Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

Vedder Does Dylan (Again)

Heather, over at I am Fuel, You Are Friends has posted an awesome New York City mix. Go check it out. And keep scrolling down, or click here to read about the new Bob Dylan biopic and the accompanying soundtrack, featuring all-star covers of Dylan tunes.

Heather also links Pearl Jam's 2006 rendition of "All Along the Watchtower" from their show in San Francisco.

Here's the soundtrack version. Want to know who the Million Dollar Bashers are? Go reade Heather's blog.

"All Along the Watchtower" (mp3) by Eddie Vedder and the Million Dollar Bashers

Atom Strange Rocks

From the opening chords of the first track on Atom Strange's eponymous debut CD, this listener was taken in. It may not be the most original sound around, but it works regardless.

The fact that you are reading about Atom Strange here means at least one thing...they don't suck. And when I say that they don't suck, I mean that this CD is good. I met guitarist Alex Rude in the Manhattan Mall when I asked him about his tattoo for the spawn of BillyBlog, Tattoosday. Read the Atom Strange tattoo post here. Seriously, when he handed me his band’s CD, I said I'd review it but, if it was awful, it would have never made it here, nor would I have given it repeated listens.

The following is a play-by-play, casual review of the 6 tracks on the CD.

"She Said" is a hard-driving rock tune that sounds a lot like the Stone Temple Pilots.

Maybe I was influenced by guitarist Rude's pronouncement that they get compared to early STP a lot. "You tell me what we sound like," he said, when he handed me the CD.

The tunes are now on the BilliPod and they’re not coming off. And I need space.

So, we have the seemingly unavoidable Scott Weiland/STP comparison on track one, but that seems to dissipate as we ease into the second song, "Hollow".

There's something distinctively 80's rockish about this band, and I mean the good aspects and not the bad ones.

“Hollow” starts a little more Velvet Revolver than STP. But then it shifts gears to a harder Vince Neil-esque angst-ridden whine. Iliya Hamovic's drums are noticeably well-struck. Hamovic is no longer with the band, according to their MySpace page. The song is extremely interesting because it shifts gears numerous times and vocalist Rick Dunn goes a little Layne Staley on us. Throughout the track, we are kept guessing by the shifting lyrical moods, unified by Rude's deft guitarwork and the drum's steady beat.

“More or Less” starts off softly with a nice progression of chords. Rick Dunn starts with the lyrics of a rock ballad that dance in and out of emotions, culminating in a crescendo in a song of heartbreak. Rude's guitarwork propels the song forward as the singer attains despair and then
emotes a metalhead's coming to terms with a failed love. "You don't love me anymore".

“Ashes” kicks off with a heavy intro that launches the song into a driving beat. Dunn adequately keeps pace with the guitar and the drums. The intonation of "ashes to ashes" and "dust to dust" is a tad too pop metal corny. Nonetheless, the song intones "this is not the recognition you deserve," and works quite well.

“Unapologetic” starts with a strumming of a guitar and then singer announces "this is no-ot" (pregnant pause), then guitar and a long drawn out “apologeeeeee”! Then the song caroms through an 80s-like progression....I had to concentrate to figure out who they sounded like
here....the guitar work sounded a bit Rudy Schenker a la the Scorpions. The singing however was a little Klaus Meine, a little Joey Belladonna (Anthrax), and an occasional tinge of Dave is quite unique.

“Burn/Spacewalk/Re-entry” carries a little of that Scorpion beat and Motley vocal. The song runs 10+ minutes and incorporates the space motif "I just wanna shoot up to the stars where I belong...." There's a break about 4 minutes in with a nice bass part and some melodic guitar and vocal pairing. The song ends with a narrative from the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.

All in all, I think most listeners will be pleased with what they hear. It’s definitely a debut to take notice of. I look forward to seeing what becomes of Atom Strange, and how they will move from this CD through their personnel changes (bass and drums).

Visit their MySpace page here. "She Said," "More or Less," "Ashes" and "Burn/Spacewalk/Reentry" can be heard streaming there.

Visit their website here to purchase the 8-track CD, which includes radio edits of 2 of the 6 original songs.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Jorge Luis Borges: "The Gospel According to Mark"

This morning I listened to Paul Theroux reading Jorge Luis Borges' "The Gospel According to Mark" via a New Yorker podcast. The story is marvelous and I recommend it. You can listen to Theroux reading it, along with his commentary afterwards, by clicking here or right clicking to save it. The mp3 is 21:57 long.

