Researchers have determined that black-coated wolves, like these in Yellowstone National Park, got their distinctive color from dogs.
By MARK DERR
NY TimesPublished: February 5, 2009
In a bit of genetic sleuthing, a team of researchers has determined that black wolves and coyotes in North America got their distinctive color from dogs that carried a gene mutation to the New World.
The finding presents a rare instance in which a genetic mutation from a domesticated animal has benefited wild animals by enriching their “genetic legacy,” the scientists write in Thursday’s Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science. Because black wolves are more common in forested areas than on the tundra, the researchers concluded that melanism — the pigmentation that resulted from the mutation — must give those animals an adaptive advantage.
Although common in many species, melanism in dogs follows a unique genetic pathway, said Dr. Gregory S. Barsh, a professor of genetics and pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the senior author of the paper.
Last year, Dr. Barsh and his laboratory identified a gene mutation responsible for the protein beta-defensin 3, which regulates melanism in dogs. After finding that the same mutation was responsible for black wolves and black coyotes in North America, and for black wolves from the Italian Apennines where wolves have recently hybridized with free-ranging dogs, the researchers set out to discover where and when the mutation evolved.
Comparing large sections of wolf, dog and coyote genomes, Dr. Barsh and his colleagues concluded that the mutation arose in dogs 12,779 to 121,182 years ago, with a preferred date of 46,886 years ago. Because the first domesticated dogs are estimated to date back just 15,000 to 40,000 years ago in East Asia, the researchers said that they could not determine with certainty whether the mutation arose first in wolves that predate that time, or in dogs at an early date in their domestication.
Robert K. Wayne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies canine evolution and is a co-author on the Science paper, said in an interview that he believed the mutation occurred first in dogs. But even if it arose first in wolves, he said, it was passed on to dogs who brought it to the New World and then passed it to wolves and coyotes soon after their arrival.
Dr. Wayne and his colleagues have dated the presence of dogs in Alaska to about 14,000 years ago and are now checking ancient dog remains from across the Americas for the mutation.
The researchers concluded that the mutation is subject to positive selection, meaning that it serves some adaptive purpose. Cross-breeding produces offspring with one set of genes from each parent, in this case a dog and a wolf. If all subsequent breeding takes place among wolves, the dog genes eventually vanish, unless one or more of them helps the organism survive.
Scientists have not yet identified the mutation’s purpose, but they suggested that its association with forested habitats meant the prevalence of melanism should increase as forests expand northward.
In an interview, Dr. Barsh observed that beta-defensin is involved in providing immunity to viral and bacterial skin infections, which might be more common in forested, warmer environments.
Marc Bekoff, a behavioral ethologist from the University of Colorado, who was not involved in the project, said more work was needed to show what adaptive advantage black coats might provide. But, Dr. Bekoff added, “This is an important paper that among other things should make us revisit and likely revise what we mean by a ‘pure’ species.”February 9th, 2009
By PAUL KRUGMAN
NY Times Published: February 8, 2009
What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?
A proud centrist. For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished.
Even if the original Obama plan — around $800 billion in stimulus, with a substantial fraction of that total given over to ineffective tax cuts — had been enacted, it wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will amount to $2.9 trillion over the next three years.
Yet the centrists did their best to make the plan weaker and worse.
One of the best features of the original plan was aid to cash-strapped state governments, which would have provided a quick boost to the economy while preserving essential services. But the centrists insisted on a $40 billion cut in that spending.
The original plan also included badly needed spending on school construction; $16 billion of that spending was cut. It included aid to the unemployed, especially help in maintaining health care — cut. Food stamps — cut. All in all, more than $80 billion was cut from the plan, with the great bulk of those cuts falling on precisely the measures that would do the most to reduce the depth and pain of this slump.
On the other hand, the centrists were apparently just fine with one of the worst provisions in the Senate bill, a tax credit for home buyers. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research calls this the “flip your house to your brother” provision: it will cost a lot of money while doing nothing to help the economy.
All in all, the centrists’ insistence on comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted will, if reflected in the final bill, lead to substantially lower employment and substantially more suffering.
But how did this happen? I blame President Obama’s belief that he can transcend the partisan divide — a belief that warped his economic strategy.
After all, many people expected Mr. Obama to come out with a really strong stimulus plan, reflecting both the economy’s dire straits and his own electoral mandate.
Instead, however, he offered a plan that was clearly both too small and too heavily reliant on tax cuts. Why? Because he wanted the plan to have broad bipartisan support, and believed that it would. Not long ago administration strategists were talking about getting 80 or more votes in the Senate.
Mr. Obama’s postpartisan yearnings may also explain why he didn’t do something crucially important: speak forcefully about how government spending can help support the economy. Instead, he let conservatives define the debate, waiting until late last week before finally saying what needed to be said — that increasing spending is the whole point of the plan.
And Mr. Obama got nothing in return for his bipartisan outreach. Not one Republican voted for the House version of the stimulus plan, which was, by the way, better focused than the original administration proposal.
In the Senate, Republicans inveighed against “pork” — although the wasteful spending they claimed to have identified (much of it was fully justified) was a trivial share of the bill’s total. And they decried the bill’s cost — even as 36 out of 41 Republican senators voted to replace the Obama plan with $3 trillion, that’s right, $3 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years.
So Mr. Obama was reduced to bargaining for the votes of those centrists. And the centrists, predictably, extracted a pound of flesh — not, as far as anyone can tell, based on any coherent economic argument, but simply to demonstrate their centrist mojo. They probably would have demanded that $100 billion or so be cut from anything Mr. Obama proposed; by coming in with such a low initial bid, the president guaranteed that the final deal would be much too small.
Such are the perils of negotiating with yourself.
Now, House and Senate negotiators have to reconcile their versions of the stimulus, and it’s possible that the final bill will undo the centrists’ worst. And Mr. Obama may be able to come back for a second round. But this was his best chance to get decisive action, and it fell short.
So has Mr. Obama learned from this experience? Early indications aren’t good.
For rather than acknowledge the failure of his political strategy and the damage to his economic strategy, the president tried to put a postpartisan happy face on the whole thing. “Democrats and Republicans came together in the Senate and responded appropriately to the urgency this moment demands,” he declared on Saturday, and “the scale and scope of this plan is right.”
No, they didn’t, and no, it isn’t.February 9th, 2009
In places where the practice is banned as an unsightly nuisance to neighbors, right-to-dry activists and bloggers are forming an alliance.
By Alexandria Abramian Mott
LA Times February 7, 2009
When clothes dryers account for at least 6% of the electricity used by U.S. households, is it any wonder that line-drying is coming back? In places where the practice is banned as an unsightly nuisance to neighbors, right-to-dry activists and blogging eco-moms are forming an alliance. Their cause: to reduce energy consumption and to call upon sunlight rather than bleach to get those whites even whiter.
The movement also includes homeowners pinched by rising electric bills as well as some celebrity converts. Yes, there’s even a blog dedicated to tracking who’s who in L.A. line-drying. blog.linedryit.com/eco_facts/
Sophie Uliano, a resident of the Brookside area near Hancock Park, went so far as to hire a specialist to maximize the length of her clothesline in a small backyard dominated by a pool.
“It was one of my chores as a child growing up in Surrey, England,” Uliano said. “I’ll never forget the smell of burying my head in a basket of line-dried laundry. I still do it.”
Uliano, who hangs about 90% of her laundry during the summer and about 60% of it in winter, said no one has complained except for her husband, who always wants it taken down before guests come over.
For her, she said, “The fact that I line-dry my clothes is like a badge of honor.”
A 2001 Department of Energy report estimated that electric clothes dryers accounted for about 5.8% of total electricity usage in U.S. homes — a startling figure given that the same report said all indoor and outdoor lighting in American homes constitutes only 8.8% of electricity usage. Plus, the 5.8% attributed to dryers does not include electricity needed to power the motors of gas-heated dryers.
Still, some people see nothing purposeful or poetic in the image of clean sheets blowing in the wind.
“Homeowner associations recognize that if people throw their clothes over their fences and patio walls that their homes won’t be as aesthetically attractive,” said Richard S. Monson, president of the California Assn. of Homeowners Assns. “We’re criticized for this, but what it’s doing is protecting home values.”
It’s not just the beige-on-approved-beige gated communities that often prohibit line-drying. Homeowner associations at retirement communities, mobile home parks and condos often prohibit the practice. Elleven, Los Angeles’ first condo building to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s gold LEED rating for environmentally conscious design, has sustainable bamboo flooring — but line-drying? That’s still strictly verboten, building manager Matthew Davidson said.
Real estate broker Margaret Goedeke lives in Newport Crest, a cluster of beachfront condominiums where open garage doors, flag poles and clothing lines are all prohibited. “We’re not even allowed to hang a towel outside,” Goedeke said. “Once in a while we’ll dry something on our deck, but we hide it. We’re very controlled.”
These kinds of rules drove British film producer Steven Lake to make “Drying for Freedom,” a documentary on line-drying in the U.S. that he said is in pre-production.
“The matter of wasted energy is something that draws my attention to this topic,” he said. “But mostly it’s the fact that in America, which to the rest of the world is considered to be the land of the free, citizens are banned from something as simple and silly as hanging out their washing.”
According to Lake, Southern California will play a particularly large part in the project.
“Not only is that part of the United States full of HOAs, but it is particularly hot, so there is no excuse not to do it,” he said.
If line-drying as a plot line sounds about as scintillating as watching compost decompose, get this: Lake’s film will feature one extreme case. “We’re including feuding neighbors in Mississippi where one man purportedly shot and killed another due to a dispute over a washing line. He didn’t want to see the laundry from his window.”
In her 20 years of drying clothes in her Van Nuys backyard, Kathy Arnos is happy to report she has yet to receive a death threat.
“Nobody has ever complained, because it’s completely private,” said Arnos, who is line-less, preferring to hang her clothes from patio chairs and umbrellas. “And even if they could see my clothes, I seriously doubt it would lower my property value.”
Arnos’ boyfriend, David Bower, also avoids the dryer. But instead of using his backyard in Hollywood, Bower hung two lines inside his garage.
“I worried that someone would take my clothes from my backyard,” he said. “And this way, I don’t have to worry about weather conditions.”
In L.A., renters and condo owners even post tips about undercover line-drying on websites such as laundrylist.org.
“Not everyone has a half-acre in the Palisades to dry their clothes,” said Uliano, who is the author of the eco-guidebook “Gorgeously Green.”
“I suggest that people who don’t have a yard do it the Italian way by getting a good old drying rack and placing it near an open window for the day.”
These are tactics that even Monson might agree with.
“We’re not against line-drying,” he said. “Not using dryers can be a good thing, especially in these economical times. We’re asking that residents do so with some discretion.”
Discretion is something Dean Fisher misses. Fisher, a 25-year-old interior designer, likes to line-dry from her Highland Park bungalow apartment. But her neighbor laid claim to a communal brick patio by tying rope between a fence and a tree.
“Oftentimes, I’ll have to fight my way through damp sheets as if I’m trailblazing in the rain forest,” Fisher said. “Or I’ll invite my friends out onto the patio only to be greeted by Dora the Explorer footie pajamas and old-lady bras. Ewww.”February 9th, 2009
The first place I remember hearing the idea of the roof as a “fifth facade” was Peter Eisenman talking about his Columbus Convention Center, from 1989, but completed in 1993.
With an awkward, constrained site sandwiched between downtown and a tangle of freeways, Eisenman recognized that the most important vantage points for the building were from the air–from passing motorists, conventioneers’ hotel rooms, and arriving airplanes. So he translated his program of entry lanes and loading bays sculpturally across the building.
You’d think the triumph of the rendering and virtual formmaking software and the whole, architecture as sculpture/object era would have heightened sensitivity to 360-degree design. But Google Maps makes it immediately clear that architects can be divided into those who consider the roof, and those who consider the roof an easy place to hide the air conditioner. Well, it ain’t hidden any more, folks.
I was reminded of this while surfing through pmoore66′s vast collection of aerial views of modern and contemporary architecture. While there are definitely wholly considered designs that look good on Google Maps, there are a very few–like Toyo Ito’s 2002 pavilion for the Serpentine–which seem to give special attention to the bird’s eye view.
On the one hand, it seems obvious that this vast, global audience should be factored into the creation of architecture. But on the other, it seems absolutely insane to design a structure, a space, for people who won’t be anywhere near it, but sitting in front of some screen on the other side of the world.
Maybe the next Bilbao Effect, sure to appeal to striving cities in these difficult budgetary times, will be to commission grand architectural designs purely for the benefit of the Google Maps audience. Like the rural streetscape camouflage which was applied to the roof of the Lockheed airplane factory in Burbank to thwart Japanese bombers during WWII, cheap, easy, flexible Potemkin roof structures could really put a town on the map, so to speak.
Richard Serra Sculptures on Google Maps
The whole thing about the only human construct you can see from space is the Great Wall of China will be amusing to people growing up in the Google Maps era, where you can’t hide anything from the satellite’s surveilling eye. It’s the geospatial equivalent of explaining TV before remotes and cable: it’ll just make you sound old.
So kudos to Richard Serra for being ahead of the curve [no pun intended] on making work that turns out to be well-suited for viewing from our new conveniently God-like vantage point.
I started to make a list with the Torqued Ellipse in front of Glenstone, Mitch Rales’ foundation in Potomac, and the suggestion from Guthrie of T.E.U.C.L.A., a torqued ellipse in the Murphy Sculpture Garden behind the Broad Art Center at UCLA, described at its installation in 2006 as “the first public work by sculptor Richard Serra installed in Southern California.”
And that reminded me that the Broads have had a Serra titled No Problem in their backyard for a while, which, thanks to Google Maps, is now public. Searching for that image led me to pmoore66′s collection of bird’s eye view Serras around the world at Virtual Globetrotting. If you count Robert Smithson’s Amarillo Ramp, which he helped complete after Serra Smithson’s death [!], pmoore66 has sighted 44 Serras around the world using either Google Maps, or Microsoft’s Bird’s Eye View, plus another four shots on Google Streetview. [Here are the search results on Virtual Globetrotting for "Richard Serra", but that link looks a little unstable.]
With more than 1,700 entries so far, pmoore66 appears to be almost single-handedly pinning down the modernist canon for architecture and outdoor sculpture. This warrants some looking into. Stay tuned.
The more oblique angles of birds-eye-view seems to suit Serra’s sculptures better, and they remind me of a series of little desk tchotchke-sized versions of monumental sculptures called minuments that I saw in the ICA London bookshop a few years ago. As soon as I can figure out how to get Google to stop spellchecking for me, I’ll get the artist’s name.February 7th, 2009
Atelier Bow-Wow’s BBQ house, made with recycled materials, is part of a low-cost housing case study.
Hammock house by Atelier Bow-Wow
Sunset house by Atelier Bow-Wow
By BROOKE HODGE
NY Times T Magazine Published February 6
For its first solo U.S. exhibition, Atelier Bow-Wow — the Tokyo architecture studio led by Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kajima — riffs on the post-World War II Case Study Houses. Small Case Study House, on view at the Gallery at Redcat in downtown Los Angeles through March 29, consists of three “microstructures” that collectively offer a contemporary spin on the idea of minimal low-cost housing.
The Case Study House program, which enlisted architects to design and build houses using prefabricated materials, has been a source of fascination and inspiration for Tsukamoto, who has built more than 20 houses in Japan with Kajima since Atelier Bow-Wow’s founding in 1992. For its L.A. debut, the firm designed three “microstructures”: a BBQ house whose stadium seating is directed toward central oil-can barbecues, a hammock house for repose and a sunset house for contemplation.
Like the Japanese teahouse, which is dedicated solely to the practice of the tea ceremony, each of these dwellings is a space for a single leisure activity that the architects identified as particularly Southern Californian. The full-scale, habitable structures are built from salvaged wood provided by the ReUse People, a company that deconstructs houses slated for demolition. If L.A. isn’t on your itinerary, Atelier Bow-Wow is designing the environment for “Krazy!”, an exhibition of Japanese anime, manga and video games that opens at New York’s Japan Society on March 13.
The Gallery at Redcat
631 W. Second Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Installation view Galerie Martin Janda, 2009
By Roberta Smith
NY Times Published February 6, 2008
510 West 25th Street, Chelsea
Through Feb. 28
Richard Aldrich’s third solo show in New York is his first in one of Chelsea’s cavernous spaces. Its 20 paintings vary greatly in size, material and technique. They veer between large and small, abstract and sort of representational, and Romantic and Minimal. They go from thickly painted to nearly bare to excised canvas with exposed stretchers. It is clear that beyond the vertical rectangular format Mr. Aldrich does not intend to limit his options anytime soon.
And yet his work is very much of a piece. Whether severely attenuated or slyly voluptuous, it has its own style — a combination of understated bravado, brinksmanship and delicacy that amounts to a slackerish cosmopolitanism. Each work isolates some aspect of the process of making, looking at or exhibiting painting, or refers to the history of painting. You are invited to think outside the medium, sometimes with poetic input from a work’s title.
One work is a legible rendering of a man’s head and shoulders seen from the back (despite being mostly a brown blob surmounting a black one) and titled “Looking.” A larger version of the same painting, with part of the canvas cut away and a mirror affixed to the exposed stretcher, is titled “Looking With Mirror Apparatus.” Across from these hang two versions of a more conventionally decorative work, “Treib Painting” and “Large Treib Painting.” The larger copy is a softer, smoothed-out rendition of the smaller original; their images are abstract but suggest an easel.
In another work bare canvas has been cut away to reveal the thick stretcher bars; the gaps are accented with three long, ultra-thin strips of wood daubed with oil and wax that boil down image and support to a fragile, nearly invisible essence. The work’s title is “If I Paint Crowned I’ve Had It, Got Me,” which conveys a certain fear of the effects of artistic success. An irritatingly sparse painting exposes a different kind of hazard. It features an enormous spindly letter C rendered in striped shirt fabric; tiny letters complete the word, which is echoed in the title, “Coward Painting.”
This is a very smart, suave, nerdy show. Rauschenberg and Whistler — possible opposites — are invoked. The surface of “Whistler’s Mother” has just four large sheets of buff paper glued to its surface and, near the bottom, four small reproductions of full-length portraits by Whistler that are all in the Frick Collection. Shapes repeat among certain paintings. There’s a lot to look at, and sometimes Mr. Aldrich just lets himself go, covering a canvas with thick blocky strokes of color, as in “Untitled (Night Time Sky),” which seems to have cherries for stars.February 6th, 2009
Fri, Feb 20 at 8pm at Royce Hall UCLA Live
One of cinema’s most visionary, enigmatic and controversial directors, German film auteur Werner Herzog creates extreme, larger than life narratives that often blur the boundaries of reality and fiction. His eccentric, over-the-top characters –from actor Klaus Kinski’s maniacal conquistador in the 1972 classic Aguirre, the Wrath of God to the doomed “grizzly bear expert” in the 2005 documentary Grizzly Man—are often quixotic outsiders who test the limits of humanity with ill-advised hubris. This fascinating discussion with Herzog will be moderated by Paul Höldengraber, director of public programs at the New York Public Library.
Thanks to Steven Tsou for the below you tube link of Werner HerzogFebruary 5th, 2009
By August Brown
Los Angeles Times, February 4, 2009
Lux Interior, the singer, songwriter and founding member of the pioneering New York City horror-punk band the Cramps, died Wednesday. He was 60.
Interior, whose real name was Erick Lee Purkhiser, died at Glendale Memorial Hospital of a heart condition, according to a statement from his publicist.
With his wife, guitarist “Poison” Ivy Rorschach, Interior formed the Cramps in 1976, pairing lyrics that expressed their love of B-movie camp with ferocious rockabilly and surf-inspired instrumentation.
The band became a staple of the late ’70s Manhattan punk scene emerging from clubs such as Max’s Kansas City and CBGB, and was one of the first acts to realize the potential of punk rock as theater and spectacle.
Often dressed in macabre, gender-bending costumes onstage, Interior evoked a lanky, proto-goth Elvis Presley, and his band quickly became notorious for volatile and decadent live performances.
The Cramps recorded early singles at Sun Records with producer Alex Chilton of the band Big Star and had their first critical breakthrough on their debut EP “Gravest Hits.”
The band’s lack of a bassist and its antagonistic female guitarist quickly set it apart from its downtown peers and upended the traditional rock band sexual dynamic of the flamboyant, seductive female and the mysterious male guitarist.
The group was asked to open for the Police on a major tour of Britain in 1979 and reached its critical apex in the early ’80s with such albums as “Psychedelic Jungle” and “Songs the Lord Taught Us.”
While the Cramps’ lineup revolved constantly, Interior and Rorschach remained the band’s core through more than three decades. The Cramps never achieved much mainstream commercial success, but instead found a reliable fringe audience for more than 30 years — they even played a notorious show for patients at Napa State Hospital in Napa, Calif.
“It’s a little bit like asking a junkie how he’s been able to keep on dope all these years,” Interior told The Times some years ago. “It’s just so much fun. You pull in to one town and people scream, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you.’ And you go to a bar and have a great rock ‘n’ roll show and go to the next town and people scream, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.’ It’s hard to walk away from all that.”
The band’s influence can be clearly felt among lauded minimalist art-blues bands, including the Black Lips, the White Stripes, the Horrors and Primal Scream, whose front man, Bobby Gillespie, allegedly named his son Lux.
The Cramps’ most recent album, a collection of rarities, “How to Make a Monster,” was released in 2004, and the band continued to tour well into the later years of its career, wrapping up its most recent U.S. outing in November.
Interior was born in Stow, Ohio, on Oct. 21, 1948. A Times report in 2004 said that he and Rorschach (born Kristy Wallace) met in Sacramento, where they bonded “over their enrollment in an art and shamanism class and a shared affection for thrift-shop vinyl before hitting the road for New York City.”
In 1987, there were widespread rumors of Interior’s death from a heroin overdose, and half a dozen funeral wreaths were sent to Rorschach. “At first, I thought it was kind of funny,” Interior told The Times. “But then it started to give me a creepy feeling.”
“We sell a lot of records, but somehow just hearing that you’ve sold so many records doesn’t hit you quite as much as when a lot of people call you up and are obviously really broken up because you’ve died.”February 5th, 2009
56,0 x 76,0 cm
watercolour and collage on paper
Duncan Campbell now completely lives without a refrigerator.
By STEVEN KURUTZ
Ny Times Published: February 4, 2009
FOR the last two years, Rachel Muston, a 32-year-old information-technology worker for the Canadian government in Ottawa, has been taking steps to reduce her carbon footprint — composting, line-drying clothes, installing an efficient furnace in her three-story house downtown.
About a year ago, though, she decided to “go big” in her effort to be more environmentally responsible, she said. After mulling the idea over for several weeks, she and her husband, Scott Young, did something many would find unthinkable: they unplugged their refrigerator. For good.
“It’s been a while, and we’re pretty happy,” Ms. Muston said recently. “We’re surprised at how easy it’s been.”
As drastic as the move might seem, a small segment of the green movement has come to regard the refrigerator as an unacceptable drain on energy, and is choosing to live without it. In spite of its ubiquity — 99.5 percent of American homes have one — these advocates say the refrigerator is unnecessary, as long as one is careful about shopping choices and food storage.
Ms. Muston estimated that her own fridge, which was in the house when they bought it five years ago and most likely dates back much longer, used 1,300 kilowatt-hours per year, or produced roughly 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide — the same amount from burning 105 gallons of gasoline. And even a newer, more efficient model, which could have cut that figure in half, would have used too much energy in her view.
