March 25, 2007

My Friday Commute

Riding on the subway on Friday I'm interrupted in my reading by a youngish woman preaching the gospel, which is annoying at the best of times but before 9am it's just inappropriate. Ignoring her as best I can, I continue reading.

Eventually she completes her religious discrimination couched as free speech and takes the empty seat next to me, pulling a book out of her bag. In the way that one does on a crowded subway, I glance over to see what she's reading as she opens her book, and naturally she does the same to me. She's reading the bible. I'm reading the autobiography of Ron Jeremy.

I've never been prouder of HarperCollins Publishers in my life...

March 18, 2007

Weekend in Astoria

I rest satisfied that I have completed a great weekend...

Despite starting with a robust to-do list and a highly scheduled 48 hours, I peruse with pleasure the high contrast black-to-white ratio of that beaten and submissive to-do list, and bask in a weekend well done.

Friday night, the gym and some video game playing. The latter wasn't on the to-do list (I don't often put "goof off" on the list, never really needing to be reminded to make that a part of my day) but that was a value-added bonus accomplishment of Friday night.

Saturday I spent a few hours with my grandparents up in the Bronx. I don't see them often enough, considering I live a mere 20 minutes away, and they are such terrific company. My grandmother is committed to mastering the computer and email, so I spent some time with her on the PC helping get her acclimated, and chatting with them both.

Saturday night I made dinner for an old friend of mine, Stephanie, who is a great friend and mentor from my days at Landmark. We haven't seen much of each other for the past few years, but occasionally we reach out and ensure we reconnect. She's newly single, and we had some fun conversations on that topic, as well as Landmark and others. Then we kissed...

I'm telling you, it's been that kind of month for Dan.

Sunday was spent in the gym in the A.M. I'm finally making some headway in my quest to regain some of my lost physical prowess. Once upon a time, for a brief shining moment back in 1987, I could twelve pull ups. Yup - this guy. twelve times. Last fall I couldn't even do one. As of today, I can do two. My quest is to reach ten again... Why two is so significant is because with pull ups, it's all about inertia. If you can do seven then getting to ten isn't a tremendous leap. But getting through the first three or four is huge, because it takes the most effort to get past the initial hurdle. The increments of the first five are much more significant than the second five, is my point here. And I did two, which is my mighty start. Marvel at the wonder that is Dan.

Basking in the glow of my up-pulling, this afternoon I spent an hour Skyping with the Austrian, who wants to figure out how we can have some kind of long distance relationship, and then this evening I went on a terrific first date with someone brand new. She might not yet know that it was a date, alas. It was terrific none-the-less, but it wasn't really couched as an obvious date, and despite it having all the trappings of a date (Dan is extraordinarily charming, solicitous, gracious, and witty company and he pays for everything, then drives you home) I wouldn't be surprised if in her world it was just two people spending time together.

She's someone I met through work on a business trip. She works at one of the companies I do business with, and in the sociable atmosphere of the Miami conference we crossed paths a few times. It came out that she loves ethnic foods, and Greek food in particular, and so I invited her to come to Astoria for a tour. It took a few weeks to make it happen, but today she took the train out and tour we did.

I put together a nice driving circuit of Astoria that included Little Egypt and a few of its grocery stores, and also the two finest, most Greek-oriented grocery stories on 31st street as well. She seemed to really enjoy these stops, and we had a lot of fun trying to decipher what things were, and how we might use them. Eventually we ended at my favorite Greek restaurant for dinner, and then I drove her back to Manhattan.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I had been hoping since Miami to parlay this pleasant afternoon of friendship into a date. I snuck in there under friendly circumstances, since I felt that it would be unwise to gamble on the date angle too abruptly. We barely knew one another, and I couldn't (or wouldn't, whatever) presume too much too soon. My hope was to get the friendly evening under our belt, and then if it all works nicely, I have some date-cred to work with.

