Archive for February 2012

Tablet Killer: Your Kitchen Counter?

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Displax Interactive Systems has begun to sell the magical product that will transform our lives into Minority Report (but where's my flying car?). Their new "thin film" technology allows you to place a thin touch-sensitive film over any surface, including glass, plastic or wood. Check it, yo:

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The tech's already shipping abroad, so it's only a matter of time before it arrives stateside.

Apparently, it detects up to 16 fingers on a 50 inch screen. I await the day when only concert pianists will be able to operate future-tech!

Check out more about the product on the Displax site (seriously, the woman on the linked page looks a little like she's discovered God in her kitchen window...).

Buy Yourself a New Derriere at the Bum Shop! Get your DRIED BUMS here!

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The Metropolitan Museum's running a fantastic exhibition called Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine. There are works from a number of artists celebrated and forgotten, organized thematically into caricature, grotesque, political and societal. It comes as no surprise that the art form reached its apex from the late 18th century onwards, with the dawning of the French bourgeousie and its copycats in Blighty.

One of my favorites is the work pictured, simply named The Bum Shop, attributed to one R. Rushworth. It's wonderfully silly, and not a little obscene, as men and women ignore the flesh they are born with in favor of tawdry decoration borne from an early version of J.Lo envy.

The lady at the far left has been suitably derriered, while the remaining young women strive to achieve the look of the French poodle. It's completely ridiculous, and completely wonderful.

Here's the text at the bottom of the etching:

"DERRIERE begs leave to submit to the attention of that most indulgent part of the Public the Ladies in general, and more especially those to whom Nature in a slovenly moment has been niggardly in her distribution of certain lovely Endowments, his much improved (arida nates) or DRIED BUMS so justly admired for their happy resemblance to nature. DERRIERE flatters himself that he stands unrivalled in this fashionable article of female Invention, he having spared neither pains nor expence in procuring every possible information on the subject, to render himself competent to the artfully supplying this necessary appendage of female excellence."

Get your DRIED BUMS here!

Hunger Games Soundtrack Revealed

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"Songs From District 12 and Beyond" takes a powerful risk by inviting our hate long before the movie even opens. I don't suppose that I've ever given much thought to how The Hunger Games ought to be soundtracked, but I am perfectly comfortable saying that indie-folk strays far from the mark.

The fact that Taylor Swift was brought in to do the theme song should have been more than adequate warning, but I really want to know what chemically-induced confusion led to this thought process:

"Badassery! Grittiness! Violence! Death! Angst! Terror! I know what will complete this puzzle...COUNTRY FOLK!"

I am not knocking any one of these artists. I am long on record with my love of the Decemberists, the Civil Wars, the Arcade Fire and Neko Case. Glen Hansard wrote my wedding song, for godssake. My disappointment isn't about them, it's about the fact that they're being used to soundtrack one of the most VIOLENTLY DRAMATIC novels I've ever read.

I'm not saying we need Nine Inch Nails but...ok Trent Reznor would be more appropriate.

Anyway, here's the full tracklist:

1 Taylor Swift (Feat. The Civil Wars) – “Safe & Sound”
2 Taylor Swift – “Eyes Wide Open”
3 Arcade Fire – “Abraham’s Daughter”
4 Kid Cudi – “The Ruler & The Killer”
5 Miranda Lambert (Feat. Pistol Annies) – “Run Daddy Run”
6 The Civil Wars – “Kingdom Come”
7 The Decemberists – “One Engine”
8 Glen Hansard – “Take the Heartland”
9 The Low Anthem – “Lover is Childlike”
10 Punch Brothers – “Dark Days”
11 Secret Sisters – “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder”
12 Birdy – “Just a Game”
13 Ella Mae Bowen – “Oh Come & Sing”
14 Jayme Dee – “Rules”
15 Carolina Chocolate Drops – “Reaping Day”
16 Neko Case – “Give Me Something I’ll Remember”

Play along in the comments!

The Magnificent Residents of Brooklyn Heights

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I mentioned the other day that I'm currently staying on the Brooklyn promenade, on a lovely street called Columbia Heights. Past residents of my apartment building include Truman Capote, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Dylan and Walt Whitman. Of course, I cannot neglect the most awesome resident of the Standish: a little known reporter named Clark Kent.

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Our historical neighbors aren't too shabby either. Normal Mailer set the tone for neighborhood scandals. He writes in The Naked and the Dead of a Brooklyn Heights that no longer exists:

“The candy store is small and dirty as are all the stores on the cobblestoned streets. When it drizzles the cobblestones wash bare and gleaming on top, and the manhole covers puff forth their shapeless gouts of mist. The night fogs cloak the muggings, the gangs who wander raucously through the darkness, the prostitutes, and the lovers mating in the dark bedrooms with the sweating stained wallpaper of brown. The walls of the street fester in summer, are clammy in winter; there is an aged odor in this part of the city, a compact of food scraps, of shredded dung balls in the cracks of the cobblestones, of tar, smoke, the sour damp scent of city people, and the smell of coal stoves and gas stoves in the cold-water flats. All of them blend and lose identity.”

Walt Whitman wrote expansively of Brooklyn. (Btw, did you know that Bram Stoker based Dracula on Whitman? Thank you for that, Granta Magazine...). Here, in "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry":

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.

 

I leave you with Hart Crane, another one-time neighbor. He perfectly captures the incongruities and surreal beauty of living just a tiny distance from one of the craziest places in the world in "To Brooklyn Bridge." "Till elevators drop us from our day," indeed.

"To Brooklyn Bridge"

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
The seagull's wings shall dip and pivot him,
Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty--

Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
As apparitional as sails that cross
Some page of figures to be filed away;
--Till elevators drop us from our day . . .

I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;

And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced
As though the sun took step of thee, yet left
Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,--
Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!

Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A jest falls from the speechless caravan.

Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,
A rip-tooth of the sky's acetylene;
All afternoon the cloud-flown derricks turn . . .
Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.

And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
Thy guerdon . . . Accolade thou dost bestow
Of anonymity time cannot raise:
Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show.

O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet's pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover's cry,--

Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path--condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.

Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
The City's fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year . . .

O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies' dreaming sod,
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.

The Oncoming Hope Makes the Transatlantic Crossing!

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After a number of years spent breathing British air, drinking British drinks and expounding upon British slang, I've made the Atlantic crossing.

I'm currently housed on the Brooklyn promenade, where the sky takes on many strange colors each day, and always provides this view of Manhattan:

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I've been around town, met i lot of people, and no matter how different their lifestyles, they all share one pastime: making fun of Williamsburg. I look forward to experiencing it myself (for anthropological reasons, of course).

But why trek to Williamsburg when I can make this crossing, again and again:

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The Brooklyn Bridge, a childhood obsession, proves even more magical in real life than in my imagination. That bridge plays witness to the greatest transformations in NYC, from white flight to 9/11, from gentrification to the downfall of Wall Street. Wealth isn't created or destroyed on either side of the Brooklyn Bridge, it just moves from one side to the other, a finely engineered see-saw. There's no greater feeling than standing on a place that vibrates with history (unlike the Manhattan Bridge, which literally vibrates like an earthquake).

Anyway, with all this beauty and excitement there's a rub (aye, there's always a rub). While my temporary housing is well-located, it ain't well-appointed. I find myself lacking a desk, a couch, or even a table upon which to write. As I lie uncomfortably on the bed, beckoning carpal tunnel with my 45 degree angle, it sorrows me to report that blogging is very difficult. So while I still hope to write at least 3 times a week, I can't maintain my daily posts until I move to a more permanent home at the end of the month.

I welcome any guest writers in the meantime. I hope I can find the balance sooner, rather than later, but I thought it best to be upfront.

A Visit to McSorley's

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As a conversationally challenged barkeep slams a pair of mini-steins on the table, you may wonder exactly what sort of establishment you've stepped into. "Dark or light," he snaps when you're lucky enough to interrupt his purposeful strides across the floor.

I suppose you can sacrifice certain charms when your family bar once played host to Honest Abe (by no means the only president to frequent the place), Boss Tweed and and numerous men both famous and infamous.

The walls are covered in ephemera, from Civil-war era flags to newspaper articles. The Rat Pack loved the place, as did Elvis.

e.e cummings, moved to rhapsodize, wrote here in a poem that begins "i was sitting in mcsorley's":

"and I was sitting in the din thinking drinking the ale, which never lets you grow old blinking at the low ceiling my being pleasantly was punctuated by the always retchings of a worthless lamp.

...

Inside snugandevil. i was sitting in mcsorley’s It,did not answer.
outside.(it was New York and beautifully, snowing. . . ."

John Sloan, one of the more famous NY painters, crafted that lovely image that sits atop of this post, featuring the second manager of the bar, Bill McSorley, Jr.

"Good Ale, Raw Onions and No Ladies"

McSorley's, despite playing host to a coterie of painters, writers, poets and politicians since 1861, may be more famous today for keeping out the fairer sex in until 1970.

Only one woman made it in before then, a Vaudevillean named Maggie Klein. What made her so special? Oh yeah, she dressed up as a man and snuck in.

Even Wonder Woman was denied service in 1941 (clearly H.G. Peter was a man ahead of his time):

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Some things haven't changed. The floors and seats are covered in sawdust, sawdust with insect-like abilities to crawl up and down your jackets and into your boots. The legendary wishbones still linger over the bar, tormenting us all with memories of so many wars past (read more about that here).

But I am glad to have seen this place, a strange little place that holds its own against the ravages of time.

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