Thursday, February 26, 2009

Miami: A Fool's Paradise

Steven Gaines’s social history of Miami Beach titled Fool's Paradise: Players, Poseurs, and the Culture of Excess in South Beach is an entertaining chronicle of sleaze and vapidity in the Florida tropics, overpopulated by characters straight out of central casting, from gorgeous airheads to slimy swindlers. That’s the story of Florida. As any journalist can attest, just because a place is shallow, corrupt and infested with phonies doesn’t mean it’s dull. In fact, there’s probably not another square mile of American real estate more amusing than South Beach, in small doses and with the proper precautions.

[Carl Hisasen via NYT]

My own two cents is that the soundtrack to Miami has never been written better than by Against Me!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In Defence of Hipsters

They're just fashion people, doing what
fashion people have always done.
so don't blame hipsters for the demise of
counterculture. They're at the mercy of
their masters: blame VICE Magazine!

[Thanks MOC]

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Antoinette K-Doe, one of the first ladies of New Orleans died this morning on Mardis Gras Day. Her Mother-in-Law Lounge on North Claiborne is one the city’s most colorful establishments and a living shrine to her deceased husband the legendary musician Ernie K-Doe. She died on a couch in the Lounge early this morning under the every watchful eye of a mannequin made in the exact replica of the deceased Ernie K.

I first learned of the Mother-in Law from Quintron and Miss Pussycat and when I saw the mannequin of Ernie perched upon a corner throne in the bar, I knew no visit to New Orleans would ever again be complete without a visit to Antoinette’s establishment. With complete sincerity, she and Ernie had continued to make personnel appearances together, as mannequin and wife, long after his death in 2001. She was a totally nutty, yet loveable old gal and New Orleans’ star is dimmed a bit by her passing. Rest assured the fun loving circles that define old New Orleans will be drinking deep to her memory tonight, Fat Tuesday, the biggest party night of the year.

She was an honorary queen of the wonderfully named Cameltoe Ladysteppers marching organization and just last Thursday rode in the Muses parade with the Ernie mannequin in tow. Today, she’d planned to don the traditional Baby Doll costume and parade through the streets of Treme before returning to the Mother-in-Law for what is always a busy day. But I guess other plans were in order so she’s back with Ernie writing the final chapter of a love story that could only have happened in the Big Easy. Hopefully, the love affair will live on between Ernie K and a soon to be designed lady mannequin in the image of Antoinette K-Doe.

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Lost and Found and Lost Again Weekends

Monday, February 23, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

Adios N-Word

This is some breaking ass news! And though I always thought of NY1 as sort of joke, I do love it when Pat Keirnan reads me the Newspapers in the Morning. Oh, and of course Weather on the 1's.

UPDATE: NY1 jumped their ass and now it's clearly marked as a parody. Oh the lawyers!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ping Pong Ping Pong Ping Pong.....

Wow! This mirrored ping pong table would be an athletic godsend to the powder and straw set. When you happen upon a hipster hacienda there's always some much jaw grinding anxious energy that putting them to work swinging paddles and chasing stray ping pong balls would surely loosen up the proceedings a bit. However, you would need some special equipment to take full advantage of this futuristic sporting design: good anti-glare eye protection since the morning sun could really throw off your perception, plus a particulate dust mask to keep the flying powder, kicked up during play, from inadvertently entering the delicate membranes and spiraling you into a binge. Like these guys! But seriously how about just more game before we go to bed?

The table, titled "Reflection" is an art piece by Rirkrit Tiravanija, and it's on display at NYEHaus on Gramercy Park in NYC until February 22nd. [Anna Grimm via NYHaus]

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Zombie Zombie: Read All About It

An amazing video made for Zombie Zombie, the French duo of Etienne Jaumet and Cosmic Neman. You should thank your lucky stars everyday for being born in the country that spawned GI Joe. The whole kettle of fish is an hommage to John Carpenter and his masterpieces: THE THING.

Directed ever so sveltely by Simon Gesrel and Xavier Ehretsmann

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

So Long and Thanks for All the Fred

The king of curmudgeons, Fred Reed is ditching his keyboard and modem while prepping to negotiate the world with a second hand cornea. That means his fabulous winged nut and agave fueled online column Fred on Everything has already begun to gather dust. The site still has plenty to peruse and his books are a gas but Fred's regular yet maniacal dispatches from his clandestine mexican villa will be missed. Que te via bien, amigo.

