Friday, December 31, 2004

Farewell, 2004!

After a brief intermission, we will resume with the second half of this nameless decade. : - ) I spent 2004's last two days shooting over the Mexican border and back, to spend a night in Puerto Peñasco (called Rocky Point in English although 'Rock Cliff Port' would probably translate it better). We stayed in a palace of wind-swept multi-colored fake adobe (pictured left) known as Plaza Las Glorias. We shopped at a Mexican pharmacy, one of about 200 serving the Arizonan seaside vacationers who are the reason for this isolated town's existence. There is no other civilization for 100 miles around - this is, basically, Arizona's southern shoreline, priced in dollars, and served up with a margarita and a smiley 'si, señor'...

Happiest New Year's Wishes to those who choose to read my blog. This means a lot to me - I share here my creative side, an essential part of the Aaron Experience. : - )

Tomorrow, I will post the movies, music, and other things that brought me the most happiness in 2004. For now, I'm off to cook my family a New Year's Eve banquet dinner featuring shrimp I imported today from Mexico. The menu: Shrimp w Mushrooms and Paprika Sauce, Sesame Chicken, Rice Pilaf, Salade a la Aaron. Have a great night!

Love, Aaron

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Relax, Don't Think About...
...The Way I Treat You... Part 2

Secrets Revealed, For You: At times it seems easier to visit the North Pole (pictured left) than to actually reach a human being when you need customer service! Today's Times sheds light on our plight in their Circuits section's lead article. Goodies include Amazon.com's elusive service number (800-201-7575), surprisingly simple tricks (some systems react only when you hit zero multiple times), and more complicated ones (looking up domain info at whois.com). Note there is a government website corporate index (pueblo.gsa.gov/crh/corpormain.shtml)that reveals many customer service numbers. Heck, I love to win a losing battle.

Today I'm off again, this time with my Mom, for an overnight trip across the Mexican border to Puerto Peñasco, aka Rocky Point. Later, gator..

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Just got back from two days at the Grand Canyon and points north with my nephew Danny. Highlights included an impressive helicopter ride over the canyon's ten mile width and multi-colored rivers. Imagine the Canyon as cascading U, V, and Y shapes in stripes of red and orange and brown in all their imaginable shades. For thirty minutes we floated above the tree tops and hovered around the colorful edges of ridges. I took pictures aplenty, and will share the same with you, my adoring public, upon return to home base next Monday January 3, 2005 (!). Much more to tell later. Best, Aaron

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Greetings from Uncle Aaron's and Danny's Grand Canyon Adventure. It's midnight, and we have arrived! Meet The Fockers was hilarious - more on that later. Nitey-nite!

Happy Birthday, Paul. Que tu inocencia te valga!

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Monday, December 27, 2004

Relax, Don't Think About...
...The Way I Treat You...

Last night Mom and I watched 'Alfie', the 1966 classic that jolted pop culture with its unflinching look at the days and nights of a beautiful but ugly womanizer, and put Michael Caine on the map as the title character. Modernist and episodic, Caine often addresses the audience, a mix of tour guide through, and defense attorney of, his caddish existence, the consequences of which are often stark and grim. In Alfie-speak women are 'birds' and they are often referred to by the pronoun 'it.' Caine is both abrasive and charming in this star-turn, and his stunning looks and (authentic) cockney accent will surprise those, like me, who are more acquainted with Caine's older and wiser work since the 1980s (check out 'Educating Rita' sometime, or 'Hannah and Her Sisters,' or 'Cider House Rules). Finally, Alfie is definitely a period piece, on the eve of the sexual revolution: ten years later, many of these women wouldn't put up with Alfie, and increased promiscuity would make sex easier to come by without deceit. As for the Spanish-language poster above, it lengthens the title to 'Alfie: The Irresistible Seducer' (echoing their lengthening of 'Rebecca: An Unforgettable Woman'), and adds the tag line 'inside every man there's an Alfie,' which certainly sounds more 60s Latin than 60s Anglo...

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Sunday, December 26, 2004

Fast Times At Jesus High

On the first day of Christmas I watched some DVDs... "Saved!" is a enjoyable, sugar-coated satire of high-school life in a Jesus-saturated environment. The cast is marvelous, deftly led by Jona Malone as a sweet kid who winds up pregnant after trying to 'save' her boyfriend, who's just realized he's gay. Her awakening leads her to question her heretofore black-and-white world and to befriend the town's cigarette-smoking rebel Jewess. "Saved!" somehow manages to poke fun at its characters while still caring about them. Just about everyone is well-intentioned, except Mandy Moore, who sends up her goody-two-shoes teen-idol image by playing the hypocritical and grating popular girl who seems to use Jesus and charity as a subterfuge to vent her teenage vanity and spite. MacCaulay Culkin, btw, does a wicked turn as Moore's sardonic, wheelchair-bound brother. Lots of boy eye-candy, and a real Xmas treat.

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Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Xmas, One and All... I'm off to open presents at 10:30am sharp, lest my nephew have kittens. : - ) Later, a Xmas open house hosted by Jennifer, the childhood friend of my sister's who talked her into moving here to begin with.

More later, including my visit to Golfland and some book reviews...

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Friday, December 24, 2004

Goodbye, Señor Carbohidrato...

Hi again from Saguaro cactus land! Slept 12 hours last night. My sister's babysitting a very annoying dog with a wet and active tongue. Yuck. We dined at "Mi Amigo," a local Mexican joint that's very carbophobe-friendly: you can order tacos with lettuce leaves instead of a tortilla shell, and you can substitute grilled vegetables in chipotle for rice and beans (which I did and was delicious). Danny liked the hip-hop CDs I made him. I bought 40 of the year's most popular r&b/rap songs online through Rhapsody at 79 cents a song and stayed up until 1am Wednesday night putting it together for him. More later. xo Aaron

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Just arrived in Arizona. I listened to Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' on the way for 6 hours. It's so wooden, telegraphic, and in love with its own theories. Characters act like concepts rather than real human beings. More on this later.

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Missed another blog day! Time is just flying by as I do my last frantic errands before taking off to Arizona for 12 days. Last night (Tuesday) saw the movie "Sideways," which I thought was masterful. Full report coming shortly.

Here's some cartoons:

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Darker Sugar

Thomas' blog features a my picture today, taken during our wonderful gallery hop on Saturday morning.

"A Very Long Engagement," seen last night w Bart & Ashley, is a visual stunner. Sugary at times, but much darker than Amelie. Unlike that cinematic candy cane, this is a mystery and your mind is working putting the pieces of the puzzle together. It concerns lovers separated by World War I, and five soldiers sentenced to death for trying to escape the army by mutilating their hands. Audrey Tatou plays a farm girl hoping against hope and reason that her boyfriend actally survived this death sentence. The cinematography is amazing. Director Jeunet (pictured with Tautou, left) creates two immense and overpowering landscapes: one is the hell of war, in relentless grimy grey mud, and the other consists of bucolic country landscapes flushed with color.
Highly recommended.

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Wow, I actually missed two blog days in one week! I guess I do need a vacation. It's been bitterly cold here in NY, today was a slight respite.

I saw two great movies yesterday: Kill Bill, Volume 2 on DVD, and A Very Long Engagement with Bart & Ashley (for Bart's birthday!) last night at the Paris Theatre on 58th and 5th, near the Plaza, where we had a drink. Full review later today, I promise!

This movie poster just tickled my fancy, that's all. I've learned a lot about Black Mamba snakes, of late, for some reason.

Hope you're surviving the holiday season, all. xo Aaron

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Sunday, December 19, 2004

At Erik's, With All That Implies

Hey there! In Boston at Erik's. having a lovely time, listening to Danish Xmas choral music on Erik's stereo. Sure beat the hell out of Elvis. At left, an artsy view of Bunker Hill Bridge. More later, I'll be back in NY tomorrow.

Sibling Rivalry is an interesting concept restaurant in Erik's neighborhood. Dueling chef brothers offer competing menu suggestions in every category. We, however, ate at Laurel's, which was intimate and gourmet, and served the best 5% of a home-made ice-cream sandwich I've ever tasted.

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Friday, December 17, 2004

Story of my Life: : - )

More Story of my Life:

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

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The Original Log Cabin Republican?

Was Abe Lincoln a fellow gay American? C.A. Tripp's new book, discussed in today's NYT, makes an interesting case. Joshua Speed, the gentleman pictured left, shared Lincoln's bed for an astonishing four years. David Derickson, captain of Lincoln's bodyguards, shared his bed whenever Mrs. Lincoln was away, and "even wore the President's nightshirts." Billy Green, another Lincoln bed companion, said that the 16th President's thighs were "as perfect as a human being could be." Mrs. Lincoln was known to be unstable and insecure, and Abe was never particularly close to her or any other woman. Of course, the world 'homosexual' didn't exist in English until the 1890s, so I'm not quite sure what Honest Abe thought he was. Can't wait for the audiobook.

I am major ill today, I woke up and returned yesterday's dinner and lunch. Am staying home in bed, where I belong, despite much to do at the office ahead of my two week holiday absence...

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

To Those About To Read, I Salute You

Wow, you really are reading me, out there! I got quite a few comments on my travel statistics. That sure makes me feel good!

I'm rushing to complete final projects. I've decided to drive up to Boston this weekend, more on that later - my Aunt Lorraine is turning 74, and I haven't seen her or my cousins in a while. I love to drive!

I once again single-handedly dis-assembled and re-assembled my computer to replace yet another faulty drive.

Have you been missing the cartoons? Me, too! So here are a few to enjoy:

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Mother and Child (Country) Reunion

Two of my friends were in Portugal and Brazil last week, an interesting synchronicity. Thomas' Portugal pictures, on his site now, are spectacular, my favorite of which is Oporto, the storybook-like source of Port wine. And David, in Brazil, managed to catch a wide view of clouds threatening Rio's Copacabana beach... (I've just approximated the two countries' national colors)

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Monday, December 13, 2004

That's 35 Countries I've Been To...

Botswana's Miss Marple? I just began, on audiobook, "The #1 Ladies' Detective Agency," the first in the beloved series starring the eminently sensible and delightfully cunning Precious Ramotswe's exploits in Gaborone, Botswana. One chapter down, it sounds promissing.

Correction: That's 35 countries I've been to now that I've spent an evening in Ireland, not 34.

These countries, for anyone who cares, are as follows, with the # of visits in parentheses: Argentina (14), Austria (1), Belgium (4), Brazil (18), Cambodia (1), Canada (6), Chile (4), China (1), Colombia (1), France (11), Germany (4), Holland (5), Iceland (1), India (2), India (2), Indonesia (3), Ireland (1), Israel (1), Italy (4), Kenya (1), Mexico (17), Morocco (2), Nepal (1), Norway (1), Paraguay (1), Peru (2), Russia (1), Singapore (1), Spain (2), Sweden (1), Switzerland (5), Thailand (1), Turkey (1), UK (9), Uruguay (3), and Venezuela (1). This does not include three countries where I have only seen the airport: Ecuador, Panama, and Japan.

Now, for a masterful geek trivia touch: I have been to countries beginning with 16 different letters: A B C F G H I K M N P R S T U V W. The 10 letters I have not encountered are : D E J L O Q X Y Z. I hope one day to see Denmark, Egypt, Japan and Jamaica, Luxembourg, and Zimbabwe. Less likely are Oman, Qatar, Yemen. There are no countries beginning with X or W, though there are four territories beginning with W: West Bank, Wake Island, Wallis and Fortuna, and Western Sahara, controlled by Israel, the US, France, and Morocco respectively...

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Sunday, December 12, 2004

Arms Of Morpheus

Just got home, 9pm New York time and 2am London time. It was the best of trips, it was the worst of trips... : - ) Just kidding, it was mostly good. Really nice to see Doug. Explored London and finally, on my 9th visit, saw the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels. Now, it's time to "morph" into "Sleeping Aaron."

But I'm back, for a while, until Thurs Dec 23 when I head out to my family in Arizona.

My Mom's computer is broken, so I don't know if anyone is reading this at all. : - )

Finished a great audiobook today, "Life of Pi." More on that later. Nitey nite, Aaron

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Friday, December 10, 2004

Jolly Old Jet Lag

Slept 6.5 hours last night, which is 8% more than Wednesday night and 116% more than Tuesday night. It's been wall to wall meetings, and they've been tough. We had a breakfast meeting screw-up this morning, since they assumed I was staying at a hotel on the other side of town. When you assume, you make... : - )

I'm staying at the Thistle Tower Hotel, right across the Thames River from the famed Tower Of London and the ornate and stately bridge that leads there. My miniscule room redeems itself with a view of the river and Tower. I've never seen the Tower, and that will surely be on this weekend's agenda. Tonight, or 5 meetings from now, I'm meeting Doug for dinner and later, a party. All I need is several lattes to get through today.

It's been a tough trip, but I was smart to make it. I now have the blueprint, at least, of a 2005 game plan. Cheery-O, Aaron

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Dinner In Dublin

My evening in Ireland was nicer than expected. Dublin, pictured left, is a lovely old city with narrow streets and historic buildings. Very laid back. And all decked out for Xmas. Our 'Irish' customer, actually an Argentine expatriate, had a mishap with our dinner reservation, at a very upscale restaurant with a very antiquated reservation system (an oversized, messy ledger book). Forced to dine elsewhere, we lucked into La Stampa, a huge but oddly cozy room with red walls, mirrors, paintings, and a high tin ceiling. Taxi drivers were very forthcoming with historical and cultural background. Locals, it seems, are fond of shopping expeditions to Northern Ireland, just 60 miles away and with lower sales taxes. Both Ireland and the UK are expensive with the euro at $1.35 and the pound at $2. Slept six hours last night, double what I slept the previous night. Finished Da Vinci Code despite loses the last two of 13 CDs of audiobook: I simply bought the paperback this morning and finished it on the plane back. Very satisfying and surprising ending. More later. Hopefully, I'll get an early and long night's sleep. Best, Aaron

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Hop Across The Pond

Hey there. Arrived in London safe & sound, if a bit sleepy. Went straight to the office, where I used the bank's shower facilities and made myself presentable before joining my colleagues. And before that, a Starbucks 'skinny wet latte' across the street for £2.80 ($5.40). Pictured left: London's newest landmark, the pickle-like "gherkin" buidling in The City, London's equivalent of Wall St. My hotel's around here, too, but I don't check in until tomorrow. Tonight, flying to Ireland for dinner, back tomorrow early. Btw, I'll be on vacation from next Wednesday, Dec 15, until Monday, Jan 3. From Dec 15-22 I'll hang out in NY, relax, and enjoy the city. From Dec 23-Jan 3 I'll be out in Arizona with my family. Hope you're all well. I'll be checking my email (aaronetto@aol.com) regularly. Best, Aaron.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

My Many Travel Statistics

I can't believe I'm flying to London tonight - another marathon business trip. I get to "see" Ireland - meaning tomorrow night, instead of crawling into bed, I hop the shuttle to Dublin for a client dinner and fly back to London Thursday at dawn's crack. Ireland will be my 34th foreign country - this jaunt will be my 84th foreign trip, my 25th European trip, and my 9th trip to the UK. This 5-day trip will make a total of 36 days outside of the US this year on 8 foreign trips, which means I'll have spent 10.6% of the year abroad. This is lower than average for the last 6 years (50 days abroad, 13.8% of the year abroad). My record, not counting living in Argentina, was in 1996, 8 trips, 74 days, and 20.3% or one-fifth of the year abroad.

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Monday, December 06, 2004

Closer, And Maybe A Cigar:
Challenging Play Becomes Challenging Movie

Not your feel-good movie of the year, but certainly worthwhile, "Closer" hit US theaters this weekend and I saw it yesterday with my friend Christi. This dark 1997 Patrick Marber play, filmed faithfully by Mike Nichols, centers on mindgames and verbal slashing among a quadrangle centered on two selfish, indecisive lovers, deftly rendered by Jude Law (looking unkempt and insecure, pictured left) and Julia Roberts (hiding her trademark charisma and smile under layers of ennui, desire, and detachment). But the show is really stolen by Natalie Portman (also pictured left) and Clive Owen, playing their respective partners - each suffers searing rejection, wallows in the wound, and then deftly turns the tables. Razor-sharp dialogue, unpredictability, and stark performances elevate this bleak and unsympathetic landscape, and more than compensate for occasional stiffness and claustrophobia, and for the generally unsympathetic characters that are the film's focus. The film jumps through time, often not showing key scenes, and letting the audience discover events through their echoes in the characters' conversations. It'll keep your gray matter active, that's for sure...

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Sunday, December 05, 2004

We Had It All... Just Like Bogart & Bacall

Sorry I didn't post yesterday. I was feeling kind of sick (better today) and lazy and watching some great TV on DVD (Will & Grace, Sex in the City, Seinfeld dubbed in French, and Star Trek Next Generation). Went shopping with Bart.

Ever see a major classic and discover it's very different that what you imagined? I always thought "Key Largo" was this major romantic picture, probably because of the shlocky 1980 pop hit by Bertie Higgins.. "We had it all / Just Like Bogart & Bacall." It's actually a psychological crime thriller about a family-owned remote hotel terorrized by gangsters during hurricane season. It wrestles with some very dark emotions, including cowardice, emotional dependency, and alcoholism. It's very forward-thinking in its depiction of racial prejudice against Florida's Native Americans. It's a really wonderful movie with some fabulous performances by the non-leads, particularly Lionel Barrymore as the wheelchair-bound hotelkeeper, Edward G Robinson as the gangster, and Claire Trevor in an Oscar-winning bit as the gangster's alcoholic washed-up-songstress girlfriend.. A must-see.

Today I'm seeing the movie "Closer," a Mike Nichols-directed study of two couples' complex and twisted relationships, with echoes of his brilliant 'Virigina Wolff' from 1966, this time with Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Julia Roberts... I'm seeing it with Christi, and having lunch first.

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Friday, December 03, 2004

Not much to say today. Here are cartoons:

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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Happy Birthday, From Baghdad...

As usual, Bush won't budge an inch, despite pleas from all corners of Iraqi society... He confirmed this morning "Iraqi elections will be held on schedule on January 30. This is the birthday of Aaron Holsberg, a prominent New York liberal democrat."

At left, "Hands Of Victory," among Baghdad's most famous monuments, which commemorates "victory" in the pointless 1980-1988 war with Iran, which cost a million lives, most of them teenagers. From a site on Baghdad and its attractions:

"The colossal Hands of Victory monument has dominated Baghdad's skyline since the end of the Iran-Iraq war. . The triumphal arch is shaped as two pairs of crossed swords, made from the guns of dead Iraqi soldiers that were melted and recast as the 24-ton blades of the swords. Captured Iranian helmets are in a net held between the swords. And surrounding the base of the arms are another 5,000 Iranian helmets taken from the battle field. The fists that hold the swords aloft are replicas of Saddam Hussein’s own hands. The German company that built the monument, H+H Metalform, said it was given a photograph of Saddam's own forearms to use as a model.

When Saddam inaugurated these triumphal arches, he rode under them on a white horse —an allusion to the steed of Hussein, the Shi'ite Muslim hero martyred at nearby Kerbala. The day before the first bombing run on Bhagdad during the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqi TV showed a mass of Iraqi soldiers marching beneath the huge crossed swords of the Victory Arch, to the theme music from 'Star Wars'."


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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

She's Always A Woman...

Busy Busy... Believe the hype: "Da Vinci Code" is the gripping, stimulating, intelligent, edge-of-your-seat ride it promised to be. History, esoterica, symbology, and, yes, Jesus (pictured left) swirl around a speeding juggernaut of a plot that keeps many balls in the air seamlessly. I'm halfway through the 13-disc unabridged Audio CD version. Last night I switched internet providers and installed Verizon DSL (phone-based internet) to replace Time Warner RoadRunner (cable internet). It's working much faster, but music streaming still isn't free of skipping. I will pursue this further with both Verizon and Rhapsody, my music streaming service. Oh, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary as chosen 'blog' as Word Of The Year.

That's about it for now. Cartoon follows below.

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