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 CNN.com (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