Thursday, September 28, 2006

Reforma Or Die

Greetings from sunny Mexico City. At least I think it's sunny, since I've barely had time to look out the window since I got here. In fact, and having checked, it's more overcast, but not too chilly.

Of course I could take a picture of outside, but my delightful new Cingular telephone seems to have instituted a "restriction code", whereby a code to which I do not have access stops me from doing ANYTHING while overseas. I could be wrong, and Cingular are just scumclowns at explaining how their kit works, but I think with these cellular telephony swine we can assume that a man is guilty until proven innocent.

I'm so tired I'm almost hallucinating now. Not speaking much more than a handful of Spanish doesn't help, mind. There's pretty much only one song on my mind right now, for reasons I don't feel particularly inclined to share. But I sure am glad to have reconquered it from kids movies and restored it to its proper place as a soundtrack to misery.

Ray Charles - "Hit The Road Jack"
Is from Anthology. Uneven, the odd titchy live track, but is the mothership. Buy it

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wayne Coyne's Bubble

Wayne Coyne's Bubble
Originally uploaded by Gringcorp.
Blogger is tasting of a*s today, presumably suffering from the same malady as the rest of the Google empire. And so I have spent the day using Yahoo for my search, and have finally got round to creating a Feedburner RSS feed for this blog. You can find it here. siince the vast majority of the A list bloggers use it, I assumed that they were on to something, and lo and behold the feedburner pixies are gleefully ignoring whatever world of pain blogger is in right now.

This is rather important, because I have some blurry pictures of the Flaming Lips to share with you, and flickr will serve perfectly well as a publishing interface.

The Flaming Lips' Massive Confetti Assault

The gig? Well, I'm still debating whether it would be a suitable subject for a column for the Sugarzine people. Let's just say it was very good, and since I'd largely forgotten I was down for a ticket, it basically came as a pleasant surprise. There was even an onstage marriage proposal. Bless.

Suisse Backed

It's unlikely you've been following the ins and outs of the decline of Credit Suisse, once proud bearer of the First Boston name. The latest reports from Madison Avenue, where Credit Suisse's operations sit awkwardly between Manhattan's twin financial centres of Downtown and Midtown (and not far from my day job) are rather sobering. According to the FT, Credit Suisse is cutting back on colour photocopying, and client entertainment, in a bid to control costs.

I will leave it to the inestimable Mr. Gross to point out that such cost-cutting gestures are pretty pointless next to even the minimum bonuses required to hold on to investment bankers. Credit Suisse might have a reputation for extracting stupendous amounts of revenue and fees from sporadic, if highly tricksy, transactions. But the fact is, we've been here before.

I will refer you to this profile of former head of investment banking Adebayo Ogunlesi, now running a joint venture fund, from 2002:

A standing ovation at his first staff meeting in February did not deter Ogunlesi, 48, from delivering a sobering message: he would have to "break some glass" to control spiraling costs. Within weeks CSFB laid off 300 bankers, or 14% of Ogunlesi's division. The survivors with guaranteed contracts were asked by Ogunlesi to accept pay cuts. He pushed the bankers out of limos and required them to hail taxis. And he freed 12 top revenue producers of daily management responsibilities so they could spend more time generating business.

Now that's brutal. The fact the move does not seem to have made the slightest difference to CS' cost structure says more about the brutal nature of competing for investment banking personnel than the wisdom of such cost-cutting gestures.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Who The Hell Is Endy Chavez?

All Hail Mr. Met
Originally uploaded by Gringcorp.
By the time I got my act together to go and visit Shea, the Mets had already won the National League East. That's right, three years of dutifully turning up to watch them get spanked, and as soon as they get good, I'm tootling around going to weddings and not getting on the 7 train out to Flushing.

By the time I make it out there, most of the stars are resting. So no Beltran, no Wright, and the heroically unreliable Trachsel is pitching. Instead theb outfield and the bullpen is full of characters with humorous names, including a young gentleman called, Humber, making his MLB debut, and getting quite the beating in the process.

The reason for this unfamiliarity with the lesser reaches of the Mets roster is my patchy record of support, I know. I'm glad I caught them at Shea, one last time. Because soon, the park where the Beatles turned their back on the pop demographic will be no more. And its not-actually-that-funky sand sweepers will have a new canvass.

Non-Funky Pitch Sweepers

Saturday, September 23, 2006


My point is, Manhattan is squeezing out its mid-priced restaurants, and I love Brooklyn, but sometimes you just want to wear a party dress and go to the Big Island..

Thus spake Jules. I just got back from a fine-looking and only slightly silly-priced Thai. And it was good, or at least the Mrs. Cutesome-shaped hot company was. Not as good as Chewbacca's blog, but nothing created by the confluence of natural laws is.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Loon laws

"Oooh...thank you for coming back, Gari, and entertaining us with some snooty and patronising nonsense from across the sea!'

No, you're quite welcome. I'm going to do this, though, by means of a Russian interlocutor. I will refer, you see, to the legalize torture bill upon which the president and his moderate republican friends have settled.

See, if there's any country with less recent experience of torturing people than America, it's England. We stopped killing our citizens in the 1960s, and our police brutality has of late been rather low key. Which is why I would refer you to this article by Vladimir Bukovsky, which should have the subhead "I've been tortured before, it's rubbish, and will hurt you as much as it hurts me."

The piece starts with a morbid soviet era secret police joke, climaxes with the author's description of how a clumsy force-feeding left the supervising doctor in tears and blood pouring out of his nose. In between, we get some observations such as this:

This is a new debate for Americans, but there is no need for you to reinvent the wheel. Most nations can provide you with volumes on the subject.

And this:

So, why would democratically elected leaders of the United States ever want to legalize what a succession of Russian monarchs strove to abolish?

Which will both enrage the people most in need of heeding their message. Seriously, why do we, and here I'm referring to the earth's non-Americans, bother? When we have some of the US' more sober-minded politicians spouting stuff like this:

I want President Chavez to please understand that even though many people in the United States are critical of our president that we resent the fact that he would come to the United States and criticize President Bush"

I must say that insulting foreign statesmen is every citizen of the world's birthright, and is basically why we have navies - to protect us from the consequences of our less sensible utterances. Seriously, I have a suspicion that the bulk of America's reprsentatives wouldn't have lasted five minutes as governor of Hong Kong.

What Rangel should have said was: "look, the man's a bit of the loon, I'm sure a stint in a South American military would do that to the best of us. Thanks for the cheap heating oil, and all that, but its rather hard to digest criticism coming from a man who's used to being greeted with. "“I dare to say you are like the king of Venezuela, ... Hello President.”

I was led to expect upon moving here that Americans were very concerned with their reputation abroad, but have decided that this is only true of the sliver of coastal cosmopolitans. Even the mecha-Liberals. It is, after all, probably best to dismiss these ravings, or engage in ones even more intemperate. To do otherwise is to get very wound up.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Some smart alec among you has not yet noticed that my posting pace has slowed to almost two per week. My apologies - the current work rate I need to maintain, and the lack of time to investigate promising material has left me woefully short. So I'm reduced to pointing out that today (Tuesday) is International Talk Like A Pirate, a lightweight and possibly drunk-inspired chance to talk salty that Disney mysteriously refused to use to promote its Johnny Depp-themed films. Me old matey.

A few happy snaps from the atlantic Antic, which went ahead on Sunday and featured some serious amounts of Six Points Beer. Brooklyn Lager was a much more demure presence, although it was still ahead of the Greene King IPA, which is much less formidable presence in the US than the UK (hard to find my arse Mr. Chippy).

Fleshtones Stand Guard

Band-wise, I caught the old, camp, and rather dynamic Fleshtones, and the Sans Culottes, the Evanescence of fruity French pop, who were looking rather raddled by 6pm on such a sunny day. Yes, I also saw the stand for the "Brooklyn" "Nets", but it was pretty rubbish, and lacked local celebrities or beer, and had many fewer kids excited than the Bus museum that they set up on Boerum Pl.

