Fasten, fit closely, bind together.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Steve's Year 2001: A Barbershop with a Story 

Growing up I got my haircut at a place called Steve's Year 2001: The Barbershop of the Future. Seriously.

In high school I read the Great Gatsby, I read Catch 22. I learned about metaphors, similes, symbolism and irony. I realized that a barbershop with a name like Steve's Year 2001: The Barbershop of the Future was just too fantastic, too surreal, too full of meaning, too perfect to be true, and yet it there it was.

2002. I was at NYU taking a fiction writing class. From time to time I still went home to Queens and got my haircut at the barbershop. The name remained. They were late. The future had arrived, 2002. The sign remained unchanged. I was able to spot the irony. I wrote a short story and then another.

Sometimes when I list my hobbies, or discuss what I would like to do, ideally, in life, I say I would like to write a book. And I have this notion that I have already written a significant amount. But when I stop to think about it, other than this blog, the only thing I've written that I'm proud of is this one set of a few short stories.

An excerpt from the first of these-

Al's Year 2001: The Barbershop of the Future: The Author’s Commentary

Jumbo-jet lined trans-Atlantically originating in Athens soaring over oceans and through epochs present and past Towers of Babel, stone creations born of Gibraltar, stopping off at the ruins of Troy, admiring Parthenons great and small, over skyscrapers enormous, landed one Alexander Moulopolos at John F. Kennedy International Airport. He got out in 1978 and with that epic energy of things past, set out filled with architectural audacity to create the next great edifice. Armed with only a few thousand dollars, Alexander found the fertile ground upon which he would build his future: 417th St. and Metropolitan Ave. Alexander felt the Grecian blood flow strong through his veins, he knew legends, he felt greatness, this would be great! Relying entirely upon the strength of his own labor, he laid the foundation, mixed the cement, bought fluorescent lighting, mirrored the walls, parqueted the floors, and installed five state-of-the-art barber chairs. The only thing left was to come up with a name that was as leviathan as his ambition. It came to him one night in a dream as if mandated by God, Himself. He saw the name in a flash of lightening that boomed like thunder, and knew it could be nothing other than Al’s Year 2001: The Barbershop of the Future.

August 2005. I still live in Queens, I still get my hair cut at the same barbershop.

The sign remains the same intact, despite some graffiti, some tears.

I was at the barbershop last Tuesday. I spotted a business card which read, Steve's Year 3000. The Barbershop of the Future suffix has been dropped. The wheels are in motion. The sign will change. Maybe.

I spoke with the Greek woman cutting my hair. Maria.

She knew my name, somehow. I had never spoken to her before. It really was bizarre. She spoke from a place of knowledge.

She said I didn't look like a George.

I said who said my name is George. But, anyway why don't I look like one?

She said George's are Greek. So many George's come in here for haircuts. You don't look Greek.

I see. They changed the name? Steve's Year 3000?

Yes, but the sign is still the same.

I guess you are all set for another thousand years.

We spoke about Greece. I told her my girlfriend was in Rhodes. She told me her husband is Turkish.

She told me the Turkish have done some terrible things to the Greeks. She said the Greeks and the Turks never got along, still don't get along.

I said it's probably the same with your husband. I smiled.

She laughed. Haha. She cut my hair.


I watched MSNBC at 6:30am EST this morning. During commericial break they advertised for tonight's 9:00pm edition of Scarborough Country. Surprising no one, the topic will be Hurricaine Katrina.

9:00PM Tonight - Survivors of Hurricane Katrina tell their emotional stories.

Isn't it premature to be speaking of survivors at 6:30 AM EST (5:30 AM Central) when the hurricane is still hovering over coastal Louisiana/Mississippi? What survivors? I mean think about how much more emotional Scarborough Country can get by 9:00pm. Think how much more specific and captivating this Scarborough Country advertisement can be by say 3:00pm this afternoon.

9:00 PM Tonight - Hurricane Katrina has already claimed the lives of 8 people, with dozens injured and thousands left homeless. Survivor, Mary Beaumont, tells her heartbreaking story.

Talk about Must See MSNBC. I realize that you simply have to start advertising a ratings grabber like an emotional Scarborough Country devoted to hurricane survivor stories a full 12 hours before the episode is scheduled to air.

I will give MSNBC the benefit of the doubt. They have been there before (or is that CNN?). So based on experience garnered from years of covering hurricanes, and both natural and unnatural disasters, I am sure they are able to predict a certain percentage of emotion and project a certain number of survivors that will be available for interview on Scarborough Country by 9:00pm EST.

If nothing else there should be ten of thousands of survivors ready to be interviewed at the Louisiana Superdome - that is if there is still a roof on the stadium by day's end.

I think I sound too bitter maybe I have a case of the Mondays.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Why Don't I Care About Natalee Holloway? 

Natalee went missing while vacationing in Aruba on May 30.

And for the past 3 months the Holloway case has been featured everyday on every cable news network. Fox News Channel's Greta Van Susteren pays almost nonstop attention to it:

Demonstrating her priorities, on her “Greta Wire,” Van Susteren posted this email message from a viewer: “While some ratings are going down at Fox News, yours are up! Ratings don’t lie.” This is why Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity have since jumped on the bandwagon with their own stories about Holloway. Hannity sidekick Alan Colmes was even dispatched to Aruba.

An AP story noted that Van Susteren “has been rewarded with her biggest audiences since making the switch from CNN three years ago.” AP said that she averaged nearly 2.2 million viewers a night in July, up 58 percent from the same period a year ago. She has even beaten Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News, which used to be the highest rated program on cable news.

Van Susteren says that “I program for the viewers.”

Joe Scarborough explores this topic nightly.

He just explored it now. 5 minutes ago. He is probably still exploring it but I put on the Mets game to stop him. Lost in Paradise. He discussed new allegations brought against Joran Van Der Sloot. He asked Natalee's mom about the possibility of bringing a civil suit against the nightclub that Natalee was abducted from. When she said she was only concerned about finding her daughter, Scarborough probed further. Aren't you mad at Carlos and Charlie for allowing underage kids into the nightclub. Aren't you? You must be.

And I could not less. I mean obviously on one level this is sad, a tragedy. Teenage girl kidnapped/missing/murdered. But, this is a level that doesn't surface, doesn't come into contact with the ebb and flow of my day. However, the media tries and tries and tries to make this story a part of my day.

I try to think why this is A Story. Why people are talking about Natalee's disappearance. Why I am talking about her disappearance.

I have the feeling that Natalee Holloway is probably considered attractive. This may be part of the appeal of the story. Many people look at her picture and think wow what a shame, a beautiful young girl like that cut down in the prime of her life. This is appealing to people. It is a familiar narrative. But I don't buy it. I look at her and all I can think of is that that she has a rather large nose. I don't find her attractive. That is all I'm thinking when I see her picture.

This story is in the same class of news with the disappearance/murders of a number of women - Jon Benet-Ramsey, Laci Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, Chandra Levy.

I didn't want to hear about those stories either.

It's not that I feel I'm above this type of news. It's not that I only concern myself with the West Bank withdrawal, the pending Iraqi Constitution, and China's bid to purchase Unocal Oil. I want to hear about gossip too. The mindless news. I'm not above anything really. I listen to Howard Stern. I watch MTV's Room Raiders. I'm interested, my ears perk up when I hear that Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt are getting a divorce. Or when I find out that Heath Ledger likes to throw eggs at paparazzi. News like this doesn't necessarily captivate me. But, I don't rush to turn it off, tune it out, either.

But, the moment I hear Natalee Holloway I reach for my remote.

I'm not alone, apparently Bob Costas declined to fill in for Larry King because the topic of the show was going to be The Holloway Case.

But, people must care about this case. Otherwise it wouldn't be in the news everyday. Otherwise there wouldn't be correspondents from a dozen channels camped out in Aruba. Otherwise Alan Colmes wouldn't be reporting live from Carlos and Charlie's. Someone is watching.

But why is this a story?

What's the Prognosis? 


No sign of an acute ischemic event.
The mastoid air-cells appear clear.
The sella region appears unremarkable.
And the mandibular condyles appear grossly symmetric.

Oh ok.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005





Sunday, August 07, 2005

A Billionaire so Anonymous that New York Magazine Repeatedly Misspells His Name (Bruce Covner) on Their Wesbite 

I couldn't see that happening to Donald Trump (how would you even misspell Trump?). However, after reading this article it appears Bruce Kovner (proper spelling) is having the last laugh. The Donald is powerful in the sense that he has pop culture cachet - You're Fired!. Bruce Kovner, on the other hand, may not be recognized on the street, may not appear on the Howard Stern Show, but is most certainly powerful. For instance Kovner:

-manages the largest hedge fund in the world
-is paying for the renovation of Lincoln Center
-is chairman of Julliard
-once commissioned a 2 million dollar artistic rendering of the Bible.
-financed the right-wing daily newspaper New York Sun
-is chairman of the American Enterprise Institute, which has supplied the Bush administration with such household names as Dick Cheney and John Bolton
-built a room in his 5th Ave Mansion that is made of "lead-lined plywood" and called a CBR Room - Chemical Biological Radiation: a safe room against a dirty bomb (maybe he is privied to some insider information from Cheney).

All of the interests me. The fact that he has this influence in so many spheres of public life and yet has escaped scrutiny also interests me. But what really interests me is the narrative of his ascent.

Members of Kovner's family were accused of being Communists by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s. Bruce, in turn, ends up running the world's largest hedge fund, the most acute form of capitalism.

Kovner was working towards a doctorate in Government at Harvard when he dropped out.

Here is the best part of the story. At 28 years old he was driving a cab. That was Bruce Kovner's job as he approached the age of 30. A New York cabbie. And this right around the time of Scorcese's Taxi. Being a cabbie in NYC in the 70s was not for the faint of heart. Some real Bull Market Shit. Maybe this propelled him to succeed as a commodities trader. Cutting people off. Making that red light. Blowing through a STOP sign. I'll stop with the analogies, however, I wish this story in New York Magazine focused more on that pivotal moment where he stopped being a cab driver and started trading commodities. The turning point. It's such a great story. A cab driver in 1973, albeit a Harvard educated cab driver, who 10 years later finds himself sitting on a billion dollars. And he decides to not just be satisfied with being rich, but to use his wealth to influence spheres of public life which interest him - politics, music, theater. If I were writing a novel about a billionaire this would be the story I would write.

He is an excerpt from the article in New York Magazine:

Kovner described himself as a “writer” when he got married, at 28 in 1973, to an artist, Sarah Peter, in a Jewish ceremony in Connecticut. They moved to 57th between Eighth and Ninth, and he found a writer’s job: He drove a cab. “He told me that his wife was not exactly thrilled by that turn of events,” says Kovner’s friend Lionel Tiger, the anthropologist and author. This is the one point to which Sarah Peter responded, in a postcard she sent to me declining to be interviewed: “For the record . . . it’s incorrect that I was annoyed with him driving a cab.”

Her husband was suffering “vocational adolescence,” he would confess to his Harvard class. “I wondered if I was going to fulfill every Jewish mother’s fear that her son will turn into nothing but a bum,” he wrote (a curious turn of phrase, for the report was in 1991, 26 years after his mother’s suicide). By then, he had struck on a new course. “Somebody,” he would say, had introduced him to the commodities markets, and with the same thoroughness that he had studied government texts, he was staying up nights studying commodities—“devising paradigms and models, simulations, and scenarios.” He borrowed $3,000 against a MasterCard, and tried out his ideas in copper and interest-rate futures.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Have Anyone Committed to a Bombay Insane Asylum for Just $125 

From The Times of India:

Money can even buy madness. For Rs 5,000 only, you can put away anyone you dislike/hate/just-want-to-get-rid-of in the Thane Mental Asylum. No doctor's certificate needed, no court order, no identification procedure, why, not even proof of your address.

We are not being crazy. Mumbai Mirror correspondents Bhupen Patel, Rimona Ellis and Naveeta D Singh checked out the Asylum's corrupt ways themselves. Bhupen, posing as Deepak Sonawane, succeeded with the help of his "sister" Naveeta in getting papers for his "mentally unstable wife" Rimona's admission cleared by the Asylum superintendent Dr A R Nakalgaonkar by shelling out Rs 5,000.

After casually examining Rimona, Dr Nakalgaonkar issued Sonawane a certificate (printed alongside) for Rimona's admission as a voluntary boarder. It states: "I hereby certify that I have examined Smt Rimona Deepak Sonawane, aged 24. She is mentally unfit and she needs treatment."

The Dog Days of Summer 


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Some Wise Men Once Said... 

You say you want a revolution

Well, you know
We all want to change the world

You tell me that it's evolution

Well, you know
We all want to change the world

But when you talk about destruction

Don't you know that you can count me out
Don't you know it's gonna be all right
all right, all right

You say you got a real solution

Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan

You ask me for a contribution

Well, you know
We're doing what we can
But when you want money

for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don't you know it's gonna be all right
all right, all right

ah, ah, ah, ah, ah...

You say you'll change the constitution

Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao

You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow
Don't you know it's gonna be all right
all right, all right
all right, all right, all right
all right, all right,

ALL RIGHT!!@#$@!

From the Land of the Frozen Sun... 

...where drunk nights get remembered more than sober ones.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Page 2 of the Hindustan Times Reads... 


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