Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Nativity, Brought to You by MGM

I wouldn't want to watch the entire 4 hours of Ben-Hur online, although it's available. As the season demands, here is the opening, with the Star of Bethlehem, Three Wise Men, the Manger, Mary and Joseph, a donkey, Roman centurions, and the incredible Miklos Roza score:

and part 2 is here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Since Obama Chose Rick Warren...

Caroline Kennedy came out.

The New York Times called civil unions for gays separate but not equal.

Keith Olbermann reported and discussed Warren's bigoted ideas.

Over 2,000 news articles popped up daily (today, for instance) on Google News when you typed in the words "inauguration" and "warren."

And it's a safe bet that the gay marriage issue will be featured in commentary during television coverage of the inauguration on January 20th, particularly right before and after Warren's invocation.

I spent two days last week being very disappointed, like so many others, with Obama's choice. Then on Friday morning, I woke up and thought about all the coverage the community nationwide is getting. It's like Obama handed gay advocates an early Xmas present of widespread media coverage, and the corresponding opportunity to teach and persuade.

When, in the history of the U.S., has a gay issue been so prominently featured in the buildup to a presidential inauguration?

...and this just in... Rick Warren pulls anti-gay language from his Web site.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Scenes from a Baby Boomer Christmas

Before Rudolph, Charlie Brown and The Grinch, there was...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


In my job I'm exposed to a great deal of media that daily chronicles the dire straights across the country. Mix that with a number of seasonal, family, and age-related challenges and unfortunate yet expected occurrences in my own life, and I'm left in the evenings with a brain that tries to sift through an alphabet soup of alarming thoughts, which are hard to bring together in an intelligent format.

Tonight I flashed on the final few minutes of David Lean's "Bridge on the River Kwai" in which Alec Guinness plays a British officer and WWII POW (Col. Nicholson) who commands the men under him to assist the enemy in building a bridge. But instead of delaying its construction, he succumbs to his immense ego (rationalized to himself as Enlightened Superiority) and delivers a formidable bridge into Japanese hands. Here, the team sent to blow up the bridge battles Nicholson, who realizes, (SPOILER ALERT!) almost too late, the extent of his folly:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Unexpected Is Always Upon Us

I had to do some Christmas shopping today so I took the Metro to Pentagon City. That was my first mistake, because the train was insanely crowded for a Saturday. Then the mall was packed, so I quickly passed through it and headed out to Hudson Trail Outfitters, where I could not find any gloves. Then, on the way to buy a Christmas card, I crossed the parking lot and was almost flattened by a car backing up - the driver wasn't looking where he was going, and when he saw me he yelled at me for getting in his way.

At that point I gave up and came home, not willing to take on any more madness. On the way home, three young ladies in traditional Santa Lucia costumes boarded the train and sang Swedish carols, which would have been nice if the Metro's tunnel roar hadn't drowned them out.

It was all quite like Luciano Berio's take on the Mahler 2nd, 3rd movement I wrote about a couple of days ago. In the third movement of his Sinfonia, Berio takes the Mahler scherzo and runs it through a blender, feeding in other pieces and quotes from Samuel Beckett, among others. According to Wikipedia, "Berio himself describes the movement as a "Voyage to Cythera", in which a ship filled with gifts is headed towards the island dedicated to the goddess of love." Well, there were no gifts in my afternoon and precious little love! Here's the first part of the Berio:

...and here's the second part.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

16 Things I Hate About the Holidays

Everybody hates fruitcake, New Year's Eve, and Secret Santa gift swaps. They're easy to despise, and few will argue for them. But don't we each keep our own list of festive things that seriously test our goodwill? As today in D.C. is wet, cold, (now dark), and miserable, here are mine:
  • "O Holy Night."
  • Melismatic pop singers lugubriously mangling "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "The Christmas Song," and "White Christmas."
  • Those gigantic red bows on gift cars in commercials.
  • "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer."
  • The Perfect Gift.
  • Rankin-Bass holiday specials (except for Rudolph. And the Rankin-Bass logo tag.)
  • Virginia.
  • Holiday movies in which a mysterious package appears under the tree Christmas morning which signals either that Santa exists or What Happened To The Hero The Night Before Wasn't Just A Dream.
  • Office building holiday dessert receptions in the lobby.
  • Midnight mass.
  • Darkness, cold, and those illnesses that spring forth this time of year.
  • Those who try to make other holidays into the alternative Christmas (let those holidays be what they are!)
  • Office decorations.
  • Whimsy.
  • Traveling.
  • 24 Hours of "A Christmas Story."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Whole Lotta Resurrecting Going On

It seems unprecedented, how every day seems to bring yet another bout of bad bad news. And it's not just a spate of unfortunate current events - the very foundations of our society are quaking, and so many people in various towers of power who once said "trust me, this is working" are now saying "you know, we need buckets and buckets of help." Heck, even Tom Peters is depressed.

