My neuropsychologist mom taught me how to diagnose people from a young age. She also left me with a deep jealousy for her patients, who stole away her time. If I had Autism or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Mom could stay home to treat me. Amen, Amen, Amen (Scribner Hardcover) by Abby Sher is a memoir of uncontrollable OCD, the product of childhood pains and passions.
Sher perfectly captures youth's rituals--small things we do to control a world often wild and unruly. Yet, demonstrations of love and loss turn to demons that force Sher to obsessively incant the Shema, starve and finally slice at her skin. Sher's fiercely funny candid book is inspiring, causing me to question my own ways of coping with crippling loneliness, confessional Jewish family and death. No better way than attending superb scribe Susan Shapiro's generous fete thrown for Sher, who toasted Amen, Amen, Amen, a true triumph of faith.
Among Andrew W.K.’s many job titles (which include musician, producer, TV show host, club owner, and expert partier), one that many might not know about is the role of motivational speaker. At his CMJ lecture/panel on October 21 at NYU, listeners got insight as to why W.K. does things the way he does—and it actually makes a whole lot of sense.
1. If you don’t like something the way it is, do something about it. In the first 10 minutes of W.K.’s presentation, he ripped apart a chair. When asked, “Why did you do that?” his response was something to the effect of, “I didn’t like the chair, so instead of having someone take it away I turned it into a chair that I do like.”
2. Take responsibility for your life. “Don’t think of anything as an outside force working against you, but think of it as, ‘I did all this,’” he said. “So something bad happened to me. No, I made this bad thing happen. And then try to figure out the reason for it.”
3. It’s OK to embarrass yourself. You might be stronger from it. “Keep chopping away at that ego. Sometimes carving away at the idea of our self, the ego—the way we think we are, the way we think we should be, the way we imagine ourselves to be—slicing through that, completely crushing it in the most painful way, to me, is really the best feeling in the world,” he said. “And then building yourself back up and realizing that even the act of crushing your ego still involves the ego. So use the ego, humiliate it, and then sort of see what happens as a result of those two actions.”
4. Even with its problems, the world really is not that bad. “I think it’s very important to realize that when we allow for…the world to be a bad place, we’re encouraging it,” W.K. said. “It’s also just felt a lot more fun to me to think, ‘No, the world is perfect.’ And it might be perfect in a way that doesn’t make sense…but I want to have a space that, in some higher way, even the imperfections are pointing toward some ultimate good vibe.”
5. Always follow your dream and be true to yourself, even if it involves risking everything. “You have to completely go whole hog and you have to be completely irresponsible,” W.K. advised. "… Don’t only be true to yourself but be true to yourself by truly doing what you want to do and, from my experience, when I felt like I was making a really bad decision, those are the ones that always pushed me furthest ahead.…I was so motivated to not have those worst-case scenarios play out that I got it together enough to always see it through. So my only advice is to do the craziest things you can think of. Do the most risky things, do the things that seem the least reasonable or safe and I think that’s the surefire way to get some kind of result. If it’s not the result you’re looking for, just please don’t tell anybody I told you that advice.”
Growing up my eccentric artist Dad wrote letters to people he met in personal columns. They resulted in painted portraits full of sex and violence. As soon as I turned 16, I started searching for escapism in pen pals. "Mary and Max" starring Philip Seymour Hoffmann and Toni Collete is about the beautiful absurdity of snail mailing your life to a stranger. The claymated feature film from creators of Academy Award winning short animation "Harvie Krumpet" tells the story of unlikely correspondents. Mary is an eight year-old girl in Australia with a mole on her forehead and alcoholic mum, while Max is a morbidly obese forty five year-old Jewish man (he confesses atheism) in New York. On opposite sides of the globe, they become each other's anchors, voices of love and understanding in otherwise madly lonely lives. "Mary and Max" made me believe in the bond between these two misfits. Sometimes people we've never met make the most sense of our often baffling lives.
I'd love it if congress had more people like Al Franken kicking around. Earlier this month we saw his amendment to the military appropriations bill pass, which was both a really strong statement on important current events and an action that will actually change behavior (as opposed to the statement of condemnation votes, or whatever they're called, when Congress gets together and votes that someone should apologize for somethingorother, which seems like a tremendous waste of time and taxpayer dollars considering all the shit there is to fix around here).
And now we've got Al getting cute... and smart, and true, and relevant... with opponents of public health care.
We don't often get to hear our congresspeople talking like that. Maybe it's because civility is standard practice when you've been in DC for long enough. But maybe it's because many of the people we elect to the House and Senate just aren't that bright, or, you know, bright about things that aren't helpful to making America a better place.
Of course, the most extreme example I can think of is former Senator Ted Stevens, who has served for Alaksa since 1968. No shit! Forty years in the senate! He delivered this speech in opposition to network neutrality (raise your hands in the comments if you don't know about it - that's it's whole own SERIES of blog posts)...
I'm not saying that everyone should know all there is to know about the internet. I do think, though, that the people with the power to decide on the laws governing the single most important technology of our lifetime ought to know a bit about it, or defer to those who do.
And I think the same logic can be applied to the health care debate. I'm not a health care expert. And the people running and profiting from private health insurance in America should have a say in how we move forward as a country, sure. They're certainly experts. But they shouldn't be the only experts, and the fight should go to the smartest people who have the best interests of the largest number of people in mind.
Maybe I'm suckered in to Al Franken's whole thing because he's being clever and cute during his time in congress, and because he happens to share my viewpoint on many of these issues. And my perspective is skewed by the fact that the Daily Show, for entertainment reasons, always picks the dumbest and most ridiculous moments from the floor of the House and Senate to share with their audience.
But I think we need to see more Frankens out there. Intelligent people who show up to work with the information necessary to make good decisions for the American people. And a little sting and humor in the rhetoric certainly wouldn't hurt.
This week has been incredibly overwhelming. The last boy I slept with deleted me from facebook. I blacked out at a work party, did my first reading and found out my grandma might have alzheimers. So really I just need some "Luxury" courtesy of Tiga right now...
Fresh off his victory? failure? with Where The Wild Things Are (haven't seen it, but I've heard people talking pretty passionately on either side of the issue), Spike Jonze made his internet release of We Were Once A Fairytale starring Kanye West as... himself?
Weighing in at about 11 minutes, it's a bit long for a web video, but doesn't feel like it.
I don't want to spoil the ending, but maybe we can have a talk about it in the comments. Anyone? What does it mean? Or maybe just... what does it mean *to you*?
Update: Reader Hannah M. points out that the NY Times had a brief sitdown with Mr. Jonze regarding the short film here.
The first time I saw Swedish powerhouse Anna Ternheim she was opening for Lykke Li and El Perro Del Mar. This time she was opening for Loney, Dear and Asobi Seksu.
Loney, Dear also from Sweden, played back-up for Anna during most of her set. She played mostly tracks from her new album Leaving on a Mayday which went gold in Sweden after only a few weeks. It entered the Swedish charts at #1. At the Swedish Grammy Awards in Stockholm on January 7, 2009, the record was voted “Album of the year,” and Ternheim was named “Female artist of the year.” For some reason she's still opening for people in America....come on guys get on the fucking bandwagon this woman is AMAZING. She is one of the few performers who stops me dead in my tracks. You have to give her credit for being gracious and humble and signing CDs after her set.
I almost died when she closed with my favorite song "I'll Follow You Tonight" which she explained was about picking people up in a place like the Bowery...and she wished us "Good Luck" before singing...
Leaving on a Mayday is in-stores now via Verve Forecast.
To make a house a home, I remember one of those wooden wall hangings on the wall of my room as a child. It had a list of rules on how to make a house a home. They made no sense, is what I mostly remember. But somehow, that house became home. I know it's a recurring theme, this house into home nonsense. How does someone turn four walls and a roof above them into some abstract notion of comfort and belonging? Well recently, I've been a little bit concerned (read:obsessed) with what's happening on the home front. And I've found something that can make any house home. Design-worthy wallpaper! No seriously, hear me out. These two wallpaper designers will have you redecorating in no time... I'm about to do so myself. First up we have Dan Funderburgh, who takes old damask type prints and completely reinvents them. (You can buy these at Flavor Paper opening soon in Brooklyn)
Love it or hate it, Paris Hilton is a pioneer. As a nerdy Jewish bookworm growing up in the ghetto Lower East Side of the early '90s, Paris is my shiksa goddess wet dream and inspiration to succeed. Bowlmor Lanes, where I spent so many Sundays knocking down pins to de-stress after Hebrew School, had Paris host Carnival, full of sword swallowers, contortionists, stilt walkers and colorful booze. After our photographer snapped Paris, her bodyguards started beefing, so we snuck behind a one-way glass Funhouse partition right behind her head. The view of press, paparazzi and bodyguards was dazzling, if a little lonely looking. Fame is worse than Heroin, seductive and addictive. Still on our high, we hit up the open bar at Sin Sin's Picante Thursdays. LES keeps me grounded.
(Royal Young, Pomp & Circumstance Executive Editor, Lori Bizzoco, Pomp & Circumstance, Entertainment Editor)
Last night I was where the wild things were. The theatre was half full of publishers and half full of various children’s organizations, complete with kids. Warner Bros passed out cardboard crowns. I was really tempted to beg and plead for one for myself (and/or jump into the frames of photos making a growly monster face), but I refrained. It, perhaps, would not have been professional of me with my boss sitting a few rows away.
Although some people from the illustrious HarperCollins publishers were invited to the official screening on Tuesday, I (a lowly assistant) was not. So this write-up includes no fun insider info about Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers, Tom Hanks, or James Gandolfini. Sorry to disappoint.
The film, however, did not disappoint…much. It’s as beautiful as you would guess based on the trailer, and even more painful. It is, above all, not a children’s movie. While I don’t doubt that many children could easily relate to Max’s anger and aggression throughout the film, I DO doubt that they will understand it or make the connection. Not that I think kids are dumb, but only small hints are given about the source of Max’s frustrations. And NO hints are given about the source(s) of the Wild Things’ frustrations. They’re just unhappy with no real explanation. (Except maybe Max’s line: “I wish you had a mother.”) Are they monstrous lost boys? Kind of.
The actor, Max Records, is absolutely precious…to look at. He’s so cute I just want to gush at him like he’s a puppy. But I struggled a lot with wanting to love his character and the fact that I hated the character. Maybe it’s meant to be a statement about what loneliness and frustration can do to a kid, but when he morphed into a wild thing, I just wanted to reach into the screen and shake him (and we all know you should never shake a baby… or, in this case, an 8 year old).
To sum up, I liked the movie, but didn’t love it. At moments my heart grew three sizes (a la Grinch), at others, it was breaking, and more often than I would have liked I wanted to slap Max like child abuse was a new fad. I loved what humor the movie offered, but I wished there had been more. Maybe I just want childhood to be happy and funny, even though sometimes it’s not.
Cold, moody Sundays like today should be reserved for scary movies. Even without snow (yet, thank god) the wind in lifeless trees makes me want to curl up and get horrified. Some favorite stills to put you in the mood.
And a film I can't wait for. I know, the book is always better, but.....
It's Friday and I want to dance. But me and my lungs have been having some disagreements over what I should be doing tonight. I say bowling, public assembly to see Angeli, and then birthday party, but Lungs say soup, emergencee and movies in front of a fireplace. But back to the point, I heard some Melanie Fiona the other day and looked her up and found this gem:
Six year-old boy trapped in a homemade balloon shaped like a UFO flying 10,000 feet. Amazing adventure or nightmare? I may have loved lofting through Denver's dewy clouds as a toddler. Just hope this Up conundrum ends safely on the ground!
One of the Republicans who voted in favor, Senator George LeMieux of Florida, had this to say: "I can't see in any circumstance that a woman who was a victim of sexual assault shouldn't have her right to go to court."
Right? Seems like a no-brainer. But here's the punchline: 30 Republicans voted against it. 30!
But it passed. So now military contractors that prevent their employees from seeking legal action in cases of on-the-job rape or assault won't get taxpayer money. Hooray!
And the Daily Show had a pretty decent piece about it. They did a good job of keeping things tasteful (though their graphic, "Rape Nuts" definitely crosses the line) and humorous, in the face of this awful situation, and the confusing Republican response.
Candle 79, a delectable vegan/vegetarian establishment founded by Bart Potenza and co-owned by nutritionist, Joy Pierson was home to the down-to-earth activist’s book celebration this week.
(Founder Bart Potenza and co-owner Joy Pierson of Candle 79 and Candle Cafe)
From the moment, co-owner Peirson greeted me when I walked through the front door to the interaction with the sommelier; I knew that there was something different about this plant-based lifestyle. Everyone was happy, energetic, and glowing; a vision not often seen in a city of stress, power, and struggle.
"If you want to feel your best and be free of diets, medicine, and pain or if you’re just wondering how to be kinder to the planet, this book will change your life for the better. That's my promise to you,” Silverstone said as someone handed her a purple-colored martini made from organic concord grapes. After she took a sip of the drink, she handed the glass to me to ensure that I had a taste too.
(Concord Grape Martinis)
I asked her if there were any foods that she missed eating, thinking selfishly of my own desire for medium-rare steak. “If I’m hungry, I may look at a cheese plate but if there’s something else like this there,” she said pointing to the appetizers being passed around, “I wouldn’t want that cheese plate. You get the cheesy creaminess in these dishes and all of the meat dishes just have sauces on them, so there’s really nothing that I’m missing.”
Her point was proven quickly by warm, creamy zucchini-blossoms and ravioli-shaped treats. Interviewing Silverstone was like sitting down to dinner with an old friend.
(Alicia Silverstone and Lori Bizzoco, Entertainment Editor, Pomp & Circumstance devouring vegan ravioli appetizers)
The Kind Diet, a book that she says took her, “one and a half years to write and eight years to dream,” infuses being kind to your body, the environment and animals. She explains how meat, fish, milk, and cheese—the very foods we’ve been taught to regard as the cornerstones of good nutrition—are actually the culprits behind escalating rates of disease and the cause of dire, potentially permanent damage to our ecology. “I want people to think of this as easy and delicious, you can take baby steps to get there. It will make your life better.”
(Alicia Silverstone, author of The Kind Diet at Candle 79 Book Party Celebration in NYC)
(Waterkeeper Alliance book sales table for The Kind Diet)
The vegan way seems to be more than healthy eating-it’s like some secret happy planet. Everyone is so nice. A few people I know could use a book like this.
All proceeds from the sale of the book this evening went to Waterkeeper Alliance, a global advocacy group that helps sustain fishable, swimmable and drinkable waterways worldwide.
Celebrities in attendance included Lake Bell, Giada De Laurentiis, Robin Quivers, Dan Hedaya and Dan Piraro.
When I'm stressed, I tend to listen to a song that takes me back to some memorable happy place. (And I like to listen to it over and over again, sorry roomies and neighbors.) Recently, it's been Neko Case's Hold on, Hold on. That song brings me back to my summer in London: while visiting a friend out in Northampton, that long train ride, the gray clouds and how the sun would shine on these bucolic scenes of sheep grazing pastures covered in wildflowers. How, when I saw her, we screamed so loudly some people stopped and stared. And then the redbull and malibu, hash cigarettes and a cute dog sniffing around our ankles. Sunning ourselves out on her backyard while the song blasted over speakers. So I've been listening to it (over and over again, like I said) and saw a Marianne Faithfull version of the song, and then I thought about those obnoxious US Weekly spreads, of "who wore it better" and thought we should have a little vote to see who sung this one better.
I don't know... each variation has it's own melancholic perspective... what do you think?
When Pomp asked me to cover the Americans for the Arts National Arts Awards at Cipriani, I was gushing with nerdy excitement. I'm an avid enthusiast for every form of art New York City has to offer, from graffiti covered gates to the latest MOMA exhibition. Growing up in the Lower East Side, I learned about art from St. Marks performance artists and local murals--not in public school where art class funding gets cut first, if it ever existed in the first place.
Americans for the Arts, one of the premier nonprofit organizations struggling to increase access to art education is a heavy-hitter in the world of political advocacy and fundraising - a losing battle in today’s crisis-frenzied Congress.
As someone forever in love with how the city changes and how we construct our identities, Brooklyn married authors Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt were enough to make me throw my graduate work to the side and head to the red ropes and bright lights of Cipriani. Toss in Robert Redford, Salman Rushdie, Kitty Hart, Ed Ruscha Kelly Richardson, and special guests Kerry Washington and Nancy Pelosi, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and Dennis Hopper, and I have a clearer picture of how fundraising gets done, particularly considering entry to the event requires a contribution ranging from $1,000 to $50,000.
('90s Speed Demon Dennis Hopper makes his appearance)
(Pomp's Ippolita di Paola interviewing Salman Rushdie)
Salman Rushdie, one of the most prominent and politically significant novelists of our time, faced a fatwa (death sentence) from Iran’s orthodox leaders in 1989 for his fourth novel Satanic Verses. This forced him into government protection in Britain. This week he showed up with no guards and stopped to speak with me. I asked him about his opinion of the organization and his role in it. Rushdie smiled in his dark green velvet blazer and said, “I think it’s great. The arts are having a hard time these days and it’s very important to have advocacy organizations like this. I'm happy to be here and be a part of it.” After expressing my admiration for the inspirational courage he expresses in his writing, photographer Amanda and I got back to the rough side of the event—the nasty paparazzi, flocking tourists and whining young elites being dragged to the event by their families.
(The beautiful Kerry Washington arrives!)
Shortly after, the beautiful Kerry Washington, with her mom at her side, stepped out of a black SUV in a stunning dress, greeting the press with grace. “Hello gentleman, and lady,” nodding to Pomp’s photographer. Her assistant, who Washington introduced as “the new Dana”—highlighting the obviously low retention rate of celebrity assistants, rushed them inside.
(The man of the night: Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree Robert Redford arrives at last)
Robert Redford showed up last with his beautiful wife. He was not enthused by the onslaught of journalists, but his presence made the tourists happy. The no-name guests were all epic examples of New York high society with gorgeous designer dresses and personal drivers, but that didn’t stop the other side of NY from making its debut as well. A homeless cart-pusher let high society know what he thought about them as he passed by: “A lot of white people don’t recognize evil as evil.” Maybe if there was more public access to the arts that statement could have led to a critical discussion about the banality of evil with Rushdie.
-Ippolita di Paola Photos: Amanda Segur Entertainment Editor: Lori Bizzoco
I didn't expect Al Franken to do much in the Senate. He's a comedian, right? But he's done something great introducing an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill, which seems to be a direct response to the Jamie Leigh Jones case.
In case you haven't heard of it, hers is a case to watch. Long story short: Ms. Jones was working in Iraq as a contractor for Halliburton subsidiary KBR, where her employers refused to house her separately from her male co-workers, in spite of repeated complaints that the men were sexually harassing her. The men drugged her and gang raped her. When she complained, she was held by KBR in a shipping container for over 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and her employers told her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be fired.
But that was only the beginning of her nightmare. After returning stateside, she decided to pursue legal action, and KBR claimed that she couldn't, that her contract stated that all disputes with her employer must be resolved by mandatory binding arbitration.
If you're not familiar with it, imagine that instead of going to court you go see an extralegal judge that is selected and paid for by the opposition. As you can imagine, the judge sides with corporations as often as 95% of the time, according to a study done by consumer watchdog group Public Citizen. And guess what! You've probably got a mandatory binding arbitration clause in some of the contracts in your life. Use a cell phone?
Just the other week Ms. Jones won the right to her day in court.
And now, Al Franken has introduced an amendment stating that no defense contracts can be awarded to companies that "restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court."
This is a perfect example of why capitalism is screaming out for regulation to protect the rest of us. They should rename the amendment the "I can't believe we actually have to make a rule for this" amendment.
I love that title. It makes me think of a fairy tale. The kind where humans turn into animals that belong somewhere other than here, like the sea or sky. Or the kind where a long journey has to be taken because someone is born into the wrong life. It conjures old-timey illustrations of grimacing men in top hats with long faces becoming vapour and terrorizing small villages until a child traps them inside of a butterfly net with magic words given by a self-sacrificing healer. You know... folk tales. But instead, it's the title of a book co-authored by William Kamkwamba, a boy from an African village who, with little education, and little knowledge of English, looked at books about windmills and built one based on the diagrams -- and then made it conduct electricity. Impressed? So was Jon Stewart during the taping of The Daily Show (which I went to thanks to Martha) and boy it was a real treat. William Kamkwambe was inspiring and down-to-earth. Jon Stewart even re-shot his intro to make it shorter so that there would be more of the interview in the episode. That's when I fell in love with him, not during the beginning when he makes jokes, and talks to the audience, not even when he was visibly cracking up while watching one of his "reporters" skits on bling recession. But when he did extra work to make sure something important had more air time. Something about sitting through 40 mph wind tunnels made getting into the show more magical. Like some epic test passed, a riddle answered correctly to a troll under the bridge who grants us passage to a place we've only dreamed of.
The moment I heard Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig would be starring together on Broadway this Fall in “A Steady Rain,” I searched for tickets. It was July, yet all I could find were outrageously expensive seats through a service called “Stub Hub.”
Even as a weekly-going theatre fanatic, I have never before paid $175 for “the cheapest seat” in the rear. I bought a ticket anyway knowing I was going to see People Magazine’s “sexiest man alive,” along side a man who gave me heart palpitations when he flexed his 007 muscles.
“A Steady Rain,” a two-character melodrama, written by Keith Huff, opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater on Sept. 29th and my back-of-the-house ticket was for October 1st. Having counted down the days, I danced to the box office with the printed confirmation number in hand. I proudly presented the window agent my receipt but he shook his head saying there was no ticket. I had him search every database and file. He even called the Stub Hub office. It was now five minutes to curtain and I was on the verge of hysteria, pleading desperately with the agent to just let me into the show. He calmly told me that there were tickets available to purchase in the front center of the orchestra. They were house seats reserved for last minute VIPs. To hell with my budget in this tight economy - I plunked down my credit card and paid all over again, running breathless to my seat as the lights dimmed.
The curtain rose and only a few feet away were two actors who totally commanded the stage. They engaged the audience in a tale of two police partners covering the gritty underbelly of Chicago. They used nothing more than dialogue and body language (sometimes seated, sometimes standing) to create the most vivid, multi-dimensional portraits. Daniel Craig bared no resemblance to his film roles, taking on an almost whimpish, recalcitrant demeanor as “Joey,” while Hugh Jackman was all muscle, sexuality and bravado as “Denny.” They were beat cops with different codes of street justice and honor. The relationship between the partners unfolded as each described their version of an evening that began at Denny’s house with his wife and young kids. On this evening, Denny’s living room becomes the target of a drive-by shooting that physically shatters his home and threatens the life of his youngest son. Well worth the price.
-Rosemary Kalikow Entertainment Editor: Lori Bizzoco