Het Schjip: the Amsterdam style

Still life with sunglasses, Amsterdam.

Hi, Adrian Tomine!

On Wednesday night, Comic superstar Adrian Tomine had a signing at (the awesome) Desert Island in Williamsburg to launch Optic Nerve 12. I won’t pretend to be any kind of expert in the graphic novel realm, but in the case of Optic Nerve, I’m a major fangirl.

I distinctly remember the first time I came across it – a friend was having a big sale/clear-out of his record store, and there was a copy of an early issue on the coffee table (not for sale). I opened it to a random page, and then had to sit down to read the next page, and the next… I spent the next hour ignoring everyone and everything around me. I couldn’t put it down.

There’s something so captivating and honest about his characters, and you end up reading the spaces around them as much as their expressions or words. So it was amazing to meet him in person and have a chat to him while he drew this for me, and customised another book for a friend. It’s awesome to meet your heroes and discover they’re just as approachable, sincere and funny as you imagined they’d be.

The Raincoats: proof that awesome gets better with age

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I love The Raincoats, so I was thrilled to find a flyer announcing a show in Brooklyn. At first I thought it must be a new band with the same name, because I didn’t think they’d played in about 25 years… thankfully, awesome reunions are still in vogue.

What a show. The venue, Warsaw, might be my favourite in all of Brooklyn/NYC – a beautiful Polish community club at the bottom of Greenpoint, built in 1914, with a stunning olde-timey ballroom that must have fit over 500 people. After the strange No Bra opener (she lived up to the name, and didn’t wear a shirt or pants either. Hmm.), support act Grass Widow were tons of fun, and then the grande dames themselves took the stage. It made me think about how older women are almost invisible in our culture, and why it’s so rare to see older women rocking out – seeing Patti Smith a couple of years ago was the only instance I could think of. We’re all the poorer because of it.

The Raincoats sounded as fresh and punky and cross as ever, sweet one minute, pissed off the next. I hope I can be as awesome as them when I grow up.

David Simon: “What I have found myself writing about is the end of empire: what happens when the affluent decide not to pay their share.”

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that David Simon has transformed the way many of us think about the interconnectedness of the social issues that plague our cities and communities in the C 21st. The Wire zoomed out, from the street corner to city hall, weaving an epic narrative on the political and economic pressures fracturing labor rights, hollowing-out education and crippling policing.

At the very least, he changed writing for television, and raised the bar for all comers.

So of course I was stupidly excited to hear that he’d be speaking at the BMW Guggenheim Lab on the LES. Simon took the mic and spoke honestly, angrily and informally, without notes, for two hours straight. I found myself agreeing with almost every point he raised. I stood on the edge of the crowd and took notes till my thumbs hurt.

Here’s all the quotes I managed to capture. They’re a bit random and disconnected, but you’ll get the general idea of the tone of his talk.

David Simon, NYC. August 31, 2011.

What I have found myself writing about is the end of empire: what happens when the affluent decide not to pay their share.

What we’re looking at now is the moral equivalent of a gated community…. I’ve got mine, so fuck him.

What we are looking at is the triumph of capital. I would date it to 1980: there has been a class war, and my class is winning.

Capitalism is the only way to build mass wealth: it is not a meaningful blueprint for a just society.

It’s a casino: if you mistake it for a mechanism that will build a just society, you do that at your peril. We’ve been doing that for 30 years.

The good news is that it’s going to get worse… It won’t be in NY, it’ll be in St Louis or another place like that… It’ll happen in places where the game is so rigged, where the crumbs that fall from the table are so small, that people will rise up.

The thing that made America great is organized labor… If you look at what labor gave us, it didn’t just give us a living wage. It created a consumer class, people who were willing to buy shit, that is the engine that drives the American economy.

If you come to NY you feel like the center of the universe, everything happens first here… It’s the triumph of NY that the rest of the world doesn’t matter that much. The problem is that whatever cancer the rest of the country is experiences, you don’t feel it here.

People are being thrown away, people that we dont need, people being trained for the corner. When you just don’t need 15-20% of your population anymore, economically, all you can do is make them chow for the system. It makes economic sense to make money off human misery.

Our prisons are publicly traded companies. How do you get 6 or 8% profits when you’re running prisons? You have to make it a growth industry: you have to send more people to jail.

We have more people in jail in America by sheer number and percentage than China, than any other state in the world…. Criminal justice is the largest growing lobbying group. The core chow is people trying to move to a better life, and low-level drug offenders.

Capital has not only achieved this for itself, it has also purchased the government that you might want to use to do something about it.

Two things: opt out for drug wars, acquit low level offenders.

Question time: usually 50% of questions about Omar

Question on the response to Obama’s healthcare plan: this is about the upper middle class, the middle class, and even the working class saying: if someone is below me, fuck em. What do you think the concept of group healthcare is? It’s socialistic. What they’re saying is I want socialism for me, for people who look like me, who work where I work. When people who are affluent do this, that’s a society in decline.

I’m not looking for moustache twirlers: I just think money routes itself. I think the collapse of high end media isn’t a conspiracy, I think that it’s just good luck for capital.

I took my buyout (from The Baltimore Sun) before the Internet, with 100 other reporters, when the Sun was making a 37% profit. This wasn’t a technological issue: only one thing makes society and people that stupid: money. They could make more money putting out a shittier product. All we have left is Barnum, putting our hand in the next guy’s pocket. If they can make money now, they don’t care if the industry survives the next three months.

I think things can change: I think the first good sign is the Times charging for content.

Question on whether is is better to make these points through art, than journalism: I get more attention: I get to do nice things like talk to you about cities tonight because I made a television show… I wouldn’t have been invited here if I was the police reporter for the Balitmore Sun.

It doesn’t work because it’s more expensive than journalism: it costs HBO $30 or 40 million to make a
season of the Wire or Treme… That’s too much money and it takes too long.

Question about filmmaking: I dont know anything about making a film. I have a general studies degree from the University of Maryland.

I can’t tell a story in a medium where you have to stop every 12 minutes to sell people shit. You need to keep eyeballs…. And you can’t tell a story that is dark, much less something that is tragic, because no one wants to watch that shit and then go out and buy iPads and Lincoln Continentals… Premium cable has taken that dynamic and shattered it…. Now that it’s about DVDs and on demand, the ratings mean even less. That economic model makes possible storytelling that is plausible.

I tend not to hire TV writers: I think it’s easier to bring journalists and novelists through the keyhole  into TV. If they make tv I don’t want them: I’m scared that it’ll end up too much like TV.

Next show: We can’t find anyone who is willing to do anything on organized labor. I’d love to do mini-series on key moments in organized labor, but no one is interested. It’s like talking about a museum piece for most people.

I see the American middle class as a person at a casino with the hand on a machine, not noticing everyone around them going bust. All they can see is the guy two rows over who is winning, and all the bells and whistles are going off… There is the secret notion among all these people who are getting creamed that one day I might be the guy on the machine that wins. It’s that level of perfect greed that our political demagoguery takes advantage of to get people to vote against their own interests.

What people forget when they bitch about welfare is that 99% of that money goes straight back into the economy. When rich people make money is goes into the bank.

Photobumming: the act of accidentally being in a shot of a band you like because you are such a fanboi you stand embarrassingly close to them.

As in: “That girl really photobummed both these shots of Stephen Malkmus and the Horrors.”

Jane’s Sweet Buns: bite the booze

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We visited Jane’s Sweet Buns (at St Mark’s Place) on my birthday, and I demolished an Old Fashioned Bun with bourbon pecan and sticky caramel, washed down with a choc mint iced tea from Physical Graffitea a few doors down. Jane’s store is stupidly cute and I love the concept behind it: sweet buns based on old-style cocktails. Win-win! Click for more pics.








Pre-Irene scenes

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I love this subway billboard takeover

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Sneaky pics from the Alexander McQueen show at the Met

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Yes, I know it’s bad and wrong to take photos in an exhibition, but I couldn’t help myself. Such an incredible exhibition, a fitting celebration of a brilliant artist and designer. I couldn’t handle the 2.5 hr line so I became a member of the Met and jumped the queue.







Therese Rawsthorne’s Twin Peaks moment

Stunning show from Therese Rawsthorne at Australian Fashion Week. Not sure what I loved more; the flashes of colour, the beautiful prints, the great hair & make up, the excellent back-gathered pink pants, the orchids as fasteners, or the awesome Twin Peaks theme: complete with log lady and cherry pie.

Watch a rather crappy final walk video on Posterous

Romance Was Born at the State Library of NSW

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Amazing show at the Mitchell Library kicks off Sydney fashion week for 2011. Complete with orchestra and children’s choir performing the theme from the Neverending Story… magical.

See the full gallery, and a rather bad video, on Posterous

Flowers (and vases) in Amsterdam.

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Antwerp Cathedral. Belgium.

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Call me old fashioned, but I love visiting a cathedral. 

However secular a culture may be, their religious institutions contain traces of the fundamental values that colour a society. In the case of the Antwerp Cathedral, it spoke to me of a hertiage rich with experimentation and adoption, open-minded, acquistive, and inquisitive. 

There’s a richness of colour, and playfulness with pattern and design that is unique among the many I’ve visited in Europe. There’s a lovely record of the layers of occupations and style. Heraldic identity is strong, and somehow there is a sense of independence from Catholic dogma.  

See the full gallery on Posterous

Antwerp Cathedral. Belgium.

Armadillo handbag. Museum of Bags and Purses, Amsterdam

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See the full gallery on Posterous

Give me the change you said would do me good… Gang of Four are still one of the best bands ever.

Everyone gets down (on the floor) at Les Savy Fav

Dear train vandal…

…thank you for making my trip 100% more interesting

A review of Dia: Beacon brings back memories of one of my all-time favourite art museum experiences…

Visiting Dia:Beacon ranks as one of my all-time favourite art museum experiences. I went up to Beacon with a friend in July last year, but visited the gallery by myself, wandering through the enormous halls alone for hours. The no-photo policy focused my mind on experiencing the work, and the tight selection of artists on show focused my attention on examining what these artists were getting at with their endless exploration of a limited set of materials.

My favourite rooms were filled with John Chamberlain’s crushed cars; colourful, precariously balanced and – standing beside them, you quickly realise – inert, but deadly. I became aware of the force needed to crush them, a force I controlled every time I got behind a wheel. I became aware of the fragility of the car, and the tenuous nature of the automated, controlled, empowered culture it represents. Through the repetition of these forms around the huge hall, I started thinking about the endless permutations of expression, of how demanding an idea can be on an artist, hurling itself against the mind again and again, seeking perfect synthesis. I’d seen a Chamberlain before, at the Pompediou, but it didn’t have this kind of impact. Andy Warhol’s Shadows had a similar effect, the repetition raising questions about the hand of the artist, and how gesture (or the illusion of it) and colour strike your emotions.

I adored Dan Flavin and Robert Smithson’s rooms, Joseph Beuys too, of course… there was also a temporary installation by Zoe Leonard, a work gathering and displaying 4000 postcards from Niagara Falls, which was compelling viewing, the kind of work that excites the imagination of any historian, obsessive or anyone interested in the way we mythologise the places and times we inhabit.

Dia:Beacon is an exceptional place filled with incredible work and just the right mood to contemplate it.

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(39 degrees at Coogee)

(tuberose is now in season!)

(snorkeling at Clovelly)

(morning swim)