Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Paul Newman: 1925–2008

(Another) Wild Combination

Lykke Li + Bon Iver = ♥

Visiting a World of Echo

Arthur Russell

The new Arthur Russell documentary, Wild Combination, is playing now at the IFC Center in NYC (it runs until October 7). Directed by Matt Wolf and featuring interviews with everyone from Allen Ginsberg to Jens Lekman, the film looks like a fantastic tribute and an intimate glimpse into the too-short life of a captivating genius. Russell is finally getting the attention he always deserved, beginning with the spectacular Audika reissues and now with this documentary...

If you haven't heard it, go out right this second and buy World of Echo. Then take it home and put it on your stereo, plug in a pair of headphones, sink into a comfy chair, and close your eyes... Don't feel embarrassed if you start weeping.

@ IFC Center (323 Sixth Ave., New York, NY 10014)
Showtimes for Wed Oct 1 – Tue Oct 7:
Wed-Thu: 1:10, 2:50, 4:25, 6:15, 8:25, 10:10pm
Fri: 9:45pm, 12:15am
Sat: 12:15am
Sun-Tue: 9:45pm

"In New York's vibrant music scene of the 70s and 80s, Arthur Russell bridged the gap between the artistic vanguard and dancefloor hits, The Kitchen and Studio 54. A seminal avant-garde composer, singer-songwriter, cellist and disco producer, he was on the cusp of popular success before his untimely death from AIDS in 1992. As a new generation discovers his music, this kaleidoscopic, inventive documentary combines rare archival footage and interviews with family, friends and colleagues—including Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg, a lifelong mentor and collaborator—to tell the story of a groundbreaking artist."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Paul Auster Stands Up for Liberalism

Gothamist has a great interview with Paul Auster up today, and included amidst some interesting insights from the author is this superb tangent on politics:
"Well we’re a very divided country and it seems to be split right down the middle. It’s not as if it’s 55-45. It’s 50-50. And as the rhetorical climate has gotten uglier and uglier over the years, the two sides have gotten unable to talk to each other. We don’t listen. It’s become deeply frustrating to be an American right now, to look at all the problems we have and not be able to discuss them frankly. Because basically the side that I don’t belong to just seems to want to ignore the problems, attack the other side and make fun of them. People who are Democrats, liberals, are unable to announce the fact that they are liberals. Which, to me, is shocking. Because liberalism is what the whole country was founded on. The founding fathers were liberals: secular, sophisticated, elitist liberals.

They created the country and the ideas we’re founded on. And every good thing that we’ve produced since has been the work of the liberal imagination. Everything from Social Security to Medicare to civil rights action and so on. And I think the liberals in the United States should be prouder of their accomplishments and stand up and defend them more vigorously."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who is this 50 percent and what are they thinking?

This poll is currently up at the PBS website:

It's interesting that only 2 people (0%) are "Not Sure;" certainty is such an honorable American trait...

Oh, and in case you didn't notice, the majority of people are apparently dead certain she is qualified!

Go vote. It's clear this is linked on some right-wing blogs; so let's try to shift the trend and represent the informed among us.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Conversation with Eric Zimmerman

Austin artist Eric Zimmerman's drawings and sculptures employ the exacting and precise methodologies of schematic plans and architectural modeling even while depicting sites and subjects as varied as Jefferson's Monticello, meteorites, icebergs, and the gigantic sundial at the Jantar Mantar complex in Jaipur, India. Zimmerman investigates the nature of spacial relationships in broad physical ways, and also explores the intellectual and emotional terrain of the human imagination. We recently emailed with Zimmerman to ask him about his latest series of drawings, Atlas, and to see what he's working on now.

NB: I want to start by asking you about graphite, a material that you frequently use. It's something that most people are familiar with, of course, but your drawings are so detailed and ornate that it's sometimes hard to imagine that you’re rendering those images with a pencil. Can you tell me a bit about what draws you to the material?

EZ: I was conceptually moving towards addressing straightforward representation in my work. This came out of thinking about the correlation between imaging something versus imagining it, and the perceptual movement between those two types of representation. I am interested in the photographic image but not in the sense of time that is an inherent part of every photograph. The drawing is an attempt to strip away that sense of time and re-insert the representation alone into a more flexible sense of time and space—to put different types of images into proximity with one another on a level playing field. Slowly rendering something also helps me to process each image and attempt to come to a place where I understand it and what it represents.

Formally I was interested in reducing the materials to their most basic, and maybe even essential, to see if I could open up the work conceptually, and make my ideas more clear. A pencil and a piece of paper seemed the most basic I could get without limiting myself and the work too much. My interest in the material is mostly because it is most appropriate for the type of work I am making right now.

Atlas #1,Ruins Projection (Hooker), Graphite on Paper, 12" x 10"

Atlas #6,Grid Projection (For Noah), Graphite on Paper, 12" x 10"

NB: In terms of your subject matter, your drawings run a wide gamut from the almost hyper-realistic depiction of places and things to similarly detailed but less familiar images of real or imagined forms. What subjects lend themselves to faithful renderings? Which to abstraction? In your mind, is there a difference in the way you approach those two things?

EZ: The two kinds of representation you mention are very similar to me so I don’t consciously choose one or the other. I render the invented pieces just as carefully and specifically as the “real” images. The imagined and invented places in my work are derived from seeing those “real” images and the larger research component to my studio work, so in a sense they appear to me right along side the more traditional representations. The imaginary and the real aren’t necessarily opposites.

Using this mode of realistically rendering something and applying it to a thing that does not physically exist in the world also has some resonance with me. The realistic images are really just abstractions of a place; they are symbols for, or referents to, that actual location in the world. I like this idea quite a bit as for me it blurs the boundary between real and unreal, here and there, and allows the images to interact with one another on a more interesting and complex level than they do as singular entities. It is a space full of possibility.

There are also qualities that I look for in existing images and try and coax out of my invented ones that are almost identical so I don’t see much of difference there. I think the important difference emerges when the drawings are completed and placed in proximity to one another. That difference has more to do with how we understand and perceive different types of representation than anything else—real, abstract, textual, symbolic, etc.— and this is really the key to the Atlas drawings for example.

Observatory/Projector (Metropolis), Installation View, Art Palace Gallery, Austin, TX, 2008

Observatory/Projector (Metropolis), Installation View, Art Palace Gallery, Austin, TX, 2008
Wood, board, overhead projector, model trees, ink, 4' x 4' x 9'

NB: It seems to me that the kind of “straightforward representation” that you talk about is complicated when depicting text rather than something overtly physical. You mention “here” and “there” which are both depicted in the Atlas drawings (Atlas #10, Locations (Here) and Atlas #11 Locations (There), respectively).

It seems to me that the depiction of words rather than real or imagined physical spaces complicate the notion of objects and referents because both words (“here” and “there”) are relative terms that have no specific, physical objects that they aim to represent. Or, rather, those places are relative to the context in which you might use those words as descriptors. When we’re looking at an iceberg, for example, we understand that we’re viewing a thing, and when we view your drawing of an iceberg, we understand that we’re witnessing a depiction of something physical that really exists somewhere in physical space. “Here” or “there,” though, seem almost like an indictment, asking the reader to consider his or her physical position rather than to imagine something that’s physically external.

Can you tell us how you view and use those two different kinds referents (words versus concrete physical things) in your work?

EZ: I like to think about the words “here” and “there” as pointing to a location in space, and as a way of thinking about location and representation based on language. The text provides a spatial framework for the images that ideally makes the work perpetually present, and complicates the relationship between how we define and understand spatial location. There is definitely a conscious decision on my part to use the text to point directly at the reader/viewer.

With pictures there is a generally passive relationship. You view these places and representations and can either engage and imagine yourself within them or not. They are pictures that act as referents to other places. You are always placing yourself into the work. With the text it starts to place itself back into your space and create a moment when you are conscious of your place in relation to it and all of these other representations. I think this has to do with how text becomes activated only through reading, and because this reading takes place in our minds, it is impossible to engage with text as an “other” space that isn’t always connected and dependent on our bodies to some degree. Each time you read it you are there with it in that moment. I also like that you can use these spatial words to say “Here you go” and “There there” for example, or as this communicative gesture between people.

Atlas #10, Locations (Here), Graphite on Paper, 12" x 10"

Atlas #11 Locations (There), Graphite on Paper, 12" x 10"

NB: I recently read Noah Simblist's piece in Art Lies about your most recent exhibition, Atlas, at Austin's Art Palace. In his review, Simblist points to Clement Greenberg's analysis of the tension between classicism and romanticism in modern art, and I couldn't help but think that Simblist's reference was a good one in terms of how a viewer might experience your work. On the one hand, there seems to be something cool and objective about your depictions of mechanical or structural objects. On the other hand, there's something incredibly romantic about even the most faithfully detailed and seemingly objective rendering of a gargantuan 19th century refractor telescope.

Would a viewer do well to think about the tension between the naturalistic and the abstract, or, in Greenberg's terms, the classical and the romantic, when encountering your work?

EZ: I certainly think that the tension between the cool and objective versus the romantic is present, but hopefully how and where it is manifesting itself in the work is a little evasive. Both of those are qualities I am drawn to when I am gathering images and inventing my own. There is something terribly romantic about the coolness of science and architecture, maybe because it runs so counter to our instincts as human beings, and that coolness and quest for objectivity ends up being this unattainable ideal more than an actuality. The sense of wonder that drives scientists can’t just be born of icy objectivity, there has to be some emotional predisposition involved.

Most of the images I am working from are from USGS and NASA databases along with science and history books, etc., but they exude this amazing sense of longing and desire to archive and understand the world. Context has a huge role to play, but I’ve always seen science as tinged with these human qualities. Architecture is another story, yet it exudes the same kind of optimism and wonder for me.

Lord Rosse's refractor is a good example as it is this structure built in order to observe and understand the heavens. Seeing images of early scientific instruments draws a line of connection for me between then and now. The technology has changed but we are still longing to understand the vastness of the universe and to be able to locate and describe our place within it. If this isn’t a romantic pursuit I am not sure what is. I am trying to open this idea up on a more general level and think about this notion of persistent longing for the unattainable—maybe even impossible—and how that effects how we image, imagine, and live within space. The drawings are just one instance of this.

NB: This may be an obvious question, but do you feel that you approach your artistic pursuits with a similar optimism or hope that you imagine scientists bring to theirs?

EZ: I have my occasional moments, I think. But in general I am much more pessimistic about the world, and I think this drives the work more than anything. It helps me keep a certain amount of perspective that allows me to move forward and maintain a level of curiosity and interest in art and ideas. So maybe the hope is found in the pessimism.

Multiplying/Seperating/Island (For Tom), 11" x 14", Ink, graphite, and marker, on plastic, 2006

Floe (Island), 9" x 10", Ink, graphite, and marker, on plastic, 2006

Four States From Eight Cities, (Matterhorn), 14" x 17", Ink, Graphite, and Marker, on Plastic 2007

NB: In addition to your drawings, you've also created sculptures. Other than the obvious differences of materials and process, are there conceptual differences or similarities between your drawings and sculptures? Do you see them both as components of some larger whole?

EZ: For me they are similar on a conceptual level. The sculpture comes out of my interest in astronomy and architecture, particularly the way the telescope becomes this liminal site in between this vast, inconceivable space, and a small perceivable image on a lens. That flat two-dimensional image, colored by computer algorithms, is the way the majority of us experience the cosmos.

Astronomy is, on a certain level, about applying structure to the heavens and I am thinking about the constellations in particular. Telescopes can become projectors. There is a certain amount of transcendence one can attain when peering into a telescope, so I am trying to suggest that through light and the architectural structure that surrounds the projector. Like the drawings, it is about a movement between different kinds of representation, the flat map-like projection on the wall (projection), the three-dimensional object (structure), and this wash of light on the ceiling (atmosphere). Like the drawings I hope there is a play between imaging and imagining, and maybe even the classical and the romantic you mentioned earlier. So, I definitely see them all as components of a larger whole right now.

NB: Your work is aesthetically complicated and often quite beautiful. The ink and graphite pieces from 2006 and 2007, and the more recent work from the Atlas series, are striking in their nuance and intricacy, but all of those pieces are conceptually nuanced as well. Do you prioritize aesthetics over conceptual work or vice-versa? Is that even a fair question?

EZ: Yes, I think that it’s a fair question. I think my practice overall is very formal in nature; I have this series of ideas I am interested in researching and communicating through the work and its material qualities. I have ideas behind the work, but I wouldn’t label myself a “conceptual” artist by any means. I do place a slight emphasis on developing the ideas as this is what drives the material choices and pushes my work forward in the studio. I have been thinking about how to move away from such a straightforward formal component to the work without sacrificing making things.

For me it’s a question about the larger nature of art, and asking myself if formal and aesthetic qualities are just a stamp that labels something “art” and how far you can push against that boundary before you don’t have anything of interest. There are a lot of answers to be found in 60’s Conceptualism, but there is also this incompatibility with human emotion, poetics, and experience there that is difficult for me to reconcile. But on the other hand there is also something utterly non-spectacular and un-material about Conceptual art that I find myself drawn to lately.

NB: You’ve lived in Austin for quite a while now. What’s the art world like down there? Has it changed significantly in the time that you’ve lived in Texas?

EZ: The Austin art world is very small, though has undergone large, and generally positive changes over the six years I’ve been here. The number of serious galleries and greater overall interest in visual art is the biggest change I’ve noticed. These spaces are taking their artists to art fairs and bringing a broader scope to Austin by bringing international artists to the city and putting together thoughtful programs. Studio space is still hard to come by and the glass ceiling is fairly low, but there is good energy and a group of people who are interested in moving the scene forward.

We are also in close proximity to Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio that feature more established, even world class, institutions and diverse art communities. The D.I.Y aesthetic and way of organizing is very popular in Austin and that has its pros and cons depending on your interests and position. The biggest hurdle for Austin, and maybe all small regional art communities, is to figure out how to take part and interest in the larger conversation and not get bogged down in local gossip and an overly regional focus. I should say I’ve done work for them, but I think Texas based Art Lies magazine and …might be good, a local e-publication, are leading the way on this front, primarily by addressing larger fundamental art issues, and in the case of …mbg, doing it through the local lens.

NB: Can you talk a bit about what you’re working on now? What direction your work is taking?

EZ: I am still making lots of drawings of various scales, working on a sculpture, and related to the previous question, I am thinking about ways of utilizing the materials gathered in the research phase of my work as the actual work. Right now this is taking the form of digital C-prints and “binders” that are organized around a particular group of ideas, and contain found images, photocopied texts, postcards, scans of my own drawings, and photographs. They are accompanied by an audio program, filmography, and bibliography that are another component of the object. Hopefully all together they will form a constellation of images, sound, text, and references, whose points each move between different spaces and time periods. This isn’t always the case, but references are sometimes used to bolster work, or as a substitute for original thought, so I am interested in thinking about this relationship and seeing if the idea of the reference can’t be transformed.

I am still playing with the exact form that they’re going to take, but the one closest to complete is entitled The Historian and The Astronomer, a phrase and theme that has followed me around for a number of years. My thinking about the Voyager Golden Record, which was sent into the universe aboard the two Voyager spacecraft in 1977, influences much of my new work. It is effectively an archive of sound, language, images, and science that intersects nicely with the ideas I mentioned previously.

NB: Can you tell us what you're up to now, and maybe let us know where people can view more of your work? Can you tell us what you're up to now, and maybe let us know where people can view more of your work?

EZ: I am in a group exhibition in Houston entitled Architecture of Perception at the Box 13 Art Space that opens on September 27th. In November, I will be giving a talk at The Menil Collection on the exhibition Imaginary Spaces for their Artists Eye program, and then later in the month, I am in a group exhibition in Nuevo Laredo Mexico. In addition, I am working on grants and proposals for some non-profit art spaces around the country to produce and exhibit The Historian and The Astronomer project.

Meet a Real-Life Republican...

This is for real...

Now would you like to hear the best part?!!!

This delightful fellow, Denver attorney and Republican donor Gabriel Schwartz—still enraptured from Palin's RNC speech a few hours earlier—used his abundant charm to pick up a lady at some Republican shindig at a swanky hotel in Minneapolis... Then THIS happened, making perhaps the most convincing case ever for the existence of karma...

It most certainly has me feeling more than a tinge of schadenfreude.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New Charlie Kaufman Movie!

Synecdoche, New Yorkthe new film written and directed by Charlie Kaufman—opens in New York City on October 24. The cast includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton, and Tilda Swinton. It looks pretty spectacular...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

...we still "are" human beings, now. Or can be.

David Foster Wallace
(illustration by BJK)

It's impossible to know what to say about the death of David Foster Wallace, though our friend Bob Proehl has done an incredible job here. So much has already been said and written in rememberance that it's perhaps best to hear from the man himself.

His now-famous Charlie Rose interview is probably the greatest example of how Wallace dealt with the scrutiny of the media, and perhaps people in general. While he was occasionally criticized as combative, the interview with Rose presents an interviewer who is outmatched by his interviewee. Wallace was nothing if not complicated, but the beautiful thing about that complication was that he was sincere in his concern for art, literature and our capacity for empathy, and that he didn't pretend that those things are uncomplicated.

The interview begins at 23:08:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Learning More About Palin

A couple of interesting articles on Palin in today's NY Times and Washington Post...

From the lengthy (and full of infuriating insights) NY Times article titled "Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes":
Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska professor, sought the e-mail messages of state scientists who had examined the effect of global warming on polar bears. (Ms. Palin said the scientists had found no ill effects, and she has sued the federal government to block the listing of the bears as endangered.) An administration official told Mr. Steiner that his request would cost $468,784 to process.

When Mr. Steiner finally obtained the e-mail messages — through a federal records request — he discovered that state scientists had in fact agreed that the bears were in danger, records show.

“Their secrecy is off the charts,” Mr. Steiner said.

From the Washington Post article titled "As Mayor of Wasilla, Palin Cut Own Duties, Left Trail of Bad Blood":
Palin limited her duties further by hiring a deputy administrator to handle much of the town's day-to-day management. Her top achievement as mayor was the construction of an ice rink, a project that landed in the courts and cost the city more than expected.

Arriving in office, Palin herself played down the demands of the job in response to residents who worried that her move to oust veteran officials would leave the town in the lurch. "It's not rocket science," Palin said, according to the town newspaper, the Frontiersman. "It's $6 million and 53 employees."

Friday, September 12, 2008


From the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund:

Brooklyn Book Festival

Just like any other day, there will be a whole lot of writers in Brooklyn on Sunday, September 14. But unlike the other 364 days of the year, this time there will be a lot of tents (and book-signings!) along Court Street in Brooklyn Heights.

The Brooklyn Book Festival is put on by the Brooklyn Borough President's Literary Council, chaired by Johnny Temple, of GvsB and Akashic fame.

This year's schedule features notables like Joan Didion, Nathan Englander, Jonathan Franzen, A.M. Homes, Terry McMillan, Chuck Klosterman, Walter Mosley, and Jonathan Lethem. Plus relative newcomers like Rivka Galchen and Ed Park. And—fitting for a borough in which artistic borders are routinely blurred, if not disregarded— Ian MacKaye and Thurston Moore will be there!

The schedule is a bit daunting, with events running from 10am to 6pm at nearly a dozen different locations in and around Borough Hall.

Below are a few highlights we don't want to miss:

10:00 a.m. Inside/Outside
Borough Hall Courtroom (209 Joralemon St.)
Nathan Englander (The Ministry of Special Cases), Joseph O’Neill (Netherland), and Susan Choi (A Person of Interest) discuss imagined communities, global past-times, hopeless illegitimacy, and erasing death. Moderated by Dedi Felman, Sr. Editor, Simon & Schuster. —TICKETS REQUIRED

1:00 p.m. Out of Place
Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon St.)
Three writers on the exciting, disconcerting, and sometimes dangerous experience of being out of place. Featuring Moustafa Bayoumi (How Does it Feel to be a Problem?), David Rakoff (Don’t Get too Comfortable) and Rivka Galchen (Atmospheric Disturbances). Moderated by Matt Weiland.

2:00 p.m. Darkness Abroad
Center Stage/International (Borough Hall Plaza)
Readings by Paco I. Taibo II (Mexico) and Juan de Recacoechea (Bolivia), followed by a discussion about the seethingly happy marriage of crime and literature. Moderated by Carl Bromley.

2:00 p.m. PENUltimate Lit: Literature and the Small Screen
Borough Hall Courtroom (209 Joralemon St.)
Join authors A.M. Homes (The L Word) and Richard Price (The Wire) as they discuss the challenges and opportunities that arise when fiction writers take their talents from page to the small screen. —TICKETS REQUIRED

3:00 p.m. Ian MacKaye and Thurston Moore in Conversation
St. Francis Auditorium (180 Remsen Street)
Two of the most influential musicians of the past 20 years—MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi, The Evens) and Moore (Sonic Youth, Mirror/Dash)—discuss the parallel worlds of independent music and book publishing. Followed by Q&A. Introduced by Johnny Temple.

4:00 p.m. Kevin Powell and Naomi Wolf in Conversation
Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon St.)
Author/activists Kevin Powell (No Sleep Till Brooklyn) and Naomi Wolf (Give Me Liberty) explore the nexus of literature and politics. Followed by Q&A. Moderated by Jennifer Baumgardner.

4:00 p.m. Race for 2008: Perspectives on the Presidential Campaign
Borough Hall Courtroom (209 Joralemon St.)
2008 marks the end of the Bush era. What are the prospects for real change in the November election? A panel discussion with Harper’s publisher John MacArthur (You Can’t Be President) and Nation columnists Katha Pollitt and Gary Younge. Moderated by the Brooklyn Rail’s Theodore Hamm (The New Blue Media). —TICKETS REQUIRED

5:00 p.m. Top-Shelf Fiction
Borough Hall Courtroom (209 Joralemon St.)
Readings and discussion by international bestsellers Russell Banks (Continental Drift) and Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections). Moderated by Brigid Hughes of A Public Space. —TICKETS REQUIRED

5:00 p.m. The Consequences to Come
St. Francis Auditorium (180 Remsen Street)
Frequent contributors to The New York Review of Books Joan Didion, Mark Danner, Ronald Dworkin, and Darryl Pinckney discuss the challenges and opportunities that will face the next American presidential administration. Robert Silvers, editor of The New York Review, will introduce and moderate the panel.

5:00 p.m. Thirsty for Fiction
Main Stage (Borough Hall Plaza)
Chuck Klosterman (Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs), Ed Park (Personal Days) and Charles Bock (Beautiful Children) read from three of the most eagerly anticipated debut novels of 2008.

Palin regurgitates some canned talking points...

and she apparently doesn't know what the "Bush Doctrine" is...

Click HERE for the full transcript.

From the NY Times:
"At times visibly nervous, at others appearing to hew so closely to prepared answers that she used the exact same phrases repeatedly, Ms. Palin most visibly stumbled when she was asked by Mr. Gibson if she agreed with the Bush doctrine. Ms. Palin did not seem to know what he was talking about. Mr. Gibson, sounding like an impatient teacher, informed her that it meant the right of 'anticipatory self-defense.'"

Monday, September 8, 2008

Nesey Gallons

There is something intriguingly enigmatic about this guy, but what is clear is that he's connected to the Elephant Six crew in Athens, GA, and that he'll be part of the stupendous "Holiday Surprise" Tour coming up

The Music Tapes mastermind Julian Koster is definitely involved somehow; that singing saw in "Aurora Borealis" is his and so is the house in which the videos were shot.

The two songs below are pretty stellar and take me right back to 1996 or so...

"Aurora Borealis"

"There Won't Be Any Crows"

From Nesey himself:
The little films were shot last spring at julian’s house in the Calendar Islands. We could only film things indoors or out of windows as the white beard blazes up in direct sunlight, this therefore is the only reason you do not see the sea but we are surrounded by all of it.

For those who speculate or believe that nesey gallons & julian are all the same things, they’re not, we have simply been friends for a long lungy time now, and julian was naturally quite pleased to contribute to a love song about the aurora borealis.

These two songs are from nesey’s frothcoming new record ‘eyes & eyes & eyes ago’ recorded last winter. I say frothcoming but that is a hopeful word indeed as no one has yet offered to put it out. There may be a self-released 7 inch record once funds become available!

The Music Tapes & Friends - Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour
10-09 Chapel Hill, NC - Local 506
10-11 New York, NY - Knitting Factory
10-12 Boston, MA - The Church
10-14 Portland, ME - Space Gallery
10-15 New Haven, CT - The Space
10-16 Purchase, NY - SUNY Purchase
10-17 Rochester, NY- The Bug Jar
10-18 Pittsburgh, PA - Brillobox
10-19 Columbus, OH - Wexner Center
10-20 Pontiac, MI - Crofoot Pike Room
10-21 Chicago, IL - Bottom Lounge
10-22 Bloomington, IN - Cinemat
10-23 Lexington, KY - University of Kentucky
10-25 New York, NY - Mercury Lounge (CMJ)

From Heart to Sarah Palin:

"Sarah Palin's views and values in NO WAY represent us as American women. We ask that our song 'Barracuda' no longer be used to promote her image. The song 'Barracuda' was written in the late '70s as a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women. (The 'barracuda' represented the business.) While Heart did not and would not authorize the use of their song at the RNC, there's irony in Republican strategists' choice to make use of it there."

More HERE.

Fredrik — Na Na Ni

Fredrik is yet another fine Swedish musical export. Na Na Ni is another beautifully packed release from The Kora Records. And the sextet's music is another superb example of post-millennial folk.

But Fredrik certainly shouldn't be written off for being "just another" anything... Their debut is a gorgeous collection—understatedly luscious melodies framed with lushly layered analog and synthetic sounds. A subtle but brilliant take on British Isle-style folk rock, Na Na Ni sometimes sounds like an Unhalfbricking produced by Jim O'Rourke. It all sound like a bunch of cardigan-ed young intellectuals out in the Nordic wilderness with literary journals and laptops...or something...

Here, see hear for yerself:

"Black Fur" (download)

"Alina's Place"


"Na Na Ni"

Friday, September 5, 2008

Things to Read, Drinks to Drink: The September Switch-Hit

Some people I know find September off-puttingly bipolar: It's hot! It's cold! Shorts or slacks? Shoes or flip-flops?

I tend to take a more positive view of our bemoaned 9th month, as it gives us reason to drink both the crisp, heavily-iced drinks of summer and/or the sipping whiskeys that help us through the cold months. I should note here that I'm not particularly a whiskey snob: I like sweet and spicy bourbons as well as dry, peat-heavy single malts. Hell, I like blends, too! If I'm broke, I may just get a Johnnie Walker Black or a Maker's Mark on the rocks, but if I'm feeling all fancy-pants, I may order a Woodford Reserve, a great bourbon that's not as sweet as Marker's and that's the official bourbon of The Kentucky Derby.

Cures heartache, headache, sadness, loneliness and is the perfect stand-in for self-esteem

Barry Hannah's Ray is just about the perfect literary pairing for any booze-hound (you'll see why when you read it), but whiskey seems particularly appropriate for some reason.

Representative Sentence: "I get tired of people. All of them driving around in their cars, eating, having to be." Ouch.

Samantha Bee tries to think of that word...

Homonyms & Cylinders

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Etymological Hour: "How's Tricks?"

Nate used this phrase in an email recently, and I've since heard it several more times over the past few months. Is it making a resurgence?

In case you don't know, the relatively rare phrase essentially means the same as "How's it going?"
An exchange might go something like this...
Nate: Yo Ben, I ain't heard from ya in weeks! How's tricks? 
Ben: Not bad, dude. Wowzerz, that bling yr sportin' is RADiculous!
But the etymology of the phrase is interesting, and a bit mysterious...
According to the Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, the phrase derives from either the nautical meaning of 'trick' ('turn of duty') or the card game 'trick'.

But from its early days, the phrase was considered crude, as evidenced by this 1924 reference: "'Well, Mrs. H., how's tricks?' His wife flushed slightly at the vulgarity of the phrase." Usage became prevalent in the 1930s, especially among pimps who'd ask the prostitutes in their employ how business was going ('turning tricks'), but the phrase was soon adopted by all the cool kids with greased-back hair and leather jackets...

So, the exchange might go more like this:
Ben: Nice gold lamé miniskirt and bowtie! How's tricks? 
Nate: Not good, Ben, not good at all...the market for hairy gold-lamé-wearing hookers has seemingly dried up in Wisconsin!
Or, the phrase may have more benign origins... from The Maven's Word of the Day:

"But I'm not convinced that's the whole story on trick. The noun form of the Latin verb tricari is tricae, meaning 'trifles, toys.' From at least the mid-16th century we have trick referring to 'a trinket, bauble, knick-knack.' Farmer's A Dictionary of Slang, published in 1890, lists as current "Western American" slang a sense of trick meaning 'belongings, things, baggage.' For a phrase that is equivalent to "How's things?," it's not too far-fetched to think that it may have been influenced by this sense."

But the sexual connotation has outlived all others, making 'How's tricks?' a fun way to both show an interest in how someone is doing and mildly insult them at the same time!

And, by the way, did I just coin the word 'RADiculous'?!

The National lend song to Obama campaign video...

Gloria Steinem on Sarah Palin

"Selecting Sarah Palin, who was touted all summer by Rush Limbaugh, is no way to attract most women, including die-hard Clinton supporters. Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton. Her down-home, divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a Republican convention that has more than twice as many male delegates as female, a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the right wing and a platform that opposes pretty much everything Clinton's candidacy stood for—and that Barack Obama's still does. To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, 'Somebody stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs.'"

Go here to read Steinem's LA Times op-ed.

GOP vs. Facts

Pulled from Jim Kuhnhenn's illuminating AP article:

PALIN: "I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending ... and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress 'thanks but no thanks' for that Bridge to Nowhere."

THE FACTS: As mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired a lobbyist and traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the town totaling $27 million. In her two years as governor, Alaska has requested nearly $750 million in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation. While Palin notes she rejected plans to build a $398 million bridge from Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents and an airport, that opposition came only after the plan was ridiculed nationally as a "bridge to nowhere."

PALIN: "The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes, raise payroll taxes, raise investment income taxes, raise the death tax, raise business taxes, and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars."

THE FACTS: The Tax Policy Center, a think tank run jointly by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, concluded that Obama's plan would increase after-tax income for middle-income taxpayers by about 5 percent by 2012, or nearly $2,200 annually. McCain's plan, which cuts taxes across all income levels, would raise after tax-income for middle-income taxpayers by 3 percent, the center concluded.
Obama would provide $80 billion in tax breaks, mainly for poor workers and the elderly, including tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit for minimum-wage workers and higher credits for larger families.
He also would raise income taxes, capital gains and dividend taxes on the wealthiest. He would raise payroll taxes on taxpayers with incomes above $250,000, and he would raise corporate taxes. Small businesses that make more than $250,000 a year would see taxes rise.

MCCAIN: "She's the commander of the Alaska National Guard. ... She has been in charge, and she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities," he said on ABC.

THE FACTS: While governors are in charge of their state guard units, that authority ends whenever those units are called to actual military service. When guard units are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, for example, they assume those duties under "federal status," which means they report to the Defense Department, not their governors. Alaska's national guard units have a total of about 4,200 personnel, among the smallest of state guard organizations.

FORMER ARKANSAS GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE: Palin "got more votes running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska than Joe Biden got running for president of the United States."

THE FACTS: A whopper. Palin got 616 votes in the 1996 mayor's election, and got 909 in her 1999 re-election race, for a total of 1,525. Biden dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucuses, but he still got 76,165 votes in 23 states and the District of Columbia where he was on the ballot during the 2008 presidential primaries.

FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOV. MITT ROMNEY: "We need change, all right — change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington! We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington — throw out the big-government liberals, and elect John McCain and Sarah Palin."

THE FACTS: A Back-to-the-Future moment. George W. Bush, a conservative Republican, has been president for nearly eight years. And until last year, Republicans controlled Congress. Only since January 2007 have Democrats have been in charge of the House and Senate.

"Thank You, Sarah Palin"

(Thanks for the tip, Megan!)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Photo of the Day: Shoes On a Wire

(click for larger version)

Photo by Nik.

Thomas Friedman's Take on McCain's Pick

Check out Friedman's op-ed HERE.
"With his choice of Sarah Palin — the Alaska governor who has advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and does not believe mankind is playing any role in climate change — for vice president, John McCain has completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

George Bush @ RNC '08

Plantastic! (Nertera granadensis)

The 'pincushion plant' or 'bead plant' (Nertera granadensis) is one of those eye-catching ornamental plants that florists and garden shops put out front to lure in curious customers whose thumbs are otherwise a few shades darker than green...

Well, it works! Nik bought me one during our CT/upstate NY jaunt this past weekend. (Be sure to check out Kamilla's if you're ever in Millerton, NY.)

The brightly berried ground-cover plant is distributed throughout the southern Pacific region, from Chile to New Zealand to the Philippines, and is often grown as an ornamental plant in gardens. In tropical zones, it typically grows only at higher altitudes.

As a house plant, it may prove difficult to keep alive and is not recommended for novice home gardeners (those who are 'green' in the other sense of the word). It prefers cool, airy, bright locations without too much direct sunlight. A partly shaded south-facing window is ideal. It should be planted in porous soil and kept moist (but not soggy). Use a spray bottle to mist the leaves and berries. The plant is best suited for terrarium environments, used as a ground cover like moss.

Classification info:
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Gentianales
Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Nertera
Species: Nertera granadensis

Care info:
Temperature: Cool (minimum 40º F in winter).
Light: Bright light with some direct sun.
Water: Keep soil moist at all times; water sparingly in winter.
Air Humidity: Mist leaves occasionally.
Care After Flowering: Keep cool and rather dry during winter. Increase watering when new growth appears. Place outdoors from late spring until the berries have appeared. Bring indoors for display.
Propagation: Divide plants in spring before placing outdoors.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Laura Bush @ RNC '08

Amy Goodman Detained at RNC Protest

Radio host, author, and activist Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) has apparently been detained or arrested along with other reporters and medics by police in Saint Paul for "probable cause for riot." Can't find much info at the moment, but we will continue to update this post as we learn more.

Here is audio of the arrest:

And here is a Democracy Now! producer describing the events:

Here is video of other journalists being detained by police on Saturday (August 30, 2008). You can see Amy Goodman attempting to question the police at about the 1:30 mark:

Legal observers from the Cold Spring Legal collective (trained to observe police activities and report abuses of civil liberties) have also been arrested.

Updated @ 8:11pm

Here is video of the arrest (thanks for the tip, Jason!):

The press release from Democracy Now! is HERE.

Many preemptive arrests have been made in the Twin Cities during several raids targeting activists and journalists on charges of "conspiracy to riot."