Monday, March 24, 2008

Five from Edward Burtynksy

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Planet B-Boy

On Friday night, headed over to the Landmark Sunshine theater to see the theatrical release of Amy Lo's long-tended film, Planet B-Boy. There was a long line-up to get in to the show, and the crowd, a mix of NYC hipsters, East Asians (and the NYC hipsters who love them) and young and aging hip hop heads (and me), was buzzing. The wait was worth it.

Surveying global b-boy culture, while providing a quick context for b-boy's emergence as one of the four elements of hip hip culture, Planet B-Boy tracks the emergence of five elite B-boy teams from Korea, Japan, the US, and France, demonstrating the range of b-boy styles represented and evolved by different youth cultures world wide, and the surprisingly common, and touching, themes that track many of the young men as they strive for the grand prize of being named world champion at the Battle of the Year.

In line with recent documentaries, the film mixes sweet and engaging human interest stories with a perspective on an emerging global culture around b-boying that has far outgrown its roots in the Bronx, while still being true to the ethics and aesthetics of hip hop. Cheeky visual references, like an homage to the classic scene in Flashdance, transported to Japan, and a wealth of fucking incredible dancing make the film well worth a look-see.

Check it out, when it hits a city near you (and if you don't support it, the run threatens to be limited... so help out the good people who made this movie by turning up!). See the website for screenings in your neighborhood, or go to one of these screenings:

3/21 Los Angeles, CA - LANDMARK NUART
3/28 San Francisco, CA - LANDMARK LUMIERE
3/28 San Diego, CA - LANDMARK KEN
4/04 or 4/11 Austin, TX - LANDMARK DOBIE
4/11 Minneapolis, MN - LANDMARK LAGOON
4/18 Philadelphia, PA - LANDMARK RITZ @ THE BOURSE
4/18 Portland, OR - REGAL FOX TOWER STADIUM 10
5/02 St. Louis, MO - LANDMARK TIVOLI

And check out Japan's 2nd place team at the 2006 competition, Ichigeki:

It's like a crunked up Busby Berkeley. I love it.

Last Exit

Ah, envy. That wonderful slightly flushed and slightly bilious feeling that you wish you didn't get when your friends have off and done something wonderful. So, without much prologue, I present the latest effort from Keach Hagey, who is putting together the very interesting Last Exit Magazine. The material ranges from truly compelling and strange adventures from far flung lands that are becoming simultaneously more foreign and more similar to our own to the slightly precious Brooklyn-indulgent adventures of strange and sometimes compelling hipsters. And sometimes, the twain shall meet.

I can only endorse wasting your time reading this piece by another friend (yeah, it gets kept in the family, it seems) NW. And the joy of this piece is that it reads like she lives. Manic. To wit:
This is the story of three jackings, numerous near-death experiences and the good fun had by everyone in Southeast Asia but me. I needed to break out of New York a few years ago. I had been trying to dig a hole out of the city for months, but had only gotten grave depth; so the options were drop in or leave town. A friend had just backpacked around the Golden Triangle and returned raving about the magical time she had there: cooking classes in Chiang Mai, oil rubs on the beach, incense stick dipping with locals. It sounded like the opportunity I needed to clear my mind, meditate on the minutia. What’s more, it fit snug into my limited travel budget. A simple Internet search would have spared me the now cirrhotic liver, however. Turns out, S.E.A. is more like S.A.E. than I imagined. You will run into the same English or Australian frat boy while he’s body-surfing an elephant in Thailand, carving his initials into Angkor Wat ruins, posing as tank gunner in Vietnam, or firing old Khmer Rouge rifles at Cambodian chickens. And each time he spots you he’ll scream “Shots!” The entire well-trod tourist loop might as well be paved in Tsingtao labels, debauched as it is. But I neglected to type “bender” into the search engine, and bought the ticket with vague thoughts of better days ahead.

My boyfriend, Michael, decided to travel with me for the first week, and then I would go it alone for the next two months. He is something of a delicate flower when it comes to sunlight. We’ve worked entire travel itineraries around the fact that he’s awfully pale and burns badly. The one time we visited Brazil’s famed Ipanema beach we caused quite the commotion. I lay on the shore while he went for a swim. A few minutes passed before I heard the incredulous calls and laughter. I looked up in time to see a throng of people gathered and pointing at the water. And what emerged from the sea but my boyfriend incandescent—like a mighty florescent office light (he prefers “god”) bobbing to the surface. I flipped over and tried to look local. Needless to say, his pallor would also affect our trip to Thailand in a few significant ways, which I will shortly describe (mainly in an attempt to blame him for the first mugging, though I handled the second and third fine all by myself).

