Nazi Satire ‘Jojo Rabbit’ Has Nabbed Six Oscar Nominations—You Really do Need to See It



It would have seemed almost unimaginable just a few years ago that 2019 America would have a…Nazi problem right out in the open. Yet such hatemongers have actually been referred to as “very fine people” by the man who holds the title of The President of the United States of America.

Into this bizarrely unsettling reality came a fittingly surreal film last autumn about a little German boy, Jojo (played by Roman Griffin Davis), who is pretty sure being a Nazi is a pretty great thing. It just nabbed six Oscar nominations, including Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Adapted Screenplay and, most notably, a Best Supporting Actress nod for Scarlett Johansson, and Best Picture for Taika Waititi.

The story? Well, despite the Axis powers starting to unravel, Jojo is proudly heading off to fascist training camp, like all obedient little boys do. In fact, he’s so devoted to the cause, that his imaginary friend is not a puppy or a bunny (or not even an dreamed up Nazi boy), but Adolf Hitler himself.



Jojo Rabbit morphs from uncomfortable absurdity (everything about Hitler is uncomfortable) into a magical but tidily packaged, tolerance-teaching morality fable, when Jojo actually meets a young Jewish girl and, much to his astonishment, realizes she’s not a monster – as he had been taught about all Jews. His mother (Scarlett Johansson), you see, is a member of the resistance, and she has hidden the girl away in the attic, without Jojo’s previous knowledge.

Luckily director Taika Waititi (who gets great comic Nazi performances out of Sam Rockwell and Rebel Wilson) doesn’t play it too maudlin – which also means Jojo Rabbit lacks the emotionally piercing ending of, say, Max, another film that got undue criticism for depicting Hitler outside of his historically documented psychopathy. But as an incisive meditation on the indoctrination of innocent children into horrifying ideologies, it is poignant, thought provoking, and exceedingly relevant to the current zeitgeist of paranoia and fear that always accompanies irrational hatred.

Jojo Rabbit is currently back in theaters (six Oscar noms will do that). Don’t miss it this time.


BlackBook Rooms w/ a View: The Moxy Washington, DC Downtown



Much like the daily routine of Wile E Coyote and Ralph Wolf (his sheepdog nemesis), the careful calibration of the DC political social scene has relied on Congressional sorts ripping each other—and their policies—to shreds on the House/Senate floor, then sharing a back slap and a stiff martini with one another at the Hay Adams Bar round about 7pm.

That’s virtually all gone now, as those across the aisle regard one another as a snake regards a mongoose. So seeking instead the greatest possible levels of comfort and joy on our most recent holiday visit to the capital, we strategically checked into the new-ish Moxy Washington, DC Downtown, positioned just far enough away from the sinister machinations on Capitol Hill – and with a keen understanding of how to have fun while Rome burns all around you.

Moxy the brand debuted in 2014 in Milan (my, how six years flies…), and has since come to epitomize a new sort of 3-star cool, with smallish/stylish rooms, quite reasonable rates, and lots of action going on downstairs.

Here’s what we loved about the Moxy DC.



The Check-In

It can sometimes seem a little overly cute to have a check-in desk that also functions as a coffee bar / hipster shuffleboard / eco-warrior information station. And at the Moxy DC, it is purposefully unclear at first who it is that is charged with handing you your room key. But a beacon of warmth and seasonal cheer named Rachel greeted us with such a force of endearing welcomeness, that we couldn’t help but beam right back at her. A very good start.
And she was, indeed, performing said task from behind a multi-purposed fueling station—similar to that at the Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof—which is busy at breakfast, buzzy all day, and a genuine scene in the evenings.




The Moxy couldn’t be better placed in a city that is not always eminently walkable. And heading north from the hotel (a very short distance), we came upon the glittering City Center complex, where we shared an afternoon prosecco at the charmingly bougie Fig & Olive, before browsing the luxe offerings at Dior, Bulgari, Ferragamo and Zadig+Voltaire. Walking further, we came upon the high-energy Dupont Circle. But a short stroll afterwards in the opposite direction took us to the National Portrait Gallery and then the sprawling culture complex that is the Smithsonian collection of museums – where the Cooper Hewitt’s Design Triennial is still going on.


Dior at City Center 


The Rooms

As we have noted in previous coverage, DC’s downtown has been developing quite handsomely architecturally (unlike the hideous state of NYC development). And so our 13th floor, and very well windowed room allowed us a spectacular vantage point from which to take it all in. Also included in the view was the handsome 19th Century Asbury United Methodist Church (on the National Register of Historic Places) just up the road.
As is the Moxy credo, rooms are small and quite well designed, with pegs instead of closets, and tables you can fold up and hang on the wall. We admit we weren’t quite sure why our room came with so many inflatable pink flamingoes—but we loved the cool greys-and-whites minimalism. And the spotlights on either side of the bed were a cheeky touch.
Throughout the hotel there are, of course, also the Moxy’s signature bunks, should you be a touring band from Minneapolis or Liverpool.



Bar Moxy

We are partial to a lobby scene that is reasonably amorphous, so it seems like at any moment you might just flop into a comfy couch, and quickly be handed a drinks menu – even at 11 in the morning (we didn’t test that theory). We actually took our place on one of the stylish Moxy Bar sofas on an early Sunday evening (admittedly, we hadn’t gone to church), and quickly discerned that there were quite a few music biz sorts hanging about, make phone deals and such…along with the usual mediarati types and just generally not uptight people.
The foosball table has become a bit de rigueur in Moxy type hotels, though we admittedly find the game a bit mentally exhausting—so we skipped it to focus on the entertaining people watching. The general design vibe was one of kitsch and charming sensory overload, with the hotel proudly proclaiming its iconoclasm by shunning the typical sparkly lobby Christmas tree, instead opting for a pink plastic one adorned with, yes, more similarly colored flamingoes.




When we were attending the opening of the aforementioned Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof in late 2016, we noticed an interesting phenomenon: breakfast, usually a hushed affair with everyone’s noses in their newspapers or their mobiles, was actually a bit of a scene, as if it were seven in the evening. The Moxy DC had a similar sort of morning energy, since the bar / check-in desk was actually – you guessed it – also the breakfast area.
And rather than the usual trend-flogging menu of avocado toasts and maple-bourbon pancakes, were were offered something called a “breakfast naan”—essentially, Indian flatbread slathered in cream cheese, and then piled with more cheese and bacon, and heated up into a sort of Eastern morning pizza. It is literally worth checking in just for that, it was so deliciously decadent. Plus, they have fresh squeezed orange juice—something we’ve come to expect more of the Waldorfs and Mandarins.
As we’ve come to learn, the Moxy is always good for surprise or two.




‘We Must Fight Against the Oppressors’! New Moby Single/Video ‘Power is Taken’ is a Call to the Barricades

Image by Jonathan Nesvadba


The last time we spoke with Moby (in early 2018), his state of mind was ostensibly one of restlessness and worry, as he lamented to BlackBook, “If you look at Adam and Eve being kicked out of Eden as a metaphor it makes sense: we are separated from the Divine, from objective knowledge, from spirit. We stumble around, scared and vicious and clueless, like motherless children.”

As 2020 dawns, however, it would seem a sense of panicked urgency has set in with the exalted electronic music icon. And his equal parts exhilarating and anxiety-inducing new single “Power is Taken” is the result, a rousing call to action, with the unambiguous mantra, “We who hate oppression / Must fight against the oppressors!”



It is a palpably affective work, with haunted atmospherics recalling Power, Corruption & Lies era New Order. But “Power is Taken” is at its essence a relentless electro-trance track, with a heart-racing BPM, fattened-up synths, and shiver-inducing incidental sirens wailing throughout – all creating a glaring sense of genuine exigency. The hyper-sensory accompanying video only serves to heighten the urgency.

