Category Archives: Reviews

Keith reviews the Katy Perry (feat. Max Hart) Show

So, people, Chris and I went to see the Katy Perry extravaganza last night at Madison Square Garden. Our old friend, former Scientist Max Hart, is now her touring keyboardist, you see, and so our attendance at the show was just a demonstration of friendly solidarity.  That’s all.  We love Max.  We went to cheer for him, not to leer at Katy Perry.  Definitely not to leer, no.

“You guys aren’t just going to come and leer, are you? Dudes . . .”

The whole thing was a bit last-minute and entirely up in the air: guest list spots for the Katy Perry Show are, understandably, at a premium, especially in New York City, a town positively brimming with high-visibilty Perry fans like Edward Burns and Anna Wintour and Mike Bloomberg, who are apt to use their celebrity and political muscle to snap up all available tickets.

“Baby, I’m a firework.”

So, at 8:15 pm Chris and I were at Huckleberry Bar in Williamsburg, expecting to be shut out, crying into our high-end cocktails.  We were ready to call the night – hell, to call our very lives – a total wash.  That’s when the text came.   We were in!  Cut to the desperate pounding of our precious beverages (mine, a rye/absinthe concoction, and Chris’, a weird-sounding but well-received chai/whisky thing) in the interest of making haste to MSG. One feels very safe assuming that we were the only of the 14,000 Perry fans in attendance last night to preface the show with a pair of superior tipples.

“Me? I just slugged a handle of Gordon’s gin in the lavatory at Penn Station”

By the time we arrived at the venue, it was several minutes after show-time, and the lobby was peppered with a few stragglers.  By and large, these were desperate ticketless bastards, who impeded our progress at the will call window with their blubbering and fuming over the attendants’ unwillingness to hand over tickets that, clearly, their contacts had failed to arrange for pickup.  Having secured our iron-clad tickets through the ever-reliable Max, we had little empathy for these wretches, especially since their endemic unwillingness to accept defeat caused us to miss at least a few of the opening numbers.  I relished imagining the fees they’d have to pay the thuggish touts outside, or, failing scalping, the degenerate sexual exchanges they must have negotiated.

“My daddy forgot to procure tickets in advance and ended up having to give Edward Burns a handjob right out on 8th avenue.”

Golden tickets in hand, Cain and I scrambled to our seats, which we we were surprised to find occupied by a gaggle of girls in their early teens.   We let them keep our seats and took a couple of empty spots next to them, which seemed like a good, generous move until the gang of nasty hags started metastasizing and flooding our row and shrewishly bitching every time Chris or I had to wriggle in front of them to go get more beers, which, admittedly, we needed to do very frequently.

Don’t you judge us.

But, people, the show was great.  It was simply great.  It had everything: tremendous set design, extravagant costumes, boobs, phenomenal dancers, boobs, a couple of acrobats, and Katy Perry’s boobs.  It also featured, as a framing device for the evening, a video backstory, which was admittedly pretty inscrutable, since we’d missed the beginning of the show.  It centered around Perry’s search for her cartoon cat (?) through an Oz-like candyland, and it was batshit crazy.  At one point, the floating, disembodied-but-still-very-much-alive head of some bald pederast appeared and seemed to be threatening her, while pharmaceuticals orbited around it.   When video-Perry finally found the cat, she learned that it had intentionally led her [spoiler alert] to a blue wig, which was on display in the middle of fucking nowhere. This development seemed to delight Perry, but I’ll tell you what: if I had chased a cat around some nightmarish candy-riddled hellhole for hours and battled antagonistic severed heads and other shit I’m currently forgetting, only to find out that the cat just wanted me to experiment with some new hairstyles, I would positively thrash that damned animal, forfeiture of future “PETA’s Sexiest Vegetarian” competitions be damned.

“It’s good enough for Billy Zane”

Another unexpected thing about the show was that it demonstrated a fairly heartrending rift between Perry’s personal sensibilities and her audience’s collective maturity level.  The whole production was ribald as hell, which is fine for a couple of salty old dogs like Chris and I, but, no shit, people – a good 70% of the audience seemed to be pre-pubescent girls, with a large portion of the remaining crowd composed of their fathers.  Most of the dads, let’s be honest, didn’t exactly appear to be complaining.

“I like exactly two things about Katy Perry”

The father sitting in front of me demonstrated far more enthusiasm for the show than did his five-year-old daughter, but I’m guessing that’s because she didn’t catch the connotations when Perry, while singing a song dressed as a Peacock (Lyrics: “I wanna see your peacock, cock, cock”, which, I’ll tell you what, if a woman ever referred to my dick as a “pea cock,” I can pretty goddamn well guarantee that I would not respond by showing it to her), but, so, anyway, while she sang these lyrics, she held her microphone perpendicular to her mouth and she bobbed her head back and forth, ostensibly maybe mimicking the nod of a peacock’s head as it walks, but, really, it just looked like she and her dancers were orgiastically fellating the hell out of some microphones.

“I’d fuck me.”

Or maybe the seven-year-old girl to my right didn’t catch it when Perry kissed a guy from the audience on the cheek and then salaciously reported to the crowd that one thing she likes about American guys is “that they give back.”  Or maybe the kid just thought that Perry’s spandex leotard was itchy when she (Perry, not the little girl, you asshole) rubbed her crotch as she sang, “We kiss, we make out” during “Hot and Cold.”  Or maybe the children just weren’t semiotically savvy enough to digest the symbolism in video projections of cartoon bottles of champagne blowing their loads in the final, climactic number.  Or maybe they just thought it was cool to be doused in the foam that spurted from a decidedly phallic candy-cane squirt-gun as Perry stroked it, suggestively.  Maybe these nine-year-olds misunderstood Perry’s question when they squealed (in a disturbingly high pitch) in response to her wondering aloud, “Who’s feeling sexy, tonight?”  Referring to the two almost impossibly cherubic kids who danced in the row behind us during one particularly lurid number, Chris worried, “I sure hope they didn’t see the lascivious tonguing of that dancer’s asshole.”

“We admit it – we enjoy watching a little tastefully-simulated eroticism every now and then.”

But, you know what?  The kids loved it, even if they were too stupid to catch all of the great sex junk.  At one point, as I was looking down at my phone, writing a gloating text to an absent friend, a section of the crowd let out a huge cheer.  “Why’d they scream?  What’d she do?” I asked Chris.

“She pointed herself in their direction,” he said.

So, yeah:  Perry’s got panache to spare, and she’s got a handful of totally badass songs, and her band is fantastic, and Max Hart gets a couple of really top-notch keyboard solos, and the whole thing is just generally very joyous and over-the-top and must cost a goddamned arm and a leg to produce, but it’s worth every penny of the expense. Look, if you see only one show this year (and it won’t be a We Are Scientists show, since we’re gonna be writing the next record for the next couple of months), make it Katy Perry’s Porno Fuckfest, or whatever it’s called.

“Bring the fuckin’ kids!”

 

Bee Liquors

225 Avenue B
New York, NY 10009
(212) 995-5606

4/5 stars

Bee is every bit as cheap and shitty as previous reviewers have suggested. So far everything I’ve bought there has inebriated me, to one degree or another. My credit cards always work in their machine, and there are never any smashed bottles lying around on the ground. Wine that comes out of the fridge is cold. Just don’t go to Bee’s looking for beer: it’s not that their beer is old and skunky or that the beer comes in cracked, leaking bottles; it’s that they don’t have beer.

There’s a pretty cool neon sign in the front window that says “Dewar’s Rocks.” I like the ambiguity of it. Does it mean that Dewar’s is great — that it “rocks”? Or is it referencing the “rocks” of Dewar’s — its nuts, cojones? The graphic is actually a pirate (or something) holding a guitar, which suggests a third, really stupid meaning: that Dewar’s plays rock music (?).

Incidentally, if you go to the Dewar’s website — which I just did, looking for a reproduction of the neon sign to show you — you are asked on the front page to enter your date of birth. You have to at least claim to be 21 before you’re given access to any of the site’s content. This got me pretty excited. I was expecting that the Dewar’s site would feature pictures of — at minimum — topless women drinking whisky. No, though. It just has pictures of Dewar’s in closed bottles. You have to be 21 to look at pictures of alcohol? And read about the distilling process? As a father of a 5-year-old: Thank god.

Anyway, there’s absolutely no reason not to head to Bee Liquors right now. Don’t bother if you’re after beer.

(Only Chris has been to Bee Liquors, but he thinks the other guys would agree with his frustration about the lack of boobs on the Dewar’s website.)

