Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mildred Pierce

Forget Mad Men. Let's watch Mildred Pierce.

(UPDATE: I just realized that I actually can't watch this without HBO. But I like that it exists.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Massimo Grimaldi at Team Gallery

While Upper Manhattan is still on the cobra hunt (yeek!) we've been squirming for weeks down in Soho regarding Team Gallery's latest exhibition by Italian artist Massimo Grimaldi involving two live snakes.

The snakes apparently served as "a barrier between the viewer and the artworks and imbuing the dynamics of spectatorship with a sense of the forbidden," but in the end its just a cheap trick. The ol' shock factor, staking claim to live-snakes-mimicking-line-and-gesture before someone else dares to do the same.

The work was about as mesmerizing as a screen saver, but still lured me inside with it's promises of pomp and vigor. And next up? New York's original shock star--
Ms. Marilyn Minter.

(photos via)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mad Men: Season 5

Well, finally. But seriously, a year?! AMC, get it together. Or hire me to sell ads for you.

In the meantime, and for the next YEAR, let's watch this scene again:

My Sandy

SOLID GOLD: An eight page NY Mag write up on Sandra Lee.

Have I ever told you about the time that I bought Sandy's (cleverly titled) memoir for $1 at Housing Works as a joke for my friend Alison, and then "accidentally" started reading it on the train ride to her apartment and then couldn't hand it over until I finished it three days later and suddenly started defending her meatloaf and infamous Kwanzaa cake in mixed company? Yeah, that happened.

Moving on! Let's now turn to one of my favorite essays of all time, to hear Anthony Bordain's experience with the lady in white:

I’m standing there by the boeuf bourgignonne station, sucking down martinis with my wife (they drink a LOT of martinis in the movie), minding my own business, having an innocent chat with some friends, when I notice someone has their hand on me. An icy, tendril of fear runs down my spine. I turn and find myself looking straight into the deceptively attractive and reasonable looking face of Sandra Lee.
To make matters worse–and more…..uncomfortable, she’s standing next to her boyfriend, Andrew Cuomo, the Attorney General of the State of New York.

Now, I’ve said some unkind things over the years about Sandra. Far too many and far too terrible things to ever apologize for. Plus, I pretty much meant every word. Once you’ve seen Sandra making Kwanzaa Cake on YouTube, there’s no backing down . My head is reeling with the thought that one phone call from Cuomo and my last twenty years of tax returns are getting audited . I’m paralyzed, wondering what the statute of limitations is on various things I may or may not have done twenty years ago. Sandra is talking. I know this cause her lips are moving and she’s saying–overtly anyway, nice things. Like “You’re a very naughty man,” and she’s chatting amiably with my wife. But one hand is picking over me like the meat buyer at Peter Luger selecting a rib section–like some demonic bird of prey is poking and prodding, deciding where the weakest, most tender point of entry is, giving, as I recall, a point by point review of her investigations to my wife–who ordinarily, I have to say, would have been across the table with a tomahawk chop elbow to the top of the skull by now, but who, like me, sits mesmerized and grinning insanely, frozen by the ..bizarrenessof the moment which seems to go on forever as Sandra’s hand wanders upward, tugs an ear lobe and asks if my ears are red yet. (They were.) Having had her way with me, she leaves the emptied husk of my carcass teetering at the table and moves on.

I felt like the victim of a drive-by shooting. “What just..happened?” I said with a weak, trembly voice. I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed the quiet but very thorough disembowelment that had just occurred. Nothing. It had looked, to anyone who’d care to notice, like any other cocktail party conversation–but I knew better. I had looked into those eyes. I’d seen. Oh, she was smiling all right, but I’m pretty damn sure you could have dragged a rusty butterknife across my carotid artery right there at the table and her expression would not have changed, maybe only the eyes, they’d roll over white as I geysered onto the chafing dishes.

As we say on the show all the time, “What have we learned today?”

I learned that were a nuclear weapon to fall on New York, I’m pretty sure that if no one else, Sandra Lee would survive to clamber out of the rubble. That if it came down to a fight over the last can of food, she would surely emerge the victor.

I learned that I am truly and deeply afraid of her. And I’m pretty sure she’s a Democrat.

And for some completely unrelated reason, the photos of Cuomo and Lee remind me SO MUCH of Botwin and Reyes (possibly because Cuomo so closely resembles Mr. Tijuana, but most likely because I've been watching way too many episodes of Weeds before bedtime but that's also beside the point.) Can't you just imagine a fantastic Sandra scandal in the future involving a hidden tunnel straight from her sunny upstate liquor cabinet right to the heart of the Columbian drug lords? One can dream.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Babycakes NYC

Okay! Further delaying the inevitable! Let's talk about cookies!

I first read of Erin McKenna on the Awl a few weeks ago, completely impressed with her savvy business model and jealous of her cute haircut. Babycakes is a 100% vegan, gluten free, wheat free, sugar free, most-allergen-free bakery on the Lower East Side, just a short jaunt from my office. I don't have any allergies, but I do like a fresh idea (well, it's been open for years, I'm late on this train) and am a sucker for pink icing.

So a few days later I slipped over to Babycakes on my lunch break and tried a cookie sandwich. Holy balls, people. TRY A COOKIE SANDWICH. I've been back twice since my initial visit, shoving them into the slightly skeptical fists of my friends and coworkers, then watching their reactions with an anticipation not unlike Doc Brown with his flux capacitor, coconut oil in place of plutonium.

But don't let the vegan-gluten-whatever stuff fool you, these are neither healthy nor bland. They aren't the least bit dry, and they are hands down my favorite treat in all of New York City. Even Alison agrees, and she's a tough crowd on baked goods. Okay, I don't have a whole lot else to say on the subject, but I just felt the need to share.

And now... a video.

BabyCakes NYC: Frosting Party! from BabyCakes NYC on Vimeo.

Jane Eyre

I know it's been well over a week since writing anything on this ol' bloggy, though not for lack of content. I've written about once sentence about this, and this place, and this, and this. But lately, whenever I sit down to write something for this lovely space, I remind myself that I still haven't thought of a single word for a much more topical purpose-- my Maid of Honor speech, due for a wedding two days from now.

And each time I sit down to write that, I inevitably end up in a cornmaze of a google chase that somehow lands me at YouTube, watching the Bridesmaids trailer ten times over before flat out giving up on grounds of absolutely NO HOPE of ever being as funny or awesome as Kristin Wiig. Might as well just resign!, I decide before collapsing into bed face first, exhausted from the very thought of my weekend ahead.


I saw Jane Eyre last week. The NEW Jane Eyre, the film noir Jane Eyre starring that awesome young actress from The Kids are All Right and the bad Alice movie. My friend Lo and I saw it together at the Sunshine's matinee performance with all the old people, candy in hand, eager for the dark drama ahead. We spent much of the movie melting over the Byronic Mr. Rochester, his good hair, and his impressive skill of forcing people to talk to him before berating them for it. SWOON.

Lauren kept nudging my arm, wide eyed and giddy over the overt absurdities-- A beaten orphan! A secret wife! A handy fire! A blind lover!-- but we loved every swooping second. She was smart, that Brontë sister, albeit perhaps a bit repressed? (It's why we like it!) Jane is a deeply developed story, Lo pointed out to me, despite the, uh, wife-through-a-hidden-doorway trick, in a time when women were writing little more than cotton candy.

And directed by the stripped-and-stark Cary Fukunaga, this Jane held its own outside of the chic-y nineteenth century dramas to which we've become accustomed. His version enters a new category of lady-films cut without grace or petaled romance. It's
Brontë-meets-Plath, if you will. (Well, that might be stretching it-- there is still a dashing-blind-man-who-survives-the-handy-fire in the ending.) Brontë-meets-Ibsen. Happy?

Now, onto the next.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Great Artists

(Honestly, I'm not one hundred percent sure what Picasso was getting at in the quote above, but I like the cheeky sentiment so let's go with it.)

A few links for you after what I might consider to have been a very perfect weekend:

THIS has me in stitches. Seriously, so funny.

The Hairpin has been awfully sharp these days. Well done, ladies.

I've said it before and I'll say it again--- Ninth Street Espresso is the best coffee in New York City. THE BEST. Kate and I happily spent Sunday afternoon at the 10th St location over steaming mugs of cafe au lait (true story-- I used to think it was "cafe olé". Like Spanish coffee or something. SERIOUSLY. Don't tell anyone.) Yeah, it's all the way over on Avenue C, but in addition to the best coffee, they also have the best trees over there. Worth it.

Andrew Bird played a lovely little show with a mix of other performers at City Winery on Friday Night. A clip here.

She makes me laugh.

So does he.

Have you all heard of the Iranian custom of Taaroffing? It's so fascinating! Great piece on TAL, listen here.

That's all! Enjoy.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How to Die in Oregon

When Megan invited me to attend a screening of the Grand Jury Prize winner for best Documentary at Sundance this year, I jumped in with two feet. Hell yeah, sign me up.

It wasn't until the morning of the screening, however, that I finally clicked on the attached link that she sent describing the film. How to Die in Oregon, turns out, is a little documentary about euthanasia. Go figure.

