Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Daily Dose of Beauty, Finals Edition
My friend tells me
a man in my house jumped off the roof
the roof is the eighth floor of this building
the roof door was locked how did he manage?
his girlfriend had said goodbye I'm leaving
he was 22
his mother and father were hurrying
at that very moment
from upstate to help him move out of Brooklyn
they had heard about the girl
the people who usually look up
and call jump jump did not see him
the life savers who creep around the back staircases
and reach the roof's edge just in time
never got their chance he meant it he wanted
only one person to know
did he imagine that she would grieve
all her young life away tell everyone
this boy I kind of lived with last year
he died on account of me
my friend was not interested he said you're always
inventing stuff what I want to know how could he throw
his life away how do these guys do it
just like that and here I am fighting this
ferocious insane vindictive virus day and
night day and night and for what? for only
one thing this life this life
Wild Thing graffiti from October!
Also, while scrolling through Brooklyn Street Art I happened to come across this:
I saw this same stencil in Amsterdam, over a year ago, somewhere in the vicinity of the Anne Frank House. Strange to think the graffiti artist now resides in Brooklyn, at least temporarily. One of those things that, when you encounter, makes you feel the true interconnectedness of all things. Or something. Here is the picture I took from last fall:
Monday, December 7, 2009
I'm not sure whether it is studying abroad that made me particularly sensitive to sexism, but I am starting to see it exacerbate, even beyond 1990s standards. Watching the FIFA world cup draw this weekend was surprisingly painful: I was struck by Charlize Theron's mindless portrayal of a glamour-girl dumb blonde. Theron, an intelligent, worldly actress who has acted in countless psychologically and physically varied roles (i.e. "Monster"), was paid to saunter around the stage in a red ballgown, being fondled by weird soccer players (and Beckham, with that ridiculous haircut!), and occasionally commenting about her alleged idiocy to the completely uncharismatic Frenchman next to her. As a friend noted, if it had been an African American man acting dumb in front of the so-called distinguished European, there would be outrage in the streets, and not without reason. Why a female/male relation on the stage should be any different is another story altogether...
Why not have Theron in a more soccer-friendly or professional getup? Why use a woman at all? And why not use a knowledgeable woman soccer pro, paired with an ignorant male Hollywood Star? Would this blatant misogyny occur if it was set in America and not South Africa? (Probably)
In any case, the point of Warner's editorial was to show the lunacy of a woman's right's group complaining about this amendment, as if plastic surgery were not a symptom of society's decline into Mad Men-era misogyny.
In any era where almost half of females fear becoming a "bag lady," and women are transformed again into the "mindless-boob-girlie symbol," Warner writes:
This is what happens when equal pay stalls, abortion rights wither, and attempts to improve child care and workplace flexibility die on the legislative vine year after year. Women’s empowerment becomes a matter of a tight face and a flat belly. You control what you can control. And so many middle-aged women feel particularly out of control now, as indeed they are, in these life plan-wrecking economic times.
Also, kind of weird to be referred to by my last name. Especially since so few people are able to pronounce or even spell it. That said, the Postcrypt show this weekend was interesting. Frankly I love Potluck far more than St. Paul's Cathedral, and I hate gallery settings anyway. The purple string obstacles were the best part: interactive art! That said, most of the art, including (probably, maybe, most likely) my own, was largely disappointing (i.e. sucked).
Postcrypt overcomes housing ‘Obstacles’
Despite their displacement, Postcrypt Art Gallery has collaborated with Potluck House to curate their last show "Obstacles."
For the first time in almost 20 years, the Postcrypt Art Gallery is homeless after being kicked out of the basement of St. Paul’s Chapel.
The reason behind the eviction was simple, even silly: Hammer-happy members had put too many holes in the walls while hanging up their artwork. Earlier this year, the University Chaplain confronted Postcrypt about the damages, resulting in a compromise in which Postcrypt paid for part of the cost of repainting the basement’s walls. After the discovery of more holes, however, Postcrypt was sent looking for alternative spaces to host events, at least until next semester, when it will be reinstated in its old home.
Although this led to the cancellation of one show and the postponement of another, Postcrypt managed to organize one last event in collaboration with Potluck House and the Columbia University Undergraduate Film Festival this semester. The title of the show, “Obstacles,” seems to be a snarky reference to the obstacles they had to overcome in light of their experience with St. Paul’s. But the president of Postcrypt, Ian Kwok, CC ’11, said, “We had conceptualized the show before the incident.” Kwok also said, “It was really nice to see how many groups reached out to us” during Postcrypt’s hunt for an exhibition space, and that Potluck House was eventually chosen because of its “different vibe.”
While the description of the event on Facebook was somewhat lofty (“Life is full of barriers. … Sometimes these obstacles can be physically circumvented and other times they exist on a more intangible level”), entrance to the first room immediately revealed that the night would be anything but pretentious. A thick cobweb of purple yarn intersected the room at bizarre angles, forcing visitors to crawl through awkwardly to reach a spread of food prepared by Potluck House residents.
Once through, comfortable couches were arranged at ideal angles for watching the strange—and usually hilarious—contortions of others. This room also featured a large-scale drawing by Julia Alekseyeva, CC ’10 (who also draws a comic for Spectator) which depicts nude models, obscure quotes, and emblazoned in the middle, the line “I can’t do this on my own.” Alekseyeva said she had meant to make the work “slightly disconcerting” in order to reflect the “anxieties and obstacles” attached to modern life.
This same shade of gloominess ran through the other artwork featured on the walls of all three floors of Potluck House. It extended to the films screened by the Undergraduate Film Festival, which were shown on the second floor. Co-president Vicky Du, CC ’11, explained that the films had been carefully selected to complement the art exhibition, resulting in a series of very short, silent films with sharp aesthetics.
On the top floor, Feel Good Inc. served Brie and apple grilled cheese sandwiches. Those weary from the three-story climb were treated to delicious food with a humanitarian aim—raising money and awareness for the Hunger Project.
Postcrypt Art Gallery’s exile led to a fortuitous collaboration with other student groups, resulting in a dynamic and multifaceted exhibition. Potluck House’s communal spirit does add a new spin. Its friendly, relaxed space helped to achieve Kwok’s goal of reorganizing Postcrypt into a “more dynamic, active place of convergence.”
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Saturday Night at Columbia University
Or maybe I've just stopped caring.
Or maybe that's just the new aesthetic?
Or maybe Spec's scanners have gotten crappier?
Answer: (maybe) all of the above.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Got another poem published, check it out here:
The site is newly sprung, and has a pretty interesting "study abroad"-themed concept. Not the best of my poems, though, but at least it's something. It's also the first poem I happened to write about Paris (I've only written three so far). I'll never forgive the Russophone spelling of my first name though. A curse upon their house.
Currently: procrastinating by compiling my 1o-poem manuscript for my workshop. Realized that my poems have, as of late (or at least as of August) been mostly bizarre and slightly horrific, not to mention melodramatic, and thus realized that I shouldn't really dedicate such a frightening manuscript to anyone I love, really...
So, thus, torn.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Frailty, thy name is Hamlet? (or Julia)
Another part of our assignment was to create a funny title. Funniest title gets an automatic A. After 5 hours of pondering a title, and 2 hours (max) or writing the damn review, mine doesn't even get a chuckle. Maybe a mild eyebrow raise. Such is life.
Now on to the Jude Law Hamlet: now, on Broadway!
The curtain opens; Jude Law as Hamlet crouches on the ground. The stage is stark and dim, stony like the interior of a cathedral. After heaving a sigh, the tortured hero rises and exits the stage. This brief introduction was not actually present in the text, and was the only major alteration of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the entire production. The remainder was disappointingly exact and altogether too normal for what is, underneath it all, a deeply disturbing play.
Michael Grandage’s Hamlet, seen on November 12, 2009, could easily be called Shakespeare-for-the-masses; located at the Broadhurst Theatre in the middle of
Generally, however, the acting was highly unbalanced. Law had great force, and his only other thespian equal was Polonius, played by Ron Cook. Here Grandage interpreted Polonius as a clownish buffoon and the set-up for many jokes made by the intellectually superior Hamlet. Cook’s nasal voice, as well as his strange habit of waddling around the stage, gave him the aura of a penguin. Cook’s comic charisma was well matched with Law’s emphatic delivery, but it also left the other actors in the dust. Claudius, interpreted by Kevin McNally, was a particularly disappointing choice, seeming more grandfatherly than sinister. Most unfortunate was Ophelia, who seemed to straddle the line between dullness and extreme overacting. Grandage’s spin on Ophelia transformed her from the meek, relatively uninteresting beauty of Shakespeare’s work to some sort of post-industrial feminist, with far more agency and enthusiasm than is necessary. Ophelia became catty and brash; after her turn towards madness in the fourth act, she sings her lines instead of speaking them—an odd twist, and by far the most interesting moment in her characterization (sadly, even this was not particularly interesting).
Although Grandage did give a slightly different spin on Ophelia and Polonius, the rest of the play, including set design, seemed too comfortably traditional. The set was minimal: a gray floor emulating stone, a similar wall, and a great wooden dungeon-like door in the middle. Oftentimes an ominous light would pass through two symmetrically-placed windows on the wall, usually implying that a soliloquy was to come. This gave Grandage’s Hamlet a quasi-romantic feel. The comparison made earlier with a cathedral, and the theatre’s previous Les Misérables production, was not arbitrary: it looked like something straight out of a Hugo novel. When the brooding Hamlet shuffles onto the stage his back is arched like Quasimodo’s.
Most interesting, however, was the loud humming noise before each scene, reminiscent of the X-files. Although this noise was at times overdramatic, one couldn’t help but want it even louder. Hamlet is a deeply uncomfortable play, and Grandage seemed to fear any deviation from the norm. The costumes were modern-day and unassuming; when characters were “mad” they didn’t wear shoes—a highly conventional theatrical trope. Coupled with the play’s extreme length—over three hours long, with not a scene cut—one couldn’t help but yawn. Even Freud wrote about Hamlet’s Oedipal quality over a hundred years ago; surely audiences have progressed to be more accepting of strangeness. We leave the play mildly satisfied—there were indeed beautiful things, such as the gentle fall of snow during the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy—but nonetheless desire something far more creative than the banal interpretation presented.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Comics, as of late
(Idea stolen from the lovely Nikitha)
The pixel quality of the latest comics is so bad that I was loath to post them until now. Oh well. Also haven't had much time to do anything but awfully hedonistic things as of late, + studying, so no blog posts. Perhaps I am finally replacing the internet world with actual, physical reality? Yikes!
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Where the Wild Things Are
My friend Paul brought up the point that the film is so trendy because it caters to our generation's nostalgia, which I think is completely true. I went to three theatres before I found a show that wasn't sold out, and in each theatre I noticed not a single child (they were there, somewhere, perhaps). Going to see Wild Things was like drowning in a sea of plaid oxford shirts and skinny pants. Even the trailers were specifically catered towards the indie crowd (Wes Anderson animation? Count me in, and 1000 of my closest friends). Perhaps it's because I'm in Manhattan, which seems to be some sort of subculture epicenter. And yet, why wasn't I annoyed? Did I actually enjoy being part of some kind of cultural movement? Maybe. All I know is I freaking love Wild Things.
Karen O's soundtrack was obviously incredible, Dave Eggers's script was obviously incredible, Spike Jonze's direction and cinematography was obviously incredible. But boy, I think the vast majority of interactions in this movie would be completely lost on a 6-year old. And it was dark, even for me (who has a Clockwork Orange poster over her bed). There was many a time when I was literally scared to death that Max would be eaten by the wild things. Thus, this is a film practically perfect for college-age kids, but frankly I think anyone under the age of 10 would find it incredibly disturbing. Where the Wild Things Are takes PG-films to a completely different level. Even considering films as rich and unique as Disney/Pixar's Up!, other so-called "kid's" movies simply don't stand a chance against Wild Things. It's a cultural phenomenon!
That said, go see it, and let the wild rumpus start!
Edit: A late comic strip about Where the Wild Things Are.
Also fun to read (although I hate the guy): David Brooks over-analyzes the Wild Things
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
That said, regardless of the critiques drawn above, UPenn is an awesome school, and I would be delighted to go there for grad school *crosses fingers*. That said, I'd be delighted to go ANYWHERE for grad school ('cept the South). Well, anywhere in a major metropolitan area, in a blue state. Except LA. This limits my choice to exactly 8 schools (out of the 40-some comparative literature programs in the country), all of which I am applying to, and none of which are, quote on quote, "safety schools."
So yeah, Penn would be pretty great.
I just realized that this cartoon is particularly relevant because of Homecoming against Penn. Ha. How accidentally "school spirit" of me.
EDIT: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Totally reblogged on Underthebutton, Penn's version of Bwog (though, as we all know, Bwog is way cooler). Julia is famous once again! Even though the author totally dissed my drawing skills. Touché. Then again, it's a fucking cartoon, asshole, not a thesis. JeSUS. Also, every Columbia student knows who Heironymous Bosch is. If not, then why-the-fuck-am-I-here? Also, as I pointed out to my Penn friend Jon, it's a compliment! Columbia doesn't have fun. I don't remember the last time I wore heels (seriously).
Monday, October 12, 2009
Obama and the Peace Prize
Then this weekend, during a particularly late Philly night I stayed up to watch Cornel West on Real Time with Bill Maher. And Princeton's Professor West made an excellent point: with the Peace prize now permanently attached to Obama's name, he would be less likely to gravitate towards the political center the way he seems to be doing presently. With the Peace prize, Obama can hardly turn into a war president: he has Nelson Mandela to look up to!
One New York Times article said the same thing, in a roundup of the day's blogs:
The Peace Prize Committee, made up of Norwegians, appeared to have anticipated criticism of their choice. (The other Nobel prizes are awarded by a Swedish committee.) The Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said the prize was often used to encourage laureates rather than reward them for their achievements.
Encourage! Yes. Yes, perhaps I finally understand their decision. Which is not to say that perhaps others are more deserving. But it is, at the very least, understandable. West also made the point that the Nobel Prize is a symbol of how the world perceives Obama, which is true. As another blogger noted,
This Nobel Prize was an investment in future world peace — a bet that by lending some support to the leader of the free world, that leader would be able to achieve something.
So that's that. Let's just hope this Norwegian ploy works. Also, Cornel West is awesome, and a badass. I could listen to him lecture for hours.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Daily Dose of Beauty: October
Came upon this poem a few years ago. To this day it is one of my favorites. I still can't believe I took a seminar with this man last semester.
Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.
The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.
Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.
She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
I am a new man,
I snarl at her and bark,
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.
Also: The Airborne Toxic Event's Sometime Around Midnight. Such a well-composed and catchy song.
And some Brooklyn art:
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Comic 5, Freud Freud Freud
Going for more of a New Yorker-y look with this comic, though the random vignettes kind of destroy that. I was wary about using my first name, but I figure that a) most people don't even read the goddamn Spec, let alone the comic strip at the bottom left corner of the Opinion page, and b) who knows? I might become famous. Alas, nobody reads the Spec (for good reason).
Also, I've really gotta work on my handwriting.
Monday, October 5, 2009
--Comment on New York Times website, to Judith Warner's fascinating editorial "The Shame Game"
A good comment, I think. The exact same thing happened to me. As a sophomore in high school, I loved Michael Moore. I saw Bowling for Columbine three times, and then went out and bought the DVD (which is, by the way, scratched beyond recognition. RIP, old friend). I read Stupid White Men and bought Dude, Where's my Country? which was slightly disappointing in comparison to the former. I was a fan. Then Fahrenheit 9/11 happened. I saw it opening day (of course), but absolutely hated it. But then I thought, "Ok, one movie, sure. The next will undoubtedly be better. Michael Moore still has it." That year he was on Rolling Stone's list of the most influential people in America.
And then Sicko, which I STILL DID NOT LIKE even though health care is my #1 issue (#2 is education, #3 social welfare, #4 civil liberties). I thought it was silly. Juvenile. And even incorrect. I agreed with it completely, but what is the point? Yelling at people repeatedly isn't an effective form of rhetoric. And Capitalism, A Love Story? I'd rather not, especially since I like and agree with the guy. I'd just rather not see a film I will inevitably dislike and that will inevitably frustrate me.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I suck, yes, but considerably less so than others. That's certainly a success for THIS 40% Slytherin! Boo-yah.
Yes, I am the rightmost girl. I own that shirt, I have that haircut, and I made all 3 of those arguments about the movie 9 on my trainride home.
And if anybody cares, I don't pencil in outlines before I draw them, which is 100% due to laziness and results in pretty shoddy draftsmanship. Thank god for White Out.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Coco Avant Chanel
Saw the film "Coco Avant Chanel" (Coco Before Chanel) today. Opening day. Let's just say my friends and I were very excited.
I won't go into great detail here, but I quite enjoyed it. Even if it was produced by the same people as the atrocious (and fictitious) Jane Austen biopic "Becoming Jane." The target audience here is obviously appreciative of fashion and beauty, and there was much to swoon over in the Chanel film. I found myself literally driven breathless every time "Coco" (she was born Gabrielle Chanel) presented a new outfit... say, by cutting up and reworking her lover's suit. Breathtaking! I also liked how her fashion philosophy was linked to the modernist movement and women's liberation. Yet they didn't even mention her potential relationship with Igor Stravinsky, which I think is surprising.
Also Audrey Tatou, who plays the infamous Mademoiselle Chanel, is herself worthy of swooning over.
Coco Chanel. I love this woman. ONE DAY I will own a vintage Chanel jacket. One day.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Comic Pt 3
Oh well. Moderately proud of this one. Literally taken verbatim from my Science of Psych class, and obviously from personal experience. This has happened to the vast majority of my Columbia friends. 95% at least.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Paris (plus Juliette Binoche interview!)
So, unbeknownst to me, the Spectator published another film review of mine. For those who didn't know, I got to interview Juliette Binoche and Cedric Klapisch two weeks ago. It was a thrilling and frightening experience, and I can't wait for my next round-table interview. Although the stress of grad school applications might make the whole extracurricular business a tad more... difficult...
Also this title kind of stinks.
There are also a lot of things I could say about the film that I wasn't allowed to portray in the article. For example, it is VERY misogynistic, but this is only through an uber-liberal American perspective. Klapisch and Binoche did not see this aspect whatsoever. Also the last scene is ambiguous and actually kind of disturbing, and it probably was not meant to be... but of course I will leave you all to form your own opinions. On a scale of 1 to 100 I'd probably hover in the lower 70s, just because the cinematography was so outstanding (what else would you expect from the director of L'Auberge Espagnole?). I was nonetheless very affected by this movie, and its themes stuck with me for days, and days, and days... thus, I suppose, making the film successful, aesthetically-speaking. But this might be because its themes resonated so profoundly with my experiences this past summer (love, illness, family, friendship and whatnot, but especially that damned illness part).
Binoche and Klapisch explore the wonderful world of Paris
Published Thursday 17 September 2009 07:13pm EST.
The City of Light, The City of Love. Clichés about Paris are a dime a dozen. In his new film, “Paris,” director Cédric Klapisch (“The Spanish Apartment,” “Russian Dolls”) may embrace these clichés, but he uses them to his advantage. What results is an inspired film that ends up being as original as it can get.
Klapisch and his lead actress, Juliette Binoche, sat down at the French Embassy last week to discuss how he avoided clichés while keeping the magic of the city intact. “It’s an intellectual city, so we needed to have somebody who’s not an intellectual.... It’s a city of tourists, of fashion, of gastronomy ... I tried to incorporate those clichés into something that, at the end, is not cliché anymore.”
“Paris” examines the city through the perspective of one man. Pierre (Romain Duris) is a dancer who is waiting for a heart transplant, having been diagnosed with a fatal heart condition. After the diagnosis, he spends his time observing Paris through his window, imagining the lives of his eccentric and diverse neighbors, while growing closer to his sister (Binoche).
“Paris” attempts to capture the city as a locus of the French identity, rather than the home of any particular story. This desire, according to Klapisch, is the reason for the ensemble cast: “Just like a metro map, Paris is a network of interconnections.” The multiple stories are, in fact, so intertwined that it is impossible to delineate them, which gives “Paris” complexity while keeping the plot linear and comprehensible.
In fact, the tone of “Paris” is both joyous and celebratory—a far cry from the tearjerker its synopsis suggests. It exposes the amusing awkwardness inherent to all human relationships. In one scene, Elise attempts a striptease, but has trouble taking off her sneakers without falling over. “I was channeling Rita Hayworth,” Juliette Binoche explained, laughing. In another, a middle-aged man attempts to write a “sexy” text message but ends up appearing like an inept stalker.
Binoche and Klapisch stressed the elements of Paris-the-city rather than Paris-the-film. But because of the movie’s overemphasis on the city, some of the characters’ relationships seem forced, even ludicrous. Yet, it is hard not to fall in love with its dizzying cinematography. As he did in “The Spanish Apartment,” Klaspich employs sweeping zoom-ins and panoramic views, giving the viewer the impression of seeing all of Paris, both the grimy and the glamorous. “The bad things are as true as the beautiful things. I wanted to face that,” said Klapisch.
The music—a surprisingly cosmopolitan mix of jazz, hip hop, and rock—also suits the city. Everything enhances the film’s peculiar mix of joy and profound melancholy. One can argue that even the uncomfortable idiosyncrasies (such as slight misogyny and awkwardness) can make for an even more honest portrayal of so complex and magnificent a city. As Klapisch said, “People are ... uneasy. It’s part of the identity of Parisians … they are not happy people. I can see that in a positive way, that everything that is historical about Paris deals with revolt. We don’t accept things as they are.”
“Paris” opens today at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema located on Broadway between 61st and 62nd streets. Tickets cost $12.00.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
- Mary Oliver
How haunting is that line, "You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves"... I get shivers every time I hear it.
Makes sense that Mary Oliver is one of the richest poets in the United States, no? Her and Billy Collins. At least somebody is successful, and by golly they've earned it.
And another poem:
There was a war between good and evil.
We decided to call the body good.
That made death evil.
It turned the soul
against death completely.
Like a foot soldier wanting
to serve a great warrior, the soul
wanted to side with the body.
It turned against the dark,
against the forms of death
Where does the voice come from
that says suppose the war
is evil, that says
suppose the body did this to us,
made us afraid of love—
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Deerhoof at Le Poisson Rouge
I first heard Deerhoof my last year of high school, and they fascinated me. Probably because something about their music frightened me to the core. Listen to the eerie "Milk Man" and especially the song "Song of Sorn" and you'll see what I mean. I'm convinced that some cords are specifically made to physically grate on your hearing and perception of beauty. Deerhoof is certainly "noise rock," and holds little in common with all other indie rock. I'm not even sure it's indie, really, since lately the definition has come to mean a quieter folk/indie pop, rather than actually referring to an independent label.
My favorite songs of theirs actually blend the strange and the virtuosic. For example, listen to 81+ from Friend Opportunity. The last 2 minutes are simply a ridiculously catchy love song. Same goes for their latest single Fresh Born, out of Offend Maggie, or Giga Dance from Milk Man (still my favorite album of theirs, for reasons I don't really understand).
This was a damn good show, and not even because they played their "hits," or because I knew most of the songs. In actuality I knew about half, but the very fact that I enjoyed the songs I didn't know prove Deerhoof to be good performers. They pulled every gag and trick in the concert-giving book: costume changes! pretentious and adorable stage banter! friend found randomly in audience to play the drums for a song! artsy video projections! synchronized dance moves! not one, but TWO encores! props, such as a tiny stuffed penguin and a glow-in-the-dark basketball! all of the band members switching instruments! Sometimes all of these would occur within a single song.
Of course, this was all made better by the fact that I was practically front-and-center, except for a row of people with SLR's and Japanese groupies obsessed with lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki. (Actually a good number of Deerhoof's songs are sung in Japanese, and Satomi arrived fresh off the boat (theoretically speaking) in San Francisco when Deerhoof was being formed).
What a show, what a show.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Socialism and Healthcare
Surprisingly, the part of this article I found most appealing were these words, written by no other than a conservative:
For conservatives, the battle cry is liberty. But for liberals, it’s equality. The former rests at the heart of capitalism and free markets, while the latter rests at the heart of socialism, government control and federal regulation.
This argument goes all the way back to de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, a favorite reading of mine, and a book I find at least 90% accurate, even nearly 200 years since its publication in the 19th century. Taken as an analogy, liberal: equality as conservative: liberty. (I will always lean on the side of equality. Even for someone who wrote a speech in praise of the 1st amendment in high school, I am even more a rampant supporter of "equality of opportunity") Yet seeing the healthcare debate in these black and white terms, however normally applicable, is utterly inhumane. If we are the children of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," what good is liberty without... life? When 18,000 lives a year (the approximate number who die each year of lack of health insurance) stand in the balance?
I love you Paul Krugman, and I agree, but something has to happen with this whole healthcare debacle... and, on a personal level, should my working class parents be penalized and virtually rendered destitute for the Soviet Union's mistake? Am I somehow to blame for an disease that I was (pretty much) born with, that racked up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills (no kidding) just over the last two months?
Friday, September 11, 2009
Millenium Actress, etc
I absolutely love this film. This isn't a review, it's a gushing flow of wonder and admiration. And no wonder: Director Satoshi Kon also made Paprika, a movie I love so dearly that I refuse to transport its poster across state lines, lest it gets creases.
Millenium Actress is the story of a great actress named Chiyoko Fujiwara. After 30 years in seclusion, two men find the elderly Chiyoko in order to film a documentary of her life. Her tale unfolds, and the two men are thrown, literally, into a film-version of her life. Soon, this becomes a mix of all of the films she has ever starred in. Fiction blends with reality, which veers into meta-fiction, while still steering clear of outright fantasy (this dubious line between fiction/reality, dream/awakedness is also explored in Paprika). It is a tale of reality as perceived by Chiyoko, and the exegesis of her rise to stardom. It is an animated homage to all of cinematic history. And of course, like nearly all captivating films, it is a story of love.
(I will never be able to stop loving anime)
And there is the phrase that the film repeats constantly, which I can't quite get out of my head: "I hate you more than I can bear. And I love you more than I can bear. You are destined to burn in the flames of eternal love."
On this whole "love" theme (but mostly randomly), I present: my new favorite John Ashbery poem, which I think is the most unusual love poem I have ever read, and thus the most beautiful.
The New Higher
By John Ashbery
You meant more than life to me. I lived through
you not knowing, not knowing I was living.
I learned that you called for me. I came to where
you were living, up a stair. There was no one there.
No one to appreciate me. The legality of it
upset a chair. Many times to celebrate
we were called together and where
we had been there was nothing there,
nothing that is anywhere. We passed obliquely,
leaving no stare. When the sun was done muttering,
in an optimistic way, it was time to leave that there.
Blithely passing in and out of where, blushing shyly
at the tag on the overcoat near the window where
the outside crept away, I put aside the there and now.
Now it was time to stumble anew,
blacking out when time came in the window.
There was not much of it left.
I laughed and put my hands shyly
across your eyes. Can you see now?
Yes I can see I am only in the where
where the blossoming stream takes off, under your window.
Go presently you said. Go from my window.
I am in love with your window I cannot undermine
it, I said.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Columbia & Its Discontents
So now I have a weekly comic in the Spec, which isn't actually that impressive, seeing as it's a collegiate newspaper, but I suppose everybody (even talentless dilettantes such as myself) needs to start somewhere.
So here it is. The strip is called "Columbia & its Discontents," and the awkwardly self-conscious Columbia Core Curriculum pun (Freud, duhhh) seems to suit the paper. Really at this point it's an experiment in comic-drawing above all else. Although I was so embarrassed of the comic that I actually ran away (again, very awkwardly) before the editor got a chance to look at it. I think I'm not used to drawing in a more infantile style. Also those brush pens are damn hard to handle. Ed, how in the hell do you do it?!
As you can see I'm still shaky at this whole "surprise/bewildered" look. And the girl with the laptop in the 5th (?) panel-thing has a hand that looks like she's holding a cell phone and I'm not sure how to fix it. 15 years (no kidding) of art classes and I'm back at square 1.
One last note: I did not specifically want to do a "Columbia" theme but I figure it'd be easier to practice if I have a specific topic at hand. More direction usually produces better work (I'm hoping). Constructive criticisms always appreciated, but I won't promise not to cry in the corner.
Edit: So apparently people are liking the comic! You can even rate it at the website here. Starting next week it will come out every Tuesday in the Spectator.
Friday, August 28, 2009
A preview quote from the article:
"Burroughs also spent some formative years on the shores of Lake Michigan, though he didn't speak as fondly of them. In a passage he later excised from Naked Lunch, he wrote, "There is something about Chicago that paralyzes the spirit under a dead weight of a formalism dictated by hoodlums, a hierarchy of decorticated wops . . . And everywhere the smell of atrophied gangsters, the dead weight of those dear dead days hanging in the air like rancid ectoplasm . . . You suffocate in the immediate past, still palpable, quivering like an earthbound ghost . . . Here the dream is suffocating, more real than the real, the past actually, incredibly, invading the present."
Note to self: read "The Naked Lunch." Also, upon reading the wiki on Burroughs I find it hilarious that he went to my former roommate's preparatory high school in St. Louis, if only because most of my fellow Von Steuben MSC graduates in Chicago become gangsters, drug-dealers, and, at best, middle-managers at downtown corporations.
Also I'm definitely regretting my decision not to take the Columbia seminar on the Beat generation. REGRET!
Monday, August 24, 2009
And, of course, inspired by my favorite children's book ever (and now an upcoming movie whose soundtrack is being compiled by Karen O and is officially one of the "stuff white people like"):
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Ponyo is, at its simplest, a story about a magic goldfish who wants to turn into a human. The goldfish accidentally meets a young boy named Sosuke, and when the goldfish-- now named Ponyo-- is retrieved by her father, hell breaks loose, and Ponyo now has an insatiable desire to become human. Nature's delicate balance is upturned, and a storm threatens Sosuke's quaint seaside village. On top of this is a backstory of "evil" witches and wizards, a small oceanside community in Japan, a family, and even the role humans play in the environment. Which brings me to my second point: all Miyazaki films have an environmentalist undercurrent (my favorite-- Princess Mononoke-- does this more than any other). Miyazaki films praise the wilderness, the beauty of evolution, the spirit of animals, and declaim traits that are often thought of as "human"-- greed, corruption, love of money, egotism. It's almost transcendental, almost romantic. Think of the moment in Spirited Away when the temple workers throw themselves onto the floor in want of gold. It is hard not to look at this without disgust.
Although greed and corruption are seen as terrible forces, Miyazaki still seems to believe that humans-- all humans, even what is seemingly the lowliest creatures-- are good at heart, and capable of being understood. It is the want of understanding that is at the core of "evil" characters' desires. In Ponyo, it is unclear how "evil" Ponyo the Fish's father is, although he is referred to as an "evil wizard". Just as The Little Mermaid is about a mermaid who goes against her father's wishes in the quest of becoming human, Ponyo is a goldfish who goes against her father's human-hating ways. In that sense, Ponyo is another Little Mermaid story... but humanized. Unlike all other Disney films that I've seen, Ponyo has no evil villain, because every thing on earth-- human, animal, or any hybrid in-between-- is endowed with an inherent goodness. It's refreshing, powerful, and overwhelming. Give me Hayao Miyazaki over Walt Disney any day.
The film itself is, though not the best of Miyazaki's extensive repertoire, delightful. The animation is beautiful, as always, and this time, nothing was lost in translation (Disney did the annoying dirty work of the translator). Like all Miyazaki films, even the older audience members are often lost in the almost surrealistic quality of the story-- where is reality? Where is fiction? Where does magic meet our perceived world? Herein is the Miyazaki charm, in that same magic realism that suspends our disbelief, if only for a few hours. Something so strange, enlightening, and wonderful is rarely found, so go see it! Posthaste!
Monday, July 27, 2009
Thriller Zombie March
[FULL MUSIC VIDEO]
Presenting: 2009 ZOMBIE THRILLER MARCH/DANCE!
Yes, I participated (you can kind of barely see me in the picture above). I spent three-ish hours learning about half of the dance with Kirsten before giving up. Well worth it. Especially since I've spent an entire semester of Dance class learning something that long!
Over a thousand people gathered in Chicago's Wicker Park, most in zombie makeup and torn clothing (Kirsten, Katie, and I had the makeup down). From then we went on a "zombie march," making groaning and roaring and growling noises up and down Milwaukee and North Avenues, attaching ourselves 28 Days Later-style to buses and cars. If people didn't know about it beforehand, it might have actually been frightening.
There was even a "Zombie Task Force" of three people in Ghostbusters-esque suits and pellet guns, attacking zombie hipsters as if their lives depended upon it. However, one unfortunate warrior was attacked! Makeup was quickly applied, and thus the Zombie Buster became a Zombie. Here's a picture of Kirsten and I turning the poor boy into a zombie (I'm wearing the Brown Hershey's shirt):
An amazing time, and a fantastic cultural event. I hope it becomes an annual tradition!
Last picture of ZOMBIEZ:
*all pictures but the one above are copyrighted by Flickr
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The Twilight series, however, has none of this. It teaches to teeny-boppers exactly what I have spent all of my adolescence UN-learning-- absurd "Disneyfied" myths such as:
There is only one man out there for me.
I must do absolutely anything to hold on to the man I love.
The only thing of importance in the life of a woman is to be loved by a man.
I am plain and uninteresting unless I am loved by a man.
Sex is the most frightening and terrible thing in the universe, and should be reserved for only very special occassions, such as marriage.
Sex should be reserved for "the One".
If "the One" does not want you, you must be resilient until "the One" responds to your wishes.
Believe everything that comes out of the mouth of "the One" for He is a perfect being.
Among other myths, of course. Myths that ruin any woman's chances of happiness by adhering to their consciousness and refusing to let go.
This article by Jessica Ferri of Bookslut.com rails against these theories. Here is my favorite line of the article:
But as a child of the nineties, and quite possibly the biggest fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I have to ask: what the hell happened to us?
Indeed. What happened to the '90s? What happened to "you GO, girl" and "Si se puede!" and "Independent Woman" (that Destiny's Child song)?
As Ferri writes, What I wonder is, would I be voraciously reading these books if I were thirteen? Doesn't it say something about women's lib if the dice has rolled from Buffy, who slayed vamps without even breaking a nail, to Bella, who does nothing the entire book but whine to be deflowered by one?
Then again, I was never a Fantasy person. I liked Sci-Fi to an extent, but I had a huge distaste for C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. I thought it was all cliche, that I have heard it all before. Reality had more things to teach me. If anything I loved magic realism. The closest thing to this was Lois Lowry's The Giver, which I read so often that the pages fell out of their binding.
But Twilight is more Teen Romance than Fantasy, which makes it even more frightening and sexist, even more "behind the times" than a Jane Austen novel (after all, Twilight was written by a Mormon).
Which is why I will refuse to read it.
Which is why I could only laugh when I saw the movie, which was highly entertaining (how could two human beings be so terribly awkward? And how did Cedric Diggory get so hot?).
Which is why, for Kant's sake, and for de Beauvoir's, don't let your 12-year old cousins read this trash.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Get Photographed by the Sartorialist!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Why must the best shows always be canceled?! First it was Popular, whose cancellation (after two seasons) I mourned in middle school. David Lynch's Twin Peaks was a tough one to bear as well. Then my beloved Arrested Development was bumped after three seasons. Alas, Wonderfalls-- graced by the same director as Pushing Daisies-- was only given one season in 2004.
Shame, and slightly surprising, because the show has many similarities with its far more popular successor. Both Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies have Lee Pace, although in the former he plays the snide, egotistical, and mystically-minded brother of Jaye Tyler, the main character (far from an adorable pie-maker). Both shows have brilliant artistic direction and cinematography. Both shows are some sort of magic-realism, in which the viewer has his or her concept of reality temporarily suspended. In both, one character has what is more or less a magic power, while the rest of the world remains the same. Is it the hand of God? Is it nuclear mutation? Is it schizophrenia? Is it even there at all? Nobody knows. But it's pretty clear that it's something at least more profound than paranoid schizophrenia, although Jaye Tyler does seem quite crazy at times.
Jaye has a... gift. Or a curse. More likely a curse, depending on how you look at it. On the exterior, Jaye Tyler is a sulky 24-year old living in a trailer park, avoiding following her wealthy family to career success by working as a retail clerk in "Wonderfalls," a souvenir shop in Niagara Falls, New York. Once a misanthropic (and even a bit bitchy) Brown graduate and philosophy major, Jaye finds her snarky disposition when she is forced to perform good deeds against her will... by talking stuffed animals. Or plastic animals. Or practically anything not carbon-composed in the shape of an animal. Whether a misshapen lion statue, a teddy bear, or a pink flamingo on the lawn, they tell her to do... things. And if she doesn't follow their demands, they hound her passive-aggressively, refusing to stop talking until she figures out their often extremely cryptic messages, like "Get her words out," or "Save him from her." Pronouns are often the tricky part.
And then in comes Eric, an impossibly sweet and lovesick bartender, and hilarity... and heartbreak... ensues. Watch it! I finished the entire 13-episode season in 3 days' time.
Friday, July 3, 2009
In a Dream
"Love is a work of art," says the poster of In a Dream. For artist Isaiah Zagar, this is literally the case, for better or for worse. Written and directed by his son Jeremiah Zagar, who makes only a second-long appearance in the entire film, this documentary exposes the life of a troubled artist losing his grip on the world.
On a second re-reading, this sounds a little cliche. Even a troubled artist has moments of pure happiness and years of "living in a dream." Some things he says sound truer, holistically, than the texts of philosophers. His trouble seems to lie more in associations. In the first few seconds of the film, Jeremiah asks his father, just at the beginning of his interview, if he wants a glass of water. "No," Isaiah calmly responds, "I think I'll make a boiled egg."
The film is a portrait of the life of this artist, who, with his (unbelievably) supportive wife Julia, buys derelict buildings in south Philadelphia and transforms them into shining mosaics, nearly Gaudi-esque but even more personal. Isaiah covers the buildings roof-to-floor with found objects, color, paint, bits of stone and glass... all chronicling his own wife. He is endlessly hardworking to the point of insanity, working over 10-hour long days tirelessly putting glass side by side and painting around it. Yet every single wall is a self-portrait; floor to ceiling is covered in cartoonish portraits of Julia and himself, nude, clasping hands and smiling. Elsewhere are pictures of even Jeremiah (the filmmaker) and Ezekiel, the troubled and drug-abusing eldest son.
To a judgmental viewer this might be simply a movie "about a buncha hippies," but this is entirely incorrect. Their lives are as complicated and rooted in society as any other. Even the nearly impervious relationship between Julia and Isaiah is put to test when Isaiah begins to have an affair with his assistant Elizabeth. This is not a film about endings or beginnings but a portrait of a brilliant, creative, yet highly bruised artist, but without any sense of pity or glorification.
This neutral stance is aided by the cinematography, highly technical and brilliant, full of difficult zooms and alterations with camera lenses. Nearly half of the movie must be panoramic sweeps of the artwork, just a camera moving in and out of a structure made by Isaiah Zagar. There are also numerous animated sections, where Isaiah's art begins to move and mimics, in movements, the words he is saying, a common but very difficult animation technique (see Frida, the excellent movie starting Salma Hayek). My favorite thing besides this artwork is the score, made entirely by the Books (plus my personal favorite Explosions in the Sky song in the last segment!). The perfect complement to so reflective and artistic a film, the Books create a simple and melodic vibe using nothing but a cello, guitar, and synthesizer.
Jeremiah Zagar divided the film into three parts, a classic division that gives a largely winding and complex narrative great structure. This profile of Isaiah Zagar, coupled with gorgeous editing, give the film a half-surrealist, half-folk artsy feel, an American lovechild of Frida Kahlo and Antonin Gaudi. All in all, fascinating.