Monday, January 28, 2008

Urine Nation

A full bladder can make the city into a cruel mistress.

That's why the Internets Celebrities have created this simple guide to urinating stress-free when you're far from the comforts of your own home.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

With No Ado, The Nines Take the Stage.

This was the rap band I was in while enrolled at Vassar College and for several different incarnations in New York City post-graduation.

With No Ado was an odd song in our catalogue. It was always played in the middle of a show. It was neither a finisher nor a jumpstarter. It was one of the sweeter songs we played and emblematic of our ongoing quest for unconventional structure. It goes verse bridge verse transition quick chorus epic finish. I'm not even sure you can call that penultimate part a chorus but I do repeat the words in chorusy fashion.

The performance is from our last show at Vassar. We're all amped, invite up two special guests and play through pretty much our whole repertoire up to that point (no MC Had to Flip It nor Mic Hit Me In The Head or now that I think of it, no Mortal Kombat, Jazzy Song or What Do We Rap About - so I guess a lot of songs were missing. Butterman!)

What's crazy is that was 9.5 years ago.

I remember that evening very vividly. We didn't play all the time senior year but I think we recognized the significance of closing out our college tenure in grand form. While I'm definitely a nostalgic and prone to fond memories, I think it's also a symptom of missing both playing with The Nines and freestyling in general.

I would never have guessed it could happen to me but let me be the first to report, you can definitely fall out of practice when it comes to freestyle rapping. Back in the day, I think I developed the skill because of our dearth of rehearsal time. Playing with such ill musicians who didn't need to rehearse left me scrambling for a way to bring text to the performance despite not having time to memorize it. After a while, I got hooked on the epiphany feeling of it.

When you get something right in a freestyle, it's a very in-sync-with-the-universe moment. I think I'll upload some more songs soon. Go Nines.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Eat fish, take pictures, make money

I went to Venice last summer to check out my dad's work in the Biennale.

He's number 27 there.

That's at the entrance to his room in the Italian Pavilion where a bunch of his paintings were hanging.

It was a family vacation which I hear can be a drag for some people. Not me. My folks know too many good restaurants to ever be a drag to travel with. At the very least, the good eating takes the edge off any familial friction.

They recommended a famous fish spot in Venice called Corte Sconta which they went to like three days in a row. I finally got it together to go for lunch one day with my friends Gaby and Milena. The meal was dope. So dope in fact, I had to take some pictures of the interior:

And the exterior:

I'd just gotten a nice tiny digital camera (the Panasonic Lumix - 7.1 mp) and was capturing anything that struck me. I'd also just started a flickr account.

When I got back home, I put up the pics and felt the way I usually feel when I post something to the internets - satisfied. Something that had been recreational now felt productive to boot just because people could look at it. This can be a misleading feeling because posting isn't good work in and of itself. But too often, I pat myself on the back for some misconstrued feeling of accomplishment felt just for the chance of reaching an audience.

Well, this time, I combined a misleading feeling with a misleading lesson about posting.

A week or two after I posted those Corte Sconta pictures, I got a message from Food Arts Magazine. They wanted to pay me $200 to publish my exterior image in their October issue, in a spread on Venetian Cuisine. Ever hear of Food Arts? Me neither! But I said hell yes, emailed them the high res file and got a check from them a month or so later. My picture accompanied a two line characterization of the restaurant as indeed a good place to eat especially if you let the chef do the choosing for you (like I did).

Achieving an initial misleading feeling of productivity had yielded me the price of my digital camera.

Then, a few months later, I got a note from a website that wanted to use my interior photo for their travel guide website.

Ever hear of Schmap?

Me neither. But I said hell yes, waited for it to get approved, saw it approved about a week ago and now my documentation of a good meal in Venice lives even more in infamy than it did before.

If you ever go to Venice, I recommend eating at Corte Sconta and taking some pictures.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Them Lonely Bottles

Recently, I went on an empty D train and videotaped 50 empty glass bottles rolling around the subway car.

Before I could do that though, I had to buy 50 bottles of mostly Snapple with some other brands and genres (note the jar of peanuts) thrown in for visual variation.

I needed empty bottles though.

So I began the very dubious and guilt-inducing task of pouring out fresh bottles of Snapple. Why didn't I have a container to save the various flavored teas and Banana drinks? Because I like to keep my kitchen clutter-free. Also, I am still a bad cook and don't think to make things like pitchers of ice tea.

Still, I did have one container.

Not the milk. The one to the left of the milk.

Sadly, it was only enough to fit the contents of 10 bottles. I had some friends drink about 3 more bottles worth. But the remaining 37 snapples got maybe a brief sip before being poured down the drain. I'm not proud of this feat. Nor am I proud of the pot of blended snapple that resides in my refrigerator - so blended, it transcends the term flavor.

It is the un-flavor. It is what happens when you mix banana drink with orangeade and diet peach tea.I predict it would be good with alcohol. But I am afeared.

