Sunday, November 21, 2010

Style Icon: Viktor Bout

I nominate "Merchant of Death" and hirsute gent, Viktor Bout . I wish I looked this good after getting off an international flight. Sigh.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rave: Epic Karaoke Jams

Readers, is there anything better than karaoke? Exposing your id for all to see and trilling theatrically like a modern day Aoide for your adoring audience? I have never felt emotions of the intensity I did when performing an impromptu, yet sultry, rendition of Tonight, I Celebrate My Love For You with Fanny Ong, a Chinese DJ (and budding pyramid schemer) who had clearly been awed by my prior performances.

I take my karaoke very seriously.  I am not a gifted singer but dammit if I don't give it my all. And really, that is the most crucial part of karaoke. As Mae West herself said, "An ounce of performance is worth a pound of promises" (I don't think she was talking about karaoke, but still). And so, dear readers, I wish to pass on to you my karaoke wisdom which has been accumulated through years of trial and error. I've experienced the highest highs where one feels like Gaia giving birth to the sky, and the lowest lows when you relate more to Gerri Halliwell when she ate that chocolate cake out of George Michael's garbage.

I hope the following tips will help you reach the lofty karaoke heights of the young man below:

If you want to rock:
Karaoke allows you to rock harder than you ever thought possible. I often try and channel the spirit of the late Bon Scott while I'm up there. Bonus points if you choke on your own vomit.

Do NOT do:
Sweet Child O Mine/ November Rain
Livin' On A Prayer
These songs are entirely played out and, unless it's everyone's first time at the rodeo, will bore and/or annoy your audience. If you must sing GnR try something different like Patience.

Toto: Hold the Line
You will be the envy of all of your friends.

Bon Jovi: Wanted
This is the Manimal's go-to song. He accompanies it with little high kicks and a joie de vivre which I have rarely observed in him. You will really bring the house down with this one especially if you deliver the seminal line, "I've seen a million faces...and I rocked em all" with gusto.

Pop/ Crowd Pleasers:
When someone has brought the mood way down by singing Nothing Compares 2 U or some other such nonsense, it's up to you to belt out a rip snorting crowd favorite to bring the party back to life.

Do NOT do:
Any rap: Young MC, Ice Ice Baby, Biggie - it NEVER works. It's much harder than it seems to pull off. Trust.
I Touch Myself- this usually is performed by an older woman who's desperate for validation after a nasty divorce or an annoying college girl who's trying to be an ingenue. Either way, bad.

Toto (again) with Africa:
This is my second favorite karaoke jam of all time. Who doesn't love a song that has lines such as, "I know that I must do what's right/ sure as Kilamjaro rises like Olympus over the Serengeti"?

Hall and Oates: Rich Girl
H&O are the best. You will not regret this one. It also fits in to my ultimate karaoke rule: keep it under 4 minutes.

My sister-in-law swears by Fantasy by Mariah Carey:

Slow Jams:
Beware the slow jam. It has the power to be a heartfelt showstopper, or a soul deadening exercise in torture.

Do NOT do:
Radiohead's Creep (or anything by Radiohead, really. I mean, I really like Radiohead. In my Ipod.)

MGMT/The Smiths/ Morrissey/ Arcade Fire/ Other pathetic hipster band. How did you even get an invite? Why is anyone even friends with you? Don't try to prove you have "elite" musical tastes, or look down upon the person singing Get Low. No-one wants to hear you sing the Velvet Underground, they just want to yell along to Sweet Caroline, really. How dare you sully the greatest activity in the world with your maudlin ways? Go home and put your head in the oven.

My good friend, and karaoke master, B$ always tears it up with Careless Whisper

My all time best song:
Alone by Heart

I have performed this in many karaoke establishments and once, notably, on a minibus in Thailand. It is the single greatest karaoke song of all time but you MUST commit. You cannot sing Alone if you are not doing a knee skid with your eyes closed at some point. Also, i think it wise to leave this performance until your traveler of moonshine kicks in. I would recommend being at about this level of wastedness to really get the full effect:

Finally, I would like to formally ban any of the following tunes:
American Pie
Hotel California
Bohemian Rhapsody
(all extreme violations of my 4 minute rule as well as likely to make me stab someone in the face)
I Will Always Love You
Part of This World (unless you are Peabo Bryson OR the badass little man who drinks martinis alone at Japas 55)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rave: Search Results

I just thought I would alert you, readers, to my absolute new favorite thing. I have a Google Analytics account which lets  me monitor many interesting facts about ijustwanttoconquerpeopleandtheirsouls. I can tell, for example, that I have a reader in the Faroe Islands (awww yeah!), or exactly how many people navigate away hastily after realizing where they are (answer: a lot).

But easily the most entertaining report is the one which lets me see what search items have led people here. What are people trying to find when they inadvertently end up at my virtual doorstep?

 It is in this data, friends, that my own psychoticness is laid bare in front of me. For example, these are the top search items from this week:



I particularly like number 5.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Travel Tips: Cambodia

Ah Cambodia, or Kampuchea for those of us who were born before the 1990s. The name alone conjures up visions of ancient temples, jungles and Maddox Jolie-Pitt.

As part of my recent sojourn to the area (which I have dubbed "South East Asia: Unsubmitted") I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in this fabulous country and, as always, am here to give you a little advice, Montebellucci-style.

My wife and I arrived full of anticipation at the Siem Reap International Airport after a few idyllic days in Luang Prabang, Laos (also known as The Best Place In The World). Compared to Luang Prabang's "airport" which consisted of 5 cerulean colored chairs and a woman who checked our luggage manually, Siem Reap seemed like a bastion of modernity.

*an aside: although the airport itself was slightly behind the times, its awesome policy of walking across open tarmac does make one feel like Mick Jagger, or a convict being transported by JPATS.

At Siem Reap airport you will use an E-Visa, get your luggage off a modern carousel and note that immigration is a real place, not just a man with a hairy mole who takes bribes in Baht, Kip, US dollars and snake whiskey. We went outside and let a friendly gold-toothed man at the taxi stand hail us a car for a measly $7.

Our driver tried very hard to engage us with Siem Reap-related pleasantries. He explained in great detail how difficult it is to find work driving, as well as the various tours one could take of Angkor Wat - With him! Right now!

As we listened politely to his prattle my wife began filing her nails with the elephant tusk emory board she had bought at a back-street night market, while I tried going through the usual  routine I use when realizing one's hairdresser, cab driver or airplane seatmate is a "chatter".
1. responding in kind
2. smiling and nodding
3. murmuring faintly
4. going to my "happy place"
5. submitting to the darkness and killing everything that moves, before coming to my senses with my hand in a pile of goo that used to be their face.

I was at about level 4 and a half before I thought to distract myself by looking at the scenery passing by outside.

The city of Siem Reap is, in fact, a holding area for some millions of tourists who visit Angkor Wat every year. It is also one of the poorest cities in Cambodia. Because of this, it feels like some sort of post-apocalyptic version of Orlando, Florida. Except that instead of  Hooters, outlet malls and a Ripley's Believe it or Not! they have a Landmine Victims Orchestra, maimed beggars and child prostitutes to entertain the masses. Fun.

* The dulcet tones of the Landmine Victims' Orchestra

Giant hotel after giant hotel zoomed by, straddling a highway populated by bikes, tuk-tuks and babies riding scooters.

 *Don't get ripped off like the guy on the back; that baby charged him 80,000 kip.

Everything has an air of Third World New about it - meaning things have popped up like fungus, or the new 90210, with no thought to continuity or design. Mobile phone stores, "restos", fish massage tanks and more beckon from every direction. It is also approximately 1000000000 degrees celcius.

As you wait for your driver to take you to your lodgings, he will inevitably decide you should check out some other digs on the way. You know, just in case. Because, as any visitor to South East Asia knows, whatever hotel one originally asks to go to is, oddly, always closed or under construction. Finish your perusal and bluntly tell your driver (who seems to be stuffing a wad of cash into his pocket) that you are not interested and to take you to the Mandalay Inn in no uncertain terms. Readers, you are in for a treat.

We arrived at the fancy orange storm gates of The Mandalay Inn (which were lovingly adorned with rotting posters) and knew we were in paradise. After pestering us for the best part of our check-in and realizing that we would not in fact require his services for our entire vacation, our driver kindly bid us adieu calling us "fucks" and "shits". He must have really liked us because 1 hour later he was still waiting for us until the owner and our spiritual protector (pictured below at left) shooed him away with threats of police intervention and severe bodily harm.

Take a moment to appreciate the magnificent surrounds of the Mandalay Inn. Your luxury straw mattresses will be bedecked in glorious gnome haberdashery.

*Figuring out which cities each gnome is visiting makes a fun game to distract yourselves with while you are barricaded in your room awaiting the safety of daylight. As my wife sagely noted, none of the cities are Siem Reap.

Perhaps the most valuable take away from my entire trip to Cambodia is the information helpfully displayed in the sign posted in your room. I dubbed these "The Rules of Life":

* Don't sex with children! We would also find out why one should not "encourage for joiner" in a most unfortunate manner which ultimately resulted in us designing, and burning, an effigy. Heed the sign, people!

The next day, hire some bicycles and ride the leisurely 30 minute cycle to Angkor Wat. If you're smart enough to ask directions from some friendly locals, you might end up getting to ride through a back-road construction site. Enjoy the lilting laughter and giggles of the onlookers as the piles of grit and sand prove to be mighty obstacles for the 1970s era tires on your bicycle.

Once at Angkor Wat don't bother paying the US$20 for a certified tour guide. All they're going to do is take your money and regale you with an accurate and interesting history of this World Heritage site. No! Simply rouse a local policeman from his nap on a historical statue and he'll gladly radio his 14 year-old nephew to come and show you around. If you're lucky he'll be clad in a T-shirt which proclaims your own personal mantra:

* My wife and tween tour guide soak in the history...

For only US$10 your tween guide will illuminate you with such interesting trivia as where every scene in the popular motion picture Tomb Raider was filmed, and which exact trees were used by the Khmer Rouge to slaughter innocents. Do not attempt to inquire about any Angkor Wat history before the year 1995 as you will only receive complicated answers involving Ganesha and wild monkeys.

As for the complex itself - venerable libraries....

...old buildings made out of hundreds of carved heads...

*Always time for an inappropriate jumping photo!

...ancient gates with massive trees growing out of them...

M'eh, it's no Tomb Raider.

After a culturally satisfying day, it's back to Siem Reap. Amuse yourself in the evening by chatting with the local street urchins. They'll tell you you have a "big fat mouth like a monster" or that they "hope your plane falls out of the sky and you die". Kids, they say the darndest things! Escape their bony clutches and return to The Mandalay where you will obey the trusty sign and double lock all of your doors and windows before hunkering down for some shut-eye - there's a big day coming up!

If you have the opportunity and 17-20 hours free, consider taking the overland route back from Siem Reap to Bangkok. The lovely staff at the Mandalay will be more than happy to organize it for you. For around the price of 2 frappuccinos you get an international trip - bargain!

My wife and I boarded the rickety yellow school bus which collected us at dawn and were immediately rendered infertile from the impromptu hysterectomies delivered to us gratis by the exposed springs in our seats. "No matter",  I thought to myself, "one Manimal is enough for the world". As we made more and more stops we picked up more and more of what appeared to be refugees from British Phish concerts:

* Look at these d-bags, I'd gladly deliver a swift "up elbow" to them if I had my druthers. Seriously, is it a law that one has to wear fisherman pants and a headscarf in order to travel in South East Asia? 

As the stinky hippies piled up, so did their obscenely oversized backpacks which were shoved in every available nook and cranny until we were encased in a patchouli-scented death machine. Luckily for us, we were seated next to someone who spent 4 hours talking about his studies at Yale. I found myself wondering what the Manimal was up to in Brooklyn....

Just chillin' 

While being shunted from road side hovel to road side hovel, we slowly made our way toward the safety of Thailand. Fifteen or so hours later we descended in a state of primordial frenzy fueled only by seaweed flavored Pringles and Coke Light onto the border town of Poipet.

* Beautiful downtown Poipet

Our bus driver grunted and affixed strange red stickers onto our lapels. From that moment we ceased to be humans and, rather, became 'red sticker people'. "Red sticker people! Over there!" they would yell at us, "Shut up Red Sticker people!!" and so on. We would all huddle together as our guides fended off hordes of touts who looked at us the way a homeless man looks at a dead pigeon: it's kind of gross, but you know you have to seize the opportunity. Amusingly, being a Red Sticker Person was the only time our guides gave a shit about us. I later realized that this was because it was our one moment to escape and join up with another operation.

We were finally delivered to the immigration patrol where I fulfilled my life long dream of walking across a border. I managed to dodge the bee keeper people and spider vendors, the last obstacle between myself and Thailand which shimmered like a well-amened oasis in the distance:

And thus, our trip to Cambodia ended and the next leg of our journey, a rollicking good time filled with joiners, weapons and ladyboys began.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wish List: Dog Shoes

Ladies and gents, I have seen a lot of dogs cavorting around in sneakers recently and, frankly, it really grinds my gears. Last time I checked, dogs were animals. Animals with "paws" that are supposed to be able to get them from place A to place B without the aid of miniature Converse. Call me crazy, but every dog I've seen rocking kicks has looked even sadder than those husbands you see waiting on the "Man Chair" while their wives trawl Ann Taylor.

When wearing shoes, their little canine eyes look even more melancholy than the ones in those appalling "Rescue Me From The Pound" commercials. Except for this guy:

I don't begrudge him his shit eating grin (why is that an expression?? I would not be smiling if I was consuming a keester cake) because he seems to be sporting the dog version of the LA Gear "LA Lights" light up sneakers I begged my parents for in 1992.

Anyway, I think I am going to start a new trend: to take back footwear and strike a blow for humans with dog shoes!

They'll be the new UGGS, methinks.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rant: Slut-O-Ween

Ah readers, the crunch of rotting leaves and the fact that the homeless man on Grand Army Plaza has brought his protective polystyrene face mask out from the depths of his trolley alerts me to the fact that Fall is fast approaching.

I think we are all familiar with my thoughts on winter , but Fall is just alright by me. It has so many good qualities - you can wear a cape, eat a pecan pie and carve a terrifying pumpkin.

But obviously, the jewel in Fall's crown is Halloween. What a holiday! Growing up as a disgruntled Antipodean we didn't have a day where it was sanctioned, nay encouraged, to dress up in crazy costumes and solicit candy from one's neighbors. I mean I did it anyway, but still.

Halloween was originally invented in the place where all awesome things are invented: The British Isles. In fact, Halloween should probably make it on my list of reasons why Scotland is awesome . In some parts of Scotland people still go "guising" which I wish we did more of.

However, there is one aspect of Halloween that I still haven't wrapped my head around. If presented with an opportunity to create a sartorial representation of anything I want for one day of the year I inevitably choose something awesome that I may get arrested (or at least clear my own subway car)  for being on any other day. Maybe it's because I'm from Brooklyn, but I like real, all day, every day, we don't play costumes. Last year I was a lobster, the year before an alien geisha and this year I think it's gonna be Abraham Lincoln. Homemade costumes are the way to go:

* A Tiny Mexican Wrestler!

With all of these cool costumes available, the thing which strikes a visitor to the U!S!A! at Halloween is the proclivity for young ladies to instead dress up as whores. Wait, they don't dress as actual prostitutes

which would be somewhat original (and frightening - lay off the meth Joni!), but rather as a skanky simulacrum of classic Halloween garb.

"Slut-o-ween" is a well known and documented phenomenon which I am not the first to discuss. The Manimal and I even have a traditional Halloween game that we play. It involves each of us picking a "slutty _________" and then counting how many we see during the night. Last year I picked "slutty Dorothy" (she of Wizard of Oz fame) but Manimal wiped the floor with me when he chose "slutty bee". I did have my fingers crossed to see a slutty amoeba or promiscuous pancreas, but to no avail.

This year, however,  it seems as though the purveyors of skanky costumes have run out of steam. After looking at this bumper crop of sexy (insert random profession here) offerings I can't see where we go from here. Behold, I have sorted them in to categories for your convenience!

Cultural Sexy:

Maybe you're a thespian; we all know that humans are drawn to the glitz and glamour of the golden screen or the poeticism of literature. Show all of your girlz that you're a cultured soul by paying homage to some of our greatest literary figures.

Sexy Fantome de l'Opera: 
Yeah I guess a guy who has pizza face and repeatedly holds both you and your boyfriend hostage in a torture chamber, then forces you to agree to marry him to avoid spectacular carnage is pretty hot.

Sexy Willy Wonka:
Possibly my fave of the slutoween options. Let me say this, people - Willy don't need no sexifyin'! He'll take you to a world of pure imagination just the way he is.

Sexy Historical:

Sexy George Washington:
Dressing like a historical figure is always a good option. And who is sexier than George Washington?! Holla! I find G-dubs about a million times sexier ever since I found out his famed wooden teeth were actually made of "gold, hippopotamus ivory, lead, and human and animal teeth (including horse and donkey teeth)". Dayummmm.

Sexy Native American:
Or how about representing the original inhabitants of this fine country?

Holy crap!
Big Chief Little Cloth - I can see your vagina!

Sexy Current Events:
Some people like to use Halloween as an opportunity to make a political statement and I applaud their earnestness. For example:

Sexy Border Patrol Babe! She's cracking down on illegal immigrants and lookin' right while protecting our jobs.

Miscellaneous sexy:
And finally, some of my favorites which could not be categorized:

Sexy Remote Control:
I guess this is every man's dream. Her friends should dress up as Sexy Coors Light Tall Boy and Sexy Nachos.

Sexy Scrabble:
When I think of sexy I think of board games. Nothing hotter than when my elderly Grandma used to drink tea and play Scrabble with June from next door:

Sexy Mrs. Potato Head:

I'm not gonna lie - this is pretty hot.

Happy Halloween, all!

You can find these, and many more <a href="">sexy Halloween costumesa> at