EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT VH-1′s NEW REALITY SHOW, ‘I LOVE MONEY’

In the first episode, the host gathers the entire (drunk. shirtless.) cast together and says, “Just to show you how real this all is, I’m prepared to write out a check to each of you for $250,000 right now.” He then produces a large novelty-sized check made out to “Mr. Boston.” And, as is traditionally required by all financial institutions as a security measure to certify all checks drafted for amounts exceeding $20,000, VH-1′s bank wisely included a photographic likeness of the recipient directly on the check:

THE INTERNET IS SUCH A DRAMA QUEEN

I was just reading a story linked by the esteemed website, Gothamist.com, about the new IKEA in Brooklyn. IKEA has been offering a free shuttle bus between the store (which is located in the somewhat hard-to-reach neighborhood of Red Hook) and a few more convenient Brooklyn subway stops. Apparently, after just a few days of service the shuttle is already being taken advantage of by many of the city’s commuters who have been using this free, comparatively posh transportation to bypass a $2 public bus ride. That is pretty awesome.

Even more awesome is the fact that, according to Gothamist, many of those freeloaders are homeless folks looking to catch a free ride to the methadone clinic. This begs the question: If you are so good at finding a hustle, why are you so bad at having a home and/or teeth? I’m sure the homeless consider this bitter irony each time they hop aboard the IKEA express and heroin-nap all the way to their clinic. (There was one comment on the post that really made me laugh, where a person compared the class disparity on these IKEA shuttles to a Weegee photograph of two aristocratic women being ogled by a crazy-eyed homeless lady. Because, you know, IKEA has always been considered the premier self-assembly furniture destination for the discriminatingly wealthy.)

I’ve often thought there are a lot of public services not being addressed in this city. For example, after visiting the Hamptons and seeing the relatively carefree attitude most of the summer residents have with regards to their home security and personal safety, one could make a fortune offering a low-priced shuttle bus for thieves without cars. Each Friday morning, the B&E Jitney would transport individuals from high-crime neighborhoods directly to Amagansett, where it would leave them to frolic among the many unlocked summer rental homes and convertible cars parked curbside. Tickets would be one-way, based on the assumption that most of the passengers would be able to procure return transportation from one of the many beach parking lots or unattended driveways and garages.

I realize that is only one example, but that’s because I really only had one example. Sorry about that.

COME ON, GUYS – VOLUME 314

Although I’m on a somewhat restrictive diet these days (no more dulce de leche I.V. drip), my paper-thin willpower is no match for the new Häagen-Dazs flavor, “fleur de sel caramel.” There’s been a lot of fleur de sel hoopla these days, and I approve of all of it. Sweet and salty is a no-brainer, as far as I’m concerned. My friend, Allison, first disgusted me and then converted me when I saw her dump a package of M&Ms into a bucket of movie popcorn. When she did that I covered my head, afraid of angering my god. I became one of the Skull Island natives in King Kong when they first experienced the beautiful madness of White Man’s new-fangled transistor radio. Since eating that first buttered “M”, though, I was all in.

The Fleur De Sel Caramel ice cream does not disappoint, either. What does disappoint, however, is the Häagen-Dazs website promoting their new line of “reserve” flavors, designed for the more discriminating ice cream eaters shopping at their neighborhood Value-Mart. Besides describing the various flavors–Amazon Valley Chocolate, Hawaiian Lehua Honey & Sweet Cream–as if they’d been discovered on an archeological dig, the site embarrassingly lists “food and wine pairings” for each flavor. Here’s an example, from Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle:

“Serve a scoop atop a banana leaf for the perfect ending to a Thai dinner.”

And for wine? You probably guessed it already, but:

“A sweet German dessert wine such as Trocken Beren Auslese.”

Come on, guys. That’s just showing off, isn’t it? How many people are filling their shopping carts with pre-packed pints of mass-produced ice cream (manufactured by the Dreyers corporation, by the way–a company whose slogan is “Give ‘em the good stuff!”), and then wheeling over to the supermarket’s stockboy to find out where they keep their sweet dessert wines and banana leaves. It’s such a stretch, particularly when the HD suggests one pair their Pomegranate & Dark Chocolate ice cream bar with a “fresh mint garnish.” I guess I could just take a bite out of this ice cream bar on a stick, hold the bite of ice cream in my mouth as I delicately place a fresh mint leaf on the exposed pomegranate ice cream, and then spit my mouthful back on to the bar, making it whole again, but that strikes me as inconvenient. Also inconvenient: asking a 7-11 clerk if he has any fresh mint behind the register, next to the trucker speed, Skoal Bandits, and naked lady cigarette lighters.

