Alien and the ‘Planetarium’

I experienced a lot of culture this past Saturday. I wouldn’t say that I took in more culture than I normally do on a weekend. (Hi, I do spend most of my free time reading books and watching documentaries on Netflix.) It’s that it was more intense than usual. That afternoon, I caught Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers at the Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg. (The movie-viewing experience at this place is so good that I’ve barely seen a movie anywhere else in the past year. Any theater that doesn’t serve full meals and cocktails to your seat is just not worth it to me.) Anyway, it was…good. I mean, I was weird, obviously. But I was engaged the entire time and all of my complaints – some grating repetition, very little plot, etc. – were outweighed by former teen/tween stars partying in bikinis and going on murderous rampages, the genius (?) of James Franco as rapper/drug dealer Alien and – last but not least – the best musical sequence I’ve seen in years. (Surely, you’ve all heard about Franco’s poolside piano performance of Britney Spears’ ballad “Everytime” by this point?) Also, I didn’t mind all of the Skrillex on the soundtrack.

That evening, I enjoyed a different kind of cultural experience, this time at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. My friend Jen had invited me to see ‘Planetarium’, a collaboration between Nico Muhly, Sufjan Stevens, and Bryce Dessner of the National. I have been a Sufjan Stevens fan since high school but had never seen him live, so this was as good a chance as any to do so.





The first part of the show was a string quartet in front of the opera house curtain performing several pieces by Muhly, Stevens and Dessner. I especially enjoyed the songs from Stevens’ electronic album Enjoy Your Rabbit, which had been arranged for the quartet by Muhly and others. (These arrangements appeared on the album Run Rabbit Run.) After an intermission, we finally got to see ‘Planetarium’, an hour of “songs inspired by our solar system”. Muhly, Stevens and Dessner appeared on the stage along with the original quartet, a drummer and seven trombonists. One orchestral piece was devoted to each of the planets, the Moon and Pluto. (The playbill stated that Pluto was included “out of pity”.) Each piece was accompanied by projections of video art on a large sphere, as well as lights and lasers. I’ve honestly never seen a crowd so calm during a laser show and I’d like to think that’s because everyone was too absorbed in the music and atmosphere. But I think it was that the crowd didn’t really know how to behave during a show like this. I certainly didn’t. There were times when I was overwhelmed by the music and visuals. However, I’ll admit, I was bored during parts and I spent a good deal of time wondering when it would be appropriate for me to take pictures on my iPhone. But ultimately, I was really impressed with the execution and enjoyed the experience as a whole. (These positive feelings may or may not have been greatly increased when, for the encore, they played a cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that made me cry a little.)




Yoga For Beginners

1. Two weeks before you are due to go to Florida, decide that you are out of shape.

2. Google the class schedule for the Greenpoint YMCA, the gym to which you belong but go to maybe once a week when you feel like reading The New Yorker on the elliptical instead of on the couch.

3. Study a PDF of the class schedule at work. Decide that most fitness classes, like “Spinning” and “Total Body Conditioning”, seem too…involved.

4. Settle on yoga because you have “done it” a few times before and write down every single yoga class time in the notes section of your New Yorker day planner.

5. Also, print out a copy of the class schedule to hang up on your refrigerator. You’re going to need all the motivation you can get to go to a class by yourself.

6. Ponder, for a few days, the best time for you to go:

a. Is it the morning? (Have the following thoughts: Can you get yourself out of bed for anything other than money? Not really, but you’ll get it over with and then you can go out after work. But won’t you be too tired to go out after work? And don’t you remember how much you hate showering at the gym?)

b. Or the evening? (Have the following thoughts: None of the classes are late enough in the case that you have to work late. You could just make sure you leave on time to get to class. But what if you have things to do at night, like laundry or wine-drinking?)

c. And then there are the weekends… (Have the following thought: No.)

7. Settle on going to “Gentle Yoga” because it very clearly seems like the least strenuous yoga class and it is also at 7:30 PM, which is both late enough and early enough in the evening that you won’t be able to justify not going.

8. When Yoga Day finally rolls around, spend your time at work vacillating on whether or not you will actually go.

9. Rush home from work. There is a note on the YMCA class schedule that advises you to get there early and you take that very seriously.

10. Rifle through your dresser to find appropriate yoga clothes. Realize that the only clean gym pants you have are extra small spandex that no longer fit. Wear them anyway but tie them tightly to hedge against the exposition of your butt crack.

11. Arrive at the gym 15 minutes before class. Sit on a bench outside of the classroom by yourself, anxiously wondering if you’re in the right place.

12. Take stock of your fellow yoga-goers. Become even more anxious when the first two people who show up have their own yoga mats. Relax a little bit when three older Polish women sans yoga mats arrive, followed by a woman wearing a karate outfit.

13. When the time comes, enter the classroom – er, gymnasium/basketball court – and put your stuff down on the side. Grab a yoga mat from the supply closet and lay it out towards the back, slightly to the right of the teacher but where you can still see her.

14. Get asked to move over by an old man wearing baggy sweatpants because you are in his “spot”.

15. When the teacher asks if anyone is new to yoga, raise your hand even though technically, you’re not “new”, you just haven’t done it in a while. You just don’t want to look like an idiot when you fuck up. Feel self-conscious when no one else raises their hand. Feel relieved when the teacher explains that this is a beginners’ yoga class and that anyone with a more “advanced practice” is welcome to go to a more difficult class.

16. Wonder if you’re doing something wrong for pretty much the entire class, especially when the teacher says “chaturangaand you just kind of collapse on the floor. But also, feel great about remembering most of the basic poses.

17. Hope that no one saw that your pants did slide like pretty much halfway down your butt.

18. At the end of class, when you are doing the final relaxation thingy – OK, you know now it’s called shavasana – think about literally everything even though you’re supposed to be thinking about nothing.

19. When class is over, put your mat away but worry that you didn’t wipe it down thoroughly enough even though it was kind of dirty in the first place.

20. Walk home, feel accomplished and motivated. As soon as you sit on your couch, begin psyching yourself up to go next week.


Note: I have now attended Gentle Yoga three weeks in a row. At this point, I am literally an expert at the corpse pose and I think/hope the older Polish ladies have accepted me as a regular because all of them smiled at me in what I took to be a warm manner this week.


Scenes From a Bachelorette Weekend

I attended my friend Katherine’s bachelorette  party in Miami this past weekend (from Thursday to Sunday). Really writing about it just feels…inappropriate, so instead, here are some photos of a mostly non-scandalous nature.


This should give you an idea of what the weather was like all weekend.


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This should give you an idea of what the bride looked like all weekend. (Happy!)


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Festive beer koozies for the poolside.

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The view from my poolside lounging spot.


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Up in the club, etc. (Not pictured: the party bus that we took there.)


I didn’t get the “clubbing outfit” memo.


With the lovely bride.


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At the beach on Key Biscayne.

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The scene at the beach.

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I wish I had taken my camera while I walked down the beach because there was a beautiful view of Miami but…I didn’t so I had to take this photo from the car on the way back.


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We played a few games. This poster was part of one.


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This piñata was part of another.

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And this is how we all felt the next day, on our way home. (Like the garbage on Howard Beach, where I got on the subway.)

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of a ‘Nice Hack’: The Best of Town & Country, April 2013


This month’s issue is all about the Ivy League! Cover girl Allison Williams – whose name isn’t even mentioned on the cover, she’s just “Brian Williams’ Daughter” – went to Yale. And 19 other “Brainy Beauties” are apparently “Taking Hollywood By Storm”. I was hoping for some juicier details about America’s most celebrated institutions of higher learning but was sorely disappointed, as the coverage of Ivy League schools is limited to an Editor’s Letter about the summer he spent at Yale while he was in high school, a profile on Allison Williams, and a two-page spread on already established actresses who only needed to attend a couple of years at an Ivy League college in order to be included in their roundup.

The best bits on those things related to the Ivy League:

Editor’s Letter:
Jay Fielden, the EIC of Town & Country, spent the summer of 1987 at Yale, living in Silliman College and taking two classes (in American Studies and the religions of Africa, he tells us). It seems from his letter that what he really got out of this summer, aside from an appreciation of WASP culture, was a lasting love for reggae and “Bud in a can”. Also, hacky sack. Apparently, he spent many an evening “in pursuit of ‘a nice hack’”. (OMGOMGOMG). Also, no mention of where he went to school but The New York Times is telling me it was Boston University.

Allison Williams, “Ivy League Siren”:
– On the night of the Golden Globes, “she giddily snapped photos of her self with the actor who plays Abu Nazir on Homeland”.
– She “cops to occasionally veering into Tracy Flick territory”.
– According to the author of the profile, she had a “Rockwellian childhood”.
– She says she slept for four hours a night in high school and college. (Which I can relate to. I also was busier then than I am now. Which is obvious. Because I’m recapping Town & Country issues.)
– She met her best friend while “vacationing at a Montana dude ranch” as a child.
– “She gave up drinking after college”. SHE GAVE UP DRINKING AFTER COLLEGE.
Style icon: Grace Kelly. There is no other choice.

