Friday, February 27, 2009

Rock posters, zeitgeist and conformity

The Los Angeles Times ran a story on Sunday about the new breed of rock poster designers, which I’ve noticed only now, thanks to a link from the essential OMG Posters.

PhotobucketIt looks at people like Jason Munn of the Small Stakes and Cole Gerst of option-g, who exemplify the Type B aesthetic of gig-poster art in the ’00s. In the ’90s — when, I would argue, the high-concept retro flyer really took shape — the dominant look was that of Frank Kozik (right): hyper-masculine, perverse, acidic. It’s the look you saw in a zillion posters for the Melvins and Killdozer, etc.

Mutation and anthropomorphism were constants, with babies or women caressing insect-like monsters, or bunnies smiling as they are mutilated. It was an exaggerated cartoon, a rape of the childlike, comic-book style, and it reflected the nihilism and “extreme” attitude of the music.

In the Death Cab age, things are softer, subtler, and more feminine. Adult, not teen; grad student, not dropout. The colors are muted and the designs are cleaner and, as this article insightfully points out, drawn from pre-rock sources. (And, I would add, pre-JD, pre-Wild One, and pre-James Dean — or at least from the Mad Men era, when rock and teen culture existed but as minor, ignorable subcultures.)

The story also pinpoints some common influences:

These artists show a fascination with the iconography of the past, including book jackets, vinyl records, nature icons and modernist design, in a field that has been radically remade by technology: Like today’s vinyl obsessives and neo-craft types, they are post-traditionalists, reveling in, almost fetishizing, print culture after what we’re told is the end of print.

Unlike designers who extend the rock tradition of subversion and boundary pushing, Munn’s work exudes a Zen-like serenity, a love of negative space and an almost religious reverence for typeface. “I try to pick up on little random bits of a band,” said Munn, “and go from there.”


Like his fellow travelers, Munn draws from outside the rock canon. He loves Saul Bass, who designed film posters for “Anatomy of a Murder” and “Vertigo,” and Alex Steinweiss, who invented the album cover in the late ’30s with jackets for boogie-woogie sets and Grieg concertos.


What the article does not address, and what frustrates me a little bit more with every new batch of these posters I come across, is the sense of conformity. The aesthetic described above is almost ubiquitous now, to the point where it’s not always so easy to tell one designer’s work from another. Here are five posters by five different people. (For convenience’s sake I have borrowed them from MBV, which has great taste.)


Is it enough to chalk this up to the idea of a pervading style of our time, a zeitgest? If so, it’s amazing how far the pendulum has swung here, and how it has taken pretty much everyone with it. A decade ago Kozik’s style was very widely imitated, also to the point of excess, and similar trends happen again and again in the history of graphic design. Why are so many illustrators today so blatantly ripping off Chris Ware, for example?

Is it simple professional demand — you do this because this is the stuff that magazine art directors and advertising agencies want and can sell? In that way it would reflect production standards in pop music, which ebb and flow with the tastes and technological developments of a small number of studios and engineers — that’s why so much from the early ’80s has the same drum sound, for example, or why all the post-grunge metal stuff is interchangeable (well, one reason, at least).

But how does this explain the tiny and decentralized world of indie-rock poster design? Theories welcome.

Watchmen peeps at Apple Store SoHo


Update to ‘Jai Ho’ remake

The Wall Street Journal has a piece today about the Pussycat Dolls’ remix of Slumdog Millionaire's “Jai Ho,” which I posted about yesterday.

Remember those awful lyrics? Here's what Ron Fair, the A&R man with the golden touch (PCD, BEP, Xtina, etc.), has to say about them:

Mr. Fair enlisted several lyricists to create English lyrics that satisfied competing goals. “The challenge was not to make it too literal, too uncool,” he says. “We were trying to make something that would appeal to contemporary music fans, yet still be true to the story of the film.”

Oh come on.

Granted, “You are the reason that I breathe/You are the reason that I still believe/You are my destiny” is vague enough to suit pretty much any romantic film ever made. But how do “When you touch my body/I’ll make you hot" and “This beat is heavy, so heavy/You gonna feel it” remain “true to the story of the film”?

Admit it — it’s a skanked-up remake that borrows the hook and nothing else. And there’s nothing wrong with that, in theory. In practice? It’s no “Don’t Cha.”

Eat Less Bread


Thursday, February 26, 2009

‘Jai’ hos


Larry Rosin at Edison Media Research took note of the skanky and extremely lame lyrics in the Pussycat Dolls’ remix/remake of “Jai Ho,” A.R. Rahman’s Oscar-winning song from Slumdog Millionaire:

In an attempt to make the song more palatable for American audiences, it has been re-created with the Pussycat Dolls replacing the original singers.

Let’s take a look at the original lyrics translated from Hindi:
Jai Ho! (Victory to thee!)
Come, come my Life, under the canopy
Come under the blue brocade sky!

Iota by iota, I have lost my life, in faith
I’ve passed this night dancing on coals
I blew away the sleep that was in my eyes
I counted the stars till my finger burned

Come, come my Life, under the canopy
Come under the blue brocade sky!
And now, the Pussycat Dolls lyrics for American consumption:
I got (I got) shivers (shivers),
When you touch my body,
I’ll make you hot,
Get what you got,
I’ll make you wanna say (Jai Ho)

I got (I got) fever (fever),
Running like a fire,
For you I will go all the way,
I wanna take you higher (Jai Ho)

I keep it steady uh-steady,
That’s how I do it.
This beat is heavy, so heavy,
You gonna feel it.

You are the reason that I breathe,
You are the reason that I still believe,
You are my destiny

“I wanna take you higher”? Seriously, Nicole, is that the best you could do?

Philip José Farmer, RIP


Philip José Farmer, a science fiction writer who shocked readers in the 1950s by depicting sex with aliens and who went on to challenge conventional pieties of the genre in caustic fables set on bizarre worlds of his own devising, died Wednesday. He was 91 and lived in Peoria, Ill.


In his Riverworld series Mr. Farmer imagined a river millions of miles long on a distant planet where virtually everyone who has died on Earth is physically reborn and given a second chance to make something of life. In his Dayworld series, Earth’s overpopulation crisis has been relieved by a technical fix; each person spends one day of the week awake and the other six days in suspended animation. In his World of Tiers series, mad demigods create pocket universes for their own amusement, only to face rebellion from their putative creatures.

In a genre known for prolific writers, Mr. Farmer’s output was famously prodigious. At one point in the 1970s he had 11 different series in various stages of completion. Even some of his admirers deplored his tendency to write too much too fast. The literary critic Leslie Fiedler agreed that his work was sometimes “sloppily” written but found that that was a small price to pay for the exhilarating breadth of his imagination.

Mr. Farmer himself made no apologies for his excesses. “Imagination,” he said, “is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.”

Any Riverworld or Venus on the Half-Shell fans?



Wednesday, February 25, 2009

O filme


drum and bass, n.

Forms: 19- drum and bass, drum’n’bass, drum n’ bass. [< drum n.1 + and conj.1 + bass n.5]

1. attrib. = dub n.7 1. rare.

1990 Face Nov. 53/2 ‘Dub Be Good To Me ... is Beats International’s most characteristic creation. It’s drum and bass culture, the sound of downtempo Britain after midnight. 1997 S. Barrow & P. Dalton Reggae v. 204/1 But the first vocal record with a full dub version on its flip ... is usually recognised as Little Roy’s ‘Hard Fighter’ on Lloyd ‘Matador’ Daley’s Syndicate label, recorded in March 1971, with the splendid ‘Voo-doo’ as its strictly drum and bass counterpart from the Hippy Boys.

2. A style of popular dance music originating in Britain in the early 1990s, variously thought of as derived from or identical to jungle, and characterized primarily by a fast drum track and a heavy, usually slower, bass track, but often also featuring synthesized or sampled strings, piano, or other instrumentation. Freq. attrib. Cf. *jungle n.

1992 DJ 26 Nov. 41/1 Setting elements from a slowed down modern remake of Starvue’s 1980 rare groove to surging double tempo fluttery frantic hardcore beats, this has Lisa Fabian squeaked 71.9-143.9bpm vocal and 144.7bpm drum and bass mixes. 1993 Echoes Dec. 24/5 Three floors of festive funkin’ frenzy with Chris Checkley, Dodge and Dessie D spinning the drum and bass. 1996 ikon Jan.-Feb. 117/1 Drum’n’bass is an embryonic and fledgling scene peopled by artists who are devoted to music and creativity and relatively free of the ego-wank vibe which cripples rock. 2000 N.Y. Mag. 1 May 124/1 Drum ’n’ bass was reviled as bastardized hip-hop until D.J. and producer LTJ Bukem ... came on the scene in the mid-nineties and brought soothing ambient sounds and live instrumentation to a genre known for gunshot effects and rough beats.

Copyright © Oxford University Press 2008

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dawn of the living slumdogs!


Photo by Babu/Reuters.

More on A.R. Rahman.

Best album cover of the year so far


That’s a Mercury Cougar — Neko’s own!

‘Nite Owl Dark Roast’


The official Watchmen movie blog reports:

WATCHMEN photographer Clay Enos has enlisted his Organic Coffee Cartel (OCC®) to produce a first-of-its-kind movie tie-in coffee for WATCHMEN, the upcoming film adaption of the celebrated graphic novel. Introducing Veidt Enterprise’s "Nite Owl Dark Roast," a limited-edition confection and collectible designed for fans and organic coffee gourmands alike. ...

“Making an imaginary coffee into something real seemed like a fitting and fun way to honor the multi-layered world of WATCHMEN. And having a majority of profits go to charity seems a little like something Adrian Veidt would do,” says Enos. “It’s not your usual movie-tie in fare, I really tried to make a quality product. It’s filled with specialty coffee that I want people to drink. Save the can, drink the coffee.”

No acknowledgment on this announcement or the ordering page (it costs $19.85) that the design is 100% pure Chock Full o’ Nuts.

Clay Enos is the guy who took Avedon-style portraits of seemingly everybody in the cast — seriously everybody, down to Rorschach’s mom, random Times Square hookers, and Big Figure with his henchmen (below) — for the Watchmen: Portraits book ($50). Poor guy’s not getting any royalties for it, though.


The Watchmen movie

I guess $120 million doesn’t buy you quite as much as it used to ...

Monday, February 23, 2009


The runner-up:

And the winner is...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

M.I.A. ain’t giving up the Tamil cause


While she was in labor, barely a week ago, M.I.A. was getting criticized harshly by major newspapers (yes, this one too) for her Tamil sympathies, which are often simplistically equated with “glorification of terrorism.” The logic, apparently, is this: If you are a Tamil (as she is), and you sing about war (as she does), and if you evoke the images of that war (as she does, with tigers and tanks), and you don’t take a side (as she doesn’t), then you are guilty of taking the wrong side.

She fans the flames by claiming a Tamil “genocide,” which is inaccurate and irresponsible. But she has the right to sing what she wants to sing, and to call the world’s attention to the war that has been destroying her homeland for the better part of 30 years, taking 70,000 lives.

Did N.W.A. “glorify” gang violence with “Straight Outta Compton”? Did Charles Dickens “glorify” poverty and child labor in Oliver Twist? Intelligent people should be offended by these questions. Smart and politically engaged artists raise difficult questions and direct their audience’s attention to injustice and pain. Listen to her fucking music: she’s not glorifying anything and she’s no terrorist.

She responded to this most recent salvo of criticism with information to corroborate her point of view. On Friday — nine days after giving birth — she posted the following to her MySpace blog:


The first link is about a Tamil man who burned himself in front of a U.N. building Switzerland, with a note saying: “We Tamils, displaced and all over the world, loudly raised our problems and asked for help before (the) international community in your own language for three decades. But nothing happened.”

The second quotes Human Rights Watch in saying that the Sri Lankan government is indiscriminately “slaughtering” civilians in their attacks on the Tamil Tigers.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The week (or two) in name changes

Santogold → Santigold
MF Doom → DOOM
Abu Ghraib → Baghdad Central Prison
Blackwater → Xe
Windows Mobile 6.5 → Windows Phone →
Idaho County Sheriff’s Posse → Search and Rescue
Christine Hamilton → Mrs. British Battleaxe

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sam McPheeters on Updike


I still haven’t made my way through all the tributes to John Updike in the New Yorker, let alone everywhere else, but one of the more interesting ones I’ve come across is by Sam McPheeters, of Born Against/Men’s Recovery Project/Dear Jesus/Vermiform/Montel Williams/punk/art/etc. fame. It’s here on his blog, which I recently discovered and have been enjoying. (Although somehow I miss the good old fashioned clip art.)

This part stopped me:

I’m guessing that most writers who read Updike’s books cannot help but be spooked by his depth of field, and/or absurdly prolific output. His fiction and non-fiction [...] hold, for me, the same unnerving quality as Bruce Lee action sequences, or certain Queen songs, or footage from the Mars rovers; all share a precision that seems beyond the reach of humans. At his best, his fiction felt like reportage from an existing reality. I sometimes had the impression he was toying with his readers, dumbing down, and would occasionally open up his internal throttle only for his own amusement.

Somewhere I still have the handwritten Vermiform mail-order note from Sam, in which he answered my question by saying something like “Born Against broke up [he gave the exact date here] because of us sucking.”

Yes, Eddie Money has an autobiographical musical, and it’s called ...

... Two Tickets to Paradise! What else could it be called, right?

Between this and the death of Ronnie Spector’s sister, I have now thought about Eddie Money more times in a week than since PYX 106 circa 1987.

Eddie Money says his autobiographical stage musical, “Two Tickets to Paradise,” was “a lot more fun when it was a hobby. Now it’s a job.”

That’s because the production — which traces Money’s life from his decision to leave the New York police force and head to California for rock’n’roll stardom — is set to premiere June 4-14 at the Dix Hills Performing Arts Center at Five Towns College on Long Island. The show is built around hits from Money’s 15 albums, as well as six new pieces he wrote for what director/playwright John Blenn calls “bridges” between scenes.

“It’s a really cool thing,” Money tells “We’ve been auditioning dancers (and) actors, building sets. It’s starting to get there. The whole thing is overwhelming; every time I get insecure, which is often, I look over at John Blenn and he tells me it’ll all work out.”


Blenn adds that the initial run is designed to “take the next step towards Broadway. A lot of producers are coming in to look at it at this point.” Money, however, is cautious about the prospects of the Great White Way. “Broadway is doing so bad now,” he notes. “They closed ‘Spamalot.’ They closed ‘Young Frankenstein.’ It’s a scary time to be working on a new play, y’know?”



(Via LP Cover Lover.)

‘A Story Sadder Than Sadness’


(Story: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Big thanks to BoingBoing for pointing out this site of “Eastern Bloc Lolcats,” translated for the benefit of us English-speaking comrades.

Most of the captions have to do with bureaucracy, the black market, the Soviet era, etc., like this one, translated as: “Drat, thwarted so close to freedom’s sweet caress. I dreamed for but a taste of the decadent west, and now my eulogy is sung by guard dogs and alarm bells.”


Or this one: “These consumables are contraband, comrade — your passage to the gulag is paid for in L’eggs Body Beautiful Smoothers Shaping Hosiery!”




Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The return of ‘Nookie,’ and other signs of apocalypse


Chris Weingarten has a good post at Rolling Stone today headlined with a question few dare ask: “Is the Rock World Ready for the Return of Limp Bizkit?”

As a good journalist, he lays out the evidence and talks to the experts about the Bizkit’s imminent return:

It’s no industry secret that the landscape has changed in the eight years since this lineup was actively touring and releasing records. Heavy music comes with eyeliner instead of fitted caps, rap-rock bands like Linkin Park have traded beats for ballads, and Fred Durst is best remembered for his macho posturing and public tantrums instead of a lasting music legacy. So will a reanimated Limp Bizkit work in the year 2009?


“We played all Limp Bizkit,” says Danni, assistant program director and music director for New York active rock station 92.3 KRock. “We had huge ratings. It was all about Limp Bizkit. And then there was sort of a shift and people stopped caring and stopped wanting to hear about the angry side of things. Nowadays, with people losing their jobs right and left, I feel like it’s more of a banding together. Even the stuff from the ’90s, like some of the Pearl Jam stuff, that angst-ridden stuff, just doesn’t really work as much… I think there’s more of a positive spin on things with the new president and people trying to be positive about the economy.”

Danni lost me somewhere in there, but his sincerity is touching. There are more choice quotes throughout, leading up to this closing thought, again from Danni:

“I liken them to Creed in a way because people want to hate them, but they don’t. They don’t really hate them. Everybody owns those albums, everybody loves ‘Nookie.’ If they go out and tour, as long as their ticket prices are reasonable, I think they’ll be fully welcomed back.”

I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you there, Danni, on several points. Not everyone owns those albums, nor loves “Nookie.” I also think people succeed in their desire to hate Limp Bizkit, and the kitsch cycle hasn’t yet come around. In addition, even if their ticket prices are reasonable, I think they may face many, many obstacles to success.

‘The End Is Truly F@#$ing Nigh’


Topless Robot reports on what it calls the official Watchmen condom:

For when you want your penis to look like Dr. Manhattan's little blue Gibbons-drawn nub. It's also the only condom that lets you metaphorically fuck Alan Moore while you're literally fucking your loved one!

Anyone got confirmation that this is indeed official merch?

Vanishing music posts

Jeff Weiss wrote an interesting piece in L.A. Weekly last week about the phenomenon of music blogs on Blogger mysteriously losing their content, as happened to me two months ago when my year-end list vanished without a trace. Weiss sees an RIAA-Google conspiracy gone haywire:

Blogger chat rooms buzzed with speculation about the mysterious force behind the surge in disappeared posts. Open e-mails to the Recording Industry Association of America began popping up at such a rapid rate that you’d think they contained new Justice mp3s.

Eventually, though, a consensus emerged: Each post takedown occurred on a blog hosted by the Google-owned Blogger platform, the publishing system used by the majority of mp3 sites ... Google, the bloggers believe, has quietly changed the methods by which it enforces its user agreement. Whereas in the past, a blog owner would receive a warning before a post’s removal, Google is now simply hitting the delete button.

It certainly makes sense that labels want to protect their copyrights, particularly when it comes to pre-release leaks that can destroy legit sales; the RIAA and Google basically admit to this in Weiss’s article. But that doesn’t explain the disappearance of posts with harmless old audio files or (in my case) posts with no downloadable files at all.

Are Google’s blog-scouring robots too zealous and indiscriminate in sniffing out copyright violators? Weiss doesn’t address that point directly, and I’d be curious to hear more stories from us schmucks who did nothing wrong but apparently fit the profile.

The story received many detailed comments. One is from a blogger who had written about the issue several months ago, and links to a Google page about DMCA removals, including instructions about filing a counter notification — in other words, how to defend yourself if one of your posts has been chucked down the memory hole. It includes a phone number and an email address. I've bookmarked it just in case this post goes AWOL.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Oh dear God no ...


NEW YORK, NY — February 17, 2009 — Multi-Platinum rockers Collective Soul, who recently signed a worldwide deal with [REDACTED], have begun work on their 8th studio release. ... The band has been hard at work in frontman Ed Roland’s lake house studio for the past few weeks, working on the follow up to 2007’s Afterwords. Renowned for their ability to write supremely crafted smash hits, the band is wasting no time in creating a new batch of tunes fit to replicate all of their past successes. The band are currently featured on the multi platinum selling soundtrack for Twilight. ‘Tremble For My Beloved’ from the album Dosage is also featured in the film.

Monday, February 16, 2009



More on the sad life of Estelle Bennett of the Ronettes (center, above), who died last week at 67.

Philip K. Dick’s (last) widow finishes his last book


The Guardian reports:

Philip K Dick’s last wife has reworked the novel the legendary science fiction author was working on when he died in 1982.

Tessa Dick, who described her self-publication of The Owl in Daylight as a tribute to her former husband, was Dick’s fifth and final wife, marrying him in 1973.

She told online magazine the Self-Publishing Review that her version of the novel was an attempt to express “the spirit” of Dick’s proposed book. Little is known about the novel, which Dick mentioned in a letter to his editor and agent. According to Tessa, the letter revealed plans to “have a great scientist design and build a computer system and then get trapped in its virtual reality. The computer would be so advanced that it developed human-like intelligence and rebelled against its frivolous purpose of managing a theme park.” The letter also mentioned Dante’s Inferno and the Faust legend, she said.

Tessa Dick published her book through CreateSpace, an service, and you can buy the book here.

Fans of this blog may recall a letter from Mrs. Dick herself a few months ago.

‘Tales of the Black Freighter’

Get your $19.49 ready:


Watchmen Motion Comic is on sale as DVD and Blu-Ray, too.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

M.I.A. had a boy, went back to making mixtapes


From her MySpace blog:

T O F A N S F R I E N D S O N F A M I L Y . M Y B A B Y I S H E R E







Friday, February 13, 2009

‘50 billion people, all deceased’


RIP Estelle Bennett, older sister of Ronnie Spector and original member of the Ronettes, who died on Wednesday at 67.

Obit coming soon here. But in the meantime, you gotta hear her incredible song “The Year 2000,” recorded in 1969, three years after the Ronettes broke up. Written and produced by her husband at the time, Teddy Vann (who later went on to write hits with Luther Vandross, etc.), it’s a bizarre apocalyptic vision of the future, something I’m not aware of from any other girl-group people. (Anybody know of other examples? Would make a great list.)

Listen here:

The song features a real or fake recording of a Hitler “sieg heil!” and, in the middle, the following spoken lines:

At last, they finally got rid of prejudice and bigotry
The rich and poor are now equal, and all men are free
At last, all religions can take a rest
They tried so hard; they did their best
That ugly, ugly word “war,” with its threatening sound
Won’t ever again be heard, won’t ever again be found
At last, all nations are finally one
Dead, under the still-living sun.

A more familiar moment of Ronettes awesomeness:

(Thanks: Photo, song, video.)

Even more Watchmen posters


More sloppy copy: They got the quote wrong on this one. (Click here, third panel.)


And here’s one that I somehow missed when posting the last batch:


Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Sonic Youth has John Fahey painting

Matador, Sonic Youth's new home after two decades with Geffen/DGC/Universal/etc., announces the cover art and other details:


The band has been Twittering like mad recently about the recording of The Eternal. Typical entries: “mixing a secret ‘something’ for Matador early shoppers”; “ ‘no, i wanna see the hairy gonads hanging fr yamaha spkrs.’ ”

‘Taking a big, meaty crap on the legacy of Peter Sellers’


The Hollywood-industrial complex reports:

STEVE MARTIN urged PINK PANTHER 2 producers to write in an unlikely wedding for his bumbling INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU into the script — because all his films that end with a marriage have been hits.

Clouseau weds Emily Mortimer’s character Nicole in the new comedy after funnyman Martin got his way.

He says, “I said, ‘I have to tell you that every movie I’ve done that ends in a wedding or holding a baby has been a hit.’

“I do believe we’ve taken the Pink Panther somewhere else and, in a sense, made it our own.”

And Martin, who is the fourth actor to play Clouseau on screen, already has an idea for the start of Pink Panther 3.

He adds, “It would obviously open with Clouseau’s honeymoon — him taking Nicole across the threshold and she’s wearing arm pads and a helmet!”

Jesse responds:

It’s funny, right before the end of his life, Sellers had helped write a script for the next Pink Panther movie, called The Romance of the Pink Panther, in which Clouseau finally met the love of his life. Throughout the series, starting with his cuckoldry, Clouseau’s love life had been held up to contempt, and this gave the series a cruelty to it after six outings.

What little I have seen of Martin's Pink Panther movies makes his version of Clouseau seem a clown, which Martin treats with contempt. While there’s no arguing that Sellers’ Clouseau was also a clown, Sellers never had contempt for this or any of his characters. In fact, Sellers’ motivation for the Romance script was not financial at all, but out of true sympathy for the character, and what Sellers saw of himself in Clouseau’s bumbling existence.

There aren’t any comedians like that anymore. I actually think Mike Myers was one of the last ones, but as much as the quality of Sellers’ films spiraled down and his life continued in turmoil, he at least retained the ability to, how did one biographer say it, play “great roles in shitty, shitty movies.” Myers has way more lost sight of whatever original gift he had for great comic characters, replaced with the plasticine grin of Shrek.


1960s computer ads


“Burroughs B-220 Computer

This was a vacuum-tube computer with 10,000 44-bit words of core, each containing 10 decimal digits. Core memory was a new technology, replacing drum memory with magnetic cores. This was called Random-Access Memory (RAM) because you could access any word of memory in the same time as any other word.”

And don’t forget the Burroughs B-205!

(Via Vintage Ads.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Watchin’ Rorschach’s mask

The eleventh (and maybe last?) of the Watchmen video journals focuses on our boy Rorschach’s mask. Download in your choice of formats and sizes (including HD) here, or watch below:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Queen Latifah on M.I.A.: ‘Some gangsta shit!’

Best quote that didn’t/couldn’t make it into print last night at the Grammys:

A source backstage texted me right after M.I.A.’s incredible nine-months-preggers performance with Jay-Z, T.I., Kanye West and Lil Wayne, saying that Queen Latifah was jumping up and down, saying “That’s some gangsta shit!”

And notice has now been served to all women in show business: your water better be damn well broke before you miss your next awards show!

Also, the critics respond to M.I.A.’s loss of the record of the year prize, which was one of the five that went to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The polka king wins again


Jimmy Sturr just won the best polka album Grammy for the 18th time. When I interviewed him about it three years ago, he had already stopped going to the awards because he was such a shoo-in every time.

Live Grammy coverage on ArtsBeat.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lux Interior on ‘SpongeBob’


In 2002, Lux Interior of the Cramps voiced a character in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants called “SpongeBob’s House Party (Party Pooper Pants).”

PhotobucketHe was the leader of an all-bird surf band called the Bird Brains, which sang a song about the Bikini Bottom crew that goes: “Down, down, down to the bottom of the sea/We’ll have lots of fun/You and me together in the underwater sun.” To watch it, click here. The Bird Brains’ song starts at about 8 minutes.

Lux died early Wednesday, at 62.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The doughnut/tapas history of Chelsea

When I moved into my apartment 10 years ago, the area was a doughnut nexus. Three great shops were within a block from my door. Twin Donut was directly across Ninth Avenue, at 24th Street; Krispy Kreme was a block away on 23rd Street; and at the corner of Eighth and 23rd was a place whose huge painted sign simply said “DONUTS.” This last one had a wavy counter, and behind it was a surly old dog with some kind of frightening affliction on his eye. He seemed to take offense at every order.

PhotobucketI used to go to Twin Donut and read the weekend papers with a chocolate glazed (or two); the coolest thing about the place was the little sliding window to serve doughnut lovers passing by on the street. Knowing what kind of catastrophe could coagulate in my veins if I lost control, I mostly kept away from the stores on 23rd Street, but I was somehow comforted by the thought of all that buttery cake and confectioner’s sugar being just a bad decision away.

One by one they disappeared. Twin Donut became the Heart Land Café, which didn’t last long, and the space lay vacant for some time. Krispy Kreme began retreating from the Northeast years ago as people awoke from cholesterol denial. And at some point the “DONUTS” place became Breadstix Café, which is your typical phony bakery/panini/wrap/cheesecake joint, designed to dupe tourists who haven’t figured out that they can get ripped off at Pax or Europa Café.

Meanwhile, Chelsea has succumbed to that kind of hyperdrive gentrification in which an already nice neighborhood, with high property values and low vacancy and all that, begins to root out every cheap restaurant, old-man bar and unhip small store as if part of some retail pogrom. (Die, Chelsea Commons! Good riddance, Midnight Records — make room for Ben & Jerry’s and a gay-themed bakery!)

Which, as everybody knows, is basically the way it goes in Manhattan. Except for one thing that to me seems to symbolize the new Chelsea: instead of having three humble doughnut vendors in my immediate vicinity, I now have my choice of three posh tapas restaurants, with several more just a few blocks away.

PhotobucketThe first to arrive, in 2004, was Tía Pol, on 10th Avenue. (It deserves the raves; so salty and tasty.) Three years later it spun off El Quinto Pino, in a tiny space on 24th Street that had been a breakfast place and then a bar (and perhaps some other short-lived thing too). Then a couple of months ago, in a spot on Ninth Avenue once occupied by a cheese distributor, or something equally unglamorous, came Txikito, a Basque place that serves what are basically tapas (and is yet another Tía Pol satellite).

And yet more.

I remember getting a couple of doughnuts and a cup of coffee at Twin Donut for less than $3. That would barely buy me a bite of arraultza now — which, I have to admit, I have tried, and enjoyed. But if I’m going to be colonized by anything, I want it to be Boston cremes, goddammit, not $12 mini-bocadillos. (A year or so ago a Dunkin’ Donuts opened two doors down from me. It’s depressing even just to look inside.)

And whatever happened to Twin Donut? After years of vacancy at 230 Ninth Avenue, around the first of this year I noticed a nice, thick new wooden door there. Then they put in a little bar, then tables and golden lighting. Uh-oh, I thought, but it turned out not to be yet another tapas place. Instead it’s something only slightly less posh: Co., from the Sullivan Street Bakery people, serving little pizzas at “reasonable prices.” We’ll see about that. (Update: It may not be cheap, but it’s pretty reasonable — and delicious.)

For now, though, there’s one aspect of the doughnut legacy of Chelsea that I’m glad has not been erased. That little window is still there. I wonder if anybody has looked up from their “iconoclastically topped” pizza and wondered what that thing is: