Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Ripping on Religious Compromise

The sun is finally upon us!! If you live anywhere in the New York metro area, you're probably dusting off your flip-flops and realzing that half of last summer's t-shirts don't fit you anymore. Not to worry--Target runs perpetual sales, and they sell bona-fide Hendrix and Zeppelin shirts for cheap. Now, I'm no meteorologist, but I want to get together a pool for the exact date that everybody will start complaining about the heat/humidity. My guess is May 5, which I'm choosing for no other reason than that it's far enough away to sound reasonable even if I lose. If I chose a day in April and it turns out to be balmy, I'll have my roommates laughing at me for days about how I'm a stupid idiot who can't pick stupid days for the idiot weather to get hot. They'll call me a freak, and they'll tell me to go hang-gliding. But I love them. So there.

The NCAA tourney has not turned out as it was supposed to. My Facebook pool was submarined by Texas, which lost in the second round because of bad coaching, non-existent passing, and a game plan that curiously and inexplicably bypassed Kevin Durant. That may not sound too terrible, but that would be like the 1993 Chicago Bulls playing in the NBA finals and never once running a play for Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen. That's how important Durant is for Texas--or, how important he was, since he's going to bolt to the NBA for better coaching and zillions of dollars in contracts and endorsements.

All this talk of money, though, recalls an interesting conversation I had with Avi Shimon Christopherson, who at the time was driving on the Nassau Expressway towards Queens, and regaling this shotgun passenger with his worldview: in essence, he said, the world's populace mainly busies itself with acquiring those things it deems important--money, prestige, status, possessions, property, etc. He, on the other hand, accrued that which made him "truly wealthy," in his words: good deeds, precepts, afterlife points, all the things that go into building a spiritual, somewhat ascetic existence. At the time, I told him to pull over so I could buy some more beer. Besides, I'd heard nothing but those exact words from him for months and months in Tsfat, so I didn't take the time to invest in the repetition.

The thing is, he's either completely right or he's completely wrong. Either way, it's admirable that he's chosen to live on the extreme he finds to be true. Let me explain--Judaism offers a certain conception of the world, one which posits a God and a Bible and a certain purpose and objective for humanity. Now, you either believe that or you don't. Many, many people are somewhere in between, but the ideological decision ultimately boils down to whether or not you accept this stance.

This is a society in which people are free to actualize their desires and let their beliefs steer their behaviors (and we'll assume, for the purposes of this conversation, that this is the world we're living in. At least I am. If you're not, get the hell in right now before your mother tells you to put out that joint and get a job, you're 35 goddammit, all you do is sit at home on that couch watching Court TV and cartoons, I can't believe you, I can't believe you turned out this way, why won't my son ever be like my daughter? Jill is a lawyer and has kids, and you're a bum on my couch! A BUM ON MY COUCH!!! Shut up mom, you don't know anything about me. No, you shut up, son, I can't believe you. Well, fuck you mom. Well, fuck you too).

So--and this is the essential Jewish question--if you believe in the "God construct," we'll say, then there's really no reason to bother with achieveing wealth and prestige, since you know that all that matters, lasts, lives, and has effect has nothing to do with cars and houses. It has everything to do with studying the Bible and the holy books, living a Jewish lifestyle, and devoting oneself to gathering afterlife points and a healthy celestial standing.
The converse is just as defined. If one does not accept the "God construct," and does not believe that this world exists purely for the revelation of God's presence and influence, and does not put any weight into performing the corresponding tasks and affecting the appropriately observant lifestyle choices, then there is no reason at all to be mildly religious. That mindset necesssitates, in a very profound sense, a secular lifestyle.

And that is why Avi Shimon Christopherson has the right idea, as far as I can tell. "Modern" Judaism, in all its subgenres--Orthodoxy, Conservadoxy, Conservitavism, Reformism, and Reconstructionism--contains the tacit admission that you're not completely sure about how this world works. Or, if you are, then you're not willing, for whatever reason, to pack in the 9-5, the two cars, and the summers in the Hamptons (or, in some cases, the mistress, the second family, the bank account no one knows about, and the sanitation business). Living a dualistic lifestyle is undeniably not ideal, and though it may serve very functionally, and it provides a comfortable compromise of relgious and secular values, it is just that: a compromise. If it was gambling, it would be placing a small or moderate bet, as oppposed to going all in. You risk less, but you stand to gain less as well.

Stay moderate, modernity,
DJ Devoted

Sunday, March 25, 2007

So that the Subways Could be That Much Louder

Well Shalo-o-om. Got that from this terribly banal episode of American Dad, the latest in the ill-fated post-Simpsons-slot string that's been deadening humor receptors since "The Critic" went off the air.
Just one thought for today; a question, really: why hasn't anybody figured out how to get phone reception in underground subways? The financial windfall would be astronomical, and phones are entirely commonplace these days, such that there would hardly be a single soul who wouldn't benefit. Yes, etiquette and serenity would wither, but phone conversations wouldn't be any more pestilential than sickly music or soapbox preaching--both of which could be circumnavigated by a real or staged phone call.
So let's get the boys from Deutsch Telecom to wire the subway tunnels, and staying in touch will be that much easier. And obnoxious.

Stay cellular, San Diego
MC Motorola

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

iTube Hall of Fame

We must begin with a shout-out to MC Tiarific, who tied the knot Monday night with MC Bad Boy Baumel, and let us all in on the eternal image of Yossi Piamenta smoking cigarettes while he plays guitar. May their marriage be as easy as the urban studies final just administered to me in the dilapidated Rathaus building, where even the most timely conceptions of poverty and affluence are harnessed back to mundanity by broken light switches and cracked tile floors.
One more thought before the blog begins: is there anything more pointless, more inherently idiotic, than flirting with a tech support girl after your problem has been fixed? I'm an idiot.

Not all bassists, however, are idiots. But even the bad ones (me, the guy from Built to Spill, and the guy from Future Rock) are coherent enough to recognize a great YouTube clip. The other night, when I was supposed to be composing an essay on deviance (metaphor alert), I was instead perusing the YouTube bass anals (how bout we turn off that metaphor alert??). Here I offer the best my travels have to offer, preceded by a disclaimer (thank you, Zach, for reminding me that people would need this disclaimer. And hey--did you see how I posited in the last paragaph by assigning agency to broken light switches and cracked tile floors? That was for you; the fun-loving conjugation will probably follow somewhere below).


I realize that not everybody is a bassist, and that not everybody-gasp!-would normally spend close 4 hours absorbing each singular note of a particular YouTube bass video. But this iTube (iTube=my YouTube) pantheon I've assembled is guaranteed to enterain you to some significant extent, principally because each clip will either a) blow your mind b) consist of a song or piece with which you're already familiar, or c) both of the above.
So, without further ado, and certainly without further adon't, here is the iTube bass hall of fame, in ascending virtuosic order.

1. French-Canadian shaggy-haired phenom Marco Rodi playing The Police's "Every Breath You Take" with some creative looper use. I checked out marcorodi.com for more information, and it seems he's an improvisation- and practice-obsessed 21-year-old who'd rather employ poor English grammar than virtually anything else. Note that he wrties on YouTube that he messed up the second chord (you'll hear it, it sound very off); kudos to anybody who points out their own missteps.

2. I've never heard of Matt Dowd, but this clip has him playing like Marcus Miller’s long-lost brother. Pay special attention to his facial expressions, which, compared to Rodi, make Dowd seem like he has the entire Bach library up his ass.

3. Stu Hamm will always hold a place in my heart for covering the "Peanuts" theme song. Here we have him playing some of the most gorgeous chordal bass work I've ever heard, followed something classical that we all know. Then he snorts an aderol and goes bluegrass crazy. Extra points for whipping out a bluegrass solo at a Joe Satriani gig.

4. This next clip is exemplary of everything Marcus Miller is--a genius, a masterful bandleader, and a funky soul brother. He is constantly in a state of breaking it down, getting down, being down, and having gotten down just a moment ago. You always get two bonuses from Marcus: first, he is never without a fedora-type hat. Second, every time I've seen him, his body/facial language puts him somewhere between falling asleep and thoroughly enjoying himself. He’s like a savant who had too many beers and can’t decide whether he wants to party or pass out. As an added bonus, this definitive version of "Frankenstein" will rock your world because the guy who plays the best organ solo EVER looks like a girl. I actually wasn't sure what he was until the camera took a close-up.

