Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thank You Mark!

Before we get to "a little bit right/a little bit wrong," I had occasion to speak with my friend Mark on the telephone. We talked about this and that.

"Tension equals sales" said Mark. "It sounds like Gail took marketing 101"

Tension equals sales. (Tension = Sales)

At first it kind of sounded like Reich. In the end it just sounds like the devilry it is.

Does conflict equal tension? Does conflict also equal sales?

Question: In the entire known history of mankind, has a conflict ever been created on purpose, on schedule to (ultimately) generate sales? No?

Is conflict a commodity? Can "conflict" be packaged, bought and sold as a thing to augment bottom line?

pssst. here's the deal--for a buck a post I'll piss off everyone in your discussion group and have them all at my throats by the middle of march. In so doing, they will go to great economic lengths to crystallize their viewpoints on your product.

Does it matter who wins the conflict, or is just having conflict the point?

Am I just catching on to something everyone else has known for a long time? Is there spinach in my teeth? You would tell me if there was, right?

+ + +

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all!

How the Zappa Plays Zappa thing is a little bit right: Just the other day a neighbor told the story of a friend of a friend with terminal cancer who went to see ZPZ and felt satisfied in his choice of final concert.

How the "unofficial" Zappa cover band thing is also a little bit right: One of the custodians at my high school--the one who deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for his tolerance and humanity--went to see Project Object when Ike was in the band. He said he had a great time, and seeing Ike was "awesome" because Ike was playing with Frank back when he (the custodian) saw Frank live.

Doesn't that sound win-win to you?

Or is that the problem?

+ + +

I've had quite enough of this litigious crap. I want to talk about Sunny Murray next.

copyright © 2008 Stanley Jason Zappa

The Junkyard by Jason Cuadrado

Click the panel for the rest of the strip!

copyright © 2008 Jason Cuadrado

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"The Grape Lady"

Perhaps stomping in barrels on elevated platforms wasn't the brightest idea to begin with...

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Glossary (expanded)

It’s been brought to my attention that I use a number of terms unfamiliar to individuals who aren’t me.

So, as part of my ongoing pursuit of clearer communication, I’m attempting to define some of them.

In cases where the terms are in common use, I’ve defined them according to my understanding of them, because I’m not 100% sure I see things the same way everybody else does.

1. The means by which the public is made aware of products or services in a competitive marketplace.
2. A propaganda organ for the capital interests of a free-market based Democracy.

Dead-end Advertising
1. A phenomenon in which more wealth is invested into the advertising or marketing of goods or services than is available to purchase them to the extent that the only people who can afford to purchase said goods or services are those who are employed to market or advertise them.
2. The thirty-second spot in the Age of TiVo; the internet banner after AdBlock Plus.
3. Marketing strategies based on the Quantitative Personality (see below)

Quantitative Personality
1. The summation of a human being based on the conglomeration of quantitative data such as annual income, credit rating, browser or search history, NetFlix queue, iTunes playlists, etc.
2. A wide-spread sociopathic condition by which an individual bases their own worth, status and identity and the worth, status and identity of others entirely on quantitative measures including but not limited to those above.

Suicide Economy
1. An economy defined by the first definition of Dead-end Advertising.
2. An economy in which unregulated markets cease to be the means of moving capital and become the primary engine for its generation.
3. An economy in which the amount of real capital circulating through the entire social system is insufficient to maintain the abstract financial constructs at the top of it.
For example, the decision to package mushrooming “sub-prime” debt as securities which would increase in value with the interest rate, could theoretically have been sustainable if job creation and wages had continued to increase at the levels established in the 1990s. With the supply-side money-grab that began with the collapse of the dotcom bubble (see below) and continued to be nurtured by the government, the house of cards was bound to collapse.
4. A bubble, in which investment floods into industries without anyone taking the time to establish or agree upon revenue models.

1. Impossible to quantify.
2. “I don’t know about x, but I know what I like!”
3. Q: What did Farmer Brown’s wife say when she was caught licking the bull’s balls?
A: “To each their own.”

Branded Lifestyle
1. The comprehensive unification, synthesis and packaging of all commodifiable or consumed aspects of a life including but not limited to the car one drives, the clothes one wears, the music one listens to, the coffee one drinks and the sofa on which one plants one’s ass according to a fixed set of aesthetic principals.
2. Hopelessly rooted in the Quantitative Personality.

Programmed Lifestyle
1. The establishment of a branded lifestyle by way of forced or coerced exposure to a prescribed menu of quantitatively associated commodities.
2. Niche marketing.

When three or more otherwise capable, intelligent individuals bond together to form one giant idiot.


A noun denoting the relationship between physical or metaphysical coordinate points defining, at its most basic, no less than two subjects, i.e. one observed, the other observing; one nearer, one further; or the relationship of a subject to its spatial surroundings or context. Since my definition encompasses metaphysical points, “object” would be an incorrect designation, as well as impolite. I don’t want to objectify anything. I mean anyone.

Culture of Life
1. The belief that every human life is both valuable and sacred; every body a blessed vehicle of an immortal soul. A culture in which all children should be able to be brought up into healthy independent adulthood regardless of the circumstances of their birth, and where women should be able to safely and legally abort a pregnancy should they choose.

Surveillance Culture
1. The particular, and rapidly expanding, community of surveillance professionals in both the public and private sector, including law enforcement intelligence-gathering and data harvesting by corporations such as Google or Digitas which track spending habits, establish Quantitative Personalities, and market branded lifestyles .

Surveillance Industry
1. Fostered and nurtured by maturing media-saturated generations of celebrity-gawkers who have developed intrinsic aptitudes as watchers and exhibitionists. Care to take a quiz on fucking facebook anyone?
2. Information-brokering. Operations like Google or Digitas do it on a macro scale, raising corporate revenue from their ability to target, identify and reach quantitative personalities; Government and Law-Enforcement on a smaller private-contractor basis. Here’s a hundred bucks to text me when you see this guy.

Celebrity Culture
Albert Einstein observed in an essay that human progress is often pushed forward by what he called strong Personalities. So, often, is human catastrophe. Regardless, he bemoaned the fact that there was always a disproportionately small ratio of Personalities to population, and at the root of his observation is the fact that human societies have always had a tendency to ascribe to certain individuals a theoretical plane of existence other than that in which they feel the rest of them dwell, upon whom they are able to cast their own hopes, fears, understandings, condemnations, love and enmity, and from whom they receive at most a tool with which to engage with the world around them and at least an abstract form of personal validation. Like Fiction used to do.

Celebrity Industry
A system in which wealth is generated and circulated around the construction, promotion and exploitation of Celebrities, their images, and information related to them.

Historically a difficult concept to reconcile with the reality of human communities, it defines a state of being unmonitored and unrecorded by others. As such, it is inherently difficult to define as a right in a society with a deep Surveillance Culture or in a society supporting a Surveillance or Celebrity Industry. Strong communities develop borders defining public and private spaces and activities.
In the great city of Napoli, where strong, densely populated communities have sustained themselves through hundreds of generations of corruption, dysfunction, live volcanoes, poverty, pestilence and everybody’s being up in everybody’s grills all the time they have a saying: fai i cazzi tuoi. Loosely translated, it's 'mind your business'.

A cognitive social mental construct which can serve as a fail-safe mechanism for the maintenance of Privacy, it is without foundation in the absence of Perspective.

My familiarity with the term comes from the HUAC hearings in the 1950’s, when it was used to describe the systematic economic exclusion of individuals in the media by corporate structures at the direction of the federal government to discourage or penalize them for dissenting but lawful ideologies, beliefs or actions.
The definition extends to private corporations outside of the media in whatever capacity they may employ it, and also to social groups, where it typically manifests itself as character assassination. If a society with a deep Surveillance Culture and Surveillance Industry doesn’t want to cross the line into Fascism or Totalitarianism, it’s a line that mustn’t be crossed.

The threat by an individual or organization to make public unseemly or discrediting information damaging the reputation or character of an individual if denied currency, goods or services.

1. A social system in which a population decides upon leadership by consensus and majority vote. Cannot function without Education (not defined).

1. A Democratic society in which power rests in a group rather than in an individual.
2. Can be Democratic. Typically an apparatus for selecting leaders, such as an electoral college, is maintained that can supersede the popular vote should those behind the levers of power find it necessary.
2. Better than a monarchy? I guess it depends on the monarchy.
3. May co-exist with Totalitarianism (see ancient Rome).

A society in which a central power controls all aspects of individual life. Should be avoided. Sorry Rudy, it just should.

In a Republic in which the many live in conditions set by the few, Fascism is a dangerous and surprisingly subtle tool for the advancement of Totalitarianism and the suppression of Independence. The Blacklist is a fave. Should be avoided.

The ideologically retarded notion that large human socio-economic systems can successfully function free of laws and administrative structures. I mean, come on.

The use of violence against a civilian population in order to advance or protest economic, political or religious agendas. Unacceptable.

1. A state of being free of artifice or pretense.
2. A concept with which American culture began to develop a troubled relationship in the twentieth century as each subsequent generation experienced more and more of the world and their own lives through media.
It currently seems to somehow coexist as a pre-requisite for credibility and a threat to the ego of the majority living programmed lifestyle.
3. Q: Are you for real?
A: A yam what a yam, swee' pea.

1. A victim of the same phenomena that beat the crap out of Authenticity, compounded by the fact that it exists in a fundamentally complicated relationship to reality, clouded by the prevalence of lies and the general bullshit widely used in Advertising (see above).
2. All lies and bullshit are rooted in fiction, but not all fiction is a lie or bullshit.
3. If journalism is accepted as the writing or reporting of facts or events based on research performed by the writer, and propaganda is accepted as the writing or reporting of research provided by the subject, then Fiction could be described as the crafting of observation, speculation and imagination by the writer.
4. Entertainment.

1. The primary component of freedom without which freedom becomes irrelevant.
2.The power of an individual to choose where, how, and to what ends they apply their time, talents and efforts.

1. An aesthetic born of economic necessity, which became an aesthetic of choice, and then a marketing niche and branded lifestyle, which is now a meaningless syllable-and-a-half.

1. Like Indiana Jones. Some of my wife’s relatives in Italy, unfamiliar with the name “Andy,” called me “Indy” for a little while. I didn't bother correcting them.


copyright, © 2008 Andy Biscontini

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Thoughts Out Her Head by Andy Biscontini

On a Sunday evening in early May, Jeanine Wiecznewski accidentally knocked all of the thoughts out of her head.

She’d just picked up a half-cooked sliver of onion from the worn parquet floor, stood up, and banged her head into the corner of an open cabinet door in the kitchenette of her $2,975.48/month East Village studio apartment that afforded neither the proper entertaining of guests nor the preparation of any but the most rudimentary of meals for herself, a scant privilege not exercised for several weeks.

Things had been busy. Work had taken from ten or eleven a.m. to six or seven p.m. officially five days a week but really more like six, and she’d been allowing her suitors to court her liberally with dinners, drinks, and foreign movies –- the Koreans! Holy shit, who knew? -- about which she conferred with her friends over dinners and drinks or her lover over sex for the remainder of her evenings, and was determined to at least whip together a simple goddamn omelet for Chrissakes on a Sunday springtime freakin’ evening.

The apex of the front edge of the laminated high-density fiberboard custom-ordered Ikea door punctured her skin just in front of the scalp; the combined upward movement of her body and outward swing of the cabinet door wedged a trough through to her skull, which cracked like a red-dyed Easter egg tapped hard with a spoon on impact.

The pain cut a screaming knife through the evening.

Her knees flexed and her calves absorbed the shock of the recoil. She grabbed the countertop to stop herself from tipping backwards.
She swore once through blue sparks and stood up slowly.

Adrenaline pumped her heart hard.

Her respiration shimmered like dim film grain on a twilight screen.

Her neighbors’ music, televisions and arguments bounced gently off of the stone houses across the street, through the leaves of a lonely old and generous Sycamore, through the mesh window screen, and trembled against her eardrums.

Myriad radio frequencies intersected each of her chakras and created a buzz in her neck that became a hissing flare which rose straight through her mind, resonating high D minor in her jawbone and becoming a burning white diamond behind her eyes that bled through and widened the fractures in the bone.

Blood pooled in the scooped flesh above her forehead and spilled out in a single long globule that burst into a corona on the grease-specked porcelain stovetop.

Her first thought tumbled out into it, next to the sizzling pan.

It staggered to its feet and wiped the blood off of itself and calmly took its bearings.

Her second, third and fourth thoughts followed in quick succession, landing in a tangle of confusion. The fifth leapt gracefully down, landing on its feet, and along with the first organized the others into a team.

She stared in dazed and helpless bafflement as her thoughts continued to pour onto the stovetop.

The sixth through twelfth thoughts rained out in a heap, with the thirteenth landing comfortably on top of them, and were promptly placed under the supervision of thoughts two through five by thought one, whose authority to do so was quietly questioned by thought five, who preferred not to quibble when there was work to be done. Together they stirred the onions, then red pepper and broccoli until they were finished then slid them into a bowl with the spatula.

It was agreed that the fifth thought would hold authority over the subsequent dozen thoughts and be responsible for the return of the vegetables to the pan once thought one had succeeded in supervising the first dozen thoughts in breaking and cooking the eggs and melting the grated parmesan, and that everybody would work together to get the flip just right.

After it had all gone well, the first thought was amused to overhear the thirteenth thought taking undue credit for the curve of the egg in conversation with the twenty-eighth.

She was proud of her thoughts for working so well together, as more and more continued to leave her head and join the effort. Within moments there were enough to take a plate from the cupboard, a knife and fork from the drawer, and lay out a simple place setting on the gently uneven tiles of the counter while another group cleaned up the splash of blood with Fantastick and a paper towel, and a third group sat her on a stool in front of it, next to the window, by which time they had organized themselves into a functioning cooperative democratic system allowing her to thoroughly enjoy her meal.

Yet still her thoughts left her head. They were more independent now, climbing out of their own volition, shimmying through the cracks and reaching back to hoist others through.

By the time she finished her omelet, so many had evacuated that she began to feel dizzy, and deep factions were starting to develop among them which were rapidly becoming more and more difficult to reconcile.

The school under the aegis of her first thought posited that she should be put in bed to sleep.

The fifth thought and the smaller but active organization around it believed that the thoughts should keep her busy washing the dishes and making phone calls, perhaps inquiring of a friend as to the potential seriousness of her injury, the latter motive being carefully kept out of public discourse for fear of causing undue panic. Word of the concern circulated in official circles, however, and was soon seized upon by the thirteenth thought and used as a rallying cry for what proved to be a large and urgent contingency of alarmist thoughts in favor of calling an ambulance.

She sat quietly staring out the window while her thoughts held a general election, in which the first thought was narrowly carried into power. It was widely speculated that the fifth thought could have won if not for the abstention of the thirteenth thought’s contingency and the loose anarchistic collectives that gravitated around her most independent thoughts.
A half-dozen motorcycle enthusiasts on a tour passed along the street with a roar through the subsequent legislative battles. Light car traffic cruised by. Deliverymen on bicycles rolled past with twinkling spokes.

By the time action could be implemented by her thoughts, the sky had gone dark, the streetlights had come on, and the maple leaves rustled in yellow sodium-vapor light.

She would be taken to bed and put to sleep, but as a concession to the fifth thought (whose social engagement remained invaluable), she would do the dishes and tidy up the apartment beforehand, and as a concession to the loudmouths around the thirteenth thought, she would examine the wound in the bathroom mirror.

In the harsh overhead fluorescent bathroom light her body became a dumb vehicle for her thoughts.

Her inner self, so quiet beneath the interlocking matrices of petty thought and gossipy identity for so long, suddenly radiated in sovereign glory.

Her thoughts removed her clothing and put them in the laundry. The vibrations of the breeze through the open window skipped across the surface of her skin. She was lay on clean blue sheets, naked beneath a white comforter.

The last of her thoughts rose from her skull as she slept. Together with the others it flourished and grew through the night.

The apartment was soon insufficient to contain them, and by daybreak they were leaving in droves.

The regretful ones, bold in their desire for a second chance, led the exodus followed closely by the independent thoughts, anxious for the opportunity to pursue their own agendas unfettered by the others.

The remaining thoughts logged onto the Internet and opened a wireless telephone account through which they could remain in close contact with each other via unlimited in-network minutes and, pledging to never grow apart, spread out into the world.

When she awoke, sunlight seeped through the window into an otherwise empty apartment. There was warmth behind the cool morning breeze that carried the faint scent of diesel belched from a semi truck rumbling down nearby Second Avenue in low gear.

The wound on her head had healed.

Her sinuses filled with breath that suddenly seemed to have more room to circulate. The sunlight traveled along her optic nerve and into her brain, direct and clean.

She felt whole and fully herself, relaxed and aware, without a thought in her head, and burned brightly the rest of her days.

copyright, © 2008 Andy Biscontini

Monday, January 14, 2008

Vanina Marsot in Vietnam

(click image to enlarge)

The flood, Hoi An

copyright, © 2008 Vanina Marsot

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"A Whatthefuck Moment..." Andy Biscontini
Maybe it's because I've been reading Dos Passos's USA trilogy while under a protracted period of severe financial stress, but I've been having several pulling-my-hair-out whathefuck moments lately.

Like Hillary's goddamn tears.

Did those New Hampshire biddies not see the debate in their own state the night before—the one in which Hillary sardonically referred to “getting over” her “hurt feelings” while taking Obama's catchword “change” and managed to craft entire sentences without using any other words, and John Edwards scored the most effective moment of his own campaign when he made his passionate case that the fight for the middle class was 'personal' for him. So the next day—the very next day, because those crafty bastards moved their primary up—she comes up with the crocodile almost-tears and starts talking about how 'personal' the campaign is for her.

That's the kind of obvious political rhetoric I absolutely hate.

Does Senator Clinton seriously expect anyone to see her as a 'change agent' (gimme a break) when she pulls that kind of crap?

Are so many of us still supposed to be that dumb?

How exactly is that not a third-rate Rovian tactic?

It's right up there with her vote to authorize force in Iraq. Typical Democratic Party recipe for failure: look over your shoulder at what you think people like about the other side and emulate it.

Maybe—just maybe—if she wasn't dipping in the poles it wouldn't have looked quite so much like a classic waterworks routine.

Is no one calling bullshit on this? Maureen Dowd came close.


It's worth noting that Obama offered her his congratulations in a first-class and impassioned speech before the final tally was in, with only a two-percent separation between them and only the AP declaring her the early winner.

My guess is that he was willing to give her New Hampshire rather than nitpick the last couple thousand votes, beat her to the microphone with a better speech, and mobilize his base in the states that actually matter while stopping the Hil campaign from reorganizing and letting them continue to dig their own grave.

If so, then that's the kind of subtle political strategy I like.

If not, I still think he benefits from the loss.

Not that I'm convinced that Obama's really going to change anything. The theme that keeps coming up among the establishment is that people seem increasingly convinced he could foster a 'bipartisan' spirit. Which means he's the guy that everyone feels like they can do business with. He's clean, but not too clean. And if anyone really thought the guy would rock the boat, he wouldn't have gotten this far.

Which is, I think, why Million-dollar Mike keeps hovering in the wings. If he wanted to, he could probably siphon enough votes from anyone who actually threatened the economic status quo (by which I mean favoring the wealthiest one percent of the country—because, living in the city he runs—it's a business!—I'm convinced he doesn't give a flying fuck about anyone else).

I do, however, believe in the significance of the symbolism of an Obama presidency. The first non-white American president is more significant for more people than the first female American president when that female is an established member of the political class.

And I suppose I have enough faith in the guy at this point to believe he'll surround himself with good heads.

I've given up on the idea that any elected official for the rest of history is going to define the phrase "American Interests" as anything other than the best interests of large corporations. The best I now hope for from a President is to work with those corporate interests to find a way for them to function profitably while moving us out of the dead-end advertising suicide economy we're locked in, where anything that isn't a get-rich quick scheme is subversive and regulation is tantamount to socialism, and into something that's actually good for Americans and not actively bad for the rest of the world. Maybe something that they'd be drawn to and want to emulate instead of being coerced or forced into or exploited by. Something we could all defend with pride.

Maybe I'm just a sucker who learned civics from Frank Capra and fell for all that flowery penmanship in the Constitution, but from time to time it pops into my head that Barack just might be able to do that.

Maybe that's just what I read into his carefully maintained tabula rasa platform.

Hell, maybe with Obama in the Oval Office Hillary could get her Health Care reform through Congress.

Like I said, I've been under a lot of stress lately.

Oh yeah. The Republicans. Lets just say a Hillary candidacy will lead to a McCain presidency. Does anyone really take any of those other yo-yo's seriously? (sorry Congressman Paul -- but going back to the gold standard is just too big an idea)

And who gives a fuck about the Golden Globes or the Oscars in the face of Axium shutting down?

copyright, © 2008 Andy Biscontini

Vanina Marsot in Vietnam

(click image to enlarge)

Gate near the Royal Theater

copyright, © 2008 Vanina Marsot

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Gateway or Portal

You know it's twilight when those little you-tube squares start passing as "content."

But that's what doing a job doing something you don't really love to do does--debilitate the will-to-express and dull the soul.

Anyhow, now that 2007 is gone (good riddance!) I thought I would share some 2007 highlights.

Speaking of dulling the soul, the best song from the radio that plays always all the time no matter what at the job site goes to Keshia Chante. Of all the songs on "hit" radio, Keshia Chante's 2U is my favorite. Way better than that Colbie Caillat disaster--they play that shit over and over and over. Enough! Let me tell you, when Keshia comes on, it really is a breath of fresh air--it makes me want to throw down my shovel, dance around and scream "wooooo" as loud as I can. And another thing, If they spent Rihanna money on Keshia Chante, the world would be a better place, because Keshia is the better singer. There, I said it.

As mentioned in an earlier post, BEST ALBUM does in fact go to the Bad Brains for Build A Nation. I am given to understand that one of those Beastie Boy fellas was deeply involved in said album's creation. If so, all his trespasses hither to and forever more are pardoned, as Build A Nation eclipses entirely and totally all output by the Beastie Boys as well as all output by the individual members, regardless of medium--combined.

The Reggae cuts on Build A Nation are spectacular. The fast songs are spectacular. Yaaay! We're all teenagers again! And this time we're smiling! Hey, maybe this timeless, non-linear post-modernity thing isn't so bad after all.

While that video is pretty cool, BEST video most absolutely goes to Alice Donut for Madonna's Bombing Sarajevo. OUTSTANDING. The music is quite remarkable as well, but it's the video that really trance-formed me. I watched the video three times in a row and then didn't sleep the entire night! It was that trance-formative. And it wasn't even from 2007! It's from 2006!

Madonna's Bombing Sarajevo by Alice Donut

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The Alice Donut video reminded me of Bruce Bickford's work--which I share with you below at the risk of litigation.

Speaking of litigation, the continuing saga of ZFT versus Everyone Else wins BEST LITIGATION SAGA 2007--that is, aside from that war thing that's still going on. Remember that old thing? Yeah, well, aside from that, the ZFT suing everyone really is fascinating (really) on so many levels. When you fold in the Zappa Plays Zappa phenomena (clinamen?) along with it's "official-dom-ness" the lines become really squiggly. I love when the lines get really squiggly.

While it's easy to discern who is being repellent and who isn't, the answer to the "right and wrong" question isn't as clear cut as we would hope. Everyone is a little right, and everyone is a little wrong. I love when everyone is a little wrong.

Best concert of 2007 was of course Dixon at the Vision festival. I won't even bother with a link on that on. You should know by now. But do click this link to Stephen Haynes' site wherein he mentions mixing and a possible release of his orchestral performance on the venerated AUM-Fidelity label. You all remember AUM-Fidelity, right?

In 2008, we will be 4 years from 2012. Just one more President left!

copyright © 2008 Stanley Jason Zappa

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

new content from Woods

Woods returns!

See his series "4640 pole" on New Texture by clicking here.

Friday, January 4, 2008

"Happy New Year from the MTA" by Andy Biscontini

Shortly after moving to New York, I spent a day wandering around the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I still enjoy doing.

During the warm-up to rush hour, I got on the 5 express train at 72nd Street to take it to Union Square to go home. The car I got onto was somewhat crowded, but one bench was empty except for a homeless-looking guy at the end. It quickly filled up with tired commuters. I noticed that the standing riders who had already been on the car were exchanging glances.

As the door closed and the motor started up, I noticed a foul smell. I wasn't the only one.

The homeless guy looked up and around the car. His mouth curled into a broad smile and he shouted at the top of his lungs, "Heeeere we go!"

…And commenced to crap his pants loudly. Really loudly. The sound of his diarrhea was louder than the clacking of the train.

The people immediately next to him stood up right away. One by one, the other occupants of the bench all stood and moved away.

This was the express train, mind you, so there was plenty of time between stops.

Only one person remained on the same bench as the homeless guy, a Spanish kid who was staring at his sneakers defiantly and holding his breath. The homeless guy stared him down, grinning and willfully crapping his pants.

Finally the Spanish kid gave up and stood.

"That's right! That's right!" The homeless guy shouted triumphantly at the stoic commuters, who were clearly prepared to prove that they could put up with anything. "I'm gonna CLEAR THE CAR!"

By Union Square, although no one was willing to share the bench with him, he hadn't yet succeeded—and like a real New Yorker, I had toughed it out alongside them.

This was Rudy Giuliani's New York.

Two weeks ago, at the height of the Christmas tourist season, I was riding an Uptown A train and a young black kid raised his voice at the far end of the car I was on and announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen Happy Holidays! I am currently homeless right now, and am asking if any of you have any spare change, sandwiches, or gift cards so I can get myself some Armani and some Versace..."

He weaved through the car, soliciting loudly and publicly, then dropped his voice as a rail-thin old man with one leg rolled himself along in a wheelchair with the steady "chink...chink...chink..." of coins in a tin cup.

This is Mike Bloomberg's New York.

copyright, © 2008 Andy Biscontini

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Vanina Marsot in Vietnam

(click image to enlarge)

Five Phoenix watchtower, Hue Imperial City

copyright, © 2007, 2008 Vanina Marsot