Wednesday, July 28, 2010

RIP John Callahan

This made me cry. I was a big fan.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

laid back music for a hot summer day

That's Dave Reisch playing bass.

Have Moicy, the album on which this song first appeared, used to be pretty much my favorite album. There's some of it I can't listen to it any more...I imagine it would cause some wincing and bad memories. But I find the Hurley and the Jeffrey Frederick tracks are still wonderful to listen to. I've loved Hurley since I was a teenager.

global warming? you betcha! plus, a couple of favorite actors

Okay, it's 11:31 PM and it's 94 degrees. It was 102 for most of the day. Sure, it's July, but we're in Brooklyn, NY, not the fucking equator, not even Arizona or Texas. Yesterday, there was a tornado warning for all of the boroughs of New York except Staten Island, and a guy in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, got hit by lightning. This is not New York City weather. We do not have tornadoes here. We generally do not have violent thunderstorms. We might get a bunch of days in the 90s in July, but it doesn't go over 100 around here. And we've now had something like 15 days over 90 for the month of July. Just sayin'...I don't care how many sex massages Al Gore may or may not have had -- he's on the money about global warming.

Today I watched some of The Buddy Holly Story (I've seen it a million trillion times), and Walk Hard-The Dewey Cox Story with the commentary track. (Had to watch it while Barry was napping, because he doesn't like commentary tracks. I *adore* them!) Of course, these movies are somewhat related, since Walk Hard parodies the musical biopic genre, and the WH early-career-bad-recording-session comes right out of the Buddy Holly movie -- though like much of the BH movie, it's a fictional event.

There's a lot of made-up shit in the Buddy Holly movie, including fake Crickets (they couldn't get the rights from the real Crickets, so the movie has two fake "Crickets" named "Jesse" and "Ray Bob." It has unsupportive Holley (original spelling) parents, which is untrue. And it has the rejection from the country recording session bit, which is also not true -- Holly did record some bluegrass material early on.

The redeeming quality of this film, and it's a big one, is that Gary Busey not only does his own singing and playing, but it's recorded *live*. (Don Stroud as Jesse and Charles Martin Smith as Ray Bob also do their own playing and singing, also live.) What I love is that Busey definitely has the Holly posture and vocal mannerisms down, but he's not performing "off the record." He's performing live *as* Holly, and it's pretty mesmerizing, since there's very little actual film of Holly playing. It's also the best thing Gary Busey ever did, far and away.

In Walk Hard, John C. Reilly as the fictitious music legend Dewey Cox, does his own singing, though it's prerecorded. Since it parodies so many biopics and portrays a long career, Dewey passes through many musical styles and Reilly sings them all. There's an R&B song, an early-Elvisy song, some Bob Dylan-type songs (really, really funny), a Brian-Wilson-Good-Vibrations number (also funny for the visuals of the recording session), and of course a Johnny Cash number. But the one that blew me away was the faux-Roy Orbison number, because Reilly was maybe 95% of the way to singing exactly like Orbison. And Roy Orbison had one of the most astonishingly beautiful and unique voices in pop music. *No one* sings like Roy Orbison! David Hildalgo (Los Lobos) is in the neighborhood of Orbison, as is the guy from The Mavericks, but no one sings like him, and I've never heard anyone imitate his singing so successfully.

So the actors in question are John C. Reilly and Charles Martin Smith.

I *adore* Charles Martin Smith. Like pretty much everyone else, I first saw him in American Grafitti as the consummate nerd (and one of the first depictions of that then-newish stereotype). But what really got my attention was Never Cry Wolf. See it if you haven't. He plays a scientist studying wolves, who lives out in some snowy cold place (was it Canada?) for months and months to study them. He's all by himself, and goes a little native to better understand the animals. He not only stars in this movie, which is all too rare for character actors, but he basically carries the whole thing, start to finish. It's mostly just him, period. There were probably one or two people in the first few minutes (and maybe at the end, don't remember), but it's basically just him. How many actors do directors trust to do that, basically act a solo film, and how many actors carry it off? After that, I looked at CMS extra hard whenever he popped up in a movie. Never had a part that big again, but apart from The Buddy Holly Story, he had some decent parts in The Untouchables and Starman.

John C. Reilly is something like the next-generation Gene Hackman, but I actually think he's even better than Hackman. Hackman is a great character actor and can be funny, but Reilly is a great character actor, a great improvisor, a great singer and he's truly, truly funny. First noticed him in Boogie Nights, which is probably in my top five movies. I love the period (late 70s), love the acting, and it's unbelievably funny. Best thing Mark Wahlberg ever did, for sure. In addition to Reilly, it was the first time I ever saw Phillip Seymour Hoffman, another amazing character actor, but we'll get to him some other time.

I remember in the commentary to Boogie Nights, director Paul Thomas Anderson said something along the lines of, "You just point a camera at Reilly, and something amazing is going to happen. I never know what it's going to be, but it's always incredible." After Boogie Nights, Reilly did some non-comedy parts, including Chicago (where he sang, and was my favorite thing in the movie), but then someone rediscovered that he was funny -- someone from Planet Apatow, I believe -- and put him in Talladega Nights with Will Ferrell. That's probably where a lot of people first saw him. He was *really* funny -- you have to be, in a movie with Will Ferrell (not to mention Sascha Baron Cohen, who is one of the funniest people on the planet). So he's now well-known as a comic actor, and got to star in Walk Hard. I don't know how well that movie did, but I find it wildly funny. Planet Apatow again, with Jake Kasdan directing. (Jake is the son of Lawrence Kasdan, best known for directing Silvarado and The Big Chill.) Oh, by the way, Reilly can also dance, and though he doesn't exactly dance in Walk Hard, he has really incredible stage chops when he's performing the songs.

He also speaks Yiddish in one scene in the movie. Gotta love it.

The other thing that makes Walk Hard so much fun is all of the uber-cool cameos and bit parts. Frankie Muniz as Buddy Holly, for some bizarre reason. Jack Black as Elvis. The Beatles: Jack Black (Paul), Paul Rudd (John), Justin Bartha (George), and Jason Schwartzman (Ringo). Harold Ramis as one of the Jews controlling show-biz, who in this movie are all Hassidic. Jonah Hill. And I've recently become a fan of Margo Martindale, who plays Dewey's mother (and is done up to look a good deal like Elvis' mother). The cast is all stellar, really.

Some of my top movies, in no given order -- and I'm not sure how many I can pin down just now -- are: The Right Stuff. Boogie Nights. Apollo 13. Godfather II. A League of Their Own. Auto Focus. Hairspray (the original, non-musical one). My all-time favorite unintentionally funny movie is easy to come up with: Showgirls. Favorite midnight movie: The Harder They Come. (Used to see it in an actual movie theater, The Elgin, actually at midnight. "Midnight movies" is more of a genre name now than it signifies movies you actually see at midnight in a theater. Same as B-movies, which used to be the second, less-good movie on a double bill, since no one shows double-features any more. I used to see double-features. I also saw double-header baseball games. I believe I'm dating myself.)

I also watched a bad movie today (Big Bad Mama) with an awesome soundtrack (David Grisman, Jerry Garcia, Richard Greene).

Friday, July 23, 2010

the amazing lost Afro Sheen commercial

I saw this commercial once when I was a kid, and never again. I've described it over the years, and no one else I knew had ever seen it. I was beginning to think I had hallucinated it, but Barry suggested I check You Tube...and here it is!

It's pretty much the way I remembered, except I remembered the young man snapping his fingers and saying, "Done forgot my Afro Sheen!" So maybe I misremembered or embellished over the years. But I sure do remember Frederick Douglass criticizing the young man's "natural."

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I'm pleased to say that my second batch of pickled lemons came out pretty well. (These were the ones that were less salted.) They could have been even a drop less salty and a drop more spicy (crushed red peppers in this batch instead of hot paprika), and maybe could have had a bit more lemon juice to cover, but they're really pretty good. Batch number three will be ready in about a week -- that was the batch where I didn't do the overnight salting and draining.

Another new recipe of the frozen variety; this has yet to "ripen" in the freezer, but is pretty promising right out of the ice cream maker:

Coconut "Ice Cream" (doesn't have any dairy in it)

2 cans coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup to 1 cup sugar or equivalent sweetener (taste it -- frozen desserts taste less sweet after freezing, so make your mix a little sweeter than you want the finished product)

Mix it.  ( I used to prepare my sorbet and ice cream mixes in a blender, but lately, unless I'm trying to puree chunks of fruit, I just use a big bowl and my immersion blender.)  Chill it a bit if the coconut milk was pre-chilled (I had mine in the fridge, so it didn't need to be chilled).  Freeze in ice cream maker.  Mine takes about 20 minutes.  If you wish, when it's almost frozen (about five minutes before it's done), add some flaked coconut, crushed pineapple or chocolate chips, or whatever you think is good in coconut ice cream.  Put in a container and put in freezer for several hours before serving (this is what they call "ripening").  Makes a little more than a quart.

Coconut milk is fairly high in fat, so the product will be very creamy and probably fairly soft even after freezing.  I'll let you know.

This recipe is insanely easy.  If you keep a couple of cans of coconut milk in the fridge, you're there.

Confession:  I used fructose (which might as well be white sugar) and chocolate chips. 
I have been using the Brownies Cockaigne recipe from The Joy of Cooking for many years now, and I have never looked back.  (When I made "special" brownies recently, I added pecans, raisins, and chocolate chips to conceal the "special" a bit, which is why I had chocolate chips in the house at all.)  I haven't made blondies in years, but I always used the Toll House Pan Cookies recipe on the bag of chips.  My banana bread is the Banana Tea Bread recipe from The New York Times Cookbook, and I used to make their Orange Honey Bread recipe a lot.  Haven't tried any of these sugar-free yet. I don't suppose you can make Orange Honey Bread without honey.

I use recipes for baking, because proportions are important, but for most cooking, I tend to improvise.  If it's something I haven't made before, I'll usually read a few recipes first, just to get a sense of proportions and cooking time, and then I'll improvise.  I made up almost all of my sorbet and ice cream recipes, and wrote them down in a little book. 

I almost always made sorbet or sherbet, because homemade ice cream is way too good.  The first time I ever made it, I decided to make a fruit flavor rather than something like chocolate, because I'm less of a fan of fruit-flavored ice cream and I figured I wouldn't wolf the whole thing down.  I made fresh raspberry, and ate the whole quart in one day.  Homemade ice cream is very dangerous.  I've only made ice cream and sorbet a few times with artificial sweeteners, and it didn't really make me happy.  I probably need to experiment more, or try some alternative fruit sweeteners like apple juice concentrate.  (I did the Pritikin diet many years ago, and any sweetening was done with frozen apple juice concentrate, and it worked really well.)

I don't know what it's like where you are -- whoever you are -- but it's been around 90 degrees here for weeks on end, and I've eaten ice cream a number of times.  I know I shouldn't, and I rarely mess with sugar any more.  But I have not been able to do without ice cream lately.

Louie and the lube

Have I mentioned how much I love Louis C.K.?

I think he is clearly the outstanding standup comic working today. He tends to be fairly -- well, I think "vulgar" is the best way to put it -- but is somehow so nice and so mild that it isn't really offensive. I'm not sure how he manages it, but he's immensely skillful. I watch his standup, and every move and gesture is just perfect. The clip is from his half-hour sitcom on FX, which is called Louie, and he writes and directs it himself, so it's pure Louie. Plus it's actually filmed in New York -- the opening includes the West 4th Street subway station, Ben's Pizza on West 3rd, and the Comedy Cellar on MacDougal (with my old workplace, NYU Law School, in the background).

I have an interview tomorrow, due in large part to an amazing coincidence. I e-mailed a resume and cover for a job at a small book-and-web publisher, and it turns out the guy not only worked for Ken Siman at Tarcher/Penguin, but even won the Seth Barkas Writing Award at NYU (which I won in the late 80s). So this got me an interview at the Franklin Report. This is only my fourth interview in my recent employment effort (after the Jewish Yellow Pages, which I turned down because it was commission-based, and the two NYU interviews -- one job has been filled, and the other hasn't yet). It's a tiny office, but each person has to wear many hats, which could be interesting and fun.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

who do you write like?

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I guess I ought to read some David Foster Wallace, huh?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

fiddle & tuna

Strangely enough, I found myself listening to some cuts by Aly Bain the other day. This is unusual because I am a noted disliker of Irish music. But Aly Bain is such a wonderful fiddler that I enjoy whatever he plays; besides, straight-up Irish fiddle tunes are not all that different from straight-up American fiddle tunes.

I once saw Aly at a folk festival, and in the lobby of the building, Aly had an impromptu double fiddle jam with Jay Ungar. Aly picked up Jay's great shuffle in no time, and it was a pleasure to see them play. I have a sweet tooth for double fiddle *and* a sweet tooth for a good shuffle. Any good fiddler should be able to play one.

I am fussy as hell about fiddlers, and worship the really good ones. The late Richie Shulberg was wonderful, as is his former bandmate Alan Kaufman. And I think I recently mentioned the guy from the Red Clay Ramblers, whose name is escaping me just now. Among the forefathers, I like Eck Robertson, and even though I mostly don't care for bluegrass, I love both Vassar Clements and Clark Kessinger. Also Alan Block. If anyone knows of any music blogs where I can find Kessinger or Block, please let me know. I'm also looking for the Art Rosenbaum/Al Murphy album.

I never had the patience to practice enough to master any instrument; I play about half a dozen just enough to appreciate people who really play them well. The one I got best at is the banjo. I have a banjo and also a uke. I ought to spend some quality time with both of them. I had a notion about playing English music hall songs on the uke, and recently downloaded a really good anthology of those songs.

Best of Aly & PhilAly Bain - 50 Fiddle Solos (Music Sales America)Transatlantic Sessions 3Roads Not Travelled

It's still ridiculously hot, which means another pasta and bean salad for dinner. This time I have fava beans, so I'll probably season it with cumin and go kind of middle-eastern. I adore cumin and am always looking for an excuse to use it. I often put it in tuna salad.

Tuna salad: Barry dumps a can of tuna on a plate and a spoon of mayo. Me, I make a big production out of it. My tuna salad can include a hard-boiled egg, nuts or sunflower seeds, raisins, red onion, tomato, roasted peppers, apple, mustard, black pepper, ground chipotle pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, cumin, olive oil, recaito, and so mayo. I like to eat it on toast but I really like it with crackers or even tortilla chips. Barry teases me a lot about the time it takes me to fix myself some tuna. It started many years ago, back in good old Mohegan Woodlands, when a friend's mom, Lila Hammer, made tuna salad with mayo, pecans, and canned mandarin oranges. It was awesome. My mother made tuna salad with diced green pepper, and I was unaware that celery was the norm. Green pepper was also quite good.

things I found while looking for sunglasses

Last night, I was looking for a pair of old prescription sunglasses, since I haven't been able to afford a new pair, and even though the old ones are a slightly different prescription, they're close enough to work. I thought they might be in a small box I had, which I knew held a lot of my top-dresser-drawer flotsam from an older apartment (somehow it didn't end up in my top drawer after I moved). Here are some of the things I found:

A sterling silver Tiffany ballpoint pen, much in need of polishing. I worked briefly for a very classy lady named Pat Patterson in the early 80s, and had a birthday during that time. She gave me the pen for my birthday. I am very sorry I let Jack Warnecke hire me away from her, because he was not very nice and that job didn't last long.

Some fountain pens from my fountain pen days. Two Mont Blancs, a chrome one that my uncle gave me, and a 14K plated one that I bought myself. Two vintage pens, one a Waterman, that I bought at various flea markets and had intended to have repaired. I used to write my journals and letters by hand, lots and lots of writing, and I preferred a fountain pen.

A slip of paper where I wrote directions to Barry's apartment, the first time I ever visited him.

The receipt from our wedding rings. We didn't buy matching ones, and his cost twice as much as mine. We bought them at The Clay Pot, which I recommend highly for interesting wedding bands.

A number of skee-ball prize tickets from an arcade in Coney Island which may no longer exist. At some point, I'd like to have them laminated and put holes in them to use as charms or earring drops.

Some loose gemstones I bought from Home Shopping network, probably around 1990. Three small tanzanites, about ten even smaller madeira citrines, and some even tinier tsavorite garnets (green ones). I didn't make jewelry when I bought them, and I suppose I intended to have some pieces custom-made. I may use one of the tanzanites to replace a dinged star sapphire in an antique pendant I got as a gift some years back.

Old business cards of mine from WSKG in Binghamton and from true blues, the short-lived local magazine I founded and edited.

Old business cards from other people, mostly from the mid-90s. Arnie Goodman's card from Viceroy Records, Richard Rosenblatt's from Tone-Cool, Bill Perry's and Luther Allison's. Margey Peters' and Baron Raymonde's. Bill Sims'. Cards from various music managers and record label execs (from labels like Blind Pig and Black Top).

Two passes, 1995 and 1996, to get in free to Manny's Car Wash for the year.

My gold honors tassel from my NYU graduation.

All three of my NYU IDs -- two employee cards from my two stints working there, plus my student ID. Also a student ID from my high school.

Many extra buttons for various pieces of clothing.

Ticket stubs: Los Lobos, Los Lobos and Buddy Guy, Elvis Costello, Jonathan Richman, and Gary Lucas.

Barry's business cards from two jobs.

No prescription sunglasses, but a lot of good memories.

a bad work situation (from the past)

At a recent job interview, I was asked to describe a difficult work situation and how I handled it. I was caught off-guard, and talked about the challenges of obtaining reviews and interviews about new books at my last position. But I've been thinking ever since about the situation I should have described, which was this:

I was writing freelance for a national music magazine. I had gotten the gig because it turned out that the editor and I had some mutual friends, who vouched heartily for me; I had never done this type of writing before. The editor was very pleased with the work I produced, and he began to favor me. I got a lot of good assignments and he was very friendly. (He was not in any way hitting on me, because he had a wife at home upstate and a girlfriend in New York City; it was very clear that he was not attracted to me.) He told me that in about a year, he would be able to hire more full-time staff, and I would be the first one hired (only he and the assistant editor had staff jobs at the time). He also said that the next summer, which would fall roughly around the one-year mark, he would be sending writers around the country to cover festivals, and that again, I would have favored status. He was also talked about starting his own magazine and bringing a number of writers along with him, including me.

After a year had passed, I approached him, very nicely, about the staff position, and his response was, "We can't do that." He did not say, "maybe in another six months," or explain what was going on in any way. Soon after, I asked him about the plans for festival coverage in the summer, and he said, "I can't afford to send anyone to festivals." I didn't complain in any way about either turndown, did not show disappointment, and did not press him.

Soon after, he stopped giving me assignments, started cutting my profiles and longer pieces. In addition, he had asked me to develop a monthly column; he had approved the topic, and I had worked long and hard on putting together my first/sample column. After I submitted it, he told me that the column was being canceled, that the publisher had made the decision. I sent a very nice e-mail to the publisher (everything was very decentralized -- the editor was in upstate New York, and the publisher was in West Virginia), saying that I understood he had canceled my column, and I asked if he would reconsider, explaining why I thought the column would be useful and informative to the readers. (It was a column on internet resources for the particular type of music the magazine covered. At the time, the middle 90s, graphical browsers and web use were still relatively new, and Google did not yet exist, so there was a real need for the type of column I had proposed and prepared.)

The publisher responded, also very nicely, and said that he did not make any editorial decisions, and that any decisions about what to run in the magazine would have to come from the editor. I was absolutely shocked. I went back to the editor, and I don't remember what his response was, but it wasn't clear or satisfactory. He had become very cold and uncommunicative, and I had no idea why.

I sent him a carefully composed e-mail asking him what was going on. I said that I noticed his attitude toward me had changed, asked if I had done anything to offend or upset him, and said that I would do anything I could to make it right. He denied that anything had changed or that he was having any difficulty with me. But he continued to cut my assignments and the column never ran; neither did a lengthy musician profile he had requested and I had written.

Finally, I wrote another long e-mail, saying that it would be a help to me to know what the problem was, so I could correct it or avoid making the same error in the future. I also said, in a very nice way, that it would benefit both of us to clear the air. But he continued to deny that anything was wrong.

Because he was giving me no work, I started my own little local newsletter, covering the same type of music but on a local New York basis. The magazine covered national acts playing the same type of music, and I covered little local bands. My newsletter was quite small and dinky, I didn't use any of "his" writers, and it was distributed free; it was clearly not in competition with the national magazine. But the editor used it as an excuse to fire me, adding that no national magazine would have me because of my local project. (A second national magazine took me on immediately, and even promoted my local magazine.)

My solution to the difficult situation in this scenario was to confront the editor in the nicest possible way, clearly and without anger or finger-pointing, even after he had lied to me about the column and the "reason" for cutting so many of my pieces (he had claimed that the magazine was changing over to a higher grade of paper and so would be running fewer pages, which was not the case at all). And when he would not engage in a dialogue about it, I had to accept that he was going to continue to deny any difficulty and that I would never learn from him what had really happened. I didn't resign, but maybe I should have, although I moved on by starting my own publication and moving to another magazine when he let me go.

Later, I spoke to another staff writer, who opined that I had fallen from favor because I had believed the editor about being put on staff and being sent to festivals, when these had actually been empty promises. I hadn't considered that he had lied to me from the start.

Soon after, he was fired from the magazine. One of the editors of the new magazine I wrote for asked me to write some articles for a guide he was writing to this type of music, so I was included and credited in an actual book (I had also contributed to another, similar book). My magazine failed for financial reasons, and the second magazine I wrote for went out of business. My former editor apparently never started his new magazine, nor wrote any of the books he claimed to be writing, and has basically vanished from music journalism without a trace. After he left the first magazine, I wrote for them again in the late 90s, and once again more recently (under three different editors all together), and was treated quite well; I've only stopped writing for them because they haven't met their payment commitments. Apparently, they're not able to pay anyone, not even the editor, but I just can't work for free at this time. I already have plenty of writing credits and have considered myself a professional for quite a few years; this is why I dropped the Examiner column (which was paying based on traffic, but it was only pennies a day for a lot of work), and turned down another music magazine when I found out that I was expected to write for free (I would get a copy of the CD, DVD or book I was reviewing, which is standard, but no money).

Being a supervisor or an employee is a lot of fun when things go well, when there is clear communication and the work is satisfactory. It gets tough when there's a problem. I learned what not to do from the editor; when I briefly edited my own publication, I had to confront a couple of writers who were not doing satisfactory work, even though they were working for free (they were absolutely novices). I did this without being angry or unpleasant, and tried to be clear about what I needed and how they were not meeting expectations. This is the difficult part of being a boss. I've been an employee a lot more than I've been a boss, and I have no respect for a supervisor who sidesteps the tough part of being in charge, of communicating clearly and appropriately with an employee who is not pleasing them for whatever reason. I consider bosses who lie to their employees, like that editor, to be the lowest of the low. And I hate to say it, but that's not the only time it's happened to me. There's absolutely no way to correct a problem if I don't know it exists or don't know what it is.

That all being said -- I still hate that fucking editor. He is both cowardly and a prick.

I just Googled the dude, and he's still apparently doing nothing. There are a few items that say he's writing a book with one or another musician, some of which are fifteen years old with no book in sight. He's also down as manager for a few musicians with whom he was always tight, but haven't been heard from much; one of them is stone cold insane. There was another mention on the website of a musician indicating that he was associated with the editor and that he would soon be writing for the magazine (this is from around the time that I was writing for this editor), but the musician never did write for this publication. There are also a few credits for liner notes and reviews he wrote many years ago. Ironically, there is a mention of him in an interview with the former associate editor who worked under him, about a book which she wrote; apparently she's able to follow through and complete her projects. He's also on Facebook, which makes me want to puke.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

pickled lemons

I have probably mentioned that I fell madly in love with pickled lemons from a local middle eastern grocery. Although I've now bought them two more times at a different middle eastern grocery, I've also tried to make them myself. I read a few recipes and came up with my, which was something like this:

Slice four lemons. Salt with kosher salt and put into a colander to drain overnight, in the fridge, for at least 24 hours. Then pack them into a glass jar (I used a three-cup jar for four normal lemons or five small ones), adding more salt and sprinkling in some hot paprika. Cram them very tightly into the jar and add additional lemon juice to cover, if necessary. Let sit in fridge for three weeks.

The first batch was way too salty, almost inedible. No good. I started a second batch before I tasted the first one, and even though it's not "done" yet, I tasted one today and it seemed less salty. Also, I used flaked red chile pepper (like you put on pizza) instead of hot paprika, since the ones I bought seemed to be done that way.

I put in a third batch today, and omitted the pre-salting and draining. I used considerably less salt and the chile pepper again. So I think batches two and three will be something of an improvement.

My second NYU interview today didn't seem to go quite as swimmingly as the one yesterday. I was interviewed by two women, who both seemed fairly young (of the three who interviewed me yesterday, the most senior was probably closer to my age), and they seemed to be reading their questions off an HR form of some sort, so it was of a conversation, though I was certainly asked questions yesterday. But I got the sense yesterday that they were pleased with me, and I didn't necessarily get that vibe today. Let's hope at least one comes through.

Back to recipes -- since it's been so monstrously hot lately, and since we were a bit broke waiting for Barry's unemployment check today, I made cold pasta-and-bean salads twice this week, which I kind of made up as I went. Like so:

Cook pasta al dente, drain and rinse with cold water. Combined with a can of drained beans (I used kidney one night and great northern another). Add basil (or oregano, or both), salt to taste, flaked chile pepper, and garlic powder. Dress lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

This can also be dressed with mayo, and you can add tuna. We'd been eating a lot of tuna and egg salad with mayo lately, so I decided on a lighter dressing, and it didn't really take much to moisten the salad and add a little flavor. We ate it all up both nights. I know this is probably a little starchy for a person with diabetes, but this was a classic what's-in-the-house meal.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

we need jobs!

(This title is to be read in your best Larry Fine voice. A friend of my brothers had the theory that Larry was the Stooge who always motivated the action. He was the one who always said, "Look, a baby!" or "We need jobs!" So I always hear the Larry Fine voice behind "We need jobs!")

Barry's unemployment is about to run out and we're pretty tapped, though we're expecting a check for the last bit from his father's estate. But clearly, it's time to start working again.

I've applied for a ton of different jobs, but what I really want is to go back to NYU, where I worked from 1983-1988, and 1990-1998. And amazingly, since there's a hiring freeze on, I have not one but two interviews there. The one today was at the (university-wide) Office of Faculty Resources, and tomorrow at the Faculty Services department at Gallatin School (which is the division from which I graduated). I did a lot of faculty benefits work at my last NYU job, which is probably why I got the interviews. But I've been applying to NYU on and off since around 2000, almost every time I was unemployed, and these are the first two interviews I've had there since I left.

The Faculty Services interview was this morning. For anyone not in the northeastern US, we have been in the middle of a monster heatwave for most of the past two weeks -- I'm talking temperature in the high 90s and up. This makes it a little tricky to dress for an interview. Fortunately, NYU is not terribly corporate, and I think I got away with my Mission Canyon outfit, since it was the one I have with a matching tank, capris and kimono jacket. (All of the other Mission Canyon and Tienda Ho clothes I have are all different patterns (with the exception of two solid Tienda Ho pieces, a black top and brown pants) that you can mix and match, but the matched set seemed a mite more formal, as close as I was going to get to any kind of suit. (Actually, I remembered today that my first supervisor at NYU, at the History Department, dressed a lot like that, in ethic-y tunic-y stuff.)

Well, enough with the fashion report. The interview went quite well, I think. It's a support job in an office that provides services to faculty university-wide; it encompasses things like the Curriculum Challenge Fund (money to help faculty develop new courses) and the Distinguished Teaching Awards. I met with the top three people in the office, all women, and I think I came off as seasoned and very knowledgable about the university. At the end, the director said, "We still have a few more people to see, but we'll be in touch," which sounded good to me.

Tomorrow, I'm interviewing for a job with the faculty services unit at Gallatin School, so it's probably a somewhat similar function but only within ones division. (It happens to be the one that granted my degree.) At my last NYU job, I did a lot of faculty benefits work, which probably contributed a good deal to my getting both of these interviews. (Tomorrow is either the black Tienda Ho top with a patchwork Mission Canyon skirt, or a purple and white Mission Canyon sleeveless dress with a dark green MC jacket. All of the colors I mention are the main colors -- the pattern I wore today is called "lime" and is mostly light green, but also has blue and brown in it.)

As far as I can tell, they're both good jobs. The university-wide one is a grade high than the Gallatin one (which means a slightly better salary), but they're the top two clerical levels and both pay in the mid-40s, so either would be just fine. (I was earning $36K at Penguin, but started at $30K, so this sounds like really good money to me.) The most important thing is that NYU's benefits are insanely great. I'm not exactly sure what they are right now, but health insurance was always cheap and with a choice of about 5 programs, there's a lot of vacation and a ton of holidays (plus sick and personal time), and tuition remission (the fantastic benefit that rhymes!). TR basically offers nine credits of free tuition every term, provided you have the academic chops to get admitted. Graduate students have to pay tax on the value of the tuition, but undergrads don't. This is how I got my B.A. If I go back, I think I'll take a master's of some sort, just because I'd enjoy it.

I finally started reading my old classmate Joe Wallace's new book, Diamond Ruby. It's absolutely excellent, just the kind of old-New-York historical novel I adore.Diamond Ruby: A Novel

Friday, July 2, 2010

there's naked, and there's naked

Until today, I was subscribed to a bootleg music blog. That's a blog where music is discussed and free downloads are provided -- in this case, bootlegged live shows. I subscribe to a lot of these blogs, because mostly they provide out-of-print albums, mainly on vinyl, for download. As someone who bought tons of vinyl in the past, I'm pretty much just replacing what I lost. I PAID for it already -- sometimes more than once, between vinyl, cassette, and CD. Now I'm getting mp3s.

Anyway, this bootleg blog had some very interesting stuff, but the blog owner all of a sudden started putting up pictures of mostly-naked women in-between the music items, rather coyly calling them "deejays." It might not have been so obnoxious if it was just for a few days, or once a week, but a lot of them are turning up daily. On top of that, they're those horrible photoshopped and made up and fake-boobed kind of women. Anyway, I objected and so did other people, and I had an e-mail exchange with this guy, whose basic position was "naked women go with bootlegs, this site is mostly for guys, and I can put what I want on my site." I don't think I would have been so bothered if it wasn't those fake-looking women whom someone has convinced men are attractive and sexy. Fake tits and fake dyed hair are so obvious, not to mention globs of makeup. I mean, eww.

A former friend of mine, a man I was close to, once showed me a couple of magazines from his porn stash. They were magazines from the 70s, which were the years where my friend was very sexually active, and the women in the magazines had long fuzzy hair, natural breasts, very little makeup, and big hairy bushes (it's possible they also sported armpit and leg hair). I liked the fact that his taste was stuck in the 70s, and that he was attracted to relatively normal-looking women. That's a rare find, especially in New York, where every man, no matter how fat/bald/ugly, believes he "deserves" to be with a model-type.

There's a new TV show called "Hot in Cleveland" where three LA women, who are over-the-hill and just average in LA, end up spending a night in Cleveland -- airplane trouble -- and find that they are considered big-time babes. The show is a little sitcom-y, but I love the premise and also the fact that their housekeeper is Betty White, who tends to steal the show.

I've had a similar experience with midwesterners and even in upstate New York and among the hippie-folkies of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I am a serious babe once I'm out of an urban area. They don't care about weight or makeup or big fake tits.

I once "met" a guy online and we got very friendly. He was an engineering professor from Kansas, a single father. We talked on the phone a few times, and he was a nice, regular guy, very square and very decent. He sent me a loaf of bread and a nice bunch of biscotti he had baked, as well as a picture of himself. He was pretty handsome, despite the mullet. But he wanted to see a picture of me. (I guess this was before the days of scanners and fact, I did not yet have a home computer so the e-mailing all went on at work.) I was, of course, terrified to send a picture of myself, because he was cute and seemed decently in shape, and I was fat. So I sent the best picture I could find, and his response was, "a face like a china doll!" He thought I was beautiful. (He did come to New York for a conference, and brought his sons, and I spent a lot of time with all of them (as well as some private time with him). I was actually supposed to go out and visit him next, but he decided to put the brakes on, and I got all hurt and pissed off and disappointed, and that was that.)

I was lucky to find a decent man here in the city, but I had to do it with a personal ad. I'd been striking out in person for several years, because of the rampant looks-ism in New York City. At least with an ad, I had some time to talk to men on the phone before meeting face to face, so their first impression of me was not my appearance. I ran an ad that was very specific about who I was and what I wanted. I got twelve responses, talked to six guys on the phone, and met three face to face. Barry was the second one I met, and it was clear before we met that he was the frontrunner. We already liked each other a lot before we met, and it was a bonus that he was good-looking, not a requirement. (I was about 20 pounds lighter than I am now, which is not thin, but I was feeling pretty good about myself, having recently lost 30 pounds.)

I used to have a print of Titian's "Venus and the Lute Player" which I hung in my college dorm. I liked the plump, small-breasted Venus a lot. I would say to myself, "She's built just like me, and she's Venus!" I actually wasn't quite so plump then, at 17, but I thought I was. And Lord, was I flat-chested. Still am. I don't know any other woman who can be fifty or so pounds overweight and still wear an A-cup (though I rarely bother with a bra at all).

I interviewed for a job today, doing sales for the Jewish Yellow Pages. It's mostly a commission job, though if you don't make $1,800 in commissions a month, they make up the difference. Their product is a good product, and their price points and commission rates could spell good money. But the job is 9-7, five days (eek!), although it *is* walking distance from my home. They seem to want me, and I was asked to call back on Tuesday. But when I got home, I had an e-mail from the Office of Faculty Resources at NYU, and they want to interview me! So I'm seeing them on Wednesday.

I left NYU in 1998, and have applied there every time I was between jobs since around 2000. This time, I made a more serious effort and applied for about 6 or 7 jobs over a couple of days. This is the first time since I left that I was called for an interview. Faculty Resources (a new department since I left) is a good match for me, since I did a lot of faculty benefits work at the Law School. I would LOVE to go back to NYU since it's a good location, decent pay, and amazing benefits (which I didn't fully appreciate until I left there). I was the lowest management grade when I left there, but there are really no appropriate jobs for me at that level at this time. But the top three clerical levels have minimum salaries around $43K, $44K, and $46K! (Funny how for-profit Penguin pays so much less than non-profit NYU...) And there's really cheap medical, a lot of paid holidays, a very healthy vacation policy, a casual workplace, and tuition remission (which is how I finished my B.A.). NYU is a really good employer. Unless the supervisor is a total bitch, I think I want that job. Wish me luck.