01/02/17 7:51pm

thridreconIt’s winter, or at least it will be this weekend. The holidays are over. The inauguration looms. All the cookies are gone. If you’re not tempted to just crawl under the covers on the couch and spend the rest of the month watching all the dumb television you missed this fall, well, you’re a better person than me. We gotta stick together in this thing, though. Here are a few articles and books I’ve read lately that have been inspiring, or, important to stay warm all winter, infuriating, or informative in a way that will guide that fury. Onward!

• If you’re not exactly feeling happy right now, maybe you at least feel like your life has meaning? Scientific American’s blog tells us that meaningfulness, whether it comes from work, play or protest, is good for us.

• A friend recently introduced me to the interfaith work that The Reverend Dr, William J. Barber II is doing, working to reintroduce morality into politics as a way to address racism and poverty. I just got his book The Third Reconstruction and I’m excited to read it.

• Professional troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, has a book coming out in February and it guaranteed to be appalling. Here’s why boycotting publisher Simon & Schuster is not going to be effective, and could actual harm progressive writers.

• Here’s why hate speech matters, from Errol Lewis at The Daily News.

• Lewis mentions an essay that appeared in Tablet in the above article, but it’s not linked.  It’s called What to do about Trump.

 

12/19/16 10:43am
No, soup won't save Syrian, but it may humanize the conflict.

No, soup won’t save Syria, but it may humanize the conflict.

Chances are there will either be some travel, some time off, or both in your life this week. Here are a few articles and books, a novel even, to sink your teeth into.

Aljazeera published this explainer on Syria’s civil war last week and it’s incredibly helpful if you’re trying get your head around what’s going on there, who the players are and why this has become such an intractable and bloody conflict.

• No, a cookbook won’t rebuild Syria, but Soup for Syria is a project that both raises money for Syrian refugees and humanizes the war, reminding us that Syria is a place with a culture, a place where people live, where they cook and eat and go to work and have families.

• Ivanka Trump has played a protean role in her father’s campaign and pre-presidency, at once an arm charm who normalizes and balances his bluster, and an alleged policy shaper, pushing for paid maternity leave (though not for fathers, gay couples, adoptive parents or anyone else not fitting the gender normative nuclear family mold). A very smart Elle editorial argues that she is no friend to women who are not as privileged as she is–so basically no friend to women at all.

• At the grocery store this weekend my two-year-old waved and said hello to the Obamas on the cover of a magazine, which was equal parts adorable and heartbreaking. Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article “My President Was Black” on the history and meaning of the Obama administration in The Atlantic to really feel all the feelings and appreciate our 44th President.

• Finally, lose yourself in Americanah the wonderful, wide ranging novel from Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. We included it in a favorite books of 2013 round-up a few years ago and I finally picked it up a few weeks ago and it’s big hearted, funny and addictive, while also concerning itself with race, class and immigration. This is a sweet little bit of escapism that will also expand your worldview.

12/12/16 1:06pm

just_mercy_stevenson_bryan_002

This week’s Action Trumps Hate, writing a letter to the Electoral College, may not be for everyone. You may not have a connection to someone in a state where these letters have the most sway. You may not believe that a letter writing campaign will make any difference when electors cast their votes on Monday, Dec. 19. That’s okay, we’re playing the long game here and there is always plenty to do.

Here’s my #actiontrumpshate reading list for the week:

12/06/16 9:46am
Bruce Springsteen (GabboT/Wikimedia Commons); Nina Simone (By Kroon, Ron / Anefo/Wikimedia Commons); Brian Wilson (Takahiro Kyono/Wikimedia Commons); Johnny Marr (Jon Shard)

Bruce Springsteen (GabboT/Wikimedia Commons); Nina Simone (Kroon, Ron/Anefo/Wikimedia Commons); Brian Wilson (Takahiro Kyono/Wikimedia Commons); Johnny Marr (Jon Shard)

Maybe it’s the popularity of memoir, maybe it’s the passage of time, but the past few years have produced a bumper crop of books written by and about musicians. This year is no exception as several legends, including a Boss, a Beach Boy and a Smith, have released long-awaited memoirs. Even if you’re not into rockers dishing the dirt about drugs, sex, horrible band mates and other personal demons, there are some fine books on music history and criticism for the more cerebral-minded among us. There’s a little something for every serious fan of rock and roll, pop, soul and dance–it makes holiday shopping at your local book store almost too easy.

Born to Run
by Bruce Springsteen

What else needs to be said? It’s the Boss in his own words.This memoir, which runs over 500 pages, has been compared to Springsteen’s epic concerts—an incredibly detailed, earnest and satisfying affair that you never want to end.

