To Sit for a Spell

Freddy’s Back Room (485 Dean Street) is a bar that won’t be there in a few years, if robber-baron developer Bruce Ratner has his foul way with the green Brooklyn streets of Prospect Heights.

Once owned by Sgt. Freddy, ex of the N.Y.P.D., and set just down the way from the 78th Precinct, Freddy’s is the kind of local dive that makes a neighborhood a home. It’s a pub, a venue, a stop-off, a drop-in, a hook-up, a place to play and a work in progress. It’s dark and shabby and gruffly cobbled together in a way that grunts maximum comfort. It’s got a sign over the bar, just under the routine beer listing, advertising “The Brooklyn Fucking Philharmonic.” (If you’ve never seen the Brooklyn Phil, by the way, you’re missing one of the great progressive orchestras of our time.) I get to Freddy’s for band shows only once in a while, but when I do, I’m always glad I’m there.

Freddy’s was to host a barroom spelling bee last night, and after hearing David Tidmarsh gasp his way through “autochthonous” to win this year’s national competition a few weeks back, I’m inspired to get graphemic with strangers in the company of alcohol and good cheer. It’s a buck to play and winner takes all, and after I completely forget where I’m going – “somewhere over here,” I think to myself, running my finger around a good quarter of Brooklyn on the subway map – eventually Pierre and I end up in a dark corner of the bar, waiting for the festivities to begin.

No; no; nothing happening; not yet but surely soon. When the sign finally goes up announcing that the room is double-booked and that a band is here and ready to play it’s a case of to bee or not to bee, and the spellers get the short end of the slings and arrows this time out. No matter. On nights like this there’s plenty of night to go around, and we shuffle off into the gloaming of the mortal coil in search of those thousand natural shocks I hear the flesh is heir to.

Next stop is The Gate, Park Slope’s estimable beer bar, where we actually score a table on the patio out of the insatiable inside heat. Consumabled: one Dogfish Head Aprihop, a balanced mix of sweet fruit and bittering hops that works wonders on a sticky night. Local mooks are up to motorcycle tricks up and down Fifth Avenue, and we all half hope for the worst for them; they are asking for it.

Then down to Lucky 13 Saloon, self touted as “Brooklyn’s only full-time Punk Metal Deathrock Alternative Bar,” for the six-month demi-anniversary party. The ceiling is plastered with appropriate postery, crepuscular ghouls and leather-n-spikes accessories are dappled here and there, and the current artwork is odd and interesting. The Lucky 13 writhing celebratory go-go girls are especially yummy. They don’t do much in the way of actual dancing; cool by me. Consumabled: some frou-frou Grey Goose orange Cosmo thing that’s pretty tasty, in the end, though most of the fun comes of drinking such a sissy drink surrounded by so many determined tattoos. Hey, I didn’t make it up, they had it listed as a special.

Come midnight I’m on Fifth Avenue waiting for the bus and this girl walks by. She’s aimless, she’s restless, she’s not done with her night, she might as well not be wearing what she’s wearing, she stops for a long complicated call at the phone booth by the bus stop. She is stunning, wafting, irresistible, irrelevant, an accidental tourist on my night street. Summer in the City. “You are ambrosial,” I want to tell her. “A-M-B-R-O-S-I-A-L.”

Posted in About Last Night |

Linus by Greta

Linus at work

Here’s a sun-drenched Linus totin’ some gear at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, snapped bearing the Temptress guitar (link only a little bit safe for work). The picture is by bass goddess Greta Brinkman, who falls into the Best. People. Ever. category of friends and fellow travellers. Plus she’s got a cool web site, and this would be a remarkably good time for you to check it out. Wouldn’t it?

Posted in About Last Night |

Time Washes Clean

This weekend was a delirious frolic, full of beaming summer. I could write about it from now until Thursday and not get close to the heart of the matter, and since that would just piss off my boss – technically “blog” is not part of my job description – I won’t.

But the Mermaid Parade on Saturday was a splashing success, and if the pictures come out I’ll post them over the weekend or early next week; the post-parade sortie into the Coney Island Circus Sideshow was as thrilly and chilly and gross as ever anyone could ask.

Saturday night’s venture to Mr. Choade’s Upstairs/Downstairs burlesque at the Slipper Room, guest-hosted by the deliciously evil arch supervillain Doctor Donut, was a terrific time, not necessarily improved any by that dangerous last glass of Unibroue’s apple-brewed Éphémère at d.b.a. as the night crawled on to morning.

Sunday’s brisk sail into a warm afternoon on the Good Ship Ventura was improved, immeasurably, by the happy participation of Katarina the adorable stage manager, who made my sweet crush from last winter stand up, roll over, fetch, and do a few other neat tricks. By the time we got to the power-down cookout in a West Village strewn with the sweaty leavings of the Gay Pride parade the whole city seemed sheeted in a worn-out solar-powered vacation-time warmth that hasn’t spread over our tense urban bread in years.

Riding home I put my finger on it: this is how summer used to be. Before. I think we’re getting over 9/11, at last. At long last.

Posted in General Musings |

Frankly, Scarlett, I Never Gave a Damn

Once in a while Internet games and blog memes are too much fun to pass up. This is a list of the 100 top-grossing movies (not adjusted for inflation, so nearly all are recent), annotated for my viewing history; I saw the ones marked in bold in movie theatres, and the titles in italics on video or TV. I’ve seen 84 of them, as it turns out. You?

Update: We’ve added in movies that Pierre has seen, in blue. Just to make things hard to see and confusing.

1. Titanic (1997) $600,779,824
2. Star Wars (1977) $460,935,665
3. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) $434,949,459
4. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) $431,065,444

5. Spider-Man (2002) $403,706,375
6. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003) $377,019,252
7. Passion of the Christ, The (2004) $370,025,697
8. Jurassic Park (1993) $356,784,000
9. Shrek 2 (2004) $356,211,000
10. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002) $340,478,898
11. Finding Nemo (2003) $339,714,367
12. Forrest Gump (1994) $329,691,196
13. Lion King, The (1994) $328,423,001
14. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) $317,557,891
15. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (2001) $313,837,577
16. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) $310,675,583
17. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) $309,125,409
18. Independence Day (1996) $306,124,059

19. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) $305,411,224
20. Sixth Sense, The (1999) $293,501,675
21. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) $290,158,751

22. Home Alone (1990) $285,761,243
23. Matrix Reloaded, The (2003) $281,492,479
24. Shrek (2001) $267,652,016
25. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) $261,970,615

26. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) $260,031,035
27. Jaws (1975) $260,000,000
28. Monsters, Inc. (2001) $255,870,172
29. Batman (1989) $251,188,924
30. Men in Black (1997) $250,147,615

31. Toy Story 2 (1999) $245,823,397
32. Bruce Almighty (2003) $242,589,580
33. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) $242,374,454
34. Twister (1996) $241,700,000

35. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) $241,437,427

36. Ghost Busters (1984) $238,600,000
37. Beverly Hills Cop (1984) $234,760,500

38. Cast Away (2000) $233,630,478
39. Lost World: Jurassic Park, The (1997) $229,074,524
40. Signs (2002) $227,965,690

41. Rush Hour 2 (2001) $226,138,454
42. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) $219,200,000
43. Ghost (1990) $217,631,306
44. Aladdin (1992) $217,350,219
45. Saving Private Ryan (1998) $216,119,491
46. Mission: Impossible II (2000) $215,397,307
47. X2 (2003) $214,948,780
48. Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) $213,079,163
49. Back to the Future (1985) $210,609,762
50. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) $205,399,422
51. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) $204,843,350

52. Exorcist, The (1973) $204,565,000
53. Mummy Returns, The (2001) $202,007,640
54. Armageddon (1998) $201,573,391

55. Gone with the Wind (1939) $198,655,278
56. Pearl Harbor (2001) $198,539,855
57. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) $197,171,806
58. Toy Story (1995) $191,800,000
59. Men in Black II (2002) $190,418,803
60. Gladiator (2000) $187,670,866
61. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) $184,925,485
62. Dances with Wolves (1990) $184,208,848
63. Batman Forever (1995) $184,031,112
64. Fugitive, The (1993) $183,875,760
65. Ocean’s Eleven (2001) $183,405,771

