Monday, November 24, 2008

End of a Sloppyass Era


A bar can die but once: all bars owe God a death. Especially the Abbey.
- Shakespeare

Wednesday night, the famed Abbey Lounge will close its doors after a local rock show for the last time. One of the finest dive bars in the Cambridge/Somerville area (in fact, exactly on the Cambridge/Somerville line) will soon close those doors for good - 75 years after they opened.

I didn't get in on the Abbey action until I moved to Boston in 2000. They were 67 years into their groove (rut?) at that point, yet I'm guessing my first impression caught me up pretty quickly. It was still a two-sided bar then - the bar was set in the middle of the building and served two separate rooms. You could pay for the show and go back and forth between both rooms, or you could go into the no-cover bar area and, if you angled for the right spot, see the bands between the opening in the bar where the bartenders served both rooms. Acoustics were not an issue - it was loud and non-exclusive. Friends of mine lived across the street and had semi-residency status. They gave me my first taste of the Abbey one night when we hit the non-cover side to hang with the locals. The memory of that first night at the Abbey would have been completely nondescript, were it not for a minor detail of my exit: as I left the Abbey, I had to jump over two separate sets of barf in order to get out of the bar. There was barf, then there was a small non-barf landing pad, then there was more barf. The options were: a) step in barf (twice); b) remain in the bar until physically thrown over the barfs (gamble on a few levels); c) execute the double-drunk-leap over the barf splatches. I dislike barf, so I choose c. My aim was true and I made it out. But it set the bar(f) on the Abbey Experience for the next eight years - anything short of barf-hopping was a sub-Abbey Abbey night. Since that night, I've seen many raucous bands there, been surprised by the lack of toilet paper in the bathroom on at least one occasion, and one time helped drink a twelve pack at the bar with a friend (who brought the twelve pack (as in, my friend brought a twelve pack to the bar, put it on the bar, and we sat at the bar and drank the twelve pack (while hanging out with the bartender (friends of VTK and said-friend will not find this abnormal)))).

So, yeah, the Abbey. Rock and Roll. Here's some rare footage of The Kinks playing the Abbey back in the 60's:

Oh no, wait, that's the Konks, a local band. I love the part in the video where you just see liquid (read: cheap beer) splashing up across the singer. The Konks will be one of the nine bands there Wednesday night for the "last blast" show.

Parting is such stale beer sorrow
- Shakespeare

Monday, November 17, 2008

Palette Cleanser

It's time to move on from the election obsession. In lieu of a substantive post, here's a little palette cleanser for you:

That's Mogwai's video for The Sun Smells Too Loud. Thanks to wzbc's John Straub for the tip to this video in his promotion for his video night at River Gods in Cambridge (Tues 11/18).

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Oh no he didn't. Oh yes he did.

This is an astounding moment in US history, in world history. Is it even possible to overstate the magnitude of this moment? I still can't believe it. The USA elected a black man as its leader. Racism is over! Finally, the scourge of slavery can be wiped from the history books.

Ah, the jokes. But seriously, it's amazing to look at how far this country has come. 150 years ago, slavery was legal in the United States. 112 years ago, the Supreme Court affirmed that racial segregation was constitutional (Plessy v Ferguson). 62 years ago, "negroes" couldn't play baseball with whites. 55 years ago school segregation was legal. Discrimination on the base of race was legal until 44 years ago (when Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act). Barack Obama is 47 years old. And he's the 44th President of the United States.

On this day, four years ago, I was devastated. I'd been getting out the vote in New Hampshire for days, had given the maximum donation to the Kerry campaign, and had really believed that the country would reject the despicable policies of Bush and the neo-cons. When they didn't, it was one of the most depressing days of my life. I remember walking around Cambridge and not being able to look passers-by in the eye because I felt that if I saw anything less than equivalent suffering in their eyes, I'd either cry or fly into a rage. In Cambridge! It was brutal. But I also remember emailing with friends the day after the election about an Obama 08 campaign. Earlier that year, Obama had taken the DNC by storm with his keynote speech. He was the chosen one. But could a black man really win the presidency yet? Surely one day, but was it too soon? Where would he get the electoral votes? Wasn't racism still too strong of an undercurrent for this to happen? Even as recently as yesterday, this same question lingered. And now that question is obsolete. Racism, of course, lives on in the US. But - wow - how far the nation has come.

