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What's new in iJamming!...
Mon, Nov 25, 2002
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."
FEATURED WINE:
Ternhaven Cellars Claret d'Alvah 1998
FEATURED ALBUM:
'Hard Grind' by LITTLE AXE
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!?

Click on the header buttons above, follow the menu at left, or scroll all the way down to find your way round the site....The front page is now being used for (near) daily postings....


Friday June 14: DRINK WHEN YOU'RE SINGING...

To celebrate the USA's advancement to the Second Round of the World Cup, I've just posted a new, very American, Mix CD Review: Grandmaster Flash Essential Mix Classic Edition. And an American, and New York at that, wine to drink with it: Ternhaven Cellar's Claret d'Alvah. Should England win tomorrow (damn I'm nervous), I'll find an English wine to recommend - and no shortage of music! Here's hoping for a display worthy of champions. . .

. . .From the Worrying Statistics Department: The team to have progressed to the Second Round with least goals scored? England (2). The only team to have progressed to the Second Round with a negative goal difference? USA.

. . .However, where there's form, there's hope. Having ridiculed British Esquire's predictions below, I've just had equal fun checking out British GQ's. Their predicted Group Winners? France, Spain, Turkey, Portugal, Germany, England, Italy and Russia. Well, two out of eight ain't....good. I mean, three of those eight touted teams didn't even make it through to the last 16. But then again, that's the kind of tournament we're having. . .


Friday June 14: SING WHEN WE'RE LOSING.

Yesterday afternoon, I wrote that "If the USA gets a pasting, don't be looking for a posting." I meant to say "If the USA get a pasting - and fails to progress to the second round - don't be looking for a posting!" So here you go. My friend Stos rings my door bell bright and early at 7am. We jump in the car (it's pouring with rain, Campbell's end-of-term picnic-in-the-park will sadly be canceled), and head to the Brazen Head on Atlantic Avenue. It takes a few minutes to find a viable parking spot and we run in with five minutes gone - just in time to see the States let in their second goal of the game. We've not only missed Poland's opener but also what everyone now agrees was a perfectly good (but disallowed) USA equalizer. This is not the way it was meant to go.

At nine a.m., there's 70 minutes on the clock, and the 40-strong crowd - including a fair number of parents stopping off with their kids on the way to school - is seriously depressed. The USA has just let in a third goal against Poland, and host nation South Korea is holding Portugal 0-0, results that would ensure the USA's premature departure from the tournament. Then a group of passionate USA Fans walk in the bar. They've been watching at home and they're furious. Ever since word made it across the stadiums that Poland had an early two-goal cushion over the USA, the South Koreans and Portuguese have been cantering contentedly to a 0-0 draw, so they claim. Even two Portuguese sending offs haven't made much of a difference.

Brad Friedel and Cobi Jones exchange a touchy-feely moment after the USA progresses.
Given that the USA are hardly going to get the point they need to progress of their own volition, the bar agrees to switch one of its two TVs to the South Korea Portugal game and for two minutes we see what the new arrivals are talking about. The game there is being played on a par with the stoppage-time farce of Italy-Mexico. But with a two-man advantage there are only so many chances the South Koreans can squander and suddenly the host nation scores. The bar erupts in excitement. "We'll give you all the gold medals you want at the next Olympics," I shout in gratitude to the Koreans. To make things even better for the States, Brad Friedel saves his second penalty in two games and Landon Donovan scores a consolation goal. We're equally attuned to the other game as, realizing that their "gentleman's agreement" is now off, Portugal throw everything at South Korea. But to no avail. South Korea wins. The USA goes through, despite the defeat. And yet another favored nation (Portugal) goes home early.


I have to quote here UK Esquire's prediction of the USA - "first round flunk-out" - which is printed alongside their prediction for the Portuguese: "As far as the Semi Finals." (Turn the page and France are touted as a "semi-final shock exit" and Argentina are forecast as, simply, "winners." Methinks the magazine needs a new sports editor.)
Did Joe-Max Moore go to Harvard? Or is he just keen to re-start the game after Landon Donovan's late consolation goal for the USA?
The rest of the world loves the fact that the USA doesn't dominate this sport, and I have no beef with Jonathan Freedland's comment towards the end of his exuberant column in the Guardian that "This is one form of globalisation in which America is not the driving force."
But before joining the chorus that insists the US doesn't compete in "soccer" because it can't win, I recommend another Guardian piece (two in one day, what's going on here?) by Julian Borger which gives real background on the sport's history in America. For just as the 'public' schoolboys at England's Rugby school refused to play football the conventional way, so did the privately educated kids at America's Harvard. The sport of Rugby couldn't conquer the British working-class passion for football; but as the homegrown, street sport of basketball took over America's confined inner-city playgrounds, the Harvard-invented 'American football' became the college sport of competition, and therefore of choice.

None of which detracts from a rarely-spoken truth about the World Cup here: the USA fans LOVE being underdogs. The notion of a nation obsessed with winning at all costs simply doesn't apply. Instead, the thrill of supporting a team no one else ever gives a chance in hell helps produce serious passion - admittedly only from those who actually follow the game and know the tournament is taking place. But still, this same loyalty in the face of adversity also applies to domestic American sports. I agree that the 'World Series' is an insulting title for a North American baseball tournament, and I could refer again to Andrew Sullivan's essay about American sports isolation being a metaphor for its international isolation, but contrary to popular consensus, fans here are all too familiar with being on the losing end. After all, there's only one winner a year in each of the domestic sports (there aren't any FA Cups or European style tournaments to provide compensation), which allows for a lot of heartbreak to be spread around the avid fans of basketball, baseball, American football and ice hockey.

And while the draft system that allows the worst teams to pick the best players out of college is wisely designed to avoid sporting dynasties along the lines of a 1980s Liverpool or 1990s' Man Utd (no £30 million transfers here), it's not exactly foolproof. That makes it all the sweeter for fans of, say, the New Jersey Nets in basketball, or the New York Jets in American football, each of which recently saw success after years of defeat. The faces of those fans when their teams came good were no different than those of a Man City supporter or Everton fanatic when they outdo their local and more successful rivals. Certainly, in qualifying for the NBA Finals a couple of weeks ago, the New Jersey Nets became the toast of the east coast, and their hardened supporters forgave the team for years of heartache. The Nets then lost four straight games to the LA Lakers in a best-of-seven Finals - in American parlance, they 'choked' - but for those loyal underdog fans, it was still a glorious, long-awaited moment in the spotlight.

Those who follow the USA football team in the World Cup feel the same way. And they now have something to seriously look forward to. USA vs Mexico is the only international derby match of the Second Round, and for those very strong cultural reasons - and despite the horrendous kick-off time of 2.30 on a Monday morning - it promises to be a passionately absorbed affair. In all the Mexican restaurants staying open through the night, but of course. And in the pockets of USA support such as the Brazen Head too.


Been trying to get YOUR mother onto the Internet? If so, then like me, you'll enjoy this.

Thursday JUNE 13, PM: DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN

In 1994, I personally witnessed Italy get beaten 1-0 by Ireland in the first ever World Cup game to be played at Giants Stadium. Two weeks later, in Boston, I personally witnessed Nigeria leading Italy, who had made it into the Second Round despite that opening loss, by 2-1 with only a minute to go. And two weeks later, there I was in Los Angeles at the Final, personally witnessing Italy, who'd won that Nigeria match in extra time, come within a penalty kick of lifting the World Cup against Brazil.

I've got a feeling we're in for a repeat performance this year. Italy lost 2-1 to Croatia a few days ago, and were 1-0 down to Mexico today with only seven minutes on the clock. By the quirks of their group's results, even that second defeat would have taken the Azzurri through to the Second Round, so I was glad that they equalised to save face as well as make progress. Italy played like also-rans for most of the game against Mexico - and based on my experiences eight years ago, I'm therefore convinced we'll see them in at least the last four. (In honor of their muted comeback, I recommend some Italian wine.)

Congratulations to Ecuador for winning a game in its first tournament - and against 1998's third-placers, Croatia, no less. I have a soft spot for the South American country, having visited it in 1992, and attended a game in the capital, Quito, during my travels. They were no less mad for the sport than the best of us and deserved their chance to prove themselves on the global stage.

Sitting there filling out my progress charts over breakfast, I realised just how difficult England have made things for themselves. A win over Nigeria would have seen us play Senegal, who I dare to predict are going home after the Second Round; a victory there would in turn be followed by a game against either Turkey, or whoever Turkey face from Japan, Russia and Belgium. Even in this most surprising of tournaments, an easier path to the Semi Finals can hardly be contemplated. Instead, England have to play difficult Denmark, the winner almost certainly facing the suddenly goal-hungry Brazil in the Quarter-Finals. Ouch.

Equally challenging, but possibly more entertaining from a cultural point of view, is the prospect of the USA facing either Mexico or Italy in the Second Round. Either tie will make for a massive party in New York City. Of course, first, Team USA has to get past goal-less Poland, another country with a substantial immigrant population in New York; not being one of them, I'll be up bright and early Friday morning cheering on the surprisingly resourceful American team to win its game, and with it the group. After that, I'll be booking breakfast in Little Italy next week. (If the USA get a pasting, don't be looking for a posting!)


Thursday JUNE 13: CAN WE GET SERIOUS FOR A MOMENT?

Just before shutting down my web browser at 5.30 am yesterday morning, after the England-Nigeria game, I read the front page headline at the Guardian's web site: "MI6 hunts terror plot network." The story reports how "Whitehall sources emphasised that they had strong evidence that suicide bomb attacks on both British and US warships in the Strait of Gibraltar and on the Rock itself had been planned. . .The al-Qaida unit had allegedly been preparing to pack Zodiac-style rubber speedboats with explosives and send them crashing against warships in one of the world's busiest sea traffic lanes."

Coming the day after the U.S. revealed it had arrested a (Brooklyn-born) man believed to be plotting a 'dirty bomb' attack inside the States, this was hardly comforting news. In fact, the combination served to remind me that we are still very very much at war, and may be for a long time to come. But of course I hadn't bargained for the skeptics. Watching the BBC World News late last night here in the States, I repeatedly heard the words 'cynical' and 'PR exercise' used to describe the announced arrest of Jose Padilla, the alleged 'dirty bomb' plotter. The BBC signed off the story with a reminder that Padilla was "merely a street thug." Presumably, this was intended to imply that he therefore posed no serious threat. However, I recall that 'shoe bomber' Richard Reid was also 'merely' a street thug (each converted to Islam while in prison) which didn't prevent him from attempting to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami last December. What makes the BBC so certain that Padilla (poor Cafe del Mar will never be the same again), who took his first murder conviction at age 14, was going to show any greater moral rectitude?

This ostrich-like, head-in-the-sand refusal to recognise the continually perilous danger we are all unfortunately up against amazes me. When I was in the UK over Christmas, and again in April, it seemed clear to me that while those who discuss and set the political agenda evidently sympathized over September 11 and recognised its shameful place in global history, they seemed determined to view it as a one-off.

But September 11 did not happen in isolation. It was the biggest and boldest attack so far by a fundamentalist religious terrorist group that had been growing in confidence throughout the 1990s, killing hundreds of people in a number of bombings, from the World Trade Center in 1993, to the US barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, and the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. In case these 'successes' make international policing and American security look entirely inept, let's also consider just how many Al Qaeda plots have been foiled in the same period. Purely from memory, these include the 'Manilla' plot to blow up twelve American airplanes over the Pacific, the recently-revealed plan to massacre the English and U.S.A. football teams at the French World Cup, the Millennium plot to blow up Los Angeles Airport and, since September 11, an attempt to blow up the American embassy in Paris, Richard Reid's effort to blow up the American Airlines flight he was on board, and several other rumored attacks halted by the breaking up of Al Qaeda cells in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and elsewhere.

As for whether Padilla was close to carrying out his alleged plot, I trust we will find out when, as befits a U.S. Citizen, he gets a public and fair trial. And as for whether the Attorney General made the announcement of his arrest as a 'PR exercise,' well I don't trust John Ashcroft's motivations on any front. However, at the risk of displaying some common sense, the arrest of Padilla encourages me to present the following hypothetical. What would the reaction have been last August, had the American Justice Department publicly announced that it had arrested a man, Zacarias Moussaoui (since charged as the "20th hijacker"), with strong ties to Al Qaeda, who had exhibited an unusual interest in learning to fly passenger jet planes but without wanting to study either taking off or landing; and as such, it was suspected that Moussaoui was involved in a plot to hijack and destroy some kind of passenger plane, even though the Administration had no conceret proof? I can imagine two possible, and likely simultaneous, reactions:
1) Dismissal from the Europeans and the far left, who would have accused the Administration of a 'cynical' 'PR exercise' designed to stir up terrorism fears purely for political gain.
2) Cancellation or at least postponement of the September 11 attacks by an Al Qaeda leadership sufficiently worried that its plot had been exposed or was about to be fully compromised.
Would the first reaction have been worth the second? But of course.



Wednesday June 12, PM: DON'T MENTION THE W***D C*P

I've just posted a two-page MAY MUSINGS: Eight Days In A Week's Music. This takes in May 18-25 with shows by Ed Harcourt, The Vines, Candy Butchers, Timo Maas, Arial Love Feed, DJ gigs by Richard Grey, Ashley Casselle, Adam Freeland, stop-offs at many a small Manhattan nightspot, a protest at City Hall, a visit to the Viewing Platform at Ground Zero, and my memorable (for me) DJ stint at Shout! There are lots of accompanying pictures courtesy of our reliable Canon Digital Elph. Check it. . .
. . .But this is the last time I intend to post a week-long round-up. It takes me so much time to write and lay them out that by the time I'm done, the moment has passed. (And people find them too lengthy anyway.) Since the end of May, I've started posting daily musings here on the front page, and the reaction indicates that they're proving popular; I already know of many readers stopping in every morning to find out what I've been up to the day before. (This includes my wife!) It's better for my own writing skills too, that I spend an hour a day publishing a few hundred words about what I see going on around me, rather than writing lengthy essays long after the event. I do enjoy getting feedback, and you can find my e-mail address at the bottom of the page, but as long as it's not intensely private, stick your reaction on the Forum - then others can join in too...
. . .By the time you see this, I should also have put up links to artists' web sites on my June Hit List. Lots of other good music crossing my desk in the interim, including the debut album by Sing-Sing (featuring Lush's Emma Anderson), the new album from the Reindeer Section, the Space Monkeys dub rendition of the Gorillaz album Laika Come Home, and Fatboy Slim's Live At Brighton Beach. (And he don't mean the one in Brooklyn.) Oh - and I'm still editing down that Richard Butler interview for imminent posting.



Wednesday June 12, AM: "WORKING TOGETHER TO GET THE JOB DONE"

Just back from a local bar after watching England crawl through to the second round after drawing 0-0 with Nigeria, and Argentina, almost unbelievably, go home after a 1-1 draw with Sweden. The England performance was hardly inspiring, but I believe the players were following sound tactical advice: don't get injured, don't give up a stupid goal, don't get booked or sent off, get at least a point and conserve your energy for the next round. I know we've seen other countries put in equally lackadaisacal performances at this point and still be there in the last four. There won't be anyone in my home country upset that Argentina goes home, but maybe because I was watching in a bar owned by an Argentinean who I used to play football with, and who was still willing to stand the English fans free drinks despite it all, I can sympathise with his anguish. God knows we've been there enough. (My sympathy fails to prevent me including the above picture, which is working its way round the web and landed in my mailbox 3 times in 24 hours yesterday. Someone with Photoshop decided to put the Tina into the Argies.). . .
. . .As for the Guardian website report referencing "bleary-eyed English fans. . . on their way to work" about a game that kicked off at 7.30 am over there, what time are they/you meant to get up and NOT be bleary-eyed, I wonder? Try setting your alarm for 2am as I just did (or 5 am on a Sunday morning as per the Sweden game) before you talk about being bleary-eyed, please. (As you can tell, I'm talking from experience.) I enjoyed just reading Jonathan Freeland's essay about how the World Cup, like the Golden Jubilee, demonstrates an English longing for collective experiences (challenging the notion of a nation of quiet reserve), and how fortunate the British are that they can enjoy the tournament in political/cultural freedom. He makes an apt point about the French failure too, something I had in mind myself but had failed to articulate. All the same, his final paragraph simply could not resist a dig at the United States. No surpise there, but perhaps fair enough - on this occasion. I'm posting all this before going back to bed for the second leg of my sleep - and I promise that the next post will be about something other than the World Cup.
(I have been sent this picture at least 3 times in the last 24 hours, which means many surfers must have seen it elsewhere. But I can't resist including it, at least for the next few days.)

Tuesday June 11: "WE NEED SOME HELP HERE"

It's official. I've got footballitis. Despite being exhausted from a long weekend, I seriously couldn't sleep last night. Found I was running all the third-game permutations through my head, endlessly. Finally got up at 2.30 am, sleepless, watched the first half of Denmark-France (then 1-0) and Senegal-Uruguay (then 3-0). Came back to bed at 3.30 am concluding that no team could possibly score three goals in a second half, which meant that Senegal had won the group, and that France were out of the tournament. Turns out I was only right on the last count, as I discovered when I got back up at 7.30 and went to Loki to watch Ireland beat Saudi Arabia on their way to the next round. (Amazing how much Guinness other people can knock back at that time in the morning. Note I said 'other' people.) Reigning champions France didn't even score a goal. Does the word 'pathetic' come to mind?

Have since been into Manhattan and back on business. Lunch in Union Square on a scorching hot day - reminiscent of London's Soho Square, everyone looking beautiful, workers and students and mums and their toddlers stretching out on the grass by their hundreds making the most of the beautiful weather. Worked my way through the NY Times, which only confirmed that another good reason to be immersed in the World Cup is that it makes for less time spent devouring World Politics. Today's news is that the U.S. has apparently foiled an Al Qaeda 'dirty bomb' plot to be carried out by a Brooklyn-born Catholic-Hispanic-turned-Islamist. This follows the news we knew all along but didn't want to know for sure (that the FBI and CIA missed or failed to act upon glaring hints of the then-impending September 11 strike on the USA), and the news which was announced to stifle the news we didn't want to know: Bush's decision to bring dozens of governmental organizations under a single Department of Homeland Security (every security department except the FBI and CIA which, layman that I may be about bureaucracy, doesn't seem destined to solve the core problem of communication failures within and between these agencies). Throw in the terror 'alerts' the government put us under in this city just two weeks ago, and it says something for New Yorkers' resilience that a new Times poll published today found the following:

•More residents think the city will be a better place to live in 10 to 15 years than when they were last polled back in August.
•Two-thirds would prefer to be living in New York City four years from now than anyplace else.
•Two-thirds said racial relations were generally good in New York
•And one-third said that education should be the new Mayor's number one priority, making it the lead issue. (Above race, crime or indeed, terrorism.)

If such optimism and focus didn't provide enough reason to smile, then bumping into a stranger on the Manhattan streets wearing an England shirt and his hair died in a Union Jack certainly did. The chance that tomorrow's post will not mention football is incredibly slim. Don't worry, there's only another two and a half weeks to go...



Monday June 10: "BRAD FRIEDEL IS FROM MARS...HE'S CERTAINLY NOT OF THIS PLANET!"

Who says American football commentators don't share the rest of the world's passion for the sport? The above comment was made by ESPN's Jack Edwards after Friedel, an honorary Englishman these days, pulled off one of his many superb second half saves in the 1-1 World Cup draw against South Korea on Sunday night/Monday morning. (He was also the first keeper in the tournament to save a penalty, as shown here.) No one said it would be easy, and I never expected the game to be pretty, but that's the second match in a row now in which the USA have earned points when they were probably not the better team. And facing a host nation backed by one of the most vociferous crowds I've ever seen, in climactic conditions that clearly benefitted their opponents, with one less day's rest to boot, a draw has to be considered a victory. The USA and England are now in an identical situation, each with four points from two games, each set to face the weakest, point-less team in their group (Poland and Nigeria respectively) for their last match. A win guarantees each team's progress to the second round. In other words, they are entirely in charge of their destiny, and they can have no one to blame but themseleves if they fail. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. . .

. . . It took me until this weekend to realise (probably just as well) that one of the Spanish channels in New York replays the night's games, in real time, with build-up and post-match, throughout the day; providing you don't catch the results from any other source, you can get up, sit down at 9.30 am, watch through to 5.30pm and make like the games are happening live. Fortunately I haven't been quite that obsessive, but there was a moment at the weekend where I was watching a video of Italy-Croatia while periodically pausing it to catch the replay of Japan-Russia. Though by living in the States I'm one giant leap removed from the everyday world of football news, the one thing I knew coming into this world cup was that the field was wide open. Watching France, Argentina, Italy, Russia and Portugal all fall to supposedly inferior opposition proves I got that much right. It should only get better.

I spent Friday in Manhattan, still wearing my England shirt I'd worn to my Argentinean acquaintance's bar in the morning, and it was interesting how many comments it drew. A lot of people had watched the game already; even more knew the score. In particular, it was fascinating to discover the national backgrounds of people I'd always assumed were, well American. But then, everyone here ultimately comes from somewhere else, which may make this the only country where the population's World Cup loyalties are justifiably divided.

Posie and I attended a boat gig on Friday night and the guitarist for the opening act, William Academy, reflected between songs on how he had been watching the Ireland-Germany game and having a "soccer game in his head". He is, he explained, part Irish and part German, and the game provoked him to think about his heritage, the differences in his ancestral backgrounds, and whether he could actually root for either country to win. Just as well for him then that it was a draw.

William Academy were described on the invites for the event (promoted by girl-about-town Kerriblack and partners) as "New Order meets Pet Shop Boys" which as one wag pointed out, surely meant Electronic. Well, it wasn't too far off. A two-piece dressed like Mancunians from '89, vocalist Ebinflow shuffling about like Ian Brown or the singer from the Farm whose name we've all forgotten, performing very lo-fi New Order like numbers, they're currently imprisoned by their northern English influences. Then again, given the response to any of the 'Madchester' style tunes when I was spinning at Shout!, they've certainly chosen the right era to revive.

No such questions of unoriginality haunt Stellastarr*. I'd seen them play a few songs when they opened for Joe Strummer in April and been mightily impressed. But watching them perform up close (i.e. from six feet) on a flimsy boat that was listing side to side at times, I was (almost) blown over(board). Most young groups have at least one weak link in the line-up. But all four members of Stellastarr*are musically adept and visually arresting. Vocalist-guitarist Shawn Christensen (left) alternates between a Frank Black-like scream, a Johnny Lydon-like sneer and a David Byrne-like yelp, while delivering stream-of-consciousness lyrics straight out of the Bob Dylan school of poetry. (The Big Z was the only influence Shawn would cop to when I talked to him afterwards.) Lead guitarist Michael Jurin contributes fierce wails and slicing power chords, exhibiting total command of his instrument, and like Christensen, is quite willing to writhe on the floor if the mood takes him. I'm sure there's plenty who'd like to see Amanda Tannen writhing on the floor too; unfortunately, she's more concerned with playing bass lines so damn funky they could teach Tina Weymouth a thing or two, and offering deft backing vocal contributions that suggest she's listened to The Breeders, Throwing Muses and Delta 5 over the years. Finally, the fact that drummer Arthur Kremer is an unrepentant exhibitionist (sunglasses on stage, duct tape across the nipples, that kind of thing) might be annoying but for the fact that he's got tribal-funk-punk rhythms down pat.

Stellastarr*'s Michael Jurin, writhing; Shawn Christensen, screaming. Arthur Kremer,nipple-protected; Shawn Christensen, writhing; Amana Tannen, sadly not writhing.

Not only do Stellastarr* have the talent, the look and the songs (download 'My Coco' from the web site for Pixies-like proof of the latter), they've also got a following. There were many young girls at the boat gig calling for specific songs and giving it serious action on the dancefloor - and for once, they didn't appear to be the band's girlfriends. Stellastarr* are finishing up an album for the Tiswas label; it's a smart signing on promoter/label boss Nick Marc's move, ensuring that Tiswas moves beyond its Britpop obsession into something altogether more international and interesting. I can't wait to hear the results.

Rounding out the night in extremely good taste was DJ Josh, who played an 80s post punk set that included Medium Medium, Liquid Liquid, 'Pigbag' by Pigbag, Dislocation Dance and anything at-all-alliterative. At one point, the boat, the Half Moon, brought us within a couple hundred feet of the brightly-lit Statue of Liberty; she's beautiful in post cards, is Miss Liberty, but seeing her close-up like that, she really does look like one of the World's Great Wonders. The French nation has rarely been so generous to another country since. (Unless you count their football team in the current World Cup.)

The rest of the weekend continued on much the same note: a playdate at the park in Dumbo (for kids and adults alike), a flat-warming party by an Anglo-French couple in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens with way too much good food and drink and people I hadn't seen for years; bringing friends home from the party with us and forcing them to watch Westway to the World while pouring the Châteauneuf du Pape; football on television twelve hours a day; Sunday afternoon barbeque at a neighbour's house; an impromptu gathering afterwards in the community garden; way too much imbibing but all in good spirits. Summer's here and the time is right....

RAMONES AREN'T MEANT TO DIE REDUX. . .
I didn't hear about Dee Dee Ramone's death until I opened the paper late on Friday. Talk about deja vu. I never met Dee Dee; I understand he could be difficult but I was under the impression that he'd cleaned his act up many years ago. Reading how he was found with syringes and drug paraphanalia hurts: how many times do we have to go through this with rock stars? I had little sympathy for Alice In Chains vocalist Layne Staley when he died of an overdose last month, largely because I blame him and Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland for glamourising heroin (ab)use at the peak of grunge. Dee Dee, though, was out there writing novels. (Admittedly, with plenty drugs in them.) Why'd he have to sacrifice a second career for a quick, ultimately final fix? All sing along with New Model Army now....

"...SEEING A BABY'S SKULL COME OFF AND HER BRAINS POURING OUT..."
I appreciate having some facts, figures, and atrocious ugly first-person accounts to back me up next time someone, most likely in Europe, accuses Israel of 'war crimes' while turning a blind eye to the devastation caused by suicide bombings. In recent weeks, the Village Voice, historically a far left paper, has taken to printing both a 'Letter From Palestine' and a 'Letter from Israel', and last week's latter column by Sylvana Foa started by boiling down the hyperbole over body counts. Using data supplied by both sides, she revealed that since the current intifada started, then among non combatants, "132 Israel female civilians (have been killed) compared with 40 Palestinian women." This is just one of many figures that challenges the all-too-widely believed perception that Israel is somehow 'massacring' Palestinian civilians, when the evidence would appear to indicate it's the other way around. Foa then quotes those who've witnessed or cleaned up suicide bombings, including one husband's account of how his injured, now deafened wife can't stop talking about the phrase I've used as a headline, after they were caught in a suicide bombing at an ice cream parlor in a mall on a Sunday afternoon. (Think about that the next time you hear someone forgiving terrorists as last-resort victims of poverty.) Foa ends with this perfectly accurate quote from an officer with the IDF. "Sucide bombings should be classified as 'nonconventional warfare."


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