As the great Tom Ricks said:
Now I will have nowhere to go for well-written, pungent, political incorrectness mixed with smart military commentary and libertarian impulses, topped off with a splash of Third World sunshine and tequila.

Friday, February 13, 2009


With the Dutch MP Geert Wilders being deported from England for merely wanting to show his anti-Islamic film Fitna, I thought it might be interesting to see how our Muslim lovers embrace the innocent romanticism that is our Valentine’s Day. Well it turns out, love is not in the Arab air. In Saudi Arabia, not only can’t you bugger the gal of your choice after a nice dinner and a bottle of ripple but you can’t even buy her a card on this western “day of lust.”

The Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia are the world’s worst fanatics with their pre-historic garb and theological handicapping. They have no problem embracing pseudo-science or fairy tales with genies and angels but acknowledging Valentine’s Day is seen as an affront to God. As Feb. 14 approaches, newspapers reprint a fatwa issued by “scholars” declaring “eid al-hob,” Arabic for the feast of love, a “Christian, pagan feast” that Muslims should not celebrate. I would have thought the jihadist reward of 99 black eyed virgins set the benchmark for pagan love feasts. Must be my lax belief system.

It isn’t just St Valentine these bearded and robed charlatans despise, all non-muslims are banned from openly practicing religion in Saudi Arabia though to be fair criticizing Islam, just like in Merry Old England, is strictly forbidden.

Sura 9:5 “Slay the idolaters wherever ye find them”

Get Gay on St. Valentine's Day

The boys of the Foggy Monocle have layed out the key points to effectively sating your romantic urges this February 14th. And while some of these hints have a familiar ring to them failure rates aside I have to give the beneift of the doubt to Jimmy and Erik. Just look at them they're obviously drowning in babes.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Food for Thought

Recently I flew with BlackoutMan to the heart of Africa. He worked his magic on the kids and I tried to dazzle a starlet but the best part of the adventure was the food service on Emirates Airlines. They have dozens of meal choices based on race, religious persuasion and dietary constraints and because every leg is so long they come around with your preferred meal 3 or four times while in the air. The airline offers superb meals if you order from the in-flight menu or when prowling the Business Class Lounge during layovers yet the flipside is letting your traveling partner hardwire your trip in advance with meals special to your religious beliefs. These specifically arranged meals come out long before everyone else's food with much fanfare as the steward can muster when serving a Bland Meal to a bearded miscreant from Maine. Like dietary restrictions?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Monday, February 09, 2009

Thumbs Up to Big Butts

Like chocolate flavored manna from the gods, the news out of Harvard Medical School that ass fat might be a key component to overall health had chubby girls the world over rejoicing. Specifically, the copious quantities of subcutaneous fat found in a big ass seem to help fight diabetes.

While dietary carte blanche is nice news to the Lane Bryant set it's never been a worry in Jamaican dance halls or University cafeterias where the "freshmen fifteen" has been packing asses into ever tighter jeans for generations. So gals you are free to let out the waistband, supersize your caloric intake and prepare for a long life but know that until waifish supermodels start having their twigs amputated due to diabetes, most of us will stick with the the tried and true trim line. They're just easier to pedal home from the bar on the back of your bicycle.

In the interest of science here are the prototypes for a healthy big ole butt and all you chubby males out there remember, "You can't drive a rail spike with a tack hammer."

Friday, February 06, 2009

Welcome To The Monkey House

After being alone in the wilds of Africa for awhile I started to think about Kurt Vonnegut for some reason or another. One reason is his books are easily recalled and his philosophies appropriate to a stranger in a strange land. He could laugh at people without it being vicious. He could laugh at himself. And here in a weirdness of the world, except for a few dwebish production people, it seems I am the most laughed at character in the whole of Ethiopia. People giggling about my clothes, the way I chew chat and the time I stumbled unwittingly while high on honey wine upon a wild gelada. But you know what? It makes me feel great and in part that is cuz Mr Vonnegut schooled me good. So without further adieu: Today's Lesson.

15 Things Kurt Vonnegut Said
Better Than Anyone Else Ever Has Or Will

1. "I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'"
The actual advice here is technically a quote from Kurt Vonnegut's "good uncle" Alex, but Vonnegut was nice enough to pass it on at speeches and in A Man Without A Country. Though he was sometimes derided as too gloomy and cynical, Vonnegut's most resonant messages have always been hopeful in the face of almost-certain doom. And his best advice seems almost ridiculously simple: Give your own happiness a bit of brainspace.

