Brooklyn…home to the newest cultural renaissance here in NYC. Visit us and you’ll find a treasure trove of artists, artisans, and craftsmen, all producing some pretty magnificent stuff. And of course, you’ll see beards. Lots of beards. But while many of our beard-wearing brethren here in Brooklyn wouldn’t know a razor if they fell on one, a few of us actually do shave! I remember watching my Dad shave as a kid, fascinated by what I saw as one of the simplest and purest embodiments of maleness. The guy could ski double black diamonds with ease, fix any broken down car by himself, and seemingly attract the attention of any beautiful young woman (often 20 years his junior.) So needless to say, as a kid I paid close attention, and I came to see shaving as a symbol of the conflation of masculinity and refinement. I mean seriously, can you picture James Bond with a beard? Not happening.
Yesterday’s race at the Buddh Circuit near New Delhi gave Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull a chance to wrap up the Drivers’ & Constructors Championships with 3 race to spare. Did they do it? Find out below the fold…
Just learned of the passing of the ultimate rock iconoclast, Lou Reed, and here is an excellent obit from Jon Dolan at Rolling Stone. Between The Velvet Underground and his solo work, there are really no words to describe his impact on the alternative rock scene. But these tunes begin to scratch the surface:
One could say it was too soon to go at 71 but he packed a lot of hard living and a helluva lot of art into those years. Really, who would have thought he’d survive this long? And what he left behind as his legacy sure ain’t too bad for a punk kid from Brooklyn who couldn’t hit it sideways…
Certain songs sound as fresh today as they did when they were released, no matter how many times you’ve heard them through the years. Peak Bowie produced a lot of those timeless tunes with “The Jean Genie” from 1973’s Aladdin Sane being a fine exemplar:
Featuring Bowie at the peak of his lyrical and musical powers and with a protagonist inspired by equal parts Iggy Pop and Jean Genet (yes, there was a time when rock was that openly arty), “The Jean Genie” is an inspired free associative rumination on America and a thumpingly good rock raver. Some things just get better with age and this sounds even better to me now than when I first heard it growing up (is that a comment on the uninspired nature of much of today’s rock?). And while Bowie definitely peaked a long time ago, at least he left his 70s oeuvre to stake his claim as one of the all-time greats. His flamboyant Ziggy persona has long been retired but the high flying music of that period remains as preternaturally youthful as Dorian Gray.
Crazy season finale for Indycar last Saturday night in Fontana. Come with me below the fold to see who was crowned champion…
The great Swiss watch manufacturer Omega took the polar opposite approach to archrival Rolex’s conservatism during the turbulent 1960s and 70s. If Rolex was almost entirely unwilling to deviate from their main design concepts and stayed restrained in the face of the funky fashions sweeping the watch world, Omega was ready and willing to try a little bit of everything to capture the spirit of the times and the dollars, francs, pounds and yen of the trendsetters of that era. As characteristic of the 1970s as boot cut jeans and polyester leisure suits, Omega’s chunky and near Pop-art chronographs of this period make a retro statement like few other watches. They’re not to everybody’s taste to be sure but for those that enjoy wearing these colorful beasts there’s great fun to be had by taking a time trip to the past.
Jumping off from their enormously successful Speedmaster Professional (aka “The Moonwatch”), Omega decided to let their design team smoke a little of the good stuff and have some fun creating a new range of Speedmaster and Seamaster chronographs incorporating newly developed case shapes and calibers. At first designs like the Speedmaster Mark II & III had the traditional black dials/white hands like their predecessor but soon a veritable rainbow of colors was busting out all over. The newly launched manual wind caliber 861 and new automatic chrono caliber 1040, both Lemania-based, seemed to lend themselves to inventive case shapes and color schemes, as Omega chased fashion trends with massive tonneau cases and dispensed with conventional lugs altogether.
Of course, as a proud supplier to NASA, Omega were also intent on expanding on their “Professional” line to be maximally useful to the aeronautic industry. Continue reading
The Izod Indycar Driver’s Championship comes down to the last race of the year once again. Tonight’s MAVTV sponsored 500-miler from the 2 mile D-oval in Fontana, California will determine whether Scott Dixon can hang on for his third Indycar Championship or Helio Castroneves can recover from late season woes to claim his first. Despite the fact that Chip Ganassi’s Dixon has won four races this season to Penske driver Castroneves’ one, a mere 25 points separates them. And the Penske cars’ Chevy engines seem to have the flat out speed this weekend with a 1st-2nd-3rd lockout in Qualifying (Power, Castroneves*, Allmendinger), as well as the comfort level at Fontana having tested there frequently. But the Honda-powered Ganassi cars might have the advantage on gas mileage even with Dixon starting 7th*, so look for a very interesting strategic race to unfold so long as both contenders can avoid crashing out early on this notoriously slippery and windy circuit.
As you might have noticed with that Qualy result, Penske has added a third car to help their Brazilian ace try to win, with hot shoe A.J. Allmendinger joining Aussie Will Power and hoping to recreate his superb Indy 500 run. Power, too, has been excellent in the latter part of the season and he will be hoping to erase memories of last year’s early race wipe out at Fontana, which led to yet another heartbreaking fumble of the championship and gifted it to American Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Bright Eyes/Conor Oberst get a lot of shit for being pretentious/hysterical/naive/not Dylan (can we retire that comparison for all future singer-songwriters please?). But I’m a big fan of young Conor because I respect artists who lay everything out there and leave nothing held back, rendering themselves emotionally naked in front of an audience. A song like “Hot Knives” from 2007’s excellent Cassadaga does that in a subtle way, telling a complex and nuanced story with passion and a fine eye for human behavior, and that’s no small accomplishment to stuff into a hard charging 4-minute tune.
Not to mention that young Conor is seriously musically gifted (certainly another source of the sometimes irrational criticism he can provoke among the less talented), with a lyrical sensibility that can be poetic, strident, political and vulnerable, often within the same song. He doesn’t always find the mark and I wish he would lose the gimmick of adding long passages of mystical mumbo jumbo to certain album tracks. And some still carp that this is youth music, too agitating and hypersensitive to appeal to a mature audience. Having been to a Bright Eyes concert I’d have to agree that the fan base seems to be 25 or younger, as well as complete believers. But good Rock ‘n Roll has always largely been for and about the young and their passions and idealism and pain. To dismiss such ambitious and raucously independent music on those terms is to admit to trying to be some sort of arbiter of “mature tastes”. And who the hell wants to be that guy?
Results from yesterday’s exciting and highly tactical Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka below the fold…
One of the great “lost” bands, Love were restored to their proper place in the Rock ‘n Roll pantheon by the CD-reissue mania of the 90s, when previously out-of-print LP recordings began to blessedly pop up en masse. For Love, and particularly with the adoring and comprehensive 1995 2-disc Rhino compilation, Love Story, this meant full access to most of their stunning catalog for the first time in decades. The effect of such wondrously original psychedelic music, with its heavy emphasis on brass and string sections, was nothing short of a revelation to the uninitiated and earned them a whole new generation of fans.
Just take a big ol’ toke on one of Love’s sublime and epic masterpieces, with the suitably trippy title “Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale”, to see what I’m talking about:
Led by the certifiable compositional genius Arthur Lee and with yeoman contributions from fellow songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Bryan MacLean, Love began by making amped up pop ravers in the style of early Stones or Kinks.