Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking back on 2014

So, 2014 is about to come to a close. Now I take a look at What I Read and Watched this year, and make some assessment of general favorites. I read, watched, and saw a lot of really great stuff this year, enjoying most of everything. Yay.

First, I must mention the experience that defies categorization, The National Holocaust Museum in DC, which was intense and profound and important.

My favorite art exhibitions this year was Meridith McNeal's Liar, Liar at Figureworks and Patti Smith's "The Resilience of the Dreamer" at Ft. Tilden.

Of the live music I saw this year I think the best concert was Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, although I thoroughly enjoyed all the concerts I was fortunate enough to go to this year.

I saw lots of dance so it's hard to choose favorites. I'm going to go with Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca; Dance Theater of Harlem; Company XIV, and Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

I only saw two operas this year, liked them both, and am going to name L'Elisir Amore as my favorite.

For theater, the dark and demanding The Killer, as well as Company XIV (who really are a category of their own).

I watched many movies on Netflix etc, but only saw a few in the theaters. Of those, Her is the only real stand out.

I didn't see many documentaries this year, but include Tim's Vermeer, Spinning Plates, and The Flat as favorites.

It's hard to choose between all the TV series I watched online this year. So, the list of favorites has to include Olive Kitteridge, Big Love, Asylum, and Transparent.

As for reading, I started reading poetry more seriously this year, and tremendously enjoyed all of it. I'm not singling out anything.

Did not read a lot of fiction. The two standouts are very different from each other. The contemporary and artistically exciting Nochita, and the nostalgic and timeless A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Nonfiction: Bluets, Dear Nobody, I Wear the Black Hat, and Gentrification of the Mind. And of course the timeless and always important and eloquent diary of Anne Frank.

Side Show

I have mixed feelings about Side Show, the Broadway musical about lives of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet during the 1930s.

On one hand, I found it artistically underwhelming and banal. There were no thrilling musical numbers that transported me. All the songs sounded the same, as seems to be true of much of contemporary musical theater. (I saw a revival of Pippin last year, and though silly as hell, all the songs were very different and yet each very catchy).

On the other hand, I was moved by the central conflict of the narrative. From Wikipedia I have learned that the story of the Hilton Twins is more complex and grim than portrayed in Side Show. What this production did convey was a core conflict between being "connected" to someone and being "alone". I place both words in quotes because these words and concepts were repeated puns and underlying themes. Both Daisy and Violet lacked privacy and autonomy, because they were conjoined. Yet each felt alone and longed for connection with another (romantic sexual connection with the opposite sex). Another theme is the desire to escape exploitation as "freaks" and live "normal" lives (another two words and concepts the show plays on). That Daisy and Violet's story is not wrapped neatly with an inspiring pink bow is a strength of this unique piece of theater, which instead ends on a rather sarcastic note of grim triumph.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cinema of the Present

When I was in college my creative writing professor told me that "poetry is not to be 'understood' -- it's to be experienced." Lisa Robertson's Cinema of the Present is a mesmerizingly excellent and unique experience. Reading the second person lines that make this long poem, it feels like something is happening.

The "you" of the poem had me feeling like I was being directly addressed, like the speaker was intensely focused on me in this way no one else has been or can be. It was like being a locked chamber of narrative but also like a house of narrative mirrors. I mean all this in the best way, of course.

Cinema of the Present is made entirely of interspersed lines, one in regular text, one in italics. It is not clear if this is meant to represent different speakers in dialogue. That is how I first experienced the poem, but within ten or so pages if felt like one speaker in slightly different voices. A sort of echo-self.

Every single line of the poem is amazing and can stand on its own. What makes Cinema of the Present is the way these lines stand on the page as stark statements at the same time that they interweave and form a complex fabric of language. The poem to me did not have any sort of narrative arch, but there was a building internal momentum that increased in intensity, particularly as some lines were repeated. My take on this is that the poem is its own present, with no beginning middle or end. Just a pure happening.

I'm going to quote a section, but do remember I found just about every line extremely good and very quotable. So much of my book is underlined:

"Thus your data shimmers.

Then sleepiness came link an incision.

You wore the dress as payment for entrance to the symbolic order.

There will be a period of exuding, celebrating and cheering.

How does it look?

Then there will be the unknown period, the one you do not wish to represent.

You're in a life-facing position,

Then you are occupied by a question.

You're fierce, then you're tired."


Last night I finished watching the 10-part first season of Transparent, a new Amazon Prime series. The plot focuses on a family in LA, all grown children, and centers on the father who is in his 60s and just coming out as trans. She is played by Jeffrey Tambor and this performance really elevates the whole series, which, though strong, has a few weak spots. In the chaos of high pitched self-absorption surrounding Maura, Tambor's sensitive, quiet, at times pained performance, becomes the heart of the whole thing.

There are many excellent strands of plot lines in the grown kids lives -- the new lesbian relationship of the older daughter, the son's past relationship with his babysitter, bits and pieces of the younger daughter's aimless life... They all had a level of obliviousness to others that was at times very annoying, and at times borderline cruel/sad. The character that I liked the least was the mom. I don't know who the actress was, but she played the character entirely through mannerisms and with a frantic annoying energy.

I would have liked more of Maura's experiences and am very much looking forward to the second season.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo

I had wanted to see Les Ballets Trockadero for so long, and finally had my chance last night. This all male company performs wonderfully masterful ballet using at times over the top slapstick. The mix of humor and beauty is truly joyous, and it was a rather uplifting experience.

The sight of me en pointe is jarring and funny. It continues to tickle the senses, even as you grow used to it. So just the fact that men are playing the traditional female roles adds one layer of fun.  Then the performers used large gestures, facial expressions, and deliberately un-balletic movements to further enhance the comedic elements.

Although I enjoyed the humor, I was truly buoyed by the marvelous dancing. There were four pieces: a section of Swan Lake; a parody of Balanchine called "Go Barocco" (I wouldn't have known this was a joke except I read this Times article which pointed it out); a fabulous pas de deux ("Le Corsaire"); and "La Naïade et le Pêcheur". My favorites were the less narrative, less slapsticky two middle pieces. Like I said, I didn't pick up on Go Barocco being a take on Balanchine -- I simply loved the dancing, as well as the lighting and colors, the whole thing. Le Corsaire was also incredibly delightful.

This was truly a great holiday treat!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Everybody Poops 410 Pounds a Year

I just read Everybody Poops 410 Pounds a Year, written by Deuce Flanagan and illustrated by David R Dudley.

This book provides a shitload of information about shit. Almost everything you ever wanted to know about the subject (it did leave a few questions unanswered).

Some things to think about "Before the automobile, NYC was so overrun by horses and pack animals that during the winter the streets were covered in five feet of ice-packed manure." I just can't get over how much the world must have stunk before modern plumbing!

How did people deal?

The illustrations in this book really work well with the text. They are amusing and also informative.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Olive Kitteridge

I just finished the 4-part HBO miniseries, Olive Kitteridge. It is a very painful portrait of a difficult woman in Maine. She is harsh and stern and cold for the most part, with a few awkward moments of compassion and softness. The story follows her life from when she and her husband are about in their forties with a son in middle school, through to her older age, as her son marries and moves on in life. Her marriage to Henry, an incredibly, painfully, nice man, is strained and taut. This aspect of the miniseries was hardest for me to watch, as I felt so bad for Henry.

There are numerous important minor characters, and the view of Olive's personality deepens and becomes more complex with each scene. I hated her in many moments, but was very moved and felt very sorry for her. Frances McDormand was truly amazing in this role. The acting throughout was phenomenal. And, Bill Murray even has a part in the end, which was wonderful.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lisa Jarnot at The Poetry Project

I enjoyed such a marvelous and evocative poetry reading tonight. Lisa Jarnot read from an in-progress long poem that is currently in five parts. The sections she read conveyed a thoughtful poetic sensibility, a delightful command of language and imagery, and a sweet and intelligent poet's presence in the world.

The work had a terrific momentum, capturing fragments of observation of the external and internal worlds. I can't say how much I loved the language, the surprising turns of phrases and bursts of humor. I just cannot wait till I have the opportunity to read the whole poem.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New Territories at MAD

I had a bit of a stressful visit to the Museum of Arts and Design this afternoon, as I arrived close to closing and there were other issues going on. So I felt rushed as I went through the fascinating exhibition, New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft, and Art in Latin America. There was so much to look at I had trouble taking it all in. Also, didn't have my phone with me so I couldn't take photos (not necessarily a bad thing). 

Some works that stood out for me were the fantastical pink beaded creation by Nepomuceno (pictured in the second installation shot), the collection of high heeled shoes (all so different and funky and creative) inspired by different lovers, by Errazuriz. There were three beautiful white chairs like lace (didn't catch the artist's name), a beautiful table and chandelier. And these haunting dresses pictured in this installation shot. I may have to go back a second time to see what I missed!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine is a very sad, very difficult move to watch. It stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a young married couple whose relationship is falling apart. Both actors give marvelous performances.

The movie zeroes in on the the tension between them, almost microscopically. It also veers, through extended flashbacks, to the sweet beginning of their courtship. It does both these things very well, but there seems to be something missing. How did they grow that far apart? Did she just become sick of him (he still seemed crazy about her)?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Brooklyn Art

I was really underwhelmed and disappointed by the group show at the Brooklyn Museum showcasing Brooklyn Artists. There was something grim and plain and overly conceptual about most of the pieces. Very few grabbed me. Nothing was luscious and unforgettable. My favorite was the room of sky paintings by Cynthia Daignault, which made me feel momentarily transported to the out of doors and which meticulously studied variations of cloud formations.

Killer Heels

The Brooklyn Museum has a tantalizing show up now on the high heel shoe, Killer Heels. Every single piece I saw was spectacular and a pleasure to look at. Really engaging. Most of the works were very contemporary, from the last five years. I think I had expected a more historical perspective and wasn't prepared for so much current high fashion. It was still interesting. I think the small section on fetish footwear could have been more out there and elaborate, and was disappointed by the small appearance of just one (I think) Fluevog.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Anna Karenina, again

I just watched the Kiera Knightly version of Anna Karenina again. I saw it in the theater when it first came out. I had liked it then, although it left me dry-eyed. This time I liked it just as much, if not more, although again it left me unmoved emotionally.

I love the way the story was set, the tension and beauty created by the device of theatricality. It was stunning, and captivating, and engaging. But Anna Karenina seems to really need to punch you in the gut to be fully successful, and this wondrous version just doesn't take me there. Still, I highly recommend it.


I read Maggie Nelson's astonishing and lovely Bluets in one sitting on the dreary rainy cold Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Bluets is what I give thanks for. A sweet, smart and sorrowful book. It is a true gift.

Deep and precise reflections on the color blue merge with the experience of personal romantic loss and the writing process in a way that comes together as a glimmering memoir and exploration of human experience. Suffering. Desire. Memory. 

Some entries:

"203. I remember, in the eighties, when crack first hit the scene, hearing all kinds of horror stories about how if you smoked it even once, the memory of its unbelievable high would live on in your system forever, and you would thus never again be able to be content without it. I have no idea if this is true, but I will admit that it scared me off the drug. In the years since, I have sometimes found myself wondering if the same principle applies in other realms -- if seeing a particularly astonishing shade of blue, for example, or letting a particularly potent person inside you, could alter you irrevocably, just to have seen or felt it. In which case, how does one know when, or how, to refuse? How to recover?"

"228. My injured friend is now able to write letters via voice-recognition software to keep her friends abreast of changes in her condition, of which there have been many. 'My life can change, does change,' she asserts -- and it has, and does, often in astonishing ways. Nonetheless, near the end of these letters, she includes a short paragraph that acknowledges her ongoing physical pain, and her intense grief for all she has lost, a grief she describes as bottomless. 'If I did not write of the difficulties under which I labor, I would fear to be misrepresenting the grinding reality of quadriplegia and spinal cord injury,' she says. "So here it is, the paragraph that roundly asserts that I continue to suffer.'"

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ani DiFranco at The Town Hall

Tonight I finally saw Ani DiFranco live! I've loved her music for the last 20 years and never had the opportunity to see her perform before.

She was energetic and soulful and very graceful. She sang mostly new songs, all gorgeous and full of funk and raw gentleness. Clearly a seasoned performer. I really liked the new songs, but I sheepishly confess that I wish she had sung some more of her work from the 90s. I'm thinking Not a Pretty Girl, Out of Range, and Dilate. She did end the evening with a beautiful rendition of "32 Flavors", with the entire audience singing with her. All in all a great evening.

Friday, November 14, 2014


Nochita, an amazing novel by Dia Felix, is dizzying in it's poetic language that propels the bittersweet narrative forward. I guess you would call it a "coming of age" story. Nochita's childhood is charmed and idiosyncratic, as she is raised by her mother who is a new age guru. But this doesn't capture the feral magic of the language, so visceral, which makes this child's inner world glimmer. The crackling sensations of being alive and alert and intelligent and alone continue through the narrator's young life. Early on she is orphaned, and this hardens around the girl matter of factly, without sentimentality.

Nochita is overflowing with a wild poetry energy. It is surreal, but grounded in sharp edginess. It pulses. As the narrator engages with other characters, explores and questions sexuality, and experiences an array of drugs, she inhabits dense and crunching sensations. The ending hits with tempered expansiveness.

I loved this book and the singular writing and didn't want it to end.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Angelo Micah Olin and David Shapiro at Dia

Tonight I went to a fucking amazing poetry reading at Dia Chelsea. Angelo Micah Olin read unbelievably powerful poems. His work is unique and raw and unprecedented in its turns of phrase and shifts of imagery and emotional nuance. He read from earlier works as well as new poems, and it was great to hear those older ones once again and equally wonderful to hear the recent pieces, which I had read on facebook. His delivery added to the complexity and vulnerability and sincerity of the marvelous lines.

David Shapiro is a true talent. He read funny, lovely, understated, and finely crafted poems that were a delight to here. In addition to the magic of his work, was the magic of his presentation. He gracefully introduced and commented on each poem in way that was truly amusing and generous. I felt privileged to be in the company of two such special talents and forces in the poetry world.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Tim Dlugos, Powerless

I just finished Tim Dlugos' Powerless: Selected Poems 1973-1990. These are so lovely, sad, and masterful. His writing throughout is clear as a bell -- precise and gentle. His style is conversational for the most part, a bit meandering at times, but in a wonderfully delightful and sweet way. These poems convey so much. They are filled with nuanced emotions, longings, regrets, insights, and joys.

Most moving are the final series, which chronicles his AIDS years. They are written with great clarity, it seemed to me, and with heartfelt patience and gratitude. These are truly spectacular. They had me in tears.

I couldn't find lines to quote in and of themselves, because the beauty of his writing is more in the totality of each poem.  Here I will share the last stanza from an earlier work, "Day for Paul"

"'s me
five years ago. I am on the verge of a big breakthrough
accompanied by pain. I have not read anything by Proust,
Dostoevsky, Rimbaud, or Frank O'Hara. I have not had sex
with the people I love and need most. I have not yet learned
to identify the people I love and need most. But I have
dreams about people who move like you, who make me feel so
full that waking up becomes a major letdown, and I want to
sleep all day and all night if it will make me feel that good
again, take me to the place inside my body where I can feel
you  living all the time."

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca

I saw a wonderful flamenco performance at The Joyce last night. Soledad Barrio and Noche Flemenca are stunning. I have seen them before and they never fail to move me and transport me.

The singing and music come from such a deep, ancient, visceral place. It just cuts right through. The dancing is exact and masterful and, as I think I've commented elsewhere, utterly and beautifully virile.

The first part of the program consisted of excerpts from a longer narrative piece, "Antigona". I was nervous that it would me too... corny... mannered... or something. But instead I was treated to highly elegant and visually arresting artistry. There were so many stark and surreal moments, merging traditional flamenco with modern dance. I was transfixed by the segment when the female dancers performed from chairs, their emotional arms haunting and mesmerizing. I fell in love with those arms.

The second part of the program was three dances that were all amazing and the soloists received hearty and heartfelt applause from the excited and stirred audience.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

sherwood forest

I love Camille Roy's sherwood forest. I read it in one long, pensive sitting, taking in the marvelous and biting phrases, enjoying the ride from poem to poem. She is one of my favorite writers.

sherwood forest is rich and dark. Lines snap at each other. Characters reappear and reemerge, themes of disturbance and crime echo throughout. The books reads wonderfully as a whole. Some standouts for me though are "Diary of 3 Words", "Red Hood", "Crime Story", "Embarrassed Tract", "Lucy in the Sky", "Sing Song" and "My Play".

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Mel Elberg at the Zinc Bar

I had a delightful dollop of light in an otherwise dreary weekend: Mel Elberg reading at the Zinc Bar. Her poems are so dynamic and her voice is so direct and assured. Wonderful lines that come together in powerful moments. Some standouts for me were the earthquake poem, the crystal series, and the love poems. Each had it's own crackling energy and together this strong body of work was really dazzling.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Erosion's Pull

Maureen Owen's poems are truly special. She breathes intelligence into all her lines. I just finished Erosion's Pull, the first time I've read a whole collection of hers. There is wry humor, smart observation, and linguistic beauty.

Her titles and breaks within lines are unmistakably hers. These disrupted fragments create a kind of jolting loveliness that I appreciated throughout. I would like to quote some of her work, but I don't think this blog platform will honor the spacing, so I'll just note: "I think I shall become formidable".

Saturday, October 25, 2014

American Ballet Theater

I had a fairly delightful evening at Lincoln Center tonight. I went to see American Ballet Theater. The program was three ballets but I only stayed for the first two, as I started to feel very flu-y.

The first dance was "Sinfonietta" -- a lovely five movement ballet for 14 dancers. The music wasn't my favorite, but the graceful movement was mesmerizing and truly beautiful.

The second, "Jardin Aux Lilas", was much more narrative (which I don't quite care for with dance). It was set at a wedding party, where the betrothed were both in love with others. The set was dark and gothic, a gloomy midnight forest scene. And the choreography was austere and formal. Stunning in parts, but a bit mannered for my taste. Still, I was moved, and, as with the first piece, I was mesmerized.

The third dance was a version of "Fancy Free" a sailor-themed number choreographed by Jerome Robbins and set to Leonard Bernstein.  I have seen New York City Ballet perform this at least once and was curious to see how a different company might do it differently. However, unfortunately, I felt very warm and achy and had to leave during the second intermission.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Gone Girl, the movie

Tonight I saw the movie Gone Girl, which I very much enjoyed. I had read the book a year ago, and although I liked it, I wasn't crazy about it.

The movie, however, is kind of excellent. It doesn't change anything, following the book closely. It's a very good story (I don't want to give anything away), and one of the things that makes the movie more gripping is the way the music and sound effects added tension and suspense to the scenes. Although the book was a total page turner, I never felt frightened, as I did in the movie. The acting was also very good, and I really enjoyed Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne -- that important character never really jumped off the page for me. The actress who played Amy was impeccable and creepy, really good.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Language Arts

I spent a marvelous morning with Cedar Sigo's stunning and shimmering recent collection of poems, Language Arts.

Through musical phrasing, and surprising images, Sigo creates a landscape in which the poet is thinking and feeling through modes of creation. The person IS the poem. And a quiet beauty pervades the language.

So many lines echoed for me ("I love strangers in an ailing mansion", from the poem "Language Arts"). A favorite of mine is "Sea Breeze" ("The flesh is bruised it hurts and I've burned through all my books").

Another favorite, which I'll quote in full, is "Dream":

A curtain dragging gold rises on The Big Heat
Two words are fused to a bloodletting chain
How beautifully the brakemen allow the blood through
I rest on the slip of the black coral sea
Steel quilted in lines wider than the streets
Pinned as a wing or thin cord, that he summons
In order to drive us away, that glamour is an investment
Involving desire and unreality. The poem are perfect
Laid back time machines, ground-blooming flowers
Their endless pastel grime in streaks
A blocking of my own in-expertise, a tunnel
Blown down past the marble to brass
And first to charge the shore, waving our shields
A castle left cooling to ruin
And the islands will flower in and out

Angela Carr and Cedar Sigo at the Poetry Project

The other night I heard Angela Carr and Cedar Sigo at the Poetry Project. Both readers were so elegant in their delivery, even as their poems were so different. Carr's work was like lovely language chandeliers in a room with a mysterious woman. Sigo read beautiful poems situated in his strong and masterful poetic voice. I can't wait to read his recent collection, Language Arts.

Monday, October 13, 2014

American Horror Story: Asylum

Like Murder House, I had mixed feelings about the second season of American Horror Story, Asylum.

Set mostly in 1964 (though veering into the present and even to the holocaust at times) at a decrepit insane asylum run by a repressed nun (an AMAZING performance by Jessica Lange), it follows the disturbing and metaphysical plights of several inmates.

Asylum includes Nazi doctors, aliens, demonic possession, serial killers, evil children, axe murderers, roving mutants, nymphomaniacs, an an elegant angel of death. It's kind of a lot to take. But somehow it mainly works. It is visually dark and monotonous and always creepy. The acting is for the most part very good, with a few standout performances (Sarah Paulson as the lesbian journalist wrongfully institutionalized, for example). And the plot lines are engaging, even as they slip into chaos and become a bit ridiculous. Still, given all that was thrown into this concoction, I think it managed to be a successfully tense and suspenseful exploration of horror motifs.

Favorite part: the possessed nun.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fall for Dance, 2014

The other night I enjoyed a wonderful program at Fall for Dance, my favorite NYC performance festival.

The first dance was performed by Black Grace. "Pati Pati" fused western contemporary dance with traditional Samoan slap dance -- utilizing fun and invigorating and complex body percussion. Next was an elegant ballet from the San Francisco Ballet, "Variations for Two Couples" -- very beautiful, but I wasn't too crazy about the music.

My favorite of the evening was "Two x Two" created by Russell Maliphant/Sadler's Wells London. This spare and haunting dance featured two performers on different squares or planes. Each moving separately but it worked together. The lighting was gorgeous and I was really riveted by the dance.

The final crowd-pleaser was the always engaging Mark Morris Dance Group. We got to see the premiere of "Words", which I fully enjoyed. It had a familiar feeling, though, for a new a work, and I think that is because I've seen his choreography several times before.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Not That Kind of Girl

I SO much enjoyed reading Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl. I am a huge fan of hers -- think she has a unique perspective, an off-beat sense of humor, an intelligent sensibility, and an ability to mix and match vulnerability and confidence.

Not That Kind of Girl is a memoir of her childhood in New York, college years, and post-college activities prior to Tiny Furniture (which I also loved). It is presented in the form of distinct essays, but flows well as a whole.

There is a large section devoted to misadventures with the opposite sex. These segments are highly amusing, and also poignant, as the younger Dunham fumbles through her attempts to navigate what passes for "romance" in the 21st Century. There was a lot I could relate to from my own youth. In fact, I find Dunham in general to be very relatable, even though we are generations apart.

The writing throughout is masterful, with wonderful little asides and turns of phrase that continually tickled me. She is a great humorist. I particularly enjoyed the anecdotes about her quirky childhood, and her budding neurosis. It was touching to see this child plagued with anxieties turn to her parents and caregivers numerous times, as she clearly grew up largely feeling safe and loved by those around her.

I wanted to highlight many, many parts of the book. Here is one of the few I chose to highlight (for the sake of brevity I am not sharing a brilliant and touching few paragraphs on her fear of death)"

Looking back on her college years, during which she was a bit lost and alienated: "If I had known how much I would miss these sensations I might have experienced them differently, recognizing their shabby glamour, respected the ticking clock that defined this entire experience. I would have put aside my resentment, dropped my defenses. I might have a basic understanding of European history or economics. More abstractly, I might feel I had been somewhere, open and porous and hungry to learn. Because being a student was an enviable identity and one I can only reclaim by attending community college late in life for a bookmaking class or something"

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


I just watched Sinister, a very scary movie starring Ethan Hawke. It's about a true crime writer who moves his family into a house where the previous family was murdered. Creepy stuff starts happening right away. He finds a box of Super 8 film reels that depict horrible family murders. All grainy and silent. They were the best part of the movie.

Sinister is kind of compelling, hard not to watch. Although it creeped me out so much I had to pause many times, so that I wouldn't get too uncomfortably scared. I think it did a very good job telling a pretty good horror tale. It actually kind of frightens me just looking at this image that I'm using in this post... Maybe I'll change it...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Paying Guests

I really enjoyed Sarah Waters' The Paying Guests. This engrossing story chronicles the course of a love affair that becomes entangled with a murder story. Set in 1922 London after the war, The Paying Guests' heroine is Frances, the 28 year old spinster living with her mother in a house they can no longer afford, and which carries the sad memories of two brothers who died in the war. They take in lodgers and from there the story develops.

Waters is amazing at details and nuances which create a vivid texture of emotional realism. Her work is almost always page-turning and compelling, and The Paying Guests is no different. However, the narrative is a bit more linear, with fewer twists and turns than some of her other work, such as Fingersmith, and as much as I like this novel, it seemed a less sophisticated accomplishment.

Tim's Vermeer

Tim's Vermeer is a wonderfully engaging documentary about Tim Jenison's quest to replicate a Vermeer painting, "The Music Lesson".

Jenison is a highly accomplished and successful inventor who became fascinated with understanding Vermeer's work. He developed a theory that he had to have been using a special kind of optical device to achieve such accuracy. He constructed such a device and began testing it. After consulting with art historians and writer's about Dutch master techniques, he became more certain that Vermeer used something very similar to his creation.

But he didn't stop there. He set about replicating the painting, and he did so with patient yet fanatic attention to detail. He recreated the room and costumes and props from "The Music Lesson". This was an enormous undertaking. Then he began the painstakingly slow and minute process of painting. The intricate details of the painting, such as the weft of the rug in the foreground, and the design on the surface of the instrument, were diligently rendered.

Tim's Vermeer is such a good documentary because Tim Jenison is such an obsessively dedicated man. It is a mesmerizing portrait of someone's intense fascination and dedication.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Spinning Plates

I very much enjoyed Spinning Plates, a documentary following three restaurants in the US. One is elegant and challenging with exquisitely crafted contemporary concoctions. Another is a family owned establishment that has been a fixture of a small town in Iowa. The third is a struggling Mexican place in Arizona.

Spinning Plates offers an in-depth portrayal of the restaurants and the owners, who all have very different stories. The main theme is the personality and heart that goes into creating and maintaining a restaurant. Each owner has a different philosophy about food and dining experiences, and each has endured personal struggles that influenced the story of their restaurants. Achatz's cancer; Breitbach's fires; and the financial difficulties of the Mexican establishment's proprietors.

The documentary is pleasant and interesting. Inspiring and sad at the same time.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

American Horror Story: Murder House

This past week I watched the first season of American Horror Story, Murder House. It's about a family that moves into a haunted house. The husband and wife are having marital problems, and the daughter is alienated and depressed. Throughout the 12-episode season they are terrorized by ghosts as well as a strange neighbor, Constance. The house becomes so cluttered with ghosts, and with complicated plots involving all the various characters, that I thought for a while it was going to fall apart. But it ended up being engrossing and worked through the various plot lines in satisfying ways.

The first three episodes were incredibly scary and I had nightmares. But then you get acclimated to it and it feels more like a melodrama than a horror story, even though it never abandons the creepy and scary techniques of the genre.

One thing that really made this show work was the quality of the acting. Jessica Lange was just fantastic. So was the actress who played the daughter. Unfortunately Dylan McDermott as the father contributed seriously awful acting that was difficult to endure. But, like the other forms of horror, I got used to it.

After it was over I found myself missing all the inhabitants.

Friday, September 19, 2014

AGAIN! Rococo Rouge, Company XIV

I can't get enough of an amazing thing! Tonight I saw Rococo Rouge for the second time, and it was just as stunning, if not more so, than last week.

We had more center seats tonight, which made a difference, as last time I had a pillar of some sort kind of obstructing my view. Tonight we saw the performance full frontal, and it was incredibly sexy, and dramatic, and beautiful.

Everything about Rococo Rouge hits the right note. The diverse and uniquely talented singers, the choreography, the mesmerizing acrobatics, the wondrous costumes, the decadence and high camp. All the performers were wonderful, but the host or emcee, Shelly Watson, with a powerful singing voice and fabulous regalia, stole the show for me.

I can't wait to see what Company XIV's next production is!

Monday, September 15, 2014

HOME at Corridor Gallery

Yesterday I went to the opening of HOME, a group art exhibition at Corridor Gallery, curated by Meridith McNeal.

What a truly fantastic show! There were so many different works all exploring aspects and meanings of "home". Each piece had much depth and nuance, and the way the works dialogued with each other added to the complexity.

Some standouts were the Deborah Simon's installation, "Roost" -- mixed media sculptures of a colony of bats, hung and lit in a way that created haunting shadows on the walls. Valerie Hegarty's sculptures of wounded crockery were wonderful to look at and very moving. Susan Hamburger's intricate ink drawings of stacked paper cups and kitchen plates were beautiful and intimate.

I was also very moved by Flavia Berdindoague's pieces that looked like mounted animal hides, but were made with institutional blankets used for the homeless, prisoners, and disaster victims.  One of the pieces featured a beautiful story created by Berindoague and inscribed on the blanket:

It was a frigid winter night
I was hungry
The streets were empty and dark
I was surprised to find an open door
There was bread on the table.  I fried eggs
I was attracted by the shine on the chandelier's crystals
The objects in the room were familiar images
The blue velvet of the curtains
The same blue of the chair seats that we used to have dinner my wife and I
A breeze of profound sadness filled the room
I felt lonely -- I felt Nude
I wrote a note -- I tore it
I understand I was a slave of fear
I turned off a light and left

Also on view were lovely works by Felix Plaza; beaded objects by Diana Rickard; a "micro-home" created by Greg Kloehn -- a temporary homeless shelter created out from discarded materials; a large multi-faceted photographic piece by Amanda Williams; bittersweet photograms by Rachel Rath; Catherine de Zagon's photograph of homes in Vietnam; Guiseppe Di Lelio's drawings exploring decay and regeneration; and a stunning photograph by Carrie Mae Weems.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Glenn Lieberman at Atlantic Gallery

The other evening I saw an excellent exhibition at Atlantic Gallery, Glenn Lieberman, Repossession: The Catskills. These arresting photographs captured a lovely decay and disrepair in this region that was once a thriving go-to summer destination. Many of the photographs are black and white, and these focused on images of homes and structures in their natural element. There was also a series of color photographs of the desolate and decayed interior of the famous Grossinger's Hotel. These were fascinating. The piles of disintegrating materials, and light bursts of color, such as the pink bathroom tiles under the rubble. A beautiful show.

Company XIV: Rococo Rouge!!!

I enjoyed stunning entertainment tonight! Company XIV is the most amazing performance troupe in the city! Rococo Rouge is a delicious confection of beautiful singing, sexy and commanding costumes, burlesque numbers, and acrobatics. There's nothing else like it. Utterly raunchy and masterful.

I had seen their luscious version of The Nutcracker earlier this year and was excited to see them perform again in an intimate venue on Lafayette Street. The performance space was loungy and elegant and decadent, the perfect place for this company.

I enjoyed every moment of Rococo Rouge, but I think my favorite tonight was the sultry blonde chanteuse.

(The second, better photo here is taken from the company's facebook page)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Rachel Lee Hovnanian: Plastic Perfect

I very much enjoyed the Rachel Lee Hovnanian exhibition at Leila Heller Gallery. The work in Plastic Perfect explores the relationship between mass production and contemporary human experience. Many of the pieces focus on sugar and excess, such as an installation of Frosted Flakes boxes with white sugar streaming over the surface. Or the installation that featured a room covered in Cherios, with puddles of sugar, in which a hologram of a mouse munches on a treat.

Plastic Perfect had included the fascinating "Perfect Baby Showroom", part hospital nursery, part storefront. Viewers were invited to put on robes and sanitize their hands before holding the hyper-realistic babies in their arms. They were also invited to take a selfie of the experience.

I enjoyed the large photography in the exhibition, which depicted people in bed, darkly lit, each looking at their cell phones. These were haunting images of 21st century intimacy.