Who are you, New York?

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter, red shirt) takes photos with fans outside of his Broadway show The Cripple of Inishmaan. Two police officers stand by. He was doing this when we happened by, and continued as we walked past.

Who/what is New York? The answer is that New York is its people, history, and structures. On to the anecdotes!

Before this past week, the only time I spent in New York City was a crazy 14 hour dash through Manhattan with a friend. Amtrak from Albany to NYC in the morning. Penn Station, waited for The Book of Mormon (lovingly analyzed by me here) ticket lottery (lost), bought tickets regularly, saw the show, ate pizza, walked through Columbus Circle to Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum, bus to Empire State Building, then back to Penn Station for an early-a.m. return to Albany.

I like walking. I like the bustle of people in fair forward motion. I like seeing a variety of people in a variety of social stations engaged in a variety of things.

I like catching up with a super-smart, engaging, clever, kind, and funny friend whom I haven’t had an in-person chat with for over a decade. I like walking with this friend for hours and hours. She made the time on brief notice, and gave good pointers on walking highlights when she had to return home on those work nights.

Crowds hovered around famous pieces. Here Van Gogh’s "The Starry Night". I took photos, too. Behind is "The Dream” by Henri Rosseau

I like art museums. I like going to art museums to finally see in-person pieces I’ve admired as reproduced images (such as Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon which I wrote a speculative piece about). The flaws and character and choices of the bronze or marble, the brushstrokes. I like entering the museum for free with the help of a connection and pretending to be someone I am not. A museum experience is much enhanced by a caper.

I like seeing locations only seen before in print or on screens. The world gets more cozy. The human experience and history more tangible.

A woman on the same level at the MoMA takes my photo as I take hers. We don't know each other, but here we are locked into each other's photos for ALL TIME.

I like making mediocre waffles at a complimentary hotel breakfast buffet. I rarely eat more than half of the waffle. I do wince at the waste when throwing it away along with an empty yogurt container, a bowl of Raisin Bran detritus with milk sloshing around, the remainders of eggs never as good as one hopes, and the always disappointing sausage. I still will essay buffet sausage in whatever variation it is proffered in. That’s just the optimist in me.

Family and friends need to know that I always eat all the decent portion fruit I dish up.

I like seeing new things. I like returning to known things. I like being slightly disoriented then figuring my way. I like the cordiality of strangers. I like picking up the indigenous customs and traveling with the herd. I like being asked for directions when I hardly know the area myself.

I like buildings and architecture. I like getting accustomed to places much larger than my usual environment. I don’t like people in shoddy knock-off pop culture themed costumes panhandling money by posing for novelty photos like in Times Square or the Las Vegas Strip. Three Elmos in Times Square within four blocks. Yeesh.

I like looking around and wondering if the more attractive a person is, the more likely it is the person will move to a larger city.

Fox News Headquarters. Motto: “We report, you decide.” I report this corner stank of urine.

I like seeing a vast scope of human achievement, how things have gotten run down, and how things have gotten better. I like seeing a mass of people getting along, living their lives and not losing their minds.

Cyclone fency! Manhattan Bridge, between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

I like knowing good people I am fond of, for year over year, even if the contact is intermittent. I like being worthy of staying in contact with. Across state lines, time zone lines, and nations there are people that I admire and know walking the earth encountering alternating happiness and frustrations, just like me. It gets me out of my smallness to hear the thrums of other heartstrings and sense in the ground the pulsing hums of lives worth knowing. As we climb into middle age, more people we have known will be dead than alive. Having those thrums and hums will become more dear.

No, I did not have the standard New York songs in my mind while in the city. Thankfully. I did have this one by Rufus Wainwright. Semi-consciously, I have hit most of the locations it mentions.

Yes, I did see people, always men, peeing in the open. Mostly transients, but also one guy who was moving merchandise from a van into a shop.

No, I did not buy any “I Love New York” souvenir, though I do agree with the statement.

Why I will see "Hercules" starring The Rock

The Nemean Lion with an invulnerable hide. OH MY FUCKING GODS, HERCULES, LOOK OUT!

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is awesome. He always elevates whatever material he's given. Brett Ratner is a mediocre director and a dimwit. Despite Ratner, I will probably go see "Hercules". Why? Four big reasons:

1.) "Conan the Barbarian" is one of the best, knowingly dumb, macho muscle movies ever made. The DVD commentary between director John Milius and Arnold Schwarzenegger is hilarious. The world needs a successor. I doubt it will be this movie, but it's important to keep hope alive.

2.) I had no interest in the OTHER Hercules movie that came out. Its trailer didn't seem to have anything to do with the Hercules myths at all.

Hercules wearing the skin of the Nemean Lion, which apparently shrinks in the wash.

3.) In contrast, while this looks, at best, dorky - I was pleased to see the trailer showed ACTUAL ELEMENTS from Hercules' myths including Cerebus, the Hydra, The Erymanthian Boar and Nemean Lion. ("Ah! Good!" I said aloud as these things showed up in the trailer.) Will this Hercules also clean the shit of thousands of animals that fill the Augean Stables by changing the course of a river? I HOPE SO!

4.) Way back in elementary school, I scripted out a film strip rendition of Hercules' story that I didn't complete in gifted mutant class (we called it PACE back then, later it was TAG. I don't know what PACE stood for.) so I have a desire to read/tell his story to this day. He has a reputation as a brute, but actually his saga is more about the wit and might of man overcoming the chthonic amorality of nature. And kicking ass.

Righteous mic drop at NPR

Neal Conan mastered the soft NPR tone, but roared like a lion at the end.

Neal Conan mastered the soft NPR tone, but roared like a lion at the end.

I had been wondering what the hell happened to Talk of the Nation over the last few months, and why it seemed to be gone. Tonight I looked it up, and listened to the host Neal Conan's sign-off for the show and his career at NPR. It's spicy! [listen here, it's worth it]

So right here, I form my own private compact with NPR and my member stations. I will listen and, yes, I will open my checkbook, but I need some services in return. Go and tell me the stories behind everything that happened in the world today. Explain why it happened, and how it affects our lives. Do it every day. Tell me what's important, and don't waste my time with stupid stuff.

I listened devotedly to Talk of the Nation for more than 10 years. I recorded many programs from the radio and recorded them to my hard drive before podcasts were invented. Every day at work it was Howard Stern then Talk of the Nation. Ray Suarez was a good host, occasionally getting exasperated with the topic and/or guest with hilarious results. Juan Williams followed Suarez and was less interesting. Suarez went to Newshour, Williams went to Fox News and pretty much lost his mind.

Neal Conan didn't have much flavor to him, but I stuck with the program for years into his tenure. Then, between progressive radio starting up (R.I.P. Air America) and then podcasts I stopped listening to TOTN. Also, TOTN shifted to shorter segments. Instead of an hour spent on a single topic, an hour show was split into 2-3 topics. I liked the depth and the meandering that an hour on a single topic would sometime lead to. Kooks started creeping into the discussion. That made the program more fun.

I blamed that format change on Neal Conan, but given that NPR has dropped TOTN entirely (I don't think the ratings were bad) for a magazine format, it may have been a top-down decision.

Thank you Ray Suarez, Juan Williams, and Neal Conan. Talk of the Nation was a good program and the work of your teams was an important centerpoint of many days.

I am likely less Neanderthal than you, sez DNA test

I flushed away decades of membership dues to the ACLU and EFF and gave my DNA to a company to get ancestry and medical insights. The DNA was given as saliva in a vial. I had to tell you that because I know you sat there giggling while imagining me ejecting my baby batter into an envelope.

Like many (most? all?) white people I had hope of discovery of some exotic hereditary strain. A desperate mingling between a settler on the prairie and a native tribe member (who came from a people that migrated from Asia thousands of years before, but let's go with "native"). A forbidden love so powerful it overcame pigmentation prejudice and tribal loyalties!

Yeah, I hear you. I've read Howard Zinn, too. If there were such a mingling, chances are good it was under an oppressor/oppressed dynamic. Don't harsh my One World Romance, you consarned cynic!

Results came in. 100% European.

At least my ancestors traveled around the continent a bit.

I do tend to prefer being cold, as I run warm, compared to hot temperatures. And I can get motion sickness on boats. Coming from ancestors who were mostly homebodies makes sense, if totally pedestrian.

