Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Up In The Old Hotel, Fighting Zombies With A Chainsaw

I don't play video games and haven't for a long time, but perhaps that's only because I didn't know there was a video game featuring Joseph Mitchell as a character.  Unfortunately, it doesn't look like he gets to do anything cool, like battle his way out of a post-apocalyptic version of the New Yorker offices where all the editors have been turned into zombies, or take on the King of the Gypsies in a cherrystone clam-eating contest at McSorley's.

More info here. [via]

Monday, June 28, 2010

A One-Block Journey Into The (Retro-) Future

For a brief, but awe-inspiring, sample of what the City of the Future was supposed to look like, walk down East 24th St. in Manhattan between Park and Madison in the direction of Madison Square Park (actually, at certain times of day, it's even better to start a block further east).  You'll walk between, and be dwarfed by, the Met Life Tower and the Met Life North building.  Although the buildings were designed and constructed decades apart, the effect is one of immersion in a single architectural vision.  You have to look up for the effect to be complete, since, for me, the sky bridge spanning 24th St. is the key element of the composition.

I don't think I've ever photographed this block, but in any case, it has to be experienced in person.  Google Street View will give you a taste, though.

Bonus Links
The Met Life North building was begun in 1928, one year after Metropolis (coincidence???), and topped out about 70 stories short of its originally intended 100-story height.  Here's a rendering of the original, uncompleted design.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Any NYC jazz internet types out there know what happened to the Mandatory Attendance blog?  It went on a vacation hiatus and never came back.  I hope Mr. or Mrs. Mandatory is just taking an extended summer break, because the blog was a great resource, often picking up on stuff that the also-valuable-but-less-focused WBGO calendar missed.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Children Are The Future

Some great writers have passed on recently, but thanks to the younger generation, the future of literature is bright.  No, I'm not talking about this crowdThese kids are the ones to watch.

Speaking of scouting out up-and-coming talent, I'm reminded of this.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jose Saramago

Markson, and now Saramago.  We're losing the best we've got.

Maybe more later, but for now, a few recommendations if you haven't read Saramago and are wondering where to start.  You can't miss with any of these:

The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis
The Gospel According to Jesus Christ
The History of the Siege of Lisbon

Monday, June 14, 2010

Vuvuzela Filter

If you're into digital audio processing and World Cup soccer, this is the link for you.  I had to hear about a half dozen different commentators say "vuvuzela" before I figured out what they were saying.  Also, is the vuvuzela related, etymologically or otherwise, to the manzello?

Update: this answers the question, "what would it be like to watch a World Cup match via Twitter?"

Friday, June 11, 2010

Urban Buckaroo

I'd always heard that Buck Owens music - due to the way his records were recorded and mixed, and the often treble-heavy sound of the Buckaroos - was known for sounding good even, or maybe especially, in less-than-ideal, lo-fi situations, like through the crappy speaker of an old pickup truck's radio.  Whether this was a goal or a by-product of the recording process, the sounds were able to slice through any kind of tinniness or other sonic limitation to reach the listener.

Though I've listened to Buck on some cheap, factory car stereos, I don't think I'd ever listened to him on earbuds until about a week ago.  And as you might expect from what I've said above, he sounds great that way.  I've been trying to listen to some stuff featuring Charlie Haden on the iPod lately (might be a forthcoming post talking about some of that music), and it's very frustrating with my current setup.  The sounds of the city just wipe poor Charlie's bass right out of the musical picture.  I'm sure I'm missing some aspects of Buck's music, too, but the essentials come right through, even in the subway or on a busy street.  I enjoy the fact that the man who sang "I Wouldn't Live in New York City (If They Gave Me the Whole Dang Town)" made music so well suited to subway listening.

What got me started on my recent Buck Owens kick was this great post over at The Hound Blog.  His tale of being picked up by Buck's stretch limo in pre-gentrified Alphabet City is priceless.

One more thing: excluding classical music and jazz, is there a more perfect, joyful piece of instrumental (i.e. non-vocal) music than "Buckaroo"?  Next time you listen to it, dig the cymbal beat (is that Mel King or Willie Cantu?).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Short List of Signs, Products, and Advertisements Spotted Recently in the Middle West

*actual name of a golf glove 

Monday, June 7, 2010

David Markson

Just heard that David Markson has died (via HTMLGiant).  He was one of those authors who became a favorite the first time I read one of his books (This Is Not A Novel, which I started with just because it was the one that was on the library shelf when I went looking).  He didn't have to grow on me.  I was hooked almost immediately.  I'm guessing Markson's work is like that.  You either get it right away or it leaves you cold.  Instead of trying to describe his style to the curious, I'd recommend opening one of his books at random and reading a couple of pages.  You'll know if it's for you or not.  But if, after reading those couple of pages, you were to ask, "is this all there is?", I would tell you that the answer is both "yes" and "no".

To me, and I think it's been said before, he was a magician.  There was something going on in the spaces between all those entries, something that accumulated in the course of reading one of his books.  I don't know how he did it, but it was a strong magic. 

Wittgenstein's Mistress just came in the mail over the weekend, before I heard the news.  It's probably mentioned more often than any other as his best book, thanks in part to David Foster Wallace saying that it was "pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country".  So, obviously, I'm pretty excited to get started on it.

Also, did the man who assembled his books out of notecards really have a Twitter?