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:
   at a recording of The Late Show
Thursday, January 25 2024
At 1:00pm we said goodbye to our dogs (whom we would leave to supervise themselves for the next twelve and a half hours) and drove down to the New Paltz park & ride, where we met up with Chris & Kirsti, our friends from Zena Road. We then carpooled with them down into the Times Square area of Manhattan in their Tesla. We were all going down there to attend a taping of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert; Gretchen had won four tickets to be in the audience and had decided that Chris and Kirsty should be our plus three and four. (This would be our third time seeing Colbert; we'd been to a recording of The Colbert Report and he'd randomly been in coach with us on our flight to Belize in 2014.)
I'd never been in a Tesla before, so I was a little distracted throughout the drive by the tech. The cameras built into the car at all angles automatically registered the positions of nearby vehicles and traffic cones, placing icons on an abstracted view that was much more comprehensive than any human could otherwise see in a single glance. This made it possible to easily change lanes without wondering if some asshole was in your blind spot. As I was marveling at that (which seemed like it could be the entire basis for a pretty solid self-driving system), Gretchen and Kirsty were mostly talking about abortion access. Gretchen recently got accepted to be a volunteer for some sort of post-Roe abortion access counseling organization targeting underprivileged women in red states, and this led to a long discussion that it didn't really seem appropriate for me to participate in. At some point along the Thruway we passed a Lamborghini SUV, the first I'd ever seen in the wild. It was an ugly vehicle that Chris said would have easily passed as a Nissan had it been branded that way.
Chris handed off his Tesla to a parking attendant in a garage near the venue, the Ed Sullivan Theatre near Times Square. But we had a whole hour to kill, which caused us to go on a stroll down through Times Square and back. Chris & Kirsty are a little crazy still with their concerns about Covid and still do not eat inside restaurants, so there wasn't much for us to do as a group. Furthermore, they're both participating in an alcohol-free January (aka Drynuary), so they didn't even want to get a drink in one of the many remaining sidewalk sheds leftover from the pandemic, something that would've normally been impossible at this time of year. But conditions were unusually balmy, more like April than January. Times Square is always a garish spectacle, and there's really no reason to go there under any circumstances except maybe to kill time in a stituation where one cannot drink or be indoors.
Eventually the time passed, and we circled back to the front of the Ed Sullivan Theatre. A large mass of people had queued up for general admission into the theatre, but we bypassed all that with our VIP tickets. This put us in a holding area, where we actually were held longer than those who had come in via general admission. But then we were led up to the balcony. Up there, we got what might be the four best seats in the balcony, at its front close to the desk where Colbert does his interviews. And since nobody was in front of or to the side of us, Chris and Kirsty felt safe taking off the Covid-arresting masks they'd been wearing since entering the building. We'd attended other tapings in New York City (including, as I mentioned, Colbert's back when he hosted the Colbert Report). But those were always for half-hour shows. The Late Show is an hour long and a much bigger production, with considerably larger audience and more logistical concerns. The staff required just to shepherd people to their seats was about a dozen people, and it was complicated by the need for audience members to use the restoom. A restroom break had been built into the schedule, but it came after we were seated, and that was it. After that, we had to hold it for the whole production, which, for a one hour show, takes close to two hours. What with all the crowd control and such, it took closer to three. During the long run up to Stephen Colbert's joyous first appearance, I felt profoundly bored, as we'd all been told to put away our phones and there was nothing to do except try to figure out how the set worked. Initially the central part of the stage opened into a organized-but-cluttered backstage area. But eventually a faux brick wall was lowered down to conceal. And then another wall, this one of display panels showing a stil scene of the New York City skyline, was lowered. I'd seen this backdrop many times while watching the show, and it had always looked like it might just be a window open to Central Park and the surrounding area. But when you're there, it's clearly a static image that they make little effort to animate. There is this one little place in one part of this backdrop that looks like cars slowly moving through an intersection, but that's it. All the lights in all the buildings are unchanging.
A professional comedian appeared at some point to get us all worked up and excited, something familiar from other shows. His big thing was to pick people from the audience and spontaneously come up with humor about them. It's a demanding job, and I wouldn't be capable of it, but there is a lot of talent in New York City, so it was surprising that he was kind of meh.
A big part of how these hour-long shows work is the live seven-piece band, now fronted by Louis Cato. They kept the energy up between segments, though there wasn't all that much interaction between Stephen and the band once he finally came out. After the cold open, it was time for the monolog. And then there was the "Meanwhile" segment, a bunch of short comic news items about which little can be said. After another flurry of band performance (little of which would be part of the broadcasted show), it was time for the big celebrity interview, which tonight was of the legendary film director Martin Scorsese. Scorsese is now 81 years old and considerably shorter than Colbert (who is 71 inches tall). I'm not much of film buff, and I'm not easily star-struck. But the young man to my right was so excited that he managed to sneakily pull out his phone and snap a picture. I had recently watched part of Scorsese's latest film, Killers of the Flower Moon, so there were parts of the interview that were of interest. But it felt a bit like the energy drained from the room as the interview went on. Part of the problem was that the interview was so long and unbroken, but it turned out that this was something Colbert had started doing during Covid (since cutting to commercials over Zoom seemed weird and unnatural). When broadcast, though, the interview would be cut up by commercial breaks. But the cuts to and from them could be edited in later; all he had to do was record those cuts, which Colbert first explained and then did in quick succession after conducting the interview. For tonight there was also to be a musical act, but had been recorded earlier. But tonight they were recording another segment for a future show, an light-hearted interview with an actor (and former professional wrestler) named John Cena, who seemed like a genuinely nice guy.