How to Die is an account of the process by which several Oregon residents chose to end their lives with the administration of a physician-prescribed dose of barbiturates. The film opens with old man drinking a cup of murky white liquid into a quick and painless coma that would result in his death before introducing us to the woman mixing the liquid-- his 'volunteer' Sue Porter, from the non-profit Compassion & Choices. It's shockingly okay in that room, we observe while watching the man die peacefully after a few laughs and final farewells.

We then meet Cody Curtis, a 54-year-old Portland woman of grace and verve and clarity who is suffering from recurring liver cancer. She shares with us her 10 month struggle with terminal illness and her linear struggle with the decision to end her own life. We meet her steady husband and two teary eyed twenty-something kids. We watch her hike through the forest, garden, and visit her doctor to talk about her time line. Now, I understand that much of this is editing and director's angle, but Cody will BREAK YOUR HEART, dear reader. She'll make you want to be a better human being.

The film also depicts the 2008 Washington state ballot initiative debate over whether terminally ill residents should be allowed to end their lives similarly. The film's director was careful to include the opposition as an equal voice, fairly and honestly. We heard from doctors who oppose the initiative, and those who support it. We heard from a man whom the state refused aid for chemotherapy, but offered the deadly barbiturates as an alternative. I understood his anger, and so will you. Washington's ballot passed, by the way, and Montana is next.

What struck me throughout each story (we meet about 10 people who choose to end their lives) was the amount of clarity in each decision. None of them were afraid. None of them were second guessing their choice to die. Cody, the wonderwoman I mentioned above, seemed to approach her death as one might approach selling the family home, or giving away a much loved pet. "We're doing it at 6:00 on Monday, because that is when my surgeon is through with her clinic that day," she tells her hairdresser the Thursday prior. "But I'll take the first pills at 5:25. Thank you so much for my lovely haircut."

The film was gruesome. So much so that half of the HBO staff walked out of the original Sundance screening, and the majority of press in attendance openly sobbed. I closed my eyes for most of the medical stuff and ugly-cried at the end there. It's gruesome, this film. Heartbreaking like you can't even imagine. But for those who manage to make it through, the film’s message is ultimately uplifting. It's as much about life as it is about death, and death suddenly reveals itself as something not so scary.

I hope you're able to see it too.

Salt Bar

Pre-pre-Mynabirds John and I had after work cocktails (well, after work for me, early morning for John, who slept until 3pm that day and had a Sidecar for breakfast, eh hem) at the only open establishment we could find on the LES. Is 5:30 on a Monday too early to start drinking? Yeek.

At any rate, we were the first customers in this warm little bar chock full of things that white girls I like-- fancy cocktails for under $10, small plates, salty olives, vintage wallpaper, reclaimed wood, a friendly Aussie bartender, and a Pandora station set to play things like the Xx, Thom Yorke, and Beach House.

Two hours later, we were best friends forever with a couple honeymooning in NY from London, throwing high-fives with the aforementioned Aussie, and having heated discussions cross-bar about Florence and the Machine, Black Swan, and the National Board of Review.

I'm told that Salt Bar gets over crowded on weekends, as all LES spots do, but for one cold night in what-felt-like-was-the-middle-of-winter-but-was-actually-the-beginning-of-spring it was our own little Cheers. And for the record, I loved Black Swan, and let's all go back soon.


Some of my favorite people and I stayed up way past our bedtimes on Monday for the Mynabird's late show at Mercury Lounge. As often happens when seeing these shows, I didn't know much about the band ahead of time. But if Laura says I'll like something, I probably will.

According to their website:
What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood was recorded in the rugged hills of Oregon in the summer of 2009 with singer-songwriter/producer Richard Swift at the helm. When they finished recording each night, they’d polish off a bottle of whiskey and dance to records — Dandy Livingstone, Buffy Sainte-Marie, James Brown — until the sun came up.
Yes, I want to listen to music like that!

However. The sad-and-sorry point that is sticking with me from that night is that I am getting old. We all are. Six otherwise happy-go-lucky concert goers who adore the Mynabirds and bands that sounds like them started to squirm with achiness an hour after the show was supposed to start. Seriously, Mercury Lounge, start your shows on time! I just can't stand that long with all those young hipsters bumpin' into my gym bag! I was even sipping whiskey!

Due to this extended wait, your audience ends up a little sleepy and distracted during the actual show. Instead of enjoying the music as fully as they should, they find themselves fixating on whether or not they, too, could pull off a cute, short white vintage mini-dress as well as the darling blonde lead singer before blinking out if it three songs later. (The final conclusion was no, Sarah, you cannot pull that off.) You get my point.

I'm old.

But the Mynabirds are worth your while. (AND from Nebraska! Who knew?!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

PULSE and The Armory Show

Art Info and I are for the most part happily in agreement on the best and the worst of this year's Armory Show. I couldn't agree more with the 5 worst-- Gallerists, are you listening?! Stop with the 3D and irrelevant technology!

That said-- there was good to be found. I'm pleased to see Greenberg Van Doren's Tim Davis recognized as 'the funniest and most engaging work in the fair' with his multiscreen video project "The Upstate Olympics." I can't seem to find videos of this work anywhere online (probably a good thing-- art remaining art and all that) but it was so refreshing to find a moment of laughter and originality in the midst of so many egos staged in over reaching, over packed European booths.

Also of note is Sam Van Aken's "New Edens" exhibition of fruit trees at Ronald Feldman Gallery's booth. "New Edens" showcases an orchard of live trees genetically altered to simultaneously grow five fruits, sectioned off in veins like those carnations we altered with food coloring in grade school. It's a symbiosis of humankind’s relation to nature-- biodiversity versus food monoculture, genetic engineering, and pure shock factor. Overall it held just the right amount of umph to blow his surrounding exhibitors irrelevant. I wish that more galleries would showcase single artist booths like this-- such a bigger impact!

The photo above is from the PULSE fair that took place at the Metropolitan Pavilion this year--a huge improvement from that concrete disaster last year at the end of Houston. I always find the exhibitors at Pulse more interesting that those at The Armory Show, this year being no exception. ('Saying funny things in neon' isn't revolutionary or in any way transcendent, by the way, but it always causes pause and still holds the right amount of self-deprivation to remain relevant.)

PULSE allows smaller galleries from exotic places like Brooklyn and Canada a shot at recognition from the heralded collectors in town for the bigger fairs. It therefore feels more settled and less hyper than The Armory Show, less stuffy than The Art Show uptown, but still more confident than either Volta or Scope. (Do these silly words make sense to you, dear reader?)

At any rate, it happened. Art Week is over and I remain grateful for it all. It's a real treat to have the best of the best arrive in my town for 5 quick days. These dealers that I speak with daily come right to me, spreading their wings with paintings and installations and strange sculpture ripe for judgment and perhaps a bit of inspiration. In the end, it's a flurry but also a much needed jolt back into a world that I find important and so very necessary.

Next up? Chicago.

NY Art Week

New York Art Week has come and gone. I'm so glad I'm not the person in charge or orchestrating the tear-down process. Can you imagine all of those needy egos trying to ship their (very expensive!) works back to wherever they came from at the same time as everyone else? That pier will be cleared within 24 hours. Seriously, can you imagine?! So glad I was merely an ad man in that mix.

Anyway. Despite my busy week/weekend, the world kept spinning.

A few non-art fair related notes:

I recently finished a book of truly exquisite short stories, all (but one) of which brought me to a greater understanding of human interaction. Highly recommend!

I re-watched two films that I loved last year, and loved them both again. Especially Please, Give. I can't get it out of my head.

Each week I read “Shouts & Murmurs” in the New Yorker and often wonder why it isn’t very funny. However, this week's didn't disappoint.

Speaking of the NYer, Tina Fey is back this week with a fantastic piece I read online this morning in bed. I didn't really like her last contribution, which made me feel a little unsettled. Who doesn't love Tina Fey? Luckily this one cured my weird guilt issue.

This illustrator's work made me audibly gasp.

Miss Moss' comparisons of runway fashion to paintings are some of the coolest things I've seen online in a while.

Oh, and I finally saw The King's Speech and I get it now.

I know I just mentioned this, but I want to recommend Miss Moss' notes on art, in general. Not just the fashion comparisons. Seriously smart lady.

Friday, March 4, 2011


If you're keeping tabs, you know I've been away more than normal or necessary this past month. Palm Beach, Las Vegas, and now Los Angeles. If you catch me complaining about the New York winter, you have every right to slap me across my slightly sunkissed face, as, well, I've managed to escape it. (Although it was FREEZING in LA, I swear.)

John, Pam, and I just returned from a weekend getaway at The Standard Downtown LA. Ashley met us there, and had you a lens on our weekend, you would at any given moment find us dancing to John's pop mixes, laughing at something undoubtedly vulgar, or jumping on our perfectly stationed king sized bed.

We sipped complimentary champagne, bumped elbows with movie stars, and found ourselves cutting line at big Hollywood Oscar parties. We saw the best worst movie at the best movie theater in the city, and I broke my shoe on Hollywood Boulevard. We dined at Jar and BLD, and fell into bed exhausted each night (morning?), pinching ourselves over this new found reality.

But I'm back now, in Brooklyn, for a long while and as much as I'd like to make up for the sleep I didn't get in Lala Land, its Art Week here in NYC so that will all have to wait. If you need me, I'll be boosting art dealers' egos just past the West Side Highway at Pier 94. The art is good, by the way-- I love this time of year. More on that later.