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February 28, 2007

Graffiti of the Day: EINE

EINE, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

London, 2005

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Photo of the Day: Antique Globes

IMG_8624, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

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The Apartment Hunt: Accepted!


This afternoon we were notified that our application, which included references from our bosses, our landlords, 2 months of bank statements and credit checks was accepted. This weekend we'll meet, sign the lease and pay our fee and rent.

I'm sort of totally shocked that this happened so quickly. I'm typically the skeptical, conservative one. I couldn't imagine going with the second place we saw. But here we are. After the paperwork is signed, we get to the big part: The Move.

I need to buy a shredder. I've probably got 8 year old mail sitting in my closets somewhere. I'm going to have to call in the Salvation Army to pick up all the stuff I'll be donating.

And then there's the apartment. Since it's empty, we'll have the opportunity to get in there before April 1st to clean up, to paint the rooms and to set things up before we start moving our stuff in. We have to figure out how we're going to pay rent, how we're going to set up the entertainment system, how we're going to set up our network, which washer and dryer we're going to get... everything.

It also means that we'll be able to start moving in before the first. We'll need to figure out how we're moving too. A company or a man with a van.

This is going to be the real challenge. I hate moving. There's a reason I've lived in the same place for nearly 8 years.

Stay tuned...


[Technorati Tags: apartments, realestate, renting, brooklyn, bed-stuy, UltraClay, bedford-stuyvesant, brokers.]

February 27, 2007

Graffiti of the Day: Cyclops

IMG_0397, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I found this in an alley in San Francisco recommended in the San Francisco Graffiti group on Flickr.

Flicks: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Devastating. Fine, it’s not old, it’s not a movie that everyone has seen. But it’s totally fucking devastating. The most emotional reaction movies usually evoke in me comes with the excitement of watching things get blown up or some other such thing that I’ve forgotten about before the movie ended. This hurt. I had heard about the movie before, I even read how the movie ended. I knew Charlie Kaufman wrote it, so I expected a mindfuck. What I didn’t expect was to feel pain as I watched Jim Carrey lose every moment they spent together. I watched him yank her through his memories, revealing his most humiliating experiences just to keep a shred of her left in his mind. I watched as the earliest memories are wiped away. And all I could feel was loss. I knew what happened in the end. I knew, but it didn’t matter. The loss, the pain was palpable. Movies don’t do this to me. They aren’t real and they are gone when I hit the stop button or walk out of the theatre. But there I was enthralled by this story, so well done, well acted, well portrayed.

I defy anyone to watch this and tell me Jim Carrey can’t do more than his usual schtick. The whole cast was wonderful. I can’t begin to fawn over each and every one of them. Part of me wants to own it, just because a movie like this deserves to be owned if that makes any sense. But I’m afraid I wouldn’t ever want to get caught up in it again. I may yet buy it and watch it every time I fear I don’t appreciate the love in my life enough.

[Technorati Tags: movies, film, jim-carrey, UltraClay, flicks]

Photo of the Day: Paris

IMG_8490, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

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February 26, 2007

The Apartment Hunt: The hard sell


We're both pretty convinced about this now. This evening Tammi went back to get a better look at the place. She shot some more photos of it and looked at the basement. She's sold. I'm sold. So why is the real estate agent still shoving it down our throats?

This is the first time I've dealt with corcoran and I have to say it's not something I hope to do again. The apartment is all we could have asked for, we're ready to move along with the process, we're filling out the applications. Yet every interaction we have with the broker, we're reminded of how desirable the apartment is and that other people are still seeing it.

Never mind the 12% broker fee(!), that's irritating enough. So are all the references and extra information that we're required to provide. But the incessant scare tactics and bullying piss me off. You don't get to work at the biggest brokerages in the city by being passive, but this is too aggressive. Now that Tammi's sold on the place, she's afraid that someone is going to jump in and scoop it out from under us, because that's what our broker has been not-so-subtly hinting.

(rant continues after the jump)

As far as I can tell, a 1 week turnaround between seeing the place and signing a lease is pretty quick, but we're still being told that it may be too slow. When Tammi wrote to schedule a second visit, the broker wrote back, "When do you want to get back in?? tonight??" When we told her that I was out of town, she said she was going on vacation in two days, so we'd need to deal with this quickly.

I'm generally disgusted by the approach, if not particularly surprised. I want the place despite the hard sell, not because of it. Honestly, it makes me think that I can live without it. I'm still going ot try to get this place because it's got some much going for it, but I'm already planning alternatives in anticipation of getting screwed over. I just don't think it makes good business sense to alienate your customers that way.


[Technorati Tags: apartments, realestate, renting, brooklyn, bed-stuy, UltraClay, bedfordstuyvesant, brokers.]

Hartford: Sally's Fish Camp


On my way to dinner at Trumbull Kitchen, I stumbled across a new restaurant called Sally's Fish Camp. With fond memories of Mary's Fish Camp and it's sister spot Brooklyn Fish Camp in Park Slope, I decided to cancel my res at TK and give it a try.

The decor is thankfully not buried in fishing schlock. The requisite oversized fishing lures and hanging fishing poles are as tastefully placed as possible in the modern dining room.

(The food, after the jump...)

I started out by slurping down 3 plump, meaty oysters. I immediately wanted more, but decided to hold off after the lobster roll that was to be my main. The centerpiece of the oyster plate was a horseradish and cocktail sauce sorbet. It's an interesting idea, but I was glad that some old fashioned cocktail sauce with horseradish was on the side as well.

Sadly the lobster roll was not worth the wait. My presumption that being in New England when shellfish is in season guaranteed a great lobster roll turned out to be false.

To begin with, the roll itself was far too small to hold anything substantial, even if they had packed it to overflowing in the traditional way, which they didn't.

Also breaking with tradition, there was no mayo involved. Butter replaced mayo, lightly coating the lobster, as well as my fingers. To be honest, I never thought the words 'too much butter' would make any sense, but here it was. And really, you've got to have mayo. Butter too, but just a bit on the inside of the roll, not dripping from every bite.

Finally, the lobster didn't deserve the name. It lacked that lobster flavor that typically stands out even under a dollop of mayo.

To recover from my disappointment, I drowned my sorrows in the liquor of another set of oysters. This time I went straight for the real cocktail sauce.

I'd go back for beer and oysters, but I wouldn't touch their lobster rolls again.

Sally's Fish Camp
201 Ann Street
Hartford, CT


[Technorati Tags: restaurants, food, seafood, Hartford, Conecticut, UltraClay, Travel, NewEngland.]

Death in the Family

Death freaks me out.

That's hardly unusual, I suppose, not many people are really comfortable about it. But I've never really been able to deal with death, really. I don't know how to be there for people who have lost loved ones largely because I never figured out what I'd want.

Thankfully, I haven't had much need to deal with death. The major loss in my life was when my grandmother died, back in 1995. I was 18 and had just gone away to college a month or so earlier. To this day I don't think I've really dealt with it. Occasionally I'll look at myself and see how much I got from her. She was a teacher and instilled a curiosity in me that is at the root of all of my obsessions. I wonder what I could have learned from her if I'd known her as an adult.

Two weeks ago my grandmother's sister Hyacinth died. She had a heart attack and died in her sleep Valentine's day morning lying with her husband of 50 years. She was 78.

(more after the jump)

When I got the call, I was ambivalent. Not because I wasn't sad she had died, but because I barely knew her. The last time I saw Aunt Hya alive was at another funeral two years ago, before that it was when my grandmother died, a decade earlier. People were offering condolences and I felt like I barely knew her.

I wasn't even certain if I would go to the funeral, since it was out in Pennsylvania somewhere. As fate would have it, we were already going to be 30 minutes away in Philadelphia. Tammi and I extended our stay a day and my Aunt flew in to meet us.

The funeral was surreal. I was assigned to be a pallbearer. Having never seen a dead body before, I was now supposed to help carry one. Adding to the unreality of the whole experience was the conviviality of the atmosphere. Cousins and siblings, separated for decades, were reunited. People were laughing and taking pictures. I met a cousin with whom I share a name who lives in England. I saw another who I haven't seen since she moved to Germany 15 years ago. They were all of my mother's generation, people I've heard stories and gossip about for nearly 30 years, finally real and in person.

I saw Auntie - just Auntie, she's the oldest after all - the sister of my grandmother and Aunt Hya. She looked at me, bewildered that this big grown man could be Clay. She asked if I remembered her and I introduced her to Tammi. She looked sadly toward the coffin and said to us, "She was my baby sister."

Family members stood up and spoke of their memories of Aunt Hya. They talked of how she ran the 'Hotel Hya,' providing a place to stay for so many in the family when they came to the states. She provided shelter for my grandmother and her 3 kids when a fired took everything they had. She may have been forceful and overbearing, but she was always there when she was needed.

Her son read something for his father, who was too sick to speak. He talked about the best decision he ever made in marrying her. He talked about how they saw the world together and he talked about that night, a week before, when she rested her head on him for the last time.

When it was all over I felt sorrow that she was gone. At the same time I was glad I had gone. I was glad to have gotten to know Aunt Hya and my family a little better.


Hartford: New England's Poorest City

I'm heading up to CT this evening to spend the week up at my company's headquarters. I'll be in the land of suburban office parks for the next couple days, which is tons of fun, I assure you.

