The Paris Review Daily

Posts Tagged ‘culture diary’

A Week in Culture: Joe Ollmann, Cartoonist

June 14, 2011 | by

DAY ONE

I live in a neighborhood in Montréal called Parc X. Now, I confess this sounds a lot more ghetto-y and gangsta than it actually is. It’s really a hard-working, largely immigrant neighborhood that is in imminent danger of being overrun by white hipsters.

We do literally go through a hole in a fence from our slum to take our son to his school in the neighboring wealthy Anglophone area, but the fact that he wears a fancy school uniform does slightly tarnish our street cred, I admit.

Montréal's ostensibly a French-speaking city, but the French language is rarely heard in my mostly Greek and Pakistani neighborhood. I am neither French, Greek, nor Pakistani and speak none of their languages with proficiency, so I’m perpetually an outcast, though I am, by nature, a bit of a Zelig, attempting and failing to ever fit in. Always the pale, white, cultureless bridesmaid.

It was Easter recently, which this year not only coincided with Greek Easter, or “Greece-ster,” as I sensitively and cleverly have named it, but also Passover. In the French-speaking world of Quebec, Passover is noted on French calendars as “Paque Juive,” or Jewish Easter (!), which my Jewish homeys find offensive based on the fact that Passover preceded Easter and therefore should not be relegated to Easter-spin-off status. Oh people, why can’t we all just get along?

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A Week in Culture: Barry Yourgrau, Writer

May 11, 2011 | by

DAY ONE

7:15 A.M. Istanbul. A bleary departure from the Pera Palace Hotel after three nights of its punctiliously restored Orient Express–era fineries. We own a sixth-floor walk-up nearby in Cihangir (an arty neighborhood dear to Orhan Pamuk), but my girlfriend Anya decided to rent it out. So we’ve stayed in a “Greta Garbo” suite here, with photos of GG on the wall and a view not of the Golden Horn but of a minor soccer stadium named for Tayyip Erdogan, the moderate Islamist prime minister, a former semipro football player from the poor neighborhood close by. “Footballer” on a politician’s CV is not to be slighted in soccer-mad Turkey. Hakan Sükür, the country’s iconic player, now retired, will run on Ergodan’s party ticket in the June elections.

Last night, döner and leg of lamb for au revoir dinner at Beyti, a sprawling palace of meat. Anya recounted dining beside Ralph Fiennes the night before. The ex–investment banker now at our table ("We like you anyway," I told him, grinning hostilely) told a cute story about Ralph’s cousin Ranulph Fiennes, the preposterously adventurous explorer. Some financial analysts were inspecting a Tesco supermarket in London, and in the main subzero storage freezer they came across a tent. Ranulph Feinnes was staying in it, prepping for the Antarctic. “Any pictures of Garbo?” I asked, to mostly puzzlement.

Pamuk’s name came up, with the inevitable Istanbul confidence-sharing about how admirable a writer he is, but such a tedious read.

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A Week in Culture: John Swansburg, Editor, Part 2

April 14, 2011 | by

This is the second installment of Swansburg’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.

DAY FOUR

I slip out of the office around noon and walk over to SoHo to check out an exhibition of photographs taken on the Paris Metro by Chris Marker. I am an enthusiastic straphanger—I’m known in the Slate offices as a staunch defender of the MTA—so I was looking forward to seeing Marker’s project, but the photos fail to move me. Marker has captured the drudgery of commuting and the diversity of Paris’s commuters, but the photos are almost uniformly glum; they fail to register the vitality a packed subway car can have. (I’ll never forget the time I saw a guy with Four Quartets and a critical text perched on his lap on a crowded C train. Come on, Marker, where’s the wonder?) A few of the shots juxtapose faces Marker has photographed on the subway with faces from masterpieces of painting. Some of the likenesses are impressive, but it feels like a silly trick; I don’t need to be shown that this woman looks kind of like Mona Lisa to care about her. The Marker exhibition leaves me wanting to see what Bill Cunningham would do with the assignment of spending a week riding New York’s rails.

I have dinner at the bustling John Dory Oyster Bar—yes, more oysters, I swear this week is not typical—with my friends from Port Washington, Long Island1. Among other things, I’ve learned that citizens of Port Washington harbor ill will toward the neighboring hamlet of Plandome, which, despite its tiny size (population 1,272) and proximity to both the Port Washington and Manhasset stations, for some reason has its own Long Island Rail Road stop, unnecessarily adding two to three minutes to the Port Washingtonian’s commute each morning and evening. Weary passengers have been said to exhibit countenances akin to Munch’s The Scream upon pulling into the Plandome station.

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Annotations

  1. My college roommate grew up there, and I’ve since become close with several of his childhood friends and have been granted (by them) de jure citizenship in the town.

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A Week in Culture: John Swansburg, Editor

April 13, 2011 | by

The author radios an Erie Canal bridge operator to request passage for his vessel, Hulberton, NY.

DAY ONE

Uh, oh. My plan was for this culture diary to culminate six days hence in a cheeky dispatch from Charlie Sheen’s “My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is Not an Option” tour. I am a ticket holder to his planned stop at the Toyota Presents the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Connecticut. (Syntactically, at least, the event and the venue deserve one another.) But this morning I read A. O. Scott’s devastating report from Sheen’s opening performance, at Detroit’s Fox Theater, and I’m troubled. I’d signed on to see Sheen at the suggestion of two Connecticut-based friends who I don’t see nearly as often as I’d like to. (The three of us have a tradition of dreaming up foolhardy adventures as an excuse to spend time together: A couple of years ago we sailed the Erie Canal from Rochester to Medina, New York, in a vessel with a top speed of six knots per hour, which is about the rate at which an old man jogs. Another recent trip involved us trucking up to Hartford to see what’s left of the Grateful Dead, which is not much.) Of course, I also bought the Sheen ticket because I wanted to see the wreckage up close. Scott’s essay forces me to confront the fact that there’s no way to take in the spectacle without being implicated in its tawdriness:

We [in the audience] profess dismay at Mr. Sheen’s long history of drug abuse and violence against women, but we have also enabled and indulged this behavior, and lately encouraged his delusional belief that he could beat the toxic fame machine at its own game. The price of a ticket to one of his shows represents a wager that it is impossible to lose. The audience that walked out of the Fox could feel righteously ripped off and thus morally superior to the man they had paid to see, who seemed to feel the same about them. Win-win!

What have I gotten myself into?

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A Week in Culture: Kim Hastreiter, Editor

April 6, 2011 | by

DAY ONE, Los Angeles

9:00 A.M. Arrived at LAX late last night. Woke up shivering cold to gray skies in my mod jumbo suite at the super friendly no-fuss Hollywood Standard Hotel on Sunset. After a week of torrential rain, LA was damn cold. I was there for a quickie four-day stint1 and had fish to fry, so I dragged my ass out of bed, hiked across the street to Enterprise, grabbed a rental Camry and headed to my friend Robert’s Los Feliz craftsman bungalow for brunch and a catch-up.

Ed Wohl boards.

10:35 A.M. Heading east on Beverly, I stopped in to check out my friends Robin and Cathy Petrovic’s fabulous Heath Ceramics store just past Fairfax. This extraordinary shop is filled with the wonderful dishes and tiles2 of Sausalito-based pottery-maker Heath, as well as great collaborations with other like-minded artists and artisans.

11:30 A.M. After turning left on Avocado Street3, I passed Little Doms, the Los Feliz watering hole, and drove in circles looking for parking. I finally pulled up the steep hill outside my friend’s house and cracked hard into the car in front of me. Thank God for bumpers.

5:00 P.M. Back in Hollywood to meet up with my dear friend Ford Wheeler, a production designer, who’s in LA for twenty-four hours scouting for the new David Chase film he’s been working on. Funny how it takes coming to LA to see friends from New York. We hung out at the hotel for a few hours catching up on life and excitedly checking out an early copy of the spring design issue of T Magazine4. His art-filled homes are featured on a six-page spread.

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Annotations

  1. I just have to say at this point that I love LA. I fell for this crazy town in the dogtown era of the mid-seventies when I was in art school at the California Institute of the Arts. Those days, I lived in Santa Monica across the street from my mentor, John Baldessari, and we all drove the seventy-five-mile trek to Newhall and back every single day. In separate cars, of course. There was very little traffic. I’d hop from the beach to Echo Park or even Pasadena for dinner three nights a week with friends. Today this would impossible. Over the years, the traffic has become so insane that I’ve watched the many diverse neighborhoods of Los Angeles actually become small villages to accommodate those who live in them, each with their own little center filled with shops, restaurants, bars, and amenities. While New York has had its rough edges sandpapered out in the past few decades from gentrification, Los Angeles—still filled with affordable nabes—has become crammed with creatives.
  2. I scored three pristine carved cutting boards by Wisconsin woodcraftsman Edward Wohl (collector's items) and a hand-painted H (lucky for me, Heath starts with an H) by House Industries.
  3. How fabulous is that?
  4. T looks amazing and really offbeat. Sally Singer is talented and smart. This cover blows my mind. It is a messy insane children's playroom. Adore.

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A Week in Culture: Elizabeth Samet, Writer and Professor, Part 2

March 24, 2011 | by

This is the second installment of Samet’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.

DAY FOUR

I’ve been following the bassist Peter Washington around New York this week. I didn’t plan it that way: I didn’t know that Washington would be playing not only with Ann Hampton Callaway but also with the Terell Stafford Quintet at the Village Vanguard. A friend of mine who will be moving out of Manhattan in a few months told me he had never been to the Vanguard. This is unacceptable. Besides, it has been far too long since I’ve heard anyone there. The very first time I went to the Vanguard I was just out of college: I heard the late Illinois Jacquet play “Flying Home” that night. There are worse introductions.

Tonight there are two hecklers at the table behind us. Does this really happen? Do people pay a cover to heckle jazz musicians? I don’t get it. They are soon bounced, and the only other distraction proves to be the pair of unabashed lovebirds at the table in front of us. I guess the music of Billy Strayhorn—Stafford has just released This Side of Strayhorn—can have that effect on people. It took me in other directions, prompting a reflection on my relationship to the music of Strayhorn and Ellington, which was for several years just about the only music I listened to. I would prowl the excellent jazz department at the old Tower Records in Boston for more and more Ellington: first cassettes and then CDs, everything from the early Brunswick and Vocalion recordings to Money Jungle, the 1962 trio session with Max Roach and Charles Mingus.

Stafford closed the set with Strayhorn’s “Johnny Come Lately.” I’m listening now to the version on The Blanton-Webster Band. But if you really want to get a sense of the Strayhorn mystique, listen to Ellington calling “Strays” out on stage to join him for “Drawing Room Blues” and “Tonk” on Live at the Blue Note, a recording of a 1959 date in Chicago.

And Peter Washington? His playing was luminous—again. And a brief conversation with him in between sets suggests he’s as gracious as he is good.

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