Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You're So Rude

My sister called to pass along that my niece thinks I'm rude. Why? She's of the view that I compared her to a dog.

I had dinner with the whole clan on Sunday night before making a dash for the airport. My niece sat directly across from me. At some point, she retorted to my sister "okay, mother" in a rather sarcastic tone. I found her intonation humerous and reminiscent of a commercial -- the one with a child singing, "Hello mother. Hello father." And I said so, even singing a bit of the jingle.

Well, the little booger (Yes, that's you! I know you snoop here.) somehow figured out which commercial we were all thinking about but couldn't name.

See the problem? I could've sworn it was a commercial for Oscar Meyer wieners or marshmallows. Who knew it was flea repellent?

In any event, I was trying to tell you that you're cute. Can't you ever cut your uncle a break?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Rising from a Stupor

Tonight, I feel inspired to be an American. Tonight, I'm reminded of the gratitude I owe my parents for bringing me to this land. Tonight, I sense the possibility for a country to regain its footing on the path that might have been had RFK survived California.

The promise of a brighter future seems not out of sight. Hope is alive, and the imagination is awake, thanks to a transformative figure at a transformative time.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Normalcy of Lunacy

I've experienced many a misadventure with this friend. But the one yesterday will surely be among the most memorable, given the heights of its idiocy and hilarity.

A couple of months ago, this friend from Texas asked whether I was up for a road trip to Toronto for his cousin's wedding. It was going to cost several hundred dollars more to fly directly into Toronto than to come up to NYC and drive, so he figured he'd come up, hang out a bit and take a road trip.

I probably should've thought things through before answering, but I'm always up for a road trip, so I told him I was in. After all, it was about 10 years ago that the two of us rather spontaneously drove from Houston to L.A. and came away with a bundle of silly memories.

Problems quickly arose as I started to ask questions over the next few weeks. First, I asked whether I was invited to the wedding. Thought I was merely confirming the obvious. What the hell was I supposed to do on my own in Toronto, right? I heard quite a bit of hemming and hawing, so I asked whether he was invited. As it turned out, he wasn't sure, because he didn't really know the cousin getting married very well. He was going mostly because other cousins of his from Hong Kong and London were going.

So he confirmed that he was invited, but I was not. What's more, he found out that his cousin who was going to ride back with us wanted to leave on Monday instead of Sunday. Which meant what? That I'd have to take a day off work to ride in a car for 17 hours to attend a wedding that ... well, I couldn't attend.

This is all making more and more sense, right? Just you wait.

On top of the building absurdity of it all, I learned that MGMT -- perhaps my favorite band of the summer -- was playing a free show at McCarren Park Pool on Sunday afternoon. I immediately got to thinking that it was perhaps time to beg off. (Many of my friends thought I should've reached that point as soon as the idea of a two-day road trip to Toronto was raised.)

Alas, I couldn't back out. I had told him that I'd go, so I'd go. And that was that.

Well, not quite. I figured I'd only have to accompany him on the way up to fulfill my obligation; he had a cousin to keep him company on the way back. So my plan was to get a one-way rental in Buffalo and drive back Saturday night.

We headed out bright and early Saturday morning. Probably the earliest I'd gotten up on a Saturday in months. At that hour during the weekend, the city seems rather peaceful. But also rather strange. Grand Central felt like a city of tourists. And when we drove away from the car rental place, I saw what looked to be a bum picking up a pair of slacks off the ground. Strange.

The first part of the drive went smoothly enough. We made good time passing through Jersey and Pennsylvania before looping back into New York. We listened to some good tunes on the iPod. We reminisced about other stupid ideas we've come up with over the years. At some point, he thanked me for coming along, and I told
him that I'd be annoyed if it weren't for the fact that this doesn't even register in the top 5 of the dumbest things I've seen him do. Soon enough, we were already almost at Buffalo.

We pulled into a rest stop so that he could change into his suit. I stayed outside to fill up the tank. Moments later, he came running back, consternation on face and full (well, sort of) garment bag in hand.

"I can't find my pants," he said, as he searched the car inside out. He was sure that he'd packed them, but the pants were nowhere to be found. Because the garment bag lacked a bottom enclosure, he started to contemplate the likelihood that he dropped them along the way to the car rental place.

And just then, I remembered the sight of the bum picking up slacks off the ground. Didn't have the heart to mention it at that moment, because he was pretty pissed. We'd come all this way, and now he'd either have to skip out on the wedding or show up looking like a dope. (Well, that second possibility was probably going to be the case regardless of the pants situation.)

I tried to calm him down and told him that we should just find a mall so that he could buy a pair of pants to make do. After he got the expletives out of his system, we went on the hunt for a Banana Republic. Along the way, he told me that he sent a text message to his cousin that said something like: "Big problem. Dropped pants. Call me." Seemed an ill-advised message to me. Now, he ran the risk of not only being the dopey cousin, but also the pervy one. But whatever. There were more pressing concerns at hand.

We tracked down a Banana Republic, and he tracked down some pants. All was (as) normal (as could be) again. He then dropped me off at the car rental center at the airport before continuing on his way to Toronto.

I checked in at Budget and was told that my name would be called when my car was ready. I surveyed the scene and noticed a large number of others waiting. And they all looked pretty annoyed. Apparently, Budget had run out of cars, and none of the other companies had any available, either. Right away, I could sense that my crazy day was not likely to end soon.

An hour went by, and I was still waiting to hear my name. I figured I might as well check the airline websites on my BlackBerry to see how much I'd have to shell out to fly home instead. Lo and behold, JetBlue had a ticket for an astonishingly low $170, and the flight would get me into the city before 11:00 p.m. I was probably going to spend about $130 for the car and gas, so it was a no-brainer. Turned out to be a blessing that Budget is such a crap company. And off I went on an unexpectedly abbreviated trip to home sweet home.

So basically, I left my apartment at 9:00 a.m. and traveled 800 miles by plane, train and automobile (but without pants) before getting home at midnight. I wasted a Saturday and blew off $170 to keep my word. But, you know, crazy as it may sound, I had fun. And it all worked out in the end, as it always does. He saw his cousins in Toronto, and I saw MGMT in Brooklyn! (Woohoo!)

Still, you can bet I'll be saving this rather large chip to cash in on a rainy day. [Oh ... if you read this, pantless wonder, think real hard about that time when you wouldn't bother driving down to Houston while I was in town to see my folks. Think real hard. And what about that time when you left me stranded at the airport in Philly during a blizzard because your "girlfriend" wouldn't "let" you drive back to pick me up? Yup. This is one hefty-sized chip I'll be cashing in some day.]

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Swooshed into Nostalgia

So this is another recent favorite: Cut Copy. I'd known about them for a long while, but I didn't fully discover them until I heard them a few weeks ago at anotheroom -- my favorite neighborhood bar (except on those occasions when its charm is co-opted by the marauders from uptown). Can always count on them to have an admirable playlist put together.

I heard "Feel the Love" and just had to harass the bartender for the name of the band. Quite surprised to find out that it was Cut Copy. I'd imagined them to be less melodic and more frenetic.

