I took my camera with me as planned on the Brooklyn Half Marathon this morning, and I got some decent pictures, but not necessarily the ones I'd anticipated. Because of Thursday's snowfall (the, what, 35th of the season?), the beginning of the route was redirected from the Coney Island Boardwalk (apparently still covered in dangerous ice) to take us straight up Ocean Parkway and then twice round Prospect Park. That meant no pretty pictures of the ocean, the amusement rides and snow on the beach. It also meant twice the hills we'd expected; those of regularly run round Prospect Park were fortunately familiar with the inclines and prepared for them.
The 'Best Boro'...
... has hard hills
For my part, I was thrilled to knock five minutes off my last half-marathon time and get my minutes-per-mile down to 8:10. I was extra pleased as I haven't run much since the big event last November and had some concern that my body might not want to do this kind of distance again. I needn't have worried: despite the freezing temperature down by the ocean at 7:30 a.m., it was a stunningly beautiful morning, the most perfect race conditions I've had of my three half-marathons and one full marathon so far. There was a part of me that had questioned why I'd entered for this race (I hate getting up early, especially at the weekends, and it's not like I'm planning a full marathon any time soon), but having done the Manhattan and Staten Island races, I couldn't not run my home borough. And I like these outer borough half-marathons: only the insane and the obsessed get themselves to the far corners of New York City at the crack of dawn to run 13.1 miles and knock themselves out for the rest of the weekend. It makes for a fast, pleasant, well-mannered course, and a definite feeling of satisfaction at the finishing line. I was especially pleased and honored that Posie and Campbell also got up so early to get me to Coney Island and (attempt to) beat me back to the finishing line.
Prospect Park in the snow...
...The view looking back from the finish
By the way, if you came to this site expecting music, wine and the like, you're at the right place. I just like to wax personal now and then.
At least when I set up iJamming! I was smart enough not to repeat the tag line of my magazine's mid-80s naivete: "A New Optimism." Today's certainly a tough day to be anything but pessimistic. Most obviously, the President went before the American public last night and essentially said, Expect war within days. It's tempting to say that against this warning (as if unexpected) everything else pales into insignificance, though another 308,000 on the unemployment list takes its tolls too. And from a New Yorker's perspective, this is just more bad news upon a whole heap of it. Also yesterday, the MTA pushed through a one-third rise in the subway/bus fare despite ever-slackening service, and the bridge and tunnel tolls are going up with it (though not by as much). Property taxes already took an unprecedented 15-20% hike this year, heating bills are at their highest ever, and it's just been announced that water rates are going up too. These increased expenses for New York citizens come at a time when the city is slashing its expenses left right and center to try and plug the $6 billion budget deficit. You'll find reduced budgets at fire stations, police departments and very noticeably, in the schools just when Mayor Bloomberg has taken control of the bureaucracy and announced a complete overhaul.
New York's record deficits are partly related to the overall economic downturn which affects everyone, pretty much across the world, but what I think sometimes people forget is the extent to which they've been accelerated and emphasized here by the attacks of 9/11. We didn't just lose 3,000 lives, a part of the skyline, our confidence and our security that horrible day, we lost enormous revenue on top of it all. The President promised us $20 billion in rebuilding costs, which seemed generous enough until he bailed out the farmers at a cost of $150 billion, and if you just ask the local politicians, they'll tell you they're having to fight for every single penny of it. We're all excited about the redesigns for downtown New York (i.e. the mass cemetery from 9/11), but no one's got a clue how it's going to be financed. And as we ready ourselves for the inevitability of war, it's not just the Iraqi population who fear for their lives. In New York we live in a constant state of anxiety based on previous proof that we're the bulls-eye for fanatical terrorists. At least the Iraqis might come out of this freed from their tyrant; we're stuck with our Administration for at least another 22 months. And there's so little we can do here in this city to protect ourselves except to do what we always have done: live our lives as positively as possible, watch out for our neighbors, and always look over our shoulders.