Bangkok is blazing in the dry season, and in a move to exacerbate this situation the temples are embroidered lovingly with gold leaf and pieces of embedded mirror. An ant in the desert under a magnifying glass comes to mind. All told, this made sightseeing a little less full of sights for us. We had to take unorthodox pathways to avoid the bright buildings. We clung to walls under eaves, biked at night, and visited the Patpong district’s seedy nightclubs, where middle-aged white men and Thai sex workers meet over a few ping-pong balls. For those curious, the act is less athletic and acrobatic than you’d think. After puffing some cigs with her precancerous vag, the bored woman in a glowing bikini stands up, shoves the lubed ball in, squats like she’s going to crap, and out it slowly drops into a waiting cup. By the time it’s over, a 45-year-old Australian club patron next to you will have already managed to get his erect dollar-wrapped penis out without your notice, then turn from the performer to you with a “See, you never know what you could do.” “Yes, dreams do come true,” you might tell him, and then go to the filthy bathroom to pad your clothes with baby wipes. This is to say, for all you ladies out there planning a little Bangkok getaway, either prepare to check your righteous indignation at customs, or waste your time arguing with a bunch of throbbing dicks.

Thus, the trip was off to a promising start! After spending a few days in this fashion we left the city for less reflective climes. On a sweaty windowless northbound train we met an English girl who promptly told us her tale of traveler woe. She had only been in Thailand for three days when she’d been bitten by a stray dog. She broke a cardinal rule—never pet a pooch, no matter how innocent his wag. The night before the assault she sat with a local proprietor and his dog. She was assured the animal was friendly and healthy, and pet him without incident. Catastrophe struck when a dog she mistook for the owner’s sidled over the following eve, and she extended a hand to him. He lashed out snapping and drew blood. I gasped. South East Asia accounts for sixty percent of worldwide rabies deaths per year. And now here she was bit by a feral dog in her first week. She had neglected to get the rabies vaccine before traveling, as had we, but given the recent turn of events she decided that she didn’t like that statistic. Thus, she returned to Bangkok for emergency treatment consisting of five long needle injections straight in the stomach. After enduring four she was told by the nurse that they didn’t have the fifth, but that it was probably fine. Probably fine? Rabies has been known to gestate for up to two years, she anxiously told us. She was terrified that at any moment she would manifest the initial symptoms, which like many a plague begin benignly: cough, achy feeling, sniffles, and then bam, within days of developing the common cold you die the most wretched death imaginable, frothing at the chomp. We offered meager assurances, “don’t worry,” “the nurse knows what she’s doing,” etc. But needless to say, we didn’t french her.

After hearing her tale, Michael and I couldn’t help but feel pretty good about our own abilities, nourished by a steady diet of NYC streets smarts and a natural disinclination for canines. Five days into it, so far so good. We parted ways with the English girl, with promises to meet up again if she remained rabies-free. And on we went to Ayutthaya, where everything began to go horribly wrong. At this point, a number of factors conspired to make me lose my passport, $200, some beloved earrings, my credit card, and a bunch of those mesmerizing t-shirts, with mistranslated textual gems like “Enjoy With Profitable Drip” or “Unique Nut Elsewhere.” Had any link in this disastrous chain been different I might be wearing those shirts or flashing that passport. But no, I was trapped in a Rube Goldberg-like robbery of soggy seats, full purses, bike chases, sudden ambush, and foul, foul luck.
Please, continue...

Last Tango

Why should a city you've never been to have a pull on you? Buenos Aires has that pull on me, and I can't account for it. It is the pull that probably Berlin should have on me, except that I have somehow convinced myself to align with the South and the East, rather than the West.

What is that pull, exactly? Sadly, it's not from the tango, or from Boca Juniors. It is not borne out of Argentina's great plains stretching down to its foreboding, icy extremity. And as much as I love Borges, it is not born of the strange logic of Argentine literature.

It is, I suppose, finding that place that can re-name itself as Brooklyn, in its ease, urbanity, and pretense to artistry. So, it was with double delight, and I suppose, regret, having recently deferred my decision to leave New York City (once again) that JS, who is currently living the high-life in Buenos Aires, sent me this article from the New York Times, featuring an old friend from past lives. With a large picture of the man himself, engrossed in a dance. I'll quote at length:
Comparisons with other bohemian capitals are almost unavoidable. “It’s like Prague in the 1990s,” said Mr. Lampson, who is perhaps best known for winning a Bravo TV reality show, “Situation: Comedy,” in 2005, about sitcom writers. Despite his minor celebrity, he decided to forgo the Los Angeles rat race and moved to Buenos Aires, where he is writing an NBC pilot, along with his Web novela, “Buenos Aires is a more interesting place to live than Los Angeles, and it’s much, much cheaper. You can’t believe a city this nice is so cheap.”
If you haven't had a chance, check out the trailer (?) for David Lampson's History and the Universe, featuring, among others, John Wright. And why not me, Mr. Lampson? If all you needed was a man who could beat box?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Five from Jim Lambie

Yeah, I like colors. Yeah, I like patterns. I guess I've got to make a trip up to the MoMA...