UPDATE June 28, 2008: An anonymous reader provided this link to read the story. Thanks!

You can also go here to learn more about New Yorker podcasts.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Princess Bride 20th Anniversary Edition

Because BillyBlog listed William Goldman's The Princess Bride as my #19 Favorite Book here, I was contacted by M80 and Fox Home Entertainment to help promote the 20th anniversary of the release of the film based on the book.


In conjunction with the 20th anniversary of The Princess Bride , MGM Home Entertainment has launched the “Ode To Princess Bride” Sweepstakes, an online contest that provides an “editor's tool kit” with video, audio and music from the film and allows fans to create their own “Ode to The Princess Bride” video trailer. The contest winners will be selected by Norman Lear and Rob Reiner. One grand prize winner will receive a state-of-the-art Panasonic Home Theater package and The Princess Bride script autographed by Rob Reiner and Norman Lear. For more information, please visit here.

"Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father. Prepare to die!

I am normally not so commercial, but this film is a special one, and it's well worth promoting.

Tattoosday Update

Well, it's Tattoosday, and people familiar with BillyBlog may be wondering what's up with the seemingly little effort that's been going into this place.

Blame Mother Nature for keeping it warm in the Big Apple and making it easier to find tattoos. Combined with an increase in both my resolve and willingness to approach total strangers on the streets of New York, you'll find that I have been busier over at the other BillyBlog project Tattoosday.

In October, in fact, Tattoosday has been running neck and neck, post per post, with BillyBlog (although this one gives the father the edge over the son 21-20). So if you haven't lived vicariously through my tattoo-spotting lately, come join the fun and head on over and change your Tuesday to a Tat-Tuesday. See who belongs to the cool tattoo up above. I'll be reviewing his band's new CD in the days to come.

Monday, October 22, 2007

New York Minute: Egg Creams at Sammy's Roumanian Steak House

Behold, the making of an egg cream:

At a Bar Mitzvah reception on October 20, 2007, at famous Sammy's Roumanian Steak House, 157 Chrystie Street on the Lower East Side.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ouzi at First Oasis in Bay Ridge

The Mother of BillyBlog was visiting last night (through this weekend) and she came out to our place in Bay Ridge. We dined at the affordable and delicious First Oasis. This Syrian restaurant has delectable food. Trust me, I don't use the word delectable very often, so if I say it is so, it is so.

I brought my camera along because I knew what I was having, and knew it would be blogworthy. Behold, the Lamb Ouzi:

You can see the whole menu here where you would learn that this dish, a house specialty, is a big pastry of phylo dough. And when you cut it open, steam pours out, in an aromatic blend of lamb (or chicken or veggies, depending on what you choose), rice, raisins, nuts and vegetables.
It's like shepherd's pie meets an oversized Middle Eastern manapua.

The kids split the chicken kabob. BillyBlogMom had the lamb kabob. Melanie had the sole. The First Oasis vegetarian combo platter started us all off on the right track. Delicious hummus and top-rate grape leaves, along with falafel and baba ghanoush.

I have never had a bad dining experience there. The one significant flaw is that, despite not being crowded, the service is slow. If you're in a hurry, go somewhere else. But if you go expecting a wait, you can relish the anticipation and acknowledge that, once the food passes your lips, it was worth the delay.

Read a review here.

Itenrestign Tihngs Plepoe Snde Me

Only great minds can read this

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Or maybe not.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Sin Dolor" by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Just finished "Sin Dolor" by T.C. Boyle, in the October 15, 2007 issue of The New Yorker. Read it here. Boyle continues to write great stories. Don't miss this one!

Memories of: Hayden Carruth 80th Birthday Tribute Reading

Six years ago today, I attended a marvelous reading at the Great Hall at the Cooper Union, honoring the poet Hayden Carruth. I have added my recap of the event in my "From the Archives" series, and you can read about the evening here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bookpeeping on the Q Train

In another installment of bookpeeping, on the Q train this afternoon, there was a flurry of reading around me. The following books were being read within five feet of me:

Titles link Amazon. Author names are linked to author web sites.

I'll credit the Blechman book for inspiring me to bookpeep today.

If they Clean as Well as They Spell, Fuhgeddaboutit!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Junk in My In Box

The following came to me via e-mail and is represented as a vacuous post of a New York twenty-something, followed by a hilarious response. It appears to be real. Either way, it's funny:

What am I doing wrong?

Okay, I'm tired of beating around the bush. I'm a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I'm articulate and classy. I'm not from New York. I'm looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don't think I'm overreaching at all.

Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board? Any wives? Could you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around 200 - 250. But that's where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won't get me to central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she's not as pretty as
I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her level?

Here are my questions specifically:

- Where do you single rich men hang out? Give me specifics- bars, restaurants, gyms

-What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won't hurt my feelings

-Is there an age range I should be targeting (I'm 25)?

- Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the upper east side so plain? I've seen really 'plain jane' boring types who have nothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy guys. I've seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the east village. What's the story there?

- Jobs I should look out for? Everyone knows - lawyer, investment banker, doctor. How much do those guys really make? And where do they hang out? Where do the hedge fund guys hang out?

- How you decide marriage vs. just a girlfriend? I am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY

Please hold your insults - I'm putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I'm being up front about it. I wouldn't be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn't able to match them - in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.

* it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
PostingID: 432279810

And here is one response:

Dear Pers-431649184:

I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament. Firstly, I'm not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your bill; that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here's how I see it.

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a cr@ppy business deal. Here's why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here's the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won't be getting any more beautiful!

So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you're 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold...hence the rub...marriage. It doesn't make good business sense to "buy you" (which is what you're asking) so I'd rather lease. In case you think I'm being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It's as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.

Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as "articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful" as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn't found you, if not only for a tryout.

By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn't need to have this difficult conversation.

With all that said, I must say you're going about it the right way. Classic "pump and dump."
I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Green River's Hawai'i Connection

Pearl Jam bassist Stone Gossard spoke to Billboard Magazine recently (article here). Stone's band Brad is reuniting for an upcoming benefit in New York City. But this tidbit later in the article interests me more:

Meanwhile, Gossard says rumors his pre-Pearl Jam band Green River will reunite in the summer of 2008 for a Sub Pop 20th anniversary concert are indeed true. "Pearl Jam has toured with Mudhoney, so we played with [former Green River members] Mark [Arm] and Steve [Turner]," he reports. "But we haven't played with Alex [Vincent] and Bruce [Fairweather] in quite a while. They're both excited about it, from everything I've heard."
Why is this interesting? The aforementioned Bruce Fairweather was a senior at Iolani School when I was there in 8th Grade.

I knew Bruce, but I was an 13-year old runt in awe of a then-senior who played in various incarnations of punk bands that made the Iolani administration uneasy.

It was only about a year or two ago, when old pal Benjie, who knew Bruce a little better than I, filled me in on what Bruce did post-Iolani. Ahem, he played with Gossard and Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament in Mother Love Bone. That's Bruce in the picture up there on the left in the MLB band shot.

Undoubtedly, it is not common knowledge that one of Iolani's graduates was an instrumental musician in the birth of the grunge scene that took the world by storm in the early '90s. A nifty little bit of trivia linking me to a band (Pearl Jam) that I care about.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Brief Foray at The New Yorker Festival Headquarters

Last weekend was The New Yorker Festival in Manhattan (hereafter "NYF"). It had been several years since I attended any festival events.

I did not know what to expect, really. The last NYF signing was at Barnes & Noble, Union Square, and basically featured a signing table and some sponsors milling about.

This year was a complete upgrade from 2 years ago. It was in a separate space, on West 18th Street. There were greeters and gift bags with swag in them (a book, a cd, a t-shirt, chocolate, and other promo items).

I came into the city on Sunday, dragging Jolee and Shayna with me. We stopped at my office to load up with books. I had skipped seeing Salman Rushdie on Saturday, in lieu of Shayna's soccer game, but her Sunday game did not start until 3:30, so we had time to hit the 12 Noon signing and make it back to Brooklyn before the game.

It just so happened that both poets signing were ones I had never seen before. Both Katha Pollitt and Robert Hass are well-travelled and renowned poets, but I had not had the chance to catch them in person.

Correction, by chance I had stumbled into a Berkeley bookstore on a trip to the Bay Area in June 1999. Hass was reading but I was unprepared (book-wise) and he literally finished within five minutes of my walking in.

So here I was, no reading, just pure signing, and I was dragging my bag full of books and two kids.

It was a hot day, and though the a/c was on in the space, it wasn't on high enough. It was tolerable if you were sitting still, but the slightest movement produced perspiration.

The poets were seated at two different tables, next to one another, with a winding queue leading away in a maze of nylon and plastic posts. Hass' line was full. Pollitt's was half-full, or half-empty, depending on your perspective.

In another section of the space, cartoonist Jack Ziegler was set up with chairs around him and people got to watch him draw. Jolee was hanging with Ziegler, watching him draw for people. Shayna clung to me. I got in Pollitt's line. There were 6 or 7 people ahead of me. They all appeared to have her new book, Learning to Drive. I self-consciously stood with a quartet of anthologies. My stomach turned.

In all honesty, I did not go straight into the line. I hesitated. Looked at the makeshift store selling all the books, t-shirts, and New Yorker covers, enlarged and framed and weighed down with hefty price tags. The line for purchases was long. I was not in a position to buy Pollitt's book. It was a book of essays, not even a tome of poems to tempt me.

So I hit the line feeling guilty, watching everyone get their hardcover book signed. They were all one-shot deals. Then the guy ahead of the woman ahead of me was up. He was bookless, he had four or five New Yorker issues bookmarked for Pollitt to sign. She did. No copy of her new book appeared.

Next, the person ahead of me came and went, and then it was my turn.

Immediately she must have noticed I was bookless. Or at least Pollit-less. I had in my possession four poetry anthologies: The Best American Poetry (BAP) 1991, The KGB Bar Book of Poems,

Two Decades of New Poets, and The Future Dictionary of America (this is actually not a poetry anthology, but as the title suggests, an imagined and humorous volume of words, phrases, and expressions in a U.S. Around the corner).

The BAP came first and she signed her poem, "Night Subway".

Next was the Two Decades book, a small, scarce publication by the 92nd
Street Y, featuring winners of the '"Discovery" / Poets poetry contest from 1964 to 1983. Her poems "Ballet Blanc" and "A Turkish Story" were anthologized within. Pollitt looked at this inquisitively and asked "What's this? I've never even seen this before!" I always get a huge kick of presenting a writer a book that he or she is unfamiliar with. I told her this, yet she didn't seem to share my enthusiasm.

The other two books were presented as well. There was some small chit-chat when I thanked her for taking the time to sign these books. She looked at me and asked, "Why do you do this?"

I assumed she meant collect poetry anthologies and get poets to sign them. I gave her my standard response: "I don't realy know. I enjoy it. J.D. McClatchy referred to it as the 'mania of the collector' once when he signed a whole stack of my books. I'm not doing it to profit financially, as signed poetry books aren't really hot commodities unless your name is
Robert Lowell or Charles Bukowski."

"Well," Pollitt stated coolly, "if you don't want to wait five years, you can buy my book here." Oh, okay. I wasn't quite sure what she meant exactly, but one thing was clear to me: she wasn't happy that I didn't have a copy of her book. Fair enough, I guess, but I hardly seemed in a position to profit from her signatures.

I checked in on the girls. Well, girl, really, as Shayna had been hanging back while I had been annoying Pollitt. Jolee was still sitting watching Jack Ziegler. She told me he was asking for themes. I gave her some ideas. She raised her hand. She and Shayna were among the only kids in the whole place. Ziegler approached her and Jolee asked, "How about a singing cat?" He groaned but he went to the easel and started to draw.

I went over to the Hass line, with only five items. I had another 5 volumes of BAP and an additional anthology in my bag, but I left them there. I didn't feel that he would have been open to a huge stack like that. Not without my purchasing his new book.

I had never experienced Hass before but I remember a fellow book collector bemoaning him a few years back because the poet had been signing with a ball-point pen and autographed so forcefully that he had torn through the title page, and showed no remorse.

Digression, from my friend Brian: the Lannan reading series in LA, in 97, I believe. H. & I both had anthologies for Hass and I had only one of his solo books (a later pbk ptg from/for the store). I don't clearly recall his role but I think Hass was there interviewing someone. Anyway, afterwards we went up to him in the aisle of the auditorium (he was not at the signing table) and he agreed to sign some books but was kind of gruff (no idea why, maybe the interviewee had said something?). He signed my Milosz anthology so hard that his pen went thru the paper partly; I thought this deliberate and a puzzling small act of hostility but didn't say anything to him. Later H. said that Hass had done the same thing with his books & that he too, felt it had been deliberate.

I was in line for ten or fifteen minutes when Jolee and Shayna walked over, Jolee had a giant sheet of paper upon which Ziegler had drawn the following cartoon:

I was exceptionally happy. A New Yorker cartoonist had drawn Jolee a cartoon! In fact, he had drawn a lot of people cartoons! Incredible! What generosity!

And it was funny too! "How about 'How Much is that Doggie in the Window?' again - and this time sing it like you mean it!" Very clever. But more on this later...

I turned my attentions back to the line ahead of me. I had 4 books and this Poetry in Motion poster.

Mr. Hass was not seated behind the table, but was standing in front of it, in what is known as the open, receptive signing pose. It's great for the one-book request, but a little awkward when you have a stack.

Fortunately, I was less nervous about Hass than I had been with Pollitt. Because, even though I didn't have his just-published, just-nominated-for-a-National-Book-Award book Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005,

I also had the volume of the BAP '01, for which Hass was the Guest Editor,

A Book of Luminous Things, edited by Czesław Miłosz

and The Language of Life, by Bill Moyers.

Hass kindly inscribed the copy of Now and Then. He was very gracious and even complimented both Shayna and Jolee, who were hanging about, telling me I was fortunate to have such lovely daughters.

I thanked him and we packed up and got ready to depart. Jolee and Shayna were arguing about who got what in the gift bags, so I asked the gift bag folks if we could get a second one to avoid a crisis in our family. They gave me 2 more, so all three of us had our own bag o' swag, which included The New Yorker Book of Art Cartoons.

I still marveled at Jolee's acquisition of the giant Ziegler cartoon. But I started to wonder. If it was funny, why give it away? Couldn't he sell it? To The New Yorker??

And still I pondered....then it all clicked together. Jolee googled Ziegler and got to the Cartoon Bank website, which has every cartoon ever published in the New Yorker, or close to it at least. "Look," she exclaimed, "he did one just like that for some lady at the festival." I knew it was too good to be true. "Jolee," I instructed, "in the search field type 'doggie' and 'window'." She did and here is the result. He recycled old cartoons. This one appeared in a different form in the January 16, 1989 issue of the New Yorker. It makes sense, and I'm not complaining. Jolee got a cool cartoon signed by the artist. It just was presented as an original idea.

In all, my brush with this year's NYF was brief, but still noteworthy. Thanks for slogging through this account.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fall is Approaching

For those of you who may miss the old BillyBlog, you know, the one that didn't seem so lazy, please note that I sense, with the cooler weather, a swinging back of the creative pendulum. Sleeves are lengthening, as are hems and pant legs. The cursed turtleneck is returning. Can scarves be far behind?

With less visible flesh on the streets, so go the tattoos. With material likely drying up, expect my return here with a new enthusiasm. Maybe.

Despite it being mid-October, Tattoosday, rebel son of BillyBlog got a boost from the warm weather and hit a landmark yesterday, outdrawing its parent. With 58 hits, it edged this blog by 3 visitors, a first. It helps when you photograph the tattoo of a cheerleader for a roller derby team with an active MySpace profile. Intrigued? Head on over and see what the fuss is about.

Found Birthday Greetings

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Random Shot from a New York City Street

Okay, maybe not so random. I thought this was interesting:

Crossing in front of Madison Square Garden on Friday, October 5, this struck me as odd....

Just thought I'd share. Seemed odd.

Yes, I know, BillyBlog has been short on content and long on, well, just short on content. It seems I haven't had much to say. However, I have been busy blogging more over at Tattoosday. I've been taking advantage of the warm October weather and focusing on tattoos, as I imagine that will become harder in the weeks to come. Expect BillyBlog to bounce back soon.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Monday, October 01, 2007

Define "Interesting"

The following tent appeared at the Bay Ridge Third Avenue Festival on Sunday, September 30:

Now, I have seen this tent at street fairs repeatedly over the years. How many of you find "scissors" and "tweezers" interesting? "Magnifiers," maybe. But if you're going to sell "interesting items," perhaps you should put them on your banner.

Shrunken heads.

Celebrity garbage.

Bloggers' grasping at straws for, well, interesting things.