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Monday
Jun072010

Saying Goodbye to Chicago

On the Chicago River in 2004, the visit right before I moved. The Trump building is now where the Sun Times building is here.As some of you know, I have recently been wrestling with the decision to leave Chicago, a fabulous city that I've called home for more than 5 years.  After weighing my professional options, personal feelings, and overall desire for change, I have decided to say goodbye to the Windy City and move to Philadelphia, my hometown. 

I have always known that I would want to reunite with my friends and family on the East Coast, and this summer feels like the right time.  I look forward to the energy and motivation that will come from this transition. 

I have made many amazing friends in Chicago, and I will sorely miss your frequent company.  You have welcomed me into your lives and I will be ever grateful for your friendship.  You know that I will be back in the Midwest often, and now you have the perfect excuse to visit the city I've been extolling for so long. 

Thank you so much to everyone who offered their support and advice throughout this process.  It feels good to know that I have friends and family who care about my future. 

So, in a few short weeks, around July 21-22, I will be packing up and heading East.  So spread the word and get ready for my return to Philly!  

Monday
May242010

LOST: The End

As the landmark show has done for six seasons, LOST's finale left us with plenty of questions.  Thankfully, it also gave us a solid foundation on which to base our interpretations of the show’s core meaning. 

LOST was a show that broke rules throughout its existence, whether it was announcing a series end date, utilizing unorthodox narrative structure, or seriously addressing questions of spirituality, and those risks were part of what made the show great.  The writers and actors of LOST were unafraid to challenge viewers with an uncompromising vision, and that respect for the process paid off in the final product. 

I truly believe there will never be another show like LOST.  It may well be that its run serves as the swan song for network television.  We'll have to wait to understand the show's place in television history, but for now, we can analyze its legacy within the context of its final hours. 

ABC / Mario PerezAs a loyal fan of LOST, someone who has relished the high points and kept faith during the low, I would find it hard to believe that any real fan of the show would be disappointed by "The End."  If before the finale you didn’t accept that the show was not about mythology or science fiction, but rather the journey of its characters, then you wasted 121 hours of your life.  The power of LOST comes from its human element, not the supernatural.  Sure, the setting of the show incorporated many fictional tropes, some of which were pretty cool, but at its heart was a story that addressed the big questions, of love, redemption, and the meaning of life. 

For most of this season, I was among the viewers who were skeptical of the Sideways storylines.  I was unsure why we needed a new narrative device so close to the end, but as I had done for five years, I trusted in the show, and my faith was rewarded in the finale.  The revelation that the Sideways world was not an alternate reality but instead a form of afterlife meeting place was surprising yet satisfactory.  The reconciliation of the timelines provided what I really wanted, the knowledge that the Island timeline was real, and that it meant something.  As Christian Shephard told Jack, "the most important time of your life was the time you spent with these people."  That idea, that individuals can be linked through shared experience, is a fitting end for this group's journey.

This explanation certainly leaves a lot to unpack, and I can understand that some people could be turned off by the fact that the meaning of the Sideways world is ambiguous.  I am left wondering if any of the alternate storylines meant anything aside from bringing the castaways together.  Did it mean anything that they got a glimpse of what life could have been like if they never crashed?  Or, because they apparently created that world, do those speculations only serve as a means to an end, to a remembrance of things as they were? 

Other questions I am still struggling with include why certain people were included or excluded from that final group in the church.  Daniel Faraday seemingly grasped the nature of that world, yet Desmond told Eloise Hawking that he wouldn’t be coming with him.  I took this to mean that he would move on later, perhaps after he helps Charlotte realize her past.  Also, we never saw an epiphany for Penny in the Sideways world.  Can we just assume that Desmond, as enlightenment catalyst, brought her consciousness at some point?  I accept that Michael wouldn’t be there because he was trapped on the island, unable to move on, and I guess Walt wasn't really essential to this core group, so for the most part the right people were in the room.

That final scene, and the episode as a whole, just felt right.  It was great how the show essentially came full circle, referencing the past in a way that allowed the characters to move forward.  The recreation of central moments of their Island life was fun for the audience and a fitting way for the characters to receive their epiphanies.  And to have Jack be the last to understand, to be the conduit for the explanation of the Sideways world, as we simultaneously see him dying in the Island world, was as well-planned a sequence as you could ask for, culminating in the perfect symmetric image of his eye closing.

Some extra thoughts before I conclude.

Scenes I love from the finale:

  • Charlie: "I was shot by a fat man."
  • Ben’s look of gratitude when Hurley asked for his help.
  • Juliet and Sawyer’s shared epiphany.

Some more lingering questions:

  • Did Desmond truly serve his purpose as failsafe on the island?  Well, he did serve a purpose; it just wasn’t the one he, Jack, or Locke thought it would be.  He survived moving the rock, temporarily making Locke mortal.
  • So why were Desmond and Jack able to survive being in the heart of the island, and MIB suffered "a fate worse than death"?  Perhaps part of the fringe benefits of being the Constant. 

I could write pages more, but I think I got to the heart of my opinion on LOST’s final chapter.  It was a rewarding experience to go on this six-year journey, and I truly feel that the finale fulfilled the spirit of the show.  I look forward to talking it over for a while longer, and then, when I’m ready, to let go and move on.  

Wednesday
May192010

Hanley's Lack of Hustle

Hanley Ramirez boots a ball into the outfield. / AP PhotoThe big story in baseball this week is centered on Florida Marlins Shortstop Hanley Ramirez.  The 2006 Rookie of the Year and 2009 Batting Champion was benched by manager Fredi Gonzalez Monday after failing to hustle after a ball he kicked into the outfield, while runners were rounding the bases and scoring.

Benching a player for not hustling has long been a tactic of managers to send a message to the rest of the club.  But when it's your best player, it can be a bit more divisive.  Add to that the fact that he may have been a bit hurt after fouling a ball off his leg in an at-bat the previous inning, and the media has plenty to latch onto.  What should ideally be a private matter has blown up into the public sphere. 

I have to agree with Gonzalez's decision to bench Ramirez, though, because star players should be expected to set an example for the team.  Ramirez made matters worse by refusing to apologize and even attacking his manager for not understanding what it's like to play in the bigs.  It didn't seem to bother the team, though, as they won 8-0 on Tuesday.

Ramirez does have a history of acting out, and to this point his teammates and manager have kept quiet about his immaturity.  But unless he at least makes a statement to his teammates, it will be hard to see him as a leader.  

Gonzalez says he expects him to make such a statement today and be in the lineup tonight.  We'll see if Ramirez and the Marlins can put this behind them.  We wouldn't want to have to hear Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy wax poetic on the situation anymore.

Friday
May142010

The New Pornographers: Together

The New Pornographers

Together

Matador Records

May 4, 2010


"Light a candle’s end
You are a light turned low
And like the rest of us
You got those old eternity blues"

~ "Crash Years"



The art of the pop song is still alive in the realm of rock ‘n’ roll, as evidenced by Together, the latest album from multi-talented Vancouver collective The New Pornographers.  Featuring the consistently inspired songwriting of Carl Newman and Dan Bejar as well as their and Neko Case’s effusive vocal talents, Together is the power pop album you’ll be spinning all summer.

Together starts off with several instant classics, as chunky strings take over where keyboards may have roamed before on ground-shakers like "Moves" and "Crash Years."  Deep, staccato cello lines and Kurt Dahle's tom-toms add fist-thumping accents to an ongoing, head-bobbing rhythm of perfectly strummed acoustic guitars.  The songs boast the typically lush layers of Newman’s songwriting as well as quirky tidbits like melodic whistles. 

While these two opening tracks are referentially postmodern in their allusion to other songs – "Crash Years" borrowing a melody from George Harrison’s "You" and "Moves" being partly about Chicago’s illustrious "25 or 6 to 4" – the songs also capture both the simple pain of chasing a lover as well as the complex fear that suffuses modern man in the face of economic instability.  In fact, I take more from the latter insights than the song references, although perhaps that's because they are my own, and not gleaned from sources like Rick Moody’s heady biography of the band on Matador’s website. 

The album takes a bit of a turn with "Silver Jenny Dollar," penned by Bejar and thereby a bit more eccentric but still wonderfully catchy.  Two tracks later we get a full dose of Neko Case’s sweetness on her ballad "My Shepherd," which also features Kathryn Calder, who sometimes fills in live for Case but is now coming into her own as a full member of the band. 

There are some other talented guests on Together alongside the deep roster of New Pornographers, including Okkervil River's Will Sheff, St. Vincent's Annie Clark, Beirut's Zach Condon, and the horns of The Dap-Kings

While each member of The New Pornographers brings his or her own unique sensibility to the project, they nevertheless always come together in a way that is instantly recognizable.  They are a band unafraid to write shiny pop songs that are both playful and sincere.  The variety of instruments, beautifully layered arrangements, and perfect balance of tempo and restraint puts Together in the running for my favorite New Pornographers album. 

Tuesday
May112010

Mark Price Art Exhibition in New York

As much as I enjoy trips to world-class museums like the Art Institute of Chicago, I often find myself thinking, “I should really get more into modern art.”  A perfect opportunity recently arose as I read about Philadelphia-based artist Mark Price’s second solo exhibition at Christina Ray gallery in New York City. 

"Designer End Game" © Mark PricePrice’s Designer End Game Strategies fits perfectly into Christina Ray’s focus on “pyschogeography,” artwork that explores the relationship between people and places.  This relationship permeates Price’s stark, detailed but ambiguous drawings and paintings.

Designer End Game Strategies features more than a dozen panels of acrylic ink and paint that share a bold, immediate, and dystopian aesthetic reflective of a society in catastrophe.  The works create a “state of emergency induced and performed by an irrational and panicked society. Bodies are sacrificed into abstract remains under the cultural mismanagement of capital and technology.”

"Navigation Through Ruined Surfaces" © Mark PriceIn a work like “Navigation Through Ruined Surfaces,” my interest is sparked by images that hint at the intersection of individual and community, where buildings and body parts are indistinguishable from each other.  The color palette of black and gray with splashes of pink and red is reflected throughout the collection, and further highlights the perceived clash of flesh and steel.

As it so happens, Price is a childhood friend of mine, so I was able to ask him a few questions about his work. 

 

What is your preferred choice of medium, and how does it influence your subject matter? 

I have been doing a lot of screen printing for the past several years and that process has informed my drawings and paintings, specifically in using flat fields of opaque color. I strive for a flatness in my application.

Who or what are your influences? 

Social interaction and organizational structures. Urban spaces and how they are controlled and can change.  Our mental projection of perceived spaces and moments. Boundaries, decay, and conquest set against voids, absence, and waste.

How would you describe the subject of your art? 

A destruction myth of the Non-Character.  The Non-Character as a body devoid of identities, corrupt and ruined with grotesque, exaggerated forms infused with a ubiquitous technology.  A catastrophic moment memorized and frozen as it repeats over and over again into an infinite field.

What are your impressions of the art scene in Philly / East Coast / America?  What are the challenges of promotion within it?

Philly seems really exciting right now but I think that the art scene probably mirrors many other cities with a similar size and economic climate.  There are tribes of young artists continually banding together, sharing resources, and creating spaces for opportunities to work, exhibit, and share. The East Coast is a great place to be working because of its connectivity to several urban centers up and down the coast including Boston, Providence, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. This eases promotion because of the ability to make connections in cities close by with artists who may be doing similar projects.

 

Designer End Game Strategies runs through Sunday, May 23.

UPDATE: Exhibit extended through June 6

Christina Ray Gallery

30 Grand Street, Ground Floor
New York, NY 10013

Wednesday – Sunday, 12 – 6 p.m.

View and purchase more of Price’s work, including custom zines, at markpriceisafactory.net.