Year: 2003

Visited the Ransom Center today

Visited the Ransom Center today and took in the current exhibit, “Make it New”: The Rise of Modernism.

Seeing the building itself was a big part of the reason for the visit. I hadn’t been since it underwent extensive renovations; Gwen had never been at all, and her company had been involved in the renovation. The place is quite different: the first two floors had previously been used mostly for exhibit space; now the exhibits are restricted to the first floor. While there had previously been a large standing exhibit of art (which benefited greatly from having James Michener lend some of the prizes from his personal art collection) and antiquities, along with a rotating exhibit, the permanent exhibit is now completely gone.

The current exhibit also seems to have been designed to accentuate the Ransom Center’s role as an archival repository rather than an art gallery: it featured a lot of different collateral from the period in question (roughly 1915-1930)–personal letters and notebooks, issues of obscure art magazines, even the official court decision in the Ulysses obscenity trial. The information cards accompanying almost every piece were quite extensive, and gave mini-histories to put everything in context.

The exhibit covered numerous artistic schools of thought that (apparently) fall under the general heading of modernism: vorticism, primitivism, dadaism, etc. I got the vague impression that some of these were formed to spite the founders of another movement, and I was strongly reminded of kids who start little clubs. Another aspect that struck me as interesting was the use of the word “modernism.” To me, the word has always connoted rationalism, order, optimism, and a positive attitude towards technology. In this exhibit, though, the word was used to describe schools of thought that tried to dig underneath rationalism to reach some kind of pre-conscious awareness, tried to subvert orderliness, and had ambivalent attitudes towards technology. The exhibit also (wrongly, in my opinion) cast Frank Lloyd Wright as a modernist.

porting…

On this the thirteenth day after I ordered my phone number ported from Sprint PCS to T-mobile, something is happening. The number hasn’t ported yet: calls still ring through to my old phone and it can place outgoing calls, but calls between it and any other phone don’t quite work right: whichever end initiated the call cannot be heard at the other end.

I’m not sure whether I should take this as an encouraging sign or not.

More toys!

As if getting a new (and amazingly gadgety) cellphone weren’t enough, I just upgraded to OS X 10.3. So far so good: despite doing a wipe-and-install, with manual restoration of preferences, things have gone pretty smoothly (the one unaccountable and annoying problem is the complete loss of my NetNewsWire Lite subscription list).

This is a big upgrade: Apple was modest in adding .1 to the version number (as they were with 10.2). My mac is much more responsive now, the interface, for the most part, has been subtly improved, and there are a lot of obvious new “bullet-point” features that really are useful. It’s encouraging to see that Apple has not been resting on its laurels after the success of the 10.2 release–that was a pretty good OS, and they could have gotten away with tweaks for this one, but it’s clear that either they had a lot of stuff in the pipeline already that couldn’t be vetted in time for 10.2, or they still see OS X as an unfinished work (which is true of all software). It’s also interesting to see how much headroom is apparently left for system optimizations, and I wonder what we’re in for when they eventually release XI.

I have some beefs–I’m not sold on the metallic Finder, or the sidebar (which is resizable, but the resizing apparently doesn’t take, and which can’t be manipulated from the keyboard like other columns, as far as I can tell). And so on. But it’s good.

Phone phun

More on the saga of phone switching.

Two days ago, I received my Belkin Bluetooth dongle. Plugged it in and my Mac instantly recognized it.

