Monday, May 31, 2010

More Tunnel Boring Geekitude!

Happy (is that the right word?) Memorial Day.  I promise to post something more appropriate in a little while, but I just ran across this video of Rachel Maddow totally geeking out in the 2nd Avenue Subway Project.  It's a little on the long side, but it's also really cool.  I promise.

Oh, just shut up and watch it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Alternative Lodging Option For A Friend's Relatives (You Know Who You Are) And A Boomarang Hand-Me-Down

First, that alternate lodging option:

Hey!  What more could they want?  I'll even throw in a tour of the neighborhood.  Once!

And, as to that boomerang hand-me-down thing...only kinda.  

My brother bought a pair of speakers sometime in the mid-70's.  I inherited them in the early 80's.  They worked just fine for quite a while.  I finally put them out with the trash sometime in the mid-90's.  Needless to say, before the garbage truck came around in the morning, someone had already decided to take them home.  

This morning, I saw them in someone else's trash in the neighborhood.  I swear these are the same speakers -- 35 years later.

The boomerang part would only apply if I took them home again.  I didn't.

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid!

I'll be evilly spending time in my evil, evil laboratory (A.K.A. my kitchen), today.  I shall attempt...without a net or any other safety make pickles. (Cue 4 bars of scary music.)

Now, before any of you get too excited, be forewarned;  I'm not trying any of Warner's recipes.  There are a few reasons I won't be doing this:

1. I don't have what appears to be a 'canning annex' suitable for manufacturing mass quantities, much less field-stripping large mammals.
2. I don't have 46 pounds of cucumbers and/or other veggies awaiting their fate.
3. I also don't have a bomb shelter in need of provisions intended for an extended sojourn.

But the main reason I won't be trying any of those recipes is that I'm a slave to INSTANT GRATIFICATION.  Yes, I'll be trying recipes for 'Refrigerator Pickles', which have the attribute of being ready to eat in 24 hours!  There's about 12 bajillion recipes for refrigerator pickles with a huge variety of brine ingredients and processes, and frankly, a lot of them sound pretty good.  So, I'm planning to take advantage of one other feature of these recipes -- I'm going to make them in small batches so we can try a few different types.

Hey!  They can't all suck. (Which can be also be translated to mean:  Hey! I can't screw up all the recipes.)

You can look forward to photos and results...sometime soon.  In the meantime, here are some pictures of what success might end up looking like...some more likely than others.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Someone Has An Even Better Idea!

Remember (it was only yesterday) when I mentioned Robert Moses had wanted to build a below-grade highway right through where Washington Square park stands?  And I posted this picture as an example of what it would have looked like?

Well, I can't guarantee it, but I'm pretty sure that's a stretch of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway -- a horrible road that did get built.

Well, since the damned thing is already there, it appears that someone had a great idea about how to transform it into something a whole lot nicer.  If anybody cares, I heartily endorse this concept.  So, without further ado, here's Jason N. Gibbs' vision

And while you're on Jason's site, have a look around; there's some cool stuff there.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Missed Anniversaries and Something Is Really Boring.

On Monday, I missed the 127th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge.  I love the Brooklyn Bridge, but I've talked about it before and it's so famous, you guys probably know quite a bit about it without me babbling, so I'm not gonna say a whole lot more about it.  If you want to know more, there's a pretty cool video posted here.

The one I'm going to talk about is the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel whose anniversary was yesterday.  It opened on May 25th, 1950, making it 60 years old.  The tunnel connects Brooklyn to the Battery in Manhattan.  (The Battery is the southern-most tip of Manhattan and is named for the artillery batteries that were originally stationed there.)

Here's a picture of the Tunnel.
 O.K. It's not really a picture of the tunnel.  This shot is from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.  If you embiggen the picture, you can see a white building on Governors Island in the left side of the frame, and the Brooklyn Bridge is in the right side of the frame.
There are a total of four ventilation shafts for the tunnel which are capable of completely replacing the air in the tunnel every 90 seconds at full blast.  Here's a shot of the tower on the Manhattan side, which, you may recognize as the office entrance for the Men in Black.

