Monday, December 18, 2006

Post One-Hunnert!; or, Wa Wa Wee Wa!

("One-hunnert" is how, down South, we pronounce "one hundred"; "Wa Wa Wee Wa" is what Borat says when he makes great success.)

But so! This is the one-hundredth post of this blog. Great success! In honor of that milestone, today I'll be writing about The Beatles—specifically the new, idiotically named album Love.

Yes, it's a stupid name for an album. Yes, it seems each holiday season there's a new Beatles something-or-other foisted off upon the music-buying public. Yes, we all know that The Beatles were the Greatest, Most Innovative Band Ever, and Don't F***ing Argue ... but that's all neither here nor there. Simple fact of the matter: great music, truly remarkable. Addendum to the simple fact of the matter: we all know it by heart, and therefore never have that much need to sit down and listen qua listen to one of the group's albums.

That's where Love comes in. Love is a album spanning The Beatles' entire career, remixed and reworked and basically fiddled with by Sir George Martin, original and legendary Beatles producer, and his son Giles Martin, that is the "soundtrack" for the Cirque du Soleil show of the same name (Love). Blah blah boring who gives a s***. Not I!

The album itself, though, is pretty good and fun to listen to, for this reason: the songs do things they're not supposed to! I know by heart the turns, the album order, from one song to the next ... so in listening to Love it's surprising because the songs shift and morph in ways you're not used to, making you pay close attention and really listen to the sounds of each well-worn song.

If anyone picks up Love because of this post, and likes it, I encourage you to go out and buy The Beatles Anthology Vols. 2 or 3, both of which kind of engender the same sort of responses and feelings, hearing totally different versions of familiar songs. (The ocean-floor vibration-sounding "Tomorrow Never Knows" on Vol. 2 is particularly striking.)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Uzbek

6. Ate dinner at Carnegie Deli, 'neath a signed photo of Guv'nah Mike Huckabee, the Uzbek.

After The Producers, which I ended up enjoying despite my curmudgeonliness, my dad and I walked up Broadway to the Carnegie Deli, which I'd never ate at before. Though it was 11pm or so, the place was packed, a ramshackle collection of tables and all sorts of people eating pickles and massive sandwiches below signed photos of all manner of celebrities.

We were seated at a table below a picture of Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, whose main claims to fame were (he's out of office come January, replaced by the Democrat Mike Beebe) 1) Losing a ton of weight and 2) Entering into a covenant marriage with his wife, Janet. (For those who don't know, "covenant marriage" is like Christian marriage-plus, with all sorts of extra legal restrictions and etc. added on; for example a divorce is much harder to obtain.)

My dad and I ordered, he a hamburger and me "the Woody Allen," which turned out to be a pastrami and corned beef sandwich roughly the size of a small television, and which I ate maybe a quarter of, or possibly even less.

But that's not the interesting part. The interesting part was the convo my dad and I got into, which concerned several elements of my mom and dad's pre-me (meaning, before I was born) lives. I asked a few questions and it was like some unseen door opened, into an area of my parents' lives I'd never yet explored. It was really interesting, all the stuff my dad told me. He was the first of our family to go to college, and now my sister is going to the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school, next year ... it's crazy how quickly a family's fortunes can rise (or fall) due to the efforts of two people -- in this case my mother and father.

I asked my dad why, considering how poor his family was, he decided to go to college, and from there to law school. Basically what he told me was that, after he was turned down by all four branches of the military (he would have gone to Vietnam) due to his shot-out right eye (injured in a BB-gun war when he was 13), he decided he'd rather not work at the lumber mill for the rest of his life, and so made a college decision. He said he wasn't serious about it at first, but after an injury fell in with some more-studious friends, who would later become his roommates and best college friends: and that was that, his life was on a different track, which led to law school, Memphis, my mom, us kids and all that's come after. It's a heartening story, I think: one about free will, the ability of people (given determination) to change their lives, and also just about how unpredictable and full of reversals one man or woman's life can be.

If this seems incomplete it's 'cause I haven't figured it all out yet. More TK.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The saddest sentence in the world

From this story:
The [U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission] said the red pompoms on the wreath attached to the beagle's mouth could detach, posing a choking hazard.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Random Paragraph Generator

This is kind of fantastic.

Sample randomly generated paragraph:
Anastasia supports Arkansas below the substitute justice. Arkansas inhabits the pressing jack. The accomplished composer prevails against Arkansas. In Arkansas raves the ideology. The pointless basis causes Arkansas within the restrained audio. A functional pot invests in Arkansas under a seeing fire.

This s*** makes me sick

From a story about Williams-Sonoma's registry business in today's Times:
Eight-page ad inserts feature black-and-white photos of a fictional young couple strolling through a park, kissing in their kitchen and drinking wine wrapped in each other’s arms. A photo of the bride-to-be, prominently displaying her new ring, is accompanied by the thought: “Now that I’ve found love, what else do I need?” Photos of Williams-Sonoma pots and pans, knife sets and toasters provide some hints.
I mean it really makes me sick. Advertising of this sort is quite a rotten thing, I think (no offense to my friends in the business). I remember a two-page ad I saw once in Rolling Stone, for Diet Coke, which pictured a silver can of the stuff along with the words, in big silver letters, "I love it when she wakes up and is mad at me for something I did in her dream."

It's theft, is what it is: theft of memories or feelings, co-opted by corporations. Which means: now, when and if that ever happens to me, I won't think "What a funny thing, she's mad at me for something I did in her dream"; rather I'll think "f***ing Diet Coke."

It's a rough scene, man.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mommy, where do BlackBerries come from?

A cute excerpt from a mildly disturbing story (which can be found it its entirety here):

In Austin, Texas, Hohlt Pecore, 7, and his sister, Elsa, 4, have complicated relationships with their mother's BlackBerry. "I feel very annoyed," says Hohlt. "She's always concentrating on that blasted thing." (Hohlt says he picked up the word "blasted" from the film "Pirates of the Caribbean.")

Elsa has hidden the BlackBerry on occasion -- Hohlt says she tried to flush it down the toilet last year. Their mother, Elizabeth Pecore, who co-owns a specialty grocery store, denies the incident. But Elsa also seems to recognize that it brings her mom comfort, not unlike a pacifier or security blanket. Recently, seeing her mom slumped on the couch after work, Elsa fished the BlackBerry from her mother's purse and brought it to her. "Mommy," she asked, "will this make you feel better?"

I love that the kid has started saying "blasted" because he saw Pirates of the Caribbean. I think more seven-year-olds should talk like scurvy pirates.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Producers Production

5. Saw The Producers. Infectious.

Broadway’s an odd bird. My dad and I recently saw The Producers at the St James Theatre. Now, normally I don’t go see Broadway musicals, mainly because I don’t have the money—but also because I think they’re often a bit kitschy and dumb.

Perhaps I’m being a curmudgeon. And I felt like a curmudgeon when, at the theater that Saturday night, I sat through the opening of the first act—which contains a scene wherein the guy playing Leo Bloom pulls out a “blankey” and coos and talks to it, comforting himself, while the guy playing Max Bialystock mimics him—and thought it all over-silly and childish.

Curmudgeon: I cop to it.

Part of the problem, I think, was that the men playing Max and Leo—John Treacy Egan and Hunter Foster—were clearly playing Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick’s version of the characters, rather than playing their own take on them. I suppose this is a common problem when two big-name stars “break” a Broadway musical; you couldn’t kill to get a ticket to the show when Lane and Broderick were in it, so it stands to reason that Egan and Foster would feel somewhat overwhelmed by playing in the shadow of those two.