The synth swooshes and the "ooh oohs" made me want to go home and watch Pretty in Pink. And maybe even break out dancing to Philip Oakley and Giorgio Moroder's "Together in Electric Dreams." Ah ... I can almost imagine myself at HYCAC again. (You'd have to be a pretty ancient Asian from Houston to get that reference. The good ol' days ... mixing it up with gangster wannabes til the wee hours and eating at Champps afterwards, sitting next to bullet holes in the windows. Until we graduated to Tan Tan and sat next to the thugs responsible for the bullet holes. Where has the time gone?)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Strangely Delicious Brew

Before Lykke Li, my musical addiction centered on MGMT. And that was, what ... a week ago? I can be rather fickle sometimes.

You know, I didn't much care for Oracular Spectacular when I first got it. I really only bought the album for "Time to Pretend." Slapped that on my current playlist and ignored the other tracks.

Then I heard "Kids" playing while I ate dinner at Belcourt. (Fantastic restaurant, by the way. Why hasn't steak with bone marrow sauce caught on at more places?) There's something strangely transformative about hearing music that you only kinda like playing in an environment where you don't expect to hear it. After the dinner, I gave the album another listen, and it started to grow on me.

My guess is that, for most people, Oracular Spectacular will sound quite strange upon the first listen. It did for me. But that's likely because MGMT has created such a unique sound. It's at once dancy and psychedelic, serene and bombastic. Sometimes, they sound like a hippie-ish band from the 60's. Other times, they sound like the Bee Gees on the soundtrack for the 21st century remake of Saturday Night Fever. Still other times, they sound like a band that couldn't decide whether to play electropop or indie rock and decided to do both. Seems like a recipe for a really disgusting oracular stew. And, on first listen, it is. But it becomes addictively tasty after you get over the weirdness.

They're playing a free show at McCarren Park Pool on Sunday with The Ting Tings. And I'm probably going to miss it because I let a friend sucker me into a road trip to Toronto for the weekend. (He needs to be there for a wedding, but he doesn't want to pay for airfare. So he convinces me to go to keep him company. Then he tells me that I'm not invited to the wedding. And he tries to make it all better by noting that one of his rather cute cousins from Australia will be riding back with us. 17 hours roundtrip? She'd better be a supermodel. Cheap bastard.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Scandinavian Spunk

My musical addiction of the moment is Lykke Li. She's Swedish. (Naturally!)

I heard "Little Bit" a couple of months ago and picked up her EP right away. It only has four songs, and all are good. But I wanted more right away. Quite bummed to learn that her debut album, Youth Novels, wouldn't be released in the States until August 19. But I managed to snag an import copy last week. (Woohoo!)

Fantastic album. Not a single clunker in the mix. One of those rare albums I can listen to from beginning to end.
Bjorn (of Peter Bjorn and John) Yttling's production surely has much to do with that. As do Lykke's very cute inflections -- like "awl" instead of "all." So, the album's been on non-stop rotation on my iPod.

She's reminiscent of Kate Bush one moment and Kylie Minogue the next, but derivative of neither at any moment. Haunting, spoken-word verses scattered among bouncy, it's-hard-to-stay-still numbers. All grown up here, not a care in the world there. (She's all of 22.)

The buzz surrounding Lykke online seems to have reached a fevered pitch. But my suspicion is that she won't catch on stateside. I say that with the histories of folks like Kate Nash and The Ting Tings in mind. Both attained rapid success in Europe, became the focus of many a blog post in the U.S. as a result, and then made the slightest of splashes when their albums finally arrived on U.S. shores. I'll try my best to withhold any value judgments, but I think it's fair to say that there's a discernable difference between the European aesthetic and that of Americans. (After all, the Swedes came up with H&M. And the Americans came up with Abercrombie & Fitch. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.)

Oh man! While putting this together, I found a clip for an acoustic, in-studio performance of "I'm Good, I'm Gone."

There are a couple of members of Shout Out Louds playing with her! (And the blonde with the crazy hair is apparently Robyn -- the rare Swedish export in whom I have no interest.)

Yup. I think I can officially bestow the title of "Coolest People in the World" upon the Swedes. (Random tidbit, but any society progressive enough to give moms and dads a year off from work after the birth of a child deserves recognition. As does any society that takes in many times more Iraqi refugees than the U.S. Shouldn't the country responsible for the invasion take on a bigger burden? Ah, but I digress ...)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Don't let mom know.

So here's the last of the Texas entries. Flew into Dallas and headed straight to a bar from the airport. Seemed the only logical destination after yet another annoying flight (even if I did get bumped up to first class).

From Dallas and Houston, Fourth of July
That's us sitting outside on a decently balmy night -- if 80 degrees can be balmy -- at The Old Monk. Drove down to Houston the next morning. Got in just in time for the barbecue at my oldest sister's place. Had fajitas for lunch the next day and took the kids to a Chuck E. Cheese type of place. Wanted to take them to Hermann Park for a little paddle boating, but one of my sisters poo pooed all over that idea. She felt it was too dangerous ... yet she let her kids run around with sparklers and firecrackers the day before. Go figure. Hung out with high school buddies Saturday night. Ate lunch at Pappadeaux on Sunday to get my cajun fix.

From Dallas and Houston, Fourth of July

And then it was back up to Dallas for the culinary highlight of the trip: dinner at Babe's.

Oh, man. That's gotta be the archetype of chicken fried steaks. See that creamed corn at the top of the plate? The butter-to-corn ratio is at very balanced 3 to 1.

Have you ever played that silly game in which you're asked to imagine yourself on a deserted island with access to only one dish? The point is to decide which dish you'd want to eat over and over again. Well, for a long while, my choice has been mom's beef noodle soup. But I may have to re-think that selection. (Good thing mom can't read English. And don't you go translating, neither.)

[Another reason to like Babe's: When I was there back in November, one of the waitresses told me that she liked my shirt. I happened to be wearing my British Sea Power t-shirt. Who knew that a waitress who performs the Hokey Pokey with her colleagues would be a BSP fan? Then again, I'm not sure whether she liked the "British Sea Power" or the butterfly images portion of the shirt. Oh well ... she liked the shirt. That's good enough for me.]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Are we actually out of purgatory?

Holy crap! I finally paid my first visit to the new Whole Foods that opened up down the street, and life may never be the same again. You have to understand that I live in that desolate corner of Manhattan known as northern Battery Park City (otherwise referred to as TriBeCa by the pretentious among my neighbors). Until last week, the most exciting food-shopping destination in the neighborhood was the Duane Reade. (BTW -- Absolutely random piece of information. Did you know that Duane Reade gets its name from the fact that its first store was situated on Broadway between Duane and Reade Streets? Now your life may never be the same again, either, right?)

I walked in, and I was overwhelmed. An actual supermarket in the neighborhood? Huh? Fresh meats? Four different brands of milk? And two whole display cases of beer? I picked up a six pack ... and I ain't even close to being out of beer!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Do you enjoy crushing hopes and dreams?

Another entertaining moment from the Fourth of July weekend came courtesy of Harry Potter. My friend spotted a copy of the last Harry while wandering about in my oldest sister's kitchen. He started asking questions about the book, and my sister laughed because she was amused that he managed to spot it. On this occasion, her boyfriend was the one reading the book, and he had camouflaged the cover with a blank sheet of paper because he's of the view that people make certain unflattering judgments about grown men who read Harry Potter. (This, of course, made my friend defensive, because he's a grown man who reads Harry Potter.)

The exchange prompted me to recount a story about the dangers of talking about Harry in public. I told them about my gaff at a restaurant the Monday after the last Harry was released. I was at lunch with yet another grown man who's a fan of the child wizard. I knew that he'd been out on Fire Island the weekend of the release and hadn't had much time to read, so I asked how far along he'd gotten.

"Already finished it," he said, to my amazement.

I'm not much of a fan of wizardry, so I had no qualms asking him what happens.

"So ... does Harry die or what?" I asked, with all the nonchalance I could muster.

After re-confirming that he wasn't going to ruin the fun for me, he proceeded to tell me how the tale ends. And as he did so, I heard a anguished squeal from the table next to us.

"No, no! Please stop!" howled the poor woman, with her face aghast. (Remember that scene from The Excorcist? "Make it stop! Make it stop!")

Yeah. We seriously traumatized her. My food somehow tasted less appetizing afterwards.

So, you'd figure that I would've learned my lesson. But while recounting this story in my sister's kitchen, I didn't edit out my lunch companion's response. After my sister and my friend laughed heartily at my moment of public shame, it dawned on my sister that I'd just done it again.

"Oh no! He hasn't finished!" she exclaimed, leaving me wallowing in guilt once more.

Her boyfriend looked wholly dejected. But then he smiled and assured us that he had already finished reading. I don't know if he was telling the truth, but I'm of the view that it's impolite to question the honesty of grown men who read Harry Potter.

Yeah, I can be a bit slow sometimes. But, hey ... I've finally learned. If you know whether Harry lives, you didn't find out by reading this entry.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

You're a bad, bad man.

Yet another trip home to Texas this past weekend. Quite a few fun memories, starting with this one, courtesy of my precocious 9-year-old niece.

I'm at my oldest sister's house for a family barbecue. The whole gang is there -- rowdy niece, nephews and all. Talk starts up about a rabbit that's been hanging around in the backward. The little ones overhear and run out looking for the hoppity rascal. I quip, "Mmm ... if you catch it, we can eat it." (Maybe not the most child-friendly comment, but I'd just eaten some tasty tagliatelle with rabbit ragu the night before!)

This stops my niece in her tracks. She dons a look of disgust and asks, "You eat rabbits?"

By this time, I'm having a little fun with her. So I say, with a smile, "They're delicious!"

She dons a look of even greater disgust and tells me, "You're a bad, bad man." Then she pauses a bit before finishing things off: "That's why you don't get any dates."

I didn't quite follow the logic, and I questioned the accuracy of her information. But, really, there was nothing to do but laugh. I guess I'd better watch my diet if ever I'm going to settle down.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The movie stinks, but the music ain't bad.

So here's the other pilfered entry: a soundtrack for my life. (Take a look here for the inspiration.)

This was damn hard (but quite fun). Probably much too big a project to tackle in one night. But ... whatever. Here's a first draft that'll surely need to be edited heavily.

opening credits: british sea power, “childhood memories”
waking up: peter bjorn & john, “up against the wall”
hanging out: the go! team, “huddle formation”
suburban boredom: beautiful people, “sedated times”
prelude to fistfight: white rose movement, “alsatian

nighttime drive: hooverphonic, “inhaler”
reflection: the radio dept., “strange things will happen”
transition to adulthood: saint etienne, “roseneck”
infatuation: feist, “one evening”
falling in love: lykke li, “little bit”
love scene: broken social scene, “lover’s spit”
argument: the killers, “smile like you mean it”
breaking up: cocteau twins, “cherry-cloured funk”
after the breakup: one dove, “there goes the cure”
drifting aimlessly: fields, “if you fail we all fail”
falling apart: pet shop boys, “we all feel better in the dark”
in dark room alone: my bloody valentine, “sometimes”
thinking about her: keane, “try again”
reconnection: frou frou, “it’s good to be in love”
holding hands: club 8, “you and me”
first dance at wedding: leona naess, “sunny sunday

closing credits: jem, “wish i

Wow. That's quite the heavy sprinkling of cheese. Has my life been, and will it be, that sappy? Man, if this were a movie, I wouldn't watch it.

But I'd buy the soundtrack.

Favorites among favorites, revisited.

This entry has spent many months in gestation. Tonight, it was finally time to induce labor.

I stole the idea from someone on Brilliant, just brilliant, I thought when I stumbled upon her journal entry. (Even more brilliant is her other journal entry, which shall also be pilfered.)

When I first read her entry many months ago, I immediately wanted to put together a list of my own. But it's been a monumentally daunting task. I came up with a rough draft while flying home to Houston some time last year. But I couldn't commit to my selections enough to finalize them. How many spots to give to old-timers? How many to give to current favorites, who, given my often short attention span, may no longer be favorites in a couple of months? Hell, I struggled for another couple of hours just now scooting bands in and escorting others out. But I'm at peace with my choices now ... I suppose.

Here are my top 17 favorite bands of all time, arranged in reverse chronological order by the approximate date on which I fell in love with each. (17 because that's my favorite number.)
first song: the comeback
fell in love with: shut your eyes
current favorite: hard rain

first song: the zookeper’s boy
fell in love with: the seething rain weeps for you
current favorite: snow brigade

first song: remember me
fell in love with: childhood memories
current favorite: trip out

first song: too young
fell in love with: holdin’ on together
current favorite: everything is everything

first song: ibi dreams of pavement (a better day)
fell in love with: swimmers
current favorite: 7/4 (shoreline)

first song: set yourself on fire
fell in love with: elevator love letter
current favorite: life 2: the unhappy ending

first song: against the tide
fell in love with: strange things will happen
current favorite: ewan

first song: obstacle 1
fell in love with: obstacle 1
current favorite: obstacle 1

first song: everlasting love
fell in love with: better days
current favorite: the beauty of the way we’re living

first song: soon
fell in love with: when you sleep
current favorite: sometimes

first song: mario’s cafe
fell in love with: spring
current favorite: new thing

first song: carolyn’s fingers
fell in love with: cico buff
current favorite: orange appled

first song: how soon is now?
fell in love with: there is a light that never goes out
current favorite: there is a light that never goes out

first song: just like heaven
fell in love with: just like heaven
current favorite: just like heaven

first song: oh l’amour
fell in love with: victim of love (vixenvitesse mix)
current favorite: i love saturday

first song: strangelove
fell in love with: everything counts
current favorite: but not tonight

first song: bizarre love triangle
fell in love with: bizarre love triangle
current favorite: primitive notion

But I'm gonna cheat a bit, because it was agonizing to leave out this band. They're actually my current favorite, but I couldn't justify bumping off any of the others to let in this relative newcomer. Maybe in another few months. For now, they get a very honorable mention in their very own space.

first song: it never entered my mind
fell in love with: it never entered my mind
current favorite: beggin’

A throwback of sorts. Very reminiscent of Pet Shop Boys, but with newer synthesizers, deeper bass lines and stronger integration of guitars. That and they're Swedish ... as are three of my top 17. (Add in one from Denmark, and that's a pretty big Scandinavian bloc. Hmm ... I've just noticed that only one among the 17 is American. Go figure.)

It'll be fun to take a look at this (and update it) in a couple of years.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

You're like the rest of them.

I picked up a few discs at the Virgin Megastore today. While there, I discovered that I own four of the albums on their Top 20 chart.

Coldplay, Viva La Vida
The Ting Tings, We Started Nothing
Wolf Parade, At Mount Zoomer
Santogold, Santogold

Not quite sure what to make of that. I suppose the most accurate statement for the situation is that I appear to share the tastes of an appreciable portion of the shoppers at this particular Virgin Megastore. But, again ... not quite sure what to make of that.

BTW -- The new Wolf Parade is quite blah. Much too "whine and drone" for my tastes. And my initial infatuation with Viva La Vida has dissipated precipitously. Might have something to do with their Today Show appearance. Seeing bands perform poorly live has a way of making my thumb apply pressure to the "skip" button with greater ease when their songs sneak into the rotation on my iPod. Punishment for those who fail to master their craft in its entirety.

Tonight, I write.

For many a weekend, I've told myself that I'd park in front of the computer and write, write, write. Well, this may finally be the night.

The window's open. There's a gentle breeze. I see ships passing on the river. Music is humming in the background.

I feel inspired. I feel determined.

Let's see if I can finally tackle some of those neglected entries.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Maybe you should practice a little.

Coldplay performed on the Today Show this morning. Quite dreadful. I had been disappointed about not snagging tickets to the free MSG show on Monday (which was also, apparently, not very good), because they're not scheduled to play in NYC again during the Viva La Vida tour. (Well, they'll be in the Meadowlands at some point, but that don't count.) Now, I feel better. Chris's voice just doesn't seem to be made for live performances. And his knack for ad-libbing doesn't help, either. (Did the same thing on Austin City Limits and How We Saw the World.) It's as if he doesn't rehearse and just makes crap up as he goes. (He flubbed the opening lyrics to one of the songs this morning, much like he did at the MSG show.)

I don't insist on a note-for-note replay of an album when I go to a concert, but I do insist on a polished sound. I wonder if Jonny, Will and Guy get annoyed with him? They're amazingly polished compared to his nonchalant ways.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Let me tell you about this thing I found called the Internet.

So John McCain thinks that eBay is a model for U.S. economic growth. Actually, I'm paraphrasing liberally, because I can't make much sense of the story. From what I can gather, McCain has a penchant for asserting that 1.3 million people worldwide "make a living off eBay." And he follows that up with statements like: "It's called an information-technology revolution, and it's not that much different as far as its effects worldwide as the industrial revolution was."

I bet he doesn't even know how to load up the eBay home page. And if he'd just watch The 40 Year Old Virgin, I'd bet he'd stop touting the economic wonders of making a living selling crap on eBay.

Whatever his point, he comes across as a severely out of touch kook. Reminds me of the time when my mom watched The Net (you know, that dreadful Sandra Bullock yarn about the bogeyman who resides online) and then called me all worked up, wanting to warn me that dangerous things can happen on this thing called the Internet. And that was, what ... eleven years ago? Even my mom's with it by now.

C'mon, John! Go buy a Wii or something!

[All fun and games aside, I'd truly pity the country that has this man as President. His "gooks" remark in 2000 still sticks with me. Sure, he justified use of the derogatory term as a reference only to his torturers in Vietnam. But, as a commentator in the linked San Francisco Chronicle article points out, would it be acceptable for McCain to refer to his torturers as "niggers" had he been captured by Nigerians? Why can't he simply refer to them as "bastards" or "fuckers"? Why use a race-injected epithet ... unless he has a problem with that race? Was the torture somehow worse because it was inflicted by Asians?]

Sunday, June 22, 2008

You can come out now.

I've got a rather conflicted relationship with Coldplay. I first heard Coldplay during law school. Stumbled upon the last bit of the video for "Yellow" while clicking through MTV and found it to be rather catchy -- especially for something on MTV. (I'm pretty sure "Yellow" was already a colossal hit, but I had no idea because I'd basically stopped listening to the radio.) I mentioned my intrigue to one of my music buddies: "Hey, have you heard this song 'Yellow?'" His response was an indignant, "Bleh!" And that was that for my nascent interest in Coldplay.

My next meaningful encounter with the band came at Coachella 2005 -- five years later and a chance to redeem my musical independence. Alas, it was not to be, thanks to one very annoying girl.

After Coachella, a friend at work lent me his copy of X&Y. I was skeptical and cautiously aware of the consequences entailed by becoming a fan of a megaband. But I took a listen and got hooked. For a long stretch afterwards, Coldplay was among the heaviest players on my iPod rotation.

But I was always a bit self-conscious about being a fan. So much so that, after Coldplay made it into the top 10 of my profile, I semi-consciously started listening to them less. I felt like an English literature major trying to hide his Danielle Steele "novel."

Well, there's no hiding my love for the seemingly pedestrian now. I picked up Viva La Vida last week, and Coldplay will soon be back in my top 10. I've been listening to the album virtually non-stop since last Tuesday.

My guess is that Coldplay traditionalists probably don't like the album as much as I do. They tend to favor the soft stuff (e.g., "The Scientist") whereas I prefer the hard stuff (e.g., "Square One"). More so than any Coldplay album, Viva La Vida lets Jonny, Will and Guy do their thing unencumbered. Instrumentation finally takes more of the foreground than Chris's voice, and Coldplay sounds more like what they describe themselves to be on MySpace: "our type of music is very heavy soft rock." Apparently, that didn't happen by accident, as Chris notes in an NYT article:
Mr. Martin said the band sat down about two years ago, after a lengthy tour behind “X&Y,” and said, “If we carry on like this, it’s going to appear like a one-man show, and it’s going to get very boring very quickly.” So, he explained, “everybody felt like they had to rip it up and start again.

I'm sure Brian Eno deserves much of the credit for the fuller sound. The liner notes credit him for the album's "sonic landscape," and that's a very fitting term. Many reviewers feel the need to invoke comparisons to U2 -- which is rather annoying -- just because Eno produced many of U2's albums. (Worse yet are the implicit suggestions that Coldplay is trying, unsuccessfuly, to pose as U2.) I don't hear any U2 at all. Rather, I hear Slowdive, Chapterhouse and other shoegazer goodness -- what with the effects-laden guitars swirling every which way. Makes you wonder if Jonny borrowed some effects pedals from Robin Guthrie or Kevin Shields.

When I heard "Cemeteries of London" and "Lovers in Japan / Reign of Love," aural memories of Slowdive's "Souvlaki Space Station" immediately swooped into the forefront of my consciousness. All three tracks feature a sustained, atmospheric drone that's somehow reminiscent of a ghost howling in the wind. (Quite appropriate for "Cemteries of London," no?) Lo and behold, when I read Eno's Wikipedia entry, I discovered that he worked on Souvlaki.

Actually, when I say
"Lovers in Japan / Reign of Love," I really mean "Lovers in Japan." That's one of the few annoying things about Viva La Vida -- a number of tracks (i.e., "Lovers in Japan / Reign of Love," "Yes" and "Death and All His Friends") inexplicably consist of two perfectly fine standalone songs rolled into one unecessarily long one. Bothered me so much that I spliced each of those in two with a sound editor.

But that annoyance is a small one. All in all, Viva La Vida is a damn good album. I almost regret leaving the first night of Coachella 2005 early. Almost.

Let's see if the affection sticks this time and I'm still hanging out with Coldplay in public a couple of months from now.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Inspiration of the Desert

Every now and then, I take a gander at the Coachella website for nostalgia's sake. I just took a look at the lineup for 2005 and became rather disappointed in myself. Granted, I was but a Coachella neophyte that year, and I was still digging myself out of the creative black hole into which I had fallen, but how the hell did I never notice that British Sea Power and Shout Out Louds were there that year? Wish I hadn't looked.

