I’m alone one night watching Field of Dreams on TV. As my blood sugar drifts down, the movie becomes more and more profound. Death isn’t the end! We’re too bounded by reason to catch the shafts of light all around us! I look up from the screen at the living room. The bookcase is swaying, the arm chair mumbling quietly to itself. My hands are attached to long, rubbery strips, and the hairs on my arms, light brown and silky, are beautiful and mysteriously meaningful. A drop of sweat runs down my forehead, splashes onto my thigh, and ripples out on the surface of a pool. And I think—slowly and with a dangerous smile—I’m having a really low blood sugar.
One critic said that British punks sang anger, Americans, pain. But punk was more than emotion, more than the sense of humor the Ramones brought to the mix, more than the adrenaline rush of a live show, more than the aura of sex around everything.
The fetishization of the past is inevitable in a society where virtually no work of pop culture goes unmemorialized and hack creatives can shamelessly co-opt the iconography of cultural landmarks to shine reflected glory on their anemic pastiches. In La La Land, Damien Chazelle really really really wants you to think about classic Hollywood musicals, but not too closely.
It was a raw winter night in Greenwich Village in 1978. I was tending bar at Bradley’s, a now long gone, legendary saloon on University Place that featured the best piano jazz on the planet. The supremely gifted veteran, Jimmy Rowles, was at the keyboard, Sam Jones was playing bass, and all was right with the world. I loved my job because I loved the music.
Chatter about “Almost Like Praying”–the song Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and recorded to benefit hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico–reminded your editor of this performance by the brothers Palmieri and salsero Ismael Quintana…
rage…fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck…fury…FUCK FUCK…
Last week, The New York Times ran a strange story about Louis C.K., whose comedy walks an artful line between insight and indecency. The piece cited “unsubstantiated internet rumors of his sexual misconduct with female comics.” I call this story strange because of that word–unsubstantiated. Substantiation is the essence of good reporting. You don’t print what you can’t pin down. But at the Times, this standard is changing, at least when it comes to allegations of sexual abuse. Hearsay is permissible, as long as women are doing the saying.
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer has been painting up a storm. The artist told art blogger Brienne Walsh she usually takes 6 months to a year and a half to finish a picture but for “Wild and Blue,” her first solo show in New York (which runs until October 7th at the Marlborough Contemporary Gallery), she only had the summer and the “paintings just got ripped out of me.” More than a few of her pictures hint at hurricane weather. And Dupuy-Spencer, who’s lived in New Orleans (though she’s based in L.A. now), knows from floods of feeling. Pictures like Cajun Navy and Lake Pontchartrain look back to Katrina’s aftermath but are all up in this time of climate change.
Dupuy-Spencer is “painting the news” as one reviewer has written in New Republic, citing her picture of the Confederate monument torn down last month in Durham, which “amounts to a kind of monument to the search for social justice.”
John Ashbery’s death reminded your editor of Philip Levine’s comments on Ashbery’s wit. Not to worry, I’m aware Ashbery and Levine were something other than brothers in verse but bear with me…
Hay sólo dos países: el de los sanos y el de los enfermos/por un tiempo se puede gozar de doble nacionalidad/pero, a la larga, eso no tiene sentido. -Enrique Lihn
A brother-writer has been pumping iron and taking boxing lessons ever since Trump won. He’s Jewish (with a Latin tinge).
An oasis of fascism in a desert of liberalism…
It seems like maybe we could all use a good story about a civil war statue, a good story about an American President, and a good story about the power of the common people against the rich and powerful, so I’m going to start with this one. It’s probably for the best that you’re reading this here because I haven’t managed to tell this story in person without crying.
To which our historically savvy president responds: “Why not the monuments to Washington and Jefferson as well?”
The other week, deep summer, we went to see David Johansen in his persona as Buster Poindexter. For many years now, Johansen, former New York Dolls lead singer and front flounce, has in his cabaret act been one of the great American songbook curators (Jonathan Schwartz wishes), lurking in the brilliant corners of U.S. pop. (Without Johansen I’d never have heard Katie Lee’s late-1950s pop-Freudian homage, Songs of Couch and Consultation, lead song “Shrinker Man.”) At the end of this particular set at City Winery, he called to the stage his wife Mara Hennessey, who announced that she had a particular favorite she’d like David to sing, whereupon she started to intone the line, “that summer feeling, that summer feeling, that summer feeling,” and Johansen took off into the lyrics. It was so haunting! I knew that song! What was it again? When I got home I looked it up and of course: Jonathan Richman’s “That Summer Feeling.” Astonishing song.
Trump knew what he was doing with this “both sides” shit. If you think it’s irreparably damaged his presidency, I humbly suggest you not judge too quickly. Here’s why: That neo-Nazis and white supremacists exist in America has been generally acknowledged for a long time. News reports about them have been popping up for decades; Edward Norton and Ryan Gosling (to name just two) have played skinheads in movies. But almost everyone could see that Charlottesville was different. Nearly everyone wanted to know what accounted for that difference.
A brother-writer has been pumping iron and taking boxing lessons ever since Trump won. He’s Jewish (with a Latin tinge). I’m not. And that’s probably on point. The threat posed by those who chant “Jews Will Not Replace Us” may be more visceral for him than it is for me.