24 May 2007

Hallowes’ Ground

Check out this remarkable tale ... Harry Hallowes, a North London local, has squatted on a 90-ft.-square plot of land on the edge of Hampstead Heath in Highgate for more than twenty years. Following an attempt to evict him from his shack, Hallowes was recently awarded the deed to the land when he claimed “squatter’s rights.”

I'm not sure what's more surprising here: that Hallowes won his case, or that there's actually undeveloped land in Highgate!

More details in today’s Daily Mail, as well as The Times of London and BBC News.

17 May 2007

Tonic Update: Ribot to Jail

In a previous post, I told you that the fabulous Lower East Side club, Tonic, was -- very much against its will -- soon to shut its doors for good. Well, it seems that one of Tonic's most notable regulars wasn’t going to take this lying down ... or standing up. Whatever one doesn't do when one protests. I think he was seated when the police arrived, so I suppose that means he wasn't going to take it lying down or standing up. Whatever. What's important is that our hero wasn't going to take it ... in any position!

Details and interview here:

More A Semiotician Than A Guitarist: Marc Ribot Goes to Jail
By Jesse Jarnow
May 11, 2007

Marc Ribot went to jail so you could keep rocking. Or listening quietly, dancing, or however you enjoy live music. Though he wasn't dragged from the Tonic stage playing his guitar, the former squatter came awfully close, refusing to leave on April 14th, the day the new tenants took over the lease from experimental music's largest Manhattan home. Ribot and Take It to the Bridge -- an organization he co-founded with musician Rebecca Moore -- are demanding that the city provide a new venue to the Lower East Side avant-garde community that has occupied the neighborhood for a century.

Like many of Ribot's other projects, his musical sit-in also employed Tonic's red velvet curtain as a backdrop. Instead of angular jazz, though, Ribot played the trespasser. "I've always considered myself more a semiotician than a guitarist anyway," the frequent Tom Waits collaborator told JamBands.com in his matter-of-fact Zappa-like deadpan. Point taken. Playing Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness Of You" unamplified, police officers looking on, Ribot and Moore were soon hauled off.


Once a leather-jacketed/spiky-haired young lion of the New York jazz scene, Ribot has transformed into something of a still-restless statesman, now more often seen in a blazer and spectacles. Though he leads a half-dozen projects of his own (including Ceramic Dog, Los Cubanos Postizos, and ongoing collboration with bassist Henry Grimes), plays often with Tom Waits, John Zorn, Medeski Martin and Wood, and others, and has done session work with everybody from Allen Ginsberg to Trey Anastasio, Ribot is still exactly who he was when he started: a Manhattan jazz musician. And, right now, real estate developers are getting in the way of him making a living. Forgive him if he's pissed.

Click here for the rest of the story, including a length interview with the man himself. And his fascinating blog entry from last year concerning the downtown music scene can be found here. Finally, sign the protest here. Go on: sign it!


You missed Tom on Conan, didn't you? Shame. But what more could I have done? Weren't you paying attention when I told you about it? I can't watch the damn thing for you, you know?

Well, fortunately for you, Youtube comes to your rescue yet again. To wit:

11 May 2007

Mothers Day

So, we celebrate Mothers Day this weekend. The provenance of this "holiday" is somewhat disputed, but I am partial to the following version of its history:

According to local legend, Albion pioneer, Juliet Calhoun Blakeley, stepped up to complete the sermon of the Rev. Myron Daughterty, who was distraught because an anti-temperance group had forced his son and two other temperance advocates to spend the night in a saloon and become publicly drunk. In the pulpit, Blakeley called on other mothers to join her. Blakeley's two sons, both travelling salesmen, were so moved that they vowed to return each year to pay tribute to her and embarked on a campaign to urge their business contacts to do likewise. At their urging, in the early 1880s, the Methodist Episcopal Church in Albion set aside the second Sunday in May to recognize the special contributions of mothers.

The source of my sympathy for this account is two-fold. First, given the opportunity, my own mother would, no doubt, also welcome the opportunity to express her displeasure at my long evenings in the saloon. (Is 'anti-temperance group' a euphemism for "peer-pressuring teens"?) Second, Blakeley's sermon took place in Albion, Michigan: professed home of Mothers Day, and former hometown of ours.

Happy Mothers Day, mom!

08 May 2007

The Queen

A number of years ago, while a graduate student in Oxford, I had the opportunity to meet the Queen. No, not Queen -- though a conversation with Freddy Mercury probably would've been more interesting. (Who else can cite the oil-and-water duo of Jimi Hendrix and Liza Minnelli as his two favorite performers?!) Meeting HM was definitely cool, and I got some nifty photos of she and me out of it. (Must remember to dig those out at some point.) But one of the details of the whole affair that I remember most vividly was the unsavory positioning and back-biting acquaintances displayed in order to secure one of the select invitations. Something about the little lady in the big hat -- with the even bigger sceptre! -- makes folks nuts ...

So, it's with no small amount of interest that we review the guest list for last night's state dinner at the White House, at which the Queen and Prince Philip were the guests of honor. Check it out here.

No one seems to have seized on it yet, but the cross-section of folks in attendance is quite striking. Until I saw it, I expected that the list would include the predictable "who's who" of the Washington elite. But, while there's no shortage of politicos and cronies, more remarkable is the selection of non-Washington folks. A few examples:

- Marta Domingo (wife of Maestro Placido Domingo)
- Elisabeth Hasselbeck (host of "The View") & Timothy Hasselbeck (professional football player)
- Peyton Manning (professional football player) & Ashley Manning
- John Marion (honorary chairman, Sotheby's North America) & Anne Marion
- James W. Nantz III (CBS sportscaster) & Ann-Lorraine Nantz
- Arnold Palmer (professional golfer) & Kathleen Palmer
- Itzhak Perlman (violinist) & Toby Lynn Perlman
- Rohan De Silva (pianist)

Mind you, I have no objections to any of these people per se. But how exactly are they selected? (I’m reminded of a similarly incredulous tone from years ago.) And what exactly do they represent? Surely not America. Is this a glimpse into Bush’s circle of influence? Is the sports world’s aristocratic family, the Manning’s, tight with the political world’s aristocratic family, the Bush’s? And why would Marta Domingo attend without her tenor husband? And does Domingo’s presence mean that Bush isn’t a Carreras or a Pavarotti man? And do we really want Elisabeth “I believe that life begins at the moment of penetration” Hasselbeck speaking for the American public?! And what the hell is Jim Nantz doing there anyway?!

We need a bi-partisan Senate commission to look into this!

02 May 2007

Windows on the World

For the past year or so, Andrew Sullivan (of The Daily Dish) has invited readers of his blog to submit photographs of the view from their windows. Every day, Sullivan posts some of those photographs, and they are -- almost without exception -- fabulous!

Well, now he’s compiled them (and many that haven’t been posted) into this flash-animation site. His introduction to the site is worth a quick read here.

I highly recommend it. And if you zoom in on Oxford, England, the first photo you’ll see is mine!