Monday, December 31, 2007

The Last of 2007: A Doll of a Year

[Editor’s Note: Herein lies the last of our three-part “Wrapping Up 2007” series, which, to review, was one-third top-albums, one-third top songs, and one-third this. Happy New Year to all, and might the Almighty bless us in 2008 with mirth, sustenance, and the new Postal Service album.]

According to Chuck Klosterman, being post-modern means having an awareness that art is art, and engaging art in evaluation of two distinct qualities: goodness and importance. For instance, Klosterman talks about the difference between the Northeastern and Southern American demographics vis-à-vis the Allman Brothers Band. Citizens of the former, he writes, are more apt to call the Allman Brothers “important,” even if they don’t particularly care for the band’s music. The latter population, though, proffers a patently one-dimensional take on the Allmans. To paraphrase a quote from “Killing Yourself to Live,” the Southerner would probably say, “Well, I don’t know if the Allman Brothers are important, but I sure know they’re good.” The Southerner does not bifurcate his/her music into the significant and the sonorous, the objective and the subjective—music has no defining objective qualities, but merely serves to either delight or disappoint the individual listener. While the Allman Brothers might be significant insofar as one may dearly love “Midnight Rider,” the Southerner would never remove himself from his immediate experience and reflect on how universally—almost abstractly—important that song is.

Far be it from me to confirm or deny Klosterman’s rather pejorative take on Southern intellectualism. All that aside, I can verify that he is correct about the northeast. New York City is the detached music lovers’ capital, where you can practically spy concert-goers making mental notes to Wikipedia song lyrics when they get home. In the Big Apple we’re overly post-modern: we’d rather talk about why Billy Joel matters than clap and sing along at one of his concerts. If you’d break down a typical NYC audience into a pizza pie chart, seven of eight slices would be pretentious thinkers trying to out-articulate the pretentious thinker next to them; the last slice would be people who…um…came to enjoy the concert.

Rarely do these two populations intersect—but, in a liberating end to a somewhat difficult, oft-frustrating year, the seemingly impossible happened on the last Saturday night of 2007. Inside a packed Irving Plaza, The New York Dolls, 1970’s punk heroes and forebears of the CBGB’s counter-counterculture—a lineage that includes Dolls disciples the Ramones, Blondie, and the Talking Heads—continued their reunion tour in front a demonstratively nostalgic audience. The crowd was mostly middle-aged, sufferers of nearly three decades without the Dolls, with a sprinkling of younger baskers seeking an aural history lesson. There was much rock and spectacle, but there was also cognizance, a profound awareness of not just what this music sounded like, but what it was, and where it was. For the Dolls to return to New York with so much vitality was paramount to the return of an erstwhile superstar to his sports franchise.

A faction of cowboy-hatted couples venerated the Dolls from the corner, at once crying and crooning, appreciating that the Dolls were important important and good. Each person had his or her own order—for me, importance came before goodness, since I had compiled a story about the Dolls just days earlier and was taken by their place in rock ‘n roll history. For the spurred-boot-sporting, ripped-jean-wearing couples in the corner, goodness seemed to save them from thinking about importance; it was as though they had grown so weary of recounting the Dolls’ significance that this rock-your-face performance was both a reprieve from, and justification for, all that talk. Most of all, it was a revelation to finally hear music that mattered to people. In a most un-New York fashion, a crowd moved beyond thought and speech and into enjoyment. For them-for us-seeing the New York Dolls wasn’t a fashion statement, nor an opportunity to wax unmoved at yet another performance—it was the integration of quality and quantity, of subjective love and objective value.

I don't know whether this experience instantiates the whole of 2007. On the one hand, it informs our understanding of perseverance, and what it means to literally get it right at the last minute. But who knows if it’s an apt analogy for the year that's past? 2007 was trying, and I’m not sure that, as a global society, we ever got it together like we should have. Yet, I’m also not sure if we erred so badly in the first place. After all, if there’s still a place for exuberance at a New York Dolls concert—lo, for the New York Dolls themselves-then we couldn't have missed by much. What ensues in 2008 is yet untold, but on a dreary Saturday night in December, 2007 was a worthy predecessor.

Stay Safe, New York

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Top 10 Songs of 2007: If Only I Hadn't Listened

[Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of our “Wrapping Up 2007” series, which also serves as the continued evisceration of SPIN’s pandering, nauseating year-in-review issue. As predicted, I wasted ample time watching the “Classic Albums” series, but also had a salient epiphany while thinking about Christmas: if you count December 25 as the first day of Jesus’ life, then isn’t January 1 (New Year’s Day) the eighth? Or, in other words, the day of his circumcision and naming? Sure enough, I was just too cocooned in my own theological world to have not known this earlier, as it seems that the New Year’s circumcision is a pretty well-known fact. According to, January 1 has since carried a virulently anti-Semitic banner. “Throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods,” the site says, “January 1 - supposedly the day on which Jesus' circumcision initiated the reign of Christianity and the death of Judaism - was reserved for anti-Jewish activities: synagogue and book burnings, public tortures, and simple murder.” Not only that, but, “Caesar celebrated the first January 1 New Year by ordering the violent routing of revolutionary Jewish forces in the Galilee. Eyewitnesses say blood flowed in the streets.” Cheery.]

The year in music was a year in trends: digital downloading continued to unseat and undermine the corporate record companies (yay!) and impoverish musicians (nay!). Meanwhile, independent/non-major-label releases by Radiohead, Madonna, and Nine Inch Nails typified the growing sense of autonomy amongst prominent groups, a sentiment previously reserved for Pearl Jam and the Genre formerly known as Punk Rock. Team-ups were all the rage in hip-hop, with Timbaland cutting beats for everyone but his dog, but including all his dawgs—and dawgettes—on his own album, “Shock Value,” which yielded the collabotastic “The Way I Are.” Lastly, music writers begged off any and all controversial assignments, opting instead to laud, redundantly, a few marketable faces.

Yes, the trend was the trend. Just like the Sex Pistols before them and the fads who will surely follow, musicians today work extremely hard to locate, create, and exploit patterns in consumerism. Hence, 2007 was not just the Year of the Trend, but also the Year of the Single. Hoping to catch on with satellite radio, clubs, and magazine covers, artists unleashed a barrage of three-and-a-half-minute clips. Some succeeded, others failed. However, commercial success or failure is utterly immaterial when the issue is quality. Or, more aptly, when the issue is how loud you crank the radio when the song comes on.

Unfortunately, there weren’t many great songs this year. Typing this while listening to Soundgarden’s “Burden In My Hand” is the musical equivalent of looking at a picture of a hot ex while copulating with a barnyard animal: the two don’t even compare, and you’re dreaming of what used to be. Nonetheless, we were graced with a few solid tunes, and—not coincidentally—a number of my “Eardrums be damned, I’m turning this up” selections are included on my favorite albums (scroll down to the previous blog for those). After all, you can’t have great albums without great songs.

So, without further adieu, here are the Top 10 most crankable songs of 2007.

10 Radiohead: 15 Step

While I generally abhor “In Rainbows” (you can check out my review here), "15 Step" is an ode to the Ghost of Radiohead Past. With its haunting, odd-meter polyrhythm and vintage Thom Yorke excruciation, the album’s first track is a refulgent masterpiece set against its dim-lighted peers. However, if it weren’t for the comparatively weak year in music, "15 Step" would be about 15 spots lower on this list.

9 Amy Winehouse: Rehab

Am I tired of it? Probably. But when I first heard this devil-may-care addicts' anthem, replete with blaring horns and multiple hooks, I was carried to a better place; namely, 1960’s Motown, where the coke was cheap and rehab was a non-consideration anyhow. Winehouse’s subsequent demise has been spectacular and saddening, but this song came first. And it will be remembered.

8 Prince: Guitar

Speaking of things formerly known as other things, let us not overlook the Prince of Pop. His suddenly-decades-old tenure begs a promotion to Pop Viceroy, which would allow him and King Michael Jackson to prepare the regal echelons for Prince Timberlake’s eventual ascension to the throne. “Guitar” calls to mind The Viceroy's largely overlooked six-string iconicity—he might not be the best guitarist of all-time, but if I could wail like anybody, I’d wanna wail like Prince.

7 Blake Lewis: Break Anotha

This year’s American Idol runner-up unleashes the musical and vocal attack that vaulted him (almost) to the top of America’s most competitive sham of a show. Nobody—not me, not any magazine, and certainly not Simon Cowell—said Blake was a great singer, but his ear, flair, and beatbox are consistently outstanding. “Break Anotha” is a pretty traditional pop-hip-hop track, but includes all the elements that made Blake such a bugaboo for his American Idol opponents. Wacky instrumentation, a hall-of-fame bridge (“Playin’ a role, he don’t care what he’s told”), and a Jay-Z-esque guitar track lead comfortably into rolling breakbeats and some vintage Blake Lewis noodling. A score for American Idol lovers and haters alike.

6 Marcus Miller: Higher Ground

Let me be clear: this would be number one by a lot (A LOT) if it weren’t a cover. Miller has always taken a backseat to bass greats like Victor Wooten and Jaco Pastorious, and for good reason—he has far less technical ability, he’s not an innovator, and he kinda sorta writes the same “funk in your face” riff over and over again. However, what’s endeared him to me (and scored him some Grammys) is his soul. He’s the funkiest of brothas, and the grooviest bassist on the planet. His rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” might well be the definitive version of the song, as it out-funks the Chili Peppers’ effort and charges harder than Mr. Wonder’s. Forgive me, Stevie.

