Friday, September 04, 2009

Amber rolls off

Younger, or richer, folks miss something in riding with air conditioning. This is the first time in my life that I've had it consistently, and that's mostly because I tend to drive my girlfriend's car. Still, out of inertia, cheapness, and a certain amount of philosophical post-hoc justification, I rarely turn it on.

It's roughly 95° outside today, and the heat gives an oppressive clarity. I think to myself, people who ride with air conditioning are disconnected from the real world. They watch traffic like they watch television. Not me, man, I'm getting the real thing, the real experience of doing 35 through the armpit of the 110 and 101, baked out of my gourd.

Driving in the mid-afternoon around Los Angeles is a totally different experience than at night; at night, it's an endless extra-spacial drift and best handled a little bit drunk. That's what the huge boulevards and endless sprawl are for. I come from Michigan. I know drunk driving.

But during the day, everything turns into the sweat lodge version of Rockford Files. Huge sedans still cruise here, and Datsun pick-ups with huge plywood walls and beds full of scrap metal roll by with timeless élan. You expect James Garner to cut you off in a low-speed chase at any minute.

I didn't need air conditioning to drive to Amber's. I got there about 10:30, and mornings had been extra cool, what with all the smoke in the air. The mushroom cloud had broken, and now everything just had a fine coating of ash. On the way there, it was enough to have the windows down.

She and Sean had everything boxed by the time I got there, I was strictly for stacking and securing in the trailer she'd rented. Or rather, handing things to her while she stacked them, and narrating the reality show Sean and I invented called "Foreclosure."

The way "Foreclosure" works is similar to an extreme version of Supermarket Sweep, or at least that part of the show where they try to cram everything into a shopping cart. In this show, a trailer would be rented — one of the open ones, so your stacking was only limited by your dreams — and whatever you could fit into it and secure was yours to keep. Though we didn't decide whether this would be prizes provided by some sort of sponsors, or whether this would be all the contestant's own shit. The crux of that is that making you decide which of your own possessions to leave is infinitely crueler, but is cruelty good or bad for reality game shows?

Maybe a mix of old stuff and new stuff, that would add to the strategy.

Have it all narrated by the guys from Takashi's Castle, Sean said, but we couldn't remember their names. For the rest of the afternoon we affected the concerned but facile voices of announcers.

"What do you think Sean, does she have room for the futon?"
"She's going to have to make a call on that lamp soon, Josh."
"Fuck you, fuck both of you and hand me that crate."

Stacking it was the easy part. Amber got her futon and futon frame and other art frames and a reference skeleton and the nice paper she stole from her job all layered in. Even a painting from an ex-boyfriend of some woman with wonky eyes in a lurid Expressionist orange and green.

Then came the securing.

That's the other part of "Foreclosure," you have to drive cross-country with the huge Clampett stack. You only keep what you keep.

So we lashed it down with twine across the top, and it fell to the contestant to tie it down officially, because while Sean might not have been inept enough to have to try to puzzle out the knot-tying instructions on the package of rope ("Wait, are these nine different knots? Where do you start?") he wasn't up to the friendship-bracelet standard that Amber held.

Then Sean went in to shower, and Amber and I went to first the U-Haul store to see if we could buy some ratchet straps. On starting to turn toward the U-Haul, the great cluster of squatting men stood up and started waving their hands. We were too poor and too finished to hire anybody, which meant two passes through them, telling the same guys, no, sorry man.

Getting the straps would have seemed like less of a hassle if we'd known what we needed, and if we'd known what we needed we probably would have known how to use 'em. After returning the first set (overcharged), Amber noticed that one kind was, in eight point type, listed as "Endless ratchet." Neither me nor the manager knew what the hell that meant, but they were cheaper. I thought it meant that it could ratchet forever, whereas the other ones only ratcheted a certain amount of strap.

"But why would people pay less for being able to endlessly ratchet?," Amber asked.
"Closure," I answered.
"Who knows?" said the manager, already being hassled by some other customer needing to return what he called "chrome brakes."

The answer, we found after forcing open the blister packs, is that endless ratchets don't have hooks. Oh, well, fuck it, we got two with ends and plenty of tape.

