Thursday, March 31, 2005


At 12:40 AM, Regina Spektor, a doe-eyed Russian-born pianist/songwriter, returned to the Bowery Ballroom stage for her encore. With a genuine look of surprise, Spektor had finally noticed that half of her audience had already left the venue. But it was understood why they had; after all, not everyone can handle a two-and-a-half hour show and Spektor, the consummate performer, had begun her performance at 10:15.

"Why didn't you tell me I was playing for two and a half hours?!?" Spektor both genuinely and rhetorically asked the remaining crowd. "I can't believe you let me play that long!"

Playing for her largest audience yet, Spektor reveled in her captive audience by playing a majority of the songs in her catalogue, which, unbeknownst to me, is pretty significant. Some would consider that prospect a threat but I found Regina captivating and enchanting, a practiced entertainer who never felt predictable . [It should be noted that Regina had previously played much larger venues but they were opening for the Strokes and Kings of Leon and during those sets, she was frequently booed and also asked to take her shirt off] Maintaining the consistent and haunting stage presence that felt like a mixture of a rhapsody singer from the Depression era crossed with a naive and curious child that had just discovered the wonders of music (each word is sung with either a seductive pant or an astonished pronouncement),Spektor "performed" each tune as if they were mini-plays, absorbing the essence of the song's true narrator. It didn't matter that she was only accompanied by a cello and bass (for the first half of the show)--her voice, a Tori Amos-Joni Mitchell bastardization, engulfed the room with a candlelit fullness.

As my girlfriend Shana had astutely pointed out, Spektor is a unique musician because she places an emphasis on her creativity, acting out lyrics from her songs,(i.e., repeating the word "drip" in staccato like it was an actual droplet of water dripping from a sink), ending the dubious trend of the hipster musician's bland and lifeless delivery. Granted Regina Spektor's performance takes a small amount of cynicism-suspension. Flipping her thick, red curls from side-to-side like a nervous schoolgirl, giggling in near-silence as if it were inappropriate to laugh, Regina comes very close to feeling shticky but ultimately, she stirred with her eloquent piano-playing that sometimes sounded classical, sometimes klezmer, sometimes jazz, all the while confessional.

- Watch Regina Spektor's video for her newest single "Us" here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


Everything Is Illuminated II: I Take It Back--Not Much Is Illuminated
By Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer goes to Poland to research the ancestry on his father's side.
He hires a translator who loves Whitney Houston and says "sassy" a lot.
Foer finds an old synagogue found in the heart of an abandoned shtetl but then remembers that his father's parents were actually fourth generation Americans from New Jersey.
Our hero returns home, has a corned beef sandwich and then writes a short story about corned beef for the New Yorker.

An Even More Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius, If That Is Even Possible
By Dave Eggers

Continuing where AHWOSG left off, Eggers writes about his feud with Dr. Phil, his competition with Alanis Morrisette over who can disassociate themselves further from "irony," and the troubles and tax benefits involved in starting a literary movement.
Eggers recounts the future, writing the first memoir that actually details events that haven't happened yet. AEMHWOSG,ITIEP becomes the first book in the Barnes and Noble's Prophecy/Memoir section.

The Corrections 2: What A Dysfunctional Family!
By Jonathan Franzen

The Lambert family is back in this poignant tale that truly captures the American family spirit.
Chip sells his mother to Albania in exchange for becoming their king. In the process, Chip discovers that Albania no longer uses a monarchy system and loses his mother for no good reason. Meanwhile, Denise realizes that she's not a lesbian but rather a man in a woman's body and asks her brother Gary for a loan to carry out the surgery. Gary, in the process of a demoralizing divorce, invests his money on a new medication that will allow elderly women to adjust to Albanian weather quicker. Unbeknownst to him, his mother Enid is the first test subject for the medication which has a side effect of falling in love with the first teenage Albanian boy you see. Enid then falls in love with a high school student that she is tutoring in chemistry.

