Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Worst Man: I'm the Friend You Didn't Invite to Your Wedding

My friend Stephen planned his wedding very carefully. He picked Howe Caverns, in upstate New York, for the ceremony because it was a favorite weird-but-cool destination of himself and his then-finance. He roped in a mutual friend of ours to perform the ceremony; he timed the whole thing to coincide with the annual Perseids meteor shower. I wasn’t invited.

Stephen told me later that only the immediate families were there. He didn’t want to deal with having a big event, he said—“fretting over orders of centerpieces or picking hydrangeas versus birds of paradise”—or the logistics of wrangling friends to leave the city. “Plus, we knew we’d be having a nice [...]


How Has "Bust" Magazine Survived?

BUST magazine operates out of a loft on 27th street and Broadway, above an awning that says Reiko Wireless Accessories. On the evening I visited, a bit before Christmas, young staffers rode up with me in the elevator, sharing swigs from a plastic bottle of whiskey. In the office they broke away, laughing and chatting, settling down at computers underneath walls covered in posters and stickers. One featured a giant image of Joan Crawford from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and the text "BUST Magazine says no wire hangers ever!"

The magazine's editor in chief, Debbie Stoller, was in a state. She waved me to the conference room in [...]


War Reporting For Bloody Dummies

Recently I saw the journalist Clare Morgana Gillis, and asked her about her war reporting. "If you want to know a bunch of stuff about my background and whatever you can Google it," she said. She is tall and intimidating, was wearing wraparound sunglasses at the time, and seemed to be doing her best to look everywhere but at me. As it happened, I had some clue about her background; a few people had pointed her out to me, saying, quietly, that she had undergone something unusual.

Just a couple years ago, Gillis made her first trips to combat zones. Already in her mid-30s, she held a doctorate in early [...]


Inside Maximum Fun's Podcasting Shindig In The Poconos

At around midnight on a recent Friday night in the Poconos, television personality and geek humorist John Hodgman was shouting trivia questions about the character actor Vincent Schiavelli (you know him). "What actress, married to Vincent Schiavelli for many years, played Agnes DiPesto on 'Moonlighting'?" he asked. The question was met with groans of confusion (the answer, which I only learned just now by Googling it, is Allyce Beasley).

There were 200 or so of us in the audience, seated around the giant, slightly antiseptic ballroom of the Inn at Pocono Manor. It was the first night of complicated cultural happening MaxFun Con East, a weekend convention celebrating the [...]


The Scourge Of Pour-Over Coffee

On a recent Sunday, the crowd at the Brooklyn Flea was dangerously under-caffeinated. Blue Bottle Coffee, the only coffee vendor at the popular flea market, had just that weekend decamped, with little fanfare, until spring. The marble counter where their coffee wares were usually arrayed sat empty. The crowd—the weekend shoppers for costume jewelry and vintage iron-on decals—became indignant when told that they would have to go across the street—to a Starbucks—to get their caffeine fix. “Are you serious?!” a woman demanded of the hapless cupcake vendor who had the misfortune to have a spot next door. “Yes, I’m serious,” he replied, affecting the blankness of an airline representative [...]


A Conversation With Musician Ben Lear

Last night at Le Poisson Rouge, Ben Lear was wearing a wetsuit that made him look like a Starfleet Medical Officer and shaking hands. The 23-year-old son of 89-year-old television mogul and activist Norman Lear (you might know him for producing "All in the Family" or founding progressive advocacy group People For The American Way) had just finished performing Lillian, a show that's like an epic blend of Arcade Fire, Feist, a Muppet adventure and rock opera (although Lear prefers the term "folk opera," for its lower pretentiousness quotient). The story, which is by turns touching and bizarre, follows a young man’s search for his lost love, [...]


A Conversation With John Flansburgh And Jonathan Coulton

John Flansburgh is never at a loss for words. Well informed and quick with a funny line, he's able to talk intelligently about pretty much any subject under the sun. He’s also, of course, spent more than 25 years writing witty and esoteric songs as one half of the band They Might Be Giants, along with John Linnell. This wry sensibility also made him a good fit to produce Artificial Heart, the new record from Internet favorite Jonathan Coulton. During his Thing A Week project a few years ago, Coulton wrote a song every week, covering everything from life in the suburbs to memos from zombies. He’s also [...]


Is This a Summer Without a Song of the Summer?

The song of the summer is easy to spot. You hear it in the softer-louder-softer of passing cars, dripping out of clothes stores, wafting up from block parties. It's inescapable. Think of last year's Katy Perry ode to boobs and hatefully nonstandard spelling, "California Gurls." (The Far*East Movement's "Like a G6" would have been the song of last summer, as it was released last April, but the single push didn't happen until late August, and it rode the charts high all through October and November.) Remember Beyonce and Jay-Z's domination of 2004 with their declaration of car-exploding mutual adoration, "Crazy In Love"? And there's the recent mother of them [...]


Which Failed Utopia Was Best?

Based more or less out of Portland, YACHT is an esoteric dance rock band whose new album, Shangri-La, is concerned with ideas of utopia and human consciousness, as well as dance beats. Here the band's two members, Claire L. Evans and Jona Bechtolt, rank some of the great utopian experiments of the past. While all of the below are essentially failures of utopia, the band has ranked them in order of desirability.

7. The Garden of Eden The Biblical home of the first man and woman, all of their needs were met, and there was nothing but happiness. Eventually man is cast out for attempting to gain knowledge. [...]