Wednesday, August 31, 2005


I never take a taxi anymore. Since, I'm counting my pennies, it's become a luxury, quite far away from necessity. But tonight, I DJed for a bar and was given a few dollars in return and figured it was late enough, subways were running slow, I should probably just take a cab. And so I did.

Every time I take a taxi, I attempt to make some form of conversation, i.e. where the driver is from, does he own or rent, where does he live now, etc. I generally hear a lot of interesting back-stories and attempt to focus on giving my thankless driver a few minutes to speak about himself. These drivers are so frequently on the end of demand that any respite from it would be welcome.

But tonight was different. Tonight, I was interviewed.

The taxi driver, Saayid, was a man in his late 40's, and despite his seemingly lowbrow occupation, the man had an air of sophistication about him--I could imagine him wearing an ascot, drinking a Cognac. And even though he was sitting, I could still tell that he was tall, his head almost reaching the pitch-black roof of the taxi. He was charming and inquisitive--I was certain that he was once a restaurant host or a maitre de in his past homeland.

Saayid asked me how I was before I even had the chance to tell him our destination.
I told him, I was a bit stressed. I rarely make small talk with a taxi driver. Instead, I get straight to something significant because I generally consider them temporary therapists. Except we'll never see each other again and this ride will cost significantly less.
He asked me what I was stressed about, so I told him that I was starting school soon.
"Ahh, at NYU," he said. "That will cost you a lot of money."
Exactly the source of my angst, I explained. He was under the impression that I was rich or had a scholarship. I told him that a) I wasn't and b) I didn't have one. Saayid almost lost control of the wheel from surprise.
"You're spending all that money on an education in Social Work?"
Please, Saayid. Don't make it worse.

For the rest of the ride up, the driver quite literally questioned my intentions in regards to my social work education. I didn't immediately have answers for all his questions and suddenly, I found myself doubting my new career choice. Was this the right decision? Do I really care about people more than I care about myself? Did Saayid have something here?

I explained to my metered friend that I needed to do something perhaps more meaningful and this seemed like one of the many righteous paths. And yeah, maybe he did have a point. Maybe, just maybe, that I am another self-centered, self-involved New Yorker with a decent apartment and a more-than-decent life. Perhaps this was my sub-conscious kicking me in the direction of the less-fortunate, reminding me that not everyone has it so good. Be more appreciative, my sub-conscious said. I will, I said back, I will.

We talked more and more. I further explained myself for the rest of the ride and therein justified myself to Saayid successfully. After all his questions and challenges, he was finally satisfied. He quite "literally" wished me all the luck in the world and blessed me.
"May you live a fulfilling life, my friend. You deserve it."
I thanked him and told him I needed his blessings and luck.

Saayid pulled up to the corner and thanked me for my time. Our trip together was over but my journey was just beginning.

Monday, August 29, 2005


I just got a letter from Citibank informing me that the minimal payment for the loans I'm taking out for NYU's School of Social Work will wind up costing me approximately, if not more, $483.00 a month. That means, hypothetically, if I was to pay back the money I’m borrowing one month at a time, over a span of the next 15 years, I would owe, at the very least, a check for close to five hundred dollars every thirty days. That's $17.00 a day coming out of my pocket and going straight to Citibank for the 54,750 days following my graduation.

I have my orientation in two days but I'm torn and conflicted. On the one hand, I’m eager about doing something socially redeeming, embarking on a potentially rewarding career path (certainly not financially) but the loans make the decision so much more difficult. I am a week away from the beginning of school, and after completing the applications, the essays, the loan forms, the questionnaires, etc., I am almost prepared to give it all up. I know that I've spoken about the cost before but it still boggles the mind that an institution training you for the duty of serving the community could ask for so much from people who will inevitably have so little.

Welcome to the stressful existence of the middle-class. While searching on the Internet for scholarships, I come across funding for single-moms, for Russian immigrants, for the truly destitute but I don’t see scholarships for those who do not fit under the term "desperate." Which is unfortunate because these days, I feel like every financial institution is taking advantage of the middle class.

In this past week’s New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell writes about the 45 million people in America who don’t have health insurance. Gladwell tells us that these are the poor people spread throughout the United States who can’t afford to see a doctor to treat a broken bone, or who can’t muster the funds to visit a dentist (so instead, many do their own "dental work"). In truth, Gladwell need not go to such an extreme to make his point. I pay close to $500 a month for health insurance (and thank God, I rarely have to use it). My "Freedom" plan does not cover dental so if I were to have a toothache, I would have to pay for my appointment in full. I haven’t been the dentist in nearly two years, not out of choice, but because of the cost. While I'm certainly not poor, there are many other things I could spend my money on. So, Gladwell is correct in assigning an absurdity to the status of health insurance in this country but he's wrong in assuming that it's only a problem for the poor. The health insurance problem is not only a source of stress for the lower-class citizens but for the middle-class, as well.

Additionally, in this weekend's New York Times, there was an investigative report on cell phone companies and their ever-increasing hidden charges. A company like MCI charges a "paper bill" which essentially is a $0.99 fee for, paper. The general overall tone of the article was that cell phone companies will continue to take advantage because no one can properly fight back and unfortunately, the FCC cannot do much to regulate these charges. In the meantime, we have to pay and shut up. There's nothing you can do.

There's a general feeling that we are being taken advantage in this country. With every day that we age comes the brutal reality that nothing gets cheaper and the cost of living leaves everyone below the highest income bracket drowning in debt and anxiety. Gas prices rise to the satisfaction of the gas industry (who are probably all connected to President Bush in some regard). Health insurance costs continue to rise--mine alone has gone up over the past two years by an exhorbatant amount. Why is that? And even more worrisome is that they don't need our business. Drop your coverage--see if they care.
And once again, there are assuredley politicians would rather not bother taking on these super powers because they probably see some kickback from the perpetuation of these high rates.

Ideally, I want to do something more redeeming and gratifying but when you consider a cell phone bill, rent, the price of gas for the car that's hardly used, the price of an health insurance package, tuition ...adding all this together with the impending and overwhelming loan for Social Work school, no less, where there's no guarantee that I'll be able to meet my minimal payments...Well, what is there to do besides head to the kitchen and look for a very stiff drink?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Last night was the night of the Formal, or, also the final performance of Sufjan Stevens's Pep Rally week. For the encore, a prom king and queen were selected from the audience and thereafter the band played a cover of "Can't Help Falling In Love" while the winning couple (along with the minyan-plus band members) danced awkwardly onstage. It was either charming or annoying. Some groaned at what they assumed was fey irony. Others momentarily suspended their cynicism and giggled in sincere appreciation.

We learned that the previous night was Fake Tattoo and Facial Hair Night, the night before that was Pirate Night, then there was Fake an Injury Night, and finally, Backwards Night. Sufjan Stevens, the Brooklyn folk ingénue, brought his newest album, a tribute to the windiest American state Illinois, to breathtaking life, frosting each of the five sold-out shows with his distinctively quirky sense of humor. And despite the cheerleading outfits, the spirit fingers, the painful pop-culture references found throughout the cheers ("Balki Bartakomus," "Webster Popadopilis"), and the falling colorful balloons dropped during the encore, the night was completely bereft of irony. Sufjan truly believes in his music and moreover, he believes in his performance. The man can wear a silky clown outfit made from the pattern of the American flag and still move a nearly stoic audience to an absolute silence. Not an easy feat. Especially in this town.

Stevens began the evening with the live-only introduction song "50 States," an invitation to join him on the evening's musical journey. The song starts softly as a nonsensical and whispered role call through America but eventually builds into a celebratory march. It felt almost like a television theme song forecasting the subjects of Sufjan Stevens's presumptuous 50 States project (an album devoted to each). As Sufjan made mention of certain locations, pockets of the crowd cheered for their probable hometown. Incidentally, during the last Michigan tour, the band went by the Michigan Militia. This time around, they were the Illinoisemakers.

[The Illiinoisemakers]
"It's part of the act, the 50 States/
Pack up your bags, it's never too late.
From Alabama to Arkansas/
Follow Alaska, say what you saw.
Swim in the ocean, Maryland may,
Then Massachusetts, what a great place/
Go to New Hampshire, Missouri too
It's not Virginia but it'll do

[Sufjan solo]
Take a drive to Ohio,
We rent running through Ohio
And my favorite avenue,
I tried on all my favorite shoes

[The Illiinoisemakers]
There's Mississippi, Kentucky blue
Rhode Island rage and a Tennessee too/
See Oklahoma or Michigan
There's a Nevada, see Washington win.
Oh, Arizona, Colorado
Connecticut Yankee, love Ohio
Louisiana, Delaware who?
Go Minnesota, we're thinking of you.

[Sufjan solo]
When we came to Washington,
We went running through the rain.
And my favorite city park,
And my favorite sunny day..."

[Listen to the "50 States Theme" here and a live performance by Stevens in Toronto.]

The set throughout the night focused on material from Illinois, by far Sufjans's strongest material yet (see my review of the album here). "Jacksonville," "Decatur," and "The Tallest Man" sounded insecure but well rehearsed nevertheless. Sufjan is a timid presence, unsure of his status as independent music's newest folk hero, but his music, both orchestrated and sublime, made for a poignant evening. Like the 50 States theme song, this night was a celebration of our country, a declaration of independence. The sometimes-silly vibe circulating throughout the room was ultimately about the suspension of the cool factor that perpetuates itself in the local scene. Much has been said about Sufjan's talent--truthfully, I think we've only seen the beginning of it. After hearing the serene calm and simplistic beauty of "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out To Get Us!", I could not believe in an artist more. Despite Stevens's unfortunate pun "feeling the Illinoise," it's actually quite appropriate. Experience a night like tonight and you heard music with feeling.
And today, music with feeling is so very rare.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Shana loves Extreme Makeover:Home Edition. It's my only reason for watching it. But while doing so, I find myself feeling more resentful of the premise of the show than appreciative. There's something so inherently manipulative about the subtle and subliminal advertisements appearing throughout (where do the families go during the makeover? Disney. Who owns ABC?). There's also something incredibly stressful about living in a house that surpasses your usual lifestyle. The sad and harsh reality when the selected family realizes that their day-to-day will never come close to the home they reside in. The emasculating component of the show when the husband considers that his duty, to provide, has been taken from his hands and placed into those of a loud-mouth named Ty.

