Monday, July 27, 2009

Thriller Zombie March

How better to commemorate Michael Jackson than by staging the largest synchronized performance of the zombie Thriller dance on the 1-month anniversary of MJ's death?



Yes, I participated (you can kind of barely see me in the picture above). I spent three-ish hours learning about half of the dance with Kirsten before giving up. Well worth it. Especially since I've spent an entire semester of Dance class learning something that long!

Over a thousand people gathered in Chicago's Wicker Park, most in zombie makeup and torn clothing (Kirsten, Katie, and I had the makeup down). From then we went on a "zombie march," making groaning and roaring and growling noises up and down Milwaukee and North Avenues, attaching ourselves 28 Days Later-style to buses and cars. If people didn't know about it beforehand, it might have actually been frightening.

The horde:

There was even a "Zombie Task Force" of three people in Ghostbusters-esque suits and pellet guns, attacking zombie hipsters as if their lives depended upon it. However, one unfortunate warrior was attacked! Makeup was quickly applied, and thus the Zombie Buster became a Zombie. Here's a picture of Kirsten and I turning the poor boy into a zombie (I'm wearing the Brown Hershey's shirt):

An amazing time, and a fantastic cultural event. I hope it becomes an annual tradition!

R.I.P. M.J.

Last picture of ZOMBIEZ:

*all pictures but the one above are copyrighted by Flickr

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Against Twilight

Finally, and not a minute too soon, I found an article online that perfectly illustrates my opinions about Twilight, this tween generation's equivalent of the Harry Potter franchise. Except for one thing: Harry Potter is good. Although against the Kantian assumption that all art exists on a moral spectrum, whose goal is at least partially pedagogical, Harry Potter is nonetheless a good moral message. It utilizes tropes common to much good literature of the Western canon: although it might seem another "good triumphs over evil once again" cliche, the books really teach that nobody is inherently perfect, that "good" natures can be easily corrupted by circumstance, that the world simply isn't fair at times, and that our relationships with others-- friends, family, mentors-- are of vital importance.

The Twilight series, however, has none of this. It teaches to teeny-boppers exactly what I have spent all of my adolescence UN-learning-- absurd "Disneyfied" myths such as:

There is only one man out there for me.
I must do absolutely anything to hold on to the man I love.
The only thing of importance in the life of a woman is to be loved by a man.
I am plain and uninteresting unless I am loved by a man.
Sex is the most frightening and terrible thing in the universe, and should be reserved for only very special occassions, such as marriage.
Sex should be reserved for "the One".
If "the One" does not want you, you must be resilient until "the One" responds to your wishes.
Believe everything that comes out of the mouth of "the One" for He is a perfect being.

Among other myths, of course. Myths that ruin any woman's chances of happiness by adhering to their consciousness and refusing to let go.

This article by Jessica Ferri of rails against these theories. Here is my favorite line of the article:

But as a child of the nineties, and quite possibly the biggest fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I have to ask: what the hell happened to us?

Indeed. What happened to the '90s? What happened to "you GO, girl" and "Si se puede!" and "Independent Woman" (that Destiny's Child song)?

As Ferri writes, What I wonder is, would I be voraciously reading these books if I were thirteen? Doesn't it say something about women's lib if the dice has rolled from Buffy, who slayed vamps without even breaking a nail, to Bella, who does nothing the entire book but whine to be deflowered by one?

Then again, I was never a Fantasy person. I liked Sci-Fi to an extent, but I had a huge distaste for C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. I thought it was all cliche, that I have heard it all before. Reality had more things to teach me. If anything I loved magic realism. The closest thing to this was Lois Lowry's The Giver, which I read so often that the pages fell out of their binding.

But Twilight is more Teen Romance than Fantasy, which makes it even more frightening and sexist, even more "behind the times" than a Jane Austen novel (after all, Twilight was written by a Mormon).

Which is why I will refuse to read it.

Which is why I could only laugh when I saw the movie, which was highly entertaining (how could two human beings be so terribly awkward? And how did Cedric Diggory get so hot?).

Which is why, for Kant's sake, and for de Beauvoir's, don't let your 12-year old cousins read this trash.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Get Photographed by the Sartorialist!

I found this hilarious step-by-step guide online today. Hilarious, and very true. If only New York was a better biking city! I would buy a vintage bike and be the queen of the streets of SoHo.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

WANT: NormalWatches

only around $20 and the coolest watches I have ever seen.

early birthday present?

The one above is my favorite. Includes all 12 icons of social networking! Youtube, facebook, AIM, Outlook, Twitter, Wordpress... can't find Blogspot, though.

The tagline for the site is "Trailblazing Sub Couture" and I think it is extraordinarily clever. Other favorite watches include the blue "facebook ruined my life" and the red "rebellion is necessary."

