Hey look, it's yet another nonsensical Skin Deep piece in the Times' Style section that has a Recessionista peg. How many ways can one person write this thing?
This week Natasha Singer turns her analytical mirror compact onto the recession's effect on the plastic surgery business. Yes, yes, while some people worry about their foreclosed homes, others wonder whether they will be able to afford their butt implants. Singer begins with a series of very serious questions: "But now, as the country plunges into recession, will financial hardship demote the pursuit of physical perfection? Will the vogue for a smoothed face in which only the mouth moves, or a mix-and-match body of mature breasts atop boyish hips become outmoded? Will aesthetic values loosen up, allowing the occasional wrinkle to take on a certain measure of authenticity?"
OMG, the Dow crashed and the Botox backlash has arrived! Excuse us while we hurl into our pockets.
The experts tell Singer that cosmetic surgery is "going to become the new S.U.V., something that you can do without," and that people who formerly made cosmetic surgery a necessity will give it up so as not to feel, er, overly extravagant compared to their friends. That's a good kind of peer pressure! Oh, except for this shit:
Against a tide of people eschewing cosmetic medicine in the new economy, she also predicted a counter current of consumers having procedures to feel proactive."People who would not have considered it, when they get laid off at 45, 50, 55 and are back on the job market, might consider it as they try to enhance their human capital," she said.Please, no. Just use scented résumé paper a la Elle Woods instead -- it will render the same, exorbitant, useless effect on your "human capital" without freezing your face and eating your non-existent 401K.
Did you know that the Brooklyn Museum has a Twitter? Well, they do. And they want you to follow them: starting January 3rd, the first of their Target First Saturdays events for 2009, the museum will launch a new social networking membership initiative. An even $20 annual fee will get you paperless benefits and notifications via the aforementioned tweets, Facebook, and Flickr, plus exclusive entry to their popular First Saturdays, during which the museum stays open till 11pm with free admission beginning at 5pm.
The best part? Artists from Swoon's studio will kick things off in January, creating prints on found paper provided by the digitally connected 1stfans. Cure your post New Year's blues in the Beaux-Arts building.
Like most of you I mostly just try to ignore him except to think about how long it will be until he retires and we all get angry at the botched opportunity that is his replacement (not that it'll happen, but it would be pretty awesome if they picked Nick Pinkerton), but here in his Revolutionary Road review is a failure of perspective that comes close enough to being a demonstrably false statement that I feel moved to berate him on my blog. So:
Just two years after Yates's book came out, Betty Friedan published "The Feminine Mystique," whose resonant starting point is the puzzling misery felt by suburban housewives like April—women allegedly living the American Dream, complete with wage-earning husband, multiple children, and good china. It would be inane to fault Richard Yates for not possessing an explicitly feminist consciousness, but he never suggests that April suffers from even the slightest social constriction, and neither does Mendes. April is isolated in her own neuroses...Really, he doesn't? That scene when her husband arrives home from his job (late, because he's been banging a girl from the typing pool), and April answers the door in, Yates is sure to mention, a (housewifely) apron over a (sexy) cocktail dress, his whiskey already fixed up? That's meant to be read as entirely on her? That her two last acts as a living person are (spoilers, obvs) fixing her husband breakfast and trying to perform an illegal and dangerous abortion on herself? (End spoiler.) That she fantasizes about moving to another country and getting a job? Really, David? Richard Yates has no concept of the housewife as restrictive socially decreed role? I mean, it's nice that you're willing to be hopelessly off in an effort to prove your (occasionally suspect) feminist bona fides, I guess...
"Another Manhattan," by Donald Antrim.
I should probably mention that the link to this story is subscriber-only, which is just as well, because outside of New Yorker subscribers I can't think who'd be that interested in a comedy of manners concerning antidepressants, alcoholism restaurant reservations, Upper West Side flower shops and infidelities among two upper-upper-middle-class, late-middle-age couples.
It's a pretty satiric, well-timed stuff with people juggling each other on cell phones, and actually really good about the particular claustrophobia of New York in the winter: too hot inside and too cold outside; hissing radiators, bitter winds, and a crowd right at the vestibule as you're stepping outside. Still, an aura of who-cares seems to dominate; Antrim is ultimately more interested in using a flower-shop girl as a projecting screen for his protagonist's psychosis than he is in acknowledging the obvious class difference at work. Which is true to his characters, but still.
Well, this is a bummer. It was only a matter of time, we suppose, but we did so heart Mixwit, the little nostalgic digital mixtape web site that could! It brought you The L Magazine Mix, after all, which, really, we hope we can resurrect in some other form, somehow (send us exclusive mp3s, we like them!). For now, though, an email this morning brought word that Mixwit is shutting down at the end of this year.
"We've put a year of work into Mixwit so this choice wasn't taken lightly. I won't go into the details of our situation but state simply that we boldly marched into in a position best described as 'between a rock and a hard place.' We're very grateful to be have been part of the mixtape revival of â08 and are satisfied to be able to to bow out while things are still good," wrote co-founders Michael Christoff and Radley Marx. They'll try to find a way to preserve user playlists and cover art, and CNET reports they're also considering donating Mixwit's source code to the OpenTape project.
The full memo after the jump.
We regret to announce that Mixwit will cease to exist at the end of the
year.The website and profiles will be turned off around Dec 27th and
all embedded widgets will stop playing before the end of December.
We've put a year of work into Mixwit so this choice wasn't taken lightly. I
won't go into the details of our situation but state simply that we
boldly marched into in a position best described as "between a rock and a
hard place." We're very grateful to be have been part of the mixtape
revival of â08 and are satisfied to be able to to bow out while things
are still good.
You guys are all amazing. It's clear that all of you put a ton of time and
effort into your mixes. For me personally, I was looking forward to all of
the designs people created for their tapes. There was a lot of basic tapes
and many lovely photos, but the designs and artwork - WOW!
We're very sorry that this has to end. We're going to try to figure out
some way to archive the artwork and playlists, if for nothing at least
historic value. As for now, everything needs to be shut down by the end
of the year just to make sure we've got a clean start for 2009.
We'll return early next year with a new company and new toys. Until
then, enjoy the holidays and please take good care of yourselves,
your families, and your friends =)
- Radley & Mike
"Bummer: Web mixtape service Mixwit to shut down" [CNET]
Reviews of Movies We Haven't Seen, banking on the predictability of the holiday-movie industrial complex, and also our own tendency to review movies before seeing them. So let's see how we did. Here, I, who wrote the one on The Wrestler — reviewed in the L by Benjamin Strong — compare my preview to my actual response.]
Aronofsky, second-year film student laureate of Hebrew numerology, glossy magazine spread junkie despair and sub-Castanedan metaphysics, turns his hyperbolizing gaze toward professional wrestling and sees arenas jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive. But as deflated steroids-and-spandex spectacle Randy "the Ram" Robinson, Marlboro Man-turned-plastic surgery disaster Mickey Rourke has so much coulda-been-a-contender pathos you almost don't begrudge Aronofsky for freeze-framing as he's beaten back against the ropes, arms outstretched in an unmistakable crucifixion pose.In fact...
This one is not really fair because of course there's going to be a crucifixion pose. Though in fact it comes when he's leaping from the top rope, arms outstretched. Also, he has a Jesus tattoo.
Although I just threw the Springsteen quote in because it sounded good, it turns out I was exactly right about it: there's an (original!) sad-America acoustic Springsteen song that plays over the end credits, fer chrissakes.
And yes of course there's tons of pathos in Mickey Rourke's performance as a coulda-been contender, but then again I cried at Once Upon a Time in Mexico* so perhaps I am not the best judge of this. Then again everybody else has been flipping for him in this movie, too, so again it wasn't much of a stretch. Man, when Mickey Rourke wins the Oscar, and brings his beloved chihuahuas** up on stage with him, that is going to be terrific.
One thing I could not have predicted, though, is that this movie is structured around the lead-up to a 20th anniversary bout between The Wrestler and his long-ago heel. The bout that's being commemorated took place in April of 2009, and we see the anniversary bout. That's right: The Wrestler takes place in the future. The future!
My friends, this movie is maybe kind of awesome? Like Mickey Rourke has a bad heart, and his stripper girlfriend, played by Marisa Tomei, is all like please baby don't go out there and wrestle, and he's like no baby I have to go out there and wrestle. And he is maybe also a metaphor for George W. Bush? In conclusion, this movie is exactly the movie you knew it would be, but sillier.
* Not strictly "true."
** If I was still in college and starting Facebook groups for laughs all willy-nilly, I would probably be the founder of a group called "Mickey Rourke Really Loves His Chihuahuas".*
* Either that or "Dear Sweet Christ I Am So, So Gay for Mickey Rourke in Body Heat."
Drastic times call for drastic measures, which has led to us to this wild and fantastic moment in history. The latest, hottest, biggest, baddest trend in media is here: Don't print it! Blog it, ya'll! OMG WTF is happening? Is this thing on? Where are we?
It appears that New Yorker editor and world's classiest e-mailer David Remnick has answered our call for more esoteric high-low rock star snark stuff, although it won't be appearing in his magazine. It's going online instead! In this week's Observer, John Koblin writes of Remnick's edgy decision to hire a web-guy to "badger writers into coming up with more ideas to write Web-only content." This is hilarious:
Gawker already noted that television critic Nancy Franklin used the text-y expression "4ever" to describe her lurve for David Letterman.
On Dec. 16, George Packer wrote a takedown of Sean Penn's cover story for The Nation on Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro. Mr. Packer's post was bloggy in every way—dripping with sarcasm ("veteran foreign correspondent Sean Penn," or, describing Christopher Hitchens as the "world-famous hedge-fund executive and philanthropist"), snarky and a pretty frank and vicious attack. And it even got a link on Romenesko—not exactly a familiar place for New Yorker stories.
The American Society of Newspaper Editors is interested in changing the name of the organization and broadening its horizons. Member Charlotte Hall has suggested leaving off the "paper" in "newspaper." Politco's Michael Calderone reports this is a reflection of "the decline of print," which is only a piece of the proposal: it would also offer full membership to news websites, including those without a print publication. Plus, it puts forth the -- revolutionary! -- notion that quality news organizations aren't merely defined by the word "daily."
So, death of print or increased validation for web? This might not exactly be the robust future we were all hoping for, though it is a start. A highlighted piece of the memo, after the jump.
We are all way beyond ink on paper, and so the word "paper" would disappear from our name to reflect better what we do today and where we are going. Our new name, pending your approval, would be American Society of News Editors. This change maintains our valued brand, ASNE, and our logo, ASNE Leading America's Newsrooms.
To assure a robust future, we also need to broaden our base of members. Thus, our proposal includes offering full membership to editors of news websites, including those without a print product, as well as leaders in journalism education and journalism foundations. More and more, news organizations are not defined by "daily." Thus, this requirement would be removed from membership requirements.
Publisher's Marketplace reports the pre-empt sale of a new memoir this week, written by 78-year-old poet and writer Margaret Robison. Name doesn't sound familiar? You might know her sons, instead: Robison is the mother of established memoirists Augusten Burroughs (Running With Scissors, Dry, A Wolf at the Door) and John Elder Robison (Look Me in the Eye). This is her opportunity to "tell her own story her way," according to Publisher's Marketplace. Possible code-speak: I'm beyond irritated that my disrespectful kids wrote mean things about me and became best-selling authors with movie adaptations and lots of fame. Time to get them back! (Running With Scissors portrays Robison as a cold-hearted, brutal sort of abandoning monster-mom.)
Robison's forthcoming book, A Place to Come Home To, will be published by the Spiegel & Grau imprint of Random House. It draws on journals and diary entries to chronicle her life in southern Georgia, an abusive marriage, and raising two sons "whose own memoirs would become publishing phenomena." After recovering from psychosis and a massive stroke, Robison sat down to spin her the tale of her life. Here's a snippet of an All Things Considered profile on Robison, which, if anything, makes it clear that the chapter she devotes to Burroughs in particular -- his birthname was Chris -- is sure to be a doozy. She calls Augsten Burroughs, the person, "fiction."
Movies We Haven't Seen, banking on the predictability of the holiday-movie industrial complex, and also our own tendency to review movies before seeing them. So let's see how we did. Here, I, who wrote the one on Gran Torino, compare my preview to my actual response.]
Directing himself for the first time since Million Dollar Baby, America's last beloved Republican stars as a curmudgeonly grandpa learning the all-American value of tolerance — thanks to an Asian-American gangbanger he first pulls an M-1 on so as to get him, literally, off his lawn. As with Changeling, this is a liberal message-movie made in a resolutely conservative style.In fact...
One of the less-memorialized deaths of this year, at least in this country, was the still-active 71-year-old Japanese actor Ken Ogata, because it's hard for us to really feel loss over the death of someone we only know as the guy from a couple of movies — even if that movie is Vengeance Is Mine, in which that guy gives a ferocious performance.
Starting today and continuing through next Tuesday, Film Forum revives Paul Schrader's made-in-Japan biopic Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, in which Ogata stars as the body-building, private army-raising, probably gay seppuku-committing novelist, essayist, filmmaker and cultural celebrity Yukio Misihima. Criterion put this out on (a gorgeous) DVD earlier this year; then, the movie — alternating between death-day docudrama, black-and-white flashback and three stylized soundstage reenactments of key Mishima novels — seemed to me to be a fascinating precursor to, weirdly, Velvet Goldmine, for its obsession with personal and artistic self-creation. It still does, but I want to take a minute to think a little more about Ogata, an imposing, charismatic presence whose Mishima is a supremely charming obsessive. (Plus, you know, he wears the samurai manpanties Very Seriously.) Anyway, you should see this movie, if you have time, it ranks high on my list of Favorite Movies First Watched in 2008, and will on yours as well. (Or will not!)
I don't want to stay at your party, I don't want to talk to your friends, I don't want to vote for your president, I just want to eat the delicious delicious things featured in The City Sweet Tooth, Abby Denson's regular comic-column about yumminess and related subjects. Today, we go to Three Tarts, and eat stuff.
Idolator has a fantastic new series of artists interviewing artists that they just launched today. The first features Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump getting Q&A'd by pop songwriter and producer Butch Walker, and vice versa. Walker's stories were infinitely more entertaining than Stump's (which we guess means Stump is a better interviewer, so everyone wins), particularly his response to this question: "I don't want names, but you have to have bumped into some pretty nasty
artists with pretty big chips on their shoulders. I'd like an anecdote
about the most obnoxious personality you had the misfortune of working
with, albeit as anonymously as you feel comfortable divulging."
The response, which is so good we have to cut and paste the whole thing for posterity's sake:
I've been blessed to work with a lot of great people and people who are infamously known to be dicks, but were great to/with me. One person was... How should I put this... Not an asshole... Just not... There. I was in the studio in NY waiting for this person to show up for like, six hours. Now I'm not a knob jockey or some "hourly wage" dude. My time is my time and I don't like to be disrespected. I sat there and wrote the fucking song for them to sing, recorded every instrument, and all they had to do was come in and fucking sing. Well I get a phone call finally from them, not to apologize for running late or not even showing up to write the song with me (which they would later demand writing credit on)... But to ask me if I'd like to go to dinner with Paris Hilton instead. I was like, "I'm working.. Maybe you've heard of it?". They finally come down, brat-pack posse in tow. There's the token BFF (BeneFriend Forever!), the token little sister, the token GBGF (Gay Best Guy Friend, and a few other lucky sonofabitch hangers-on. GBGF starts trying to say to The Artist what HE doesn't like about the track (he's not in the music business btw. I've seen him jump like a parasite to about three other popular stars over the years). The little sister is freaking out over my shoes, and the assistant is frantic and acting melodramatic on her blackberry in the corner to make it seem like she's "working". Artist steps up to the mic to sing. First note is fucking horrible, out of tune, and cracking like a dinosaur bone in '08. They're like, "stop the music!!! I think I just damaged my vocal chord!!! The sister is crying. The GBGF is crying. The assistant is frantic, calling paramedics (no shit) to come to the studio. I run outside to call my manager to tell him I'm going home and that this is retarded. While I'm on the phone (it's only been 10 minutes), 2 whitecoat doctors come walking by me and into the studio (no shit). I walk in and instead of them checking their throat, they are giving them a cortisone shot in a zit about to come in. Unlike the last answer to the last question, this one is absolutely true. I couldn't make this shit up if I tried.Okay, now. Stump might not want names, but we sure as hell do. Who the fug is The Artist? Any guesses? Need to know.
This is what I want for Christmas, and you should want it, too. Among the most anticipated DVD releases of the year by cinephiles, Murnau, Borzage and Fox is to be admired for its daring and thorough offering of no less than twelve feature films, two "reconstructions" of lost films, two coffee table-sized books and one documentary, all housed within a ridiculously handsome faux-leather case. One can't accuse Fox of going only halfway with this release; as with their comprehensive Ford at Fox box set released this time last year, Murnau, Borzage and Fox digs deep into the archives and comes up with a wealth of highly desired films. Truly a monumental release, this box set not only satiates the ravenous appetites of classic film lovers, it also opens up new critical and historical discourses that were, up to now, impossible because of restricted access to prints. Previously, only one of these movies — the apex of silent film artistry, Sunrise (1927) — was ever released on DVD. As for the other eleven, it was up to the cunning viewer to wait for none-too-often theatrical screenings or search out poor quality bootlegs.
While the German auteur F.W. Murnau may get first billing in the title, the real star of the Murnau, Borzage and Fox box set is neglected expressionistic romantic Frank Borzage, who throughout the 1920s and 1930s was one Hollywood's top directors, striking the much-envied balance of artistic stylization and popular success.
The call girl-screwing, wife-cheating, financial column-writing shamed politico was spotted at Happy Ending (should we bother with the obvious massage parlor joke?) last night for Slate's seasonal drink party. The Financial Times's John Gapper got the dirt:
I went over afterwards to ask him how he was enjoying life as a columnist. "It sucks," he said with a grin. "I used to be governor of New York".
It would be a mistake to interpret the connections between any of Pina Bausch's dreamy, smooth compositions that flow together seamlessly as anything other than perfectly planned. She doesn't so much read your mind as create images on the stage that influence thoughts through color and movement, then precisely responds to those thoughts.
My favorite instance of this happened halfway through the second act of Bamboo Blues, when the black floor reappeared all white. White silky, billowing fabrics that hung from the ceiling highlighted the bright color-coded (by this I mean the woman in the red dress is fierce, the woman in the pale pink dress is soft and moves like butter) dresses on the female dancers. Bausch's gorgeous, strong, and stoically masculine male dancers were, in contract, wearing messily un-tucked black suits or white wrap-around fabrics, with few exceptions.
Just as I was thinking about the extremes of this contrast between the sexes (and as I found out later my color-oriented friend was pondering the blatant exception of the yellow on stage) a man walked out in a bright yellow dress and said with innocent enthusiasm and a heavy accent something along the lines of "yellow, it's bright, it's the color of strength and courage. It's even the color of curry," with characteristic Bauschian humor. The solo that followed, when another male dancer came out in a full, flowing white dress with a pink flower pattern, was not drag by any means. It was a display of purity â of moving body, flowing fabric, and poise; the kind of display that stays with you, competing in your daydreams only with those other unbearably lovely moments of the performance.
Pina Bausch and her troupe, Tanztheater (dance theater) Wuppertal Pina
Bausch, traveled to India this year to research the inspiration for
Bamboo Blues. Last year's Nefes was inspired by Turkey, where they
group also traveled together, but both pieces are more Bausch, more everyday,
more relationship and emotion driven than they are studies in location.
The colors, smells, food and culture of both places resonate as
feelings and dreams rather than literal depictions. The spectacle of
Nefes â the pouring rain on stage, the hammam, the color â is not
absent in Bamboo Blues, but it is more subdued.
The complaint against Bausch this time around is that she sometimes enters too polished perfume ad territory, which is a fair critique in the sense that gritty isn't a word you'd use to describe her work. But with a simple 2 by 2 diagonal march across stage in heels, wrapping and unwrapping sari-inspired fabrics, her dancers put you in a trance (the Indian/electronic music helps) and manage to hold a space that is both aggressive and amusing, and simply, appealingly on beat. There's nothing vacuous about the romantic and painful tableaux: a smiling couple lay, exquisite, on a flat bed that rolls back and forth over two bamboo poles; a woman in a red dress dunks her head in a bucket of water until an man comes from offstage to pull her out.
Anyone looking for straight narratives or strict interpretations of India will be confused, but what Bausch does is so much better. From Bollywood to traditional dance, references are made, but they are well digested, and they don't need to make sense. That's not the point. In an interview with Dance Teacher, Bausch said, "the co-productions always have something to do with certain countries or cities. In Italy we are busy with the whole culture of Italy or certain people you meet or normal life, or whatever. But otherwise, it's just â life is there and we are there. And that's it. I try to make visible what we all feel."
It's probably clear by now that I'm a fan â if Bausch is selling, I'm buying, thank you very much â but there's a reason this enigmatic choreographer has a cult following like no one else creating work right now. There are a number of ways to get to know her â Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her is one â but Bamboo Blues is running until the 14th and it is an exceptional production. If it's sold out, find a scalper. It's worth it.
Pina Bausch: Bamboo Blues
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave
through December 14
These days, style and fashion scribes have had no choice but to squeeze all that they can out of the Recessionista trend story. They're writing about clothing resale, recession-savvy salespeople, shopping bulemia and buyer's remorse, secret shopping parties, whisper sales, and more. But this week, The New Yorker found a different sort of hook: bags. Not Birkin, but paper. Not Tiffany powder blue, but an uobtrusive neutral. "If Santa has a sack, in 2008 it is probably a brown bag," writes Talk of the Town reporter Lauren Collins. Inconspicuous chic is here!
Collins spoke with Ron Raznick, the president of R.T.R. Packaging, who told her that businesses are selecting more "classical" bags, which makes sense, given the fact that everyone is championing this as a buyer's market perfect for picking up the pricey staples you can wear again and again. And he came up with an interesting, if not hilariously stereotypical metaphor. He compares the showy bag-lady to a blond girl that probably has big boobs (except he calls them "big, whatever, features" -- hah! Forgot you were talking to The New Yorker for a sec, hmm?) and the recession-savvy-sartorial lady to someone in an understated-yet-sexy LBD. No specific hair color is mentioned, but we're guessing he's referring to an Audrey Hepburn type: a brunette, perhaps, with tiny, perfect gold highlights?
Naturally, Collins wonders, because she is a rock star: "Does that make Forever 21, whose bright-yellow plastic bags have a tiny "John 3:16" printed on the underside, a redhead?"
It's as an important a question as any. Are Forever 21 bags gingers? We'll be waiting for an 8,000 word fashion feature that explores this ever further. If they can give Paumgarten that space for elevators, surely, she should have it for inconspicuous chic. Yoohoo? Mr. Remnick? We're waaaaiting!
Last week, she and J went to Common Ground, with uncertain results.
J rang my buzzer one day with an application for food stamps. On the application, he pointed out, was a place for a representative to sign. In light of our challenges getting the letter J wrote to establish me as his representative in his search for housing notarized, J decided to establish precedent by having me as his representative in acquiring food stamps. This seemed a sensible strategic move, and so I agreed. Looking back, I also think that he needed some help in apply for his food stamps. Not from a lack of understanding — he is the one teaching me about these systems — but because after years of interacting with the beauracratic process his tolerance for is almost non-existent.
We arranged to meet on a Thursday morning to go to the food stamp office on West 14th Street. It was a rainy cold morning when J rang my buzzer. I tried to make an argument for the bus, but J wanted to walk across town. He's a dedicated walker, and will often glide ahead of me, disappear into a crowd, then reappear before me, waiting with his hands in his pockets, smiling broadly at my confusion.
The food stamp office is in a large building with a flat and featureless gray front.