2. "Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God."
In Cat's Cradle, the narrator haplessly stumbles across the cynical, cultish figure Bokonon, who populates his religious writings with moronic, twee aphorisms. The great joke of Bokononism is that it forces meaning on what's essentially chaos, and Bokonon himself admits that his writings are lies. If the protagonist's trip to the island nation of San Lorenzo has any cosmic purpose, it's to catalyze a massive tragedy, but the experience makes him a devout Bokononist. It's a religion for people who believe religions are absurd, and an ideal one for Vonnegut-style humanists.

3. "Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder, 'Why, why, why?' Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land; Man got to tell himself he understand."
Another koan of sorts from Cat's Cradle and the Bokononist religion (which phrases many of its teachings as calypsos, as part of its absurdist bent), this piece of doggerel is simple and catchy, but it unpacks into a resonant, meaningful philosophy that reads as sympathetic to humanity, albeit from a removed, humoring, alien viewpoint. Man's just another animal, it implies, with his own peculiar instincts, and his own way of shutting them down. This is horrifically cynical when considered closely: If people deciding they understand the world is just another instinct, then enlightenment is little more than a pit-stop between insoluble questions, a necessary but ultimately meaningless way of taking a sanity break. At the same time, there's a kindness to Bokonon's belief that this is all inevitable and just part of being a person. Life is frustrating and full of pitfalls and dead ends, but everybody's gotta do it.

4. "There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."
This line from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater comes as part of a baptismal speech the protagonist says he's planning for his neighbors' twins: "Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind." It's an odd speech to make over a couple of infants, but it's playful, sweet, yet keenly precise in its summation of everything a new addition to the planet should need to know. By narrowing down all his advice for the future down to a few simple words, Vonnegut emphasizes what's most important in life. At the same time, he lets his frustration with all the people who obviously don't get it leak through just a little.

5. "She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing."
A couple of pages into Cat's Cradle, protagonist Jonah/John recalls being hired to design and build a doghouse for a lady in Newport, R.I., who "claimed to understand God and His Ways of Working perfectly." With such knowledge, "she could not understand why anyone should be puzzled about what had been or about what was going to be." When Jonah shows her the doghouse's blueprint, she says she can't read it. He suggests taking it to her minister to pass along to God, who, when he finds a minute, will explain it "in a way that even you can understand." She fires him. Jonah recalls her with a bemused fondness, ending the anecdote with this Bokonon quote. It's a typical Vonnegut zinger that perfectly summarizes the inherent flaw of religious fundamentalism: No one really knows God's ways.

6. "Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'"
In this response to his own question—"Why bother?"—in Timequake, his last novel, Vonnegut doesn't give a tired response about the urge to create; instead, he offers a pointed answer about how writing (and reading) make a lonesome world a little less so. The idea of connectedness—familial and otherwise—ran through much of his work, and it's nice to see that toward the end of his career, he hadn't lost the feeling that words can have an intimate, powerful impact.

7. "There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too."
Though this quote comes from the World War II-centered Mother Night (published in 1961), its wisdom and ugly truth still ring. Vonnegut (who often said "The only difference between Bush and Hitler is that Hitler was elected") was righteously skeptical about war, having famously survived the only one worth fighting in his lifetime. And it's never been more true: Left or right, Christian or Muslim, those convinced they're doing violence in service of a higher power and against an irretrievably inhuman enemy are the most dangerous creatures of all.

8. "Since Alice had never received any religious instruction, and since she had led a blameless life, she never thought of her awful luck as being anything but accidents in a very busy place. Good for her."
Vonnegut's excellent-but-underrated Slapstick (he himself graded it a "D") was inspired by his sister Alice, who died of cancer just days after her husband was killed in an accident. Vonnegut's assessment of Alice's character—both in this introduction and in her fictional stand-in, Eliza Mellon Swain—is glowing and remarkable, and in this quote from the book's introduction, he manages to swipe at a favorite enemy (organized religion) and quietly, humbly embrace someone he clearly still missed a lot.

9. "That is my principal objection to life, I think: It's too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes."
The narrator delivering this line at the end of the first chapter of Deadeye Dick is alluding both to his father's befriending of Hitler and his own accidental murder of his neighbor, but like so many of these quotes, it resonates well beyond its context. The underlying philosophy of Vonnegut's work was always that existence is capricious and senseless, a difficult sentiment that he captured time and again with a bemused shake of the head. Indeed, the idea that life is just a series of small decisions that culminate into some sort of "destiny" is maddening, because you could easily ruin it all simply by making the wrong one. Ordering the fish, stepping onto a balcony, booking the wrong flight, getting married—a single misstep, and you're done for. At least when you're dead, you don't have to make any more damn choices. Wherever Vonnegut is, he's no doubt grateful for that.