So it's interesting how much I've been reading about Gustav Mahler's 2nd Symphony ("Resurrection") and Gilbert Kaplan, a businessman who, without formal classical music training in his early life, became a remarkable orchestral switch-hitter, focusing exclusively on this massive work, learning how to conduct its forces...because he wanted to. And he did it again last night, with the New York Philharmonic, 100 years after Mahler himself conducted the same symphony with the same group.

I found references in The New York Times and The Economist, as well as a number of other unusual places that I should have written down. A coincidence of my own making perhaps.

Mahler's 2nd is a huge work that famously builds to a massive, transcendent climax, beginning, in my opinion, with the chorus singing "What has been created must pass away, what has passed away will rise again."

What's been taking my mind away from it all is the knowledge (hope) that one of the major driving forces of society is currently being resurrected. That, and the 3rd movement of the Mahler, in which the huge orchestra dances lightly, a bit sardonic and not entirely carefree. Here's Simon Rattle embodying the rhythm in the score while he barely conducts :

Here's part 2 of the 3rd movement.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Less Media More Social Part 1

I shared my building's elevator tonight with a resident who I've seen quite a few times but never spoken with. And for a couple of decent reasons, I've wanted to. Trouble is, in my neighborhood, you can see someone for years and not speak. Washington's a busy place, and everyone seems to go about with this aura of "don't bother me" emanating from them. Plus there's the memory of those times I did strike up a conversation, and was met with a cold stare, or a monosyllabic answer. Granted, there's also been times when a friendly moment resulted...but we all seem to bring up the negative memories first.

Which is why I really liked Chris Brogan's extremely short yet precise video on the subject:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Asleep at the Wheel - Time to Drive Again, But Maybe We Need a Smart(er) Car

By now it's generally understood that the gay community was asleep during the recent Proposition 8 debacle. However, we've woken up somewhat, enough to swerve and miss plowing into a tree and totally wrecking everything. Just take a look at some of the media that's been created lately.

There's Proposition 8: The Musical, which is the most talked-about thing online right now. I admit I only watched half of it - I think it speaks more to the already converted, while those who still believe homosexuality is morally repugnant will find in it further justification for their [_____________] (insert euphemism for bigotry.)

I prefer this piece, which asks everyone to sign a petition protecting marriage. It's sneaky, it's smart, it's somewhat argument proof:

There's a feeling here in D.C. that HRC wasn't doing its job in letting the California vote go the way it did. That's probably true, but I believe it's because they're a large organization, and large organizations are almost always more concerned with keeping themselves going, consequently making decisions that try to appease many instead of creating real change.

The real stuff that's going on now isn't the result of one advocacy organization. Even the recent nationwide demonstrations were grassroots affairs, linked under the online banner of Join the Impact, an organization that looks to have risen in the days after the election. They say they're a nonprofit, but they're a .com and not a .org, and probably haven't had time to apply for 501(c)(3) status. If I'm wrong, then somebody tell me...

Join the Impact's next steps include Day Without a Gay, a national food drive that will target faith-based emergency food providers as the recipients of goodwill, and Light Up the Night for Equality.

Finally, we need a radically redesigned communications strategy. We need to stop debating in forums where we can't win. In today's NY Times op-ed "Showdown in the Big Tent," Caitlin Flanagan and Benjamin Schwarz write "Although it has come as a shocking realization to many in this community, a host of sociological studies confirm that many blacks feel a significant aversion to homosexuality itself, finding it morally and sexually repugnant." It's time to bring in some big gun "new marketing" gurus to massively reframe the dialogue, take over the debates and focus exclusively on civil rights. But not before somebody does some research on why so many people find homosexuality morally and sexually repugnant, so we can target the cause of hatred and not the symptoms.

In the meantime, how about a national "Day With A Gay?"
OK, this post is entirely too long now...but I had to find a place for the following video I found on YouTube. Where to start? The background music is wonderful...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Scenes from a Depression Past

With all the tragic economic news alongside the "New" New Deal rumblings from the off-and-running office of the President Elect, I've been searching out escapist fare online. From the Great Depression of the 1930's, I found these visually fascinating and surreal productions from the great Busby Berkeley. Looking at them now, I find the contrast between the dated, not-quite-classic 30's musical language and the hard-edged, at times minimalist sets, patterns and choreography really resonant and fun. My faves:

"The Words are in My Heart" and its 56 floating, skating pianos.

"All Is Fair In Love And War" may go on too long, but I like the combination of the chromatic martial melody and dozens of giant white rocking chairs; the flags are fun and spectacular too.

His masterpiece, "Lullabye of Broadway," is a sinister take on broadway pizazz, and features many of his thirties motifs: disembodied singing heads, tiny urban vignettes,, impossible transitions, endless variations on a popular song, and massed geometric dance patterns. That it ultimately takes a tragic turn and becomes a cautionary tale for party girls everywhere makes it all the more nifty.

Watch Part 2 here.

