Burning Flags Press The website of Glen E. Friedman. Renowned for both his work with musicians like Fugazi, Minor Threat, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Slayer (and many, many more) as well as his groundbreaking documentation of the burgeoning skateboard phenomenon in the late `70's, Glen has been privvy to (and has summarily captured on film) some of the coolest stuff ever. He's also an incredibly insightful and nice guy to boot.
SoHo Blues - Photography by Allan Tannenbaum Allan Tannenbaum is a local photographer who has been everywhere and shot everything, from members of Blondie hanging out at the Mudd Club through the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th. You could spend hours on this site, and I have.
Robert Otter Photographs Amazing vintage photographs of New York City, specifically my own neighborhood, Greenwich Village.
oboylephoto Just some intensely cool photographs of abandoned places.
The Weblog of Spumco's John K. The weblog of cartoonist John Kricfalusi, crazed mind and frantic pencil behind the original "Ren & Stimpy," as well as "The Goddamn George Liquor Show." Surreal, unapologetic, uncompromising genius.
By and large, I don’t do a lot of crying, and -– if I do –- it’s usually prompted by something a little more personally impactful than a bit of literature or cinema. This all said, I do remember getting very misty through portions of Adam Gopnik’s “Through the Children’s Gate,” which is a collection of essays about raising children in New York City in the immediate wake of September 11, 2001.
2. The Fictional Character Most Like You
Cripes. I’m inclined to say Holden Caulfield, although that comes with a weignty share of baggage, being that “Catcher in the Rye” has been cited as some sort of primer for certain, infamous killers and assasins. I’m probably closer to Nick Hornby’s protagonist Rob in “High Fidelity.” Or maybe Howard the Duck.
3. The Greatest Album, Ever?
Just one? An impossible thing to pinpoint, but today I’ll say Funhouse by The Stooges.
4. “Star Trek” or “Star Wars”
I lean towards “Star Wars,” but I am experiencing a pronounced bit of fatigue with that whole scene. I’ve never lost my adoration, meanwhile, for the original “Planet of the Apes” series.
5. Your Ideal Brain Food?
At this stage of the proceedings, I think it’s ill-considered to only get your information from a single outlet. As such, I sample from as wide a spectrum of sources as can be accessed. Of course, viewing-wise, I have more time for MSNBC than for CNN, and the only FOX I watch is the local FOX news at 10pm, and that’s just for the weather. Reading-wise, out of loyalty, I still have a lot of time for TIME, and despite what certain parties may have to say about it, you cannot go wrong with the New York Times.
6. You’re Proud of This Accomplishment, But Why?
I would say I am tremendously proud of how well my kids have turned out, but I feel remiss asserting that said outcome is the result of my own efforts. At the very least, it was a group effort, and the lion’s share of the kudos deserves to go to my wife.
Otherwise, I would say that landing the job I currently have is something I am very pleased with myself about. After being unceremoniously discharged from my last gig and plunging headlong into long bout of crippling unemployment, I was feeling lost, broken and humiliated. So, to have found and earned a place at this new gig -– some eighteen or so months later, if memory serves -– that is such a better fit and that I love and have excelled in was, to my mind, a monumental achievement for me.
7. You Want To Be Remembered For…
Not sure I know how to answer this. I’ll take the cheeky cop-out route and say my high standards, impeccable taste and unsolicited outspokenness.
8. Of Those Who’ve Come Before, The Most Inspirational Are…
My grandfather on my mother’s side, probably. He was a lovely, big-hearted, razor-sharp gent with boundless curiosity and a kind word for all. He is sorely missed.
9. The Creative Masterpiece You Wish Bore Your Signature?
It’s not that I wish I’d written anyone else’s book. I mean, I can rattle off a list of favorites. It’s that I wish I’d written my own book. I’ve come very close, but it hasn’t worked out. Not yet, at least.
