January 30, 2014
DISCLAIMER: This essay is actually not about Wes Anderson movies (thank GOD!) but popular culture is always the easiest entry point to expressing actual human feelings, some of which I may dredge up below.
When I first saw The Royal Tenenbaums I was 15 and had no idea what to make of this thing I was watching. It was a comedy, maybe? Earlier that year my friends and I had seen comedies like Zoolander and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, which we knew were comedies because they made us laugh. Tenenbaums on the other hand squeezed laughter — uncomfortable laughter — between scenes of stylized and fairly graphic attempted suicide and old men contemplating the pain they’ve wrought on their families. Like I said…what in the shit was this? People create art that can scratch multiple emotional itches? One minute I’m belly-laughing at the line “You heard me, Coltrane” and the next I’m desperately holding back tears from my best friend, because Ben Stiller’s “I had a rough year, Dad” has just about flattened me. I think I understood then, instinctively, that this uncomfortable balance between funny and sad is what really makes me tick. BUT THESE SEESAW FEELINGS, MAN, THEY’RE TOO GODDAMN MUCH.
July 10, 2013
Cupcake mania first gripped the United States of America sometime in the early-to-mid 00′s, catapulted to prominence by the curly-haired likes of Carrie Bradshaw and Andy Samberg. Both of them extolled the virtues of Magnolia cupcakes, just the first of a soon-gleaming infrastructure of cupcakeries: Crumbs, Sprinkles, and so many more, each with a name somehow more precious than the last. Whatever gourmet snack trend had dominated the culture before (Ben & Jerry’s?) was crushed under the heel of Big Cupcake.
A decade later, the whole sugary firmament may be collapsing. Earlier this spring, New York-based cupcake chain Crumbs reported a major drop in share price — from a 2011 high of $13/share down to just $1.70. Magnolia now earns less than half of its profits from cupcakes. And I don’t know if you’ve been in an elementary school classroom lately, but birthdays aren’t exactly being celebrated the way they used to be. It’s all quinoa, and veggie loafs. Birthdays are terrible now!
Why this sea-change in our snacking habits? Maybe it’s the emergence of gluten as our greatest-ever nutritional enemy. Or it could just be the thing none of us want to admit: that we are just BURNT OUT on cupcakes, and ready for a new snack craze to glom onto. Not just anything will do. The cupcake resonated for meeting some very specific metrics: portability, eating efficiency, potential for quirky store name, to list a few. With that in mind, we had some ideas as to what could rise from the cupcake ashes…
March 27, 2013
MOSCOW, Russia – Let’s say you’re an entrepreneur trying to make it in Moscow. You drive the city streets everyday, motoring from one gig to another. You marvel at the congestion you see: the traffic, at a standstill. The commuters, aggravated at delays creating unwanted friction in their offices and home lives. These streets you drive are paved with frustration, yes. But maybe they’re also paved…with opportunity?
Enter: AMBULANCE-TAXI. For just about 6,000 rubles (or $200) an hour, wealthy Russians looking to sidestep the misery of their daily commute can hail a cab of a very different make and, aided by the handy siren system and normal citizens’ reaction to what they perceive as an emergency, get to work on time. And in style!
One of these vehicles, spotted by law enforcement on a recent patrol, was described as having an interior “fitted out like a high-class limousine.” Imagine the care that went into that job! First the ambulance had to be bought, probably from a friend of your cousin. Then retrofitted with plush leather and bulk variety packs of Fritos chips. Top it off with a classy website (I couldn’t find one) and you’ve got an operation of stealth and refinement to put the KGB to shame.
You never escape the question “what would you do if you had unlimited money?” As a kid, the answer’s easy: a pool made of ice cream, maybe a 300″ TV that plays only episodes of Spongebob. Later, more altruistic, you imagine buying every family in the world their own water filtration system. But then you get to be asshole-rich, actually achieving some modified version of unlimited money. And you use it to fool Russia’s lower classes into thinking you’re being hospitalized while you get to work quicker than usual.
Don’t ever change, Russia. You’re the beating heart of my idealized comedy world.