There are no real instructions on ratchets either. They are of a class of objects where if you have one in your hands, you're expected to already pretty much know how to use it. There are no instructions on a hammer, because if you don't know what to do with a hammer, we as a society have decided that you're not worth talking to. You're either fucking stupid, or haven't seen any of the same TV shows, so what's the point anyway?

The instructions on the ratchet read: "Feed belt into ratchet. Tighten with lever. Check tightness every 20 to 30 miles." That's it. Which meant when the big one fucked up, and Amber was in the shower, Sean and I passed them back and forth between each other like maybe the language was so precise that it needed multiple readings to sink in, like an industrial haiku.

The big one was 30 feet of belt, and anyone who's used a ratchet strap apparently knows that means that you need something pretty close to 30 feet long, or at least closer to 30 than to 25. Because if you try to take up five feet of slack, it turns into a huge impenetrable curl, which you've jammed into the metal using the force of simple machines. Without knowing that this alone will fuck up a ratchet, and underestimating the amount of friction that takes, Sean and I spent half an hour futilely trying to pinch down the huge springs that held the gears in place and pull the belt out. If we couldn't get it, $25 of ratchet strap was wasted and Amber's run as a contestant would be sorely threatened.

Like a skill-less ape, I even took to wedging a stick in there to release the gears before I realized that the belt was only touching the feed lever anyway. It was 2001 without the obelisk.

Even cutting the belt, once Amber gave us the go-ahead, was hard going. Working with a pair of kitchen shears, we got the pinched part of the belt isolated, then spent ten idiot minutes both of us pulling on that little wedge of nylon fabric. At the very least, when we got it on the truck, it'd be proven strong.

"I never took any shop classes. I bet they deal with this there," I said.
"Yeah, I regret that," said Sean. "It's like, they also had this Practical Math class that you took if you weren't taking analysis or calculus or whatever. They taught you how to balance your check book and estimate length. They should have made that regular math, that's the only stuff you need."

Amber slashed the rest of the belt and had it working in about thirty seconds. Once we knew how the ratchet worked, we avoided the same slack problem by lashing around the back grill. Then we taped it on all sides with clear packing tape that will probably only last to Arizona, and made the trailer look like a cross between a mobile rape shed and a present wrapped by the world's largest retard. Sean drew eyes and a snout on it, and that was that.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Strawberry sorbet, the kind you'd find at a second hand store.

I made this. Came out well. Cut sugar in half on second pass, added grapefruit wedge. Came out better.

Tried to adapt it into a red pepper sorbet. Not crazy enough to work.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oh, the internet

I was trying to remember a song that was on a mixtape my friend Chiann made for me years ago, by the band Flashing Lights. I was churning through google results and came on this:

jardine 01-14-2002 05:24 PM
A side
1. Future Bible Heroes -- I'm Lonely (and I Love It)
2. Sloan -- Chester the Molester
3. Of Montreal -- The Miniature Philosopher
4. Belle and Sebastian -- She's Losing It
5. Ashley Park -- Lucy and the Bourgeoisie
6. The Salteens -- Bubba Da
7. The Underdogs -- Punkrocker (live)
8. Eric's Trip -- Kiss Me on the Head
9. Lali Puna -- Together in Electric Dreams (Human League cover)
10. Mercury Rev -- Boys Peel Out
11. Modest Mouse -- Custom Concern
12. The Magnetic Fields -- In My Car
13. Pink Martini -- Que Sera Sera
14. Liquid Plumber -- Pants and Anti-Pants

B side
1. Milch -- Es gibt kein geregeltes Leben
2. Elevator To Hell -- Veins/Green
3. Hydroplane -- Wurlitzer Jukebox
4. The Get-Up Kids -- My Apology
5. Apples in Stereo -- What's the #?
6. They Go Boom!! -- Sunnyday-A-Go-Go
7. Momus -- The Most Important Man Alive
8. Shoestrings -- untitled demo
9. Tara S'Appart -- Beautiful Dreamer
10. The 6ths -- Puerto Rico Way
11. Rufus Wainwright -- Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk (reprise)
12. The Flashing Lights -- Elevature
13. Dabrye -- Hyped-up Plus Tax (rudely cut off)

