Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I'll Pay $40 a Day to Kill Rachael Ray

When I claimed in the last blog that Americans have no culture, I forgot to mention that they do, nonetheless, have lifestyle. I’m sitting in an idyllic fantasy in Queens, as the rhythmic pop of tennis rackets floats through the breeze, and the lavender flowers flit softly first to Akon, then to (who else?) the Lake. “Summer Love” might be the song on the tennis players' boombox, but it functions more effectively as a synopsis of right now.

The lifestyles on display are perfectly American—and that’s a good thing: kids playing tennis (well) on brand-new courts. Adults walking their handsomely-groomed dogs. Kids pumping their legs on tricycles. One guy, about 30, wearing wide shades, with the white handle of a tennis racket protruding from his purple backpack. He’s wearing black dress socks over white sneakers, the socks pulled two inches above his ankles, and watching the kids volley. Yes, the consummate American pedophile is here—and for once, it’s not me.

Lifestyle, though, does not imply culture. And now that the Lake has been replaced by stock R&B, the lone cultural saving grace is gone, and these American kids, for all their Puma shorts and Pete Sampras posturing, are back at zero (or love, perhaps) on the culture scale.

Thinking about all this kept me up late last night, late enough to catch the last 10 minutes of “$40 A Day,” a show on the Food Channel that has the unendurable Rachael Ray on a “mission” to purchase three meals for less than $40 combined. May she be smitten.

[As an aside: if you had to rank the 10 most insufferable TV personalities of our generation, wouldn’t Rachel Ray be number 1? My 10:

1. Rachael Ray
2. Regis
3. Howie Mandel
4. Dr. Phil
5. Bill O’Reilly
6. Judge Joe Brown
7. Judge Judy
8. Oprah (she’s only this low because if she were any higher none of my female friends would talk to me anymore; it’s iffy as it is)
9. Jay Leno
10. Bob Costas

Honorary mention to Maury Povich and baseball announcer Tim McCarver. The list is open to additions/changes. Please submit your most-hated entries.]

This $40 A Day episode saw Ms. Ray at a restaurant near the Grand Canyon. She ordered a dessert with fried apples, Canyon Crunch ice cream (a flavor, Ms. Ray informed the curious viewer, unique to the Grand Canyon), whipped cream, and a cherry on top. Ms. Ray felt contorted her face such that it seemed like she’d inhaled the contents of the empty whipped cream can.

“All that ice cream is just DIVINE.”
Upon realizing her dish would run her day’s total to $40.09: “Well, I’m about a dime over budget, but a girl’s gotta splurge sometimes!”

What I’m trying to say is that we owe the Native Americans a huge apology. We are, after all, a bunch of Europeans who came to this land, slaughtered and displaced the natives, and never offered anything in the way of reparations or an apology. The Indians had their primitive, barbaric practices, but nothing compared to the tactics the “explorers” employed in butchering native villages. According to almost all accounts, the Native Americans had a fair, humble society, resembling the ancient African civilizations that honored all that is living and natural. They did not believe in owning land, nor did they believe in hunting for sport, nor did they wage war for anything but survival and the propagation of their families.

And we conquered this land for what? So we can affect a hollow impersonation of the spirituality the Indians genuinely practiced? So we can gamble in their casinos? So we can accrue true culture from across the world and mimic it, just so we can sell it later? So we can invent Valentine’s Day to turn a profit? So we can buy 1.3 million copies of “Oops, I Did it Again” in its first week of release? So we can test-drive prohibition and criminalize marijuana? Come to think of it, we may not owe the Native Americans an apology any more than we owe one to ourselves.

They say that Native Americans are biologically susceptible to alcoholism; well, wouldn’t you be if your good people were almost completely wiped out by a bunch of bloodthirsty Europeans who, about 350 years later, had turned your land into a hollow farce of what it once was, exploited it for its natural and artificial resources, overpopulated most places and underserved the others? Who are bent on invading other countries in a fashion that almost guarantees a military apocalypse?

I can use a drink just typing about it, and I’m sitting in a beautiful park on a Wednesday evening with nothing more important to think about than the cycle of flushes in the public bathroom behind me.

Stay Superficial, Americana,
DJ Dissapointed

Monday, May 28, 2007

Reflections on the Spin Magazine that Just Came in the Mail

Taste died a long time ago. Pretension, though, is still alive and well. Intercontinental cultural integration has not fostered understanding so much as it has borne a new global standard for superficiality and ignorance. We’re decades removed from the age of discernment, from the time when millionaires could tell the difference between resplendent villas and tactless, derivative mansions.

As taste has faded, the refinement that used to characterize those who possessed it has been hijacked and lost by a socialite generation that can no longer discriminate between genuine and false quantities. Woe is upon us—and we don’t even know it. Our consumption is routed along a vapid trail of poor choices and terrible taste. One can no longer, as one of my professors said, pick up a carton of milk in Williamsburgh without putting on eye shadow.

The sum of our poorly-chosen parts? The HBO series roster—Entourage, The Sopranos, Curb, Rome—has joined pizza and sex on the list of things that are always “awesome, bro” the morning after. Emo kids are more pretentious that jazz fans, and a hip-hop has-been who wears a clock for jewelry is more closely followed than the scientists who keep telling us that the world is melting.

Just a short time ago, Western culture was film noir, existentialism, sports gods, and electronic classical music. Now, anyone with a camcorder and gun ownership statistics is the new cinematic Jesus, no one can even spell existentialism, and the world is obsessed with demonizing Barry Bonds. The only vestige of true culture is electronic music, but word has it MTV is catching on to the trend. In other words, it’s only a matter of time before that last sacred remnant of a better time is defiled.

I say we all get the hell out while we can. Move to Israel, land of spirituality and heritage. Move to Canada, land of decriminalized marijuana and Willy the Barber. Move to the Nordic countries, lands of social democracy and low population densities. Move to New Zealand, land of 99% literacy and 118 airports (and chronic methamphetamine abuse. Check out https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/print/nz.html). Just do yourself a favor and move to any country where Paris Hilton doesn’t live.


Stay Stimulated, New Zealand
MC Methamphetamine

Thursday, May 24, 2007

So Much to Say...

I titled this blog as I did because I'm on location tonight--5th Avenue and 59th, in the swarm of technoshoppers at the Apple Store, where the good Mac people toe the line between cultural awareness and fanatical cliche-ism. Hence the Dave Matthews reference.

Just a hop, skip, and a jump ago, I went to Brooklyn with JackO and Robusto to see a young-hipster concert at a place called Studio B. I had never been to Green Point before, and did not know that the neighborhood is entirely Polish. Every bartender, bouncer, and coat-checker was Polish. And for someone who jokes like me, that was like being castrated in a brothel. Or like being a lit match in a room full of gunpowder and shrapnel. Either way, Datarock saved me. The first band to play, Datarock is a foursome that wore matching red tracksuits with open zip-tops, revealing a healthy amount of sweaty chest hair and tattoo traces that probably continued downward. They were terrible--the music, the levels, the songwriting, it was all atrocious. But THEY were great, and I couldn't stop watching the debaucherous frontman maraud like a coked-up Viking while his band proudly spouted low-fi techno and emancipated jumping music.

In between pirouettes and cans of Red Bull, JackO genrefied Datarock as "Russian Grime Rock." I don't know if I agree or disagree, but I thought the title was so cool that we'd keep it. So, after the Russian Grime Rock, the Pretexts took the stage. A British electronica duo, the Pretexts are the poor man's version of what you would get if Mick Jagger and John Bonham took a lot of methamphetamines, bought a low-grade synthesizer and a cheap drumset, dressed like they were starring in "Grease," and wrote songs inside the Mac lab at Leeds Universtiy. The reticent, self-worshipping hipster crowd was quite unsure as to how to receive the Pretexts. The band out-grimed the Samples, wore leather bomber jackets, and seemed like the type of people who get hopped up at airports and pick fights with old people. They weren't exactly anti-hipster, but the Pretexts occupied an ideological space with which most of the crowd was unfamiliar. So the Brooklynites couldn't pull a rote behavior out the bag. They couldn't cross their arms and stare at their laceless low-tops, they couldn't complain that the Pretexts were better two summers ago a VFA hall in Bensonhurst, and they absolutely couldn't assume the condescending air that practically comes free with tight pants and politically-themed hoodies. We were officially in no-man's land, under nobody's auspices, and besides for those of us who'd just come to get out of the house and hear some music, everyone was confounded.

We sauntered out of Studio B at about 4 in the morning, as the sky's introductory light tracts were bathing in the diagonal rain. The water washed the hum out of our eardrums, and, as JackO and Robusto lit up cigarettes, I promised that I would never, ever be a hipster.

And right now, as I stoop over my laptop while preachy Macvangelists trumpet black iPods and low-rise denim, I promise the same thing, now more than ever.


Stay Stuck-Up, Studio B
DJ Datarock

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Jacob and Jabari: Draft Dodgers or Just Crappy?

Summertime in Teaneck, NJ was a harmoniously biracial season: the kids who didn't go to sleepaway camp instead went to "Teaneck Sports & Arts," a mostly town-funded day program with a bunch of sports classes (baseketball, ping-pong, and floor hockey were the most popular) and art 101s (drawing, clay, woodworking, etc). Teaneck's demographic makeup is such that half the camp was Jewish and the other half was black--there were curiously few white Christian kids, and virtually no Asians, Indians, South Americans, or Europeans.

There was very little dichotomy within the camp; everybody was friends with everybody else. The Jews learned about rap, baggy shorts, and do rags, and salivated over stories about public school letting out at 3:00. The black kids, meanwhile, learned about Sabbath, Kosher, and private school oppression. One thing, however, was strictly divided along race lines: basketball. The black kids were great at it, the Jewish kids were not. The talent chasm wasn't a point of acrimony, though, since it was a generally accepted truth, and not a source of contention. We, the Jews, accepted our poor, Darwinian fate, and realized that our best chance at winning at anything came at ping-pong or karate. Of course, the black basketballers had their own hierarchy, and there were always those who were much, much better than others. There were two kids, Jacob and Jabari, who were beating people twice their age in 2-on-2's when they were 8. Apparently, nothing came of either of them.

That's what's unbelievable about the NBA draft: how much better could you possibly be than Jacob and Jabari? Maybe the top prospects are a little taller and stronger, but how much ability could a person possibly embody? Regardless of which teams win the privelege of picking first and second in the June draft, respectively, the first two picks will be Greg Oden and Kevin Durant--no one really knows who will go first and who second, but they will comprise the top selections. And I can't help but wonder exactly how good they are, since they're not only good enough to play top-tier college basketball--which a very, very select handful of Teaneckers have ever done--but also to warrant speculation that they might be two of the best performers in league history. Seriously, how much better are they than Jacob and Jabari? Twice as good? Ten times as good? Incomparably better?

To this Teaneck native, whose defining athletic achievements came in the calligraphy room, it all seems incomprehensible.

Stay Classy, Anne the calligraphy instructor,
DJ Draft

Monday, May 21, 2007

In Defense of My Discourse

I don’t often defend myself; as a free speech beneficiary and staunch libertarian, my base ethos is one of self-determination: I do what I want, you do what you want. Or, like Ben Harper says, “My choice is what I choose to do / And if I’m causing no harm it shouldn’t bother you / Your choice is who you choose to be / And if you're causing no harm then you’re alright with me.”