Now I *really* hope I can make that happen. This woman is hot stuff. A very bright, engaging, audacious, and very attractive Asian woman (born in Hong Kong, raised in San Francisco) with whom I had no trouble keeping the conversation moving, and interesting. She jumped right into debates on religion and politics, literature, art, wherever it roamed. I liked her style, liked her substance, and left feeling like that she is a woman in full.

There's a whole lot about her I like, and so I plan to try again with a thoroughly sanctioned and official date soon. Assuming of course that she wants any part of that. It was hard to tell. She wasn't playing coy or anything, it was just, you know, hard to tell. One thing I've found is that when you're accustomed to dating actresses, non-actresses are often baffling in their subtlety.

March 12, 2007


Quick review of 300, which I had been looking forward to for over a month and went to see on Sunday.

After having been horribly scarred back in 1991 by Highlander 2 I have been careful not to let my expectations get too far out of hand when anticipating a new movie; sometimes my expectations are totally exceeded, but more often then not, disappointed! With 300, however - not disappointed at all.

I dug this movie, and it was well-worthy of my $10.50. Was it great, no - but it was a damn good man-movie. Solid acting, great visuals, great choreographed fight scenes. Some decent amounts of blood and gore, but nothing like your standard Tarantino movie, and because it's so stylized, not even particularly shocking. At its core 300 is a movie about men being men, and doing what men have done for ages: standing up for something, protecting our families and our way of life, fighting and dying for one another, and for honor and glory. I don't know of any guy who wouldn't be moved, at least a little bit, by this film. It's no Star Wars, it's no Godfather, Goodfellas, or Lord of the Rings, but it's up there.

Fair warning however, this is not a date movie. For men it's a nice palette-cleanser from all the girlie-relationship pablum that we get dragged to all our lives when, due to having to try and trick women into liking us and thinking we care about Jennifer Aniston, we get dragged (and pay!) to see things like The Breakup. I suspect 300 is not a movie that will speak to women so much; it's overwhelmingly man-oriented. Sara's response after it ended was pure bafflement. "Why did we need to see that?" she asked, perplexed. To which I sensitively responded "That's funny, that's exactly what I said after Steel Magnolias..." 300 is about men, for men, and maybe some women will dig it, but I wouldn't expect too many. Though who knows? There's at least one set of washboard man-abs in nearly every frame, so perhaps it has cross-gender appeal?

In the interest of balanced reporting, there's a lot that wasn't cool about this movie. You need a certain willingness to suspend your 21st century politically correct sensibilities if you're going to fully enjoy it. The few women portrayed in the movie all spend a certain amount of time naked, all the brown and black people are evil, and the chief bad guy is an emo-queen of the fairies, looking like he's just stepped out of a Chelsea men's room after a performance of Midsummer Night's Dream. They even take the opportunity to offend the physically challenged as a particularly distasteful character is a hideously grotesque hunchback. In the world of 300, unless you're a totally buff white guy, you're doomed.

Now, this has a certain amount of historical accuracy to it - if you weren't a buff white guy in 480 B.C. you were indeed in trouble. But that plays more awkwardly these days, and considering how fast and loose the movie plays with historical facts in other areas, you can't defend the choice that way. No, this movie is all about riling up a cowboy patriotism, whipping western men into a testosterone frenzy.

Which is all a part of the movie's master plan. 300, after successfully completing the offensive trifecta of women, people of color, and homosexuals, then zealously goes on to outdo itself with some nice ethnocentric culture-bias. The Greeks, progenitors of a heritage of democracy and reason to which we in the west all claim to be descendents, perform an Alamo-like last stand defending Greece (and the freedom it represents) from the marauding, invading Persians. You remember Persia, right? That was what everyone called Iran not too long ago. One particular line stands out, as the narrator describes the rational Greeks as "standing against the mysticism and tyranny of Persia." I'm not so jaded to say that this was intended to be pro-war propaganda, but it certainly shares a hell of a lot of qualities with pro-war propaganda... That's all I'm saying.

But blah blah blah. Nevertheless, I really dug this movie. As Adriaan said after her saw it, it's "definitely worth seeing twice." I'll likely go see it again at the IMAX in a week or so, to get the whole big-assed screen experience. If you can get over the pejorative characterizations, get over the blood and gore, and just get into manly men doing what they do best - killing stuff - you'll really enjoy it. It looks cool, a spectacular visual display, and well done overall.


Well, Sara and I are done. The relationship ended well, with us both laughing about how poorly we were doing as a couple. It was open and honest and light, and ended easily.

Back to being single. Which is just as well; when I look at my March (and April) I really don't have time... I know, you make time for what's a priority in your life, but as I've been told by several ex-girlfriends as they storm out, clearly being in a relationship isn't a priority for me.

Today I found out I was going on a cruise. For work. 3 days in May, at an HR Conference aboard a cruise sheep.

I'm serious..

March 10, 2007

The Danaissance continues...

If I do say so myself, I'm tearing things up...

Had a very long date with Sara last weekend. She’s such an interesting character, and she’s fun, but we’re so doomed. We were before, and we are again. And we both know it, and laugh about it. A couple of hours into our marathon 10 hour date last week, we came to a point in the conversation where, for like the sixth time in a row, we realized we had the complete opposite attitudes toward something pretty important. Everything from how I love big dogs and she hates dogs, to how she likes people who are needy and I am not a needy person (and she’s a needy person, and I don’t like needy people), with a number of major and minor issues in between.

After a pause, she just said flatly what I was thinking: we have absolutely nothing in common, this can’t possibly work. To which I started laughing and said “Yup. We’re doomed.” We then spent about a half hour trying to come up with a list of things we agreed upon. It was tough. We came up with only a few, and they were the sorts of things most people would agree on. We tried to get specific, but weren’t able to – so we ended with things like “we both like watching TV" and "we both like pistachio ice cream.” Doomed, I tells ya.

We have another date this Sunday, though lord knows why. Just a few weeks ago I said I’d rather be single than in a doomed relationship, but there’s something oddly fun about it when both of you know it’s doomed; I consider it a happy nihilism – since we’re completely doomed, we may as well enjoy the ride.

While I'm dating Sara I've also been flirting up a storm. You all read about the lady in the green coat, who due to issues with scheduling I haven't had a date with yet, but we email and text a lot, and are having fun chatting on the phone. She's an actress, which totally contravenes my very wise "no more actresses" rule, which was instituted following the collapse of my relationship with Becca, but Katie's so damn cute how can I not? Here's her headshot...

Also last week I had three dates with an Austrian woman I know, who was visiting New York on business. She and I had emailed a few times after having e-met on (think "MySpace" for Jews) and a few weeks back I got a "hey, I'm coming to New York, take me salsa dancing" email from her. Now, those of you who know me, know that I am not the least bit afraid of dancing. But salsa? Who the hell dances salsa? So off I go to learn some salsa. But not just any salsa, you gotta learn Cuban style, and not New York style.... but I said fuck that, and went to dance manhattan and took a crash course. Four hours of salsa dancing, and I can honestly say that it made very little difference... my feet are still in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Except now I have a sore ass too - fyi, salsa apparently works your fatimus assimus muscles pretty well.

When the time came, I did my best, really I did. We tried to salsa, but I just wasn't capable at all. What can I say, I've been swing dancing for 17 years, and they aren't interchangeable... So I came up with a hybrid kinda thing; I adapted my 8 count swing to the 8 count salsa steps - badly - and was able to get her on the dance floor a bit. But not very well... Thankfully, there was another room in the club playing current pop, and we were able to dance in there. Here's the Austrian taking a picture of herself with her camera phone...

In addition to the dancing, we also went to a Purim party and spent some time at the Austrian Cultural Center, and spent many a late night on the town. She flew home Thursday night, and I have no idea when we'll see one another again. But it was a whirlwind week of dating and I'm exhausted.

And as if that wasn't enough, while all that is going on there's another lady who may just be messing with my head, but if so, she's doing a great job -- cause she's gorgeous, 23, and she seems to want me to ask her out. Perhaps it's just wishful thinking, I'll let you know.

In other news, after a fight with my landlord this past month over whether my right to have heat trumps his right to not give a crap about whether I have heat, I’ve gone and got me one o’ them fancy pre-approvals for a mortgage and plan to start looking for my own place. I don't know where, nor even what sort of home I'd be looking for, but I'm gonna start looking. On one hand, a house would be nice but I’d need to live like 2 hours away to find one I could afford, and since I’m one person do I really need a whole house, while on the other hand a condo in the city would be nice too, but do I really want one of those either? Without much of an attachment to any of it, I shall shortly embark on a look-see to determine what’s out there. Perhaps I’ll get lucky and catch someone about to default on the ARM they foolishly agreed to three years ago…

The winter season is nearly over, and my thoughts are turning to golf. Spending this month taking lessons and learning to play, because I hope to have a nice week of sun and fun the end of April. I'm looking forward to it, as it will be my first non-skiing vacation in years, and my first "someplace hot" vacation in even longer.

Over time, I'm slowly starting to grasp that it's not merely that December, January, February, and March were unusually busy, but that my life is radically different now. That my doing things, dating women, taking classes, staying out late, that all of that is now what my life looks like. And that a night home, like tonight, is the aberration and no longer the norm. I've canceled netflix even, cause who has time to watch movies? I mean, unless you're on a date. Who has time to watch movies that aren't date-related?

March 03, 2007

/Rant on Airline Travel

Back in NYC, after another day of flying. I had gone nearly four years without a flight, and I’ve had three round trips in the past 12 weeks. I must say, fair warning, that those of you who don’t yet grasp how to prepare for the security checkpoint, please get a handle on that someplace other than AT THE SECURITY CHECKPOINT.

Dan’s quick tips for flying in a post-9/11, pre-Mission Accomplished world:

How to deal with the security checkpoint.

1. Before you leave, plan your travel outfit. Since your shoes will be coming off while you’re on line with your luggage, shoes that slip on and off easily are recommended. Conversely, big fricking ugly boots - either for men or women - do nothing but illustrate how you have the strategic thinking abilities of a Labrador Retriever puppy.

2. You’ll be going through a metal detector, and as a general rule, those cranky machines prefer it when they don’t detect any metal. Don’t wear clothing that has crazy studs, rings, loops, or full +5 plate mail. Your leather jacket with studs will set the machine off. Staring blankly at the TSA agent, and then saying "but it's only a leather jacket" isn't as clever a response to the metal detector going off as you might think.

3. While you’re still minutes from the metal detector, put any metal (keys, coins, blackberrys, ipods, watches, pens) into your bag or coat. Take off your shoes. Pull your laptop out of your carry-on bag. All this can be done before you get to the bins, so that you can avoid both delaying the entire line, and also the spitting and cursing that I will lower upon you and your house for generations to come because you’re too selfish to get your act together two minutes in advance. We’re all in this together people, and you saving yourself two minutes of carrying you shoes means a two minute delay for an entire line of 100 people. Hands up who sucks when that happens – now look around, yes, it's you.

4. Two bins – one for bag and coat and shoes, one for laptop alone. Please ensure they are actually on the conveyor belt. I love the dumbfucks—I mean customers who just leave their crap on the table, expecting that somehow, magically, their things will appear on the on the side of the x-ray machine. Has that ever happened to you before? Are you aware of other instances when the laws of basic physics were suddenly suspended? If you put something down over here, it won’t suddenly disappear and reappear over there. If that were possible, well we wouldn’t need the airplane then, would we Baby Einstein? Here's an idea - stop, look around, and get a sense of how the world around you is operating. You don't need to be a frequent flyer to grasp how a conveyor belt works. If you've been to a supermarket in the past 35 years, you've likely been exposed to the technology in action.

