Monday, August 31, 2009

Here's to the newly wed Bevan & Cheryl Rosenbloom! (Song of the Week is below) What a lovely, lovely wedding... A textbook definition of 'nachas,' or 'joy'...

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Like Fine Wine & Jazz Singers

This week's Song of the Week is a shout out to all the veteran rock musicians, who, past the peak of their fame, soldier on, scaling peaks of creativity.

Case in point: Depeche Mode, who've never stopped making worthwhile music or touring it...

Their new album's lead-off single, "Peace," is one of their best moments, somehow managing to be heavy and edgy but still soothing and pleasant. I don't know how they do it!

After two recent Depeche Mode treats, scroll down to see what some other veterans have been up to...

The "Peace" video was 'disabled' by the label on YouTube, but here's a great fan video!

Here's their awesome 'Precious' from 2006, live in Stockholm:

In late 2008 The Pretenders
dropped their best album in years, 'Break Up The Concrete,' led off by the rousing 'Boots of Chinese Plastic:'

Prince is as funky as ever, and
has released three well-reviewed albums in as many years. Here's 'Chelsea Rogers' from 2008..

The B-52s, now 75% gay,
continue to party hearty. Here's last year's 'Juliet of the Spirits,' with scenes from the Fellini movie of the same name...

Music pioneers David Byrne (from Talking Heads) and Brian Eno (ambient, producer of Bowie, U2 etc) combined forces last year for 'Everything That Happens Is Supposed to Happen...' The lovely single was 'One Fine Day:'

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Double J Joy

"Julie and Julia" is a delightful confection. It's a film of parallel stories that chronicles two women finding themselves, so to speak: the famed TV French Chef Julia Child in 1950s France and a NYC writer at loose ends half a century later who decides to prepare - and blog - Julia's 514 recipes in one calendar year.

Meryl Streep is a hoot as the the outsized gourmande with the high-pitched voice, lovingly abetted by Stanley Tucci as her diplomat husband. The perfect period recreation of this twosome and their years in post-war France is, by itself, worth the ticket price. Cinematic magic mushrooms the petite Streep into the 6 foot Child.

Here's the trailer, followed by an interview with Streep.

Meryl on GMA with clips and chickens...

Amy Adams spearheads the modern half of this tale with wistful frustration and determined oomph, a well-etched portrait, but of a species far more common than the rarified Miss Child. 'Julie' reunites Streep and Adams, who last year starred in the powerful 'Doubt.' Below, they talk about that film...

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I saw two more movies but didn't write me no movie review.

And I played Rock Band® with JP and his friends, the Incantalupo family.

In other news, Altadena is being evacuated. Evacuated.

California burning again.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's Coming!

(Check later for film review!) Aaron's Balkan Adventure Homemade Film Festival, starting Tuesday.. Here's an advance taste, careening around the cliffs as we descended from Ostrog Monastery, built into a mountain cliff, high up over Montenegro... I was trying to capture the thin dirt roads with no guardrails...

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Sign On Me

That's easy for
them to say... I can understand the basics of many European languages, but Hungarian is not one of them.. It's actually not an 'Indo-European language' but an invader language a la Atilla the Hun and Genghis Khan...

Who could resist a pink hand? In Novi Sad, Serbia, this sign welcomes you in Serbian, Hungarian, German, English, and Croatian. Serbian and Croatian are basically one language with two alphabets.
It was once known as 'Serbo-Croatian', but the languages divorced simultaneously with the countries. Split custody of the irregular verbs?

Tuzla... Small Bosnian city.... That's where Hillary Clinton mis-remembered having ducked sniper bullets... Similar to what happens with childhood anecdotes in many families, the embellishments become the memories...

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wicked ROFL!

'In The Loop,' the British-made gem of a film I saw last week, is perhaps the wittiest, most biting and most relevant satire in a dog's age..

It's a hilarious vision of how a handful of petty, clueless incompetents and a few bad eggs can hurtle us into war on flimsy pretexts and flawed logic.

It rings both wonderfully ridiculous and sadly true - we actually did go to war on flimsy pretexts and flawed logic. But what a wit-fest!
Zingers go by so fast I'll need a second viewing to 'harvest' them all...

The film is based on, and borrows actors from, the British political comedy 'The Thick of It..' The excellent ensemble cast will be largely unknown to US audiences, except of course the sublime James Gandolfini as a blunt, sardonic US general and maybe Tom Hollander of 'Pirates of the Carribean' as Britain's hapless foreign minister...

Imagine a clear broth with equal parts 'West Wing,' 'Fawlty Towers,' and 'Wag The Dog,' served on ice with a (very small) splash of 'Dr. Strangelove.' Watch the trailer:

Here are some excerpts... 'The Crossest Man In Scotland...'

Yet another clip, just delicious...

Here's a good scene from our source material, 'The Thick Of It...'

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I'm late! I'm late! Noon and no post! Eastern Europe to the rescue... From Budapest's Museum of Applied Arts, some beautiful ceramic tilework with adornments...

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Liberation of Paris is now a senior citizen...

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Estonian Stencils...

...get away from me-ee... :-) ...or not... I think these window etchings from a Tallinn office building are permanent - they remind me of equal parts graffiti, animation, and those stencil drawings I used to make on windows using construction paper and Windex®...

Full street view of the same building, plus a tramway...

A tic tac toe board of flower holders in the
long, long dusk of an Estonian summer night (life at 60N, the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska...)...

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Phoenix of France

I'm a longtime admirer of French indie pop quartet Phoenix, who bring a quirky, off-kilter but lush tone to their work. Phoenix are close musical associates of their more famous, more electronic French peers, Air and Daft Punk.

The groups latest album, 'Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,' is a tour de force, and our Song of the Week is '1901,' that album's lead single.. With great reviews but scant radio play, Phoenix lives by word of mouth.. Still, they get around... In clothing stores, in Starbucks, on in-flight mixes, Phoenix is sure to pop up... They deserve more exposure, and here, I'm giving it to them..

Watch them kick butt on Letterman with '1901...'

The first Phoenix song that really grabbed my attention, perhaps their best ever, was 'Run Run Run' from 2004's 'Alphabetical..' Here's the low-rent but effective black & white video:

Here's a second hot track off their current album,
the curiously titled 'Lisztomania...'

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Nutritionist Vampire

In Tallinn, Estonia, I perplexed a local waitress by ordering their typical blood sausage... accompanied by carrots, peas, cauliflower, and a lite salad... That must be like ordering baby back ribs and cottage cheese... : - )

Here's the salad... This restaurant is good at presentation....


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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Jumping Back In...

..after an excellent long vacation is never easy... I've been sleeping off my jet lag, putting out fires, and tackling big decisions to be made and much work to be done... Hence, 2 1/2 days with no posts... but I'm back, and will aim to post something interesting daily... Here's a pretty Russian Orthodox church I saw in Tallinn, Estonia in late June...


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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 19: Homeward Bound!

Hopefully in one piece... Here are Simon & Garfunkel at Monterey in 1967 singing 'Homeward Bound...'

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 18, Last Stop: Vienna, Austria

My trip ends in Vienna because, unlike the cities of ex-Yugoslavia, it has convenient, frequent, and cheap air connections to the rest of the world, including New York. This here clip is sick funny. The last song on earth I'd use as background for a Vienna video is 'Don't Worry Be Happy' : - )

Well, maybe not the last song on earth...since Austria stuck into the Iron Curtain like a thorn, many great spy movies were partly set in Vienna. Here's the famous last scene of the 'The Third Man,' filmed when Vienna was still very bombed out from World War Two...

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Monday, August 17, 2009

They Get Around

Today's song is 'Gimme Sympathy, 'straightforward indie uptempo pop by Canadian trio Metric, who reference the Rolling Stones lyrically but certainly not musically.

The song is catchy, melodic, and vaguely about identifying with 60s bands, This exotic ensemble is fronted by New Delhi-born Briton Emily Haines, daughter of acclaimed poet Paul Haines, a member of Canadian un-supergroup Broken Social Scene who has played with countrymen as diverse as the pop Stars and the drony Stills...

In 2006 they burned up Canada with back to back hits, 'Monster Hospital' and 'Poster of a Girl..' Their recent album 'Fantasies' is The Big Followup®... Check out the 'Gimme Sympathy' video

Here's Metri
c on Letterman performing 'Help I'm Alive...,' the earlier single of 'Fantasies..'

And their earlier hit 'Poster of A Girl....' live at Metropolis (since their record label won't let me embed the video)...

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Day 17: Ljubljana, Slovenia

Next stop, Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, a tiny alpine country in ex-Yugoslavia's northeastern corner that is the first (and thusfar only) ex-Yugoslav country to enter the European union.

Slovenia is home to 2 million people (slightly less than Queens) and covers 7,827 square miles (picture New Hampshire, with even more mountains...

Here's Ljubljana's official promotional film!

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day 16: Zagreb, Croatia

So I stay a few days to round out my tour of ex-Yugoslavia.

First up: Croatia's capital, Zagreb.... Croatia's 4.4 million people would rank 24th if it were a US State, but its 21,831 square miles would rank a paltry 42nd, slightly smaller than West Virginia...

Like Slovenia, Croatia is a mostly catholic, setting it apart from orthodox Serbia and Montenegro and from muslim/multicultural Bosnia....

What an odd shape Croatia has...

Here's a Zagreb video visit:

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Unique Dubrovnik, Then Flying Solo

It's the last day of the 'official' trip, JP flies home today and I fly three days solo...
One of my favorite tongue twisters is to say 'Unique New York' five times fast... That's only slightly easier with 'Unique Dubrovnik...' Here's a lovely video montage to this jewel of the Adriatic....

And here's another breathtakingly pretty mini-film of Dubrovnik to the music of 'More Than Words...'

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Days 14 & 15: Dubrovnik, Croatia

On day 14, we depart Montenegro and travel north by bus (approx. 3 hours) to the southern coast of Croatia and our destination, Dubrovnik.

Walk through the Old Town and enjoy the views of the ocean from the 2 km long city walls surrounding the town.

Dubrovnik, with its tiled roofs and stone buildings, survived the wars and remains as charming as ever. Extensive restoration has taken place to return it to its original splendor. From the city walls, it is still possible to see repairs being undertaken on roof tiles, then out to a vista of clear azure coastline.

With the sparkling water of the Adriatic in the background, Dubrovnik is picturesque and full of character and can easily be covered on foot. The region is also famous for its islands and beaches.

In Dubrovnik we use the private houses of our local friends who rent rooms to us for our stay here. It is a special experience to see into the lives and homes of our hosts.

Dubrovnik is hilly, and there are stairs everywhere. Some of our apartments require that you scale 173 steps to the front door.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 13: Kotor, Montenegro

On Day 13, a short 45 minute bus ride takes us into Kotor, main city at the end of Kotor Bay, the largest southern European fjord.

Listed on the UNESCO world heritage list its crooked alleyways give lots of opportunities to get lost and mingle with the locals.

After a short orientation walk with your leader we climb the hills behind the city and visit the old rulers' ruined castles.

The official Kotor welcome video!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On the Beach at Budva

From our itinerary:

"There is nothing planned for day 12 so feel free to visit the nearby resort of Sveti Stefan, explore King Nikola's palace in Cetinje or just relax on one of the many beaches."

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Days 11 & 12: Budva, Montenegro

Budva! "A scenic bus journey on day 11 (approx. 2 hours) takes you to the beautiful coastal town of Budva where the Montenegrins spend their summer holidays. After a visit to the stunning Stari Grad (Old Town), where your leader will take you on an orientation/sightseeing walk, the afternoon is free to soak up the sun or rest by the beaches. For food, there is an abundance of great restaurants and interesting cafes to whet your appetite. Climb the town walls to get the best sea views."

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Day 10: Ostrog Monastery, Montenegro

We're sleeping here tonight! After driving south by bus to Montenegro (approx. 7 hours), we arrive at the stunning Ostrog Monastery, which was built into the side of a rocky mountain in the 17th century!

Ostrog since been a destination for visiting Orthodox Christian pilgrims as well as those seeking a cure for their bodies and soul. In the afternoon, we go on a hike to the Upper Monastery where relics of the founder, St Vasilije, are kept.

Our accommodation for the night is a konak (simple night quarters) close to the Lower Monastery. This is a wonderful opportunity to mingle with other travellers and pilgrims.

A more adventurous option is to stay in the konak near the Upper Monastery where you get to sleep on wooden benches (blankets are provided).

Montenegro is Europe's newest country, after breaking off from Serbia in 2006. A few months ago Montenegro applied for European Union membership... This tiny country has a population of just 678,177, equal Manhattan above 125th Street or 1/4 of Brooklyn... Its area is just 5,019 square miles, slightly larger than Connecticut. They speak 'Montenegrin,' which is pretty much identical to Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian. A language is a dialect with an army.... : -)

Here's an awesome video visit to the Monastery...

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

I'm still in Southeastern Europe, all over ex-Yugoslavia, today in Mostar basking in beautiful scenery... This is our 100th Song of the Week!! 100 great songs without repeating a single artist!

Summer Trip Blip

We continue our 'long hot summer' theme, now veering into the brilliant electronic grooves of Canadian twosome Crystal Castles... Surely one of 2008's most unique and intriguing releases, Crystal Castles' eponymous album delivers an impressive palate of distinctive work, all very catchy and often hypnotic... Each song really stands out.. I could have used any of their four singles as Song of the Week, but I settled on the unsettling instrumental 'Untrust Us,' which manages to be both mournful and perky, the electronica equivalent of a sunshower....

Here's the official 'Untrust Us' video...

That sunshower imagery is apt - every Castles song blends happy and sad, and 'Vanished'
uses the instrumental riff and vocal chorus as the 'upper' and the droning but harmonic verses as the 'downer'... Very, very effective...

The highly processed 'Crimewave' adds new textures to the mix, creating a track that's as highly listenable as it is murky and garbled..

The Crystal Castles track that first grabbed by attention was the utterly strange 'Courtship Dating', whose
off-kilter groove and lyrics really do scratch your itch if you give them a chance...

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Days 9 : Mostar, Bosnia

On day 9 we head to the town of Mostar to see the famous town and bridge that made headline news during the Yugoslav wars.

The town has been rebuilt since with many countries contributing funds and is now UNESCO World Heritage listed.

Video visit to Mostar:

Serbs and Bosnians in World War One part 3...

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Bosnia: Just The Facts, 'Mam

"Day 8 is completely free for you to explore the city or head out into the hills once again.

You may like to take a picturesque day trip Ilidza where we find the source of the River Bosna (Vrelo Bosna), where there are thermal springs and beautiful green parks.

The Sarajevo Tunnel Museum is near Ilidza where you can have a behind-the-scenes look at the Yugoslav wars. "

With slightly less than 4 million people, Sarajevo has the population of South Carolina (or Kentucky or Colorado), but its petite size of 19,767 square miles are closer to West Virginia, or about half the size of New York State....

Sarajevo, Bosnia's capital and largest city, has 421,289 people in its metro area, about the same as Manhattan's Upper East and West Sides combined...

'Bosnia and Herzegovina' is country's name, and consists of two autonomous, loosely linked states, the muslim/multiethnic 'Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina' and the 'Serbian Bosnian Republic,' plus a tiny Croat enclave, the Brcko district..

That's not a typo, vowels are in short supply here.. : - )

The blue part is the muslim/multicultural area, and the pink part is the Serbian area.. the yellow part is the Croat enclave...

Odd, yes, but the peace has held, making Dayton, Ohio the fairy godmother city of the entire area, as the birthplace of the accord that stopped the bloodshed...

Here's a lovely, olde-fashionede postcard montage of Sarajevo to local folk music..

More on Bosnia, Serbia, and World War One...

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Days 7 and 8: Sarajevo, Bosnia

Charming montage of sepia Sarajevo vs today's Sarajevo, with lovely folksy old Bosnian song...

This is where World War One started, in the months after a Serbian anarchist named Gavrilo Princip shot Austria-Hungary's crown prince Franz Ferdinand (no relation to the arty fey UK rock group) on June 28, 1914..

One British traveler's impressions:

Sarajevo recovers! I'm very happy that Sarajevo has overcome the lament of the Palestines and Israelis: too much history, not enough geography..

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Serbia: Just The Facts, 'Mam

Snazzy jazzy Belgrade montage with snazzy 60s faux-Latin Serbian pop song...

'Serbia Through a Longer Lens, ' a view from within....

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Days 5 & 6 : Belgrade, Serbia

This is Belgrade! A pretty montage to the tune of 'Come Undone' by Duran Duran...

My beautiful Serbia: the landscapes! with mellow, pastoral background music...

Here's more, with 'Oom Pah Pah'

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

more on our Southeastern Europe trip below, but first a birthday salute to a great friend...

Happy Birthday, Steve!

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Montage á Trois

"This is Serbia!" That's the title of a classic Serbian folk song... Here's a ye olde fashionede montage, with pastoral scenes...

'Serbia: Our Crazy Country..' This three-minute 'tribal' video montage is more modern and lively introduction to this colorful country, speaking more to its lively present than its checkered history...

..and here's a quieter montage of countryside scenes, in summer and winter, to some lovely Serbian flute music...

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Song of the Week down below, but, first, live from southeastern Europe...

Days 3 & 4: Novi Sad, Serbia

Novi Sad is Serbian for 'New Garden..' Here's a great montage of Novi Sad sights to the tune of the Verve's lovely 'Bittersweet Symphony,' my favorite song of 1997...

Here's a lovely intro video of the city, pretty to look at, which is all you'll probably do, as it's in the Serbian language....

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Toasting On The Beach Down Under

It's still summer and high noon in my beach-addled brain, but I'll follow two weeks of frothy ear candy pop with something meatier but equally tasty... 'Walking on a Dream' is a catchy, rhythmic, hypnotic number delivered in hazy falsetto, perfect for lying on a beach under a hot, hot summer...

The artists are Empire of the Sun, an Australian electronic duo not directly named after the 1984 JG Ballard novel or its 1989 film adapation.   Both Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore were in other bands when they met, but they met, clicked instantly, and the rest is history.   'Dream,' their debut single is the longest 'sleeper' in Australian radio history.. 23 weeks to finally reach that country's Top Ten in April.

The 'Walking on a Dream' video, which I hope their record company doesn't disable for embedding, is, suitably, shot in Shanghai, an homage to the book/film whose name they share..  

'We Are The People' is a great followup to 'Dream,' and is a bit
more tuneful than trance-inducing.. The video was shot in Mexico's Icamole desert in the towns of Xilitla... A horse with no name, a guitarist with no shirt... : - )

And back to the shores of North Australia for video #3, 'Standing on the Shore...' in
funky blue duds...

Just for good measure, the trailer for the 1989 movie 'Empire of the Sun' about a 12-year old Brit surviving a Japanese prison camp in China during World War II... That 12 year-old was Christian Bale!!!!!

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Here's a Budapest slideshow of its sight, culture, people, and life, to the fast beat of some Hungarian-language club music..

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Days 1 & 2: Budapest, Hungary

Soak up two minutes of very colorful architecture...

Here's 'Budapest or Bust,' a video collage...

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