Sunday, October 29, 2006

another blue ribbon pumpkin year

i had no idea this was the case, but apparently there are people who are morally opposed to using stencils for pumpkin carving. there's no point in sussing that one out. just admire the fruits of stencils above.

after pumpkins were completed by myself and various friends, i placed them on my stoop and lit them up. many people walked by to admire, and some even took pictures, but sadly, when i woke up this morning, they had all been smashed. i got one more uncarved pumpkin that i'm saving for the day of, but it's gotta be good, especially since it'll only last one night out there (and maybe not even that). i'm currently weighing my options.

in case you're curious, excellent pumpkin stencils can be found here.

Monday, October 23, 2006


disgusting bloopy long-necked women who need less money, not more, pretending to have a career by pushing the shittiest, cheesiest of shitty products, should NOT be permitted to force their mugs on all of NYC.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

counterculture mags

i've been hating this particular magazine niche for so long, and finally was forced to write about my revulsion through a class assignment. this is the first school thing i'm putting up here, and it's kind of long, but it's something i've wanted to do for a while so i'm posting it anyway.


The most salient thing that the counterculture magazine Adbusters ever produced was a reader’s letter it published in November 2001. The letter read, “It was funny seeing Adbusters #31 with the anarchist on the cover: I was wearing the same black shirt, black bandana and black messenger bag. Then I saw issue #32, with the consumers seeing their own images on a soda machine as they bought a can. It wasn’t funny anymore. I think you see the irony.”

What this shrewd reader understood is that there is something inherently wrong with a magazine providing guidance to independent counterculture. The moment money is exchanged for a little stack of glossy pages, the person attempting to escape mainstream buys into whatever the magazine is selling. “Buy into this group in order to escape another,” the counterculture magazine exhorts – a perfect paradox.

Adbusters’ pages are full of mock ads attempting to cut to the heart of the American political-capitalist machine. But alongside strong graphic depictions of western hypocrisy and articles about fair trade, one finds a tear-off mail-in postcard offering to throw in a free Adbusters mug and t-shirt If You Subscribe Now. The design aesthetic and logo of the magazine reek of museum store luxury products bought and sold in western capitals. Non-selling through selling, group coercion under a brand to promote independent mindedness – a better example of mucky political ends-justify-the-means could hardly be found under Stalin.

Adbusters, though, is an extreme example of a confused counterculture magazine. Far more subtle hypocritical independentness is to be found in the mountain of “art” or “lifestyle” magazines vying for the would-be independent’s attention.

Filter, Paper, Nylon: the titles themselves proffer a level of intelligence on the reader. They aren’t straightforward titles, no; they contain subtle references and connotations suitable to and interpretable by an “artistic” mind. And being artistic, of course, means being countercultural, outside the mainstream, unique.

On each cover below the magazine’s name, Filter reads, “Good Music Will Prevail”; that is, not the bad music that everyone else is listening to and against which this little magazine must pit itself like David against Goliath. Artist features are divided into “Getting to Know” and “You Should Already Know” categories, suggesting that even outside the mainstream, there are levels of exclusivity one should strive for to be distinguished from the masses. In the case of Filter, the highest levels of special individuality are attained by those who know the most musicians, and know them before anyone else.

Paper pits itself against a mainstream but make less of an effort than Filter to disguise that it is doing so; essentially, it’s not just knowledge that elevates a reader. In its most recent issue, on the theme of “Un-Hollywood,” Penelope Cruz graces the cover in a blonde Marilyn Monroe wig to celebrate Pedro Almodovar’s new movie. “Hollywood blockbusters for the masses are unartistic,” Paper shouts. “But you, you are an artist, and you can tell real from fake.”

While Filter helps readers be unique by being most in-the-know artistically, Paper incorporates fashion – surface, shallowness, “un-art” – into the magazine to help. Showing that they are ahead of the curve, a series on new, up and coming filmmakers is introduced, “We’ve captured them now, before they get big. We hold them in a special kind of esteem. Why? Because you never forget your first.” Art isn’t serious. It’s sexy and fun. Each of the filmmakers is dressed in designer couture and at the end of each short bio the reader is told where he, too, can find the clothes of artists. Paper incorporates shopping with art, taking the edge and danger out of art and linking it with consumer commodities. At the same time, while helping the reader create the tastes of internal life (movies), it creates those that the world sees on the surface (fashion). Inhaling the pages of the magazine creates an overall persona or lifestyle for the reader that suggests artistic uniqueness in all of its facets.

Paper interviews experimental and perhaps individual enough artists that readers can fool themselves into thinking they are getting a whiff of the real stuff as they flip through the pages. But Nylon employs such cheap tactics in attempting to bestow something “original” or “real” – that is, artistic – it is frightening that readers are taken in. Nearly every fashion spread refers back to an older era or some cinematic archetype of glamour to explain the products it is suggesting. “Yeah, we didn’t understand the plot either. But we still loved Naomi Watts’s and Laura Harring’s film-noir style” – the caption for a David Lynch fashion spread. “Too Dazed In The Valley” – a spread somehow linking various make-up products to The Valley of the Dolls films. And, saddest of all, “Almost Famous” – a fashion spread on the groupie style of Pamela Des Barres. Art, or some vague notion of it, is employed in the service of fashion, not the other way around.

Nylon is the Seventeen magazine for the girl of today. Fashion pure and simple is no longer enough to draw the reader into some individualizing ether of uniqueness, though that – style – is still what the reader desires. Through these magazines, art, uniqueness, individuality – fetishized to a point of being unrecognizable – have become more of an aesthetic than the revolutionary countercultural mindset they once represented. But readers, none the wiser, still feel revolution is part of what they are getting.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

podcast for TNY - blogged

I definitely shouldn't be excited that my most recent podcast for The New Yorker was blogged (History 10.17.06), especially since it's a nerdy site and what I did wasn't even discussed.
But I am, darlings, I am.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Black People Love Us

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Muslim Bob Edgar...maybe

Although I can't figure out why this wasn't the top story for every major news outlet, at least the NYT and IHT reported on the arrest of Ayatollah Mohammad Kazemeni Boroujerdi, a cleric calling for the end of theocracy in Iran. Someone with some clout is speaking out against, quite possibly, the world's currently most threatening regime, being punished and possibly killed for it, and the action is going largely unnoticed.

Well, not everywhere. Elsewhere news filtered through (which may or may not be reliable) that some Iranians thought the arrest might lead to an uprising, even a revolution. But being that the desire is to end the reign of the mullahs, perhaps people were unwilling to participate to protect yet another religious leader. Apparently a major player in all of this is the (supposedly??) democratically leaning KRSI Voice of Iran radio station, through which Boroujerdi widely broadcast calls for separation of religion and politics. The station used to have a website with an online stream (I think), but it's gone now and I'm not sure what that means. (This blog is interesting and may have good info.)

If we needed any proof of the corruption of the Iranian government, this is it. I've personally been intrigued by Ahmedinejad's challenges of assumed Western superiority. It's necessary to call out Bush, to call out and challenge the West, particularly the U.S., on its attempts of enforcing its will upon the world. But this challenge alone can't bring us under the sway of an otherwise insane man. It reminds me of the Ceausescu regime of Romania, in that a cloak is being pulled over the eyes of many well-intentioned members of the international community by a savvy manipulator, while inside the country's borders, people starve. Of course in the case of Iran, we have as much, if not more, at stake as the Iranian people when it comes to the wills and whims of the current regime, and Ahmedinejad hasn't done as much to hide his extremism. But we cannot let the cloak be pulled over our eyes.

So many have been wondering where the voices of moderation for Islam and Iran are hiding. But given that the voices are out there, the real questions are where is our Kapuscinski, where is our Orwell, where is the COVERAGE of what's actually going on? Any writer today who wonders where Muslim voices of moderation are is full of shit. Go there and tell us what's happening, someone!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Pas de Deux from Swan Lake

I know ballet isn't for everyone, but goddamn if you can't appreciate the sheer beauty of this. Especially the closing moments of the dance. The ballerina on top of little girls' jewelry boxes was based on that perfection -- the apex of what a human body can achieve as a vehicle for art. Brings tears to my eyes, no shit. Respek.

kindness of strangers

new york
i owe you
for teaching me that pay it forward
does exist

for the person that owed nothing
when another was alone
and if anything she owed more
than she could give over the course of a lifetime

and it all flowed through like water
in the moment of a solitary cab ride

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Olberman calls Bush Incompetent

wow, do i love this guy. more voices are surfacing to criticize bush of late. in addition to books and articles, i mean. critique from the international crowd is nothing new (see below), but the chorus of Americans joining in more loudly indicates something may be changing. that, of course, and the dismal state of affairs for republicans all across the country. MWA HAHA HAHA. could it all be enough to counter the rove propaganda machine? let's keep our fingers crossed.

as usual, though, we've got the checklist of books critical of bushies by intellectuals and media types. here are just a few of the most recent spate:
Bill Moyers, Welcome to Doomsday
Sidney Blumenthal, How Bush Rules
Bob Edgar, The Middle Church
Frank Rich, The Greatest Story Ever Sold

PS - why did YouTube take a week to show these clips on my blog? mystery.

Hugo Chavez Calls Bush the Devil

I thought this was kind of funny, but largely ineffectual. When someone with no friends in his region resorts to theatrical rhetoric to get people on his side against a common enemy, there are too many ulterior motives for the words to be taken seriously.