08 June 2007

Ian Bell on faux-hawks

Ian Bell, a friend of mine and the guy who hired me to run PulverRadio almost 3 years ago, has recently returned to the blahgosphere with a vengeance. A lot his content is pretty techy, and maybe not of interest to you, seeing as you're reading my blog, on which a lot of the content is total bullshit. That said, His most recent post really resonated with me.

Every day I drive from Brooklyn to Melville, NY for work. It's right near the Nassau/Suffolk county line, which is to say: my commute is not short. And since there is often traffic, I have a lot of time to get close to cars in front of me and read their vanity plates and bumper stickers. On Long Island, if bumper stickers and fake ribbon magnets paint an accurate picture of the driver, there's a LOT of "Never Forgive, Never Forget" sentiment, which I think begets the political environment we currently find ourselves in: one in which we're encouraged to "Never Ask."

Ian's post takes issue with the "faux-hawks" (I see what you did there) that didn't bother to ask any questions after 9/11, and now shrug off responsibility simply by saying "we were lied to." I agree with him when he says:
A hockey coach of mine once said that the hardest-working player on the ice should always the guy who just screwed up. That rule also applies here. If you succumbed to the rhetoric of the Bush sycophants and joined the march (to send other people) to war only to realize your mistake later, you owe more to your fellow man than to simply claim you were lied to. You need to, at last, take action to stop the injustice in which you were complicit.
But based on the extremely scientific data I've been collecting on my daily commute, I'm more concerned about the seemingly large number of people who still aren't asking any questions.

I've been losing a lot of sleep lately (really) thinking about stuff like this.


Oh, and while I'm getting all politicky, I wanted to point you towards MoveOn's just-launched virtual town-hall on climate change. They're inviting whoever you want them to, and asking questions you tell them to ask. At the very least (and I suspect this is the real point) it will send a clear message to presidential hopefuls that there are a lot of people who will be thinking about the climate when they cast their ballots next year.

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22 May 2007

hello my treacherous friend

I finally spent the money and developed the last 4 rolls of film that have been following me around since college*. A sizable chunk of them ended up being pictures from the cross-country road trip my friend Sarah and I did the summer before our senior year, from Portland (the farther one) all the way to Providence. Lots of pictures of animals, rock formations, and geysers. Some of them came out pretty okay.

But as you can see above, I also spent considerable time my senior year developing my healthy obsession with centipedes; running for my camera every time a centipede scampered across my floor (which was basically every day). Some shots came out okay, although just like the last time I did this, it's easy to tell these shots have been sitting around undeveloped for around 5 years.

*I can't believe how shitty it felt to pay money to see my pictures. What a long way we've come.

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07 May 2007

What You Crave.

White Castle, 8th Ave between 36th and 37th. Around 10 PM.

When you have a friend in from out of town, you find yourself doing things you might not otherwise do. And so, after a 6:30 showing of Spiderman 3 at 54th and 6th (which I mention only because if you've seen it, that's the intersection the police scanner squawks as the location of the crane scene) I find myself hoofing it some 20 blocks to White Castle. No trip to NYC is complete without it.

It's on a completely unremarkable block (for Manhattan): a few blocks north of Madison Square Garden and a few more southwest of Times Square. Nestled between an unremarkable sushi place and a Subway restaurant. There is a McDonald's across the street. If you want to use the bathroom, you need the person at the counter to buzz you in. A sign above the counter informs you that 20 minutes after you've ordered your food, you will be asked to leave.

"You got exactly 80 cents?" a guy decked out in a Superbowl-sized ring and flashy jacket asks me. "No, sorry," I say as I make my way to the counter, avoiding eye contact, past a girl asking to borrow her friend's phone: "Mine's dead and I need to call my bank and see if I can buy something."

I order my food. Andy orders his. And then the little man behind Andy orders, his voice tiny and thick with accent. The girl who borrowed the phone takes a seat and waits for her friends to order, apparently lacking the funds to partake. She starts singing to herself in honest-to-God the most amazing voice I have ever heard in person.

As we take our seat and begin to make our way through a sack of fries, dipping into a large-sized drink lid full of ketchup since dipping cups are nowhere to be found, a homeless guy approaches the counter. "I'm going to make a deal with you. Either you do me a favor and give me a few burgers, or I'm going to beg every person who comes in here for change until I can afford them." It works.

The little man who ordered after Andy sits down a few tables behind me with his chicken breasts. And the girl with the voice continues to sing. Andy and I chew.

