Monthly Archives: October 2012

Lame Adventure 350: Time Tales at The Grind

For the past few weeks, months or years, it’s been one of those days for me.  There I was at The Grind sitting at my computer that’s situated directly below a vent breeding mold faster than rabbits mating on speed.

Innocuous looking ceiling vent.

Fertile mold.

Mold shacking up over my head.

I was crunching numbers while thinking philosophical thoughts:

Me: I wonder if Trader Joe’s will have those brandy filled chocolate beans this year?  Did I lock my door this morning?  How soon before I’m as obsolete as a public pay phone?

Empty pay phone hole — metaphor for my future?

My loyal sidekick, Greg, shattered my deep thoughts.

Greg:  Are you busy?

Me (thinking): Just going blind doing math before segueing into regretting the entire trajectory of my life.

Me (saying):  What do you need?

He asked if I could go into Photoshop and add a simple date to a simple label for him. He was in a bit of a hurry and he wanted to simply complete one project before simply starting another.  This request sounded reasonably simple to me:

Me:  Sure, give me five minutes.

My computer had other ideas.

“No Photoshop for you simpleton!”

For ten agonizing minutes I am stuck in the intersection of Irritating and Annoying before I am granted access to Photoshop so I can fulfill this simple request.  Just when I am going to print the label with the simple revision for Greg, my lord and master, Elsbeth, starts printing the equivalent of the phone book.  Finally, I give Greg, who started working on another project in the intervening 45 minutes, his simple label that inhaled the better part of an hour of what remains of my simply depleting life.

A few weeks ago, Greg gave me the paperwork for a delivery of tile that we received.  Another of my illustrious responsibilities as Minister of Tile that makes practical use of my fancy film school degree is to date stamp paperwork.  I am the type that can never remember the date, so that’s why I wear a state-of-no-art Timex with date-telling capability.  My timepiece is the consummate chick magnet to grandmother-types that wet dream about watch faces with numbers as big as eggplants:

Waiting a New York minute to learn the day’s date.

My boss has strong opinions about architecture.  I asked Elsbeth:

Me:  Hey boss, what do you think about the Hearst Tower?

Elsbeth:  Which building is that?

Me:  That one over on 57th and Eighth.

The address did not ring the gong in my superior’s head so I Google image searched it for her while accessing my inner NPR reporter.

Me:  They finished the base in 1928, but due to the Depression, they held off building the tower until 70 years later.  It opened in 2006.

Hearst Tower base completed in 1928. Architect: Joseph Urban.

Comedy and Tragedy with plenty to laugh and cry about.

Elsbeth looked at the resulting eyesore, liberally dropped words like hideous, ridiculous and awful accompanied by a few f-bombs with i-n-g endings.

Result: super modern glass and steel tower by architect Norman Foster that’s been jutting out of the base since it opened in 2006.

I agreed that time was not kind to this project or to quote my liege:

Elsbeth:  What the fuck were they thinking?

Unamused muses at the base.

The crass guest that’s here to stay jutting out of the base.

This week Elsbeth highly amused my colleague, (not) Under Ling (anymore), when she revealed that the reason our shared drive runs slower than a pregnant snail carrying a boulder is because:

Elsbeth (exasperated):  People are downloading all their personal crap on it, like pictures of their dog!

Not this dog waiting patiently for his master to throw him a bone.

Nor Thurber, my family’s dog, looking anxious in this picture my sister Dovima texted me as he’s about to leave for the kennel.

A month ago, (not) Under Ling (anymore) was feeling significantly less mirth when she burned her finger using a glue gun.

(not) Under Ling (anymore) giving me the index finger.

Now a message to my seven loyal readers, for the first time in 350 posts, before subjecting myself to the next 350 Lame Adventures, this site is going on hiatus until after the November election. Since I prefer the shiny, fresh and nubile, I’m not the type that republishes past posts, but if you crave a fix of Lame Adventures-style junk food for your mind, preferably while bored at work or in the process of getting dressed down by your main squeeze for forgetting to take out the trash, help yourself to reading any of the 349 others.  Check out different years. You might even hit on a good one. If you need a nudge from me about where to go, my personal favorite is the one with the photographs.

