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Posts Tagged ‘HBO’

Perfume, Pikes, and Parsing

June 15, 2012 | by

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Buffering

February 6, 2012 | by

Lillyhammer, now streaming on Netflix.

My name wasn’t on the list. When I told her I was with The Paris Review, the woman in charge gave a can’t-be-bothered shrug and stuck me on the red carpet between a correspondent from the socialite party blog Guest of a Guest and a reporter from The New York Daily News. The two were in deep discussion about a monthly gathering for gay men over six foot two.

The Tall Gay Agenda, you’ve seriously never heard of it?”

“But I would never get in—I’m only 5'9''!

“It’s not just for tall gays, it’s in celebration of. Admirers are welcome!”

I was eavesdropping hard, announcing my dorky heterosexuality by wearing a backpack, revealing my red-carpet naïveté by not carrying a recording device and mumbling the name of my publication.

“Shouldn’t you be, like, hanging out with The Observer or something?”

The occasion was a screening and gala to celebrate Lilyhammer, a quirky new series starring Steven “Little Stevie” Van Zandt (of Sopranos and E Street Band fame). Stevie plays a former New York mobster removed to rural Norway after ratting out his boss and joining the Witness Protection Program. The show, which premiers today through Netflix’s Play at Home streaming service, is the company’s first foray into original programming.

Prophetic bloggers have buzzed about the inevitability of this move for years: Netflix is coming, and the masters of pay cable are terrified. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I streamed the whole thing. Read More »

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Maurice Sendak on ‘Bumble-Ardy’

December 27, 2011 | by

We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2011 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

Maurice Sendak. Photo by John Dugdale.

Maurice Sendak is set to publish his first full-production book since Outside Over There (1981). For the past thirty years, Sendak has been collaborating with other writers, illustrating old texts, designing sets and costumes for opera and ballet productions, creating advertisements and book and magazine covers, and making the occasional HBO cameo as an old-world rabbi. But with Bumble-Ardy, Sendak is reemerging in the form that he has, since 1963’s Where the Wild Things Are, come to define: childrens stories.

Bumble-Ardy is a pig, raised by an aunt, who is built like a house and who lives in a house that looks like a ruin. This aunt is doing her best with poor Bumble, a child who was orphaned when his parents “gorged and gained weight. / And got ate.” That tragic turn of events may have been for the best, as Bumble’s lousy parents never once got around to throwing the boy a birthday party (his birthday is June 10, the same as Sendak’s). So, on his ninth birthday, Bumble secretly invites over terrifying hordes of local swine, who arrive in disguise for a bacchanalia of “birthday cake and brine.” The party ends in hoggish chaos, in tears and threats of slaughter—and, finally, with a measure of forgiveness.

Why the decision to go with a pig? Why not a hedgehog?

I’ve always loved pigs: the shape of them, the look of them, and the fact that they are so intelligent. I think I like them more than I like little human boys. The prospect of drawing pigs was something I could look forward to, and I needed something to look forward to. This project was done under very difficult circumstances. Somebody very important to me was dying painfully, horribly, slowly, and it leaves you questioning everything. Read More »

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On the Shelf

December 7, 2011 | by

Raymond Chandler.

A cultural news roundup.

  • Bad sex.
  • Bad numbers.
  • Good books.
  • Children’s books.
  • A visit to St. Mark’s.
  • “Confessions of a Plagiarist.”
  • Unrest at the Eliot Prizes.
  • Upheaval at the NYPL.
  • Tensions over Civilization.
  • The case for porn.
  • The case for gossip.
  • Gossip Girl has always had an especially soft spot for scribblers—and not just for fleeting appearances.”
  • Jane Austen?
  • It’s not TV, it’s ... Faulkner?
  • “The very nicest thing Hollywood can possibly think of to say to a writer is that he is too good to be only a writer.” —Raymond Chandler
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    Chess and Madness

    June 13, 2011 | by

    Early on in Stefan Zweig’s Schachnovelle (A Chess Novella) the narrator, a casual chess player, expresses his worry that a serious devotion to chess might bring on madness:

    How impossible to imagine [...] a man of intelligence who, without going mad, again and again, over ten, twenty, thirty, forty years, applies the whole elastic power of his thinking to the ridiculous goal of backing a wooden king into the corner of a wooden board!

    On Monday, I settled down to watch Bobby Fischer Against the World, an entertaining new HBO documentary, directed by Liz Garbus. Besides chronicling the career of one of the greatest chess players of all time, it is also a rumination on the cold war, on political extremism, on youth prodigies and the dangers of sudden fame, and on loneliness. Finally, perhaps most hauntingly, it is about the relationship between chess, genius, and madness.

    Bobby Fischer grew up on Lincoln Place, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, the son of a single mother who spent much of her time agitating for communism. A lonely, awkward, uncommunicative boy, he immediately became obsessed with chess when, at age six, he learned how to play from the instructions of a cheap set bought at a candy store below his apartment. Soon, Bobby was staring at his chessboard for hours on end, playing both white and black, engrossed in the absurd attempt of beating himself, and of not letting himself be beaten by himself.

    When he was no older than thirteen, this obsession, which at first had worried his mother, seemed to pay off. At the 1956 Rosenwald Memorial Tournament in New York, Bobby’s first appearance at a major chess event, he played a game of such daring and brilliance that he instantly became a sensation in chess circles. Within a year, he had won the prestigious U.S. Open; within another year, he won the U.S. Championship; and within a year after that, he was well on his way toward a lucrative career as an internationally renowned master.

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    A Week in Culture: Elizabeth Samet, Professor and Writer

    March 23, 2011 | by

    DAY ONE

    What better way to launch this diary than with a little detour, en route to meet some friends, along the street of pianos? I love the Sunday morning silence of this short stretch of West 58th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue: all those Steinways, Bechsteins, and Bosendorfers asleep inside their showrooms. Outside there’s only the light jingle of the collar on a small but imperious terrier, its owner dragging sleepily behind. The terrier—preferably Fox or Welsh—is my ideal virtual dog. I can admire one in passing; then someone else can take it home. The canine’s playful condescension always calls to mind my favorite couplet, Alexander Pope’s epigram, which the poet had engraved on the collar of a puppy he once gave the Prince of Wales: “I am his Highness’ dog at Kew/ Pray tell me Sir, whose Dog are you?”

    My Piano Street Strut concludes a musical weekend. Let’s start in reverse order: Lucinda Williams, Webster Hall, Saturday night. Webster Hall has its own time zone: doors open at 6; show starts at 7; or maybe 7:45, as they inform you at the door; or, in fact, a little after 8, when Lucinda Williams steps onto the stage saying, “Sorry.” The hall is packed, and the crowd can’t get enough. Many are obvious veterans of her shows; they keep screaming, “Lu!” and lifting their beers in tribute. My favorite Williams recordings are bundles of bitterness, but I’m just not hearing it this night1.

    But what chance did anyone really have after Ann Hampton Callaway at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola on Friday? I raced home from a late night at work to meet friends in from D.C. for the show, which was delayed a bit because of some water problems at the club. Never underestimate the cosmic force of a diva: Callaway can conjure the elements. Water flowed again. And then Tony Bennett appeared. Yes, he did. Callaway improvised a song of tribute to him. It’s that capacity for improvisation, that singing on the precipice, I so admire about Callaway’s artistry. She often speaks of the importance of “live music,” and then she lives it right there in front of you.

    The first time I saw her she improvised a song using whatever unlovely, unmusical words the audience happened to suggest. I attended that show in the company of Callaway’s father, the great Chicago journalist John Callaway, who died in 2009. He interviewed me once and quickly became a friend. John was the most delightful correspondent: we wrote to each other about politics, sports, and books. (He was a fan of Henning Mankell mysteries.) And when he came to New York, I looked forward to dinner and stories of the old City News Bureau in Chicago. How is it that we can feel so deeply the loss of people we’ve known but a short while? Maybe it’s because there are so many stories left to tell.

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    Annotations

    1. Confession: we leave early, narrowly avoiding (thanks to my peacemaking skills) what was sure to be some unpleasantness over a jostled elbow and a spilled beer, threading our way past some very unhappy-looking patrons sprawled on the stairs, departing before (I learn later) Williams sings “Change The Locks,” which may well have offered all the bitterness anyone could crave. By the way, were those pieces of the ceiling that kept falling into my drink?

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