A Frolic of My Own


Jazz, Books, Macs, Food, and Life Outside the Academy

Blogging from Cleveland Park, DC




iJunkman at hotmail dot com


Pages Written
in 2004 = 3

June 30, 2003
 
To Do List:
  1. See Small Wonders at the National Gallery, a collection of still lifes by the 17th-century Dutch painter Andriaen Coorte.

  2. Hear Salif Keita perform for free on the Mall Wednesday as part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

  3. See David Ottogalli's collection of art made with marshmallow Peeps at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café.



June 27, 2003
 
OSHA has compiled a catalog of illustrated fatal accidents. Report No. 67 tells the tale of a 31 year-old male asphyxiated after only a few months on the job:

Three employees were sandblasting portions of a heat exchanger in a manufacturing plant, preparing the surface for paint. The job was almost finished except for some touch-up work. The air compressor used to supply breathing air to the sand-blasters' hoods was sent to another job. The workers hooked their supply hoses into the plant's air system without clearing it with the plant's management.

The plant operators, not knowing the plant air was being used for breathing air, shut down the compressor for scheduled maintenance. This caused the nitrogen back-up system to come on line to maintain air pressure.

One sandblaster was asphyxiated from the nitrogen being fed into his hood.




 
I spent yesterday in Charlottesville, VA, packing some final items from our old house and cleaning. We're heading back down this evening, since the movers will be by Saturday morning to cart our couch and boxes off to storage. Two friends are getting married that evening in Charlottesville, so we won't return to Washington until Sunday. Have a good weekend. Let's hope it doesn't rain on our friends' wedding.


 
In a welcome move, the Supreme Court reversed its 1986 decision and ruled anti-sodomy statutes unconstitutional. Some have noted that the court simply responded to a change in attitudes towards homosexuality since the mid-80s. When I grew up in those years, people used to debate whether Boy George was gay. Now, I may have just been a naive boy from Oklahoma (alright, I certainly was), but I remember Boy George in an interview sidestepping the question of his orientation by saying he preferred a cup of tea to a roll in the hay with anyone. Would a celebrity today bother with such a silly pretense?


 
While black helicopters out West provoke paranoia, black sedans in Washington can explain away mysteries. The day before yesterday, for example, I was walking down Connecticut Avenue to pick up some beer and frozen cannelloni from the Italian market. For some reason, the police were stopping traffic in the middle of the block. I joined the other puzzled pedestrians on the corner looking around for an explanation. Then, a few black sedans with diplomatic plates drove by and everyone shrugged and kept walking. Just another motorcade, although these cars turned out to be only the vanguard.

I’m new to town, but this motorcade must have been larger than average, since Connecticut Avenue, one of the central streets in uptown D.C., was suddenly cleared of cars for blocks in both directions. A cop stood in the middle of the street at every block, until they stepped aside with the arrival of the motorcycles, and the black SUVs stacked full of secret service agents, and the sedans with windows tinted opaque. Someone on the neighborhood discussion list said President Musharraf of Pakistan was passing through. I wonder if he could get Connecticut Avenue shut down before Pakistan joined the coalition of the willing.


June 24, 2003
 
It's always embarrassing to hit send on an email directed to the wrong person. We've all done it, I'm sure. It must be worse to have that email forwarded to everyone you know. It would probably be even more humiliating, though, if the New Yorker published an account of the entire episode. That's that kind of luck that Jonas Blank, Harvard Law 2L and a Skadden Arp summer associate, had recently.


 
Everyone says you must follow-up a job application with a call, so I phoned two places this afternoon. One told me they were already interviewing candidates, but the search was still open. The other location said they were forbidden to answer any questions regarding employments. Desperation is beginning to take hold. I suppose I should sign up for temp agencies after the 4th of July.


 
Kathryn Chetkovich, an unknown writer, examines her relationship with the writer of the moment, Jonathan Franzen. As she says, "This is a story about two writers. A story, in other words, of envy."


 
In 1953, Sylvia Plath joined nineteen other young women as guest editors for Mademoisell magazine. Ten years later, she published a fictional account of that summer in The Bell Jar. Two months later, she stuck her head in an oven and finally succeeded in ending her life. Fifty years later, some of the surviving nineteen women gathered in New York to remember that summer.

The New York Times article never addresses the reason for the Plath's suicide, although some women remember that Sylvia was sick that summer. Some women wonder how they could have overlooked the illness. Most of the women, now in their seventies, put aside careers a few years after that summer to devote themselves fully to their families. Maybe Plath was afraid of this fate.

