Behold the glory that is the extent to which Venture Brothers rocks.
This link (which is probably not safe for work, though nobody felt the need to add that caveat in the show) is featured as a plot point in the episode aired tonight. And of course they got the domain and, uh, fleshed it out appropriately.
UPDATE: View the source. Scroll to the bottom.
Thanks to Keith & Fred for catching that. I looked, but I neglected to scroll...
A few more random New York thoughts, after another day's worth of experiences...
Driving in the city is an adventure indeed, but it's really not that bad. Parking is even less heinously expensive than I was led to expect. See, movies and TV had shown me that all of New York's streets—the ones in Times Square in particular—were perpetually jammed with unmoving traffic, bumper to bumper and honking ceaselessly, and made up almost entirely of endless streams of taxis, private cars being all but unheard-of on the city streets. Well, now I know that the reality is quite a bit different. At any given moment, Times Square is full of a lot more people than cars. That goes for pretty much the whole part of the city that I've seen thus far: pedestrians rule the roads, which is really the major thing cars have to watch out for. Eight million people is a lot to be out and about on the sidewalks, and they've all come to know the patterns of the traffic signals down to a finely tuned science. They know exactly when a light's about to go yellow, at which time it's okay to start barreling across; and they know that as soon as one person starts the trek, you're safe to do so as well, because most cars will defer by politely hitting the brakes before they run you over, even if they have the green. (The notable exception is if a big-rig truck ends up wedged the wrong way down an alley or something and has to be backed up with the aid of several harried handlers directing foot traffic and telling the truck driver to just floor it and not worry about the idiots crossing behind him. I saw this twice, and it was fascinating enough in the first place just to imagine big-rigs in Manhattan at all. But there they were.) The sidewalks are an unrivalled exercise in high-speed collision avoidance, and one learns very quickly how to move in and out of the flow, where its eddies and currents are, and so on.
I discovered one interesting effect of having an iPod: with headphones in your ears, you give the impression of being a local—why, you're confident enough in your knowledge of the streets that you're listening to music!—which exempts you from a lot of the free tickets to comedy clubs or Falun Gong awareness flyers that people would otherwise try to press into your hands. I wondered if this, perhaps, was what accounted for the fact that I saw some three dozen iPod People walking around today alone; but on every one of these people, representing all walks of life, those telltale white earbuds led to an actual iPod held in the hand or on the belt. I swear, I have never seen so many iPods. I'd thought CapLion had to have been exaggerating when he told me how many New Yorkers had them, but he was dead-on right. Perhaps even more usefully telling is that among those people who had earbuds or headphones leading to music players of any type, the iPods outnumbered all others (chiefly disc-based players) about three to one, or perhaps more. I've never seen anything like that ratio, in any other city. Welcome to New York; here's your iPod.
Now, I might be getting a somewhat distorted picture of the city as a city, by basing my impressions of it on Times Square; but what has struck me hardest of all about it is that while the throngs of people milling through the sidewalks are quick-moving, brusque and businesslike, and while there are plenty of street artists and musicians and people selling framed art from stands on sidewalks, I didn't see a single panhandler—and, indeed, only one homeless person. I constantly felt hurried, but I never once felt nervous for my safety or that of my various possessions. This would be unheard-of in, say, San Francisco on Market Street, the closest parallel I can think of. Similarly, at midnight the sidewalks become lined with piles of garbage bags as the curbside restaurants finish cleaning up from the night of business, open up the trap-door in the sidewalk, and toss out the day's trash; but during the daylight hours, the area around Times Square has got to be one of the cleanest big-city areas I've seen. Especially considering the sheer vast number of people that pass through it on any given afternoon. The fact that the sidewalks and gutters aren't filled to overflowing with eddying soda cups and hot dog napkins turns my every preconception on its head. I'm really very impressed, and whoever can be credited with turning Times Square into this well-balanced a high-revving machine deserves accolades.
The kid who worked the ticket line for The Lion King confided tongue-in-cheekily in me and a Canadian couple behind me that the theater had put him in that job because he's so naturally anti-social; as a native New Yorker, when he says Thank you, and have a nice day to a departing customer, he's really saying I hope I never see you again; have a shitty day! We all chuckled, and I pointed out that we'd have to bear that in mind for all future occasions when service-industry people said that to us. But I never got such a vibe from anyone I encountered; from parking attendants to Jamba Juice employees to waiters, everybody seemed far more laid-back and easygoing than I was expecting. I even got into a little impromptu verbal sparring with a toll-booth operator at the Lincoln Tunnel who ended up laughing uproariously as he counted my change back to me. And I never once heard 'Ey! I'm walkin' heeah! in all my travels.
(And yes, the actual original Broadway production of The Lion King is notably better in just about all regards than either of the two other versions of it I've seen, in Toronto and in San Francisco. The actors put way more elaboration into their performances, and the sets are a good deal more involved—mostly just because since these guys have been doing it the longest, they've got every last move down to its quintessence and know just how to time things. Even when the cast isn't having their most "on" night, it's still as good a show as it gets. ...Next time I do this, I'll make sure to have plenty of advance, so I can get into a showing of Avenue Q.)
We saw Thoth in Central Park, playing his violin under a bridge. I'd seen him a couple of times before, once at a convention in LA and again at a Pride Parade in San Francisco. This was his natural habitat, and he looked at home in it.
Back to the subject of driving: the road system, particularly in the environs leading into the city, is so tangled from so many years of evolution that it's a wonder any of it has any consistency at all. There's a kind of disorienting nature to the circulating exit ramps that wind around the tool plazas, and to all the expressways with their "jug-handle" turn lanes (which turn out to work pretty sensibly, as a matter of fact) and their left-hand exits that make it impossible to simply sit in a lane and turn your brain off the way I'm used to in California. I now realize how spoiled we are out West: signage is austere, consistent, predictable; exit lanes are leisurely, always on the right, always giving you plenty of warning. Here, you've always got to be on your toes, lest the fast-lane on the left suddenly turn into an exit that leaps off a skyway bridge into Weehawken or Rahway or some other such quaintly named town, with nary a "San" or "Santa" or "Los" to be seen. I took Highway 1 back from the city tonight instead of the Turnpike, to avoid the tolls as well as to get a better view of what New Jersey looked like at street level. It's far from the industrial wasteland I'd been led to believe it was; it's quaint and charming, and you'll never fall asleep while careening down those narrow lanes trying to keep your place in line and avoid being peeled off into some exit to a town with a Chaucer-esque name that you had no intention of visiting.
Tomorrow I hit the Upper East Side for lunch at a recommended restaurant, then over to JFK to see what all the fuss over JetBlue is about. And then it's back to the wide open spaces and modestly two-story-at-most business districts of San Jose, which is going to look one hell of a lot different to me now.
The various regions of the country may be growing more similar with time; but there's still plenty of distance to go yet, and the remaining differences are so well-established and cherished by the respective locals that they'll probably be with us a long time yet. Thank goodness.
Guess what the in-flight movie was on the way up to Newark? The Day After Tomorrow.
After that set of images, laughable even if I weren't seeing them on an eight-inch screen ten feet away, was hardly sufficient to prepare me for what the real, intact, non-snow-drowned Manhattan would look like.
Driving down the West Side Highway along the water's edge from the George Washington Bridge, the overwhelming feeling I had was: frickin' unbelievable. Some cities, and I've been in a lot of big ones, make pretense of being in the same class as New York; but there's just no comparison. We're talking about an island that's wall-to-wall skyscrapers, from river to river. Every block of Manhattan is as tall and as dense as the downtown of any other city. I drove in to the parking garage a couple of blocks from Times Square, and though pictures really don't do it justice, here's one anyway:
Whatever it may have been in the past, Times Square is a theme park today, an unabashed showcase of the advertiser's art—an anti-capitalist's nightmare, the kind of thing to make scruffy bearded college sophomores clutch their faces and melt, shrieking, like the guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark. And as CapLion says, who met me there, the city's just, well, like that: it's constantly changing, always being reinvented and reimagined by each successive wave of visitors and residents. You can leave for a weekend, come back, and find that something has changed. A building has a new façade, or a bar has moved down the street, or the Times Square billboards have all been rearranged, or the Chevy's is now a Virgin Superstore...
It's hard to know what to feel, seeing this for the first time, first-hand. It's in a state now where the impact, especially for someone who hasn't even been here recently enough to really remember what it once looked like, is dulled to the point of guilt by the neatness of the trappings, the shiny fencing devoid of memorials except for a few scattered flowers pinned to the bars, the crisp new PATH train station with an acre of spotless underground halogen-lit concrete parkland, and the inspirational messages of rebuilding and remembering and celebrating diversity and so on plastering the walls. There's a kiosk at the entrance to the station with info on the Freedom Tower, whose foundations are currently being begun in the pit that now looks like nothing so much as a benign construction site. And, well, I've got to agree with Mr. Lion who says that the ideal solution, for him, would have been to build the towers back exactly as they had been... except ten feet higher.
It's not just a psychological thing, either. This isn't San Diego, where they go out of their way to make the skyline out of buildings with significant non-90-degree elements, where buildings like the Freedom Tower and the attendant Libeskind quartz fragments wouldn't look out of place. This is New York. It's a city that, more than any other I've seen, is built of grids: firm, solid, rectilinear patterns that supported each other as they built themselves up over each other's shoulders, culminating in those two huge impenetrable blocks at the south end. Now that I've walked the streets, I know why the WTC looked the way it did: it's because Manhattan itself, the street plan, is built like a skyscraper. Tall, narrow, rectangular; the avenues the sturdy columns, the streets the lissom cross-pieces, Broadway the diagonal brace holding it all steady, and all of it anchored in a tangled root-ball of concrete in the financial district, the Village, SoHo, and everything south of Little Italy where we ate at Lombardi's, the First Pizza Place Ever (seriously, the very first pizzeria to open in the United States, the one against which all others have been subconsciously modeled, the one with the thick-cut slabs of fresh mozzarella instead of shredded cheese—mmm. But anyway...)
The Freedom Tower, in short, doesn't match anything else in Manhattan. There's nothing else around it that's diagonal, triangular, tapered, or (least of all) peters out halfway up to give way to a steel spiderweb that shams its way up to a prescribed height like the false head on an overevolved moth. It just doesn't make sense here. True, it may have been the least bad of the choices the Port Authority had to pick from; but none of the freakish postmodern proposals had the one crucial element a rebuilt WTC so desperately needed: to be more ambitious and audacious and businesslike and quintessentially New York than the original. No matter how many symbolic feet it attains at the height of its pinnacle, the Freedom Tower is going to always represent a sidelong cough and a muttered "Sorry—best we could do."
Ah well. I guess we'll get used to it. But I'm an out-of-towner, so my opinion isn't quite what I'd call "meaningful"—not in the way that one's would be who spent his whole life staring at those towers, knowing friends working high up in them, and then one day to have them erased from existence with only a gaping pit and a surgically-sterile PATH station to remember them by. I have no context by which to imagine that kind of loss, or the attendant need for justice to be done, or the inevitable frustration that the ones who carried it out are forever beyond the reach of our gavels or our fists. Mine's a loss in principle, a loss of an actor in the pop culture miasma that defines my consciousness, a loss that manifests itself in a need to reaffirm certain sureties about what this country stands for and how to fight for it. But it's all pretty empty compared to what someone would have gone through who now has to imagine those brick-paved streets buried under a foot of lung-shredding dust, every time he walks through them on the way from one mundane daily chore to the next.
But, well, I'm glad I at least got to see it for myself... I don't imagine I'll see it again while it still looks the way it does today. If New York is a microcosm of America at all—and it really is, I've got to say, as the first thing I thought when I exited the George Washington Bridge and got on the West Side Highway and saw the billboards and the names on the streets was no matter what Spalding Gray says, Manhattan is not just some island off the COAST of America; it IS America, all its commerce and energy and history all rolled into one sharp-edged gridwork that could serve as the seed for a whole new America if transplanted to another planet—then Lower Manhattan will be changed before we know it to another painting of glass and steel against the sky, and we'll have to consciously make time to reflect and remember, just as the signs exhort—because we have no time to pause or look back. There's work to do.
I've got more to see, tomorrow and part of Saturday. I haven't wrecked or lost the car yet, so I guess I'm ready for another go...
Hey, maybe tonight he'll suddenly, miraculously solidify his positions on everything from Iraq to Iraq and back again. But wouldn't that just be a shame for all the people with whom John Kerry currently agrees?
...Which is really a hoot. But then he sent me a self-correction in the form of this page, which contains the photos from which the above picture was hoaxed.
You know, I've just got to say... if the Rather memos had been created by someone with even a fraction of the technical skill and sense of wit as the creator of this picture shows, we'd probably still not suspect any hijinks.
Doesn't that just go to show something or other about the spectacular ineptness of the actual forgers? It's mind-boggling, when you think about it.
Good think Fark.com isn't a 527 group. A potential risk to the nature of truth and fraud in the digital age, anyone? How lucky are we that the big examples of it thus far have been so foolish?
UPDATE: What on earth is wrong with these people? Guys, look, you don't have to keep trying to prove what bumbling muttonheads you are. We already know.
I'm posting from my hotel in New Jersey, where I'm staying as part of a work-sponsored visit to a customer site. I'm supposedly the "expert" on the software we hope they'll buy a lot of. I'm sure I can fake it. (Or at least I know where my lifelines are, if I need to call someone.)
This is my first trip to New York in over ten years; the last time, I wasn't old enough to really take it in properly. I've got a fellow-blogger friend to drop in on, though, so this promises to be as much an unexpected vacation as it is a business trip. I'll be sure to take in as much as I can. Broadway, the Met, Ground Zero... whatever's within walking and subway distance. (I've been lectured as to the folly of driving in the city.) I may also need to get a new CompactFlash card for my camera. They start at a gigabyte now? Ye gods.
