Culture Vulture/Photo Diary: Bleach and Barshaa in Bushwick, Miro and Matisse at MOMA

February 24, 2019

Friday night my friend Dave and I ventured deep into Bushwick to see a show with no publicity that I learned about from the TodayTix app: Dan Ireland-Reeves’ play Bleach. It propelled me to the Wilson Ave. stop on the L train, farther into Bushwick than I’d ever visited before, and into a performance space called Tyler’s Basement, next-door to a tiny shop selling CBD products made from hemp.

Tyler’s Basement is named for the one and only character in the play, which is performed immersive-style — meaning that the audience (limited to 10 people) sits on chairs and sofas in the studio apartment occupied by Tyler, who’s in bed under the covers as we arrive. When the lights go down, he wakes up, gets up out of bed naked, and proceeds to pull on tighty-whities while launching into the tale of his life as a sex worker, an escort, a gay hustler, an existence haunted by a recent outcall that turned scary. When we checked in at the all-purpose box office, kitchen, and stage manager’s booth, friendly Jake Lemmenes asked us to turn our cel phones off and inquired as to whether we consented to being touched by the performer. The audience — 9 gay guys and one woman — gave our consent, and indeed 4 or 5 of us had some close personal contact with Eamon Yates, who performed the role this night. (He alternates with Brendan George to do 14 shows per week.) Although the plot and the story stayed pretty predictable, Zack Carey did a reasonably good job of staging the play, managing locations and the passage of time with surprisingly sophisticated lighting cues (also run by Jake Lemmenes). The show runs through March 10.

While we were in the neighborhood, we made sure to scope out a local eatery and found ourselves at Barchaa, a Peruvian fusion joint that just opened last summer. Doing pretty well, judging from the full house on a winter Friday night . We were the only gringos in the house and enjoyed grilled octopus and quinotto (risotto made from quinoa) along with cocktails, greeted warmly by the owner Kelvin, who said the staff is a mixture of Dominicans, Venezuelans, and Colombians.

On my commute, I listened to Marlon James being interviewed by Gia Tolentino on the New Yorker Radio Hour — good stuff!

“The Hunter (Catalan Landscape”)

Saturday afternoon, after our respective workouts (he at Training Lab boot camp, I at the West Side Y), my husband Andy and I roused ourselves from weekend afternoon sloth and spent an hour wandering through the Museum of Modern Art, checking out the members’ preview of a delightful show (“Birth of the World”) of works by Joan Miró as well as “The Long Run” (a show focusing on late-in-life experimentation by established 20th century artists like David Hammons, Joan Jonas, and Joan Mitchell) and the selections from the permanent collection currently on display.

“The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers”

“The Escape Ladder”

“Personages, Mountains, Sky, Star and Bird”

“Portrait of a Man in Nineteenth Century Frame”

I’ve always enjoyed Miró’s quirky, surrealistic work, and the pieces included here are quite delightful. It’s always interesting to see the early figurative work of artists who went on made their marks with unmistakable signature styles — like Duchamp, Rothko, Pollack, and so many others, Miró started out relatively conservatively before he busted out with the distorted swoops and shapes we recognize at a glance now.

Among the permanent collection, I revisited a canvas that always draws me in, James Ensor’s “Masks Confronting Death” (above, painted in 1888! but resembles some of Hopper’s more impressionist pieces).

And I relished several Matisse paintings that didn’t immediately scream “Matisse,” including “The Piano Lesson” (above) his “View of Nortre Dame” (below), which for some reason reminded me of Joni Mitchell’s song “Two Grey Rooms.”

Looking up a video of that song, I came across this information (from the liner notes of The Complete Geffen Recordings) that I’d never encountered before. Oh, Joni, how we love you so!

“It took me seven years to find words for it. I kept thinking, ‘This thing wants to be written in French,’ and I had to find the right story for the mood of it. It’s a very dramatic melody, full of longing. So, I finally found a story in some magazine about a German aristocrat, a homosexual and friend of [Rainer Werner] Fassbinder, who had a lover in his youth that he never got over. He lost track of him for many years. One day, he discovered that his old flame was working on the docks. He moved out of his fancy digs and into a couple of dingy rooms that overlooked the route where, with his hard hat and his lunch pail, his ex-lover walked to work. He lived to glimpse him twice a day, coming and going. He never approached him.”


Quote of the day: KNOWLEDGE

February 22, 2019

KNOWLEDGE

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.

–François-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire


Quote of the day: SMARTPHONES

February 10, 2019

SMARTPHONES

I cannot get used to seeing myriads of people in the street peering into little boxes or holding them in front of their faces, walking blithely in the path of moving traffic, totally out of touch with their surroundings. I am most alarmed by such distraction and inattention when I see young parents staring at their cell phones and ignoring their own babies as they walk or wheel them along. Such children, unable to attract their parents’ attention, must feel neglected, and they will surely show the effects of this in the years to come…

These gadgets, already ominous in 2007, have now immersed us in a virtual reality far denser, more absorbing, and even more dehumanizing. I am confronted every day with the complete disappearance of the old civilities. Social life, street life, and attention to people and things around one have largely disappeared, at least in big cities, where a majority of the population is now glued almost without pause to phones or other devices—jabbering, texting, playing games, turning more and more to virtual reality of every sort.

Everything is public now, potentially: one’s thoughts, one’s photos, one’s movements, one’s purchases. There is no privacy and apparently little desire for it in a world devoted to non-stop use of social media. Every minute, every second, has to be spent with one’s device clutched in one’s hand. Those trapped in this virtual world are never alone, never able to concentrate and appreciate in their own way, silently. They have given up, to a great extent, the amenities and achievements of civilization: solitude and leisure, the sanction to be oneself, truly absorbed, whether in contemplating a work of art, a scientific theory, a sunset, or the face of one’s beloved.

A few years ago, I was invited to join a panel discussion about information and communication in the twenty-first century. One of the panelists, an Internet pioneer, said proudly that his young daughter surfed the Web twelve hours a day and had access to a breadth and range of information that no one from a previous generation could have imagined. I asked whether she had read any of Jane Austen’s novels, or any classic novel. When he said that she hadn’t, I wondered aloud whether she would then have a solid understanding of human nature or of society, and suggested that while she might be stocked with wide-ranging information, that was different from knowledge. Half the audience cheered; the other half booed.

–Oliver Sacks, “The Machine Stops”

Illustration by Seb Agresti


In this week’s New Yorker

February 10, 2019

The February 11 issue of the New Yorker is especially juicy with good stories:

* Carrie Battan on Pamela Adlon, showrunner of Better Things;

* a posthumous publication of an essay by Oliver Sacks on smartphones and what’s lost when we spend so much time fixated on our devices;

* Ian Parker’s very long, very thorough examination of the curious case of Daniel Mallory, author of the best-selling thriller novel The Woman in the Window (below, illustration by Kristian Hammerstad),and the fictions he has created about his own family and medical history;

* Burkhard Bilger on Roomful of Teeth, the contemporary vocal ensemble, an occasion for some fascinating observations about the human voice;

and

* David Denby’s excellent essay about legendary screenwriter Ben Hecht, inspired by Adina Hoffman’s new biography.


Interviews: Physique Pictorial interview about THE PARADOX OF PORN

February 8, 2019

The latest issue of Physique Pictorial, the reboot of Bob Mizer’s legendary beefcake magazine, features an interview with me about The Paradox of Porn, conducted by Kevin Armstrong. You can order the issue online here, or buy it at bookstores like the Bureau of General Services Queer Division at the Center on 13th Street.


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