Log in

No account? Create an account
Robert's Journal
[Most Recent Entries] [Calendar View] [Friends]

Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Robert's LiveJournal:

[ << Previous 20 ]
Wednesday, December 5th, 2007
12:22 am
A request
Dear LJ friends,

I wish you would not hide place entries behind links that say "( You are about to view content that may not be appropriate for minors. )" unless, indeed, it may not be appropriate for minors. I realize this is a subjective thing, but I've encountered a number of entries marked as such that have nothing remotely risqué or "adult" about them. If they do, fine, put it behind a link.

I often am reading entries on shaky wireless networks. So new links take time to load. I want to read what you wrote regardless of its adult content or lack thereof. But a bunch of these links can end up taking a lot of time--extra time that's unnecessary, in many cases.

Anyway, it's your call, and I look forward to reading what you write in the future. Just thought I'd make my wishes known.


Tuesday, November 27th, 2007
12:27 pm
Sunday, November 18th, 2007
11:43 pm
I'm the Garbage Man
I had coffee today with a roommate of mine from years ago, who is from Japan, and she told me about a film she really liked, a documentary about poverty in the Philippines. After a bit of searching, I found its IMDB entry--and what I think is the whole film on youtube.com:

Kami no ko tachi (2002)


Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:


It's in Japanese without subtitles (I'd love to see someone post a subtitled version), but the images are so strong (especially in part one) that you don't need to understand it all. Incredible footage of garbage pickers and the shantytown they live in. Safe for work, though it does contain some graphic images that might not be for the squeamish. In English it seems to be known as God's Children and it has apparently been shown in this country, but there doesn't seem to be any US DVD.

And a lot of the world lives like this.
Sunday, November 4th, 2007
9:27 pm
Welcome advertisers
I have Googlejuice! My last post now shows up 11th-ranked under "Van Halen belt" on Google (apparently M. Dantec, or his translator, I'm not sure which) is not the only one connect Eddie, Alex, and Diamond Dave to the heavens...)
Sunday, October 28th, 2007
5:53 pm
Guitars in Orbit
"She 'hears' pulsar and neutron star polyrhythms through ears of big radio-astronomical antennas. She dances with Auroras Borealis tracked by sounding balloons and micro satellites. She knows the oscillatory ecstasy of cosmic radiation in the Van Halen belt..."

--from Babylon Babies by Maurice G. Dantec, transl. from the French by Noura Wedell (Semiotext(e), 2005), p. 112

Van Halen belt When astronauts began to spend long periods in orbit on space stations, music was a key factor in staving off boredom. The advent of the eight-track tape, with its relatively lightweight player, offered the opportunity for space travelers to carry a relatively large amount of music in their personal weight allowance. Once the tapes were in space, they tended to stay there, left for the astronauts' successors in the station. The Soviets' Salyut 6 station, which was in orbit from 1977 to 1982, amassed a considerable tape library, what with the comings and goings of the many Soyuz and Progress missions. Many of the Soviet cosmonauts were fans of hard rock and metal, and many were the orbits that hard-rockin' guitars could be heard within the cramped confines of the bulkheads of Salyut 6. (In space, no one can hear you rock.)

The final manned mission on Salyut 6 was in 1981. By this time, it was known that the station was going to be deorbited. Interviewed years later, Soviet cosmonaut Leonid Popov recalled, "One day it hit me that our magnificent tape library was going to become a charred, melted lump of plastic. Maybe it's silly, but I just couldn't stand the idea of it all being destroyed. We had so much great music--Jethro Tull, Zeppelin, Bad Company, Foghat, you name it. So, I made the decision that I was going to jettison the tapes into outer space. Maybe some alien would find them centuries later. There must have been hundreds of them by then. It was a really magnificent sight, watching them trail away as I propelled them out the airlock."

One day late in 2001, astronaut Carl Walz, on Expedition 4 to the International Space station, spotted a curious object floating near the station. When he examined it through a small telescope, it proved to be a curious bit of space junk. Though much battered by micrometeorites, the label on the eight-track was clearly discernible: It was Van Halen's 1978 self-titled debut album. It didn't take long for one wag to dub the station's orbit "the Van Halen belt," and the name has come to be used for any area of low earth orbit where space junk tends to collect.
Wednesday, September 26th, 2007
10:32 pm
May I help you, sir?
Monday I had to drop off a job at Simon & Schuster. I called M., my contact, and said I was on my way, but when I arrived and the security guard at the desk called upstairs, she wasn’t picking up her phone. “She must’ve just stepped out for a minute. I’ll wait,” I said.

A moment later, one of the other guards came over with a thin man. “My friend’s going to help you out here,” the guard said. Turning to the man behind the desk, he said with exaggerated politeness, “I want you to give this man your special attention.”

I looked at the thin guy. My immediate thought was, Homeless crazy person. It wasn’t a certainty, though. The man had a backpack that was stuffed to capacity. His jeans and T-shirt were fairly worn, but they were clean, without obvious rips and tears. His face, though, radiated deep despair. Someone who’s watched their child crushed to death by a bus and then stayed up for three days might have eyes like his.

And why was he here? “He’s looking to get another copy of this book,” said the first guard. “Who do you think he should talk to?”

I looked down. In the thin man’s hands were the remains of a paperback: about half the cover and a stack of loose pages, their brittle, yellowed edges crumbling. Title: The Story of Surgery. Paperback collector that I am, I recognized it as a Cardinal Edition from the mid-1950s. “I tried at the library, and they said to come here,” said the man. Indeed, Cardinal was an imprint of Pocket Books, and Pocket is now part of S&S.

But as the guards speculated as to who the man should talk to, I felt compelled to ask if I could intervene. “OK, that book was published, like, fifty years ago. I doubt very much whether it’s still in print. It might be, but I’d be surprised if it is. [I checked later; it isn’t.] And if it is, I don’t think you’ll be able to buy a copy here. They’re in a warehouse somewhere. But I bet you can find a second-hand copy for under five dollars on the Internet.” I asked the desk guard for a slip of paper and wrote:



“I don’t know how to use the Internet,” the man said, staring at me with two deep pools of despair.

“Well, if you go the library, they have computers you can use for free, and the librarian can help you.” I hope this is true, and that they don’t brush him off.

“I got a friend who knows how to use it,” the man said, and he left. Of course, I wonder very much if he has a credit card, but maybe his friend can help him.

I felt both good and bad about this encounter. On the one hand, we treated him with respect and did our best to be helpful. Crazy as the man may have been, he had a legitimate request: his copy of the book was in ruins, and he wanted another one. And am I so different from him, with my often overstuffed backpack and borderline OCD?

On the other, I’m not sure if he’ll be able to order the book from one of those sites. I checked later, and if it’s the book I think it is (I didn’t see the author’s name, and there are several books of that title)--but if, as I suspect, it’s the one by Harvey Graham, there are indeed copies of the 1939 Doubleday, Doran hardcover for about $5 postpaid. I thought there would be some copies of the Cardinal paperback, but it seems to be rarer than I thought. But does he have a bank card. Does he have a mailing address?

But where else is he going to find a copy? The Strand? Maybe…but iffy. These days, the Internet is the way to go for secondhand books.

I would gladly buy him a copy, but I doubt I’ll see him again.
Friday, September 14th, 2007
2:00 pm
Via nightgarden and others, here are my top ten career options according to the test:

1. Historian
2. Cartographer
3. Conservator
4. GIS Specialist
5. Archaeologist
6. Air Traffic Controller
7. Meteorologist
8. Paleontologist
9. Anthropologist
10. Oceanographer

I had to look up what "GIS" means; it stands for "Geographic Information Systems."

Maybe it's time to think about grad school...
Wednesday, September 5th, 2007
6:58 am
Secret Master
I have the power to keep you in pain, or to take away that pain in a few moments. Yeah, that's right, I'm talking to you. You, pouty-faced alternadude. You, pretty tattooed lady out for a night of bar-hopping. You, hip-hip thug wannabe. You, hapless middle-aged tourist. I can sit here and watch you suffer, or I can relieve your pain. It's all up to me. Usually, I'm merciful. But if you put too much contempt into that glance at me as I sit here calmly, seemingly oblivious to your plight...Well, who knows how long I might make you suffer, just for the fun of it?

If you notice me at all--and it wouldn't be so surprising if you didn't, as distracted as you are--you would surely never guess my power. You would never imagine that that guy over in the corner with his nose in stacks of paper, or maybe absorbed in his laptop, has such power over you.

But you see, I know something very important that you don't. The management of this place really ought to put up a sign, but they haven't. I know that that bathroom door that you think is locked actually isn't. It just takes a little extra pull. (If there's actually someone in there, you'll feel the catch when you pull on the door.) That's right--you're waiting impatiently for that door to open, as you grow increasingly uncomfortable, but it's never going to open unless you open it. And you can do that any time you want.

I know that and you don't.

Oh, don't worry. As I said, I'll probably tell you right away. I don't really like seeing people suffter.

Not usually.

But remember: You never know who holds the key to your pain and pleasure. I might be sitting right next to you.
Saturday, July 28th, 2007
9:23 pm
Dumpster diving, part 437,259
Ludlow St., 3 a.m. Walking home from the all-night café on Houston St., I see a big box sitting on top of the street trash can. When I glance into it, I see there's nothing but garbage in it. No, wait, there's a book.

It's an Isaac Bashevis Singer first edition, autographed: "Greetings, Isaac Bashevis Singer."

Who throws this stuff away?
Friday, June 29th, 2007
9:25 pm
Contrary to any statements I may have previously made, I am now planning to attend Readercon. (I had thought that my work schedule would be too tight or me to go, but I now see my way clear to having the time. Not sure exactly when I'll make it up, but should be there by Friday night. So...who else is going? (besides aqeldroma, rosefox, sinboy, baron_elric, and editrx, that is)
Wednesday, June 27th, 2007
2:12 am
Rock On
I live on the F train, and I frequently travel to or past the 47-50th St-Rockefeller Center stop. And every time the conductor announces the stop, he or she always adds "Top of the Rock."


When the conductor announces 34th St-Penn Station, you never hear "Empire State Building," even though that stop is one of the two nearest to that much more famous and popular landmark. They don't announce "Museum of Modern Art" at the Rock Center stop.

I have nothing against the Top of the Rock. I'm just curious. Are the conductors paid to say this as some sort of promotional campaign? Because it seems like they must be required to say this, though not necessarily in an accent, or on equipment with a degree of high fidelity, that anyone will understand.
Friday, June 22nd, 2007
7:33 pm
I wish I could post their picture (and please, no 20 Questions), but after a recent job, I just have to say to [well-known person]:


Tuesday, June 19th, 2007
8:09 pm
Lights in the Dusk
This afternoon I saw the Finnish writer/director Aki Kaurismäki's latest film, Lights in the Dusk, at the IFC Center. I have only seen a few other films by Kaurismäki, but I've really enjoyed them all. The Match Factory Girl is a real masterpiece, I think. The American filmmaker with whom he has obvious affinities is Jim Jarmusch. I don't want to go into the plot too much, but it is a sort of deadpan version of a classic noir plot (Criss Cross, say). The power of this film lies in the way the star is a complete loser, rejected both by the other common folk and by the swells, and yet has both hope and a stoic strength.

While I think Kaurismäki is really one of the great filmmakers of our time, I've been amazed at others' total lack of comprehension. When I saw The Match Factory Girl with a friend, I was blown away, finding it both hilarious and moving in a serious dramatic way--but she was in a kind of shock and couldn't understand how I could like it at all. At the end of today's film, I heard a woman's voice in the back: "Can you tell me what that film was about?" Maybe if it had Burt Lancaster in it, and lots of crescendos at the dramatic parts.

A very slight spoiler: There are some scenes in prison, and there are also a bunch of scenes of the more industrial parts of Helsinki. They don't seem too far apart. I don't think this resemblance is unintentional on Kaurismäki's part.
Thursday, May 3rd, 2007
6:35 pm
Fearless leader
To a man possessed of the active energies of Pizarro, sloth was the greatest evil. The excitement of play was in a manner necessary to a spirit accustomed to the habitual stimulants of war and adventure. His uneducated mind had no relish for more refined, intellectual recreation. The deserted foundling had neither been taught to read nor write. This has been disputed by some, but it is attested by unexceptionable authorities. Montesinos says, indeed, that Pizarro, on his first voyage, tried to learn to read; but the impatience of his temper prevented it, and he contented himself with learning to sign his name. But Montesinos was not a contemporary historian. Pedro Pizarro, his companion in arms, expressly tells us he could neither read nor write; and Zarate, another contemporary, well acquainted with the Conquerors, confirms this statement, and adds, that Pizarro could not so much as sign his name. This was done by his secretary--Picado, in his latter years--while the governor merely made the customary rubrica or flourish at the sides of his name. This is the case with the instruments I have examined, in which his signature, written probably by his secretary, or his title of Marques, in later life substituted for his name, is garnished with a flourish at the ends, executed in as bungling a manner as if done by the hand of a ploughman. Yet we must not estimate this deficiency as we should in this period of general illumination,--general, at least, in our own fortunate country. Reading and writing, so universal now, in the beginning of the sixteenth century might be regarded in the light of accomplishments; and all who have occasion to consult the autograph memorials of that time will find the execution of them, even by persons of the highest rank, too often such as would do little credit to a schoolboy of the present day.

--William H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Peru, 1847
5:51 pm
Friday, April 27th, 2007
6:13 pm
Via linkphasia:


The corporate server just blocked this when i tried to access it again but it is in fact safe for work. At least in my opinion.
Tuesday, April 17th, 2007
5:05 pm
World o' clutter
OK--I have more or less come to the conclusion that at the root of having a cluttered, messy apartment is at least a mild form of mental illness.

So--if I clean up the apartment, am I then saner?

Granted, having it in a neater state will relieve some of the throw-up-my-hands despair, and actually doing the work myself will demonstrate to me that I can do it all by myself, with no one's help.

But beyond that...?
Thursday, April 12th, 2007
10:30 pm
Goodbye, Mr. Vonnegut
The first Kurt Vonnegut book I read (he was Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. back then) was Cat's Cradle, which I got as a selection of the Science Fiction Book Club when I was about 13. I'd never read anything like it, and I don't think I have to this day. It worked perfectly as a science fiction novel, and yet it had this whole made-up religion, and a bunch of marvelously sinister characters, and...damn, a whole philosophy of its own.

I soon located secondhand paperback copies of The Sirens of Titan and Player Piano. The former was every bit as strange: the real purpose of life on Earth is...well, why spoil it if you haven't read it.

I was sneered at by a few teachers at my prep school as I carried around the back issue of If that contained "2 B R 0 2 B." Why was I reading that trash when I was supposed to be reading "important" novels like Advise and Consent or Gone With the Wind?

I also found the still-in-print Gold Medal paperback of Mother Night. That one wasn't science fiction, but it was every bit as strange as any of Vonnegut's other novels. An American Nazi who...well, once again, you just have to read it. It's still in print, I believe.

When I saw that God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater was for sale at the Woodward & Lothrop books department, I had to have it. I believe it was the first full-price hardcover I ever bought. Once again, an incredibly odd and enchanting book.

The bleak and strange outlook of Vonnegut matched my own teenage worldview. His black humor made me feel there was someone out there who understood. Later, his cynical view of the way both sides waged war in WW2 was very important to me. And this was a guy who fought as an infantryman in the Battle of the Bulge, was a Nazi prisoner of war, and, of course, survived the bombing of Dresden.

I've read much more by Vonnegut, and while I haven't felt as strongly about some of his later work, I've never read anything he wrote that I didn't enjoy. And that includes some of his recent savage political writing and speeches, which have raised sarcasm to a fine art.

I hope that Kurt is shacked up somewhere in time with Montana Wildhack.
Tuesday, April 10th, 2007
10:43 pm
P.S. on Grindhouse
One more thing: Quentin, "Hold Tight" is a great song, and it's great you're giving it new attention, but it's "Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, & Tich," not "Mitch."
Sunday, April 8th, 2007
5:27 pm
Buckets o' Blood
Saw Grindhouse this morning at an 11am show to avoid the crowds. The theater was totally dark when several other moviegoers and I walked in. "Is this part of the entertainment package?" I said.

It was more and less than I expected. Most of the reviews (which I've only glanced at) dismiss Robert Rodriguez's half as a trifle and praise Tarantino's, but I would have to say I enjoyed "Planet Terror" way more than "Death Proof," though I certainly enjoyed them both. Rodriguez has made some films I've enjoyed tremendously (From Dusk Till Dawn, Sin City) and some that I found pretty thin (Once Upon a Time in Mexico), but he's great with action sequences. "Planet Terror" is pretty much nonstop thrills, with lots of great bits by character actors, plus zombies, gore, and the very, very hot Rose McGowan, who I've been a fan of ever since I saw her as the amazingly hot punkette in The Doom Generation.

By contrast, "Death Proof" seems far more self-conscious. It's way more talky, and takes a while to get off the ground. When it does finally get down to business, it's pretty exciting, but even the long scenes in the car are no "Royale with cheese." Kurt Russell is marvelously creepy, and real-life New Zealander stuntwoman Zoe Bell has a lot of presence. It also seems to have had what eroticism it started out with trimmed to make a broader rating (apparently there really is a lap-dance sequence--I guess we'll have to wait for the unrated DVD).

Probably the best thing in the whole film is Edgar (Sean of the Dead) Wright's horror trailer in the middle. The one for "Machete" isn't bad, either. And look up "Hobo with a Shotgun" on YouTube for another trailer that didn't make it.
[ << Previous 20 ]
About LiveJournal.com