Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Endorse There

Several people have commented on the fact that gmail's spam folder usually includes a number of exciting recipes for the excellent pork-based SPAM product.

Gmail has, according to an outfit called Radicati, a 3.5% share of the 668 million email users worldwide, which, if true, would amount to 23 million users. That's a lot of people clearing their spam folders. Have any of them been helping sales of tasty and nutritious SPAM(TM), eh?

Yes, I thought you wanted to know that, so that's what I demanded to know from Hormel foods HQ. We shall see...

In other consumer news, the Great Brooklyn Lager boycott might have gained some traction. At least according to this, hazily-sourced correspondence from the brewery's brewmaster. Which would be nice.

Since, of course, the whole thing was my idea, I think I have a vague stake in the yardsticks by which we measure victory, and they are hardly Rumsfeld-esque:


Sorry for the all-caps, made me feel better.

We celebrate with some Dr John now. What with it being Mardi Gras, and the manager of Freddy's looking a bit like him, non?

Dr. John - "Party Hellfire (Dub Mix)"
Buy "Dr. John: The Best of the Parlophone Years" here. Somewhere a cajun is weeping

More! Ports!

Probably the most persuasive explanation yet for why the US shouldn't sell its ports to the UAE-owned Dubai Ports World, courtesy of Daily Kos. It's the idea that access to shipping manifests constitutes useful terrorist intelligence. Which could be true, although I'm vaguely sure that toxic chemicals are usually handled at separate facilities. The nub of the agreement is here:

Would that kind of precise marine intel be easier to come across if your pals in the UAE or Saudi Arabia or Egypt happened to be managing the shipping traffic? Might it be easier to find some mid-level shipping clerk to bribe or persuade in the local area into handing over info, as opposed to port personnel speaking another language on the other side of the world?

Which assumes that these manifests would be held, at least at a time when they could be exploited, by head office in Dubai. Which we don't know. Moreover, it still constitutes a Victor Kiam theory of global terrorism - "I liked the small bit of actionable intelligence so much I bought the company."

Blackmail, bribery, or extortion are still cheaper and quicker ways to achieve this. Look at the spate of UK bank raids. These were achieved through the old-fashioned means of taking people hostage. Terrorists have hostage-taking down pat. Operating ports? Not so much.

Still equal opportunity blog-poking is paramount. Check out this weird threat-like, but also world-weary judgment-like sentence from the Insta-Sith-Lord:

I'm afraid that it's going to come to open military action against Iran, sooner rather than later.

Yeah, Mullahs, you 'eard.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Cheap, Clean-Burning, Industrial Decline

The big news today in the world of global infrastructure is that the UK's National Grid has agreed to buy Keyspan Energy (link to pdf), headquartered in little old Brooklyn. This is one of those ranking exercises that should make Americans very nervous. The UK has a miserable savings rate, virtually no manufacturing base to speak of, but it can still afford some decent chunks of the US' plumbing.

Forget about the ports, it's the other 99% of the US that's up for sale that the rest of the world's interested in. Less a series of flashy real estate deals of the kind that made Nakatomi Corporation fat than a series of monopoly services that throw off cash year after year.

And so the former Brooklyn Union Gas Company falls into the greasy clutches of the limeys, and I see nish change in my gas bill. This would almost be a time to post Freq Nasty's "Brooklyn To Brixton", a tune whose title describes in reverse the Gringcorp life journey. But National Grid is based on the Strand and the tune's bobbins.

Instead, I shall post something by half of Orbital pretending to be handbag. From 1993, but it appeared on the first techno tape I ever listened to in 1995. If you thought that I almost spent the whole weekend without leaving the house, you'd be right. That tape, and several others, now live IN THE DIGITAL ETHER.

Golden Girls "Kinetic (Orbital Mix)
Queue up to buy "Vintage R&S V.2" here. The tape sometimes crops up on eBay.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Fishy Fishy

Lovely little article in the Observer Food Monthly, titled "How sushi ate the world" that lays rather a few Sushi myths to rest. The most useful, and personally satisfying, knock, is debunking this idea that sushi can be eaten with chopsticks.

My suspicion has always been that there was some huge cosmic joke on the part of sushi restaurant owners to watch the customer try and control these gigantic fish and rice cross-sections with two slivers of rounded wood. Word has slowly got out that a splash of soy sauce is much preferable to a thorough drenching, but still the diner is expected to measure the drizzling by manoeuvring said chunks with said splinters.

One word people - fingerbowls. I'll start keeping it real at Blue Ribbon, soon as I don't have to walk out of the joint with starch all over my fingers. Maybe hot towels afterwards as well as before. We also learn that Nobu will take over the world, and meet the best Kentish-born sushi-chef ever.

The rest of the Observer is a dissatisfying melange of LibDem leadership latest, and more on the creepy, pooterish, worthless old coot, that is somehow mean to be my sovereign. Yes, top inbred nutjob Prince Charles promises to stop sending prejudiced, half-formed, incoherent rants to elected officials once he becomes king. Better idea, how all members of parliament swear an oath in public to ignore every last thing the reactionary old weirdo has to say?

Squarepusher - "Tequila Fish"
Get yer "Big Loada" here. Confuse still more old people.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Lilt Makes You Burp

Today presents you with a slightly less haggard and cranky weblord than yesterday. We'll be the first to admit that the post that confronted you this morning was very below par, and we'll try and make it up to you today. Possibly using the power of psychotic cats.

Actually, I'm not sure I can. Oops. Things getting a mite crazy in dayjobland.

Will be eventually finding something useful to write about. in the mean time, here's a beautiful lilting geetar and cello thing from early this century from a band called Blue Green. I found them on mp3.com back when visiting it was the done thing, and never found much more about them, although I suspect that the song is about sappy enough to be used as an implement of SEDUCTION!

In fact, a year or so after unearthing it, they cropped up at Brownies with Palomar, and turned out to be a bloodless but proficient alternative rock band. I ventured up to them after the show and said to them how much I enjoyed this song i had found. They gave me a look like I had been sniffing around under their beds, before responsding that it was a very early demo, but they were glad that I liked it.

Googling them is a bit of a bitch, (you tend to dig up descriptions of algae or the late-period Blues Explosion song Blue Green Olga), but they had their moment. And it's quite lovely

Blue Green - "Leave"

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Not Blonde Non Bombshell

You'd think that what with this business with the ports being on the front page 24/7, I'd be all over the story by now. You'd be wrong, because since we have learned that a Dubai-owned company will take over P&O, not one stitch of evidence has come up to suggest that DP World will turn our nation's gateways into terrorist waterslides.

And I'm bored with it by now. So let's talk about Bond. We have dimly been aware that the Broccoli clan has cast someone villainous-looking as the next James Bond - Daniel Craig, or the Mad Monk Of Death From Elizabeth, as we know him round my joint. Which has motivated a bunch of querulous Connery-loving no-marks to set up a campaign against him. Their campaign is hardly helped by a morph they've produced that shows Connery morphing into Craig quite nicely.

But to be honest, the Bond series descended long ago into a series of explosions wrapped around piss-poor puns. One that I adore by the way. But only one Bond - Dalton - had much of the darkness in him at all. The rest have been smirking clotheshorses. Good luck to Mr. Craig, although reports from the set seem to suggest that he hasn't had much of it so far.

Unrelated pop hits!

Fleetwood Mac - "Looking For Somebody"
Buy "Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac" Here. Note The "Peter Green" Bit. Means No-One Can Be Beastly To You

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Neon Painlets

Apologies for the gap since last week's posts, I'd been in Vegas, then at the dayjob, and then writing something for the kidz. Apparently they have a new website design coming. Double hardcore!

