March of the Balloon Animals

Despite my love of hilarity and jovial nature, I don't much care for novelty. And it's hard not to peg Dengue Fever as a novelty act. Or at the very least, an artist so steeped in one particular aesthetic that they are indistinguishable from it. In their case, it was a long-winded schtick - California music nerds, hipped to the fuzzed out sounds of 1960s Cambodia by a series of much-loved 90's bootleg comps, form their own approximation, going so far as to recruit a local Cambodian singer. And for several albums they've done OK with that, drumming up some interest from record store clerks and the people who love them. I saw them once at GAMH, and they seemed like a band I would be more into if I was friends with them. Because if your friends formed a Cambodian fuzz band, that'd be pretty awesome. Doesn't mean I want to pay $18 to see someone else's friends do it.

Recently however, they've begun to transcend that simple classification and are increasingly an interesting band in their own right. They filmed a documentary called "Sleepwalking Through the Mekong" about a trip to Cambodia, recording their collaborations with local legends for a surprisingly excellent soundtrack. It's their best work by leaps and bounds, particularly the title track, which should vie with Amadou & Mariam's "Sabali" and Animal Collective's "Summertime Clothes" for song of the year. It's hard to put my finger on what's better about it, the formula is exactly the same. Maybe they've just been practicing.

Last night they did the latest in an annual series at the SF International Film Festival, performing a live soundtrack to a silent classic, in this case The Lost World. And it was great, with enough reference points from their catalog to provide signposts, and distorted, echoey chugga chugga instros to power dinosaur attacks all night. Should they change their name? Can a band called Dengue Fever just be a great band? Hope so.

Dengue Fever Presents: Sleepwalking Through the MekongDengue Fever
"March of the Balloon Animals" (mp3)
from "Dengue Fever Presents: Sleepwalking Through the Mekong"

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This Machine Kills Fascists

What the hell with the umbrellas with nine foot wingspans. Are you intentionally trying to blind me, or are you so consumed with self-importance that you are unaware that you are stabbing me in the head? My orange normal-sized umbrella is like a molotov cocktail in this sea of deadly black rain reflection. It's not even raining that hard, you assholes, and half of you are wearing dumb boots anyway.

And then there's this dick. I hope it swallows her whole like a giant nylon venus flytrap in reverse.



A few weeks ago I was pitterpattering on the computer, diligently filing my unemployment insurance, snooping on ex-girlfriends on facebook and pondering my desolate financial future. My desk (which is really the kitchen table in Danny’s apartment from whom I rent a room and kitchen/office access) faces out into the quasi-wilds of a Brooklyn backyard.

Something stirred off in the far corner of the yard, behind the decrepit hydrangea by the stone wall. I hauled myself away from the table/desk with a put-upon sigh and peered out. What was that, a pigeon? Yes, a pigeon was involved. There was a flap of a grey and white pigeon wing. But looming over the thrashing wing was something much bigger. I couldn’t see through the branches and the brush. A few inches of mottled white underbelly, a long arching brown wing, a flash of light colored underwing, more pigeon fluttering, blood. I must’ve tapped accidentally against the glass (or perhaps the “what the fuck?” wasn’t so under my breath) because it looked me dead in the eye.

A hawk was staring at me with a strip of pigeon meat dangling from its beak. I shifted slowly behind the curtains partially so as not to disturb it but, to be honest, partly because the fucker scared me. There was something accusatory in his glare and the fact that he had meat in his curved sharp beak and a pigeon was taking its final twitches in his talons made me feel like I was invading his backyard which, if you want to get all naturalist about it, I was. Judging me not a threat (hey!) he turned back to his biological duty – disassembling the pigeon piece by piece. I dialed my friend Coleman, a former ornithologist turned environmental lawyer (and beer drinking buddy). I got his voicemail and whispered a (probably inaccurate) description into his voicemail hoping he would call me back to identify the species as though that would somehow legitimize this bizarre event. Next I called my parents who retired from New York years ago to the country so they could see this kind of thing all the time. Suckers! I didn’t have to drive anywhere for a quart of milk AND I had Marty Stouffer’s Wild America LIVE without having to move at all. Again I left a whispered description into an electronic voicemailbox.

With no one to share this with I settled in to watch as, over the course of nearly forty minutes, this hawk meticulously stripped every morsel from the lesser bird. Finally he seemed satisfied with his work, like his job was less to eat the meat and more to clean the bones in some sort of pigeon disassembly plant. He turned, at last, away from me and I saw his rusty-red tail feathers jutting out from under his folded wings. Red tail hawk! Red tail hawk! My sighting now had species specificity and was therefore legit! He gave me one more threatening glare, a little Mafia warning to keep my trap shut about what I’d just seen, extended his wings and flapped off over the buildings, and the B.Q.E. towards Red Hook.

I cautiously slid open the patio door and crept out to the site. The pigeon had been quartered into the exact same parts that you get in a bucket of KFC. The ribcage had been split in two and the narrow ribs picked clean. The pink little feet lay crossed one over the other in a pile of soft down that had been ripped away to allow access. One wing lay fully extended in a beautiful arc. I had taken no pictures, no youtube videos. The only evidence of my witness to this beautiful, bloody act of nature was the pile of down and bones at my feet. I stared at the CSI scene before me. I swept what I could into a doubled plastic bag and put it in the trash can in front of the house with the empty Amy’s Organic Pizza box and Trader Joe’s burrito wrapper, not sure if today was trash day or recycling day. I returned to my kitchen desk, my computer, my pitterpattering, and my unemployment insurance.


Nothing Ever Happens

In the wake of this amusing if somewhat stilted poll, we got to thinking, what's the point of going to a bar anyway? You can drink at home for way cheaper, and one's chances at the ripe age of 36 of "getting lucky" are both slim and slightly depressing, so why bother? An ode to San Francisco's lamest bars.

Lucky 13
- Purports to be punk rock with their sub-Zeitgeist tough love routine, but everyone is ugly and the patio stinks. Exacerbated by the central location, as it's often the most convenient place for everyone to have a boring time.

Dalva - Sure, there's lots of "crazy" stuff going on out front, but inside is a straight snooze. Attention DJs - everyone has heard "Guns of Brixton" enough times to last four lifetimes.

Gold Cane - Upper Haight faux dive scores points for cheap drinks, loses points for the instant malaise that sets in when you get a seat and realize this bar blows. I once made out with someone I met here. It was boring.

Chug Pub
- Formerly the deadest Irish bar of all time, now populated with conspicuously chesty Asian girls, the men who love them, and their crazy "chug tower." Sounds like a recipe for wild times, but instead it's a recipe for a Blockbuster night.

Absinthe - Not a bar proper, just a really annoying restaurant.

Hotel Utah - Smells like pee, weirdest layout ever, terrible live music, mentally deficient bartenders (except that lady who used to bartend at the Drift, she's super cool). On the plus side, I'm not mad at their turkey burger.

The Clift - The Clift is like ah fuck it, just don't ever go.

Ha-Ra - People love this place but check it out, just because it's old doesn't make it good. Have you been to Clooney's? What's appealing about drinking with homeless people? There are better ways to feel superior to others, like winning push-up contests.

Elixir - Tough call because it's my local and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for something happening other than a "quiet night." Points for nice drinks, excellent service and better music than the shitty Ecast machine would connote. Elixir, I really want to make this work, but I need you to step it up. Call me.

Monk's Kettle - Over it. The weird homeless zombie attack kind of ruined it for me. Plus there's no way that bartender is ever going to even smirk at my hilarious quips.

Beretta - My people love this place because it's all like classy and whatnot but we went once and my friend asked for a cranberry and vodka and they cheerily responded, "OK, we don't have cranberry juice, but I can make you fresh hibiscus juice instead." That sentence is like a metaphor for a loveless marriage.

(brief aside, while I was typing this I went to the office kitchen to get a beer, which my coworker Sarah put in her pants and it emerged sans bottlecap. That's the kind of shit that never happens at any of the above bars)

Bonus Track - Some Bars Where There's Always a Story the Next Day:

Place Pigalle - Way back when (2002) you could always count on something happening at Pigalle, though the driving force for that is now gainfully employed as a personal trainer so you could skip, I guess. Actually, I walked by the other day, it's lame now. Forget I brought it up.

Gold Dust - Tourist bars are always good times, the staff here are aces and you've never seen three guys happier to be playing "Suzie Q" for the tenth time this week.

Thieves Tavern - Whatever during the week but the ladies on the early shift on Sunday keep it extra real and make me think it'd be fun to be a lesbian. Non-stop chuckles on laundry day, there's no knocking it.

500 Club - At first I was like yawn with your punk rock but this is a stand-up joint. I met bartender dude there one time via the aforementioned Pigalle pal and he still hooks it up, like a year later. There are not too many female demographics that respond less favorably to my hilarity than the tattooed ladies of the Five Hundo, but I don't care.

There's tons more but I gotta go, it's Friday.


Cupcakes are Overrated

The editorial staff here at B&P is in Tahoe this weekend sitting in hot tubs and generally losing our shirts, so we've asked our pal Mai to weigh in in our absence. Today's topic came up when in the wake of our MySpace deal getting done, attempts to lay claim to one of the eight fancy cupcakes they sent us nearly came to blows. Mai, a recent arrival on these shores, was perplexed by this American fanfare, and filed the following opinion piece. We've not edited her prose because it highlights her always unique perspective, and we hope for more reports from this intrepid young journalista.

It's been 7 months since I moved from Tokyo to San Francisco, and usually I don't feel like here is a "foreign" place somehow, but I have to point out some stuff that I don't get. It's not about scary Sushi with colorful toppings nor drinking at work on early afternoon on Fridays. One thing that I don't understand, and I've pretended like understanding is, cupcakes. People would know that food in Japan is awesome, and in fact Japan is a country of sticklers SWEETS as well, which is in our language, more like pronounced as SUIIITSU. If you go to any kinds of decent malls' food sections in Tokyo (called Depa-Chika, Department stores' basement), you see all kinds of beautiful cakes, puddings, cookies, chocolates... just awesome enough to look at them, and you feel kind of guilty eating them cause they are so well-decorated. Magazines talk about SWEETS, there are always new trends like what kind of SWEETS are in etc. It's a big thing for sure. If it's somebody's birthday, you get one of these beautiful arts and share the tasty-ness together. I have a friend of mine who went to buy a 5 star chef's big cheese cake and brought that with her bicycle by riding it for 40 minutes. She was serious.

Cup cakes never make me as excited as these. When we got tons of cup cakes recently at work from our client, people talked about it all day long longing for them. For me, it's just a sweet steamed bread with too sweet cream on the top. I wonder what's gonna happen when they experience our SUIIITS.


Welcome to Mali

Very amazing new Amadou & Mariam, who could stand to update their website once in a while. Via, erm, Pitchfork. OK? OK?

Sabali - Amadou & Mariam


In between batting my eyelashes at ladies on the Tube last week, I managed to complete the very excellent Michael Chabon book The Yiddish Policeman's Union. I was not a fan of Kavalier & Clay, and downright HATED Wonder Boys (though I made the mistake of seeing the Michael Douglas movie first, which may have clouded my judgement. You can put bifocals on a pig, doesn't make them a professor). I audiobooked The Gentlemen of the Road, which I thought was more enjoyable in premise than in execution, but maybe I need to read the book itself. That's no dis to Andre Braugher, an interesting pick to vocalize a distinctly Semitic novel, but whose talents continue to outstrip his abilities to score only supporting roles of the snooziest variety. So YPU is a snappy little murder mystery, with a What If premise that is less far-fetched than it might sound. And word is that the Coen Brothers are running with the film. Ideas for casting? My brother had better be trying out.

A-La-Ska would be a good name for a ska band.


