Culture Vulture/Photo Diary: springtime in New York

April 8, 2018

The Spring Culture Season blossoms forth!

March 30God’s Own Country on DVD (I didn’t love it the way many others have — the central relationship seemed more schematic than plausible to me).


March 31Cabaret Luxe at Lot 45 in Bushwick, inspired by Weimar-era German club performance, with maitresse of ceremonies Dorothy Darker…

leather-lunged diva Dee Dee Vega backed by punk klezmer rock band Amor Obscur…

and burlesque performers Lewd Alfred Douglas…

Divina Gransparkle…

and Deity (pictured below with the entire cast).

April 1David Bowie Is at the Brooklyn Museum, fun immersive experience.

While we were there, we strolled through the ongoing exhibition “Life, Death, and Transformation in the Americas,” with its eerie kachina dolls and awesome thunderbird masks.

Afterwards Andy and Tansal and I had lunch at Kiwiana in Park Slope, which serves all New Zealand cuisine, including the irresistible dessert known as pavlova.

April 5Yerma at Park Avenue Armory, Lorca’s play adapted and directed by Simon Stone with a ferocious cast led by Billie Piper and Brendan Cowell (below, photo by Sara Krulwich for the New York Times) and a spectacular set designed by Lizzie Clachan.

April 6Wild Wild Country on Netflix, the riveting six-part documentary about how rural Oregon dealt with the sudden emergence of an Indian sex guru (Rajneesh, aka Osho) and his community of devotees in their midst.

April 7Isle of Dogs at Cinépolis in Chelsea — we loved it.

April 8 — Museum of Modern Art. Final day of the Club 57 show. Ann Magnuson put out the call for a closing day party, so the basement of MOMA thronged with senior citizens who once upon a time were the hippest and grooviest of East Village clubgoers, along with plenty of excited visitors too young to have seen the club back in the day.

This delightful cartoony Kenny Scharf painting (“Escaped in Time, I’m Pleased,” above) prepared me for the colorful figuration all over the Tarsila do Amaral retrospective, with its inquisitive-looking critters and its theme of anthropophagy.

And upstairs a rich, heady, comprehensive survey of rigorous conceptual artist Adrian Piper, with its witty dada performative moments (I loved the idea of the humming room, very Yoko Ono — and I love that a security guard stands by whose job it is to make sure you’re humming when you enter the room).

 


Quote of the day: MONEY

April 7, 2018

MONEY

Money, the long green,
cash, stash, rhino, jack
or just plain dough.

Chock it up, fork it over,
shell it out. Watch it
burn holes through pockets.

To be made of it! To have it
to burn! Greenbacks, double eagles,
megabucks and Ginnie Maes.

It greases the palm, feathers a net,
holds heads above water,
makes both ends meet.

Money breeds money.
Gathering interest, compounding daily.
Always in circulation.

Money. You don’t know where it’s been,
but you put it where your mouth is.
And it talks.

–Dana Gioia


In this week’s New Yorker

April 1, 2018

Two pieces you have to read:

Margaret Talbot’s simple and clear and devastating reporting about Scott Pruitt and how as head of the Environmental Protection Agency he is pursuing an agenda in favor of big business and its heedless attitude toward environmental protection. Key passage:

In November, Pruitt proposed the repeal of an Obama-era rule that imposed Clean Air Act emissions standards on glider vehicles—heavy-duty trucks that pair new cabs and chassis with older, dirtier engines. Gliders are slightly cheaper than all-new trucks, in part because they aren’t equipped with modern pollution controls. They make up only five per cent of the heavy-duty-truck fleet, but they emit a disproportionate amount of dangerous pollution. Steve Silverman, a former E.P.A. attorney, who retired in January, worked on the glider rule. “We’re not talking only about greenhouse gases,” he said. “These trucks put out diesel particulate matter, a human-lung carcinogen.” In 2016, an agency analysis concluded that gliders produce almost three hundred thousand tons of nitrogen-oxide pollution a year, along with nearly eight thousand tons of diesel-particulate pollution. Agency scientists estimate that a single year of glider pollution causes as many as sixteen hundred premature deaths.

At a public hearing in December, environmental and public-health groups such as the American Lung Association sent representatives to speak for keeping the rule. That was expected. But so did Volvo Group North America, which produces both Volvo and Mack trucks. Susan Alt, Volvo North America’s vice-president of public affairs, testified that the proposed repeal “makes a mockery of the massive investments we’ve made to develop low-emission-compliant technology.” The American Trucking Association also testified against a repeal. Bob Nuss, whom the association named the 2017 Truck Dealer of the Year, flew at his own expense from Minnesota to Washington, D.C., to attend the hearing. Nuss said, “I told them, ‘Maybe it’s only five per cent of the trucks, but how would we all feel if five per cent of the trucks didn’t have to stop for a school bus or obey the speed limit?’ Sneaking around, avoiding emissions compliance, filling the air with soot—it’s just not right.”

The strongest support for rescinding the rule comes from the largest producer of gliders, Fitzgerald. Last year, Fitzgerald, which is based in Tennessee, hosted a campaign event for Trump. In May, Pruitt met with the company’s founder and C.E.O., Tommy Fitzgerald. Two months later, Fitzgerald and two glider dealers wrote a letter to Pruitt contending that the agency lacked the authority to regulate gliders under the Clean Air Act, because “the engine, transmission, and typically the rear axle” are “not new.”

Pruitt soon announced that the E.P.A. would reconsider the rule, and precisely echoed Fitzgerald’s claim that gliders fell into a regulatory gray area because they contained “new and used” components.

Staff writer Rachel Aviv writes one story after another about people in excruciatingly painful situations. This week she writes (in “How a Young Woman Lost her Identity”) about a woman who suffers from an extreme form of dissociation, which puzzles everyone she knows, especially her devoted mother.

Bonus: the cover illustration by the brilliant Christoph Niemann (“Trompe-l’Oeil”) becomes an animation when you view it in digital form. Check out the story behind that here.


Quote of the day: AVOCADOS

April 1, 2018

AVOCADOS

The precious commodity that drives Michoacán’s economy and feeds an American obsession is not marijuana or methamphetamines but avocados, which local residents have taken to calling “green gold.” Mexico produces more of the fruit than any country in the world — about a third of the global total — and most of its crop is grown in the rich volcanic soil of Michoacán, upland from the beaches of Acapulco. It is one of the miracles of modern trade that in 2017, Mexico’s most violent year on record, this cartel-riddled state exported more than 1.7 billion pounds of Haas avocados to the United States, helping them surpass bananas as America’s most valuable fruit import. Nine out of every 10 imported avocados in the United States come from Michoacán.

The real marvel of Mexico’s avocado trade, however, is not so much its size as the speed of its sudden growth. Avocados have been cultivated in Mexico for around 9,000 years. (When Spanish conquistadors first encountered the oblong fruit in the early 16th century, they called it aguacate, after ahuacatl, an Aztec word that means testicle.) Despite this deep history, Mexico exported very few avocados — and none at all to the United States — through the 1980s, when a California-based company, Mission Produce, opened the first avocado-packing plant in Uruapan. The United States had banned Mexican avocados since 1914 over fears of an insect infestation and cheaper competition. But in 1994, Mexico, Canada and the United States enacted the North American Free Trade Agreement — and soon thereafter the United States began lifting its ban.

An avocado explosion followed. In 1994, Americans consumed a little more than one pound of the fruit per person per year — almost all from California growers, whose harvest comes only in the summer. Today, that figure is up to seven pounds per person year-round. Fueled by a growing Latino community and Hollywood stars promoting the health benefits of the fruit’s unsaturated fats (Miley Cyrus has an avocado tattoo on her arm), America’s avocado craze has intensified every year. An estimated 135 million pounds of avocados were consumed in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl last month. (The Super Bowl is America’s top avocado day, just ahead of Cinco de Mayo.)

–Brook Larmer, New York Times Magazine

illustration by Andrew Rae

 


Quote of the day: FAILURE

March 4, 2018

FAILURE

When I first worked in recording studios with Brian Eno in the early 1990s I was unnerved by how much he liked failure. He seemed to look forward to it. Failure gave him the chance to rethink the whole project, to be flexible, to redefine it, to start over. During the long recording process I noticed that often by the time a song was finished it had little to do with the original version. Sometimes it’s painful to discard everything, sometimes it’s exhilarating. But I’ve finally learned that failure is largely a form of perception and definition, the way a dessert can be a complete failure as a cake but a great success when it’s renamed a pudding.

–Laurie Anderson, All the Things I Lost in the Flood


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