Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Once and Future King

I've gone and done it again. I started reading a Stephen King book a few days ago and today I began reading a second Stephen King book.

It seems that every 5 years or so I go on a mini-Stephen King reading rampage. The thing is - I hate Stephen King. Well, not really, but, well, the guy frustrates the heck out of me.

He is one of the best-selling, most-accepted, mainstream authors of all-time. A fact which vexes me to the point of obsession. What is his secret? How'd he do it? Why him?

So in an attempt to figure it out, every few years I decide to read a Stephen King book. I'll admit I enjoy most of them. But really my motive for starting a new one is to pick it apart - to expose its inner workings and in doing so discover King's secret.

But then something happens. Usually about half-way into the book. I get hooked with a capital H. And in the days that follow I read about 5 more Stephen King books. By weeks end I am usually left highly entertained but no closer to unearthing King's magic.

And that annoys me. To the point where I don't even want to hear his name for a few years. I even keep my King books in the basement - out of sight - because really it makes me ill to look at them.

I feel like there is something wrong, something lesser, about Stephen King. It is literary snobbery - something I usually revile but for some reason practice in the case of Stephen King.

This time around I decided to read his much heralded "The Gunslinger" which has inevitably led me to pick-up "The Drawing of the Three".

A blurb on the back said that the Dark Tower series was the most compelling reading experience of modern times. I don't know about that, but the story is pretty darn fun.

As I am half-way through "The Drawing of the Three", I find myself admiring King more than I ever have allowed myself to before. Mainly because I just read a passage that may be the best King passage I've ever read. For those who know the series - the sequence where Roland first 'talks' to The Prisoner, Eddie Dean, is the passage I'm talking about. It was awesome - incredible, thrilling stuff and yet frustrating as ever.

And here's why. King is so damned simple! His writing is so damned straight-forward and simple that it just doesn't feel like it should be as good as it is!

After reading his simple passage describing an otherwise complex mind-inhabiting-telepathy-like experience - it hit me. I was thrilled by his simple description of this complicated idea and then suddenly I was hit with several insights into King's secret recipe at once.

I found myself reflecting back on the first book "The Gunslinger" which is good, but not great, but fun enough to make me pick up "Drawing of the Three". "Gunslinger" is amateurish King and comparing it to "Drawing..." is where the secret began to show itself.

1. King is a master at describing the complex and fantastic with Hemingway-like simplicity. This simplicity makes King accessible like no-other writer in his genres. In fact his style of simplicity in language is so straight-forward that it removes the stigma of genre (horror/fantasy) from his books so that normal folks don't feel like geeky, malcontents for reading them.

2. King always has a mystery subplot in every story. He always tosses out some hints at something deeper going on - or at the very least something weird that needs to be explained. This was never more obvious than in the Gunslinger epic.

Everybody is dying to know the answer and he expertly strings us along to find out. Even if we aren't enjoying the book, we will keep reading to get the answer. Or more importantly the connection. How does Roland in the Old West connect to the falcon training fantasy crap? Keep reading to find out - which you will because connection between the two worlds seems so impossible.

3. King makes the reader feel like they are part of the developing story. King writes in a way that makes you feel like he is making it up as you read along. This is the real source of his 'compelling reading'. In his afterwords and forewords in the Dark Tower series - he admits he has no clue where it is going. This added to the sense of mystery (explanations of weird connections) keeps readers reading because they feel like practically anything could happen from one page to the next.

Whether or not King actually makes things up as he goes is a mystery. As a writer I have to believe he doesn't and is just really good at faking it. Which is a form of genius in its own right.

There is no denying that Stephen King is a genius. Which is why I am obsessed with him and his writing. I will probably finish the Dark Tower series by the beginning of next week. Who knows what revelations into King's secret books 3-6 will reveal?

Originally posted on March 28, 2007 on Myspace.

"Hot Fuzz" (2007)

On Friday night I got to attend a special PR tour showing of the new movie "Hot Fuzz" at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse that pretty much kicked ass all around.

First, getting to see the new movie from the 'Shaun of the Dead' team a month before everyone else rules in its own right. But the way the presented the movie rocked too.

It was double featured with "Die Hard'! We all got to enjoy my favorite action flick on the big screen as a warm up for 'Hot Fuzz'. 'Die Hard' on the big screen is awesome - from the minute the vault opens to the end of the movie - that segment is still some of the most exciting, nail-biting action I've ever seen. I've seen 'Die Hard' on the big screen about seven times over the years, but seeing it Friday was probably the best experience with it since I saw it on opening weekend almost 20 years ago. It reminded me why I love movies all over again.

Then 'Hot Fuzz' came on and it was a riot. This movie is absolutely hilarious. It is funnier than 'Shaun of the Dead' although not quite as complete of a film. I don't want to spoil anything but I will say this - the comedy in the movie works on about 5 different levels which could make it enjoyable for just about anyone. The more levels of humor you tap into though, the better the movie is. It's kind of brilliant how they layered it.

1. For fans of 'Shaun of the Dead' - 'HF' is almost like a bizarro world image of that movie. There are a lot of references to 'Shaun' that are great but don't have to be recognized for the movie to be hilarious.

2. The action movie parody/homages in this movie are brilliant. They recreate some key scenes and camera moves from some action classics. It is simultaneously hilarious and yet an ultimate homage to the fun of the action genre. God, there is one part that is so damn perfect - I can not wait to share it with my action movie brothers.

3. The weird country bumpkin British shit - they way they collide the action genre and this sleepy British village is bizarre to great comedic effect. It's almost like a Stepford Wives feel for a while.

4. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost - these guys are an amazing on screen duo - they own the screen in 'HF' - Nick Frost is now officially my hero. Just looking at the two of them makes you laugh.

5. The ridiculous violence - it is ridiculous and it is impossible not to crack a smile when it hits.

Man, I really enjoyed this movie. The script works in so many action movie plot/structure conventions and then turns them to comedic effect it is sort of mind-boggling. I highly recommend this flick - I haven't laughed so hard in a good long while.

After the showing of 'Hot Fuzz' we got treated to a very informal and very funny Q&A with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and the director Edgar Wright. It was surreal seeing the stars in person and even more surreal having them dole out comic gem answers a mile a minute.

At one point Nick Frost was instructing a woman to place condoms filled with frozen feces under the floorboards of her annoying neighbor's house. Followed by Simon Pegg asking a male audience member if he was the hooker Pegg had hired the night before!

All three are extremely funny human beings and I can see how their team-work created such a hilarious movie.

Originally published on March 25, 2007.

From West Texas

After an Ebay and Craigslist adventure I secured a couple of tickets to the sold-out Explosions in the Sky concert at the 930 Club.

What better way to warm up my St. Pat’s than with an early concert by one of my favorite bands?
I hit the 930 Club early to catch the opening acts since word on the street was that they were pretty interesting. I’m glad I did.

Eluvium is a one-man band. Using electronics and a guitar he orchestrated sweeping sound-scapes set to images of birds (or bats) projected on stage. This was music to accompany the first rays of sunlight piercing the cloud cover of a thousand-year nuclear winter. Eluvium’s music while full of conflict was uplifting and beautiful.

The Paper Chase were pretty fun but utterly disposable. Their sound is chaotic, angular, post-punk with amusing lyrics. They put on a high energy show but went on a little long in my book. Mainly because they didn’t exactly fit with the night’s theme of soaring instrumentals.

Explosions in the Sky pretty much blew the doors off the place. Literally.

Whoever was mixing the show must have maxed out the sound board because even the quiet parts of their songs were loud as heck. An effect which added greatly to the many crescendos of the night, but erased all traces of subtlety in EITS’ music.

The band played a great mix of their discography splitting the set into three acts composed of restraint, build-up, and then epic guitar-power release. I remember at one point during the set when I was so impressed, so blown away by what I was listening to, that I couldn’t imagine how anyone could dislike what EITS were doing. I even made note of the time as if I were a doctor calling out the time-of-death on musical cynicism – it was 9:38.

NPR recorded and archived all three bands on their awesome concert series website. I just finished listening to the EITS recording and oddly enough it sounds a lot different than the experience in person. Equally good however as the recording brings back a lot of the subtlety that the live setting lacked. Maybe the recording had a different engineer than the club did? Either way, the live EITS mp3 makes for a beautiful listen. Check it out!

Originally published on March 21, 2007.

I thought this was the best EITS performance I would ever see but somehow they topped it when I saw them from the front-front row of Radio City Music Hall a few years later and then again at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin TX in 2012. They are a magical band.

Special Electric Duo

Last Friday amidst the snowfall I trekked down to Rock & Roll Hotel to catch The Raveonettes. This show was part of their ‘Special Electric Duo’ tour.

I’ve been tracking the Raveonettes since their debut back in 2002. I’ve seen them play a lot since then (on two continents even) and every set has been a delight. Friday night’s included.

The Raveonettes as a band have featured a revolving support line-up over the years ranging from a 3-piece with drum machine to a 4-piece with a live drummer. The two constants have always been Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo; the heart and soul of the group.

Going into the show on Friday night I was curious what ‘Special Electric Duo’ would mean exactly. Obviously it would be Sune (guitar) and Sharin (bass) but would there be drums and if not how would they swing it?

The stage set-up was spare. Guitar, bass, two-headed drum. DC didn’t rate the pretty ‘Rave On’ lights other cities on the tour had, mainly due to the band arriving a scant 15 minutes before show-time. Apparently they had spent 14 hours on the Jersey Turnpike due to weather!

So looking a tad tired, Sharin and Sune launched into their set composed of intimate, stripped-down versions of some of their best songs. Gone was all of the production slickness, as well as a lot of the noise. This was a classic rock-n-roll sound. Sune’s guitars had this great hobo twang. Sharin’s bass fuzzed out and thumping. They occasionally took turns on the drum.

The set felt a lot like an electric demos session. Which was cool in a couple of ways. First, we got to hear familiar songs presented in a new way – their vocals sounded much sexier this way. Second, the set was played fast and loose – there wasn’t a very rehearsed feel, this was The Raveonettes au natural. It felt like a glimpse into their song writing process or more accurately what it would be like to have the Raveonettes as friends strumming some tunes at one of your parties.

Song highlights were an incredible rearrangement of ‘Attack of the Ghost Riders’ and an awesome drum-and-bass cover of Sonic Youth’s ’100%’.

Originally published on March 21, 2007.

A few years later The Raveonettes backing band would be stuck in Europe due to a volcano in Iceland while the main duo was at the Coachella music festival waiting for them. Rather than cancel, Sharin and Sune performed without them. It was the sickest performance ever and I bet the tour I am writing about in this article prepared them for their impromptu Coachella duo performance.

This Video Game Nonsense about '300'

I really don't get this video game comparison everyone is tossing around about '300'.

Usually it is old fogey reviewers complaining about it's 'video gamness' because
they lack the vocabulary or the balls to admit their natural resistance to
advancing film technology (much like parents hating the new-fangled
Rock-n-Roll in the 50's). They don't dislike it because it is too much
like a video game. The dislike it because they are close-minded old farts.
Especially Edelstein on NPR - I hate that guy.

Back to the video game comparison. Maybe a lifetime of gaming has prepared
us to watch hyper-stylized action such as '300' but that's as far as I'm
willing yo go. The movie is very ungame like. It is a classic battle
movie, the type of which has existed long before video games, being made
with the best visual tech available (as all new movies should be - push
the medium).

If we want to stretch it we could say the waves of attacks by different
soldier types is like game levels. If that is why it is video-game like
then so is 'Zulu' with Michael Caine from the 60's. Pong wasn't even in
living rooms back then.

As for the bare-bones plot - what more does this story need? It is a
story based on historical legend and archetype. The character and plot
elements speak-for-themselves. Actions speak louder than words. Pictures
are worth thousands of words. This movie combines action and pictures like
no other in recent years. That's excellence in film-craft not video game

***Spoiler Warning for next final Paragraph***

'300' is also very un-gamelike in the way it ends. If a game ended where
you cut the big-boss's cheek and then die in a hail of arrows it would be
known as the worst video-game ending in history. However in a movie that
kind of ending can be the stuff of legend. It works in a movie does not work in
a game. At all.

***End Spoiler***

Originally posted on March 16, 2007 on Myspace.

God Save The Good, The Bad, and The Queen

Oh my goodness. I think on the boat ride over here from England, Paul Simonon dunked his head into the Atlantic, ripped up the trans-Atlantic cable with his teeth, and then used it to string his bass guitar. The man was slinging some deep bass at the 930 Club earlier tonight. Simonon’s monster bass chords were one of the many thrills delivered by The Good, The Bad, and The Queen.

What could have easily been written off as a vanity project of Blur’s Damon Albarn, GBQ have been proving naysayer’s wrong since their debut album hit U.S. shores a few months back. Tonight’s performance was one of a limited U.S. tour that displayed such musical excellence and natural joy for music that if there are any doubters left in DC they must be of the most gnarled and cynical sort.

Tonight’s concert was incredible.

The 930 Club stage was dressed up with two long streamers featuring mini-flags of all nations, a giant back-drop of a London Bridge scene, and a Union Jack draped poetically over Albarn’s stand-up piano. A top-hatted string quartet warmed up on stage as a trilby doffed Paul Simonon took up his long-necked bass. Albarn soon followed donning a top-hat of his own. Followed by Tony Allen looking cool and tough behind the drum-kit and a sober looking guitar guru Simon Tong.

When the band launched into their set, I thought they sounded a little loose and Albarn seemed a tad subdued. Which got me wondering if maybe there was something to the vanity project label that had been tossed about. By song two those thoughts were wonderfully dismissed, the band tightened up considerably and launched into one of the coolest sets I’ve seen in a long time.

I say cool because, well, there is no other word to describe it. Everyone in that band is so fucking cool. Individually they are masters at their instruments; Allen – Drums, Tong – Guitar, Simonon – Bass, Albarn – Voice. Collectively they present a musical confidence that lends to their dripping with cool.

Case in point – Albarn is hammering away on the piano playing wonderfully off of Allen’s cymbals while Paul Simonon casually leans on Albarn’s piano watching with a calm expression on his face that says, ‘I could do better than that’ whilst his cigarette burns away tucked into the fret-neck of his bass that hangs untouched at his waist as if placed there by a photographer’s assistant. A picture perfect spontaneous moment of utter coolness.

Albarn is one of the great front men of our time. Every time I see him he reminds me of that. Over the course of the set, the guy came to life, leading the crowd along with him on his musical journey by dancing and posing and singing his gloomy London narrative to perfection.

Tong and Allen were like statues. Monuments to their respective instruments playing them effortlessly while displaying a dizzying range of technical proficiency. I haven’t seen Tong play guitar since the early 90′s and I forgot how damn good he is. What really surprised me about these two guys was the level of drama they wrenched out of their gear. I had read a review from the GBQ show in New York that said Allen was a boring drummer! That is insane. Allen is the definition of restraint and dramatic effect. The mofo is complex. His well-placed shot to a snare reports like a rifle. Both Tong and Allen’s intricacies were well-served by the 930 Club’s system.

And then there was Paul Simonon on bass. His lines were right up front in the mix and heavy. It was friggin’ beautiful. Simonon live is like watching Fred Astaire. He dances around the stage sometimes holding his bass like a dance partner other times a gun, but always an extension of his long-limbed, lanky body. Donned in a tilted, trilby hat and smart black suit, he looked like he walked right out of a Clash PR photo that I have framed in my staircase. The guy is cool personified. The audience played off of Paul as much as they did Albarn. It was like having two-front men for the price of one.

Even with the best intentions, musically all of these strong personalities on one stage could have worked against each other. Minus the benefit of the studio and mutli-takes, GBQ could have been a disaster live. But it most certainly wasn’t. These guys played together like old buddies jamming on a lark after drinking a case of Red Stripes at a reunion. The beginning was a little rusty, but by the third song they were on fire, and they kept the fire going long into the night. And hopefully for a couple more albums!

Go to NPR’s Concert Series for an archived listen to tonight’s concert.

Originally published on March 14, 2007. 

This is one of the most magically concerts I have seen at the 9:30 Club.

Legendary Bass – T-Minus 4 Hours and Counting

All day the only thing I can think about is that later tonight I will be seeing Paul Simonon play bass in person.

Yes, I am one of the lucky thousand who got a ticket to tonight’s sold out performance of Damon Albarn’s latest super-group The Good, The Bad, and The Queen. I am super-excited to be seeing Albarn’s latest, their debut album is fantastic and their tour dates limited.

The real draw for me though is getting to see Paul Simonon play bass live. Paul Simonon formerly of my favorite band of all damn time, The Clash. Paul Simonon once seen smashing a bass on the best damn album cover of all time, London Calling. A chance to see the Paul Simonon is something I never thought would happen in my life and right now it is dominating my thoughts that in a few hours I’ll be standing inches from the man.

Leave it to uber-collaborator Albarn to dust-off one of my all time rock-god heroes and deliver him up performing in my hometown. Man, I can not wait!

While I’ll soon be watching The Good, The Bad, and The Queen live, you get the chance to listen along. NPR’s fantastic live concert series will be broadcasting the show as it happens. To listen to Albarn’s dulcet tones and Simonon’s too-cool-for-school bass lines tune into to NPR at 930 or go to their website for a live feed.

Originally published on March 14, 2007.

"300" (2007)

"300" is a beautifully shot orgy of on-screen violence. In a word it is great.

"300" is one of the coolest looking action films ever shot. It is the very definition of movie escapism. It reinvigorates movies as good old fashioned entertainment.

The sound, score, and visuals are insane in this movie. The sheer sensory enjoyment this film delivers is a masterful achievement in it self and far-surpasses the bare-bones plot criticism that are out there.

Any one who loves movies would have to love this movie by default. It is such a basic, visceral movie experience that I can't imagine how someone serious about film could not like it.

Plus it kicks all kinds of ass. There isn't a better filmed sword/spear combat movie in existence.

One performance note: Gerard Butler as King Leonidas is one of the ultimate movie bad-asses of all time.

Originally posted on March 12, 2007 on Myspace.

This movie has unfortunately evolved into a parody of itself over time for all the wrong reasons that really have nothing to do with the film itself. If you strip away the rise of the "bro" phenomenon and ignore Zach Snyder's misses that soon followed and watch this movie in a culture vacuum, it still stands as one of the best action-ers ever.

Best Set of 2007?

I am nearly at a loss for words when trying to review the Isis concert at the 930 Club that I attended last night.

They were phenomenal. Better than almost anything else I’ve ever seen. Demonstrating an entirely new level of musicianship last night they raised the bar for the post-metal/post-rock scene to almost unattainable heights. Isis are the masters.

Isis took full advantage fo the 930 Club’s awesome sound system to give Washington music fans a real treat. From the get go their crushing wall of sound blew past their 2004 Black Cat set – a feat I didn’t think possible before last night. Not only did they pump up the muscle in their sound, but the 930 Club’s sweet set-up also amplified Isis’ quiet moments to a state of sheer beauty rarely achieved. Isis’ music is dense and complex and last night you could hear every microscopic, subtle sound move each band member made. It was a fascinating level of clarity exposing a new brilliance to Isis’ music that otherwise gets lost when they play on lesser sound systems.

Occasionally I toss around the phrase ‘music nirvana’ as the highest state of live music enjoyment. When the outside world drops away leaving the band and the crowd in their own pocket universe of musical experience. It is the gold standard by which I judge all my live music experiences and while many shows come close only 1 or 2 a year achieve it. Isis did it once before in 2004 and somehow managed to best even that esteemed performance with what they did last night.

I’m sorry you missed it.

Originally published on March 12, 2007.

“Shake Appeal – Move So Fast On Me!”

Anybody see the surprise announcement that Iggy & the Stooges are playing the 930 Club? Anybody try to get tix yesterday? They sold out fast enough to make your head spin! Luckily I got mine.

While their new album is crap, their reunion shows have gotten rave reviews. Their original catalog is some of my favorite music in the history of rock. Ron Asheton is a guitar god and Iggy is of course the Godfather of Punk. I can’t wait to see them live!

Anybody else out there going?

Originally published on March 9, 2007.

This was to kick-off a series of excellent Stooges reunion shows over the next several years. This particular show was a beast.

Heavy Hitters

If you’re looking for a great concert to check out this weekend you need go no further than the 930 Club on Sunday night.

Isis , number two men on my Best-of-2004 concerts list, are returning to DC and this time we get to experience their awesome power and beauty guitar work on the best sound system in town!

Not only only do we get Isis’ mighty fury, but they are also bringing along Jesu! Jesu are a shoegazer-metal experiment by that infamous brit Justin Broadkick of Napalm Death/Godflesh fame.

This is going to be one glorious guitar exhibition – don’t miss it!

Sunday, March 11
Isis w/ Jesu
930 Club

Originally published on March 9, 2007.

Jesu ended up cancelling due to visa issues but Isis brought the house down at this show.

"Zodiac" (2007)

David Fincher has finally directed his opus.

'Zodiac' is a huge, towering cinematic achievement. It is 'The Godfather' of true crime movies. I say that meaning 'Zodiac' has the epic scope of 'The Godfather' using perfect cinematography, directing, writing, and acting to recreate a time and tell a story that evolves over many years as 'The Godfather' movies do so well..

This isn't a exploitative thrill-ride, this is a long, slow meditation on the investigation of a serial murderer. Some people might find this extremely, mind-numbingly boring. Other will be fascinated by it (as I was).

The story is more the story of the reactions to the killer than the killer himself. Mainly because they never caught the Zodiac killer in real life. All of the characters are based on real people and each actor got a really well-written piece to act out. There isn't a stand-out actor in this film but the movie does feature an extremely strong trio of performances by Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, and Jake Gyllenhal.

Fincher's directing in this film is the culmination of all of his stylistic exercises of his previous movies and it blows all of them away. As a piece of art it can hardly be touched. As a completely realized screen vision I'd say 'Seven' is the only other movie he has done that comes close.

As I said before though, some will find this movie long, and painfully slow. It isn't popcorn entertainment like 'Seven'. What it is - is a beautiful, epic, character-study of the men on Zodiac's trail and the time that they lived in.

I think Fincher really pulled off an amazing feat by directing this movie how he did. You really just have to see it to get the genius I'm referring to. This movie is beautiful. I hope he gets looked at come Oscar time next year.

Music Note: The original score by 70's maestro David Shire kicks all kinds of ass. It reflects the time period, sets the tone, gets your 'Pelham 123' toe tapping and yet somehow ends up sounding  modern and cutting edge too.

Originally posted on March 7, 2007 on Myspace.

Dismemberment Plan B

Well it looks like the one-time only Dismemberment Plan reunion I reported on the other day sold out in about 5 minutes flat! So like all good band reunions, they’ve caved in to the overwhelming response by adding a second show!

That’s right kids, if you didn’t get tix to their April 28th show at the Black Cat, maybe you can score some for the newly added show taking place there the night before. The Friday night show will also be a benefit for Callum Robbins. When tix go on sale is anybody’s guess (but you could keep an eye on Going Out Gurus as they know the band personally).

Originally published on March 5, 2007.

Remember Rhymes With Dismember

Big DC scene reunion news!

For an upcoming benefit concert for Callum Robbins (Spinal Muscular Atrophy-stricken, 1-year old son of J. Robbins), DC indie heroes The Dismemberment Plan will be holding a one-time only reunion!

The Dismemberment Plan were DC scene staples who gained international acclaim in the 90′s. They played around the world and held their final concert in 2003 at the 930 Club. The prospect of this reunion has indie-kids all over the country creaming in their too-tight jeans.

The Dismemberment Plan
w/ Beauty Pill & Owls and Crows
April 28 at The Black Cat
$15 (all proceeds go to The Robbins Family)

Originally published on March 1, 2007.

Big Weekend

DC has a big weekend in store for fans of indie music with dueling options for both Friday and Saturday nights!

Friday Night:

Great post-punk and shoegaze spun at We Fought The Big One at The Marx Cafe with special guest Re:sonance DJ – Chris Diamond aka DJ Balance (No Cover).


Dalek performing their ultra-heavy, industro-rap at the Rock And Roll Hotel ($12).
Saturday Night:

The always incredible Asobi Seksu opening for The Ataris at the Black Cat ($15).


The mysterious Red Sparrowes invading the Rock And Roll Hotel with their guitar epics ($12).

Decisions, decisions…

Originally published on March 1. 2007.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

What a Day!

Did anyone else hear that monstrous round of thunder that just tore across the area? I was home doing some writing with Throbbing Gristle’s “Assume Power Focus” blasting on the stereo, totally in the zone, when I hear a sound like the world is coming to an end! I’m sure to the rest of you it sounded like your basic thunder but to me it sounded like TG’s noise had torn a hole in the universe.

Scared the be-jeezus out of me!

Originally published on February 22, 2007.

That mystery was never answered. Although sometime later my blog colleagues and I would break the story of an earthquake in Canada by noticing its local effects in the DC area.

In Mourning

My left JBL is irreversably blown

Originally posted on February 18, 2007 on Myspace.

After a very long and arduous misadventure, I learned that my left JBL was not blown (thank god!) and I am still rocking with it as one of my main speakers in 2013.

Climb Up Blood Mountain

A lot of strange things are a foot in the world of Heavy Metal music lately. The endless sub-categorification of the genre has split it into several obscure factions ranging from the awesome, hyper-violent underground of Pig Destroyer to the brilliant, uber-melodic, post-metal of Isis. Outside of giants of metal mainstays like Slayer and Sepultura, there has been a dearth of new, straight-up metal of quality in recent years. With everyone working in their concentrated niches, the path is wide open for a new traditional metal act to inherit the scorched earth left behind in the scramble for obscurity.

The number one contender for most exciting, new trad-metal act is Mastodon, who are playing at the 930 Club on Saturday night.

Mastodon have been impressing the scene for a few years now – first with their brilliant Lifesblood EP, then with their Moby Dick inspired concept opus Leviathan. This time they are touring in support of their mammoth, new album Blood Mountain.

All three releases stand as towering achievements in recent Heavy Metal music. Blasting onto the scene as an ultra-heavy speed-act Mastodon have evolved into masters of the traditional metal structure writing story-tellers in the tradition of Iron Maiden set to musical intricacy and intensity the likes of which we haven’t seen since Slayer.

Catch Mastodon at the 930 Club tomorrow night for $15 a scant two days before old-masters Slayer begin their $40-a-night wallet-rape there on Monday.

Originally published on February 16, 2007.

Now in 2013 all I have to say about Mastodon is "Can I pick 'em or what?!". Also, thank Lucifer for the Heavy Metal renaissance that has been going strong ever since I wrote this article.

"Masochist Trip" - by: MHD

I can feel the microscopic.

Pull a nostril and my head tips. Hear a sucking sound. Eyes roll back into my head.

Now clap your hands over my ears. Sound blast. White electric webs shoot across my eye lids.

Ringing sets in as I watch them. Furry U-shaped things float in my sinus. On a clear liquid that looks pink from light passing through the surrounding skin.

Pull my hair. Knee-slam my face. "Shake it up" like The Cars.

Blood specked with teeth sprays past lips. The ringing gets louder.

And the U-shapes dance under an electric eyelid slide-show!

"I know you're getting tired. But please. Don't stop now."

Originally posted on February 13, 2007.

The Man of the Hour

I am very excited to relay the news that Barack Obama is officially running for President!

He is a brilliant and inspiring orator who conveys an energetic message of hope and change in America's stagnant political and social climate.

Almost all of the major moments in American history in the last 30 years have been on the international scene, while the left-over internal divisions from the 60's have gotten deeper and deeper leaving America today in a state of near political paralysis.

Obama is a new candidate for a new era. He is one of the few politicians that actually inspire me, with his intelligence and his vision for our nation. I ask that all of you put your political prejudices on hold for a few moments to listen to what Obama has to say. Not to forward any political agenda, but to highlight the unusual message about America that Obama is trying to spread. The march of division and cynicism can be put on hold. America's greatness can be restored.

"It was here, in Springfield, where North, South, East and West come together that I was reminded of the essential decency of the American people, where I came to believe that through this decency, we can build a more hopeful America," he said. "And that is why, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a divided house to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for president of the United States."

"If you will join me in this improbable quest, if you feel destiny calling, and see as I see, a future of endless possibility stretching before us; if you sense, as I sense, that the time is now to shake off our slumber, and slough off our fear, and make good on the debt we owe past and future generations, then I'm ready to take up the cause, and march with you, and work with you," he said."Together, starting today, let us finish the work that needs to be done, and usher in a new birth of freedom on this Earth."

"Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what's needed to be done," he said. "Today we are called once more — and it is time for our generation to answer that call."

Obama will be on 60 Minutes this Sunday - everybody should watch and listen to what he has to say.

Originally posted on February 9, 2007 on Myspace.

It is now 2013 and Barack Obama has served his first term and will shortly be inaugurated for his second 4-year term. I still firmly support this man and believe he wants to be the historic leader our declining nation needs to restore it to its former glory. It is shocking to me how dysfunctional Congress has been and continues to be; their inactivity and obstruction is handicapping someone who should be one of our greatest presidents.

For Callum

Fans of DC rocker J. Robbins’ (Jawbox, Burning Airlines, Channels) may remember that a while back his latest band Channels, whose debut album I really dug, cancelled their Black Cat appearance due to an undisclosed illness in the family. Seeing as how 2/3 of Channels is Robbins and his wife Janet Morgan the band were hit pretty hard.


Image courtesy of For Callum.

Sadly, I recently found out what illness caused their recent hiatus. Callum Robbins, J. and Janet’s 1-year old son, has been diagnosed with genetic motor neuron disease or Spinal Muscular Atrophy (Type 1). At present there is no cure for this disease and most children with Type 1 don’t live past the age of two. Those who do survive are usually wheel-chair bound and require expensive repeated surgeries.

To help out the Robbins family with expenses DeSoto records founder and Jawbox alum Bill Barbot has set up a paypal donation that can be linked to from this page dedicated to Callum Robbins.

There have been already been Callum Robbins benefit shows in New York, Chicago and DC. Another benefit show is scheduled in Chicago at the Subterranean on April 27th.

Originally published on February 9, 2007.

Evil Dead: The Musical

Another really cool thing Greta and I did in NYC was catch "Evil Dead: The Musical"!

I had read about this a few months back, then forgot about it. Then walking to our hotel we saw a sign for it at this little theater. So we went to a late-night show.

I must say, I was skeptical of "Evil Dead" being turned into a musical. The show wiped all of that away. The first three rows were covered in plastic - the 'splatter zone'. The crowd were all hooting and hollering goths and metal kids. There was an usher selling shots. The warm up music in the theater was AC/DC.

The show is really, really fun. They weaved in elements from all three "Evil Dead" flicks to make one very funny, bloody stage show for the horror geek in all of us. The actor who played Ash kicked total ass. His onstage transformation was really great. Everything about the show was spot on - most of all the horror effects. This was a bloody gore fest of a musical. The songs were friggin hilarious - my favs being "What the fuck was that!?" sung by the two male leads and "Good Ol' Reliable Jake' sung by the redneck guide.

This show really entertianed on all levels. I usually despise musicals but this one was a really unique treat. Definitely a good one for fans of the 'Evil Dead" trilogy or non-conventional stage entertainment.

This great show is about to hit the road. If it comes to your town, make sure you catch it.

Originally posted on February 8, 2007 on Myspace.

Ennio Morricone @ Radio City Music Hall

This past weekend Greta and I had the honor and privilege of attending Ennio Morricone's only concert in the United States at Radio City Music Hall.

Radio City Music Hall is a palace of a venue, making the whole evening feel like some grand event out of the 1920's or 30's. Even more so when Morricone's 200 piece orchestra/choir took the stage and opened up with the bombastic brass of  "The Untouchables' Theme".

I don't think I've ever felt a more perfect synergy between location and music than that first song. I could almost see De Niro's Capone sitting in there with us. It was a truly fitting selection to begin the concert.

Morricone divided the night into 5 thematic segments. The highlights being his gangster film scores, his Spaghetti Westerns, and a section of his lesser known work.

Morricone's genius was on display all night, but it was when he focused on his less well-known work that his crazy gift really came out to play. Morricone is a master at mixing music styles and eras to create dissonant atmosphere that shouldn't work but somehow does. At one point there were modern synthesizers, a choir, and traditional strings all competing over a funky 70's bass guitar-line - all working on different themes within a piece - that under Morricone's hand worked like magic.

I found the whole concert to be one of the most emotionally engaging performances I've ever seen. Not only is Morricone's music beautiful in a live setting, but it is also inspiring.

Watching all of those disparate elements work under Morricone's writing and direction - I kept finding myself astonished by the fact that all of this genius and creativity comes from inside the tiny head I was watching bop along on stage.

I found that fact extremely inspirational. Not just in music but in all creative endeavors. Ennio Morricone, who has written over 400 film scores, is a human being just like the rest of us. And yet there he was conducting 200 people who were playing brilliant music he had written. With imagination and dedication anything is possible.

For a few minutes of shaky cell-phone footage of the concert go here (at least it sounds decent)!

Originally posted on February 7, 2007 on Myspace.

For my wife and me, this was one of the most magical, special events in our lives and a wonderful moment in our relationship. In 2011 we had our first child, Oliver Ennio Darpino.

Body Counts

A forensic approach to on-screen violence.

This site counts total body-counts in films and then breaks them down by scene

Originally posted on January 8, 2007 on Myspace

I don't think they are actively updating this site anymore, but the archive they still host is a pretty impressive work body of work.


No, I did not go see this movie. But I do have a question for you guys - of those of you who saw the commercials for this flick (the tv ones not the theater trailer)- in which it compares the killer to Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac killer - did any of you happen to catch the fact that the 'serial killer' in this movie is a FUCKING CROCODILE!?

What the fuck?

That is the most misleading movie commercial I think I have ever seen.

Originally posted on January 8, 2007 on Myspace.

"Blood Diamond"(2006)

I saw "Blood Diamond" a few weeks back, but held off reviewing it until I saw "Children of Men" because I knew both movie dealt with similar themes and both had extensive urban combat sequences.

"Children of Men" is a daring, original, cutting-edge movie that totally kicks-ass.

"Blood Diamond" kicks ass but in a different way. 'BD' is mainly a typical Hollywood movie with all the typical Hollywood ingredients that manages to be highly entertaining and deal with some truly dark subjects at the same time. The high point of 'BD' is how far they were willing to go to portray the insanity of violence in modern day Africa. This movie had a lot of guts and as far as on-screen violence goes it is breath-taking. However the Hollywood elements detract from the movie's overall importance (in the grand scheme of movies) and the ending which wraps everything up in a nice little bow undermines the rest of the movie's gritty message.

I hated the last ten minutes of "Blood Diamond" and will edit them out of the movie when it comes out on DVD. The rest of the film was incredible and featured some of the best Africa action since "Dark of the Sun". I highly recommend this movie, with the caveat that the last ten minutes are annoying as hell.

Upon comparison "Children of Men"  is ground-breaking, important, action cinema whereas "Blood Diamond" is of a more old-school Hollywood style that manages to entertain and horrify until the last ten crappy minutes.

Verdict: "Blood Diamond" is a great rental, "Children of Men" is required theater-viewing.

Originally posted on January 7, 2007.

Leonardo DiCaprio went on to win Best Actor for "Blood Diamond" even though he should have won for "The Departed". I don't even remember the last 10 minutes of "Blood Diamond"; probably because by then his character was dead.

