Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman, RIP

Does anybody represent what was great about America in the second half of the 20th century more than Paul Newman? In movies and in real life? Will be sorely missed...

An appreciation from NYT.

Two more rememberances, from Stephen Metcalf and Dana Stevens, on Metcalf puts it close to the mark with this closing bit:
Paul Newman reminded us—with a smile, a twinkle, a total economy of gesture—how infrequently the beautiful are comfortable in their own skin, how infrequently the elect are gracious. He enters, and immediately, the pantheon of Grant, Tracy, and Stewart, for reminding us of that magical Emersonian place, of America in its own imagination of itself, where the superhuman and the all-too-human become indistinguishable.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fulton Lights

Happy to report AG's new record as Fulton Lights is pretty damn good. You can listen to it for free, here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Agency Life

All life we work but work is a bore / If life's for livin' then what's livin' for?
- Ray Davies, The Kinks, "Oklahoma U.S.A"

EM rightfully called it out over dinner last night - maybe I'm not cut out for office work, because my tolerance for bullshit is too low. Maybe that's why, despite the neat literary narrative trick that Joshua Ferris' employs in his quite enjoyable Then We Came To The End, in which our perspective is implied and subsumed in the narrator's royal 'we,' I still most closely identified with Tom Mota. Yes, vulgar and slightly unhinged Emerson-quoting, clown-suit wearing, paintball-shooting Tom Mota. Imprison, then enlisted, then dead Tom Mota. Also, the star of the show.

Let me take two steps back. First, yeah, I'm not sure I enjoy spending all of my time and creative energy working for other people, but that said, I'm pretty good at it, and I've thus far managed a string of pretty reasonable gigs - enterprising, creative, and cubicle-free. So, in a world of complaining, I can't complain. And the work, while often too consuming of my time and mental energy, has also been reasonably intellectually challenging and has, if not added to the sum total of good in the world, probably not detracted from it. And I've made some friends and won some respect along the way. And probably learned a few things.. So, as Carl Spackler might say, I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

Second, in our lives, we spend maybe eight hours a day working and eight hours sleeping? Something like that? So it is amazing how few really useful or interesting novels there are about work (or sleeping, for that matter). Particularly good old fashioned, 20th century American office work. TV shows? Yes. Movies? Maybe. I guess those are the appropriate media. But novels? Nicholson Baker's Mezzanine, maybe? Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road, perhaps, although that had a good bit of sex, insanity, marital strife, and abortion in it, none of which really constitute much of my work day. Some Updike that I've missed, perhaps?

Which is what makes Joshua Ferris' Then We Came To The End such a pleasurable read. It is slightly cartoonish, but does a great job of elevating the everyday drama of office life to the appropriate levels of meaning, humor, and warmth. The work, a team of creatives in a large advertising agency in Chicago on the downswing of the dot-com boom, is surely recognizable to anyone who has worked in a creative field, or heck, in any professional services industry. The odd contours of office camaraderie, the strange insistence of minor professional triumphs and failures into your psyche, the tchotchke's that stand-in for personality and a personal touch, the elevator banks, and the office lighting.

It is all wincingly recognizable, and all laid comically bare. The read is quick and well-paced, and wrapped with enough grazing passes at the soul of the organization man and the small flourishes of craft (those that put the meta in fiction), to balance being an enjoyable subway read (as you head to your office) with taking heavy-handed swipes at the raison d'etre of your workaday life. Certainly recommended if you've ever had the pleasure of nine to five work.

Sound Travels

I'll do a short set of posts on Norway soon. But to get you started, check in on AG's travel blog, Sound Travels. The man behind Fulton Lights has taken off to see the world, spread the word, play some shows and, well, I don't know. Get up to as much no good as one can. I am envious and the swell of demand in my own soul for a third-life crisis grows stronger by the day.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

One Hundred Years From This Day...

The Library of Congress's excellent Flickr page has a collection up called News from the 1910s. Lots of striking photos in the set. The photos above include Teddy Roosevelt, P.T. Barnum, William Jennings Bryan, and two entitled "Indians at Dedication" and "Bulgarian Giving Water to Dying Turk, Adrianople." How far we've come, from a world on the brink of tumult, a nation demanding to be entertained, and presidential candidates laying claim to the need for reform in government.

Justice Stress

I am not particularly a fan of Justice, but DL sent around a link to the video for "Stress" from his trip to BUG 09 in London and, having not seen the video before, damn. Pretty raw stuff, even if contrived for the video. I guess I'll relate the strange and senseless act of violence that I was tangentially involved in a few weeks ago, but living in New York city in 2008, sometimes you forget that the world can still be a pretty bleak and violent place.


Life and how to live it. Friend and ex-colleague AK always seems to have a bead drawn on that one. Heck, I think I'd rate him as one of the coolest people I know. Lately, he's been living in Mexico, with his wife and two young kids, renovating a house in Guadalajara, and seeming to have an all around great time. He has started a blog, MondoGDL, chronicling the art and culture of Guadalajara. Serving half as a guide for locals to find out about art and movies, and half as a kaleidoscopic view of high art, indie music and movies, and Guadalajara's culture, definitely worth a look from time to time. Also, as a general comment, it's amazing how deeply turned on further and further corners of the world are to the aesthetics and actual art that falls outside of the mainstream. Another hash in the plus column for globalization, I suppose.

Andy, still waiting for a report from a Chivas match...

The First British Hydrogen Bomb

Photos and video from H-bomb test sites never fail to amaze. Pure violence, but also pure art, beautiful and comic.

Waterfall Rap

Well, a little vulgar, but still pretty funny.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Gal: Saunders on Sarah Palin

From The New Yorker, in case you missed it. An excerpt:

Explaining how she felt when John McCain offered her the Vice-Presidential spot, my Vice-Presidential candidate, Governor Sarah Palin, said something very profound: “I answered him ‘Yes’ because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can’t blink, you have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we’re on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can’t blink. So I didn’t blink then even when asked to run as his running mate.”

Isn’t that so true? I know that many times, in my life, while living it, someone would come up and, because of I had good readiness, in terms of how I was wired, when they asked that—whatever they asked—I would just not blink, because, knowing that, if I did blink, or even wink, that is weakness, therefore you can’t, you just don’t. You could, but no—you aren’t.

That is just how I am.

Do you know the difference between me and a Hockey Mom who has forgot her lipstick?

A dog collar.

Do you know the difference between me and a dog collar smeared with lipstick?

Not a damn thing.

We are essentially wired identical.

Read the rest.