Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Transitional Year

I think a great deal about my first year here in New York City. Probably more than I should, really.

A little more than 7 years ago, I had moved to NYC almost the day after I graduated from college, and started work at a tech PR agency the following Monday. I lived right on the cusp of the Upper East Side and rarely went out, in order to make rent each month-- I found out that one could truly live on $1 PBRs from the corner grocery and happy hours that offered platters of food. Despite my having been here many times before, the city was new, exciting and daunting to this new inhabitant-- so I spent weekends walking to new parts of the island to explore. And I read far too much in my apartment as well, filling more than one bookcase. While I was called a 'hermit' by friends, I still had fun, in a way.

You see, while I was making just above minimum wage at the agency, my friends were at investment banks and consulting firms earning triple that and had expense accounts. I could barely afford to go with them to the then-open Village Idiot, much less to the swanky clubs. Whatever, really-- that's the realities of the economics here in NYC.

The reason I bring this up is that a friend is now considering whether to move to NYC. She is taking a similar track to my own course here, and I'm readying her of what that first year will be like, when more than half of her pay goes to making rent. I'm sure she'll be less of a hermit than I, but she will still be strained by the paycheck. It'll be interesting to see how she does.

And I also am at a point where I'm wondering if I am too cozy and comfortable with where I am now as well.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Shades of Portfolio

Every week, it seems that the forthcoming Portfolio Magazine – the new business magazine from Conde Nast – recruits another blue-chip business journalist. The masthead, which already boasts some of the best of the best from the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Wired Magazine, Time and a host of others, is shaping up to be a behemoth, talent-wise. If this were a fantasy baseball team, they’ve had a real good draft in cherry-picking great players— and they're not done yet.

But it finally hit me what the pre-launch hoopla reminded me of: The launch of (the now-defunct) back in May 2000. It came when I somehow landed on an old Online Journalism Review
article that started with this: “In May 2000, the debut of attracted the sort of media attention generally reserved for Hollywood blockbusters.” Sound familiar?

Just look at the names and talent that littered the
masthead there at the beginning of its 18-month run, and where they are now. At the New York Times, they’ve scooped up David Carr, Lorne Manly and Peter Edmontson. Sara Nelson is now editor-in-chief of Publisher’s Weekly, Craig Marks is editor-in-chief of Blender and Kim Masters is ubiquitous on NPR. Hell, even CNBC's “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer was on the masthead originally. And should I even mention freelancer extraordinaire Greg Lindsay?

Of course, the argument could easily be made that the majority of success – or the ascension higher on a masthead – came afterwards. But a great deal of the names here have already had success, of course, and are/were well-known in journalism circles. But, for those rock stars currently on the yet-to-be-created masthead, this is ultimately a good line for their resume.

I don’t believe Portfolio will share the same fate by any means, by the way— they’re too well-funded for that and they’re going to get a good entrypoint based on the American City Business Journals subscriber lists. Hell, I'm looking forward to reading the magazine once it hits.

But the early headlines make it extremely hard to live up to.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Cranky Shower Controls Your Destiny

*taps shower knob/shoulder* Hi shower. How are you today? I just woke up, but in my dreams I dreamed about you being nice to me. I dreamed of cleansing my soul under your pure waters.

I know this has made Gawker, but this post on the 'tempermental shower' by "The Assimilated Negro" (his moniker, not mine) is so dead on. I have the same battle every day, minus the racial taunting.

(And, apropos of nothing, why is it that whenever I bring my laundry to the wash and fold, it always comes back missing at least one sock?)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Life in Toby-land

Toby Young has terrible instincts. Scratch that, make that utterly terrible instincts. But his shortcomings make for a fun, albeit rather pedestrian, follow-up to his "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People".

While not as good or sharp as his first memoir, "The Sound of No Hands Clapping" takes a further look at life in Toby-land. In this world, the reader winces a great deal at the protagonist's ordeals. Moving beyond the world of "People" and Vanity Fair, it focuses on the next chapter of his life, where he is wooed by a Hollywood mogul, tries his hand in the world of theater and the birth of his firstborn.

While a great more fractured than his first effort -- I would have liked to see more about his experiences in Hollywood, or at least focus on one of these three endeavors -- it's a good, harmless read and a typical sophomore effort from a writer. It's not too disappointing, but bound to be forgotten after the publicity tour runs its course.

Unless you're a big fan of wincing.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Yes, Tis True...

...I've grown a goatee, the first time I've done so here in New York. I'm still not sure if I like it, but reaction has been lukewarm to "you look like a bad-ass" so far.