Once I started reading the Bell Jar, but the prose was awkward so I put it aside. Plath's poetry, however, has always been incendiary.


June 23, 2003
 
I spent the weekend running from one end of Washington to the other with my parents in tow. We saw statues at the National Gallery. Gawked at diamonds in the Museum of Natural History. Smelled vanilla scented orchids at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Read Bob Hope's packing list at the Library of Congress, which might be my favorite building in Washington. Watched pandas gnaw on bamboo at the National Zoo. It's hard to tell if they had a good time.

After we saw my parents off, most of Sunday was spent packing the last of our belongings in Charlottesville. We drove back to D.C. Sunday evening and stopped in at a Sex in the City party organized in Capitol Hill. The more time I spend in that neighborhood, the more I like it.


June 19, 2003
 
My parents arrive this afternoon. They've been in New York since Monday on their first visit to the big city. I predicted they would hate it. Too big. Too crowded. Too expensive. Also, everything that I enjoy in New York—food, jazz, art—holds little interest for them. Much to my surprise, they love the place. I forgot that New York has plenty of attractions designed to entertain the flyover states' residents. The entire institution of Broadway might be one example.

Looks like I am in for a weekend of national monuments and bus tours. If it doesn't rain, we might walk down to see the pandas at the zoo. I don't really mind, since Washington's tourist attractions are things I want to see as well.

Today I have another "information interview" with a VP for development at George Washington. (Why the quote marks? I'm perfectly willing to adopt the business world's vocabulary when needed, but I would like to keep it at arms length on my blog.)


June 18, 2003
 
The cartoon bear who happily wipes his ass in the Charmin toilet paper commercial will be featured in a new children's book. Or, as the Guardian UK says, "Charmin to market its own Pooh bear."

God, I love the Brits. Bad food, lousy weather, but damn funny people.


June 17, 2003
 
Blogs have reintroduced a welcome randomness into the web. For the last few years, Google was the interstate highway that destroyed the quirkiness of the internet. We once ambled along our cyber-Route 66, passing through small towns, stopping at road side attractions on the way to information we needed. Then, Google came to town, built a six lane highway, and we were speeding at 70 miles an hour straight to the site we wanted. Fast. Efficient. And not much fun.

Designs On You [permalinks not working] recently discovered that traffic was flowing to her site for information on the Matrix creator's complicated domestic life. A few posts back, I noted a visitor looking for information on problems with dial tones. Since then, visitors have arrived at Frolic searching for news about the Telluride Association Summer Program, David G. Bradley, and heroin. When they arrive, it's probably not what they expected. Instead of advice on fixing their phone, they might run across links to manhole covers.

Of course, Google is the instrument destroying the very order it created. Seeing that they bought Blogger, maybe they want it that way.


June 16, 2003
 
Housekeeping note: I was told that comments did not work for people using PCs. I think I have the problem fixed.


June 15, 2003
 
Housekeeping note: Fonts are now based on percentage values rather than pixel values. Better web design for all.


June 14, 2003
 
I'm sitting on the floor of the Telluride Convention listening to the second straight day of endless debates. Breaks from the debates have been provided by writing reports, pulling together budgets, and drinking. We still have two more days of meetings.

We're meeting in our house in Ithaca, NY, an impressive pile designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright's students, although the building is a little long in the tooth these days and desperately needs renovations. I'm always exhausted for days after Convention, but it still a great weekend to catch up with some people I don't see often enough.


June 13, 2003
 
The Philadelphia airport has added a swanky wine bar since I last passed through. Unfortunately, the overwhelming smell of buttered popcorn that permeates the bar from the vender across the hall diminishes the high-brown atmosphere.


June 11, 2003
 
Jook Leung has produced some impressive 360° photos of New York, including this photo of the Tower of Light memorial. VRMag has posted an interview and a gallery of Jook's work.

This winter, an interview I had for an academic position took place at the Embassy Suites on the edge of Ground Zero (the reddish building on the right side of this photo). All the other universities held interviews in hotels clustered around Times Square, but for some reason this school booked a suite in the financial district. I don't think they knew it was the hotel where victims were triaged after the 9/11 attacks. When I walked into the lobby, though, I immediately recognized it from the endless news coverage.


 
I got my first job interview. I would rather not say more about it, since I'm afraid of jinxing it. I will say that it's a job that looks very interesting.


 
I wrote a capsule review of Shooting People: Adventures in Realty TV by Sam Brenton and Reuben Cohen. I'm hoping that The Virginia Quarterly Review will publish it. The book, unfortunately, was not very good. The authors try very hard to blame reality television for destroying the documentary as a genre and inflicting torture on the programs' participants. On all counts, their arguments strike me as strained, at best, and the rhetoric overheated.