In anticipation of evenings at Chili's and Outback Steakhouse, I like to get one last taste of civilization in Hartford.

Now Hartford is no Chicago or Philadelphia. It's in the third or fourth tier as these things go. But it is a city, which means I can actually walk from point A to point B and there are a couple restaurants that are a cut above the casual dining spots prevalent in the area.

Details after the jump...

My preferred spot is Trumbull Kitchen. The look is somewhat generic contemporary restaurant, but the service is good.

The wine list is surprisingly good. I found the Joel Gott Cabernet Blend 815 there a year or so back. I never find that wine in restaurants. It's one of the only cabs I've really liked. It doesn't have the overpowering oak flavor that kills every other cabernet for me.

The food is interesting, if entirely scattered. The menu is a who's who in trendy foods. It's got mediterranean small plates, mini pizzas and pan asian dishes. But what it lacks in consistency it makes up for by being an oasis of good food in an otherwise pretty barren region.

Trumbull Kitchen is a part of the Max Group which runs a few other places in the area. I always mean to try them out, but I haven't yet.

Down the block, the City Steam brew pub pours some good homemade beer. The space is gigantic, spanning 7 floors. City Seam also goes for everything but the kitchen sink approach, the ground floor has 3 distinct sections, the bar area, restaurant seating and pool tables in the back. The basement serves as a comedy club once or twice a week.

The food is nothing memorable, but that's not really the reason to go anyway. The bar fills up with locals and an after-work crowd to watch sports or listen to the live irish music played every now and again. I find that it's good for a couple rounds and maybe a growler to take back to the hotel.

Photo of the Day: Lisbon Funicular

streetcars, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

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Graffiti of the Day: REVS

REVS, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Great metalwork piece by Revs. It looks even better large. I can't wait until it warms up so I can go looking for more. I haven't been on an expedition in ages.

[Technorati Tags: REVS, metalwork, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, UltraClay.]

February 25, 2007

Solomon's Porch


We went to Solomon's Porch for a snack while we were waiting to see the apartment in the previous post. It's a whole block from the house where I lived for 10 years. I don't remember what used to be there, but it's now it's a cafe called Solomon's Porch. We had an hour to kill and hadn't eaten at all that day.

The space is small but fits a lot in. The tables seat 40 customers and another few fit on the couch. At the far wall is a performance space. That night a Haitian folk singer named Emeline Michel was performing.

Our meal was minimal, so I don't have an extensive example of the food. I had buffalo wings, which have been my trademark meal in the last week or so. They were crisply fried and topped with a spicy, vinegary hot sauce. It left my mouth tingly and happy. My only complaint was that it only included 6 wings instead of the customary 10.

The beer selection was not so exciting, but it featured Duvel, a trappist ale along the lines of chimay.

The vibe was very casual, people hung out over cappuccinos and tapped away at their laptops and chatted with friends and spouses.

Tammi's not sold on the apartment, but already has plans to go back to Solomon's Porch. I enjoyed it and welcome the idea of having a place around the corner to relax on any given weekend.

Solomon's Porch
307 Stuyvesant Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11233
(718) 919-8001


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Apartment Hunt: Finished?


Before it's even begun, the hunt might be over.

Yesterday we saw an apartment 2 blocks away from where I grew up and a block from where Tammi lived when we first started dating.

The price is at exactly the top of our range, which has us paying about what we're paying now. That alone ought to be enough to tank it, but it's got some major things going for it.

It's got the usual frills of a new reno: new appliances, new bath, new heating system. It also has a second bathroom, a dishwasher, and a washer/dryer hookup in the basement. The basement that we'd have exclusive access to.

Seriously. Who has that?

Read on to find out why I've fallen for this place after the jump...

They are still working on it, but the majority of the reno is done. We'd be able to move in for April 1st, which is the soonest we might possibly be able to get moved anyway.

I feel stupid even hesitating. But where there are great amenities, there's also a decent sized barrier. The new furnaces are for each apartment and the heat and hot water are not included. Now if you aren't from nyc, that may seem normal, but in new york, heat is always included. It kind of balances out the exorbitant rents we pay. This just adds to the higher rent, which we weren't so happy with. We don't even have any scale for how much heat costs, so figuring out what that means for our monthly bills is difficult.

I'm also nervous because this is really the second place we've seen. I'm a big believer in considering all of the options. I hate to go into something so permanent without knowing what else is out there.

But seriously, full basement access and a washer/dryer hookup. And a dishwasher. And a second bathroom.

It's crazy!

Shockingly, Tammi is the voice of reason here. She points out a couple real issues. The rooms are not so big. Not tiny, but hardly spacious. The living room is maybe 8 x 12, the second bedroom (my space) is about the same size, maybe slightly smaller. And the bedroom is maybe 10x12 with bay windows (and a walk in closet).

The windows aren't big outside of the bedroom so it's not super bright, although there are half size windows in all the other rooms. The place has nothing original to it. There are no details and not a lot in the way of character. It's not gorgeous, but it's incredibly functional.

We both think the yard is perfect. Just enough gardening space for me to handle without weeds taking over and enough paved space for the grills and a set of tables and chairs.

I have no idea where I'm going with this post, mostly because I have no idea what we're going to decide....


The Move: The Apartment Hunt begins


This weekend Tammi and I began our apartment hunt. After 3 years together, we're going to move in together. We're looking to move in the next few months, so we had planned on seeing dozens of places in the next few weeks. We have pretty particular requirements, since we both want to stay in a brownstone and we want a backyard and we want 2 bedrooms.

Despite what people say about New York, the backyard isn't so hard. Pretty much every brownstone has a garden floor with backyard access. Given about 100 houses to a block in the relatively large area of Bed-Stuy, odds are some of those are going to be for rent.

The problem is, I already live in a garden apartment. I love it. I've been there for more than 7 years. It's just not big enough. We need a second bedroom. That makes things more complicated.

Most brownstones fall within the same specs. They usually have the same or similar layouts, so finding an apartment with a second bedroom is usually going to mean one of three things: small rooms, an extension on the house or a duplex.

[Technorati Tags: brownstones, brooklyn, real-estate, bedford-stuyvesant, bed-stuy, UltraClay, apartments.]

The Al Gordon Snowflake 4 Mile

IMG_3304 cropped, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Tammi braved the cold and beat her personal record today. Her sister and niece joined me by the sidelines to cheer her on. My camera is really a lot harder to operate when I can't feel my fingers...

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Graffiti of the Day: ElbowToe

IMG_9309.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

We get a two-fer tonight since I started working on the new Graffiti of the Day feature late at night, I get to post one before and the other after midnight.

This shot is a close up of a freehand piece painted by ElbowToe outside of 11 Spring Street a few days before the event.

I had been out of town for most of the build up to the big weekend so I hadn't seen any of it. ElbowToe was actually there working on it, so I thought he was just putting it up. Afterwards I discovered that it had been splashed and he was touching it up after repainting portions of it.


[Technorati Tags: Graffiti, Photography, potd, NewYork, Elbowtoe, 11Spring, paint, splasher, ultraclay.]

Photo of the Day: Blind Tiger Ale House

motion, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Blind Tiger Ale House was a great bar on Hudson in the West Village. This shot was taken on its closing night a couple years back. I've been thinking of my old haunts recently. The Blind Tiger almost took the spot of my former home away from home, Black Star before it closed too.

The story of BT's closing is annoyingly familiar. The landlords got greedy asking for rent, started renovating the place to appeal to some of the boutiques a block away on Bleeker, then gave The Tiger the boot. Over a year went by, no boutiques took the bait and now it's going to be a starbucks. What a waste.

Meanwhile, Blind Tiger can't get a liquor license at its new location on a pretty lame stretch on Bleeker near 7th Ave. I haven't even made it over there yet.


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February 24, 2007

Graffiti of the Day: Camputee Press

IMG_0542, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Graffiti is one of my favorite photo subjects. I feel as though that's been neglected in the blog so far.
To rectify that, I'm introducing a new Graffiti of the Day feature. Now, I don't get into the Graffiti vs Street Art debate. It's all Graffiti to me whether it's spray paint on a wall, paint on wood tiles, pasted paper or metalwork.
I'll try to add as much about the piece featured as I can recall.
This shot was taken in the SOMA area of San Francisco earlier this year. It's by The Mac.

[Technorati Tags: Graffiti, SanFrancisco, TheMac, SOMA, ultraclay, potd, photos, SF, nyc, photography]

Photo of the Day: The Starting Line

The Starting Line, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Tammi's running the NYRR Al Gordon Snowflake 4-Mile this morning.

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February 23, 2007

Managed Risk, Managed Expectations


On Morning Edition they've been discussing how prepared we are for disaster as a nation. In a series of interviews this week Stephen Flynn, a security expert basically said that we haven't learned anything from September 11th and Katrina: That there are clear and obvious weaknesses in our port security, the levee systems and our medical system. Flynn discussed reasonably possible events that we can anticipate right now that we could prepare for in advance, but for which we have no real infrastructure in place to handle.

We hear these things all the time, so it doesn't surprise us that DHS isn't quite on top of things. But the idea is that they plan to be, hopefully before the next 'event' occurs.

