Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Townshend Responds

Pete has posted a response on his web site to the "50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs" article that recently appeared in the UK Indpendent and listed "Won't Get Fooled Again" at #1.

I had to chuckle when Pete ripped into Spike Lee (whose work I have never really found all that interesting) for missing the point of WGFA when he used it in the dreadful "Summer of Sam." As Pete says, Spike Lee missed the prayer that he had written into the lyrics.

The tension of Townshend and The Who is that he really is praying in the midst of all the mayhem; mayhem he creates himself! One of my favorite moments in all of Who-dom is the bridge in "The Punk and The Godfather" from Quadrophenia. Townshend's voice, shaky and self-doubting, appears after the carnage of the verse and lays out his prayer:

I have to be careful not to preach
I can't pretend that I can teach

Moments of naked revealing like that can be found all over The Who's catalogue and they represent one of my favorite things about Townshend's songwriting. It's the way I feel all the time in life - trying to be meditative and contemplative in the midst of my own yelling.

Pete also had this to say a few years ago when he refused to license WGFA to Michael Moore for Fahrenheit 9/11.

WGFA is not an unconditionally anti-war song, or a song for or against revolution. It actually questions the heart of democracy: we vote heartily for leaders who we subsequently always seem to find wanting. (WGFA is a song sung by a fictional character from my 1971 script called LIFEHOUSE. The character is someone who is frightened by the slick way in which truth can be twisted by clever politicians and revolutionaries alike).

This is the problem with our heroes (and Townshend is most definitely my hero). We like to think we know them, but we don't. The hero is somebody we create.

Oh Dear

The Misanthrope is headed back to Old Blighty next week for three days in order to attend "Hedgestock," a networking conference for hedge fund managers. The event is kind of a two-day picnic/party with the hedge fund equivalent of speed-dating: 15 minute meetings with various groups to make introductions and get to know people.

Now, the Misanthrope is not too keen on large, unstructured social events, but he is psyched for this one because of the evening's entertainment.

The Who.

I am not making this up.

I look forward to Daltrey's thoughts on manager alpha for convert arb strategies in a world were the margins have been squeezed by an explosion of funds.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I am back in the USA and settled. Had a lot of logistics over the last week, including gettig back from Kyiv and opening up my beach house.

In the next few days, I will try to provide photos and commentary on Kyiv. It was a remarkable experience.

We Should Just Listen

Ted and Chrispy are right.

We should just listen to this guy. He's talking a lot of sense.

(Editor's Note: Since certain readers seem to have taken this post literally, I will spell it out for you: I was being sarcastic.)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Some Photos from Sevilla

We begin our photo tour of southern Spain at the Alcazar palace in Sevilla. Below is a photo of the gorgeous Moorish-style (although it was constructed by a Christian king) that can be found throughout the palace. The picture barely does it justice.

Next up is La Giralda, the tower of the cathedral of Sevilla. The bottom 2/3rds of the tower were originally part of the mosque in the city when it was under Moorish control. After the Moors were expelled, the top of the tower was added. The statue of Hope at the top is actually an American copy of the original, which had deteriorated and was removed to a museum.

When I first saw the tower, I thought it seemed very familiar. I suspected that it was the inspiration for Stanford White's version of Madison Square Garden (one of two that was actually on Madison Square) and it turns out that it was.

On Saturday, Pete and I drove to Palos de las Fronteras, which was the port from which Columbus set sail on August 3, 1492. Pete is shown here at the spot where the jetty stood 514 years ago. Since that time, the tidal marsh has shifted and the river is about 1/4 mile away.

Further down the river, at La Rabida, we visited replicas of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. They were docked directly across a small pond from a series of displays of "the New World" and what Columbus encountered when he landed. As we all know, the first thing he saw was two naked guys holding a parrot.

We end our tour at the castle in Niebla. The foundation is Roman, the middle section and some of the gates are Moorish and the top is medieval Christian.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

La Vida Sevillana

Hola Chickas -

The Misanthrope is in Geneva today and finds himself with a rare break in the schedule. I've been in Europe for six days now and I find myself thinking in a language that can best be described as Spanitalofrancodeutschenglish.

The trip began last Friday with a visit to Sevilla to see my friend Pete. He moved to Sevilla about two monts ago to take up a fellowship at a research institute. He's an evolutionary biologist and our drunken ramblings around Sevilla at 3 in the morning were peppered with fascinating discussions (well, I didn't have much to add) about his research.

The city itself was fantastic. I never had to leave New York time because we would eat dinner at 10:30 P.M., go out until 3:00 or 4:00 A.M. and sleep until noon. Because Pete was plugged in to the locals through work, we managed to avoid tourist places and he delivered me unto what must surely be the mecca of tapas in Sevilla - the Coloniale bar. I think I would have been happy just sitting there for a day and eating whatever they offered across the bar. The food was fantastic. We also had an excellent paella on Sunday that was all the better because it seems that finding paella in Sevilla is a bit like finding a baby pigeon in New York. It's a famous Spanish dish, of course, but many bars and restaurants just won't make it because of the preparation required.

Our search for flamenco proved fruitless. We asked all of Pete's Spanish friends where to go, but they made it seem like we would never find "true" flamenco because the essence of the style is that it is spontaneous and improvised. We did get to one bar just as an impromptu performance had finished, but that was the closest we got. It was like searching for the Yeti.

Pete's friends were incredibly nice. It was funny to be standing in a bar in Spain at 3:00 A.M. having a lively conversation with Enrique (a Brazilian) about my love for composers such as Villa-Lobos, Barrios and Tarrega while he wanted to talk about American music like Tom Waits and, remarkably, bluegrass. Once nice side effect of beer is that the more I had, the more "Spanish" I thought I knew.

Of course, the conversations were peppered with the inevitable moments of bizarre views about Americans. Europeans feel a freedom to be rude about America and Americans in a way that would be considered unacceptable in most of the U.S. It's really depressing, but, ultimately, it says more about them than it does about us.

I really don't believe that much of the European anti-Americanism that is so frequently discussed is based in any informed grievances with American policy or American culture. The reason I believe that is because so many intelligent, well-educated Europeans basically have no idea what the hell they are talking about when they discuss America. The most virulent anti-American comments tend to come from people who have never visited the U.S. Even the ones who have spent time there have some truly bizarre misconceptions.

They don't really know America, they just know some popular stereotypes that seem to be pervasive. So much of their information comes from television or film, but there is no way to know how representative these films are of America. I imagine that Americans have similar distorted views of countries they have only seen through films.

For example, Enrique's trip into bluegrass started through "O Brother Where Art Thou" and "Deliverance." In our discussions, it was clear that he believed that vast swathes of America were filled with hillbillies, even though the lived in the U.S. for a time. Now, hillbillies exist, but I don't think they are a major component of American culture or society. In fact, it seems kind of quaint to even use the term these days.

In these situations, I relish the opportunity to fill in the gaps for people and try to be an ambassador for the U.S. There is a deep satisfaction in dispelling some myth that has developed around Americans. What you find when you approach the situation this way is that there is an enduring fascination with America because it is so odd and so big and so powerful.

And it delights me to overcome the stereotype of Americans as naifs who know nothing about other cultures. At dinner on Friday night, I found myself explaining the history of the Spanish guitar to a table full of Spaniards. It was very enjoyable.

When I get another moment, I will post some photos from Palos de la Fronteras, where Columbus set sail for the Americas in 1492, and some other areas in and around Sevilla.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Cinco de Mayo

As every American schoolchild knows, tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo. The name comes from the Finnish meaning, literally, "sinkful of mayonnaise" and it celebrates the heritage of white Protestants around the world. In the evening, families of WASPs will gather for the traditional meal of tea and Fluffernutter sandwiches before breaking out the Pat Boone records.

Many people do not realize that the holiday actually started in Canada, where it was originally a protest against immigration from Eastern Europe. Back then, it was called "Cinco de Magyar" (literally, "bucketful of Hungarians") and it was celebrated on October 17th.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Horrifying Date Quote of the Week

Here's a new feature highlighting some of the more bizarre things I have heard on dates in New York City,

This week's entry comes from a young lady born and raised in California. She was nice enough, if a bit dull.

We were discussing the Native American dancing that I saw at the Shad Festival on Sunday and she launched into a strange talk about how her American history classes in sunny California's schools seemed to be only about "Indians."

When I said that I hadn't encountered the same thing in New York schools, she said, "Well, you guys didn't have Indians here, right?"

The only word is speechless.

She actually has two entries in this feature, but I'll save the other one for a bit later.

Pro Tools Update

I emailed the good folks at DigiDesign yesterday to inquire about the timing of the release of a universal binary version of Pro Tools 7.

The current estimate is the end of the month. I'm looking forward to it because every time I've gotten a universal binary version of software for this Intel-based Mac, it has been ungodly fast.