Thursday, August 31, 2006

My least-favorite things

--When the dog bites

--When the bee stings

--When I'm feeling sad

--Donald Rumsfeld


A rerun from March 25, 2005. Yes, I'm still busy at work.

I'm not sure why--something to do with the images it links to?--but this one post gets an odd amount of traffic.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Small but Smart

Remember I mentioned the Smart car we had in Italy?

Now, Smart cars are coming to the U.S. in 2008.

I have to admit, though, I'd be leery of driving one on the L.I.E. surrounded by SUVs. They are seriously tiny.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Why I will never write perfume reviews for The New York Times

Because I could never string together sentences like these:
Bigarade smells like a person trapped in a complex weather system, the wonderful scent of a guy's armpit and a woman's humid skin washed in fresh rainwater and ozone. ... It is a masterful juxtaposition, and smelling Bigarade is like looking down into a well of cool, black water. Your retinas expand from the strange pleasure of this scent. --The New York Times

I suspect this writer's retinas have expanded from sniffing glue, not perfume.

(I should point out that I saved a draft of this on Sunday for later posting, and Gawker pointed out the same passage on Monday. No plagiarism intended.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

postcardBy the looks of that skyline, Florida had just had a nuclear bomb set off when this picture was taken. I fear Iran will have a glow that color soon, but I digress. My folks sent this to my brother a couple of years before I was born. I love that it's addressed to "Master John."

Feb. 25, 1960.

Dear Johnny Boy*:

This is the long bridge Mommy and Daddy went over the other day.

It was sunny early today and we went down to the beach. We collected some more shells for you and Joy. I got you a bathing suit, too. Now it is raining again.

xxxxxxxxx

Love, Mommy and Daddy


My mother's notes tend to be heavy on weather details.

As always, click to enlarge.

*When I want to annoy him, I still call my brother this.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

From a co-worker's IM to me

If this [company] were "Lost," we'd have one episode. Plane crashes, everyone looks at one another, finds the biggest tree branch or piece of wreckage, and either bashes the person next to them or begs to be put out of their misery. Then the polar bear would come and gnaw on the bones of the dead.

Morale is a little low.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Reduced blogging ahead

The magazine where I work has a large special issue in the works and I barely have time to breathe, so there won't be many updates over the next three weeks.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Head of the Peconic River, Riverhead, Long Island, N.Y.

The town where I grew up. I don't think I've ever seen it look quite this lovely, probably because this card dates from the '40s and I date from the '60s.

Click to enlarge.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

And now a word from our sponsor

Yes, this is real. It was shown when "The Flintstones" originally aired in prime time. Winston sponsored the program.

Amazing.

Friday, August 18, 2006

If you see me walking down the street, and I start to cry each time we meet ...

For Christ's sake, give me a Kleenex or something. Jeez.

How to misread the news

The Bush administration is appealing

Oh, it is, is it? Poll numbers are down everywhere--even in Fox News polls!--and the Bush administration is appealing??? C'mon! This is typical mainstream-media-in-the-White-House's-sway crap! How about taking your collective head out of your collective ass and doing some real reporting?!
... a court decision that allowed a lawsuit to go forward challenging the president's warrantless domestic spying program. --The Associated Press

Oh. Never mind.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Do the math

As of 4:45, the number of stories on Google News about JonBenet Ramsey's killer: 3,301

Number of stories about ruling that White House's eavesdropping program is unconstitutional: 426

I'm calling you out, Pluto!

Yeah, you, Pluto! You call yourself a planet? Don't make me laugh! I've pooped bigger planets than you!

I know planets. I've lived on planets. And you, sir, are no planet.

We hate it when our friends become successful

Fresh out of college, back when I was an editorial assistant at William Morrow, I became friendly with another one of the assistants.

He was an aspiring writer, and around the time I left the company, his boss, a successful editor (he was the first to publish Michael Chabon, who later went on to win a well-deserved Pulitzer), bought a collection of this fellow's short stories for Morrow. It was quite a coup, really, though as a book of stories by an unknown writer, I doubt it sold more than a handful of copies. And, honestly, I kinda didn't like his writing very much. I mean, the book was OK ... but that was about it. It tried too hard, if you know what I mean. Even the title of the collection (which I'll leave out here, in case he Googles himself) worked too hard to sound serious.

As "work friends" often do, we didn't keep in touch after leaving the company, and I didn't really think of him again until a few years ago, when The New Yorker (yes, The New Yorker*) published a new story of his.

I found it completely unreadable--and I tried to get through it twice. Pretentious as hell, artsy-fartsy (heavy on the fartsy), everything I don't like about New Yorker fiction. (I love the mag's nonfiction, and read as much of it as I have time for.)

And, boy, was I jealous. I mean, he's in The New Yorker, for Christ's sake!

And now he has a short story in the new issue, too.

And, no, I don't like it.

Why? Well, among other things, he doesn't put quoted dialogue within quotation marks. Sorry, I find that unpardonable. (I know some very popular, critically aclaimed books, including All the Pretty Horses and, I think, Cold Mountain, do the same thing. That's why I refuse to read them.)

Still, color me green.

*And, yes, I use this dumb gag every time I mention The New Yorker, which might amuse the one person who remembers the magazine's ubiquitous-in-New-York TV ad campaign from the early '80s.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Global warming's upside

Jill Sobule came to my area a couple of months ago, and put on a fine, fun show. Having what's perceived as a novelty hit--in her case, "I Kissed a Girl"--kick off your career can be a real mixed blessing. Yeah, your name gets known and you make some quick cash, but the "novelty" tag sticks and people get sick of you quickly.

She writes witty, catchy, often deceptively cutting pop songs as well as more folkie story/character songs. IMO, she's seriously underappreciated.

Anyway, she sang this the night I saw her. Here's footage of the first time she performed the song, written after a challenge a couple of days before an Al Gore appearance, which I found on YouTube.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Brooklyn Bridge at Night, New York City

More from The Velvet Blog's ongoing vintage postcard series.

I love this one! The colors, the layout--it's just beautiful.

(Click to enlarge)
Aug. 9, 1954

Dear Miss Berry--

Hope you got away on that trip. New York is as far as I'll get this summer. But, as always, it is wonderful.

Love,
Rose

Monday, August 14, 2006

Stranger things

CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President George W. Bush faced major security challenges on three fronts on Sunday as he prepared to return to Washington after a 10-day working vacation at his ranch. ...

Bush puts down his summer reading--including Albert Camus' "The Stranger," and two books on Civil War President Abraham Lincoln--in favor of presidential briefing books.
--Reuters


Whatever the reasons, Camus' story line is ripe for geopolitical literary misinterpretation. The main character, Meursault, spends much of his life as the young George Bush did, engaging in escapades that demonstrate little drive or motivation. On a visit to the beach with friends, he gets into a fight with some Arabs. Later, he finds one of the Arabs and without much further provocation shoots him repeatedly. During the circus-trial that follows, and the long hours Meursault spends in jail, he is remorseless and unable to engage in contemplation. On the day of his execution, he has a flickering thought that he might have lived another life. But mostly he's excited about the day and hopes that everyone will cheer for his death. --Slate

Best name for an actress--ever

Prunella Scales

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Buona notte (part 4--the final chapter)

The Coliseum and environs:

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The Coliseum was extremely crowded, and it was very hot, so we didn't stay long. Instead, we spent most of our last full day in Rome at the Doria Pamphilj (the j is pronounced like an i), an amazing gallery that's part of an old (and very rich) Roman family's home. They've been collecting art since, oh, the 1600s.

They don't allow photos there, so here's a picture from a card:

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The Pamphilj doesn't get a lot of press, but it's a must-see, in my opinion.

Now, about that trip home...

Oh, it was bad. We barely made the flight, though we were at the airport two hours early. Customs at Kennedy when we arrived home was even worse.

But why spoil a great trip by dwelling on the difficult journey home?

We didn't throw any coins in the Trevi fountain so I don't know if we'll be back, but there's still plenty more to see.

Nevertheless, the next vacation we take, we're driving.

God, I hate airports.

Friday, August 11, 2006

What not to take on planes

--Water
--Toothpaste
--The DaVinci Code
--Your complete Ginzu knife set
--Snakes
--Mel Gibson

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Thought for the day

When hair gel is outlawed, only outlaws will have hair gel.

Buon giorno (part 3)

Last Thursday, we drove from Ortona back to Rome. The scenery along the way was quite beautiful, but, damn, it's hard to take a decent picture from a car going 120 kilometers per hour.

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Finding the hotel, just outside the city's border, was a bit of a hunt, but it turned out to be worth it.

View from the terrace as we ate dinner that night:

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We spent pretty much all of Friday at the Vatican Museum. The line was daunting when we got there, but it moved swiftly, and the Vatican's art collection is beyond amazing.

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The mask of tragedy. I often feel like this:

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The Raphael rooms are beyond amazing. Who knew my favorite Ninja Turtle was such a great painter?

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As long as you don't use a flash, you can pretty much take pictures anywhere in the museum--except the Sistine Chapel. Since I couldn't photograph the famous Michelangelo painting of God touching Adam, I offer this close approximation:

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As we left the museum, there was a tiny little nun in full habit talking on a bright red cell phone. She was adorable, and I tried to take her picture, but it didn't come out. Damn. Taking candids makes me uncomfortable, so I didn't press it--and I realized later that the memory card in my camera was full.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Buon giorno (part 2)

More from around the house in Ortona--

There were lots of olive trees on the property:

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View from the bedroom:

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Midweek, we went to Chieti, a VERY hilly town about 40 minutes from Ortona, which had a couple notable museums that housed ancient art from the area. Did I mention it was hilly? 'Cause it was.

I have no one to blame but myself, but I got really sick from walking up and down Chieti's hills in 90-something-degree sun--I guess it was heat stroke plus deyhydration. That night, I had chills, fever, pounding headache. I really didn't feel back to normal for 48 hours.

I cannot stress this enough: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

View from one of the hills, on the way to a museum:

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This statue, known as the Warrior of Capistrano, dates from the 6th century BC. Quite a jaunty hat!

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Can't remember the date on this, but I found this mother-godess figure to be quite striking:

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She was housed in this room that had very eerie lighting:

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Before there were Buns of Steel, there were Buns of Marble:

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Seriously, people had really nice heinies back then.

Monday, August 07, 2006

If you ever see me using one of those phones that you wear on your ear ...

... please kill me.

Buon giorno (part 1)

I love visiting places. I have come to hate the process of traveling.

The trip over to Italy wasn't too bad, I guess. The check-in area for Eurofly--remember that name, and then never fly that airline--was a bit of a mob scene, but we got through in plenty of time.

The seats on the Airbus plane were ridiculously close together, however. When the guy in front of me put down the back of his seat, it felt like it was six inches from my face. He left it down in that position for the entire flight. Fortunately, there was one empty seat beside us, and Will and I moved over.

When a young Italian-Italian guy did the same thing to an older Italian-American woman in the aisle to the side of us, her husband and the young guy screamed at each other pretty much on and off for the entire trip. A flight attendant intervened a couple of times. It was ridiculous.

If you're sleeping for a while, fine. But to shove your seat in someone's face for the duration of an almost 9-hour flight is beyond rude, if you ask me.

Please, airlines, listen: We need more room!

When we landed in Rome, we waited over two hours for my bag, and one of Will's two bags. The other bag was lost, so he had to fill out forms and give the airline the address of the house we were visiting in Ortona, a seaside town on the Adriatic, about 3-plus hours from the city. The bag didn't arrive till two days later (no indication where it had been hiding), and then the courier had trouble finding the house (understandable, given where it was located), so we waited around for half the day.

I'll be posting about the trip pretty much in chronological order, so I'll just say this about the journey home, as foreshadowing: Ugh.

But now, enough of my bitching, because actually being in Italy was wonderful.

Here are a few pictures from the start of the trip:

Italy is surpringly (well, to me, anyway) mountainous. Here's the view from the car, just a little ways from Rome.

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Oh, yes, driving. I made it clear to Will that I was NOT driving in Italy unless he was attacked by rabid dogs and I had to get him to the hospital. The Long Island Expressway is scary enough, thanks.

But we rented a car, the absolutely adorable Smart car--seriously, you just want to pick it up and put it in your pocket ... and you probably could--and we made out fine. Fortunately, I don't know the kilometers/miles conversion, so I have no idea how fast he was driving. Also fortunately, there was surprisingly little traffic on the highway.

We were a bit exhausted from the flight and the time difference, so we decided to break up the drive to Ortona by stopping in a lovely town called Sulmona. The ostensible reason was that Will had heard there are some ruins there worth seeing. But we couldn't find them, so we had some gelato instead. Gelato is tastier than ruins, anyway.

Two shots in Sulmona:

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The directions to Ortona were fine, except once we finally got there and had to find the house, which turned out to be up a dirt road and hidden by some huge hedges. But, oh, what a nice house (but did I think to get a shot of the outside? no.) and the location could not have been prettier. The view from the terrace:

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I take a lot of pictures through doors or windows. So here's the first of many:

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More to come in dribs and drabs over the coming days.