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15 September 2013

Deep thoughts on Brazil, romance, aspiration & buying stuff

Enjoy this portrait of Havan, the Brazilian big box chain. It was made by my friend Nadia Sussman for the New York Times. Take this video portrait of Brazilians romanticizing American iconography as a perfect intro to a set of pictures about one American’s romantic notions about Brazil reshaped by a visit to the actual place. (Mine.) I was there in April. It was interesting.

Here’s a direct link to the NYT vid if you have issues with the embed.

The typical notion of Brazilians, beautiful and free, was in evidence in Rio’s nightlife center Lapa. Unfortunately she was dancing beautiful and free to some horrible third (or fourth? or fifth?) wave jam rock with an electronic undercurrent at a teenage bar.

Poverty and sensuality exist side-by-side outside of Bar do Mineiro, a typical but well regarded boteco restaurant in the heart of Rio’s Santa Teresa neighborhood.

As the NYT’s Havan portrait proves, everywhere you go, people like to buy shit. I found this spread of kiddy shoes at the pretty fabulous Galeria do Rock in São Paulo. Though its offerings revolved around a fetishization of American pop culture, the only place in the States that compares (in my experience) is a Southern California swap meet I once visited with Kool Keith. (In LA, however, the Brazilian mall’s focus on rock culture was transposed to a focus on hip-hop.) If anything, the mall in São Paulo was more reminiscent of the pop culture shops of Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood — an interest in American culture abstracted and turned clinical in a way that has more to do with stamp collecting, MTV’s youth culture opportunism, or the Home Shopping Network than it does the vital art often pulsing behind the salable iconography created to market said art.

Finally, the truth of the matter, another shot from a nightclub in Lapa, where the technology seemed to lag at about the same distance as the nostalgia which informed Brazil’s picture of America. The sound system is driven by an IBM computer running a screensaver based on the logo for Atari, a games manufacturer whose fortunes peaked in the ’80s.

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26 August 2013

Six pictures from Detroit

This post could also be accurately titled as “What I learned on my summer vacation” because, well, we remain children forever in a way.

I went to Detroit on what could be mistaken for a disaster tourism expedition. I saw a Caucasian man who might have been dead winched into a Port-a-Potty at an awkward angle. I ate some BBQ and saw some street art and happened upon a letterpress printer located in an old meat-processing facility near Eastern Market. (They let me use their bathroom. That was very nice of them.)

I think the city poses interesting questions about education, art, technology, industrialism and especially community. Here are some pictures of those questions. Please take them as more than ruin porn. They’re not intended as such. And, come to think of it, there’s not much in the way of ruins to be pictured in the pictures I pictured.

Implicit commentary on the fate of the record industry from the Heidelberg Project?

A photo taken near Service Street.

A friendly group of motorcyclists in front of the Motown Museum.

Chicken wings.

Wall art in Corktown, wherein resides the city’s most self-conscious gentrification vibe. Wasn’t that into it. But the BBQ restaurant was quite good.

Co-ops designed by Mies Van Der Rohe in LaFayette Park.

Here is a very short reading list of materials I read before and just after I went. I found them all helpful.

  • The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee Boggs with Scott Kurashige
  • Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis by Mark Binelli
  • “36 Hours in Detroit” by Jennifer Conlin for the New York Times
  • Read more »

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    2 March 2013

    Four images about desire in the southern hemisphere

    Small girl. Giant, hopping rat with pouch.

    The 1% can now indulge in dolphin fucking on their high-priced sex tourism jaunts.

    People are really fixated on North America.

    Possible destination.

    PS – Yes, I realize Dubai is not in the southern hemisphere.

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    A short talk on sound props for the School of Visual Arts MFA in Products of Design

    October 26, 2012 - 10:00 am to 11:00 am - 10:00 am to 11:00 am

    This Friday I’m giving a short talk to my friend Emilie Baltz‘s class at the School of Visual Arts. The students are studying for their Masters of Fine Arts in Products of Design. It’s a small class, but if you’re interested in coming by, I’m told I can invite guests.

    She asked me to discuss the use of props in music, specifically mentioning the idea of megaphones. I have departed somewhat from this idea, and will be doing a short, improvised, visually-driven talk called Enter the Horn: megaphones, sound props & striking a balance between irony, authenticity and futurism.

    Among the topics being discussed are Judaism’s use of the ram’s horn shofar — Italian futurism — Edison’s invention of the phonograph — circular breathing sax player Colin Stetson – Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue — the instantly anachronistic gold record that Carl Sagan curated for the Voyager spaceship — Andrew Bird’s spinning horn — the amplifiers of the band Shellac — German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten — Buke & Gase’s handmade instruments — novelty iPhone speakers — composer Tristan Perich — comedian Reggie Watts — and the performance art band People Get Ready.

    Hopefully it won’t be too pretentious. There’ll be a lot of JPEGs and YouTube clips.

    Traditional Horns


    Futurist Horns

    “Authentic” Horns

    Postmodern Horns aka “Beyond the Horn”

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    21 September 2012

    Billy Corgan on the Community Function

    May I grab a moment of your increasingly internet-fractured attention span and focus you on this interview between T. Cole Rachel and the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan on, ahem, the “state of the Alternative Community” — communities being something I care about a great deal.

    Here it is thanks to Stereogum. (Thanks Stereogum!)

    Here is an excerpt I particularly like, and bold-face on the parts I really really like:

    “Once I entered the world of honesty, circa 1992, there was sort of no going back. It’s a nice fantasy to think if someone got me some media training, I would have avoided a lot of these controversies that are really meaningless and continue to be meaningless. Secondarily, I think there’s something to be said for being principled. Like I think of Lou Reed as being principled. I think of Neil Young as being principled. There are those actors in the world for whom the principles they live their life by, in the long run, mean something. And I think that the principles that I live my life by do mean something and will look better in hindsight. Because when I was at South By Southwest … first of all, in alternative rock music, generally speaking, there have been very few bands in the past 10 years that have made OK Computer-level records. I guess you could say Arcade Fire made one, but there’s been a real scarcity in great, A-level work that crosses over into the mainstream. That’s very interesting, because I don’t think it’s a lack of talent. And if anything, you could say that technology should afford the ability to make ideal records even more easily than we used to be able to make when we had to do it all on tape. Secondarily, the main alternative voice for at least seven years now, and you could argue possibly longer, has been Pitchfork. And they have not produced the level of movement commensurate to their power. So what does that say to me? That system doesn’t work. Now it might work for the kids down in Wicker Park or Echo Park. It might work for the guy with the handlebar mustache. But it doesn’t work overall in the way that the Stooges work, the way that the Velvet Underground worked, or the Cure worked, or Depeche Mode, or pick your fucking any band that made it across the divide from being underground to being iconic. Read more »

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