Rocking 2004 like an old wooden chair

January 5th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

Happy New Year to one and all. I made numerous resolutions for 2004, none of which I will share with you, my beloved readers, because I don’t want to be mocked when I fail to fulfill most of them.

I got my first haircut of the new year today from a very crabby woman. She was so crabby, in fact, that the next person waiting for a haircut decided to wait for the next stylist rather than deal with her. (Or maybe my haircut was so bad that he was scared off. I honestly don’t know; I wasn’t that happy with it, but I dislike my hair even when everyone else says it looks fine. Sometimes I dream of hacking it all down to stubble, but the result, I suspect, would frighten small children.)

My brother and I went to Vancouver between Christmas and New Year’s, so maybe I’ll post something about that in a few days. I’m waiting to see if any of my pictures turned out decently. One never knows with a Lomo.

I’ve got bags of amchoor powder, I’ve got sumac, who could ask for anything more?

December 16th, 2003 § One comment § permalink

My last final for the semester was on Friday, and I turned in my last assignment on Saturday. I am officially done with my first semester of graduate school. Hooray!

I kept myself entertained during finals week by writing a top ten list of horrible, horrible pickup lines for first-year city planning students. Here’s an example: “Why don’t you come up to my studio and we’ll overlay our natural resources.” Trust me, if you were in my graduate program, you would find this hilarious.

Today, reveling in the glorious gift of free time, I biked to the Halal market on San Pablo to pick up some Indian and Turkish spices. The proprietor was using a band saw to slice a huge slab of lamb for an Indian woman and her Iranian friend. After he wrapped up their meat and pointed them towards the 20-pound sacks of basmati rice, he looked at me, the white guy from the suburbs, and grinned. “You see all kinds of people in this place,” he said. “I love it. I love it.” So do I.

A welcome diversion from graphs and charts

September 20th, 2003 § Five comments § permalink

I wasted half an hour this afternoon reading A Loafer’s Guide to the UC Berkeley Campus. There are so many great buildings on campus that I’ve never seen; I need to spend more time wandering around and checking them out. (I have spent plenty of time in the campus’ most terrible buildings. Evans Hall, where I had a statistics section this summer, is the worst, but my building is Wurster. Ha ha.)

Is this entry worth two drinks or four? Technically, I never mentioned my place of residence, but it’s strongly implied.

It is a statistics class

September 2nd, 2003 § One comment § permalink

One of my city planning classes might move from its current room, which is horribly overcrowded, to one of Wurster Hall‘s larger rooms. Unfortunately, the proposed replacement is room 101.

The door opened. With a small gesture the officer indicated the skull-faced man.

“Room 101,” he said.

There was a gasp and a flurry at Winston’s side. The man had actually flung himself on his knees on the floor, with his hands clasped together.

“Comrade! Officer!” he cried. “You don’t have to take me to that place! Haven’t I told you everything already? What else is it you want to know? There’s nothing I wouldn’t confess, nothing! Just tell me what it is and I’ll confess it straight off. Write it down and I’ll sign it–anything! Not room 101!”

“Room 101,” said the officer.

The man’s face, already very pale, turned a color Winston would not have believed possible. It was definitely, unmistakably, a shade of green.

“Do anything to me!” he yelled. “You’ve been starving me for weeks. Finish it off and let me die. Shoot me. Hang me. Sentence me to twenty-five years. Is there somebody else you want me to give away? Just say who it is and I’ll tell you anything you want. I don’t care who it is or what you do to them. I’ve got a wife and three children. The biggest of them isn’t six years old. You can take the whole lot of them and cut their throats in front of my eyes, and I’ll stand by and watch it. But not room 101!”

“Room 101,” said the officer.

– George Orwell, 1984

Putting the labor back in Labor Day weekend

August 29th, 2003 § One comment § permalink

I’ve added an RSS feed for the comments that y’all post on this site, so you can read the new ones in a newsreader. (Read my earlier post about newsreaders if you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.) Please try it and let me know whether you like it.

Having finished that, I can start on the 771 pages of reading that I have to do for class next week. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

Parentheses, exponents, multiply, divide, add, subtract

August 16th, 2003 § Three comments § permalink

Please excuse my dear aunt Sally the lack of posting. I have had one of those summer flus that drags on for a week, causing new and frustrating symptoms each day even as you feel generally better. On Thursday, for example, I woke up to discover that some miscreant had filled the left side of my head with cement. Not fun. I am almost over it now, I think.

Last Saturday, just as I was starting to get sick, I spent the afternoon tromping around in the Inner Richmond district in San Francisco, for no particular reason other than a desire to go someplace I had never been. The western part of the city is not densely developed at all, especially compared to the neighborhoods, like North Beach or the Financial District, that most people associate with San Francisco. Even though I knew what to expect in advance, the trip there on the 2 Clement (pronounced “Cluh-MENT,” according to the disembodied voice of Muni) was disorienting; when one is a stone’s throw away from downtown San Francisco, one does not expect to see boxy single-family houses with front yards and narrow sidewalks.

I never made it very far beyond Clement Street, which is sort of what Chinatown would be if you smooshed it out. Clement is known for its restaurants, so for lunch, I tried my first ever Vietnamese sandwich at Little Paris (444 Clement). It wasn’t that great–much too dry for my taste. Most of the other customers were eating steaming bowls of pho, and the smell made me wish I had ordered that instead. My next stop was Green Apple Books (506 Clement), which has an unusually wide range of both used and new books. It’s easily the best used bookstore I have seen in San Francisco (not that I have seen many). Before taking the bus back downtown, I went to one of the many grocery stores on Clement and bought some weird Asian candy, including a bag of those tamarind candies that come with the check at Thai restaurants. Am I the only person on the planet who likes those? Most people seem to think they are at best okay, and I have seen one or two people become nauseated after eating them.

Since my trip to the Richmond, I have been coughing up green goo and finishing my summer classes. Graduate orientation starts this coming Wednesday. Soon I will be planning cities like nobody’s business.

Or I could sell a kidney

July 29th, 2003 § One comment § permalink

UC Berkeley just gave me my financial aid offer for the year. I should have plenty of money, as long as I steal my textbooks from other students, make my own clothes from burlap sacks, entertain myself by sitting very still for long periods of time (so as not to wear out the burlap), and feed myself by eating my furniture.

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 2: BEETHOVEN WAS A POTHEAD!
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!

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