Saturday, January 31, 2009

Dumb American: Australia

This is my final Aussie post, closing out Australia Week.

One of the things I love discovering as I've made my meager travels slowly across this world, is the knowledge that is common place in other countries that we are completely oblivious to here in America. My first Dumb American column featured some basic British knowledge I gleaned during my 2007 trip to London.

Here are a few things I picked up in my three weeks abroad in Australia.

The Australian Flag

Always know your flags, that's what I always say! Ok, maybe it's not, but I do love learning the symbolism behind the flag design for every place I visit. The flag of Australia is made up of the Union Jack in the upper left corner pledging Australia's allegiance to the British Empire; the Commonwealth Star, whose seven points represent the 6 original states of Australia plus an extra point for the territories and any future states; and the Southern Cross, the most distinctive constellation visible in the Southern Hemisphere.

Pretty cool! Whatever you do, don't confuse it with rival New Zealand's flag, which is nearly identical:


We've all seen Crocodile Dundee, or maybe the Crocodile Hunter (rest in peace) and have had fun trying to speak in the Aussie accent using what we think are typical Australian words a la "Shrimp on the Barbie" etc. Sorry Outback, but down under, there are no shrimp, but what they do have are prawn. In fact, there are a surprisingly high number of words that needed translation for this dumb American. Aussies call their exclusive string of slang, "Strine," which Wikipedia explains "is a term coined in 1964 and subsequently used to describe a joke or made-up "language" purportedly spoken by Australians. The term is a syncope, derived from a phonetic rendition of the pronunciation of the word "Australian" in an exaggerated Broad Australian accent."

A google search will produce many lists of translations like this one, which are definitely worth checking out for some cultural awareness. Below are a few personal favorites (with their translations) and they were words I certainly did hear with regularity down under!

Biscuits = Cookies
Cuppa = Cup of Tea
Chips = Fries
Rocket = Arugula
Lollies = Candy
Ankle-biter = child or baby
Arvo = Afternoon
Pot = 285 ml Beer Glass
Brekkie = Breakfast

Long Blacks

I've already vented my frustration with the coffee in Australia. To recap, there is no brewed/filtered coffee as we know it in Australia. They've got Italian espresso drinks galore, and believe it or not, tons of instant coffee, but no plain old coffee. To compensate, I got by with what is called a Long Black. Similar to an Americana, a Long Black (or Short Black if you just want a few sips) is a double shot of espresso poured onto hot water (an Americana is the reverse). This is a considerably stronger alternative to coffee, but for those of you, like me, who can't stomach too much dairy, but need their coffee, this is the only way to survive.

Australians have a few other creative espresso drinks including Flat Whites and Babyccinos. In my search for a good pic of a Long Black (out of the hundreds of pics I took, I somehow never got one of the a Long Black, despite how often I drank them!) I came across this great blog that lays out Australian coffees perfectly (as well as a bunch of other posts on being an outsider in Australia). Check it out and consider yourself a little less of a dumb American.

A few more random facts

  • Australians don't tip and the tax is included in the price of food. This makes splitting the bill extremely easy. If you order a $10 sandwich and $3 long black, you contribute $13. That's it.
  • If an Australian asks you if you want to go to the arcade, they aren't talking about a big dirty room full of pinball machines, video games, and tweens. An Australian arcade is simply a mall.
  • Australians drive on the left side of the road just like jolly old England.
  • Australian toilets have 2 buttons to flush. One for half tank, to conserve water, which there is always a shortage of, and a second for full tank for those morning-afters when you really need it:

A Life By Design

I've made it a rule to always pick up a biography or memoir of a local from every place I visit. I love reading about the places I've just seen and feel more a part of that person's life after walking the streets they walked and seeing the same vistas, no matter how changed, they saw. In the National Gallery of Victoria gift shop, I bought "A Life by Design. The Art and Lives of Florence Broadhurst" by Siobhan O'Brien and read the entire book on the flight home to NY.

Known in Australia not only for her famous wallpaper designs which were available for purchase at home and abroad by the wealthy elite of the 1960s but also for her grisly and still unsolved murder in 1977, Florence Broadhurst was one of the most eccentric women I've ever read about. Sporting bright red hair and black kohl lined eyes until her death, I found myself both admiring and abhorring Florence for the lies she told and sheer determination to get what she wanted.

Born in Queensland in 1899, Florence was a singer, performer, entrepreneur, painter, and wallpaper designer who lived abroad in Shanghai and England before returning to Australia to live in Sydney, where she denied her Australian heritage telling people instead that she was British. Throughout her life was constantly reinventing herself, going from profession to profession and creating a personal history to fit her needs. Most impressive was her wild abandon to follow her heart and to do everything in her power to mold herself into the woman she wanted to be, even if that contradicted who she was last year. Most tragic was the nature of her death, a gruesome murder in her Paddington neighborhood of Sydney, where evidence showed the 78 year old woman defended herself against who many believe was a person she knew.

I developed a small obsession with Florence during my last week in Sydney. I wanted desperately to buy a souvenir that sported one of her wallpaper designs, for they are everywhere- on rugs, linens, bags. But alas, I had exceeded my budget in Melbourne! I did, however, make a pilgrimage to Royalston St. in Paddington where Florence's final studio resided. I'm not sure which building housed the studio, but it excited me to know I was on the street where Florence created her masterpieces, and lived out her final dreams as an artist.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Tale of Two (Australian) Cities: Melbourne

Melbourne. Australia's mecca for artists.
When I meet an Aussie at a gig or show somewhere, I never bother with the "where in Australia are you from" question; 9 out of 10 times the answer will be Melbourne. Not because this is where all the musicians in Australia are miraculously born (though don't they all wish it!), but this is the city they want to be associated with. You may have been born in "Shitney" (that's Sydney to all non-residents) but if like your average Aussie jazz musician you spent a few years at VCA- Victoria College of the Arts, then you will lay claim to this gritty city as your homeland.

And for good reason. Melbourne is bad ass. A stark contrast from Sydney, the city is about an hour tram ride from Port Phillip, a bay located on the southern side of Victoria. With no beaches in immediate proximity to the heart of the city, it seems the bored relied upon their imaginations rather than surfing skills to occupy their time. This would account not only for the thriving performing arts scene, but also for the hip fashion industry and plethora of artsy cafes. There is also a passion for sports with a huge stadium home to several Australian football and rugby teams. I found some great running routes up and down the Yarra River, which cuts through the city, as well as along the shore of the aforementioned Port Phillip bay.

Home to the contemporary arts is the super modern Federation Square. Here we perused art exhibits of Aboriginal art as well as an interesting exhibition of bicycles. With several large-screen tvs and cafe seating my travel companions and I spent numerous breaks sitting, drinking cappuccinos, eating something creamy, and watching the Olympics. We also took in a performance of Philippe Gentry's Lands End at the Arts Centre. Loved the theater, which included an exhibit of the Melbourne Ballet Company's costumes. The performance, eh... not my cup of tea. It had a distinct french Cirque de Solei minus the major acrobatics feel that made me feel like I watching extremely watered down theatrical modern dance. Then again, I do tend to be a bit of snob when it comes to anything remotely close to staged dance.

I also surprisingly found myself being a bit snobbish as I listened in on a few jazz shows. I'm usually pretty open to most interpretations of jazz, but a few of the shows I heard took the use of the word "jazz" almost too liberally. I'm certainly not a jazz "big J" (as the BF likes to call it) purist. It doesn't all have to swing or employ a flat 3 or 7 for me to enjoy it, but I think out of the four or so gigs I attended, including one at Bennet's Lane, the major jazz club of Melbourne, the one that featured a singer doing standards was the most enjoyable- I could've hung at that bar listening all night. After talking with a few Melby jazzers, it seems the style of jazz they enjoy most is the more free, modal, almost atmospheric jazz. I must admit, while I would get into two or three songs out of 2 sets, the majority of what I heard was absent of an obvious set form, even melody, and the tempos and grooves were remarkably the same. The solos were often the equivalent of a Hemingway type sitting at a cafe smoking a cigarette uttering a stream of consciousness philosophy on life. Seemingly hip at first, boring and pretentious after the second paragraph, I mean chorus. While it is always fun to see where live performance will go when a set form is absent, or abandoned, and I did enjoy several of the tunes, I found myself just dying for a blues. Something that established a key center and purposely stayed in or out, creating harmony or dissonance, not vagueness.

One area that I did not embrace snobbery was in the shopping! Oh my GOSH I would have given anything to be let free with a sky high credit card limit that I didn't have to pay off! We spent our shopping days mostly out on the streets, with one day in an outlet mall. I am happy to report not a Gap, Express, or Banana Republic in site! In addition to some small jewelry, my favorite purchases were for bags by Australian designers that are unavailable right now in the states. Ah, the victory of owning something semi-exclusive! If you are into designer bags, I highly suggest checking out Nicola Cerini and Catherine Manuell for pure awesomeness in a bag.

Artistry abiding in Melbourne, even the weather could not escape! Moody as any artist I know, it would rain for 5 minutes, be sunny for the next 7, cloudy for 2, then back to sunny. These moods, just like it's inhabitants, created an almost daily ultimate beauty. Some may consider Melbourne to be home of Australia's arts, but after seeing a rainbow almost every day of my week long trip, I will always remember Melbourne as the city of rainbows.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Tale of Two (Australian) Cities: Sydney

Sydney is not the capital of Australia as many think; that honor goes to Canberra, a city that like our own capital of D.C., is not part of one of the seven states of Australia. Instead, Canberra lays at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory, or A.C.T. as it is locally called.

One word to describe Sydney? Beautiful. That may sound generic but my shoddy photography above of the Sydney Harbor (taken from the Taronga Zoo) does not begin to convey the vibrant shades of blue that the water and sky share, or the varying greens that are found in the bush along the road and water, some plants looking like they could fit in along Hollywood Boulevard, others seem to be straight out of the high deserts. And the birds! They were the first real indicator that I was in a foreign country. The first morning in Sydney I awoke bright and early (thanks jet-lag for forcing me to sleep at an early 4 PM the day before!) hearing the most beautiful, and unrecognizable bird songs. Now I know absolutely nothing about birds, much less their calls, and I was shocked that I even realized that these sounded different. I guess music, even birdsong, has a way of seeping into your subconsciousness without you realizing it. These new-to-me birds sang beautifully! Maria would have been in heaven, and probably win herself another Grammy!

I only spent a few days in the heart of the city-like section of Sydney. I did a bunch of touristy things such as walk around the Opera House, have an Aussie beer at the Opera Bar, visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (where I surprisingly pretty much hated the majority of the exhibits; one exhibit featured a taxidermy horse hanging from the ceiling! C'mon now!), visited the aforementioned Taronga Zoo (not the home of the late Crocodile Hunter as I had hoped; his was the Australia Zoo in Queensland) and window shop/latte sip in the trendy Rocks district along the water, where supposedly the convicts chipped away at the rocks to create the town. I also had the opportunity to run the famous City 2 Surf Fun Run, which started in Sydney's CBD (Central Business District) and ended 14 k's later at Bondi Beach (reviewed here on the Races in Places Blog).

I spent the majority of my time in Sydney hanging out at Manly Beach. Sydney is comprised of a series of beaches to the north and south of the main city. These beaches are not at all what you find along the eastern coast of the US. Instead of being long and straight with one beach ending where the next begins, as it is here, these beaches are more like little coves that are book-ended by cliffs. You can't really walk from one beach to the next staying just on the sand. Check out this map and you'll see how the coast curves in and out, and is not straight. Also, the beaches themselves are much smaller. There are few sand dunes and the road pretty much goes right next to the beach, which is lined with palm trees and other green vegetation.

Manly is a cute little surf town with a rivalry with southern Bondi. Bondi was by far more spectacular, as it was bigger with lots of glamour and trend. But the smaller more homey Manly definitely fit my personality much better with its more intimate beach and alternate wharf side. Manly is sandwiched between the ocean and a wharf (seen below). Connecting the two bodies of water is the "Corso," an outdoor strip of shops and cafes. There was a definite laid back feel and while it was too cool to shed the jacket, sitting in the sun offered the therapeutic revitalization I was craving.

While sitting on the beach enjoying a huge hand-held sushi roll was certainly relaxing to the nth degree, I didn't necessarily find the town inspiring, at least not in the heart of the city. One afternoon trip took me to the tip of the Northern Beaches to the Barrenjoey Head Aquatic Reserve. We took a short hike to the lighthouse and it was there I felt the beauty and authenticity of the terrain really start to seep in. Earlier that day I went for a run along Dee Why Beach, another little beach in Northern Sydney. This was a great run because I deviated from my path, sacrificing mileage for adventure, and explored the side of a small cliff bordering the beach (plus running in the sand is a bitch!). I felt I was truly exploring the landscape hands on, which was way more exciting than walking through the CDB. That day was probably my favorite day during my stay in Sydney.

If you should visit Sydney, definitely check out the tourist book staples, but don't hesitate to jump on one of the many ferries, and head out to the smaller beaches. This is where you'll find the true charm of the city and dare I say, country.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Musical Journalist: Australia

I have this deep burning desire to become a musical journalist. I want to travel to every footpath, canal, hillside and highway of this earth, meet every personality that accompanies each terrain, and return to my NY apartment and write music about those experiences.

Australia was meant to be my guinea pig. I would travel there for 3 weeks, visiting Sydney and Melbourne, and be so inspired, returning to write tune upon tune expressing the joys (or perils) of my travels. Way easier said than done.

To begin with, Australia, or at least the cities of Sydney and Melbourne aren't remarkably different from US towns. Sydney felt like Honolulu and Melbourne felt like NY, though there were obvious differences that I'll delve into later this week.

As I look over the 10 pages of notes I took, mostly about the jazz gigs I went to, I feel a distinct yearning to return. Not so much because I want to relive my experiences there, but because I felt there was so much I missed. Being in Sydney was like having a tall glass of fresh air and sunshine. The grit in Melbourne touched base with my artistic side. I want to write music about it all, but am not sure what to write. Nothing about the places I visited was vastly different than other places I've experienced.

So instead I will focus on the feeling that I experienced while there. One tune I haven't started writing is already titled "Keep Left."

These signs appear frequently on the road to remind drivers to literally, keep to your left. This was of course novel to me in the beginning as I had kinda forgotten that Australians drive on the left side of the street. But this notion became a theme throughout my trip.

At the time I was in training for the NYC Marathon and had to squeeze in about4 runs every week. This was great as I got to see and explore many different areas that I most likely would not have otherwise. But one thing I kept forgetting was to run on the left side of the sidewalk. I habitually and with out thinking would repeatedly start off running on the right side of the path and inevitably bump into someone having to then say in my American accent, Oh excuse me, pardon me, my bad. It was a constant reminder that while I felt like I was in just another city, I most certainly was not. And as the trip progressed, I started to feel this reminder more and more aggressively.

Just about everyone I met was super nice. Clerks were friendly and friends of friends welcoming. The people I stayed with were extremely generous and kind. They all lived up to the laid back friendly idea we have of the typical Australian persona. But through subtle comments and friendly jabs I started to get the sense that there was something to proved. An almost "we're just as good" plea for attention. Which was absolutely ridiculous because never once had I ever thought anything about Australia wasn't. Nevertheless, there was a constant need to compare and conclude how, basically America drools and Australia rules. By the end of the trip I had the frustrating feeling that I hadn't been allowed to naturally form an opinion.

One example: coffee. Melbourne is known for it's incredible coffee. From what I understand, a while back there was a huge migration of Italians to the city who brought with them their fine espresso making skills. Now there is a plethora of cafes serving up lattes and cappuccinos worthy of rivaling the best Italian concoctions. As you can imagine, I was super excited to partake! But by the time I got to Brunswick Street in Melbourne, I was so sick of hearing about how much better this coffee was, especially in comparison to American coffee which is, gasp! and god forbid, filtered coffee, I had developed a negative opinion of the beverage before even trying it. It was hard to form a honest opinion as I rebelliously wanted to dislike every latte I drank.

And thus there was a constant reminder to Keep Left. In case you forgot, you're not in America, which sucks by the way, you are in Australia, home of the world's bestest cup of coffee, ever... EVER. And so a tune of aggressive melodies and clashes I shall write (while drinking a cup of filtered coffee, STARBUCKS brand just to rub it in!).

Aggressive reminders of greatness aside, I developed a fairly deep appreciation and empathy for the extremely kind and generous people that took care of me on this trip. And that will be the subject of my second Australian tune. As those experiences were a bit more personal, I'd rather let the music speak for itself.

[when can you hear these new tunes you ask? April 22! save the date! more later...]

I learned a lot from this trip. Not as much about Australia as I had hoped, but more about the nature and circumstance of traveling. Some things were very practical: always carry water and a snack as you never know when you won't be able to get food and drink. Don't rely on credit cards in a foreign country (I had nightmarish experience with my credit card, which I thought would be easier to use as opposed to converting Australian cash, resulting in my having to make an international collect call every three or so days to give verbal permission to keep the card active. I was there for 3 weeks, you do the math). Pack clothes for all weather occasions. It was winter there, but a mild one compared the current winter NYC is experiencing. I packed a bunch of blouses and light sweaters and took my pea coat. I was FREEZING the entire time! While it never dipped far below low 50s or so Fahrenheit, there were never moments of warming up as it is common to have only a space heater indoors, not central heat. The way to go was to layer long sleeve undershirts, something I did NOT bring.

I also learned that what you get out of traveling is entirely dependent on the circumstance in which you are traveling. An obvious point, but one that was hammered in hard. I regret not researching ahead. My companions frequently asked what I wanted to do to "experience Australia" and I had no ideas, figuring I could wing it. Turns out, it's hard to wing it when you can not drive in that country! I also wish I had spent the extra money to plan a few excursions that would have taken me out of the cities and suburbs.

Do I recommend the long 20 hour flight to visit a country that is not too different from our own? Absolutely. Everyone should experience other cultures no matter how minute the differences. Do I want to go back? Yes. I would love to visit the beaches of Queensland, return to Victoria and travel the Great Ocean Road, I'd even love to go to Western Australia and check out Perth.

While my August travels had their bumps, my desire to explore the world and it's people has only deepened. This was the first step, I hope, of many.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Australia Week

Happy Australia Day!!!

Today launches Aussie Week here at Bottomless Cup. As a few of you loyal readers know, I had the privilege of spending 3 weeks in Australia back in August. While I had planned to "live-blog" my experiences while there, Internet was hard to come by and my laptop gave out almost immediately upon landing in the southern hemisphere. When I returned home, I was quickly distracted with other things and never got the chance to opine about my experiences. Five months late, I chalk up this week's delayed memoirs to the laid-back Aussie way of getting to it when I get to it! ;)

I'll get on with my POV tomorrow. For today, it's all about the Tim-Tams, Coopers and celebrating with our Aussie friends. Australia has been celebrating their nation on January 26 since 1935, but the history of the national celebration goes all the way back to 1818. Dr. Elizabeth Kwan explains courtesy of

The tradition of having Australia Day as a national holiday on 26 January is a recent one. Not until 1935 did all the Australian states and territories use that name to mark that date. Not until 1994 did they begin to celebrate Australia Day consistently as a public holiday on that date1.


The tradition of noticing 26 January began early in the nineteenth century with Sydney almanacs referring to First Landing Day or Foundation Day. That was the day in 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet of eleven convict ships from Great Britain and the first governor of New South Wales, arrived at Sydney Cove. The raising of the Union Jack there symbolised British occupation of the eastern half of the continent claimed by Captain James Cook on 22 August in 1770.2

Some immigrants who prospered in Sydney, especially those who had been convicts or the sons of convicts, began marking the colony's beginnings with an anniversary dinner - 'an emancipist festival' to celebrate their love of the land they lived in. Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the emancipists' friend, made the thirtieth anniversary of the day in 1818 a public holiday, thirty guns counting out the years of British civilization, a tradition Macquarie's successors continued.3

Go here for a most thorough history of this celebration.

What are you planning on doing to celebrate? For those of you in NYC, I suggest checking out Murph's Guide for a listing of Aussie-inspired events. Those of you outside of NYC, you'll have to do your own google searches!

Either way, I suggest you make your way to your local Target, where it is rumored that Tim-Tams, Australia's most divine chocolate biscuits are on sale for a limited time. After purchasing a fair share of these delicious cookies (limited time sales people!!!) treat yourself to a Tim-Tam Slam. What's that, you ask? I'll let Aussie native Natalie Imbruglia explain:


Saturday, January 24, 2009


opens Feb. 6, go to



Thursday, January 22, 2009

Last Kiss

John Lustig's Last Kiss Comics have been entertaining me for the past year. I came across his booth at NYCC last year and got the cutest tote bag adorned with one of his sassy, vintage comics. I signed up for the mailing list and once a week I crack a smile, or even laugh out loud when his comic graces my inbox.

"Last Kiss" was originally "First Kiss," a Charleton Comics romance series from the late 1950s. Lustig bought the rights to the series and in 2000 renamed the comic "Last Kiss," and started reproducing the series with updated punchy dialogue.

This week the franchise grows from merchandise and a newsletter, to a reformated website with blog and a syndication on Take a minute and browse the archives, I guarantee they will bring a smile to your face.

Some of my past favorites:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Haiku

Bravo to Obama's Inaugural speechwriters.

Zoilus, however, suggests an alternate text:

Dad was refused lunch
Now his son is president
Childish things, farewell.

(I thought that was pretty funny!)

For more of Zoilus's Canadian POV, click here.

Wednesday Motivators: K. D. Bryan

K. D. (center) with writer Judd Winnick (right) at Isotope Comics in San Francisco a few years back at a Warren Ellis Scotch Tasting and Signing Party.

K. D. Bryan is the first Wednesday Motivator that I do not know personally. Our relationship is restricted to the Internet, the blogosphere to be more precise. K.D. runs the popular comics blog, "Look Out! Here Comes A Comics Blog" and is a regular commenter here on Bottomless Cup.

DT: How long have you been collecting?

K. D.: God. Just doing the math to answer that makes me feel old. 23 freakin' years, as of now. Wow. I didn't even realize it had been that long.

DT: First comic you remember reading/owning?

K. D.: *Spectacular Spider-Man #106*, starring Spider-Man, The Wasp and Paladin. I was 8 years old and it confused the hell out of me, so I had to read more.

DT: What do you collect currently?

K. D.: I know I'm going to forget a bunch of titles. Arrgh. Well, when I actually have money to buy comics, I try to get everything Gail Simone, Adam Warren, Greg Rucka, Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman, Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker and Joss Whedon write (usually in that order). I used to pick up the odd superhero title I loved out of sentimental value even if the writing itself isn't thrilling me - She-Hulk, Deadpool, Gen13, Invincible Iron Man, Uncanny X-Men and, God Help Me, Avengers - but not so much lately. That said, as much as I hate Bendis' current take on things, I do love the beejesus out of Powers. Indie titles I currently enjoy include (but are not limited to) Twilight Guardian, The Sword, Echo and I Hate Galant Girl. Due to crappy finances, I've been doing a *lot* of tradewaiting. Mind you,*100 Bullets * and *Empowered* are the two trades that I absolutely MUST BUY whenever they come out.

DT: Personal fav?

K. D.: Currently being published? *Secret Six*, hands down. Of all time? I know I should say Neil Gaiman's *Sandman* but the truth is that *Sandman: Brief Lives* ties with Joe Kelly's run on *Deadpool*. Yes, yes, I am a shallow fanboy.

DT: Fav author? Artist?

K. D.: Arrgh. Tough question. Adam Warren for combination of both - if you try to read *Dirty Pair: Fatal But Not Serious*, you'll get eyestrain counting all the little details and in-jokes on just a single page. As far as just writing goes, Neil Gaiman is boss. Artist-wise, John Cassaday's work on Planetary reminded me why I fell in love with comics to begin with (the lack of Absolute Planetary/finished Planetary makes me a Sad Panda).

DT: Do you shop at the same place every week?

K. D.: Sadly, no.

DT: Why?

K. D.: Partly, it's finances - I really can't keep up my previous $33 a week habit anymore. I'm lucky to have a $6 habit most weeks. Also, I tend to have an erratic schedule. I'll go to my local indie shop if they're actually open and my friendly neighborhood corporate behemoth comic shop, Mile High Comics when the indie shop's closed. If I could make it up to Boulder more regularly, I'd do most of my shopping at Time Warp the best independent comic book store in Colorado.

DT: Do you prefer monthlies or trades?

K. D.: I love the rush of a good cliffhanger, so monthlies, definitely. There are crazy complex books I prefer to read as trades, however, like *100 Bullets*.

DT: Fav superhero movie?

K. D.: Ooh. Tough one. I have to preface my choice by saying that *Dark Knight* was the most stunning, nuanced superhero film ever made (and *Iron Man* was crazy fun). Still, out of pure, cheesy sentimentality, I'd have to say my favorite superhero movie of all time is Burton's *Batman.* Something about that film makes me happy every single time I watch it.

DT: Why should I start reading again?

K. D.: Well, there's an *insane *amount of good reads out there now, just waiting for you to discover them. Also, the more people putting their money into good comics, the better. If you buy good comics, you'll make sure they'll keep getting published and the talented people behind them will get more work. Plus, comics are fun, dang it, and I like to read your thoughts on them. :)

DT: Who would win: Superman vs. Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman vs. Batman? Batman vs. Superman?

K. D.: Hoo boy. That's practically daring me to make a blog post. Wonder Woman beats Superman - see Greg Rucka's awesome four-issue fight between the two for evidence of that. I know people argue that Supes wasn't in his right mind for that fight but even a clever, calm Superman wouldn't stand much of a chance against a magical warrior trained from birth (who's also immune to his heat vision). Wonder Woman vs. Batman? Hmmmm. Cover of The Hiketeia aside, I think that would really just depend on who struck first. The Tower of Babel JLA story illustrates that Batman is always ready to take down his friends but Wonder Woman's fast and strong enough to take Batman's head off with a punch. Batman Vs. Superman? Batman. (Yes, I know that, logically, everything I said for the WW Vs. Bats fight still applies but, well, I just like Batman better than Supes. :)

K. D. with Warren Ellis

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Obama Day

I am not well-educated in the ways of politics. I don't read nearly enough and on Sunday mornings while the BF watches the various political talk shows, I find myself curled up next to him on the couch in front of the TV but with my nose deep in a comic, attention turned to the adventures of Diana and Supes with ears closed to the speculation and explanation of the week's politics. Shame on me, I know.

But I do know about change. I grew up, a military brat, changing every 2 years. New school, new friends, new music program, new state, new corner of the country with it's subtle nuances of cultural difference (what?! Duckhead shorts aren't cool here? but they were such a status symbol at my last school! and can someone please tell me what a frappe is??).

Change is hard. Change is a bitch. Change has to be worked at.

It's fun to think about change, it's harder to implement.

For most of America, and possibly parts of the world, today marks change. A stepping out of a dark despair, into the proverbial light. And leading this march is America's 44th President, Barack Obama.

Misery loves company. It's easy to hide under the covers and think why bother when it seems the country is going to hell in a hand basket. It's easy to muse on how bad things are, bringing others down with you. It's easy to day dream about how great things could be, if only things would change. At a time when the country is desperate for change, out steps an avatar touting just that, change.

If asked, I admit to being unable to list the fine points of Obama's upcoming political agenda (and I'd be curious to know how many of those actively participating in the Obamamania could). I could easily believe that he is simply a man with incredible timing, in the right place at the right time, a culmination of the direction America is trying to take, rather than a new idea spontaneously arriving a la deus ex machina. And I'm okay with that.

People like a leader, in many cases need a leader. I'm not sure what I believe Obama will do for this country politically, but I'm counting on his fresh and steady voice to inspire America to get off their butts and not just wait for change, but participate in change. To make. change. happen.

Change is hard. Change is a bitch. Change is necessary. Change is evolution.

We have someone willing to hold our hand in change. On this Inauguration Day, we should not be holding our breath, crossing our fingers and hoping that Obama doesn't let us down, we should be standing up, pushing away the covers, and hoping that we don't let Obama down.

Today America receives an invitation to change. Sitting here at my computer in NY watching the coverage in DC I can literally feel the energy crackling. Political agendas aside, let's make today be the day we allow ourselves to be inspired to make change, a positive change, in our own lives, a group effort to improve upon this country, and all of mankind.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Orfeo ed Euridice

This weekend I had the opportunity to see the Met's production of Orfeo ed Euridice. I was lucky enough to get partial-view tickets to the Saturday, January 17 1:00 matinee. Performing that afternoon was Stephanie Blythe as Orfeo, Heidi Grant Murphy as Amor, and Danielle de Niese as Euridice. Conducting was Maestro James Levine. An all-star line-up to be sure!

This production of the mythological tale of Orpheus and Euridice was unique, appealing to me
with it's celebrity star power collaboration with personal favorite choreographer Mark Morris and designer Isaac Mizrahi. At a total running time of an hour and a half in length with no intermission (is that allowed in opera?) and an on stage chorus of 100 members dressed by Mizrahi to represent historic personalities, this production was perfect for the occasional opera patron like myself.

In a nutshell, the opera follows one of the many myths involving Orpheus (Orfeo), "the father of songs." Orfeo's wife, Euridice dies from a snakebite and through his heart-wrenching songs of grief, Orfeo is encouraged by Amor (Cupid), to enter Hades to retrieve his lost love. The catch is that he may not look at her until they are out of Hades, or tell her why he won't look at her, otherwise she will die a second time and be lost forever. All goes well as Orfeo woes the gates of Hades open with his song and finds Euridice. But as they climb the treacherous path out, Euridice pitches a hissyfit, wanting to know if she is still beautiful and complaining that if Orfeo will not look her, then she would prefer death to a passionless marriage. Orfeo gives in out of desperation, turns to her, and she dies instantly, a second death. He mourns his loss and plans to kill himself. Amor returns, takes pity again, and revives Euridice a second time and they live happily ever after, a true testament that love conquers all.

I would never dare to review or critique the performances of the leads other than to say it sounded good to me! But the New York Times offered a stellar review that as a friend who is in the Met Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program described was so complimentary, it was as if [Blythe's] mom wrote it! As a composer who generally prefers jazz and pop music to her one Renee Fleming CD, I can honestly say that for the most part, I enjoyed this performance more than expected.

To begin with, the packaging for this production made it hard for me to dislike it before I even heard the first strain of the opening overture. As I mentioned before, I am a big fan of the Mark Morris Dance Group and was intrigued to see how it's modern movements would fit into an opera from 1762. I was pleasantly surprised to see the ballet cast do a fairly good job of approximating Morris's choreography and beloved fluid style. The involvement of Isaac Mizrahi I found interesting (I'm sad to say I'm sure I have a least one of his pieces from his Target line a few years back!). The subject matter I was vaguely familiar with, but as a rule I love almost all Greek mythology and fell in love with the synopsis before the show began. Then there was the chorus. The 100 member chorus was on stage the entire production in a three tiered movable set (see pic above) giving the illusion of a forum or lecture hall. But the hook was that each member was dressed by Mizrahi as a figure from history. The idea being that these were the spirits that Orfeo would meet in Hades. When the recitative became tiresome, one only had to scan the chorus to see who was recognizable. I spotted Abe Lincoln, Queen Elizabeth I, Cleopatra, a random pope, and Princess Diana. (the Met website has a really cool key identifying who all of the cast members are portraying)

While the overall experience was enjoyable, there were a small handful of aspects I found disagreeable. Euridice, for example, was almost intolerable! Not the performance of her, mind you; I found Danielle de Niese to be stunning in the role and to my novice ears sang beautifully, but it was the character herself that was insufferable! For an all-female lead cast, the portayal of the only female was not positive. In need of attention the whole time, she came off as a petty house wife from Orange County who could not believe the nerve of her husband for not complimenting her beauty. Never mind the fact that he just brought her back to life from sheer love, why wasn't he telling her how gorgeous she was! This scene between just Orfeo and Euridice, as Orfeo tried to persuade Euridice to hurry as they escaped Hades went on a little too long for my attention span. I seriously just wanted Orfeo to shut his eyes, knock her out, and carry her out of Hades (which he totally could have done without looking!). But instead they bantered back in forth for longer than necessary. When Orfeo finally turns to look at her, Euridice convinces me of her surprise at a second death, but Orfeo seems glad to have the nagging silenced. Despite his song of supposed grief, I felt none of the expected heart-wrenching unrequited love I was so hoping to feel. When Amor returns and brings back Euridice, there seemed to me a lack of drama. As if he was like, oh cool, she came back, hope she doesn't start on the am I pretty again. For such a dramatic exposition of love conquers all, I could have slept through the whole scene (like the guy in front of me.)

This was just par for the complexity, or lack thereof, of the music. While I found the melody and orchestration, especially when the chorus was singing to be beautiful, the music was quite repetitive and not very challenging to listen to. Almost like listening to "pop" opera. According to Wikipedia and the program notes, this opera is the first of composer Christoph Willibald Gluck's "reform" operas, in which the "abstruse plots and overly complex music of opera seria" were replaced with "a "noble simplicity" in both the music and the drama." This resulted in a lack of the sometimes over embellished arias, and a more direct, real time telling of events. Gluck collaborated with choreographer Gasparo Angiolini and librettest and poet Ranieri de'Calzabigi to overhaul the "often stilted conventions of Baroque opera seria." Twelve years later the opera was revised to suit the tastes of the Parisian audiences, changing the role of Orfeo from a castrato (which is why a female usually sings this part) to a high tenor, and adding additional ballet sequences. Modern productions often blend the two versions, but this retelling was inspired by Levine and Morris to stay true to the 1762 version.

With it's modern trappings, short running time, agreeable melodies, and stellar performances, this "pop opera" is an ideal production in which to introduce oneself to opera.

“Orfeo ed Euridice” runs through Jan. 31 at the Metropolitan Opera, (212) 362-6000,

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday Motivators: Mike

Meet Mike. Mike is responsible for one of my top ten NY moments. When visiting his sister here in NY, Mike had the brilliant idea to take flowers to Steve Wacker (above) at the DC office in Midtown (this was before he left DC for Marvel) in consolation for the upcoming launch of 52. Amazingly, we were let in, and met Wacker in his office where he indulged us in conversation, a few free trades, and an eavesdrop on a phone convo with Mark Waid. It was AWESOME!

DT: How long have you been collecting?

I've been collecting since I was 7 so that makes it... 20 years. Shit. I'm old.

DT: What do you collect currently?

If you mean titles? Right now, Guardians of the Galaxy, Invincible Iron Man, JSA, Secret Six, Nova, Captain Britain, and MI: 13, Green Lantern, Captain America, DMZ, 100 Bullets, Ex Machina, X-Force and a lot of titles in trade format.

DT: Personal fav?

Right now, I'm really digging Invincible Iron Man and Nova and I'm sure that when it comes out, Agents of Atlas will be my new favorite.

DT: Fav author? Artist?

Authors: Brian K. Vaughan, Geoff Johns, Warren Ellis, and Matt Fraction. Artists: Salvador Larocca, Carlos Pacheco, Tony Harris, Peter Snejberg and Mark Bagley

DT: Do you shop at the same place every week?

Yup. I'm a loyal bastard to Floating World Comics.

DT: Why?

Jason, the owner, is an extremely responsible and professional owner who keeps his shop clean and inviting and well-stocked and is always welcoming to new customers with events and gallery shows.

DT: Do you prefer monthlies or trades?

Trades, hand down. Monthlies are great in theory but the days of collecting them are gone. It feels like I'm collecting copies of Time Magazine at this point. I'd honestly rather read everything in trade format in my pajamas on my couch.

DT: Fav superhero movie?

Either Iron Man or Dark Knight. They're both great and neither is spot-on perfect.

DT: Why do you read?

I've always liked fiction with exciting visuals along with crisp and efficient dialogue. Movies and television supply this to a certain extent but in comics, there are NO budget restrictions so pretty much anything is possible.

DT: Why should I start reading again?

This is by far the best time to become a reader. I've been able to find a comic for any one of my friends because of the breadth of work out there from so many talented people. There is literally a comic for anyone at this point no matter what their interests.

DT: And finally, who would win? Batman vs. Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman vs. Superman? Superman vs. Batman?

Batman. Always Batman.

(I can't resist. Here's me in the DC hallway, and me with Steve Wacker.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Anywhere But Here: Amoeba Music

I think I've got a case of the Mondays...

Today I would rather be in Hollywood's Amoeba Music hunting down new (to me) music for overall life motivation. Yeah, I know I just said the cold weather helps me get stuff done, but with only one full week into the new year, I'm already falling behind! And sadly, all that makes me want to do is retreat to a warm nest of blankets and DVDs. Seems to me I need some new tunes to wake me up and help me get caught up.

I'm old school and like to physically browse CDs, and this place has a humoungus selection! Look, they even have tapes! Oh Amoeba, take me away...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wednesday Motivators: James

Meet James. He wants to help me get back into comics. So two Wednesdays ago, on December 24, I followed James to his weekly comic haven, Old Town Comics in Fredericksburg, VA. This picture makes it look he's signing comics, but he's not.

DT: How long have you been collecting?

J: I started in Elementary school, collecting X-Men, other Marvel comics, and Archie. I took a break for awhile then returned about 5 years ago.

DT: What do you collect currently?

J: Consistently, I follow 5 stories: Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, and JLA. But I'll pick up lots of the miniseries like Final Crisis and anything else recommended to me by Ed, the owner of Old Town Comics.

DT: Personal fav?

J: Green Lantern

DT: Fav author? Artist?

J: Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Sciver

DT: Do you shop at the same place every week?

J: I started going to Old Town Comics about 2 years ago after my other store closed, and yeah I'm very loyal.

DT: Why Old Town?

J: The personal attention. Ed knows what I like, we have a good rapport and he'll hold books for me when I'm out of town, even for months, as well as throw in recommendations based on my tastes.

DT: Do you prefer monthlies or trades?

J: Monthlies- I don't have the patience to wait for the trades.

DT: Fav superhero movie?

J: Dark Knight- on Blu-Ray. I like all my superhero movies on Blu-Ray.

[DT: I'm jealous.]

J: I'm also looking forward to Watchmen and Wolverine Origin.

DT: Why do you read?

J: I like the genre and the movies- it's my getaway.

DT: Why should I start reading again?

J: Do you miss it?

DT: Yes

J: That's why

(the above was entirely paraphrased based on an interview post Old Town visit)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cold Invigoration

I can be fickle when asked what season or time of the year is my favorite.

I love the spices and nostalgia of fall. December is flush with celebration and colors.
Spring brings rebirth and the first warm day sans jacket. (I don't particularly care for the heat of summer unless I can be comfortable in a bathing suit sipping a cold drink by some water)

But I absolutely love the first few days of January.

The richness of the fall that I love so much, the holidays and the indulging are all over. January means back to work. The new year brings resolutions or non-resolutions; either way, there is a reexamination of life, work, and one's self. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, we are lucky enough to have the cold weather cheering us on.

For me, the harsh, unfeeling cold is the kick in the butt I need to take down the tree, close the cookie recipe book, tie on my running shoes, and get back to work. Sure, each first day of snow brings hot chocolate, old movies, and finding ways to staying warm on the couch, but as every New Yorker knows, its only the initial snowfall that holds the magic. A few hours after the last flake falls, the snow becomes dirty from snow plows and an overall hindrance to trudge through. May as well stay home and write music!

And thank goodness for these first days of inspiration- I have big plans for '09 that can use all the inspiration they can get! The BCJO has it's second show this April and there are new tunes to be written. There are plans for Bottomless Cup Music to go incorporated as well as a face-lift for this blog. Not to mention my return to (reading) comics!

With so much to do, I am grateful not to have any holidays or warm, sunny days to distract me!

Good luck to all of you who with the first full week of January are back to work and put to the task of actually full-filling your new year's resolutions.

Keep the bottomless cups of coffee flowing- we will need it!

Thursday, January 1, 2009


2009. The Year of the Visionary:

The numerology for 2009 begins with the Master Number 11/2 (2+0+0+9=11 or 2). It's the first 11 year to occur since 1910! Marked by change powered by visionary and humanitarian ideals, the 11/2 Universal Year will crackle with energy. And as long as people remember to occasionally interrupt the flow of inspiration and innovation to actually get things done, 2009 should be a very successful year!

Any time a Master Number is prominent, energies are magnified. And 2009 promises to be momentous, not just for you personally (see details below), but for everyone in the world who lives by the modern calendar.

History lesson
The Apollo 11 mission, which landed the first men on the moon, is a great example of the power of 11/2's visionary focus. Across the globe more people than ever before gathered in front of televisions to share that first step onto the familiar face of the moon, and to see the first whole images of our beautiful planet suspended in space. The whole world was uplifted and changed that day.

This year should be particularly eventful for those of us affected by US President Elect Barak Obama and Vice President Elect Joe Biden who both have 11/2 as their Destiny/Life Path/Power number and take the Oath of Office on a 2 day, January 20, 2009.

Your year
If you want to know what's in store for you this year, just calculate your Destiny/Power/Life Path number by adding together your birth day, month and year until you have either a single digit or the Master Number 11 or 22. For example, for President Elect Obama, born on August 4, 1961, add 8+4+1+9+6+1 = 29 = 2 + 9 = 11/2. It's interesting to note that the influence of 11/2 derived from 29, as in Obama's case, adds leadership ability to 11's defining visionary capacities.

If you're a:

1 - This year should be very entertaining! There will be plenty of exciting and innovative ideas to fuel your busy entrepreneurial nature. If the 11/2 energy occasionally slips into 2's indecisiveness and passivity, when the vision loses focus, you'll get everyone back on track.

2 - The power of this year's master number vibration could make this one of the most important years of your life, and one that could awaken your own inner visionary activist. You're just the person to be sure everyone's getting what they need from the vision.

3 - The visionary and artistic possibilities of 11/2 appeal to you strongly, and your flair for communications and presentation make you a critical member of any team wanting to make an 11/2 vision a reality. And your sense of fun will help keep it light.

4 - You may occasionally worry if people are having too much fun imagining a better future to actually get anything done, but that's the very reason you're so important to the process! Someone has to remind the idea folks of practical realities and keep everyone on task.

5 - Be careful not to get so busy firing terrific ideas back and forth that you forget to actually do something about them! Your job is to inspire others to use this 11/2 year to take the chances that really promise far-reaching rewards.

6 - Your commitment to balance, social responsibility and healing will be fired up this year, and your reliability and tenacity in getting the job done will assure plenty of rewards for both you and the causes that are dear to your heart.

7 - Don't let your passion for contemplation keep you from joining the visionary party this year! You have a lot of insights and innovations to contribute. Just be sure to wrap up each mental journey with an action plan - and then get someone to do it!

8 - This year's big ideas are in need of your drive, ambition and practical efficiency to bring the visions into form. You have the knowledge, connections and skill which are needed to harvest the bright futures that will sprout this year.

9 - You won't have to look far this year to find partners to help you actualize your humanitarian and artistic dreams. There is practically an inexhaustible supply of energy and possibility available all around you -if you've been waiting, now's the time!

11 - This year is so supercharged for 11's that you really need to develop a metaphorical grounding wire for all that electricity. Whether it's a practical person, a meditation, or physical activity, make regular use of that grounding so the rest of us can benefit from your supercharged visions.

22 - What the world needs now are plenty of 22's, the perfect practical, powerful and accomplished actualizers for the year's magical innovations. Even the most unlikely 22's can demonstrate the important skill of leaping into the unknown and landing on your feet.

The challenge for 2009 and the following years will be to assure that real results grow from the influences and your vision of your Master Number.

Taken entirely from

(My number, as it happens, is 8. Not my favorite number- I prefer 3 or 7 or 11. But I like this forecast for '09 and look forward to making my visions into reality!)

RIP: Freddie Hubbard

RIP: Freddie Hubbard (1938-2008)

It seems we can't make it through the holidays with out losing a great jazz legend. In late December 2007, we lost pianist Oscar Peterson, and on December 29, 2008, we lost trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.

I'm a bit late to post; I've been out of town and internet free for the past week or so and didn't read the news until today. It truly saddens me that time must continue to distance us from those who created the music we live and breathe today. As the living pool of the original jazz masters inevitably diminishes, it is crucial that these musical mavericks (to use the term more accurately than some), and more importantly, their music, not be forgotten. It seems already that many of today's younger jazz musicians are listening less and less to what came before them and are more interested in today's jazz/indie/rock/hip hop fusions. Which is cool, but there is validity in knowing where your music comes from, particularly if you allow it to be labeled "jazz."

Here's to Freddie.

Obits & Remembrances:
Ethan Iverson at Do The Math
Gregory Dudzienski at The Ear of the Mind
Dave Douglas at Greenleaf Music
Darcy James Argue at Secret Society
Andrew Durkin at Jazz: The Music of Unemployment
David Ryshpan at Settled in Shipping
LA Times
David Brent Johnson at All About Jazz (via Night Lights)