Thursday, March 31, 2011

Erica Kaufman at The Poetry Project

Last night I heard Erica Kaufman read at The Poetry Project. I am a huge fan of her work, which is always sharp, crisp and complex. She read her long poem "Instant Classic" as well as selections from her book Censory Impulse. Her poems display so much amazing verbal facility, such a pleasure and project in language. Playful, yet intellectually earnest; an exploration of language that is firmly rooted in a human voice, a human perspective and experience, and a human questioning of experience.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jack Wilkins and Howard Alden at Bella Luna

Last night I went with a friend to a restaurant on the Upper West Side, Bella Luna, which features live jazz every Tuesday night. We saw guitar players Jack Wilkins and Howard Alden perform beautifully. They were excellent, and my friend was particularly moved by their Moon River. I can't wait to go back again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I watched an interesting documentary last night that my brother recommended, Catfish. It follows a young photographer who gets involved with a woman on facebook, and begins to develop deep feelings. They meet in an odd way, the girl's 8 year old sister sends him a painting she did of a photograph of his, and he begins a correspondence with the 8-year old prodigy and her mother, before engaging with the 19 year old sister. He gets enmeshed in this family, and suddenly things start to not add up, and he does some investigating... The story is told largely through texts, g-chats, and facebook newsfeeds, so it's very 21st Century. The main character was kind of self-satisfied and annoying, but when they eventually uncover the girl's real identity I found myself fascinated by her, and would love to have known more. It's definitely worth watching.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Judy Linn at Feature Inc.

Last night I went to the opening of Judy Linn's photography show at Feature Inc., "69-76 Photographs of Patti Smith."

This was an interesting (although somewhat predictable) exhibit of early fashion shoots of Patti Smith, and others; beautiful posed black and white photographs of a woman who is now an icon.

There was a sweetness to these pictures of two young people horsing around, posturing, playing for the camera. Particularly because they didn't know how famous they would become. As the friend I went with observed, there was also a freshness to their hipness -- less derivative and straining than today's hip set. More authenticity, I guess.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Doug Varone and Dancers

Last night I saw the company Doug Varone and Dancers perform an extended piece, Chapters from a Broken Novel, at the Joyce.

This was a beautiful, lyrical, and at time harsh and aggressive dance. Very complex and stylized. Very emotional, but very controlled.

There were twenty separate dances, each rich and evocative and dense. Each complete in and of itself. Of course I liked some more than others. For instance. a piece where the cast of 7 dancers kept moving each others limbs. It had a mechanical yet haunted effect; or some of the more "dancy" pieces with the entire company. However, I enjoyed the whole thing thoroughly, was engrossed for every minute.

The music, by David Van Teighem, was a little difficult for me to adjust to at first. But once I did, after the first piece or so, it worked so, so well with the movement.

I went with a friend who said that sometimes dance feels cold for her. I could see that coldness a bit in this work, in a way. Even though it was highly emotional and intense, it was also very controlled and highly aesthetic. Some of the emotion at times felt jarring and confrontational (not in a bad way, though).

My only problem with Chapters from a Broken Novel is the title. It made me strain to find narrative coherence between each dance, and this was distracting and unnecessary. The word "novel" was a stumbling block for me.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Megamind is terrific!

I just watched Megamind, an animated feature about a super-villain. It is presented from the point of view of the villain, and totally makes fun of the smarmy super-hero. The tone of the first part of the movie is pure sarcasm, and it is done in a kind of jubilant way that is very charming.

When Megamind accidentally kills his rival and gets to be "evil overlord" of the city, he is thrown into an existential crisis. He tries to make a new superhero rival, and this backfires. As the plot moves forward several of the characters evolve, making this a nuanced movie where good and bad are relative and complex...

It was laugh out loud funny (my favorite part was the newfangled super-hero's pretend "space dad") and visually exciting. And the narrative was very engaging.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mary Barton

I read Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell in kind of a mad frenzy.

Initially I was turned off by the book; it's written in dialect and includes long over-wrought poetry at the beginning of every chapter (which I skipped). There was just something off-putting and disappointing about it at first. It was clearly nowhere near as wonderfully, perfectly written as Wives and Daughters. (Mary Barton was Gaskell's first book, and Wives and Daughters her last, and you can see how much she grew as an artist when you compare these two works.)

But in spite of that I quickly got drawn into the descriptions of industrial poverty and human pathos. Mary Barton is a completely lurid, over-the-top soap opera. So much death and squalor, drug use, prostitution, injustice and eventually murder. Although not a great book, it was impossible to put down, and I even, I confess, snuck in reading parts of it on the computer at work.

Also, it was kind of aggressively religious. Christ's love and forgiveness ends up saving the day...

Anyway, I'm thinking North and South is next for me...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Last night I watched Exit Through the Gift Shop on Watch Instantly.

I loved this documentary! It was so entertaining and engaging. It is about a French man living in LA who becomes obsessed with videotaping EVERYTHING. He soon discovers street artists, and is let into their fascinating sub-culture. He documents all these street artists putting up their work and becomes a close documentarian of Shepard Fairey and eventually Banksy. This part of the documentary really gives you an appreciation of street art without being preachy. It kind of lets the images and contexts speak for themselves, as you are seeing it somewhat through the eyes of the documentarian, who is a bit naive, a bit of an outsider artist. He is also very amusing to watch and listen to.

The film has an interesting twist, however, when the documentarian begins to make art himself...

This was really well done and tells a great story. It also makes you think.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tablao Flamenco

Last night I saw the American Bolero Dance Company perform a "Tablao Flamenco" at Auditorium Centro Espanol in Astoria.

It was a fantastic evening. A great, open, inviting, casual venue. The first act was mainly students at the school, and the second act featured professionals. I love flamenco so much, it is so rich and deep in raw emotion. So much virile anguish. It always moves me.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The September Issue

I hated The September Issue, a documentary focusing on Anna Wintour about putting together and issue of Vogue.

I suppose if you think this is interesting on the face of it, then you might find something to like. But I needed the documentary to make a case for me: why is this interesting? why should I care about fashion? or the magazine industry? or this distant bitch Ms. Wintour?

Because it didn't place its subject matter in any context, it was literally all about putting an issue of a magazine together (and only one aspect of putting it together: the fashion part; it didn't talk about the writing or graphic design or advertising at all).

I guess what happened while I was watching this is that the sociologist in me start have a temper tantrum: Where is the analysis of class? of consumerism? What about race and gender? And modernity? Isn't there some fucking other point of view that could have been engaged? Jeesh.

The Social Network

I watched The Social Network on the plane ride out to San Francisco for a job interview.

This movie did a great job capturing my attention and I was riveted by every scene. There was so much tension in these moments, particularly is Jesse Eissenberg's tight, subtle, creepy, and focused performance. In fact, he carried the movie, which was just as tight subtle, creepy and focused as he was. Sounds good right? Problem is, some other dimension was missing, some sort of nuance to his character that lied outside what we were shown. There was something missing from this movie, so that in spite of liking it, I immediately forgot about it.

Law in America

I thoroughly enjoyed Lawrence M. Friedman's Law in America: A Short History.

It IS very short. And very breezy. It discusses a vast range of topics in brief and broad terms. Too brief perhaps, and too broad for the significance of some of these issues (such as slavery and labor laws), but it provides a useful, intelligent and insightful overview. In general, a great resource for students.