D and D

The startling number of deaths, including today’s story in which “17 U.S. Soldiers Die in Iraq Copter Crash” is truly unnerving. It makes me think of the old saying that “Every is political,” because all of these deaths are. But it also makes me think that every death is also truly alone, that every individual, couched in his or her cocoon of personal armaments and hidden monologues, is supremely final, forever, foreign.
This came up time and again after the WTC came crashing down. Commentators asked of us to imagine what these people thought about and felt during the hour or so of panic before their tumble to earth — and it was easy to imagine the hell because it was televised. But for almost every other person in the world who is about to die, we only ask locally to imagine their life, at the funeral, the wake, and the graveyard. The public is safely away from it all. Are we thankful or relieved by this? Are we well served by our distance from others’ private deaths?


The other side of what I posted below is revealed in Eric’s Archived Thoughts, which speculates that Microsoft truly is seeking to undermine open standards for Web development. XML, the generally accepted new lingua franca of the Web, may be soon (2006 or 2007?) challenged by the company’s XAML, a proprietary system designed to work best with Windows systems.
Put inexpensive, unaccountable programming together with top-down standardization and you’ve got a new Web that’s built to fracture.


I receive emails nearly every day from India, Romania, Russia, and Poland mostly, for Web development services, but today I received one from India, which offered me a price of $6.00 per hour for the following:
PlatForms : Windows, Linux, Unix, SunSolaris
Languages/Scripting : JavaScript, VBScript, PHP, ASP, VB, C++, Cold Fusion etc.
Database : MSSQL, MySQL, Oracle, MSAccess etc.
Graphics: PhotoShop, Flash (Database Driven Application) Gif Animation etc.
In the old days of Web development, I worked with 21 year olds who were paid six digits for the same skills (and they did excellent work).


We put up the new homepage for the Barneys New York site, which looks exactingly fresh, outrageous, mischievous, and maudlin.
When I used to paint , I worked often with circus imagery, with the disorienting glare of lights and sad carnival delight, and to this day, I’m still strongly attached to the beauty of circus arcania. But I never actually want to go to the circus ever again.


I’m anxiously (or is it eagerly) awaiting the first delivery of our odd FreshDirect order. I find the whole thing of shopping for produce and other food online both clearly disruptive and sadly seductive. Here are my questions to myself, as I wait the free, tip-less delivery:
– What does it mean that I’d rather tap out this missive rather than squeeze the grapefruit, smell the fresh cinnamon, or sample the cheese?
– Why don’t any of the supermarkets around here allow you to squeeze the grapefruit, stock fresh cinnamon, or sample cheeese?
– Is this one more abstraction away from the real and toward a denial of time-based, space-based pleasure? Is shopping online fulfilling or demeaning the pleasure of shopping generally?
– How is pleasure delineated on the FreshDirect website? Have they found a way to substitute the look and feel of food for the “look and feel” of a website?
– Will my actual diet be better off with FreshDirect and will the extra food we undoubtedly ordered go to waste?


About every six months or so, I have an opportunity to see a real film, which is appalling on the face of it, but if it’s one like Lost in Translation, I’m quite fulfilled.
This is one beautiful, elegant, and carefully scripted film, full of a lushness that Americans seem to have abandoned to the French since 1975. Bill Murray, of Groundhog Day, puts in a performance that is somewhere between earthshaking and mindblowing, fulfilling the sad fantasty of every middle-aged American man as he futilely adores with his eyes the strength of youth and privilege in Scarlett Johansson. The two eat up the screen, their eyes do all the talking, and the superbly natural dialogue is a credit to director Sofia Coppola.
The naturalism of the film, and the screen presences of the actors, make for a very uneasy and sad experience throughout, but the beautiful stagesets and music (see previous post) make for utter joy as we witness the unfolding of love in all the wrong places. What struck a small chord in me, as well, was the slow panning of two shots as the two actors look out, about 100 floors above the Tokyo skyline, from their respective hotel rooms. I’m sure that Ms. Coppola intended us to think of the World Trade Center. The last time I was at the WTC I was on the 92nd floor, where I stood for a while looking at Brooklyn, New Jersey, and midtown. The shots in LiT truly approximate that witnessing and I can’t help but think that the director was showing us the space of tragedy, of a different order, taking place in the sky.

2003 Stamps

Since I was about 5 years old, I’ve been slowly collecting stamps. The vast majority are American and for the past 10 years, I’ve only been collecting the Commerative Stamp Yearbooks that the United States Postal Service issues each year. This year USPS released its 2003 book early, which I don’t understand because it’s now November 4 and it made me wonder if I’m missing the Christmas-time stamps. (The latter has always been problematic for me.)
Some observations:
1 The LOVE stamps are bright and boring.
2. The most beautiful stamps of 2003 are from the American Filmmaking: Behind the Scenes series. Designed by Ethel Kessler, these black and white, square stamps depict, using a surrealist pastiche, the production processes that go into making images move.
3. I can’t believe the U.S. Government approved a Cesar E. Chavez stamp. This did not get released at my local Post Office.
4. The First Flight stamp, recaling Orville and Wilbur Wright’s flight 100 (Kitty Hawk was on December 17, 1903!!) years ago, is quite refined, lovely, even. I’m still shocked that we’ve only been flying for one century.
5. There is a stamp honoring the Korean War Memorial. I always thought this realistic sculpture in Washington was treacly but the stamp makes it look very cinematic, moving even.
6. The stamp of Audrey Heburn does not do her justice. Her neck is very long, however.


On Sunday, I ordered the new operating system offered by Apple (v. 10.3), called Panther. All the message boards and all the breathless technologists nearby (well, near enough) have agreed that this is the coolest thing since sliced Swiss cheese. The operating system has some flaws but it’s fun. I’m all for fun. But I’ll give the same reason that I voted “no” yesterday, against the idea of non-partisan elections, as I would for putting Panther on my box. Change is not always good, though I’m an advocate of change. The black and silver box came to me on Tuesday from California via UPS and I left the whole damn thing in its box.

Young Democrats

I remember that, in college, the Young Republicans was a real force to be reckoned with. They were well-heeled, well-connected, and well, looked nicer than the rest of us. It’s interesting that Danny Goldberg, who I haven’t seen in the news in a while, has a good piece called Left Out in this month’s Utne. The Dems blame the kids because people always blame the kids and it’s an easy way out to register disrespect for the unregistered and youthful. I’m curious to see how Dean will really rally the young and wry — anyway, the most confusing thing to me right now, politically, is tomorrow’s proposition allowing nonpartisan elections. There should be three levers for this one.