In the forties Berkeley worked in color, and his hard edges bleed in the three-strip technicolor film process. His last great signature pieces, "The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat" (reminds me of hallucinations I experienced when I had surgery at 8 years of age), and "The Polka Dot Polka" get stranger and stranger as they go along. It probably drove him crazy when he couldn't get everyone and everything as precise as he had in the previous decade, and the studio most likely gave him less time and money to work with. Consequently, the human waves aren't quite in sync. However, the "Polka" ends with creepy disembodied heads floating in a disturbing technicolor space, but not before a series of images that almost rival Kubrick's Star Gate sequence in 2001 for their sheer abstract quality.

Strange...and tons of fun.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Show Me Less, Give Me More

"...smaller-scale visual narratives have been flourishing on the Internet, delivering topical satire, political commentary and slices of real-life absurdity with a nimbleness and speed that makes both conventional film and traditional television seem unwieldy. Movies, meanwhile, are once again responding by growing louder, brighter and more sensational. Imax and variously improved 3-D formats are becoming more popular with the movie studios, even as the widespread use of digital effects gives their products less and less resemblance to traditional cinema."
A. O. Scott, "The Screening of America," NY Times Magazine, 11/21/08

Hollywood's natural inclination to show us an otherworldly environment is to throw a ton of money at computer graphics and show us every digitized pixel in the Center of the Earth. Obscene amounts of money, especially in today's economic environment. But it doesn't have to be that way. Check out these fantastic scenarios, from the days before CGI. I find these flicks far more fascinating than anything on Isla Nublar.

Orphée - film run backwards, hands plunging into mercury - that's all it takes to get you from this world to an afterlife.

Cube - essentially filmed on one set, which gave the director more money for special effects, including a couple of process shots. But the movie would be just as disturbing without all the slicing and dicing. Available complete on Google Video.

Primer - a nifty time-travel film, made for $7,000. Granted, it gets incoherent near the end. But it was made for $7,000. Also available on Google Video.

Fahrenheit 451 - couples Bernard Herrmann's music with the ramrod-straight firemen on an open red fire truck to portray a society in which books are illegal.

Jason and the Argonauts - Herrmann again, bleating low rumbling brass notes to accompany the sight of an impossibly huge statue. And then that statue turns its head...

La Belle et La Bete - the real movie magic happens at 2:25 in this clip.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Revolutions All Around

Seth Godin on what the Government should do with the Big Three Automakers.

Stonewall 2.0 as, allegedly, Christians are "chased out of the Castro District." (The possibility of violence disturbs me, but I do like the whistles en masse.)

Traditional cinema in danger of succumbing to the online world, detailed in A. O. Scott's blandly balanced article in the Sunday New York Times.

Godin again, on the failure of the New York Times (and, subtextually, of all large, monolithic, flexible-as-stone corporations) to fully score in its own game.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fun with Footwear

The sock puppet version of There Will Be Blood:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Nature of My Mid-Life Crisis

Type 2, with a side order of Type 1.

Based on the categories listed in What Do You Mean There Are Four, or Five, or Six Types of Midlife Crisis? at

Sunday, November 16, 2008

DC Proposition 8 Rally Peaceful, Weather Not So...

Video by quixotist2, found on YouTube. Click here for more DC Rally videos.

A sudden, violent squall slammed my huge golf umbrella halfway through the DC Rally protesting the California gay marriage ban, blasting wind and horizontal rain against me and hundreds if not a thousand fellow marchers. The storm left the National Mall grounds wet and muddy and many in the crowd drenched, but the unseasonably warm November day kept hypothermia from thinning our ranks.

While my jeans got wet, my fleece pullover kept the rest dry as we walked past the Washington Monument, skirted the Ellipse and ended up at Lafayette Square across the street from the White House. At the same time thousands of other marchers in cities and towns across the country reminded the nation that all is still not well with some basic civil rights. View and read more about it here:

"Across U.S., Big Rallies for Same-Sex Marriage" from The New York Times.

More DC pictures at Join the Impact!
(Picture accompanying this post is detail from a shot taken by a fellow participant and uploaded to the DC photo gallery.)

Join the Impact! Promote love and equality in your city! - the "official" site.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Mormon Rationalization for Proposition 8 - and the Reaction Nationwide

From "Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage" in yesterday's NY Times:

But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead, emphasizing that Proposition 8 was about marriage, not about attacking gay people, and about restoring into law an earlier ban struck down by the State Supreme Court in May.

“It is not our goal in this campaign to attack the homosexual lifestyle or to convince gays and lesbians that their behavior is wrong — the less we refer to homosexuality, the better,” one of the ward training documents said. “We are pro-marriage, not anti-gay.”

ummmmmmm, ok. Why do I feel like I just got off the Tilt-A-Whirl?

While I don't think protests are all that effective, I do believe today's events across the country could be. Here's more information on today's rally in DC, at the epicenter of freedom, which includes links to similar rallies in other time zones.

Even The Governator has shown some support...

