Sunday, July 19, 2009

Postcards of People I Don't Know, III

Two-Pound Lobster

At some point, as a child, I might have eaten in a restaurant like this. We, my family and I, are lovers of lobster. My father ignores waiters, unless they are women, and thinks travel to the sea is healthful. He prefers to be alone but would not eat in an empty restaurant unless he was very hungry. Lobsters were brought out one hour late once, at a seaside restaurant and my father said, "You know what you can do with your lobsters?" and walked out, even though he was very hungry. We were always subject to his bad temper. Inevitably my father embarrassed us in restaurants. Both of my parents drink wine regularly and always encouraged me and my brother, as kids, to drink wine. Once, from a restaurant my mother called me. "I'm too drunk to drive home. I stopped and am now sitting at Mezzaluna. Will you talk to me for a minute?" My mother laughs at almost anything. She also ignores waiters. I have never worn a red beret. My mother often forced me to wear clothes in navy, yellow and green. My father force fed me because I was too skinny. But he knew I would always eat lobster. If the option was there, my brother ordered lobster at restaurants. He became inured to it, and liked to assert his prowess by the size of lobster he could eat. He ordered it once when he was out with a family friend, the one whose frosted lipstick and black leather pants I coveted. Probably, it was a two-pound lobster, my father said, because the family friend had said, "You know what your son ordered?" Still, my parents talk about the time my brother went out with the family friend, who is no longer a family friend, and ordered the two-pound lobster.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lovers of All Things Southern

Oxford American: Best of the South 2009

If Southern gentlemen, New Orleans pie, drinker's toasts and song thiefs are your interests, you should check out the Oxford American Magazine's Best of the South 2009.
In it you'll find a selection of great odes to the south including one by Ander Monson and a featured short story on the deer of Virginia by Lincoln Michel. It's on stands until September.

And if you can, I'd get your hands on last year's Best of the South, which comes with a video that includes Five Minutes to Live--one of Johnny Cash's first dramatic performances, and a short by academy award winning director Frederick Wiseman. You won't be disappointed.

On its website, Oxford American has a new original video series, SoLost, see above, which if you love getting lost and love the south you will doubly love. On this short musical journey you'll meet, among others, Mary a 14-year-old master fiddler.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Nancy... a Boy

The Nancy Book is a great collection of Joe Brainard's appropriations of the classic comic strip "Nancy." If Nancy was a Boy, and If Nancy was an Ashtray, are just two artful and profound pieces from his output, put out by Siglio Press.

Let's All Go to...

The Faster Times, a great new online culture magazine, is up and running, and I'm excited to be among many talented writers who are contributing to the site. My contribution is a column on indie books, which I will be updating regularly.

Columns of Note:

Fiction: Lincoln Michel
Love and Lies: Clancy Martin
Russian Love Advice: Gary Shteyngart
Interview with John Wray: James Yeh
TV: Adam Wilson
Wine: Alex Halberstadt (I can personally vouch for his selections)
Science: Michelle Legro
Publishing: Kimberly Parsons

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Interview with Arthur Jones

Inchworms, Angry Bees and the Mona Lisa

In my interview with illustrator/animator Arthur Jones, Jones talks about celebrating Jewish holidays as a Southern Baptist, evangelical puppet troupes and bloody biblical dioramas that delivered him into adulthood.

The Faster Times will be launch tomorrow, 7/9/09, and I'm thrilled to be contributing a column on indie books. You can read what The New York Observer has to say about it here.

Sculptures in Miniature

The Art of Thomas Doyle

Half-interred houses, blondes burying corpses, and hopeful families approaching homes that have lost the ground beneath them are some of the subjects of sculptor Thomas Doyle. Constructed in small scale and fit neatly within a bell jar, the sculptures-in-miniature are at once manageable, ethereal, dark, pristine, and, like the illusion they conjure, just short of accessible. His work was recently commissioned by the New York Times Magazine for its issue devoted to architecture. And, I'm excited to announce that his work will be featured in the next issue of Gigantic. Take a look. You will not be disappointed.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fourth of July Postpartum

The Cure: The Rumpus Interviews

The Rumpus is roughly six months old, and since it's inception it has compiled a stellar line-up of interviews, a list that includes Dave Eggers, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Atom Egoyan, Colson Whitehead, Cecil Woolf, Princess Superstar, Dave Hill, Amy Stein, Bela Fleck and Malcolm Gladwell among so many other very talented people.

Also compelling is Stephen Elliott's oral histories project, in which he transcribes oral histories of people who have known him at various points in his life,
such as Fat Mike; kids who knew him from group homes, his friend's baby sister, and even a teacher of his high school AP class. What is most scary, is that it shows that we are more or less a collection of facets of innumerable and independently vibrant perceptions that are entirely out of our control.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Documentarian

The Windmill Movie

"How does not being me help to tell a story about me?" It is this question around which Alexander Olch constructs his film about the life of experimental filmmaker Richard Rogers. The Windmill Movie is Olch's deeply felt effort to complete the autobiographical film project that Rogers, his film professor and mentor, could never complete, a project which was named simply "Windmill." Olch takes the quest literally, becoming, in a sense, Richard Rogers.

The first half of the film is a collage carefully built from over 200 hours of found footage that Rogers recorded, either home movies of his mother listing the family's suicides in a fur coat in summer, or from his own documentaries, such as one of hot-air balloons alighting from a manor of the English countryside, along with super-8 footage from his father's archives, overlaid by Rogers's own narration. The second half of the film is freed up in a fictionalized rendering of the director's own. Olch's voice takes over where Rogers's left off. Derailing his own projects, Olch helped the deceased filmmaker complete a film he could never finish. What begins as one man's confusion about his own need to obsessively document his life, and questions not only the worth of his documentation, but the value of the life documented, ends in a discomfiting hall of mirrors that contends only with that in Orson Welles's The Lady from Shanghai.

The boundaries between fact and fiction are coyly flubbed not only to flatly question the sincerity of the "facts" about Rogers being put forth, but also to toy with the tension between the observed world and that world which exists somewhere just outside it. The film presents life as spectacle and asks, How much of the spectacle are we willing to buy into.
Olch takes risks with The Windmill Movie and, as is the province only of risk-taking, succeeds, not only in sublimating "Windmill," but in transcending its limitations.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Long Awkward Moment

This is a hilarious and very awkward video that illustrates audio of a phone conversation between a man, writer Rodney Rothman, and a girl he kissed in high school, Jessica. It was made to promote this anthology: “Things I Learned from the Women Who’ve Dumped Me." If you miss the awkward moments of Curb Your Enthusiasm, watch this.