Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Three Things

No, I have not yet commented on the loss of Vaclav Havel here. That will come soon, and I'll post another slide show video when I do it.

For today, here are three things:


1. All hail Helen Frankenthaler, explosive Abstract Expressionist Extraordinaire.



2. Ave atque vale Sam Rivers, Loft Jazz Maestro.



3. Yet another way of demonstrating that there are many more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday Festivities

Are you rockin' the Holiday action? I know you are.

Quick rundown of some of what's been going on:

Hanukkah Nights 2 and 7 were spent with Yo La Tengo - great shows, natch. Please send lots of good healing mojo to Ira the K.

Christmas Eve in Dumont with Cory cooking and eating the Feast of the Seven Fishes with Cory's Italian Family. All went well in spite of a small, shall we say, disagreement with a can opener.

Christmas morning I woke up way too early and couldn't fall back asleep for a long time, so I watched the last hour and a half of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Of course I did.

Later on, after waking up for real and having some steak and eggs (for some reason, I was craving a cowboy's breakfast) I called the folks and the grandfolks and then it was out to Paramus for Christmas presents and dinner with Cory's Extended Italian Family. Jollity ensued.

Boxing Day was chill; bit of running around looking for a place serving brunch food in the 'boken on a day that wasn't technically a weekend day but sure felt like one. Wound up at the diner. Later on, caught War Horse at the cinema up the street from BoHome before going to Maxwell's for dinner and the show.

And now it's back to work. I'll leave you with this holiday message from the world of Pop.



If my eyes and the internets don't deceive me, this is a poster from 1972 wishing "Season's Greetings from Ardent Records" We can only hope it's the real thing.

Monday, December 12, 2011

More Prague

Here is another set of Prague pix. Went with some funkier music this time around, partly because, irrespective of the fact that this city is wildly historical, jam-packed with churches and has beauty from every age anywhere you turn, it doesn't take itself terribly seriously and has a long and proud party tradition. (And an extremely powerful connection to rock and pop music. Seriously. Did you see Tom Stoppard's Rock and Roll? Were you aware that Vaclav Havel proposed Frank Zappa to be the official U.S. cultural envoy in the early '90s?)

But mostly I went with the funkitude because our hosts Kristin and Ondrej like the music. Take a look and listen if you have a spare 6 minutes.
Untitled from nycmick on Vimeo.

Heard from Kristin the other day, after the first slide show went up. As it happened, and very apropos my post earlier this month, she had been to a couple of events where the Dalai Lama was speaking that day. (She's a pretty amazing person and does some pretty amazing things on a regular basis. In case that wasn't already clear.) She shared what she found to be the most interesting thing he had to say: "Action is more important than prayer or wishful thinking."

Amen, sister.

The shots in this viddy are from our second day in Prague. The Eiffel Tower looking thing that starts you off is the Petrin tower, built two years after Eiffel did his thing in Paris and it's the same altitude - if you factor in the mountain it's standing on. Many of the opening shots are from the top of that tower, and there are also a bunch from a tour of the Prague Castle, including the Valdstein/Wallenstein Gardens, the Loretta and Capuchin Monestery (home of some truly astounding beer - in a world where excellent beer flows freely), more locations from the Amadeus shoot (look - there's the exterior for Wolfy and Stanzie's apartment!) and our own private wanderings. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Prague Pix

Ok, much later than I'd expected, but here at long last is some visual and sonic stimulation from our trip to Prague. This little project is set to music, so you can't go through it at your own pace. Live with it.


Prague from nycmick on Vimeo.


This starts with a mini sort of 'greatest hits' montage, and then follows with introductions of the major players in our trip: Kristin, Jasmine, Zach, Ondrej, and of course Cory. Then it goes to images from our first day there, all to the strains of the overture to Magic Flute, played by the Vienna Philharmonic (thanks, Vienna Philharmonic!) Because as you know, Mozart lived much of his adult life in Vienna, and found one of his most receptive audiences in Prague, enjoying some of his greatest successes there. And you probably also are aware that the Amadeus film was shot in Prague. But you may not realize that we went to see The Magic Flute while we were there, in the very theater where Don Giovanni had its first performance ever (and where, not for nothing, they filmed most of the Opera scenes in Amadeus - fun!)



If you don't want to spend 7 minutes on it, just fast forward through it. You won't get to appreciate my attempt at meaningful synchronization, but you can still see the pix.



[Ok. I took away the upload and am now just embedding from Vimeo. The resolution is better (though still not as good as I'd like) so it looks ok either small or in full screen, and the synch problem is fixed. Whew! Enjoy.]

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

There Goes the Neighborhood

Ok, I might not agree with every single one of these "reasons," but check out an interesting list of infobits about one Mr. Fred Rogers, courtesy the good people at Project Argus.



15 Reasons Mister Rogers Was the Best Neighbor Ever

1. Even Koko the Gorilla Loved Him
Most people have heard of Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who could speak about 1000 words in American Sign Language, and understand about 2000 in English. What most people don’t know, however, is that Koko was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fan. As Esquire reported, when Fred Rogers took a trip out to meet Koko for his show, not only did she immediately wrap her arms around him and embrace him, she did what she’d always seen him do onscreen: she proceeded to take his shoes off!

2. He Made Thieves Think Twice
According to a TV Guide profile, Fred Rogers drove a plain old Impala for years. One day, however, the car was stolen from the street near the TV station. When Rogers filed a police report, the story was picked up by every newspaper, radio and media outlet around town. Amazingly, within 48 hours the car was left in the exact spot where it was taken from, with an apology on the dashboard. It read, “If we’d known it was yours, we never would have taken it.”

3. He Watched His Figure to the Pound
In covering Rogers’ daily routine (waking up at 5; praying for a few hours for all of his friends and family; studying; writing, making calls and reaching out to every fan who took the time to write him; going for a morning swim; getting on a scale; then really starting his day), writer Tom Junod explained that Mr. Rogers weighed in at exactly 143 pounds every day for the last 30 years of his life. He didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, didn’t eat the flesh of any animals, and was extremely disciplined in his daily routine. And while I’m not sure if any of that was because he’d mostly grown up a chubby, single child, Junod points out that Rogers found beauty in the number 143. According to the piece, Rogers came “to see that number as a gift… because, as he says, “the number 143 means ‘I love you.’ It takes one letter to say ‘I’ and four letters to say ‘love’ and three letters to say ‘you.’ One hundred and forty-three.”

4. He Saved Both Public Television and the VCR
Strange but true. When the government wanted to cut Public Television funds in 1969, the relatively unknown Mister Rogers went to Washington. Almost straight out of a Capra film, his 5-6 minute testimony on how TV had the potential to give kids hope and create more productive citizens was so simple but passionate that even the most gruff politicians were charmed. While the budget should have been cut, the funding instead jumped from $9 to $22 million. Rogers also spoke to Congress, and swayed senators into voting to allow VCR’s to record television shows from the home. It was a cantankerous debate at the time, but his argument was that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family.

5. He Might Have Been the Most Tolerant American Ever
Mister Rogers seems to have been almost exactly the same off-screen as he was onscreen. As an ordained Presbyterian minister, and a man of tremendous faith, Mister Rogers preached tolerance first. Whenever he was asked to castigate non-Christians or gays for their differing beliefs, he would instead face them and say, with sincerity, “God loves you just the way you are.” Often this provoked ire from fundamentalists.

6. He Was Genuinely Curious About Others
Mister Rogers was known as one of the toughest interviews because he’d often befriend reporters, asking them tons of questions, taking pictures of them, compiling an album for them at the end of their time together, and calling them after to check in on them and hear about their families. He wasn’t concerned with himself, and genuinely loved hearing the life stories of others. Amazingly, it wasn’t just with reporters. Once, on a fancy trip up to a PBS exec’s house, he heard the limo driver was going to wait outside for 2 hours, so he insisted the driver come in and join them (which flustered the host). On the way back, Rogers sat up front, and when he learned that they were passing the driver’s home on the way, he asked if they could stop in to meet his family. According to the driver, it was one of the best nights of his life—the house supposedly lit up when Rogers arrived, and he played jazz piano and bantered with them late into the night. Further, like with the reporters, Rogers sent him notes and kept in touch with the driver for the rest of his life.

7. He Was Color-blind
Literally. He couldn’t see the color blue. Of course, he was also figuratively color-blind, as you probably guessed. As were his parents who took in a black foster child when Rogers was growing up.

8. He Could Make a Subway Car full of Strangers Sing
Once while rushing to a New York meeting, there were no cabs available, so Rogers and one of his colleagues hopped on the subway. Esquire reported that the car was filled with people, and they assumed they wouldn’t be noticed. But when the crowd spotted Rogers, they all simultaneously burst into song, chanting “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” The result made Rogers smile wide.

9. He Got into TV Because He Hated TV.
The first time he turned one on, he saw people angrily throwing pies in each other’s faces. He immediately vowed to use the medium for better than that. Over the years he covered topics as varied as why kids shouldn’t be scared of a haircut, or the bathroom drain (because you won’t fit!), to divorce and war.

10. He Was an Ivy League Dropout.
Rogers moved from Dartmouth to Rollins College to pursue his studies in music.

11. He Composed all the Songs on the Show.
And over 200 tunes.

12. He Was a perfectionist, and Disliked Ad Libbing.
He felt he owed it to children to make sure every word on his show was thought out.

13. Michael Keaton Got His Start on the Show
As an assistant — helping puppeteer and operate the trolley.

14. Several Characters on the Show are Named for His Family.
Queen Sara is named after Rogers’ wife, and the postman Mr. McFeely is named for his maternal grandfather who always talked to him like an adult, and reminded young Fred that he made every day special just by being himself. Sound familiar? It was the same way Mister Rogers closed every show.

