Monday, November 26, 2007

n+1 West Coast Tour

"n+1", the "twice-yearly" New-York literary magazine, is coming to the Bay Area this week for their West Coast Tour; I may have a small bias here, but if I were you, I would not miss it, especially because Elif Batuman will be reading some of her pieces. Here is the latest schedule:

Tuesday 11/27, 3 pm – SAN FRANCISCO – University of SF, Kendrick Hall (Law School) Room 102

Wednesday 11/28, 4 pm – PALO ALTO – Stanford, Terrace Room, Margaret Jacks Hall, 4th floor

Thursday 11/29, 6 pm – BERKELEY – UC Berkeley, Boalt Booth

+ + +

Saturday 12/1, 9 pm – SAN FRANCISCO – Issue 6 Launch Party! – Swedish American Hall, 1574 Market Street. Free for subscribers, $7 for nonsubscribers. $1 drinks.

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Bamboo Village

Last Saturday, L and I went to see "No Country For Old Men" at the Bridge theater, on Geary boulevard. I really enjoyed the movie; think "Fargo", but replace the cold, snowy mid-west by the hot, dusty Texas wilderness, and you will have a pretty good idea of what to expect. On top of that, the Bridge Theater management sent someone on stage before the movie, to thank us for helping them stay in business for a 69th year as a neighborhood theater. I like to be reminded that I am a great customer - and I hope that they don't end up like their former neighbor The Coronet, which is still in the process of becoming the Institute for Aging.
I was much less satisfied by the dinner we had at the Bamboo Village; out of three dishes, one was good (the BBQ chicken cooked in coconut rice), the rest rather mediocre. But what really sticks in my memory is not the food, but the music; we had to suffer through what seemed to be the same one tune of spa music (you know the type, the annoying oriental, slow-paced stuff) playing in a loop, for a good hour. I think they will have to count on someone else than me to keep in business for 69 more years.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bottle case display

Let me tell you a secrte - I collect things of all sorts, big and small, things people most of the time label as "garbage". OK, if you have been at my place, this is probably not really a secret (or you may want to go get an appointment with your ophthalmologist soon).
Anyways, L is by now aware of this taste of mine, and contributes to my ever-growing pile of stuff; she recently brought me a gorgeous Pepsi bottle case, all wood, with a painted logo and some metal reinforcement. Of course, I loved it (how could you not), but had a tough time figuring out what to do with it, until it hit me: it would make a perfect display case, and provide a home for all the useless garbage sentimental memorabilia I also tend to accumulate...


Sunday, November 18, 2007

The street economist

First, there was the economist; the species evolved into subspecies, branching into classical and neoclassical economists, Keynesian and neo-Keynesian economists, Marxists, and numerous other subgroups, the latest being the rogue economist.
Judging from the design of this hoodie seen last Friday at the mall, a new group is ready to hit the streets, quite literally:

I am seriously not sure what to make of that one. Did economics suddenly become so cool, that it is hip to show-off market creds' on the street? Or have neo-conservative think tanks been so successful in marketing their ideas, that the current generation of rebellious youth is ready to submit to the forces of the market, and make "Obey Supply and Demand" their anthem, after classics such as "Peace and love" or "No Future"?


Wednesday, November 14, 2007


L and I were walking down 18th street, when we suddenly felt a presence. Nobody around, but... the eye of the Watchdog was on us.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gone, Michael Clayton, gone

L and I went to see "Michael Clayton" and "Gone, baby gone" – and enjoyed both movies. I knew very little about Michael Clayton, besides that it was about lawyers, and starred Georges Clooney. It was a bit of a slow day, and we wanted to be entertained; and the movie did just that. It is by no means memorable – but it’s a good thriller, with a solid plot and very snappy dialog; a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.
I have been a Lehane fan for a few years; he is one of the very few authors who manage to write “noir” today without sounding like a Chandler pastiche. Part of his strength is his gritty descriptions of the popular neighborhoods of Boston, so I was initially concerned that a lot would be lost in translation getting the Hollywood treatment - and then got very excited when I heard Ben Affleck, an outspoken Bostonian, explaining that he took a documentary-like approach and that "the characters portrayed in Gone Baby Gone are all real people". I thought the resulting movie was very good, mostly for that reason. It is a smart adaptation; the plot is simplified, but the spirit of the book is definitely preserved, and there is something raw and honest about the movie which largely makes up for its minor flaws.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Local inference

