Accredited by that guy, you know, with the hair

July 27th, 2003 § Comments off § permalink

I’m opening a prestigious new university in East Palo Alto. It’s called “Stanfard.”

Sure, the tuition at Stanfard is high, but you’ll be studying with all those Norbel laureates.

Let’s all go to the lobby

July 26th, 2003 § Comments off § permalink

Last night, I paid my first visit to the Pacific Film Archive, UC Berkeley’s motion picture collection. The archive screens classic films from around the world six nights a week. Many of them are too obscure for my taste—the archive devoted much of July to the work of Aki Kaurismäki, a Finnish director billed as the “dour master” of “the Helsinki-on-wheels road movie”—but Friday’s program of two restored American movies looked worthwhile.

Robert Gitt, the preservation officer at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, restored both films, and he was in Berkeley to introduce them. He was a bit apologetic about the first film, The Man on the Eiffel Tower, because the print was not up to his usual standards. It was hardly his fault. At the time it was made, most color films were shot on three-strip Technicolor—one strip for red, another for green, and another for blue—but The Man on the Eiffel Tower was shot on an experimental Ansco Color single-strip film stock. The results, apparently, were disappointing. The negatives were destroyed years ago, and only two color 35 mm prints survived, both of them heavily scratched and printed on deteriorating nitrate stock. With more time and money, he said, he and his team could clean up the film digitally. As it stands, it looks as though it were shot through a foot of mud.

Its technical heritage aside, The Man on the Eiffel Tower is a strange mess of a movie, rife with overacting and with plot twists that beggar belief. What kind of film finds it necessary to list “the city of Paris” as one of the actors but contains almost no written French, even less spoken French, and no actor who even tries to fake a French accent? And in what vanished Paris could one hail taxicabs—two of them—at five o’clock in the morning on a deserted street? Still, it’s almost worth seeing just for the chase scene on the Eiffel Tower, which really was shot on the tower and features the actors doing their own stunts, running across and dangling from the tower’s spans.

The second film, The Barefoot Contessa, was much better all around, especially the glorious Technicolor print. Humphrey Bogart looked especially cadaverous in this movie, which isn’t surprising when one considers that he died less than three years after it was released. My only complaint about The Barefoot Contessa is that it was 128 minutes long and had about 90 minutes worth of story to tell.

Robert Gitt answered questions from the audience after the first movie. I asked a dumb question about film restoration, which he answered very patiently. He is frightfully knowledgeable about film. After I walked away, I heard him mention to a friend of his that he wasn’t staying for The Barefoot Contessa, because although he loves it, he has seen it 40 times.

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled

July 22nd, 2003 § Five comments § permalink

Today is my twenty-fifth birthday. I am old, old, old. A quarter of a century old. Man, that is old.

Now that I’m not in my early twenties any more, I need to find ways to preserve my rapidly-dwindling youthful vigor for as long as possible. My ideas so far:

  • Sleep in a vat of formaldehyde
  • Read fewer books about city planning and more issues of Teen People
  • Part my hair behind
  • Dare to eat a peach
  • Drink the blood of newborn babies carrot juice

Any other suggestions?

This afternoon in Sproul Plaza

July 18th, 2003 § One comment § permalink

Guy 1: He was not!
Guy 2: He was!
Guy 1: He was not a pothead!
Guy 2: He was!
Guy 1: He was not!
Guy 1: (mumble)
Guy 2: That’s how he composed after he went deaf.

Also, as I passed the nutjob who tables for Lyndon LaRouche, he said, “Everybody with special sunglasses working together to get Cheney impeached.” Hooray! My sunglasses are special!

Only 27 percent lies

July 12th, 2003 § Comments off § permalink

Some of the fruits available at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market:

  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Apricots
  • Plums
  • Pluots
  • Plumcots
  • Apriums
  • Loquats
  • Apriplots
  • Plumpriapes
  • Apriplunectacots

It’s only Iraq ‘n roll (but I like it)

July 12th, 2003 § Three comments § permalink

Knight Ridder is reporting that the Pentagon had no plan whatsoever for maintaining order in Iraq after Baghdad fell (unless “fly in Ahmad Chalabi and wait for the accolades” counts as a plan). Don’t you hate it when your worst fears turn out to be true?