And while I have always been suspect of the Extreme Makeover:Home Edition (for one, who pays for the new utility bills? Or the new property taxes?), the Leomatis brings my worst concerns to life. After the death of the Higgins children’s' parents within weeks of each other, the Leomatis family took the four children in, ages ranging from 14-21. In retrospect, the Leomatis children are now claiming that the care was provided so as to ensure a better chance on EHM. Moreover, they claim that shortly after production wrapped, the Leomitis began working to evict the Higgins children — who are black — through physical abuse and name-calling, including repeatedly using a racial epithet. None of the Higgins children lives in the house any longer and they have gone forth with a lawsuit.

This past Sunday night, the Extreme Makeover team remade a double-occupancy home within a homeless shelter community for two low-income families. A lovely gesture and a heartwarming episode. But when the team notices the rest of the shelter community getting jealous, they take them to Sears — a prominent and exclusive advertiser — where inevitably, all their problems will be solved. After all, one shopping spree makes all the pain go away.

Makeover shows are fun to watch as they take us through the spectrum of human emotion. From tragic sadness to unprecedented jubilation, all tightly wrapped up within an hour. But one issue that these shows don't address is that superficial and unearned reward could ultimately do more damage than good. Yes, it can be argued that some of these shows are important in perpetuating the spirit in random acts of kindness and charity, but on the other hand, what ever happened to our Zaide's philosophy that you can give a man a fish but you also teach him how to catch one himself?

Extreme Makeover:Home Edition creates short-term solutions. It’s unfortunate that the cameras aren't around a few months later when problems truly arrive like envious neighbors, potential robberies, and the aforementioned financial dilemmas. Maybe I'm taking this all too seriously but shows like The Swan, Average Joe and even Queer Eye For The Straight Guy are all reminders that you are not good enough as you are and that something needs to change. As an aside, a few months back, Shana entered me into consideration for Queer Eye. After an initial round of phone interviews (I would have gladly done the show), they decided I wasn't tragic enough for them. Queer Eye was admittedly looking to do something along the lines of EHM and the more tragic the backstory, the better. We're sorry, said the booking agent, but that's what sells these days.

And sells it does.

The reality makeover show riles me because of the high level of emotional manipulation. Essentially, these programs are episodes of subliminal advertising. I have no problem with that concept--I worked in advertising--but using people's misfortunes as a PR opportunity doesn't sit well with me.

I'm not naive. I know television isn't pretty but I just didn't realize how badly it needed a makeover.

Monday, August 22, 2005


Jenny Frumdebluch
Originally uploaded by Arye.

Where have I been? Good question. It's been all week and you haven't heard from me but I assure you that the week past was certainly more hectic than this week will be. So I will be with you once again. And we will hold one another like brothers. Like brothers who can hold one another without starting unfortunate rumors.

Why was I so busy: well, on Wednesday night, Jenny and I drove to Philadelphia and back to review a concert. Jenny was a tremendous sport for coming along and therefore, I dedicate this post to her. I won't waste your time with the details because you can read all about it here.

Then on Thursday night, I DJed a great party from 8PM until 3AM. Because we rented all the equipment for this "gig," I had to spend most of Thursday and Friday returning it.

I won't bore you with further detail of daily activity but I will tell you that on many occasion during the past few days, I have thought about you and found myself experiencing a roller coaster of emotions. For one, the evacuation of settlements has upset me greatly. Regardless of the political long-term view, taking people from their homes and jobs is sad. And as my doorman said, this whole situation is bad news. No matta' how you slice it.
He's right.
As I watched the news coverage of the protests and expulsions I had the weird sensation that I was watching a family fight. This just wasn't appropriate for public consumption. These were our home videos. The upcoming expulsion in the West Bank promises to be no different as far as drama is concerned. And yes, these compromises are important but I can't ignore the slight pang in me that jabs its elbows into my consciousness and tells me that these lands are being given over to the Palestinians because, essentially, we are responding to their violence and murder. It seems that this is negotiating with terrorists. There's a great deal I could write on this but I would have to formulate it some more.

Then last night, I had the pleasure of seeing Sufjan Stevens live at the Bowery Ballroom. I will be seeing him again tomorrow night for his final night of six sold-out shows, and then on the following day, I hope to write a bit about the show.

Again, I apologize for leaving you for the week but I am back. Whether you noticed or not.

Monday, August 15, 2005


I thought I would feel awful doing it. I thought I would feel that I was betraying the people around me but as I approached the only 7-Eleven convenience store in New York City, I felt an odd sense of ease and comfort. The sort of ease and comfort you only feel when you're growing up in the suburbs and the only stress you have is tonight's Algebra homework. The gloriously anorexic rainbow of green, yellow and red embraced me with its warm hues. The artificial fluorescent lights hanging from the ceiling set to a blaring bright beamed onto the sidewalk of 23rd and Park Avenue almost outshining the daytime sun. When pedestrians walked by, they took a quick double look as if something was amiss on this corner. Had a piece of their hometown crept into the Big Apple during the night and planted itself near the subway entrance for the 4, 5, or 6? In the name of all that is sacred and holy, what happens when you take something so distinctively town and plant it into the City of cities?

Jada Yuan, a good friend of mine and a journalist for New York Magazine, accused 7-Eleven's CEO James Keyes of invading New York City and imposing his faceless corporate entity on the unwilling and perhaps even intimidating corner bodegas in the area. While I condone Yuan for her integrity, I assume that it's been a long time since she stepped foot into a 7-Eleven because as soon as I walked in, I felt at home. My mother may as well have been behind the counter but alas she is neither Chinese nor Indian (I know! So cliché!). For me, this experience was why so many spend every free moment of their time in Central Park; while inside, I was far away from the fast-paced hustle and tense atmosphere of New York City. I was on vacation. I could not visualize or fathom skyscrapers and towers while the hum of the Big Gulp machine sang me a sweet tune. Nor could I remember the use of a Metrocard as I watched the rotating and hypnotic dance of the hot dog grill. I was far and away. I was in heaven, or in my case, New Jersey. And just when I thought that everything was right in the world, I saw her standing in the corner. It's been a long time, I thought, but I would always recognize could I forget?
Alas, she came back for me, the Slurpee machine.

Even though I generally gravitate to diet beverages I would do no such thing in this instance. I grabbed the spout for the Coca Cola Slurpee and pulled with absolute and dying confidence. I watched the flowing stream of carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, caffeine, and of course the hidden ingredient. Oh, it filled the cup with fullness like the love of a mother for a child. It was be mere moments before I partook in that liquid love.

I left the 7-Eleven with a Coke Slurpee in hand. I felt invincible. I could cross the street without looking both ways. I could take a bullet anywhere in my body (although, not in the bathing suit area). Everyone checked me out--My Slurpee made me exponentially hotter. Their eyes asked me, where did you get that? I passed a homeless woman. I felt like I could give her a million dollars. But of course, I didn't have it to give to her. Sorry, homeless woman. I loved my Slurpee and my Slurpee loved me. We were newlyweds that only needed the company of one another. And for the first time, I understood the tagline because I too was finally thanking Heaven.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Forget Giselle. Forget tropical islands. Forget Giselle alone on a tropical island. These days, I fantasize of nothing but the perfect office chair, spoiling me with its seductive contours and curves, the sort of curves Giselle could never compete with. In my dream, I sit on that chair and I write. I write and write like I am in heaven and the words appearing on my screen are the results of heaven's inspiration. This is sublime, I say unto myself. A chair such as this was surely created by the God of Comfort Seating. I raise my arms to the sky and shout a praise of unprecedented loudness, the best proclamation that my tiny throat can muster, Thank you, O'God of Comfort Seating! Thank you for giving my bottom a most euphoric sitting experience. How can I ever repay thee?

And then I wake up and my back aches like backs have never ached before. I am not an old man, I say unto myself. Why must my back forsake me in my years of sprite? I go to my computer and sit there, spending hours on different office websites like Office,, and Office I even look at Craigslist or eBay but nobody is offering me the perfect chair at a reasonable price. They all want too much and I cannot give it to them. I yearn for an Executive, a Managerial, or even a Secretarial seat. I am left with nothing but my yearning. I feel cold and alone.

The next dream I have takes place in a lovely Italian restaurant. I am eating hearty lasagna with uncountable layers. I am sitting across an ergonomically advanced Mirra Office Chair designed by Hermann Miller (retails at $629.00). We are totally flirting and drinking fine wine. Mirra--she says its okay if I just call her that--says that she has never, ever met anyone like me and knows that we're meant to be. She asks me to take her home. I am completely caught off guard. While we do share many of the same philosophical and political views, I'm afraid we're moving too fast. Mirra shushes me and says, "Everything is going to be okay." And then I imagine Mirra in my room in front of my desk with her graphite custom back support, her tilt tension and pneumatic height. I say to Mirra, "I am so in love with your Earth-friendly construction." She blushes and looks down. I then look at her label, which reads "One Size Fits Most," and I say, "But Mirra, let's say I am the size that won't fit?" She raises her left adjustable armrest and seductively touches my cheek. "I am also available in Terra Cotta," she coos and I am immediately smitten.
Then, again, I wake up. Disappointed.

I look at my current office chair and feel bad for it. I wonder if it knows that it only cost $52.99 and could never compete with the other office chairs out there. Getting up from my bed, I walk over to the budget-chair, or Budgie, and pat its semi-comforting back. It's okay, I say to Budgie, you're good enough. You'll have to do. But in my mind, I dream about Mirra and office chairs like her. And as uncomfortable as I may be with Budgie, I know in my dream, that once again, Mirra and I will soon reunite.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Part One In a Series of Instant Messenger Poetry

When life gives you a most random Instant Messenger conversation, you can simply turn those words into a free-form poem like I have done below. So, all your hours wasted on IM can culminate into something incredibly creative and truly poetic. Go ahead and try one of your own.

what should i do now?
not sure.
think about seeing Broken Flowers?
to prepare yourself emotionally, i guess.
looks boring. another bill murray mid-life crisis film.
bill murray is fabulous. you no like?
no. me no like.
you no like? i would see him in almost anything
i like his schtick. whatever you want to call it. It's like an absurdists reaction to absurdity.
when faced with absurdity, he looks at it blankly
gosh. rushmore? hello?
and royal tennenbaums and lost in translation.
does he not possess another facial expression?

royal tennenbaums mostly sucked
so do you! ZING
sadness and pain reverberating through my soul
sorry. i take it back.
it's ok.
life is pain.
i understand that now.
you can write about your dog.
you know...your dog, the clone.
which dog? i don't have one. i don't have a clone, either. or for that matter, a clone dog.
who did you think i was?
a korean dog cloner.
what it's like to have vertigo?
very much so.
the best ideas are already taken.
why did you say that?
that's just the way the world works.
deal with it.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Yesterday I received an email from an editor of a magazine that I write for:

"Your observations tend to feel stock, predictable and a bit (you're going to hate me for this one) amateur...esque. Your prose doesn't feel very tight either. I was hoping you'd let it go because I didn't want to stir up any bad blood. I think you're an incredibly nice guy and I don't want you to think I'm picking a fight. I'm not. I just haven't been blown away by the stuff you've submitted in the past. I realize it's impossible to critique someone's art without it coming off as a personal affront."

Needless to say, I was at first offended and hurt. I had essentially given him my children to watch and he had returned them to me, hands over his eyes, shouting, Your children are ugly UGLY! to me and moreover, they needed braces for their awful over-bites.
I had no idea how to react. Art is subjective but maybe his subjective was better than everyone else's? I took a deep breath, paced around the room, and wrote him back. To make a long story short, he apologized an hour later.

But my ego nursing is not the intention of this post. See, I've been having a very weird reaction to music journalism these days. Granted people tend to care the least about music journalism than any other form of cultural musings. It's generally pretentious, unapproachable, self-referential and snarky. Most music writing is by journalists for other journalists. It's a creative masturbation. Look what I know and you don't.
When was the last time you read about an obscure band and immediately went out and bought the record. It won't happen too often unless you're out there searching for that sort of thing. Most purchases or discoveries happen through recommendations and through the word of mouth of friends. It's quite common that someone will call me up and ask me for new music. Based on the trust we've developed over the years, he or she will thereafter go out and purchase (or download) my recommendation. Once again, because he or she trusts me.

Sasha Frere-Jones, the pop music critic for the New Yorker, is a great example of a music journalist you can trust. But journalists cite his evocative writing so often that it's almost become a cliché. When discussing his method with a friend of mine, we were able to discern why his tone is more effective than the crap that's so overwhelmingly available in abundance. Sasha is a writer foremost. He develops scenes, scents, tastes, looks, colors and he does so sometimes even in-between words. When I sit down to write, I try to emulate his style. He writes like he is there to record pop history, observe and absorb and then share with the masses. While I do have a gripe with Sasha's subjects of choice (how many New Yorker readers are going to buy a Hold Steady album?), he writes like the musicians or band in question is the reason for the article. Frere-Jones doesn't seem to have an ulterior motive. He's there not to boost his name or craft. He is there to recommend a record to you, the reader, because he loves it (I've yet to read a truly negative feature of his in the New Yorker) This is why we trust journalists like him and Jon Pareles and Kelefa Sanneh from the New York Times. They are writers foremost. Not entertainers or clowns.

