Friday, December 30, 2005


Someone has done a study of the relative funniness of the justices of the Supreme Court, according to a NY Times story. To no one's surprise, Justice Antonin Scalia was been found to be the funniest, based on the number of times "[laughter]" appeared in the court transcripts of the 2004 term. Scalia is known to be a quick wit, and many feel he deliberately plays to the crowd. (He's a bit behind Breyer this year, but he's got plenty of time to catch up.)

Personally, Justice Scalia provokes more tears than laughter. I guess it's too much to hope that after seeing this study he'll resign from the Court for a career as a comedian. "Here come da judge, here come da judge" (warning: you have to watch a commercial before viewing the clip).


'belem brazil blog holiday "we stayed"'

I know the day is young, but I think this might hold up as the weirdest to reach this blog today.


Someone has come up with chocolate-covered clementines.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


I was up at the corner of Amsterdam and 96th St., not an area I frequent, when I saw a very handsome building with three story columns flanking similar height windows--and noticed it was a CVS Pharmacy. A very impressive building for a drugstore, I remarked to my companions.

Of course it wasn't built for CVS. A close inspection of a copper plaque near the roofline disclosed that this was originally an East River Savings Bank.

Banks used to build such structures so people would be assured their money was in a safe, solid institution. Today people realize their bank deposits are just electronic entries in some computer, and seldom even see their bank, unless they go there to use the ATM. Now the banks are grabbing storefronts left and right, so people don't have to go more than a couple blocks to do their banking--at least the part they can't do from their home computers.

So the banks have gotten rid of a lot of their big, solid, expensive, obsolete buildings--with all the bank mergers, there were a lot of unnecessary branches anyhow. This one became a drugstore, with a private school upstairs. The East River Savings Bank across from the World Trade Center became part of the Century 21 Department Store. A former New York Savings Bank with a huge dome is becoming the new Balducci's gourmet market--after being a carpet store for a while. And the original Bowery Savings Bank, designed by Stanford White, is now a catering hall.

Even smaller bank locations change functions. I get my menswear from Rothman's on Union Square, which features a number of former banks. I am always amused by the fact that the changing rooms are the little rooms people used to look at their safe deposit boxes in--and the expensive Hickey-Freeman suits are kept in the safe, with its 18" thick door! My wife now shops where she used to have a safe deposit box--the former Manufacturers Hanover branch is now a Gap store--though it still has the original magnificent bronze entryway.

A quick Google showed I wasn't the first person to notice this trend. But it always seems a bit sad to me to see one of these monumental edifices put to such mundane uses.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Shootout at Ga. Wal-Mart Injures Suspect

I've said it before: Wal-Mart is a dangerous place. Avoid it.


"Did you know that Rasputins penis was 30 cm?"

And look where it got him.

Monday, December 26, 2005


After hosting some friends for a holiday luncheon we braved the crowds at the Metropolitan Art Musuem to see the Fra Angelico exhibition. Before we went to that, though, one of our friends wanted to see the little one of Antonello da Messina: Sicily’s Renaissance Master. I think she said she had once done a paper on him for an art history course. Frankly, I had never heard of him before.
We were stopped for a while by the Museum staff so they could convey part of the line of people waiting to get into the Van Gogh drawings, but it was worth the wait. Though there are only a handful of Antonello's works in this exhibition, I was very impressed. The expressions on the men in his portraits were wonderful--not the very serious-looking way people usually want themselves to be seen. His Virgin Annunciate showed a real young woman, not the idealized figure so often seen. Antonello's drawing of her hands was amazing, way ahead of his time (ca. 1430-1479)--but I do have to wonder if the women of biblical times were actually able to read.

Eventually we made our way downstairs, stopping to let our friends get a quick view of the Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche. Then it was on to the Fra Angelico. Him I had heard of, though that was about it--I really didn't know any of his work in particular.

He preceded Antonello only by a bit: he was born sometime between 1390 and 1395, and lived until 1450. He entered the Dominican order in about 1420, and most of his commissions were for altarpieces for his own monastery and other Dominican houses.