Today they gave George Foresman from Homeland Security a chance to respond. Much of it is to be expected, he played down some of the risks still present and he played up the degree to which the government could actually handle these situations.

But an underlying theme that was repeated a few times was this: the American people have to manage their expectations. So, if an earthquake or bomb results in seawater contaminating the water supply in California, the people need to know that they aren't going to have water for a while. If there is a pandemic or a biological attack, people need to understand that they may not be able to get medical care.

Flynn pointed to economic forces for our poor preparedness. The medical industry in particular has been cutting back staff and resources for over a decade. The result is a health care system that has the single goal of maintaining the status quo. It hires just enough staff and maintains enough space to handle an average load. Sometimes less, but never more. It's not economical otherwise.

In response to this, Foresman pretty much agrees. He says the American people are not willing to pay the cost to keep the reserves necessary to provide the support services that might be needed.

Think about that.

Someone from the agency that is supposed to keep us safe and secure is saying that our safety is prohibitively expensive, so we need to lower our expectations.

That's frightening.


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Photo of the Day: Snowy Stoop

IMG_2092.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

February 22, 2007

Philadelphia Wrap-up

Beware of Frog, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

On Tuesday we went to Reading Terminal Market first thing. I bought some smoked spices that I'm really looking forward to using. Hickory smoked black pepper and garlic are going to be really useful in the pre-bbq season. After that I had to do a little shopping over on Market. We went to the Macy's that used to be Wanamaker's. It's a beautiful old building and yet another example of Macy's gobbling up landmark department stores.
We really meant to do something cultural or educational. There's a King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute that we were going to go to, but by the time we were done with all that we didn't feel like doing anything. We spent most of the rest of the day hanging out. We had to extend the trip a day, so we moved to a different hotel. Then we just hung out a little more. My aunt got in that night and we got a snack with her before turning in. >BR> I got nearly everything I wanted out of this trip to Philadelphia. That's to say I didn't do much besides hang out, eat good food and drink beer. Staying at a new hotel let us explore some new-to-us neighborhoods, even if the hotel wasn't so great.

My one regret is that, somehow, I managed to spend almost a week in Philadelphia without eating a cheesesteak. I don't know how I managed that.

I am ashamed. Next time I'll just have to have that many more cheesesteaks.

[Technorati Tags: Philadelphia, Travel, UltraClay]

Photo of the Day: God Save Brooklyn

God Save Brooklyn, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I am back in Brooklyn after a slightly longer than planned trip to Philly. I enjoyed it, but was glad to sleep in my bed last night.

February 21, 2007

Photo of the Day: The Five Spot

IMG_3073, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This was a bar and club in Old City that I've been to a few times. I took my sister here for her 21st birthday a couple years ago. It burned down early this month. Thankfully no one was hurt, but it's a loss for everyone.

February 20, 2007

Happy Mardi Gras

Roll 14 - 44, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I'm in Philly, not New Orleans, so the good times will be much less rowdy, but rolling nonetheless.

Enjoy Everyone!

[Technorati Tags: FrenchQuarter, MardiGras, NewOrleans, Travel, Photos, FatTuesday, UltraClay.]

Photo of the Day: Philadelphia

IMG_2887, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Old City/ Society Hill, Philadelphia

February 19, 2007

Philadelphia: Society Hill Hotel Bar


Perhaps it's my inherently anti-social nature, but there's something I really appreciate about an empty bar. I mean, there's booze, but not people to get in the way. I love it. So the bar downstairs at the Society Hill Hotel appeals to me greatly. Don't get the wrong idea, I had no idea there was a hotel here until someone walked in with luggage and asked the waitress about her room. The hotel has a different entrance and there are no horny businessmen trying to hook up with conventioneers. It's a cool old looking saloon with huge windows that light up the place in the afternoon and display the Old City nightlife after hours.

We're here waiting for our dinner reservation and hanging out while Tammi knits and I scribble nonsense on the laptop. They're playing Kind of Blue and all is right with the world.


[Technorati Tags: Bars, Booze, Beer, Philadelphia, OldCity, UltraClay, saloons, SocietyHill.]

Flickr Buggery

Flickr is having some trouble as you may have noticed. Some of the images I've posted are not showing up correctly. If the photos for a couple posts seem particularly inappropriate, my apologies. Blame Flickr.

Phiadelphia: South Street

We're staying in Center City this time around. We almost always stay in Penn's Landing, but I figured a change of scenery would give us a new perspective on the city.

We've still made it out to Old City/Society Hill a few times, but only passed through South Street.

when I first started coming down to Philly, when my sister was looking at schools down here, all I did was wander up and down South Street, hitting the shops, eating at Jim's Steaks and bar-hopping.

South Street is Philly's answer to the strip of Bleeker Street between 6th Avenue and LaGuardia Place. It's totally focused on college and post-college crowds. There are a million places to get drunk and hook up and tons of so-so restaurants that sell wings and chicken fingers, along with local (or international) variations like Shwarma or Cheesesteaks.

I guess I've aged out of the demographic, since I don't tend to hit either very much these days. The only times I go to Bleeker is when I want to sit out and people-watch the 'kids' passing by.

[Technorati Tags: Bars, Booze, Beer, Philadelphia, EatingOut, Restaurants, SouthStreet, UltraClay, College]

Philadelphia: SEPTA

The only time that a SEPTA train seems fast...

I like to walk a lot when I travel. It drives the people I travel with crazy. My sister damn near collapsed after two days of me dragging her around Lisbon a few years back.

What I like about traveling on foot is that it connects places in my mind. It turns a city into more than just a collection of points on a map.

Given that this is my 8th trip to Philly - and that its ridiculously cold out - I've been allowing myself a little latitude in this area. In the interest of finding a quicker, warmer way to get around, we've been taking the SEPTA more. Well, it's warmer at least.

Going down Market, the Blue line stops every 3 blocks. Seriously: there are stops at 15th, 13th, 11th, 8th, 5th and 2nd Streets. Really. I've never seen anything like it. And there are no express lines. How does that even work? Admittedly, it somehow runs pretty quickly, but I didn't have to ride during rush hour.


[Technorati Tags: Transit, SEPTA, Transportation, Philadelphia, Subways, MarketStreet, UltraClay.]

Photo of the Day: Philadelphia City Hall

IMG_2344, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I really like this building in case you couldn't tell. ::c::

February 18, 2007

Philadelphia: Standard Tap


We made it out to Northern Liberties in early afternoon and got brunch at Standard Tap. In fact we're still here, Tammi's knitting, I'm writing and drinking beer. Really I like the vibe here, the food was a bit of a miss this time.

Both things I ate were a bit over-fried. The fried oysters had too much breading and the chicken in the fried chicken sandwich was a little dry. The rest of the sandwich was like a really good BLT, so I may actually order one of those after first lunch settles.

Standard Tap is in this big old building with many rooms over 3 floors. The sun pours in from the windows and lights up the place. Wood dominates the space as soon as you walk in, from the bar up front to the wainscotting and wooden benches running along the walls in the back room on the ground floor.

We got in a little after 1pm and it was busy. We found a seat in the back and settled in. The only menus at Standard Tap are posted on the walls. As we were looking, three items were being wiped off the board.

(continued after the jump)

We've been sitting here enjoying the music. All afternoon they've been playing 70's soul. Tammi's been rocking out to tunes her parents listened to back in the day. It's been Teddy Pendergrass, The Temptations, Earth Wind and Fire, Chaka Khan and Marvin Gaye.

As for what I'm drinking, I started out with Yards ESA, a hand drawn cask ale. It is served colder than most cask ales are usually kept, but I actually preferred it. The flavor was mildly hoppy. It's good but not terribly distinctive.

Next up is the Dogfishhead Brown Ale, a dark brown malty ale. Pretty straightforward, not much to say about it. Standard high quality one expects from Dogfishhead.

After that I ordered a Slyfox Dark Lager. It was amber in color, but not much flavor-wise. In fact, it sort of sucked. Thankfully, the nice lady let me switch it for...

Yards Phllly Pale Ale. I had this yesterday, its hoptastic. Much better. The hop flavor is strong, but not overpoweringly so.

Then I had a small Troegs Hopback, the other hand drawn ale they offered. It had tons of hops, as the name implies, but it was also very sweet. The temperature was warmer than the other, which mellowed out the hops, but the beer was not any sort of subtle. I had a small glass, instead of a whole pint for this one.

You'll have to pardon my typing this point, as I'm a little buzzed by now. Now Im drinking the Stoudt's APA, an American stlye pale ale. Full of hops and bubbles and bite.

The best thing about this place has to be the service. Our server has been great. Besides letting me switch my poor beer choice with something better, also turned gave us a preview of the dinner menu when we told her we were going to sticking around for a while and let us move to another seat when I needed to plug in the laptop.

I also want to shout out the bartender who was rocking the hot music the whole time we've been here. Right now she's playing The Roots

One day I'll make it to philly during the warmer months and get a chance to chill at Standard Tap's balcony upstairs. This time we ended up staying for about 5 hours. It was exactly what I needed.
::c::[Technorati Tags: Bars, Booze, Beer, Philadelphia, EatingOut, Restaurants, NorthernLiberties, UltraClay, Brunch]

Photo of the Day: Empire State Building, Autumn

IMG_9742, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Expect many more pictures of the Empire State Building. I work near and shoot it pretty regularly. I even have a set dedicated to it on my Flickr Stream. ::c::

February 17, 2007

Philadelphia: Good Dog


I was wandering around the center city/Rittenhouse Square area looking for a place to have a few rounds while Tammi hung out in the room watching tv.

