Saturday, April 05, 2003 at 16:28:30 (EST)

I don't know Karate, but I know Cuh-razy!
It's been a week since I was sadistically beaten by anonymous thugs. What steps am I taking to ensure I do not get sadistically beaten again? Well, I've been looking over my shoulder a lot, giving the stink eye to every person I meet, and dawdling on filling out a police report. Consequently, I feel like a jackass when I go outside. I feel like the kind of paranoid guy who should get sadistically beaten, instead of the happy-go-lucky twerp I usually am. Now that I'm paying closer attention to the people around me, I realize there isn't a threatening face for a two mile radius form my house. Except mine. Everybody is bopping on down the street and when they pass me I give 'em the once-over, trying to look as hard as possible (which as it turns out, is not particularly hard). Every person I see looks like a nice guy. I look like a defensive honky; people probably assume I am that guy who wrote the piece in the NY Press about how much he hates his neighborhood. Not only do I not want to be associated with that guy, he's actually high on my list of people who probably could use such a beating.

So I'm giving up the 1000-yard stare and going back to a more pleasant outdoor disposition. I knew it was pointless to continue like this today when I was walking down my street. A group of youths approached; I got my sneer ready. They got closer, and they turned out to be friends of mine, on their way to the junk shop. If people I've known for years could be potential attackers in my mind, I know it's time to take a different tack.

So when you see me on the street, I'll be doing one or more of the things I usually do: laughing at dogs, talking to my shoes, humming the melody to "Pusherman," shaking my fist in the air, or skipping like a little girl.

Now, who'd wanna beat up a guy like that?

Posted By Jimmy Legs

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Friday, April 04, 2003 at 23:43:54 (EST)

Confidential to our Kent State readers
Hey, B is having trouble getting her emails to go through to you. So don't feel neglected if you haven't heard from her in a while; rest assured, you're still in her nightly prayers, right along with George Bush and Tony Tennille (he can still turn it around, just you wait!). You might have to switch to a hotmail or yahoo address until the problem is resolved, but only if you really wanna hear from her. If you are pleased with the current incommunicado state, please disregard this notice.

Posted By Jimmy Legs
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Friday, April 04, 2003 at 17:04:23 (EST)

What We've Learned
I'm about to head out to Frank's Lounge to meet up with J before her goes to see some show at BAM. We've been talking about real estate, as usual, and he is helping me get my hopes up again. Our major problem so far has been simply that there are no houses in our price range in the neighborhoods we want. The more I think about it, the more I'd like to stay in Clinton Hill, or possibly further over into Fort Greene. Park Slope doesn't do it for me, Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill are getting a little too much attention these days, and Brooklyn Heights is just sort of out of the question. I just received a flyer from the Corcoran Group which offers pricing estimates for the various northerly Brooklyn neighborhoods. Among those listed, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill came out the cheapest by far.

But it's not cheap enough. The average price for a house is $556K. If only I could convince B to become a lawyer or doctor or something we could afford that. But alas, I'm involved with an academic, which barring tenure, means not a lotta cash. I can find stuff I can afford in Greenwood Heights (with lovely views of the BQE and the cemetery), or go to the far side of the park and settle in Lefferts Gardens. But I keep thinking how much I like living in a neighborhood I know well, savage beatings notwithstanding. I'm familiar with a lot of territory on one end of Brooklyn, and I don't have a feel for what goes on in the rest of it. Not in the same way, anyway.

So now I'm thinking of sticking with the co-op/condo idea. I keep thinking we might be able to find a sizable duplex that could conceal the band's noise well enough. J tells me that often the basement space in apartment building goes unused, which could prove handy. He lives in an enormous complex with expansive basement space for laundry and storage. But apparently there are still vast expanses that nobody enters. Perhaps we could swing something in such a space. I'd still rather own a whole house, but it seems that may well be impossible for now.

What bothers me about co-ops and condos are the "common" charges. I was looking through the listings and found perfectly nice, affordable apartments ruined by ungodly maintenance charges. What a racket. What kind of apartment building needs to tack $1000-1700 onto your mortgage? In many cases these charges are higher than the monthly mortgage payment. Can all of that money really go right back into the building?

Sheesh, this smoking ban is gonna ruin my blog! If I can't go get lit while lighting up, what else will I have to rage about except the skyrocketing costs of real estate? I'm turning into my parents. My god I just realized I talked to my mom on the phone the other day about buying houses, and for the first time in recorded history she was the one to say "Well, I've gotta go ..." Awk!

Posted By Jimmy Legs

Mclusky plays here on the 22nd! That's Earth Day.
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Thursday, April 03, 2003 at 16:55:43 (EST)

Someone's in the kitchen with Carcinogens
Stealing a link off 601am.com: some restaurateur has found a way to get around the smoking ban ... sort of. Serafina Sandro is offering new dishes made with tobacco. Yes, it's about time somebody tried this. Back when I worked a t a drug rehab center, one of my jobs was to review educational (propaganda) materials. We had one from Phillip Morris, a pro-tobacco piece featuring good ol' salt-of-the-earth US tobacco farmers, showing them growing, harvesting and drying big leaves of pre-cancerous goodness. They used a soft focus and had great lighting, so the effect was, "Lemme at it! I'll smoke it right on the plant!"

Anyhow, I've always wondered since then if anybody ever tried to eat tobacco. As most of us know, the US farmer has been in trouble for years. The US tobacco farmer is really up the creek these days; tobacco companies have even less finesse than auto makers when they move their operation south of the border or across the pond. So what better way for these struggling farmers to get well, than to have them innovate the tobacco-as-food concept?

I do have a couple questions. Is tobacco as addictive and unhealthy eaten as it is smoked? I know a thing or two about the difference between eating and smoking other controlled substances, but I've never gotten my hands on raw tobacco. I know if you're in prison and want to get away from somebody who wants you to be their punk, you eat your cigarettes until it makes you so sick you get a vacation in the infirmary. But that tobacco has not only been dried and rolled, they add a bunch of crap (like animal urine!). Apparently raw tobacco tastes pretty good, according to the article. Hey M, I think I know where we should have your birthday next week!

This is a harbinger of things to come. What do people do when they can't smoke? They eat like hogs! Hasn't this whole smoking ban just been Bloomy and Pataki's way of bringing us smokers into the fold of the truly unhealthy majority of our country, the sedentary and obese!

Posted By Jimmy Legs

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Wednesday, April 02, 2003 at 12:16:16 (EST)

I can't, I can't, I can't stand losing ... my smokes
In other depressing news, I met B at Freddy's last night and boy did it suck. As you know, the smoking ban is now in effect, but the city has said that no penalties will be levied until May 1. So I assumed dives like Freddy's would keep on keepin' on until then, but as I rounded the corner last night I was horrified to see several people standing out on the sidewalk, smoking.

Damn.

Inside, it smelled funny. It no longer smelled of millions of cigarettes past, it smelled only of bleach and dust. It felt like the coolest airport bar ever. But that just doesn't cut it in terms of bars in the Real World. We tried to make it work, drinking a little and stepping outside with the throng, but it was just depressing. We left far earlier than ever before and headed straight for the Alibi, where they are taking full advantage of the grace period. As much as I love Freddy's, I'm spending every free dollar I have at the Alibi until May. I know I should just suck it up and get used to it, but while there's an option (and one, I might add, that's way closer to my house), I'm taking it. So, fellow Fort Greeners, if you wanna know where you can still catch a smoke with your Bushmills, you heard it here: go to the Alibi. If anybody knows which other bars are still allowing smoking, please let me know.

I heard a report on NPR in which a new study claims that smoking bans immediately produce health benefits. Studying medical records from before and after a ban was put in place reveal that people seemed to rapidly get healthier once the dreaded secondhand smoke was put to rest. The funny thing is, I believe it's probably true, to a certain extent. This is despite the fact I can tell the study is based on biased science, that when somebody makes a claim about all the horrible things smoke does to a body, nobody is allowed to question its veracity. The way the guy was talking about secondhand smoke, it sounded worse than a dose of Sarin gas. I know it's not good for you, but there is no way I can believe that 30 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke can make people just drop dead, which is exactly the conclusion we're led to believe from the study.