Vermont Maple BBQ

Rinker’s Mobil, Exit 4 off I-89
Randolph, VT

3/5 stars

Two out of three of us had a delicious lunch today in the parking lot of a filling station along a small road that bisects a rolling green field somewhere south of Burlington. The tree line lay twenty yards in one direction and a quarter mile in the other; it was a warm green October afternoon and the ravens were cussing the insects, demanding that they sit still, and the acrid smell of smoked meat wafted from Vermont BBQ’s stand like an invitation written in reddish brown all over the front of your shirt. Keith, our vegetarian, slumbered through the whole thing on the van’s back bench, which is a little longer than the other benches. About a foot longer; but that foot counts.

Vegetarians should absolutely slumber in the van when their party stops at Vermont BBQ, for there’s little at Vermont BBQ to interest the carniphobe. The slaw is tasty enough, and the four soda varieties represent the best of the international soda consortiums’ blends, and there’s a cheese quesadilla on the menu, but it isn’t an accident that the small mobile premises of Vermont BBQ are dominated by a no-nonsense coal-black pit barbecue roughly the size and shape of a grown beef cow.

After some initial quibbling over whether this was the right time of day for lunch and whether appetites should be saved for the infamous smoked meats of Montreal, Chris and Danny decided to roll the dice-shaped pig bones. Chris ordered the pulled pork sandwich, and said he’d take his slaw on the sandwich when the proprietor offered that option. Danny, sensing the opportunity to lay chips down on a winning bet, asked for the same thing.

The proprietor was chummy and talkative. She guessed that we were a band and told us about the time Levon Helm’s band came by. It was a good story, but it’s hers to tell -you’ll have to visit VT BBQ to hear it.

As she talked we watched her scoop drippy pulled pork out of a warming pan and build intimidating piles on our griddle-toasted buns (not our asses! the sandwich rolls that VT BBQ uses). She served us the sandwiches in paper trays with our slaw in dixie cups on the side. What happened to slaw “on the sandwich,” we don’t know. Likely she offered up that possibility simply to hear our responses, never actually intending to follow through. The ways that a person will go about trying to entertain herself when her job corrals her in a filling station parking lot all day are a mystery to us, and will, god willing, always remain so.

But the sandwich, it was really good. Danny fucking loved his, and Chris thought that if he was the kind of guy to fucking love almost everything that allowed itself to be eaten, he’d have felt the same. Instead he quietly thrilled at the fine luck of stumbling onto a delicious hot sandwich when all you were expecting was a 99¢ bag of mealy nuts and a Vitamin Water (the official lunch of Failure). We told the proprietor we’d come back next time we were in the area; she suggested we check her website for updated location info in case planned retail development displaces her. Apparently a Pizza Hut is in the works, which will make at least the ravens happy since it will mean lots more insects. On the downside, it’ll also mean roving hordes of rats, who will surely devour any raven eggs they come across. And of course, the local human population will suffer obesity and miscellaneous plague. We hope, for their sake, that Vermont BBQ doesn’t move far.

SILK CITY DINER & LOUNGE

435 Spring Garden St
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(215) 592-8838

3/5 stars

Moments after we walked through the front door at Silk, Danny realized his hiatus-ing band, Youth Group, had played there. Half of the premises at Silk is devoted to a nightclub that was closed during our visit (Sunday, brunch), but according to Danny, ultraviolet lighting and “Heavy Metal” inspired bong art on the walls led his band to spend every moment they weren’t onstage in the diner.

Silk’s diner has an indoor area decorated traditionally -aluminum walls, booths with red vinyl covered cushions, a bar with fixed metal stools and a formica counter -and an outdoor garden featuring architecturally-integrated sculpture that calls to mind Gaudí and Jimi Hendrix album art.

We sat inside, and, with the exception of the service, had a good meal. The menu consists of standbys – a 2-egg plate, griddle standards, huevos rancheros -and more original fare: turkey breast & cheddar on biscuits w/ turkey gravy and ‘browns, and some kind of duck-motivated version of the same dish; foie gras & asparagus scrapple, and a red quinois scrapple; a pork bun side ($4); and some cocktails with goofy names. Chris had the turkey breast & biscuits and liked it, thought the potatoes were flavorful and a necessary addition to the plate’s palette. Keith and Danny both got the Silk Scramble, which mixed eggs with red onion, potato, guacamole, monterey jack cheese, & chorizo (which Keith had held). Keith called his scramble “on the very tasty side of bland, with high-grade ingredients,” and thought “the biscuit was a welcome counterpoint bite.” Danny fucking loved his. The table also split an order of French toast, which Keith found “curiously dense”, in a way that made him wonder if the bread was past its prime. Chris thought it was a “commendable” french toast, and thought the density was deliberate, desirable, and probably not accomplished through aging. This was Danny’s first French toast, and he fucking loved it, frankly.

Danny also went for a bloody mary, which he said was “extra good” -spicy, with lots of welcome solids (celery, olive, green tomato). Did he ever fucking love it. The coffee was mediocre, though the thick ceramic mugs did a better-than-average job of retaining heat. Keith noted that these premium mugs were necessary to mitigate the infrequency of coffee refills. Indeed, a political cartoon of Silk would show a fit, good-looking dude in his 20’s, hiply dressed, smiling at a group of pretty girls, yet walking with a pronounced limp, a large cast on one foot labeled “Service”. Our waiter was nice enough, but took a good long while to do anything. Our guess is that he intends to be a painter, spends his nights smoking and doing tiny Brueghel-inspired scenes of Philly, and half-consciously feels like being any good at his waiter job would be a betrayal of himself, of the Philly he loves, and worst of all, of Brueghel’s ghost. It should be noted that we have the vague and perhaps unjustified impression that service in Philadelphia is always bad. If true, that gets Silk off the hook, though it spells bigger problems for the city where Silk does business.

Bathrooms were fine. The “20 minute” wait only took 10 minutes. Should you wish to commemorate your visit to Silk, t-shirts are available for a very reasonable $5. Definitely give Silk a shot next time you’re trying to go to Honey’s on a weekend and decide you don’t feel like hanging out in that restaurant’s refugee camp-inspired waiting area.

(All three of us concur with this review.)

CHILI’S BAR & GRILL

827 Odd Fellows Rd
Crowley, LA 70526
(337) 783-1493

1/5 stars

This is probably the worst meal we’ve ever had on the road. There are only two things affirmative to be said about this place: our waitress, despite being a total flake and pretty disagreeable, had a nice accent; and none of us got sick (although we all felt kind of hungover afterward, like we had let our bodies down).

We were lured to Chili’s by a vague memory of decent margaritas enjoyed at the Odessa, TX, Chili’s two years ago. Difficult to say if we were remembering wrong or if the Crowley Chili’s is just breaking all kinds of franchise regulations and making all of the food and drinks by reconstituting powder. Whatever the case, we sat down wanting more than anything to like the margaritas. We flipped through the over-elaborate cocktail menu like doe-eyed ingenues on the evening of their 21st birthdays, cooing and gasping with anticipation. We settled on the “World’s Freshest Margarita”, which in retrospect we realize was given its name as a sinister prank. The 15 minutes it took for the margs to come out was, we told ourselves, promising – the bartender must be slicing and squeezing limes, carefully measuring proportions, chilling glasses, gently salting rims, etc. In fact, he was in the bathroom smelling his own farts and graffiti-ing the walls with huge-cocked trolls. Then he emptied one packet of the “W.F. Marg” powder into some hot water, stirred it with a cheese-encrusted spoon, and poured the urine-colored result over ice. Our margaritas were absolutely terrible. There is no reason for these margaritas to exist in the world. They are as tragic and unnecessary in 2010 as death by polio.

Even after having the skull of our expectations caved in by the jackbooted margaritas, we retained enough sensation to be upset by the food. If you were on a budget airline, and the food cart rolled up, and the flight attendant told you the food was all “south west” themed, and you bought some of it, you would be served the exact same thing Chili’s serves (and probably at the same price). The food ranged from an impossibly bland house salad to a vulgar plate of carnitas tacos, to a bean burger that Keith called “a glimpse into the depravity man is capable of committing when he’s unchecked in the middle of the bayou.”  All of it was reconstituted from powder by a droid in the kitchen.

It’s worth noting that Chili’s awful food is matched by awful service, so at least it can boast of having a certain perverse coherence. After the insane wait for drinks, our salads came out spaced at regular 5 minute intervals, affording that much-desired private dining experience, though you be a table with friends. Probably the sporadic pacing is the result of the droid in the kitchen having only a single pincer apparatus at its disposal – certainly a droid like Wall-E would have had no problem prepping the food in a more orderly fashion.

If this Chili’s had been about 25% better, we could easily say that we’d never go to another Chili’s again as long as we live. It was so bad, though, that we’re now compelled to visit another location in order to verify that the Crowley site was not a bizarre anomaly, possibly the result of a satanic curse transmitted by Li Grand Zombi when he was unable to get a table at the ante-curse, totally-okay Crowley Chili’s.

[3 out of 3 of us agree with this review]

LOS CABOS MEXICAN GRILL

2543 Hwy 71 S.
Columbus, TX 78934
(979) 732-9744

3/5 stars

This is a rock solid Mexican place in a small town between Houston and Austin. It’s surrounded by the usual roadside suspects: mcdonalds, subway, whattaburger, pizza hut — Los Cabos is a jewel sitting in a pile of rabbit turds.

The menu has enough options that we needed a couple minutes to decide. I went with El Mariachi, a plate with two medium tortillas filled with steak, shrimp, and carnitas; rice and stewed beans on the side. Excellent. Danny had the same, and he fucking loved it.
Keith got cheese enchiladas, which were “workmanlike”. Cheese enchiladas are a pretty plain dish, so I’m not sure that’s a terrible review.

There was a subsection on the menu that featured stuffed, fried avocados. Sounded amazing, but we lacked the strength to undertake one.

We were leaving SXSW, so we were pretty beat up, plus we were driving, plus we had only been awake for maybe 2 hours, so alcohol was a very low priority. But it wouldve been irresponsible not to try the margarita, and try it we did. Went with frozen, cuz that’s harder to nail. We were rewarded: great consistency; good, discernible flavors; respectable potency. I’d return to Los Cabos under different circumstances and get trashed.

The table came with salsa and quesa and a big basket of chips. All were refilled with admirable attentiveness, and all were very good.

Going to a place like Los Cabos always forces me to reflect on how tremendously shitty Chili’s is. We had gone to Chili’s a few days earlier in Crowley, LA, and the Cabos lunch really put into shocking relief how goddamn awful Chili’s had been (and doubtless continues to be). Los Cabos should go around and burn down all the Chili’s — it’s their right.

[2 out of 3 of us agree with this review]

LOUIE’S CAFE

209 W State St
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
(225) 346-8221

1/5 stars

[We’ve updated this review, depriving Louie’s of its second star. After a few weeks of critical distance, we’ve all agreed that while Louie’s was a decent spot to end up in Baton Rouge, it doesn’t stack up very well with legitimately good diners we’ve visited since (see Silk’s in Philly for a recent for-instance).]

We’re awarding Louie’s just 2 stars, but we all agree it was a pretty decent “shitty diner”. First, the high points: the service was exceptionally friendly and, in the case of one of the cooks, full of character. This dude made the following announcement to the room at one point: “Last po’ boy! There’s one left, not two. Next person who orders a po’ boy, that’s the last one. You can come look at it.” He also prohibited us from ordering from the tray of biscuits sitting on the counter, deeming them “unservable” because they’d been sitting out for two hours. Our waitress brewed us a fresh pot of coffee rather than serve us the old stuff. In short, Louie’s has your back.

On the down side, Louie’s is dirty and disheveled inside. The kitchen is in the middle of the room with chef’s pass seating looking on, but those spots are off-putting – the kitchen is kind of a mob scene, with something like half a dozen employees doing the job of maybe two. Near the door sits a wire cage that once must have proffered some Baton Rouge weekly – it’s now stuffed full of shredded and crumbled newsprint, as though that bygone weekly had at some point decided to hire raccoons as distributers. The raccoons’ work remains unmolested by the staff of Louie’s.

We sat against a wall that featured a large original mural describing a Louie’s location on a beautiful white-sand beach stocked with tan, fit vacationers. The Louie’s in the mural has outdoor seating, and the waiter is wearing a tuxedo minus jacket. Dolphins frolic in the bay. We decided the art was depicting “fantasy Louie’s”.

The food was unexceptional, slotting in just above a meal at Denny’s. Although their website boasts that Louie’s is the “home of the veggie omelet”, Keith found it overstuffed (“just because you have 10 vegetables on the premises doesn’t mean they all have to go in the veggie omelet”) and a generally milquetoast affair. Chris’s western omelet held few surprises:”it offered neither delight nor injury”. Danny fucking loved his veggie omelet.

Besides the service, Louie’s scored points with us for grace notes like the mural of “fantasy Louie’s” and the poster of LSU cheer leaders near our table, which featured autographs from each of the charismatically flawed “Golden Girls”.

The bathroom was the sort of place where you don’t want to touch anything without first assuming a protective layer of paper product. On the other hand, the coffee was pretty tasty, and Danny’s fruit cup was fresh (it’s worth noting that when the fruit cup arrived at the end of the meal, we were all thoroughly surprised it wasn’t canned). Louie’s isn’t exactly a study in contradictions, but it is certainly on the cusp: some serious attention could make it a darn good diner, but any further erosion will thrust it into all-out calamity.

[3 out of 3 of us agree with this review. Although we all feel that it may be a little harsh, we’re incapable of rationally defending our moderate affection for Louie’s.]

Chris reviews THE NEW iPHONE

The new iPhones are coming, and the excitement is palpable. As a dedicated iPhone user since Apple introduced the device in June ’07 — I think I bought my first the following month — I’ve been daydreaming about possible advances for some time now. I thought I’d be waiting for clarity till the expected late June/early July announcement, when out of nowhere I got a call from a really nice girl named Susan who works at Apple in the PR office. She explained that in contrast with past product rollouts, Apple had decided to preview the next model iPhone to tech journalists and other interested members of the media. She asked if I’d like to spend a little time with iPhone 3.0 and write up my impressions for this website. I was more than a little surprised — WAS.com may have a great readership, but the content tends to veer away from respectable product advice and toward lies about celebrities, wanton use of words like fuck and shit, and video game cheats. But I was excited — heck yes, I was excited. I readily agreed.

So this morning I met Susan at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue, where she took me to a spare conference room in the back and gave me about fifteen minutes with the new iPhone. To say I was surprised by Apple’s change in direction would be a big understatement — so would saying I was merely delighted. One bummer stipulation Susan made was that I couldn’t take any photos; I was, however, allowed to make sketches, which I did. Without further ado, then, let me present the iPhone 3.0 (or rather, my pretty rudimentary sketch of it):

 

 

What’s the first thing that jumps out at you? Yeah, me too: It’s a fucking clamshell! When Susan handed me this phone, I was sure it was a prank, or that she was messed up on some goofy pills. But she just stared at me and nodded, and her pupils weren’t abnormally dilated or anything. I opened and closed the phone, turned it over in my hand a few times, and started to notice the kind of great details that could only come from Apple — this really was the new iPhone I was holding, and it was a clamshell! Now, I don’t know how you feel about clamshells, but I’ve always been an unabashed fan. You’ve got this tiny phone, something roughly the size of a credit card that fits easily into even the stingiest pockets, and yet when you’re ready to use it you simply unfold it, thus doubling its size. What’s not to love? I’ve been really annoyed to watch manufacturer after manufacturer turn away from the clamshell toward larger, hingeless phones with huge keyboards. I realize that the iPhone has played a big part in this transition, but it always compensated for that betrayal of logic with a number of wildly positive features. So it’s immensely satisfying to see the Apple people throw it into reverse and back out of the blind alley that the industry followed them into two years ago. I’m here to tell you that iPhone 3.0 is really, really small — think of an old Sanyo clamshell.

The second striking left turn the iPhone 3.0 makes, after the clamshelling, is dropping the touch screen and returning to physical buttons — and not the bloated QWERTY keyboards that Blackberry has made standard on smartphones, but a good old-fashioned 12-key number pad. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Apple product without a few elegant twists, and this isn’t your grandpa’s 12-key number pad. You see, the keypad on the new iPhone doesn’t stop at 9: it has a 10 key, an 11 key, and a 12 key. What?! Weird, right? But then you start to think about it, and you realize how much time might be saved when even just those three numbers — 10, 11, & 12 — require one keystroke instead of two. And you get that familiar tingling feeling: “Holy shit, I’ve just experienced the latest revolutionary-yet-obvious innovation from Apple. I will never look at X Product the same again.” As the wonder set in, I realized something was troubling me, some nagging detail. No zero! “Wait,” I asked Susan, “what if you have to dial a zero?” She took the handset, held down the 12 key for ten seconds, and a zero appeared on the display. I laughed. Of course!

 

 

Besides the addition of 10, 11, and 12, the keypad on the new iPhone has a visual simplicity that’s really pleasing. Several surprises still await, though. A star and hash key sit directly north of the number pad, and beyond their obvious role, they also unlock further keystroke savings. Hold down the star key while you press any of the number keys and you get the number you pressed followed by all of the numbers in the same column, starting with the one directly below it. So hold ‘*’ and press ‘1′, and the you’ll get ‘14710′ (1-4-7-10) on the display. Press ‘* + 5′ and you get ‘58112′ (5-8-11-2; notice that it wrapped back around to the top of the column to pick up that ‘2′; pretty cool, right?) You’ve probably guessed what the hash key does: hold it down while you press a number key and you get that number followed by all the other numbers in the same row, starting with the number immediately to the left. So ‘# + 3′ gives you ‘321′, and ‘# + 11′ gives you ‘111012′. I decided to see how long it would take me to input the phone number 546-271-0148 on the new iPhone. Ten keystrokes? Try four: ‘# + 5′, then ‘2′, then ‘* + 7′, then ‘8′. Not bad. In the course of a day, you’re looking at some pretty incredible keystroke elimination.

The minimalist keypad isn’t done yet, though. Sandwiched between the star and hash keys is a standard-looking alphanumeric key, but if, as I was, you’re expecting that it converts each number key into the traditional rotating series of three or four letters (‘2′ becoming ‘ABC’, for example), you’re in for quite a surprise. Clicking that little cursive ‘a’ unlocks the new iPhone’s most astounding timesaver of all: WordLists. Get fucking ready. In WordList mode, each number key becomes a list of words; you toggle through the list by clicking the key repeatedly. The lists add up to 250 of the words most commonly used in text messages, broken up into twelve extremely well thought out categories: pronouns, action verbs, general verbs, general nouns, places, people, and six lists of names. The pronouns are obvious enough: I, She, They, What, etc. The action verbs are: run, swim, dive, tread water, flip, fly, twist, roll, spin, somersault, raise, lower. General verbs include: think, realize, intensify. The places are ten of the most popular international cities (London, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, etc.), plus Italy and USSR. ‘People’ includes: sister, friend, prosecutor, senator, clerk. And the lists of names have 77 of the most popular names — everything from Chris to Ivan to Marion. Got the idea? Press the alphanumeric key, and your keypad becomes an incredibly efficient sentence builder. I was able to write ‘I wonder what James’ in seven keystrokes. ‘They go swim Turkey’ took five. If I have one complaint about WordList, it’s that the words don’t come up on the display as you toggle through them. Instead, the screen remains blank until it thinks you’re done toggling (about five seconds after you stop clicking the number key), then displays your choice. Until you’ve memorized the lists of words, you’ll need to rely on a paper index about the size of a credit card that Susan told me will come standard with the phone.

Let’s move on to the display: simple and elegant. Apple decided to eschew some recent display trends — many of which they helped create — and go with a low-res, black and green, four line screen. Plenty of real-estate to read a text message or program your phone book with a number that includes extensions, but not enough to perform most of the “handheld computer”-type functions that people have started to expect their phones to have. Which brings us to the larger issue: the iPhone 3.0 isn’t a palm-top PC — not even close. Apple is taking a brave stand with this phone, and I think it’s going to catch on in a big way. What’s their stand? No internet, no maps, no weather, no stock tickers — no elaborate software of any kind! In fact, the new iPhone plan won’t even have a data option, because the device can’t use it. I might as well put it all on the table: there’s no camera, either. Email? Nope.

So what the heck is Apple up to? If you ask me, they’re about to revolutionize the cell phone industry. Again. What Apple has realized is that, thanks in no small part to them, the cell phone has gone from a hugely useful way to communicate, to a big fat time suck. I don’t know about you, but I spend more time than I’d ever have imagined possible downloading Apps, cueing up playlists, trying to figure out cheat codes for little video games, slowly pecking out email messages on a tiny keyboard, and just generally dicking around — all on my cell phone. I barely have time to pick up a book anymore, what with all the time I spend pruning and sculpting the digital gardens contained inside my iPhone. In London, where I use a Blackberry due to the difficulty of parsing AT&T’s travel protocols for my iPhone, I’m totally lost in neighborhoods that I’ve visited dozens of times in the last couple of years. Why? Because I watch the little blue dot on my Blackberry screen instead of watching my surroundings. I know exactly what London looks like on the Google Maps Blackberry app — beyond that, I couldn’t tell ya much about the place.

 

 

There’s one last neat feature of the iPhone 3.0; this one showcases not so much Apple’s brilliant ingenuity as its whimsy. When it’s closed, the front of the iPhone has its own little display — the kind that used to show you either the current time or the number of whoever was calling. Apple decided those features were a little excessive — what, you don’t have a watch? — and instead lets you program the display to say anything you want, up to three characters. A simple, playful addition to Apple’s lean, mean return to efficiency-over-excess.

NB: It probably goes without saying that, since this is Apple, the new iPhone will come in a variety of awesome colors: silver, black, and a Product(RED) edition for an extra $89. Also, the phone uses two AA batteries, which Apple says will get 30 mins of talk time or two hours of standby.

Chris reviews THE 2004 “KEELBOAT” NICKEL


Another GREAT fucking coin from U.S. Mint sculptor/engraver Al Maletsky, but a problematic one this time: Where, Maletsky, are all the animals? Maletsky, of course, brought us 1999’s Florida variation of the American Eagle Platinum Bullion Coin, which depicted a freedom-guzzling eagle in flight 50-80 ft. above a stolid, no-nonsense alligator who’s teetering around in his butt-nasty primordial swamp (such is Maletsky’s mastery that whenever I handle a Florida AEPBC I feel like I’m getting butt-nasty black muck all over my hand and for hours afterward I can smell sulphur and rot and other primordial fetors — gator shit and sulphur and the like). High five to Maletsky, then, for the Florida AEPBC. Indeed, had a lesser sculptor/engraver forged the Keelboat nickel, I’d be nominating him or her for the nobel prize in coinsmithery. But it was Maletsky who did the forging, and him we hold to a higher standard than we do his peers. So I have to ask: Where the hell are the animals? Here we have gorgeous depictions of Noah and his wife and sons and daughters-in-law, and an almost monstrously evocative rear cabin area thingy, and damned if you can’t feel the wind heave against that swollen mainsail, and damned if the hull itself doesn’t totally look like wood — so where are the animals? Designing a coin scene is about condensation: choosing just the right half-dozen details with which to represent, on a stamp-sized palette, an entire era, career, or swamp. To tell the story of Noah’s Ark in an inch or less, you undoubtedly need to show a boat, and you undoubtedly need to put some people on it — and Maletsky did all that, yeah — but surely it’s crucial to the plot that God instructed Noah to take two of each animal on the Ark so as to insulate his holy blueprint from the deluge. Those animals, the pair of each sort, are, along with the immeasurable waters themselves, the most easily identifiable aspect of the entire Noah myth. So what happened? Was Maletsky opining? Does he feel that the real meat of this well known tale is found in the negotiation between man and god? That the animals are mere set pieces? If so, then I challenge his choice to ascend the soap box. It’s not the coinmaster’s place to interpret! His role is, again, to condense, to whittle away the extraneous; and to define ‘extraneous’ by popular belief, by the multitudes who will wield the economic instrument coinmaster has adorned. Maletsky overstepped his bounds; he inflated and then burst his scope. Coinmaster! Resist the temptation to embroider! Withstand the black gravity of absolute power! Consider not your steroid-muscular ego and its el Niño-scale whims! Instead defer to the likely preference of the vast citizenry whose pocket or coin-purse your creation will one day inhabit!

Chris reviews THE SINK BASIN IN THE PUBLIC TOILET AT EKKO, A CLUB IN UTRECHT

What a generous basin!

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What you need to realize if you don’t already is: the typical sink in the typical bathroom in the average club — be that club 200 capacity or 2000 — is a cramped little number. It’s a stingy little bowl. Very little clearance. Not at the Ekko. What a generous bowl! What a capacious scoop! What a magnanimous fucking basin! Here it is from straight on:

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Here’s a shot with my hand in it for scale:

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A man’s hands can practically get lost in there. Look at my hand stranded out there in the middle of that bowl! It recalls nothing so much as a nude figure trudging snowblind and flailing across a blizzard-swept tundral valley.
You’ve never felt manual vertigo till you’ve held your hands out there over the basin of the sink in the public toilet at the Ekko in Utrecht.