When I close my eyes and picture Hollywood, I see grime and water-starved palm trees, white plastic sunglasses and discarded needles. For every Rodeo Drive, with its well-manicured streets, designed for beautiful cars and beautiful women, there are two or ten or twenty Melrose Avenues, the reason the descriptor "seedy" exists, slightly menacing, but mostly sad, where dreams of celebrity go to die and, from those ashes, give rise to cement, patchouli-scented sex shops, and Walgreen's staffed by more security attendants than cashiers.Read More
American Utopia, the first solo album in 14 years from Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, is hard on the ears. There are sitars that turn into synthesizers and Dadaist lyrics, that accumulate over the course of 10 tracks until they seem to serve only to dull the senses. The soundscapes and strange conceptual synergy, one imagines, are sure to charm the digital snakes and electric sheep with which Byrne surely spends his days. For most humans, however, they're harsh, alienating, and, worst of all, tacky. But there's one thing about the album that's worth listening to—if only once or twice—and that's for the signature, albeit sporadic, incandescence of Byrne's futuristic folk.Read More
I have yet to read a good review of Michelle Dean's Sharp, a book-length work of historical criticism. That's likely owing to the fact the book's formal release is still a few days away—you can pre-order it, as I have, but its official publication date is April 10—and everyone who's anyone is saving their important thoughts for Tuesday. But I'd prefer to explain it the way any of the women profiled in "Sharp" would: Art criticism is, by and large, dead, and so it falls to me to man the bookshelves.Read More
Killing Tom Petty wasn’t easy.
The formidable grunge wave of the nineties couldn’t make him irrelevant. The demise of a 22-year relationship that precipitated an oppressive depression and sent him retreating to an isolated cabin in the woods couldn’t do it. A father that “beat the shit” out of him couldn’t do it. Heroin failed. And an arsonist who burned down his house couldn’t do the trick.
In the end, some biological cowardice snuck up on Petty when he wasn’t looking: cardiac arrest.Read More
My review of The California Sunday Magazine, which started in San Francisco in 2014.Read More
James Franco is all scene-setting and no scene.Read More
This review was originally written for The Daily of the University of Washington.
If the purpose of a review is to tell a reader whether or not to see a movie, then this review can be done in a word: Go.
If the purpose of the review is to discuss meaning, the movie’s and maybe even humankind’s, then buckle up, because there’s a lot to say.Read More
Last August, I was stuck in a rut, seemingly incapable of producing art, able only to consume it. I realized that while I yearned to create and chaffed at my apparent failure, being surrounded by wonderful films and TV shows and essays of the caliber I hoped to one day create actually wasn't the worst thing. So I settled into my role as consumer, and resigned myself to producing just a few worthwhile reflections on the art I liked. It helped me to create both a time capsule of the things that inspired me at the time, and ultimately helped me to get out of my rut. Today, some seven months later, I find myself in that place again -- totally stuck. But I've learned since then, so I'm skipping the whining and going straight to the appreciation of other's successes.Read More
Every few months or year, you meet someone so unwilling to share their essence, you come away with a task, an exoskeleton to crack, some fleshy part to find and poke at. But that’s usually a misguided assumption; often, people who seem cloaked in steel aren’t hiding. Rather, they’re being painfully honest about who they are, and who they are is pricklier than a fire blanket after emergency use.Read More
This fall, nearly 50 million American children began school at a public institution. For the past few months, they've been going to class for seven or eight hours a day, five days a week. They listen to short lectures from their teachers and work on practice problems. The math builds upon itself over the years and the readings become denser with each ascending grade, all according to a pre-planned curriculum. But in between lesson plans and test preparation, an even more important type of learning is taking place: Social learning.Read More