Reboot – Two Months on the Road

Hey all,

I’m rebooting this blog as a mostly-travel blog – although I will still post articles and creative writing pieces/poems, of course, while on the road.  Let’s just say that recently, it looks as if a major, long term travel-related project is in my imminent future (more on this later).

Now for those visitors to my blog who have paid attention, you have realized that I haven’t posted regularly lately.  Actually this would be generous. I have stopped and started and sputtered and roared and then, horribly, coughed to a dead stop like a cheap, pathetic old V-8.  Let  me assure you, this situation shall be remedied shortly.

Until the details are ironed out and I know a bit more about what the path ahead will entail for me (and my partner in crime and in life ( –  I’ll be posting some of my favorite travel writing I’ve done over the years.  Hope you enjoy, and thanks for sticking with this blog even with my prolonged absence from its pages.

To officially kick off this new chapter in the evolving story of this persnickety beast of a blog, here is a video covering  the nearly two consecutive months of solid travel I notched up a couple of summers ago (June 1-  July 20th, 2011).  all around this beautiful U.S. of A

It was a long and rambling backpack from NYC to Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee to San Diego, CA, to Yosemite Valley, and finally to the Oregon Coast, the Oregon Cascades and Willamette Valley. Pictures are by my brother, Chris Ten Eyck of San Diego, CA, and myself, BeejMcKay of New York, NY.


12.16.2011 – Could These be the Dumbest Holiday Songs Ever? (Multimedia for Dumb as a Blog)

10 dumb songs that will make you hate the holidays

by Benjamin J Spencer
December 16, 2011 12:02 PM

SantaThe holidays are the season for giving.

Unfortunately, they are also the season for taking into your earholes those most stubborn of modern social engineering tools: Christmas songs.

These jaunty dirges are hammered into our brain every December, and they mostly sound like a civilization dying. The only way to escape them is to sequester yourself for a couple of months in a nuclear bunker.

We’re not talking about Ye Olde Yuletide Carols of yore. At the very least, those are at least still good for guzzling mead and cracking greedy old miser’s hard hearts.

No, we’re talking about a commercial trend crafted by 20th century record companies and their songwriting cronies to make some scratch off of a public increasingly desperate for a little holiday joy.

But the following 10 holiday classics go beyond cynical and enter the realm of the truly dumb.

1. Do They Know It’s Christmas? –
Band Aid

Could this be the dumbest holiday song ever? Let’s consult our “Earnest 1980s Charity Song” checklist. Lurid, bash-you-over-the-head lyrics? Check. The vocal talents of Boy George and Phil Collins? Got it. Deafening wash of tubular bells and synthesized drums? Done. This 1984 single was meant to highlight hunger in Ethiopia – where the lyrics claim “the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears” – and happily it raised over $100 million for famine relief there. But to today’s ears the lyrics represent heights of pampered rock star cluelessness only eclipsed by Band Aid’s next hit single: We are the World.

2. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
– Elmo & Patsy

It’s time to permanently retire this novelty one-off about a terrible family tragedy. Unless you think there’s something inherently hilarious about a lonely alcoholic grandmother, neglected by her family on Christmas Eve, stumbling off alone into the woods only to be fatally mowed down by a hundred tons of venison on the hoof. Dear old Grandpa then celebrates her death on his recliner while the family contemplates raiding her gifts. Good old-fashioned fun, this “holiday classic”.

3. A Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney & Wings

The only explanation for what is surely the laziest, most dispirited, and ugliest-sounding Christmas song ever committed to tape: Sir Paul must have lost a bet with Ringo. Now the world should rise up and demand an explanation for why every soft-rock station in the country plays this joyless piece of crap at least once an hour throughout December.

4. I Believe in Father Christmas – Greg Lake

The holidays are here.  So just kick back by the fire with a flagon of eggnog, forget your troubles, flip on the old stereo – and treat yourself to an insufferably whiny, self-righteous political diatribe masquerading as a Christmas song. As if the finger-pointing at all us consumerist saps (and the onslaught of Moog synthesizers) weren’t enough, we also get Floyd-ish dark sarcasm and blood-curdling images of war and death.  Merry Christmas, baby-killers!