5. Once through the metal detector, get your crap, and MOVE. Standing at the metal detector while you re-dress yourself, though charming in its total disregard for other people on the planet is actually annoying as hell. If we crash in the Andes, I’m totally eating your self-centered ass first, you selfish fuck.

Finally, a note to airlines: if you would like us not to be upset at your delays and exorbitant prices for water and food which we have no choice but to pay since you ban outside water and no longer serve meals on your flights, at least you can wire the fucking terminal up for electricity. 200 people waiting for a delayed flight, with a sum total of two power outlets. Nice move. Welcome to the 21st century, we’ve only been traveling with laptops for 10+ years, nice to know you’re on top of things there. I won’t even mention wireless Internet, except to say that you should give us free wireless Internet you cheap bastards.

The first airline to have power available at the seats both in the terminals and on the plane and some free wireless Internet is the airline I will happily patronize. But that would be, you know, obvious and would demonstrate a certain amount of paying attention to the world changing around you. God forbid anyone in authority at the airlines did that; they're all too busy crying to the Federal government that they need a bailout because for some reason fewer people are flying.

/Rant off

March 02, 2007

Live Blogging LA

A few weeks ago I was the person who flew into Miami the day after the Superbowl, and this week I was the guy who flew to LA the day after the Oscars. Although I could have come in earlier and gone to a studio Oscar party, truthfully, if it aint William Shatner or Julie Andrews, I’m just not that impressed with celebs. Though the trip wasn’t entirely celeb-free; Danny Glover was at the hotel bar Thursday night, looking as leathery as ever.

This has been a terrific, fun, and busy week. For months my coworkers and I have been planning for and working towards a very large conference of all the top HR folks in our organization, and this was the week of glory and passion. It was been hectic, but most importantly a raging success. Several people commented that these were the best, most productive HR days they’ve seen since they joined the company, and while I only had a small part to play in all that, I have a very large part in making things happen going forward. Decisions were made, strategies hatched, actions planned, and since I’m the nuts and bolts make-things-happen guy, now that we know what we want to create, I’m on.

If I haven’t said recently how much I love my job, then please note for the record… There’s a phenomenal window of opportunity for positive change in our company just now, we’ve got the support from the top – and I mean the very top, as the man himself opened up our three day conference – and it’s clear that it’s our time to shine. The sense of opportunity and possibility is palpable, the cooperation and attitude is amazing. We’ve adopted the mantra “of course we can” which is such a charming and exciting change of pace for HR, which still labors under the the old perception of being either a soft, touchy-feely and shallow department, or the other extreme – a cold, record-keeping personnel department. Yet we’re looking at changing the very core of the way the business relates to its employees, the way the various businesses interact with each other and with the corporate office. I know it’s hyperbole, but truly, it’s revolutionary for us. I love being here, at this time, with the role I’m in.

I’ve been keeping myself somewhat low key for the past few months, watching, learning, avoiding putting my foot into my mouth, and not wanting to be too presumptuous, but mostly learning from my coworkers the lay of the land. This week I made a point of not being too showy, too mouthy, and too confrontational… which was hard for me, because there was a French person there. Yet I was cool, and learned what I could from whoever was around. Decisions needed to be made that I had little stake in, and nothing significant to add that wasn’t general and ambiguous. Coming out of the conference, however, we now move into the tactics and away from the strategic thinking, and that’s when the fun for me begins.

And for the record, perhaps I’m just drinking the Kool-Aid, but each interaction I have with the Chairman himself leaves me with more and more respect for him. Case in point – during a break in our program, he was out drinking coffee with everyone else, totally accessible, standing around, chatting. Then early the next morning I’m walking by the main office building on the lot, and I see a car pull into the spot right in front of the door. Sure enough, there he is getting out of the car – drives himself to the office. And early too, it was just after 7. A hearty good morning was met with one in response, and off we go to work. I’m a fan.