Let’s All Get Naked

After a few referrals and mentions here and there about Myspace, which looks to be yet another one of those friend network things, I signed up to check it out. I’m a virgin when it comes to Friendster and Orkut and Dogster and PonziScheme.com so forth. This hadn’t previously socially deterred me in any way, but after meeting the e-connected Jess of Blind Cavefish for a couple of beers last night, I was suddenly afflicted with washes of Network Envy.

So I set up an account and figured I’d poke around in there later when I have more time – like when Nuclear Winter hits, maybe. I get a “gotcha” email from Myspace.com asking me to confirm that I’ve registered. Fair enough. I click the link and get sent to a page that says this:

The Function that you are currently trying to use is disabled and will be back shortly.

We are making some minor changes to this section please bare with us until we can get this back online.

Bare with ‘em, eh? Maybe this will be more fun than I thought.

Dogster, by the way, is a cute joke that went so far so fast that they’ve taken the site offline while they prep to deal with the incoming waves of traffic. Just, er, yeah, just like here at Pepper of the Earth! Why there’s so many of you that, um, we have entire nations doing nothing but, um, reading our referrer logs. Yeah! That’s right! No foolin’!

Posted in General Musings |

Days of Future Post-It®

OK, very funny. Whose idea was it to alternate the sticky sides on the Post-It® pad so when you pick it up it jumps out of your hand and makes a slinky accordion run of paper down to the floor? There oughtta be a sign on these. “DANGER WARNING: Product may make you look silly when you are not paying attention.”

More fun with Post-Its®? Why not? You can see Post-It® movies, outfit your browser with e-Post-Its®, try your hand at Post-It® planes, ponder Post-It® art, read Post-It® stories, even catch up on the gripping (heh) history of Post-Its®. All in the comfort of your own home or office.

Posted in General Musings |

Rock Me Aramaic

At least there’s this: when the Passion of the Christ jokes come, they’re good.

Posted in General Musings |

That Was the Show that Was

Ethan Lipton: A New Low - the new babyYesterday, in the early after-work-before-catalepsy slot at Fez, we celebrated the release of our new Home Office Records Ethan Lipton CD, A New Low. It was a wonderful night, with plenty of $7.00 tumbler drinks sloshing over the transom (they pour them strong enough, but remember when 7 clams used to buy you a drink with more than three sips in it?), a room that was full to squooshing but not to getting bothersome, and a night of sweet, funny, twisty music that made people smile and lighten up for a while.

In New York in early March, that’s something.

Nancy, who moved to Paris last year, is back from Paris, and we cajoled and muttered and otherwise enticed her down. It was nice to have a fresh set of ears at the Home Office table. She laughs at the parts we used to laugh at, before we jaded experienced hands moved on to laugh at the parts we laugh at now. Ethan’s songs are not so much comedy as they are comity, and in the place of coarse yuks there’s recognition peeping out of each one, alluring and sometimes a few layers down. So there’s matter there, if you choose to hear it. A bit of human condition, if I may.

Ethan was in fine form, surrounded by friends and new fans, riding the happy high of first-round success (we’re the #2 seller on CD Baby as I write this). Over the years we’ve done our share of CD release nights – this is the 7th – and only the very first one, for our Burner compilation, was as easy and breezy as this. It’s always slightly knockity, the CD release show, running on burnt energy and crooked deadlines, with egos flaring and the future ablaze with a terrible bright demanding light. For our first few years I made a point of staying out past late on release nights, drinking myself silly and proving to anyone watching that yes, this is rock and roll. Rock AND roll. Got it? Pour me another.

Last night was excited, yes, and that edgy tremble belongs there: it’s the unveiling. We’ve had A New Low in hand for some weeks now, and it’s been selling briskly. This is the point where we sit down with Ethan – new parents as we are – and look at our toddler. And gently, sweetly, tenderly, we panic. Whose turn is it to feed him when he cries?

Ethan did it last night, so I suppose next time it’s mine.

In other news, I put a box of baby blue peeps out on the partition by my Day Job desk, and nobody is eating them. What’s a guy supposed to do? Eating them all myself is not an option.

Posted in About Last Night |


I saw a flower today. A real one, coming out of the ground.

Posted in General Musings |

Anouncement of the Announcement

Mars Needs WomenThe Opportunity Mars Rover has found something interesting, says NASA. The other thing NASA says is that soon, they’ll tell us what it is.


So now I’m thinking it’s Marvin the Martian or something. Maybe a monolith or two, an underground tunnel complex, a vast spacefaring tree soaring out of the red desert? Glittering cities of fragile crystal? Forgotten chambers studded with doorways, each opening to a different episode of Star Trek? Mathilda May as the naked psychic vampire? Messages from Helmuth of Boskone? Inertialess drive? The local terminus of a transdimensional tunnel stretching far into a threatening future? Could it be … weapons of mass destruction???

More than likely it’s a rock. But until the press conference at 11:00 a.m. PST, I get to dream. Coy, you cunning NASA scientists, coy indeed.

Update: It’s a rock, all right – but it’s a rock that was acted upon significantly by liquid water, and the Rover Team now believes that Mars once had a habitable environment, in carbon-based life terms: atmosphere, water, sun, travel agents, room service, condom machines, cell phones and soft cushions. No proof so far of metrosexuals.

Posted in General Musings |

The Swedish Model

Once recently, and also a few years ago, crime victims who had suffered physical abuse and assault were forced to pay court costs despite having won their respective suits and been awarded damages, reports the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. This bizarre situation apparently arose on appeal, where the initial damage awards were reduced, thereby making the attacker the ultimate winner and the plaintiff the ultimate loser in the respective suits!

Posted in General Musings |

Cutting the Knot

I could have gone to Gage & Tollner, the landmark Brooklyn eatery, before it joined Lutèce in the land of urban memories this past Valentine’s Day. I’m sorry I didn’t. It’s not in my usual price furrow, but any restaurant that can weather Brooklyn from 1879 on forward deserves special-occasion patronage once in a while. I’m not really a Lutèce kind of boy – I’m sure it was great, and I’ll never miss missing it – but Gage & Tollner goes onto the “shoulda” A-list right up there with Nicole from New Year’s 2003.

And it’s a sad Sign o’ the Times that what we’re going to get in its place is a T.G.I. Friday’s (thanks to Gothamist for bearing the bad news). Classy and reverent, right? Couldn’t someone have pulled out all the stops and maybe smacked a Sizzler in there, for a real fine dining experience?

The old Gage & Tollner web site has little to memorialize the passing, and none of the vows we’ve heard in the press to open in another location. Just this:

However, on Saturday February 14th, 2004, Gage & Tollner Restaurant has severed its last meal at the historical landmark location of 372 Fulton Street. It was with great disappointment that this institution has come to this historical end. We want to thank all of our loyal patron’s who have dined with us for all these years.

Severed? Patron’s? Historical end? Misplaced modifiers? Come on, the place deserves better. Or deserves to be better de-served.

Posted in General Musings |

Leap Day

I love this 29th idea. It’s like a little extra moment that doesn’t quite exist, just flickers at the edge of the eye. Not much of a birthday day, for those who have it, but wouldn’t it be an excellent anniversary? Guess I blew this one.

I met an absolutely lovely girl at the Barnes & Noble Starbucks on Friday (isn’t that awful?) (not the Friday part or the girl part, I mean the Barnes & Noble Starbucks bit), but she’s on the young side and has a boyfriend. Of course. He’s her first real boyfriend, and she is sure she’ll marry him. Of course. I think she knows she actually won’t, but she can’t quite articulate that. Her parents don’t know about them – traditional Pakistani family on her end, and boys are verboten – even though they’ve been dating 18 months. It sounded impossibly complex and romantic, and it must keep them endlessly busy. I can’t imagine jumping through many hoops for “True Love” any more, which may have something to do with why I haven’t seen True Love lately, these parts. Still, we talked for 3 hours and shared coffee and cookies, and had a great time.

Posted in General Musings |

Bad Pennmanship

Ridgemont High - The Good... Mystic River - ...the Bad... 21 Grams - ...and the Ugly
Sean Penn, from the early days to the latest. Unforgettable as Jeff Spicoli, unforgivable as Jimmy Marcus, and unbelievable as Paul Rivers.

It’s a night full of sweet Saturday after a day full of unaccustomed sun, and just one turn left before the Academy Awards™ do their Academy Awards™ thing. I haven’t watched the Oscars in years, and I can’t imagine I’ll do it tomorrow either, but I have to squeeze this in before the deal is done and the Atkins Diet Lady sings: there is no reason on earth why Sean Penn should even be considered for Best Actor this time out, let alone be an inner-track money’s-on pick to win.

