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(Last updated
Mon, Dec 16, 2002 2:48 pm)
LEVI'S STROKES EARS
New York's rock'n'roll rescuers play Lowlife - loudly
LUNA at SOUTHPAW
Local legends and international influence come home to party
THE AUGUST HITLIST:
28 Albums Rocking Our World
THE TWO ARE ALRIGHT:
The Who at Madison Square Garden
AREA 2:
A wash-out
24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE
The Movie
The Party
THE HOOTENANNY REVUE REVIEW:
Cedell Davis, Tuatara, and The Minus 5 atthe Knitting Factory
WILSON PICKETT:
Still 'A Man And A Half'
THE JULY HITLIST
30 Albums, 5 Songs, 5 books and a handful of movies
FEATURED ALBUM:
The 'Me Without You' Soundtrack
FEATURED WINE:
Rose of Virginia from Charles Melton, Barossa Valley, Australia,
TIMOTHY WHITE
An obituary by Chris Charlesworth
The REZILLOS:
Back On The (Flying Saucer) Attck
The iJAMMING! interview
RICHARD BUTLER
Featured Mix CD
Grandmaster Flash Essential Mix Classic Edition
THE JUNE HITLIST
30 Albums, 10 Songs, 5 books and a handful of movies.
MAY MUSINGS
Eight Days in A Week's Music:
Ed Harcourt, Vines, Candy Butchers, Timo Maas, Ashley Casselle & Adam Freeland, Aerial Love Feed, and enough little club nights to shake several sticks at.
LONDON MUSING
Tony's (lengthy) trip down nostalgia lane from his visit home at the end of April. Stop-offs include Death Disco, old Jamming! Magazines, life-long friendships, road trips to Brighton, Damilola Taylor and political frustration, Morrissey-Marr, Zeitgeist, Oasis, Dexys, Primal Scream, the current British music scene and more.
YOU DON'T KNOW JACK
Jack magazine comes out of the starting gate with the banner headline "best new men's mag in years."
REMARKS REMADE
Why I re-wrote the book: The introduction to the new edition of my R.E.M. biography, due out this summer through Omnibus.
EARLY APRIL MUSINGS
Chemical Brothers, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Paul Westerberg, Skywalking, Joe Strummer, Radio 4, and Aquatulle.
KIDS IN AMERICA
A weekend with John Mayer, Sugarcult - and Elvis
IT'S MY PARTY AND I'LL LIE IF I WANT TO
Michael Greene's Grammy Speech: An Invitation to Download?
Plus: 10 things they forgot to tell you at the Grammys.
THE VILLAGE VOICE PAZZ & JOP POLL
What the Hell Is Going On Here?
From the Jamming! Archives:
PAUL WELLER
interviewed in 1978
"A number one single would be a bit scary."
The iJamming! interview:
CARL COX
"'Acid Trax' by Phuture came out and I was just 'Okay, forget all hip hop and all old school rare groove right here, this is it.'"
The Best Of 2001
Tony Fletcher's Top Albums, Concerts, Singles and Books - and comments on the Village Voice Poll
MUSING on The Manhattan 'Edge':
Will the Island Ever Again Be A 'Cultural Ground Zero?'
GOLDEN SHOT
hostess 'Lee Patrick' recalls her time as Keith Moon's amour
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: "Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain."
HEDONISM:
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
JOHN ACQUAVIVA
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured wine region 3:
SOUTHERN RHÔNE WHITES
Featured wine region 4:
SOUTHERN RHÔNE ROSÉS
iJamming! interview:
Jesse Hartman, aka LAPTOP
"Every New York band knows the meaning of failure"
MIX Albums:
Who, what and why you should bother
The iJAMMING! interview: DAVID SYLVIAN
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
The iJAMMING! chat:
MARK PERRY

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
From the JAMMING! archives: PAUL WELLER ON POP
Featured wine region 2:
CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES
From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
TRAVIS.
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
LLOYD COLE
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
Featured vine:
VIOGNIER:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.
The iJAMMING! interview:
BOY GEORGE.
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
Featured wine region 1:
CÔTES DU RHÔNE
The full iJamming! Contents
What's new in iJAMMING!?

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FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 13

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAMPBELL

I've been a dad for seven years now. Loved every moment of it. (Well, except the moments when kids drive you crazy, of course ;->) Here's to many more great years together. Happy birthday, son.

And after a week during which this site has focused on the sadness of another, unwanted anniversary, let me go out with a totally dumb, fun link that totaly celebrates the UK's love affair with the USA. Enjoy!

THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 12

MOVIN' ON (UP?)

When it all came down a year ago, it was obvious to those of us living here that it would be a long time before we could memorialize and contextualize what happened There have been untold funerals, services, benefit events and community get-togethers over the last twelve months, but only at the one-year mark did it seem as if we were ready to collectively reflect, remember and start to rebuild.

The passage of time hasn't made it any easier, however. On the contrary, the significance of the date September 11, 2002, rendered yesterday an incredibly tough one for all of us. On a purely personal level, I found it intensely painful, one of those rare occasions where I envied those who have compulsory nine-to-five jobs. And so, rather than wallowing in front of the television, I made full use of this city's many available, special options. In doing so, I was able to remind myself yet again why I love this place so much and why I will stand by it.

The morning began by taking our son to his school. The flag was at half-mast and I would like to believe that everyone, including the Muslim children who have suffered in their own way, made sure to attend. My wife and I then proceeded, on our bicycles, to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade; at Montague Street our path was blocked by hard-hatted, hard-faced construction workers marching behind a giant Stars and Stripes on their way to the same viewing place. The atmosphere on the Promenade was understandably morbid and eerily silent. People whispered to each other rather than converse in normal voice. Only a few carried radios to hear the ceremony from Ground Zero and those that did listened on headphones. Few of us even checked our watches to note the times at which the two planes flew in; we just stood there, in our hundreds, holding each other, staring at the downtown skyline directly across the East River – absent its towers but beautiful all the same - remembering what once was, praying for the souls of the innocents and grieving for our community, our city and our country.

Remembering what was once, but is no longer there. The Brooklyn Bridge, the Stars and Stripes, hard hats, and many heavy hearts.

I kissed the wife goodbye – always be sure to part on good terms, just in case you never see your loved one again – and then, armed with some breakfast and newsprint, returned to the promenade, where I digested the newspapers' take on it all, stared frequently at the skyline, read the tributes hung on the Promenade railings, checked my watch for the time that the towers came down, and listened out for the bells marking the ceremony's end. And then, just as I had last year around the same time of day, I cycled to my son's school. A year ago, it was to offer assistance; yesterday it was just to view him and his fellow second-graders out on their lunch break – something I've never actually done before. I watched him from across the schoolyard. Innocently playing on the jungle gym, not a trouble in the world. Then I came around to greet him in person and he introduced me to a new friend from his new class; the two of them hammed it up for my camera like the carefree 6-year olds they deserve to be. I felt good about my community, the school, and, just for that moment, the future.

After spending some time at home failing to work, I went up to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which was offering free admission for the day. Six giant chromalyn prints by photographer Gary Miller, some of which have become internationally famous since he took them exactly a year ago, hung in the entrance hall, and they made heavy viewing. Otherwise though, the Museum served as it should – a repository for beauty, not ugliness, a celebration of art, not violence – and I stopped in at three exhibitions that all seemed highly appropriate to my day at hand.

Firstly, I walked around, American Identities: A New Look, which traces art trends through the country's short history. I read a quotation that applies strongly to my own philosophy of life - the celebration of pop culture over high art: "I ask not for the great, the remote, the romantic; what is doing in Italy or Arabia," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, in The American Scholar, in 1837. "I embrace the common, I explore and sit at the familiar, the low. Give me insight into today and you may have the antique and future worlds." I stood awe-struck in front of Gilbert Stuart's imposing portrait of George Washington, and Edward Hicks' smaller but equally famous 'The Peaceable Kingdom.' I learned that in 1790, Brooklyn held only slightly fewer slaves than South Carolina, and that in 1820, it had but the same number of freed slaves (900 or so) as it did enslaved ones. Then I read Walt Whitman's quotation, from 'Leaves of Brooklyn,' published in 1855, "Here is not merely a nation, but a teeming nation of nations," and considered the pace of progress.

I also stopped in at the brand new exhibition 'The Victorian Nude,' which raised many interesting questions about the supposed prudery of my birth country's and even had some worthwhile art. Much of it, of course, is by modern standards quite tame (what do women have beneath their belly buttons? I certainly couldn't tell from any of these otherwise life-like renditions), and a vast amount of it appears to be either homoerotic or, in the case of Lewis Carroll and others, bordering on the pedophilic. I'll visit another time in more depth to gain a greater understanding.

And finally I stopped in at the Museum's permanent exhibit of Islamic art, which primarily focuses on ceramics and textiles. Still, among the few paintings, I was interested to see some full-frontal nudity in part of a five-part series depicting a famous Persian fable, by an unknown artist dated around 1855. Though more 'impressionistic' than the Victorian Nudes I'd just witnessed, it was also far more erotic and imaginative. I've never been one to deny the beauty of the human form in all manner of sexual excitement and titillation, and I've always appreciated how other cultures were historically more open about this than were my Anglo-Saxon ancestors. I hope the artists of Islam will one day soon re-discover the beauty of the female form rather than forever shrouding it.

Related to this subject, I almost bought a copy of the book, The Day Our World Changed: Children's Art of 9/11 in the Museum bookstore; the quality of paintings, collages and drawings here is absolutely astounding, a tribute to the teachers as much as the students' inherent gifts. Among the accompanying essays I recognized one by a female Muslim teacher at my son's school, who went through a significant internal conflict last year given that she wears the traditional headscarf as her mark of modesty to her God, yet teaches at a multi-cultural, liberal school, and has a son in the National Guard. She wrote about how supportive her students were last September, but how much she feared for herself in the community at large. I'm not entirely sure how her essay was relevant to the children's' art, other than that she herself is a teacher, but I found the book so visually inspiring that I know I have to own it.

I was just glad not to have it with me though when fifty mile an hour winds tried to knock me off my bike as I made it to the BAM cinema just in time for its free, 2 pm showing of 'Manhattan.' I had only found out about this while reading of special events on the Promenade and hardly imagined many people taking up on it. I was wrong: the cinema was absolutely packed, and people laughed and laughed at Woody Allen's 1979 classic until they cried. (Or maybe, given the tenor of the day, it was the other way round.) I'd never seen the movie before, and judging by the youthful age of the audience and its surprised response to various plot shifts, I was not alone. My favorite line? Woody in a taxi with Diane Keaton: "My God, you're so beautiful I can hardly take my eyes off the meter." (I also loved the relevant aside by Allen that the only way to deal with Nazis was with baseball bats and bricks.) There is surprisingly little in the movie relevant to life in the city as most of us live it, and absolutely no shots of downtown, but it's a treasured part of the city's culture; it was a kind gesture on the part of BAM to show it, and a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours on a dreadful anniversary.

The most dreadful part of it is of course the human losses and so I rode past Engine 219/Ladder 105 on Dean Street to pay respects. By pure coincidence, I timed my visit with a coach load of bagpipe players doing the same thing. For half an hour, it was difficult to contain emotions as the pipers filed into the fire station (with the trucks on the street, the interior served as a 'party' location for the firemen's families, including the six who died that day) and played 'Amazing Grace,' 'Danny Boy,' 'America the Beautiful' and 'God Bless America.' The station was full of off-duty, red-eyed firefighters downing beers – and memories - like they were going out of style; it was left to those who were on-duty and dressed for action to welcome visitors. Since my last visit to the Station, a permanent plaque has been posted with the names of the lost; one of them, Captain Vincent Brunton, lived in Windsor Terrace and I had helped line the street there the day of his funeral, December 13 - the same day we were all shown that video of Osama Bin Laden gloating over the 'triumph' of his orchestrated attacks. Whatever lightness I had left the cinema with had quickly been replaced by the darkness of reality.

And so it continued, up and down over the next few hours. I talked with a neighbor who had just returned from an annual convention of photojournalists in France. There she saw horrific, mostly unused images from the earthquake in Gujarat in India last year that killed 30,000 people. (That’s September 11's toll, times ten. Then again, it was a natural disaster.) But she also saw the last roll of film ever taken by Bill Biggart, the only professional cameraman to die in New York that day; I expressed surprise that I had yet to hear much about him or his rescued film, only to come indoors, open my copy of the Times, and see his very last picture on the front of the Metro section. Synchronicity. I played The Rising while checking e-mail, but a lengthy missive from my mother, who had been watching all the memorials on TV in England that I was avoiding, prompted me to call her, thereby getting a report from 3,000 miles away on what had actually been taking place on the east coast; such is the shrinking world. The British have donated a Bell of Hope to Trinity Church on Broadway; having lost 67 citizens that day (more than any country outside the USA), they have extra reason to grieve hard with us. A service at St Paul's in London had apparently been a beautiful occasion; I regret that so much has been going on I didn't get to see it.

After his day at school, I wanted to take my son to the Commemorative Gathering in Prospect Park. He didn't want to go. The horrors of last year have mainly passed under his emotional radar, and his tears have primarily been for the fact that he can't go back to the top floor of the viewing Tower, and its fascinating scientific exhibition. He knows enough to have said to us the other day, "The ones who hijacked the planes, though, they deserved to die, didn't they?" But he can't imagine the airplanes just disintegrating in fire and he still believes they crashed into the harbor. (And I'm not going to start exposing him to the violent imagery to suggest otherwise. Indeed, part of his naivete because he's been spared so much of that.) And though there was much controversy about how schools should be dealing with September 11, he told me they didn't discuss it in his Second Grade class.

All of this is good and healthy and I'd sooner his blissful ignorance than the nightmares that haunt children but a little older than he. At the same time, it's important he understands something about the enormity of what he lived through and doesn’t take his mostly charmed life for granted. So when he complained that going to the park to light a candle would be boring, and that anyway, he didn't know any of the people who died, I moved into heavy parental mode to explain how life could not all be fun, and how for some children who lost parents last year, their lives might never be fun again. (And a pause here. . .There are two related reasons why I took the events of September 11 much harder than some of the younger, or even just the unattached people I know who brushed it off and got on with life. One is the unbearable sadness I feel for the children, so many of them around Campbell's age, who lost a parent without understanding how or why; my emotion may be something only a parent can feel. The other was seeing that there were so many parents my/our own age died, people who would never get to see their kids grow up, and if I were to die suddenly I know that would be my last thought and greatest regret. Again, it's not something every young and/or single person can imagine. I saw a breakdown of victims by age just this week, and the prime group, both male and female, was 35-39, my own demographic. Which proves something about what I've been feeling. But I digress. . .) Finally, we found a way to make the event work: every year, starting last night, we will light a candle for a victim with his name: a firefighter called Andre Fletcher. (There were five Campbells died as well.)

Up at Prospect Park, the Red Cross were out to greet the thousands of attendees with free water, candles, bug spray (!) and, bless them, tissue packets. The latter were certainly needed when the entire city paused to light candles and here at Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus sang "America The Beautiful." For all that some families had brought picnics as people tend to for concerts at the Bandshell, it was an appropriately somber and serious occasion, a chance to gather for those who had been at work all day, and a welcome opportunity to hear beautiful music – and my suddenly un-bored son stayed busy keeping his candle alight in the hefty winds, and dancing to Gershwin's 'Rhapsody In Blue.'

Candles In The Wind: The Commemorative Gathering in Prospect Park. Flag on a shirt, firemen on a fender, flowers on the concrete, firemen immortalized in sculpture. Squad One on Wednesday night.

The final stop in a long day of commemorating occurred next door to the Park Slope Food Co-Op, where my wife was working her monthly 'shift'. The Co-Op, in all its glorious chaos, is at the heart of Park Slope, both physically and emotionally, as is Squad One, the fire station that resides exactly next door. For many years, the two co-existed perfectly peacefully but Sep11 a particularly noticeable bond. A story in Tuesday's New York Times, one of many the paper has written about Squad One, ran this quote that seemed to sum up how much closer everybody is these days: "My whole outlook totally changed," said one veteran firefighter. "I kind of stereotyped the people of Park Slope before: superliberal. But now I see them as people who are extremely nice, bringing their children up with very good values."

The scene outside Squad One, which lost twelve men last September 11 – everyone in both the outgoing shift and the incoming one – was not as gut-wrenchingly painful as last September 14, when a candlelit vigil (at a point we hoped we might still find survivors) collapsed into our community's collective crying fest. But last night, the working firemen, resting on the fender of their brand-new truck, seemed bleary-eyed and emotionally worn from greeting so many well-wishers. Squad One is an elite unit, trained for disasters; until last September 11, it had prided itself on never suffering a fatality. To lose twelve in one day – and to then be the focus of so much national attention – has taken a tough toll on the survivors and new recruits just as it has devastated the lives of the widows and their children.

There's been a wooden sculpture of Firemen raising the flag at Ground Zero outside the station for several months; by last night, it had been elevated onto a newly-donated marble memorial inscribed with the names of those who were lost. Both tributes were surrounded with flowers and candles, increasing by the hour, to the extent it threatened to return to the levels of last year. We lit our candles and looked apologetically at the firemen. What can you say to them that they haven't heard already? That will possibly serve to lift their spirits on such an occasion? You can only spout the clichés: "Thank you, you will always be in our hearts, we will never forget what you do for us," (keep it in the present tense from now on) and hope that it provides some warmth, some meaning, some minor comfort late at night when they're nursing their memories of their lost brethren.

We ended the day more or less as we had started it, with the morning ceremony at Ground Zero, watching (on tape) the interminable reading of the names. This time of night last year I'd opened a bottle of wine while finally watching the horrors on TV; it helped numb the pain. (I was not the only one.) Last night I viewed soberly, digesting the enormity of everything. There were documentaries across various channels, as there have been for days, but I didn't want to watch the disaster itself. I taped many programs instead, to be watched over the next week, or month, or maybe not until I'm old and don't go out of the house any more.

At some point, though, I'll watch them. It would be an insult to those who died not to remember what happened and to keep trying to answer the question, Why? To that end, despite my tiredness, I stayed awake past midnight watching Charlie Rose interview Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist whom regular readers will know I hold in the utmost regard. For a full sixty minutes, I listened as Friedman dissected the oppression in the Middle East that causes what he calls "the poverty of dignity" (very different from the poverty of poverty), as he skewered the Saudi Royal Family (sadly, not literally) for taking American oil money and plowing it into the Wasabi clerics and their hardline Islamic teaching, which in turn promotes the anti-American sentiment that inspired 15 of the 19 hijackers from that country to their terrible deeds; as he explained why Osama Bin Laden is dead and why Saddam Hussein and Yassir Arafat have sold out entire generations of their people; and as he criticized President Bush for his energy policies and many missed domestic and global opportunities. Friedman was partly playing knowledgeable pundit, partly promoting his new book, Longitudes and Attitudes, a collection of NY Times essays (and notes) from his last two years of international travel. I think they should be compulsory reading, especially overseas. And in the spirit of that desire, I'll leave with a lengthy quote from his column in the Times yesterday morning, 9/11/02. It raises the Biblical story of Noah's Ark as a relevant analogy and when Friedman says "We," he writes as an American.

"After the deluge of 9/11 we have two choices: We can numb ourselves to the world, and plug our ears, or we can try to repair that jagged hole in the wall of civilization by insisting, more firmly and loudly than ever, on rules and norms — both for ourselves and for others.

. . . Yes, we must kill the murderers of 9/11, but without becoming murderers and without simply indulging ourselves. We must defend ourselves — without throwing out civil liberties at home, without barring every Muslim student from this country, without forgetting what a huge shadow a powerful America casts over the world and how it can leave people feeling powerless, and without telling the world we're going to do whatever we want because there has been a flood and now all bets are off.

. . .Imposing norms and rules on ourselves gives us the credibility to demand them from others. It gives us the credibility to demand the rule of law, religious tolerance, consensual government, self-criticism, pluralism, women's rights and respect for the notion that my grievance, however deep, does not entitle me to do anything to anyone anywhere.

. . . Numbing ourselves to the post-9/11 realities will not work. Military operations, while necessary, are not sufficient. Building higher walls may feel comforting, but in today's interconnected world they're an illusion. Our only hope is that people will be restrained by internal walls — norms and values. Visibly imposing them on ourselves, and loudly demanding them from others, is the only viable survival strategy for our shrinking planet.

Otherwise, start building an ark."

Amen.

WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 11
ONE YEAR LATER

There have been bad days over the last year and there have been good days. Frequently the two are intertwined: something about the tragedy that was 9/11 brings out the best in people; then something that would appear to have been obvious in its aftermath is ignored. During the worst of the bad days in recent months, I've found myself asking an almost heretical question.

DID BIN LADEN WIN?

And I come up with the following:

10 REASONS TO FEAR THE WORST.

1) He struck terror into the heart of the USA.
The attacks of September 11 succeeded on the most base level at which they were intended: the destruction of the World Trade Center, devastation to downtown Manhattan, damage to the Pentagon, and thousands of dead ‘infidels.’ Americans, New Yorkers especially, will live with the horror for the rest of their lives.

2) He exposed the USA’s weaknesses to the world.
Distracted by years of economic growth and political isolation, secured by oceanic borders to east and west and friendly neighbors to north and south, the people of the USA never expected such a devastating attack on their soil. Though Islamic extremists bombed the World Trade Centers in 1993, and Timothy McVeigh killed hundreds in Oklahoma two years later, there was still an over-riding belief that terrorism was something that occurred elsewhere. The Clinton administration reacted indecisively to al-Qaeda attacks in other countries and neglected to educate the American people about the enemy. The nation’s intelligence services, most notably the CIA and FBI, failed its people at a critical moment in history, exposing enormous holes in American security. Confidence may never be regained. Al-Qaeda was able to show the world that the USA was fallible, that it could be attacked from within.

3) He delivered a powerful blow to the American economy.
Being the center of American capitalism and commerce, a successful attack on New York would clearly damage the American economy. Beyond the loss of life, a major commercial center was entirely destroyed; around 100,000 people lost their jobs in the immediate aftermath of September 11 in New York City alone, and the run-off effects, from the airlines on down, have subsequently caused lay-offs and retractions throughout the country. The stock market has barely recovered from its post-September 11 nosedive; long-term savings have dwindled; consumer confidence is low. New York City is hurting. The very nature of capitalism has come into question.

4) He became an icon to fundamentalist Muslims worldwide.

Bizarre though such a notion may seem, the self-confessed murderer of thousands was transformed, almost overnight, into an object of devotion and inspiration among radical Islamists across the globe, who saw his call for a war against the west as the ultimate embodiment of their ‘jihad.’ His face appeared on t-shirts, his name on birth certificates, his videos went into heavy rotation on Arabic TV. In short, he became a radical hero.

5) He provoked the Americans into war
To what extent this was intended we may never know, but Bin Laden and his henchmen must have been aware that America would react with brute military might to such an attack on its own soil. Al-Qaeda must also have known that the rest of the world views warily, if not with outright disgust, such demonstrations of force, which means that every American bombing and sortie was destined to play into the hands of Bin Laden's believers and their apologists – confirming that the USA is a country that can only communicate with bombs and is therefore itself a legitimate target for attack.

6) He drove a wedge between Europe and America

The divide was always there, of course, as someone who grew up spouting anti-American diatribes with all the independence of a Koran-memorizing Madrassas-educacted Muslim can vouch for, and yet one might have imagined that divide closing given that the September 11 attacks were clearly a strike at the West itself. But for some reason, after their initial and genuine outpouring of sympathy, vast numbers of Europeans reacted with equally genuine anger once the USA demonstrated that it would act decisively to prevent such attacks happening again. The European leaders offered lip service and limited military support, but the elite – the intellectuals and op-ed writers - turned on the Americans the moment the first bombs were dropped in Afghanistan. They have yet to turn back.

7) He successfully championed Palestinian terror tactics as a cause celebre among the Europeans.
This is maybe the most unbelievable of all dubious achievements: The West was attacked by suicide bombers whom, once we traced their backgrounds, we could clearly see were neither poverty-stricken nor inherently stupid, but intelligent and mostly middle-class individuals motivated, through their corrupt interpretation of an ancient religious tract and the questionable charisma of a multi-millionaire outcast, into a murderous hatred of Jews, Christians and western culture. Yet only months after these warped fanatics killed 3,000 civilians in America, the left-leaning people of Europe – despite suffering at the hands the IRA, ETA, the Red Army Faction and others down the years - somehow contrived to side with Palestinian suicide bombers practicing the exact same tactics of murder and terror against the innocent civilians of Israel. (And then reacted to Israel's military defense of its people with the same disgust as they heaped on the Americans.) Even more notable, and yet more dubious, vast numbers of Europeans, including the supposedly intelligent ones, reacted to Al-Qaeda’s declared pogrom against the Jews by reviving anti-Semitism to a level not seen across the continent since the dark days of Hitler.

8) The USA is no longer a ‘free country.’
Thanks to the terror attacks of last September 11, Muslims in America are under permanent suspicion, hundreds of civilians have been arrested and locked up without due process, invasive laws that threaten civil liberties have been passed without scrutiny, an ominous new Department of Homeland Security has been established without discussion, and people have been deported without a fair hearing.

9) The World has not changed for the better.

After 9-11 there were significant signs that the people of the world would and could come together. The outpouring of grief across the globe, and the cries for compassion and peace within the USA, should have demonstrated to our leaders that the vast majority of us rejected the policies of the past, that we wanted to walk a new path together, hand-in-hand, into a peaceful and globally prosperous future. Our leaders ignored their historic opportunity. The politicians and their front-line pundits have instead been acting to type with yet a greater veracity than ever:

The right wing desires to solve every international crisis through war, the left-wing cries pacifism even in the face of transparent aggression. The right wing refuses to accept any fault, even circumstantially, for events as have occurred or for anti-American sentiment; the left wing wrings it hands, espouses self-loathing and readily allows other nations and cultures to practice a repression on their people that stands contrary to every leftist's declared principles. The right wing demands and dictates; the left wing appeases and apologizes. The right wing brooks no debate; the left wing reaches no agreement.

Both sides are in complete and total denial of the changed world around them. The right wing should understand that violence begets violence, that war must be a last resort, not a first option, that greatness is bestowed from beneath as a result of deeds, it is not enforced from above by proclamation; the left wing should have learned from the events of last September that there is no moral relativism when confronted with pure and total evil, that there are times in history when truly dark forces must be encountered head-on so as to destroy them before they become unstoppable. (cf: Hitler and the Nazis.) Neither side seems remotely willing to question its ingrained ideology, and I, for one, refuse to offer allegiance to either.

10) When Al-Qaeda was all but defeated, the Americans backed off.

The War in (not on) Afghanistan was one of the quickest and most decisive military campaigns in modern history. Despite the (truly regrettable) errors in American bombing, despite the dangerous indiscipline of the Northern Alliance, the Taliban was on the run within weeks and Al-Qaeda was routed by Christmas. At that point, American citizens were so determined in their intent to see the battle through that, for the first time since World War II, they were prepared for genuine American casualties if that was to be the result of sending elite forces into the Afghan mountains to destroy the last of Al-Qaeda. Yet the American generals, having learned nothing from their unfinished business in Iraq back in 1991, handed over this crucial task instead to the Pakistani Army, who had neither the political motivation nor the military wherewithal to carry it out. The result? A child could have predicted it. Thousands of Al Qaeda terrorists escaped into Pakistan (many aided by their supposed pursuers), from where they have already regrouped and carried out attacks on westerners to demonstrate their resilience. Afghanistan may no longer be their refuge, but Al Qaeda has survived. It's even possible that Bin Laden is alive.

And one bonus reason:

11) The USA is preparing another war.

Bin Laden could not have predicted this one, but he may just have hoped. The United States President, acting out whatever internal psychodrama relating to his father's unfinished Persian Gulf War and the relative inaction of the Clinton Administration, has clearly resolved to launch an attack on Iraq. He is transmuting our grief from September 11 into violence against what is essentially an unrelated enemy. He is ready to launch an American invasion of another country without an international coalition, without a United Nations mandate, without even Congressional approval or the support of his people. He is ready to strike the first blow, to become the perceived aggressor in a war that could have – most likely will have – catastrophic consequences for the entire globe. If September 11 failed to launch the war between Islam and the West such as Bin Laden intended, a US invasion of Iraq could just do the trick. Bin Laden must be laughing in his cave; I just hope it's also his grave.


Brooklyn Heights Promenade a week later Chinatown two weeks later


There have, then, been some pretty bad days.But it's in my nature to think positive. And so I have to believe that

GOOD WILL TRIUMPH

In the current climate, it's a more difficult hill to climb, the notes are harder to define, the positives bring with them their own negatives, but still I can offer, as follows

10 REASONS TO IMAGINE THE BEST

1) The world witnessed terror at its most brutal and callous.
The live television images rendered the events of September 11 the first truly global disaster. Those who could only watch the death and destruction in helplessness and horror - that is, just about everybody – nonetheless experienced the pain as if they were there and recognized in doing so that such attacks have no justification or excuse. New York's losses and America's anguish were therefore shared by the world, which was irrevocably changed that day. There was a mass outpouring of grief and sympathy such as has never been witnessed on a global scale, and Americans will never forget the support they received from overseas.

A wooden sculpture of the firemen at Ground Zero raising the flag. Donated to Squad One in Park Slope by the sculptors in Portland, Oregon.

2) Americans demonstrated their courage, resilience, fortitude and generosity.
So often accused of blind greed, the people of America responded to the attacks in a manner so selfless and with bravery so determined that it brought comparisons to the British under the Blitz. In New York City, there were firemen, police officers, EMS workers and everyday office employees who made the ultimate sacrifice to save other people's lives. On board Flight 93, 40 hijacked passengers, having learned by cell phone calls what was going on that morning, took a vote – took a vote! – and fought back, overpowering their captors and certainly averting a greater national tragedy. The damaged Pentagon re-opened for business the very next day. Wall Street re-opened just three working days later. Thousands of people drove across country to offer their physical help. Children emptied piggybanks and adults withdrew their savings in a show of monetary support for the victims, the survivors and their treasured communities. Even as it became apparent that there were no survivors, the rescue and recovery operation at Ground Zero was an exemplary display of camaraderie and determination, and it continued 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for eight solid months until the pile was flattened and downtown Manhattan ready to be rebuilt. New Yorkers always knew they were a special breed, but after 9/11, the entire nation had reason to be proud of itself in its response.

3) America is a changed country. Hopefully for the better.
The nation's confidence has been shattered, the economy is ruptured, and fear is only ever but a jet plane's roar away. Yet these are not necessarily negatives. The general population of the USA lived for too long in isolation and ignorance of global affairs, too secure in its home comforts and too sure of its economic growth. That the internal financial scandals (which have decimated the stock market far more profoundly than Bin Laden's terrorist attacks) broke so soon after September 11 is probably no coincidence: in the wake of the attacks, there has been a denouncement of outright greed and a regained appreciation for the common person. It will do the American economy a great long-term service to endure the current scandals and demand that corporate America acts with responsibility – and besides, just as no CEO needs to earn $100 million a year, no small-term investor really needs a 70% annual return on the NASDAQ. We therefore return to mild financial expectations with quiet gratitude. As for the fear, it's horrible, because we've witnessed terrorism on a previously unimaginable scale, and yet it could get even worse. But now all of us know what it must be like to live in Belfast, Beirut, Jerusalem and other places that have been subjected to attacks on civilians. And the rest of the world knows that we know. There's a newfound unity in that pain.

4) America has proven its religious, cultural and racial tolerance.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of the American people and its leadership in the weeks and months after September 11 was its refusal to retaliate among its own. Yes, there were some isolated hate crimes, but the overall support for and protection of Muslim citizens and immigrants by the wider American population is an important chapter in the nation's history. The leaders set the example. Mayor Guiliani announced, even as we were still trying to find survivors in the rubble, that this city would protect its Muslim population. President Bush attended a mosque and offered televised support for America's Muslim population within a week of the attacks. Despite understandable misgivings towards and suspicion of the more extreme followers of a religion that is clearly in crisis, the vast majority of this nation's population stood by each other, regardless of color or creed. (I've written before about my nieghbourhood and its substantial Muslim population that continues to live in peace, and my son's school with its many Arabic students and the successful healing process. Considering how close we are to ground zero, those are reasons for great pride.) There are still a few dozen Muslim detainees being held as 'material witnesses' for the September 11 attacks, and the Administration has been less than forthcoming in supplying the public and the media with information on them. Yet compare this with when Roosevelt interned 110,000 Japanese during the Second World War and it's clear that this country is going forwards, not backwards

5) There is such a thing as a just war.
Nobody in his or her right mind enjoys war (which only proves that so many world leaders through history were or are insane). But regrettable as it may be, there are times in history where military action is the only feasible action. It happened in Europe in 1939, when Britain finally stood up to the Nazis. It happened in 2001, when the USA correctly identified the forces behind the September 11 attacks, their training grounds in Afghanistan, and the totalitarian religious fanatics that gave them cover, and acted successfully to destroy all three. There was loss of innocent life, as there had been through over 20 years of Afghan turmoil, and the Americans were at times zealous in their bombing and unapologetic in their fury. But it would take the most hardened of cynics (or Islamic fascists) to say that Afghanistan is not a better place now than it was a year ago – both for the security of the people in the western world and for the population of that battered, war-torn country. While peacekeeping forces are thin of the ground, al-Qaeda is launching attacks on the leadership and aid money is typically slow to trickle in, neither the Americans nor the rest of the international community is showing any signs of abandoning the Afghan people again. Perhaps we do learn from our past. Perhaps history does not have to repeat itself.

Support from the British at Ground Zero
6) The majority of Europeans share and show their support.

My anger at what I sometimes call the European elite is that of a once-confirmed leftist who cannot believe that the social movement won't wake up from its years of Marxist slumber and see the post-Soviet, -old Labour world as a changed place. But my experience on the ground reveals something very different: unlimited support for the victims in America, considerable backing for the international war on terrorism, and perhaps most pointedly and poignantly, a frustration with both Europe's immigration policies and its leadership, which together in their errors combine to encourage a massive influx of people from other cultures, but then fails to integrate them into their new countries. There is no value in second-tier citizenship and there is nothing to be gained by turning a blind eye to cultural differences. The United States, on the other hand, has a long history of integrating its immigrants, which is why most of them proclaim to be Americans before they claim to be Arabs, Muslims, Africans or Jews. The average European citizen is now studying this phenomenon and wondering how it can be emulated. There is enormous common ground between the continents, and much cultural love. Hopefully we will not allow our leaders and their opinion-makers to drive too large a divide between our shared values.

7) The power of the 'Arab street' was exposed as a myth.
In the weeks both preceding and immediately following the action in Afghanistan, it was impossible to turn on the television, radio or newspaper without hearing predictions of the imminent uprising on the Arab street. We heard about the 150,000,000 angry Muslims in Indonesia, the hordes in Egypt and Iran and Pakistan all itching to wage war on America. The USA rightly called their bluff, and proved what many of us suspected: that a vast amount of street protesting is mere posturing, that the majority of people in Muslim countries just want to get on with their lives in peace (and hopefully come live in America), and that the anger they direct at America and the west is largely coordinated and endorsed by autocratic governments that refuse to give them an effective voice in domestic policies.

8) The USA remains an open and vibrant democracy.
The attacks of September 11 played into the hands of the already dreaded Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has used them to push through otherwise untenable laws and sanctioned the arrest of several hundred potentially innocent Muslims. His response to those who question these actions is to accuse them of being anti-American and of giving comfort to the enemy. But, and this is vital, his obnoxious outpourings have failed to silence his critics. The newspapers, television and radio are a clamorous, highly visible and audible exercise in open debate and discussion. The population is free to protest – and regularly does so. Newspapers have fought for the right to print the names of detainees; the prison in which these few dozen currently anonymous people are housed is the sight of a lawful and loud protest every week. Our leaders are routinely ridiculed and satirised in the media. Arguments from all sides of the political spectrum fill the papers, airwaves and the coffee houses. Our civil liberties are under attack, but they have been too hard fought for the people to give them up now,

9) There have been no more attacks on the magnitude of September 11.

Touch wood on that score. But just as international security forces foiled the Millennium plot, the Manilla plot and several other catastrophic attacks prior to September 11, so have they since then scuppered various other plans to blow up embassies, army bases, air planes and such like. Many of us are concerned that the war on terrorism is, by definition, a permanent war. But under another name, or another Administration, it can become more like a focus on crime: if you put enough energy into it, if you use the right tactics, you bring it down to a bare minimum level, a level at which people feel safe and secure, grateful to their protectors and police forces. There's no telling what else Al Qaeda and similar extremist terror groups may have had planned, or what it still has planned, but for as long as there's no repeat of September 11, we are winning.

10) Americans have regained their sense of worth.
Don't confuse patriotism with blind nationalism. Americans understand that they are not perfect; they understand that more now than they did a year ago. But Americans have come to see that the imperfect system by which they live serves its people better than the other choices out there (communism, fascism, religious authoritarianism, dictatorship, fiefdom and so on): the system here is open, it's democratic, it rewards success and hard work, it invites improvement, and is motivated towards self-correction. (Sadly, and as was exploited by the 9/11 attackers, it's been too open for its own good.) In the meantime, America's imperfect foreign policy, energy consumption and rapacious consumerism are all frequently called into question, not just by overseas critics, but by domestic Americans who care desperately that their country should be admired around the world and not just feared. But for all that America's arrogance over the years has led to many an unnecessary or ill-considered international intervention, there have been many noble causes too and there are vast numbers of people in dozens of countries who remain eternally grateful that the Americans came to their aid. All things considered, in a world of so much hatred and oppression, Americans recognize that theirs is an honorable country to live and one with a worthy if sometimes faulty history. Or, as one letter I recently received from an English World War II veteran put it: "To an extent the Americans do not always get it right and when they get it right there are rough edges. But there is nothing that America has done on the level of wickedness that comes anywhere near the regimes of Stalin, Hitler, North Korea, Saddam, Pol Pot, etc."

And finally, given that we're now on the subject, a bonus reason. . .

11) The USA may yet do the world one more great favor.
No one on these shores seriously doubts that President Bush plans to oust Saddam Hussein – by military might, most likely. Vast numbers of people here in the States share European doubts as to the wisdom of going to war again, while still involved in Afghanistan, and without international support or approval. None of us seem certain whom Hussein would be replaced with, nor how long we might have to stay involved and immersed in Iraq, nor what other countries might be dragged into the conflict. But does the world benefit by continuing to play a dangerous combination of appeasement and containment with a homicidal maniac who has already killed so many of his own people (frequently with his own hands), who has invaded two of his bordering neighbors, who has used chemical weapons before and is clearly out to acquire yet more dangerous armaments, and who has run rings round the United Nations for an entire decade since supposedly offering unconditional surrender after a humiliating war?

No. The Americans that I know are therefore desperately caught in conflicting emotions, because even those that are opposed to military force by nature (most of my friends, understandably enough) have also seen, in the case of Bin Laden, what happens when a vindictive and murderous enemy is given too much time and space to arm himself. The rest of the world doesn't want to follow the USA into Iraq and it likely won't offer its gratitude even if Hussein is ousted quickly and with a minimum of bloodshed. That's okay in many ways; the USA has learned from 9/11 that there are times when it has to go it alone. And if the USA fails in its endeavors, and we're engulfed in the cataclysmic war between east and west that al-Qaeda so wanted to provokewith its attacks of September 11, well then, indeed Bin Laden will have won. And maybe none of us will any longer be here to debate the fact.


In short, in conclusion, the stakes on the planet have never been higher. I go to bed tonight on this dreadful anniversary dreaming of peace, as always. I also dream, seriously, of international democracy and a world in which people have a voice. Because when they do, they might not feel the need to kill those who live in freedom so as to express their own oppression.

On Monday September 17 2001 I added many pages to the Musing Section concerning the tragic terrorist attacks on the U.S.A. that previous Tuesday. Those pages expanded as friends reacted to the essay until the section became a small but eternal personal souvenir of that horrible day and the love I get from those around me - and that I feel for my adopted city and nation. Periodically I have posted other essays on this website, such as at Thanksgiving and on the six-month anniversary of September 11. The various pages are now scattered around the iJamming! web site, but you can get to them as follows:
MUSING ON A SEPTEMBER MOURNING(Posted Sep 17)
MESSAGES FROM FRIENDS OVERSEAS ON SEP 11. (Posted Sep 17 2001)
REACTIONS TO THE ORIGINAL ESSAY(Posted Sep 21)
LINKS(Posted Sep 21 2001)
COPING (Posted Oct 2 2001)
A THANKSGIVING TOAST (Posted Nov 2001)
MUSING ON MARCH 11 (Posted March 12 2002)
THE MANHATTAN 'EDGE':
WILL THE ISLAND EVER AGAIN BE A CULTURAL GROUND ZERO? (Posted Feb 2002)
I have also occasionally commented on the issues during my Daily Musings, to which you can follow links at the bottom of this page.

TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 10

I’m determined to make today’s postings short and snappy, as tomorrow looks like being all too long, serious and sentimental . . . (And I have thoughts about the one-year mark I’m trying to formulate in time to get them out tomorrow.)
Stopped in briefly at Transmission over at Plant Bar last night; I’ve written about Dan Selzer’s totally fun, anything-goes (though with emphasis on post-punk) weekly a couple of times before, and dee jayed there myself in July - though back then, in the height of summer, the bar was a bit of a ghost town. Last night the place was mobbed, due both to people wanting to get back out and about following the end of summer, and the guest appearance of the London party Trash side-room resident Rory. I stress the side-room aspect because yesterday I dissed aspects of the electro-clash scene, of which Trash is a primary London haunt. Rory, though, played from all over the place, including Fad Gadget and Talking Heads, and a whole host of modern guitar-oriented funky shit that I’d never heard before. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one: when one Taxman-like bass line demanded identification, I sidled up for more info and was shown what looked like a home-made insert sleeve by a Finnish band called And The Left Handed. Even more impressive than the total obscurity of this choice was the fact that people were merrily dancing to it. . .
. . .A couple of months back, I asked readers to explain schadenfreude, as the word was popping up all over the place. The New York Times has since reported on a scientific survey into the phenomenon, and describes it in this context: “This summer’s favorite guilty pleasure – delighting in other’s misfortune, or schadenfreude.” The piece was accompanied by a picture of Martha Stewart. . .
. . .Still wading through my British monthly music mags, I couldn’t help drawing correlations between these two statements that I found in the September Mojo. The first is by Fran Healy of Travis, which pulled out of V2002 because their drummer was injured: “We are sure Travis fans will agree that without Neil Primrose, Travis is incomplete.” Mojo sniggers at this, but a few pages later, an interview with Robert Plant reveals the following answer to the question “Why is Bonzo (the Led Zep drummer whose death in 1980 precipitated the break-up of the world’s biggest rock band) irreplaceable?” “It was nothing to do with Led Zeppelin being different without Bonzo,” says Plant. “It was to do with the fact that we’d played together in ballrooms all around the Black Country. When he passed away its seemed like a terrible waste, and I thought, ‘This is no good. We don’t need this any more, and I don’t want to play without him.’” Compare this to The Who’s statements the day after Keith Moon died, in 1978. “We can’t bring Keith back but, if he could have his say, he would want us to go on with the same ideals he helped to establish,” said Roger Daltrey. “We are more determined than ever to carry on,” said Pete Townshend, “and we want the spirit of the group to which Keith contributed so much to go on, although no human being can ever take his place.” I make no judgment calls here (that I haven’t made before), but I find the contrasting perspectives interesting, to say the least. . .
. . . That September issue of Mojo has the White Stripes on the cover. If you go to the reddkross web site, you’ll find a picture of their bassist Steven McDonald superimposed on the album cover White Blood Cells, renamed here as Redd Blood Cells. For good reason: McDonald took the liberty of adding bass lines to the Stripes' guitar-drums minimalism, posting the results as MP3s, and even gaining approval from the Stripes along the way. The album is available as a free download: a perfect blending of art, independence and technology. . .
. . .About a decade ago, I contributed a bunch of artist profiles to the Trouser Press Record Guide, which built to become a definitive printed resource for punk and post-punk music. Its editor Ira Robbins, a respected music journalist and infamous Who obsessive (one unafraid to speak his mind about the group’s creative decisions these last two decades) writes me to say the book is finally on-line in an easily-searchable format. So it is. And you may find this invaluable if you want to check up on various artists of the last 25 years. It doesn’t allow for a search by by-line, so I can’t plug my own contributions. If I can remember or find out what they were, I may link elsewhere from the site to keep my own archive going. Initial searches revealed Nitzer Ebb and Front 242, Maybe not what you’d expect from me - but that’s why I abhor pigeonholing. . .
. . .Talking of gratuitous links, one advantage of hosting a web site is knowing so much about where people come visiting from. New York bloggers Broquage put up a link last week and I appreciate it. . .
. . .Writing about the Strokes last week and their absence from the MTV Video Music Awards (where The Hives and Vines both performed live) made me keen to check if I was accurate about their importance. A quick check of current Soundscan figures reveals that both The Vines and the Hives have sold almost exactly 270,000 copies of their current albums in the States. Healthy figures for sure. The Strokes, meanwhile, have sold some 685,000 copies of Is This It. That’s a serious achievement and a good place to leave New York for today.


MONDAY SEPTEMBER 9

UNCOMFORTABLY NUMBED

The pioneering electro-clash party Berliniamsburg has been raging over at Club Luxx in, yes, you guessed it, Williamsburg for a year or so now, and I only just got round to checking it out this past Saturday night. How lazy is that? Majorly, though as you'll know if you visit here often, I pack a pretty full schedule into my life as is and weekends tend to be treasured 'down' time. Still, with 'Supermodel' co-writer Larry Tee's Saturday night party having played a prominent role in promoting what's now an international sound, and given that I was out and about spinning a friend's birthday party anyway, it was time to make up for lost opportunities and finally get down there.

Can't say I felt I'd been missing much. Like anybody who loves the constant revolution of musical styles, I jumped enthusiastically when I heard the simplistic synths of the early 80s applied to contemporary house and techno; I enthused even more when this revival of a once-futuristic sound brought vocals and verses to a mostly instrumental music. A handful of genuinely innovative acts have given critical credibility to this sound: Chicago’s Felix da Housecat, Switzerland’s Miss Kittin, The Hacker, and Goldenboy, Canada’s XXX-rated Peaches, and Detroit’s male-female duo Adult. (follow this German site’s links to these artists and more.) Perhaps the biggest evidence of the electro sound's prominence is the way it's crept into other dance artist's new albums, most notably Moby, Luke Slater's and Green Velvet’s, though in fact you can hear its influence in almost every artist that was once filed under techno.

Berlin comes to Brooklyn? Not really,. The Club Luxx crowd on a September Saturday night in Williamsburg.
But where there's followers of fashion, there's usually a spectacular failure or two, and the New York duo Fischerspooner are currently suffering the accusation that their as yet fruitless $2 million deal with Ministry of Sound (since sold on to EMI to save the dance label's sagging bank balance) makes them the Sigue Sigue Sputnik of the '00s. (There’s an excellent documentary about the whole scene, hosted by Felix da Housecat, over at Radio 1’s web site: it’s hard to feel sympathy, let alone enthusiasm, for Fischerspooner by the time it’s through.)

More disappointing from my point of view is the scene’s dependency on cover versions, such as German artist Tigha who had a European hit remaking Corey Hart's old hit 'Sunglasses at Night', and Holly Valance who went to number one in the UK with the Gary-Numan sampling 'Kiss Kiss.'

Over-dependence on the past was all too evident at Berliniamsburg where, in rapid succession, we found ourselves listening to a tepid rendition of Iggy's 'I Wanna Be Your Dog,’ a version of New Order's 'Confusion' that lived up to its title (given that three of us could not agree if it was a remake or an entirely new remix), and the inexplicable playing of – and enthusiastic response to - the 1985 US number one hit Prince rip-off 'Oh Sheila' by Ready for The World. Of course we all know that music moves in cycles, and that everything old eventually becomes new again, but while it's an innocent enough pleasure remaking an old song, and while it's always been a part of gay culture (the Electro-Clash scene in New York is flamboyantly drag-friendly) to celebrate the kitsch, I'm at the point now where I want to hear someone do something entirely new with this sound. Bar the superb Peaches single 'Fuck The Pain Away,' Johnny McGovern's DJ set at Berliniamsburg didn't deliver on that score. (Larry Tee himself was apparently off in London guesting at that city’s premier electro club Trash; I didn’t get to hear DJ Aldo, who I’ve always much respected.)

Scissor Sisters looking 'Filthy and Gorgeous' at Luxx: Jake Shears, Ana Matronic, and Babydaddy.
Onstage entertainment for the night at Berliniamsburg was provided by Brooklyn's own Scissor Sisters, who have garnered a club hit on the scene by covering, incongruously but successfully, Pink Floyd's 'Comfortably Numb' – on which vocalist Jake Shears sings falsetto a la the Bee Gees, adding a genuine disco feel to a classic rock anthem and thereby emphasizing the 'clash' aspect of the 'electro-clash' genre. Shears sings in a similarly high voice throughout the act's set, while jigging on his toes in early eighties aerobics style and grinning feverishly like an early MTV pin-up. His boyish enthusiasm is countered by buxom singing partner and star-in-the-making Ana Matronic who, thankfully for my wearing-thin patience, sings rather than speaks her vocals and also delivers witty off-the-cuff introductions. Most of Scissor Sisters' actual music appears to be produced by bearded synth-player Babydaddy (who, like Shears, hails from Kentucky and looks like he’d be at home in any number of techno geek bands), while a fourth member is currently settling in on guitar and bass to steer the group away from karaoke accusations. For the most part, the combination worked: as well as 'Comfortably Numb' and debut single 'Electrobix', Scissor Sisters had one scene-appropriate song ‘Filthy and Gorgeous’ and another, perhaps aimed at the Britneys of the world, cleverly entitled ‘(You Can't See) Tits On The Radio.’ There was also the overly-dramatic encore ‘Return To Oz’ that wasn’t exactly my cup of tea but went down a storm: the night's redeeming factor was its sense of family, and Scissor Sisters were clearly among friends.

Luxx has done much to put Brooklyn on the club map, but its dubious reputation among bands for poor sound quality appears entirely justified. The sound for Scissor Sisters started out appallingly loud and trebly, and it remained out of whack throughout the subsequent DJ set. And with its low ceiling and poor ventilation, the cigarette smoke was thick enough to make my eyes water, my throat seize up, and my clothes and body stink so much that everything went straight in the wash the moment I got home – all of which is more reason that I hope Mayor Bloomberg forces through his plans to make New York City's bars, restaurants and clubs entirely smoke free. I go out at night to hear music, meet friends, scene-watch, eat, and maybe dance and have a drink or two. I don't go out to have people force their drug addictions on me, and I don't care how many times cigarette smokers whine about it being a free country: you're no more free to poison me with second hand smoke than I am to stick arsenic in your drink. Until such day as all music venues become smoke free, I'll continue to keep a note of those that are too poorly ventilated to attend. Luxx, sadly, is one of them.



Talking of smoke, death, poison, New York City and a free country, we're coming up on the anniversary of September 11 much quicker and more forcibly than I'd like. This weekend the pain really struck home (no pun intended) as I delved into the newspapers' memorials and overviews, and allowed myself to watch CNN's two-hour 'America Remembers.' When it all went down last year, I was wrapped up in the moments as they occurred; as such, there’s a lot of images I still haven’t seen, and I was transfixed last night by watching, for the first time, a certain crystal-clear camera shot of that second plane flying in, which only served to tear my heart apart all over again. Similarly, American networks spared their viewers some of the worst images of falling bodies a year ago; now, it seems, we’re meant to be steeled enough to view them.

Maybe. One documentary and I've already had my fill of the physical horrors; I felt like I was watching disaster porn last night. There’s going to be an intense amount of grieving and commiserating these coming few days, and I'm ready to read and watch a-plenty about the rebuilding of our city, about acts of bravery and heroism, and about the changed political landscape. But while I appreciate her advice (really!), I don't need Barbara Bush to tell me not to spend Wednesday in front of the TV. If there's one reason that my son has avoided the nightmares and depression a lot of other kids here have suffered, it's because his exposure to pictures and images of the attacks themselves were successfully minimized. He knows what happened, and he is every bit as upset, angry and confused - and at other times gleefully oblivious - as you'd expect of a six-year old. He also just started second grade at his Brooklyn public school (note to the Brits; that means public, not private) where he sits down daily alongside kids of every creed and color who, unlike the world’s terrorists, would no more think of attacking their fellow pupils for their religious beliefs than they would contemplate denigrating them for their skin tone. That has to give me hope, and so, perpetually pained though this city (and country) has been these last 363 days, and horrible though it’s going to be for the rest of this week, I'm still thrilled to live here.


SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 8

BEER & BURGERS AT BONNIE'S

Diners are an American standard, and their musical choices lean toward the same. That made it all the more pleasant to eat at Bonnie's Grill on Fifth Avenue (between Garfield Place and 1st Street) in Brooklyn Friday night and hear the new Clinic album Walking With Thee played across the house system in its entirety. (Clinic are shown, at right, playing the Hudson River Park in June.) But then you wouldn't expect music any less incisive or interesting from a restaurant co-owned by a former manager of St. Mark's Sounds, the infamous East Village record store where new albums are often available at surprisingly low prices before their official release date. (Nothing to do with it being a favourite haunt of music journalists keen to offload their excess freebies, of course. . .)

Good taste in music is evident throughout the compact Bonnie's Grill, with framed photos of blues legends filling much of the wall space. Fortunately, good taste in food is equally apparent, with Mike Haber and his partner Anthony Bonfilio concentrating on hearty comfort food delivered with a spicy kick. (Bonfilio claims a collection of 500 hot sauces.) Buffalo wings, burgers with garlic mayo, vegetable chili and red pepper hummus are among the menu's staples; last time I was there (which was also my first) I had the latter two items, and each was highly satisfactory – and genuinely filling. Friday night, extremely hungry and between two drinking dates, I easily found room for a Portobello mushroom burger (i.e. the mushroom is the meat, as this here vegetarian likes it to be) topped with the aforementioned garlic mayo, accompanied by French fries (chips to the Brits!) drizzled in a chipotle sauce. I washed this down with a complementary and equally fiery Post Road pumpkin ale itself spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. The bottled beer collection runs the gamut from Brooklyn IPA to Fullers ESB, there's a couple of rotating beer choices to be found on tap, and there's an accessible and just-about affordable range in wine, including some half bottles for those eating on their own, along with a port or two to round the night off. (More attention could be paid to finding wines that match the spicy food, however: Beaujolais, Cabernet and Chardonnay are well and good on their own, but a menu this spicy cries out for Viogniers and Zinfandels.)

All in all, Bonnie's Grill is the kind of diner always destined to be a hit with Park Slopers, given its spicy variation on fail-safe familiars, its eclectic drinks and music choices, and its friendly prices. My only complaint on the food is the extent to which it sticks to the ribs, but allowing that I asked for and then ate a triple chocolate brownie after my mushroom burger Friday night, I guess I've only myself to blame. And yes, this may look like a puff piece for a friend's burgeoning business, but fact is I barely knew Mike Haber up at Sounds, had no knowledge that he was a partner in Bonnie's until earlier this summer, and indeed, the Grill was open and thriving for a full two years before I finally stopped by. My delay was inexcusable, and my glowing tribute here is merely making up for lost time. Fortunately, and unlike its next door neighbor Vaux – the first notable failure on Park Slope's ever-expanding restaurant row – Bonnie's doesn't look like it's going away any time soon.

Given that I was eating on my own Friday, I asked Mike for some reading material, at which he handed me the September issue of Magnet magazine. (Makes a change from the New York Post or Daily News found at most diners.) This offered another pleasant surprise, for Magnet – much like Alternative Press – has progressed over the years from a passable but not particularly provocative 'zine to a successful monthly, now on issue 55, and home to some truly first-rate music journalism. In the September issue, I was particularly taken by a last-page editorial that critiqued the musical associations with the British Golden Jubilee celebrations, including the co-option of Ozzy Osbourne into the Buckingham Palace concert, the knighting of Mick Jagger, and the all too predictable reformation by the Sex Pistols (two months too late); that this appeared to be written by an American, one living here no less, made it all the more perceptive. Interviews with David Bowie and Jarvis Cocker were interesting if somewhat predictable; I was most taken by the cover story on Paul Westerberg, which gave us as good a potted history of The Replacements as any I've read while accurately placing him in his current context, praising his new Stereo/Mono double release (read my review here), and allowing the acerbic and understandably defensive Westerberg to deliver many a great one-liner. My favorite, and I paraphrase, was: "People keep asking me how I managed to get that Replacements sound onto the new album. It's easy: it's called 'Take One.'"


SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 8

IN MEMORIAM

Keith Moon died twenty-four years ago today, at the age of 32. (He is shown at left a month before he passed away.) The details of his demise have been churned over many times; suffice to say he remains enormously missed and immensely loved. Had he lived, he would have been 56 years old.



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(accidentally deleted)
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