The Box Builder

Peering down from a penthouse on the High Line.
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New York City, April 23, 2015

weather review sky 042315★★ Gusts clamored against the building. The sun, when it showed, looked capable of being pleasant, but the clouds had persistence and numbers. Pigeons dropped on the air, wings stiff and upright, riding the wind across 68th Street and just under the top of the post office garage opening. By school pickup the sun had stopped trying, leaving dark sky and a cold wind slinging garbage in great sloppy curves and then, on the way back up from the river, even a grim sprinkle of rain. The maintenance staff had swapped out the winter insulation on the heating-and-cooling units, and chilly air forced its way up through the vent, as if the blower were on. The clouds allowed the daylight a few brief and lazy moments of glory before its final surrender.

Episodes of Eating Children in Ancient Greece, Ranked in Order of Unreasonableness

tereus5. If anyone has ever had a good reason to kill and serve their own child for dinner (they haven’t), Procne did (even though she didn’t). After Procne’s husband, Tereus, raped her sister, Procne took revenge the only way ancient Greeks knew how: She killed their son, Itys, and fed him to his father. According to the myth, at some point during the meal, Tereus said, “Hey, where’s Itys? We should have him here with us,” lobbing Procne the best straight man line in ancient history.p

It’s worth noting that Procne was the only child-server not punished by the gods for her actions; to aid their escape from Tereus, Zeus turned her into a swallow and her sister into a nightingale. Being turned into a bird is perhaps ambiguous—reward and punishment—but it mostly depends on the type of bird.

Inside the Internet Outrage Machine with Jim Norton

jim-norton-contextually-inadequateAfter 2012’s Please Be Offended and 2013’s American Degenerate, standup Jim Norton returns to television tonight with his third Epix special Contextually Inadequate. Filmed at Boston’s Somerville Theatre in January, the special dives deep into recent pop culture scandals and their internet backlash aftermaths, covering everything from the demise of Bill Cosby and Donald Sterling to his own personal experience after the firing of his friend and Opie and Anthony Show cohost Anthony Cumia last July. Ahead of Contextually Adequate’s premiere, Norton spoke with us about hosting his own show on Vice, the difference between online criticism and outrage, and what projects he has planned for the year ahead.

“’Scar’ John was a special cat. He saved my life one time. We were standing outside the Robin Hood Club listening to Little Miss Cornshucks when he suddenly said, ‘Look out, man.’ So I looked out and half a St. Louis brick came sailing past my head.”
This piece on the origins of the Neville Brothers’ “Brother John/Iko Iko” is worth reading if you are someone who correctly acknowledges the song’s genius. And most of it is understandable even to those who were not dodging bricks outside of clubs in early ’70s New Orleans.#

The Dudes in the Machine

dudes“I get the ‘moment’ you’re having,” Ex Machina‘s wonderfully patronizing search engine potentate Nathan Bateman tells his starstruck employee and guest, Caleb Smith, when they first meet in Bateman’s secret Alaskan lair, a modernist palace hidden in a vast, pristine forest. “But can we just get past that? Can’t we just be two guys, Nathan and Caleb, let the whole employer-employee thing… go?”

But Batemans never intend to let the Calebs forget who’s boss. Ex Machina centers on the mucho macho power tripping of such men, and on the mirror-image power tripping of the beautiful young women to whom they are so inconveniently vulnerable. On the surface, writer and first-time director Alex Garland’s movie is about hubris, power, and control, and though it will be tempting to dismiss Ex Machina as a kind of nihilist Weird Science wallpapered over with intellectual pretensions, Garland also genuinely grapples with ideas about artificial intelligence and technology. And a movie of ideas is somewhat rare in itself lately—plus this one is enchantingly beautiful to look at. This remains true even though Garland’s premises, if you make the mistake of taking them too seriously, will eventually land you in a sterile, well-designed place of total dumbness about everything from the gender wars to the future of robotics to the hive mind. Wheee!

The Curious Case of $2 Bills in Ecuador

$2It’s my last night in Ecuador and I’m leaving a bar with some friends when one of the bartenders runs out after us.

“Are you the guy who exchanges $2 bills?”

“Yeah”

He pulls out a ten. “I’ll take five.”

Fifteen years after Ecuador adopted the U.S. dollar as its official currency, the issue still stirs debate. Dollarization was so unpopular when it was first announced that protesters took over the capital and the government collapsed. The replacement government stuck with the plan—there wasn’t much choice. The Sucre, Ecuador’s native currency, was in the midst of a decade of hyper-inflation which was destroying the economy.

In 1990 $1 would have bought you 900 Sucres. At the final official exchange rate in 2000 every citizen was forced to trade 25,000 Sucres for each dollar. Whatever savings anyone had was mostly wiped out.

Today the country’s economy is doing much better. GDP is growing, poverty is down and inflation has dropped significantly. A curious thing happened on the way to economic stability: a growing devotion to the $2 bill.

Total Babes, "Blurred Time"

A big pleasing brick of sound to club you through the last day of the week.

New York City, April 22, 2015

weather review sky 042215a★★★ A fine bright morning showed no signs of the trouble forecast to come. A window washer had swung open the glass walls of the near-finished apartments across the avenue and working was out on the bare concrete ledge. The slender stems of the lights along the top of a billboard laid long, conspicuous strips of shadow diagonally across the image. The sky stayed flawless into afternoon—then, abruptly, it wasn’t. Lumpy dark gray came in from the west. A piebald pigeon with a white face and white wings mounted a regular pigeon-colored pigeon by the edge of a roof. When it was done, it flew off with a slow clapping sound. The sinister gray receded, briefly, and then it was back again and raining. By rush hour the rain seemed to be over downtown, but uptown it was falling again. Finally it yielded for good, to a wash of late light and a gaudy sunset.

Your Place, Your People: An Interview With Elisha Lim

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Elisha Lim has a lot to say. The graphic artist, illustrator, and filmmaker has spent years telling stories of queer and trans people of color through pin-up calendars, comics, short Claymation films, and writing. In their new anthology, 100 Crushes, Lim explores the complexities of queer life, from monogamy to buying a suit to changing their preferred pronoun to “they.” 100 Crushes has been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, which celebrates the year in LGBT literature.

Lim is an artist and an activist, and much of their work is in pursuit of increased visibility for queer people of color who are relegated to the margins of mainstream and activist circles. Their artistic work deals with racism, mixed-race identity, gender performance, and queerness. Lim has held film screenings in North America and Europe, curated art shows in Toronto and Montreal, and shown work across the U.S. and Canada. In 2013, they were named Best Emerging Director by Toronto’s Inside Out Film Festival for their short film They.

In 100 Crushes, Lim speaks to their specific experiences, as well as the universal sigh of relief that comes when you find your place and your people. In The Illustrated Gentleman we see them go shopping with their queer friends; Sissy pays homage to the “sissies and the femmes that inspire us,” a set of profiles in which Lim brings the voices of queer and trans people of color into conversation with one another and the reader.

At the same time, many of their comics are about the joys and struggles of everyday life: seeing a sexy construction worker on the street in Spain, reflecting on the influence of 1980s television in their sexual awakening, and realizing they might be a jealous person after all.

I spoke to Lim about their book, their favorite feelings, and how to navigate a constantly evolving queer community.

The American Dream Project

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Brought to you by Cole Haan and Happy Marshall’s American Dream Project.

What is the American Dream? Is it still alive today? And if so, who for?

Every day we are bombarded with bad news — about jobs, debt, climate change and the vanishing middle class. We worry about the things that divide us. But how often do we hear stories of the true spirit of everyday Americans?

It feels like the American Dream is still an open question.

James Marshall explores this theme in his American Dream Project — a multi-part series documenting a cross country motorcycle trip from New York City to Los Angeles. James and his friend Todd Williams took off armed with just $250, their wits, and a sense of adventure. Their journey was guided by a single aphorism: “There are more good people than bad. We have more in common than not.”


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James’ objective was simple: reverse the negative sentiment Americans and the media are (more often than not) associating with “America.” By using social media to connect with people, plot their course, put a roof over their heads at night and work for their keep, they were able to document and showcase that The American Dream and the optimistic spirit that built this country is very much so still alive. Check out more stills from the journey below.

Watch the American Dream Project series here.