Saturday, August 20, 2005


Thursday I went to see The Goebbels Experiment down at the Quad Cinema. Somebody thought of a way to combine Joseph Goebbels' (Hitler's minister of propaganda) diary with never before seen German archival footage. He should have kept thinking.

I suppose the concept could have worked. It could have shown how the Nazis used propaganda to motivate an entire country to insanity. But far too often the movie just took cheap shots, pulling out some prediction of Goebbels' that turned out to be totally wrong, or excerpting some exaggerated diary entry that was merely a personal pep talk. The audience was laughing, but Goebbels was not funny at all.

What I found most interesting were Goebbels' home movies, mostly of his children. Home movies is a bit of a misnomer. They were movies taken at his home, but they were obviously staged, professionally lighted and filmed. I found this quite strange, even for a Nazi egomaniac.

BTW, the Quad is always showing interesting films (I didn't say always good films) that are seldom shown any place else. If you like such things, its president, Elliott Kanbar, sends out a weekly e-mail newsletter that details what they're showing, plus he always adds a few comments about films in general that are quite entertaining if not informative. You can subscribe on their website.

Anyhow, after the film we went to dinner at Japonica, over at 100 University Pl. We lucked out--we were seated immediately, a highly unusual occurrence at this very popular place. The food is very good (but I haven't had the sushi there in quite a while), though on the expensive side. The service is great (though having a Latino waiter in a Japanese restaurant is strange). We recognized one of the other waiters from our usual pre-Lincoln Center spot, and he recognized us, greeting us on our way out.

Friday, August 19, 2005


I'm finally getting a chance to write about the Crossdressers International Sightseeing Bus Tour of New York that I went on Wednesday night. Actually, I more than went on it. I organized it.

For several summers CDI has been taking a cruise on the CircleLine "Harbor Lights" tour. With numbers varying from 3 to nearly a dozen, we joined the tourists on a large boat (capacity in the 100's). It was a chance to get out of the "tranny ghetto," mingle with the public, and let some of our more fearful members see that you can do this without being attacked or harassed. In the early years people did occasionally take our picture, like we were just another tourist sight. But otherwise there were never any problems. Sometimes we'd talk with some of the people around us, but mostly we just sat and watched the scenery go by. It was an opportunity to show that CDs do "normal" things and aren't all just a bunch of crazies or hookers.

But after 6 years of this, it was getting pretty boring. The first four times we had the same tour guide, and after a while I could almost repeat his spiel (with all his lame jokes) by heart. The last couple years we had a different guide, but I was learning his talk, too.

So this year I suggested something a little different: we'd stay on dry land, and take one of those double decker, open-topped tour buses for our sightseeing excursion. A little research found the Gray Line Night Tour. It was more expensive--maybe a little too expensive for our more financially challenged members. So I got the other officers to agree to a small CDI subsidy.

There was confusion about the departure times of the tour. Their website seemed to indicate there were three, 6:00, 6:30 and 7:00, but that seemed rather early to me. I e-mailed them to ask if this were correct, but I never got a reply, and I was too lazy to try and call. I just assumed it was correct. My mistake.

But I proceeded with my incorrect assumption, and called for people to gather at the Gray Line office at 6:30, so we could make the 7:00 o'clock tour--the Gray Line website said you should arrive 30 minutes ahead, and that would give us time to purchase the tickets, and for the usual latecomers to still make it.

So Wednesday afternoon I went to the CDI apartment to change my clothes (it does take me a while to transform). The CDI founder, Kristine James, was there, waiting for the tour, and a visitor from West Virginia, Toni, arrived. She had seen the event on the website, was in town on a visit, and wanted to take the tour also. She changed her clothes. But everyone else who arrived just wanted to stay at the CDI apartment for the Open House.

At about six the three of us left and walked the eight blocks to the Gray Line office. We were early, as I wanted to be, so I could be on the lookout for anyone who came directly. The others bought sodas (well, Toni called it a pop) and sat down to wait. I enquired about the departure time, and found out that the 7:00 o'clock tour was the first not the last. Oh well, next time we'll know--we might be able to get more people with a later departure.

No one else showed up. It was just the three of us (and I, amazingly, was the youngest at the age of 56!. But unfortunately there isn't a senior discount). At 6:45 I bought the tickets, and we went across the street to board the waiting bus. The dispatcher (maybe it was the driver) punched our tickets, and welcomed us aboard. We climbed the narrow stairs to the upper deck.

There were already a few other people up there, including a British family occupying the front row (see my previous post, below). We settled in right behind them, taking some souvenir pictures of each other.

Shortly after the appointed time we departed, with only a few empty seats, at least upstairs. Our tour guide, Andrew, standing in the stairwell right behind us, took his microphone and started his talk. He talked. And talked. And talked. Almost non-stop for the entire tour, Andrew used his mild New Yawk accent to point out the various sights. Was the accent real? He said he was a native New Yorker. But he had no trouble shifting into other accents when appropriate. So who knows?

He started pointing out this building and that, trying to make connections that out-of-towners would appreciate, such as the soup stand used as a model for the "Soup Nazi" on Seinfeld. There were a lot of references to television shows.

The first thing I noticed were the traffic lights. The bus cleared them only by about a foot. Andrew warned us not to stand up when the bus was in motion, and the warning was real--at one point Toni rose a little in her seat to take a picture, and Andrew immediately pressed her head down. There was a traffic light coming right at it.

Andrew explained that with many in his audiences not speaking English, he needed a good way to tell everyone when there was a photo opportunity. He said he had found "Click, click" to be the universal indicator. He also said he once had to do one of Gray Line's foreign language tours when the guide suddenly fell ill. But he didn't speak the language. So all he said the entire trip was "Click, click," "Click, click."

But taking pictures from a moving bus, especially at dusk, is rather difficult. I soon gave up trying. It was lovely night, still in the low 80's with very low humidity. I just sat back and enjoyed the trip.

I won't bother with a detailed description of the tour. Take it yourself if you're really interested. We went up Eighth Avenue a bit, turned right for a block, then headed downtown. Eventually we got down to the Manhattan Bridge. Andrew warned us of high winds on the bridge, saying we should secure any "packages, purses, or significant others" that we didn't want to lose. I was wondering if he was going to add wigs, but he didn't (though I'm sure he made us). I was actually worried about that-- I made sure I had a scarf in my purse before I left, so I could tie things down.

But it hadn't been very windy at all up until then, so the scarf had remained unused. As we started across the bridge I made sure my wig was on securely, and got ready to hold it down if need be. But it wasn't a problem at all.

The view from the upper deck of a bus going across the upper deck of the Manhattan bridge, a little before sunset, is worth the price of the whole tour.

After seeing a bit of Brooklyn we returned across the Manhattan Bridge and went back uptown. A second pass through Times Square, this time after dark, was included. Then we returned to our starting point. As we departed we each gave Andrew a couple dollar tip, and he said to each, "Thank you, honey."

As a New Yorker of over 30 years, I am always interested in what the tourists are told about my city. Most of what Andrew had said was correct--with one big exception: He said that Mayor Giuliani was in his emergency bunker in 7 World Trade Center on 9/11, evacuating only minutes before the building fell. Totally untrue. Giuliani never was in the bunker that day, and it was evacuated in the morning, hours before the building collapsed. See Time Magazine's account.

Andrew had remarked several times how light the traffic was that evening. The tour, advertised as 2+ hours, only took 1:40. So we had plenty of time to return to the CDI apartment for a late dinner. The fresh striped bass, caught by Wendi Darling, and cooked by Rochelle Nicole, was lovely.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


I always associate a British accent (at least an upper class one) with public propriety and good manners. It probably comes from watching too much Masterpiece Theatre. So it was disconcerting last night to hear, with every consonant crisply enunciated,

"Mummy, Timothy is pushing me."

"No, Mother, I am not."

"Yes, Mummy, he is."

coming from a pair of very young riders on the tour bus. I guess kids are the same all around the world--big brothers harass their little sisters everywhere. No matter how well they speak.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


When did the schools stop teaching kids the difference between lose and loose?


Another Mostly Mozart concert last night. Except this time there was no Mozart–unless you count the snippets Schnittke quoted in his 1977 piece “Moz-art à la Haydn.” It is described as a “game with music.” Let’s just say that after watching the musicians do their choreography I have no need to watch any football half-time shows for a while.

Also on the bill were Prokofiev’s First Symphony, the “Classical” Symphony, and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, two works with which I am quite familiar–and enjoy very much. Both were done quite well. The audience raved for Joshua Bell’s performance of the Tchaikovsky. I joined in the ovation at the end (though not in the long one he got after the first movement).

At 37 Bell’s a little past being the hot, young up-and-coming next Heifetz, but he still gives a very youthful appearance–helped in part by his costume, basically a black silk pyjama set. A man in the row behind me called it a Viet Cong uniform. But I don’t believe theirs were made of silk. I will say that this outfit was a bit better than the one he wore when I heard him at Tanglewood last month. That one had a blue pyjama top.

Since this was a weeknight, and much cooler than last Saturday, there were few summer dresses worn by the audience. One of the older women in the row in front of me was overdressed in a very nice multi-colored speckled white skirt suit. Other than that there wasn’t too much in the fashion category that I noticed.

My biggest complaint: they really need to replenish the snack supply at the refreshment stands–gummy bears and after dinner mints are just plain insufficient.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Over in Kat's Korner Katya posted a link to Spell with flickr, which is where the "glob" in pictures is from. Check back daily to see them change.


Spam. I hate it. Everyone hates it. Occasionally spammers get caught. Mostly they just get rich. And keep on spamming.

At my main e-mail address I get 30 to 40 spam messages a day. This is actually a little better than a year ago, when it was closer to 50. I'm not including advertisements from companies I deal with. I'm talking about honest-to-goodness, forged return address spam.

But very little of the spam makes it to my inbox. I set up filters, and send spam, or suspected spam, to separate folders. There I can quickly look at them, make sure there's no non-spam, and delete all the shit in one swell foop. (Originally I had a separate folder for suspect messages, but I realized that just about all of them were spam, too. So now I just send them to the spam folder, marked in a different color so I can give them a little more scrutiny.)

Every time a spam message does make it to my inbox, I write rules that would catch it. Lots of rules. Anything that would distinguish it from something I'd want to read--phrases like "enlarge your penis" or "price per dose, " misspellings (especially of words related to sex or drugs), accent marks in the subject (except for valid French accent marks--I do get some real mail with them), any variant of "mortgage" or "refinance," etc. Lately someone is sending spam from, so now anything from (that isn't in my override list, of course) is suspect.

I've been doing this for a while now, and I have hundreds of rules. But the spammers keep coming up with new stuff--yesterday I added "got laid" to the subject list ("get laid" has been in there for ages).

It's a challenge.


Download cheaply expensive and qualitative software

Monday, August 15, 2005


being sick.

doing my taxes and finding out I don't have all the information I need.

when my Internet connection goes down.

In other words, I'm not having a great day.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Last night was my first Mostly Mozart concert of the season, not counting Opening Night which I watched on television. It was very good (not that I'm a terribly good critic, but I know what I like). But there was little Mozart to be heard--just one of the four pieces performed. We also heard works by Johann Christian Bach (JSB's son), Beethoven, and Haydn.

The single Mozart piece was short aria, "Va del furor portata." I guess we must excuse the brevity--little Wolfgang scribbled it down at the age of eight! The title translates to "Go, Transported by Fury," and there was plenty of fury in tenor Russell Thomas' rendering. His voice easily filled Avery Fisher Hall with a glorious sound. Only the lowest notes gave him any trouble--he did have to reach a little. There was plenty in reserve at the top, not that this piece is a test of a tenor's high notes. This was his New York orchestral debut--he made his Metropolitan Opera debut this past season. I'm looking forward to hearing him there. And there, at least, I won't have to look at his purple shirt.

The extended stage they built for the Mostly Mozart series worked quite well--maybe a little too well. I could hear conductor Louis Langrée exhaling a couple times as he urged the orchestra to a crescendo--even from the 12th row. But the sound is smooth and balanced, and the lighting and acoustic structure hanging over the stage isn't too intrusive--though the silvery rails clashed with the gold trappings of the hall.

Intermission always gives me a chance to check out what the women are wearing, and there was a good number of nice, colorful summer outfits. Mostly Mozart is pretty informal for the audience--plenty of people in shorts, sometimes just with a t-shirt. But there always exceptions, like the 20-something couple in front of me on the refreshment line, obviously out on a date. She wore a little black dress, showing off an impressive (but not overly impressive) amount of cleavage. It was a great distraction from her rather plain face, which she wisely refrained from emphasizing with a lot of make-up. And it gave her date, much taller despite her 4-inch heeled ankle-straps, a great view.

And while we're on the subject of clothes, I really wish Langrée would lose that bus boy jacket he wears.

One more complaint: It is customary not to applaud between movements of a piece. Well, some of the Mostly Mozart audience isn't aware of that. The performers manage. Pianist Garrick Ohlsson even got up and did a little bow after his excellent rendering of Beethoven's oh-so-long cadenza in the first movement of the First Piano Concerto (after checking with the conductor, of course). What I don't like is the smirking of the non-applauders. It's not that big a deal.

(and you thought this post would just say "Second Post?")