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Friday, February 29, 2008

The Intertubes: VLES Allows For Real Fake Experience of Cool New York No One Can Afford Anymore

Virtual Max Fish

VLES does not stand for very lesbian, rather it means Virtual Lower East Side. What it is, is a Viacom owned Second Life-like world that uses the hip coolness of New York City's Lower East Side to promote bands. But can you have cybersex there?

More importantly, will the rents spiral ever upwards replacing all of these denizens with well-heeled Wall Streeters who are another market crash away from oblivion? If some of the lovingly recreated venues like Max Fish and Katz's Deli go the way of CBGB, will they be erased here too?
Frankly this isn't my idea of cultural landmarking, and the idea of this neighborhood as a distinct melange of cultural influences has already been superceded by the relentless march of gentrification. I look forward to VWilliamsburg.

Design: Italdesign Guigiaro Pulls a Wedgie With Quaranta

The few remaining Italian design houses are using next week's Geneva show as a showcase for their talents, as is their wont. Italdesign Guigiaro has unveiled the Quaranta which celebrates the firm's 40th anniversary, and their continued survival under the auspices of the younger Giugiaro.

The Quaranta pays explicit tribute to one of the firm's first designs, the Bizzarrini Manta concept from 1968:

Like the influential Manta, the Quaranta is a radical wedge-shape. The Manta helped kick off the aerodynamic craze of the 70s and 80s, which Pininfarina's new Sintesi concept also evokes. The Quaranta is unlikely to wield as much imaginative power as its predecessor though.

The best view is from above, where the purity of the shape, the radical arc of the roofline and repetition of this curve in the front fenders flow harmoniously together.

The side view also has promise but the clumsy vents behind the doors and on the lower body betray the clean lines. The side glass is very well handled, especially as it seems to flow in one piece over the front fenders and wheels.

The rear end seems busy and contrived. The rear fender planes meet a darkened rear spoiler and a collection of triangular planes which are probably meant to evoke the wedginess of the roof.
Overall not a classic, and with echoes not just of Giugiaro's earlier work but also that of former rival on the brink of bankruptcy Bertone's past work (especially up front) Quaranta is intriguing if unsatisfying.

Culture: The Week in Death

I gave Boyd Coddington more play this week because I simply enjoyed his work more than the other three famous folks who shuffled off this mortal coil -- and yet they deserve mention. Remember to refresh this page if the vids don't play at first.

Buddy Miles, wonderful drummer though he was, seems fated to be remembered for his very short stint with Hendrix rather than for his own hitmaking, voicing a California Raisin or any other gig he's had. Still, great drummer. Here's Buddy Miles doing "Them Changes" on Playboy After Dark and boy that party at Hef's pad looks wild. Too bad it cuts away before the orgy starts:

Then there' s Mike Smith, lead singer for the Dave Clark 5 whom I maligned last year as a second string British Invasion band that didn't deserve Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ahead of other more worthy artists. Well great, now I feel bad not only because the induction was less than a week away, but also upon learning that Smith has been paralyzed below the ribs since 2003 from a spinal cord injury, and now he is no longer with us. Here's the Dave Clark 5 doing one of my favorite songs of theirs "Catch us if You Can":

Finally William F. Buckley, patrician grandpapa of modern conservatism and erudite wordslinger died as well. Buckley helped form the intellectual underpinnings of a movement that would find it's flowering with President's Reagan and Bush the Younger. He was funny, an unreconstructed snob, an intellect whose conclusions were often dubious but rendered with such high-falutin' language and superiority that followers and some detractors were often left speechless. Buckley founded the National Review one of the most influential conservative publications in the country. Here's patrician demagogue on the right (literally and figuratively) Buckley getting a mite hot and bothered with patrician demagogue on the left Gore Vidal in 1968:

