Friday, September 30, 2011

My Childhood Read

My parents would read to me, and I would learn to read, 'The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew,' by Margaret Sidney about a struggling widow and her five children... I never knew it was a whole book series written from 1881-1916, dozens of them...

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Does Anbody?

...really know what time it is? Does anybody really care? Look at my love beads! Ah, Chicago, 1971... Here they are live in Germany, in 1982...

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Running Along The Shore

At age 7, it's Mitt Romney again.. He might be President one day... He's one of the less frightening Republicans..

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Where There Aren't Any Troubles...

Or at least very few... My Dad got me this wonderful Dr Seuss book when I was just a tot; the surreal creatures and colors harbor a very time-honed homily: you can't run away from your problems. My favorite line concerned a notice at a bus stop, in which the tired hero learns service is suspended, and he'll have to walk a long, long way.. It's signed by the bus company president, Horace P. Sweet. The couplet: 'That Horace P. Sweet / almost ruined my feet.' It brought 8-year-old Aaron cascades of hilarity...

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Monday, September 26, 2011

66 and Smokin'

Pioneering punk/new wave-cum-top 40 band Blondie is back after a 7-year hiatus with a very solid album, 'Panic of Girls.' Deborah Harry's voice - and presence - are as captivating as ever, not a bad trick for my 66-year-old neighbor (London Terrace, 23rd and 9th, one block west).

Oddly, I passed over the album's two solid singles to feature, as Song of The Week, the album's most charming song, a remake of (and huge improvement over) 'Sunday Smile,' originally by art-rockers Beirut.

'Sunday Smile' is a distant, more mature, cousin of 'The Tide Is High,' sharing its south-of-the border horns and Caribbean lilt - minus the xylophone and the camp. As with 'Tide is High,' they have lifted a unpolished gem from obscurity and rendered it shiny and effervescent.

Blondie is a sextet built around the songwriting and musicianship of Deborah Harry and her then-boyfriend Chris Stein. Though they never grew rich, Blondie's role as pop visionaries in music history cannot be understated. They were the first to mix new wave and disco with 'Heart of Glass', 'Rapture' was the first rap song many Americans had heard, and 'Tide is High' was fairly novel in mixing pop with reggae. They disbanded in 1982 when Stein fell gravely ill and Harry semi-retired to care for him. Harry never got far as a solo act, despite being role model for Madonna and a bevy of other tough-girl female singers. But she did re-group Blondie in 1997 with the apt argument: 'We have this incredible legacy, we'd be fools not to cash in on it..' But, not content to tour a nostalgic revue, the band cut a very credible comeback album in 1999 and followed it up with another in 2004. Like Blondie's current album, they work mostly in the genres they know, make an album that, while not cutting edge, is great on its own terms...

The lead-off single is 'Mother,' a song and video that rocks:

And here they are live, with their second single 'What I Heard...'

And here's Blondie way, way back when singing the tuneful and under-heard 'Sunday Girl'...

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Green Numbers

Aaron's clock, 2008. The 2011 weekday version is '6:15'...


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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Where Credit Is Due!

Wednesday's autumn picture was, of course, rendered by my sister Deena, who was visiting. Sorry for the omission! Deena also snapped this slice of autumnal urbanity:


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Friday, September 23, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

The oily, caloric glory of PF Chang. Arizona, March 2008...



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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Me, A Thumb, and Jersualem

In December 2006 I visited my late Aunt Eleanor in Israel, accompanied by my late Cousin Richard (they are departed now, but were certainly alive then). We took a day trip to Jersualem, whose ancient panorama can be seen below... As you can also see, I was five years younger and thinner. Richard was an excellent photographer, but that appears to be his thumb on the lens..

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Now, Autumn

Last weekend I wore a coat...and was a bit hot... Still, it was 60F in mid-afternoon, and today is the first day of autumn. This is no guarantee of foliage anytime soon. Exhibit A: this photo of Central Park from late October, 2008...

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Church towers over the dusty, parched, steep streets of Taxzco, a perfectly preserved 19th-century mining town about 3 hours southwest of Mexico City. I was there in 1996and revisited in 2006 with Thomas. My family vacationed there in the late 1970s and I think Deena and Dave took a day trip there on their 1988 honeymoon...

Taxco rooftops...

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Borrowed Nostalgia

Today's musical offering is 'Live These Days Tonight,' a frenetic, nostalgic, left-field slice of dance-pop by UK trio Friendly Fires (pictured left), who formed five years ago as school chums in St Albans near Hertfordshire.