I've said elsewhere on VTK that, while I support Obama for president, he no longer represents the progressive left, and the work to hold him accountable starts the day after the election. I'm going to flip-flop on that. Today's a day for celebration and reflection. Accountability starts tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


UPDATED - 11:20 PM

12:00 Noon - It's on! I just voted. Time to do my other civic duty: live blogging!

I'll be updating throughout the day if I find interesting links or vtkworthy news items. I'll pick up the pace around 6 PM EST. I'm sure you'll be reading/watching your favorite news sources, so I'll try not to be redundant to those. This may end up reading like a giant anxious op/ed piece. I know that I have two polar opposite op/eds cooking in my head right now - one of which will make it out, the other of which will be tossed on the scrap heap. It's a weird situation in that there will be exactly one of two outcomes in a scant several hours, and I can't really believe that either one of them is going to happen: I can neither wrap my head around the idea of a black man being elected president of the US, nor can I fathom the US not electing this black man this year. The former is an amazing possibility, the latter a terrifying one (mostly because it will be the result of racism or fraud). Feel free to join in the live blog via the comment section. Yes you can.

2:00 PM - here are some midday links to get you through the countdown until the polls close:

- Exit Polls - In the comments, Joel brought up the uncertainty and unreliability of exit polling data. This is a good primer from dailykos, explaining what to look for, who to listen to, etc. Personally, I'm not giving any exit poll much credence. The false optimism created in 2004 and its subsequent collapse was too brutal. UPDATE: in fact dailykos and nate silver are now suggesting we ignore exit polls (which don't start coming out until later (5 EST) anyway).
- The Final Pollster - speaking of false optimism... who knows how accurate these polls are going to end up being, but's final state polling has Obama winning 273 electoral votes in the strong category - meaning McCain could win every toss up state and "leaning Obama" state and Obama would still win. Also of note, as pointed out by fuge, Karl Rove is predicting an Obama landslide. Though any sports fan will tell you this is a classic jinx move, so I'm not buying what he's selling either.
- Poll Closing Times - The real shit starts at 7 PM EST when the polls close in VA and IN (parts of IN close at 6). If VA goes Obama early (or at all) that's going to be a huge sign as to what we can expect. If IN is too close to call initially, that's another good sign. If IN actually goes Obama, get out the drape-measuring stick. The Gary, IN area (Chicago media market) is in the Central Time Zone though, so by the time the networks call IN, we might have a good idea of what's happening in VA, NC, and possibly FL and OH so it might be moot. FL and OH will probably take a while though.
- Steelers beat Redskins - This is supposed to mean that Obama's going to win. I don't know about that, but I know it's nice to see Pittsburgh beat a team from the NFC East.

2:30 - Wonk out tonight and follow the Presidential election and all the Senate and House races on the awesome kos electoral scoreboard (go to to see tricked out version (map below is a limited version)):

Also from kos, check out this election guide that breaks everything down by poll-closing time.

4:00 - This waiting is killing me. 2 hrs before we find out that KY went for McCain and that IN is too close to call. Question: if Obama/Biden win what happens to their Senate seats? Do the state governors select the replacements? The governors of IL and DE are both Dems.

4:20 - Vote yes on 2 in MA.

4:30 - Joe the Plumber: tax-evader, reckless driver, liar, moron, and ... fraudulent voter! End this, God. Please.

6:55 - excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous Polls close in VA in 5 minutes and completely in IN in (inINin) 5 minutes. I was watching MSNBC but Chris Matthews was waxing ridiculous and it was a pretty boring panel. I switched to CNN and they've got graphics and gadgets and poll numbers! Woohoo! That's what I'm talking about. Can we get Chuck Todd to switch to CNN?

7:00 - Obama wins VT! McCain wins KY! Polls are closed in GA, IN, SC, and VA. It'll be a while before they call them in the presidential election though. (D) Warner wins the Senate race in VA. A couple of good pundit points: Conservative hack Bill Bennett gives credit to Howard Dean on his previously maligned strategy of trying to compete in traditionally Republican parts of the country; David Gergen says that the Obama campaign was one of the most impressive presidential campaigns ever. I would add that conversely the McCain campaign was one of the worst campaigns, on any level, ever. What a mess. That would be one of the most discouraging things about a McCain win - that they could run this poor of a campaign, in a year when the Republican brand is in the shitter, and the American people would still vote for them. C'mon, America. No way.

7:40 - Well ... uh. well. I like that Indiana is too close to call still. I don't like the numbers from VA so far. Florida's looking good - with 2% of the vote in. Can't really say anything about anything yet. Looks like (R) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's in for a tough fight for his Senate seat in KY. The graphics on CNN are much better than those on MSNBC.

8:00 - tons of CNN projections, none of them significant. MSNBC called Pennsylvania for Obama?!!? Switching channels... This would be huge. CNN hasn't called it yet. Did Gergen say CBS called NC for McCain? searching ...

8:05 - MSNBC not backing off the Penn prediction. NC still too close to call. No Reds switched to Blues yet but the PA serve-hold is huge. Stealing PA was a major piece of the McCain campaign's strategy. VA not looking great, but I don't know if the heavily Democratic areas have reported yet. C'mon VA, c'mon VA!!

8:13 - MSNBC called NH for Obama too. CNN hasn't called PA or NH yet. The MSNBC calls are clearly based on exit polls - troubling. Jeanne Shaheen beats incumbent John Sununu in NH. Good pick up for the Dems. KY McConnell vote not looking great.

8:43 - CNN called PA too, so that seems solid. Dole lost to Hagan in NC to give the Dems another Senate seat (+3 so far). #'s looking decent in the presidential race in NC. I wasn't expecting to win that one. It would be a nice consolation for a VA loss though (not looking great there, but again, I don't know what part of the state is lagging in reporting). Still no reds to blues. And I recall being ecstatic over the Kerry PA win, only to be devastated later on that night. In other news, I'm starting to develop a massive headache.

8:49 - Gergen and Bennett think the PA/NH wins close the door on McCain. they're not dumb and they're not liberals. I still have a headache though.

9:00 - Obama sweeps the upper-midwest blue states - MI, MN, WI. Solid holds. Still no red to blues yet. Can I get a MO? Can I get an NC? Can I get a tylenol? VA still too close to call according to MSNBC - but they said that they're still waiting on Northern VA. That's good. Chris Matthews: "it's a good time to order a pizza. We're not going to be able to call this until well after 11." fuck me. Dems have picked up 4 Senate seats so far.

9:15 - David Gregory just interrupted Chuck Todd to call Arkansas for McCain. You don't fuck with the Chuck Todd. Never interrupt Chuck Todd. Especially not for something that obvious an inconsequential. Todd's not as optimistic for Obama as the CNN gang is. He doesn't think VA's looking good for Obama. But NC's still looking decent. I'll swap that for VA.

9:26 - 0 FUCKING HI O !!!!! MSNBC's calling Ohio for Obama and I think CNN's about to follow suit. Huge huge huge. My headache just went away.

9:43 - CNN called OH, McCain's victory party is focusing on Hank Williams Jr, not the news, John King and his fancy big board "cannot get McCain to 270". It's only my well known paranoia/superstition that's stopping me from giving Obama the coveted VTK call. It's real close though. And my head really does feel better. How bout that.

9:55 - Brian has started a Call The Final Obama Electoral Vote Tally contest in the comments section. He has 364. I have 339. Anyone? (note - this does not constitute an official call from VTK; this is strictly for contest purposes). NM goes Obama. big. Headache's still gone.

10:02 - ** VTK OFFICIAL CALL ** IT'S OVER. BARACK OBAMA WILL BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. CNN just called Iowa. Assuming CA and HI goes Obama, that's game, set, match. Yes!!

10:16 - Also, for those of you not paying attention to the MA election, Prop 2 passed!! Spark it up, Massachusetts!! Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana in MA is now decriminalized. I gave up smoking years ago, but I strongly believe this change in law is long overdue.

11:00 - + CA = USA elects an African American to be the President of the United States of America. Awesome. I'm so proud.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Don't forget to check in to the VTK special Election Day Live Blog tomorrow.

(did you think I was going to remind you to vote? If you forget to vote, you probably don't have the internet.)