Actually, that's not true. I'm glad I looked. Serves as a good reminder of how far I've come in the past three years in terms of getting back in touch with that awe-inspired me from the days of yore. (Besides, I've seen both bands three times now.)

This is yet another occasion in which Professor Hebert's admonition is ringing in my head: "Don't become someone ten years from now whom you'd hate right now." The me of ten years ago would've had quite the hefty load of disdain for the pre-Coachella 2005 version of me. But I think he'd have fewer issues with the me of now ... I hope. (Yes, the judgment of the me of ten years ago deserves attention from the me of now. Take a look here.)

Would've been nice to have seen British Sea Power and Shout Out Louds at Coachella. But missing them seems to give that inaugural Coachella excursion just that much more of a mythical quality. I mean, I missed two of my all-time favorites, and, still, it was a magical experience. I'm smiling now thinking about it.

Thanks, O.C. friend.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Meaning What You Don't Say

I think it's safe to say that I'm more sensitive to issues involving race than the average American. Perhaps that's what prompted my reaction to the snippet below.

I read that a former NASCAR inspector who is a black woman filed suit against NASCAR for race and sex discrimination. NASCAR, after claiming that it had not yet reviewed the suit, made this preliminary statement:
As an equal opportunity employer, NASCAR is fully committed to the spirit and letter of affirmative action law. NASCAR provides equal opportunity employment to job candidates and employees without regard to race, religion, creed, age, gender, or any other characteristic protected by law. Personnel decisions are made based on factors such as performance and adherence to corporate policy.

At first blush, that statement has all the hallmarks of a canned response to a discrimination suit. But a closer look should make you wonder why NASCAR felt compelled to refer to affirmative action.

Very strange. It's been a long while since I've taken constitutional law. But I remember enough to know that, for the most part, affirmative action statutes regulate the conduct of government agencies (e.g., the make-up of entering classes at universities or the awarding of government contracts to minority-owned businesses) and not that of private employers. To the extent that private employers adopt affirmative action policies, they do so on a voluntary basis. [Alright. I've re-read what I wrote, and I now realize that the NASCAR spokesperson so bewildered me with the reference to affirmative action that I got things all muddled here. Affirmative action consists of policies implemented by government or private entities. Law typically enters the analysis when affirmative action policies are challenged for violating the equal protection provisions of the Constitution. I cannot imagine any valid statute that would require NASCAR to put in place an affirmative action policy, so I cannot imagine any "affirmative action law" that NASCAR may have violated.
It just doesn't make any sense to me why the NASCAR spokesperson mentioned affirmative action.]

My point here isn't to quibble with the failure of NASCAR's spokesperson to understand which laws govern the operation of his company. But I do wonder why he invoked the term "affirmative action" and all the inflamed passions it brings -- especially among the NASCAR faithful -- when there is little likelihood the lawsuit in question will have anything to do with affirmative action. Perhaps I'm about to do what the NASCAR spokesperson did (i.e., speculate without basis), but I wonder if the subtext of the statement is that the (black) woman should be grateful she was hired in the first place, because she wasn't really qualified?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Is this forever?

Wow ... just experienced a very strange blast from the past. Have you ever Googled your name? (Sure you have! No need for the feigned aloofness. Everyone does it!) I just took a peek to, uh ... research. (Yeah, that's it!) And I came upon this little electronic fossil:

It's a posting I made to the 4AD-L mailing list way back in February 1996. I was rambling about the music used in Volkswagen commercials after someone mentioned the use of Lush's "Sweetness and Light" in the Drive VW campaign. In particular, I was expressing my joy in having discovered Ivy by way of that series of catchy ads.

Funny how I've already written an entry about that episode. Brings back such memories ... like how my high school buddies and I shared a goofy infatuation with Miki Berenyi, the lead singer for Lush. (From the looks of the linked site, someone out there is still holding on to his infatuation a bit too tightly. Scary. I think I saw a Law & Order episode start that way.)

Not as amusing is the rather poor command of the written word I displayed in that posting. (Who knew it'd be hanging around for all the world to see 12 years later?) Then again, I'll probably be saying the same thing about this posting when I stumble upon it 12 years from now.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Pressing Questions

Yes, questions so pressing that I had to take a moment away from work to jot this down.

1. Why the hell do guys wear crew neck undershirts if they're not going to button their top buttons? Are v-neck undershirts really that hard to find? Or am I just too clueless to appreciate the niceties of having your dingy undershirt crawl up from below your dress shirt to say hello to the world?

2. Who the hell came up with pleats? And who decided that it would be an even better idea to double them? As if that weren't enough ... triple pleats? I mean, shouldn't you go ahead and switch to wearing a kilt at that point?

Such mysteries of the universe baffle me so.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

If you like it, I'm going home.

Funny how, as I hope that Los Campesinos! gain a wider audience, someone sends me a link for a site selling t-shirts with the design above. Kinda reminds me of the time when my friends and I purposely left Coachella early so that one of the people with us couldn't catch Coldplay. A couple of us were Coldplay fans in infant state (had to work hard to get over their popularity), so we were somewhat interested in seeing Coldplay live. But this person had been so annoying throughout the day that it was more important to leave early to spite her. Really, she was that annoying! Would've been fun to wear that shirt that day. Ah ... I can still remember so vividly how she asked if we could roll down the windows during our procession out of the parking lot so that she could hear the faint sound of Coldplay, which grew fainter with each spin of the wheels on our car.

Okay, now that I've written that out and read it, I do feel a sense of guilt. But probably not enough that I wouldn't do the same thing again. Really, she was just that annoying!

Let's Have Some Milk and Cookies

There's a mountainous backlog of entries in my noggin waiting to be transcribed, but this one will have to jump the queue. Just saw Los Campesinos! (their exclamation, not mine) at Bowery Ballroom.

I was supposed to see them back in November, but I screwed up and double booked an opera at the Met. Should've skipped out on the opera. (A real clunker. I had to fight hard to stay awake at that one. Can't even remember what it was now. Helen? Helene? Helena? Whatever.) [The lapse in memory really bugged me, so I poked around and figured out that it was Bellini's Norma. Norma/Helena ... close enough. Either is a fittingly bland name for the production.] {My apologies if your name is Norma or Helena. If it makes you feel any better, I'll concede that Steven would make an equally bland name for an opera.}

Such a rambunctious bunch. They're like overgrown, hyperactive first graders (all seven of them -- lead vocalist, two guitarists, keyboardist, bassist, violinist and drummer-ist) who decided to form a band during recess. Lots of shouting, lots of jumping, lots of carefree happiness. And that happiness is infectious. It's hard to watch and listen without feeling a childlike glee yourself.

But beneath the fun lies an intelligent grasp of rhythm and harmony. Each song is a tightly wound bundle of goodness with not a note (or bleep, click or clap) out of place. It's a wonder the seven of them are able to keep so many moving parts in sync -- especially live.

And all of it is stitched together with one witty expression after another. I typically don't pay much attention to lyrics, but even I couldn't miss a line as clever as: "I cherish with fondness the day before I met you." (From "My Year in Lists.") In the hands of lesser minds, that line would've been a lifeless: "I wish I'd never met you."

I see great things in their future. Hopefully, more people catch on. They deserve an audience.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

We stink, but we don't care.

Ugh. I just got back from what may have been the worst concert I've ever attended. (Well, of the ones I intended to attend anyway.) Saw The Teenagers at Bowery Ballroom. Phenomenally disappointing.

About the only thing more annoying than the lead singer's mannerisms was his voice. The bassist's best display of musical talent came in the form of his decision to wear a Nirvana t-shirt. And the guitarist? He likely exhausted his repertoire of memorized chords by the second measure of the first song. All in all, a complete disaster. Their producer deserves some sort of an award for making them sound as good as they do on their album, because it's painfully apparent that their musical ability hovers only marginally above nonexistent.

Good thing I'm set to see a whole slew of shows in the next month or so:

British Sea Power
Los Campesinos!
The Ting Tings

None of them are the sort who need studio tricks to make themselves sound respectable, I'm sure. I'm especially sure about BSP and Feist because I've already seen them live. The only one of the bunch I have some concern about is The Ting Tings, and that's only because they seem too stylish for their own musical good. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Goo Goo for Zooey

I'm all giddy. Almost skipped my way home. Why? I saw She & Him in concert. She is quirky actress Zooey Deschanel. Him is folsky musician M. Ward.

I caught the show with a friend who has professed a "big girl crush" on Zooey. And, you know ... I now understand why. Zooey has quite the sprightly presence. She's like a peppy girl from the 50's who isn't aware that she's in the 21st century. She's like Reese Witherspoon's character from Pleasantville, except likable. (Wait ... I mangled that. Reese's character was a girl from the 90's transported to the 50's. Let's try that again: Zooey's like Reese Witherspoon, except likable.)

I was supposed to see She & Him last night at Hiro Ballroom, but Zooey fell ill and lost her voice. At tonight's make-up show, Zooey was clearly still suffering from whatever ailed her. So distressed were her vocal chords that she refrained from speaking to the crowd between songs. Instead, she
pantomimed her gratitude and held up goofy homemade posters with messages like "Hi" and "Thank You New York." (Sprightly, I said.) But even with less than cooperative vocal chords, she sang with clarity. It's hard not to be enchanted by that joy-infused voice of hers, a few crackles and all. She could sing sadness with a smile and get away with it. I think The Times described her rather fittingly as "a natural hyphenate, an actress-musician-crafty girl."

I was happiest when they played "I Thought I Saw Your Face Today." I give the track my early nomination for most sway-worthy song of the year. My head seems to tic-toc reflexively like the needle on a metronome when I hear that bouncy little ditty. (And I know the professional critics mock comparisons of Zooey to Dusty Springfield as lacking in discernment, but it's pretty hard to listen to songs like "Sweet Darlin'" and "I Was Made for You" without thinking that Zooey could win quite a few karaoke contests with a rendition of "I Only Want to Be with You.")

I think I may now have a "big boy crush" on Zooey.

And as if the sundae of a night needed sprinkles to top things off ... I got a message from a friend letting me know that My Bloody Valentine will headline ATP New York 2008 in September! Woohoo!

And then She & Him showed up on Conan ... with Yo La Tengo as a backing band! Double woohoo!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

So which of your favorites are your favorites?

And speaking of high school redux ...

While I was out for drinks with a couple of friends last week, I was asked to name my three favorite bands. Actually, I started it by asking them to name their favorites. I should do a better job of following that rule about not asking questions that you wouldn't want to answer yourself.

I surprised myself with my first nominee: New Order. I mean, I rarely listen to New Order anymore. (The reason is the subject of a should-have-been-written-long-ago entry.) But I also hedged by saying that it's a "historical" selection. Kinda like a lifetime achievement award.

We moved on to another bar before I had to round out my nominations. Good thing. The fretting about what bands to choose may have caused more psychic harm than the beer. But I wonder. Who should get the other two spots? That'll have to be the subject of a should-be-written-soon entry. (As will the answer to one of the questions posed by one of those friends: If you were stuck on a desert island and could have access to only five albums, which would they be?)

I love Saturday, too.

While writing that last entry, I had I Say, I Say, I Say playing in the background. Definitely my favorite Erasure album. And "I Love Saturday" is definitely my favorite Erasure song. Haven't listened to Erasure in ages. Must be something about the wee hours that puts me in a nostalgic mood. (And now, I'm listening to The Smiths. Talk about high school redux ...)

A cutie pie and a tasty pie.

I spent the day hanging out in Brooklyn today (Saturday). I was out in Park Slope visiting friends and their 11-month-old daughter. Quite the cute little ... Hmm, I was about to say "booger," but I don't think my friends would appreciate that. (It's a term of affection! That's what I call my niece and nephews. And I guess that's what I've just called my friends' daughter in a roundabout way.)

I can definitely see the appeal of Brooklyn. And I can definitely see the appeal of Park Slope for those who have kids. I got out there just in time to head over to the playground at Prospect Park. The little one began her fun in the park on the swings, but she soon grew bored with the the sitting. She'd had enough sitting in the stroller, I guess. So, it was off to the slide, where she perked up. And after some debate between mom and dad, she was shuttled to the sand box -- her inaugural trip. There, she perked up even more. Funny what little it takes to amuse kids sometimes.

We scooted back to my friends' (very spacious) apartment before heading out for ... lunner? (It was 4:15.) This was my third dining experience in Brooklyn, and, like the other two, this one was wonderful. (Ooh ... I forgot about the rather crappy meal I had as part of a summer associate function in Brooklyn Heights last year. Okay ... all my meals in Park Slope have been wonderful. Let's keep the Brooklyn Heights episode in the dark corner of the memory bank.) We had pizza at Franny's ... and, oh wow! That was a tasty clam pie! Whole clams, parsley and chilies on top of a
crunchy thin crust. Simple, but flavorful. It was so good that I can't decide whether I like it better than the clam pie at Lombardi's. (And I love the clam pie at Lombardi's.)

While eating, I observed aloud how cheerful the little one was. Her mother enthusiastically advised, "You should get one!" I chuckled. First, because she said it as if I could swing by Target on my way home and pick one up. Second, well ... here's what I quipped in return: "Um ... there are some intermediate steps that need to be taken care of first."

Ah, Brooklyn. The more I go out there, the more I like it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Taking a Stand for Tapas

A friend suggested last week that I write about the restaurants where I've eaten. I'd thought about doing that on occasion. After all, eating lies just behind music among my passions. But I resisted for various reasons, the most significant of which is that I'm not the sort who snaps pictures of food at a restaurant -- not in NYC anyway. Reading about food without being able to get a taste or whiff is frustrating enough. But without even a freakin' picture so that you can take an imagined taste or whiff?

And then I remembered the primary reasons I started this blog. I write not so much to build an audience (although I do sincerely thank all two of you who visit this site on a semi-regular basis). Rather, I write primarily to record my thoughts for my own perusal, especially in the years ahead when the passage of time will surely mount an even more debilitating attack on my memories. So ... on with my first official entry about a dining experience in NYC.

I finally made my way over to El Quinto Pino on Friday night. It's been on my list of restaurants to try since it opened a few months ago. I had more reason to have been derelict than my Chelsea-residing companion: El Quinto Pino is in Chelsea, which is not my typical haunts.

It's a sliver of a space, even by NYC standards. No tables. Just a bar and a counter that lines the perimeter. We weren't able to find seats, but it was just fine to eat standing by the counter. Everything was bite-sized, so it was kinda like having a beer and munching on pretzels.

As usual, we got carried away with the ordering (especially since I had a rather heavy lunch at Lever House, which was quite the treat as well). Always seems to happen when I eat with this friend. We started with sandwiches of the uni and braised meat variety, cracklins, garlic shrimp and fried salt cod, which were all delicious. The Times called the uni sandwich -- warm uni spread like butter inside a toasty baguette -- the "Sandwich of the Year," and I certainly won't quarrel. I'm not even a big fan of uni, but that was a damn tasty sandwich. The second of the sandwiches reminded me of a Vietnamese barbecued pork sandwich, but with a more subtle flavor and bits of meat that are more tender. And the cracklins ... oh man. Like gourmet pork rinds. As best as I could tell, they were basically chunks of deep fried pork fat. (Recoil in disgust as you read, but roll your eyes toward the heavens when you taste.)

That wasn't quite enough for my friend, so we looked for more to order, which was a bit of a challenge. We'd basically exhausted the options on the short menu except for anchovies and vegetables. But we settled on Catalan head cheese. Not bad, but not really my thing. I prefer to eat my mystery brain parts warm.

And he was still hungry. So we asked the waitress to suggest something. She brought over an off-the-menu item -- a dish of broken noodles with bits of squid. After eating it, I could understand why that dish wasn't on the menu. Extremely salty and equally forgettable.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable dining experience (except for the silly noodles). I'd definitely go back.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Good to see you again, Balmy Breeze.

Oh, wow. Could it be? Why yes, it could! It's the first night of the year on which opening the window is a sensible idea! Woohoo!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Please Stay Out of My Way

I almost got run over by a cab on my way home today. I know that the range of "almost" in this context can stretch from a couple of inches to a couple of blocks depending on the hyperbolic tendencies of its employer. In this case, I use "almost" in the sense that I left my palm print on the hood as the bumper was about to knock my legs out.

A typical reaction would've been to give a digital gesture and drop an expletive or two. But I just glared at the cabbie, who was likely more startled than I was. The first thought that ran through my mind after I regained my balance wasn't that I'd just dodged a close one but that I almost dropped my iPod. I suffered less from fright than annoyance that he'd disrupted my routine. (A trip to the hospitable would've been a real hassle.)

I can be so robotic during my commute.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Washing Away the Drone at the Bowery

Just got in from seeing The Raveonettes at Bowery Ballroom. For a show that I had thought about skipping -- as recently as today -- it was surprisingly enjoyable. Even after I decided to go, I'd expected to leave well before the encore. Figured I'd just stay long enough to add them to my "seen live" list. But they were so good that I stayed for the whole thing.

So why the hesitation? I committed to the show after seeing the video for "Dead Sound" but before their new album Lust Lust Lust came out.

It's not that Lust Lust Lust turned out to be a disappointing album. Well, actually ... it is. Quite difficult to listen to. Not because it's bad, but because there's little variation from track to track. The uninitiated would likely complain that all the songs sound the same, and they'd have a point. At times, it can seem as if The Raveonettes simply play different arrangements of the same song.

But that's not altogether a bad thing, because they definitely have a unique sound. Sort of like 60's surfer rock tossed into a heavy spin cycle of reverb and distortion followed by a slow tumble in psychedelia. But that same sound over and over again, especially when supported by metronomic rhythms, has a tendency to drone. As a live act, though, that sound washes over you and puts you in a forgiving mood. They may actually sound better on stage than in the studio.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bushwhacked in Texas

I'm watching Frontline's definitive episode on the Iraq War -- what it call's "Bush's War." And it's infuriating. Downright infuriating. I'm not so much upset because I'm learning things I didn't already know. Rather, this has the feel of watching a video recording of someone slapping you. You lived it. You felt it. But seeing it on film pisses you off that much more.

How could reasonable people not have the same reaction? Of course, I ask that in a rhetorical manner. I'm from Texas, after all.

I've always had a difficult relationship with Texas. It's like family. You think they're crazy, and they often get on your nerves. But if anyone were ever to say something bad about them, you wouldn't hesitate to say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa." That's my crazy family.

Crazy as it is, and as much as it gets on my nerves, Texas has always been home ... until 2004. I'd never felt out of place in Texas until I went home for Thanksgiving that year. You see, GWB was re-elected president earlier that month, which was a devastating turn of events. But I was severely more dejected when I became aware that everyone in my family who was eligible to vote voted for Bush. For the first time, I felt like an outsider when I went home. Home was home no more.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Titles Are Really Hard

I just sent a message to a friend. Took much longer to come up with the subject line than the body. And that happens a lot here, too. I'd feel a burst of inspiration and fire off a quick entry, only to be stymied by that blank line for the title. I wonder if others suffer from the same neurosis? Sure, a simple "Hey" or "Titles Are Hard" would do, but that just seems such an affront to creative integrity.

Kylie? That's not my name.

It's interesting to see how long it takes for "the next big thing" to become the next big thing. I've just discovered The Ting Tings, who have apparently been cast as the "the next big" thing in the U.K. since last summer. They seem to be on the cusp of a breakthrough there, but they're probably still a ways off here in the States. My suspicion is that they won't catch on here. And I say that not because I find their talent lacking, but because I find American pop sensibilities lacking.

If all their songs were like "Great DJ" (above), then maybe they'd have a shot. The track has such a polished dance floor thump that I may have guessed it was a Kylie Minogue number (especially because of the "ah ah ah ah") had I not known any better. But most of their other songs are decidedly more lo-fi -- in a "we're young, and we're here to have fun" sort of way. Lots of exuberant yelps and vocals that seem more rapped than sung, like on "That's Not My Name."

Their album won't be out in the U.K. until May. That's going to be a trying wait.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Let's See Some ID

Someone who works for the company that manages the building in which I work asked me in the elevator today what my title is at the firm. Struck me as a rather strange question. When I told her that I'm a lawyer, her head dipped and her hand waived, as if to say, "Never mind." She explained that she had assumed I was something other than a lawyer because she's seen me going up and down the elevators a lot and I look young.

Not sure whether I should feel insulted or complimented. Probably a bit of both. Maybe it's time to dust off the suit.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Ugly Duckling of Marks

Caught an amusing article in the Times today about -- of all things -- the semicolon. So tickled I was that I sent a message to the writer. I've got a love for words and (dopey as it may sound) punctuation marks -- except the semicolon.


Very amusing story about the subway semicolon sighting. That ad caught my attention yesterday, although what got me thinking wasn't the semicolon. Instead, I was puzzled as to why the ad didn't encourage riders to place their papers in recycling bins; seems the more advisable thing to do.

As for the semicolon ... it's just such an ugly, asymmetrical punctuation mark. A lack of aesthetic appeal is a much bigger impediment to its use than any other attributes ascribed to it. Text should flow, and it should be pretty. Pretty and semicolon just don't go together.

BTW -- I would have posted this as a comment to the story, but comment posting seems to have been disabled for that article.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Holy Bloody Crap!

Holy crap!

So that was what I fired off to a few friends upon learning that My Bloody Valentine is reuniting for a series of shows in the U.K. next summer. And then I read that they've got a couple of albums slated for release, including one later this year. (Yeah ... this entry was started a couple of months ago and then neglected, like quite a few others. The talk of a new MBV album by the close of 2007 turned out to be nothing more than wishful thinking.)

It felt as if I'd stumbled upon a Christmas present one month early. It's been a rather crummy few days, but reading those snippets of news put a quick smile on my face.

MBV holds a very special place in the pantheon of my memories. I can remember many a somber night during college and law school when the sounds of Loveless in a darkened room nurtured me from restlessness into a peaceful slumber.

When I fired off that e-mail, I was hopeful that MBV would extend their tour to the U.S. But quickly thereafter, the inspired me shoved aside the practical me. Why sit around and hope when you can make things happen? After all, London is but a six hour flight from thought to reality. So I hopped online and bought a pair of tickets to see MBV at The Roundhouse on June 23, 2008.

It's good to have moments such as those to remind you that you're alive.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Looking Like You Sound

And speaking of stylish ... here's a tasty nugget of beautiful kookiness from a singer named Jihae.

If the song serves up a dollop of erotic tension, then the video whips that dollop into a plateful. I've read that Michel Gondry (of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame) is a fan, so perhaps he had something to do with the video. Then again, from the looks of her website, Jihae seems to be quite the visual artist herself. So maybe she didn't need the assistance of Gondry's imagination.

A co-worker who walked into my office as I had Jihae's album playing remarked that Jihae sounds like Cat Power. I'm pretty sure she didn't walk in while I was listening to "Black Pearl" (the subject of the video above), because "sultry" doesn't come to mind when I think Cat Power. But her observation is a sensible one with regard to the acoustic tracks on the album.

Of Danes and Happiness

What led me to Dri and Virb was The Fashion, a stylish (naturally) band from Copenhagen. Could there be any other sort of band from Denmark? (Completely off topic, but I saw an amusing, insightful piece on 60 Minutes about how the Danes are apparently the happiest people around, mostly because they set attainable/realistic expectations. I'd venture a guess that the Swedes are not far behind.)

Can't quite figure out why I find the Scandinavian aesthetic so appealing. Then again, what's the point, right? I mean, it's like trying to convince someone that a monochromatic Rothko painting looks interesting. Either you see it or you don't. More to the point: either you feel it or you don't.

The young folks from Scandinavia (and even the not-so-young) have a way of oozing an unconscious air of coolness. Take a look at the video for "Solo Impala," which is an impressive display of creativity. These kids from Copenhagen do "Lower East Side" better than the Lower East Siders.

An Occasional Dose of Saccharine

I've been on quite the musical roll lately. Probably why there's been such a profusion of posts in the past couple of weeks. I've already written about a good number of new discoveries, but there are several others to write about -- if for no other reason than to remind myself years later how I came to know them.

First up is Dri, a/k/a Adrianne Verhoeven -- an indie pop songstress from, of all places, Lawrence, Kansas. (Not so strange, I suppose, given the Saddle Creek crowd from Omaha and her connection to it.) I'm particularly proud of this find, because it ain't easy finding much about her online. I stumbled upon her after being directed to Virb while searching for information about another band. (Virb's quite the discovery in itself. It's like a more aesthetically pleasing version of MySpace.)

Dri is definitely more poppy than I typically go for, especially these days. But she fits nicely with some of my all-time favorites, such as Saint Etienne and Mono. Like Sarah Cracknell (of Saint Etienne) and Siobhan de Maré (of Mono), her voice conjures up memories of Dusty Springfield, as do her doo-woppy rhythms.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Yes, I Like Rock Music

I don't quite get it. British Sea Power's third album, Do You Like Rock Music?, was released stateside Tuesday to much fanfare but also some criticism -- some very pointed criticism. A perusal of the capsule reviews at Metacritic suggests that most critics give DYLRM? high marks. But there are also a number of critics -- most notably, the one from Pitchfork -- who mock BSP for what they perceive to be a misguided grappling for grandeur. It seems Pitchfork guy sees a band reaching for stadium rock when it's barely capable of parents' basement rock. On a scale of 1-10, he gave DYLRM? a U.2, whatever the hell that means. (Cheeky commentary on DYLRM? being derivative of U2, I suppose.) Methinks Pitchfork guy doth focus too much on the whimsical album title.

How could anyone who hears BSP think U2, whether in a literal or conceptual sense? When I listen to BSP, I hear more shoegazer pop than MTV pomp. (Okay, I have nothing against U2. "Pomp" just seems to flow well after "pop.") I think I finally understand the rampant hostility in the indie rock world toward Pitchfork.

Just as puzzling are the comparisons to Arcade Fire. While at Youtube pulling up the video above, I came upon the following comment: "God, tey [sic] are so ripping off Arcade [F]ire using like instruments and sounds." (I have a sneaking suspicion that this commentary emanated from the depths of the San Fernando Valley.) The comment would be nonsensical even if it were given the most generous of interpretations. Surely she doesn't mean that BSP has pilfered the Arcade craft by using two guitars, a bass and a drum set to make sounds. My guess is that she finds similarity between the wah wah infused sounds of BSP and the falsetto swirls created by Arcade Fire on songs like "No Cars Go." And, you know, I suppose there is similarity. Such keen ears she has. But that's as meaningful as saying Italian pasta is a ripoff of Chinese noodles because they both use flour. (Um, wait a second ...) Actually, it'd be more like saying Chinese noodles are a ripoff of Italian pasta. (BSP, after all, released its first album before Arcade Fire.)

All beside the point, really, because I love DYLRM? I must confess, though, that I was rather disappointed upon my first listen because none of the songs grabbed me. But upon a second listen in a darkened room, the waves of soaring melodies came alive and swept me under.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Make It Plain

Saw another thought-provoking episode of American Experience on PBS, which is definitely one of my favorite shows. The episode was about Malcolm X.

I can't quite remember why, but I chose to write about Malcolm for my 7th grade research project. Pretty sure there's still a copy of By Any Means Necessary lying around at my parents' place.

I wonder why it is that I'm drawn to "tier 2" icons more so than "tier 1" icons? I find Malcom more interesting than MLK. RFK more so than JFK. And, sure enough, in this election cycle, I favor Obama over Clinton.

Just as I wondered a couple of entries earlier whether I'd be a Feist fan had she already been a pop phenomenon when I discovered her, I wonder whether my preference for "tier 2" over "tier 1" icons would remain the same in a vacuum? Or is my preference merely reactionary -- a necessary byproduct of my aversion to the mainstream and the obvious?

Liking something because others hate it is perhaps just as pitiful, if not more so, than liking something because others love it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pronographic, yet cute

And speaking of the French ...

My new favorite band of the moment is The Teenagers -- a scraggly, potty-mouthed trio of Frenchmen who do camp with style. Who would've thought that a song -- "Homecoming" -- about pseudo-incestuous love between high school step cousins could be so amusing? And danceable? I mean, how can I find a song with this as the chorus to be so endearing?

[boy] I fucked my American cunt
[girl] I loved my English romance
[boy] I fucked my American cunt
[girl] I loved my English romance
[boy] It was dirty, a dream came true
Just like I like it, she's got nice tits
[girl] It was perfect, a dream came true
Just like a song by Blink-182

But my favorite track is "Starlett Johansson." It's a song about ... well, it's obvious, no? So obvious, yet so clever.

Thanks to The Teenagers, I now know that Scarlett is half Polish, half Danish. Born in 1984. Got her start on Broadway at 8. Don't even have to read her Wikipedia entry anymore.