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words by jace.

this is an archive page. click above for the now thing.

vinyl rescue service

» HELIUM SUCKA

Like a chemically-distracted Kanye West trying to fit square happy-hardcore pegs into round r&b slots: Str8 Flush by Low Deep. This is the grime tune whose chipmunk vox got mixed into the end of the Riko/FireHydrant mp3 I recently posted. At the end I downpitch to 33 for another viewpoint. Anybody heard MCs on this?
     I copped doubles so I could cut-up the ill unclocked intro even further, but "Catz",  the flip side of this debut 12" on Colourful State recordings, is amazing too. Even better in some ways: the melody is less chopped but more screwed, the beat almost techno-y, the whole thing unusually emotional, the way certain techno songs can hit all the right brain- memory- nostalgia buttons or act like mood polaroids.

  four comments |
» DO NOT SPIT

Field recordings! Don't make sense! Consumed as mp3 soundbites! But here we go: This bellringing rip, Puja, comes from the Audiofile Collective's Do Not Spit Here And There: A Noise Primer on the Indian Subcontinent.

    This track, like field recordings in general, requires a different way of listening: things happen, but they don't tug with a song's plotted drama. (Dogs = music, cats = field recordings?) Listening to sound uncoupled from narrative expectations can be refreshing--signals drift in, bump & grind, slip away. Unlearns the way melody lines, beat drops, chorus- verse- bridges, chord changes, etc. condition our ears to expect certain flows and frame the interpretation of music/organized sound. Like that stuff you pour in your ears to make the hardened wax dribble out.

    
(more)   four comments |

» FIRE FIRE HYDRANT

Wiley & Riko gargle doubletime hatorade over Fire Hydrant's glacial hipwind shoulderbob grind. Swish, gargle, spit gems, sip broken teeth. Teeth grow back when you break em off right. Wiley's singleminded manic authority: the simple fact I don't care anymore. Bashment harmelodics out Riko's voicebox--explains why Lady Sov had him payphone-in jailhouse verse.

Vegetarianism is for social change movements. Relentless beef pushes beats to fight, fitful sublime.
 At the end Low Deep's Str8t Flush creeps in, seemingly themed & optimized for yayo reverie.

  one comment |

CATCH RESPECT

Monday 28 February 2005 at 7:49 pm

I'd like to give a belated big up to Nick Catchdubs, who with a mention or two sent more traffic here than anybody else. His blog ricochets outward to reliable manifestations of dopeness, looks original, and is almost 5 years old--qualifying for lifetime achievement awards in internet years.


Plus he wrote the cover story on David Banner for the current Fader issue! Crooked letter crooked letter eye... As far as I'm concerned Banner just gets hotter n hotter: I truly can't stop listening to those new Banner tunes -- I Aint Got Nothin, etc.

(A good non-Fader piece is here. Although it's pretty much impossible to top that Murder Dog interview from '03 whose photo spread featured Banner flanked by his kin-- grandma holding a Bible, grandpa, a rifle.)

NL THROWDOWN

Thursday 24 February 2005 at 08:12 am

I'm gonna be DJing in smoke-filled clubs in Holland this weekend.
Friday, Den Haag, Saturday, Nijmegen. With Warp's Milanese both dates. I go on around 2 in Den Haag, and around 4 (!!) at Nijmegen's 2-room dance event. (somebody should play Tochnit Aleph to drugged-up ravers at 5:30am, might as well be me...)

GIBSON´S SPAN

Wednesday 23 February 2005 at 08:47 am

Just finished reading Hip: The History by John Leland, and William Gibson´s Virtual Light. Nimble books. I´ve been stunned by Gibson-- a large part of it due to his relation to future possibilities and sci-fi-y ideas: they emerge already naturalized in his texts, not like some precious overblown Big Concept or escapist tech-fantasy that WIRED will tap into to raise advertising revenue. No, the futureshock stuff is just there, part of the building blocks of his stories, and those ideas propel the narrative almost as much as the outward action. Like this extended engagement with The Bridge-- benevolent anarco-badlands aka the unzoned, upwardly ramshackle illogical conclusion to American westward frontier expansion. The Bridge stretches on the twisted post-earthquake remains of a bridge spanning San Fran & Oakland. Now disenfranchised people live there. The Law´s afraid to enter, and everything absolutely everything is recycled or resuscitated from some previous use. Stacked up, hammered or glued or tethered in place.

Gibson´s Bridge is like some crazy mongrel of downtown Osaka, a jungle filled with treehouses, Maghrebi medinas, pirate utopia plus the scurvy, a Danish squat where survivalist speedfreaks apply interpretive frameworks inherited from Naomi Klein and comic books onto postindustrial plumbing applications and/or welder-art, NYC´s Chinatown when you arrive on the Chinatown bus from a calmer city, and what the internet might be like if it were physical and poor.


Beehive, hustlers, no straight workers and no straight queens. Gibson writes it into existence vividly. The Bridge becomes a medium in the story as familiar as the specific characters doin´ their thing. This fiction opens space.


The book is set in a 2005 where the middle class has been ground into extinction, where AIDS has been cured via a gay prostitute (J. D. Shapely) who spread his non-lethal HIV strain via unprotected sex with hundreds--inoculating them. Christianity, variously televised and sectarian, convulses as millions believe Shapely was Jesus. All this stuff isn´t just there for show, though, Gibson draws it out smoothly; he´s a good writer and chooses to set his dramas in places that don´t yet exist, technically speaking. But he writes as naturally and coolly as if they could, allowing the futureshock to bleed into and comment on our present. Headspringers, headsprung.


Most public spaces have been purchased. Golden Gate park, renamed Skywalker, now charges steep admission. Police strongarm alongside rent-a-cop security firms. (Gibson thanks Mike Davis for the inspiration received from Davis´ powerful riff on L.A., City of Quartz).


Virtual Light
isn´t as plainfacedly good as Gibson´s more recent Pattern Recognition, (which plays out like finely textured contemporary fiction), but it is sharp & fresh-feeling, more woozy, very well composed.

GRIME-FIGHTERS, or EXECUTIVE REALNESS

Saturday 19 February 2005 at 3:45 pm

    A webbed mix of insight & haterism is being dropped on a Dissensus grime thread, with DJ Logan Sama in one corner and music critic Simon Reynolds in another. At some point it boils down to fake/real arguments. Which always make me sleepy. Like attending a sociology lecture.

    As a black american male, I´ve got a deep ongoing distrust of “realness”. History and context always matter, absolutely. (My mom calls me nigger and it means nothing. You call me nigger, I fuck you up.) But America perches atop a massive history of black people & culture being propped up as simultaneously more real and more alien. (If I could separate bids for realness from racist misconceptions then, maybe then, I could keep it real with the best of 'em...) Most debates about genuine/inauthentic bypass messy nuances of, er, reality to achieve their points. Behind fake/real dichotomies sit creepy social determinism & wannabe cops of the real, not to mention hackneyed media narratives of “voice from the ghetto.”  
    (Aside: Interesting to think about George W. Bush as a warped negative of the realness press template. Instead of feelgood preset “look at person from the ´hood who used their natural talent to create streetwise yet refined art that speaks to us all”, Dubya offers a perverse inversion: “look at this talentless child of massive privilege who tanked several companies before becoming leader of the most powerful empire the world has ever known.” Grim, not grime.)

     ...Back to british eskimo thug music. "It's just funny to see the self-appointed custodians of the scene getting a bit worried that their preciously accrued subcultural capital is going to be devalued,” explains Reynolds, “ because finally, after several years of faffing about, the scene looks like it finally might make it.” He´s on point. Healthy scenes need to be crowded with poseurs and outsiders and hustlers and haters and innovators and people who bite the innovators so fast they themselves become innovators. Any scene must crack itself open to gain greater relevance.

    Reynolds continues-- “And so it starts, all the bollocks about 'who's real grime', and who should cover it, and how.... you'd rather have the media ignore it so you can complain about being excluded... typical UK undergroundism self-sabotage. except that the people who ARE actually in the scene all want to make it and cross over, they practically talk about nothing else!”

    This touches on a real paradox. Prior to mixtape heat and platinum sales, 50 Cent was only Curtis Jackson, just another black dude with a rough life who´d taken a couple bullets, not a single photoshopped pic in his nonexistent presskit. Unless you´re famous and “real”, unless your realness can tap into marketing and publicity gambits and set the media abuzz, you´re just plain real, which usually means a crap job, taxes, utility bills, substandard heath care, TV, no love or even hate from strangers in the blogosphere regarding your socioeconomic habitat, artistic fables, and/or assault history.

    I think one of most & least “real” places in America (meaning America´s media-saturated self-imagining) is dying rural towns: white trash, Lynyrd Skynyrd, toxic methamphetamine kitchens, toxic boredom, beer addiction, the Zep, who knows? The so-called street cred (aka branding power) of predominantly black urban ghetto culture receives constant reinforcement with ClearChannel/MTV/corporate-backed hiphop fantasies (8 Mile as a movie-length advert for Eminem´s melanin-deficient authenticity), while  images of poor, predominantly white heartland America are largely absent. Hard to think about. Unreal. Despite the raw economic reality for millions of people (many remaining faithful to the Bush camp as said camp return to screw them over and over). Unreal, unmarketable and, like the current ban on images of US soldiers returning in coffins, simply distasteful.

    Grime is strivers´music. One of the elements of grime I find most compelling is its beefed-up bent sincerity. Not “realness” per say, but rather crews clashing, vibing off each other, pushing ish forward with unreal beats and bombastic Jerry Bruckheimer-style “realist” rhymes. [Quick cut to helicopter-on-fire careening into exploding car as ruggedly handsome hero parachutes into speedboat piloted by bikini-clad heroine figure courtesy of a cocaine diet. Dolby-surround orchestra crescendo, hard pan right, quick cut...]

    This is why the DJ ethos--if the beat is hot, play it!--allows for such freedom. Up-from-the-streets real or top-down fabricated inauthentic, you play it if it´s bumpin´. You´ve probably heard about how Afrika Bambaataa would play the Beatles, the Monkees, and Kraftwerk alongside soul, funk jams--and in so doing helped birth hiphop, the genre whose polished, policed halls have sparked the fetishization of “real” more than any other.

    Culture is theft and love multiplied by marketplace hustle.

DJs thrive on functionality. If it works, use it. We cobble together contexts from fragments; the sounds we spin become pieces in the overall vibe of a set, reflected against crowd response,  soundsystem quality or lack of it and how that impacts the mixing, the general arc of the evening. DJing records is like writing a story with other people´s words. The question is never “who owned this word”? or “where did this word grow up?”-- the only thing you need to know is if the words string together into something meaningful.

    While I´m not feelin´ the real/fake thing, I am hugely into the real fake. Paris is Burning! If you haven´t seen this documentary yet, I recommend it. Poor queer transvestite/transgender blacks and latinos in NYC, staging strong fragile dope drag balls. Radically vulnerable men going beyond passing, competing to see who can strut the most convincing Executive Realness. And that´s how it is: broke-ass black gays know better than anyone the subtleties of dress, voice, and poise needed to exude Wall Street executive power or sexy white womanhood. For real.


FIRE FI DE STRAIGHT MAN DEM

Thursday 17 February 2005 at 08:41 am Hold up. Isn´t Jay-Z gay? and what about Sly & Robbie? I´ve never been to Jamaica but I know enough to know that 'Homophobia in Jamaica' is (at the very least) a hazy swirl of bogeyman shimshams, oceanic misogyny, unlubricated curiosity, overwrought machismo, plus oddball taboos on cunnilingus and THC-gummed moral vision and the emperor of Ethiopia,--despite whatever he has to say about it--is God.

    Tanya Stevens says: “"I have seen this industry go through so many phases of stupidity, I no longer even pay attention.”

She´s quoted in a Village Voice article on the reggae-homophobia clash, and GunYoga weighs in with a provocative link-ful post (that diverted me to the hilarious Black People Love Us).

    Jah Division, title of the Voice piece, also happens to be “Russia´s oldest and best roots reggae band” and white Williamsburgers performing dubbed-out instrumental Joy Division covers, who just dropped a novelty 12” on Social Registry. Talk about d(r)ubbing a dead horse..!

UNLIDDED EAR

Wednesday 16 February 2005 at 10:19 am I feel like a spy, wandering the streets and recording in secret.

Gear flush: finally got my greasy fingers on a pair of Soundman OKM binaural microphones, thanks to Nat Slang in Berlin. They go in your ears and look exactly like plain 'earbud' style headphones, but instead of pumping sound, the delicate mics can record everything you hear with realistic stereo separation.

Very useful for city & field recording, audio voyeurism, and realizing that the urban soundscape is unbelievably polluted by car noise. In a certain sense the futurists--Italy´s most stylish fascists-- got what they wanted: chaotic machine clatter constituting public sound, jackhammers in the opera; automobiles are LOUD.

Imagine if cars were silent or as quiet as bikes? More people would get run over, true, but we´d be able to hear the rich subtle soundlife normal buried under muffler roars, squealing brakes, and wheels whoosing on pavement. Right now trying to listen to my city over the din of cars is like listening to music with the vacuum cleaner on.

?x?x?x?

Monday 14 February 2005 at 8:28 pm

"How much touring was he doing?" She laughed. "He got to know good drug dealers in every city in Europe. He was a fantastic gourmand. He oozed culture. It was incredible." James twisted around in his chair. "And what do you think of it now? With twenty-twenty hindsight and all? I mean…"
    "I'm so stoned that my eyes could pop out!" Jenn said, and shook with a fit of giggles. Her laugh seemed self-consciously patterned after a crow. "People just use the idea of Greek gods possession as a way to vent their least appropriate impulses. This sort of thing is obvious when you come from a place like I do. There's another way to phrase it, but it would take--"
    "Fewer words?" he butted in.
"Dammit, no. More words. It would take many more words to tell it another way. I use the easiest metaphors on people with dull imaginations. The best way to tell it takes a whole day, starting a sunup and ending the following sunup. That's what you might call the uncompressed version."


COLLECTED NONFICTIONS

Sunday 13 February 2005 at 8:00 pm

Madrid, still, stunningly disorganized
wordy, inept

Berlin was broad-shouldered as always

Having staggered home to find somebody's key jammed into the lock of my building, effectively forcing the front door open (The Spanish phrase for this is: ˇjoder, hay que ser inepto!), I can now return to nowherelandia. Piggybacked in, not precisely wardriven, on borrowed bandwidth.

Real books become life-rafts in the skim data stream: “content” concretized into form, ink & woodpulp, life you can experience without electricity or tiny fans whirring, pages thumbed or new but already fading--this time next century all our books will be blank, entire libraries of Lethe. Bonfires of forgetting. Or as Marías might say, what will happen to words in books is what happens to memories or thoughts when the person remembering or thinking them stops.

But I'm worming my way through several strong ones now, real books, the kind you can dog-ear or set on fire: Virtual Light by William Gibson, Hip by John Leland, that big nonfiction tome by Borges, and a dully titled collecting of exciting poetry by Joyelle McSweeney. All quite good, in very different ways.

Party People FYI

Thursday 10 February 2005 at 10:13 am

i´ll be DJing at a free party in Madrid late tomorrow night with Kid606 & others, then on Saturday I´m spinning at Berlin´s Transmediale festival, alongside Mad Professor, DJ Marlboro, and some Montreal Mutek-y acts (Marlboro is the O.G. Brazilian baile funk DJ, he´s the catalyst who brought Miami bass records back to Rio´s favelas in the 80s & has been a scene mainstay ever since).

MELT

Tuesday 08 February 2005 at 7:32 pm

 

Hamburgers have agreed to a temporary period of quiet, and Hambuger statements today may be more rhetorical than substantive, an effort to remind Pollsters that Hamburgers have been fighting the Icecream Man, not making concessions to him.

But the Hamburger rebuttals are a sharp reminder of the limits of Mr. Morton's authority right now, even with the backing of Eddie and Joan, and of the fragility of the declarations made today.

The Icecream Man has made it clear that if attacks continue and Mr. Morton does little to stop them, the Icecream Man will resume his military activity.

"One can only have a cease-fire with a state or authority that controls security," a senior Icecream official cautioned here today. "You can't have a cease-fire with armed terrorist groups, because you give them a veto over sugar. What we have today is a cessation of violence, and it can become something more if Morton moves to crack down" on the militants, take away their weapons and destroy their fudge and sugar factories.

Mr. Morton has not yet named a new cabinet or reformed his security forces, the Icecream Man points out, saying: "We know he needs time, and we will give him time, but he doesn't have a limitless amount of time."

But the day was filled with the symbolism of renewed hopes, as the Icecream Man and Pollster leaders sat at a large round table with their hosts, Eddie “President” Hanley, and Joan “King” Arnolds. In the hall, the Icecream Man's flag was displayed next to the Pollsters'. The Icecream Man's spokesmen spun their messages on Eddie and Joan's television stations and both Eddie and Joan announced that they would soon return their empty cups to the Icecream Man.



african mp3s up

Tuesday 08 February 2005 at 11:43 am the Senegalese Egyptology piece below now contains a Youssou N'Dour tune & 2 tracks from Ghislain Poirier's homemade west african rap comp. Gros Beat vol.I.  Enjoy!   &-- for a consisently hi-kwaality west african audioblog, check Benn loxo du taccu.

GRIME 97

Monday 07 February 2005 at 7:43 pm

Dubquixote telegraphs in the latest: grime anthem Forward riddim played on NYC hiphop R&B  corporate megastation Hot 97! Blazing to say the least.

Non New Yorkers & non Grime nerds may have difficulty grasping the 'wow' factor of this development.., but Hot 97 is smoke in the city's lungs. It's the station that follows you from storefront to storefront. It cruises by with the windows rolled down. Public. Their dial digits serve as default urban ambience. Grime is awkward, chaotic London-specific music circulating mostly via pirate radio, small-run no artwork 12”s, and D.I.Y. mixtapes and DVDs. Unlike everything played on Hot 97, nobody is making much money in the grime game yet. The most aboveground figure to US audiences is Dizzee Rascal, whose recent album sold far worse than that of every indie band you've ever heard of. So when the gutter-up grime jumps off via the top-down payola frequencies of NYC's Hot 97, well, it's wild, innit?

As unexpected as moral pillar  Bush endorsing Tom Wolfe's smutty novel about co-ed sex, drugs, and partying--wait, that makes a lot of sense...

    Grime on Hot 97 = bananas & hopeful for a bunch of reasons.

(None of them have to do with the actual music though--major label black pop is as bugged-out as ever, and although grime has some seriously mental productions, the Forward riddim's clubfight bounce gets the blood stirring but dances miles away from dedicated grime bent-ness (bass mixes/devils mixes, so solid “dilemma”, jammer's “feedback”, anything Mondie makes using only 2 drum samples, Davinche's warped r&b visions, etc)

    I would write about those reasons but tiny germs inside my body are yelling at me.

AXE

Monday 07 February 2005 at 05:28 am Um, but aren't there always alternatives


BIZZLE VID BID

Saturday 05 February 2005 at 05:30 am Sasha, ice-cream man extraordinaire (always got the scoop), is the first person to point me towards the Forward riddim video! Clean version, but decent quality!
  Catch Lethal B & Co. in a cast-off set from that Cube movie as they spit over a now-legendary tune that, when i first got it on white label many months ago, i labelled "southern gangsta bounce" to distinguish it from all the other nameless grime in my crate. who knew? POW!
    Look left for Wiley & Riko in full-on angular Lethal B dis war poetry mode.

SENEGALESE EGYPTOLOGY + AFRICAN RAP

Thursday 03 February 2005 at 5:38 pm

  I´ve made unlikely friends on Rue Doudeauville in Paris by admitting, in a Senegalese cassette shop, that I didn´t really like Youssou N´Dour. Amazing voice, but I never really felt the music. (Brothers in the shop took pity on my ignorance, a bull-in-a-china-shop speaking his mind no less.) But with 2004's Egypt album, N'Dour explored a completely new route--swapping his mbalax afro-pop backing band for classical players from Cairo's Fathy Salama Orchestra and trad West African instruments like the mighty kora. Pretty, poppy Egyptian classical music intertwined with musical & lyrical homages to Senegalese Islamic brotherhoods. Smooth & deep.
  Plus, it's dope to hear high profile intra-African fusion projects. None of that East-meets-West monkeydancing. N'Dour's project means you get Senegalese balafon - Egyptian ney duets and nothing remotely like Bill Laswell smearing on reggae bass or adding quantized dancebeats, or Peter Gabriel shoplifting. "There is nothing more interesting than forging new styles,” says Fathy Salama, “and nothing more exciting.” That said, this Afro-Arab collabo remains in the category of coffeeshop world music-- markedly inoffensive, actively pleasant, maybe your parents dig it too. Here's a track from the album: Youssou N'Dour - Baay Niassee. Minor glitches may have crept into the mp3.

What the kids in Senegal (and West Africa in general) are bumping is, of course, HIPHOP. In 2001 my man Ghislain Poirier spent several months in West Africa fairly immersed in the rap scene. Which is thriving. Big names in Senegalese hiphop sell around 20,000 to 50,000 cassettes nationwide.

I wonder if that takes into consideration lateral bootlegging: bootleggers bootlegging the bootlegs? That is definitely the case with Arabic music--umpteenth generation rai tapes and Oum Koulsoum cassettes, the xerox hustle economy in full effect. It's probably a translation bonus, but when Salama said “nothing more interesting than forging new styles” maybe he meant forging as in counterfeiting, copying, making newness appear to come from someone or somewhere else...

    As it's always been, truth seeds rumor and travelers spread sound.

While he was in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Abidjan (Ivory Coast), and Dakar (Senegal), Ghislain assembled two outstanding DIY comps of West African rap. Gros Beat vol. I & II. The tunes comprise a mixture of cassette & CD releases, and the material is nonstop hot. I was happily surprised at how up-to-date the production was. Spanish hiphop production, by comparison, bogs down at least 10 years in the past, with graceless monosyllabic endrhyme over utterly played, kick-snare-sample backbeats. But the African stuff Ghislain compiled could hold its own on American charts, production-wise, with some heavy doubletime moments and occasional nostalgia-free incorporation of traditional structures that really push it over the edge into greatness. The polyglot rhyming I can't say too much about, English verses are infrequent and er, lackluster.
    Here are two tunes from Gros Beat vol I.  Smockey - Blues d'Afrique.  This song from Burkina Faso uses overtly 'african' samples. A gentle feel about the production combined with the chants make it my personal fav.  Positive Black Soul are one of Senegal's more well-known rap groups, although Ghislain's selection: Xoyma (Wolof version) displays then on an (uncharacteristically) headstrong tip. The word "hip" derived from the Wolof term hepi or hipi: to see, to open one's eyes.

MIDNIGHT COWBOY

Wednesday 02 February 2005 at 7:24 pm

Having forged an unlikely friendship with a cowboy, Dustin Hoffman lies dead with his head propped against a glass we can't, technically, see. His parter looks off into the distance with a screwed-up face like he's feeling pain, then a look like he's trying to squint the future and you can't tell if his new clothes reflect a new mind or simply the cheapest available option.

    But that's not all of it. There's an image reflected in the glass: Miami! Palm trees breeze past bungalow rows.

UPENDED

Tuesday 01 February 2005 at 9:14 pm

I tried to figure out my take on the Iraqi elections as I browsed subzero Cambridge on a last-minute English-language media binge. Murky, out-of-focus thoughts. Democratic apparatus, good. Great. Haywire civil chaos new world oilism, bad. Both the Boston Globe and the New York Times said Iraqis “flock” to the polls as their main headline. Flock. My paranoid newsprint readings versus White House press machinery versus the smudged second-generation fax called reality. Sent to the wrong recipient.

Arriving in Spain everything stood in place: the sun, the anarchy, the complacency towards danger. I taxied by a cyclist sitting with his face smashed in. Helmet on, everybody stared, hoping for the best but there was so much blood, and it was way too red, livid red. The driver of the car who had hit him looked frozen in time--not exactly frozen, just slowed down, stuck in DJ Screw time. He might have just ruined someone else's life and his own too. Fifty meters ahead the biker's companions pedaled on. Lycra optimism. Health kicks. When would they realize somebody ran their friend over?

In Madrid everyone drinks Mahou beer; in Barcelona, Estrella Damm. Next to the Damm refinery a half-constructed building had partially collapsed, already. A lot of places here are too old or too new.

Ancient, time-resistant, ornate, junkies outperformed by their pet dogs in the shadow of a 13th century castle. Dry-wall, budget mortar, i-beam rectilinear, the stuff impatient money builds.