Friday, December 23, 2011

Short Video Dramatizes Terrifying Trauma of Chopping Down Christmas Trees

Posted By on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 2:42 PM

We've always found the annual ritual of mass conifer genocide carried out under the pretext of providing people with Christmas trees highly unnecessary and barbaric, an opinion we have a hard time articulating without coming off Scrooge-ish. Fortunately there's this delirious short video by London-based animation team Treat to impress upon us the brutality of chopping down trees in November only to throw them to the curb in January. (WhoKilledBambi?)

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A Guide to Christmas in Dyker Heights

Posted By on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 12:15 PM


The best concentration of houses in Brooklyn decorated gaudily for Christmas—odes to electricity that rival the Luna Park of the early 20th century—can be found in Dyker Heights, the once Italian, increasingly Chinese neighborhood between Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, particularly on 84th Street between 11th and 12th avenues. The Brooklyn Paper's Dan Macleod helpfully charted a walking tour that'll take you past most of the most ostentatious spots.

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Singing Christmas Hedgehogs, an Adorable Yuletide Interactive Video

Posted By on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 9:46 AM

Now, admittedly, these cute animated hedgehogs don't sing any of the songs on Mike Conklin's Christmas playlist, nor do they have high-pitched, chipmunk-y voices, but they're still the funnest holiday singers we've seen since Karen O. As Ali G once said of a hedgehog: "That would make a good football."

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The Artist: A Silent Movie that Won't Shut Up About Talkies

Posted By and on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 at 8:58 AM

Sacré bleu, what happened to the audio?!
  • "Sacré bleu, what happened to the audio?!"
Hey, it’s Mutual Oscarbation, our awards season feature in which Benjamin Sutton and Henry Stewart find out during what sorts of movies Academy members are reminiscing about old Hollywood. This week they wonder what went wrong with the soundtrack to Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist.

Talk about your escapist prestige seasons, eh, Ben? Over the past few weeks, we haven't yet seen a 2012 Oscar contender set in the present day; we've hardly even seen a movie set in America. Scorsese chose to make a movie not only set far in the past, but also in Europe. The Europeans have also been focused on the past and on Europe, as in My Week with Marilyn or the upcoming Iron Lady. France's The Artist is the apotheosis of this escapist trend: it's set in the 20s-30s, in Hollywood (escapist for French people, Ben), and it's not only black-and-white but silent—that's right, an honest-to-goodness silent movie, a sort of ode to the charm, physicality and romanticism of Chaplin. How much more distanced from unpleasant realities could you be? Though, did you notice how often the film referenced talkies of the 30s and 40s? It seemed more enamored of a different kind of Hollywood than the one it ostensibly celebrates; I saw a lot more direct "quotes" from Casablanca, Citizen Kane, The Broadway Melody of 1940 and especially The Thin Man than I did anything by Melies or Harold Lloyd.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Best Concerts of 2011

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 2:03 PM

The first concert I saw in 2011 was Dean Wareham plays Galaxie 500 at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey. The last: next Tuesday’s eighth night of Hanukkah Yo La Tengo show, also at Maxwell’s. (I really like it there.) In between, I saw dozens of other concerts in multiple states with hundreds of other performers—a fourth of which came from CMJ probably—at festivals, bowling alleys, and churches.

These are my five favorites from the year. (Northside excluded, for conflict of BLAH BLAH BLAH).

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The Internet's 8 Best Hanukkah Music Videos

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 1:10 PM

Ill keep Jesus, you keep your potato pancakes.
  • "I'll keep Jesus, you keep your potato pancakes."
"Do you ever get sad around Christmas time because you don't celebrate Christmas?" is a question I've been asked, inevitably, every year out of years I can remember being alive. But no, I'm not sad. It's not worth trying to give a false equivalence to Hanukkah during Christmas. The "Festival of Lights" isn't even a high holy day, and no one can even agree on one way to spell it, for Christ's sake. But at least we can take joy in kitsch, and Hanukkah kitsch is some of the best kitsch around. For those of you whose inboxes aren't filled with Judaism-related chain mail forwarded to you by your grandmother, here is a brief introduction to the best of this internet genre, after the jump.

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My 2011 in Song

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 12:28 PM


For me, the punk line of the year (in a great year for punk) was probably Dan Boeckner’s yelped, “Nostalgia…never meant much to me.” That it came in the middle of “Memories of the Future”, a product of Handsome Furs’ committed turn towards dance music, gave him further cred as a non-sentimentalist. We fretted about nostalgia a lot this year, even while indulging in it. But outside of the 25 prestated albums that the L’s music section loved collectively, there were plenty of songs that kicked my ass, and not because they reminded me of being a teenager (getting his ass kicked).

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Brooklyn Artists Plan Interactive Light Sculpture Under BQE

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 11:00 AM

(Courtesy Artist Build Collaborative)
  • (Courtesy Artist Build Collaborative)

The artists Shagun Singh, Valeria Bianco and Michelle Brick, who go collectively by Artist Build Collaborative, have just launched a Kickstarter campaign to complete a project begun with a grant from the MTA: to create an interactive public sculpture and light installation under the BQE in Red Hook, near the currently-shuttered Smith-Ninth Street station. The installation, dubbed "Silent Lights," would create shifting light patterns by night in response to traffic noise.