10. "Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak."
Vonnegut touchstones like life on Tralfamadore and the absurd Bokononist religion don't help people escape the world so much as see it with clearer reason, which probably had a lot to do with Vonnegut's education as a chemist and anthropologist. So it's unsurprising that in a "self-interview" for The Paris Review, collected in his non-fiction anthology Palm Sunday, he said the literary world should really be looking for talent among scientists and doctors. Even when taking part in such a stultifying, masturbatory exercise for a prestigious journal, Vonnegut was perfectly readable, because he never forgot where his true audience was.

11. "All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental."
In Vonnegut's final novel, 1997's Timequake, he interacts freely with Kilgore Trout and other fictional characters after the end of a "timequake," which forces humanity to re-enact an entire decade. (Trout winds up too worn out to exercise free will again.) Vonnegut writes his own fitting epigram for this fatalistic book: "All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental," which sounds more funny than grim. Vonnegut surrounds his characters—especially Trout—with meaninglessness and hopelessness, and gives them little reason for existing in the first place, but within that, they find liberty and courage.

12. "Why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don't you take a flying fuck at the mooooooooooooon?"
Even when Vonnegut dared to propose a utopian scheme, it was a happily dysfunctional one. In Slapstick, Wilbur Swain wins the presidency with a scheme to eliminate loneliness by issuing people complicated middle names (he becomes Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain) which make them part of new extended families. He advises people to tell new relatives they hate, or members of other families asking for help: "Why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don't you take a flying fuck at the mooooooooooooon?" Of course, this fails to prevent plagues, the breakdown of his government, and civil wars later in the story.

13. "So it goes."
Unlike many of these quotes, the repeated refrain from Vonnegut's classic Slaughterhouse-Five isn't notable for its unique wording so much as for how much emotion—and dismissal of emotion—it packs into three simple, world-weary words that simultaneously accept and dismiss everything. There's a reason this quote graced practically every elegy written for Vonnegut over the past two weeks (yes, including ours): It neatly encompasses a whole way of life. More crudely put: "Shit happens, and it's awful, but it's also okay. We deal with it because we have to."

14. "I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled 'science fiction' ever since, and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal."
Vonnegut was as trenchant when talking about his life as when talking about life in general, and this quote from an essay in Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons is particularly apt; as he explains it, he wrote Player Piano while working for General Electric, "completely surrounded by machines and ideas for machines," which led him to put some ideas about machines on paper. Then it was published, "and I learned from the reviewers that I was a science-fiction writer." The entire essay is wry, hilarious, and biting, but this line stands out in particular as typifying the kind of snappishness that made Vonnegut's works so memorable.

15. "We must be careful about what we pretend to be."
In Mother Night, apolitical expatriate American playwright Howard W. Campbell, Jr. refashions himself as a Nazi propagandist in order to pass coded messages on to the U.S. generals and preserve his marriage to a German woman—their "nation of two," as he calls it. But in serving multiple masters, Campbell ends up ruining his life and becoming an unwitting inspiration to bigots. In his 1966 introduction to the paperback edition, Vonnegut underlines Mother Night's moral: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." That lesson springs to mind every time a comedian whose shtick relies on hoaxes and audience-baiting—or a political pundit who traffics in shock and hyperbole—gets hauled in front of the court of public opinion for pushing the act too far. Why can't people just say what they mean? It's a question Don Imus and Michael Richards—and maybe someday Ann Coulter—must ask themselves on their many sleepless nights.

[VIA] The A. V. Club

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

How's Your News?

Check out How's Your News? and tune in February 8th.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Tofu is For Candy-Asses

Thanks to retired filmmaker Marsha Kendall for coaxing Werner Herzog into this bit part gourmand in some godforsaken Antarctican eatery while he was there making Encounters at the End of the World.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Super Bowl Shanghai: A Distant Memory

It's four in the morning and I'm watching Super Bowl 43 from a bathtub in Dubai. A land where no one seems to care about either the Steelers or the Cardinals, football or me. Watching the Steelers work their magic again reminds me of the madness of ex-pats and businessmen, Cross, Gavin and myself encountered in Shanghai three years ago. This video captures a bit of the experience and notes the best thing about watching the Super Bowl from a foreign country is no matter the victor, America wins!

Go James Harrison go..... go for America!

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