The small circle of senior civilians in the Defense Department who dominated planning for postwar Iraq failed to prepare for the setbacks that have erupted over the past two months.

The officials didn’t develop any real postwar plans because they believed that Iraqis would welcome U.S. troops with open arms and Washington could install a favored Iraqi exile leader as the country’s leader. The Pentagon civilians ignored CIA and State Department experts who disputed them, resisted White House pressure to back off from their favored exile leader and when their scenario collapsed amid increasing violence and disorder, they had no backup plan.

Today, American forces face instability in Iraq, where they are losing soldiers almost daily to escalating guerrilla attacks, the cost of occupation is exploding to almost $4 billion a month and withdrawal appears untold years away.

Most of the article’s sources are “senior government officials” and the like, so you never know; maybe some folks in the State Department just have axes to grind. Also, the article claims that “American planners plotted extraordinarily detailed blueprints for administering postwar Germany and Japan” before World War II ended, but I’m not sure that’s true—I don’t know about Japan, but the Marshall Plan for Europe wasn’t proposed until 1947.

Speaking of bad things and Iraq, since I posted earlier about the looting of the National Museum, I feel duty-bound to mention that the looting wasn’t quite as bad as people feared. Something like 6,000 items are missing, not 170,000. Still, that’s awful, and some of the items that have been returned are in miserable shape. Also, plenty of other sites were looted. Much of the looting could have been prevented if the Pentagon had bothered to develop a postwar plan.

I am going to try very hard to stop posting about Iraq.

I know what I did this summer

July 11th, 2003 § Four comments § permalink

I would write about all the interesting things I’ve been doing, but I’m too busy doing them. Here’s one recommendation, though: 826 Valencia in San Francisco is the city’s only independently owned and operated pirate supply store. Also, they offer free writing classes and tutoring for kids. It is a strange and wonderful place. Go there.

And for those of you who rely upon me for your amusement: If I ever open a fitness center with a religious theme, it will be called Pontius Pilates.


July 2nd, 2003 § Five comments § permalink

So you want a cephalopod for dinner, but the only thing in your fridge is a package of hot dogs. What are you going to do?

The answer is simple: You are going to buy an Octodog.

Just thinking about the name of this product makes me happy. Octodog octodog octodog octodog!

Summer means fun. I mean, school.

June 24th, 2003 § Five comments § permalink

Because I have no knowledge of statistics or microeconomics, I have to take two classes at Berkeley this summer before I start my graduate program. Both classes started on Monday. They are lower-division courses, which means plenty of clueless first-year students. Just try to imagine my joy.

In the first lecture for my statistics course, I learned that dice are six-sided cubes, each side with a different number of dots ranging from one to six. The professor even drew a die for us. By my calculations, that lecture cost me $9.41. I want a refund.

Fortunately, my microeconomics course is rather more interesting. It’s taught by the city planning department, and it focuses on economic issues that affect cities; the readings address sprawl, poverty, housing policy, and city form. Surprisingly, I am the only graduate student in the class, which means the other incoming grad students know microeconomics or are taking classes at junior colleges. Or maybe they’re just ignoring the prerequisites.

The most important lesson I have learned so far: Do not bike up to campus on Center Street until my leg muscles get stronger. They felt like jelly by the time I made it up the hill to the Campanile. Riding up Bancroft Channing to Telegraph is far less painful.

Your ass or a hole in the ground

June 18th, 2003 § Two comments § permalink

I spent a good ten minutes the other day looking for the UPS Store on Shattuck. It’s right by campus; I’ve walked past it a dozen times. But I couldn’t find it. You know why? Because I temporarily forgot that odd- and even-numbered addresses are on opposite sides of the street. What’s more, I didn’t realize my mistake until I had walked almost to Shattuck and Adeline—a half mile away—and dropped off my package at Shattuck Avenue Self-Storage.

Reminder: I am a graduate student in city planning.

Where am I?

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