"Children of Men"(2006)

"Children of Men" is a masterpiece. Words can not express how truly great this movie is. I can not emphasis this enough. This movie must be seen on the big screen - by every single one of you. Do not wait for DVD, run out tomorrow and see this. It is a masterpiece on every level of film-making and story-telling.

This is an all time classic film. I can't even begin to wrap my head around how they pulled this movie off. It is a breath-taking, heart-breaking, gut-wrenching kick to the brain that says more about the human race than any movie I've seen in years.

This ranks with "Blade Runner" as one of the ultimate cyber-punk movies of all time. Not only is this an amazing visualization of the future but it also has incredible, visceral, emotional content that you would have to be an android not to connect with. This movie gives me hope for film-making and the human race in general.

It is epic, beautiful, tragic, awe-inspiring movie-making. Go see it - I beg of you!

(This goes double for Marcus, Jared, and Josh!)

Originally posted on January 7, 2007 on Myspace.

In 2013, this movie still stands as a masterpiece.

Smoke Signals

Had my first night on the town since the smoking ban went into effect and I have a few observations.

1. The smoking ban sucks if all of your friends smoke and you don’t. As they go out front for smoke breaks, you are left alone at the table feeling quarantined until they return. I’m gonna have to start bringing my Rubik’s Cube.

2. For smokers, the sidewalk in front of bars is becoming a new pick-up scene. Case in point: Friday night, Cafe Citron hotties and Big Hunt hunks mingling during every smoke-break. Addiction to nicotine bringing two worlds of horny people together. I can only imagine what the scene in Adam’s Morgan must look like.

Prediction: The front window tables at bars will become the hot spot for people-watching, hottie-spotting, and smoker-mocking on weekends.

Originally published on January 7, 2007.

Kicking smokers to the curb has been a god send for asthma sufferers like myself, especially at concerts, although I will always have a very tiny bit of nostalgia for the smoke-filled club days.

More on Tanks

If you read my previous entry, you might be wondering 'with such awesome tanks, how did the Russians suffer such huge losses during Germany's initial invasion?'

The answer is pretty fascinating in its own right. The German tanks had radio communication with each other whereas the early Russian tanks did not. This resulted in two very different types of tank tactics.

The German tanks were able to have very fluid battle-field command that could adapt to field conditions. This allowed the German tanks to be highly mobile and to spread apart over great distances.

The Russian tanks were given complicated strategy briefings before going into battle that were all based on time-tables. If battle-field conditions changed there was no way to organize modifications to the plans. For individual tank unit commanders to communicate to the other tanks, they would use hand signals and flags. This required the Russian tanks to stay grouped closely together so the other tank drivers could see the command flags.

The German tank commanders, upon seeing this, would radio orders to the mobile German tanks to sweep behind these Russian tank clumps and wipe them out.

Another reason the Russian tanks were often defeated, in the early phase of the invasion, was that the German tank crews were trained to fire their tanks while moving. The Russian tankers had to stop their tanks in order to fire their main guns. This allowed German 88's to zero in on Russian tanks even during fast-paced battles.

All of this led to a phenomenon known as the 'Gun-Armor' spiral. Once the Russian Winter set in, the Germans developed tanks with heavier guns to take out the main Russian heavy tank. The Russians then developed thicker armor to resist the new guns. This tit-for-tat tank development continued so that by war's end the tanks on both sides were 10 times more powerful than they were in the early days of the German invasion.

Originally posted on January 5, 2007 on Myspace.

Unfortunately I lost my copy of this book after writing these two posts. A real pity because it was a good one that I obviously was really enjoying. Maybe I'll track it down on Amazon...

Hero Tank

Last night I read a true story about a Russian tank in World War Two that I just had to share.

In the early days of the German invasion of Russia, a group of 20 Russian heavy battle tanks counter-attacked a German tank column of about 200 tanks. The Russian tanks had better armor and heavier guns so they decimated the German tanks.

Eventually one Russian tank made it deep into the German advance and took back a small bridge. The German advance was halted until this Russian tank could be destroyed.

For almost 4 days the Germans couldn't get around this one Russian tank. It took 50 German tanks, a team of demolition engineers, and two 88's (heavy artillery guns) to destroy this one Russian tank!

The Russian tank survived an incredible 26 direct hits from the 88's over the 4 days. The direct hits merely left bluish marks on the super-tank's armor.

Eventually the 50 German tanks were used as a diversion, they attacked the Russian tank head on, while the Krauts snuck another 88 behind the tank. That 88 blew the tank up by hitting the weaker armor on the tail section.

How cool is that? One freaking tank stalls the German advance for four days! Four days closer to the infamous Russian Winter that stalled Hitler's advance forever.

Originally posted on January 5, 2007.

The 10 best concerts in and around DC for 2006

A thousand pardons as the third installment of my year-end best-of concerts list comes a tad late this time ’round due to illness. As I sit here typing, the Center for Disease Control is sealing off my house while Clara Barton is mopping my brow with a damp cloth to stave off fever. I’m not kidding, it’s like 1918 over here.

Anyhow, time for the list. For the uninitiated this is a list of the best performances by musical acts that I saw in 2006 in the DC area. The list is based on individual sets rather than total concert line-ups. 2006 was kind of a spare year for live shows in DC for me (I saw about 30 bands as opposed to my average 50-60). I did a lot of travelling to concerts in other towns (notably Chicago and Philly) since DC got skipped by a lot of bands last year. That said the concerts I did catch in the area were all top-notch and here are the ten best.

10. Whitehouse @ DC9 : In a booking coup DC9 scored these first generation British noise-mongers early last year and as a result drew the biggest crowd I’ve seen there. Their set was blistering with hate and noise, the sonic equivalent of peeling flesh with an acetylene torch. Pretty great stuff if (like me) being stuck inside the head of a Dalek from Dr. Who is your idea of a good time.

9. Bauhaus @ Nissan Pavilion : In an opening slot for industrial-glam gods Nine Inch Nails, Bauhaus stole the show by putting on a bare-bones raw power set that showed off their goth-father muscles better than any elaborate stage show could. Of all the shows I’ve seen out at Nissan, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a band sound better.

8. The Ex @ Ottobar : This was the last show I saw in 2006 and it was a doozy. I’ve been a fan of The Ex for a loooong time but never saw them live until this year. Their set at the Touch & Go Anniversary Festival in Chicago blew my mind with its passion and guitar fury. But that show was outside with a crowd 10 thousand strong. It was this set at the Ottobar (up close and personal) that really showed off to me just how amazing every member of this band is. Their style of post-punk guitar playing borders on speed metal, absolutely nuts.

7. Soundpool @ the Wall of Sound Festival : This year’s Wall of Sound Festival was something of a disappointment (particularly the spectacularly anti-climactic non-finale). That said the one gem I took away from the trip to Fredericksburg was having seen Soundpool for the first time. They are a relatively young band from New York but their stage presence, slide-show, and sound made me feel like I had teleported back to early 90′s London. Soundpool’s set captured the shoegazer aesthetic unlike any new breed shoegazers I’ve seen. A pretty but shy singer, out-of-focus film strips, guitar and synth sound-wash combined for one of the best sets I saw by a band all year.

6. Mono @ the Black Cat : Despite the plethora of chatty-kathy’s in the crowd during their set, Mono knocked my socks off when they opened for Pelican last year. Mono return to my top 10 list after taking 2005′s crown for best concert. Their place on the 2006 list is well deserved as they beat out Mogwai (the post-rock kingpins who I also saw in ’06) with this incredible set of music.

NOTE: Mono will be playing in DC again in Spring ’07.

5. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ 930 Club : Another repeat offender BRMC took top honors on my 2004 list. I was hesitant to put a second repeater on the list but when looking back over the year in music I can’t deny top-quality jams. BRMC played in DC late in 2005 and left me feeling luke-warm but they returned a few months later in the new year with a new set that I can’t get out of my head. BRMC take the award for best-use of a club’s sound system in 2006. Don’t believe me? Listen for yourself.

4. Pelican @ the Black Cat : Some nights nothing beats the live fury of Heavy Metal (or in this case that new breed Post-Metal). Pelican definitely cornered the market in dark, thundering territory in 2006 with their incredible set at the Black Cat. Their epic length instrumental pieces took the dedicated crowd on a harrowing journey of sound and imagination as they hammered and hacked and plucked and strummed their guitars into splinters.

3. The Charlatans UK @ 930 Club : I make no effort to hide my worship of this band, however their 2006 set at the 930 Club was so spot-on it would top any music critics list as one of the year’s best. The band showed off their evolution from Madchester teens to elder statesmen of Brit-Pop with a command performance of a career spanning set-list played to a club filled with loyal fans who partied their asses off. This show reminded me of back when DC was a really fun town filled with fanatical fans of every genre. A time when almost every concert I went to had a crowd/band synergy going like this one did. This was by far the most energetic and fun show I went to in 2006.

2. Serena Maneesh @ the State Theater : Being an agnostic, I expect this show to be about as close to a religious experience as I will ever have. Serena Maneesh from Norway came to spread their gospel of noise guitar to an audience of about 40 people last year. I expect every one of those people have been spreading the word ever since. Before this set I thought I knew what I meant by invoking the term “music nirvana” in past reviews. But really those other shows were lower tiers of enlightenment. If there is a band out there that can top what Serena Maneesh did at the State Theater I am a little afraid, because seeing that band would probably kill me.

1. Editors @ 930 Club : I saw the Editors twice in 2006 and both sets were easily top 10 worthy. However it was the first time I saw them, when they opened for Stellastarr*, that I’m giving the year’s top honor to. If you read my original review of that set it is obvious I was very taken with these new dark horses of brit-pop. But what I didn’t realize writing then that I do now upon looking back is that the Editors’ first DC show was the full package. In other words, it was everything that I want a concert to be.
The Editors’ first set was so great and unexpected to the Stellstarr* crowd that any musical cynicism in the room was cracked. What ensued was an amazingly good time as the Editors won over the crowd with one of the all-time great pop performances I’ve seen. This was a truly special music moment. Re-read my comments for the previous two entries on this list and try to imagine the effects of those two shows combining into one wonderful set of music. An excited and fun crowd watching one of the best emerging music acts in the world tearing the 930 Club a new one and me standing in the middle of it all with a smile from ear to ear.

I couldn’t make-up a better concert moment to round-out this year’s list.

For the curious here are the 2004 and 2005 lists.

Originally published on January 4, 2007.

"The Knights of Prosperity" (ABC)

I've been waiting for this sitcom to come on for a couple of months and tonight's pilot episode lived up to my high expectations. "The Knights of Prosperity" is a ridiculously funny show that will probably be cancelled just as word of mouth finally begins to settle in. So I'm here to tell y'all to start watching it now.

The first episode had me laughing non-stop. "Knights" is a fast-paced laugh-fest in which a gang of losers try to pull off sophisticated heists on celebrity apartments. The characters are friggin hilarious, the actors who play them are brilliant, and the intricately inane plans they hatch are so god damn dumb you just have to laugh. The writing on this show is fucking great, the references they pull-out are mind-blowing, and the music kicks-ass. After just one episode I already friggin love this show.

"Knights of Prosperity" has so much potential for greatness - it just needs time to find an audience. Check it out and spread the word.

NOTE: Go  here to watch the first 8 minutes of the first episode. Or catch it this Friday when ABC will be showing an encore of the pilot at 9pm.

Originally posted on January 3, 2007 on Myspace.

I re-watched this show on Hulu recently. It was brilliant and cancelled way to early. 

"Apocalypto" (2006)

Forget all the cultural hoopla surrounding this movie.

This movie is an old-fashioned, awesome, action movie. I caught it yesterday with Todd J. and both of us agree that "Apocalypto" is one of the best guy-movie-night movies to come along in quite awhile. This movie has so much violence it makes your head spin.

The movie is done in a breath-taking sweeping style but somehow manages to be this really personal story of a dude trying to survive in a complicated and violent world.

I was expecting some kind of big, brainy, sensitive portrayal of a dead civilization. Instead what "Apocalypto" amounts to is one of the most artfully done action flicks ever. This is a blood-n-guts battle movie that follows the hero's journey into manhood against an ultra-violent foe.

There are a few problems with "Apocalypto" that can't be avoided. There is one 'prophecy' scene that was supposed to be creepy but kind of fell flat. Which is a shame because it sets up a lot of the second half of the story. Some of the editing could have been better towards the end of the flick. And then there is the big surprise at the end, which was really unnecessary. The surprise reveal doesn't detract from the movie, so much as make you say 'meh'. The story could have ended just fine without it.

I recommend "Apocalypto" to all the fellas. It is like First Blood set a gazillion years ago with Rambo's initial POW years as a prelude.

Originally posted on December 15, 2006 on Myspace

Save The Waffle Shop!

A recent Washington Post article about the possible demise of DC institution The Waffle Shop made the rounds yesterday and I felt compelled to comment and reminisce

Back in the 90′s I worked across the street from The Waffle Shop at Ford’s Theater. Early each morning I’d walk from my Chinatown apartment through the pre-MCI Center urban blight to open Ford’s gift-shop. Back in those days there wasn’t a lot of choice for breakfast along the way. In fact the neighborhood offered up a whole lot of nothing, a bunch of run-down abandoned buildings and a few wig shops. The area between Ford’s and Chinatown was pretty depressing in any light, but especially so in the early morning, pre-work gloom.

Each morning I made that walk ended with me rounding the corner of 10th and F to be greeted by the warm glow coming from The Waffle Shop. I gave The Waffle Shop a try my first week working at Ford’s and romanced by the atmosphere of the place I quickly became a regular at the old-school, breakfast diner.

To me The Waffle Shop was a place where the real, honest, working folk of DC went for a cup of coffee, a bite to eat, and a couple scratch-off lotto cards before a long day at work. It was an authentic place, its years of short-order grilling showing up on its walls and its battle-scarred waffle-irons. It was a place to share tables with strangers, to bullshit about the weather or politics, and to commiserate – “another day another dollar”. The Waffle Shop was an original, a place with an edge, earned through survival. Serving its loyal, clientele even as the neighborhood around it had long since declined. My breakfasts there always ended with either a good conversation, a wizened nod from an old-timer, or a smile from one of the waitresses laughing at that “crazy, white-boy from over at Ford’s”.

The late 90′s brought a whole lot of development to the area which brought a mixed bag of emotions. Seeing life pumped back into blocks of empty buildings was exhilarating at times. But also left me with reservations about the ultimate goal of the project. Like eras of urban renovation past, would this one become unchecked and rampant?

After reading about the possible closing of The Waffle Shop due to newly formed development plans for that block I am inclined to say that yes, development has become unbound. When we are forcing long-standing businesses to close in the name of yet another new office-block among pre-existing dozens we have moved beyond the downtown renovation project into the territory of developmental vulturing.

The Waffle Shop has been serving Washingtonians breakfast for more than 50 years through times both thick and thin. It is a place that has been through the ringer with loyal, long-time customers who now border on being family. While not as flashy, I equate The Waffle Shop to Ben’s Chili Bowl in the importance of both places to their customers and the living, breathing representation both places offer of local DC life over the years.

The Waffle Shop is a DC original that can’t be reproduced in the modern age. It is a museum thriving with life, a social mixing-bowl, and a great place to grab a quick breakfast (or a long one if you’ve got the gift of gab).

Make sure to swing by for a short-stack before this DC stand-out is long gone.

The Waffle Shop
522 10th St. NW

Originally published on December 12, 2006.

The Lincoln House down the street claims to be where The Waffle Shop on 10th St. NW moved after it closed. While Lincoln House is a great place for breakfast with a lot of character; it is just not the same as the original Waffle House.

"Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut"

Just got finished watching the DVD of "Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut".

For those who don't know the background, Richard Donner was hired to direct 'Superman I & II" simultaneously from a 500 page screenplay by Mario Puzo. He filmed all of I and most of II, but then got fired by the producers who hired another director to finish II. The new director yanked a lot of Donner's scenes, re-filmed some, took Marlon Brando out of the movie, and finished II with a lot of the cheezoid humor resulting in the theatrical version that we all grew up with.

While I have always loved 'Superman II" ever since I was a kid, I have been intrigued by the more serious tone the Donner cut was supposed to have. Well after years of working on it, a dvd has come out recently with Donner's involvement. The new dvd isn't Donner's full version, because he never got to film all of his scenes. Instead the new dvd is Donner's existing never-b4-seen scenes edited into a Donner modified version of the theatrical cut of "Superman II".

The finished product is a little rough around the edges, but otherwise a fantastic viewing experience. The finished product is a lot more serious than the version we have seen. Most of the goofy crap the second director put in is removed (thank god) while the more sophisticated Lex Luthor humor remains. Lois and Clark's relationship works much better. Donner's scenes of Lois proving Clark is Superman are far superior to the theatrical release. To show Donner's original intentions for those scenes they edited in a scene from Margot Kidder's audition screen test to replace the Niagara Falls river jump scene. I was skeptical of this, but the screen-test scene really works and is so much better than Lois jumping in the river.

The big super-brawl is awesome in both versions, but feels cooler and much more intense in Donner's cut. Mainly because the villains are more evil in this version. They destroy the Washington Monument and the Statue of Liberty in this version.

The highlight of Donner's cut is Marlon Brando. As Jor-el he interacts with Hackman and Reeves and those scenes are dynamite! Donner's version feels like a much more epic film than the theatrical release. Especially in the scenes where Superman gives up his powers and then goes to get them back. Those scenes play huge in Donner's version thanks to Brando and Reeves terrific acting and the great previously unseen dialogue by Puzo.

In all, I'd recommend this to anyone who loves Superman I & II but always felt II could have been a little better if taken more seriously (as it is in Donner's Cut).

Originally posted on December 5, 2006 on Myspace.

More on that crazy Velvet Underground auction

A little article about the record and the seller.

The link to the ebay auction. It's up to $125,000 now!

Originally posted on December 5, 2006 on Myspace.

Dinner in the Shire

After a long day stripping windows on Saturday, I went down to the Old Town Waterfront in search of some grub. Something about the smell of saw dust always puts me in the mood for seafood, so I tried my fav spot The Fish Market. The holiday crush was in full effect after the “boats w/ christmas lights” parade however and I couldn’t get a table. So I ended up wandering and found myself eating in a little restaurant that I never, ever thought I’d step foot in.

I always assumed because of the name that Old Town’s Bilbo Baggins Global Restaurant was a wheat-grass, granola, hippy-trippy type joint. The kind of place where earthy types went to eat and drink after a hard day working at the used book barn or the flower shop. But much to my surprise it was far from that.

Bilbo Baggins is a really cozy, culinary oasis. The main dining room has got this great lodge feeling to it, all wood beams and rustic. It reminded me of a BBQ beer-hall I went to in rural Quebec once. The tables are crammed pretty close together but that worked in my favor. As I reluctantly sat down to order my skepticism dissolved after catching eye-fulls of other patrons’ wonderful looking plates of meats and potatoes.

The menu is mostly meat dishes prepared with imaginative garnishes and seasoning. Almost every dish comes with a variety of mashed potato and an exotic combination of fruit and vegetables. Being the original meat-and-potato man I couldn’t believe how wrong my impression was of this place.

The atmosphere was warm, cozy, and festive. I could almost see Sam and Frodo raising a glass in there after dispatching that rascally ring. Our waitress was cute and cudly, almost as if she were a hobbit herself. Needless to say, it was a setting I am hard-pressed to find elsewhere in the DC area. But it was the food that really sold me on this place.

The Duck and Shiitake Spring Rolls appetizer was terrific. Hand-made blend of flavors that was out of this world.

The Lobster and Shrimp Bisque needed a little pepper but otherwise was the perfect warm-up after working on those windows out in the cold.

For our main plates we tried the Wild Mushroom Beef Filet w/ garlic spinach and blue cheese mashed potatoes, and the Cinnamon Porkloin with fruit chutney and butternut squash. Both main dishes were perfection. The grilled porkloin was best when mixed with a little squash and apple – combining texture and taste for a really fun and delicious dish. My filet was a good sized cut prepared just shy of melt-in-your-mouth. Mixed with the mushrooms and sauce each bite of my steak was one bite closer to food nirvana.

We rounded the meal off (and our stomachs) with an unholy pralines ice cream sandwich that looked too good to resist. The desert was huge and totally share-able.

In addition to the dining room, Bilbo Baggins also has a pretty nifty looking bar that features a long list of international beers, ciders, and wines (but no Old Winyards or Miruvor!).
The bill was around $75. Which is more than we would have paid at the Fish Market but the extra bucks were worth the unexpected discovery and the gourmet meal.

Bilbo Baggins
208 Queen Street
Old Town, Alexandria, VA

Originally published on December 4, 2006.


This is a great story. Guy in NY finds one of the rarest rock-n-roll records of all time at a yard sale and buys it for .75 cents. Now it's on Ebay and bidding just topped $110,000 dollars!  

Originally posted on December 4, 2006 on Myspace. 

I now have an official copy of The Velvet Underground Acetate on Limited Edition vinyl courtesy of Record Store Day Black Friday 2012.

Presidential Comparisons

While I don't agree with everything in this article, it is an interesting collection of comparisons about Bush and former 'failure' presidents.  

Originally posted on December 4, 2006 on Myspace.

Noddin' Noggin

Check out my big, balding, nodding, noggin found in some stranger's video of Pegboy playing in Chicago at the Touch And Go Anniversary show. How random is that?

Michael head - lower right hand corner - 9 seconds in.

Originally posted on December 3, 2006 on Myspace.