It's the lead single off 'Pala,' the very solid, atmospheric sophomore album, named for a Utopian island from Aldous Huxley's novel 'Island'...

I'm told by our friend John W that the group's live show is total dynamite...

Here's the clip for "Live These Days Tonight'...

I could have just as easily gone with 'Hawaiian Air,' the new album's energetic but breezy second single..

The group's first album had a fast beat, lost of energy, and atmosphere melody, though the songcraft on 'Pala' is a big leap forward. Check out the group's debut song, 'Jump In The Pool'...

Also from 2009, 'Skeleton Boy..'

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Denis !!! / Bon Annif !!!!

Three days late, but from the heart: Here's wishing the happiest of birthdays to my dear friend across the water...Denis is aging like fine wine! Here he is five years ago on our trip to historic Sintra, Portugal..

This is the Peña National Palace in Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that sits up on a hill; on a clear day it can be seen from Lisbon, 30 miles away.

Views from the castle are almost as lovely as views of the castle...

Here's that aerial view I could have never snapped myself...

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sudden Upgrade

One pleasant honeymoon surprise was our first night outside Kruger National Park in South Africa; the usual guest houses were booked up, so we were upgraded to a particularly lovely, brilliantly decorated B&B run by a German lady...


They gave us the honeymoon suite!

Our suite opened up on to the house pool, but the weather was too chilly for a swim..

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Friday, September 16, 2011


Herds of elephants roam the shores of the Chobe River in the afternoon sun....


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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Elephant Chill

Mud really helps them cool off...


They weigh 4-6 tons, so there's a lot to cool...

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What's It All About?

Our favorite safari companion was 7-year-old Alfie from the UK...


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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lion Sighting

As carnivores, they don't hang much with other species. Late one afternoon, we spotted this lion headed to the river shore for a drink of water...


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Monday, September 12, 2011

Take Five!

Happy Birthday to Song of the Week, which I started four years ago this weekend, on a lark. Today, it's practically an institution : - ) SOTW roars into its Fifth Season with The 'Call Me,' a creamy dance-pop number that gallops like a race horse and is as sweet as Pecan Pie..

It's by The Pipettes from Brighton, England, an indie take on girl-group pop that wear polka dot dresses and performed in synchronized choreogrpahy. This self-described 'experiment in manufactured pop' landed in 2008 with their endearing debut, 'We Are the Pipettes,' and avoiding sophomore slump with the even lovelier 'Earth vs The Pipettes' last fall..

It's basically an album full of singles, but 'Call Me' is the surest dance-floor filler, total joy..

The Pipettes are quite consistent in quality and each single - and video - is a bit different. Here's 'Stop The Music..'

Yet another one: 'Pull Shapes..'

From their earlier, more retro debut album, here's 'Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me..'

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Variety Is The Spice

The advantages of a South African Safari include more varied scenery than the endless bush and savannah that characterizes much of Southern and Eastern Africa... Mountain cut through the landscape, providing vistas reminiscent of the great national parks of the American West.. One such view is captured below.


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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Most Skyscrapers Are..

Freaking spanking NEW! Of the world's 200 tallest buildings, 58 were built during this decade! Yes, I mean since January 1, 2010! Over 100 of the 200 tallest were built after 2005, 130 were built in this millenium, and a shocking 171 of the 200 tallest were built since the 1990s. Here's Nanjing's Zifeng Tower, finished in April, 2010, 89 floors, the world's 8th largest building and China's third tallest!

Meanwhile, over in Dubai, 23 Marina, finished last month, has 90 floors, 1,296 feet, and is the world's 16th tallest building and the absolute tallest residential building. It has 57 swimming pools!

Also opening this year, the Kingkey 100 Finance Center in Shenzen, 100 floors, 1,449 feet high, world's 10th tallest building and China's fourth tallest. On floors 75 to 98 is the St Regis hotel, the third highest hotel after Saudi Arabia's now-finishing Abraj Al-Bait Towers (see yesterday's post) and the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong (see final photo, below).

Finally, late 2010 saw the opening of Hong Kong's International Commerce Center, 118 floors and 1,588 feet tall. It's the world's 4th tallest building and China's second tallest. It has the world's second highest number of floors. Floors 102 to 118 are occupied by the five-star Ritz Carlton Hotel, which features the world's highest swimming pool and bar on floor 118!

