Saturday, January 18, 2003 at 15:12:05 (EST)

Christmas in Paris
I finally finished the story of our trip to Paris. It really goes on too long and the grammar is suspect. But if you have nothing else to do, it should give you a vague idea of what we did all week while everybody else was arguing with their parents about what to watch on TV.

Posted By Jimmy Legs
Click here to read the tale
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Saturday, January 18, 2003 at 14:44:29 (EST)

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Stiff Kittens!
I was shopping for J's birthday present at J&R, the store in Park Row that hopes to eventually sell Absolutely Everything. I was looking in the music store for something gift-like when I stumbled upon this little box set, all by itself in the corner shelf. It's the Stiff Records Box Set, and seemed quite out of place, sitting down the row from Aerosmith's Pandora's Box and Neil Diamond's Play Me. All I know about Stiff Records is that in 1977 they held a marathon band show in Manchester to find new bands, and Joy Division (who may or may not have been known as "The Stiff Kittens" at that point) played at 2:30 in the morning. It was one of their first shows, and apparently really helped put them on the map, even though Stiff never ended up signing them. But it turns out that Stiff Records was actually responsible for a ton of crazy acts from the mid 70s to the 80s, producing stuff by Elvis Costello, Richard Hell, Nick Lowe and The Pogues. But so far it's the bands I've never heard of that I like the best, like Ian Dury , The Pink Fairies and Wreckless Eric. The bands mostly come from England's pub-band scene, which is a nice counterpoint in punk history to the artier bands like Wire or Television. For some reason in the past year, I have suddenly become interested in this old stuff again, after having pretty much ignored anything that wasn't American-based since I was in high school. It occurs to me if somebody put together a band of cute hipsters and made them basically play what the Damned was playing in 77, they'd be assured of success à la The Strokes. It's just old enough to sound new these days.

When I'm not plotting how to capitalize on other people's previous successes, I shop for appliances. Our apartment is needing several household items to make life tolerable during this harsh winter. I just ordered a new humidifier, as the one we've got bites the big one. We're getting a 'warm mist' humidifier, one that doesn't need a big disgusting filter to operate. Also I'm looking for a space heater as the house's furnace is not keeping up with our needs. Or rather, the landlady is trying to freeze us to death instead of forking over a little more to keep the heat up. I guess I could take a stand and insist she follow the guidelines of the Heat Maintenance Code, but since we haven't had a lease for almost a year and she hasn't raised the rent at all, I figure I should continue to lay low. Our roommate, N, has been getting loonier about stuff of late, especially our use of the oven as a heat source. Since we don't pay for gas at all, I've been running the oven during the day to heat things up, but she is convinced that it will eventually blow up the house. Of course, ovens are designed to run for long periods of time, but because we're using it for something other than its intended purpose, she gets all whiny. She doesn't have the brain power to deal with things that are at all out of the ordinary. It's sad really. I'd hate to think what would happen if she was shipwrecked on an island. Actually, I quite enjoy imagining what would happen to her.

Next on the list is a new microwave. B's ancient microwave fell apart recently, which is good news for me because I hate it. It's probably 20 years old, weighs a million pounds, takes up an enormous amount of space and probably uses more electricity than all the computers in the house combined. We've never used it for anything larger than a package of frozen vegetables. Most of the time I just heat up coffee in it. So I wanna get a little, efficient thing but it's been approximately 10 years since I last shopped for one. I've been trying to find one online but I can't tell what they're like form the little pictures. This is a real drag, since if I had my way, I'd be ordering everything from pizza to beer online, if only I could get the stuff quickly. So my plan is to go shop for a microwave at a retail establishment, then come home and find it online. That's the other good thing about online shopping: getting somebody else to lug the thing back your house. Even a small microwave would be a pain to schlep home; and it's way too cold to think about that. I've been dawdling here all afternoon just because I don't wanna go out in that deep freeze.

Tonight is the Cody ChesnuTT show! M got us comp tickets to it. This will be a bizarre show. Cody and Bobby Bland, who's like really old school. I can't wait to see what the crowd will be like. The New Yorker says the show will be one of the highlights of the year, at least for BAM. I've gotta get out and see those movies I wanted to see before it's tool late. I fear I'll miss Spike Lee's movie if I wait much longer. Hey, I think I saw Joie Lee drive by the other day in a Volvo with a little dog in her lap. But I could be wrong. I used to see her around the neighborhood with some frequency, but the last celebrity I saw was Rosie Perez at the Dog Show. We need more famous people in our neighborhood. M said that he saw Tom Noonan getting off the train at our stop, but he kinda scares me.

Posted By Jimmy Legs

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Friday, January 17, 2003 at 10:25:44 (EST)

I'm a little Yes Man
As many of you know, I execute most of my professional duties from the comfort of my own bedroom. I'm not a prostitute, however, regardless what my boss likes to say. I am a Telecommuter, and although I have been known to show up at the office downtown, I work from home almost all the time. Those of you who must slog it on the train every day may feel a small bit of envy for this life I've managed to rig, but I am here today to tell you of its darkside. Sure I dont' have to get up until the very last minute, I can wear whatever I want, and I never miss a UPS delivery. Best of all, I don't have to deal personally with all the idiots I work for. But when you work from home, they can get you whenever they see fit.

Yesterday I had to work way past what I would consider a normal workday because some clown in Arizona needed some changes to the website, basically so he could copy my work and take credit for it. This is a prelude to what I will have to do next Friday. I have just been informed that on Friday the 24th, I will be expected to attend my laptop all day and all night, if necessary, to publish some web pages at a certain time. My company launches its new site on this date, and they need somebody to pull the big lever; that person is me. My boss assures me that the switch won't need to be thrown any later than midnight, after which point I'm back on my own time! Yay.

So I basically have to sit around here all night, waiting for a phone call to cue me into action. Then, one minute and three seconds later, my work will be done. I'm trying to decide how to account for this on my time sheet. Do I dare claim all the hours from 9 that morning until midnight? Anyway, the point is that since I've started this telecommuting gig, there has been an unspoken rule that states I am to cheerfully accept any work given to me at any time. I really must wonder what would be expected of me in these cases had I not entered upon this world of VPN and Soft Tokens. Actually, no I don't. Last time a big thing like this was launched, my coworker D had to hang around the office all weekend, sleeping on the floor of his cubicle and whatnot. Yikes. I'd like to think I'd draw the line there.

Most of my above-and-beyond duties don't involve big projects. People just call or email me at odd hours and ask me to upload something, or convert something. It's no big deal. But there is something to be said for the supreme disconnect that occurs for bricks-and-mortar office drones when they walk out of the office. Whatever's happened, stays in that room. It's like having an affair with a boring, poorly dressed woman who suffers mood swings and low self-esteem; she may demand all of your attention for a few hours, but she'd never have the guts to call your house.

Posted By Jimmy Legs

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Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 18:11:23 (EST)

CD companies are paying off like slot machines!
Hey, somebody filed a class action lawsuit against all the big CD manufacturers and they're settling out of court. What this means to us is they're gonna give everybody who files a claim up to $20! So it's only $20 (and maybe a lot less if too many people sign up), but what a cool thing to happen. We'll watch the RIAA shut the fuck up about P2P apps when CDs are back down to a reaosnable price and people start buying them again. Follow the link below to file a claim. It sort of sounds like a scam, but all the evidence I've gathered seems to point to its veracity.

Posted By Jimmy Legs
Get your well-deserved settlement here!
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Wednesday, January 15, 2003 at 13:12:10 (EST)

Confidential to My Secret Admirer
Why do some people still insist on using outdated technology? Like people who are still using Netscape 4 to view webpages. It's a sorry state of affairs. But then again, some people still think investing hundreds of dollars in encyclopediae is also a good idea. All I can say is, good luck with that whole thing. I'm sure Chicago is lovely this time of year.

Posted By Jimmy Legs
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Tuesday, January 14, 2003 at 11:43:38 (EST)

Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?
So here's a snippet of the conference call I was in on yesterday. We're about to launch a new website and we were going over last-step concerns. There were probably ten people on the call, from the tech side (me and some guy I've met once) to the managerial (several anonymous suits). One of their biggest concerns about the new site was a dearth of "print buttons":

Suit 1: Well, on the printer-friendly pages, I noticed that we don't even have a print button on any of those pages.