 
After work, Andrea and I met up with my friend Liz at the Four Provinces. Well, after their work, since I'm still looking for a job. I know Liz through the Telluride Association. She grew up in Texas, where her father taught at UT, so I feel like we all share a regional bond. We talked about the annual Telluride Convention this weekend in Ithaca, NY and the possibility of holding some events for DC-area alumni of Telluride. Jess, the current Vice President of Telluride, thinks she can find some money for an alumni event. At this point, I don't have a sense of how many Telluride associates are in Washington. The more prominent alumni—Paul Wolfowitz, Francis Fukuyama—are hardcore neo-conservatives. The left-leaning alumni that I'm aware of are younger staffers on the Hill, although I'm sure there must people I don't know who are involved with non-profits.

The bar where we met, The Four Provinces (or the 4Ps), has received mixed recommendations from my friends. Patrick, who grew up in Cleveland Park, considers it the best Irish pub in Washington. Tina, who was raised in Philadelphia, remembers it as the place where kids would go drinking when her high-school took field trips to Washington. At this point, I have no opinion. We only stepped inside briefly to let the host know we would be sitting outside.

After drinks, Andrea and I headed across the street to Spices, a pan-Asian restaurant. I'll say more about the Spices in a later post, but I think we found another good option in our neighborhood.


 
At the suggestion of Designs on You, I added Que Sera Sera to my Blogroll. I only read enough to realize that it originates from Tulsa, OK. If nothing else, I can hear the news from my old hometown.


June 09, 2003
 
It's been a very quiet Monday. I wrote a few applications, returned emails, and researched some jobs. I only left the house to return a movie, Ernst Lubitsch's Trouble in Paradise, and retrieve the dry cleaning.

Last night, I had dinner with Julian, who I haven't seen in eight years. Julian had a been a student in the Telluride Association Summer Program at Cornell back when I was served as the Resident Advisor/Teaching Assistant in 1995. In Telluride lingo, he was my TASPer when I was Factotum to the '95 Cornell TASP.


June 08, 2003
 
Robert Mühler has posted photographs of manhole covers from Manhattan and other parts of the world. There seems to be a whole movement devoted to photographing manhole covers. Some sites seem created by enthusiastic collectors, while others see their aim as artistic. This French collection, not surprisingly, views these pedestrian objects as symbols of existential angst. As Manhole-covers.net argues, manhole covers are "like shields, slowly polished by traffic and sunshine they glow silently and show us the color of sky, these who cover the access to the deep dark to where we send what has to desapear [sic] of (our) life." No doubt it was less absurd in the original French.


June 07, 2003
 
A walk from DupontAlthough it's raining again today, yesterday the weather was perfect. After meeting with a dean at SAIS, I decided to enjoy the day and take a few hours off from the job search. Since I was just off Dupont, I ducked into Kramer's Books, bought a New York Times, and ordered a sandwich and a beer on their outdoor patio.

Washington really is all about work. In the café the woman to right of me chatted on her cell about restructing the board of her non-profit. To my left, a younger man was trying to convince an older man to fund his education program. I'd much rather be surrounded at lunch by conversations about work than rich housewives discussing how hard it is to get good help.

Instead of catching the metro, I walked from Dupont to our apartment in Cleveland Park. Along the way, I happend upon the The Resource Center for Activism and Arts, which was hosting the Illegal Art exhibition. The show collects pieces that have landed the artists in court. Primarily conceptualize works. The Center, which offers a library and internet access, was very nice. I have my doubts about whether art should be involved in activism, or whether it can ever be effective politically, but I'll probably return to the center to use the library.


 
MacOSaiX turns a single image into mosaics of smaller images. Each block of the mosaic can be a image taken from Google or your own collection. I transformed the cover of Miles Davis' Bithches Brew into a mosaic using CD covers from my collection. Click on the image to see an enlarged version.

I can hear the voice of my dad asking, "So how does this help you get your work done?" It doesn't. It's something pointless to play with when you're not working.


 
Housekeeping note: The blog has undergone a radical redesign. I'm pretty happy with the look, although I'll no doubt be tweaking it on a regular basis. I'm just so happy to no longer have an off-the-shelf template.

There were several entries I wanted to make today, but I spent far too long getting the redesign on-line. Perhaps tomorrow.


June 06, 2003
 
Gawker reminds us that the "World Revolves Around New York." It's always annoying when transplanted New Yorkers living in your city tell you this, but every time I visit New York I start to believe them a little more.


