Thursday, November 29, 2007

Introducing...the Kaoss Pad!

It's not everyday that you learn about the existence of a new musical device. Betty would like to share the one she learned about today with you!

It's called the Kaoss Pad and in this performance you can see Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead (in the yellow shirt) using it to great effect all through, but especially towards the end. It's basically a musical joystick. It is also a little bit like an iPod that is a musical instrument. You can Greenwood storing Thom Yorke's vocals in the device throughout the song, and then playing them back as if they were guitar loops towards the end. He even gets Yorke to harmonize with himself, all thanks to the Kaoss Pad. How fun would it be to just walk around a city all day collecting sounds with one of these!?

Also note that this is just a great performance of the song! Percussion, bass, vocals, and keys are locked and perfectly placed and layered over each other, and like all of the songs on Kid A, the timing of the lines is both unpredictable, strange, and totally patterened.

a very dry martini

V has recently learned that D-county not only is plagued by incompetent DAs and shady lax players, but also is on the verge of drying up.

V was originally pleased with all this talk of La Niña-- V thought that it was all about female empowerment. Of course not, quite the contrary. Why does La Niña have to be about passively waiting for things to dry up?? Why does the destructive transitive verb have to be reserved for the boys?

Anyways, V is in water-saving mode now.
It really can't be that difficult! After all, what do we need water for, when we have other transparent and liquid stuff, such as vodka and gin and vermouth?

We can always wash up in champagne!

And who needs to shower anyways when they're intoxicated?

Venus infers the idea will not be too popular, especially with the AA population. And it is true that it is mildly uncouth not to have water on the dining table. How do we switch from whites to reds if so?

And anyways, in this day and age, Venus infers a drought is not at all what the media purports it to be.
There's a pretty obvious solution, and Venus has already talked with the Mayor about this.

Drinking water shall be imported from Fijian aquifers.

And the plants irrigated with our divine pee.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Let Us Now Praise Famous Sidemen

Betty's friend Jim just told her about a fabulous jazz concert he saw in NYC a couple of weeks ago. The players were all famous old dudes who had made their names playing with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, etc.

This description got Betty to thinking: what would an equivalent rock ensemble look like? The only condition is that the people be still alive.

Her first stab at an answer: Charlie Watts (drums), John Paul Jones (bass), Ron Wood (guitar), Roger Daltry (vocals, and because amazingly he was a sideman in the band he fronted!), and Clarence Clemons (tenor saxophone). The band could be called "The Rock Solids", and they'd probably pack the house.

Your picks?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Let your heart be light and make the Yuletide gay?

Christmas season is upon us, and with it, Christmas fatigue. As if Thanksgiving weren't heavy enough, here comes the onslaught of tinsle, muzak, guilt, paper, and pine.

Oh -- and in case you didn't know it -- there's a war on.

Great Video on why the Writers are Striking

To understand what is at stake for striking writers from the Writers Guild of America, you need look no further than this 90-second video.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Last week, a 15-year-old shot and killed an 18-year-old inside the lobby of a movie theater I frequently go to. The shooting was the result of an argument over the 18-year-old standing on, rather than walking down, the escalator.

I am so mad over this, and I haven't been able to cool off. My mind keeps going back to two tragic elements, and I can't decide which is worse:

1. Why was this 15-year-old so lacking in judgment? He committed his crime in a crowded place, downtown in a major city. He ran out onto the street, into Bloomingdales, and was caught by police minutes--MINUTES--after the shooting. There is no way he could have gotten away this, and in one flash he ended both his life and his victim's. He got nothing out of the crime. He didn't know the victim, so there was no revenge or grudge story. He didn't take any material goods. He wasn't in the midst of carrying out some other criminal activity which would have made him jumpy. He simply shot and ran.

2. Why did this kid have a gun in the first place? Why do 15-year-olds have guns, and why are they carrying them to movie theaters? There's no doubt in my mind that if the kid hadn't had a gun, the argument would have ended with both of them alive. It was a snap thing--the killer wasn't engaged enough to have pursued the victim with murderous intentions. It simply would have ended there. This exactly why guns are so toxic. They elevate relatively harmless confrontations into murderous ones. If it had been difficult for this 15-year-old to get a gun, he wouldn't have had one. He had a criminal record, but not a hardened one. He wasn't a determined criminal mastermind, simply a kid who wanted to feel powerful. This is exactly why the Supreme Court needs to uphold DC's handgun ban.

I am also somewhat angry at the movie theater about this, though I'm not sure if that's rational. They didn't issue a statement after the murder. They market themselves as an entertainment center (movie theater, arcade, restaurants) and encourage people to come from all over the city, but provide amateur security. There are many fewer security guards in this crowded complex on the weekends than there would be police officers on comparable city streets. After the shooting, I went to the movies at a different theater in a mall very close by. They were underhanded, and had the security guard taking tickets. Needless to say, this didn't instill a lot of confidence in his professionalism and preparedness for emergencies. When I lived in DC, a fight broke out once when I was leaving a movie, and the security guard said he didn't step in to stop it because he didn't get paid enough. These places hire security on the cheap, paying them $7 an hour to wear a uniform. Then they do nothing to control the violence that inevitably erupts in their crowded arcades and theaters. Right now, I'm not sure if I ever want to return to that theater again.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

When a Mayer is a Stallion

If you walk around Soho (NYC) on a Saturday afternoon, no matter what the temperature, you will see celebrities. Usually they are shopping. But sometimes they want a cup of coffee on a chilly afternoon, just like you!

Betty and Bimbo were hardly fazed when John Mayer pulled open the smudgey doors to their Starbucks at Broome & Lafayette today at 3pm. B&B had just come in for some warm drinks and a penguin cookie, and they're not fans or followers of Mayer or his music. What did faze them were the following answers attached to his entrance:

Was he with a beautiful girl?

No, he was alone.

Did he look rich and/or famous?

No, and he was carrying a dark green backpack on both shoulders. What's he got in there, his Trapper Keeper?

Was he hot?
Actually, yes! He has really beautiful deep (dare we say "bee-stung"?) eyes and fabulous wavy-greasy nearly black hair.

Couldn't he just send somebody out to get him coffee?
Of course he could have. This is why Betty thinks he's cool - he wants to mingle among the gente. And why shouldn't he?
And this is why Bimbo thinks he's desperate for attention, and stupid.

Interesting Fact: Bimbo has been stopped not once, but twice, and asked if he is Mr. Mayer.

As always, we'd love to read about your celebrity sightings. Post them here or electronically mail them to

An Ethical Quagmire

A decision rife with ethical potholes came into Betty's orbit yesterday.

Then she checked her calendar and realized the decision couldn't apply to her. But she'd like to return to the situation here and solicit some of your responses.

Betty's friend Dan is gay. His immediate family knows, and is ok with it in an awkward kind of way (the whole family are practicing Catholics). But the extended family is congregating in New Jersey for his cousin's wedding (to a Taiwanese woman) next weekend and they've asked him to "Come, and bring a date."

Dan does not want to go alone because of the questions it will provoke, including inevitable questions about when he will be getting married and having children. He obviously does not want to go with a male date because that would be super awkward at best and upsetting at worst. What he wants is to bring a girl friend and pretend she's his girlfriend. So he asked Betty.

If she could have gone, Betty would have been perplexed. She would like to support Dan and make the day easier for him. She respects that he is the best person to make the decision about what to do and whom to bring in this situation. But does she want to participate in basically sucking up to a family that can't bear that one of its members is gay?

Ellen, Betty and Dan's friend who may very well end up going to New Jersey in the role of Dan's girlfriend, thinks the whole experience has the potential to be subversive, or at least promises to serve up good anthropological material. True as all this may be, these "fun" aspects feel solidly secondary; Betty would still feel queasy about going.

What do our gentle readers think?

Friday, November 16, 2007

No Surrender

Today B&B blogger extraordinaire Koko the Clown pointed out that Betty should probably stop scrawling "No Retreat, Baby, No Surrender" on everything in her path (the shopping list, the facebook, the chihuahua) when she's trying to pump herself up to write boring term papers.

"Huh?," Betty asked.

Because it might be misinterpreted, Koko warned her.

"Huh?," Betty asked.

Then Koko told Betty that Tom DeLay is behind the biggest perversion of Bruce since George Bush I and his tin-eared take on "Born in the U.S.A."

Some might argue that the absurd and constant misappropriation of Springsteen by right-wing chauvenists has something to do with Bruce's "image," but I don't think so. Bruce has never really appeared hardscrabble. If anything, he's stood for the energy and promise of youth and the cautious optimism of maturity, and carried on the simple but profound "Man in Black" tradition of Johnny Cash. Go back and listen to Cash's song of the same name if you need a refresher. Bruce has quietly assumed Cash's torch in the last decade of his career. So my only explanation for such riotously stupid hijacking of Bruce by opportunistic politicians pushing causes he disdains is that these people are not listening to the words of the songs at all.

"No Surrender" is one of my favorite songs (by anybody) for a couple of reasons. First of all I think the lyrics are both beautiful and functional -- they don't call attention to themselves and they get the job done. But the words also convey a feeling that blends romantic dreaming with visceral heart-pounding life, no easy feat.

I also really enjoy the recording of the song (from the "Born in the U.S.A." album) because it is so tense and so joyous at once. I am increasingly coming to believe that tension is a necessary condition for and a part of joy, and that tension itself can produce joy and ecstasy. The recorded performance of "No Surrender" is also just so rocking and dancey and infectious that I go crazy. This is the same reason it works so well live, and Bimbo and I were jumping around like monkeys when Bruce and the band played it (second song in!) when we saw them perform in Oakland on October 26. This was the first time Betty had seen Bruce play this song live in six attempts!

Here's a different take on the song. It's one of the most beautiful things I've come across in a season pulsing with small, hidden joys.

Hot for Teacher

Betty has been absent from the blogosphere and in school (!) for the past two months. She is enjoying her studies very much, meeting great people, and working hard. She hopes to blog more in the weeks to come. For now, please enjoy this wonderful little clip of Betty's most scintillating instructor.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Save Darfur Now!

Superman saw Save Darfur now and naturally it made him very sad. The movie definitely brought the conflict home. Superman was very inspired by the individual stories of the people trying to help, but wonders if they have actually improved the situation and if they should focus in another direction.

First, Superman is skeptical of the effectiveness of divestment. It requires many people in a long chain to jump on the rational logic train and be driven by economic forces. People probably would not be getting raped and murdered if everyone was truly riding this express.

Second, the ICC guy who jacked the Sudanese interior minister is certainly a hero, probably even a super one. This act, however, has not brought justice but rather probably pushed the Sudanese government to act more hostile towards humanitarian aid workers. If the U.N. can't back claims up with legitimate military force then there is no law. What is the point of having a UN, if you cannot stand up to a dictator in Sudan.

The problem in Sudan is very simple. The people are farmers. They live in one of the harshest deserts in the world. Farming the desert is as futile as an Oakland Raiders fourth quarter comeback, it will never be a path to economic freedom. While the people are in total poverty, there will always be violence, killing, corruption, and instability. The people need macro not microfinance help, the World banks needs to stop giving them super new seeds to buy on micro loans and instead build them roads, utilities, and factories. The people also need to be trained in how to make things etc.

Superman hopes that the people in Darfur will get U.N. protection. That means, paramilitary force sufficient to protect refugee camps, food shipments, and any attacks on civilians. The U.N. (if it actually had a legitiamte force) could take offensives against military leaders using child soldiers. A child soldier is useless, if it brings U.N. tanks going the other way. Superman also would have liked the documentary to contrast the conflict in Darfur with the violence in the Congo.

Last, Superman was impressed and appreciative of Clooney and Cheadle's efforts to use their influence to make a difference. Clooney definitely does not get elevated to superhero status, though, because of Superman's jealousy for his success and all the attention he gets from women.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Stein and Toklas on and off the page

This piece originally appeared on the blog "Ladies and Gentleman we are Listening to This Recording" ( I owe credit to ThisRecording editor Alex Carnevale for the links and the images. I wrote the text. -Koko the Clown


Apple plum, carpet steak, seed clam, colored wine, calm seen, cold cream, best shake, potato, potato and no no gold work with pet, a green seen is called a bake and change sweet is bready, a little piece a little piece please.

A little piece please. Cane again to the supposed and ready eucalyptus tree, count out sherry and ripe plates and little corners of a kind of ham. This is use.

After reading Janet Malcolm’s Two Lives, about the lives and works of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, I don’t have any better of an understanding of what the fuck Stein is talking about in the above passage, from her 1914 piece Tender Buttons.

If anything, Two Lives only made me aware of a broader scope of things I do not understand about Stein and Toklas, from their life in Vichy France as two elderly Jewish lesbians to Stein’s far-right politics. The book is a reader’s treasure, like Malcolm’s Reading Chekhov and The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

As in those earlier projects, Malcolm does not stress or strain to combine study of the lives of her subjects and their work. Indeed, nothing would seem more natural than such a study of Stein and Toklas. Stein’s own The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas was a sort of autobiography of Toklas, Stein, and Stein’s ego; she also did slightly more traditional memoir in Everybody’s Autobiography and Wars I Have Seen. Toklas also tried her hand at memoir mixed with cookery in The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook.

For all the words that they pair wrote about themselves, about each other, and about themselves as each other, they also left plenty out. Sexuality is little discussed, and the pair’s Judaism is also left almost entirely unearthed in their own work. (Toklas eventually did convert to Catholicism.) But for Stein, who was used to being praised and catered to without end, it is possible that dwelling on the more challenging pieces of life just did not seem appropriate for the part she was to play.

In Everybody’s Autobiography, she writes: “About an unhappy childhood well I never had much of an unhappy anything. What is the use of having an unhappy anything.” This seems as absurd as some of Stein’s less comprehensible writing elsewhere when one considers that her mother died of cancer at the age of 14.

Alice B. Toklas

I have not read much Stein, and reading her work is not necessary preparation for Malcolm’s guided tour. Reading some of her work, it turns out, is simply not done. Edmund Wilson said of The Making of Americans, the 925-page tome which Stein finished in 1925, that he had not read it all through, and that he “[did] not know if it is possible to do so.”

“In recent years,” Malcolm writes, “as interest in Stein has grown in the academy, the shirking of the reading of The Making of Americans has gone out of favor. Critics who write about the book are expect to read it.”

What is most fascinating about Gertrude Stein is that for so many years she was able to convince many people of her genius who did not read her books. Perhaps it is precisely because they could not read them that they believed in her genius.

Janet Malcolm

Then again, one wonders how someone as singularly brilliant as Stein was said to be could find the time to write a 925-page book in the first place. As she wrote in Everybody’s Autobiography, “It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.”

Luckily for Stein, Alice B. Toklas was in the habit of gathering up her scribblings and transcribing them with a typewriter while her lover stared into space.