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Why must the best shows always be canceled?! First it was Popular, whose cancellation (after two seasons) I mourned in middle school. David Lynch's Twin Peaks was a tough one to bear as well. Then my beloved Arrested Development was bumped after three seasons. Alas, Wonderfalls-- graced by the same director as Pushing Daisies-- was only given one season in 2004.

Shame, and slightly surprising, because the show has many similarities with its far more popular successor. Both Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies have Lee Pace, although in the former he plays the snide, egotistical, and mystically-minded brother of Jaye Tyler, the main character (far from an adorable pie-maker). Both shows have brilliant artistic direction and cinematography. Both shows are some sort of magic-realism, in which the viewer has his or her concept of reality temporarily suspended. In both, one character has what is more or less a magic power, while the rest of the world remains the same. Is it the hand of God? Is it nuclear mutation? Is it schizophrenia? Is it even there at all? Nobody knows. But it's pretty clear that it's something at least more profound than paranoid schizophrenia, although Jaye Tyler does seem quite crazy at times.

Jaye has a... gift. Or a curse. More likely a curse, depending on how you look at it. On the exterior, Jaye Tyler is a sulky 24-year old living in a trailer park, avoiding following her wealthy family to career success by working as a retail clerk in "Wonderfalls," a souvenir shop in Niagara Falls, New York. Once a misanthropic (and even a bit bitchy) Brown graduate and philosophy major, Jaye finds her snarky disposition when she is forced to perform good deeds against her will... by talking stuffed animals. Or plastic animals. Or practically anything not carbon-composed in the shape of an animal. Whether a misshapen lion statue, a teddy bear, or a pink flamingo on the lawn, they tell her to do... things. And if she doesn't follow their demands, they hound her passive-aggressively, refusing to stop talking until she figures out their often extremely cryptic messages, like "Get her words out," or "Save him from her." Pronouns are often the tricky part.

And then in comes Eric, an impossibly sweet and lovesick bartender, and hilarity... and heartbreak... ensues. Watch it! I finished the entire 13-episode season in 3 days' time.

Friday, July 3, 2009

In a Dream

"Love is a work of art," says the poster of In a Dream. For artist Isaiah Zagar, this is literally the case, for better or for worse. Written and directed by his son Jeremiah Zagar, who makes only a second-long appearance in the entire film, this documentary exposes the life of a troubled artist losing his grip on the world.

On a second re-reading, this sounds a little cliche. Even a troubled artist has moments of pure happiness and years of "living in a dream." Some things he says sound truer, holistically, than the texts of philosophers. His trouble seems to lie more in associations. In the first few seconds of the film, Jeremiah asks his father, just at the beginning of his interview, if he wants a glass of water. "No," Isaiah calmly responds, "I think I'll make a boiled egg."

The film is a portrait of the life of this artist, who, with his (unbelievably) supportive wife Julia, buys derelict buildings in south Philadelphia and transforms them into shining mosaics, nearly Gaudi-esque but even more personal. Isaiah covers the buildings roof-to-floor with found objects, color, paint, bits of stone and glass... all chronicling his own wife. He is endlessly hardworking to the point of insanity, working over 10-hour long days tirelessly putting glass side by side and painting around it. Yet every single wall is a self-portrait; floor to ceiling is covered in cartoonish portraits of Julia and himself, nude, clasping hands and smiling. Elsewhere are pictures of even Jeremiah (the filmmaker) and Ezekiel, the troubled and drug-abusing eldest son.

To a judgmental viewer this might be simply a movie "about a buncha hippies," but this is entirely incorrect. Their lives are as complicated and rooted in society as any other. Even the nearly impervious relationship between Julia and Isaiah is put to test when Isaiah begins to have an affair with his assistant Elizabeth. This is not a film about endings or beginnings but a portrait of a brilliant, creative, yet highly bruised artist, but without any sense of pity or glorification.

This neutral stance is aided by the cinematography, highly technical and brilliant, full of difficult zooms and alterations with camera lenses. Nearly half of the movie must be panoramic sweeps of the artwork, just a camera moving in and out of a structure made by Isaiah Zagar. There are also numerous animated sections, where Isaiah's art begins to move and mimics, in movements, the words he is saying, a common but very difficult animation technique (see Frida, the excellent movie starting Salma Hayek). My favorite thing besides this artwork is the score, made entirely by the Books (plus my personal favorite Explosions in the Sky song in the last segment!). The perfect complement to so reflective and artistic a film, the Books create a simple and melodic vibe using nothing but a cello, guitar, and synthesizer.

Jeremiah Zagar divided the film into three parts, a classic division that gives a largely winding and complex narrative great structure. This profile of Isaiah Zagar, coupled with gorgeous editing, give the film a half-surrealist, half-folk artsy feel, an American lovechild of Frida Kahlo and Antonin Gaudi. All in all, fascinating.