“It seems wasteful to me to use even an Energy Star-rated fridge,” she said, “because I’m getting along fine without one.”
Ms. Muston now uses a small freezer in the basement in tandem with a cooler upstairs; the cooler is kept cold by two-liter soda bottles full of frozen water, which are rotated to the freezer when they melt. (The fridge, meanwhile, sits empty in the kitchen.)
She acknowledges that living this way isn’t always convenient. For starters, it has altered the couple’s eating habits.
“When we had the fridge, we were eating a lot of prepared food from the grocery store,” she said. But the cooler has limited room, and the freezer is for meat and vegetables. Without the extra storage, Ms. Muston finds herself cooking more — which requires more time and forethought because items from the freezer must be thawed.
Asked whether the couple had to give up any cherished foods, Ms. Muston sighed. “Cold beer,” she said. “Scott can’t come home and grab a cold beer out of the fridge anymore. He has to put it in the cooler and wait an hour.”
For the most part, though, the couple seems to have made a smooth transition to life without a refrigerator, something others have tried but failed to do. Beth Barnes, 29, who works for the Kentucky Bar Association, unplugged the refrigerator in her apartment in Frankfort last May to be “a little radical,” she said. After reading online comments from others without a fridge, she learned she could move condiments to a pantry, and that butter can remain unrefrigerated for a week or more. The main concern was how to store dairy products, a major part of her diet.
Ms. Barnes decided to use a cooler, which she refilled daily during the summer with ice that she brought home from an ice machine at her office. That worked fine until she began to travel out of town for her job this fall, and the system hit a snag.
In the end she compromised and bought a minifridge. “I could drop the refrigerator completely if I had a milkman,” she said. “I might eventually try it again if I ever figure out the milk situation.”
MANY environmentalists — even many who think nothing of using recycled toilet paper or cut the thermostat to near-arctic levels — see fridge-free living as an extreme choice or an impractical and excessive goal.
“The refrigerator was a smart advance for society,” said Gretchen Willis, 37, an environmentally conscious mother of four in Arlington, Tex., who recently read about the practice on a popular eco-themed blog, thecrunchychicken.com, and was astounded.
“I never would have thought of it,” Ms. Willis said, explaining that although she’s committed to recycling and using fluorescent bulbs, she draws the line at any environmental practice that will result in great expense or inconvenience. Living without a refrigerator, she said, qualifies on both counts: she would have to buy more food in smaller quantities because of spoilage, prepare exact amounts because she couldn’t refrigerate leftovers, and make daily trips to the grocery store.
“It’s silly not to have one,” she said, “considering what the alternative is: drinking up a gallon of milk in one day so it doesn’t spoil.”
Deanna Duke, who lives in Seattle and runs the site Ms. Willis visited, said that taking a stand for or against unplugging has become “a badge of honor” for those on either side. “It’s either ‘look how far I’m willing to go,’ or ‘look how far I’m not willing to go,’ ” she said. For her part, Ms. Duke may refrain from watering her lawn in an effort at conservation, but she’s firmly in the pro-refrigerator camp. “I can’t think of any circumstances, other than an involuntary extreme situation, that would make me unplug my fridge,” she said. “The convenience factor is too high.”
No-fridge advocates see things differently. They trade tips on Web sites about food storage (“In the winter I put perishables like mayonnaise outside … ”) and cite residents of developing countries and eco-celebrities like Colin Beavan, the self-proclaimed No Impact Man who ditched his refrigerator during the year that he tried to make no net impact on the environment, as proof that people can get along fine without electric refrigeration.
“Refrigerator lust is one of the things driving huge energy-use increases in the developing world,” wrote the blogger “Greenpa” on his “Little Blog in the Big Woods” two years ago. “A great deal of what’s in your fridge absolutely does NOT need to be there.”
That post has since drawn scores of comments, many from other people living without refrigerators. One woman who followed his lead wrote to report she was “over my initial panic from reaching into the freezer to get ice cream only to feel hot air coming from the vent in the back!!!”
The idea has generated some interest in Western Europe, too. Last fall, scientists at Oxford University in England revived the “Einstein refrigerator,” a pressurized gas fridge that runs without using electricity that is co-credited to Albert Einstein. And Veneta Cucine, the Italian kitchen company, has lately unveiled a concept kitchen called the iGreen, which has no refrigerator but instead uses trays under the countertop to hold fresh produce.
PEOPLE who do best without a refrigerator often have certain built-in lifestyle advantages — they live alone and don’t have to cook large meals for a family, say, or they live on a farm or within walking distance of a grocery store. In the case of Duncan Campbell, who has been living happily without a fridge for three years, it was the food he was used to eating.
Before making the switch, Mr. Campbell, 53, already hewed to a diet focused around long-lived staples like beans and grains, and had begun to can the vegetables he grows in the garden behind his house in Columbus, Ohio. By using a small chest freezer for fruit and leftover soups, he said, he has no trouble whipping up a meal.
The one thing he hasn’t been able to adjust to is the reaction from friends. “Even people I meet who are energy conscious gasp when they hear I’m going without a fridge,” he said.
Ms. Duke, the eco-blogger, has noticed a similar response from her readers when she mentions the no-fridge topic on her blog. “I think a lot of people in the environmental movement have a romanticized idea about living like a pioneer,” she said. “But moving icepacks around and rotten food doesn’t have the same romantic appeal as hanging your clothes on a line.”
A bigger issue for serious environmentalists may be figuring out just how much good one is actually doing by unplugging the fridge — a common problem with green-oriented lifestyle choices.
Mr. Campbell was surprised to read online that refrigerators do not use all that much energy. Marty O’Gorman, the vice president of Frigidaire, said an 18-cubic-foot Energy Star-rated Frigidaire refrigerator uses about 380 kilowatt-hours a year — less than a standard clothes dryer — and costs a homeowner $40, or about 11 cents a day.