I was heading for Monk's Cafe, a Belgian bar that's supposed to have a huge selection of obscure imports. When I got there it was prohibitively crowded, so I took off. I stumbled across Good Dog on 15th.

It wasn't empty, but I found a spot at the bar, which is all I needed. The music on was totally random, much of it hitting my obscure hip-hop niche. They played some old Grand Puba, A Tribe Called Quest and "can I get wit'cha" an early BIG appearance from back in the day.

The beer selection had some good stuff from dogfishhead, Troeg, Victory, and Stoudt's representing the local breweries.

I tried to avoid getting food, since I was going to dinner in a bit, but the sizzling mac n cheese looked amazing when served to the folks next to me. I had a snack of truffled cheese steak empanadas. The filling was not as cheesy as I'd have preferred, but I have yet to taste an empanada I didn't like.

Good Dog Bar
224 South 15th Street
Center City, Philadelphia


[Technorati tags: Philadelphia, Food, bars, drinking, beer, centercity, nightlife.]

Philadelphia: Downtime

This year has been super-hectic so far. Between SF, Aspen and working last weekend, I haven't had much downtime to speak of. When I get back, I'm going to have to spend some time up at the mothership in CT. So, part of the point for this weekend in Philly is to catch up on the downtime I haven't really had in the last month and a half.

With that in mind, I have a single scheduled event for tomorrow: to go to Northern Liberties, get brunch and linger with my notebook or laptop over beer and snacks for several hours. I went with Tammi to a yarn shop today to make sure she has knitting to do for the afternoon. I've been looking forward to just vegging for weeks now. I can't wait.


[Technorati Tags: Travel, Philadelphia, UltraClay.]

Philadelphia: DiNic's


If you read my philly guide, you may have picked up on my minor obsession with Philly's Roast Pork sandwich. The big problem is that the most famous roast pork places, Tony Luke's and John's Roast Pork are less than accessible to those of us without a car.

While looking for something that was a bit more central, I found DiNic's in Reading Terminal Market. Philadelphia magazine called it the best roast pork in Philly. Clearly I had to try it.

Now Reading on a Saturday is not exactly quiet or peaceful. It's jammed with people and chaotic. I'm a lifelong New Yorker, but I hate crowds. They drive me crazy. I get edgy and agitated when I'm surrounded by a thousand other people jostling and bumping me.

So when we got in there and found 2 dozen people in line to order from DiNic's, I was ready to leave. Tammi wasn't having it. She said, "didn't we come here just for this?"
She was right.
Thankfully I gave in and we got in line. It moved pretty quickly and I managed to refrain from swinging on anyone, even the dude behind me who seemed to be hanging onto me the whole time.

I would have missed out on some serious porky goodness if I had ditched.

Details after the jump...

IMG_2525 More pics here.

The meat was moist and tender, soaked with its own juices. It was topped with sauteed spinach, tossed with red pepper flakes. Underneath it all was a layer of flaked provolone cheese. The cheese wasn't melted and seemed more like parmesan or romano. It added a sharp bite to the overall flavor. The roll was the exact size needed to complement the filling. It was thick enough to stand up to the juice from the meat and the spinach without falling apart, yet not so big that you had to fight through it to get to the meat.

Now I have another place I need to return to before we leave.

Reading Terminal Market
1136 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA
(215) 923-6175


[Technorati tags: Technology, Philadelphia, Food, Pork, sandwiches, roastpork, readingterminalmarket, tasty, DiNic's, Philly.]

Philadelphia: Amada


Last night we had dinner at Amada in Old City. It was excellent. We had dinner there last year, so I made a reservation for our first night, when I knew we wouldn't want to go looking for dinner.

We had 10:30 reservations, so when we walked in the place was already busy. In the middle of the front room a Flamenco performance was in progress. We headed to the bar and had a round of cava to ring in the long weekend.

Amada isn't just a place that small plates that calls itself a tapas restaurant. It strives to be very Spanish, right down to the hams hanging from the ceiling over the bar. The menu can be a little overwhelming just because everything looks so good. We started off by promising ourselves that we'd make another visit there before we left, just so we would moderate what we ordered. It worked. We managed to eat everything we ordered without hurting ourselves.

The highlights of the meal after the jump...

Lomo Iberico was the charcuterie special . It's the cured loin from Pata Negra, acorn fed pork. It came sliced paper thin and slick with its own juice (read: fat). The meat wasn't excessively fatty or greasy, there was just enough to add texture and flavor to the meat. I've never heard of cured loin, I'll have to look for it in the future. The lomo came with slices of bread. I don't know why. It would have been an affront to that gloriously tasty, acorn-fed pig that gave its life that I might sup on its loin.

Clams and Chorizo served in an oniony, herby broth with a rich clam flavor. After I finished it, I soaked up the broth with the bread that came with the lomo.


Let it never be said that I don't love children. Particularly the babies. They're so small. And tasty. Next up was Grilled Baby Squid. If you've had it before, little needs to be said about it. It's hard to mess up. It's crispy, but with that chewy give that squid has. The tentacles have a beautiful char to them. On the side was a chimichurri which was entirely unnecessary given how flavorful the squid was on its own.

Tammi ordered the Pernil, which she shared with me. It was roast pork perfection. I can't think of words adequate enough to capture it.
It was served in one chunk of roasted pork cut in slices and held together at the base. On one end the thin slices shredded under Tammi's fork. On the other were thicker, meatier pieces.

The skin was perfectly crisp all around. The meat melted in my mouth. I might go back just for this.

Slightly anti-climactic after the Pernil was the Lamb Meatballs. Honestly I loved the sauce more than the meatballs, which were a little too salty and strongly flavored with mint. The sauce was creamy and thick. I tasted a hint of truffle, but not so much to overpower it. The sauce coated the meatballs and the green peas that were mixed in.

Near the end of our meal, we ended up talking to our neighbors Sarah and Tony. They had lived in Brooklyn for years and Tony works up there during the week. We talked food and work and relaxed until the lights started going out in the back room, where we were sitting.

Sarah offered some good suggestions for places we ought to check out before we leave. More on that later.

217-219 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA


[Technorati tags: Technology, Philadelphia, Food, Pork, tapas, chorizo, spanish, eatingout,restaurants.]

Flicks: The Color of Money

I never think of Tom Cruise as being old, but seeing him as he started out is wild. Vince is young and cocky and dumb as a post. I was afraid that it would be a rehash of The Hustler, but after enjoying the original so much, I had to see it. It’s definitely not a rehash. It’s another story told in the same dystopian wasteland. No one has anything other than self-interest in mind. The characters are all totally screwed up, but in entirely different ways.

Vince, with his bouffant hair and his machismo, is an idiot. But he’s got talent, which just makes him worse. He doesn’t get the hustle. He doesn’t value his talent. He just wants to beat people at pool, but if he can get some money in the process, so much the better. If Vincent is the innocent in the story, he isn’t by the end of the movie.

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s character is a fascinating counterpoint to the original’s Sarah. Instead of trying to save Vince, she’s there to exploit him. She’s cold and hard and understands the hustle far, far better than he does.

Eddie’s life is empty. He’s got money and success and a Cadillac. To say he’s turned into Bert Gordon is a bit too simple, but he’s definitely lost his way. He doesn’t find purpose again until he sees Vince play. It reminds him of what he was, of what he had.

[Technorati Tags: Movies, TomCruise, PaulNewman, UltraClay.]

Photo of the Day: bicycles

bicycles, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

February 16, 2007


I deal with technology all day, so don't expect to hear too much about it here. That said, I can hardly ignore one of the most challenging idiocies that I've faced in my career.

In 2005 Congress passed an energy bill, which was primarily written by the energy lobby. The one thing I know about it that doesn't make me angry is that Daylight Saving Time will be a month longer starting this year.

I love it. One of the worst things about winter is the immersion in darkness we have to endure. I wake up, it's dark, I leave work, it's dark. The only windows at my job are hidden behind office doors. It's a season without sunlight.

Daylight Saving Time let's us get that much more light when we aren't stuck at the office. I can't wait.

Unfortunately, in typical myopic fashion, the technology industry for the most part flaked on this. Some quietly fixed the latest releases in the last couple of months, neglecting the older versions that nearly everyone is still using. Others came up with wildly complicated workarounds. Most haven't said much of anything until badgered repeatedly.

In the last two weeks or so message boards and email lists have lit up frantically with messages about how to handle this. The good news is that it's been like a reunion lately. Everyone's reaching out to colleagues and former co-workers, looking for someone who's gotten a vendor to call them back and give them some straight answers.

Less that 10 years after y2k freaked everyone out, no one seemed to think of this - with a year and a half lead time.

If you are still looking for answers, I'd suggest you look here for Mac related questions and here for everything else.


[Technorati tags: Technology, DST, DaylightSavingTime, Computers, UltraClay.]

Trenton Makes...

