Tag Archives: Jon McCurley

Ten-plus Cultural Experiences I’m Still Thinking About Now that 2011’s Done with Us

by Carl Wilson

 [With trademark untimeliness, Back to the World is presenting a series of belated, cross-genre, year-end lists, as we did last year, and again loosely on the model of Greil Marcus’s long-running Real Life Rock Top Ten. Margaux posted last week and Chris will post soon. Once again I’ve confined myself to topics I haven’t written about at length here before, or in my year-end chatter in the Slate Music Club (and accompanying Spotify playlist).]

1. Marcus Boon, In Praise of Copying (out, late 2010; read, early 2011)

 The Toronto-based writer, musician and scholar Marcus Boon’s generous intervention (that’s a full, free PDF) over one of the issues of our time (cf SOPA) seemed to echo everywhere – as far out as the viral reproduction of revolutionary courage through Arab countries, and the call-and-response of the “human microphone” of Occupy Wall Street and its own hashtag-breeding copycats.

What I found so moving, even given the book’s digressive wander through a potentially infinite subject (and the foolhardiness of trying to control infinitudes) was its restoration of copying’s many sensual and spiritual connotations in what has been much too abstract and legalistic a debate. The back-and-forth weave and warp of repetition and difference is a pervasive leitmotif of existence, and not just the human. Boon’s treatment is elusive, with no definitive answers, but that means it will reward repeated re-reading, never just a copy of the first time.

2. The sex scenes in Todd Haynes’ Mildred Pierce (March, 2011)

 

There was a lot of debate about what Haynes, one of my favourite American film directors, did in his HBO mini-series with the template of the 1940s melodrama starring, of course, Joan Crawford: Had he evacuated the original film’s queerness, its camp, and left only a portrait of a status-and-materialism-driven woman who brings ruin, reinstating the misogyny of James M. Cain’s 1941 novel? Yes and no. Yes, he was bringing back the sting of the novel’s more radical anti-capitalism. But he was also taking the mini-series’ extra time to push the viewer’s nose far deeper into the mortification (social death, social stiffening) Kate Winslet’s Mildred endures when all the guarantees of the social contract are pulled out from under her by economic-cycle brutality and masculine bad faith, and the contradictions she helplessly generates (chiefly in her daughter, almost earning Evan Rachel Wood’s scenery-masticating performance) in the course of trying to maintain vestiges of her expectations within that outcaste position.

But Haynes also grants Winslet’s Mildred a grace Crawford’s could never taste – full-blown, full-grown sensual gratification, in her leggy, languorous love scenes with Guy Pearce as aristocratic reprobate Monty Beragon, the real sex object of the piece. Granted, the plot ensures this is in many ways another trap, but between them the actors and Haynes refuse that old morality’s to overpower the commandments of skin and light on skin, the manifesto for being and perseverance that an intimate bodily encounter can’t utter but can proclaim. It enacts what camp once did but no longer can: victory within defeat, not just despite but also because of loss, in its unapologetic ensnarement with entropy and other ultimate unfairnesses, against which desire still demands, “Live all you can.”

By making that so vivid, and driven by the will of the “unrespectable” woman, Haynes discredited his own tragedy, asking why a male film figure like George Clooney or Clark Gable (whom Pearce’s Monty directly recalls) can give that same kind of vicarious pleasure and get at best lightly slapped, while Mildred Pierce has to be dragged through the shoals. In this, though the rest isn’t perfect, Haynes really made a melodrama to end all melodrama.

3. WTF with Marc Maron interviewing Bryan Cranston (June 10); Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul on Breaking Bad (all year)

 

If you measured by the number of hours spent on it in the year, you would conclude my most cherished art form is not music, literature, live performance or even TV, but the podcast. Check my iTunes: I’m currently subscribed to about 65, though the majority are really radio shows, not native to the pod. And the majority of those aren’t mwhusic but talk. Perhaps it’s that I live alone and am comforted by the chatter during cleaning, cooking, trying to go to sleep and other routines (I wish I were better with silence). But it’s also because non-broadcast radio lets people take liberties with talk – that most eternally human of media – that feel fresh and exciting without being consciously experimental and avant. There’s no better example, title down, than Marc Maron’s What the Fuck?! I came to it a little late, compelled by its backstory: A veteran, never breakout comedian who’s struggled with personal demons gets new career success and satisfaction by sitting down with people in his field in his garage and asking them frank, patient questions of craft, d but also how their own flaws and hauntings have affected their stories – empathetically sounding their barriers and/or divulging his admiring but frustrated puzzlement at how they surpass them.