Pascale Maslin, the founder of Energy Efficiency Experts, a Washington-based company that conducts energy audits on homes and other buildings, said people may focus undue attention on the refrigerator’s energy consumption simply because they often hear — incorrectly, it turns out — that it is the household appliance that uses the most energy other than heating and cooling systems.
“If I was to examine my life and ask what would reduce my carbon footprint, I would say stop eating meat,” Ms. Maslin said. “That’s much more significant than unplugging your fridge.”
As for the strategy of switching to a dorm-style fridge, Mr. O’Gorman said downsizing from a standard model to Frigidaire’s smallest minifridge would result in only about $6 in energy savings over a year.
It’s this sort of practical calculus that has led many who advocate sustainable living to view unplugging the fridge as a dubious practice. They point out that it is likely to result in more trips to the store (which burns more gas, for those who drive) and the purchase of food in smaller portions (thus more packaging).
“It’s easy to look at your bill and say, ‘I’m saving energy,’ ” Ms. Duke said. “But you need to look at the whole supply chain.”
Nevertheless, both Ms. Muston and Mr. Campbell said they have no plans to plug their fridge back in now that they’ve adjusted to life without it.
“I realize it’s not a big deal in terms of energy use,” Mr. Campbell said, but “it doesn’t change my mind. I don’t like the hum of the thing, and I’ve discovered I don’t need it.”
If You Must Have Cold Beer …
There are still ways to save energy (and money) for those unwilling to give up the refrigerator.
• Once a year, unplug the refrigerator and clean the door gaskets and compressor coils; if there are pets in the house, clean the coils every three months.
• Buy a refrigerator that has the freezer on top, a configuration that is more efficient than a side-by-side model (in part, because it is generally smaller). Also, choose an Energy Star-rated unit, which is up to 20 percent more efficient.
• Try not to open the door too often, to limit the frequency with which the compressor runs, and choose a model that comes with an alarm to warn that the door is ajar.
• Don’t place the refrigerator next to the oven or in a spot that receives direct sunlight. The higher the ambient temperature, the more the unit has to work to keep coolFebruary 4th, 2009
Catalina Island foxes are a subspecies found only on the 75-square-mile island. The usual population of about 1,300 had fallen to 100 by 1999, but has rebounded to 784 thanks to conservation efforts and favorable weather.
The small animals may come off the endangered species list next year, thanks to an eight-fold population increase in just a decade.
By Louis Sahagun
La Times February 3, 2009
The wild fox population on Santa Catalina Island is so robust that biologists said Tuesday they may seek to have the small animals taken off the federal endangered species list next year.
The number of Catalina Island foxes — a subspecies found only on the 75-square-mile island 22 miles off the coast of Southern California — topped out at 784 in a new count, a remarkable rebound for animals that were nearly wiped out a decade ago after an outbreak of distemper possibly introduced by someone’s pet.
“These numbers are fantastic news,” said Julie King, senior wildlife biologist for the Catalina Island Conservancy.
Rain — and a lack thereof — contributed to the population growth, King said.
“In 2007, we had an extreme drought with less than 3 inches of rain,” she said. “As a result, mule deer were dying in great numbers, and the foxes were able to scavenge off the carcasses. By the time breeding season arrived in 2008, we literally had obese foxes, and females in such good condition that they were having larger-than-normal litters.”
In addition, 2008 was “a good rain year, so the rodent population exploded,” she said. “The mice were convenient to-go packages of protein for females to retrieve and feed to their pups.”
About 1,300 foxes once lived on the island. The population had crashed to roughly 100 by 1999, when the conservancy and the Institute for Wildlife Studies launched a $2-million recovery program that included vaccinations and a captive breeding facility.
In 2004, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the fox as endangered.
“For a small conservancy to bring a species back from the brink of extinction to a stabilized, growing population in less than 10 years is no small feat,” said Carlos de la Rosa, chief conservation and education officer for the conservancy. “The foxes will be starting their breeding season in the next few weeks, so you will probably start seeing more pairs of foxes than singles on the roads during February and March.”
On Tuesday afternoon, conservancy biologist Calvin Duncan and volunteer pilot Mike Sheehan conducted an aerial survey of the island’s 56 foxes outfitted with telemetry collars, which emit a rapid-fire pinging sound if an animal has not moved for 12 hours.
After an hour of flying about 2,500 feet above rugged island terrain, Duncan gave a thumbs up and said, “We got everybody. All 56 are accounted for, and there are no fatalities.”
The foxes are trapped once a year and inspected for any illnesses, including an unusual ear cancer that recently began showing up in older foxes. “We want to keep them as virus-free as possible,” Duncan said.
Air and ground observations suggest the omnivorous 5-pound foxes are faring well, feeding at night on cactus fruit, berries and insects, scurrying through shrubs and ravines, and establishing territories.
The island’s captive breeding program ended in 2004. But the foxes’ problems are not over. Today, the primary cause of death among foxes is “road kill,” Duncan said. “We’ve got 4,000 people living in Avalon, and driving all over the island.”
The conservancy’s fundraising efforts have fallen $150,000 short of the $222,000 needed to sustain the fox recovery effort through the end of the year.
All field activities, equipment, radio collars, vaccines, medications, fuel, vehicles and seasonal staff are funded through grants and donor contributions, King said.
“We’re reaching out to people interested in contributing,” she said. “A radio collar costs $250, a vaccination is about $10. These costs add up quickly.”February 4th, 2009
During the cold and dark Berlin winter days, I spend a lot of time with my boys in their room. And as I look at the toys scattered on the floor, my mind inevitably wanders back to New York.
By Christopher Nieman
NY Times Published February, 2, 2009
February 3rd, 2009
Mathias Poledna, still from Crystal Palace, 2006. 35mm color film with optical sound, 28 min. Courtesy Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles; Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne; and Galerie Meyer Kainer, Vienna
1/28/09 – 3/22/09
Mathias Poledna’s work Crystal Palace is a 35mm film installation comprised of a small number of long, static shots of the montane rainforest landscape of the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. Using tightly framed medium-close to medium-wide shots, the film’s carefully selected scenes focus on the complex patterns, textures, and the overall abstract qualities of this environment, seemingly without human presence. Only subtle changes in light and movement in foliage provide visual cues to the passing of time. The film is accompanied by a dense and highly edited soundtrack created from on-location and archival field recordings that oscillate between distinct insect and bird sounds, and drone-like noise.