5. You know who's a dumbass? Anyone who thought I'd compile this list without including something(s) from Victor Wooten. The reason I put his clips last is that viewing them first will thoroughly ruin anything you watch thereafter. I made that mistake a couple of nights ago, so I'm saving you from the same fate. The first clip is him dueling with Vital Information drummer Steve Smith (who I'm seeing tomorrow night, by the way. I'm loading up on tissues). The second is a little grainy, but it's still the best representation of his transcendence that I've found on YouTube. Just remember that he's infinitely better in person than he is on video. This clip exhibits his erection-inducing chops as well as an abbreviated version of the famous "Amazing Grace" cover that's inspired bassists everywhere to quit playing bass.
Pee Your Pants Steve Smith clip: http://youtube.com/watch?v=9yly0RKfVMs
Pee Your Pants Again/Amazing Grace: http://youtube.com/watch?v=LHTA8VZGoMs&mode=related&search=

That's it for now. Please excuse me while I take needle after needle of distilled heroin to try to get "Every Breath You Take" out of my head.

Stay groovy, Victor
DJ Double Bass

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Moe, Madness, Meters

I don't know how anyone can't be excited around this time of year. Not only did Daft Punk announced its first U.S. tour in more than 9 years (including a stop in Coney Island on August 9th--get your tickets now), not only is Moe. releasing the news that it will play a 3-night run to inaugurate the newly-constructed Highline Ballroom (scalp your tickets then, you'll get them for less than face), not only is President Bush rapidly approaching unemployment, but two titanically huge, monumental things are at hand:

1. March Madness!! For the uninitiated, this is the time to pretend you've been following college basketball all year long, and to immerse yourself in the the most rightfully-lauded one-and-done tournament that doesn't have to do with bullets or venereal diseases. Ohio State and Kansas look awfully good, but there is a player on Texas named Kevin Durant who looks like a rich man's version of Michael Jordan. We'll see, and we're still waiting for the first 16-1 upset--we're looking to you, Central Connecticut State of the Northeast Conference.

2. The sun is finally here, and in substantiality. Just when I thought the cold would never subside, and just as I resigned myself to 3 more months of space-heater hell, the cosmic weather forces decided to forgive us for global warming, at least in the interim, and bestow upon us some mild conditions. I spent the whole of yesterday strolling around Central Park with Rivas in a polo shirt and sunglasses, and i can definitively say that tourists from Virginia Commonwealth University are super ridiculously hot. Woohoo, VCU!!

Of course, the weather brings with it those agonizing self-control issues whose absense constitutes the sole bad weather benefit. Sitting in class is difficult when the sun is shining through the windows, and it's impossible to listen to any reggae music without booking to the beach. Frequenting Radiohead will become more difficult, as outdoor conditions will no longer be symmetrically morose. Ditto for Muddy Waters, Marvin Gaye, post-modern classical concept music, early Floyd, late Metallica, Bach fugues, progressive rock (that means you, Dream Theater), and heavy, heavy jazz. Back in vogue, in no particular order, are Blues Traveler, P-Funk, Notorious, Herbie Hancock, Jack Johnson, Sublime, 311, and the Meters. While we're on the Meters, I'm going to take a second to add "It Ain't No Use" to the funk hall of fame, along with the Doobies' "Long Train Runnin,'" Funkadelic's "Groovalegiance," Grant Green's "Ain't it Funky Now" (yes it is), and the unexpurgated James Brown catalogue. As for "It Ain't No Use," the pick-up on the main theme's last half-beat is the precise reason why white Jews from New Jersey will never be funk all-stars--except for me, of course. Kudos as well to the badass b-section, and to people who sell fireworks.

Stay selective, NCAA tournament committee,
MC Madness/DJ (Big) Dance

Monday, March 12, 2007

This TV Will Not--NOT--Ruin My Life

First, a few housekeeping notes. Most importantly, I figured out how to arrange the settings so that anyone can leave comments, not just blogger.com members. It seems the reason that one previously had to be a member was because there was an arcane check-box selected that read, "Only members can leave comments." Once again, my own ignorance prevailed. Also, thanks to a suggestion from Rebecca, I made the posting text bigger, so that not only did I render the text more intelligible, but I serendipitously made everything look about twice as long as it actually is.

Now that I'm settled in, here's the long-awaited update on the TV: for those who aren't aware (being unaware entails never having been to my place in 2007 and that you're not my snooping, speciously normal landlord), in mid-January my roommates and I introduced a foreign televisual element to our indigenously primitive cove, a larger-than-reason 50" HDTV. My intistinctive reaction was to rejoice in its pornorgraphic potential, as well as to watch hours and hours of high-definition sports just staring at jersey colors and waterlogged faces. Now that those viewings have given way to "Living with the Kombai Tribe" documentaries and, unfortunately, little-to-no porn, I can officially proclaim that I've seen "Jarhead" 52 times, I avoided getting entirely vacuumed into the screen's glowing abyss, and that I've cried at least 5 times watching MSGHD tributes to Mark Messier, Adam Graves, Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, and Wayne Gretzky. Consequently, the conclusion to which I must come is that nothing, not even a funeral or a war, is as poignant as a number retirement ceremony at Madison Square Garden.

Aside from the TV, things are a little slower now that it's negative a trillion degrees outside. Which, speaking of vacuum, has created a social-intellectual void that can only be filled by metaphysics and directionless ontological speculation. Take this gem of a presupposition from my professor: "Having established the inifinite divisibility of being..." Well, that's a rather large thing to establish. That's like saying, "Having established that we will kill every man, woman, and child, who wants lunch?" It's amazing that normal human beings lecturing in sparsely-attended, hardly-attentive settings can make such wild and impossibly huge claims, and then take sabbatical years to check out lunar eclipses in the Turkish countryside. Is it just me, or are we all on the wrong career paths?

And, speaking of the wrong career paths, somebody we all implicity trust should be publicly elected to run the New Jersey Nets. Like Bill Simmons (my favorite writer) always says, every professional sports franchise should have a Vice President of Common Sense, whose sole task is to sit in a lounge chair and perfunctorily tell the real General Manager whether or not a proposed move makes sense. For instance, when Joe Dumars picked Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in the 2003 draft, there should have been a Detroit Pistons VP of Common Sense to say, "Hey, why don't we hold off on taking this dubious teenager over three sure-fire stars."
Couldn't the Nets have used just that type of perspicacity this year? They're going nowhere, and virtually assured to lose Vince Carter to free agency after the season, yet insisted on keeping him around to play out the string instead of trading him to a contender for draft picks and salary cap space. The Nets also refrained from trading Jason Kidd, who needs just a few more months to elapse to achieve the vaunted, "Too old to play significant mintues, too injured to trade, and a huge blight on our salary structure" status. Still, the Nets didn't trade him, either. Am I missing something, or can we all agree that the Nets need a VP of Common Sense?

And finally, just like you'll see on ESPN.com, here are a few things I think I think:

1. Every house could use a Bunsen burner. Think of the practical applications: cooking shit, melting shit, killing shit, setting shit on fire, scalding shit, boiling shit, sterilizing shit, brightening up rooms (and shit).
2. The American Idol girls are way, way better than they guys. I haven't read any blogs or Op-eds about this, so this might redundantly rehash what's been said a million times over, but there are at least 3 girls who are hands-down way better than the best guy. If we're lucky, season 5 won't play out along egalitarian lines, and we'll get to see the best girls cat-fight to the finish.
3. We might be looking at one of the most amazing stretches of feature films in a long, long time. Starting with Borat in November, we've seen three very good movies (Reno 911! Miami, 300, and Zodiac), one pretty good ensemble effort (Smokin' Aces), and if the promos are any indication, the new WIl Ferrell-Jon Heder figure-skating comedy, "Blades of Glory," could move into the Ferrell top 3 (alongside "Anchorman" and "Old School," supplanting his limited role in "Wedding Crashers"). Every movie buff should be excited, especially since it's been a long time since Tom Hanks and Samuel L. Jackson were respectively churning out blockbusters every 60 days.
4. I am the only person who didn't see The OC finale and still doesn't know how it ended.
5. I am the only person who's never seen The OC, and couldn't pick out the main characters from a lineup of homeless people and incestuous rapists.
6. Call me apocalyptic, but I have the nagging feeling that winter will never end.
7. Call me unpatriotic (or even un-Jewish), but there's no way Saddam Hessein's execution should be on YouTube. I hate(d) him as much as the next guy, but there's something fundamentally inhuman about broadcasting death over the internet. It's the same principle that guides the media blackout on domestic execution (like Timothy McVeigh, etc), and should be honored internationally. Besides, if we want to see Iraqis die we can just watch the news. And there is the requesite attack on Bush.
8. Speaking of our president, Bush is absolutely living it up. He's on vacation more than half the time, he's a lame duck who never has to worry about working again--so he can virtually disregard his public condemnation--and his staff handles all his tough decisions, so in internal discourse he can pass the buck for the "botched war" public/media milieu.
9. Wait a second...does President Bush run the New Jersey Nets?

Stay sharp, GM Bush
DJ Discerning

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Gambling and the Guy who Almost Ate the Casino

It's been a very didactic week around here, as I've learned a lot about the gambling habits of very obese people named "Crunch" who go all in three hands in a row at 4:30 in the morning at the $5 blackjack tables in Atlantic City. I've been on two separate gambling trips in the last few days, and besides for the inherent lessons that have to do with learning how to gradually turn down free booze and how to maintain a chip stack, there are a few tangential morals at the end of this fable. The most important thing I learned is that cocktail waitresses talk. Telling each of them you're in love with her will eventually get you in trouble, or will at least get a drink spilled on your lap.
Secondly, watching Crunch hit on our dealer was like zoning out in front of a Discovery Channel mating special on lower-level species. Here is an actual exchange between the two (the opening line, obviously, is from Crunch, who was smiling so widely that I could have fit in his face folds):

"Hey girl, where you like to shop?"
"You know, I like to shop some places." [Dealing cards, looking away in obviously fake disinterest]
"Hey girl, where you like to shop?" [Smile growing at a facially alarming rate]
"You know, Neiman Marcus or wherever." [Now she's making eye contact. Crunch knows he has it in the bag]
"Girl, Neiman Marcus? Girl, where you like to eat?" [He's slapping his rotund thigh]
"You know, Popeye's or whatever."
[They both look at each other, as if to tacitly agree that they're interested in each other]

The Cheetah then pounces on the Antelope, and the eons-old food chain is propogated once again, proving, in no uncertain terms, that when Crunch has a hunch, Crunch eats lunch. And yes, I thought of that myself.

There are infinite reasons, furthermore, to gamble in Connecticut instead of New Jersey, the least of which being that every state in the union, even the fake ones, are better than Jersey. The primary difference I saw, though, was that the dealers in Connecticut were much friendlier than the ones in Atlantic City. Intriguingly, the dealers in Jersey smile when you lose, as if the house pays them extra to make the players miserable. Not to mention that the Mohegan Sun tribal effect is everywhere in Connecticut, from the external construct to the live music to the more subdued alcohol culture to the subtle, yet perceivable theme of, "Yeah, you guys might have fucked us, taken our land, given us smallpox, and killed us wholsale, but now we're taking every cent from you obese, unwitting douchebags." There was a plasma television screen at the main entrance that said, "Today's Slot Jackpot Payouts: $12,567,302." Which makes you wonder how much, exactly, they took in that day, and how many people are massaged into thinking that they're bound to add to that total. All of that conniving brilliance makes Connecticut a safe choice over ambience-less Atlantic City, where the slums outnumber the casinos which outnumber the rational people which outnumber the times that Crunch has taken a lap around the track in the last two decades.

The point here, clearly, is that I'm up $35 after two nights and a combined 10 hours of gambling, so I can't complain. Factor in all the free drinks and a comped room, and you might even say that I'm rich. If you were a dumbass.

Stay corpulent, Crunch
DJ Double Down

Monday, March 5, 2007

A Very Porous Purim

Three Purims ago, Tsfat turned into a Chassidic freak show for exactly one night and one day. Hundreds of drunk-to-hallucinating people surfaced on the streets at 9 in the morning for the most inebriated parade in the entire world: picture Mardi Gras, spring break, the Village Halloween parade, and a NASA space shuttle launch all in one (minus the nudity, of course). It's remarkable to see a hilltop village full of ascetic scholars come to raucous life for 24 hours and then entirely shut down as soon as that window is over, back to the spiritual bastion it normally is.
Three years and three Purims later, the ethereal shit-show holiday is still very much a reality. My foot still aches when the weather turns, owing to a jump off a 10-foot on that fateful Tsfat Purim (thanks a lot, guy who told me to jump; you know who you are). But it’s not just memories that sustain us: one way or another, all the far-flung Tsfat alumni find a way to coalesce around a pool of alcohol every Purim and reenact the debauchery that made the whole year a confusingly dualistic war between hedonism and holiness.
I just returned from the Far Rockaway Chill household, where the sweat I absorbed through osmosis is equaled only by the Black Widow Spider's success in embalming its prey in an adhesive death web. Sorry, I'm watching the Discovery Channel. Anyhow, the hours I lived at the center of a haphazard dancing circle reengaged me in a world that does not make sense, and supplanted my scientific rationality with heretofore discarded notions of spirit, excess, wonder, and poor judgment. Then this morning came, and just like in Tsfat three years ago, the only vestige of that paradigm explosion is an achy foot and a faint hangover, the likes of which I haven’t felt since yesterday, when I woke up at 2:30 on Purim afternoon fully clothed and fractionally dehydrated.

Stay bothersome, refracted rays of light trespassing in urban studies 101,
MC Megillah