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01/01/14 4:00am


Hyperbole and a Half
By Allie Brosh
(Touchstone)

I don’t read a lot of books about depression; many unhelpfully limit the conversation. But Allie Brosh’s new book of graphic essays, subtitled Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened is a direct, searingly honest, yet hilarious take on depression that’s dark in the right places. It might not offer “it gets better” reassurances, but it offers empathy, compassion, and a sense of community, which are all more valuable. “Nobody can guarantee that it’s going to be okay,” Brosh writes in “Depression Part Two,” “but… the possibility exists that there’s a piece of corn on a floor somewhere that will make you just as confused about why you are laughing as you have ever been about why you are depressed… [Not] knowing feels strangely hope-like.”

Hyperbole and a Half started as a blog in 2009, when Brosh forfeited her dreams of becoming a scientist and started sharing her drawings on the Internet. The book collects some reader favorites and some brand new pieces like “Motivation,” an essay describing Brosh’s self-induced fearing and shaming to force her to get shit done. The ensuing shame circuit in which Brosh finds herself feels all too familiar, but the way in which she eventually takes ownership of her self-destruction is eye-opening. “I’m still hoping that perhaps someday I’ll learn how to use willpower like a real person, but until that very unlikely day, I will confidently battle toward adequacy, wielding my crude skill set of fear and shame.”

Brosh’s absurd, alien-like stand-in and its manic-depressive facial expressions aim to blow depression a little bit out of proportion, and, combined with her anecdotal prose, they curiously make portraits of crippling mental illness all the more real and piercing. The tonal balance between levity and gravity is clear in the interplay between text and image; both do equal storytelling duty. Drawings elegantly (and hilariously) paint the crushing pressure of pointlessness and apathy without crossing into sentimentality. This is the book’s biggest accomplishment; some essays, like “Lost in the Woods” and “This is Why I’ll Never Be an Adult,” both end with little to no catharsis for the reader. Some breakdowns stay forever.

But I laughed through the whole thing, even through some of the lukewarm pieces about her two dogs’ strange personalities. (Yes, you can most certainly have too many anecdotes about your pets in one volume!) Which is to say, I’m grateful for Allie Brosh. Hers is a welcome new voice in the conversation about depression. Measured and sober self-reflections don’t always have to be somber. You’ve still got to laugh, because “maybe everything isn’t hopeless bullshit.”

10/08/13 10:37am

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I’m very sad I haven’t been following this the last month. For one, we could use a little levity in the wake of the several massive political and cultural traumas we’ve endured—and are still enduring—the last couple of weeks. But acknowledgments are due: I only heard about this amazing artifact of pop culture through Brooklyn Vegan, which reported on this five days ago: William Shatner’s new prog rock record, a collaboration with members of Yes. It is titled Ponder the Mystery, and it is awesome.

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If you follow the BV link to the Rolling Stone interview (or just read the choice quotes they pulled) about the new Shatner effort, you’ll get the gist of why I’m fascinated. For one, Shatner confronts the opinion that his music projects are novelty and pure kitsch. Asked if he’s worried that listeners will just assume that it’s a novelty record, Shatner replied that it was up to him to “convince them that it’s not a novelty record.”

So, I ask you L Magazine reader, to judge for yourself. A few weeks ago, Something Else Reviews streamed a song from the upcoming LP titled “Where Does Time Go”. The song opens up with a bad rip-off of Dark Side of The Moon-esque clock-ticking, and then a pulsing synth enters just ahead of Shatner’s voice. “Where does time go,” Shatner wonders (not sings!), “I’ve finished the dishes. I’d go to the store. Before I know it, time is no more. I planned for the weekend, I drive to the sea. Lunch at the deli, no time for tea.” And, when the drum kicks, Shatner seems to drip into an existential quandary: “Where does time go?”

I want to give the man credit, even though he did some, um, unmentionable things to Pulp’s “Common People” and Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” (alright, yeah, the solo at 3:27 by Zakk Wylde isn’t bad). Shatner’s been making tunes since the late ’60s. There’s a “beatnik” version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” that appeared alongside dramatic readings of some of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches on the album The Transformed Man. And 1968 Shatner isn’t so much different from 2013 Shatner, except that the late ’60’s concepts and arrangements are more interesting. But this is not novelty. This is really how Shatner imagines music. And, in that light, it is pretty fucking awesome. And “prog rock” doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom and apocalypse, it can be funny too. Maybe that’s just my reading. So, either Shatner is a conceptual artistic genius by fooling us that this is his idea of music, or he’s actually genuine. In either case, it’s damned interesting. Now, all we have left to do is wait for Leonard Nimoy to start making music like this again.

10/07/13 12:36pm

taxi.png

  • Image via cinemovies.fr

The NY Times blog City Room posted today about a new show airing on French airwaves soon: “Brooklyn Taxi.” Though their headline would’ve been better if it had read: “Exported to France, a Sitcom Set in Brooklyn.”

“Brooklyn Taxi” stars Grey’s Anatomy star Chyler Leigh and Jacky Ido (who appeared in Inglorious Basterds) as an odd-cop duo in Brooklyn’s fictional 125th precinct. Well, Ido’s character isn’t actually a cop, only Leigh’s capable driver. Leigh, who’s the “laughingstock” of her precinct because of her notoriously bad driving, hires Ido to zip around the borough. Is this what French TV producers find funny?

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Two things. One nitpicky and one, well, that sounds like I’ve got a massive thorn in my side. Firstly, the show’s producer Gaetan Rosseau, who’s lived in Boerum Hill for eight years, says the show will be funny because “if you live in Brooklyn, you know there are no yellow cabs.” Not true! I used to work and play in adjacent nabe Fort Greene, and the corner where Greene meets Fulton (outside of No. 7) was regularly heavy with yellow cabs. And this was before Barclay’s opened. And now, in Crown Heights, I see them all the time. I blame the increased presence on how quickly CH is populating, and all the parents that are coming to visit their kids (sorry, Ma). Franklin Ave., for some reason, also seems to attract visitors that aren’t visiting family. Which brings me to my next point.

It doesn’t look like Chyler Leigh speaks French. Though Ido does speak the language, none of the dialogue on “Brooklyn Taxi” will be in French. All of it will be dubbed in French (Russian, Italian and Japanese for those markets—they’ve already been sold) before it airs across the pond. But, apparently, all of these places have heard about the last ten to fifteen years of Brooklyn’s “renaissance.” I guess this show is a sign of another stage in the “renaissance” of Brooklyn. The first stage, ten to fifteen years ago, saw unprecedented development and innovation, is now turning into another thing to consume, ogle, and export. Not unlike Manhattan, though I’m sure Rosseau would fight me on this, since Brooklyn is “more” than Manhattan. I don’t even know if it’s an issue of more or less now. For me, it’s more of an issue of being able to live in a place I feel comfortable walking around, and I don’t mean safety-wise. I mean recognizing people on my block, on other blocks, and not the slightly confused, camera-touting tourists standing around with a map. Yeah, New York City has always been a capital-D Destination, but not Brooklyn. It was peripheral to all that Manhattan hoo-ha, an echo of some its best qualities in spirit, but without the congestion. Like I said, I’ve got a thorn in my side, but I’d prefer not to have Brooklyn exported out into the world as a sitcom. There’s a reason why “sitcom” is always a little derisive.

09/25/13 12:12pm

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The Internet socialites were seemingly hit with a fatal blow yesterday: the revealing of the humans behind Horse_Ebooks and Pronunciation Book. I want to first say that I don’t feel cheated that Horse_Ebooks and Pronunciation Book (though I prefer the parody-of-a-parody: Pronunciation Manual) were real people making conceptual art out of the Internet. Twitter isn’t only one of the best platforms for jokes—it can also be seen as a set of formal restrictions an artist works to master. But, I’m sure some of you who do feel cheated may need some compensatory rebound accounts to fill the void and lick the wounds. So, we submit these five Twitter accounts for your consideration.

09/25/13 10:59am

c/o Nirvanas Facebook page.

  • c/o Nirvana’s Facebook page.

For as long as I’ve known about Nirvana’s In Utero, which turned 20 today, fans have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out if there was an authentic, pure “Albini mix” of In Utero. There’s some good information about that story in his Reddit AMA from last year, but it hasn’t stopped me from dreaming of the nigh-mythological “100% Albini mix.” Until today.

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the “Super Deluxe 20th Anniversary” edition of In Utero after hearing Albini speak to Vish Khanna on his podcast Kreative Kontrol. Disc 2, the “2013 mix,” is actually a brand new mix of the record by Albini, Noveselic, Grohl, and Smear. To me, this was as close to getting the Albini mix I’ve wanted. And, I’ll tell you, it’s totally ace. In this write-up by Khanna, Noveselic states that the new mix would be for fans who would listen in for small differences and additions. Below, I’ve outlined what the 2013 mix adds or detracts from the 1993 release. For your reference, I used the original 1993 CD release ripped into a variable bitrate against a 256k version of the 2013 mix.

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09/25/13 4:00am


Photo by Devon Banks

Monday
Deep Space

True night-life fiends never stop partying, but if you’re looking to start the week off right, Deep Space is the place. DJ/Producer and founder of Deep Space Francois K. wants you to experience the love for an “under-appreciated musical direction” that’s been taking over the electronic dance music landscape: dub. This isn’t the dubstep of Skrillex or deadmau5; this is the “future dub” of Brooklyn mainstay FaltyDL and UK honcho Joy Orbison. If you’re worried that you won’t “fit in,” don’t worry—most dub kids are welcoming and are just looking for enough space on the floor to groove. Bring eyedrops. Every Monday at Cielo, deepspacenyc.com.

Tuesday

WITCHES
What do Wicca and electro remixes of Taylor Swift have in common? On the last Tuesday of every month, the black-clad, lipstick Wiccan of Brooklyn converge on Tandem Bar in Bushwick to celebrate their Wiccan tendencies. This is probably the most interesting night on this list: at first sight, it may seem that this is a monthly Darkthrone and Burzum listening party, but once you get inside, you’ll be glad to see witches (and warlocks, too) mingling. Things to remember about Wicca: Wiccans are not Satanists, and they’d appreciate it if you kept the broom jokes at the door. facebook.com/witcheswicheswitches.

Wednesday

Crazy Legs
While they’re not serving booze at the Crazy Legs Skate Club, this weekly Bed-Stuy night is probably the most sober fun you’ll ever have. Classic 70s disco and funk play while you skate in the basketball court of The Salvation Army building on Kosciuzsko Street, lighted by, yes, a disco ball. Afterward, you can head over to Project Parlor or The Black Swan and nurse those bruises and continue the party. Short-shorts and sweat bands optional; dance moves required. At Skate Club.

Thursday

Basement Bhangra
If you’re sick of going to your local bar’s hip-hop or comedy night, stepping of your nightlife comfort zone is definitely in order. On the first Thursday of every month, head over to (Le) Poisson Rouge and check DJ Rekha’s “Basement Bhangra.” Bhangra–a mixture of Punjabi folk music with about every Western electronic form imaginable–has been Rekha’s mainstay since 1997, and the show regularly sells out. This is like nothing on the list, and we’re pretty confident you’ll be hard pressed to find something comparable outside of the five boroughs. Take note, tourists: unless you’re from India, this is a quintessential NYC underground nightlife
event. At (Le) Pousson Rouge, djrekha.com.

09/24/13 11:39am

Sexy Yoga Posers. c/o culturemap.com

  • Sexy Yoga Posers. c/o culturemap.com

More things to to keep your eye on in our infant century: Orgasmic Meditation classes. NY Mag has a very, um, titillating story about one of their writers attending one of these eight-hour, $195 classes in the city. The company OneTaste touts Orgasmic Meditation as “yoga” for your orgasm—well, the female heterosexual orgasm, mainly, according to NY Mag.

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As I’m writing this post, I’m trying to find something concrete I can tell you about OneTaste; something like a “mission statement” or something, but I’m not finding anything. Instead, I’m finding language that wants to convince you that higher knowledge of humanity is found in OM. Like this: “[OM is] the community that inspires, connects and is that special ingredient needed to light up the power grid of the world.” But before you’re allowed entry into the higher echelons of OM, you’ve got to have an OM Badge, which means you have to pay $195 to take the all-day class (or $29 for an online media package), then take a quiz. Once you pass the open-book quiz, you get an annual membership ($67) which then avails you to “access to all things OM.”

It’s only after all of this introductory training that you can have your first OM, which is ostensibly different than that last mind-blowing orgasm you had, man or woman. Gals and guys, if you’re having less-than-amazing orgasms, that’s OK. This class might even help you. But all the branding and trademarking going on here makes me think you’re really just buying new ways to describe to your partner how to have better sex, which you can already do for free. And if you really buy into it, it seems like OneTaste will make you only want to practice with other TurnedON men and/or women, since they know what it’s really like to orgasm.

09/06/13 1:05pm

c/o Jen Carlson & Gothamist

  • c/o Jen Carlson & Gothamist

In NYC novelty food item news, I’m happy to report the arrival of cronut creator Dominque Ansel’s new pastry: a “magical” portable soufflé.

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As you can probably infer from the photo above, one bite of this new pastry will probably send you to planes of euphoria the human gastrointestinal tract has never reached before. Gothamist “broke the news” and was treated to a tasting before the soufflé’s debut this Saturday at Smorgasburg. The “triple-textured edible cube” contains a molten chocolate center housed in a toasted brioche shell tinged with orange blossom. I’ve never had one of Ansel’s delights, but apparently he provides a short instruction manual with some of his pastries. So, you know, in case you were unsure how to eat food, Ansel orders that you “bite directly” into the magical puffed up pastry. And, in case you were wondering whether or not Ansel is a closeted chemistry PhD, there’s “‘no spherification or adding strange hydrocolloids'” in this pastry. (In case you’re wondering, hydrocolloids can look like this).

Gothamist promises some more photos of that transcendent chocolate puff later today, and if you line up extra early for a cronut tomorrow, Ansel himself just might surprise you with a soufflé of your own. Just don’t let anyone with long fingernails or safety pins get too close to you, or try to bribe it away from you. You’re going to want to hold onto this treat.

Follow Ryan Chang on twitter @avantbored.

09/04/13 11:01am

shavaunna getting some beers. C/o Instagram user shavaunna.

  • “shavaunna” getting some beers. C/o Instagram user shavaunna.

So, I’m sure you’ve noticed that Facebook’s really amped up their personalized ad placements. They’re all over your feed. And I’m sure you’ve noticed two kinds of ads: the ads that were teleported from your adolesence (Get A Six-Pack In Less Than Six Weeks!), and the kind that really have nothing to do with you. Case in point: McDonald’s. McDonald’s social media presence has been astounding lately. It’s scary how sneaky their ads are. It takes me a second to realize I’m not looking at a friend’s photo, but McDonald’s Instagram account.

I’m worried about McDonald’s Instagram. Because they’re a corporation who sell food like this, but also post pictures like this. I know this is McDonald’s using Instagram’s filters to dress up and distort the reality of their otherwise unappetizing food, and I can’t help but feel like it’s a huge joke. But it’s not, I know McDonald’s is trying to make themselves look “cool” (Evidence here).

I’m concerned, perhaps unnecessarily. So, I thought I would look at some “real” joke Instagram accounts, and it only got worse. Yes, I did laugh at some of these Instagrams, but it was both a genuine laugh and one of nervous fear.

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The first one, while not a self-aware joke, very well should be one. It’s the good old TSA. I don’t know why they’ve removed all of their ‘grams, but they’ve apparently been ‘gramming since June. You can see a slideshow of some confiscated items at this HuffPo post here. Cool filter choices, man.

There’s also shavaunna, which is a collection of severed Barbie doll heads doing things like playing Madlibs, playing the piano, and going on dates. It’s creepy, morbid, and uncomfortably amusing. And isn’t your typical meme.

Like cashcats. While adorable, it’s a little old. Though I would not want to fuck with this feline.

And then, there’s itssteviewonder. I don’t know how to feel about this one, for obvious reasons. How many times can you crack Stevie-Wonder-is-blind jokes until it’s offensive? Oh, right…

I should preface this next account with the full disclosure that I will a) defend mid-90’s fratboy humor (like Billy Madison and Tommy Boy) to the ends of the earth, and b) this has, unfortunately, indelibly marked my sense of humor. I embarrassingly submit to you: ThatLooksLikeaDick. Oprah, Spider-Man, and children’s clothing are all in danger of looking like a dick.

Do I have a theory about what this all means? Not really. But I do feel compelled to say: Cool it, dudes.

Follow Ryan Chang on twitter @avantbored.

09/04/13 10:38am

c/o The Maid Man

  • c/o The Maid Man

Chuck Bennet runs a small cleaning “company” called “Maid Men.” I hesitate to call it a company because its “founder” himself is hesitant about it too. The Manhattan-born, Westchester-bred 31-year-old worked at the Hotel Elysee in Midtown, where “Maid Men” gets its name. The hotel was mentioned in an episode, and a friend of Bennet’s came up with the name on the fly. Bennet quit that job and started getting offers to clean friends’ apartments, and it eventually developed into other people’s condos. Bennet and I met up in McCarren Park and talked his love for cleaning, his own personal messiness, changes in Brooklyn, and trade secrets.

It seems like a strange question to ask, but how did you get into cleaning?

I was working at a hotel, and I had to work weekends, every single weekend, and I thought, “You know, why don’t I just be my own boss? Why don’t I just work for myself?” Then I just started cleaning my friends’ apartments, and I was doing it a lot, and I saved up some money, and I thought: “I could make this my 9-5.” Except maybe more of a 1-5.

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On the one hand you seem like just a dude in the world, but on the other, “Maid Men” seems like that stereotypically Brooklyn “start-up.”

I’m not really like an entrepreneur, I don’t have that kind of drive like a lot of people do, like they’re kind of relentless with it. It’s just what I do.

How did you come up with the name? Was the hotel featured on the show?

Well, it wasn’t on the show, but a scene took place there. The hotel I worked at is right on Madison Ave., and I think my friend came up with the name. It was just kind of a coincidence. It was just a catchy name. Even if you don’t want your house cleaned, you can still look at it and get a kick out of it.

How are you promoting yourself?

Right now I’m just doing word of mouth, and I’ve only been doing this since the summer. On my Facebook I had a picture of me in a maid’s uniform and that got some attention, and I put some fliers up in the neighborhood. I should have more, but I’ve been kind of lazy about it. But I have a lot of business already as it is, and I’m not trying to create a big business or a brand or anything.

What do you find enjoyable about cleaning?

I just like doing it. My brain feels organized if something else is organized. And I’m a very messy person myself, in my own life, but I find I’m really good at cleaning other people’s stuff. And when I was cleaning rooms at the hotel, I just got really good at it.

So it kind of unclutters your mind, you know, because it’s so mindless?

Well, you don’t want to mess up someone’s apartment, but I’m not working at the United Nations. It’s pretty simple work, and it gives me more time to do what I like to do.

Yeah, so you’re a rapper?

I’m more of a beatmaker slash producer. I was into it during my early 20’s, and I did some records for some people and fell out of it, but in the last couple of years I’ve been getting back into it. I’m pretty modest about it. Nobody wants to hear about a 30-year-old white rapper. And I try not to take myself too seriously.

Yeah, when I’d heard about you I was thinking about my own childhood when my family had a maid, who was an illegal immigrant, and I was the only one who sort of felt uncomfortable about what I would later learn was this large economic disparity. And I was thinking about the economic disparity here in Brooklyn, where it’s often the very successful and rich vs. the young, hungry creative person. And you’re here in Greenpoint, which has a lot of new buildings coming up all the time. Do you ever think about that when you’re cleaning an apartment?

It’s hard not to think about how hard some people work when you see these new expensive condos. And I don’t have any resentment towards those people who live in these condos. Chances are they work very hard, and they’re giving me work. There are a lot of new opportunities in this neighborhood, for better and for worse, and you’ve got to take advantage of that. It’s not like a pride thing for me. Someone needs to do it, and I’m filling a void.

I worked a desk job for a couple of years, and I couldn’t stand it. I would look at a computer all day. It was just not my type of thing.

Do you ever find weird stuff?

In the hotel you’d find all sorts of weird stuff that was left behind, but I don’t really find any of that kind of stuff in these apartments. But what’s funny is that most of my clients are already pretty clean themselves, but they take me on because I’m a deep cleaner. Like, I’ll dust, but that’s not my specialty. I had a client that was moving out of his apartment that he’d lived in for like ten years, and he wanted a bit of his deposit back, so I had to deep clean the whole thing. And he was a clean guy, but if you’ve lived in a place for that long stuff just accumulates.

But I kind of enjoy how dirty a place is. The dirtier the place is, the more I’m into it. People always apologize, but I’m always like, “No, you don’t understand. This is what I do.” Cleaning is kind of empowering.

Do you have any trade secrets you’re willing to share?

Less chemicals. You don’t need to go overboard. Just use a little bit, or do soap and water, or vinegar and water. And wet newspaper on glass gets rid of fingerprints.

Follow Ryan Ching at twitter @avantbored.