But even though we know it is bad, cumulatively, I'm having trouble getting excited about my own potential for healthiness. After that report on NPR they went back to reporting how US soldiers, the ones who aren't already dead, are now killing women and children because they don't stop quickly enough at checkpoints. Plus there's the article in the New Yorker in which Heinrich Hertzberg tells us we shouldn't get so worked up over the "collateral damage" of killing civilians because we used to do it all the time (i.e., Hiroshima/Nagasaki's slaughter of countless innocents). If this is the state of affairs of the world, and this is the altitude we're supposed to adopt, then what the fuck good is any of this bullshit health morality?

B made a good point last night at Freddy's (when they take our cigs away, we become irritable philosophers). What's happening is the result of a country that is corrupt, and has been from the get-go. There's a strong current of immorality running through American history, not to be confused with amorality. Our country knows what it does is morally wrong, but refuses to admit it. The result is that a lot of attention is heaped on "fixing" things that weren't really broken, and acting like they were the wellspring of all our guilt. Smoking bans, minimum sentencing, bogus welfare-to-work programs, aggressive invasions of other countries for any reason other than what we're told, we're full of answers that never address the source of our problems. I'd say we were slapping a band-aid on our problems, but band-aids promote healing; I don't see even this happening here.

Think about how we use the word "patriot" these days. It doesn't mean what it's supposed to mean anymore. Now it means doing nothing, questioning nothing, not rocking the cultural boat, not thinking creatively, not having any freedom in the way in which one expresses themselves. All it's about now is "standing by our president," "supporting the troops," "waving the flag." Not only do I feel taking false pride in a lack of effort does a disservice to this country, I charge that most self-described patriots do not even have the capacity to understand how to defend the thoughts they have that might actually be considered "beliefs." But the unique position of contemporary patriotism dictates that any dissent is to be treated as treason. The only way to be a patriot in this country is to do nothing; any wavering will arouse suspicion. That's not patriotism, that is fascism.

I feel sorry for those guys, mostly. This brand of patriotism is yet another example of how we try to compensate for our guilt, for our collective feeling that we're getting something very wrong, and don't know or don't really want to fix it.

Posted By Jimmy Legs

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Wednesday, April 02, 2003 at 11:33:45 (EST)

Geek rant, sorry: I hate my content management application
Vignette StoryServer is a shitty content management application. It was purchased by my company to build our external websites. It was supposed to make the process of building and editing webpages simple. It was supposed to be so easy to use that even web novices would be able to use it. It was supposed to bridge the gap between what people wanted to do with the web and what they knew how to do.

It didn't work.

The application turned out to be too inflexible and difficult for the novices to use. So the company decided to let only its computer tech people have access, making them the go-between to get things on the site. That's fine, that's what most companies do. But they didn't get rid of StoryServer in favor of something more robust for users who know a thing or two about web design. The result is guys like me having to sit around using this clunky slow-assed application to build sites. The program is so non-intuitive and buggy that it limits what I am able to do to the most elementary level. People contact me constantly to ask for completely understandable and useful updates to the site and I am forced to tell them, "Sorry, the CMA doesn't let us do that."

What the fuck? We're letting a lame application dictate what we can and cannot do on our own websites? Of course, all of this is just what angers me about the program on a daily basis. Today is special. Today I went into a project to edit a couple of pages and had both pages return a "Page Modification Failed" error. I don't know what this means, but the result is that all the content on these pages was deleted, so I am left with an empty template. This means that to do the minor edits I need to make on the pages required rebuilding the entire page, soup to nuts. Balls.

