Sunday, June 29, 2008

Olafur Eliasson's Waterfalls

Danish/Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson's four temporary waterfalls are up in New York's East River until October 13. The one above is right under the Brooklyn Bridge. The others are on the Brooklyn Piers near the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, in Lower Manhattan at Pier 35 north of the Manhattan Bridge, and on the north shore of Governors Island.

Disregard the nose-picker in the foreground.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Australian Cars, Trucks, and ... Something In Between

These are some of the odd vehicles our man in Australia has spotted. Frequent readers know I am a huge fan of cars with pick-up beds, factory or modified.

(See some of my favorites here, and the infamous "El Benzo," a vintage Mercedes Benz lovingly redesigned with a pick-up bed here.)


Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Dispatch From Our Man In Australia

An American friend visiting family in Australia sent this musing about Australian men and women. He's been doing some manual labor there:
When I go out in the evening I'm filthy and hardly fit for presentation. We've gone all over town (library, grocery store, etc.) and frequently I'm not the only one who looks like they've been working. Women respond the same way to filthy guys and guys in clean clothes. I don't think I realized how much American women like guys to be pretty until I came here. Oh, just realized that I haven't shaved for a couple of weeks either.
Do American women really like their men pretty? It reminds me of something I read in a recent issue of GQ. A former staffer in New York had finally started fitting in and wearing more fashionable clothes (slimmer-cut jeans and shirts, etc.) just before he left for a job in D.C. The response he got there among all the roomy, pleated khakis was overwhelmingly negative. Is it even more profound in Oz?

My friend asked an Australian friend about gender relations:
I asked him what Australian women are like. He said, "they are tough, real tough. You're best to keep your head down and do what the fuck you are told. Australian men are pussies."

Later we were talking about where to install a pump and my Dad said that Anna wanted it somewhere else. Neil responded with, "put your damn foot down. You tell her where it's going to go". This was said with humor. I said that he'd said Australian men were pussies. He said, "except for anything related to pumps. Then we are the boss".

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Six Seconds That Changed Popular Music

This 18-minute mini-documentary explains the history of one of the most recognizable breakbeats in popular culture. It's been sampled by everyone from hip hop artists to pharmaceutical advertisements. "It's been used so much," narrator Nate Harrison says, "that I might argue it's entered the collective audio unconscious."

Harrison's dry narration accompanies what must be looped video of a scratchy record turning. The six second break beat, or drum beat, is called the "Amen Break." It came from a 1969 B-side called "Amen Brother" by The Winstons, a Washington D.C. soul act that had but one single.

To hear the break, scroll through to 1:19 into the video. To hear it in the context of its original song, scroll through to 2:25 into the video. It really is one of the most-heard pieces of song. The "Amen Break," was "one of the first drum samples to be experimented with" in the 1980s, Harrison explains.

It's been used famously by N.W.A. in their hit "Straight Outta Compton" (1989), and a whole slew of other rap and hip hop acts. It gets more complicated from there. The whole musical genre of jungle is practically based upon the 6-second break.

About seven minutes into the video, Harrison reveals that the record we see periodically isn't playing a loop as I though in the beginning (it is actually moving), nor is it just for effect. The record is actually a dub plate of his entire monologue and music samples. A dub plate is "an exclusive, 'one-off' acetate disc recording pioneered by Reggae sound systems but also used by drum and bass and other dance music artists, DJs and sound systems." (Wikipedia)

I love Harrison's irate summation of the music of Squarepusher (aka Tom Jenkinson) and Hrvatski (aka Keith Whitman):
With jungle's popularity, what you got in reaction was this sort of chin-stroking art crowd, who took the "Amen" as their own in the name of a sort of -- as some might say -- highbrow posturing. They proceeded to push the levels of absurdity with its use, really tweaking the arrangements beyond the point of danceability and syncopation, and into a realm of fetishization and self-indulgence."
And then he gets into television ads. One, for the "Extreme Jeep Snow Event," uses the break as punctuation, signifying the sort of playful possibilities one has with a Jeep in inclement weather.

But what I like the most about this video is that it's essentially a spoken-word essay, illustrated with very simple video. You don't have to watch it to get it, but it's a nice feature. It's very well done. I'd like to find more little essays or "meditations" like this, particularly about the history of music and popular culture.

The essay has a message, of course. It is that copyright laws are becoming so stringent that phenomena like the "Amen Break" may no longer be possible.


"My art has been commended as being strongly vaginal, which bothers some men. The word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina."

