Friday, February 28, 2003 at 18:24:24 (EST)

Taking my spear to BAM
I knew about the Lysistrata Project, but I didn't know until now that there's gonna be a reading right here in River City! Or more specifically, at BAM! Tickets are first-come-first-served, so it coudl get hairy. They're telling us to line up no earlier than 5 PM on Monday afternoon. Doors open at 6. It's free but they'd like $20 from everybody.

Posted By Jimmy Legs
More info about the show here (Kevin Bacon!)
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Friday, February 28, 2003 at 15:04:28 (EST)

Go out and do it again
Slogging through another annoying day of busy work, my thoughts turn to this evening. What shall I do to nullify the blah of the daily grind? Tip back a snifter of port while watching Masterpiece Theater? Well, probably not. The truth is, the things I do to relax and prove that I am somehow not my job are often as repetitive and methodical as my day job. Why, then, is it always preferable to do these things? I suppose because they are things I have chosen to do, whereas one's job usually dictates the work done. A friend of B's is a professional and family man, and currently looks forward to Mondays so he can get away from said family. That's too bad, but I too have felt similarly, though not perhaps for the same reasons. A job's saving grace is often the simple fact it releases you from having to take responsibility for your life, if for only a few hours a day.

When I lived alone in Columbus, Ohio, I knew almost nobody in town, and had a stressful job that would often result in unpaid overtime. Still, on weekends when I had nothing to do, much less the will to do it, I took solace in the fact that Monday morning would soon roll around and absorb me. Now, I certainly can't advocate that line of thinking, but I do understand why people are prone to these ruts, whether it be in their work or recreative lives. Moving to New York has helped this tendency in me, not to mention to sobering influences of my friends, all who adopt an almost pathological mindset for their creative work. I'm the kind of guy who needs to be surrounded by such folk, or I fear I'd slip into the mire of thoughtless time-wasting. Maybe not, but I prefer this over leaving myself constantly to my own devices.

Still all this philosophizing doesn't answer my first question: what to do tonight? I should probably do something differently than usual, but how differently? I may go to BAM Cafe's show, which M is overseeing. That would sort of be different, it's not like going to North Six to see some kids act like the British Invasion never ended. But it's still a show, at a place with beer. I guess I shouldn't confuse mindless repetition with doing things that I actually like over and over again. But we must strive to challenge our assumptions of the way we live. But then there are other factors.

Tomorrow is my class at the New School in which somebody in the catering biz is gonna let us in on the secrets of bar ownership. It would probably be in bad form to show up to this seminar with a hangover. Here's a good example of challenging my life a bit: B and I were thinking it'd be cool if we could open our own bar. Kind of a dumb idea, but I like it. Actually realizing this dream has been mostly humbling thus far. To a certain extent the only factor in a bar's success is Money, meaning if you have enough that blowing a wad on a bar that fails won't break you, then you're in. So I'm gonna take this class and see what the possibilities are. In my ideal situation, I'd pull together a small owner-operated bar, handily circumventing the city's smoking ban (which begins a month and a day from now, I believe), thus attracting every smoker in the area and making me a pillar of the community. Way easier said than done, and although the sheen has left the idea, I'm still serious about this, if cautious.

Since I began this blog entry, I got a call from A who said, "I feel like goin' out and gettin' drunk tonight." Ah, sweet finality! I will then be spewing similar pearls of wisdom later tonight at the Alibi, or possibly Freddy's. Or both.

Posted By Jimmy Legs

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Friday, February 28, 2003 at 00:32:11 (EST)

Well, this is thoroughly depressing
So I just spent a couple hours trying to do my taxes online using TurboTax's interactive feature. What a waste of time. Now I know what J is talking about when he describes the "progressive tax on the poor." It basically means anybody who doesn't have enough dough to own property gets screwed big time. My New Year's resolution should have been to buy an apartment, instead of what I opted for (to eat nothing but pizza and become Lord of the Universe). I'm not poor, but I sure as hell ain't rich, neither. So we plunk down some 36% of our income to the fun-lovin' criminals in the government, but it's not quite enough for 'em. Actually, that's not wholly true. The Feds owe me some dough, not nearly as much as I'd like, but they'll pay, provided I jump through these 1040 hoops. What a joke. We get excited every year when the government pays us back our own money. Whoopee!! But in this case, they're the lesser of two evils. The Great State of New York, on the other hand, wants even more cash from me. According to the TurboTax thing, I owe them some scratch, and I'm not happy about it. But I think I might have screwed something up in trying to get a deduction for things like this comfy chair I bought once I started working from home all the time. So I'm gonna go manual next. If that doesn't produce more pleasant results, I'm gonna start a militia.

