31 December 2008

NYC Subway Bomb Searches

This morning, as I entered the Myrtle/Broadway JMZ station, I had the delightful opportunity to have my bag searched by "New York's finest". Not the first time, I might add. Today marks the third (3rd!) time since April that the NYPD has so graciously chosen me at "random" as people came into the station (2 have been at Myrtle, 1 was at the Flushing JM). I exhibited my displeasure to the officers in the best passive-aggressive manner I could muster, but there's really no way around it, they don't let you on if you don't consent to the search (so much for "voluntary", eh?).

Clearly they did not find anything, as I'm, a) not a bomber/terrorist and, b) because a terrorist is not so stupid as to actually bring a bomb onto the subway in this manner. I maintain that the only reason we're forced to submit to these is to maintain a base level of fear among the populace and maybe, just maybe, catch someone with drugs in their bags who may not know any better and put up a fuss (the latter being a total stretch).

I'm curious to know if the police have ever found any suspicious materials in a commuter's bag. My money (if I had any) would be on an emphatic "NO". If the police ever foiled some terror threat on the subway you damn well know it'd be all over the news and everyone would hear about it and the whole scheme would be lauded as a success in the face of all detractors and critics.

So if anyone knows if any statistics are kept (if they're kept at all) please let me know where I could begin an inquiry. Or, if anyone has already done such an inquiry, I'd love to see what the results are. Unfortunately, I've got too much on my plate at the moment to start digging around in what I fear would be an ultimately fruitless pursuit.

29 December 2008

Comments on the Society of the "Best Of..." (Kind of)

Late December is the time of year when people who write about things make up lists about the best things (or worst) things they had to write about for the previous 360 days. I'm not really going to do that because that's not something I enjoy doing. However, I am going to write about a few things I missed over the course of the year.

This mostly refers to music, as I try to keep up, but even people who make that their full-time addiction do it with great difficulty.
For a great compendium of this year in metal, go check out Brandon Stosuy's "Show No Mercy" column at Pitchfork. I don't generally follow that site, but SNM is worth keeping tabs on (in this "Best of '08" he got some lists from players themselves). What follows are some of the things that either completely passed right by my broken radar or things I didn't get to say enough about earlier in the year.

Krallice. Local Brooklyn supergroup makes epic "transcendental" black metal. It has been noted elsewhere that American black metal bands tend to be much more experimental with their compositions. There's a good dose of truth to this, as they're not bogged down with the need to be "trve" or "cvlt" in a manner that hinders European outfits. I was fortunate enough to see these guys at Silent Barn in April and it was, literally, jaw-dropping. The album, which I only recently got my hands on, has rightfully made a bunch of "Best of '09" lists and is phenomenally beyond words. Here's video of them from September, when they played an empty lot in Bushwick right around the corner from my apartment (while I was at work, of course).

Nachtmystium. Speaking of American black metal, I never got around to doing a proper review when Assassins came out earlier this year. I began one and apparently forgot to finish, because I just found the unfinished and unpublished post while looking for my own link. Mea maxima culpa. When I heard Instinct:Decay I thought that was progressive for the genre, but for sheer out-of-the-box thinking their latest album surpasses that effort by quite a margin. Assassins makes no bones about being a Pink Floyd-inspired work where, i
n a few tracks those psychedelic overtones lead toward Kylesa territory: sludgy yet vaguely anthemic. In the final reckoning the Chicagoans produced one of the most intruiging albums I've (and others) heard in quite a while.

Enslaved. While my head was focused on books (where it's spent a great deal of the latter part of this year), Norwegian viking-prog-metal geniuses Enslaved put out Vertebrae. Very little of what these guys do nowadays could be even remotely considered "black metal" other than some vocal passages. But as far as being a progressive metal powerhouse is concerned, few outfits can match their combination of awe-inspiring harmonic beauty and intricate rhythmic changes with sheer head-banging rockness. Generally when people say a band "is maturing as songwriters" said band is just getting old and lame. Instead, Enslaved are perfecting the methods mastered by Unwound, though hopefully they continue to make amazing albums into the forseeable future. Vertebrae hasn't made the same immediate impact on me that Ruun did, but it's still a new listen and my affection is growing by the listen.

Torche. I don't think I need to say much more than what I already said here. Now you can use the time you would have spent reading to watch this live video of them that happened to be shot on my birthday. And then watch more.

Mouth of the Architect. I didn't realize it until this past week, but MOTA's album Quietly was released this year. When I got my hands on it a couple months ago I thought, for whatever reason, that it had come out last year. Not realizing how recent and relevant it was I failed to write up a proper review. These Ohioans have taken the path I wish Isis would have taken after Oceanic and may have just claimed the heavy-ambient-metal genre all for themselves (Pelican is crap and can suck it). This band is criminally underknown and deserve far more attention than I've seen them receive.

Melvins. In the grand scheme of things, as awesome as Nude With Boots is, it may not stack up as one of the best albums of the year. Then again, just because it failed to make most lists doesn't mean it wasn't awesome. I've realized lately that a good number of noteworthy albums were released this year, more than I had initially remembered. Then again, I had noted in my review Buzz's lament that this album would be overlooked as just another great Melvins record. I fear his take was all too prescient. Regardless, the ferocious 1-2 of Melvins/Big Business live continued to demolish all comers, so there's that at least.

So that's my shortlist of awesome things that happened in 2008. Here are a few other notables worth remembering:

Dinosaur Jr live. I finally got to see my favorite band.
At The Gates reunion tour. Incredible.
Metallica released a pretty good album and it only took 20 years.
Made Out Of Babies released The Ruiner which was a damn fine album.

Now I have a mission to go get a bunch of new releases that I've yet to hear and have a listening party with myself. These bands also released new stuff in 2008: Jesu, Boris, Earth, Harvey Milk, Mogwai, Electric Wizard, and Meshuggah (which most everyone says is awesome).

Here's to everyone that put out great music in 2008 and hoping for an even better crop in 2009 (Mastodon, I'm looking at you).

Happy New Year, everyone!

22 December 2008

Something Actually Important For A Change

Hey everyone, anyone,
I just got a really encouraging phone call from my friend Tyler. A mutual friend of ours, that we've known basically our whole lives, had a bone marrow transplant a couple weeks ago and as of right now the recovery prognosis is looking good.

Most of this site is comprised of inanities. I put things I love on pedestals or take a hammer to the multitudinous, ossified towers of bullshit that I observe near daily. Rarely do I post about something liable to make me, never mind any readers, face the tremendous wrath of their bottled emotions. But now, during the high religious festival season, seems an appropriate enough time for a spiritless, religionless, anti-everything jerk like myself to celebrate something extraordinary.

I've known Jonathan Goss since I was about five years old. We played youth sports together, attended the same schools until high school graduation, even made a couple short films together. When I abandoned my hometown for greener pastures I pretty much abandoned most of the people I grew up with as well. Now, in the age of Facebook, a lot of things have come flooding back that I would have rather left in the past. Thankfully, however, I didn't learn about Jonathan from any status update. At our college reunion, Tyler (sidebar: I went to college with Tyler though met him through Jon when we were very young. Their mothers are great friends.) informed me that Jon was diagnosed with leukemia. I got sporadic updates on Jon's condition whenever Tyler knew something, for which I am truly grateful.

At some point during his ordeal this year, Jonathan started a blog based on his ongoing experience facing leukemia and his eventual need for a bone marrow transplant. Jon lives in LA now where he is building a career as a screenwriter. I still really don't have any contact with him other than reading his blog updates, which he stopped the day before his transplant. Hopefully, as he regains his strength, he'll begin writing there again, about coming through the other side of the void. He has faced the great radiation and he has done it with his trademark grin. I haven't seen the kid in almost ten years, but that grin is exactly the same.

In the time since I first heard about all this I began to feel guilty for severing so many of the ties I had to the place I grew up. I didn't so much burn bridges as I left them to decay, much like the government does with its infrastructure. Not everyone I grew up with was so provincial-minded, though most of the really great minds (and, honestly, I include myself here), left the confines and limited opportunity of small-city New England. I've found out there are a few old friends here in NYC that I've been trying to catch up with and quite a few are out in LA as well.

Tomorrow I head "home" for the holidays and, as usual, I won't be there long enough to visit with anyone who may be around. Really, I'm fine with that. I still need my distance. But more than anything, I'll be thinking about something more important than my own fucked up feelings. I'll be thinking about Jonathan, in a hospital room in Los Angeles. Too many of us blog-addicts become locked in our self-absorbed worlds, dwelling on the tree that blocks our view and failing to see the forest. Just in time for a new year I've seen the forest again and there is a Chesire grin floating amongst the branches.

So as the winter solstice passes and 2009 arrives, I invite any and all followers here to go read Jonathan's writings over at BlastCount. Besides the directed musings of a talented, growing writer, you'll see an amazing army of friends and family. They have commented on his posts and sent him wishes, blessings, many of whom probably have only the faintest connection to him, but realize that his battle makes any of ours pale. I'm sure most of you know someone who is facing a bigger battle and is in need of your thoughts, especially at this time of year.

Happy Holidays, everyone. Jonathan, we're with you, buddy.

19 December 2008

We Have A New Challenger

Until a couple days ago Allison Cekala was the reigning (and undisputed) champion of amazing-postcard-sending. Now a challenger has stepped forward with a brilliant opening salvo. One of my roommates, Perin Hailey McNelis, left us (me and Ben) postcards before she left for Guatemala and I must say, I'm impressed. Alli, after your last lacklustre performance with that satellite photo of Maine's coast (which isn't bad, but it pales in comparison to most of your previous efforts), you really need to step it up...

15 December 2008

Best Napkin Art Ever.

Last night my band played its first show in a year and a half. It's essentially a new band and we're still working out a name, though I'll have more news on that soon (along with a few demo tracks, hopefully). Anyway, there were a few hiccups last night (Violent Bullshit apparently never committed and Said Fury may just break up), but they may have just been blessings in disguise because the three of us that played ripped. A ton of people showed up, which was a bit shocking as they seemed to arrive while I played our first song with my eyes closed.

Not to toot my (our) own horn, but folks really enjoyed our set, so that's encouraging, because, frankly, we had no idea what was going to happen. MAW and ANIMAL put in stellar sets as well, so we all had a big metal-ly love fest afterwards. That was also nice because none of us seem to be able to handle compliments and things kinda get awkward, even though it's nice to hear.
However, I'm proud to post here the finest compliment of the night, courtesy of Noga and Liam:

I think we have a winning t-shirt design on hour hands.

14 December 2008

I'm Going To Another Wedding, Kill Me

Ugh. Long Island. Wedding. Actually, as far as we're aware it's a shotgun wedding. So that's kinda humorous I guess. But this will make three weddings in less than a year for myself and my college friends. We're a bit tired of it, to be honest. To add some levity to the situation, I decided to take some liberties with the invite. Maybe my friends will be the only ones that find this amusing. Also, not sure who is actually taking account of these RSVPs, but good luck to them...

I'm rather proud of myself.

12 December 2008

Art Spiegelman - Breakdowns

I don't have a review for this, just a quick message that I just met Art Spiegelman. He just came in to sign all of our copies of his newest collection, Breakdowns.

So if anybody is looking for a great holidy gift, or is a Spiegelman fan, come down to Shakespeare & Co. (716 Broadway, Manhattan) and get a SIGNED copy. Also, they're 20% right now!

Awesome Show Update

Exciting development(s) have precluded me from spending time posting in the manner which I would prefer, but I know you're a forgiving lot. Here's what I've been up to:

1) Got a new little gig writing blurbs for Tilzy.tv. Go check out the site, it's a growing database of web-based tv programs. They've got a pretty wide range, everything from comedy to politics and news to animation, etc. Here's one I did last week on an up-and-coming LA sketch trio, Chad, Matt & Rob. More to come on that front...

2) My band is finally playing a show. Finally! It's been a year & a half since the last time we played out. Now we have a bassist (instead of 2 guitars) and a new name. What's that name? Well, I'll have to get back to you on that. "Why," you ask? Because after taking six months to settle on one (Forfeit) our attempt at due dilligence failed miserably: there are about 15 other bands with the same name. We've got a few ideas, though. Anyway, here's the info for any loyal readers who will be in Brooklyn this Sunday:

The Charleston is on Bedford Ave in Williamsburg (btw N7 & N8, right off the L train)
And for those unaware, The Charleston is one of those heavenly establishments that provide a free personal pizza with your beer purchase. Yum.

3) And if writing and practicing weren't taking up enough time, I now have a girlfriend. Yes, somebody finds me interesting and attractive (and for good reasons, too! go figure) So thanks, Andrea, for taking up all my precious blogging time! On the upside I get to have sex (hi mom, dad) and have somebody laugh at my jokes. Also, I'm relearning French. You can help me pat myself on the back later.

update: I was supposed to give a completely unnecessary shout-out to Noga, but I got distracted by Art Spiegelman. So, Nogs, here's your shout-out. Now I have to go sticker, like, 50 books.

03 December 2008

Prepare To Shatter Your Brain

If any readers out there doubt the veracity of the claims that Japanese aquifers have been spiked with hallucinogens, please watch the following video. I'd like for anybody to come up with a plausible explanation for this:

I still can't believe what I just watched. That drummer is so good, too. What? Why? Huh?