Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Grill Don't Burn

How on earth did the poor Danes get caught up in the latest right-wing cause celebre? Not their fault, as it happens. Well it is the fault of some of them. But this one just depresses me an obscene amount because of the sheer number of people of different creeds and viewpoints that it makes look stupid. Here's the BBC's recap, and here's mine:

Really stupid Danish newspaper publishes really stupid and unfunny cartoons replete with offensive depictions of the prophet Mohammed. Its explanation is that this was part of a "debate on freedom of expression". One that tossed quite a few deeply-held Muslim beliefs out of the window.

Many Muslims worldwide become justifiably angry at said depictions, presumably realise that boycotting stupid and unfunny Danish newspaper will not achieve much.

Hardcore and stupid element decides to put pressure on government and people of Denmark to censor said idiots by staging large demonstrations, starting boycotts and burning stuff. Either that, or this element believes that government does have the power to control said idiots, much as many governments of majority Muslim countries do.

Really stupid right-wingers seize on episode as some kind of proof of how barbarian and uncivilised Muslims are, and how we are engaged in an epic clash of values that will probably involve and invasion of Iran at some point. Urge support for Denmark, its people and its goods. Reprint cartoons to make same point.

We discover that we have Lego, butter, really cheap salami and bacon to show our support with, but that only the first is distributed in very great quantities in the US.

In fact, I'm particularly upset about the lack of decent bacon in the US, since it makes it impossible to construct a decent bacon sandwich (look at this poor fool try and use American bacon), and relegates the mighty bacon to mere garnish. But I digress. Although it does highlight the fact that, while dairy products will suffer from a boycott, Denmark's principal export is in fact boycott-proof.

Still the parade of silly and disingenuous fools marching through this story deserve each other's company. And what I deserve now, with apologies to all followers of the Prophet Mohammed, and the varied precepts of the Jewish faith, is a fine pork pie.

Do you think there's something topical in here? Oh yes I think there is:

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - "Bacon"
You may procure Xtra Acme USA here. Do it for the music, not for the controversy

Monday, January 30, 2006

On Sex Bunkers

Amazingly cool futuristic houses are always so disappointing, mostly because the builders don't even exist yet, and when they do, don't show as much flesh as the old ones. But a few always slip through the continuum transfunctioner, and produce a sex-bunker so cool that you almost forgive them for being well-dressed.

Caught on Gothamist, there's a new type of prefabricated studio, known as Loft-Cube, that can be dumped on top of an apartment building, and which provides one with slinky, albeit limited, Jetsons-stlye accommodations. You just have it helicoptered onto the top of an apartment building's roof.

At the moment, of course, the downtrodden bloglets are pitching it as a blow by the poor renter against the vile landlord class. But you'll probably need a landlord's permission to put one in, and many landlords are likely to cut out the middle-men and install them directly. They sell for $100,000 apiece - it would have been half that, but for the cunning use of the word "Loft" in the name. Ho. Ho. Ho.

I've seen a rooftop in King's Cross that featured just such an ungainly extra unit, albeit of a more rudimentary appearance. It was wicked, right up until the landlord sent hired thugs round to evict my acquaintance in favour of a better tenant. Expect also, by the way, all sorts of weird planning decisions that negate the usefulness of these structures to all but the offspring of hedge fund managers.

Still, we note that the comments to the Gothamist post at least sent me towards this page of amazing future-cities, and that the whole exercise reminds me most strongly of the Alain Bublex series Plug-In City, from which, with all respect, the above image is stolen. The Archigram chaps would be very gratified.

Cave Needed

Oh dear, the stupid Winter Olympics are almost upon us, and it's time to get heavily into reruns of poor sitcoms and poor shows from the 80s instead. I'm not hugely, unduly proud of being a limey, but the Brits' poor showing in winter pursuits is one of those things that makes my breast swell with pride. Skiing performs a valuable social function in the UK, hoovering up entire pools of obnoxious rich people, depositing them in cold locations at least one country away, and sometimes even injuring a few in the process.

What's even more amusing, as I was noting somewhat tipsy to one of Cutesome's colleagues this weekend, is that US dominance of the Winter Olympics is almost entirely procedural. This compares rather poorly with the US approach to the Summer Games, a slightly larger, more established bag of fun.

it's fairly easy to draw up statistics that show that the US' per capita Summer medal haul, while better than those of India and China, is behind those of Europe. But by and large, the US performance during the Summer games is down to hard work and technical superiority, with a small assist from drugs and made-up sports.

Not so the winter games, which were until recently a Scandinavian and Alpine love-fest. In this, the British gamely sent their most quixotic nutjobs along, and subsequently largely ignored the spectacle.

America, with its more can-do attitude, shoe-horned bunch of more modern winter sports into the line-up, turned it into an offshoot of the Winter X-Games, and then sat back as the fizzy-drink bucks rolled in. Yes, for someone raised on Ski Sunday, there is something unbelievably tawdry about NBC's round of promotional clips for the Winter Games.

I'm with Gilliard on this - unleash the World Cup.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The End Of The Affair

Today is a black day for freedom of expression. First the Washington Post bans all comments on one of its blogs, then Google China creates a super-censored version of the internet to keep the country's intolerant gerontocracy happy.

And then Mig-Ig-Uar grew weary of my trolling. It was bound to happen, I suppose, since I think that maybe only one of my last five comments had not been deleted. But I feel strangely ashamed and chastened, like the time in elementary school I tried to eat a tippex covered note rather than let it fall into the hands of a teacher, only to have it taken from me anyway.

All we have left, I guess, is the healing power of the flute. I appreciate that this week-long parade of the flutes has ignored Jethro Tull, a decision made all the more baffling by the fact that a sibling went to school with Ian Anderson's daughter. I also caught a Canned Heat song that featured a delightful flute solo in Freddy's last night. Turns out that every sod has posted it.

Anyway, the March of the Flutes is a five-day affair. There will be winners and losers, although both will be highly mellifluous. Which is why we will close things with the definitive modern dance-flute freakout. And it's from an out of print album, which is nice.

Bentley Rhythm Ace were frequently derided as the Northside of Big Beat. Didn't help that many of the members were refugees from fraggle bands. They made two albums for Astralwerks under licence from Skint, ended up in a lot of adverts, like some kind of less sincere Moby, and petered out around 2000.

I had anticipated a tiring and fruitless quest round the East Village to find a copy of their debut. But I scored first time in the basement of this slightly dowdy place opposite Cooper Union. Only five dar.

No-one, before or after, has surpassed the swarm of funky flutes that appeared on the first song on their debut album. It would be very difficult to unleash such woodwind mayhem without cloning, and mutilating, an entire lorryload of James Lasts. Probably not as bouncy as you'd want (for that you would need "Whoosh"), but it will definitely "sort you out" (sorry).

Bentley Rhythm Ace - "Let There Be Flutes"
This "Bentley Rhythm Ace" album. It appears to be neither gone nor forgotten. So you may purchase it at these reputable merchants

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Box Fresh

The march of the flutes continues, but first we would like to take issue with some stuff coming fresh out of the RSS.

Slate's stupid consumer reports. These are really easy to write. Dis the second cheapest one as not up to snuff, mildly praise the cheapest with "go for if price is an issue", and then praise to high heaven the most expensive one. About as useful as a chocolate fireguard that review, not a top of the line chocolate fireguard, but one that "feels kind of cheap".

Instapundit said something really stupid today, the first time I've been cross at him for a while. I thought his turn at Wonkette wasn't bad, although I'm not sure it'll do much to fill the gap since that ginger lady left. The post in question involves Glenn convincing himself that large numbers of people applying for jobs at Wal-Mart is proof that these people really love Wal-Mart, rather than that they really need a job.

I'd also like to briefly mention the recent Palestinian elections. One theory doing the rounds is that the elections will force Hamas to behave more like a proper political party, and less like a gang of angry bombers.

Dunno about that, although it is probable they'll start bombing less. But at a risk of making a rather facile comparison here, the experience of Northern Ireland suggests they certainly won't be talking any less trash. Exhibit A, the continual stream of mush coming out of Ian Paisley's mouth since he became the most powerful Prod in Ulster.

Ah, and here lies a good segue. Because if there's an instrument the Prods love it's the flute. play air flute at a Protestant football match and they'll love it.

But here we have only nice flutes, although today's chosen tune is reasonably spritely. 'Tis a remix of the mid-period Orbital classic The Box. Tied with the harpsichord remix for best remix out of four, and far ahead of the dreadful vocal mix, this is dance-flute madness for the rapidly ossifying twenty-something demographic. Is good.

Orbital - "The Box (Flute)"
Choose you merchants for "In Sides", but choose one

One more to go, kids.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Hop Scotched

There has been, ever since I crawled out of bed this morning, a heated debate going on in my head as to the relevance of the Beastie Boys to The Noseflute Project. While there are more than a few Beasties rarities wandering about (I think I once had a rather dubious Prisoners Of Technology remix), these tend not to put the flutes up front.

And then you're left thinking "what sort of hideous Devil's Alternative is this, forced to choose between Sure Shot (admittedly stonking) and Flute Loop! ill Communication is plenty banked!". But wait, before they larded up on obvious samples on To The 5 Boroughs, there was this stylistic mess called Hello Nasty. And it had flutes.

Not the sort of funky flutes that pimped out Sure Shot, but lighter, more sunny, and more gentle flutes. Mr Jobim himself would approve. And no, you cannot slam dance to them. To be honest if (say) this fluttered by on shuffle, and (say) your hands had been replaced by blender implements like in the Skittles advert, and thus you couldn't pick the machine up to see who was playing, you might assume that this was Jill Cunniff's long-awaited samba album. But it isn't. And it isn't Sure Shot either.

The Beastie Boys - "Song For Junior"
Buy Hello Nasty here. By all accounts they each own a gazillionplex in Soho, but fair's fair

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Woodwinds From Hell

Alright kids, I'll keep it brief. It's late, I've spent another day chained to one of these monstrous PC creatures, and I've had to work for a living pour encourager les autres. Sucks. It's now 9.30, and I've spent a jolly old few hours with Cutesome at the Biltmore Room marveling that we could make three years of it. Fortunately, however, I had the presence of mind to hunt down something truly flute-driven and evil.

This comes from Montreal's dark lords of woodwind-infused Goth metal - Howling Syn. They woke up this morning to find that they were under the vile rule of the Tories, which is not very metal at all. They'll live, provided they keep taking the bat's blood and staying true to black metal.

All hail!

Howling Syn - "Dark Chivalry"
Buy "Forebearers Of Dusk" here. It's sort of a cottage operation, only Goth. So it's more like a cave operation or something

[N.B. This is Day Two Of The Parade Of Flutes]

Monday, January 23, 2006

Hairy Lumps

There's a reasonably good reason for my extended silence, albeit not an amazing one. Friday afternoon, the hard drive on the dayjob PowerBook melted down, and after several hours of the spinning beachball of death it was taken away to a happy place in the country. This, needless to say, necessitated a jag that took in Williamsburg (and some dubious drone rock - check upcoming 'zine-lets for if I ever rouse the energy to write about it) and crippled my verbal faculties for the rest of the weekend.

Which is not to say that I have been idle. I am the proud recipient of a fine-looking new 60G video iPod (thank you Cutesome, I love you). And I managed to purchase some more vinyl, which has, just, provided Gumby Fresh with enough audio for a week-long mp3 project. And it involves flutes.

Before I was a DJ, and by DJ I mean playing mediocre records on the radio and absolutely rotten ones at college parties, I always thought that having a gimmick was very important to one's DJ career. Not true, as it happened, DJs really just require strong arms, more than maybe 40 records and a limitless capacity for self-abasement. But I was adamant - my name was to be DJ Noseflute, and I would play nothing but flute records, or at the very least a special megamix in then middle that was rather reliant on flutes.

Never got anywhere. But the iTunes has grown to encompass a good few cuts (not tracks, for god's sake not tracks, as Q would have it), and it might be time to give it a go. Five days of nothing but flutes. Starting with the king of flutes - Brooklyn-born master of the jazz-flute Herbie Mann.

Herbie was known for two things - incredibly intricate arrangements of soul and jazz classics for flute, and appearing topless and hairy on his album covers. Herbie scooted all over world music, and tended to drag in various bits of vibraphone and the occasional vocal in to bolster his sound. You may recall the recent movie Ray, and the appearance of Booger from Revenge of the Nerds as Ahmet Ertegun. Ertegun, founder of Atlantic Records, was a huge backer of Mann, and he and his brother Nesuhi produced much of Mann's work.

The end result can be superficially kitschy and the Austin Powers vibes are hard to ignore. Moreover he tended to soak up whatever influence was nearest to hand. Sometimes he was in Brazil when this happened (good), and sometimes he was in Studio 54 (urrgh). To convince you that we're serious about this flute business, we'll give ya two.

The first is from the pretty rare blaxploitation jazz-flute album Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty. You could totally beat someone up to it provided you didn't work up too much of a sweat. Jim Newsom knows as much as anyone about this, and "groove-oriented" sums it up.

Herbie Mann - "Can You Dig It"
You got two days to buy "Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty" on eBay. Charge!

The other one is a live version of his signature interpretation - Comin' Home Baby. This one's from the 1965 Newport Jazz Festival, 189 years to the day after the British invasion of Staten Island. You have likely never heard a flute go as bats as this, and my apologies for the scratchiness - you will find superior quality fun on the CD.

Herbie Mann - "Comin' Home Baby"
Buy "The Best Of Herbie Mann" here. No hairy chest on the cover, more's the pity

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Jennifer Connelly Hearts Damascus Bakery

True fact that, although nothing to do with the subject at hand. Today we learn that there's some sue-tastic, tort-ily delicious legal action going down In re: The Atlantic Yards monstrosity (I'm going to count to twenty before Cutesome opines that that last sentence made absolutely no sense). It is, according to Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn the first blow in an onslaught of legal pain to be visited upon the dolts that the state and city employ to review and process such projects.

The lawsuit alleges fatal conflicts of interest in a lawyer's work for both the Empire State Development Corporation, which reviews the Atlantic Yards development, and its developer. It is possible that the suit will find it difficult to gain traction. Although my slim knowledge of the legal profession suggests that one should steer clear of a lawyer that flaunts such obvious conflicts of interest, even if these are not illegal. Since city government seems unable to function without the presence of such dubious characters, however, I'm not holding my breath. On a scale of seriousness, I'd put this exactly at a mid-point between the lady who wants 26 grand from the city to send her kids to private school and the Florida recount.

At the moment the opposition to this gigantic bar-demolishing project hinges on the fact that the developers may use eminent domain to pursue it, and the possibility that the developer has not followed proper procedures. Which is probably the best way to stop it by legal means. My opposition rests largely on my affection for Freddy's, while wider opposition to the project suggests that it won't provide any good jobs or affordable housing.

Steve Gilliard, with his usual lack of patience with nuanced argument, hits another, rather sweet-sounding, note. The project really is rather ugly, and it's only the reputation of the architect, Frank Gehry, as a creative liberal that's stopped us saying it more often. I'm not necessarily suggesting that we should deluge the NY tabs with stories of how his concert hall in Los Angeles fried people's dogs (in part because these may well be apocryphal). But highlighting how silly the development looks would at least open up another lowbrow front in the battle.

Speaking of Freddy's, on the basis of my visit there last night (my first in a while), I'd just like to say I'm not quite sure about that new bartender.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Plague On Both Your Houses

A neat way of summing up two minor obsessions from today. After Chuck Norris Facts, where this appears:

In a fight between Batman and Darth Vader, the winner would be Chuck Norris.

Yeah, well in a blog-off between Fluxblog and Stereogum, the winner would be Banana Nutrament. He/she/it would achieve this by going "Look! Thurston Moore's record crate!", thus fatallly distracting them, and then swooping down on a Kratrock Karpet, f***ing up all their sh*t, leashing them like shitzus, and spanking them mercilessly with DFA's cowbells.

The Starlite Desperation - "Messed Up Head"
Buy "Show You What A Baby Won't Here. Don't Worry, I'll Protect You From Mig-Hole While You Do So

F Good Greene

After catching Broken Flowers last night on DVD, I do believe the Greenhornes have found their true milieu. By all accounts they're wonderful fun to watch, and hopelessly derivative to boot. Definitely what you'd call a guilty pleasure, but one that holds infinite charms for those among us that thought the Rolling Stones sold out after their first two albums.

The early tunes that I had found had made them sound very urgent and garage-tastic. I was even set to see them once, supporting Holly Golightly at the Mercury Lounge, before a roommate of the hour had a weird panic attack, and in any case the show was sold out. Which is my way of saying that I sort of thought that maybe it would be fun to see them but (wisely, it turned out) decided not to commit.

It's a decision that I'm regretting a little more after hearing them on the sountrack, both with Holly and without. It's about woozy enough to nestle on a disc next to some jazzzzz, but immediate enough to send you down the record shop with a jones.

Or, to put it another way, Bill Murray (never, "Bill" or "Mr. Murray", just "Bill Murray", if you're the Wu-Tang) suits the music, walking the fine line between charming and confused. But there is no line between charming and confused!, sez you. Maybe not, but there's definitely a disputed grey area, like there used to be in the sand between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Whatever, there's quite a lot of work goes into appearing so nonchalant and hip to everything, and then being all confused by a marshmallow man or a punch in the face or whatever.

The Greenhornes, anyway, are the band for that conundrum.

The Greenhornes - "At Night"
Purchase "East Grand Blues" here. It's a "grower".

(Postscript, of sorts, unearthed during the googling process. Gari N. Corp's Wu-Name is "Flailing Fanatical Killer". True that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Fauxbox Watch Parte Trois

Have you seen this man? Course you have, you read Gawker like the rest of us. Not a great deal of it need detain you, save this choice sentence:

"Like, Madonna has a boom box in her new video. I’ve been carrying around a boom box for four months. No, eleven"

Wanted to know who we could blame for this distressing fauxbox trend we've been hearing so much about? That would be this tit.

Gazprom And Imperialism

The US reader will not have followed this story too closely, unless you're a foreign policy wonk, likely one trying to build support for a more aggressive foreign energy policy or a tougher stand on Russia's lurch back towards authoritarianism. The UK reader may have, in part because it's a European story, but also because it's likely to emerge as a reason for higher gas, oil and power prices there over the next few months.

Russia, or to be more exact, Gazprom, recently suspended gas deliveries to Ukraine, and thus much of Western Europe (which uses the same pipeline), after Ukraine refused to pay higher prices for its gas. The move, coming so close to Ukraine's election of a non-friendly to Russia president, led some to suggest that this was part of a new phase in world history, of the producers in hydrocarbons seeking to dominate those without.

Some on the right in the US have exploited the row largely to chide Gerhard Shroeder for a separate involvement in a pipeline project. But it does present a very real problem for Gazprom in convincing the world that it is a sensible and transparent global corporate citizen. What's extremely funny is that cutting of gas to delinquent customers is exactly how energy producers usually convince investors that they are serious players.

At least one outfit, albeit Gazprom's roving consultants and PR agents Pace Global, recognise this. And have put out a "White Papers" (actually a huge and slow-loading pdf) to poinnt this out. The suspension of gas deliveries, it argues, was part of Gazprom's transformation into a modern-market-loving producer.

This is true. It's all entirely true. But the whole row has quite fairly highlighted Gazprom's continuing links to the Russian state. Does the fact that Gazprom keeps hoovering up these prime assets from less connected rivals with jailed CEOs demonstrate how awesomely well run it is, or how close it is to government? I'm guessing the latter. There's not a huge amount Gazprom can do about it either, so long as it's run by a strongman and based in a large country. The Chinese oil and gas producers suffer from much the same bad press.

See? This can be sppun liberally as well.


I'm frequently asked about some of the differences between the British and Americans, and i don't consider myself hugely well-placed, or well-travelled enough, to answer them. Moreover, I've seen too many odious people trade claiming to be able to explain the difference. Same goes for subtle observations of the British class system.

But right here, nestled in a Nick Cohen column (see? Told you i normally love him) is the answer to the whole thing. All of the weird obsessions that the British have over class, politics and celebrity rolled into the person of George Galloway.

George Galloway invites such confusion - he's a man that made Norm Coleman look like a fool for holding hours of senate hearings into oil-for-food in iraq while ignoring what went wrong with the invasion of the country. But he hugged a mass-murderer, associates with anti-Semites, and dragged the left further into the political gutter. What the hell to make of these former hard left people, Hitchens included, bounding off to all points of the political compass, propelled only by their utter certainty in themselves?

Well, as Cohen points out, you cheer politicians on for their dashing rhetorical skills right up to the moment they appear on a VERY BAD television show demeaning themselves. An American in a similar position would be looking at an appearance like that and working out whether it would make them look better. A politician, at least one above the level of about state representative (and excepting vile hack Marty Markowitz, whose brain is wired differently to those of decent folk) would likely decline. Obsessed with their position you see.

A Brit, on the other hand makes a few assumptions about their class, tosses those in, and also assumes that their position gives them enough cover to do something really stupid on television. And guess what, while the average American voter would not care about their politicians hugging Sadaam Hussein or appearing on Big Brother, the British would be mch more upset about the latter. It's also as good a reason as I've ever found for why I like living here.

Time for some left-leaning ska, no?

The Redskins - "Kick Over The Statues" (Yes, this was recently handed out with Mojo, what of it?)
Buy "Neither Washington Nor Moscow Here". Salute the heroes of the non-aligned movement!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Brokebacking Lack

Saturday night brought the long-awaited cold snap. I say long-awaited, since I had been sitting on a stupendously bulky parka for an entire week, while temperatures remained rather balmy. Problem was, I'd left the house, with an absurdly trusting cutesome in tow, in the usual

Clearly, Vini & Olii was now out of the question. It was hard enough to keep my face intact lurching across the Atlantic Yards, and we thus scuttled in to Cambodian Cuisine to be taken on a bewildering, deceptive, but occasionally fruitful, tour of their confusing menu. We ended up with chicken turned into a paste over greens, and very sour Tamarind and beef soup. Next time, swore Cutesome, whose demeanour was much more dented by the cuisine than the cold, we would stick to the noodles.

But why, Gringcorp, did you leave the house on such a potentially inclement night? Are there not many reasonably-priced ethnic restaurants on this miraculous Fifth Avenue of which you gloat. True, too true, dear reader, but we do not have is a solidly liberal cinema. So, for gay cowboy spectaculars, BAM is the best game in town.

Brokeback Mountain was much better than I had anticipated. Ang Lee's fondness for lingering on natural scenery has often seemed to me to compensate for many a badly-paced, unabsorbing movie. And Brokeback's sheep-laden first quarter would have been difficult to sit through without a vast sugar payload. But the story was convincing, and gripping, the characters engaging and believable. It was more stirring, and less silly, than Alexander.

Which is why, the juxtaposition of "gay" and "cowboy" aside, the ethos of the film, all trying to put commitment to family ahead of being gay and self-absorbed, should endear it to the more conservative. It is, after all, the protagonist that gives himself up so much to his urges that meets the most misfortune. Deserves being so far up on the critics' lists.

It also provided me with a more realistic depiction of the rodeo than that of the South Park episode where Cartman turns into a Vietnamese prostitute. "Send in the clowns!" uttered once every couple of minutes? I'm there.

Turbonegro - "Prince Of The Rodeo"
Purhase "Apocalypse Dudes" here. Go on, it won't "turn you gay"

Kill Henry Sugar - "Rodeo"
Get "Sell This Place" here. It's rather evocative (Of what, you pretentious w*nker?)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Pocket Hotness

You may have heard me rant on about the majesty of dEUS before. I'm likely one of their biggest fans in the entire hemisphere. But I usually have to append the fact that they seem to be keen on pimping neither their records, nor themselves, in the US.

Not so. Apparently we should expect an NYC appearance on 30 March. I cannot begin to describe how happy I am.

Daily Clown

It's been a whie since I last wrote about the menace to the neighbourhood that is the Atlantic Yards project. I should really write something substantive and thoughtful about the project. Or I could just give you your hour of hate by linking to two nolandgrab pictures of our impressively bad Brooklyn Borough president.

Boo! Hiss!

Will be back a bit later with a considered post and maybe some kitchen sink gothic. Right now I am suffering under a mild hangover. This would have been worse, but for the GIGANTIC PILE OF MEAT I inhaled at Blue Smoke earlier in the evening.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Booze Reduction

Last night was a night fashioned from purest indoors. After the boisterous, albeit sparse, fare on offer at Otto on Tuesday, it was time for a rest. So I tootled around for a while at work, and played train roulette on the yellow subway line.

The N disgorged me at Pacific Street. It was at this point that I decided that this would not be a complete night in, but one whereby I sampled some local produce on the way back to the sweet embrace of the A-Team.

Which is a rather long-winded way of saying I finally visited the Black Sheep bar, after several weeks of speculating wildly on the internet about it. I had wondered whether this would be a true metal anger limey real ale bar.

No such luck. It's solidly Irish, owned by a couple of Celtic fans. It used to a be a bubble tea bar, and served for a few months as an extension of Deshima's sushi bar. It has tiled floors and is a tad cavernous. More decoration, in my humble opinion, is needed for it to be truly cozy. It shouldn't be that hard to have at the Gate or O'Connors.

Anyway, this post ws meant to be done hours ago, and isn't. So I'll lurch wildly into some music I've been meaning to post for a while. It's by the Reducers, who aren't as punk as I'd have hoped, but are pretty stroppy nonetheless. Christgau seemed slightly fond of them, although this this kind of an uncomplicated kind of New England rock made by the cockroaches of music. They will live for ever.

Not as goood as Rave On!, by all accounts, but "Cruise To Nowhere" has the most brutally honest song about being a pub rock band ever.

The Reducers - "Pub Rockin"
Buy "Cruise To Nowhere" here. It's either that or hope that the Something Else guys get pimped another copy

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Apples And Oranges

I've been scanning the tech sites the last few days, searching in vain for a hint that Apple might cut the price of its high-end 60GB iPod (The precious! We wants it!). No such luck. In fact, the current season of Macexpo announcements has mostly served to pump up Steve Jobs' PR. But there's plenty of room for reallly ill-informed speculation about the Mac OS operating system, which is much less well understood than the iPod by business journalists.

Take this little snippet from a Business Week story:

"But Apple has an intriguing new possibility now - license Windows, and have it run in Macs alongside the Mac OS.


'I think it would be a very smart move,' says Mike Kwatinetz, a venture capitalist with Azure Partners who was a highly regarded PC industry analyst during the 1990s. 'As it is, it would be very difficult for Apple to get double-digit market share. Having a dual-OS Mac might change that.'"

Sounds like this pundit has been out of the business for quite a while. For there exists a way for us Mac users to run PC programmes for some time. It's called Virtual PC, and it hogs system resources like a bastard and is a tad unstable. But it exists, and is just about enough for those people with niche windows applications or the need to connect to PC-based online work software.

On a related note, we've been following this iTunes ministore story vaguely closely. The nub of this is that there is this new iTunes music store that opens up with iTunes whether you ask it to or not. Quite freaked me out, since I don't want to use the store, it looks ugly, and codes my songs in a way restricts how I use them. It seems to be relatively easy to hide the store, but I think that the relentless, rather gaudy, and intrusive marketing is very un-Apple. And if it is telling a remote, faceless corporation (the data collector, not Apple), how exquisite my musical taste is, I will be very upset.

Slides Don't Rule

I bow to few in my admiration for water parks. The flues and slides and wave machines and spurious soaking devices are part of what makes America great. I am proud to visit as many as possible. Among my favourites are the Algarve's Wet N' Wild, San Dimas' Raging Waters (aka Waterloo!), and Hawaiian Waters.

Note that I haven't included the Six Flags in New Jersey among them, mostly because I don't consider water parks a dignified pursuit for area with temperate climates. Which is why I'm a little wary of throwing my ginormous weight behind the new Randall's Island water park proposal. Does not the fact that one has to get on a plane or, worse, a NJ Transit bus, add to the experience?

The plan, as far as the above-linked Daily News story goes, is for there to be a "massive" water park on the northern tip of the island, complete with water slides and so forth:

"But the park - which was proposed originally in 1999 by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 12 acres - is drawing concern because of its swelling size, now set at 26 acres."

Sound impressive? It's not. Raging Waters covers 50 acres, and that's pretty cozy. Hawaiian Waters, which I'm fairly fond of because it's fairly quiet, is 25 acres. Building a state-of-the-art water park on that kind of space is simply not possible, especially if the Randall's Island park's 25 acres includes a seven-acre beach. Crazy slide space will be at a premium. And forget about the pointless very slow-moving river where the kids hang out.

I don't really have a take on the wisdom of bulldozing the baseball diamonds to make way for the park. I wasn't convinced, in particular, by one observer's remark: "As it is now, children from the surrounding neighborhoods have to travel 2-1/2 hours each way to get to a comparable facility." Of course, by that token, we also need a IKEA in the Five Boroughs. Oh, wait...

I was going to use this post to rant on a little longer about how little legal nous Chuck Schumer possesses, as evidenced by his recent performance at the Alito hearings. But I think I've gone on quite enough. So here's one of those topical mp3 postings that get the hipsters so agitated:

Royal Trux - "Waterpark"
Buy "Veterans Of Disorder" at Walmart. It seems oddly fitting.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Sneaky Peeps

There weren't many cultural or political highlights to the weekend, the sad news of Charles Kennedy being deposed as Liberal Democrat leader aside. We'll miss him, his being ginger aside, since the man was articulate, interesting and genuine.

I'd been formulating a grand unified theory of British politics over drinks at O'Connors on Saturday. In essence it was that most of the Scottish politicians of the current generation came across as genuine and unaffected. John Smith, Tony Blair's, um, predecessor as leader of the Labour Party, was exhibit A in the case I was making. And then my compatriot mentioned Alex Salmond, and I realised I didn't quite have a watertight theory.

While I appreciate that he did lie about his drinking before admitting a problem with alcohol, there was something reasonable and unaffected about the guy. I'll miss him. Menzies (pron. "Mingies") Campbell does not seem to be, as the A-Team put it "on the jazz".

Where reason, and an appreciation for where the darker sorts of the political arts, cannot penetrate, give out, there the mindless consumerism must rush in. Brunch at Five Points was rather fine, and rather unhealthy.

I topped it off with some buying. Michael K's secret suburban sneaker lair coughed up some Onitsuku Tiger Ultimate 81 LEs. As worn by The Bride Kiddo.

Now I also scored a Spiewak Parka 50% off. But the weather's taken a turn for the better, so that went straight into the closet. Thus the most exciting thing is the sneakers. The Proper English for sneakers is, naturally, trainers, and nothing beats the sensation of new trainers, at least when the buggers fit properly.

But the only people to write an appropriate paean to new trainers were my high school's number one funk rock combo. Called Mental Cave Chickens, nothing of them survives, except for this post, that is. The melody's actually pretty good, although the young singer's voice is sadly the wrong side of ragged. Yes, the name is so bad, I am sorry that it will henceforth exist on the internet.

Interesting fact, the lyric from the verse was originally "Who needs drugs when you've got new trainers". I know because I worked on it with the original singer. But he got replaced, and the band decided that given the repressive atmosphere that prevailed at that time at the school, they would censor themselves. Vaclav Havels they were not.

Mental Cave Chickens - "New Trainers"
Buy? There Will Be No Buying Here. This Is A No Shop Link For No Shop People

Friday, January 06, 2006

Your Life Iz Here

Sort of an upcoming, although not really a very timely one:

You could go to the Guuggenheim and watch Diplo, and realise the the whole thing is utterly played out, as Flavorpill recommends.

Or you get ch-ch-check Federale, nascent stoner rock titans, at the Trash Bar.

You know what to do.

Strami In A Teacup

Most of us know now that there are three legendary delis in New York City, and the outlook for them isn't good. We've given you a run-down already on Katz and the Carnegie. Now, courtesy of the New York Times (reg req'd, but have a go at the blogs as well), comes news that the number three, the Second Avenue Deli may be forced to close.

It was a victim of the blossoming East Village real estate market, and is not a good omen for its brother Katz, slightly further downtown. I've long suspected that the rents that restaurants have to deal with midtown are one reason why the Carnegie Deli is so crowded and so schmaltzy. The Carnegie has a reasonable slab of meat on offer, but you wouldn't go there to relax with a beer and a latke. I fear wicked renovations are afoot.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Box Fresh

It hasn't been a word that I have been trying to ease into the lexicon with any great enthusiasm, but it will one day be very buzzy. I refer, of course, to the word "fauxbox". This is the use graphically of an old-skool looking 80s boombox to enhance one's ironic cred. Not, obviously, this fauxbox, which is something far more useful. So far, the big offender, as I have already pointed out is synth-prat funk abomonation 33Hz. But here, courtesy of Gizmodo, is the thing made flesh:

Hippie Shakedown

Last night I trundled down to the Barnes & Noble on Astor Place for a reading by John Perkins, whose book, Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man has inched up the bestseller lists on the back of a sophisticated, if somewhat melodramatic, critique of global finance.

Perkins says he was a consultant at Chas. T. Main, a venerable steam boiler maker, that grew into a utilities consulting firm, and is now defunct. He says that in that role he was an "economic hit man", an unacknowledged arm of US foreign policy, whose job was to convince foreign, usually developing, countries to buy stuff and build projects they didn't need. The aim of this work was to stimulate US industry, as well as secure US control of foreign natural resources.

Funnily enough, I write about this sort of thing for a living, so was rather interested to hear more about the process. Which is, unfortunately, where Mr. Perkin's flair for melodrama loses us. He mentions marching into the offices of various dignitaries in countries such as Panama and swaggering in like a Mafia soldier. "On the one hand, economic hit men hold hundreds of millions in bribes for them and their family, in the other hand they hold a gun. With a bullet with their name on it."

That large-scale lending institutions such as the World Bank, or US banks such as US Ex-Im, frequently do skew their sympathies towards the projects that justify their existence is institutional bias. Likewise for consulting firms - which make most of their fees for advising on these projects. Whether, however, these people do function as the skirmishers that go out in front of the CIA in suborning unhelpful democracies is more doubtful. Certainly much harder to prove.

And before going much further, I should note that I picked up his book on the way out, and the book is where Perkins promises a wealth more detail, but have not yet read it. I'm going on his remarks from last night.

But it would be easy to suggest, based on what I've observed, that this cosy commonality between big business, lenders and consultants could go on quite naturally without being fostered by the CIA. As evidence one could point quite easily to the success that the British, Japanese, Koreans, French and Germans have all had in building white elephants in various parts of the world. One of Mr. Perkins' questioners sort of suggested this, asking what America can do to stop such countries from stepping in and taking over. The answer is that they already have.

Which isn't what Perkins says. He is eager to promote the idea, one that both left and right tend to agree on, that the US is the only actor on the world stage with the resources and clout to achieve such dastardly ends, as well as fix the problem. Which he suggests that we might achieve through positive thinking, fair trade buying, and selective boycotts. Which can actually turn round some US corporations, but works less well on Europeans. Just ask Nestle.

Maybe I'm just cynical, and I'm definitely hopelessly compromised, but the man's very charismatic, and still seems to have a bit of the buzzword-spewing consultant about him still. He says that he had been bribed and scared into suppressing his story until 9-11 gave him the indignation to take up his pen. But it would have been hard until very recently to have ascribed so much credence to his story.

As it stands, the man is on a roll. Penguin picked up the rights to the paperback version (twenty houses had apparently turned down the hardback), and he has a second book, more of a spiritual self-help tome, on sale. So I'll hold fire for a while. I've always thought that 90% of scoops were about reporters building on the work of earlier reporters, and bringing them to a wider audience. To the majority of industry players, such deals, even the corruption, will not be a surprise. Likewise many NGOs, which have been banging on about these lending practices for a while.

But Perkins has shed some light on the subject, albeit a garish neon-hued one. I'll see what the book's like.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Trench Town Rock

Bah, blog neophytes, you have only recently been drawn in to this "Republicans are evil, corrupt and stupid" meme. Suddenly this funny gentleman is splashed all over the morning papers as the most evil man in modern congressional political history. Well, the bits that aren't dashing the hopes of miners' families.

The rotten living conditions of much of West Virginia (seceded from Virginia in 1863, as I just discovered), aside, the Jack Abramoff scandal is already descending into questions of the man's sartorial taste. Which is, naturally, a much easier subjecct for me to distill and compress than politics or geology.

so, we'll bring you a run-down, by no means exhaustive, of the top comparisons to Jack's spooky attire:

  • Gawker likes comparing the man to Inspector Gadget. Momentarily convincing, although needless to say, Gadget rocks a grey trenchcoat.

  • Wonkette is suffering during the Cox-let's book-pimping leave. It settles for "Retro-Capone Look". Feh.

  • The winner, weirdly enough, is the winger. Very tough-sounding right-wing blog the Ace Of Spades notes an uncanny resemblance to Indy's nemesis...

Gringcorp, needless to say, also rocks a black trenchcoat. Cutesome makes me look sooper bad-ass by accident.

Born On The Floor

Today is panic in dayjobland. If witless emails from obscure parts of a publishing empire were laser beams, I'd be limey space swiss cheese by now, only smouldering a bit less. In the mean time, however, and for your pleasure, a recent column for Sugarzine. It is a reprise of my finest hour - the NY transit strike.

Coming up today, well maybe not today, but tomorrow, well maybe not tomorrow, but soon, a disquisition on global energy security. Russians will again be involved.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Debbie The Destroyer

Debbie Duhaime is one of Gumby Fresh's top search terms, because the husky-voiced traffic barker for NY1 is never seen, and provides no profile to NY1. Probably because she has a gig at another station, in the form of 77 WABC.

Debbie was positively giddy this morning at the thought of all of the traffic disruption left in the wake of the rain we've been experiencing. Flooding on the Belt Parkway and Rockaway Boulevard, angry guidos, end of civilisation, and so on. In the middle of all this, however, she neglected to mention that the goddamn 4/5 subway had decided not to get out of bed this morning. Thanks Debbie!

For those of you wondering what Debbie looks like, the above mugshot is not quite a fair guide. My last recollection of a TV appearance has her looking a tad more lived-in.

More! Jobsworths!

The first day back in dayjobland, and it is obviously far too early to get back to doing work. So I'll pick over the two-day old Observer instead. Which is apt, because, the Observer seemed a tad refried as well.

Inside the comment section, horror awaited. A rather pedestrian column from the normally excellent Nick Cohen. Cohen's an investigative columnist, and a rather better one than top child-procurer Nick Kristoff. The only time he's been less than gripping was when he went on TV for a programme about New Labour and spent much too much time snarking at press officers in the manner of the Guardian Diary.

Anyway, this week Nick takes on self-satisfied pundits, with the aid of a new study by Philip Tetlock on how frequently they are wrong. So far, so promising. Problem is, that the US study has already been extensively and masterfully referenced by the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly. Now, I appreciate that even the best of British journalism must rely upon foisting old US copy on its readers and hoping they don't follow it.

But the big problem for Cohen is that I don't think the lessons of the US can be transferred to UK political discourse - at least yet. The galaxy of talking heads and inane pundit shows on television just doesn't have anywhere near the mass of the US. Which is important, because the prediction game is in large part a televised sport. Not that there aren't plenty of columnists - and bloggers - doing this. Just that the most egregious examples tend to come up on telly, and the more opportunities there are for a pundit to appear, the more likely they are to make up something stupid.

Still, this is a mere quibble, and Nick probably deserves a few weeks rest. There are, after all, quite a few bullies for him to go after. How about this one? More proof that many Americans are temperamentally unsuited to waging a war on terror. This from the Post:

'A cherubic-cheeked, 4-year-old boy almost didn't get to spend Christmas with his adoring Bronx grandparents — after clueless security heavies at two airports demanded his mom prove he's not a terrorist.'

'"In order for him to get cleared, you have to fill out a form and provide three notarized forms of ID, like a military ID or driver's license," [his mother] said.'

I've had just that kind of screaming at, so my sympathies to the mother. From the president down, the war on terror means all idiots all the time.

In other news (I won't even try a segue as inept as the last), Marty "Tossbungle, That's What I Do" Markowitz spends his political capital on an advertising campaign. Your tax dollars at work, NYC kids, making that buffoon look useful.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Dneiper Domes

Happy New Year, chaps, a day late, but suitably rested. Yesterday I wrestled manfully with a gigantic hangover, and loped over to Miriam for dinner. Miriam, strictly speaking, is in the been-there-owned-that category, but the last time I'd visited had been for brunch, and Israeli Baked Eggs and sinister omelette are unlikely to give one a measure of the place.

Miriam had much of Fifth Avenue's restaurant trade to itself, but was a tad short-handed. This was fine, though, they're an eager bunch, and didn't get too upset when we flagged down whoever was going past to get bread and water and whatnot. The cuisine is billed as generic Mediterranean but trends heavily Israeli, as far as I could tell, although all I really have to base this on is the preponderance of artichokes and halumi cheese. I had the short ribs, which had been rendered less savory by the addition of some cinnamon and some currants. Cutesome had the feisty shwarma.

Today it was time to head into the city again, a trip I faced with some trepidation. My last visit had not gone well, a nasty and brutish escapade that ended in headaches.

But, like much of Brighton Beach, we wanted to catch the dying embers of the Guggenheim's Russia exhibition. Oh dear, excuse me, Russia!. The inclusion of the exclamation mark, as Economist notes, might be a shrewd bit of marketing, but it sure is silly. No self-respecting propaganda poster would be without one, but it does seem to emphasise the communist element to the collection at the expense of the wider and more varied fare from earlier centuries.

Indeed, the post modern and socialist realist works, combined with the earlier iconography highlight a theme that runs through the whole exhibition, what I'll call, for want of a better shorthand, the struggle against whimsy. Many of the artists in the later stages (post 1983), and even the late nineteenth century, seemed to take a strange glee in childish juxtapositions (the indignities heaped upon Stalin's memory in particular). Catherine the Great's proteges, who tried to absorb Western influences while creating a recognisably Russian type of painting, often struggled here, frequently falling back on flat folk-influenced subjects.

Still, I'm new to this art criticism business, and I'll grant that the work of curating such a long and tumultuous story will make drawing such generalisations from two hours in a concrete spiral slightly dangerous. Moreover, this urge to celebrate the impish and immature is hardly the burden of the Russians alone. You got nine days left. Visit on a schoolday.