"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: November 2015

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Morning Art


Drawing by Alex Toth.

Is it Real Or Is it Memorex?


Dig this excellent Vox piece by Dennis Perkins on the death of the video store (and you can substitute record store or even bookstore here):

In the last days of the store, daily life at the store got pretty intense. Longtime customers were bereft. We tried to comfort them, explaining how our owner had ensured that our whole collection would soon be available at the public library — for free, even! It didn’t help much. Almost to a one, they had the same reply: “But you won’t be there to help us.”

That was flattering and sad, and ultimately all we could do was agree: Yeah, we wouldn’t be there. There were tears and gifts and genuine concern (not unfounded) about what my coworkers and I would do to survive, a phenomenon both touching and illustrative of how identified we were with the role we played in their lives. A great video store is built on relationships, in some cases relationships that had gone on for years. Our customers were losing the people who’d helped shape their movie taste, who’d steered them toward things we knew they’d like and away from things they didn’t know they’d hate. We were losing the people that we, in our small way, had been able to help. We were all grieving the loss.

Over the years, we’d come to know our customers’ tastes, their pet peeves, and their soft spots. Our experience and movie expertise helped us make informed, intuitive leaps to find and fulfill entertainment needs they didn’t even always know they had. I’ve had parents hug me for introducing their kids to Miyazaki and The Iron Giant. Nice old ladies have baked me cookies for starting them off on The Wire. People knew they could come in with the vaguest description — “This guy has an eye patch, and I think there’s a mariachi band” — and we’d figure out they were looking for Cutter’s Way. Other times, they’d take a recommendation for Walking and Talking and come back saying, “Just give me everything Nicole Holofcener’s ever done.” If someone asked me for a great comedy, my first question was invariably, “What’s one comedy you’ve seen that you think is hilarious?” I’ve spent 20 minutes refining exactly how scary was too scary when picking out a horror movie. It’s a skill set you develop, a sensitivity to just the right vibrations of interest and aversion.

[Photo Via: Carey Martell]

Where & When: On Demand 1

Well hello again, welcome to Where & When: On Demand (!) Yes, you read that right.  I’ve been so busy this year that you may have noticed a dearth of games in 2015; trust me these games are not easy to conceptualize to my particular standards, but I get a big kick out of the challenge for all of us.  In fact, someone (I don’t know who) missed this feature so much that they actually asked when there’d be another… imagine that! Well, I can’t let such eager individuals down too long, so I scoured the nets to find something interesting and challenging to present before being devoured by the daily grind, which has become only too grinding of late (but eh, it’s a living).

But enough about me and my achy limbs, let’s play!

Where & When Request 1 2015

There’s not a whole lot in this fine picture to tell you when this photo was taken, so I’ll give you a hint: “This address almost became the site of the home team, baby!”  Now if you know me well enough, I’m I’m sure you do at this point, you know that there’s gooey caramel hidden in that clue; you might even slump, groan or facepalm when the realization hits you; it’s just my thing.  But after that, all you have to do is post the name of this building (Where) and a particular date or year that is significant to this location. Bonus if you know something significant that happened after the When date related to this location.  As usual, the first person with the correct answers will win the coveted Root Beer of choice (so many good ones to choose from), while the rest of the players will enjoy a cool cream soda as we all regale each other around the Hot Stove.  The bonus winner(s) will get a warm brownie to enjoy the cooling Fall weather as we approach the Happy Holiday season.

So, as per special request, enjoy the game and hopefully I can catch up with you all and maybe have some more challenges through the rest of the year. Happy Hunting!

Still Life


Because mo’ Buster is mo’ better.

Buster Keaton – The Art of the Gag from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

What’s Happening?


Catching up with the Yanks is the ever-excellent Chad Jennings. A good over-view of what’s what on an otherwise slow news day round these parts.

Meanwhile, slide on over to Esquire Classic and check out the little Q&A I did with my pal John Ed Bradley on a story he once wrote for Esky on Lawrence Taylor. 

Picture by Bags

Saturdazed Soul


Smooth out the R&B.

Picture by Bags

Put the Needle to the Groove


Peter Guralnick’s new biography, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll, looks promising.

From Dwight Garner’s review in the Times:

Phillips was ahead of his time. So-called race records were selling in the early 1950s, but not widely. The singles he recorded in Memphis weren’t moving. He was in danger of going out of business. When the mystery train that was Presley came around the bend, he was not too stupid to climb aboard.

It’s worth pausing, for a moment, to consider how lucky it was that Presley walked into Phillips’s studio and not someone else’s. Another producer (that term had not yet come into use in the record industry) might have put him to work singing country-pop ditties with string sections. He might have been another Eddy Arnold.

Phillips already had an aesthetic ethos. In some ways, he had prepared his whole life for Elvis’s arrival. Part of Phillips’s ethos, Mr. Guralnick writes, was his “sense that there were all these people of little education and even less social standing, both black and white, who had so much to say but were prohibited from saying it.”

And here’s Louis Menand in the New Yorker:

“We Record Anything—Anywhere—Anytime” was the slogan. This meant a lot of church services, weddings, and funerals, but Phillips’s dream, the reason that he set up the studio, was to have a place where any aspiring musician could come in and try out, no questions asked. Phillips would listen and offer suggestions and encouragement. If he liked what he heard, he would record it. For a fee, the performer could cut his or her own record.

Phillips was extremely good at this. He was patient with the musicians; he was adept with the technology; above all, he was supportive. He hated formulas. He thought that music was about self-expression, and he liked songs that were different. The pop sound in 1950 was smooth and harmonic. Phillips preferred imperfection. It made the music sound alive and authentic. Word got around, and musicians no one else would record started turning up at the Memphis Recording Service. Phillips got them to believe in him by getting them to believe in themselves.

All They Do is Give Out Awards


Dallas and Jake. No soup for Zach.

Taster’s Cherce


All about the lard.

Beat of the Day


Looo Looo.

Morning Art


“Figure of a Woman” by Vilhelm Hammershøi

Million Dollar Movie


One of the wife’s favorite movies…

Movin’ Right Along


S’long JR Muphy, hello Aaron Hicks.

And say, children: what does it all mean?

Murphy was a nice Yankee. Wish the dude good luck.

Picture by Bags

Ain’t it the Truth, Ain’t it the Truth?


I’ve been reading through Joy Ride, John Lahr’s recent anthology of theater criticism and personality profiles. In the introduction, he has this to say about his editor at The New Yorker, Deborah Treisman:

But, short or long, the mind-meld never lost its thrill. On the edited page, you are still you, but somehow brighter, clearer, smoother, almost glamorous. You words dip and swing with their proper music; your hard-won meanings land with their intended clout. No wonder the relationship feels so intimate and joyous. You are being given the greatest of gifts: to be your best self in print.

This is so true and when you’re lucky enough to work with an editor like this it is something to be savored. I love that Lahr was generous enough to point this out.

[Photo Credit: Graham Turner]

Sundazed Soul


Easy, Now.

Picture by Bags

Beat of the Day

Cool out.

Photo Credit: Cate Dingley via MPD.

Taster’s Cherce


What is a quince, Alex?

Million Dollar Movie


“F” for Fatale.

New York Minute


On Saturday afternoon I saw my neighbor Louie standing with another guy in front of our building. I asked the other guy if he was rooting for the Mets.

“I’m rooting for New York,” he said, “I’m a New Yorker. We need to win. It’s been so long.”

He meant it, too. Then: “We need a fuckin’ parade.”

There’ll be no parade this year but I like the sentiment.

Beat of the Day


Play that record you fool.

Picture by Egon.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver