Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Spiderman II was filming in my neighborhood this evening. On my way home from work, laden with groceries and cat litter, I stopped to watch a bit of the production at the corner of Bleecker and Carmine Sts. It didn't look that exciting, and the litter was getting heavy, so I took my purchases home and planned to stay in. But my curiosity got the better of me. On Saturday morning, on my way to work, I had passed signs indicating that they'd be filming in Lower Manhattan on Sunday, and yesterday I forgot to ride past there on my bike. I decided not to pass up another chance to see a movie production up close. There was a small crowd watching from the little park opposite Joe's Pizza, the location of the production. Several people were taking pictures, and the staff kept asking them not to use flashes. Unfortunately, these pleas kept coming AFTER they took the pictures. I saw director's chairs for the cast and crew, including Tobey Maguire, but there was no sign of him on the set. There was a guy in a red helmet who looked suspiciously like him. Finally, after I had been watching for about twenty minutes, Maguire himself came out of the pizza place. He stood on the opposite corner from me, surrounded by production staffers, keeping his head down as people tried to take pictures of him. Since he was wearing the same costume as the guy in the red helmet, apparently helmet-head was his stunt double. After a minute or two Maguire and two staffers walked down the block to his trailer, followed by several of the young women who had been watching this entire scene from my side of the street. He's not as tall as I thought he'd be, and like most celebrities I've seen in Manhattan, I doubt I'd recognize him if I saw him on the street away from the movie set. He came back about fifteen minutes later, and not long after that, I lost interest in the whole thing. It was too cold to stand around much longer, and I still had to eat dinner, fold laundry, wash clothes, and take care of the cats. Back to reality.

While watching The Ten Commandments last night on ABC, I figured out that the debauchery scene near the end, where the Israelites rebel against Moses, was the first spring break. There are lascivious women and horny guys recently released from servitude, abundant alcohol, gold and jewels for everyone, and a complete lack of authority. It looked like every MTV Spring Break special I've ever seen. You see, I never went to the beach for spring break, so I have to rely on what I've seen on TV and heard from friends. Apparently Cecil B. DeMille had been to Daytona, though.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

I love my new laptop. I'm using the wireless network right now, at Starbucks on Grove St. near my apartment. Yes, the weather outside is beautiful, and it's stupid to sit inside and surf when I could be outside reading, but hey: it's my life, my wife is out of town this weekend, so I can surf here without feeling guilty for ignoring her, and I will go outside in a few minutes and read more of Doctor Faustus. Only 200 pages to go!

Last night, I finally saw The Devil's Advocate from beginning to end. I'd seen the middle section of the movie several times on HBO and cable, but never the entire thing. It's a damn good movie, no great work of cinema, but it was an entertaining way to spend two-plus hours. Al Pacino is in full-on shouting rant mode, but it's never as unnecessarily excessive as it has been in some of his more recent films. Keanu Reeves is not and will never be considered one of the great actors of his generation, but he does a good job here as the young attorney from the sticks suddenly out of his element and forced to deal with circumstances he never could have contemplated. I couldn't help make comparisons between the law firm in the movie and my own firm, something that I'm sure happened often at my office in 1997 when the movie first came out. Both firms represent multinational corporations and foreign governments, both have breathtaking views of the city from offices in lower Manhattan, and both have the power to entertain the elite of New York. However, I'm fairly certain that Satan isn't one of my firm's senior partners.

We had a Passover seder on Wednesday night, at a friend's apartment in Brooklyn. The arrival of my friend's parents disrupted our plans, in that he wasn't available to do any of the cooking that day, leaving me to roast the chicken myself, according to his recipe. If I'd known it was that easy to brine and roast a bird, I'd have done it years ago. So much for buying the rotisserie chicken at the supermarket. Still, even with the craziness, the seder went well. For most of the evening, Jews were the majority of the participants, something that's never happened as long as my friends and I have hosted a seder. We took turns reading the haggadah, though we skipped the songs and the games at the end. The hiding and subsequent search for the afikoman wasn't so much a puzzle as just storing it for later. As usual, the festivities ran long, so we were left to fly through thirty pages of prayers in about five minutes. That's OK; I don't think my mother ever made us sit around the table and read everything that's in the haggadah after the meal and dessert. I think the Gentiles in attendance (most of whom had not been to one of our seders before) left with a little more knowledge of the history and rituals than they had before, and they weren't even subjected to the delicacy known as gefilte fish.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Liz and I spent last weekend in Chicago, at my friend Carol's wedding. Chicago was a fun place to visit, but it was too damn cold all weekend. It shouldn't be freezing anywhere in April, and with the cold wind off the lake, Chicago is ridiculously cold. On top of the nearly unbearable temperatures, on Friday we had icy cold thunderstorms to deal with. By Sunday afternoon the sun was out, but we'd had enough; we were happy to be on our way home. We did have a great time at the wedding and associated festivities (me: bar hopping on Friday night with the groom and his friends, Liz: drag show on Friday night with the bride and her friends). We also went to a few museums, the Art Institute and the Field Museum. At the former, we saw Seurat's Sunday on Le Grand Jatte, Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, a few Pollocks and Warhols, and the armaments hall with jeweled swords and suits of armor. The Field Museum has a few dinosaur skeletons and a temporary exhibit on baseball featuring items from the Baseball Hall of Fame. The guy taking tickets for the baseball exhibit asked us if Liz was a fan, or just along for the ride. She answered "along for the ride" but ended up enjoying the exhibit anyway. In the culinary department, we went to Lincoln Park for Bacino's deep-dish pizza which was amazing. We stayed in Evanston, across the street from Nevin's Pub, where we had a delicious Irish pub-style lunch with Carol's extended family on Friday afternoon. And to close the wedding festivities, there was a brunch at a kosher restaurant in Skokie where we had blintzes for the first time in years. So it was a great trip overall, even if the weather sucked.

I got a new laptop at work today. I traded in my faithful IBM T22 ThinkPad for a T30, which gives me a faster processor, bigger hard drive, and built-in wireless networking. The tradeoff is that the screen resolution only goes up to 1024x768, whereas the T22 ran at 1400x1050. While my eyes will eventually appreciate the difference, I had gotten used to the extra screen real estate even at the expense of font size. I get a touchpad instead of the dreaded pointing stick, so that's an improvement. Why am I complaining? It's a laptop given to me by my office. Free hardware is always appreciated.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

First, a story I've been meaning to relate for a few days.

On Saturday, Liz and I attended a fund-raiser for the Washington Square Park Dog Run at a Greenwich Village bar. There were several bands playing, hoops on TV, and drinks aplenty. So we settled in for a few hours of drinking and more drinking. The first band was a quasi-Irish group, appropriate for the bar's Irish theme. The next band took some time to set up, and their stage setup included a piece of cloth across the front of the stage, extending from waist height to the ground. The band came out and started with a blues tune, and I noticed that the guitarist sounded quite good. I still hadn't really looked at the band. After the first song, they announced that there was a special guest appearing for one night only, from the Catskills and the "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" show, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. Yes, the four-legged comedian was indeed performing for us live. At this point, as Triumph started his act, I noticed that the guitarist was Jimmy Vivino from the Max Weinberg 7, and the drummer was Jimmy Wormworth, the substitute drummer when Max Weinberg is off with the E Street Band. The other members of the band were probably also from the MW 7, but I didn't recognize them. Anyway, Triumph told some extremely raunchy jokes, made fun of dogs, the dog run, news figures, and sang several ribald songs from "Late Night," including "Underage Bichon." At one point, he sodomized Ernie from "Sesame Street." All this to the delight of the audience, including two young children in the front row, who were apparently the drummer's kids. At the end of the show, the band thanked Triumph, and then Robert Smigel, the puppeteer behind Triumph and the genius behind the "Clutch Cargo" segments on "Late Night" and the cartoons on "Saturday Night Live." It was one heck of a show, and absolutely worth the price of a donation and a few drinks.

In other news, Magenta, one of our cats, has been at the vet's for a few days suffering from what has turned out to be a bout of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). He had a senior cat checkup on Saturday morning, when the vet took some blood for tests. After that, he was OK until we gave him some new wet food. From then on, he was vomiting and listless. We took him back to the vet on Tuesday after they said they wanted to monitor his blood glucose for diabetes. At first, we and the vet suspected he was diabetic, since he's ten years old and overweight, but luckily for all he's just fat. He's feeling better now, and the vet says we can pick him up tomorrow night. Just in time for us to leave town for the weekend. Liz and I were really worried for a few days, but now we're feeling better that he won't need insulin shots. He's an extremely friendly cat at home, but at the vet he becomes nasty and growls and bites. I'm sure he's giving them a hard time. I can't imagine having to inject him every day; I'd end up with more insulin than him.