28 September 2005

The Continuing Saga of iPod: Part Four

The following is not a review of the iPod nano, but more like a handjob.

Two weeks ago I found out the iPod nano had come out, and that afternoon I listed my 6GB mini for a one day auction on eBay. When I casually mentioned to my roommate that I'd sold the iPod, she acted genuinely offended. "You sold it? How much?" Seconds later, I'd worked out a way to avoid shipping entirely. Now I set about ordering the nano, which I hadn't even seen.

The nano got stuck in China's customs for 9 agonizing days. In the interim, I visited Apple Store SoHo and tried the thing out first hand. DO NOT DO THIS if you have no intention of ever owning an iPod nano. This is impossible. To make matters worse, I was suffering from the unfortunate paradox that I'd PAID FOR ONE OF THESE, why can't I have one?

It arrived on Friday, and well, its the iPod I was born to own. What a deep sense of pity one feels for all those other iPods of the world: their giant click wheels, their Commodore 64/Fredwriter/Apple 2e monotone screens, their enormity! On recent subway rides, I've gotten a few long glances; when you are carrying one in your pocket it appears you do not have an iPod, you're merely wearing the headphones. I thought that would be the case with the iPod Shuffle, but everyone seems to wear that thing around their neck like some kind of Cracker necklace.

Okay, no more blogs about iPods, I promise.

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26 September 2005

The Benefits of Hurricanes.

So I'm at Lauren's house this weekend, an SAT student of mine who lives in a distant part of the Bronx (one that shares more in common with the upstate of my childhood than any other part of the city), and we stumble across "antipathy." Of course she doesn't know what it means. Her vocabulary consists only of brand-names. Now I know this sounds harsh but you'll have to realize that she has absolutely no interest in learning anything, and hates the SAT with a peculiar ferociousness. If her mother wasn't paying me so much I'd have said adios long ago. As I'm giving her the definition to antipathy I realize she is the student I have tutored the longest, on and off since April 2004. Global Studies Regents, US History Regents, SAT, SAT again. Suddenly a spark comes into her eyes when I discuss the difference between apathy and antipathy. "So like, antipathy is what I feel for the Hurricane victims in New Orleans?"

"Uh... wait. What?"

"I mean like, I don't have any sympathy for them because they practically did it to themselves, you know, like Bush gave them money for levees and the state government stole it and spent it on other things and didn't want the levees to be repaired, so yeah, its their fault. Yeah, I know what antipathy means."

The only way I could keep my composure was to make a fully-dumbfounded half-remark somewhat to the tune of, "Well, that may be completely untrue, but at least you know one of these fucking words." As much as I'd like to joke about it, this was the first time since I've begun tutoring full-time that I had to "suck it up and take it for my pay." A shitty feeling to say the least, and one we never get away from entirely.

But this past week, I contributed $150 to the Red Cross in the form of tickets to Hurricane Katrina benefit concerts. The first at BB King's on Monday, the second at Town Hall on Saturday. They were disparate (LOOK IT UP LAUREN!) in more ways than I have time to mention, but provided equally impressive moments.

Monday, September 20, BB Kings.

The Lineup: Styles P, Memphis Bleek, Talib Kweli, Q-Tip, The Executioners, Prisoners of War, Dave Chappelle, M1 of Dead Prez, David Banner, Smith and Wesson, and more.

Background: A hastily-thrown together benefit concert featuring the very best of New York's lesser-known hip hop acts. Or rather, lesser-known to white people like me.

First impressions; Q-Tip seemed to be presiding over the affair, spinning his favorite records (one was his) between sets and just being a gracious MC. But even he tired of the disorganized show, and soon it was DJ Snoop who was spinning all kinds of crazy shit. NWA/Public Enemy at the same time, a minute of the new Fugees record that sounded like he scraped it from the bottom of Wyclef's shoe.

The Format: Each artist gets about 3 songs, and I tell you, this was the best way to see all of these acts. They came out and nailed some hits, said their piece, and left. Gap between acts sometimes stretched to 40 minutes, which added to the incredibly laid back feel for the evening.

Highlights: Talib Kweli was a truly remarkable performer, one of the best I've ever seen. He performed a song from his latest album, Quality, which I've owned for months but never listened to because his first album is just too good not to put on. His single "Get By" is an instant classic, his live version was rousing, sweaty, and united the crowd and nearly all the evening's performers. An incredible shame that I heard this too late for inclusion into the QHS Song List, published yesterday.

Regrets: If Chappelle and Q-tip performed at all, it happened after 3am, because that's when I threw in the towel. Even though I admit, the place was just getting warmed up.

Saturday, September 25, Town Hall.

The Lineup: Kevin Kline Buckwheat Zydeco, Woody Allen, Willem Dafoe, Elvis Costello, David Byrne, Richard Ford, Toni Morrison, Lou Reed with Laurie Anderson, and Calvin Trillin.

