Archive for August, 2011

Quote of the day: IDENTITY

August 31, 2011


Identity germinates from humiliation’s soil. Humiliation isn’t merely the basement of a personality, or the scum pile on the stairway down. Humiliation is the earlier event that paves the way for “self” to know it exists.

— Wayne Koestenbaum

Quote of the day: CHANGE

August 30, 2011


Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals.

— Margaret Mead


August 29, 2011

My review of Charles Busch’s Olive and the Bitter Herbs, produced by Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters, has just been posted on Check it out here and let me know what you think.

Dan Butler, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Richard Masur, and David Garrison in "Olive and the Bitter Herbs" (photo by James Leynse)

Good stuff online: Bon Iver’s “Holocene” video

August 29, 2011

I’m a huge fan of Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, and have been delving deeply into his second album (called Bon Iver, Bon Iver). His voice is distinctive, the sound spectacular, and his songwriting very peculiar, haunting and yet impenetrable. Even his girlfriend, the very fine songwriter Kathleen Edwards, confessed to the NY Times, “I mean this respectfully, but most of the time I have no idea what Justin’s songs are about.” (Read Jon Caramanica’s very good profile here.) But I spent some time during the, uh, hurricane hunkered down with the headphones and his record company’s website, which very thoughtfully provides the lyrics to all the songs on the new album. (I purposely bought a hard copy of the CD just so I could get the lyric sheet, but with characteristic perverseness Vernon wrote out all the lyrics by hand and they’re almost impossible to read, just like Rufus Wainwright’s on his most recent album, All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu.) Reading them while listening to the songs gave me a lot. Many of them absolutely scan like dadaist poetry, with lines I plan to memorize and spout at (in)appropriate moments, such as “Unpeel keeness, honey, bean for bean” or “Fuck the fiercest fables, I’m with Hagen.” Not since Van Dyke Parks collaborated with Brian Wilson on Smile has there been such a match of gorgeous melodies and sense-defying lyrics.

But I had a whole other experience watching the video Bon Iver made for “Holocene,” which opens up the song in a whole other way. The chorus, repeated three times with slight variations, leaps off from the line “at once I knew I was not magnificent,” which sounds somewhat abject and self-negating. But in the video, shot in Iceland, makes the line positively Whitmanesque — it captures the ecstatic moment when a sentient being abandons his solipsism for a moment and realizes that he is only a small part of something gigantic and wondrous. Notice how when that line comes up, the video cuts to the sky, the mountains, an eagle — indeed, they are magnificent.


Someway, baby, it’s part of me, apart from me.
you’re laying waste to Halloween
you fucked it friend, it’s on it’s head, it struck the street
you’re in Milwaukee, off your feet

…and at once I knew I was not magnificent
strayed above the highway aisle
(jagged vacance, thick with ice)
I could see for miles, miles, miles

3rd and Lake it burnt away, the hallway
was where we learned to celebrate
automatic bought the years you’d talk for me
that night you played me ʻLip Paradeʼ
not the needle, nor the thread, the lost decree
saying nothing, that’s enough for me

…and at once I knew I was not magnificent
hulled far from the highway aisle
(jagged, vacance, thick with ice)
I could see for miles, miles, miles

Christmas night, it clutched the light, the hallow bright
above my brother, I and tangled spines
we smoked the screen to make it what it was to be
now to know it in my memory:

…and at once I knew I was not magnificent
high above the highway aisle
(jagged vacance, thick with ice)
I could see for miles, miles, miles

Photo diary: pre-Irene, or The Blair Witch Project Comes to Midtown Manhattan

August 27, 2011

As Hurricane Irene bears down on New York City, mass transit has shut down, and all 14,000 Starbucks outlets are deserted. It's spooky -- like The Blair Witch Project has come to midtown Manhattan.

Most local storefronts have battened down the hatches, preparing for a pazza notte indeed.

Broadway has gone dark.

Nothing is available at TKTS.

Even the halal guys at 53rd and Sixth have packed up and shipped out. This is serious! These guys usually have a line down the block all night.

The one store open in Times Square, American Eagle, does literally have a line down the block of people waiting to buy mediocre T-shirts. Does this signify Blair Witch possession? "Must shop! Must shop!"

Movie theaters, nightclubs, restaurants, strip joints: all closed. A few pubs nestled amidst midtown hotels remain open. There are going to be hordes of drunken tourists on the loose tonight. Look out, world!

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