And then it was over, and the crowd found its way out of the building as quickly as the hallways and staircases allowed. By then, the rules about cellphones had been lifted, and everyone was snapping pictures except me (I'd shut my phone down and it takes forever to boot up).
Something about that experience left me feeling like I'd had a shot of a powerful stimulant. I think we all felt that way as we split up at a corner nearby, with Chris and Kirsty getting back in their Tesla and driving back to Exit 19 on the Thruway. We hadn't had much breakfast and no lunch at all, so we were eager to get to our dinner reservation. Gretchen knew Chris and Kirsty wouldn't be dining with us, so had set things up so we could return to the Hudson Valley separately by bus later tonight, allowing us to get dinner. The reservation was at a fancy all-vegan Italian restaurant east of the Flatiron neighborhood called Coletta. Google said it was a 40 minute walk from Times Square, but the weather was balmy, the predicted rain hadn't started, and we needed to get our joints moving after all that sitting. As we walked through Times Square, I saw a sign about an association of people suffering from Tourette's Syndrome and thought a stand-up comedian could make a whole routine about whether or not it was acceptable to insult someone with Tourette's given that this person is always lobbing insults and epithets.
Further along, we passed some sort of dance thing being held on the sidewalk while Rihanna's "Love in a Hopeless Place" played from a sound system. That song has one of the catchiest hooks in all of pop music, and I started singing along, singing of love in specific hopeless places. "We found love in a Turkish prison/We found love in a Turk.ish. prison." Gretchen joined me in singing until she had to correct my mispronunciation of the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen.
At Coletta, we were given a table for two in a narrow hallway connecting two halves of the restaurant, with views in either direction. I was most excited about the faux calamari (made with some kind of mushroom) and a campanelle pasta that came with lobster mushrooms, so that was what I ordered. Gretchen got a cæsar salad, garlic knots, a side of poatoes, and maybe something else. She wasn't so impressed with the salad, though even she thought the calarmari was amazing (she'd never had real calamari and usually avoids exotic mushroom dishes for being "too fungal"). As for me, I thought the calamari almost indistinguishable from the real thing. It was even somewhat rubbery in the same way. I saved some of the faux chicken from the salad Gretchen didn't much like (it was based on kale, not lettuce) and added it to my mushroom pasta, though it would've been amazing even without it. Meanwhile I was drinking gin and tonics (two in a row!) that came, at least the first time, with a lovely dessicated slice of lime. Over our meal, we discussed a plan Gretchen's father had suggested of perhaps funding some business idea (that I get to come up with) if my job hunt continues not to bear fruit. At some point I said something that I could hear myself say from the perspective of a eavesdropper, and it sounded like the bougiest thing ever. Another highlight of our dinner conversation was me coming up with the idea of a hypothetical man who has some manly day job like "lumberjack" who works on the weekend as a "pediatric gynecologist."
We finished our meal with a tiramisu that I only ate two spoonfuls of.(Gretchen was amost as disappointed with that as she'd been with the salad.) And then we started making our way back northwestward to Port Authority, where we would catch a bus back to our car in New Paltz. We had something like an hour and a half to make this journey, so Gretchen kept coming up with things to do along the way like going into the Empire State Building (where we could behold its multi-floor atrium before being told by a guard that it was closed for the night) and the extension of Penn Station into the old Beaux Arts post office building. Somewhere on 9th Avenue around 35th Street, we went into a bodega that supposedly had a separate menu of vegan options for the trashy sandwiches that once can buy in those establishments. Gretchen ordered the "chicken" sandwich and I ordered one with "fish," though of course these were for later, since we'd just had a big meal.
We arrived at the Port Authority bus station with ten minutes to spare. We took front seats for the better view, though this meant we had to wear seatbelts. (Kirsty had also made us wear seatbelts in the back of the Tesla, the first time we could remember of ever using backseat seatbelts.) The driver was pretty no-nonsense, and after he got out of the Lincoln Tunnel, he gave us a bunch of rules, including no alcohol (a rule I've been known to violate) and no obscenities. Gretchen and I played Spelling Bee for awhile, then she did some DuoLingo, and before long we were at the park & ride. I drove us home from there.
We got home around 1:30am, and everyone seemed okay despite our prolonged absence.

An espresso shot I'd had at Coletta kept me from immediately going to sleep. As I sat at my computer with a glass of scotch, I found the episode of Late Night we'd been present for the recording of was already on YouTube.

In Times Square. From left: me, Gretchen, Chris, Kirsty. Click to enlarge.

In the Ed Sullivan Theatre. From left: Chris, Kirsty, Gretchen, me. Click to enlarge.

Me as we left the Ed Sullivan Theatre. Click to enlarge.

Gretchen with the garlic knots in Coletta this evening. Click to enlarge.

Me at Coletta contemplating the tiramisu with a gut full of faux calimari and campanelle with lobster mushrooms. Click to enlarge.

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