The video of all those bottles rolling around was going to go on the end of this video:

But I thought it took away from the documentary-like feel that gives that video a consistent tone. I've been sitting on this footage for 2 years. I shot it originally with Ian Savage on an epic 4 hour journey to Canarsie on the L train, switching to the F, and looping out to Coney Island and back. We watched 2 bottles bop around the car which really meant watching them sit still for long stretches of time before just barely catching them roll into someone's foot or a pole.

It's hard to document natural occurrences. But rewarding once you start editing.

The song is by The Chief Smiles - friends of mine from Kerhonkson, NY. It's called "The Dance Went On Too Long." If live music is more your bag, check out the concert footage I shot of them at Arlene's Grocery about a year ago:

Big props to Ben Fried, Dallas, Jessie W, Sydney and Will for the supreme bottle management and subway wrangling.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Top Ten 2007

I feel like there's been a backlash against top tens this year - especially because so many blogs are partaking. I don't see the reason for the hate. Either you read a top ten and get something out of it or you skip reading that post. Shucks, I didn't hear or see most of the albums/movies that came out this year. But I did catch a bunch of good ones and if you haven't caught wind of these and at all trust my taste, than you've made a netflix, torrent or acquisition discovery.

I wish I had a better discovery matrix for new music. I usually get to albums long after they've appeared - the exceptions being the odd rap albums which those more connected than I make available to me. It's not that I want to beat the rush and look more knowing. It's just that I find myself impressionable when it comes to music. When too many people shit on something, I find myself not really giving it my attention. I'm trying to cultivate the naive objectivity that makes for surprise and true analysis. Till then, I can best construct my list based on enjoyable repeat listening and pretend I can trust myself.

These are in order.

Top Ten 2007 Albums I heard

Kanye West – Graduation
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
Pinback – Autumn of the Seraphs
Wu-Tang Clan – 8 Diagrams
X-Clan – Return from Mecca
Bishop Allen – Charm School
Prodigy – Return of the Mac
Jay-Z – American Gangster
Fountains of Wayne – Traffic & Weather
El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead

Honorable Mention

Blu & Exile – Below The Heavens
Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass
Ghostface – Big Doe Rehab
UGK – Underground Kingz
White Stripes – Icky Thump

Every year, people kill the past year for its short supply of quality films. I always fought this. That kind of thinking I generally chalk up to lazy, dare-you-to-impress-me viewing. I also hold that most people don't see enough movies to qualify the statement "a bad year for movies." Something like 500 movies come out of Hollywood or at least appear in genuine movie theaters every year. In a good year, I probably see 50 - 70. And that was back when I was multiplexing. This year, I probably went to the theater 30 times and didn't double-up even once.

Despite my dearth of real theater-going experience I found myself feeling the urge to say this was a bad year for movies. It was intoxicating to be so dismissive for the first time in my life. Luckily for my overall sense of self, the last few months provided a whole bunch of great movies with what looks like at least a few more gems (There Will Be Blood, Atonement, Chipmunks - psych!) and I feel no more desire to be so quit of this year's movies. It feels like years since Ratatouille came out but damn that movie alone should give 2007 a pass.

Also, when I went to the movies, I tried to ensure that every time I set foot in a theater would afford me a good use of my time. I don't like this attitude. Again, like the albums, it affords little surprise. And when the movie disappoints, it can feel really depressing. I'm Not There and I Am Legend (not the worst movie but a demoralizing overall picture) put me in bad moods I could still feel three days later. How do you alter your expectations? I think it has something to do with productivity. When I am producing my own shorts and finishing work, I feel like I've earned the right to roll the dice on a bad movie-going experience. When I'm being holiday lazy, a bad movie stings.

So for 2008, I resolve to lower my expectations, seek out more surprise and not mind the odd bad picture.

These are also in order.

Top Ten 2007 Movies I saw

Ratatouille – Brad Bird
The Savages – Tamara Jenkins
Juno – Jason Reitman
Once – John Carney
Michael Clayton – Tony Gilroy
You Kill Me – John Dahl
Eastern Promises – David Cronenberg
Sicko – Michael Moore
The Host – Bong Joon-ho
Knocked Up – Judd Apatow

Honorable Mention

Rescue Dawn - Werner Herzog
Sweeney Todd – Tim Burton
American Gangster – Ridley Scott
No Country For Old Men – Brothers Coen
Sunshine - Danny Boyle

I enjoyed No Country - especially the first two thirds. But it does grind you down like few movies. I really like what Andrew Sarris in the NY Observer had to say on the subject:

"IN CASE YOU were wondering, yes, I saw the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men. This year it makes up my entire category of Movies Other People Liked and I Didn’t. It is simply too nihilistically evil-worshipping for my taste, though I can’t fault the sterling performances of Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and Woody Harrelson."

Nihilistically, evil-worshipping indeed. But still better than Oh Brother Where Art Thou. IMHO.