I'm sitting on the SEPTA regional train waiting to start moving again. Out the window, off in the darkness, are the words, "TRENTON MAKES THE WORLD TAKES" in bright red neon letters. I've passed that sign maybe a dozen times at this point. It still seems pathetic and self-pitying.

You have to wonder about the culture of a place that would collectively choose to identify itself by laying a guilt trip on visitors and asking locals to wallow in their own perceived suffering.


Photo of the Day: A Tip

A Tip, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

February 15, 2007

Technorati Geekiness

I'm poking around with all the bloggy widgets online and I found this chart...

Posts that contain Ultraclay per day for the last 30 days.
Technorati Chart
Get your own chart!

Flicks: Papillon


Good lord, this movie is never going to end. It’s a prison movie, not exactly like The Great Escape except that nearly every prison movie (that isn’t on late night cable) is basically the same. Steve McQueen plays a prisoner that won’t give up trying to escape. The story is more brutal and soul crushing than the other. It includes what seems like an eternity of watching McQueen deteriorate in solitary confinement with little food. Dustin Hoffman co-stars. Maybe I’m just tired, but the whole thing just seemed to meander. Apparently Papillon was a real person who wrote a book about the story, which may explain some of the excess the story contains. I try not to judge older movies by the conventions that didn’t exist at the time, but let’s just say nothing really surprised me in the movie. The relationship between Papillon and Hoffman’s Degas was complicated and interesting, but also seemed to go this way and that with little direction.

[Technorati tags: , , DustinHoffman,

Photo of the Day: Snow!

Snow!, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Now I have an excuse to post my old snow photos.

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February 14, 2007

Release the Spiders!

This blog is now on technorati. Let me know if you've come across it through there.

Technorati Profile

What says romance better...

IMG_2295, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

...than getting smacked in the face with millions of tiny ice cubes?

The snow was pretty at first, then it turned to freezing rain, which is less so. Bad weather does make a good excuse to curl up somewhere warm with your special someone.

Tonight we will take a pass on the candlelit dinner for two in favor of a double date at Cookshop. I've never been, but I've heard great things about it.

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A Couple Rounds at Spuyten Duyvil

Last night I had a few rounds at Spuyten Duyvil in Williamsburg with some folks. It was great as usual. They've got such a great list of crazy obscure beer that you'll never find anywhere else. I always end up drinking well there. These two in particular stick out:

The Old Prize Ale on hand-drawn was really interesting. If that's not a resounding endorsement, it's because I still don't know if I liked it. The beer was remarkable in texture and flavor. It had this crazy sweetness to it that wasn't altogether pleasant. It had none of the bubbles one would expect from either a fizzy or a creamy beer, there was little or no effervescence at all. The color was dark molasses brown and the texture was thick, but not syrupy. It reminded me more of jagermeister than any beer I've ever had.

The other that stood out was the Kulmbacher Eisbock. One of my drinking companions ordered it and offered a taste. It had an powerful maltiness that immediately reminded me of Milo, a powdered chocolate mix from the West Indies that I grew up drinking. I ordered one for myself right away. Once you get past that intense malt flavor, there's a very richness to match.

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Photo of the Day: Lovers

Lovers, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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February 13, 2007

Photo of the Day: Transit Museum

IMG_3236, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

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February 12, 2007

Flicks: Dawn of the Dead 2004

Ok. So I think the trend if 70’s/80’s remakes is crap. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, Amityville: it’s all nostalgia all the time. I have no problem with creatively repurposing music, movies, whatever. Great artists steal. Hip-hop has been a part of my life since childhood. I’m all for taking something old and making something entirely new from it. Most of the remakes out these days aren’t doing anything new; they’re just rehashing old stories without adding anything new.

Of course, what’s interesting about the Dawn of the Dead remake is that it seems to have very little to do with the original. The only similarities are in the basic plot: a group hides from zombies in the mall. The most obvious difference is that the zombies are not green. The enormous advances in special effects technology have provided a more lifelike undead. Beyond that, the cast is totally different. There are a lot more refugees in this version and most of them had a lot more depth than anyone in the original.

Mekhi Pfifer did a great job here. He totally cracked up. I don’t know most of the movies he’s been in, but I’ll definitely start looking out for him.

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Photo of the Day: Balloons in Motion

Balloons in Motion

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February 11, 2007

Photo of the Day: Barcelona Graffiti

barcelona, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

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February 10, 2007

Seasonally Affected


I can’t take this cold anymore. It’s driving me crazy. Gothamist says that yesterday made a week that we’ve had temperatures below normal. Before that I was 8,000 feet up where this is normal weather. I don’t know how people live like this. I wear layers and layers of clothing. I'm carrying 20 extra lbs of clothing on me at any given time.

I hate it. I have feathers all over everything I wear because of my new down coat. I'm getting stir crazy from spending all my time indoors.

I'm ready for spring.

Wilton, CT

December 2003

My first business trip was to Wilton, CT. It was somewhat anticlimactic, since I was scheduled to spend a week in San Francisco for the company a couple weeks away. My boss at the time had insisted that I represent our group for a big project in Wilton. I decided to head up there the night before because there was no way I was going to make it up there on my own in the morning. In the end it was nothing particularly exciting or relevant. The memory of it stays with me years later because of what happened the night I arrived.

When I got off the commuter rail, it was dark and cold. I had no idea where I was or how to get to where I was supposed to be. Dozens of people got off the train, mostly white, middle-aged suburbanites, all with some sort of direction. I was profoundly uncomfortable. This was made worse when I found that, not only wasn't there an ATM or a taxi stand at this station, but the waiting area was closed and no one was working there. My cell phone was very close to totally self-destructing on me, but I managed to call information and guess at a taxi company to come get my ass from another town away.

With no shelter and no concept of how long I'd be waiting or if I had enough money on me to cover the cost, I watched the suburbanites walk to their cars or get picked up. I watched with a sort of envy of their sense of place. There was also a bit of fear, or at least uneasiness. I was acutely aware of being a young, black man in a strange town in the suburbs. White folks move to places like this to get away from people like me, or at least their perception of who people like me are. This is what was going through my mind as I loitered outside at the train station. I avoided eye contact and paced nervously.

A White Jeep Cherokee drove up from the back of the lot and started in the direction the rest of the cars had gone, out of the lot. It stopped. It was still facing my direction. I tried to ignore it and paced some more, hoping that the cab would suddenly appear. The Jeep eventually pulled off and headed out. I felt relieved that I was at least alone. I didn't have to feel quite so self-conscious about so obviously not belonging there. A minute later, I see headlights coming at me from the direction all the cars had gone. I crossed my fingers, hoping for the cab. It was the Jeep.

Worse than being alone in a strange place and surrounded by strangers, is being alone in a strange place with only one stranger. I tried not to freak out. This wasn't Alabama, I wasn't afraid of getting lynched or beaten. But I am from New York and an unknown quantity is not something to take for granted.

Not getting too close, the Jeep pulled up across from me. Slowly the window rolled down. Behind it, a middle-aged black man in a suit emerged.
"Are you ok? Do you need a ride or anything?" he asked.
Flush with relief and embarrassment, I smiled. I assured him that I was waiting for a cab and thanked him for his concern.

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Photo of the day: Count the Layers

IMG_1577, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

February 9, 2007

The Pottery Barn rule

London, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I'm going to take the opportunity of an unread blog to vent an unpopular opinion:
Bush is right, we can't leave Iraq.

There, I said it.

I'm not a fan of this administration, I'm one of those still arguing the 2000 election. I'm a dyed in the wool liberal from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.

Here's the thing, we broke that country. Iraq was a terrible, repressive regime, but it worked. It doesn't work anymore. And we're responsible. I know many people who will jump up and down yelling, "Not My President" but the fact is that we live in a democracy and we are all responsible for the actions of this government. Even if we didn't vote for it. Even if we're in a blue state.

We, as a nation, broke Iraq and it's actually our responsibility to fix it.

The current discourse on Iraq bases everything on the revisionist claim that we went to war in Iraq to free the Iraqis. We know that's not true.

Ted Koppel commented on this on NPR the other day:

We've been given so many bad reasons for why we went to war in Iraq — those weapons of mass destruction, Hussein and his neighbors, Hussein and al-Qaida, establishing democracy — that we've actually convinced ourselves that we did it for them… for the Iraqis; not because it served the U.S. national interest.

That makes it easy to depict the Iraqis as a bunch of underperforming, ungrateful wretches; and if they don't start shaping up, we're pulling out.

That's bullshit. And we know it on the left. The oppressed Iraqis became the justification for the war after all the others turned out to be lies. And considering how poorly things are going for them, it's not a very good justification.

We know this is hypocrisy. We're blaming the victim. But we're so focused on getting the hell out of there that we haven't spent any time thinking about our responsibility to fix what we broke. There's this idea that we're incapable of doing anything right here, so we should just bail.

Colin Powell's Pottery Barn rule says, "You break it, you own it." We 'own' this mess regardless of our individual political affiliations. If we have to send in more troops to clean it up, then that's what we have to do.

Leaving Iraq to burn after we lit the match and poured the gasoline is wrong. I don't know how to fix it, but I know it would be irresponsible for us to just walk away.