Poledna’s title, Crystal Palace, evokes the monumental glass-and-steel structure of that name constructed for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, an important precursor of modern architecture and industrialized construction that was built to present the newest products of the capitalist economy, accompanied by exotic displays, fauna and flora. Poledna’s work explores how meaning becomes attached to images and sounds; it creates a complex tension between a specific place, its cinematic appearance, and historical concepts circulating around it. In Crystal Palace, Poledna specifically references Sounds of a Tropical Rainforest, a 1951 album of staged field recordings produced by Folkways Records for the American Museum of Natural History to accompany an exhibition about indigenous Amazonian people.
Poledna’s work is also informed by film history, particularly the interconnections between early film and popular and avant-garde cinema, as well as the history of visual ethnography. Unlike traditional documentary and ethnographic film, Crystal Palace lacks an authoritative voice as it investigates a foreign place through an extremely narrow focus and highly subjective framing. While it presents itself as a fragmentary document of an existing landscape and its history, its images seem to deviate only slightly from our common assumptions of how a tropical rainforest might appear. The images’ virtual motionlessness and extreme depth of field, which paradoxically makes them appear flat, enforces a nonobjective dimension in the work, which, along with the intense soundtrack, suggests the physiological experience of abstract and structural film.
This exhibition is curated by Russell Ferguson, Adjunct Curator, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. It is organized at the New Museum by Jarrett Gregory, Curatorial Assistant.February 3rd, 2009
By LUC SANTE
NY Times Published: January 29, 2009
You might say there are two kinds of writers: those who keep a journal in the hope that its contents might someday be published, and those who do not keep a journal for fear that its contents might someday be published. In other words, no journal-keeping by a writer who harbors any sort of ambition is going to be entirely innocent. The complicated, somewhat voyeuristic thrill the reader might derive from seemingly prying open the author’s desk drawer is therefore, to a certain extent, a fiction in which both parties are complicit.
This notion inescapably comes to mind when one reads the entries by the young Susan Sontag collected in Reborn: Journals and Notebooks 1947-1963 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25). Like any author’s journal worth reading, it contains items that anticipate prominent themes of her later published work, as well as others that seem terribly private. What’s unusual, maybe, is that sometimes the intellectual items sound more naked and the private items more hedged. The situation is far from simple anyway. As Sontag’s son, David Rieff, who edited the volume, explains in his very moving preface, she left no instructions as to what should be done with her journals — “she continued to believe until only a few weeks before her death that she was going to survive.” For that matter, “at least in her later life, my mother was not in any way a self-revealing person. In particular, she avoided to the extent she could, without denying it, any discussion of her own homosexuality or any acknowledgment of her own ambition.” And those two matters constitute by far the largest themes in the book.
In the end, Rieff decided that Sontag’s narrative of self-creation trumped any concern for discretion. The oddly evangelical-sounding title comes from an entry made in 1949, when she was 16: “Everything begins from now — I am reborn.” She is referring to sexuality, or at least to an acceptance of her physical self and a general feeling of carpe diem, but the sensation pervades the whole book. She was, in Rieff’s words, an “ambitious young person from the deep provinces who wants to become a person of significance in the capital,” and self-education in all senses of the term apparently occupied her every moment.
Her age is always at the fore. She is a mere 14 in the first entry, a thumping declaration of beliefs (atheism, socialism and “the only difference between human beings is intelligence”), and only 30 at the end, and her blend of sophistication and naïveté is such that she sounds more often like a much older person whose judgment is sometimes questionable than like a youngster in oversize clothing. Still, the sort of youthful zeal that leads her to peremptory judgments and furious imperatives — “Somewhere . . . I confessed a disappointment with the Mann ‘[Doctor] Faustus.’ . . . This was a uniquely undisguised evidence of the quality of my critical sensibility!”; “Read Condillac!” — never left her, in writing or in conversation. (I encountered her on various social occasions but didn’t know her well.)
She was always serious to a fault. Even if, later on, she was able to examine and analyze certain aspects of popular culture (as in “Notes on Camp,” 1964), she could undertake such a thing only in service to a higher goal — she was immune to subintellectual cultural pleasures. “How to defend the aesthetic experience?” she asks at 16, wanting it to consist of “more than pleasure,” although eight years later, in a rare moment of slippage, she confesses to “a kind of foolish pride which comes from dieting on high culture for too long.” Even as the narrative of the journals shows her consistently growing, broadening her focus, her dedication to high culture remains severe and unwavering — it is her church, which must be defended from half-measures and backsliding and squalid ease. She dismisses Faulkner’s “Light in August” as a type of “vulgar writing” and decides that by comparison to Kafka, “Joyce is so stupid.” She did not wait to be asked to become a gatekeeper, but took on the job before she had proper access to the gate.
In pointed contrast to this intellectual assurance, the emotional side of her education is touchingly uncertain and halting. She realizes at 15 that she has “lesbian tendencies,” then alternates between giving herself over to them and (in the spirit of the time) attempting to fight them: “I wanted so much to feel a physical attraction for him and prove, at least, that I am bisexual.” She remains a model student, for example making detailed lists of gay slang terms and lore, but homosexuality also causes her to engage with the concrete details of life — for instance, in her evocations of gay bars in late 1940s San Francisco — in ways that her high-mindedness curtails in other areas. She is eager and ardent, but self-lacerating, unsure that she deserves love and sex. She falls in love serially, but the tall, merciless H. soon comes to dominate her life — H. first appears in the Bay Area in 1949 and will reappear a decade later in Europe, still treating Sontag badly and trampling on her self-questioning passion.
