Sunday, December 31, 2006

Cool Stuff I Got

Technically, not a Holiday Gift. I finally cashed in a Centruy 21 Department Stores gift card to get a much-needed new pair of boots. These babies rock. Can't wait for some snow or rain to strike so I can wear them. Boots by Evisu.

The Lives They Lived, 2006

If you can grab a print copy, or register online with The New York Times, their magazine has their "Lives They Lived" issue out today. This always-fascinating issue takes a look back at 2006 and at some of the lives that passed from our world this year. There are some big names, but a lot of small ones too. For example:

Evelyn Ortner | b. 1924
Mothering Brooklyn
Published: December 31, 2006

It requires a feat of memory to picture gentrified Brooklyn — that haven of stately homes, world-class cultural offerings and overpriced baby boutiques — as it was a mere 40 years ago: a lost borough, Manhattan’s poor, troubled relation. Consider, then, the near-hallucinatory vision it took at the time to imagine the Brooklyn of today. In the mid-’60s, when many of Brooklyn’s brownstones had been carved into decrepit rooming houses, when cabs in Manhattan wouldn’t cross the Manhattan Bridge, when the Brooklyn Academy of Music couldn’t give tickets away, an interior designer named Evelyn Ortner not only had that vision but also believed that by sheer force of will, unpaid and unbidden, she and her husband could conjure it into existence.
Skip to next paragraph
Kevin Cooley

Evelyn and Everett Ortner’s brownstone in nowfashionable Park Slope.

Ortner wasn’t a real estate agent or a developer. She simply wanted to live someplace beautiful and culturally alive, surrounded by people who felt the same way. After moving to the neighborhood of Park Slope when she was 39, drawn there by the splendor of the architecture, she saw potential everywhere: in the park, the museum, the library. “She was proud of Brooklyn when no one else was,” says Alan Fishman, chairman of the board of the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Brooklyn Navy Yards. “She saw the assets more clearly than anyone else, at a time when the liabilities were overwhelming the assets.”

While other middle-class residents fled urban blight in the 1960s, Ortner set about replenishing and transforming her community, one family at a time. She systematically wooed young couples she met outside the borough, inviting them back to her exquisitely maintained Victorian brownstone for dinner with her husband and an assortment of other guests — all Brooklynites, all charmingly introduced to the couple by Evelyn. It was a strategy of seduction, and her friends learned to play along. “What is the point of this story?” Ortner, normally soft-spoken, demanded of one friend who was midway through a narrative of a near mugging in the neighborhood. After cocktails with the Ortners, dozens of young couples cut short their house hunts in the suburbs and opted for life in the outer boroughs.

After the families were hooked, Evelyn and her husband, Everett, applied their charms to the problems of finance and infrastructure. Once, they entertained a group of bankers at one of their lively cocktail parties and thereby persuaded them to stop redlining the neighborhood and start handing out mortgages to young buyers. By inviting two executives at the Brooklyn Union Gas Company for drinks, Evelyn and her husband persuaded them to restore and renovate a model brownstone down the street: it would feature the modern gas fixtures the company wanted to sell, and Evelyn would design the rest. From that successful model home blossomed an ambitious brownstone housing fair, attracting 25,000 potential buyers to the community.

The daughter of a mother with high expectations, Ortner was childless herself but mothered Brooklyn fiercely, defending it like a wayward child who just needed a good push, showcasing its strengths, even fussing over it, picking up trash in Prospect Park on her daily walk. While Everett, nicknamed the General, dashed off news releases and did battle at neighborhood meetings, Evelyn, elegant and warm, triumphed in the small details. She never went anywhere without a small black notebook, the kind with a red ribbon, and in it she would jot down the names of people she met at parties or saw at cultural events, along with little notes about each of them. She had deep reservoirs of curiosity and a prodigious memory, so she could approach a guest who looked a bit lonely at a function at BAM or a fund-raiser for the Brooklyn Museum and, even if she had met him only briefly once before, recall the book he had been reading or the brownstone he had been contemplating buying; she asked after friends and family as if she were one of them herself. As a result, when Ortner called to ask for a favor on behalf of one of her many causes — be it the Brooklyn Arts and Culture Association or the Flatbush Avenue Improvement Committee or the Brooklyn Stained Glass Conservation Center — few could say no.

