A Visit from St. Nicholson


 

So Wendy and I cooked a turkey and a duck our friends at the free-range Hooker Mountain Farm brought down last Tuesday. I’ve known Corina Medley since high school, and visited her and Dave last month for a long weekend spent feeding chicken and pigs, hiking, playing games, soaking in the wood-burning hot tub and generally amusing ourselves.

Check out Hooker Mountain Farm.

For the second Christmas running, we’ve chosen one actor to celebrate with a day of movies. Last year we had “A Very Murray Christmas” with Bill Murray; this year we celebrated “A Visit from St. Nicholson” with dear old Jack. Strangely, Jack’s character was named Jack in 3 of the 5 movies we watched, in the following order:

12-2pm– One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
2-5pm– Chinatown (1974)
5-7pm– Batman (1989)
7-7:15pm– An audio recording of Jack Nicholson reading his own version of The Night Before Christmas
7:15-9pm– The Shining (1980)
9-11pm– As Good as it Gets (1997)

Love to all our friends who came!

Anniversary

To celebrate our first date 6 years ago, Wendy and I ventured out to chef Paul Liebrandt’s restaurant Corton in TriBeCa. We decided to go there after watching the documentary made about the chef. I recommend highly both the film and the restaurant, but only if you’ve saved your pennies, ’cause it aint cheap. The autumn broths are de-lic-ious…

A Matter of Taste  on IMDB

Corton Restaurant

The Kim, Alas

We’ll never know everything about “Kim the Il,” but we do know a few things…

Top 10 Crazy Things About Kim Jong Il

“As a supernatural fashionista pro golfer praised the world over for inventing the sandwich, I believe I’ll build a fake city free of handicapped people for my next fake Godzilla movie and we’ll drink Hennessy and shoot up and it will a glorious time and won’t you please join me, my bitches?”

Seth Harwood


 

I can’t tell you how impressed I am with Seth Harwood. This is what he does as a self-published author of his books: he writes them, he podcasts them, he gives them away for free (yes, for free), he sells limited edition copies to eager fans. This is what the fans do for Seth Harwood: they listen to the podcasts, they download the free copies, they buy the limited edition copies, they send him pictures of themselves holding his books in the air, they fund his Kickstarter projects. They refer to themselves as Palms Daddies and Palms Mammas, after Jack Palms, the smooth kick-ass protagonist of a few of his most-loved books.

Today I received his third paperback’d crime novel, This is Life. I really enjoyed Young Junius, the last one, which writer George Pelecanos of The Wire named one of his favorite books for 2010, and which you can listen to for free HERE, so I’m eager to jump into this hardboiled wonderland sometime over the holiday.

Seth is a pack leader in new publishing, where writers claim the profits of their labor in larger percentages. It’s difficult work, this self-publishing biz. And more so because it flies in the face of what we were taught, that to be a writer of any kind, of any stature, you first had to find a major publisher who’d have you, who’d make you respectable, who’d take your darling self out to the big dance and showcase you. Sure, he asks a lot (all sales minus your pre-tax 15% cut), but it’s worth it, right, for the publicity? To be possibly catapulted to the top; to relish in the envy of the unweddables? He proves you’re good enough. You’re worth it. Which is how you came to find yourself being deflowered in a storage closet. The night ends, the book comes out. A few weeks of pure sunshine. But then, inexplicably, he stops calling. You read Publisher’s Weekly and see pictures of him with a new girl. Yeah sure, she’s pretty, but… All the promises he made evaporate with the book’s so-so sales, the fair-to-middling reviews (You keep the good ones in your hope chest). Soon the attention of your publisher is reduced to that one Facebook “like” of a picture of you on some beach in Portugal, and you can’t tell if it’s you or the girls in bikinis behind you he’s upvoting. Your good friend the agent who first introduced you two is there to comfort you with “Don’t let it affect you. There’s other fish in the sea. You have to remember that. But you’re going to have to get back to work in order to get them. Because you’re not getting any younger, and now you have a history.”

I think I ventured into that extended metaphor not because I think it’s particularly fitting but because I’m eating an enormous turkey club on rye and it took me that entire paragraph to finish one half, timing two sentences between bites, and so I became slave to the rhythm. God bless you salty pickle who clears the palate and the mind.

I’m saying this: I respect the hell out of Mr. Harwood and others like him. With Amazon and Smashwords and Apple and Barnes & Nobles and everyone else getting in on the Undermine Traditional Publishing game, you’d think every writer on the planet would note the change in wind and act accordingly. Not so much. Because it’s terrifying. You work so goddamned hard on a thing, you want to give it it’s best shot in the world. I absolutely understand this. I’m currently waffling on putting a lot of my own stuff out there. I’m pushing myself to take my own advice. I have like many writers friends who think self-publishing it akin to stripping in order to pay your way through college. I mean, you gotta do what you gotta do, but really, did you have to do that? Well, straw man in my head, some people find it empowering.

Go Seth!

Shen Wei at the Park Avenue Armory

This week in Hyperallergic I reviewed Shen Wei’s new performance at the Park Avenue Armory.

You can read the full review here: An Offering of Three Shen Wei Dance Pieces at the Park Avenue Armory

I love modern dance–the control, the rhythms, the expressiveness of gesture and full-body kinetic awareness of space. Watching another human grapple with profundity using only their bodies is also why I love baseball. (If you missed it, I just used dance as a metaphor for sports). I’ve watched over 250 modern dance pieces, I’m sure, thanks to Dawn Poirier and the many friends I’ve had over the years. I’ve seen every part of the process, from the inkling to the body slouched post-execution (execution of the dance, that is). There are a few choreographers, in my mind, that which each piece they create, scrape at the ineffable. Meaning when their dancers begin to move, you are immediately pulled into a new place, and that new place is related to the place you were, to the life that was yours, but it not that old place where you were, separated now by this membrane of dance. It is a place closer to the reality of the universe. One step closer, perhaps, and because of this strange remove, a bit alien. And when the dancing stops, and you are thrust back into your own world, it is like a child being born from the womb. And it is cold and weird and the lights come on everywhere around you and you must go out again and live in a place you barely understand.

Shen Wei is a choreographer whose work can share that alien-but-more-real place with his audience. Most people are aware of the work he did choreographing the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which was gorgeous and won him world fame and accolades. Being a New Yorker, I’ve had the opportunity to see a new piece by him every three years or so. His work is mysterious in a Borgesian sense, in the way I talked about above; his dancers are characters, almost, enlightened or befuddled by the dance they perform effortlessly (he uses only the best dancers); and his range of body movement vocabulary is extensive. Shen Wei is a true master.

So I was disappointed to catch his latest piece performed at the Park Avenue Armory, titled Undivided Divided, and find it lacking in the essential mystery of a good Shen Wei piece (which it did possess, but only in the most minor ways, like Shen-lite). It was filled with energy–energetic bodies in various states of arrest coming alive before you–which kept you interested, and there was the interesting addition of allowing the audience to move through the space, but even with this added, along with some pretty interesting props, the piece failed to elevate itself into that alternate reality a good book reader or movie goer or dance enthusiast begins to miss in the final moments of the work, when you know it’s about to be over, and you begin growing nostalgic for the world disintegrating about you. It lacked the authority and persuasiveness of a Shen Wei piece, which sucks, having a bar set so high by the Olympics and high artistic honors like the Guggenheim and Genius Grant, and wanting to make a different kind of piece perhaps and having it judged by your past work. But it wasn’t a different kind of piece, it was just a flatter version of the multi-dimensional world Shen Wei usually creates. Was it fun to watch? Yeah, it was fun. Should it have lasted for half an hour? Maybe if it was better. I could imagine watching such a piece for an hour, watching the movement of the dancers grow, watch them interact naked in the paint, the force of life in them, the promise of demise. Sure. But it wasn’t that piece.

Will I go and see the next Shen Wei production? Absolutely. Underdeveloped Shen Wei is still better than most dance performances. The costumes are usually rad, the dancers are stellar performers, and the mind of the choreographer is always present. Even in this show, the piece Folding blew me away. Anyhow, check out the review and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear back from anyone who caught the show to see what they think.

Cheers.

Ron Santo Makes it into Cooperstown

The play-by-play commentary of Ron Santo was the worst in all of baseball, hands down. For all sports it was equaled only perhaps by Joe Morgan. But there was something endearing about the dumb blind banter of this former Cub that kept you from muting the TV; he had an obvious love for the game, he hated when players didn’t play up to their potentials (and said so), and the reeling of his voice whenever we were losing a game was so obviously heartfelt, I actually felt worse for him than I did for myself. And so I give my congratulations to Ron Santo for making it into Cooperstown. Wish you were still alive and calling a game now and again, Ron.

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20111130&content_id=26060702&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb