This Thursday at SFMoMA, Miranda July will introduce her second feature-length film, The Future, a highly anticipated “antiromance” about a couple contemplating cat adoption and all its looming responsibility. This seemingly simple decision comes to seem terrifying, inspiring them to fixate on (and seek out) the lives they’ve always wanted but not yet achieved. It even encourages transgressions.
Full of quirky devices, such as voiceover from the soon-to-be-adopted cat, conversations with the moon, and one character’s ability to freeze time, The Future heightens reality as only Miranda July can — with that humanity that distinguishes the whole of her output.
Although her people are eccentric, terrifying, and misguided by their odd logic, they are still deserving of empathy, symbolic of our softer selves maybe: the me of me, the you of you. They are characters who mishandle their relationships, live their lives awkwardly, but go on trying, because: why not? Hers are characters who go on after all, and if they can do it, how can we be so wrong?
July does what she does without force but with conviction. Her avant-garde experimentation, and tendency for whimsy may come off as frivolous, twee, or self-indulgent to some of her critics. (How is it that when artists go on being artists, we balk when they appear to have indulged themselves?)For the haters and lovers alike, this cheat sheet on Miranda July (which is in no-way an exhaustive list), and her unrelentingly heartfelt works - this is for you.
Anticipation has built since Byliner debuted in April with Jon Krakauer’s “Three Cups of Deceit,” an investigative piece on Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greg Mortenson’s fabricated humanitarian efforts. The San Francisco-based publisher launched its full website just last month, going in strong with a heady topic and a serious mandate: to be a new source for long-form journalism, to hearten the blaze for the stories that matter.
But — not all writers are created equal. Along with an impressive compendium of long-form journalism and politically charged pieces branded as Byliner Originals, one project stands out against the Krakauer investigation, a deep-dive into the Civil War, and a post-tsunami report of life in Japan.
The writer is Sarah Palin: the accidental poet.
First, let’s get a little Workshop 101 and agree to say that there are all kinds of poetry, right? As many as there are good poets. The duty of the critic is to examine and evaluate, and when there’s nothing really left to be said, often the type of poetry we still regard as “good” has at least this single, distinct quality about it: tension.
In a city abundant with literary events, one must wonder: how do you keep an audience listening with rapt attention? You’d suppose disrobing would detract, would draw eyes below the collarbone, which for brief moments, it did, but Sunday night’s Naked Girls Reading series demonstrated that nudity, when recontextualized, can be normalized into a sex-positive approach to public reading with a witty approach to sexuality.
Naked Girls Reading is a group of beautiful ladies who love to read without a stitch of clothing, save for a pair of rainbow knee-highs or a belly dancer’s belt shimmying and jangling up to the mic. It originated in Chicago two years ago as a spontaneous moment between founder Michelle L’amour and her partner Franky Vivid where the husband caught the wife naked in repose with book in hand. The two agreed that there was something powerful and beautiful about the breast beside the book.
Legendary audio engineer (don’t call him a producer) and Shellac frontman Steve Albini eschews name-brand technology in the studio, despises digital. He’s analog; this is common knowledge, championing the visceral over the virtual. As a stalwart traditionalist, he’s as uncompromising in his opinions on music as he is about food. At the end of March, he started (or, as it’s been revealed, wifey Heather started) a food blog to chronicle the dishes he serves her, as told in the canon of famed chef Mario Batali. The blog, mariobatalivoice, encapsulates the Albini tenets of good eating: to forgo the use of any extraneous ingredients or instruments and to respect the craft. Hell, he can spin gold out of copper coil; how hard can it be to eyeball olive oil and egg yolk to perfection? He spoke with us to discuss his stance on food, and though he finds no correlation between his cooking process and sound recording, there’s something to be said about a man whose treble crunch is as fundamentally simple yet compelling as the culinary craft he’s taken on.
What spurred the idea to document everything you cook for Heather on mariobatalivoice?
It came about in a kind of organic way. When I would make her dinner, she’d take a picture of the plate of food and post it on her Facebook account. And then I started adding in the comments section in her photos a description of what I had made her in a kind of mimic of the way Mario Batali would present his food on his TV shows. That’s the way I would bring it to her. I would present the food to her and describe it, mimicking Mario Batali’s voice. So on her Facebook page, I started using a little HTML tag to close the comments to signify that I was shutting off the Mario Batali voice. So it would be like “bracket slash Mario Batali voice bracket”. It was basically an inside joke. I would imitate Mario Batali when I was presenting her the food, and then she started the blog one day. I don’t really know why. Just as a place to take pictures of all the food I’d been making her. In almost every way, my wife is responsible for me having a food blog. This gives me an excuse to write a more detailed descriptions of the food I’ve been making for her.
Throughout the country, honeybee colonies have been disappearing. Not only is this cause for concern over losing another species, but it devastates our plant life. “One of the most important parts of nature [is] pollination,” narrates actress Ellen Page(Juno) sweetly and sensitively over the opening of the eco-doc, The Vanishing of the Bees, as the list of crops that rely on the honeybee is a long one.
Steady shots capture the flights of the colonies in startling detail so that the big, inelegant viewer watches in amazement how a bee flickers its wings, pulls the pollen from the petal with static electricity, and holds it to its fluff. Shot with whimsy, these moments achieve artfully the goal of portraying the bees as beautiful, enduring creatures.
Some foods are so delicious, a journey to the end of the earth would be a dietary mandate, or, on a smaller scope, would necessitate a cross-country road trip. Food is the impetus that makes us mobile; the hunter-gatherer in us tells us so. Traveling across the United States to find the best kitchens on wheels, author Heather Shouse captures a moment in time, during this new wave of food truck fever, to tell the stories of the people trucking along with their talents and traditions in tow.
Anyone who thrills to the chase of tracking down a kimchi quesadilla or a crème brûlée crepe should pack Shouse’s Food Trucks: Dispatches and Recipes from the Best Kitchens on Wheels, when embarking on the trek. Part travel companion, cookbook, and counterculture history book, Food Trucks delivers on more than 100 trucks and carts from coast-to-coast. By no means is it an exhaustive compendium, Shouse advises, as new trucks are coming and going, menus are rotating, and permits are changing, but it is a selective source. “I wanted to find distinct concepts and make sure the trucks weren’t duplicative,” says Shouse, a senior food and drink correspondent for Time Out Chicago and bona fide BBQ judge. But the most important thing was that the food she found had to be delicious. Inclusion in the book meant each truck had to meet Shouse’s criteria of serving signature, delicious dishes and being run by people with a story to tell.
Today, the first installment of the new web series Foodies premieres. The pilot opens with a man sitting in his car, inhaling fast food like a dirty secret before arriving to a dinner club where the guests are eager to whip out their phones and snap pictures of a Wonder Bread consommé. We feel for him. The series is about a group of L.A. gourmands who come together to show off their culinary chops with absurd flare, each perhaps jockeying for place at the head of the table. They explore the pretensions of food culture, as with lead Danny Domenica’s (as played by Daniel Franzese of Mean Girls) pompous attempt to make the mundane into the molecular with his deconstructed peanut butter and jelly. One recipe by Tom (Jefferey Self) ventures into the repulsive with a durian fruit tart, which if you know anything from watching Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, it’s one of the few flavors the daring glutton cannot stomach. Tom’s ambition, it would seem, is to make a statement about the extreme dichotomy between that which is repugnant and that which is whimsical, or some uppity shit like that. As Iliza (Anne Lane) remarks that Tom is a genius because she’s never had anything so “delightfully revolting,” we think at least he knows his customer.
Admitting to actually owning a foam canister and affirming that food is the only art that employs all the senses, Grant can also grind down on some McNuggets – a self-referential projection, we wonder, onto one of his characters,But these characters, though absurd and somewhat out to lunch are not meant to be viewed with derision. “I love food,” says writer and director Japhy Grant. “It’s really rich territory and I hope when people see the show, they’ll realize that we’re not railing against food culture. We love playing with our food.” But are the recipes published on the site meant to be followed? “If someone makes a durian fruit tart, we’ll absolutely post it to the site.”
The site, Freefoodies.com, makes use of multimedia and interactive features that help give shape to Grant’s characters. By including Danny’s blog, which we hope will parallel some of the 5-7 minute episodes, as well as the recipes section that will fit into the storylines, and a chat feature, each element of the site reveals a bit more about who these characters are while providing a home base for Foodies fans.
“We’re really interested in creating a whole world around these characters and building a community,” says Grant, whose inspiration for mocking the foodie culture actually comes from his own love of the game. Admitting to actually owning a foam canister and affirming that food is the only art that employs all the senses, Grant can also grind down on some McNuggets – a self-referential projection, we wonder, onto one of his characters, Porter (Sean Hankinson), the love interest and everyman who pleads: “I’m not like you. I like McNuggets!”
Spanning the spectrum of food lovers, each character may represent a bit of Grant’s ownself as well as our own hungry selves. There’s Iliza, an aspiring chef, and Moose, the ex lover of Danny, with her coarsely salted comfort cheese puffs, and Danny the blogger, who, “Well, Danny,” says Grant, “is a bit of a blowhard and he probably really looks up to bad boys like Tony Bourdain. Though I think Bourdain would probably smack Danny upside the head if they ever met.”
Though his own diet bars him from lactose, Grant still breaks lactose edge with cheese. Can’t blame him. His palate though seems just as extensive as those of the characters he writes as he’ll try a shot at healthy eating from time to time, “But then when something with pork shows up on a menu, it’s all over.” Oh, so it goes.
As for being a food elitist versus a populist, there are restaurants Grant just won’t go to in L.A. but he still adores the food scene there. “One of the reasons the show is set in L.A. is that I think it’s one of the most exciting places [to eat]. We’ve got Jonathan Gold, Jose Andres. We also have this really incredible native cuisine scene – Korean, Thai, Mexican,” genres the show will be exploring as it moves forward.
So, a self-proclaimed foodie, Grant aims not to ridicule the foodie culture but to perhaps laugh at himself and have us laugh at ourselves and the whole food loving culture with a slight cringe here, and a nudge there, all with tongue-in-cheek ease. And a note on the term foodie: it’s kind of an F-word here at Poor Taste, so when we ask Grant if the word makes him recoil as well, he fesses up: “Well, to me, it’s the same thing that happens with Star Trek fans. In that world, calling someone a ‘trekkie’ is considered by some to be offensive. I guess the preferred term is ‘trekker’. Then again, some people proudly call themselves ‘trekkies’. My sense is that the people who get the most upset about being called ‘foodies’ probably are the ones most likely to be true ‘foodies.’”
This Is Heartbreaking, You Should Watch It of the Day: Palm Springs residents Ed Watson and Derence Kernek have been in a loving, committed relationship for over 40 years.
Recently, Ed was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and the disease appears to be progressing rapidly. The couple want nothing more than to be able to get married before the Alzheimer’s wipes away Ed’s memories of the life they’ve shared.
With the help of the Courage Campaign, Ed and Derence have submitted this video plea to have California’s ban on same-sex marriages lifted until the state’s Supreme Court makes its final decision on constitutionality of Proposition 8. “If the California Supreme Court is going to take its time,” Ed says, “then we deserve the dignity of marriage…before I can’t remember what marriage is.”