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Entries in News (10)

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.

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.

Wednesday
Apr142010

What Does Pink Floyd Mean Today?

When news broke this week that Roger Waters would be touring behind The Wall in Fall 2010, I was grateful that I’d get one more chance to finally see the work of Pink Floyd performed live.  For a band that was born of the 1960s and came to define the 1970s, to witness The Wall in its 30th Anniversary year would be something very special indeed.

Pink Floyd is one of those iconic bands that will influence people of every generation for a hundred years.  Every music-lover has that memory when they first embraced the band’s massive, progressive sound. 

For me, it was the summer of 1995.  I was 12 years old, hanging out in my friend’s basement, where we spent a lot of time going through his dad’s LPs.  One day, my friend pulled out that iconic black cover with the prism, and I knew my life was going to change.  The Dark Side of the Moon was my only Pink Floyd record for a few years, and it keeps a special place in the sun-soaked days of summer youth, playing continuously on my Walkman as I mowed the lawn of my house in suburban Philadelphia.  I marveled with glee as the famed Wizard of Oz sync up really did work. 

It was years before I could comprehend that this music was actually made by human beings, and not some space-age robots.  The first time I really understood the fact that this was a real band that played live was at a high school party where the film Pulse was playing in the background.  I was absorbed by the songs I had internalized and amazed by the appropriately grand stage show.  Seeing the words actually come out of the mouths of David Gilmour and Roger Waters recontextualized the power of the band.

The Wall was a great soundtrack throughout high school, with its dark totalitarian themes and lost protagonist.  Many a night ended with the guitar solo of “Comfortably Numb” in my head.  It wasn’t until college that I really took a dive into the catalogue, starting with nearest cousins Wish You Were Here and Animals.  Those four albums, released over a short six years from 1973 – 1979, would be enough to secure the band’s place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where I recently saw the permanent exhibition representing the stage show and film of The Wall

There is a before and after to those golden years of production, from the psychedelic origins of Syd Barrett and 1967’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn to the Gilmour-led prog-rock of A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The Division Bell (1994).  There are some excellent tracks on these under appreciated latter albums.  I can remember being home on Christmas holiday, the candles in the window casting soft light into my bedroom as “On the Turning Away” or “Take It Back” pulsed into my consciousness. 

I guess that’s what I take away most from my ongoing love affair with Pink Floyd’s canon, the seasonal associations and memories of home, where I first learned to appreciate the beauty of their grand sounds and themes.  Every time I listen to a Pink Floyd album, like driving home for Thanksgiving last year, a new layer is added to those experiences, and music written 30 years ago now spans a decade and a half of my life. 

It’s inspiring to realize that people all over the world have Pink Floyd experiences similar to mine.  Music lovers from England to America and every other country have been touched by their art as well as their idealism.  The final time all four members of Pink Floyd played together was in London in 2005 for the Live 8 concert, standing up to be counted in the fight against poverty.

On this tour, Roger Waters will perform The Wall more times than it has ever been, and it is appropriate that this is the piece of rock theater that remains relevant, that will rekindle old fans and birth new ones.  The message is one that transcends the ages, as does the music.  And that may be the final word on Pink Floyd, that while their art captures specific moments in time, it is also timeless.   

What are some of your favorite Pink Floyd moments?

Monday
Mar292010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

ABC

Friday 9/8c

While many are praising the tumultuous passing of the health care bill, the cauterized media coverage and public opinion polls show all too clearly that America does not know how to have a civil debate about the most important social issues.

ABC / Holly FarrellPerhaps they need to be driven to dialogue and change through a more familiar avenue, like reality television.  Let’s hope that medium is more palatable to Americans as they watch Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, a six-part series on ABC that documents the British chef’s attempts to change the life-shortening eating habits of America’s least healthy town, Huntington, West Virginia. 

Having watched the first two episodes (available on Hulu), I can say that Food Revolution falls into the same trappings as many reality shows – painting people as caricatures of themselves, pitting heroes against villains, and squeezing raw emotion out of its stars.  After all, the series is produced by Ryan Seacrest. 

The message behind the series, though, is anything but trite.  Obesity is one of America’s leading health problems, and there is no reason that an overhaul of the health-care system should not also include food industry regulation and nutritional education.  Jamie Oliver has experience with enacting real political and social change through his whole foods educational approach. 

Oliver achieved success with program like Jamie’s School Dinners and Ministry of Food in his native England, which highlighted the dangers of processed foods in the school system and encouraged a community effort to rediscover the joys of home cooking.  His efforts raised public awareness and secured funds for an overhaul of the school lunch system, even earning praise from Prime Minister Tony Blair.  Just this year, Oliver earned a TED prize for his programs, an award shared previously by people like Bono and former President Bill Clinton. 

I feel strongly that regulation of the food industry and nutritional education need to be addressed hand-in-hand with the future of health care in this country.  Oliver gets it right by starting in the schools, with the children.  Food Revolution shows him battling a population entrenched in their habits, a school board system concerned with budgetary constraints, and a student body incapable of recognizing a fresh tomato.  By engaging real families simultaneously with government officials, Oliver’s efforts have a chance at making a real difference. 

Parents should absolutely watch this show with their children.  It will serve as a wakeup call to the type of food we put in our bodies every day.  It’s also great motivation for young, single people or couples to get into the kitchen and learn a few new recipes, so that we don’t pass on the same bad habits to future generations.  All of us can take more notice of the food we eat, and Jamie Oliver gives us an example we can proudly follow. 

Links

Sign Jamie’s petition for an American Food Revolution

Top Chef’s Toby Young on Jamie Oliver

Friday
Mar192010

Bad Religion: 30 Years of Punk Rock

“And I want to conquer the world
Give all the idiots a brand new religion
Put an end to poverty, uncleanliness, and toil
Promote equality in all of my decisions
With a quick wink of the eye, and a
‘God you must be joking!’”

“I Want to Conquer the World” No Control

Photo by Rick Loomis, LA TimesPunk rock is arguably the most influential and long-lasting movement in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, which is a great irony considering it’s live fast and die young mentality.  A living testament to that longevity, the seminal L.A. band Bad Religion can officially be deemed godfathers of the modern punk rock scene as they celebrate their 30th anniversary this year. 

Beginning March 17, Bad Religion will play multi-night residencies at House of Blues venues in Anaheim, San Diego, West Hollywood, and Las Vegas to celebrate their milestone.  To thank their fans for the years of support, the band will create a best-of compilation from these performances and offer it as a free download for those who sign up on the band’s website. 

I entered the Bad Religion world mid-stream, with the release of their first commercial success, 1994’s Stranger Than Fiction.  It’s funny to think that MTV helped introduce me to a punk rock band that rarely gets radio airplay, as the band’s most widely known song, “21st Century (Digital Boy)” was a staple in the late-night video blocks.  For a sixth-grader who had just begun to get into “modern” punk rock like Green Day and The Offspring, Bad Religion shone through as a mature, driven band that had a clear message.  I quickly dove into their back catalogue and followed the band throughout high school, a perfect soundtrack for those tumultuous years. 

But while Bad Religion’s “Crossbuster” logo might belie their antiestablishment views, the intellectual stimulation gained from listening to their music has shaped my worldview of a society too often ruled by the status quo.  Jamming exigent vocabulary and critical ideas into rapid-fire songs full of soaring harmonies, Bad Religion’s music encouraged me to think critically about the world around me.  These were serious people who had a message of free will and personal character expressed in a burst of artistic energy. 

Lead singer Greg Graffin does not identify himself as an atheist, rather, a naturalist who values the scientific method and a belief in the goodness of humanity.  Earning a master’s degree in geology from UCLA and a PhD in biology from Cornell University, he engages in dialogue that addresses the big questions of the universe, instead of railing against them with a battle cry. 

Brett Gurewitz, guitarist and other main songwriter for the band is an amazing story in his own right, and his absence from the band through much of the 90s left their material wanting.  Gurewitz founded Epitaph Records in order to put out Bad Religion’s material, and was instrumental in the success of bands like The Offspring. 

Bad Religion provided the soundtrack to dozens of adolescent scenes of discovery, yet they have remained a mainstay in my music catalogue and concert listings.  They will be recording their 15th studio album in May, and have no plans on quitting anytime soon.  The power of their longevity is magnified by fact that they keep producing new material. 

Graffin tends to stay modest about the milestone: “The greatest feeling about this anniversary is that it is happening at all. I'm mostly uplifted by the fact that a vibrant and evolving punk scene still inspires young people all over the world. If Bad Religion somehow serves as a symbol for the lasting importance of punk, then I am satisfied beyond words by reaching this milestone.”

I have barely scratched the surface of the monumental legacy of Bad Religion, but for now suffice to say they are my favorite band of all time. 

Recommended Albums:

Suffer 1988
Against the Grain
1990
Stranger Than Fiction
1994
The Empire Strikes First
2004
New Maps of Hell
2007

Books: Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?: A Professor And a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism & Christianity

Bad Religion on Epitaph

Brett Gurewitz on Twitter