Jane Austen + Vampires = ?!

A friend who works for a book publisher spotted a curious item in Publishers Weekly recently about an author who just got a deal for a book about Jane Austen, as a vampire, in modern times. A quick search yielded this item from the New Yorker's Book Bench blog
Because lately the only thing that seems to sell better than books about vampires is books about Jane Austen, Publishers Weekly reports that the writer Michael Thomas Ford has sold his novel about “an undead Jane Austen, frustrated by nearly 200 years of writer’s block and 116 rejections of an unpublished novel she finished just before turning into a vampire.” I have nothing to add to the brilliance of this idea.—Andrea Walker
Nor do I.

Now, a quick search for the author turned up these facts: Michael Thomas Ford is the author of a series of gay romance novels that look like the gay man's equivalent to chick lit and a handful of essay collections like That's Mr. Faggot to You: Further Trials from My Queer Life. Could it be the same Michael Thomas Ford? Hmm. He also wrote a book categorized as "spirituality" called The Path Of The Green Man: Gay Men, Wicca and Living a Magical Life; it's possible. Wait, wait ... he also contributed to a couple of Midnight Thirsts gay vampire short story anthologies. But this Michael Thomas Ford has never written any Jane Austen fan fiction. Must not be him.

Not so fast. I've found his blog, in which he says:
And finally, something I've been waiting for the past month to tell you. I had to wait until it was official, which it was on Tuesday, when Publishers Weekly's "Hot Deals" column broke the news. I've signed a 3-book deal with Random House's Ballantine imprint for a series of novels featuring Jane Austen as a vampire. I know, right? Big Fun. I'm so pleased about this. And already the books are getting attention. Yesterday they were written about in The New Yorker's "The Book Bench" column. Again, Big Fun. The first book is due out in late 2009, and you'll be hearing a lot more about it in the coming months.
Case closed.


This is post number 700 for The Masticator.

One Minute It's Trying to Kill You; Next Minute It's Your Best Friend. I'm Talking About Ladies' Undergarments.

Help! My g-string tried to kill me! (bedazzled undies; jewel hit eye. Per Daily Mail)

Thank God! My sports bra saved my life! (used as a rescue flag. Per ABC News).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How Apple Attacks Women

Obviously, Apple hates women. A woman with long fingernails spoke out in the L.A. Times:
"Considering ergonomics and user studies indicating men and women use their fingers and nails differently, why does Apple persist in this misogyny?"
What misogyny, you ask? The one where Apple engineers conspired to confound millions of women by designing the iPhone to be impossible to use with fingernails.

She's not the only one. The Times quoted another woman:
"Why are they still discriminating against those of us with fingernails? Guess it's a Blackberry for me."
Misogyny? Discrimination? Isn't that a little extreme? It might be closer to sexism (not misogyny) if long fingernails were a legitimate sex difference and not merely fashion.

Welcome to the age of consumer entitlement. People think that every product on the market must be perfect for all users, and they -- we -- get indignant when we feel shut out. It's not an oversight. It's not that all products can't be perfect for all users. It's a deliberate slight. It's discrimination, a willful act.

What puzzles me about the reactions to the iPhone is the that they frame the issue as attacks on women and not as a design problem. As the Times notes, it isn't just long fingernails that hinder the use of the iPhone's touch screen. Fat fingers do, too. So maybe we could call it the product anti-overweight. But then that would leave out people who are merely big.

So if you're the woman who thinks this is misogyny, what would you say to someone who suggested you trim your nails? "It's the machine's job to accommodate its users, not the other way around."

This is actually true. I imagine the iPhone would look very different if it were invented by people who always had long nails. Hell, computer keyboards might look different, too.

A stylus won't solve this problem -- not unless it's an electrically charged stylus. The iPhone's touch screen responds to the minute electrical charge in our skin. Which is an advantage in some ways -- it means you can't accidentally make calls by putting the phone in your pocket. It also makes the sliding, scrolling and two-finger motions possible on the screen.

But wait! There is an electrically charged stylus on the market. Isn't this an ideal solution? Or as one of the consultants interviewed by the Times suggested, nail polish that activates the touch screen?

But technology and design are not the issues here. It's how we react to it. Do we personalize everything that runs counter to our experience, or do we look for possibilities outside our own small sphere? Do we assume men who prefer Obama to Clinton aren't ready for a woman president? Or that whites who prefer Clinton aren't ready for a black president? If a shoe company doesn't make wide sizes, are they discriminating against me and my wide-footed brethren?

Or take this post from the shopping blog Racked, in which a reader expresses indignation at the long lines and sold out shelves at Manhattan's only Trader Joe's location:
A 75-people-deep LINE just to have the pleasure of shopping in the wide expanse of 14th Street's Trader Joe's. At what point is TJ corporate going to acknowledge/realize that the demand is wayyyyyy higher than the supply and they aren't exactly selling exclusive couture? OPEN ANOTHER STORE PLEASE!!!!!
You're killing the good people of Manhattan, Joe. We're crying out to you, for the love of God, save us as only retail can.

I don't know. My reaction to the crowds at Trader Joe's is to simply avoid them. I don't shop there because it's not convenient. Rest assured that Trader Joe's corporate is aware that there is a much bigger market here for them.

When things seem to block our progress, do we see it as evidence of a conspiracy against us, or do we look for a way past the barrier?

I blame Pat Buchanan.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The End of the Theatre de la Jeune Lune

Theatre de la Jeune Lune, the 30-year-old Minneapolis theater company that won a Regional Theatre Tony Award in 2005, is selling its warehouse district building and disbanding the company.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on the company's trouble last November: a million dollar debt and shrinking audiences. The sale of the $3 million building it has occupied for 15 years will apparently not be enough to keep the company alive.

The inevitable question, of course, is: Did the Guthrie Theater with its huge new $125 million riverfront complex nearby kill Jeune Lune? The Strib asked Jeune's Steven Epp in November:
"They haven't taken our audience away, because there's not much overlap. But with its Wonder Bread shows, the Guthrie has dumbed down expectations, so people have less of an appetite for adventurous work."
Nasty words. But he should be right, there should be plenty of room for everyone.

The Twin Cities have long been known for having the most theaters per capita anywhere in America outside of New York City. And Jeune Lune isn't the only local theater to win a Tony -- the Guthrie won one in 1982 and the Children's Theatre Company won one in 2003.

There are other strong, long-running theaters in the area. Old Log Theater on Lake Minnetonka has been going since 1940 (read this recent article about it on MinnPost.); both Loni Anderson and Nick Nolte acted there early in their careers. With the Mixed Blood Theatre (since 1976), the Jungle Theater (since 1991), Theatre in the Round (since 1953), Penumbra Theatre Company (since 1976) and others still drawing crowds, Twin Cities theater is probably not in any danger.

So what did the Jeune Lune in? It wasn't the expensive building, the company's director Dominique Serrand told MPR:
"What happened after the theater opened was that the building, instead of being a burden was actually an endowment. And since we couldn't build an endowment for the theater, we borrowed against its equity, so the theater - the building has actually helped us live and survive for many years."
One commenter to the Strib's story thought it was infighting among the directors. Steven Epp mentioned a bad economy. Whatever it was, it's a shame.

Theatre de la Jeune Lune was founded in 1978 by two Frenchmen, Dominique Serrand and Vincent Gracieux, and two Minnesotans, Barbara Berlovitz and Robert Rosen. All four graduated from the Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris and all four shared the artistic director title. In the beginning, the company spent half the year in France. Steven Epp joined the company in 1983 and was made a co-director in 2001. in 1985, the company decided to stay in Minneapolis full time. The company's building, a turn-of-the-century warehouse with a facade added by architect Cass Gilbert in 1906 (he did Manhattan's Woolworth Building, too), was rehabbed in 1992.

I've only seen two productions at the theater -- Molière's The Miser in 2004 and a "tango opera" by Astor Piazzolla and Horacio Ferrer called Maria de Buenos Aries in 2005. Both were very elaborately staged and mesmerizingly performed. I'd always hoped to go back and see more.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Obituary: Earl Root

I just learned that Twin Cities record store proprietor, radio host, and heavy metal god Earl Root died in May.

The first encounter I had with him was when I was 17 or 18. I was on a date with an older girl who, upon learning that I was a fan of Earl Root's late night heavy metal radio show on KFAI, "The Root of All Evil," drove us to the station and put in a request for me: Rigor Mortis's Re-Animator (an excellent death metal tune that included a clip from the 1985 film of the same name: "you killed him!" "No I did not; I gave him life!"). It was playing by the time my date got back to the car, along with an amusing message from Earl.

On my first visit to Root's record store, Root Cellar Records, I bought two or three Blondie albums on vinyl. One was a picture disc for Parallel Lines. I don't know if I ever actually played that one. Root Cellar back then (about 1994, maybe) was in the basement of a stereo shop on Snelling near Selby in St. Paul. I think my friend Ryan took me there. Earl was always there with his pony tail and mutton chop sideburns, chatting with customers. He knew everything, not just about heavy metal, but about jazz, classical, rock -- everything he carried in the store.

Later the store moved down Snelling to the other side of the street past University toward Como Park. The new location was a store front that was next to a gun store for a while, if my memory serves right. A gun store that made the news because it was so near a playground and/or a school. It was definitely a better spot for Root Cellar Records.

I bought a ton of vinyl there. While Cheapo would always have, for instance, almost everything Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno, and Roxy Music ever did (together and solo) for a mere $3.60 for records in "fine" condition, Root Cellar would have everything Cheapo had and all the rest, in immaculate condition, freshly cleaned on Root's vacuum system with his special record washing solution, in well-cared for sleeves covered with plastic. And his prices ($10 for Country Life?) were always good.

Root was the kind of shop owner who knew most of his customers. He was always smiling and always cheerful. Funny thing, coming from a guy who hosted a loud, rowdy radio show called "The Root of All Evil."

"The Root of All Evil" was on from 1-6 a.m. Sundays for almost 20 years. Root Cellar Records was open for about 15 years. And Root was in a number of metal bands, including one called Disturbed (not the famous one, the first one) and another called Aesma Daeva (which he described as "symphonic opera metal"). Root died of cancer on May 23. He was 46.

More Destructive Videos

Okay, okay, one more 35W bridge collapse video. Here, a relatively high-quality video of a post-collapse view from the water:

And "since you're on the theme of destruction now," my friend Christopher writes, perhaps I might be interested in a little University of Minnesota hockey rioting? Oh, yes.

The U of M won the NCAA hockey championship in 2002 and 2003, prompting student riots both years. The 2003 riots were the worst, according to the Minnesota Daily.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Security and traffic cameras caught the 35W bridge collapse as it was happening. Here are two different angles. In the first video, as my friend Christopher pointed out, a couple seconds in, there are suddenly no cars in the far lane. Then the near lane traffic stops. Then you see a car coming back the wrong way. It's pretty spooky.

Here's helicopter footage after it happened.

And as long as we're on the subject of deteriorating infrastructure, here is security camera footage of the Manhattan steam pipe explosion. Watch at the top of the screen by the 18 in date, right about 13 seconds in.

Swedes Don't Saw Logs

Shocking. Just shocking. The word from the Swedish consulate is that "log sawing" ceremonies to commemorate the building of a home -- or the opening of an Ikea store in Red Hook, Brooklyn -- is not a Swedish tradition. From the New York Daily News:
"That's how they used to inaugurate their new homes in southern Sweden," said Ikea spokesman Joseph Roth. "It brings good luck to the home and its future guests."

Not so, says Raquel Ortigueira, who handles cultural and public affairs for the Swedish Consulate General, and a Stockholm native who knows from log rolling.

"This isn't a Swedish thing, it's an Ikea thing," sniffed Ortigueira, who said that just like in the States, Swedish politicians love cutting ribbons, not logs. "I'm sure the founder has a good reason, but it's not a Swedish thing."

Monday, June 16, 2008

"I said I wanted to see a plaster of paris bagel and cream cheese paperweight, now cough it up."


Haring on Houston

I watched this mural going up slowly on Houston between The Bowery and Second Avenue, and while I'm not much a Keith Haring fan, I think it's a nice change from the typical Broadway/Houston billboard assault. It was commissioned by the City as a homage to Haring on his birthday (May 4). Nylon magazine has photos of its creation.

According to Deitch Projects, which is one of the sponsors of the mural:
The Keith Haring Foundation, Goldman Properties and Deitch Projects announce the recreation of Keith Haring’s celebrated Houston Street and Bowery mural. The mural became an instant downtown landmark after Keith painted it in the summer of 1982. The mural was up for only a few months in the summer of 1982 before it was painted out but its image remains imprinted in the memory of many people who were part of the downtown artist community in the early 1980s.

The mural is being repainted by Gotham Scenic using the extensive photographic documentation of the original work. The work will be unveiled on May 4, 2008 the day that would have been Keith Haring’s 50th Birthday.
The mural should be up until the end of the year. For more on Haring public art, see Gothamist.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Last Night's Game at Shea Stadium

The haze you see under the lights is rain. The game was postponed, and a double header was scheduled for today to make up for it. At one point the rain paused long enough for the stadium staff to start taking off the tarp covering the infield, but as soon as it was removed, the rain started again, hard. Soon, it was coming down in sheets. When the game was finally canceled, some of the Texas Rangers came out on the field and slid head first on the slippery tarp covering the infield. That was all the action we got see.

