02/02/17 12:12pm

The other morning my husband and I got into a bleary-eyed fight over a minor difference in opinion over a political matter of great importance. I’m being purposefully vague here because I don’t want to send you into the vortex of news-cycle misery we’re all struggling not to lose ourselves to right now. We did not manage to come to any enlightened conclusion about the state of the nation, or the issue we were bickering about, but we did reach one solid agreement–we need to engage with more non-political culture, together.

There’s a unique pleasure in watching a movie or reading a book and then talking about it with someone whose brain you enjoy. It makes us feel more resoundingly alive, and is a crucial reminder that being human is a very special, wonderful occupation. Here are 10 things to watch, read and ponder with someone you’re fond of this month.

tumblr_inline_ogl6z96gc61s6rwtx_50010. Not Even Happiness, Julie Byrne

Brooklyn Based-contributor Regina Mogilevskaya turned me on to Julie Byrne, who released a new album this week and is performing at City Winery Feb. 2-4 (those shows are sold out) and at Baby’s All Right on Feb. 15. I will admit that a certain amount of doubt enters my mind when I hear the words singer-songwriter, but the experience of listening to this lovely album can best be described as similar to the spreading sense of comfort and warmth that fills your whole body when you finally take some Advil and the tension headache you’ve had all day goes away. Put it on repeat for however long it takes. (more…)

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01/27/17 12:04pm

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I should be upfront and tell you that I was predisposed to fall in love with Paul Auster’s hefty new novel, 4 3 2 1.

Sitting on my desk when the 860-page review copy arrived in the mail was a stack of books that included Thoreau’s Walden and Civil Disobedience and Candide, both of which have recently seemed worth a revisit to me, and both of which figure prominently in the novel. Twice in the past I’ve interviewed Auster, who is a kind and engaging sort of writer, rather than a prickly and defensive one, despite his intense, sort of smoldering author’s photos and the intractability for which his work is known. 4 3 2 1 is a love song to New York, which is really the strongest character in the book, other than our quadruplicate protagonist, Archie Ferguson. I recently moved from New York after nearly 15 years, to Brattleboro, a small town in Vermont, which, oddly, also has a cameo in the weighty tome.

Those were my circumstances, which you should understand before you go out and get yourself involved with this book, because I fell for it hard, but for personal reasons, which I suppose is why we fall hard for anything.

All this is about me, the reader, and shouldn’t I get myself out of the way and let the text speak for itself? Remember, this is Paul Auster, a fiction writer who has long grappled with, in ways both playful and portentous, where the author ends and the character begins and how much of the content of the page is determined by the individual act of reading it. It feels fitting to insert myself, and the connections and coincidences, another Auster obsession, that contributed to  my love for this book.

The premise is goes like this: 4 3 2 1 charts the life and education of Archibald Ferguson, born March 3, 1947, in Newark, N.J., one month after Auster himself was born, in the same spot. March mirrors the calendar of February in non-leap years–if February 3, 1947 was a Monday, which it was, March 3 is also a Monday, so it’s an even deeper doubling. From that single child, four distinct narrative arcs develop and the first couple hundred pages move forward at breakneck speed as you struggle to differentiate between the hopes and dreams of four similar, but distinct small boys, and four similar but distinct New Jersey homesteads.

Auster is not gentle with us, and the novel brims with a parent’s anxiety for their child. Ferguson, as he is largely known throughout, though various nicknames and pen names emerge as all four grow older, falls out of trees, gets into car accidents, experiences loss and in fact dies, more than once. (more…)

01/25/17 11:05am

A utopian world where parenting is a communal activity sounds great, but what's the catch?

As I sit here writing this, my son is home with strep throat. I haven’t left the house in two days, and I’m inundated with having to care for, entertain and feed my little one, while also meeting work deadlines. What I wouldn’t give for another set of hands? Or how about 20 extra sets of hands?

This is the premise of Kevin Wilson’s new novel, Perfect Little World, the story of an utopian experiment that promises its participants a return on the “it takes a village” philosophy. This is not Wilson’s first foray into unusually structured kinship groups–his 2011 novel The Family Fang, which became a movie starring Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman, chronicled two adult children visiting the eccentric parents who had turned their childhood into performance art. 