But then it picked up. Partly this was due to the sheer ridiculousness and over-the-top bad taste of the musical-within-a-musical, Springtime for Hitler—which is really something to be seen—but also, I think, my cold black heart was warmed a bit by the obvious fun everyone on stage (and in the audience) was having. Singing idiot (though extremely catchy; I was tapping my feet throughout) songs and dancing around like a lunatic is hard not to enjoy, unless you’re a too-serious curmudgeon at heart like me.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Christmas Story story

For all lovers of the movie A Christmas Story, check out this great article in the NY Times:

Recreating ‘A Christmas Story’ for Tourists in Cleveland

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I just realized that I say the word "exiled" thusly: "eggs-aisled."

We all have weird linguistic tics like that; I was teased mercilessly in high school because, for some reason, I pronounced "Tuesday" "choose-day." I once knew a woman who said "aigs" (for "eggs") and "laigs" (for "legs"). It was endearing. Those tics of our significant others often are, and remain things we hold onto long after the person herself is gone.

What weird things do y'all—or do y'all's significant others—out there in TV land say?


4. Watched the Razorbacks lose in an exciting, if ultimately disappointing, game with LSU.
Since the post in which I posted the above, I also watched the Razorbacks lose in an even more exciting, but unfortunately also disappointing, game vs. the Florida Gators.

That was the SEC Championship game. The Razorbacks—aka the Hogs—are now 10-3 (read as “ten and three,” meaning 10 wins and three losses) for the season. The losses came in the first game against USC; and then LSU and Florida. Now just one game remains, the Capital One Bowl on January 1st, against Wisconsin, in Orlando, Florida. The Razorbacks have only played the Wiconsin Badgers once, way back in 1912. They beat us 64-7 … but the (figurative) college football playing field has changed a lot since then, and I don’t think the Razorbacks should have much trouble dispatching the Badgers, quality team though they may be.

Suffice it to say, it’s been a very good season, way beyond what anyone thought the Razorbacks would achieve this year. Finishing 11-3 would be great, but finishing 10-4 would be just fine as well. But let’s hope for 11-3. Just has a better ring to it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Feel free to squeeze the Charmin

3. Checked out Times Square. (It's still there.)
Boy is it ever: the place was jam-packed with people, tourists all. You can always tell the tourist in NYC by how, when waiting for the “walk” light across the street to change, they stand dutifully on the curb, rather than out in the road, champing at the bit to get across, as city-dwellers do.

The latest and greatest addition to Times Square would have to be the Charmin bathrooms. I did not go inside, but apparently they’re these really nice (I suppose that’s relative, but whatever) bathrooms, staffed by attendants, for free use by the general public. I was reading a news story about these facilities and it said that in the first few days of their opening, they had been used by more than 50,000 “gotta go” souls. The article went on to ask the question, “Where did they all go before?”

I have one answer to that question. But I’ll not share it here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

This had to be posted up top

I received this comment from a fellow named Jesse, in response to this. It was so good I had to post it properly.
In a strange coincidence, I stumbled across the Rogue’s Gallery album just yesterday when a friend who uses Rhapsody asked me for a band to search for and I threw out the name “White Magic”, which they didn’t have, except for their participation in the sea shanty compilation.

I made the Montana mix. Glad you and Toby enjoyed it down in those icy lands. I think you have full rights to rename it as the Antarctican Galley Mix or some such – as you certainly gave it more listens than it got during it’s initial outing to Montana.

Toby sent your post my way, so I thought I’d follow up your discovery of Robin Holcomb with a full rundown of that mix (I believe you have the same version as the one I’m listening to to write this):

1) No Me Llores - Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos
2) You Look So Much Better - Robin Holcomb
3) Things Behind the Sun – Nick Drake
4) Don’t Let Me Down – Phoebe Snow
5) Strawberry Letter 23 – Shuggie Otis
6) Gotta Get Up – Harry Nilsson
7) Dreamin’ - Jill Scott
8) Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - Nina Simone
9) Gaslighting Abby – Steely Dan
10) A Lazy Farmer Boy - Robin Holcomb
11) Brother – Jill Scott
12) Early in the Morning – Harry Nilsson
13) Cancio den Elegido - Silvio Rodriguez
14) I Tried to Believe - Robin Holcomb
15) Space Oddity – Natalie Merchant and Michael Stipe
16) Superheroes - Esthero
17) Ain’t no Sunshine – Bill Withers
18) Driving Along – Harry Nilsson
19) Cucurrucucú Paloma - Caetano Veloso
20) Los Amantes - Susana Baca
21) The Puppy Song – Harry Nilsson

FYI, not all my mixes are so literally named. Others have had names such as “Catfish Trampoline”, “Freedom Fries”, and even “Wicked Trancendence of the Lebanese Crack Patriots”. On the other hand, I did recently give a friend a mix called “Warm the House”, as a housewarming gift.

As long as I’m here, I’ll go ahead and share a few names of others, especially obscure ones, who I’ve discovered more recently and think are worth listening to:

• Lhasa de Sela – Mexican Canadian singer, mostly in Spanish, good stuff
• Low in the Sky – downbeat stuff from 3 producers
• Wax Tailor – great album, instrumental sample driven hip hop, French
• Ane Brun – Norwegian singer – I like “A Temporary Dive”
• Mara Carlyle – very hit and miss, but she has some beautiful stuff
• White Magic – as you mentioned
• Honeycut – new, good, funky, probably won’t stay obscure for long
• Fink
• Common Market – hip hop
• Bitter Sweet
• Electrelane
• Dani Siciliano
• Sidestepper – latin reggae

Also, I’ve taken to following this music blog( the last few months to find new stuff and it’s proven a pretty good source. Unfortunately his archived files are almost all down right now due to some legal squabbles. He does plan to continue posting though, and older stuff may go back up again at some point.

Hope something here leads you to more that you like.


P.S. Thanks for the weedy sea dragon, that thing is fantastic.

Review of Borat movie-film

2. Saw Borat. Ribald.
Hello! Multiples of days ago I see Borat movie-film with father name of David. I like. Father David also like, but he say not all like. I not know why. It is humorous movie-film, with many joke-makings about stupid Americans. But also many of Americans in movie-film are appearing to be No. 1 in quality and what makes good about U.S. and A. An instance of quality American is drivings instructor. I like him! He let Borat kiss him on each cheeks, and not hit him or shout a rape. He is quality Americans.

The Americans in New York are not so nice. They say they will hit in balls, or “fuck him up.” I not know why they want to make sexy time with Borat. Borat look like a sheet. But Pamela Andersons, she is wah-wah-wee-wah!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

To elaborate

  1. Went to Peter Luger for Thanksgiving. It was killer.

Peter Luger

178 Broadway, Brooklyn, New York.
Cash only.
Reservations required. 718/387-7400.
JMZ train to Marcy Avenue.
Expensive (steak for two is $80).

Opened in 1887 and serving continuously since, the wooden, well-worn Peter Luger in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is for many the ne plus ultra of steakhouses. And for good reason: in an age where nothing old is good enough, Peter Luger sticks admirably to its guns, serving a limited (though indulgent) menu of dry-aged (in-house) porterhouse steaks, potato hash, appetizers of thick-cut onion, tomato, and bacon, and rich desserts, all served with a side of “schlag,” or homemade whipped cream, which refuses to melt even in coffee. (Not to mention the gratis Luger-branded gold gelt.)

Though the steaks (ordered for two, three, four, and so on) are without equal—served family-style by the professional waiters, who spoon pan drippings over the meat as they place it on your plate—the bacon (ordered by the slice; don’t get more than one per person) is more of a revelation, given that many restaurant-goers are used to fine, well-aged steak, though perhaps not so much quality bacon. These are no Oscar Mayer strips, limp and curled-up: rather they’re thick (almost a half-inch) rashers that lay flat on your plate, with charred edges and a blend of crunchiness and tenderness; they taste like no other bacon you’ve ever had, with a complex, rich, smoky flavor.

On the service side, much has been written about the supposed brusque nature of the wait staff (all men) at Luger’s. It’s true, the waiters are all business, and will not indulge in, say, a smiling recitation of the day’s specials (there are none). But that’s a refreshing change from most restaurants these days; at Luger’s you feel as if you’re in the hands of a professional, which in fact you are. The two times I’ve been to Luger’s, most recently with my father, our waiter was no-nonsense but charming in an old-world way. I highly recommend them, and the place.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back from hiatus

I was on hiatus while my dad was visiting over Thanksgiving. Now I'm off hiatus.

My dad and I had a great time. We:
  1. Went to Peter Luger for Thanksgiving. It was killer.
  2. Saw Borat. Ribald.
  3. Checked out Times Square. (It's still there.)
  4. Watched the Razorbacks lose in an exciting, if ultimately disappointing, game with LSU.
  5. Saw The Producers. Infectious.
  6. Ate dinner at Carnegie Deli, 'neath a signed photo of Guv'nah Mike Huckabee, the Uzbek.
  7. Took a very insane cab ride home.
  8. Walked all 'round Central Park. Gorgeous fall weather.
  9. Watched A Mighty Wind. It was OK.
  10. Ate brunch at Harefield and listened to a band play.
  11. Ate at White Castle. Sober. Oof.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

23rd & Pistol

This morning I exited the subway station and walked across 6th Avenue for a paper. As I crossed the street, I saw an armored car being unloaded. A guy was wheeling a dolly stacked with stacks and stacks of currency. I couldn't see the denomination, but it was a bundle of bread.

As I passed the dolly full of dough, I saw a guy in uniform standing at the ready near the back of the armored car, pistol totally drawn, down by his side with his finger through the, um, trigger hole? I don't know what that's called. It was a bit unsettling when I caught the guy's eye.

On a side note, there are very few words that have come to English from the Czech language. Pistol is one. Robot is another. Can anyone name the most notable word we've inherited from the Czech? (Robot and pistol are the No. 2 and 3 entries; the missing word's No. 1.)

(Hint: this blog entry is peppered with slang terms for what this word, more generally, represents.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Yesterday evening I solved a problem

On Antarctica, a friend of mine named Toby had a mix CD that his friends back home in Oregon had made him. Apparently it was made on the occasion of a road trip to Montana, as it was named “The Montana Road Trip Mix.” (Toby had literal-minded friends.)

I cottoned to the mix at once, burning it for myself. Mornings in the galley, alone in the dish room, I’d listen to it in between breakfast and lunch, the quietest time of the day. It was languorous, sexy, and odd; there were covers of Beatles songs, “world music” in a language I didn’t recognize, and two songs by a woman with a rich voice, with quirky orchestration; lots of left turns and quick swerves, reminiscent of Jon Brion’s work on Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine (which actually wasn’t the version that was released commercially).

But the mix CD came with no tracklist. Track 1, Track 2, Track 3, etc.; that’s all I had to work with. And no one knew who this woman was, not even Toby. I asked him to write his friends in Oregon and find out, but this either never happened or they didn’t know. I played the mix for people, asked them who they thought it could be; I Googled snatches of the lyrics … to no avail.

Cut, then, to yesterday; or, more accurately, this past Sunday, when I went to Earwax Records in Brooklyn and picked up three CDs: Brightblack Morning Light’s self-titled debut, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s IBM 1401—A User’s Manual, and a comp of “Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys” called Rogue’s Gallery.

I’ve been listening to the latter ever since; it’s full of strange seafaring nuggets, sung by a motley cast of characters, from Sting to new-ish Brooklyn band White Magic. One song, though, stood out to me over and above the others; it was called “Dead Horse,” and was sung by Robin Holcomb. I listened to it, walking around the city; I listened to it at night; I listened to it on the subway.

I couldn’t place the voice ‘til I did, out of nowhere, last night at 6th Avenue and 14th Street, about to descend into the station to take the L train home: it was the same woman whose songs I’d heard, lonely in the dish room, mornings in Antarctica. I highly recommend her.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Give My Love to Rose

This morning, smoking out my window, a graffiti'd box truck pulled up in front of my building. Along with the usual tags, there was another, unusual tag. It read "Give My Love to Rose," which is the title of a Johnny Cash song.

Also, from the Times this morning:
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 14 — O. J. Simpson, who was acquitted 11 years ago in the 1994 death of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald L. Goldman has written a book and will appear on television telling “how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible,” his publisher and the Fox television network said on Tuesday.
No, I'm not making this up. Here's the link.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

That sounds about right

The following quote comes from this story, about Toys for Tots turning down the offer of 4,000 Jesus dolls:
According to the company's Web site, the button-activated, bearded Jesus, dressed in hand-sewn cloth outfits and sandals, recites Scripture such as "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." It has a $20 retail value.
That sounds about right.

Yesterday & Today

Yesterday was my birthday. It was nice.

Tonight (11/14) is an art show called Free Reign. It is in Williamsburg at a place called Avantfloor, which is at 210 Kent, aka (according to the flyer) "around the back on River St., corner of Metropolitan Avenue, in the basement of Monster Island."

Which reminds me of some of my favorite lines from The Simpsons:
Carl: I hear we're going to Ape Island.
Lenny: Yeah, to capture a giant ape. I wish we were going to Candy Apple Island
Charlie: Candy Apple Island? Whatta they got there?
Carl: Apes. But they're not so big.
Nevertheless: this art show, from 9pm to midnight, is not made-up, even though the directions maybe sound like they are. Several people I know—including Jibz Cameron, Samantha Marble, and Will Plummer—will have work there. Anyone wanting something fun to do should come.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Valley of the Gods

First off, go Dems! Yesterday was the first day in, oh, twelve years that I felt good about politics and the political direction of the country. I actually smiled at the newspaper. Big ups to everyone out there in TV Land (perhaps more literal than I realize ...) who voted; big downs to the New York Post, whose front-page photo and headline of Britney getting divorced from that idiot was larger and more prominent than their headline RE: Democrats taking the House. But I guess I should not be surprised.

This morning I looked out the window and the sky and the fresh air was amazing. A weather front was over Manhattan, and there was a clear demarcation between dark grey clouds and clear sky beyond. The Empire State Building, too, which has many different faces, was a gunmetal grey that I always find particularly striking. The buildings of Manhattan, as seen from my roof or window, can appear very different from day to day, much like the weird red rock monuments of the American Southwest, particularly those of the Valley of Gods, which I have visited, on a quiet, post-rain morning, as I heard, for the first time, Van Morrison’s "And It Stoned Me" playing from the roof of a green bus.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Weedy sea dragon

Though this animal might look like something animated from Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic, it's not; it's the real deal Holyfield.

Dig it; the picture is amazing. I would post it here, but it's someone else's.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election Day's tomorrow

Attn: all

Election Day's tomorrow, and you should make it a point to go out and vote. If you are registered to vote, but hesitant because you don't feel like you know enough about the candidates to make an informed (aka meaningful) decision, don't make this the reason you don't go to the polls. There are a number of ways to quickly educate oneself about those running for office and ballot measures.

The first is your local newspaper, which tomorrow will (no matter where you're at) run an election guide, detailing all the races and measures, and (usually) indicating whom and which the paper endorses. If you trust your paper, there's nothing wrong with following its lead.

