Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Don't worry, be sleepy.

J can't sleep lately. She says it's a combination of new pressures and old worries that will never go away. The girl is a worrier. It doesn't bother me really, but at 5 this morning she was tapping away on her computer in bed doing god knows what, worrying about something, keeping me awake worrying about her.

What causes people to worry? I've always thought it's a waste of time. In order to prevent myself from worrying, I'll think about something, then put it away to think about in detail later if I absolutely have to. I find that the solutions to many of my problems only arise when I've stopped worrying about them. I liken it to trying to remember something. You stop trying to remember it for awhile, and as soon as you forget what you're trying to remember, you remember what it was you'd forgotten.

Does this mean that nothing's ever worth worrying about? Probably not, but life is too short and my memory has massive holes in it anyway. Much of the time, these solutions come to mind in a semi-lucid dream state at 5 in the morning.

Actually, maybe that's why J was up this morning...maybe she wasn't worrying at all. It could be that she was remembering something out of the blue that would solve her problem, whatever it was.

I'm getting the feeling this blog entry is suffering from a lack of sleep. G'night.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Buy those Girl Scout cookies while you can.

The lesson I've learned this past week is that the big life decisions you worry a hell of a lot about beforehand usually beget a peaceful aftermath. There's something pacifying about making a decision and letting that be that.

I've also learned that Girl Scout cookies are only available for a limited time and you have to grab the opportunity while it's still around. This theory can be applied to life, but I'm too tired to make an analogy.

I did make one earlier: someone asked me how I felt today, and I could only say that it's like getting through a bunch of rapids in a solo canoe and finally being able to float with the current as it turns into a long, placid river. He didn't know what I meant. But that's what it's like.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

You're liable to figure me out.

Back from the D.R., and here are two pics from last week:

Thanks to Sara and Dave for the delectable sushi dinner last night. And special thanks to Sara for providing us with 24 hours with which to out ourselves before she did the honors. We're all gonna be Allens!

Friday, January 19, 2007


Taking a short hiatus. It'll be about ten days long, and it'll coincide with our tropical vacation on the east coast of the Dominican Republic.

As much as I'd love to fiddle with the BlackBerry and update the blog from my beach chair, it's about as likely as me getting a tattoo of a naked, corndog-humping native american priestess on my leg:

Not very likely.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Everything makes me sick.

I'm not saying I'm sick of everything. I'm saying everything I eat makes me sick.

Actually, let me revise that; I'm being dramatic. Everything that should be good for me makes me sick. Burgers, pizza, chocolate, and other nutritional neutron bombs always make me feel fantastic. Chips, dip, soda, candy, and fried chicken? Tip top. Broccoli, melon, milk, tomatoes, and fish? Gastrointestinal Tilt-a-Whirl.

Why does this happen? Aren't you supposed to trust your body when it reacts adversely to something you put into it? Is it any wonder my diet is shameful? You could theorize that I've eaten so badly for so long that my body has simply gotten used to it. You could also theorize that what's good for one person isn't good for another. But my doctor would most likely theorize that my cholesterol level indicates that I should pipe down, grow up, and eat my goddam broccoli.

I'd say it speaks volumes that my favorite food item in the world is something known as a Garbage Plate. It was concocted in Rochester, NY, by a greek gourmand named Nick Tahou, and he's something of a legend in my hometown. It consists of a bed of either baked beans or macaroni salad on one half of the plate, homefries on the other, and either two cheeseburger patties or two hot dogs (no buns) piled on it. As the coup de grace, they slop on some Texas-style hot sauce, onions, ketchup, and mustard. And if you're feeling especially masochistic, you can sop up the grease with your complimentary slab of stale bread. Fantastic. Not good for you by a long shot, but it's ambrosia.

Witness the beauty:

Just look at that. Holy Hell.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Our Way to Fall

There was this summer a bunch of years ago when I was off from school, my parents were away, I'd just turned 21, my job was flexible (I was the ice cream man), and I first met certain people who would be in my life forever.

The year was 1995, and we spent many nights awake, smoking Camel Lights, laying in fields and golf courses, watching fireflies and listening to trains until the sky brightened and the sun rose. It was glorious. And the soundtrack to that summer was an integral part of it -- listening to that music takes me right back to that time. We'd sit up in my room and watch the light outside change until it was the same shade as the walls, listening endlessly to Sonic Youth, Pavement, Neil Young, Jeff Buckley, Jane's Addiction, Grant Lee Buffalo, Morphine, Luna, Sebadoh, Leonard Cohen, Smashing Pumpkins, Phish, Weezer, and Nick Drake. For my money, it doesn't get any better than Nick Drake.

But the music that's accompanied more ups and downs in my life than any other is by a dorky band of Jews from New Jersey called Yo La Tengo. Wherever I am, wherever I go, Yo La Tengo will always remind me of people and places and crazy, sad, euphoric, and truly remarkable times.

So last week I got an email from a friend who I'd met for the first time that summer, telling me she's interviewing Yo La Tengo for the music paper she writes for. We share the same feelings for YLT, so she asked me what kinds of questions she could possibly ask them without sounding like a sycophant. When you've made that much of an emotional connection with the music of people you've never met, it's virtually impossible to prevent yourself from coming across as a sycophant, as she truthfully pointed out.

I thought the best question might be to turn it around and ask them what kind of emotional connection they've made to music over the years. Who's made music that keeps coming back to them, what can't they stay away from, what songs meant the most to them in dire times and times of ecstatic liberation? It's a question I think most people can answer, so whoever's reading this, leave a comment. It's interactive time!

And Amanda, let me know what they say.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The orthopedic PowerPoint code.

After the total bummer that was yesterday's blog, I wondered how I might keep people tuned in.

Then I thought of this weird thing that happens among orthopedic surgeons. Whenever they present a PowerPoint lecture to other orthopedic surgeons with graphs and x-rays and things like that, they usually include a ridiculous picture with a strange caption that has nothing to do with their lecture, just to break people up and keep them interested. They're a jokey bunch and they like to have fun -- picture suburban tiki parties in the 50s, and you're close. The joke slides look something like this:

There could be a few different captions for this one. If it's your average orthopedic surgeon, the caption might read "After baking cookies on his first day of retirement, Dr. Smig rewards himself with a cigarette on the porch." If it's a politically inclined orthopedic surgeon, the caption would say something like "Dr. Smig demonstrates our current foreign policy." Those guys give it their best shot.

Anyway, it felt weird to write something unrelentingly serious yesterday, like I wasn't following the orthopedic PowerPoint code by slipping in a wacky photo somewhere along the way.

Monday, January 15, 2007


There was nobody on the subway today. Manhattan was a ghost town early this morning.

It's MLK's birthday. Many people were granted the day off to reflect upon the greatness of the man and his legacy and to take a day off from their normal routine of disrespect and derision. I had to work, but the silence on the way there made it easy to consider what the day's about.

We don't seem to have gotten very far in the last 40 years. There's a lot of tension. The diverse nature of the U.S. and the cultural pride of its residents creates a lot of friction, misunderstanding, and disagreement. It hasn't abated since the Sixties; it's mostly mutated from racial tension to cultural tension. When you're judging someone by the content of their character and they don't seem to have any, it's hard to know what to do. Locally speaking, the great New York melting pot doesn't extend to stereotypes. Stereotypes are enforced and reinforced here, and it seems as though everyone now has something to overcome - if not personally, then culturally.

Considering all of that, I find it pretty crazy that people don't consider MLK day a real holiday. Some people had the day off, some didn't, and that's not a problem for me personally, but employers seem to consider this to be an optional holiday. While the higher ups didn't include this in our holiday schedule, thank god my boss' boss' boss, an excellent thinker, made our entire department take time out of our crazy lives a few months ago to visit Sotheby's to view MLK's collection of papers -- handwritten notes, letters, sermons, speeches -- before it was handed over to Morehouse College in Atlanta. It took about an hour or so of reading to make me see things completely differently. Everyone came out of there talking about how his hope was contagious. It takes a great writer to convey revolutionary ways of thinking, and we had two incredibly rare talents wrapped up in one guy with MLK.

If more people actually took an hour out of their day to find out more about what he was talking about, there'd be something to this holiday. It's worth trying to bridge the gap and figuring out why people are different. But then you'd be asking people to work, which I suppose wouldn't make much sense on their day off.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Touch your music.

Everyone has a hobby or two, and the big one for me is collecting music. A lot of people share this hobby, but I feel like I take it to extremes.

I typically spend at least an hour or two a day reading up on music, buying, downloading, sharing, deleting, playlisting, rating, reviewing, hating, loving -- and my iPod is on all day. And two things they say about modern technology are absolutely indisputable: the Internet is the best friend a music junkie could ever have, and the iPod changes the way we listen to music.

But with these life-altering technological advances comes an interesting question: at what point do we make the switch from tactile media to transient, digital media? In other words, when do I get rid of my CDs?

The quick answer is, I can't. They're my little foster children. Foster children who finally found a parent who was going to love them, who wasn't going to beat them and chain them up in the basement. I play with each beloved foster child equally, read to them, tuck them in, and cultivate their imagination. But they're all grown up now. And although it's liberating to have them lined up like ducks in a row in iTunes, no longer living in little boxes, I'm going to miss cracking open that case, flipping through the liner notes, and taking care not to scratch the CD when taking it out of the plastic sphincter in the middle of the tray. But without the CDs, that sense of touching your music would seem to be gone. Not to say I'd touch the sphincters of my foster children, if I had them.

People maintain that reading the news on a computer will never substitute for the experience of reading it in a newspaper, and I agree with that. The news should be disposable, and we should be able to react to the proposed increase of troops in Iraq by gripping the page tightly, smearing the print in our unsteady hands, and crumpling it into a piece of trash to be thown away as soon as possible.

But while the CD listening experience involves paper and plastic, I equally love typing in Y-O_L-A_T-E-N-G-O on the keyboard and watching all of it come up like magic. I love scrolling the iPod wheel. They're making it easier for us to love our digital lives in new ways. Reverend Steve, in his introduction of the iPhone the other day, kept repeating the same refrain about their new multi-touch screen technology: Touch Your Music. It's extremely important to have an emotional - and physical - relationship with the people and things in your life. A hug, a kiss, a caress. I'm the kind of freak who caresses my favorite CDs. Uh, don't tell anyone. But I'm learning to love my newfound ways of touching my music.

J and I just got a new set of shelves, and I've been forced to cut down my CDs in half. That's what initiated this neverending blog entry in the first place. I talk a big game, but I'm not ready to get rid of all of them. This is happening too fast.

So tell me; which ones stay, and which ones go?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It hasn't been a stellar week.

Just asked J what I should write about, and the title of this blog entry was her response.

She's right. We've lost about 23 hours to the first season of Lost, which has without a doubt been the highlight of the week. About four episodes each night. We can't stop. She's having nightmares in which she's running around in the jungle and getting impaled on bamboo trees, but she'll complain if my bathroom breaks are too long.

Now we're going through our new nightly ritual of me typing away on the blog, her telling me I hit the keyboard louder than anyone else she's ever met, me telling her I'm almost done, her telling me I'm going to stay sick if I don't go to bed and get some sleep, and me erasing everything and starting all over again.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cardboard box archaeology.

To commemorate my second sick day in a row, I went through a cardboard box I keep to throw things in -- whatever I think I'll want to remember in the future.

There were lots of old emails from the nascent age of emailing, a ream of instant message correspondence, pictures, tapes, journals, papers, notes, etc.

Anyone who knows me knows I can't remember a damn thing, so the box is my way of making up for it. I'll sift through it, won't remember the relevance of something, and throw it out. But most of the time these things provide that spark, and a place or a time or a face comes back instantly. Mentioned it to a friend today and she says all Cancers do it.

Does anyone else do this? If so, what do you keep in there?

The strangest part is that on four different occasions, I dug through the box, came across something, and the person associated with that object either called me, sent me a text message, or emailed at that particular moment. Sara called when I was reading one of our lengthy, convoluted emails, I received an email update about Jenny's blog after I came across a printout of one of our rare instant messages, Amanda emailed as I read one of her letters (we haven't talked to each other in six months), and in possibly the weirdest case, Mel instant messaged me saying that Mark Kozelek from Red House Painters sounded like Neil Young...right after I'd rummaged through the box and picked up a set list from Mark Kozelek's appearance at a Neil Young tribute concert.

WTF is that all about?

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

You're a pretty little iPhone. Yes you are!

Having taken a sick day, I was able to catch minute-by-minute updates from the MacWorld Expo keynote presentation by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The hissy-fit throwing, pregnant girlfriend-dumping megalomaniac as portrayed by Noah Wyle in The Pirates of Silicon Valley is a personal hero of mine, so I was excited about it.

Below, bizarro Steve meets CEO Steve:

Everyone figured he'd unveil the new iPhone, which has been subject to some outlandish speculation in the last few years. This thing wasn't only going to be the best thing since sliced bread. It was actually going to physically slice bread, upload it into iTunes, and send it to 53 of your friends as an SMS text message for them to download and eat.

And Steve did unveil the iPhone this morning. And it was good. And while the real thing doesn't slice, dice, shoot lasers, or teleport you to the tropics, it's going to give gadget hounds a big fat boner. It's an iPod with a fully multitouch sensitive widescreen display, a phone that enables you to read voice messages out of order and punch in threaded text messages on an error-correcting QWERTY touch keyboard, an full Internet browser with tabbing, scrolling and zooming, and all sorts of other stuff. I want one, basically. And if you think this is starting to sound like an ad, you're right. I bought my first shares of Apple stock today, so buy as many Apple products as you can. RIGHT NOW.

In other news, I'm still sick. Trader Joe's Limeade is the schliznitawittasandwich. And it's official: J makes the best bowl of vegetarian chili ever.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Tea + Honey

I'm sick.

It started as a sore throat, my least favorite way of getting sick, and shortly progressed to full-blown sickness. Currently in a NyQuil coma. Seeing trails when I wave my hands in front of my face.

Anyway, there was a gas scare in Manhattan today. Turned out to be a relatively small leak somewhere in the Village, but half of the city smelled alarmingly flammable for about two and a half hours. J's building was on the verge of being evacuated. It snuck into my subway car this morning right around 14th-23rd streets and we all looked at each other to see who's the wiseguy bringing propane on the train. Most people here are used to crazy shit going down at random, but we're all packed in so tight that a healthy fear of explosives is a given.

Sara, I think you're the only one who reads this blog. I haven't told anyone else about it, though, so I'm not losing sleep over it. Do you have a home remedy for the common cold? I've tried tea with honey, chicken soup, liquids, fake breakdowns, plastics, collections, self help, self pain, EST, psychics, etc.

Any witch doctor remedy you know about? Something southern? Some kind of burlap wrap with ingredients like persimmon, cloves, collard greens, clay, and tobacco juice? Starts with a "P". What are those called?

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Sangria = Insomnia

It's 5:21 in the morning on a Sunday and I can't sleep.

This usually happens when I've been mixing, and last night was a doozy. Started with homemade sangria and progressed to god knows what else. Plus, there was that cigar. So I'm up.

1000 thanks to Kevin for showing up to the apartment after more than 18 months of borough snobbery. Hope you made it home in one piece, bud.

J arranged our books and DVDs by color. She says it's the feng shui way. It's incredible, really, but it works. I feel better about this room. It's too dark to see anything right now, but knowing there's a cascading spectrum of belongings on the shelf over there is nice. Maybe I'll try arranging them in ROYGBIV tomorrow so the colors will flow organically. Or maybe it's 5:21 in the morning and I'm tripping myself out.

This blogging thing ain't all it's cracked up to be.

So I just spent the last two hours figuring out where my blog went, ultimately resulting in the violent death of my identity.

Signed up for a Blogger account and blogged away on my newfound anger management tool, then posted it, came back to update it, and couldn't find it. Long story short, I have two accounts somehow. Another millionsuns signed up for Blogger in 2004. I don't remember this at all.

It's a very weird feeling to go online and try to remember which identity is which. It hasn't been fun for the last two hours, but I can see why people love their online schizophrenia. There's actually a great example of this - ever heard of Second Life? It's like a sandbox for people who want to be someone else. Like World of Warcraft, but for people who don't necessarily want to wield swords and fire. Check it here. Basically people have a virtual life online. It's like the Sims, except you're the Sim (called an "avatar" in SL) and you interact with other people's Sims (avatars). It's gotten to the point where people spend more time in this online world than in their own "real" lives. That's right, it's gotten to the point where we have to put "real" in quotes.

So I was reading this article, and it mentioned how the American Cancer Society has entered the SL world and created a virtual awareness booth about issues related to cancer. Let's pause here and think about this. They had to enter a VIRTUAL WORLD to inform people's VIRTUAL IDENTITIES about the dangers of CANCER.

Will people be worried about the cells of their digital organs multiplying and destroying their digital bodies while their 24th cigarette of the day hangs from their mouth, dripping ash onto the keyboard?

On an unrelated topic, J just told me that drinking soy milk makes your breasts grow, even if you don't happen to be female. Is this true?

Note: Apologies to Sara -- your very gracious and inspirational comment on the first blog entry was collateral damage in the killing of my old friend lunaharpua.

This blog was born out of frustration.

Mainly my frustration stems from other people with riveting blogs who never update them.

I know it should be about quality over quantity, but I figure I'll go with the contemporary cultural flow and just keep producing material regardless of its quality or relevance. So rest assured, I'll keep up with the times by pumping out drivel on a daily basis!

So first, please endure some thoughts about my daily experience with the outside world:

My first stop in the morning is usually the New York Times daily email, which conveniently arrives in condensed, easily-digested bites of information as per the digital norm. Fascinating stuff with a wholly liberal bent, which is fine as long as you know that, and as long as you're liberal.

Next, I'll read over shoulders on the subway and catch nasty and disturbing bits of slackery from the sharp minds at the Metro and AM New York. Or if I'm lucky, the New York Post. A sample cover photo from a recent edition of the Post included a 13-cubic inch photo of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Britney Spears piled into Paris' car, with this enormous caption: BIMBO SUMMIT.

Even better than the Post is AIM Today, which pops up automatically when I turn on my AOL Instant Messenger every morning. So the first thing I see when I get into work is usually a photo of one of the aforementioned dingbats with a caption like, "Why Was Lindsay Rushed To The Hospital!?", enticing teenagers everywhere to become investigative reporters into the mundane with hardly any effort at all. All told, there are about 12 different news stories on AIM Today, none of which deal with anything remotely resembling "news" in the parlance of 20th century tradition. Obviously there's nothing about Darfur, because you don't want to bum anyone out, but the sheer force of the news about Lindsay on AIM is jarring. That's what all of this boils down to -- not the quality of it, but the false importance of it. When there's no quality and no relevance, the only thing left to do is jack up the importance! And now I sound like an old man.

Tomorrow, no media criticism. I'll write something about Darfur.

Actually I won't. I should make a vow right now that this blog will deal with nothing that bums people out. No ranting. But that's damn near impossible these days. We're off to a shaky start here. At the very least, there should be a promise that this thing will be honest. That sounds reasonable.

Tomorrow I'll lecture all of you on the importance of not coming to work hung over. It won't be about me, but about this guy I work with. His name is...Micah.

There's always something important to write about.