 
Walking down Massachusetts Avenue this afternoon, I saw George Will exiting a taxi. He had a yellow Walkman in his hand and was heading off to one of the international agencies that line the street.

Op-ed columnists. That's what we have instead of celebrities in Washington.


 
My director finished reading the final version of the dissertation. At the risk of sounding immodest, she called it "a real model of historicized literary scholarship." High praise in the academic world. I glanced at her corrections, and it looks like I could take care of them over the weekend.

I've been given the green light to distribute copies of the dissertation to the other members of my committee and schedule a defense.


 
Housekeeping note: Comments are back. Yesterday the comment server was down, which significantly delayed the loading of the page.


June 05, 2003
 
Weekend to-do list:
  1. Hear Yefim Bronfman perform Prokofiev, Bartok and Mumford with the National Symphony Orchestra.

  2. See L'auberge espagnole.

  3. Read a book. Any book.



 
Café Citron, 1343 Connecticut Ave. (Dupont): Last night we met some friends for dinner and drinks at Café Citron off Dupont Circle. If only we had met them somewhere else. The music, a mix of Latin and African tunes, was good. Everything else was unfortunate.

I ordered the Mambo Combo, a mix of shrimp and chicken with spices. What I got was a jumble of chicken breast pieces, shrimp, and bell pepper strips in a bland sauce. There were no spices that I could detect. The entire dish felt as if a home chef had prepared it.

While the food was forgettable, I'll always remember the service as some of the worst I've experienced. The waitress was inattentive and abrupt all evening. Only after several requests did she finally produce the bill, which didn't reflect the prices listed on the menu. When we asked for a correction, she was rude.

Would you go back? Never.


June 04, 2003
 
Housekeeping note: I now have, and it turns out always did have, permalinks. Click on the time stamp below the entry and you get a permanent link. You probably already knew that, but I just discovered it today.


 
I almost saw Hamlet in the park last night. Well, I saw Hamlet, and Polonius, and Ophelia, and the whole familiar crew. Midway through the first act of Shakespeare Theatre's production at the Carter Barron ampitheater, though, rain put an end to the performance. Too bad, since I was enjoying the show despite the constant drizzle from the time the curtain went up.

David Sabin as Polonius particularly impressed me with his ability to recite verse as if he spoke it all his life. Some of the others, who were more manner and even-toned, suffered by comparison, I thought.


June 03, 2003
 
Sour Bob has been retired from my Blog Roll. After entertaining us with grousing about his love life and lack of employment, the real author eventually became burdened by his fictional persona. There will be no more blogs from Sour Bob, but I encourage you to peruse the archives.


June 02, 2003
 
Watching t.v. this evening, I heard some familiar chords in an Xterra ad. Strum. Could it be? Strum, strum. No, they wouldn't use that for a car commercial, would they? And then Mo Tucker starts pounding the drums, and I realize that yes, it is "Heroin" by the Velvet Underground. Only the initial chords, so we never hear Lou Reed sing that when he puts a spike into his vein he feels just like he's Jesus's son. What the hell does this have to do with fit people driving their SUV up to a rockface and climbing it? Does the Xterra handle as well as heroin?

Between this and the constant use of Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" in cruise commercials, there seems to be a second, ironic wave of heroin chic taking hold. This time, we'll all look fit and happy, but the few in the know will still be thinking about shooting up.

When I was a kid and used to read Spin magazine, selling out was sufficiently shameful that you had to do it in Japan. I've heard it argued that media consolidation has forced new acts to sell their songs to Madison Avenue just to get some exposure. Fine, I can accept that. That logic doesn't hold up for Iggy Pop and Lou Reed. Honestly, though, it really doesn't bother me. It would have back in the days, but rock 'n roll just doesn't matter that much to me anymore. I guess the fact that no one yells "sell-out" means that no one cares. Then again, maybe the rules have changed in a way I just don't understand.

Let's hope Mo Tucker actually makes some money this time around.


 
Twice this weekend, I found myself out and about in Adams Morgan, Washington's supposed center of hipness. Must say I was disappointed. It felt more like a frat row than Soho. The streets were clogged with stumbling undergrads. Many baseball caps were present.

Someone told me that the summer brings an influx of interns, changing the character of the area. I'll reserve judgment, then, until the weather turns cold. Of course, I still had a good time, so maybe I should just stop complaining.


June 01, 2003
 
Since everyone needs a hobby, this person has collected photos of Japanese manhole covers. Maybe they're all in Tokyo. I can't say, since my browser displays nothing but gibberish on this page. Not that I would know more if I could read the charaters.




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