Wednesday, August 27, 2008

iPhone Addictions

Why I'm walking in to traffic this week:

Sherlock Holmes


Sol Free Demon

...and why I was corrupting society last week:


Aurora Feint (which I am so over ... you know ... for now)


Jeez, am I an Apple shill or what?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ribble's Brief Foray in to Politics

If you want to reach John McCain at three a.m., which house should you call?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Windmill City

I am fascinated by the future of the New York City skyline. I love trying to imagine how the city will look 20 years from now. There's a lot of interesting, idealistic ideas out there right now - the 2nd Avenue subway line, the Orwellian-designated Freedom Tower, the Fulton Street Transit Center, Moynihan Station (named for the guy who didn't want us to knock down the old one in the first place), the Highline, Hudson Yards - I even got suckered in to proselytizing the Brooklyn Nets stadium complex before Ratzinger and the Bush recession made a liar out of me.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I-Here) gave a bit of a boost to all us budding architectural futurists last night when he announced a plan to create wind farms right here in New York City that would provide a tenth of the city's power. No small fête indeed, and my initial impression is that Bloomberg is getting set to mess up another major initiative in the exact same way as his last two.

In his first term, Bloomberg championed a new Manhattan arena in the Hudson Yards as part of his New York 2012 campaign to bring the Olympic Games to New York City. Bloomberg went wrong there by pushing too hard, announcing a major initiative without first negotiating the details with the people of the City and, more importantly, the big three power brokers in Albany - the Governor, Senate Majority Leader and Assembly Speaker.

New York real estate is very complicated, and this was no different. I wasn't the only one who was uncomfortable with the idea of such a large project with such relatively limited uses on such a large plot of land in an area of Manhattan that desperately needs a well-measured revival.

Even those that supported the initiative could not have been surprised that Bloomberg was just not able to push it through without Albany's approval. The stadium died, a lot of Bloomberg's political capital went wasted, the Hudson Yards went into the lengthy process of negotiation which was probably inevitable and the games went to London. Strike one.

Then came Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan. Now, unlike the Jets stadium, this one was something I supported. What people saw when congestion pricing went in to effect in London was that nobody was sure about it, and then it happened, and then everybody loved it.

Now, there's a lot to be said for making a city more pedestrian-friendly and more petrolium-unfriendly. Unfortunately, Bloomberg once again put himself in a position where he couldn't get around to saying it. In fact, Bloomberg failure to get the people on his side before trying to get the plan passed was just one of the tactical mistakes that he ended up making for the second time.

Once again, we were reading about interest groups with pretty understandable concerns who didn't feel like they'd had all their questions answered by the Bloomberg administration. This time, they were local Manhattan car owners who were used to parking on their own streets, advocacy groups concerned that the new fees would would be discriminatory against lower-income workers, and those living just outside the then-96th St. toll border wondering if this meant everyone would be parking in their neighborhood.

Just like the Hell Kitchen residents who would have been most affected by the Jets stadium, this group deserved to have their questions answered or at least discussed. So did Albany. But, once again, Bloomberg had forced the issue too soon.

In what was probably his biggest mistake, Bloomberg had timed the announcement of his initiative so that Albany would have to pass it to qualify for a $500 Million (!) dollar subsidy from the Federal goverment for Congestion Pricing to have any chance of really happening. Albany Democrats refused to put the proposal to vote, essentially giving it a pocket veto.

As congestion pricing was failing, Bloomberg's tactics and his troubles were starting too fell a little too familiar. Now, I like Bloomberg - I'd bet, for example, that we'll ultimately end up seeing his school programs as successful. And I don't think you need to like him to see how much the office of the mayor can change the character of this city. Guiliani proved New York could be a better place, and Bloomberg proved the mayor could make New York City a better place without being an asshole.

But, although Guiliani's arguably fascist style and Bloomberg's corporate CEO decision maker style have both proved to be, on balance, more effective then simply being a cog in the New York City Democratic machine, simply going ahead with something and assuming that everyone is going to agree with you, and agree with you on your schedule, will only get you so far. Specifically, it is not good enough to make you president of the United States. What's more, it hasn't worked out for Governors too well, either. To move up to bigger things, you've got to be able to compromise.

