(photos from the remnants of the 1964 World's Fair in Queens, more here)

So a friend of mine is very ambitious, and on occasion he will throw a dinner party in abandoned hard-to-get-into locations in NYC. The last dinner was in the remains of the 1964 Worlds Fair in Flushing Corona Park in Queens. If you've ever driven past Laguardia airport, or seen the first Men In Black movie, you know what I am talking about. Huge saucers on poles, and an area/coliseum thing (the New York Pavilion) with a ceiling of rusting wires that looks like it is left over from The Warriors. I have wanted to get inside these places for years, and have done my own sniffing around, but to no avail. I have to admit that it was a bit of a dream come true to get to explore inside these rotting bizarre beasts. One particularly strange find was inside the arena. There are rooms inside the outer walls, and in one room appeared to be a sort of squatted practice space. There was still a drum kit, a keyboard, and sound equipment. Someone also found a demo cd and the drummer's diary. Pretty weird considering how run-down and creepy it was in there. But maybe that's just cause I went back later by myself to check it all out. This is the sort of thing that makes living here worth it. Very cool. Thank you, you-know-who-you-are.



So the original version of this song has been pretty popular, which means some people are really really sick of it. I still like it, mainly cause I rarely hear it (but that's mostly due to my not-going-out-in-public-much thing). Anyway, if you aren't up to your gills in it yet, you'll probably really like this bluegrassy version. I do.

•• Dawn Landes - Young Folks

A band's place in myspace.



(Team Robespierre and the Death Set performing at Glasslands in Brooklyn, more photos here)

Last Friday was a show at Glasslands put on by Bikes In The Kitchen. It was a pretty great line-up, with Pterodactyl, Team Robespierre, Best Fwends, and the Death Set. The show was a sweaty good time (very sweaty, perspiration was condensing on the metal roof and occasionally dripping down on the crowd), until a random tragedy hit right at the start of Death Set's set. Some girls thought it would be funny to throw water balloons down on the crowd from the balcony. And it was funny. Until one of them, for whatever possible reason, decided to start throwing them past the band at the back of the stage where all of the amps/speakers/cables/sound equipment was. Well her aim was true and she planted one right in the middle of the keyboard of Johnny's open laptop. Deathset uses pre-recorded samples (a la Japanther style) in their set, and these were being played on Johnny's Macbook. Needless to say this brought their set to a erratic halt. Johnny figured out what had happened, got his ipod as a backup, and got the show rolling again after a brief delay. Pretty impressive showmanship for someone who just had his laptop bombed. The guilty party, realizing what had happened, and that people knew where the balloon came from, ditched her ammo and ran off. Strangely enough she decided to hang around outside the show till it was over, allowing Johnny to confront her and snag her car keys so she couldn't bolt. Eventually the cops came to deal with the issue and everyone went home. Still sucks pretty hard for Johnny.

(update) Apparently the laptop was just the beginning. The water balloons also took out Death Set's guitar amp, mixer, and two speaker bins. Lovely.



I REALLY want to go on tour with this band (easily one of my top three favorite bands) to do a photo tour diary. Anyone got the connection? I'm pretty bummed I didn't get a chance to hitch on their current Mastodon + Cursive tour. That would have been siiiiiiick.

• Against Me! - Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong

A band's place in myspace.



(photos from the Creme de la Creme party at Hotel QT in Manhattan)

So while all this Bicycle Film Festing was going on, I took a break to drop by a party thrown by an old college acquaintance of mine, (R)Oxy Cottontail. I hear she throws good parties, and have been to a few (last one I can recall my date ended up grabbing some drunk-Paris-Hilton-ass, but alas her security boys had my number when I tried to Kodak the moment). This one was at Hotel QT, which boasts a pool, sauna, and steam room. Sounded like a pretty sweet deal to me. (Side note: when people have sex next to you in the steam room, they are not always subtle about it) It was fun, and I even took some photos before I left.



Boy is blowing up. This is the song that won last year's "Best of SXSW" for best lyrics ("Shake it till my dick turns racist"). Um, yeah. Kills on the dance floor.

• Spank Rock - Race Riot On The Dance Floor

A band's place in myspace.



