1 - 10 of about 17,900 for "gas prices"
SUV rant:

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Books on the nightstand

Some people only read one book at a time, but I try to read four or five books simultaneously and see what grabs me that day. Usually I try to read one new novel, one nonfiction book, a classic (as I define it), and something I've already read.

Diamonds are Forever, by Ian Fleming
I'm a big fan of the James Bond novels, but I haven't even seen most of the films. When Penguin reissued all of the James Bond novels with these awesome new covers I had to get them.

New York Sawed in Half, by Joel Rose
This type of stuff is my #1 or 2 interest right now. I want to read anyting about the history of Times Square, Coney Island, PT Barnum, Ricky Jay, magicians, hoaxes, charlatans, Steven Millhauser, etc.

I Know Many Songs, But I Cannot Sing, by Brian Kiteley
My former teacher at Denver. I've read this like five times, but friends of ours just got back from Morocco and I was hyped up by hearing all of their stories so I went back and read three or four North African favorites (Paul Bowles, Amitav Ghosh, Tayeb Salih, pretty much all stuff I learned about from Brian Kiteley.)

A Working Stiff's Manifesto, by Iain Levison
No comment

Pig Earth, by John Berger
No clue. Found it when we were cleaning out the basement. Might not read it in the long run as I've got Vollmann's new one coming in tomorrow.


So a couple of weeks ago I read this book
Rats by Robert Sullivan. Most of the book is about the author observing rats in an alley in lower Manhattan. I have observed some rats in the lower part of my apartment building, so I was riveted. Sullivan says that an interesting part of his book tour was that dozens of people would come up to him after readings (or maybe even during) and tell him their own personal rat stories. I have two short ones.

1. We have a trash chute/compactor room in the basement of our building. You can't put things like heavy boxes or stacks of newspaper down the chute--you're supposed to carry them down to the compactor room. Since this room is below ground and since it is filled with (albeit bagged) trash and since its walls are perforated all over by pipe openings, it is an all-you-can-eat buffet for rats. The first rat I ever saw in there (I thought it was a cat at first) jumped from the ground to the top of two rake handles that were leaning against a wall (talk about agile) and tried to hide in an opening under a pipe in the wall, but since it didn't go all the way into the whole in the wall (created by a square block removed for a round pipe), I could see its tail hanging down the wall. The tail went down the length of two cement blocks--I would guess 16 inches.

2. One night my wife and I were leaving a friend's apartment in Washington Heights and walking back towards the A train. When we got to the steps of the subway entrance, we could see something brown running up the steps. It was a medium-size rat (less than a foot long), but it was essentially telling us: "Don't walk on these steps." We stopped a few feet away and backed up pretty quickly when it looked like the rat might begin to chase us down the street. Luckily it stopped at the top of the stairs.

Evidently, some people in the world eat rats.

Quote of the day

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"--Jack Kerouac, On the Road

I might have to post this once a week to keep me motivated.