Regular readers know that I enjoy perusing this city's top weeklies, the New York Press and the Village Voice. The arrival of the former paper onto the city's scene around 15 years ago demonstrated just how healthy some competition can be for the consumer. By veering away from the relentless political correctness of the Voice, by commissioning all manner of first person columns that offered a genuine insight into inner-city life (producing such eminent authors as Amy Sohn, Jonathan Ames and Ned Vizzini along the way) and by allowing writers like yours truly to publish lengthy interviews with Stock, Aitken and Waterman or otherwise waing lyrical about the joys of being a Palace fan, the Press forced the Voice into a radical rethink and drastic editorial overhaul.
Actually it did nothing of the sort the Voice is slower to change direction than an oil tanker - but by distributing 50,000 free copies around the city each week, the Press did force the Voice to drop its cover price from a buck to precisely zero. Nowadays, New Yorkers can choose from several different quality weekly freebies to gauge what's going on in the city: the Voice and the Press are merely those at the top of the pile.
Given their almost contradictory approaches to all manner of subject matter, you'd think that when it came to their annual Best of New York issues, they'd offer up the kind of variety that makes Manhattan the spice of life. (Don't worry, that was a deliberately mixed metaphor.) Not so. The similarities, as Dick Cheney tried to convince the American public when otherwise haranguing John Edwards earlier this week, are more profound than the differences. As we shall see.
The New York Press at least gains bonus points for sneaking in its Best Of Manhattan issue a week ahead of the Voice. But it loses every one of those points for persisting in calling it the Best Of Manhattan long after the paper's demographic has expanded to the outer boroughs and the misnomer shows in any number of editorial selections.
The Voice, meanwhile, loses out for allowing itself to consistently be scooped by the Press. (Then again, there was no Village Voice Best of New York issue until the Press had published its Best of Manhattan for so long that it had already become essential city reading.) But the Voice gains for being relatively authoritative: upcoming visitors to the city should bookmark its Music recommendations, especially with regard to precise categories as Best Music Venue for Short people, Best Venue for Short people to Avoid and Best Stadium-Style Seating That's Not in A Stadium.
But enough of their differences. Other than being published a week apart, the Voice Best of New York and Press Best of Manhattan editions display a rare unanimity in this city. Especially when it comes to agreeing that some of the best things in New York are in Brooklyn's Park Slope. For example:
NEW YORK PRESS
THE RUB @southpaw
Don't pass it on
Cosmo Baker, Ayres, and DJ Eleven have figured it out, and are throwing the best party in the city, with a fun crowd and properly mixed rekkids. Their revelers come from all kinds of different backgrounds and ethnicities, but are joined together in just blamin' it on the boogie, dancing to hip-hop, disco, funk, 80s, and guilty pop pleasures.
Best party in Brooklyn to dance sweatily to smart music - THE RUB @ SOUTHPAW
Dirty hipsters have been trying so fucking hard to make rock music danceable that they've been ignoring the obvious: Franz Ferdinand is a dance band only if you've never met a person of color. Thankfully, the next gen has no problem communing under the tent of black and brown polyrhythms, and it does so at THE RUB @ SOUTHPAW, the city's most promising and unassuming new party. On the first Saturday of each month, signal di plane and rock away to a perfect blend of dancehall, hip-hop, '70s funk, and recently, reggaeton.
NEW YORK PRESS
BEST SUMMER SERIES
CELEBRATE BROOKLYN! AT PROSPECT PARK
Bryant Park may draw the hip hordes and Central Park may attract the largest crowds, but for sheer programming diversity you can't beat Prospect Park's annual "Celebrate Brooklyn!" series. Featuring a wide array of live performances, film screenings and combinations thereof, "Celebrate Brooklyn!" attracts big crowds, but the capacious Prospect Park Bandshell never feels too jammed. The attendees are usually a highly diverse bunchfrom babies to seniors, and encompass a far wider spread of people than your average Central Park show.
Best outdoor concerts - BROOKLYN BANDSHELL
It's more intimate than Central Park's stage and distinctly Brooklyn-flavoredthink Jamaicans turning out for Burning Spear. But our favorite feature of the BROOKLYN BANDSHELL (which is not, by the way, actually a shell but just some concrete, seats, and staging) has to be how it's such a compelling excuse to get stoned in public.
Southpaw's knock-out punch aside, my own 5th Avenue shows up several more times especially in the Food and Drink categories, for which our nabe has so many contenders that the editors have been forced to become ultra-specific.
So Pollo gets the NY Press award for Best Park Slope Nachos (yes there are many to choose from), Belleville the Voice award for Best Brooklyn bistro, and Excelsior the same paper's award for Best suburban-style gay bar. (I can confirm the first and the last; I haven't eaten at Belleville.) And major thanks to Voice writer Mike Phillips, whoever he may be, for recognizing that 7th Ave's Big Nose Full Body deserved an award for Best Neighborhood Wine Store.