Last week L and I were sitting at a cafe; as I finished my drink, I stood up to leave - and noticed that L was not done yet. I sat back, and as a matter of an apology, said "It is not because I am done, that everyone has to leave".
A little later, she came back to that sentence, pointing that it probably did not convey the meaning I intended. As often, I had liberally transposed a French structure into English, hoping for the best. It usually fails, most of the time because of idiomatic reasons, but in this situation I was fairly surprised: there is no such ambiguity taking place here, and in both languages, the logical relationship expressed by the sentence is identical.
The structure "It is not because [Condition], that [Consequence]" signifies that there is no causal link between the Condition and the Consequence. And yet, the meaning conveyed in each language is very different, because of what should be inferred. In English, it would be interpreted as "As this condition does not cause that consequence, it must be another condition that caused it", emphasizing the existence of another explanation for a phenomenon. This form exists also in French, but is not typical. Generally, it is meant as a challenge: "As this condition does not cause that consequence, a different reason will need to be produced in order for the consequence to be accepted as valid".
So when I tell you that "It is not because the point of this post is intricate, that you should give up reading it", when the Englishman in you may be looking for other reasons to give up (style, maybe?), your French side should remind you that really, one should not give up on something only because it is intricate.

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Sitar struck

I had spotted a while back that the SF Jazz festival had Ravi and Anushka Shankar lined up for November, and thought about getting tickets and then forgot about it. By a strange turn of events, L, who is by no stretch of the imagination a fan of world music, won two tickets, and so we went.
The first part of the event was featuring Anushka with a tabla player and a flautist (the two other persons on stage seemed to have a mostly decorative role), and Ravi Shankar joined for the second half of the show. For the neophyte in Indian music that I am, this was probably the best possible combination. I have a very limited understanding of how this music works; from what I gather, it revolves a lot around intricate rhythmic patterns which are difficult for me to follow.
Having first the opportunity to hear a single sitar player, and then being able to compare it with another, was a great way to appreciate better the differences in style between musicians; and for that matter, I must say that Anushka did seem to have more depth and richness in her palette. That being said, it was difficult not to be touched by the energy and enthusiasm of Ravi Shankar; at a solid 87 years, and probably weighting around 100 pounds, he gave a non-stop performance of over one hour, and seemed to enjoy every minute of it, blinking conspiratorially to the tabla player, and going into amazing variations and permutations of the same theme. Very impressive.

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Thursday, November 1, 2007


Since coming back from Spain, I have been a bit head down in the bucket, caught between catching up with a project at Applied Strategies, getting sick, and preparing for my talk at Code Camp. As a result, no post in a week, shame on me.
So what is new, besides the stuff mentioned above? Yesterday was Halloween in San Francisco, and apparently the city was also hit by a 5.6 earthquake. I definitely noticed the kids and the pumpkins, I am sorry they canceled the yearly party in Castro, and I noticed absolutely nothing like a quake. I am sure it happened, but somehow I never pay attention.
I was going through my pockets, and dug out these, which had been sitting there for a few weeks.

So far, the closest I got from being singled out for a promotion are the credit card offers which keep on piling in my mailbox, even though I went through the steps to get my name off the list. Maybe that is the big change ahead - when banks will finally realize that if I did not bite to the same offer I have received every other day for two years, it's probably not worth wasting paper any more. I am still pretty unclear about the third one, but I am sure it will all become obvious soon when it becomes realized. And finally, I hope that the musical opportunity was not my neighbors' new passion for the bongos at night, but rather the Ravi and Anoushka Shankar concert we are going to tomorrow with L!

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