15. The Sweaters.
Every one of the cardigans he wore on the show had been hand-knit by his mother.



Seriously.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Celebrate

In honor of Thanksgiving, which will see me with my family for the first time in a looooooong long time (since high school? Is that possible? I can't think of a time since then that I spent Thanksgiving with my blood relatives except for Freshman year of college, and that was when Dad came out to Boston to have Turkey Day bachelor-style):

And also in honor of Carrie, with whom I saw La Boheme last night, and who I think would approve:

Sunday, November 20, 2011



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Today



Happening now, after work, and, well, as long as it needs to.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Losing Control

This year's election day was fairly anti-climactic in a lot of ways. No big national contests or anything. But there were a few important items if you were paying attention.

First, some of the good stuff:

The one that got the most press as far as I could tell was a ballot initiative in Mississippi that defined human life as beginning at 'fertilization.' Turns out that was a bridge too far even in a place so devoted to ending abortion, maybe because the wording could be interpreted as making certain forms of birth control illegal. And in vitro fertalization. And chemo for pregnant women. And forcing a woman to carry her rapist's baby might be too much even in Mississippi. And it was voted down.

Then, in Ohio, the voters decided it is actually not a very good idea to prohibit your public workers' unions from collective bargaining, and they rolled back a bill that had taken that right away from them. We can only hope that that trend catches some traction in Wisconsin, New Jersey, and other places dear to me.

But in a sad and upsetting turn of event in my own city, Hoboken had a disaster of a referendum, replete with the most demoralizing kind of municipal bullying and buying of political power.

The basic sitch: a landlords' lobbying group succeeded in getting the Hoboken City Council to pass an amendment to the Rent Control law in my city. It's not the worst amendment they could have come up with, but... one thing I think everyone should be able to agree on is that if a landlords' advocacy group supports an amendment, the amendment benefits landlords; and if a tenants' advocacy group opposes that amendment, the amendment benefits landlords. In this case, it would seem to benefit the mostly absentee landlords who have sponsored (some would say forced through, by means of the threat of an expensive class-action law suit) an amendment to weaken rent control protection in Hoboken, and at the very least make it easier for landlords to get away with bullying long-term residents into vacating their apartments so they can 'deliver vacant' (with raised rents, of course), and make it harder for tenants to fight back, while reducing the amount of time the tenants can take to figure out the best way to do it.

So a repeal of the amendment was put on the ballot as a referendum. I figured that putting this in the hands of the voters was a fairly decent way to put the matter to rest and stop the attempted erosion of tenants' rights. If you vote "yes," you support tenant's rights; if you vote "no," you support additional protection for landlords. Straightforward: it's your right to have either opinion and vote your convictions.

What stopped me in my tracks after I voted and sent me straight to my computer to write letters to local papers and websites was when I ran into an activist canvasing for "no" and when I asked her why, she said she was there to protect rent control, and had a pile of fliers that claimed as much (though the flier didn't do a very good job if you bothered to read it). Not only were they trying to make it easier for landlords to skirt rent control laws, they're trying to make it look like it's good for tenants. I probably shouldn't be surprised. It's even confusing how it was put on the ballot - all the dancing around with double negatives - if you want them NOT to change Rent Control, vote YES; if you DO want them to change Rent Control, vote NO.

Never was I so envious of my friends who have jobs that give them election day off. Never have I had such an impulse to make a homemade sign and wave it around in front of a polling place. I scarcely have to tell you the result of the vote: the amendment-supporting "NO" won. In a landslide.

I know that I spend a lot of my life and work in New York City, to the extent that my handle on this site is "nycmick," but I've been a proud Hoboken resident for enough years now that I feel no shame calling myself an LTR. But I feel a lot of shame around the way the city government and local media let this play out.

Reminded of a quote from Howard Zinn's You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train, appropriate to the situation, and even more so to what's happening around the Occupy movements.


The state and its police were not neutral referees. They were on the side of the rich and powerful. Free speech? Try it, and the police will be there with their horses, their clubs, their guns, to stop you. From that moment on, I was no longer a liberal, a believer in the self-correcting character of American democracy. I was a radical, believing that something fundamental was wrong in this country—something rotten at the root. The situation required not just a new President, or new laws, but an uprooting of the old order, the introduction of a new kind of society—cooperative, peaceful, egalitarian.


Take from that what you will.

Meanwhile, just to round out the day, here's something a PAC of Herman Cain supporters put up on their home page, but evidently took down quickly when people started to notice:


Monday, November 07, 2011

From A to Z




Well, yeah. That's pretty much it.


Got this little compare-and-contrast from Mike Daisey, via his blog. Worth a look, as Mike's work always is.


Speaking of that, if you live anywhere near New York you should make a trip to the Public to see The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, Daisey's current monologue, which toggles back and forth among his personal history of semi-obsessive interaction with computers (especially Apple products), Steve Jobs' biography (which includes the rise-fall-and-rise of Apple, of course), and the progression of Apple's/America's involvement with electronics manufacturing in China, as viewed through the lense of Daisey's research visit to Shenzhen. It is amazing, alive, and astonishingly powerful. And it's been extended through December 4.


Seriously, go see it.


If you want to read up on the subject beforehand, there's plenty out there on the internets about the show and about the earlier incarnations that Daisey developed over the last year or so in various locations, none of it hard to track down. To give you a boost, here's the piece he wrote for the Times in the immediate wake of Jobs' death.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

More Fun with Pythagorean Tuning

Happy November, everybody.

I know I'm supposed to care about the romantic breakup of the dynamic pop stars behind She & Him and Death Cab for Cutie, but I'm sorry - I just don't. Oh wait. I'm not really that sorry.

On the other hand, check this out:



This little slice of amazing comes from Alexander Chen, who seems to be pretty handy in the musical/graphic ideas department. In a nutshell, he's created an 'impossible harp' where each line in this viddy represents a string that changes length to accomodate the frequency needed for each note in the first Prelude of the first Bach Cello Suite. 8 notes per phrase, ergo 8 lines - check out the link above for his discussion of the math behind string length and pitch, Pythagorean Tuning and the way Chen put this together.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Topics for Discussion

Well, the Cherry Orchard has been chopped down.

Could this have been avoided? Or was it the inevitable result of the end of a pseudo-feudal aristocracy and the rise of market capitalism? Why or why not?

Discuss.

*Extra credit for references to Occupy (fill in your city's name here)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

And Another Thing...

I'm doing a production of The Cherry Orchard at the Theater at Schapiro Hall at Columbia U. this weekend. I have not been very vocal about it (or anything else, lately) in this forum, but it's been taking up quite a bit of my time. Here's a little promo viddy from the director, Katie Naka.


Email mydogluvsnuts@gmail.com for your free tix!

Irresistible

If the internets are to be believed, this is a screen shot of Bill O'Reilly telling Tavis Smiley and Cornel West that Wall Street has committed no crime.



Stunt? Maybe. But - worth how many words?

Monday, October 03, 2011

We Have Returned

A day and change later than we planned, and smarting from the delay, but happy, relatively healthy, and uninjured for all intents and purposes. And very much basking in the glow of one of the best trips ever.


Best. Trips. Ever.

And we could call it three trips in one, since we hit not only Prague, but Vienna too for a couple days, and Český Krumlov for an overnight. If you know me (and if you're reading this, you almost certainly do) it won't surprise you much to know that the trip was fairly arty, church-y, beer-y, and theatrical. I'll have a lot more to say about this soon (well, soon-ish) and plenty of images. But since I've been up for just about 22 hours now and went to a rehearsal immediately after I dropped my luggage off at home, for now I'll leave you with this shot, chosen at random from our week away



That would be the astrological clock in Old Town Square in Prague. Lots, lots more to come.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

So, Then This Happened

AS you might have surmised, the R.E.M. breakup remained on the forefront of my mind for much of the day. When I first got word, I shared the news with the people around me at work, and one guy said "Well, they are pretty... seasoned."

I stifled an outburst and mentioned that the Rolling Stones have a lot more 'seasoning' and they still entertain a crowd once in a while. The co-worker then said something to the effect of "In my opinion, the Rolling Stones should have pulled a Seinfeld years ago." Meaning that they would have been better off quitting at the top of their game (as R.E.M. appears to be trying to do) rather than dragging on.

Ok. Perhaps. I grant the possibility.

But that didn't really mitigate my mental breakdown when, a while later, another guy from the office came by and asked how I was doing. I said, "Well, R.E.M. broke up, so I'm a little shaken about that."

His response: "R.E.M.?! Man, that is past time! They were the 90s! I was all about them back then though. (singing) Jeremy's spoken..."

I have some regret that I was not able to restrain myself from grabbing my head in my hands and saying "Urggmmphhh! THAT'S PEARL JAM!!!" I was able to restrain myself from literally shouting that exclamation, but just barely.

When I told Cory this tale, she asked "Did that vein in your forehead bulge out?"

Yes. Yes, I believe it did.

I have, very clearly, lived too long.

That said, for today's listening list, I am through Chronic Town, Murmur, Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction, and am now almost at the end of Lifes Rich Pageant. It's going to be like this for a while.

It's the End of the World

Well, not really.

But evidently, it's the end of R.E.M.



photographer unknown

And I don't know how to feel.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Touches of Autumn

There has been a lot of summer in the air (still so hot and humid!), but little flashes of fall have been peeking through.





Related topic: this Van Gogh painting of an almond tree in blossom clearly represents a springtime event, but the red background makes me think of autumn.


Discuss.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Voice of Absurdity

All right.

