Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pay What You Wish

Emily and I finally made it up to the Whitney last night, so at long last, I am happy to announce the winners of the coveted Strath's Choice Awards for Best Artists of the 2008 Whitney Biennial. To keep things pure there will be no prizes and no award dinner this year and criteria for judging will be known only to the judge. Without further fanfare, here are the winners.

1. Mika Tajima/New Humans for their sculpture and video piece with Vito Acconci and C. Spencer Yeh (who has a new record out as Burning Star Core). I don't really know what to say about it other than that it's an all-encompassing audio/visual/environmental experience that is kind of aggressive-feeling and beautiful all at once. Get more info at

2. Matthew Brannon (who is originally from Idaho...represent represent), for his letterpressed and screen-printed works that to me recall an early-sixties graphic language mixed with a feeling of isolation or weirdness between individuals? I don't know. It reminded me of Holden Caulfield-era New York.

3. Mika Rottenburg for her video/sculpture piece Cheese.

4. Charles Long for Poem of the River (2005), a collection of detritus collected from the LA river, covered in plaster and shaped into sculptures that emulate the giant great blue heron and white egret droppings he photographed there. Watch this video.

5. Carol Bove for her sculpture The Night Sky over New York, October 21, 2007, 9PM. The hanging bronze rods aligned with the stars over New York at the exact time in the title of the piece.

Congratulations to all the winners.
Sorry, losers, but there's always next time.

The 2008 Whitney Biennial is up through June 1st so high-tail it over there pretty soon if you haven't seen it yet. Check out this video by the curators for an overview:

Friday, May 9, 2008

Now You're Swimming

Did you know that Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You is now available as an audio book? We have a couple big roadtrips planned for later this year so I'm definitely snapping this up. You can too, at, or wherever you, uh, buy your audiobooks (hey, first time for everything).

Also: Listen to an interview with Miranda July on KCRW's Bookworm.

And: Here's a short interview I did with her for V magazine in December 2006, just before the book came out:

5 Questions for Miranda July

1. What are you working on right now? My next screenplay and a related performance that I will do at The Kitchen in early March. Also a book version of my website And soon I will begin promoting my book of short stories that comes out in the spring.

2. What has been inspiring you lately? Dave Eggers' new book, What is the What and the new album by The Blow, Paper Television.

3. Who are your heroes? There are many, but last night I re-watched An Angel At My Table, Jane Campion's movie about the New Zealand writer Janet Frame. I hadn't see it for years and realized that I had really really identified with this story when the movie first came out, despite my life being totally different from Janet Frame's life. My heroes are always people who find a way to tell their story, against all odds.

4. Describe your aesthetic. The best is to wear/ make something that is almost not working, but somehow pull it off. To walk that line.

5. What's your favorite way to keep warm this winter? [give me a break, it's a fashion magazine -ps] Well, I am going to some truly cold places this winter, so I broke down and bought a bunch of hi-tech stuff. Stuff that is not really my style. But I am into it because I am really over being cold.

More info, including an endorsement of Barack Obama, and voting in general, may be found at

Thursday, May 8, 2008

TV Party

My old buddy Mike Sacks has a new blog wherein he posts photographs of the television, proving time and again that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Check it out at, and while you're there, have a look at some of his humorous and informative writing for publications such as Vanity Fair, GQ, Esquire, McSweeney's, and The New Yorker.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Creative Control

Joe Newton, who some of you know as the drummer from Gas Huffer, or as former art director at The Stranger and Rolling Stone, or as the guy who does all the illustrations for Dan Savage's syndicated sex advice column Savage Love, or as just an all around good-timey dude, is now over at Veer, heading up their illustration department. Yesterday he sent me a link to a new animated film, The Control Master, which Veer put together with Run Wrake, a London-based animator and illustrator. The entire thing is assembled from Charles S. Anderson (CSA) images—and when you see it you can only imagine how much time went into making that work as smashingly as it does. Check it out at

And just for old times:

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cave Tours

Listen while you read:
The Cave Singers Seeds of Night mp3 (thank you Matador)

I was instantly hooked on the Cave Singers when I heard them last year on KEXP, courtesy of guest selector Cherry Canoe (aka Kerri Harrop, from whom I have learned about 900,000 other interesting things, via her phenomenal blog General Bonkers). The Cave Singers are three dudes, formerly of other good bands such as Murder City Devils, Pretty Girls Make Graves, and Hint Hint, who play a unique brand of rock-and-roll that is actually best described as music you might expect to hear in a cave in the middle of Kentucky, or the North Cascades, for that matter. They played last night at Union Hall, one of my favorite venues, and it was cool to see them in such a small place—a cave-like place, if you will.

The Cave Singers' debut album Invitation Songs is out now, and they're touring up a storm. I highly recommend checking them out.


Monday, May 5, 2008

And They're Off

My good buddy Susan has a Kentucky Derby party every year at her apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Her family is obsessed with the ponies and she has a complete set of Derby glasses to prove it. Susan's a great hostess and it's always super fun times. The pictures above are completely blurry because for whatever reason I didn't want to disturb this groove by using a flash all over the place. The blurry view is kind of what we were all seeing anyway, several juleps in. Consider it reality-blogging.

The race was actually one of the less spectacular of recent years, and tragedy struck when the lone filly had to be euthanized immediately after breaking both front ankles. Still, I'm excited to see how Big Brown does in the Preakness—he's all anticipation and dreams right now, with the chance to join Seattle Slew as the only undefeated horse to win it all. I don't know that much about horse racing but the hope for the Triple Crown has become for me a measurable part of what makes late spring a great time of year.

There are a couple things I always like to review when Derby Time rolls around every year. One is this book by a dude I used to know name John Jeremiah Sullivan—Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter's Son. Sullivan moved back down south a few years ago and regrettably we all fell out of touch. He had been an editor at Harper's and the book sprang from an award-winning piece he wrote for the October 2002 issue—Horseman, Pass By: Glory, Grief, and the Race for the Triple Crown. Here's an excerpt, from his experience at the Kentucky Derby:
Ivana Trump is here, too, in a tasteful feathered hat. A heavyset frat-looking guy in a white T-shirt and a white cap is screaming at Ivana, and people actually quiet down to enable him. "Ivana!" he bellows. She goes on chatting. "I-V-A-N-A! We love you, Ivana!" She keeps her back to him, but it is clear to all that she is now consciously keeping her back to him, which is fun to see. He has pierced the veil. Emboldened, he switches to Puffy, who now goes by P. Diddy. "P. Daddy! P. Daddy!" he cries. A woman walks up and starts giving him a good slap on the back every time he lets loose with one of his wild namings. I hear her refer to him, in conversation with another bystander, as "my son."

The behavior of this lunatic and his dam raises a question about the people inside the paddock, which is, What kind of person would voluntarily endure what is essentially a foodless outdoor cocktail party of strangers in heavy sun, in a concentration-camp-style enclosure, wearing outlandish clothes and trying to appear relaxed while being gawked at and openly insulted by hundreds if not thousands of drunken hill people? It is sad to be reminded, once again, that all this horse racing business is about the rich, for the rich are hideous. There is nothing they cannot ruin. And, of course, if there is one other thing that horse racing is all about, it is people who do not have money to lose—the bettors—losing it.

So it is beautiful when the horses themselves appear, in their ignorance and their majesty, and assert their presence amid all this crappiness. "Oh Horse, Horse, Horse," wrote D.H. Lawrence in a letter, "when you kick your heels you shatter an enclosure every time," and now I know just what he means. Only those with souls most thoroughly hollowed out by fame fail to turn and watch the three-year-olds
when they take their slow lap around the paddock. And the jockeys! Who could not love a sport with its own paid battalion of wee men, their bright, gay silks, their young faces, their ambiguous quasi-midgetry. We have had to evolve a special race of human beings, when you think about it, so that the thoroughbreds may have riders.
You can buy Blood Horses here or at your local bookstore. No matter if you're into horse racing or not, it's a thoroughly enjoyable read.

The other thing I like to revisit at this time of year is a recording I made of the 2004 Preakness Stakes. Having won the Kentucky Derby, Smarty Jones more than delivers on all the excitement and anticipation with a massive win at Pimlico. Of course, we know now that he was not able to close at Belmont—but every time I listen to this, the excitement and the feeling of hope still gives me chills.

The 129th Preakness Stakes mp3

Mark your calendar: The Preakness is May 17th. Here's hoping that Big Brown pulls it off.

The Fairest of the Seasons

I'd been looking for this record forever and had never seen it for less than $40. Yesterday at the Fort Greene flea market I was lucky enough to find a clean copy for a pittance ($11). The weather turned from foggy to sunny and warm after I found it. Coincidence? Don't think so.

The back cover of The Smiths' final album is cool too—yet another reason to buy records. Once or twice a week when I was in high school I would walk over to Rubato Records and look through used vinyl and tapes before taking the bus or walking home through what seemed like ground zero for everything crummy in the world: Bellevue, Washington. The guys who worked at Rubato were several years older than me, and as far as I was concerned, they knew everything there was to know. I learned a lot of stuff about music just from eavesdropping and occasionally getting up the nerve to ask them some extremely calculated question. Anyway, I bought this on cassette from Rubato but never had the record.

I picked up a couple other random things, including the Triumvirat record that I have been looking for since Chad hipped me to it, and Fonda Rae's "Over Like a Fat Rat." All in all nothing to get too worked up about, but the Nico record made it feel like a huge success.

Nico These Days mp3