66. What Women Want (2000) $182,805,123
67. Perfect Storm, The (2000) $182,618,434
68. Liar Liar (1997) $181,395,380
69. Grease (1978) $181,360,000

70. Jurassic Park III (2001) $181,166,115
71. Mission: Impossible (1996) $180,965,237
72. Planet of the Apes (2001) $180,011,740
73. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) $179,870,271
74. Pretty Woman (1990) $178,406,268
75. Tootsie (1982) $177,200,000
76. Top Gun (1986) $176,781,728
77. There’s Something About Mary (1998) $176,483,808
002) $176,387,405
79. Crocodile Dundee (1986) $174,635,000
80. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) $173,585,516
81. Elf (2003) $173,381,405
82. Air Force One (1997) $172,888,056
83. Rain Man (1988) $172,825,435
84. Apollo 13 (1995) $172,071,312
85. Matrix, The (1999) $171,383,253

86. Beauty and the Beast (1991) $171,301,428

87. Tarzan (1999) $171,085,177
88. Beautiful Mind, A (2001) $170,708,996
89. Chicago (2002) $170,684,505
90. Three Men and a Baby (1987) $167,780,960
91. Meet the Parents (2000) $166,225,040
92. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) $165,500,000
93. Hannibal (2001) $165,091,464

94. Catch Me If You Can (2002) $164,435,221
95. Big Daddy (1999) $163,479,795
96. Sound of Music, The (1965) $163,214,286
97. Batman Returns (1992) $162,831,698
98. Bug’s Life, A (1998) $162,792,677
99. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) $161,963,000

100. Waterboy, The (1998) $161,487,252

Apparently this list-go-round got started at Lexxiblog; I saw it at Pharyngula, where PZ just made the Day After Tomorrow mistake, and got mighty testy about it. He has a brain, you see, PZ does. And he forgot to leave it home that day. Whoops.

I have no explanation for the Gone With the Wind problem in my list. I’ve seen bits of it, here and there, but never the whole movie from start to finish. How is that possible? I thought this was America, isn’t it required by law?

Posted in General Musings |

Keira Eleison

Keira Knightley in whiteKeira Knightley in less white

Dear Keira Knightley:

You are an outrageously beautiful girl and, based on the performance you gave in Bend It Like Beckham, an outrageously talented actress as well, which is a happy combination. (There wasn’t much to go on in Pirates of the Caribbean, but I’m keeping the faith.) Most of us would hack off parts of our bodies to have the life you have spread out in front of you now. Well, little parts maybe. Actually probably we’d just say we’d hack off parts of our bodies, but wouldn’t really go and do it. In any case, there usually isn’t much call to go ahead with that sort of thing, which is for the best.

However, please eat some fucking food. We’ll love you for it all the more, I promise. I know I will.

Very fondly yours,


Posted in General Musings |

Three Bands for the Elven Kings

Busy busy busy. Since we started doing the Home Office Records indie label thing on December 13, 1996 – Friday the 13th, of course – we’ve put out seven CD’s by six bands, as well as a butt-kicking-for-goodness compilation, Burner, as our first outing. Those albums running up the wallpaper on the left over there <– are our releases, which someday will handily link to CD Baby and IndepenDisc where the stuff is for sale. We keep forgetting to do that.

Three of ours, past and current, are doing shows this weekend and just beyond – so it’s a scattered, happy time. The Cucumbers are releasing their new CD, All Things To You, this Friday at Arlene Grocery. I haven’t heard it yet (it’s on Fictitious Records out of Nashville), but the songs I know, and they are lovely, and I’m looking forward to it very much. We put out Total Vegetility by the Cukes back in 1999.

Same Friday, a few hours later and down the way at Pianos, Marwood is up. This is their last show for a couple of months since Benji Rogers, the lead singer, heads off on Saturday for the West Bank, where he’ll spend six weeks or so seeing for himself just what goes on there, and why, and how. Our last Marwood release, the limited edition Radio Personalities, will be available on CD Baby soon, and there’s another EP upcoming: before the fall, if all goes well.

Then on Tuesday the inimitable Ethan Lipton does a full two-set extravaganza at Tonic; he’ll be there with a couple of permutations of The Ethan Lipton Orchestra (expect impeccable ukelele stylings as well as a trim jazz combo and a few solo a capella numbers). We’re recording this show for the next Ethan Lipton release – the last, A New Low, has been doing delightfully well, and just got a terrific review from Pop Matters. It’s like … you know what it’s like? If Charlie Chaplin had done songs, they’d be like this. Except with less falling down.

So it’s a Home Office splash this week, all over the East Village. C’mon out and join us.

Posted in Music Theory |

Rainy Days and Tuesdays

Gray, wet and warm here in Gotham. The best thing about weather like this is that it rarely lasts long enough to drive you crazy.

Reeling in the Years: Dinner with my parents last night – Upper West Side, Chinese – turned out to be on the very eve of their 45th anniversary. Yes, other children might be aware of dates like this, but I am not that sort; I knew it was nearby (sometime in June, right?), but the precise location eluded me. I have a hard enough time remembering my own birthday, sometimes. Good thing there was one filial in town in time to snag the check in recognition, and I’m glad it was me.

What Are Words For?: I wade up from the subway at Whitehall Street, unfluffing the small cheap silvery umbrella I bought a few weeks back for $1.99 (Pierre: “Ah, a disposable”). The large gentleman behind me, spotting the insistent rain, is unhappy. “Oh,” he laments, “I am in hurt like a bootleg movie!”

Good Beer in Bad Places: I’m not going to get into why I’m reading The Paris Option by Robert Ludlum (May 25, 1927 – March 12, 2001) and Gayle Lynds, except to say that it cost about as much as the disposable umbrella and 209,999,999 other people have made the same indiscretion with one or another of his 21 engrossing and terrible spy books. But I certainly never expected to find the main character discriminating among his Belgian brews:

Brussels, Belgium
Smith closed the cover of the last file folder, ordered a second Chimay ale, and sat back. (p. 212)

Two pages later he’s joined by the hot blonde brilliant CIA woman; she knows her Belgians even better, which is sensible because she’s better than he is in all things. We presume Gayle Lynds has her eye on Keira Knightley, say, to play her in the eventual movie; fine by me.

… She shot him a look of warning. The waiter was coming to their table. They stopped their conversation as she ordered a Chimay, too, but the Grand Reserve. (p. 214)

Good for you, Gayle. Next step: try the Kwak.

Posted in General Musings |

The Sun Rises

… And so do I.

I woke up for no reason at all at 5 this morning, right as the sky was beginning to lighten. Could not get back to sleep. This sucks.

Posted in General Musings |

Suicide is Stainless

Monday morning at the dry cleaner’s on Atlantic Avenue. It’s a quiet summer day, sweet and lazy and utterly lacking any intimations of depravity.

Linus: Good morning. I’d like to ask about some pants.
Dry Cleaner: These pants? Yes?
Linus: Well, you see, they have a stain. Some stains.
Dry Cleaner: Where are … oh. I see.
Linus: Yes.
Dry Cleaner:
Linus: You see, it’s …
Dry Cleaner: What is that?
Linus: Chocolate syrup.
Dry Cleaner: Chocolate syrup.
Linus: Yes.
Dry Cleaner:
Linus: I was at a show last night –
Dry Cleaner: I see.
Linus: And there was, um, audience participation.
Dry Cleaner: Chocolate syrup.
Linus: Yes, with chocolate syrup.
Dry Cleaner: Well.

Love Comes in SpurtsThe Suicide Girls were probably inevitable as soon as the first nekkid pictures found their UUEncoded ways into the alt.binaries hierarchy back in the 20th century. Which is to say, they are an idea whose time has come.

Equal parts porn emporium, femme-fatalism fantasy, and distaff empowerment, the west-coast Girls organization runs on an engine of tattooed skin money and hands back with-a-cause attitude, a tonic for teen angst, and blasé punk hedonism. Plus nipples. Preferably pierced. They are, by and large, NOT SAFE FOR WORK, which is why we love them.

One of the current SG offshoots is the itinerant Suicide Girls burlesque show, an extravaganza of joyful fetishistic strippery and come-hither lesbian prance. Pierre and I caught the live show last February at the Knitting Factory, and if it was good in concept it was for the most part pretty dull in execution. I was marooned by fate in the wrong generation – I find skinwork and piercings fascinating and sexy, but of course they didn’t mostly do that back then – so when the circus rolled through again last night I thought I’d take another look and hope for the best.

Zounds! Last season’s lame and floppy pretense for pasties and g-strings on tabula maculata dancers of modest skill (let’s be generous) has been, er, whipped into shape. The new set of seven dancers – Nixon, Stormy, RavenIsis, Sicily, Pearl, Reagan, and Shera – starts at accomplished and ramps up fast to outrageously good. After the inevitable primpy campy start, SG Pearl (“WHY I DID SG: I dislike clothes,” 7 piercings, 3 tattoos) bounds out and fires off a high-yield hula hoop routine that puts our local-favorite burlesque hoopsters to shame.

The rest of the show stays at that level of energy and glee. Where last winter some of the musical selections were formless and questionable, this time out nearly every number is vivid. From a girl-on-boy/girl seduction done to Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson, to a push-pull Goth-cowl Maynardesque rubber-tubing solo dance done to Peaches’ Fuck the Pain Away by Nixon (“WHY I DID SG: Satan said so,” and if I’ve got the right Suicide Girl here she has a gorgeous yoke of stark art that runs from shoulder to chest, but she rarely stood still long enough for me to get a good look at it), to a great camp duelling-blondes riff on James Bond and Goldfinger, the stage is set with solid fare.

There’s lots of in-your-face girl-girl kissing and sexplay, and the crowd eats it up. Suicide Girls appeal to dark-side geeks, disaffected punks and risqué dabblers alike, along with a solid core of lesbian boosters who gaze with moist eyes and devour the occluded symbolics submerged oh so lightly in the maelstrom of sexuality on the prowl. Sometimes a labrys is just a labrys, but this is not one of those times.

In their traditional finale, the Suicide Girls do for chocolate syrup and whipped cream what Gallagher did for watermelons. The stage is hurriedly draped in plastic sheeting, and out they come, en masse, ready to dance to Chocolate Salty Balls. I’ve seen this show before, so I’m sort of prepared, in a half-assed way; out comes the Spare Shirt, and I entrust my glasses to Pierre, who retreats to the bar. A few minutes later, after the Girls’ ministrations, I am a lurid slasher movie special effect, drawn in browns rather than arterial red. Thick runnels of chocolate snake from my shoulders to my chin to the crown of my head. Scalp-wound ropes of goo, spattered with cream, drip down from hairline to chin, smeared at the eyes, pooling at the collarbone. Hands are gloves of chocolate gore. The Spare Shirt is soaked through, my hair is matted and sticky. The line for the sink in the so-small Knitting Factory bathroom smells like the back counter at Ghirardelli’s, plus sweat. We’ve also been doused with water, sifted with glitter, and spritzed with bad beer in the course of the evening, but it’s the chocolate that dominates.

You can imagine the subway ride home. Confused fellow riders, indeed. I am a secret, puzzling dessert.

The Suicide Girls experience at this point includes a book, a collection of CD’s, suitable-for-signing posters, t-shirts, panties, concert appearances, and the massive journal-ridden website, with its fashionably lefty underground newsfeeds eased by soft-core photo galleries of remarkably pretty, rebellious, and intractably young girls. It is, frankly, purience at its very best, with all that entails – including misgivings and a vague sense that this might not be the very best idea in a perfect world. Throw gasoline on a fire, and what do you get? Pretty flames, pretty flames. It’s hard not to watch.

But if you tell a Suicide Girl that to her face, she’s likely to kick you. Hard.

Posted in About Last Night |

Les Paradis Artificiels

I can picture the boffins at the International Agency for Questionable Decisions gazing into their laptops…

“So, what do we do about those coca growers in Columbia, eh?”
“Waaall, what if we encouraged alternative crops? Sugar cane does nicely there, doesn’t it?”
“Ja! I can see it! Sugar. No, wait, powdered sugar! Powdered evaporated cane juice. Pretty brown powder!”
“And we’ll call it… The Latin Paradise.”
“I like it! Let’s headquarter it in Medellin. Well done, gentlemen!”

El Paraiso Latino brand panela en polvo from Medellin. $1.59/lb at Trade Fair.

Posted in General Musings |