Thus most of his work is too large to transport for an exhibition like this--though some of what was on view had been cut from altarpieces back in the nineteenth century. Most, however, were small scale works. Even though some were only a few inches square, he was able to portray faces rather realistically. Some of his faces just stared off into space, but others seemed very engaged in the scenes being portrayed--I was very drawn to one of John the Baptist almost leering.

I don't think I'll ever like painters like Antonello da Messina and Fra Angelico as much as Van Gogh or Matisse, but I can enjoy exhibitions of their works. It was not a wasted two hours by any means.


'blind date "doing splits"' found this blog. Someone from Poland.


Because the earth has slowed down, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service has decided to add a leap second to the end of the year. This will be the first one in seven years.

What this means is that, unless they are careful, people will be celebrating the start of 2006 a second too soon. Here is the U.S. it's not that difficult to get it right, because the extra second will come at right before 7:00pm EST on December 31. So we just have to reset our clocks after that.

The people in the UK, and anyone else in that time zone, will have it more difficult, because the extra second will occur right before midnight. They'll just have to wait a second to celebrate.

The international pact controlling all this allows leap seconds to be put in on June 30 also. But instead they insist on doing it the one time of the year when people really care when midnight is. I really think they are sadists--they're doing it just to torture people.


Food Tax Sends Tenn. Shoppers Out of State read the headline, and I was amazed. I didn't think food was taxed anywhere in the US, but I see I was wrong. I'm shocked that the people of any state tolerate such a retrogressive tax.

And just a couple days ago I was listening to the Beatles' "Taxman" and thinking how things were never really as bad as in the song. I guess I was wrong. At least in Tennessee.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


Last night we went to see Pride & Prejudice, the umpteenth remake of Jane Austin's classic novel. It's the ninth, according to the Internet Movie Database, but maybe I'm confused because I get all of her novels mixed up: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Emma, Mansfield Park, all of which I've seen in the last decade or so. Maybe it would have helped if I had actually read any of them, but I haven't.

I try to avoid the reviews of movies, etc. before I see them, so I won't be, er, prejudiced. But even so, I had heard the buzz that Matthew MacFadyen was no Colin Firth, the Mr. Darcy in the much-acclaimed 1995 BBC miniseries. Well, as an actor MacFayden did just fine, but as a handsome hunk...let's just say that I can't see anyone swooning at the sight of him. But he's good-looking enough that the 10,000 a year income made his Mr. Darcy's attraction understandable.

On the other hand, I thought Keira Knightly was too attractive to portray Elizabeth Bennet. I kept wondering why all the men weren't swooning at the sight of her. Director Joe Wright thought so also at first, but then said her tomboyish attitude was perfect for the part. Well, maybe the attitude is tomboyish, but the face isn't, particularly when it is enhanced by the very light but still noticeable make-up she wears in the film. She was drop-dead gorgeous, as far as I'm concerned, and her beauty always seemed at odds with her role in the film.

All that aside, the movie was quite good. Emma Thompson did an uncredited re-write of the script (though there was a note of "special thanks" to her at the end), and everything flowed quite nicely--right up to the end, when a scene that was added that most certainly was not in the book. Jane Austin never wrote such a gooey, "they lived happily ever after" episode I'm sure. It stuck out like a sore thumb.

The acting was excellent. Brenda Blethyn, who I liked so much in Secrets and Lies, was splendid playing a mother of a completely different era here. Judi Dench was appropriately outrageous as Lady Catherine de Bourg, and Donald Sutherland handled the role of the father of five marriageable daughters in a rather understated way--even his accent wasn't noticeable. Only the odious clergyman cousin, Mr. Collins, fell short. He did not seem quite odious enough to me.

The sets were great, the cinematography excellent, though I'm not too sure of the costumes--Austen wrote the novel in 1797, and I'm not sure the men's fashions of that year were as advanced as the film depicts. And I think I caught a continuity error when Darcy's boots changed from all back to black and brown in one scene.

Nevertheless I enjoyed the film very much. I wonder if they'll ever show it as a double feature with Fiddler on the Roof--both have five poor sisters trying to get married.