In other depressing news, it seems that the press overlooked a recent death almost, but not quite as important as the passing of Fred Rogers. Tom Glazer died last week. I gotta admit, if I thought he'd been dead for years, but there's nothing like somebody actually dying to jog your memory. For the uninitiated, Glazer was the guy who did the fave campfire song "On Top of Spaghetti," sung to the tune of "On Top of Old Smokey." For obscurists, he's the guy who wrote "Why Does the Sun Shine (The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gases)." For music geeks, that's a song covered by They Might Be Giants.

It's sort of not that depressing, really. Glazer was 88 when he kicked the proverbial meatball. We should all live so long. Maybe I find it resonant because his last name is similar to mine. In fact, reading his obit, I discovered that his family hails from Russia, just like my father's side of the family. His brother, who was one of the original producers of the film version of Mel Brooks' "The Producers" spelled his name like mine. They must have been in separate lines at Ellis Island. So maybe I'm related to some moderately talented people. That's sort of a lift, yes?

Posted By Jimmy Legs

Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gases)
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Thursday, February 27, 2003 at 14:59:21 (EST)

Maybe I'm fired and don't know it
I'd just like to point out, as I make my way out of this office and head to Century 21(!), that my boss still has not faxed in his memo to the security desk that would allow them to extend my floor access. All he has to do is fax a thing in saying I should be given card access to floor 23 for the rest of the year. Damn, I could do it myself with his scanned sig I have on my computer. But now since I told him, I have to wait. It's almost March and I still don't officially have access to my own office floor. Well, that's it, I'm not setting foot in here again until I'm legit! I'm tired of the wary looks from coworkers who have to let me in the office.

Posted By Jimmy Legs
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Thursday, February 27, 2003 at 14:15:07 (EST)

Person I Hate of the Day
The guy a few cubicles over who is on a conference call. Someone else on the conference call is in the next cubicle over from him, but he's talking to her through the phone. He's using his 'outside' voice, shouting like he's trying to be heard over the din of the Stock Exchange floor; the only background noise here is the two women giggling about their evening plans. Finally, as the call comes to a close, he is saying good-bye to every single person on the call: "Good-bye, Marcia! Good-bye, Amhad! Good-bye, Phil! Good-bye Babul! Good-bye, Angela!..." He's like the Romper Room lady if she was a drill instructor.

Posted By Jimmy Legs
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Thursday, February 27, 2003 at 13:19:15 (EST)

There goes my moral compass
By now, everyone knows Fred Rogers has died. I'll try not to waste a lot of space discussing my personal feelings about the guy, I mean, does anyone not love Mr. Rogers? He's the only guy in history to make being a milquetoast seem cool. I guess in some ways he was probably the most Christian man on the planet (sorry Pope), with his love-thy-neighbor, pray-for-your-enemies philosophy. Plus those puppets!

It sucks he had to die of stomach cancer. He could have been felled by a massive coronary, or stroke that could have taken him in a fell swoop. But man, stomach cancer is the just about the worst thing I can think of. A friend of mine died of it and it certainly wasn't pretty. Or quick. The events of the past two years have given us cause, especially as New Yorkers, to become a little more nihilistic, since we've seen first hand how you can be living an okay life, and one day you go to work and somebody kills you and 3000 of your coworkers. Now upon learning of Mr. Rogers death, it makes me wanna throw all concern about the future out the window, to drink foul rotgut, to eat naught but chocolate cake, to smoke cigars and inhale like they were enormous cigarettes, to set fire to the pile of garbage that has remained, untouched by garbagemen, for the past week in front of my apartment. If Mr. Rogers goes out like he did, what's in store for us not-terribly-moral unfamous blabbermouths? But I probably won't do anything severe in the end. How severe can I be in this plaid shirt?

It's probably somehow related that I feel this way and I'm writing this in a building that makes up the western border of Ground Zero. Hey, they unveiled the design for the New Ugly Building Everybody will Hate for the First Years and then Grow to Love Long After, in the lobby of this very building. I guess I'll go look at it and try to be inspired not to eat an entire olive loaf on the way home.

Posted By Jimmy Legs

How to break it to the kids (oy this is depressing)
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Tuesday, February 25, 2003 at 19:54:46 (EST)

Saddam calls Bush's bluff
Damn, I gotta hand it to Hussein, he's playin' all the angles. So far he's resisted disarmament until the last possible second, when he comes up with open arms, inviting the UN inspectors in. His declaration that Iraq would cooperate with the inspections put the ball squarely back in Bush's court. Bush didn't think Iraq would comply so quickly, and so his position that we'd invade because Iraq was not complying got stymied. Now upon the discovery of missiles that may be in violation of UN sanctions, he simply claims that, no, those missiles aren't in violation at all. Nothing like calling the concept into question as a way of deflecting scrutiny! If I didn't know better, I'd say he had a Replublican spin doctor on staff.