Here is an 'artist's rendering' of my new look, which a friend sent to me in jest:

I swear, it looks better than this.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Jack Bauer Drives an Acura?

How cool is this "24"-inspired license plate, despite it being on an Acura?

If I had a car -- and thus a license plate -- I'd be envious. But, overriding this thought, is the remembrance that the new season doesn't begin until January. Sigh.

(Seen this afternoon, parked at Prince and Mercer streets)

Friday, July 14, 2006

She Writes So Pretty Sometimes...

The closing paragraph from an Australian friend's e-mail: "Please be advised that there is to be no playing with balloons in this park. May you enjoy your stay."

Bloody brilliant.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Forget what the always-silly Emmys have put forward as worthy of nominations and awards in the past: "The Wire", on HBO, is simply the best drama on television nowadays, and its fourth season, beginning in September, cannot come quick enough. Created by David Simon, the genius behind "Homicide: Life on the Street", the series follows a group of police -- what has since become the Major Case Squad -- tracking a single case over an entire season. It's a dense, complex drama that has lured the likes of some of today's best mystery writers to its ranks, like George Pelecanos, Richard Price and Dennis Lehane. And, as you can probably expect at this point given the above, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Intriguingly, this season will focus on the Baltimore school system as a backdrop to a major case-- and now HBO has finally posted the teaser to the new season-- enjoy. A lot to be gleaned from this, including that Jim True-Frost is back this season, most likely as a teacher, and that the race for mayor will be a focus of the new season.

Updated note on June 13th: The Baltimore Sun, where Simon once wrote, has a good overview of the season here.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Not Parsing Jesse Oxfeld

It sucks when bad things happen to good people. It really does.

But that's what happened this past week with the unfortunate news that Jesse Oxfeld's contract was not renewed at When I started writing this, it was a lame attempt to parse Oxfeld's goodbye post, interspersing what may have been his real thoughts behind the words he wrote there-- it was too easy to read between the (imaginary) lines. My attempt was filled with him revealing how he thought he would outlast Bonnie Fuller's reign at AMI, that he has directed the Gawker interns to pee in Denton's tea on numerous occasions (just like a Nastie allegedly once did to Anna Wintour's soup), and how Andrew Krucoff was chortling at the reversal of fortune, one year later.

Here's a sample line, in reply to Oxfeld's comment that he'll miss having excuses to get drunk with the entire Gawker Media team: "Although I liked each of you, I’ll never hang out with you again. Mazel tov, boys and girls. Next time I see you, I'll flip you a quarter, to make up for Denton's payscale."

See? Not particularly funny. But I figured that would just piss off people, so I'll abstain from doing that. But while it's too early to review the new Gawker regime -- it's only been two days since Alex Balk and Chris Mohney arrived, on a sleepy week where they have their work cut out for them -- I'll admit I already miss Oxfeld's wry, subtle humor and great media scoopage. Here's to him landing well, of which I'm sure he will, and to reading more of his scribblings.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Been "Caught Stealing", Once When I Was Five...

Any writer that can utilize the Astor Place Cube to knock out a man is OK by me.

In less than 24 hours, I ripped through Charlie Huston's "Caught Stealing," a pulpy little novel recommended by a friend of mine. It's a damn good read. This -- his 2003 debut novel -- has a very distinctive feel to it, and is extremely hard to put down.

Largely taking place in the East Village, Hank Thompson is an ex-college baseball star who has hit hard times and is now bartending in the Lower East Side to make ends meet. He's bamboozled into taking in his neighbor's cat-- which leads to a bunch of caricature-heavy ne'er-do-wells after him. Something his neighbor possessed, and which Hank now has, is something very dear to them; Hank is consequently on the run.

The only thing I can think to compare it to is something Shane Black might write if he were a little more gritty, a little more Pelacanos-y. Or, alternatively, a Jason Starr novel, if that novelist were actually any good.

I'm trying right now to get my hands on its follow-up, "Six Bad Things", which came out last year. Huston's debut is definitely recommended-- seek it out and also, while you're at it, check out his website,

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Life After Whigs

Let me add to the chorus: Denis Leary needs to make more music picks. On "The Daily Show" a few weeks back, he went out of his way to recommend the Twilight Singers' disc "Powder Burns".

Although I'm a little behind the hipster curve here, I've since picked it up. The album is fantastic, and I'm kicking myself for not getting keen on this band -- led by ex-Afghan Whigs singer Greg Dulli -- sooner. Check it out, in particular the stand-out track "My Time (Has Come)".