Construction on the tunnel actually began in October of 1940, but it was shut down in 1942 for the duration of WWII.  Originally, Robert Moses had wanted to build a bridge.  The bridge idea had a great many detractors who complained that the view would be destroyed, and that the approaches would eradicate too many things in lower Manhattan, among them, the NY Aquarium which stood on the Battery at the time.  Ultimately, Franklin Roosevelt vetoed the bridge in favor of a tunnel, reasoning that a bridge, seaward of the Brooklyn Navy Yards might impede shipping up the East River.  Since the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges were already standing to seaward of the Navy Yards, it's widely accepted that the decision was, more or less, dictated by Eleanor Roosevelt who was well-known for here involvement in NYC civic affairs.  

Side note:  Robert Moses is held up, both as a 20th Century hero and villain.  At one time, he simultaneously held 12 separate titles in both State and City Government, including NYC Parks Commissioner, President of the Long Island State Parks Commission, and Chairman of the NY State Power Commission.  With the massive authority he wielded, he oversaw the building of 117 bridges, tunnels, parks, housing projects and highways/parkways.  During the 50's he lost his fight to build two  below-grade and elevated highways crossing Manhattan and connecting the East River Bridges to the Hudson River tunnels.  There would also have been a connector 4-lane highway which would have gone through the middle of Washington Square Park.  Instead of this:

...we would have had something that looks like this:
I'm glad he lost those battles.

Anyway, back to the tunnel. At 9117 feet, it's the longest continuous underwater tunnel in North America.  It was designed by Ole Singstad, but when construction was re-started after WWII, Robert Moses oversaw construction.  Construction under Moses began to spring leaks in the walls until the tunnel walls were retro-fitted under Singstad's original designs.

When the tunnel first opened, the toll was 35¢.  Now, it's $5.50.  For a gallery of really terrific pictures of the tunnel under construction, here's a link to an article on Gothamist.

And just before I close, by way of contrast, let's talk briefly about the 2nd Avenue Subway.  As it stands right now, there's only one subway line (the 4, 5 and 6 trains) running up the East Side of Manhattan. (All three share the same tracks in Manhattan - the 6 is a local train and the 4 and 5 branch out into separate routes in Brooklyn and The Bronx.)  Two elevated lines on the East Side were torn down long ago, the Third Avenue line in 1955 and the Second Avenue Line in 1940.  To solve this problem, a 2nd Avenue Subway has long been in the planning stages.  As early as 1929, there were plans under consideration.  Well, the finally broke ground for the line -- in 1972.  Portions of the tunnel were dug and even partially finished (minus any rails or utilities), but work stopped quickly as NYC went broke.  

Well, work began again recently, and last week, they started digging additional tunnels to connect the portions already dug.  The 2nd Avenue Subway is scheduled to open at the end of 2016.  

If you looked at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel pictures, you'd have seen a bunch of guys digging  and hauling stuff out by hand.  Get a load of the boring machine that's digging its way under 2nd Avenue.  That sucker digs 50 feet per day -- the full size of the needed excavation while loading its own conveyor with the ground-up rock and shooting it to where it can be trucked off.  And yes, I'll admit that 1.) I think the fact that construction is proceeding again is pretty cool and 2.) I'm damned glad I don't live or work anywhere near 2nd Avenue.  The work may be underground, but half the street above it is closed down, making traffic a mess.  And the vibrations and noise definitely make their way to the surface even though the work is 70' below street level.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Who The Hell Thought This Was A Good Idea?

Casting Notice: Wanted - One pasty white male.  Hairless. Partial frontal nudity involved.

Am I missing something here?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sometimes The Shoot Is Actually Cooler Than The Scene You Were There For.

Sometimes, you work on a scene that's an absolute ball-buster, but that's OK because it'll all be worth it to get a totally awesome scene onto the screen.  Sometimes you work on a scene that's an absolute ball-buster and you resent the hell out of it because the scene and the movie it's in both suck like a black hole devouring a galaxy.

And sometimes, you work on a scene that's an absolute ball-buster and you couldn't care less how hard it was to put together and you don't give a rat's ass how it ends up looking in the movie because actually being there when it gets shot is cooler than cool with sprinkles and a cherry on top.

To shoot the following scene, we
-were turned down for permits for our first three choices of location.
-had something like 6000 extras.
-couldn't find enough vacant space for holding areas for all of those extras, so we closed down 2 blocks of 40th Street and put up tents in the middle of the street.
-had about 10 camera crews.
-got permission to shoot from a bunch of windows and rooftops of surrounding buildings.
-hired 40-50 security guards.
-hired 25 or so traffic agents (in addition to the cops from the Movie-TV Unit).
-hired an additional 50 Production Assistants to help with moving the extras to and from set.
-rented an additional 100+ radios.
-rented 75 port-o-lets.
-and dealt with a bajillion other roadblocks and details that have happily eased their way from my memories.

Setting up this shoot day sucked.  It sucked bad.
Shooting the scene was a blast. It was getting paid to have a backstage pass.
The scene, as it ended up in the movie is just fine, I guess, but for some reason, they decided they had to focus more on the story than on the band.  Oh, well.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

As Long As We're Talking About Jacksonville...

In September 1964, a couple of exciting things happened in a stretch of only a couple of days in Jacksonville.  I was 4-1/2 years old, so you'll kindly excuse me for not having any direct memories of a lot of this. 

The first thing that happened was Hurricane Dora.  Believe it or not, Jacksonville really doesn't get many direct hits from Hurricanes.  They usually hit further south, or on the Gulf Coast, or they aim for Northern Georgia and the Carolinas.  On September 10th, 1964, Hurricane Dora slammed into St. Augustine, just 30 miles south of Jacksonville (which counts as a direct hit when you're talking about something the size of a hurricane).  The storm had sustained winds of 125 mph when it made landfall.

Here's the short list of stuff I actually remember.
-There was a really big hickory tree in our back yard barely a foot from our house.  Long before the wind really got going (and knocked out the electricity), us kids had been watching TV in the den.  At some point, the wind got going enough to start moving the tree.  When it started banging into the roofline, we were all evicted from the den.  I don't remember where in the house our parents sent us.  And, no -- it wasn't into the cellar -- we didn't have one.  Having a cellar in Jacksonville is almost unheard of since you'll hit water when you dig about 3' down.
-The storm knocked down the plum tree in our front yard.  This was cause for celebration.  I have no idea why we had a plum tree in the first place, since nobody in the family was particularly fond of plums.  What we did have was the job of picking up rotten fruit from the lawn before Mom would take us to the Jamaican Motor Lodge so we could go swimming.  We were thrilled to be rid of the plum tree.
-Another HUGE tree got blown down across the street.  Before somebody got around to cutting it up and taking it away, we had loads of fun making trails through the branches and leaves on the ground.  The hole where the root ball peeled up was a lot of fun too.

Here's something I'm not sure I knew anything about until I was Googling around for yesterday's post about the Film Biz in Jacksonville.  It turns out that the Beatles played in Jacksonville -- at The Gator Bowl -- on September 11th, 1964.

The concert before Jacksonville had been in Montreal.  When they flew south, the hurricane was just really getting going, so they diverted to Key West.  After the storm had left Jacksonville, they flew in and had a chance to view the destruction from the air.  They had been scheduled to stay at the Hotel George Washington, Jacksonville's finest, but through some glitch, their rooms got canceled. They ended up going there, but not really checking in.  There was a press conference, during which one of the reporters asked them if they always had their meals during media interviews.  They responded that they usually ate in their rooms, but since they didn't have any...

Another tidbit about this concert is that Jacksonville's officials had planned for a segregated concert -- just like everything else in town.  The Beatles said they wouldn't show up unless the show was integrated, regardless of how much money they'd lose in the deal.  The city capitulated and the show went on as scheduled.  

The wind was still howling pretty good in the storm's aftermath (45 mph gusts), so Ringo's drumkit had to be nailed to the stage.  While most of Jacksonville was without power for up to a week, The Gator Bowl had undergound cables so the stadium had electricity.  Out of roughly 32,000 tickets sold, only about 23,000 people managed to get to the show.

After the show, having nowhere to stay in town, the band went directly to Imeson Airport and flew out to their next destination.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's (Probably) This Guy's Fault I Don't Still Live In Jacksonville.

Yeah, him!  Who is he and why am I blaming him for my lack of loyalty to my birthplace?  We'll get to that shortly.

Early in the 20th Century, the Film Industry was based, not in Hollywood, but in NYC.  Due to the existence of winter, they needed a Winter Headquarters and Jacksonville, Fl became "The Winter Film Capitol of the World".  This all started around 1907.  Jacksonville had a lot of things going for it.  The town was recovering from the Fire of 1901 which had destroyed much of the place.  Transportation by rail and by sea were both excellent.  Labor was cheap.  Locations were varied.  And sunlight, in an era when movie lighting was still primitive, was plentiful.  Kalem Studios was the first to open a permanent studio in Jacksonville in 1908.  They were quickly followed by others until Jacksonville boasted more than 30 silent film studios.  By 1916, the Jacksonville telephone directory listed over 100 motion picture studios.  Oliver Hardy started his motion picture career in Jacksonville in 1914.  The first movie made in Technicolor and the first feature-length color movie produced in the United States, The Gulf Between, was also filmed on location in Jacksonville in 1917.

During that time, Jacksonville also became the home of "Race Movies", films intended for black audiences and primarily crewed by African-Americans as well.  Richard Norman, a white entrepreneur, was instrumental in this enterprise, and in 1920, opened Norman Laboratories, specializing in "talking picture equipment" and feature film production.

Had Jacksonville continued it's dominance in the U.S. Film Industry, I would have grown up amidst it and probably returned there after college -- the most logical place to pursue my career.

However, eventually, Jacksonville's more conservative citizens grew tired of car chases in the downtown streets, simulated bank robberies and the occasional "riot" scene.  It was also, apparently, a habit of early producers to get free extras in the background of their scenes by setting off fire alarms and shooting while people came out into the streets to see what was going on.  And that's where we get back to that guy at the top of the post.

That guy is John W. Martin.  In 1917, he ran for Mayor of Jacksonville, mostly on a platform to "tame the motion picture industry".  The bastard won and pretty much chased the industry out of town.  (In deference to the guy, he was Governor of the state from 1925 to 1929, during which time, he pushed through state funded public schools and free textbooks for students through sixth grade.  He also advanced tourism and the state highway system.)  But the bastard chased my chosen profession to the Left Coast.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Simpsons Are Going To The Olympics!

It was revealed today that Kang and Kodos will be the official mascots of the 2012 London Olympics!

OK, they're not exactly the same, but close enough.

Update:  And as Shawn points out in the comments, the guy on the right will have a spin-off sponsorship for a to-be-named adult incontinence product.

Reason #4238 To Get a Licensed Attorney When You're Being Tried For Murder.

I told you yesterday about the trial of Robert Camarano for the murder of Michelle Hyams.  You'll recall that he's representing himself, having ignored repeated advice from the Judge hearing the case.

Yesterday, the prosecution entered into evidence files taken from the victims computer that foresaw her death at Camarano's hands only days before the murder.  While cross examining the NYPD forensic expert who had extracted all of the files.  Camarano repeatedly tried to suggest that someone else could have written and planted the damning documents on Hyams' computer, to which the witness responded, "All I can tell you is they are documents created on that computer" and that Ms. Hyams was logged in at the time they were created.

Then Camarano dropped his bombshell.  He pointed out that the files in question all had titles ending in ".doc", clearly an indication that someone named Doc had actually written the files. Furthermore, he knows someone named Doc who could have had access to Hyams' computer.

I can't help thinking some of the jurors may make up their minds before deliberations begin.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Television News May Have Hit Rock Bottom.

This is a piece Channel 7 has been flogging for the last couple of days.  It won't air until tonight at 11, so I'm left to wonder..."Is it really safe to eat something that falls on the floor if I pick it up within 5 seconds?"  WELL, IS IT?????

I'm not at all sure what the other medical myths are that they might be debunking, but please don't tell me the calories don't really fall out of cookies if you crumble them up first.  Dear Lord...please don't tell me that!

Pro Se, Cant' You See...

I've been somewhat remiss in my bloggerly duties lately, so here are a few things going on that I thought I would bring to your attention.  I don't actually have any earth-shaking opinions about these things; they've just caught my interest and I thought I should toss them out there for your consideration, (i.e. since we're being all Latin-y and stuff, Res ipsa loquitur..."it speaks for itself").

First up, I'd like you to meet Robert Camarano.  He's a 62 year old guy who has spent a fair percentage of his life in prison and is now on trial for the murder of Michelle Hyams.  At the time of his arrest, he was found straddling her blood-soaked body; alternately attempting CPR and babbling incoherently.  This would all just be your normal run of the mill, tragic murder story except for the fact that Mr. Camarano has asserted his right to defend himself in his trial.

Things aren't going great for him so far.  The Judge in the case, Justice Carol Berkman has repeatedly tried to convince him he should have competent representation.  I won't try to guess whether the Judge is just trying to make sure he gets a fair trial or if she's trying to save the State a costly appeal (Pro Se cases have a habit of being overturned due to the incompetence of the Defense "Attorney"), but she hasn't been pulling any punches.  Prior to jury selection, Judge Carol Berkman made another effort at convincing him he was making a big mistake, saying,

“You don’t know how to ask a question. You don’t know how to offer things into evidence. You keep making stupid speeches. You keep saying you are good at this. You are not. I do not say this to insult you.”

And things haven't really gotten any better.  His comments during jury selection ranged from improper to bizarre. Interviewing one prospective juror who captains a fishing boat (presumably somewhere here in the northeast), he tried to elicit sympathy by telling the man he was "terribly sorry about the oil spill".  The judge regularly interrupted him when he strayed from allowable statements and questions.

During opening statements, he revealed his strategy: Despite multiple stab wounds, Ms. Hyams wasn't murdered at all; she took her own life with pills and booze -- which the authorities are apparently hiding in an attempt to frame him.

I'll be following this one.

Second up: The Local, reports that Brooklyn now has a font of its own.  The font, called Brownstone, was created by a South American design firm called Sudtipos after one of the firm's principals took a trip to New York and was inspired by the brownstone neighborhood of Park Slope.

This is what it looks like:

While I have nothing against this font (and I suppose a designer is welcome to call his creation anything he likes as long as no-one else already has dibs on the name), I don't see anything particularly evocative of brownstone Brooklyn in this font.  There's something a lot more Art Nouveau about this font to my eyes.  And while the time period may be right, (late 1800's into 1915 or so), I just don't imagine all of that fine filigree when I think of Brooklyn.

This is what Brooklyn (and therefore Brownstone) should look like:

And all of you in L.A. can just keep your mouths shut.  You stole the lettering when you stole the team and I don't want to hear squat from any of you until you start keeping more asses in the stadium than taillights on the 101 during the 9th inning.

And last of all:  The Cannes Film Festival seems to have put Roman Polanski back into the headlines.  A while back, various keepers of Film Blogs were discussing whether or not they'd work for Polanski and expanding the subject to include whether or not bad behavior by him (or others) carried some moral obligation to turn down work with them.  I stayed out of it for a couple of reasons -- Polanski isn't likely to be making any movies in the NY area any time soon and, with others, I figured I didn't need to think about it until (or unless), someone who fit the bill actually offered me a job.  (One blogger went particularly ballistic about Mel Gibson during that same time period.  I sorta, kinda followed the Gibson debacle(s), but not very closely.  If Mel comes to NY to shoot a movie and his Producers call me in for an interview, I'll have to do some research and make up my own mind just how worthy he is of my own personal, somewhat pointless boycott.  I honestly, just haven't made up my mind if he made some drunken but forgivable indiscretion or if he's as despicable as some people have decided.  I didn't see Edge of Darkness, but that's because it looked like a crappy movie, not because I was making sure I didn't support Gibson's career.  And Braveheart is still one of my favorite movies.  Call me willfully ignorant.  I'll think about it when it matters.)

Anyway, back to Roman Polanski and his supporters.  Deus Ex Malcontent continues to have, what I think, is the best take on that whole sordid affair. Despite all of his apologists and all of their attempts to muddy the waters, the fact remains that Polanski was convicted of a crime and he skipped the country in order to avoid the sentence that went along with the conviction.  Game. Set. Match.  The rest of the details are irrelevant and/or self-serving and don't make any difference.  He could have availed himself of appeals and, if there was the misconduct his supporters claim, there were civil courts at his disposal.  Not to mention, he'd have been free long ago if he'd gone to jail.

But there is a vocal group of idiots who make their central point the idea that Polanski is an Artiste and that Artistes should be held to a different standard.  They believe it's a worse crime to deprive the world of the Artistes' productive output than it is to let a little rape slide by.  And much time has gone by...can't we all just get along?  (I hesitate to invoke Godwin's Law, but are there really that many people who want to forgive Nazi War Criminals just because they somehow managed to avoid prosecution for decades?)

And Woody Allen has signed on with the Polanski apologists.  I'll admit that I've been more than a little queasy about Woody Allen ever since he and Soon-Yi hooked up, but that wasn't offputting enough on it's own to make me consider boycotting his films or turning down work (if it was ever offered).  There's no question that the episode was tawdry as all git-out, but, I suppose it wasn't a deal breaker for me.  (Sue me.)  But this episode of Allen's rationale is pretty reprehensible and delusional.  Polanski has continued his career -- albeit in Europe, not Hollywood.  He's wealthy, has a family and his exile is in a lovely Chateau.  He hasn't paid shit and his "embarrassment" is his own doing.

I realize that Woody has had a successful career since long before I was an embryo...a career that he's somehow managed to maintain without any help at all from me.  I also realize that Woody seems to have moved on from his "Manhattan" period and entered a "European" phase of creativity, so, the odds of his people calling me are even less likely than they were a few years ago.  But I think I can safely say that I won't be soliciting any work from him and I won't be going in for an interview if I get a call for one of his projects.  

And as long as I'm being all "taking a brave stand" and stuff, I'm also announcing that I won't be taking any jobs on "snuff films" or KKK Promotional Videos.  I am however, willing to work on Sarah Palin campaign commercials, but that's just because I know a few dozen ways to completely run a day of production off the rails without any evidence pointing back to me!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

When Lobsters Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Lobsters.

NYC Dept. Of Environmental Conservation pries lobster from Charlton Heston's cold dead hand. Says it wasn't that fresh anyway.

I've just become aware of a delightful crustacean caper going on in my own backyard.  It seems that one Dr. Claw is distributing illicit lobster rolls on the streets of North Brooklyn...dodging the law with clandestine meetings; cash and plain brown paper bags changing hands.  Not much is known about the good Doctor.  To order your tasty tidbit, you have to connect via a Facebook group and then, apparently, someone contacts you to make arrangements for the drop.  The Doctor will show up in disguise.

And, he'll deliver this:

Not this:

You'll have to read the linked article to figure out all of the twists and turns involved, but I just love the fact that I can get illegal lobster rolls because some guy is willing to make them but hasn't gotten around to getting a vendor's license.  At least I can get it if A.) I actually figure out how the illicit contact is made, and B.) I'm actually far enough north into North Brooklyn.  It would suck if I were south of the border!

In the meantime...

Celebrate your lobsters quietly.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Monkeying Around

I'm just messing around with the look here.  No wagering, please!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Another Brief Venture Into The Past

Yesterday, I happened by this place on 5th Avenue, just off of 86th Street in Bay Ridge.  I've seen the place before, but never really paid all that much attention.  The exterior is pretty damned fantastic!

I'm not sure how old these signs are, but I just love stuff like this. Sadly, I can't report that the inside measures up.   At some point in the recent past (80s? 90s?), they redid the interior and it's pretty generic and boring.  There are also a bunch of old racks for shelving on the walls with the shelving missing, so I have to wonder what they might have been displaying in an earlier incarnation.

I also can't really report on the food.  I heard someone order an Egg-Cream, but I've never had one of those in my life and I'm not about to start now, but the upshot is that I wouldn't have any point for comparison if I did try one.

The chicken salad sandwich on toast with a small iced-tea and a side of cole-slaw was just fine, but at $10.00 it wasn't about to inspire any waves of nostalgia in me either.

I'll just have to be in love with the exterior and not worry about the rest.

So Much Stuff I Didn't Even Realize I Didn't Know!

Apparently, The Wall Street Journal has cunningly outed Elena Kagan as a lesbian by using a 17-year-old picture of her playing softball!  Who knew?

