Monday, July 26, 2010

We Are All Vatos

Today's surprising, charming song comes from Ozomatli, a Los-Angeles 7-piece band that fuses Latin and rock music, with occasional splashes of jazz, salsa, funk, reggae, and hip hop! In their own words, they're influenced by everything you hear when 'you drive down Sunset Blvd, roll down your windows, and listen to all the music that comes out of each and every different car.

Ozomatli is occasionally played on adult pop radio for a dollop of musical diversity that isn't too threatening. And yet they subtly bold and daring - witness today's Song, 'Gay Vatos In Love,' an anthem for marriage equality and acceptance and understanding of gay people, written by these Californians in the wake of Proposition 8.. Here's the video...

Here are Ozomatli's two biggest previous hits,

First, from 2007, the delightful crooning of 'After Party..'

Second, from 2004, the more hip-hop-inflected 'Saturday Night:'

Here's the band discussing the genesis 'Gay Vatos In Love' and how it's been received by the more conservative portions of their diverse audience.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Gone Fishing!

It's time to take a long break! JP & I are headed for Vietnam tonight, where we'll participate in a 15-day tour, from south to north, organized by Intrepid Travel, with whom I've traveled extensively in Eastern Europe.

After that, three days in Bangkok, and then home.

Click here to see our itinerary.

It's a chance to get away from it all and recharge our batteries ahead of an exciting and challenging new job.

We're back on August 12, and I'll resume blogging when I return. I have however, set up Song of the Week to post automatically while I'm gone.

For what it's worth, this will be my 123rd foreign trip, but only my 8th in Asia (I'm not counting Israel or Turkey); I've never been to Vietnam before, it'll be my 56th country, but I have been to Thailand once, in early 2003. Have a great couple of weeks, look forward to seeing you all on my return!

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rear View Mirror

This poster was prominently displayed on the trading floor of my now-former employer.
The 'stick-its' identifying the stooges as co-workers is a sign of the playful spirit encountered on a floor full of veteran traders and salespeople... That's receding into history. I'm enjoying meeting my new co-workers and my new digs are terrific - I actually have an office, a real office, for the first time in my long career!

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Singing Interregnum

I'm literally between jobs, and about to go on vacation. This is slowly sinking in...
Below, one of the 60 pianos that were placed all around NYC from June 21 to July 5 as part of the 'Sing For Hope' Street Piano Installation project. These were to be played by all who passed by in a festival of music open to all New Yorkers..

Here's a
very clever video about the festival by James Manzello.. Sing for Hope is a non-profit that mobilizes professional artists in volunteer service programs to benefit schools, hospitals, and communities.

James Manzello does really good video work - here's his really fun, peppy, original take on 'Brighter Than Sunshine'...

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

To Be Young, Gifted, and Virtual...

Our slightly late Song of the Week is the funky but sweet and playful ‘Superfast Jellyfish’ by the ‘virtual band’ Gorillaz, which began in 1998 as a ‘side project’ of Damon Albarn, the visionary behind Blur, and British cartoonist Jamie Hewlett to universal critical acclaim, commercial success, and even some modest radio play!

In animation,
the band is a quartet whose four fictional members are pictured left: 2D (lead vocals, keyboard), Murdoc Niccals (bass), Noodle (guitar), and Russel Hobbs (drums).

In real life, the music is written by Albarn, performed by an ever-expanding coterie of collaborators and guest stars, and rendered live by a seven-piece ensemble. Albarn’s vast musical melange steeps his Brit-pop and alt-rock influences in hip hop, dub, electronic, and pop, with uniformly terrific results.

Let’s take a video walk through Gorillaz delightful oeuvre – it’s been an amazing 12 years, with 3 excellent proper albums and a generous array of B-sides, rarities, and out-takes… We'll start with the faux-breakfast cereal-psychedelia that is today's selection, 'Superfast Jellyfish,' which features Gruff Rhys, the Welsh mastermind of Super Furry Animals (whose 50s-ish run-away was featured on SOTW back in November 2007, 138 weeks and songs ago)...

Here's the philosophical faux-nightmare, rap/folk tune that put Gorillaz on the map back in 1999 - it's 'Clint Eastwood,' which, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with Clint Eastwood... This was a top 5 hit in all over Europe and #1 in Italy. It managed to get around quite a bit in the US without cracking the top 40.. you may recognize it from a clothing store or a trendy restaurant..

But their biggest hit ever came in 2004, this time worldwide, even here! It's 'Feel Good Inc...' As usual, it blend alt-rock melancholy, hip-hop posturing and irresistible propulsive rhythm..

Their other 2004 hit was
the bouncy, non-hip-hop 'Dare'.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

August In July

IMG_1010Meet August Henry Diaz, born June 25, 2010! Yesterday, in the torrid 94-degree heat, we finally caught up with August and his proud parents, our friends Marco and Janice, in their new Brooklyn Heights digs, just a few blocks from their previous digs.

They moved scant days before August's arrival, but you'd never know it, their place looked so lovely, cheerful, tidy and spacious..

We all checked out the neighborhood's famed Bastille Day festival, and, as you can see, August looks quite Gallic in his little striped outfit..

We had red sangria in the sun and a splendiferous Middle Eastern meal at 'Waterfalls,' which I ate until I was ready to explode...

I actually got a bit sick last night and this morning, not sure if it's the sun, the sangria, too much eaten too fast, or the effect of seven weeks waiting to hear if I got my new job (which I did!). In any case, starting to feel much better now... Here are Marco, Janice, and JP...

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

In Maya Time

IMG_0963Yesterday afternoon we caught up with 7-month old Maya and her parents, Jon & Oriyan, and their playground of choice up in Riverside Park, around 96th...

They grow so fast.. We'd last seen Maya in mid-May, and she sure seemed older and wiser to us this time... Plus, she has the beginnings of teeth..

It's a real treat to have infant company, such a different perspective, you wonder what they're thinking, images and feelings without words... It's so strange that it's a time in life none of us can remember, partly for lack of a context to hang memories on to. The only time is now. Everything felt is communicated. A perspective, a way of being adults can only fleetingly attain...

Maya's favorite park has sprinklers, a treat on a hot day, but adults must be accompanied by a little one...


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Saturday, July 17, 2010

A New Era

I'm thrilled to report that I accepted a job offer yesterday from Banco Santander, as their new head of Latin Corporate Research.

Santander was founded in Santander, Calabria, Spain (pictured left) and is headquartered in Madrid. It is the largest bank in Europe (by market capitalization) and 4th largest in the world.

Santander is huge in Latin America, a top five bank in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, so it's a very good place for a Latin American corporate specialist to work.

My official start will be August 12, though I will spend most of next week there planning and getting to know my new co-workers. JP & I will be gone from July 23 to August 11 on vacation in Vietnam. More to follow..

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Fiddle Day

at Morris Farm in Wiscasset, Maine... I should have some good news later today. And I'm not just fiddling around! : - )

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Argentina Shines!

After 16 hours of debate, at 6am this morning, Argentina legalized gay marriage, as their Senate approved the marriage equality bill voted by their House in May and supported by their President.

Wow, I would not have believed it if anyone had told me 21 years ago, when I lived there, that Argentina would have gay marriage before New York (let's not even mention the States). Argentina becomes the 10th country with gay marriage, after Holland, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Portugal, and Iceland.

Another 15 countries, including almost all of Western Europe, have civil unions or registered partnerships essentially identical to marriage. Ironically, to thank for this they have America, and specifically New York, where gay people bravely began to fight for their rights 41 years ago, both in huge parades and in a million brave personal moments with parents, relatives, friends, co-workers... This was an American idea and initiative.

So why are Europe, Canada, and Latin America racing so far ahead of us? My take: in the places, when their intelligentsia buys into the idea, that's sufficient. There's no grass roots, organized opposition by a substantial bigoted minority. And there's almost never a major political party determined to fight gay rights at every turn. Sure, the Catholic church huffs and puffs, but in these countries governments are proudly secular and frown on Church interference.

Here in the US, the religious right and the (grrrr) Republicans will probably delay nationwide gay marriage another 15, 20, maybe 30 years, until a more open-minded generation dominates our voter pool...

Now New York - that's just dysfunction - we have a million gay people here, a majority ok with the idea, many high-powered, well-funded people strongly in favor, Democrats dominating registered voters, and every statewide elected official in favor of gay marriage. It's just a matter of voting out some very dysfunctional State Senators, many of whom are over 75 and five of whom are Democrats from Queens..

I think that's doable! But is it doable in time for my own wedding, that it the question....

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I always imagined Helsinki to be modern, cold, and narrow. Instead, it's warm, wide, and full of 18th and 19th century buildings. It's also surrounded by water...

Meatpies in Helsinki; Finnish Empanadas? :-)

Fresh fruit abounds...

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Patience of Four Buddhas...

...is what I need during this frantic, decisive week... more to come...


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Monday, July 12, 2010

Heart Of Steel

Today's musical selection, 'Heart of Steel,' is a rhythmic slice of soul from New Orleans-based funk and jazz jam band Galactic. Founded in 1994 as an octet, they've spent the past ten years alternating between quintet and sextet, with guitar, bass, organ, saxophone, drums, and occasionally, vocals..

But the powerful vocal gracing today's song is belted out by a guest, Grammy-winning Louisiana r&b legend Irma Thomas, whose first hit came in 1960, the year I was born, with the racy title '(You Can Have My Husband But) Don't Mess With My Man'...

Here they are, a-jammin'... Enjoy!

Here they are rehearsing with Cyril Neville...

And here they are live at the Pageant in St Louis, touring their impressive new album, Ya-Ka-May...

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Organic Living

I'm thrilled that Martha Stewart's Living just published an article on our friend Michelle Bencsko's eco-friendly textile company, Cloud9 Fabrics. Michelle (pictured right) designs these lovely organic fabrics and her friend Gina Pantastico (left) coordinates production and sales.

The first two collections are My Happy Garden, perfect for babies and toddlers, with fluffy clouds and cheerful birds... Beyond The Sea is a collection equally great for children and adults, with corals, sea-urchins, and other maritime motifs....

Could9 uses 100% organic cotton printed with low-impact dyes.

Michelle is the Mom of two very awesome kids, Karl and Bruno, who I always enjoy featuring in this space... Bruno is JP's godson, and both boys have fast become de-facto nephews... Here are some samples from the Cloud9 repertoire. Check out their site at cloud9fabrics.com...

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Two Cakes For Ella

Our friend Ella turned 7 last week, and we celebrated with two cakes! First and foremost, this gourmet tower of chocolate...

But let's not neglect this apple cake, which danced like sugar plums on my taste buds... Sheer joy...

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Well-Hidden Buzzer

If you weren't paying attention, you could walk by without ever realizing this is the front door of 540 W 21st St....

But, lo and behold, a closer look reveals a buzzer and a doorbell....

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

What Lies Beneath

Posters under posters under posters..
I love this photo of a subway poster, where someone has scratched a hole in the Dunkin' Donuts ad to find Edie Falco's face from the 'Nurse Jackie' ad behind it... Icing on the cake: a graffiti-scrawled social truism...

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Even with air-conditioning, it's hard to sleep, somehow, hard to get the temperature right... Outside, very much an oven... Crowning touch: A/C on the blink at work AND at my gym! Here's some High Line vegetation, photographed at night...


The High Line landscapers wanted a garden of plants that spontaneously grow around abandoned railroad tracks.. That's right.. These are planned, landscaped weeds!