(For another of Miller’s Wonder-ful covers, “Boogie on Reggae Woman,” click here.)

5 Rihanna: Umbrella

There is a single compelling reason for putting this song on the list: I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to like it, I didn’t want to secretly hope for it to come on the radio, and I didn’t want to ashamedly stream the video after my roommates went to sleep. I didn’t want to know the chorus by heart, I didn’t want to sing it to myself for days at a time, and I didn’t want to find myself drunkenly arguing its merits at a bar last week. But all those things happened. Plus, a little Jay-Z never hurt anybody.

4 Justice: Let There Be Light

Am I the only one who wants to swing an ice-pick through my face whenever I hear “D.A.N.C.E.,” Justice’s off-key, obnoxious, child-driven hit? The way I feel about “Let There Be Light,” which hardly made a commercial splash, is quite the opposite. This trigger-happy dance bona-fide is what we downloaded the album to hear: big drums, swirling synths, and a deadly build-up and crescendo. Everybody D.A.N.C.E.!

3 The White Stripes: Icky Thump

Jack and Meg White have a knack for rescuing themselves with humongous singles, and “Icky Thump” is their best yet. “Fell in Love With a Girl” was passable, “Seven Nation Army” was progress, but “Icky Thump” is the capstone low-fi blockbuster that puts the lid on 10 years (what?) of the White Stripes. I’m still not convinced that they’re decent—nor that Jack and Meg are married—but “Icky Thump” is an unequivocal turn-it-up-and-shut-up lifer.

2 The National: Fake Empire

Not the best song of the year, but certainly my favorite. My routine for writing up a band includes an abbreviated trip to its MySpace page for a 30-second primer on its tunes and the size of its cyber-fanbase. Rarely do I dally for more than a minute, much less listen to an entire song—I prefer listening by CD. However, when I was researching The National, something very unusual happened: I heard Matt Berninger’s ominous baritone careen over a flood of wavy piano and criss-crossing horns, and I listened to the whole song. So I played it again. And again. And again. Before long, I made a habit of loading The National’s MySpace page before I went to bed so that I could listen to “Fake Empire” immediately after I awoke. I blasted it when I was in the bathroom, looped it while I was studying, and recommended it to all my friends. And yes: it is as good live as it is on the record.

1 LCD Soundsystem: Get Innocuous!

Bucka-bucka-bucka-bucka-bucka-bu-CKA. Bucka-bucka-bucka-bucka-bucka-bu-CKA. My friends, welcome to the best bass line of 2007, the anchor for the year’s matchless musical landmark. I said it in the last blog, and I’ll say it again: you will not find a more honest, adrenalized, or memorable artist than James Murphy, and “Get Innocuous!” is his grand tour de force. Jonathan Ringen of Rolling Stone calls it a “massive, clattering dance-floor killer” with an “awesomely pathetic title.” I call it Bucka-bucka-bucka-bucka-bucka-bu-CKA.

Stay Shoddy, 2007’s Musical Output
MC Murphy

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Top 10 Albums of 2007: If Only Justin Timberlake Had Released Something

[Editor's Note: I intend for this to be the first in a series of "Wrapping Up 2007" columns. Whether I get around to more of these or get sidetracked by "Classic Albums" on VH1 Classic is completely up to the gods, and I accept no culpability in the matter.]

[Editor's Note 2: Was the title of this column a gratuitous ploy to include a picture of Justin Timberlake, whose album, unfortunately, came out last year? Yes.]

With a repulsive deluge of “year-in-review” columns pouring through my mail slot (not a metaphor), I have but two options: acquiesce or differ. Notably, SPIN magazine named Kanye West’s “Stronger” collaboration with French electro-heroes Daft Punk 2007’s best song, and named West and Daft Punkers Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo the top performers of these almost-bygone 365 days. The myriad difficulties with these exaltations are somewhat elusive, inasmuch as Kanye and Daft Punk are adept producers and songsmiths, and there is nothing ostensibly violative about either the original “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” or Kanye’s hook-heavy seasoning. Beneath the still waters, however, are issues with the track (the beats are light, there is no climax, it’s perplexingly repetitive), and, moreover, with SPIN aggrandizing it above every other 2007 offering.

Since this is merely a bitter prelude to my own top-10 posturing, and not an exposition on nefarious pop journalism, I will name but two of my issues with SPIN’s “Stronger” celebration (the rest will be available henceforth by conversation only): first, it’s not the best song on Kanye’s “Graduation.” In fact, it straggles miles behind “Good Life” and some of Kanye’s more vintage hip-hop cuts. Second, it’s not the best song of the year. The National’s “Fake Empire,” SPIN’s fifth-best number, outclasses “Stronger” in virtually every melodic and rhythmic capacity (if you haven’t heard it, and you’re equipped to donate two hours to cycling “Fake Empire” in a fit of autoerotic revelry, alight on Even Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” ranked nineteenth, is more significant, and will be remembered 10 years hence. “Stronger” will not—it’s too forgettable and ephemeral to be the best song of the year.

For my own sanity—and for the sake of some deserving metaphysical cause—here are my top 10 albums of the year.

10 Amy Winehouse: Back to Black

Of all the multifarious good fortune I’ve been lucky enough to channel this year, perhaps the most fortuitous piece was discovering this album just before the rest of the world heard “Rehab,” cemented Winehouse’s beehive hairdo on every magazine cover, and followed her drug addiction in so obsessive a manner as to make Lindsay Lohan look downright anonymous. I listened with no premonition of her forthcoming celebrity or the blotto fascination that derailed her career immediately afterwards. What I found were a bunch of gems; “Rehab,” obviously, but also the regal R&B of “He Can Only Hold Her” and “Some Unholy War,” a cross-pollination of a Biggie Smalls gansta backdrop and a Bob Marley lament.

9 Infected Mushroom: Vicious Delicious

By far (and as can be expected from these Israeli stalwarts), the year’s best trance album. The explosive build and final two minutes of “Eat it Raw” is perfectly percussive and delightfully violent, and the unwelcome lyrics on some songs are outweighed by the visceral, straight-ahead techno that Infected has helped establish as the defining element of Goa Trance. With Jaffa Oranges and ecstasy, Israel’s finest exports.

8 Of Montreal: Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

With all due respect to the work’s titular question, this album—or anything associated with it—is far from the destroyer. In fact, Of Montreal prove once again to be indie music’s most un-indie band, with genuinely layered and nuanced tracks that put to shame the inchoate mess that is most of its competition. “Hissing Fauna” scores the mystification quad-fecta, with the year’s most mystifying album title (which fauna are we talking about, and why is it hissing? Does fauna hiss?), most mystifying band name (they’re from Athens, Georgia), most mystifying song name (“Sink the Seine”…um, isn’t it already a river?), and most mystifying existential statement housed within a track title (“The Past is a Grotesque Animal”). Confusing and comforting all at the same time, “Hissing Fauna” marries Williamsburg panache to Staten Island rent prices.

7 Chrisette Michele: I Am

Okay, so I’m biased. I interviewed Michele in June, just before her album came out, and I was taken by her voice, do-gooder ethos, and psychic propensity for channeling Billie Holiday. I was put off by her abstinence, temperance, and un-potty mouth, but she made me emote in three ways that I never have during an interview:

A) About halfway through our sit-down, I said, “Goddamn it, I love my mom!”
B) Two minutes later, I observed, “Well, I guess I’m going to kill myself.”
C) With my last question, I looked her dead in the eyes and asked, “Would you say that your macaroni and cheese analogy extends to other areas of your life?”

(You can click here to check out my story for the now-defunct Inside Connection magazine.)

6 The Bad Plus: PROG

It may strike you as ironic, considering their name, but the Bad Plus has achieved a veritable collective of “bests”—best jazz/rock piano trio, best post-Nirvana version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and best example of an aggressive, stylistically ambiguous, between-genres band done good on a mainstream-sounding project. “PROG,” as the name implies, is a progressive romp through a grab bag of covers and originals. It leads off with an inspired iteration of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and then mimics Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” and David Bowie’s cult classic, “Life on Mars” (unlike Bowie, the Bad Plus don't phrase "Life on Mars?" in the form of a question). “PROG” is not the group’s best effort—that honor is reserved for “Give”—but hey, it’s better than Kanye West and Daft Punk.

5 Dr. Dog: We All Belong

Dr. Dog wins the award for “Most under-the-radar Beach Boys and Beatles sound-alike from Philadelphia with soothing, pithy songs and engaging album artwork.” Their latest studio effort clocks in at a compact 38 minutes, with jaunty head-boppers like “The Girl” that evoke a base, juvenile glee. What’s more, lead singer Scott McMicken is exceedingly polite, and really gave it to the man by holding out on an iPod until he got one for free after playing a show at the Apple Store in Chicago. ¡Viva La Revolucion!

4 Arcade Fire: Neon Bible

They’re loud, they’re over-the-top, they’re melodramatic, but they’re also touching, wrenching, and uber-talented multi-instrumentalists. Canada’s Favorite Sons follow up “Funeral,” their roaring debut, with an equally tonal and maudlin haranguing of suburan ennui and parental oppression. “Neon Bible” would have ranked higher if the Arcade Fire didn’t prove such willing darlings of the SPIN and Blender media machine, but would have ranked lower if that sharing-the-self attitude didn’t also manifest in their riveting, balls-out live performances. So I guess they’re right where they should be. Now, if we could only do something about Win Butler's hair.