Now Bloomberg has a new initiative that sounds great, but is big and complicated and involves a lot of interest groups pulling in different directions. What's more, he once again hasn't quite left himself enough time to get it done, although this time in may not be his fault - Bloomberg's second and final term ends in less than a year and a half.

If there's one thing that makes me optimistic about Bloomberg's wind power proposal, it's that it is not front page news, it's front-of-section news. If Bloomberg isn't staking his future on this proposal like he has in the past, that means that there's room for all parties involved to compromise. It even seems from the Times article that Bloomberg is taking the complicated nature of these negotiations in to account, seeing himself as just getting the ball rolling.

Ultimately, though, alternative power farming is going to depend on the man himself. If Bloomberg's learned the lessons of the mistakes he's made in the past, he has the potential to leave an environmental legacy that New Yorkers can just make out off their beaches and on their skyscrapers and be proud of. Otherwise, we'll once again just have to wait for someone who knows both how to lead and how to listen.

ribble's Guide to the Holidays

January 1
New Year's Day
Break as many of last night's resolutions as possible. Sober up. If already sober, wait out hangover. Shower. Take it easy.

January 27
My Birthday
Perfectly placed just long enough after Christmas that people are no longer burnt out on gift-giving, my birthday is one of my favorite days of the year. I look back on the past year, see how far I've gone, and then take all my friends out for dinner so they can meet each other, get wasted and tell me what they really think of me.

Having all these people who like me together in one place is also a very important opportunity to impress girls.

Also in January
Superbowl Sunday
The one day of the year where I can pretend I care about not only football but also commercials. Also one of the few times where everyone in America admits the importance of both snacks and beer simultaneously.

February 14
Valentine's Day
Is there any other holiday with such a rich contrast between two arbitrarily distinct groups of people? Valentine's Day is either all romance and flowers or all sucking and suck worthiness. Either I have a girlfriend on this one day of the year or I don't. I don't see why we've all got to get so worked up about it.

March 17
St. Patrick's Day
Okay - best St. Patrick's Day ever: My gigantic Irish friend Ben, an errant Canadian and I stagger across the fields of South Wales with a half bottle of Bailey's (having drunk the other half). In New York City, though, this is basically a bar holiday. I am a man who simply does not go to a lot of bars.

Mid April
Fiesta is a week-long San Antonio party that comes just before it gets too hot to do anything in San Antonio.

Fiesta used to be great when I was a kid because all our friends across the city would come down to my neighborhood for the King William Fair.

I went back recently and got to see Fiesta as the adults saw it - crowded and exhausting (although the parade was still awesome). Oh, well. You need to eat at least one funnel cake a year, may as well be here.

March 20-ish
First Day of Spring
In New York City on the first day of Spring, everything is beautiful and perfect in the world. Here's not one but three excellent songs about this particular season in this particular city: Jonathan Richman's "Springtime in New York", Jonathan Coulton's First of May, and, of course, the classic How About You? Woo, Spring.

Memorial Day / Labor Day
Because it was always hot in Texas regardless of "season," I am just now becoming acquainted with the value of the beach-going Holidays. As a result, I always get these two bookends mixed up.

July 4
4th (July)
The success of this holiday depends entirely on one's ability to get a good angle to see fireworks. Sometimes it helps to bring your own.

October 31
Last year, I crashed a Columbia party with Marmo while I was dressed as the Chinese Zodiac.

I pinned a bunch of tiny stuffed animals to myself for each of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac calendar. Then I decided my costume was too cryptic, so I took some masking tape and a sharpie on the train with me on my way to a party and I labelled myself - "Year of the Dog," "Year of the Rat," etc., and then three lines of tape saying "I am the Chinese Zodiac" on the front.

I couldn't find a stuffed rabbit, so I just drew one on a white T-shirt and put a label on the front of my coat saying "Ask to see my bunny."

Some Thursday in November
Traditionally the time when I go home and let my Dad cook for me while I play with my baby brother and half-watch American football on TV. I have tried to explain how good my Dad's cooking is to other people, but I rarely succeed.

