Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Year in Review - Concerts

I saw over 50 shows again this year, and by and large it was a good crop. I still saw way less shows than Val or Malitz but I saw no slouch. There were a lot of bands that I've seen before but a lot of new acts and unexpected things. I saw more classical that I had before and I ventured out to DC9 and Birchmere and the Black & Red and some other venues that I don't get out to enough. So without further ado, here's my top 20 from 1 down to 20:

Les Savy Fav @ Black Cat - By the end of the first song, Tim Harrington had removed my earplugs with his mouth, by song two he had rubbed his crotch in my face, and midway through he was wearing the glasses of everyone in the front row. There was also the stretch of the show where Tim wore Abe's shirt over his pants. But all that would be nothing if not for the songs, which sounds as amazing as ever, even without my earplugs.
Sons And Daughters + A Place to Bury Strangers @ RnR Hotel - Emphasis on Place to Bury Strangers who were very loud and very very good. The album is solid, but live they are downright hypnotic, they make the best noise.
Centro-Matic & South San Gabriel @ RnR Hotel - An absolutely great rock show. I went on a whim and was blown away by the tunes from a band who I'd always enjoyed but never fully appreciated.
Radiohead & Liars @ Nissan - My first and last journey to Nissan. The weather sucked, the drive sucked, the venue sucked. But Liars were amazing and Radiohead were pretty darn good too. Shame about them playing the whole damn new album, but that's how it goes.
Indian Jewelry @ Black & Red - Similarly to Place to Bury Strangers, these guys were utterly hypnotic and made an amazing racket.
Okkervil & The New Pornographers @ 930 Club - I want to see more double-bills like this in the future. Even without Neko, the New P's were fantastic and Okkervil were wonderful as always.
Monotonix/Dark Meat @ Talking Head - I was sick that day and almost didn't make the trek up to Baltimore and I'm glad I did. This was my favorite of my three times seeing Monotonix, there's something about the Talking Head's "aesthetic" that is perfect for their music.
Virgin Fest - Nine Inch Nails put on a career defining set. The Stooges were insane. Fat drunk dudes yelled mean things at She and Him. Chromeo killed it in the dance tent. And STP were kinda underwhelming. This is probably my last festival, at least for a long while, but a great way to go out.
Boris @ Black Cat - There were three choices the evening of this show and I am certain I picked the right one. They were heavy in every possible way - from slow to fast, from loud to louder.
Cut Copy @ 930 Club - This was a victory lap sort of show and utterly deserved. I do not like the Presets and the show didn't change that, but man, Cut Copy have the tunes and the energy.
Booker T & the MGs @ 930 Club - Woefully underattended, but the old dudes all still have it. It was impossible not to have a smile on your face listening to "Time is Tight" or "Green Onion."
Lykke Li @ Black Cat - I hope she keeps cranking out great albums because just on the strength of one album she is an almost insanely driven live performer.
Elbow @ Sixth and I Synagogue - Everything seemed to come together for Elbow this year, and they played to their strengths at this show. Nice to see them make it back to the states finally.
Battles @ 930 Club - This was another show I considered skipping, but Battles are certainly one of the best live bands on the planet right now.
Stars of the Lid & Hammock @ Iota - This was their only club show on the tour, and a strange club choice at that, but it worked wonderfully. Hammock's music was also stunningly lovely. I hope Iota does more ambient shows like this.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings@ Black Cat - Boy can they play. In a perfect world the Dap Kings would be running the world. Everything about the show was on point - the pacing, the songs, and the sound.
Laptop Orchestra @ Kennedy Center - This sounded much as you would expect. The glitchy sounds plus minimalist video installation. And it was one of the most challenging shows that Kennedy Center could put on, this was a slow building, but utterly elegant when everything came together. It's tough to describe how great this show was, but it really was wonderful.
These New Puritans @ DC9 - Seth, Rohan and I might have been the only ones rocking out, but damn are these kids good.
Mogwai & Fuck Buttons @ 930 Club - Mogwai are such a monster live I think people forget how good they are. I admit I did, but I'm glad I came out for this one. Also I am very much looking forward to what Fuck Buttons do next.
Squeeze @ 930 Club - This was how to do a crowd pleasing show. All the hits, a few nice surprises, and everything still sounded great.

New Years Resolutions

Everyday at work we have a question of the day.
Today's question asked for viewers to send in their New Years Resolutions.

One viewer, who I'll call by his initials S.K., was very honest with us:

"I am going to finally end my rotten marriage and tell the woman of my dreams just how I feel. I will also get completely out of debt."

Cheers to that, S.K., and good luck to you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another Thing That Should Go Away With This Recession

Apparently people still pay hundreds of dollars on December 31st so that they can get drunk enough to forget what they did on New Years. Do people realize how much normal drinking that could be during the rest of the year? Or they could get a vacation, or give it to charity, or hey how about saving it. Perhaps 2009 will be the year that folks remember that saving is actually how people traditionally accumulate money.

Monday, December 29, 2008

I Wish It Was On YouTube #1

I figure I'd start another little irregular features I'd like to call "I Wish It Was On YouTube." There is a lovely story today on the BBC about a player getting ejected from a game after 3 seconds for a nasty tackle ( This is a new soccer record, and I would imagine a record in all sports. I can't possibly fathom another occasion where a player could be or has gotten booted in the very first play of the game. Even if a pitcher threw at a guy's head, he'd probably get the benefit of the doubt until he hit another guy.

So . . . I wish this was on YouTube, but I imagine since it's such a low level it may never show up. Also, notice the strikers name.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

More SNES Reminiscin'

As much fun as it is reminiscing about Super Nintendo, (and it is,) its actually still a lot of fun to play SNES, which I was doing this weekend. Super Mario World and F-Zero, two of the first games for the system, are still as much fun as they were long long ago. Sure, it'd be nice if F-Zero was two player, and, ... well I really have no quibbles with Super Mario World, it's damn near perfect. I remember playing F-Zero as a kid, and playing it again as I was preparing for my drivers license and I still play it from time to time. Nintendo has never lost this focus, and I'm glad that they have rode out the Gamecube era to their new golden age. A lesser company would have bitten the dust as Microsoft and Sony continued, and still continue, their dick measuring contest, but Nintendo held on and have made something as inovative and fun with the Wii as SNES seemed back in the day.

Ninendo is like Pixar at this point. Sure their focus is on kids, but the product is so good that most of what they make is universally enjoyable. And to whoever worked on that first batch of Super Nintendo games - thank you, the games are still a lot of fun today.

Also a totally random tangent that won't mean much by the time you read this, but with the insanely strong wind in upstate New York right now, the goal posts in Buffalo game right now are leaning greatly to one side. There's wind and then there's WIND. Watching the Bills' kicker send the ball one direction and have it knuckle wide short of the goal post in the other direction, now that's entertainment.

Friday, December 26, 2008

"The Spirit" - Any Relation to Will Eisner's Work Purely Coincidental

Hours ago, I walked out of the movie theater, as is tradition on Christmas. I had just seen The Spirit with my good friend and fellow Gentleman, Jason Schalfstein. The events which followed bore recording for posterity.

While in the theater, I saw a film that was low on writing but high on charm. It was over-the-top, cliched, and at times ridiculous, but it was all these things obviously very deliberately. The ironic manner in which the subject was approached allowed me to enter the world of the movie with a very relaxed attitude. I thought Samuel L. Jackson was great. I thought Eva Mendez was stunning. I thought that guy who played the Spirit was dramatic when he needed to be, but also at times clever, charming, and likable. The guy who was the dad on The Wonder Years also is in it, and swears a lot.

All in all, I had a very enjoyable time. However, as I casually glanced over at Jason, it became clear that our experiences were very different. Very different indeed. I was watching Frank Miller wryly twist the worlds of Sin City, Batman, and The Spirit together. Jason was writhing in his seat, wringing his hands, and at times openly cringing at the screen. Jason was not watching what I was watching.

Jason was watching murder porn.

As Miller's snuff film drew to its conclusion and the Heat emerged, dazed, from witnessing the rape and murder of one of his most beloved comic heroes, a conversation was sparked. I will now provide a transcript of that conversation, as I remember it.

Jason: *broken, bitter weeping*

David: I liked the part with the cat.


David: So I take it this wasn't an accurate representation of the Spirit.

Jason: The Spirit is not Wolverine! The Spirit is not Batman! The Spirit is clever and subtle and emotional! That wasn't the Spirit! Why did you make this The Spirit, Frank Miller?! Why did you do it?

(Jason is at this point screaming and crying, and I am beginning to sense something is amiss)

David: I thought the movie had a lot of great moments . . .

Jason: Iron Man! Great film! I can accept some things changing! Octopus is part of Spirit's origin? FINE! The Spirit doesn't have super powers! That's what MAKES HIM THE SPIRIT! "What am I?" NO! FUCK YOU! The Spirit doesn't talk like that! I expected him at any moment to say "I'm the goddamn Spirit!" You have DESTROYED this character, Frank Miller! What did you turn the Spirit into, Frank Miller?! What did you do?! WHAT DID YOU DO?

David: So the take was not to your liking.


(Before I could stop him, Jason had sprinted the distance between the two of us and an unassuming old man in the theater, and began screaming in his face)


Old Man: I'm so unassuming!


(Unsatisfied, Jason began punching the old man repeatedly about the head and face as his grandchildren looked on in terror)

David: Jason! That's not Frank Miller! For the love of God, leave him alone!

Jason: *Pulling the old man's savagely beaten face up to see* It IS Frank Miller! Look at his face!

David: I can't! It's been beat off!

(Jason and I shared a brief laugh over the term "beat off." Jason then ripped the man's throat out with his teeth)



Jason: And now to get Brett Ratner!!

(Moments later, the two of us were in Jason's car, careening down the road at speeds well in excess of 88 miles per hour. After Jason realized he had no flux capacitor and would be unable to strangle Brett Ratner while still in his mother's womb, he began seeing him in pedestrians roaming the streets)

David: Why would I get in a car with you?!

Jason: *Mowing down innocent bystanders* Take that, Brett Ratner! Why did you kill Cyclops? Do you have any idea what a trilogy is!? You can introduce new characters, sure! Lando Kalrissian wasn't in the first movie! Jabba the Hutt! BLAgaragGARggarG! (I can't tell if Jason was impersonating Jabba the Hutt or choking on his own indignation) BOBA FETT! Great addition! BUT THE HEROES ARE LUKE, HAN, AND LEIA! YOU KILLED CYCLOPS OFF CAMERA! It was so murky that I sat through two hours of movie thinking he was going to come back and save the day! BUT HE'S DEAD! Did you hate Superman Returns that much, Brett Ratner? For some backstory to that comment, Brian Singer was originally supposed to direct, but was offered Superman, and said he was going to work on that if they could wait. Then they asked Matthew Vaughn, who directed Layer Cake - great movie - and after a few conversations, he walked away. So they brought in Brett Ratner - REALLY? BRETT RATNER? REALLY? And James Marsden took a part in Superman Returns, so as punishment, they killed his character in X-Men early in the film. Somehow ignoring that it MADE THE MOVIE TERRIBLE. You start with Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Jean, Professor X, and Rogue. ROGUE! SHE HAD LIKE SIX LINES! WHY IS COLOSSUS THERE? WHY IS ANGEL THERE? WHY IS KELSEY GRAMMAR WEARING A FURRY BLUE SUIT!?

David: I didn't see it.

Jason: *Turning to me, flecks of blood and spittle running down his teeth* Don't.

David: You got it.

(We then pulled into the Jewish Community Center I had left my car parked at earlier. Jason's car at this point is drenched in the blood of the innocent, reminiscent of a sharkbear attack)

Jason: Remember when everything Frank Miller did wasn't completely misogynistic?

David: . . . No.

Jason: Year One? Daredevil?

David: Oh.

Jason: Well, I had a good time tonight, buddy.

David: Me too.

(We parted ways, I to go home and write this blog post, Jason to go find Tim Story and beat him to death)

And thus ends the true story of how I saved Christmas.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Impossible Argument

I am an open minded person. I really mean that, I am. My friends will tell you that I always look at all sides of an issue, and that I refuse to judge people based on their political or social beliefs. Casting judgment on people for such things is trivial and wrong, and it's what's set our country back for the past eight years. That's the truth. But all that being said, there is one issue that I cannot see both ways on. And that is the issue of gay marriage.

Let me say this here, and now, and let me be absolutely clear about it. If you are against gay marriage, if you have made a part of your life to vote against gay rights and to voice the opinion that allowing a man to marry another man, or a woman another woman, is evil and anti-American, then you are 100% entirely wrong. Your argument has no truth to it, it is not based in reality, and you are stubborn, foolish, and wrong. There is just no two ways about it. It's black and white, really.

Why do people oppose gay marriage? Well, the most common reason is probably the bible. After all, as it says in the Leviticus 18:22, "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." Seems pretty cut and dry right? Don't screw another man. But the Bible is a book, and like any book, it's subject to the context of it's time period. So what's the context? Well, first of all, the world isn't so old, that is, there aren't as many people on it. So reproduction of the human race, for no other reason than human survival, is a serious concern. Therefore, since two men can't possibly reproduce, it's forbidden. Nowadays, expanding the population has ceased to be as much of an issue, because of, well, you know, insane overpopulation.

Ok, fine, so let's say that's not enough for you. "It's not meant to be looked at that way, the Bible is the written word of God, his truth on paper." Great. Well, in that case, let's not pick and choose, if we're going to take this verse literally, we've got to take them all literally, right? So, according to the Bible, a father can sell his daughter into slavery to cover a debt (EX 21:7-11), we can kill any man who refuses to impregnate his widowed sister-in-law (GE 38:8-10, again, population), and, sure, why not, if a person has sex with an animal, you must kill both the person, and the animal (LE 20:15-16). But hey, did you see what that sheep was wearing? She was asking for it! The point being that a ton of laws in this book are dated. They don't hold up today because the world has changed. Evolved, even.

Let's say that still isn't enough for you. "Sanctity of marriage," you say. "If we allow homosexuals to marry, we'll have to allow pedophiles, animals, where will it end?" First of all, what the hell is "sanctity of marriage?" Someone, explain that to me. Because Britney Spears can go to Vegas, get married, and then get divorced, all in 24 hours, but two gay men who are devoted to each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together are defiling the "sanctity of marriage." Straight couples break up all the time. It's called "divorce." And oh yeah, the Bible prohibits that one too (MK 10:2-12, LK 16:18). As for this business about "where will it end," I don't even know what that means. The civilized world is never going to let a grown man marry a five year old child, and when you can find a shark that wants to marry a bear, you let me know, and I'll go through Rabbinical school and wed them myself. I mean that.

The inevitable end of our nation.

Wait a minute, wait a minute. I haven't even thought of the children! Our nation's future is at stake here! If we've got openly married gays working in our schools, libraries, swimming pools, etc, it's going to rub off, isn't it? They'll turn the kids gay! What a steaming load of shit. There's not a shred of proof for this argument. Not a lick. A homosexual child can be born to two straight parents just as a straight child can be born to two homosexuals. It's as simple as that.

But at the end of the day, it's as simple as this-if you think you're fit to judge other people's lifestyles, and take away their basic rights as human beings, then buddy, when they come for your rights, you can't say a word. And we've been down that road already. Someday, our children will look back on this time and say, "I can't believe there was a time in human history that people were denying other people of the right to get married." At least, I sure as hell hope so.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Worst. Present. Ever.

Hello globe.

I haven't been sleeping much recently, which I mostly attribute to my ridiculous work schedule. I've recently been switched to the midnight-8am shift, and occasionally the 4am-noon shift, and my body just isn't cooperating. Today, on Christmas, I actually had a 9am-5pm day, a wonderful change of pace. Kind of fun hanging out with a newsroom of Jews actually. If ever there was a day to claim that Jews control the media, it's on Christmas, because that's the day we actually do. But hey, not our fault all the Christians took off today. Tomorrow though, it's back to the 4am-noon shift, and back to struggling with sleep.

If only the cure for lack of sleep were silver dollars. But alas, they probably are not, so my struggles continue. Yes yes, I'll explain.

This is the first time.. ever.. that I won't be home for Christmas/Hanukkah and all that. In fact, all three of my roommates left for home this week, so I'm home alone to myself. It's kind of strange, but I'm trying to enjoy it. Tuesday night I spent the evening sipping hot tea, eating cookies dunked in hot chocolate, eating home-made (but not too dry) falafel with hummus, and watching college basketball (Butler upset Xavier) and a movie (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). Last night on Christmas eve, I got drunk on sangria with my friend SamLaz at La Tasca in Chinatown and went to bed early. Christmas time is an interesting time of the year for a Jew.

For instance, this past weekend I went to an "ugly Christmas sweater party," and also passed up an invitation to go to another one. I actually kind of like the idea of these parties... they're silly but sweet and innocent. Like puppies. Like WALL-E. I realized very quickly though that Christians actually own these sweaters, actually receive them as a gift, and I'd have to hit up the Value Village in College Park to fulfill my ultimate dreams.

"Ha ha ha," I laughed to myself (that's me, laughing to myself out loud) and thought about how much that would suck to get an ugly-ass, totally unwearable, comically emasculating sweater on what could have been the happiest day of the year.

