mr. zilla goes to town

Saturday, January 24, 2004

the internet is dangerous.

To date I've been able to resist all the inbox sales pitches for penis-enlargement pills and respectable honourable gentlemen in Nigeria asking my assistance to help them with all those TEN MILLION DOLLARS UNITED STATES currency transfers. I think I'll still be iron-willed in my resistance when one day soon these two fields of spammers join forces, and start direct-marketing to me enormous Nigerian penises held in cryogenic trust accounts in Burkina Faso due to the untimely death of the former finance minister of Zaire in the Paris Hilton, fortunately caught on tape and available for just $14.99.

But sweet mercy, I'm not made of stone. And I have a real concern that this place is going to make me empty my bank account into theirs and beg for more. And thanks to a certain excellent and helpful f__king idiot in Canberra pointing another site out, before long I'll be selling my housemates' TVs and shoes to fund the habit from here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Pollytick-tick-tickin'

No doubt you've all been obsessing over the minutiae of the race for the Democratic nomination the way I have. The first big stake in the ground -- the Iowa caucuses -- were held on Monday night, and media outlets throughout the nation are overjoyed to have some actual results to report apart from the he-said, she-said debating and bickering amongst the candidates.

The results came as a surprise to most, with frontrunner Howard Dean beaten soundly by both Senator John Kerry and Senator John Edwards, with the headline results as follows:

Kerry - 38%
Edwards - 34%
Dean - 18%

Looks bad for Dean, right? Many outlets are using this as a chance to write Dean off - something the Democratic establishment has been itching to do - but I'm not so sure. You have to take a look inside the way the caucuses run to get a handle on this:

"On caucus night, Iowans gather by party preference to elect delegates to the 99 county conventions. Presidential preference on the Republican side is done with a straw vote of those attending the caucus. This vote is predominately taken by a show of hands or by ballot. Democratic caucus-goers express their presidential preference through a short of hands, a sign-in sheet or by dividing themselves into groups according to candidate. Democratic candidates must receive at least 15 percent of the votes in that precinct to move on to the county convention. If a candidate receives less than 15 percent of the votes, the caucus cannot end until those voters change their vote to one of the predominant candidates."


So while there is a bit of instant-run-off voting at the margins, what's really going on is that each of the 1300-odd Democratic precincts is effectively a single member electorate, sending representatives (delegates) to a central conference on the basis of 50-percent-plus-one of each precinct. The figures of 38%, 34% and 18% are not the percentage of registered Democratic punters who put their hand in the air in the school gymnasium for any of the candidates. In that sense, Dean's 18% is like the Australian Democrats snagging about 10% of the house of reps.
I'd like to use this Washington Post exit poll to show that this is true to some degree, but really with a stated margin of error of 5% (at best!) it's a fairly wobbly piece of research.

Therefore watch for Dean's rebound in the first primary (ie, a simple wide-open vote tally, as opposed to the caucusing) next week in New Hampshire to a higher figure. I'll go out on a limb and say he'll nudge 25% up there, which may be enough in the crowded field of contenders to place first. I think Kerry will also suffer in NH, despite a refreshing tumble-dry over the next week as the 'electable candidate'. His most similar competitor, who did not have a tilt in Iowa is retired general Wesley Clark, and he has been putting many of his eggs in New Hampshire. Joe Lieberman has had his day, and Edwards I suspect will also disappear under the carpet in the next month.

Monday, January 19, 2004

the other washington spin cycle

I've got a fair bit of superstitious Irish blood in me, courtesy of my mum's side. I think that's where I have the strong inclination to keep my mouth shut when things seem to be going really well but the outcome is still in doubt. For example, if I'm watching the Wallabies and they're up against the All Blacks by 12 with 10 minutes to go, I would be the last one to declare it a win any time before the teams have swapped jerseys.

But anyway, last Wednesday night, myself and Sean (that's the Sean-from-Baltimore, not heterosexual-life-partner-Sean) took up the open decks at the Blue Room up in Adams Morgan for a little over an hour. Sean was spinning on the house CD drives, and the two decks in my laptop were plugged in parallel to the house turntables. In theory this gave us six decks to work across - but until and unless this adventure starts paying, neither of us plan on getting a vinyl habit. (They do look marvelously fetching, but chafe badly on the hip pocket nerve).

So one hour, two guys and four decks it was. It basically broke down as Sean spinning 20 minutes, the two of us throwing back and forth to each other for 20 minutes, and me closing out for 20 minutes. Over the hour we moved the groove from Sean's French-flavoured nujazz, downshifted through some ninja lazy lounge, and finally up into some funky breaks with a house foundation. For those that are interested it went something like this:

Rinocerose - La Guitaristic House Organisation
Kruder & Dorfmeister - Spellbound
Koop - Soul for Sahib
Om Records - Om Loo #1
DJ Logic - Black Buddah
9 Lazy 9 - Electric Lazyland
Thievery Corporation - Air Batacuda
Animals on Wheels - Build a Church With Your Fear
James Hardway - My Mental Health
Clifford Gilberto - The 10th Victim
James Lavelle - Fundamental
Plump DJs - The Funk Hits the Fan
b(if)tek - Doctors and Nurses
Galletly - Rock the Break
Plump DJs - Here We Go
Plump DJs - Big Groovy Fucker
Switch vs. McGuyver - Switch 99
Ashley Feraude - Something New

For a first shot in the dark it really couldn't have gone better. As I said I hate to jinx a work in progress, but what we were doing was definitely a step up from most of the other guys on the program, for whom it seemed primarily about getting turntable-time, have a go, and spin their vinyl one after the other. (Which is still cool and all). I say most guys, because there were two other djs we were well impressed by, one of whom built a brilliant progression from start to finish to boot. We had a good chat with the manager, who liked what and how we played, and suggested that regular appearances could have us in mind when a weekend slot opened up. Now sure he might say that to everyone... but what the hell... (stage whisper:) woohoo!

Finally on Saturday night we checked out a Dupont Circle local called Japone, a tiny lounge with perhaps 50 person capacity, in the basement of a Japanese restaurant. The place is WOW due to a beautifully atmospheric fitout. (Although none of the pics at the above link seem to capture that at all... I must put Suzy onto the case while she's here.) Sean and I managed to get a word in the ear of the manager to see if he was looking for DJs... he said that a Wednesday night residency might be in the offing, and that he would be in touch with us this week. I'll keep you all posted...

... and just because I never ever get around to putting any of this kind of detail into this weblog...

the rest of the weekend included beers at the book launch of WorldWatch's State of the World 2004 , some raccoon-red bock at Bethesda's Rock Bottom Brewery, an attempt to get to Nation to see a DJ set by Hybrid, which was diverted (once we realised that we'd missed our midnight cutoff for our guestlist half price entry) to Dragonfly for some large and generous drinks, almost excellent interior design, and mostly twee house remixes of a bunch of awfully forgettable 70s and 80s tunes.

There was also a jaunt through the International Spy Museum, awfully overpriced in a city where every one of the Smithsonian's 15-odd museums is always free, including the Washington National Zoo, where in the Reptile House on Saturday afternoon, we had a private snake-handling opportunity (oh, shush) with kind thanks to Chris.

We also made Suzy's day with the find of the century at Silver Spring's Burlington Coat Factory outlet, had an appointment at the neighbourhood art house theatre the Avalon with Dr Strangelove, dinner at regular haunt Nooshi, which is kind of like the Sammy's Kitchen of 19th Street but without the surly service, and some fine malty lager at downtown dc's Gordon Biersch Brewery.

Unfortunately, my workplace doesn't observe the most pinko public holiday on the US calendar, Martin Luther King Jr Day, or we'd still be out and about. I guess this is somewhat grossly appropriate though, in light of our current government's policy on those horrible brown-skinned, hunger-striking, lip-sewing, opportunistic ingrates living off the Commowealth's largesse up there in Nauru.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Sticks and stones

You've seen the hilarious conservative name-calling on Howard Dean -- and his supporters -- in this TV ad. Now check out a funny bugger's satirical liberal slag-ad on the shrub.

You might say that this just shows both sides are heading for the bottom in what will be a very emotional campaign. Someone else might say hang on, the second one is just a parody put on a website and harmless fun, while the Club For Growth has actually spent over $100,000 showing their attack ad on television in Iowa.

I would say: parody or no, the latter is meme-ing its way through inboxes at the moment and will probably hit a larger eyeball audience within a couple of weeks, and furthremore since you can already buy the out-and-proud left wing freak show merchandise, small-l liberals are a little more cock-eyed in their sense of humour. The former will probably just send America's nigiri industry into a yellowtailspin, driving the sushi sweatshops offshore in an attempt to retain their margins, and then how happy will the Club For Growth be?

Sunday, January 11, 2004

NYE, NYC

At just $35 for a return bus ticket, and the promise of accommodation with friends of friends, five days in New York over new years were just too good to pass up.

Rather than freezing our arses off all night to watch the ball drop, we were put on ice for just a couple of hours waiting in line to get into Club Avalon to see Jimmy Van M, Sasha and Digweed. Avalon, formerly known as Limelight, is a fantastically reconditioned old church in midtown, about 20 blocks south of Times Square. The queueing was just getting tired when some entrpreneurial lads sold us some brown-bag budweiser to drink in the street. The chilly pre-club chill out was completely forgotten when one short skirted young lady, for whom the wait had become interminable, tried to work her wiles with the bouncer to cut the queue. But her boasts about her bust didn't quite pay off: the hilariously sassy New York bouncer responded by turning to us just behind them in the line and asking my friend Sean to compare hers and her friend, and if he deemed the complainant's tracts superior (as she had boasted) he would let them go ahead. These girls promptly revealed almost-all... Sean had to concur... and the bouncer let the cut in ahead -- by three places. Marcello, help me sort out the cattle, please...

When we walked in Jimmy was playing lusciously funk fuelled house beats until Sasha took over with a ball-dropping intro that would have put Dick Clark to shame. As one would expect he had every awesome track you've never heard, and by 1am he was in some dark and irresistible territory. But to be honest, by later in the evening (around 3), I just got the feeling while watching he was just slapping down tracks and flipping over the crossfader. Not the kind of effort or enthusiam from the man I would have hoped for, seeing a security manager in the club told us that Sasha was picking up a cool US $75,000 for the gig. I guess for that kind of money, year and and year out, anything could feel like work...?

John Digweed was actually located in the Avalon's sister club in Los Angeles and came in via transmission a little after 3am. What was supposed to be a three hour set from him seemed to hit a technical wall as Sasha was back on the decks from about 4 with some real grinding acidic techno - both to give grins to the gurners and scare away home the beautiful people I suspect.

Next: the rest of the NYC adventures...

Xmas

Another Xmas goes by a few thousand miles from home. And like last year in PNG, the highest priority of the day was a long long sleep in. In December work was just a little busy, and sometimes the cushy government hours included both 9-5 locally on the US east caost and most of those for the consulate in Hawaii as well.

Washington has been dusted with snow a couple of times in recent weeks, about 6 or 8 inches all up and temps have been hovering around freezing for most of the month. Sadly though DC failed to deliver a white xmas as recent snowfalls were done and dusted by a brief spurt of balmy (10C) daytime weather. Since then we've hit quite a cold snap; this weekend the daytime temps have reached as high as -5C.

Though being away from family at xmas was once again a bit rough, having Suzy onboard the last few weeks has been brilliant. It's all marvellously normal and exceptionally unexceptional. We're still us. Xmas day was one long nap thanks to a Xmas eve roast turkey and cocktail inspired present ripping at around 12.01am. And thanks to the combined efforts of Gra and Ange (not that they would know this) the soundtrack to this Sunday post is Madlib's Blue Note. Lovely stuff. The Plumps' eargasm also rolled in - not bad on a first background listen, not as wildly good as A Plump Night Out though. Going to have to do some more listening I think.