Thursday, July 31, 2008


We are not going to comment on or react to the latest attack ad from the McCain campaign. Because it elicits nothing—with its utter pointlessness—but a slight shake of our weary heads. It is the result of nothing but desperation and incompetency and a complete lack of real vision or imagination. To react to it is to give it more credit than it deserves. It is vacuous. It evokes nothing. We are going to ignore it.


Linkage: White on White: Good Design, Good Prices

We all occasionally slobber over good designs, but when those designs are available at great prices, we practically choke on the drool. That's a really gross way of saying that White on White is worth checking out if you can't afford a real Eames/Miller LCW (Lounge Chair, Wood). Granted the White on White prices are still way out of our league, but we can dream right?

Let's compare:

George Nelson Ball Clock, Orange
Cost: $285

White on White, GN Wall Clock CW 09
Cost: $125

Charles Eames LCW chair, manufactured by Herman Miller
Cost: between $650–$800

White on White Molded Plywood Chair, Walnut
Cost: $225

George Nelson 6' Bench
Cost: between $500–$600

White on White Swedish Bench, 6', American Maple
Cost: $320

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Things to Read, Drinks to Drink

So, Absinthe is legal again, and it's all over the place. This makes us happy, but let's not forget about pastis, the concoction that was made without the mysterious and controversial wormwood herb, after Absinthe was banned around Europe in 1914 and 1915. Interestingly, the ban came about in part because a Swiss man named Jean Lanfay murdered his pregnant wife and two children during a drunken rage. Apparently, Lanfay had drunk several things, including wine and other liquors, but it was the 2 ounces of the green fairy that got him in deep trouble. The controversy that followed led to a wide ban on the manufacture and sale of Absinthe.

A shrewd businessman and the man credited with bringing Absinthe to the masses as an alcoholic beverage (it had originally been developed in 1792 as a medicine), Henri-Louis Pernod modified his infamous Absinthe recipe to produce the wormwood-free and lower-alcohol spirit, Pernod Anise (often just called Pernod).

Pernod is a great pastis, and it's consumed on hot summer nights as a refreshing (and strong) cool-down. It's a bright yellowish-green color, and tastes strongly of star anise, which is one of its main ingredients. It's generally served with a glass of water and a glass of ice so that the consumer can dilute the strong spirit to his/her liking. And like Absinthe, once the Pernod is diluted, it loses its transparency and becomes milky.

All that's required to enjoy Pernod is a rocks or cordial glass, some cool filtered water, and (if you want) some ice. Dilute the Pernod to your liking, toss in an ice cube if you want (note: some consider the ice gauche) and find a comfy chair, porch or patio.

Recommended literature pairing with Pernod: Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. Start reading this and you'll know why. Jake and Brett down pastis like it's going out of style. Which, when it's hot and muggy outside, isn't such a bad idea.

Moustached Tamarin

From Wikipedia:
The Moustached Tamarin, Saguinus mystax also known as Spix's Moustached Tamarin is a black tamarin with white nose, brownish back and white moustache.

The Moustached Tamarin is distributed in tropical forests of Brazil and Peru. Its diet consists mainly of fruits, tree gum, and insects.

There are two subspecies of the Moustached Tamarin:
Spix's Moustached Tamarin, Saguinus mysyax mystax
White-rumped Moustached Tamarin, Saguinus mystax pluto

Monday, July 28, 2008

Go Look At This Blog: American Pilgrimage

This is Matt:

Okay, okay, that's not usually what he looks like. Here's a more standard photo:

Matt Streib is on a seven-month bike tour of religious locations around the country. So far he's ridden with Quakers in rural Pennsylvania, participated in a 700+ person Mormon pageant/spectacle in upstate New York (hence the getup in the first photo), tried to fix a cell phone for a Hassidic couple on the road, hung out with Shambhala Buddhists in Vermont, visited the last Shaker congregation in the world in Maine, talked with Christian Scientists in Boston...and more. Did I mention he's camping through all of this? And he's already biked over 1000 miles, all in less than two months. 

Matt's posts and photos are completely fascinating, and as a Cornell- and Medill-trained journalist with a pre-existing unique take on religion, I couldn't think of anyone better (or anyone with enough perseverance and smarts, frankly) to take on this project.

Especially as a nonreligious person navigating the contemporary Protestant-centered political realm (it's hard to escape, particularly in an election year), I found that it's easy to forget the incredible diversity of religions that exists here in the States. Matt's posts and podcasts on the people and places he's encountered are thoughtful, balanced and totally engaging.

Go look at his blog. It's called

"A Song For Ellie Greenwich"

photo by Sarah Meadows

Here's a lovely track from Entanglements, the upcoming third album from Parenthetical Girls, which is due out September 9 on their new label, Tomlab.

"A Song For Ellie Greenwich" (download):

The band also made a killer contribution to the David Horvitz 7" picture disc series, with a stupendous B-side cover of  "Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)" by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Portland = Paradise ?

Here's one on Brooklyn, too:

Conversation Piece: Batman = George W. Bush?

I've been seeing a bunch of articles positing a possible political undercurrent in the latest Batman movie.  Those on one side of the ensuing debate are claiming the film is a sort of thinly veiled neo-Conservative allegory.

And there are definitely elements of the film that facilitate this interpretation, particularly the moral dilemmas revolving around the use of surveillance and torture in combating a terror-inducing villain (a clear stand-in for conscience-less "evil-doers"?) and the caped (moral) crusader's steadfast war on crime/terror despite his low public approval rating.     

But here is my issue with this analysis: couldn't any classic comic book narrative (and, moreover, most action movies) make for a neo-Con's wet dream? I mean, the classic comic book trope has always been good vs. evil, and the trope is inevitably simplified even further when the arc is limited to 2 and a half hours. That reductionist worldview—always a hallmark of allegory and fable, didactic forms often simplified for children's comprehension—is enough on its own to present parallels between any superhero's moral conflict and neoconservative ideologies.

One of the central tenets of neoconservatism is, after all, the noble lie: the need to unite the polis by presenting a clear enemy, a moral opposition to guide the society away from what Leo Strauss considered the dangerous moral relativism and ultimate nihilism of liberal thinking...

Of course, I realize that comics and graphic novels have evolved a great deal, and frequently focus on extremely complex ethical and philosophical issues. Even The Dark Knight blurs many of the traditional, polemic extremes of superhero-vs-villain antagonisms. And it is maybe exactly that presentation of moral grey areas that would seem to lend support to a Cheney-esque ideology, in which civil liberties could justifiably be sacrificed for the perceived good of the people...

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and TM & © DC Comics

However, a key component of these interpretations is the assumed affinity between Batman's nemesis (the Joker) and Bush's villain (the Islamic extremists). And it is here that I think the parallel crumbles. The Joker is portrayed as an nihilist with no goal but chaos (he's not an anarchist as some have said, because anarchists have a goal—a society without government). He is half existentialist; half psychopath. Bin Laden, in contrast, is a fundamentalist, and therefore his real-world villainy is linked very much to an ideology and a goal. The Joker provides that great moral fiction: evil. In the real world, evil is the misnomer for a perspective vastly antithetical/antagonistic to our own, or for an extremely deficient or degraded pathology and associated depravities of conscience.

So if Batman appears to approach moral conundrums in line with the policies of Rumsfeld and Cheney, it is only because he lives in a world that is not our own.  If the film contains any commentary on real-world politics, it should be that the neoconservative agenda of the current administration is suited more for the fantasy world of comic books and action movies than for a reality as complex and multi-faceted as our own.  The neoconservative worldview is a mythological one—one that sells a simplified fantasy to the masses and insults our intelligence.  It is our task to recognize the difference between fantasy and reality, in and out of the movie theater.

And anyhow, it's just an action movie!

(What do you think?)

ready, set, ...

... jump!

(Click photos for more detailed versions of the brave kitty.)

Taken in DUMBO by Nik.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gavin Newsom

Plantastic! (Know Your Zone!)

The USDA plant hardiness zone map isn't just pretty to look at; it can help you decide what to put in the ground and what kinds of houseplants will do well on your stoop, patio, window ledge this summer.

New York City is in on the cusp of zones 6 and 7, which gives you a lot of options, actually. Here are some things that would be perfectly happy in the New York area.

The Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)

Zebra Grass (Zebrinus)

The Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)

Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

More Zone information can be found on the National Gardening Association's website.

Foot-Nibblin' Fishes

I was in PA this past weekend, and got some long-overdue quality time with my two moms: Mother K and Mother Nature (and my dad, too!).

The much-needed outdoor time was spent at one of my favorite locales from my childhood, the Seven Tubs...

All Things Passed
Originally uploaded by

From the Nature Conservancy:
"Known locally as The Tubs or Whirlpool Canyon, this outstanding geological phenomenon features seven large "potholes" or "tubs" gouged out of the hard, gray sandstone of the Pocono Formation by the short (1.2 miles) but powerful Wheelbarrow Run. Many geologists believe that the tubs were formed during the last Ice Age more than 10,000 years ago, when the force and volume of a rock-filled glacial meltwater stream etched the seven, tub-shaped potholes and gorge into the underlying rock."
While swimming in one of the pools (with 2 new canine friends, Jake and Molly!), some surprisingly aggressive fish began nibbling at my toes. They were relentless! I didn't realize at the time that I should have appreciated that I was getting the nibble treatment for free...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Things to Read, Drinks to Drink

Aperol is a popular Italian aperitivo that was created in 1919 by the Barbieri company, in Padua (about 50 miles due west of Venice). A proprietary blend of bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona (among other exotic ingredients), Aperol is now owned and produced by the Campari company. Aperol and Campari are actually similar in flavor, though Aperol is not nearly as bitter as its famous red cousin.

On a hot summer day in Venice, the Aperol Spritz can be seen on cafe tables in just about every square. We recommend whipping up a Spritz and heading to a porch, balcony, or other outdoor space with a good short story on hand.

Aperol Spritz:

2 oz. Aperol
2 oz. White Wine
Top with soda water
Garnish with an olive and an orange slice

A selection of some wonderful short stories to read while enjoying your Spritz:

"Lights" by Peter Rock

"Oxygen" by Ron Carlson

"Wake" by Kevin A. González

"Nadia" by Judy Budnitz

Send Karl Rove to Jail

Yeah, yeah, we know: these "viral" political actions basically never work, but why not at least visit a website called Send Karl Rove to Jail?

Sound & Vision: Glacial

(This is the first installment of a new feature in which we will pair a song with an image, connected either overtly or abstractly.)

Sound: "Góðan daginn" by Sigur Rós (from Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust)
Vision: Atlas #17, McCall Glacier, 1958, Graphite on Paper, 12 " x 10" — by Eric Zimmerman

Monday, July 21, 2008

Money for Monkeys?

Can our primate relatives be taught to understand currency? Some Yale researchers presented monkeys with economic choices and then compared their behavior with that of humans in similar situations. The take-away: humans' economic logic is informed by a sense of fairness and equity that other primates haven't developed quite as robustly.

From a Psychology Today article on the study:
"Thus, when monkeys play, they behave as economists would have humans do - they accept any offer above zero. This means that, although rational (they have more when they leave the game than when they entered), monkeys are not sensitive to issues of fairness. Humans most certainly are. Humans feel all kinds of self-conscious emotions when they receive more than they think they ought to receive. Not always, of course, but it happens."
Take a closer look at the study here.

The Insecurities of Inanimate Objects, Pt. IV

(by BJK)

Click HERE for the rest of the series.

Friday, July 18, 2008

"and the blackbird sang a song today"

It seems the consensus is that Lambchop peeked with Nixon, and I agree that it stands as their crowning achievement—their most cohesive statement to date.  

Their last two outings (the C'mon pair and Damaged) were solid records with their fair share of Kurt Wagner's astute lyrical observations on the mundane, but they didn't have the emotional sweep of earlier albums.

Maybe I just haven't given those records enough time. After all, it took me a while to warm up to Is A Woman, but it eventually grew into one of my favorites (probably right behind Thriller).

I think Lambchop albums need to be listened to as albums, start to finish. Case in point: the heft of Is A Woman is left concealed if you walk away before the end of the closing, eponymous song.

I have high hopes for OH (ohio), especially after hearing this sample from the album...

"Slipped Dissolved & Loosed" by Lambchop (download):

And here's the superb video for "Is A Woman":

OH (ohio) is out 10/7 on Merge.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rock-afire Explosion!

If you grew up in the 80s, chances are you may remember Showbiz Pizza. It was later bought out by Chuck-E-Cheese, and it was basically the same concept: pizza, arcade games, skee-ball, and a giant animatronic band.

These folks somehow got their hands on the full set and have been programming them to flawlessly (and sometimes creepily—BJK) perform some modern pop hits.

Usher's "Love In This Club"

Madonna's "4 Minutes"

See more HERE.


The album I'm maybe most excited about this year is Shugo Tokumaru's upcoming Exit, which comes out September 2 in the States. His two previous albums, Night Piece and L.S.T., are both phenomenal.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ten Questions for an Artist: Melissa Dickenson

Melissa Dickenson graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2002 and has been living and working in Baltimore ever since. Her work has been exhibited in Baltimore, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, California and Tokyo, Japan. We recently sent Dickenson a few questions about her work, and she kindly answered our questions and allowed us to post some images of her work.

NB: I know that you've lived in Baltimore for the past decade. Can you talk a bit about the city? Probably thanks to The Wire there's a perceived grittiness to Baltimore that I find really fascinating. Does the Baltimore (or any particular aspect of the city) play a role in your work?

MD: Well, Baltimore is definitely gritty. There are parts, of course, just like The Wire, gentrified areas, quirky townies and the "in between." I live in the "in between," which I love. I have transvestite prostitutes on my corner, but they know me and look after the block in a way, plus they always compliment me on my outfits! I also am surrounded by DIY galleries, yoga studios, the Symphony and the Opera and the Art House Movie Theater. As far as Baltimore playing a role in my work, I think a bit, not that I am painting images of guns and crack vials, but that I am really into paper and it's surface and texture and really exploring it. I guess you could parallel it to the love of B'more and really getting to know it and embrace it and all of its bumps and "texture."

The Get Away - Acrylic, graphite, and paper on vintage wrapping paper - 36" x 12" - 2008

NB: I know that you also spent some time in Japan learning how to make your own paper. What was that experience like?

MD: Japan was amazing. I felt like the smallest speck on the planet, so many people whizzing by you only stopping for a moment to notice you were not a native. That was Tokyo, Shikoku was different, it was a small Moutain town, and everyone in town seemed very interested in what I was doing. As far as paper making, it was really a very physically hard practice. I would constanly do it wrong and my Sensay would slap my hand and grunt (she didn't speak English and I didn't speak Japanese very well so this is how we commuticated, that and we drank LOTS of Green Tea). The olive branch came out the 2nd week of being there when Tune, the 87 year old grandmother, gave me a "sweet cake" and some Green tea as a kind of let's-be-friends gesture. I have never been so caffenated in my life!
Overall, the experience was great, and I was very happy with the work I made and the people I met. I did eventually make some great friends in Tokyo as well, but still felt the size of a pea.

Domesticate (triptych) - Acrylic, paper and graphite on vintage wrapping paper - 8" x 24" - 2008

NB: What goes into the creation of a single piece? From start to finish, what's the process like?

MD: Every thing is derived from everything else. So, I start with the fibers in a paper and pull out the imperfections with painting, drawing, or sutures, creating an imagianry landscape. I then take another paper which I have cleaned my brush off on and draw out images I see (they always tend to be animals or plants for some reason) and then cut them out and apply them to a landscape in which I feel they fit best.

NB: I know it's dangerous ground to talk about inspiration, but I'm always curious to know who or what has inspired an artists' work. In your view, is "inspiration," as a concept, even relevant to your work?

MD: Marcel Dzama, Amy Cutler, Alexis Mckenzie, Yoshimoto Nara, and Amy Stein, and Michel Gondry, and Coco Rosie. All of these artists create a world that you can't help but get sucked into, which is what I strive for! Ooh looks like that is the answer to the next question, guess I'll add on that I like cloud-watching and nature from a distance (read: on a raft not in the water, or in front of a fireplace looking out the window at the snow). And I find Monsoons really inspiring because I am fidgety and when it's raining so hard that you can't reallly go anywhere, you are forced to accept that you are in your space and either get out creativity, or sit and Mull. Both are good.

NB: [Note: this is a redundant question, but the interview was conducted over email, so what can ya do?] Along those same lines, are there any artists whose work you find particularly appealing?

MD: See above.

Candy Land - Acrylic, paper and graphite on vintage wrapping paper - 20" x 16 - 2008"

NB: Are there any trends in contemporary American art that you really respond to (positively or negatively)?

MD: I am kind of seeing this whole trend of the Diorama and the Diorama like installation (Marcel Dzama at David Zwirner in Chelsea this March and Cai Guo-Qiang at the Guggenheim). I really like artists that get out of there usual medium and expand an idea in the best material possible. Plus I have always had a thing for doll houses and those scenes in the natural history museum of cavemen and wildlife that once was.

NB: I realize that this is a huge question, but what's been the most challenging part of being a young artist?

MD: Challenge is really a cross between the financial and time. There are always things like jobs and socialness pulling you away from work and sometimes those are neccassary so that you have the $$ to buy supplies and pay rent so that you can support the Art Habit.

NB: Your bold use of color, the incorporation of vintage and handmade papers, and the use of plant and animal imagery in your work is quite beautiful. But there's also something disconcerting about some of the landscapes you create. Some of the images seem rather whimsical, while in others, there's something kind of overgrown, dangerous or wild about the image. Is that complete nonsense on my part?

MD: No, I like things that have a kind of darkness about them. I think this is very astute on the interviewer's part. Nice observation.

Garden Life - Acrylic, paper and graphite on vintage wrapping paper - 20" x 16" - 2008

NB: What do you hope that a viewer comes away with after seeing your work?

MD: I really never hope for anything in particular. I mean I definitely want them to feel something kind of disconcerting, but I want it to take a minute: at first they see this cute or pretty little rabbit in a pink forest... and then they notice it is running for its life as it escapes the blood thirsty Owl.

NB: Are you currently showing your work? Where can people go to see more?

MD: I currently have a show up at the Baltimore Museum of Art - August 3rd and An opening in D.C. at Gallery Plan B on July 31st. That show will be up until Aug 24th.

The Tarsier Debate

A debate is still raging over whether to classify tarsiers as prosimian primates in the suborder Strepsirrhini (along with lemurs, bushbabies, and the aye-aye) or in the suborder Haplorrhini among "dry-nosed" simians like monkeys, apes, and us.

As the folks at Zooillogix point out, "The tarsier finds all of this debate quite dull and prefers to spend its time eating insects and bird eggs."

This vid that went viral a while back was labeled as "The Dramatic Lemur," but it's actually one of these controversial primates, a Filipino Tarsier:

Friday, July 11, 2008

Some Different Types of Arrows

Young Macaque Walking Upright at Israeli Zoo

In 2004, Natasha, a young macaque monkey at the Safari Park near Tel Aviv, unexpectedly switched to exclusively bipedal walking after a near-fatal stomach ailment. Zoo veterinarians were unsure why the primate began walking erect like a human, but speculated that it may be due to brain damage associated with the illness.

Natasha is a member of the same genus that was recently discovered fishing in Indonesia.

Here is some cheeky audio from NPR coverage of the story.

(Photo: Eli Dasa / AP)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Willow Tree"

"Willow Tree" (download)

Chad VanGaalen's third album, Soft Airplane, comes out September 9 on Sub Pop.

Carrotmob: Conscientious Consumerism

I recently participated in a focus group and was asked lots of questions about how I come to make decisions as a consumer, and it really got me thinking. I've always felt that people should literally put their money where their mouths are, and that conscientious consumerism could and should be used as a powerful tool to instigate change. In fact, it's probably one of the few ways to exercise ethical economic influence in a capitalist system like ours.

Brent Schulkin and his Carrotmob have done something pretty awesome with this notion:

Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.

He makes an interesting point about how it's a cooperative technique to create change, using rewards and incentives to get companies to change their business practices. Hopefully, this sort of thing will catch on. If only we all based our purchasing decisions on informed ethical considerations...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

(Introducing) I Want Candy!

I (BJK) just wanted to take a moment to usher in this here new feature on YSC, which will be handled by NLB and her discerning (read: fussy) taste buds. We stocked up on loads of curious confections at Economy Candy a couple weeks ago, and she's been taking copious notes as she consumes our bounty. She may need some pressuring to start this thing, so be sure to send your suggestions and please recommend some exotic candies for her to try.

Speaking of candy, have any of you ever tried Kookaburra licorice (or, as they spell it, liquorice)? So good! The mango is the best, in my opinion. I just finished a whole package in half an hour.

There was this other Australian licorice brand (at least I think it was Australian, cuz it had a kangaroo on it) I bought from Whole Foods once, and the packaging was superb, but I can't remember the name.

Also, while we're on the topic of licorice/liquorice, does anyone else remember Ben Hurs? They were hard, ashen-grey, anise-flavored little squares that were oddly addictive. I've been on a quest to find them for years, and I'm thinking they must have been a Pennsylvania teaberry ice cream (which—I've learned from trying to spread the gospel of the neon pink deliciousness beyond the borders of the Keystone state—tastes too much like Pepto-Bismol for non-PAers)!

(Note to Nicole: I fully expect a future post on the Ben Hur saga!)

So... keep your eyes out and get ready for a sugar high!

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Insecurities of Inanimate Objects, Pt. II

(by BJK)

Click HERE for the rest of the series.

Love is All vs Dire Straits


Love is All has a new EP for download at eMusic, featuring "Wishing Well" (a preview from their upcoming album) and 5 covers (including the one above and a superb rendition of A Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran").

Mark Knopfler is still doin' the walk of life.

(Download "So Far Away" by Love is All.)

Monday Morning Photo: "A field by a building"

by nikki nicole

This shot reminds me of a Jandek CD cover for some reason.  I love it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Here's a Poem:

While I—like most people, I think—have a limited tolerance for Beat poetry (maybe that's a generational thing? Maybe it's a getting-older thing? Maybe it's because nowadays it's not particularly cool to get all into your own emotions unless you've doused them in heavy irony/sarcasm? Maybe I'm making this all up?), this Gregory Corso poem strikes me as very appropriate to contemporary culture...or something like that. Mostly, it just made me smile and laugh a little bit when I came across it yesterday:

How Not To Die

Around people
if I feel I'm gonna die
I excuse myself
telling them "I gotta go!"
"Go where?" they wanna know
I don't answer
I just get outa there
away from them
because somehow
they sense something wrong
and never know what to do
it scares them such suddenness
How awful
to just sit there
and they asking:
"Are you okay?"
"Can we get you something?"
"Want to lie down?"
Ye gods! people!
who wants to die amongst people?!
Especially when they can't do shit
To the movies—to the movies
that's where I hurry to
when I feel I'm going to die
So far it's worked