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Friday, September 09, 2011

Huge and Coming Soon

The Arabian Peninsula, by next year, will have the world's two tallest buildings, as Saudi Arabia's Abraj Al Bait Towers (under construction, left) will be almost as big as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (see yesterday's post).

I will likely never see the Abraj Al Bait in person, as it will be located in Mecca! This marvel will be the world's tallest and largest hotel, with the largest building floor area and the highest clock tower. All within a stone's throw, literally, of the most sacred mosque in Islam, the Masjid al Haram

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Unfathomably Big!

With 163 stories and standing 2, 717 feet high (that's half a mile!), Burj Khalifa is by far the world's tallest building and tallest structure. It's located in the United Arab Emirates, in Dubai.

By next year, the Arabian Peninsula will have the world's TWO tallest buildings - more on that tomorrow.

But the UAE now has a shocking 25 of the world's 100 tallest buildings, behind only China, which has 32. Trailing at third is the US has a mere 22.

China is the world skyscraper leader, all around, with 4 of the 10 tallest buildings, 20 of the tallest 50, and 61 of the tallest 200. (the US has 2, 8, and 44, respectively).

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Brusha Brusha

This vintage 60s cartoon commercial tickled my funny bone...

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Our Tabin

Is it a tent? a cabin? It's both, with the solidity and comfort of a cabin and the breeziness of a tent... quite comfortable... From our African honeymoon, here's JP in front of our digs at Elephant Valley Lodge in Chobe Park, Botswana...


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Monday, September 05, 2011

The Odd Couple

Hey all - we close out the summer with 'Love In Motion, ' a spare but catchy Prince-inflected acid funk chugger by the improbable pairing of French electro-house DJ SebastiAn (below, left) and Ann Arbor, Michigan-based blue-eyed soul man Mayer Hawthorne, aka Andrew Mayer Cohen (below, right).

SebastiAn, a Serbian-French music prodigy raised in Paris and Belgrade, just dropped his debut album, 'Total', and was previously best known for remixes of top dance bands such as Daft Punk, The Rapture, and Cut Copy, all SOTW alumnae.

Though not the album's single, 'Love in Motion' grabbed my ear with its swap-funk grind and very Prince-esque vocal stylings, rendered almost sample-esque via sequencer.

That voice belongs to Mayer Hawthorne, who sings, writes, arranges, produces, engineers, and sometimes raps his way through some hard-to-pin down music with many influences and a generous dollop of Hawthorne's blue-eyed croon.

When I spotlight a non-single like 'Love in Motion', I take whatever video I can get, in this case from a (headless) fan who adds some guitar:

Hawthorne's best-known song is 2009's 'Just Ain't Gonna Work Out'...

SebastiAn's actual single, 'Embody,' is pleasant enough, but less remarkable in my view:

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Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Smartest Monkeys

That's a song by 80s new wave melodicists XTC, with the title witty referring to human beings. We saw plenty of man's closest relatives throughout our African foray. Here's a vervet monkey on the path to our lodge at the Zambesi Waterfront hotel in Victoria Falls, Zambia...


And there's that sharp XTC song - with no video, just the song.. ' well man created the cardboard box to sleep in it/and man converted the newspaper to a blanket/well you have to admit that he's come a long since swinging about in the trees/we're the smartest monkeys...' it's actually from the early 1990s... under their highbrow Anglo wit and 80s production values, you can feel a glimmer - just a glimmer - of Beach Boys influence..

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Saturday, September 03, 2011


After our Elephant Safari, the tour company allowed us to observe, pet, and feed the elephants, which was much fun...

JP got very friendly with our elephant!

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Friday, September 02, 2011

Up Top

In Botswana we went on an Elephant Safari, definitely a honeymoon high point. We rode domesticated elephants several miles through the brush, watched them rip whole branches off trees to eat the leaves while we sat up top. Elephant must literally eat all day due to their size, the sparse nutrition of the grass and leaves they eat, and their relatively inefficient digestion - they only absorb 60% of the nutrients...


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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Tunisia on The Jersey Shore

Still sick here, and working... Slept 11 hours to fight it off before Labor Day. Happily, though life is short, art is long. Our favorite 4-year-old, Bruno, recently discovered pastels and proceeded to ornament his Mom's legs, very much like a bridal party at a Tunisian wedding!
bru artiste

Then, he painted himself!
brunos body paint

Bruno and his brother Karl improvise an outdoor studio. Rahway's Vincent and Theo? :-)
bru karl make mess

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