For the past year, Alex Steyermark and Lavinia Jones Wright have led The 78 Project, a New York-based operation that aims to create an archive of the whole of contemporary American folk music using 1930s-era recording equipment. Inspired by the field recordings of Alan Lomax, Steyermark and Jones Wright use Presto machines that directly transcribe the recordings onto an acetate disc—it's a one-take, one-track recording technique. These sessions, which so far have included such musicians as Rosanne Cash, Richard Thompson, and Loudon Wainwright III, are also filmed and posted online as part of a web series. The two recently completed a recording circuit in the South, and [...]
Shane Jones’ new novel, Daniel Fights a Hurricane, was published last week by Penguin. Like his first novel—Light Boxes, in which a town bands together to fight the month of February—Daniel Fights a Hurricane centers on a force of nature. The hurricane takes many shapes, including a mob of angry children, a monster with sharp teeth, and the madness that may or may not be filling Daniel's head with visions. The book is filled with surreal, hallucinogenic imagery ranging from the terrifying to the hilarious—there are “banana bombs," rotten bananas thrown like grenades—that work to create a sinister, modern fairy tale, but one written for the demented adult [...]
This is a story—a true story—about Olympic highs and lows, triumphant wins and crushing defeats, the old and the new, and my grandmother and a horrible Dutch woman who leapt over her dreams like they were just another hurdle on her path to the gold.
The Olympic Games are coming to London this week, and with them will come crowded airports, crowded subways, crowded streets, and crowded stadiums—most built for the event and covered in corporate sponsor logos (which is better, aesthetically, than that heinous official Olympics logo or the terrifying mascot whose face is just one giant eyeball). British taxpayers will end up footing a bill of at least [...]
Kate Wolff always knew she was funny, but when her classmates growing up told her she was going to be on "Saturday Night Live," she laughed and informed them she wanted to be a teacher. Well, life is funny sometimes. Teaching wasn't the dream job Wolff envisioned, and although she still teaches middle-school art, she's trying to make it in the brutally tough New York standup scene. In the basement of the Village Lantern where she produces a weekly show, Wolff talked about getting paid, incorporating her son into her act, and the process of toughening up for the stage.
How did you get here?
I went to college [...]
I don't know a single person who wouldn't benefit from reading Sheila Heti's new novel, How Should a Person Be?, a rumination on art, friendship and the other major questions of existence. This "novel from life" features a character named Sheila, who lives (as the author does) in Toronto. In the beginning of the book, Sheila's friends Margaux and Sholem, both painters, decide to have an "ugly painting competition," to see who can create the ugliest painting, a process which proves more difficult than expected. In the meantime, Sheila struggles with the challenges of her friendship with Margaux, her inability to write a commissioned play about women, and a [...]
Dun-Well Donuts, a shop founded by Christopher Hollowell and his friend Dan Dunbar, sits just off the Montrose L stop in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Every day, the pair offer an array of different vegan donuts (flavors rangefrom Tangerine Basil to Maple Bourbon), and they currently make every single one themselves. The shop opened last year. Hollowell was on his way to a postbac program at Columbia when he and Dunbar decided to drop everything and make donuts. Earlier this year, the New York Daily News called them the best doughnuts of 2012. Over a blueberry frosted one, Hollowell talked to me about the decisions involved in opening the [...]
It may feel like "Girls" has been on the air for months already, but the series actually doesn’t premiere on HBO until April 15th. Its creator, writer and star is Lena Dunham, about whom, if you’re reading this, you probably already have an opinion—although it's difficult to come up with an opinion or observation about Dunham that she has not already anticipated, heard or joked about herself. Her 2010 feature, Tiny Furniture, released when she was 23, was just added to the Criterion Collection. Now there's "Girls," a comedy about four 20-something women puzzling out adulthood in the city, executive produced by Judd Apatow. Dunham and I met recently [...]
Is Brooklyn Better? Has Manhattan Gotten Worse? Revisiting NY Mag's "I Hate Brooklyn" Article Seven Years Later
Seven years ago, Jonathan Van Meter, the writer and Vogue contributing editor, published an essay in New York magazine called "I Hate Brooklyn." Here is how it begins:"Please tell me you're not moving to Brooklyn," she said. "No, no, no," I said. "Never." "Thank God." "Why would you think such a thought?" "Something about the way you said… Brooklyn… like you'd gotten comfortable with it." "No," I said, "it's just that I've had to say it a lot lately because that's all everyone ever talks about. Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Brooklyn. I hate Brooklyn."
From there, the piece proceeds to many places you'd expect (hipsters, gentrification) and, [...]
Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart is an animal lover with an entreprenurial spirit who founded a vegan fashion line. Vaute Couture is finding success—recently opening its first brick-and-mortar store in Williamsburg—but the founder quit her Ford Modeling contract and her MBA program, worked 80-hour weeks, and had to reinvent the female dress coat in order to get to this point. Over iced coffees, Hilgart talked about talked about unusual fashion, unusual work, and business as usual.
How did you end up with a vegan fashion line. Are you a fashion person or an animal person first?
Since I was eight, I've been raising money and awareness for animals. I would [...]
Is there a disease more sensationally gruesome, more thrillingly disturbing than rabies? The macabre virus, which has haunted the imaginations (and nightmares) of nearly every human culture for thousands of years, is the subject of a new nonfiction book by Wired journalist Bill Wasik and veterinarian Monica Murphy, a husband-and-wife team perfectly matched to tackle the cultural history of this most dreaded of zoonotic infections.
In Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus, Wasik and Murphy explore rabies' influence on such diverse subjects as immunology, 19th-century celebrity, religion, and, of course, zombies, werewolves, and vampires. It's also a history of the relationship between humans and dogs—with [...]
Godzilla vs Mothra 22.61 miles => 3 Hours 43 minutes 32 Seconds
Michael Wallace is a middle-school science teacher who lives in Baltimore. When he’s not teaching his kids about the Mesozoic Era (remember, “meso” means “between”), Wallace rides his bike around the city. Only, while he’s riding his bike, he’s also drawing something, using GPS tracking to trace his routes throughout Baltimore and forming them into different shapes, symbols that become fully detailed pictures. There’s “Jellyfish Invasion,” a giant jellyfish created over 16-plus miles and nearly three hours of riding, and “Gat,” a massive gun that took less than an hour over about 5.5 [...]
The Tribeca Film Festival starts today, and at its helm this year is Frédéric Boyer, who is something of an accidental artistic director. All the Parisian ever wanted to do was watch films. He even skipped his schoolboy exams to screen a flick. That obsession—viewing five, six, seven movies a day—led to a job at Videosphere, the Paris store with over 60,000 titles, which in turn resulted in a gig programming the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes. Now, he finds himself programming the New York festival. The career path is accidental, perhaps, but he's hardly unprepared. "It's the life I choose because I don't want my work to stop at 6:30 [...]
Heidi Julavits’s fourth novel, The Vanishers, sits at the perfect intersection of cerebral challenge and guilty pleasure. In the world of The Vanishers, psychic academies exist to foster talents like astral projection and mental telepathy; Julavits’ characters express hostility and attempt to dominate one another by way of psychic attacks that manifest in a horrifying array of physical symptoms (virulent rashes, bleeding gums, gastrointestinal distress). Across all of her novels, Julavits has explored women’s rivalries and what it means to want to disappear and reinvent oneself elsewhere in a different guise. The Vanishers calls to mind Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled and William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, and the novel’s [...]
In 2009, D.T. Max published a long piece about David Foster Wallace, and his suicide, in The New Yorker. The project grew into the biography Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace. In the final months of the book's completion, through a stroke of incredible luck, I had the opportunity to help Max as a research assistant. Biography, it turns out, is complicated, wrenching work, particularly when your subject inspires the kind of devotion Wallace can, and where the end of a life comes in the form his did. With the book's release today, I wanted to talk to Max about the process [...]
Tom Scocca's Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future has just come out in paperback. This distinctive American's-eye-view of China's capital is bracingly cerebral without didacticism, intimate and touching without the slightest trace of "self-realization." I loved it.
Maria Bustillos: There is so much I want to know about your book, and about China. How long has it been since you were last there? How has the book been received? How old is [your son] Mack, [who was born in China], now?
Tom Scocca: We haven't been back since I was doing the epilogue, in May 2010. The book's been received pretty well, I think. Or [...]
Part of a month-long series on terrible trips, great journeys and getting lost.
Last fall, I had dinner with my cousin, his wife and their two teenage sons, none of whom I get to see that often since they live in northern California while I'm in Chicago. My cousin mentioned that the family would be heading to Disneyland after they returned home. "That sounds like fun!" I said, but the two boys just rolled their eyes. "We go all the time," one of them said. "Our mom is obsessed." I was intrigued: I'd known my cousin's wife, Kris, for almost 20 years, but never knew about her dedication to [...]
Last week, Gotham Books released Jesse Jarnow's Big Day Coming: Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock. It's a biography of the Hoboken indie rock lifers who've been a working band since the mid-80s, and always seem to opt for the slow and steady over the quick cash-in. What made Yo La Tengo able to do what so few bands have managed: not only stick together but continue to release new, vital music for almost three decades? Via email, I talked with Jesse, a friend, has been writing about culture in venues such as Rolling Stone and Spin for a solid couple decades himself, and shares not [...]
Yancey County is located in the mountainous western stretch of North Carolina, about 45 minutes from Asheville. The county's population is less than 18,000, and yet it has two local papers to serve it: the Yancey Common Times Journal, which has been in publication more than a hundred years, and the "other" newspaper, the Yancey County News, founded in 2011. The paper's masthead lists only two people—husband and wife Jonathan and Susan Austin—but nevertheless, its first year out, the Yancey County News has won two major journalism awards, the E.W. Scripps Award for Distinguished Service to the First Amendment and the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism.[...]
In an essay for New York's Vulture blog last year, author Brian McGreevy argued that "over the last decade, something has gone terribly wrong with the modern vampire. Take the biggest offender, Twilight. Granted there is an inescapable genius to its command of 14-year-old girl psychology; its premise is that the hot, broken guy who breaks into your house to draw you while you sleep wants to wait until marriage until he nearly screws you to death on a feather bed."