Thursday, June 29, 2006


I don't generally post about my articles appearing in print but since I worked quite hard on this story, I thought I'd share. My cover story on Brooklyn's TV on the Radio for DIW Magazine should be hitting newsstands any day now. Be on the look out for this issue at Barnes & Noble, Borders, or most comprehensive newsstands. In addition, this issue features my profile on singer/songwriter Regina Spektor.

That is all.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Just by looking at their cover art, it's obvious.
Muse is not a cool band. Once we accept the fact that they are not operating in the same playing field as Franz Ferdinand or Modest Mouse, it may be easier to enjoy them.

The British trio plays heavy prog-rock, which is inherently uncool. They have more in common with ELP, Queen and Rush than Radiohead (granted, lead singer Matt Bellamy's voice is akin to Thom Yorke's, in that it's a falsetto) and this is also uncool. Their newest record Black Holes and Revelations is bombastic, over-the-top and wholly self-important. And did I mention that the cover art is totally uncool?

Why would four bald men be sitting around a wooden table in the middle of a desert wearing gold, silver or eyeball patterned suits made from aluminum foil? I have no idea. And I'm pretty sure the men sitting in the desert have no idea, either. It's the sort of album cover that already looks dated--it reminds me of the sometimes absurd Pink Floyd album art* which inspired more laughs than gasps. I imagine an unknowing teen sorting through the used CD bin years from now, picking up Black Holes and then putting it down immediately. And for shame. Because when we embrace the uncool, we'll find that Muse's latest release is a triumphant and thrilling record. It's the musical version of an intelligent summer blockbuster (if only there were such a thing) where reality suspension is always involved.

It's my impression that the independent music listener (much like the movie snob) has forgotten how to enjoy popcorn fare. Pitchfork Media, for example, is so used to reviewing Important Records that they've forgotten how to approach anything otherwise. In an over-thought review of Black Holes, Sam Ubl gets it all wrong. The low 4.2 score does not surprise me--giving Muse a high score would have been the equivalent of Ubl's saying that Animal Collective or Frog Eyes do not matter because, ultimately, Muse is their opposite and everything those bands don't want to be. Muse is an arena rock band that a) takes itself very seriously and b) has with a political agenda. Still with me?

Ubl writes:
"Muse epitomize pompous stadium rock in a technology-numbed, post-Radiohead era. Their tracks come loaded up with burbling synth arpeggios and other "futuristic" effects intended to announce the band's modernity. But the music is firmly ol' skool at heart: proggy hard rock that forgoes any pretensions to restraint. What Muse lack in chophouse showmanship on the prog side of the equation they attempt to make up for in volume-- their songs use full-stacked guitars and thunderous drums to evoke god's footsteps. It's the kind of deep-fried, flash-frozen crud that can be ridiculously fun to listen to."

Okay, sounds good to me so far. I mean, how is this bad? Doesn't this describe everything we adored growing up in high school? Couldn't this essentially be the opening paragraph to a review of one of our favorite Queen albums Innuendo (underrated as far as I'm concerned)? [Note to Ubl: Does "Invincible" sound like "Buckley's "Hallelujah" or does "Hoodoo" sound like Buckley's "Lilac Wine?" Who cares. Originality has no place in rock and roll].

In his closing paragraph, Ubl concludes:
"What's most difficult of all to look past is that Black Holes was created in all earnestness by three dudes in Hot Topic shirts advancing a vision of rock music that operates on three fundamental assumptions: 1) distortion is always better than no distortion; 2) every measure of music should contain at least one drum fill; and 3) the future will be dominated by robots. Muse leaves no room for compromise on these points. So for peace of mind, call them retro, because they can't reasonably consider such a vision inventive or resonant in 2K6. Can they?"

Are these truly the three fundamental assumptions surrounding this record? After listening to it multiple times, I can only agree with one of them. And do you really find the notion that robots will probably dominate the world in the future so absurd? Have you ever seen Terminator?

Black Holes is a finely polished product that, yes, feels retro at every turn. But I'm pretty sure that this was intentional (or I hope it was). And when judging a record on the scale of inventive and resonant, how can you enjoy anything bursting with mainstream appeal? Sometimes the suspension of cool is inherent in the enjoyment of rock. In retrospect, I consider that the album art may serve as an intentional warning to those seeking an Important Record. Those four men are sitting around the wooden table sweating profusely for a good cause. They're there to entice the uncool.