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Flicks: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

I’ve never been a big fan of horror movies. I never saw the point. Most of them were schlocky and fake, but that was irrelevant since I had no desire to see more accurate looking gore. Blood and guts have never interested me. I got interested in the zombie movie as a subgenre after seeing 28 Days Later, which kicked all sorts of ass. Totally unlike the cartoonish horror flicks I’d seen before. There was no Freddie or Jason or whatever. It was total fucking Armageddon. The entire world went to shit so far as anyone knew. Zombie flicks are not just about some guy or demon or doll chasing people around with a knife. it’s everybody. You can’t trust or love anyone enough that you wouldn’t put a bullet in him or her when the time comes.

The whole concept blew me away. In 28 Days Later the execution was flawless. Later I saw Shaun of the Dead, which was damned funny. It’s the same idea, but played entirely for laughs. I heard about it when I was in London last year. All through the city, phone booths were covered in posters of zombies trying to escape.

Given that, it was only a matter of time before I had to see something by the father of Zombie flicks: George Romero. I haven’t seen anything else of his yet, including Night of the Living Dead, of which DoD is a sequel. Clearly it was hardcore schlock. Every zombie wore green paint, black white, whatever, they were green. It was the 70’s. The characters and the plot were simple, but entertaining. The ‘significance’ granted the movie by whoever it is that grants significance to things comes from the setting: a mall. Hordes of undead flock to the mall for no other reason than they’d been trained to do so in life. It had become an instinct. Consumption as an overriding motivation is recurring, but the movie doesn’t beat you over the head with social commentary. It is a valid comment on our culture, certainly, but that doesn’t fill up the movie – that’s what the zombies are for.

Photo of the Day: Brooklyn Bridge in the Fog

IMG_1504, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

February 8, 2007

Toronto: The Sunday Lime

iflute?, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Summer 2005: Tammi and I took a long weekend out to Toronto. The timing was perfect. The weather was gorgeous and there just happened to be a graffiti festival on Queen Street. We wandered about and I shot some of the fresh art up on the walls.
Sunday afternoon, we headed back to Queen to catch the last of the festival. We could hear music from a block away. It was coming from a bar called Big Papa's Bordello. In the fenced off garden space, we could see musicians playing as the DJ spun beats.

This was the bar's Sunday ritual, the Sunday Lime. Musicians from a group called The iDrum Collective played percussion over what Tammi called 'soulful house.' I don't know from House music, but this wasn't like any I'd heard before. It was a mix of funk and soul and the songs just flowed into each other. What drew me in the most was the musicians. There wasn't much structure to the group, The flowed in and out just like the music. They came and walked off periodically. They switched instruments from time to time, one guy drummed for a while, then took out a trumpet and played that.

A little before we left, an older man came in and hung out for a few minutes. He chat with the others for a bit, then he took out his flute. He hooked up his mic and caught the beat. As he played, he meandered through the garden passing us by, bending and moving with his lilting tune.

When he was ready for his solo, he waved his arm with a flair.
"Just like that." The band held the beat and the old man took over.

He finished, packed up his flute, said his goodbyes and left.

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Photo of the Day: Truck in the Mission

IMG_8119, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

February 7, 2007

Photo of the Day: W

W, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Hanson Place, Fort Greene, Brooklyn

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February 6, 2007

My Maps so far...

create your own visited countries map or vertaling Duits Nederlands

create your own visited states map or check out these Google Hacks.

Flicks: Hopscotch

Hardly a classic, but recommended by NetFlix because of the high rating I left 3 Days of the Condor and a couple other spy movies. It’s an old Walter Matthau vehicle, much more of a comedy than, say, the Taking of Pelham One Two Three, which I loved. Hopscotch was amusing as much for its cold war humor as anything else. I enjoyed seeing Sam Waterson so young, although there wasn’t very much to his role.

Photo of the Day: The 4 Express

Transit, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

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February 5, 2007

A Quiet Afternoon in Coney Island

Coney Island

I'm not what one would call an adventurer. Ok, fine, I'm a punk. My idea of danger is standing on the yellow strip on the subway platform. In the late nineties, I joked that a black man in New York City didn't need to bungee jump to feel genuine fear when the NYPD was only ever a few blocks away. In truth, I avoid fear, doing as much as possible to sidestep opportunities to scream like a little girl. So, when I suggested a trip to Coney Island one bright Sunday afternoon, I had not planned on testing my bladder control before the day was over.

My only intentions were to sit out on the boardwalk and read the paper, periodically pausing to people-watch and to stuff my face with Nathan's hot dogs. My girlfriend, Tammi, had an entirely different idea of what an afternoon in Coney Island meant. As soon as we finished ogling newly renovated Stillwell Avenue station, she began talking about the rides we should go on. I was immediately confused. Rides were typically something I thought of in an abstract sense. I passed them as I headed to the beach or the aquarium, occasionally I'd even stop and watch as participants flew by screaming. Friends would tell me knowingly how much fun they were. I took their word for it, but never really considered verifying these claims.

I have only been to amusement parks a couple of times. As a kid, everything about them was novel. The whole spectacle: the lights, the people, the foods all excited me. I didn't require threats to my life to enjoy myself. As such, I never built up the resistance to self-preservation my peers have developed so extensively as to need a new, more perilous danger each year.

Humoring her, I suggested we walk down the boardwalk for a while. My hope was to find some incredibly exciting distraction that would at the very least afford me some time to conjure up an excuse for avoiding the rides other than sheer cowardice. It didn't work. Regardless of how far away we were down the boardwalk, Tammi's eyes lit up when she saw the cyclone in the distance.

A different tactic seemed necessary: start small. Coming in she'd pointed out the Go-karts. I don't drive and have always missed the appeal of driving games. From bumper cars to Grand Theft Auto, I usually ended up crashing and burning not long after getting behind the wheel. But a non-driving friend had gone on and on about how much fun they were, so I decided to start out there.

Before entering the "International Speedway", the last time I had been behind the wheel of a vehicle was over 10 years ago. A gruff, accented driver's ed instructor tried to explain the intricacies of the broken U-turn as oncoming traffic sped past us on one of Brooklyn's busiest street. I was relieved to see that the 'speedway' was all one way, nearly ensuring that at the very least there wouldn't be any head-on collisions. Rollovers, I wasn't so sure about.

"Oh, a big guy. You get a two-seater." I was told as I entered. I was led to the front-most car. The roomy coupe, emblazoned with the Cuban flag, had ample space for my broad shoulders. As I slid into my bright red speed demon, I came to the realization that this was actually happening. I looked around, hoping to catch a glimpse of someone who knew what they were doing. Tammi sat a few cars behind me in the England car. The announcer rambled on unintelligibly over the PA. I had no idea what he was saying but worried desperately that it was somehow relevant to the undertaking I had been charged with as the lead driver.

I sat there, breathing in the fumes of a few dozen lawnmower engines, wondering who, exactly would work in that environment and what effects the fumes have had on them. Shortly afterwards, I was approached by one of the 'crew.' He gestured at me, demanding that I move my cart up to the starting line. It was only then that I realized that I had no idea how to work the contraption. I had hoped to watch others and follow their lead, no such luck. I froze up momentarily, my expression was one usually saved for people speaking another language. Finally, I noticed the red and green arrows on the steering wheel pointing towards the brake and accelerator pedals respectively. I gingerly stepped on the gas, my car jerked forward. Gratified, I did it again, but I forgot to steer and ran into the divider.

After a few minutes, more drivers joined in and we were ready to start. The crewmembers signaled and I took off with a shot. At the first turn the drivers behind me edged into my peripheral vision. I swerved into the turn, scraping against the divider and narrowly missing a collision with my neighboring car. Other flag-adorned cars zoomed by. I steadied out and sped up, racing around the track maybe a dozen times. I sped faster in order to avoid being passed and bumped by other cars. When taking corners, I hit the brake with my left foot even as my right sat on the accelerator.

At each lap, I expected the next to be more relaxed, yet each time I found myself anxiously trying to balance my attention between the turns, the cars around me and the speed. I eventually managed to take the turns faster, but still managed to run into a wall on my last lap. As I climbed out of my Cuban roadster, I was too shaken to realize that my strategy wasn't working to my advantage. Tammi was all the more excited. I was already shell-shocked and further convinced that I should never drive.

We walked through the various amusements, passing water rides and games offering prizes of stuffed animals and such. After wandering around, we ended up at the Wonder Wheel. I had never been on a Ferris wheel. It had only been that afternoon that I discovered that some of the cars actually swung around on and inner circle of the wheel.

As we approached the entrance, Tammi was bouncing like a little girl. She tugged on my arm and asked if we could take a swinging car instead of a stationary car. I hesitated but decided that if I was suddenly going to ditch my common sense, I might as well go all the way. We walked to one of the colored swinging cars. It looked old and clunky but with a fresh coat of blue paint. The attendant pried open the wire-mesh door and beckoned us in. The car had two benches inside, clearly designed for a different time. We had the car to ourselves. Thankfully, I only had to worry about embarrassing myself in the eyes of the woman I love, not total strangers. The attendant shimmied the wire mesh sliding door closed, leaving a gap open near my foot when the door just couldn't reach any longer.

