Thursday, July 23, 2009

merge night #1, or, What the Hell Happened to Conor Oberst?

We're at the Merge Records fest. The shows start at 7pm and go til 2am every morning.
Notable about night #1.

Conor Oberst is looking:
(a) like a fucking rock-out-with-your-cock-out country-inflected rock STAR. Not an indie rock star. Gone is the painfully shy, emo twee boy of the past who sang as if every note was torn from his body. Oberst has fully immersed himself in Mick Jagger's famous bag of male rock star performance tricks--with not a few more ripped from young angry Johnny Cash.

He strutted and howled and spit and preened and stumbled and sneered and rambled and gesticulated wildly to clarify every punch of the lyrics and banging his head hard hard hard with every chord chord chord. He ripped off Jack White's wardrobe (absurd black cowboy hat, check--Native American man-jewelry, check). He rocked big stadium Bon Jovi musical transitions that you don't usually see in a 300 person indie club--the hard switch from one song right into another, cutting out the band for a beat to yowl out a line against the silence.

And I have to say, it was absolutely electrifying. We had been at the Cradle at that point for seven fucking hours. I was feeling pretty done by the time the penultimate band, the Rosebuds, came on--we were going to stay and see Conor do his thing for a minute, and before I knew it, Lauren and I were staring at each other in disbelief and getting drawn into pushing our way into the front of the crowd and shaking our booties and taking pictures with our phone cameras.

Potentially explaining (a), Conor is also looking:
(b) Like he's doing some serious drugs. He was wasted drunk, but still pretty, um, energetic, up to the last chord, even for the 1/3 of the audience left. It was the final night of a pretty grueling two month tour, but he was noticeably Dracula-paler and unhealthy looking next to every other member of his Mystic River Band (a bunch of matching brunette boys with impressive musical chops who also all look like they're twelve).

Ah well. I guess LA got to him at some point.

Other things:
Lou Barlow is totally sounding like Cat Stevens doing confessional, and it's pretty wonderful.

I enjoyed the Magnetic Fields unreservedly and wholeheartedly for the first time ever.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

awards and degrees

If you know me, you know I'll undermine myself endlessly, but to hell with it: today I'm enjoying the fact that VERA WILDE won Bay Area Critics Circle Awards for Best Male Performer, Best Ensemble, Best Set and Best Score, along with our nominations for Best Female Performer. I'm especially proud of the ensemble, (Sean Owens, Alexandra Creighton, Danielle Levin, Tyler Kent and Ned Brauer), they did such outstanding work to make the show tick.

In other news, you know how I said I was done with theater? Boy howdy, I meant it (at least for now). This fall, I'll be starting my MFA in Studio Art. I'm deciding between two great programs, and am very, very excited to spend three years focused on making work, after which point I will be able to teach and have a much bigger tool-kit.

Monday, February 23, 2009

art and entertainment

I've been trying to write about this moment for a week now--but it's just thought in process and doesn't really land anywhere.

I have been thinking a lot about the professions of art vs. entertainment--between the Oscars, and attending a wedding chock-full of comedy writers, and watching hours and hours (and hours) of reality TV on the flights to New York and back (Iron Chef America: Challenge King Crab, Chopped, Confessions of a Teen Idol, the Amazing Race, Made, and Celebrity Sober House). Also seeing Candice Breitz' incredible video piece Him and Her at the Yvon Lambert Gallery, a seven-channel installation in which 30 years worth of Meryl Streeps talk to each other about love, marriage, gender, art-making--a brilliant survey of the subconscious of cinema when it comes to presenting women. (I can't link directly to the piece--go to the website, click "video", then "Him and Her," then "Her.")

I am in no way "above" entertainment. I enjoy my celebrity gossip, and (when it's good), I am passionate for big fluffy musicals and trashy romance novels and stand-up comedy and America's Best Dance Crew and So You Think You Can Dance. I blobbed out shamelessly on JetBlue. In terms of the figures who influenced me, whom I think of as my ancestors in my pursuits, it comes down to old vaudeville, burlesque, comedy, people who created in big volume and wanted to entertain. And I know that one funny 2-minute sketch on the Daily Show reaches a bigger audience than probably all the stuff I've ever done put together.

So why? Why did I go one way and not the other?

It's funny to think about all of us who did high school theater, and are now involved in different types of creative work which might seem, to outsiders, like it floats in the same pond. When it only becomes more different, the more deeply we pursue whichever direction we struck out on.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

waltz with bashir

I doubt I can say anything about it that's new and fresh about Waltz with Bashir--an animated documentary about Israel, Lebanon, war, PTSD, and the subjectivity of memory creation and retention. All I can say is, go see it, and trust the wry humor that you might sense is in there--it's in there.

But I saw an interview with Ari Folman in the dentist's office, and thought I'd link to it. His five favorite movies. Mostly for the money quote:

"When I was a kid, my mother told my sisters and me that there were no superheroes except for Federico Fellini."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

oh my god! i'm like, so fat!

Someone, Gawker, anyone, talk about how fucking stupid this article is in Vanity Fair. First person navel-gazing (literally) "journalism" at its worst.

Here's my summary, in the voice of the author:

I'm a 27-year old, 5'9", 120 pound writer for Vanity Fair! I go to three plastic surgeons so they can tell me that I'm hot and don't need plastic surgery! But then one of them recommends minor lipo, so I'll never be able to eat a piece of fruit again without thinking about my fat ass [that last part is almost a direct quotataion]!

There is no part of me that is thinking critically about this, or as if feminism had ever happened! I just did this so I can have a full photo of me in sexy black underwear, looking hot, in Vanity Fair!

This is really an article about being reassured by professionals that I have a hot body, because I am that insecure! But also, I'm calling it journalism, so I can get paid for it! This is my most read article, ever! I'm so glad I could find an opportunity to whore myself before I turn 30!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Arts in the Stimulus Bill

If anyone is interested, the full searchable PDF of the stimulus is here.

For an additional amount for ‘‘Grants and Administration’’, $50,000,000, to be distributed in direct grants to fund arts projects and activities which preserve jobs in the non-profit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn: Provided, That 40 percent of such funds shall be distributed to State arts agencies and regional arts organizations in a manner similar to the agency’s current practice and percent of such funds shall be for competitively selected arts projects and activities according to sections 2 and 5(c) of the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 951, 954(c)): Provided further, That matching requirements under section 5(e) of such Act shall be waived: Provided further, That the amount set aside from this appropriation pursuant to section 1106 of this Act shall be not more than 5 percent instead of the percentage specified in such section.

Glad to see the Arts weren't entirely forgotten. On a lighter note, from a friend:

Out of curiosity, I searched for the words "swimming pool" and was somewhat relieved to find this language on page 12:

None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

13 most beautiful...

Went with B. to see Dean and Britta do the 13 Most Beautiful... (playing songs they scored to 13 of Andy Warhol's screen tests). I don't think I'd ever seen any of the screen tests, certainly not in their fullness. Very deceptively simple setup, but so gorgeous, so revealing. Andy was certainly an illustrator, he had an eye for light and shadow, and the "performers" were entirely masks. Masks--no person underneath. Unselfconscious glittering hard masks. And what was "beautiful" then would never make it now. Tyranny of authenticity gets in the way.

too much radiolab makes the brain go...

So now that I've discovered RadioLab (years after everyone else has, as per usual with me), I'm working my way through the back catalogue. In the show on memory, they posit that re-membering is a creative act--we aren't calling up some true essential moment that exists somewhere in our brain, we are creating a past moment anew. And the more we recall up that memory, the less true it is, the less "real".

Ever since listening to that, I try not to remember or recall or sit in memories that are precious to me, so that I don't corrupt them with each subsequent copy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

notes from louise bourgeois

I am kicking myself that I missed her retrospective at the Guggenheim this past summer (we were in NY for a wedding! We could have seen it!). Flying to London or Paris to see it at the Tate or Pompidou isn't really an option--so I took advantage of some expiring Southwest credits to see the abbreviated version at the downtown MoCA.

"Once there was a girl and she loved a man.
They had a date next to the eighth street station of the sixth avenue subway.
She put on her good clothes and a new hat. Somehow he could not come. So the purpose of this picture is to show how beautiful she was. I really mean that she was beautiful."

"Once a man was telling a story, it was a very good story too, and it made him very happy, but he told it so fast that nobody understood it."
a guillotine hangs over a beautifully sculpted in pink marble rendering of her childhood home.
prosthetic leg as symbol of emotional disability
hybrid eye/vagina
when afraid, Bourgeois often identifies with animals
self portrait as gargoyle with multiple breasts
dinner table with oppressive father's remains, being eaten by his children
nails in the heart of an old enemy
a woman's upper half enclosed in a house--lower half naked--woman doesn't realize what she is trying to conceal is what is exposed
"It is not so much
where my motivation
comes from
but rather
how it manages
to survive"

in these troubled times, great news (orgs)

Some news orgs seem to be thriving and doing some outstanding work.

St. Petersburg Times:
Who knew that something other than freaky news stories comes out of Florida? I was a fan of their Flip-O-Meter during the election, and now, the Truth-O-Meter.

KPCC, 89.3, Los Angeles:
I was extremely, but extremely, impressed at their fresh, detailed (but accessible) news coverage that ranges effortlessly from the local to national: from corrupt Orange County police chiefs to the California State budget deadlock to the closing of Guantanamo, all up to the minute. Clearly it has some clout as a news org: the politicians almost ran on to (State Republicans fell all over themselves getting their word out; Jane Harman literally left the interview for a minute to run in, cast a vote, and run back on.)

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