Of course, it's not all wine and roses out here in the biggest and best of Outer Boroughs, which is why I'm glad that both publications were able to aim some ire Bruce Ratner's well-deserved way, as follows:
NEW YORK PRESS
BEST ABUSE OFEMINENT DOMAIN
We have to hand it to Mr. Ratner. It was genius to distribute those flyers touting Jay-Z's part-ownership of the Nets, especially considering Prospect Heights' solidly African-American constituency. And the promise of jobs, jobs, jobs? Perfect for a neighborhood where the biggest employers are auto-body shops and bagel stores. But the coup de grace, the reason urban studies classes will speak of him for generations after he molders in a hell he'll doubtlessly try to develop (will the devil go condo?), are the underhanded dealings with the residents of 636 Pacific St.
In the past few months, Ratner has quietly paid 636 twice the market rate for their apartments. Contingent upon that is the residents signing a gag order restricting them from speaking ill against Ratner. In fact, when questioned, these residents must talk glowingly of the developer and convince their neighbors to also sell out before Ratner brings his wrecking ball a' bashing.
Suddenly, Robert Moses is no longer the city's biggest cocksucker.
This is all part of Ratner's plan to turn Prospect Heights into Jason Kidd's playground. It's a plan wrought with snafus, of course. For one, people live on uncondemned land proposed for demolition. Approximately 350 people. Second, the land is not even slated for demolition. This would require the use of eminent domain that, the last time we consulted policy, is for public projects, not private.
Who in the working-class neighborhood can afford $50 nosebleed seats? Moreover, the proposed Flatbush Ave. site is home to some of Brooklyn's heaviest congestion, not to mention a multiyear construction project building Ratner's own Atlantic Terminal project. If he wasn't so hell-bent on bringing suburban malls to Brooklyn (isn't Atlantic Center kept afloat by $1.6 million in rent from the Department of Motor Vehicles?), maybe there'd be a couple acres to build an ego-stroking arena. Sure is a hard-knock life, Bruce. We'll see you at the protest.
...in precise, if slightly more elongated, agreement with...
Best Bloomberg-era finance gimmick - ATLANTIC YARDS
Bruce Ratner is the new Trump. No, he doesn't have troll hair: He's building an empire with other people's money. Some bankers are helping him buy the Nets, and Pataki and Bloomberg threw in hundreds of millions of your dollars so he can build his ATLANTIC YARDS, a small town with an arena in it, at Brooklyn's bustling epicenter. Number of affordable housing units: Ratner won't say.
It's true, then: the papers have more similarities than differences when it comes to looking at New York City through the bottom of a hip(ster's) flask. In which case, which is Dick Cheney and which John Edwards? Well, the Voice is obviously the more left-wing, but then its rarely as smarmy as our potential future VP, and it's as stubbornly set in its ways as our currently presiding Dr. Evil. The NY Press is more open to new ideas, but in other ways it's more a Cheney type of rag: partially because it permits right-wing thinking, but especially because of its unapologetic use of the F Word.
The Press gives out a 'Best Fuckwit Blogger Misunderstanding Blogs' Award, which deserves an award of its own, and offers the particularly amusing Best Street To Find People You'd Like To Strangle. The choice is not Bedford Ave in Williamsburg (likelihood is, too many NYP writers live there), but Elizabeth Street in NoLiTa. The point the paper makes, however, applies to the city in general.
"We don't know exactly when New York got square. Rudy Giuliani is the most obvious cause. The dotcom boom that put absurd amounts of money in the hands of 24-year-olds didn't help. Kids right out of college, by the laws of nature, are supposed to be flat broke, if only to learn the value of cheap beer, falafels and using your imagination for fun. [Arriving in NYC at the age of 24 myself, though not from college, I can vouch for all this.] That peculiar bubble turned the world upside down by giving young twerps entrée into the world of swank restaurants, expensive nightclubs and fancy living that would normally be reserved for the over-40 set."
The Press goes on to rightly assail Elizabeth Street for being not only an appallingly self-absorbed example of gentrification, but the only such neighborhood to fetishize rice pudding and corn, with restaurants devoted to over-priced examples of each.
Pretending that there are more differences than similarities, The Press wins my own Best-Seized Opportunity to Attack Your Rival, for the following vicious assault on Village Voice cartoonist Ted Rall.
TED RALL STILL WANTS TO WORK WITH US
First, Ted Rall took second honors in our 50 Most Loathsome Issue 2003, wherein we called him a "self-righteous shitheel," mocked his artistic ability and questioned his "First-Amendment puris[m]." In response, Rall sent us a pitch for his unbelievably idiotic syndicated column (not to be confused with his unbelievably idiotic syndicated comic).
Of course, if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. The Press exhibits a most Murdoch-like competitive streak: it ensures it gets its publication out a few hours ahead of the Voice, it publishes its Best Of List a week before the Voice, and it harangues everyone within reading distance via big headlines full of four letter words.
Schadenfreude, perhaps, that the Press' new logo proved a little too similar to the New York Post's copyrighted insignia for the comfort of Rupert Murdoch's lawyers, who sent a Cease and Desist order. The Press responds this week with a lengthy Page 2 editorial signed by Editor-in-Chief Jeff Koyen. It opens with the undisputed 'Best use of A Four Letter Word in a Weekly Newspaper Headline' for this beaut:
AND FUCK YOU TOO, LACHLAN
And ends with an award for the Best Way To Admit Defeat Without Apologizing for this hilariously bitter kiss-off:
"We wish we could've waged a legal battle against our lackwit hick cousin, but the guy behind the scenes is a rich motherfucker Australian with deep, deep pockets. It's all yours, Rupert.
And yours too, Lachlan, you spoiled little Aussie bitch."
Who said New York had grown polite in its old age?
It's that time of year again, when Public Radio Stations and online journalists alike pitch their public for some financial support. I operate iJamming! as a labour of love it's become an integral part of my life and that's not going to change any time soon but there are costs involved in running the site, not to mention the increasing demands on my time. I have deliberately steered free of advertising on this site, both because of the bureaucracy it would create, and because I want the site to be 100% independent and not influenced by any outsider's interests. And so, the plain fact is: I put in several hours a day on this site, thousands of people visit every week, and I don't get a penny from it.
Some of what you get at iJamming!: An interview with Karl Hyde of Underworld... on the subject of alcoholism.
...And wine reviews (with music to match). Whoops....
In the old days, as some of the regulars at the iJamming! Pub know, I would attend gigs with a plastic bag full of Jamming! fanzines, approach those I thought might be interested in what I/we had to say, and ask them to part with approximately 25p for the privilege of buying a copy. (Sometimes this covered the printing costs; other times it didn't.) Now I'm doing it the other way round: You get to read anything and everything for free, in advance, and if you feel like you're getting something from it, I ask that you consider a contribution. Think of it as dropping a coin in the busker's bucket, or tipping your waiter for good service. Overseas readers who make up a significant percentage of iJamming! regulars should not feel like they can't get involved. Using either paypal or amazonhonors is as simple as clicking on the buttons below and paying through a credit card.
Now, I know that part of my pitch to you is based on the fact that I spend hours every day gathering news, composing reviews, disseminating opinion and frequently engaging in irrelevant waffle, but I've just looked back on my first pitch for financial support, made in December last year, and I don't think I can improve on it. Please read the following, even if you've read it before:
When I set up iJamming! three years ago, it was mainly as a library for my interview transcripts, a clearing house for occasional out-takes, and a home base where people could find me if need be. The financial outlay was minimal beyond the initial investment in time and software; the site took care of itself for a while. But over the last eighteen months, as I've kicked in with near-Daily Postings, iJamming! has taken up more and more of my time - to the extent that I've been doing less and less paid freelance work.
I'm not complaining. In fact, from a creative standpoint, I'm delighted. A freelance writer spends a vast amount of his/her time fruitlessly trying to sell ideas to editors; should those ideas get commissioned as features, they're often outdated by the time they get published. In the interim, the writer's initial intent is frequently compromised by the editor's own vision and commercial demands, the published magazine/newspaper may only be available in select markets for a short amount of, and payment can often be a problem. Sometimes it feels like a good way to earn a living; more often than not, it's frustrating. (This is one reason I prefer writing books.)
Here at iJamming!, I can communicate immediately, and directly, with those people who are interested in what I have to say. Whether it's a record review, a comment on current affairs or the music scene, an archived interview from Jamming! Magazine or the Keith Moon book, the wine-music connection, or even, when time and energy allows, an exclusive interview as with Underworld or 2 Many DJ's, I get to publish to the whole online world. And I get immediate feedback from my readers - which spurs me on to further writing. Along the way, I feel like I've built up a unique community there isn't another site out there with quite the same interests as iJamming! - and with the opening of The Pub, that community has become interactive. I'm enjoying watching people correspond across the Oceans. As much as anything, the writing remains accessible potentially for ever. It's published permanently, globally, for free.
But I have to be realistic. The more pages I put up, the more I have to work on the infrastructure. The more people come to the site, the more correspondence I get. The more I review records, the more people ask me to review their records. Etc.
So while I firmly believe that information wants to be free, I'm asking anyone who cares about this site to consider financing that freedom. Think of it along these lines: Would you buy iJamming! at the newsstand? For how much? How often? Is it worth $5 a month to you? Is it worth the price of a pint once a week? Or a cappuccino-latte? (Or a glass of wine!) Can you afford a year's subscription? Can you afford anything? If the answer is yes to any of the above, click on one of these buttons and make a donation using a credit card. PayPal and Amazon are pioneers of online transactions; you're as safe with them as anyone. Paypal charges a lower commission, should you not have a preference.