Speaking of which.... recently, the Village Voice hired wunderkind writer Nick Sylvester. Sylvester, from what I gather, is 24, a Harvard graduate, and a staff member of the sometimes-ridiculous Pitchfork Media. Currently, he is posting regular blog entries for the Village Voice website. Not that you or I read the Voice website all too often, but within the geeky music communities, Sylvester is discussed often. All the while I say, we're wasting our breath and time. Er...kinda like I'm doing now

Unfortunately, it's writers like Sylvester that take the greatness out of music journalism and turn it into a "look at me"-contest. When we read a Sylvester piece, we are being entertained by a child that so desperately wants our attention. We hardly learn new things about the band or musician he is writing about. Generally, we learn things about Sylvester. Why does this bother me so? Nick Sylvester is perpetuating the most unattractive qualities of man: self-involvement, snarkiness, gross narcissism, ugly humor, silliness, sarcasm and plenty of fragment sentences. He is the Chuck Klosterman of the blogger-age.
Not to say that Klosterman is a bad writer. On the contrary, Klosterman, when he is not writing about himself...which is like, never, is a witty, insightful voice for our time. His cover story for Spin Magazine on U2 was seriously original, exposing us to a side of Bono we're rarely, if ever, privy to. Sometimes, we'll catch a glimpse of genius. Despite the unprecedented hating and piles of mud saved for the Spin contributing writer, ultimately, he's a smart dude.

You wouldn't know that though by the reviews of his newest book Killing Yourself to Live. Based on what I'm reading, the collection of essays isn't poorly written--disclaimer: I haven't read it and truthfully, I don't plan to--but rather all the criticism points to Klosterman's prose/verbal wanking. Everything in his life exudes profoundness and everything profound generally involves him. It's obvious and apparent that Klosterman is so insecure that he has no choice but to be in love with himself. But what Sylvester and Klosterman and hundreds and hundreds of lower-tiered writers like them don't understand is that we eventually get tired of the friend that always and only talks about him or herself. After countless conversation, for once, we'd like to be asked how we're doing. While reading anything by the aforementioned me journalists, I wind up feeling neglected like it didn't make a difference whether I was reading or not. I'm not reading to feel belittled, am I? Sylvester more than Klosterman makes us feel stupid for not sharing his opinion and I semi-resent him for that. Sorry, I'm sensitive.

The reason I initially started writing was for the thrill of sharing ideas, music, and thoughts. I always considered my written word to be a small drop in the larger waters of dialogue. As both time and my career progressed, I've humbly received incredible and rewarding feedback from readers and it means a great deal to me. It's one of the main reasons for my continuing in doing this despite the occasional opposition. And while an email such as the one above can shake the foundations of my confidence (once again, I'm sensitive), it takes a few minutes for humility to set in and for me to remember that my words, like those of that very critical editor, are not the end all or be all.

I know of a few writers that could use the same reminder.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Walking up Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side, I passed the back of the majestic Beacon Theater where reputable bands play to larger audiences when they're too popular for the small venues but still too obscure to sell out arenas. Sigur Ros plays there next week. Damien Rice has played there in the past. Coldplay favors the venue when they want to play smaller shows "for the fans." A lot of bands also use the Beacon Theater for displaying the second phase of their careers or the reunion tours, as did Queensryche, Def Leppard, and The Allman Brothers. But today, I was fortunate.
Ahhh, the stars shined brightly over me on this very day as I walked past the theater during Meat Loaf's sound check.
Meat Loaf, the one and only! The same individual who was man enough to adorn breasts for Fight Club. The man smart enough to anticipate the Google search by splitting his name into two thereby avoiding the confusion that comes along when all the results of your search are meatloaf recipes.

I stopped for a few minutes to soak in the heftiness of his vocals as he sang along with his band. As luck would have it, he was practicing "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)," a total classic as far as I'm concerned. A classic in the same sense that a Broadway show can be; dramatic, over-the-top, ridiculous, completely uncool, but oh so enjoyable. As I heard him refuse to do that, I reminisced about the countless conversations I've taken part in over the years involving what that could be. I've heard many, many theories but, again, all of them just theories. And here I was, a mere few feet away from the man that could finally answer what that could be?

As I walked to the side of the Beacon Theater, I was determined to speak with Mister Loaf and get down to the mystery of his song. Yes, I've read the lyrics to "...Anything For Love" but I still wasn't satisfied. Raised on a healthy dose of Hardy Boys and Agatha Christie, I was certain that there was more to this insistence of not-doing other than the forgetting of the way she feels, or swearing to never screw around. Nope, there was definitely something more here...but what could it be?
The side of the Beacon is usually a hangout for the droves of weird and obsessed fans and yes, even though this was a Meat Loaf concert, this occasion would be no different. It seemed that Meat Loaf too had his legion of adoring followers, or more appropriately, Meat Loafers (better than Meat Oafs). The Loafers stood anxiously outside the side-entrance of the venue for a glimpse of the Beef himself. I walked over to one of them, a slightly-overweight women in her fifties, who had assuredly drove all the way in from Long Island early to get, perhaps, a signature or really, just a smile and a wave would do. I asked her if Meat Loaf had arrived yet. Disappointingly, she said no. He wouldn't be pulling up for quite sometime.
Perplexed I then asked who was singing inside?
"That's his bassist," she explained. "He does sound check for him [Kudos to the anonymous poster who already knew this. Standing ovation to you. You have earned your promotion amongst the Meat Loafers of the world.]."
"Damn," I said aloud. Now, I'll never be able to ask him. Does that involve murder? Thievery? Espionage?
Surrounded by Loaf scholars, I decided to ask Ms. Long Island for her interpretation. I figure, this is the closest I'll get to Meat Loaf. God is essentially giving me lemons, so therefore I will make Meat Loaf.
"Do you know the song "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)," I asked her?
"Of course I do," she replied. "I love it. One of my favorite live performances."
"Well then," I continued "what is the that?"
She laughed, thought for a moment and then turned to me with perfect comic timing and said, "But I won't do sound checks."

I thanked her and then walked away from the Beacon Theater. As far as I was concerned, the mystery was solved.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Recently the controversy surrounding racial profiling by the New York Police Department has been aggravating me. The logic behind the "injustice" of the baggage searches throughout the MTA subway system is that the police will most likely pull aside Muslims or those who have similar skin tones. Today it has been announced that the NYCLU is filing a lawsuit against the NYPD for their infringement of our civil rights. Essentially, the NYCLU feels that we should be more sensitive about other people’s feeling, rather than maintain a level of safety and security. Better we should hold hands and sing happy songs than face the reality of the cruel and awful world we live in where suicide bombers don't distinguish between anyone, regardless of their political affiliations. The left-wing organization keeps referencing Timothy McVeigh as a support for their argument but what they fail to understand is that, yes, we will always have exceptions to the rule. Nevertheless, this doesn't mean we should ignore the rule. It can be said that no Muslim was involved in the Oklahoma City bombings but, paradoxically, I could say that no Caucasians where involved in September 11th or July 7th.

And despite my general liberal leanings, I think that the NYCLU, the forerunner in protesting the searches, is essentially assisting the terrorists in accomplishing their acts of selfish slaughter. Moreover, I don't think they should be "fighting" for the people when I'm sure the people are overwhelmingly in favor of the searches. Many say that if you have nothing to hide then there's nothing wrong with a policeman rummaging through my bag. The ones that should be nervous about the new policy are the people that indeedhave something to hide.

As far as this topic is concerned, I have plenty of things to say but I found an editorial from the New York Times that I think said it best. I generally stay away from posting other people's opinions but if you missed this, it's very worth reading. Unfortunately, the Times is charging for this article but I thankfully found it reprinted in the San Diego Union-Tribune. This piece proves that we do indeed live in a different time. There is no longer room for apologies and political-correctness. The world must act in its best interests. If that means inspecting my bag, then, so be it. Check my bag.

It's the age of terror: What would you do?
By Paul Sperry
July 31, 2005

In response to the serial subway bombings in London, Mayor Michael Bloomberg prudently ordered the police to start searching the bags of New York's subway riders. But there will be absolutely no profiling, Bloomberg vowed: the police will select one out of every five passengers to search, and they will do so at random, without regard for race or religion.

In that case, the security move is doomed to fail.

Young Muslim men bombed the London tube, and young Muslim men attacked New York with planes in 2001. From everything we know about the terrorists who may be taking aim at our transportation system, they are most likely to be young Muslim men.

Unfortunately, however, this demographic group won't be profiled. Instead, the authorities will be stopping Girl Scouts and grannies in a procedure that has more to do with demonstrating tolerance than with protecting citizens from terrorism.

Critics protest that profiling is prejudicial. In fact, it's based on statistics. Insurance companies profile policyholders based on probability of risk. That's just smart business. Likewise, profiling passengers based on proven security risk is just smart law enforcement.

Besides, done properly, profiling would subject relatively few Muslims to searches. Elderly Muslim women don't fit the terrorist profile. Young Muslim men of Arab or South Asian origin do. But rather than acknowledge this obvious fact, the New York Police Department has advised subway riders to be alert for "people" in bulky clothes who sweat or fiddle nervously with bags.

Well, a lot of people wear bulky clothes. A lot of people fiddle with their bags. And for that matter, a lot of people sweat. Could the Police Department be any more general in describing the traits of an Islamic suicide bomber? Could its advice be more useless?

Truth be told, commuters need to be most aware of young men praying to Allah and smelling like flower water. Law enforcement knows this, and so should you.

According to a January 2004 handout, the Department of Homeland Security advises U.S. border authorities to look out for certain "suicide bomber indicators." They include a "shaved head or short haircut. A short haircut or recently shaved beard or moustache may be evident by differences in skin complexion on the head or face. May smell of herbal or flower water (most likely flower water), as they may have sprayed perfume on themselves, their clothing, and weapons to prepare for Paradise."

Suspects may have been seen "praying fervently, giving the appearance of whispering to someone. Recent suicide bombers have raised their hands in the air just before the explosion to prevent the destruction of their fingerprints. They have also placed identity cards in their shoes because they want to be praised and recognized as martyrs."

The bodies of the London suicide bombers were recognized by their identification cards. And on the eve of the 9/11 attacks, the hijackers shaved and perfumed themselves with flower water in a pre-martyrdom ritual called ablution.

But don't expect the federal authorities to screen for these indicators on Amtrak, which pulls into Penn Station in New York and Union Station in Washington, two of the biggest commuter-rail depots in the country.

Not only is there no passenger profiling on Amtrak, but there's no screening or mandatory searching of carry-on bags. The only restriction on bags is a 50-pound weight limit – and that's not much comfort when you recall that the bombs used in London weighed only 10 pounds.

Once an Islamist suicide bomber is sitting next to you on the train, your chances of escape are slim. The only solution is for the police to stop him well before he boards your car. But with the system as it stands, that terrorist could easily slip in through the numerical window of random security screening.

By not allowing police to profile the most suspicious train passengers – young Muslim men who fit the indicators above – Bloomberg and other leaders not only tie one hand behind law enforcement's back, but they also unwittingly provide terrorists political cover to carry out their murderous plans. Call it politically correct suicide.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Applying for student loans is hard enough but do the loan officers have to refer to us as "customers"? It makes me feel like I'm in a Bradlees. While on the phone with Citibank, discussing a hefty sum of money going towards education and, I hope, the betterment of this world, the operator, or Julie rather, thanked me for my business. Her use of the word "business" made me cringe. I'm attending school to get a degree in Social Work, not borrowing money for the development of a mall or a hair salon.

Furthermore, I can't believe that I'm borrowing as much money as I am. Unfortunately there is no consideration as to whether you are attending school for low-paying communal careers like teaching or social work or medicine or if you're registering for a business degree, law degree or an MFA in creative writing (which I'm told is the biggest waste of money aside from buying a Hummer). It's been said before and therefore I won't belabor the point: people don't want to become social workers or teachers because they have no guarantee that they'll be able to pay their loans back, sooner than later. Making $125,000 your first year out of law school seems to be helpful towards paying back your loans and considering that the lawyer has borrowed just as much for his education as the social worker's justifiable when someone embraces the world of high-paying salaries as opposed to involving themselves in, essentially, the undesirable, financially unfulfilling jobs.

I spoke to one of the financial aid officers at NYU and asked her about my problem digesting this financial inequality. She had no answer. An education is an education, she said. We don't distinguish between potential salaries.
She continued, You could be a successful social worker and open a private practice and make a lot of money. And yeah, you're going to get an MBA but let's say the market is atrocious and you can't find a decent paying job for a long time.
But, I said back, how likely is that?
Not sure, she responded. I can't predict the future. But also consider the school you're going to. It's like a brand name. You would pay more money for more quality, right? That's what you're doing.
True, I said.
But I'm not dismissing your problem. It is an issue that no one seems to be addressing. I'm not sure if I have a clear answer for why you're paying as much for school as a business degree may. It doesn't seem completely fair. I agree. But unfortunately this is the cost and it doesn't seem like it's going to change.

Monday, August 01, 2005


It’s rare that a music journalist will walk into a record store and ask the salesclerk what they’re playing over the speakers. It’s like the old stereotype about men and directions; it’s a source of pride, or a sign of weakness. Chances are they’re playing the specific record for the uninformed consumer, and it must be good enough to instantly peak their interest and therefore must not be for me. After much deliberation—like a scene out of High Fidelity—I ate my humble pie, walked up to the clerk, and asked, while meekly pointing to the ceiling, “Who is this?” The Rough Trade shop located in London has been known to be the arbiter of good taste, and their recommendations usually stand up with repeated listens. This time would be no different. I would even follow this humiliating moment by asking the clerk for another recommendation.

The record that the unassuming, dishevelled aficionado standing behind the counter played for the uninformed and, well, me was the Earlies’ These Were the Earlies, a consistently wonderful and supremely textured compilation of three previously released EP’s. The Earlies, a psychedelic and atmospheric band of two Texans and two Britons, unfortunately released this album to little, if any, American fanfare. Incredibly, These Were… hasn’t even found an American label—strange considering that it was one of the best albums released last year (and despite the long-passed release date of this record, it’s good enough to warrant the belated attention). Their magical mystery tour will secure them comparisons to the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, but the Earlies’ lyrical themes (about life and death, not unicorns or robot-killers) and the bright, three-dimensional Pink Floydian echo distinguish it from the others.

I had the fortunate opportunity of seeing the Earlies play one of only two live shows in America. Thankfully, the band assembled enough money to pay for a trip to Austin’s SXSW, bringing their vibrant colors to an appreciative, albeit drunk, audience. Despite technical difficulties (the thirteen people on stage blew out the power. At both shows), the Earlies filled the sky with wondrous sounds, creating a cacophony of splendour and heavenly song.

— Check the Earlies website here for more information.