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Beyond Earth Day: Great Wines for Sustainability
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Fun with Words ... Really?
Remember When Music Was Exciting?
Details Names Paul Kahan's Salsa Best in U.S.



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NOVEMBER 11, 2006
Aries Spears: Comedian & Rap Star

Who knew that Aries Spears, who kills it with his impersonation of Bobby Brown on MADtv, is a mad rapper? The comedian appeared on Live105 and does dead-on covers of LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg, DMX and Jaz-Z. If you didn't see the video you might think the radio station was pulling a fast one and had all the rappers in the studio.

via Josh Spear.

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NOVEMBER 10, 2006
Bloc Party Cancels US Tour Dates -- including NY Shows

I just got word that Bloc Party has had to cancel a series of dates on their current US tour with Panic! At the Disco after drummer Matt Tong's lung collapsed after last night's Atlanta show. Here's more info from the band's website:

Bloc Party have been forced to cancel a number of shows on their current US tour with Panic! At The Disco after drummer Matt Tong was admitted to hospital in Atlanta with a collapsed lung after last night's performance.

Doctors at the hospital in Atlanta say Matt is in a comfortable condition and not in any danger, he will however be staying in hospital for at least the next three days for observation and it's not clear at this stage when Matt will be fit to resume performing.

The band will definitely not be playing at the Charlotte, NC (Cricket Arena), Fairfax, VA (Patriot Center) and both New York Madison Square Garden shows in the coming week.

And if you're interested, the NME has a song-by-song preview of the new album, A Weekend in the City (how they got it three months before the release is beyond me). Read it on Blog Party.

(Thanks Graham!)

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myhotel Bloomsbury

Myhotel_front One of the things I enjoyed most about staying at myhotel was the 4 am wake-up call on the day we departed London. I know this sounds a little masochistic, but it wasn't the fact that the phone rang, rather that an actual soothing voice on the other end beckoned me from sleep. This simple gesture epitomizes why myhotel could be one of the top-rated boutique hotels in the world.

Aside from the minimalist touches and the vintage charm mixed with modern enhancements, myhotel embodies personalization. Before you even arrive, you're sent a questionnaire seeking your preferences -- still vs sparking water; the need for ear plugs or a sleeping mask; feather vs hypoallergenic pillows; wish for chocolate or a bottle of red wine in your room upon arrival. Even music is taken into account. Whether you're a jazz, pop or House fan, that music will be playing in your room when you step into it for the first time. Meticulous design is noted throught the building; its east meets west theme is felt throughout from quiet sanctuaries to the art and photography.

Continue reading "myhotel Bloomsbury" »

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NOVEMBER 09, 2006
Paragraph NY

Paragraph A little more than a year ago, a friend tipped me off to a great writer's space called Paragraph in New York, just off Union Square. Seeing as I dont live there, it didn't serve me much purpose. Even though the email remained in my inbox, I forgot about the space until I recently read about someone being a member there. Billed as a "workspace for writers," this 2500 square foot loft is a members-only quiet zone where writers can come to do what we do best ... tear our hair out when we can't put ink to paper (or more likely, fingertips to keyboard). Launched in September of 2005, the space, which costs members a little more than $100 a month, has comfy chairs, couches and individual cubicles, WiFi throughout and a kitchen/break area separated by soundproof walls. Most of all, it presents a sense of literary community -- and gives you a place to get away from the rest of your life. Anyone know of anything like this in Chicago?

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Paul Smith No. 9 Albemarle Street

Paulsmith

Paul Smith is one of my favorite designers. So when I was walking through the London neighborhood of Mayfair (just steps away from posh shopping district Bond Street) and saw his unmistakable signature gracing the sign of a furniture shop, I had to dive in. The shop is classic -- selling art, antiques, furniture and other "curiosities" Smith has found during his global travels. Many of the pieces are originals -- and some have even spent time in other Paul Smith shops around the world -- while others have been retouched or recovered with a splash of PS flair, color and whimsy. This weekend marks the year anniversary of the shop's opening. Wish I could be there to help celebrate.

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Beirut

Beirut I know I'm behind the times on this, but a friend just turned me on to Beirut, the brainchild of Albuquerque native Zach Condon. He recorded his debut, Gulag Orkestar, with the help of Jeremy Barnes of Neutral Milk Hotel and A Hawk and a Hacksaw as well as Barnes' Hawk bandmate Heather Trost.

The first thing I thought of when listening was David Byrne. Not David Byrne of the Talking Heads but of the experimental world music David Byrne. Apparently Condon recorded the entire album without any guitars, but instead employed every other type of instrument, including mandolin, glockenspiel, drums, congas, violins, cellos, accordion, clarinet and a ukulele -- how can you not like someone who uses a ukulele?!

Beirut's Eastern European-leaning influence -- the big brass, the marching drums, the wailing melancholy vocals -- came after Condon dropped out of college and went to live with a cousin in Amsterdam. Their upstairs neighbor was a Serbian man who blared Balkan music at all hours of the day. One night, Condon went to the man's apartment to inquire about the music and the two sat up until 5 in the morning listening to CD after CD.

4AD Records just released Gulag Orkestar in England on Tuesday, which was preceded by Beirut's US label, Bada Bing Records, releasing the Lon Gisland EP, which features the song Elephant Gun.

Have a listen to these tracks -- and check out Beirut's website and on MySpace

MP3s
Elephant Gun
Postcards from Italy
Mount Wroclai

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NOVEMBER 07, 2006
VOTE!

Vote
Today is one of the most important Election Days in recent history. It is imperative that you go out and vote. Hopefully you'll choose to keep or place a Democrat in office, but in either case: Just. Go. Vote.

If you need assistance in voting matters, check out HeadCount -- it's kind of like a updated version of Rock the Vote. And if you want to help encourage others, head over to MoveOn.org.

Get to your polling place. We must take back Congress.

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NOVEMBER 06, 2006
String Cheese Incident Break Up

After today, all string cheese will be good for anymore is eating. The String Cheese Incident is calling it quits. While I've never been a fan of SCI, many of my friends are, and it's never an easy thing to hear your favorite band is breaking up.

According to an email I just got from the band's camp, this note (also posted on their website) says it all:

After summer 2007, Billy Nershi is leaving The String Cheese Incident to pursue other musical projects. There will be only a limited number of Incidents between now and then. Current plans include Thanksgiving in Atlanta, a New Years Eve blowout in San Francisco, Winter Carnival in Colorado, and a return to Red Rocks. Presently, there are no plans for The String Cheese Incident beyond summer of 2007.

The band would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to our friends and fans for all your support.

At least the jam community still has Tea Leaf Green.

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NOVEMBER 05, 2006
Live Review: 120 Days @ Empty Bottle, Chicago 11/04/06

120days3 When 120 Days first took the stage at the half-full Empty Bottle, they were sexy, like seasoned rock stars complete with the attitude and sunglasses. The foursome from Oslo was tuning up their instruments and synthesizers while the house DJ warmed the crowd. Then, with just three guys on stage, they began to play -- or so it seemed. 120 Days is, for lack of a better word, experimental, and it sounded as if they were playing through the house music to kick off their set. But as soon as it started, they cooled, jumped off the stage, refueled with more alcohol and returned.

At 12:22 am 120 Days made its Chicago debut and, despite playing to a room of maybe 150 people, lead singer Ådne Meisfjord could have been performing for an arena filled with 20,000 people by the way his voice owned the space as the band did the same with its expansive sound. Rare is the frontman who can enrapture a crowd by his presence; Meisfjord sank his hooks into this room and didn't let go for 50 minutes. He even glanced out into the crowd at the end of the first song with a look of horror and shock that there wasn't a bigger eruption of applause. It was the last time he gave that look.

As soon as the show started, jaws around the room dropped -- and two funky dudes up front danced like Dieter, encouraging the motionless hipsters in their plaid shirts and puffy coats to do the same. After a few songs, the energy in the room completely morphed and usually staid white people were showing off their ability to bust moves they only before dared reveal in front of their mirrors.

The band, on the flipside, had a contained frenetic swagger. By using minimal traditional instruments (the120days2 bass was the only constant throughout the show), but concentrating on computers, synths and a drum machine, 120 Days creates one of the most innovative sounds today. Their brand of futuristic electro-rock effortlessly straddles the line between dance music and guitar rock so much so that anyone else who laid claim to the dance rock category (read: Franz Ferdinand) should bow their head in shame and slink off to a corner to think about their actions.

The combination of Joy Division-esque hooks, Pink Floyd drawn-out yet controlled jams and U2 bravado created a new blend of shoegazering that hasn't been seen since Bobby Gillespie first dropped acid and created Screamdelica.

While the show lasted less than an hour, you were hard-pressed to find a disappointed hipster in the house, especially those who were graced with free shots poured directly from the stage. At one point, Meisfjord looked out and said, "You've been a good audience ... you deserve free whiskey," and sprayed the crowd before beckoning anyone who wanted one to line up for a shot (not surprisingly, the kids love their free whiskey).

Then, without thought, the engaging singer, who bounced between keyboards, guitar and the drum machine all night, whipped off his shirt, exposing his thin but muscular pale body -- and launched into the climactic "Come Out (Come Down, Fade Out, Be Gone)." It's with this song that the singer channels the spirit of Ian Curtis -- hopefully without the suicidal tendencies -- vocally, emotionally and spastically. There have been engaging frontmen to come out of Scandinavia, but Pelle Almqvist, you've got nothing on this guy.

120days Unlike the Hives, however, there's nothing gimmicky about 120 Days. This is a band, assuming it can withstand the hype, that can have incredible staying power. They've tapped into a unique sound that was created and perfected by Krautrock predecesors and take it to a higher, somewhat spiritual space. To tag the music ethereal or atmospheric would be a start, but considering the powerful pulsations that explode from the stage adds that edge that can get even the most dour scenester shaking his ass.

120 Days are only in the States for a small chunk of shows, so I suggest catching them before they head back to Scandinavia. One tip: you might want to down a few shots of whiskey of your own or smoke some herb. While not required, the enhancements definitely highten the experience that is 120 Days.

11-08 Seattle - Chop Suey
11-09 Portland, OR - Holocene
11-10 San Francisco, CA - Mezzanine $
11-12 Los Angeles, CA - TBA
11-13 Los Angeles, CA - Spaceland
11-17 Oslo, Norway - Bla
12-01 Bergen, Norway - Hulen
12-02 Stavanger, Norway - Checkpoint

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NOVEMBER 04, 2006
Keef Finds Fountain of Youth

Keef1 My old friend, Amy Leavell, whose dad, Chuck, is the Rolling Stones' longtime keyboardist, flew up to New York for the Stones Halloween shows at the Beacon Theater. Amy grew up in the presence of these rock gods so hanging out with them is not a big deal for her -- and apparently that lax attitude has been instilled in her son who's already taken to mocking certain members.

The shows, which were attended by Buddy Guy, Jack White and Christina Aguilera (who apparently looks incredibly gorgeous in person), were filmed by Martin Scorsese and are scheduled for release on DVD next year. Apparently Marty had 17 cameras set up around the historic venue for a documentary that's casually being called The Last Waltz II, in homage to the Band's film chronicling their final show back in 1978.

Legendary filmographer, Albert Maysles, held an 18th camera that he carried with him behind the scenes and backstage to catch a fly-on-the-wall perspective of the band. Maysles, along with his brother, directed Gimme Shelter (which captured the Stones 1969 concert at Altamont where Hell's Angels stabbed a fan to death) as well as shooting their rehearsals for the 1994 Voodoo Lounge tour.Keef2

If Maysles could go back and review some of the early footage, it's possible that Keith might have actually looked as good as he does in the picture here.

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