We had gotten about a quarter of the way up when the swinging started. I had just begun to convince myself that the height wasn't so big a deal. I like heights actually. I enjoy the views and the feeling of towering over the world. When flying, I love the sensation of floating above the clouds. Sure, I prefer to appreciate heights from within the relative safety of solid railings, bars, or windows, but maybe this rickety metal box could be just as secure. Maybe I should look around and enjoy the view of everything around us. This comforted me briefly until the little blue tin can suddenly jolted forward and downward.

Swinging is far too benign for the sudden jerking spasms that overtook our car. We faced the inside of the wheel and all I could see were lines upon lines of old metal beams and bars and wires. We swung forward and back and my sight was filled with the machinery of ages past. The rusty innards of this century old beast, a relic from a time before child endangerment laws, failed to inspire confidence. My heart pounded, my stomach turned and the imagery of dozens of action movies and comic books flashed through my mind in the first person. I gripped my bench and tried to look away. The first thing I rested my eyes on was the gap in the door. I imagined myself dangling from the side of the ever-rising car, having leaned on the door the wrong way. Finally, I closed my eyes. I held on to my seat and Tammi with equal force and hoped for a quick end either to my life or the ride, I'm not sure which.

On our second revolution, I calmed. I knew what to expect and that comforted me. I even glanced around once or twice between swings. Tammi had been pointing out various sites to be seen by those with their eyes open the whole time, but I only began to hear her near the end. When we disembarked, I watched briefly as one of the attendants pulled a large crank-like mechanism that is involved somehow in the functioning of the Wonder Wheel. I stood in awe for a moment of the utter foolishness of the entire experience. I turned to leave but stumbled. The intense weight of the emotions rushing through me was overwhelming. I leaned on one of the columns holding up the Wonder Wheel. I couldn't go any further. I stopped and breathed and waiting for my heart to slow to a normal rate.

Once my paralysis wore off, we walked further, I in a daze, she with definite direction: The Cyclone. After successfully surviving the swinging monstrosity, I fervently refused to take part in any other such activities that day. With confidence and pride, I held her purse as she zipped up and down and around the world famous rollercoaster. I watched with no sense of envy as she and her fellow lunatics screamed and waved while being hurled every which way.

When she was done it was my turn to choose the activity. I bee-lined for the nearest stand on the boardwalk and ordered a couple cold beers and some fried shrimp. We found a bench and I pulled out the paper. I grabbed my sections and she took hers. We read and drank our beers. I took in the sun and the sights, watching the people go by. Young children ran and played in the sand while their parents called out to them in thick West Indian accents. Music played and performers danced. Later, I stood outside the ladies room, waiting and watched photographers take pictures of a model while listening to pleas over a loudspeaker to shoot the freak.

We got more beer and walked down the boardwalk. There was a Reggae festival in the Brooklyn Cyclones' stadium. We stood outside and enjoyed the music from afar. On the way out we had hot dogs from Nathan's. I topped mine with chili and cheese followed by an old style fried apple pie from Popeye's. Now, this is what Coney Island is means to me. The most dangerous part of my Sunday on Coney Island is an overindulgence in fried foods.

Most people think of rides and games when imagining New York's great amusement park. The rush of excitement, the thrill of the speed, the heights, the noise, and the lights are all parts of the spectacle that is Coney Island. Just as spectacular are the people, the food, the sites and the events that have accumulated there. Recent new attractions like burlesque shows and weekly fireworks join the New York Aquarium, the boardwalk and baseball games on the list of things to do in Coney Island. With all that going on, there's never any reason to be afraid to have a good time.

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Flicks: 3 Days of the Condor

Redford plays the accidental hero, a bookworm in way over his head. “I read books!” is his mantra. It’s heresy to compare the two, but it reminds me of The Rock. Obviously better, but it’s clear where The Rock and movies like it got their inspiration. Nicholas Cage's wincing and whining about being a lab rat, definitely descend from Redford's character. In the same way, there’s plenty of North by Northwest in there. The intrigue and the betrayals come flying from every corner. Neither the hero nor the viewer has any idea of who to trust.

Of course, Faye Dunaway had much more depth and personality than Eva Marie Saint and Redford’s shaggy hair and panicked demeanor is nothing like Grant. Redford is flawed and disheveled, very smart, but also very scared. Even confused, drunk and kidnapped, Cary Grant’s in full control of himself if nothing else. Redford demonstrates Condor’s braininess in subtle ways. He doesn’t go all MacGuyver left and right making laser canons out of a flashlight and a magnifying glass. Instead, he sprinkles in some locksmith lingo and knows his way around a phone closet.

The first I’d ever heard of this movie was in the trunk scene of Out of Sight. Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney were talking about it. Lopez says something along the lines of “It never made sense to me how they got together so quickly.” Of course that was just the set up for them to get together the same way. It’s true though. They did go from carjacking to making out awfully quickly. The two of them pulled off the panic and adrenaline of the situation very well. They both knew they shouldn’t be doing it. I loved that they didn’t end up happily ever after like the Bourne Identity or something.

There were a lot of shots in the World Trade Center, it had just been open for two years. It was new and distinctive so there were plenty of shots lingering over the towers. The view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the CIA offices set there remind me of the last time I was up there in June of 2001 for my birthday. I had dinner at Windows on the World.

Photo of the Day: The Odd Couple

In the Parks, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

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February 4, 2007

Photo of the Day: The Marathon in BK

The Marathon in BK, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Today's photo is in honor of Tammi's first race of the year today. I'd be out there, but I'm sick and it's not getting any warmer than 20 degrees. Next time.

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February 3, 2007

The Birthday Trip: Eating Japan

First and foremost, there's the food. So far, this is what I have my eye on...

Sushi. I used to east sushi a lot. Not so much these days. It's not that I don't like it anymore, it's just that it gets repetitive after a while. Whether it's Nobu or Terriyaki Boy, fish on rice, fish in a roll, or just plain fish starts to bore me. I will of course, be eating sushi while in Japan, but I expect to eat a lot more than that.

Izakaya: I love bar food. Wherever you go, you find some of the tastiest (and most economical) food in casual bar settings. In New York we have some great izakaya around St. Mark's place in the East Village. I'm what you might call an adventurous eater, so anyplace I can get skewers of grilled chicken hearts or raw wasabi octopus appeals to me. I'll be hitting up the local spots a lot in the next few months to start preparing my palate.

Natto: I've heard that in Kyoto I can find Natto, a dish made of fermented soy beans. I don't know why this intrigues me, but I want to try it at least once. Apparently it's very stinky.

I've heard that the Tsukiji Fish Market is a must see. I'm not sure if I can manage to get up quite so early, but we'll see.

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New Flicks: Ali

I just watched Ali last night. This wasn't a part of the original 'flicks' postings that I'm re-serializing here.

Like those posts, I'm not really reviewing as much as writing my reactions and observations.

The first thing about Ali is that it really did seem to employ nearly every black actor who has ever appeared on screen. I swear everyone was in this movie. Really. Look at the cast list. The black dude from Hackers is in it.

What I notice about the plot is that not a single good thing seems to come to Ali from joining The Nation. I'm going to leave it at that and refrain from expounding on my views on religion. Suffice it to say that NOI appeared to be just another fair weather friend. This is interesting since, the plot of the movie seems to be focused around the changing of his name and his joining NOI. It shows the stands that he took and the sacrifices he made, but little about how he came to join or any way that he benefited from joining. His ideals, his opinions and his personality all seem to be his own, not owed to The Nation or anyone else.

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The Birthday Trip: Turning 30 Abroad

I turned 26 on an airplane. I was going to Paris and changed planes in Amsterdam. I still haven't seen any more of Holland than the airport, but the experience of waking up in a new country at a new age was amazing. We had an hour or two between flights, I spent it wandering around Schipol, listening to the announcements. "Flight 123 to Tehran is boarding at Gate 23." and "Flight 987 to Dar Es Salaam, boarding at Gate 89."

It's one of those birthdays I still remember clearly to this day. This summer I turn 30 and would like to have a similarly new experience.

Here's the short-ish list of places I was considering:

•Thailand & Singapore
•BeNeLux (Belgium/Netherlands/Luxumbourg)
•Morocco & Spain

I think I've settled on Japan, a country I've wanted to see since I went through my anime phase around when I got out of college, 7-8 years ago. Nothing is set in stone, but that's the plan, tentatively.
I have about a week set aside, so I'm hoping to spend most of the time in Tokyo with a couple days to see Kyoto.

I'll be posting regularly about what I want to see, where I want to go and what I want to eat while I'm out there.

Flicks: Caddyshack

Wow. The music is terrible. It’s funny, I’ve heard a lot about this movie, but it never occurred to me the ‘plot’ centered on an actual caddy. Of course that’s totally irrelevant when you have Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Ted Knight hamming it up to full effect. The entire movie is these 4 guys doing schtick. Totally ridiculous.

Photo of the Day: Soaring

IMG_7538, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

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Philly Guide


A co-worker of mine goes down to Philly regularly to see his gf. He asked for a couple tips on where to take her when he's down there. Below is an edited version. I'm heading down there in a couple weeks, so I'm going through it as a refresher.

Follow the jump for some of my favorite places to eat and drink in the city of brotherly love...

Getting around: Not sure how much you are going to see the town, but keep it for future reference.

