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Daro’s Wisdom: Not for the Weak-Minded

September 23rd, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

My grandmother’s real name is Helen, but everyone in my family calls her Daro. It’s one of the first words I ever said, apparently — I just pointed at her and yelled it out and it stuck, simple as that.

Daro is 95 years old. She lied about her age her whole life until she turned 90, and then she started telling EVERYBODY. She’s a relentless self-promoter, a tireless artist, creator, and outsider poet. And man, she’s full of wisdom that she does not mind sharing at all.

Here’s some classic wisdom she shared with me when I visited her over Labor Day weekend:

We were sitting at the dinner table eating a home-cooked meal. Sort of. She proudly announced to me “I never use the oven anymore, Jeffrey. I just do everything up here in the microwave now, and it’s great!” We had some microwaved vegetable soup with a salad of romaine leaves covered with canned pears, and canned peaches. “Try some of the dressing I invented just tonight, Jeffrey,” she told me, all excited. “I came up with it myself. It’s mayonnaise with pineapple juice mixed in!”
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Williamsburg Bridge

September 20th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

I live a couple blocks away from the Brooklyn base of the Williamsburg Bridge. Walking over it never gets old. Whenever I have friends visiting from out of town, I always take them on a walk over into the Lower East Side. It’s completely free and the views are so classic, so stimulating. I love how the graffiti on the bridge grows like barnacles, flourishing, dying and getting painted right over. The light’s always perfect from one angle or another, and I always see something that just blows my mind into a million crinkly pieces.

Danielle and Ezra are two of my favorite friends, and when they were here this weekend the bridge delivered. I got this shot on my iPhone — something about the blurriness of the low-budget image sensor really adds to the beauty for me.

Williamsburg Bridge 9/19/09

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David Lynch Must Be Honored in Philadelphia with a Giant Monument to the Guy From Eraserhead. For Real.

July 29th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon



eraserhead with death piggy

Originally uploaded by wesh

This essay is by my friend, muse, and hero(ine), the irrepressible ******. She pitched it to any number of papers in Philadelphia and failed — as you’ll see in just a moment, it probably wasn’t her fault.

Philadelphia has a problem with its statuary: we build lavish monuments to to the wrong people while letting the right ones go unmarked.

We have statues of people who polarized us (Frank Rizzo), who could have cared less about us (Charles Dickens) or who never existed (Rocky Balboa). Meanwhile, we overlook people who logged real time here and did great things.

This problem has a solution: put a big-ass statue of the title character from the movie Eraserhead, directed by former Philadelphia resident David Lynch, at the corner of 13th and Wood.
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Funky Bald Lady Brings It On the L Train In Front of Bouncy Rides

July 20th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

The five minutes I spent seeing the band below play on the L train platform at Union Square were way better than the hour and a half I spent in the theater watching “Bruno” immediately afterwards.

But this isn’t a film review here – this is exactly why I live in New York. I just spent a little time in Missoula, and while there were plenty of dirty dreadlocks and bongos out in the street out there, there wasn’t NOTHIN’ like this. This was like The Flaming Lips meets Soul Jazz with just a touch of the bear-and-a-BJ clip from the Shining.

I accidentally covered the mike on my phone with my thumb there for about 30 seconds or so. The sound’ll come back, don’t worry:


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Live Strong, Pink Cockroach

June 8th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

The unstoppable force of nature that is ****** gave me this painting as a get-well gift recently.

She said, roughly, “This is a cockroach with only one testicle — I made it for you because roaches are really tough. They’ve been around forever and they can live through anything, and you’re gonna do the same thing.”

It’s rare for me to be speechless, but I really don’t have words to describe how great I feel every time I look at it …

Live Strong, Pink Cockroach

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One Soldier Down: Breaking up the Team

May 14th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

I’ve noticed that every time something awful happens, something really surreal happens, too. I saw a guy get a bumper upside the teeth at a demolition derby once, spinning his head around suddenly and breaking his neck. They had to bring a helicopter over the mountain from Charlottesville to take the guy away. And while everyone stood around gasping with horror, and old woman behind me said “this is an awful day. This is an awful damn sad day for the sport of the demolition derby.”

