Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Some pics from Kip's annual Pumpkin Mutilation party. From top: Kip's "Chimp-O'Latern," Ross's "Bat-Boy-O'Lantern," Kevin B's "Eyebrow-O'Lantern," and Paul's first-prize-winning "Dolly Parton-O'Lantern:"

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Full Moon = Crazies

There was a full moon last week, Friday and Saturday, or something like that. What it meant was that the crazies were out in full, spectacular force. I'm used to dealing with most of them, considering that when you work at the Greenmarket you're essentially a sitting duck for ten hours, and what can you do but listen (or try to ignore) whomever strolls up to your table and starts talking. But Friday was something else.

Glen is homeless to some extent, although he will often tell you about his house, it's vague and you're never sure about any of it. He must have some actual place that he goes to sleep--a shelter, maybe--but I don't know where that is. Although he's quite together, in most ways--he actually works for a few farmers at the market doing various tasks and helping customers--he will sometimes say something that is a bit askew. I asked him once if he ever went to the movies and he said he'd recently seen the sequel to "The Fantastic Four." (The Fantastic Four 2? The Fantastic Four Two?) "How was it?" I asked him. Glen's review was: "It. Was. The. Same." End of story.

On Friday Glen wanted to know if I'd heard what happened on September 11th. I figured I was about to get the "askew" version, full of conspiracy, spies and collusion. Here is Glen's version: "They hijacked some planes and flew them into the buildings, then buildings fell down. They tried to blow it up from underneath back about 15 years ago, but it didn't work." Well, yep, that's what happened.

Mikey likes to talk about hotel rates in places like Lyndhurst, New Jersey. He's obsessed with milk crates, where they are, and where he left them when they didn't get stolen. This is Mikey's typical monologue: "So I'm going out to Lyndhurst, maybe take a room there, it's $72.00, can you believe, but I know a guy, maybe he'll give me a deal, you know, so I'll take a train, take a room in Lyndhurst, have some dinner with my sister, then maybe look at some beautiful ladies and go to bed. Tomorrow I gotta be up here to see if this crate is still where I left it. I left it at 3rd Avenue and 10th Street, and I left one at 1st Avenue and 13th Street, and there's one here that I have behind a truck." This might go on for another five or ten minutes. The only part that I find really unnerving is the part where he says he's going to 'look at some beautiful ladies.'

Does this mean a strip club? Does this mean porn? Do the ladies even know they are being looked at?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bathroom Wisdom

From the bathroom wall at Nowhere Bar:

"How can you be a drug addict in the new millennium?"


I have just returned from the movies, where I witnessed the spectacle called "30 Days of Night." It's based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, in which a bunch of vampires prey on the tiny town of Barrow, Alaska, as it is so far north in the Arctic circle, that the sun never rises for a whole thirty days. I'm not sure how much of this is based in actual astrological fact, but hey, that's the idea, so here we go.

It's sort of a bad movie, and also good one. The dialougue is all exposition and plot movement, which sounds necessary, but if done badly is, well bad. And I'm more a fan of the vampires in Coppolla's "Bram Stoker's Dracula," and especially Elizabeth Kostova's "The Historian"--who are rooted in generations of intelligentsia and fabulous costumes--than I am these new-fangled vampires, who seem to have no class, no sense of the theatrical outside of slow walking. 30 Days' vampires look like a bunch of overly-dramatic goth kids who haven't taken a shower in a while. Or is that redundant?

What's good about it is that it delivers on various fronts. Explosions, blood and gore, hideous vampiric yelps screetching from the maws of the undead. That sort of thing. The trouble for me, however, is that in such formulaic pictures, I already know (basically) whose fate will be what, and I often just want to skip ahead and see how it ends. Like, get to the fighting back part already. But, really, I bought the ticket. I knew what I was in for.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about the movie is that the head vampire looks just like my friend Tom. If Tom were totally cracked-out and had horrible vampire teeth, etc. Maybe he'll tear my throat out for saying that, but I think he could have played it much better. More camp, less heaviness.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It. Is. Happening.

He tore the paper bag
into long brown strips,
and lay them over the railing,
like fish out to cure in the sun.
They dried, twisted, and some blew
away in the breeze.

He kicked the rusted spark plug
through the parking lot,
where the Sears used to be,
before it was a Books-A-Million,
and a Toys R Us,
and an Old Country Buffet,
and whatever else.
Finally, he was bored of it.

Sometimes, he would look at me,
slowly, deliberately, and say:
"It. Is. Happening."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Die, Mommy, Die!

Last night, I went with a small gaggle of folks to see Charles Busch in his newest revival "Die, Mommy, Die!" at the New World Stages. The play is an homage to the old Lana Turner, Joan Crawford movies in which everyone is shot, wronged, abused and so forth. The husband, for example, is poked with a poison-laced suppository, and dies....or does he? There are lots of dramatic, melo-moments--a knowing look is exchanged between Mr. Busch and the audience, or he slips into this strange mush-mouthed voice, and we suddenly get the joke. Or we're let in on the joke.

I rather enjoyed it. Others had mixed reviews--of the playwriting, of the supporting actors--but everyone agreed that Mr. Busch's performance is, in a word: flawless. It is also odd, heartbreaking, hilarious, disturbing, peculiar, and brilliant.

I'm amazed at Busch's journey as an artist. Much like John Waters, his only competition is his early work. No one really does what he does--play elaborately fake, disarmingly lovable, high camp, iconic women time-warped out of the golden age of cinema....but wait, is it the golden age? Isn't that the 30's? What about the 60s? And the 50s? can see that what Mr. Busch does is essentially his own. His style has progressed into this bizarre, hilarious take on those women. It is as if he has been all alone, playing with his wigs and dresses in mummy's attic for so long that he's created a singular lexicon: The World of Charles Busch. His style has been revised over and over, in a closed way, and thus it presents a kind of fast-forward take on the evolution of an entire language.

You can see some--but not enough--Charles Busch on YouTube. There is a wonderfully intriguing and touching documentary about his life and work, "The Lady in Charles Busch," which you can get from Netflix; the trailer (of sorts) you can watch here. There is also, of course, the feature film version of "Die, Mommy, Die!", and you can watch that trailer here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

To-Do List

For the coming months, in no particular order:

--Kara Walker at the Whitney.
--Young Frankenstein on Broadway.
--50 new pages.
--Invite people for dinner.
--Learn to make that 30-minute mozzarella.
--Thin out the library a bit.
--The Wooster Group's Hamlet at the Public.
--Me and Kip vacation in Utah for a week in November. (YAY!)
--Ship in a View with Andrea @ BAM.
--Kiki & Herb @ Carnegie Hall!!

I'm so lucky.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Here's what happened today:

1) On my way to work, the V train got fucked up and went over the E line.
2) I went to visit a dear friend in the loony bin at St. Vincent's hospital. The forreal loony bin. He was not well, but is getting better.
3) On my way home there was a "temporary loss of power" on the entire Queens Blvd. corridor subway lines and I had to walk to the N train.
4) On my way to the N train, there was an ambulance parked on the corner. Into the back, they were loading a gurney on which laid a person completely covered by a sheet.
5) I went to the doctor, who told me I had shingles. Now I'm on three different pills.

**Update: The shingles are getting better. Thank god for pills. Still hurts like fucking hell, but, as the nurse told me, "The pain pills are working, though you may think they are not. That's how bad it hurts if you don't take them."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Trouble with Audioguides

Witold and I were recently at the MoMA to see the Richard Serra exhibit, and we wandered through the upper floors of paintings, photography and design. I have a habit, sometimes, of watching the people watch the art. I am, perhaps by nature, an observer. It was while watching a family of four, along with some other tourists, look at Paul Cezanne's "The Bather," when I really got stuck thinking about those troublesome Audioguides.

You know these Audioguides: a telephone-like device which you hold to your ear as you walk through the galleries. You punch in the number that corresponds to an item in the collection, and the Audioguide gives you background, perhaps some narrative or anecdotes, or information on technique, historical context, or even the details of how the museum came to own the piece. They are narrated by the curator, the museum director, or often by some celebrity or voice-over actor who has some vague, or more direct, connection to the exhibit. I was once involved in the securing talent for Audioguide tracks for an exhibit of African-American prints and drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The trouble with Audioguides is that they make art-viewing a passive experience. They create an essentially didactic relationship between the art and the viewer, and force museum goers down a kind of "best-of" cafeteria line-style museum experience. Most museum visitors, particularly in large tourist destination cities like Paris, New York and London, are new to art, or at least to new to skills or tools which may help them have a more meaningful, personal experience.

If a group of people are briefly gathered around a painting looking in silence, there is some kind of interaction going on within that group--they have, collectively, created a relationship with each other, and with that painting. The Audiguides remove that (however brief or fleeting) sense of community that is randomly created over and over again as people pass through the galleries. (Not to mention the traffic jams.)

I understand the benefit--new museum goers are often intimidated by art and museums in general, and it's good to have a "companion" to guide you through the art, and give you some, if limited, context or background. Particularly for beginning viewers, Who painted it and When are less important than, for example, what ideas or feelings that beginning viewer might discover if pressed to consider the work on her own. Why delve into the art if all you need to know about it is fed through a device in your ear? Movements, styles and periods are meaningless to most museum goers--and the Audioguides often distance us from the work itself, relegating it, again, to the elite world of Art, capital A.

Perhaps I can offer this example more clearly: At the Greenmarket, where I work selling maple syrup, what makes me the most irate are the customers who force their children to do math during a transaction. "Now, I just gave him five dollars, little Jenny, so how much do I get back?" The more interesting--the more important--lessons learned from shopping at the Greenmarket have less to do with math than with sustainable agriculture, local economies, and the plain old (read: extraordinary) miracle of food. You can talk about all these ideas on a child's level, of course.

So, go to the museum. Look at the art. Watch it. Think about it, wonder about it. Skip the Audioguide.

**Much of my pondering which inspired this post has been informed by the work of Abigial Housen and Philip Yenawine. Read more about their work here.**

***Check out this project, in which people created their own podcasts--witty, musical, sardonic, Audioguides--that you can put on your iPod and bring with you to the museum. (These are created for the MOMA, specifically.) In this way, at least, you're getting alternate perspectives.***

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sugar: The Other White Powder

A billboard in Bushwick. It's sort of a last supper of cereal mascots: Tony the Tiger, the Lucky Charms Leprechaun, Cap'n Crunch, Snap, Crackle & Pop, Frankenberry, etc.:

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Top Chef

I was briefly--very briefly--on the Bravo series Top Chef the other night. One of the challenges involved shopping at the Greenmarket, and in this shot, if you look carefully, you can see me, bearded and standing there, in the background.

The season was somewhat un-exciting, as I remembered the chefs involved in the challenge that day, and so I knew that at that point, whenever it was--this guy, this one, and that woman--they would be the ones left. But I still love the show.

Here's a better look:

Monday, October 01, 2007

Excerpts in Limbo, Vol. 8

Daniel drove her to the store and she somehow found herself in an awkward, insistent conversation with a stranger, who carried a small dog in a mesh-sided bag. Why she relented and told the lady she was a painter, she did not know—over the years Helena had developed an entirely different vocabulary for small talk such as this. At parties or benefits, where inevitably someone would try to talk to her about Picasso or Monet or—God help her—some minimalist back in New York.

“Oh, I love art,” the lady said, throwing the bag over her shoulder, no doubt rattling the animal inside. ‘I love art,’ they always said. What could this mean?

The lady continued, “Thomas Kinkade is my favorite artist.”

Helena had heard this sort of thing a thousand times, and it no longer surprised her—or drove a spike into her heart. Kinkade democratized and thus destroyed painting. (Not on his own, of course, but he was the benchmark.) His world was supposed to be cheery, sentimental, easy. But Helena thought his houses looked demonic, transplanted from Amityville, ablaze with the urge toward invented perfection. She expected Virgil at the front door. Linda Blair drooling and vomiting on the sofa. His paintings were utterly false.

The lady began slowly wrapping up the inanities, and Daniel turned the corner, stepping into the aisle. “Mom?” he said, and surely at the sight of him, the lady shrank away and disappeared.