The editions that draw hype tend to be confronting, sensational – a showdown with a hack, an uncomfortable discussion with a friend, a comedy writer confessing an attempted suicide. But I love the quieter talks he has with people about their growth. One of my favourites was with Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, and not just because he’s an actor whose work left me wide-eyed over the past several years (as it clearly did Maron). Cranston is at once enormously garrulous and open about his route to his ambitions (he tells stories with theatrical gusto) and humble (not showbiz humble, but humble) and grateful for the improbable fact that his journeyman dues-paying led to an artistic and career jackpot. I listened in early summer and have thought about it at least weekly since.

  

 Bryan Cranston, out of character … and in.

For several months, that was partly because a highlight of each week was the fourth season of Breaking Bad, the best drama on television since The Wire, even better if only because it had the previous show to go by (just as The Wire had The Sopranos). Unlike those two, it isn’t a big ensemble piece. Supporting players are super, but this is a show about two people, Cranston’s Walter White and his protégé (considering how terribly he’s protected, that’s exactly the wrong word): Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman. I have nothing original to add to the accolades: Beyond character and cinematic weave, what’s remarkable is its arc in which a good man becomes very far from good, at first for circumstantial reasons and then for deeply rooted ones, and the audience has to test how far our sympathies can extend, even as we vicariously participate in the rot.

The season finale is the obvious standout, featuring both one of the most ingenious murder scenes ever committed to film or video and an ending many viewers might find it hard to get past (and not just for its dangling plot threads). But three weeks earlier, there was an atypical episode, in which the focus shifted from Walter to Jesse for nearly the whole hour and forced the younger man to find unexpected strengths. It mattered because the question has become whether anyone in this saga will walk away alive with something like an intact soul, and there’s really only one hope left. Here we begin to see that a story that seemed to be about one person and his themes and issues might really be a story about someone and something else. As always: The story of the parents turns into the story of the children, which then turns out to be the story of their children, and the next, and so on. If it doesn’t, that’s when there’s real trouble. (Attention, anyone who compared Occupy Wall Street to Woodstock.)

4. The consolations of comedy: Party Down on Netflix, “Adults in Autumn” (Chris Locke, Kathleen Phillips, Nick Flanagan, 
Rebecca Kohler, 
Jon McCurley, 
Tom Henry
, Glenn Macaulay) at Double Double Land (November), Louis CK at the Sony Centre (October) and Louie, Maria Bamford at Comedy Bar (January), Parks & Recreation, Community, the Comedy Bang Bang podcast …

Along with having become a podcast nerd – and abetted by it – what really struck me in 2011 is that over the past several years I was becoming a comedy nerd. I’m now usually more enthusiastic to go see people say funny things than to hear a concert, or to listen to or watch comedy on my computer than to listen to music. I follow local comics, especially the way-underpublicized Kathleen Phillips, as avidly as I used to follow bands, even here in the greatest musickest citiest of them all-est. I am still puzzling. Perhaps it’s just that a change is as good as a rest, as they say: The comedy nodes in my brain may be less worn-down than the music nodes. Or perhaps there really is more fresh happening in comedy than in music (in Toronto specifically or in general?), or more likely that whatever was new a half-decade ago or more to true comedy nerds finally has become obvious and available to us rabble. (The fact that I still don’t love the Best Show on WFMU is the clinching evidence, right?)

Or as Woody Allen would say, maybe I just needed the eggs. A lot of us had a grim year.

And speaking of eggs, I agree completely with Margaux about the Louie duckling-in-Afghanistan episode.

5. Have Not Been the Same by Michael Barclay, Ian A.D. Jack and Jason Schneider: reissue (June), panel (Soundscapes, Toronto, July) and CD (November)

Have I gotten this far without having to declare any conflicts of interest? No matter, plenty more to come.

Even in this supposedly retromanic age of eternal re-re-return, the bubbles of cultural history with local habitations but no names can easily pop away and leave only stains on the barroom floors. A decade ago, three Canadian music writers, one of them my friend Michael Barclay, tried to guard against that by writing a history of the Canadian music world (mostly indie division) from the mid-‘80s to the mid-‘90s, Have Not Been the Same: The Can-Rock Renaissance. It was a fairly thankless task in 2001, when those scenes were waninh, fractured and with little apparent trace, though since the book mentioned dozens upon dozens of people it sold well enough. Perceptively, though, they later realized the Canadian successes of recent years lent their subject renewed relevance – and that made it incomplete as history. So they undertook many more interviews, updated the individual stories and overall tale with a new introduction and conclusion and brought the book back this year. They held launch concerts and discussions – including a panel at Soundscapes record shop in Toronto with Julie Doiron (ex-Eric’s Trip, current-Julie Doiron), Don Pyle (ex-Shadowy Men, ex-Phono Comb, many more, current Trouble in the Camera Club) and Alison Outhit (ex-Rebecca West, ex-Halifax Pop Explosion, current FACTOR) that was one of the most worthwhile discussions of how musicians and music live and that life has changed I’ve experienced in ages, even (I think) without nostalgia.

Michael’s also curated a companion soundtrack, possibly the first of many, with more recent Can-Rockers playing gems from the book’s era. Which coverers and coverees you like best likely will depend on your own faves: For me, there’s something especially poignant about the Hidden Cameras coaxing out the gentleness of Mecca Normal’s “Throw Silver,” or Richard Reed Parry (of Arcade Fire) and Little Scream slipping into the steamy ether of Mary Margaret O’Hara’s “When You Know Why You’re Happy.” Maps overlaid, outlines of one sunken continent shimmering around the contours of one newer-risen. Lenses, focusing other lenses, or a more vibrant blur.

6. Stand-In (1937) with Leslie Howard, Humphrey Bogart and Joan Blondell, on Turner Classic Movies (August 24)

Not at all new, of course, but new to me when I stumbled upon it on TV in the summer. It’s a bundle of this-but-that: A screwball, Hollywood-skewers-Hollywood comedy that bridges Bogart’s tough-guy and leading-man days, with Busby Berkeley star Joan Blondell (the excuse for its airing, in an evening featuring her) being cutesy-charming but also the brains of the outfit, Leslie Howard stiff and patrician-blinkered but then melting and gaining his senses, and the whole thing ending with a ridiculous/stirring Hollywood labour uprising that gives away its Depression-to-New Deal moment, hard to imagine in many other eras. Apparently the original was more radical still – censored were “a speech about the stifling of competition in the industry and the crushing of independent companies by the majors; and … a speech by Atterbury at the end, in which he says he is going to start a Senate investigation of the motion picture business.”

Here’s a link to the whole movie, as long as it lasts:

It probably stuck with me because the broadcast just preceded the #Occupy moment, but anything mainstream-American that talks explicitly of economic justice without patting itself on the back until its spine breaks (like recent supposed treatments of the financial crisis), frankly, is memorable on its own.

7. The Citizens’ Filibuster (July 28)

Another classic movie came to mind in Toronto a month earlier, on the night of July 28: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. We mentioned it and pictured it here at the time, but too briefly: The bizarre, nearly-24-hour session of citizen testimony – or, as it became known, the “citizens’ filibuster” – against Rob Ford’s attempt to slash budgets was, just as Torontoist says, one of the truly heroic moments of the year, here or anywhere: Our local mini-Newt’s attempt to force closure became the opposite, a populist force to pry the oyster of debate back open, which led to this month’s still-surprising turnabout, in which Ford’s agenda was, for the time being, trounced.

Culturally, whether you were at City Hall or following it on the simulcast and especially social media, it was incredible civic theatre, in which vivid characters (none more heart-tugging than the one below, but some others close) displayed the eloquence and, more significantly, the expertise of so-called ordinary people who normally aren’t even allowed to pick up the marbles in the political game. It’s a contrast to the ugly pro-death-penalty and anti-immigrant ovations of selected attendees at Republican primary debates, for instance. Don’t let those things kill your faith in humanity. The corpse of that faith is what the vultures feed upon.

8. DJs Debate Club at the Henhouse (March 6)

This entry’s a tad more self-indulgent: For the past few years, the Henhouse on Dundas West in Toronto has been the place that I and a few close friends have gone to get our cheap beers on and make like Jonathan Richman, except in a post-Will-Munro-polymorphic Third Place. Our hosts Katie Ritchie, Jenny Smyth and Vanessa Dunn made us more than welcome, and last spring invited me and pal Michael McManus (yes, the last of the Brunnen-G) to DJ one night under our Henhouse nickname, Debate Club (for our propensity to jawbone loudly about politics till closing time).

On the theme of #occupy-precursors that runs through this list, Michael decided we should intercut tracks of famous political speeches between tracks. It would have been a big hit if it had been six months later. Instead we eventually abandoned poor Mario Savio when cooler (but sweatier) heads prevailed and taught us girls just wanna have Robyn. I hadn’t DJ’d since the last time I supplied Wavelength with an iPod playlist, and had forgotten what a rush it is to play music very, very loud, like conjuring worlds, and sex, and astral projection. (Thanks also to Jacob Zimmer, Small Wooden Shoe and Dancemakers for letting me do it again at a fundraiser in December.)

The Henhouse has changed hands now, sadly for its denizens, end of an era. Ladies, you regularly made a room a festival and a roundup of strays into a small community, as best a bar can do. You’ll be missed, but I’m excited to see what you all do next.

9. Misha Glouberman’s Negotiation Class (winter/spring)

Along with assuming the role of author (along with our comrade Sheila Heti) of The Chairs are Where the People Go (about which I really recommend this Los Angeles Review of Books podcast, along with LARB in general), B2TW associate Misha embarked on another new venture this year: An experienced teacher of many forms of improvisation and facilitator of conferences and events, he began this year giving a class in negotiation and communication born of both his innate inclinations to and his concerted studies of  reason, compromise and low-bullshit ways for people to have difficult conversations.

I took the pilot-workshop version of it last winter, with mostly Misha’s friends in it, at a time that I was navigating some crucial personal and professional transitions; some parts worked out and some didn’t, but I’d been given new tools to break down what was happening and address it with, most of all, relative fearlessness. That’s what much of Misha’s work is about: how to cope with the fear that human exchange sparks, which causes us to act protectively in ways that read as irrational to the very people we want most to understand, and find productive alternatives. Generosity, he shows, is a more winning position – not #winning, but in the sense that there’s usually less substantial conflict than meets the eye. (The urge to win, itself, might be an evolutionary catch-22.) He’s teaching a short, intensive version of the course again next month at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

10. Quite Interesting (QI) with Alan Davies, Bill Bailey, Rob Brydon, Jimmy Carr and Stephen Fry (Sept., 2007)

Back to humour again: This is from a few years ago but I first saw it because over Vietnamese dinner Misha brought up the BBC quiz/chat/comedy show QI, hosted by Stephen Fry, so I spent an afternoon watching clips. And then I hit this, which (beginning at 0:22), makes me laugh helplessly and forgive Britain all its sins. I like to watch it any time I feel overwhelmed, with no straight lines to follow. Or maybe I’ll do it ritually every year, as a colonial amusement, the way northern Europeans watch Dinner for One.

PLUS

Melancholia, especially Charlotte Rampling as the archetypical Bad Mother, and Earth as the even more archetypical Bad Mother; Kirsten Dunst at the Cannes press conference for Melancholia; the BBC series Sherlock, the other BBC series The Hour, and the other (much less smart about Britain, class and war, but still absurdly entertaining) BBC series Downton Abbey; Christian Marclay’s The Clock at Paula Cooper and Alexander McQueen’s “Savage Beauty” at the Met (the two art shows I most regret missing) and “Alexander McQueen” (the song by Tomboyfriend); Ryan Trecartin’s “Any Ever” in Queens (the show I’m gladdest I didn’t miss); the Doug Loves Movies podcast and the (for me, unplayable) Leonard Maltin Game (throughout “Two Oceans 11”); the Slate Culture Gabfest (especially being on an episode, which was a thrill); The Ex with Brass Unbound at Lee’s Palace in May; two concert/tour movies about Canadian artists that I didn’t expect to like but that each made me cry, watching them in immediate sequence, Look at What the Light Did Now (Feist) and We’re the Weakerthans, We’re from Winnipeg (Weakerthans); the saving of Saint Mark’s Bookshop; the Smee jokes in Pat Thornton’s third 24-hour standup marathon at Comedy Bar; Tim Hecker’s pipe-organ concert at the Music Gallery; poems by Michael Robbins and D.A. Powell; John Hawkes and Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene; Sandro Perri’s CD launch concerts at the Tranzac in November; Ty Segall at the Wrongbar in NXNE (June); Jeff Mangum at Trinity Saint Paul’s church in Toronto, Aug. 12; discovering this early-1980s scene from a Ron Mann art film featuring Jim Carroll and Jack Layton improbably together, both RIP, #occupymemory; as an epigraph to the year, these lines from “Hindsight,” by Richard Buckner: “Stricken as we stood/ Broken as we made/ Time for make-believe/ Stealing, when we should/ What we couldn’t give away.”

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Tea With Chris: Marinetti as MC

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Chris: Thanks to everyone who attended our 100,000th Word party on Wednesday! We’re going to post transcripts of each conversation soon. Meanwhile, my tea is all-video today. Tyler Coates makes some excellent expressions in this:

“I’m the cat whisperer. I’m here to whisper some fuckin’ secrets to your cats.” Featuring Lizzy Caplan, crush object for at least one-third of B2TW.

I was in L.A. pop-conferencing when it took place during Toronto’s Rhubarb Festival, so I’m very happy that Steph Davidson put the Life of a Craphead performance Please Copy Us Forever on Vimeo.

Carl: A couple of years ago I was pleasantly startled to discover in the pages of The New Yorker a poem that included lines like, “That elk is such a dick. He’s a space tree” and “I translate the Bible into velociraptor” and referenced Buju Banton. This week there’s an interview with the poet, Michael Robbins, in Bomb, the home of great interviews, in which he says this:

“There’s much in my poetry that’s offensive to certain sensibilities, and people are wedded to their offence. Their offence is part of them. So they feel affronted. And, of course, that’s part of what the poetry is designed to illicit. Questions like, What is at stake in our offence? Why do we have such a very unskeptical view of our own offence? And why is it that we’re so willing to rely on our offence and our taste as barometers of . . . anything? Except something about ourselves –because it doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about the world.”

That’s a nice lead-in to this essay by Bethlehem Shoals about the controversial Los Angeles teen shock-rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (Odd Future for short), whom Shoals compares not just to Jackass and Dennis Cooper but to Marinetti and Mayakovsky. All of which is valid – I’d also compare them to Harmony Korine, LeRoi Jones and Takashi Miike – but while that may make them artists, it doesn’t make any of the aforementioned not misogynistic at the same time. It seems a little rich after 40 years of feminist cultural criticism to think that one descriptions contradicts – and excuses – the other. (A commenter, Chloe S., wrote yesterday that you could as easily trace Odd Future’s fantasies to the date-rape problem in California skater culture.) But likewise dismissing the stuff because it’s misogynistic fails as both aesthetic and political critique, as Mike Barthel recently pointed out, linking to a 1997 essay by Ann Powers (who was recently catcalled for her attitude to Odd Future at SXSW) that remains a rare primer on thinking about what she calls “violator art.”

Meanwhile to address another kind of offence, here’s Nitsuh Abebe on what he calls “The Robert Palmer Problem” – which you could also call the Elvis or Pat Boone problem – of whether redoing a song from one culture in another context (e.g. R&B into white pop, in the days when they were quite segregated) is properly described as “watering down” or if something more complex is happening. When I put it that way, of course, it’s predictable which one he chooses, but the essay is much richer than that either/or. And part of what occasions it is the new House of Balloons mixtape by Toronto-based “mystery” buzzband The Weeknd, who have some kind of association with Drake (who this weekend’s Junos make an MC-turned-emcee) and seem to involve one Abel Tesfaye on vocals & Jeremy Rose as musician-producer, perhaps with some involvement by Drake producer Noah ’40’ Shebib, though none of that is certain. At first I was a bit wary of the cocktail of trendy sounds The Weeknd seems to swizzle up, but then I heard a couple of songs that couldn’t be reduced to that, like these:

And if you’re in Toronto, may I recommend a weekend activity? Go to the Revue Cinema at 1 p.m. on Saturday and see The Legend of Pale Male, a documentary about a red-tailed hawk’s love affair with midtown Manhattan over several decades. It’s an urban-nature film that manages to be beautiful, amateurish, personal, political, funny and tear-jerking, often simultaneously, with a heroic cameo role played by Mary Tyler Moore. I saw the first screening last weekend and this one’s the last, sponsored by the High Park Nature Centre, our own hawk-watching home base. Love is all around, no need to waste it: C’est la poésie.

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B2TW’s 100,000th Word Party: Guests Announced!

Last month, we announced an overdue launch party for B2TW. It’s happening on March 23, at Double Double Land; $5 will get you in the door. And now we can reveal the interesting locals who’ll be meeting for the first time onstage:

Ryan Kamstra and Alex Lukashevsky will talk about writing songs not like a man.

Jon McCurley and Michael McManus will talk about acting.

Shary Boyle and Jordan Tannahill will talk about fantasy lands (on Earth or elsewhere).

All this plus drinks, chatting, dancing (courtesy of DJ Daniel Vila) and five-minute choreographic lessons from Amelia Ehrhardt. (Topics, lines and motives of conversation are up to you.) Chris will be the host, but what will our 100,000th word be? Come and find out!

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Art things I thought about this year, that I can remember today, in order of remembrance.

by Margaux Williamson

1. The best movie I saw that I didn’t write about this year - Rocky

I had never seen any of the Rocky movies. It was recommended to me after a conversation about sports movies with my friend Lucas Rebick. I was surprised at how unfake the aesthetic was. It looked like Philedelphia in 1976.. and kind of like Toronto in 2010. I was surprised at how much I related to it. I related to Rocky and to all of the women he talks to.

“Hey Rocky” the loan shark’s driver hollers out of a car window. “Yeah?” Rocky asks. The loan shark’s driver – “You should take your girl to the zoo. I hear retarded people like the zoo.” Rocky flinches, “Fuck you, man!” Rocky shouts back,  “She ain’t retarded, she’s just shy.”

2. The other best movie I saw this year and didn’t write about – My Man Godfrey


My friend Gracie has a favourite romantic comedy from every decade. My Man Godfrey is her tops for the 30′s (1936).  Carole Lombard plays a rich socialite who falls in love with her butler. It was pretty interesting to see how rich people were portrayed as such silly and thoughtlessly cruel individuals (as in every situation, the beautiful, charming ones escape total condemnation). Rich people have enjoyed a much better and enduring reputation since all the communists were kicked out of Hollywood. It reminded me of how quickly things can change and how very long they can stay the same.

My favourite part came when the family needed to talk about money – the matriarch of the rich family looked horrified and cried  “Money is dreadful! We can’t talk about money, it upsets Carlo!” (Carlo is the artist that they support). At this point Carlo turns away, towards the fire, upset and shuddering like an angel. Luckily, the cheese sandwiches come in just as things are about to get awk-ward.

3. Thick of It

I really couldn’t get enough of this British TV show from 2005 about the inner workings of the modern British Government. Sample text (if I am remembering correctly) – “Terry, do you know why they call him the Fucker?”

“Is it .. is it.. because he’s.. a bit of a fucker?”

4. Work of Art: America’s Next Great Artist and what people wrote about it.

This new reality TV show premiered in the summer. Contestants, from across the U.S., compete in an art competition with a jury of professional critics and artists. It was just like any other reality TV show. It was strange. And people wrote about it.

Art Fag City covered it like white on rice, Lynn Crosbie had some good points for the artists and Jerry Saltz (an art critic who was a judge on the show) wrote an article for each episode after first participating in and then watching the episodes. Jerry Saltz’s articles were, hands down, the best art to come out of the show. The articles were written to an audience that included the show’s participants, viewers and art-insiders. He wrote about the art, judging the art and judging himself judging the art. It was strange and good.

Some art-insider critiques of the show sounded an awful lot like a reversal of the old art-outsider stereotype – “my kid could paint that”. The  equivalent turns out to be –  “my friend down the street from me, in Brooklyn, could paint that a lot better”. Sucks to be on the outside.

Though there didn’t feel like there was too much at stake (America’s next great artist-wise),  the beginning of some hilariously awkward public conversations (involving critics, artists and audience) about what art is felt stupid-smart, meaningful and full of potential.

The only “unreality” part was at the end when there were only three contestants left. One would get the bank and the others nothing. Maybe it’s just my world, but every artist I know would have been more than happy to split a hundred thousand dollars 3 ways and then gone about their business. But I guess reality TV without winners or losers is just the NFB.

5. Websites about videos

I know about these two websites, Ryeberg Curated Video and 2 Pause: Freezing Music Video Culture, because I contributed to them. But they’re both really interesting and I’m sure there’s a lot more of these websites out there – websites that are figuring out how to talk about or organize the massive amounts of videos out there. Ryeberg has contributors write short essays on Youtube videos and 2 Pause collects interesting music videos and puts them into categories like these: Lo/No Budget (that is where I am and this nice one from Antony and Boy George), Netherclips, Stop Motion, Electric Cinema (I didn’t watch them all but found this nice one from Foals and Chris Sweeney) and French Wave. I would like to see the categories that everyone has for their videos.

6. Artists Using and Sharing

I really liked that Erykah Badu made this video by borrowing the idea from Matt and Kim. She credits them in the beginning of the video. The structure of her video is identical, but the feel and meaning are completely different and more to my interests. The borrowing and added art reminds me of this article about Jeff Wall from a while ago.

Olaf Breuning’s work (consisting of performance based art video) has always looked really interesting but I assumed that he, like a lot of artists, didn’t put all of his work on-line. I only just saw one of his videos recently when Jon Davies screened it at the Cinecycle. It was great. Then I went home, looked him up and discovered that all of his videos are available on his website. Thank you Jon Davies for reminding me of Olaf Breuning and thank you Olaf Breuning for sharing. SO much better that way.

7. Moral/ art lessons from popular music videos

LCD Soundsystem and Spike Jonze reminds us that drunk people, whom are often beautiful and fun, can also be really fucking annoying.  The video, featuring the band being abused by people dressed as pandas, is as good as Spike Jonze’s videos always are. And Lady Gaga and Beyoncé remind you again that it’s a bad idea to disrespect the people who serve your food. And Kanye West, who likes a lot of the same things I like ( naked ladies, revolution, ballet, Beyoncé, Takashi Murakami) reminds us to take paintings seriously.

8. Luc Tuyman’s painting Turtle

I really loved this painting this year,  from 2007.

I also really love this painting from Brad Phillips.

9. A brief LIFE OF A CRAPHEAD performance I saw at Double Double Land

The performances from Toronto’s LIFE OF A CRAPHEAD (Amy C. Lam and Jon McCurley)  feel so good on your brain. They go right to the part  that understands but doesn’t share with the other parts of your brain – the parts that could explain what is happening. But then those parts start understanding something else and then, somehow, every part of your brain is being massaged by a fire in-the-know and then it is over. It can feel like good drugs, but really, it’s more like spinach.

10. SUM: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman

David Eagleman, a neuroscientist, wrote this strange book comprised of brief scenarios of the afterlife. More about life than after.

11. Missing Objects

Is it too late for a really, really long Arrested Developement movie?

Also, I would like an audio book of Jack Hitt’s articles. I would buy two. While we wait, we can read his Mighty White of You: Racial preferences color America’s oldest skulls and bones and listen to his Act 5, the 52 minute long audio documentary about a group of prisoners at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center who are rehearsing and staging a production of Hamlet. It’s great.

12. Golden Gate Park in San Francisco

Nice work William Hammond Hall and John McLaren.

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