Monday, February 28, 2011

Quit Your Day Jobs!

Today's Song of the Week, 'Waterfalls,' is a grimy yet sunny 60s-tinged indie-pop number led by a delightfully twangy guitar riff. It's a single by San Francisco-based quintet The Fresh & Onlys, who haven't all quit their day jobs despite the increasing buzz and critical praise they've earned with two very enjoyable albums...

As of late 2009, band leader & bassist Shayde Sartin was working at SF's legendary Ameoba Records..

The band has no site except myspace, and no Wikipedia page.. But they do have some lovely video clips on YouTube, which we'll walk through below...

First of all, the smart, plucky 'Waterfall' clip..

Some earlier work: a collage of 60s B-movie outtakes for last year's 'Dreaming Is Easy'

Also from last year, a wash of psychedelia/op-art to compliment the band's lovely 'Vanishing Cream...'

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Space and Time

I traveled a few hundred miles this weekend - and 18, then 34 years back into my past. I had two long-overdue reunions with close friends I'd somehow lost touch with, first my college friends Mindy and Steve Brown and their family. I hadn't seen them in 18 years, when they visited NY shortly after the birth of their oldest son, who's just started college. They live in West Simsbury, in the far north of Connecticut, not far from my pre-school haunting grounds up in Springfield and Hartford.. Their home is a cheerful and spacious chalet in a wooden area that, covered with snow, is magical, if a bit slippery.

I drove up Saturday, stayed overnight at the Browns', and drove down I-91 Sunday morning to Milford, on the shore a few miles east of New Haven, to see an even longer-lost friend, Steven Marcus, an artist and free spirit from Connecticut who I befriended at youth conference when I was 16 and got to know quite well as we traded visits until I went away to college and lost touch. Incredible how you can reconnect after a 35 year gap...

It's nice to see people that make you look backward, forward, and around you, while still smiling...

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Happy Birthday, Deena!

Misty water-colored memories.... Wow, you and Dave look barely older than Dan in this photo... I can even see how Dan resembles you both..

Thanks to Andres for unearthing this lovely evening at New Canaan, CT's Silvermine Tavern back in summer 1990...

Two decades pass very quickly, and yet looking back they feel like two centuries!

It's a lot of distance traveled...

Happy, happy birthday, Deena.. Here you are in the midst of an early baking experiment... You got a lot better at this....

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Friday, February 25, 2011

20 Years Without Dad

Today marks 20 years since my Dad passed on. Felled by a heart attack at 54, in the dead of winter, it was a shock to all who loved him.

I remember the heavy snowstorm as we buried him, and how Andres looked like a Paraguayan ice elf as he stood shivering in his yarmulke.

I remember the incongruity of all the excitement on TV as the US took Kuwait City that day, winning the Gulf War.

It took years to absorb Dad's absence...

He never lived to see the internet, gay marriage, celexa, and many, many other milestones, surprises, and delights. He never lived to see his troubled baby boy (picture above) become a successful, mature happily-partnered, widely-traveled individual..

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Just Between Us Girls

Happy Friday, all....Occasionally a straight, macho finance person will use the expression 'just between us girls..' Ah, metrosexuailty!

Look how young I am here! I was 32, and looked barely out of college!

Years ago, in the early 1990s, I hung out with Andres and his friends, who excelled at drag. I myself would look pretty silly in a dress. Too much five o'clock shadow...

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Thursday, February 24, 2011


On Sunday David and I saw Gregg Araki's effervescent, eye-candy-colored 'Kaboom,' a genre-meshing cross between a fever dream and an exotic, gay, root beer float.
Equal parts campus sex farce, film noir, and apocalyptic sci-fi freakout, says the NYT and I agree. A self-indulgent delight, rather than a mess, but don't take my word for it. Watch the preview.

To express the depth of my appreciation for Gregg Araki I must harken back to when I was growing up in the 70s, gay people were largely invisible in popular culture, when increased my sense of isolation and strangeness as a teen.

It was a very big deal when I came home from my first year at Vassar, and my Mom took me to see the 1978 French film 'La Cage Aux Folles' in a Great Neck art house. For the first time, I saw positive gay characters front and center on screen.

The novelty of this did not wear off in the 80s and early 90s as I gratefully consumed 'Victor Victoria,' 'My Beautiful Launderette,' 'Parting Glances,' 'Longtime Companion' and others. But nothing prepared me for the edgy, sexy, giddy, subversive work of Gregg Araki.

I will never forget seeing, with my then-boyfriend Andres, his 1992 masterpiece 'The Living End,' a road movie about a nerdy film student and hunky drifter, both diagnosed HIV positive, whose paths collide in a reckless joyride after the hunk kills a homophobic police officer. Suddenly, it was no longer mainstream Hollywood throwing us a few crumbs; we were taking our filmic fate in our own hands...