Vegas was slightly underwhelming, and this was the second time I visited. The last time I was a little poorer, and spent my time mooching around the north strip and various points off the strip, trying to absorb the seamier and less glamorous parts of the Vegas experience. A drink at the MGM Grand was the height of the last trip (the low was ambling aimlessly around the hotels trying to get into pool that was better than the New Frontier's.

The fancy Vegas we inhaled this time round. Staying at the MGM, flouncing around the Wynn, the Bellagio and the Mandalay Bay, we couldn't help but be bored by the sameness and soullessness of the place. The sort of bland and inoffensive default treatment you get unless your a high roller. And don't even try to get a decent meal after ten o'clock. One you realise the whole city is a giant pinball machine run by gaming corporations it's hard to stay affectionate.

So, I had a couple of good meals, dropped too much money at blackjack, and watched the Cirque Du Soleil show about the ninjas, and was glad to be back in New York, ginormous taxi queue and driver who claimed to be unable to find Atlantic Avenue notwithstanding. Actually, scratch that, the circus thing was pretty cool, and I was gutted not to be able to hate it. Ninjas, clowns, explosions and cheese metal are going to be hard to screw up in combination. Take your children, or even some nasty frat girl you bumped into at the crap tables.

Final thing. $1 PBR night at the mighty Rope, on Myrtle, close to the Pratt Institute, made me feel very old...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Arrant Nonsense

Ho-hum, I think I'm going to have to unleash a rant that might end up with me being linked to by more right-wingers. Which I'll just have to suck up. But this controversy over the sale of P&O to DP World has exposed the fact that left-wing sites aren't averse to a spot of spin now and then. Here's the lead from Think Progress on the affair:

The Bush administration has outsourced the operation of six of the nation’s largest ports to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country with troubling ties to international terrorism.

Which was true several years ago, when P&O, a company located in the UK, a notorious haven for radical preachers, took over the operations of several US ports. An Arab company bought this British company which operates several US ports. It paid a great deal of money for it, much more than the cheerfully authoritarian but pro-US Singaporeans. The Bush administration didn't "outsource" anything to duplicitous Arabs, it declined to block the sale.

There are several bits of infrastructure which I think you should take a great deal of care in transfering - power plants, even some roads. Airports as well, although private operation of airports is limited to non-security functions. Ports don't even come close. Security and customs functions are largely government-run. What the controversy seems to centre on is the notion that the President should use specious national security grounds to prevent the the free operation of markets because the principals involved are foreign.

So, to the passive-agressive clowns at the Port Authority, and the blowhards in the House and Senate, we will ask you this. What exactly are you worried about? Atrios notes that it's important to avoid tinging this debate with racism. But it's hard not to get the idea that somehow the management of DP World is meant to somehow infiltrate the running of good American ports with crazed Islamists. I'd note, by the way, that any well-funded terrorist could probably undermine port security in a far more cost-effective fashion than buying the whole damn company.

But the "Victor Kiam of global Islamofascism" meme is taking on a strange tinge, a bipartisan hysteria uninformed by knowledge of neither the operations of ports nor the details of the transaction. You should note, by the way, that I don't try to claim that the UAE's is very pleasant government. But you need to establish a much better basis for interfering with their concessions than that.

[UPDATE: This explanation is a mite more cogent]

Thursday, February 16, 2006

They Are Dice, They Are Black, But They Are Not Frendz With DFA

Hello from clear but wintry Las Vegas, the place where utility executives go to relax. Today, we have mostly been shuttling from one end of the MGM Grand to another, pausing only to drink more coffee. Does jetlag attributable to three hours' time difference make one barely a hardcore at all? Almost certainly. But it would explain the Luscious Jackson, no?

Luscious Jackson - "Sexy Hypnotist"
Buy "Electric Honey". Then gamble, and lose it, on the errant whippet that came in last

In other news, how can we, as humanity, harvest the restless energy and indomitable spirit of the ashen-faced little old lady sat playing the slot machine and smoking? I don't know, but it sure makes for better anthopology than hanging with those thousand-year-old fishermen on Okinawa.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Droids Of Love

With apologies to Something Awful, this is a post devoted entirely to Cutesome. Happy Valentine's Day, Cutesome!

