I have some real posts lined up (including some pictures of the apartment—finally!), but right now I just want to take a quick ART BREAK. Here’s a brief history of John Baldessari crammed into six minutes…and narrated by Tom Waits. PERFECT. Two of my most favorite guys. I love this.
Commissioned by LACMA for their first annual “Art + Film Gala” honoring John Baldessari and Clint Eastwood.
The Manhattan Bridge is not the Brooklyn Bridge. Yes, both bridges cross the East River and connect Manhattan and Brooklyn. On the Brooklyn side, you can walk from one to the other in just over 5 minutes. They’re brothers separated by 26 years. (Sisters? I’m never sure about the genders of inanimate objects.) The Brooklyn Bridge is iconic, though. There are 2027 bridges in this town, but the Brooklyn Bridge is the one that immediately comes to mind when someone from the other side of the world hears the words “New York City” and “bridge.” The Manhattan Bridge is bigger, younger…and bluer, painted the color of Dutch Delft tiles.
Tucked under the Manhattan Bridge on the Brooklyn side is my new part-time neighborhood, DUMBO. My apartment is really close the the bridge–it’s in a factory built by Robert Gair (inventor of the corrugated cardboard box) in the 1880s. You can see the building in all three of the photos above, and it still looks pretty much the same in 2012 as it did in 1908.
Whether I’m walking home from the subway, talking the dogs out for their evening stroll, or talking a little time to myself on the little beach in the park, I cannot get enough of the Manhattan Bridge. The more time I spend in DUMBO, the more I get to know this big blue friend from all angles. It doesn’t have a bad side. I take a photo of it almost every day.
On Friday I wrote a little bit about the passing of Adam Yauch and about having been a Beastie Boys fan for two and a half decades. The Beasties are New York for me…they are Brooklyn. That’s why they’re on my “Summertime Jams” and “Hustle” mixtapes: They signify energy and sunshine and attitude. Walking down the street feeling like a badass. A badass with a sense of humor.
I can’t separate the Beasties and MCA from Brooklyn, and combined with my new-found love for the Manhattan Bridge, I was pretty excited last night when Neal Brennan uploaded some previously-unseen footage of the Beastie Boys performing “The New Style” on a boat in the East River in 2004. It was supposed to air on the third season of Chappelle’s Show (which of course never happened). The best part is Ad-Rock yelling out “let me clear my throat” just before a subway rumbles overhead on the Manhattan Bridge…a sound that sings me to sleep every night I’m in Brooklyn.
Kick it over here, baby pop…
EDIT: It’s back!
EDIT: Sorry guys, the video is being repeatedly yanked by Viacom. Here’s an article about why. If Neal Brennan can find a way to get it out there legally, I’ll re-edit it back in. Sad…
A couple of weeks ago, one of my favorite groups was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I have a strong dislike for awards and certifications and ceremonies and that kind of thing, but I took a moment on Twitter to give love and congratulations to the Beastie Boys, because really—they deserved to be there. It was satisfying to see a group I grew up loving (and still love now and never stopped loving) honored for their contributions to rock music. If any group cannot be pigeon-holed into a single genre, it’s the Beastie Boys. So let’s just go ahead and recognize them everywhere. Hip Hop Honors, Rock and Roll, Walk of Fame, Grand Old Opry…go for it.
When I found out that Adam Yauch—MCA, he’s got a license to kill—wasn’t going to be able to attend the ceremony because he was too ill, my heart sank. I knew he’d been diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, because the Beasties had to cancel their tour and postpone their album. Somehow, though, once the incredible Hot Sauce Committee was finally released last year, the general assumption was that Yauch was alright. That he was going to be OK. He even directed the video for “Make Some Noise.”
And now he’s gone. I’m glad that induction ceremony happened when it did.
I blogged about that video just over a year ago, and I said this about it: “The new Beastie Boys video reminds me of how deeply satisfying it is to have been their fan for about 27 years now. They just never disappoint!” That’s the truth. I was lucky enough to see the Beastie Boys live a few times over the course of those 27 years in various stages of their career, and they were awesome. Life and energy and power and happiness and FUN.
I’ve had the “Who’s your favorite Beastie?” discussion many times with many people, and the general consensus always seems to wind up being all of them. But if you break it down, you do it a little like the Beatles—and Yauch was the George Harrison of the Beasties. Maybe you wanted to date Ad-Rock and party with Mike D, but MCA is the one you wanted to get deep with. He’s the one you wanted to philosophize about life with over a nice vegan dinner. He’s the one you wanted to talk to about art and New York and basketball and Buddhism. MCA, what up?