Suit 2: Yeah, how did we let that slip by? We send the customer to the printer friendly pages, so they can, you know, print the pages out, but then there's no way for them to do it.

Suit 3: Who's working on this? We need to get that print button on the site.

Suit 1: Let's put a print button on all these pages.

Suit 3: Well, of course, the browser has a print button on the toolbar, on top ... But we don't wanna confuse the customers by forcing them to look there for it.

Suit 1: So we should put the print button on the pages.

I don't know how these things get started. One of the suits must have got it in his head that a print button is absolutely essential on the page itself, that the print button that exists on every single browser window (not to mention the pretty universal Control+P command) is too difficult for our customers to understand. And because Suits are like the Borg, they all immediately think the same thing. The other burning issue was the Back button. Like the print button, they can't abide the thought of a user clicking on the browser's back button, so they want special graphical Back buttons on the site:

Suit 1: The Back button as it is on the site now, it goes to the main User Agreement page, so it's not really going 'back', it's just linking to that page. We need a back button that will go back to whatever the previous page was.

[Editor's note: The only way a user can get to the page that features said Back button is through the main User Agreement page, so having the Back button do anything else is really pointless]

Me: We can change the current link to javascript that will just take the user back one page in the history.

My Boss: [not helping] Yes, but if the user has his history settings all turned off, that won't work.

[The discussion picks up for a while about the probability of this occurring. It is determined that there is like a one in a million chance of a user with his history (the cache, actually) turned off who will get to that page and want to go back. Despite this, the conclusion is that this is a really big problem that needs to be fixed]

Suit 2: So we have to make the button go back one page, except if the user has the history off. In that case the button has to be able to take the user back to the main User Agreement page.

So now I have to go beg borrow and steal some code that will, in a fancy roundabout way, do exactly the same thing that the current Back button does: go to the main User Agreement page. These people have me trying to improve on simple elegance of the stuff already built into every single browser on the planet, mostly because they are worried that somebody out there will have a nonstandard system that will throw things out of whack. To turn the history off in a browser, a user has to know a thing or two, whereas most computers do not know a thing or two. They know nothing, and do not mess with their 'factory' settings. Anybody who knows enough to know how to turn the history off will know why the Back button isn't working on that page. But to explain this to my superiors means explaining why they are numbskulls. And it takes less effort to cobble together some javascript than it does to cope with the repercussions of telling people what I think of them.

Posted By Jimmy Legs

How to turn off the cache, sort of
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Tuesday, January 14, 2003 at 11:20:10 (EST)

It's cold and there are wolves after me
Oy, it's cold out there, but I'd rather have it cold and clear than cold and blizzardy. I don't like the cold (duh), but it seems like I run into more and more people who can't wait to tell me how great they think freezing to death is. Why do they like it? Maybe they all just have a deathwish. I suppose I don't mind a slight chill, this can be refreshing. But living for weeks at or around freezing levels is not fun. Just ask Freddie, the cat who lives on my back porch. Actually she doesn't seem to mind it at all, but that's because her brain is the size of a walnut. It's a good thing I'm here to fret over her well-being. I'm thinking of buying a reptile heat lamp and setting it out back so she doesn't solidify. I already covered the windows on the porch in acrylic, but it really needs insulation to make it work. I wonder how expensive that spray insulation is, I was thinking of trying it in the basement, too. The other day I hosed down one of the hanging carpets with this Plasti-Dip stuff, an aerosol rubber coating. My theory is that the rug will absorb the sound into its soft side (which faces the instruments), and the rubber backing will contain it. It's probably not enough to do any real good, but breathing in the fumes messed me up some, and that's always welcome. Unfortunately, the rubber particles in the air collected in my nose hairs, which was not at all attractive.

Oh shit, I totally forgot about our trip to Paris! I started writing something the other day about it, but I got distracted when Seinfeld came on or something. I will put it up toot sweet.