My pessimistic mood is not helped by the fact that I've just started reading The Threatening Storm: The Case For Invading Iraq by Kenneth Pollack, which I would recommend to everyone who wants to intelligently debate the Iraq crisis, especially those who have limited their anti-war argument to the tired 'No Blood For Oil' catch-phrase. We'll have to see if I manage to finish the book before we actually do invade Iraq, but what I've learned in the opening pages makes clear that the current mess did not arise over night, nor has it been limited to American malfeasance...
The British designed the borders of Iraq after the First Word War, to ensure a direct route to India (remember, the Brits had an Empire back then) and to effectively privatize the suspected oil reserves; they then installed a number of unpopular puppet Kings with the inevitable result that a coup brought a tyrant to power. The French, not that you'll hear them discuss it much at the moment, bolstered Saddam's regime by selling it as much arms as the oil-rich nation could afford (by 1982, Iraq accounted for 40 per cent of French arms exports), including the nuclear reactor that the Israelis wisely bombed in 1981 before it could actually produce nuclear weaponry. (Can Israeli planes make it to North Korea undetected?) The Germans, not that you'll hear them discuss it much at the moment, bolstered Saddam's regime by "building vast complexes for Iraq's chemical warfare, biological warfare and ballistsic missile programs." And the Americans, not that not that you'll hear them discuss it much at the moment, bolstered Saddam's regime by concluding, what with the fall of the Shah of Iran, that Saddam would make a good 'proxy' in the middle east, turning their back on his human rights abuses and weapons developments in the hope he would prove a trustworthy balwark against the Ayatollah's fundamentalism. (And of course, keep the oil flowing.) About the only major player not actively aiding Saddam was the Soviet Union, but then it had its hands full at the time fucking up its invasion of Afghanistan, with repercussions that would inevitably lead to the attacks of 9/11 in the USA some 20 years later.
Saddam himself of course, being a dictator, a megalomaniac and a liar, took all these encouraging signs from the west as carte blanche to pursue his imperialist ambitions, and in 1980 invaded Iran. When that ten year war of attrition ended, around a million people had lost their lives, and while Iraq could claim a minor victory, the damage to the economy was so severe that Saddam decided he could only pay it off by invading another neighbor, Kuwait, seizing its cash assets and doubling his supply of the world's oil (to a frightening 20%). The first Bush administration completely proved oblivious to obvious warning signs of this invasion, with the result that we were subjected to the costly and ugly Gulf War of 1991, in which Saddam was so immediately and thoroughly humiliated that Bush, Schwarzkopf and co. found themselves with a straight road to Baghdad that they (understandably) decided not to pursue for lack of United Nations approval and an equal lack of planned "regime change" - as it is now being called.
The globally crucial question then, is whether Saddam learned anything from his humiliations and has resolved simply to enact his bloodlust upon his terrified civilian population (and don't think that he doesn't: I had the misfortune of hearing tapes of Kurds being tortured on NPR over my breakfast yesterday), or whether he has been secretly continuing to develop WMD with a view to revenge upon his neighbors and/or the western allies. Given that I'm only on page 45 of a 400-page book, and taking into account its title, I know Pollack's conclusion but I do want to understand his reasoning.
On two other negative notes, I had a dream last night that I rejoined my old band Apocalypse only for our old manager to have us soundcheck at 9am on a Sunday morning for a gig 16 hours later! (I quit the band again.) Oh, and I'm fed up with shoveling snow in this endless winter too.
Pause for breath. Is there anything good on the horizon? Well, I'm running the Brooklyn half-marathon tomorrow and given that it promises to be a sunny morning, I'm going to take the digital camera with me. And tomorrow night, I'm going to see the Stratford 4, whose new album is the surprise year's first total surprise classic, so that should be fun too. Tuesday, I hope to see Joe Jackson in a club for the first time in years. And a new poll just came out that indicates that if a Presidential election was held tomorrow, Bush would be defeated by an unnamed Democrat. As Brian Lehrer cruelly pointed out this morning, unfortunately all the Democrat candidates do have names...
I had something of an unusual experience last night in Manhattan - though it made me realize that for other people such encounters may not be so rare. I was meeting up with my close friend Kevin, who I've known since early Communion days, and who accompanied me on the performances of Hedonism a couple of years ago. We were walking to a bar from his office in what would just qualify as the West Village, when Kevin got heavily bumped by a white guy (accompanied by his girl), who passed a homophobic or/and racist statement in the process. Once in a blue moon, this shit happens to me and I usually let it slide, on the assumption that provocatively violent people in New York are just the kind to carry a knife (or in the pre-Guiliani era, a gun) and that it's not worth the risk to my life to take their bait. And in the 12 years I've known Kevin, I've never seen him even raise his voice to anyone, let alone get in a fight, so I didn't necessarily expect him to make a big deal of it either.
But my friend was taught never to be bullied on account of his skin color, and as he told me later, such instances are the one thing that makes him snap (i.e., it's not the first time it's happened to him). His response was to instantly hand me off his computer bag, call the aggressor an ex-skinhead type with barely grown out hair - to turn round and back up his insults with force if that's what he believed in. I've got to give my friend total respect for instinctively recognizing that this nasty-looking white dude was a coward, keen enough to throw out comments about "niggers" and "queers" (he must have assumed we were a couple) and how his own "Aryan ass" was going to give us a beat down, but ready to take two steps back with every step Kevin took forward.
When our oh-so-masculine white supremacist turned and actually asked his girlfriend for permission to fight, and she said no, he seized on his opportunity to escape the confrontation unharmed and told us everything we needed to know about him in the process. Kevin was smart enough not to respond to any of the insults ("I'm not going to get in a conversation with someone like that," he said afterwards) but did offer as a parting shot when the ex-skin was walking briskly away, "Go get yourself an education." At which we carried on our way to the bar and had us a few beers as intended.
Because I wasn't the victim of the initial shove, I didn't feel the sense of attack and was caught by total surprise when my friend reacted so strongly. But I'm really glad he did. I can't express how much I hate racists and homophobes; I subscribe to the Woody Allen quote in Manhattan that the best way to handle these people is with baseball bats. As a result of Kevin standing up for himself this particularly obnoxious waste of human space may yet think twice about trying to pick a fight with someone else in the West Village. Then again, he's probably just the type to make sure that next time out he's got his buddies with him and that they outnumber their intended victims.
At my end, this was not the first time I've been labeled queer/fag/homo and it doesn't get my back up in as much as I don't consider it an insult, but for the most part, being a straight white male, I don't get victimized on the streets. This was a rare and unfortunate opportunity to see how even in as firmly established a gay community as the West Village, racist homophobes continue to roam the streets looking for easy beat downs. Fuck 'em.
On a much brighter note, several hours later I watched the second (repeated) da Ali G Show on HBO. This was more like it. In fact, this episode should have gone out first; it had everything we've come to love about Sacha Baron Cohen's character blasphemy, ignorance, and a number of unsuspecting interviewees. Again, credit to a couple of those who were scammed: both former UN Secretary General Boutrous Boutrous Ghali and Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft were surprisingly game to play along with Cohen's homeboy character; less so both the Catholic Priest on a 'round table' discussion about religion and the seriously bemused United Nations guide, who showed Ali round the Security Council Chamber.
Told that the nations sit next to each other in alphabetical English order, Ali recognized the classroom mentality. "Can you ask to be moved if the person next to you is mucking about and annoying you?" Then he left a note on the current Secretary General's desk: "Saddam Hussein's a bell-end: sort him out." (In case American viewers didn't know a bell end from a tight end, G opened the show with a graphic description.)
A few more choice questions. To Boutrous Boutrous Ghali: "What's the funniest language? It's French, innit?" (Ghali gamely responded that it was actually Arabic.) To the priest at the round table: "Wasn't it a coincidence that Jesus was born on Christmas Day?" And to Brent Scowcroft: "Did they ever catch the people sent Tampax through the post?"
But the best exchange was when a straight-faced Cohen (How does he do it?) riled the Priest by asking, "Why do most nuns work as strippers?" going on to recount a recent experience at a mate's birthday party. (The Priest, completely missing the joke, responded defensively, "That's just one nun, not 'most'.") Curiously, the next show I watched was a repeat of the South Park episode that dealt with the delicate subject of priests molesting little boys. To ensure that the South Park kids haven't become victims of their own church's new priest (who turns out to be an honorable exception to recent transgressions), they're sent to a supposedly subtle counselor who keeps asking the confused gathering, "Has your priest tried to stick anything up your butt?"
As Cartman was left wondering, and as Ali G might possibly have asked his round-table guest had he really wanted to up the ante, "What would a priest possibly want to put in our butt?"
There's some connection between this and our homophobic racist scum on the streets, but I can't quite make it. Except perhaps that while humor's an effective weapon from a distance, where it fails you'll often find that force often does the trick.
Don't you love the synchronicity? No sooner had I posted yesterday's column in which I mused rather disdainfully about The U.S. Bombs, than I pick up the latest issue of fashion bible Black Book (which I was donated over the weekend) and find a feature on the Bombs front man, spikey-haired 41-year old Duane Peters. One of the nation's pioneering skateboarders the first ever to complete a 360-degree loop, apparently Peters has lived his life, as he puts it, "in the moment
just believing in what I do, which is punk rock and skateboarding."
There's no denying that he's the real deal, and though I don't have an enormous amount of time for people who allow large portions of their adult lives to slip away to addiction (especially when they embrace it as whole-heartedly as Peters appears to have done), I do respect anyone's refusal to settle down according to conventional mores. "People have been telling me to grow up forever," Peters says in this interview. "But I don't believe there's a rule book, and I don't believe I have to live by society's standards."
So kudos for that. It's just that when I was (something of) a young punk, we'd look at pictures of Charlier Harper, the UK Subs' pushing-40 front man, and laugh out loud. Punk has always been a way of life, an attitude as much as anything, and what I learned from the movement and its after effects between 1977-81 will be with me for life, but the stereotypical image of a punk is particularly awkward to maintain in middle age if you want to be taken seriously. Joe Strummer understood that, and dressed accordingly while never overtly compromising his integrity, which is one more reason he had our undying respect; Johnny Rotten has not done so, which is why he comes across as more of a caricature than an idol. Peters might want to take note of this.
I learned more than I realized I never knew at my son's elementary school Science Fair yesterday, in which hundreds of kids from dozens of classes each came up with a hypothesis, conducted experiments to determine whether said hypothesis was accurate or not, catalogued the entire procedure in detail, and then presented their findings. Some of the experiments were presented in real time: creating a volcanic eruption seems to be particularly popular with little kids (I wonder why!), as do basic experiments with magnetic fields and conductors/insulators. Several other experiments had been carried out at home and then filmed or photographed. One boy brought in a movie of his experiment on an iBook. Our own son went decidedly low-tech, building a sorting machine out of cereal boxes, clay, and marbles; helping build it with him, I was taken back to the days of Blue Peter. ("Here's one I made earlier.") Anyway, some of the things I learned:
Water freezes quicker than milk. And milk freezes quicker than orange juice.
The thick skin of many fruits distribute their cells far apart, which makes for much air between them, and enables them to float. Grapefruits, bananas and oranges all float in their skin but then sink when peeled.
A cat does always land on its feet. (Yes, we've been taught to believe as much, but trust an elementary school kid to put his family cat to the test: I loved the printed announcement that "no animals were hurt in this experiment.")
Dark colors absorb more heat than light colors. (Which is why you don't wear black clothing in hot weather, unless you live in New York of course, in which case you're too cool to conform to proven scientific facts.)
Flowers change to the color of the water they're placed in, but if you want to see that experiment proven quickly, use celery.
If you roll two dice, you're far more likely to throw a 7 than any other number.
Hot air can be turned into energy. (A use for our politicians at last!)
And, curiously, the White House swimming pool is solar-powered.
Kids learn science: no cruelty to cats....
...And who doesn't want to create a volcano?
I learned this last fact during an almost impossibly easy demonstration of solar power: a hot light projected through a small solar 'photovolcaic' panel with electrical wires attached to the back of it, leading to a motor. Switch the light on, warm up the panels, watch the motor turn. That simple. (And yes, you can store the energy too.) This was one of several environmentally conscious experiments: another group of kids designed a new kind of oil tanker out of Lego that their experiments proved would limit environmental damage in event of an accident. But the solar powered presentation, in particular, was a firm reminder that while our society needs oil in the short term (simply because we've become dependant on it), in the long run there's no reason we couldn't be using natural sources rather than fossil fuels to provide vast percentages of our energy requirements. Except there is a reason
a lack of ongoing, 'recyclable' profits for big business. Damn them.
I don't know how easily I can make the connection between a 10-year old's presentation of solar power and the war on terrorism, but I can make a connection based on locale. There has been much understandable rejoicing, or at least relief, at the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man widely considered to be Al-Qaeda's day-to-day operations manager and terrorist co-ordinator, in Pakistan over the weekend. It definitely helped remind the skeptics (which have, at times, included myself) that much of the hunt for the Al-Qaeda leaders has to be conducted quietly if it's to bear fruit.
There will have been less international publicity about the indictment yesterday of Sheik Muhammad Ali Hassan al-Mouyad, "a prominent Yemeni cleric apprehended in Germany on charges of financing terrorism." (All quotes in italics are from the NY Times report.) According to Attorney General John Ashcroft, himself one of my least favorite people in the entire world and surely the most dangerous person in the Bush administration, Sheik Mouyad "boasted jihad was his field and trumpeted his involvement in providing money, recruits and supplies to Al Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist groups and said he received money for jihad from collections at the Al Farooq mosque in Brooklyn."
The Al Farooq mosque is within a stone's throw from where I live, and not far from my son's school either. I wrote about its troubled past and uncertain present in an essay becrying the lack of our annual Atlantic Antic street fair this past September. I don't know what to make of the government's charges, though given the length of the investigation, and the amount of information presented, Mouyad certainly appears to have been helping fund Bin Laden. but it's far less certain that he told those who donated to the once opaque cause of "jihad" in a Brooklyn mosque that they were going to end up financing terrorist attacks on their own community and what they would have done if he had.
I know that a considerable majority of Muslims in the Atlantic Avenue stores, the neighborhood schools and communities, are totally opposed to al-Qaeda and consider Bin Laden's crusade as an insult to the Koran. I also know, as I wrote a couple of months back, that several of the Islamic shops along Atlantic Avenue take a more confrontational view of world events and global religions. As such, I don't deny that it's in my instinctive interests to want to believe the mosque's spokesman, who claims in the Times to be '"very, very, very surprised to hear of the allegations" that money collected at the mosque went to Al Qaeda. He said the mosque had always sought to comply with all American financial regulations governing tax-exempt organizations. "This is just a place of worship." I just hope he's right.
Ultimately, there may not be too much difference between money raised at a mosque for "the cause" and money raised, as I've witnessed, in a Boston or London Irish bar for "the cause" in terms of how it ends up being used - though in both cases the sponsorship of terrorism seems that much more murderous if the attacks are conducted in your own front yard. Still, maybe these investigations and arrests will provoke people to wake up and grasp how closely connected we all are. I live in hope, and after last night - seeing young children so keen to learn, to experiment, to share their ideas, and in several cases actively trying to make their world a better place - I do have hope.
The pursuit of happiness is not, of course, limited to those who have it written into their Constitution. No sooner did I finish yesterday's column in which I mentioned various books, bands, movies and plays named after those "four revolutionary words" that buzzed me all weekend, than I delved into my box of March releases and pulled out a new UK band's album with that title too: the superb Weekend Players debut. It would have been perfect timing were Pursuit of Happiness coming out in the States today (Tuesday being release day), but American audiences will have to wait until next Tuesday, March 11, to get their hands on this highly appealing soulful mid-tempo dance record starring the sultry vocals of Rachel Foster and the skillful production of Groove Armada's Andy Cato.
In the UK, Pursuit of Happiness has been out for several months; it's received considerable acclaim, but not such high sales as it might have done a few years back when the crossover between house, dub, trip-hop, and R&B was still considered new. There's been a similarly unspectacular response at record stores for the brilliant new Groove Armada album, Lovebox, which also appears to be suffering from the subtle but evident audience shift away from the dance mainstream. Hopefully, Andy Cato will ignore the vagaries of fashion and take pride in having partnered two great albums in such close succession. And hopefully Pursuit of Happiness will sell as well in the States as some of its evident influences from Sade to Morcheeba to Portishead and M People - have done. (You can read a review of Weekend Players' live American debut here. You can read a review of the new Groove Armada album here.)
It also seemed appropriate yesterday to receive two new records from American bands who find their happiness in anger. (As the Roger Rosenblatt radio essay I linked to yesterday concluded, in an open society "The pursuit of happiness becomes the pursuit of the definition of happiness" as in, whatever turns you on.) Living Things are a trio of brothers from St. Louis, who've been playing together for 12 years, which is half the oldest member's life and two-third the youngest member's life. On the back of their Turn In Your Friends and Neighbors EP the Declaration of Independence is superimposed over their picture, which somewhat makes sense given that their songs have titles like 'Bombs Below.'The lyrics are hand written on the inner sleeve, and include this example from 'Standard Oil Trust.' "We don't need no body, we don't need know one, and we don't need you." Not to belittle the eldest brother's no doubt sincere efforts, but to put things in perspective, by the time HE was 24, Paul Weller had written six Jam albums and almost 20 singles and I don't think ANY of his lyrics were quite as crass as this.
The U.S. Bombs: which one is YOUR dad?
Much older, but no less subtle, The U.S. Bombs' new album Covert Action also prints its lyrics by hand, which is clearly the way to go if you're worried how they might look in hard type. For example 'Framed' begins "Oklahoma City Bombing, cover up, Timothy McVeighs inocent by preponderance of evidence," and the deliberately mis-spelled 'John Gottie' suggests "We need a mob boss to run the States, we need a leader who kills police." Talk about Crass, at least the band of that name championed peace. The U.S. Bombs' music is cheerful enough Clash-style punk with the appropriate resonating backing vocals and lead guitar lines, but you'd like to think that Joe Strummer, who shared a record label with the Bombs in his later years, would have had something to say about Duane Peters' lyrics. And is it just me, or is there something about ageing skate punks still dressing like kids that makes them look
Nine Inch Nails' take on the Jeffersonian ideal found them writing a song called 'Happiness In Slavery'. And I obviously take a certain amount of pleasure in pain myself, because I'm off running another half-marathon this weekend. This time it's across my home borough of Brooklyn, which seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, especially as the race begins at Coney Island and ends in my beloved Prospect Park. We'll see if I'm as enthusiastic about the idea come 8 o'clock on Saturday morning.
And I'm glad to note that the forum is being used to debate the merits of Ravenswood Wine and Phil Donahue talk shows as well as Keith Moon's height. Yes, he was short. I somehow thought that was obvious.
I found myself silently uttering the above phrase several times this weekend, time that Posie and I spent upstate with one of my brothers-in law, his wife and their three daughters, who are the closest of Campbell's many cousins to our son's own age. Saturday saw us all on Hunter Mountain, the kids learning to snowboard, myself enjoying a rare occasion back on the skis. The last time I went skiing with my brother-in-law, in January 1996, I suffered a horrific (and totally stupid) injury a completely shattered shoulder which necessitated microscopic surgery and several months' painful therapy. (A specialist in New York told me to forget about using my left arm again. The surgeons in the UK, where I was operated on - by a visiting American! - fortunately felt otherwise, and with my speedy and 100% successful recovery I became the hospital poster boy during the six months I was in London that year researching the Keith Moon book.)
There were no such calamities this weekend; everyone thoroughly enjoyed a perfect day's winter sports and even Posie found herself catching the ski bug. Unfortunately, one of Campbell's cousins caught another kind of bug and spent much of Saturday night in the bathroom: her mother, who'd followed the day's skiing by staying up late with me, drinking Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc and Californian Zinfandel, listening to old Bruce Springsteen albums and debating fashion trends, as we like to do, barely caught any sleep whatsoever. But she's the last to complain about a mother's lot, and somewhere between her positive outlook, the kids' own evident contentment, the sight of so many different people having fun on the slopes, and the highly applicable music by America's real poet laureate (a whole Bruce and skiing connection that I may go into another day), I found myself stepping back from my usual career-driven intensity to acknowledge that most Americans primarily desire from their lives something extraordinarily simple: happiness.
Fortunately, they have that quest for joy written into the Declaration of Independence as an inalienable right. For this they can thank Thomas Jefferson, the founding father who not only had great taste in wine, but rewrote the original triad of human rights - "life, liberty and property" as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" exchanging a physical core goal of capitalism with something far more emotional, intangible and yet impermeable.
I'm aware that greedy people consider their own pursuit of happiness as more important than other people's right to pursue happiness, and that needy people can't pursue happiness when they're struggling to put a meal on the table or a roof over their heads. Still, in declaring happiness as a goal for this life as opposed to the next, Jefferson did much to set America on a different path from that of other nations.
I would write more about this subject but a quick search on Google reveals, no surprise, that other people have already done so and far better than I could hope to on a Monday morning. (Checking the iJamming! web statistics late last night, I was pleased to see that many of you do follow my highlighted links, certainly within the site itself. So I'll keep inserting them; they help form the bigger picture.) This radio essay by Roger Rosenblatt, broadcast in the economic boom era of July 2000, begins with the inviting sentence, "Leave it to Thomas Jefferson to start the country on its way by wishing it a mission seemingly impossible." This photo essay by April Saul on the PBS website focuses on my own experiences from the weekend, "the most elemental meanings of the pursuit of happiness: the everyday life of a family." There is of course, a movie, a play, several books and a band all sharing the name The Pursuit of Happiness. And and trust me I had forgotten all about this unti I did the Google search fellow British expat Andrew Sullivan wrote a lengthy treatise on the subject shortly after September 11 2001, placing those "four revolutionary words" in international, cultural and religious context. I could certainly measure my happiness by an ability to pen such a perfect essay, but fortunately, in the midst of his own gifted writing, Sullivan has a sentence that allows me to segue back to my own life and times: "The idea of pursuing happiness for its own sake would have struck Aristotle as simple hedonism."
I'll be spending much of this week dealing with publishing issues for my debut novel of that name. (And the posting of long-overdue features for the site will still have to wait; sorry folks, iJamming! remains a labour of love and the bills need paying first.) In titling my book after the fictional nightclub at the center of the story, I was probably going after the second of my dictionary's two definitions of hedonism: "the ethical doctrine that only what is pleasant is intrinsically good." But the more I've come to know and love the characters who populate my story, especially the narrator Holy and his lover Monkey, I realize that they are in fact living out my dictionary's primary definition of Hedonism - "pursuit or devotion to pleasure" which itself, is remarkably close to the four words that obsessed me over the weekend. Holy and Monkey just happen to get lost and confused in their quest, something that New York affords plenty opportunity to so do. But their pursuit, like that of family, friends and total strangers, seems a good place for me to segue out of an ideal weekend and into a hopefully happy working week. Pursue!
FEBRUARY 24-MARCH2: Orange Park, Ali G-Saddam Hussein-Dan Rather-Bill Maher-Jon Stewart TV reviews, Stellastarr*, James Murphy, The Station nightclub fire, the Grammys
FEBRUARY 17-23: Village Voice Poll, Singles Club, Smoke and Fire
FEBRUARY 3-16: Snug, The Face, Pink, Supergrass live, Keith Moon, Phil Spector, Gore Vidal
JANUARY 27-FEBRUARY 2: Communist Chic, Spiritland, Daddy You're A Hero, Keith Moon, State of the Union, CPFC and more on Iraq
JANUARY 20-26: Divisions of Laura Lee, Burning Brides, Words On War, Child Abuse of a Different Kind, Losing My Edge
JANUARY 13-19: Pete Townshend, Pee Wee Herman, South Park and more Pete Townshend
JANUARY 6-12: Interpol in concert, Tony Fletcher's Top 10 Albums and Singles of 2002, More on Joe Strummer and The Clash, Fever Pitch and Bend It Like Beckham.
DECEMBER 31 2002 -JAN 5 2003: A tribute to Joe Strummer, Radio 4 live on New Year's Eve
DECEMBER 25-30: NO POSTINGS: ON VACATION
DECEMBER 16-24: Metro Area, Breakbeat Science, Sting makes Wine, New York Downtown redesigns, Keith Moon anecdotes, Campbell's jokes.
DECEMBER 9-15: Tiswas, pledge drives, The View from Up North
DECEMBER 2-8 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Weekend Players and Snow Lit Piano Bars)
FOR NOVEMBER 25-29 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Joe Hurley, Thanksgiving, Sven Väth, Richie Hawtin)
FOR NOVEMBER 16-24 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Longwave, The Pleased, Get Your War On, Powder, Radio 4, Supreme Beings Of Leisure, Ben Neill, Baldwin Brothers, Thievery Corporation)
FOR NOVEMBER 9-15 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes CMJ report including Datsuns, von Bondies and My Favorite, and political Eagles)
FOR NOVEMBER 2-8 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Halloween, the New York Marathon, and British Cuisine)
FOR OCTOBER 26-NOV 1 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes live reviews of The Streets, Mooney Suzuki, Sahara Hotnights, Flaming Sideburns, Stellastarr*; Jam Master Jay; Halloween)
FOR OCTOBER 19-25 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Underworld live, Atlantic Avenue antics, Girls and Boys night)
FOR OCTOBER 12-18 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Bali Bombing and stupid editorials, the Electro-Clash festival, VHS Or Beta, Ballboy, Mindless Self Indulgence, 2 Many DJs, Tom Petty, The Streets, pointless stop-the-war e-mails)
FOR OCTOBER 5-11 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Steve Earle and John Walker's Blues, Dreaming Of Britney, Girls Against Boys and Radio 4)
FOR SEPTEMBER 28-OCT 4 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes White Stripes live, Morel live, My Generation re-issue)
FOR SEPTEMBER 21-27 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes The Creation live, Village Voice, Wine not Whine and more)
FOR SEPTEMBER 14-20 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Firefighter Andre Fletcher, Untamed, Uncut, and more September 11 Musings)
FOR SEPTEMBER 7-13 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Sep 11 memorials, Did Bin Laden Win?, Scissor Sisters and Electro-clash)
FOR AUGUST 31-SEPTEMBER 6 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes The Strokes live, The Rising, Saint Etienne, Team USA, a.i., Tahiti 80, Dot Allison)
FOR AUGUST 17-30 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes holiday musings, wine reviews, Luna at Southpaw, and more)
FOR AUGUST 10-16 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes lengthy Who live review)
FOR JULY 27-AUG 9 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Area 2, 24 Hour Party People Party, Hootenanny Tour, 2 Many DJs and more.
FOR JULY 20-26 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Wilson Pickett, John Entwistle, rebuilding downtown NYC)
FOR JULY 13-19 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Love Parade, Teany, RenewNYC, Femi Kuti, NRA, Londonisation of New York, Britishification of Global Rock)
FOR JULY 6-12 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Mike Meyers as Keith Moon, the RAVE Act, John Entwistle, Michael Jackson, Southpaw, Moby Online, Layo & Bushwacka!,(accidentally deleted)
FOR JUNE 29-JULY 5 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup Final, John Entwistle's legacy, The Who's decision to carry on, the meaning of July 4)
FOR JUNE 22-28 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Dr. John, Doves, Mermaid Parade, John Entwistle's death, Timothy White's death, Clinic Firewater and Radio 4 live, The Who's decision to carry on)
FOR JUNE 15-21 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Liars live, GiantFingers, the Big Takeover)
FOR JUNE 8 -14 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, StellaStarr*, Jose Padilla, Dee Dee Ramone, suicide bombings)
FOR JUNE 1-7 DAILY MUSINGS, CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Southpaw, Six Foot Under, Andrew Sullivan)
FOR LATE MAY DAILY MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR MAY'S EIGHT DAYS IN A WEEK'S MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR LATE APRIL LONDON MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR EARLY APRIL MUSINGS, CLICK HERE