Daily Archives: February 19, 2011

11 posts

Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting Open Thread

Good evening Crasstalk. Hope you had a great day.

The battle over collective bargining rights heated up today in Wisconsin as Tea Party activists protested to support the budget bill that would limit union power. This should end well.

The Libyan government has cut off internet service in the country as demonstrations continued. Four protesters were killed yesterday.

Two West Virginia men were arrested after police discovered hundreds of containers of stolen beef jerky in their car during a traffic stop. The men were apparently going to sell the jerky to finance a trip.

Have a great night, and try not to act the fool.

Classic Rock That Radio Forgot

While I love dubstep and electro-house and mash-ups and all the other robot-inspired future music that’s coming out nowadays, I still have a soft spot for classic rock. And while I love this music, there should be a law against classic rock radio stations endlessly playing the same crusty old “Layla” and “Smoke on the Water” shit.

Here are some tasty classic rock song that you don’t hear much anymore. I wouldn’t call any of them “obscure,” exactly. More like… mostly forgotten.

“Endless Highway” by The Band
Not only is The Band criminally underrated, but their album “Cahoots,” which this song appeared on, is absolutely full of great, great songs. In a more fair world, no one would know who Steve Miller is, and The Band would be a household name.

“New Minglewood Blues” by The Grateful Dead
I know anyone who’s ever liked punk rock must take a blood oath to hate this band, but they really do have an honest-to-god cowboy shit-kicker side to them that I’ve always liked. Here’s an early version of one of their best Old West-themed songs. This song makes me want to ride a horse and shoot Pancho Villa and shit.

“Bold as Love” by Jimi Hendrix
I heard John Mayer has been covering this song live for the past few years, but we won’t hold that against Jimi. Sometimes Hendrix’s guitar simply overpowers the song itself to the point that they become a bit harsh to really listen to. Fortunately this one achieves that perfect, tender balance between the great guitar playing, the wonderful song structure and excellent drugged-out 60s lyrics. I love it.

“Bike” by Pink Floyd
This one was included on the band’s debut album “Piper at the Gates of Dawn.” This was before Syd Barrett went nutso. Ok, probably not really before he went nutso, but before he was kicked out of the band and began living in a magical treehouse full of friendly leprechauns, or whatever.

“Jam in E” by Santana
This song is just fast as fuck and makes me want to run through a brick wall. This shit came out WAY before Carlos ever even conceived of starting his own private label Champagne.

“Medicated Goo” by Traffic
I’ve always considered Steve Winwood to be one of the cheesier of the 60s/70s rock gods, but this song is full of bad-assitude. (I have no idea why the youtube video has random images like that, but I assume it’s meant to throw off the RIAA copyright Stasi.)

“Sound and Vision” by David Bowie
Has everyone in the world already heard this tune? Maybe. But it came out on 1977’s “Low” Album, which for most casual fans, is pretty much completely below the fucking radar. Though it was named the greatest album of the 70s by Pitchfork. It’s a very cool little album, but…. coddamn Pitchfork hipster fucks.

“Speed King” by Deep Purple
I know Deep Purple is basically the real life version of Spinal Tap, and even hearing the first five notes of “Smoke on the Water” makes you want to stab a baby dolphin… but once in a while they came up with some good stuff. I’m also fairly sure they popped a bag full of trucker speed before performing this song.

“To Love Somebody” by Eric Burdon and The Animals
Eric Burdon is another rocker who’s just been criminally overlooked as the years pass. I think that’s possibly because a lot of his songs sound REALLY dated now. He captured the whole Crazy 60s Vietnam thing so well, but not many people really still want to listen to that. Anyway, here’s a great ballad that really does capture what it feels like to be crazy in love. Also, all the YouTube commenters on this song seem to be Spanish speakers. Is EB huge in Paraguay or something? I like to think so….

“I’m the Slime” by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention
Here’s the band playing live on SNL, with subtitles in Spanish. (Seriously, is 70s guitar rock popular in Latin America? Why didn’t I know this?) The use of the satirical chalkboard is clearly ahead of its time. How did Zappa foretell the rise of Glenn Beck?

“All the Way From Memphis” by Mott The Hoople
Why exactly hasn’t Mott ever gotten its due? Maybe their shit is just too British for anyone with good teeth and a working liver to understand. Not exactly sure….