The lay of the land is this: Market bisects downtown going east to west, Broad splits it going north to south. City Hall is right in the intersection of Market and Broad. Streets on one side of Market are marked North and on the other side are marked South. Not sure if the numbers change like they do in NYC. Broad is 14th St, so the streets go up 12th, 13th, Broad, 15th and so on. That area is generally known as Center City, the Convention Center is there and a low end shopping district is there too. Market, Chestnut and Walnut east of Broad for a couple blocks looks a lot like Fulton Street or Jamaica Ave.

The transit there is called The SEPTA, short for South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. I only know that because Black Thought referenced it in a Roots track years ago. It’s pretty straightforward. There are only a few lines in the system, so if you get New York, you’ll have no problem figuring it out. The Blue line goes up and down Market (it also heads up to Northern Liberties, but I’ll get to that later). This may be your best bet to get around. It’s probably what you will take from the bus station to where you are staying and it has a stop right by a bunch of the places I mention below.

Neighborhoods – at least the ones I know:

Rittenhouse Square is west of Broad and south of Market. The area is pretty swank and so my girl and her friend went shopping, leaving the guys to find a bar and wait them out. There are some fancy restaurants out here and at least one beer bar, the name of which I can't recall. I plan to check out this area a little more next time I go.

Old City, around the area where a lot of the places I’m mentioning are, is obviously the oldest area of town. It has gorgeous old houses and makes for a nice walk during the day. After hours it gets pretty full and there’s a 4 to 5 block section that’s pretty much all bars and clubs. That’s Market and Chestnut between 2nd and 4th. I usually stay at the Hyatt on the waterfront a couple blocks away from there.

South Street is the college strip. There are a bunch of restaurants, funky shops and bars from the river all the way up to 10th street or so. My favorite cheesesteak place is on South around 4th or 5th, it’s called Jim’s. The line is often out the door and around the corner.

Up in Northern Liberties, you’ve got two Bar/Restaurant places, sort of like Gastropubs in the UK. I checked these two out when I was there in January after hearing about them. I liked them both a lot. The vibe from both of them was very laid-back and creative. The neighborhood is a sort of up and coming arts district. Real Estate folks are all over it dropping down condos and fancy buildings, but, at least for now, the artsy types who started it all up are still in the neighborhood.

I don’t know Chinatown well, but I saw the Roots perform at the Trocadero, a long time ago. It’s around where the Bus Station is.

There are some really cool places to go down in Philly. These are all places I’d go to again.

This is a great Tapas place on Chestnut between 2nd and 3rd. Real Spanish tapas, not the small plate stuff you find everywhere these days. I can’t remember any of the particular dishes to recommend, but we ate well. From what I recall it was a little on the pricey side, but since it’s small plates you can moderate it a bit, especially if you go for a snack.
It’s pretty popular, you may want to make a reservation through Open Table:

Cuba Libre
2nd Street between Market and Chestnut. I’ve been here a few times. My mom loved it. You get a real scene here on Friday night in this whole area, so it can get a bit crowded and loud. It’s not the place for a quiet conversation, but the food is good. The prices are pretty moderate here, you won’t blow your budget. It’s also right around the corner from a bunch of other places to chill, listen to music or dance.

I love this place. It's also Cuban and has a somewhat similar decor, but it's higher end.
It's near swanky Rittenhouse Square, so the prices are higher and the food is fancier than Cuba Libre. It’s definitely worth it for a nice night out. I took my sister here for her birthday a couple years ago.

Standard Tap
The larger of the two is a huge old building with a patio upstairs and 2 or 3 dining spaces. It’s got brunch on the weekends, which is the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon to me. I want to make it down before it gets cold just so I can chill with the paper or whatever on their patio for a few hours.

North 3rd is similar just in that it’s really interestingly decorated and serves good food. They also do brunch. We were there a few weeks before the superbowl so the game was on, which you’d never see in a place with a similar crowd in NYC. One thing about philly is that even the hipsters love their sports.

John's Roast Pork
On the low end of the spectrum, there are the famous philly sandwiches. Everyone knows about the cheesesteak, Philly's gift to the world. The Roast Pork Sandwich is it's best kept secret. It's incredible. The Roast Pork Italian is made up of beautiful, moist slices of roast pork, topped with provolone cheese and broccoli rabe. I usually don't like the bitter flavor of broccoli rabe, but it's perfect in combination with the rest. Last time I tried to go to John's Roast Pork, but they were closed. Instead, we ended up going to Tony Luke's. It was amazing. Sadly, neither is particularly accessible if you don't have a car. Philadelphia Magazine made a top 10 list of the best Roast Pork sandwiches in and around the city. On their recommendation, I intend to make DiNic’s in Reading Terminal Market one of my first stops when I go there next.

I’m not one for clubs, I tend toward places where I can chill with a drink and listen to some good music or talk with friends and such.

Standard Tap and North Third are both good places to go for a drink, but they are a bit out of the way.

The Five Spot is down in Old City. It’s got 2 floors with live performances upstairs and the DJ Lounge area downstairs. They regularly play Hip-hop and Reggae. My sister had a good old time on her 21st Bday last year.

Filo’s (408 S 2nd St off South) is a dive. There’s no way around it. But it’s a dive that plays some pretty good music. Or at least it did last time I was there. I wouldn’t go out of your way to go, it’s definitely not a romantic spot, but it’s worth stopping in.

Just for fun, I like to get a drink or two in the lobby bar at the Ritz-Carlton. It is on Broad and Chestnut I think. It’s a gorgeous old bank lobby with super high ceilings.
The drinks are of course a bit expensive, but not ridiculous. And you can’t beat the ambiance.

Le Bec Fin is supposed to be the best restaurant in Philly. I don’t know one way or the other, but my friends and I chilled at the bar downstairs and it was fun. It was swanky and subdued with a good drink selection.

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February 2, 2007

Photo of the Day: Snow!

Snow!, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Well, so much for snow. Here's a little taste of what we're missing. Have no fear, it's still going to be insanely cold.

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Flicks: The Hustler

Fast Eddie Felson’s entire reason for being was to be the best pool hustler in the country. He’s a great, young warrior who’s come to battle the king for his crown. Minnesota Fats is the old guard and Eddie has to take him down to prove that he’s the best. He tries and fails only to come back better than before. But the ‘character’-building events as he climbs his way back to the top give him a tragic perspective of the game he’s playing. Neither he nor Fats will ever be the king. They will only ever be gladiators fighting to get someone else rich.

Young Paul Newman. He’s cocky, a smart-ass. He’s youth and arrogance personified. In Cool Hand Luke he wouldn’t be broken. In The Hustler he crumbles into a thousand pieces. He crashes and burns and all that arrogance collapses into confused desperation. Eddie spirals down a hole of liquor and obsession. His only goal is winning again. All he wants is to regain the naïve arrogance he once had. And he’s willing to do anything, give up anything to get it back.

Jackie Gleason is the slick Minnesota Fats. I had only ever seen him in the Honeymooners. His cool nonchalance was a shock. With very few lines, he managed to convey so much with his demeanor and expressions. Gleason projected calm in contrast to Newman’s eagerness. And in the end, with only “y’better pay him Eddie,” and a down-turned eye, he gives it all away. The illusion is dropped and we see who the master is.

George C. Scott played Scrooge the first time I saw him. He was much older then. But, seemingly he’s always a bastard. He does it very well. Bert Gordon is subdued, there’s no wild-eyed screaming like in Dr. Strangelove. There’s just a cynical understanding of the way of things. Bert judges people by how useful they may be to him.

Piper Laurie plays Sarah, the love interest of the story. Every character in this story is flawed. No one is perfect. Everyone from the hustlers to the moneymen to the marks is flawed to the bone, desperately deluding themselves about their lives and the world around them. Sarah is the only one who can see clearly and it drives her mad.

My intent in this project isn’t to summarize or review the movies. I’m only writing my reactions. So it’s interesting that the thing that what sticks with me are the characters. Brought to life so wonderfully and tragically by this incredible cast, I’m blown away by it all. There’s nothing new about a story full of bad people. Modern storytelling is full of flawed heroes, heroines, villains and supporting characters. Dysfunction is the norm. I don’t know if we’d know what to do with a story about well-adjusted people anymore. Given that, you’d think a movie like this from so long ago would be full of modern-day clichés. I loved it though. I guess I have to add The Color Of Money to the list.

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February 1, 2007

The Splasher

IMG_9853, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Last week there was more talk of the splasher. A friend emailed me about it, here's my take:

Yeh, I've seen a few. It's crazy.
I saw this great swoon piece in LES that was splashed with green paint.

This old guy who you'd never think would be into such things saw me shooting it and told me what a shame it was that someone would do that.

I don't know how I feel about it. It's sort of the nature of putting up anything like that.
I mean, you put it up and eventually someone - the owner, the mta, whoever, is going to take it down. It's ephemeral - that's why we shoot.

That said, I think running around calling yourself an artist and destroying other folks' art because it's not authentic is pretentious bullshit.

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Photo of the Day: Winter in Brooklyn

Transit, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I'm back in Brooklyn so is winter. Snow is in the forecast tonight.
Stay warm.

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IMG_2230.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Thanks Delta. Not only did you take two days to get my bags to me, you also left a gaping hole in one of them.


Now I have to go to JFK to prove to them that my bag is damaged.