Every now and then, though, some criticism comes along that makes you reassess your way of being; or, in this case, your way of writing. I got a phone call from a friend yesterday—who, from the beginning, has read virtually everything I’ve written here, so he’s put up with more than my fair share of bullshit—questioning those things about which I’ve recently chosen to write. Something to the effect of (and I’m paraphrasing), “Dude, you’re writing about Justin Timberlake, American Idol, and sports. I know that’s what everybody is thinking about, but what the hell does it have to do with anything?”

After some self-reflection, here’s what I realized (and here’s where I defend myself): I don’t think those topics, as standalone ontological entities, are at all important--not even Justin Timberlake (please don’t tell him I said that). I don’t count myself among those addicted to cultural vanity, or those who use that vanity as distraction from matters of legitimate importance—spirituality, war, hunger, equality, happiness, health, family, etc.

One more piece of premise, then I’ll explain what the hell I’m talking about.

Most important, I don’t write these posts for me. I write them because people tell me they’re entertaining, and because, although pervasive, wanton distraction is evil, spending a few minutes a day decompressing is fine, even therapeutic. It’s the same idea that underlies The Onion, YouTube, and one-hitters: sometimes you’ve gotta take a load off.

In short, there are two basic ideas behind this blog: one, that it’s important to have an open forum on important topics, on things that “matter.” Two, that it’s important to have an outlet for ignoring all of it.

So how to synthesize those two opposing priorities? By talking about things that have no obstensible importance—like American Idol, Justin Timberlake, and a political science major—in a way that resonates with real emotions, and which corresponds to genuine import. Blake Lewis, for all his beatboxing excellence, does not intrigue me nearly as much as the metaphysical structures he evokes: liberty, joy, excellence, and iconoclasm. At the same time, worshipping his performance on an ipso-facto basis—in other words, extolling him for his sake, or in conformity with American Idol-mania—would be hollow and unholy.

The issues I cover all correspond to a certain real-world issue or emotion, and are chosen because they have cathartic value. To surmise otherwise would be a misconception of bloggal proportions (for a definition of “bloggal,” please see derek.jeter.isgay.com), and a crippling insult to the existential consciousness in which I claim to dwell. I’m sorry for any confusion, and I eagerly await this week’s American Idol finale, which will usher in the dawn of a spiritually awakened globe.

Stay Substantive, Prime Time TV
MC Material

Friday, May 18, 2007

I Totally Forgot How Much "X&Y" Sucks

You feel that? It’s the wind…on your face. See that? It’s the lights…they will guide you home.
Hear that? That’s the sound of Coldplay’s X&Y sucking a big, fat, disappointing penis. I hadn’t listened to the album for almost a year, so I gave it a second go-round this morning on the way to school. The bad weather didn’t help matters, but still, the album was just as unlistenable today as it was a year ago.
The problem with Coldplay is that they misunderstood the reason behind their vast popularity. Their understated songwriting, tasteful compositions, and Chris Martin’s general excellence positioned Coldplay among the best contemporary bands. Unfortunately, the natural comparisons to U2 and Radiohead elicited by “Parachutes” and “Rush of Blood to the Head”—two of the most memorable albums of this as-yet-unremarkable twenty-first century—fooled Coldplay into thinking that their best chance at immortality would be a reincarnation as an arena-friendly British rock band.
So they wrote 13 shallow clich├ęs for X&Y, all identically designed: plodding, vacuously melodic verse→high-dynamic bridge→suffocating, melodramatic chorus. Somewhere in there is a too-big section with large drums, swirling guitar, and obnoxious vocals.

Chris Martin, whose voice is so can't-miss that I once got stoned and almost threw a seizure during “Politik,” completely missed by choosing to sing in a nauseating high register for an entire album. Even worse, his X&Y lyricism devolved back into apedom. Take this bit of poetry from “Fix You,” one of the songs that prompted the NY Times to dub Coldplay “the most insufferable band of the decade.”

When you try your best but you don’t succeed/
When you get what you want but not what you need/
When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep/
Stuck in rever-er-er-erse/
And the tears come streaming down your face/
When you lose something you can’t replace/
When you love someone but it goes to way-aste/
Could it be wor-er-er-erse?