I think I can state with some conviction - knowing that most readers will merely surf through this, make a mental note to pitch in some time in the near future, and then wonder off to whatever else occupies their time - that it is extremely unlikely I'll raise enough from this "pledge drive" to pay anything more than the costs of the iJamming! structural "backbone". (Online hosting costs, bandwidth, software etc.) Personally, I think that direct subscription to independent journalists on the web is very much the way of the future. And I see no reason why people like myself should not earn an income for their online writing, any less than we should be earning an income from our print journalism. The only difference is that we're cutting out the middlemen and asking the public to finance us directly. As someone who favors small businesses and independent labels, and who opposes the corporate machine and the enormous sums it spends (wastes?) on advertising and marketing and packaging, this concept appeals to me on an ethical level as well as a creative one.
Still, to repeat, I doubt that even my hardiest pitch will generate income to cover more than the structural costs of hosting the site. And so, to use a final metaphor: think of your donation as a voluntary contribution to the structural upkeep of a treasured institution a museum, a library, a lighthouse, a club, maybe even a church. Click one of the buttons below - paypal is preferable; it takes a lower commission - and consider a contribution of just a few dollars, pounds or other currency. Thank you very much.
There's a reason I haven't been posting more wine reviews of late. 1) I haven't had time. 2) I haven't been drinking much of it. 3) I'm not good enough at it. Yesterday I made brief mention of Saturday night's very bizarre dinner with fellow wine geeks. One of those geeks, the permanently Hawaiian shirted Chris Coad, just posted his essay about the experience on two esteemed wine boards: I recommend this one for easy access. Chris has a wonderful way with words about wine (and doesn't suffer from my addiction to alliteration, either):
"Holy cats, I need wine. What's next, a Gentaz-Dervieux Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune Cuvée Reservée 1979? Medium ruby color, browning well in from the rim. Smells like a walk in a eucalyptus forest, hints of dried leaves and koala. Over the hill, leafy and dried out, but still has a bit of life. Well, a tiny bit anyway. Okay, not that much. Whoops, it's dead now. Oh well."
Wait. Koala? Chris, you actually know what a koala smells like???
He's even better when writing about the food experience, which, as I said yesterday, was weird in the extreme.
"My new steamed steak is a very pale grayish pink on the outside; when I cut into it, ice crystals glisten up at me. Astonished, I poke at it with my finger: frozen solid! Frozen steamed steak! I say "Holy crap!", chisel off a frosty chunk and offer it around the table for examination. Kane pokes at it tentatively, "Wow... frozen..." I start giggling semi-hysterically, "Man..." is all I can say, "Oh man." I look over at Lisa, who is staring down in silent astonishment at her own crystal-glazed piece of frozen cow. There are no words."
And people wonder why I'm vegetarian! Anyway, as well as detailing all our wine consumption and food disasters with with and style, Chris's review may been the only one I've ever seen on a wine board to suggest that the restaurant should have comped us free MDMA as compensation.... No wonder he thinks he knows what koalas smell like!
(There is a chance he meant kola. But it's too late now.)
Last week I mentioned the group Three Colors, whose music will finally be made available on CD early next year. Co-songwriter and singer Chris Harford has continued writing, recording and touring in subsequent years. And his web site offers plenty free MP3s as evidence. IJamming! readers may be especially intrigued by the song title 'Joe Strummer's Midnight Dream.'
Several iJamming! Readers now have their own blogs and have been too modest to advertise them in The Pub, but nice enough to link to me from their sites. Christopher Benton has named his page Brooklyn Calling, most likely in response to a current Clash re-issue. He also seems to be embarking on a series of photographic recreations of legendary album covers. When can we expect you to sacrifice a guitar for the London Calling shot, Chris?
Another Brooklynite posting his review of the London Calling re-issue is Tommy of The Sticking Point. Like me, Tommy seems obsessed with the song 'Rudi Can't Fail' and that distinct opening line, "Sing, Michael, sing
" Also like yours truly, Tommy uses his site to mix up observations on music, literature and politics with intensely personal family news. Check this photo and discover the definition of unintentional irony.
I watched the Palace-Fulham game Monday with fellow expat Eagle Geoffrey Armes, who reminded me that he has also taken advantage of the internet to post a diary alongside his MP3s and gig dates. I've just popped over and seen that he's posted his own observations from the game and linked to here; yes, this is all getting a little nepotistic isn't it? Anyway, Geoffrey wrote a wonderful memoir called Music Matters that didn't get published; though he's yet to take the great leap and post it online, some of his musings offer a similarly engaging, wistful sensibility.
Online magazine 3am publishes a lengthy interview with Adam & The Ants guitarist/songwriter Marco Pirroni that links to my 1978 interview with Adam with the words "breaking a lot of Adam's promises." It's hard to imagine many of us care any more. I got a bigger kick from this picture of Marco looking like Uncle Fester..