It seems there is no direct way to upload an audio file to this platform without using an online file storage site. In addition to increasing my desire to set up a proper website for myself, this has prompted me to go for the temporary fix of creating a video out of my audio voice over demo.

Please listen first (if you're inclined to listen) with your eyes closed or the screen blacked out or something, as the audio portion of this enterprise represents a bona fide effort. Then feel free to watch my little testament to the absurd.


And that's what I have to say about that.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Fun from the World of Audio

Taking a break from working on a voiceover project (mostly involving putting together emails, demos and letters to send to agents - send good mojo to the casting gods!) to have lunch and bang out a post for your reading and listening pleasure.

First of all, Happy Birthday Chris Knox! I've written about him before here, and on the occasion of this, his not-quite-60th birthday, feel free to take a look at this article from Pitchfork which looks back at some music Chris enjoyed at 5-year intervals in his life.

And not only that, here's a pre-stroke video from a show that I don't remember existing called Recovery (I guess) that seems to have had The Fauves as its house band. (it did? shouldn't they have told us about this?) Chris' performance is superfab, and shows how much fun can happen when things go wrong.




As chance would have it, Jeff Mangum (who figured so prominently in the Chris Knox benefit last year) has been leaking some un-or-barely-released Neutral Milk Hotel tracks as teasers for the big boxed-set coming out later in the month. Click here to get a taste. Down on the right, to the side of Jeff's always-interesting curated playlist, is an unreleased version of Engine. The regular playlist is worth a listen too!

In case you're wondering what I'm listening to now as I do my thing in the Hoboken kitchen of random magic - we've got Richard and Linda Thompson's Shoot Out the Lights going on, vaguely in anticipation of seeing Richard at Town Hall in October.

What I would love to do but have not figured out how to do is attach my VO Demo to this post without making it into a movie. Why should it be hard to share an audio file? Can anyone help with this?

Stay tuned for photos from the Vineyard. Meanwhile, happy long weekend, everybody!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Wait a Minute...

"Echo" is still up in Madison Square Park. Not taken down two weeks ago, as it was scheduled to have been.



And I'm not disappointed by that circumstance, as I like the sculpture and I like the way it works into the park.

But... why must you lie to me, Mass Media? Why???

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Goodnight Irene

Easing out of what was a great week of vacation, capped by a very intense couple of days of travel and hurricane-fatigue.


We had a wedding to attend in Connecticut yesterday. And although it was a four hour drive (plus a ferry ride from Martha's Vineyard) to get there, we made the somewhat questionable decision to leave the reception early enough to get back in the car and bolt to New York before the really heavy stuff hit. That's right, we figured our best bet was to drive into Hurricane Irene, on the logic that we wouldn't be able to get through if we waited until today, and, well, we really wanted to get home.

In retrospect, it was the right call. The drive was hairy (lots of rain, roads already flooding, defogger overworked) although I have to say the traffic was lighter than I've ever seen on those roads. As in, scary empty on I684, the Hutch, the Saw Mill and the Hudson. As in, one of those spooky apocalypse movies "empty-but-for-other-crazy-people" empty.

Hoboken was closed off altogether - evacuated, cars off the streets (including the parking spaces), so that wasn't even an option. As it happened, we made it to Chelsea in a couple of medium-tense hours, got a parking spot for Lola on reliably high ground, unloaded and unpacked (including the four gallons of spring water we brought home from Massachusetts), filled the tub with water, made sure the flashlights were handy, and absorbed from TV and the internets all the reasons why we probably should have stayed away. We had considered staying with friends in New Paltz and just sticking it out until Monday - it's doubly good we didn't do that, since New Paltz actually seems to have been hit with at least as much flooding as New York.

Woke up to see the rain mostly gone but the wind still in full vigor. Laid low for a while, then went to Kelly's for a bad weather movie party. Exhausted now, and not sure if the trains will be back up tomorrow. Watching the VMAs for some reason and about to fall asleep. Kevin R. Free gets some points for pointing out via Twitter that pop culture itself jumped the shark. Take a moment to mull that with me.

And while I love what Anthony King tweeted about the storm ("If Steve Jobs was still CEO, iRene would have been HUGE.") if we're going to be disappointed that this storm wasn't more disastrous than it actually was, that's the kind of disappointment I can live with pretty easily.

Goodnight everybody.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

His Goal in Life...

...is to be an Echo, of course. (It's well known to all the visitors of Solid Sound.)


Which is also the name of the Jaume Plensa sculpture that's been gracing Madison Square Park for the last few months.


As in Echo and Narcissus. As in from the Greek myth of the beautiful nymph who is cursed to be able only to repeat what others say. Whose last day of residence in the park is tomorrow.

It's been a great sort of up-from-the-ground, "what's that?!" addition to the area, in my opinion. Little bit of mystery, little bit of mythology. If you haven't seen it and you're around, maybe run by and pay a visit.

And it's one of the corollaries of public art that it doesn't always get to stick around forever. And this Echo's farewell may not be as heartbreaking as the one she gave Narcissus, but it does mean that we won't be able to have this scene any more.


Or this one:




And with that, I give you a lovely little viddy of the song that gave this post its title. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Reveling in Excess

That phrase has a couple different meanings for me this week. On a personal level, I've had a big week for music - made a visit to my local shop in Hoboken and got some fun stuff, including the Feelies new album (their first in just about forever), a really good Buddy Holly tribute album, a Peter Greenaway/Louis Andriessen opera that I haven't had a chance to listen to yet, and Volume 2 from the Baseball Project, just in time for the Sox/Yanks series.


Not only that, but I have been slowly but steadily collecting Bach music in various forms, well, forever, but in an intensified manner since reading Eric Siblin's The Cello Suites, which I recommend fiercely. Highest marks, for real.

And then the thing that made it borderline excessive was when I went back to my place a couple days later to find a package from my friend Scott in Rochester, who had texted me to let me know that he was sending me a thank you for a few CDs I'd sent him a long time ago. This "thank you" turned out to be an insane amount of music. I believe the technical term is "a sh*t ton." An embarrassment of riches (much of which I haven't heard in years, and plenty of which I have never heard at all). Had some fun exploring that, and will enjoy many more hours delving into this music.

So that's the good part, on a personal level.

But you couldn't be blamed for thinking that when I title a post "Reveling in Excess" in August of 2011 that I might be referring to some of the more depressing recent news items. That perhaps I was alluding to something like, oh, I don't know, the nonsense surrounding the recently-put-on-hold-but-hardly-put-to-rest debt ceiling debate; or the hit the U.S. credit rating took the other day; or the anemic nature of the "good news" about unemployment numbers; or the perverse-and-getting-worse disparity between the rich and poor in this country - the stat that seems to come up a lot lately mentions that the richest 400 people in America control more wealth than the poorest half of all Americans, i.e. more than 150 million people. [Read a fact check here by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, scarcely a liberal mouthpiece.] You'd think that the disconnect would get some real attention from people holding elected office in a time of serious financial crisis.

But it doesn't.

And you might have noticed an article this week about a distinct uptick in spending on high-end luxury items. Embarrassment of riches takes on a whole other meaning.

I will leave you for now with an excerpt from Drew Westen's very good opinion piece in today's Times. I encourage you to click on the link and read the whole story, but for this quote, Westen envisions Obama's Inauguration Day, in the wake of brutal political discord, questionable military policy, and especially the devastated economy. Here's what he thinks the American people wanted, or maybe even needed, to hear Obama say on that day:
“I know you’re scared and angry. Many of you have lost your jobs, your homes, your hope. This was a disaster, but it was not a natural disaster. It was made by Wall Street gamblers who speculated with your lives and futures. It was made by conservative extremists who told us that if we just eliminated regulations and rewarded greed and recklessness, it would all work out. But it didn’t work out. And it didn’t work out 80 years ago, when the same people sold our grandparents the same bill of goods, with the same results. But we learned something from our grandparents about how to fix it, and we will draw on their wisdom. We will restore business confidence the old-fashioned way: by putting money back in the pockets of working Americans by putting them back to work, and by restoring integrity to our financial markets and demanding it of those who want to run them. I can’t promise that we won’t make mistakes along the way. But I can promise you that they will be honest mistakes, and that your government has your back again."
Yeah, something like that would have been nice. It still would.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

This Is a Public Service Announcement

PSA that evidently has been running on television in Scotland.





I dare say this falls into the category of "Things the Scottish are doing right."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

RIP AMY

Posted in Michael Stipe's tumblog:



BOB WHITTAKER AND AMY WINEHOUSE OUTSIDE MY DRESSING ROOM
PHOTO BY DAVID BELISLE
POWER BUMMER



So, there you have it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Down by the River

Specifically, at the plaza outside the Winter Garden just behind the World Trade Center site, one of the venues of the River to River festival.


They had a great day of movement theater a couple weekends ago. The first of three acts was a singular dance ensemble from Australia called "Strange Fruit." While that name conjures dreadful acts from the American South as hauntingly related by Billie Holiday, this was, well, not that.


This was a troupe of three dancers who climbed atop 15-foot posts in colorful corsets, dramatic headdresses, pantaloons and stockings.





Then they hoisted up giant hoop skirts that Scarlet O'Hara could only have dreamed of.



The dancers struck poses and fixed the audience with expressions alternating among coy, coquettish and seductive.




And then, it got weird.



They dipped and swayed and swerved and defied both gravity and reason, at a pace somewhere between outer space and flying trapeze. Very dreamlike, very surreal.


I got some video that gives a sense of the act in motion, but technical difficulties prevent me from posting it (for now, anyway... Anybody know how to synch a Samsung Galaxy S loaded with Froyo to a Mac? I can't believe that that language makes sense to me. And it's annoying that knowing what it means doesn't help me solve the problem. Another chapter in the seemingly endless saga of upgrade frustration. But I digress.)

