nyc recap pt 3

I’m back in Dallas. A quick recap of my vacation’s end:
– Took the train down to Philadelphia to see Fiona. Had a cheesesteak, walked around the old city, saw the Liberty Bell, and roamed around Independence Hall.
– Rented a car and started the trek across Pennsylvania. Started out with the admirable idea of taking the back roads (the Lincoln Highway). Quickly abandoned that idea after realizing it’d add three or four hours to my drive. (Quaint’s nice, but speed‘s nicer.)
Making it all the way to Pittsburgh seemed like too long of a drive, so I randomly picked out a point on the turnpike map to stay for the night. I picked Breezewood.
Notice to future Pennsylvania Turnpike travellers: Don’t pick Breezewood. Only later did I learn that the town’s nickname is (literally) “The Town of Motels.” What a pit. When I pulled into my overpriced Best Western, I asked the woman behind the counter: “So, what is there to do fun in Breezewood?”
She laughed at me. She didn’t even follow it up with a “Not much” or a “It’s pretty quiet around here.” She just laughed and kept silent.
I asked where the nearest movie theater was. 45 miles away, she said. Well, at least I can catch HBO, right? Nope — they were having cable trouble. Perhaps I could check my email. Oops, there aren’t any local dial-up numbers for any ISP, and long distance calls are $2 a minute.
Plus, the waitress at the Denny’s (“the best place in town,” said the hotel clerk) was really rude when I ordered the Moons Over My Hammy.
– Got back on the turnpike as soon as possible and headed for Pittsburgh. Now, I’m a fan of western Pennsylvania — it’s a lovely stretch of land. But I wasn’t prepared for how nice Pittsburgh is. Liveable indeed! Spent a lovely day with my friend Nancy and her family and friends.
– Headed back on the road the next morning, bound for Columbus and the final stop of the Listening Tour. Spent a wonderfully calm weekend with Kelly. Perhaps too calm for Kelly’s liking — I was pretty sedate at times. (She rightfully complained that she’s always the last stop on these east-to-west journeys I occasionally take, leaving me a little beat down by the time I arrive on her doorstep. Next time I’ll go west to east.) Watched a few movies, had some fine meals, and finished up the trip by missing my flight back yesterday and getting home three hours later than expected.
One final Columbus note: the local CBS affiliate has a campaign called Commit To Be Fit which encourages Columbusites to exercise and eat healthful foods. The only problem: The campaign is sponsored by Donato’s Pizzeria. The campaign has a TV commercial in which the station’s news anchors sit in a park and talk about how important fitness is — then suggests celebrating your new fit lifestyle by having a whole Donato’s pie! Something of a mixed message there.
Anyway, a big thank you to all of you who provided couch space, meal companionship, or just general happiness during the Northern Tier Listening Tour 2004. It’s much appreciated.
Two random notes:
– I’ll be speaking to the monthly meeting of the Evening Exchange Club of Greater Dallas Thursday night. Whatever that is. Anyway, should this site’s readership and the Exchange Club’s membership overlap, Venn diagram-style, come by and say hello.
– It appears I will be in Louisville, Kentucky, for work on September 10-12. I know no one in Louisville, Kentucky. If you are a resident of Louisville, Kentucky, or perhaps the region surrounding Louisville, Kentucky, and would like to have a beer when I am in Louisville, Kentucky, drop me a line.

nyc recap pt 2

A few items before another day of museum-roaming:
– This humble blog (and that last post) were both mentioned in the blog of D Magazine, the Dallas city magazine, yesterday. Sez blogger/editor Tim Rogers: “Benton can type a whole lot better than you’d ever guess from reading his byline in the News. Some newspapers — the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Enquirer [sic] — actually let their reporters write. The News doesn’t. And the city is poorer for it.”
I suppose I’m flattered by the thought that vicious DMN editors are actively suppressing the public good whenever they touch my stories. (Actually, that line could come in handy during future editing battles: “Oh, sure, you could cut those five paragraphs about child development theory from my story. But the city would be poorer for it.“)
Then again, the other way of looking at it is: “Josh, your DMN stories are crap.” I prefer not to look at it that way.
Tim enumerates two interesting things about this blog in his post. I’ll offer up a third: It is, as far as I know, the only local blog to have one of its posts turned into a D Magazine piece! This post from May 2003, about Dallas’ own, became a D item, as detailed here. (The D story has since fallen off their website.)
– The CD Mix of the Month Club reunion was awesome. The bar was nice and the turnout was terrific — about 30 people, swapping CDs and swapping stories. (Alas, no swapping of spit. I had this dream of bringing CDMOMers together in sexual congress so that they might produce a new race of Super Mix Makers. Maybe next time.) It was terrifically nice to see all these people whom I’ve known for the last several years only through their email addresses. And it made me feel good about the hundreds of hours I spent folding liner notes, addressing labels, and stuffing envelopes.
There’s also talk about the NYC mix traders going on without me. While I find that vaguely disempowering, I’ll pass along information as I learn it.
– Went to the American Museum of Natural History yesterday. In the Asian cultures section, the museum has assembled little dioramas showing what various Asian cities might have looked like at various historical points of time — Ur in 1200 B.C., Bombay in 1700, that sort of thing. One of the displays was of Samarkand, the now-Uzbek city. It looked like a typical diorama, except for one item suspended from the diorama’s ceiling: a man in a turban on a flying carpet.
A flying carpet. This image of a real city at a real, historical point in time has a man on a flying carpet. Is this a museum or Ripley’s Believe It Or Not?
– Finally, the best reunion story of the week involves my friend Renya. See, back in 1990, the 10th-grade version of me fooled a few people into thinking he could speak French. As a result, I was chosen as one of the three Louisiana judges for Le Carrousel international du film de Rimouski, a French-language children’s film festival in Rimouski, Quebec. Renya was one of the Vermont judges. We got along, but when the festival ended, we parted ways.
Fourteen years later, a random Googling led to our reunion last night. After dinner at a French restaurant (appropriate), we headed to a film festival, where we saw a short film starring some of the people she works with. Let me tell you: Ethel Greenbaum is an actor on the move. Don’t be surprised to see her at the Oscars next spring. (Trailer here.)

nyc recap pt 1

Having a lovely time in NYC. The lovely and talented and sooperdooper people I’ve seen so far, in rough chronological order: Molly W., mentioned in that last post; Molly H-F., fellow former Pew Fellow, blogger abroad, lover of saag paneer, and all-around kick-ass gal; Tom, my old college roommate and one of the few people to successfully make the “Hollywood agent” to “semiconductor analyst” transition; Bob, my other college roommate and the only friend I have whose collected childhood chess games are available for sale on Amazon; Ken, another college buddy who I got to write a newbie’s guide to IRC back in 1995; and Jon, majordomo of Scwabble, to my knowledge the only online source for individual replacement Scrabble tiles.
And that’s not even counting the 30 people who showed up for the CD Mix of the Month reunion last night. Such lovely people! More on them later.

molly w in the nyt

Remember Molly? That supercool Yalie whose visit to HQ was recorded in this space back in 2002? The one who wrote a column all about me in our old college newspaper, thus earning me chuckles and yogurt-based guffaws from many of my fellow alums?
Well, I was lucky enough to spend Friday afternoon hanging around with her in New York. But the big news is her writeup in today’s New York Times. “An uncommonly self-reflective young woman” “on whom little now is lost,” who has produced “one of the more uplifting documents I’ve read in a long time”? It’s star time!

another moses story, in nyc, cdmom reunion

Here’s my story from today’s paper, on why urban superintendents seem to burn out so quickly.
I’m in New York City, on vacation, gazing out over the treetops of Central Park. Life is good.
ATTENTION NEW YORK READERS: The CD Mix of the Month Club will have its first NYC reunion Monday evening at The Magician, 118 Rivington St. (Lower East Side, map here.) All readers are invited. If you want to play, make a mix CD and bring a copy (or 12) to the bar — we’ll be swappin’ like sexually liberated ’70s suburbanites. If you just want to come say hello, that’s great, too. I’ll be getting there a little after 6:00 p.m — most folks are showing up around 7 or 8. Hope to see you there.

listening tour 04 update Northern Tier Listening Tour 2004 update: That most evil of human inventions (the limited vacation schedule) has forced me to sever three fine American cities from my trip itinerary: Boston, Washington, and (most painfully) Toledo.
(You know, not many people could recite that list and call Toledo the most painful omission truthfully. But I can!)
So the tentative schedule: New York City (and environs, with potential side jaunts to Connecticut, New Jersey, and upstate) from Friday, July 16 to Wednesday, July 21. Philadelphia on Thursday, July 22. Pittsburgh on Friday, July 23. Columbus on Saturday, July 24 to Sunday, July 25. Departure from Columbus early July 26.
Bonus announcement: Attention New York City readers! There will be a CD Mix of the Month Club reunion sometime early next week! More details to come. Get in touch with me if you’re interested in swapping some mix CDs with a few dozen of New York’s finest young people.

mountain goats fake interview

John Darnielle, the man behind the Mountain Goats, does a great fake interview with black metal band Kult ov Azazel. (Whoever the hell they are. John, whose own music is a sort of twisted autistic folk, has always shown a strange affection for the darkest of metal.)
Disclaimer: the interview that follows never took place. We do not doubt that an actual interview with Kult ov Azazel would go pretty much the way all black metal interviews go: interviewer asks a question that indicates he’s part of the 1337 BM h0rdez [“Your sound recalls the early Spear of Longinus demos, but in a more necro and ultimately progressive way. Was this your intention?”], band goes directly into the script, remaining in character and, after the manner of a politician, on-message [“Yes. We felt that whereas others have shown the way and we must give them hails as brave warriors along the path to total war, yet must we carve our own grim visages into the stones at road’s end, as it were. Our second demo continued in this ripped vein,” etc], interviewer asks follow-ups whose main purpose is to assert that he has in fact managed to construe some sense out of what is essentially swords-and-sorcery gobbledegook [“Certainly. But don’t you think that what’s happened with the commercialization of pro-nationalist black metal has eliminated the weak, leaving a cleaner field for the few remaining, the discerning listeners?”], rinse lather repeat.
By the way, it’s pronounced “darr-neel,” not “darr-nell,” as we learn about 5:40 into this KEXP in-studio. The tone gets a little icy with Stevie Zoom, who clearly doesn’t like being corrected.
Bonus trivia: John’s wife Lalitree keeps both a LiveJournal and a blog.

zambia story runs

Here’s my Zambia story. It looks nice in the paper, too. There’ll be another Zambia story in next Sunday’s paper — less pathos but more information in that one.
My only objection: the headline (“Joshua Benton: Where the only growth industry is death”) makes it sound like that’s my personal slogan. “Ah, Josh Benton — death is the only growth industry with that guy!”