“Black Cow” by Steely Dan
Fun trivia: A black cow was an old-timey soda fountain drink with (I believe) Coca-Cola and vanilla ice cream. This tune has been sampled by numerous hip-hop songs. Also… Steely Dan’s music sounds exactly how cocaine feels.

“My Wife” by The Who
Like more or less every other rock band ever, The Who never let their bassist (John Entwhistle) write the songs or sing lead vocals. So here’s basically the only song he ever contributed to their catalog. I’m pretty sure it’s a story about the time he posted some comments about body image issues on Jezebel and had to make a quick getaway. We’ve all been there, dude.

Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/frotzed/

The Day in Demonstrations: Protesters Reoccupy Bahrain’s Central Square

Protesters certainly do like to gather in squares, don’t they? This is no less true of Bahraini protesters who have marched on and occupied Bahrain’s Pearl Square this morning in a show of resistance against their violent ejection from the square a few days ago.

Bahrain, the latest Middle-Eastern country to be rocked by determined and energetic anti-government demonstrations, has been ruthless in quashing demonstrations; calls by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Khalifa on Friday for a peaceful resolution were rejected by the the leading opposition party. Protesters had tried to enter the square Friday but were fired upon by security forces and repelled with rubber bullets and birdshot.

Bahrain’s deadly response to protests, leaving at least 6 dead, only steeled Bahrainis’ determination for change all the more and as the sun rose on Saturday people made another attempt on the square. Seemingly, there was some reconsideration of strategy going on within the Bahraini government as this time around police and military have relented and protesters have been able to peacefully occupy the square.

The atmosphere in the square is being described as “euphoric” and as demonstrators hunker down for the night in tents calls for complete overthrow of the regime are becoming increasingly loud.

Elsewhere, things aren’t looking so bright; in what is being called a “day of rage” 15 mourners were reportedly killed in the Libyan city of Benghazi when security forces fired on them while they were attending a fucking funeral.

From Al Jazeera:

A doctor from Benghazi told Al Jazeera that the Al Jalah hospital where he works had received 15 bodies and was treating numerous people following the shootings at the funeral.

He said the hospital had counted 44 deaths in total in three days, adding that it struggling to treat the wounded.

“This is not a well-equipped hospital and these injuries come in waves. All are very serious injuries, involving the head, the chest and the abdomen. They are bullet injuries from high-velocity rifles.

In Algeria, riot police dispersed a pro-democracy demonstration of about 50 people with batons. Such restraint!

VOA News, Al Jazeera, picture via NYT

Lazy Afternoon Open Thread

Welcome. Hope you are actually enjoying a lazy afternoon. I am here in DC visiting friends. Luckily for us, my friends sons (Jack age 9 and Colin age 6 3/4) are very excited that I am putting something on an actual website and have decided they want to help. They took my camera and made these pictures just for you.

This is the first thing Jack ran to take a picture of. He is very happy with how the light turned out.

This is a more complicated piece (notice the strong work with shadows).

This is Colin’s picture of his little friend next door.

This is actually a really nice shot from Colin. Pretty good for 6 and 3/4.

Ok, we are off to play Lego Star Wars now, which does look pretty excellent. Have a great afternoon and may the force be with you.

The Roof, the Roof, the Roof is on Fire!

Well, not my roof, but someone’s. Someone precariously close to my apartment. I came out of the subway last week and stepped into a scene from “Backdraft.” There were eight or nine fire trucks blocking off streets and professionals scrambling up ladders a few buildings away, trying to get on the roof.

I don’t think the fire was all that serious, since the people in the building were amusedly watching the show from the windows. And at one nearby intersection, a woman meandered through the crosswalk as a fire truck tried to back up. Bitch, you’re gonna get us all killed.

When she was finished, the driver asked me if it was safe to back up. Seriously? This is the method you’re going with? I’m suddenly in charge of saving lives?

You should know about me that it’s my greatest urban fear to have to use my fire escape for something other than drinking. (Safety first!) I was walking around a few weeks ago and there was a big puff of white smoke that emerged from the top of this building, like a magician had just finished a trick. I had the 9 and the first 1 dialed quicker than you could say, “Habemus Papam.”

And I know that if there were a fire, I’d panic and try to save random stuff.

Laptop. Logical enough. My coat. Practical, no problem there. Photos. Aw, memories.

But I know the firemen (sorry, fire-people. Girls can be anything they want to be!) would find my charred self in the shower with my fingers still around the shower curtain rings, mid-unfastening. I love my shower curtain. It’s periwinkle, which is a harder color to find than you might imagine. It brings joy and sunshine to my showers, even when the hot water decides to not make an appearance.

(Sidebar: The last time the hot water flew south, the super came up and all but scolded us for wasting his time. “What you want hot water for? It’s not even winter yet.”)

So, here are just a few of the things I would throw down to New York’s Bravest while flames lapped at me:

  • Shower curtain. Aforementioned great color.
  • Various favorite dresses and sweaters. I’m be damned if I’m wearing burned clothes to work.
  • Favorite books (including but not limited to: “America, the Book,” “The Know-It-All” and “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” I’ll want to stay literate as I begin my new life on the mean streets. (And I have to say that I love the image of me not just trying to save random books, but frantically combing through my bookshelf amidst a housefire for specific ones.)
  • Marshmallows. For roasting. I’ll be the hero of the fire.
  • My TV. Out of spite, because I’ll probably be angry and not handling it well.

Let’s Talk About The King of Limbs

So Thom Yorke and company have finally released the new Radiohead album. Depending on who you ask, The King of Limbs is either “an understated masterpiece” or “the biggest turd since Pablo Honey.”Also, fans and critics alike have already rushed to make judgments and pronouncements about the album, despite the fact that it’s only been available for public consumption for about 24 hours now.

I’m not going to “review” the album here, because taste is subjective and I truthfully don’t know quite what I think of it yet. The King of Limbs is good, don’t get me wrong, but whereas In Rainbows was an amalgamation of the band’s manifold strengths–pulsating electronic beats, undulating guitars, soaring synths, lonely piano, tightly-constructed songs containing seemingly  elements that fit together naturally and strangely like soggy puzzle pieces–this album seems to be hiding underneath the covers, shouting muffled ambient noises at a darkened, empty room. The King of Limbs the most abstract thing the band has done since Amnesiac, and as someone who loves Amnesiac, I’m intrigued by its mysteries.

That said, the timing of this release was inevitably going to be unfavorable, which is why I suspect the band announced its imminent release swiftly and suddenly. See, just about every music publication made a “Best of the 2000s” list back in 2010, and Kid A was pretty unanimously selected as the greatest album of the decade. Listeners were reminded of Radiohead’s peak levels of greatness; all that talk about its “masterful combination of rock and electronica” and “uneasy relationship with the technology that would define the following ten years” raised the cult of expectations for the next Radiohead album to obviously unrealistic heights.

The musical landscape onto which Kid A appeared is all but extinct in 2011. There will never be an album–by Radiohead or otherwise–with the same kind of techno-industrial impact; nothing will sound as new and menacing as “Everything In Its Right Place,” because we no longer live in a world where the Rise Of The Machines peeks above the distant horizon–that Rise has risen, and we’re now fully immersed in the kind of world where, thanks to the internet, we are “allowed everything all of the time,” as Yorke predicted on “Idioteque.” Twitter and Tumblr are our “unborn chicken voices,” shooting across cyberspace “at a thousand feet per second.”

All of which is not to say that The King of Limbs is “devoid of messages about society” or “navel-gazing instead of outward-looking.” This is Radiohead; they always have something to say about all of us. But when you listen to this new album, resist the temptation to “expect something grandiloquent.” I’ve only given the record a couple spins so far, but it’s clear that this is meant to be an immersive, not instructive, listening experience.

Yesterday’s Gossip is Today’s Post

Most sites serve up a fresh plate of gossip every morning.  They are staffed by people whose job it is to cut and paste links into some sort of bulleted list, proper spelling and punctuation optional.  I have a real job, so you get the same bulleted list with slightly fewer typos, much later in the day.  And not every day.  I have a life to go with that job.

People in the Neighborhood: Bodega Edition

New Yorkers always insist that the city is not an anonymous machine but actually just a series of small neighborhoods.  We insist that we know our dry cleaner, our coffee shop guy, our grocery store cashier just as well as you all know yours.

Actually, that’s not true, we always insist that we know them even better.

Actually, that’s not true either.  We New Yorkers are a narcissistic bunch.  We insist that they know us even better.  Trust me, your local dry cleaner does not care about you the same way my dry cleaner cares about me.

In any event, when I have lived in other places, one of the reasons you knew the “kid who bags your groceries” is because of some long generational history.  The gossip you discuss as you head back to your car is along the lines of “Oh you know, that’s Johnny’s nephew.  His momma went to school with…”  Etc.  Well no, we don’t have as much of that in Manhattan (although it is more common in the other boroughs).  Our stories are a little bit different.

And I think it’s only fair that those of you who are not from a big city filled with people from all over the world be introduced to what some of our neighborhood knowledge looks like, and the center of it all is the local bodega.*

*Details have been changed to protect the innocent.  Also, no, I do not actually believe that any of this is unique to New York.  I promise.  Okay, maybe a little bit.  Nah, not really.

The Turtle Era

The Turtle Era was the best era.  Turtle was the Day Manager when I first moved into my neighborhood.  His first language was Spanish, and he spoke perfect English.  He insisted that I only use Spanish and that he only use English.  Because, you know, that’s how you improve. But he had also learned Korean, the language of the store’s owners, and Portuguese, because there was small Brazilian community in the neighborhood.  The store was always perfectly kept while he was in charge.  Well-stocked, clean.  And the coffee.  Dear god the coffee he made was perfect.  He was funny, charming, handsome, confident, told a great story.  I really wanted to drink with Turtle.  All the time.  The owner’s wife was confused about his name and called him Tut.  Which stuck.  About half of the customers called him Turtle, and about half called him Tut.

Turtle’s assistant was named Nick.  Nick was quiet but polite.  He was never completely happy with the questionable wage and hour policies of the owners, but you wouldn’t have known it.  One of the nicest men I’ve ever known, with a genuine smile and a kick-ass mustache.

The night shift during The Turtle Era was run by a quirky older guy from rural somewhere.  I don’t know where he was from, or what language he spoke, but he was differently from the country of some country. (You know how you can sometimes tell a rural accent even if you don’t know the language?)  I was never sure what we were talking about when I went in, but I think we were talking about something. I don’t know what his name was.  I’m not even sure how I could have asked. His assistant was a quiet guy from the pacific coast of Mexico.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say more than two words.  In fact, sometimes I didn’t even know he was there and then “POOF!” he’d be standing right behind you.  Basically a not-very-haunting ghost of a man.  You will not hear about him again because that is all I know, even though he is still there.

Turtle was lucky.  He married for immigration status, or so it was implied, but he fell in love.  They had an adorable little girl.  His wife, a midtown professional, got a promotion that took her to New Jersey.  He went with her, and they bought a big house for the family.  Last I heard he was managing a restaurant out there and going crazy because he had never needed to drive before, and he didn’t have his driver’s license yet.  But he was happy.

The Nick Era

Poor Nick.  When he took over for Turtle, they didn’t hire a new assistant.  So Nick had to do everything.  And I don’t think they gave him a raise, not at first.  But we gave him a quick primer on New York labor laws and how they did, in fact, apply to everybody.  And then they did.  He was so politely sad about it all. He would politely ask me what it was like to have a good job.  He would listen to traditional music and count the hours until he could go home and rest and have a beer. He was sending money home to his wife, where she ran a farm.  Each paycheck went to building up the livestock, building a fence, fixing a barn.  Nick spoke a little English, and I speak a little Spanish.  Between the two of us, we could figure it all out.  Nick also had taken steps to learn how to make coffee from Turtle before he left.  God I miss Turtle’s coffee.

Then someone called in a Housing Violation on his building, and the city discovered his illegal apartment. We offered him a little help to find a new place, but he politely refused. Before they could shut it down he discovered he had cancer.  He decided that it would be best if he went back home.  If he could get medical help, he could get it safely at home.  If he could not, then he wanted to spend his remaining days on the farm with his wife.  He knew that either way, once he crossed the southern border, he would likely never come back.  No one has heard from Nick since he was getting a ride south from Atlanta with a friend.

The night shift did not change during The Nick Era, but I got to know the Country Man a little better.  I still don’t know what we were talking about, but we talked a lot.  When the store raised the prices on cigarettes he made a disgruntled face and refused to charge me the new price.  He would always round my charges, refusing my fifteen cents here or my seven cents there.  Either he was overcharging someone else or the owners just liked him, because he certainly wasn’t paying it out of his paycheck.

The Son Era

Good kid.  Friendly, happy, got good grades, played in a soccer league on the weekends.  New York Mets fan, but nobody’s perfect.  The son had come in on occasion to fill in as necessary, but once Nick left, he took over the day shift.  He had recently finished college and was applying to graduate schools.  He insisted on calling me by my last name, which freaked me out.  No matter how many times I tried to get him to stop, he couldn’t seem to do so.  “Are you watching the game today Mr. LeSabre?  Should be a great one!”  During his tenure they hired a new assistant, a really young kid, Johnny, who spoke only Spanish at first.  Johnny practiced his English like crazy.  He would step behind the counter as often as possible and come up with the most unnecessarily complicated questions he could.  Just to practice.   Johnny seemed to believe that my life consisted solely of making a lot of money, going out on wild dates, and drinking as much as possible.  He had no evidence for any of this.

Johnny met a girl that lived in another borough, and two weeks later he quit.  A cousin of the son was hired to replace him, and he is still there.  I think the cousin is confused about his job responsibilities.  He seems to think he is a security guard at a bank because all he does is stand about three feet from the counter like a statue.  No one seems comfortable telling him otherwise.  Much dust has accumulated since the cousin started.

The Dad Era

And now we are in the Dad era.  The son has gone back to school, and I’m stuck with grumpy under-paying, shitty-coffee-making dad.  If you buy cigarettes, he won’t give you matches unless you ask.  If you buy coffee, you have to ask for the napkin.  God forbid you ask for a sleeve.  You’d think you just tried to shake down the ATM machine.  And he never smiles.  He is a mean old man.  (Sometimes he forces a smile, but you know that forced smiles are worse than no smile at all.)  But I don’t really mind.  We have our routine.

The older son is there on occasion too now.  A character and a half.  I appreciate that he does not care even a little bit.  He would rather sit outside and smoke or rush home to his (admittedly gorgeous) new wife.  Since Turtle left, he’s by far the person I’m most inclined to just hang out with for a bit.  Because he smokes.  And because he will inevitably go on some rant about something in the pop culture news.  (He’s like a particularly incensed Crasstalk commenter now that I think about it.)

And recently, Country Man has gone from the night shift.  His wife, back in the old country, has become terminally ill.  He hasn’t seen her in years and wants to spend her last few months with her.  He may come back when she passes away, but maybe not.  I hope he does.  I miss Country Man.  Country Man’s replacement unintentionally sold cigarettes to minors on multiple occasions and got the store shut down for a week.  The doors were locked for the first time in thirty years.  They didn’t even know where the keys were.

The jarring feeling the next day when I went to buy my morning coffee, when, distracted by my email, I ran straight into a closed door and a big ol’ New York City notice, made me realize just how much a part of my life the little store on the corner is.  Good or bad, happy or sad, it’s a part of my life, and a part of what keeps the city from feeling so anonymous.  I’m no fool; I don’t pretend we are friends or even colleagues.  But I know them, and they know me.

Images from here.

Hollywood Heartbreak: More Things That Make You Say Urgh

I love the Rotten Tomatoes site. For me, it’s the best little place to find movie critiques all wrapped up in either a big green splotch, or, and this is truly rare, a large healthy tomato, which indicates “Certified Fresh,” as reported by top reviewers in the business. Simple, but hugely effective.

When tooling around the site in preparation for the newest movies to check out, I’ve noticed more and more green monster splotches. Just hordes and hordes of ’em. A veritable army of bad, crappy, shit-laden shit-cinema. Holy Christmas Crackerjacks! Are there any good movies ever? Yes, yes, I know all the February Oscar stuffers are still playing, so if I haven’t caught The Black Swan (have, it sucked, mostly), True Grit (awesome!), The Kings Speech (Helena Bonham Carter gives me the face palsy), and The Fighter (will see it eventually, despite my disdain for Christian Bale and his gargled goat-bleats when he’s The Dark Knight), then, yes, I really should go see them all and forget anything else in the theater exists. But, well, it isn’t that easy. I love movies.

And, really, how can Hollywood so often get it wrong? Us viewers…we’re not a complicated lot. Just give us good original stories with compelling characters, add a few well-thought out surprises and mostly we’re chomping on that popcorn faster than a ferret through a sock tube. But instead we get the equivalent of dancing dollar bills dressed up like Martin Lawrence in a fat suit.

Where does all this start?

In a new weekly column, I plan to let you in on all the Hollywood stinky little secrets they’re planning for your viewing pleasure. So, if you ever wanted to know who’s greenlighting all this resplendent garbage, well, now you’ll know. Perhaps you’ll learn what to avoid completely, what to watch and mock mercilessly, or what to mock and avoid at your discretion.

Here are some things currently in development:

1) Red Sonja – Hey, Rose McGowan really needs the work! Well, since Robert Rodriguez, McGowan’s director boyfriend, lost this project to Simon West, they’re going a different way. Amber Heard (I have no idea who she is) has been tapped for the lead role. Let’s be honest. While it’s a cult classic and always good for a few laughs, Red Sonja was never a great movie. Brigitte Nielsen was like a mannequin with biceps.

That said, I don’t have much hope that this will be a better version, especially given the casting of Amber Heard, nobody person. It’s like making an already B-movie even B-ierer, if there is such a thing. The saving grace (Not really!) is that they plan to release this thing in between the upcoming Conan movies. (another pitiless reboot.) Strangely I don’t think that will help. We’ll just wonder why it was made at all.

2) Fletch – Once thought to be a Kevin Smith vehicle, but since the Clerks director has decided to retire (and go on the college tour circuit permanently?), there’s been no word on who would reprise the title role, write the damn thing, or helm it as director, for that matter. Nonetheless, Warner Bros. plans to move ahead with reincarnating the 1980’s movie about a smarmy reporter/man of disguise. Who are you thinking for the lead role? My vote is for Joel McHale or Paul Rudd, but since this is an awful idea, prepare for Shia LaBeouf or John Krasinski.

3) Highlander –  Um, okay. Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery made this famous, I suppose. Well, I think the SPIKE channel likes to air it, so I guess that means something.  There were numerous sequels, and if I’m not mistaken some sort of early 1990’s syndicated show, so it’s not as if the franchise is already suffering from overexposure or anything like that. Of course not. Apparently there is still a need to see immortal warrior dudes fighting it out in kilts and things. I assume they didn’t get the message that the only immortals us viewers like nowadays are vampires.

Neal Moritz, the producer of XXX and the Fast and Furious Franchises is involved, so that’s, uh, something. Basically what I take away from this is that the famous tagline “there can be only one,” isn’t exactly true, now is it?

4) Lethal Weapon – I think we’re all too old for this shit. Warner Bros. strikes again. Nevermind the fact that this movie is so closely related to Rage-a-maniac, Shout Monster Mel Gibson, they’re going full steam ahead with rebooting…well, actually they planned on a Lethal Weapon 5, starring Mel and Danny, but here’s what I think…the rest of the suits in that meeting just fell over dead when they heard that pitch. Just heart stopped, fucking toes up in the air dead. So, they’ve decided to find newer and younger guys to do this crazed man and sidekick retread. This is an awful, dreadful, idea…but hear me out, don’t you just see the guys from Psych doing this? James Roday and Dulé Hill would be awesome, no? No. Okay.

5) Dynasty – Break out the shoulder pads and the rat tail comb because ladies and gents Blake Carrington would like to take you on a bed of rubies. Not totally. The original creators, Richard and Esther Shapiro, are planning a prequel set in the 1960’s. So think Mad Men with more haughty stares and people calling each other “Bitch” with drinks in their hands. Thankfully there isn’t a studio ready to take this one on. But they have hope, boy, do they have hope. You can all thank the A-Team for this. Once you show that making one 1980’s laughable, egomaniacal farce in the wake of several others that have similarly crashed and burned to the ground…the point isn’t to learn from that mistake. No, the plan is to continue. Continue on like nothing happened, and let the critics pick at the dead carcass later, because you’ve made your money. Now you can go buy a boat.

That’s it for now. Your hurl sacks are situated in the tray holder directly in front of you.