"The German photographer Bernd Becher, who has died at the age of 75 from complications during heart surgery, was famous for the vast collection of images of industrial structures he created with his wife Hilla over a working partnership of nearly 50 years. These included mine winding towers, blast furnaces, gas tanks, grain elevators, water and cooling towers, and occasionally entire complexes of factory buildings." [Guardian obit.]
The Flatiron Building, at the Milwaukee and North apex of the Six Corners intersection, pushed out Swank Frank, a food market and the Filter Coffeehouse in favor of a branch of Bank of America. Please consider the changes that will be forced on the rest of the building by that corporation once occupancy commences.
WALKING DOWN MICHIGAN AVENUE, THE CROWD AT HURON IS MOTLEY, but up close to the Apple store, lines are roped off to east and south, security guards are parsing ten customers at a time: who gets to drop five, six hundred dollars in the pursuit of gadget-lust in the half hour to come? The primary line snakes along Huron where horse-drawn carriages stand; as always on this corner, the smell of shit lingers. The rails of the planter in front of Apple are lower and brushed silver, unlike the uniform black along Boul Mich, chiming with the Apple Store’s sleek facing. Black paper covers the front windows until the hour. A half-dozen bicycle cops watch from their steeds. The one in charge wears tedium well, fiddling with the bike helmet haphazard atop his cap. A kid hands out margherita pizza baked like garlic bread. Starbucks has a tent. Three microwave relays are extended skyward. Fox News, Telemundo and a Korean network reporter are at work. A CLTV reporter in purple striped shirt and purpler tie flubs a stand-up. A pair of Obama ’08 volunteers work the line with clipboards, with the best hair of the scene; baseball caps on middle-aged guys is the style du jour. Inside, sales are tiered: upstairs, the 8GB; downstairs, the 4GB. You activate the thing yourself at home, so it’s only a few seconds to swipe a card. Massed employees in black iPhone T-shirts line the balcony, cheering and applauding the tech Sherpas as they ascend, descend the glass-lined staircase. There is a special bag for the iPhone, and most buyers are taking the limit of two. Turn the bag in the falling light and the coated paper gleams. At the top of the stairs, an Apple employee mans a tripod, taping every customer’s entrance. On the sidewalk, a young geek has climbed atop a small box to offer interviews to cable access reporters about how he's keeping the plastic wrap on his iPhone carton, “It's going straight to eBay!” A kibitzer offers “A Chapstick and some lint!” A line security guys sing-songs, almost an auction yodel, “Ap-pullline ends here. Ap-pull line ends here.” Tourists complain about the knot in German and Swedish and a woman exclaims in a Castilian accent, “Un cuadro extremo!” A woman camera tech says the security’s nothing compared to Dick Cheney’s earlier in the day. A cop says they’d planned for 1,500, and estimates 400 people have gone by in the first half hour. A man in khakis and pricey eyewear pauses at the “don’t walk” light. “Yes, and I bought you the eight gig one.” He’s grinning, two compact gleaming totebags at his side as chats on his OldPhone. [Originally appeared in a different form in Newcity, 12 July 2007.]
LONELINESS AND BITTERNESS AND ALIENATION AND COMPACTED MALE RAGE CAN BE TRANSFIXING MATERIAL IN SOME HANDS, but sometimes you have to give in and loathe those who are self-loathing. Forty-three-year-old comics artist Joe Matt, whose comics include “The Poor Bastard” and “Peepshow” promoting his new hardcover collection, “Spent,” at Quimby’s in Chicago on a sunny pre-summer Saturday night. The cover image of his alter ego face down on a bed, surrounded by soiled tissue, is a striking sight in such a handsome edition. Displaying a desiccated facsimile of R. Crumb’s epic, lifelong moan, Matt takes pains in his pages to insist that the story of the chronic masturbator whose days are spent mostly chiseling his friends—fellow cartoon artists Seth and Chester Brown—and editing VHS dubs of hardcore pornography for his persistent delectation took place many years ago in Toronto. Talking about his work, however, being interviewed by Ivan Brunetti, whose “Schizo” comics are among the finest contemporary artifacts of self-mortification, Matt seems compelled to confess in front of the small crowd, largely young, beaming women with fresh-scrubbed faces that soak up his dither, that the collection burgeons still and he may now be the stingiest man in Los Feliz. (“The weather in LA is great, I get outside every day, I don’t feel like I’m in Hollywood, per se. I’m just sort of alone with a few friends, I ride my bike everywhere.”) Brunetti knowingly nudges the conversation to more fertile ground, but Matt spirals into confessional detail, then tires of his own story. “I wanted the focus to be about porn addiction. It’s hard to have a relationship and jerk off ten times a day. You can’t find that balance or anywhere near that balance.” And he elaborates on the fondness for young skirt he shares with his character: “I’m too old now to be like chasing 20-year-olds.” He knows his own oeuvre: “In the books I jerk off constantly. As far as addictions go, I feel like I chose the right one.” He admits the collection ranges past 1,000 tapes now, “edited to my taste.” He’s not a prolific artist and brags on living cheaply. “I haven’t had a job in like—since I was 20.” There’s one book he most admires: Art Spiegelman’s “’Maus’ is the book I look to.” The hermetic world of “Spent” is set across the 1990s in Toronto, and it “encapsulates the period where I stayed in that room all the time. I was young and naïve and it was easier. Now it’s about being paralyzed. I’m capable of doing nothing for the next five years.” “I relate to this,” Brunetti says with a warm smile, “you have a kind of a self-destructive urge.” “Yeahhhh.” “You’re almost sabotaging your own work. Is—“ “I don’t know, I don’t know,” Matt mumbles. I don’t know how to answer these questions.” Matt describes comics as one might sticky Kleenex. “The single issue comic books, y’know, are meaningless to me, the flimsiness, the impermanence. Matt says he “runs away from the perfectionism he sees in Chris Ware’s work, but “my original art has so much white-out on it… My god, this is boring. Everything in ‘Spent’ is as perfect as I could get it.” He looks out to the crowd, now down to his feet. “Is this boring? This is boring.”