StoryServer works on a component basis. Each segment of a page is made up of individual components that can be moved or duplicated on other pages. It's a nice idea, especially when you want the same thing to show up on every page and have a single source to edit to update the entire site. But it makes rebuilding a huge pain in the ass. I have to go through pages of components and try to figure out what was used on a given page. Remember, I am not the geek who built the page, I'm just the editor. The people who originally built most of these pages were uber geeks who used the most arcane naming system I've ever seen to label their components, so finding them is often a lost cause. This means I have to build new components and drop in the code. You wanna know where I get the code to drop in? I go to the website itself in Internet Explorer (just like any of you could do), copy the source and plug it back in. If this isn't the most unprofessional, fucked up way to handle things, I'll eat my hat.

But Mr. Legs, you say, what about the no-doubt fabulous tech support staff at your company? Surely they must have the flexible solutions you require! Au contraire. The tech support guys are contractors like me, they don't really work for the company. They live in Arizona and spend their days explaining why they can't help anybody. It's not dissimilar from my constant explaining how I can't do what people want because of the shitty application. It's like a group of Three Stooges clones sitting around shrugging and going "Ahhhhhdunnnoooo!" To hear it from these guys, I am the only person on the face of the planet who has ever had this problem. They don't know how it happens, and seem to have no resources for finding out. Couldn't they email the company and ask or something? I continually ask them if they can take the component info from the live site server and just plug it back in to the messed up pages, but they never seem to try. Usually they just wait until I run out of time and have to rebuild it myself.

So it's a big FUCK YOU to Vignette and our Shemps in Arizona. I'm telling you, we could have a far superior website if they just gave me direct FTP access and a copy of Notepad. The web doesn't have to be this difficult; it's this sense that it is that these companies and tech people rely on to justify their still-inflated-since-the-bubble-burst salaries. It's a fucking racket.

UPDATE:
I stand by what I said yesterday, but they apprently hired some new tech support guy who actually knows what he's doing. He was able to reset the messed up pages and replace all the missing content. Yay! But it still doesn't excuse the general lameness of the software.

Posted By Jimmy Legs

StoryServer does not do any of the things it claims it does
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Tuesday, April 01, 2003 at 17:26:47 (EST)

It is now my duty to completely drain the cat
In cat-related news (maybe next year I'll win next year's Anti-Bloggie for "Most References to Pet in Blog"), I took Hubcap to get the drain taken out of his leg. I realize now that all it was, was literally a piece of loose-fabric string stuck in his to drain away the fluid in his abscess. They must have just snipped the knot and yanked it out of him, since it took all of 30 seconds and they made me wait in the waiting room. I could have done that. Plus, I discovered another thing while toting him to and from the vet: if you've recently been savagely beaten to within an inch of your life and then you try to carry a poorly-designed cat carrier down the street, you will be in pain. Actually, the way those carriers are designed, I'd be in pain anyway. They have those little handles right in the middle, forcing you to hold the box away from your body so as not to jostle the feline within, which results in a feeling similar to holding buckets of water with your arms outstretched for several hours. And it was raining, so I'm trying to do this all with our stupid defective umbrella thrown into the mix.

But all our suffering can now begin to end. Hubcap is healed and I'm working on my list of people I'd like to have beaten up the way I was. The only trick will be getting them to walk down my street at just the right time to receive their richly-deserved beatings. Does anyone have Donald Rumsfield's home number?

Posted By Jimmy Legs

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Tuesday, April 01, 2003 at 17:10:46 (EST)

New York's all right ... if you like saxophones!
I don't think I ever blabbed on this blog about what a great band I think (thought) Laddio Bolocko is (was). Well, they rock. I just received my copy of The Life and Times of ... Laddio Bolocko, a collection of everything they recorded during their brief life. Ever since I saw them open for Babe the Blue Ox in 2000 at Tonic, I have been trying to find their material, for sale or otherwise. I could never track down copies of anything, only the occasional notice on a website saying they were all out so please stop asking thank you the management. I turned to the dubious world of peer-to-peer networking and found precious few songs. It was enough to tide me over, but I still wanted the real deal. Not to mention I spent a long time downloading one supposed Laddio Bolocko song only to have it turn out to be something by Snoop Dogg.

This is all past now, as some intelligent person decided to release their material on a double CD. I am wending my way through it now. In recent years, I find myself increasingly attracted to musical aspects I previously eschewed, namely long droning songs with complex dynamics. The spectrum of this interest can be charted with Dianogah on one end (let's call it the "easier listening" side) and Laddio Bolocko and Shellac on the other (the "grrr" side). Don Caballero is somewhere in the middle. Not that Laddio Bolocko can't be melodic and pretty, they do that well, but generally there is something heavy, almost pummeling about their sound. But not in an I-Farm, headbanging sort of way. It's somehow smarter, I don't know how else to put it. Something I learned when I lived with K, a hand-drummer, is the notion of playing a beat not to go somewhere, but to sort of stay in one place. It's a different concept than usually found in rock music, the sort of drive that allows drum circles to play for hours and never get boring (well, good drum circles, not the wannabes you find on most college campuses). Both Laddio Bolocko and Shellac can do this, and I find it fascinating. I like it with a completely different part of my head than what I use to like, say, the Misfits.

But I'm blathering in Rock Critic mode. The bottom line is that I think they were a great band, and I would have loved to see them live more often. I'm gonna check out the new bands the members are in, Electric Turn To Me and The Psychic Paramount.

Posted By Jimmy Legs

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Tuesday, April 01, 2003 at 09:51:49 (EST)

I don't care what you guys do to me, but, my cat, don't touch
I continue to heal. My back still hurts but it's getting better all the time. And my valuable face will also soon be its old self again, and I can return to my lucrative male modeling career . I think my cat and I share the same luck. Hubcap also got jumped last week, albeit by another cat, and he too sustained some injury. After it happened, he was sleeping all the time and not getting off the couch, plus he seemed feverish, so I took him to the vet. She found an abscess on his hind leg. This required sedation, blood work, minor surgery, and $300. I think we both got screwed on that one, me for the cost, and Hubcap for the big string coming out of two holes in his leg (called a "drain"):

He's had abscesses before, but he's never needed a bunch of rope threaded through his leg. I wish I knew more about cat medicine; then I'd know if this was necessary or it my vet is insane.

But Hubcap is feeling better. He's been getting antibiotics all week, and even Decatur has been leaving him alone. He's even been sleeping in our room again. Since the incident, he'd been sleeping down in the basement ... in the bass drum:

This is one of those pictures that must be hidden if I ever want to sell this drum set. Anyhow, today Hubcap gets the drain removed and then he should be all better. I'm just worried about what they'll have to do to remove it. Also I'm worried about getting him in the damn cat carrier; it was hard enough when he was weak and feverish. Luckily, while he was sedated last week, the vet cut his nails, something I'd never do without a deep-sea diving suit on.

Posted By Jimmy Legs

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Sunday, March 30, 2003 at 12:16:07 (EST)

I got jumped by the brothers from Fort Greene (aplgs to Public Enemy)
So things didn't quite turn out as I had planned in the previous blog entry. I left the house at 8:30, G-train bound to go up to Williamsburg. As I was walking down Greene Ave (my street), I passed a group of black teenagers, who I assumed were all together. The last kid, a girl, said hi to me as she walked passed. I continued on down the street for a few seconds, when I heard footsteps quickly approaching behind me. I dimly thought that this might mean trouble, but I dismissed this as paranoia. Then something hit me in the back of the head (it felt like a board, but it was probably just a fist). I went down like a sack of potatoes, sort of dazed, and looked up to see these two kids going to work on me.

What a bizarre experience. My memories of the incident are kinda fuzzy. I remember getting kicked a lot. I'm not even sure if they used their fists at all, after knocking me down. I was pretty much in the fetal position at this point, so they concentrated on my face and back. They kept saying, "What up, nigga?" and "Get up" over and over again. I kept saying "I'm sorry!" and "What'd I do?" and a lot of "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh." All the different scenarios flashed through my mind: mugging, gang initiation, or random beating for no reason. When I realized they weren't robbing or murdering me, I picked the latter explanation.

The kids were high school age kids, big enough to take down a scrawny white guy, but not too big to know how dumb it is to beat up random neighbors. They kept kicking me back and forth. I couldn't get my brain to focus on what the kids looked like. I know one kid had cornrows and one of those off-white quilted jackets. I think other kid must have been the one kicking me in the back, because I don't know what he looked like at all. It seemed like the best thing to do was just lie there until they wore themselves out and had to go to home to take a nap. But rapidly I realized that if I could just "get up" as they constantly informed me, I could "run away" to go home and "get drunk." So I rolled over and shakily got to my feet. I don't know what the kids were doing at this point, if they had wanted to they could have easily pushed me down again, but they just sort of stood there on either side of me. I was disassociatively obsessed with my watchband, which had come unclasped, so instead of studying the facial characteristics of my attackers, I spent those precious moments gingerly removing my watch and putting it in my pocket.

I glanced at my assailants. One of them shouted "We out!" and they ran on down the street. I turned and headed home, which was about 50 yards down the street. Some of the kids I had passed before ran from across the street to see if I was okay. These kids were younger than the guys who beat me up, probably junior high school age. I asked them if they knew the punks, but they didn't. They seemed genuinely shocked when I told them the kids had jumped me unawares, that it was completely random. They were really nice, much sympathy, which was a nice metaphorical counterpoint to the other guys.

"Where were you going?" a girl asked.

"I was trying to get to the G train," I replied.

"You gotta get on the train?" a small be-hooded boy piped in. "You want us to walk you to the subway?"

I decided just to go home, both to clean my wounds and for the fact that my attackers had run towards the subway. I was not in any pain. I touched my lip and realized I had a bloody nose. My lower back felt sore, like I had run up too many stairs. Having never been beaten up before, this was all a new experience. I really had thought it would hurt more. Upon reflection, I think the kids didn't plan on really doing any damage, they only used their shoes as weapons, the whole thing only lasted 10 or 20 seconds. It could have been much worse, but I decided that as a beating it was more the adequate.

I got some good sympathy points when I went home. I put some ice on my head and back and tried to sort out how this might affect my view of the world. There's an old saying: "Definition of a conservative: a liberal who has been mugged." But I came to the conclusion that there's no possible way to quantify this incident to weigh against the rest of my life. In the future, I will probably be a little more wary of fast-approaching footsteps (I keep thinking if I had only stepped out of the way, I could have made a run for it) and other red flags, but after all, it was 8:30 at night, right on the street I've lived on for over two years. Nothing like this has ever happened before.

So what are you supposed to do with this new information? I now know I can be beaten up in my own neighborhood. What should I do, move? Right before I left the house last night, I was reading this blog, which featured a story of a guy in swanky Park Slope getting it even worse than I did. No matter where you live, this stuff happens. I don't think there's any way to guard against it except a certain level of vigilance. But it's not gonna stop me from staying out and getting drunk, then coming home at 3 in the morning. Actually, 3 in the morning is sounding safer than 8:30 PM right now.

In the end, I called up M and lured him down to Clinton Hill (he was watching Deathwish when I called him with news of my attack). We all ended up at the Alibi, ringing out the end of the smoking era in New York. I was very glad that the beating didn't even stop me from my basic plan of the evening, even if we stuck closer to home. Everybody was very concerned that the bartenders would remove all the ashtrays at midnight, but they made no such move. So we smoked on, feeling like smoking past 12 was some sort of little victory, a show of solidarity as we filled up that low-ceiling, poorly-ventilated bar until it was hard to see to the other end. I looked around at all the people in the bar and thought "None of these people were beaten up before they came out tonight." And that somehow made me feel better about it. Like Henry Hill says in Goodfellas, "Occasionally, everybody has to take a beating." And while I can think of a list of roughly 60 people who I'd rather see beaten up before me, I know I can't control the universe. Not yet anyway.

Posted By Jimmy Legs

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