Monday, October 31, 2005

The Great Pumpkin

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Happy Halloween!
says Jack O'Lantern, who has been fabulously carved by Roommate's Boyfriend.

What are YOU dressing up as?

I'm dressed up as a disgruntled sleepy Janet. It's a reeeeaallly good disguise. Some people stopped me on the street today this morning and exclaimed, "Wow! You must be disgruntled Janet! Or Sleepy Janet!" and the really discerning ones could tell I was both. I threw them some candy corn because I can't abide the stuff.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Search Terms

Current fav. search terms which led some poor souls here. They are always spectacularly specific or astoundingly vague... or both at once!:

-Janet Crazy Salt
-pics of moldy brown bread
-funny sentence with specific words
-sexy words to describe flowers
-who is that chicken girl how she look like what about her (this one is obviously my favorite. perhaps they are lyrics? perhaps somebody is really looking for chicken-girl)

what is art?

Just heard about this series that the Guggenheim is doing called Marina Abramović: Seven Easy Piece. She is a prominent performance artist who rose to fame, well art-world fame, when performance art was in something of a heyday, when I imagine you couldn't help but run into somebody in new york, cutting themselves with razor blades, shouting mantras like "Chocolate, beauty, rage!", brushing their hair a hundred strokes and then diving into a pool of butter, or something. And finding transcendence.

Abramović will be performing/exhibiting (?which word to use?) for seven consecutive nights, doing her own work and presenting renditions of other seminal works from the 60s and 70s by artists who are and have been big names, again ... at least in the art world, like Bruce Nauman, Joseph Beuys, Vito Acconci and others.

I once went to a video installation exhibit at PS 1 Contemporary Art Center, which had floors of tv sets showing mostly black and white videos from this tiem period, many by these same performance artists, including a whole room of Abramović. First of all, it was kind of creepy, this huge old school all dark, with things blaring and screaming every which way with scary and confusing and repetitive images, probably more so by the sheer number than the works themselves. I suppose it was all very raw, which is a term that I don't much associate with 'these days'... I don't quite know where I'm going with that, but maybe we'll return to it.

The following is from the press release describing the works that'll be performed at the Guggenheim, comparing these acts to interpreting musical scores, as ensembles and classical musicians do. It still sounds kind of nuts and I wonder if the audience finds as much the artist does. Because being an audience member seems as much a self-inflicting painful experience as the work itself. I still don't have much of a grasp on the contemporary art world itself, even with some experiences with it, and it's weird to feel how distant and self-enclosed that arena is. I feel like contemplating this subject always leads me to: What is art and does it matter?

The works to be performed include:
Wednesday, November 9: Bruce Nauman, Body Pressure (1974), Galerie Konrad Fischer, Düsseldorf. Nauman constructed a false wall nearly identical in size to an existing wall behind it. A pink poster with black typeface invited visitors to perform their own action by pressing against the wall.
Thursday, November 10: Vito Acconci, Seedbed (1972), Sonnabend Gallery, New York. Acconci occupied the space under a false floor, masturbating and speaking through a microphone to visitors walking above in an attempt to establish an "intimate" connection with them.
Friday, November 11: VALIE EXPORT, Action Pants: Genital Panic (1969), Augusta-Lichtspiele, Munich. Wearing pants with the crotch removed, EXPORT walked through the cinema during a film screening, offering the spectators visual contact with a real female body. Walking up and down the aisles among the mostly male patrons, she challenged them to "look at the real thing" instead of passively enjoying images of women on the screen.
Saturday, November 12: Gina Pane, Self-Portrait(s) (1973), Galerie Stadler, Paris. Pane lay on a metal bed above lit candles. She then made incisions with a razor blade in the skin around her fingernails and lips while slides of women painting their nails were projected on the wall. Her back turned to the audience, she recited "They won’t see anything" while a camera recorded women’s reactions in the audience. Facing forward again, she gargled with milk and spit it into a bowl, until the milk and her blood mixed.
Sunday, November 13: Joseph Beuys, How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (1965), Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf. With his head covered in honey and gold leaf, Beuys cradled a dead rabbit, showing it pictures on the wall and whispering to it. He wore an iron sole on his right foot and a felt sole on his left.
Monday, November 14: Marina Abramović, Lips of Thomas (1975), Galerie Krinzinger, Innsbruck. Abramović ate a kilogram of honey and drank a liter of red wine out of a glass. She then broke the glass with her hand, incised a star in her stomach with a razor blade, and whipped herself until she "no longer felt pain." She lay down on an ice cross while a space heater suspended above caused her to bleed more profusely.
Tuesday, November 15: Marina Abramović will premiere a new performance created specifically for this project.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Review of Tom Vek's We Have Sound is up. The album comes out tomorrow.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The sweet smell of success plus kimchi

To add on/respond to previous entry and comments:

Perhaps I could have made clearer, though it was probably rather transparent to begin with, that my very intense reaction to the article is due to my own severe upbringing. I had a stricter version of their life, the pressures of which I look back and presently upon with very negative feelings, which cause me to be very very wary and disturbed when I see similar situations (which actually don't number very highly) in other Korean families that I know.

I had hoped that my last paragraph implied that instead of speaking for all asian americans everywhere, I could but speak for myself. And though I do think the question, as Roger brings up, of whether the book is a good idea, is a valid one, my issue is not with the book itself, but with the attitudes within. A book does not force itself upon people and will find an audience in those who are interested in reading it. And even while I may find the stuff within the covers problematic, I cannot say this goes or doesn't go for anybody else.

As WHC says, "resentment of lots of asian americans for the way they were brought up is a responsibility of their own." But I cannot escape the fact that this does put an incredible burden on the child to sort things out and be very understanding and yet self-aware. You can't really argue with the good intentions of parents. This isn't a case where a mom is parasitically living off your body to live out their own childhood dreams to be a cheerleader (because she is a witch. and okay all my cultural references lead back to buffy). They are like heads of state. The children's security is national priority, and this always leads back to money, which then branches out into all relative paths of career, school, etc. (And that's what I meant by the emphasis on material wealth, not materialism.) And then they sort of retire and then the children come into their own as their own ruler, and then have to go around matching and fixing goals and ambitions. Ok maybe it was a bad metaphor to begin with; it's falling apart.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The sweet smell of success

I recently forwarded this NYT article, Item: Sisters Think Parents Did O.K., to a few friends, who in part responded with a cool as a cucumber response, "This is such b.s." while another ranted, "WHAT?!?!??!?> Fuck aplfidhj alkjfhas liyhg 09uepwier q umda09w8yt40wyufpzjUF(P"#UR Popishf osaeh foahic '!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

The article describes a book that two sisters wrote called, Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers - and How You Can Too although I would have went with How to successfully eradicate your kids' childhood and win hardened hearts and deepfelt resentment from them but it's all ok because they're now professionals and you have plastic-y names of top-ranked schools on the rear window of your car and their salaries and their future children to look forward to.

I obviously veered toward the ranting end and then took a sharp turn at imagined violence. If I ever encounter these sweet, obedient, highly successful ladies in a dark alley with my gang of bums, writers, and artists, we will throw our Apple computers (real bummy) and empty wallets and fascinating personalities and stupid existential despair and fucking careless joie de vivre and passion straight at their well-kept heads and mess.up.their.hair. WATCH OUT.
These Korean American sisters belong to that phenomenal class of people that are the children of Asian immigrants. They got candy bars for reading books. They spent hours studying and were allowed little tv, little friend-time, little life. They played piano, won prizes. They were JUST LIKE ME, except I never got candy for reading books. I read them anyway. And I became the biggest bestest liar on earth. Anyways, the older one is a doctor and married to an orthopedic surgeon. The younger, originally more rebellious, wanted to be a writer, but eventually headed off to law school and is now an immigrations specialist in Philly. In response to nipping the writer dream, the younger Kim says she's happy and that "American parents will say, 'Do whatever makes you happy, even if the talent isn't there'...You need a reality check." What a fucking presumptuous and narrow-minded thing to say, deciding for others the definition of happiness and its intersection with reality, that one isn't smart enough or self-aware enough to realize in time what is within reach and what is reaching too far.
The book may be cutting down the stereotype that As. Ams are just a naturally smart and nerdy peoples... but adds little value in that vein. We sure are hard-working. We sure are obedient. It seems like a book that merely prescribes their definition of success and though that's all I imagine any sort of self-help or child-improvement advice offered in print is really supposed to do - the idea that such-and-such method worked for me, so it should work for you! Whee! – it is offering a school of thought that I think are very often borne out of a strange sort of smallness and limits. A place that emphasizes name, appearance, and material wealth as a sign of happy security and is rooted in parents who sacrifice so much, questionably too much, erasing parts of themselves, their own potentials, to place the heavy weight of their hopes on their children instead.
I don't care that the Kim sisters chose the lives they did. And though the book is aimed at a certain niche, I don't have faith in the kind of word which they are attempting to spread. And from the article's inclusion of stats like the percentage of Asians at top universities and higher household incomes, it seems that the book's potential audience is not the parents of kids who are doing poorly but those whose philosophies line up snugly with the sisters. The professional life! The scrubs, the suit and tie, and the big name schools, they set their little ones up for life, the ticket to please, run past GO and don't forget to collect your $$$. (No matter that less eminent schools can offer a good education.)
I had even more to say.. will add later.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

suburban libraries

I think the New York Public Libraryis one of the greatest things ever. I mean, those lions? You can't find those in other places unless they're in saddened, dwarf-sized fashions guarding without so much as a roar but more like a "meh", the great suburban two-garaged two-and-a-half kidded house behind them. Rowr.

The NYPL has tons of everything ever and specialized branches and great events and exhibitions. But living in this apple-cheeked city means that there's usually about 10,000 people wanting the same book or whatever that you do, especially if it's a hyped-up, much talked-about release. Or if it's remotely popular. After a few exhausting trips to different library branches, I gave up and started reserving things and having them delivered to a branch real close to work. I usually forget about them so when I get the notice in my email, it's like a little present.

But I browsed the ol' hometown library today with much pleasure. I borrowed some Ishiguro and Coetzee and Chekhov. Even though the computerized catalogue was down, I was able to browse the few stacks without afterwards feeling like I'd run a marathon and was in need of some orange juice and bacon or saying excuse me squeezing by the many other oh so literate people. I helped out a mother and her daughter find Lovely Bones which is by Alice Sebold, not Mary Higgins Clark or Wally Lamb, as her mother haphazardly guessed. The teen daughter was like, "Seriously ma, what have you been reading?"

Leaving somewhat triumphant with my small stack o' books, I looked back at the library's non-personality, scattered with sullen-looking teenagers studying and parents blissed out reading and indian and chinese newspapers and the same librarians who have worked there since my childhood, one of who(m?) wearily waved me on when I promptly set off the alarm at the exit.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Banana Bread is for Winners



I made banana bread yesterday night to ward off negative thoughts and the chilly, relentlessly rainy crappiness outside. I was quite the domestic diva, making a cracked out version of bibimbap and banana bread – thank goodness I didn't get the two mixed up!! Gross!

Baking is the bestest because of the smells. I used this very easy recipe with a few moderations. The bread didn't rise very much, which is why you see a very squat piece of not very glamorous looking brown carb-mass above. (I think my camera is broken - everything comes out all fuzzed.) But it was pretty tasty and moist though next time, I will use more banana.

Ironically enough, in the corner of the picture, you will see a postcard advertising a gym. It's even my gym. I'm fighting a doomed battle, wielding breads and cookies against weak exercise. To the bottom right is part of the new Broken Social Scene album which I still need to listen to. They have little to do with banana bread or gyms. Until the whole collective starts a franchise of bakery-slash-gyms all over Canada. You just wait. Diabolical, yet incredibly cool, those Canadians.

Oh the recipe is below. This is great for mushy bananas you forgot were in the fruit bowl.

For one squat loaf in a 7x3 loaf pan. EDIT: Obviously, I have no eye for measurements. The loaf pan I used is clearly not 3 inches wide, nor was it seven inches long. But you know what? It doesn't really matter. It was a loaf pan. Not a Milkpan.
* 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup white sugar
* 1/4 cup brown sugar
* 1 egg, beaten
* 1/8 cup butter, melted
* 3-5 bananas, mashed (I used 3 smallish ones and felt it wasn't quite banana-y enough. So use more!)
*EXTRAS:
You can put in whatever modifications you like. I suggest not using beef or asparagus or something. I used some chocolate chips and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (maybe more. I spilled a little) and a pinch of ground cloves. I know walnuts are a popular addition to banana bread, but I'm not the biggest fan of walnuts. I wouldn't want to live in a house made of walnuts. Pistachios on the other hand...
1. Grease and flour 7x3 inch loaf pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In one bowl, whisk together flour, soda, salt, and sugar. Mix in slightly beaten eggs, melted butter, and mashed bananas. Stir in any extras. Remember... no beef. Pour into prepared pan.
3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 1 hour (mine was done at 50 minutes), or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Sisters, Forever!

maggart.jpeg Come to think of it, I don't know if I'm a rabid fan of any musician/band. Perhaps that's a good thing since I wouldn't quite know what to do with the foaming at the mouth or the random biting because it would totally get in the way of my cosy, basket-sized social life. But I don't think I can super-nerdily rattle off stalkeresque information of anybody with a CD out.

All that intro to say, I had no idea Fiona Apple had a sister! Who sings! and their last names are Maggart! Maude Maggart, the older sister, sings cabaret and old, personality-filled songs from the 20s and 30s. Think flappers and Depression and heyday of Broadway and Irving Berlin and Cole Porter ... you know, American 'standards.' (What are our standards now? Who makes them? Not Moby. Ha-ha. No really. Whose work do you think will/can be considered standards that people will cover? Like the jazz singer who sounds eerily like Billie Holiday, Madeleine Peyroux sings Elliot Smith's "Between the Bars" on her latest album...)

Maude, who has had some light opera training, got into the cabaret scene thanks to some people in the biz, plus her parents are b'way people. Cabaret, I imagine to be small, cosy (truly cosy not basket-cosy), full of tinkling dining ware and wine glasses, gleaming pianos and murmuring voices full of money while Gatsby looks hungrily through the window, his hand reaching towards the green light.

fiona.jpg

So I have no idea what I'm talking about. I like some of what I hear of hers but others, I'm not so sure. She's got a higher timbre than Fiona but they've got a similar vibrato going, though Maude seems versatile with the kind of sound she gets. This one is fun.

Or listen to this WNYC Soundcheckepisode. Oh, WNYC, you are my textbook! I have no other now.

Fiona, herself, was on Soundcheck as well recently. She performed a couple off of Extraordinary Machine and talked about the whole sony-shelf-jon-brion-free-fiona thing. I love her music but I found her a little disconcerting when she was talking to the host. Like she was really intense and nervous at the same time. But I think it's cool that the album art is a picture of a plant in her garden that she took herself. She liked it cuz a) it's an 'extraordinary machine' and b) the little green buds look like fists. POW POW! That extraordinary and machinistic for ya. On the back of the cd booklet, you see another close-up of the same plant, but in bloom with a multitude of rising little purple buddy flowers. Kind of makes you feel like a bug. CoooooOoOOl.

Well, they're like a mini Von Trapp family except without the corny songs and governess and nazis.... trailing off..
Look how similar Maude looks in this picture. OK Maggart family entry, c'est fini.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Beck, I love your hat

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On Friday, I went back to work. I took too much joy in that sick day I took on Thursday even though I was knocked out from the battle of illness cells and over-the-counter cells. It messed up my perspective like a crazy Picasso. I was like, wha? I can't sleep and drink tea the whole day? I gotta do work things? Do I look like I have one eye and a blue cubist face??

Anyways, I joined food and music blogger Robyn for BECKstravaganza at Hammerstein Ballroom. It sure beat waiting in a day-long of pouring rain in a stadium in NJ for Beck to slip and fall and not appear. (Curse you Field Day!! I am shaking my fist!)

Being a part-time fan, unlike the guy next to me who was alternately singing real loud and yelling with arms a-raised and knocking into every which way: "I LOoooOOoooOOoVe you Beck" like he was in teenage girl squad or something, I was taken aback by how many songs I knew. The energy in the crowd was great and Beck had a skizzilled crew on stage including a dancing man-cheerleader hype-guy and multi-instrumentalist Brian and a VJ (DVDJ? I'm not sure) who scratched DVDs and got these cool trippy colorful projections in the background. beck2.jpg He opened with Loser and went on to perform a very fun, great-sounding show (lots of guero but nice mix of old too), with entertaining props (telephone! banjo duel!) and gimmicks (giant radio!).

In the middleish of the show, he got all quiet and acoustic-y, bringing out the harmonium for Nobody's Fault But My Own. Now I want a harmonium. And I'd sing these stretchy phrases and my lovely instrument would drone peacefully. But I'd probably piss off the cat. Or sound like him yowling.

Meanwhile, the other band members sat down at a set table, ate some cookies and almonds and other small foods and then for Clap Hands, they accompanied with dinnerware! Rims of wineglasses, utensils on plates and cups, hands on the table. It was pretty awesome.

Beck. Fun. Ok good. More pics at this dude Danfun's Flickr. I know a guy named Dan Sun, but I'm guessing it's not the same guy.

Afterwards, I met up with my old friend VJ and his friend Andy and the whole gang went to a diner to rehydrate. And I had waffle and strawberries. MmMMMM!! And I talked to it! Yes. Delirium has its moments.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sick and links. Not sick links.

My day today: 10 cups of tea with lots of lemon and honey, a half a sheet of cold medication, 1928312 hours of sleep, three buffy episodes, really weird dreams, sore arms from yoga on wednesday, most of a new yorker magazine, soup, half a box of tissues, one grumpy cat.

My latest reviews for kevchino here:
bell orchestre - sort of my kind of music. plus members of arcade fire.

veda - not really my kind of music

If you're interested in reading that article about Leon Kass, former chair of the President's Council on Bioethics, I wrote for Accent Magazine awhile ago, I'll send you a text copy. Cuz frankly my dear, the site is rather irritating. Probably because I have an Apple.

Quick useless mentions of what I've been enjoying lately:
Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine
Zadie Smith's On Beauty
David Rakoff's Fraud
Getting an inordinate amount of sleep.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Life of a Gentlewoman

Well, I'm kind of bummed because my cousin is going to Korea and possibly travelling to Southeast Asia and my aunt, her mother, offered to pay my fare. She would have been my benefactress and I would have been a modern-day Pip Pirrip and danced with chairs and found myself living the life of a gentle-woman and ashamed of my iron-working common father. Oh the musings! They go too far!

Anyways, I'll have to leave a trip to the motherland and the food delights of Asia for a later day. It has been determined by WORK that the timing just won't have it. Cuz you can't take just a few days to go to the other side of the world. And stupid making a magazine means you're on a schedule. Grrr. Forget space travel, let's research some star-trek beam me up. What could go wrong? Oh yeah, what's my nose doing on my shoulder?

ARGH! FREEEeeeeeEEeee.

I thus called my mother to whine about not being able to go. And she's like oh, too bad, don't eat anything. Fifteen years ago, it was, "Oh too bad, go practice piano" and now it's a combination of the following: "Diet.MakeEfforttoLookPretty.Diet.Don'tEatDinner.Your weight and how you're wearing your hair are like a cancer in my soul. I physically feel sick because of your antics."

My antics being not knowing about grad schools or careers or being impeccably put together like those impeccably put together girls and instead spending nights in with netflix and cookies. Sometimes, she makes me want to go running around arm in arm with Drugs Sex and Rock and Roll and Pete Doherty and Kate Moss. Oh but then what would we talk about?

Since I do everything opposite of whatever she tells me, I headed straight to Whole Foods for dinner-inspiration. Dinlightenment! I really wanted to make some sort of peanut sauce for chicken yesterday but I ended up buying a bottle of supposed 'mildly spicy peanut sauce' and it tasted like slightly sweet soy sauce. Dinlightenment was mediocre. This is another reason I should be able to travel to SE Asia. Great essay skillz. In conclusion and all that.