3 Sigur Ros: Hvarf-Heim

Never mind that the album name evokes a Nazi bark, nor that its translation (Haven-Home) is uncharacteristically innocuous and sterile for these ethereal Nordic shoegazers. Just know two things: Sigur Ros is now classified as “Post-Rock,” which is way badass, and they sing in “Hopelandic,” a fake take-off of Icelandic whose words mean nothing. As if all that rhetorical rebellion weren’t enough, Sigur Ros inhabits the rarified sonic territory of Radiohead and Pink Floyd—eastern hemisphere titans who deliver the airy, psychedelic goods.

2 Robert Plant and Alison Krauss: Raising Sand

In 2007’s most fruitful and intriguing collaboration (hear that, Kanye and Modest Mouse?), country belle Krauss and Led Zeppelin frontman Plant deliver a tasteful alt-country masterpiece that proves that, a) hot chicks always do it better, and b) Plant is the most versatile singer in the history of hard rock. Although the two trade lead vocal duties throughout, their 13 utterly transporting selections shine brightest with Krauss at the fore, whining and pining like a homesick goddess while Plant forsakes his trademarked Zeppelin squeal for raspy, understated harmonies. "Through the Morning, Through the Night" finds Krauss in a bed of would-be Grateful Dead harmonies; think of her singing the choruses on "Brokedown Palace." The lonesome “Please Read the Letter” is cutting and melodious, slowing, for a bit, snail mail’s rapid demise.

1 LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver

The One. Not just number one, but the transcendent recording that changes how you think about music, impacts your iTunes (or illegal European downloading site) purchasing habits, and vindicates an otherwise mediocre lap around the calendar. 2007’s “Futuresex/Lovesounds,” James Murphy’s second release as LCD Soundsystem is a catchy mash-up of disco spew and faux-adolescent angst, the brilliant convergence of tunefulness, technology, and social commentary. Not only is “Get Innocuous!” the year’s best song, but “North American Scum” and “Someone Great” prove worthy competition for the crown.

In an altogether dishonest era—both musically and otherwise—Murphy waxes axiomatic with Mick Jagger-like realism, reminding us that we don't always want what we want. “Sound of silver,” he drones in the title track, “makes you want to feel like a teenager. Until you remember the feelings of a real life emotion of teenager. Then you think again.”

James Murphy makes me stronger.

Stay Seminal, Sound of Silver
MC Music in Review

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tell Me Again What You Think

God either exists or doesn’t exist. There is no median possibility. God, however one might conceptualize such an entity, is either truth or fiction. Conviction in either direction is some combination of faith, conjecture, logic, socialization—and ultimately free will—but there are only two directions to go: yay or nay. That’s why the God issue is so simple, and why long, agonizing theological conversations completely escape me: there are but two possible realities, and neither can be proved. Arguing about whether or not God exists is like a 35-year-old arguing over whether he’ll live to see 90. There are only two possible outcomes, and both are speculative. It’s a profoundly idiotic thing to argue about, and I wish people would stop doing it.

I have no problem with theological discourse. I have no problem with abstract posturing. I have no problem with wanting to pursue universal and cosmic truths. But I have a problem with people who impose their God know-it-allness on others, who masquerade their spiritual guesswork as inarguable fact.

I met one such girl at a group dinner at my college. A bunch of us spilled outside after the meal, only to be met by the girl (whose name I forget, and most probably never knew) who was all-too-eager to tell us the deal. God exists, she said. She knows He does. He DOES. No, she can’t prove it, and, moreover, she only came to that conclusion after deciding, a few weeks earlier, to start Believing. It was beyond her to realize that you can’t decide on objective reality; in essence, the very idea of her trying to convince us of her truth is proof enough that her efforts were futile from the outset. If something is obviously true—say, that the sun rises every morning—you don’t have to accost people in the street to convince them. They just know. If something is not true—say, that the sun exploded 1,000 years ago and hasn’t existed since—people will simply know you’re wrong. In both cases, people don’t need to be told in order to know.

Anything else, then, exists in ambiguity. So, the second one finds oneself arguing for the obviousness of something, it’s clear that the thing in question isn’t so obvious. It’s also clear, then, that people can’t simply be convinced. People need charming, charismatic idea salesmen in order to buy into sub-obvious concepts. Eons of credulity have been assigned prophets—purportedly real and fake—because there was a particularly beckoning flair to their soapbox. They didn’t yell so much as they coaxed, and their coaxing always led the audience up to the precipice of the incredible, and then offered an ultimatum in the form of an option: benefit or suffer. Of course, the subtext was “be saved/repent or die,” and that’s exactly the point—if cloaked in attractive semantics, the most unbelievable, threatening, and too-large-to-fathom ideas become embraceable.

To be embraceable, and to be embraced; to have our ideas accepted as facts, to be revered as purveyors of wisdom. That's what we all want, and the girl outside the cafeteria wanted it bad. She could have had it if she'd have curbed the close-talking theological aggression and offered a rhetoric more cozy, lazy, and yielding. Something like, “God loves you, just do what you can to reciprocate, but anything is fine,” and I would have told her how right she was, that I wished more people would get hip to the enlightenment.

As it is, with that statement wrapped back up in the ether of my wishes, I will continue to suffer the philosophy bullies. Maybe they go away after college.

Stay Self-Satisfied, After-Dinner Theology Girl
DJ Dithering

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Breakfast of Baghdad

Authoritarian rulers have large appetites: for power, for prestige, for influence, and for Raisin Bran Crunch. His “Butcher of Baghdad” moniker notwithstanding, Saddam Hussein’s were decidedly dairy druthers: cereal with milk, eggs, and French toast. No pork (he was Muslim), no Fruit Loops (he couldn’t stand them), and Cheetos were OK, but not quite Doritos. While awaiting his fate inside a US-controlled penitentiary, Hussein personalized more than his commissarial intake; according to a report from June 2005, he also gave his overseers advice on women, American intelligence, and how the Allied Forces might have better decimated the Iraqi capital.

“Find a woman not too smart, not too dumb, not too old, not too young,” Hussein reportedly instructed Spc. Sean O'Shea. Peculiarly caring advice, considering its barbarous provider, but, as far as all sources are concerned, he conveyed this directive of his own free will, with no corporeal coercion. As for President Bush’s unyielding insistence that this Doritos-laden dictator harbored weapons of mass destruction, Saddam was slightly less understanding.

“"He knows I have nothing, no mass weapons,” he told his guards, all of whom were just a fraction of Hussein’s age. “He knows he'll never find them."

Bush, however, did not just err in military premise, but also in logistics. For on the fateful night in 2003 when the President initiated the “shock and awe” sequence in Baghdad, Hussein was hailing a cab outside of his palace—the one in which he was actually situated, and not the one Bush mistakenly bombed.

“America, they dumb. They bomb wrong palace."

America, we dumb. We bomb the wrong palace, we upholster a mass murderer with Kellogg’s, and our cardinal news-reporting agency humanizes the principle target of a four-years-and-counting military campaign. These subtle immolations of our foreign policy are novel efforts, phenomena unconscionable and unpardonable under Roosevelt and Truman. Those Commanders-in-Chief of yore would have negotiated a compromise between freedom of the press and wartime sensibilities, and would have kept a similar story about Hitler or Stalin from casual dissemination. They didn’t have to contend with the internet or Wolf Blitzer, but they also wouldn’t have bombed the wrong presidential residence had they access to those advances.

Even Hussein comprehended the competence hierarchy evident in American socio-pop culture.

“The guards said Saddam showed an affinity for Ronald Reagan and Dan Rather, but is not too keen on the Bush family,” Brian Todd related in the same article.

With that particular personnel ranking, and his affinity for American breakfast—and preference for manageable women—the animal takes on a human hue. Butcher becomes benign.

Maybe Saddam wasn’t so than us different after all.

Stay Sated, Saddam
DJ Doritos

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bowser From Sha Na Na and Arthur Fonzarelli

Religious traditions are rarely intelligible. Trying to interpret a manger, a tree, and an overpriced sweater from The Gap is just as difficult as deciphering a spinning top, an eight-armed lamp, potato pancakes, jelly doughnuts, and an overpriced sweater from Old Navy. When I was growing up, though, my parents synthesized all of Hanukkah's symbols and rituals into a rational whole.

They explained that we give gifts in order to show that it’s best to be generous with money; we light the menorah because the miracle in the Temple involved the High Priest doing the same; we eat potato pancakes because they’re fried in oil, oil being the operative agent in allowing the High Priest to light the lamp; we eat jelly doughnuts because they’re fucking awesome.

I understood Hanukkah when I was seven (at that age, Hanukkah and Reebok Pumps were the only things I accepted without protest), one of the major reasons I still appreciate it now. The other reason is that, like Christmas, Hanukkah is a pleasantly casual holiday, light on responsibility and heavy on good cheer. There are no Sabbath-like restrictions. All you have to do is exchange gifts (nice), eat unhealthy food (nice), and light fires while you’re singing songs (very nice). It’s uncomplicated and juvenile, with very little time commitment. And, because the holiday is diffused over eight days, even the most over-bearing family won't make you come home for the whole thing. The folks only demand a night or two, and you walk away a few presents richer.

What’s not to love?

Hanukkah also shields us Jews from Christmas jealousy. Judaism has fast days and days of mourning, and has a total of eight weeks during the year wherein you aren’t supposed to listen to music or see movies. Included in those eight weeks are nine days (called "The Nine Days") that prohibit the following: music, movies, alcohol, meat, swimming, parties, sporting events, and doing laundry. But it’s not just Judaism—all types of monotheism can be a drag. Muslims don’t eat for a month; Christians have to put ash on their foreheads and tell some guy sitting in a latticed booth how much they masturbate. Although I always thought of myself as an “oppressed Jew,” I wasn’t jealous of the non-Jews; in some ways, their plight seemed more abject than mine.

But Christmas is enviable. A tree, some presents, multiple nights, caroling, a nice dinner, “Home Alone”—I could get into all that. The one time that a rival religion might woo me for a few days, however, coincides with Hanukkah, of equal (or more) grandeur. It's also got the presents, the multiple nights, the singing, dinners, and family time. And while we might not have an answer for “Home Alone,” history has made it clear that Macaulay Culkin is not worth pining over.

Silent Night or The Hanukkah Song? The choice is clear.

Stay Soggy, Sufganiyot
MC Menorah

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tucker Max Redux

[Editor's Note: This was my original Tucker Max post, but when I clicked "Post," the computer crashed, and I thought it was lost forever. I wrote a new one, which I posted a couple of months ago. Yesterday, I found this original stashed away in hidden folder, and I like it a lot more than what I published earlier.]

I'm relatively comfortable with people more fashionable than myself telling me what to wear. I have a long, proud history of wardrobe dependency, beginning with my mother and continuing through classmates, friends, girlfriends, drugs, and the media. In essence, I've never truly "dressed myself," although these days I do a better job of mechanically dressing myself, as in "I pick out and put on clothing without the physical assistance of others." Which isn't to imply that general dress psychology and peer pressure don't factor into my choices--it's just that, to the naked eye, I appear autonomous around my dresser.

I am not comfortable, however, with people more fashionable than myself telling me what to read. Which brings me to Tucker Max.

According to the back cover of his tome, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, Max is a University of Chicago and Duke Law School graduate who drinks and womanizes in New York. Of less consequence, apparently, is his writing, which seems to chronicle those two behaviors. My apprehension of Max's modus operandi was confirmed by a visit to his website,, which is an aggrandized testament to those same base elements: fucking and boozing. His work is at least half-engaging, if not excellently written, and I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is Max's grand volume of short shit-show vignettes, the culmination of what appears to be months and years of blogging and debasement.

But here's my problem with I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell: I read it in Urban Outfitters. I spied it to the left of the counter, squeezed on the popular book rack along with other trendy literature (including, I'm ashamed to say, Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live). Drawn by its provocatively banal title and bored with clothing, I sped through the first chapter, a suspiciously coherent minute-by-minute account of a vomitous night of failed Breathalyzer tests and pantless sushi consumption. Max's methodology is obvious, and is also overt--he co-opt's readers' obsessions with drunken revelry and sexuality, and aims to produce two types of critics. One type bashes his insensitivity and coarseness, and the other praises his honesty. Both, however, are quoted on the back of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. Max's faux-sensationalist take on contemporary sinning is, much like a pop song designed to be a radio hit, shaped for public consumption.

Unfortunately, by the time I realized all this, it was too late. I had already pick Max's book off the shelf, read a chapter, and thought about it for more than 15 seconds. As far as Max and Urban Outfitters were concerned, mission accomplished. And what's worse, I'm writing about it afterwards and linking (twice) to his webpage.

I hope they serve beer in hell.

Stay Suspicious, Tucker Max
DJ Dressing Himself

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Trip to Israel, Part III: Misers, Misereres, and Margaritas

[Hotel Ramat Rachel, Jerusalem. Monday, November 26. Wedding Day, and my last day in Israel.]

Greed and marriage are irreconcilable, and their teleological disparity makes weddings exceptionally conflicted. The hall, caterer, florist, band, stylist, clothing store, and printing shop all epitomize insatiable capitalistic avarice, while the bride and groom (should, at least) exemplify the opposite: unity, compromise, and a remarkable willingness to have less so that another might have more. Here in Israel, these diametric combatants palpably digress—the extremes are even further removed from one another than anywhere else. Israel is a land, simultaneously, of sacrosanct Infinity and unspeakable filth, where the best and the worst spiritual forces awkwardly coexist.

Since my very religious brother is going to be married in less than two hours, the wedding hall’s acute cupidity seems, to me, even more abominable than it normally might. Despite being part of a family that paid thousands for a 5-hour affair, I am assaulted by miserliness at every turn: five shekels (about $1.50) for an outlet adapter; the same for a pack of crackers. Coffee is double. Jewish tradition maintains that a religious couple should recite Psalms throughout their wedding day, right up until the husband stomps on a glass and the union is official. In light of the hall’s financial practices, however, it might be best to recite a revised Psalm 51 not for the couple, but for Hotel Ramat Rachel:

Have mercy on Hotel Ramat Rachel, O G-D,
according to Your unfailing love;
according to Your great compassion
blot out Hotel Ramat Rachel’s transgressions.
Wash away all Hotel Ramat Rachel’s iniquity 

and cleanse Hotel Ramat Rachel from Hotel Ramat Rachel’s sin.
For I know Hotel Ramat Rachel’s transgressions 

and Hotel Ramat Rachel’s sin is always before me.

Freedom will be swift, literally—my brother and his fiancée, dipsomaniacs though they are not, picked a hall at which an open bar comes standard. Soon I will be imbibing those shekels I dished out right back into my system, and then some. It is my responsibility to drink my family back into the black. A scotch-and-coke costs about 50 shekels at a trendy Jerusalem bar. A glass of decent wine is 30, and a mixed cocktail is 40. If I drink ten of the first, two of the second, and two of the third, then my family will be 640 shekels further towards even. Granted, that’s only about $170, but I’m just one person. If everyone quaffs his or her share we could make my family's money back.

Besides, isn’t it our right—nay, our duty—to think (and drink) along the bottom line? If the hall, caterer, florist, band, stylist, clothing store, and printing shop can do it, then why shouldn’t we? Sure, you might deploy the “two-wrongs-don’t-make-a-right” argument, that joining in their greed is no more defensible than their greed is in the first place. You might call me a hypocrite for deploring avarice and then calling on others and myself to adopt that trait three hours later. You might say, using my earlier statements about weddings—and Israeli society at large—being battles between good and evil, that calculating how much I have to drink to screw the wedding hall might constitute a victory for the latter.

You might be right. I’m not really sure. Inside my frayed emotional universe, I feel like a valiant protector, guarding this family event from greed and vile people, and that by robbing those who are trying to rob me, I am vigilantly fighting back those forces. You might disregard that as a rationalization, and, again, you might be right. But if it’s rationality you speak of, I am currently incapable of such a pursuit. I just overpaid for crackers, my brother is getting married tonight, and the twenty-hour project that is my return to New York will begin 120 minutes after the last guest leaves. I’m equal parts jilted, jocular, and jet lagged.

When the alcohol wears off somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, I’ll hastily reconstruct my reflections in a fuzzier, cuddlier way: nostalgia is the luxury of the removed. In the meantime, an ironed set of dress clothes awaits me, as do a brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law who have a happily less dire conception of tonight’s proceedings than I do.

Stay Swindling, Ramat Rachel
MC Mimosa

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Trip to Israel, Part II: Epilogue to Uncanny Travel Companions

[Aeropuerto De Madrid-Barajas, Madrid. Wednesday, November 21. Flying to Tel Aviv.]

I’m attracted to wine salesmen. Cosmically, that is—the last two times I’ve flown, the person directly to my right has been a wine salesman. Both were Spanish speaking—the first from Argentina and the second from Spain. And neither was some Podunk loser trying to peddle his swill on me; in actuality, both were head sales managers for their respective—and enormous—family wine companies, chatty and personable businessmen responsible for moving millions of bottles a year. Both taught me more about wine in 45 minutes than has a lifetime of alcohol consumption, and both reiterated the four golden rules of wine:

1. Wine is not something you read about in magazines and talk about at parties. Wine is something you drink—nothing less, nothing more.

2. Price doesn’t matter. A bottle that costs $6.99 is as likely to taste good as one that costs $40.

3. The label doesn’t matter, either. Taste is the lone factor that matters to wine professionals, and it should be all the consumer is worried about.

4. Because of the American dollar’s current free-fall, we Americans will be seeing more and more wines from South America and less from Europe, since the almighty Euro is discouraging American importers from doing business with the Eastern Hemisphere’s first world.

Both gave me their contact information. Gaston Chamiza, the Argentine I met at the end of last November on a flight from New York to Montreal, asked me to stay in touch with him regarding the Creamfields music festival near his hometown. I emailed him when I got back to New York, and we exchanged emails for a while, until my inability to execute an excursion to Argentina sullied the hopefulness of our contact. We stopped corresponding altogether a while back, although one day I plan to fire off something like, “Hey, I’m coming to Buenos Aires! Can I crash at your place?” to which he’ll respond, “No.” Call it the renaissance of hope.

Juan Costa, the Spaniard from this late November, was flying to his hometown to vet two wineries. An émigré who fortuitously found his way to Connecticut, Juan is a family man with serious dirt on the wine industry: vintners paying off magazines to give their wines rave reviews, bottling plants diluting their brands with cheaper, foreign varieties and labeling them incorrectly, etc. When I told him that I’d be available to meet him in Manhattan for the purposes of conducting an interview and getting drunk, he jotted down every conceivable way I might reach him (landline, cell, email, social security number, blood type, gym membership, favorite restaurant) and told me to be in touch. Call it the renaissance of intoxication. Or, an opportunity for me to write a good story and drink for free (for life, maybe, if I do good by a man who sells four million bottles of wine every 365 days), and for him to clean house in an industry revered for its traditions, history, and pride.

I don’t know how to construe these similarities. Late November. Flying to a foreign country. Spanish-speaking. Head sales manager at booming family-owned wine outfits, with identical philosophies and convictions about their business. As far as I remember, both have two kids, are in their late thirties, and lament how hard it is to succeed in wine selling. They were like two apparitions cut from the same ghost, and I was the spooked protagonist who wanted to sew them back together.

Call it the re-birth of reunification.

Stay Similar, Gaston and Juan
MC Madrid

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My Trip to Israel, Part I: Prologue to Drunken Revelry

[JFK Aiport, New York. Tuesday, November 20. Flying to Madrid.]

“It’s gonna be a byoozy weekend, eh?”

I’m waiting to have my backpack, shoes, laptop, and everything bagel with scallion cream cheese x-rayed at JFK airport. Two flights and seventeen hours away is my brother, whose wedding next week brings me to Israel. The x-ray line is most interminable, with bumper-to-bumper foot traffic preceding a metal detector that always finds something stowed away deep inside a pocket. The middle-aged British couple behind me, with leather-bound “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” passports, inquire as to where I am flying.

“You going to England?” the gentleman asks me, clutching an oblong handbag.
“No. Spain, then Israel.”
“You flying for the holiday?”
“No, my brother’s getting married. He moved out to Israel a while ago.”
He hardly pauses to think.

“It’s gonna be byoo-zy weekend, eh?”

I don’t know if he means that my weekend will be boozy or busy, but I figure both are reasonable assumptions. I say “yeah,” start laughing, and the gentleman and his wife, as if on cue, start laughing that quirky British laugh that I thought only existed in movies and English variety television. I love the British.

The airport is a collection bin for weirdos: polite, crass, cheerful, suspicious, odd, boring, nervous, and helpful, but all weirdos. The Brits on the x-ray line were a fortunate combination of polite, odd, cheerful, and helpful. The man who will later sit across from me at Gate Six is suspicious and nervous, and easily goaded. As I type this, he clutches his portable MP3 player with both hands, darting his worried eyes across everyone in our vicinity, but especially at me. Every time I look down at the screen, I can feel his shifty gaze upon me, like a crack addict who thinks I have money.

I'm so on to him. Each time I finish a sentence, I look directly in his eyes for 2 seconds. If he doesn’t see me, then so be it. But if he does—and the majority of the time, those 2 seconds are spent in locked ocular warfare with him—I look right back down at my computer, telling him in no uncertain terms that: a) I’m on to him; b) I have better things to do than stare at his gaunt face; and c) it’s very possible that what I’m doing on my computer has something to do with him. I can feel him growing increasingly concerned with each stare-down, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he sics an airport security guard on me. With my luck, this man will be seated next to me on the plane, and I’ll have to evaluate whether falling asleep is worth risking all the groping, stealing, and other subversive behavior I assume he performs. With his luck, he’ll be seated next to a man with a big beard and a turban and he’ll have to shit his pants until he lands.

I’m technically "spending the weekend in Israel," but Travel Tuesday has me off to a rousing start. By Friday, the man staring at me might be my business partner, and on Monday night I may be the lone drunk soul at my brother’s nuptials. Complicating matters further is that my return flight departs about six hours after the wedding ends, so I might be violently hung over the entire way. I have one Ambien for 35 hours of travel and a dangerously weak grasp of when and if public drunkenness laws apply on airplanes.

It’s going to be a byoozy weekend.

Stay Suspicious, Starer
DJ Departing

Monday, November 19, 2007

Patriot Games

I’ve watched a ton of sports in my life. Too much, really. I could have been walking in parks, sampling museums, or earning money (of which I currently have none), but I chose to vegetate in front of a television and experience vicarious glory and excruciation. I know sports. I have a feel for them. I intuit the expected and elucidate the odd.

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls and 1998 New York Yankees were the only teams that escaped my comprehension, who respectively compiled 72 and 114 wins in ways that deviated from the natural flow of things. Their talent was so overwhelming, their coaching so sound, and their execution so impeccable that those two teams didn’t just win; they devastated and demoralized.

They made you wonder if their opponents would ever recover. In some cases, they didn’t—after losing to the Bulls in the ’96 finals, Seattle SuperSonics forward Shawn Kemp embarked upon years of weight gain and general apathy, earning an early exit out of the NBA. The Yankees, meanwhile, shattered Padres pitcher Kevin Brown in the World Series, and although Brown went on to sign a mega-deal with the Dodgers and played a while longer in the bigs (including a couple of seasons with the Yankees), he was never again his old, dominating self.

My sports acumen told me that I’d never see a team like that again, and certainly not in the National Football League. The NFL is, after all, the land of salary caps and parity, the one major market sport in which 80% of its teams begin the season with a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Some teams are usually good, other typically terrible, but the NFL is characterized by competitiveness. Everyone has a chance against everyone. Only the 1972 Dolphins completed an undefeated 12-0 season, and no one has turned the same trick since the NFL expanded to a 16-game schedule. The odds are stacked immensely against a 16-0 season: injuries, off days, hostile road games, sheer luck, and a thousand other forces collude in preventing perfection. Week in and week out, anyone could win and anyone could lose.

Consider, then, the following numbers:

31/39 373 5-0 146.1

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady amassed those numbers today's 56-10 dehumanizing of the Buffalo Bills. He completed 31 of his 39 pass attempts (a sterling 79.5%) for 373 yards, with five—five—touchdowns and zero interceptions. His quarterback rating, out of a possible 158.3, was 146.1. Many quarterbacks go their entire careers without a single game like that, but Brady has posted about seven just this season. Within the larger picture, Brady’s mastery is representative of the Patriots’ team-level success. At 10-0 and with six games to go, they look like they just might run the table. As was the case with the Bulls and Yankees, it’s not just that they’re winning—it’s how they’re winning.

Consider these numbers:


Those were the scores from the Patriots’ first 10 games, and the lone close one, the 24-20 squeaker over the Indianapolis Colts, might have been their most impressive win. The Colts, defending Super Bowl champions, the team that beat the Patriots in last year’s playoffs, and the only other undefeated team at the time, had a 10-point lead with about 10 minutes to play. The Patriots’ offense, silent all game, calmly and methodically scored two touchdowns in seven minutes for the win. As emphatic as 52-7 is, the statement they made against the Colts—in the Colts’ home stadium—was much more severe.

After today’s Bills game, NBC’s sideline reporter interviewed Brady, who delivered all the requisite platitudes: It’s a team effort. Coach has us playing hard. We’re taking it one game at a time. Everyone is contributing. The quotes remained unremarkable until he paused, smirked, and said, “The [Philadelphia] Eagles are our next test on Sunday night,” as if he realized, along with everyone else, that the Eagles will wake up on Monday morning with the same katzenjammer as the Bills. For all the professionalism and ho-humness that cloak these Patriots, they know exactly how good they are. How great they are.

The Patriots have two “test” games remaining: one against the Pittsburgh Steelers (whom the lowly Jets beat today) and another versus the New York Giants (who habitually fail to win big games). If the Patriots pull off a perfect season and win the Super Bowl, they will undoubtedly go down as the best team of all-time. They’ll probably be remembered the same way even if they lose one or two but still take the championship.

But on the off chance that they’re eliminated from the playoffs and another team lifts the championship trophy, at least I'll say this: in a sport full of ass kicking, I never saw anyone kick more ass than the Patriots.

Stay Stupefying, Patriots Road Wins
MC Moss

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Driving Two Cars on the Information Superhighway

This is a time of extreme manliness. With a sleek, silver, 500 GB hard drive designed by Porsche standing up next to a cool, black, slightly taller and slimmer 300 GB model, the latter with flashing spot-blue bulbs and a red, racing heart, I am at peak technological force. I am optimally wired and connected. I am exchanging information between two incomprehensibly vast apparatuses, using my badass, ultra-slim, white laptop as the interface along which the information traverses. A cold beer is the Macy's cosmetics stand compared to my current endeavor.

What I am doing, in reality, is re-backing-up my iTunes. Most people, especially writers, are gravely concerned with backing up their documents—which I am doing, as an ancillary exercise—but I’m hardly phased by the prospect of losing my essays and rants. If something happened to my iTunes, though, the balls of anyone within scalding distance would never be the same. Long ago, owing to space considerations, I moved my music library to the 300 GB model, and then acquired the 500 GB model for an extra layer of security. Once a month, I copy everything from the 300 to the 500, and all the whirring noises, flashing lights, and cool icons make my cajones feel abnormally large.

39.21 gigabytes of music just passed hands. That’s 23 days, 3 hours, 6 minutes, and 41 seconds of playback. 7,083 songs. The time, money, and energy those songs represent are innumerable. Some people call themselves “well read;” I claim to be “well listened.” Either that or “capable of listening well.” That’s the secondary implication, I believe, of “well read”—that not only has one sampled a wide selection of books, but one has acquired and honed the ability to read in an insightful, critical way. Simile. Metaphor. Allegory. Synecdoche. Parallels and contrasts. The things that high schoolers claim only exist in the essays and minds of their teachers.

Those same traits are reasonable to expect in someone who’s listened to a large quantity of music. Even if one is not a musician, one begins to pick up on quasi-musician concepts: song structure, dynamics, melody, and basic rhythm. One stops hearing the songs and starts listening to them. Like my music 101 professor told us on my first day of college, “All of you listen to music with your heart. I want you to listen with your mind, also.” Knowledge of any medium breeds a deeper appreciation; this is not just true of the arts. From computer geeks to architects, bobsledders to restaurant owners, cause and effect become cyclical: you like something, so you start learning more about it. The more you learn about it, the more you like it.

And the more I learn about external hard drives, the more I like them. Looking at both of mine now, I lustily await next month’s turn to back up my backup. The silver one lies dormant, its metallic husk cool to the touch. Its tall black companion, the original standby, breathes and hums, throwing heat from every crevice. They make for a formidable pair. My music is safe.

I feel like a man.

Stay Secure, iTunes Collection
DJ Disc Space

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sitting With Soda: Osama Strikes in Rockefeller Center

I read an essay positing that miracles happen. A friend posted this thesis on Facebook yesterday, concluding that his ability to procure two chicken sandwiches six minutes past a restaurant’s closing time—at half cost, no less—evinces, in finality, that the miraculous is real. I happen to concur with this take on the arguably inexplicable, and I could elucidate hundreds of stories akin to his—stories which posit our universe’s preternatural tendency to cater to us, to indulge our indulgences. These stories are not just about chicken sandwiches at 360 seconds past zero hour, nor do they merely celebrate paying half price. These stories are the ontology of dumb luck: serendipity is real.

Such serendipity is how I came upon the most important cup of soda in the history of mass transit. At 3:00 am on Saturday night/Sunday morning, Sideburns and I (remember: Sideburns is a girl. Sideburns does not have sideburns) are taking the F train back to Queens from Manhattan. We initially navigate to the 63rd and Lexington stop, since it is the closest one to Queens. However, due to construction, the Queens-bound train isn’t running, so we take the F two stops downtown to Rockefeller Center, where we will be able to cross over to its Queens-bound iteration.

Upon our arrival, the Rockefeller Center platform has all the trappings of a late-night subway station: quiet, a little sad, hung over in the way that an underground, rat-infested nucleus full of transients is bound to be. In the scant hours that separate the nighttime frenzy from the morning order, the platform feels like the shell-shocked end of a once-raging house party. It is not the place for discourse, and it is certainly not the place for conflict; unlike the bellicosity that streaks the subway during daylight, the wee hours are usually softly humane.

In addition to the chance train stoppage that necessitated our being at Rockefeller Center, Sideburns and I are uncharacteristically tired. Resolute city walkers most nights, we opt for the benches—the second bit of dumb luck that facilitates our encounter with the esteemed soda.

We are exhausted, in an exhausted place, already steered out of our way, and battling malignant 3 am bitterness (I am, at least. Sideburns is suspiciously kind-tempered). There are two available seats at the end of the bench, upon one of which is perched a white paper soda cup, a straw jutting from the top. The soda, presumably, belongs to the young man sitting in the next seat, who looks to be about 23, helmeted by a red baseball cap and earphones. As I swoop in to sit, the young man glowers at me, but I don't think he is taking issue with my sitting. Every rule of decorum and courtesy demands that he move his drink so that I can sit. Which I do. He doesn’t move his drink, which is sitting against my left leg, lukewarm condensation rubbing off on my jeans. He murmurs something.

“What?” I ask.
“I TOLD you I didn’t fucking want you to sit there.”
[3 incredulous seconds elapse]
“I TOLD you I didn’t fucking want you to SIT THERE.”

This man is possibly homicidal, but there’s no way I’m surrendering my seat to a soda. Exacerbating the standoff is that I’m too perplexed to respond, so, for better or worse, I look like a badass, apathetically shrugging off his vitriol.

“That’s fine,” Sideburns chirps, and cheerily moves us to two seats on the other side of insane soda guy. I sit, again, in the slot next to him, this time on the side not housing a soda. He scoffs at me, collects his drink, and moves down to the very end of the bench. He is enraged, and perhaps mentally handicapped.

A first-year St. John’s Law School student is seated next to Sideburns. “That was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” he says, and we assent. The F train pulls up, and Sideburns, the law student, and I sit on one end of the car, while crazy soda guy sits on the other, glaring at the three of us.

“He hasn’t taken one drink from the soda,” I say. “Nobody buys soda in a paper cup to bring home. You buy a bottle if you bring it home. Why hasn’t he taken a drink?”
“That’s right, you don’t take a cup home,” says the law student. “He hasn’t touched his soda.”
We all realize that he's not drinking his soda now, and he's not going to drink it later. And he was irate that I came near the cup. We are stumped.
“Maybe there was gold in the cup,” I offer. “Or maybe a million dollars' worth of heroin."
“That’s right,” law student says. “How dare you, sir, sit in the same seat as his cup of gold? The terrorists have won.”

Indeed, the terrorists are winning. I encroached upon the autonomy of a cup of soda, I displaced its owner to the end of the bench, and my offense engendered a segregated ride home. To confirm my cadre’s insidiousness, oppressed crazy soda guy delivers an extended, deranged stare before bounding up the stairs at the Roosevelt Avenue station, out of sight forever.

“Will you ever sit in the same seat as a soda again?” asks the law student.
“No way,” I answer. “No way.”
“That’s right,” he says. “Or you, sir, are a terrorist.”

Stay Serendipitous, Subway Closures
MC Miracles

Thursday, November 8, 2007

David Byrne on the New English Muffin: "Same As It Ever Was"

Thomas’ English Muffins now come in sandwich size. This 40% bigger variation is new to me, if not new to the world. I bought two packs last night, thinking that the hamburger-sized loaves would revolutionize the way I eat. Well, they haven’t. I’m still making English Muffin pizzas with two slices of cheese, ketchup, basil, pepper, and Mrs. Dash. I’m still reluctant to microwave an English Muffin, reserving that desultoriness for extreme emergencies. Nay, the sandwich size English Muffin hasn’t done anything besides for deliver slightly more bread per serving, a boon, perhaps, to prison inmates and terror camp attendants, but not to someone like me, who could have bought a loaf of regular bread for the same price.

The pantheon of non-pizza pizzas, therefore, remains intact: first is the pizza bagel, followed by pizza on a pita, followed by matzo pizza (those who have never observed Passover might not concur), and then the English Muffin pizza. Pizza on toast, whole wheat bread, and hero sandwich round out the lineup. I was desperately hoping to unseat matzo pizza with sandwich size EM’s, but alas—the rankings are made of stronger stuff.

The apocryphal supermarket lore is that these places, which we take for benign providers of nourishment and non-perishable goods, are designed like casinos, in that their layout intentionally disorients the consumer. The purpose in a casino is obvious—the bewildered gambler is the screwed gambler. A supermarket, too, derives financial benefit from confused shoppers. Lost and dizzied by the intertwining aisles, one might purchase far too much food, or splurge for luxury items one did not intend to buy.

I paid no heed to this supposition before today, when I opened my freezer, seized the burgeoned muffins, stared at their freezer-streaked façade for a moment, and let out a string of profanity. I was duped. I was had. The supermarket tricked me into believing that these English Muffins were different, weaseled me into dropping an extra half-dollar per pack in the hopes of something better. I thought I was buying happiness, or at least the opportunity to eat in a way I never had, but all I got was a raw deal. Were the English Muffin pizzas still delicious this morning? Yup. Were they a little bit bigger than usual? No doubt. But they were sullied by the taint of capitalism.

In retrospect, I should have known this all along. I get weak and tired the moment I enter a supermarket, and I grow increasingly lethargic with each item I place in my cart. By the time I suffer through check-out, load the bags into the car, and unload them at home, I have to sit for a few minutes and recuperate. It takes 10 hours of blackjack to do what grocery shopping can do in 30 minutes. It takes a week of work and school to exact the punishment I endure during a trip through the produce section. Shopping leaves me debilitated, light-headed, and powerless, like a car battery that’s been on a cross-country road trip.

Once I get home, I muster what remains into a last-second English Muffin pizza Hail Mary. As I found this morning, my prayers usually aren’t answered.

Stay Stupefying, Supermarkets
MC Muffins

Monday, November 5, 2007

Last Year 1,944 New Yorkers Saw This Blog and Did Not Leave a Comment

Did you know that last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something? You probably did if you ride the New York City subway. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is intent on telling everybody how fiercely their riders combat terror—it’s a post-9/11 beacon of pride on the scale of electrified rail cars. There are signs in every subway car boasting, in imposing bold letters, “Last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something.” What “something” means is anybody’s guess—a man vomiting on the F train at three in the morning, or exposing himself and eating crab legs during rush hour? A torn, inseminated pair of leggings on the Columbus Circle platform? We don’t know what people saw last year—the MTA merely advertises that a few less than 2,000 people vigilantly reported having seen something they thought to be suspicious.