(images from the Bicycle Film Festival 2007 in NYC: bikes at the Chicken Hut; Black Label at Union Square; no-handed on the penny farthing + NYPD entourage; BMX high jump competition; track stand competition; foot down competition; watching films; more photos here)

The Bicycle Film Festival wrapped up in NYC for another year. It was a lot of fun, even with a bit of rain keeping the bike events soggy and short during the street party on Saturday. It was also a bit of a bummer that someone got drunk, picked a fight, and then defaced artwork at the art show. But I guess some people can't be left without their parent's supervision for very long. Regardless, between a great opening party with Dan Deacon and Parts & Labor, a bike-centric art show, fun bike events, and of course the films, it was pretty much all you could have wanted. If you live in another city where the festival has yet to visit, don't miss it.



This song is kinda dirty, and really reminds me of this song I posted.

•• The Presets - Are You The One (Van She Mix)

A band's place in myspace.



(images from the first few days of the Bicycle Film Festival: Dan Deacon; crowd goes crazy; Ines Brunn performs on her track bike; tall bikes + bmx; Doyle and Araby ride toward Washington Square Park. More photos here)

The Bicycle Film Festival has been happening. Where have you been? Lots more this weekend. Don't miss.



You have to love when talented artists like this do covers. It's like getting an exciting present you didn't even know you wanted.

• Scout Niblett - Just What I Needed

A band's place in myspace.



Once upon a time in Brooklyn, there was an art collective called Toyshop. Sadly I cannot link to their website because the previous hosting company refuses to release the domain and deleted the site. Anyway, this collective was founded by the street artist Swoon, and pulled off many ambitious pubic occurrences in their day (the "Pirates of the Staten Island Ferry" has gone on to be an annual event I am told). Eventually, inspired by visits to squats in Berlin and Amsterdam, members of Toyshop decided to import the collective dinners they had found in these squats to Brooklyn. The dinners in Europe had not only fed hungry punks and artists, but also provided an amazing community base for otherwise scattered people. Eventually Toyshop morphed into what is now known as Grub.

Grub is a bi-weekly dinner, prepared by volunteers, and consisting of dumpstered food from the streets of NYC. A donation jar rests at the end of the serving table, but no one is ever turned away. It is hosted by the space Rubulad near the Brooklyn Navy Yards, and twice a month welcomes scores of people from various different slices of life around NYC.

Why am I writing about this, you may ask? As a lead up to this video, made by Grub co-founder Jeff Stark. It is a fun little look at the meal, mainly from the ceiling in time-lapse. If you live in NYC, you should stop by. Meet some new people, and eat some food so good you can't believe someone was going to throw it away. Click here for more info.



Holy crap. I've been waiting a year for this. The Goddamn Rattlesnake finally put out his first goddamn album. After countless hours recording with his crew in our living room, it's finally done. And it's so good it's like sweet nectar, if nectar was sweat and wiskey with a hint of rose petals. They are having their CD release party on Saturday, May 19th at the Lost and Found Bar in Greenpoint (corner of Greenpoint & Franklin). If you're around it's gonna be a rowdy time.

•• The Goddamn Rattlesnake - Foggy River

A band's place in myspace.



What's the first thing I post when I get back to NYC? Is it about the reverse culture shock? How much jet lag sucks? How I miss China and milk tea? No, it's a shameless plug. I guess in some ways I adjusted very quickly to being back in the city of movin-n-shakin'. So yeah, I have a photo in this art show as part of the Bicycle Film Festival. You should go check it out, the roster is pretty impressive. And there is also the outdoor concert in conjunction with Solar One: Mates Of State (they canceled, Dan Deacon is taking their place!), Parts & Labor, and Team Robespierre. Should be a good time down by the East River. Details below:


• Wednesday, May 16::
Stuyvesant Cove, East River at 23rd St.
[UPDATE:] Venue moved to Studio B in Greenpoint, Brooklyn due to impending crappy weather!

RAIN LOCATION + AFTERPARTY: Studio B, located at 259 Banker Street in Brooklyn!

The Seventh Annual Bicycle Film Festival kicks off its 16-city tour with a solar-powered BIKES ROCK SHOW at Solar One. Festivities include music by Mates of State, Parts & Labor and Team Robespierre. All the way from China, bicycle trick rider Ines Brun performs between sets. Valet bike parking provided by Transportation Alternatives and hosted by Kryptonite.
Presented by Death and Taxes Magazine and King Cog, in partnership with Solar One.

Studio B
259 Banker St. (between Calyer St. and Franklin)
10pm-4am FREE

Ditch Productions present:
Mike Likes Bikes: Machine Integrated Kinetic Expressions
performances by: NJ Turnpike and Eystek

Dirty Finger (Black Label Bike Club) / James Stacher (Black Label Bike Club) / Brian Degraw (Gang Gang Dance)

• Thursday, May 17::
JOY RIDE - An Art Show Inspired by the Bicycle
Curated by Brendt Barbur / Hosted by Fountainhead Films
OPENING PARTY on MAY 17: 6pm-12am
Regular Gallery Hours: 12pm-7pm (May 17-21)
33 West 17th St. near 5th Ave.

Participating Artists:
Swoon / Phil Frost / Amy Franceschini / ESPO / Michel Gondry / Steve MacDonald / David Namaiki / Shepard Fairey / DAZE / Kareem Black / Peter Sutherland / Julia Chiang / Ryuta Nakajima / Massan / Brian Vernor / Benny Zenga / Fast Eddie Williams / Cheryl Dunn / Takuya Sakamoto / Madsaki / Erik Zo / Ko Masuda / Gina Marie Scardino / Erin Nicole Brown / Taliah Lempert / Amy Bolger / Steve Crandall / Tod Seelie / Daniel Leeb / Goods / Joseph Becker / Conrad Carlson / Erik Foss / Greg Ugalde / Yohei Hanazawa / Loren Purcel / Natascha Unkart / Ellis Gallagher AKA © Ellis G. / Jason Chaste / Dr. JPL / Ryan Doyle (BLBC) / Wolfgang Paperchase / Chris McNally / Mike Martin / Bradley Baker and Patty Bowman / Andrew McClintock / David Mashburn

After Party:
131 Chrystie Street (Between Delancey and Broome)




Bands I liked at SXSW: part 4.

•• Dan Deacon - The Crystal Cat

A band's place in myspace.



(photos from China, the [much] larger gallery is here)

So this will be my last post from China. As you might guess from the headline, it has not been all smooth sailing over here. But it has been a great trip and a beautiful country. Seeing my sister for the first time in almost a year was awesome. I also met some pretty cool travelers, which reminded me one of the reasons why I like doing this in the first place. Although I think I'm done climbing mountains for a while. The list picks up in Zongdian (Shangri-la) and finishes in Suzhou after a few days in Yangshuo.

- Flat plains surrounded by mountains near the border of Tibet, with hanging hunks of drying meat, skulls, tails, prayer flags, and hulking wooden structures for drying skins and wheat dotting the landscape.
- The first night in Zongdian starts with the sounds of packs of barking dogs, ends with howling wolves.
- Realizing the word "Laowai" means "White Devil", realizing people have been trash-talking about me in my presence.
- In the town people gather and dance together in a big circle in the town square, every night.
- You know you're in it when you have to step over piles of shit to get to the toilet.
- Hired a Tibetan driver for a day, his name was Shababa, he had a broken watch he kept pointing to, and thought we were really silly.
- Locals are camera shy.
- It was cold near Tibet, so I bought gloves from a hiking shop. They were so crappy I had to buy another pair and double them up.
- Rode an overnight bus with bunks, the bed had blood-stains on the sheets and pillow.
- A "homemade brownie" here means "flavorless chocolate-colored cake."
- If there was ever a country I've been to where it's okay to pick your nose in public, it's China.
- Weird food I've eaten: Chicken feet, intestines, pig dick.
- Weird food I've seen but did not eat: Flayed rats, duck tongue, dog meat.
- It's amazing how many photos can be ruined by power lines.
- Bought a real expensive camera bag before the trip, it has totally fallen apart, barely usable.
- "24-hour hot shower" means "from 6 pm to 8 pm."
- Hiking up a mountain while a hidden speaker alternates between repetitive Chinese phrases and an instrumental version of "Take My Breath Away."
- A traditional Chinese temple decorated with blinking Xmas lights.
- Green pea ice cream that tastes like watermelon lip gloss.
- The only similarity between the Chinese and the Japanese is their fondness for bad pop music.
- Almost getting stranded twice (on a mountain, and out in the countryside).
- Hitchhiking with nice Germans on their hired tour bus.
- The amount of manual labor that goes into food production in this country is mind-boggling.
- Toy construction helmets are used as motorcycle helmets.
- Being adventurous with meat sticks = eating many strange and unidentifiable things.
- During the harvest the main roads are covered in piles of various crops, cars and bikes drive right over them while farmers duck out of the way.
- People throwing their trash into the aisle in the bus, so each turn is marked by the noise of rolling cans and bottles.
- Salons during the day, really obvious brothels at night, and sometimes all day too.
- One Chinese student blamed his failing a class on Oscar Wilde because "he's a gay. It's his fault" This is the same student who banged his knee on a desk during a class and exclaimed "Ouch, my balls!"
- Driving tips for China:
* Lane lines are merely a suggestion.
* Headlights are optional and seemingly discouraged.
* Honking at anything that moves (or can move) that comes within 200 feet of a vehicle is obligatory, especially at all other vehicles.
* If you can get your car up on a sidewalk, you can park there.
* And if you're in a hurry, drive in the bike lane.
- Stores that sell nothing but matching his & hers t-shirts.
- It's hard to feel bad about spitting seeds on the ground when it's already covered in bones and trash.
- Hard sleeper train car that has a light switch on the wall that turns on and off loud music for the whole car.
- Guides offering tours of pot fields.
- Chinese fondness for sunflower seeds... and mess.
- The Chinese word for "cat" is "mao," same as you know who.
- Riding a barely working mountain bike through fields and over rivers in the rain.
- Finding an abandoned overgrown house.
- Meeting some friendly Chinese bike riders and dragging them along on our ramblings, ending on a path that became impassible due to mud (a passing local saw us, laughed, pointed and said "un-winnable battle").
- Water buffalo don't like sharing narrow alleys with foreigners.
- Staying in a moist, dank room in the back alley of a back alley behind an alley, and thinking we were lucky to get it.
- Spent the last day of traveling stuck at a police checkpoint with a tour bus driver without a license. Even watching cute baby chickens scramble around chirping gets old after a while.
- Some of the most dangerous blind-bend single-lane passing maneuvers I've ever encountered.
- The "perma-haze" of China. I've been here for a month, I saw a blue sky maybe three times, and it only rained twice. Most days are just swathed in this grey, gooey haze, in all parts of the country. Last night on the highway we were driving into the sunset. Only I couldn't see the sun, just bands of color choking in the haze.
- Wandering dark alleys all night as a solo foreigner lands you meeting lots of pimps and prostitutes, coincidentally.
- Extremely long nails on the dorkiest looking Chinese guy I saw.
- The enormous deer tunnel
- Any mildly good-looking foreigners living here get very cocky very quickly.
- The way the Chinese act at the baggage claim you would think it was a free-for-all luggage give-away, hence the trampling and flying elbows. It was also funny to watch people's reactions when they discovered their luggage cart had been "borrowed."
- Sculptures of giant station-wagon-sized dragonflies, mating.
- Bars here are really service-oriented. Many of them even offer massage services.
- Babies and toddlers pee in the street, just like dogs do.
- Exploring an abandoned building, only to discover it's not abandoned. The inhabitants are friendly, and when I leave I find that one of them tried to steal my scooter.
- Apparently someone in China thinks the smell of bad perfume should be a flavor of drink too.
- In a month here I had waaaaay more cold showers than warm.
- My last night here we tried to go to a nice Japanese restaurant for all-you-can-eat. We had to walk out after the place tried to scam us into all having to pay the all-you-can-eat price when only half of us wanted it. Luckily we hadn't gotten our food yet.
- Even on the flight back, the man behind me thought it was perfectly fine to reach over the back of my seat, hook his elbow over the top, and pull himself up with it, bending the seat back and releasing it suddenly each time. Even after I asked him not to the first time, he repeated it another half a dozen.
- As a friend I met here put it, "I'd like to come back when China's finished [developing]."

- Words I've learned in Chinese:
Hello = Nee how
Thank you = Shay shay
You're welcome = Boo shay
Good = Hon how
Bad = Boo how
Don't have = Mayo
I don't understand = Tien boo dong
Yes = Dway
No = Boo dway
How much does it cost? = Dwor shauw chien?
Money = Chien
Dollar = Qwi
Cents = Jaou
I don't want = Boo yow
Excuse me = Dway boo shee
A little bit = Ee dien dien
Rice = Mifan
Check = Midan
Goodbye = Si jien
Okay = Houda
One = Eega
Two = Lianga
Three = Sun
This one = Jigga
That one = Nigga
Water = Schway
Cold = Bing
Hot = La
America = Megwa
Older brother = Gu gu
Younger sister = Mae mae
(a nice little cheat-sheet for anyone headed over here)



Here's all the new music that I discovered in China that didn't suck. Note that none of it is Chinese.

(upbeat African band by way of France)
•• Tinariwen - Matadjem Yinmexan

(one of the only acceptable uses of a bongo I can recall)
•• Amadou Et Mariam - Je Pense A Toi

(like fellow Brit, The Streets, but with more production)
•• Just Jack - Writer's Block

(um, upbeat hip-hop-ish stuff)
• Mattafix - Big City Life

A band's place in myspace.