The Sans Culottes Make Some Sweat

I'll be out of pocket for a few days now, but hope to see you back soon. In tthe meantime, go visit Gizmodo, the only blog to which I would confess to being addicted. I want 90% of the stuff they feature. True dat.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hush Hush Idolator

Cor, I bet Miguel is going to love this. Gawker Media has launched a music blog called Idolator, which seems to spring from the premise that casual music fans want a more finely-honed brand of snark than that available on the more obsessive mp3 blogs. I'd be tempted to say that non-obsessives don't need blogs at all, but Gawker's been pretty good at exploding that myth.

I'm not anywhere near as qualified to opine on its prospects as I felt I was with the risible Dealbreaker. An idiot's quite to the Hype Machine is marginally useful, although a lot of casual listeners these days just type "[Artist][song] mp3" into Google Blogsearch. And if that little tip was in complete contravention of the DMCA, then maybe Denton's lawyers steered them clear of saying it, and the whole sordid set-up just demonstrated its value. And I'll see you in 6-9.

Bloggers are sitting down with the big boys at all sorts of strange tables these days, and the results are rather disorientating. The mp3 bloggers got a chance to see advance versions of the new Microsoft Zune, which basically is an iPod that allows you to "beam" music to other users, much as Palm Pilot-toting w@nkers did with Dope Wars a few years back. Idolator, ahem, has just noted the Microsoft largesse to the bloggers, and to their credit, Stereogum was pretty cool-headed during the whole episode, a little more than John of Americablog did meeting Bill Clinton. But Bill's tasty that way.

Am I going to compound my sins by posting some music here? HELL NO. See you in court.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Yassky Yell

Yassky Party
Yassky Gets Media
Two rather blurry photos from the corner of Union St and Fifth Avenue to show just what David Yassky is about to achieve.

I was up this morning taking my constitutional round Prospect Park, and noticed a huge amount of Owens literature, and a lot of signs for obscure Civil Court races. I'm guessing that Grand Army Plaza is the only place those guys put them up. I had no idea one of the candidates was called serpico, otherwise I would definitely have handed them my sole frivolous endorsement.

And yes, running the gauntlet of campaign workers with only my "sorry, foreign, no papers, no votes for you" for protection did get rather wearying. But who should show up outside the PS282 polling station (my local one, were I to be enfranchised), but David Yassky, looking as chipper and unctuous as he could be at 8am on a Tuesday morning? I did not actually get to engage with the gentleman, as he was busy oozing on a little old lady, but I must confess that the man works as hard as be spends, i.e. very.

So, as I write this, Suozzi is conceding his campaign to be democratic candidate for governor of NY, that Tasini chap won't be far behind, and some of the Brooklyn races are coming into focus, too. Barron's a close-ish second in House district 10, Batson's a distant second in assembly district 57, and Yassky is rocking out right now in House district 11, the one I care about. I think a combination of Slopers reflexively voting for the white guy and massive spending on campaign literature is going to get Manhattan securities and real estate interest the stooge they wanted.

The Brooklyn Democratic machine won't look too good, which is no bad thing, but it's hard to say that the Borough's democratic voters have covered themselves in glory. And yes, Chris Owens, my guy, the guy that knows the district, that cares, that can have a sensible conversation on the district's issues without descending into abuse or equivocations, is running in fourth place behind the corrupt guy.

It might change, but somehow I doubt it.

Yassky'll be whooping it up in 200 Fifth right now, if you can stomach it. Yassky or the surroundings? A bit of both, really.

[UPDATE: Crikey. Late surge from that Clarke lady with the extra Ratner cash. Fat lady is staying well Mum, though I may have to stay up]
[UPDATE 2: 11.24pm. Yvette Clarke gets the nomination and thus will be my next representative, assuming the lying thing doesn't escalate any further. The Ratner supporter that can't tell the truth squeaks in past Yassky. I'm almost tempted to go down to 200 Fifth and commiserate. But then cautious support is bettter than unflinching support for tearing the heart out of Brooklyn. Quite the bummer of an evening]

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Gari Ticket

I was away in Nantucket the last few days, sorely testing the limits of my phone's camera, and marvelling at how in America even the rich elitist northeastern WASPy bits can be turned into something approaching a theme park. Which is not to say, by the way, that it wasn't hell pretty, and even occasionally, hell relaxing, just that sometimes messy is good, and sometimes you don't need to buy the sweatshirt, and red trousers are rarely OK as fashion statements. Nantucket makes Padstow look edgy, though it is a little easier to get a sunburn there, what with the place being on the same latitude as Portugal, whence the local name for white bread comes.

Bah, pitched back into the maelstrom of NY finance, with nary a minute to reflect on the peculiarities of Massachusetts. What I must do, though is present my endorsements for tomorrow's Democratic primary. The legality of this step is endlessly worth debating, and we should always bear in mind the Clark County fiasco, but I'll take the risk of being accused of subverting the democratic primary for the middle of Brooklyn, since the Borough is, in effect, a one-party state.

As this Kos diarist notes, in the middle of a worthy run-down of the 11th congressional district, a sponge cake on the Democratic party line could beat the Republicans. So stay in bed in November, but come out extra early tomorrow, and vote as Uncle Gari, the creepy foreigner tells you.

For congress, in the 11th district: Chris Owens. His Dad being the sitting candidate is the only mark against him. Otherwise, he's thoughtful, engaged, eloquent, and passionate. Yes, he's against the stadium, that little old thing tearing the Borough's liberal element apart. But he's a cut above the corporate stooge, the Ratner stooge, and, of all things, the Clarence Norman stooge.

For state assembly, if you're in 50, you don't vote, if you're in 57, vote Batson. That Jeffries chap seems nice enough, but he's not particularly sound on the you-know-what-massive-property-theft.

For the rest, hold your nose and vote for Spitzer and against Mark Green, who I have decided is actually odious. There's also a few committee places and delegates to the judicial convention spots up for grabs, and at this point my feel for the minutiae breaks down. Either you know what the hell is going on, or you're quite within your rights to assume that the entire process has been cooked up from Clarence Norman's jail cell, and that you want no part of it.

Needless to say, the important one is 11. It would really be wonderful if this election wasn't bought, even if that meant that that America decided to clamp down on non-financial support for US politicians from foreigners as well. It would be a price I would gladly bear. Set your clocks, b*tches.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Clark Vent

Now, this is the blog I wish I'd started. A collection of the humorous "reporting" moments of ace NY1 general assignment reporter Roger Clark. I must say, though, their examples are not that amazing yet. Given time, and one of them being on tivo duty, though, this could become an epically cool resource. I'd note also that since NY1's main anchor, Pat Kiernan, is away, Clark is forced to interract with second-string desk-jockey Kristen Shaughnessy, who lacks a fair amount of charisma. This does not make for great TV.

Please read also this from the Village Voice on the race to be my next congressman. Here's the problem, in a nutshell: There are four candidates up for the democratic nomination, and thus the seat, of which three have varying ties to the deeply corrupt former democratic party boss Clarence Norman. The fourth, though, is white. Hmmmm. Not touching that one. Glad that Tom Robbins does, though.

Peak Performance

Hook Liner
Yep, been hellishly quiet these last few days. The highlight of the last week or so was a visit to the Red Hook Fairway, and during the trip there I took this slightly arresting snap of this huge cruise liner looming behind the low-slung buildings of Red Hook. Thanks in large part to the efforts of Robert Moses, New York is often slightly cut off from its major waterways. Seeing one of these monsters hove into view behind a familar skyline is very disconcerting.

I'll tell you what, though. Having had this rather sh*tey cameraphone for a few days, I'm panting for more. A decent Nokia phone with good reception, bluetooth, and a multiple of mexapixels camera, and I'm sold.

If you're looking for something longer, then you will be happy to know that my latest Sugarzine column is up now. It's the second item, as per what I think is the pretty reasonable Sugarzine policy of putting actual interviews up top, followed by live reviews, followed by CD reviews. Since I normally go and see at least one show a month, usually at Southpaw, this works out rather well.