Ortner’s interest in people may have been genuine, but her agenda was always Brooklyn. And with that devotion came a tireless diligence, the energy to traipse the streets of Park Slope and rummage through papers at the Department of Buildings until she had catalogued the history and architecture of some 1,800 buildings in the neighborhood. That effort helped her to procure landmark status for Park Slope. It was a shrewd tactical move — the neighborhood was one of New York’s first to take advantage of the then-little-known landmark laws — and with it she secured what every mother wants for her child: protection in perpetuity.

For the whole issue, start here.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Favorite Photos From 2006

These are my favorite pictures of 2006, as taken by my dinky yet surprisingly effective Kodak Easyshare LS743 camera:

The view of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, taken December 25, 2006, from the 68th Street Pier in Brooklyn.

Jolee blows out the candle on her birthday cake.

The first of many soccer action shots:

Look at that hair fly!

Jolee takes aim in an after-game kick-around.

Sunrise in October, standing in the middle of 92nd Street.

First day of school, September 2006.

Jolee posing with her namesake, a Lynx (Hawaiian: Linkea) at the American Museum of Natural History.

Jolee at the Temple of Dendur, Metropolitan Museum of Art, August 2006.

The view from some great seats at Camden Yards, Baltimore, August 2006. Perfect day for baseball. That's Derek Jeter trotting home after hitting it out.

Melanie took this one. Yankees' bullpen ace, Mariano Rivera, just after releasing the ball.
Shayna took a skating spill. McKinley Park, Brooklyn, July 2006.

Jolee at the Bay Ridge Independence Day Parade.

Shayna strikes a pose, Spring 2006.

Shayna reacts to a birthday gift. A personalized signed magazine cover from Tiki Barber, who's playing his last regular season game today (December 30, 2006), before retiring at the end of the season.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Caught in a Mosh


Exhaustion prevents me from elaborating further, but the Fishbone show was great. The show at CBGB's felt a little more special, but they put on a heckuva show for us.

The band took the stage after resolving some Knitting Factory technical issues some time this morning, I'll say around 12:15 AM.

They ended at 2:58 AM. At least 2 and a half hours of energetic skafunkrockthrashsoul.

The first song was "The Suffering" and I learned easily enough that the circumference of the mosh pit is not outside of the mosh pit, it's part of the mosh pit.

For those of you not familiar with the term "mosh pit," click here.

I was quickly reminded of the old days: seeing Anthrax at the old L.A. Olympic Auditorium, with Corrosion of Conformity, D.R.I., Legacy, and Possessed. The mosh quickly spread to us. During the first song, I had my glasses knocked off (miraculously retrieved with very little damage) and got a boot to the head from a crowdsurfer.

Once the initial shock of the mosh wore off, Melanie and I, along with one of my co-workers Sheri, fended off the various moshers who hurtled in our direction.

I will be better prepared to report on the show at a later date. I will acknowledge that James Brown was given a major shout out by all of the bands. Angelo a.k.a. Dr. Madd Vibe of Fishbone spoke particularly affectionately and spoke of the Godfather of Soul in a Presidential Context.

Stay tuned for further elaboration....

Oh, I did not buy a Fishbone shirt, but did buy a Dr. Madd Vibe shirt. Photos below, front and back, read the text, way cool.

Dr. Madd Vibe (Angelo Moore) MySpace page here. Buy the shirt here.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Low battery

Shootyz groove just went out and they seriously shredded. Check them out on
MySpace. Fishbone next. Most likely tomorrow, judging by the time.

More from the Knitting Factory

The Eclectic Collective just left the stage.

Two guitars, a keyboardist, a bassist, a trumpet, a sax, and two singers,
one man one woman. Very eclectic. Oh yeah, and a great drummer too.

>From Boston, EC brought it, with a great vocal mix and a nice blend of
soul, funk, and rock.

They were hands down a Butterbrain-beater.

Next up, Shootyz Groove. All bands playing tonight have MySpace links on my
post from a week ago.......

To be continued.....

Live from the Knitting Factory

Live blogging from the Knitting Factory in lower Manhattan.....

Butterbrain just left the stage. There's a reason they were act 1.
Musically, they were entertaining. Great bass and a decent horn trio. The
lead singer, however, was a little too marbly-mouthed for our liking.
Melanie gives them a 2.7, but they rose to a 4 when they did a funk-thrash
cover of Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind".

I'd be more generous and rate them a 5 overall.

And I kept expecting the boxer Butterbean to show up. Next up, The Eclectic

2006: Best of the Year in Review Summary Capsule Recap, part 1

For the last month or so, I have been reading bloggers' "Best of" lists for the year that has passed. Most of them have been Top 10 Album lists, and I have wanted to follow suit, in a sense, but have held off.

Until now.

Therefore, let's send out the year with a comprehensive BillyBlog special Best of '06 list to end all lists. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments section. This may continue into a multi-section post. Hello all friends and family members who are now checking out BillyBlog because I plugged it in the Cohen Family Newsletter! I hope you can't stop returning. For those of you who haven't received your newsletters yet....they're on the way....really, they are....

Now, on with the show.

Best Album:

"Well, duh!" say my loyal readers. And I'll spare you all lengthy analysis. Just this: I listened to this more than any CD this year, I loved it more than any CD this year. To hear me kvell further, click here for my greater explanation. Most of the links in that post are probably expired, so I'll leave you a video of a performance of "Comatose," from the mini-concert they webcast after appearing on the "Late Show with David Letterman." If you listen closely, you can hear me cheering at the end. I was in the room, but that's another best later on...

Best Movie (that I saw):

I didn't see many this year. And the ones that I did were geared towards minors. So the field is limited to begin with, but I posted about my selection in September here. The film:

Best TV Show:

I am a total television junkie. I watch too much TV, thanks to a demonic and exalted device known as the DVR (TiVo to you brand purists). So, I will not name 24, Lost, The Office, or The Daily Show, which are all my favorite shows. Instead, I will give a shout-out to the most pleasantly-surprising new show that tops this "Best" category:

"The Class"

Here's a clip from one of my favorite episodes this year. The premise for the show is that there are eight friends who went to elementary school together. They end up all being interconnected in typical, yet freshly humorous, fashion.

The Class airs Mondays on CBS at 8:30 PM.

Best Book:

No, not that! The Totally Unrelated Book:

Read why I thought it was so great here.

Seriously, it's hovering on the outskirts of my top 20 list, throwing pebbles at the windows.

To be continued....

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Top 25 Albums #21

In my slowly-dragged out ongoing series of favorite 25 albums of all time (see the sidebar for #25-22), this next one may raise a few eyebrows.

It falls under the classification of Country music, although the artist in question blends the country genre with folk and rock. Her name is Lucinda Williams and the album, considered to be a masterpiece, is Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.

Rolling Stone's review of the 1988 album is here. The review garnered a high 4 stars out of 5, and when a deluxe version appeared earlier this year, this reviewer upgraded it to 5 stars. That puts it in the same neighborhood as, well, the greatest albums of all time.

I'm not sure how I discovered this record, but I think it was via a famous/infamous 2000 profile of the singer in The New Yorker by Bill Buford.

What I like about this record is that it is not stereotypically country. Nothing against fans of country and western music. It's just not my cup o' tea. Lyrically and musically, this just seems more complicated than what I normally hear in country songs.

And Lucinda Williams has a dark, syrupy voice that sounds like she is singing casually for no one but herself, and it works for me. The songs on Car Wheels... never get old for me and I hear something new in them every time I listen.