“Rousseau, Rilke, and the Red Carpet” (Or, Other Ivy League Sirens):
Everyone who you already knew went to an Ivy League school. (Except I guess I didn’t know Amanda Peete went to Columbia, but you learn something new every day.) Also, I would argue that most of them have already taken Hollywood by storm, though not all of them have remained in the spotlight. What I’m saying is, I’d really like a Leelee Sobieski profile next month.

Now, here are the rest of the best parts of the April 2013 issue:

A man from Lexington, KY wrote a letter to the editor to complain that Jack Kennedy Schlossberg, “the only living male heir to Camelot”, was not included in “T&C’s 50 Top Bachelors” back in February. The Editors apologized.

I assume they devote one page each month to C.Z. Guest and this month they’re talking about the celebration of her life in a book called C.Z. Guest: American Style Icon. “Often photographed for this magazine, Guest was never overly concerned with what she wore, preferring to spend her time outdoors, cultivating her topiaries or riding.”

Two-thirds of a page is devoted to the recent trend of rich people literally purchasing entire medieval towns.

In a rundown of rich people moving to foreign tax havens, there is this sentence: “‘Texas is home to liberty and low taxes,’ Governor Rick Perry tweeted to golfer Phil Mickelson.”
From the “Style Spy” section:

“When one visits Marissa Collections in Naples, Florida, it’s hard not to think of the Cheers bar in Boston (or at least in syndication). True, there might not have been Lanvin dresses and Alexander McQueen clutches in Sam Malone’s saloon, but both places serve as gather spots for the like-minded.” I think this is a stretch.

“There are endless choices involved in embarking on a day by the sea: suntan oil or lotion, book or tablet, caftan or cutoffs. And now, Valentino espadrille or Chanel jelly.” Suntan lotion, book, caftan. And like 10 year-old flip flops.

“There’s something about a lamp shade that makes you think of a party (at least, it should).”

And a guide to fancy English umbrellas! Complete with three pictures of Prince Charles!

From the “Looking Glass” section:

-“‘Who is woman?’ Town & Country wondered in March 1971 – a question for the ages but also unmistakably of the age.”
– “According to the feature, ‘the ‘seventies chic’ involved cropping the top and sides of one’s hair while the back had ‘long wisps in strands to soften the total effect.’ In short, a mullet.”

From the “Social Network” section:

Several photos of Charlotte Casiraghi (above) competing in an equestrian competition dressed as a Native American.

Two people called Halsey and Griffin got married. And here is the part where I admit that I read their wedding announcement in The New York Times this summer.

And elsewhere in the issue:

This months “Manners & Misdemeanors” was written by a mom who sexts. Here are some things she says:
– “At age 12, my daughter has started to attract the opposite sex, and now that my divorce scars have finally healed, I’m happy to say that I have too.”
– “Post-divorce I’ve been introduced to ‘sexting,’ the saucy written cell phone chats that I, being a writer, have realized I’m actually rather good at.”
– “I’m so petite (five-foot-one if I stand up extra-straight) that I can buy my datewear at Gap Kids or Crewcuts, where I’m typically the only person in the dressing room pulling on brocade dresses while returning business emails and wearing $85 French lace panties.”

There’s a piece on Aristotle Onassis’s Olympic Tower that the cover referred to as “Jackie O’s Tower of Power”, of course. It includes a photo subtitled: “‘70s Primitivism: Helene Rochas reclines in the shade of her luxuriant and well-tended kentia palms, 1979.” And that is all you need to know about THAT.

Mary McCartney wrote a thing on her mother’s cooking and how the entire McCartney clan is vegetarian. The McCartneys seem nice/very down to Earth.

T&C urges us to travel to the following places abroad: Antarctica (six different proposed “adventures”, depending on your personality), Walt Disney World (but you should only stay at the Waldorf Astoria or Four Seasons), the Republic of Congo, Mani (the region of Greece where my actual hero Patrick Leigh Fermor* lived for much of his life), and Portillo (“the other Aspen”, in Chile). Also, Qatar (to dive for pearls) and Tasmania.

There’s also an American travel guide, divided up by the following pursuits (and from there, by skill level): golf, camping, and sailing.

That said, it’s time for us to sail away from T&C until next month. If you need to reach me before then, I’ll be tending to my topiaries.

*I’ve talked about his books A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, here and here. Read them! They are beautiful, beautiful portraits of Europe just before WWII that are full of incredible and mostly obscure history and plain old fun facts. And the writing isn’t bad either.