As you read through the flavor descriptions, the food pairings get more and more ludicrous, mentioning gorgonzola cheese, or a raspberry balsamic vinaigrette reduction. It even suggests eating Fleur De Sel Caramel ice cream out of the just-spent oyster shell. COME ON, GUYS.

I think I know what happened here. The company’s advertising agency received the creative brief for these new reserve flavors which HD would like to position as being slightly more exclusive than their core brand flavors. There was probably some kind of mention in the brief that the brand’s “aspirational” qualities have been diluted by “clutter” in the category of artisanal-style ice cream, and by the fact that HG has become so ubiquitous that people no longer associate it with driving a Delorean or wearing polo boots and eating mustard with real, fancy mustard grains in it.

Enter: Häagen-Dazs Reserve. The suggested pairings are bullshit. We know it, and HD knows it. No one honestly expects people to eat store-bought ice cream out of a cashed Bluepoint oyster shell. It’s just meant to create a tantalizing fog of rich person fantasy that tastefully obscures the fact that this is a 2000-calorie tub of ice cream loaded with industrial salt and factory-cut caramel fudge nuggets, and that the average consumer (me) is probably going to pair it with some frostbitten chicken taquitos from Trader Joe’s, a Diet Coke, a DVR’d episode of Top Chef, and three tablespoons of existential misery. Either way, that’s good eatin’.

BLACK POSTCARDS

[Warning: This story may contain trace elements of brags.]

Reading Black Postcards, the rock and roll memoir written by former Galaxie 500 and Luna frontman, Dean Wareham. I’m only about halfway through the book, but so far it’s been personally interesting to read about his musical coming-of-age. Galaxie 500 released its first album, Today, right around the time I started seriously listening to music, and I was a big fan of theirs and many of the other bands typically mentioned in the same sentence. So it’s fun when Dean name-checks many of the prevailing figures of “college rock” during the late 80s and early 90s, including Gerard Cosloy (founder of Homestead Records, co-owner of Matador Records–at my first NYC rock show, I saw his band, Envelope, play on a bill with Lois Maffeo and Red Red Meat at CBGB’s), Kramer (founder of Shimmy-Disc records and member of the bands Bongwater and B.A.L.L., among others), The Happy Flowers, Beat Happening, The Sundays, and that other band from Boston, The Pixies.

And while it’s been nice to have my memory jogged and my nostalgia stroked a bit, the most striking thing about the memoir so far has been what a completely selfish, and remorseless creep Dean Wareham seems to be. He often speaks of having his feelings hurt–by a pretty girl he incorrectly presumed was interested in him, or by an unkind review–while mercilessly and needlessly excoriating anyone whose music he didn’t love, or anyone who held an opinion contrary to his self-interest. At times his naif-like prose style makes it difficult to tell if his victim act is meant to be self-mocking, or if his disinterest in other people’s feelings is a device meant to embody, rather than reflect on, his callous youth, but the more I read the more I think that would be giving him too much credit as a writer. Whenever I read a negative impression of a public figure I admire a ton–this person is difficult to work with, is kind of an asshole in person, fucks children, etc.–I try to look at it holistically and tell myself that these stories sometimes get circulated by people who have felt slighted in some way, or have an axe to grind. However, it makes it very hard to be open-minded when the negative impression is actually written by the public figure himself.

Dean Wareham was especially hard on his former bandmates from Galaxie 500, Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang. He paints them as spoiled Manhattan elitists, while he’s just a simple kid from New Zealand who moved the rough-and-tumble Upper East Side (64th and Lexington–that’s practically Harlem!) and attended Dalton boarding school and Harvard University, two of our nation’s most humble educational institutions. Wareham has perfect recall of every time Damon and Naomi paid for their own hotel room with their own money–information that would be trivial if its constant mention weren’t so loaded with judgment–but views his decision to record a song alone for a Shimmy-Disc compilation barely worth mentioning, to the reader or to his bandmates. As I read more, I started thinking, “I wish I could apologize to Damon and Naomi.”

And you know how sometimes, when you think about someone you haven’t thought about for a long time, they just kind of magically appear like you were borrowing David Blain’s mind? Because, out of the blue, I received the following text message yesterday afternoon:

Want to meet Damon & Naomi? We’re heading to the Brooklyn flea mrkt in a bit.

It was from an unrecognized number, which gave the text an extra touch of spookiness, if text messages can actually be spooky. (No offense, the movie One Missed Call.) Eventually I figured out it was from my friend and old roommate, Ben, whom I haven’t spoken with in so long his number is no longer in my phone’s address book. Really, nothing about this text made sense. Ben couldn’t have known I was reading Black Postcards unless he, like me, was borrowing David Blaine’s mind. I was in Manhattan, so I couldn’t meet up, but I called him to point out this amazing(ly boring to everyone but me) coincidence. Ben works in the music industry and had also read the book so he was curious about my opinion of it. When I told him, he laughed, and made me repeat it on speaker phone so Damon and Naomi could hear me call their former bandmate an “unrepentant prick.” It was the next best thing to apologizing.*

*Ben was also amazed by how totally lacking in self-awareness Wareham seems to be in this memoir, but added that in Wareham’s assessment of Damon and Naomi he detected a bit of anti-Semitism. I don’t necessarily agree with this interpretation but I have to give Ben credit for refusing to settle on believing Dean Wareham is simply a jerk. He ended the conversation by saying, “wait until you get to the part where he’s cheating on his wife,” as if to say, “If you like being mad at the way he mistreats his band, you’ll LOVE the way he mistreats his spouse!”

WHAT HAS TWO THUMBS, A SWEATY FACE, AND IS GOING TO FULFILL HIS MUSICAL DESTINY ON JULY 4TH

This guy:

Forget everything I said about never attending a rock show again, even though I said all of that stuff exactly one day ago. Thanks to a very kind favor from my pal, Bob, I will be attending The Feelies reunion show in New York City on July 4th. They will be there supporting Sonic Youth, a band I am told are “no Hooters, but pretty OK regardless.”

It is not often your fourth favorite band reunites for a handful of shows that happen to take place in your city of residence, so I am (understandably, if disproportionately) excited. So excited, in fact, I nearly sabotaged a valuable first encounter with my potential wedding cake baker this morning. At 11:59 a.m., without so much as a “pardon me one moment while I behave like a crushed-out girl,” I compulsively whipped out my laptop in the middle of the meeting. This is because my brain—and an email, and an ical alert on both my computer and my iPod—reminded me that Feelies tickets would be available at noon. It was as if my tiny rabbit brain just started screaming “GETFEELIESTICKETSNOWORYOUWILLNEVERBEHAPPYAGAIN” and I forgot where I was for a moment.

Just like that, I was in my own ADD-constructed Fortress of Solitude, oblivious to the fact that I was sitting across the table from a very nice person who had been feeding me delicious cupcakes for the last hour, and seated next to a very mortified fiancee who might have been thinking, “How would I feel if I had a child who grew up to be exactly like Todd?” I was a dog with a bone. Had to have tickets. HAD TO HAVE THEM.

Thankfully, while I was frantically mashing the refresh button on my browser and failing to get reservations, Bob was at his computer, calmly succeeding. So I’ve got that going for me.

Allow me to catch my breath for a moment and explain. (Pretend I’m catching my breath now, instead of just continuing to type. Isn’t that a great literary device, though? “I shall be right back. Oh look, I’m back again! Thanks for joining me on this delightful journey of make-believe time lapse.”) I shuffled through my teens in unlaced Pony high-tops during the sad, pathetic and dark days before the Internet. This primitive existence placed some notable limitations on life, particularly the life of an adolescent. For instance, if one wanted to see pornography, there were only four options, and all of them were dodgy. You could: 1) Hope your father was enough of a pervert to keep a small, well-curated stash of adult magazines in the bottom drawer of his dresser, beneath a pile of cardigans and turtleneck dickies (thanks, dad); 2) Find a wet, rain-damaged issue of Oui underneath the bleachers at the little league field; 3) Visit your local convenient store and try to surreptitiously flip through the Vanessa Williams issue of Penthouse before the store manager hit you with his belt; or 3) Make your own. (thanks again, dad.)

Less significant, but certainly no less frustrating–without the benefits of the Internet, unless you grew up in a “cool” city (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Schenectady, Vespin) it was difficult to scratch that “outsider” itch you sometimes felt if you were the kind of teenager who didn’t care deeply about the outcome of the homecoming football game, argyle sweaters, or classic rock radio. As such, any exposure to interesting music was strictly a word-of-mouth experience, or something passed down from cooler siblings. I have an older sibling, but in the mid-’80s my sister listened to Rick Springfield and had a Quiet Riot poster hanging above her canopy bed so she was not much help. (She was also fond of pointing out that owning an album by the band Yaz made me a “faggot.” We get along much better these days, thank you.)

Fortunately, one of my high school friends had older brothers and his older brothers had friends with cars and those cars could be used to drive to proper record stores, where real music was made available for purchase. (The rest of us who were too young to drive had no choice but to shop at the mall, where we could glumly flip through glam-metal releases at the generically yet still short-sightedly named music chain store, Tape World.) Through the pioneering spirit of these wise old men, a couple of very important cassettes made their way into my hands. The first was The Velvet Underground & Nico, and the second was the Feelies’ Crazy Rhythms.

The Velvet Underground was my first experience hearing music that other people probably dismissed as loud, avant-garde weirdness, but somehow sounded exactly like rock and roll to me. It was different than hardcore punk, in that hardcore appealed to me only because it was different and not because it was good–which it usually wasn’t–while the Velvet Underground appealed to me aesthetically as well. It was like the extended guitar feedback on “Heroin” was telling me, “You’re right. You are better than those other cretins.” In hindsight, a pretentious thing to suggest to the listener but at the time, pretty necessary. Kind of like how reading The Fountainhead as a teenager in a slightly repressed, risk-aversive environment can be a great way to build your creative confidence. (Reading Ayn Rand as an adult, however, is really only beneficial if you’re interested in becoming a heartless capitalist monster, or the subject of one of those workplace reality shows that requires you to yell at aspiring Pilates instructors all day long, on camera. You’ve been warned.)

The Velvet Underground separated me from my peers while reassuring me I was not only being set apart, but above. Its influence was probably more formative than personal. But Crazy Rhythms, aside from being a masterpiece of skilled musicianship, was a precise sonic reproduction of my day-to-day brain activity. It was hyperactive and mumbled, with fast guitars and drums desperately buzzing, circling and reaching for something they seemed to lack the confidence to express. It was a busy interior monologue set to music.

Here’s an example of what I mean, from the song “Forces At Work.” Here are the song’s lyrics in their entirety, sung-spoken after a blister-poppingly long musical build-up played at the speed of hummingbirds:

The tinge of the mind
The mind is in check
The check is the force
The forces at work

I love all four albums by the Feelies, enough to invest in even their more obscure side projects, like Wake Ooloo, Speed The Plough, and Yung Wu, but my connection to Crazy Rhythms remains the most durable. I can even trace the lineage of its discovery, all the way back from my General Electric portable stereo. (It was passed from Andrew S. and Alan R., to Colin–the eldest of the Mathews brothers–then down to Devin, to Simon, and finally to me. Many years later, Simon, Devin and I would reunite our own connection to the band when Devin found himself in the enviable position of booking bands for his college and invited the Feelies to perform on (what we didn’t know then was) their final tour. The band’s appeal was limited at the State University of New York in Binghampton, so I like to tell myself the concert was a gift to us. (And not the abuse of power it probably was.)

Around the time of the concert, I was experiencing a serious heartbreak–the kind that makes you turn Goth. The girl was also a great fan of the band, and she was supposed to join me at the concert. We talked about it for months leading up to the show’s date, as if it was our plan to run away together. Then things slowly broke bad between us. So bad, that at
the last minute I rescinded the invitation. I did this mostly because she had become an ugly stranger to me, but also because I wanted to hurt her for the many nights I spent lying in my loft bed listening to Metallica’s “black” album very, very loud so everyone in the dorm–her most of all–would know my profound pain. Keeping her from attending the concert was the only power I had left in our relationship and, like a boy, I used it without mercy. If we had been ten years younger I would have pushed her face in the mud, but this seemed like the second best thing.

Simon, his friend Jeremy, and I drove together several hours to attend the concert and, together with Devin, danced spasmodically from the first note to the last, sharing sweat with the 100 or so other people in attendance. It was the most fun I’ve ever had at a show, and the only time I can say I’ve danced for an hour and a half without stopping to feel self-conscious.

I even exploited my position as (assistant) music director of my college radio station to meet members of The Feelies before the show, “for an interview and station ID.” Their drummer, Stanley, was the only member who had time to chat and, while I was obviously a rabid fan and counted Stan Demeski as the first famous person I had ever met who wasn’t a local newscaster, I nonetheless approached the interview with cool detachment, bordering on indifference. Because how could he respect me if I let him know how much I respected him? Right? As a result, much of the interview consisted of me saying, “so…you guys are some sort of rock’n’roll outfit? Is that right?” and Stanley rolling his eyes and checking his watch, itching to return to his sound check. I just hope he saw me dancing that night.

DESPERATELY SHOVING BILLS INTO MY COMPUTER’S DVD-ROM DRIVE

Busy waiting for Apple to tell me what to buy next.

SUMMERTIME IS HERE

LET’S HEAT IT UP, Y’ALL!!!

EXCITED

[Update: my guest editor had to push back a day because of some scheduling conflicts. I received the following txt message an hour ago: "doin a dbl 2day baller. bizness. 2morrow mos def. out." So, tomorrow?]

I am about to do something at tremble that I’ve never considering doing before: I’m going to be handing the site over to its first guest writer.

Guest writers are something I’ve often enjoyed on other single-author websites like kottke.org, but I’ve always been reluctant about trying it myself. I get a little protective about this site’s voice because I’ve spent so many years meticulously shaping it, and then abandoning it for many months, and I worry about diluting or perverting the Trembleâ„¢ brand. What if my guest writer emphasizes his jokes with three exclamation points, instead of the signature seven I typically employ? Or what if the writer gets all bitchy about the wrong movies, or gets all excited about the wrong kinds of candies? Knowing that certain editorial decisions will be out of my hands is a little stressful to me, but after being contacted by this individual who casually suggested dropping in for a brief guest writing spot on tremble, I was honestly too floored to react with anything but an emphatic “YES!” This person has had an incredible year, and I’m simply honored he was able to find time for me.

OK, I will try to resist saying much else about it because I don’t want to generate an impossible-to-fill reservoir of hype. Suffice it to say, beginning tomorrow this site will (at least temporarily) possess an unusually generous amount of gravitas.

ART HISTORY KNOWLEDGE GAP

As of today GAP is offering a new line of artist-designed t-shirts, in honor of this year’s Whitney Biennial show. The hook is, all of the famous artists who designed these t-shirts were at one time Biennial artists themselves. Hear that, 2008 Biennial artists? Some day, if you really make it, you might get to design a t-shirt for GAP. (Also, I have just about had it with The Gap wanting us to call it GAP. Why so special, The Gap?)

Because I strictly adhere to all of the expectations placed on my demographic, I first learned of this The Gap (icy burn!) promotion via the back cover of this week’s New Yorker Magazine. (The New Yorker? What is it with everyone?) The issue’s back cover was devoted to a full-page ad featuring Chuck Close, the Professor Xavier of New York’s art world, wearing a self-designed The Gap t-shirt. I am a big fan of both Chuck Close and cotton, so I decided right away I was gonna buy that joint. And while I was at it, I bought the Barbara Kruger design, too, because she GETS IT. I did not purchase the Kenny Scharf-designed t-shirt but I do appreciate that he’s using this The Gap partnership to help raise awareness for growing epidemic of cowboys with AIDS:

It’s rare that The Gap does anything I’d consider interesting or cool–they are the only store I can think of that would sell Relaxed Fit Skinny Jeans–but I was genuinely impressed with this particular partnership. They’re promoting the arts, and promoting good design. (Not you, Scharf.) It would just be a little cooler if they actually knew a bit more about art or the artists, as evidenced in their description of this pretty famous Chuck Close painting:

Here’s how they describe the painting:

Hey, guess what, The Gap? That is actually a portrait of Philip Glass, someone Close has painted more than twenty times in the last forty years. That is probably why all of those paintings are titled, “Phil,” instead of “self-portrait” or “Chuck” or “Me” or “What Has Two Thumbs And Loves Large-Scale Polaroids, Grids, And Philip Glass? THIS GUY.” Oh, The Gap, I hope you have insurance because I just burned your website to the ground.*

*Says the person who is so pretentious he sees no problem busting The Gap’s online copywriter on the depth of his knowledge of modern art history.

EXCUSE ME, GUV’NER, I FANCY A CINNABON

Last night a friend asked me if I was familiar with “Steampunk.” I was, but not terribly. My understanding of steampunk was that it was kind of like Goth for video game enthusiasts. And, not unlike some of the more Edwardian (i.e. queer) aspects of Goth, I regarded steampunk with semi-detached curiosity. I’ve picked up a few details here and there–just enough to come to the conclusion, “Oh, neat. I want nothing to do with that!” It’s sort of like when I walk past a furniture store that, from the street, appears to possess all the sleek and modern design touches I like. Then I step inside the door and realize, nestled among all the angular couches and geometric-patterned throw rugs, oh look–there’s one of those chairs shaped like a lady’s shoe. “I get where this is going,” and I immediately turn around and exit the store pretty much knowing, where there’s smoke there’s fire, and by “smoke” I mean that shoe chair, and by “fire” I mean one of these. (And probably one of these, too.)

Then, just this morning I see this article in the New York Times about the rise of Steampunk. (And it must be on the rise because, according to their picture slideshow, they found no fewer than seven people in New York City who are into Steampunk, and a couple of heavyset girls who are into wearing old-fashioned welding goggles with their Ren Faire costumes.) Because the New York Times provides a smart guy context that helps legitimize wasting time reading about micro-trends, I got to learn a whole bunch more about steampunk today. I’ll give this to you, steampunk guys–the asthetic is pretty neat. Bravo on all the sepia tones and tailored pants and stuff. But this strikes me as an annoyingly high-maintenance commitment, with more punishment than reward built into it. Forget the amount of time you’ll invest cloaking your 40″ plasma screen television set inside a frame of dusty burlap or rich, polished marble–once you’re done, what are you even going to watch on TV? How many times do you have to cycle through your very limited collection of steampunk-approved DVDs–basically, Van Helsing, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Young Sherlock Holmes, and Howl’s Moving Castle–before you realize you might have jumped on the wrong band-dirigible? And think of all the important life events you’re likely to miss because you were too busy polishing your wooden ray gun, or adhering brass and nickel fixtures to your ipod nano?

It’s such an inconvenient subculture, and very cost-prohibitive with in our current economy. With oil at over $100 a barrel, who has the kind of disposable income required to operate their gas-powered wristwatch and old fashioned peanut brittle oven? And if you ever get tired of the steampunk lifestyle–AND HOW COULD YOU???–good luck trying to sell your clockwork top hat on consignment. At least Goth kids who get tired of the scene can always dust off their old clothes for a Dracula Party, Edward Gorey retrospective or cocktails at Tim Burton’s house. Ex-steampunkers are stuck with their old junk, except in one of the following very rare situations:

  • The Museum of Zeppelins and Old-Fashioned Motorcyle Sidecars is looking for a tour guide
  • An ambitious young director decides to expand Tom Petty’s music video for “You Got Lucky” into a feature-length film, and desperately needs extras with their own wardrobe
  • Kanye West reads that NY Times article and decides to piggyback on the trend six years from now, then pretend he invented it
  • Jack the ripper finally perfects his time machine!

I guess steampunks should live it up for now, while they still can. At least there’s the new Hellboy movie to look forward to, right? Too bad you can’t buy tickets on Moviefone using your refurbished Strowger wooden wall phone.

” ‘Allo…two admissions for ‘League of Extraodinary Gentlemen Part 2: Extraorindarier Gentlemen’, if you please. And please do tell, does your moving picture house provide a sheltered space where I one might park one’s bathysphere?”

Homepage photo: Lindsey Byrnes
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