Wednesday, May 31, 2006

let it be known

to whoever cares that the gnarls barkley album, st. elsewhere, is pretty impressive. one of those albums that you can spend time with and still discover new things about. many of the tracks are strong and unique, actual songs, which is kind of amazing considering that a DJ is behind it all. yet the DJ aspect is also the album's weakness. in trying to be a songy concept album, it doesn't always succeed, and some of the songs are annoyingly redundant. they wouldn't be if you were listening to them as a beat type thing, but are when you're trying to have that concept album experience. but i'll probably be spending more time with the record. further thoughts likely.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

D ^ B ^ G ^ B

what you see here is david byrne watching the gnarls barkley show at webster hall on monday may 22. yeah, thas right. david byrne. was standing next to the man for the whole show. my friend's brother told him he was his hero and DB gave him a genuine smile. awesome.

i don't know if i can say the same for the band. actually let me preface any analysis by saying that i don't own the album, so i came to the show knowing very little except that my friend zac is in the band (he's the man with the crazy hair at the keyboards next to danger mouse) and they've had the number 1 single ('crazy') in the UK for like the past 12 weeks. and since the band hasn't hit the US with the same force they've hit the UK (yet?), in being unacquainted with the music i probably had a lot in common with a lot of the audience.

i guess my one expectation, having heard the insanely catchy single, was that the show would be energetic and engaging, but it was obvious from the get-go that this wasn't what gnarls barkley was about. as i've heard, the truth is that the album is very dark, with lyrics about depression and suicide and several slow ballads that are nothing like the pop-infused single. looking down on the crowd from the balcony, everyone seemed a bit confused by the sound, and certainly not engaged in the music. obviously, getting acquainted with the album would help with this, but it was still a bit of a surprise.

the big hair band costume theme didn't help with the confusion. apparently there's a concept behind the band, with gnarls barkley being some alter ego character for cee lo, so every gnarls barkley performance is differently themed. (i'm not sure i understand this, but okay.) they did wizard of oz at coachella and started the set off with 'breathe' from dark side of the moon and proceeded to trip the crowd out even more than they already were. so, yeah, the whole thing was a little perplexing. and i'm not sure how much a band based on such a clear gimmick can last as something real. granted, the gimmick probably seems a lot less of one once you know where the band is coming from, but they still have to spend a lot of time coming up with the costumes and money on purchasing them and getting the whole thing together. what, exactly, are they about?

of course, regardless of any pure motivations behind the band (of which i don't doubt there are many), any musical act trying to make it in the world today -- and certainly one with the kind of buzz gnarls barkley has generated -- represents countless hours of market strategizing. at the after party at a club in the meat packing district, this was in full force, with the hot music, hot crowd, free crap and open bar attempting to get the taste makers of new york on board. as far as i was concerned, i was just excited to be getting free drinks, but it's true that they had created the atmosphere they meant to, and now they're going to ride the wave of that buzz and hit the road for a world tour for the next year.

alright, i know i'm a horrible negative pessimist, and i will say that cee lo has the most ridiculous voice. i can't speak to the whole critical appraisal that the band has gotten for being boundary crossing -- they've got the r&b thing, the cool dj, even a string quartet (sonus quartet, one of the members of which went to my high school) -- but i will just say this: combining things that have never been combined before doesn't automatically mean that it will yield something awesome. but i'll let you know later, if and when i decide to shell out the cash for the record.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Some random pathway of information through Wikipedia led me to L.A. and inspired some discoveries and remembrances:

Angelino Heights was the first neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places in Los Angeles. Surprisingly few people though, native Angelenos among them, are aware that it even exists. It's really damn unique, perched on a hill between Echo Park and downtown, clustered mainly on Carroll Ave., rows of old Victorian mansions with a ridiculous view over to downtown (very Chinatown feeling). It's not fair that people get to own and/or live in the houses there, particularly the one in this picture. But as long as it's allowed, I might as well be one of them. And one day I will be. Unfortunately I missed the best chance I had when I was hanging out in the neighborhood a few years ago and the house was for sale for $500,000. Goddamn.

There's another awesome little lesser-known L.A. gem that I'll divulge: The Garden of Oz in the Hollywoodland neighborhood of the Hollywood Hills, off of Beachwood Canyon close to the Hollywood sign (take a left on Ledgwood and it's on the right side). My mom actually grew up in Beachwood Canyon, and it's great to drive around the neighborhood and check out the houses (one of the best L.A. activities in general). One day I was doing just that with a friend when we literally noticed something sparkling out of the corner of our eyes. We parked and walked over and there was this -- how do I describe it -- tiled mirrored rainbow fantasy land garden in someone's backyard closed in by a gate with a little mailbox next to it that said "Letters to Oz." As we were trying to peer in someone walked out of the garden. It was a neighbor, who said that the woman who built the garden, Gail, gives people keys if they make a vow to "dedicate their lives to whimsy." If that seems a little steep of a commitment, don't worry, Gail opens the garden to the public on Saturdays from 12 to 3 (as I remember), and she sometimes has jazz. She also sent plans and supplies for a sister Garden of Oz in Hiroshima, and as far as I know it is there.

Friday, May 19, 2006

internet regulation

i have no idea how realistic of a prospect this is, but it's scary, and i haven't heard much in the way of press coverage. *

* again, someone points me in the right direction


this is a fantastic book. thanks to adam for the loan.

it's interesting to feel such an affinity with a writer as i do with james dickey (except for the dialogue, which is dated and stifled and unrealistic. also i would've made lewis more of an asshole. that would have moved the story along in a different, perhaps more interesting way, and made for what i think would be a more realistic dynamic between the guys). regardless, caint say i've felt such a connection with a writer before, both syntactically and thematically. major concerns for him are the contrast between the microscopic and the huge; the anonymous, lost quality of wild nature and the personal, familiar character of the predictable, civilized world; being in wilderness or being out of the city -- which is it? things i've considered. and then of course, he's elaborating on and illuminating themes that i've considered less: the animalistic nature of man (not woman); male aggression; the degree to which aggression is tamed by civilization; what, at his most essential, makes a man a man; the real and brutal gap in the heart of america between the disenfranchised (wrong word in the context of the book, but i can't think of a better one) poor white population and the educated middle and upper classes. all conveyed in a graceful, simple-yet-at-the-same-time-complex, brilliantly well considered story and prose.

i haven't finished the book, but here's a portion that struck me:

There is always something wrong with people in the country, I thought. In the comparatively few times I had ever been in the rural South I had been struck by the number of missing fingers. Offhand, I had counted around twenty, at least. There had also been several people with some form of crippling or twisting illness, and some blind or one-eyed. No adequate medical treatment, maybe. But there was something else. You'd think that farming was a healthy life, with fresh air and fresh food and plenty of exercise, but I never saw a farmer who didn't have something wrong with him, and most of the time obviously wrong; I never saw one who was physically powerful, either. Certainly there were none like Lewis. The work with the hands must be fanstically dangerous, in all that fresh air and sunshine, I thought: the catching of an arm in a tractor part somewhere off in the middle of a field where nothing happened but the sun blazed back more fiercely down the open mouth of one's screams. And so many snake bites deep in the woods as one stepped over a rotten log, so many domestic animals suddenly turning and crushing one against the splintering side of a barn stall. I wanted none of it, and I didn't want to be around where it happened either. But I was there, and there was no way for me to escape, except by water, from the country of nine-fingered people.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


and this is what happens when you decide to party with the violent, confused, totally dysfunctional brother-sister team of ricky and linda from phoenix who you meet on the street at 2 o'clock in the morning. stupid, sad.


other than the obvious shift in ownership, i'm not sure what to make of this

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


i was in atlanta for a few days, and i'll tell you that it's an interesting place.
there's some major stuff there, like CNN, the MLK Jr center and of course, Coca Cola. but it has this villagey feel that major cities don't have and a character of grit and realness that's missing in major metropolitan centers like new york and l.a. there's a polished sheen to the latter two, or maybe a pretense of fashionableness. in atlanta you don't feel that. even in hot clubs and in the richest of neighborhoods, people are just more laidback, casual and unconcerned, the lawns and foliage are a little wild and the houses aren't neat but are set back from the street at random angles and distances.

of course it's all relative, though, and in the poorer (black) neighborhoods it gets really "casual" and "real." i hate to admit it but there's a feeling of urban danger that i don't feel even in the supposedly bad neighborhoods of new york. we stayed in the north (white) part of the city near my sister's house, and when i asked someone on the street for directions to the subway so i could get to the more southern center of town he said "be careful down there. it's like harlem." i've never heard something like that suggested and i've never felt it in new york, much less about a major hub like Times Square. but on the subway and in the center, i was the only white person anywhere around and was ogled and targeted for solicitations in a way i've never been singled out in new york. which leads to the conclusion that despite its admirable civil rights history, in practice atlanta is still more segregated than a lot of (northern?) cities (not that it's some multiracial nirvana over here, but it's better).

it was a sad thing to realize after going to the martin luther king jr center, which is down near the center and also gritty and in need of substantial repairs (but that may just be because it's run by the national park service). but nonetheless it's a very moving experience. i was crying for about two hours straight. normally i'd be a lot more critical of a commemorative place like the king center. granted it's in another country and nuclear bombs might be harder to relate to than everyday racism, but in hiroshima, i was distanced from it and analytical of the way the event was presented and the role it played in the city. but at the king center, the emotions just washed over me and i couldn't be distant, and i let myself go and i'm glad i did. (i expected everyone to feel the same way since the feeling for me was so strong, although i'm not sure why considering that i cry when people i don't know get their PhD's at college graduations. unsurprisingly, i guess, i was alone in my overly emotionalness again.)

this time, though, it made a little more sense than the PhD thing. which is that king was this vessel of the times, and things were being done through him. hearing him speak, it's like a current was running through him. and though he was scared at times, being so relied upon yet being just a man, he let himself be the vehicle of what was the most important work of the era, and it cost him his life. i guess i cried for how amazing he was and for his brilliance and what he accomplished. and, as my uncle pointed out, that someone like him, someone willing to sacrifice completely to a great cause, comes along once in a blue moon and he was taken away too early.

when we left the king center there was a street festival on right nearby called the sweet auburn festival. sweet auburn was the center of black life in atlanta when king was growing up, and one of the most important black urban centers in the country. it still is today, in fact. my brother and sister and i were some of the only non-blacks in the sea of people that were there, and it was an awesome festival, i couldn't understand it.

there's still so much work to be done, but now, in the racism and fears that are ingrained in our minds, it's much more subtle than what king did in eliminating physical segregation and, perhaps, more difficult to eradicate. who knows where to start? not me. but even so, i also felt guilty for not doing more to work towards it. between the king center, reading nickel and dimed, and the commencement speaker at emory (marian wright edelman), who puts pretty much everyone to shame and reminds whites everywhere that we are this color by accident of birth, i'm feeling more useless than ever.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


caution: you may lose brain cells by subjecting yourself to the retardation below.

okay, so the best place to store your data is the internet, right? like way better than the hard drive of your computer or an external hard drive, because the internet is this thing that you can always count on to be there, and not only that but you can access it from anywhere.

but what if the internet were OBLITERATED? can you imagine all of the glorious blogs that would go down the drain? the destruction of wikipedia? horrific.

i don't get technology so i don't know for sure whether it's even possible for the internet to be obliterated, but i sense that the only way would be for the whole world to explode (in which case, of course, no one would care). but we humans don't like the thought of being completely erased from the universe without a trace -- at least i don't -- and since the internet is immaterial, humanity could be preserved in it if the physical world were obliterated. so like if we sent a ginormous server and a satellite and computer out into space, it could be like a time capsule that would stop right when the world exploded (because it would cease at that point to receive data from the people on the ground) and the aliens could find it and know everything about us. and if it turns out that there are no aliens -- though i happen to believe there are -- at least i will be able to rest easy (while alive) knowing that my beloved internet, and by extension my beloved world, will be preserved in some form in perpetuity, or at least until the universe is obliterated.

i've been thinking lately that big companies are sort of similar to the internet, not in that i think they should be preserved forever, but in that we think that by allying ourselves with them (i.e. being employed by them), we have some sort of stability in the world. but they're just as flimsy as the internet. okay, okay, in practical terms the chances of the internet being obliterated or the major company you happen to work for going under are probably pretty slim. but still, in theory, it could happen.

internet art

i would hope, and expect, that it's just a matter of time before the internet starts to be used as an art medium, rather than just an information and marketing tool.

i feel like this site, though it's mainly a personal journal of sorts, shows what the start of one online artistic avenue might look like -- pushing the limits of a two-dimensional screen and creating an experience that exceeds what we think is possible online. i don't know how this thing is made, and maybe it's actually a really simple language, but to me all programming is pure magic. sort of like images on TV or sound coming out of a radio...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

oprah's minge

I can't tell you why I think talking assholes and vaginas are funny. All I can tell you is that Oprah's vagina, when it speaks in a gruff Australian accent and calls itself a minge and gets in a fight with Oprah's asshole, Gary, who speaks in a gay Scottish accent, as they plot to end Oprah's career in an effort to get more attention for themselves, is pretty much the funniest shit ever. I don't know how Tivo works but maybe you can use it to find the South Park episode of "A Million Little Fibers." COULD NOT recommend it more.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

something good, for a change

though he introduced me to it, eric thinks i'm too dark to appreciate fun brazilian dance music like Ian Pooley . that's just not true.

Since Then (2000) is a great album, and that has a lot to do with the fact that the tracks are original and original-sounding, as opposed to the purely sampled crap that defines a lot of "original" d.j. music. and that's about all the semi-positive critical appraisal i can muster right now.

continued celebrations of lameness...

calling kevin federline a shitty pop artist drags that category so low, i don't think we should do it; it just wouldn't be fair to kylie, or t.A.T.u., or nancy sinatra. so let's place this in the american idol tradition of gawking at utter and complete


and on an only slightly related note, check out this gem. (this link might not work. can't tell if it's just my machine. you can also try and get to it here.)
nancy sinatra was probably thought of as a shitty pop artist in her day, considering she couln't dance (similar to kevin federline in the above -- but isn't he supposed to be a dancer?), couldn't really sing, didn't write any of her own songs and from what i understand was basically a slutty exhibitionist making her way off her name and boo(b/t)s. but today we can appreciate her for reasons that didn't exist back then, namely: (1) her songs are eons better than the shitty pop of today, regardless of whether she wrote them or not (2) jessica simpson's version of this is such a shanda and (3) well, the distance of camp is a beautiful, beautiful thing. and so are sweater dresses.

What's wrong with New York

just wait for the train, for the love of god

Friday, May 05, 2006

Proselytizing Jews in WSP

Ahhhh, the flowers are back in Washington Square Park, the sun is shining, the tanners are tanning...and you know what that means: Jews are on the prowl.

The park is perfect proselytizing territory for the Chabad on the corner of WSN and MacDougal, and today a young fellow named Yeshaiyahu was at work in what I like to call the tanning corner (where I was splayed) in the southwest quadrant of the park, going from person to person. One girl he approached was meditating serenely under a tree and when asked if she was Jewish she said she knew all about the Kabbalah and that she thought it was beautiful (oy vey). She then extended her hand to shake Yeshaiyahu's and he recoiled. Ha.

This Yeshaiyahu was a pretty charismatic and affable guy, though, and the next person he approached -- an obvious Jew (trust me, you'd have known) -- Y. actually convinced to go with him to the Chabad to fulfill the mitzvah of wrapping tefillin.

Now, I felt a little strange about this. Because, apart from proselytizing being evil and horrible and downright embarrassing, what's the point of putting on tefillin if you're just going through the motions? Not that I think that going through the motions is bad per se, but it is when not accompanied by anything else, whether it's full belief or even just a spiritual feeling.

I think the reverse is also true: religion devoid of ritual isn't religion at all either. I felt this strongly at the Passover seders I went to this year, both of which were really nice, but neither of which followed the ritualistic traditions of the holiday. At both, in fact, even though there were younger children than me I asked the four questions 'cause I was the only person that knew them in Hebrew. And we didn't do the hand washing at either. I hate to judge -- and I know that I could be judged just as easily for not keeping the tradition of being kosher, or lighting the candles on Shabbat, or whatever, by people who do do those things -- but I just felt sad about it, almost from an anthropological perspective. Meaning that when religion isn't practiced, it's just religion in theory, and the Jewish religion is dying out. A great This American Life touched on the issue of religion in today's world in a segment about a focus group for creating a modern religion (the 4/14/06 episode).

But what Yeshaiyahu was doing was no good either. That's just religion in practice, and I don't really think that's the point. Or at least I like to believe it isn't. I don't what the answer is, but I do hope ze Jewishes stay true to their ancestry and history as the years go by.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

oh. my. god.

for those of you who haven't yet had the pleasure:


stephen colbert is my love. my LOVE.
many thanks to my sissy cha for passing it along.