March 19, 2013
Yesterday post-colonialist indie darlings Vampire Weekend released two songs off their upcoming album, ‘Modern Vampires of the City’:
- Lead single “Diane Young,” in which Ezra Koenig laments the loss of an arsonist girlfriend
- “Step,” a low-key paean to international studies classes.
The web is ABUZZ with people wondering what it all means. Could “Step” be a hidden tribute to the ABC show ‘Step by Step’, which dealt with familial discord in the same uptempo, driving fashion as sophomore effort ‘Contra’? Do the pitch-shifting “babys” on “Diane Young” suggest surprise parenthood for lead singer Ezra Koenig, and if so who is the mother? Mindy Kaling?
Obviously we’ve all got a ton of questions. But you know what? Lifting Fog has ANSWERS.
March 18, 2013
What you just watched, if — I mean, you watched it, right? What kind of weirdo reads video analysis on a blog without having watched the video itself? Holy cow, we need to at least respect some ground rules here.
“New York Biotopes” was created as a thesis project by German graphic design student Lena (no relation to Dunham) Steinkuhler. In her words, she wanted to explore the “assimilation of structures and forms…biotopes shaped by the existing living environment but also [shaping] the newly developed living environment by their presence.” It all sounds unbelievably German.
April 20, 2012
Well, here we are. Four years, 300+ posts, and shockingly few personal changes later we’ve arrived at the end of the line. It’s not that there’s nothing more to say — in the realm of personal blogging there is always more to say — but that, for two 25-year-old guys with non-childish aspirations…it’s time to put away childish things. (Writing about real-life Hamburglars could not fit this any more perfectly.) Near the end of The Return of the King, Gandalf tells Pippin of a “far, green country” that lay beyond death. In
no so many ways that’s where DJ Steve and I are headed — outside our digital comfort zone toward a world that’s terrifying and beautiful and unavoidable and here it is and OH SHIT WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO NEXT.
Keep reading (for the last time)!
April 18, 2012
This and the Grand Canyon. We’re so effing close.
You may have heard that vicious drug cartels roam the wilds of New Mexico and that immigration unrest is tearing the south of Arizona apart. While I don’t have the stories to confirm either of those things, I can tell you that the American Southwest has some of the most expansive views in the country. It’s not like wide-open spaces don’t exist in other parts of the country. They just somehow feel more epic out west, like the world has expanded tenfold at the same time the distance between you and your Maker has been drastically condensed. You could reach out and touch Him, which is a very real possibility if you don’t keep your eyes on the road!
Although by this point in the trip I’d more than worn out my Boss-heavy “Americana” playlist, it took on new relevance as I drove through New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada. Ghost towns? Endless highways?That moment when the dark creeps in and you’re driving down some weirdo side road for 50 miles with depleted gas reserves and the possibility that you might not make it and those lights trailing you suddenly go out? That last part isn’t so much Bruce, but still — America, man. It’s out there!
You’re reminded, too, just how isolated many of the region’s cities and communities are. We complain in Los Angeles about the time it takes to get from Santa Monica to Downtown. SMALL POTATOES when about 100 miles separate one Southwestern pit stop from the next. They’re practically frontier outposts — places to hitch your stallion for the night and trade whatever animals you managed to trap/kill along the way. I’ll start apologizing for these cowboy references when I stop feeling them so deeply in my soul.
April 17, 2012
Hey, painting! You’re stupid!
Over the years Steve and I have directed our critical eye toward a wide array of popular works, from albums by Passion Pit to the movie Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Minus no exceptions, we’ve stuck to the big three: music, movies, and film. Stepping foot outside those felt scary and weird, like touring foreign lands without even a McDonald’s for safety. Life is scary enough without the threat of musical theater, or books!
But as retirement looms ever nearer along with the opportunity to scream our opinions in an environment that isn’t “outside Starbucks,” the time has come to take that scary step into previously untouched terrain. And so today we summon all our critical strength to go after an artistic medium that for TOO LONG has gotten a free pass on Lifting Fog. Modern art, you’re on notice.