Really!  I had no idea!  You'll have to go look for the stuff, but GLAAD took issue with the use of that photo.  First of all, maybe I've been living under a rock, but I really didn't know that playing softball was reserved for lesbians.  Hell, I used to play softball.  (And I like girls, but I'm pretty sure I fail the rest of the qualifications for entry into the club.)

Then again, maybe there is something to it.  Remember Peppermint Patty from the Peanuts cartoons?  Sure, she pretended to have a crush on Charlie Brown, but she always hung around with Marcy!  And she played softball! Now, here's the thing.  She played softball in lots of the Peanuts cartoons, but a search of GoogleImages shows very few pictures of Peppermint Patty in her SportsWoman Lesbian Domain!  Are they trying to hide something?  Just what is being suppressed here?

This is practically the only image I could find. Look at her making Charlie Brown feel all hetero and inadequate!  That emasculating dyke!

Obviously, if they let the cat out of the bag, there'd be a whole big anti-Peanuts/anti-Lesbian uproar to keep Kagan off the bench. (And I'm not sure if there's a pun in there or not, but if she's off the bench, isn't she actively playing?  What do these people want?)

On the one hand, I think I've got to agree with WSJ spokeswoman Ashley Huston:
"If you turn the photo upside down, reverse the pixilation and simultaneously listen to Abbey Road backwards, while reading Roland Barthes, you will indeed find a very subtle hidden message."
But, to be fair, maybe there's something to it after all.  The Media has a history of using nefarious images to foil people's chances at higher office.

It's a well know FACT that Michael Dukakis was forced to pose for this dorky picture. Note how the other guy has his face cleverly hidden so he can't be blamed!

And Nixon was purposely made to look like a schmo in his debates with Kennedy.

They weren't even in the same room together.  Nixon was in a sauna 1200 miles away from the studio Kennedy appeared in!  And Marilyn Monroe was hiding under Kennedy's podium the whole time.  It was a total setup...brought to you by the same people who later faked the moon landings. (Go ahead; look it up! If it's not on the internet yet, it will be by next Tuesday ... AND THEN IT'LL BE TRUE!!)

The truth is, I can't get all that worked up over this one. I don't know all that much about Kagan or her qualifications to be on the Supreme Court.  What I do know, however is that she looks an awful lot like Lee Dewyze, finalist on this year's American Idol.

I'm pretty sure Lee is just a plant to screw up Crystal Boxershorts' chances to win.  And what does that tell you about Kagan?  Hmmmmmm?  I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions, but let me conclude with this other quote from Cathy Renna, former spokeswoman for GLAAD,

"The question from a journalistic perspective is whether it’s a descriptive representation of who she might be as a judge. Have you ever seen a picture of Clarence Thomas bowling?"
Indeed, have you ever seen a picture of Clarence Thomas bowling?

P.S.  I haven't got the remotest idea what a picture of Clarence Thomas bowling would infer about him, but, clearly, subtext is totally lost on me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

You Put The Lime In The Coconut...

" drink 'em both together
Put the lime in the coconut, then you feel better
Put the lime in the coconut, drink 'em both up
Put the lime in the coconut, and call me in the morning."

So, I've got a checkup with my doctor this afternoon. I hate to whine (yeah, right), but going to my doctor feels a little like taking on a trek to Everest.

Ya see, I live in Ft. Greene and my doctor's office is in Bay Ridge. Now,  that won't mean much to those of you who aren't intimately familiar with Brooklyn, but it amounts to:

- a fifteen minute walk to Flatbush Avenue. (or a bus ride that takes at least as long and doesn't actually go straight to the subway station due to eternal construction.)
- 30-45 minutes on the subway, depending on how long it takes for a train to show up.
- another 15 minute walk from the subway station to the doctor's office. This walk includes crossing one intersection that's an on-ramp to the Gowanus Expressway and has the distinction of never having the light favor pedestrians and being arranged so that all of the cars are forced to attempt achieving orbit escape velocity by the time they reach the crosswalk.  Crossing here is an adventure!