The blog Leaky Sparrow recently talked about the remastered disc and linked 3 tunes:

Lucinda Williams - Lake Charles .mp3
Lucinda Williams - Greenville .mp3
Lucinda Williams - Can't Let Go .mp3

One of my favorite tracks on the album is called "Drunken Angel". It's got some great harmonica and phenomenal lyrics:

Sun came up it was another day
And the sun went down you were blown away
Why'd you let go of your guitar
Why'd you ever let it go that far
Drunken Angel
Could've held on to that long smooth neck
Let your hand remember every fret
Fingers touching each shiny string
But you let go of everything
Drunken Angel
Drunken Angel
You're on the other side
Drunken Angel
You're on the other side
Followers would cling to you
Hang around just to meet you
Some threw roses at your feet
And watch you pass out on the street
Drunken Angel
Feed you and pay off all your debts
Kiss your brow taste your sweat
Write about your soul your guts
Criticize you and wish you luck
Drunken Angel
Some kind of savior singing the blues
A derelict in your duct tape shoes
Your orphan clothes and your long dark hair
Looking like you didn't care

Drunken Angel
Blood spilled out from the hole in your heart
Over the strings of your guitar
The worn down places in the wood
That once made you feel so good
Sun came up it was another day
And the sun went down you were blown away
Why'd you let go of your guitar
Why'd you ever let it go that far
Drunken Angel Drunken Angel
Listen to this great song here (Drunken Angel.mp3), courtesy of in house with jeremy petersen, who has further discussion of the album's reissue.

And lastly, visit Aquarium Drunkard, one of the best music blogs around, for their discussion, and three more tracks, including the title track and a couple of the added bonus tracks from the reissue.

MP3: Lucinda Williams :: Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
MP3: Lucinda Williams :: Changed The Locks (live)
MP3: Lucinda Williams :: Out of Touch (alt version)

Thanks to those blogs for hosting such great music. Please visit and support them by reading them too. For more info, go visit Lucinda on her website here. For an extra bonus, go here and listen to her father, Miller Williams, reading his inaugural poem, "Of History and Hope" at the second Clinton inauguration in 1997.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Just Added: Ploughshares Blog (pshares)

I just added to my sidebar the blog for the literary journal Ploughshares. Came across it by accident as the most recent post features a "quickie interview" with the poet Denise Duhamel.

Do check it out and perhaps I will share some of Denise's work in the future. I have corresponded with Denise perioically ever since meeting her at the Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival in 1998.

A line from one of my e-mails to her after 9/11 appeared in one of her poems from her book Two and Two (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005).

Ploughshares is a great poetry journal that boasts a different guest editor for each issue. Their website is here.

A New York Minute, Chapter 6 (Shore Promenade)

Christmas Day was unseasonably warm. I rode my bike on my basic 7-mile route, the bulk of which is the Shore Road/Belt Parkway bike path. I stopped for a bit to capture this latest "New York Minute". Another version of Christmas Geese. . .

Monday, December 25, 2006

A New York Minute, Chapter 5 (Dyker Heights, Brooklyn)

Here's a holiday bonus: 2 New York Minutes, special for the Holiday Season. Here's a couple of over-the-top holiday lights displays, done Brooklyn-style. Merry Seasons!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Volcanoes, Hurricanes, Earthquakes, and What?

Those who have known me a long time may be reminded of my old early-days-of-infancy-and-toddlerhood children updates when I recall the following anecdote.

The other night, Melanie asked Shayna, age 7, how her day at school was. Shayna began relating what her second grade class had learned about that day.

They were studying rocks and volcanoes. Shayna said they were studying, and here I quote:

and Salamis."


"Yes," said Shayna.

You sure it wasn't Tsunamis?

"Oh," said Shayna, "yeah. Tsunamis."

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bad Parenting Decisions: Japanese Game Shows

Apparently this clip has been shown on Keith Olberman's show, so you may have already seen it. If this is how they build character for young girls in Japan, I'll go out on a limb and say we're ahead in the game on this one. I'd show this to my kids to illustrate what a great parent I am, but I'm afraid my seven-year old would have nightmares just from the clip. I can only imagine what night terrors and emotional scarring these youngsters have to cope with after this essential moment in Far Eastern entertainment.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dear Amanda: Found in Brooklyn or I Believe the Children Are Our Future

OK, I believe this is one of the best "found" items I've come across, discovered this morning in the street in front of the kids' school. My only regret is that the single sheet, double-sided, ends when it does, a veritable cliffhanger. I strongly recommend you click the image to enlarge for maximum-viewing effect. What a nice little Chanukah present for BillyBlog!

Oh, no! The clone of what? It has been suggested I imagine the remainder of the letter and compose it for BillyBlog, but it's so perfect the way it is, and frightening at the same time. Amanda is only a year older than my oldest who thankfully doesn't seem to be in the mindset, presumably because she doesn't have such a role model as an older sister, and she doesn't have a mother with "funky boyfriends," just a dorky dad with a blog.

Watch Out Where the Huskies Go!

To celebrate the convergence of the Winter Solstice and what would be Frank Vincent Zappa's 66th birthday, I've added a YouTube audio clip of Zappa's "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow," which Ann Landers listed as one of the ten "most obscene rock songs".

The song appeared originally on Zappa's record Apostrophe (').

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Editorial Notes

I added a clip to a post earlier this month about a certain band's performance at Aloha Stadium on December 9. The song in question is featured in the post. Worth a peak. Also, you may recall my post regarding Sandy's Beach on Oahu. Yesterday's Honolulu Star-Bulletin ran a story on the high surf on the South shore with this photo on their website. Sweet!

Fishbone at the Knitting Factory!

Often I get chortles from folks when they learn I have a mySpace page. But if it's okay for Kurt Vonnegut, it's okay for me.

Besides, most of my "friends" are bands I follow and by subscribing to their myspace blogs, I am alerted whenever they make an announcement. Had I not been a friend of Fishbone and a subscriber to their blog, I wouldn't have been alerted to their last-minute concert announcement, playing the Knitting Factory in NYC on December 28.

Sure, we saw Fishbone just three months ago at CBGB's, but the nice thing about underappreciated bands is that it is affordable to see them more than once in a short period of time.

Fishbone released their latest studio album in Europe only. No U.S. distributor, apparently. The disc, called Still Stuck in Your Throat, is available through Amazon.UK and is pretty decent. Expect a more thorough report next week after the show.

You can hear streaming tracks on the bands' MYSPACE pages. I'm unfamiliar with the "special guests," but it should be a ska-tabulous night!

Fishbone on MYSPACE MUSIC here

Shootyz Groove on MYSPACE MUSIC here.

Eclectic Collective on MYSPACE MUSIC here.

Butterbrain on MYSPACE MUSIC here.

A live Fishbone performance, "The Suffering":

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Best Movie Trailer Mash-Ups of '06

A new trend in '06 (or at least new to my level of cultural consciousness) was the fake movie trailer, or a movie trailer mash-up. To clarify, the appropriation of a movie trailer and the application of music and voice-overs to totally alter the feel of the film. Case in point, here's Ten Things I Hate About Commandments:

That's #3 on GIANT magazine's "Ten Best Fake Movie Trailers of the Year".

See all ten here.

Particularly enjoyable are Mel Gibson's Signs of Anti-Semitism (#8), Seinfeld (#4 - warning: includes uncensored Michael Richards at his lowest hour), and Shining (#2), recut as a romantic comedy.

Head on over to see what made their top spot!

Monday, December 18, 2006


A little over a week ago, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston opened its new location. The New York Times questions whether it is a good thing if a museum's architecture "outshines its art".

Nonetheless, this is amazing:

Read more about it here.

Brooklyn Bridge, 1914, plus more

I've been blogblocked lately, sparse posts, or at least it seems that way.

I'm throwing this picture out there because someone sent it to me earlier this year, I think it was a print being sold via the New York Times website.

This is apropos, I guess, since the warm December weather allowed me to finally come in and retrieve my bike from the office and catch the sunrise over Brooklyn as I rode back home over the bridge on Saturday morning.

Chanukah started on Friday night so there has been a glut of torn wrapp
ing paper in our home. The shirt below (the purple one on the left) was one of the cool gifts I opened up. Sorry I don't have a better photo but it's pretty rocking, literally. From the Jimi Hendrix clothing line.

And today is Keith Richards' 63rd birthday!

Let's celebrate that, as well as the holiday season with a listen of "Run Rudolph Run," as Keith covers Chuck Berry:

Keith Richards - "Run Rudoph Run" (mp3) (Courtesy of music blog Page 300).

And here's a treat, maybe for some. One of my favorite Keith-touched Rolling Stones' songs is "The Worst" from their album Voodoo Lounge. Here's a video of Keith performing the song, not with Mick and the boys, but with Willie Nelson and Cheryl Crow. Worth a watch, just to do a compare and contrast with the photo above.

And what else can I throw out there? Last night we had family visiting and we went to our favorite restaurant to take visitors to in Bay Ridge:

You can check out the menu here.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A New York Minute, Chapter 4 (Herald Square)

Actually, a minute and seven seconds. Filmed Friday.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Found on 31st Street, Any Guesses?

I found this yesterday, scribbed on a piece of thin cardboard, like the kind that accompanies a notepad. I am baffled. Maybe you can help.

Click image to enlarge.

The heading is "Ron" and reads like this:

$20 - Vicky Went to hosp [presumably hospital]
$20 - the girl left with Me [or is it Mo?]
$20 - Friday
$10 - Monday
$10 - Tuesday
$5 - Tuesday
$20 - Wednesday

Any ideas what this could be? I hope Vicky is ok, I mean she left with Mo the next day, right? What are the dollar amounts? Why two amounts for Tuesday (Twofer Tuesday?)?

If cardboard could only talk . . .

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Reign Over Me - In Theatres Next Spring

Ya, I know, BillyBlog's been a little weak on content lately. Sorry. Here's a movie clip. See if you can guess why I stumbled across it:

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Year in Ideas

For the past six years, The New York Times Magazine has featured, in December, their annual "Year in Ideas" issue. It's always one of the most fascinating reads of the year. If you have a chance, before Friday, check it out here. Registration may be required.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A New York Minute, Chapter 3 (Times Square)

Taken Friday, December 8, around 11:00 PM.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Probably the Last Pearl Jam Post of BillyBlog's Year

Blah blah blah, you'd have thought I'd gone to this concert, but I didn't, but am trying to live vicariously through others to attain the feeling that I had.

One of the great things about Pearl Jam, and a key element in my conversion from Appreciator to Fan, is the fact that you can download their concerts for the price of a regular CD (on sale) within a few days of the show.

So I downloaded the Hawaii show, since there were two songs I wanted to hear in particular. I shared with Heather at I Am Fuel, You Are Friends. Check out her post "Chills up the spine, chills down the spine" from yesterday, she also is hosting the "Hawaii '78" track, along with Israel Kamakawiwoole original. The key to this track's power is in the audience reaction, as they gradually realize what he's singing. I can't imagine any other band in the world pulling this off. Truly, truly, truly astonishing.

Along with the music and CD art, you get to download photos from the show. I saved some below.

Eddie leads the Blaisdell Crowd in "Happy Birthday" to drummer Matt Cameron. The cake was subsequently hurled into the crowd.

Bassist Jeff Amendt. Oops. Not! The Mrs. Corrected me: that's Stone Gossard on guitar. D'oh!

Great shot of Kenneth "Boom" Gaspar, Pearl Jam's "6th Man" on Keyboard. Boom is Hawai'i born and bred.

Eddie and Mike McCready during "Inside Job".

Mike McCready on lead guitar.

Eddie Vedder sporting a SL8R shirt, courtesy of friend and surfer, Kelly Slater.

The Birthday Boy, Matt Cameron.

I just love this shot.

ADDED 12/19:

Here's Pearl Jam performing "Hawai'i 78" a week later at Aloha Stadium: