Literati in a Gay Fetish Bar, A (Fictional) Review

I struggle, from time to time, as many writers do, in finding a suitable location to focus on my work. And let me tell you right now, a gay dungeon bar is radically far from suitable I’ve come to find. Generally when I approach a new piece, I prefer my bedroom or perhaps a coffee shop to hash out this oeuvre du jour. And that often works fine. But lately I’ve noticed that these places don’t always give me inspiration for my work. They’re too insular, too innocuous, and frankly, too dull for me to produce original, visceral material.

The smells of brewing coffee or even unwashed sheets are part of an otherwise peripheral atmospheric milieu that I can overlook in concentrating on my writing. But the smells of leather dog collars and sweat-laden mesh harnesses are much harder to ignore. This was my experience at a lounge called The Falcon, at which I spent the afternoon earlier this week. How, pray tell, am I supposed to reach a literary epiphany when a male geriatric is being trussed up like a turkey and tickled with plumes five feet away while what sounds like a Siouxsie and the Banshees mash-up blares like a foghorn over the stereo system? I also find it fiercely difficult to articulate how emotionally unavailable my stepfather was as a child when a shirtless man named Sue continuously rubs against my shoulder while covered in baby oil and some sort of Turkish Musk essence.

After an hour or two of sitting by the bar, with the aid of some noise-cancelling headphones and a vodka gimlet that the bartender did not know how to make properly, I got into a bit of a groove and the synapses started to fire. All of a sudden I felt an outpouring of unearthed emotions about my staunchly rural upbringing and some of the more divisive members of my family. I felt raw but ebullient, for the first time in recent memory. But then, a sharp, reflected light hit my eye, completely derailing my diatribe about my very unremarkable fifth birthday party. I looked over and I saw a six-foot, chain-link spider web being wheeled out onto the stage, which was met with a roaring applause. A portly, bearded gentleman was browbeaten by whip-wielding young boys to climb onto it, which he did with little resistance for reasons that are still unclear to me. This spectacle was just not inspiring to my work.

I stepped out onto the patio with my computer, thinking some fresh air might help open my voice and get me back into a rhythm. But really, the sounds of snapping pool cues and stench of cigars did anything but. I sat beside a boisterous group of young men on what I assume was supposed to pass for a bench but closer resembled a two-by-four resting on two small crates. The chatter and sticky, unfinished wood didn’t aid in releasing anything from my innermost psyche but resentment. Someone named Principal Bill approached me and asked to spank me with a paddle for being naughty, which, needless to say, I declined. But Bill’s offer was absolutely not illuminating when I went on to later discuss my sister’s emotionally abusive boyfriend in the form of a limerick.

I soon came to the inevitable conclusion that this was absolutely not the place for me to be productive. I left in a bit of a huff, which was timely because I then checked my watch and realized that I needed to be home by six o’clock so my mother could use the car.

So, as a word of advise to my fellow writers, if you’re looking for a new space to work, do not choose one where the security guard mysteriously measures your inseam prior to entry. It is far from helpful.

Apparently Women and Jobs Just Don’t Work on TV

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Have you ever walked down the street, seen a young woman stroll by and thought: I bet she’s terrible at her job? Me neither. Then shouldn’t there be somewhere, theoretically, in the giant churning media machine that is modern television, a precedent for a gal to totally own the hell out of her position at work? One would think.

There seems to be an open dialog in American culture right now about how women fit in to the workforce. And the general consensus seems to be: not well enough. We’ve all heard the statistic that women consistently earn 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same job as men, which may or may not be entirely accurate, statistically. But whatever the exact figure, it seems to be an unceasing pattern that women earn less than men. But in the last few years, there seems to be more of a discourse on what it means socially for a modern woman to be employed with male coworkers (or employees). Pantene a few months back released an advertising campaign highlighting the fierce double standards for men and women in the business world. Every quality that makes a man good at his job, just reads as overly forceful and irritating when exhibited by a woman. So, under this generally compelling logic, women are not only paid less but very much less respected at work. Wonderful.

So then if this is the case in the real world, what is the fate of working women in the fictional world? I’m talking about Television. Without generalizing all TV shows, and speaking specifically about a select batch of TV comedies, there seems to be an undercurrent or an implication that women are fundamentally not cut out for the work force. As if their two X-chromosomes are pulling at them like a tug of war match inside their body, trying to hurl them somewhere safer and less competitive.

If you’ve ever watched The IT Crowd, you’ll realize two things right off the bat: it’s hilarious, and it’s a workplace comedy. In the first episode, Jen Barber arrives at Reynholm Industries ready for her first day at work, when she’s placed as manager of the IT Department because of a lie on her resume. Jen never fully gels in her position; constantly fumbling her duties as manager and becoming distracted by “women things.” An entire episode of the show is dedicated to Jen becoming obsessed with a pair of shoes (as all women do, obviously) that are the wrong size. She ends up mangling her feet and even chasing off the Japanese CEO who was a potential partner for the company after an irrational outburst (whoops!).

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In another episode, Jen suddenly gets her period and turns into a stark-raving maniac at work. She even goes so far as to let her womanness seep out into the office, infecting her male co-workers and reducing the staff to a bunch of weeping, emotional, dithering, incompetent irrational freaks (typical, right?). Jen’s status at the company also seems to be ever evolving because of her gender, but not in a good way. She eventually gets promoted to be the assistant to the head of the company, of course only because he wants to drug her with Rohypnol and have sex with her. This, needless to say, doesn’t work out. Another notable promotion finds Jen being accepted to be the new Entertainment Director at the company to an all-male group of business partners, but fails miserably at her new task because “she’s a woman…isn’t she?”. They men she is put in charge of entertaining were expecting strip clubs and drug binges but were instead taken to a performance of the Vagina Monologues, obviously. In the context of this show, however, Jen’s foibles could otherwise be considered exaggerated to the point of facilitating comedy, regardless of the implications. She’s merely a caricature, albeit a bit of a dated one.

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Typical woman’s time

Whether it’s about shoes, boys or otherwise, there seems to be a sense that women who work care too much about things that are not necessarily “work related” in the scope of TV. A feisty and somewhat scattered blond named Claire Dunphy is another one I follow on ABC’s Modern Family. Claire, for most of the series, is a stay-at-home mom, for lack of a better phrase. Her professional duties don’t extend beyond her household (more power to her), but in recent seasons she’s returned to the work-force. Since her two oldest children are entering adulthood, she decides to get a new gig. This consists of calling in a favor from her father who lands her a job at his company. In spite of the fact that Claire is college-educated, a proper job hunt was never on the table. Which, considering her lack of documented professional experience, is understandable. But when Claire starts her job, she instantly makes waves amongst the staff. She’s entering the game immediately with a disadvantage as she’s heralded as “the Boss’ daughter” who is obviously suspected of favoritism from Dad. But Claire’s misstep at this job is not that she’s the head honcho’s little girl, but that she makes a desperately concerted effort to make emotional connections with the other employees even though she holds a managerial position. On her first day, her father immediately criticizes her for bringing cookies for the staff, telling her it makes her look weak, which she disregards completely. Needless to say, she makes a fool of herself when she greets all her employees and gains absolutely no respect. She is more interested in being liked than fulfilling her duties as boss.

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The ONE person she is able to befriend, for whatever reason, is the strange and socially awkward, turtle-owning IT guy named Todd. When Claire reports her new friend to Jay, he tells her that Todd is going to be fired as soon as he can find his replacement. When Todd and Claire subsequently have lunch, he tells her about his plans to buy a house. Claire, not being able to hold her tongue on a professional level, tips him off that he shouldn’t consider buying anything because he may or may not have a chance of being fired. This of course causes a storm of problems, causing Todd to “trash the network” at the company, becoming a mess for Jay to clean up. At least there are still those cookies. The underlying problem here is that Claire’s only reference for a business approach is to use her mom-sensibility with employees. It’s not necessarily her job performance (which rarely even comes up), but her maternal, nurturing, sense of interpersonal protection (which is essential for raising kids) that is catastrophic for a person in management. And god knows, modern, intelligent women don’t have the capacity to separate the two.

This sense of conflation between a woman’s job and her role as a Mother comes up again and again, and always adversely for the woman, regardless of how proficient she is at her job . Elizabeth Lemon on 30 Rock, while in a position of authority and essentially good at what she does, often has a hard time at work. She is the head writer on a fictional show-within-the-show called TGS, and she’s consistently having to heard, corral, baby and nurture her entire staff to accomplish even the smallest task. But in spite of all her nurturing, her tough-love, and the sacrifices she makes for her job, she never seems to gain much respect from anyone she works with. She’s not the revered Patriarch, she’s the mommy. Her job responsibility very often extends into being emotionally supportive with her employees on a completely personal, non-professional level. But regardless of her efforts, everyone around her has no issues exploiting her generosity and defying her authority. Because everyone knows no matter how much you run amok, mommy will always be there for you. It’s as if Liz’ uterus is roaming around her body too fast to manage anyone. The only time Liz can foster even a scrap of respect is when she decides to take a leave of absence — when the “kids” are left to their own devices, they realize how much they need a Mommy and the extent that they’ve taken her for granted. When Liz inevitably returns to her post, she’s invariably left with a giant mess to clean up (which she does). It’s only when other people are left in charge that they see what Liz does for them. And while they come  to appreciate her, the next week everything reverts back to normal. Kids will do whatever they can get away with when Mom’s around.

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Liz’ very status as a “woman in charge” comes into question during an episode where the writers are discussing unfair treatment to employees for their race and gender. Her Producer Pete tells her, after reading her work file: “The only reason NBC picked up [Liz Lemon’s show] is because of the flak they got from women’s groups after airing the action drama Bitch Hunter”. There you have it! That makes sense! Why else would there be a woman in a position of authority at a major television studio even though they’re good at what they do?

But what Liz seems to struggle with most of all is finding a work-life balance. Her reoccurring mantra is to be a woman who can “have it all”, but having it all is something she flounders to achieve. Unlike her boss and mentor Jack Donaghy, Liz’ dedication to her job is deemed unhealthy by her coworkers. In the pilot episode, Jack himself reads her and refers to her as “over-scheduled and under-sexed”. While on the other side of the gender coin, there are several instances in the series where Jack spends the night at the office working and in the end is the hero who saves the day. Liz is just, to borrow from the Pantene ad, “selfish” when it comes to her loyalty to her work. Her personal relationships are secondary to her relationship to work, which causes anxiety in her life and is why Liz is characterized as being (amongst other things) uptight, controlling, stressed out and tired. But again, Jack Donaghy, who also consistently putting work first, is always canonized as a smooth, savvy businessman who knows what he wants and then takes it.

Now, these very much dramatized fictional stories are obviously a hyperbole on what the modern workplace is like. But television, unlike big business, isn’t shoved into major metropolitan areas where the culture is generally more pervasively liberal. EVERYONE in America watches television. It’s a BROADcast to the entire nation, so the stories on television have to be interesting and compelling to every walk of life in the United States to stay afloat. So, sadly, it would appear not every American is ready to watch stories about confident successful woman in the workplace, doing a good job on her own professional merits. But, to quote once again the Pantene ad, “don’t let labels hold you back”. If women persist in the boy’s club of American business, maybe more people will eventually want to see it.

American Horror Story Review – The Sharp, Downward-Sloping Arc of the Coven(ant?)

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Precious — “Yepp”

 

**SPOILER ALERT**

For all the gay dudes, girls, teens and frequent Tweeters who care, last night marked the much anticipated and, frankly, much needed end to the third Season of American Horror Story. This season was fraught with problems from the get-go and while the finale was a generally satisfying wrap-up, I’m not sure how it bodes for any future seasons of the show.

My biggest issue with Coven was that it simply wasn’t scary. Sure, the stories on AHS have always had camp and sassy broads and some almost laughably preposterous plot twists, but the glue that held the indulgent and chaotic fragments of the show together was the fact that it was always really fucking scary. This season just felt like TBS bought the rights to the show and decided to make a cooky sitcom about witches. Don’t get me wrong, I very well could have started a Twitter account just dedicated to amazing one-liners that Jessica Lange dished out (“Don’t make me drop a house on you”) but all the camp this time around veered more into “eyeroll” territory than anything else. When Kathy Bates’ severed head showed up, I think we can all agree she was just pure comic relief. Even the visuals of the show this season didn’t lend to “horror”. I think the Director of Photography just thought if they threw in a massive amount of Dutch angles and fisheye lenses and shots that were literally just upside down that it would simulate an aura of suspense, but all it did was create for a really jarring look.

I think also because, from what I can gather, the production schedule was so staunchly tight that a lot of the writing just didn’t have enough time to be ironed out. I remember reading interviews from the cast only a number of months before the show was supposed to premier saying that they didn’t know anything about the story. So I think the ‘world’ of Coven was really undefined. The rules of the show were never finessed. Characters were constantly dying and coming back to life and then dying again and then resurrecting an 80 year old spirit and then just having eternal life and it was all so off the cuff. This is why I think there was a feeling that nothing really had any consequence. It was hard to stay grounded and invest in the story when you know that in the next episode someone could just throw a pumice stone into a bonfire and undo whatever they did last week.

So, back to last night’s finale. I appreciated the sense of expectation and suspense they carved into this episode: Who will be the next Supreme? There was lacking this season a sense of a driving mystery to the story. And I’m certainly not going to say no to a musical number by Stevie Nicks to kick things off. The bulk of the episode was dedicated to the 4 remaining young witches performing the 7 Wonders, testing of course to see which would complete the tasks and become the next Supreme. Which, while generally fun to watch, seemed suspiciously easy for all those girls to perform. Last I checked no one’s been able to transmutate before but at the drop of a hat are able to transport all over the place like they’re in The Incredibles. So of course Misty dies right away because she’s the cutest and I love her and why couldn’t it have been Emma Roberts’ smug, overacted ass? Then Zoe gets the ax in a really bizarre transmutation accident (but then gets brought back to life later so it’s cool). THEN, with a surge of gusto after a pep-talk, Cordelia is in the running and she totally owns those seven wonders. Then the blond zombie slave boy kills Madison (Emma Roberts) but no one brings her back to life because she’s awful. And there you have it, Cordelia is the next Supreme (Huzzah!). And if that wasn’t enough, she miraculously gets her eyeballs back and a coat of lip gloss so she’s winning all over the place.

However, then that sly but kind of fabulous bitch Fiona comes back, revealing she’s 100% NOT dead. She and Cordelia have a surprisingly heartfelt and honest moment where Fiona lets her guard down and confesses that she always resented Cordelia because she was a walking reminder of her own mortality. Fiona FINALLY lets go, as her life force is quickly ebbing away from her with the rising of the new Supreme, and descends into what she’s always feared — death. This is where the show pulls out the best moment of the episode: Fiona wakes up in some strange after-life where she realizes she will live in a cyclical eternity with the Axman drinking bourbon by the bucket and grilling catfish in some little rural cabin (Ew! #SoNotFionasStyle #Wheresthefabulousness?). Then the Cajun, Rastafari Lucifer has a good cackle at her expense and that’s the end of Fiona. She got what she deserved I suppose!

So, the academy gets an ass load of press and opens its doors to a whole new generation of witches and Cordelia is happier than hell as the new Supreme. The End.

I certainly didn’t hate the finale. It had moments of being fun and silly and, for the first time in AHS history, logically wrapped up a story. But there was only so much they could do given the way the season had gone. I’m still a little miffed that my episode 1 prediction of Nan becoming the new, ambiguously autistic Supreme didn’t come true AT ALL, but I’ll let that go. I will stay hopeful that Coven was just a small, underwhelming blip from being such a rushed effort and not a giant blight for the series. Especially considering the next season has a 1950 setting and Jessica Lange speaking German which sounds amazing. We’ll have to wait and see.

Until then, I’ll just watch the new batch of House of Cards episodes over and over to tide me over.

On Cloudz Nein

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The “Nein” reference in the title was just for the rhyme and not because this guy looks like he might be a member of the Third Reich.

I’m terribly remiss. Having just written a comprehensive list recapping my favorite music of the year, becoming the foremost music review of 2013 in some circles (my own), I had a stark realization that there was one album I’d forgotten. A band called Majical Cloudz put out a record earlier this year called Impersonator, which, for lack of a more original phrase, was in fact majical. This group crafts songs that are extraordinarily basic, musically. But the simplicity is what’s really artful about their songs. Each deep, bass-heavy organ chord smacks you in the gut if you’re not careful.

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But as elegantly stripped down as their arrangements are, the emotional brunt of Majical Cloudz comes from Devon Welsh’s vocals. Welsh’s voice just has this beautiful dichotomy of someone who seems remarkably steady and approachable but still wrought with some dark, secret past. His voice carries the songs, but yet he deftly resists going too baroque during his singing. Welsh keeps everything grounded and intact without drifting too far into the “cloudz”. I actually was able to see Majical Cloudz perform live this year and it was a rather refreshing. Welsh has such a charming and naturally funny schtick on stage. It’s certainly off beat but it was clear that the band was not self-righteous or self-important in any way, even with the “serious” nature of their music . And the same goes for their lyrical content; The words could very easily have crossed over to the territory of mawkish, ornate or flowery but Majical Cloudz keep everything grounded and intact for the sake of creating an immediate, relatable story. I know “immediacy” is a buzz word that I keep flinging around, but it really does apply in this case. Welsh has much more tact and discretion than someone like, say, Florence and the Machine who has a band as a sloppy excuse to make songs when those songs are so overpowered and strong-armed by her vocals. The vocals in Majical Cloudz still respect the music even if Welsh’s singing is certainly the focus and the strongest point.

Majical Cloudz have made one of the best albums of the year. They’re able to make music that’s fiercely emotional while still sounding effortless, un-pretentious and downright pretty. Hat’s off, gentlemen!

2013 in Music: A Year in Review

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2013, from my narrow musical experience, seems to be the year that saw experimental music reign supreme. Which is something I’m certainly not complaining about. Whether it be because of the rocky political climate or the unceasingly turbulent meteorological climate, the past twelve months certainly begat a lot of dark, chaotic but ultimately beautiful music and I had a hell of a time listening to it all. As we’re settling into what’s already an abrasively cold winter, I would like to reflect on the music and albums that made 2013 a pretty wonderful year, not in spite of but BECAUSE of its darkness.

1. Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Volume 3: To See More Light

Alright, what can I say about this year’s most esteemed release on my little list? Colin Stetson is, above all else in my mind, a really talented musician. Stetson knows how to play a fucking saxophone, yet he never seems to overstep his own bounds as, essentially, a solo artist. The pieces and elements of all his songs are incredibly basic; his technique is consistent and unaltered song to song, but each peace has a very delicately crafted emotional statement under the instrumentation. He’s able to take the same basic raw materials and explore every single nuance of how those materials work together to create 11 really compelling songs.

But aside from the skill he clearly possesses in actually playing his instrument, the album itself feels almost poetically flawed and fractured in the specific way it’s executed. In each song, the instrument is being pushed to the point of distortion at all times. It’s as if the reed of the saxophone is about to crack in half at any moment. And the vocals are unlike anything I’ve ever heard: they’re primal and scary and strange and interesting and add an incredible richness to the already viscerally powerful music. For as technically impressive as this album is, its lack of form and sense of immediacy is what makes this album great.

Loud City Song2.  Julia Holter – Loud City Song

I’ve loved Julia Holter since the first instant I heard her music. I actually had no idea who she was until last year’s gorgeous and expansive album Ekstasis, at which time my eyes turned to pinwheels. What Julia does here in Loud City Song that’s so successful, which is completely different than what made Ekstasis so successful, is the strange balance she teeters on between desolation and intimacy. This record feels very urban in a way that its predecessor did not, capturing a strange sense of coldness and loneliness in between moments of massive intensity. This is something that Julia Holter and Colin Stetson very much share: a stark sensibility of immediacy. Each murmur of her vocals feels unscripted, carrying a presence and honesty that couples beautifully with the sparse instrumentation. But some songs that start out with a quiet solitude can build into an exciting, baroque and even scary crescendo. And having seen Julia Holter perform live a number of times, her sets are all COMPLETELY different. So, needless to say, this woman has many sides, and each one is more interesting than the last.

Danny-Brown_Old-Cover_hires3.  Danny Brown – Old

Danny Brown’s latest album, Old, is a lot of fucking fun. The thing about that really stands out is its total sense of substantive confidence. “Side A” opens with a bang and delivers on every level possible from start to finish. The beat feels incredibly tight and fresh in a way that I don’t see in a lot in contemporary hip-hop, the lyrics are beautifully personal and the music ices off the cake with a dark but empowering underscore. It’s one of the most perfect album openers I’ve heard in a while. From that moment on, Old is just one delicious track after another. Danny Brown is in a bit of a class all his own here; he’s able to stay completely modern in his approach but crafts tracks that sound big, important but still elegantly simple. Each moment of this album is concisely constructed and completely enjoyable from beginning to end. No moment is wasted here.

HeckerNew4.  Tim Hecker – Virgins

Tim Hecker has had a pretty great career making music. He’s made what seems like a fuckload of music in the last decade and every single thing he’s put out has been completely amazing. However, 2011’s Ravedeath, 1972, while a total sonic and sensory orgasm as usual, was arguably “more of the same” when it comes to Tim Hecker’s catalog. I loved it and it was delightfully spontaneous and experimental but it wasn’t exactly a discovery to the world. But THEN he puts out Virgins, which could so easily have fallen into the same pattern but instead completely threw us all for a loop. From the first seconds of this album, Tim Hecker creates songs that are enormously complex, wild, and convoluted but in a way that we’ve never quite heard before. His music sounds like the soundtrack to a movie about a young boy who loses his virginity on top of the empire state building…to Lucifer…in a clown costume…during a rainstorm. It’s wild and unpredictable. It’s also notable that here he’s not afraid to be downright DARK. He really embraces the macabre on this release. But while playing with the usual conventions of avant garde, formless synth music, everything sounds somehow new. It sounds like a musician stepping a bit out of his comfort zone to create something that sounds labored over, but in the best possible way. It doesn’t have as much of a sense of layers flowing into one another but it sounds like elements bumping into one another creating a beautiful and tense musical experience. It’s good to know people can still surprise you in this day and age.

the-new-life5. Girls Names – The New Life

Hey, remember that time you realized that Morrissey didn’t release a new record this year and that it wasn’t Another Sunny Day you were listening to either but that it was a really a Girls Names record playing all along? Me too. Girls names are a kind of melancholy surf-rock, indiepop revival that really seemed to come out of nowhere a few years ago. Their breakout LP, Dead To Me, really tickled a lot of people’s fancy with its moody vocals, affected, twangy riffs and juicy melodies. This record is everything a follow up should be: it’s bigger, it has more attitude and is a  little more mature but still very much carrying the same charm that won you over to begin with. The New Life feels a bit freer and more open though. The songwriting is still tight and full of tasty hooks, but it transcends the more conventional pop structure that dominated the last release. The lightness that previously helped keep their songs afloat has been dimmed because they’re not afraid to let something be exactly what it is for as long as it needs to be. In short, Girls Names have taken a beautiful picture and hung it on the wall in a big glassy frame over some flowers.

 

 

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6. The Knife – Shaking the Habitual

I never liked The Knife (at all) until I heard Shaking the Habitual and now I don’t know how I ever lived without them. This record is fearless, huge, and provocatively well produced.

 

 

 

 

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7.  Skin Town – The Room

If any one of these songs doesn’t make you want to tear off your clothes and get into a hot tub with someone who turns you on but who scares you a little bit then there’s something wrong with you.

 

 

 

 

 

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8.  Liam Singer – Arc Iris

“The Astronaut” is perhaps the most impressive song I heard this year. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a musician with such strange, complex, tiring but beautiful melodies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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9.  My Bloody Valentine – m b v

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. My Bloody Valentine have made another really great Shoegaze album.

 

 

 

 

 

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10. Medicine – To The Happy Few

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11. Dirty Beaches – Drifters/Love is the Devil

Dirty Beaches is like the movie score for your life that’s way better than the one you’d already written for yourself. Also, do you think he’s ever listened to Suicide before?

 

 

 

 

 

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12. Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe

A really beautiful album made by a woman who knows how to make people feel like they want to take Ambien. Or that they maybe already did.

 

 

 

 

 

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13. Forest Swords – Engravings

Not quite as obnoxious as Gang Gang Dance. This album suits a drive to work nicely if you fancy feeling like your life is more exciting than it really is.

 

 

 

 

 

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14. Picnic – The Weather’s Fine

The best Indiepop record you never heard.

 

 

 

 

 

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15. Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana

Did someone say smoking dope and eating burritos? Yes please.

 

 

 

 

 

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16. Disclosure – Settle

I don’t care if they’re like 15, they make me wanna dance!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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17. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt

Give me a lesbian (I’m assuming) and a guitar ANY day.

 

 

 

 

 

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18. Marnie Stern – The Chronicles of Marnia

She’s weird. And fun. I like that.

 

 

 

 

 

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19. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

So intense it’s just spooky.

 

 

 

 

 

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20. Crocodiles – Crimes of Passion

There’s nothing wrong with being cool and fun and giving people what they want. Right?

 

 

 

 

 

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Honorable Mention: Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven

The Incredible and Oddly Riveting Dr. Pol

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I essentially do this at my job too but it’s mostly through email.

So I’m pretty sure I’m about the blow the lid off a new TV show right now. Being an animal lover, I was recently recommended a little gem of a program on Nat Geo Wild (a little niche, I know) called ‘The Incredible Dr. Pol’. It’s a Reality Show following a veteran veterinarian, if you will, and his family-run veterinary practice in the visceral metropolis of Weidman, Michigan. Now, if you’re the kind of person who thinks that puppy abscess drainage and Equine vaginal discharge are criminally underrepresented in American television, then this is SO the show for you. Apparently this artful piece of programing has been on the air since 2011 but since I’m not a weirdo who Googles “Eastern European Doctor Shows Probing Goat Anus” I’m just stumbling upon it now.

R.I.P. my friend…

First off, It’s a little refreshing to watch a reality show that doesn’t a) seem like it’s been scripted from the ground up by an intern at Interscope Records and b) isn’t centered around either the dregs of society or blond debutantes with HPV. So, I suppose that I had envisioned the show being about a rickety old man checking kittens’ heartbeats with a stethoscope and saying cute things like “She’s purrfect!” but Dr. Pol really gets down to the nitty gritty with these critters (ergo the “WILD” in Nat Geo Wild). In the first case I saw on one recent episode, this man and his sons hauled their pickup with a trailer in tow carrying a VERY sick looking cow. This thing was in really dire shape. She could barely stand, had mucus and tears running out of every orifice and just looked generally fucking awful. So Dr. Pol rolls up, takes a look at the ol’ girl, and then suddenly rams his entire arm in that cow’s vagina like he was Pooh Bear and that horse was a Bee Hive with brown discharge. So once he gets in there a MASSIVE deluge of fluid comes pouring out. THEN WE ALL REALIZE: SHE’S PREGNANT (omg omg omg). Does Dr. Pol say “well perhaps we should see if the calf comes out naturally”? Shit to the no! This cow is sick and we need to get that baby out STAT! He reaches back in and gets his son Charles (we’ll get there in a minute) to tie these barbaric, Medieval-looking chains to the baby and pull it out with all their force. It did not come out easily but once it did, it spills out covered in goop and it’s completely dead. It was really unsettling. I mean, I get it, it’s a part of life but yikes…and the worst part is that the dude’s kid showed absolutely no concern or remorse about the dead animal that fell out of another animal in front of them. In fact, one of them had the (un-descended) balls to smirk and say “can we eat it for dinner?”.  Homeboy needs to find some couth. Although Dr. Pol of course didn’t exactly bemoan this untimely cow death either because he deals with this every day and at least he probably saved the Mother cow. I genuinely considered pursuing a career as a Veterinarian recently until I realized how icky it was!

Love. Her.

Love. Her.

And don’t even get me started on the other cow that Dr. Pol had to kill on the spot because it was born without a butthole and wasn’t able release its own feces. Oh, and the cow that was starving because it was born with a dog’s mouth and the food it tried to eat would fall out (yes, those things really happened!!!).

One of the best parts of this show is Dr. Brenda, who, from what I can infer, is Dr. Pol’s right hand-man and the other Veterinarian at the practice. She’s a big gal and is a woman of few words, but she’s a also no-nonsense powerhouse of healing power and I love her. She had a case recently where a cow (they do have other animals besides cows but they’re not as interesting) was sick and turned out to have a “twisted stomach”. Now, that’s what happens to me when I drink too much and think a pound of al pastor at the taco truck sounds like a good idea but it ALSO means when one of a cow’s stomachs (they have like 30 or something) gets twisted and displaced IN THEIR BODY. So Dr. Brenda was on it! She and the farmers rigged up this network of ropes tied around the cow’s limbs they all pulled to get the animal on its back (which is actually harder than it looks) so she could somehow stitch the cow’s stomach back into place. Needless to say, this show does put my daily life in perspective. I get huffy when I get a work email that doesn’t have an emoticon, meanwhile Dr. Brenda is sewing cow stomachs and picking parasites out of Horse stool. There was also this one time where Dr. Brenda had to stay late because a woman called with a goat who had broken its leg and Dr. Brenda MacGyvered this splint out of pipe cleaners or something. So, basically she’s a saint in a human’s body.

Then there’s Dr. Pol’s son Charles. Charles is sort of the resident punching bag of the show. Apparently Charles moved away from Michigan to LA to become a TV producer but then conveniently returned to aid his father at work when some trucks full of cameras mysteriously appeared at their doorstep and started filming (I’m on to you, Chuckie). He is effectively his father’s assistant during an off-site job and seems to struggle not only with his work but also just about everything else in the world. He’s a sweet guy, but even I could catch a pig and hack its testicles off better than Charles. Sidenote: Charles is currently rocking a beard on the show and it’s making serious waves not only at work but at home [but I digress]. I have to feel bad for the guy for being the butt of every joke though. Or at least I did until he tried to make Eggs Benedict on Easter Sunday. He kept dropping the yolk down the sink and then the Hollandaise sauce broke so he just put out some fruit…it was disgraceful.

Charles WITH parents but WITHOUT beard.

Charles WITH parents but WITHOUT beard.

The show certainly doesn’t shy away from the ethically complex issue of animal euthanasia either. One man brought his Bloodhound in because it had broken its leg and was so violently angry about it he couldn’t be approached without attacking someone. I mean, while the owner was opening the door to his truck this dog bit his hand so bad HE needed to go to the hospital. So Dr. Pol whipped out a restraining tool, sedated the FUCK out of him and took some X-Rays. He then referred the owner to a specialist as the break was so severe even he couldn’t treat it (and he has his own show!!!). The owner called back and said “Doc, (I’m paraphrasing here) this dog is so out of control he’s a danger to everyone around him. I would like you to euthanize him”. When the owner brought the dog back, Dr. Pol, in an especially emotional moment, euthanized the animal right there. The owner talked about having him since he was a puppy and this otherwise stone-faced Midwestern farmer was reduced to a puddle of tears. All kidding aside though, sometimes I do believe euthanasia is the most humane way to treat an animal. It comes down to not only a quality of life but also an issue of public safety. I think in this case, Dr. Pol and the dog’s owner did the right thing.

If anyone wants to be fucking grossed out and oddly riveted I would recommend tuning in to this show, Saturdays at 10pm (I honestly think that’s its time slot). I’ll be there if you want to join me!

An Evening At The Hollywood Bowl: Music By Glass – Dance By Diavolo

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Well if I’m not sticking to my car seat and finding creative ways to miss pool parties to avoid showing my body then it’s not summer in Los Angeles! But aside from the heat and the BBQs, something that screams summertime to me is an evening at every gay man/old person’s favorite outdoor amphitheater…the Hollywood bowl. I’ve had the pleasure of attending five different shows at the Bowl so far this season, most recently to see the fabulous and caustically witty Bramwell Tovey conduct Phillip Glass.

Now, everyone who has ears and and a central nervous-system knows that Phillip Glass is just amazing and badass. There’s something in it for everyone. His music is simple yet rich, pretty yet cerebral, and just downright wonderful. Someone could be trepanning my scull right now and I’d enjoy it as long as Songs From Liquid Days was playing in the background. So, needless to say you wouldn’t have to work very hard to make my enjoy “Music by Glass”, but Bramwell and the always astounding LA Philharmonic really knocked this one out of the park. For the most part.

The show started out with a piece called “The Chairman Dances” by John Adams, which I’d never heard (of). If you’re thinking to yourself “I never even knew the second president of the United States was a composer”, then you’re where I was last night. This piece was nothing short of MESMERIZING. I enjoyed it so much I pulled a Millennial and added it to a Spotify playlist this morning for handy access. The orchestra really killed it. Even though the sound and acoustics in an outdoor theater aren’t going to be spectacular, the performance just felt rich and LOUD in all the best possible ways. The ensemble had such a great sense of movement. The brass section really popped while the music of the piece oscillated back and forth like the most glorious tug-of-war match. All in all it was a relatively short piece but it was such a dynamite opener to this show.

The middle piece was a suite from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. The best part about it was that Bramwell comes out, sits at his cute little piano with his cute little English accent and takes you through the whole story of Romeo and Juliet (which I’m sure everyone knew but it’s LA so you can’t be too careful), highlighting all the different moments of the suite and all their musical signals. He has this really charming albeit at times biting wit when about the way he talks about music. He often peppers his speeches with phrases like “remember this for the next time you go to one of your Beverly Hills dinner parties” and “Alright you guys are cute, now shut up I’m talking”. Someone like him could very easily make you think “Ugh, I feel like I’m at a music lesson” but instead makes you say “Yay! I feel like I’m at a music lesson!”. The piece itself was of course lovely and beautiful but ultimately I’m thinking “alright when’s Phillip Glass happening?”

So he breaks for intermission and immediately after the lights go up, the crew (in their uber modern black shirt/slacks combo) wheels out this GIGANTIC statue sculpture into the middle of the stage. They then cover that thing with a giant screen so you can’t see all the tinkering I’m assuming was happening. The structure looked like a giant silver half-dome made out of Swiss cheese. About 25 minutes later they start the piece, Bramwell and his podium dwarfed by this monstrosity of a sculpture. The lights were turned low (frankly I’m not sure how the musicians actually read their music) and this giant upright plastic tube is revealed behind one of the screens (huh??). The performance starts, sans music I might add, with a handful of people clawing and climbing their way out of the tube and onto the stage. Once they’re all out of there, the music starts and the group all gravitates towards the Swiss cheese dome, and the dancing starts. The woman and gay men (I’m assuming) of the dance company all hover around it until slowly getting sucked in to its holes (hehe). The dome itself I didn’t realize was on some mechanism that let is rotate and and change angle. While the dancing wasn’t exactly Cirque Du Soleil (which apparently in this post is the gold standard of dance companies), they were a compelling addition to the piece of music. Oh, right the music. So the music was happening concurrently and was certainly a very nice rendition, but was a) a bit eclipsed by the dancing and b) not the absolute most gripping performance I’d ever been witness to. They were performing from Glass’ Symphony Number 3 which I’ve only heard segments of but remember thinking “Yep, this sounds like Phillip Glass” about it most of the time. I have to say the most compelling part of the whole shebang was this highly elaborate set with the mechanical moving dome and the really spectacular lighting design. And because we were right in the middle this strange optical illusion happened where the dome appeared to be concave when it was ACTUALLY convex (my mind is blowing all over again talking about it). The performance ended with one of the dancers crawling back into the tube, the other dancers lifting that tube and sliding it out of one of the holes of the dome as if to shoot her out like some drive-through ATM deposit chute (remember those?). HOW that tube was heavy enough to stay steady while people climbed through it but light enough to be lifted by three people is beyond me but there you go. The dancers lingered in the spotlight a beat too long of course during the curtain call but it was really a fascinating spectacle.

If you (the person reading this who’s NOT my mom) haven’t been to the Hollywood Bowl this summer then you should go STAT before they switch back to performing at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on the 30th and you have to sit indoors to listen to music without deli sandwiches and way too much smuggled wine like a wild animal.

 

Behind The Candelabra: Speedos, Poppers and Fur…What Could Go Wrong?

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Liberace, man. Am I right? Absolutely. Now, everyone in the world knows who Liberace is. You could be a 17 year old Danish foreign exchange student studying aeronautical engineering in Oklahoma and shriek every time you see a piano and a mink stole (thinking he had risen from the dead, I guess). He was at one point the highest paid musician in the world and could tickle those ivories like some kind of genetically modified, hard-wired…ivory tickling machine. So, his level of fame or legacy is not something that’s generally up for debate. But besides the fact that his apparent homosexuality was always shrouded in secrecy, I’m not sure Liberace was a character that left some unsung and otherwise unpublicized story that the American people still needed to explore. That was my impression, anyway. HBO’s newest original film “Behind the Candelabra” has confirmed this for me.

I don’t know what it was, but something about the general premise of this film just did not interest me. For someone so fabulously extravagant and talented, I just wasn’t compelled to sprint to my DVR and record this film about Liberace. But of course I’m only human and the staggering acting talent they got was a selling point if nothing else. If you don’t want to see an overly tanned Rob Lowe shake his flat-ironed hair around and perform cosmetic surgery on Michael Douglas in a wig who was just getting nailed the scene before by Matt Damon in make up while huffing Poppers…then you’re not someone I want to be associated with. So a few weeks after the film premiered I plopped my ass down on the couch to watch it. And I did, I watched it. My first reaction was: “Did I miss something?”. The narrative clearly revolved around Matt Damon’s character and yet I felt like his actions as a character were so unmotivated I felt like certain scenes were literally cut out. It felt less like I was watching a young man’s slow descent into psychosis and drug addiction and more like I was watching a pinball being blithely knocked around in different directions until he explodes. Now, don’t get me wrong, Matt Damon’s dark turn was beautifully acted and pretty genuinely powerful, but the road to that point just felt so odd and unbelievable. The only thing we know about Matt Damon’s character prior to his first encounter with Liberace is that he’s been raised by Foster parents and he’s really into having sex with men. He seems like a genuine, sweet guy living in the country (via Agoura Hills or wherever he was supposed to be from) working with animals. What EXACTLY draws him into this completely over the top lifestyle? Why is he going to the extreme of  physically altering the structure of his face just for this man? I didn’t FEEL his motivation. If he’s just a lost boy looking for a father figure, then play up how emotionally vulnerable and fragile he is. If he’s looking for a ticket to some fabulous show business lifestyle to pull him out of the soul-consuming tedium of his country life, then show that! I just wasn’t buying his character going from blue jean wearing animal wrangler to Speedo and studded leather vest wearing gold digger in the span of a few weeks without ever facing emotional repercussions. However, having said that, when he DOES face his own repercussions by way of grappling with his obvious drug addiction, he embraces EVERY emotion I wish he’d had from the get-go and he makes you believe it all.

One thing about the storytelling that I really appreciated was how morally ambiguous Liberace’s character turned out to be. I feel like there’s an impulse in some biopics to unearth the truth about some historical figure and either highlight the saint they really were or expose what a monster they became. BTC opted to deftly avoid any sense of “exposé” of the dark goings-on of his secret relationships. He was certainly a flawed character (in the way that human beings tend to be), but at the end of the day he was who he was and sometimes it was lovely and caring and sometimes it was a little cruel and most of the time it was just fucking odd. What I took away from him as a person was that, while a raging narcissist, he just wanted to take care of people and be loved in return. While some of the things he did were a little questionably sordid (the muddled father/lover relationship with Matt Damon, ie.), he had a genuine capacity for unconditional love. Michel Douglas’ performance certainly nailed that. I was a little worried going into it that his acting would teeter on that line between “Oh, yeah, he sounds like him!” and “If he talks any longer a purse in the shape of a penis is gonna fall out…of his butthole” but for the most part I found him respectful of the role. But regardless of the deference, I do feel like the performance was not exactly transcendent. I dare say it was even one dimensional at times. Michael Douglas did his part well but if you ask me, and some of this can be attributed to the writing, the spirit of Liberace died when he did. Whereas Scott (Matt Damon) lingered with a heavier emotional resonance. I suppose to be fair though, fundamentally Scott has more nuance and sense of arc that lends to the power of the role.

Perhaps my favorite part of the film (besides watching the credits and realizing Debbie Reynolds played Liberace’s mother the whole time [whaaaat???]) was Rob Lowe as the plastic surgeon. The character certainly proved to be the comic relief we all expected him to be. I was just so endlessly amused whenever his freshly stretched, leathery face popped up on screen. He really embodied the recurring theme of “wow, this is all really unnatural” and the general feeling ickiness that much of this story seemed to conjure. If anything I say you should have plopped him into a few more scenes. Every time he spoke it was as if his face was so damn tight he could barely form words (let alone see out of those slits that were his eyelids) and it was damn funny.

Another tasteful an tactful artistic detail I thought was the non-exploitative use of gay sexuality in this movie. I would have been personally miffed if the sexual component to their relationship was just tiptoed around in the interest of keeping it family friendly. However I also would have been annoyed if they just splattered anal sex with dudes all over the screen every six seconds to make it more real (because come on, it’s not TV…it’s HBO, right?). The one real sex scene between the two of them was just graphic enough to be a little shocking and fun but never wander into the arena of desperation. And even with the treatment of the sex scenes themselves, the ROLE of sexuality was well handled I think. I’m sure a lot of viewers just assumed that because the movie was about two homos that the characters would just be ALL about boning 24/7 and any interpersonal dynamics would be otherwise incidental (obviously gay men think of nothing else, duh!).

I guess my attitude is that after all is said and done, the essence of the story is about a young man who spirals into an unhealthy relationship and a bout with drug abuse stemming from self-image issues. It’s not the most earth shattering tale ever told by any means. And while there were glimmers of greatness, nothing about the story was quite riveting enough for me. The acting was great, it looked beautiful, it was tastefully conceived, and the crew certainly spared no expense in the wardrobe budget, but I’m not sure going behind the Candelabra was quite as interesting as people had hoped.

Getting To The Root Of The Problem With ‘Family Tree’

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Before I get to my thoughts on HBO’s newest pilot, Family Tree, I thought I’d give a little back-story on me: I fucking love Christopher Guest and I think ‘Waiting For Guffman’ is the funniest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. In fact, if you snapped your fingers at me right this second and said “Go, fatboy!” I could probably act out the entire film before your very eyes. At least up to the “Penny For Your Thoughts” segment. Phew, ok, so that’s cleared up. Anyway, last night I watched the Pilot episode of Family Tree on HBO. The only concrete pieces of information I had on this show were that it was created by Christopher Guest (check), it stars Chris O’Dowd (check) and it’s an HBO Comedy Series that doesn’t chronicle the lives of Manhattan Debutantes with buckets of money and lifestyles predicated on garnering male validation via sex (double check!). I had heard previously that the premier opened to “soft numbers” in the ratings, but I pay no attention to something as abstract as statistics in viewership! Having now watched the first episode, I will say that this show is not exactly off to a rip-roaring start.

The first scene of the show takes place in a car where Chris O’Dowd and some other British chick are having what I assume to be a conversation although I understood/could intelligibly hear about every 9th word so Jury’s still out on what was actually going down. The thrust of the scene was that Chris O’Dowd’s character had been summoned to see his father for some yet unknown reason and that’s where he and this chick were going. Also, there was a monkey doll in the back seat which to me read like: “Insert quirky element here”. We then learn that Chris O’Dowd’s Great Aunt had passed away and that she left him this chest of dusty old mementos she’d collected over the course of her life. And might I just say that while Michael McKean’s English accent was flawless, there was very little that was funny or dynamic about his relationship with his father. From then on, we see Chris O’Dowd casually decide to investigate the contents of this chest, introducing his somewhat annoying and thoroughly tedious “best mate”, a small reveal about one of the items from the chest, a bad, flatly-written first date and then the show was over. I genuinely felt like there were seven scenes missing.

Generally, It felt like each scene softy and timidly crawled into the next, but there was very little vigor or life-force to the show propelling the story forward. I think the problem that I’M having with this show is that none of the characters are especially interesting or funny. I mean, let’s be a little bit real, Christopher Guest’s films are so hilarious because of that sense of spontaneity, experimentation and obviously improvisation with the actors. I’m fully aware I only have 1 episode to go on here, but that sense of freedom and chemistry certainly seems to be lacking. The whole thing felt very dry, which for any fan of Guest sounds like absolute nonsense. The relationship I really couldn’t get a handle on was Tom (Chris O’Dowd) and his best friend. It seemed entirely underdeveloped and, unfortunately, not terribly compelling. They had this ambiguously pugnacious interaction but had no pizazz or inherently funny details to keep me interested from scene to scene. And don’t get me wrong, I love Chris O’Dowd’s charming, cute “everyman” quality but for Christ’s sake can you give this man SOME defining character traits!? You might as well have put skinny jeans on a shamrock (like because he’s Irish?) and fed the lines through Roger Egbert’s unused voicebox and left more of an impression. Maybe I’m just too loyal to the old gang but I wanted to see some Catherine O’Hara and some Parker Posey and some Eugene Levy! I miss them. I will say by the end of the episode I ALMOST warmed up to the chick with the monkey but she just seemed like such a 1-note that I remain unconvinced.

The story’s delightfully simple premise didn’t really shake out the way I wanted it to either. It just felt there was so little urgency that I kept thinking “what’s the point? Where is this going?”. And the idea of Tom searching through his family history wasn’t framed in anything. Like WHAT was Tom doing before this that would logically drive him to dig through his lineage? Where was the set up? It just felt like the whole show was kind of drifting aimlessly in this contextless world with a very tenuous idea struggling to anchor the whole operation with something interesting. Ok, ok, I feel myself unraveling into a hostility puddle here but the more I think about it, the more I realize that nothing from this show really landed properly. And as I’m sure you’ve gleaned from this, I had pretty high expectations. Let me just say, Christopher, I expected better my friend 😦

Here’s hoping the first episode was a fluke and the subsequent season turns out to be the most genius and hilarious piece of television that ever was!

Aiming to Shed Light on Urs Fischer’s Installation at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.

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Art is something that, the older I get, I seem to have less and less of a grasp on. As someone with little to no formal education on “fine art”, I always feel glib in giving my interpretation of artists’ work or attempting to assess exactly what art is. And that value on what makes art important certainly seems to evolve with a person’s age (certainly for me). I think too that so much of what a work of art is hangs off the place it happens to be. A rusty old soup can on the street is just that, but resting atop an ivory podium in a glass case in the Guggenheim it obviously takes on a whole new dimension of “meaning”.

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With that in mind, I wanted to impart my thoughts on the new exhibit at the Geffen Contemporary Museum at MOCA. The exhibit is spearheaded by Swiss-born American artist Urs Fischer. Urs actually has work displayed in both MOCA locations downtown. The concept of the piece is this: 1,500 people in the Los Angeles area were invited to the Geffen and handed a mound of clay at their disposal to create anything they wanted. Having walked through the whole installation, I will say that in my somewhat glib opinion, it is everything art should be. In the past, I’ve always harbored this sense of ambivalence about typical museum fare; “Am I moved and inspired because I feel like I should be or because the art is that powerful?”. Well, walking into this exhibit I had little to no expectations and my immediate reaction was truly one of awe! I walk in and shuffle down a corridor past the entrance where you see a massive, life-size “Last Supper” display completely fashioned out of clay. It was a pretty staggering thing to see. Once I passed by, there was a ramp towards a clearing where I suddenly realized how massive the installation is. Like a monochromatic war-zone, there’s an endless array sculptures, scraps and shrapnel pieces all composed of clay strewn all over the floor. It was quite a sight to see. Each individual, handcrafted piece of at had its own completely unique identity (obviously since it was made my different people). Although I do think the fact that each piece used the same material gave it all an air of subtlety so that everything had almost an interpretable aura to it (especially in the context of the work around it). If there’s one word that immediately came to mind it would be immersive. It’s not a work that’s contained in a space so much as a work that becomes and transforms the space. And in that sense, it becomes a more visceral artistic statement because the notion and the condition of the space doesn’t influence the work.

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The rest of the installation was spread across a concatenation of rooms and platforms and each little nook had its own display. Some certainly larger in scale and scope than others. Some of the pieces were beautiful, some were scary, some were vulgar, some were pretty funny and some were downright perplexing. The most powerful piece to me was arguably the “centerpiece” of the installation and was a nearly two story tall roman statue composed almost completely of wax. It depicted three people climbing on top of each other towards (in this case) the skylight in the building. At the top of the highest figure you could see it was melting from a series of wicks inside it that were lit on fire. It was absolutely gorgeous. The face of the highest figure was black and charred from the flame and literally melting to the ground while the other two figures were etched with expressions of horror. It was beautiful albeit unsettling. In some of the rooms towards the back of the museum there were a few pieces that had splashes of color: a life-size wax mold of a man wearing a suit and an orange office-chair. Both of which were lit like the statue by wicks and were actively melting. From a purely visual perspective, this little smattering of color cast against an otherwise drearily uniform grey palate, created this wonderful pop that I personally found wonderful.

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What I appreciated too was the sense of immediacy it all had. There was a balance of intricately crafted sculptures with haphazardly molded mounds. But the notion that it was all assembled IN that one space seemed to break a barrier of “placement” that I often feel in museums. There were smears of clay on the floor and little scraps hanging on railings and walls in a way that made the art feel “live”. It felt created rather than placed. I think there’s something to be said about art that was created at the place of its exhibition. Not to get too far into it but it harkened back to my college days studying Walter Benjamin and his theories about the fading aura of art in the “age of mechanical reproduction”. There was very much a sense of authenticity and immediacy about all the work. On a side note, I couldn’t help but wonder how the hell they were going to get these 100’s of lbs of clay out of there but I digress.

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Urs seems to really utilize the SPACE he’s given to its absolute full potential, bending even breaking it to suit the work he’s creating. And what I find inspiring above all else is how collaborative his vision is. It’s incredibly modern in scope: in the age of crowd-sourcing and YouTube propelled talent, I think it’s incredibly refreshing that Urs didn’t hesitate to engage a community of people in realizing an idea. This collapses another barrier of identification between spectator and art. The lingering idea that not just artists but everyday people produced this work that’s hanging around a museum aided to a sense of connection with the piece. The collective work also has a history and was part of a process, which lends to its sense of being “live”. It’s a wiki-art project and I dig it.

Urs Fischer is clearly a talented and dynamic individual and this is utmost representation of that as far as I’m concerned. With his newest work at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, I take it as a little nudge to create something meaningful in my own life.