Yesterday, I got the Sony Ericsson (I always forget whether to double the C or the S) T610 and Jabra headset. Reactions:

  • The phone has very nice industrial design. The buttons are small, but spaced so that I haven’t really had any fat-finger problems, and I really appreciate that they’re laid out as a keypad, not in the amorphous formations Nokia has favored of late. The joystick doesn’t always respond predictably to the “push in” action but is a nice idea. Screen is ok. Color screens on cellphones create more problems than they solve, but it does look pretty. Some have complained that it washes out badly in sunlight–this is a little bit of a problem, but tolerable. The phone’s overall size is a little taller than my old phone when folded, but as slim as the old phone when unfolded.
  • This is my first candybar phone. The previous one was a flip phone, and the one before that was a sort of hybrid that was a candybar–or rather brick–shape with a flap over the keys (this remains my favorite phone shape). This is the first phone I’ve had where I need to worry about accidental key activation–it’s already been making calls without me realizing it. This can be prevented using the key lock feature, but another problem cannot be: touching a key activates the screen; if the keys are constantly being pressed, the screen is always on, and with a color phone, that means the battery gets run down very quickly. The key lock should really be a dedicated slider, rather than a combination of regular keypresses. Time to get some kind of holster. One odd quirk is that the numeric keys can get hooked under the faceplate–when this happens, the soft keys and joystick stop working. Very frustrating and mystifying until I noticed the wayward key.
  • I was surprised that this phone doesn’t auto-discover the time.
  • As you can see, the camera on the phone takes amazingly shitty pictures. And that picture was taken in “high-quality” mode.
    sample photo from phone, depicting wacky Chinese space-babies
  • Bluetooth is a hoot. I love it. It’s a little fussy getting two devices to recognize one another, but from a security standpoint, that’s as it should be. Moving all my contacts from my address book on my Mac to the phone proceeded smoothly–everything is properly tagged, though I would have preferred that the “company” field be ignored. I suppose there must be a way to hack that… Apart from contacts, files can be moved back and forth between phone and computer via a little file browser. This is OK, but really, the phone should appear on my desktop like just another device. Using the Salling Clicker is great fun, in an incredibly nerdy way.
  • After following these very helpful instructions, I succeeded in connecting my Mac to the Internet via the phone. Slow, but usable. This is pretty nifty. Some bandwidth tests: I found a bandwidth-testing WAP page that works in the phone’s WAP browser: a pathetic 1.43 Kbps. (I have actually owned 300-baud and 2400-bps modems. Funny how these things come around.) Using the phone as a modem, and loading the 2wire bandwidth page, I get a more respectable 31.4 Kbps. By way of comparison, that page shows my DSL connection as yielding 1596.2 Kbps. Incidentally, this is much higher than DSL’s nominal 384 Kbps, but roughly in line with similar tests. The more informative Speakeasy tests show the following
      GPRS DSL
    Up 9 Kbps 214 Kbps
    Down 26 Kbps 1200 Kbps
  • The phone’s voice dialing works just well enough to be frustrating.
  • Sound quality seems OK. I can’t really comment on reception: there’s a T-mobile tower within rock-throwing distance of my home, so I always get 4 bars here, but at Gwen’s, I rarely get even two bars, as her neighborhood is poorly served by T-mobile (you hear that, guys?).
  • My speech coming through the Jabra headset sounds poor, but incoming sound is fine. The headset doesn’t feel very secure on my head, and apparently will not pair with my Mac, but it works. The phone comes with a wired headset that’s also OK.
  • The phone has a huge array of bells and whistles–both literally and figuratively. There are scads of annoying ringtones, and if you don’t like those, you can import more, or even compose them on a little in-phone music sequencer. No kidding: it has a four-track display (drums, guitar, keyboard, horns) with 32 canned snippets for each; you lay down one snippet per measure for each, and keep building up measures until you’ve got a song. I’m pretty sure Moby has traded in his studio for this phone.
  • Apart from that, this phone is complicated enough that you really need the manual. I couldn’t figure out how to put the phone into vibrate mode without navigating through four layers of menus until I found out I had to set one setting and then I could hold down the C key whenever I wanted to go into vibrate mode. The phone is also set up to encourage you to use its Internet connectivity more than you might expect–it has a dedicated Internet button on the side, and several menu options put Internet-based content higher up than content inside the phone. This strikes me as a bit cheesy, but I can live with it.
  • One interesting feature for managing the complexity of this phone is a feature called “profiles” (there’s a similar feature on the Mac called “Location,” which would obviously be a problematic name if applied to a mobile phone). Profiles are a group of settings for use in different situations–at home, in your car, walking around, at the office, etc. Switching profiles changes a bunch of profiles all at once. Good idea, poor execution. How?
    • The phone comes with several canned profiles; to change one, you select the profile as your working profile, and then edit everything. This makes it harder to reuse your existing settings and modify them–much better would be an option to save the current settings as new profile.
    • Although many features can be subsumed under a profile, there are some that cannot–for example, the key lock, which is handy when out and about, but useless at home.
    • Profile switching is mostly a manual affair. The phone does come with a headset, and it automatically switches to a handsfree profile when the headset is plugged in (but apparently not with the Bluetooth headset), so clearly there’s some ability to switch automatically. This approach should be extended: I’d like the phone to go into “at home” mode when it is within reach of my computer (as discoverable through Bluetooth), or perhaps when plugged in. This idea could be taken a step further by placing (or discovering) “bluetooth buttons” at other locations one regularly visits, so I could have one in my car, one at my coffee shop, etc. A bluetooth button needn’t be more than a transponder that identifies itself with a name and perhaps a GPS position.

My old number has not been ported to the new phone yet, but I have initiated the process. I wound up speaking with four different operators yesterday, each of whom told me I needed to talk to a different department (except for the last one), and each of whom encouraged me to bring my phone and an old Sprint bill in to a local T-mobile office in person (including the last one, but I insisted on doing it over the phone, so she relented). By the way, “port” seems to be the magic word–anyone who is transferring service from one carrier to another will save a couple minutes by using that word rather than “transfer,” etc. But the new phone does work, and is providing me with much amusement.

So, what would make the phone better? Better reception. A camera that’s actually worth using. A memory-card slot. Perhaps an MP3 player (though that would probably be politically unpopular at Sony). A slider to control key-locking, and making ring volume and silent ring part of the volume controls (why they are not is a mystery). The UI could do with a few tweaks.

I’ll update this entry as news develops.

More comment spam

I thought I was safe. I had done most of the smart things to avoid comment-spam: renamed the link to comments, renamed the comment script, and installed the excellent MT-Blacklist

Then today, I was barraged with about 100 comments in a short period of time (I didn’t check how long it took). This was clearly being run by a script. The suppurating sore of a wretch who attacked my site (in violation of terms clearly posted in the comments pages) lives at IP number 62.213.67.122; this traces back to a machine behind the rusonyx.ru domain.

The importance of the definite article

If you are in Austin and want to order a pizza from The Parlor (which you should–they’re quite good), and you don’t know their number by heart, you may have occasion to look in the alphabetical listings of the SWB yellow pages. If so, do not look under the Ps, because it ain’t alphabetized there. Look under the Ts.

Is it any wonder SWB has such a rotten reputation?

And away we go

For some time, I’ve needed a new phone: the one I’ve got (a Sprint Touchpoint 1100, made by LG) has gotten beaten up enough that the battery no longer has a reliable connection to the main body, the result being that it turns itself off almost every time it gets jostled.

A recent item on Gizmodo pointed out that, between various rebates, Amazon is basically paying you $150 to take a phone off their hands (with purchase of new cellular service contract, of course). While I decided against that particular option, I found another, somewhat less generous offer to relieve them of a phone. This went along with T-Mobile service; after checking with Drew that T-Mobile didn’t suck distinctly harder than anyone else, I took the plunge.

The phone, a Sony Ericsson T610, should (I think) be here in a few days. It’s got all kinds of bells and whistles: Bluetooth, a camera, a Bluetooth headset included free (another special offer). Of course, I wound up also ordering a Bluetooth dongle for my Mac, so that I’d be able to copy data between the phone and my address book, which ate up a good chunk of the money Amazon is paying me to take the phone.

Lazyweb: help me pick out some headphones

For my girlfriend, actually, but she’s not geeky enough to use Lazyweb. She’s also, apparently, too petite for typical headphones.

