Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Blog Rewind: Cyro Baptista & Beat The Donkey

Live at the State Theatre in Ithaca, NY, January 20, 2008

I'd only a passing familiarity with Cyro Baptista from his work with John Zorn and Cassandra Wilson so I didn't know quite what to expect when the lovely and talented (and very generous) Madame Croissant said we were going to see him. I still don't quite know how to describe this troupe of percussionists/multi-instrumentalists/singers/dancers except to say it's absolutely brilliant. Calling him a Brazilian percussionist (though he is) could be a great disservice because it brings to mind all that dreadful loungy tropicalia and this is miles away from that. It's like a cross between a rock show, a drum circle and a circus really... a really upbeat, innovative, inventive hybrid of driving drums, Brazilian soul, funk, rock, reggae, marches and I'm probably leaving a bit out. Baptista is half musical genius, half clown, funny as hell and leads the band from a pile of timbales and assorted clangers and bangers and whirlies and bells, often fed through effects pedals with some really unique results. He's absolutely captivating, very charming, modest and even self-effacing. Can't say enough about the band, Beat the Donkey. I've never watched a band that at least appeared to be having so much fun. This blog really isn't doing them justice... it was a really uplifting experience. Thank you Cyro Baptista, the State Theater and of course Madame Croissant who is a super cool lady.

One warning that could even be fine print: Because of his musical collaborations with Trey Anastasio, Cyro is on the Official OK-For-Phishheads-To-Like List (because Phishheads like Deadheads before them are fairly catholic about "approved other" bands), which is I guess a blessing and a curse. It's kind of a blessing for him because it offers broader exposure to a loyal (if sometimes programmed) fanbase (instant appreciative audience add water makes its own sauce). It's a curse though for other audience members who could do without a bunch of wasted, patchouli-soaked middle class hippie wannabes who don't realize they're not part of the show. You're not a gypsy, son. You're a suburbanite.

But lest a small annoyance be made a bigger deal than it was... the show was incredible. The State Theater is a great little venue, tucked right into the center of the downtown area. I'm not sure what the seating capacity is but it's really small and the sound is startlingly good. It's the sort of performance space we could use more of in NYC where we often think we've got it all. It's hard to believe, being that it's such a treasure, that it nearly fell victim to neglect.

It really was the perfect venue for Beat The Donkey, both in size and acoustically. And I don't know if it's typical for the town or the venue but the crowd was mostly cool as hell (see above), ages ranging from Underoos to zimmer frames, local folks, academics, men, women... no pets that I saw.

So that's my flashback moment. Just a superb show and I think I'd rather see Cyro Baptista again than most other acts I can think of.

If God intended man to fly

We would have BEEN BORN WITH...


The killer line in this story is "The flight can be enjoyed as God intended." Having seen hordes of Germans at resorts around the world clad only in Speedos, I'm not sure God intended anything of the kind. In fact, it's one of the key factors in my atheism.

But I suppose it cuts down on the threat of concealed weapons when everybody's weapons will be out in the open.

Monday, January 28, 2008

La Haine (The Hate)

LA HAINE is by no means a new movie, having been originally released in 1995. I don't think I heard about it though until around 2001, after reading a brief review in UNCUT. It took me all this time to find it though--some of us haven't bitten the bullet and gotten down with NetFlix, but hey... So it's only recently been re-released on DVD complete with a documentary about the making of the film and the social conditions in the Paris "suburbs" that inspired the whole thing. (extra features should add to the package and they do in this case)

So it's hard to make the film sound appealing in print--three friends of varying backgrounds struggling with joblessness, poverty, police brutality and identity, set against the grim backdrop of a sprawling housing project. You instantly think... okay, Spike Lee did that already. Didn't he? Well, sort of, but the projects weren't in Paris. I don't think I was even aware of housing projects in Paris until the late 90s. Fodor's and the Rough Guide don't usually address that kind of thing, do they? But there are projects and if you go back a couple years and think about those riots on the news and how surprising it was to see scenes playing out that were reminiscent of Los Angeles in the early 90s... So yes, if you remember those riots and wondered what it was about, this film goes a long way to explaining the deal.

It's totally top rate and was definitely worth the effort I put into looking for it over the years... but seeing as Jodie Foster and assorted Hollywood types are backing the American release you probably won't have to look that hard.

Great, great film though... no cliches, no stereotyping... just really gritty realism, which I really felt I needed having just seen Requiem for a Dream which I'd heard raves about and thought.. well, I thought it sucked. And there is no comparison to Spike Lee, whom I think often tries a little too hard to be clever. That's another story.

The acting is incredible too... everybody so believable and compelling.

It's also a really good portrait of urban culture in Paris, with a lot of familiar reference points, hip hop, breakdancing, reggae, American gangster films, but in a mix that's decidedly unfamiliar.

Anyway, La Haine...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I just like this photo...

I took this just this past Saturday in TAUGHANNOCK STATE PARK, just outside of Ithaca in Upstate New York. There's a metaphor for life somewhere in this photo but I can't quite put a finger on it.

Something about water flowing downhill towards the end to join the larger body of water... something about roaring over cliffs to a certain end... something about the froth and spray rising up and in frozen moments creating something beautiful but very impermanent.

Something like that.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mommy Dearest

In a sort of defense of Britney Spears, I'd just like to say that if most of us were held to the insane scrutiny as parents that she is, we'd have already had our children taken away.

And most of our parents would have done hard time...

I'm a little freaked out that the discussion of Britney's parenting skills has become... ubiquitous, for lack of a better term. It's everywhere from the front of the lowliest tabloids to pre-meeting banter in corporate boardrooms.

And beyond this story and it's relationship to parenting in general, I'm not going to even get into the cultural obsession with adolescent screw-ups... mostly girls because young men are granted immunity under the boys will be boys law.

Weird stuff...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Woman for the Job

I missed this article when it ran in my hometown paper (The NY Times) a couple days ago but someone on another blog site cut and pasted it. I'm going to do the same because I think it's an important read. I do so not as a ringing endorsement of Hillary Clinton because I do have serious issues with her politics (and that of her party), but because the United States does have very serious issues with women holding public office. We tend to be very eager to criticize the records of other countries and cultures in regards to womens' rights, but there is sufficient evidence that we have quite a way to go before we can guiltlessly point fingers... just an example... Pakistan had Benazir Bhutto while millions of Americans are still singing Stand By Your Man. Rather than me carrying on though, the website for THE WHITE HOUSE PROJECT is quite a bit more informative. And without further ado, here's the article by Bob Herbert from The New York Times, January 15, 2008

Politics and Misogyny

With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s win in New Hampshire, gender issues are suddenly in the news. Where has everybody been?
If there was ever a story that deserved more coverage by the news media, it’s the dark persistence of misogyny in America. Sexism in its myriad destructive forms permeates nearly every aspect of American life. For many men, it’s the true national pastime, much bigger than baseball or football.
Little attention is being paid to the toll that misogyny takes on society in general, and women and girls in particular.
Its forms are limitless. Hard-core pornography is a multibillion-dollar business, having spread far beyond the stereotyped raincoat crowd to anyone with a laptop and a password. Crowds of crazed photographers risk life and limb to get shots of Paris Hilton or Britney Spears without their underwear. At New York Jets home games, men regularly gather at Gate D to urge female fans to expose themselves.
In its grimmest aspects, misogyny manifests itself in hideous violence — from brutal beatings and rape to outright torture and murder. Fifteen months ago, a gunman invaded an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania, separated the girls from the boys, and then shot 10 of the girls, killing five.
The cable news channels revel in stories about women (almost always young and attractive) who come to a gruesome end at the hands of violent men. The stories seldom, if ever, raise the issue of misogyny, which permeates not just the crimes themselves, but the coverage as well.
The latest of these obsessively covered stories concerned a pregnant marine, Maria Frances Lauterbach, who had complained to authorities that she had been raped by a fellow marine. Her body was found last week buried in a backyard fire pit in North Carolina.
It just so happens that the Democratic presidential candidates are campaigning this week in the misogyny capital of America: Nevada. It’s a perfect place to bring up the way women are viewed and treated in this society, but don’t hold your breath. Presidential wannabes are hardly in the habit of insulting the locals.
Prostitution is legal in much of Nevada and heavily promoted even where it’s not. In Las Vegas, where Prostitution is illegal but flourishes nevertheless, Mayor Oscar Goodman has said that creating a series of legal, “magnificent” brothels would be a great development tool for his city.
The fundamental problem in all of this is that women and girls are dehumanized, opening the floodgates to every kind of mistreatment. “Once you dehumanize somebody, everything else is possible,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the women’s advocacy group Equality Now.
A grotesque exercise in the dehumanization of women is carried out routinely at Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel about an hour’s ride outside of Vegas. There the women have to respond like Pavlov’s dog to an electronic bell that might ring at any hour of the day or night. At the sound of the bell, the Prostitutes have five minutes to get to an assembly area where they line up, virtually naked, and submit to a humiliating inspection by any prospective customer who has happened to drop by.
If you don’t think this is an issue worthy of a presidential campaign, consider the scandalous way that women are treated in the military and the fact that the winner of this election will become the commander in chief.
The sexual mistreatment of women in the military is widespread. The Defense Department financed a study in 2003 of female veterans seeking health assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Nearly a third of those surveyed said they had been the victim of a rape or attempted rape during their service.
The Associated Press reported in 2006 that more than 80 military recruiters had been disciplined over the course of a year because of sexual misconduct with young women and girls who had considered joining the military.
There continue to be widespread complaints from women about rape and other forms of sexual attacks in the military, and about a culture that tends to protect the attackers.
To what extent are the candidates of either party concerned about these matters? Do they have any sense of how extensive and debilitating the mistreatment of women and girls really is?
We’ve become so used to the disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous and even violent treatment of women that we hardly notice it. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed against women and girls every day. Fashionable ads in mainstream publications play off of that violence, exploiting themes of death and dismemberment, female submissiveness and child pornography.
If we’ve opened the door to the issue of sexism in the presidential campaign, then let’s have at it. It’s a big and important issue that deserves much more than lip service.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Are you going to miss her, Charles?


How to spell that sound that Lurch makes...

SHIT LIKE THIS just makes my head hurt. We need to enter into a discussion now of rights for robots and beings (yet to be created) possessed of artificial intelligence?? We can't even guarantee rights of people we already have! Silly bastards.

The whole issue of artificial intelligence holds very little appeal to me on any level. Call me unimaginative. Say that I have no sense of adventure. Say what you will. I don't care. We can't even decide with any scientific or philosophical certainty what natural intelligence is. It seems un-artificially stupid, short-sighted and superficial to even think about creating artificial intelligence when we have other very big issues to concentrate on.

And let's face it, the data output is only ever going to be as good as the data input so it's encouraging in this short article that it ends with: But Professor Noel Sharkey, a robotics expert at the University of Sheffield, doubts that robots will ever achieve that sort of intelligence. "I can't deny that this is possible, but as a scientist there's absolutely no evidence for it."

Please do something useful and find a cure for AIDS or something...

Some of these Philip K. Dicks need to get a grip.

Monday, January 14, 2008

In the spirit of sharing...

Some things are just too delightfully stupid to keep to oneself.

I went to sleep last night feeling very pleased with myself, having read and (I believe) grasped the implications of Steven Pinkers treatise on the origins of morality. I've definitely been a bit down on myself lately for neglecting more intellectual pursuits in favor of... well... less intellectual pursuits...

Anyway, at some point in the night whilst sleeping I got wrapped up in the blankets and had rolled over leaving my full weight (a considerable weight) on both forearms. When the alarm began to blare at 5:30 I found to my dismay that the circulation to both of my hands had been cut off. Not only could I lift my own bulk off the mattress but when I managed to roll over, the best I could muster was swinging two semi-dead clubs at the clock, sweeping it off the shelf along with several books, my spectacles and assorted other bric-a-brac.

Where does one take a Monday morning after that? I sat on the edge of the bed with my dead limbs limp in my lap and let out a semi-human groan worthy of John Merrick.

But as you can see, since I am typing, I got better. It's all about overcoming adversity.

My apartment is ripe with the scent of Eggo waffles. I don't eat them but they smell good. I don't buy them and toast them just for the smell either (my sons eat them). It's a comforting aroma though and I'm thinking of contacting the Febreze people and pitching a new line of air fresheners.

Happy Monday.

PS: While you're busy trying to get the circulation going in your own limbs and overcoming adversity in your own life, you can read this--apparently THE FOLKS BEHIND FACEBOOK ARE NEO-CON FREAKSHITS

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Good, The Bad & The Blog

Every so often The New York Times does live up to their reputation and this one today by Steven Pinker on the subject of morality is a hell of a read (hawww morality... hell... get it?). You may have to go through the free registration at the site to read the entire article but it's worth it, if just for this article.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I want to take you higher...

baby baby baby take you higher...

SIR EDMUND HILLARY once again reaches new heights, though certainly not the first to get there. R.I.P.

Monday, January 07, 2008

MMMMMMMM Chocolate

Okay, chocolate isn't exactly gripping human drama, but GREEN & BLACK'S is worth the mention. They take chocolate to a new level. Seriously... The one pictured above is my current favorite, but I don't know what's going to happen if I get into the ice cream and other stuff... I'll be blogging about having liposuction before the winter is over.

Sunday, January 06, 2008



Friday, January 04, 2008

Erection Year

It's official now, with the results in from the Iowa Caucus; Election Year is in full swing! This presents a special dilemma for the terminally immature. Not a day passes when I'm not reminded of EMILY LITELLA and the most poignant question of all time: "What is all this I've been hearing about Presidential Erections?" Poor Emily would have been especially confounded this year with Hillary Clinton in the race.

So... early into the race I have to admit that I have never quite grown up.

But I refuse to believe that the word "caucus" doesn't elicit a snicker from at least a few other shmoes...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Back to Nature

JUST LIKE THE DAY YOU WERE BORN, but just a little more fucked up.

Caution: The above link is not workplace friendly and could result in PREMATURE TERMINATION.

It's a friggin' hoot if you're at home drunk though!