So the new thing is that he gave an interview to Dan Rather. A stroke of genius, really. Since we in the states get almost no news from Iraq, this feels like a breakthrough. Of course, if you only go to Canada, you get a much wider perspective on the crisis, as the news crews are not forbidden from covering the Iraqi side of things. I don't think it's strictly against the law for US reporters to get opposing viewpoints, but I sure do't hear much of it. So this interview totally shakes things up, by allowing Americans to the Hussein the man, not the dictator. I don't like him, I don't trust him as far as I could throw him, but he's apparently not a raving maniac who can't take time out to plan his PR campaign along with his war campaign.

The best thing about the interview is his challenge to Bush: he wants to debate him live on TV. How I wish we lived in a world in which that would actually happen! Obviously, Al Jazeera just got copies of the David Letterman Show when Bush was on, or any of the Presidental debates. He knows the guy can't hold his own face-to-face. I don't care what the right-wing pundits say, Bush is one lousy public speaker, and in a free-form situation like a debate he'll just fall back on things like not answering the question, or quoting the Bible out of context. He'd look like even more of an idiot, and any allies we might have left will probably go into battle with bags on their heads.

Posted By Jimmy Legs

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Tuesday, February 25, 2003 at 12:08:04 (EST)

How to read a riot
Brian Lehrer is playing sound clips from old radio broadcasts of historic New York events and having callers try to place the event and time. The last one played today was coverage of the student uprising at Columbia University in the 60's, and is a perfect example of what is wrong with media coverage. The announcer is trying to figure out what's going on, and he says "The students are now chanting ... 'Let's throw stones! Let's throw stones!'" In the background you can hear the masses chanting, but it sure doesn't sound like they're shouting the decidedly anachronistic "Let's throw stones!" A moment later the reporter is told differently. "I'm mistaken, they are chanting 'Kirk must go!'" Kirk was Grayson Kirk, Columbia's president at the time. It's telling that the reporter thought he heard the more violent (yet almost Britishly proper) call to violent rock-pitching, rather than the more protest-worthy declaration of dislike for the guy running the show. News reporter's brains are wired to angle a story quickly in the most inflammatory direction possible. When I took my one and only class in journalism, in high school no less, the first thing our teacher taught us is the famous "If it bleeds, it leads" philosophy. We learned how to structure news stories to put the most controversial or attention-getting material in the first line of the article, even in the first word if possible. The result was things like "MURDER was ruled out in the case of the missing gym fencing equipment," or "DEAD BABIES DISMEMBERED IN GARBAGE CANS were the subject of a series of jokes told by a ninth grader today..." Sure, it was a reductive way to learn the Press, but I bet with that experience I could still get a job at the NY Post.

Posted By Jimmy Legs
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Tuesday, February 25, 2003 at 10:42:51 (EST)

Why I refuse to pay for a copy of "My Sharona"
Hey, Roxio, the company that bought Easy Cd Creator, is planning to relaunch Napster this year! The first sacrificial lamb of the peer-to-peer generation is being resurrected, although I wonder if anybody will care. As I figured, the new version will be fee-based, either on a per-song basis or by subscription. There's only one way this can work, if Roxio provides its own comprehensive music library to the public. The whole problem with a fee-based structure is that we're talking about a service that has been primarily rooted in individual people's mp3 libraries. If I'm gonna pay for such a service I need some guarantee that the files I download are worth the cost. Currently when you download mp3's off a P2P network, you never really know what you're gonna get. Files are often truncated, include CD skips, are misnamed or are spoof files. Because it's all been free up until this point, nobody's minded much. But if you place a dollar value on it (oy, the NPR pledge drive is getting to me), people are gonna expect a certain quality level. Therefore, if Roxio can't promise that for a large percentage of the available music, why would anybody want to subscribe? It's like paying a fee to shop at a flea market. You're promised great stuff, but after they have your money, you stand around looking at tables piled with junk, thinking, "For this I paid $9.99 a month?"

I got my first cable modem when Napster was first beginning. This was one of the greatest "killer apps" at the beginning of the broadband age. Unfortunately, it's a killer app that doesn't clearly have a profit-making plan behind it. Of course, at that time, nobody was thinking far enough ahead about such things. The dotcom thing was gaining ground so fast nobody really thought about the viability of the new technology from a financial perspective. They figured it was cool stuff, and they'd find a way to make money off it later. As it turned out, nobody made any money on most of these ideas, Napster went down hard, and a million other P2P apps popped up in its place. Now their going to take the beaten corpse of Napster and prop it up with the help of a large company and try to work up a buzz again. I don't think it will work. Napster is a great program, but it's not meant to make money. I had hoped it would usher in a new age of communal sharing on the Internet, taking advantage of the new medium's ability to level the playing field. Anybody can have a presence on the web, and money and influence is not always the defining characteristic. But the big companies are finding ways to squelch the populist voice, as always, as they see it as a threat to their sovereignty.

For the past few years, we've seen groups like the RIAA swatting P2P networks like flies. But while the music industry swats at one or two, the Internet will provide other outlets for people to share files and music. Think of how many apps have already appeared (and in many cases, disappeared) since Napster: Scour, iMesh, Audiogalaxy, WinMX, Morpheus, the Gnutella protocol, Kazaa, Grokster, Blubster, Piolet. This is not even to mention the several apps out there designed primarily for sharing huge binary files (software and movies) like eDonkey and DirectConnect. To paraphrase Princess Leia, "The more you [RIAA] tighten your grip, the more [P2P apps] slip through your fingers."

The RIAA may be waking up to this soon. The music industry has taken a hit lately, as public opinion has soured and accusations of price-fixing have come to light. They want to do anything necessary to keep their top-heavy situation, but thanks in part to Napster and its clones, they simply won't be able to do that anymore. They've tried to shut P2P down, but by definition, it doesn't necessarily exist in a particular place; they'll never stop it completely. They need to learn to coexist with it, finding ways to put value back in their products. I still firmly believe that having mp3s available doesn't eliminate the need for actual CDs and records, as the RIAA fears. But it does fundamentally change the way in which we view the act of buying a CD.

Maybe the solution is the actual destruction of huge music companies, leaving the CD production work to smaller indie labels. Of course the members of the RIAA won't go gently into this goodnight, they will fight for their own survival, even at the expense of alienating their customer base. But already most large music companies own smaller offshoot labels, maybe we'll see an emancipation like the fall of the Soviet Union. Okay, that may not be the most positive model, but decentralization is the operative word for both P2P and industry alike these days. With good enough distribution channels, there's no reason it can't work. The only thing that would be sacrificed are the enormous profits made by a small number of music CEO's. Oh yeah, and stuff like Britney Spears might not sell as well, since there won't be resources for huge marketing/mass-hypnosis campaigns to get losers to buy the crap. Now, doesn't that sound like a world you'd want to live in?

Posted By Jimmy Legs

P2P App listing Ghost Town (most of these are deadski)
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Monday, February 24, 2003 at 00:03:37 (EST)

B asked for this
My girlfriend is totally hot and I am very sorry I broke her hat on the subway tonight even though she was swinging it around and hit a puppy in the face with it.

Posted By Jimmy Legs
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Sunday, February 23, 2003 at 23:57:28 (EST)

Fatalism is a privilege
We went on our annual trip to St. Ann's Warehouse to see the Wooster Group's newest theater-thing, "Brace Up!" It was supposedly based on a Chekhov play, but I never read it. J pointed out that the Wooster Group loves to do weird renditions of old plays as if to say, "Well, we're all familiar with Three Sisters, so let's have fun with it." Unfortunately, many of us aren't well-read enough to get all the jokes. Still, I rather be mistaken for someone more well-read than be pandered to by some idiotic movie that caters to the lowest common denominator. Makes me feel like there is hope for the human race. Which is something I haven't much been feeling lately.

Fatalism is not something that one can easily choose for a personal philosophy. I think a lot of people conflate fatalism with laziness, content to say "Everything sucks, so I'm not gonna lift a finger." I understand this, but I've come to conclude of late that true fatalism must come through long self-deliberation. One must truly examine the situation, do some research, before deciding it's all hopeless. I cite Hamlet's attitude at the beginning of Act IV, the scene with the gravedigger ("Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio," that scene). Hamlet has weighed his options, tried a couple of things, and having failed is reduced to the oddly comforting thought that everything's basically fucked, no matter what he does.

I keep reading about our government, its current administration and people's feelings about it, and can't help but feel similarly. It often seems hopeless that our country will turn things around and get to a point where we can truly think of ourselves as a worthwhile place. I can find comfort in thinking this way, as it contains the foregone conclusion that nothing will help. Knowing the outcome makes things easier. It feels final. And it makes me feel better for a while, until I realize that I'm sharing the same sense of preemptive resolution that is felt by all the dipshits in this country who put their trust in Bush to keep their lives moronic and comfy. They lull themselves into believing that Bush will provide the security and stability they require to get through their miserable days. It's a soft option, and despite how good it makes one feel, no matter how he comes to it, it's shite. I'm realizing that these days are about feeling bad, feeling uncomfortable, feeling like things might change if enough people want it to change.

So that's where I'm stuck, feeling sorta good about feeling bad. To quote Cast Iron Hike, "When I feel all right, I know it's wrong." Maybe I'll shave my head and go straightedge!

Posted By Jimmy Legs

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