31 October 2004

Procrastination technique

Choreographer Mark Morris in the New York Times Magazine's Domains column: Procrastination technique? I leave whatever it is out and I convince myself that staring at it is a perfectly legitimate form of work.

30 October 2004

Iggy pops

The Observer's Miranda Sawyer has a ball with the exuberant Mr. James Osterberg down in Miami: He looks amazing, as he always has done. Whippet body burnt to leathery teak, hair blonde and straggly, face like a cartoon: boggle eyes, sunken cheeks, turned up nose, shark grin... 'Well, hey!' says Iggy, enthusiastically. 'Come on and look at my river! Isn't it beautiful?'... In a city of show-stopping women, Iggy's girlfriend, Nina, could get a man arrested: a green-eyed, half-Nigerian, half-Irish amazon, who gave up air hostessing to take care of him. They have been together five years. Her looks really tickle Iggy: 'I'm the old git with the chick with the bam-BOW, the [Rolls] convertible, the little old rock band ... the kinds of happiness that eluded me at 14 are mine now!'

28 October 2004

Avedon's Democracy

Richard Avedon died September 25 in San Antonio, a handful of images away from completing his Democracy portfolio for the New Yorker. But the November 1 issue has 50 images across its 32 pages, and it's mostly wonderful. The opening spread's Statue of Liberty-costumed Kucinich delegate is sweet and striking; juxtaposing the eyebrows-raised smirk of Bill O'Reilly with the snakeheaded mischief of James Carville is clever; Jon Stewart's one-handed, slouch-eyed variation on Munch's "The Scream" precedes a pudgy-jowled Karl Rove, working the choirboy smile; an injured Army Sergeant's burnt, stalwart face is sized against Sean Penn's obstinate mug; the penultimate spread is strong black-and-whites of young soldiers; and it concludes (pages 90-91) with the two largest headshots of the series, two earnest politicians wearing white shirts against Avedon's trademark white seamless, two grownups looking serene and angelic, a pairing of images so striking and right that my eyes well with water again with the spread here in front of me, Jimmy Carter, 80, and Barack Obama, 43.

27 October 2004

Refer madness: no nummy nim

From today's National edition of the New York Times, a "refer" box inside the article
Kerry Attacks Bush Over Loss of Explosives

USE SANDWICHKICKER TAG
sit at, consec teur adipis cing elit, 10
a diam no nummy nim euismod tin-
cindit laoret dollore man 20 a ali

26 October 2004

Crying games

A portfolio of photographer Sam Taylor-Wood's crying men, from her show, Sorrow, Suspension, Ascension, at Chelsea's Matthew Marks Gallery, plus an appreciation by the Village Voice's Leslie Camhi: The collective desolation appears utterly convincing. Willem Dafoe wipes away a furtive tear; Robin Williams' brow convulses with anxiety; a red-eyed Tim Roth gives the camera his all.

Landscapes with a Corpse

Japanese photographer Izima Kaoru outdoes David Lynch in the bodies-in-a-brightly-colored-field department; there are hints of parallels to French auteur Bruno Dumont's L'humanite and Twentynine Palms, too. At New York's Von Lintel Gallery.

Digging Deroo

Bright, empty rooms by the Dutch photographer Wijnanda Deroo at Robert Mann Gallery in New York. Of her work, the gallery press-releases: Deroo is well-versed in the vernacular of the commonplace—there is an echo of human presence in the unremarkable architecture and objects she photographs.

25 October 2004

The world into which I was born...

A long and heartfelt review of the Tate Modern's Robert Frank retrospective by Adrian Searle in Tuesday's Guardian: I cannot look at the London that Frank photographed in the winter of 1952 without thinking that it's a faraway world, and yet also the world into which I was born. A place of smog, top-hatted city gents in Threadneedle Street, short-trousered kids on cold wet cobbles, a slick black hearse parked in the grainy, washed-out morning. Black-and-white photography, seemingly, was made for this, for the rancid light of the London Underground, the 1930s still clinging like fog to the early 1950s.

And here's a look at the history behind Frank's long-suppressed Rolling Stones documentary, C--------- Blues.

I am betting

I am betting that you have not read Simone Muench's poem, Eating Olives in the House of Heartbroken Women.

...My sister is backlit from the open window
unaware of her loveliness. The only
sound, the chew of fruit.
Faith is in small things, she says
passing me the jar that smells
of creosote and roses
...

