A few weeks ago, I went to the local art-house cinema in Royal Oak, Michigan, to see Gus Van Sant’s Restless, starring Dennis Hopper’s son, Henry Hopper, and the sensitive indie-girl du jour Mia Wasikowska. The movie is in many ways a conventional love story: awkward boy meets awkward girl; they both have secret traumas that they eventually reveal to each other; they support each other emotionally when the rest of the world is unable; they have a fight; and then, by the end, they come to a greater acceptance of each other. But one director’s trite structure is another’s fresh material. If Van Sant had made nothing but offbeat romances, Restless might have been boring. But he is one of the most experimental filmmakers we have, and his decision to helm an ostensibly ordinary love story is, itself, anything but ordinary. Read More
- George Orwell, on food.
- Frederick Seidel, on motorcycles.
- Teenage Bronte, on the block.
- New classics?
- Overrated hacks?
- Pippi, a racist?
- The cult of Betsy-Tacy.
- The Art of Protein Bars.
- The Lego Bible.
- The Jeopardy! Pyramid of Greatness.
- The letters of Wodehouse: “Found in both his fiction and his letters, terms such as “posish,” “eggs and b,” and “f i h s” (“fiend in human shape”) create a clubby feeling of intimacy between writer and reader.”
- Journalism booms in Libya.
- “I’m scared of dying in the middle of a book. I leave notes out in my room so that if I die people know how to finish it.”
At this time of year, the Bowery seems colder and brighter than other streets nearby, maybe because it’s several lanes wide and flanked by buildings no more than four or five stories tall. To me, it’s also a resonant place, and has been since I moved to New York. Along the Bowery, there are traces of a cultural history I tell myself I’m a part of (artists and musicians making prescient, eerie, underground things) as well as a cultural history that, let’s be honest, I’m actually a part of (Chinese immigrants starting businesses to meet market demand). Mark Rothko, Eva Hesse, and William S. Burroughs lived or worked along the Bowery. CBGB’s was there. It has also been the site of lighting outlets and restaurant-supply stores with exactly the sort of aspirational, front-of-the-phonebook names that my parents, with their limited English, would choose: AA International Trading Inc. A-1 Restaurant Equipment. A-Plus Restaurant Equipment.
Maybe it’s because the rest of the Bowery seems so familiar that I found “Experience,” Carsten Höller’s solo show at the New Museum, so disorienting. Of course, as the Belgian-born artist recently told a colleague at Artforum.com, “My entire show is set up to make you [go] mad.” Read More
Lately, I’ve been thinking about wine cake. In the last few years there have been several “lost recipes” cookbooks—one, I believe, from the doubtless clinical and spotless kitchens of Cook’s Illustrated, another by the great Marion Cunningham. Both are good, and both are made up largely of heirloom recipes passed down through the generations.
The way people learn to cook today—or don’t—is a subject worthy of some study, because it’s changing before our eyes. Back in the day, people learned to cook from their mothers, or maybe from a domestic science course. It was a matter of survival, or at least good household management, and was regarded as a necessary part of adult female competence.
There was also the question of continuity: consciously or not, recipes were a living link with the past—not merely of sentimental value, but time-tested before we had four forks to tell us whether to make something.
Gang Gang Dance was founded in Brooklyn in 2001 by Lizzi Bougatsos, Brian Degraw, Tim DeWit, Josh Diamond, and Nathan Maddox. Informed by hip-hop, eighties pop and goth, and a wealth of international traditional musical styles, the band blends disparate sounds into a global amalgam. This collage approach has garnered attention from the art world; the band’s mixed-media work was included, for instance, in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, and Bougatsos’s installations and collages have been shown at James Fuentes gallery in New York. Last May, Gang Gang Dance released their sixth album, Eye Contact, a tribute to the many loved ones the band has lost—including Maddox, who died in 2002 when he was struck by lightning on a Chinatown rooftop—and a fusion of large, swaggering beats, polyrhythmic sampling, and Bougatsos’s raw, personal lyrics.
“Glass Jar,” on the new album, opens with a sample of a couple phrases that are clearly audible, and then goes through a movement that sounds like it’s contained in glass. The song feels as if it’s hermetically sealed.
It is its own ecosystem, a geo-dome. You can create your own world with your surroundings.
Does music produce common experiences with others?
Music is universal, and extending your music to somebody is about sharing it. But it is also about how they receive it and how a message travels back to you. The best way to receive information about your music is when people talk about it through experience. We have a spiritual adviser named Babylove who travels with the band. And Tony Cox has been documenting our performances for a long time now. When he photographs us, he calls the experience a sphere.
My interest in Owen Wilson (American actor b. 1968) is admittedly creepy, undoubtedly perverse, and possibly based on nothing more than the fact of our shared last name. For I, too, am something of a Wilson.
A shared Anglo-Saxon surname, however, is merely the first parallel between our lives. To wit: Like O., I was born into an artistic family (our mothers are visual artists, our siblings work in film); I too was a self-proclaimed “troublemaker” in my youth; I too once wore blond hair that hung to my shoulders; I too have a large and distinctive nose; I too have a younger brunette brother; I too have struggled with depression; and I, too, consider myself primarily a writer, though like O., I would happily accept any acting job offered regardless of script quality, assuming the pay is substantial. Did I mention we have the same taste in women? He has been romantically linked to Kate Hudson, Demi Moore, and Sheryl Crow; I have not. But I have often imagined those three in erotic concert, Crow’s “All I Wanna Do” winnowing from my iPod dock as their cougar paws explore my body’s nooks.
But, though we’re both Wilsons, only one of us (O.) is of true Anglo-Saxon origin. I come from a small clan of Jewish Wilsons née Wilsick née Wilczyk, and my true self is apparent under even the dimmest bulb of scrutiny. Read More