Not Dead Yet
by Phil Collins

The self-deprecating title is a reference to Collins’ reemergence after a period of semi-retirement that had people questioning whether he gave up music for good. The accomplished Genesis drummer and popular solo act chronicles his amazing career and some of the rough patches he’s gone through. Collins even owns up to the infamous incident in which he faxed a divorce to his second wife.

Testimony
by Robbie Robertson

The driving force behind the Band through his songwriting, Robertson offers his take on being part of that iconic group, from their early years backing both Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan, to their final hurrah with The Last Waltz in 1976. (more…)

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11/15/16 11:48am
You'll want to add at least one of these to your most-used cookbooks shelf.

You’ll want to add at least one of these to your most-used cookbooks shelf.

The holidays are upon us. We’ve already started spotting Friendsgiving photos on Instagram and Facebook and Thanksgiving is next week. Whether you’re looking for a dish to wow your family with, planning a dinner party, or just storing away recipes for the January hibernation, you’ll find something wonderful in one of these new cookbooks.

Dinner at the Long Table, by Andrew Tarlow and Anna Dunn

No restaurateur has shaped the Brooklyn dining scene quite like Andrew Tarlow. When he opened Diner on New Year’s Eve 1998, on a stretch of Broadway in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge, it was one of the only places to eat in the area. The restaurant quickly became a neighborhood anchor, and the restaurants he’s opened since then have all served a similar purpose: to bring people together over food.

Dinner at the Long Table is (unsurprisingly) concerned with that same idea. The recipes in the cookbook, co-written with Anna Dunn, are collected into meals for different occasions. This is not a book organized by season or course. Instead, the celebration (with food as the star!) takes center stage–lunch for eight, a birthday dinner for 15, a Harvest Moon supper.

The recipes are wild: not in that they are untameable, but rather they feature the seasonal ingredients you’ve come to associate with the new Brooklyn cuisine: beets, tomatoes, fennel and herbs appear frequently. There is a Mediterranean streak running through it, too, with plenty of tapenade and green gazpacho. (more…)

10/21/16 3:35pm

(Bloomsbury)

A few years ago Paula Mejia had to pick a topic to write for her thesis as a student at George Washington University’s English graduate program. Around that same time came the call for new proposals by Bloombury’s 33 1/3 book series, each of which spotlights a particular noteworthy album. “[Professor and author] Gayle Wald was my thesis adviser at the time,” Mejia says now, “and I went into her office and I said, ‘I have a crazy idea. Can I write a thesis that is academically-rooted and use it as a way to enter this proposal for the series?’–not expecting it to get picked up at all.”

Mejia’s eventual choice was the Jesus and Mary Chain’s 1985 debut record Psychocandy. An album that has since gone on to become a bonafide classic, Rolling Stone ranked it as one of The 500 Greatest Albums of All TimePsychocandy combined heavy feedback-drenched guitar, reverb production, moody lyrics, and catchy girl-group pop melodies into a glorious noisy rock record, courtesy of Scottish brothers Jim and William Reid. You can hear traces of the group’s influence on ’90s British shoegazing bands like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, as well as current acts like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. A few years ago, the Jesus and Mary Chain did a series of shows to commemorate Psychocandy‘s 30th anniversary.


“The perception that they gave that they were either totally freewheeling or didn’t give a shit. It’s so surprising to know that they stayed up in their bedroom, drinking tea, and meticulously plotting out this whole thing. It was all premeditated. For that to seem so effortless is kind of an incredible skill in itself.”


What started out as a thesis idea for Mejia–a Brooklyn-based freelance music writer whose stories have been published in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and The New York Times —has now become the latest addition to the 33 1/3 series. Featuring interviews with the album’s main participants, including singer Jim Reid, bassist Douglas Hart, and drummer Bobbie Gillespie (later of Primal Scream), Psychocandy the book not only discusses the album but also provides the social and cultural context behind the music.

To coincide with the book’s publication, Mejia will be appearing at Greenpoint’s WORD bookstore on Oct. 25 in discussion with Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffeild and Kristen Yoonsoo Kim. Mejia recently spoke with Brooklyn Based about the genesis of her book and love for the Mary Chain. (more…)

10/20/16 12:07pm

win_feminism_reductress“Should I be planning a funeral for my sense of humor?” I wondered during the second presidential debate, as Donald Trump loomed behind Hillary Clinton and then threatened to have her jailed. I should have been laughing at my friend’s Jaws jokes, but instead I climbed underneath the bar, hugging my wine and wishing for Xanax. Before I started sitting shiva for my laughter, however, I remembered that amid the steady stream of alt-right memes and clips of Trump telling Billy Bush exactly where he likes to grab women, the internet also provides escapes from the political melee swirling around us. Reductress is one of the best ports in the storm.

Billing itself as “the first and only satirical women’s website,” Reductress, which launched in 2013, applies its simultaneously absurdist and biting humor to the conflicting streams of advice thrown at women on a regular basis. It’s that balance that makes the site worth returning to. Plenty of writers are as precise and cutting, and others just as wacky and absurd, but it’s the blend that makes Reductress stand out. Their targets include not only the mainstream women’s magazines (parodies of which are low-hanging fruit at this point), but the personal essay industrial complex, make-up blogs, and corporate attempts to cash in on feminism. The articles have an Onion-like sensibility (“Danielle Doesn’t Usually Post on Facebook, But This Is Important“), but with a keen ability to mock the tone and format of so much of women’s media (“I’m Not a Basic Bitch. I’m a Boring Woman.“).  Other must-reads include make-up tips from clowns (“foundation, foundation, foundation”), and my current favorite: “100 Acts of Self Care That Still Won’t Be Enough to Get You Through The Election.

After three years of eliciting laughs, groans, and knowing sighs from their readers, founders Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo are gifting readers with Reductress’s first book, How To Win at Feminism: A Guide to Having it All (And Then Some), out next week on Oct. 25, with a launch party at powerHouse Arena in DUMBO that evening. Editors Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo told me that they’d been interested in writing a book from the beginning, but feminism’s ever-increasing mainstream acceptance (or co-option) was the inspiration for chapters like “How to do more with 33 cents less” and “The nine circles of hell for women who don’t help other women.”

I chatted with founders Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo over email about the book, the site, and staying both funny and sane even when current events are making it harder than ever. (more…)

10/11/16 1:38pm

shockandawe-pb-c

Kate Bush. Prince. Madonna. Morrissey. Britney Spears. Lady Gaga. Adam Lambert. Beyoncé. They all, in varying degrees, owe their fame, success and fashion sensibility to glam rock.

Defined by a combination of camp, excess, satire and irony, glam, or glitter rock was just as revolutionary as punk or hip-hop.  If that made you raise your eyebrows, here are three reasons why: 1) glam rock, especially in the 70s, had a theatrical and bombastic quality that merged avant garde art and mainstream pop; 2) it pushed the theatricality of music forward, hinging on each artist’s ability to shock and mesmerize audiences through outrageous costumes, makeup and stage props; and 3) it challenged perceptions about sexuality and gender roles. (more…)

10/05/16 2:15pm
nicotine

The only thing that might be more radical than the plot of Nicotine, is author Nell Zink’s imagination. Publisher Ecco.

The epic myth around novelist Nell Zink precedes her books. For instance, before I picked up her new novel, Nicotine, I knew that Zink got her start as Jonathan Franzen’s pen pal talking about birding, about which they both are passionate. Franzen, possibly America’s most famous living novelist, implored Zink to publish. Her first book, The Wallcreeper, came out in 2014, and her second Mislaid, was published in 2015. I also knew that Zink churns out her books complete (including revisions) in three weeks total. The excitement around the author offers up the impression of a recent college grad, instead of a 50ish expat who spent the 90’s editing a punk zine. Forging her own path, Zink has created a buzz by being the publishing world’s L’Enfant terrible, but at 50 rather than 20.  (more…)

09/16/16 12:47pm

ithoughtyouhatedme

If you are already a MariNaomi fan, a student of comics and graphic novels, or a devotee of Retrofit Comics, a publisher and comics store in Washington D.C., skip ahead because you don’t need convincing.

But if your main association with comics is bloated superhero franchises I’m here to tell you that there’s a whole world of emotionally complex, deeply personal and delightfully weird comic art out there. Give it a chance. And maybe start with I Thought YOU Hated ME, the new comic from MariNaomi, an award-winning author and illustrator, who is a panelist at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sept. 18.

I Thought YOU Hated ME traces the fraught friendship between shy, cautious Mari and rambunctious tomboy, Mirabai. Women of all ages will recognize Mirabai from grade school, whether you were her, or you were victimized by her. She’s the girl who says, “Isn’t that an ugly color?” and then when you agree, says, “Actually, I was kidding. I think it’s pretty” just to see if you’ll switch your opinion.

Over the years, though, Mari and Mirabai mature and their friendship deepens. While inseparable as teenagers, they’re also both fixated on their own adolescent tunnel vision–each thinks the other is way cooler than she is, and at the same time intimidated by and a little in love with her best friend. (more…)