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The Big McCain: Mark It Zero

October 13th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

A disgruntled Vietnam Vet with a foul mouth and a serious anger management problem is not the kind of guy I’d like to have running the country. Hell, I wouldn’t even want him on my bowling team.

from The Big McCain: Mark it Zero

John McCain and Walter Sobchak — John Goodman’s character in ‘The Big Lebowski’ — seem like they have a lot in common, once you think about it. David pointed this out to me the other day, and we got pretty obsessed. So we partnered up with Chad Williams of PBC Productions to mash together one of John Goodman’s titanic tantrums in “The Big Lebowski” with some images of John McCain’s face … hope it’s as fun for you as it is for us.

You can see a hi-res version here, or just check it out on Youtube below:

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Bluetooth Devices Have Made Us All Lunatics

October 9th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

The man talking to himself at the table in Starbucks had a huge spray of gray ratty hair, a pile of crumpled papers and books and, one leg of his sweatpants rolled up in a comical imitation of ’90s gangster style. He wore a large, shabby cable-knit sweater. His long, matted grey hair that sort of formed a beaver tail dreadlock like a wall on one side, the rest spraying all over the place.

Although his face was relaxed, the patterning of his leathery wrinkles indicated that he’d seen something horrible and radioactive. Like someone who’d seen the ark of the covenant opened on the surface of the sun. He muttered loudly, saying “Well, if the light barrier can be crossed, there’s no telling what could happen — we could completely collapse the wall between the present and the future.”

He smelled okay, though, near as I could tell.

It was about 9 am so the shop was packed, full of effervescent teens and gawping tourists and jittery suits like me. We all stood in a pattern like an oxbow stream, bending wide around the muttering man. nobody looked at him for real except me, maybe. New Yorkers get this thing where the surface of their skin works like a low-functioning eye, enabling them to detect and carefully turn their backs on potential unpleasantness without ever directly addressing it.

The line looked like this:

line-at-starbucks

Then the man shifted in his seat a little and tossed his mighty beavertail dreadlock over to one side, revealing a bluetooth earpiece blinking away in his ear. He’d been having a conversation with someone about the fabric of space-time. I got a better look at the books and papers spread over the table. They were covered with complicated diagrams and equations and very, very tiny print. Maybe advanced physics texts, from the look of it.

Suddenly he wasn’t a hallucinating lunatic anymore at all — he was a lovably eccentric physics professor, a charming mad scientist who lived close to the edge of something very few of us could ever understand.

Without really noticing, I drifted from my position at the apex of the line’s oxbow closer to the man’s table. All of a sudden, it felt fine. I’m not sure if the rest of the people in line saw the mad professor’s bluetooth device through the skin on the backs of their necks or just detected that a member of the herd got close to an undesirable without consequences. But when I looked back at the line behind me, it looked like this:

line-at-starbucks2

Bluetooth devices have turned us into a nation of hallucinating lunatics, really. I can’t tell you HOW many times I’ve thought someone was either talking to me or just having an episode, only to see something blinking behind their hair. And it stuns me a little to think how much credit we give someone for their behavior just because they’re interacting with a piece of technology. That guy went from wino to eccentric genius with one flip of his beavertail dreadlock. The collective consciousness is a beautiful, powerful and flawed thing: with that one piece of information, that one blinking device all of us in line said without speaking: “Oh, cool — now he conforms to a more desirable archetype. Let’s stop shunning him.”

We transmit ideas, stories, characters and narratives through the way we dress, the angle we hold our heads and the skin that peeks out from under our costumes. And as social creatures, we need to constantly communicate just to ensure the survival of our species. But boy do we ever screw it up sometimes.

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Latest Find From ‘Poster Boy’ : Gentrification

September 22nd, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

I saw this in the subway stop by my apartment on Friday night — Poster Boy’s latest, if I’m not mistaken:

Gentrification, found at the Lorimer L Stop

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Web 2.0 Expo: Too Much “Popular,” Not Enough “Quality,” or How To Make Good Web Content

September 21st, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

I was at the O’Reilly Media-sponsored Web 2.0 Expo here in New York last week. While I wouldn’t exactly call it fun, I learned a lot. Here’s a few observations:

*** The term “Google-juice” sounds really, really gross

*** The word “leverage” is vastly overused. It’s not a verb, people. Every time you say it, an IQ point dies.

*** People love to talk about the “Wild West” mentality on the Internet. Meaning, I think, that there are no rules or ethics online. The real Wild West was about gunfights, cattle theft, drinking whiskey in filthy saloons and dying during childbirth. Making baseless claims anonymously in your underpants is the opposite of tough. There’s a big, big difference.

*** Being articulate, intelligent and well-read and being a Top Digger are not the same thing by a damn sight. I’m not going to name names, but a certain social media expert should be aware that they speak Portuguese¬† in Brazil — not Brazilian.

*** There were a lot of people asking “how can I leverage the power of Web 2.0 community to ‘go viral’ and drive traffic to my market share, incentivizing revenue generation through targeted content promotion?”

Nobody asked “how can I make content that’s actually good?”

I’d like to focus on that a little bit.

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Now He Knows What It Feels Like When the Republicans Are In Charge: RNC Delegate Duped, Doped, Robbed and Shamed

September 16th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

This kind of beautiful karmic hammer only swings every so often:

He met her in the bar of the swank hotel and invited her to his room. Once there, the woman fixed the drinks and told him to get undressed.

And that, the delegate to the Republican National Convention told police, was the last thing he remembered.

When he awoke, the woman was gone, as was more than $120,000 in money, jewelry and other belongings.

In a statement released today, Gabriel Nathan Schwartz, 29, of Denver, put the figure at much less.

“It’s embarrassing to admit that I was a target of a crime. I was drugged and had about $50,000 of personal items stolen, not the inflated number that the media is reporting from an inaccurate police report,” he said.

“As a single man, I was flattered by the attention of a beautiful woman who introduced herself to me. I used poor judgment.”

Contacted by the Denver Post Monday, Schwartz declined to speak on the record. In the statement released today, Schwartz said he would decline further interview requests.

The haul included a $30,000 watch, a $20,000 ring, a necklace valued at $5,000, earrings priced at $4,000 and a Prada belt valued at $1,000, police said.

Schwartz is a single attorney and a fixture in Colorado Republican politics.

Something tells me that he’s going to stay a single attorney for a good long while — here he is on camera at the RNC:

I’d love to hear that anywhere between $50 – $120, 000 in cash had been donated anonymously to the Obama campaign office in the Twin Cities by a single, beautiful woman.

(This post is cribbed and repeated from Free Williamsburg and RumpRoast)

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Beautiful People, Weird Food: A Hot Dog Bender in Reykjavik

September 12th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Iceland’s got a lot going for it: fresh, clean air, perfect water, jaw-dropping scenery and gorgeous, gorgeous inhabitants. They don’t go in for comically death-defying fattening foods like we do here in the States. It’s not their style. But generally speaking, you can find better food in a pet store than you can in Iceland.

I’m exaggerating for comic effect here, of course. Having once learned the hard way that Gravy Train does not secrete anything close in flavor to real gravy when you add water, I do know the difference.

It’s just that because Iceland is so far away from everything and everyone else, and a country made of Arctic tundra, there’s no such thing as fresh local produce. Whatever is grown locally is grown in geothermal greenhouses and everything else has to be flown in from Europe. This drives up prices for pretty much everything on the island. And it makes for some seriously strange sandwiches that cost at least ten bucks. Like this one, snapped at a gas station outside of Vik:

bacon_nachoso

I emailed a few Icelandic acquaintances, just to make sure I was reading the label correctly. That last letter isn’t one we have in English, and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a cognate game-changer. They all wrote back, saying essentially the same thing: “Yep, that is a Bacon Nacho Sandwich.”
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Simmerfoss: Attractive Nuisance in Iceland

August 26th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

skogarfoss_first

There are no guardrails in Iceland. At Gullfoss, a waterfall taller than Niagara Falls and a major international tourist attraction, there is only a thin rope stretched at shin height around the edge of the rock 6 inches away from white pounding oblivion. The rock leading up to that rope — where all the best photos can be taken — has never been dry. It’s been slick with cold waterfall mist for thousands and thousands of years. That rope might a well be made out of dental floss for all the protection it’s offering.