Lame Adventure 349: Farewell 2012 New York Film Festival

Sunday night the New York Film Festival closed with several screenings of Flight starring Denzel Washington.  He is one of my favorite actors, but I refuse to shell out $20 for a film opening nationwide November 2nd that I can see at my local multiplex before noon for seven clams.  Milton did snag a ticket, but if he thought that Flight was the greatest movie ever made, he is in no hurry to sing its praises to me.  I am not feeling any suspense as I await his verdict.  It is very likely that when I see him this evening, any discussion of Flight might well be superseded by something as mundane as someone in his office misplacing the precious pizza cutter that he personally guards.

Milton and I did see two more films together – a hit and a miss.  The miss was The Last Time I Saw Macao.  We, along with our fellow audience members attending this sold out screening, chose to see this film because we were so impressed with the Portuguese director, João Pedro Rodrigues’ previous film that played the NYFF in 2009, To Die Like a Man.  That earlier film was a compelling story about a drag queen in Portugal living her life as a woman whose estranged son in the military re-enters the picture.  If this film sounds anything like La Cage aux Folles, that’s unintentional for it’s very different and ends tragically, no heartfelt singing of I Am What I Am here.

For The Last Time I Saw Macao Rodrigues collaborated with João Rui Guerra da Mata, a fellow filmmaker of Portuguese descent that was raised in Macao, a former Portuguese colony in China.

João Rui Guerra da Mata (left), João Pedro Rodrigues, and NYFF moderator Melissa Anderson.

The filmmakers original intent was to shoot a documentary about how much Macao had changed since Guerra de Mata lived there thirty years ago.  Instead, they turned it into a story with film noir-type elements about a man the audience never sees searching for an unseen friend in some sort of trouble with unseen bad guys.  If that last sentence confused you, exalt in the fact that you were not attending that screening.

The dialogue is voiceover of Guerra da Mata reading his memoir about Macao and Rodrigues reading something else I was frankly too bored to recall, but they revealed afterward that they wrote the script after they shot the film.

It showed.  We suffered.

The action is all on the soundtrack while the images are focused on various scenery including numerous stray dogs and cats, building windows, a dead rat in the gutter, a shoe, a cloth-covered bird cage, etc.  While watching these images the viewer hears the action occurring off screen throughout the entirety of the film.  Sometimes the audience hears someone terrified pleading for her life followed with the sound of a loud splash, sometimes the audience hears gunshots, sometimes there’s a fantastically loud rumble as if Armageddon is approaching.  As the ending credits rolled Milton declared:

Milton: I could have made that on my fuckin’ iPhone!

Milton’s iPhone with screensaver featuring Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford in “Gilda”.

Afterward during the q&a, where much yawning was emanating all around us, one of the audience members volunteered:

Audience Member: I really didn’t understand who was being killed.

The filmmakers explained that they had made “an abstract film noir”:

Filmmakers: Some people get killed.  Some people survive.  Some people turn into animals.

Milton groaned deeply.  Afterward, he told me that the woman sitting next to him didn’t know whether to laugh or sleep.  He found her struggle infinitely more interesting than what was taking place onscreen.  He issued me a dictate:

Milton: If you write about this in your blog, don’t raise it a notch and call it crap!

The next day we saw No, a vastly more entertaining political thriller directed by Pablo Larraín set in Chile in 1988 when the Pinochet government announced they would hold a vote to get the people’s permission to maintain control.  The opposition was allowed 15 minutes of broadcast time each day for four weeks leading to voting day to build a case urging the citizens to vote no.  A clever  ad man played by Gael García Bernal oversees the No campaign.  Larraín intercut many of the actual campaign spots that were broadcast in 1988 within his film which he shot on U-matic videotape, the same format used in that era.  Compared to The Last Time I Saw Macao, No received our vote for the greatest movie ever made.

Pablo Larraín sitting between Antonia Zegers (left) and NYFF moderator Amy Taubin (right).

