Inhuman Swill : CDMOM

The Writing's on the Wall It's been a long time since I posted a mix of the month, but the CD Mix of the Month Club hasn't been mixing it up very often lately. A few of us convened for karaoke earlier this month, though, so I figured that was enough of an excuse to whip up a new mix.

My contribution for October, most emphatically not a Halloween mix, is called The Writing's on the Wall. Eleven of the fourteen tracks are available on Spotify, so you can check out a good 78.6% of the mix below:

(The story so far.)

Difference Engines It may seem a tad late to be posting a mix for January, but I sort of got busy and failed to do so last month. Yes, the CD Mix of the Month Club reconvened a few weeks ago to throw a going-away party for our member Josh McCuen, who's off now on an epic New Zealand adventure. A couple of us made mixes. Most of us didn't. I guess now we're more like the Used to Make a CD Mix of the Month Club, which makes perfect sense now that there are easier ways to share music than burning data onto aluminum discs.

Anyway, my contribution to January's shindig was called Difference Engines. This rather churlish and cheeky mix comprises mostly female vocalists, and the most if not all of the tracks are available on Spotify. Take a listen below.

(The story so far.)

Back in the New York Groove It's been a long time since I posted a CD mix of the month, but that's because I've been in Chicago and haven't been able to attend the (increasingly irregular) meetings of the CD Mix of the Month Club for several years. But this past Saturday night the club convened once again, so I created a mix.

It was a ton of fun seeing everybody again, and my contribution to September's shindig was this little number entitled Back in the New York Groove. I'm sure the theme is completely undetectable.

The cool thing nowadays is, with Spotify I can actually share the mix with you without violating a bajillion and a half copyright laws—and, amazingly, all twenty-one tracks were available to stream. Check it out below.

(The story so far.)

Tenor of the Times: A Remembrance (1972-2003) of Michael Brecker (1949-2007) Five years ago today, Michael Brecker—one of my favorite saxophone players, and a pioneer on the instrument in many ways—passed away of complications from leukemia. He had suffered from the rare blood disorder myelodysplastic syndrome, and never found a matching donor for a successful stem cell transplant.

Brecker was one of the most in-demand session players of his time, besides being a consummate jazz innovator in his own right. He was also instrumental in promoting and pioneering the use of the EWI (electronic wind instrument). Back in 2007, I put together a Michael Brecker tribute mix as my contribution to the CD Mix of the Month Club I used to belong to in New York. Called Tenor of the Times, it contained a sampling of some of his best work both as sideman and band leader. On this anniversary of his passing, I thought I'd make a zip file of the mix available. Grab it quick—I won't leave it up for long. Some liner notes are here.


Download (88 Mb)

I want to offer sadly belated congratulations to friend and former CD Mix of the Month Club compatriot Francis Heaney, who made his Sunday crossword puzzle debut in the New York Times this past, er, Sunday. Way to go, Francis!

Now if only I were a subscriber so I could test my mettle against Francis's by-all-reports-monstrous puzzle.

I keep forgetting to post that my virtual contribution to March's CD Mix of the Month club was Life Is Good, an affirmation tinged with darkness.

(The story so far.)

My virtual contribution to February's CD Mix of the Month club was The Answers That You Want: Rockin' Straight from '70 to '74.

(The story so far.)

The CD Mix of the Month Club unofficially went out for karaoke Tuesday night, and I was there! My contribution, in regret at having missed their Chicago New Year's Eve show, was A Spoonful of Secrets: E.P.'s, Singles, B-Sides & Radio Tracks from Spoon.

(The story so far.)

Old shoe week

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Going home to New York City is as comfortable as slipping on an old shoe. I flew there Tuesday afternoon with just a backpack and the parka on my back, and I was immediately at ease and confident in a way I don't yet feel in Chicago. The only bad part was that I was alone, since Laura was on a concurrent business trip to Rochester.

But I wasn't solitary for long. I took a cab from Laguardia to my borrowed apartment in Astoria, Queens, dumped off most of the contents of my pack, and headed into the city. After a quick stop at my old office, I met John Klima, in from Iowa way, at the Tor offices in the Flatiron Building. I acquired an advance copy of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, I chatted with Patrick Nielsen Hayden for a minute or two, and John and I hauled his bags back to Astoria on the subway.

We had a full evening ahead, but before I tell you about it I have to back up several months and remind you of the segment of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" that Laura and I caught back in July:

Kabab Cafe is our favorite restaurant on earth, and Ali El Sayed our good friend. John had eaten Ali's appetizers once before at a party at our place, but despite our best efforts we had never managed to get Shai and him out to the restaurant itself for a real meal. What's more, John had seen the above segment on "No Reservations." Since he and I were staying right there in the neighborhood, how could we not head over for dinner? I promised him, though, that we'd have fare other than sweetbreads and testicles.

My promise turned out to be half hasty.

John eat BRAINS! Ali, I'm happy to say, was as delighted to see us as we were to see him. He gave John and me the same booth that Zimmern and Bourdain had taken on TV, and as we split a bottle of wine and a beet salad and a mixed appetizer plate Ali somehow talked us into trying the sweetbreads, brains, and tongue for one of our entrees.

As John later said, if I'd tried to get him to Kabab Cafe by telling him that's what we were going to eat, it would have been an uphill battle. But there with Ali urging us on, we both felt bold enough just to dive right in. And you know what? It was all uniformly excellent. John Twittered about brains! all the while.

Ali has balls What we didn't feel quite bold enough to try were the "mountain oysters," which Ali was preparing for a party in from Seattle who had come specifically for the meal they'd seen on TV.

As Ali was preparing our dessert plate, and since our wine bottle was empty, he slipped us a bottle of Woodford Reserve bourbon and joined us in a furtive shot. I asked him what he was doing after hours, and he invited us to come back at eleven and meet him at the hookah bar across the street.

Carrie-oke! Stuffed, John and I took the subway back into the city, where we joined my friend Carrie's birthday karaoke outing. Many of the old CDMOM gang was there, and a great time was had by all. John and I got into the action when no one would claim Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" and it was pressed on us. My rendition of Steely Dan's "Cousin Dupree" went over like a turd in a punchbowl, though, doing nothing to refute Carrie's constant repetitions of a memorable quote from Knocked Up: "Steely Dan gargles my balls."

Hmm. I suppose "balls" was something of a leitmotif that evening.

John and Ali toke in synchrony After karaoke, John and I hopped a cab and headed back out to Astoria. Ali saw us through the window of the hookah bar where he was holding court, and we joined him and a couple of friends there for water pipes and tea. A bizarre Technicolor Egyptian musical from the '60s was playing on the giant-screen TV, but sadly without subtitles. John and I were warmly welcomed there, but we both wondered how welcome we would have felt if we had entered without Ali as our Virgil.

We ended up making a whirlwind tour of ethnic after-hours spots. After the Egyptian hookah bar, we hit Bohemian Hall, where we visited John's roots with Czech beer and harder spirits. Roti Boti Then, hungry anew, it was off to Roti Boti, an Indian spot on 21st Street where the three of us enjoyed a repast of cow foot and other spicy delicacies.

Ali dropped us off at the apartment at 2:30 am.

Morning came awfully early, especially considering that the unshaded windows faced east. Breakfast was giant omelettes at Igloo on 31st Street, after which John and I returned to the city to pursue our various agendas. I met Paul Witcover for beer and burgers at Waterfront Ale House, where we caught up and talked about our newly aborning novel projects.

Next I headed downtown to New York Adorned to have a broken curved barbell in my right ear replaced. (I went a gauge thicker in each ear as long as I was there.) While I was paying up front, our friend Victoria Tillotson, Geoffrey Fowler jewelry-maker to the stars, wandered up to the counter. I'd hardly seen Vic except on TV in about three years, so it was great to catch up with her for a few minutes. She relayed the awesome news that she's just sold a book on jewelry making to Random House.

With my new jewelry installed, I headed over to my friend Geoff Fowler's apartment for a surprise drop-in, then walked to d.b.a. where I settled down with a Talisker 25yo to wait for people to appear. John appeared first, followed in rapid succession by Paul, Colin Poellot, and [info]rajankhanna.

Laura Peterson and Jon Pope At 6:30 we wandered over to KGB, which was precisely the event that had drawn John and me to town. It was an unofficial Electric Velocipede, with readings by two contributors, Marly Youmans and Dan Braum. I was delighted to see Laura Peterson and Jon Pope there, the two New York friends Laura and I have probably seen more often than any others since moving, because they're so often in Chicago and we're so often in Gotham.

Other folks there I hadn't seen in a while, sometimes a long while, included Jonathan Kopp (holy shit!), Craig Engler, Jae Brim, Jim Freund, Alaya Johnson, Bill Shunn and John Klima Matt Kressel, Doug Cohen, Rick Bowes, John Joseph Adams, Tempest Bradshaw, Will Smith, and of course hosts Ellen Datlow and Gavin Grant. After a Chinese dinner and then beers at a nearby pretend dive bar, John and I poured ourselves into yet another cab and lit out for the outer boroughs.

The next morning we were up at four, blear-eyed, each to make his own way back home. I had more good times and saw more good friends then I had thought would be possible to pack into two short days, but now it is good to be back home in Chicago with my wife and dog.

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