The rest of the performance was fab too - Michael Moschen up close and juggling-historical, and the Streb company performing Human Fountain, their interpretation of dancing waters brought to life with bodies, scaffold and some big ass mats. The River to River people encouraged us to grab footage (and if I had a better memory I'd know what hashtag to use when Tweeting about it), and I'll share what I got when I'm able to load the video.

OH! And while I'm still in the neighborhood of the subject of dramatic clothing: go see the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met before it closes. The crowd is insane, but it's totally, completely, 100% worth it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

More Songs about History

And while we're on the subject of videos, did you chance to catch this gem last night? Or on the interwebs. Very much worth a look and listen.





Gotta love the Roots. It's the law.

Oh, and you'll want to go see the Tribe Called Quest documentary, Beats, Rhymes and Life. I mean, unless you're opposed to music. And fun.

Paris through a Window

Or a lens.


My friend over at Bionic Grin just had a little spell of Parisophilia, and by coincidence I came across a few viddies we took there last fall. Here are a couple from our first day there.

The first one shows the end of the demo we encountered upon our arrival:



And this shorter one was from close to the end of the evening on our walk home.



Nothing particularly special about either of them other than the memories. It's worth mentioning that in both cases the music you hear is live ambient sound, not something added afterward. Hope they feed the artiste within...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ai Weiwei

You've been following the Ai Weiwei story, right? Artist and dissident in China, detained under conditions somewhere between house arrest and imprisonment this spring, recently released (well, sort of; he's still under surveillance and under indictment and can't leave the country without permission) but under a gag order.

The news today is that Ai has accepted a lecturing post in Berlin. He'll go there if he can, but it depends on the Chinese officials permitting him to, unless he goes the full-on refugee/expat route and defects under cover of darkness or something. Which would be pretty out of character, I think.

Meanwhile here are some shots of Ai's beautiful sculpture series of the Chinese Zodiac figures that is by the fountain at the Plaza.








Here's to bold artists everywhere.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Big Cry of the Heart

I didn't realize that Clarence Clemons had died until I opened up my laptop yesterday morning and saw the news.

It was a gut punch like I haven't felt for a long time.

Even though the stroke that ultimately did him in came the Sunday before, so we had almost a week to hold our breath and send him all the mojo we could muster, Clarence's death was not, could not be something we were prepared for in any way. He'd been hurting, but he was still so vital, still harnessed vast forces of music and energy and all-but-universal good will. This wasn't right. This was altogether untenable. The Big Man does not succumb. A stroke does not bring down a forever young maker of saxophone magic. "His loss," as Bruce wrote in his beautiful tribute statement, "is immeasurable..."



There have already been some really nice pieces written, and hopefully the tributes will continue for a good long time. Cory and I had to run off to appointments yesterday - meals and meetings and rehearsals; and it was Father's Day, which rightly required phone calls free from mourning. But now I need to mourn, loud and long. Keening to the sky, a cri de coeur that can only aspire to match the wailing moans of loss, of longing, of desire, of joy, of triumph, of wordless uncategorizable feelings that poured from his horn so freely every time he raised it to his lips.



I love these shots, the top one by Peter Klaunzer with its straight ahead muscularity, and this one by Jeff Kravitz, with a halo around his black beret and the light piercing through. But I hope the Big Man won't mind if I close this with some un-rock-and-roll imagery. Already miss you so much.



Thursday, June 16, 2011

Go the F*#k to Sleep

Perhaps you've heard of Go the F#*k to Sleep, the new Not-Really-a-Children's-Book by Adam Mansbach & Ricardo Cortes. It's been getting more than a little media attention these days, and its press run has already crept up toward the half-million copies mark. Why? Because it's f*^king brilliant is why:

Mansbach, according to the official version of the story, was frustrated for the umpteenth time by the time and effort involved in getting his 2-year-old to go to sleep for the night, and posted on Fbook a joke to the effect of: "Be on the lookout for my forthcoming children's book, GO THE F%&K TO SLEEP." The reaction from his friends and fans (he was already an award-winning grown-up fiction writer) was so fiercely positive that he decided to write the book for real. He got himself an illustrator and, well, here we are: smash hit children's book that is utterly inappropriate for children, but all kinds of fantastic for adults.

And now, plug in your headphones and take a look at this little slice of amazingness - Werner Herzog (yes, the Werner Herzog) reading along with America's new favorite book.



After the bizarre media events of the last couple weeks (will there come a time when people look back and ask if we really spent all that time talking about a congressman's kinks when there was a war on? Sorry - three wars?) this just about made me weep tears of joy.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Advancements in Journalism

Oh, there are so many things wrong with this, from an Oregon Daily Emerald review of Sasquatch!

Bob Mould, a forty-something with thinning hair and no other musical accompaniment, hit the stage first. He tore off a brisk 45-minute set, warming up the crowd with his electric, Ted Leo-esque sound. Although he wasn’t well-known, Mould has collaborated with Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Foo Fighters. The surging crowds, fresh off a full day in the sun, met him with equal intensity.


That someone who would write this would choose to (or be allowed to) go into rock journalism might be the wrongest thing of all. But really (really): minimal research (even a quick trip to the internets) would have at the very least allowed this guy to minimize the damage. It's just a student paper, but still...

Sigh...

While we're on the subject of music festivals, let me take this opportunity to raise a glass to Sherin, JP and Annie, and the other 78,997 people on their way to Bonnaroo this week!

And another glass, to continued journalistic excellence. And continued academic success.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Kitchen Therapy

We can safely agree that whatever this is (and it isn't much) it is not a home-improvement blog. But I have been doing some work on Bohome, and so I thought I'd share some of that.

The most major and most recent project has been to re-do my kitchen floor. Now, lest you think that I'm handier than I am, let me hasten to add that by "re-do" what I mean is "put carpet tiles on." So we're talking about real work, but not the kind of thing you need to go to trade school to learn how do to.

Here's a shot of the bare floor once I got all the furniture off of it and gave it a good cleaning.


Doesn't look that bad in this shot, but if you've been to my place you know that these particular planks of hardwood bite back.


These photos come from my phone, so they're not up to snuff, but that little gouge in the wood gives you the beginning of an idea of how splinterrific that floor can be. After years of doing a very sad dance with my landlord(s), I finally accepted that this situation would not be handled by them, and would not take care of itself. So, with a lot of help and encouragement from Cory, I picked a place that sells good product and did some research and ordered samples and we went to the FLOR showroom in Soho and picked out colors. The tiles were delivered on Friday, and I got down to business.

Step one was to put down base lines. The instructions gave very detailed info on how to do this in a regular rectangular room with four even walls and corners. Guess what, folks: that ain't my kitchen.

I used the stone base of my (certifiably antiquated but lovely and very functional) oven as a guide for the base lines.



Then it's a question of taking stock and coming up with some design notions and color pattern ideas.



What's wonderful about these FLOR tiles is that you don't need to staple anything down, or even use adhesive on the actual floor; you just put some little sticky circles face up on your base line, and on strategic corners. I played around with form and function, weighting the areas where I do the most work with food (and therefore do the most spilling) with darker colors.



And here we go! New kitchen floor for the Bohome...



My main beef at this point is that there's an area in the entryway where the bottom of the door goes too close to the ground for even this thin carpeting to fit (a combination of an ancient, uneven floor, and door that could probably be stand a re-hanging.) After the fire a couple years ago, they put up metal doors on all our apartments, so I can't plane off the bottom edge; I just need to leave a little space uncovered. And I may cut some carpet to fill some of the nooks and crannies around the edges that are still bare for the time being. But all in all, I'm pretty happy with how it came out.


Come on by for some barefootin' in the 'boken!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Long Weekend

Beautiful day in New York today: hot, sunny, mimosa-worthy; kind of perfect for what is treated as the unmeteorological-yet-quite-official First Weekend of Summer.


Relaxing morning followed by a nice walk to brunch followed by a lingering and even nicer walk to run some errands and now we're back in Chelsea listening to Django Reinhardt and about to get ready for a Sweet 17 birthday party for one of Cory's clan.

Very sad to read about Gil Scott-Heron last night. He had a hard life in a lot of ways, but did some very good, very important work. Very happy to have shared some time on this earth with him.

For him and for the day, here are a couple shots of a sculpture in a park in San Francisco - called Ecstasy in its current incarnation, it's a repurposed and reclaimed piece that Karen Cusolito and Dan Das Mann originally did for a huge Burning Man project. Fortunate to have crossed paths with this beautiful work while it was out in public.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Bob!

And not just that, but happy 70th birthday to the singing cowboy who wrote the number that gives this blog its name. Very exciting, and there are some good events to honor the occasion.




First, and most immediately I suppose, is that WBAI is devoting the whole day to archival interviews, studio sessions, and Dylan-related audio artifacts. You can listen to 99.5 FM or stream by clicking the link above. It's their semi-annual beg-a-thon too, so be warned about that. Small price to pay. (Hey, a station's gotta make a living. Especially a station full of dissenters, most of whom volunteer their time.)

Film Forum is showing a couple flicks documenting the early days. Don't Look Back, the D.A. Pennebaker doc that's been around since '67, and Murray Lerner's The Other Side of the Mirror, which covers the performances at the Newport Folk Festival from '63-'65, but was just released in '007. They're playing through June 2, so don't delay too much if you want to catch them.

And, of course, there is no shortage of ways to celebrate online. Articles, editorials, shoutouts, discussions, suggestions, photo essays, tributes, and of course blog entries...

Have at it!