Thursday, June 24, 2010

the 31st year: highlights

i am blogging on the eve of my 31st birthday. i had grand hopes for this year. i thought by now i would be doing 30 consecutive push-ups and celebrating a year of daily flossing. as james ballard says at the end of crash, 'maybe the next one...' but despite my less than stellar record of body building and dental hygiene, this has been a rather charmed year. i like to think that i payed my dues to the gods of depression and self-loathing early on and now have been released into a wider world of manic enthusiasm for just about everything. sometimes i'm driving to work and i'll think of an expression that prince made in under the cherry moon or the fact that david lynch exists and i feel like i could beam myself to the moon with happiness. here are my top ten highlights from my 31st year on the planet, with links to related musings:

10) sarah silverman gave me a great deal of pleasure this year. read all about it in my personal essay why i am psychologically wired to love the sarah silverman program. great job, sarah! the "just breve" episode was brilliant and i have taken your "make it a treat" philosophy to heart.

9) new art, new music, new films i didn't make a whole lot of major breakthroughs in my art history education this year, but there were four biggies that i discovered: caspar david friedrich, evelyn williams, alphonse mucha and sol lewitt. there was also a red-headed patient who i would name if i could and sing her praises.

in music i launched my obsession with charlotte gainsbourg into a full-on exploration of french pop music, including the incomparable francoise hardy.

on the film front, i saw the following masterpieces: satantango (behold my cinematic endurance!), anti-christ (loved this with every ounce of my soul), mister lonely (a rare gem unlike anything i've seen before), martyrs (i watched this beast on august 3rd of last year and have thought about it every single day since; if i am ready, i will write about it on the anniversary of my viewing), before sunset (the biggest, most wonderful surprise of all), the ballad of narayama, the beaches of agnes (i love you agnes varda, my hero!), king kong (classic) and last, least, latest... the girl with the dragon tattoo (lisbeth salander is my girlfriend).

8) professional visibility i generally avoid blogging about my professional life, but it has taken off this year. a successful art show at the jcc, multiple presentations that rocked like cyndi pinziki and some unforgettable art therapy sessions.

7) reading amelie nothomb besides james joyce, she was my literary love this year. read her.

6) plein air painting got over my self-consciousness about landscape painting while not an old lady and painted this homage to the magick of forbidden drive. heat, the smell of oil paints of turpenoid, communing with the rafters of the thomas mill bridge, yes.

5) our spread in philadelphia brides magazine from secret glances to oaths before the fates, my marriage to luca was so beautiful that they put us in a magazine!

4) mj this year's soundtrack may have had francophilic overtones, but the real musical soul of this year was none other than michael jackson, who died on my 30th birthday. for me, my love of michael jackson and my devotion to samara are inextricable. they have been the joy of my life for the past 12 months. mj - you live on in a surreal dream saga conjured up by the unconscious of a 13-year-old girl. and i am the only one who knows about it!

3) new house elfant wissahickon, mt. airy, heart shaped leaves around a stony arch, faux finishing, setting up luca's library, making a home. this is what i was born to do.

2) bloomsday not only did i complete the ulysses course at the rosenbach, but i actually read at bloomsday this year. here is a picture that one of my classmates took of me at the podium. i'm probably saying something like "wildly i lay on her kissed her: eyes, her lips, her stretched neck beating, woman's breasts full in her blouse of nun's veiling...":

1) sitting with marina abramovic one of the most perfect moments of my life so far.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


yesterday was magical. i'm not saying it couldn't have been more magical had it been outside the rosenbach museum (not a drop of rain!), but my first ulysses marathon reading was a successful, soul-nourishing experience. stand-out readers included book collector james bryce warden, who brought stephen's lyrical meanderings to life, kristen bronzina, whose reading of milly's letter to her papli was pitch-perfect, citizen al hirsig's wonderful handling of martha's letter to m. henry flower, philadelphia magazine's carol saline's incredible, hilarious interpretation of several passages from aeolus, michelle johnson's beautiful singing of "the last rose of summer" and "love's old sweet song," mayor nutter's "what? any god's quantity of cocked hats and boleros and trunkhose. what?", actor michael toner's spirited performance from cyclops, and of course blind poets david and daniel simpson's time-altering missives from the end of ithaca and drucie mcdaniel's mesmerizing, devastating soliloquy. see for yourself:

bonus picture of mayor nutter:

happy bloomsday!

today, your humble webmistress, mrs. zoe p. brasi, will be attending the bloomsday celebration in philadelphia having actually read ulysses! not only that, but she will be reading a thoroughly sensuous passage from the chapter known as lestrygonians where poldy is remembering kissing molly under the wild ferns. when i read luca the passage i had chosen, he wiped the tears from his eyes and said, "i can't wait to hear you say the word nipples in public!" unfortunately, the festivities have been moved indoors to the trinity center for urban life at 22nd and spruce instead of the usual open air readings on delancey street. i had so been looking forward to saying "ravished over her i lay, full lips full open, kissed her mouth" en plein air. such is life. anyway, i don't think anyone will be remotely aware of where they are after hearing drucie mcdaniel do her thing. (i was hoping to post a nice picture of her, but when i googled her all i found were pictures of winona ryder and angelina jolie. i know she was in girl, interrupted, but come on... i will be sure to remedy this situation tonight.) so call in sick to work, grab your gabler edition of ulysses, head over to the trinity center and immerse yourself in the rich wonders of leopold and molly bloom, stephen dedalus, dr. malachi mulligan, gerty macdowell and other dublin citizens on this june 16th 106 years ago!

then go home and tune into wbai on the internet to hear even more!

happy bloomsday to one and all!

Monday, June 14, 2010

the gingerbread house

a couple weeks ago when i was in brooklyn, i was scoping out the real estate listings along 7th avenue. one listing stood out above all the others - a 6 bedroom mansion in bay ridge, referred to as "the gingerbread house," with an asking price of $12 million. i was immediately drawn to the photos, which depicted a strange, fantastical stone house with a wavy roof that did in fact look like something out of a fairy tale:

just now got around to digging up some info. the house is located at 8220 narrows avenue between 82nd and 83rd street in brooklyn. it's official name is the "howard e. and jessie jones house" and it was built in 1917 by the arts and crafts architect j. sarsfield kennedy. the current owner, jerry fishman, bought it in 1985 at an estimated price of $550,000. he went to school across the street from the house and dreamed about owning it since he was a little boy. in an interview, fishman said, "i had to have the house. i flunked english because i was looking [out the school window] at the house all the time." sounds like my kind of guy. he's selling in order to move to florida to be closer to his family.

i had never heard of "arts and crafts architecture," so i did a bit of googling, as the kids say. it was a movement that seemed to hold as its main tenets a love of nature, craftsmanship and simplicity. it was not merely a style of design, but a philosophical stance articulated by the likes of emerson, whitman, charles elliot norton, william morris, thomas carlyle and john ruskin. it was totally against industrialized culture:

"...machine-made goods were thought to be inferior in beauty. To the Arts & Crafts philosopher, art and utility would give meaning to life if they could be wedded in a process that required imagination, creativity and personal responsibility. They thought mass production lowered the standards of design, workmanship and working conditions for the craftsmen and minimized their contribution to the finished product. Industry polluted and defaced the natural landscape thus reducing the quality of life for all, yet profits from the factory system went only to improve the quality of life of the factory owner."

in philadelphia, the quaker architect william lightfoot price constructed an entire community based on the principles of the arts and crafts movement called "rose valley." now it is a museum and historical society, but i can't seem to find visitor information on the website. one of his buildings in the commune, known as the house of the democrat, is said to be one of the most important buildings of the movement:

william morris says, “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” word.

so, anyone wanna spot me 12 million dollars?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

vacay with mom: day 3

today my mom got on my nerves so i spent the afternoon with samantha bee from the daily show instead. we hung out in bryant part, went shopping at anthropologie, had dinner in the east village and then i delivered her baby!

vacay with mom: day 2

we had intended to visit ellis island on tuesday, but somehow that never panned out. regardless, m and i spent a leisurely day in new jersey and a spectacular evening on new york city's art mile.

in the morning we went to see aly on her last day of pre-school. they sang songs and received "awards" for their contributions to the class. she was adorable, as always:

aly and her best friend:

i managed to snap this shot as aly spotted a large bug in the window. a face that james stewart could have studied:

here's a bonus picture of luca with aly on mother's day:

near the end of the little celebration at aly's school, m got a call notifying her that the garage door had been left open and the police had been alerted to the sound of the alarm. sigh.

later, dad joined us for a visit to the met. we headed straight up to the roof to see doug and mike starn's "big bambu" installation. it was a happening place to be. the artists conceived of a giant wave-like structure made entirely of bamboo that is continually growing and evolving, courtesy of a team of rock-climbers who could be spotted cutting, binding and building high up in the brambles. some visitors who got tickets in advance were guided up into the various pathways and foot-bridges of the structure, but most of us hung around its base, reveling in the astounding views of new york, stroking the smooth surface of the bamboo poles and chattering about our associations to the piece. dad thought it resembled the neuronal structures of the brain. i thought it looked like a giant jungle gym. mom thought it looked like a sukkah and felt strongly that the final stage of its construction should be the hanging of fruit.

then we went back downstairs to check out the large colorful paintings that caught my eye as we were getting into the elevator. turns out they were paintings by australian aboriginal artists. they are bold and abstract, but i got the sense that all of them were making visual references to the landscape and the practices and beliefs of their culture. the designs were absolutely striking and harmonious:

learn more about the australian aboriginal art movement here.

after that, m went to see the "american woman" fashion exhibit and d and i explored the african art. we saw...

elegant shapes:

sculptural textiles:

slit gongs, instruments used in iatmul ceremonial rites:

this "kongo power figure" i had actually seen before in a slide presentation by kathryn zerbe. she talked about how nails would be hammered into the figure as a kind of displacement or sublimation of guilt. the figure would carry the weight of all the sins and transgressions carried out by individuals, thereby restoring order in the community as a whole. the description in the museum was a little different, but along similar lines. it said, "the various metals embedded in the torso attest to its central role as witness and enforcer of affairs critical to its community. they document vows sealed, treatises signed, and efforts to eradicate evil."

finally, we made our way over to the picasso exhibit. i guess it shouldn't come as a surprise, considering that the met has the second largest collection of picassos in the world, but it made the philadelphia picasso exhibit look downright pitiful. to be fair, the salon cubism was extraordinary, but the depth of actual works by picasso was sadly limited. the met, on the other hand, offered a truly staggering retrospective.

i got to see this enigmatic portrait from his blue period:

his portrait of gertrude stein that i read about a few years ago in the autobiography of alice b. toklas, that is amazing in its original presence. didn't he make her look like himself?

these diverse images:

and finally... picasso porn!!! these are my favorites! hundreds of intaglio prints created when he was 87 known as the 347 suite.

see the nice people looking at the nice pictures?

it's porn!!!

god i love picasso. i love the way he draws genitals. so matter of fact. almost cartoon-like organs that look like sea creatures, comically commanding, shamelessly, innocently bewitching:

"i spend hour after hour while i draw, observing my creatures and thinking about the mad things they're up to; basically it's my way of writing fiction."

on the way out of the museum, i fell in love with this painting called "springtime" by pierre-august cot. he has painted what it feels like to be in love. you can almost feel the electricity of flesh touching flesh, the fertile earth smell, the sense of nothing else existing beyond the gaze of the beloved...

when we left the met, the art mile was in full swing:

there was music, street performers, vendors and everyone was drawing on the pavement with chalk. my addition:

we re-fueled at a diner, then waited on a line that wrapped around the block to get into the guggenheim:

winding around the "haunted" exhibit at full speed, i felt like the characters from that godard film where they run through the louvre. it was invigorating. also got to see some "suprematist" paintings by malevich. you can feel the power in them.

i'm kicking myself for not realizing that the neue gallery was open for this annual event (otto dix!), but i did get to see a beautiful sunset over the reservoir in central park:

another successful day off!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

les grossman revival!

tom cruise's hilarious hip-hop dancing, fowl-mouthed studio exec from tropic thunder is getting his own movie! seeing him bust moves to flo rida on the big screen was one of the funniest things i've seen in a theater and now it's going to be a feature!

here he is performing with hennifer lopez at the mtv movie awards:


vacay with mom: day 1

before embarking on this uncharted journey of spending several days together, my mom and i discussed our goals. she expressed a desire to not get on my nerves. i shared my intention to be more patient. so with complementary objectives, we headed out to point pleasant on monday. actually, we headed out three times. the first time, we realized that we forgot to bring towels. so we turned around and i ran in to grab some. then we made it a few blocks before my mom got concerned that she forgot to close the garage door. so we turned around again, but all was safe and sound.

spending time at the beach with my mom is the best thing to do. it brings out the child in her and her thoroughly bewildering choice of attire is an endless source of amusement:

a nice ruckenfigur shot on drisden beach, where she visited as a little girl:

here's some pictures she took of me:

i like that you can see the roller coaster with the colorful flags in the background:

then my mom went into hysterics because the lifeguard was busy making out with his girlfriend behind the rescue boat instead of guarding the beach. in her world of 11 hour workdays and consummate professionalism, she could not understand how he thought it was ok to be fooling around like that on the job. so of course she started snapping photos of them on her iphone:

she seems very amused with herself, no?

then we headed over to marlboro to visit nanny at sunrise. we met several of her gentleman friends and spent half an hour relaxing in her room:

always dolls on the bed, always:

one of her many witty embroideries:

a photo from my bat mitzvah:

mommy now and mommy then:

later i went shopping in m's closet, selected an outfit for our dinner at pure food and wine and lined my eyes in black. i was feeling very stylish and happy:

felice and craig at our table in the garden:

mom seems to now associate picture taking with kissing. i lift the camera, she goes in for a smooch:

look for a review in the coming days over at only weggebobbles and fruit!