No, it couldn’t be worse.

I’ll conclude with two things ZJ said in Atlantic City last weekend, just to amuse myself while I Photoshop a penis into Chris Martin’s mouth:

“There’s nothing like having sex with a paraplegic youngster.”
“Smelly John ate a poon. Everybody Dance!”

Stay Self-Important, Coldplay
MC Miasmic John

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Watch Out! Excessive Verbosity Contained Within!

I’ve been in a terrible mood lately. First I had to cede the title of “world’s most influential Marxist visionary, alive or dead” to Che Geuvara. Then I had to abdicate from my position as “world’s most fecund male” in favor of 50 Cent. And now this: a professor returned an essay lambasting me for “excessive verbosity,” and questioning if I had done any of the reading, or if I’d been to class.
Well, professor, of course I haven’t been to class. I’ve been too busy masturbating to vocabulary flash cards and oil renderings of Noah Webster. And if my allergies weren’t so bad—making it impossible to differentiate between different types of tissues in the garbage—I’d offer you proof.

The irony of this all is that in calling me “excessively verbose,” my professor was being….how shall we put this…excessively verbose. Verbose, in and of itself, means “using or expressed in more words than are needed” (thank you Mr. Widget), and excessive means “more than is necessary.” So, in essence, my professor was telling me that I had “more than is necessary used more words than are necessary.” Is this some sort of poetic faculty joke I’m too young to understand, or is his own redundancy just as bad as the offense of which he accused me? Or is it even worse, since his was used in an attempt to criticize mine?

These are the trivialities that animate life within an essay. Nowhere else in the world does existence hinder so acutely on a linear series of steps that are the same no matter the context. And I will lay these steps out for everyone to see, and undoubtedly identify with:

1. Procrastination/Masturbation
2. Procrastination/Sportscenter Highlights
3. Procrastination/Facebook
4. Introduction
5. Procrastination/AIM Chat
6. Thesis Statement
7. Realize it’s 2:30 in the morning and you have x number of pages to go
8. Complete 2 pages semi-painlessly
9. Procrastination/Anxiety-Laden Masturbation
10. Tough out 3 more pages
11. Realize there are x more pages to go and you have nothing more to say
12. Drink a Red Bull
13. Realize Red Bull is a complete farce, and doesn’t boost energy whatsoever
14. Bullshit about the topic within a larger social context until the last half-page
15. Conclusion that repeats the thesis statement seventeen times
16. Edit to make sure the words “posit,” “manifest,” “espouse” appear

This 16-step process is learned in third grade, or whenever it is that students are introduced to the five-paragraph essay. The system stays intact no matter the age or topic, so whether you’re 10 and writing about submarines or 23 and writing about contract law the procedure is the same. Who says there’s no continuity in education? I mean, seriously, who says that? I’ve never heard that before.

The point is, though, that excessive verbosity is practically a given, considering that essays unfailingly call for more words than are needed; and, in most cases, more words than are possible without repeating oneself. The choices are to be either excessively verbose or suicidally short of the quota, and that is hardly a choice. Wouldn’t everyone go for excessively verbose? I know I would.
And I know my professor would also. Douchebag.

Stay Sanctimonious, Professor
DJ Displeased

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Jump in the Lake: Maybe One Day

Justin Timberlake note(s) of the day: my sister sent me this link of the Lake (who shall be referenced as such from here on out) putting to shame dance majors the country over: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFF1-s1pVTA&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Efacebook%2Ecom%2Fpo.
And remember when I wrote that ESPN columnist Bill “The Sports Guy” Simmons was wrong in calling “Cry Me a River” the best revenge song of all time, since 2Pac’s “Hit ‘Em Up” is better? Bill actually addressed that in his most recent column on EPSN.com (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/070511, if you’re interested):

“…when you factor in Britney's freefall over the past three years and remember that everything started with "Cry me A River," I mean ... doesn't that surpass "Hit 'Em Up" as the most destructively vengeful song of all-time? "Hit 'Em Up" ended with 2Pac and Biggie both getting gunned down; "Cry Me A River" ended with Britney going off the deep end at the exact same time JT released a monster hit album, co-wrote "D**k in a Box," dumped Cameron Diaz and bagged Jessica Biel and Scarlett Johansson within a three-month span…Sorry Pac.”

