30 March 2010

That Teenage Feeling

Admit it, sometimes you kind of miss being an angsty teenager, cutting up computer print outs of your favorite mournful Fiona Apple lyrics, and pasting them on your bedroom wall. (Other people did that, right?)

Well, a Lithuanian company called The Love Agency has made this self-indulgent hobby more adult by creating a series of posters depicting quotes from various songs about love, with an obvious indie bent. 

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Bon Iver


All have been auctioned off, and apparently the company has made quite a profit. 

My first thought: Make more! Make different ones! Design on commission! 

My second thought: Is this legal? As we all know, lyrics websites are notoriously sketchy due to copyright and ownership rules. Did this Lithuanian company manage to get permission from all of these artists and labels before they designed them? 

29 March 2010

ColorForms at the Hirshhorn

I don't know what the common Hirshhorn experience is for DC residents and visitors, but I've always been a bit let down.  Entire floors were always closed, rooms blocked off, and strange installations seemed to take up too much space.   In short, my expectations were low on this chilly Washington weekend.   I was really wrong.

The current exhibit, ColorForms, was one of the cooler that I've ever seen.  It was like visiting an entirely new museum.  The works all seemed to fit with one another, every floor was open, and they had some ridiculously cool experimental films in different rooms, including this 1975 Paul Sharits piece called "Shutter Interface."

So, seriously, go to the Hirshhorn.  And then tell me what you think of that 3 screen elephant film.

26 March 2010

The Saul Bass Look

Saul, who?  Trust me, you know the look even if you don't know the name. Saul Bass was (and still is) the most (only) well-known graphic designer in the film industry. Responsible for posters and title sequences that came to define the weird, jazzy, angular spirit of the late 60s, his influence on our own modern nostalgia for the era is undeniable. He's designed the titles for over 40 films, including West Side Story, Vertigo, Casino, and It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Mr. Bass said:
My initial thoughts about what a title can do was to set mood and the prime underlying core of the film’s story, to express the story in some metaphorical way. I saw the title as a way of conditioning the audience, so that when the film actually began, viewers would already have an emotional resonance with it
Here's his poster and title sequence for North by Northwest

So...uh...Mad Men.  Homage or plagarism? 

Anyway it seems to have become a popular past time to rip off his look in mainstream movies (Panic Room, Catch Me If You Can),  and amateur online fan videos (Star Wars sesms to be a popular one).  So why not create a Saul Bass-like title sequence for LOST, the show that popularized the minimalist title?  As the A.V. Club says, "Great Job, Internet."

25 March 2010

The Elegant Protest

If only Damien Hirst could design all protest signs. 

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

(via Jezebel)

24 March 2010

Spectacles Painted

Excessively serious, adult imagined scenes of childhood play deserve excessively serious literary subtexts. 

 "He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. He inspired uneasiness. That was it!"
-Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

"His own enjoyment, or his own ease, was, in every particular, his ruling principle."
-Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

"To read between the lines was easier than to follow the text."
-Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

"What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?"
-George Eliot, Middlemarch


Credits: Flavorwire for the link, Tim MacPherson for the concept.

23 March 2010

How I Met Your Mother: "Say Cheese!"

My new How I Met Your Mother recap is up on The Atlantic's Culture Channel.  Lily has a birthday party, Ted brings a random date,  all agonize over whether or not to include her in the group shot, and I choose my five favorite moments.

Photo: Courtesy of CBS

22 March 2010

The Happy Song

Call me a hipster, a culture snob, a tasteless charlatan, or a naive fool - I'll deny all of them (except for tasteless charlatan, because I kind of like that), but, man, do I like finding out what music people like to listen to.  It's not even a judgment technique - I'm genuinely curious.  Because more so than books, movies, magazines or televisions shows, music choices just seem so intensely personal.  A catchy tune combined with sappy lyrics can reduce even my most jaded friends into piles of mushy sentiment and sincerity. 

Just over a week ago, sports columnist Joe Posnanski decided he wanted to compile the 15 happiest songs ever.  Songs that made him happy, regardless of whether or not they were objectively happy songs.  Within three days he had 318 comments.   Suggestions ranged from the cheesy/faux euphoric ("Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and "Walking on Sunshine"), to the sentimental ("Over the Rainbow"), to the goddamn pretentious ("Books About UFOs"), to the quirky (The Ghostbuster's theme song), to the brilliant ("Spirit in the Sky"), to the unbearable ("Basket Case").

But honestly, who am I to judge? If "Don't Worry, Be Happy" seriously makes your day when it comes around on your playlist, well that's awesome.  I mean, I have to agree with Joe, and am surprised that SO MANY PEOPLE requested it, but I guess that's beside the point.  And in the end, he took what he wanted, discarded what he didn't, and published his fun list - it's up to 282. Read it!

So, I asked a group of friends to send me three of their happiest songs which I would publish here.  Even though I don't completely agree with every selection, I love this list because I love the honesty and randomness of these songs that mean something to people I care about.

Lala is pretty good, but it's not perfect, and there are a few essentials missing that deserve special mention, first.

"I've Just Seen A Face"  by The Beatles

Requested twice, this might just be one of the best songs I've ever heard.  I can't believe I only learned about this song in 2010.

"Lake Shore Drive" by Aliotta, Haynes, and Jeremiah

Don't be fooled by the innocent sounding voices.  This is ACTUALLY about LSD.

Here's the list.  It's fantastically odd.  Enjoy.
Special thanks to my contributors: the director, the baroness, the public intellectual, the dark feeling, the barrister, the traveler, the student, the southern belle, captain ahab, starbuck, the russian princess, the senator, the triathlete, the reporter, and others.  I hang with a terribly important crowd.

16 March 2010

The Big To-Do: "Southern Gothic"

Happy Drive-By Truckers new album day! Let's celebrate with one of my favorite songs of all time, "My Sweet Annette", off of their 2003 album Decoration Day.

Here's the new stuff though.  Joshua Love writes "The Big To-Do, finds Hood reconnecting with the macabre, with grim twists and booze-fueled mayhem, and with the dark corners of the American psyche."

15 March 2010

March Fabulousness

I don't participate in March Madness.  I just don't care.  Usually other people don't care that I don't care, or they care briefly and scowl at me for a moment before moving on to the next person willing to waste $5 and at least a few hours of their lives.

But yeah, I'm missing out on some big shared experience and lots of conversations as a result.  So, last year this March Fabulousness bracket was made for me by someone who will remain anonymous. 

Granted no one wanted to talk to me about this, and I certainly didn't have the opportunity to win $50, but still, it's pretty awesome.

14 March 2010

An Exercise in Navel Gazing: The Subconscious Shelf

Although I do get an embarrassing amount of satisfaction looking at my own lovely bookshelf, The New Yorker has taken this concept a bit far with "The Subconscious Shelf" - a new blog feature where eager readers send in photos of their bookshelves to be analyzed by Book Bench co-founder Macy Halford.  It launched on March 1st and already has a handful of write-ups. Here's one:

Hanan, you are a woman of taste, thrift, and erudition, with a restless, dreaming soul and a strong moral sense: Nietzsche, “The Waste Land,” bright yellow “used” stickers on many books, including one by Rushdie whose title we can’t make out; Antonia Frazier’s out-of-print anthology “Love Letters”; many handsome aging hardbacks; oil paintings of ships at sea that mirror, perhaps, the journey your mind takes when you read (and is that a copy of Patrick Moore’s interstellar exploration “The Sky at Night”?). Flowers atop your stacks to represent the blossoming of the intellect; and the scales of justice, to remind you that the goal of reading is to give you a stronger sense of how to use them. 
Oh, and that life-size cardboard cutout of Robert Pattinson: well, he just goes with anything.
Is it a joke? Sincere? Maybe it's just fun.  I'm not great at figuring these sorts of things out.  Consider: I had a hard time deciding whether or not the questions in The Atlantic's "What's Your Problem" column were all jokes that were written by the editors.  A few months after the feature was launched, I was told that they weren't in fact fake - that readers were actually submitting these questions and that Jeffrey Goldberg was given the freedom to mock them for our amusement.  Even so, I still have a hard time believing that this is a real question:
I’ve always felt that my sense of humor has suffered because I’m not part of an inherently funny ethnic or religious group. My best friend is Jewish and Italian (a veritable font of humor), and my wife is Catholic (also good for laughs). But I was raised Presbyterian. How do I mine my psyche for better party repartee?
But come to think of it, it doesn't matter to me if the questions are real or not, because, unlike Halford's posts, Goldberg's responses are pretty consistently hilarious. 