Truly Infinite Jest
By David Foster Wallace

Realizing the innaccuracy of the claim behind his first book, David Foster Wallace presents a book that truly never ever ends. It's always being written even after you've bought it from your local bookstore and brought it home to read. It is a constant novel. Even after Foster Wallace dies, it will write itself forever so when you think you got to the last page, it isn't really the last page. Sucker.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


The jangling guitars open with a repeating tangy riff that sounds like a smoky Texan Bar-B-Q sauce. Steven Tyler, with his signature rasp plainly states "there's something wrong with the world today," a sentiment that could be as easily understood in 1992, when the song was first released, as it is today. Indeed, Aerosmith, the quintessential bar band, eschewed its usual choice topics of drag queens, masturbation, and walking in a particular way (see: this way) for a politically potent anthem ostensibly about doomsday or racism, or both. At six minutes and twenty-three seconds, it's also one of the most unconventional single releases in their career. It's also one of their most beautiful.

"We're seeing things in a different way/
And God knows it ain't his/
It sure ain't no surprise."
Tyler sings in his almost-masculine low range which is his way of easing us into a song before he truly belts it out.
And then suddenly, he gives us a sampling of his possessed yelps, a mixture of a rooster choking on feed combined with a violent phlegm clearing. It's one of the most distinctive sounds in rock music and also one that sometimes hurts the throat just listening to it. His sentiments aren't profound or deep in any respect. Heck, he uses the word "ain't" in the 27th second but then Joey Kramer's pounding drums and the layered hypnotic, spiraling dual guitars of Brad Whitford and Joe Perry compensate for that. If Tyler is singing about the impending Doomsday, you're feelin' it (it should be noted that this epic song was taken off of an album Get A Grip with another song entitled "Eat The Rich," Aerosmith's stab at anarchy and dissention).

Then the chorus comes in with the beautiful surround-sounding harmonies that fly through each respective ear like a swooping bird. Tyler unrepently shouts "we're livin' on the edge" while the left ear warns "you can't help yourself from falling/you can't help yourself at all" and the right ear chants "everybody." When you listen to this moment in your headphones, the results are chilling and nearly overwhelming.

Three minutes and twenty-six seconds into the song, the music stops and a vacuous wind blows through it as if a studio window had been opened during a hurricane while the tape was still rolling. The impression is that the world had suddenly ended during the recording of "Livin' On The Edge" and Tyler and company were unable to complete it. But suddenly, Kramer's bass drum marks the return with a repetitious thud and the oddly-lipped lead singer, acting as prophet, re-enters the ring and shouts his Judgment Day sentiments. "We're livin' on the edge," Tyler screams again (Aerosmith is a band that milks it's chorus' lyrics to the point of exhaustion but never beyond it) shaking his handkerchiefed mic stand.

But still, why is this song is one of the best songs of all time? Because it feels truly momentous without the faux color-by-numbers songwriting that Aerosmith has been xeroxing the past few years. With the thriller-like violins dancing alongside the dual, spiraling guitar, "Livin' On The Edge" is a summer blockbuster in a song. It's crisp, over-produced and full of explosive sounds. It's full of moments that come closest to reaching the commercial-chill factor of Armageddon (after hearing this song, it's no wonder why they were asked to contribute to the soundtrack). "Livin' On The Edge" is truly a tremendous and epic song. Revel in it.

Monday, March 28, 2005


I am sitting at a desk in an office building. On my side is one of those large erasable boards with a message that was written and left over from Friday.
It reads:
"If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito!"

I am sitting at a desk in the offices of Entertainment Weekly as a temp. The irony of this situation has not escaped me. I have applied for seven positions at this magazine:
1. Editorial Assistant/Music
2. Editorial Assistant/Movies
3. Editorial Assistant/Books
4. Editorial Assistant/News
5. Editorial Assistant/Music (again)
6. Editorial Assistant/Television
7. Paid Internship
and have never even come as close as to having an interview. Yet I sit here answering phones and taking messages. I have been told that I am overqualified for the Editorial Assistant positions yet I can carry out similar duties one day at a time, being paid by the hour.

I would laugh if I could but as the days close in on the decade I call my Twenties, I find this more discouraging and depressing. After looking back on what I have, what I have accomplished, it's hard to take inventory of all the friends I've made. I want to see the wonderful family I have but I can't. All I can see are the let downs and a huge blown-up picture of Gwyneth Paltrow hanging across from me on the wall. Her flat lips and subtle smirk taunt me. It's not like you've made it on your own, Gwyneth. It probably helps to have famous parents.

A little to the left of her is Jake Gyllenhaal, who's last name I still don't know how to pronounce. Is it a J-like "g" or a G-like "g"? His lack of range and depth make me wonder whether I should consider switching into acting. I'm certain that I could do a better job than he can. He's been playing Donnie Darko in every film he's been in. What makes him worthy of a cover when I can't even make the masthead?