I know, I know. We live in a lowbrow age and levelling is supposed to be good for us; elitism has, incredibly, become a negative quality, and everyone’s favorite opinions always start something like, “I don’t know horsepucky about films or acting, but here’s what I think about the Oscar nominees this year.” We’re letting religion define science, we’re asking “men of God,” whose fingers may still smell from sticking them in children, whether gay couples are morally sound enough to marry and whether women are minted deeply enough to serve as priests. Some of us even think that if we keep poking around in Iraq, we’ll actually find weapons of mass destruction. Like, dude, how would they get there?

For that matter, someone at Knopf has allowed Joe Eszterhas to write a book, which people are reading – well, a few of them – and bookstores are actually putting on the shelves. This is kind of like inviting Al Goldstein to collaborate on your adaptation of Little Women, except that it goes on for 752 pages. Anyway, it’s the Dark Ages, all right? We understand this.

Sean Penn is a sunshower in a shot glass compared to most of the above – especially the Eszterhas, man, there’s just no excuse for that – but something about the whole thing irks me hard. Maybe it’s simply how joyous Johnny Depp was as Captain Jack Sparrow, how brave and luminous Bill Murray was as the unshowy and lonely fading star Bob Harris, or how stern and taut Sir Ben Kingsley has been through his long career. Maybe it’s how much the rest of Western Civilization and I are feeling Scarlett Johansson. Or maybe it’s just how inappropriate Sean Penn really was in Mystic River, a film that deserved a real stanchion to anchor its story rather than an anvil to drag along behind it.

I saw Mystic River partly on the strength of A.O. Scott’s New York Times review, which credited Sean Penn as Jimmy Marcus with “one of the definitive pieces of screen acting in the last half-century, the culmination of a realist tradition that began in the old Actor’s Studio and begat Brando, Dean, Pacino and De Niro,” and boasts that he has “purged his work of any trace of theatricality or showmanship while retaining all the directness and force that their applications of the Method brought into American movies.”

In a word: “not.”

My cinema for the film was one of New York’s best movie rooms. From down front in Theatre 1, Sean Penn was fanatically kempt – enough with the hair already, hair doesn’t act – and far too concerned with where the camera met his gaze. His cartoony dorsal tattoo is easy evidence of how little he embraced the mixed-bag character from Dennis Lehane‘s excellent bestselling book. His pretty scream to the crane-shot camera owed too much and learned too little from Brando’s Streetcar bellow (“Stella!”). Except for the first natural steps, before the murder which drives the rest of the film, his characterization was like an autopsy: meticulous, calculated, charted, and ultimately prissy. Overall his performance is overstated and melodramatic. The grandstanding nearly swamps the solid and beautiful work of Tim Robbins (Best Supporting Actor nomination), Kevin Bacon, and the relentless Laurence Fishburne, all of whom are content to play the characters assigned them by the author. It ends up being everyone vs. Jimmy, which does the film a real disservice.

Don’t get me wrong. Penn is fun to watch, and his technique is often breathtaking. Technique in service of character is acting at its highest call – but technique to wow the punters and keep people watching your star rather than the movie is betrayal of the art. I like Sean Penn’s politics, mostly, and I like his bravado and his spirit and, well, if you’re going to marry Madonna you have balls the size of a house. But I never find him natural, and I often find him jolting and way over the top. I’d like to see him win an Oscar, too, for great work in a great role. But that didn’t happen this year. This year, he showed off.

And yes, I saw 21 Grams. A little too much wall-biting for my tastes. Some terrific work was done, too, but Penn played Paul Rivers as Jimmy Marcus Lite, and as a math professor he was utterly unbelievable. One of the tenets of real acting, as practiced by the greats: you must become as great and large as your character; you may not simply toss away the chunks of character that you don’t feel like doing in favor of the parts you’re good at, like an unmindful 4th grader leaving pizza crust on his plate after eating the middle. If you’re a math professor, that’s part of the picture. You can’t just play a stricken romantic cowboy when you’ve been written as a math professor. You’re a fucking math professor. Get with the program.

Since I’m swimming against the moviegoing tide and pissing everyone off, I might as well eat the rest of the hog while I’m here. Much as I love Return of the King and all things Tolkien, and happy as I am that fantasy is finally being noticed by the Academy, still … well, the picture just wasn’t strong enough to convince as the year’s best. And that Passion of the Christ bohemoth? A mammoth load of hooey, which would have gained greatly from less fetish-as-religion bloody bondage. More compassion, less passion. As dead-language flicks go, I’ll take Incubus in Esperanto any day.

Posted in General Musings |