“We are facing an unprecedented global emergency,” he rightly insists, “one of our own making. Life on Earth is in crisis: scientists agree we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown. This is our last chance and we are in the midst of a mass extinction. We are out of time. This is our Extinction Rebellion.”

The song is taken from the upcoming new Moby album All Visible Objects, set for release this March 6 via Mute. In the meantime, we strenuously recommend heeding his warning.


New Peter Bjorn & John Single ‘On The Brink’ Tries to Launch 2020 w/ a Glimmer of Hope



Peter Bjorn and John‘s 2018 album Darker Days wasn’t the cheeriest affair, with the band’s Peter Morén telling BlackBook at the time that it was inspired by, “Swedish winters, Trump, Brexit, Nazis forming the third biggest party here at home, and the possibility that we are getting near the end of the world.”

But perhaps they’ve rethought their strategy for confronting such bleak realities, as new single “On The Brink” comes with a decidedly more uplifting tone, evident from the first notes. Indeed, the opulent, Irish folk vibed track is awash in airy, Beatlesesque melodies and harmonies, with lots of joyful mandolin plucking, and lyrical professions like, “And these dreams / Sends us to the stars / And this life / Is the only one / And your love / Is my guide.”

It’s taken from their upcoming album Endless Dream, due out March 13.



“In line with most of the other songs on Endless Dream,” Morén explains, “‘On The Brink’ has a cautiously positive philosophical outlook on life and the shortcomings of being. It looks onward with a grain of hope and confidence.”

Considering all the talk of WWIII and the reality that an entire continent—Australia—is on fire, it is a noble thing for art to seek out hope and gift it back to the world. For our part, we’ve been playing it on repeat and letting it lead us away from all the grimness, if only for a few minutes at a time.

Morén continues, “It wonders what’s really important when everything comes to a head and the mind’s boggled with how extremely tiny we all are compared to the vastness of the universe. Maybe to live in the present with abandon and dare to dream—even endless, hopeless dreams—and gaze at the world with a wider and more allowing perspective.”

Peter Bjorn & John will be bringing those glimmers of hope to the States this spring, kicking off a North American tour at the Teragram Ballroom in LA on March 23. Remember to leave your cynicism at home.


The New Order: 48 Hours in the Revitalized Manchester City Centre

Manchester Corn Exchange



Visiting Stockholm in 2010, we were expertly tipped off that the newly minted SoFo was the Swedish capital’s most happening new neighborhood. To be honest, we’re always a bit skeptical of such things; and, indeed, SoFo turned out to be just two cool kid cafes and a vinyl record shop. But such is the urgency to declare the next “hip” whatever.

Just prior to our latest trip to Manchester, we were similarly informed that its Ancoats neighborhood had recently secured the distinction as one of the 10 most buzziriffic hoods in the known universe. And our first night out, at a significantly happening new restaurant called Elnecot, seemed to confirm just that.

Ancoats in the 19th Century epitomized the promise of the new industrial age, which England had embraced with uncharacteristic gusto. Majestic rows of Victorian factories urged Manchester towards a new era of technological prosperity. Alas, by the mid-20th Century, that promised had all but disappeared – and decades of downturn and, well, greyness, followed.


National Football Museum


But as is the 21st Century urban drill, developers began converting those same factories into iconoclastic living spaces. In fact, we became quickly, palpably aware that Manchester City Centre had been undergoing a radical transformation upon checking into the stylish new AC by Marriott Manchester City Centre hotel – where the international media had gathered for an edition of AC Unpacked: A Conversation, a new series that brings together creative visionaries for inspirational discussions.

But we have to say we found ourselves most inspired as we actually traversed the new cityscape of this infamous birthplace of Factory Records and the Gallagher brothers. Here was our takeaway.


The Music

Being as we were unshakable American Anglophiles, for us Manchester’s allure has revolved entirely around its illustrious music history. It was here that Joy Division, The Fall, New Order, The Smiths, Happy Mondays, The Hacienda, Stone Roses, Take That, Oasis and their considerable like all rose up from tower block dreariness to international exaltation. Two post-Millennium films – Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People (2002) and Anton Corbijn’s Control (2007) – captured all the bleakness, humor, drugs, mayhem and musical genius perfectly brilliantly.
To set the mood, we programmed a playlist of Manc classics, which we left blaring in our room at all hours throughout our stay (“You and I are gonna live forever…”). And it was the contemplation of that very music that emphasized just how much everything had been changing in Manchester, for better or worst. Surely there would never be another music scene like it…so, as they say, on to the next.


New Order 


The Architecture

For as long as anyone can recall, most workaday Mancs retreated to suburbs like Didsbury or Burnage at the end of each business day. But SimpsonHaugh architects have spent the last two decades reshaping the City Centre for full-time habitation, careful not to follow the crass contemporary model of shameless, mercenary overdevelopment. One of their latest projects was the aforementioned AC hotel, where we met partner David Green for a tour of the Manchester’s landmark structures.
Since a 1500 ton IRA truck bomb devastated the area around the famous Corn Exchange building in 1996, the firm has been instrumental in moving the city forward to a new contemporary reality. Without a doubt, striking edifices like the residential No. 1 Deansgate (which, when completed in 2002, was a watershed for City Centre development), Great Jackson Street apartments/retail, the Manchester Civil Justice Centre (by architects Denton Corker Marshall), and more recently the Manchester Town Hall Extension and the Library Walk have visually transformed the city into the 21st Century urban success story that now decisively has the world’s attention.


Manchester Town Hall Extension


The Derby Day rivalry between Man United and Man City dates all the way back to 1881 – and possibly only Brazilians and Italians take their footy teams more seriously. But the National Football Museum (another headline-grabbing SimpsonHaugh project), whether you’re a fan or not, is at least a must architectural visit – as it stands like a modern Great Pyramid above Todd Street. And, well, the exhibitions are a genuinely fun afternoon’s diversion.
Still, history does ground the city; and we were riveted as we roamed the stately rooms of the neo-gothic John Rylands Library, first opened to the public in 1900. It’s considered one of the most important collections of books in the world.
But a visit to the Manchester Cathedral (dating to the 15th Century and built in the Perpendicular Gothic style), turned surreal, as we stumbled upon a “family” of teddy bears set up in a corner for an imaginary…tea party? Leaving us to wonder if it was something metaphorical, or just meant to keep the little ones occupied while the grownups ogled all the religious grandeur. Later we stumbled upon a chap setting up a full bar at the back of the church – and our curiosity netted the information that it was for some sort of music performance that evening. Only in Manchester?


John Rylands Library 



It’s hard to argue against the allure of loft-like apartments in Victorian era factories – and row after restored row now makes up one of the most visually striking neighborhoods in all of England. Sure, it’s still a little early to declare Ancoats the next Shoreditch; but along with Elnecot, groovy new spots like The Counter House, Canto, The Jane Eyre, Panda, Sugo, and a super mod bakery called Trove (with its corresponding restaurant Erst) were abuzz with media types. Here and there outside tables gave the streets the hum of emerging energy, and most of the aforementioned places shared a sort of unifying rustic-industrial aesthetic, many with factory windows gloriously framing the surrounding architecture. Yet despite the newness, it all felt very, distinctly English.
For urban trend watchers, Ancoats is most definitely worth keeping an eye on.



Epicurean Manchester

The dearth of new generation restaurants in the UK was a stark reality until chefs like Marco Pierre White and Fergus Henderson began celebrating Britishness in cooking in the swinging new post-Millennium London. That culinary revolution eventually spread north, until cities like Leeds and Birmingham were boasting Michelin stars.
In Manchester, though, we steered clear of the haute in favor of the happening. And indeed, the aforementioned Elnecot is as cool as anything in New York or London’s Chelsea or Soho, with its Corbusian aesthetic, and clever menu divided up by Nibbles, Fish, Meat, Veg and…Balls (who wouldn’t love wild mushroom pearl barley arancini?).
The hyper-fashionable 20 Stories is exactly what is says it is, and is surely the city’s most international scene (we detected Israeli, Balkan and Latin American accents). But for all the flash, and heart-stopping views, the modern British cuisine was also a genuine revelation, with Shetland cod, roasted Goosnargh duck and slow cooked pork belly all rising to the heights of the lofty location.
But easily our favorite was Mackie Mayor, a trendy but mad fun food hall in an 1858 Grade II listed building. Spread over two industrial-chic floors under a massive skylight, vendors like Baohouse, Honest Crust Pizza, Fin Fish Bar and Pico’s Tacos make it a pretty much non-stop party. From our experience, bring as many friends as possible, and don’t skimp on the gluttony.


Mackie Mayor


AC Hotel by Marriott Manchester City Centre

A sudden tourism boom leaves Manchester now playing catch up when it comes to the contemporary boutique hotel races. The AC Hotel by Marriott Manchester City Centre is a good start, opened in early 2018 at a perfect midpoint between burgeoning Ancoats and the City Centre of its title, which now hums both day and night.
As is always the case with AC, it’s very much about design, with a lobby done in urbane, earthy tones and stylishly clean lines. To the right is a lounge area that is very much the nerve center of the hotel, with creative and business types mingling and working away by day, giving the hotel a persistent sense of energy. By evening, it transforms into a lively bar, where we had the privilege of gin tasting with the Manchester Gin Company, responsible for the hotel’s signature AC G&T. It’s a “must” order – as is bringing home a bottle of their inimitable Wild Spirit gin.
Upstairs the rooms are all understated chic, with warm woods and elegantly contemporary furnishings. But best of all, generous windows frame a new Manchester skyline, one that has changed at a manageable pace – and that leaves one genuinely wondering just where the fabled music city will go next.



As Beethoven’s 250th Looms, Revisiting Gary Oldman in ‘Immortal Beloved’



It’s tough being Ludwig Van Beethoven. His fellow exalted contemporary, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was a rock star before there were rock stars, sealed his mythology by dying young under mysterious circumstances, and two centuries after his passing, was tributed with not only one of the greatest music films, but one of the greatest films of all time period, in Miloš Forman’s Amadeus. It brilliantly depicted him as the iconoclastic, irrepressible genius that he was – and, well, he got the girls.

Ludwig, fittingly, had the volatile (at the time) Gary Oldman accept the challenge of playing him in Bernard Rose’s 1995 biopic Immortal Beloved. And for accuracy’s sake, the actor was forced to portray him as the pompous, and eventually grumpy virtuoso, who suffered the ultimate anguish of losing his hearing at the height of his creativity. Whereas critics rightly showered Amadeus with praise (it won eight Oscars), they were deeply divided regarding Rose’s film.



Beethoven will turn 250 this coming December, and there will be many musical tributes, especially in Vienna, where he spent his prime working years (the New York Times has already filed a rhapsodic report on how the composer will be honored in the Austrian capital). But we would suggest that it’s exactly the right time to revisit the film, as well, which just happens to have a 25th anniversary this very month.

The pic actually builds around a brilliantly imagined premise: a real letter was discovered after Beethoven’s death, addressed only to his “immortal beloved.” His confidante Herr Schindler (played with a visceral empathy by Jeroen Krabbe) then embarks on a determined journey of discovery to learn the addressee’s true identity, and thus rightly bestow the composer’s estate and, emotionally, accomplish closure.



The narrative then bounces between the present and captivating biographical flashbacks, following Ludwig from his amorous youth, to the first recognitions of his giftedness, and on to his tragic decline. Some things never change, early on the rich and powerful want to have him around to show off their “good taste,” while traditionalists (mostly male) scoff at his artistic irreverence and his arrogant hotheadedness.

The young women, naturally, swoon before his talent (Isabella Rossellini is positively radiant as the Countess Anna Maria Erdödy, as is Valeria Golino as Giulietta Guicciardi). Yet unlike the riotous, free-spirited Wolfie, Beethoven is just so much vitriol, being always a difficult lover, and snarling at all the philistines around him who are surely too culturally infantile to understand his obviously epochal work.



But it’s actually posited that a single incident perhaps pivoted his life into bitterness: a rendezvous with a lover gone wrong—gorgeously shot at the fabled Grandhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic—which sees him in his rage throw an expensive chair out a hotel window. That single act reveals so much about the inner Beethoven, that Rose afterwards allows the camera an extended, and very affecting pause on his despondent, defeated countenance.

Oldman really does give a tour de force performance in Immortal Beloved—but perhaps Beethoven’s insolence just didn’t play as well as Mozart’s wild free-spiritedness. Still and all, on the occasion of Ludwig’s 250th, we vigorously recommend taking the time to see one of the greatest actors of his generation, play one of the greatest composers of all time. You won’t be sorry.


Mickalene Thomas and Climate Enlightenment: Six Reasons You Need to be in Baltimore This Winter

Adorned: African Women and the Art of Identity



A full forty-four years had passed since a sitting American president had declared “war” on an American city. The last time, it was Gerald Ford telling New York to “drop dead” in 1975. And in 2019—again a Republican to a Democratic-leaning city—it was Trump calling Baltimore a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” The comment was an infantile riposte to the dignified Congressman Elijah Cummings, who had dared to criticize 45.

Cummings succumbed to cancer on October 17, after decades of loyal service to his city of birth. But he would likely be pleased to know that the attention afforded Baltimore as a result of the feud would ultimately have a positive effect. After all, the media loves an underdog and, well, they don’t have much love for the antagonist-in-chief in the White House.

We popped down to Charm City for a holiday visit, and immediately came across a skinny Asian hipster kid onstage in the middle of a quirky Christmas market playing “Folsom Prison Blues” spot on. Which pretty much sums up what we love about Baltimore.

Here are six more reasons for a winter 2020 visit.


Alexander Brown restaurant



Harbor Point Ice Festival

It’s becoming clearer that climate change fallout has probably assured that the Northeast Corridor will pretty much have to stop dreaming of a white Christmas forever. So the Harbor Point Ice Festival this month becomes almost an act of nostalgia, for those lost times when things uses to actually freeze in January. About 50,000 pounds of ice will be carved into mad fun interactive exhibits, including a slide and a graffiti wall. It might make you forget for a moment that 10,000 miles away, an entire continent is on fire.

From Mucha to Morris: Books of the Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau is still one of the most influential styles of the last century-and-a-half. And the Walters Art Museum gathers a stunning collection of books by two of its most iconic purveyors, William Morris and Alfonse Mucha—including a special edition of Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli, with original watercolor illustrations by the latter. The permanent collection at the Walters is also one of America’s best, reaching across the millennia – so do plan to spend some time with it.



Adorned: African Women and the Art of Identity

With historically strict gender divisions in artistic output across sub-Saharan Africa, this exhibition brings together two dozen works that convey the role of women in shaping the cultural identity of the continent. For this show the exalted Baltimore Museum of Art assembled beaded aprons and capes from the Ndebele artists of South Africa, jewelry from Kenya and Tanzania, and textiles from Nigeria—each with its own set of internal signifiers underlying its aesthetic beauty. Through June 19.

Mickalene Thomas: A Moment’s Pleasure

Surely the only artist to claim Cubism and the Harlem Renaissance as influences, Mickalene Thomas’ striking collage works have made her one of contemporary art’s most powerful female voices. For this project, she has transformed the Baltimore Museum of Art’s two-story lobby into a sort of fantastical “living room,” reflecting her most vivid aesthetic signatures. Through May 2021.



The Secret Life of Earth

At one of the country’s most iconoclastic cultural institutions—the American Visionary Art Museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year—this sprawling exhibition was curated with the consultation of top global earth science researchers (you know, people who genuinely understand science). It attempts to make some sense of how our actions have disrupted the delicate balance of nature, and to clearly explicate the difference between climate and weather (a difference which some politicians seem to be having trouble with). Helpfully, it also proffers possible solutions to some of the most exigent eco problems. Through September 6.

Spectrum of Fashion

The Maryland Historical Society opened up the costume collection archives to assemble a survey of more than a hundred garments across four centuries. Designers represented include Claire McCardell, Hermès and Pierre Cardin, and there are even fashions worn by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, as well as opera singer turned women’s suffrage activist Amelia Himes Walker. Through October 2020.



Kimpton Hotel Monaco Baltimore

For proper immersion in authentic Baltimore, check in to the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, fitted into the stunning former headquarters of the B&O Railroad, a Beaux Arts masterpiece dating to 1906. Inside are acres of marble, a pair of dramatic central staircases surrounded by Tiffany stained glass, and ornate coffered ceilings. Plan to spend some time just taking it all in, and filling up your Instagram pages.
Upstairs, rooms are signature Kimpton style, with a slightly quirky, mildly flamboyant elegance. To wit, fleur de lys drapery, regal, gold checked wall coverings, and luxe furnishings. A cheeky touch are the plush leopard print robes; but particularly thoughtful is a list of items—cell phone chargers, makeup mirrors, international adapters, sewing kits, deodorant—that they will fetch for you on demand. Higher floor rooms have views to the harbor.
The adjacent B&O American Brasserie is great for a casual lunch of lobster and avocado salad or a classic white flatbread. But one of our truly new favorite restaurants, Alexander Brown, is just around the corner. In a grandiose former bank building—marble pillars, a spectacular stained glass dome—it serves up classics like crab beignets, seared scallops and chicken roulade, plus amazingly good AB Old Fashioneds at the elegant bar.



The New Omar Doom / STRAIGHT RAZOR Single+Video ‘Iblis’ is as Creepy as You Would Expect

Image by Geoff Moore



Omar Doom might very well have the oddest acting career ever, with just six roles in a dozen years, four of them in Quentin Tarantino films. Most recently he was Donnie in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; but he’s surely most beloved for his turn as PFC Omar Ulmer in 2009’s Inglorious Basterds. (He also memorably played Stanley Kubrick in The Maestro.)

But his raison d’être would seem to be music, having been one half – along with Stretch Armstrong – of the electronic duo Doomington…and more recently recording and DJing under the nom de guerre STRAIGHT RAZOR. And as the latter, he’s just released a chunky-synth’d new instrumental single “Iblis” – which is an old Arabic word for wicked spirit or devil.

The thundering groove and eerie atmospherics are pure Nitzer Ebb, yet with just the right amount of Depeche Mode suavity. But it’s the unremittingly eerie accompanying video that has us riveted (in a car crash sort of way). It shows Omar standing near a rather menacing looking shoreline, as an ostensible battle for his soul ensues between the Grim Reaper and a blissfully angelic looking creature standing athwart.

It’s really not hard to guess who wins.



BlackBook Rooms w/ a View: the Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead



Sometimes we just need to be posh. And the rebranding of the former Mandarin Oriental as the Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead about a year ago had specifically intrigued that particular part of us—though it wasn’t until this holiday season that we were actually able to sort out time for a visit.

The Waldorf brand does have a knack for forwarding a certain sort of classic elegance, standing athwart the MO’s more contemporary inclinations (without sacrificing anything in the way of modern amenities). And the moment we navigated the grandiose neo-classical columns flanking the entrance, it was clear this would be a very Waldorf sort of experience.

Here’s what we loved.



At 3376 Peachtree Road NE, The Waldorf is appropriately located in Buckhead, just north of Midtown, and fitted into a stunning, 42-story edifice designed by exalted starchitect Robert A.M. Stern. Buckhead is the city’s poshest quarter, teeming with high-end shopping opportunities and assorted upscale restaurants. Quite a bit of it is clustered along a short stretch of Peachtree Road NE, making it comfortably walkable.


View of Buckhead, from the room terrace 


What to Do

Right across the way was the very upscale Lenox Square shopping center, with outposts of Fendi, Burberry, Cartier, Vuitton, Prada, Ferragamo, even Ted Baker, Scotch & Soda and DVF. There is also a Tesla store, if you’re looking to make a zeitgeisty auto purchase.
Just up the road was Phipps Plaza, which rounds out the roster of luxury heavy hitters, with Dior, Bottega Veneta, Celine, D&G, Gucci and Tom Ford.
For open air shopping, we strolled The Shops at Buckhead, a six block stretch of Peachtree Road (yes, there are at least a dozen Peachtree Roads in Atlanta), featuring more boutiquey brands like Etro—a personal fave—Moncler, Bruno Cuccinelli, Ligne Roset and Davidoff. But it’s also where we found the area’s most trendy dining spots, with Doraku Sushi, Le Bilboquet, Gypsy Kitchen, Le Colonial and Biltong Bar offering a veritable culinary journey around the world. The Regent Cocktail Club was a happening spot for sophisticated tipples.


The Shops at Buckhead


The Hotel

Though traditionally adorned (we do love those uniforms), the charmingly affable doormen exhibited the energetic vibe of someone working a Hollywood premiere. They ushered us into a low-key lobby – marked by an artfully done gingerbread house for the holidays – on our way to a discreet front desk. (Celebs must love this place, one can check-in completely under the radar.)
We didn’t indulge, but there was a namesake spa upstairs, with Southern-charm inspired treatments like the Peach Indulgence (restoring body balance) and the epic Magnolia Retreat, which is nearly four hours of luxurious pampering.



The Rooms

Low-key luxury seemed to be the design philosophy, as our room featured stylish Art Deco furnishings, plush, high-backed chairs, a dark wooden/mirrored headboard, a swanky little mini-bar space (which actually really felt like a bar), and a generous dressing area with colossal closet space. And though the rooms have ample windows, we vigorously recommend requesting one of the Buckhead Private Terrace Rooms, to kick back on the wicker seating and survey the area buzz happening just below – before later relaxing with a mini-bar selection and a glorious sunset view.
The bathroom itself was worthy of royalty, with a flat-screen TV positioned above the duel sinks, a huge soaking tub with a view—we do love a bathroom window—perhaps for the exhibitionist in you. And we were definitely not at all unhappy about the Ferragamo toiletries.
The room featured intriguing abstract art pieces – and we were informed that the hotel has near-future plans to engage more actively with the art world.



The Cafe & Bar

We especially loved the layout of the hotel’s succinctly named Cafe & Bar, with minimalist furnishings, a strikingly patterned marble floor, and tables tucked into various nooks surrounding the elegant lobby fireplace lounge – where it felt like chance encounters with interesting strangers were almost guaranteed. Further tables were lined along a window in an elongated side room, that led down to the classy little bar area – an intimate spot for sophisticated before dinner cocktails.
We missed it, but there’s Afternoon Tea (with a few Southern twists) from Friday to Sunday, and an extravagant Sunday brunch buffet just teeming with seafood and dessert options. It’s so popular they have two seatings, one at 10:45am and another at 1:15pm.


Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead room view