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Missing Ditmas Park Cafe Owner's Body Identified

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 10:05 AM

Missing Ditmas Park cafe owner Josh Rubin's body was identified by authorities yesterday, the Post reports. Rubin, who'd been missing since Halloween, was shot to death in the woods of eastern Pennsylvania on November 1; his body was burned and found along a rural road by a "public works employee who was cleaning up tree branches after a weekend snowstorm," the South Whitehall Patch reported. Days after the body was discovered, Rubin's credit card was used at outlet stores upstate, but as of now police have no suspects.

It took investigators six weeks to identify Rubin. "The condition of the body made it very tough on all the forces working on the case," a local Pennsylvania TV station reports, "mainly because all they found were skeletal remains." Local police had released composite drawings of what they believed the victim to look like.

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John Chamberlain, Sculptor of Smashed Cars, Dead at 84

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 8:59 AM

John Chamberlain, HAWKFLIESAGAIN (2010).
  • John Chamberlain, "HAWKFLIESAGAIN" (2010).

John Chamberlain, the American sculptor whose immense, muscular yet often surprisingly delicate sculptures were made from smashed, scrunched and crumpled cars, died yesterday at age 84. Born in Rochester, Indiana in 1927, and raised in Chicago, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago and Black Mountain College in the 50s before rising to prominence in the art world. A major retrospective of his work is scheduled to open in February at the Guggenheim, where, in 1970, the first retrospective of his work was presented.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kim Jong-il, DJ

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 4:27 PM

Kim Jong-il, DJ.
  • Kim Jong-il, DJ.

Unlike Mark's considered examination of recently-deceased North Korean dictator (and sex symbol?) Kim Jong-il's cinephilia, the funny new Tumblr Kim Jong-il Dropping the Bass simply features images of the curious tyrant photoshopped into sweaty clubs, often spinning alongside some of the world's most famous DJs. (BoingBoing)

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List of Artists in 2012 Whitney Biennial Leaked

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 3:39 PM

We know wholl be hanging here next year.
  • We know who'll be hanging here next year.

In a vain attempt to upstage our many, many art lists today, the Whitney Museum has released (or leaked? it's unclear) one of their own: the names of the artists who will be featured in its 2012 Biennial, which runs from March 1st to May 27th.

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Prospect Park's Free Wireless Finally Switched on

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 2:50 PM

Theres wireless here now, really.
  • There's wireless here now, really.

Last month we excitedly reported that the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation's partnership with AT&T to bring free wireless internet to Brooklyn parks had just launched in Prospect Park, but it turns out there were a few bugs to work out before Slopers could begin blogging while dog-walking. The free wireless finally went live from the Picnic House last week, but how far does it reach?

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Not Everyone Loves That St. Vincent Record (I Don't Love That St. Vincent Record)

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 2:01 PM

Numerous people whose opinions I value and respect have been telling me that Strange Mercy is a good record — good enough to rank among the top two albums of the year even — while I struggled to listen to it all the way through. Pop critic Jim DeRogatis seemed to be onto something when he wrote it's "what happens if you cross the insufferably cute Zooey Deschannel with the Natalie Portman of Black Swan" — a description he'd later retract, noting that it made the album sound more interesting than it was to actually listen to. For me, it remains a spot-on characterization of Annie Clark's juxtaposing her porcelain doll looks with a damaged femme fatale persona. But by comparing her to two actresses, DeRogatis also calls to attention my biggest hang-up with Strange Mercy: It sounds far too meticulously planned out, and she far too self-aware, to externalize in-the-flesh pain and catharsis.

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Brooklyn's Dirtiest Parks

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 1:10 PM

For the last three years, parks in the Canarsie-Flatlands-Marine Park area have gotten the lowest grades in the city for cleanliness and general conditions, the Daily News reports. For the latter, fewer than half of the area's parks received passing grades, the lowest in the city by far; the citywide average is 83 percent passing. Just over half of the parks were acceptably clean, compared to a 66 percent average in other areas of Brooklyn and an 87 percent average citywide.

The problem is money: since 2008, when the economy went kaput, parks department funding has been slashed—notice how tall the grass gets before they cut it?

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Jonathan Ames Buying a Round Tonight for Bummed Bored to Death Fans

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 12:18 PM

Hey, its Brooklyn! I live there!
  • Hey, it's Brooklyn! I live there!
Just recently I was catching up with season three of Bored to Death: Zach Galifianakis cracked a joke about Park Slope, Jason Schwartzman was hanging off of the Williamsburgh Bank Tower, and I turned to my father and asked, "do people who don't live in Brooklyn find this show funny?" He suggested the hyperlocalism was more an extra layer of hilarity for those in the know, but that it was still a funny show on its own. I think he might have been wrong: yesterday, HBO announced it was canceling Bored to Death, along with several other shows, saddening young people with HBO subscriptions across the borough. Apparently, no one was watching anymore: the show "opened its third season to a... disappointing average viewership of just 240,000," the Hollywood Reporter reports, "a significant drop from the 1.1 million the second season garnered a year earlier."

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Kim Jong-il, Cinephile

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 11:26 AM

Earlier this year, The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu, a three-hour assemblage of archival footage charting the reign of Romania's Cold War-era autocrat, showed Ceausescu visiting a fellow communist dictator, North Korea's Kim Il-sung; the two of them sit side-by-side in a stadium, holding binoculars as "seemingly the entire populace shows up to fete Ceausescu with the halftime show to end all halftime shows," Nick Pinkerton noted in these pages earlier in the year. The show, featuring incredible color-coordinated crowd choreography and stadium card displays, is, Nick writes, "the spectacle of a hermetically sealed society constructed at every level around showing a single man what he wants to see, giving him the applause that he wants to hear"; it's one of the moments when "the author of one national simulacrum visiting foreign manufactories of same," along with Ceausescu's visit to Hollywood.

Kim Il-sung's son and heir, Kim Jong-il, who just died, is best known in the West for one especially memorable Hollywood simulacra. Well, turnabout is fair play. Dictatorship is in some respects an extreme form of mis-en-scene, and North Korea was a closed country in denial over the depths of its deprivation under Kim Jong-il, who treated the nation and its people as set dressing and extras for his own cult of personality. He also loved movies as much as any world leader ever has.

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Your Weekend at the Multiple Spielberg Movies

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 10:35 AM

There's something of a release-date clustercuss going on down at the multiplexes this weekend: you've got your regular Friday openers, you've got some gun-jumping Wednesday openers, and you've got a few traditional Christmas Day Even Though It's not a Wednesday or Friday openers. Because probably your movie choices will be at least somewhat informed by who you spend the weekend with and possibly not being in New York at all, for now I'll focus on the movies targeting your whole-family dollars.

The Adventures of Tintin (12/21) and War Horse (12/25): Here's one of my favorite quirks of Steven Spielberg's career: every three to five years, he'll deliver a pair of movies in a single calendar year, usually a big popcorn movie followed by something more serious and with fewer aliens. This started inauspiciously when he chased Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with possible career-worst Always in 1989; his next attempt, with Jurassic Park/Schindler's List, gave him the highest-grossing movie of the year and an entirely separate Best Picture/Best Director Oscar winner (top that, James Cameron!). He's at it again with The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse, only they're separated by four days instead of five or six months.

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Further Thoughts on My Year in Music

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 9:43 AM

The most glaring omission from our list (and I concede that there are a few) is, of course, Bon Iver. It's strange how that came to be, but maybe not really: It's a you-either-get-it-or-you-don't kind of album, I think, and most of us here at The L just don't, even those of us (hello) you might assume would be all over it. But in fact, it's worth noting that after reading Amanda Petrusich's blurb about it for Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums feature, which you probably already know it topped, I decided I owed it another close listen. So this past weekend, on a weirdly sleepy early Saturday afternoon, I played the record really loudly on my main stereo system while lying on my couch listening as intently as I could. And, hey! It's really pretty! And there are lots of really unexpected turns that almost always take the song to an entirely different and better place. But each song also takes an eternity to unfold, which of course isn't a bad thing, but one of the reasons I continue to be surprised it's been quite so successful. It's been called "easy listening" by some, because yes, it features a handful of those signifiers. But the album's reluctance to reveal itself makes it something of a challenge, which, you know, I'm surprised people like Jessica Simpson are up to. It's weird, too, that even though I've come around to it in some ways, I still can't quite figure out when I'll want to listen to it again, which I mean not as a dig but a simple fact that will most definitely influence my relationship with it.

Moving on: My personal year-end list bears less of a resemblance to the magazine-wide list than it has in previous years, because I used an actual point system to come up with the results this time around, factoring in everyone else's lists exactly as much as my own and not taking any liberties in terms of pushing albums through that I felt strongly about. More so than if I'd done it this way in any other year, I think it made things particularly weird for me in 2011. In compiling my own top albums list, I realized that there was probably less separating my number one from, say, my number 30 than any other year I can remember, and so there were a lot of records I feel could have easily gotten the nod.

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NYPD Criticized for Handling of Investigation in Brooklyn Cyclist's Death

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 8:58 AM

Mathieu Lefèvres ghost bike. (Courtesy
  • Mathieu Lefevre's ghost bike. (Courtesy

Shortly after midnight on October 19th, 30-year-old Brooklyn-based Canadian artist Mathieu Lefèvre was cycling along Morgan Avenue near the corner of Meserole Street when he was struck and killed by the driver of a turning flatbed truck. The case surrounding the fatal hit-and-run by the NYPD's Accident Investigation Squad has raised eyebrows—the driver's claim that he never saw Lefèvre was taken at face value, despite apparent evidence to the contrary—and now Steve Vaccaro, the attorney for Lefèvre's family, has published a letter (embedded below) accusing the police department of mishandling their investigation and losing crucial evidence.

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