See, all that worrying last week, and all we needed was a little bailout from the government and we're totally fine. Now I'm going to go back to blissful eBay spending and a total disregard for my future finances. And I'm pretty sure these pumpkin stocks are going to peak around January.


Why Can't You Set Your Monkey Free?


So the busy guys from Gorillaz, Tank Girl, Blur, The Good, The Bad & The Queen, Mali Music (not to be confused with this), the awesome new Amadou & Mariam and probably some other stuff, have gone and made a Chinese Opera called Monkey Journey to the West. It was just one of those things they hadn't done yet, I guess. Personally I might have prioritized learning how to water ski or taking yoga over composing a Chinese Opera but hey that's just me. No idea why a Monkey can't keep a shirt on though.

Anyways, it's based on the Chinese story of the Monkey King. You know the one, he's a Monkey who is a king, and he's got a pig friend with a rake and then some other shit happens? Yes, this is the also the premise for Dragonball. The soundtrack is out on the fine label XL Recordings.

Apparently there's a film version with Jet Li but who gives a crap, forget I brought it up.

Intolerance of Lactose

On the airplane last night from Atlanta to SFO, the guy next to me ordered two glasses of milk and some cookies. He was probably 50. And then the older guy on the other side of me (exit row, natch) heard dude order milk and was like, that sounds really good, I'll have milk and cookies too. I had a Heineken myself, because I'm not six years old.


Separated at Birth

When's the last time you saw Curumin and Bridgette Bardot in the same place at the same time? I'm just saying.

BONUS: Yayoi Kusama likes dots

I Could Watch Naked Icelanders All Day Long

I always thought Sigur Ros were either messing with us ("We invented our own Elvin language!") or just pretentious Viking dicks, or both, but I'm not mad at Nordic hippie ladies running through the woods, and this song is a bit more engaging than their usual dirgefest.

Wait, what the hell am I talking about. You know, between the aforementioned Japrocksampler, my own prodigious beardage and this woodland nonsense, one of my friends better shave my head and slap some sense into me before I start a psych band or some shit.


Refusenik Rock

I'm reading a really incredible book by famed kook Julian Cope of The Teardrop Explodes called Japrocksampler, and have been generally reveling in Japanese weirdness. And I don't mean that in a Pink Lady kind of way. At any rate, I'm not sure how my mind makes the jump from the Flower Travellin' Band to Mos Burger to GO!GO!7188 but it works in my brain so quiet, you.


Italians Do It Better

Back at the non-homefront with Little I doing the old You Tube meander, where a harmless excursion into the land of cat bloopers has lead us horribly, horribly astray. Enjoyable for a minute and a half sure, and then a turn for the bizarre in the way that only a homemade Italian gay Jesus parody can be. I like cats.

UPDATE: From the same poster, here's an important update.


The Film Orson Welles Made in Heaven

Little I and I were looking for a song that he's been hearing on Texas radio called "Cumbia del Mosquito," and this is what came up on Google. Clearly there's a bizarro dimension somewhere where this is normal, and people who don't fly around on brooms with prosthetic noses and dance the samba in Egypt are the weird ones.


I Slept on Brooklyn, Apparently

Via Mad Decent, my favorite song of 2008 (Ricky Blaze's "Cut Dem Off"), was apparently released at some point in 2007 and no one told me. Not a lot of pictures of dude floating around, so here's one from his busy Myspace page, which (if you can keep it from crashing your computer) features one of the best event promos I've ever heard. Mush mouth fake interviews, vocoders and honky tonk piano, I don't know what the hell is going on, but I am so there. There is a paucity of information about this guy on the interweb, I might have go to the library or ask some Jamaicans or something.


Challenge 2007: Name an Animal I Can't Beat in a Fight

Ivan and I are drinking and watching Animal Planet. It's a charming show about the Giant Otter, which is clearly the most endearing of the water-based mammals. Whatever beavers. Anyways, I put forth to my brother my theory that I am not afraid of any animals (except Man - the most dangerous game). We came up with a few exceptions, but not a lot. Sure, I'm too scared to call out the old lady who cuts me at line in Whole Foods, but what's a coyote going to do to me? Bark? Eat my chickens? So I'm only listing the animals that are going to be problematic here. Clearly, if it's me vs a goat, I'm coming out victorious (unless that goat has studied his Agrippa. Which I have)

Great White Shark - This is the first one that everyone comes up with, and honestly the least scary. Haven't you seen The Princess Bride? Sure, those were eels, but it's essentially the same thing, and the same solution - a punch in the nose. Let's say I'm taking a little dip and I see the dreaded fin. My head ducks underwater and I face the shark head-on as he comes my way, not extending any limbs for him (or her, I guess. Do they make female sharks?) to grab. When the shark gets within say, 14-18 inches, a quick jab to the gills is extended, careful to steer clear of their (yawn) two rows of fangs. One bonk and the shark is off in search of prey that doesn't fight back. Come back when you grow a pair (of lungs).

Lion - Sure, lions can be intimidating, they're like 800 lbs. I get the sense most lions can't be bothered to eat the likes of me, but let's say someone is feeling extra motivated. I get behind a medium-sized tree, one I can reach around, but one big enough to prevent a direct charge. Lion goes left, I go right, always keeping the tree between us, all the while peppering his hairy face with two-fingered pokes in the eyes and a steady stream of profanity. Eventually he either gets tired of being poked and goes away, or goes blind and is quickly domesticated by me, spending the rest of his life fetching my slippers.

Alligators - These guys, along with their crocodilian cousins, are very linear. One line of toothy death. So like in Karate Kid II, when gators attack, I rotate at the hip, pivoting my shoulders. He speeds past me and I am off to the bar.

Grizzly Bear - My understanding is that if I make a lot of noise, a bear will run away. That's what my mom just said, and is in keeping with my years of ninja training. Better to fight another day, my friends. That's my strategy, and I'm going to apply it to polar bears as well.

Killer Whale - A killer whale would fuck me up, ok. Likewise with hippos.


Fish Sauce World Tour

My friend Leo and his (now) wife Song got hitched in Jinghong in South West China, and I took the opportunity to go to Manila with my friends Andrej and Cindy, and then after to Tokyo for work. Above is a picture of Andrej and my enormous forehead. Below is a picture of a frog in a puddle in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Day One: SFO - Tokyo

The week before departure to Asia was fraught with stress of the most retarded sort, trying to complete work that could just as well have waited two weeks, gratuitous socializing and more than anything, a failed, tragic attempt to activate a new phone (bought in the hopes of being extra communicative whilst on the road). At any rate, I stayed up most of the night before in order to konk out on the flight and was dropped off by Jessica in good spirits. Spirits which were quickly crushed by the retirement home atmo of the SFO-NRT leg of my journey, courtesy of Northwest Airlines. Between the superannuated stewardesses bilking me for booze money, the mainland Chinese guy who I declined to swap seats with giving me the stink eye (I love the aisle, so much mobility) and the cardboard cuisine, it was a long, long 12 hours back to my 2nd (3rd? 4th?) hometown. I neglected to take any photos of this portion because you know what a plane looks like.

(Cindy on the Promenade in Jinghong)

Day Two: Tokyo - Bangkok

The mood improved immediately upon arrival at Narita, my ability to buy an onigiri and a beer unfettered by the rust of my Japanese language abilities. A quick hour and I was off to Bangkok. The sweethearts at JAL kindly bumped me up to Business, essentially ruining my ability to fly like a normal person ever again. Four varieties of sake? Twist my arm. The dorky rich kid next to me kept asking annoying questions ("What is...Campari?"), but otherwise the flight alone could probably have passed for a vacation. I arrived at Bangkok at 1AM local time, got the luggage that I feared might be lost and found my way to the airport shuttle, which drove me the 100 meters to the airport hotel. There I rendezvous'd with Andrej, who'd just arrived from Manila himself. We made vague attempts to make a night of it, but the bar at the Airport Novotel is hardly jumping, and we were both beat. I didn't take any photos of the airport hotel either.

(Isaac is not scared of bird flu)

Day Three: Bangkok - Chiang Mai

The next morning we grabbed Cindy at the airport and hopped a quick plane to Chiang Mai. Air Asia is a bit like Southwest Airlines, only without the shorts and the corny jokes that pass for congeniality. It was only an hour though, and we were there before I had a chance to get grumpy. Andrej, being in the hospitality business, had kindly organized the entire trip for us lazy-ass Americans, and after withdrawing a wad of baht from a dusty ATM, we grabbed a cab to our hotel. Chiang Mai immediately reminded me of suburban Japan, small windy streets with miniscule sidewalks and traffic on a perpetual duck and weave. Thai drivers honk incessantly. Not the sharp angry fuck-you honk of say, the commute between SF and Cupertino, but more a quick and friendly tap-tap to alert the countless bicyclists who brave even the speediest of thoroughfares.

(The first in a series of one pictures of me using a telephone)

Checking into the tropical Yaang Come Hotel, we were quickly put at ease. We could see splashing kids in the pool from the leafy open air lobby, and the rooms were decked out in local crafts to a degree that was charming without being kitschy (a price sheet warned us about pocketing the wooden statues on the mantle, our gracious hosts having been subject to too much souvenir-ing). The three of us cleaned up and headed out, consulting a quick map and asking one of the friendly concierges a good place to eat, which went something like this:

Andrej: Where's a good place to eat lunch near here?

Nice Thai Lady: I suggest the Antique Cafe around the corner, they have English menus.

Isaac (ever the intrepid traveler): But where did you eat lunch?

NTL: Here, at work.

IB: Hmm, how about yesterday?

NTL: Here.

IB: What if you weren't going to eat here, where would you eat?

NTL: The Antique Cafe.

So after a nice enough meal at the Antique Cafe, we meandered around, passing through the Night Market area, which was largely tons of stalls hocking the same Singha Beer tee-shirts and "Abibas" sporting goods from China, but full of unfailingly friendly people and tons of good things to eat. While Cindy dozed in our room, Andrej and I walked around the touristy Night Market, had a quick drink (Mojito for him, Campari for me) amongst loud, lobster-like Anglos and then slept in the cool comfort of our peaceful room. I woke up early the next morning and went running at sunup along the Ping River, the local joggers going the opposite direction giving me a sporty salute in passing. I got back to the hotel, ate some of the wholly edible breakfast buffet (see China hotel later) and lay by the pool for an hour reading until it was time to fly out. There was some subsequent internal discussion about the lingering next-day effects of the spicy food (Not from me. Or Andrej.), but generally Thailand was a breeze. Honestly, I'd not really thought much of passing through, but having done so, it's easy to see the appeal. Nice people, nice food, free wifi, etc. Important side note, I didn't spy anything even vaguely sleazy the entire time there, in stark contrast to the stereotype of Thailand as creepy sex capital of Asia. Actually, some of those English dudes at the bar were pretty sleazy, but none of the local ladies were having it.

Yourantai B&B in Jinghong

Days Four to Eighteen to follow....


The Interest of Conflict

Honeycut's "Exodus Honey" is the startup music for the new Mac OS "Leopard!" Check the primer with music out here, and every time you start a Mac for the next five years. Free download below.

The Day I Turned To GlassHoneycut
"Exodus Honey" (mp3)
from "The Day I Turned To Glass"
(Quannum Projects)

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Movie People Suck (except John Malkovich)

What? They do. It's ok, I'm allowed to say it because I am a movie person. But they/we do suck. Especially when they install rain machines on my entire block and light up these giant hanging light blimps (6 of them) outside my window.
Also sucky? 1,000 people standing on my stoop to try to take a photo of George Clooney on their iphones and fail to notice they are pushing past John Malkovich standing in a bathrobe in the middle of the street holding a hatchet. Don't believe me? This is in front of my house last week. Nice way to start my day.