Cocktail Recipe for The Bjöko

In tribute to Björk and Yoko Ono…

Bjöko

1 Queen of the Night tulip
1 oz. Aalborg aquavit
5 oz. Icelandic glacial meltwater
1 Kumamoto oyster on the half shell

1. Pour the meltwater into a chilled champagne flute.

2. Place the tulip in the flute. The flower should be newly bloomed and very fresh so that it can support the weight of the oyster. (If necessary, a thin wooden skewer can be inserted into the stem for support.)

3. Place the oyster carefully on top of the tulip.

4. Stir the aquavit for 30 seconds and pour into the oyster. Serve.

Pablo Escobar Cocktail Recipe

The Escobar

2 oz. rum or pisco
0.25 oz. blood of an enemy
1 spoonful cocaine
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 small banana leaf
0.5 oz. jet fuel
1 Cuban cigar

1. Using the blood, make a cocaine rim on a martini glass.

2. Shake the rum or pisco and bitters with ice and pour into the glass.

3. Using a bar spoon, carefully float the jet fuel in the glass.

4. Place bana leaf in glass.

5. When serving, light the jet fuel with a cigar. The cocktail should create the sensation of a drug plane taking off from a tropical landing strip.

Do the Shuffle

dollar-money

On the other side of the block, an ice cream truck is parked with its music playing. An incessant medley of every kind of tune you can think of, from “London Bridge” to “Deck the Halls” to “Unchained Melody” to “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” all textural, historical, and sentimental differences ironed out by the electronic device that’s piping it out. It’s an apt soundtrack to the New Yorker piece about insider trading I’m reading.

The way Steven Cohen and his cronies at S.A.C. Capital shuffle stocks around–not even like money or even anything tangible–strikes me as strange in a way I can’t pin down. Isn’t it funny that there are professions where people become fantastically wealthy simply by virtue of what they shuffle around all day? Chefs manipulate food, potters manipulate clay, writers manipulate words, and hedge fund managers manipulate financial instruments. Money buys things, buys time, and creates opportunities, and it seems a matter of chance that it’s the stuff some people work with in the job that makes them money. Clay just makes pots, words just make books, and both of these things can earn money, which then creates time and opportunities. But when you make money from money, the time and opportunities are exponentially greater. And that’s strange, even arbitrary.

Ice cream truck music also relates music posted on YouTube. I go to listen to something on YT–generally so I can send it to someone, “you’ll dig this” kinda thing–and usually the song will be preceded by an ad. So user “Nucky_4434″ posts a Korn song (as a reeeeally for-example example). It quickly gets about 5,000 “views.” YouTube a/k/a Google sends Nucky_4434 an email (I know because I got a similar one) and says, hey don’t you want to earn some money from this by agreeing to let an ad sho before the video plays? Nucky_4434 says sure why not, and before you know it the video has 1,254,309 hits. The only glitch in this is that as many as 1,254,309 people have, instead of paying Korn for the song, listened to it for free on YouTube. And the only entities that have profited from that are Google, Nucky_4434, and the 1,254,309 users’ smart phone carriers, who have charged them for the data used to stream the song.

Stay with me here. This is a well-documented characteristic of the Internet: that, at the same time that it brings people into closer or direct contact with artists, it also interposes more middlemen. When pre-Internet bands were signed to big record labels, the bands were the last to get paid and were paid the least of all involved in music creation, promotion and distribution. Now it’s no different, simply that along with managers, bookers, club owners, bouncers, merch people, producers, etc. etc. there’s Google, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Apple, Spotify, and good old Nucky_4434.

What does this have to do with Steven Cohen? Money and music have both become data. For that you can thank Claude Shannon, the most influential person of the 20th century, although he is probably weeping in his heavenly cocktail and has been for some time. Claude Shannon worked in Bell Laboratories, which was the R&D department of what was then Bell Telephone, now AT&T. In order to figure out a way to make long distance calls higher-quality, he developed ones and zeros: turning people’s voices into data made transmission cheaper, faster, and reduced distortion, making calls clearer. The unintended byproduct of this is that, 75 years later or so, all music, writing, images, etc. are content and content is data.

We treat everything as data and reward those who distribute it, charge for access to it, stream it, promote it, finance it–and occasionally those who produce it (just enough, however, to create the smidgen of hope that is necessary to keep them producing). Look at any industry and you’ll find that the higher the job title, the more abstract the work, and the more abstract the function someone actually performs, the more they’re compensated for it. This isn’t to minimize the skill required by positions of great responsibility–but is this skill of more value than the unique skill set of someone who produces content? Is forecasting or budgeting or managing for example really 100 or 1,000 times more difficult and therefore rewardable than writing a song?

True, Steven Cohen makes money for a lot more people than just himself when his bets pay off. But a band also makes money for a lot more people than is obvious. The difference being where you are in the queue when they make the payouts.

Custom Flotilla Online Shop and new Shirt

stop-faking-sense-mens

The second shirt in the Custom Flotilla line, “Stop Faking Sense” is a hot pink reminder to the general public to get real. Men’s style shirts are 100% cotton, women’s are 50/50, all fitted American Apparel. This color combo (magenta ink on black fabric) of the “Stop Faking Sense” shirt is in a limited edition of 40, hand numbered by the artist. Grab one at the new online shop before they’re gone.

custom-flotilla-label

SuperEye Guy

On vacation in NYC recently, I got to see the Jeff Koons retrospective. Not only was it a great show that was well put together and presented, but it kind of puts most art out there to shame w/r/t level of commitment, craft, and conceptual depth.

First realize that to see his work in a jpeg isn’t even to see it. Jpegs have a lo-res quality that causes your brain to fill in the missing information, and that process is very different from the one induced by the actual objects. These pieces, with their incredible surfaces, detail, and lifelike sheen require something very different from your brain.

lobster-jeff-koons

Take the “Lobster” for example, a painted steel sculpture mimicking perfectly an inflatable lobster pool toy, hanging from a red chain. The absolutely perfect fabrication of this piece puts your brain in the awkward position of trying to convince itself that what you’re seeing is not the actual inflated vinyl thing, and at the same time fully believing that it is, rather than what it’s doing when you see a jpeg or impressionist painting of Monet’s cathedral in mist for example.

jeff koons 001

Seeing the work in the flesh revealed what causes some to hate his work and denigrate him as an artist. Despite the appearance of simplicity and sheer expensiveness on the surface of it, his work is actually complex and produces an oddly rich experience. The mix of innocence and corruption, cheapness and glamor, and mass-produced and handmade is confusing. When confronted with these contradictory qualities, many seem to choose one or the other and stick to that interpretation. A couple of the paintings (example above), with their Lego figures and nod to sugar cereal mascots, showed me that the crassly commercial, the glossy, the saturated colors, which we accepted without reservation as children only bother us as adults. You can’t trash a piece like this without realizing that you have aged and developed a level of criticality that may or may not be useful or contribute to your overall happiness.

Another thing I learned is that, rather than being a stock broker who decided one day out of the blue to make art (as some accounts have it), Koons bankrupted himself trying to fabricate some of the early work and took a day job as a stockbroker in order to fund the increasingly expensive art. It was clear to him that a piece that was 90% perfect made by the second- or third-best fabricator in the world would not achieve the necessary effects. Yes, Koons may in the end be all about the effects, the spectacle, but the attention to the audience experience that implies is more than you can say for most of the weak, solipsistic drivel hanging around.