Monthly Archives: July 2015

Link Party: 7/27-7/31

I went to LACMA by myself on Monday to renew my membership / see the Kanye West music video, which was not disappointing. Afterwards, I had the whole Impressionists gallery to myself. A++.

I went to LACMA by myself on Monday to renew my membership / see the Kanye West music video installation, which was absolutely and totally incredible. Afterwards, I had the whole Impressionists gallery to myself. Good times. 

I’d like to know where July went. Please tell me. Anyway, here’s what I read this week:

1. iTunes is the worst re: metadata.

2. You all are sleeping on the Arctic Monkeys, but the South Americans are not. This article also has some interesting things to say about South America infrastructure and the power of the Internet.

3. The New York magazine story about 35 women who have spoken up about being assaulted by Bill Cosby is one of the finest examples of journalism I’ve seen this year.

4. Margaret Hamilton, the programmer that saved the Apollo moon landing, is a badass.

5. Okay, real talk: Although I was (aw) an English major, I practiced AP style and did not use the Oxford comma unless the context really needed one. However, I have strong feelings about the need to capitalize the word “Internet.” It should definitely be capitalized.

And a bonus: All of the best Seinfeld lines compiled in one video. A+++++++++.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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Culture Connoisseur: The Hollywood Bowl

One of the most magical moments of my life was hearing George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" performed live at the Hollywood Bowl. What a night.

One of the most magical moments of my life was hearing George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” performed live at the Hollywood Bowl. What a night.

A special Friday edition of Culture Connoisseur. 

Last night I attended a classical music concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Not only did I get to see one of my favorite shows being filmed (something I didn’t know until the night before), I got to indulge in one of the best things to do in Los Angeles in the summertime. If you haven’t heard of the Bowl before, it’s one of the oldest venues in the city with one of the most storied histories. Set deep into the Hollywood Hills, the Bowl attracts people from all across Los Angeles to come listen to some of the best music in the world. I’ve gone to my fair share of rock concerts and festivals, but there are a few things about  the Bowl in particular that I really love. 

The calendar is wonderful. 

If you look at the summer calendar, you’ll notice that there’s a wide range and selection of concerts to attend. The three classical music concerts I’ve seen at the Bowl — a selection of Gershwin, Yo-Yo Ma performing Debussy, and last night’s Gustavo Dudamel conducting Mozart — rank up there in my personal list of favorites. The Los Angeles Philharmonic is really top-notch, and Angelenos are really lucky to have access. For people who aren’t super into classical music, they also have movie music performances (John Williams famously does shows) and other stuff (This entire weekend, Eric Idle is presenting Spamalot.) Sometimes other artists will come in and use the venue too.

If you're not lucky enough to be sitting in one of the boxes, you can see the musicians on the screens around the venue. Here's Yo-Yo Ma.

If you’re not lucky enough to be sitting in one of the boxes, you can see the musicians on the screens around the venue. Here’s Yo-Yo Ma.

You don’t have to get really expensive seats to enjoy the performances, either. Although I would love to buy a box, just about anywhere in that first tier of seats behind the boxes has an unobstructed view of both the screens and the stage (If you’re really interested, I like K2). The most I’ve ever spent on tickets in that tier is about $60 each, but that was for Yo-Yo Ma and entirely worth it. I’ve never gone and have wanted to, but legend has it that you can attend morning rehearsals for free.

 

The setup is great. 

The Bowl is on Highland Avenue right below the 101 Freeway, so it can be really terrible to get there. Plus, there’s a lot of stacked parking, and I have yet to figure out how people would leave if there was an emergency / I’m sure it costs a fortune. However, the really cool thing about concerts at the Hollywood Bowl is that you can buy a round-trip shuttle pass that takes you there and brings you back. I usually go to concerts with my grandmother who lives in Arcadia, so we jump on the shuttle that leaves from Arcadia County Park. It’s only about $6 per person, and you can buy shuttle tickets on Ticketmaster when you purchase your concert tickets. The first shuttle arrives about an hour before showtime, so you can relax and eat before settling in. And, you feel better about your carbon footprint and saving gas. Win win win win win win.

The Bowl has a few restaurants and table service in the boxes, but most people bring their own food and wine to enjoy before the performances. If you get there early enough you can snag a picnic table (I low key feel like you’d need to get there at noon for an 8 p.m. performance though). However, there’s nothing quite like getting to your seat early and cracking open a feast. Trust me.

There really is something indescribable about being  enveloped in darkness and music.

There really is something indescribable about being enveloped in darkness and music.

The atmosphere is magical. 

A lot of people think that classical music is “too cultured” or whatever, which is a phrase I really hate and one that is entirely not true. People from all walks of life come to enjoy the performances and the feeling of being at the Bowl. Music composed and originally performed hundreds of years ago can make you feel the same way as a contemporary song in 2015, and if you dig enough you can find stuff you’ll really like. Sure, the classical concerts are mostly instrumental or sung in different languages, and most of the time you’re watching what the musicians are doing via a large screen. But just sitting there after a good meal, soaking in the immense sound and appreciating that someone was genius enough to think of the beauty and commit it to paper / that there are people in front of you who are masters at what they do is an incredible experience that I hope everyone can have at least once in their lifetime. 

Have you been to the Hollywood Bowl before or have questions? Let’s discuss in the comments.

 

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Link Party: 7/20-7/24

I love brunch. Whoever came up with the idea for brunch is a genius.

I love brunch. Whoever came up with the idea for brunch is a genius.

I had a good week and I hope you did too. Here’s what I read:

1. A Paul Ford discussion on Internet security in light of both the Ashley Madison hacks and the latest Gawker controversy.

2. I finished “The White Album” earlier this week, so I am loving this Paris Review interview with Joan Didion.

3. Inside couture ateliers, with photos.

4. An interesting profile on the artist Damien Hirst.

5. Honestly, this 200+ Tweet essay of Joshua Clover’s decision to quit his job at Spin is just absolutely and totally fantastic. If you read anything on this list, please make it this. You will not regret it.

And a bonus: This supercut of Don Draper saying “what” is the best thing in this entire universe.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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Culture Connoisseur: Tame Impala’s “Currents”

 

What great album artwork, am I right?

What great album artwork, am I right?

The beginning of my interest in music began in late middle school and early high school, a time I spent listening to a lot of 1960s rock. I don’t really remember what prompted the exploration and why I chose to start there, but I was obsessed with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” read multiple Jim Morrison biographies, and borrowed all of the CDs I could from both my dad’s stellar collection and the public library. My ninth-grade research paper for honors English was on the impact of the counterculture. In addition to being fascinated by the social and cultural upheaval happening in the 1960s and wanting to learn more about the history, I gravitated towards the decade’s music more so than anything playing on the radio between 2006-08, mostly because I liked how experimental it was — in both its sound and its lyrical content.

So when I listened to Tame Impala’s “Currents,” which dropped Friday, I wasn’t surprised that I immediately liked it. Fronted by Kevin Parker, Tame Impala is a rock band based in Australia. You’d probably recognize at least one of their songs — “Elephant” was featured in several commercials — and the band frequently performs at festivals. Tame Impala’s sound in general is very pyschedelic, and would fit right in with the discography of the 1960s.

“Currents” especially has been met with great critical acclaim, and I like “Currents” so much that I think I’ve listened through it at least 15 times. Not only is it my favorite album of the summer, but I think it’s one of the best albums of 2015 and probably one of the best albums of all time. Here are two reasons why.

The intersection of genres is refreshing. 

Parker, who is very cognizant of the psychedelic label critics put on the band’s first two albums, wanted to make a record that a DJ would play in a club. I can imagine a Las Vegas DJ spinning a song from the album, as “Currents” is definitely an album to dance to. “Let it Happen,” the first track, even nods a little bit to EDM with a bass drop and for sure bows to an album like Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories,” an album that re-modernized disco. The only things that really solidify “Currents” as a Tame Impala album is Parker’s voice and the known penchant for lo-fi experimentation, which I don’t mind.

One of the first things I noticed in listening to the album is a lack of guitar, which Tame Impala heavily relied upon in earlier work. Just that alone is progressive. Plus, two songs on the album — “Nangs” and “Gossip” — are nearly or entirely instrumental and function as breaks between the narrative, which I’ll get to in a second. The introduction of thicker synth makes it pretty groovy, and some of the songs have some pretty sick beats: in particular, “The Moment,” “The Less I Know The Better” and “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” So many artists pigeonhole themselves into one genre or sound because that’s what has made them popular, but Tame Impala threw the notion out the window.

The lyrical content is incredible and tells a cohesive story. 

Backing up the actual music of “Currents” is a unparalleled lyrical prowess. Tame Impala’s music very often deals with isolation and the limits of interpersonal relationships, and “Currents” isn’t much of a departure. The 13 tracks on “Currents” particularly deal with a narrator who both implicitly and explicitly questions authenticity, control and change. “The Moment,” replying on the repetition of “it’s getting closer,” explores a now-or-never mentality that fades out without any real closure. Of of the most profound lyrics on the album is in the fourth track “Yes I’m Changing.” “They say people never change, but that’s bullshit / they do” challenges the idea that mindset is permanent and that widely-held social views aren’t always the truth. The album ends with “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” a track that suggests that the narrator’s transformation isn’t all sunshine and roses through changes in voice. For example, “Feel like a brand new person” is followed by a lower and delayed “But you make the same old mistakes,” a style followed throughout the song in spots like “I know that you think it’s fake / Maybe fake’s what I like.” The entire album centers on the uncertainty and skepticism of whether or not people really change and care about how “real” their world really is, which you don’t get much of in today’s popular music.

At the middle of the album, the narrator is also working through both a relationship breakup that reverberates at several points. “Eventually” is about the deterioration of a relationship, which leads into “Gossip,” an instrumental piece that translates the blurriness and emotional fallout of a breakup. But that precedes “The Less I Know The Better,” a song about jealousy and the notion of true love, which is then followed by “Past Life,” a track about reliving memories and experiences. “Disciples” also has the narrator realizing that his former lover has become a different person since the breakup, and that he wants “to be like we used to” and go back to that familiarity. All five of these songs are particularly interesting when you compound them with the role of social media as essentially a personal history book, and how we are constantly forced to remember events and relationships from the past whether we want to or not. We have to relive the relationships and the feelings over and over again because there’s no distance between the past and the present.

For me, “Currents” in many ways echoes the reasons why I loved psychedelic and progressive rock so much. The deep and thoughtful exploration of really heavy themes coupled with interesting and layered sounds makes it a masterpiece, and I’ll be very interested to see if it holds up well and whether or not future listeners will be able to gleam anything about the cultural upheaval of the 2010s. You can buy “Currents” on iTunes or Amazon, or you can listen here.

Listened to “Currents” and want to talk about it? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

 

 

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Link Party: 7/6-7/10

The best thing about lately is that I have had more time to focus on making stuff. On the left, part of a watercolor print I've taped into my sketchbook. On the right, a image transfer background, my photo of a field somewhere in northern France and a Rumi quote.

The best thing about lately is that I have had more time to focus on making stuff. On the left, part of a watercolor print I made and taped into my sketchbook. On the right, a image transfer background, my photo of a field somewhere in northern France and a Rumi quote.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. I love Diane Keaton, and this New Yorker profile from the 1970s is fantastic.

2. Why babies in medieval art look like ugly old men.

3. I say it every week on Twitter, but Rachel McAdams as Ani Bezzerides is truly the best part of this season of True Detective.

4. The story behind the iconic photo of an American girl in Italy.

5. This guy looking for an apartment in New York accidentally inherited a stranger’s entire home.

And a bonus: Dirtbag Hamlet is the best in the Dirtbag series, but Dirtbag Louis XIV comes in a close second.

Have a wonderful weekend.

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Think Tank: Ephemera

A bookmark I found in a used book I bought -- I think a collection of Flannery O'Connor stories.

A bookmark I found in a used book I bought — I think a collection of Flannery O’Connor stories.

One of the reasons why I like to buy used books is that I can almost always count on it to come with some kind of ephemera. I find everything from receipts to indecipherable drawings to old boarding pass stubs tucked into the pages. I don’t mind at all– it’s a neat addition to an already great concept. I’m buying a used book from somewhere in the world, and it may come with a surprise. They’re obviously things someone inadvertently forgot to take out. The more I think about the ephemera I find, the more fascinating I find it.

Why was John Hoskins flying to Amsterdam? And how old is this stub? So. Many. Questions. 

In our everyday lives, we take these little bits of paper — receipts, scribbled notes to ourselves, handouts given to us on the street — for granted. That boarding pass I found in my new-to-me copy of Don DeLillo’s Underworld got someone from Los Angeles to Amsterdam. The drawing I found of what seems to be city streets in an Italo Calvino novel I bought to save money on class texts was maybe a set of directions, trying to help someone remember where something was. And in addition to these primary functions, this ephemera maybe had an additional one as a bookmark — a pause in reading. Or maybe the original owner of these books (or whoever had it before me) meant to save it and realized too late that it was gone, or maybe it was meant to be thrown away. I don’t know and will never be able to find out what these pieces of paper meant to the people who left them in the books, as the used book warehouses that sell them on the Amazon Marketplace or Thrift Books probably don’t know either.

Reader, why did you leave this receipt for a Calvino book in another Calvino book…?

…and what does this mean?

But in addition to what I found them in, these pieces of ephemera host a lot of unanswered questions. The boarding pass — Why did John Hoskins choose to read Underworld? Why was he going to Amsterdam, and why did he decide to get rid of the book? And the San Francisco Public Library receipt that has no name, with the words “Mullioned Mandrel” written on the back — why did you leave this receipt for Calvino’s Invisible Cities in another Calvino book? And why are you reading so much Calvino, and what is the significance of “Mullioned Mandrel”? Who were these people, and what did they think of the stories? Why did they decide to get rid of these books, and how many people’s hands did they pass through before they got to me?

I have tried so hard to figure out what these directions mean, but still have no idea.

I realize that I’m extrapolating much farther than I should on finding old pieces of paper in books I buy and asking way too many questions I can never have the answers to (#journalist), but then I wonder about me and what things I’ve left in books that are no longer mine. There may have been someone who wondered who Zoë Lance was, and why she wrote dumb notes in her books or left a receipt or bookmark inside the cover. And I have no idea how many people beyond me have had my old books in their possession, and what they thought of my coffee order or why I left this to-do list in a book I gave away. But I think that’s kind of magical. It reminds me that reading is a communal and networked effort, and that our life stories are told in many different mediums. The stuff left behind in the stories I’m reading further connect me to other people throughout the world. I think that’s important in a world that is becoming increasingly digital.

This is one of my favorite things I've found -- a card that fell out of a book I didn't end up buying at my club's used book sale, but couldn't resist keeping.

This is one of my favorite things I’ve found — a card that fell out of a book I didn’t end up buying at my club’s used book sale, but couldn’t resist keeping.

What I’m trying to say in a very roundabout sort of way is that we leave paper trails wherever we go that are part of bigger stories, and the ephemera we leave in books specifically ends up connecting readers to each other in a way that is both accidental and beautiful.  So remember that the next time you stick a Starbucks receipt or a note to yourself in a book to keep your spot. You may never know who may uncover it.

Have you ever found something interesting in a book you’ve bought? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Link Party: 6/29-7/3

There are these small trees that line my street, and they have beautiful flowers. If you know what they're called, please let me know!

There are these small trees that line my street, and they have beautiful flowers. If you know what they’re called, please let me know!

Here’s what I read this week:

1. I didn’t notice how many X should buy Y articles there are out there, and now I will.

2. I’m not a fan of Taylor Swift, but after reading this essay I understand her cultural pull a little more.

3. The Notorious RBG.

4. I haven’t watched the new Daft Punk documentary because I don’t remember enough French to get by without subtitles, but this list of trivia mined from it is awesome.

5. A linguist explains how we use sarcasm on the Internet.

And two bonuses, because I’m the best: Behind-the-scenes footage of “Inherent Vice,” and a really great song from The Arcs, the side project of The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend!

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