What Recession?

December 14, 2011


Why wear one pair of shoes when you can wear two? From this editorial (no hard feelings).

Notes on a Storm

September 9, 2011

The seawall by Crescent Bluff was washed right out to sea—we watched it go, battered by twenty-foot waves. Storm surge hopped the harbor walls and buried the tennis courts, parking lots, and golf course up to the eighth hole, and on the avenues there was boiling sewage and the sidewalk was smashed. Linden Avenue is impassable, which leaves the whole Possun Park crowd stranded, possibly for weeks. If I were them, I’d start having bonfires down at the water, because they’re not going to be hauling those fallen trees away any time soon. Everywhere along the coast, the sheer destructive power of water was on display. There were bathhouses reduced to kindling, boulders sucked from hundred-year resting places and heaved onto beachfronts. A large, square chunk of dock now sits stranded in the yacht club parking lot. And true to the spirit of the area, even the height of the storm was a social event. My cousin and I were originally at the point, what our family calls the first point (as opposed to the second point, or the breakwater at the other end). It was here that we watched, and were soaked by, the fearsome high tide and height of the storm. Later J. came by with some guys and a truck, and we jumped in back with a couple beers and toured the damage. What we concluded is that the coastline is going to look a bit different after Irene. Maybe not dramatically, but for those of us who have memorized this landscape’s details, details we assumed were immemorial, the storm-wrought alterations are significant, even shocking. The jetty at the old house is gone, after sixty years of service. That large, amorphous concrete platform that abutted the seawall is finally gone. The woeful structure had been falling apart for a decade, and what will grow up in its place is anybody’s guess. Owenego, that odd little social club at the foot of Possun Park, is in ruins; every single bathhouse is gone, to the point where one can’t even tell they had existed. The bathhouse itself seems like a holdover from the Gatsby era, what you might call Pine Orchard’s golden age, and its thorough eradication is a detail I can’t help but reduce to metaphor.

For all of Irene’s damages, there remains a certain ambivalence to the event, a resignedness that, I suppose, arises when dealing with natural phenomena. Certainly there is no anger. I think most folks who live on the coast recognize at least the possibility of a catastrophic storm, so when something of the sort finally appears, complaining about it doesn’t seem fair. Or rather, the concept of fairness itself would be misapplied in this case. The boys and I walked around the neighborhoods quite a bit, talking to people. Everyone acted more amazed than anything else. Indeed, they seemed conscious of having seen firsthand an event that only occurs every 75 years or so, something truly remarkable. And so everyone had a story about how high the waves were, how close to them a tree had fallen, how complete the damage was to this or that street. Irene was an experience at once universally shared and intensely neighborhood-specific. Hochkiss Grove, flooded and evacuated, saw a different storm than the harbor, with its own sea surge but with room (the parking lots, the golf course) to spread out, while Crescent Bluff dealt instead with the full-on impact of the waves, and the erosion and destruction that caused. And of course, even a mile inland, the storm was very different. So, though normally I’m bored by local news, I’ve been consuming stories about Irene as much as my lack of Internet at home or work allows—largely by radio (one result of the storm is that I’ve taken the time to find local news on the radio, which may prove useful in the future). If you have stories, feel free to share them below.

Ultimately, I’m curious to see what shape the coastline takes a year from now, what changes will become permanent, which ruptures will be repaired. When I tell my grandchildren about waves as big as buildings, what will they think of? How much of the storm will be forgotten, or confined to the inexact and half-listened to retelling? Seamus Heaney asks us, perhaps in defense, to “lie down in the treasure hoard/of memory.” But in the Internet age, I don’t think we know yet the exact confines of that cave, what memory will mean to us in thirty or fifty years. Our detailed records will outlast our detailed minds. But, if one of the goals of life—maybe the only goal—is acquiring such psychic treasure, then the events of Hurricane Irene may prove invaluable. Whether they listen to me or not, I can say: I was there.

This is a short film by UK artist Hannah Richards. She writes:

This film explores my own memories of the story of the Children of Lir, an Irish legend that I used to be familiar with in childhood. The film is constructed from drawn animation and  found footage and narrated by an amalgamation of my mother, brother and sister, describing their recollections of the story. Using this collected debris of memory I have tried to construct the narrative as I remember it.


Again via splitinfinitives, Sean Fennessey’s blog, which is turning out to be pretty excellent.

I don’t think I ever linked to this post, though upon reading it I thought “this is probably the best bit of music journalism I’ve read this year.” That was back in 2010. Since then, we’ve seen the crunkcore thing scaled back a bit, in favor of this new R&B thing that Drake and The Weeknd and Frank Ocean are doing (and what guys like Moodymann have sort of been doing for a while). But Kesha is still out there, somewhere; and I still claim to be a fan. Anyway, the piece is obviously a product of the DFW School of Essay Writing, no less so because it’s brilliant.


July 29, 2011

From nbaoffseason via splitinfinitives:

This is not a friendly conversation:

They are not talking about pies, or iPad apps, or Sarah Vowell books, or cool bars, or hipsters, or yoga mats, or Bronx Zoo Cobra tweets, or The Awl, or organic ice cream, or Dwayne’s friend ReRun, or things Chuck Klosterman talks about, or Leno on Letterman, or Lili Taylor, or pies.

Perk forever.

Hold It Right There

July 22, 2011

Like Basic Instinct, Wild Things is a story about and by men who feel like victims, but McNaughton’s film is better-humored and less of a revenge fantasy than Verhoeven’s. This is the difference between the early 90s and the late 90s, when whatever threat feminism posed seemed to have been neutralized – “be comfortable with your sexuality” having become synonymous with “maybe have a threesome” – and the recession was over.

-from Elizabeth Gumport’s essay on the 1998 film Wild Things

Recession music can be off-putting. The etiology of an album like Washed Out’s Life of Leisure, composed by an out-of-work Ernest Greene on his parents’ back porch, hews too close to the depressing cliché of the starving artist in someone else’s basement, wasting time. But the economic downturn hit a lot of us, some harder than we expected, and if you’re part of the crowd that’s been negotiating their twenties and the new, recessed job market (as I am), Greene’s story may actually be heartening. After all, the music that became Life of Leisure and two other EPs managed to encapsulate a particular emerging genre (chillwave) and an accompanying mentality (the fuzzy analog space between youth and adulthood), as well as anyone. Yes, Washed Out is the beneficiary of the right place at the right time; but Greene capitalized on his moment. Most importantly, the music holds up.

With his first full-length, Within and Without, Greene continues to realize the potential of his sound. The album isn’t a radical departure from Life of Leisure or the chillwave format in general. But Greene throws the template wide open—many of these songs wouldn’t sound out of place in Ibiza circa 1999. Indeed, the touchstones for this go-round are less Neon Indian and Memory Tapes (although the latter’s influence can be heard on “Far Away”), and more Delorean and Saturdays=Youth-era M83 (plus a vocal line in “You and I” straight from Sigur Ros). Bass lines and choruses abound. The album begs to be heard over car stereos with the windows down. And while a lot of the discussion around chillwave has centered on the way the music evokes loss (of youth, of summer), Within and Without doesn’t do so. This is, rather, a soundtrack of immediate experience. In other words, a lot of previous chillwave music has been about summer; but this is an album for summer.

And so am I:

(Concept, as previously mentioned, has been lifted directly from flagship photo blog If Charlie Parker was a Gunslinger…)

David Doubilet


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