Suds N' Yoda

Ah, the mighty power of blogs. This is a good-ish demonstration of all those articles we've been seeing about the power of blogs to change businesses. They usually appear in Forbes, or the back pages of the NYT business section. It also helps to have a surpisingly well-organised pressure group on side.

I refer, of course, to L'affaire Brooklyn Brewery, which we kicked off after a weekend spent almost drowning in the products of the Brooklyn Brewery, and then discovering that the owner was a fan of knocking down my local. You can read the original post here, written, I should suppose, a good 30% in jest. Little acorns and all that...

Still it got taken up by Fans For Fair Play, written far as I can tell, by someone who actually knows the business of sports. Scott Turner, the author who actually uses his real name on his site (unlike yours truly), was able to recount what happened to Rheingold when it tried to get in with a professional sports team. The unsurpassable nolandgrab then chimed in.

And finally, the indefatigable Dan Goldstein (no link immediately to hand) sicced the local papers on the story. You can read it, just about, here. No the reporter didn't talk to me, although I imagine that Metro reporters probably have to work rather hard to convince us the paper's not just reheated wire reports. Oh, and I'm on Super Secret Background.

I must stress, much as Scott did, that having a Brooklyn Brewery is basically better than not having one, and that we certainly would not recommend avoiding Freddy's for whatever reason - beyond becoming all domesticated (ahem). But it seems hardly right to buy a man's beer when he's panting for the razing of your bar. Still, while I may not have been entirely serious the first time I wrote that letter, I suspect the only ethical thing to do now would be to avoid the stuff entirely.

The Dirtbombs - "I Started A Joke"
Buy "if you don't already have a look" here. Don't buy Brooklyn Beer anywhere

Monday, February 13, 2006

Breaking Pre-Adolescent Legs

So you've heard about the snow, and the romping and the pictures, and why photobloggers are parasites sucking the signifiance out of major visual news events. Was I out there in the snow, zooming down the Borough's slopes and crashing into small children? HELL YEAH.

To be honest, while quantatively this was a big deal, all time record and all that, qualitatively, it wasn't that much worse than the obligatory single dumping to which New York submits once a year. It wasn't enough to crimp any major activities, and we'd note that even without the snow the weekend was definitely the best ever. This had a lot to do with a night out at the ICE swilling champagne and scoffing ribs on Friday, followed by a quite awesome gig at Southpaw Saturday, about which more in the next Sugarzine.

But the sledging? It was good. And F Greene Park was the place to be. Whether this was because of the natural superiority of the terrain in the park, the fact that we got there earlier, the fact that the people are nicer, or the fact that there are fewer people nearby, the sledging was much better. Some long, interesting runs, provided you could avoid the trees, and a very mellow atmosphere.

We made it to P Park at about 2.45, by which time the pace was filled to capacity with poorly-disciplined children and their indulgent parents. Whereas the F Greene kids relied on the law of the jungle and plain common sense to stay out of eachother's way, the Park Slope crowd had ineffectual parents around in abundance, which only meant you were afraid to go careering into the dozy little tykes. Which really is the only way to train them in sledge etiquette.

Cutesome, who by the way instigated the amazing Southpaw show, was just about getting into the sledging, about the same time I was ready to break some limbs. So we left to get some socially acceptable warmed-up afternoon scotch.

Time for some nasty sloppy music courtesy of the Flaming Stars. It's a song called "Like Trash", about being treated Like Trash, and sonically, it is indeed very Like Trash. Somewhat close in spirit to the band from Saturday. The topical link is that the snow does a very good job of covering up trash, but at the same time makes it very difficult to reach the extant trash receptacles.

The Flaming Stars - "Like Trash"
Buy "Ginmill Perfume" here. Easier than leaving the house, right?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ron Exceptional

People have basically stopped asking me to explain Enron to them. Call it the passing zeitgeist, or call it my poor attempts at lapsing into lay-speak. Still, there may yet be a revival in interest if the Lay/Skilling trial heats up. Right now it's centering around how truthful investor rellations people are. Hmmmmm.

Still, genius little dispatch from the trial at Rolling Stone, courtesy of Matt Taibbi.

"Covering the Enron trial is like being trapped in the world's longest Thomas Friedman column, a Salvador Dali landscape of violently mixed nightmare metaphors. I shudder, my pie rising."

Taibbi spends too long, in my humble opinion, pushing the "cashing the checks of the boys from Texas" theme into the White house. Oh, but it's good. Go see

So Hear This

It is now clear that senate hearings have descended into the margins of political discourse. The reason for this is a mixture of those Howard Hughes hearings in the filum, and a right-wing plot. How else to explain the ability of legislators again and again to turn one of their few remaining chances to control the workings of government into such an unedifying spectacle?

I don't often catch them, what with having a day job and all that. But the pomposity of the average senator always takes me aback, especially when quite a few of them can be much more charming when being interviewed. It's clear right now that it's in the interests of the Republicans to bore as many people as possible with the proceedings, since they're the ones doing the unspeakable acts. But why Democrats such Joe Lieberman and Joe Biden insist on droning and preening so much eludes me. I suppose that's what happens when fewer former prosecutors get to the top in politics.

And then there's Norm Coleman, the preternaturally vacant and unpleasant senator from Minnesota, and inheritor of the great Paul Wellstone's seat. The man is very good at using senate hearings to make unpleasant characters more likeable. First he did it, as we recounted, with George Galloway, and it was up to a UK celebreality show to remind us what a chancer Galloway is.

Coleman then spent this morning making Michael Brown, the man that ran FEMA while it let New Orleans drown, look like a sympathetic character too. You honestly can't think of any other reason for the performance but that he got a call from up top in the Republican leadership to make Brown look bad (rather than the president), and was simply too dim to take care of the call properly. I guess he gets a consolation prize from the fact that his performance makes the senate hearings, and thus congressional oversight, look toothless. But he makes himself look very silly.

The Make Up - "Come Up To The Microphone"
I implore you, not for the first time, to buy "In Mass Mind" here

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Tesco Suicide?

Like hell am I going to post the Sneaker Pimps song of the same name as this post's title. I'm crass and newsy, but not that crass and newsy. Anyway, I don't like the song that much. I prefer the second to last one, ya know, with the cellos.

But the title? Definitely crass and newsy. For Tesco, the UK's largest retailer, has announced plans to enter the United States market. It will be spending £250 million (roughly $450 million - I did that in my head, but you knew that) on setting up convenience stores, initially on the west coast, and says that it can break even by 2007.

Tesco gets a little bit of stick in the UK for its attitudes to its suppliers, particularly farmers and other smaller businesses. But it is relentlessly consumer-focused, and treats its employees reasonably well. I base the last observation on a spell as a janitor in one of its stores outside of London. Flexible shifts, subsidised meals, and a collective bargaining agreement.

More importantly, it's been responsible for clearing the scalpers out of the central London grocery business. There used to be a bunch of chains like Europa and Harts that charged essentially what they liked to local residents and confused touristts and students. Tesco bought most of them out. Hooray.

I have very little in the way of an idea of what awaits tesco in the US, in terms of its relationships with suppliers, landlords and workers. What I can say is that they'd go down a treat in New York, which aside from the odd expensive Whole Foods or D'Agostino is saddled with a rash of pricey gourmet delis or scummy supermarkets.

My limited experience elsewhere in the US suggests that the big-box supermarkets like Wal-Mart or Publix or Albertson's don't need to be too worried by Tesco (I doubt it'll exercise enough pricing power to take them down like they did in the UK), but outfits like 7-Eleven and Wa Wa should. Tesco runs its stores very efficiently, and I like the food (particularly the preprepared stuff) a lot.

Big corporation, and all that, but good luck to them. I think they'll need it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Tell Me Where My Ninjas At

The onslaught continues. The word of the day is ethanol. The mood is subdued. You may spend these precious moments perusing a moderately more thoughtful column than normal at Sugarzine. Hint, it's not as nice on Scandinavian drone as Mig-Dalen Common.

Still, as you can probably surmise, I'd be much more comfortable with a band that sounds like the late sixties Rolling Stones. Like, on the evidence of the Superbowl show, the mid noughties Stones. Don't know why, since I spent much of my youth screaming obscenities at Ocean Colour Scene fans for much the same reason.

The Witnesses - "Stop Pretending"
Fetch "Tunnel Vision" here. Right proper instruments.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Helloooooo Rheingold!

The next few weeks are shaping up to be panic in dayjobland. I'm almost tempted to only post nights, but then something like this comes up and chokes me up. Via nolandgrab I learn that the Brooklyn Brewery, possibly my favourite maker of alcohol anywhere, is run by a cruel, cruel man.

From the Brooklyn Eagle (which will make you register, I'm afraid):

Steve Hindy, proprietor of Brooklyn Brewery, threw a small party in his “party room” to celebrate the prospects of the Nets coming to Brooklyn. The game was shown on a big-screen TV. Hot dogs, potato chips and popcorn were served and, of course, four kinds of Brooklyn Beer created just a few yards away.

Hindy is a sponsor of the Nets in Jersey, his beer is sold at the Meadowlands, and he hopes to be a sponsor when a B replaces the NJ in two to three years.

Now I will confess that I do not know this Hindy gentleman at all. He might not be Father Christmas, and might be a wicked, evil man who happens to make great beer. But as far as I'm aware, he's a good Brooklyn resident, albeit one, as you can discover elsewhere in the piece, that needs city approval to move his bottling operations, that obviously wants a beer concession at the Nets arena and likes the branding attached to the team.

So we will have to assume that he understands that he's supporting moving an arena to an area that doesn't want it, and contains a huge number of twenty-something professionals that guzzle his wares like crazy. But we will lay these arguments down in an open letter to Mr. Hindy, one that we will not deliver, since we are unable to put our real name on it. Plus, you might find the hyperlinks useful.

Dear Mr. Hindy,

I have been a drinker of your fine beers for five years now. I drank my first pint of Brooklyn Lager at the MacDougal Street Ale House in September 2000. The first time I lost control of my faculties (at least in this fair city) was after a night spent drinking your fine, if rather strong, Monster Ale at dba.

Since then I have pimped your beer to friends and acquaintances in such varied locations as Covent Garden, Chapel Allerton and Singapore. I would almost be happy if you enjoyed the same kind of success as Sam Adams, although many of my victims have found your wares a little feisty. But you have worked hard for your success, and I have been until now happy to act as an unpaid ambassador for your products.

In the past week, I have held a party which would have not been complete without a crate of Brooklyn Lager. I spent Friday night at your brewery, where I enjoyed the company, cheap ale and atmosphere immensely. I went on to the Spuyten Devil, where we did not behave as well, but I would in no way blame your excellent Saison for that turn of events.

But I digress. No more Brooklyn Lager for me. Well, after I finish that crate, anyway. Your support for moving the Nets arena to the Atlantic Yards site is wrong on so many levels. First, it alienates large numbers of people in the Borough, many of whom are natural customers. While residents of Williamsburg may have become resigned to huge skyscrapers growing up amongst them, those living in the vicinity of the Nets project have become very alarmed at the scale of the development.

More importantly, the plan calls for the demolition of a bar that sells consistently drinkable Brooklyn Lager, at a very reasonable price. I refer, of course, to Freddy's, and your connivance at its destruction will repel every discerning drinker in the P Heights neighbourhood. Please think for moment how many cases and barrels you are shipping to the Metrotech Center right now. And then imagine how many you will shift to these skyscrapers, leaving aside, for one moment, the stadium windfall.

While I'm sure Marty Markowitz is a more effective pitchman for your beer than he is a Borough President, I urge you to distance yourself from this disastrous project. In the mean time, I will be switching to Rheingold's inferior product, as well as imports. This will hurt me more than it hurts you.

Yours sincerely

A stadium hatin' drinker writing under a silly assumed name

[UPDATE: Hello, Missouri English 4040 blog readers. The magic of Sitemeter alerted me to your presence. So, are you anywhere near a Galen, Missouri? Does it exist? I have been reading of such a place in a Jonathan Carroll book.]
[UPDATE PART DEUX: Oh, and hello again nolandgrab readers. Walking from 6th Ave to S. Portland to F Greene Park, the Yards looked eerily beautiful. But then the snow, it does that to everything]

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Hot Fudge Action

You'd think that the inventive, hustling, all-consuming American spirit would have made sure that most days of national significance would have at least one or two meretricious or otherwise inappropriate pop song attached. But while Christmas is covered, very few other ones are. It's a small miracle, for instance that Bonio has New Years' Day to himself. Still, I dare say that Black Eyed Peas are working on something tawdry as we speak. Actually if Sufjan Stevens gets bored with this quixotic and time-consuming quest to record an album for each state in the Union, writing a kicky anthem for every important holiday would be quite a public service.

And it is possible, people, to do this thing with a modicum of dignity. Exhibit A, the mighty Ozomatli.

Ozomatli - "Super Bowl Sundae (Peanut Butter Wolf Remix)"
Buy "Ozomatli" here. Just to be very clear, there's Spanish involved

Right, time to brave Wing Wagon. I may be some time.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Screech Screech

I've been suffering from a mild revulsion against music critics for most of the week now.

This started when I was zooming through the final chapters of Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life, or "Dude, you left out [x favourite band], you bastard", as we call it round Gringcorp Mansions. Azerrad's book charts the rise of American indie rock, at one band per chapter, thus providing rock nerds with pet bands a very simple target.

I'd often thought that one day I'd rob a bank and settle down to write the definitive history of the 80s alternative rock movement. And then an actual indie rock star mentioned that it had already been written. I'm not that bitter, in the first place because the book is really very good, and secondly because it still leaves room for an account of the rise of college rock.

You can go to the above amazon link and read some of the reviewers missing the point. What Azerrad wanted to do was explain how Nirvana, and yes CreedNickelbackStoneTemplePilots, happened. A faithful account of hardcore, or fanzines, wasn't really the point. Although I'd posit that he was occasionally unduly dismissive of some of the records that indie rock bands made on major labels.

The college rock book will be awesome, though, simply because of the sheer number of pretentious windbags it is likely to encompass. The idea of some of these people trying to get bookings is highly humourous. I'd also like to work out who is responsible for Spin, CMJ and particularly Ultragrrrl.

Probably the most amusement was to be had later on in Azerrad's book, when he began to note the interest that the UK music magazine's had in US bands. While they managed to avoid being convoluted, patronising, grade-mongering fools like Christgau, they could be capable of some sublime idiocy. Everett True in particular, is mocked heartily for his credulous reception of Sub Pop's hype.

I was reminded of this while perusing the online section of the Wall Street Journal, where a little article on Cookie Monster Death Metal could be find. It contains one of the only references that Napalm Death is likely to get from the capitalist pigs' house organ.

Which brought me back to another UK music writer, Stephen Wells, who was known to pimp grindcore bands in a rather breathless style, by which I mean he used capital letters rather a lot. He was also a noted, and at the time rather lonely, fan of Japanese garage noiseniks Guitar Wolf.

Turns out he wasn't alone.

Hellsquad - Kawasaki ZII750 Rock N Roll
You May Purchase "I Love Guitar Wolf...Very Much: A Tribute To Guitar Wolf" here. It will pay for new bass lessons

Don't Bank On It

Our sympathies to those who've lost relatives in the Egyptian ferry disaster, and our fervent wishes that those responsible for marshalling and transporting those doing the Hajj start acting more responsibly, what with the pigrims being a captive market and all that.

But I couldn't help but notice that NY1's map of the region seemed to show the West Bank as part of Jordan. While its status is indeed cloudy, now more than ever, I would imagine that a New York news organisation might be more sensitive. Just, saying, both AJCs.

That said, I do have to admit that the "Who's Watching The Children Thing" that I mocked in the post below, has been soberly-presented and well produced. But they need to watch out for News 12 Brooklyn, which is so local it was live from a cop shop on Washington Ave last night. Have to say, though, the anchors sound like they're being recorded in a shed.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Ever so slightly more time available on the couch this morning. Which meant a hefty dose of NY1, only anchored by Kristen Shaughnessy rather than Pat Kiernan. Pat is hopefully mourning the conservative takeover of his native Canada, rather than out of the game of hosting another poorly-received gameshow.

Right off the bat, there's a clanger. Poor Kristen does not understand how statistics work. "January is normally the coldest month of the year. Well, this January is officially the third coldest on record." Would I be an intellectual snob if I pointed out that that is a non-sequitur of the crassest sort?

Crasser things are yet to come. Working on the assumption that two news items can be a trend, so long as the items are sufficiently horrific, NY1 is ramping up a child protection theme/campaign. This in the wake of the deaths of Nixzmary Brown and Quachaun Browne by people close to them.

Over a rather mawkish soundtrack, NY1 has unveiled a new sting, captioned "Who Is Watching The Children?", to accompany its coverage of such cases. Child protection is undoubtedly a proper subject for local news, NY1 has made it rather Fox-shaped for my liking.

The other things that irritated me were the free adverts for Henri Bendel and the New York Water Taxi (to which, yes, I just gave links). But those are pretty much par for the course.

Tear Down The Malls

I did not catch the President's speech last night, since Cutesome had chained me down in front of Project Runway. It was rather boring - the one who made the tatty ill-constructed dress got voted off. Again. And the guy who won from last year came back as a judge, and appears to have morphed into J-Lo, replete with the same hat, glasses and lack of modesty. You can visit his website here, and if I have rendered the link properly, it will cost him money in Adwords.

But the president had much to say about the future of energy, and it was rather amusing. Unfortunately, since I did not watch the State Of The Union Address, I am somewhat reliant on the press accounts. Thus, I cannot tell whether he said that ethanol, an alcohol-like substance made from primary state-grown corn, would replace 75% of of Middle Eastern oil imports, or would be a neat step in that direction.

As a host of more eloquent and less harried people than I have noted, reducing oil consumption would be by far the easiest way to reduce imports from the Gulf. A mix of building communities that don't require you to drive for ten minutes to buy a pint of milk and tougher fuel economy standards might accomplish this. Next easiest would be to invade Venezuela - they could hardly be more angry with the US than now. Oh hold on, HOW ABOUT RAISING THE GAS TAX?

Some way below that comes lavishing vast amounts of tax subsidies on farmers to grow corn, growing that corn using imported fertilizers, most of which are derived from hydrocarbons, turning that corn into ethanol, often with the aid of some more rather pleasant tax breaks, and then subsidising refiners to add ethanol to their gasoline. The Brazilians do quite well by ethanol, but then they prize self-sufficiency, their sugar-based ethanol is cheaper to make, and their cars tend not to be so monstrous.

Moving to an ethanol-based economy will be hugely expensive - same goes for using Canadian oil sands to produce gasoline. Or has Mr. Kunstler notes, and I summarise - you can do it, but you can't pay for it.