Design: Nubrella Announces To World That You Could Care Less

Commentators have often described President Bush as being inside a "bubble" where only a distorted and limited view of the outside world is filtered in. If you ever wanted to simulate this effect you need only order the Nubrella. It's like a baby carriage for your infantile head. Thanks to Core77 for finding what I'm sure will be worn by half of the extras in a crowd scene during the next futuristic sci-fi flick starring Will Smith. This also puts me in mind of the "Cone of Silence" from the old Get Smart TV show (as opposed to the new Get Smart movie). As usual if the vid doesn't show the first time, hit refresh in your browser. Or not.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Design: Steamy Hot Open Volvo -- Caresto Hot Rod Jakob

Volvos -- safe, stylish, detachedly cool. Who would make a hot rod out of a Volvo? Why, ex-Volvo guy Lief Tufvesson of Caresto naturally, and he's done it before. Explain yourself, my tall Nordic friend:

"Volvo has always been a special make for me. These were the cars I learned my skills on in my youth, and I also worked for a while at Volvo's concept-car department. So instead of obtaining inspiration from an old Ford, as is usually the case in Hot Rod circles, I wanted to build something that meant more to me personally. That's why I chose to bring together the most classic attributes of Volvo, the Jakob, and my own modern Hot Rod style,"

What a great tribute to hot rod genius Boyd Coddington than to see the reach of the culture he helped popularize extend to Northern European near-luxury brands. It's also a nice back-at-ya for one of the United State's best known Volvo lovers, Iraq War salesman extraordinaire Colin Powell, seen here with his own:

More to the point check out the beautifully spare bodywork and detailing. The body is stripped down to its basic bucket shape and the windshield rails dive down deep into the cowl area. Also check out the ginormous brutalist design of the exposed rear axle.

Film: New Line Gets the Axe From WB

New Line, the former independent film studio founded 40 years ago by Bob Shaye, is being shuttered by corporate parent Warner Bros. The New Line label will still be used and its current slate of films will be released but it will no longer function as a separate entity.

New Line started off distributing off the shelf films and midnight movie fare by pioneering auteurs like John Waters. The 80s saw them scoring with genre fare like the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Their biggest triumph came with Peter Jackson's ambitious Lord of The Rings trilogy which grossed billions worldwide. Shaye would subsequently have a very public falling-out with Jackson over profit reporting that grew to entangle the possible Hobbit prequel.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Design News: Boyd Coddington Dead at 63

Boyd Coddington, who brought precision machining and an unsparing eye for design to the world of custom cars and hot rods, died this morning. The cause of death has not been released. Coddington trained scores of future hot rod designers and fabricators in his shop and turned out several classics of hot rod art. More recently he brought rodding to the masses with his television show American Hot Rod.

Coddington could be prickly and irascible but his exacting notions of beauty and engineering helped to take what was a subculture into the mainstream. Though some lament the commercialization of the subculture that first bloomed in the post World War II Californai sun with his TV show and his Coddington Wheels line of accessories.

Here is Cadzilla, which he created for ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons:

Coddington's take on a classic '34 Ford, one of the staples of the hot rodder's trade:

Check out the craftsmanship on the grille and the elegant tie bar between the headlamps:

Coddington's Chezoom:

Music News:The Craziest Record Ever? Frank Black (Francis) , Isaac Brock, Larry Norman Cover Lee Hazlewood

Black Francis

Pitchfork confirms what has merely been wild conjecture: Move over Scarlett Johansson for the wildest record combo yet. Ex-Pixies frontman Black Francis (or Frank Black depending on his mood) Issac Brock of Modest Mouse, recently (as in this Sunday) deceased Christian rock pioneer Larry Norman, and Norman's brother's band Guards of Metropolis, all joining to cover songs from also recently expired singer/songwriter/ Nancy Sinatra svengali Lee Hazlewood's album Trouble is a Lonesome Town.

Norman has been acknowledged as an early influence by Black Francis, as has Hazlewood.

Here are some clips-- as always just refresh the page if they don't play the first time. If you are reading this on another site just follow the link back here and enjoy!

Here's Larry Norman doing "Why Should the Devil Have all The Good Music":

Here's Guards of Metropolis doing "Whatever it is":

Design: Pininfarina's Sintesi is Future Fantasy From the Past

Auto show season keeps rolling on with the upcoming Geneva show expected to herald the usual array of production and concept vehicles. Falling squarely into the concept category is famed Italian design house Pininfarina's Sintesi. Pininfarina is famous for it's many iconic Ferrari designs and for it's consultations with Honda among others.

Sintesi is posited as Pininfarina's glimpse into the future as the picture above attests. Still to my eye the emphasis on longer, lower, and wider is a throwback to the design ethos of the 1970s and 80s when aerodynamics became an industry craze. Pininfarina's 1970 Ferrari Modulo is at the extreme of this approach:

As for the merits of the Sintesi design, at first glance what appears to be almost bland and a little bit derivative yields up some very tasty details. The subtle details and converging shapes at the rear flanks are very well handled, as is the indent leading to the lower body side vent. The coupe-like roofline is also notable, along with the huge windshield which seems to have come off of a late-60s Can-Am racer. The front-end opening and the side fender venst seem less harmonious however, and the side glass with its windows-within windows opening also harks back to design studies of the late 70s and early 80s. Also notable are the lovely chamfering around the edges at the front and rear (visible on the picture at the very top of the page).

Why all of these references to 70s and 80s concept design language? Most likely the return to prominence of fuel efficiency as a major issue for global auto manufacturers. The 90s were a time out from escalating fuel prices and in Europe and the United States the evolution of design language towards a lower, longer, "jellybean" like blob began to modify into taller forms like SUV's, crossovers, and tall hatches. Now that fuel prices are back on the rise and countries like the United States are looking again at mandating fuel economy standards, design firms like Pininfarina can be expected to take a second look at these older, more aerodynamic (and thus more fuel efficient as they require less power to move through the air) designs.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Culture: The Exquisite Loneliness of Jon Revealed in Garfield Minus Garfield

I have to get my twisted Family Circus mash-ups scanned and on here -- no joke! I really love this kind of creative repurposing. The site Garfield Minus Garfield features the popular corpulent cat-starring comic strip with the titular star removed from every frame he's in -- leaving lonely, looney, possibly meds- skipping owner Jon. Enjoy the harshness of utter despairing isolation that takes Jon to the brink of madness!

Music: This Week's New Music Releases

Alison Goldfrapp

Goldfrapp take a chill pill and eschew the dancefloor with their mellow new disc Seventh Tree. Here's the video for "A & E" which I am assured does not feature Peter Graves:

Edgy R & B diva Erykah Badu comes back from a long lay-off with New AmErykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War which oddly is also the name of a folder on George W. Bush's desktop. Here's the video for "Honey" which opens up in what the ancestors used to call a "record store." Hmmm...

Dreamy shoegazey types Beach House lay some Devotion on us. Here's the sparkly video for "You Came to Me":

Cowboy Junkies simulate a cough-syrup flashback with Trinity Revisited, a re-recorded version of their soporific best seller The Trinity Session -- this time with special guests such as Vic Chestnutt and Natalie they are with Ms. Merchant doing "Working on a Building":

Give Dolly parton credit for self knowledge (and parody) -- her new one is called Backwoods Barbie. In amongst the Nashville bric-a-brac are covers of Smokey Robinson's "The Tracks of My Tears" and Fine Young Cannibals "She Drives Me Crazy." Here's the "Better Get to Livin' " clip featuring the always welcome Amy Sedaris:

Don't forget: If the vids don't play, refresh your browser!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Film Review: Atonement -- Britflick in a Blender

Atonement could have been made by no other people than the British, and it's fitting that it won the BAFTA award. Pity that it is so fatally flawed. Essentially the film feels like every British movie cliche in a blender -- cheerfully cynical cockney war buddy, ornate country mansion, class barriers, snotty kids, World War II, etc. etc. Unfortunately no one actually turns the blender on so rather than pureeing this mess into something swallowable it all sits around together without actually congealing.

This is especially sad in that it begins with such promise. The first 45 minutes is the tight little story of a jealous little girl who tells a horrible lie, one which seperates her upper class sister sultry Keira Knightley from hunky lower class scholar James McAvoy. With the woodsy drawing rooms and parlours, proper mustaches and so forth there is a definte Merchant-Ivory-ness to the proceedings but the set-up is suitably engrossing.

No doubt the real heat in the passionate performances by Knightley and McAvoy are a big factor, as is the creepy stare of little Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan. There is enough subtle intrigue from the surrounding players and residual goodwil towards the star-crossed lovers to have propelled this into all sorts of second and third acts.

Which makes the wet squib of Joe Wright's film (and for all I know, the Ian McEwan novel it's based on) all the more shameful. Wright is a talented director as the first part of the film and a bravura 4 and a half minute, one take shot set during the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II attest. The goodwill of the setup is spoilt, first by the war scenes which ultimately lead nowhere, then by a draggy sequence with Romola Garai as a now 18-year old Briony Tallis -- she of the dreadful lie. Garai seems parachuted in from another movie -- her performance is fine but it never connects us with the younger actress nor with the rest of what transpires.

Finally we are really sent down the chute by a too-clever-by-half wrap-up featuring glorious Vanessa Redgrave. The post-modern ending leaves a poor taste in the mouth, feeling like a screenwriter's thematic triumph but a filmgoer's wasted time. The sort of thing attempted in the end has to be handled just right to come off but Wright shows that as tecnically capable as he may be, he just doesn't have the control over this material to make it work. Stranding performances as solid as McAvoy's and as downright excellent as Knightley's in the morass of the second half of this film is nearly unforgivable.

Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey is uniformly excellent as is the Oscar winning score by Dario Marianelli. Atonement gets 2 out of 5 British flags. Sorry guv'nor...

Here's the trailer:

TV: Is Bitch The New Black? Tina Fey Throws it Down on SNL

Tina Fey: My kind of bitch

Cool chick who graduated Tina Fey returned to her Saturday Night Live alma mater this weekend and just had to take a turn at the anchor desk. She used her spot to make a hilarious and impassioned plea on Hillary Clinton's behalf. Her shootdowns of the anti-Hill arguments were pretty deft. For instance, on the criticism that she can't "control" Bill and would have some kind of co-Presidency:
“That would be terrible, having two intelligent, qualified people working together to solve problems,” going on to say that we need to make sure Starsky doesn't talk to Hutch. It all led up to what she felt really turned people off: They think Hillary is a bitch. "Yeah she is!" she said gleefully, "So am is this one.." she said gesturing towards Amy Poehler. "...bitches get things done!" She then ended with the rousing cry "Bitch is the new black!"

Added to the (not interminable and yet one note) opening sketch which skewered the press' fascination for Obama and their disdain for La Clinton the show is sporting a refreshing against the grain Clinton bias.

The little dumb asses at NBC Universal in their infinite non-wisdom continue to embargo their material from sites like YouTube (despite the huge boost it has given SNL) so unfortunately I've embedded their inferior, NBC approved java-based player clip here:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Music: Express Yourself -- As a Tangent

Gawker reports that the new so uncool it's cool thing to do on the web is to turn your favorite songs into graphic representations of themselves. The kids call it Song Chart Memes. If you're a Blur fan you'll dig the above. If your tastes run in a more Prince-ly vein see below, and a few more faves:

Find lots more here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Film: Oscars are Spoiled For Choice -- as are the Soundies!

This year's Oscar picks are the toughest I can remember in a number of categories. Still, blogging is all about making the tough choices -- that is when it's not about carpal tunnel syndrome. The following are my picks in several major categories. I would toss my hat into the increasingly crowded prognostication ring but really, does anyone know, outside of a few categories that seem to be a lock? So once again, thses are my faves out of the noms but not who I think will neccessarily win. Thus I call these my "Soundies":

"Persepolis" - (Sony Pictures Classics) Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
"Ratatouille" - (Pixar; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Distribution) Brad Bird
"Surf’s Up" - (Sony Pictures Releasing) Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

This is a tough one, mainly because of Persepolis and Ratatouille. I agree with the sentiment that Ratatouille could have been a best picture contender, it's certainly a better film than Aladdin, but then so is Persepolis. Persepolis has more timely political and personal themes, dealing as it does with the Islamic revolution in Iran and the effect it has on one woman growing up. Ratatouille also had strong resonance though, dealing as it does with creativity and in remarkably similar ways to Persepolis, issues of identity and gentrification. In the end, I'm giving my Soundie to Brad Bird's Ratatouille based on the stunning animation and the scope of the themes the film covers. Once again he proves that big budget animation doesn't have to mean tired pop-cultural references and lame singing and dancing interludes. Surf's Up simply isn't in the same league as the other two films, despite not being bad at all.

Paul Thomas Anderson - "There Will Be Blood"
Ethan & Joel Coen - "No Country for Old Men"
Christopher Hampton - "Atonement"
Ronald Harwood - "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
Sarah Polley - "Away from Her"

Another tough set of choices, each of these have something to recommend them. Atonement is hamstrung in most categories by being the most conventional pick, though Away From Her is also fairly straightforward. Sarah Polley, who is better known as an actress, both wrote and directed Away From Her and this is a chance to reward her for pulling off a tough hat trick. In the end though, I have to give it up for the Coen brothers, simply for the audacity to end their film the way they do and to confound every expectation set up by No Country For Old Men.

Brad Bird - "Ratatouille"
Diablo Cody - "Juno"
Tony Gilroy - "Michael Clayton"
Tamara Jenkins - "The Savages"
Nancy Oliver - "Lars and the Real Girl"

The Oscar word is that first timer Diablo Cody is a lock to win this, if only to see what outfit she'll wear. To be fair Juno is an excellent screenplay with a whole host of memorable lines. Bird's Ratatouille is expertly constructed as both entertainment and thoughtful meditation, able to charm an 8 year old or an 80 year old, no mean feat. Then there is Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton, a film the veteran screenwriter was able to use as his directing debut and which expertly subverts the thriller genre. I'm a fan of Tamara Jenkins and the personal nature of her storytelling and I enjoyed Lars and the Real Girl though I don't know if it's central high concept is quite enough to warrant inclusion here. In another tough one, I'm giving the Soundie to Gilroy for his delicatly balanced Clayton.

Paul Thomas Anderson - "There Will Be Blood"
Ethan Coen & Joel Coen - "No Country For Old Men"
Tony Gilroy - "Michael Clayton"
Jason Reitman - "Juno"
Julian Schnabel - "The Diving Bell And The Butterfly"

Gnahhh! How to choose between these?! Schnabel is stylish and makes some clever choices but the lack of a best picture nod is a tipoff that this isn't quite there. Juno is very well made and young Reitman does an admirable job balancing the tricky tone of the material. Clayton is a remarkable debut, filled with smart set-ups and shots and sequences like Clooney's Graduate-esque taxi ride. Blood is an expertly shot and conceived epic that still finds time for claustrophobic mania. This brings us once again to the Coens, who manipulate sound (or it's absence), light (or it's absence) and the audience with an uncommon skill. The Soundie goes to No Country .

Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (Warner Bros.)Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
Hal Holbrook in "Into the Wild" (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson’s War" (Universal)
Tom Wilkinson in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)

Casey Affleck has had a very good year, both in the western with a title nearly as long as its bloated running time and in big brother's directorial debut Gone Baby Gone. Philip Seymour Hoffman won for Capote in a performance I found to be just short of dreadful yet he too has had a very good year in both The Savages and War. Hal Holbrook is touching in Into The Wild, and it could be the very last time voters get to mark him off. Tom Wilkinson is extraordinary in a film full of great performances, walking the fine line between lucidity insanity fueled mysticism. Then we come to the favorite, Bardem. Sometimes the favorite is anointed for a reason and Bradem utterly transforms his charming handsome self into a dead-eyed, bowlcut killer. His performance is likely to become iconic.

Cate Blanchett in "I’m Not There" (The Weinstein Company)
Ruby Dee in "American Gangster" (Universal)
Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement" (Focus Features)
Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone" (Miramax)
Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)

I've always thought kids should get their own category for acting. Every year some tyke like Haley Joel Osment gets nominated and gets one step closer to peaking too damn early. So Saoirse Ronan is out. Blanchett is making a career out of impersonations of famous people -- look out Rich Little! That being said her Dylan is pretty damn great. Ruby Dee is wonderful, but she's in that movie for maybe 5 minutes? Amy Ryan is always dynamite in my book -- you want layers? She's got 'em, plus she's worked her butt off in the industry and according to The Onion's AV Guide dropping off her laundry is the only sign of "making it" she's noticed. This brings us to Tilda Swinton's gimlet-eyed clammy skinned performance in Michael Clayton, in its own way the counterpart of Javier Bardem's bad guy in No Country. Except where Jardem is playing an elemental force of nature, Swinton is all-too human. Swinton gets the Soundie.

Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (Universal)
Julie Christie in "Away from Her" (Lionsgate)
Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse)
Laura Linney in "The Savages" (Fox Searchlight)
Ellen Page in "Juno" (Fox Searchlight)

The relative thinness of this category suggests that Hollywood really does have a dearth of good roles for woman. It's also notable that two of the big Best Picture noms have very small roles for women. Cate Blanchett is always a treat but this film was bad and she has been and will be better in better films. Laura Linney is terrific and funny and messed up in the sibling tragedy of The Savages. Marion Cotillard does a remarkable job of transforming herself into Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose. Julie Christie is always a welcome presence onscreen, and carries Sarah Polley's Away From Her with a tough performance. Which leave this year's ingenue, Ellen Page, who will have a hard time topping her acerbic yet vulnerable performnce in Juno, which gets the Soundie.

George Clooney in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)
Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (DreamWorks and Warner Bros.,Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Valley of Elah" (Warner Independent)
Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises" (Focus Features)

Mortensen did the accent route in Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, not to mention the whole nude fight scene approach. It's a brave performance. Tommy Lee Jones also had a strong year but his nomination comes for the wrong film, as touching as he is in Elah. Depp sings, he dances, he sports his bride of Frankenstein hair -- it's another fine turn for the ex- 21 Jump Street-er. Clooney gives a sensitive and tricky performnce in Clayton, his scene with the horses was one of the best of the year. Which brings us to Daniel Day-Lewis. Some people found him a bit hammy in Blood but this physically challenging, bravura role shows why the man commands the screen. He's magnificent and magnetic, garnering himself a Soundie.

"Atonement" (Focus Features)A Working Title ProductionTim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, Producers
"Juno" (Fox Searchlight)A Dancing Elk Pictures, LLC ProductionLianne Halfon, Mason Novick and Russell Smith, Producers
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)A Clayton Productions, LLC ProductionSydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent, Producers
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)A Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss ProductionScott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)A JoAnne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company ProductionJoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, Producers

Atonement is the kind of film that used to be prime Oscar-bait years ago. The truth is that among the more innovative films in the category this year it comes up short. Juno is a wonderful film, funny and sweet, but it lacks the impact of some of the heavier films in this category. Any of the remaining three would be great choices but I have to give the Soundie to Blood with it's brutal dissection of greed.

Culture: New York is No City For Old Haunts -- Greedy Real Estate Pigs Driving Neighborhood Staples From the Trough

The Ramones and friends outside CBGB during its prime

You know things are bad in New York when even Virgin's giant 14th Street Megastore looks like it will be forced out by greedy landlords looking to make more moolah. Unless you happen to be in Mayor Bloomberg's rarefied tax bracket it's harder and harder to survive anywhere near Manhattan.

The display window at Cafe La Fortuna

The latest on the hitlist is Cafe La Fortuna, a West Side survivor and favored haunt of John Lennon when he lived in the neighborhood. According to the New York Times' piece yesterday, the owners have given Yoko Ono John's favorite chair. By Sunday it will be closed.

This is added to the impending closure of Florent, the anchor of the meatpacking district's revival. Back in the 80s when the surrounding area was a mixture of tranny prostitutes and actual meatpackers it was a lone outpost of civilization. You could get a reasonably priced, delicious meal 24 hours a day surrounded by Florent's self-made maps. It's not clear how much time it has left there but the landlord has made it clear that they are looking for much more money for what has been transformed into a trendy spot.

Already the legendary CBGB, birthplace of New York punk, has closed, as has the Bottom Line.

I hereby proclaim that New York City needs to not just landmark the outside of buildings, but ought to institute a program of Cultural Landmarking to preserve important parts of life in the city. Restaurants, clubs, theatres, anyplace that is a thriving historical beacon of the city's life should be protected from rapacious land barons and the vagaries of an out of control real estate market.

The two people who can get this done are Mayor Bloomberg and Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council. Let's send them a message that our vulnerable cultural anchors need protection -- especially the ones that serve those of us with less than bulging wallets.

You can send Mayor Bloomberg a message here. For Topic use Quality of Life.

You can send Speaker Quinn a message here. For Issue use General Welfare.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Music: Limber Limbaugh Gets Down With His Hancock Homage on Colbert

Herbie Hancock was the surprise winner at last week's Grammys for album of the year with his Joni Mitchell tribute record. While some people were astounded by this, Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert aired a surprising Hancock tribute video on his show. Who knew Rush Limbaugh was a fan of the innovative jazzman? Also, "Rockit" is still an awesome jam.

Here's the clip from Colbert:

And here's Hancock's original video from 1983:

Music: Magnetic Merritt is Down With Brown

Merritt shows off three dog-droppingly different shades of brown...

Tucked amongst the advertising folderol and nude Freaky Friday pics of this week's New York magazine fashion issue was a piece on precious New Yorkers who only wear one color. And in no case was that color black.

Turns out Magnetic Fields maestro Stephin Merritt has a wardrobe entirely made up of variations on brown. He has some fairly compelling reasons for this:
"Brown shows absolutely nothing. You’d have to spill some fuchsia paint. If you wear black, dandruff is horrific and lint is a nightmare—and dog hair, in my case, is a particular problem."
Or, if you are conservative sacred cow and dead President Ronald Reagan, you wear a brown suit to match the hair goop and to pay tribute to Harold Bell Wright's Christian themed novel That Printer of Udell...

Movie News: Make it An All Apatow Summer -- Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Hey it's those two guys...and they're in Hawaii!

Judd Apatow has about 20 bajillion films coming out including Pineapple Express at the end of the Summer and Forgetting Sarah Marshall at the beginning in May. As you'll see from the trailer, Marshall (which coincidentally stars Apatow's former Freaks and Geek-ster Marshall from How I Met Your Mother) looks pretty darn good. Behold!

Design: Climbing the Walls To Get To Your Books

As a New Yorker I appreciate any solution to a small dwelling space, especially one that takes into account rampant bibliophilia. Take a look at this shelving cum staircase from a London flat that is lit via skylight and leads to a top floor bedroom.

Levitate Architect's Tim Sloan describes the design as an "...upside down 'sedan chair' structure (with Rodrigues Associates, Structural Engineers, London) that carries the whole weight of the stair and books back to the main structural walls of the building. It dangles from the upper floor thereby avoiding any complicated neighbour issues with the floors below."

From Core77 and Apartment Therapy.