Archive for February, 2003

My friend Larry recently visited

February 28, 2003

My friend Larry recently visited New York City—it’s the February 18, 2003 posting (I’d link but he doesn’t have permalinks. D’oh!)

From Kottke.org, I visited New York Songlines—an amazing annotated street-by-street guide to New York. Amazing in its breadth and its information structure using HTML to map the city. I can’t imagine how long this must have taken, both to collect all the information and then to build it. For example, check out this sprawling view of 2nd Avenue—I’m sure this would mean more if I had ever visited NYC. You get a sense of the size of New York and also the diversity of commerce that Larry mentions.

Great site. And it’ll probably get better as he adds more songlines.

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With tongue firmly in cheek,

February 27, 2003

With tongue firmly in cheek, I present to you BlackPeopleLoveUs.com—a site dedicated to the yuppies who have black friends and aren’t afraid (or hesitant) to trot them out as examples of how racist they aren’t.

Go read the hilarious diary

February 27, 2003

Go read the hilarious diary of Grammy Watching from ESPN‘s The Sports Guy.

For those of you too lazy to go and read it yourself, here’s the highlights:

8:01—Dustin Hoffman wobbles out to introduce Simon and Garfunkel. Where does Rain Man end and Dustin Hoffman begin? Has anyone ever taken the time to figure this out? …

Norah’s destined for at least four Grammys tonight. She’s adorable. I’m not even making the requisite jokes about how she’s this year’s Nelly Furtado or Alicia Keys—in other words, in one ear, out the other—even though all the evidence suggests that she is. …

I wish I could come back in my next life as a sensitive guitarist who makes weird facial expressions—the world would be my oyster. Don’t you just hate these guys? They’re like those guys who can randomly sit down and play the piano at any bar — you just can’t compete with them under any circumstances.

(By the way, the Dixie Chicks are fascinating—none of them are overwhelmingly cute, but all of them keep your interest, give you different looks and keep you guessing. It’s the same dynamic that worked so well for Blair and Jo on “The Facts of Life”—you weren’t bowled over by them, but you also weren’t ready to write them off, either. …)

9:58—Oh, boy. More Robin Williams. Cut his mike. Pull the fire alarm. Anything.

This show has been a solid A-minus, although we desperately needed at least one “Wow, what a harlot!” moment with the usual suspects (Pink, Aguilera, Spears, Mariah, etc.). And where was a whacked-out Whitney Houston? Or a random Michael Jackson appearance? They should have told him that the youngest Culkin brother was coming, he might have shown up.

There you have it. Great commentary and an application of the powers of sportscasting to awards show reporting.

Unreal Reality

February 26, 2003

From The New York Times: “Networks Plan Flood of Reality Shows for Summer”

The four big networks are preparing to unleash at least two dozen reality shows from June to September, dwarfing the number currently on their schedules and more than doubling the number they broadcast last summer. [emphasis mine]

I can understand the appeal of reality shows to the networks, and I guess I can understand the voyeuristic appeal to the American public, but isn’t this a pretty dicey proposition for the networks? I’ve heard plenty of mumured disgust at the spate of reality shows—I’ve murmured myself—and it seems like this phenomenon was a refreshing breath of air from the tired, repetitive formula show. Of course, formula is what the media does best so they’re naturally looking to formula-ize the reality TV show. Makes you wonder what’ll come after this? Perhaps scripted sitcoms?

I’m watching the Grammy Awards

February 23, 2003

I’m watching the Grammy Awards and the two awards just presented illustrate a striking contrast in our culture: John Mayer as Best Male Performer and Eminem as Best Rapper. Your Body is a Wonderland versus Superman. One worships the female body and the other sees women as hoes. One exults in love and the other calls for one-night stands.

Let’s hope that the Law of Non-Contradiction has a societal equivalent—regrettably, I don’t think it does.

I’ve finished reading A Reader’s

February 22, 2003

I’ve finished reading A Reader’s Manifesto by B.R. Myers, which was originally an article in The Atlantic Monthly. It is an indictment of co-conspirators: the modern fiction writers and the critics that review them. Myers sets out to demonstrate the pretension of modern fiction by highlighting its tedious prose, self-aggrandizement, and pseudo-intellectuality. In this, he succeeds admirably. By citing passages from the books that the critics themselves used to praise the work, he shows the utter bankruptcy of both establishments.

I must confess to not having read any of the works he lambastes, having focused almost exclusively on historical non-fiction in the last couple of years. However, I’ve seen enough of such tripe in that field (and literary criticism, which has conflated with history all too often) to know that what he cites is pervasive.

Reading over the lengthy passages, you are struck by the tedium and banality of the writing. I’m not well-read in the classics of literature—mostly because the plots and themes don’t resonate with me—but these represent crap of the lowest order. It’s almost like I’m reading passages straight out of Atlas Shrugged or even examples of Vogon poetry. I’m struck by the sheer inanity of it all and I wonder how anyone could seriously believe that this is profound or enjoyable. Maybe that’s the whole point, the secret everyone keeps.

Overall, he makes his case well and I agree with him as far as he goes. What is troubling is the pass he gives to the authors of the classics, like James Joyce or William Faulkner—two authors that I’ve actually read (err, tried to read). He heralds their obtuse use of language while damning the more prosaic authors of today. From my reading, I see as many classics as modern novels suffering from the charges he levels. For a long time, I thought that it was just me, that there was something I wasn’t getting and that I just didn’t have a literary mind. I realized that the problem wasn’t with me, but with their writing. I wasn’t getting it because it wasn’t written to be gotten—either it was the product of an irrational mind or a concrete-bound mentality. The consciousnesses from which these streams come are not well-ordered, writerly ones; far from it, they seem addled and absent-minded. Yet still Myers praises them for the complexity of their thoughts.

Reaction to his essay and later book has, predictably, been fierce. If there’s one thing pretentious people don’t like being called, it’s “pretentious.” They would prefer to showcase their superiority and have it silently acknowledged then to be confronted with the reality of their self-deception. Myers, in this case, fired two such salvos and did so at two of the most vociferous, strident groups in the literary world: prolix writers and smug critics. Myers, to his credit, offers a nice summary and bibliography of these criticisms in an epilogue. A list of the web-accessible ones is below:

IEEE Spectrum picks its “10

February 21, 2003

IEEE Spectrum picks its “10 Techno-Cool Cars”. The Chevrolet Trailblazer that switches between using 4 and 8 cylinders depending on load is especially intriguing.

I’m almost done reading A

February 21, 2003

I’m almost done reading A Reader’s Manifesto: An Attack on the Growing Pretentiousness in American Literary Prose and I’ve got a lot of thoughts about it.

Apple’s Safari browser just keeps

February 21, 2003

Apple’s Safari browser just keeps getting better and better. I can’t wait to see where this is heading!

I just got back from

February 21, 2003

I just got back from seeing Shanghai Knights. I went in with the expectation that it wasn’t going to come close to Shanghai Noon in originality or quality. Right on the former, wrong on the latter. It retreads a lot of the same ground, but the chemistry between Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan works—unlike the forced pairing with Chris Tucker. The fight scenes are clever and mesmerizing; I can’t wait for the DVD so that I can watch them over and over and over (in fact, I’d say the fight choreography surpasses the original movie).

That said, there were a few things that really bothered me. Namely Charlie Chaplin, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Sherlock Holmes. The writer tried to be clever—along the lines of naming a Chinese in a Western Chon Wang—but completely missed the comic line indicating where he should have stopped. It was in the first movie with the original joke. Not terribly subtle: even the children in the theater got it.