I’m not here to argue about this. But Bill is wrong.

Now there’s some serious music business to take care of. I just purchased a nuclear-winter’s worth of Spin Magazine-type albums, the ones that practically come packaged with a ritzy-hobo fashion shoot and fragrance line. After swimming in these albums for a few days, I’m ready to declare a few winners as well as their counterparts: the inexcusable losers. The Arcade Fire wins big, with both “Neon Bible” and “Funeral.” Equally impressive are Death Cab’s “Plans,” Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” and Muse’s “Black Holes & Revelations.”
The biggest loser, and by this I mean “the band I’d never choose over suicide,” is Arctic Monkeys. Not only did they fail to inspire, but their long-windedness left me exhausted. Their album title, “Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not,” is a walk in the park compared to the track, “You Probably Couldn’t See for the Lights but You Were Looking Straight at Me.” I had to smoke a cigarette when I finished typing it into iTunes.

I’d feel remiss if I didn’t submit a few words about last night, when I went with Jack-O to see Air at the Theater at MSG. TV on the Radio, Spin’s band of the year (and authors of Spin’s album of the year), signed on at the last minute to play a special acoustic set. I was underwhelmed by TVotR’s “Letterman” appearance, and thought they were a bunch of screaming Brooklyn hipsters who suffered the great misfortune of living out of striking distance of a barbershop. Meanwhile, I’ve always loved Air, and busted ass to get the interview and concert tickets.

In the irony of all ironies, TV on the Radio kicked ass, despite lighting and sound problems. Air, in part because of their white-on-white uniforms and Parisian apathy, sucked so excessively that Jack-O and I left in the middle. We only stayed as long as we did, moreover, to wait around for a friend who paid 60 bucks for his ticket and refused to leave any earlier.
So I’m off to buy (read: download a pirated copy of) TV on the Radio’s “Return to Cookie Mountain,” and to delete the skeleton copy of my Air interview. And to learn the bass lines to a few songs from “Futuresex/Lovesounds” (read: buy a few condoms), just in case I take a swim in the Lake.

Stay Safe, Metaphorical Sex
DJ Disillusioned with French Electronica

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Disney and Pornography: A Match Made in a Confessional

An ode to Beck's genius: who else has poured out fantastic album after fantastic album with the same panache? Before you get all up in arms about this, and start listing the many artists who've done the same exact thing (Radiohead, Norah Jones, Miles Davis, the Flecktones, Tool, etc), please note that I only wrote that last sentence to use the word "panache." It tickles me. Like a priest.

But anyhow, on to bigger and better things. First off is a contribution from good ol' Sideburns, who alerted me to a startling news story about the erotic/shocking day that saw the Disney Channel accidentally air pornorgraphy. Evidently, some very young kids learned about some very adult things. Then again, if it were feminine pornography the kids would have learned about communication, respect, self-sacrifice, and the underground male anal sex culture. Reason #11231230909831209587 to hate radical feminism.

And if that wasn't bad enough, New York is enduring an abjectly depressing sports period: first, the Rangers and Devils were eliminated from the hockey playoffs on consecutive days. Then the Yankees announced that they were paying $4.5 million A MONTH for a nearly-45-year-old Roger Clemens to pitch once every five days. His contract includes a clause allowing him to fly home to Texas in between starts. It also includes a compulsory blowjob clause and a full-body-massage player option for 2008. And if THAT wasn't bad enough, the Nets went down 0-2 to 'Bron's Cleveland Cavaliers last night, a loss replete with the first "Vince Carter goes down with a suspect, apocryphal injury as soon as the going gets rough" moment with a couple of minutes left in last night's game, when his leg mysteriously "cramped up" with the Nets down by a few and the contest getting further out of reach. If the Nets do not get rid of him in a sign-and-trade this offseason, or even let him walk as a free agent, I will force the team's brass to watch 1,000 hours of feminist pornography.