As Milton and I were leaving Alice Tully Hall for the last time until we return to the New York Film Festival in 2013 he announced:

Milton: This was a lot of fun even though I hated most of the films.

For anyone that would like to know what are Milton’s 100 personal favorite films click here.

Milton’s iPhone gotcha shot of Pablo Larraín.

Lame Adventure 348: Before and After

Last month, I either entertained or bored (depending on who you are) my dedicated readership of seven, when I took you on a virtual tour of the outdoor Saint Clair Cemin sculpture exhibit currently on display near seven subway stops on upper Broadway here in Manhattan.  For those of you that would like to take that tour click here.

“In the Center” in the center of the exhibit map.

Since I am a tactile type I have been known to run my hand over a surface, but I recall keeping my grubby mitts to myself when I photographed each work of art.   The sculpture called In the Center struck me as rather intimidating.  It’s an imposing fourteen and a half foot tall plaster of Paris, wood and metal figure in a gaucho hat holding a divining rod.  It’s so big it’s easy to feel like a dwarf when in its presence.

Before: “In the Center” under cloud cover giving me the divining rod.

A week ago, as I was approaching it, I was distracted from my regular go-to thoughts about sex and death while narrowly sidestepping a slow moving pigeon, when I did a double take.

After: “In the Center” under wraps under blue skies.

I thought:

Me (thinking):  Why is it in that huge plastic baggie?

Then, I looked closer and saw the answer.

Memo that arrived too late

Arm before.

Arm after.

I suppose the downside to a public art exhibit is some members of the audience, in particular those with the intellectual acuity of a small soap dish coupled with a lack of impulse control.   I don’t know who was compelled to climb it; possibly it was some dunderhead inspired to do chin-ups using the arms.  Or, it might have been a child that garnered parental approval when he or she needed to scratch the jungle gym itch.  Whoever it was I imagine that they had an audience and laughter filled the air until someone asked:

Someone:  Hey, is it me or do you hear something cracking?

Whoever was the culprit, it was not raining geniuses that day.  As for the progress of the restoration, In the Center remains under wraps.  In this state of disrepair, a more accurate name for it might be In the Bodybag.

It seems to be a very slow moving restoration.

Lame Adventure 347: New York Film Festival 2012

The New York Film Festival is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.  Milton and I have been there every day since Saturday, even though we’ve only seen three films thus far.  Milton, who has been a longtime member of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, has not been wild about the location of our seats.  For many screenings we seem to be sitting in the nosebleeds.

Guy playing the piano with his dog outside Alice Tully Hall on Saturday.

The first film we saw was Amour, written and directed by one of our favorite filmmakers working today, Michael Haneke.  He won the Palme D’Or at Cannes for this very unsentimental story set in Paris about Georges and Anne, a longtime married couple coping with the ravages of old age after one suffers a stroke and the other is the caregiver. The octogenarian actors, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, both give extraordinary performances. Veteran actress Isabelle Huppert plays Eva, their middle-aged daughter that resides in London, who feels increasingly frustrated and helpless every time she visits her parents.  Although this film is depressing,  Haneke is such a talented filmmaker, it is riveting and packed with brilliant moments including a chilling nightmare sequence that elicited gasps from the audience.  Of course the real horror is the physical decline that likely awaits many of us as we approach our own mortality.   Yee ha.

Paparazzo Milton sees Michael Haneke milling around the Alice Tully Hall lobby pre-screening of “Amour”.

We noticed that our audience was full of senior citizens including a woman that inched toward her seat with half the energy of a sleeping snail before she settled in front of us.  All the while her friend repeatedly bleated in a thick New York accent, “Fran!  Over here, Fran!  Fran, over here!”  This agitated Milton who kept muttering fluent monosyllabic. There was also quite a lot of loud phlegmy coughing around us prompting him to mutter:

Milton:  God, we’re seeing this in a tuberculosis ward.

Fortunately, the film was excellent, even though we were sitting in row U.

The next day we had tickets to Beyond the Hills, written and directed by the Romanian filmmaker Christian Mungiu.

