Paul Rudd Learns The Fundamentals of Caring

"How would you wipe my ass?" is not a question asked at every job interview, but it is in the Netflix adaptation of Jonathan Evison's enthusiastically praised 2012 novel, The Revised Fundamentals of Caring.

The Boston Globe critic, in fact, raved that the book reminded him of "Little Miss Sunshine meets Rain Man." The New York Times insisted the work was "infused with a sad rage that makes good comedy great," and the LA Weekly added that here was "a literary version of a good grunge song." Read more »

Quote of the Week: Bernie Worrell

"I talk by playing, not by words."

Bernie Worrell (19 April 1944 - 24 June 2016), American keyboardist and composer best known as a founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic and for his work with Talking Heads.

Smile When The World Is Blue

The Golden Smile
Written by Yaakov Bressler
Directed by Joey Stamp
Planet Connections, NYC
June 16-July 3, 2016

The Planet Connections Festivity is "New York's premiere socially-conscious arts festival," dedicated to inspiring community outreach and social change and to operating eco-friendly productions. One of the full-length plays in the 2016 Festivity is playwright and researcher at Columbia University Medical Center Yaakov Bressler’s comedy The Golden Smile, which follows seven patients in a mental care facility in the 1950s as they attempt to create their own play. Read more »

Currents In Photography

Currents In Photography comprises five adventurous artists in a thematic exhibition that explores the boundaries of photography; what a camera can do, or perhaps what the word photography even means. How far can one step outside of the box and still be in it? I needed to ask if Kaethe Kauffman's work was part of the exhibition, thoroughly confused as to whether it was a photograph at all. The work looks like collaged charcoal drawing on paper. Turns out charcoal drawing is employed along with several other techniques, photographed and reproduced by an inkjet printer, then worked back into again. The resulting mystical images are neither directly figurative nor abstract. Those leaning more towards abstraction still appear to be some thing -- perhaps visions experienced by the meditating figure pictured in the other works. His or her corporeal form is seated Buddha style surrounded by a shattered aura that bursts into monochromatic fragmentation. Paired with Ms. Kauffman in the placement of artworks, Bert G.F. Shankman's close up shots of flowers are plainly photographs, yet they strive toward ethereal, other worldly exotica -- like a shamanistic vision. Can art be both subtle and bold? It seems so. Read more »

Joe Walsh's Best Serious Songs

I recently posted a Joe Walsh song on my Facebook wall and the reaction was mixed. One commenter wrote, "Walsh always struck me as the real-life Spicoli, and that was about as seriously as I could take him." This is a common misconception about Walsh.

Walsh has had a music career of over five decades.  There are many, many people who know of him mostly as a member of the Eagles (since 1975) who had a hit in 1978 with a funny song, "Life's Been Good." Yet Walsh was a music biz veteran of eleven years’ standing when Hotel California was released in 1976; he would not have been recruited into the Eagles if he had not already established himself as such a distinctive guitarist that he could instantly give them the rock cred they so desired. Already on his resume were the killer riffs of "Rocky Mountain Way," "Turn to Stone," "Walk Away," and "Funk #49." The latter two came with the James Gang, an Ohio band that gathered an international following after so impressing the Who while opening for them in Pittsburgh that they were invited to open for the Who for a whole tour. Read more »

Jane Eaton Hamilton's Genderqueer Weekend

"I just wanted to write a silly little romance," says Jane Eaton Hamilton on the phone from Canada, about her new novel, Weekend. Hamilton accomplished that, if you consider a riveting, frank, nuanced exploration of adult sexuality and love silly or minor. A tale of two couples -- all female, but not all identifying as such -- whose relationships come into focus over an intense few days, the novel sends new lovers to an island owned by someone with whom each has a tricky history -- at which point their host's own happy life begins revealing troubling undercurrents. Weekend wears its gender, racial, and economic politics lightly. Yet the intelligence of Hamilton's observations and the spare beauty of her language elevate highly specific dynamics into a work that crosses all boundaries.

After having amassed a body of incisive essays, nine books of award-winning short stories and poetry, and a memoir about having children with a man who turned out to be a pedophile rapist, the Canada native is starting a new chapter of sorts with Weekend. "I actually quit writing in 2003 because of lousy reception," she says. "And then my marriage broke up in 2011 unexpectedly." She decided to give writing another shot. "Although I mourn the work I didn't write during those years, I came back to it so invigorated and refreshed that it's like an entirely different career." Read more »

Video of the Week: Anna Rose - "Start A War"

One of my favorite NYC-based singer/songwriters is up to more master strokes with the release of this thoughtful and moody ballad.-- "Start A War" -- from her six song EP Strays in the Cut (Noble Steed Music). I could not help but think of the Wilson sisters from Heart as being some sort of sideways inspiration. Well played, Ms. Anna Rose, well played.

The Neon Demon or Another Reason to Hate Top Models and Danish-Born Directors

The Danish-born director, Nicolas Winding Refn, has helmed a few popular movies such as Drive (2011), Bronson (2008), and the Pusher trilogy. This success has been only slightly marred by a handful of far-less-favored works including Fear X (2003) and Only God Forgives (2013) starring Ryan Gosling. Read more »

Universal Robots

Universal Robots
Written by Mac Rogers
Directed by Jordana Williams
Presented by Gideon Productions The Sheen Center, NYC
June 3-26, 2016 (special performances: parents’ matinee, 6/12; audio described for the visually impaired, 6/15; ASL interpreted, 6/23)

Contemporary theater is not exactly bursting at the seams with works in the science fiction genre. With a new production of Mac Rogers’ 2009 Universal Robots, Rogers and Jordana Williams, the writer and director respectively of last year's acclaimed extraterrestrial invasion play cycle The Honeycomb Trilogy, reunite to continue bucking that trend. Universal Robots uses multigeneric Czech writer Karel Čapek's influential 1920 play R.U.R., commonly translated as Rossum's Universal Robots, "as a point of departure for an original speculative drama," borrowing some situations and concepts while crafting an alternate history that differs from our own in some smaller ways (real-life Čapek's brother and writing partner Josef becomes Josephine) and some much larger ones that we won’t spoil the fun of finding out here. Though Čapek's life and corpus provide the intertextual focus, audiences will also be put in mind of the works of writers including Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov, as well as of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, shades of which permeate not only the often Futurist aesthetic of the set but also the play's consideration of the means of production. Read more »

Hany Abu-Assad: Being a Savior is a Burden

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards," noted Soren Kierkgaard, but what if you don't see much of a future for yourself and those around you? Will you just become mired in the past? That's the plight of many of the characters in the critically acclaimed offerings of Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad, whose contentious works have twice been nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscars: Paradise Now in 2006 and Omar in 2014. Read more »

Music and Sex #11: Music, Music, and More Music

Music and Sex: Scenes from a life - A novel in progress (first chapter here).

Walter had been so busy with midterms that he hadn't gone record-shopping recently. Neither had he spent his income on anything else, other than eating on the weekends, though he'd eaten better than usual. He'd wandered into a fast-food place on Broadway called Amy's and, for the first time in his life, had tried a falafel sandwich. Well, not really a sandwich, at least not as he thought of a sandwich, which was (mostly) meat between two separate pieces of bread, but he didn't know what else to call these things stuffed into pita bread. He'd liked it, not least because just one sandwich was very filling, so he had gone back regularly for lunch on weekends. It was a nice change of pace from the food at John Jay cafeteria. There never seemed to be many customers, though. Read more »

Tattooed Tokyo – A Combination of Factors

Tattooed Tokyo – A Combination of Factors
Prince Gallery, Copenhagen

In his Post-Apocalyptic Tattoo (1998-2008) and Graffoo series (2006-2009) -- currently on show at Prince Gallery in Copenhagen -- D. Dominick Lombardi playfully tackles the theme of the human condition. In these series, a distant future is imagined where pollutants, transgenic food and tainted water cause genetic mutations at the reproductive level. Despite the brightly colored, graphic renditions of cartoon-like tumorous mutations often set on candy colored backgrounds (photographs taken on a trip to japan, and reworked in Photoshop), the works tell a much bleaker story of a deeply impacted society seen from the perspective of a future tattoo artist whose final designs record the extreme mutations of the distant future. Read more »

Song of the Week: Kandace Springs - "Soul Eyes"

Why did I not find this sooner? Kandace Springs is a force of nature. From Nashville, with so much soul and jazz and piano chops in tow, she's a "can't miss" talent. This amazing, evocative single -- "Soul Eyes" -- is from her Capitol debut to be released on Bluenote on July 1st.

May Classical Review Roundup

Hélene Grimaud
Water: Berio: Wasserklavier: Sawhney: Water: Transitions 1-7; Takemitsu: Rain Tree Sketch No. 2; Fauré: Barcarolle No. 5; Ravel: Jeux d'eau; Albéniz: Almeria; Liszt: Les Jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este; Janáček: In the Mist: No. 1; Debussy: La Cathedrale engloutie
(Deutsche Grammophon)
 
Classical purists be warned: almost half the tracks here are not the solo piano recital you might expect from the billing. Instead, Grimaud had composer Nitin Sawhney create electronic bridging miniatures (ranging from 0:56 to 1:41) fitted between the solo piano tracks. This works wonderfully well, changing this album from a traditional presentation into a moody soundscape (though the purist crowd was quick to take offense, witness the extremely snarky review on classicstoday.com). Of course, Grimaud is her usual scintillating self on the solo piano pieces. 

Song of the Week: Breanna Barbara - "Sailin' Sailin'"

"Sailin' Sailin'" is our perfect perfect song of the week from the NYC-based singer-songwriter Breanna Barbara and pulled from her forthcoming album Mirage Dreams (No Roads Records). Her blissed-out blues conjure up the stripped down mojo of PJ Harvey and early Delta blues. It was produced and recorded by Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) at The Bomb Shelter in East Nashville.

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