So, something tells me that this feature, though a little tongue-in-cheek, is ultimately rooted in some sort of sincerity.  To that I say maybe New Yorker readers should just accept the fact that they probably all have pretty substantive book collections, leave the commentary aside, and just send in arty photos of their surely masterful (in content and design) shelves. 

Take a look...this is cool. 

The observation that "what in New York would feel twee seems organic in California," is pointless. 

But, this is probably here to stay for a little while at least.  I assume that the next feature will be "The Dilettante's DVDs."  VALIDATE US, NEW YORKER!

13 March 2010

The Beggar Prince

Black Book's Alisa Gould-Simon offers a refreshingly reasonable perspective on the homeless fashion icon phenomenon. Yes, dear readers, it's actually happened - society has found an actual homeless man and made him into a star. I've already commented on this, so I'll spare you another rant.  Just know that I still don't approve.

The Beggar Prince/The Handsom Vanguard/Brother Sharp 

Gould-Simon writes:
Who knew Wasson’s controversial comments from back in September of 2008 would find themselves so accepted just two years later? Whether it’s the nonchalance, the layering, or the dabbling in women’s wear, homeless attire has become bizzarly enticing to hipster Millenials. After all, if there’s one thing fashion and hipsters both adore: it’s irony mixed with just a bit of shock and awe. Besides, isn’t homeless chic really just the epitome of inconspicuous shopping? Seems right up the alley of another exhausted reference: the recession.

12 March 2010

Now Playing: Del Shannon's "Runaway"

Straight from 1965, here is Del Shannon and a handful of bouncing girls. 

11 March 2010

Luck be a Lady

Louis Vuitton and I have a complicated relationship. First of all, I don't actually own any of the brand's products.  Sure, most of the bags and whatnot are way too expensive for my budget, but I like to think I've taken the moral/aesthetic high ground here because (and this bring me to my second point) I find the logo to be obnoxious and one of the most odorous examples of mass market luxury gone wild. Third, they are responsible for the abysmal  Annie Leibovitz campaigin honoring the 40th anniversary (because why wait for 50!) of Apollo 11 with Buzz Aldrin, Sally Ride, and Jim Lovell sitting on a tattered-looking car and gazing off at the moon with a strategically placed $1K handbag.  Makes so much sense.  Oh yeah, and then there's the Kanye obsession.  Actually, that last part is kind of funny.

Anyway, the clothing line...well, it hasn't always been good.  So I was happily surprised to see the Fall 2010 Ready to Wear collection with it's voluptuous skirts, tight ponytails, brocade fabric, leather gloves, thick tweeds, and patterned jackets. Elegant and wearable.  What a concept!  I'm swooning already and the weather in DC has just begun to get nice. 

And my goodness, the structured leather shoes with the architectural bow...well, let's just say I can't wait for J. Crew or Zara to knock them off.

Photo: Gianni Pucci / GoRunway.com

And yet, in spite of all of this praise...is Marc Jacobs actually setting trends or just reinforcing them?  This Mad Men obsession has been going on for a while now. 

 Regardless, he's come a long way from the Fall 2009 Ready to Wear looks.  

09 March 2010

How I Met Your Mother

So you've been missing my Tuesday Listed & Linked posts?  Well, this isn't even close to being the same thing, but head over to TheAtlantic.com on Tuesday mornings to read my take on new episodes of How I Met Your Mother.

Last night, Jason Segel punched the head off of an Imperial Stormtrooper, and J.Lo wore something really tight. Read the full review here.

Grow Up, Please

Zooey, I think you're adorable, and none of the manic pixie dream girl haters can make me feel otherwise. I love the new She & Him songs (especially Thieves), and can't wait for Volume Two to be released in just over a week. And the new website?  Looks great!  Well done.

What I can't get behind, though, is this:

You are 30 YEARS OLD. Want to try to explain why you're dancing about in high school hallways with the 36-year-old M. Ward?  I didn't think so. You look great, but you're not 18 anymore.

I assure you and all of your twee-lusting friends, there is the possibility for innocent romance after high school.  Evolve, Zooey.


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