Two high points of Araki's terrific oeuvre. First, the aforementioned 'Living End':

Then, his most mature and brilliant film to date, 2005's 'Mysterious Skin:'

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Western Colorado, pictured left, is a dramatic landscape cut by a river that drops at a rate 10 times steeper than the Grand Canyon. Clinton promoted BCoG from national monument to national park in 1999.

Here's a joke for your mid-week amusement:

Just before thanksgiving Jim and Eddie are out hunting for turkeys when Jim keel's over and collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. Eddie gets out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, 'My friend Jim is dead! What can I do?' The operator says, 'Calm down, I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead.' There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the Eddie says, 'OK, now what?'

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

70s to 80s

Canadian ballad crooner Gino Vanelli underwent quite an 80s makeover with the alluring, angular, underappreciated 'Black Cars,' a huge hit only in Canada:

Vanelli, son of a Canandian 50s bandleader, was discovered by Herb Alpert. Americans will remember him for the late 70s valentine "I Just Wanna Stop:"

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Monday, February 21, 2011

She and Him

Matt & Kim man and wife; they are also an American Brooklyn-based duo whose Song of the Week, 'Cameras', showcases their giddy, punky brand of indie rock. Matt's faux-Brit vocals conjure up late British new wavers blending pop with mock funk. Even if that description didn't whet your appetite, rest assured that Matt & Kim's off-putting, goofy charm will win you over.

The duo's rough-housing garage antics and a false beginning do make the 'Cameras' video memorable:

With three well-received albums to date, Matt & Kim have seen their songs included in TV and movie soundtracks, and 'Daylight' was used in a Bacardi commercial. The 'Daylight' video exudes charm:

These lovebirds are philanthropic (working to help the homeless) and outrageous (in the 'Lessons Learned' video below they strip nude in Times Square, and the police intervention you see is not staged!).

Groovy video for 'Block After Block':

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Next Stop: Lower Hell

Back in the mid-50s, before my Mom moved to Boston with roommates, she commuted from an oppressive and downtrodden suburb that a humorous conductor wryly described as 'Lower Hell..'

I refer to Lowell, Massachusetts, which typifies the once-bustling New England mills towns that were smashed by global economic winds and reduced to notches on our growing rust belt.

No film ever captured Lowell's bleakness until 'The FIghter' burst forth onto movie screens late last year. Don't let the boxing theme keep you away! This compelling, character-driven film's focus is squarely on fraying family relationships and personal struggles. Lowell - and boxing - are fine metaphors for lost souls and elusive dreams... Christian Bale and Melissa Leo were both unrecognizable and indelible, and will surely each take home a statuette at next Sunday's Oscars. Amy Adams and Mark Wahlberg are almost as good, and a bevy of character actors shore up the excellent cast.

Here's the trailer:

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

In Case You Were Wondering

You can look up anything on line. Literally anything. You need not wonder what happens to a passenger who passes on in flight... You just google 'What happens when someone dies on an airplane?' and you will know....

Here's the scoop, from a veteran flight attendant working exclusively on long-haul international trips...

"(We) are not doctors and can't declare anyone dead. ...we have to carry on as if they'd just passed out." If the dead passenger is easily movable and there is an empty row, removal is an option. Lavatories are out of the question, unless a passenger dies in one.

"The only time in happened on board, it was handled very discretely. It was a tragic cancer death, someone who wanted to visit her favorite city one last time and almost made it.

(Since she was) seated in business class, no passengers passed by and virtually all were unaware. Those near her only knew there had been a medical emergency on landing. "

"Emergency landings are usually reserved (for when) someone's life is in danger and time is crucial. If it happens soon after take-off, the flight might return to the departure airport. If not, and the patient can be stablized, it's more likely to be in everyone's interest to continue. Not meaning to be cruel but death is a stable condition. Not meaning to be cruel but death is a stable condition."

Now you know.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Pre-Honeymoon Jungle Adventure

As a kid, my Mom would reminisce about the movie serials she watched on Saturday afternoons as a child - for a very small price - 25 cents - you'd see a newsreel, cartoons, a serial, and two full-length features (the 'B' movie followed by the 'A' movie.. I was always curious and wistful that I'd never see them; I was fond of the cliffhangers on my beloved Batman TV show. My curiosity was again aroused in 1981, when both parents saw then-new Indiana Jones and said it was like the movie serials, though blessedly free of interruption. Well, thanks to JP and the miracle of DVDs, over the past year or so I've been able to watch a few of the better serials, and they do not disappoint...