When I want to know what's going on with the 20-something music fanatics here in New York City, I date one of them. No, hang on, I'm a married dad, I do nothing of the sort... I pop on over to Melody Nelson.com. Hostess Audrey gets to more gigs than anyone this side of a 15-year old Tony Flecther; she also hosts, DJs, promotes or books bands for about 6000 different clubs a week. And she's talked me into playing one of them in a couple of weeks: an early Monday evening at Eleven. (That's the venue, not the time. Actually, it's the time also. The night, however, is called Atomique. I'll be playing non-dance stuff, so Manhattanites should stick October 18 in the diary if they want to hear my newly acquired dub-reggae cover of Primal Scream's 'Loaded' which arrived from the UK one day too late for last Friday's Step On.)
When I want to know what's going on in the wider world of the music industry, I pop over to an anonymous Park Sloper's site, Coolfer.com. His focus on industry trends can be a little intense for those not fascinated at watching the music business forced to reinvent itself, but he eases this weight with such late-breaking stories as the arrest of Ms. Dynamite for assault, Barbie-branded compilations, and Sammy Hagar's business deals. Coolfer can be damning with his criticism: a piece on the Kemado label's deal with Universal punches hard at pretty-boy band Elefant. And he's proving relentless in his attacks on the new R.E.M. album, Around The Sun, which just came on my CD changer as I started typing the band name. (Big Brother is watching me.) I've been playing the album continuously since belatedly getting a copy last week, mainly in the hope that I'll fall in love with more than the first two songs, and so I'll reserve proper discourse till a musical October Hitlist, but I have to share the following observation in the meantime:
Saturday afternoon at my stoop sale, I blared music out my window using the 6-CD changer. Among the CDs was Around The Sun. I thought the distinct sound of Michael Stipe's voice might provoke some interest, especially as a) the album was not yet released and b) those stopping by were very much the product of (or even members of) the 1980s American alternative rock generation. Not one single person made a comment.
Finally, stretching the concept of Web Friends a little, Christie's auction house last week sold a Keith Moon drumkit not for its £10-£15,000 estimate, but for ten times that. We're still trying to find out who had a spare £120,000 for a five-piece kit, of which only the bass drum has The Who logo emblazoned. (Google seems slow on the uptake here: I found several links for the advance sale, no news stories about the surprise sum the kit attracted. Anyway...) More money than sense? Would you buy a used drum kit for $200,0000 if you had that kind of cash sitting round? (Married people whose wives read the site may reply anonymously!)
Going, Going, Gone for more money than most of us earn every few years.... Keith Moon's 1968-70 kit fetches £120,000 at Christies.
Like many who've been disappointed by the Democrat candidate's campaign so far, Posie and I feared John Kerry going mano à mano with President Bush. But soon into Thursday night's debate, we breathed an enormous sigh of collective relief. In what was surely his most important public presentation to date, Kerry showed himself to be, finally, Presidential. The debate, moderated calmly by Jim Lehrer, was completely devoted to foreign policy and, with a 32-page rulebook ensuring that the candidates couldnt personally harangue each other, very heavy on the issues. By the second hour of commercial-free talk, we were having trouble keeping up with it all. But then so was the President, who looked increasingly flustered and frustrated the longer he was required to think on his feet. This, you could see, was the price he's paid for not holding impromptu Press Conferences.
No kissing babies, cheering crowds or negative ads: The candidates face off on the issues.
Kerry was not perfect: he's still dangerously patronizing, and as with any politician, suspiciously vague on solutions to America's many crises. (Especially on Iraq, where he kept talking about "my plan" for a safe and peaceful solution, but could do little more than offer viewers his website address for details.) And he dropped at least one clanger: the New York Subway system was NOT closed down during the Republican National Convention. Fortunately for him, Bush didn't appear to know otherwise. Besides, Kerry made up for this by running down the precise numbers of foreign troops in Iraq, ridiculing Bush's notion that this has been some kind of grand coalition. Having learned from his last few months' mistakes, Kerry also limited his usual references to Vietnam, and instead hammered home a much more important war theme: Osama Bin Laden. (As in, what happened to catching him 'Dead Or Alive'?) In citing 'nuclear proliferation' as his chief foreign policy concern, Kerry promised to lead by example; should he become President, he says, he will halt an ongoing American programme to build nuclear cluster bombs. That's hardly a sop to the centre, and I commend him for it.
All the immediate media opinion polls showed Kerry the clear victor. What really matters though, is how Kerry came across to the small percentage of voters still undecided. For the first time, many of them may have seen what they've been hoping for: a Democrat Candidate who looks like he could take the office of Presidency and keep their country safe.
Getting Down at Step On at precisely 2:52am on a Saturday morning.
Now I know why rock bands announce 'farewell tours.' Attendance at Step On Friday night was superb and I have no doubt it was because people know they've only got three nights left to enjoy our monthly party. Though I was almost pissing in my jeans by the end of my uninterrupted three-hour stint on the decks, I enjoyed not having guest DJs and being able to hog the night to ourselves. Won't bore you with a full list of what was played, except to say that, in the dance set, the biggest cheers seemed to be saved for !!!'s 'Pardon My Freedom,' Underworld's 'Rez' and 'Cowgirl' (somehow mixed into each other) and Soulwax's brilliant 'NY Excuse'; among the baggy tracks, 'Kinky Afro,' 'I Am The Resurrection' and 'Bang' all proved particularly popular. And The Wonder Stuff's 'Give Give Give Me More More More' provoked some Melody-like nostalgia, especially from our New Jersey friends who experienced the Melody first-hand. (Thanks for driving up, Gary.)
There are only two more months of Step On. Mark them in your diaries. November 5 is a good night if you can't cope with the late hours, as I'll be cutting our around Midnight to get beauty sleep before the Marathon. December 3 will be our all-out finale. You won't want to miss it.
Also, if you're trying to have a baby, have it known that Step On gets your horn on. There is a reason why our Junior is due on the first Friday in January: it's exactly nine months since the first Friday in April.
There are many different ways to offload one's excessive music collection. Some hawk the best of it on E-Bay, Half.com or Gemm.com. Many bring their overstock to a second hand store. And some just give it to the Salvation Army or their school. But hosting a Stoop Sale is by far the best way to sell music if you want to make friends as well as some pocket change. Saturday afternoon, a steady stream of Brooklynites including many who'd been out Friday night with us at The Royale - came by to fish through my many boxes of CDs and 7" and 12" singles and search out some bargains. At a buck a disc, there were no complaints about prices - though I've noticed that with the proliferation of MP3s, people are becoming much less concerned about actually owning a compact disc album. And I don't blame them. (See David Byrne's comment below about music being "devalued.")
Some people preach the idea of converting CDs to MP3s, not understanding the time factor involved in loading up every CD into the computer; then again, the new neighbor whose friend's machine can apparently handle 50 CDs in a sitting may well be onto something. And who knew that Park Slopers could merrily debate each other about the merits of The Bad Plus, or Steely Dan's comeback, on a Saturday lunchtime? Everyone's an expert round here.
They're also inherently honest. I've had a weird old four-7" box set from North Carolina sitting around through the last three stoop sales; no one even blinked at it until now. But this Saturday morning, a North Carolina expat seized on it as a prized rarity; he then gave me the chance to withdraw it from sale. (I let him have it for $2 on condition it was for personal use.) Then there was the DJ friend who looked through a decade's worth of dance 12"s and, despite the fact I was offloading one of his own mixes (an honest mistake!), handed me some back with the assurance that they were too valuable to let go at a stoop sale. By the end of the day, I didn't even mind that I'd inadvertently allowed a Paris Angels 7" into the box. It too went to a good home. And as friends stopped by with their kids and I blared music onto the street, the event almost took on the feel of a block party. I met several people who work in the music business, many others who used to be in bands, one person who had engineered a particular CD on I had on sale (but went uncredited), and a new-to-the-hood Village Voice writer. Oh, and Posie and I had great fun seeing what some of our Step On regulars actually look like in the bright light of day and how late they get up and get out of bed of a weekend.
I've kept it quiet about my own Marathon efforts this year. Friends know I've been training like crazy and feeling, at the third attempt, like I'm finally doing it right. That's because I've been following a firm set of rules to avoid injury: conduct all long runs either on dirt tracks or on a gym treadmill. Avoid concrete, don't run downhill, don't go out too early in the morning or late at night. Don't run tired, or dehydrated from alcohol or caffeine. And above all, don't overdo it. Friday lunchtime, I broke almost every one of those rules and at the end of a 6-mile run, coming to a halt at the bottom of Park Slope, felt my hamstrings clench shut and the first twinges of runner's knee kick in.
I was signed up for a half-marathon in Central Park Sunday morning, for which I'd intended to add another eight miles as a necessarily lengthy pre-training marathon run. But after being on my feet all night Friday at Step On with those hamstrings getting tighter by the minute and getting by with just a few hours sleep, I heard my body loud and clear at the stoop sale: it demanded time off and some deep tissue work before it could take in another 20-mile training run. So I bailed.
And I felt great about it. Especially after Posie returned from a shorter run in Central Park telling me she met someone whose friend ran this exact same half-Marathon last year in the exact same tired state as myself and subsequently had to withdraw from the NYC Marathon in November. I did a couple of miles at the gym and some bike work just to keep in, and I'll make up the missing miles this week fully rested.
Posie, incidentally, completed the last of her nine qualifiers yesterday. She can run in next year's Marathon. Now all she has to do is drop a baby in January and start training. Good luck. And congratulations!
The timing could not have been better. I'd already decided not to run the Sunday morning race by the time a last-minute invite made its way down the wire for a Saturday night 'offline' an impromptu dinner with a bunch of wine geeks. By the time I figured I could join them, they'd reserved a table for eight and confirmed for seven. I was able to take the last place and enjoy a last few glasses of wine before putting a halt to almost all alcohol consumption until after the Marathon.
It was probably the most chaotic one of these events I've attended: the wines were all over the map (qualitatively as well as geographically), the table would barely have sat 4 people, let alone eight of us and our 18 bottles of wine, and my friends' 'special' steaks came bizarrely 'steamed' and inedible. But these events are as much about the company and camaraderie as they are about expensive wines or fancy food. They're a great way to occasionally eat out without paying restaurant wine prices - while enjoying a wider number of generally much better wines. And after 25 years in the music world, I thrive on having a different set of friends with a totally different obsession. I did notice one thing, though: none of the others who made it out on Saturday night have kids to intrude on their hobby. Or to affect their last minute availability!
Our 5th Avenue has become a hipsters' paradise. It's gone beyond tipping point and into something close to cliché; I'm bored by it all. But Gorilla Coffee is an exception. Gorilla sells only fair-trade beans from all around the world; you can buy them by the pound and brew 'em at home, or spend $2 for a pint of rocket fuel, bring in your laptop and enjoy their free wireless internet access all day. I tend to the former, and brew up either Nicaraguan coffee on my drip machine or Sumatra coffee in the French Press, according to my needs each day. Sunday morning, out of all supplies, I joined Gorilla's 15-minute queue and came home not just with my ground beans, but two free cups of coffee for buying by the pound. (That's good customer relations for you.) I wouldn't say the caffeine made me perfect on Sunday, coming at the end of a week of Marathon training, DJing, stoop sale record box carrying and a wine dinner, but the fuel certainly helped. And while Gorilla is partly responsible for making 5th Avenue so painfully hip, I was pleased to see that among all the dykes and funky white couples hanging loose Sunday morning in their store, there were at least a couple of grannies perusing the New York Times. The nabe's not dead yet!
When not deluged with Hurricane rains, we've enjoyed a lovely New York Indian Summer here in New York. Sunday afternoon there was not a cloud in the sky, visibility went on for miles, and one of my Crazy Legs team-mates and fellow DJ, Mojolators producer Justin Nichols celebrated his engagement to the lovely Ludwine with a rooftop party in midtown. Justin's late to this marriage game: several of his guests came by with pregnant wives and kids in tow. But even though almost none of us - dads or unmarrieds - have a full head of hair any more, we still know how to kick back, down a couple of beers, chow on some rice and beans, converse about English football, New York schools and the temptation to move upstate, and generally accept that things could be a damn sight worse in the world.
Our weekends upstate we often pass on the Times. Just not enough time to wade through the several pounds of newsprint. But there are always enough good stories to justify the paper's excessive weight and increasingly exorbitant cost. The following helped set me up for the week ahead:
a) In the New York Times Book Review front cover feature on Philip Roth's new novel The Plot Against America - wherein the 1940 election of Democrat FDR (and hence the outcome of World War II) is altered when the Republicans nominate well-known Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh as their candidate, and America joins Germany as a fascist anti-Semitic state - reviewer Paul Berman made the following salient observation about why the book is not entirely a work of fiction:
"During the last two or three years, large publics in Western Europe and even in the United States have taken up the view that, if extremist political movements have swept across large swaths of the Muslim world, and if Baathists and radical Islamists have slaughtered literally millions of people during these last years, and then have ended up at war with the United States, Israel and its crimes must ultimately be to blame."
b) The Week In Review saw the long-overdue return of Thomas Friedman, who jumped right into the Iraq crisis. After a long list of Administration errors, he admitted the painful truth for the likes of us who are usually of the left.
"What I resent so much is that some of us actually put our personal politics aside in thinking about this war and about why it is so important to produce a different Iraq. This administration never did."
(At the foot of the page, the paper states, 'Maureen Dowd is off today.' Is that to infer that she's 'on' when she's published?)
c) The New York Times Magazine, meanwhile, found room to publish a lengthy story on Nonesuch Records (home to Wilco, Brian Wilson and The Kronos Quartet among others) as "The [New] Industry Standard." On a weekend when I could not even give away any number of dated major label CDs by acts long forgotten if ever known to begin with, this comment by David Byrne, newly signed to Nonesuch himself, seemed entirely relevant:
"The reason the record business is in trouble is the things they're selling -- the hit singles and the physical records -- have become devalued. If people can get those things for free, what do the record companies have left? Whereas what's incredibly valued and needed is the relationship and trust.''
And they're feeling... Relieved all over. Aki Riihilahti celebrates his first goal for two years and Palace's first win of the season.
There's a reason this post did not go up on Monday. I was playing truant, watching Palace-Fulham live in a Manhattan bar. Our first clean sheet of the season, the first time we've scored two goals, and most important of all, our first victory. Best of all, we played like we meant it. The season starts here.
SEP 26-OCT 3: This Sporting Life Parts 1 & 2 (football and Olympics), Full Court Music Press, Rudi, The Clash, Apocalypse
SEP 19-25: The Zutons/Thrills live, Brian Clough RIP, Iraq, Hunting, Virgin Trains, Punk Voters, Step On Steps Down
SEP 17: The V Festival Review: Pixies, Charlatans, Scissor Sisters, Fountains Of Wayne. Basement Jaxx, Audio Bullys, Freestyler, The Killers, Pink - and camp cameraderie.
SEP 12-16: Johnny Ramone, Village Voice vs. New York Press, Love Parades
SEP 11: Absolute Affirmation: A New York Hitlist.
SEP 3-10: The Futureheads live, The Good News, Step Off, No Sleep Till Brooklyn
AUG 23-SEP 2: No postings: On summer holiday.
AUG 16-22: 33 Notes on 45 Bands: Little Steven's International Underground Garage Festival
AUG 9-15: Step On, The Summer Hitlist
AUG 2-8: Crystal Palace are shirt, Crazy Legs are back, The British are Rapping, Losers Lounge, Step On
JULY 26-AUG 1: Farewell to Orbital, the Nike RunHitWonder, Pere Ubu in the Park, Devo, Dave Wakeling, Berger & Wyse
JULY 19-25: Live reviews: Mission Of Burma/Electric Six/The Fever/Van Hunt/Brazilian Girls/Apollo Heights/L Maestro; Crime Watch, Book Watch, TV Watch, Booze Watch
JULY 12-18: Jeff Mills' Exhibitionist DVD review, Midweek W(h)ines, Los Pleneros de la 21/Kékélé live, The Homosexuals,
JULY 5-11: Nick Hornby's Songbook
JUNE 28-JULY 4: The Streets/Dizzee Rascal/I Am X/Funkstorung live, Wine, Football and festivals,
JUNE 21-27: Lollapalooza, Morrissey, Deadwood, London Calling, Stone Roses, Euro 2004,
JUNE 14-20: Fast Food and Cheap Oil, Party Prospects, More Clash, Radio Indie Pop
JUNE 7-13: MP3s vs AIFF, Step on, June Hitlist, The Clash,
MAY 31-JUNE 6: Benzos/The Hong Kong/Home Video live, Tribute Bands, Lester Bangs, Glad All Over
MAY 24-30: The Clash, Fear Of A Black Planet, Marvin Gaye, Sandy Bull, Richard Pryor, Stoop Sale LPs, Michael Moore, Nat Hentoff
MAY 17-23: 5th Ave Street Fair, James, Surefire/The Go Station live, Crystal Palace
MAY 10-16: Radio 4 live, John Entwistle, Jeff Mills, Wine notes, Joy Division covers
APR 26-MAY 9: Twenty Twos, Morningwood, French Kicks, Ambulance Ltd all live, More Than Nets, Mod, Turning 40
APR 19-25: 5 Boroughs Rock, The Number 3 Bus, Orbital split, MC5 reform
APR 6-19: British Press Cuttings, More Than Nets, Art Rockers and Brit Packers
MAR 29-APRIL 5: The Rapture/BRMC/Stellastarr* live, The Chinese Beatles, Freddie Adu
MAR 22-28: Singapore Sling live, Kerry on a Snowboard, Pricks on Clits, Eddie Izzard, Who's Two
MAR 15-21: TV On The Radio live, Tracking Terror, Bloomberg's Education Bloc, The Homosexuals,
MAR 8-14: The Undertones live, Winemakers Week, Madrid Bombings, Just In Jest
MAR 1-7: Rhone-gazing, Pop Culture Quiz answers, Who's Hindsight, March Hitlist
FEB 16-29: Lad Lit, American Primaries, New York novels, Candi Staton, the Pop Culture Quiz, World Musics In Context
FEB 9-15: Grammy gripes, Spacemen 3, Replacements, Touching The Void, Moon myths, Voice Jazz & Pop Poll
FEB 2-FEB 8: Suicide Girls in the flesh, Johnny Rotten's a Celebrity...So's Jodie Marsh
JAN 26-FEB 1: Starsailor/Stellastarr*/Ambulance live, Tiswas, Wine Watch, Politics Watch
JAN 19-25: Brooklyn Nets? LCD Soundsystem, Iowa Primary, The Melody, TV On The Radio
JAN 12-18: The Unicorns live, New York w(h)ines, Sex In The City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, S.U.V. Safety, Bands Reunited
JAN 5-11: Tony's Top 10s of 2003, Howard Dean and his credits, Mick Middles and Mark E. Smith, Mick Jones and Don Letts,
2003 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
2002 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE: