Monday, February 28, 2005

This Is How the World Ends 

Sac is now employed by Elizabeth over at Fishbowl. It's like a fishbowl inside a fishbowl where the fish are looking at a fishbowl inside a fishbowl.

Friday, February 25, 2005

I Am The Underminer 

After listening to Mike Albo perform a bit from his new book The Underminer at Lindsay's Ritalin Readings the other night, I stopped by the local bookshop and picked up a copy. This is a pretty big deal because I've got a rule against buying new books until I finish two that I already own. My apartment is choked with the things and I sometimes expect I'll end up like those people who die buried beneath an avalanche of paper in their apartments. But Albo's performance (he didn't read from anything so it's not quite right to call it a reading) was brilliant so I had to get the book. Also, it's small, so it won't really hurt that much when the book piles collapse.

The book is even better than I had hoped. I am, of course, all too familiar with the situation in which victim is told by the Underminer: "Of course I should let YOU know--the bar's in the back. And there's plenty of your favorite--bourbon! Drinkie drinkie!" Thanks, fucker.

But more surprisingly, I find myself in sympathy with the Underminer also. I guess we all have our bad moments. This morning reading the book reminded me of an ill-advised remark I once made to a woman I was dating.

"No, of course I don't think buying that many pairs of shoes is silly," I said. "I mean I buy things too. Like books. Just today I bought the latest Paul Johnson book on art history. I mean, do I really need another art history book? You just go ahead and buy your shoes, darling."

I suppose we all have a little bit of the Underminer in us. Or maybe it's just me.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

A Different Kind of Gag Gift 

"She asserts that when plaintiff 'delivered' his sperm, it was a gift -- an absolute and irrevocable transfer of title to property from a donor to a donee," the decision said. "There was no agreement that the original deposit would be returned upon request."

And, uhm, yeah. Sorry about the headline. It was the best I could do on short notice.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

After Eight Days Living Off Nothing But Guaro and Cerveza, You Might Have Thought This Was A Good Look Too 


Somehow we always knew Manhattan Transfer was destined to become a naked cowboy porn blog.

Obviously I'm only posting this because I lost a pretty serious bet. This is the most humiliating day of my life.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Imperial and Imperialism 

The rain poured steadily down, turning the little patch of Miguel's garden, a small grassy patch carved out of a rain forest a generation ago, into a swamp. The wind was blowing hard, and we had to weigh down the newspapers with our empty bottles of Imperial cerveza.

It was late. We had eaten dinner in the dining room of the Swiss hotel I was staying in, and then gone to the only real bar in town, Amigos. When the bar closed we went to a small disco where a young crowd danced to the music you hear in any disco, anywhere in the world. The young American girls dancing were in Costa Rica to build houses for the impoverished; the Costa Rican boys were in the disco to dance with young American girls. We were there to drink, and when they closed the disco we went back to Miguel's house to drink some more.

Miguel was a second generation Quaker, descended from one of the American Quakers who had left the States in the fifties for this place. America had just concluded one war and was gearing up for another, with fighting breaking out in some far off Asian peninsula. A group pacifist Quakers decided they had had enough, and relocated to Costa Rica, in part because it had no standing army.

The talk inevitably turned toward American foreign policy. Miguel was perplexed how conservatives in Congress and the White House had adopted the foreign policy of Woodrow Wilson. I told him that I found the President and his closest advisors--Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld--to be completely inscrutable. The only people I understood in the Bush Administration were the political hacks who had got the President re-elected--once, not so long ago, I had been a political hack myself and knew the type--and the Straussian neoconservatives. Before I was a political operative, I had been a student of Straussians.

The political hacks don't really have policies except for one: whatever works. This doesn't need much explaining. The neoconservatives are harder to work out. How had a group of people who are obviously learned in the classics of conservative political thought, including Burke, Aristotle and Plato, have come to a conclusion--that there is one just form of government, democracy, and that democractic government is equally realizable for all people, at all times--that seems so foreign to the the conservative tradition? This was the foreign policy of Woodrow Wilson and the progressives, not the policy of American conservatives.

To understand how the neoconservatives arrived at Wilsonianism it helps to know about how Straussians read ancient texts. In the nineteenth century the dominant method of interpreting the classics of Greece and Rome held that in order to understand these works it was necessary to know a lot about the history and culture of the society from in their authors lived. The values that informed the work were presumed to be historical, which is to say foreign to our contemporary way of thinking, and a great deal of historical knowledge was required in order to recover those values and an understanding of, say, Plato's Republic.

In the early part of the twentieth century this view was challenged by what would come to be known as post-modernism. The post-modernists pointed out that the knowledge of history necessary to understand the works of the ancients could only be derived from the works themselves. If this knowledge was necessary to understanding them, the project couldn't get started in the first place. The door to the values of the past was closed. The historicist approach was impossible.

Leo Strauss was one of those who sought to recover the value of reading very old books. His approach was not to defend the historicist method but to deny the requirement of history. Great books were timeless, in the sense that they did not require a lot of knowledge about history and culture to be understood. They could be read closely by the best minds of very different times because they had been written by thinkers who were not themselves prisoners of their age. He proposed a fellowship of thinkers that stretched across vast epochs and made reading the ancients possible.

Beneath the Straussian approach to reading was a metaphysical perspective. Understanding through the ages was possible because certain questions were permanent questions, questions that arose and applied in any age. What is the best way to live? What regime is the best? These questions remained permanent because all men shared a certain nature. In short, Strauss supported his recovery of reading with an appeal to a permanent human nature, a psychic unity stretching across generations.

The neoconservatives take this a step--a dangerous, vulgarizing step--further. If there is a universal human nature that makes reading the ancients possible in all times and all places, shouldn't this universal human nature also make democratic-capitalism possible for everyone? What seems to have happened is that the neoconservatives took the Straussian downgrade of the importance of history and culture for reading great books and applied it to the importance of history and culture for governing people.

The problem with this is that Strauss applied his way of reading only to the best readers reading the best writing of the best writers. It was highly elitist. The neoconservatives have popularized this by taking out its elitism and then applying it to an entirely different sphere of life, politics. In other words, they treat global politics as if it were philosophy, and treat entire populations as if they were philosophers. Unfortunately, philosophy is not politics and Iraq is not populated by philosophers.

"So neoconservative foreign policy is a category mistake, then?" Miguel asked.

"A category mistake is something you write in book reviews," I told Miguel. "The words you use when talking about mistake that results overthrowing a regime, spending billions of dollars and sacrificing the lives of brave, patriotic young men are: colossal fuck up."

Ginny K Puts the Boot In 

The always entertaining FYPM has been at the center of a battle royale. Things began innocently enough when Ginny K. Boot sent a myspace invitation to her former boss but quickly developed into an epic struggle with implications for the very future of music on this planet. Or something like that. Anyway, head on over to FYPM and read about it yourself. (Warning: FYPM is written in a pidgin-English that is spoken in a very small section of Brooklyn. Imagine James Joyce writing Wake in Williamsburg while wearing leg-warmers.)

Paris Hilton's Cell Phone Number 

Can someone tell me what happened to Paris Hilton while I was away? I looked through the obituaries over the weekend but apparently the young thing is still alive.

I know something must have happened because I'm getting an insane amount of page views from this link. Back in this blog's infancy, Felix Salmon of Memefirst implied that I had posted Paris Hilton's phone number. This was only half-true, as you'll see if you click through to the link and exercise a bit of common sense. Nonetheless, I've been getting hits from Felix's post consistently ever since. Usually it's only a couple each day, beginning shortly after the work day ends. Over the weekend the number of people who want to call Paris grew into the thousands. Since I've only just returned to New York City and the interwebs, I have no idea what's going on. Anyone have a clue?

We Now Return You to Your Regularly Scheduled Programming 

When I turned the keys to the site over to Anna, I knew I was asking for trouble. I'm away for ten days and the place is a wreck. There are nylons on the shower curtain, empty bottles of Jack Daniels under the bed and the place smells like burnt flowers and tobacco. I'm probably going to get a call from the federales about the naked midget cowboy picture.

Actually, I'm very grateful to Anna for the great posts while I was away. And more than a bit broken-up about missing the annual Morning Side Heights decadence. I'll have the Jack 'n Gingers lined up for you at the Cellar tonight, Anna. And be warned: I think that after last week's performance you may not be allowed to fade back into the world of People Without Blogs so easily. Your public won't tolerate it.

Lots of stories to tell about Costa Rica (and pictures too, including, oddly enough more naked cowboys) but they'll have to wait until I get this place cleaned up a bit and get caught up with a few of the projects that I left behind when I fled the country.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Naked Boys Singing 

I Go Where The Jewish Bus Takes Me 

JLo wasn't going to take the abuse. It didn't matter how deep his dimples were. There's no way the Canadian Mounty was going to hit her infront of her kid. Her cards were frozen, so she changed her name. Most importantly, she got a bad haircut. It was very Sleeping With the Enemy meets Look Who's Talking meets creepy ER, but nobody talked about it.

Things were going pretty well despite the Mounty and his thugs appearing at inopportune moments to beat people up. Until she realized. They wouldn't stop. Until. She. Was. Dead. Naturally, JLo invested in a trainer.

Here's where JLo gets tough. You can tell because she showed her abs a lot. Suddenly it got very suspenseful. Did JLo die? Did she kick the Mounty's ass? Did Noah Wyle go back to the ER where he belongs? I. Don't. Know.

The driver started the movie somewhere in Delaware and we were already at my stop. I contemplated staying on the bus, but figured the Orthodox Jews wouldn't really appreciate the company.

Disembarking, I realized there's a lot more space for the sun when you leave New York City. Also, there are people who admit they're from Kansas.

So I've taken Bunnie's advice and am partaking of the wireles at her apartment. The Bunnie claims to have a camera, so I'll try to post the occasional photo until MT resurfaces from south of the border.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Thursday Contest: Best Vacation Wins 

Somebody told me I should have done this on Tuesday. But I'm on Greek time. Besides, punctuality is for other people.

It's February and I'm taking a vacation. My super successful strategy of waiting until the last minute to make plans has got me busy until Wednesday. Now I need suggestions for a place to spend Thursday through Sunday — somewhere that is exotic, entertaining, and relaxing. With the imperative word being CHEAP. All suggestions will be considered,* but the lucky winner will send me packing. And I’ll throw you the keys to Manhattan Transfer’s apartment, for good measure.

*Unfortunately, vacations in New Jersey, near the Gowanus, or at your apartment do not qualify.

Best. Gates. Ever. 

Often Hargo's The Somerville Gates has been compared with Christo's The Gates, Central Park, New York City. These comparisons have been unfair; sometimes the media has exaggerated -- even lied -- about the similarities. The differences, however, are many. Some of the most overlooked differences are listed below.

"The Gates"
"The Somerville Gates"

Central Park,
New York, NY, USA
Village Street,
Somerville, MA, USA

Does the artist accept donations?

Years it took to make

Estimated visitors (people)
4 million

Estimated visitors (cats)

Use of recyclable materials

Number of workers involved in the installation

Viewing period
16 days
until the cleaning lady comes

Tons of steel used (in US tons)

Wood glue used (in ounces)
0 (est.)

Installation area
843 acres
2400 sq ft

© Hargo 2005
The Somerville Gates

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Saturday night 

I used to abhore people who didn’t believe in uptown. Good things to offer above 100th Street. Cheap digs, good food. Aggressive sexual frustration and voyeurs. Come to think of it now, though, it is a bit far. But we made the annual trek uptown Saturday night to reminisce with our youth.

The night started off well.

Citibank ATM: I'm sorry. You only have $18 in your account. You may not have it.

Looks like it was going to be a retro evening. I made a stop at the liquor store to make use of my credit card.

Miss Anna: No. No, that bottle won’t fit in my purse.

It was a veritable reunion. The Neurotic Medic, Medea, the Former Boyfriend, and the Sexy Scarred One were all there. Even the LA Grifter had turned up. We were just going to stop by the party.

Medea: Hey. There’s a girl in a bubble.
Miss Anna: How’d she get in there?
Neurotic Medic: Magic.

The stage show was better than usual, but we were getting older and set in our ways. The partygoers were getting younger. The Blue Bunny had grown a beard.

Miss Anna: So that girl’s just topless and getting whipped on stage, huh?
LA Grifter: Yup.
MA: I think they're going to draw blood.
W:... (whap)
MA: No really. She's bleeding.

The whiskey helped.

Medea: Now there are two girls in the bubble.
Miss Anna: That's hot.
Sexy Scarred One: No really. How do they breathe? I think the girls are writing us SOS messages to get out.
LA Grifter: No. They’re just being sexy.

Coeds wandered in search of their tops. The Former Boyfriend/Current Poll Dancer made me put dollar bills in his pants. Security personnel neglected their duties. People kissed strangers while their significant others watched and did the same. There was dancing.

The Sexy Scarred One: I think those girls making out on the platform are going to get the party shut down. Security says there are too many topless people.
Miss Anna: That’s not a girl.

When the lights came on we flooded the street. Some were regretting the night's debauchery. Others ran off together. We went to the bar.

One by one we realized it was our turn to leave. The Neurotic Medic escorted me outside. If he wasn’t supposed to be going home to Medea I might have taken him with me.

Someone gave me ten dollars and I rode off into the night.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Some People Have No Morals 

Miss Anna: I can't believe you're celibridating Jimmy Carter's granddaughter.
Southern Gent: Whatever. You'd do it too.
MA: No I wouldn't. I couldn't do that unless I actually liked or respected the person.
SG: Come on. She's really nice. I like her, too.
MA: Oh I'm sorry. I meant Jimmy Carter.

Something old, something twelve 

In the interest of feminizing this site, I'm planning to make a Valentine's Day purchase in Manhattan Transfer's name. But I'm torn. As we're not close, I probably shouldn't go off registry. But I can't recommend their pattern. And the "Belgique Classique" is a bit blase. Really, what do you get the excon who has everything? Is it gauche to send a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame with no spill champagne glasses?

Report: Letourneau to wed former pupil

Friday, February 11, 2005

While the head drunk is away... 

Manhattan Transfer said he wasn't going to repeat the Honduras incident. Before skipping the country with his diamond dealer this time, he throws you the keys to the Manhattan Transfer estate. You take a moment to observe your surroundings. Not bad, though it does have the faint smell of stale alcohol, beer nuts, and lost innocence. Rather like the Village Idiot, really. You take a moment to dance on the bar, for old times sake.

He gave you explicit instructs as he peeled away: Worst. Blog. Ever. You're still a bit uneasy speaking in the second person. But you're too hung over to argue.

Trying to decide if you're up to the task, you walk over to the liquor cabinet. Conveniently, the lock's busted. But all the whiskey's empty. You find a dusty bottle of absinthe and look for a lighter.

When you come to, there is a small asian women who hands you a change of clothes. Perfect fit. You walk through the lobby and the doorman gives you a knowing look. You feel as though you've entered the set of Cheers. Except everyone actually gets drunk here. And only you can't remember your name. You blink at the light outside as a canary colored escort offers you a ride. You decide to go where he takes you.

MT will be back soon. In the meantime, your "Manhattan Transfer went to Latin America and all I got was this stupid blog" tshirts will be ready shortly.

To A Certain Kind of Man, Tartan Works Like Kryptonite 

It's a weakness somewhere in the recessive preppy gene that leads them to go weak in the knees, buy you things, and wisk you away in the middle of the night.

It's damn good. Better than excessive cleavage and heels. No. No that's not true.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Send Lawyers, Guns and Money 

"Quiere algo para tomar?"

I'm escaping the cold and snow for a fortnight of pura vida.

Be not afraid. The helm of Manhattan Transfer is being handed to Miss Anna Thropic. We discovered Anna when she was still a teenager, hitchiking eastward along a deserted stretch of South Dakota highway with dangerous looking vagabond. She climbed into our van and told us she'd never seen the ocean. When she finally sobered up and ditched the vagabond at the Corn Palace, she stopped lying and revealed that she was an heiress to a Greek shipping fortune. Or maybe that was the lie. It's so hard to tell.

In any case, Anna has moved to New York, and brought her foul mouth, her hunger for men and a general disdain for humanity with her. She's like the usual editor of this site, only drunker, meaner and wearing a tartan skirt. I thought I'd give Anna a shot at this blogging thing. What's the worst that can happen?

Ambitious Orchestra 

The twenty-piece Ambitious Orchestra plays tonight at Rothko. One of the bartenders from the Idiot, Lisa Marie, sings with them and the tuba player is the best rock-and-roll tuba player ever. Ten bucks cheap.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Your Product Placement Here 

In light of the controversy over this, I thought I'd explain Manhattan Transfer's policy on product placement, advertising and general corruption. Here it is: I'm totally for sale. Send me anything good and I'll plug it in this space. Really.

If you need more guidance: I'm a size 42 suit; I wear size 10 shoes; I need a new phone; I read everything; I drink a lot.

That said, Manhattan Transfer has not actually been corrupted or bought yet. Unlike some other lucky bloggers, without one exception, I've never received anything for free from anyone looking to promote anything. I've never actually been paid for the AdSense ads over on the far right because you have to earn $100 before they'll send you anything, and I'm not close to that yet. I keep them up there because I think it's funny when they advertise rehab clinics (and I like the Five Points gangster picture that shows up when my content doesn't trigger any ads).

I realize there are a few things that it might seem like I am paid to promote, but I assure it is a labor of love rather than corruption.

The Village Idiot: I don't think anyone who worked there ever heard of a blog. I did have crushes on all of the bartenders but I don't think blogging about the bar would have helped me seduce them. They gave me some free shots of Wild Turkey but those were buy-backs for the dozens I ordered in a given night.

The Cellar: Okay, I'm pretty sure they started Whiskey Wednesday just to make my life a little brighter. It's two dollars off all whiskey on Wednesday, which is like getting into heaven with a few extra sins on your soul. But I'm not paid to promote the bar, and I pay for my drinks there. It's just a wonderful bar staffed with some of my favorite people.

Jameson's Irish Whiskey: Oh, please, please someone make me an official sponsor! I just have a thirst for the stuff. And as far as drinks go, it's relatively healthy too.

I think that about covers it except for my one real corruption. Something I write about nearly all the time and from which I really do receive incredible compensation. The culprit: friendship. I've got the best damn friends anyone could have, and I try to promote them all I can. This is my new trend and my most important product: my friends.

Robots vs. the Ladies of the Lower East Side 

Sometime last year the Manhattan Gentlemen's Club opened in the shuttered bank on Houston and Essex, right around the corner from 12" (formerly known as Filthy McNasty's and currently known for hosting Krucoff and his Dodgeball crew's No Data parties) and next door to the Mercury Lounge. As you've already guessed, the Gentlemen's Club was a strip joint. It intially got a good deal of publicity as some downtown notables, or at least Moby, showed up during it's opening week. It didn't last. Now the place is a shuttered bank once more.

Yesterday I was chatting with Lindsay about how I had predicted the place was not going to last. This wasn't exactly genius prognostication on my part; it was pretty damn obvious to anyone familiar with the neighborhood. To begin with, it's my impression that strip clubs in Manhattan are mainly patronized by out-of-town business men staying in nearby hotels. Although this may soon be changing, there simply aren't enough hotels catering to this type to support a "gentlemen's club."

More importantly, in any one of two dozen nearby bars a gentleman can garner the attention of a young lady by merely knowing the names of a few cool emo bands, telling a mildly ironic joke or two, having awkward hair and buying them a drink. Basically, all you need is $5 and an episode or two of the OC.

These girls might be more leg-warmers over cowboy boots than g-strings and five inch heals, but what you lose in silicone-inflated appendages, bleached hair and Eastern European accents, you gain in terms of their having an apartment nearby and no rules against fraternizing with the men.

Inspired by my conversation with Lindsay and her later conversation with Anna, the Ikea robot helper-girl, I decided to see if LES-style seduction would work on the automated Scandanavian.

MT: If I buy you a whiskey, will you take off your shirt?

Anna: Because IKEA prices are already so low, additional discounts are not offered.

MT: You've got great legs for a robot.

Anna: Here you will find the Bed Legs.

So, uhm, yeah. Works on robots too.

Overserved's Advice On The Upcoming Vacation 

In two weeks Manhattan Transfer will be trading in the grey cold of the streets of New York for ten days of adventure in Costa Rica. Since most of my foreign travel has been restricted to Europe, I've been asking everyone for advice about where to go, what to do and how to prepare.

So far my more adventurous younger brother Overserved has provided the best advice.

MT: What does one wear when white water rafting, zip lining and touring cloud forests?

Overserved: Dinner jacket for white water rafting. Tuxedo for zip lines. Coat and Tails for Cloud Forests. Beware of Cloud city. Lando Calrissian is not to be trusted.

Also: When I'm gone I probably won't have much access to the blogosphere. I've lined up a half-time guest blogger but there's room for another. If you've any interest (no blogging experience necessary!) drop me a line.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Tuesday Contest: Best Bar Story 

The winner of last week's contest was TMFTML. He's going to be on the receiving end of a bottle of Wild Turkey for his efforts. See? These prizes are real and culled from the extensive collection of cool shit that has piled up in the Manhattan Transfer treasury.

This week's contest asks you to share your best story from one of the 240 bar from 14th street and south that I've listed here. The winner will get something from the treasury. La'D's entry in the comments to the post linked to above is an early favorite, however.

Night In the Big City Relaunch 

Night In the Big City was long a favorite of mine. They shared enough of my vices and burdens that I started to feel like they were the younger, better looking cousins of Manhattan Transfer. Also, a couple of them live in an amazing apartment with a hotttub on the roof. So it pained me to watch as NITBC fell into disuse, in the end becoming nothing more than a conduit for comment spam. If you needed on online casino or the latest diet pills, the front page comments of NITBC were there for you.

It's the season of blog rebirth, however, and Ash is promising the return of NITBC. Brace yourself.

And We'll Give Him Bonus Points For Not Mentioning the Obvious Five Year Plans 

When Transit Authority President Lawrence Reuter told New Yorkers it would take three to five years to restore full service to the A and C I assumed it was a scam. Either this was part of the campaign for the next fair hike ("You want a C train before 2010? Four dollars a ride, fuckers!") or he was high-balling the timing so that when the trains started running in two years he would be praised for effeciency ("TA Cheif Complete Five Year Job in Just Under Two Years. Collects Massive Incentive Bonus"). Or maybe organized crime needed a new hangout since the MoMA was finished. Or maybe some obscure union rule states that 75% of the work must be done by retarded monkeys on vicodin.

I like New Yorker writer Ben McGrath's take even better. The reason why Reuter told us it would take "three to five" is that this is about how long the human mind thinks important improvements take. McGrath lists some tytpically McGrathian examples such as transforming a losing baseball team into winners, getting a black belt or training an air traffic controller. But he doesn't just rely an anecdote. He goes engages in actual reporting, calling up cognitive scientists. What's more, the scientists show enthusiasm for his theory! Note to Ben: Do you have any idea how much money Malcolm Gladwell makes off this kind of stuff? Write the book now.

I'd write the book myself (ain't too proud to steal, thanks) but my mind immediately runs to sales-killing verbotten topics. Is this kind of temporal forecasting hard-wired or habitual? Why "three to five" years rather than "four to six"? Is it heritable? Can you educate people to change their habits of temporal forecasting? Are there signficant differences in the ways different populations forecast the time it takes to accomplish major improvements? I'm pretty sure it's a firing offense to ask some of the questions at most American colleges, magazines and corporations.

(Important side note to the editor of that The Best American Series: take a long hard look at Ben's Knuckle Ball article from last year; if you can live with yourself without including it in this year's collection of Best Sports Writing, your soul is dead.)