10. Your Hidden Talents…?
I’m a surprisingly adept bowler, I used to be able to draw quite distinctively and I can grill a reasonably decent steak.
11. The Best Piece of Advice You Actually Followed?
Always be on time. It’s efficient, professional, saves you extra stress and demonstrates respect.
12. The Best Thing You Ever Bought, Stole or Borrowed?
Bought? Probably the engagement ring I bought for my wife, being that she said “yes.” Stole? Probably the vinyl LP of It’ll End in Tears by This Mortal Coil from my college’s radio station. I was invariably the only disc jockey on the staff playing it, so I kinda doubt they missed it. Borrowed? Probably a black-leather motorcycle jacket from my friend Charlie. Charlie actually owned and rode a motorcycle for a while, so had a credible, practical reason for owning it. But, then he stopped riding it, for whatever reason, and no longer wore the jacket. I thought it was cool, so exhumed it from his closet one evening back in the late 80’s/early 90’s …. and never returned it. In 2018, it seldom leaves my closet, as there are arguably fewer things more tragic than a 50-year-old dad trying to look like a Ramone, but I do still have it.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or …?
I don’t think I’d know an Armani garment if you tried to smother me with one. I get my jeans at The Gap, usually, but more out of convenience than any brand loyalty. I do like Ben Sherman stuff, I must confess, but that’s only because I still naggingly feel obligated to dress like members of my favorite bands.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
I’m assuming they mean the hotel in London and not the since-shuttered NYC music venue. In any case, so many likely candidates have since passed on. I imagine dinner with Spalding Gray might have been something special.
15. Time Travel: Where, When & Why?
Well, as chillingly detailed in the Ray Bradbury short story, “A Sound of Thunder,” going back in time and messing with stuff has radical ramifications, so I’d be disinclined to do that. In terms of the future, why rush it? We’ll get there, ….hopefully.
16. Stress Management: Hit Man, Spa, Vacation or Prozac?
Hiring a hit man to alleviate stress would only cause further stress. Spas are nice, but expensive. Vacations are indeed great, but then they end, and you come home. I’ve never been a Prozac guy. Personally, in stressful times, I like to do a lot of walking (which I do anyway) and surround myself with the people who care about me.
17. Essential to Life: Coffee, Vodka, Cigarettes, Chocolate Or…?
Coffee and Beer are my biggest vices, although I remain perpetually concerned that I consume way too much of the latter. I don’t believe I drink enough coffee for it to be a genuine problem. Beer? I could really stand to cut back. I don’t drink any hard alcohol. I don’t smoke. I do eat chocolates and sweet stuff, but not as irresponsibly as I drink beer. I could probably stop drinking coffee today and be totally fine. Beer? That would be boring and sad, honestly. But, we’ll see.
Things I absolutely could not function without? Wife, Kids and MUSIC.
18. Environ of Choice: City or Country, and Where on the Map?
I’m a born and bred New York City guy, full stop.
19. What Do You Want to Say to the Leader of Your Country?
“RESIGN IMMEDIATELY AND TAKE PENCE WITH YOU!”
20. Last But Not Least, What Are Your Working On Now?
At work, I have three major events looming in the next three weeks that I’m orchestrating video/editorial coverage for. At home, I’m working on getting my kids ready for the new school year (as detailed here).
I was onboard with the Dum Dum Girls from pretty early on, being lucky enough to have been informed about them by two different friends shortly after the release of their debut EP. Named after a favorite Iggy Pop song and pairing the feedback, lo-fi squall and austere aesthetic of the Jesus & Mary Chain with angelic girl-group harmonies and the icy cool of the Nico-esque Dee Dee out front (see above .... yeah, I know), there was precious little not to like about this band. I managed to catch them live around the release of the “End of Daze” ep at the Bowery Ballroom, and they were amazing. By the time of their second proper album, Only in Dreams, however, I started to tune out. By the time of 2014’s Too True, I had largely abandoned ship. As it turns out, so did Dee Dee, who broke up the band and re-christened herself Kristen Kontrol. I have yet to fully explore her newer music since then.