Perfect Little World stars, Izzy Poole, a pregnant teenager who is offered a spot in The Infinite Family Project, an experiment of child and family development. Her newborn son will join nine other babies of the same age to live for 10 years in the ultimate environment. All their needs will be attended to, housing, food, and clothing will all be provided. The children are promised the best of everything: educational toys, healthy meals and enriching environments. The adults won’t be forgotten either. Scholarships for college or job training will be granted, and any hobby or interest will be funded. All expenses to be taken care of by an elderly eccentric billionaire who has a vested interest in studying and redefining the family. (more…)

01/19/17 10:52am

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So, it doesn’t exactly feel like winter this week. It’s downright temperate, in fact. Rest assured though, there will be a frigid weekend sometime this winter, even if 2017 proves to be as warm, or warmer than, 2016. Or maybe you just need to warm your soul. We’ve got three wintery movies and a recipe to pair with each. Gather your supplies, settle in on the couch and escape for an hour or two.

Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, directed by Michael Gondry, written by Charlie Kauffman, starring Kate Winslet, Jim Carrey, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, and Elijah Wood
Where to find it: On Amazon or iTunes, starting at $2.99 to stream
Recipe: Tomato Basil Chicken Stew from Gimme Some Oven

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is celebrating its 13th anniversary this year. Isn’t that wild? It’s probably safe to say that the Oscar-winning film still has a strong hold on film fanatics–even if you can’t quite recall the last time you viewed it, you certainly remember how it made you feel. The film is a dizzying cornfield of memory–the way your brain tries to fight your heart, what it is to love and to lose, to neglect and to remember. (more…)

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01/17/17 12:47pm
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We The People is a Kickstarter campaign that aims to cover Washington D.C. in powerful images, like this one, for the inauguration. Image: Shepard Fairey

I’m going to give it to you straight–this Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 Donald Trump will be inaugurated as our 45th President. It’s going to happen. There doesn’t seem to be an ethical conflict too deep or a tweet too far–even insulting a Civil Rights hero on MLK weekend–to stop this juggernaut.

We need to find some productive ways to cope.

You probably don’t have Friday off from work, but it’s not like anyone is going to be getting much of anything done, either. We’re not saying hide your head in the sand, we’re saying make Inauguration Day a time to reflect on how you want to spend the next four year.

Got to the Whitney, and pay what you wish: “On January 20, the Whitney will be open on a pay-what-you-wish basis all day to affirm our commitment to open dialogue, civic engagement, and the diversity of American art and culture,” says the Whitney’s website. There are a variety of special tours and events for the day, listed here, including a program called My America, that leads participants through an exploration of their portrait collection. The museum is open until 10pm, so there’s time to consider the role art will play in the sure-to-be-strange years to come, even after the work day is done.


(more…)

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01/12/17 9:39am
Pop Rocks, 2009, Marylin Monter, from the collection of Danielle and David Ganek, courtesy Brooklyn Museum

Pop Rocks, 2009, Marilyn Minter, from the collection of Danielle and David Ganek, courtesy Brooklyn Museum

Pretty/Dirty, the first major retrospective of artist Marilyn Minter’s work, opened at the Brooklyn Museum on Nov. 4, and with all that has transpired since then, it’s understandable that it may not have shown up on your radar. Make no mistake though, this is one show that is not to be missed.

On view until April 2, Pretty/Dirty spans more than four decades of the feminist artist’s provocative pieces. The exhibit is part of A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum, a series of 10 shows that have been produced over the last year to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, which permanently houses The Dinner Party, a landmark installation by Judy Chicago.


Sexuality is not something that Minter shies away from in her work.


Minter works across a spectrum of mediums including painting, photography and video. Her pieces investigate sexuality, politics and the mundane things in life–frozen peas and tea bags left discarded in a kitchen sink–alongside images that are both everyday and unexpected, like large-scale, digital images of a model’s vagina. Sexuality is not something that Minter shies away from in her work, which is glaringly obvious in many of the pieces on display in Pretty/Dirty(more…)

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01/05/17 1:27pm

Quick quiz: Do you like Benedict Cumberbatch? Do you have a soft spot for historical biopics? Wondering how all this political madness is going to produce some good art? Well, if you answered yes to any of those questions there’s something to look forward to in January. Here are 10 books, movies, shows and performances to keep an eye on this month.

10. I’ve been taking a break from television lately, which has created so much more space for reading in my life. I’m about halfway through a review copy of Paul Auster’s new novel,  4 3 2 1, which comes out on Jan. 31, and it is breathtakingly good. If you’re not an Auster fan don’t worry. This 860-page tome is quite different from the compact, M.C. Escheresque world of The New York Trilogy. It’s a sprawling, open-hearted tale of four distinct lives lived by one protagonist, the erstwhile Archie Ferguson. 4 3 2 1 feels like it was written for exactly this moment in time in a way that is a little spooky, and best of all, this is a world that is swimming in books, influencing Archie, and Auster, and inspiring a running list in your head of your next title, even as you tackle this larger than average, in every way, novel. (more…)

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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.

 

12/28/16 1:00pm

We asked our contributors, friends and notable Brooklynites to share their favorite New Year’s in NYC. Here, Jonathan Schnapp, co-owner of the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, shares his epic night in his signature, e e cummings style of email. His shuffleboard palace is throwing their third annual New Year’s Eve Flamingo Formal on Saturday, a totally free, fun night and a great excuse to dress up for the last hurrah of the year. For more ideas, check out our last Ideal Week: New Year’s Eve in Brooklyn edition.

If you have the will and the wheels, you make a progressive party out of New Year's. Photo: Torbakhopper via Flickr

If you have the will and the wheels, you can make a progressive party out of New Year’s. Photo: Torbakhopper via Flickr

hmmm-
my best NYE huh?

it might have been the winter of 1998…
earlier that year i had taken a trip to SF and ridden a scooter for the first time
it was magical and i vowed to do whatever was necessary to procure my first vespa that fall.
sure enough, when september rolled around i dragged my butt
out to up and coming williamsburg
threw down $1500 bucks for a 1976 blue sprint 150
and called her ‘putt putt’.

by NYE i’d gotten the feel of the hand shift, the tides of traffic,
and the way cabs reacted impulsively when searching for a fare.
i felt the rhythm of the lights and the pockets of space between cars-
i was all shaolin soccer with my shit… i was one with putt putt.
that NYE i decided to attend
EVERY SINGLE PARTY I WAS INVITED TO.

it turned into a tour of the greatest city in the world
on the craziest night of the year.
my itinerary:
LES, Chelsea, Hells Kitchen, Upper East Side, Tribecca, Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint, Union Square
i started at 5pm and got home by around 4am.

did it all in a black suit, skinny tie, and chucks…
no jacket
(big mistake)

12/28/16 11:07am

If you need a recommendation for an epic New Year’s Eve bash, Oriana Leckert is the person to ask. The author of Brooklyn Spaces: 50 Hubs of Culture and Creativity and events editor for Brokelyn knows all the borough’s DIY venues and the parties they spawn. She used to write our New Year’s Eve party roundup for years, and she tracks quirky events and alternative nightlife for her own blog year round. So when I asked her to name her favorite New Year’s Eve out of all the parties she must have experienced over the years, I anticipated that it would be a hard decision.

“I’ve been in this city now for 15 years, so I’ve had a lot of New York New Year’s. I’ve done the gamut, I have done a ‘crazy’ rave at the Electric Factory when that was still a place, a Bushwig drag extravaganza at Secret Project Robot, and a Cheryl party at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple. Then, recently, I’ve been trying to do more of the quirky, iconic Brooklyn things. I did the fireworks at Coney Island a couple of years ago, and the steam whistles at Pratt, and those both stand out as kind of silly but also really memorable.”

Pratt’s now retired, New Year’s Eve steam whistle show. Photo: Pratt

For anyone not familiar with Pratt’s tradition, the annual event brought antique steam whistles from trains, factories, and ships, including a 1930s ocean liner, back to life. The art school led the resonating show for the public for 50 years, before its chief engineer performed the final one in 2014. “It’s really surreal, it feels like being in a movie, because between the darkness and the steam, you can’t really see very far in front of you, so you’re sort of stumbling a little bit manically to keep track of where your friends are, and figure out where the next steam whistle will come from. It was really fun. It was really, really fun,” said Leckert.

But it still doesn’t make her cut as best New Year’s in NYC. “I think that out of all of them, the first one I thought of when you contacted me was my second or third year in the city. Because of an array of hijinks, we had moved on December 31st so New Years was our first night for my partner and myself in our new apartment.” (more…)