The second is your state's board of elections, which usually publishes a voter's guide, similarly detailing all the races and measures, but offering no endorsements. To find your state's board of elections (which can also tell you where your designated polling site—aka, where you vote—is), just search online for "[your state's name] board of elections."

Third is the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan, nationwide organization that works to educate the public about those running for office and initiatives on the ballot in your area. I'm not sure if every state's chapter of the League does this, but New York's publishes a fine, nonpartisan voter's guide—which is available here. (That's a link to the PDF.) To find your state's chapter of the League, go here.

In summary: find something to read about the elections, print it out, and go over it tonight, making your choices for tomorrow, before you go to bed. You don't have to be a political scholar to feel informed enough to vote; you just have to do a little homework, get up and make it to the polls.

And, quickly, to those who still ask, "Why vote?" Because, as former Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon said, "Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don't vote."

Very convenient, gypsy

From The New York Times:
Three and a half years after American troops captured Baghdad and ended the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi court set up to judge the brutalities of his 24 years in power found him guilty on Sunday of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to death by hanging.
Can anyone spot what's the matter with that sentence? That's right: by hanging. Since when do we hang people, or allow people to hang people? Doesn't seem very freedom-loving to me. Putting someone to death in the first place, probably not the best thing, but at least do it humanely.

Also: very convenient timing for the GOP; almost as convenient as 2004's "October surprise" Bin Laden videotape, which boosted Bush before the election against John Kerry.

I dunno, I dunno what I'm saying. But it does make you wonder. I don't think the neocons are at all above such jury-rigging (meaning subterfuge and sabotage), not for a minute.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Freudian slip?

After running into a friend, British Emily, whom I hadn't seen in a couple years, on the street, I crossed the avenue into the deli, to get an Alka-Seltzer (my stomach was upset, a bit) and a coffee.

But at the counter, in a conflation of my two requests, what I announced was, "Can I have an alcohol?"

No I cannot.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

In other (monkey) news

Yesterday, after reading an article in The New York Times about how elephants seem to be self-aware—proven via the "mirror test," in which animals are tested as to whether or not they recognize their own reflection in a mirror—I did a search online for "monkeys and mirrors." Though I didn't find anything much about monkeys and mirrors, I did find a very interesting story about how a troop of monkeys in India rescued a recently orphaned member of their group from a police station. Below is a quote, and then the link.
"The monkeys behaved in an exemplary fashion and impressed us with their show of solidarity. Human beings have a lot to learn from them."
Here it is.

Autumn for Hitler

Gothamist today has a hilarious story-about-a-story-in-the-New York Post; the headline is “Heil o’ween,” and concerns a 16-year-old Brooklynite named Walter Pertyk who yesterday wore a Hitler costume to school. The kid’s obviously not a racist, so it makes it easier to laugh about. Gothamist quotes the following from the Post story:

“Excuse me, fuhrer, can I talk to you for a minute?” is how Petryk recalled the dean, Paul Puglia, summoning him out of class.

Puglia then allegedly asked, “Are you out of your mind, you idiot?” and ordered him to the office with, “Consider yourself my prisoner of war.”

Nice. Pretty funny way to deal with the situation.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween is stupid

From an article in The New York Times today:

Mr. O’Donnell said that when he was a boy in Scotland, he and his friends regularly went door to door, playing out an old Celtic tradition.

“It was called guising,” he explained. “You put an old sheet over your head and went to all the houses in the village, and you always had to do something, like sing a song or tell a joke.” The children did not receive candy then — just apples and, maybe, peanuts, he said. Since there were no pumpkins, they carved turnips.

Wow. And I thought the American South was poor and backwards.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I lost my wallet

This morning I lost my wallet. Boo.

But this is being released on my birthday. Yay.

For just $8.00 plus S&H from Amazon, you can have your very own copy of Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. It's a fine book, my favorite, and I highly recommend it. My purchase of this copy will make No. 3. (No. 1 is the hardcover, unwieldy in the extreme and well-battered, too; No. 2 is a signed paperback copy that a dear friend got me eight years ago now, and so not appropriate for subway-carriage.)

Check it out; it'll change your life.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

My dad

This is my dad. This is not my dad's dog. That's just how my dad rolls.

Photo courtesy Jacob Slaton.

It's your move

"I know I'll be stopping on Bedford for a bottle of wine and that cheese I've been dying to try."
This, my friends, is fucking sick.

And, so, yeah: I realize that, to some people, I would be considered "part of the problem." But I don't think I actually, along with many of the other people that now live in Williamsburg, am. God forbid this Crate & Barrel nouveau riche bullshit should cross the river into Brooklyn; it should stay in Manhattan where it fucking belongs. (Not that it really belongs anywhere, this kind of awful, elitist attitude, but Manhattan I feel is already mostly given-up ground.)

Further evidence that it's time to leave Williamsburg: the other day I saw someone doing a fashion shoot in the White Castle parking lot.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Heading 'em off at the pass

It has been brought to my attention that, this Friday night, ABC will air an episode of 20/20 that supposedly exposes alleged hypocrisies of mine. These charges are blatant fabrications, as I believe will be self-evident to anyone who views the program.

In the meantime, I will post here a portion of the transcript of my 20/20 interview with John Stossel. The evidence—or lack thereof—speaks for itself.

John Stossel: "Mr. Slaton, in your blog 'Fighting Fire with Unlit Matches,' you assert that, and I quote, 'the manners, grooming, and general cleanliness of the American male are in steep decline'—yet here, in an email to one 'NAME REDACTED,' dated October 25th, you provide a link to Urban Dictionary's definition of the slang term [skeptical, puzzled pause] 'XXX XXXXXXX.' How do you reconcile this?"

Hunter Slaton: "This is a witch hunt."

JS: "Is that a reference to Magic: The Gathering?"

HS: "This interview is over."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

When the Deal Goes Down

Herewith, the video for Dylan's "When the Deal Goes Down," from his latest album, Modern Times. For those of you out there in TV land that are loathe to watch a Dylan video, please note that this video features the inimitable Scarlett Johansson. 'Nuff said? Maybe not: it's also a great video, starting out slowly but, by the middle, becoming very transfixing, as you try to piece together the narrative from these 1950s home movie-esque clips, washed out by light and memory.

Monday, October 23, 2006

H.R. Slaton's Finishing School for Dudes

It has come to my attention that the manners, grooming, and general cleanliness of the American male are in steep decline. As such, I have decided to found H.R. Slaton's Finishing School for Dudes, in the hope of socializing these unfortunate creatures before I release them back into the wild.

Just as many religious schools (including my own Catholic High School for Boys) post a copy of the Ten Commandments somewhere conspicuous in the school's entryway or lobby, so too will I display a copy of H.R. Slaton's Ten Commandments for Dudes. These directives are as follows:

  1. Thou shalt not fart or belch while in the presence of women; thou shalt keep no other commandment before this.
  2. Thou really, if thou wants to get down to brass tacks about it, should not fart or belch while in the presence of men, either; the aforementioned acts should be only be performed while in the presence of no one but the LORD your God, or maybe while in the woods, though even that is stretching it.
  3. If thou should break the above two commandments, thou should pardon thyself, humbly.
  4. Thou shalt not use the expression, “I need to take a shit.” Thou should rather say, “I need to use the restroom.” Saying “I need to pee” is a bit more acceptable, but really, couldn’t thou do better? Thou did graduate from college, after all.
  5. Thou shalt remember thy bathroom, and keep it cleanly. If thou does not care, fine, but thou should not expect to have many lady callers.
  6. Thou shalt wash thy bed sheets, preferably whenever one does one’s laundry, i.e. weekly. Stains on bed sheets or comforters are unacceptable.
  7. The LORD your God is not really too worried about cursing, because c’mon, they’re just words, after all—but thou should do thou’s best to keep a lid on it around little kids and old ladies and thou’s mom.
  8. Thou shalt shave. Thou shalt also, as needed, “trim the hedges.” (Yes, the LORD thy God said it: get over it, guys, it’s 2006, for My sake.)
  9. Thou shalt put a little thought into thy clothing. The LORD your God doesn’t mean suits 24/7, but enough already with the T-shirt and jeans combo.
  10. Thou shalt try to better thyself and help thy neighbor—but don’t get all high and mighty about it, or the LORD your God will think you’re a real dick.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The terrorists are playing four-square

On (click here) there's a story about a GOP terrorism ad. Basically the ad features pictures of Osama bin Laden et al speaking (but with no sound), while quotes from them are displayed on the screen, all to the sound of a ticking clock. The quotes include such stuff as, "With God's permission we call on everyone who believes in God ... to comply with His will to kill the Americans." And as the text of the quote fades away, the words "kill the Americans" remain.

The story goes on to note that:
Meanwhile, footage of terrorists engaged in martial arts and weapons training rolls in the background. One scene shows terrorists traversing monkey bars over fire.
Do I need to point out the idiocy of this? Martial arts? That's really what we're worried about, Osama bin L.'s kung-fu death grip, with spring-chop action? And "terrorists traversing monkey bars over fire"? That's supposed to strike fear into the hearts of voters and get them to vote Republican this coming midterm election?

I suppose if the playground of my elementary school is ever firebombed by terrorists then I'll be in trouble. Otherwise I think we can handle a little jujitsu and jungle-gym firewalking.

But wait ... what if they develop suicide jumping-off-the-swings technology?

At the risk

At the risk of turning off many to this blog, I'll write today about sports. Specifically, the Mets/Cards game last night, No. 7 of the NLCS, which the Cards won; St. Louis will face Detroit in game 1 of the World Series on Saturday night.

For New Yorkers, it was a downer. The Mets lost 3-1 with the bases loaded in the 9th, on a strike-out by 25-year-old Cardinal pitcher Adam Wainwright of Carlos Beltrán, who's been a clutch player throughout the postseason for the Mets. He just couldn't do it again.

But the suspense was there, making for a great game. It was 1-1 until the top of the 9th, when Yadier Molina of the Cards boomed a big shot over the left-field wall, pretty much right in same spot where Endy Chávez saved one—in an amazing catch—from going over in the 6th.

One of the reasons I like baseball, particularly in the postseason, is that you really get to savor the suspense of a close game. Unlike in other (timed) sports, baseball allows you to relish the tension of moments like the bottom of the 9th last night, with the bases loaded and Beltrán at the plate, the rookie Wainwright staring him down.

Everyone waits with bated breath, many in the stands (as the TV showed last night) looking to the heavens for help. But last night none came, only rain—but of course it could have gone the other way, an outcome no one can predict. Which, I think, is the most convincing argument for being a sports fan.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Remember the Wrapper

Yesterday, while doing research at work for our profile of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., I found this painting, by Ben Shahn. It's called Remember the Wrapper, and it references the fact that, during World War II, the Wrigley Co. devoted all of its gum-manufacturing capabilities to supplying the troops, leaving no gum for the civilians at home. As such, during the war, Wrigley ran ads that featured a picture of an empty gum wrapper, with the tagline "Remember this Wrapper!" After the war, distribution shifted back to the civilian population, and people did, in fact, remember the wrapper, and soon Wrigley's was back on top of the domestic gum market.

Very interesting; I love bits of historical flotsam like this. And the painting's beautiful—I can't get over the brooding colors. It's currently hanging in Washington D.C.'s Hirshhorn Museum.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

My tree got tricked

See the buds? My tree is very confused.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


As many of you may know, CBGBs, New York City's legendary punk rock venue, closed for good (unless you count its move to Vegas, where all good things go to die, as staying open—which I don't) on Sunday night (actually early Monday morning, but whatever). The final show was, appropriately enough, Patti Smith. I didn't manage to make it to the show, but a friend of mine, Scott Moulaison, did, and blogged about it. Herewith, an excerpt of his fine account of CBGBs' last stand (and the week or so prior, with shows from The Dictators and The Bad Brains):
Finally, last night. The grand finale of CBGB's, led by the grand dame of the Bowery bunch, Pattti Smith. I have probably seen Patti more often since I've moved to the area than any other artist. Perhaps 15-20 times, including with a few exceptions, every New Year's Eve (or the night before), but that did not dim my excitement for the show. The scene outside CB's was a madhouse. At least a thousand people milling about, press everywhere, and lines, lines, lines. But Nicole and I had tickets and we knew there was a light at the end of the rainbow.
To read the whole thing, visit Scott's blog here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

In the Aeroplane over Brooklyn

Walking home last night, I turned right on Conselyea, past an apartment building that I used to be able to see from my place at 354 Graham. The building was built while I was living there, so I got to see it go up and be occupied. As such, I was a little obsessed with its inhabitants, whom I could see from my kitchen windows. I no longer live at 354, but I always think about looking at that building and its balconies from my old windows whenever I walk by.

And but so: walking by last night I heard guitar and voices, coming from that building. At first I thought it was a stereo, but I soon discerned it was four guys sitting on their second-story balcony, playing guitar and singing. As I passed the building, one of the fellows shifted to playing the first song from Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane over the Sea, "King of Carrot Flowers, Part 1," and another of the guys began singing along:

When you were young you were the king of carrot flowers
And how you built a tower tumbling through the trees
In holy rattlesnakes that fell all around your feet

And your mom would stick a fork right into daddy's shoulder
And your dad would throw the garbage all across the floor
As we would lay and learn what each other's bodies were for

And walking by I thought how amazing that Jeff Mangum's song, ten years on from its release, via Athens, Georgia's Elephant 6 collective, was being sung from a balcony in Brooklyn at night. I stopped and listened for awhile, as a plane whistled overhead into LaGuardia, and walked on.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


This morning before work, as per usual, I sat on my CD cases by the window and drank some coffee and smoked a cigarette. My window looks out onto Kingsland Avenue, which feeds onto the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, or the BQE. Hence, in the a.m., there's always a good bit of traffic backed up on the street below my window.

On this particular Tuesday morning, I looked down after lighting my cigarette, and saw into the passenger side of an ambulance. A young, crew-cut, red-haired kid, in blue EMS uniform, was in the seat, sipping coffee from a white Styrofoam cup. He grabbed a brown paper sack from the dash and reached inside, which is when I saw his watch. It was on his right hand, meaning he was a lefty, and which suddenly, in my mind, flowered into kind of a short story about this kid.

Just those few details, observing people when they don't know they're being observed, can really be enlightening and inspiring. I recommend trying it sometime, Kingsland Avenue-overlooking window or no.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Old Custer

"The crickets and the rust-beetles scuttled among the nettles of the sage thicket. "Vámonos, amigos," he whispered, and threw the busted leather flintcraw over the loose weave of the saddlecock. And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight."
—Eli Cash, reading from his novel Old Custer (the book which, though we all know Custer died at Little Big Horn, presupposes "What if he didn't?") in The Royal Tenenbaums

I was reading on Wikipedia earlier, and apparently Eli Cash was modeled on Cormac McCarthy and Jay McInerney, which is great.

I watched The Grudge on HBO On Demand last night. I could have watched something more substantial, but I didn't want to. It wasn't scary, per se, but it was freaky; it made me jump several times, and feel that weird exhilaration one sometimes gets when watching "scary" movies.

The feeling was unlike the feeling I got when watching, for the umpteenth time the other night, Wes Anderson's breakout movie Rushmore, which is a feeling of chest-swelling cheer and good will toward men. Bill Murray's face and changing expression when he realizes the source of the bees in his hotel room—from grudging, fey respect to revulsion and grim determination—is alone worth the price of admission (in this case, $3 from Vec's Video).

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I'll tell you this

"I'll tell you this, I don't give a damn about your dreams."
—Dylan, "Thunder on the Mountain," from Modern Times
(Itals mine, to convey Dylan's distinct—or, to some, super annoying—phrasing.)

Dreams are odd birds; you always enjoy your own, and feel they mean a great deal to you, but whenever you try to explain them to others it ends up sounding, well, like you've been smoking something psychoactive. To wit:
"I had this crazy dream last night: I was in the supermarket, but they only were selling geckos, and then you were there, but you turned into my first-grade teacher ... then it became a casino."
Is my meaning gotten? Dream logic can only really make sense to you your ownself, because the dream provides the logic; and without that key, others are lost in making sense of the dreams you tell them.

I doubt that this was to what Dylan was referring when he wrote this line—more likely he meant "dreams" as in "hopes, wishes, grand plans"—but that's one of the great things about words in general: the various ways they can be twisted, the varied meanings they can have.

But, then again, maybe Dylan did mean what I mean. See the last verse of his song "Gates of Eden":
At dawn my lover comes to me
And tells me of her dreams
With no attempts to shovel the glimpse
Into the ditch of what each one means
At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what's true
And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Let's Get Small

The following are a few lines from Steve Martin's 1977 comedy/banjo (no, really) album Let's Get Small.
"You just can't sing a depressing song when you're playing the banjo. You can't just go, [plays the banjo] 'Oh death, and grief, and sorrow, and murder.'"

"I always thought the banjo was the one thing that could've saved Nixon. [Plays the banjo.]"

On Nixon traveling to foreign countries: "I'd like to talk about politics, but first a little 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown.' [Plays the banjo, frenetically.]"

"Doesn't it seem like Carter should have a banjo? [Plays the banjo, and adopts a yokel's voice, ostensibly Carter whilst playing the banjo, perhaps strolling shoeless and overall'd down a country dirt road.] 'Oh hyuh hyuh hyoh, hyuh hyuh hyoh ....'"
It's a fine, absurd album, and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in comedy.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Which of these doesn't belong?

The following is a list of cakes in the display case of the Corrado Café, across the street from my office:

Chocolate Mousse
Crème Brulee
Pistacchio Mousse
White Chocolate Mousse
Chocolate Hazelnut
Lemon Bar

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I have a cold

I have a cold. What I purchased to fix the cold is pictured above. I have no idea why these cold caplets bear the Mark of the Beast; they're not especially effective (as one would expect from a cold medicine recipe obtained by selling one's soul to the devil), nor do they take you on some wild hallucinogenic trip, a la Saturday Night Live's "Ride the Snake" weight-loss program.

Nevertheless, I have a cold and am taking them. They work okay.

Being sick is odd. It puts you in some sort of reverse-telescoped state, where all that exists is the moment you are currently in. I feel as if I've always been—and always will be—sick.

Which of course is ridiculous, and really I don't feel all that terrible. I just feel, as they say, "under the weather."

But the reverse-telescoped sick state is odd not only because of the way it makes you feel while you're inside it, but also because when you come out of it, it really feels like a rebirth, like emerging from a chrysalis, stronger, better, and cleaner. Coffee and cigarettes taste better; the air smells crisper ('specially in fall); you feel more alive to everything going on around you.

Which is all to say that, while I of course would rather not be sick in the first place, coming out of it ain't half bad.

Monday, September 25, 2006

FC is for Fortune Cookie

It is better to have beans and bacon in peace
than cakes and ale in fear.

This makes no sense. First of all, I resent the implication that cakes and ale are superior to beans and bacon; this is clearly anti-Southern prejudice at work.

Second, "beans and bacon" does not equal, part for part, "cakes and ale." Bacon is not something to drink! (Or could it be ...? Perhaps this deserves more research.)

Finally, cakes do not go with ale. Sweets in general do not go with ale, except if you are in Britain, where they buy both beer and chocolate from the bar, which is an abomination.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In Arkansas

I'm in Camden, Arkansas, where my dad grew up, and where I spent many a week in the summer with my maw-maw, picking pine trees for pennies and collecting interesting rocks.

I'm here for a family reunion. I have been able to see and play with three babies this weekend, one from my friend Joe and his wife Holly, and two from my older sister and her husband.

It's humid here and all we do is eat and "visit." (Which is nice.) Also we watched a football game this afternoon. We (Arkansas) won, but just barely. Final score 24 to 23.

More TK.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Anatomy of a Mixed Tape, Track the Last

17. Over Yonder (Jonathan’s Song)—Steve Earle

Steve Earle - Transcendental Blues - Over Yonder (Jonathan's Song)

This last track of the Mixed Tape series, from Steve Earle’s 2000 album Transcendental Blues, ends with an execution. Mr. Earle sings:

The warden said he’d mail my letter
The chaplain’s waiting by the door
Tonight we’ll cross that yard together
Then they cain’t hurt me anymore

Long a staunch advocate for abolishing the death penalty, Mr. Earle, who spent some time in the hoosegow himself, in 1994, for drug possession, paints a picture here of an inmate who's made peace with himself and what he’s done, and is ready to die.

Here Mr. Earle is in minimalist mode, painting a quick but full picture with deliberate brushstrokes. Earle repeated the feat a few years later in his growled, droning “John Walker’s Blues,” about the “American Taliban” who was captured in Afghanistan by the CIA after the U.S. invasion of that country. In my opinion, it remains one of the best 9/11-related songs.

But so: even though “Over Yonder (Jonathan’s Song)” ends with an execution, it also brings the Mixed Tape series to a close on a hopeful note. Mr. Earle keens, his voice rising to convey the spirit’s escape from its earthly prison (meaning both bars and body):

‘Cause I’m going over yonder
Where no ghost can follow me
There’s another place beyond here
Where I’ll be free, I believe

The harmonium hums, hymn-like; the mandolin’s plucked plaintively, and the song carries the album, and this Mixed Tape, to its end—which ends, like the classic prison movie The Shawshank Redemption, with a simple statement of hope: “I believe.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Anatomy of a Mixed Tape, Track the Penultimate

16. Please Stay—Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon - The Wind - Please Stay

If you’re on the way out, as Warren Zevon was when he recorded The Wind, the album from which this song is taken, and you’re singing songs about death and leaving, who better to duet with than Emmylou Harris?

In the previous “Anatomy” post, I said that Mr. Zevon had a sense of humor about life’s trials and tribulations. He does, and this album does, but not really this cut. This one’s more straight-ahead mournful. “Will you stay with me to the end?” he sings with Ms. Harris.

When there’s nothing left
But you and me and the wind
We’ll never know ‘til we try
To find the other side of goodbye

And then a throaty sax, like the guys playing under the tunnel walkways in Central Park, starts blowing, really (for me, at least, along with Ms. Harris’ voice) making the song.

A little while before he died, of inoperable lung cancer, Mr. Zevon appeared for a full hour on Letterman. I didn’t know who Mr. Zevon was at the time, but I was transfixed by the bearded, glasses-wearing, obviously worn-down man who, chatting with an at times visibly choked-up Letterman, still managed to be funny, generous, and wise in the face of his own imminent death. He was the only guest that night, and he played several songs in between talking to Dave, one of which, “Mutineer,” remains one of my favorites of Mr. Zevon’s.

But the thing that really struck me was one of the last things he said. Letterman asked him if, in light of his own mortality, he realized anything now about life that he hadn’t before. Mr. Zevon replied, “How much you’re supposed to enjoy every sandwich.”

I think that winking statement covers, in one fell swoop, a great deal of what one needs to know—and keep in mind when times are rough—about our all-too-brief time on this earth.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Yesternight It Happened

Yesterday I'd been waiting for some confluence; yesternight it happened. Exiting the train I saw a fella flipping shut Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, my favorite book.

I tapped him on the shoulder. "Are you liking it?" I asked.

He was. He said a friend and he had decided to read it together. He said it was hard to get into, but once you did you couldn't put it down. I'd done the former many times before, and agreed with the latter.

We talked, walking down the platform. "It's funny," he said, "just today I was listening to David Foster Wallace read a story he wrote about 9/11 ...."

I cut him off: "'The View from Mrs. Thompson's,' yes? That's so crazy: I was just this morning telling my friend at work about that story."

"That's right!" he said, amazed I'd known the exact thing about which he was talking.

"You know," I said, "that was originally published in Rolling Stone the week after 9/11. He was the only one that really got it right, because basically he just wrapped it up by throwing up his hands and saying, 'I don't fucking know why this had to happen or what this means either.' And if the smartest guy I've ever read feels helpless and baffled in the face of 9/11, well, it makes me feel like it's okay for me to feel that way as well."

"Exactly," my companion said. "The part I liked best was when he was frantically running around trying to find an American flag, and then someone gave him one and he just broke down and became really emotional."

We had been stumping up the steps to the street, Metropolitan Avenue, while the previous conversation occurred. When we got topwise we saw the Towers of Light west down Metro, framed by the buildings.

"I hear you used to be able to see the Towers right there," I said, "framed right in between like the Towers of Light are now."

"Really?" he said. We both stood and stared. The Towers of Light reached high, straight, and blue, occasionally brightly lighting up a low cloud.

"Well, take care, buddy," I said, as I moved to part ways.

"You too," he said. "Farewell."

I walked home and the hair on my arms stood on end; the Towers of Light flanked me to the west all the way home. I felt good.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

In Memoriam

To commemorate what happened five years ago today, I thought I'd post what I wrote in my journal that night, sitting in the cafe on Avenue A.

dark day

- today the twin towers came down. in the street i watched the first one fall and i thought i would be sick. it's so unreal to think of thousands dead - it's not something i can wrap my head around - maybe it's b/c i really haven't experienced death up close during my life - i don't have a one to multiply by a thousand. it seems wrong to write all these "i"s today.

- the tower coming down looked like fight club. and it just wasn't real. all i wanted to do was smoke and drink, & call all my friends and family & tell them I'm alright.

- i got so fucked-up earlier in the summer abt. that woman who killed her kids. That, that I could wrap my head around. That I could feel, that deep sadness.

"it's 71 and clear in New York City right now, as if anybody cares" - heard on the radio

"people are buying up stuff. people are buying up water." - radio, a woman

- i guess writing abt. this is my way of trying to feel, of trying to help others feel, b/c that's the way/medium/etc. i've always felt things most deeply.

- Gov. Pataki & Mayor Giuliani really did a good job today, I thought. made us feel like we're all in this together, here in the city and here in this country. they kind've made me feel like we gotta stick together, talk to each other in elevators more.

last summer was the summer
of mosquitoes, of money
this was the summer of fireflies, of fires
and falling towers

joe said,
"it's good to hear your voice."

i was in the shower
when the planes hit.

i might've been [blank]
hating [blank], who I dreamed about.
i told her i was alive via email
this morning and i didn't know
whether or not i should've

"disagreements? ... work 'em out ..." - Paul Simon

"i want to see you smile again
the day the banks collapse
zee vigilantes in the streets.
i want to see you smile again." - Radiohead shirt

everything feels like prophecy.

- walking out of the building
this beautiful morning
i saw the smoke
the fleets of screaming sirens
and i knew it was the towers

after, everyone seemed to carry
a dark secret in their eyes.
everyone's eyes seemed to plead/say
i know. i know.
i have been witness.

why is it that in times of tragedy
we always feel closest? connected.
b/c when the fragile daily things
that unite us are gone
we look for something more solid

the fire escape scared me.
i wondered, will this hold my weight?

communities are fragile buildings
and when our buildings are gone
we must try to build our communities

people are trapped
under the rubble
and their cellphone batteries
are dying

"brutally reshaped manhattan skyline" - the radio

- these two guys are just sitting in the middle of Ave. A, which is more or less deserted.

- it seems wrong to smile at times like this, wrong to find anything funny. but it also feels wrong to feel too serious, to get caught up in the grim excitement of it all.

- John and I started to get drunk this afternoon, but it started to feel wrong, so we sobered up and went to give blood.

That's the end of my entry for that day. The next week, The New Yorker published an issue. This poem, by Adam Zagajewski, was the final page of the magazine. It meant a lot to me then, about the day and what happened, and it means a lot to me now. Here it is. Be safe today and tell your family and friends that you love them. - HRS

Try to Praise the Mutilated World
by Adam Zagajewski (translated by Renata Gorczynski)

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Anatomy of a Mixed Tape, Track the Fifteenth

15. People Talkin’—Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams - World Without Tears - People Talkin'

Lucinda Williams has been near and dear to my heart ever since her 1998 “breakthrough” album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Following that Ms. Williams released Essence in 2001 and World Without Tears, from which this song is taken, in 2003. Essence I never really got into, but World Without Tears is easily Car Wheels’s equal, albeit in a much different way: World is bruised, roughed-up and worn-out, while Car Wheels is full of vigor, feisty and fight-ready. Lucinda’s all yowl and holler on the earlier album, and all whiskey-scarred croon on the later—though still determined, as this song indicates:

Livin’ … is full of misery and pain
Somebody call you a dirty name
Keep on walkin’
Keep on walkin’

What the album is is mature, which is a rare thing in pop/rock music. (Or, more accurately, in life in general.) I’ve heard the like, maturity-wise, just a handful of times before, including Paul Simon’s wry, winking “Old,” from 2000’s You’re the One, and the whole of Warren Zevon’s swan song record The Wind, recorded and released in the year following his diagnosis with terminal cancer.

Having a sense of humor about the trials and tribulations that are an integral, inescapable part of life is a very important part of what being “mature” means. Ms. Williams notes “people talkin’,” along with “gossip and waggin’ tongues,” but concludes you gotta just “keep on walkin’”; Mr. Simon sings, “Down the decades every year /// Summer leaves and my birthday’s here /// And all my friends stand up and cheer /// And say, ‘Man, you’re old.’”; and Mr. Zevon, well … tune in tomorrow or thereabouts; same Bat Time, same Bat Channel.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Anatomy of a Mixed Tape, Track the Fourteenth

14. Denton Road—Michael Penn

Michael Penn - Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947 - Denton Road

As Randy Newman sang—though, apparently, satirically—I love L.A.

I don’t quite know why, as I really haven’t even spent much time there; pretty much a few weeks in a hostel on Venice Beach and a couple pass-throughs of LAX are all I’ve seen of the place. But I like it. And this record, Mr. Hollywood, 1947, makes me nostalgic for it, for the old L.A. of Bukowski’s poem “Pershing Square, Los Angeles, 1939,” of the movie (I know, it was a book before; I haven’t read it) L.A. Confidential … of the city that’s pronounced not “L.A.” but “Loss An-juh-leez.”

Mr. Penn is, as you might have guessed, the brother of Sean and the late Chris; he’s also the husband of Aimee Mann: a mini theme (which seems like it should be an anagram of Ms. Mann’s name, but isn’t) emerges. Also I’m a sucker for proper names in songs:

Goodbye Sally, Simi Valley,
Denton Road, The Roosevelt Hotel
For my own farewell
And if you don’t show, that’s fine.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Anatomy of a Mixed Tape, Track the Thirteenth

13. 4th of July—Aimee Mann

Aimee Mann - Whatever - 4th of July

As I noted earlier, in this post, later in the Mixed CD another Aimee Mann song, featuring the word “June,” would be reviewed. This is it.

There are actually two Aimee Mann songs I know of that include “June”; the one reviewed here, and “Ghost World,” from Bachelor No. 2. This song is from the same album on which “Stupid Thing” is, namely Whatever.

The song begins:

Today’s the Fourth of July
Another June has gone by

Junes go quick. Suddenly, somehow, it’s the Fourth again, year after year, in hot July, and you think, before the summer’s even over, “Where’d it go?” I have felt that way before about many Junes. As Chris Eigeman says as the character Max in Noah Baumbach’s film Kicking and Screaming (just released on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection):

I’m nostalgic for conversations I had yesterday. I’ve begun reminiscing events before they even occur. I’m reminiscing this right now.

I know the feeling; the weight of all the days and people and places that have come before begins to stack up, to bear down on you, and it’s just enervating. Which is not how it is all the time; it’s rather a matter of perspective, a feeling that comes (and goes) from time to time, as Ms. Mann seems to acknowledge with the somewhat flippant summing-up line, “So that’s today’s memory lane.”

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Anatomy of a Mixed Tape, Track the Twelfth

12. To Be the One—Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker - To Be the One

Ryan Adams has become progressively harder to like, even for those of us—Dylan fans, alt-country aficionados, Southern boys in New York—with a genetic predisposition for Ryan Adams-liking. Mr. Adams has become an egomaniac, a poseur, fame-addicted, over-prolific and, to be honest, kind of just a dick. None of which excludes him from appreciation (see: Dylan, above); rather it’s his laziness, of late, in his songwriting.

Every now and again he shows a bit of genius—some of the songs on his originally two-part Love Is Hell album, for example, and parts of Cold Roses—but more often than not the costs (in time and, given the number of records he releases, in money) of being a Ryan Adams-liker outweigh the benefits.

Not so with his earlier work, of which his first solo album, Heartbreaker—on which you’ll find this cut, “To Be the One”—is the indisputable apex. The record starts out rocking, loose and freewheeling with “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” and then quickly downshifts, where it remains for the rest of the album.

There are many highlights—”Oh My Sweet Carolina,” a gorgeous duet between Mr. Adams and Emmylou Harris, may be my favorite—and arguably no duds. The record, as the cover suggests, is a cigarette lying back on the bed, looping slow smoke curls upward. “To Be the One” is fine, too, all broke-down worry and unrequited passion and longing.

However, as someone once said (there is some disagreement as to whom), writing about music is like dancing about architecture—which means my words can’t hope to do justice to this song’s singing … so I’ll just leave you with this couplet:

And the empty bottle it misses you
Yeah and I’m the one that it’s talking to

It’s talking to me less and less these days.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Anatomy of a Mixed Tape, Track the Eleventh

11. Lived in Bars—Cat Power

Cat Power - The Greatest - Lived In Bars

I am not, like some I know, an ardent Cat Power fan. She has some great songs, and a husky, distinct voice—but I often find her “downness” and fragility—especially on stage—a bit distracting and overwrought. To be fair, I haven’t listed to her earliest albums, What Would the Community Think? and Moon Pix, but I have listened closely to her two most recent records, You Are Free and The Greatest.

The former is definitely the “downer” of the two; I listened to it over and again when I was on Antarctica. (That, however, probably says more about me at the time than it does the album.) It’s good, but avoid it like the plague if it’s a nice day out; it’ll end any happy feeling you’re having post-haste.

The latter, from which the song “Lived in Bars” hails, is a bit more “up.” Or at least, if not “up,” more enjoyable: there’s a big difference between sad and moody in your darkened bedroom and sad and moody in a low-lit Memphis bar, the neon jukebox bubbles floating up slow.

The first verse says it all:

We’ve lived in bars
And danced on tables
Hotel trains and ships that sail
We swim with sharks
And fly with aeroplanes in the air

It’s a weary song, but not without a bit of tired-smile nostalgia for the past—which picks up and takes flight, backed by Memphis horns and a girl-group doo-wop finish, up tempo now, as it nears the end.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Anatomy of a Mixed Tape, Track the Tenth

10. Never My Love—The Association

The Association - The Association: Greatest Hits! - Never My Love

“Never My Love” has one of the most recognizable intros of any song ever written, right up there with the intro to Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”; the bass line, which draws you in and then drops down after just a few notes, is instantly recognizable.

I heard this song most recently walking through a café in my neighborhood called Phoebe’s, meeting a friend of mine, pre-meeting, for coffee in the backyard. Wind was through the tree leaves and all was calm; this song nicely accentuated the evening’s feel.

Certain songs sound better not at home; this is one of them. (Jeff Tweedy, in an interview in Magnet magazine, has said something to this effect.) Once, pre-show at The Mercury Lounge, on the edge of New York City’s Lower East Side, I heard the aforementioned songwriter’s band Wilco’s album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Though of course (being a big Wilco fan) I was already very familiar with the record, hearing it in that setting was an entirely new and unique experience.

Another time, in the same venue, pre-Lucero show, I heard some keening, foreboding music over the sound system.

“What is this?” I asked my friends. “This isn’t … it can’t be … the Boss, is it?”

It was. I’d always dismissed Bruce Springsteen. But the night I heard Nebraska for the first time, that night at The Mercury Lounge, my ill-informed disdain of an American treasure was kaput.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Anatomy of a Mixed Tape, Track the Ninth

9. Autumn in New York—Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday - Ken Burns Jazz: Billie Holiday - Autumn in New York

For those of you out there in TV land who don’t “get” jazz, I highly recommend Ken Burns’ documentary on the subject. I really didn’t “get” jazz myself until I saw the series, which explains what the first jazz artists were trying to do with their music, how they were attempting to liberate the music from its former forms and constraints.

Previously I’d thought (though not firmly; I knew I didn’t know what I was talking about) jazz to be a bit wanky and not really that important or interesting, with the exception of maybe a few great albums, notably Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.

After viewing the documentary, I feel I have a greater understanding of the jazz artists’ intent, and therefore can appreciate the music in a much deeper way. Sure, I might still love rock ‘n’ roll above all other musical forms, but now that I understand towards what those artists were striving, I feel I can really appreciate and “get”—or at least move closer to “getting”—it.

But the above’s got virtually nothing to do with the song in question here.

This song, quite simply, whether you know a lot or nothing about jazz, is vision-conjuring and beautiful. (It connects to the above plug for Ken Burns’ documentary in that I first heard it therein.) Billie Holiday makes you feel what autumn in New York is like, in a deliciously sensual way. Listening to this song I can feel the fall air on my skin; the high, angled, coppery sunlight of a fall afternoon “shimmering” down through “canyons of steel.”

Ms. Holiday is singing about a simple happiness, a full fellow-feeling with the city’s other inhabitants—and, in fact, the (at times) seemingly sentient city itself. It’s something I look forward to, but calmly, peacefully. As Ms. Holiday sings, succinctly and sweetly:

It’s autumn in New York
It’s good to live it again

How very true. Or, more accurately, how very soon to be true.