While I personally liked their noisier, punkier fare, the track below is from Only in Dreams. Though symptomatic of the very reason I tuned out, this is an alternate version of the “official video” for "Coming Down." The original featured striking Dee Dee in a dark room, having her clothes cut off by various folks (an homage to a Yoko Ono installation, I want to say). This simpler video below found Dee Dee mournfully wandering the streets of Chinatown.
Only discovered it today, so thought I’d share it. You’re welcome.
Spend any time in your social media feeds like Facebook and Instagram, these days, and you’re bound to start spotting multiple “first day of school” images. Summer’s over, and a new school year is shortly underway.
The routine, by and large, is nothing new for our family, but this year marks a crucial difference. Charlotte, my eldest –- who was only a year old when I started this blog -- is starting high school next week. On paper, it’s been a long time coming. Tests were taken, applications were submitted, letters were thoughtfully composed, scholarships were dangled, choices were made, checks were written, uniforms were purchased and schedules were drawn up. But, suddenly, here we are. Next week, my daughter starts attending a school way up on the Upper East Side. Buckle up, buttercups, because this is happening.
Obviously, it’s a great thing. She’s worked very hard and we are exceptionally proud of her. Her efforts and dedication have earned her a place at a great institution and it’s the perfect environment for her to thrive in. I have all faith that she’s going to make the most of the opportunity. It will have its challenges, certainly, but I believe she is fully up to the task.
On a more personal level, however, I’m in a daze. Time has slipped by so quickly, and this little girl I used to be able to carry around with one arm is suddenly this willowy young woman. Technically, she earned the title a little while back, but this summer, it really felt that she became a proper teenager. Sure, there’s been a pronounced uptick in eye-rolling and unsolicited smarm, but nothing unexpected. She’s still thoughtful, compassionate and sweet, for the most part. That may change, but I’m hoping not.
On a logistical level, that commute brings its challenges, as well. It’s a straight shot on the 6 train from our neighborhood to the Upper East Side, but it’s a greater distance she’ll be traveling solo, on a daily basis. It’ll also mean getting up earlier and out the door on time, two things that some members of the family are more comfortable with than others.
As documented here throughout the years, I’ve trooped my kids all over the city. It was usually done for fun, but I also wanted to familiarize them with the topography and instill within them an innate understanding of where things are around town and how to get to and away from them. I wanted them to get to know their east, west, north and south without having to even look at a street sign. I wanted them to know the distinctions between neighborhoods and multiple routes for getting from here to there. I want to believe I’ve been successful, but regardless, for Charlotte, she’s about to be put to the test.
Now, when I was Charlotte’s age, I was already blithely running all over the city, and back then, it was an ostensibly much more dangerous place than it is today. In those days, I had no smartphone for my mother to call or track in case I didn’t come home on time or went missing. She just showed me the ropes at an early age, let me go and hoped I’d make it back alright. I usually did. Usually.
But now that it’s my daughter, I still can’t help feeling trepidatious about this new rite of passage. I’m sure this’ll prompt lots of “man up, you snowflake” responses, but hey …. she’s my kid, and I’m her father. It’s my job to be concerned. And, obviously, I’m also overwhelmed by the bittersweetness of it all. I’m immensely proud of her, but I cannot fully reconcile that she’s not that tiny little girl anymore.