This is the tape, and it is awesome. Apparently, Chiann posted the track list onto the Giant Robot forum back in 2002. Sometimes, I love the internet.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

lol screamo

So, Attack Attack has this song about Stick Stickly, you know, that Nick in the Afternoon host. And not only does it have everything that I assume people love about screamo (gutteral screaming, emotions, greasy black hair), but it also has a hilarious operatic Eurodance breakdown at the end, and you-say-"awesome"-but-you-mean-it-ironically choreography, as shown in the animated gifs below:


I just found Nathan's M.U.S.C.L.E. page and am now going through obsessively. My little brother and I used to collect these and stage these massive wars on our bedroom floors, using rubber bands (especially after my friend Alex gave me a bag from his paper route) to shoot down vast swaths of the men. They were fleshy, weird, awesome things, and there was more than a little horse trading between my brother and I over which ones were best. I think mine are still in a basket at my parents' house, but damn, I'd kinda like 'em again.

It's weird, because I'm not usually someone who's like, oh, yeah, my Star Wars figures, my GI Joes, but these (and Battle Beasts) trigger some sort of weird wistful feeling.

Roger Ballen

Loving Roger Ballen's series of boarding house photos, including this one. Granuaid had another great piece from him. via.

Shen Wei

Shin Wei: Her two bodies of work displayed, Almost Naked and Chinese Sentiment, primarily portraiture and landscape respectively, are muted meditations on Chinese and Chinese-American identity.

While I think that each set suffers from over-abundance (sometimes, it's not clear what the unifying premise behind Almost Naked is), there are still hundreds of great shots there.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Black box

Brice Bischoff has a fantastic series of abstract photographs taken through light leaks in a cardboard box.

The Sharif Don't Like It

33-Year-Old Mixtape.

"So here's the story...
In 1976, when my wife Kat was one year old, her father made a cassette tape of music recorded from the radio in Iran, while there on business. That's the cassette in the picture up there. I like how it says Stereo Disco on the label and how the music on it is anything but.

Her father would always play this tape endlessly in the car, on family trips to Ocean City, Maryland – it was his all-time favorite mixtape and was also Kat's first exposure to music.

This cassette was, until now, broken for some time. His birthday is coming up, so we thought it would be nice to mend the tape and transfer it's contents onto a CD. That's all done now, thanks to my trusty splicer block.

We're hoping to be able to identify the tracks on this cassette – even my father in law doesn't know, he just likes the music. So please have a quick listen to the tracks below. There's an entry for every track, complete with MP3. If you know any of them, or have a clue as to who it could be, please leave a comment.

Good luck and thanks for helping us out!

Nick & Kat

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

No Comeuppance!

For the first time in a long time, I stayed up late reading and didn't stop until I'd finished the book, The Talented Mr. Ripley, which I borrowed from our pal Cat. I had to make a physical effort to not keep reading the rest of the trilogy right then, since it's all in one volume.

Damn, that was a well-written, nicely paced book. It made me an odd sort of wistful, thinking, yes, it used to be so easy to get away with murder.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Oh, the lonesome ramble

I know that my parents would put it down to all of Gramma's tapes, with titles like "Blood On The Saddle." For them, it was corny music Mom's folks liked, from goofy grinning white dudes with fake ten-gallon hats.

But I love it. I love the loping beat, the plaintive yodel, the cheesy innuendo—everything that Western Swing 78s serves up. I can't pretend to be anything more than a slick dilettante, but I've been loving the Maddox Bros. and Prairie Ramblers. It's the perfect music to fry eggs to, so I've been waking up to it every day this week.

A Brief Menu for Gourmet Drinking in LA, for Thirsty Guides LA

A Brief Menu for Gourmet Drinking in LA

One part foodie, one part craft tradition, three parts drunk and left to set a moment—LA’s haute cocktails are doing their part to rescue drinking from vodka, neon liqueurs and anything –tini. These are the best of the best.

The Aperitif

Behind the French brasserie in Comme Ça in West Hollywood, Tim Loden’s pouring drinks. Comme Ça has borrowed the aesthetic established by Eric Alperin and Sasha Petraske at Milk & Honey in New York (arguably the vanguard in the Cocktalian revolution), emphasizing fresh ingredients from Erlenmeyer flasks. Try an Eastside Fizz (cucumber, mint, gin, soda) or a Pepper Smash (red bell pepper, Rittenhouse rye, honey, lemon) before trying to get a table here or afield.

The Relevé

At Copa D’Oro in Santa Monica, fresh also means local, with the Market Menu coming from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. Their Market Menu does bespoke boozing, and between their $5 Prohibition-era happy hour and their extensive menu of cocktails to any palate, they’re the perfect precursor to sunset on the beach or a night of serious drinking. Try the Jack Rose (applejack, fresh lime, homemade grenadine) for a classic, or a Sour Kraut (Miller’s gin, Cointreau, lemon, marmalade, Dijon mustard) for a taste of perfect cocktail audacity.

The Entreé

It’s hard to imagine a more serious spirit than whiskey, and Seven Grand (Downtown) is the West Coast home for whiskeys. From the ice (bottom frozen blocks) to the vermouth (Andica), Seven Grand is the bar to learn what a Manhattan or a Sazerac, both classics, should taste like. If you’re afraid of the brown liquors, start with a Bourbon Berry Bramble, with muddled blackberry compote bringing out the sweetness of Knob Creek, or breathe mint deeply with an authoritative Julep. But then, really, try the Manhattan and Sazerac. Seriously.

The Dessert

An underground lair of Nu-Victorian affectation, The Edison would be insufferably pretentious if it weren’t full of such delicious drinks. Ignore the writhing burlesque dancer and her listless snake—focus on the masterful menu, a mix of venerable favorites like the Rat Pack approved Flame Of Love or Embassy, and original inventions like the Brass Flower (gin, grapefruit bitters, elderflower cordial, champagne). If you’re not sure yet that you want to love cocktails with all your drunken heart, The Edison’s accessible, well-balanced drinks are the place to grow your courage.

The Digestive

The Varnish, a nouveau speakeasy hidden in the back room of Cole’s, is where the “cocktail forward” bartenders come to do their drinking. If you’ve ever wondered what George Washington drank (Philadelphia Fish House Punch), or wanted to try Cynar, the artichoke liqueur, this is the bar you hit. Just make sure to hit it early and on a weeknight, because it gets tighter than a wino’s gullet.

The next round:

The Hungry Cat, Hollywood: Worth visiting if only for the Avation No. 1, a drink copied around town but worth seeking out at the source.
Malo, Sunset Junction: What Seven Grande is to whiskey, Malo is to tequila. Able to match their anejo to your mood.
Providence, Hollywood: What kind of restaurant has a tasting menu of cocktails? Our kind of restaurant.
Tiki Ti, Silverlake: Secret formulas and unlabelled flasks mean you’re never quite sure what’s in your drink, but it’s tasty enough that dark gods must be involved.

By Josh Steichmann

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Doctor, it hurts when I do…

For some reason, when I paste a URL into Word, then hit return twice, it crashes. I don't recall it ever doing this before. I've restarted, repaired permissions, generally puzzled it out, but all I can think is God, MS Word is kinda shitty product.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tape deck!

Just got the $2 tape deck up and running after my old one decided that everything needed to be pitch shifted down a step.

First mystery tape:

Side A:

The Clash—Jail Garage Doors

Not a bad start, and the totally muddy sound makes sense. The Clash sound a thousand times more punk rock coming from a degraded tape.

Cash Audio—Capitol City Blues
Gov't Mule—Monkey Hill

Both of these tracks were on an old CMJ sampler, and go well together (both about capitol cities). Cash Audio totally peaked too early for the grotty bluze duo wave that came after them.

Big Chief—Liquor Talkin'

I loved these guys as the biggest thing that ever came out of Ann Arbor in the modern era. Too bad that they aren't as good as I remembered and totally disappeared. I think even Sponge is more remembered.

DJ Food—Nocturn

These guys were Coldcut mates who put out a draggy, druggy trip-hop album that was actually pretty good (mostly because of the bass tone). Because of the tape's condition, about all that's coming through is the bass, and it's pretty nice.

Belle and Sebastian—Me and the Major

Oh, yeah, I loved these guys. Whatever happened to them? They put out a bunch of albums of dubious necessity and dabbled in smoov 70s easy listenin'? OK, sure.


One of my favorite bands that never quite got it together. They put out an "electro" album when that was all flashy, except it sucked. Then they broke up and I forget what the main guy is up to now. La Scala? Maybe I should check them out.

Flying Saucer Attack—???

I can't tell what FSA track this is, but the muddy tape is perfect perfect perfect. I need to find them again.

Side B:

Blank? Ugh. I don't think I'll finish this one.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lester Bangs Patti

Lester Bangs reviews Patti Smith's Easter.

I love how Lester Bangs could be great while being glib, though this is an instructive lesson on how to piss off your friends by reviewing their work (which is why I haven't really bothered with the new Crystal Antlers—it sounds half-baked, the band knows it's half-baked, that's pretty much happens when you're the LAST ALBUM EVAR for a label that oh by the way is going under RIGHT NOW).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Vengence of the Lizard King

Oh no! Jim Morrison's time-traveling clone, The Lizard King, has returned to wipe out the monkey race that eventually spawns Bill and Ted! Will ? (of the Mysterions) and Sun Ra be able to convince Ray Manzarek to come out of retirement to stop him? ALL NEW ACTION!

Amy and Josh show dialogue (old)

Josh: Now everybody likes the Slits. If we had a band, we could be this good. We don't have a band, or instruments.
Amy: I don't like the Slits.
Josh: Well, then, we don't have to have a horn section.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ann Arbor Two!

Did you know: Some people call Ann Arbor "Ace Deuce" or just "The Deuce."

This is the full mp3 mix I made for Carson, which wouldn't fit on any of your mortal CD devices.

here. Forty songs of rock, noise, pop and folk, including The Rants, Saturday Looks Good To Me, Nomo, The High Strung, Cornish In a Turtleneck, Isaac Schankler, and more. In going through this, I'm already thinking about the music that I left off (I couldn't figure out a way to make Binary Star fit in the mix) and what would go on the next one.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Places drunk guy told me to see in SF

More for my reference than yours:

Truly Med on Valencia between 16th and 17th.
Pancho Villas Tacos.
Aztecha 16th and Market (he swears by the mole)
Sparkies (24 hour "American" food)
Zeitgeist for the Bloody Marys.
Kan Zaman on Haight
Mejouls for tapas or top-off (he swears that if I take a girl there, she'll "let you fuck her in the ass, man, the food is that good.")

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Multiple topographies

Greg Afinogenov talks about "topographies" versus "biographies" in this blog post, including the following line:

"Though there may be several ways to understand this or that historical figure, the topographer must commit to choosing one interpretation."

In topographer, he's talking about people who write histories of place (at least, I think he is), and Greg's relying on a post-modern (instability of facts) framework to pose his assumption.

But must this be true? Certainly, given an apatite for abstraction, where each option for transience can be met: the author commits to a single interpretation even if that interpretation includes multiple nested interpretations; no matter the depth a deconstructed text is still a text. Even if that text changes, there's a limit to what can be perceived by the audience, etc.

There is, however, no need to restrict this to topographers (a term I like regarding with expansiveness perhaps because I am not a topographer). Those same restrictions are necessary for biographers—even an imagined biographer who tells the story of a life by reliving that life would be necessarily tied to any one given interpretation at any one given time, especially if meta counts.

Which brings me to a challenge: I would like to see stories of place that encompass multiple sets of facts, as much as is possible. I would assume that this is best handled by multimedia, as different media necessarily imply different perspectives due to material constraints. I would assume that this would be parallel and dynamic, making the restrictions on sets of facts more incumbent upon the practical realities of the audience rather than the work itself—it should be impossible to see all of it at once (tangent: unfair art?). To ideally detach itself as much as possible from a single set of facts, it should invite interaction and mutation.

Perhaps selfishly, I'd think this would be best set in Los Angeles, both because I'm here and because it is a city diffidently aware of the difference between portrayal and reality, and one that (even as it exports them) eschews easy narrativization.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ann Arbor in sound

A pal asked me about a song from the great Ypsi punk band The Submarines, which I put on a recent mix (which I'll upload here pretty soon). Did I have any more stuff?

Well, yeah, I used to write about local music. I had plenty. So I started putting together this mix, and fussin' with it and fussin' with it… Basically, it's the best music that I found while I was working at Current, writing my column, and that I had digitized. Which means that some of it is actually from before I took over, some of it is from later (because I'm a goddamn cheater), and some stuff just isn't on there (Tadd Mullenix, for example, I had a tape with a fantastic version of Hyped Up Plus Tax… And I'm just not set up to rip my 7"s).

For some folks, though I can't imagine that there's actually a very significant overlap, a lot of these songs were on a CD I gave away for a contest when I was at Current.

And as soon as I get done uploading it, there'll be a longer version, which has a lot more weird stuff on it that just didn't fit on a CD.

Here's the link to the music.

And here is where I swiped the image from.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


I've been out of work a week now, and I'm at the musing point, where jobs like this still seem plausible.

An elderly man needs a caregiver; also he believes he's being persecuted by aliens? Sign me up, jack, even though my bullshit detector's clicking like a Geiger counter at Chernobyl.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Packzi day!

Through the magic of this Chowhound thread, Amy and I found paczkis in some weird retirement home on Adams. They were prune, and the best damn paczkis I've had, since they had a much better balance of tart and sweet than the usual gloopy ones from Detroit. I've still got one left, which I will eat with gusto tonight! GUSTO!

It was easy, too, all I had to do was go through the giant metal gate, tell the overall-wearing guy who looked like a bouncer that "I read on the internet that you can get paczkis here," and he grunted and motioned me inside. There, a bunch of families in total church finery were drinking coffee in a room that my grandmother would have loved (curio cabinets full of porcelain dolls and lace). We waited for the woman behind the counter to get done chatting with some woman wearing a plum business dress (with shoulderpads), and bought eight. The plum woman lamented the fact that they're now $1.50, telling us conspiratorially that they used to be a dollar. She then tried to get us to go to the mass that was just starting, but luckily I was able to brush her off because I wasn't "dressed for church."

Slobbery saves the day!

Amy and I later learned that Isaac and Amanda apparently don't have the same crazy memories of ZOMG PACZKIS, but dutifully ate theirs in front of us (we thought about bein' total grubbers and asking for the other ones back, but it seemed beneath me, someone so recently mistaken for church-going).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Weird Detroit music

My pal Geoff runs the Cousin's Vinyl record store and blog, and a couple days ago, he sent me a link to Our Lord's Space Ship, a bit of crazy Christiania masquerading as a country tune. While it's OK, it's a bit novelty for my tastes (I have a similar complaint about The Story of Suzie, a country ditty about a girl who ruins her life with marijuana cigarettes (who hasn't?).

But it did get me over there to listen to O Yes My Lord by the Voices of Conquest. Those drums are fucking killer, and that's exactly the sort of Gospel that I'd love to own if I had $150 bucks (damn!). I know that the Cousin's Vinyl guys are ripping the records so they can put them up on the blog (and, I hope, give buyers a copy on mp3, so they don't wear out their vinyl), so I hope I can get a copy of that track from them.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What I'm listening to today

Apollo Heights. Last Of Montreal album + fuzzy shoegaze Working For A Nuclear Free City. Potential, but not there yet. Too much mid-tempo, mid-range earnest lyrics. Plus their song about disco isn't fun so much as trying to be funny. Still, easy to listen to in the background at work.

Red Mass. Ugly garage-psych rock. Dirtbombs plus echoes, some Stooges. Fun. Oh, wait, they also get noisey and weirder! Nice.

Voyager. Prog instrumentals, from Minnesota or something. More space probe than French traders.

Thunderbolt Pagoda. I started to write "Magma" for the text of the anchor tag there. Add Amon Duul II too.