Friday, October 29, 2004

Al Goldstein is really, really screwed these days

Those of you who don't live in NY or read porn mags might not know who Al Goldstein is, so I'll explain. He used to publish Screw magazine and host a weekly cable access show in NYC, Midnight Blue. He appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and The Daily Show, and probably showed up elsewhere during his years on top. Well, now he's destitute and living in a homeless shelter. Today's Page Six has the latest details on Al's plight. I sort of feel bad for the guy, though it sounds like he brought his troubles on himself.

I'm writing about this story because Al's son, Jordan, is mentioned in the Page Six article. Although I don't know him, I went to college with him at Georgetown. He was the valedictorian of my graduating class. After Liz and I moved to NY and "discovered" Al Goldstein, one of our Georgetown friends and fellow New Yorkers pointed out that Al was Jordan's father. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to grow up with Al Goldstein as a father. And I'm not just saying that: it's really beyond my comprehension. I can more easily picture what it's like to have a famous actor or the President as your dad than I can think about living in a house with a giant middle finger in the backyard and porn stars hanging around all the time.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Richard Cohen: Hold Bush Accountable

Once again, I'm going political in this blog. Richard Cohen writes a scathing editorial in Thursday's Washington Post on why George W. Bush has to go. I still cannot believe that a Republican House impeached Bill Clinton in 1998 over a sex scandal, while Bush continues to ignore mounting evidence that the war in Iraq was and still is a mismanaged mistake. Cohen's mad as hell about these things too, and he's not going to take it any more. Maybe if Bush gets a second term, then he'll get impeached for his "high crimes and misdemeanors" against the republic. Wait, no, that won't happen because he, unlike Clinton, has a majority in Congress.

By the way, Cohen cites one of the poll results in this campaign that just blows my mind:

My peripatetic colleague Dana Milbank recently reported on a poll showing that 72 percent of Bush's supporters believe Iraq did in fact possess weapons of mass destruction and that 75 percent believed Hussein gave al Qaeda "substantial support." These beliefs are false, in contradiction of the facts, and even Bush, when pressed, has admitted that. But these beliefs did not arise out of nowhere. They are a direct consequence of the administration's repeated lies -- lies of commission, such as Cheney's statements, and lies of omission, the appalling failure to correct wrongly held views.

The people who hold these beliefs are all going to the polls Tuesday to vote for a man who has repeatedly lied and misled them. Unbe-freaking-lievable.

The Boston Red Sox win the World Series

I'm not much of a baseball fan, and I'm certainly not a Red Sox fan, but I'm just a little giddy after seeing Boston win its first championship since 1918. Even Liz, who doesn't care about either team, had to stay up to see how the game ended. I can't wait to see what The Sports Guy has to say in his column tomorrow, assuming he's coherent enough to write one. Now Chicago defines baseball futility: the White Sox haven't won a World Series since 1917, and the Cubs last won one in 1908. Maybe the best thing about this win for the Red Sox is that they'll hoist their championship banner at next year's home opener in front of the New York Yankees. How's that for rubbing it in their faces?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Wedding photos are up

I keep forgetting to mention this: I posted our pictures from James & Jess' wedding. Check the photos link over there on the right side. There are two galleries for your enjoyment, and you can download any/all of the photos for your own nefarious purposes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Child's Play is back

Last year, Tycho and Gabe over at Penny Arcade ran a successful charity drive, called Child's Play, to purchase toys for a children's hospital in Seattle. The idea was that they were tired of the media portraying gamers as freaks, social misfits, and homicidal maniacs, and wanted to do something to show that gamers have feelings too. So they set up a charity to buy toys and gifts for sick kids at the hospital for the holidays. The response was phenomenal. They've brought back the charity again this year, only the drive has expanded to five hospitals around the country. They set up Amazon Wish Lists for each hospital with all sorts of toys, video games, and books. Your purchase goes straight to the hospital and will get there in time for Christmas if you order by December 20. I think this is an excellent way to help out kids who would otherwise have a really sad holiday stuck in the hospital. So please check out the charity's web site and see if you can find a gift that will help a kid feel better this Christmas.

Something for the Stephenson fans

Neal Stephenson answers Slashdot readers' questions in this interview posted today. (For those unfamiliar with the Slashdot interview model, the initial notice of the interview gets posted as a regular Slashdot story, and readers post their proposed questions as responses to the notice. The most highly moderated questions are then sent to the interview subject, who writes back, and the results are what you can read above.) As usual, Stephenson is funny, thoughtful, and long-winded. The Gibson question is the comedic highlight. But the entire thing is worth reading.

By the way, I've started reading The System of the World but I'm only a few pages into it so far. I haven't been carting it back and forth to work to read on the subway, so that's hindering my progress. But I have some large blocks of time available this weekend to devote to it.

Monday, October 18, 2004

The New York Times Magazine on Bush: Without a Doubt

Two political posts in two days, both from yesterday's NY Times. Today's link is to Ron Suskind's article in the Times Magazine about President Bush's faith and how it has shaped and directed his presidency. It's an enlightening and at times frightening look at how Bush lets his religious beliefs guide him, to the exclusion of any voices of dissent. Read this article and everything you've been hearing from the Bush administration about the war in Iraq and the "war on terrorism" will make perfect sense. Bush can't see that we're losing in Iraq because he truly believes that we're winning. He sees and hears what he wants to see and hear. And that really scares me when I think about what could happen in a second term for Bush.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The New York Times endorses John Kerry

I don't talk much about politics in this blog, but I like all of the reasons the New York Times editorial board uses in their endorsement of John Kerry for President. Mostly, it's a list of reasons why George W. Bush should not be elected than why Kerry should be. But a sitting President has to run on his record, and Bush's record is the best example of why he should not get a second term. I don't think that anyone reading this blog will be surprised that I'm voting for Kerry next month, but if you're still thinking about your choice, or you're voting for Bush, maybe this endorsement will help you make up your mind.

The Times also endorses Chuck Schumer in the race for U.S. Senate, but that was really a no-brainer. Considering it's the NY Times, the Kerry endorsement is no surprise either, but I like how they make their points in both cases.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Amazon reviewers on "Family Circus"

Courtesy of Gene Weingarten's chat today: Amazon customer reviews of Bil Keane's "Family Circus" books. Start with What Does This Say? and then search for "family circus" if you want to read others. James, if you happen to see this, I think you'll like the reference to Sendero Luminosa. I know I got a special kick out of it.

Florida weekend - The Big Day - Sunday

I had the important job on Sunday morning of calling James to make sure he was up and ready to check out of his hotel room. Even though I set two alarms to insure I woke up on time, I kept waking up early and dreaming about having to wake up my friends for important events. When I called James, he was not only awake, but showered, packed, and sounding chipper.

The groomsmen, fathers of the bride and groom, and the hupah holders met at the hotel Perkins promptly at 9, which might be the first time that "five guys from a house" showed up on time for an event. Due to the dearth of decent restaurants in the immediate area of the hotel, we had to pretend we didn't see three of our significant others as they came into the same restaurant for breakfast about halfway through our meal. This time, I had the ham and egg skillet, with "cheesy alfredo sauce." The only way it would have been less kosher is if it had come with bacon-wrapped shrimp.

We dressed at the hotel and took a few pictures in the lobby before departing for the synagogue. The next few hours were full of the usual craziness before a wedding: keeping the bride and groom away from each other, taking pictures with family, figuring out how we were processing and recessing (since we never actually rehearsed the ceremony). As a Jew, and one of James' friends, I had the honor of signing both the marriage certificate and the ketubah, and it gave me great joy to know that I could be a part of the official documentation of their marriage. (This sounds dumb, but I really was touched to have this honor. He has other Jewish friends he could have asked to do this for him.) I also got to supply some of the music for the ceremony -- on CD, not live, but it counts. The ceremony itself went off without a hitch. There was a good bit of levity to the proceedings, as the rabbi cracked a few jokes and people had to be prompted for handshakes and handoffs. But the room got a little dusty when James and Jess read their own vows to each other. And we all had a good time rehearsing a shout of "mazel tov!" for the ritual breaking of the glass. My friend Rich, a fellow groomsman, pointed out that the shout was the only thing we rehearsed in the entire ceremony. I especially enjoyed the recessional music: "Linus and Lucy," also known as the "Peanuts" cartoon music. Then there were more pictures, and more visiting, and reviews of the ceremony, and then we got to eat.

The reception was in the synagogue's social hall. The highlight of the meal was the sushi appetizers, though all the food was good. I kept checking my watch (both the new pocketwatch James gave me and the other groomsmen as a gift and the clock on my cellphone), since we had to leave early to catch our flight home. But we got to spend plenty of time with our friends, along with the occasional few minutes to chat with the bride and groom. And even with our time constraints we got to see all the key wedding elements: the dancing, the cutting of the cake, and even the Jewish custom of hoisting the groom on a chair while everyone dances around. We wanted to do the same with Jess, but she begged off with an old injury that we might have inadvertently aggravated. We put off our departure as long as we dared, but eventually it was time to go. A quick change in the mens' room later, and we were all set for the flight home. We said our goodbyes to old and new friends and headed for the airport.

I had timed things just right, as we were able to refuel and drop off the car, check our bags, clear security, and get to our gate with about ten minutes to spare before boarding. The idea had been that we didn't want to spend time waiting at the gate instead of at the reception, and it worked out well. The flight back was OK, but I was disappointed with the video selection this time. While ESPN was one of the available channels, it wasn't working, probably because of some stupid NFL-Dish Network rule about showing the Sunday night game to cheap travelers. There wasn't anything else worth watching, and even the trivia game bored me since I'd seen all the questions two days before. I listened to my MP3 player for a few hours and relaxed. We landed early, but the airline made up for the time we gained by making us wait about 20 minutes for our luggage. Despite the late hour (10:30 PM) there was no cab line, and our driver even did us a favor by taking the Queensborough Bridge and avoiding the toll bridges further north, saving us a few bucks. (I'll have to remember that.) So it was a quick weekend trip, but a most worthwhile one. I'm glad we were able to be a part of James and Jess' celebration, and I hope they have many happy years together. They certainly got off to a good start.

Florida weekend - Saturday

We got up late on Saturday morning and went to look for breakfast/brunch food. Our hotel was in Cape Coral, across the river from Fort Myers, and there was a Perkins restaurant in the parking lot next to the hotel. But I was supposed to eat breakfast at that Perkins on Sunday morning with the other groomsmen, so we tried to find someplace else. The hotel guidebook listed a decent-sounding restaurant just down the street from the hotel, but when we drove around we couldn't find it. Apparently the guidebook was out of date, as the restaurant appeared to be under new management, a new name, and not open for breakfast. So we ended up back at Perkins after all. I had buttermilk pancakes and sausage, and Liz had biscuits & gravy, hash browns, bacon and eggs (and she gave me her eggs). The best thing was that they brought an entire pot of coffee for me, so I did my best to drink most of it.

We had a few more hours to kill before the non-rehearsal dinner at 4:30 (we got the early bird special!) so we explored Cape Coral by car. That took about half an hour and proved to be exceedingly dull. We saw many model homes, houses under construction, and strip malls, but nothing worth stopping the car for. Our backup boredom-relief plan was to go shopping at the Bell Tower complex across the highway from the restaurant in Fort Myers, so we went over there much earlier than we'd planned. As usually happens, Liz found many things she could buy, but there wasn't much for guys to look at. She did find a few bargains, and we tried out the world's best massage chair at Brookstone (only $3500, but it talks to you! And modifies its massage for your body!).

The non-rehearsal dinner was at Carrabbas, an Italian restaurant. The food was far superior to what the Olive Garden had to offer. We had fried mozzarella, chicken & cheese cannelloni, and creme brulee, and of course the scintillating conversation and general mayhem that characterizes any gathering of the "five guys from a house" group and their families. Maybe it was his past life as a waiter and bartender, or that it was his party, but James was working the room, making sure everyone enjoyed the food and the hospitality.

After dinner we went back to the hotel and changed clothes for the next activity: roller skating. OK, I didn't change clothes, since I wasn't going to skate, but Liz did. The roller rink was, like Liz expected, a giant warehouse-like building behind the strip malls and plazas of US 41 (the Tamiami highway, as it's the old route between Tampa and Miami). The place looked and sounded like it hadn't changed in twenty years. All of the music was pre-1992, and there were a few people out on the floor who looked and skated like they lived at the roller rink. There were also many more kids skating than I expected, including a number of teenagers that I would have thought had better things to do on a Saturday night. While Liz, James, Jess, and most other members of the wedding party skated and sweated the night away, I hung out in the back with the other wheeled footwear-disinclined. I hadn't seen some of these friends in several years, so I was glad to have time to catch up with them and make fun of the skating crowd with them. We spent about two hours skating and visiting before the rink started to close up. Most people went home at that point, reminding me once again that we're old folks now. But there were a few hardy souls, Liz and I among them, not willing to pack it in at 10:30 PM. So we went to a different Perkins for dessert (or in this case, more dessert and much coffee). The ice cream sundae Liz and I shared was delicious, but by 11:30 we were ready to collapse ourselves. (Where did my energy go? I slept late, didn't exert myself on skates, I just did some light shopping. I really am an old fogey.)

Monday, October 11, 2004

Florida weekend - Friday

This past weekend, Liz and I flew to Fort Myers, Florida, for the wedding of two of our college friends, James and Jess. We've known them almost as long as we've known each other, and they've been among our closest friends for many years. So it was with great joy and excitement that we traveled all the way to Florida for the festivities.

We left early Friday morning from JFK, on Song Airlines, which is Delta's low-cost/Southeast US carrier. It's similar to JetBlue, with leather seats and Dish Network in the seatbacks. The channel lineup was better on JetBlue, though I liked the MP3 music selections and the interactive music trivia game that lets you compete against other people on your flight. I won three rounds and had the highest score for the flight.

We got to Fort Myers about 11:30 AM, too early to check into our hotel. So we drove around for a while, locating the synagogue where the wedding was to take place, and getting lost a few times just to get that hassle out of the way. We eventually got a hotel room around 2:30 PM and took a good long nap before Shabbat services that night. This was Liz's first time at a Shabbat service, and she got to see more than she planned. James' parents and grandmother were there as well, and I don't think they'd ever seen a Shabbat service either. Not only was it the usual Friday night service, but it was also Simchat Torah, the annual celebration of reaching the end of the Torah and starting over at the beginning. It was also the night before a young man's bar mitzvah, and he performed about one third of the entire service. Before the service began, the rabbi called James and Jess to the bimah and gave them a blessing. For the Simchat Torah service, the rabbi and cantor took all the Torahs out of the ark and the congregation paraded around the sanctuary with them, accompanied by singing and dancing. Then the rabbi called on a member of the congregation to read from the Torah -- the last few verses of Deuteronomy and the first few verses of Genesis. I hadn't been to a Simchat Torah service in at least fifteen years, and the songs and prayers brought back warm memories of my childhood.

After the service, there was an oneg with cookies, brownies, and ice cream sundaes. Since we hadn't had dinner, we quickly went into sugar shock. I think I had three brownies and two or three scoops of mint chocolate chip ice cream. James and Jess hadn't eaten much for dinner either, so we went from the synagogue to the Olive Garden for a late supper, along with our friend Renee from New York and Scott, one of Jess' childhood friends. I'd never been to the Olive Garden before, and I was dying to try the "neverending pasta bowl," but since I'd already eaten my fill of sweets, I had a bowl of pasta e fagiole and some fried calamari and zucchini. After all that eating, we went back to our hotel and slept for a good long while.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Questionable "Poetry in Motion"

The MTA uses some ad space in subway cars for a program called "Poetry in Motion," where commuters can read a stanza of poetry in between ads for Dr. Zizmor's skin treatments and schools teaching English as a foreign language. I'd never given much thought to the poems the MTA chose to put up there, until I noticed that the latest selection was the first stanza of William Butler Yeats "The Second Coming." The subway sign reads:
TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Maybe it's just me, but that seems a little grim for a subway ride. I'm not one who likes to read a 9/11 subtext into everything, but there are some things here that remind me of that day, and of the religious fanatics who continue to plot against Americans. I get the point, MTA: you're trying to give us something more enriching than ads while we're trapped in your steel tubes. But I just want to get to work. I don't want to be scared on my way there. Next month, can you try to find something more uplifting?

Dr. Phil and the man who would be President

If you liked last week's entry when Dr. Phil and his wife "interviewed" President and Mrs. Bush, then you'll love this week's interview with the Kerrys. Lisa de Moraes watched so we don't have to. I especially liked that Dr. Phil got himself in trouble with his wife, then spent the interview trying to dig his way out of the hole. I honestly used to enjoy Dr. Phil when he was only on the air once in a while, but now that he's on constantly and always selling something I wish he'd just go away.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

From The Onion: Personal Relationship With God Also Public Relationship With God

The Onion isn't ha-ha funny anymore, and this article about one man's proselytizing didn't make me laugh. But it did remind me of the people who preach on the subway, telling a group of trapped commuters that they're all going to hell. (Ride in a non-air-conditioned subway car in the middle of the summer, and you'll feel like you're already there.) I don't like the panhandlers, the kids selling M&Ms for their "youth basketball team," (I really believe that one) or the people peddling batteries and trinkets, but at least they keep moving through the train so they don't bother me for too long. But the religious nuts who read from the Bible tend to stay in one car, in one place, for the entire ride. And even with headphones on, they are exceedingly annoying. Maybe this article, even tongue-in-cheek, sheds some light on their thought processes. If not, I don't want to know what they're really thinking. How thin is the line between the voice in your head telling you to preach to the nonbelievers and the same voice telling you to kill them all?

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

seen on Sunday at Union Square...

...a guy wearing my favorite T-shirt that can be purchased at any number of eclectic shops in Greenwich Village, bearing this slogan:


I've always wanted to buy it myself, but I'd never have the guts to wear it. Apparently someone did. If only I'd thought to sneak his picture.