Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year?

My New Year's this year has been great, but every year, I'm struck by the bittersweet and forlorn elements of the holiday, as well as the hopeful and forward-looking. As much as New Year's is a time of self-renewal and reinvention, it's also a time of regret and second-guessing for some people.

Barry Manilow knows this.

Mr. Manilow sings at least two songs about New Year's Eve, and neither is particularly hopeful. One, I listen to every year. "It's Just Another New Year's Eve" is a mellow, almost mournful song of simple sadness. It balances the hope of the holiday with the half-hearted realization that all is not what it could be.

It's just another New Year's Eve,
Another night like all the rest.
It's just another New Year's Eve,
Let's make it the best.
It's just another New Year's Eve,
It's just another Auld Lang Syne,
But when we're through this New Year, you'll see, will be
Just fine.

Is "just fine" the most we can hope for?

Let's dial back to just before the midnight hour, and Mr. Manilow's other New Year's song, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" That song, with its place in time earlier this evening, week, month... should be more hopeful. Yet is it? Shades of Charlie Brown and the little red-headed girl, no.

Wonder whose arms will hold you good and tight
When it's exactly twelve o'clock that night?
Welcoming in the New Year... New Year's eve

Just now on the Dick Clark special, the Bangles performed Simon and Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter." Susanna Hoffs, like Jane Weidlin (crush!), is as beautiful as ever, and given Ryan Seacrest's muffing the ever-strong Dick Clark's name at one point during the TV broadcast, we can only hope that this is the springtime of our lives.

Happy new year, y'all.

Rock Shows of Note LXXXVII

After eating what might be the best hot dogs I've ever had at Sparky's in Williamsburg, and a quick coffee at a place that wasn't Verb, which was closed, Jen and I made our way to Northsix for the early They Might Be Giants New Year's show.

The line to get in was already in full effect, so we trucked to the back of the queue and braved the mystery drips from the buildings as we progressed to the door. The security guy was really nervous about my paper coffee cup. "You're going to have to throw that away, man. So finish it." "I'm done. I just want to throw it away." "OK, man, but you're going to have to throw it away."

This show, like the late show, had sold out, but we ensconced ourselves on the bar side of the bleachers and clung to the wall for most of the show. It was pretty crowded, and the staff kept trying to move people forward and to the right. Boston-based Gravel Pit front man Jedediah Parish opened, performing a solo set despite being sick with the flu. Regardless, he did very well, opening with a song about how he didn't need a band -- while still celebrating some notable musical groups, including one including Maynard Ferguson, Clifford Brown, and Harold Land. He rhymed the latter player's name with "band," believe it or not. Jed drank a lot of water, losing track of which bottles were his and taking some audience members's along with his own. "Thank you for the water."

Finally, They Might Be Giants. This was my first time seeing them play, much less play in Brooklyn, so it was quite a treat. They griped about their new digital monitor system, criticized the current administration, and celebrated Brooklyn in their own special way. "Birdhouse in Your Soul," "Why Does the Sun Shine?" and "Alphabet of Nations" were special treats. A Williamsburg native narrated their set of songs from Venue Songs, which stretched overly long and proved somewhat anticlimactic, as the set ended with a nice closer -- but they still had more time to play.

Jen had developed a headache and left to escape the loud and check out Molly Crabapple's New Year's party. I lingered slightly longer and left when they broke into the Malcolm in the Middle theme song. A quick and not-too-cold walk home, and I'm perched on the futon gearing up for New Year's with Dick Clark. I really missed him last year, and this year's broadcast introduction was more of a torch passing to Ryan Seacrest than I expected.

Special thanks to Jen, who joined me as a last minute stunt date of sorts. I'd bought two tickets ages ago, hoping to get a bunch of friends to go as a group, and everyone either had pre-existing plans or was out of town. We'd never met before, so things were a little awkward -- but fun nonetheless. Happy new year, Jen!

Update: Jen shares a brief story about new year's, too.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Moral Quandary #1

When giving gifts and presents, I rarely if ever give used items, especially for major holidays such as Christmas and birthdays. In the past, when tempted to open a present before gifting it to a friend or family member, I've restrained myself. Unopened, new gifts are better, I thought.

This year was different. I bought several CD's for family members, and each one, I opened and ripped before wrapping them. Those CD's that had the hinge sticker -- the sticker sealing the jewel tray closed at the top of the CD -- I flipped open in such a way that the sticker was left intact, so the recipient may be none the wiser, albeit musically richer. (I call this the skate key method, and if we ever meet, I'll be happy to demonstrate.)

Is this wrong? I don't mean in the copyright infringement sense, because I bought all three CD's at considerable markup (100% more than online retail for one of the discs) instead of buying them used in order to support in-store holiday sales. I mean in the gift-giving sense. Does a "listened" to once CD make less of a gift? Does shrink wrap make a present more meaningful?

Or did I just ruin Christmas?

Update: Products I Love XVII

Clovis Press in Williamsburg is all out of the Slingshot 2006 Organizer. But the clerk there tells me that Cinders still has some in stock. Stuff those stockings!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Comics and Commentary XV

Poopsheet just ran my review of Lower-Middle Class #1. More to come!

Workaday World XLVI

We just learned that there's a Web cam trained on the parking lot near our office. Here are some photos of me playing with it:

Standing still

Running away

I run so fast, my legs can't keep up with my torso!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Movie I Watched Last Night XCIV

Last night, I went to see King Kong at the Greenburgh Multiplex Cinemas. It was awesome. And it's well worth seeing on the big screen!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Imaginary Stand up Comedy Monologue III

This one gets a little blue, at least more risque than I usually get (which is not at all risque). If you don't do blue, avert your eyes.

A lot of times, when I have a show coming up, I like to scope out the venue to get a feel for the location. You know, to put myself at ease. To pick up on little details I can work into my set. And to get the vibe for the underlying chi of the place. Sometimes, you can do all that by just walking by, maybe poking your head in the door, and checking out the neighborhood. Other times, you have to do more.

This was one of those times. Last night, I got here about 7 p.m. to pitch a tent and camp out on the sidewalk in front. The smokers standing outside thought it was a little weird, but after I'd fired up the mini-Weber and grilled up some Boca burgers, it was like a tailgate at a Brewers game. Some passersby got confused, thinking it was opening night for the new Harry Potter movie -- or that Phish tickets were going on sale -- and the local media did stop by, and for the most part, I think everyone had a lot of fun.

But the most important person is me. And I feel so comortable here tonight, it's freaky. I also witnessed one of the most amazing examples of graffiti art ever to happen in New York City. Once the bars had closed and the Boca burgers had run out, I mostly had the sidewalk to myself. And while I usually like to stay up, reading, or working out my routine, I must admit that I drifted off. I fell asleep.

Usually, I try to stay up all night because I get to meet more people that way -- and because just because you're asleep in a tent doesn't mean that someone can't steal your tent. Last time I did this, I woke up all tangled up in my three-man, which is really only big enough for one man, thrown roughly in the corner of a vacant lot in Ozone Park. Man, was that embarassing. But last night, I fell asleep and woke up to the most beautiful New York City morning -- and one of the most amazing graffiti pieces I've ever encountered. My urban environment had changed. I had been visited by the urban Tooth Fairy. A citified Santa Claus. This wasn't just made by your average graffiti artist. This was made by a Michelangelo of graffiti artists. The Macgyver of graffiti artists.

Now, despite that overlong buildup, I'm not going to ruin this by tellling you how the public property was defaced, I'm going to tell you how the public property was defaced. I'm going to dramatize the creative process that must have gone into it. And what I imagine must have happened. I think it went a little like this.

Two young guys are walking down the street. I'll play both of them. OK. What's my motivation? OK.

"You know what we should do, man, we should tag something."

"Tag something?"

"Tag something."

"Like, with our names?"

"No, not with our names. That's basic. When you tag with your name, you run a risk. People might know who you are. Remember Kilroy? He was here, but now -- where is he? Rykers. And when you tag something that's not your name, you create a mystery. People wonder who you are, what you're saying, what you're meaning. And that, my friend, is the conversation of the streets."

"The conversation of the streets."


"You want to draw that I Spy guy? Or Neckface? They're mysterious."

"No. That's old hat. I'm old school. Hold on. Let's say we find a sign. Like a billboard. Like that ad on the phone booth. The one with the lady's face. Then we tag something on it that, like, alters its meaning. Like, detournes it. That ad is ripe for parody. Let's do that."

"I think you've been reading too many DJ Spooky liner notes, man. But OK."

"You got a Sharpie?"


"Some Krylon?"


"Shoe polish?"







"Yeah. I got Carmex. Hey, wait. That's stupid. You use Carmex and two things happen. One, it's like she's having a flashback or a pleasant memory of an idyllic past or something. It's all smeary. And two, you're going to dip your finger in my Carmex, draw on that billboard, dip your finger back in my Carmex, and draw some more? No way. My lips are chapped, man, and double dippling is nasty."

"Hey, my lips are chapped, too. Can I borrow your Carmex?"

"Sure. Wait. No way, man. You can't trick me like that."

"Fine. You got an Xacto knife?"


"Sulfuric acid?"


"A gluestick?"


"Man, you've really got to be more prepared. OK, let's see. What else? Let's see. OK, I'm going to run into that laundromat and get something we can use. You stay here. Don't leave. And when I get back, we can tag that thing."

"Fine. I'll be here."

"OK. I'm back. We're golden. I got what we need."

"What'd you get?"

"Masking tape."

"Masking tape?"

"Yeah, hold on. I'll show you. This is going to be wicked. Block me and act like you're waiting for the bus. Look normal. This'll just take a second. OK. Some there. And some there... and there... let's see. A little more there. Huh. Perfect."

"What is it?"

"Don't play me like that, man. You so know what that is."

"Is she playing the kazoo?"

"The kazoo? No, man. That, my friend, is a penis. Pointing at her mouth is a penis. Isn't that perfect? It's like we're saying, 'Whoah, you can't debase and commodify our women, Mr. Ad Man. We'll debase and commodify women ourselves.' Power to the people, man!"

"Maybe it's a jaw harp."

"A jaw harp?"

"Yeah, I think it looks like a kazoo or a jaw harp."

"Are you crazy? It's a penis."

"Looks like a kazoo."

"Cheese it, it's the police!"

And they run.

Yes, my friends, in the middle of the night, between my falling asleep and my waking up, someone had defaced that billboard by making a very rough approximation of a penis out of masking tape. Masking tape.

If that isn't dedication to one's craft, a sheer act of desperate creativity, I don't know what is.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Comics and Commentary XIV

Poopsheet recently ran a couple of my reviews. Check out Aprensiz #3 and Alice in New York #2. More to come!