And last but not least, here's what I found to be most powerful from Keith Olbermann's commentary earlier this week:

[T]his vote is horrible. Horrible. ... If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? ...

If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

How I Felt Like a Delegate to a Kind of Global Electoral College

Sure, I've had voter apathy in the past. I can't remember the first time I voted, and I know I've stayed home from the polls for some elections. Not this year. I stood in line for about an hour Tuesday morning, starting at 6:55 am, then cast my vote for Obama. A week before, I had asked someone who's far more politically savvy than me "Why vote in DC, when I know that the city's Electoral College votes will go to Obama?" He said, "Because we need to show how much we believe in him by turning out in incredible numbers. It'll look so much better with a high number of votes."

Or something like that. I agreed. And then I read something in BusinessWeek yesterday:

"Polls showed that in countries such as France and Germany, support for the Democratic candidate ranged between 65% and 80% of the population. The sense of engagement was typified by an editorial appearing early this year in Belgian newspaper De Standaard suggesting that given the stakes—on issues ranging from energy to climate change to the mortgage crisis—everybody in the world should be able to cast a vote in the U.S. Presidential election."
Europe Reacts to Obama Victory, Andy Reinhardt, 11/05/08

But not everyone in the world could vote in this election. Which made my vote count even more, considering the nature of today's problems (and the huge role the U.S. has played in causing a good number of them). So, for a brief moment, I felt like a delegate to a kind of global electoral college, which made my responsibility take on new meaning and weight.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Scene Just Blocks from the White House

My neighborhood erupted at 11:00 last night, about 10 blocks north of the White House. Closer than you think, since I can see the executive mansion just a few steps from my door. As soon as the California polls closed and the networks exploded with their news, people yelled, whooped, cheered, their voices echoing in the alley behind my building. The noise got louder a few minutes later, as residents left their buildings the bars and restaurants in spite of the rain and car horns blared up and down 16th street. That's what I saw in my head, as I didn't move - the TV kept me glued in my living room - the TV and my laptop where I had the NYTimes, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC open in Firefox tabs. What was it - 15 minutes later - that the report came over the wires - McCain had conceded to Obama. I could see on TV that scores of GW students converged on the White House, pumped by the history and eager to let the current resident know that his terrible occupancy is not only over, it's finished with a blast of everything missing over the last eight years - including eloquence, intelligence, and unyielding hope.

Around 1 am I went outside. The rain was a drizzle, the car horns split the air, people on the sidewalks high-fived each other. I called my brother in New Hampshire, and held the phone to 16th street, in sight of the White House, leaving a message that was mostly street noise.
Check out these stunning pictures at the Boston Globe's site, which I found thanks to

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Few Moments of Calm

7PM. Polls are closing. I need a few moments of calm:

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I Am Jack's Disappointment

I watched Fight Club (again) last night - and this quote stood out, for me, at this mid-life reassessment time in my life:

"We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off."

So, yeah, I understand a bit where Tyler Durden's coming from. Although I don't believe in taking the film literally - I have no desire to fight anyone, much less support anarchy. The flick is some sort of great movie, but not a manifesto for modern living. Although Making soap sounds kind of fun.

For a more conventional view that mirrors the quote above, and my current state, check out this post from Life Two - The Midlife Resource. I've pulled the following quote that helps drive the point home:

" of the great challenges of surviving the midlife transition derives from the sense of profound disappointment that comes when you realize that most of the assumptions that you had about 'success' in your early adult years were bogus. We joke about the portrait of life that we were fed from such 1950's and 1960's TV shows like "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best". It's a picture of life that even now we're digesting with 20/20 hindsight in such period dramas as TV's "Mad Men". We were somehow brought up to believe that, when we retired, life would, at least, be quieter. Also, it would be better if we worked hard and saved up wisely for our 'Golden Years.' Many people still go into middle age believing that, even though slowing down will be inevitable, at least we have some peace and quiet to look forward to."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Scary Part 1

Out of sight prices. Financial collapse. Sarah Palin. Things are pretty scary right now. And right before Halloween. So I went back into my past and found those things that scared me when I was young, when you had to go to the movies for a really good fright. And it didn't matter whether good or evil won, because the movie always ended and the lights came up.

Here are the first six, in no particular order:

Sand isn't supposed to move that way.

Ipod. Upod. Wepod.

Heeeeeeeeeere's Santa!

Wax on. Wax off.

It's not what you's what you don't see.

There's a space - right between the charred corpse and the dead seagull.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Facebook is Easy

Real life is harder. Hal Niedzviecki has 700 Facebook friends he tells us in "Facebook in a Crowd" (New York Times Magazine, October 26, 2008). So, when he planned a get together and sent an invitation to all 700, he figured at a few would show up.

Only one other person came to the bar.

"Was I really that big of a loser?" he asks himself.

