Archive for May, 2011

Playlist: iPod shuffle, 5/19/2011

May 20, 2011


“Surgery,” Scott Matthew
“Just Like Always,” Jimmy Webb
“Behind Closed Doors,” Charlie Rich
“Not the Same,” Ben Folds Presents the Spartones
“Day to Day,” Eulogies
“I Heard Ramona Sing,” Frank Black
“Effington,” Ben Folds
“Night of the Iguana,” Joni Mitchell
“Crazy,” Gnarls Barkley
“Bina’s Radio,” Dudley Saunders
“Comfort Me,” Sparklehorse
“Forget About It,” Lissy Trulle
“Banking on a Myth,” Andrew Bird
“You, the Queen,” Tony Scherr
“Shelter From the Storm,” Cassandra Wilson
“Wait Another Day,” Uh Huh Her
“I See Monsters,” Ryan Adams

“Silver Bell,” Patty Griffin
“All Those Ashes,” David Berkeley
La Shou El Haki,” Natacha Atlas
“Hot Corner,” the B-52’s
“A Quick Trip to Alamut,” Iggy Pop/Paul Schutze
“Between Sheets,” Imogen Heap
“Back Broke,” the Swell Season
“Bone Jump,” Brian Eno
“I Am the Cosmos,” Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johnansson
“The Beginning of Memory,” Laurie Anderson
“Strike a Match,” Cassandra Wilson
“Don’t Talk Just Kiss,” Right Said Fred
“Come On,” Tiesto Vs. Diplo
“Everybody Gossip now,” King of Pants
“Ordinary World,” Duran Duran
“Already Gone,” Ferron
“Che gelida manina,” Vittorio Grigolo
“Rilke Songs 4. Wolle die Wandlung,” Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
“So Happy I Could Die,” Lady GaGa
“Another World,” the Chemical Brothers

Photo diary: a weekend at Easton Mountain

May 20, 2011

Eric, kitchen angel

a friendly inhabitant

Krispy Kai

Performance diary: Neil Gaiman, BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK, Dessoff Choirs, and GOOD PEOPLE

May 19, 2011

Quick and dirty notes on stuff I saw that I don’t have time to write about in more detail:

April 27 – “Magical Realism: The World of Marvelous Stories with Neil Gaiman” at Symphony Space was Andy’s choice. He’s a huge fan of Gaiman (the deluxe edition of the Sandman series on his bookshelf is testimony to that), whom I know only from seeing the stage and film versions of Coraline, which I enjoyed very much. I’m always impressed by the cool New York actors that show up for these Selected Shorts evening. Tonight it was Marin Ireland, Boyd Gaines, and Josh Hamilton joining Gaiman himself, who is very well-spoken and rock-star hip. The thread through all the stories had to do with stories eating themselves. I especially enjoyed Gaiman’s “The Thing About Cassandra,” performed by Hamilton with a surprise return appearance by Ireland. And the evening was introduced by the legendary Isaiah Sheffer, who does political literary stand-up to match the best of them.

April 30 – went with Misha Berson to a matinee of Lynn Nottage’s By the Way, Meet Vera Stark. It’s essentially an essay about how black women in three different eras were affected by Hollywood’s reflections of their lives. It’s well-performed by a good cast (I especially admired Stephanie J. Block as the pampered Gloria Mitchell, Karen Olivo as super striver Anne Mae, and David Garrison as the late ‘60s TV talk-show smoothie Brad Donovan) and well staged by Jo Bonney (with a terrific black-and-white film by Tony Gerber that opens act 2). The first act is often funny watching the ridiculous and humiliating lengths perfectly intelligent black actresses went through to get cast in stupid demeaning roles as housemaids and eye-rolling slaveys. But I can’t say that Nottage conveys anything especially new on the subject, and the second act traffics in tired trashing of academic jargon about pop culture (too easy a target).  The play is nowhere near as original and impressive as her last three – Intimate Apparel, Fabulation, and Ruined – but those three were pretty damned good, so topping them would be a tough job for any playwright.

May 14 – The Dessoff Choirs, which Andy sings with, gave their spring concert at St. George’s Church in Stuyvesant Square, a fascinating eclectic program called “Dance On! Music for Pianos and Percussion.” The first half consisted of Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” selected “Liebeslieder Waltzes” from Brahms, and a long interesting song cycle for double chorus by the contemporary British composer Jonathan Dove called “The Passing of the Year” set to poems by Blake, Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Nashe, and George Peele (my favorite, “Hot Sun, Cool Fire”). The second half contained another odd mixture of pieces by Charles Ives, Samuel Barber, Henryk Gorecki (a gorgeous a capella “Tonus Tuus”), David Conte (“Invocation and Dance,” a setting from Leaves of Grass), and a composer new to me named Gwyneth Walker. The acoustics in the church sounded a little muddy at first but overall the singing was exquisite, conducted by Christopher Shepard.

May 17 – I avoided seeing David Linday-Abaire’s Good People for a long time, because I’ve never liked his plays. I don’t always agree with John Lahr’s opinions, but his review in the New Yorker described this one as Playwriting by Numbers, which is one of my pet peeves. But enough people I respect spoke very highly of Good People, so I broke down and actually bought tickets. The play did bug me, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and trying to figure out why. I know that it bugged me that the play (and/or the production, directed by Daniel Sullivan) seemed to encourage the audience to laugh at and feel superior to the working-class Bostonians portrayed by Frances McDormand, Becky Ann Baker (loved those shaved eyebrows), and Estelle Parsons (loved her costumes by Mr. David Zinn). And the schematic set-up of the second act, which pits McDormand’s tackily dressed Margie (so desperate for a job that she’ll stalk a high-school boyfriend to beg for janitorial work at his office) against the suburban chic of said boyfriend, now a successful doctor with a beautiful young (and black! ooooh!) wife, totally replays God of Carnage’s bogus, self-congratulatory, guilt-trippy drama of class-consciousness. I think what bugged me most was what how thinly drawn the character of the doctor is – we know nothing about what happened to him between high school and Margie’s knocking on his door asking for work, except that he’s kept his (over-broad) Southie accent and married a doctor’s daughter from Georgetown. Meanwhile, we’ve learned a lot of nuanced information about Margie’s life (although the playwright also stacks the deck to make her as put-upon and victim-y as possible). This is lazy, manipulative playwriting. For better and fairer treatment of similar material, look at the plays of Annie Baker (Circle Mirror Transformation, The Aliens). Nevertheless, little scenes stick with me. Except for Tate Donovan, playing the thankless role of Mike, all the actors give terrifically honest performances. I think I was most touched by Patrick Carroll in the smallest role of Stevie, who has to fire Margie from her job at the Dollar Store and takes shit from the peanut gallery because he likes to play bingo.

Quote of the day: CONFLICT

May 19, 2011


The style of addressing, processing, and resolving conflicts may be different for men than for women, so that even couples who have committed to all three may not really agree on what they have committed to. For men addressing may mean stating the problem now, getting straight to the point, getting directly to the bottom line. Similarly, processing may mean solving it now, and resolving it may mean forgetting it and going on. When quick resolution is the main priority, we may discount others’ feelings.

For women, on the other hand, addressing may mean talking and talking until we know what we are talking about. This involves going around and around the issue, not as a means of avoidance but as a way of giving it our attention. Processing for women means feeling into both this and past issues. It also means having feelings heard and appreciated. As for resolution, it may easily follow from a sense of being heard and cared about, from being mirrored with love. Thus, problem solving may be the lowest priority for women, mirrored feelings the highest.

— David Richo, How to Be an Adult in Relationships

In this week’s New Yorker

May 14, 2011

Who is Indra Nooyi? She’s the 55-year-old Hindu vegetarian C.E.O. of PepsiCo. That’s one of many intriguing facts and factoids I gleaned from the overstuffed innovators issue of the New Yorker this week. John Seabrook’s piece on how PepsiCo is attempting to position itself as a “good company” producing stuff that is “good for you” is hilarious at times but also full of absorbing descriptions of, for instance, how potato chips are made. (“Snacks for a Fat Planet”) Key quote: “As part of PespiCo’s commitment to being ‘the good company,’ the corporation wants to play a leading role in public-health issues, and particularly in the battle against obesity. Some people think this is ludicrous. Marion Nestle, the author of ‘Food Politics’ and a professor of food studies at N.Y.U., told me, ‘The best thing Pepsi could do for worldwide obesity would be to go out of business.’ ”

Malcolm Gladwell’s story on how a visit by Steve Jobs to Xerox PARC contributed to Apple’s getting out ahead in the innovation competition turns up this amusing tidbit about the evolution of the computer mouse. After glimpsing one during a visit to Xerox’s R+D plant, Jobs went to Dean Hovey, one of Apple’s key early designers, and said “You’ve got to do a mouse.” Hovey recalls:

“‘I was, like, ‘What’s a mouse?’ I didn’t have a clue. So he explains it, and he says, ‘You know, [the Xerox mouse] is a mouse that cost three hundred dollars to build and it breaks within two weeks. Here’s your design spec: Our mouse needs to be manufacturable for less than fifteen bucks. It needs to not fail for a couple of years, and I want to be able to use it on Formica and my bluejeans.’ From that meetings, I went to Walgreens…and I wandered around and bought all the underarm deodorants that I could find, because they had that ball in them. I bought a butter dish. That was the beginnings of the mouse.”

Then there’s Anthony Lane’s droll tour of Pixar headquarters in Emeryville, California. “How you get a job at Pixar, nobody knows. The most reliable method is to be born there, preferably in a cupboard full of office supplies, then to sit tight for twenty years before sneaking out over Christmas and finding space at a workstation. You could apply to the effects team, say, but only if the number of doctorates you hold is divisible by three. Even the lone visitor, effusively welcomed and ushered around, is an intruder: the sticker on my lapel bore the phrase ‘A stranger from the outside!’ Nine-nine per cent of that is a joke — it’s a direct quotation from ‘Toy Story,’ chirruped by the trio of silly green aliens — but the one per cent was menacing enough to give me pause. And, certainly, were I to stand in the atrium of the main building and cry out, ‘I have never even used PowerPoint! or Excel! I am not an animator! I am a man!,” retaliatory action would be swift. Special forces in yellow hazmat suits would drop from the ceiling on ropes, isolate me under an airtight dome, evaporate me, and vacuum up the remains, as they do in ‘Monsters, Inc.,’ when the sock of a human child — a menace to health and security — is found on the factory floor.”

Just minutes after his impressive report from Libya, Jon Lee Anderson weighs in with another spectacular closely observed piece about how the effort to turn over the war in Afghanistan to the Afghans is going (“Letter from Khost Province: Force and Futility”).

Judith Thurman’s review of the show at the Metropolitan Museum of Alexander McQueen’s fashion designs makes me definitely want to check it out. Joan Acocella once more turns me on to an obscure writer I’ve never heard about, Paula Fox, who turns out to be Courtney Love’s grandmother. I haven’t read Michael Ondaatje’s story “The Cat’s Table” yet, but I’ll bet it’s very good.

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