Nothing really alarming was revealed, health-wise. I have a higher than average likelihood of macular degeneration. So I've made my first-ever appointment with an opthamologist to get that checked out as a preventive measure.

Gladly I have less-than average Neanderthal DNA (not to seem species-ist or anything, okay, I did just go intra-hominid racist right there).

You (right), ready for action. Me (left) got a stick in my ass.

You (right), ready for action. Me (left) got a stick in my ass.

It doesn't mean I'm better than you. Heck, it means I walk around all snooty with my higher brow while YOU are more likely to have greater skull capacity. So, there Ms./Mr. Big Brain! Also, as your knuckles already drag on the ground it causes you less bodily stress to pick up things off the ground. Lucky you! I'm so jealous...

A weird trick for free testosterone. Thanks? Maybe?

Scrolling up and down this blog lately, there's a recurring theme of Facebook ads and potency/performance copulating/dating issues. Yet this is another ad Facebook served up that squicks me out. 

"Why men need more free testosterone" 

Not sure that's the lesson of world history in the West. Although many of our military adventures and empire-building MAY be based on older men needing to prove their studliness despite waning biochemistry. Free testosterone may help take the edge off there. But DO go on, ad... 

"Free Testosterone Boost" 

Administered how? Given those terrifying "Low T" ads marketed to men express mere physical contact with people who take their medicines may induce birth defects and cause early onset puberty to children, there's a strong chance a shoddily administered boost of testosterone may require complete human exile. Or maybe you could join The Avengers as new superhero 'Rone Hulk?

The ad has my attention, along with a woman who may have traveled from 1966 (a former model for Swiss Miss?)  and looks vaguely aware of my presence and ready/worried. She's ill-dressed for wilderness exploration.

"Researchers in Boston have found a natural way to boost testosterone."

Good for science! Wonder if the same researchers have done the same for estrogen and androgen. Wonder what Estrogen Hulk would look like. 

"Try this weird trick and take your performance to the next level."

Uhm, no. I'm willing to WATCH these researchers demonstrate this "weird trick" while I stand in safety behind bullet-proof glass. Otherwise, no. Thanks Facebook ad. And I hope that lady gets indoors before it turns cold. 

Testosterone Hulk enjoys life with more vigor. You can too!

No, no, NO Facebook Ads: a swing(er) and a Ms?

Another Facebook ad on the log off screen wants me to get hitched/hooked up. First it was Christian Single (my report about that) that whiffed it as a targeted ad. I am not Christian and not single. My Facebook profile lists my religious views as "Heathen/Hellenic". My marital status: "Married". I'm all about helping the CIA/FBI/NSA save a few keystrokes on research. The Christian Mingle ad made it look like the first date would lead to marriage THAT SAME NIGHT. Too much pressure! Sure, I am charming enough to pull that off on someone, but my choice would be to wait until the second date. Between my lack of smoove operator skills and blitzkrieg atheism, I would leave a trail of metaphysical destruction across the Christian Mingle terrain like the Tasmanian Devil cartoon character through a forest. Get thee behind me, Christian Mingle!

THEN Match.com targeted an ad featuring greasy women (my report). What in my profile indicated that was my type? Never pondered it as a "thing" before. Not saying it's without merit, but still a shock. 

All of these Our Time models (actual customers?) appear to be fine people. I shuddered slightly at the woman on the right who appears to have had "some work done". In a dating scenario, I would reserve judgment (Maybe recuperative surgery? Tell me more, madam, about your disfiguring traumatic event and how you surpassed it to defy nature and use science to seize control of your personal appearance and gain agency against the amoral churning of the Void!)

Then her photo is featured in the thumbnail image of a sample profile, which conveys: "Well, this is pretty much what we got. A lot of this." 

Hey, Our Time, how about some women of color? It's 2013. The white patriarchy is diminishing. Way past time for minds to open up. If we white males don't do a better job of mingling with races on the rise we will fade completely. Are you trying to kill off all memory of my people, Our Time? Where will the future hockey players come from if your scheme succeeds?

The ad shows a "over 45" criterion. Absolutely nothing wrong than that (I'm 44 as I type this). Guess that means 46 and over? Seems ageist. 