You can see the new stadium -- Shea's replacement -- in the background above. It's built right up against the old one. The new stadium will have the creative, inspiring, and enduring name of "Citi Field." Maybe it's because I don't follow baseball, maybe it's because the Yankees eclipse all else in New York, but I had no idea the Mets were getting a new stadium. As you can see below, it's almost totally built. This is the team's last season at Shea.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Black Flag's Hair, 1976-1986

From the WFMU Blog via Kempt, a timeline showing the evolution of haircuts in the band Black Flag. Click on it to make it bigger.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Believe Everyone Needs a Vanity Plate

The State of Florida rejected this license plate design in April, but South Carolina is gonna go for it, according to the New York Times:
The bill authorizing the plate passed the State House and Senate unanimously on May 22. It became law without the signature of Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, under the South Carolina Constitution.
Why? This is a question better left for your higher power -- science, if you will. But the How We Drive blog has a theory:
A recent study by Nationwide Mutual Insurance (albeit with very sketchy self-reported data) found the Palmetto State to lead the nation in texting while driving. And if you’re going to patently dangerous things like that, better to meet one’s maker, I suppose, with an appropriate calling card on one’s car.
The ACLU and the American Jewish Congress may sue, says the Times.

The Wapatui

When a colleague asked me if I had ever made jungle juice in high school or college, I had no idea what she was talking about -- until she told me what it was: enough grain alcohol to fill a trash can mixed with a lot of fruit.

Where I'm from, we called it a wapatui, or as in this reference from an article in Newsweek about John Kerry, a wapatooey:
“His speeches can be a hash of proposals and exhortations--a 'wapatooey,' as pour-it-all-in-the-punchbowl drinks are known on some college campuses.”
The Urban Dictionary says alternate spellings/pronunciations include: wapatuli, wapatooly, wapatoolie, hairy buffalo, Jesus juice, trashcan punch and Tequila punch. The submitted recipe goes as follows:
Each guest to the party brings a bottle of alcohol. All the alcohol is mixed in a large garbage can or other suitable container. Several different kinds of juice are added along with sliced apples, oranges, kiwi, pineapple, papaya. Just about any kind of fruit will work. It is best served over ice in a plastic cup. There are several different recipes.

Standard Wapatuli
3 bottle 750 ml Blts each Gin Rum Vodka
5 Gallons Apple Cider
5 Gallons Lemonade
5 Gallons Orange Juice
1 Case Beer
30 Lbs Ice
Chop Up Pineapple, Oranges, Melons, or Your Choice of Fruit
Why you'd add a case of beer to that mix, I don't know. As far as I know, the wapatuis in the Twin Cities area tended to be vodka or everclear, plus lots of fresh fruit in a large tub or trash can. Most people called it a wop.

The Urban Dictionary's entry for jungle juice has a similar recipe, but with kool-aid mix (and no beer). Google has many more references for jungle juice than for wapatuis.

Anyone know of any other regional variations?

I wrote about other regional terms like whipping shitties two years ago. For a totally foreign term to Midwesterners, as someone from Brooklyn what saloogi is. Or ask them what a cugine is.


We Could Have Had A Bridge Instead of a Span

According to the Star Tribune, the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava made a bid for the 35W bridge in Minneapolis to Governor Tim "T-Paw" Pawlenty last September, a bid that the architect said would have met the budget and the timetable.

So we could have had an iconic Calatrava-designed bridge for the same amount of money we're spending for a straight line with pillars?

Calatrava apaprently sent a frustrated letter to Pawlenty before the project was actually awarded to Flatiron Constructors of Colorado. From the Strib:
"After working so hard on the design and creating over 130 drawings and two models, we are very disappointed that we have not had the opportunity to present our proposal" to state officials, he wrote. The letter encouraged Gov. Tim Pawlenty to check out enclosed sketches and a DVD with an animation of the bridge design.
In September, the time the article came out, Calatrava's office was not sharing the designs with the public.

Here are some of Calatrava's other bridges:

Alamillo Bridge, Seville, Spain.

Puerto Bridge, Ondarroa, Spain.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


When I read in the New York Times Magazine that Los Angeles was more dense than New York, I was astonished. How could this possibly be true?

The factoid came from a sidebar (page 80 of the June 8 issue) listing the cities with the highest population density:
Mumbai: 76,790 people/sq. mile
Calcutta: 61,945 people/sq. mile
Karachi: 49,000 people/sq. mile
Lagos: 47,027 people/sq. mile
Shenzhen: 44,463 people/sq. mile
Under the list, it said the following: By comparison, L.A. is No. 90 on the list, with 7,068 people per square mile; New York is No. 114, with 5,309.

This makes no sense. New York is known for its density and L.A. for its sprawl. Livable cleared it up for me:
In “L.A. the King of Sprawl, Not at All,” (LA Times, 10/23/05) Robert Bruegmann reports that according to the U.S. Census Los Angeles is the densest urbanized area in the country. The U.S. Census defines an urbanized area as “core census block groups or blocks that have a population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile and surrounding census blocks that have an overall density of at least 500 people per square mile.”( This isn’t urban in the sense of a city, but rather urban in the sense that it is not farmland, open space or wilderness.

The “urbanized area of New York” by this definition is roughly the NE Corridor which includes 28 different counties in 3 different states; it is home to 18 million people and has a population density of approximately 5,000 people per square mile. The “urbanized area of Los Angeles” has 12 million people and includes five different counties; it has a population density of approximately 7,000 people per square mile. Though it is true that the urbanized area of Los Angeles has a greater population density than the urbanized area of New York City, the urbanized area of Los Angeles is half the size of New York City’s. The statistical trick that Bruegmann claims to be non-existent is indeed very present. If the urbanized area of Los Angeles was close to the size of that of New York we would begin to see a very different picture.
In other words, it's sneaky statistics. If you compare the wrong things, you'll get wildly different answers. Are we talking about housing density or population density? Where do you draw lines when defining urban areas?

The factoid comes from the City Mayors website. It lists the population of the New York urban area as 17,800,000 and the L.A. area as 11,789,000. But averaging out the density over these big areas doesn't make logical sense -- they are made up of too many different types of localities. Livable puts Manhattan's density at 66,900 and New York City's density at 26,400. The City of Los Angeles has 7,900 people per square mile and Los Angeles County has 2,344.

Other facts from the Times:
Fastest-Shrinking Cities in U.S.
By percentage change from April 200 to July 2006:
New Orleans: -53.9
Detroit: -8.4
Cleveland: -6.9
Pittsburgh: -6.5
Flint: -6.3

Largest Subway Network:
London (253.5 Miles)

City With the Most Subway Stations:
New York (468)

Largest Subway Loop:
Seoul (30 Miles)

Largest Metropolitan Areas in 1900:
London: 6.5 million
New York: 4.2 million
Paris: 3.3 million
Berlin: 2.7 million
Chicago: 1.7 million

Largest Metropolitan Areas in 2006:
Tokyo: 35,530,000
Mexico City: 19,240,000
Mumbai: 18,840,000
New York: 18,650,000
Sao Paulo: 18,610,000

David Byrne in the Battery Maritime Building

David Byrne of Talking Heads fame has an installation in downtown Manhattan's Battery Maritime Building called "Playing the Building," in which he set up an organ that uses wind, vibration, and striking to "play" different parts of the building's great hall. Any visitor to the free exhibit may play it.

The 1909 building was once a Brooklyn ferry terminal, but it fell out of use because of the Brooklyn Bridge. I was there to take a ferry to Governor's Island to see New York City's first polo match in 70 years. Bad weather cancelled ferry service for much of the day (though the match went on) so I didn't make it. But I had stumbled into the opening day of Byrne's exhibit in the very same building. I wasn't disappointed.


Red Alert: T-Paw for Veep Danger Severe

When someone told me a while back that second-term Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, aka T-Paw, was on the short list to be McCain's running mate, I was incredulous. All of my issue with T-Paw aside (his asinine anti-tax stand, his insistence that a cigarette tax was a "fee," his suburban mega-church habit, etc.), I couldn't believe that it would make sense for an Arizona Republican to run with this milquetoast Minnesotan. Wouldn't you rather have someone people know? Wouldn't a Southerner be a smarter choice? Or even Mitt?

Back in 2001, Pawlenty got a personal call from Dick Cheney, asking him to please not run for senator. Former Democrat (he also used to be Jewish, too) Norm Coleman was the preferred candidate to run against Wellstone. So he ran for governor instead. And won. And then won again, to the bewilderment of Minnesota liberals.

The McCain/T-Paw rumors may have started in 2006, when the Arizona senator came to Minneapolis to help the governor raise re-election money. "I think he's the next generation of leadership in our Republican Party, and in America," McCain said. If that's true, then the conservative era really is over.

If McCain really wants to beat Obama, he has to distance himself from Bush and become the kind of Arizona Republican Berry Goldwater was. He'd have to do much better than T-Paw for that. He'd have to come up with a running mate more like a Bloomberg or a Schwarzenegger.

In response to a very puffy U.S. News list of "10 Things You Didn't Know About Tim Pawlenty," the City Pages came up with the following list:
Three Things We Do Know About Tim Pawlenty

1. His wife won't sleep with him.
2. He disagrees with McCain on the cause of the 35W bridge collapse.
3. He and Carol Molnau were the cause of the 35W bridge collapse.
The "wife won't sleep with him" bit is a little cheeky. He joked about it on WCCO radio, but it was obviously an attempt at humor.

As for the second and third items, McCain said "The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects." If you think T-Paw had anything to do with the collapse of 35W over the Mississippi last August, he'll accuse you of trying to smear him. Not raising taxes for 6 years? That's not why our infrastructure is failing.

[The meter is from the City Pages, which rates our danger level weekly.]



There are two Minnesota-related articles in the A-section of the New York Times today -- one on Al Franken's senate bid and one on the 35W bridge construction. Both had me annoyed with how Minnesota is seen nationally and in New York.

In the Franken article, headlined "Despite Concerns, Democrats In Minnesota Back Franken," I learned that Minnesota Democrats and Republicans alike have been going through all of the articles he's written and interviews he's given, and found sinfulness.

Franken apparently wrote an essay called "Porn-O-Rama!" for Playboy in 2000. A group of Republican women responded with a letter of concern (read it on the GOP Minnesota website), part of which said:
This column shows flagrant disregard for women, and an extreme objectification of women as sex objects for your pleasure. While you may attempt to defend your writing as satire, we hardly find anything defensible about your finding humor in your desire to have sex with women or robots that look like women simply to give yourself a good time.
"denounce this article and apologize immediately," they suggest in conclusion.

This should come as no surprise from Republicans, but then Planned Parenthood got upset, and then Democrats Keith Ellison (known to Republicans as the Muslim infiltrator) and Betty McCollum got upset.

Meanwhile, conservative bloggers are giddy with delight, cheering Planned Parenthood and shouting about respecting women -- two things that must feel exhilaratingly transgressive to them.

This is nothing new, this politicians and porn thing, says the City Pages. The Minneapolis weekly pointed out that Vice President Dick Cheney's wife Lynne wrote a lesbian historical romance novel called Sisters and referred to a Slate article from 2006 that has a quiz where readers can "match the porn with the politician who wrote it." It includes Newt Gingrich, Wm. F. Buckley, Jimmy Carter and more.

I'm looking for the "Porn-O-Rama!" essay online, but I'm not having any luck. Sarah Janecek explains in Politics in Minnesota:
The most meaningful way to assess the political ramifications of the column is to read it in its entirety (which I did, thanks to several DFL friends who emailed it to me).

Unfortunately, the column is copyrighted and thus major media won't reprint it or link to it in a PDF. I have been sorely tempted to publish it here on PIM, but because we're now happily ensconced in the stable of publications owned by Dolan Media Company, instigating a copyright infringement lawsuit doesn't bode well for future payments on my mortgage.
And so, most of the indignant on the right and the left opine without the luxury of having read the offending essay. Playboy's website actually has a lot of magazine archive content, but not this essay. I wonder if they are keeping it off the Internet to avoid fanning the flames.

Here's my official line on the Franken essay: As a native Minnesotan, a resident of New York and a member of the liberal media, I have been instructed not to talk about the Franken essay by my advisors. They tell me I shouldn't say anything that might jeopardize a future run for office.

Minnesotans Watch ("blankly, at times") Bridge Construction

The article in today's New York Times, "Bridge Construction Draws Crowds in Minneapolis," has some passages that make Minnesotans sound like awed simpletons. Here are a few select passages:
If it seems odd that people would choose to spend 90 minutes of a spring weekend staring out at construction crews and listening (blankly, at times) to Mr. Sanderson, of Flatiron Constructors, as he speaks of “longitudinal post tensioning” and “cantilevered sections,” Minnesotans come for every reason.


“I have to tell you something I get asked all the time," [Transportation Department project manager] Chiglo said. “People ask me, am I willing to be the first one to drive across this bridge? That is why we’re out here.”


Then he passed around thick segments of steel cable that help to hold together the design, and members of the crowd weighed them in their hands, tugging and pulling at them as if to try the bridge itself.
Reporter Monica Davey paints a quaint picture of the dim-witted Minnesotan: a somber sort who falls into a revery trying to pull at either end of a short length of cable, brows knitting in concentration as the dullard tests its strength. "Yep, this one's strong enough. Go head an use it on the bridge," we can imagine him saying in a folksy twang.

And yet he's a superstitious sort, too. Some of his number are afraid to go out on the new bridge, treating it more like thin ice on a lake in early winter. Others still are bolder, like the woman injured in the collapse who demands to be the first to cross the new bridge. The village of Minneapolis should make her its leader. She seems strong.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Little Italy.

The Masticator Spots Some Celebs

I saw Ashley Olsen of Olsen Twins fame (not Mary-Kate -- the one who killed Heath Ledger, the other one) in the lobby of my office building this afternoon. I didn't recognize her, but my colleagues did. She was much shorter than I imagined her, but she was wearing the infamous bug-eye sunglasses. The woman at the front desk in the lobby knows to alert one of my fellow editors whenever M-K & A or Beyonce are in the building. The Olsen Twins and Beyonce all have clothing lines that have headquarters in our building.

A few weeks ago, I was walking back to work from a coffee break with my co-workers when we noticed scattered paparazzi outside the building. Someone had tipped them that Beyonce was in the house. She was, and I think she managed to escape undetected out the side door after someone on my floor warned her people a few floors above.

We're not used to celebrity sightings in New York -- it's still exciting -- but I think New Yorkers have a reputation for being more graceful about them when they do happen. In a much-debated essay for Smithsonian Magazine, the New Yorker writer Joan Acocella observed:
Another curious form of cooperation one sees in New York is the unspoken ban on staring at celebrities. When you get into an elevator in an office building and find that you are riding with Paul McCartney—this happened to me—you are not supposed to look at him. You can peek for a second, but then you must avert your eyes. The idea is that Paul McCartney has to be given his space like anyone else. A limousine can bring him to the building he wants to go to, but it can't take him to the 12th floor. To get there, he has to ride in an elevator with the rest of us, and we shouldn't take advantage of that. This logic is self-flattering. It's nice to think that Paul McCartney needs us to do him a favor, and that we live in a city with so many famous people that we can afford to ignore them. But if vanity is involved, so is generosity. I remember, once, in the early '90s, standing in a crowded lobby at City Center Theater when Jackie Onassis walked in. Everyone looked at her and then immediately looked down. There was a whole mob of people staring at their shoes. When Jackie died, a few years later, I was happy to remember that scene. I was glad that we had been polite to her.
Gawker Stalker, the Google Map-enabled celebrity sighting feature of the New York media blog, is different, of course. I see that Ashley Olsen was spotted just last night around 11 p.m. at Living Room: "She was really really blond, all in black, and everyone was swirling around her. She was beautiful." When I saw her she was pretty plain looking. I looked straight at her because she was coming in the door I was trying to go out.

Here is a list of all the celebrities I've noticed since I got to New York (which was three years ago as of this week):

1. Richard Kind in a Midtown subway station wheeling a stroller
2. Richard Lewis well-dressed, crossing 5th Avenue with a woman on his arm
3. Jennifer Connelly outside the Union Square movie theater
4. Colin Farrell visibly shit-faced in an East Village pizza place
5. Thomas Friedman crossing Park Avenue near 49th
6. Mary-Kate Olsen smoking in a black SUV in front of my office building
7. Matthew Broderick looking hungover and disheveled in Chelsea
8. Joe Morton at The Delancey, with an entourage

There must be others but I can't remember any off hand. And actors in plays (Kevin Spacey, Brian Dennehy, others) don't count until you see them off-stage and outside.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A window at Saks on Fifth Avenue.


When Your Chastity Belt Doesn't Go With Your Shoes

"What? Who is this? What time is it? Are you drunk? Okay, okay, I'll be right over. Just let me put my abstinence pants on."

Sweat pants that "boldly proclaim just where she stands by pointing out that 'True Love Waits' in a large screen print on the front and back" are available for $16.99 at

[from Racked L.A. via Think Progress.]


Monday, June 02, 2008

Sunday, June 01, 2008

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