It’s been a long, busy week, and I’m still grappling with reacclimating from our trip. I had a couple of things in the works –- notably a tribute to a neighborhood fixture who passed away suddenly in July, as well as a closer examination of the second-tier cast members of Susan Seidelman’s “Desperately Seeking Susan,” prompting by a viewing of same on Madonna’s 60th birthday. Beyond the more obvious cameos by folks like Richard Hell, Rockets Redglare, Anne Magnuson and DNA’s Arto Lindsay, this recent viewing revealed quick appearances by John Lurie of the Lounge Lizards, Stephan Ielpi from False Prophets and -– is that Vinnie Stigma from Agnostic Front? Jury’s still out on that one, but if I manage to get the right screengrab, perhaps I’ll bring that post to fruition. I was gearing up for that, but then Madonna –- dressed like a Tusken Raider -- gave that heroically ill-considered eulogy to Aretha Franklin at the VMA's, this week, and the moment kinda passed.
But, not wanting to send you all off into the weekend without something to chew on, here are three videos I’ve encountered in the past few days that warrant sharing.
First up, I’m sure you’re all as sick as I am of this bullshit about Toto’s “Africa” being recast as some sort of monumental musical achievement, prompting Weezer to record a cover it, which -- in turn -- prompted Toto to cover Weezer’s “Hashpipe” in a veritable circle jerk of low standards. The whole episode was a rapturous championing of mediocrity.
But even mediocrity would be a high bar for the video below. See how long you can suffer through this live rendition from 2015 by original Toto vocalist Bobby Kimball. Kimball was responsible for the high-piped chorus of the original, as well as his more notable contributions to the Toto oeuvre in the form of the hoary lead vocals of “Hold the Line.” Here he is on a festival stage in Japan, I believer, making tragic corned-beef hash of the whole endeavor. See if you can make it to the impromptu bass solo at the end. Cheers to my comrade Ned Ragget for this. You won’t thank me, but…
Next up, here’s amazing comic Dana Goudl portraying Maurice Evan’s storied portrayal of Dr. Zaius doing a recitation of Hal Holbrook’s portrayal of Mark Twain. This you WILL thank me for.
Lastly, my friend Rich posted this song on Facebook yesterday. Obviously, it’s a damn timely title (although the band in question is not the pseudonym adopted by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page in 1984). Plant’s venture was the Honeydrippers. This, meanwhile is the Honey Drippers from 1972, and apart from the intended political nyuck-nyucks, it’s actually a damn funky track. Crank it.
Have you ever been in a car driving along and come to an on-ramp to a highway where everyone seems to driving at about 80 mph? You have to assimilate to that speed really goddamn quickly, or it’s curtains. That’s what the past week has kinda felt like.
Since the wife and I came back from Lebanon last week, we’ve both been trying to re-enter and re-acclimate to the blitz of activity involving our respective office workloads, the impending school year for our kids and everything else that comes along with the end of the summer. As such, I haven’t had quite as much time to devote to the blog. Apologies, but I’m sure you understand.
In any case, while I’d originally intended on drafting a long, detailed post about the trip to Beirut, I’m instead simply going with selected highlights, punctuated by my photos. I want to post this while it’s all still relatively fresh in my head, although we’ll already have been back a full week by tomorrow.
Anyway, basically, the wife and I spent a little over a week in Beirut, also spending some days outside of the capital city in the higher elevations like Bsharri to the north (not too far from the Cedar Forest … or “Forest of God”), the quaint fishing village of Byblos and in a region southeast of Beirut referred to as “The Chouf.”
It's hard to encapsulate in a single nutshell, but our trip shattered a lot of my preconceptions about this part of the world. To the last, everyone we encountered was unfailingly gracious, especially when they learned we weren’t there on business but on holiday. The Lebanese are incredibly warm, polite and familial people, happy to help, extrapolate and share. Obviously, theirs is a history rife with a well-documented share of turmoil, but between the factions of the city in everyday life – Christians, Sunni Muslims and Druze peacefully coexist … except, of course, when they don’t, and the visual remnants of those conflicts are still evident, in certain places.
Herewith some other observations....
While largely a good-natured, relaxed and big-hearted bunch, the Lebanese drive like absolute maniacs. Speed limits, traffic lights and even basic rules of the road are all essentially blithely ignored suggestions. Protected turns? One-way streets? No parking zones? These are all sort of subject to an endearingly unbothered “says you” sensibility. I spent our first few trips by car hyperventilating accordingly, but after a while, the Lebanese laissez-faire approach rubbed off on me. That said, you DEFINITELY need to look both ways a couple of times before daring to cross any streets. Oh, those same streets are often completely bereft of any helpful, identifying signage, but that’s another matter entirely.
This probably isn’t limited to the Lebanese, but I was truly struck by the sheer volume of selfie-taking on display. In many instances, certain folks – mostly women – could be observed snapping selfie after selfie after selfie for half-hours on end. If you thought it was bad in New York, rest assured it’s a global problem.
Speaking of gratuitous selfies, though, here's me in a strangely Eighties-ish, David Lynchian men's room of a restaurant in Downtown Beirut...
Enough of my yacking. Enjoy the pics.
Incidentally, the woman making the odd cameo here and there, here, is my wife.
I got excited by the STOP signs, as they were one of the few signs I could comprehend.
While the wife was resting one afternoon, I went out in search of the mythical Chico, arguably Beirut’s preeminent record store, buried deep in Hamra, kind of Beirut’s Williamsburg, if you will. I found it. Nothing too exciting, although I did find this slab of wax from Martin "Youth" Glover's post-Killing Joke outfit, Brilliant.
These next few are from a day spent in Dayr Al Qamar in the verdant hills of The Chouf, truly one of the most breathtakingly idyllic places I've ever been fortunate enough to visit.
M'self & one of my excellent cousins-in-law, Naji
Even in the hilly wilds of the Chouf, no one escapes the portentous prose of Don Henley.
These next few are from the fishing village of Byblos...
Hey there, all….. I am indeed back from Downtown Beirut.
No, sillies, I don’t mean the long dormant Downtown Beirut pictured above circa 1990 (replete with tattered Cop Shoot Cop flyer affixed to its front door), I mean the formerly decimated area of the capital city of Lebanon, which I was coyly alluding to in a couple of the previous posts.
We only just got back late last night, so I’m a little bleary, but look for a full report soonest.
Back on the NYC tip, though, some of you will remember the old Downtown Beirut bar on First Avenue just north of East 9th Street (although, I want to say it had a brief incarnation somewhere else after it closed up in the mid-90’s). In any case, it was a loud, sludgy dive of a variety that basically just does not exist in New Yok City anymore, so-named after the hardest-hit neighborhoods of the former Paris of the Middle East during Lebanon’s civil war. Sure, it sounded menacing and suitably combative for the East Village's punky patrons of the late 80’s and early 90’s, but having now traveled to the definite article and heard first-hand stories of the bombing and the snipers and the rubble (elements thereof still visible in certain parts of the city), it was assuredly no joke.
Somewhat ironically, the actual downtown of Beirut today is a teeming mass of immaculate, modern development, although reminders of the city’s fractious history are never far from the surface.
Last I looked, the former site of New York City's Downtown Beirut was an Asian foot-rub joint called .... I shit ye not ..... Yu's On First.
As alluded to in this recent post, the wife & m’self are heading off this evening on a mini-vacation sans kids to celebrate her birthday and our anniversary. This isn’t to say I definitively won’t be posting anything here between now and August 14th, but the likelihood seems somewhat slim, being that I’m not bringing a laptop. Still, you never know.
Now would be a good time to shut down your computer and go out and get some fresh air, … or the closest approximation of fresh air as can be had in these dystopian days of looming apocalypse.
Be good while I’m gone. To stave off your boredom in my absence, herewith a vintage clip from the Sisters. To be fair, this video was filmed in Petra in the kingdom of Jordan, which is more or less in the same neighborhood as where we’re headed. I’m going to attempt to replicate Andrew Eldritch’s sartorial badassery in this clip while I'm there, much to the amusement of the locals and consternation of my wife. Watch for pictures.