October 20th, 2001


On bars, clubs, crowds, and music that sucks.

Hanging out in the computer room while guests mill around outside. I should probably pop out and be sociable for awhile, but I prefer doing so in conversational settings with one or two other people at a time, ideally without overwhelming cigarette smoke... unless I am smoking myself, which I do as infrequently as possible, only after a few drinks.

The thing is, I like having people over, but in limited doses if the objective is just to make life a nonstop party. My best friends are the ones who realize that it doesn't always have to be a party, who make themselves at home, do whatever they want within reason, and who can spend time with you in the same room waxing philosophically... or not saying a word, doing their own thing. Both is good.

That isn't to say I don't like parties... I just tend to prefer them elsewhere. That, after all, is why they make bars and clubs. On that subject, I prefer clubs over bars in theory, but greatly prefer bars over clubs in practice. In theory, a nightclub can have dancing, drinking, food, space for conversation, etc... but in practice, the music usually sucks, the drinks are poorly made and served in tiny plastic cups, the food - if they have any - leaves a lot to be desired, and you can't hear the person standing right next to you. A good bar, however, does a few things and it does them right. Give me a grungy dive bar with a pool table and a jukebox that plays Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison any day of the week over yet another danceteria packed with pasty yuppies doing the "white boy shuffle" and their trophy wives/girlfriends.

Dragged out to one such nightclub yesterday with many of the same people who are over tonight. The club had two sections... the loudest and most crowded of which was a huge old theatre with giant walls and acoustics like a tin shed. Giant iconic pictures of Madonna and Prince vied for wallspace with cigarette and drink promotional material, and video monitors displayed 80's movies, along with the all-too-common commercial video services that are infecting nightclubs everywhere. The music was basically everything from that era that they could be sure that you had heard a hundred thousand times before.

As much as there are bands from the 80's that I love, and some that I would still like to see, I despise the whole 80's retro thing. It is like a bile burp from a party best forgotten... It just keeps coming back up.

80's retro must die. If you find yourself getting older and slipping down that slippery slope into a "that time and that music was the best ever" kind of mindset, just think of the most pathetic aging hippie out there. You are becoming like that person. Turn back now, or be damned to never appreciate anything in the future as much as that which you appreciated in the past.

I went upstairs to the other section of the club. It was mostly modern soul, r&b, and rap, but it had its moments. Trip hop, which hit - and largely disappeared - from the clubs in England in relatively short order, has infected much of the best music being created today in all three of these genres. The lyrical content is better. The emotions are stronger and more believable. The beats and hooks are quirkier and less obvious... and disjointed soundscapes are more prone to invade songs seemingly from out of nowhere. Sure, there is still a lot of typical generic crap that could have been created twenty years ago, but at least something is happening in these genres.

Now, if only the boy bands could get infected too... if not by better bands, then at least by anthrax.

The price of war...

In order to escape the U.S. bombing, thousands of refugees from Kandahar in southern Afghanistan have made the 50 mile mountainous journey to the Pakistan border, only to be turned away unless injured or Pakistani. Some Afghanis are slipping across the borders however, many of them by bribing Pakistani guards to get through.

U.N. aid workers are appealing to the Pakistanis to open the border, since they are unable to feed and shelter the refugees, many who walked the whole distance and who are without shelter and, in some cases, starving to death. UNHCR spokeswoman Fatoumata Kaba said she had been told by a senior Pakistani official that 10,000 Afghans were waiting to cross, but she could not verify the figures.

``We have appealed again and again to Pakistan to open the border. It really is very difficult,'' she said.

At Chaman, Abdul Wadood, 30, said the shopping area in Kandahar's central Madad district was badly damaged when it was struck by bombs Friday, the Muslim day of prayer.

``My two sons, aged 13 and 15, were outside in the bazaar. They were both hit in the legs, thighs and arms by metal splinters -- the doctors called it 'foreign bodies','' he said. ''But he said they will recover.''

``On Thursday night around 10 p.m. and yesterday at 2 p.m. and again last night, there was heavy bombing,'' said Mohammed Ghaus who, together with his wife and five children, crossed into Pakistan Saturday.

``The bazaar around the Keptan intersection in the city center was flattened. My neighbor's house was destroyed. That's why we left.''

Attached at the hip

In other news, the worlds oldest set of conjoined twins celebrated their 60th Birthday yesterday. When asked whether they had any regrets about how being attached effected their love life, they expressed none, claiming to have "a very close and cooperative relationship."