Three installation artists with shows in Williamsburg right now have created spaces that are at once generic and highly specific. The effect of walking into their exhibitions is not unlike the Funhouse at a county fair, where the tweaking and subversion of every rule of architecture and design will make you hyper-aware of every "normal" space you visit for the following week.
The most extreme dislocation comes when walking into John Bjerklie's surreal TV installation at Parker's Box. It's like a DIY version of Nam June Paik's televisual landscapes, though Bjerklie's vision is decidedly darker, more jagged and substitutes uncanniness for playfulness. Crafted out of plywood scraps and duct tape, the effect is somewhere between a forest of nightmares, subconscious cave and post-apocalyptic wasteland. Throughout, closed-circuit monitors show the artist's performances and us, the bewildered viewer, exploring this strange new space.
February 12, 1809. Both of them, bicentennial men. It's a great day for secular progressives!
In their honor, a pop quiz! Who are these people we are looking at, in what context?
Shmuley Boteach is a somewhat controversial figure and an increasingly visible talking head who has authored some 20 books. He's also the host of TLC's Shalom in the Home, and is a frequent guest on national television and radio programs. His newest title, The Kosher Sutra: Eight Sacred Secrets for Reigniting Desire and Restoring Passion for Life hit the shelves just in times for Valentine's Day, and addresses something he's identified as a central problem in western romantic relationships: the loss of desire, passion and eroticism. It should also be mentioned that he and his wife have 9 children, which may at least partially explain his interest in love and sex.
The L: You've written several books about love, relationships, masculinity and sexuality. In your most recent title, The Kosher Sutra, you identify and address something you see as a systemic problem in American culture: the loss of passion and eroticism, both within the context of marriage and in a broader way that applies to how we approach our jobs, friendships, familial and romantic relationships. In your estimation, what are some of the root causes of the deadened passion and lost eroticism that you describe in your book?
Shmuley Boteach: Loss of curiosity, immersion in a culture of instant gratification that abnegates mystery. Sex especially has had so much light cast on it there is nothing left to explore or to discover. There are areas of life that are meant to exist behind curtains and veils. But in this supremely visual and superficial age, nothing is left to linger in the shadows.
The L: Though you're a rabbi and though the book is replete with references to religious texts and traditions, the practical advice you give seems applicable to a broad audience. I'm curious to know who you think can benefit from this book, and whether you think a secular couple would be able to get as much from reading it as, say, a religious Jewish couple. How about a couple of long-married Methodists?
When I was a very young child, sometimes, like on Valentine's Day, our living room would be visited by someone called "The Jelly Bean Fairy," who would come in the night and leave jelly beans hidden in secret places, like the corner of the bookshelf, in between the black keys on the piano, et cetera.
Now, instead of the Jelly Bean Fairy, my V-Day sugar IV comes courtesy The City Sweet Tooth, Abby Denson's comic-column, which today focuses on delicious chocolate, to be used in lieu of romantic satisfaction.
An 80-minute noir lark — set within the self-immolating Left, with a purposefully incoherent plot — it was shot concurrently with 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, in longish scenes in interior or otherwise self-contained locations. The movie seems at times like a repository for all the gags, philosophical tangents and low-culture references Godard couldn't work into that more rigorous work.So, naturally, Film Forum is also bringing back 2 or 3 Things (like Made a not-long-ago Film Forum revival, and similarly unavailable on DVD), so you can compare and contrast. For the L's take, check our Nicolas Rapold's review for the now-defunct New York Sun, in which he calls it "a questing, irreducibly visual meditation as only Mr. Godard could produce, about a metastasizing Paris and vampiric consumerism, about the relation between word and image, about red, red cars and the wind in the trees."
Model and DJ indie turned soon-to-be-blog-beloved indie rocker Lissy Trullie is playing at the Mercury Lounge tonight to mark the release of her debut Self-Taught Learner EP. Because he wants you to know how on top of everything he is, Sasha Frere-Jones writes about her, in a Critic's Notebook in the current New Yorker.
Here at L Mag HQ, we've just spent several minutes trying to decipher what, exactly, SFJ is saying:
No, not like making animals out of food (sadly). More like transforming a gallery into a fully functional bodega. For art. (A repurposing of familiar sights into a context of controlled art? A Potemkin village for reverse-gentrification? Just sort of a cool idea?) Come April, Ryan Watkins-Hughes is doing that, with the Heist Gallery, on Essex Street. In the meantime, bring them non-perishables, to use. (All the unused food will eventually go to food banks, or, as you call them, "The only bank I need anymore.")
Press release, with hot steamy details, after the jump.
From Harper.com's Week in Review comes the news: Hans Beck, creator of the Playmobil line, died last month aged 79.
Beck, a toy maker for the German company Geobra BrandstÃ¤tter, invented the small plastic toys in the early 70s, thus providing millions of children countless hours of wholesome, orderly fun.
Seriously, if in the late 1980s you were a small child already well on his way to becoming a severely anal-retentive adult, there was nothing more satisfying than laying out on the living room floor and playing with themed sets of German toys that had friendly faces but were very firm about the type of imaginary world in which they belonged. No changeable costumes; all the toys in the one box; just look at the scene on the box and go off of that.
"No horror, no superficial violence, no short-lived trends."
Over the weekend, I discovered a use for He's Just Not That Into You — the movie, not the book, although I imagine the book would make an okay projectile, especially if it were lit on fire. The movie version, while incompetent at comedy, romance, psychological drama (eek, it kind of tries!), or insight beyond "jerky guys are jerks, but aren't you also kind of an idiot, you jerk?" did help me zero in on my instinctive dislike of Jennifer Aniston.
Usually if I'm explaining why I don't like Jennifer Aniston, I say it's because she's often cast as someone who is supposed to be smart and funny, and is mostly pretty terrible at conveying either of those qualities. But this new movie, even with only a supporting amount of Aniston, highlights what gets in the way: so many of her film roles are steeped in self-pity.
Or, Private Parts in Public Places. Filipino fest favorite Serbis is about a family living in the Family, a brokedown movie palace now showing porn flicks while rent boys offer "serbis" ("service") while you watch. In one day, lasting a little less than 90 minutes, we get a bigamy lawsuit, an unwanted pregnancy, affairs, a robbery, and a few dozen secondary grease-fire crises.
An odd comparison, but: Hitchcock's Sabotage is another genre movie (a thriller, rather than a multi-threaded, melodramatic, serial-seeming soap opera) about people who run a movie theater, and live inside it. And both Sabotage and Serbis seem to point out the ways in which their characters live in, well, a movie: Serbis's opening credits play over very scratched black leader, and the film ends with the celluloid burning up (like Two Lane Blacktop, weirdly), like the world is contained within the celluloid.
Life here is spectacle.
Let's get right to this one: Speck Mountain are from Chicago (though they got started here), and you will like them, if you like ambient-sorta space rock with husky vocals and a bluesy undertow. Imagine your favorite psychedelic band doing the Staple Singers. (Or, you know, Spiritualized.) They are soothing on your headphones and almost a bit heroic live.
See them tonight, at Cake Shop, or on Thursday, at D.I.Y. Bushwick venue Vanishing Point. Download their Daytrotter Session. Tattoo their name on the sole of your foot, so no one knows it's there except you.
the questions asked of Audrey Ference, The Natural Redhead, in the current issue of the L.
Sometimes when I'm about to have an orgasm, I get a really painful cramp in one or both feet, such that I have to stop what I'm doing and go "Ow, my foot!" and shake and/or rub it out, which pretty much ruins the moment for everyone involved. What could be causing this? Is there anything I can do to stop it? Should I just try to ignore it in the hopes that the orgasm will happen anyway and make me forget about the horrible, shooting pain in my foot?
Dear sir or madam (I genuinely do not no which! This is by far the most gender-neutral question I have ever answered!), as you can imagine I have never, in my many years of lovemaking, encountered such a problem. Because I am a goose. Because I have webbed feet. Also I am made out of wood, and not real.
Anyhoo, I dunno. If I had to guess I would say that this pre-orgasm cramp is god's way of reminding you that if He wanted you to enjoy sex, He would have made it more like Parcheesi.
I mean, who's to say? Maybe I would come to hate women as much as the makers of He's Just Not That Into You evidently do, if I had to make my living peddling them this horseshit. (We're supposed to feel one of two things for all the women in the movie: pity or disapproval. Cluck and pet, or encircle peck to death.) But if your idea of a girls night out really is to chat with other women over the men you use for a barometer of your own self-worth (and, apparently, not much else), well, this song handles guy-always-pays gender politics with fewer Greek choruses of straight-talking gays, embarrassingly blocked one-liners and characters talking about the technology they're using as they're using it; and a helluva lot more sophistication. Probably because it does not retrofit characters to sitcom-sized nuggets of pop sociology.
Also, as Sassy Black Woman(TM) go, we all much prefer Beyonce and her backup dancers to Ribs and Ice Cream.
It really was a Great Depression, if you look at the movies that were made during it; starting tonight, and continuing through Valentine's Day, Presidents Day and the passage of the stimulus bill, Film Forum looks back at how Hollywood articulated and then conquered America's fear (itself). On-the-make gangster and showgirl antiheroes for the starving pipe-dreamers out there; oleaginous banker villains, political profiles in courage and collectivist melodramas, for a stirred, politicized populace; wish-fulfillment musicals of uplifting spectacle; and hard-earned, resourceful, giddy screwball comedies of remarriage.
Hey, it's like the movies always tell us: times get tough, people need the movies more than ever. So go on, go to the movies.
Pictured, incidentally, is Ginger Rogers singing "We're in the Money," from Gold Diggers of 1933, Bonnie Parker's favorite movie if you believe everything you see on screen.
Anthology for a week beginning today. The L's Cullen Gallagher reviews.
Steven Soderbergh's 4-hour Che (2008) is no longer the biggest revolutionary epic on New York's movie screens. It's been dethroned by Jonas Mekas and his five-hour Lithuania and the Collapse of the USSR (2009). The thesis-like title manages the difficult task of condensing the scope of the movie into a manageable, albeit blunt, summary. Mekas does, indeed, chronicle Lithuania's role in the "fall of the USSSR" — but in using his characteristic diaristic approach, the film's straightforward narrative belies its complexity. Positioning the video camera in front of the television set, Mekas records television news broadcasts exactly as they were originally shown. He doesn't manipulate the clips, except that the sounds of his family going about their daily lives are audible in the background. The camera, literally, takes the place of the television viewer, watching history as it happens on-screen, and powerless to do anything about it.
I was skeptical, of course, when I read promotional materials calling the latest digital 3D technology "the future of cinema". And I was even more skeptical (skepticaler?) when Michael Lewis, the CEO of Real D, currently the premier digital 3D company in the country, told me "cinema up to this point has been a cheat" because "we see the world in 3D, not in 2D."
But now, my cynicism is starting to crack. I'm beginning to believe that 3D really is the future of cinema. And that that might be a good thing.
In a way the up-and-coming Lower East Side gallery district is the perfect setting for exhibitions of refashioned cultural material. Granted, its narrow retrofitted, tin-ceilinged spaces don't feature the relatively high median standard of art found in Chelsea's lofty warehouse galleries, but when artists and gallery directors successfully transform second- (or older) generation spaces and objects into new configurations, Lower East Side galleries gain a vitality all their own.
In Lehmann Maupin's beautiful old factory warehouse, Kanye-approved Japanese post-pop artist Mr. continues his canonizing of young Japanese men's culture of cuteness known as kawaii. In a series of large-scale photographs, a massive anime-style painting and a 35-minute video installation, Mr. puts the subculture's fetishized, adolescent, pre-sexual female fantasy objects front and center. Though less sexually explicit than much of his previous work, Mr.'s parody criticizes a cultural penchant towards displaced sexuality and socially constricting female roles that is self-evident in Japan's popular media, but not necessarily any less prevalent in our own.
Hey there. I know you're generally pretty apolitical, what with the being a tumor and all. But still. We all really appreciate your waiting until January of 2009 to grow large enough to be detected.
Multitudes of People! Walking up the hills!
I noticed, reading Dangerous Laughter, that Steven Millhauser tends to recombine elements over and over again in his short stories: that fabular first-person plural voice, sometimes splintering off into singular about halfway through; that archive of stock images of archetypal Americana. He has his toolkit; he applies it to the task at hand. Invariably, the task at hand has to do with describing a work or art, or, like here, of nature, that promises a new logic progressing inexorably towards an all-encompassing conclusion. Think of the Borges parable about the map the size of a country — and add another element of Millhauser's toolkit: a sense of the dread that comes while approaching the absolute, or the luminosity that comes upon reaching it.
This story, which is basically a Zen Buddhist version of The Trouble with Tribbles, is a variation on that theme, essentially timeless but actually quite timely in its atmosphere of collective expectation.
And at 1535 words, it's about two sentences too long to be a Literary Upstart submission (get your stories in!).
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