Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   the new skyscrapers of Brooklyn
Friday, February 10 2017

location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, NY


Gretchen and I left for Brooklyn as soon as my weekly videochat concluded. We'd set off a bit later than Gretchen would've wanted, though we only encountered bad congestion as Google Maps sent us across Manhattan on Canal Street. As we drove, we were listening to the Sound Opinions Valentine's Day podcast on the subject of "Love at First Sight." At some point we passed so near the open door of a van that the passenger-side mirror smacked it and folded flat against the car (as it is designed to do). It's a piece of plastic, and if it wasn't damaged, neither would be that van door. So we kept on driving.
Our destination was BAM, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where the plan was to attend a live taping of the podcast Snap Judgment. First, though, Gretchen wanted to see I Am Not Your Negro, a slightly-polemical documentary assembled from the collected work (and video clips) of James Baldwin. Gretchen loves this sort of thing, and I was mostly there to humor her. I didn't actually have enough of the prerequisite knowledge to always know what it was Baldwin (or the narrator) was talking about. But there was great archival footage from the civil rights movement and the era of Jim Crow (complete with a Ken Burns treatment of a photo of a lynching, with a lingering stare at the faces of the joyous white people in the mob). The film was kind of a thematic jumble, with clips of Doris Day movies, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Imitation of Life, the recent protests is Ferguson, Missouri, and grainy clips of Baldwin himself. For me, the most inspiring line in the film was one about how numbers aren't as important as passion, something that reminded me of all the pissed-off voters now showing up at Republican town halls. (Donald Trump has finally awakened something in this land!)
Our next destination was dinner, a place called LuAnne's Wild Ginger All-Asian an eighth of a mile away. The weather was cold and windy and I'd neglected to bring a hat, but the streets were still congested from rush hour traffic, so we thought it best to walk. Cars are useless for going short distances in this city during rush hour, particularly when you have rockstar parking (ours was right around the corner from the BAM entrance).
I had a dish featuring rice, broccoli, and a very beeflike seitan, while Gretchen had the pad thai noodles. We split a big thing of warm sake, which seemed appropriate given the chill still adhering to our bones.
We caught a cab for the ride back to BAM for the Snap Judgment recording, but that was a mistake, because we got bogged down in unmoving traffic somewhere on Atlantic Avenue. So we abandoned the cab and continued on foot, soon discovering why we'd been stuck. About a block ahead of us, there was an accident where a bus had hit a car, which had spun 90 degrees from the direction it had been traveling. Fortunately, BAM was not too far away.
BAM was mobbed with hundreds (perhaps, depending on how big BAM is, a couple thousand) people when we arrived, and we had to get a ticket. While all that was going on, some woman who works there saw us with our containers of leftover pan-Asian vegan good and very nicely told us we couldn't bring it into BAM. She then offered to fetch us a plastic bag so we could hide it away. As is so often the case with this sort of thing, we didn't realize that at that moment we were being the beneficiaries of white privilege. Gretchen later got an email from her friend Eulalia (who is black) in which she mentioned how long it takes to get into BAM, what with all the searching the employees do of bags looking for smuggled food.
Gretchen had gotten us great seats down near BAM's stage. It's a big space with a huge main floor and two massive balconies, and there we were maybe 40 feet from Glynn Washington when he eventually appeared. Snap Judgment is a storytelling podcast not terribly different from, say, This American Life. The music, though, plays a bigger role, generally being unique for each segment. Tonight, the music was to be performed live from the stage as the stories were told. The theme tonight was "Twisted," as in psychologically-so. As per usual for a Snap Judgment show, some of the stories were better than others. The weakest tale was told by conventional-looking blond woman and concerned the time she almost interviewed a serial killer on death row but then chickened out. Told straight, the story might've been pretty good, but she told it in a way that told us how we were supposed to feel, and how we were supposed to feel was utterly predictable. The other stories were great for various different reasons, though the stand out was one by Jen Kober. She was introduced by Glynn as "the funniest woman alive," which initially seemed like hyperbole, but then he said he'd be "checking in later" to see if we'd seen what he'd seen. When Kober took the stage, she stood there for a moment, asking us all to take it in. She was, you see, a largely-proportioned bull dyke. In case there was any ambiguity, she cleared it up by saying she "hunts in the lady forest." Kober hailed from Louisiana and had an accent perfectly tailored to the sort of story she was about to tell. It was about her only experience skydiving, which she'd done in "tandem" (a word she claimed not to know because of being from Louisiana). By the end of the story, she was strapped to a formerly-enthusiastic gay gentleman she'd covered in her own feces. My favorite of Kober's lines was not actually part of that story, but it was hilarious: "I like my men the way I like my coffee: far away from my vagina."
The show ended with James Judd, who is always reliably hilarious. He told the tale of being sent off to Bible camp as a kid and ending up in "camp jail." My favorite of his lines was about bumming a cigarette "from the child molester in the men's room." He said this completely straight, in a way that made it much more funny than if he'd said it with a cadence that implied a moral judgment.
As we were leaving BAM at the end of the show, Jen Kober was out in the crowded lobby hawking her wares (in this case a digital download of her comedy). She has an incredibly loud voice and had no trouble being heard over the din of hundreds of people. Gretchen bought the postcard granting us access, which Jen signed then and there.
Gretchen drove us to our hotel, Hotel Indigo, which wasn't far away. Parking was easy there on a street that had been torn up for construction. Downtown Brooklyn is full of cranes and fenced-off lots where the cellars of skyscrapers are being set. Back when we lived here 15 years ago, the only tall building in Brooklyn was the Williamsburgh Bank Clock Tower. Now there are so many minor skyscrapers nearby that it's easy to get confused and think you're somewhere in Manhattan. Hotel Indigo is one such minor skyscraper. I'd actually made all the arrangements for tonight's stay there (a first for me), and I completed the job by checking us in tonight (that may also be a first). Our room was 1105 in a tower that definitely has a 13th floor. The room was small, but it had everything we needed: a largish bed and a bathroom that Gretchen really seemed to like.
We watch tonight's Bill Maher and then a very long episode of Star Trek from the classic period. This might have been the very first complete episode of Star Trek (of any series) that I have ever watched from start (almost) to finish. It was entitled "The Squire of Gothos" and concerned an all-powerful space-being who assumes human form and toys with the Star Trek crew like a child playing with ants. Later we learn that the being is in fact a child and his misbehavior eventually runs him afoul of his space-parents, who take the form of blinking lights in the sky. The episode remidned me somewhat of "It's a Good Life," that Twilight Zone episode about the all-powerful child whose resemblance to Donald Trump skeeved me out so. But it's nowhere near as dark. There's something about Star Trek that makes all of its drama seem low-stakes. This is probably related to the fact that we know all the characters survive for episode after episode (unlike the disposable characters in the Twilight Zone or Black Mirror).

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