Milton’s iPhone gotcha shot of Christian Mungiu mingling with fans post “Beyond the Hills” screening.

We’re sitting in row T and Milton is fixated on the two and a half hour running time:

Milton:  This better be good.

I reminded Milton about the Bela Tarr screening we attended last year for The Turin Horse, a film about the futility of existence as illustrated through an ill work horse and two peasants eating potatoes. It was 146 minutes long – but we both loved it.

Beyond the Hills, is a story set in the present about two 25-year-old women that were best friends in a Romanian orphanage after they were abandoned at a very young age by their parents.  One woman is essentially an atheist, but the other has joined a monastery.  When they were in the orphanage, the relationship was sexual.  The secular woman, after working as a waitress in Germany, misses her friend terribly, so she visits her in the monastery.  She wants to rekindle what they had before but the religious woman has decided to devote her life to God.  Life in the monastery provides her with security and a sense of home. The besotted secular friend, grows increasingly unhinged.  The members of the monastery, a priest and several nuns, resort to a barbaric religious ritual to control the situation.  It ends miserably.

Milton declared this film:

Milton: Brokeback Mountain meets The Exorcist.

Milton iPhone gotcha shot of Anjelica Huston trying to slip into Alice Tully Hall through a side door.

On Monday night Milton and I had tickets to a film written and directed by Sally Potter called Ginger and Rosa.  We have third row balcony seats, seats he despises because they’re located a time zone away from the screen.

Ginger and Rosa is a pretentious 89-minute film with a terrific classic jazz soundtrack that seemed to run five hours as I drifted in and out of consciousness.  The story is set in 1962 England during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a time when 17-year-old Ginger, a budding radical suffering extreme anxiety about a potential nuclear holocaust, worships her best friend, Rosa, a full fledged slut, who sleeps with Ginger’s cad of a father.  The worship ends, the world continues and Ginger writes a poem where she forgives Rosa.  Milton delivered a one-word review:

Milton: Awful.

I would have almost preferred watching a black screen with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie playing on the audiotrack.

Afterward he revised it when he assessed the talent of the 63-year-old filmmaker, Sally Potter:

Milton: She’s too old to be making a film this bad.

Then, he revised his assessment a third time; he was impressed with Elle Fanning’s performance as Ginger:

Milton:  I don’t know what’s in the water those Fanning sisters drink, but they all have talent.  Too bad they can’t find a filmmaker that knows what to do with them.

Elle Fanning sitting in the center during post “Ginger and Rosa” screening q&a. Photo taken from third row balcony seat i.e., the moon.

He added authoritatively:

Milton:  This was so bad it made Beyond the Hills seem like Gone with the Wind.

Red carpet.

Lame Adventure 346: The Old Bag is Dying

This is the right place for that idea.

Even though late at night and early in the morning, I have a cough that sounds like a death rattle and it currently feels like a colony of squirrels are performing the Gangnam Style dance inside my left knee, I am sticking around.  Now that it is October, and the weather in Gotham City is transitioning into real deal fall feel, I am savoring the final moments of tee shirt season as well as the magic hour clouds that almost appear to glow.

Magic hour cloud.

After I photographed this cloud above my Upper West Side neighborhood block, I turned my attention to the tree with the two bags tangled in its branches.

Tree with distinction of bagging today.

Same tree with hanging bags in March.

Last spring – halcyon days of tree bagging.

I can report with authority that one of the bags, the one in white plastic declaring, “thank you” — with an original purpose that was probably used in transporting a dinner delivery, entered the ether in September.  Together, lets pause and remember our departed tree bag-friend.

On that same September day in early fall, the Fairway grocery bag was continuing to hold its own.

Drunk with tree bagging power. “This tree is all mine!”

Therefore, it won Survivor: Tree Bagging.

Now, that it is October, it appears that after seven months of hang-time in that tree, nature is finally taking its toll on the surviving bag.

How the situation looked in September.

How things look in October.

It seems very possible that a drenching rainstorm coupled with the power of wicked wind, and this once hardy plastic bag that has been nestled in those branches since spring will be making its final exit.  Seasons change, leaves fall, and bags eventually disintegrate.  There you have it, the circle of tree-bag-life Lame Adventures-style.  This actually saddens me.

I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for this grocery store bag’s achievement.  The average bag likely ends up in a landfill within a week.  This bag not only survived its initial purpose, when it was used to carry groceries, but it survived the trash collector and made its escape into a tree, where it has resided since March.  It’s tackled seven months of outdoor elements.  That’s so remarkable.  What tenacity!  In bag-years, this bag is probably 90-years-old.  If a plastic bag could run for public office, this one would have made a formidable candidate.  Considering all that this heroic bag has seen from its perch, it might have been the one plastic grocery bag that could have served on the Supreme Court.  Alas, we’ll never know.  One can only wonder what this bag might say if it could talk, much less think.

“I will outlive you, bitch.”

Lame Adventure 345: Stiffed Again

Three days after I needed a tenth quarter to do my wash at my local Chinese laundromat, the 23 MacArthur Fellows for 2012 were announced.

Above at the Ansonia, below lies my laundromat.

Those selected in the arts included a flutist and arts entrepreneur in Brooklyn, a writer and professor at MIT, a mandolinist and composer in New York City, as well as a novelist and journalist in Washington. Recipients with singular talent also made the cut including my personal favorite a stringed instrument bow maker in Boston.  He must have appreciated the irony in receiving what the New York Times called “a no-strings-attached $100,000 a year for five years”.

I could not help but notice that many of the artistic recipients reside in the East, but once again no web writer, such as a blogger and numismatist on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, made the grade.  One would imagine that “blogger and numismatist” has enough of an esoteric ring to fit in with that elite crowd.

The MacArthur Foundation awards, also referred to as genius grants, cannot be applied for.  According to Wikipedia, “People are nominated anonymously by a body of nominators who submit recommendations to a small selection committee of about a dozen people, also anonymous.”  Therefore, nobody involved knows anyone, but then every year — poof — a select cluster receives half a million clams paid out in quarterly installments over five years.  Nice award if you can win it.  The chosen could afford air conditioning and an iPhone.  In fact they would not need to tear their hovel apart in search of that one elusive quarter.  They could afford to have their laundry done.   Unfortunately, once again, bloggers, the Rodney Dangerfields of the written word, were given no respect.

Three days earlier I had nine quarters when I needed ten to do my wash.  I looked through the quarters in my coin tray, but alas, every one of those eight dollars in quarters were either from the U.S. Mint’s America the Beautiful series or the 2009 District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters Program.

Coin tray full of rare coinage.

There are six coins in that program but thus far, I have only collected five.  It infuriates me that I’m still missing American Samoa, not that I have a clue where to find that territory on a map.  I have four Puerto Rico’s and three D.C.’s, but not a single American Samoa.  I also have five Grand Canyons and five Yosemite’s; rather popular tourist destinations with shoppers in my neighborhood unlike Alaska’s Denali National Park and Preserve quarter.  I think I will sooner see dead people than that one.  Even though I have duplicates of several coins in the America the Beautiful series, I refuse to subject any of my rare change the indignity of being ingested by the quarter quaffing machines at my laundromat. Although it is likely that when my niece, Sweetpea, inherits this fine collection, she’ll forget its distinction and will feed each and every one into a parking meter.

When I arrive at the laundromat, lacking a common Washington quarter circa 1998, I give the clerk two dollars and in exchange she gives me eight quarters.  One happens to be a Chaco Culture National Historical Park quarter, a quarter I did not know I lacked for a place in New Mexico I never knew existed.  When I regain feeling in my mind I celebrate and toss that quarter in my coin tray.

If a time arrives when the MacArthur selection committee either collectively slips up or lowers the bar to floor level and lifts the ban on awarding their fellowship to web writers, possibly a blogger, maybe one that wears a second chapeau as a numismatist with a now $8.25 quarter collection, will be considered to share the wealth. Or maybe that blogger and numismatist will sooner gain the ability to see stiffs.

I see balloon people.