23 October 2004

The big empty

Sean O'Hagan, in the Observer, gets a rare audience with Robert Frank in the 80-year-old director-photographer's Bleecker Street digs. The author of The Americans has a career retrospective opening Thursday at the Tate Modern. "'The kind of photography I did is gone,' he says. 'It's old. There's no point in it anymore for me, and I get no satisfaction from trying to do it.' He says this without bitterness or regret, but with a sad matter-of-factness as ingrained as the lines on his face. 'There are too many pictures now. It's overwhelming. A flood of images that passes by, and says, "why should we remember anything?" There is too much to remember now, too much to take in.'"

22 October 2004

Expecting snail porridge?

Gastronomic games—salmon coated in licorice jelly, sardines-on-toast sorbet, red-cabbage gazpacho—via the Globe & Mail: The psychology of food at Fat Duck is just as important as the chemistry. Some of the dishes play games with the diner's expectations, and how they affect the taste of something. Even the same mouthful can taste radically different if your expectations change halfway through... Snail porridge sounds like a deliberately disgusting joke. But if you've paid $70 for it in a top-end restaurant, you're much more likely to enjoy it.

Opening wide

In our world of manufactured "reality" television and an appetite for memoir, some things have remained trade secrets, and for good reason. (Bloggers, their lovers and their fathers, often live to regret online indiscretion.)

But 30-year-old French Laundry-trained "avant-garde" chef Grant Achatz, lauded as chef-partner of Trio, including a 2003 "rising Star Chef" nod from the James Beard Foundation, has chosen to let the sun shine onto his new project, Alinea, on the eGullet foodie website, since mid-August, with interactive glimpses of his "food lab" where the menu is being refined, down to the style of tableware. (An "alinea" is a symbol for the start of a paragraph: ¶.)

Starting with the meeting of globetrotting entrepreneur and epicure Nick Kokonas, the narrative's laid out like a mouth-watering movie trailer. Kokonas writes, "I think a lot people come to a chef with their pre-existing vision of the restaurant they want to build. I didn't even want to build a restaurant before I saw his vision." His vision? "To create the container in which we create the experience," he told eGullet readers. "I think that's the very exciting thing for me that I've never been able to have a part in."

Groundwork? "Nick and Grant drove down every street within a chosen geographical band, armed with a giant map and a set of green, yellow and red markers. Once they had found a set of acceptable streets, they asked a realtor to show them every space available on them."

And time's available, too: "Instead of populating Alinea's menu with previous favorites from Trio or 'trial' dishes that have been only roughly tested, Grant and his team will take six months [with kitchen staff on salary] to devise, develop and perfect the dishes and delivery modes that will appear on Alinea's opening menu."

Readers want to know about financing and partnerships. Achatz wants to talk about "identity." "After looking at several restaurant's logos, I became even more at a loss as to what a logo is." The site's studded with an exactingly detailed, almost Socratic questioning of cookware and kitchen arts, and of "identity as an ever-changing process more than as a static object, something deeply historical and contextual—that is to say, as rooted in the moment and the place (neither of which are static, though we pretend that both are)." After de-and-reconstructing notions about "transcending the plate," Achatz weighs in with 1,700 words about the preliminary kitchen design, promising to upload blueprints. It's a specialized audience that can prompt, "Could you possibly elaborate just a little on the make and model of the centrifuge?" There's a lot of give-and-take, and just a little of what a Twin Cities reader wrote of the online project: "Are we the privileged or what?"

[Newcity, 21 October 2004]

21 October 2004

Loving the hate

David Gordon Green talks to USC's Daily Trojan: Green [recalls]... a letter he received from a teenager responding to what he felt was Green's dismal "[All the Real] Girls." The dissatisfied fan spewed for eight pages about his hatred and even contempt for the movie. Green's response: "If you care enough to hate, great!" Instead of taking it as a personal attack, Green is amazed by this passionate reaction to his film. This more-than-flustered fan spent a great deal of time and energy in responding to Green's movie. How many other directors can inspire that?

20 October 2004

One of those daze

Really want to finish reading the newspapers, but I'm running so late; I meant to transcribe a David Gordon Green interview about Undertow, and my piece for next week about a conversation with Cornell West about his Democracy Matters needs a last polish, but I also need to sketch out a question list for an interview this afternoon with Alexander Payne and Virginia Madsen about his lovely new movie, Sideways, as well as make notes for my photo presentation at tonight's 20x20x20x20 event at buddY Gallery, which is almost directly after a tasting at Wave, the new restaurant at the W Hotel Lakeshore.

But the coffee's not clicking. Jason's in the cafe, too, posting notices about the Modernist Society's next Last Thursday event at Darkroom and I wind up sitting down to proselytize for William Gibson's Pattern Recognitions when I discover he's never heard of the writer.

Plus! A last-minute email from the fashionistas at the New York Times! European designers bid farewell to ladylike clothes last week. Spring fashion will look younger, looser and more gamine than fall's dressy effects.

Out-of-doors, the sky is gray and you can feel mist on your cheeks.

18 October 2004

17 October 2004

Libertine, 40something, seeks respect

Nouveau pornographer Terry Richardson wants you to buy his book—and his shtick. Writes Sean O'Hagan in the Guardian, Richardson's non-fashion photography, which he considers his most important work, has gone the other way, his images becoming ever more hardcore in their depiction of Terry's own sex life.

The exhibitionistic photographer recounts going clean three years ago: I was at the bottom, man. I'd just broken up with a girlfriend three days before, and I'd gone on a binge over Christmas. I'd done $100 worth of smack, taken a bunch of Valiums and drunk a bottle of vodka. I put on a suit and tie for Christmas, then it hit me that I was all alone. I went to sleep hoping that I wouldn't wake up. That's when the guys found me, and sent me off to rehab.

16 October 2004

Team America: Jonny Stewart goes to Washington

Jon Stewart: first Jewish president? Friday afternoon, the Man took on Tucker "I'm Calling It A Jacuzzi" Carlson's floppy hair, floppy bowtie and floppy tongue on Crossfire, speaking plainly about the useless "theater" that passes for debate on slaphappy shoutfests like theirs:

CARLSON: I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion.

STEWART: You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.

15 October 2004

Frankly spoken

Geoff Dyer has a loving appreciation of photographer Robert Frank in the Guardian: ...There is also a snatched, self-cancelling lyricism, a grainy yearning that never quite has the opportunity to manifest itself fully. Articulating something similar, John Cheever confided to his journal that "this nomadic, roadside civilisation [was] the creation of the loneliest travellers the world has ever seen." Unlike Kerouac—who considered Frank's view of urinals "the loneliest picture ever made"—Cheever did not have Frank or any other photographer in mind when he wrote this; but his "vision of the waywardness of man and the blessings of velocity" serves as a sidelong commentary on a world glimpsed and preserved in "The Americans."

Thereminimum

Theremins are wooooo-eeeeeing everywhere this week: The new "special edition" of Tim Burton's Ed Wood has an extra that shows how the theremin was used in Howard Shore's score; in Friday's Guardian, musician and thereminist Bill Bailey previews a radio doc, Good Vibrations: The Story of the Theremin. Theremin, he writes, immediately roused the suspicions of the KGB—or rather, the equivalent at the time—who regarded the device as a state secret and monitored his work very closely. Or, more likely, they thought he was a weirdo who might do something stupid, like try to magnetise Lenin.

14 October 2004

Navel gazing

Meanwhile, photographer Jorge Colombo has collected some bellybuttons.

13 October 2004

Rabbity

After linking to the "Get off the internet and vote" competition, Heather Havrilesky admits to a few personal concerns about election night: It makes me queasy to think of November 2nd. I might have to stay in some kind of a beery haze all day. I'm definitely not working. The city should put a team of crisis counselors on call that night.

Land of Plenty

An interview with Wim Wenders about his latest, Land of Plenty, a post-9/11 perspective on America, as it opens in Germany. (It's an InDiGent production, shot on video in 16 days for under a mill.) Wenders tells Deutsche Welle, The idea for 'Land of Plenty' originated with the fundamentalist Christianity of the Bush era, from the anger that Christianity has been so perverted and used in so a perfidious manner for political interests. As a Christian, I know no other option except to be against war and to have solidarity with the poor.

12 October 2004

Per se for its own sake

A long, enthusiastic look at "superchef" Thomas Keller's Manhattan restaurant, Per Se by Jay Rayner in the Observer after a 15-course tasting: With each course we want to strike quick, mean and leave without getting caught, [Keller] writes, like some Norman Mailer of the stove. All menus at the French Laundry revolve around the law of diminishing returns. That is the more you have of something the less you enjoy it.

Rules of the game

Cross the street from the Frolic Room on Hollywood Boulevard, walk a little bit west and say hello to Jean Renoir.

10 October 2004

Rated

Whatever the word-of-mouth you've heard on Team America: World Police, it's earned a priceless ratings summary from the humorless MPAA, two decks of type that Matt Stone tells me that he and Trey Parker insisted be blowed up real good on glossy card stock and stiffed into the press kit. Team America, with its Jerry Bruckheimer shlock-inspired anthem of "Americuuuuh! Fuck yeah!" got its NC-17 finally tamped down to an R, for

GRAPHIC, CRUDE & SEXUAL HUMOR, VIOLENT IMAGES
& STRONG LANGUAGE; ALL INVOLVING PUPPETS

07 October 2004

Sinuous

John Leonard makes sinuous sentences and he gives good rant, as in this review in New York of Tanner on Tanner on Sundance Channel: In my opinion, Elaine’s is part of the problem. Having found a place where everybody can be relied on to be almost as famous as everybody else, the trained seals of the syndicated pundit class, the talking soreheads of the cable blabbercasts, the indentured servants of the smelly glossies, the handicappers, jackalheads, hierophants, and flacks who write screen treatments of our “political process”—all those professional insiders addicted to what Joan Didion calls “the rapture of the feed”—are emboldened by each other to believe that they are the story, not Abu Ghraib, Medicare, Halliburton, stem cells, or assault weapons; not homophobia, corporate greed, reproductive rights, or economic inequality; not lousy schools, exploding prisons, Asian sweatshops, African famine, or ecocide.

109 words, if you weren't counting.

06 October 2004

Proofed

Even at the risk of being punctual, we hustle down Clark Street at chilly sunset: 7pm's time for a reception at celebrity chef Rick Bayless' Topolobampo to promote a new "super premium" tequila, a highly distilled blue agave from Bacardi USA, called Corzo, a product that cost a reported million dollars to develop, and dubs itself "The Evolution of Tequila."

The bar fills quickly, whether from the weather, the promise of strong drinks, or dinner and a tequila presentation by chef-proprietor Bayless, one of Chicago's leading lights in the cookbook-and-foodie TV fame game. As servers swirl with trays of already-prepared salted margaritas, note-tasting, if not note-taking, starts right away over chips, smoky Frontera salsas and chunky guacamole. It's convivial: half a dozen friends have turned up, and we work to suss out the savor of the $50 tequila under the other ingredients. Even the vodka drinker in our midst is impressed. A couple of press kits are open on the counter, but no one's studying, only sipping. Still, the exacting process of the product's premise suits Bayless' philosophy of working with high quality, ideally organic ingredients. Where most tequila uses ten pounds of agave to make a liter of the clear stuff, Corzo uses only the "heart of hearts," with twenty-two pounds required to make the same amount. Factoids finished--as well as a couple or three drinks--the fifty are so guests are ushered into the next room to compare two varieties of the product, both of which, unusually, are distilled after aging.

The lights are low, the murmur convivial. Bayless, in signature chef's whites, unwinds several stories about his experience with agave in his many Mexican sojourns. The moment's warm, the most genial event I've been to in ages. Bayless is explaining the tallest stalk he ever saw in Mexico, towering more than ten feet above the agave plant on the ground.

Warmth of liquor, warmth of friends: hints of smoke and soap and other unlikely scents are exchanged, and one of our party describes the square, minimalist bottle, designed by fashionista Fabien Baron, as "80 proof Chanel No. 5." While we're considering the eau de agave, Bayless hesitates. A roomful of smiling faces looks up expectantly. "I'm sorry," he says. "I just can't do this." He hesitates again before exiting stage left. A Corzo representative steps in, describing the distillation process quickly and precisely.

Dinner's served in the main room. There's more whispering about the star chef's abrupt exodus, but one glimpse of the goodie bags on each seat shifts the chitchat: a signed copy of Bayless' 2000 hardcover "Mexico: One Plate at a Time" and a brick-heavy bottle of Corzo silver.

[from Newcity, 7 October 2004]

04 October 2004

Agave blues

A tasting Monday night for a new "super-premium" tequila at Topolobampo started at 7, a cocktail hour with servers swirling with trays of margaritas. Followed by a 45-minute, two flight tasting before a 9pm dinner might have been more 80 proof agave than anyone was expecting. Plus I needed to rush to the le Meridien for a 9:30 interview over drinks with the writer-director and cowriter-star of the unsettling terror movie, Saw. The days aren't as long as they were a few weeks ago, but still... maybe I can make it to Sonotheque to see Quantazelle by midnight.

02 October 2004

I cannot stand the myth of this...

Brilliant autumn sunlight this afternoon, last chance I'll have to see my gallery show on a weekend, maybe I'll go see Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place at the Siskel instead? I'd rather be writing. I go downstairs to the cafe to find necessary distraction. There's a line, a bustle, a wait, I exchange smiles or smirks with a couple people I know. While I wait, there's music playing, but I can't hear what it is.

My friend Josh played some songs at a small show, a benefit, in the summer, and he and the other performer on the bill were trying new solo material no one had heard yet. There's one song he played, wholly unlike anything I expected, probably the most beautiful song I'd heard all year, the strain in his voice for a certain note filled with ache. I told him so, and said I wanted to make something using it as the soundtrack. "Cool," he said. A couple weeks later, he gave me a demo, said he'd be tinkering with it some more, it won't be released for a while. I listened. I listened again. I love it. I collected the images I wanted to use, a performer I want to be in the short also said yes. I haven't thought about the project for a week.

Right after I order the caffeine, another song starts, and I recognize it emotionally before I recognize it consciously. All I can think is: I'm hallucinating, I've heard this song 40 times, but this can't... Oh yeah, I remember, Josh has been passing copies of the demo around.

In a fresh context, the song is lovelier still. "I cannot stand the myth of this," Josh repeats, and I realize, no, that's not what he's been singing at all. "Oh, I. I can't stand a minute of this." Someone in a nearby booth catches my emotional and distracted expression. I look toward her, I've never seen her with her hair down.

01 October 2004

Gone Dutch

If Babelfish is to be trusted, someone in the Netherlands
says this about my photo log: "For everyday platvloersheid, go to randomly which flog of a braziliaan, for foto's that the predikaat 'kunst' to deserve, verifies Friso's favourites Wolfey and Raypride from." Do they mean "photos that deserve to be called art"? Yow, I'm modest, I'd rather "predikaat kunst"...

Smilers with the knives

From the opening line of Manohla Dargis' review of David O. Russell's new movie, opening today in New York and Los Angeles—"The high-wire comedy IHuckabees captures liberal-left despair with astonishingly good humor: it's Fahrenheit 9/11 for the screwball set"—I can't tell what she's means, but it sure sounds good. The rest of the review zings—she integrates rafts of references and sidelong notions with watch-this-Elvis aplomb: "IHuckabees is a comedy of dialectics, in which opposing dualities slug it out like wounded lovers, but it's nothing if not deeply sincere. Mr. Russell [is] clearly furious about the state of things (you name it) but, like Jon Stewart, [he] slide[s] in the knife with a smile."

Armond White's up on the big white blanket, too, in New York Press: "The central character['s] opening narration—Fuck! Shit!—shows Russell translating a young adult American's interior monologue into a version of Tourette's Syndrome. Everything [the character] does can be described as a fit."

Typically featureless

Chris Petit was a movie critic for Time Out for half a decade before he was a novelist, and in between, he directed a couple of movies. In the Guardian's Saturday Review, John Patterson identifies "Petit's quintessential Englishness" while asserting that his "gloomily beautiful road movie Radio On stands alone. There is no other movie like it in the national canon... It looks and feels like a fragment of the new German cinema." Which was what fascinated me when I first saw this debut: German movies were still exciting and Petit's movie seemed less derivative than haunted, as if the Germans had colonized his English consciousness. Recently, working in an eccentric essayistic style similar to that of Patrick Keillor's London and Robinson in Space, Petit and language-laden novelist Iain Sinclair have made several experimental video projects drawn from their shared fascination with how we move through cities and countrysides.

But 25 years ago, there was Radio On (after the Jonathan Richman song). Petit is less interested in narrative than in new and unEnglish ways of looking and seeing, Patterson writes in this keen appreciation, in love with the sensual delight of a camera moving forward through space. The film is peppered with long, coldly stirring shots from [a] clapped-out Rover, moving through a series of defamiliarised, Ballardian English landscapes—the Westway at night, the M4, Hopperesque filling stations... and what Petit's collaborator Iain Sinclair refers to as "typically featureless Petit fields." Petit attempt[s] to remake our understanding of British urban space, much as Godard discerned contemporary Paris's futuristic foreignness in Alphaville.