Two big things happened in my musical world in 1989: The Cure released Disintegration, and the Beastie Boys put out Paul’s Boutique. I have never listened to two records more than I did those over the next few years. 23 years later, they are both in my top five all-time favorite albums. The Beastie Boys never have never had a low point, but they have had a high—and that was it. Paul’s Boutique moved the bar for progressive, innovative rap music so high that I don’t think anyone can ever top it. Even Miles Davis called it the greatest album ever made. By anyone. Ever.
Even though there’s no video, I have to include the “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” here. It’s the greatest 12 minutes in the entire history of hip hop. MCA has the coolest part, of course—the “Year and a Day” section that kicks in at the 3-minute mark.
If the Cure were the soundtrack of my teenage isolation and anger, and Morrissey is the soundtrack of my adult disappointment with life, the Beastie Boys are the ongoing soundtrack to friendship, fun, and good times. They’re the sound of skate parks, hair dye, cool sneakers and cute boys. The Beastie Boys made me want to move to Brooklyn.
When I grieve over the loss of a person like MCA—someone I didn’t know—what I’m really grieving on a personal level is the recognition of lost eras of my life. Friendships that went by the wayside, people I did know who have passed on, and the realization that I’ll probably never feel that way about a group or artist that I might discover as an adult.
Adam Yauch was bigger than just the music, though, and over the next few days there will be lots of tributes to him and the other work he did (creating the Free Tibet Music Festival, directing tons of videos for the Beasties, making a movie about high school basketball players, and so on). This is just about me, really, and about losing another one of my musical heroes and another slice of my personal soundtrack. My heart goes out to Yauch’s wife and daughter, as well as to Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond, who I know must be feeling the loss of their brother in a heavy, heavy way.
Here are a few of my favorite Beastie Boys moments out of so many. And all of these videos were directed by MCA, of course…Nathanial Hörnblowér, Adam Yauch from Brooklyn, Yauch with his fisheye lens, Yauch with his close-ups and his hoodie and his gravely voice and his beard like a billy goat.
I love this video essay that Richard Cruz put together assembling some of Spike Lee’s best dolly shot moments. Spike is definitely one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, and I’m one of those people who gets really excited when he busts out the dolly shots. I know he gets some criticism for overusing them, but I think that mainly comes from people within the film industry who have an awareness of how these shots are achieved technically. As a non-film industry moviegoer, however, I love the surreal, dreamy feeling these shots impart on his movies—and this montage makes me want to have a Spike Lee film festival in my living room this weekend.
I’ve had a lot of design projects in the works lately, and I thought I’d share a couple of favorites that I just finished up in the past week.
About a year ago, I convinced my friend, musician and composer Roger O’Donnell, to let me work on a complete overhaul of his website. Roger had been designing and maintaining his personal site (as well as the sites for numerous side projects he’s worked on) for many years, so it was with a bit of trepidation that I made the suggestion in the first place, but Roger was completely on board. It took a long time to migrate all of those years of content from a static site (there were literally hundreds of pages all nestled inside of directories within directories—I told him it was like discovering a giant box filled with filing cabinets inside of an enormous closet you never knew was in your house) to a WordPress-based format, and it’s still a bit of a work in progress, but I’m happy that Roger now has a website he can add news items to easily and keep up to date with information about all of his various projects.
Right on the heels of the website launch last month, Roger asked me if I’d design a poster for his collaboration with musician Adam Donen, which was to be a secular Requiem. I said of course (of course!), and the result is something I’m very happy with. Poster design is really still kind of an area of unknowns for me, but I’m finding that I really like thinking about how the eye moves and how the brain processes information when something is presented on a wall rather than on a table or shelf like a book would be.
I’d previously worked with Roger on two other design projects, the first being the packaging for Nothing Concrete, a CD sampler his label released in 2005, and then last year a poster for a performance of his Hockney-inspired work, Quieter Trees. I’ve known Roger for nearly 15 years now—the duration of my entire career as a designer—and it means so much to me to be able to work with someone whose own work I believe in and care about so much.
Roger has written more about the Requiem project on his site, and if you’re going to be in London on April 2nd, you can see it performed live with an orchestra at Shoreditch Church. I wish I could be there, as I’m sure it’s going to be fantastically dark and beautiful.
The poster itself is now available for pre-order. This is a rare chance to hang something on the wall that I designed, so if you’re interested in buying one (£20, including shipping to anywhere), head over to Roger’s store right away…it’s a very limited edition that will ship in about three weeks.
The redesign of Cute + Delicious is something I’d been thinking about for months before I actually started working on it. I love Alix’s blog (vegan treats, movie love and crafty fun…what’s not to love?!), and between the great photos and its fun name, it was hard to not come up with ideas for a new look. I did a lot of tweaking and adjusting and futzing before I even showed her a preliminary comp (always a nerve-wracking moment!), and I’m SO excited that she liked what I’d come up with right away. With just a few minor alterations based on Alix’s feedback, I think we wound up with a blog design that is, well, both cute and delicious. Alix was a dream client for sure, and I hope I have the chance to work with her again in the future. In the mean time, I’ll keep looking at this spinach dip and wishing I could coax it out of the monitor and into my mouth.
Thank you so much, Roger and Alix, for trusting me with your design projects!
It’s been so long since I’ve made a mix tape to share! I’m super-busy at work these days (OK, I know, when am I not busy…but it’s definitely better than the alternative), and I’ve been in all-headphones-all-the-time mode. I work in a big open space with a bunch of other designers, and as much as I love them, sometimes I really just need to tune everything out.
So here’s what I’m listening to today! Music that makes me want to GET. IT. DONE. It’s a fun mix, for sure, and every bit as suitable for listening to while speed-cleaning the house as it is for designing book covers to.
“David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee” commercial // Directed by David Lynch, 2012
Last year, I posted about the first commercial for David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee, and boy, was it a doozy. I’m not one to get overly excited about advertisements, but that ad made me not only want to buy David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee for drinking purposes, but also for bathing, tooth-brushing, and as an eyedrop substitute. It was that good.
Did you know that Ice Cube studied architectural drafting before getting into rap? Yeah, me neither, but apparently he did, and now he’d like to tell you why he loves Los Angeles…and why he loves Charles and Ray Eames.
I like this a lot. I enjoy when my interests fold in on each other in unexpected ways.
Update: I missed this yesterday, but the New York Times also has an interview with Ice Cube about making this video. Best quote: “You don’t want to live in nothing I draw. I got a certificate. For a year. In ’88. I don’t think I picked up a T-square since.” (Thanks, Catherine!)
Speaking of which, have you seen Eames: The Architect and the Painter yet? Evan and I went to see it at the IFC Center a couple of weeks ago, and we really enjoyed it. The movie (narrated by James Franco, yay!) more about their lives, motivations and work processes than it is an exhaustive look at their output, and that’s what makes it so interesting. If you have the chance to see it in the theater, GO. It’s a fun hour and twenty minutes.
If you can’t see the movie in the theater, you can catch it on December 19th at 10:00pm on the PBS series “American Masters,” and after that on PBS on demand.
This is a reposting of a guest blog post I did for Dos Family two years ago. I regularly receive emails asking for the link to download the Swedish Christmas record, so I will repost it here yearly!
In the United States, it’s not uncommon to hear Christmas music wafting from shop speakers as early as the beginning of November, but it’s not “Here Comes Santa Claus” or “Jingle Bell Rock” that puts me in the holiday spirit. For me, it’s not Christmastime until I put on the recording of Swedish Christmas music that I grew up listening to each and every year: Christmas in Sweden, recorded in 1962 by Åke Jelving and a chorus of parents and children.
This is jovial, happy music, sung with energy and enthusiasm…and with audible gasping and stomping!
Our mother may be Swedish, but my siblings and I haven’t got a clue what the lyrics mean. I suspect that they, like me, sing along phonetically (and badly) in the privacy of their own homes. On Christmas day, we put the record on and leave the singing to Mommy as we all hold hands and dance in a circle, usually around the spread of snacks and glögg on the kitchen island.
My gift to you is a download of Christmas in Sweden. Evan made the MP3s directly from the record, so you’ll hear all the same snaps and crackles that I do when I listen to the original. I think that just adds to the appeal! Unless you’re a Swede, this may not sound like Christmas music to you at first, but give it time. (And maybe enjoy it with a little glögg.)
To download the album, you’ll need to visit this link. If you don’t have an account, that’s okay—just wait for the countdown to finish, then click the “regular download” button. Easy!