Peter Franus, you’ve done it again

August 5th, 2005 § Seven comments § permalink

As if to compensate for the recent margarita-swilling escapades, my leisure activities this week have been distressingly wholesome. For example, I bought Kirby cucumbers at the farmers’ market and tried, but failed, to make fresh pickles; alas, my brine proved insufficiently briny. I’ll try again next week, possibly with green beans rather than cucumbers. (This experiment was the first in a new series, in which I will try to stop being lazy about purchasing things at the store that can just as well be made at home. Next up: hummus. And there might be some canning before I’m through. Look out, people.)

Oh, but the virtue doesn’t stop there. I also got a card for the Oakland Public Library; sold a few unneeded possessions on eBay; attended a going-away party for an old friend; and cleared away the piles of paper in my office. What’s going on here? I’m a young, city-dwelling, single male who can pass as a hipster in dim light, and yet I’m sitting at home on a Friday night, updating my weblog and sipping a minerally Sauvignon Blanc with a pronounced note of grapefruit. Shouldn’t I be drinking Jack Daniels and trashing a hotel room somewhere instead?

Well, I suppose that wild abandon has never really been my métier, as evidenced by my use of the word “métier.” For this week, at least, I’ll have to settle for the simpler pleasures of responsible adulthood.

I put the smash down, I put it down

July 31st, 2005 § Four comments § permalink

Okay, okay, so I haven’t been posting enough, or indeed at all, for the past month. I’ll try to do better.

Last night, I joined a couple of friends in the Mission for dinner at an unusual slice joint—each slice is really a miniature pizza, since it’s made fresh for its buyer rather than taken from a whole pizza and reheated. We then attended what may have been the city’s all-time worst short film festival, which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty. Let’s just say that there were two films of a performance artist who described her work as “outspoken-word poetry.” After one particularly excruciating entry, one of my friends turned to me and said, with a poker face, “This is a totally authentic experience.” We left early to cleanse our heads with some of the Latin American Club‘s infamous margaritas, which come in pint glasses and give one a sense of what it would be like to get hit in the head with a tequila-filled baseball bat.

Today I’m having a relaxed morning at home, reading the New York Times and listening to one of my strange neighbors playing quasi-Eastern-mystical banjo music in the building’s courtyard. I need to leave soon, though, so I can go see a movie about adorable penguins, who I trust will keep the outspoken-word poetry to a minimum.

Brew by Buñuel

June 30th, 2005 § 13 comments § permalink

This Stella Artois ad is officially the best advertisement of all time. Whether it ever causes a single person to purchase Stella Artois is beside the point.

A non-vegan apology

June 19th, 2005 § Five comments § permalink

To my friends who used to complain when I dug the middle out of a soft, rinded cheese instead of eating the rind, little suspecting that I would one day change my ways, then find myself at a gathering where someone else had excavated the middle of a wedge of Brie, leaving me with nothing but rind when I sliced off a piece for myself: You were right, I was wrong. Sorry about that.

“Baby Bullet” is also a double entendre

June 8th, 2005 § One comment § permalink

Um, Caltrain, is there something you’d like to tell us?

Pitchfork darlings

June 8th, 2005 § Five comments § permalink

All the cool kids probably know about this already, but if you like the sort of music they review over at Pitchfork, you should check out It’s a fantastic Internet-only radio station with unusually high-quality streaming audio. At the moment, they’re airing an excellent live set with Architecture in Helsinki; before that, they played Sleater-Kinney, Bloc Party, Sondre Lerche, and Magnolia Electric Co. It’s what radio would be if it didn’t suck.

The purpose of concrete jacks

June 6th, 2005 § One comment § permalink

When I lived in Santa Cruz, I sometimes visited Seabright Beach and wondered why all those concrete jacks were piled up on the shore next to the yacht harbor. Thanks to “The Atlantic Generating Station,” from John McPhee’s book Giving Good Weight, I now know the answer:

East London’s breakwater had been weakened by rough seas some years earlier, and now the storm of 1963 tore off sixty per cent of the armor. Eric M. Merrifield, East London’s harbor engineer, wondered whether that would have happened if the armor had not been solid—had not been designed to accept on one plane in one moment the great force of the ocean. He decided to reconstruct the breakwater with porous armor, and in doing so he invented a momentous novelty in harbor engineering.

The idea was to cover the breakwater with objects of branching shape—like children’s jacks—that would engage with one another, clinging together while absorbing and dissipating the power of waves. There had been similar attempts. The French had tried a four-legged concrete form, a tetrapod, and it had worked well enough but had required an expensive preciseness in construction, because each one had to be carefully set in place in relation to others. Merrifield wanted something that could almost literally be sprinkled on the breakwater core. Eventually, he thought of dolosse.

Dolosse—the singular is dolos—were crude toys that had been used by South African white children since the eighteen-thirties, when they acquired them from tribal children in the course of the eponymous trek, the overland march of the voortrekkers from the Cape Colony to the Transvaal. A dolos was the knucklebone of a goat or a sheep, and might be described as a corruption of the letter “H” with one leg turned ninety degrees. The game that had been played with dolosse by voortrekker children, and by South African children ever since, was called knucklebone. As crude toys, dolosse were also thought of as imaginary oxen. Witch doctors had used them as instruments of magic power. Merrifield replicated them on a grand scale in concrete, making dolosse that weighed twenty tons apiece, and with these he armored his breakwater. When high seas hit them, the water all but disappeared—no slaps like thunder, no geysers in the air. The revised breakwater seemed to blot up the waves after breaking them into thousands of pieces.

Eustace Tilley, you magnificent bastard

June 1st, 2005 § 10 comments § permalink

The New Yorker is about to publish all of its back issues in digital form. Every issue from 1925 through last February, all on eight DVDs—and for just $63 on Amazon. Oh, sweet glorious day! Now I can read those legendarily interminable articles from the William Shawn era in the comfort of my own home. I haven’t preordered this yet, but it’s really just a matter of time.

Writing this made me realize that I don’t really know any other New Yorker geeks—plenty of people who enjoy the magazine, but few, if any, who are obsessed with it to the point of knowing its history. It’s probably just as well. I’d hate to find myself spending all my time in some New Yorker chat room, arguing about Peter Arno cartoons from 1932 and writing Harold Ross/Robert Gottlieb slash fiction.

The joy of vituperation

May 23rd, 2005 § One comment § permalink

No critic pans a movie more effectively than the New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane. In last week’s issue, Lane savaged Return of the Sith with such unbridled glee that George Lucas may actually have shed a minuscule tear onto the enormous pile of cash that he uses as an armchair. An excerpt:

[T]he one who gets me is Yoda. May I take the opportunity to enter a brief plea in favor of his extermination? Any educated moviegoer would know what to do, having watched that helpful sequence in “Gremlins” when a small, sage-colored beastie is fed into an electric blender. A fittingly frantic end, I feel, for the faux-pensive stillness on which the Yoda legend has hung. At one point in the new film, he assumes the role of cosmic shrink—squatting opposite Anakin in a noirish room, where the light bleeds sideways through slatted blinds. Anakin keeps having problems with his dark side, in the way that you or I might suffer from tennis elbow, but Yoda, whose reptilian smugness we have been encouraged to mistake for wisdom, has the answer. “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose,” he says. Hold on, Kermit, run that past me one more time. If you ever got laid (admittedly a long shot, unless we can dig you up some undiscerning alien hottie with a name like Jar Jar Gabor), and spawned a brood of Yodettes, are you saying that you’d leave them behind at the first sniff of danger? Also, while we’re here, what’s with the screwy syntax? Deepest mind in the galaxy, apparently, and you still express yourself like a day-tripper with a dog-eared phrase book. “I hope right you are.” Break me a fucking give.

Bay to Breakers

May 17th, 2005 § Nine comments § permalink

I did Bay to Breakers with a bunch of my planning pals last weekend. Are there photos? Yes, there are.