Saturday, August 27, 2005

Snoozin' Song Tag

Okay, so Bob Mould didn't exactly tag me personally, but I've visited his Whole Foods a couple times in the past week and maybe I touched a nectarine that he gently nudged with his knuckle while reaching for the grapes...

Here's the deal: List ten songs you currently are obsessing over -- any genre, any format, etc. If you have a blog, do it there; if you don't, do it here. Then tag five people or so. Here are my songs, in no particular order:

Arcade Fire: Wake Up
Kleenex/Liliput: You
Rufus Wainwright: One Man Guy
Bikini Kill: Feels Blind
Will Smith: Switch
Imperial Teen: Teacher's Pet
The Go-Betweens: Heart and Home
Missy Elliott: Lose Control
Guns N' Roses: Mr. Brownstone
The Positions: Back to Me

Okay: Mark, Eli, Jon, Ezra & Alex, Kate & Eden, Emily, CJ, Ross, and Liz -- consider your nectarines gently nudged by my knuckles.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ride Again, $4 & Stall Humor

While I didn't exactly approach Michael Boodley's Bastille Day, 1975 record-setting performance of 1,000 consecutive rides on the Coney Island Cyclone [pictured left], I did experience the historic wooden coaster's brilliance twice in a row this past weekend. Who knew that a coaster that began operating in 1927 could be so damn exciting! I guess I would expect nothing less from "perhaps the most famous roller coaster of all time."

The Cyclone's notorious first drop (of 85 feet at a ridiculously steep 60 degree angle) was phenomenal. Then, for a blessed one minute and 50 seconds (covering 2,650 feet along the way), you're whipped around six 180 degree turns, 18 track crossovers, and a whopping 27 changes of direction. I left with bruises and the next day woke up with sore muscles. Of course, I wouldn't have my wooden roller coasters any other way. I feel perfectly content with skipping Cedar Point now.

Also while in NY, I ran across the funniest bathroom stall graffiti conversation I've seen in quite a while:

Drunk woman #1: I hate those damn Red Sox, except for that Mike Timlin, who is H-O-T.
Drunk woman #2: I'm with you, except mine is Brian Daubach. Woo hoo!
Drunk woman #3: The Red Sox rule! MLB Champs 2005!
Drunk woman #4: The Red Sox can go fuck themselves! Yankees rule! They were just throwing the Red Sox a bone!

Wow, where to begin? First, I love that there was a drunken baseball debate happening in a women's bathroom stall. This makes me happy.

Second, I need to point out that Yankees fans have, uh, interesting taste in men. Timlin and Daubach? These certainly can't be the same fans who drool over Jeter.

Third, just throwing the Red Sox a bone? Then what are they doing this year? Setting a big juicy steak in front of us? Cause it sure looks to me like the Sox are going to win the Division, and that the Yankees are in a 3-way tie for first in the Wild Card race. Red Sox rule!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Throwing Asymptosy

Umm...take a look at the new Throwing Music Blog. Now, I know there are blogger templates and all that, but I distinctly remember screwing around with different color combos before settling on this design.

Also, note the hip new TM home page, as well as the exciting news about more "Free Music" in the works. Plus Kristin's working on a new solo album AND a 2nd edition of "Murder, Misery and then Goodnight". What a way to start my morning. I love this woman.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Hatching and Strippling

After my weekend trip to the National Building Museum, I am convinced some part of me was an architect in the 18th or 19th century. Their current exhibition, Tools of the Imagination, made my blood pressure rise, my eyeballs explode, and my latent kleptomania emerge. You can see some of the beautiful instruments as part of an exhibition flyer. Here are the tools I especially wanted to swipe:

1) Four-layer magazine case: Who doesn't want to keep all of their architectural implements in a nickel silver bound burr walnut case?

2) Beam compass: Or, in this case, a "microscopic" beam compass.

3) Ellipsograph, or trammel, if you will. If you get really skilled with it, you're even allowed to join the Elliptical Turning Association. No joke.

4) Perspectograph: Which can be used to make fancy perspective drawings of houses, such as this or this.

5) Volutor: That Andrew Kay is a genius.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Buckeye Battle

Mark nicely summarizes a current debate we are having over Ohio cultural attractions. Though it is kinda lopsided, in that he has choices 'a'-'e' and I'm left with meager old 'f'. My mom has already told me she's with Mark on this one, despite those presidents being "the most boring ever." Which would you pick?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Crisis at 357 Park Place

I attended Woonsocket Middle School from September 1991 to June 1994 -- and they were the three happiest years I spent in school. One would think middle school would be absolute torture for tomboyish, corpulent, adolescent girls, but I loved my time there.

It's amazing how much things can change in a mere 10 years. The descriptions of the school's current state in 2005 from this Providence Journal 5-part series do not ring true to me at all. I guess I sensed things were changing at the middle school when I was in high school and heard stories from my friends' younger siblings. But this?

Woonsocket Middle School -- New England's largest -- has been called a labyrinth, a jungle, a danger zone, and even a haven.

The complex, which covers a city block larger than a football field, is full of snaking hallways, storage closets turned into classrooms, and shadowy stairways known to disorient even the heartiest visitor.This year alone, faulty intercoms, broken bathrooms, corroding pipes, and cockroaches have disrupted learning and eroded morale.

School days are frequently interrupted with arrests, fights, and violent confrontations. Three months ago, a teacher was arrested for hitting a student. Last year, 13 students were suspended for assaulting teachers and 170 students were suspended for assaulting each other.