But thanks to the magic of Wayport, I'll at least be tapped into the online IV. So if the world goes to hell, I'll not only be in the place where it's likeliest to happen, I'll be able to find out about it from the usual far-flung vantage points...
You know, after Rathergate, I'm never going to be able to watch this scene without breaking up in giggles:
Well, this reporter was...possibly a little hasty earlier and would like to...reaffirm his allegiance to this country and its human president. May not be perfect, but it's still the best government we have. For now. [notices "HAIL ANTS" sign taped up, tears it down] Oh, yes, by the way, the spacecraft still in extreme danger, may not make it back, attempting risky reentry, bla bla bla bla bla bla. We'll see you after the movie. -- Kent Brockman, backpedaling furiously, "Deep Space Homer"
Egad. Sounds like some people are really getting aggressive about this.
''You can say our goal is to make the second car in every driveway a personal air vehicle,'' says Andrew Hahn, an analyst at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Hahn's engineers are already committed to a 15-year time line for three successive generations of flying cars. The first will resemble a compact Cessna with folding wings that converts to road use; it should be available as a graduation gift when this year's freshman class leaves high school. The second, with a rollout planned for 2015, is a two-person pod with small wings and a rear-mounted propeller. The third will rise straight up like a mini-Harrier jet and should be on the market by the time your newborn has a learner's permit. The first of the three vehicles shouldn't cost more than a Mercedes.
An affordable flying car within five years is a dizzyingly fast evolution -- for everyone except Yoeli and other do-it-yourself auto pilots. They've been preparing for this future for decades, and unlike NASA, they can't afford to wait much longer.
There are some interesting packaging and marketing problems associated with bridging between cars and planes, as the article goes on to explain. Pilots who have inculcated themselves with the mentality that couches itself in fail-safes and redundancy and ever lower-tech and higher-reliability backup systems will recoil in horror at the idea of flying "smart cars" with GPS-guided automated landing scripts and collision detection systems, but a $1000 accreditation is hard to turn away from.
Does this mean we'll see flying cars within our lifetimes after all? To a Jetsons kid, they're way overdue; but to the cynical and desensitized post-space-race generation, this stuff seems as remote and fanciful as shrink rays and eye lasers and movies that aren't mere parodies of older, more sincere works of art.
IBM has graciously offered to let me interview some members of the POWER5 team, along the lines of my previous interview with the 970 team. So I'm currently soliciting questions from the hardware community to see what you guys want to know about the new processor. Feel free to post your questions in the thread below, or to email them to me if you're not a registered Ars user.
Sounds like quite an opportunity for any microprocessor geeks out there.
13:31 - Don't speak up, or you'll crush his dissent
This morning on KFOX, Greg Kihn talked about his recent curmudgeonly streak, growling about how much everything (by which I have to assume he must at least in part refer to John Kerry) sucks, which is turning off listeners. I guess this all must happen in the hours before I wake up, because after 9:00, he's always sunny to a fault, and introspective and apologetic and constantly talking about how he's trying to be positive about things, in response to reproachful e-mails and calls from listeners.
So then this guy calls in—"Brad", evidently someone Greg knows and has a history of irreverent, heckling calls—who says with great cheer and jocularity, "Well, there's already so much bad stuff going on in the world... this whole election season is so full of lies! I mean, you're sounding like a guy who served in Vietnam, and now is having his patriotism questioned! HAW HAW HAW HAW!"
Greg didn't respond at all to the bait; he just kept talking about how great it was to have a radio show, to be out of the hospital—he mentioned that he and Brad were now diverticulitis pals, both having had it. And in what has got to be the winner of the non-sequitur-of-the-year award, Brad goes, "Hey, careful—George Bush might have you arrested for saying things like that! HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW!"
Still no response from Greg; he rapidly changed the subject. And I just had to wonder: where is this curmudgeon he keeps talking about? No response to these dull-witted barbs, just easygoing self-effacement and rueful chuckles. I mean, if I were behind the microphone, I'd be asking exactly what lies were being told about Kerry and his Vietnam service—though the mainstream media seems convinced that the Swift Vets' claims have all been "debunked", the blogosphere is now issuing challenges to try to get them to explain just what the Swifties are "lying" about. Not that it's likely to get any traction; for most, including this Brad guy, it's enough to hear someone on the evening news dismiss them as just the "right-wing" equivalent of the Dan Rather memos. Hey, I mean, that makes it balanced, right? They're both lying! Let's not entertain the notion that one side is lying and the other one isn't, m'kay? That would be so curmudgeonly.
I guess that's why I don't have a radio show. Well, that and the fact that listening to me talk is about as much fun as watching Manos: Hands of Fate without Mike and the 'bots.