5. The Chipmunk Song – Alvin and the Chipmunks

This unaccountably popular holiday ditty was originally performed in 1958 by a pre-teen rodent boy band who were being exploited by a wily producer. Can you say animal abuse? But sell records – and “h-u-u-u-la  h-o-o-o-ps” – it surely did. A pop-punk update, featured on the recent Chipmunks animated movie, is even more annoying than the original, if possible.

6. Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley

The cheery holiday message of this song: forget about all that spirit of giving stuff and appreciating the company of friends and family. Instead, wallow in self-pity and mope about the girl who ran out on you. I can’t imagine why she’d want to leave such a bundle of joy.

7. A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris de Burgh

This Nativity song for the New Age crowd re-imagines the angel Gabriel as a wise alien from another world who appears to Mary and her saintly tot on an interstellar mission of peace. In de Burgh’s version, which he supposedly penned after reading Erich Von Daniken’s UFO- religion staple Chariots of the Gods?, the star of Bethlehem is actually the alien’s ship hovering above the manger.  ‘Nuff said. De Burgh would go on to achieve 1980’s junior prom immortality with his top 40 Billboard hit Lady in Red.

8. Any and all recordings where dogs/cats meow/bark along to “Jingle Bells

This abomination needs to end, once and for all. If Congress is forced to amend the Bill of Rights to allow an exception to free speech protections, so be it.  Until that glorious day, please: I am begging you. Stop sampling dogs and cats and inserting their pitched yowls into Christmas songs.  You may think it is “cute.” You may even think it is “clever”. You are unequivocally wrong.

9. Santa, Baby – Eartha Kitt

As much fun as it is to watch Ms. Kitt growl these lyrics, let’s all remember that she is purring about Santa.  This nauseatingly graphic come-on to everyone’s favorite fat jolly old elf is possibly the creepiest, most lecherous popular Christmas song ever, reinforced by the original Catwoman’s coy vocals. Let’s just hope the narrator never got her claws into dear Santa – where is Mrs. Claus anyway? – and that she got some help for her sex addiction.

10. Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas) – John Denver

The late, great John Denver must have been (Rocky Mountain) high when he dropped this miserable honky-tonk track lamenting alcoholic dysfunction at the holidays. Of course, the golden-voiced Denver couldn’t have sounded melancholic if he tried, so the whole affair ends up a queasy mismatch between his sunny, swelling vocals and the unimaginably dark material. Nonetheless, the song inspired even more spirit-crushing covers by the likes of Alan Jackson and the Decemberists.

10.20.2011 – The 15 Dumbest Quotes about Nazis Ever Said by Famous People –

Hitler cat says “Before calling someone a Nazi, make sure they’re actually a Nazi.”

15 Dumb Things Said by Famous People about Nazis

Famous people love to compare other people to Hitler and the Nazis, and this list proves that. But why can’t celebrities resist making irresponsible and ignorant Nazi analogies? Here is a theory: they’re dumb. That class of pampered peacocks are drooling doofuses when it comes to either history or appropriate rhetorical devices.

First off, historically speaking, you’d be hard-pressed to find an organization as ruthlessly competent as the Nazis. The sheer global magnitude of their malevolent carnage is unprecedented. So give the devil his due. If you’re going to compare someone to the Nazi Party, then they have some big, blood-slicked jackboots to fill. Anyone who has a basic understanding of history should know this. While we’re on this topic, there is never any reason to express any sympathy for Hitler. He was a madman whose paranoia, cruelty, and arrogance overshadowed whatever talents he might or might not have had.

Also: it goes without saying that the first person to invoke the Nazi Party or Hitler has lost whatever argument they are in. This is a fact. Unless the argument is about who was more evil, Himmler or Goebbels. The the correct answer is “Both of those Nazi bastards were evil.” Playing the “Nazi card” is just crying Uncle. It means you’re not smart enough to win whatever debate you’re in.

The following celebrities all made public references to Nazis and Hitler, and therefore, deserve to be mocked accordingly.

1. “The last [Pope]. Not this Nazi one we have now.”

— Susan Sarandon, at the Hamptons International Film Festival The critically-acclaimed actress was talking about the current Pope Benedict, when she revealed during a public discussion that she had sent a copy of the book her movie “Dead Man Walking” was based on to the previous Pope John-Paul II.

2. “Do you remember the golf game they (Obama and House Speaker John Boehner) had, ladies and gentlemen?…That was one of the worst political mistakes ever. That turned a lot of people off….Come on! Come on! It would be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu!….With the shape this country is in? …They’re the enemy! Obama! And Biden! Are you kiddin’ me, the Three Stooges!”

— Country music star Hank Williams, Jr., with the comments he made Oct. 3 on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends” that got his musical intro pulled from ESPN’s “Monday Night Football”

3. “I walk through the hotel and I walk down the street and people look at me like I’m f****** insane, like I’m Hitler…..One day the light will shine through and one day people will understand everything I ever did.”

— A master of the self-pitying/self-glorifying gaffe, rapper Kanye West delivered this gem, where he appears to claim that he is more hated than Hitler, during his set at England’s Big Chill Festival last August (2011).

4. “For a long time, I thought I was a Jew and I was happy to be a Jew…. But then I found out I was actually a Nazi. My family were German. And that also gave me some pleasure. What can I say….I understand Hitler…..I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker. … I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a bit.”

— Internationally renown Danish movie director Lars Von Trier, a self-confessed provocateur, seems to actually regret this particular quote he delivered this year at Cannes, as it caused the festival to ban him from the premises forever and France to consider charges against him under a law that makes public Nazi sympathizing a crime.

5. ”I admired Hitler for instance because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power. And I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for his way of getting to the people and so on. But I didn’t admire him for what he did with it.”

— In unused outtakes for the 1977 documentary “Pumping Iron”, then world weightlifting champ Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked who he had admired as a child and made this startlingly ill-advised statement, which his campaign later released when the footage was dug up during his 2003 run for California governor. Seems the Governator wasn’t endorsing Hitler’s policies, just explaining his childhood admiration for powerful men – and he mentioned John F. Kennedy in the same interview. Still dumb.

6. “It is liberalism that’s the closest you can get to Naziism and socialism. It’s all bundled up under the socialist banner. There are far more similarities between Nancy Pelosi and Adolf Hitler than between these people showing up at town halls to protest a Hitler-like policy that’s being heralded by a Hitler-like logo……Just put up the Obama logo and then the Nazi logo side by side there.”

— Conservative radio host and author Rush Limbaugh, from an August 6, 2009 rant about liberalism and Naziism on Limbaugh’s radio show. Limbaugh, of course, coined the ubiquitous 1990s term “feminazi” to describe women’s lib activists. Honestly, we could probably run a Top Gazillion Limbaugh Nazi analogies column and run it constantly for the rest of the year.

7. “Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply. We can’t judge people as only ‘bad’ or ‘good’. (Hitler) is the product of a series of actions…. I’ve been able to walk in Stalin’s shoes and Hitler’s shoes, to understand their point of view. You cannot approach history unless you have empathy for the person you may hate.”

— Move director and provocateur Oliver Stone said this on January 9, 2010 while addressing T.V. critics in Pasadena and talking about his new Showtime series.

8. “He’s like Napoleon and he wants to create this insane, infamous mad-man reputation. He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is. So he’s a nightmare to work for but when you get him away from set, and he’s not in director mode, I kind of really enjoy his personality because he’s so awkward, so hopelessly awkward. He has no social skills at all. And it’s endearing to watch him.”

— Model and actress Megan Fox. With these 2009 comments about film director Michael Bay in British magazine Wonderland, Fox managed to make enemies of both Bay and Transformers executive producer Steven Spielberg — not a great career move. She was subsequently fired from or resigned from the Transformers movie series, depending on who is quoted.

9. “They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels…You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like blood libel. That’s the same kind of thing…..The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it—believed it and you have the Holocaust.”

— Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN). In this January 18, 2011 rant on the House floor, Cohen ventured into absurdity by comparing Republicans opposed to Obama’s health care plan to Nazis. Luckily most of the legislators were either absent or napping.

10. ”You got to have an enemy to fight. And when you have an enemy to fight, then you can unite the entire world behind you, and you seize power. That was Hitler’s plan. His enemy: the Jew. Al Gore’s enemy, the U.N.’s enemy: global warming. Then you get the scientists — eugenics. You get the scientists — global warming. Then you have to discredit the scientists who say, ‘That’s not right.’ And you must silence all dissenting voices. That’s what Hitler did.”

— From conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck’s April 30, 2007 radio talk show. So many inciting statements have issued from the conservative stalwart’s mouth that whole websites are devoted to them -and in 2010, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank put the tally of Nazi references on Beck’s now-cancelled Fox News show at 202, with 147 mentions of Hitler in particular.

11. “And two or three of these people who did call up and mention my name actually got phone calls from FOX security. Which is, you know, fascinating if, you know, we’re living in, say, Nazi Germany, it’s a good idea, otherwise, it’s kind of a—you want to arrest people who disagree with you. “

— Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann. On a March 15, 2006 episode of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report”, the cable news commentator claimed that callers to Fox News “O’Reilly Factor” were hounded by that network’s security just for mentioning Olbermann’s name. He then (sigh) compared them to Nazis.

12. “Obama legally kills babies and now he can legally kill Grandmas! Hitler did this. He killed the weak, the sick, the old, and babies and races/religions he didn’t like. Hitler also controlled the media. (Where’s the public debate between scientists on ‘Climate Change/Global Warming?’) Hitler had the VW bug invented as the state car. What will O’s nationalized car be? So — kill off the weak. That’s the plan.”

— Former “Saturday Night Live” cast member and conservative Christian activist Victoria Jackson. Jackson, a well-known conservative darling who has in recent years been thrust, unseasoned, into the oven of political discourse, posted this scintillating comparison on July 7, 2009 as part of a rambling rant on conservative pundit Andrew Breitbart’s “Big Hollwood” blog.

13. “What’s the difference between the Ku Klux Klan and Arianna Huffington? What’s the difference?… I don’t see any difference between Huffington and the Nazis…. They both want people to die, don’t they?”

— Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor” host Bill O’Reilly. From a February 27, 2008 episode of “O’Reilly Factor”. O’Reilly was angry about a reader’s comment about Nancy Reagan that appeared under a Huffington Post story.

14. “Listen, I don’t condone Hitler one ounce, but yes, he was a brilliant man. Can you guys say that he wasn’t? He ran a country and convinced everyone of horrible things.”

— Singer and Playboy model Aubrey O’Day. O’Day put her foot in mouth on an August 31, 2009 episode of “The Sean Hannity Show” on Fox News. Afterward she attempted to explain her position to, but only succeeded in burying herself deeper.

15. “No, but I love Hitler and people like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f****** gassed and f****** dead.”

— British fashion designer John Galliano. This outburst likely destroyed Galliano’s career. He was drunk in a Paris bar last winter when he uttered these insults to a woman nearby. A friend of the woman filmed it all and the video circulated on television and on the Internet. Galliano was recently found guilty by a French court of committing public injury and fined 6000 euros.

06.03.2011 – People to Watch in Silcon Alley – Slideshow Profiles – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

The Video Guy





02.08.2011 – Slideshow – New York City’s Largest Hotels – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

New York City’s largest hotels

by Benjamin J Spencer

All Photos Property of Hotels

1. Hilton New York

01.21.2011 – Slideshow – NYC Job Sectors: Growing and Slowing – CRAIN’S NEW YORK BUSINESS

Job sectors: growing and slowing

By Benjamin J Spencer

Photography by Buck Ennis