Recently, a friend of mine told me a close friend of hers that had been living in France for years was going to finally be back in town in a few weeks. I listened, and then I said that during our coming visit to my parents' place, we were going to eat my Dad's ribs. It was only right afterwards that I realized that I had felt like my news about the ribs was just as important as my friend's news about being reunited with someone she hadn't seen in years. That's how good my Dad's cooking is.

December 25-ish
I watch Die Hard every Christmas.

December 31
New Year's Eve
Tied with my Birthday for my absolute favorite holiday. I like to think back on the past year, think ahead to what I can expect to come, make a lot of promises and just get absolutely toasted so as to watch things blow up high above the city, fully prepared for a new year full of the brand new holidays to come.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How About an Animated Series featuring the Cast of Scrubs Playing Teenage Clones of Historic Figures?

I was watching a lot of Clone High, U.S.A. lately (as much as someone can watch, I guess - there's only one season) when I realized that the janitor in the Litter Kills: Litterally episode looked a lot like another janitor I recognized.

Turns out, like, half the cast of Clone High are Scrubs principals and regulars.

So, if the idea of the cast of Scrubs staring in an animated series as the teenage American clones of historic figures is something you think you'd be into, then you have a very specific set of tastes.

But seriously, you should check it out.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Musical Colors

This post came to me while I was thinking how someone could make a really good mashup of Blur's "He Thought of Cars" and all those scenes in Scrubs where people are driving places.

Basically, I'm interested in taking the (White plus Black equals) Grey Album one step farther.

The Yellow Album

The Green Album

The Orange Album (...and again)

My special Weezer section:
The Red Album
The Green Album
The Blue Album





Mauve. No, seriously. Mauve.

Colors (for U.S.icans)
Colours (for foreigners)


Brown (although, personally, I'd go with this Brown.

And, finally, The Khaki Album
(although I'd feel free to go with Kaki King.)

Fire up your Pro Tools, pop culture post-modernists! I want a full spectrum by next Fall!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ribble's Favorites

There's no curling and no women's two-person bobsled, so I'm no expert on any aspect of the Summer Games. As a result, I've had to choose who to root for based solely on athletes' countries of origin. I've got a short list of my go-to favorites here:

1. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

2. New Zealand (I have a friend from New Zealand)

3. Mexico

4. Great Britain

5. Canada

And then, in no particular order ...

Argentina (for basketball)

And, if no one else is around ...

Korea (either is fine)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Things to Carry

This is what Dorothy Gambrell carried around the world, or at least what she was carrying when she made it back to Brooklyn from her trip around the world on boats and trains.

Reading about Dorothy's supplies reminded me of something I've thought about every week since I read the last few paragraphs of this interview in Wired Magazine in April of 1996.

In that interview "cybertheoretician" (there's a Wired Magazine neologism if I've ever heard one) Marcos B. Viermenhouk, by way of explaining humans as both increasingly specialized and increasingly interdependent, said "Pull Bill Gates out of his office and put him in the veldt - in four days he's a bloated corpse in the sun."

As a fifteen year old born on the The Day of Precocity, I found this idea appealing on a number of levels. The one that's stuck with me, though, is that I could be picked up from anywhere at any time and dropped off on the Veldt or anywhere else without the slightest bit of warning. Where would I be then? Would I outlast 1996 Bill Gates?

As a result of thinking of this idea for the last 12-odd years, I've become very conscientious of the things that I carry with me when I leave the house (I've always assumed that Viermenhouk would be good enough to let me keep my immediate personal effects.)

It isn't really a question of survival skills, after all, since if we're assuming the Veldt could hit you at any moment, absolutely anywhere else is possible as well. It may be useful to be able to set traps in the Australian outback, but drop me in downtown São Paolo and I'd much prefer a cell phone and a short stack of US currency. Flexibility is the key.

First, I always carry my black Swiss army shoulder bag with me wherever I go. Like an alligator with a shotgun, this thing always takes people by surprise. It can carry any amount of anything. In my pockets, I have my wallet, cell phone and keys. Always headphones.

In the bag, I always carry boxcutters (a habit from my gripping days), leatherman or multitool, an umbrella, matches, a small (eyeglasses screw-size) screwdriver, a cheap corkscrew, a small (2" long) philips' head screwdriver, a couple of pens, a pencil for crossword puzzles, my checkbook, two buttons (for clothes), one button for Nerdcore Rising, sunglasses, reading materials, the keys to my old employers' office, and various medicinal crap: antibiotic ointment, two very old pieces of nicotine gum, a powerful French lip balm which I never use except in winter, and a single sudafed PE which I have fantasies about grinding up and putting in someone's coffee should I ever be kidnapped.

With this full kit, I usually feel prepared for anything. It's not the perfect set of tools for a round-the-world trip, but for the challenges I run in to in day-to-day life, I do pretty well. I also for some reason enjoy the idea that I could take apart almost any sort of small electronic device, although I rarely know what to do with them afterwards.

With the issue of Veldt preparedness out of the way, then, my mind often begins to wander to the logical next question: who would I bring with me in to this excursion in to the random? Who possesses the crucial combination of useful skills and an agreeable personality for any possible situation?

For some reason, I always imagine myself with this person in one of the crucial scenes of Cerebus the Aardvark Volume 4: Church and State #2. I'm thinking specifically of when Cerebus is trapped inside a giant tower made of stone skulls while he's bringing a perfect sphere of gold to the moon.

As we all know, Cerebus was accompanied then by the Flaming Carrot in the famous Flaming Carrot Crossover.

The Flaming Carrot was a valuable travel companion as he not only possessed the wherewithal to cope with such a strange situation (in fact, one is left with the impression that he often caused exactly that kind of situation himself), but he also allowed Cerebus to move much more easily up the tower in the darkness of space as his carrot top is constantly on fire but does not consume itself. Handy in a pinch.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Very interesting Mixes

I recently completed one of my major "media projects" (read: wastes of time) - rating all the music in my iTunes library. It was a long journey and I had many strange adventures along the way. Like an anti-depressant that cures ED, one of the happy side effects of my indulgent and arbitrary objective was that I now have dozens of new and fascinating playlists.

As I worked my way through hundreds of tracks I hadn't listened to literally since switching to iTunes, I felt compelled to start grouping songs together the way I thought about them. I had a sophisticated system. I started with a playlist of a few hundred songs I felt I should rate next. I'd listen to these over a couple of weeks and rate them, and if I felt like it would fit with a list I already had or if I felt the song illustrated something other songs could also exemplify, I saved it first to a seperate playlist on my iPod and then to one of several mixes through my laptop.

What I ended up with was sort of an aural mind map. It reminds me of the shelves at Movie Library in Santa Fe. I have playlists like Songs for Driving Around Southern California With the Top Down, Songs about Trains, the Best 50 Songs Eva, Music I Really Want to Make in to a Music Video, a list of music that I had wanted to use in a stage project called Funny Bunny Dances several years ago but never got around to doing, and on and on. I'm experimenting with ways to publish them now.

So I finally got to the through all my playlists of unrated songs (not quite the end, actually, as I can't bring myself to listen to Vickyheart's CD of her vocals on opera classics with a critical ear) and what should I find at the end of my media critiquing rainbow but a big pot boredom. Like a bribed schoolchild, I found that without my goal of rating and making playlists, I now had no interest in listening to music.

The solution? Another playlist, of course! As I'd rated music, I had noticed that I was rating some songs higher than I really felt they deserved just because I wanted to listen to them once or twice before. Not wanting to bias my completely subjective exercise with these my own subjective allowances, I created a new playlist for music I was interested in listening to again with the title "interesting music." It was here I found a new arbitrary objective to distract me once my first arbitrary objective ran out.

As I went through the songs in my "interesting music" playlist, I noticed they really comprised two categories. First, there was the songs I'd just wanted to listen to once or twice more. Maybe I wasn't sure of the rating I'd given them, or there was something inthem that had caught my ear but I didn't feel like listening to it the first time through, or I thought they may be material for one of my playlists but I couldn't immediately figure which, or whatever.

The other, much more fascinating category was songs that were interesting and I thought may always be interesting no matter how many times I listened to them. I've posted this playlist, "ribble's Interesting Music," on iTunes.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Names I Considered for My New iPhone


iPhel (long i sound)

iPhle (short i sound)

I finally settled on iPple