Dec 25, 2008

Favorite Music of 2008

1. Johann Johannsson - Fordlandia
2. Beach House - Devotion
3. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
4. M83 - Saturdays = Youth
5. The Raveonettes - Lust Lust Lust
6. Our Sleepless Forest - Our Sleepless Forest
7. Blackfilm - Blackfilm
8. Tindersticks - The Hungry Saw
9. Hauschka - Ferndorf
10. Tallest Man on Earth - Shallow Grave

Other Much Liked Albums
Air France, Atlas Sound, Department of Eagles, Destroyer, Dosh, Eksi Ekso, Fennesz, Helios, Horse Feathers, James Blackshaw, Lindstrom, Lykke Li, Max Richter, Moscow Olympics, Nick Cave, The Notwist, Peter Broderick, Populous with Short Stories, The Secret Life of Sofia, Shearwater, Sparkadia, Wolf Parade

Album Covers
Sten - Essence
Pyramids - Pyramids
Parts and Labor - Recievers
Foals - Antidotes
Peter Broderick - Docile

Lyrical Verse
"Now I'm noting the limits to our parabola..."
An Eluardian Instance by Of Montreal

Album Title
Eksi Ekso - I Am Your Bastard Wings

Bedtime Album
Helios - Caesura

Shout Out Louds @ Joe's Pub, March 11th
M83 @ Bowery Ballroom, June 4th
Keren Ann @ Joe's Pub, November 4th

River Card by Atlas Sound

Dec 5, 2008

Yoga Pop: Volume 8

Designed to play for the duration of a 75 minute vinyasa practice.

Song. Artist. Album
(Order is important)

1. Shiller. Ratatat. LP3
2. Younger. Populous with Short Stories. Drawn in Basic
3. Indo. Studio. West Coast
4. The Illking. Mouse on Mars. Idiology
5. Pelican Narrows. Caribou. The Milk of Human Kindness
6. Sonar. Blackfilm. Blackfilm
7. Aquarium Life. Berg Sans Nipple. Along the Quai
8. A Circular Reference. Tycho. Past is Prologue
9. Borderline. Plej. Home is Where the Heart Was
10. Nomads. Our Sleepless Forest. Our Sleepless Forest
11. St. Tropez. Arp. In Light
12. A Song for H / Far Away. Max Richter. 24 Postcards in Full Colour
13. Zoetrope. Boards of Canada. In a Beautiful Place out in the Country
14. Image-Autumn-Womb. Goldmund. The Malady of Elegance

Nov 11, 2008

Party Notes from an East Village Walkup

VL was awarded the “Shoeless Joe Jackson” socks award despite disorienting judges with her half-eaten, half-frozen food gift.

MR “held back” as she couldn’t afford to be haggard for her Sunday night same-building shindig.

J and KH reminisced about their 2003 Pictionary title and looked forward to the aughts championship in Horseheads, NY next year.

With jaw dropped, KH listened as ES told fantastical stories of $4,000 glass lamps and headboards stretched as far as the eye could see.

After being repeatedly prodded for his “Wintarita” drink recipe KH effortlessly rattled off the ingredients in perfect proportion: 2 1/2 parts apple cider, 1 part tequila, 1/4 part lemon juice, 1/4 part orange liquor, and salt.

D floated like butterfly and stung like a bee.

In order to remember his address MA had always associated “that tool” KH with the “that tool” band 311. It ends up that KH actually lives at 411. GT wishes we all couldn’t have figured this out sooner.

M hearts Ethiopian Gin but abhors redundant/senseless elevator button pushers.

J and KW’s capoeira performance was severely hampered by the proximity of 65 people in a 650 square foot apartment.

SV diligently solicited for views on the economy only to receive tired drunken stares in return.

DL, MS, KH, and C swapped intelligence on the whereabouts of (free) chocolate milk and cider doughnuts in Brooklyn Heights.

MS misunderstood EV’s clever Ocean’s 14 reference as evidenced by his odd periscopy submarine hand gesture. He went on to kindly recommended warm weather art fair satellites and a lake for swimming.

MK told of a telling of a coming of age story.

JH expressed his frustration of enjoying media cultural no one else has heard of. Like the television show Dharma and Greg.

VA, M, and T stood atop their social networking ivory towers, casting down the faux nostalgia of their needy childhood hangers-on.

EV made pictures until age 11 and then “something happened.”

RM was convinced that SP and KH were siblings.

NG recommended flash bulb games in the dark, left, motorcycled O home, returned, then called out circumnavigating poseurs.

Sep 23, 2008

10 Things I Learned in Montreal

1. Females age 16-26 all have short dark hair, eyebrow length straight bangs, and a cute squishy bottom.
Renting out Segways to navigate your city’s historic ports is a really dumb idea.
Gooseberries, gooseberries, gooseberries.
The “which is tastier” debate between Montreal and New York City bagels is pretty boring.
Montrealers enjoy naming their stores and restaurants with corny puns like Kitsch n’ Swell, Cash and Curry, and Indiana Jeans.
Housing stock in "The Plateau" appears twice as desirable as New York for a quarter of the price.
“The hams and shoulders make all the difference.”
Montrealers don’t let ANY portion of their swine go to waste.
It’s not easy to take a yoga class taught in French when you don’t speak or understand French.
10. They should consider changing their motto from “Je Me Souviens” to “De La Terre Chandail a Capuchon” (Land of the Hoody).

Aug 17, 2008

Fruit for Thought

In the first entry of what may possibly become an ongoing series called “conversations I’ve had at least five times” I explore the strangely reoccurring question of “What is your perfect five fruit salad?” This is not to be confused with the more common and less interesting question of “What are your favorite five fruits?”

The goal here is no different than most endeavors of idealic chow: maximize varieties of texture, taste, smell, and sight without sacrificing the innate aesthetics of its stand-alone components.

1. Elberta Peach. While Left Coast aficionados continue debating the availability of decent peaches in New York City I would contend that even a substandard specimen is worthy of inclusion. The skin-on peach should be as ripe as possible while still being able to maintain its cut, sectioned shape.

2. Ruby Red Grapefruit. To achieve maximum results in my sole citris ingredient painstakingly peel off the sectional skin membranes for preferred access to each juicy globule.

3. Prickly Pear. The mouth watering dye red flesh of this strangely crunch satiating, underrated fruit MUST be served ice cold. The only drawbacks are the virtually imperceptible needles that quickly go from unpeeled fruit skin to the skin between your fingers. Make sure you have a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers handy for help in dislodging these persistent pricks.

4. Fresh Black Mission Fig. The inner matrix of tiny seeds in this fruit that’s better known in its inferior “newtoned” presentation adds an unexpectedly pleasant tactile dimension. Slice in half with skin on.

5. Quince. This mysterious fruit was strangely plentiful during my sugar eating childhood in suburban Ohio. Its dry, spongy, tart complexion makes it the perfect apple/pear two-for-one.

Jul 27, 2008

Canned Goods Rich in Nutrients

It’s taken eight years, multiple pressed trouser sightings, and a US financial system on the brink of collapse for many of my friends to realize that I work in Finance. Those who once blindly spurned the mechanics of high capitalism now query me on a weekly basis seeking opinions on topical matters of economic and financial importance: the subprime conundrum, implications of our massive budget deficit, stagnant middle class wage growth, Manhattan apartment prices, and reasons for a weak US dollar. Though I rarely opine on such complex and contentious topics I thought it might prove useful to outline a few brief investment tips in the buy/sell lists below.

{These half-jokey views do not reflect the opinions of the institution that might or might not be my current employer}

Liquidate / Sell / Purge:
- Assets that are exposed in any way to the integrity of the US Banking system
- Real estate that doesn't properly value the risk of a debilitating terrorist attack
- Anti-Chinese propaganda
- Art purchased at a Christie's or Sotheby's auction in the last 10 years
- Your subscription to The National Review
- Body parts fabricated from or filled with precious metals (Though likely to increase in value, they will surely pose a health threat as Armageddon approaches)

Invest / Buy / Hoard:
- Canned goods containing nutrient-rich foodstuffs
- Defendable land, preferably located on an elevated plateau in a politically neutral country
- Armored transportation that isn't powered by a petroleum by-product
- Polaroid cameras, batteries, and film
- Roach spray
- Two Slingshots and an aluminum baseball bat (or similarly blunt object)
- An apartment in the "up-in-coming" outskirts of a Chinese metropolis
- Physical stocks of Uranium and Plutonium

Jul 6, 2008

Yoga Pop: Volume 7

Designed to play for the duration of a 75 minute vinyasa practice.

Song. Artist. Album
(Order is important)

1. Ready Lets Go. Boards of Canada. Geogaddi
2. 11 Ghosts II. Nine Inch Nails. Ghosts I-IV
3. Midnight to 4am. Blackfilm. Blackfilm
4. Singing Sand. Quiet Village. Silent Movie
5. Acrostico. Gui Boratto. Chromophobia
6. The Magic Stick. Dosh. Wolves and Wishes
7. Time Difference II. Montag. Alone, Not Alone
8. Ketto. Bonobo. Days to Come
9. Disconnect the Cables. Japancakes. The Sleepy Strange
10. Velvet Pony. Psapp. Tiger, My Friend
11. As The Stars Fall. The Cinematic Orchestra. Ma Fleur
12. Unknown Title. Figurines. When the Deer Wore Blue
13. One Swan Swim. Tenniscoats. Tan-Tan Therapy
14. The Rising Sun. Arp. In Light
15. I'm Rewinding It. Bibio. Fi
16. Bright Angel Park. Frankie Sparo. Welcome Crummy Mystics

Jun 29, 2008

Popsicle Popularity Contest

Below are real-life search engine queries resulting in visits to Ether Popsicle. My comments are in [brackets].

-how to pronounce ether [how silly!]
-i got some popsicles in the seller [so did i but they all melted]
-promotions campaign for popsicle [?]
-tenjune per bottle price [not as much as it used to be]
-popsicle revel
-popsicle experiment insulation [cotton candy fiberglass]
-frequency of popsicle commercials [not frequent enough]
-lips broach
-quinoa correct pronunciation [good search]
-making popsicle lamps [not as easy as you'd think]
-fla-vor-ice freezer pops vodka [it isn’t wise to fuk with fla-vor-ice in its natural state]
-unificaçao de fisica 20500 [good search]
-popsicle bottle rockets
-popsicle collection jeans
-ladies of the weather channel [you prob meant to do an image search]
-vintage popsicle ads
-popsicle party [!]
-ether party [!!!]
-karch kiraly pronunciation [those who know how to spell it really shouldn’t be asking]
-marble colored popsicles [yummm]
-tipping protocol for yoga [1000%]
-rocket popsicle shot recipe
-blue ghost popsicle [silver ghost popsicle is more like it]

Jun 24, 2008

Summer To-Do's

1. Become proficient at handball
2. Stop worrying about A/C units falling out of windowsill

3. Invent my new favorite summer cocktail

4. Bath nude at Sandy Hook beach

5. Perform one handstand everyday

6. Cannonball unexpectedly into the Floating Pool barge

7. Relearn how to rock climb (well)

8. Win the magnetic swirly wizard carny game at Coney Island

9. Montreal, Montreal, Montreal

10. Bike the Central Park loop continuously between the hours of 2:22am and 4:44am

11. Ride around on the top level of a red double decker tour bus while listening to "Strange Geometry" by The Clientele

12. ????

May 26, 2008

Digging for Undergraduate Treasure

I owe many settings on my finely tuned biological clock to the proximity of nearby accredited live in universities. My year around 7am to 6pm shut in job has dulled my environmental awareness of the season’s school delineated time markers: Pencil cases acquired in August’s back to school shopping blitz, the clean break of post-midterm winter recess, spring break’s MTV made-to-believe Mexican charms, and the dumpster diving glee of summer’s start.

There are a lot of queues that mark the beginning of summer in NYC: The sudden disappearance of good looking people on the weekends, sidewalk garbage of increased smelliness, air condition unit ugliness moved from storage room floors into teetering windowsills, the endless mysteries of sold out music festivals, and of course, the hidden treasures of undergraduate dumpster diving. Each May opportunistic deal hunters line up to sift through the disposed runoff from NYU students hurrying back to their families. As the nine axle Mayflower moving truck can only hold so much, things like aquariums, wheelie desk chairs, shoddy bookcases, and canned peas are all left for the taking. While spectating one of these digs on a recent stroll home I stood wondering what I had left behind in the dumpster outside my freshman dorm...