Trek in the Park, the Final (Fun!) Year

This is the fifth and final year of Trek in the Park, an annual live re-enactment of an episode of the original Star Trek show put on by Atomic Arts. It started out small with a few people having a good time over a lark. It has become massive, moving from a cramped corner of a small park to a vaster space in a larger park, but STILL packing 'em in. Attendance is easily in the thousands now.

Panoramic shot of "The Trouble With Tribbles" in Portland's Cathedral Park. (click for close-up)

2009: "Amok Time" 
2010: "Space Seed"
2011: "Mirror, Mirror" (first year I went, my write-up & confessed Uhura crush)
2012: "Journey to Babel"
2013: "The Trouble With Tribbles"

The comedy climax, Kirk piled on with Tribbles. As on the original show, throughout Kirk's dialog he gets bonked by descending Tribbles.

Vulcan ear sets aside an area for those wanting an easy view of the provided American Sign Language interpreters.

While there are wry laughs to be had, it's a communal vibe with a great fondness for the material by both audience and crew. Over the last five years, the audience has palpable warmth toward the developing and ambitious Atomic Arts group. 

Trek in the Park is worth checking out in clips on YouTube. It's across the internet and has been featured in a Portlandia skit. At the end of this year, Adam Rosko (who plays Kirk and started Trek in the Park with his sister) said that Atomic Arts would be performing on its own original work. He emphasized the importance of ending things on a high note, and while they were still fun and within control. Atomic Arts has done that. Keeping eyes open for their next project will be worthwhile.

Trek in the Park curtain call & announcements

Shiny, frosted women await!

The ads that come up on a web browser after logging off from Facebook are reliably off-target. And what, in my profile, is triggering these ads and for "Christian Singles"? While I'm sure these "single" women/models/sample profiles are all wonderful human beings within, seeing a mosaic like this feels like I've had too much frosting with a saccharine aftertaste AND a sugar headache. With an oily residue. I'm sure it's not them, it's me, but STILL. 

My dead dog doggerel - "Who goes with Argus?"

I hate the grim calculations and budgeting that comes with an ailing pet - slim and expensive chances to maintain that pet's health but that may also increase its distress to no benefit. I hate, once euthanasia is done, how it changes the rhythms and routines of the home, even if it means less clean-up. I hate knowing if I killed my own meat for food I'd still be sad at times like these, but more pragmatic.

Due to her bladder cancer, diminishing energy, and messy external symptoms - I euthanized our dog of 14 and a half years this afternoon. I got her a cheeseburger for lunch today (Burgerville), because, fuck it.

Who goes with Argus?

You are now a fuzzy hide over meat.
You used to be a wheezing farting bag
Of love and company and eating and shame
And delight.
Now inert. No, gone.
You are only in our memories.
We are no longer in yours.

N.Y. Times - Print Happens: Glamor Clowns

A print misalignment in the The New York Times resulted in blurry faces in a series of glamor photos in the SundayStyles section. I snapped examples:

Glen Close, Lena Dunham, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amanda Seyfried all glamorous, all made clowns by an errant printing process. January Jones also a victim on the page.

Funny, right? Mistakes happen. January Jones was another victim. Naomi Campbell, on the same page, managed to look even better. Presumably these beautiful people will continue on, undeterred by what happened to a West Coast printing of the NYT. Having canceled by subscription to The Oregonian (its new publisher is an Orange County, California neocon jerk) and choosing the Sunday New York Times has been much more entertaining. Though I miss Doonesbury and the weekly pondering of what life would be like if my only information about the outside world was reading Parade magazine each Sunday (on my bucket list of experiments once I'm wealthy).

The NYT motto: "All the News That's Fit to Print" is vomitous. Not a boast the NYT has earned, and reminiscent of Sarah Palin's 2008 answer to which newspapers and magazines she read to stay informed: "All of them."

It was a funny answer, but I would have LOVED if this vision of Palin, a constantly-churning-information-Braniac-machine, had turned out to be true.

But every weekly opening of the The New York Times I am haunted by two ghosts. I hear Christopher Hitchens moan about the New York Times slogan, and Gore Vidal sneers and spits at the New York Times Sunday Book Review. It held a vendetta against him for decades, and even when it started reviewing his books again he thought it was sloppy and ramshackle. I'm glad to have those voices. They're good reminders that because something feels information-packed and sophisticated, doesn't mean it's true.