Remarkably, nobody seems to mind. There are only 300,000 people in all of Iceland, and not many of those are lawyers. Our guide on a glacier tour said “all the guides in Iceland have a joke. We say that if you get into an accident and there’s an injured American lawyer in your group, just finish him off right there. Push him into a geyser or something and save us all the trouble of a long, drawn-out lawsuit.”

Our snowmobiling guide told us before we headed up onto the ice: “You may want to zig-zig on the ice on these things, maybe go real fast and spin around. I’m not telling you not to. What I am telling you is that only 2 meters away from this track are crevasses and ice holes that go down to the bottom of the glacier, and they’re really hard to spot. If you fall in, nobody will come after you and anthropologists will find your body in a few hundred years. If you don’t fall in, but your snowmobile does, you’re replacing the snowmobile. And if you think beer is expensive in Iceland, try replacing a snowmobile.”
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I’ve Got a Frozen Face: Snowmobiling on Langjokull Glacier

August 24th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

I look like a meth addict — my face is in terrible shape, and my liver’s not doing much better — but my soul is happier and more fulfilled than a python at a day-care center.

I got a cigarette burn on my left cheek at 4:30 this morning at a crowded bar in Reykjavik, 2 hours of sleep and a terrific case of windburn and sunburn while snowmobiling on Langjokull Glacier, followed by a horrific shave from an overpriced vending machine razor. I’ll explain more later, but leave you with this photo for now:
glacier_snowmobile1

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24 Hours to Iceland

August 20th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

In exactly 24 hours, Driller David and I will be aboard a plane flying to Reykjavik, where we’ll be taking a much-needed vacation. We’re spending a few nights in Reykjavik, taking this pub crawl that I’ve heard so much about, then the plan sorta peters out.

All we really know after that is that we’re renting a car and taking it to Jokulsarlon, where we’ll go kayaking among icebergs and seals. Here’s a photo, click to make it MUCH larger:

Jokulsarlon

I can’t wait. If any of you guys happen to live in Iceland, reach out — let’s bend an elbow.

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Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band Reunion

August 20th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Sometimes the Internet is nothing but a glowing wind tunnel filled with gas blasts from the intellectually obese. Even on the best days, the creatively flabby power this thing, gobbling information and repeating it with no regard for quality, just a quick hit of a familiar flavor in massive, constant quantities. Real insight can be a soap bubble lost in that hot, stinking howl.But not today. Today the Internet is a psychedelic sausage-grinder — feed stuff into it and turn the handle, and presto, flowers!

Let me settle down and explain.

A few weeks ago, both BoingBoing and Metafilter/MeFi Music linked to my story about the long-dead Royal Quiet Deluxe — b.k.a. “the chicken band.” This story was one that I’d prepared for The Moth, and never gotten to tell.

Twenty-four hours after posting, an old friend that I hadn’t heard from in ten years contacted me. He had what everyone thought was the only surviving copy of one of our performances on a dusty cassette — he ripped it to mp3 and sent it to me, and I posted it. A few days after that, I was contacted by one of the minds behind , a really, really fascinating podcast/radio show based in Mexico City, as near as I can tell. I don’t speak much Spanish.

I was finally able to get in touch with Tim after years of drift, and man, it was like no time at all had passed. The good news is, he’s got tons of old recordings, remixes, and other soundscapes we made way back then.

The better news is: we’re going to pursue performing in New York. If not at clubs and bars, in the subways. Chickens are easily available through botanicas here. The only catch so far is a place to keep them while we rehearse. If anyone wants to volunteer ideas or their apartment, send me the bat-signal through the Contact form above … I’ll keep you posted.

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