It's an odd thing, being obsessed with celebrities.

And no, I have never been in the dark with a mosquito.

Thursday, March 24, 2005



No one wants to have a job yet no one doesn't not want to have a job.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


The other day, my doorman handed me a pile of blank CDs and asked me to copy him some new music. He knew I was a music journalist constantly receiving packages of records and figured that I was an untapped source of musical knowledge.

He is slight young Albanian man who seems eager about American culture. My only instruction was to use his CDs for "rock music" (because I guess polka is not what the kids want nowadays). When I asked him to get more specific, he told me he liked U2.
Perhaps "specific" means "unhelpful" in Albanian.

So my thought process:
U2 = biggest band in the world.
Coldplay = next in line for biggest band in the world. But Coldplay is too obvious. This was a non-molded pile of clay I had to work with so I would go (slightly) out on a limb.
Coldplay x (slightly out on a limb) - Gwyneth Paltrow = Snow Patrol
Hence the first CD I made was Snow Patrol's "Final Straw." As close in sound and sentiment to Coldplay as any band out there.

For the second CD, I asked him what else he liked. He said "Metallica." I said, I'm sorry.
I went back upstairs thinking in a harder-rocking vein and then I got a headache so I stopped. Hard rock thinking is louder than plain thinking. If you ever want to hear yourself think in a noisy environment, think in a hard rocking vein. That should work.
Looking though my iTunes library, I figured Muse's "Absolution," an album about the impending apocalypse was a good start. The end of the world seems like the perfect soundtrack for a guy who has to tend to the obnoxious people in my building (Yeah, you heard me, Apartment 18F!) So I burned that one too. It's kinda like Thom Yorke fronting a post-haircut Metallica except not sucky.
Two down. Three to go.

The third CD I burnt--and I don't feel good about this at all--was The Killers' "Hot Fuss." Yeah. I know. I'm disappointed in myself as well so please stop looking at me like that. But look...honestly, I'm not here to turn an Albanian doorman into a Guided By Voices fan. We need to be realistic here. Life is not The O.C. I don't just play a song for someone and they automatically become a regular shopper at Other Music. Baby steps, people. Some times we need to do something commercial to lure them into our self-critical, snobby, temperamental, dismissive world of indie rock, ya' know?

Which may also explain why I copied Green Day's "American Idiot." But unlike The Killers' album, I actually like this "Idiot" a lot. Besides the album opens with "don't want to be an American idiot..." and I'm sure that's a sentiment my doorman can relate to. After living in this country for only a few years, he has probably been working very hard at not being an American idiot. And to that I say, keep up the good work!
[Incidentally, "idiot" is one of those words that sounds pretty strange when you're sitting there alone saying it aloud over and over again.]

And finally, I made him a copy of the Doves' "The Last Broadcast." After having seen them last week, it became very clear to me that in an alternate world, they could be a contender for biggest band if they would just write more conventional songs as opposed to incorporating that stoner-esque Pink Floyd majesty to their hazy rock. Smoking weed at shows is so 2001. We need to record more Bloomberg smoking ban-friendly music.

After giving over the five CDs to my doorman, he was very appreciative and thanked me for the music.
I said, no problem. Anything to get Metallica out of your car stereo.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Keren Ann, timeless
Originally uploaded by Arye.


There are moments when you can hear your own thoughts. When the swooshing sounds of your memories zing through your head like comet tails. There is a peacefulness in the room so resonant that it almost has a tangible presence of a loved one sitting next to you. You reach over and give peacefulness a kiss on the cheek.

There are times when you forget that you live in New York City where people catch subways and hail taxis (both activities that sound like they require a lot more effort than they really do). When you can forget your worries and stress without the assistant of a narcotic or intoxication. You can sit there and focus on the goosebumps running up and down your arm, the Braille-like condition of the skin that could probably be read saying, I am happy. I am comforted. This feels good.

This past Thursday night, I was privileged to attend a Keren Ann performance at Joe's Pub in downtown Manhattan. Keren Ann Zeidel is an Israeli-born French folk singer that recalls the softness of Nick Drake, the sexiness of Francoise Hardy and Brigette Bardot, and the gentleness of a cup of chamomile tea. Accompanied by a French horn, two violins, and a piano, Keren Ann strummed the guitar producing the same calmness of a hypnotist waving a watch before your eyes. After each song, the audience hesitated in clapping because the suddenness of their applause would break the invaluable calm.

With two albums, Not Going Anywhere and Nolita, Keren has established herself as a critical favorite. The type of singer/songwriter that inspires all art, writing and poetry, interpretive dancing. Keren exists out of the present. Her sound is timeless, emanating from an unanchored limbo where there is no MTV, iTunes, or Good Charlotte. Granted she is recording now but it also feels very thirty years ago. Songs like "One Day Without" and "Sit In The Sun" burn like a cigarette sitting in an ashtray until they finally extinguish leaving a lingering trail of smoke.

Throughout her set, she smiled the whole time as if her songs were gifts that she was opening for the first time, only to be then handed over to the audience. We accepted them with pleasure because Keren Ann, ultimately, is a gift herself. The type of musician that transports you into serenity. An artist that can never be underestimated because you can never appreciate her enough. Sitting in Joe's Pub, in the candlelite atmosphere, we could hear our thoughts and at the time, they sounded very much like Keren Ann.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


BBS: Welcome, Sarcastic. We're very pleased to have you here.
Sarcastic: Yeah. Sure you are.
BBS: No, really. We are.
S: No, I know you are.
BBS: Oh. You weren't being sarcastic.
S: Nope.
BBS: How does it feel to be interviewed by Sincerity, essentially the opposite of sarcasm?
S: Like I would know.
BBS: There's no need to be sarcastic all the time, you know.
S: Yeah, sure there isn't.
BBS: What is the first documented account of sarcasm?
S: Like I would know.
BBS: Oh. Okay. Sorry for asking.
S: No, I was being serious. I actually know.
BBS: Oh, I thought you were being sarcastic again.
S: Well, the first time anybody was sarcastic was Cain and Abel when God spoke to Cain and asked him where his brother. And he says, like am I my brother's keeper?
BBS: Interesting.
S: Yeah, it seems like sarcasm has been around for a long time.
BBS: Even though we are generally sincere, I feel like BBS can be sarcastic from time to time.
S: Wow, that is so fascinating.
BBS: Really? Oh. You were being sarcastic again. Do you ever get tired of being Sarcastic?
S: Do you get tired of being Sincerity?
BBS: Well, sometimes I'm up late at night and I think, wouldn't it be nice to not be sincere all the time and just like, be me. You know? Let it all hang out.
S: That's deep.
BBS: Really? Dang. You got me again.
S: In fact, this is one of the most incredible conversations I've ever had.
BBS: Do you feel like there are times when you're not being Sarcastic but people still think you are?
S: Nope.
BBS: Ah ha. What's your favorite ice cream flavor?
S: That's a brilliant question.
BBS: Hmmm. What are your thoughts on Democracy in Iraq?
S: Anything that gets them closer to having Starbucks.
BBS: Do you like reading?
S: Nope. I have eyes but I don't actually use them.
BBS: Huh?
S: Are we almost done here because I don't have anywhere else to go.
BBS: You don't? I thought you said you had a lunch with your agent.
S: You just don't get this sarcasm thing, do you?
BBS: I guess not.
S: It's because you're so brilliant.
BBS: That's really sweet of you to...oh. I got it. Okay, I think we're done here, Sarcastic.
S: Can we go on a little longer? Please? Seriously. I haven't enjoyed myself this much in ages.
BBS: Sarcastic, thanks for joining Bring Back Sincerity. Join us next time when we interview Al Roker.
S: That should be fascinating.
BBS: That's enough out of you.
S: Okay.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


The signature.
It's quite a big deal. You want to convey warmth but not too much warmth. "Best" sounds nice but perhaps too distant. And a lot of the times, the email you have sent is not the best. Most of the time, it is mediocre because you are rushed and need to respond now. Five minutes ago. Yesterday.
"Best wishes" sounds too earnest even for a guy who calls his website "Bring Back Sincerity."
It's been over a year since I have been grasping for a way to end my emails. I've tried the dash like so: - A
But the dash feels flat, both literally and creatively. It says, "I had no time to consider an ending to my emails so therefore, I present to you, reader of this email, just a dash. If you want more than a dash, I just simply cannot supply it here. This is not where you should be looking for more than a dash. Apologies."

In the past, I have stolen signatures--I'm not proud of this but I felt like I had no choice. I wasn't feeling inspired. I needed to find it elsewhere even if it meant just "borrowing" someone's signature (I swear I was planning on giving it back).
I have pilfered the asterix from a friend because it felt both simple and playful. The asterix bounced above the name like so: *A.
Like a button on your keyboard pumped with helium, the asterix floats in the air like it wants to leave the monitor and jump into your life, bouncing up and down on your lap like a giddy child.
But then upon closer consideration, the asterix is usually associated with a side note, an after-thought, as if I was saying that my name, my very being, wasn't integral to this email exchange. Every thing above my name is important. Paradoxically, I am not. I came from dirt and I will be dirt once again.
An unnecessarily humble and dramatic ending. The asterix turned from our plaything into the wallflower of signatures.

Forget "sincerely" because I am not your teacher and I am not sending a note home to your parents about your misbehavior.
"Love" means you like, love the person. And every one knows that an email with "love" means that it comes with the cooties. And furthermore, nowadays, the word is invalidated enough. It does not need to appear on every email to further devalue its already meager worth. I leave "love" alone....and "like" will never make it at a sign-off ("like, arye?" I wouldn't even write back to myself).

I cannot take the "xo" seriously because:
1. Let's say I am emailing a guy and I mistakenly sign off with the "xo." Our correspondence then turns into a series of awkward exchanges wherein the recipient randomly and frequently mentions a "girlfriend" or the desire "to finally find one" throughout the email without any reason.
2. The publicists that email me use the "xo" quite often, if not all the time. And although I don't mind it--heck, I'm flattered by the many virtual hugs and kisses I get on a daily basis--it's lost its intimacy. There needs to be a substance between the sender and receiver to substantiate and justify the intimate closer. And I can't guarantee that every email I write will contain the substance needed to pucker up and embrace. Furthermore, I'm not the type of guy who easily goes past the "XO" so don't even suggest one ends with "second base."
3. "XO" was the name of an Elliott Smith album and it could potentially bum the person out if I am sending an email to a huge Elliott Smith fan. Then the contents of my message are forgotten due to the mourning depression that's overtaken the recipient by the memory of the deceased songwriter.
[Sometimes I will get an "xx" which is only one "x" away from making it dirty. Please be careful that my emails do not get a pornographic rating]

My friend Rina ends her emails with either "rock n roll," "hugs and wet willies," or "I wish I had a puppy." She could pull off all three. I cannot. I am 29. Puppies and wet willies are so 23-25.

"Always and Forever" suggests an eternity I can't guarentee. It also sounds like a Cher album title.
"Yours truly" means I can't email anyone else other than you. Because, naturally, I'm yours. Like, truly. As if you've purchased me at a store and hope you have the reciept because you're not sure if you want to keep me. Please keep me.
Hmmm...perhaps that should be my signature.

Please keep me,

Can you eat a cell phone ? It seems so.

Monday, March 07, 2005



This is the first picture I am blogging to BBS and it is a picture of me. Despite the goofy look on my face, I am not always goofy.

When you see me on the street, please say "hi." Or give me the thumbs-up.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Despite the fact that this is a stressful week for me (hence the no-writing dry run), I wanted to share another one of my Mother's emails with you.


Arye - Have a good day. Enjoy. - Mom

My first job was working in an orange juice factory, but I got canned. Couldn't concentrate.

Then I worked in the woods as a lumberjack, but I just couldn't hack they gave me the ax.

After that I tried to be a tailor, but I just wasn't suited for it...mainly because it was a so-so job.

Next I tried working in a muffler factory but that was too exhausting.

Then I tried to be a chef -- figured it would add a little spice too my life but I just didn't have the thyme.

I attempted to be a deli worker, but any way I sliced it, I couldn't cut the mustard.

My best job was being a musician, but eventually I found I wasn't noteworthy.

I studied a long time to become a doctor, but I didn't have any patience.

Next was a job in a shoe factory; I tried but I just didn't fit in.

I became a professional fisherman, but discovered that I couldn't live on my net income.

I managed to get a good job working for a pool maintenance company, but the work was just too draining.

So then I got a job in a workout center, but they said I wasn't fit for the job.

After many years of trying to find steady work I finally got a job as a historian until I realized there was no future in it.

My last job was working at Starbucks, but I had to quit because it was always the same old grind.

So I'm retired and I've found I'm perfect for the job!