1. An unexplainably large, three quarter broken AIWA bookshelf stereo system equipped with double cassette deck, analog tuner, and annoying top-spring loading compact disc player.

A stack of international trade policy papers each marked up with a different “X” supply/demand chart.

Remnants of my J.A. administered freshman year “community service” project: empty Krylon green spray can bottles, college sweatshirt sleeves covered in chipped green paint, tissues tangled in green snot, and a bunch of heavy metal gardening stakes.

A pips-out ping pong paddle, three pairs of Nike middle distance track spikes, deflated red and white Karch Kiraly beach volleyball, and warped 175 gram flying disc.

Hot water percolator with frayed cord.

Two mini ice cube trays, capable of fitting in the 75% frosted-in freezer portion of my mini fridge.

Tattered Birkenstock sandals with dried out cork soles.

Worn out copies of Marble Madness, Rush ‘n Attack, Dr. Mario, Gauntlet, Bionic Commando, and Blaster Master for NES. (Blaster Master wasn’t so much worn out as it was broken into a bunch of low-tech shards courtesy of my black leather Doc Marten boot sole.)

My full kitchen cookery/flatware set: broken saucepan, white plastic strainer, plastic bowl, and fork.

The bed sheets that covered my two inch thick “water resistant” mattress.

May 6, 2008

Party Notes from a West Village Walkup

EV took time off his busy Latin American art sale schedule to revel with other yogi partygoers and antagonize tie-wearing guests. His dancing bear beverage gift, born from "gnarled vines grown in adverse conditions,” was an appropriate metaphor for his against-all-odds rise to greatness.

HC was kind enough to procure a coppertop bottle of "handmade" Texan vodka. VLA "knew" Texas and "knew" vodka but never the two in combination.

Despite the jeers and controversy surrounding "The Quiz" AT and LM proved their love by finally prevailing in sudden death. The dynamic duo of SC and KW might have pulled it out had they remembered that "half-moon" was favored to "plow."

AWA and BC's gifts coincidentally coincided: one bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label with a set of "perfectly cubed" rubber ice cube trays. Upon viewing the bottle of Blue Label ST appropriately commented that KH "SURE has friends in this town!"

JG, dressed in a beautifully vintaged over jeans dress, came with "desert island treasure" tucked away in a magic marked manila envelope.

VLA's post-graduate level mastery of the English language prevented KH from understanding many of her quick-worded, quick-witted comments. Apparently, she and SC are now finished with law school.

An initially almost unrecognizable, shaky handed, trench coat clad VLO brought the corkscrew stemmed orange boutonniere of KH’s dreams. A few de-petaling hugs later SC and VLA helped him repin; this time with the pointy pin side up.

JR dazzled the kitchen crowd with his razor sharp mental math, dividing KH's 360 second time limit into minutes. 6 minutes.

Despite MA’s giddier than usual state, he failed to force KH into the XXXL sized gift depicting him as cured child bathing in brine.

SL and KH failed at making each other feel guilty for being "unavailable" during SL's looooong gardening leave.

MC to GT in regards to GT's upcoming vegetarian bbq: "You can't win friends with salad."

After spilling wine on the soon-to-be thrown out host sheets J kindly left his calling card and credit card beneath the "highly sought after" three dimensional Mario Brothers refrigerator magnets. KH WANTS THOSE MAGNETS.

After consuming one (or two) whole bottles of Knob Creek, CN lost, then quickly found his "perfectly fitting" jet black Agnes B. suit jacket.

JG took KH's "moistness wanted" feedback and delivered in SPADES. The cake was SO moist that some attendees mistook it for birthday pudding.

Though MC was about 2 minutes late on the cake delivery her AMAZING rendering gift more than made up for it.

KH was coerced into re-posing for what is apparently the most hilarious/ambiguous photo of him on the internet. Except this time it was while holding a raspberry blue FLA-VOR-ICE instead of a Rocket Popsicle.

VV was KH's many-years-ago massage therapist, not masseuse. Massage therapists are not masseuses.

"A" astounded and allured the crowd with her voluminous head of crimped hair and psychedelic colored tights.

With a little non-attendee help KH successfully guilted DA into coming by with her new beau.

SV seemed preoccupied with his then weeklong shopping preparation for an upcoming country western themed wedding. KH was surprised that he had never heard of a bolo tie.

MS, B, EC, and others aided in the process of de-walling the apartment's paint encrusted transatlantic telegraph wire.

In the Cocteau Twins discography AW pointed to "Blue Bell Knoll" as the album that defined their sound. KH was disappointed for never having heard this album but then acquired it the following day.

CF kindly complimented KH's personable "stranger in a strange land" demeanor before inquiring his availability for future party jobs.

LJ's ghost within a child's mind within an artist's mind will be framed and prominently displayed in short order.

*KH had a great 30th and is very grateful for all his FANTASTIC friends.

Apr 28, 2008

The Secret Lives of Restaurant Food Delivery Tippers

Tipping protocol is a constant subject of conversation, debate, and controversy in New York. Parking lot attendant extortion, unsolicited "help" hailing yellow taxis, doorman ties to the mob, the massage parlor "invisible hand," gypsy cab negotiations (and whether this term is offensive to the gypsy population), dedicated sommelier tip lines, Christmas gifts for the highrise building family you never knew you had, and the bartender binary bill conundrum are a few of the many gratuity topics on the mind of today's metropolitan citizen. Most of the notes I've read on the topic are generalized guides, outlining the appropriate instances when prescribed roundabout percentages are owed to certain recognized service providers. But with the recent rise of purveyor instituted tip jars -- accompanied by gratuity induced prices engineered to maximize coinage returned from paper bill purchases -- it's become increasingly important to develop a more granular and robust thought process for gauging these subjective matters of social protocol.

Friends commonly ask me for opinions on appropriate tipping procedure expecting a singular hard-and-fast rule in reply. Very few tipping situations are as uniform and static as the posers of this question would like to think. And many, like the one I’ve outlined below, involve multiple considerations in order to tabulate the proper outcome. To give you an idea I’ve outlined a cursory “thought process” examination of the high-frequency, multi-variable tipping scenario of restaurant food delivery.

>Long a Floor / Short a Cap
Importance: High

The blind application of a flat tipping percentage will at times result in a payment shortfall or overage. On the low side, remote patrons who are consistent placers of near minimum charge meal orders should be tipping more than 15-20%. On the high side, the toro sashimi takeout party you and your ten closest friends decide to have shouldn’t require the full 20% on top of an already pricey bill. A floor/cap of $2/$10 for a reasonable payload carryable by one delivery person should override an otherwise 15-20% of bill baseline rule-of-thumb.

Importance: High

Requesting delivery to the outskirts of a maximum territory boundary prevents workers from churning out additional orders. Reward distance. Conversely, don't feel guilty offering up a low side tip on deliveries from restaurants located within shouting distance of your front stoop.

>The Multitask
Importance: High

Reward delivery journeys that appear dedicated to your order alone. If the person shows up with multiple bags it’s likely that the oven-to-door time has been extended against your interests (though this is not always the case).

Importance: High

Though braving the elements is technically part of the job description, an additional tip is appropriate to compensate for safer/slower delivery speeds, especially if the payload arrives promptly. This booster is countered partly by the fact that during bad weather there is likely more orders to deliver, thus more tips.

Sidenote: The opposite theory applies in regards to bad weather when considering tips for taxis. Yellow cabs generally operate "in stride" during inclimate weather. And since there is usually no shortage of riders I feel less compelled to bump up gratuities.

Importance: Moderate

Unwieldy pizza boxes and heavy orders of cheap brothy soba deserve more credit than a lightweight bento box or portable dish of Thai protein. Reward tonnage.

>Stair Stipend
Importance: Low

Climbing two flights of stairs is easier than four. Delivery to the door of my fifth floor walkup apartment deserves a small scaling consideration. Reward height.

Apr 12, 2008

Yoga Pop: Volume 6

Designed to play for the duration of a 75 minute vinyasa practice.

Song. Artist. Album
(Order is important / Time crops noted)

1. Everywhere All At One Time. Cloud Cult. The Meaning of 8
2. A Heart-Warming and Beautiful Flower Will Eventually Wither Away and Become Dirt. Susumu Yokota. Love or Die
3. Tesselation, Formerly Plateau One. Mahogany. Connectivity!
4. Please Sing My Spring Reverb - B.Fleishmann Mix. Mum. Please Smile My Noise Bleed
5. Abbesses. Birdy Nam Nam. Birdy Nam Nam (6:13)
6. Ready Set Glow. Atlas Sound. Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
7. We Own The Sky. M83. Saturdays = Youth
8. Neon Rider. Junior Boys. Last Exit
9. Send and Receive. Tycho. Past Is Prologue
10. Alienation. Lali Puna. Faking The Books
11. Ambulance For The Ambiance. Broken Social Scene. Bee Hives
12. Hazeldub. Alpha. Come From Heaven
13. I Know You Are But What Am I?. Mogwai. Happy Songs For Happy People
14. Aircastles. Our Sleepless Forest. Our Sleepless Forest
15. Last Orders. Richard Hawley. Cole's Corner

Apr 5, 2008

Music for Any Predilection

Modern day music trawlers would have a hard time subsisting without sites like Artist genealogy, discographies, influences, genre trees, and historical billboard chart inclusions are a few of the things you’ll find at this online music equivalent to The Library of Congress. But there’s one database attribute that makes this site unique. An attribute that puts this virtual library on my short list of internet obsessions: MOODS.

Each band in Allmusic's mammoth encyclopedia is assigned with as many moods from this list as are applicable to their musical sound. One can use mood as either a search characteristic or an umbrella designation to view critically acclaimed bands / albums. First, the thoroughness and accuracy of this database is mindboggling. Second, my hat goes off to this mysterious crew of professional mood-assigners; most likely the same people who review the music (right?). I don’t know who you are but know there’s at least one person out there who cares about you deeply. Third, as much as I enjoy thinking about music this way it’s pretty difficult not to snicker at the absurd precision implicated by some of these moods. I can't imagine that there are many people out there thinking “Boy, I’m really in the mood for an album that's uncompromising yet wry.” Other favorite ridiculous moods from their list include: clinical, earnest, sardonic, stately, ramshackle, austere, naïve, and brittle. Fourth, I do so wish that my music collection (read: my life) could be organized and sorted by mood. Let’s all hope ITunes and the many cultural collators to come co-opt this database methodology allowing users to apply MULTIPLE genres, moods, and (who knows what!) attributes to single pieces of file-away media.

Mar 15, 2008

Party Notes from a Park Slope Townhouse

SK didn’t mind sporting birthday jangles at first but later decided to turn off the blinking kissy lips broach after one guest had a fit of epilepsy.

KH strained to locate the apiary but when he found it AW was quite pleased. Little did either of them know that KH’s intended destination was actually the aviary.

PC’s serendipitous pear, strawberry, Guinness, and coffee cocktail brought only jeers and confused looks from the creatively unappreciative audience.

MB opined on the cocktail party uselessness of his chemistry PHD but then was nowhere to be found when PC and KH tried to recall the spicy food chemical “capsaicin.” (KH should have invited PM).

SK and KH were secretly happy they forgot to wear cowboy shirts.

T, L, A, and J all sported glossy “linen” nail polish applied in preparation for their recent trip to Key West. J wasted no time in “perversely” biting her’s off, thread by thread.

JS and KS became regrettably entangled in TW’s ten minute “6 degrees of Adelaide separation” tale as they were hurriedly leaving the party. Mysteriously, KS and TW were connected via the lead singer of The Coors.

SD attempted to figure out JD’s “physicality” type but could only conjure up celebrity comparisons that were lost on him and the crowd.

MO’s quandary over “finding a boyfriend” seemed odd given that her male specifications of “tall, thin, and having a sense of humor” encompassed about 85% of the population.

LT’s embarrassedly blushed cheeks answered KH’s question of whether she had ever bathed nude or would consider it. Surprisingly, LT and LT2 never knew that they lived blocks from a ferry that would take them to such a beach.

Mar 12, 2008

The Quinoa Challenge

There was plenty of time to share stories during our chilly Sunday stroll from the toucan inhabited cemetery spires of Greenwood Cemetery towards the DELICIOUS clutches of Franny’s Potato Croquettes. As EB and I crossed the magical and ever moving border between South Slope and Park Slope I decided to share a tale of vain admittance. A few weekends back a group of us sat in a Williamsburg brunchery pondering the age old question of sweet versus savory. The inconsequentiality of my decision gave birth to a pitiful plan of personal praise. Since everything appeared equally appetizing I would order the Quinoa Crusted Chicken simply so that the waitress would recognize how smart and cultured I was to know its proper pronunciation. The sound of EB’s incredulous laughter interrupted my story. “A LOT of people know how to pronounce that word,” she jokingly commented. Though my memory of the waitress’s blank stare affirmed her assertion I staunchly stood my ground and disagreed. In order to accurately gauge my friend’s estimation of quinoa awareness I retorted with this hypothetical scenario: “If you stood on the corner 5th avenue and 57th street in Manhattan on a Saturday afternoon and asked 100 people to read a sentence with the word 'quinoa' in it, how many would pronounce it correctly?”

In a suprisingly confident voice she answered "50."

Do you agree that 50 or more people would successfully pronounce quinoa in the context outlined above? Well, if you do and would like to wager a consequential deed or asset on its outcome please contact me with your proposal. If I find your proposal suitable we’ll begin working out the logistics for administering The Quinoa Challenge.

Mar 5, 2008

Souvlaki Trailer

I don't bicycle to work very much during the winter. The problem is that I haven’t worked out a system to shield my shower wet hair from the cold while both protecting my skull and not looking more disheveled than usual upon arrival. But despite all my undeniable wimpyness I decided a brisk February morning ride would do my not-looking-forward to work despondency some good.

{Don’t forget your helmet or the two bike lock keys. Stop ignoring the garbage and just take it downstairs; you can replace the bag liner the next time you throw something away. Don’t close the door until after you tap your pockets to check if you took your apartment keys, wallet, and phone. Ok, close the door. Turn the deadbolt key counterclockwise one rotation until you hear the click. Click. Heel toe down sixty stairs, hairpin left onto the humidity warped linoleum towards the rat infested garbage canned backyard, and don’t get startled when the door hinge makes that weird brakey noise. Undo the ten pound chain lock first and be careful as you drag it through the already damaged front tire spokes. Wrap the chain four times around the head tube without getting your hands greasy or choking the brake cables. Watch out for all the mysterious broken glass!}

There are only so many ways to get from Manhattan’s east single digits to its east 40s. That morning I decided to take the longer but less treacherous bike-pathed route: Westward via tree-lined 9th Street, up 6th Avenue (not “Avenue of the Americas”), back east across 46th Street (a.k.a. The Little Brazil that couldn’t), then up Vanderbilt Avenue. As I approached the company sponsored bike rack a member of our crack security team, acting as if he’s never seen me before, began reciting his lines as I preemptively patted myself down in search of i.d. “This bike rack is ONLY for employees” he says in a mandatorily stern voice. Before I have the chance to become annoyed the “I’m only doing my job and though it’s boring and unfulfilling I don’t mind because it’s enough to support my family” look in his eyes forces each prickly inclination in my head to stand down. After locking up the bike I replace my helmet with my work hat but not before giving my now matted down hair a two handed tussle in front of the window’s glared reflection. I prove myself again to the indoor security guard before stepping onto the escalator where I decide to uncharacteristically stand rather than climb. A tiny but earned reward for this morning’s harrowing journey.

Preparing to leave my desk, I am quickly reminded that the tattered Helly Hansen fleece which was inadequate on my ride to work will be even more inadequate in this evening’s windy chill. After completing my P.M. security guard serenade I set off for my semi-annual dentist and doctor checkups.

Most visitors to this city would wrongly assume that delivery trucks, yellow taxicabs, or the unwieldy multi-sectioned MTA buses sit on top of Manhattan’s street traffic hierarchy. Anyone who’s lived here long enough or has ridden a bicycle once during rush hour knows that it’s the hardened bike messengers who are the lions of this kingdom. With their grizzled glares peering through duct taped vintage eyeglasses they zoom past soon-to-turn-green avenue lights atop their sanded down fixed geared skeleton frames. If you’ve never noticed them before you will now. But while messengers are our fearless generals it’s the endless platoons of food delivery bikers who are the true unsung heroes of this war. The speed, recklessness, and grit that characterize messenger bike culture is mirrored by the endurance, temperament, and humility of New York’s food delivery cavalcade.

With blood extraction bandages on both arms I cruised past Broadway’s Carpet Row, bumped along the cobblestones of Union Square West, then hooked a left onto 14th street. After parting throngs of NYU students at the pedestrian owned intersection of Broadway and 14th a food delivery biker, previously heading north on 4th Avenue, turned right and led me and another commuter in a mini-peloton towards The East River. It was at that point when my vividly rare New York moment began. The delivery payload sat within a black strapped dirty red padded bag, lined with space-aged shiny aluminum insulation. The bag was carelessly dropped unfastened in a stripped black wire basket atop the rear wheel of his ravaged late 90s model mountain bike. His unwavering swerve was accompanied by the metallic clank of sloppily affixed chain lock against frame. As we passed 2th Avenue the wind flapped open his bag and I awoke from my daze to the appetizing smells of Chicken Souvlaki! Under normal delicious food whiffing circumstances it would have hardly registered. But against the backdrop of MTA bus exhaust, those darn sewer smells, and piles of pizza store garbage it was a nothing short of a sensory revelation. My nostrils flared and relaxed as the wind continued to blow the bag open and shut. After parting ways upon his delivery destination I walked my bike the rest of the way home feeling happy to live in New York.

Feb 24, 2008

Hotel Bathroom Mysteries of Our Generation

I just discovered this weekend that some hotel bathroom mirrors have built-in televisions (that's me watching cartoons while I brushed my teeth). Since when did society demand such technology? The only significant step forward in bathroom engineering I know of are those elliptical shower rods that provide a roomier bathing experience. That and fancier shower heads. Speaking of bathroom curiosities, whatever happened to those weird timed red heating lamp lights classy hotels like The Holiday Inn used to have?

One more thing.

It's funny how corporations can all of sudden become "environmentally responsible" when coincidentally, they save money by doing so. Changing the towels and linens everyday is undoubtedly excessive but I get a bit bothered when hotels take the moral high ground by pointing out this "bottom line benefit" in disguise. I'd be shocked if someone could prove that these environmentally intentioned savings on laundry soap and housekeeping salary hours were translating into anything but higher company profits.

Feb 16, 2008

Not Having the Time of Your Life. And You’ve Never Felt This Way Before. I Swear.

A periodic portion of my real life job (or my “adult job” as friends like to call it) involves traveling to Universities in the Northeast to give job interviews. These thirty minute trials of courage are a freeform mix of hard and soft, allowing sage questioners like me to say and ask practically anything. Don’t get the wrong idea; I take my white collar decider-of-fates role quite seriously. Not only because I want to admire the people I see at the water cooler but also since the ultimate successes and failures of my chosen hires are a direct reflection on my own tastes and values.

Given that one important prerequisite of my job is a penchant for all things analytical it’s common during the interview to pose a question whose answer requires some combination of math, spatial reasoning, and outright common sense. This is the part students fear most. Our hypercompetitive society buries kids $250k into debt to have a shot at this singular not-until-you-answer-this-riddle moment. Imagine The Showcase Showdown, Final Jeopardy, and Double Dare Obstacle Course all rolled into one. Except what’s on the line here isn’t a tricked-out RV, trip to Paris, or cash windfall; it’s what you believe to be your future. And it’s not that we don’t care about all the other things they’ve accomplished but if two other students who are also trilingual, kite surfing national champions, Fulbright scholars, and graduating three years early get this question right, who do you think we’ll be logically obliged to choose?

“How many degrees separate the hour and minute hand on an analog clock reading 3:15?”
“If you painted the surface of a cube made up by 1000 smaller cubes, how many of the smaller cubes would have paint on them?”
“Which investment is most attractive: one that doubles in two years, triples in three years, or quadruples in four years?”
“If there’s an equal chance of rain or sunshine, what are the odds of three consecutive days of rain over the course of five days?”

Depending on how your mind works these questions might sound really difficult, really simple, or just really silly. Exercises like these are one of the prospecting tools used by financial companies, consulting firms, and political think tanks to sieve the not-so apparent analytical dynamos from the sea of “fools gold” straight-A bookworms.

The motivation for this note was to share a question of this sort that’s fascinated me since the day I heard it. “What are the odds of a once in a lifetime event happening once in your life?” First, I must express my condolences to the students who’ve been asked this in an interview. Questions that are infinitely more simplistic and discrete consistently confound the smartest of students. This one is tough. To technically answer this problem you’d have to read up on Simeon-Denis Poisson, the 18th century French mathematician whose work focused on the modeling of improbable events. I didn’t quite get that far in my studies (or was sick that day) and have chosen never to seek out how one would answer such an interesting theoretical query.

Romantic notions of fate and destiny are routinely suppressed by the clockwork nature of my analytical psyche. A psyche that rarely yields at the opportunity to expose unpopular truths or debase myth, superstition, and hindsight bias. This mental framework has blessed/cursed me to see the world as a cold, chaotic set of fluttering stereo equalizer-like probability distributions where strange coincidences are simply tail improbabilities bound to occur during the course of our lives. The “once in a lifetime” conundrum sheds a rare and strange light on the seesaw that balances my conception of hope vs. uncertainty. I’m thankful that my unrelenting analytical pitchfork is willing to leave this notion answer-less and wonder-full.

Feb 8, 2008

Clawing for Premium Brand Toiletry Kits

Dear junior advertising associate,

This photo, taken at a Staten Island roller skating rink, reflects a fascinatingly dense maze of important social, political, and economic concepts. Of the academic, artistic, commercial, and journalistic applications this photo invites I will suggest just one. Your firm will pitch a new ad campaign to Coach targeting ironically conscious but fashionably confused affluent females ages 22 to 32. Companies are always looking for ways to penetrate markets outside their core demographic and if presented correctly, this campaign's oblique sensibility will attract both "savvy" label mavens and "savvy" label maven haters. Keep in mind that Coach's market value has been halved during the last six months. What this means for you is that suits in Coach's boardroom who are under the gun for new ways to grow profits will be more receptive than usual to ideas that radically alter their sacrosanct brand.

Congratulations in advance on your promotion.


Jan 27, 2008

Blind Date Blindfold

My good pal MA posed this hypothetical question: “If you were to be set up on a blind date and could choose who you went out with based only on their occupation, what would be your top five occupations?”

Any assertion suggesting that one's job choice is self-defining is commonly met by blushes of timid unease; especially in a town where outsized costs of living require all sorts of aspirational compromises. Though many people relate to those blushy moments few could deny that the choice to spend a majority of one’s waking hours fulfilling a singular work function doesn’t say something, if not a lot, about who they are.

Quick draw answers I've heard to this "what if" dating psychology question fall into a few simple categories. (1) Occupations that describe a particular physical archetype: professional football player, yoga instructor, exotic dancer, or underwear model. (2) Jobs that typify a specific lifestyle or socioeconomic status: investment banker, travel journalist, art gallerist, or bass player for a well known rock band. (3) Careers that exemplify a certain brand of intellect or creativity: architect, philosophy professor, sculptor, or film director. There’s also the separate question of whether you generally seek a “partner in crime,” someone with similar creative/professional inclinations, or a person who you believe is your complimentary contrasting opposite.

My own answers combine ideas mentioned above with two addendums which I'll briefly describe. The first is what I call "Reincarnate Regret." It's the idea of being drawn towards people who chose a path you pursued in a former life, once considered, or still now consider. My other choosing variable is a hybrid of the response categories listed above. Based on silly generalizations (this is a somewhat silly exercise after all) I start with the world view, aesthetic sensibility, and physical appearance desired in a mate then interpolate to careers where one might find a high density of these idealized characters.

My top female blind dates knowing only their occupation:
1. Comic Book Illustrator
2. Hatter / Milliner
3. Contemporary Dancer
4. Furniture Maker
5. Field Anthropologist

{Extra credit list}

If I had lived during the 1920s:
1. Switchboard Operator
2. Hatter / Milliner
3. Confectioner
4. Costermonger
5. Bluestocking

If you'd care to indulge me with your own lists be aware that answers like French Maid, Slutty Nurse, or non-English speaking Pool Boy Hunk don’t apply. Sorry MA.

Jan 20, 2008

Brunch Wheelbarrows in The Weimar Republic

The scene is reminiscent of media depictions during chaotic months following the Soviet Union's 1991 collapse. Hordes of hungry people waiting in endless lines, clamoring to purchase bread, flour, eggs, milk, and other dietary staples. The only difference is that this isn't post-communist Russia, it's a typical Sunday morning steps outside my New York City apartment.

Surrounded by female clothing boutiques, vintage nic nak shops, and a truly fabulous eyeglass store sits the unmarked 9th Street Market, one of Downtown's elite brunching institutions. Elite in that hungry Manhattanites routinely wait for more than hour to secure seating at one of their 10 coveted tables. The menu boasts a stock array of hearty New American seasonal fare: Banana walnut pancakes, French toast dusted with confectioner's sugar, Goat cheese omelettes, Steel cut Irish oatmeal, etc. I've had the pleasure of dining there on multiple occasions, a few times for weekday breakfast and once for their lesser known dinner offering. The food is undoubtedly good but given the preponderance of quality restaurants in the vicinity it's astonishing to me why anyone would wait an hour and a half for a plate of Migas and roasted potatoes. If you’re considering a peak time Sunday meal here just think how silly you'll feel standing in the freezing cold amongst a restaurant-full size group of uninformed brunchers, clogging the sidewalk, and trying to ignore our incredulous stares. Do yourself a favor and opt for one of these lesser known neighborhood alternatives: Angelina Café, La Palapa, Quhnia, or Tree.

Jan 13, 2008

Party Notes from a Tribeca Loft

ST’s sms impression coincided with the surprise of revelers’ that the Queen of Spain’s pied-a-terre was actually “a sports bar.”

ES opined credibly on the political economy, explaining how asset markets would react to the results of the 2008 electoral season. Regarding his job search he profoundly admitted to knowing “what strategy WAS but not knowing what WASN’T strategy.”

LM padded her “cross-pollinating” stats by introducing D to KH for the 5
th time then took a brief break from her second night-in-a-row of preoccupiedness to dance to Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now.’

GB was still recovering from mopping mashed up Bushwick chocolates from the previous night’s piñata thrashing. (Thought bubble) “What am I supposed to do with all this mirrored plexiglass now?”

S quickly retracted his congratulatory record scratch hand motion after mistaking random shuffle cds for KH’s phantom dj debut.

Atop the great sushi pyramids E described NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN as “glib” but KH and HP couldn’t figure out why (HP saw the film TWICE). E got drunk with power after a triumphant 80s music coup deluded her into believing that “Come Sail Away” by Styx was actually a good dance song.

KY cutely posed for a mock Air Italia ad, not missing a beat after slip sliding on Johnson Street until the wee hours of the previous night.

Aided by CB’s coat hanger divining abilities, HP showed off her pipe cleaning skills while eloquently defending Paul Dano’s performance in THERE WILL BE BLOOD. KH then appropriately punned that “there will be bud.”

CB obliged to HP’s request for his digits only under the condition that calls would be strictly for “business.” CB admitted to being given the open door but decided to “unscrew the hinges instead.” KH found it odd that HP was ordering pizza so late in the evening despite all the available leftover food.

VLA tried to give the impression of disappointment when Louie the Chimp "copped a feel or two;" BL matter-of-factly remarked that Louie “puts all these girls to shame;” and KH never figured out how much you're supposed to tip a chimp in a tuxedo shirt.

KH wondered where all VLO’s pent up dancing energy came from and why ST and JR don’t take her out more often.

KH was simultaneously shocked, relieved, and happy that CL, the cabaret singer of 'Toothbrush Time', was a PHD in economics. CL and KH sniggered at the fact that Daffy’s, the retail source of KH's sweater and other "Bargains for Millionaires," actually has layaway.

KH wishes AT a happy 30
th birthday.

Jan 12, 2008

One Siren's Song

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, oh how many times you’ve tricked me! You sit in the back of my cupboard unbound by expiration dates, whispering to me, wanting me to want you. Something you said to me as a child keeps me coming back, keeps me wondering why I haven’t heard the maraca shake of your slim corrugated blue box for so long. I’m willing to put aside the bad times we’ve had together and give it another chance. Did I add too much milk last time? Should I have boiled your elbows in salted water or used margarine instead of butter? Is one packet of bright and dusty cheese powder really enough? Was I using the high altitude directions by mistake? You’re right, there isn’t enough pasta in this box for a growing young man like myself; I’ll just make two batches for good measure. Wait a second … No … I won’t do it! Your wily charms have fooled me for the last time! I know you’re the cheesiest but I don’t care. Your conniving nature and stomachache-inducing artificial flavors are the reason I don’t like girls who eat American cheese. I'll get my calcium elsewhere, thank you very much. And don’t think that I’ll aid in propagating this vicious cycle by donating your non-perishable wares to the local food drive. You’ve ruined enough lives already.

Jan 8, 2008

Q Square, 5 Circle, or 7 Diamond?

Thousands of New Yorkers make this decision every day. Is it faster to take the sure thing incoming local train or wait for the no-where-in-sight but most times expedient express line? Given a few set variables most grizzled locals can quickly spit out an answer calculated by the subconscious algorithm they've built on years of commuting experience. I've always wondered what one can infer about another's personality based purely on their subway platform decisions.

Riders are continually optimizing multiple considerations each time they swipe their Metrocard: travel time, comfort, safety, surety of destination, crowd, view, etc.
Not knowing how each person prioritizes this list makes predicting their behavior and thus inferring anything about their personality quite difficult. Many make choices considering only travel time. Others don’t mind taking the scenic local track in exchange for a luxurious lumbar supported seat. One might ignore their normal intuition to politely stalk an attractive fellow traveler (where do you think all those “missed connections” come from?). Misgivings on whether express trains are operating normally through unfamiliar terrain force even experienced New Yorkers into suboptimal decisions.

There are certain moments during the week where the variable of travel time is undoubtedly paramount to train riders.
5:30pm on a Friday in Grand Central Station is one of those moments, and I occasionally have a front row seat. Observing waffling straphangers as local and express trains simultaneously approach seems akin to the curious wonder of watching a lab rat in a maze. Why do people so commonly duck into the local train, wait a few nervous moments, then dart out the door across the platform onto the express track? Should I feel guilty for smirking when a merciless conductor punishes their indecision by leaving them stuck trainless on the platform? But what happens when a local train approaches during rush hour and you have a multiple express stop distance to travel. Are you the type of person who will just take the sure thing or will you bank on the experience that waiting will get you there faster? I'll spare you the details of my decision making neurosis and just admit to being a local kinda guy. I'm rarely in a rush, choose people watching scenery over speed, and just earnestly enjoy taking a long subway ride.

So which are you? Express or local?

Jan 6, 2008

Yoga Pop: Volume 5

Designed to play for the duration of a 75 minute vinyasa practice.

Song. Artist. Album
(Order is important)

1. The Birdman of Ec1. Saint Etienne. Tales From Turnpike House
2. Behind The Bushes. The Knife. Deep Cuts
3. Steady State. Andrew Peckler. Cue
4. ...Passing By. Ulrich Schnauss. Far Trains Passing By
5. Veridis Quo. Daft Punk. Discovery
6. Flying Officer. Skalpel. Konfusion
7. Building Steam with a Grain of Salt. DJ Shadow. Endtroducing
8. Arp She Said. Lindstrom. It's A Feedelity Affair
9. Loud Pipes. Ratatat. Classics
10. Paddington. Hauschka. Room To Expand
11. Cruel Girl's Beauty. World's End Girlfriend. Ending Story
12. Big Milk. Dan Deacon. Spiderman of the Rings
13. What Do You Go Home To?. Explosions In The Sky. All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone
14. Alone. Adrian Klumpes. Be Still

Jan 4, 2008

Wasting Time Weighing The Weather

The following Reuters news story triggered an involuntary facial twitch I haven’t felt in a while.

“Landmark Communications said on Thursday it was exploring the sale of its publishing and television businesses including cable network The Weather Channel. Privately held Landmark wants more than $5 billion for The Weather Channel and its Web site, according to a New York Times report.”

“The Weather Channel reaches more than 95 million households in the United States and its Web site is one of the most heavily travelled. With 32 million unique visits a day, it has more hits than Facebook or MySpace.” The National Post

The amount of time and mental energy focused on spectating and anticipating weather in this country is a never-ending source of personal frustration and befuddlement. I never knew how bad it was. $5 billion dollars, that’s how bad. That’s how much those five minutes of your attention are worth on every local, national, and international nightly news station. That unmissable five minutes hosted by a woman of demographically tested and approved looks, tucked between your local high school football recap and the idiotic animal related personal interest story.

Travelers and the very unfortunate who get in Weather’s angry path have a bone fide reason to use this service. But besides them who watches The Weather Channel? 97% of this country wakes up in a house, walks into a garage, gets into a car (many of which could glide through five foot tall rushing streams), drives to various other roofed structures, then back into a car, repeat, repeat, repeat. If it’s cold outside wear a jacket. If it’s raining take an umbrella. A thermometer / barometer combo placed right outside your window not only displays the temperature but also helps you make the crucial determination of whether there’s a HIGH or LOW pressure system afoot (Big red “H” and big Blue “L”). For the the FULL effect attach a magazine cutout of some buxom blond or slick back haired tan guy.

You know what? Go ahead and watch your stupid channel but PLEASE stop annoying me with all the inane weather chatter at work. I am FULLY aware how cold it is outside. It’s January in New York City and we both walked into the same building within minutes of each other. How could I not know?

Jan 1, 2008

Koppenhaver's Precept of (Un)Attractiveness

- Circa 1999 -

The setting was pretty common for a Sunday afternoon in Ithaca. A group of guys lounging on the porch of a soon-to-be condemned house slouched over tattered 1940s era furniture in their underwear. It's a photograph that rarely makes it to the final press of college brochures but one of the few images I can vividly remember from those four years on the hill. We partook in the age old tradition of attaching meaning to our lives by ways of inane and pointless conversation. The gawking of passersby brought up the regionally important "Why are there so few attractive women in Ithaca?" conundrum, a subject of conversation that came up at least once a day. Normally the issue was put forth, met by a few nods of agreement, and then left quietly undisputed. But that day Ithaca's most disappointing truth turned into something different. Something important.

WK was a freckly fine arts major armed with a fiery, outspoken demeanor. His artistic
tendencies provided well-needed contrast to the pragmatic white collar aspirations of his housemates. But on that afternoon he set down his paintbrush and unbeknownst to him, began speaking like a doctorate in sociology. He started outlining qualitative evidence for his theory that the people of the world, not just Ithacan women, were generally unattractive. His accompanying numerical rating system, which I've dubbed Koppenhaver's Precept of (Un)Attractiveness, accurately fit this dim outlook for aesthetic beauty.

Scienticians are always building models for the purpose of fitting and predicting observed data.
A normally distributed set of data, also known as The Bell Curve, is one of statistics' most recognizable assertions. In a normal distribution a majority of observed data is grouped around the mean (or average) with fewer and fewer data points symmetrically trailing off in either direction. For example, if you asked a group of American Caucasian males their height you'd likely find the results to be normally distributed, with most respondents grouped around the average answer of 5'9" and very few people registering below 5'0" or above 6'6". If you charted the results of this survey you'd see a bell shape resembling this chart's blue line (vertical Y axis = % of people who responded within the corresponding height range, horizontal X axis = height). But not everything fits neatly inside a bell shaped normal distribution. The also popular lognormal distribution is defined by more parameters, making its asymmetric shape capable of fitting other complex natural and sociological phenomena. A good example of this distribution is American annual incomes. From a range of $0 to $1,000,000,000 it's not hard to imagine many data points gathered around $40-50k with fewer and fewer points trailing off towards higher sums. The red line on the chart shows a generic lognormal distribution that would resemble the graphed results of this data set (vertical Y axis = % of people who responded within the corresponding annual income range, horizontal X axis = annual incomes).

WK's simple yet poignant assertion is that human attractiveness, much like American annual incomes, is described by a lognormal distribution, not normally as is commonly believed. The classic method of rating one's attractiveness is by use of the simple zero to ten scale with ten being the most attractive. Without giving it much thought people typically gravitate towards a normally distributed scale, assigning ratings that have a central tendency around the middle grade of five. In WK's distribution a five should consider a career in modeling. According to Koppenhaver's Precept of (Un)Attractiveness most people register in the two to three range, with exponentially fewer people occupying slots approaching ten. "I've never actually seen a seven in person, and a perfect ten probably doesn't exist," he asserted that afternoon.

From that point on I decided to adopt this rating methodology. Fortunately, the superficial exercise of attractiveness rating comes up less and less often as you get older. Imagine having to explain to your girlfriend why a rating of four out of ten is actually quite flattering! After logging almost eight years in New York City I now wonder if I've ever seen an eight or a nine in the flesh. Whenever I overhear someone make a comment like “She’s a perfect ten,” or “He’s just a six, nothing special,” I think back to that sunny Sunday and laugh.