Treat yourself to Chapter 1 of Jungle Girl, courtesy of YouTube. Then just try not to order
the whole thing from Amazon.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mud Pots

I'm so busy this week I might as well be in Namafjall Hverir (Námafjall Hverir), Iceland. How I wish I were... Walking around Namafjall is like being on mars. It's a dramatic change in the landscape, creating a small area with a stark red landscape covered with fumaroles and mud pots. Being a high temperature geothermal area, temperatures 1000 meters down can get well over 500F.

Of course, you don't have to travel that far to see a mud pot... Yellowstone has a few doozies...

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Joke Extra

Never underestimate me. Here I am retro-posting a day I missed with a good joke..

A linguistics professor was lecturing his class one day.

'In English', he said, 'A double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative.'

A loud voice from the back of the room piped up, 'Yeah, right.'

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'm Late! I'm Late!

Overworked and longing for spring, I offer you 'Bang Bang Bang', a frothy, melodic confection by UK DJ, guitarist and music producer Mark Ronson.

This cat, who attended Vassar, my alma mater, is a popmeister bubbling over with long strings of ear candy. These are usually sung by guest vocaliss, including Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, and Boy George..

His pop nuggets are the perfect counterpoint to my lo-fi/indie offerings of late...

The 36-year old maestro's current configuration is 'Mark Ronson and the Business International'...

Official video for 'Bang Bang Bang...'

Here's his 2007 hit 'Valerie' with Amy Winehouse; the two are performing it live at the 2008 Brit Awards..

Ronson's other 2007 hit, a remake of Kaiser Chiefs' 'Oh My God' with Lily Allen, live at Glastonbury Music Festival..

'The Bike Song' live... This is the follow-up single to 'Bang Bang Bang'

'Stop Me' with Daniel Merriwhether.. This was his breakthrough hit in the UK..

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Monday, February 14, 2011


This used to be a planet. from 1930 to 2006. Then it was 'demoted,' it's now in a new category, 'dwarf planet,' since it didn't meet the new 2006 planet requirements (orbit around Sun, cleared its neighborhood, and has sufficient mass to assume a nearly round shape) - in fact, many recent objects of Pluto's size were discovered, and if we hadn't declassified it, we'd have far too many obscure planets.. Or something like that.. Pluto has two known smaller moons, Nix and Hydra, discovered in 2005. So there..

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fast Cheap Out Of Control

Grand Sichuan International at 9th & W 24th is the most compelling but maddening eatery in my neck of the woods; it's where JP took my Mom the night they first met (I was away in Zagreb)..The join is food heaven - interesting, well-prepared grub, wide selection, low prices - and logistics hell - a 45 minute wait at the times you'd most want to eat there.. Hard to take, even for big, juicy Crab Meat & Pork Soup Dumplings, pictured below ..

But late yesterday afternoon JP and I hit the fabled 'sweet spot' - that's financial-ese for the right thing at the right moment. It was 5:30 and we were famished, having trudged up and down two steep flights of stairs about 30 times each that morning, to clean out JP's place...The Beef W. Spicy Green Pepper is not oily and the sauce is not as corn-starchy thick like lots of other Chinese restaurants, which maintain the flavors of the ingredients very well.

We ate slowly - our arms ached from carrying heavy boxes - and savored every morsel, in my case washed down with Merlot...The Sour String Beans W. Minced Pork is from their menu's "Chairman Mao’s Home Cooking" section and it is quite a surprise.
The sour pickled string beans are chopped in small 3/8 inch pieces stirred fry with minced pork and pepper; the sour and spicy results is sumptuous with brown rice.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Crack of Dawn

I'm up at the crack of dawn to help clean out JP's old apartment...

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Very Steep Snow Corridor

I'm still in Boston, coming home day, bone-tired. I'm still purloining from 'Dark Roasted Coffee' to amuse you..

Here is the famous Snow Road on near the center of Honshu, Japan's largest island. Nestled in the mountains of Toyama Prefecture, the "Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route" is a snow corridor with walls as high as 56 meet!

Another view: "yuki-no-ootani" or "gorge of snow"

And here's a map:

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Meanwhile, In Antarctica...

I'm about to begin a vigorous two days, mostly in Boston with customers, back tonight.

For your viewing pleasure, steaming ice "fumaroles" (volcanic gas vents) in Antarctica in time slowly into surreal ice towers....

That's from a great website of wondrous photos called 'Dark Roasted Blend'... The site does have an awful lot of advertisers.. (as opposed to a lot of awful advertisers..)

Cyndi Lauper's most exciting song in years is 'Eleven Days,' her collaboration on "Here Lies Love," the Imelda Marcos biography song cycle by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim. The clip is entirely Imelda footage:

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Bank Wet

What a long day - 12 hours to finish my presentation for Boston customer visits tomorrow afternoon and all day Friday.. It does look very polished, I'm pleased.. So little time, so much to learn about PowerPoint® and Excel®.

David's back from California, where he celebrated his birthday, belatedly, with a Chinese New Year Bank Wet. These photos from China are in his honor...

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Decades of Spicy Crunch

Sometime in the early 70s, my Dad brought home a bag of spicy, tangy, crackly 'Taco Chips,' to my immediate fascination.

I had first learned of Tacos in 1968 from Jack-in-the-Box's greasy and soggy but spicy rendition, which used meat processed beyond recognition. How little we knew of nutrition and quality cuisine back then...

Hence, it was years before I stopped saying 'Taco Chips' and began using their brand name, Doritos. For me, the 'taco' concept added some spice and kick to the bland American palette of the day..

Innocent youth corrupted by high-octane 'junk food,' a term coined in 1972 by Michael Jacobson of Center for Science in the Public Interest..

Shortly afterward, in 1972, 'Nacho Cheese' flavor was launched and I was, oddly, an immediate fan, notwithstanding my utter aversion to actual cheese. 'Nacho Cheese' flavored Doritos rapidly eclipsed Original Taco and consigned the older version to that great flavor cemetary in the sky (along with my beloved Rice-a-Roni Stroganoff flavor). For years I thought, incorrectly, that Doritos coined the term 'nacho' cheese... Actually, 'nacho' is a Spanish nickname for Ignacio, after Ignacio Anaya, who first created the snak, tortillas covered with melted cheese and jalapeño peppers, at the Victory Club restaurant in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas.

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Double Take

What do international superstar Shakira (far left) and obscure but acclaimed indie band The XX (left) have in common? I don't usually feature superstars on Song of the Week, but Shakira's had the excellent taste to cover The XX's soulful, rocking, but unusually structured 'Islands,' to my great delight. Shakira has brightened up the spare original and made it more accessible while respecting its essence. All I can say is 'hats off'!

And Shakira, aka Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, is a Colombian singer-songwriter-producer of Lebanese, Catalan, and Italian descent who appeals to my internationalist and feminist instincts as well as my musical taste buds....(Shakira just turned 34 on Wednesday, making her exactly two days younger than my friend Sunil and exactly one day older than my friend David). The XX (pronounced 'the ex ex") are a London trio who met at Elliot School and whose debut album won the coveted 2010 Mercury Prize and spawned four stunning singles, of which 'Islands' is the strongest.

For your viewing and listening pleasure, we have for you both Shakira's cover of 'Islands' and the original by The XX. First up, Shakira rocking it live at the Glastonbury Festival last June

And, The XX's lovely clip of the original...

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

My Hair Glasses

I have this bad habit of wearing my glasses in my hair when my eyes are tired, or when it's raining..
Then I forget it.. It's very 'absent-minded professor'. Well, three years ago on a boat to Honduras' Bay Islands, my friend Erik captured my bespectacled mane, unbeknowst to me. Today, I saw this photo on Facebook!

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Saturday, February 05, 2011

Royally Rewarded

'The King's Speech' was every iota as rewarding on second viewing at the palatial Ziegfeld on W 54th this afternoon.
I was happy to watch it in the company of JP, Fernando and Sunil. It's the compelling, superbly-acted characters and the crisp dialogue that make this film so special; this film's pleasures are not diminished by knowing what happens next. Trailer at the end of this post, just in case you haven't seen it...

We then dined at
Menchanko-tei, a lovely Japanese noodle house. Their noodles are made fresh daily in a dedicated factory using a wheat base with Mongolian sea salt, and then resting at low temperatures. All three thicknesses are always perfectly aldente; every noodle goes down smooth.

Let 'King' leave you speechless:

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Friday, February 04, 2011

More Just Desserts

Winter Storm #4 seems to have spared New York, though we're looking at heavy rain tomorrow. In other news: Since I'm not a choco-holic, this Coconut and Passion Fruit Cake was, for me, the standout of my birthday party...

I like my chocolate dark and bittersweet. This 'Brooklyn Blackout Cake,' Dean and Deluca's best-seller, was neither, but it sure pleased the crowd. The sunflower was a nice touch..

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Aaron Had...

...a very happy birthday! in great company...

...with friends...

..and with my sweetheart...

...a good time was had by all....

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Ho Ho Ho

It's The Year Of The Snowstorm. Up on W 95th St, an improvised snowperson... I don't see how a groundhog could see a shadow today, and yet I nonetheless sense the continuance of a long, precipitating winter...

I was out in the snow and the slush yesterday, trudging to doctor's appointments, a bond roadshow lunch, and a customer visit. The wind is howling. Were it not for the inclement atmospherics, I would be up in Boston on business overnight tonight. Luckily, I'm home sweet home sweet home...


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