But then I thought about Hanukkah. And I stopped laughing.

Now, I'll warn you, the follow piece of information might sound cute at first, but really it's just as sad those Christmas sweaters.

Every year, for Hanukkah, my grandpa gives me, my brother, and my two cousins each a single silver dollar. And a card. I think he takes a great deal of pride in those silver dollars. In fact, I don't think he goes to the bank to get them every year. I think he's had them piled in the top drawer of his dresser for years. I'm serious. My two cousins are now in their thirties, and my brother and I are 19 and 22. That's a lot of silver dollars. I've actually saved as many of these silver dollars as I can. At last count, I think I had about 14. This will be the first year I won't get one. It's kind of sad in a way.


My cousin Marti suggested that maybe sending me a silver dollar from our grandfather would make me feel better. Or that maybe when my family comes down to visit me in DC from NJ that they bring the silver dollar with them (I got this text from my mom last week: "we r coming to visit u dec 27.28 wkend like it or not here we come with the latkes!!" Who doesn't love texts from parents? C'mon. Anyway, I got them to push it back another week.)

So the question dawned on me. Which is worse: getting an ugly Christmas sweater or a silver dollar?

The answer is very obvious of course. Because silver dollars do not, in fact, cure sleep deprivation.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Best. Present. Ever.

Hello globe.

It's Christmas Eve and I'm really excited to give out the presents I made with my girlfriend, Jackie. We made chocolate covered pretzels out of chocolate chips and pretzel rods. I don't know if it's maturity or a sense of the "true meaning of Christmas," but I really don't care about getting presents this year. I'll gladly accept anything given to me of course, but as far as I'm concerned, once I give out my gifts, the transaction is complete, I'm happy, and anything else is an added bonus.

But in realizing this evolution from receiver to giver, I can't help but think back and dwell on the best gift I ever got as a kid. It wasn't so much the present as much as it was the way it was given that impacted me.

Real quick, for those of you who don't know me well, I've had an affinity for video games since I was 5 years old.

It was Christmas morning back in third grade or around about, and I was in Chicago spending the holidays with Grammy and Grampy and my uncle Aaron. I remember it being really cold inside because they didn't have central heating, but once the presents rolled out all of my senses were transfixed on the goods.

At one point I had opened all of the presents that were out. I remember being grateful, but disappointed that I didn't get a Super Nintendo, which had just been released. I wasn't acting like a spoiled brat or anything, I was respectful and genuinely happy about what I got, but the SNES was at the top of my list.

So Uncle Aaron comes out from his room with a present for me, saying he left it in his room.
I open it and I'm instantly deflated. Super Mario Kart. For the SNES. Not only did I not get the one thing I wanted the most, but, I can't even use it! I don't need a gun rack, I don't even own a gun!

So I look up to say something like "awww, but I can't play this," and Grammy is looking back at me with raised eyebrows.

"Why not?"

"Because I don't have a Super Nintendo."

Out of nowhere Grampy has a huge box in his hands and he's walking towards me and Grammy yells, "well you do now!"

Everyone is screaming.

Everyone screams real loud.

I think I cried a little.

I've gotten video game systems for Christmas before and it's awesome. But it was the surprise that made this the best present I ever got as a boy. I couldn't articulate it at the time, but it's the idea that these people care about me enough to spring this awesome present on me out from nowhere, that they thought about doing this just for me, and that they were thinking about me when I wasn't around, that makes it all so magical.

So my question to the globe is: what is the best present you've given or received, and how was it given?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Last Christmas

It's weird to know exactly where you were one year ago from this exact moment. At some point tonight I realized what night it was, what tomorrow is, and exactly where I was one year ago today. In this room, who I was talking to, what I was thinking about and how I felt - an entire year ago, a unit and measurement of time that is making less and less sense to me at the moment because on the one hand it feels so long and on the other so incredibly short.

It was a year ago tonight, she came over. I had been really depressed that day, I don't remember why. She had seen her ex-boyfriend for the first time in a year or so. Things were rocky, but she had told him she was happy. We slept in the same bed.

The next day I had plans to go over for Christmas Eve. I bought a card with penguins on it that I probably still have somewhere, to go with a white gold and diamond dragonfly necklace (that I don't). I saw Robyn Milekowski with her husband at the Giant, and called Jacob. I got to her house, was handed a gift, asked what was wrong, had the gift taken back out of my hands, and was told to leave.
I went home, the biggest wreck I'd been in my entire life.

On Christmas I sat in the booth at the JCC facing the wall while I played Wallace and Grommit to little kids.

It suddenly occured to me that was one year ago. Today, tomorrow, and the next.
I'm in the same room.
And on Christmas I'll be in the booth playing movies for little kids.
For all the massive changes, the places stay the same.

It's a weird feeling to remember exactly where you were, what you said, what you did, what you felt - to the detail but detached, a year ago in a moment in time.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Celebrity and Near-Death

So after my post yesterday I saw something today on Idolator about how Michael Jackson may be near death. And it got me thinking about the flip side of yesterday's post - namely that I would not feel bad if Michael Jackson died. The entity that currently exists and calls itself Michael Jackson is so far removed from the young man who made Off the Wall (still a great album, by the way) and has done so much damage to his reputation, it would pretty much take him giving all his money to charity, or to me, to change my opinion of him. I feel a similar way to people like Britney Spears and Tom Cruise, who are not close to death, but clearly have such gaping personal flaws that it hurts how I react to anything they are involved with. And yes, much of Ms. Spears's music is not very good, but that's not the point here.

Basically, to switch from sports to art, don't be Ty Cobb. He has two legacies that he will forever be known by - he was one of the greatest hitters of all time and he was a huge asshole. There's no way this will ever change. So there is a lesson here:

1. Don't be an asshole or a nutjob (Bruce Springsteen, for example, is neither. I do not listen to his music, but I can respect his relative normalcy as a human.)

2. If you're an asshole or a nutjob, cover it up well (Most people don't know much about Michael Jordan. He is by many accounts a less than charitable person who has a huge huge gambling problem, but most people don't know this and that's how he wants it to stay. )

3. If you screw up, be classy about it (Charles Barkley also has a gambling problem, but after losing a whole buttload of money, he has come forward about his problem and is at least giving the impression that he is trying to rectify the issue.)

RoundTable - Week 3

This week's question -

"What is your ultimate winter mix?"


Clearly the ultimate winter song is the Fleet Foxes classic "White Winter Hymnal." Just kidding.

But rather than a playlist, I'm just going to suggest a few albums:
*Plaid - Double Figure
*Autechre - Amber
*Unwound - Leaves Turn Inside You


When I think of Winter, I don't usually think of the holiday season, as much as I think of the cold. To keep myself warm, I like to wear this wonderful winter wig.

1) Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal
6) Mates of State - Starman (cover)

*Also - I put Fleet Foxes because I know Max Nova hates them.


These songs are absolutely freezing. That is to say, I often get cold listening to this music. They just seem to make more sense when listened to while walking in the snow.

1. Matthew Good-Last of the Ghetto Astronauts
2. Bruce Springsteen-Atlantic City
3. Frightened Rabbit-Keep Yourself Warm
4. Notorious B.I.G-You're Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You)
5. Okkervil River-Plus Ones
6. The Hold Steady-Stuck Between Stations
7. Fiona Apple-Pale September
8. Hem-Half Acre
9. Matthew Good-A Single Explosion
10. Frightened Rabbit-Fast Blood
11.Rocky Votolato-The Light and the Sound
12. Goo Goo Dolls-Naked
13. Twilight Singers-Follow You Down


I think it's no surprise that a good number of my favorite winter tunes come from bands hailing from the Great White North. Emphasis on great.

1. Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal
2. Frightened Rabbit – Keep Yourself Warm
3. Brand New – Seventy Times 7
4. Mother Mother – O My Heart
5. Mother Mother - Hayloft
6. Tokyo Police Club – Tesselate
7. AFI – Love Like Winter
8. Deathcab for Cutie – We Looked Like Giants
9. The Dismemberment Plan – Spider in the Snow
10. Interpol - PDA
11. TV on the Radio – Wolf Like Me
12. The Stills – Love and Death
13. The Dears – Crisis 1 and 2
14. Boxer The Horse – Lenny was a Moonshiner
15. The Decemberists – The Engine Driver
16. Kenna - Hellbent
17. Okkervil River – Calling and Not Calling My Ex


1) "Winter" by Bayside
2) "Winter" by Joshua Radin
3) "Winter" by Tori Amos
4) "Winter" by Blackwhole
5) "Winter" by the Rolling Stones
6) "Winter" by K's Choice
7) "Winter" by John Denver
8) "Winter Song" by Chris Rea
9) "Winter Song" by Lindisfarne
10) "Winter Melody" by Donna Summer
11) "Winter Rose" by Wings
12) "Winter Time" by the Steve Miller Band
13) "Winter Romance" by Dean Martin
14) "Winter Love" by Robyn Hitchcock
15) "Sometimes in Winter" by Blood, Sweat, and Tears
16) "Coldest Winter" by Kanye West
17) "Hazy Shade of Winter" by Simon & Garfunkel
18) "What These Bitches Want" by DMX

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reflection - Blackbird

I just got back from seeing Blackbird at Studio Theater and it was absolutely incredible, one of the single best written, well acted, and most powerful performances I have ever seen. It's an incredible shame that today was the last performance of this particular production because I would unequivocally reccomend it. The performances by area vet Jerry Whiddon and hopefully up and coming New Yorker Lisa Joyce were phenomenal, the direction under David Muse was spot on, and David Harrower's script is probably the one I have had the most visceral reaction to since i first saw Patrick Marber's Closer.

There's a reason for that.

Both of those plays are undeniably and unashamedly modern. We're conditioned so often in theater and film and television, and everything, to expect a watered down version of conflict, of language. Not violence, we see that in all it's gruesome and bloody detail. But words, incredibly passionate vile and dirty words are so rarely used to their full effect that actually hearing them passionately and gloriously uttered in unflinching truth is like a call to arms. So when I heard a young woman honestly and provokingly demand of her past abuser and hopeful would be future lover whether he still masterbated over the image of her twelve year old body, it brought me back in all the best ways to Larry demanding from Anna "What does it taste like?" only to hear "It tastes like you but sweeter."

It's that kind of play.

It's the kind of play that asks incredibly difficult questions without offering any concrete answers and still feels satisfying. It's the kind of play that is utterly in your face and at the same time covers all it's bases my presenting a multi-faceted look at characters so absolutely real that their pain and needs are open like wounds. It's the kind of play that requires actors willing to bare a kind of honesty that the average human being would run crying from in our regular lives.

It's no secret that Jerry Whiddon is like a mentor to me. Working with him on The Crucible at UMD was a revelation to me, and directly led to me pursuing directing as a passion and career. Since then I've had the opportunity to work with and learn from him several times as both an actor and assistant, and am blessed to have several more projects lined up. In the three or four years I've known him I've never seen him act. I was told by my boss that however good a director is (and he's great, the former artistic director of Round House for 20 years) he was ten times the actor he is a director. Not a knock on his directing, just a clarification on just how good he is.
I got to see that tonight.

Lisa Joyce was utterly phenomenal. Her character has a monologue midawy through the play that is a game changing event, and I was with it every single second, every single word. We've been talking a lot on this blog about women who are the victim's of abuse. While we;ve been focusing on domestic violence, this wa still an incredibly impactful time for me to see this show. Too often victims become just that - victims. Lessons, stories, statistics - but what they really are are PEOPLE. This was a person onstage - carrying the weight of abuse, and even more frightening and amazing and sad the weight of love despite it.

The basic premise of Blackbird is that a young woman has finally tracked down the man who slept with her when she was twelve. But it's so much more than that, and so much more complicated. There are moments of utter revulsion, and amazingly moments where the two of them kissing and or almost fucking on the floor doesn't only seem normal, but what you WANT to happen, even when you absolutely don't.
It's people being real people, as utterly fucked as that always turns out to be.

And that language. Brutal, beautiful, harsh, and poetic.
It's the kind of work I aspire one day to write, and the kind of theater I want to create.

Art and Death

Before they both passed away, I had the chance to see Mitch Hedberg and Spalding Gray perform live. It remains very sad to me that both of them died untimely deaths. Although Hedberg had a heart condition and was a regular drug user (well obviously) and Spalding had a personal and family history with depression, both were also deeply devoted to their craft and almost supernaturally talented and it was hard to give thought to their passing until it happened.

I was very sad when I heard both of their deaths, but I also felt a little lucky, in a terrible way, that I had seen something special and that no one else would ever see it again. It's one of those conflicting emotions, I absolutely wish both were still alive and creating, but it's also a little special to be part of an exclusive club now. I know many people probably feel that way now about David Foster Wallace.

There is something about the art that each one created that was so wonderful that it makes us a bit greedy in our enjoyment, and this selfishness extends until the artists own end. For most people it doesn't include buying the Kurt Cobain diary, but somewhere in all of us, that same sort of impulse is there.

Every Little Red Haired Girl

The following two posts are comments that were recently left on "A Further Response to the Red Haired Girl." Since the post was over a week ago and is no longer on the main page I'm posting these both here, because I think it's important that as many people have the opportunity to read them as possible. This Discussion began with the two part post "The Sad Strange Tale of the Girl with Red Hair" Part 1 and Part 2. It led to the following two responses - here and here. These are both continuations of that discussion.

The first is from my friend John Ozkirbas, a victim's advocate and former member of SAFER at UMD.

"There's a lot in your response that needs addressing. But, I suppose the most constructive response is to tell a story of my own. I don't normally tell survivors' stories for them and I've certainly never posted one to a public forum like a blog before. However, this particular survivor speaks openly in the public about her personal experiences, and so, I think it'll be okay. The is a domestic violence story of a woman who did everything right. I'm going to call it "451 degrees."

(Disclaimer: The name of the parties have been changed to "Tom" and "Sally" out of respect. I should admit, I'm fuzzy on the details, but I remember the main crux of it. I, also, encourage any survivor, or friend and family thereof, to seek out their local Victim Advocacy or Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis/Resource centers)

"451 Degrees"

Sally was a strong, independent African-American woman living in Baltimore. Like most people, she lived paycheck to paycheck. She sold cellphones for Verizon and was able to support her two children doing so. Her history with men was sordid; her prom date raped her back during high school because she "owed it to him and was being a bitch". Trusting men became a little problematic for her after that. She dated a little, but it wasn't until she met her future husband when she started to feel safe again.

Tom was a great guy. He was charming, handsome, romantic even. He liked sports, thoroughly enjoyed Sprite (tended to carry one around with him), and seemed to be a godsend. Things were great. Sally felt safe, secure, even blessed. But, after the wedding, things started to go downhill. Tom would tell her things, subtle threats when she didn't do what he wanted or do things exactly how he wanted them. Phrases that, if anyone else had heard them, they would think nothing of it. But, Sally knew what he meant and it scared her. His behavior escalated, as it does in such cases, from subtle threats to direct, verbal assault. Fearing for herself and her children Sally called the police. Of course, they couldn't arrest him yet. They wouldn't even leave the station. Their words, "There was nothing they could do at this point". This would happen often; He'd provide a little threat with a little subtext and it would slowly evolve into something horrible and she'd call the police, and they would do nothing. She tried to separate and went to court for a protective order. The judge, believing that his behavior didn't justify the effort to obtain one (of which, as I understand, is an outstandingly simple process in comparison to other proceedings) declined. And then one day, he hit her.

He smacked her right across the face, left a huge welt. Luckily for her, she was able to get to a phone and call the police pretty quickly after. My state has a police requirement to arrest on DV cases, as well, you see. And that's what they did. Of course, bail was low and Tom had a few friends on the force. He was out soon there after. Back. He called frequently just to threaten her. Sally kept a log, documented everything. But, his threats were still too subtle. She tried to keep up a social life, but she'd go out and there he'd be. Just to say hi, see the kids, "catch up". And whisper another threat that meant something to them, but to no one else. It was something along the lines of "We'll see what my boys have to say about this". She knew that when Tom said "Boys" he meant "his crew" and when he said "have to say" he knew he meant they'd do something she didn't like. To Sally or her kids.

Sally filed charges, the model citizen that she is, and attempted to take Tom to court. Their case was weak, despite documentation and his arrest - Tom still had a substantial amount of support to keep him out. Sally filed for another protective order, the judge still turned her down. The case was coming up soon, and it seemed that the Prosecutor had covered substantial ground and the case was going to be a success. Tom called with more threats again, telling her to drop the charges. She told him no. Tom's last words to her were "Last Chance" and he hung up. The next day was a work day, so Sally went in to sell cellphones to support her kids. Tom came in at about midday, assumably to talk. She was busy at work behind the register and didn't see him until he was very close. He was carrying a Sprite bottle, as he often did, open as if he was just drinking it. Without saying a word he walked over, dumped the clearish, artificially flavored lemon-lime beverage that is Sprite all over her. Except, it didn't smell like Sprite. Didn't smell like Sprite at all. In fact, it kind of smelled like lighter fluid. And, very quickly, he took out a lighter, lit her on fire, and walked out. No one stopped him, everyone was stuck in shock because, in a matter of seconds, a tall, well dressed, seemingly nice looking man just set a friend and co-worker on fire. Sally suffered 3rd degree burns over 70% of her body. But, she survived. Her kids were traumatized, probably for the rest of their childhood, from seeing their mother that way. She may never date or experience sex again.

Tom was convicted and found guilty. Of course, he was a model inmate. He might be out again this year on parole. He's been incarcerated a total of 5. Sally is still doing what she can to keep him in prison, but nothing is guaranteed. Sally fears distinctly of what Tom will do if he's released and understands that there's a substantial chance that he will.

Sally's story isn't an anomaly. Issues of DV, Rape, and the like are issues of control, predominantly of which survivors and victims have a fairly minimal amount. Because, that's kind of the point of it. I could go on, but this post is long enough already and I fear I may have already lost many of you. I'll close with a final comment:

Rape and Domestic Violence is a complex issue where survivors of such do what they can with what they have. Stories may have similar facts, but each story is inherently different and unique. Over half of women will be in an abusive relationship and abuse isn't always physical. Nationally, 1 in 4 women will either fend off a rape or be raped at sometime in their lifetime. Between 1 in 5 and 1 in 10 men will too. 86% of the time it will be in a safe place where they feel comfortable (ex: at home) and 84% of the time the offender will be a friend, family member, or someone trusted (at Univ. of MD, it was about 98%). Be respectful when you discuss this subject in public with your friends; you never know when a survivor is standing just within hearing distance or whether or not one of your friends may have gone through a similar situation and simply hasn't told you about it. I encourage any and all survivors and friends and family there of, or if you simply have questions, to contact your local Victim Advocacy or Crisis centers for support.

I hope this post was constructive and I look forward to posting more in the future."

The second is by a poster named Jinx, and this is her personal story -

"This is going to be a bit hard to type. I don't know how I can get it all out without thinking about how for years of my life I was a punching bag for the piece of crap that I married when I was too young to make a decision of that magnitude. I am not saying that no women are capable of making a decision like that at 17, but most are not, I was one of those that was not ready.

There were many reasons that I got into that relationship. Most are typical of abuse victims. I had been hurt by those that were supposed to protect me, abandoned by my father, *insert a bunch of whining and teenage angst here* I made a rash decision and paid for it, I did not see a way out.

Let me say that there were no signs of abuse until our wedding night. That night he had friends over playing games. I made constant errors (in his eyes) that night. I didn't know company was coming, I cooked for him and me, nothing for the guys he had over....and then when I was cleaning up the trash bag ripped. I giggled and made some comment to him about how I told him we shouldn't have bought the cheap brand, supposed to be a joke, but he took it as me attacking him....then I was hit for the first time.

I cried, I felt like a part of me had died. I knew at that moment that I had to get out, was thinking about how our marriage should be able to be annulled. Then he apologized and swore it would never happen again. Yes, following the typical reaction of the abused, I believed him, it was just stress that made him do it. Heh.

I lived with the abuse for quite some time. One day I tried to hint around to my grandmother and get some support, but her reply to me was "You have to do all you can to keep your man happy."

We had a child, he quit working. I could mention tales that would make your head spin. Raped only a week after giving birth, given a broken nose when I tried to breastfeed my child for the first time out of the hospital (was a preemie & I had worked on my supply by pumping).

I went to the hospital countless times. He was always right there, playing the part of the concerned husband. I asked once when he left the room for them to call the police, but no one ever showed up, we left the ER about an hour after me asking.

Help is not as readily available as some might think. Some states and counties turn a blind eye to it. Mine certainly did. They weren't helping me. I went to see about a restraining order....I was told that I would need to have proof, they couldn't just mark him down as an abuser without any proof. There was no help. I spoke to many people. I'm from a little podunk town in the middle of the bible belt. Maybe this is what made me remain a victim all those years, but there are more places like that in this world than you may know about.

He went out to a strip club one night with his friends. Like I said earlier, he wasn't working. He saw this as a new way for me to support our family and talked me into starting to work at the club. I am shy, I was terrified by this, but I did see it as a bit of an escape....and it did work. He couldn't hit me as much. My whole body was out there for the world to see and I have a very pale complexion, bruise so easy.

The abuse then turned into pinching and hair pulling. It was always emotional. "You're so f***ing ugly I don't know why people pay to see you naked." "You had to have screwed someone to make this much money in one night, it's not like you have much to shake for tips."

I made some great friends at the club. Those girls gave me the strength to finally stand up to him when he raised his hand to me. One day we got some sweets from Dairy Queen. Walking in the house I dropped his. His face turned red and I just knew I was going to get hit and I fought back. He didn't have a chance to hit me, I grabbed his throat and slammed him against the fridge and told him he would never touch me again, in any way. I'm a bit ashamed at how violent I was, but only a little. I headbutted him and broke his nose, I hurt his manly parts so much that by what I was told in court he urinated blood for a week.

The police were called. I was the one that was arrested for domestic abuse. I do not care if that is still on my record. The night I spent in jail was the first good night's sleep that I had in years, I was bailed out by my stripper friends and I felt like I could finally walk with my head held high. Charges were dropped after 2 days in court, he was a bit embarrassed about having the whole town hear about how his wife got the better of him.

Now I spend most of my free time as an advocate of women's rights. I speak monthly at women center's, trying to get them the help the deserve. Help is not always out there, for many women in many places. It does seem like they are stuck. I know that many women try and try for help. Yes, it is true that nobody can render a victim any assistance of any kind until they decide that they won't be victims anymore, but just deciding that you don't want to be a victim is not enough. You do still need help. Many women are not offered that kind of help, even when they search for it. Even when they KNOW that their life depends on it.

Many people just say "Just leave, pack up, run away." Do you know how hard that is? To leave everyone and everything you know? Many people find the bruises easier to live with than leaving behind everything and everyone that they know.

Five years ago...after being away from this for five years I found out that he was in prison for beating his sister half to death. I spoke on her behalf about my life with him. I got a formal apology from the Police Department about how my situation was handled and was asked to work with them. I travel to my hometown frequently to help make sure that other women don't slip through the cracks like I did. Many women asking for help are ignored or neglected daily. It's sad.

Signed, a little red headed girl~"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

When Did It Happen?

Some night, a few years ago, I went to bed. And when I woke up the next morning, Mr. Pibb had become Pibb Xtra.

When exactly did it happen? Why? What was wrong with the name Mr. Pibb? What motivated the change? What exactly is "extra" about it? Isn't it just Dr. Pepper anyway?


The Fleet Foxes . . . Our Generation's Arcade Fire

So I talked some smack about these underbathed beardos earlier, and as they have now been crowned 2008 homecoming queens by Pitchfork, I feel I must lay out why I don't believe the hype. FF are largely a nostalgia act digging into the whole West Coast hippie harmonizing '60s vibe. And there have been plenty of well respected acts that draw deeply from one past genre or another that have been big in the indie scene. But for me personally, I'm just not a big fan of CSNY nor the Mamas and the Papas nor The Band nor any other Americana harmonizing machines. I don't hate any of those acts, but I don't have a regular desire to listen to any of them. And quite frankly given the choice, I'd choose the genuine article over the FF.

The other thing is that most of the acts pillaging the past and going on to great aclaim in the Pitchfork world are doing so in the context of punk rock and it's offshoots. The Rapture and Interpol stole a lot of their sounds from PIL, Gang of Four and Joy Division. None of the original bands were every mainstream, despite the loads of respect heaped on all of them now.

I also find myself deeply disappointed in the pitchfork list, where even the honorable mentions were pretty predictable. There just weren't many things like the Orthelem album a few years back to give people a different slice of music from what they would have expected. Pitchfork has solidified into a cannon that already feels a lot like Rolling Stone magazine mk. 2 where a Stephen Malkmus replaces a Neil Young, but the basic waves of excessive adulation directed at a certain small core of artists feels about the same.

You Don't Know What You're Missing

So as happens with a project like this, sometimes we start a post that ends up never getting published and instead gets saved as a draft on our blogger account. Occasionally we'll go back, finish, and post the sucker but the past two months have shown that if more than a few days pass that post is pretty much stuck in limbo for good, left as nothing more than a headline for the other writers to see. But I know that Max and I enjoy looking at some of these titles and wondering where the heck they could have possibly gone, and so here is a selection of These Gentlemen draft titles that for one reason or another never made it all the way.

- Sex is Meaningless
- History of the Electoral College, Part 1
- The Day the Earth Stood Stale
- A Little In Joke
- Netflix or Lynch
- Paving the Road to Hell
- The Person Next to You at Shows
- Messiah-Elect Obama

and my personal favorite...
- Good Morning, Go F@#$ Yourself

Though I really hope someone finishes 'Sex is Meaningless' because based on title alone I can't wait to disagree with EVERYTHING in that post.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Post-Grad Life Can Be Lonely

Something big in the music world may have just happened. The new album by today's biggest hip hop artist Kanye West is not a hip hop album, and it's not an "experimental" album, and I think that means something. I'm not sure what that means yet, but I'm interested to find out.

Kanye has been at the forefront of the hip hop world since The College Dropout in 2004, continuing with Late Registration in 2005 and finishing the trilogy with Graduation in 2007.

But the post-grad life can be lonely.

The most important thing about the new single "Love Lockdown" and the rest of the 8o8s and Heartbreak album is not the change in tone. It's not even that someone is using Audio-Tune and a drum machine (Roland TR-808). Lil Wayne just got big audio-tuning his voice on the single "lollipop." The big deal is that the biggest rapper in the game didn't just incorporate these new techniques, but has seemingly abandoned rapping altogether on his new album. On top of that, he's been juxtaposing tribal sounds with Daft Punk-style mechanical/electronic sounds. Again, not something entirely new - indie rockers Animal Collective come to mind - but Kanye West is a much bigger force than those guys.

So I'm curious as to what West's new adventure will bring. Will the biggest rapper around rap again? Of course. But by NOT rapping, Kanye may or may not be on to something new.

On the other hand, Kanye West has never brought change. Sure he's been a big deal for a little while now, but he's never done much to actually sculpt the hip hop landscape. When he performed on The Letterman Show with Daft Punk (WATCH HERE) it was amazing, and Kanye proved his live chops once again... and he looked like a modern day James Brown. Now on one hand that's a compliment, but on the other hand, it's not. It's not because James Brown was big 30 years ago, and if Kanye is going to do something to truly break boundaries, then looking and acting and recreating the image of a 70's star is NOT the way to go.

Hip hop, like all music, is expanding and diversifying, but I wonder if the equivalent of the trickle-down economic theory (Kanye can influence the rest of the hip hop world) will prevail, or if it works from the ground up; in which case artists like M.I.A. and Cut Copy can influence the mainstream.

I've never pretended to be an expert on hip hop, and it's impossible to predict the next big music trend (disco? ska? emo? who sees that coming?), but for every critical review of 8o8s and Heartbreak, I appreciate more and more that Kanye West is looking to challenge the mainstream. Too bad it's at the expense of his psyche... oh the loneliness of being number one.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Getting Rich Quick

Something I realized soon after getting getting decent paying internships in college was that the best and only practical way of getting rich is having a decently paying job. It probably seems obvious, but in my youth as a stereotypical Jewish moneychanger-wannabe-in-training I really really liked the idea of having and spending a lot of money, and my mind was often a-whirl with ways of generating money.

As a kid I was overly concerned with the resale values of baseball and basketball cards, comic books, video games and assorted other items. I remember when I sold my Nintendo and most of the games for $40, when in retrospect I really should have just kept the thing. At that point I couldn't have even gotten a single good new Super Nintendo game for that piddling sum.

Once I actually had a decent amount of money from summer work, I became better at managing money than I had ever been with allowance, which is not surprising, but I also I realized that my tastes weren't that expensive. Sure I'd love to have a private jet and fly to England and watch Futbol every weekend, but as far as food, shelter, friends and general entertainment, I feel plenty rich.

I say all this because in the past 4 months or so, the worlds largest get rich scheme -- financial markets -- have lost an unfathomable amount of money. And its clear that literally any course of action taken in the recent past that didn't include shorting the whole market would lose a whole lot of money. And so like all folks with investments, I indeed lost a good bit of money from having mutual funds, but I also don't look at the market as a get rich scheme. It's a somewhat risky store of money but still a better call in the long term than cash in a mattress. When I recently saw an ad on a financial channel for information kits on currency trading, I just found it hilarious. It will be the perfect gift for anyone who hasn't gotten through their get rich quick phase.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Foreign Film

This past Sunday at the JCC, Grandmaster Kermecha and I had the opportunity to watch "Sweet Mud," an Israeli film about life on a kibbutz. For those of you unfamiliar with the idea of a kibbutz, they are contained communities of Jews wherein the group works for the group, like a miniature model of Socialism. Set in the bar mitzvah year of the main character, the film was grippingly raw and brutal with its portrayal of the human element which make utopia improbable. While it was difficult to concentrate on the film over the sound of Kermecha's laughter (he especially liked the part where a 12-year old boy found his own dog dead in a freezer), it brought to my attention an advantage of the films exported to this country.

I don't know if the film was well acted. My initial impression would be that, like most films, it has its good and bad actors. However, being unfamiliar with the language (approximately 4 lines are spoken in English, the rest of the movie is Hebrew and French), I was able to focus completely on the story. Having only the action on screen and the subtitles to guide me, I realized I was watching an intensely emotional movie. It is my sincere belief that having no quantifiable basis to judge the acting on actually improved my experience with the film.

Subtitles are the main problem people seem to come up against when watching a foreign language film. Dubbing can be a nightmare; the inconsistency of lip movement is distracting, and ofttimes highly inappropriate voice actors are chosen. So people choose to avoid foreign film altogether. This is a mistake if you're serious about seeking out good cinema. Consider, as I now have, the possibility that not being able to understand what is being said and having to read the words as they are scripted actually improves your understanding of the movie. You get to approach the film from the perspective of how well it was written, not how well it was acted. Sometimes that can be a huge benefit. Just think of how many well-written American movies would be vastly improved if the acting was better. Anything with Natalie Portman in it, for example. Now let's imagine we didn't have to hear Natalie Portman sleepwalk her way through every line. Instead we heard her talk in a language incomprehensible as her normal dull mumbling, but this time we weren't trying to understand it. Instead we saw the meaning of her words spelled out for us on screen. And if, by some miracle from above, she actually managed to add inflection at certain times, we would get the gist of the emotional content while fully understanding the words being spoken.

While there are likely foreign language films that are every bit as dull and poorly executed as a bad American movie, it can be exciting to view a film not constrained to Hollywood limitations. Foreign movie studios have a completely different guidebook that they follow. For someone interested in film or writing, I would highly recommend getting to know foreign films and the ways they do things in Japan or India - or Israel for that matter.

Overall, you could think of it as a cultural experience. So the next time you've got nothing to do and are looking to spend a quiet evening at home, curl up and read a good movie.

For more by David, check out

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Nose or "You're Going to Put Someone's Eye Out with That Thing"

I have a big nose.

It sits directly in the middle of my face, as most noses do, protruding outward like the beak of a small bird. It has something of a hook towards the top where it meets the rest of my face, and its tip points slightly downward, as if to naturally steer my head to the floor.

It's hard to do some things with a nose so big. For example, putting my head against a wall, or any flat surface really, can be difficult. I have to kind of tilt my head downwards, otherwise, my nose just sticks out and it looks like I'm poking the wall with my nose. Another, probably more important thing, is kissing. When I kiss someone, I almost always have to tilt my head. Coming in straight on usually results in inability to reach the other person's lips, and, on few occasions, an uncomfortable poke in the eye.

I was made aware of the fact that I had a big nose as a child. Children, if nothing else, are experts when it comes to pointing out, and often, mocking the obvious. Not to say that I was overly picked on or singled out because of it, but certainly I can remember a few instances of other kids in my classes not being able to get over the fact that I had a large nose. To be honest, the first time it ever really affected me was when I was around 12 or so. I was walking in the mall, I think with my brother, though I don't remember, and a group of tough looking black guys walked by and all started laughing at me. If I remember correctly, there were about four or five of them, and they looked to be in their mid twenties.

"Ugh, look at that youngin's nose!"
"Damn, he got a big nose!"

They all took their turn delivering a clever insult to a 12 year old, laughed, and continued walking. This was about the time I started to become really self conscious about my looks. It's interesting, because at no point did I ever think for a second that something should be done to get rid of my nose. I didn't want any sort of surgery, or ever wish I could magic it away somehow, I was fine that I had it, and I knew it was a part of me and I didn't want to change it. I had come into the world with it for a reason, and I intended to live as such. That being said, ever since then, it has been something that I think other people are noticing probably much more than they actually are. And in the end, maybe it just goes back to the fact that I look very Jewish. People often can tell that I'm Jewish before I've known them for more than ten minutes. I don't like this. It's none of their business. But it's who I am, and I more or less wear it on my face.

A few months ago, I got on the bus and heard a little girl, probably three, say, "Wow, look at that boy's nose!" I turned and saw that she was sitting with her parents, who were also laughing. "That's hilarious." I said, taking my seat. I wanted so badly to get up and go over to the parents and say, "Is something fucking wrong with you? Is that the way you're going to teach your child to talk to people she's never even met? You should make your kid apologize." I wanted to do that. But I think they were both foreign, Czech maybe, and I didn't think it was worth it. People will read that and probably think I'm some kind of bigot, but the fact is, there are cultural differences on both sides that made the situation seem like it wasn't worth per suing, whatever foreign nationality they were in reality. But it was pretty disgusting.

That's really the last incident I've had with someone calling it out audibly. I've spent many summers of my life, as some of you know, in Waynesboro, PA, at Capital Camps, a Jewish summer camp. Now, while the camp may be Jewish, the town sure isn't, and I can recall many a time I didn't want to go out after hours because of my looks. I thought, "These people will pick up instantly that I'm Jewish, and something bad will happen." But it hasn't yet, and it's a fear I'm starting to think is probably irrational.

So I have this nose. What does it mean to me? I guess to me, my nose, my pointy, hook nose, has always been like having the Israeli fucking flag sticking out of my face. But I guess, in some ways, that's not such a bad thing.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Random Thoughts

Another in my series of things that needs to bite the dust with this recession - Buying diamonds at all holidays. Much like Christmas Lexuses, this seems to be a case of advertisers trying graft something onto a holiday. You have Valentine's Day, you evil evil conflict diamond selling war criminals. Please stop trying to corrupt Christmas. Other people are already doing a fine job of that.


I've been pondering William Kristof v. Thomas Friedman. I know that Kristof is better, and not just because he travels the world freeing child slaves, but I haven't quite pinned it down yet. Maybe it's just different styles, I will return to this at some point.


Also, I just read Deep Economy by Bill McKibben and Girlfriend in A Coma by Douglas Coupland back to back. It was an unexpectedly brilliant choice. I don't think in my life I've ever paired a non-fiction and fiction book so elegantly, and it was completely by accident. Read both of these books.

RoundTable - Week 2

This week's RoundTable question is -
"If you could take revenge on any person, who would it be, what would you do, and why?"


No question about it, Osama Bin Laden. I would put him in jail for the rest of his natural life. Obviously because he is the leader and face of an international organization with the goal of gaining power and influence by intimidating free minds with the murdering of the innocent under the guise of religious superiority.


It would be a certain former Editor-in-Chief of the Maryland humor paper. He was one of two people who had messed it up and who had to be disposed before the end of their term. He was a sniveling little toadie of the lowest kind and not even very funny.

The sad thing is I had the chance to take my revenge. Somehow I had known that he was younger than my sister and one evening, soon after my sister turned 21 we were both at a liquor store and he was undoubtedly still under the legal age. I was ahead of him in line, but I wish I had stuck around a moment and told the proprietor that he was most certainly underage and if he had an id it was a fake.

Also his blog was terrible.


This is easy. I want my fucking revenge on Brett Ratner, the shithead. I can't stand that guy for so many reasons. First of all, he's a terrible director, secondly, he brings shame to the Yids of America, and third, and this is the most important one, he singlehandedly destroyed the X-Men franchise with X-3, a muddled, plotless, aimless, waste of potential.

How would I get him back? First of all, I'm forcing him to watch X-3 and then asking him a series of questions to really get into his psyche. For example-

Why did you put the Angel in this movie? How do you feel his character adds to the plot?
Why did you kill Cyclops, a fan favorite and, arguably the first X-Man? He never dies in the comic. And in fact, you didn't even chose to kill him on screen. Why not? Did you think maybe the Dark Phoenix Saga would be better without the person who, next to Jean Grey, might have the most invested in it?
Do you try to fuck dudes who look like Hugh Jackman?

Then I'd make him watch Rush Hour 3. Like, 40 times. That'd be enough.

I honestly can't think of anyone in my life I'd want revenge on.

The best revenge is living well, and I am awesome.


There are way too many girls I know, that I'm friends with or aquaintances, who have been the victim of some kind of sexual abuse - rape, molestation, or anything else. I can only imagine how many more have suffered in silence out of fear, shame, or simply privacy that I am simply unaware of. My blood curdles thinking about anyone and everyone I've known who has been forced to endure this kind of abuse or violence, and the mental, emotional, and physical after effects. No matter how they've chosen to handle it they are all beacons of incredible strength and courage - and no one should ever be forced to undergo what they've gone through.

But there has been one person, even if it's only by inches, that I've been closest too and since I have to pick one person for this question I'll pick whoever hurt her. I don't know his name, and I'll probably never really know what fully happened, but I think about it a lot. And this bastard can be a stand in for any and all the others.

I would have both his hands permanently tattooed with the words "I took advantage of a drunk girl" and he would wear those words for the rest of his life.

A Further Response to the Red Headed Girl

After the discussion started by both Red Head Girl part 1 and 2, as well as the response, my friend sent me another response to clarify and extrapolate on the points he had made, and clear up any misconceptions people may have had. Agree or disagree it's well worth reading and I strongly suggest you do so.

'Ok, so I was a bit flippant with my response to the red headed girl. Let me elaborate.

First of all, there exists an entire battery of legal safeguards for domestic abuse victims. 10 years ago, 20 years ago, I admit, domestic abuse was just as likely to be laughed off and dismissed with "oh she was asking for it" as it was to be dealt with. This is categorically and emphatically wrong. It's a simplistic and misogynistic response to an inherently complicated situation and behavior pattern. Nobody "asks" for it, any more than someone is "asking" to be raped because of they way they're dressed or "asking" to be burgled because they leave a door unlocked. And like I said, years ago, domestic abuse was just as likely to be laughed off and dismissed with "Don't be so clumsy next time" as it was to be dealt with.

But this is now. Society has made leaps and bounds in terms of progress. Penalties have increased in harshness. Resources are available publicly and privately; they're no longer marginalized or confined to back alleys and shelters run out of someone's personal home. Police departments are taking proactive measurements to attempt to stop the problem before it escalates from a punch to a kick to a hospital visit to a death. For instance, the state in which I currently reside mandates that when a police officer shows up to a domestic dispute call, he/she is required to arrest someone for it. Even if you and your partner are having a loud play argument about which shirt looks better on someone, if someone calls the police and says "This couple is arguing", the police officer is required, by law, to arrest someone. And so in situations like the one I described, he would have been required to arrest someone. It is no longer incumbent upon the officer's discretion as to whether or not he/she arrest someone. They HAVE TO arrest someone in any and all cases of a response to a domestic abuse situation they arrive at.

There are restraining orders. I can hear you saying now, "Of course he's not going to follow the restraining order! What's the point!" You're right. The abuser isn't going to follow it. Everyone knows that. But the point of the restraining order is so that when the abuser inevitably returns, usually with malicious intent, they can be arrested on the spot, without having to prove anything or show evidence. Proof was already shown to get the restraining order. In certain cases, the court can even issue a domestic restraining order against a person without the victim's agreement or desire, this case, making it so that the if the next time the police respond, the jail term is longer and the penalty harsher.

So, to reduce the victim's options to two negative choices, in my opinion, is oversimplification. There are numerous laws on the books in every state to protect victims, and domestic abuse is taken extremely seriously by law enforcement.

No one's saying it's easy to walk away. There are finances, there may be children, a whole life nobody can be expected to just simply uproot, even if their life itself is at stake. I don't have any easy responses to any of this. It is my fault my response to the red headed girl came off as flippant.

Furthermore, I acknowledge my abject lack of knowledge in this subject. I am, in affect, trying to talk street without ever having gone to the school of hard knocks. My opinions, and responses and feeling on this subject are predicated on the very few domestic abuse situations I've witnessed, either as a civilian ride along with a police officer, or as the friend of acquaintance of a victim.

My point was that, in my experience, while it's a simplification to say "He/she lets is happen to themselves", there is also personal accountability. Stephen's right; sometimes, the victim loves their abuser. But Lexi's right as well. Where does personal accountability enter the equation? I once saw the police place a boyfriend under arrest for domestic abuse. As two officers are walking him out of the door, the girlfriend, with two swollen cheeks, a black eye, and a missing tooth, starts screaming at the officers, hurling racial and professional epithets at them. She doesn't want to see her boyfriend incarcerated, even though she knows that this pattern of abuse is only going to escalate and get worse and worse and more and more life-threatening. She is screaming at the top of her lungs and sobbing, begging him not to be taken away, even though there's no way around the simple fact that he just physically assaulted her in a quite serious manner. Obviously, no one can go up to this woman and say "You need to walk away. It's going to get worse and worse and he's going to do permanent damage to you". That's too simple. The expectation that she would listen to this is ridiculous. Of course she's not going to. She loves her boyfriend, even if he beats the living shit out of her at his convenience.

That's my point. Nobody can render a victim any assistance of any kind until they decide that they won't be victims anymore. And to say that this woman, or any victim, only has two choices available to them, both ending in varying degrees of more abuse is, I feel, a simplification. The laws exist to get people out of this cycle, to help people, to punish their abusers and to keep them safe. If they can't utilize the laws, the police, the courts to help them, and they can't walk away, what would you have them do? It is not incumbent upon society to swoop into every troubled household and extract the victims.

We are past the days of small bail, small fines, 30 days in jail, and five police responses to the same residence in the same night. There is tremendous pressure upon police officers and courts to prosecute domestic abuses and prosecute them harshly. Is it a perfect legal system? Nobody's stupid enough to declare that. But once again, if they aren't going to utilize the legal system for help, what's the alternative? Some people are going to slip through. That's inevitable. But no professional legal authority who takes their job seriously is going to laugh it off. They're not going to dismiss it and say "Don't fall down the stairs next time". Domestic abuse is one of the new hot buttons in law enforcement, along with the explosion of growth in street gangs or digital crimes, for instance. One of the reasons for this is because of the realization that for a long time it was dealt with so flippantly and victims were marginalized.

When I mentioned a "victim culture", I didn't elaborate, and that is my own fault. When I say "victim culture" I mean people who put bandages on their wrists when they don't self-mutilate, people who are vocal about being medicated, people who brag about being previously abused (I have witnessed this. First-hand), people who use the fact that they see a therapist as something of perceived social value. Therapy can obviously help; I don't disagree. But like Lexi said, just talking isn't going to anything. A person has to be willing to make the mental and emotional steps to progress past their previous hardships. To me, it seems, at least among our generation, (Generation Y or the millennials, I think we're called), having "problems" has become cool. In my opinion, there is now a real social value inherent in taking mood medication, seeing a therapist, or having some sort of other stage-whisper concealed mental or emotional problem. And this is hardly applicable across the board and I don't mean to marginalize the people who have legitimate problems and wish they didn't and don't want their friends or the public at large to know about them.

But you really haven't seen the tremendous growth in social value of being "depressed"? And people are conditioned to publicize their problems because society rallies around them and they'll feel loved and cared for. You haven't seen the growth of people who like to publicize the fact that they drink heavily, or take non-prescription adderall (I don't know how to spell that) or oxycontin or otherwise engage in obvious risky and self-destructive behavior simply for the attention and perceived popularity it'll bring them? Sometimes, these are cries for help, and that hasn't changed over the last 10, or 20, or 30 years. But as I've seen it, and once again, this is predicated on my own experiences, the people who do this neither want nor need help. They just want people to know they're "disturbed" or "have problems" because they feel it will being them increased social worth or popularity or attention simply for attention's sake. And my point is, society responds to this. Every time.

Of course, there's an element of chicken-and-egg in this. Is it that as psychology has gotten more advanced, problems identified easier, that more people are seeking solutions and help? Or has a better understanding of psychology simply yielded more people who want to have problems, and so manifest them to get attention? I don't know. But that's the way I see it.'

For information on how you can support Domestic Violence Prevention groups, please see Steve's post here.

Domestic Violence Prevention

Jason's two part story relating to domestic abuse has given rise to a lot of recent discussion.  While responses about the causes of these crimes pour in, calls for help flood domestic abuse hotlines nationwide.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a 24/7/365 free service for anyone who wants help for themselves or for a loved one.

1-800-799-SAFE is the number for the hotline.  If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please do not hesitate to call for help.

Due to current economic conditions, charitable organizations have seen donation numbers plummet.  I challenge all who read this blog to visit their website at and make a donation.  

The organization was founded after the Violence Against Women Act of 1996 was created.  This organization's purpose is to provide counseling and assistance to those in need.  It's a legitimate organization that runs efficiently.  The donation process is simple and is secured by verisign.

Every little bit counts.  Please consider making a donation today.

Guest Gentleman - A Moment in Time

This is the first Guest Gentleman post - where if I receive a particularly good or important piece from someone who's not one of our regular writers I'll be posting it as a Guest Gentleman column. If you feel like you ever have something to contribute, let me know at

Today's guest is Joe Musumeci with 'A Moment in Time'

'It is the day after Turkey-day, and my two closest "guy" friends (da boys…) and I head to Gettysburg, PA. This was planned for the Monday before, but I screwed it up. It is a tradition, and one that I have just been invited to join, to play "hooky" from work one day each Fall and take a cycling tour of a Civil War battlefield... but I bobble my calendar and they are kind enough to reschedule for Black Friday. I am happy enough to be far away from any store, and the day turns out to be beautiful, crisp and bright, whereas Monday had been foul as pheasant. So - score one for us.

Part of the reason we choose Gettysburg this year is because the new Visitor's Center is just completed, and the cyclorama (google "gettysburg cyclorama" for the fascinating and utterly American story) has been restored - so that is the largest part of our morning, after meeting for coffee and driving to the town. We watched the excellent film, see the cyclorama, which has a slightly cheese-y, but still stirring, narration and light show now, and then wander through the museum. There are genuinely moving moments: the wall of photos of young men who died that confront you as you leave, a surprisingly understated film voiced by, among others, Morgan Freeman (get it?) and Sam Waterston. A beautiful window with the text of Lincoln's address etched on its surface looks out over an undisturbed field, once covered with the bodies of children. Eric Vogel's song "The Green Fields of France," haunts me all the day long - for the stanza that asks the question "did they know why they died?" seems especially appropriate here.

I should interject two things here: 1) I am a staunch pacifist, and while I have loved (and now love) so deeply that I can imagine killing in the defense of another, I cannot imagine killing in my own, and certainly in no country's. Odd, for one who as a lad was slated to attend the USNA and be a fighter jock, until I learned my vision would limit my ability to realize that dream. People grow. I have friends in Iraq, one on his third eff-ing tour, and I pray daily for their safe return, but while I love and respect them, I cannot support what they do, even in my defense. I have wondered, often, what would get me to pick up a gun and stand a post, and take comfort that I can rarely answer the question. 2) I have been sadly underwhelmed by the recent sweeping election results that seem to signal a mandate for change – and, if the President-elect is to be believed, largely change that I believe in and voted for. But the memory of the Clinton denouement is still sharp for me, and so I have really not paid heed to Mr. Obama as I ought to have, but, rather, snidely adopted the "both your houses" attitude of the professional cynic and held my nose while I voted, afraid to seem naive again.

We ride our bikes, seemingly without end, and Chris and Mike, who are far better and well-read historians and aficianados than I regale me with tales that flesh in my scant knowledge of the three days that arguably turned the tide of this nation. It is an eerie feeling, to stand with a guide book, Matthew Brady's photos of the carnage and the dying before you, and gaze out over the SAME SCENE - for geology only winks at our passing - cleansed of the corpses, and the smell, but perhaps not of the spirit of the fallen on both sides. A quote by Chamberlain, commanding the 20th Maine, I think, stands out:

"In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but spirits linger..."

So we stand, and climb, we enjoy our camaraderie - the closeness of men that is really the closeness of boys,- and we take endless photos, and talk about our lives and hopes and fears. The path we trod lengthens through the days and the skirmishes of the battle, until we stand upon Little Round Top... I have seen the movie, read the books... but the cannon and the shot, the rough stones of Devil's Den and the Copse of Trees have skinned our knuckles today, and we smell the smells of the field and see the view from the same defilade as those thousands of scared boys, and we are tired, and weary and somehow elated, and I don't know why, I just don't, I don't know why until Michael says:

Well I guess this war is finally over

…and I realize that I am standing on the rock where all these boys died among other things so my friend and professor Scot can be a man and not chattel and we just elected A BLACK PRESIDENT AND I AM CRYING WEEPING AND I KNOW I HOPE THAT IF I WAS HERE BACK THEN I WOULD HAVE PICKED UP A RIFLE AND DIED IF I HAD TO.

And the 145 years between the smoke and the sulphur and today's quiet breeze all coalesce into an idea, for me, of what history is... the slow, glacial persistence of people trying to find a way to be... better. Perhaps, today, we are just a little tiny bit better as people, because those other people all died here all those years ago. I don't want it to be true, I don't want that to be the inevitable cost, the weregild of progress, but perhaps it is. And the sun sets behind the statue, and we are off for Mike's truck in a mad dash for the warmth of the heater and the bike rack and the ride home and we are changed. I hope I am better today than I was the day before that day, and that, on average at least, perhaps, the trend continues.

Lincoln's address is etched on a very plain window, but this time of year the sun slants a golden shaft like a note from Jericho through the words:

"It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom,..."

On the ride home, Michael comments that it was ironic to drive down the Mall, and see workmen erecting the scaffolds that will hold the throngs on Inauguration Day, when MLK Jr. had to face the other way all those years ago - and as a DC native, a part of me would love to be on Pennsylavania Avenue for such an historic event… But, now, I know where I want to be on January 20th.'