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Posts Tagged ‘The nineties’

The Open Book Book, and Other News

August 8, 2014 | by

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Doug Beube’s contribution to the Open Book Project “reimagines the book as a reconstructible sculpture of maps and zippers.” Image: the Open Book Project, via the Atlantic

  • James Wolcott on the scourge of nineties nostalgia: “Mostly a white people’s pastime, nostalgia used to be a pining for an idealized yesteryear, for a prelapsarian world tinted in sepia … the Internet and cable TV have colonized the hive mind and set up carnival pavilions. Now every delight is obtainable and on display at an arcade that never closes … This anxious, ravenous speedup of nostalgia—getting wistful over goodies that never went away—is more than a reflection of the overall acceleration of digital culture, a pathetic sign of our determination to dote on every last shiny souvenir of our prolonged adolescence, and an indictment of our gutless refusal to face the rotten future like Stoic philosophers.”
  • With the Open Book project, two professors held “experimental book workshops … to help define what the classic book—and the new book—could be.” Now there’s the Open Book book, “an amalgam of essays on and artwork made from books. ‘Not all of these books are made from and with paper-based books … We purposely sought book-like work for the Open Book exhibition that transcended paper media.’”
  • What does a minute feel like? Sixty seconds. What does sixty seconds feel like? A minute. “I was a lab rat in a performance-art piece on the High Line. The artist, an Argentinian named David Lamelas, arranged forty-odd people—friends, tourists, commuters, passersby—shoulder to shoulder, like an extra-long police lineup. ‘The time is now six-thirty-five,’ he announced, looking at his phone. Starting at one end of the queue, we were each supposed to wait for what we estimated to be one minute and then call out the time.”
  • In the UK, a new edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has a remarkably creepy cover. “It features a cover photograph of a young girl in make-up and marabou feathers, perched on her mother’s knee with the blank-eyed expression of a doll.”
  • Eighteen months ago, Steven Soderbergh retired from filmmaking. Now he’s made The Knick, a grisly TV drama series about a hospital in the earliest days of the twentieth century: It’s “a gritty glimpse of Gilded Age New York … The first ten minutes of the premiere are among the most gruesome I’ve seen this year, as [the doctors] attempt an emergency C-section on a woman with placenta previa, an operation they have already failed at twelve times before.”

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Cover Your Eyes—Pubes! and Other News

July 15, 2014 | by

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Leena McCall’s Portrait of Ms Ruby May was recently removed from a gallery for its supposedly offensive depiction of pubic hair. Image via Slate

  • Ninety-eight years ago this month, Edith Wharton published Summer, a steamy novella “with a plotline that includes sex outside of wedlock, an unplanned pregnancy, and a truly disturbing relationship between a teenage girl and her guardian.” It was not well reviewed.
  • Nor, apparently, was When Harry Met Sally, which, though it eventually ascended into the rom-com pantheon, was widely dismissed when it came out twenty-five years ago. Terrence Rafferty wrote, “The debate, of course, is too shallow to engage us, but they might have tried providing a little plot … When Harry Met Sally positions itself comfortably in the middle of nowhere and casts knowing directions in all directions.”
  • On Virginia Woolf’s conception of privacy: “Many people accept the idea that each of us has a certain resolute innerness … What interested Woolf was the way that we become aware of that innerness. We come to know it best, she thought, when we’re forced, at moments of exposure, to shield it against the outside world.”
  • Today in prudery: in London, the Society of Women Artists’ annual exhibition featured a portrait by Leena McCall, which depicted—trigger warning!—a bit of pubic hair. But don’t worry! Calm down! The painting was summarily removed because it was “pornographic” and “disgusting.”
  • In the nineties, Prodigy was one of the most successful Internet companies around, an “interactive personal service” that finally went belly-up in 1999, taking with it “the written record of a massive, unique online culture, including millions of messages and tens of thousands of hand-drawn pieces of digital art.” Now one man has recovered some of that early Web culture.

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The Dadliest Decade

April 15, 2014 | by

Why were the nineties so preoccupied with fatherhood?

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Robin Williams as Peter Banning in Hook, 1991

Some decades are summed up easily, the accretion of cliché and cultural narrative having reached such a point that we hardly need say anything at all. The sixties: hippies, drugs, revolution, rock-and-roll. The eighties: Young Republicans, greed is good, massive perms, Ronald Reagan. This is reductive, obviously, but it’s also helpful cultural shorthand. The nineties, like the seventies, have a less unified narrative: there’s gangster rap, Monica Lewinsky, Columbine, Kurt Cobain, O.J., MTV, white slackers on skateboards, and the LA riots, but they’re all disparate, disconnected. There was no counterculture powerful enough to write the narrative from below, no one mass-cultural or political trend hegemonic enough to make itself the truth. Some enjoy calling this diffusion postmodernism, though most everyone else agrees those people are assholes.

But there was, I contend, a current that ran through the culture of the nineties, a theme that has not to my knowledge been recognized as such. That theme is the heroic dad. Read More »

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If Heavy, Then Lift

April 17, 2013 | by

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Every morning, I would start the day with the Smashing Pumpkins—haunting “Disarm,” anthemic “Today.” Over and over, in a bedroom still mired in childhood, where a mound of carelessly tossed stuffed animals crept up my white wood dresser, I relentlessly played Siamese Dream. This, I thought, is how one becomes a teenager.

When the sun was at its hottest, late in the afternoon, I would stand at my front door, forehead pressed against the mesh screen, waiting for some friend’s mother to pull up in a beige Nissan and carry us to the mall. Here, I would spend hours in too-short shorts in too-cold air conditioning deliberating between pungent Plumeria or Freesia lotions at Bath & Body Works, scarfing down greasy slices of food-court pizza, and buying a hideous glittery cropped tee my mother would take one look at and matter-of-factly proclaim I would never wear. Until I was called for dinner, I’d read Seventeen, wondering if, once my dreaded braces came off, I’d be as beautiful as the young girls staring back at me with their wisps of charcoal eyeliner rimming their almond-shaped eyes, the ones who looked like they hadn’t cried since they fell off pretty pink bicycles with white baskets and streamers flowing from the handlebars. After that night’s iteration of chicken and rice, the phone would ring. For the next hour and a half, I would talk about nothing with the person I had had nothing to say to at the mall just a few hours before.

It was the summer of 1993, and I was bored. Read More »

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