"Or was it that no one wants to get together in real life anymore? It wasn’t Facebook’s fault; all those digital pals were better than nothing. For chipping away at past friendships and blocking honest new efforts, you really have to blame the entire modern world. People want to hang out with you, I assured myself. They just don’t have the time."

I think we transfer the ease of sitting at home on our computers into an equal simplicity when it comes to real life. And that's just not the case. Technology only revolutionizes some things. Having a blog won't make you a writer "just like that." These things take time. Would Hal have had a better experience if he had done a bit more research, and focused his event around another reason to get together, other than just to meet each other?

"The Internet has allowed an enormous amount of fake networking to take place," said Seth Godin in a forum that you click here to watch online.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Cool Sixties TV Show Theme: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
Strings, winds and xylophones shimmer amidst deep-sea radar pings, followed by a fanfare "call to adventure," then ominous low notes from the ocean depths. The strings take up the call to adventure, with a glissando counterpoint from the piano (or is it a harp?) Then we break for a commercial. To close, repeat above, then insert a standard orchestral flourish bringing us back to boring normality - except for a brief mysterious cadence - THEN a classic sixties fanfare to end.

I Have Too Much Stuff

And maybe this will help: Five classic clutter-busting strategies from Unclutterer.

Most of my stuff I never use. Clothes, books, papers, photos, kitchen equipment, vinyl records. I'm saving some of it because it contains my history. There's a set of books signed by authors that I won't give up. And I'm lazy. But lately I've felt this need to declutter and get rid of stuff, to almost "go minimal." Should I go all out and empty my closets, sell what others might want, and trash the rest? Do I toss old yearbooks into the garbage, and follow them with box after box of pictures?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell May Have Saved My Sanity

Mr. Gladwell's fascinating article about prodigies vs. all the rest of us (Late Bloomers - Why do we equate genius with precocity? in the October 10 New Yorker) made me feel a whole lot better about myself as a writer - or whatever it is I am. I'm certainly NOT a prodigy, and I'm not yet sure if I'm a "late bloomer." My great grandfather was a late bloomer, as noted in a New Yorker "talk story" from 1939. I'm not 75... yet... so perhaps there's hope.

Excerpts from Mr. Gladwell's article that really hit home:

The freshness, exuberance, and energy of youth did little for Cézanne. He was a late bloomer—and for some reason in our accounting of genius and creativity we have forgotten to make sense of the Cézannes of the world.

...late bloomers bloom late because they simply aren’t much good until late in their careers.

On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure: while the late bloomer is revising and despairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all.

Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go. Late bloomers are hard. They require forbearance and blind faith.

Whenever we find a late bloomer, we can’t but wonder how many others like him or her we have thwarted because we prematurely judged their talents. But we also have to acccept that there’s nothing we can do about it. How can we ever know which of the failures will end up blooming?
Odd coincidence: Art News, in a quote I've ransacked my files looking for (and have not yet located), called O.A. Renne the American Cézanne.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

There's Nothing Like A Nice, Extended Mid-Life Crisis

"I had to find out where I went wrong. The years I've spent trying to get all the things I was told were important. That I was told to want. Things, not people or meaning, just things."
Rock Hudson, Seconds

I've been lying fallow for close to a year now, and I'm beginning to understand why. The popular term is "mid-life crisis" although I prefer the bland, non-melodramatic sounding "mid-life re-assessment." However, it's not bland to live through. I've been solidly parked in creative paralysis, spurred by the ongoing question "why bother continuing to write, when I still haven't made any money from it?" And there's been part of me, way down deep inside, that has .been reacting to this time in my life quite like the character Arthur Hamilton (played by Rock Hudson) reacts here, in the closing scenes from the ultra-disturbing Seconds. In the film, the 51-year- old Hamilton, a deeply bored businessman, is offered an extreme makeover - not only will he physically change, but "The Company" will set him up with a new life, kind of like the witness-protection program on steroids. Your death is faked, your psyche is probed so your dreams can be fulfilled, and you'll be happy.

Except it doesn't work for our hero. Here, Hamilton (now named "Wilson") has returned to The Company (Yup, that's Grandpa Walton, playing the founder) to get a new identity, after he failed to find self-actualization in Malibu. He's promised a chance to move onto the "next stage." But that promise comes with a horrifying price - and he tries everything in his power to avoid payment.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

You Can Find It On YouTube

Reviewing the composer John Adams' memoirs in today's New York Times, Charles McGrath writes: wish the book could have come wired with a soundtrack illustrating his points and sampling some of his hits. Even readers who know Mr. Adams’s music would welcome turning the page and hearing a snippet of, say, “Hallelujah Junction,” a piece for two pianos that gives the book its title, or “Grand Pianola Music,” ...

While the book may not be come wired, one can find examples of Adams' music on YouTube. Here's "Hallelujah Junction":

...and here's a snippet from "Grand Pianola Music":

...accompanied by some interesting visuals and commentary.

The Times has been including these kinds of excerpts alongside a number of their reviews and feature articles more and more. I've gotten to a point where I automatically type into YouTube the name of any piece I read about but haven't heard. Most of the time, I come up with something. Granted, it's often not the entire work, and the depths of sonority are lacking on my laptop. But more and more often, what I'm looking for is there, often on YouTube. And it's amazing what I can find.

For those out there who aren't familiar with this kind of adrenaline-filled, sometimes unbearably ecstatic music, a good, quick introduction is Adams' "Short Ride in a Fast Machine." It's the "Snakes on a Plane" of modern classical music - the title tells you just what you're going to hear. And it's no longer than a pop song...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Hating 2.0

The truthfully funny and appropriately profane Hugh McLeod over at Gaping Void has come up with 10 things I hate about web 2.0. My favorites: well, all of them. I have definitely found that when it comes to blogging, the people into it are REALLY INTO IT, and everyone else is standing on the sidelines, wondering what the big deal is.

Or maybe their not standing on the sidelines at all, but they're out there, doing stuff in the "real" world.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

On Usefulness

Since starting my new job in January, and after a couple of months of intense Web work for the organization that hired me, I've been looking at blogging in a different way. Usefulness is now very important to me. And I'm not so sure that the blogs I'm reading are helping me out - their usefulness factor, for me, is running pretty low. I'm not coming out against blogging or anything like that. But I am taking a long look at krooz and wondering if it's useful to anyone. This is a good thing, because it's helping me in my job, and it's forcing me to consider the exact mission of krooz. And that mission may be changing. I don't think I'm ready to change it right at this moment. But I'm taking notes, downloading ideas from my brain onto paper (with a pen, no less), and researching an Idea.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why Can't ________ Be Better Designed?

I visited an aunt of mine in a nursing home on Sunday. It certainly was no "senior warehouse." There were large birdcages with colorful parakeets, sofas and desks and televisions in rooms set up to look like someone's home, and a large sunroom with windows all around that looked out onto gazebos and off in the distance a forest of trees.

But the resident rooms themselves? Small, hospital-like, lacking in privacy.

This was one of the better places. They have a cap on how many residents they allow, so that the staff can provide better service. They're doing a number of things right. Why hasn't that outlook spread to the residential quarters?

Seth Godin has an interesting question today: Things You Don't Understand. When I read it, I immediately thought "I don't understand why nursing homes aren't better designed." I was going to come up with my own list, like Seth. But then I thought, I haven't written anything in this blog in a while. I'll go with that thought.

I don't have any answers. But as I'm getting older, and relatives are once again aging and dealing with various syndromes, physical problems, and illnesses, I'm feeling that aging process myself. And I'm wondering - even with the birdcages and the nicely-appointed group rooms and the sunroom looking out onto a natural landscape, would I want to spend much of my time in a hospital room, waiting for visitors to show up? What would I do if I wanted to get away, and be alone, and have my own space that I know is mine and I don't have to share?

We have a million programs designed to help us save our cell phone messages. We have one nursing home design.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What's Up With Krooz?

I have totally ignored my blog. Hopefully Jimbo hasn't removed me from his blog list. There's a pretty good set of reasons for my absence. The two main ones: I started a new job in January, where I'm overseeing three web sites and creating three separate blogs; and, my laptop died. So I have not been able to surf in my living room while multitasking, my main method of getting ideas for this blog. After deciding I needed to spend the money, I ordered a new laptop from Dell. The laptop crashed within seconds of downloading a program on the first five minutes out of the box. The replacement laptop followed the same path. Dell was not able to a) deliver me a quality product and b) provide me with knowledgeable technical support and sound customer service, and I returned both laptops and let Dell know I would never purchase a product from them again. I've ordered a new laptop from a rival company, and I'm hoping it will work once I receive it next week. I'm also gearing up to re-engage my blog posting. I'm also hoping I can get motivated to start back at the gym regularly. But new jobs tend to monopolize your time as you balance the combination of learning curve, office etiquette, and concentration.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Reunion Generation

I belong to a generation of people who lived their lives going from one social sphere to another. Through the levels of education - elementary, junior high (now called middle school), high school proper, college, then grad school for some. In amongst those social milieus, there were others - various clubs, organizations, sports groups, etc. We moved in a progression through school, and in and out of activities, all the time meeting new people and making new friends. While we would carry some friends onward, and turn some aquaintences into friends, our steady march through school meant that we would have to lose touch with some people as we changed locations. Sure, some of those people stayed in our spheres, but the vast majority did not. It was a badge of maturity to leave high school and everyone you knew and loved and go to college somewhere else. Sure it was scary, but necessary - necessary for growth, we thought. If someone held on too tightly to the past - if they insisted on going to every high school football game once they started college - we saw them as somewhat flawed. It was imperative that we move forward, and a big part of that movement meant separating from one social circle and creating a new, often more diverse group around us.

Still, it wasn't like we wouldn't see our old old friends ever again. That was what reunions were for. Coming back to that homecoming game. Running into one of your best buddies at the mall. Keeping touch through holiday cards. And looking forward to the pinnacle event of them all - the organized reunion. We kept in touch with the major changes, high points and low points of our best friends through these tools. While we knew about computers, none of us had one. The PC didn't exist. Our biggest technical challenge was learning to type on an IBM Selectric. There was no Internet helping our communications fly at the speed of light.

There is a generally-used name for my generation - Baby Boomers (Boomers for short.) We define ourselves by our forward motion, by how many new people we can meet, become intimate with, pull into our ideas, or impress. We always look forward, to the next group of people, consigning those times we look back to those officially-sanctioned reunions.

Take a look at this great post by Seth Godin, which got me thinking about the Reunion Generation. In Facebook's generational challenge, Seth talks about how he's not used to using Facebook the way younger generations use it. He relates a small tale about a college student he knows who was able to contact tons of people in her upcoming class, so that everyone knew everybody before they set foot on campus.

This is, to me, related to information I've read about how the "younger generations" continue to be involved in their friends' lives through My Space, Facebook, and social media on the Web.

They build on their circle of friends as they go along. No need to move on to the next social circle, when you can keep everyone abreast of your life - and they, you - on a daily basis through online networks. I'm guessing that they don't see this continual contact as a negative thing, the way we in the Reunion Generation might. Their definitions of maturity don't involved sailing away from one shore and losing contact with the island altogether in search of the next beach.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. Rrrrrright.

How many times have we heard or read this slogan? How many of us have done what we love, and we're still waiting for the money?

I've pursued a number of passions, and had some great experiences doing so. But the financial return on my investment in each case has not just been nil, but negative.

If we are to believe the "Do What You Love" phrase, then merely practicing a hobby should naturally fill up our bank accounts.

The truth, however, is far different.

For me, the money's always followed when I've done something I didn't particularly love.

However, I find tons of subjects interesting. But "Love?" That's asking quite a lot.

It's time to nuke this advice and and show it for the sentimental platitude it really is! I prefer to revise the phrase into "Do something you find interesting that also offers a salary or other cash renumeration and the money will follow."

While you make up your own newer, more accurate version, consider the potential dangers of "Doing What You Love," as described in Beware of Turning Hobbies into Jobs at Gaping Void.

And for a very effective dismantling of a similarly erroneous aphorism, check out I keep reading the argument that “Money can’t buy happiness.” It’s not that simple! at The Happiness Project.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

My Top 20 Tactics for Taming Terrible TV Addiction Madness

I basically made one New Year's Resolution last week: to work on my TV addiction. It's been with me for a long, long time, from my early days when I rushed home from school to watch Dark Shadows, through my higher education years (majoring in Television and Communications - what else?) I've realized I need to do something to curb my nightly channel surfing activities, but I wasn't having much luck in figuring out exactly what to replace the tube with until I fell upon The 9 Step Television Diet (at Think Simple Now, by way of The Happiness Project.)

Tina's list of television's evil effects hit home for me, and her options for battling this particular monkey are simple and achievable. They also encouraged me to come up with my own list of Things To Do Instead of Watching TV and Ways To Battle the Madness. They are:

1. Turn the TV on later in the evening. (I got used to this when I was working at home all last summer and fall.)
2. Cultivate the ability to turn things off. (I turn off the stove after using it - think of the TV as the stove.)
3. Increase my stamina. (This helps with number 15, below.)
4. Replace with working out, a class, a hobby
5. Move to someplace more active all year round
6. Turn on the radio - methadone for TV addicts
7. Call people on the phone
8. Take the laptop to a coffee shop
9. Turn the set on, but turn off the sound
10. Figure out other relaxation methods
11. Go to bed earlier. (This will allow me to Get up earlier.)
12. Move the Tube - to a less central and accessible location.
13. Get rid of cable. (This one's tough, unless I really start thinking about what I can buy with the money I've saved after 6 months - which amounts to a weekend trip to the beach!)
14. Stay longer at work.
15. Move my gym workouts to the evening.
16. Do home improvements
17. Plan out tomorrow or next week (lunches, dinners, work plan, workouts)
18. Allow for some (few) days when I will watch TV the way I used to. (During blizzards. And cold torrential downpours. When I'm sick. Or after a particularly stressful week or month.)
19. Freelance! (Make extra money!)
20. Blog.

(I would put "reading" as number 21, but for me, reading can become an addiction too. So while I definitely think it's better than watching "The Biggest Loser," I also consider it the methadone of TV addiction cures.)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Why You Might Change Your Passions and/or Dreams in Mid-Life

I used to be all about performing. Onstage, in concerts. Watching others tackle my original work. Paying big bucks to see the masters at work. I've sung in Carnegie Hall and on CBS for the Kennedy Center Honors. I've watched as television actors made my words their own and gave life to my characters in Los Angeles. I've witnessed firsthand some of the most legendary performers of the 20th century.

So why isn't it all that important for me to work in the performing arts anymore? I have my reasons, which I'll list below. Perhaps you'll recognize some of them yourself, if you're challenged by a major shift in your goals.

But first, check out what Hugh Mcleod has to say about this phenomenon, in his post Allow Your Work To Age With You at Gaping Void.

Hugh advocates quitting and moving on. I'm analyzing the possible reasons why one would quit that support Hugh's take on the subject. The reasons?

Those things are no longer fun.
Pursuing them makes no business sense - too much money expended for less and less returns.
Quitting allows for investigating other options and opportunities.
You've found something better.
It was never about [fill in the blank], and you've had enough of what it's about.
You've lost faith in the issue/idea/area.
You've lost respect for the issue/idea/area.
You've fulfilled your dream and don't need to go further.
The money didn't follow.
You feel there are too many sacrifices you continue to have to make.
It was someone else's dream in the first place.
It was more about proving something about yourself than a love for it (the issue, idea or area.)
You're much more enamored of part of the dream than the whole thing.
You've found easier/cheaper/better ways of working at your dream.
You ran out of ideas.
You've decided the amount of work you have to do isn't worth it in the long run.
It really is too hard to pull off.

I used to dream about making movies. Now I dream about travel, following the sun, being outdoors, athletic activity.

But it is strange to say goodbye to a passion that's taken up so much time and energy. But it needs to happen, since the passion is just not there anymore.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

How To Eat Healthier and Enjoy It in 2008
The long national nightmare known as The Holidays are now officially over, and 2008 has just begun. Time to throw away all the leftover gift chocolate, seal up the liquor bottles, and resign ourselves to Healthy Eating Madness. I know I can improve the quality of my food intake - my only problem is getting out of the chicken breast, broccoli and sweet potato rut. I searched a number of fitness sites, lifehack and diet blogs to come up with the following lists of healthy foods that might just help me introduce more variety into the potentially bland:

The 10 Best Foods You Aren't Eating - from Men's Health
Swiss chard
Pomegranate juice
Goji berries
Dried plums
Pumpkin seeds
Plus these extras:

The Top 5 Brain Health Foods - from Brain Ready
Wild Salmon
Cacao Beans
Matcha (Tencha-grade green tea powder)
Acai berries & Blueberries
Coffee beans

Top Ten Rejuvenating and Anti-ageing Foods - from Lifehack
Green vegetables
Whole wheat pasta and brown rice

10 BEST FOODS/Super Foods for Better Health - from CSPI
Sweet Potatoes
Grape Tomatoes
Fat-Free or 1 % Milk
Wild Salmon
Brown Rice
Citrus Fruit
Diced Butternut Squash
Spinach or Kale

The 29 Healthiest Foods on the Planet - from
Cranberry Juice
Bok Choy (Chinese cabbage)
Squash (Butternut, Pumpkin, Acorn)
Watercress and Arugula
Wheat Germ
Pinto Beans
yogurt 25.
Skim Milk
Shellfish (Clams, Mussels)

10 Super Foods for Better Health - from Dumb Little Man
Whole Grains
LegumesNuts and Seeds
Lean Protein
Olive Oil

Kick Start Your Day With These 11 Mood-Lifting Foods - from The Ririan Project

10 Great Foods to Melt Away Those Pounds - from Diethack
Black Beans
Cottage Cheese
Low-Fat Milk

5 Power Foods to Live Longer - from Diethack

Foods That Burn Fat/The Top 10 Lists - from Burn the Fat Blog

Starchy Carbohydrates and Grains:
1. Oatmeal (old fashioned)
2. Yams (almost same as sweet potatoes)
3. Brown rice (love basmati, a long grain aromatic rice)
4. Sweet potatoes
5. Multi grain hot cereal (mix or barley, oats, rye titricale and a few others)
6. White potatoes (glycemic index be damned!)
7. 100% whole wheat bread
8. 100% whole wheat pasta
9. Beans (great for healthy chili recipes)
10. Cream of rice hot cereal

1. Broccoli
2. Asparagus
3. Spinach
4. Salad greens
5. Tomatoes
6. Peppers (green and red)
7. Onions
8. Mushrooms
9. Cucumbers
10. Zucchini

1. Egg whites
2. Whey protein (protein powder supplement)
3. Chicken Breast
4. Salmon (wild alaskan)
5. Turkey Breast
6. Top round steak (grass fed beef)
7. Flank Steak (grass fed beef)
8. Cod Fish
9. Bison/Buffalo
10. Rainbow Trout

1. Grapefruit
2. Apples
3. Blueberries
4. Canteloupe
5. Oranges
6. Bananas
7. Peaches
8. Grapes
9. Strawberries
10. Pineapple

A Visual Guide to 15 Healthy Snacks - from Diet Blog
Raw Almonds
Raw Mixed Nuts
Dried Fruit
Dried Peas
Baby Carrots
Celery & Hummus
Cherry Tomatoes
Whole-grain Crispbread with Cottage Cheese
Bean Salad