When my great-uncle died, all I could really notice at the funeral was that everyone’s face looked like a cartoon mask — like they were doing it on purpose.

The driver of the shuttle bus that took me across town from my urological oncologist’s to the pre-surgery appointment was CRANKING the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” at maximum volume. Doctors and patients were yelling into their cell phones, fingers jammed in their ears and the driver, he didn’t even give a damn.

Tomorrow I will have had a pair of testicles for 32 years and 50 weeks. Tomorrow, a doctor will be breaking up the team. One day when I am in my late ’60s, I’ll realize that I’ve only had one testicle for longer than I ever had two. Hopefully I’ll be able to celebrate with a few jokes, an embrace from someone that loves me and a couple stiff drinks.

At this point, I’m okay with it. Or as okay as someone gets. I’ve been feeling fatigued and sluggish for the past several weeks, my crotch aching like I caught a bad one on the crossbar of a bicycle a few hours ago. All I really feel like doing is sleeping, eating, and taking Advil. I’m reducing into a shade. And even though the thought that my energy is waning and my spirit is dying is terrifying, at other times it feels so relaxing.

Once I catch myself thinking that way I feel like I’m harboring a malignant parasite that’s taking over its host. It’s all I can do not to snag my roommate’s scissors and take care of it myself in the tub, frontier-style.
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Yes We Did

November 9th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

It’s been a couple days now, and it keeps happening — and at the oddest times, too. Sometimes I can control it and sometimes I just let it happen, let the people on the subway stare. My breath hitches kinda funny, hiccups, and my throat and voicebox shake like a bus on a bumpy road. My eyes tear up every time and I’ve just sort of stopped wiping it away.

I can’t tell if I’m happy or sad when it happens, mostly I’m just swallowed up by the enormity of the feeling. It’s like being a particle of plankton and getting swallowed up by a gigantic, benevolent whale.

America elected Barack Obama to be the President of the United States on Tuesday night, and the emotional aftershocks just keep coming.

So along with the spontaneous, random sobs of joy and relief, I’m having this recurring hallucination. Or maybe it’s a daydream. But whatever.

Every time I see, hear, or imagine somebody doing something incredibly well, that person has Barack Obama’s head.

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Love at First Byte

October 4th, 2008 by D.Billy


Jeff sent me a link to an awesome, fun, faux-vintage sci-fi short film a while back, and I mean to share it with y’all, but it slipped my mind… until I was flipping through a sketchbook and found this hastily scrawled list of cultural references that I saw while watching it for the first time:

She-Ra, Princess of Power. Lord of the Rings. American Apparel advertisements. The Neverending Story. Mario Bros. Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. “The Clapper”. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Space Invaders. Silverhawks. Batman. Thundercats. Tron.

These things, in no particular order, sprung to mind immediately for me. Some of them are obviously intentional, others perhaps unintentional but likely to be seen by anyone who grew up when I did and watched the same stuff. Still others were triggered by a small detail or action in the video that other folks might not notice or associate in the same way. Anyway, here it is!

ELA in Love At First Byte by PepperMelon:


ELA in Love at First Byte from Fernando Sarmiento on Vimeo.

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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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“A Modern Promise” From Francis and the Lights

August 18th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Francis Farewell Starlite

Musically, our culture has achieved singularity. Every song ever recorded is dripping off the tip of the Internet’s long tail and into the ears of anyone with headphones and an iTunes account. Bands like the Black Lips and Interpol do solid service to sounds past, and Girl Talk mashes old songs together to make something new. While New York’s Francis and the Lights has one foot rooted solidly in Prince’s synth-heavy ’80s output, the other foot is rhythmically shimmying its way straight into the future.

I’ve mentioned them here before, several times, with good reason. They’re one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, in New York or anywhere else.

This video for “The Top,” from the new mini-album “A Modern Promise” just made me scream. It’s shot on 35mm, pops in a giant new Quicktime window. Compared to Youtube videos, this is Batman in IMAX, except funky. Click the dancing Francis after the jump to see for yourself:
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