cresoxipropanediol en capsules

Along the lines of my post on ’60s French girl acts: Cresoxipropanediol en Capsules, a 1966 song by actress Ginette Garcin.
Lyrics here, and in franglais. And no, I have no idea what cresoxipropanediol is, but I imagine it’s something a la the Stones’ Mother’s Little Helper.
I found this through Volume 10 of the “Girls in the Garage” series (previously written about here). The compiler of that all-French volume was DJ Mimi la Twisteuse, who used to host a French-pop radio show in Quebec. The show has passed on, sadly, but she hosts a monthly dance party in Toronto called Zoi Zoi.
More info on that and more cool ’60s French pop over here. And a bonus three-hour DJ set by Mimi over here. One highlight: About 1:48 in, Jean-Pierre Ferland, the Quebecois John Lennon, singing his classic “God Is An American.”

foreign desks in trouble

More trouble for foreign desks at regional newspapers. The Boston Globe, the Baltimore Sun, and Newsday — all proud newspapers with strong legacies of foreign correspondence — are all cutting back.
The Globe just shut down its Baghdad bureau, which was until recently staffed by a fellow Yale Herald alum. Newsday looks ready to shut down Johannesburg and Beijing, maybe ready to get out of Iraq, and recently closed its Mexico operation. The Sun, with probably the proudest history of them all, has already closed Beijing and London and may be thinking more.
(And, of course, my own employer has shut down its Bangkok, Havana, and Panama bureaus in the past few years.)
It’s a damn shame, but it’s becoming apparent that the foreign news game is going to be played by an ever smaller number of news organizations. In the newspaper world, you’ve got the NYT, the Post, the WSJ, and the L.A. Times who all have significant networks of foreign bureaus. And that’s about it. Everyone in that second tier — the Tribune, the DMN, the other papers mentioned above — are getting out of the business. (Knight Ridder has been something of an exception, although that could change at any moment.)
I mean, how can it be a good thing journalistically to have two fewer American bureaus in Beijing? Precisely at the historical moment when China is becoming America’s chief rival in a dozen ways?

the cutest girl in history

A warning to the heterosexual men in the audience: You are about to view the cutest girl in human history.*
France Gall, live on the Eurovision Song Contest, 1965.
Eurovision is a strange bird, a 50-year-old televised competition in which European nations come up with their best song and singer and compete against one another. It’s like “American Idol,” but if it were Italy versus Norway instead of Justin Guarini versus Kelly Clarkson. (I first heard of it via a Monty Python sketch in my youth.)
Anyway, France Gall was a 17-year-old French singer who somehow ended up representing Luxembourg. Her song was “Poupee de cire, poupĂ©e de son,” which isn’t as dirty as it sounds, despite the fact it was written by notorious French lecher and ugly dude Serge Gainsbourg. (Serge would later write a hit titled “Les Sucettes” for Gall, which she sang innocently until she realized all its talk of “lollipops” was, in truth, about fellatio.)
Man, in that video, she is cute. Is it the occasional bite of the lower lip? Is it the slight self-consciousness? Is it the joyfully dorky headbop at the end of every verse? Is it the fact that she really can’t sing at all? Or is it just the driving, ’60s orch-pop music behind her? (That instrumental break is pretty great — terrific rolling drums.)
Some other fine France Gall images from the interwebs: with strange wooden Viking doll; the brunette; greatest hits; nice scarf.
And, just because any mention of Serge Gainsbourg requires repeating this story: When Serge told Whitney Houston on live television he wanted to fuck her.
* By “cutest girl in human history,” of course, I mean “with the exception of all women I’ve ever dated or will ever date.” Hi, past and future honeys! You’re all much cuter than silly old Frenchie!
Bonus: Video of Serge Gainsbourg singing “Le Poinconneur des Lilas,” probably circa late 1957. Not sure I get the chicken-pox motif, but a good reminder of why French pop from that era was so great. Also, a good reminder that Serge Gainsbourg was the ugliest dude to ever schtupp hotties like Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin.

juggling the beatles

Best juggler evah.
There was a time, in the late ’60s, when the Beatles were considering adding a juggler to their act — in particular, one who could accompany the pop-symphonic second side of Abbey Road. The idea was to find a replacement for Paul, who’d been killed tragically in a car accident.
Sadly, it never worked out (damn you, Yoko!), but here is video proof of how it might have looked.

j dilla, r.i.p.

Sad news: Jay Dee, a.k.a. J Dilla, is dead at 32. He had a rare blood disease and lupus. His latest album, the very good Donuts, was just released last week.
I got to know about him via Jaylib, his collab with Madlib. “Champion Sound” is aces, and “McNasty Filth,” while lyrically lowbrow (Jay Dee could make beats, but the man was not much as a rapper) kicked major dancefloor ass. But he’s worked with just about everybody in the Hip-Hop-Liked-By-Grad-Student-White-Boys subgenre (A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Slum Village, The Roots, Common, etc.)
Hear some more of his stuff on his Myspace page. (Try “Two Can Win” [bouncy hip-hop that would fit on a “Blueprint”-era Jay-Z disc], “Anti-American Graffiti” [smooth psych for backpackers], and “Don’t Cry” [updated Marvin Gaye soul] to get an idea of his range.)

mf doom is a god among men

I was all ready to blow up when I saw the headline on this Village Voice review: “MF Doom: Worst Rapper Ever?”
MF Doom is a god among men. I mean, there’s Madvillainy, one of the best hip-hop records of the 2000s, but there’s also the freakier Viktor Vaughn sides, the snack-food concept album, the Ghostface collaboration (available on a file-sharing network near you), and a thousand more.
And, of course, the Danger Doom album, which was to my mind the most accessible great hip-hop album of recent times. The beats (by DJ Danger Mouse) are so bright and shiny and fun that I have trouble imagining anyone not liking it. (Four tracks here, “Sofa King” and “Old School” especially.) Then again, I underestimate some people’s hatred of hip-hop all the time.
And dude, the man wears a metal mask whenever he’s in public. That’s awesome.
Anyway, upon further reading, that Village Voice article gives Doom his due. He’s “muttering fascinatingly free-associative non-sequitur rhymes, and crafting disorienting beats from chopped-up shards of quiet storm and hotel-lounge jazz…These days, he’s just about the only thing in underground rap worth anyone’s attention.” And: “MF Doom is a great rapper, an enigmatic master of persona shifts and weird transitions; he turns traditional battle-rap into an exercise in sidelong expressionism and internal-rhyme virtuosity…his under-the-breath all-tangent flow is compellingly mysterious, especially when paired with swirling low-fi beats.” But the writer claims Doom sucks live. And I don’t doubt it: His music is, as he writes, best on headphones, and beyond the mask, Doom on stage is just a chubby guy standing still.
And it does seem strange that the great Big Daddy Kane was reduced to opening for Doom. No surprise that Kane apparently put on a great show. Last I heard from him was his guest on Prince Paul’s A Prince Among Thieves.
Two random side notes:
An MP3 of Dealership’s “Tetsuo,” the one song most likely to cause me to play airdrums.
– I’m going to SXSW again this year, No. 5 in a row. If you’re going too, let me know.

blacks and hiv/aids

On the great list of hobbyhorses — somewhere below the deity of Dean Smith and mid-’90s Canadian indie rock, but above West Coast rapper Madlib and the evils of the brokerage industry — lies the media’s reporting on AIDS.
Here I write about a misguided attempt to say the elderly are increasingly infected; here I write about a misguided attempt to tie heterosexual anal sex to high viral rates; here I write about how increasing condom use might not be the most effective way to stem the African epidemic.
The problems with all these stories is that they’re well-intentioned — but willing to let those good intentions cloud the facts. People my age remember, in the late 1980s, being told that by the time we were all adults, a quarter or a third of Americans would be dead of AIDS. (Oprah famously said in 1987 that 1 in 5 heterosexuals could be dead within three years.)
The people who told us that were well-intentioned — they wanted people to think of HIV/AIDS as a disease that extends beyond gays and IV drug users, and they played up the Ryan Whites of the world and exaggerated the ease of transmission to accomplish that goal. I support those good intentions, but oppose cooking the numbers to do it.
Anyway, here’s today’s example. front-page headline: “HIV hitting blacks harder.” Stop a moment and think about what you expect this story to say.
Then be surprised when you actually read the story and see this:
“[CDC scientist Tonji] Durant and colleagues found that the rate of HIV diagnosis fell by 6.8 percent annually among black women and 4.4 percent annually among black men between 2001 and 2004. The HIV diagnosis rate even fell by 9.7 percent every year on average among black male users of injected drugs, the CDC study found.”
Look at those numbers! That’s a 20 percent drop over three years in women, and a 12.6 percent drop among men. Hell, that’s even a 26.4 percent drop among one of the highest-risk groups out there, black male IV drug users!
So how does this turn into “HIV hitting blacks harder”? The headline writer can probably get out of jail free by saying HIV is hitting blacks harder than other American racial categories — whites, Hispanics, Asians, etc. But that’s (a) clearly not the impression the headline gives and (b) not news, since infection rates for blacks have been higher than other races since the 1980s. Clearly, the headline is intended to imply things are getting worse for blacks, when the opposite is thankfully true.
I wonder if this headline was written by the same person at who wrote my previous headline bete noire, “HIV cases increasingly older and straighter,” atop a story that (a) didn’t deal with the straight/gay issue at all and (b) did not support the “older” thesis one iota.
One final note: The CDC study this story is based on isn’t new — it came out in November.

garden of eden in new guinea

How cool is this?
(Sorry, wish I had something more interesting to say than “How cool is this?” My answer, for the record, is “like, totally cool.”)
I was just thinking yesterday about what a shame it was that the age of exploration is essentially over. I was reading this fine piece in CJR — which, by the way, sums up my aspirations for a travel-writing/reportage mish-mash eerily well — and thinking how unfortunate it was that, not only are there no more spots on the map marked “Unknown,” every square inch of earth now has a Lonely Planet volume to match. But apparently I was just being self-centered and short-sighted. Shocking, I know!
(Sidenote: The area described, the Foja mountains in Papua New Guinea, are not completely unexplored. Jared Diamond — of Guns, Germs & Steel fame — actually did a lot of work there in the 1970s and seemed to find the same sort of Edenic environment: “No European had previously set foot in this vast range, and no native people inhabit it. The animals were entirely tame, birds of paradise displaying to Diamond within metres of his face, while undescribed kinds of tree-kangaroos stared at him as he walked by.” Compare that to the CNN article linked above. I wonder if this is as new as the scientists might have us believe.)