Posted By Jimmy Legs

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Monday, January 13, 2003 at 23:32:17 (EST)

In which I brave an annoying bar to hear some music
Ah, another jaunt to Williamsburg. M and I saw Martha Wainwright at Galapagos, a place that has a good performance space but an abhorrent bar area. It's like walking through hell to get to the music. What a miserable place. And that pool! That damn pool! Anyway, Martha was in fine form again. She lives upstairs from us, I have to remember to ask her how exactly she ended up here in Clinton Hill, in this weird house.

A and I went to the Alibi after seeing Talk to her on Saturday. B would have gone but she was in a pupa state all weekend. That Almodovar guy, he's all right by me. He's so good at humanizing the weirdest, sometimes repellent characters. But we went to the Alibi in hopes of recreating the magic from the night before; ie, A was hoping to run into that woman he likes. I don't think I've ever been the Alibi two consecutive nights, the crowd was completely different on Saturday. No dreamgirl, no Bob; only Tommy the bartender was there. Two guys almost got in a fistfight over who was worse: Lenin or Stalin. These two jokers were actually getting mad over this (well, to the one guy's credit, the guy who thought Stalin was worse was pretty calm; the anti-Lenin guy was pushing the whole thing, what an asshole). Tommy finally said "Shaddup the both of youse or I'll turn the hose of ya."

So A's dreamgirl didn't show up, but Martha did. It was the first time I've really talked to her since the summer. She's cool, but A noticed she kept swiping my smokes. But at the show tonight she begged cigs off the audience, so I guess it's not just limited to mine. She said she could her us practicing, but she doesn't mind. I hate the idea that people can hear us, but I guess there's no way around it. We're not even that loud, really. I wonder how Freddy's handles their noise. They're really just a neighborhood bar in a pretty residential area; you can see the police station from the front window. I wonder if they rent the apartments above the bar. If I had a ton of money, I would totally buy a whole mixed-use building, use the ground floor for a music club and live upstairs. Hell, if I had a million dollars I'd buy the building and live somewhere else. But I probably wouldn't write in this blog, and the loss to the world would be too great. Fear not, I'm still a loser.

Posted By Jimmy Legs

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Monday, January 13, 2003 at 17:07:12 (EST)

I'm smarter than all y'all
Variety magazine apparently published an essay condemning the state of film criticism in the popular media. Salon wanted to challenge the assertions made therein, so they got ... one of their own film critics to handle to axe. Hmmm, I wonder what Charles Taylor will have to say about it? There's a lot of fill-in-the-blanks writing going on here. I'm afraid the bottom line for film critics is that while they may have something offer in terms of insight into movies, nobody but film critics will defend them. To a certain extent, we probably don't need them, but they persist in the public's imagination. I mean, I enjoy reading reviews of movies, but I almost only read them after I've seen a movie I deem worthwhile enough to view. Of course, the flip side is my guilty little pleasure in reading reviews of movies I know are gonna suck hard, just because I get off on film critics who never seem to get surprised that Adam Sandler is a wealthy, wealthy idiot.

So if anybody's got a point, it's probably the Variety guy, despite the fact that Taylor digs up dirt like discovering that the author was the producer for such fine films as Revenge of the Nerds II and Youngblood. Chuck, you're not helping your case that film critics aren't all elitists with inferiority complexes when you play the credentials game. Try to think of one thing film critics ever contributed to the film industry, and you realize how little play that concept can muster. Okay, well Roger Ebert wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, but that's pretty much it for the whole to of 'em.

In a perfect world, all film audiences would be as interested in what movies are capable of as the people who write about them for a living. It'd be nice of the crappiest of movies would get squeezed out of existence. That's never gonna happen. Movies are mutable, and can do any number of things. But they're still just movies, and some critics would do well to remember that more often (Armond White, I'm looking in your direction). There will always be a place for good critics who can articulate themselves well. But we should probably thin the herd a bit. Meanwhile, there's still plenty of lame critics who are only too happy to lend their ejaculations of "Rip-roaringly funny!" and "This is the Greatest Movie of All Time!" to the movie marketing department. So what's to fight about, fellas?

Posted By Jimmy Legs

And if snotty critics won't play ball, we can just make our own!
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Week of January
12-18, 2003

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