Another issue I've got with visiting my doctor is that he keeps office hours three afternoons per week and, apparently he just makes every appointment coincide with his proposed arrival time and then he sees patients on a first come-first served basis.  Not to be snotty, but if I show up at 1:00 p.m. for a 2:00 p.m. appointment (to beat the rush, donchaknow), there will already be seven octogenarians in the waiting room ahead of me. (I'll leave the blue-plate special jokes to you guys.)

Once I get in to see my doctor, the appointment will go as follows:
-nurse hooks me up to wires and says "Hmmmm", a lot while the paper gets squiggly lines printed on it.
-nurse fills numerous vials with my blood.
-nurse takes my blood pressure (which I no longer have any of), and in the process pumps the pressure cuff so tight that my left arm goes numb for the next 20 minutes.
-nurse weighs me (shoes on, shoes off, "here, hold this autoclave", "stand on one foot"...makes no difference).

Then, I'll sit there for a little while waiting for the doctor.  While waiting, I'll pick up the book I've brought with me to read on the train and in the waiting room.  Without fail, I'll be reading something vaguely stupid so that when the doctor arrives and asks me what I'm reading, I get to say, "Mmblefshboolbenbxter".  He always proves he's listening by responding, "Oh, I've been meaning to read that one".

Next, he'll ask how I'm doing.  No matter what I say, this is his cue to ask if I'm still smoking.  When I answer, he places a check mark on my chart which is code to the nurse to charge me for a "Smoking Cessation Consultation", which will show up as a "Wellness Benefit" on my bill and will not be covered by my insurance.

At some point, he'll want to know how the "Film Biz" is going (Sux) and he'll tell me what movies he's seen most recently.  "Uh, no.  I didn't work on that one and regardless, there's still no Academy Award for Best Achievement in Location Scouting."

When it's all over, he'll have recommended a bunch of other tests I should schedule and he'll send me to the nurse to schedule my next attempt to emulate Edmund Hillary.  Then, I'll take the reverse trek back to Ft. Greene.

If you've been keeping track, you'll note that it will have been roughly 4 hours from leaving my front door to arriving back where I started.  This will have involved roughly one hour of walking time and two hazardous crossings of the "Notorious On-Ramp of Death". Unless I've prepped for the trek with two weeks of conditioning and acclimation, I'll be utterly exhausted by the time I get home.

I appreciate your wishes for a speedy recovery from my checkup.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Brooklyn Coal Chutes And A Peek At Some Other Urban Archeology.

I've mentioned that my neighborhood was mostly built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At the time, homes were heated by coal furnaces.  And, of course, there had to be a way to make coal deliveries. Ladies and Gentlemen...I give you the Coal Chute!  Or, actually, coal chute covers.

These were about 10"-12" in diameter; too small for a burglar to crawl into, but large enough to dump a load of coal into your basement. They would sit on the sidewalk outside of the home's front stoop, presumably unlocked and easily reached from the street like the one in this picture.

In most instances, they've actually been covered over by new sidewalks, leaving no evidence, but you'll also see a bunch of concrete filled openings all over my neighborhood.

But, here and there, you'll see the original coal chute covers still there on the sidewalks.  Most of them were fairly unique...sometimes works of art in their own right.  Here are a few found walking around my immediate neighborhood.

Another remnant you'll run across occasionally are old Carriage Mounting Blocks...or at least their remnants.  These were the stone blocks set at the curb so fashionable ladies and gentlemen could easily step from their carriages (or dismount from horses) to go visiting.

Here's one I found online.

And here's an iron bootscraper which was also a common amenity.

I know of a couple of them in Brooklyn Heights that are still intact, but here's what I ran across walking my 'hood today.  This is a spot where one used to be and, apparently just got knocked down to sidewalk level.

And here, someone has moved one into their front "yard" as an ornamental feature.

BTW, most of the coal chutes have been sealed up to the point where the homeowner doesn't need to worry about rain leaking into their cellars.  Since I haven't seen any coal delivery trucks (or wagons), trundling around the neighborhood in recent memory, I doubt mistaken coal deliveries are much of a concern.  On the other hand, at least once every winter, I'll see a story about some fuel delivery company pumping fuel oil into a house that's been converted to gas for their furnace.  For some reason, they seem to leave the fill-pipe accessible, but instead of the oil going into a tank, it just fills up their basement.