Archive for March, 2012

Memorabilia

March 22, 2012

Sometimes people need reminders of things, and sometimes the things they need reminders of seem a little sick, to others.  Many people I know who have spent a lot of time in hospitals –– myself included –– have a fetishistic attraction to hospital paraphernalia, i.e. bracelets, scrubs, really thin, rough bedsheets, IV poles, etc. etc.  There’s a certain kind of coziness that comes with feeling so trapped and heavily monitored, perhaps, and when we’re adrift in the universe, going to our jobs, living our banal and yet terrifying lives, the idea of being strapped to a gurney seems rather enjoyable.  (Perhaps, in your spare time, try to connect this argument to the 90s club kid trend of wearing pacifiers around one’s neck.)  I have an interactive art piece in the works about this desire-for-incarceration phenomenon, but for now, here’s a genius bracelet from Cast of Vices, an LA-based jewelry maker who defines their work in the following paragraph:

“BORN FROM A DESIRE TO CREATE ARTIFACTS OUT OF OUR VICES, CAST OF VICES CELEBRATES THE INHERENT DESIGN AESTHETIC OF THESE SUBSTANCES WHILE AT THE SAME TIME CASTING A CRITICAL EYE ON POP CULTURE AND OUR OBESSION WITH SELF-MEDICATION AND ADDICTION.

WHEN OUR ROME FALLS THESE WILL BE OUR REMAINS: CIGARETTE BUTTS, PILLS, BOTTLE CAPS, AND COKE BAGS.”

I’m categorizing this under “Buy Me This!” but a friend of mine just asked me via email “out of curiosity” what color bracelet I like best, so don’t put it on your list of things to procure for me just yet –– I think I may be gifted one in the near future.

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THE NEW LOWS GAME

March 22, 2012

I’ve decided that playing this game (seeing what kind of new lows you can reach before you cease to be human) really can help add levity and joy to one’s miserable existence.  For example, last night I couldn’t sleep and so was lying awake at 2 AM watching an old episode of Law and Order: SVU that I’ve seen no less than THREE times under the guise of “research (trying to write a list –– subject cannot be disclosed –– which requires me spending upwards of 24 hours rewatching SVU’s and in the end, McSweeney’s won’t even touch my shit, guaranteed) and I actually started TEARING UP when the dad from The Wonder Years begged for judicial mercy for his sociopathic adopted daughter, and then when I was just about to chastise myself for being so PATHETIC, I chuckled and thought, “Gee, this is a new one!  What a funny sad sack I am!”

And now I’m off to read a bitter comedian’s tweets instead of do worthwhile work.  NAMASTE, THESE ARE PRAYER BEADS!

Bragging

March 20, 2012

Places I can legitimately say I’ve exhibited:

MoMA

Art Basel Miami

Armory Show, 2012 (see below)

Melancholy Mondays

March 20, 2012

Places I’d rather be now: Frank Sinatra’s pool in Palm Springs.

I'd dive right in!

Found This Out After the Fact

March 19, 2012

This morning, about twelve hours after my return from New Square, my friend sent me this article, which confirmed our suspicions that the house-cum-fish-market where we ate was where the infamous “talking, prophesizing carp” incident took place.  I suppose it’s better I found this out today and not Friday, as I wouldn’t have been able to resist peppering Mrs. Kupperman with questions about the fish.

The Times article about the incident, which took place in 2003:

Miracle? Dream? Prank? Fish Talks, Town Buzzes

By COREY KILGANNON

Published: March 15, 2003

And so it came to pass that a talking carp, shouting in Hebrew, shattered the calm of the New Square Fish Market and created what many here are calling a miracle.

Of course, others are calling it a Purim trick, a loopy tale worthy of Isaac Bashevis Singer or just a whopping fish story concocted by a couple of meshugenehs.

Whatever one calls it, the tale of the talking fish has spread in recent weeks throughout this tight-knit Rockland County community, populated by about 7,000 members of the Skver sect of Hasidim, and throughout the Hasidic world, inspiring heated debate, Talmudic discussions and derisive jokes.

The story goes that a 20-pound carp about to be slaughtered and made into gefilte fish for Sabbath dinner began speaking in Hebrew, shouting apocalyptic warnings and claiming to be the troubled soul of a revered community elder who recently died.

Many people here believe that it was God revealing himself that day to two fish cutters in the fish market, Zalmen Rosen, a 57-year-old Hasid with 11 children, and his co-worker Luis Nivelo, a 30-year-old Ecuadorean immigrant.

Some people say the story is as credible as the Bible’s account of the burning bush. Others compare it to a U.F.O. sighting. But the story rapidly spread around the world from this town about 30 miles northwest of Manhattan, first through word of mouth, then through the Jewish press.

The two men say they have each gotten hundreds of phone calls from Jews all over the world.

”Ah, enough already about the fish,” Mr. Rosen said today at the shop, as he skinned a large carp. ”I wish I never said anything about it. I’m getting so many calls every day, I’ve stopped answering. Israel, London, Miami, Brooklyn. They all want to hear about the talking fish.”

Here then is the story, according to the two men, the only witnesses. Mr. Rosen, whose family owns the store, and Mr. Nivelo, who has worked at the shop for seven years, say that on Jan. 28 at 4 p.m. they were carving up carp.

Mr. Nivelo, who is not Jewish, lifted a live carp out of a box of iced-down fish and was about to club it in the head.

But the fish began speaking in Hebrew, according to the two men. Mr. Nivelo does not understand Hebrew, but the shock of a fish speaking any language, he said, forced him against the wall and down to the slimy wooden packing crates that cover the floor.

He looked around to see if the voice had come from the slop sink, the other room or the shop’s cat. Then he ran into the front of the store screaming, ”The fish is talking!” and pulled Mr. Rosen away from the phone.

”I screamed, ‘It’s the devil! The devil is here!’ ” he recalled. ”But Zalmen said to me, ‘You crazy, you a meshugeneh.’ ”

But Mr. Rosen said that when he approached the fish he heard it uttering warnings and commands in Hebrew.

”It said ‘Tzaruch shemirah‘ and ‘Hasof bah,’ ” he said, ”which essentially means that everyone needs to account for themselves because the end is near.”

The fish commanded Mr. Rosen to pray and to study the Torah and identified itself as the soul of a local Hasidic man who died last year, childless. The man often bought carp at the shop for the Sabbath meals of poorer village residents.

Mr. Rosen panicked and tried to kill the fish with a machete-size knife. But the fish bucked so wildly that Mr. Rosen wound up cutting his own thumb and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The fish flopped off the counter and back into the carp box and was butchered by Mr. Nivelo and sold.

The story has been told and retold, and many Jews believe that the talking fish was a rare shimmer of God’s spirit. Some call it a warning about the dangers of the impending war in Iraq.

”Two men do not dream the same dream,” said Abraham Spitz, a New Square resident who stopped by the store this week. ”It is very rare that God reminds people he exists in this modern world. But when he does, you cannot ignore it.”

Others consider it as fictional as Tony Soprano’s talking-fish dream in an episode of the ”The Sopranos.”

”Listen to what I’m telling you: Only children take this seriously,” said Rabbi C. Meyer of the New Square Beth Din of Kashrus, which administers kosher-food rules. ”This is like a U.F.O. story. I don’t care if it is the talk of the town.”

Whether hoax or historic event, it jibes with the belief of some Hasidic sects that righteous people can be reincarnated as fish.

Unnatural occurrences play a part in the mystical beliefs of members of the Skver sect. On the other hand, some skeptics note that the Jewish festival of Purim, which starts Monday night, is marked by merriment and pranks, which might be a less elevated explanation for the story.

Some community members are calling the two men an enlightened pair chosen to receive the message. Others have said that Mr. Nivelo may have been selected because he is not Jewish.

”If this was a story concocted by a bunch of Jewish guys, it might be suspect, but this Luis, or whatever his name is, he has no idea what this means,” said Matisyahu Wolfberg, a local lawyer.

”If people say God talks to them, we recommend a psychiatrist, but this is different,” said Mr. Wolfberg, sitting in his office with his black hat resting atop his computer terminal.

”This is one of those historical times when God reveals himself for a reason. It has sent spiritual shock waves throughout the Jewish community worldwide and will be talked about throughout the ages.”

Zev Brenner, who last week broadcast a show about the fish on ”Talk Line,” his talk radio show on Jewish issues, on WMCA-AM (570) and WSNR-AM (620), said that the story has fascinated the religious community worldwide.

”I’ve gotten calls from all over asking ‘Did you hear about the fish?’ ” he said. ”You can imagine, a talking fish has got people buzzing. This is going to be talked about for a long time to come, unless it’s somehow verified as a hoax, which is hard to imagine, since the proof has been eaten up.”

Mr. Brenner said that the story is so well known that it has inspired a whole new genre of wedding jokes for Jewish comedians.

”The station had an advertiser, a gefilte fish manufacturer, who considered changing his slogan to ‘Our fish speaks for itself,’ but decided people would be offended,” he said.

As for Mr. Nivelo, a practicing Christian, he still believes the babbling carp was the devil. His wife told him he was crazy, and his 6-year-old daughter even laughs at him.

”I don’t believe any of this Jewish stuff,” he said. ”But I heard that fish talk.”

He said that Spanish-speaking rabbis have been calling his home every day and night asking him to recount the story.

”It’s just a big headache for me,” he added. ”I pull my phone out of the wall at night. I don’t sleep and I’ve lost weight.”

Mr. Rosen said that he spoke to his wife, who was visiting Israel, and that she had already heard the story from someone else.

”My phone doesn’t stop ringing,” Mr. Rosen said. ”Always interruptions, people coming in and taking their picture with me.”

He paused and turned to Mr. Nivelo, who was cutting salmon for a customer.

”No, too big,” he said. ”She wants appetizer.”

—-

 

The only appropriate follow up question, I think, is: who ate the fish?

 

Catalog Poetry

March 16, 2012

We received at my office the gorgeous catalog for a publishing company called Sceptre, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.  Numerous writers wrote little pieces about the number 25.  Below is my favorite:

25 Collective nouns for un/common things.

a reversal of mirrors

a slump of slippers

a forest of rubber gloves

a telescope of toilet rolls

a voodoo of pincushions

a dream of pillowcases

an expression of pumpkins

a bouquet of odd socks

a niggle of crosswords

a crumple of carrier bags

a regime of paperclips

an armament of cutlery

a cloud of used tissues

a duel of toothbrushes

a migration of pens

a convalescence of dressing gowns

a fable of apples

a sob of raindrops

a passage of newspapers

an alarm of clocks

a whirlpool of wooden spoons

a clacker of stilettos

a thud of potatoes

an eviction of bin liners

–– Jess Richards

 

My Attempt

a prayer of annotations

a bottle of triplets

a library of oysters

a backlog of icicles

a continent of mistakes

a garden of scarves

a page of orgasms

a whisper of paintings

a zoo of hearts

a video of persimmons

a meal of schoolchildren

a dance of questions

an orb of horses

a blanket of thimbles

a concert of nail files

a palace of statistics

a harvest of fireworks

an exercise of massacres

an avalanche of emeralds

a funeral of attics

a contest of spirals

an umbrella of kittens

a tea bag of wood chips

a protest of pinkies

a blitzkrieg of hedges

In Honor of My Weekend…

March 16, 2012

Good shabbos, everyone!

One of Oded Balilty's beautiful photos of a Hasidic wedding in Israel.

What Does Your Brain Look Like?

March 14, 2012

A long time ago, I asked a bunch of people a question authored by my bestest friend, KM: “What does your brain look like?”  I gave a few examples, from a few people:

KM, Special Education teacher: “My brain looks like a mediocre Christmas after you’ve opened all the presents and there’s wrapping papers and empty boxes everywhere and you didn’t get anything great.”

KS, Lady of Leisure: “My brain looks like an office with all rows of file cabinets and everything is neat, clean and organized.”

Me, Phenomenologist and Bibliotherapist: “My brain looks like the Wailing Wall –– a giant stone monolith representing centuries of loss with notes to God stuck in every crevice.”

The survey prompted some pretty hilarious and interesting answers.  Below are the best ones:

AM, Musician and Animation Artist: My Brain looks like the Strand Bookstore. There’s a shitload of useless and often inaccessible information but a great collection of art books and vintage porn.

SS, food writer: On days when I feel sad my brain looks like a steaming heap of chop suey. When I feel chipper, I think it looks like the string section of an orchestra playing Stars and Stripes–not because I’m overly patriotic but because fingers and bows would be moving frenetically. On fire

KH, business student: My brain looks like a cat playing with an ipad.

EC, Merchandise Manager/Buyer: [My brain] is pink and squishy and there are some lost socks floating around, and dates from my AP Euro History class about when the Defenestration of Prague was, and memories of the houses I lived in when I was a kid. There’s a brightly lit section in the front (with those lights around backstage makeup mirrors or marquees) where there are good ideas and funny jokes.  Then, of course, there’s a section at the bottom of my skull that looks very serious yet primitive that monitors my breathing and basic functions.

NZ, “glorified assistant/secretary”: Bright, bright sunshine and then two distinct area: cliffs (the kind that you walk out to the edge and there is only two feet of rock then hundreds of feet of nothingness, fields of wildflowers, mainly violets and daises… but the ground itself is always covered in thick, clean, kelly-green grass.

EA, Blogger/Web Designer: My brain looks like a cube that continues on into space ad infinitum, striving for clear corners, but realizing those oceans are vast.

SG, book editor: My brain looks like the tennis court complex on Randall’s Island. It’s a dome-like building with industrial barrenness creeping in on the edges. It contains anxious mothers, former almost-greats, and small children with fancy rackets, who really just want to go home and read a book until they fall asleep.

HS-D, writer: My brain is a family of subterranean ponds, tied together by rocky little rivers.

TV, film student: My brain looks like the bargain bin at small town department store. Mostly filled with crap, but if you dig around, might find something totally worth the $1.50 price-tag.

JF, marketing and advertising director: My brain is a refrigerator that hasn’t been cleaned out in a while.  There’s always fresh produce in there, but you’re just as likely to find expired foods that I should throw away (but I wont, because I keep convincing myself that I’ll eat them tomorrow).  Also, you’ll have a hard time finding whatever you’re looking for because it’s always in the back and there’s a bunch of junk food between you and the gourmet stuff.

MW-L, psychology student: My brain looks like an attic with items of all shapes and sizes draped in sheets.

My Dad, Managing Director of a bank (I think): I picture [my brain] as a small town in the midwest someplace. Different lights on a different times of the day until late at night where there is only 1 place open, but it is really happening.

LE, Energy-Related Product Developer: [My brain is] open fields, rainbows, and naked people running around singing a cappella. also, there’s probably some soccer being played.

IS, brother and art critic: The inside of my brain looks like a record player on fire sitting atop a coffee table on an empty central California coast beach on one side, and on the other a fluorescent-lit room with infinite rows of birch-wood tables disappearing into the orthogonal horizon with an infinite number of identical hardcover black books open atop these tables, in which typing manifests itself and subsequently erases itself after thirty seconds (the erasing trailing the writing by 500 words or so). Orderly but amnesiac on one side; radical, destructive, carnal and hedonistic on the other in a burning, naturalistic solitude.

SA, fashion buyer: [My brain is] a thunderstorm — steady rain with sporadic bolts of lightning.

EH, non-profit assistant: My brain looks like a vast outdoor green expanse with intermittent trees and misty air, and I get lost in the spaces between the trees.

LB, bartender and architectural preservationist: [My brain looks like] a vast ocean filled with creatures yet discovered and sunken ships long forgotten. Basically, it’s filled with a lot of facts and memories that I can’t recall and some things that are too strange for public consumption.

GB, composer: [My brain is] a very large clean rectangular room, bright yet warmly lit, high ceilings, hardwood floors, white walls. Floor to ceiling windows on 2 sides. No doors, nothing hanging on the walls, nothing in the room. Things manifest in the middle of the room as needed, and then disappear when I’m done with them. There’s a perpetual dusk-like luminescence, as if the day is always almost over.

PO, drummer and my actual brother: My brain looks like veal – purposely stunted.

DC, copywriter: My brain looks like the ball pit at a children’s play place, but not the one at McDonalds. Also, there’s pizza.

MZ-H, Business Development for Sustainable Energy: [My brain] looks like a vintage 1970s psychedelic floral polyester shirt. The seams and the pattern are intact.  The colors, though vivid, are starting to starting run.

EK, Junior Specialist at an Art Auction House: I feel like my brain looks like the Wall Street trading floor, about 15 minutes after the closing bell has rung, with pieces of paper scrawled with words like “coffee” and “sugar” scattered like confetti on the floor.

GS, Assistant to a Cultural Attache: My brain is a witch’s cauldron or a magic hat  –– I pull things out but I have no idea what’s really going on there… images appear when conjured and sometimes, if I add the right amount of newt eye and chant magic words, I gain insight.

Reasons Why I’m Posting A Random Funny Picture

March 13, 2012

1. I drank two glasses of wine and ergo cannot write anything of value (I wanted to put every word of that in quotes –– overly quoting I find actually side-splitting hilarious these days, which… )

2. I am full because I –– get this –– after my drinks date went to get a piece of pizza, ate it as I walked to the subway, rode the subway home, on the way decided I STILL WANTED PIZZA, and then got another slice in my neighborhood on my way to my house.

3. Melancholy Mondays

4. Still feeling a little raw from being burned by Vice

5. It’s hard to concentrate with Law and Order in the background.

4. I have actual work to do.  Sheesh, you think all I do is write down genius one-liners, think about schadenfreude and eat pizza?  I’m a multitalented multitasker (that’s my rap name, actually.)

A funny picture:

By the way, the categorization of this as “It Could Be Worse…” refers to reader’s comparing him/herself to me.  It could be worse, Nabokovian reader.  You could be pathologically obsessed with pizza.

FOILED AGAIN

March 12, 2012

So I sent Vice Magazine a pretty brilliant pitch about Ibogaine, the drug used to treat heroin addiction (mostly) copied here for your enjoyment (not all of this is true, BTW:)

You at Vice Magazine are the only fuckers brave enough to publish pieces of a little genre I like to call “drug tourism,” so of course I came straight to you when I formed the positively brilliant idea for an essay on Ibogaine, the naturally-occurring hallucinogen with psychedelic and dissociative properties that is used in a few countries to treat opium addiction.  And yes, a good chunk of that technical explanation came straight from Wikipedia.

Your knowledge of Ibogaine could be quite vast, so please forgive me if I sound like a condescending Timothy Leary for a paragraph or so.  Ibogaine is mainly used in African aging rituals –– African bar mitzvahs are much cooler than American ones –– and was brought to Europe in the late 19th century.  In the 1960s in the US, after rumors of Ibogaine’s side effects spread, scientific researcher (and former druggie) Howard Lotsof began to study its use in the treatment of those with substance abuse problems.  It remains legal in Canada and Mexico but not in the United States because, as everyone knows, the US is always the loser in that department.

A person who takes Ibogaine –– usually ingested intravenously or orally –– will experience intense and vivid hallucinations for up to twelve hours, along with lack of mobility, nausea and maybe a little vomming.  People who have used Ibogaine have reported they’ve seen, “Adam and Eve,” “hands going over the top of my head and cradling my brain, “little toy spaceships!,” “the image of a women walking with a rainbow streaming out of her body, every color representing an emotion,” “beautiful faces… scintillating again red and green blowing kisses, winking, and mouthing words I could not hear,” and “earth and its molecules combining to create other molecules,” among other things.  The hallucination stage is followed by a stage of serious introspection and quiet self-evaluation that usually lasts about a day or two.  One man who underwent Ibogaine treatment, interviewed in the 2007 documentary Facing the Habit, said that an African chief once told him that Ibogaine “is God’s way of telling you that you are His.”  And as a white person full of undeserved existential angst, to me, this sounds like the most amazing medicine.  So I offer myself up to you and to the drug-consuming public at large as a guinea pig of sorts: I will take Ibogaine, trip face AND balls, see snakes emerging from Jesus’ eye sockets and my mother give birth to baby elephants, wake up, ponder my Self and the World, and then report back to you.

How, you may ask, do I expect to get my hands on Ibogaine?  The reason that Ibogaine is a popular treatment for heroin addiction is because it is a rapid detoxer and thus minimizes significantly the physical distress caused by opium withdrawal.  However, it has also been used to treat alcoholism, pot “addiction,” cocaine dependence and depression.  The first two diagnoses I can only tentatively claim, but for the last I can get a bona fide doctor’s note verifying my past tribulations.  If I go this route, I may be able to get a former pothead from Vancouver, who now runs an Ibogaine treatment center in British Columbia, to admit me to the clinic.  This is if I even need to resort to a little truth-stretching.  Fact is that people sometimes take Ibogaine for purposes of “psycho-therapeutic insight and inspiration,” which is something that I (and almost everyone) could legitimately use.  My thesis is that Ibogaine acts as a sort of psychological and emotional dermabrasion –– like a condensed Biggest Loser-style fitness boot camp for the brain –– and that some day in the future perfect, melancholy housewives and disaffected middle-aged businessmen with paunches will travel to Mexico to get a dose of this X-TREME hallucinogen not unlike how nowadays these same people go to Canyon Ranch to subsist on wheat germ, take colonics and exercise until they go tingly in the legs and dizzy in the mind.  We’ve always known that some narcotics produce the same high feeling as many “natural” human actions –– eating too much, deep breathing exercises, skydiving and other risk-taking activities –– so why not just cut to the chase and get all your civilization-related discontents taken care of in one technicolored go?  This kind of trip is something that maybe can be facilitated by a few treatment centers (the names of which I will selfishly withhold for now) that have on record given people Ibogaine to facilitate psychological exploration, or also by Claudio Naranjo, the psychologist who first experimented with Ibogaine use for “spiritual” purposes and is still alive.  I plan to investigate all these outlets.

And you, my dears –– all I need from you is a plane ticket, a little food, and a little space in the mag (or a lot of space, whatevs.)  I’m a WASP by birth, and there’s no such thing as an age rite of passage in my culture, unless you count a minor bout with bulimia.  Help me fill this gaping hole in my soul, and you just may get a good article out of it.

————

And within MINUTES, the editor responded and said:

Hi —,

Thanks for the email. We just covered this story in Mexico.

Feel free to pitch some other ideas.

Best,


Why am I always ONE STEP BEHIND?!  Such a bummer!  So now I have to think of another idea for an article for Vice (because I have an in now) but I think all the wacky drugs out there have been discovered.