Books on the subway are increasingly like birds in the jungle: colorful, hard-to-spot, and of obsessive interest to the lonely and peculiar. Here are one week’s worth of sightings and speculations.
Monday, 5:20PM, Brooklyn-bound C train, 23rd Street:
Facts: Thin man with bushy black beard, in his late twenties or early thirties, wearing a tight shirt buttoned all the way to the throat, purple and yellow striped socks. In his lap are Cloud Atlas and The Stranger, both closed. They remain closed, almost defiantly, for twenty minutes. He’s not even looking at his phone; the empty space in front of his eyes is, apparently, preferable to reading these books.
On the off chance that you haven’t yet decided which unrealistically ambitious exercise regimen to undertake this winter, I’d like to make a pitch for one that might seem, initially, only a few ticks less dubious than a fat-melting jiggle machine. I speak of FOCUS T25, the latest set of workout DVD’s from Shaun T., former Mariah Carey-backup dancer and creator of both INSANITY and Hip-Hop Abs. These DVD’s aren’t just the best workouts you’ll encounter in 2014; they may—and I’m pretty sure this is not just the endorphins talking—be the best works of art you’ll encounter all year too.
For months a friend had been recommending T25 [...]
There’s a strange, wonderful short story by Donald Barthelme about a balloon that appears one day on Fourteenth Street and grows, like a low-hanging blimp, until it covers a good deal of Manhattan. It becomes an object of widespread puzzlement and fascination. Children leap across its surface. Art critics analyze its colors. City officers conduct secret nighttime tests to better understand it.
For the past couple of weeks, Fort Greene has been living out its own strange version of "The Balloon." On a handful of corners, seemingly overnight, bike racks have appeared. And not just any bike racks, but city bike racks. Or is it citibike racks? These, in [...]
We are now deep into the season in which our cultural critics, like a gaggle of drunk uncles, kick off their shoes, retire to the den, and proceed to discuss, long past the point at which the rest of us would like to go to sleep, what it's all about.
You see, these shows we've been DVR-ing, these Oscar contenders we've been risking bedbugs for: they don't all just happen to have been released recently. No, they, like the birthmarks in Cloud Atlas, have messages for us; they link up. We're obsessed with the Civil War. We long for superheroes. We are, as ever, deeply confused about race.
Without quite meaning to, I spent a good deal of this TV off-season watching a show in which I had no interest whatsoever when it was actually on the air. Thanks to the miracle of Netflix Instant and a slight compulsive streak, I watched all four seasons of "Felicity" this summer—that's 84 episodes, 63 hours. Every breakup and reconciliation, every Christmas break and dorm-room confrontation. This sounds, as I type it out, like a bizarre thing to have done. Neither intriguingly campy (my summer of watching soap operas) nor admirably highbrow (my summer of watching the entire AFI greatest films list). Just sort of… there. Like a [...]
First in a series of two essays today on Louis C.K. Next: Super-Stud in Divorceland.
Let me start with a couple of stipulations:
(1) Identifying bubbles in real-time is notoriously difficult, and;
(2) I really, truly love Louis C.K. I’ve tried (and failed) on multiple occasions to see him live; I’ve watched all of his specials, including some of his weird, almost unrecognizable early appearances in Boston clubs; I’ve even, despite knowing full-well that one should never, ever do this, recounted his routines, through snorts of my own laughter, to my politely smiling friends.
Nonetheless: I’m ready to declare that we are, right now, in [...]
As I’ve been watching the NBA playoffs this spring, I’ve reached an unhappy milestone: I’m now old enough to dread learning the birthdates of professional athletes.
When I was a kid, the only pertinent piece of data about a player was his height. That Spud Webb could dunk despite being 5' 7"; that Michael Jordan was a palindromic, Greek-God-like 6’ 6"; these were the things that seemed to me worth knowing. I would no more have thought of the age of a basketball player than I would have thought of the age of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
But when I watch games now, a message flashes across my [...]
One and only one episode of "ALF" survives in my memory: the full moon is coming and ALF, knowing that he’s about to transform into a monster, asks to be locked in a cage in the kitchen. He’s going to beg to get out, he warns the Tanners, he’ll weep and shout and make extravagant promises, but they must ignore him no matter what.
In this, the last stretch of days before the 2012 presidential campaign gets underway (Newt Gingrich is apparently almost ready to announce the results of his explorations into the question of forming an exploratory committee), I find myself feeling the need to [...]
Seven or eight years ago, when I wasn’t yet old enough to feel embarrassed about it, I saw Conor Oberst play at a bar downtown. Before he went onstage—a stage that was really just a foot-high platform with a stool—he sat drinking in a booth with some friends. Having been drinking myself, I made my way to his table, where I stood as if I were a waiter, and, realizing too late that I ought never to have come over at all, I sputtered some combination of the words love and music and so much. He gave me a much friendlier look than I deserved, signed a scrap of [...]