In 1998, a student was raped in a stairwell. In 2001, another student was sexually assaulted by a gym teacher.

The school is so volatile, teachers feel it is more important to take 10 to 15 minutes out of academic time twice a day for escorted bathroom breaks rather than risk what might happen if they allowed children to tackle the bathroom trips on their own.

Now, sure, there really is nothing unique about this situation. There are bad schools around the country, many much worse than this. Woonsocket surely isn't the only community where parents are yanking their kids out of public school to go to uptight Catholic ones. And teachers clash with an ever-changing repertoire of administrators everywhere. So what's the big deal?

Well, I guess what really disturbs me is how fast the school became an absolute quagmire. To me, it epitomizes the complete disinvestment in public schools that's happening around the country, particularly in urban settings that have experienced recent waves of immigration and only seem to be getting poorer. (According to this article, 32% of Woonsocket Middle School students live in poverty and 61% come from low income families.)

In a recent conversation with someone familiar with urban New England school settings, it was agreed that investment in schools alone is not enough. The ailing schools are merely a consequence of a community that's suffering in a myriad of other ways. So do you start trying to repair the city's economy before the schools? Do you attempt a simultaneous fix? I guess that's what I went to policy school to try to figure out, but hell if I know.

Perhaps the one concrete recommendation that jumps out to me is to build another school -- this structure is clearly too small and old to hold all these kids. Woonsocket is far from being the largest city in New England, so there's no reason for it to have the largest middle school. Split the school in half, have smaller class sizes, you know the drill.

Fat 6th graders who like to wear plaid blazers should feel comfortable at Woonsocket Middle School, and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't in 2005. Kids who hate going home at night should have a reprieve during the day at Woonsocket Middle School, and it sure sounds like the nightmare only continues.

Teachers, administrators: learn to get along and friggin' figure out what the hell to do with the students. Mayor, City Council, community leaders: you're no longer a mill town filled with Canucks, Italians, and Irish folk. The population's changed, so get with the program and serve your constituents -- yeah, even the ones who don't have money.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Andy Roddick's Jaime Yzaga

I'll never forget the 1994 U.S. Open because of a Peruvian tennis player named Jaime Yzaga. My favorite netsman, Pete Sampras, had had a rough year and ended up losing to Yzaga in the fourth round. I was devastated. How could Pete lose to someone I had never heard of before? My friend (and 6th grade crush) Carlos sensed my distress and taunted me with the name Jaime Yzaga for years. (Little did I know that Yzaga also had dealt Pete his first ever U.S. Open loss -- in 1988!)

This devastating memory was jogged tonight as I watched Andy Roddick lose rather handily to Paul-Henri Mathieu a mere two days after Roddick won the Legg Mason here in D.C. Mathieu's performance was incredible, culminating in a scrambling point on his serve that ended with Mathieu running down a Roddick volley for a desperate forehand winner. It was amazing.

I like Roddick enough, and I loved Pete Sampras. But I imagine it being infinitely more satisfying to walk onto a tennis court and beat someone who everyone is expecting to kill you than to walk onto a tennis court and fulfill everyone's expectation that you're going to win.

Guaranteed Roddick will come out firing in next week's tournament. No one likes to learn the Yzaga lesson.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Eli has already posted about this on Expecting Rain, but I like to brag about highlight the talents of my friends. Check out the last paragraph of this NY Times article by Robert Strauss.

[Update: You now have to purchase the article to read the last paragraph. Basically, the article describes the award for humor fiction writing that Strauss established at Carleton, and that Eli is the only winner of the award he has ever met. And that Eli won two years in a row. And that one of Eli's winning stories pondered whether or not dogs could be Jewish.]

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Design Like You Give a Damn

Thanks to a profile in the Washington Post, I've discovered one of the neatest non-profit organizations ever -- Architecture for Humanity. Co-founded by practical idealists Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr, AFH is committed to promoting "architectural and design solutions to global, social and humanitarian crises."

AFH is working on tsunami reconstruction in Asia, improvement of "tent cities" for refugees and internally displaced persons, and construction of soccer pitches in South Africa with a focus on the pitch as a place of community gathering for HIV/AIDS prevention.

These folks ain't after the Gehry or Calatrava glamour -- they're not making much (if any) money. But they understand that not only wealthy people deserve thoughtful, ecologically sound, aesthetically pleasing design. Hats are off, guys and gals.

Friday, August 05, 2005

There Go Those Liberal Colleges Again

Who knew that since 1986 Hampshire College has been home to such a valuable resource as the Population and Development Program? In a cursory glance at their online materials, I've already explored "10 Reasons Why Militarism is Bad for Queer People" and "Why the Hispanic Challenge Should Be Discredited." Take that Samuel Huntington (whose incendiary article "The Hispanic Challenge" is available online if you register for free at Foreign Policy).

Hampshire is also home to yet another phenomenal center -- the Civil Liberties and Policy Program. CLPP hosts an annual reproductive rights conference and organizes a National Day of Action that sounds pretty damn cool. Those lucky kids...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

He'll Flip Ya For Real

Sometimes, but not often, Hollywood does pick the right movies to sequelize. Several reports indicate that Kevin Spacey has signed on to reprise his Keyser Soze/Verbal Kint stint from The Usual Suspects!

It appears as though an Australian barista started the rumor. I guess Kevin trusts her to make his coffee, so she must be telling the truth, right? Right? Don't burst my bubble. My team of monkeys can beat your team of monkeys.