- Listen to two songs from Black Holes and Revelations here

* from Wikipedia: "The artwork, designed by Storm Thorgerson, depicts a landscape of the surface of Mars with four men seated around a table with three miniature horses on it. The setting is thought to signify Cydonia, and the connection with horses a reference to knights, explaining the title of “Knights of Cydonia.” The knights are also believed to represent the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, from the Book of Revelation in the New Testament of the Bible, with their horses of four different colors."
Coincidentally, Storm Thorgerson was the cover artist for many Pink Floyd covers (including the one I link above). I did not find this out until I finished writing this review.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


"But this is my acting face."

Part II of a He Said/She Said Superman Returns review.*

[*While little pieces were cut for the final edit posted on the Jane magazine site, there is only one deleted criticism that I wanted to include here on BBS and that is the jarring and perplexing inclusion of Kal Penn in the movie. Kumar never actually speaks a word of dialogue but rather fills the role of Luthor's stereotypical Indian I.T. person. David thought this was somewhat racist. I simply thought it was random and odd. Couldn't they have given him at least one line? Or did he want to be in this summer blockbuster so badly that he negotiated his way into the film stipulating that he was only to make random facial expressions in the background (and even kick Superman while he was down. Literally)? Ultimately, this casting choice distracted me more than anything. All the while I kept thinking, where are the White Castle burgers?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Friday, June 23, 2006


So, I am compiling a series of photographs for an upcoming "art" project that I am working on. I am asking all of you to participate because I think you can come up with something cool. The concept is very simple, easy, and fun. Here are the instructions:

On any given night, when you are home simply relaxing, i.e., an evening spent watching TV, reading a book or ordering in dinner, please take a series of digital photos documenting your uneventful night. What you do within the confines of your apartment is completely up to you (please keep it clean). You do not necessarily have to be stonecold bored--you could be re-arranging your sock draw, you could be dancing in your bedroom, you could be painting your walls, but whatever it is, please make sure that all photos are taken horizontally and that you have a series of multiple shots. There needs to be about 25-30 pictures taken. I know it's a lot but when the project is complete, it will make total sense. Cooperating with this project also means that you are comfortable with your photos on public display. It is my hope that many people will see your pictures.

And important: they should not be all the same position or setting. Switch it up. Take some pics in the kitchen, living room, closet, etc. Send your series of photos as soon as possible to me at

Oh, and please forward this request to as many potentially interested people as possible. Thanks so much.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


The Avalanche: Extras and Outtakes from the Illinois Album
Sufjan Stevens
(Asthmatic Kitty)

Extras and outtakes don’t sound very enticing, do they? They’re generally marketed to the fanatic or the devoted. Sure, bonus footage on the Special Editions DVD may satisfy the curious, but when it comes to music, do you really want to hear a blooper? Perhaps then, The Avalanche is inaccurately subtitled as Outtakes and Extras from the Illinois Album because while the twenty-one songs are technically leftovers from folksinger Sufjan Stevens’ critically acclaimed record Illinois, there’s nothing haphazard about them. Originally planned as a double record, Illinois was wisely split into two--forty-two songs would have been a very serious Sufjan overdose--and The Avalanche is being touted as the postponed second half. There are few artists as consistent and enchanting as Stevens, but don’t expect a dramatic change from his usual literary chamber-folk. His newest release is an addendum in every sense of the word—in fact, Stevens himself claims that each track is a song-by-song counterpart to Illinois. There is bad news, though: the lengthy album hints at Stevens' potentially tiresome inability to self-edit. Besides the paragraph-long song titles ("The Vivian Girls Are Visited In the Night by Saint Dargarius and his Squadron of Benevolent Butterflies," or "The Perpetual Self, or "What Would Saul Alinsky Do?"), the Avalanche is a presumptuous record, albeit, a very generous serving much in the same way a landslide offers some mud. Nevertheless, you have to admire a talent that can churn out “extras and outtakes” almost as impressive as the perfection they were originally cut from.

- Stevens' label Ashmatic Kitty is streaming the first fourth of the record on their website.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Where are these children's parents and how could they allow their young, impressionable kids to say such awful things? Oh, the hilarity of the jarring juxtaposition--little boys and girls speaking the words of miserable adults. Except, I don't find this funny. I find it boring, lazy and trite. As far as comedy goes, this is the easiest form of writing.

And also the stupidest.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


My sister calls and asks me to explain the concept of magic to my four-year old nephew. I sometimes transcribe the conversations that I have with my nephews because some of them are absurd and they provide a much-needed chuckle. As is the case with the conversation below.

Can you teach me magic?

Sure, but I can't teach you over the phone. I need to teach you in-person.

Who person?

No, I mean, I have to be in the same room as you.

But you're not. You know what I think m agic is? I think...I think...You think it’s magic but its really not magic, you just have tissues in your pocket.

Why do I have tissues in my pocket?

You don’t have a cold. But you’re making magic. Do you understand me?

Not yet.

You’re not making magic. You’re teaching me magic. A teacher doesn’t make magic, a teacher makes teaching.

Oh. I see.

Don’t hang up the phone.

Okay, I won’t. What should I teach you?

I want to make magic in my hands.

Do you have your magic wand?


Do you have a magic wand?

What? A magic one?

No, a magic wand. Not a magic one.

[To his mom] What’s a magic wand?
[To me] Do I need a special hat? Do I need a magic hat to make the bunny come out?

I’m not sure. It’s magic. It’s a secret.

So, how do teachers teach magic, if it’s a secret? How do you know magic?

I went to magic school when I was little.

How do you make magic without a magic wand?

Um, I have one.

Where is it?

In my apartment.

Want to hear a trick?


Now, I hang up.


[Dial tone]

Sunday, June 11, 2006


"So are you happy that you left school?" I hadn't seen my ex-classmate in a few months. In fact, the last time I saw Laura was my final day at the Ehrenkranz School of Social Work. And back then, I told her I would see her the following week, but that wasn't the case. I didn't see her that week, or the week after, or even the week after that. It would have been months before she could ask me what happened.

"Yeah, I think it was the best move I've ever made." And in truth, it was. In my life, I have made many good decisions and I have made many more bad decisions. This was a case of the latter. "Are you happy you stayed?"

"Um, yeah, I guess," she said unconvincingly. "It feels really good to help people but it feels pretty scary wondering where this will lead me. And the school, well, it's kinda a joke."

"A very expensive joke." I understood Laura. That was one of the reasons why I left NYU. When all is said and done, what's the point of paying nearly one hundred thousand dollars to help people? Couldn't you simply help without investing all of that money into a purported education? There is more to be gained by volunteering.

Looking back on my limited time there, I have never been as disappointed in an institution like I was at NYU. And the saddest part to consider is that the school with most likely never change. NYU's Ehrenkranz School of Social Work is not a priority to the real-estate empire that is NYU.

"How often do you hear about a Social Worker endowing a large sum of money to an institution?" said a recent Ehrenkranz graduate. "Would you invest a lot of time into someone who doesn't have the opportunity to return the favor in the future?

"Technically, we're an image boost," the graduate continued. "They say, We've got a reputable law school, a great business school, an impressive real estate degree, and even our film school churns out some impressive auteurs. But wait, we also do some good in the world. We have a social work program."


There are often times that I feel guilty for leaving. If I could go back in time, I would now know better than to apply but the reality is that I did apply and I did go to school and I did meet with clients. I met with them on a weekly basis, formed a professional bond, worried about them, and then one day, without so much as a warning, I disappeared on them.

But the administration claims that that's the preferred method. Your relationship with the troubled individuals that you meet through your social work internship is strictly of a professional nature. You're not supposed to call them at home or contact them outside the contexts of the internship. But alternatively, once you leave the school, you don't have to follow the suggested guidelines. I consider this and then I feel guilty.

I imagine that one day I will run into one of my former clients and he will ask me why he never heard from me again.
"To be honest," I imagine saying, "you represented the school and I was resentful of the school. I was so disappointed that I had no choice but to delete it from my life."
That's not fair to me.
"I know. I know it's not. And I also know that your family hurt you in the past...I am just another person that's hurt you."
Yes. Despite the fact that I don't register emotions in the same capacity that most people do...these things compound.
"I want you to know, though, that I think about you. I wonder how you are. I really wanted to help you and I felt frustrated that I couldn't."
So instead, you left me.

And this is when I think about picking up the phone and reconnecting. But I also wonder if my good intentions would make matters worse...maybe he's since moved on and found support in another? Maybe re-applying myself into his life, even on a minor level, would confuse him.

I always had a hard time referring to the clients as "clients" because I felt it created an impenetrable distance, a tangible detachment. For me, though, not for them. Now, six months later, in retrospect, the only regret I have is abandoning these people. I'm okay with leaving school. I embrace my status as a quitter, but I will always wonder what happened to those few clients I had. The ones who felt deep-rooted scarring from the emotional abuse and consistent abandonment. And while it's comforting to know that I can't simply turn my sympathies off, I am also doing very little about it.

And when this paralysis frustrates me, I find temporary comfort in remembering why I left school in the first place. While there's a great eventual reward in the helping of others, you have to wonder if it outweighs the financial burden. I, for one, will never find that out. Although, years from now, I could always ask the graduates of NYU.

Friday, June 09, 2006


We need to talk about your daughter.
While I am all for beach wear, I think it is unarguably inappropriate for your daughter Paris to show up to her kindergarten class in a hot pink string bikini. When I asked Ms. Hilton if her parents knew what she was wearing to school, she answered that her mother had picked it out for her.

And while this uniform (or lack thereof) is unacceptable in our academy, this is just the beginning of her delinquent behavior. Just yesterday, during naptime, I was witness to Paris sneaking into the cot of her fellow classmate and asking him to touch her in "the private wing of [her] Hilton hotel." Additionally, she was holding a night vision camcorder which is not the sort of equipment you generally find on a five-year old. Why is she privy to such technology at such a young age?
Of course, Ms. Hilton was punished, which she yelled, is not the sort of thing she's used to. I am voicing my concern now because I think that these are Paris' most formative years. If we allow her to get away with this behavior from herein, I can only imagine what she'll turn out like when she's older.

Yes, I am all for creative expression--I think it's important for a child to find his or her outlet at a young age but that outlet should not include a thermos full of Kristal and a Frangelica sip boxes. Moreover, Paris insists that she sings in the Kindergarten talent show but I don't think that her voice is her strong point. I think she has many hidden talents--very, very hidden talents--but if we value our hearing, singing should not be encouraged. I am open to suggestions if you are aware of one of these deeply buried talents because as of now, I have yet to find one (also, I had to explain to Paris that grinding the school custodian is not considered "a talent").

Mr. and Mrs. Hilton, I am worried about Paris. Her IQ test scores are not high, and her reading and speaking are both delayed. If this current path continues, I don't know if she'll be employable or self-sufficient. As I see it, she needs extreme disciplining and a modest wardrobe or she will just develop into a walking punchline.

Also--and I apologize for the inappropriate nature of this presumption--but it may prove beneficial if you kept closer tabs on your child's drug problem. After every recess, Paris returns from the bathroom with a powdered nose and full of energy. Unfortunately, I cannot believe her powdered donut excuse for much longer. I am a kindergarten teacher, not a fool.

I am more than happy to continue discussing this with you both in-person or on the phone. But it's my preference that we handle this sooner than later. Paris has had a somewhat negative effect on her classmates, especially on Nicole, Lionel Richie's daughter. Considering how promising Nicole's future looks it would be a shame to ruin it so early on.

Mrs. Kranz
Your daughter's kindergarten teacher (if you didn't know)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Hey, Keanu. Mind if I sit here?

Hey, Arye. Please. Sit. How are things?

Pretty good.

I see you haven't been updating your blog recently.

Yeah, It seems like I haven't brought sincerity back in quite some time. But I've been so busy.

Yeah, whoa, I've noticed.

I mean, what happens if I try to bring it back and I realize I've forgotten how...

Isn't the process of bringing sincerity back kinda like riding a bike.

Possibly. I'm not sure.

Well, how about we try it right now? We can ease into it. Together.

Okay, I'm ready. Ahem. Okay. Let's do this.

Tell me something sincere.

Um, I feel bad about neglecting sincerity.

Okay, you may want to ease into it. I think your first attempt at sincerity was too sincere.

This is tough.

I know, right?

You make it look so easy, man. I watch your movies sometimes and I'm thinking, Gosh, how does he conjure up that much sincerity. Like this movie with Sandra Bullock...

Oh, the Lake House. Like, hello, Oscar.

Yeah! Wow, that's like, soooo moving. I see that commercial and it totally gets me. Like right here [touching heart].

See, dude? You just did it! This moment was so sincere, I felt it, like, shattering the sincerity wall.

The sincerity wall?

Oh, yeah. That wall, man. The one that won't let you be sincere. Knock it down, bro. Knock that wall down and make the choice to be sincere.

It is that simple, isn't it?


I feel like people don't get you, man. I feel like they see you and they just see Ted. Doesn't that bother you?

Kinda. But bro, you know what?


As long as you're committing to bringing back the sincerity, it's all good.


How do you feel about hugging men?

Um, not so into it.