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010


I'm always amazed how the same photo will look, with and without a flash... Here are some building materials near the High Line's long-awaited, still-being-constructed 'water feature'... More on that later...


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Monday, July 05, 2010

New Frapp

I can't believe that, in nearly 3 years and 146 songs, I haven't yet shone my spotlight on British electronica duo Goldfrapp, named for its songwriter/chanteuse Alison Goldfrapp.

Ms. Goldfrapp sports a look she describes as 'Marlene Dietrich gone new-wave dance diva.' But Alison is always melody and atmosphere first, and pounding beat second, making Goldfrapp among the most listenable dance artists of their time. The band's tasty blend of synth-pop and glam rock has produced a string of hits in Europe and several club anthems here in the States. Today's Song, 'Alive, ' is a euphoric hymn that washes over you like a wave of disco peppermint ice cream...

At one point Madonna was copying Alison's wardrobe and hairstyle, at which point the British press began describing her as 'Oldfrapp'!!! Actually, Alison Goldfrapp is 44, only 7 1/2 years younger than 'Oldfrapp'.... Take a video tour, starting with today's spotlight song, 'Alive':

It's actually a mellow song of Goldfrapp, 'Black Cherry, ' that first grabbed my attention back in 2003... True, it's an atmospheric, wall-of-sound ballad, like 'Take My Breath Away...'

Her biggest hit to date was 2005's stomper, 'Oh La La,'
which actually borrowed a guitar line from the 1971 classic 'Spirit In The Sky'...

Another lean, spare but whippingly-good dance pop nugget is 'Strict Machine,' from 2003...

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Our New Friends

We were walking down the street one day...
In the merry, merry month of July...
when we fell in love with two porcelain figurines...
as we decorate our bedroom in Ye Olde Maritime..
Thank you, Nelson Antiques, 186 Ninth Ave & W 22nd, 212 939 6910, open 4pm-9pm

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Hela of a Fela...

Last night JP & I saw 'Fela', an unforgettable musical and theatrical experience! We sat front and center, and were transported to another time and place, in a sensory, sonic blast of passion and energy...It thoroughly deserved its 3 Tony Awards for best choreography, costume design, and sound design..

The dangerous side of the slum-a-troplis that is Lagos, Nigeria, in 1978... It's a voyage you should take, before the last ship soon sails...

You are in 'The Shrine,' the underground cabaret of African musical-political legend Fela Kuti (1938-1997), inventor of Afrobeat and scourge of military dictators.. Inventing Afrobeat in Africa is as momentous as James Brown inventing funk in the States...

The set design goes way beyond the stage, and decorations cover the ceiling, the walls, the aisles, even the inside of the theater's front doors...
These two one-minute promos only begin to suggest the riches that, briefly, away you... Following these excerpts, check out some footage of the real Fela Kuti...

Here's a great two-minute song by Fela,
a real find since his average song is a jazzy, improvisational 9-10 minutes...

Here's a longer clip of Fela Kuti live at the Shrine, music interspersed with interview...

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Friday, July 02, 2010

High Line Jig-Saw

Here's some jig-saw-esque public art currently viewable on the High Line. It's Richard Galpin's 'Viewing Station'... Galpin is 'best known for creating altered photographs of cityscapes....'

And here's the Viewing Station... For the High Line, Galpin has created a 'viewing station' that functions in a manner similar to his cut photographs. Park visitors can look through a viewing apparatus lined up with a metal screen from which geometric shapes have been cut.

A Japanese head of hair's owner checks out the puzzle pieces that aren't there... Galpin says 'The combination of these two devices gives visitors an altered, abstracted view from the High Line. One of the wonderful experiences the High Line has provided to visitors is a new vista of Manhattan. Similarly, Galpin's artwork offers a novel reconsideration of our surroundings.'

Speaking of Jigsaw, check out the 1975 smash 'Sky High...'

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Office Space

Seen earlier this week: straphanger with a desk! The second half of 2010 begins...


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