Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Moments ago, I was reading an article for my World War II class, and in it they mention Butterbrot-- Bread and butter. Immediately, the image of white bread with smooth yellow butter came to mind and it reminded me of home.

There are certain foods that I will forever associate with home (and when I use the word "home" I am also placing a time period on it, namely, my 8-16 year old youth). Bread and butter is one of them. It's the kind of thing I would never order in a restaurant or make for myself at my flat. It's too bland, too boring, too unhealthy. But, it holds a special place for me. It is my youth. I can see it and taste it right now: A piece of white bread, slathered in soft butter (sometimes margarine), folded in half (that's the way we ate it). I never really enjoyed the fabric-like ribbon of crust, but our family wasn't one of those "cut off the crust" families. I had it rough. I ate that charred and thoroughly unappetizing protective shield so that I could get to the best part: that first bite of pure white bread. My teeth would sink easily through the fluffy whiteness and finally hit the cool, salty butter that resided inside. I distinctly remember that when I took the bite and looked back at the piece of bread, I could see the row of impressions my little teeth left in the butter. At this point, I would probably dip the bread and butter into a big plate of spaghetti-- actually, we usually ate penne-- with "meat sauce" as we called it (looking back, that sounds like such a 1930's Depression Era way of describing/naming the sauce my father made [it was a "let's not discuss this" point in my family that Dad made better "meat sauce" than Mom]. "Meat sauce". It's funny that we called it that), to mop up the tomato and chop meat goodness.

Amazing how a simple passing reference to a German worker's lunch snack brings back so many vivid personal memories.

It's for this reason that I am deathly afraid of having children of my own. I feel like I would warp them, or try so hard not to warp them that, inevitably, I would end up warping them even more. I am fully aware that I would try to control these types of memory associations-- or at least be deathly paranoid about them. For example, God forbid I give the kid a kiwi and he/she doesn't like it. I'd be like "Oh great. Now the kid is gonna have a kiwi-complex for the rest of its life. Great job Matt, you fucked up this kid's childhood."

Pity be the child who gets half my genes.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Same Shit, Different Country.

Like a polyp floating through the ocean, I too have finally broken free from the substrate that is my desk. I have renounced the sessile lifestyle and denounced my stagnant situation!

I joined a gym.

There isn't much worth noting about European gyms. But, like the philosopher Vincent Vega once said "It's the little differences. I mean, they got the same shit over there that we got here, but it's just – it's just there it's a little different."

First of all: nudity. At home, it's a necessity. Sure, sometimes you gotta show some stuff when you're changing or if you are walking over to the showers. It happens-- let's not make a big deal out of it. Here, holy shit. Dudes are standing there, scratching their second scalp, chatting on their cell phones, making business plans, discussing recent weather conditions, applying lotion to their forearms. For fuck's sake, throw a towel on! It's called "common courtesy", and for some of them, I call it a favor.
(Side note: I only relate this for the purposes of full disclosure and for observational integrity. Dudes don't get "the snip" down there, over here. Just doesn't happen. It sort of surprised me, but no big deal.)

Second: kilometres and kilograms. I guess I should have guessed this was going to happen, and it shouldn't come as a big surprise. However, I still feel slightly ashamed when I take the weights from the left side of the rack. With some patience, sweat, determination, and substance abuse, I can eventually work my way to the middle of the rack. But that bottom rack-- oh that bottom rack. It is the dragon I cannot slay. The kingdom I cannot conquer. The maiden I cannot mount. It is the Holy Grail and I am brave Sir Robbins. For "when danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled."

Third: Commitment. There is an electronic display panel near the treadmills that displays advertisements, music videos, and things of that nature that one can mindlessly stare at while running. (Note: Some of the music videos shown are a little too sexy for me. I mean, I won't get into detail, but some of them make me kind of "hot"-- and it ain't from the running, if you know what I mean.)
Occasionally the gym sees the need to advertise itself- in the gym- to those who are already members. Right. Well, one of the messages said "The member with the highest number of visits has come every day for the past few years!"
Are you kidding? That's a record? Have you ever been to the Upper West Side, you low-expectation 12 volt bitch? Every day is nothing. How many times a day, every day, do some New Yorkers go? That's the question... you 3 pin pussy.


Fourth: Sanitation. Example- it costs money to get a towel. Yeah, I have to pay one pound each time I use a towel here. Most don't partake in my American-inspired germaphobia and prefer instead to feel their heads dip into that sweat-soggy leather backrest. I could puke. Needless to say, I bring a towel.

And that's about it. It's not too different, but I enjoy the subtlety.

Drinking Buddies

I really don't know where my head has been for the past two weeks, but it hasn't been at LSE or in a cocktail recipe book. In all honesty, I've been daydreaming a lot more-- and I have You Tube to thank.

You'll notice that I have been posting more videos recently. People like Orson Welles, Anthony Newley, Salvador Dali-- these are the people I have been thinking about recently. Each of them holds a special "fantareality" for me, in that I feel that, in some small degree, I can relate to them and live amongst them. I feel like I could easily sit down for a drink (liquor probably. These guys weren't beer drinkers, I'm sure. More likely, whiskey, scotch, or absinthe. I could be wrong, but the picture is perfect if we are drinking from snifters) with all of them, and bullshit the night away.

I'd tell stories of my past botched love interests (we'd be there all night for christsake), past girlfriends, and late night benders-- all slightly exaggerated for comedic effect. Welles would come out with some philosophizing at which I would roll my eyes, call him out, and, depending on his sobriety, he could either lash out at me or charmingly smile and concede that I had caught him in a bullshit moment. We'd go through bottles of the stuff and by the end of the night, Newley and I would be singing in harmony (well, I'd sing the melody and let Tony take the harmony) and Dali and Welles would be arguing over which of them was the lesser talented artist.

I think this is why history has such an appeal to me. I can get lost in it. "Escaping" makes it sound like I have a phobia or some psychological issues. I prefer to think that I just have a vivid imagination. That came out wrong. I mean, an ability to see detailed imaginary pictures in my head. That sounds better.

So, my promise to you, cherished reader, is no more videos for a while.

Maybe just two more. Here's Mel Brooks relating the reason how Jewish people die by singing in the wrong key:
And here's Orson Welles in a role that in my humble opinion, heavily influenced William Shatner. I mean, dammit, it just screams Shatner. Watch Welles's little smirk. That's a Bill Shatner moment if I have ever seen one.

Ok, I'm done.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Candy Man

Let's just say, for argument's sake, that some day I end up being more famous than Betty Ford. As I sit down with Barbara Walters for an interview on 60 minutes, she asks me who were my influences in the artistic field. A pretentious way of wording the question, I note silently, but answer casually, "Well you know Barb, I wasn't that in to the arts or music growing up. I sort of followed what everybody else listened to without ever really finding someone who resonated with me. But, when I was in my early 20s, I did kind of idolize one entertainer who not many Americans my age know of. He is Anthony Newley."

I present, Anthony Newley.

or Tony being charming alongside the inimitable Shirley Bassey

Great Patriotic War

Trawling the archives, I came up with some fascinating propaganda films from the Second World War. Each is disturbing in its own right, and at the same time, each is kind of hysterical in hind sight.

This one is great. As the title says, it is from the Autumn/Winter of 1944-5. Let that sink in. A propaganda film from the winter of '45? The war is over in Europe in about 4 months! The Soviets are in Poland and the US/UK are nearing western Germany. Well, to hell with it! Let's make a movie! Notice, however, that most of the vignettes depict the Germans retreating in some sense, either getting to cover under trees or laying smoke screens. Sort of interesting.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Daiquiri for Me

I've been in a cocktail mood recently and if I had to choose my current favorite, it would undoubtedly be the Daiquiri. No, not a strawberry daiquiri or banana daiquiri. A straight up Daiquiri. It's smooth, dry, and delicious.

2 oz of good white rum (Havana Club 7 kicks ass)
juice of half a lime
1/2 teaspoon of sugar

Throw it in a shaker and shake it up. Serve straight up.

My first daiquiri experience was at a nice Cuban restaurant in Brooklyn that I used to frequent. I went maybe twice a week (ordering the Ropa Vieja or mango chicken con arroz y habichuelas) and every time I had to have that perfect daiquiri made by the tatooed waitress/bartender. The drink had an odd texture: not a smoothie, but not completely liquid either. It had a viscosity that I couldn't wrap my head around. Until I found out her secret:

When shaking the ingredients, put some crushed ice in the shaker along with cubed ice. When pouring, that semi-melted crushed ice gives it a perfect texture that will leave naive 20-somethings baffled and bewildered. And drunk. Two or three of these and you'll be singing Guantanamera with the best of them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Two Great Drinkers

Now we all should know by now that I am a sucker for a well told story. Orson Welles, of frozen peas fame, tells a great story in this clip about his relationship and occasionally profitable encounters with Winston Churchill.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dancefloor Debates

We are in an underground dance club. The strobe lights are going, the music is blaring, and bodies are moving. Currently, I am double fisting with a double caipirinha in my left hand and a Jack and Coke in the other. I'm not sure how I got the Jack, but I'm not about to start asking needless questions. I need to get something approaching a buzz going before I head out to the dance floor.

I am being introduced to an exotic beauty by a good friend. He tells her my name and my Masters program. That's nice of him, playing a sort of preflight wingman. She, is hot. Definitely of Middle Eastern descent. She tells me her name (which I promptly forget--shit) and through the thumping bass lines, she shouts into my ear that she is half Moroccan. Ten points and things are looking up. Then, she drops the bomb.

"What do you think of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?"

What. My jaw drops. All I can manage is a stupefied, wide-eyed face and a desperate glance at my friend. He reacts much the same way. I try to recover and form complete sentences:

"Well, uhhh, goddamn, I uh... You know it's..."

This goes on for some moments. I am hoping that she'll detect my struggles and mercifully bail me out with a subject change or a quick "I got ya!" jab to the ribs.

Doesn't happen. She stares at me, waiting for an answer.

"Well sure, alright. Settlement construction is obviously ridiculous and inexcusable. I mean, it is illegal and deceitful."
She likes that response. "Deceitful." Great word choice. Fuck yeah, Matt. Mental self-High Five.

"I don't think that either side handles itself appropriately. I'm not pro-Israeli but I'm not necessarily pro-Palestinian either." I take this middle road path for a few moments and recognize that I blew it.

Lesson: When double fisting, avoid talk of Big Issues. You can't win.

Some Symbolic Fish

Salvador Dali is like McDonalds: Sometimes, it's better not knowing where the product comes from. After watching this video, you might understand what I mean.

He's an arrogant man. Entertaining, sure, but referring to oneself in the third person is never admissible.

Though I must concede, I laughed out loud during the opening "birth" sequence.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Don't Need No Doctorate

If somebody asked me to define the Rock and Roll Spirit of 1970s (something I just coined, I think), I would use this video as Exhibit A.

Humble Pie playing "I Don't Need No Doctor". The song oozes fucking Rock. Let's start with the title which proudly flaunts its non-grammar in your face. I don't need no doctor? Brilliant. Everybody used the double negative in their songs at this time. And why? Because they fucking could. If nothing else, it sounded better. I mean, take the alternative: "I Do Not Need A Doctor." That sounds like a Sesame Street tune. I Don't Need No Doctor sounds like something a Hell bound trucker clutching the wheel of a runaway 18 wheeler engulfed in flames would say.

Second, the song has no premise and little message. The fact that he "don't need no doctor" just proves he (Steve Marriot, specifically) is a fucking bad ass-- in a Rock kind of way.

Third, the proud opening of "I don't need no fucking doctor", like the infamous "It's time to kick out the jams motherfuckers!" is a brilliant piece of stagemanship, throwing the audience off and kicking it into high gear. Follow it up with some teeth gnashing power chords, a face melting guitar solo, a grooving break-it-down, and a series of false endings, and you've got yourself a Heavy Metal song that had class. None of that black leather, goblins, and cannibal bullshit that came out 10 years later. This has sex. That was shit.

Fourth, consider the history. Steve Mariott was in the Small Faces (which, after Mariott's departure, later became one of my favorite bands, The Faces). The Small Faces recorded such poopers as "Itchycoo Park". Check it out:

Yeah, there's Mariott front and center singing "feed the ducks with a bun" in proper Mod wear, complete with dinky guitars and childish harmonies. Then he grew up, grew out his hair, and learned how to rock. Good on 'em.

So grab your guitar and harmonica, your bottle of Jack, and your best mates, and when they tell you that you need to seek medical help-- you know what to say.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"I Hate Pikies" - Gorgeous George

It was a dreadfully slow day at work. So slow that most of us humble employees simply stood around making small talk, sipped hot water and lemon, invented entertaining dances, or occasionally checked to see if any of the smattering of customers in the restaurant needed a wet nap or two.

Behind the bar, one of the managers and myself struck up a lively conversation about a topic I know so little about, but thanks to Guy Ritchie, I have a general idea: Gyppos.
You know, gypsies, Irish travellers, tinkers, knackers, or simply, deliciously, "fuckin' pikies."

To say I was tickled by this conversation is an understatement. I was overjoyed. I was giddy. I was fascinated-- but the kind of fascinated that makes me dance up and down on my tippy toes (an odd idiosyncrasy, I know). Here's what I learned from my coworkers:
-Gyppos live in caravans in motor parks on land that they often, surprisingly, own. Their semi-nomadic culture and the land they live on is protected by the government (much like Native Americans in the US), and if they decide to come into your town, you better be sure they are not moving out until they decide to. The cops won't ask them to leave. The mayor won't either. Fucking Superman would put on his horn rim glasses and try to cover up the giant S on his chest. All because everybody is too afraid to talk to them and possibly to try and move them. Logic, force, law, etc. all have no jurisdiction when it comes to pikies. They do as they please.

-All fucking pikies are criminals. "It's just a fact, mate."
-Gyppos shit in the open.
-You can't understand a word they say.
-They have bare-knuckle boxing leagues where it is often the objective to physically scar your opponent for the rest of their lives-- not to speak of beating the piss out of them.

The most priceless quote that sent me into a childish fit of laughter comes from a good buddy of mine, "My Dad tells me he had to fight five gyppos for the love of my mum."

I couldn't stop asking questions. What do they look like? What do they eat? Do they have jobs? Have you ever met one? Can they serve in the military? (Immediately Frank Herbert, author of the Dune series, jumped into my mind. If these guys are as tough as they say they are, man, can't they be crafted into the deadliest, most bloodthirsty supersoldier squadron ever to defend the fucking British Isles? Fuck! They are already nomadic. Afghanistan would be a friggin Sunday retreat for these guys! True, I don't think Osama would accept a bare knuckle challenge for a broken caravan, but it's worth a goddamn try!)

I wasn't so interested in the answers to my questions as I was in the reactions of those I spoke to. I wanted them to keep talking, to keep describing, to keep telling stories, because everybody that I spoke to had the same reactions, best summarized by "fuckin' pikies." Nobody said, "Oh yes, I once met a darling gyppo. He saved me mum from a tree." Or, "Gyppos? Splendid chaps they are! I once knew a gyppo who gave out candy to disabled children in Uganda on Christmas during a typhus outbreak."

Instead, it was "Gyppos? I fucking hate gyppos. They eat their own shit and drink the blood of Christian children."

Gyppos are like dragons (or, for a better visual, ogres). Fantastical creatures who live far away, living their violent lives according to their own rules, beyond the reach (and hope) of civilization. Nobody really personally knows a single gyppo, but everybody has a story. There are sightings, and even a few relics. And once in a blue moon, they come thundering down from the hills in their cacophonous caravans of death, and the common, decent village folk flee in terror, trying to save the goat herds and their youngest daughters from rape and slaughter, respectively. Inevitably, a kid of 2 years is unintentionally left behind and raped mercilessly in the village square. Her sorrowful bleats could be heard for miles.


And thus, gyppos. A mysterious peoples of unknown origin and uncertain future. But one thing is certain. When you go home tonight, lock your doors, hide your liquor, and check under the bed, because you might be unlucky enough to discover your worst enemy-- our own ignorance.

Friday, January 8, 2010


One of the most iconic moments in Rock history happens at 7:50 in this video. It is epic and the fucking stuff Rock is made of.

The Who- Won't Get Fooled Again


It is no secret that I am a godless heathen, but, I am always on the lookout for explanations to the contrary and today I may have thought of one all by myself. While sitting down at my cafĂ© and eating a plate of chicken jalafrezi, I randomly noted how even I, a person who does not believe in God or a higher power, will in times of trouble or strife seemingly “pray” and “wish” for safety and salvation. Who am I praying to? Why am I praying? I am contradicting my own beliefs, or non-beliefs.

My question is, is “prayer”--which I will define as talking to somebody who is not there physically (chatting with imaginary friends is a form of prayer, no?)—a learned activity? Do I start talking to nobody because I learned, or was forced, to do that in Church on Sundays? If the idea of God was not introduced to me at a young age, would I ever turn to a form of prayer in times of trouble? This is starting to sound like a Simon and Garfunkel song.

Since I “pray” at times, does that prove I actually believe in a God? Is this the biological way of proving there is a God, when my impulses trump my reason?

No. I think I am just panicking at these times and my inner child expresses itself against my will. Harsh.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Glimpse of Love

I walked outside just a few moments ago to head to my favorite local Italian restaurant for dinner. The roasted quail is fantastic. I stepped outside into the tundric cold and cursed myself for not bringing my scarf, but trudged on anyway as I certainly wasn't about to go back up three flights of stairs. I'm cold now and might as well face the consequences. Trying to build up some muscular heat, I take off at a jaunty canter heading north and pass the cafe where I eat breakfast nearly every day. In an idle sort of way, I looked into the large windows that face the street, expecting to see some chairs stacked on top of cleared tables.
Instead, I saw the husband and wife owners, who spend the entire day from 7am to 4pm behind the grill making the cafe's food and greeting each visitor who enters, sitting at a small table in the empty restaurant, together, eating and laughing over dinner.
That's love.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Faint Hearted? Skip this Post.

I had one of my reoccurring dreams last night. I must admit, I have a repertoire of about four or five dreams that pop up into the ol' noggin every couple of months or so. Most are not fit to put down in writing (at least not in this venue [I could make a sizable sum of money in certain circles by recording those other dreams]). The one from last night, however, is my least favorite and most frequent. What I find strange is that there is never any lead-in to the dream and there is rarely a conclusion. It is just one scene. If you are squeamish, maybe skip this:

I pull multiple long strands of hair out of my throat through my mouth. Usually there is one strand in my throat and I am able to grab hold of it by putting my fingers in my mouth. Then I tug on it, trying not to gag (which I do) but there is resistance as if it was caught on something. I pull and pull and it eventually loosens up, coming out slowly with me applying consistent force, usually (this is gross) with some kind of gunk clinging to the end. After I pull the first strand out of my throat, there is another to takes its place and the process starts over again.

I'm gagging right now.

Last night there was a sort of pseudo-conclusion which I have never experienced before. I pulled on the last strand of stuck hair and while pulling it out of my mouth, a metallic type contraption came out with it. I don't quite know how to describe it. It sort of looked like a retainer (you know, what you wear after getting your braces off), but it was a copperish steel and full of holes-- much like a sieve. The final strand of hair was attached to this device and as I pulled it from my throat, I saw this thing emerge. I kind of just re-swallowed it, for fear that I would break the copper-steel metallic device that happily resides in my esophagus. I don't think I could find a replacement on eBay.

After unsuccessfully searching on the internet for some kind of explanation, I have settled on my own homebrewed conclusion: Alien space probes. Considering the oft-reported alternative method of entry, I'll consider myself lucky.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Stand By Me

I got the chills and a burning desire to jump on a stage after watching this video.

I present U2 and Bruce Springsteen doing "Stand By Me".