One last thing: Ginny told me that Adam, a mutual friend of ours, started a music blog. You can access it at eatmysemiticmember.com. OK, OK--you can find it at http://acaplan1226.blogspot.com. I'm not happy about this, though. Why would I be? I'm not one of those, "Oh, I think it's so great we both write! No, seriously, it's such a treat to meet somebody who also blogs about music! Why don't we make out sometime?" types of people. You think I like competition? Please. The music blogger market is so crowded as it is that I have to talk about Disney porn, sports, and other peoples' blogs to stay relevant. So thanks, Adam, for doing me such a service. You will not be forgotten. By your priest.


Stay Saturated, Blogosphere,
DJ Despises Competition

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Blake Lewis, King of Pedestrian TV Moments

What’s the best way to spend two minutes? If you said “intercourse with a family of piranhas,” as of the most recent American Idol, you’d be incorrect. And probably maimed. You see, Blake Lewis—the 311-loving, California-surfing, crowd-pleasing American Idol semifinalist—brought down the house with his beatboxed take on Bon Jovi’s “You give love a bad name.” (As an aside: If Jon Bon Jovi knew when he wrote the song that certain people have sex with piranhas, its entire concept might be different.)

If you haven’t seen it yet, it behooves you to take exactly two minutes and watch Blake on YouTube: http://youtube.com/watch?v=KT95Dm62yFE. I’m not big on American consumer culture, and programming like American Idol and the Tyra Banks show, for all its redemptive masturbatory value, hardly interests me. Thank G-D for DVR (and my astute roommate Yehudah, without whom I wouldn't have seen the clip in the first place), because when I got home at 3 in the morning last Thursday from a demanding, immoral evening, I fast-forwarded to Blake Lewis, saw his performance, briefly died, communed with the soul world, then slowly cascaded back to earth and watched it again.

What’s most amazing is the concept. As Bon Jovi himself commented, “You give love a bad name” is a very popular song, and people don’t want it manipulated. They want it recited exactly as they know it. And that in itself is the biggest challenge to anyone singing the song, irrespective of beatboxing: “You give love a bad name” is so anthemic and so endemic to American popular culture that almost any performance will sound like karaoke, or, at best, a well-rehearsed run-through of a trite song. For a relative amateur to take on the song in the first place—and then completely revise it within respectful bounds—takes a lot of balls and a hell of a lot of vision.

That’s precisely why Blake earned rave reviews from the judges, even from crotchety Simon. His performance was the ultimate 120-second amalgam of talent, showmanship, guts, gumption, taste, and calculated recklessness. His 16-measure breakdown was instant and eternal music mythology (who was his drummer, by the way? I have a house party I want him to play), and to pull the whole thing off on the most safe, conservative, brainwashed, over-produced television show in American history was groundbreaking. Just watch—regardless of how much praise Blake siphoned from both crowd and judges, and no matter how much media praise he garners, not one contestant will attempt anything even remotely similar. What he did was unheard of, so completely far away from the box, that as soon it was over it ceased to exist in the world of general American Idol possibilities.

Blake will probably not win American Idol. For all his innovation, his voice is not the strongest, his range is the shallowest, and his competition is freakishly talented. As for “the most original version of a song ever on American Idol,” as Randy Jackson said, it is most likely fated to a short-lived YouTube immortalization, the force of which will be attenuated by the next cool American media moment.

On the off chance that Blake wins, however, it will be because of his watershed American Idol moment. His voice may be lacking, but his musicality is unrivaled and his creativity is ceaseless. He gives love a better name than anybody. Except Justin Timberlake.

Stay Surviving, Blake
MC ‘Merican Idol

Thursday, May 3, 2007

We Major

I declared my major (political science) and minor (urban studies) today. In doing so, I figured out that I have about 7 years until graduation, which is fine, since it provides endless opportunities to sit on a bench in Flushing, Queens and blog about school.

The process for declaring a major/minor is very peculiar: first, one has to list all the courses one has taken and plans to take within the department. The problem, though, is that it’s impossible to know at which point in the future some of your required courses will be offered, so one is left with conjecture and fraud in lieu of substantive information. For my minor, for example, I indicated that I’d take the three remaining classes in September, although I happen to know that Queen College will not offer any of them until at least a year from now.

It’s not that I lied, it’s just that there’s no way to know when these courses will be given, so I might as well manifest a hopeful reality and predict that I’ll be done with them in the shortest possible amount of time.

And now, a few thoughts that are throwing themselves around my head:

-nothing is anything
-we’re all unkind to ourselves
-anything that’s true is true on every level
-reality is exactly what we say it is
-the power people have over us is just us giving those people power
-happiness is relative
-intoxication is just a different type of sobriety
-age is a largely meaningless construct
-age is everything
-sports, in and of themselves, are meaningless, but what they represent is infinitely powerful
-intellectuality is as much a coping mechanism as it is a genuine tool
-we don’t make enough eye contact
-random thoughts are never random

Stay Sequenced, thought processes
DJ Delusion

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Mayflowers May Cause Rashes

Happy May! For those who don't live on their own, the first of the month always signifies financial panic, and a landmark career reassessment question, like, "Why the hell am I writing for living when I can't pay rent?" Or, more pointedly, "What the fuck?" These are the quandaries that keep me awake at night, like mental mosquitoes disturbing my peace of mind. But then I remember two things: we all die without money, and also, I can always prostitute myself. Either or both are comforting on any given first of the month.

All this misery is misleading, though. Life is anywhere from benign to good on an average day--even the day that I have to trudge across the street to my landlord's house, ablaze with the fear that this might be the last month I can laze at home sans day job. But, even with a sky-blue rent check presently sitting just outside my peripheral vision, I can genuinely declare that I don't give a crap. Money comes, money goes, sometimes there's a surplus, and sometimes there's a deficit. Money is like food: sometimes you're hungry, and sometimes you're full, but you're never just satisfied.

What's truly satisfying is music. And all this talk of paying rent is making me even more thankful for the free shows I got to see, and I'd like to relay the best one I saw in April. First and foremost is Hiromi's Sonicbloom--they're an electro-jazz-fusion-rock band...well, they're hard to describe, but they shared five nights at the Blue Note with Avishai Cohen's trio two weeks ago. Good marketing move by Avishai Cohen--Hiromi (a 26-year-old Japanese virtuoso of a virtuoso who has faster fingers on the piano than anyone I've ever seen in person, maybe Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater excluded) is completely hot, and her band of one Brit, one German, and one Baltic European made for a festive night of internationality and drinking at my table. I, of course, got stuck going to the show alone, but because I had a press ticket they gave me the best table, front and center, with friends and family of the band. So there I am, drinking a beer, talking about Big Ben with a British fan while I'm trading contact info with a Japanese woman and Australian man, a married couple, both of whom are graphic designers. The following exchange actually takes place towards the end of the show:

Me: So how long you guys been married?
Husband: It's actually our 11th anniversary!
Me: Holy crap! Congratulations! You guys doing anything else after the show?
Wife: Yes, well-
Husabnd [Interrupting, holding hands on his belly]: We're going back home. I can't tell you what we're going to do there!!

To my shock, and the to the shock of every uptight, courteous bone in my body, the wife didn't shoot laser beams through his skull. She just threw her head back and laughed, as if to say, "I'm so drunk that I don't give a shit what he says!"

Happy anniversary. And happy first of the month.

Stay Sonically Bloomed, Hiromi
MC Marital Relations