Maybe the proclamation is supposed to be farcical, since even the MTA bureaucracy isn't so myopic as to laud the fact that not even 2,000 people reported something. According to the MTA's website, 8,272,117 people, on average, use New York's public transportation every weekday. The weekend averages are a bit lower—the website doesn’t specify, so let’s assume that, on the average day, 7 million people use subways and buses. Extrapolated over 365 days, that’s 2,555,000,000 people—TWO BILLION, FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FIVE MILLION PEOPLE—using MTA transportation every year. And just 1,944 people saw something and said something? That’s .0000761% of riders.

The SUBWAYblogger interprets the statistics in terms of day-to-day occurrences. If 1,944 people saw something and said something, that’s about 5.3 people per day. “There’s easily that many people passed out in the middle of a hallway every day,” the SUBWAYblogger astutely notes. “That alone can account for all the reports in a year.”

5.3 people per day. Out of eight million, two hundred and seventy-two thousand, one hundred and seventeen. That’s unreal. That’s earth-shatteringly, bone-jarringly, soul-numbingly infinitesimal. That’s buying-drinks-for-underage-girls-at-a-Nickelback-concert low. That’s so low, in fact, that one must assume the MTA didn't crunch the numbers before they signed off on the ad campaign. I’d bet four Nickelback tickets that there isn’t a single precedent in the history of civilization for celebrating failure on so grand a scale. The only thing that comes to mind is when, in 1967, then-Egyptian-president Nasser told his country that they'd triumphed in the war against Israel, while, in reality, Israel had decimated the Egyptian military in a matter of hours. But that wasn’t so much celebrating failure as much as it was covering it up with a lie—the MTA, in fact, might have been better served by lying. That they didn’t is what’s shocking.

So, translated into terrorist, “Last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something” means, “Do whatever the hell you want.” The ad might as well read, “7.61 x 10^-4 percent. Last year we asked two and a half billion people to watch for suspicious activity. We can only represent the percentage that did in negative scientific notation. We’re fucked.” Ironically, any infidel-hating fundamentalist with a calculator could deduce from the MTA's own advertisement that the subway is a soft target.

Besides, can you really blame the riding public for its silence? As a frequenter of New York City’s subways and buses, I can assure you of three things:

1) Something that could possibly be a mass terror attack occurs once every five minutes. Any veteran rider is irreversibly desensitized to any and all weird, suspicious, and flagrant behavior.

2) There’s nobody to whom one might "say something." If Osama bin Laden was sitting in my subway car and lighting a stick of dynamite, I wonder who I’d tell first—the passed out crack addict with his head in my lap or the crocheting grandmother sitting under the “Last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something” sign?

3) If I did manage to find somebody in any position to thwart a mass murder, he/she wouldn’t care. The men and women who work for the MTA are some of the hardest, most terrifying people I’ve ever met. They’re a million times scarier than any terrorist. In order to save the day, one would have to, in a matter of seconds, see a terrorist attack in progress, find somebody to tell, take a few moments to relate what I'd witnessed, and cajole that individual to do something about it (as if an unarmed subway operator could overpower an armed terrorist. But that's another issue). I'd say one's chances are about .0000761%.

This is why I keep my mouth shut on the train. Which is typical: according to the MTA, last year 2,555,499,056 New Yorkers saw something and did not say something.

Stay Silent, New York

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ali G in HD: A Holy Land Saga

HBO is running a high-definition “Da Ali G Show” marathon, and I’m brushing up on all the sketches that I already knew. Over the last year and a half, I’ve memorized every line, incitation, gesture, facial expression, and outraged, unwitting guest presented by Ali G, Borat Sagdiyev, and Bruno. There are some segments—the religion roundtable, Pastor Quinn, dinner etiquette, Pat Buchanan (WMD/BLT), the campaign trail, clubbing in Miami—that I can’t watch anymore, because by the time they’re thirty seconds through I’ve completed the rest in my head.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s genius is mostly comic, especially in his exploitation of the awkward moment. No one, not even the estimable Vince Vaughn, is more adroit at creating, maintaining, exacerbating, and being comfortable with awkwardness. His brilliance also lies in his normalcy, since, unlike Woody Allen or Andy Kaufman, Cohen is completely sane. He’s intelligent (he graduated from Cambridge), reasonable, and, on the surface, pretty unremarkable. Comedy, for him, is a calculated, quasi-mathematical process, a system of actions and responses that he meticulously plans, yet—and this is where his brilliance is most apparent—he is also a master of extemporaneous comedy. When “gay converter” Pastor Quinn quoted from the Book of Romans, Bruno immediately chimed in, “Great, I love Romans,” and when a high-society woman asked Borat why his sister was a prostitute, he said, “Because she like to make money, high five!”

The social import of Da Ali G Show, however, has nothing to do with comedy. Never has a show so acutely and blatantly revealed prejudice and bias, nor has a single program ever exposed those prejudices in such a variety of cultures, from outback Arizona cowboys to anti-nuclear activists, to priests, rabbis, and atheists. Most of all, he illustrates that religion can be a two-headed monster, one that preaches sound morals (as in the religion roundtable) while simultaneously perpetuating prejudice and irrationality (like the homophobic Pastor Quinn).

We can all identify with how Cohen, a somewhat observant Jew, feels about faith—there’s something incongruous and confusing about the way we tend to think about our spiritual lives. Religion, to me, is moving to a tiny swath of land smaller than New Jersey, that has been a nexus of murder, hate, and mortal danger for thousands of years, under the faith/hope/knowledge/conviction that, one day, a man will reveal himself to be the savior, the dead will be brought back to life, and the enemies that lie three countries deep on her borders will be magically vanquished—and then, once you get there, complaining that that it’s hard to get a good steak.

It’s funny, really: keeping up a singularly religious worldview is extremely difficult, so that a lot the decisions we make with clarity eventually get muddled by late buses, bad weather, rough toilet paper, and weird street signs. In other, non-religious arenas, you’d eventually reach a compromise, some balance of quixotic idealism and pressing realism. But religion doesn’t work like that, and adherents to all faiths find themselves bouncing back and forth between two opposing extremes. Above and beyond pure comedic timing, Cohen capitalizes on peoples’ tendency to get extremely defensive about their beliefs.

Which begs just one question: what’s up with so many nuns working part-time as strippers?

Stay Subpar, Israeli Meat
DJ Da Ali G Show

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Daughtry is Distracting You All

I’m not the type to use music as the background for my life—I use life as the background for my music. Subsumed within song, dictated by it and sublimated into it, life is a dizzying stream of physicality that is, on a good day, sufficiently benign and uneventful to remain ignored. If something tragic or gripping pulls me out of music consciousness for few moments, I don’t panic. I play something by Death Cab, move the headphones to release the depressions in my ears, and embrace, again, soundtrack as foreground. Said another way, if life didn’t stop to notice me, I fear I’d never notice it.

The above paragraph may or may not be true. I’m sure, however, that it encapsulates my experience last night: a normally uncharged bus ride from New Jersey to Manhattan hosted a wedding between music and soul, a fusion of melody, mind, rhythm, and bone. I didn’t so much enjoy or anticipate or feel the music so much as I embodied it, manifested it, imparted it-was it. My skeleton spontaneously generated sound and vibration, and my gesticulations produced the energy that powered the instruments.

This very private, very enthralling experience illuminated two things: first, that listening to music alone is entirely different than sharing it with other people; and second, that trance music is an abused substance when taken in public. Trance is perhaps the most meditative genre, with a booming, unrelenting pulse and deeply hypnotic textures (hence, “trance”). Its manifestation in most countries, however—especially in Goa, Europe, and Israel, where trance is an overt, dominant style—is extremely juvenile. People obnoxiously announce that they “totally just took some e,” that they’re “raging hard” and “getting their ass melted.” All of these are valid things to experience and to say, but it’s the WAY they say it that denigrates the trance experience. It’s analogous to getting married, and then, on the wedding night, having your spouse belch, grab his/her balls, and say, “I’m pleased as shit to be married to you.” It’s a nice, legitimate thought, but the expression is disgusting.

Popular music is made for mass consumption: three-and-a-half minute songs replete with verse, chorus, bridge, memorable hook, and catchy chord progressions. Millions of people hear songs built this way, memorize them, and go to concerts to sing along. I was recently forced (read: drunk and not wanting to reach for the remote) to watch the music video for Daughtry’s “Home”, and it struck me that, in the live performance shots, everyone was singing along. Apparently, people love to use their voices when they listen to music, and will take any opportunity to do so—lyrics, a sing-along solo, etc. Trance, for all its virtues, does not indulge that love for singing, since it has no lyrics to parrot or easy-speak melodies to hum, nothing that feeds into our predisposition to use our voices. It leaves you verbally frustrated, and that spawns the phenomenon of people compulsively proclaiming how intoxicated they are.

Public trance, therefore, is problematic, since speech-starved masses are left with nothing to say besides for jamband platitudes like, “sick set, bro.” That same emptiness, though, is perfect for personal mediation. Without words or simple tunes, trance is not distracting in the same way that other music tends to be. Singing along is a diversion, a canard, only the apocryphal crux of a song. Trance strips away that element, and leaves purity—a timbre, a tempo, and nothing else. It brings out the same simplicity in the listener, but it cannot if the sweaty, tattooed fan next to you is rubbing his arms and asking if you want to blow lines in the bathroom. Not that you should turn down his offer—that’s between you, God, and your therapist—but it might not be conducive to an introspective evening.

Stay Situational, Trance’s Hypnotic Value
MC Music Machine

Friday, October 26, 2007

Reading and Writing: Only One Is Important

I’m a slow reader. Always have been. Even when I pored over John Grisham and Mario Puzo in the third grade—which would be remarkably precocious if I’d been reading them for any reason other than prepubescent thrill-seeking—I’d settle on a chapter for 45 minutes and then go to bed. Completing any book prompted a monumental celebration, followed by the dread and foreboding that accompanied my pacing up and down the fiction aisles at the Teaneck Public Library while I hunted for the next read.

I’m much better at continuing books than starting or ending them—starting means arousing enough determination to begin Chapter One, while ending means parting with a project that took weeks of concentration and commitment. Finishing a book is like sleeping with a girl, insofar as both are memorable victories fraught with pleasure, tribulation, patience, and surprise. And you can’t catch syphilis from a book, which is both the beauty and the boredom in reading.

Books, however, are inconsequential—you could live your whole life without reading one and be perfectly alright. The advertisement may claim that “reading is fun-damental,” but it’s not. Reading is something we all entreat ourselves to do, in hope of some short-term recreation and a heavier dose of long-term cognitive benefit. It’s a type of working out that doesn’t usually pay immediate dividends, whose value lies primarily in a future point that may or may not arrive. It’s beyond comprehension that there are so many Barnes & Noble bookstores sprinkled throughout New York, the one place of all the impatient metropolises wherein people never have the time to read. In fact, reading for pleasure has been replaced in New York City by a) reading for necessity on the subway—newspapers and work-related items; b) porn; and c) big-bicepped romance novels purchased on the top floor of a seedy bookstore; namely, porn. Manhattan literacy consists in the neurotic and erotic, while the novel and short story have long been forsaken.

I conveniently espouse that I prefer writing to reading. My reasoning is sound: it takes me virtually as long to read as it does to write, while writing is infinitely more proactive and exponentially more interesting. It also places me in total control, which, unlike finishing a book, is nothing like sleeping with a girl. I could either spend hours searching for the right book or minutes writing something of my own. Writing is easy—unlike playing music, construction, or most other things, it doesn’t require special skills. If you can talk, you can write. If you can think, you can write. If you can hold a conversation, you can write. If you ever speak to yourself, you probably should write. If music were writing, you’d only have to hum to compose a song. History’s “great writers” are just diligent thinkers, while those who claim that they can’t write are merely refusing to encode their sentient processes. Illiteracy or a language barrier is one thing, but, barring those, anyone could write something of import. Poke around Amazon or Blogger or the Onion, and it’s clear that writing only demands an expandable idea and a little free time. It’s just like masturbation, except without an orgasm. So it’s not like masturbation at all—but it is like sleeping with a girl.

Stay Slow, Reading
DJ Dawes Green

Friday, October 19, 2007

Terrorist Psychology, or, Fundamentalist H-O-R-S-E

Do terrorists have social anxiety? Phobias? Besides for the prospect of eternal damnation, do you suppose terrorists fear anything us laymen do? I, for one, am terrified of heights, humongous empty rooms with high ceilings, and Philadelphia. But someone seemingly unafraid of death—and of imposing his or her own death, moreover—couldn’t possibly fear spiders or public speaking, right?

Think terrorists have blogs? Does Osama bin Laden unwind by jotting down his musings on Wahabi Islam and Dispensationalist Christianity?

The underlying question here is, do terrorists have lives? Not just phobias and blogs, but do they have hobbies, artistic interests, secret handshakes, H-O-R-S-E contests, the mundane, recreational things that, here in the West, we associate with a well-crafted lifestyle? The answer is probably “yes,” that terrorists do, indeed, have lives outside of their suicidal, apocalyptic designs. But how could someone who’s come to peace with killing him/herself in the name of heaven possibly engage in anything else? It seems incongruous, as though the commitment to take lives—including one’s own, in some cases—subsumes and negates everything else.

The notion that the 9/11 hijackers made sure to squeeze in one last game of backgammon is one of the more intriguing existential concepts I could ever imagine. While the image itself is laughable, and completely irrelevant in a pragmatic way, it is nonetheless an abstract powder keg. Think about it this way: if Atta and co. did not stop for one last board game hurrah, it only proves further that these murderers were less than human, that there wasn’t even that spark of normalcy that we all possess. And, if they did throw together a round-robin tournament late on the night of September 10th, it only proves further that these murderers were less than human, that there wasn’t even that spark of normalcy that we all possess. Philosophically, they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t—if they played backgammon, they’re heinous, unfeeling killers, and if they simply said their prayers and turned in early, they’re hyper-murderous automatons.

We try very hard to dehumanize terrorists. The media usually depicts them with a wrap around their faces, purposely concealing their countenances. We refer to groups of them as “cells,” instead of the words we use for groups in our culture, like “teams,” “squads,” or even “forces.” I’ll be the first to admit that there is a quantitative difference between a band of terrorists and the San Francisco 49ers, the former being sanguinary death-dealers and the latter a professional football team. There is certainly a difference between what terrorists do when they convene and what a true “team” does on the field. Even a legitimate military, unscrupulously bloodthirsty though it may be, is quite distinct from rogue terrorists. Even so, it’s still curious that, even in our parlance, we dehumanize terrorists, while our media literally hides their faces.

Obviously, they don’t deserve any better. Terrorists are below shit, whether we can see their faces or not. But if one played guitar or collected stamps, it would say a lot about his/her psychology. At best, it could be a counter-terrorism tool. I’m no terrorist, but someone who wants something from me is infinitely more likely to get it if he/she (usually she) knows how my brain works. The same approach could apply to the jihadists, and perhaps stymie something terrible.

And if that doesn’t work, we can always read Osama’s blog.

Stay Scary, Big Rooms with High Ceilings
DJ Dread

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

(Airport) Terminal 5

If you've ever been curious about what 40,000 square feet of noise, skinny jeans, and iridescent blue bathrooms looks like, wonder no longer: Terminal 5 is your cavernous answer. This past Thursday, October 11, the newest venue from the Bowery Presents (papas already to the Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, the Mercury Lounge, and the brand-new Music Hall of Williamsburg) opened on the West side lot that used to host Club Exit. Remnants of the space's previous tenant are scarce, totaling just a still-half-pink stairwell and--presumably--some of the same young clientèle that used to shake its collective, gainfully employed booty on Friday and Saturday nights at what was one of the largest clubs in Manhattan.

Terminal 5's official capacity is 3,000 people, but the edifice is spacious enough to accommodate closer to 5,000. Its layout is unnerving at first, with so many stairwells and alcoves and doorways that, for the first time in my life, I was intimidated and mildly insulted by a building. The personal affront stemmed from the conviction that Terminal 5 purposely aimed to bewilder and confound, and on opening night it took until The National galloped into the three-beat shuffle of "Fake Empire" for me to find my happy place: a bank of couches, set up at right angles and supplemented by ottomans, in the far recesses of the second balcony. Like I said, Terminal 5 is huge (fucking huge, even), and the couches are the best example of its expanse. Even on the venue's inaugural night, with a sell-out crowd exploring every inch and alveolus of a just-opened space, we were the only people sitting on the couches. There was no one within even 20 feet of us, and the bar to our left was our own personal watering hole. We've all been to so many crowded, germy clubs that it was a revelation to feel at peace both with my immediate radius and the bottom of my shoes. No gum, no sickly spit, no unidentified liquid, and no adhesive fliers advertising a band's MySpace page.

There is a downside to all this luxury: Terminal 5 is expensive as hell. Tickets for most shows hover around 30-35 dollars, and, as is the case at any self-respecting purveyor of spirits in Manhattan, beers cost about $7.50 and mixed drinks cost even more. Furthermore, while being situated between 11th and 12th Avenues is optimal for housing an enormous building, you have to venture eastward for a few long blocks to reach any subway. Late at night, the walk is a pain in the ass for guys and a safety concern for hotties, not to mention how burdensome the schlep might be in a month or two with snow on the ground and wind gusts coming off the Hudson.

Still, we finally have a comfortable place to see a concert in New York. Admittedly, even my favorite venue (the Bowery Ballroom) has sightline issues and sticky floors. My least-favorite place to see a concert (the Lion's Den) is too loud and too hot, and it's impossible to see the stage from the back half of the room. Terminal 5 is (probably) too big, (definitely) hard to navigate, and on most nights stands to resemble a Spin Magazine Subscriber convention. But you can see the stage, the sound is perfect, there's tons of booze, and the couches might as well be emblazoned with the advertisement, "Make out here without seeming creepy."

The only place half that potentially libidinous is the Delancey, a much smaller club all the way downtown. With a tropical-themed roof and a pleasingly dank, dark cellar sandwiching a respectable bar in between, there are three genres of getting-it-on at your disposal: exotic, grungy, and traditional. In much the same way, Terminal 5 offers a cross-section of feelings, from its industrial warehouse frame to its Yuppie crowd to its homey furniture. So what if it's a long stroll from the train? At least you won't feel like you're packed on the subway the entire time you're there.

Stay Spacious, Terminal 5
DJ Disoriented