Background: I found out about it, when it was organized last weekend, and said, "It's sold out." Checked anyway, found last row seats. Bought em.

The Format: No host, just effortless segues from one act to another. Everyone gets one song/jam session/reading, however they like to do it. Part of the New Yorker Festival, so a very "too smart to dance" kind of crowd.

First Impressions: I walked in about an hour late, coming from the aforementioned Lauren's house. The program is not listing acts in order, we have no idea what has gone down first and what is to come. A great feeling.

Highlights: Though Lou Reed's dark doo-wop-like version of Jesus was the musical highlight for what I thought would be the entire evening, Elvis Costello stole the show. He came out, played two minutes with an acoustic guitar, a song I've never heard of (probably written for the occasion), bowed and walked off. To allow the song to fade out, he walked out of range of the microphone and continued to sing full volume, filling the room with his unamplified voice echoing. Pretty close to a standing ovation, in the middle of the show, for one song. The guy is a genius.

Regrets: Unless Woody's still setting up, it looks like he went on first and split, because I didn't get a peak at him. The often ______ Mr. Allen ______ me again.

A. reclusive .... eludes
B. decisive .... alludes
C. perfunctory .... precipitates
D. distraught .... extols
E. verbose .... reviles

08 September 2005

Eiffel Ninety-Four "Brisk" Fall Reading List

As the autumn winds gather speed somewhere over Minnesota for their arrival later this month, I am reminded once again of those heavy leaves that tumble toward us and reveal the hidden language of the wilderness. Arc your ear toward the wood thrush's plaintive song, and the memories of boyhoods spent ambling the pine-needle pathways come rushing back. Ah, how I long to tumble into the crick, bait my rod, and sling a thin wire into the air, with every last hope in my soul hinged upon landing a glorious catch! How I yearn to sing the gospel to that plucky lass with the thick blonde locks, who lived in a small cabin up on Whistler's Notch, I think, or maybe in a Playboy magazine under my mattress. Oh Sinful Autumn, how I never shy away from you!

-From "Memories of an Upstated Boyhood," by Jeff Scarincio

Fall brings good weather to New York for the first time since late April. It's been a long time since I've had to endure a high school cross country race, but that pre-race nausea still lingers in me on brisk late afternoons during September. No matter how often I tell myself in such situations, "You don't have to run a 5k today," my subconscious retorts, "No, I think you have a dual meet against the Scotia-Glenville Tartans today." For some reason I've never understood, cool mid-autumn afternoons remind me of running in the woods against my will. I enjoy spring much more than fall (even though the weather is identical in this part of the world), but that's all over now. As Ezra Pound said to a dead Walt Whitman in 1913:

"I have detested you long enough... Let there be commerce between us."

Here are some books I'm gonna try to read. Any suggestions are welcomed.

1. The Complete Correspondences of Walter Benjamin, by Walter Benjamin
2. Selected Writings Volume 3, by Walter Benjamin
3. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence.
4. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
5. Oblivion, by David Foster Wallace
6. The Elephant Vanishes, by Haruki Murakami
7. The Adventures of Augie March, by Saul Bellow
8. Eight Men, by Richard Wright

And, as has been the case with previous attempts to make a book list, a dozen things I had no idea I would read til they were read.

01 September 2005

75 Rejects.

Some friends and I have decided to tackle the immeasurable canon of Western songcraft by putting together a list of the 50 best songs we've ever heard. Each of us is responsible for submitting 25 nominees. This limit proved to be overwhelming. I started by going through my library of 15,677 songs and nominating 75. Then I started listening, and whittled the list down to 100. I was so far into the red it was ridiculous. A new approach. I just took 40 at random and stared. Stared hard. Occasionally, I played the songs I was staring at. After ranking them best I could, I began rankling with them. Knocked off the last fifteen and listened. Done. I never want to look at those 25 songs again, because they just remind me of other songs, which remind me of other songs, and well, there's not a list to put em on.

But tonight, after compiling 2 cds to give to the voters of this little experiment, I went back and looked at what just missed the cut. These are all great songs, and especially the 25-40, which must languish in the "Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda" category for all eternity. My 25 is for later, but I'll give some hints. They include: the song one friend uses as an answering machine message, a song with no instruments, a 20-minute R&B track, a Dylan recording from the 80s, 3 songs written in the 20s, 3 songs from one collection, and even a few white people to even things out.

A list of some very, very good songs. Good, Christ... These little ditties are genius.

26. "Black Beauty" Duke Ellington, from The Okeh Ellington [CD 1]
27. "A Case of You" Joni Mitchell, from Blue
28. "Potato Head Blues" Louis Armstrong and His Hot 7, from Ken Burns Jazz (Disc 1)
29. "Jazz" A Tribe Called Quest, from The Low End Theory
30. "European Son" The Velvet Underground, from The Velvet Underground & Nico
31. "She Loves You" The Beatles
32. "Isolation" John Lennon, from Plastic Ono Band
33. "The Tears Of A Clown" Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, from Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection
34. "After You've Gone (Take C)" Art Tatum, from Classic Piano Solos (1934-1937)
35. "My Lovin (You're Never Gonna Get It)'" En Vogue, from The Very Best Of En Vogue
36. "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" Bob Dylan, from Bob Dylan
37. "God Save The Queen" Sex Pistols, from Never Mind The Bollocks
38. "Done Got Old" Junior Kimbrough, from You Better Run: The Essential Junior Kimbrough
39. "Rap Game / Crack Game" Jay-Z, from In My Lifetime, Vol. 1
40. "Mrs. Robinson" Simon & Garfunkel, from Bookends
41. "Cocaine Blues" Johnny Cash from At Folsom Prison
42. "Lonely Woman" Ornette Coleman, from The Shape Of Jazz To Come
43. "My Funny Valentine" Frank Sinatra from Songs For Young Lovers
44. "Glory Box" Portishead, from Dummy
45. "Unchained Melody" The Righteous Brothers
46. "Me And The Devil Blues" Robert Johnson, from The Complete Recordings
47. "Good Morning School Girl" Sonny Boy Williamson, from The Bluebird Recordings 1937-1938
48. "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" Marvin Gaye, from Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection
49. "Sing, Sing, Sing (With A Swing)" Benny Goodman, from Greatest Hits
50. "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" The Temptations, from Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection
51. "What Can A Poor Fellow Do" Duke Ellington, from The Okeh Ellington [CD 1]
52. "Desaparecido" Manu Chao, from Clandestino: Esperando La Ultima Ola...
53. "Idle Moments" Grant Green, from Idle Moments
54. "Hate It Or Love It (G-Unit Remix)" 50 Cent, from The Massacre
55. "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)" Aretha Franklin, from Atlantic Rhythm And Blues 1947-1974
56. "The Best Is Yet To Come" Frank Sinatra, from The Reprise Collection
57. "One Of These Things First" Nick Drake, from Bryter Layter
58. "Basin Street Blues" Miles Davis, from Seven Steps To Heaven
59. "Roll Over Beethoven" Chuck Berry
60. "Get Off My Cloud" The Rolling Stones, from December's Children (And Everybody's)
61. "Pastime Paradise" Stevie Wonder, from Songs In The Key Of Life
62. "One Mint Julep" The Clovers, from Atlantic Rhythm And Blues 1947-1974
63. "NY State of Mind" Nas, from Illmatic
64. "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)" The Temptations, from Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection
65. "One Nation Under a Groove" Funkadelic, from One Nation Under a Groove
66. "Where Did Our Love Go" The Supremes
67. "My Philosophy" KRS-One
68. "Many Rivers To Cross" Jimmy Cliff, from Anthology (Disc 1)
69. "House of the Rising Sun" The Animals, from Greatest Hits
70. "The Unfaithful Servant" The Band, from The Band
71. "Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box" Radiohead, from Amnesiac
72. "Burn Hollywood Burn"Public Enemy, from Fear Of A Black Planet
73. "Kelly Watch The Stars" Air, from Moon Safari
74. "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" Crosby, Stills & Nash
75. "Jailhouse Rock" Elvis Presley
76. "Desolation Row" Bob Dylan, from Highway 61 Revisited
77. "Killing Me Softly With His Song" Roberta Flack, from Atlantic Rhythm And Blues 1947-1974
78. "Schizophrenia" Sonic Youth, from Sister
79. "All Right Now" Free, from American Beauty
80. "London Calling" The Clash, from London Calling
81. "Victoria" The Kinks, from Arthur
82. "Blues For Marcus" Terry Callier, from Occasional Rain
83. "Dead Flowers" The Rolling Stones, from Sticky Fingers
84. "Star Of The County Down" Van Morrison & The Chieftains, from Irish Heartbeat
85. "One Foot In The Grave" Beck, from Stereopathetic Soul Manure
86. "In The Lost And Found (Honky Bach)" Elliott Smith, from Figure 8
87. "Nothing Compares 2 U" Sinead O'Connor
88. "Washington D.C. Hospital Center Blues" Skip James, from Blues From The Delta
89. "California Girls" The Beach Boys
90. "You Never Give Me Your Money" The Beatles, from Abbey Road
91. "Poses" Rufus Wainwright, from Poses
92. "The Mess We're In" PJ Harvey, from Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea
93. "In Spite Of Me" Morphine, from Cure For Pain
94. "Rednecks" Randy Newman, from Good Old Boys
95. "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" Neutral Milk Hotel, from In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
96. "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" The Smiths
97. "Kiss From A Rose" Seal, from Seal
98. "Eight" Sunny Day Real Estate, from LP2
99. "You Got To Die" Blind Willie McTell, from Atlanta Twelve String
100. "Glory" Liz Phair, from Exile In Guyville