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Posts Tagged ‘Burning Man’

A Week in Culture: Chris Weitz, Director

October 6, 2010 | by

Photograph by Summit Entertainment.

DAY ONE, KIND OF

The first thing that occurs to me at the beginning of my cultural week is a question about criteria. What qualifies? If you read—or, as I did, listen to—Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget, the whole of culture is going to hell in a handbasket, as mash-ups and the digital entrepôt rid us of professional reportage, musicianship, originality, and notions of humanity itself. He cites Facebook as an example of the degrading of our standards: What is a “friend” from now on? Punters of my generation—and probably most readers of The Paris Review will find this a curious thing to say, but my three-year-old son will likely see it as a word for the tally of standardized connections amassed through the mediation of a Web site.

Now then.

DAY ONE, REALLY

Monday begins, technically, at 12:00 A.M. “Sunday night,” with an Alan Watts1 lecture on the subject of “Play and Sincerity.” I have long used Watts to put me to sleep, which implies that he is soporific. Not so; it’s that I find his voice comforting.

I also indulged in Zombieland2, the unfeasibly entertaining comedy directed by Ruben Fleischer. Of the two ruling monster metaphors currently infecting the public mind (the other being vampirism, to which I have to confess I have contributed), I favor the flesh-eating variety, though that may simply be an indication that I have a Y chromosome.

While we are at it, I am afraid that I rate Justin Cronin’s vampire epic The Passage a “sell.” The word is that Ridley Scott is to direct the movie version, and this may be one case of a book that benefits from boiling down. I hope that Sir Ridley is in his best science-fiction mode and can bring some of the quotidian genius3 that he brought to Alien and Blade Runner.

My dad, who served in the Office of Strategic Services at the end of World War II, always said that the New York Times was the greatest intelligence resource in the world. When I got old enough to have developed a taste for a newspaper without (as he called it) funny papers, we had two subscriptions for the house, so that there would be no scuffling over favorite sections. (We also received the Post, for shits and giggles.) Read More »

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  1. For the uninitiated, Watts was a former Anglican priest who abandoned his vocation and trained as a Zen Buddhist monk. In his lectures, he refers to himself as an “entertainer.” To listen to him is to grasp the woolly abstractions of the New Age as common sense. And his rarefied, BBC English provides a marvelously counterintuitive texture to his thought.
  2. Zombieland convinces me that comedy is the way to handle these matters. I am very partial to Robert Kirkman’s superb comic The Walking Dead, though I worry that the AMC TV edition might suffer from a po-facedness that the comic manages to duck.
  3. One further tentacle of digression: Scott’s first film, The Duellists, is marvelous. It was adapted from a Joseph Conrad short story. My Dad and I used to watch it every year.

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Notes From a Renaissance Faire

September 8, 2010 | by

At Ren Faire, all women are wenches. But the constant sexual innuendo is tiresome.

I remember a woman with a pear nestled between her breasts. That’s what most traumatized my pubescent self the last time I went to a Renaissance Faire, somewhere in Marin County circa 1989.

I’m here to report that nothing has changed two decades later at the New York Renaissance Faire: all women are wenches. T-shirts that read “Boss Wench” and “Wench Magnet” greet you as you enter the Tudor-style gates.

This is the kind of place where it’s always acceptable to just throw on a corset. “People should just admit they want to come just to wear a corset,” says Emily, one of the friends I dragged along with me, as she eats a turkey leg. In fact, the line between fetishwear and Ren Faire costumes is alarmingly thin; the chain mail shop sells armor fit for battle, but it seemed to be doing a much more brisk business in belly chains.

What I was even more confused by were the horns, raccoon tails, and fairy wings on sale, as if Renaissance England was some sort of catch-all fantasy world where Magick Reigns. Weren’t there a lot of nuns per capita in the renaissance? I didn’t see a single nun, nor one Queen Elizabeth, though I did spot several pirates (it was Pirate’s Weekend at the Faire), a sole leper, many gypsies, and a few teen boys in black robes that inspired me to write “heavy goth element” in my notes.

Ren Faire is supposed to be lusty and ribald, but the constant and unsubtle sexual innuendo is tiresome. “No one eats sausage like Austrian women,” says one of the seventy-five actors, this one dressed as a drunk Austrian noblewoman. Her maid, who is flirting with a group of men in Ed Hardy t-shirts drinking mead, says, “I always swallow, never spit.” The sleaziness never really lets up. “I see you like my balls,” one vendor at a glassblowing booth called out to me. I don’t think that was very period appropriate.

Personally, I was much more excited at the prospect of being a maiden for the day. There was hair braiding from a shop called Rapunzel’s, which mildly piqued my interest, but what I was really after were the floral garlands. I spent at least ten minutes trying on a variety of them—fake yellow flowers, fake blue flowers, feathered—as a moon-faced teenage girl helping me told me very solemnly, “I’m here for thee.” I went with a leaf-wheat-baby’s breath combo, hoping I resemble a Botticelli even though I’m wearing cut-off denim shorts.

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