The door to the street opens and a small group of high school aged kids walk in. The man with the accent and the small voice looks up from his food to greet them.

"Welcome to Hell," he says.

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03 May 2007


In 1999, a month or so after I graduated high school (what's with the flashback posts today?) I went to Woodstock '99 with a few friends. The sanitary atrocities and "Apocalypse Now"-ishness of the whole thing is well documented and maybe someday my own personal "oh shit" moments will make a good post here. But perhaps the festival's most lasting impression on me was formed when I wandered into the Students for a Free Tibet booth with my friend Dave, situated amongst the bong and pipe retailers. A few months later, as a college freshman, I started going to meetings.

We did some film screenings, had some letter-writing parties, held cultural nights, and ate a lot of food from Kabob and Curry. In the end, it never left me with a sense of real accomplishment, so as I got more and more involved in singing and intramurals and radio I just stopped going. It wasn't that I stopped believing in a Free Tibet. I guess I just stopped believing in my own ability to do anything about it.

One guy who left a mark on me, though, was Tenzin Dorjee. We knew him as Tendor, and he was an exiled Tibetan-American, never having been to his own homeland. Speaking with Tendor, you'd find yourself leaning further and further in, so as not to miss a single softly spoken word. For many of us, SFT was one of many activities we would dabble in at Brown. For Tendor, it was, and is, very personal. His passion was contagious.

I got an email today that he was recently detained by the Chinese government after staging a high altitude protest in Tibet's Mt. Everest base camp, but has since been released. China is hosting the 2008 Olympics and planning to march the torch through occupied Tibet to Mt. Everest.

It's awesome (and a bit guilt-inducing) to see that Tendor continues to fight for what he believes in, long after my own energies have shifted elsewhere. That's him speaking in this video.

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Fort Bend, TX is full of n00bz.

There was a span of a few months during my junior year in high school in which my friend Chris and I taught ourselves how to create maps for Doom II. I don't remember the name of the program we found on the internet that enabled us, but it was a buggy, awful application that would always hang at inopportune times, driving me to distraction and causing one out of every three or four of my clicks to be on "save."

Basically, we were able to draw lines to create a bunch of different sectors, and then set properties for each sector to determine textures for the surfaces, lighting, height. If you ever played those games, you might remember that the mechanics didn't permit overlapping rooms, so although you could create elevators and stairs and the like, you couldn't make one room actually exist above another. All floor surfaces had to be completely level, too. Still, with these basic tools we set about creating these maps, and then splattering each other all over them for hours and hours over our 14.4k modems, ensuring busy signals for all who would foolishly attempt to dial our parents.

Nothing I made was ever pretty, but I liked the idea of taking ownership of my gaming experience. Chris on the other hand, accomplished some truly remarkable things given our limited tools. He's an architect now and makes his living doing a much more complicated version of the same thing.

One of the things I tried to make, after a moderately good model of my own home (with teleports instead of staircases to simulate multiple floors that were actually on top of one another), was a map based on our high school. It seemed a completely natural and fun thing to do to try and recreate a real-life place in a virtual world. I never was able to finish it, because it got too big and the buggy program couldn't handle it. But I did try. It was unanimously agreed upon by my friends that if I had succeeded, it would have been totally rad.

A story that's all over the Internet today is that of a sociable, popular honors student in Fort Bend, TX whose life is being turned upside-down because he succeeded in creating what looks to be a pretty amazing Counter-Strike map of his own Clement High School:
Although the police confiscated a hammer they found in his bedroom as a possible terroristic weapon and not a tool to fix his wobbly bed, no charges are being pressed. Still, the kid has been relegated to the district's alternative school and will not be permitted to attend his graduation.

I'm certainly not the only one who thinks this is fucked up, and a very large number of folks are making their concerns be known in a number of comment sections. I just wanted to go on record here as an example of someone who, as a high school student, found great satisfaction in digitally simulating familiar surroundings, and then littering them with the pixelated blood and guts.

You could make a fairly convincing argument that I turned out ok. Chris too.

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27 March 2007

my fingers smell like metal

for the first time in i-don't-know-how-long, i just spent two straight hours playing the guitar. it had been so long, in fact, that i spent the two hours in question trying to relearn how to play all the songs on they're more afriad of you than you are of them. so now i can play them again, slightly less well than i could a year ago. i'm a schmuck.

i'm removed enough from it now to admit to you that i've never been happy with the way a lot of things on that record came out. bits and pieces of songs, mostly. but basically all of a viking's funeral drives me crazy. i got overzealous and i got carried away trying to make a song rock hard with a programmed rhythm section and a lot of compression and reverb. but truthfully (and you're just going to have to take my word for it for now) it sounds much much nicer on an acoustic guitar. maybe with a real piano, too.

which brings me to some exciting, albeit slightly speculative, news. rob, the ivory tickling of whom you can hear in i spin forever and scutigera coleoptrata is moving to new york city from san francisco in june. i can't promise much since we've only talked a little bit about it, but i'd be lying if i said i wasn't excited at the chance to play again alongside one of the most talented, intuitive musicians i've ever had the pleasure of knowing. allow me to elaborate: both the keyboard parts mentioned above were recorded in about three takes. i brought a portable recorder out to the piano rehearsal rooms back at brown university, told him what chords to play and slapped some headphones on him, and the rest is history.

so, if he can find any time for me when he's not engrossed in his theoretical physics phd program (show off), well, it'll be pretty cool. i'd love to record some songs with him in which the piano is more than a pretty afterthought. stay tuned.

also. it's the time of year now on new york where the sun is right in my eyes as i make my way home from work on long island back to brooklyn. it's probably for the best that everybody slows way down since nobody can see, but it also means it takes me forever to get home and i have a lot of time to think about things. this evening a lyric from a song sean was working on a while back kept popping into my head: "the sun's in my eyes, interstate 95..." i should make him play that for me again. we can make something of that.

if you can't tell, i'm really thinking seriously again about playing music. it's about time.

oh shit! i almost forgot the whole reason i started writing this post, which was to tell you that if you're around new york, endless mike and the beagle club are playing on thursday (that's the 29th) at a really cool bar in bushwick called goodbye blue monday. sean and i will be there.

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30 January 2007


in the (far too) well recorded history of blogs, there have certainly been many updates the are...unneccessary. this is one such entry.

i've been casually playing around with php, mostly out of boredom. soon most of the pages on this site (not the blog, though) will be in php instead of html. i'll probably start making the easiest stuff live tonight. i'm more than a little excited, honestly. because i'm more than a little nerdy.

continuing right along this gnarly path, i got rid of the unsightly counter at the bottom of this page for something less...asenine. google analytics. i can't say enough nice things about it. or about you, strangers and friends, who come here. thanks to google analytics i now know that by a very narrow margin, more of you use firefox than use internet explorer. i am so proud of you. i'm beaming.

my friend adam, who is doing a lot more with his life than i am with mine, started a blog this month. he's a good writer and he's in peru doing interesting things so he's got plenty to write about. if you're looking for one more thing to read during the day, consider stopping by.


17 January 2007

new york is cold but i like where i'm living

it feels like it's been forever since my last bizarre subway experience, so i guess i've been due for one. today at pacific street a guy got on with a crumpled yellow piece of paper in his hand, all smiles and handshakes, and introduced himself in the brokenest of englishes to me, despite my headphones.

i was understanding maybe one word out of every twenty, and a lot of those were the same few words over and over. he wanted my help translating a ticket he had just been written by transit cops (did you even know they really do that?!) for "reclining" on a crowded n-train. according to him, he just had his feet up, and the cops came over and asked his name and address and handed him a ticket. for fifty dollars.

he laughed it off though. told me how many hours of work at the restaurant it would be to erase it, and proceeded then to talk my ear off for the duration of my ride.

he said i had a nice face, that i would be popular in shanghai, where he was from. but that shanghai would make me miss new york. at this point in my smiling and nodding i think i might have agreed to visit him there.

he also went into a very detailed explanation of why it's important not to get married and at what age it becomes okay and mostly (i think) it came down to money but he kept saying "downstairs" and i don't know what he meant by that but i kinda doubt it's what you're thinking he meant. i really wish i could've understood more.

anyway, it was kinda cool. when i got up to leave he said "see you in shanghai" and i said "see you there" and then that was it.

oh yeah and he was wearing a bike helmet the whole time. no bike though.

my friend laura salierno has some photos up for the next month or so at a bar called punch and judy. i went to a reception there tonight and caught up with some people that i really should call more often. if you're around clinton street (there's music there all through the evening) you should stop by. one of the photos has me in it, which is kinda neat, if you're me. but all of them are really very wonderful.

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