Telling You What's Good

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LITTLE BOOTS’S NEW ALBUM DUE THIS YEAR!!  Best news of the day by far!

Great Danes of Music: The Raveonettes

Sune and Sharin.  Also available in colour.

In a slight stylistic deviation from much of the in-your-face music I love so much, we arrive today at the Raveonettes, one of my absolute favorite currently active and touring bands.  They’re somewhat well-known, but not too much.  Misdemeanor-ly unappreciated if not criminally unappreciated, I suppose.  In any case, they are very, very dear to my heart, and here’s why:


Buy a Case, Quick! Château Haut Blaignan 2010

Buy as much of this as you can

I make no pretensions of being a wine critic, as I find that profession mostly full of hyperbole and bullshit, and I won’t go into “bits of jam and twig with sniffles of cherry ice cream and hints of fairy breath” here. I do know a damn good wine when I drink one though, and we have a winner here: Château Haut Blaignan 2010, from Bordeaux’s elite Médoc region, home to some of France’s most superb wines.  For $7, Haut Blaignan is making a bloody good effort.  Yes, $7, if you can find at your local Trader Joe’s.  It normally retails for about $16, and I’d put it on par with $30 bottles I’ve had.  It’s really that good.  Seriously, buy a case if TJ’s has one, or just get a few bottles to enjoy at home by the fireplace or to take to a small gathering and wow the hell out of everyone with your awesome erudition in oenology.  Cheers!

A Gentleman Needs But One Blade: Taylor of Old Bond Street

Straight razor…straight to the face!

Throw you double, triple, or fourple-blade or greater razors out, chaps.  Chuck the advanced micro-nutrient Whiz-Tech cream out with it too.  You only need one blade, a good brush, and some soap.  Much has been written on the classic and oft-forgotten art of wet shaving, so I shan’t be adding to the literature.  Should you want more information, check out this handy guide from the Art of Manliness.  No, today I sing the praises of the Temple of Keeping it Old School, Taylor of Old Bond Street, St James’s, London.


We Fail Harder: How NOT to Sell a Car

NOT what I’m in the market for.

Some of you that know me personally may know that I’ve been car shopping.  I’ve been seeking used (no, I will not use this idiotic “pre-owned” term), simply because let’s face it, I’m about maximizing value, and finding a well-taken care of car that’s a bit older but otherwise immaculate is a VASTLY better value than a new car.  I’ve been at it for several weeks, and 90% of the sellers out there FAIL HARD.  Here’s what not to do:


Great Ballers of Music: Manu Chao

Where to even begin? A true living legend, multilingual global troubadour, the leader of two amazing bands and the man behind several brilliant albums for himself and others, and a veritable musical chameleon, capable of three-hour live sets run at breakneck speed.

(Lots of good stuff and a TON of videos after the jump)


The Discerning Drinker: What to look for in a bar

So, for those that have read my recent glowing writeup of Little Branch, as well as my comparison of Passenger and Gibson and my review of El Centro, I thought I should clarify what I look for in a drinking establishment that you too ought to consider.  Don’t spend money and waste time at crappy bars (or anything else, for that matter), use this handy guide.


Cocktail Perfection: Little Branch in NYC

What dreams are made of.

Inconceivably superlative.

Fucking Perfect.

Ladies and gentlemen, the single best bar I have ever been to, and the standard against which all further mixology is to be judged: Little Branch in the West Village in Manhattan.


Killer Stuff: Tiny Mobile Phone Macro Lens

And now for the coolest thing I’ve seen all day: Look at these:

Look like they came from a sick macro camera setup huh?  Correct.  But I bet you have no idea just how sick….


Hangover Helper – Phở, Sinh Tố, and the Other Delights of the Eden Center

It’s noon on a Sunday, the light slowly filters in through your blinds, and you curse the copious quantity of Cristal of last night as if it was a soul-sucking vampire.  Realizing that, damn it, you may have earned a day off with that legendary party, but you’re not gonna let a whole day waste away (half is quite enough), you need something to pick you up, set you straight, and let you get on your way.

What is that something?  If you’re in the DC area, it’s a visit to the Eden Center for something like this:

Steaming bowl of Awesomeness


Friends don’t let friends drive automatic – Stick it to ’em!

Photo from

Enjoy that simply staggering picture of the gear shifter from a Spyker C8, a Dutch (really) supercar with the most over-the-top styling in the history of motoring, as I’m about to become more opinionated than usual.  Those easily offended may want to stop reading. For the brave, read on.


New Year’s Eve Post: We Love House Parties

As great as some bars and clubs are (I’m looking at you, London, Beirut, and Istanbul), nothing beats an awesome house party, any time of the year.  I love entertaining and putting them on, and I’ve had some uproarious times at friend’s shindigs.  However, never is such an event more desirable than on New Year’s Eve.  Here are your typical first night options:

  1. Stay at home and be miserable
  2. Stay at home with a few friends or family, watch TV, have some drinks, have a nice time but nothing extraordinary
  3. Go to an event such as the one parodied on the flyer following the jump: (more…)

Killer Shades – Oakley Plaintiff Polarized Black/Red

Or, the Ray-Ban killer.


Aaaand we’re back!

Or should I say, I’m back.  WBH, intended to be a dual-author blog but never was, has officially become a solo project.  Readers may have noticed a long absence – various personnel, personal, and professional things took priority, and a hard baller puts real life first.  BUT! As you can see, today has been a flurry of activity.  I intend it to stay that way.

See you soon.

The Luxury Country: Switzerland – Suggestions (Conclusion)

If the mad awesomeness of the Bernese Oberland wasn’t enough for you, we have one more stop, featuring Switzerland’s most famous mountain of all.  The one on the Toblerone bars:

mmm, chocolate with honey and nougat
Like that.


The Luxury Country: Switzerland – Suggestions (part 2)

Today we head to the hills, or rather, the Alps.  From Luzern, the legendary Bernese Oberland is only about an hour’s drive or train ride away.  Our destination: the world-renowned trio of mountains: Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, or, the Ogre, Monk, and Maiden.  Feel free to create your own fairy tale featuring these mysterious characters.

(More words and many pictures after the jump)


The Luxury Country: Switzerland – Suggestions (part 1)

It’s twice the size of New Jersey, but all other comparisons to that state are brutally unfair.  Despite its small size, figuring out what to do on a limited schedule in Switzerland can be challenging simply because EVERYTHING THERE IS SO COOL.  Do you want to go on a cheese tour (this is a real thing)? Do you want to climb serious mountains? Do you want to go sailing?  Every inch of the country is picturesque, and even small villages are worth stopping at for a drink, snack, and to take some pictures.  So if priorities have to be made, what are they?

Warning: long and very pic-heavy after the jump.


The Luxury Country: Switzerland – an Overview

On the Vierwaldstättersee

You’ve heard of luxury cars, luxury hotels, luxury watches, and all that.  Have you ever heard of a luxury country?  While the UAE might like you to think that Dubai is what I’m talking about (and much love goes out to the UAE), Switzerland is the embodiment of a luxury country.  (more…)

A Tale of Two Bars

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
for good booze flowed, but we had to face some lines.”*

For the last two-ish years, DC has been torn between two drink dens specializing in superlatively mixed craft cocktails.  They both turn out drinks unseen elsewhere in the city, if not the world, and they both have their fair share of devotees.  But the two could not be more different.  One is overly exclusive, in-your-face-with-upper-class-hipster-arrogance†, shrouded in too-low light, and with a door policy rarely seen outside Moscow nightclubs.  The other is welcoming, catering to and attracting all types – and the light is better.

They are the Gibson and the Passenger, and I favor the latter.  Here’s why:


Killer Sound in a Small Package: Klipsch S4i Earphones

Last night a friend asked me to recommend him some good in-ear earphones, saying:
“I want WAY better than iPhone, I don’t even consider those headphones.”  And a fair point he has.  While I am an iPhone user, and my friend and I both Mac users, those white earbuds sound crappy, don’t isolate noise, requiring them to be cranked up quite high, and the control buttons are glitchy as hell.  Plus do you want to look like everyone else with that tell-tale white cable coming down from your ears?  I certainly don’t.

I happily recommended the Klipsch S4i to my friend, the product I’ve been using for about two years now.


Value vs. Expense (part 2 – or: How to Avoid Impulse Buys)

Link to part 1

Right so here’s the sequel.  So I’ve established that sometimes certain things cost a certain amount without many options, and should you want said thing, you’re stuck (the example I used was plane tickets).  I’ve also said previously that when you have options, it’s sometimes beneficial to go for a more expensive option.  But don’t go rushing out to drop $1000 on something that you could get for $500 and be just as good.  Here are my rules:


Value vs. Expense (part 1)

The value of something – its worth to you – versus its cost is a crucial part of our philosophy. We enjoy the good things in life, but make no mistake – great expense does not necessarily bestow a great product or experience. Certain things have a universal or absolute price – for example, you will never find a transatlantic plane ticket for less than, say, a DC to New York or London to Paris train, but if you want to fly across oceans, this is something you must face. Do you really want to go from New York to London?  Then your options are limited and there’s not much you can do about it, so if you can afford it you will probably say “Screw it, it’s $1000 a ticket, but I really want to go. So be it, evil airline, here’s my money.”

On the other hand, many other things are greatly variable – You can buy a $20 pair of jeans or a $200 pair of jeans (possibly $2,000 but then you’re a total sucker and beyond our help). Is that $200 pair necessarily better than $20? No. It may be a bit more durable and stylish, but this is not to say a cheaper pair of jeans, or indeed anything, is by rule inferior.  Can I afford $200 jeans? Yes.  Would I ever buy them? No, because I’m not an idiot, and even though I can afford them, I would derive no greater utility than from a pair far less – I do not highly value expensive jeans.  Does that mean you’re an idiot if you bought $200 jeans?  While I’m inclined to say yes, you might not be. You might genuinely derive greater utility out of $200 jeans than I do. (Perhaps you hang out with billionaires who only wear haute couture and will mock you mercilessly if your socks aren’t made of gold thread and your jeans sewn by French maidens in a convent outside Paris.  Perhaps that’s a justification for buying $200 jeans.  Perhaps you need new friends, but that’s another subject…).

It comes down to knowing what you want, knowing the range of what things cost, and whether what you want is worth said cost. Let me give another example: I’m a car fanatic, and I love high-end, high performance cars. This does not mean, however, that I lust after the most expensive cars for the sake of them being expensive – a Porsche 911 S is cheaper, but arguably better performing than the 911 4S, and is considerably cheaper and more attractive than other options, such as the 911 Turbo.  One of the main reasons I like the 911 so much is because of its beautiful styling.  Of these three, the Turbo is the most expensive and in some people’s mind the most desirable, and indeed in terms of absolute performance it is superior. Compare the aesthetics however:


Turbo. Ick.

The Turbo has a rather nasty spoiler and large side air intakes that ruin the fluid, clean lines of the original car, thus ruining it, despite costing tens of thousands more. If someone were to give me money for the Turbo, and said “you must spend some of it on a Porsche,” I would firstly thank them profusely (WBH encourages politeness), then buy the 2S, because it has everything I want in a 911, and would pocket the remaining cash. Not only is the Turbo not worth the extra money (I mean really, it’s not as if you can drive it at top speed anywhere), but it’s also a question of taste, and the Turbo defiles the subtle beauty of the original.

Keep in mind these are my preferences, and while this example uses something out of reach of most people (the author included), I know what I want, I know the range of options, and I know that the highest option is not worth it. At this point it’s a question of: “Well, do I think it’s worth spending X amount on it?”  This applies as equally to jeans as to cars, or indeed as to anything. Ultimately buying something is your decision, but always think in terms of what you want/need, whether X product satisfies those desires, and whether it’s worth the cost.

Stay tuned for part 2 on reasons why spending more (though not always the most) can be better.

Killer Kicks: Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66

Photo from the Onitsuka Tiger Store

Not the damn Kill Bill shoe.

Possibly the greatest sneaker/trainer ever – the Mexico 66 by Onitsuka Tiger, a brand of ASICS, shown here in the ultimate color scheme.  While you may think this is the Kill Bill shoe, think again, the Mexico 66 predates that one (the Tai Chi) by quite a bit and looks far more awesome.  Created in 1966 for the Japanese team to wear at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, the design has stood the test of time and appears to have made a serious comeback in the whole retro-sneaker craze of the last decade.  Hip or not, they’re fucking incredible.  Light as a feather, ultra-comfortable, and exceedingly stylish – I’ve received innumerable compliments and have even had people start entire conversations about them.  The original color, yellow/black, inspired by a tiger’s coat, is almost impossible to find in the US (my three pairs have all come from England, both from mail order and physical shops), but numerous other color schemes are freely sold Stateside both online and in retail shops, and also look great.  Prices range from the mid $70s to mid $80s for the ones available here, considerably more (about £60 ~ $100) if you order from the UK.

Let’s face it though, you really want the yellow and black ones….

Apparently iPhones don't take clear pictures on London buses..

You got to coordinate!

El Centro DF – Mexican Excellence on 14th St

Note: The first installment in We Ball Harder’s recommendations of commercial establishments.  Unless otherwise specified, anywhere mentioned on WBH comes highly recommended, because why would we waste your time with mediocre places?

Quick: who has the best rooftop in DC, the best late night food, awesome drinks, and sweet music all in one venue?

The answer: El Centro DF, Richard Sandoval’s (Zengo, Masa 14, La Sandia) newest venue, located right next to Black Cat. You walk in on the ground floor to what looks at first like a spruced-up Chipotle, with a bare concrete floor, wooden bar tables, stools, and other wooden accents, a counter for salsa, and indeed a a menu hanging down from the ceiling over the cashier advertising tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and the like.  In the very back are stairs going downstairs, leading to the basement restaurant and tequileria, where they serve more formal sit-down food and a staggering array of agave and maguey distillates. More on that below.