Friday, January 22, 2010

Fiery? What quality?

It's so cute that Hilton Als calls Young Jean Lee's production of King Lear "a hot mess." And I think that this review might be my favorite thing in this week's magazine.

(I dunno about Neil Gaiman. I'll get there.)

And I love the idea of a Lear-less King Lear. But I think I have to disagree with Als' big, closing jab,
What makes the conceit of her production so powerful—so fundamentally original—is the fact that [Lee] dispenses with the patriarch and chooses, instead, to wrestle with the souls of women in a manless land. The problem is that she retains Edmund and Edgar. Had she eliminated them, too, we might have been able to grapple directly with what Lee has suggested but not quite conveyed: what it must feel like for an exceptional young woman to stand up to the theatre’s ultimate Great White Father.
Lee has to retain Edmund, Edgar and Gloucester. Their struggles are 1) physically beautiful and sort of comic and 2) essential to the critical analysis of patriarchal authority in King Lear. I mean, you could leave them out, but I seriously would not.

Monday, January 18, 2010

white christmas

I started watching Mad Men with friend this year, on her TiVo. And I got so into it, I insisted on watching the final episode "live" so to speak. How do we say this? "When broadcast?" Then, over the winter holidays I made an effort to catch-up and watch seasons one and two. By the time the NYT published that story about Netflix maps I wasn't surprised to see Mad Men mapped neatly on to spaces of privileged whiteness.

Recently, I've been speculating wildly at resistance is fertile, where lagusta wrote a fine series on Mad Men for Feminists. There are a variety of perspectives from the Emdashes people. And I started searching the New Yorker archives to see what they said. Lots of Mad Men references in the blogs.

George Packer: "So the question is obvious: what’s so interesting about this annoying show?" He's got one answer ready.

Ben Greenman gets to the point, "sometimes the plotting is too elliptical (read: nonexistent)" and then goes on about Hendricks and Dungeons and Dragons.

Nancy Franklin's first mention came in a piece that I'd read for other reasons (Glen Close, romantic comedy, etc). She wrote:
Have any states yet legalized marriage between human beings and TV shows? If so, I’m going to throw a few things in a bag and run off with “Mad Men,” the new drama on AMC set in the world of advertising at the dawn of the sixties—and encompassing New York life, and marriage, and sex, and repression, and what America was and was not. It is gorgeous in every way. As it should be—it’s the spawn of all those handsome, stylish office movies that were made in the fifties. Like those movies, “Mad Men” is smart and tremendously attractive, and it stirs you more than it probably should. It may not be deep, but if you’re a certain age and have a certain sensibility and certain fantasies of what New York used to be like (thanks to those movies) it hits a deep place in you, like a straight-up Martini made of memory and desire.

Read more:

WHAT ARE these stylish office movies she's talking about? Anybody? I've been thinking a little bit about mid-century office ennui, but I had mostly literary references in mind . . .

And, finally, Franklin has a nice review and recap of the tantilizing changes - for men and women - that the Season Three Finale promised. Promises, promises.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

whole foods, boy bands, grace kelly and the UC system

Three profiles and some bad news. Now that's a New Yorker. Something about each and everyone of those topics.

Paumgarten goes over the Mackey basics for people who don't already avoid Whole Foods. From where I sit, he's trying to be even-handed, but the very last paragraph seems entirely dismissive, like something you'd write about someone who you are very glad to see go:
Talk turned to food, as it often does. “You only love animal fat because you’re used to it,” he said. “You’re addicted.” He urged me to consider reprogramming my palate. He also suggested that I try Grofian breathing.

After a moment, he got up to leave, and I watched him walk toward Sixth Avenue, in a suit that looked a size or two too big, thinking, or not thinking, about what he was going to say on the Fox Business channel.

Read more:

The thing about boy band Vampire Weekend (well, not that kind of boy band, but still) was a little more indulgent. Like their older sister wrote it. I bristled at the quote from bandmember Koenig: "There are probably a lot better reasons why you could say we're not good." Sooooo smart he knows better than you do what is wrong with the particular brand of wool he's pulling over your eyes. But this profile also included a pithy paragraph of disdain, but this time from a quoted source, rather than the author. Pitchfork said:
"The image they project is practically The Darjeeling Limited brothers of indie rock bands - globe-trotting sons of distinguished men clumsily exploring distant cultures, despite only being passively, naively invested."
And Pitchfork's readers said: "It's like the Whiffenpoofs started a ska band." Eeek.

Anthony Lane on Grace Kelly is hilarious and kind of meta when he explains the concept of "the Chinese whisper, whereby [a biographer] quotes somebody who quotes somebody who knew the subject in question." The things folks said about Grace Kelly (naughty and nice) were only somewhat interesting.

And Tad Friend's letter from California, about the crisis in the UC education system, was useful, timely and much more important than the other items mentioned here . . .