I picked her up a cheapo pair of Sony h.ear headphones, which sort of hook over your ears like paperclips. No good. Turns out her ears are much, much to small to accommodate them–the ‘phones hang too low, and even if they didn’t, the speakers would be too large to fit the recesses of her ears.

Constraints: must fit her; must not cost an arm or a leg, and must tolerate getting sweaty at the gym.

O Lazyweb, I invoke thee!

Bitrot

Simson Garfinkel writes about bitrot saying, in so many words, it won’t be that big of a problem. Jeremy Hedley warns, Cassandra-like, that for invidivuals, it might be pretty bad indeed.

I side with Garfinkel.

Like pretty much everyone who has been using a computer for more than 15 minutes, I’ve lost data. The problem of bitrot is one that is pretty widely recognized by now, even if we’re not sure exactly how best to guard against it. This awareness in itself is probably going to help minimize the problem: we may look back on the period from, say, the fifties to the nineties as an anomoly when we didn’t routinely plan on making data available to our future selves.

Bitrot is a three-layered problem:

The physical layer
If you can’t read a floppy, or whatever physical medium you’re using, you are sunk. This really breaks down into a couple sub-layers: the media itself has degraded (all media has a lifespan before it starts losing data; for some, like floppies, it’s pretty short); or the drive requires a connector and/or software drivers you can’t use with any known device.
The data layer
Fine, so by some chance your floppy is still good, but back in 1993 you were using MS Works 2 to store your business data, and there aren’t any programs that can read those files.
The cultural layer
This ties in with the data layer–some formats will almost certainly be well supported in the future, at least to the extent that format translators will exist to convert Ye Olde Data Phyle into the sleek and modern DataFile 3000. This comes down to how popular a format is/was, and whether it is clearly and publicly specified. The file format used by Word 2000, for example, is not publicly specified but is so widely used that a number of programmers have done pretty good jobs of reverse-engineering it. The PDF and RTF formats are publicly specified and very widely used. But MS Works 2? Nope.

So what can we do to avoid the heartbreak of bitrot in our own lives? A few things.

Back up
This should be obvious. My own backup strategy is to back up my home folder to an external hard drive daily, and to a magneto-optical disk (estimated to have 50-year data integrity) weekly.
Save files in publicly specified formats
As I wrote to a friend recently, “every time I save a file in Word format, I’m afraid I’m doing something that will come back to haunt me.” From now on, I’m saving my work as RTF. Plain text would be better, but RTF strikes a balance between preserving formatting and universality.
Move forward
This does not mean jumping on the bleeding edge and buying every gadget that comes along. It means recognizing when a physical or data format is on the way out, finding a safe successor, and moving to that. As long as you’ve got data you can read on a hard drive that works with your computer, and a backup you can read somewhere else, you should be in the clear indefinitely. Eventually we will see net-based storage that is convenient and affordable (we’re not quite there yet), and at that point, we won’t have any excuse for failures at the physical layer.

Pop the stack

Some programming languages have a concept called a “stack,” which is sort of like a stack of trays in a cafeteria. Each “tray” represents a value; you can “push” values onto the stack or “pop” them off. This is handy for a number of reasons, but the programmer has to keep careful track of what’s at the top of the stack–that is, how many times he’s pushed and popped. Push too much stuff on, and you’ve got a problem, because the computer only sets aside a certain amount of space for the stack.

A few recent items leave me feeling as if we’ve been pushing the stack on reality too much and risk overloading it.

  • The Onion reports on an “alternate reality TV show,” a brilliant idea that, as usual, captures something going on in the zeitgeist.
  • A hilarious review of non-existent games in Wired mentions Maximum Gamer:

    In this role-playing game, you are Todd Kellman, a world-class cyberathlete from the US. (Japanese and European versions are pending.) Gamers experience all the thrills of sitting in front of a computer screen as Kellman sits in front of his computer screen controlling the destiny of a fully rendered, computer-generated nerd sitting in front of a computer screen. This one was really popular, attracting crowds of attendees waiting for a chance to play. Or to watch somebody play. Or to watch somebody watch somebody play.

  • David Cronenberg played a character out of a David Cronenberg movie on Alias. David Cronenberg is the master of pushing and popping the reality stack so many times you get dizzy (cf Videodrome, Existenz).
  • OK. So that’s all in fun. Then this morning, via an article linked in BoingBoing, I learned about There. There is a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG). This is not like most such games, like Everquest. Rather than going around fighting and accumulating treasure, in There, you spend real money to acquire fake money, so that you can go fake shopping. As the article puts it, “Why go There when it looks just like here?”

In short, I think we collectively may need to get out more [he wrote, while sitting at his computer]

Head down

In the absence of, well, work, I’ve been trying to teach myself PHP and MySQL. Partly because it’s stuff I just want to know–ever since I gave up on Hypercard, I’ve felt a sort of phantom-limb syndrome whenever I need to algorithmically process a batch of text or something. And I’ve got some ideas for projects that I think might be fun. Partly because I might be able to turn this into an alternate revenue stream.

The book I’m working from seems to be pretty good, as far as it goes, but after doing a little poking around in the PHP documentation, I realize the book barely scratches the surface of the tip of the iceberg. I’m still at the point of getting a feel for the semantics and data types–not doing much beyond “Hello World!” tests. But I’ll get there.

The Bad Trip

The following story recounts a trip that Jenny and I took in 1998

I have a rich cousin who always has a July 4th party for a few hundred of his closest friends at his farm on the Illinois/Wisconsin border. It’s always a ball, I haven’t been there in a few years, Jenny had never been there and was up for a road trip, so we decided to drive up from our home in Austin, Texas. This was in a 1987 Thunderbird with 150,000 miles on it. We’ll call it the “blue bird” because it’s blue.

My dad had a 1964 Thunderbird, which is an incredibly cool car, that he was thinking of getting rid of. He’s had it for about 15 years, but never really did anything with it–he just got it to have as a toy. We’ll call it the “black bird” because it’s black. He said we could have it if we wanted it. We did. We thought we would each drive one of the birds back to Austin, and then sell the blue bird.

We decide to bring our cat, Squeaker. We know that most cats don’t like car travel, but Squeaker is so laid-back, we figured that she’d be OK. Well, she’s not such a great traveller, we learned.

On the trip up, we take only back roads. State highways and some US highways–no interstates. We take our time and spend one night on Lake Greerson in Arkansas, the next somewhere near Cape Girardeau, Missouri. When we get into Cape Girardeau on day 3 of the trip, the fuel line seems to blow. We get the car towed into a shop pretty quickly, and it turns out that the fuel filter had been installed wrong, and the line just popped open. Easily remedied–we were back on our way quickly.

Up in Chicago, my dad is having some work done on the black bird, and it is taking longer than expected, so we decide at first to forget about it and drive home in the blue bird. Then on the 6th–which was to be our last day in town–the blue bird dies. First the automatic shifting starts acting really strange, and then after we stop, it just won’t start. Starter motor won’t even turn. Have it towed again to a nearby Ford dealer. They look it over and pronounce it almost too dangerous to drive, but they do manage to get it started. On my dad’s advice, I drive it home. It makes it OK, although the top gear won’t engage. At this point, we are feeling pretty dubious about driving the blue bird back to Texas, so we decide to wait until the black bird is ready, and just drive that instead. My dad offers to find some way to dispose of the blue bird for us.

Now our troubles really begin.

The black bird isn’t ready until the evening of the 7th, so we head out in darkness, taking the most direct interstate route we can. Despite the work done on it, it still has problems. The most obvious is a bad exhaust gasket, so the car is really loud. The handling is also amazingly bad, and occasionally, the front end starts rattling to the point where the car is almost uncontrollable.

Around St Louis, the headlights start going out intermittently. I discover I can bring them back on by tapping the brites on and off, but pretty soon this is a constant dance. We stop for the night just west of St Louis at a “Pear Tree Inn.”

The next morning, we drive to a nearby service station and have them put the car on the lift. He says our ball joints are worn out, which accounts for the rattling, but replacements are not readily available. I forget to even ask about the headlights. He shoots the ball joints full of grease to stabilize them and wishes us good luck. The grease does help, at least for a while.

Once we’ve made it most of the way across Missouri, almost to Joplin, the right-rear tire flats. This is not a big surprise-all the tires are antiques, and are pretty chewed up. What *is* a surprise is that my lug wrench doesn’t fit the lug nuts on this wheel. There is a small business near the road. I go in there, ask the proprietor for help, and he calls a nearby mechanic with a wrecker, Jim. Jim comes out with the correct lug wrench, and we change the tire. Of course the spare is flat, so we get that filled as quickly as possible, go to Jim’s shop, and put a new tire on the flatted wheel. He points out a nearby auto-parts store, and I get a new lug wrench.

And a good thing it is. Shortly after crossing into Oklahoma, the left-rear tire starts coming apart. It doesn’t flat, exactly, the treads just start coming off the carcass. So I change that. The heat was unbelievable–I later learned the high that day was 108°F. I wished I was dead. Squeaker is going insane in the heat, too. Mewling disconsolately, drooling horribly, refusing any of our cooling-off tricks, even refusing to drink water while in the car. Mind you, this is a black car without AC, and while driving, we were keeping the windows rolled most of the way up, lest Squeaker try to make a break for it.

We make it to Tulsa, spend the night at a cruddy Motel 6, have dinner nearby at a legitimate Mexican restaurant. Once stopped, the car overheats. The next morning, we go to a nearby Wal-Mart, and I have all the old tires changed out (and the coolant topped off). On the advice of a trucker, we decide to take US 75, which is more direct than the interstates. The new tires are a big improvement, but as soon as we get a little ways away from Tulsa, the front end starts rattling and knocking horribly. Jenny and I both think a bearing has seized. Jenny hitches a ride into the nearby town of Okmulgee, and lines up a tow. This takes about 2 hours. At the shop in Okmulgee, the mechanic can’t see anything really wrong with the bearings, so he just repacks them and the car seems OK.

We get on the road again, and now it sounds like the belts are loose–they’re squealing. At the next town, Atoka, I pull over and have a mechanic look at the belts, and fill up the tank. He says the belts are OK but dry, so he squirts some “belt dressing” on them. That seems to help. I later realize it was coolant dripping on them the day before that must have caused the squeal.

The road running through Atoka–US 75–is heavily used as an alternative to I-35, and is currently being widened, so traffic was at a crawl. The heat is still off the charts. All of this is bad for the car. By the time we reach the adjacent, even tinier town of Tushka, the car is blowing white smoke out the rear. A lot of it. A cop pulls us over almost immediately after the smoke starts pouring out and says “I can’t let you drive that like that–people can’t see through that smoke.” When I turn off the car, it knocks and rattles for about a minute, and gives a couple of lusty backfires. It is leaking oil from the back of the engine block, and then the gas tank starts leaking too, just for good measure. The cop thinks we’ve thrown a rod. But he is incredibly helpful–he pretty much puts himself at our disposal. He lines up a tow, and tries to arrange for us to get a rental car. It turns out no rental cars are to be had in Atoka. So we investigate Greyhound. There is a Greyhound station in town, and we catch the ancient, deaf, batty agent right before he pulls away. Then we learn we need to pay in cash–more than we’re carrying. So the cop ferries Jenny to an ATM. Then we learn that Greyhound does not allow pets on board, and at this point, we start feeling just a mite discouraged. It turns out that the cop has a bunch of cats, and he volunteers to take care of Squeaker until we can pick her up. This guy was a hero five times over.

At this point, we meet the wrecker driver back at the black bird. He thinks it isn’t a thrown rod, but a bad rear main gasket, which joins the engine block to the transmission. He gets the engine to start right up, but we all agree that the car is not fit to be driven to Austin.

Well, we caught the bus, made it home in one piece (although without our pet), somewhat poorer and wiser for the experience. A week later we drove back to retrieve Squeaker. About 6 weeks later, the Ford dealership called to say the car was ready. With great trepidation, we went up there to retrieve it, and when we arrived, the thing I had secretly been hoping to happen did happen: the dealership owner bought the car from me.

There goes the Triangle

The Triangle under the backhoe

A fight that has dragged on since 1997 has ended. The Triangle, a fallow 22-acre chunk of land bounded by Lamar, Guadalupe, and 45th, and owned by the State Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, is now under development.

This was a highly politicized issue in my neighborhood, and for a long time, I was active in the fight against yet another strip mall, plunked down right in my part of town. Eventually, because of pressure by community activists (most significantly, Sabrina Burmeister, but many others as well) organized as the Neighbors of Triangle Park, the state agreed to a less-awful plan. Developers and architects signed on to the project, then abandoned it. I lost track of its progress, and what would eventually be built there.

I guess I’ll find out now.

Table layout for non-tables

CSS is endless fun for the geek–it can be perverted in so many amusing ways. Take table layout, for example.

Back in the old days (you know, like 1998), HTML authors used table tags to lay out web pages. Gradually, a certain sub-community of web developers came to criticize this: HTML is meant to describe the page’s structure, not appearance, and tables were being used to lay out text matter, not tabular matter. “Save tables for, you know, spreadsheets.” they said. “Look, we’ve got this lovely thing called CSS that provides all kinds of layout flexibility.”

Many old-school web developers have been uncomfortable with this. Table tagging is familiar and predictable; CSS uses a completely different model for laying out the page. Or does it?

The fact is that CSS provides a complete set of tools for styling tables. It even lets you use tabular display tricks for text matter. So you can have your nice, semantically correct HTML, and in the CSS twist it to be displayed exactly as if you had marked it up with table tags.

Alamo double-header

Took in two oddball events at the Alamo this weekend.

On Saturday, we saw the “Show with No Name” show. This is actually a community access show (which I’ve never seen), but they saved their raunchiest, weirdest stuff for this screening, which included such lowlights as the Pamela/Tommy Lee sex tape, the Paris Hilton sex tape, and Chuck Barry pissing on his wife’s face. Plus lots of other scatalogical strangeness, capped off by a woman sending a profoundly bizarre come-on video to the object of her affection, Stevie Vai, featuring an astounding three-minute queef solo.

Saturday was a screening of Santo contra la invasión de los marcianos, presented in glorious Foleyvision [mpeg], that is, live voice-over and sound effects. The dialogue seemed to be a pretty straight translation of what (I’m guessing) the original Spanish must have been–they didn’t bother giving the movie the What’s Up, Tiger Lily? treatment, but it was funny enough on its own. After all–it’s a movie about a masked Mexican wrestler fending off a Martian invasion. What more could you want?

Size deflation

I bought a jacket yesterday.

In itself, that is hardly worthy of comment. But in the process of trying on jackets–and I tried on quite a few–I learned something that strikes me as strange. I am “small.” In fact, I am 5’9″ and about 155 lb, which is the average height for an American man, and a healthy weight for my height. One might think this would make me “medium,” and in the past, that was the size I would grab first. But yesterday, the only jackets that fit me were smalls. I tried on a few mediums that might as well have been tents.

Sizes go way up–all the places I looked had XXL jackets–but what about guys who really are small? There were no sizes smaller than “small.” There was no short-men’s section tucked away in the corner of Dillards (though there was a big-men’s section there). What do they do? Shop in the boys’ department, the way Prince does?

I think it’s widely known that women’s sizes have undergone a radical deflation over the years. I was vintage-shopping with my sister once, and remember her trying on a 30s-era dress that was size 14. Going by modern sizing, she’d wear a 4. It seems that, as Americans get bigger, something similar is happening with men’s clothing.