Then Sontag marries. The sequence of events is breathtakingly abrupt. She moves to attend the University of Chicago on a scholarship in the fall of 1949. In November she writes, “A wonderful opportunity was offered me — to do some research work for a soc[iology] instructor named Philip Rieff.” In the next entry, Dec. 2: “I am engaged to Philip Rieff.” A few pages later, after a trip to California to interview Thomas Mann, comes the entry of Jan. 3, 1950: “I marry Philip with full consciousness + fear of my will toward self-destructiveness.” And then she is on to “War and Peace” and Balzac and lists of works on theology. Her decision to marry Rieff is never explained or examined, and in fact she says nothing more about the matter, barring an ambiguous recounted dream, until she begins fulminating against the institution of marriage in 1956. The intervening years barely exist in the journals — five years dissolve in nine pages. The birth of her son in 1952 goes unrecorded; he makes his first appearance in an aside.
She comes to life again in 1956, or perhaps it is the journal that does, once again brimming with reading lists and self-exhortations and accounts of intellectual conversations. A year later she has accepted a scholarship to Oxford, and she leaves her husband and son. We understand that there are tears and scenes — Rieff had wanted her trip to coincide with an appointment of his own abroad — but are swept up in her exhilaration: she has been sprung from jail. For a while, the pleasures of the journal become almost entirely narrative. She soon leaves Oxford for the greener pastures of Paris, and there she is reawakened, happily tossed in a whirlwind of intellectual, social and sexual activity. She renews with H., which is probably not the best idea in retrospect, but eventually she links with H.’s ex, the playwright Maria Irene Fornes, who is a much better match for her. In 1959 she returns to the United States, to New York City, where she gains custody of her son and begins writing professionally, editing and teaching. We leave her poised on the brink of her great public career.
“Reborn” is in some ways less like a normal book and more like a person — it is consistent in its deepest reaches, but subject to enormous mood swings. Some very large matters are barely glimpsed, whizzing by at terrific speed, while sundry smaller ones are examined in exhaustive detail. Motives often have to be guessed, and important players enter and exit summarily, without introduction. Various opinions and exhortations — or crotchets or tics — are repeated to the point where it takes a great deal of good will or simple affection to tolerate them. But Sontag does successfully elicit the reader’s good will and affection. We may never have seen her in quite this light — fully human and as flawed as any of us. We may want to go reread some of her more lapidary work, now appreciating the vulnerable soul that shared a body with that radical will.
Luc Sante’s most recent book is “Kill All Your Darlings: Pieces 1990-2005.”February 2nd, 2009
House on Haunted Hill II (Day), 2005
80 x 100 cm
24 JANUARY – 26 APRIL 2009
The photographs by artist Annette Kelm (born in Stuttgart in 1975, lives and works in Berlin) appear to perpetuate traditional forms of photographic representation in an unspectacular way: i.e. they comprise still lifes, portraits, object photographs, architectural and landscape photographs in moderate formats, which tend to be based on conventional studio or landscape practices. Annette Kelm works traditionally, her photographs are taken with an analogue large-format camera and are individual handmade prints. She produces both individual photographs and series of works with individual motifs and, in her exhibitions, she always shows a combination of works which refuse to submit to a single reading of a theme or concept.
Annette Kelm appears to follow conceptual and critical strategies in that she photographs objects, architecture and design which refer to historically significant correlations. At the same time, she undermines the promise of objectivity in her works by adding props that seem surreal or appear to belong to a subjective mythology. The subjects are often presented against a neutral background in the style of traditional studio photography. However, the background is so present that it becomes part of the foreground and the photographed objects themselves.
The motifs in Annette Kelm’s photographs are presented directly in frontal view; but the familiar elements and interpretations of conceptual, staged, documentary, analytical photography are undermined by means of an effortless trick: the real and the fictional, objectivity and emotionality, the presented and the suggested collage to form a new plane of what images can be and, perhaps also, the reality they depict.
At the Kunsthalle Zürich, for the first time ever in an institutional exhibition, the artist combines a group of over 40 photographs from highly diverse worlds of motifs. The works were created from 2001 and also include new works specially developed for this exhibition.
The back hoofs of a horse in the snow hit a record labelled by the artist, which is presented on brightly coloured fabric. A parrot is held by a gloved hand – suggestive of falconry – against a not quite adequate plant background. A cowboy on a horse in a garden setting brandishes a large fan like a whip, linking contradictory evocations of nature. Fried eggs are shown with hands holding money; or they combine with a tilting house, which the artist photographed in Bormarzo Monster Park, established near Rome by Vicino Orsini in the 16th century – the haunted house itself only becomes reality through the addition of a bearded woman in the window. Series of a palm tree at night, the branches of an orange tree, holed targets and the portrait of a girl in a hooded jumper, whose various angles do not reveal any more about the subject, are mixed with large-format reproductions of textile patterns by American designer Dorothy Draper, the picture of the first electric guitar photographed against an African-looking textile backdrop, which was produced in the Netherlands and bought in Paris. A water glass with a eucalyptus branch standing on a textile with Hawaii island pattern, which almost melts visually into the depicted object, is loaded with associations through the title After Lunch, trying to built Railway Trails, which refers to the failed attempt to produce the first railway tracks with eucalyptus wood in America and thus interweaves material, plant and historical knowledge in another story of longing. The artist also shows the first Wurlitzer, a mechanical organ, which represents the transition from the acoustic to electronic generation of music. She photographed the instrument in situ in juxtaposition with a Miró print, which she stuck to the wall of a museum of musical instruments. Other real places feature in architectural photographs: for example Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House (Ennis-Brown House) of 1924, in which parts of the film Blade Runner were filmed, of which she presents two variants; day and night versions, whereby the night is not “real” night but a studio-generated night.
Annette Kelm’s works reveal both an interest in historical context, the history of industrial, craft and design and in questions concerning the artificial and the ambiguity historically experienced by cultural phenomena. Her photographs, which are realistic in their effect and oscillate between precision and ambiguity, transmit her motifs into a highly complex network of relationships, which are both visual and substantive in nature, in which constructive conflicts arise between what is shown and what is intended; thus seeing becomes more important than knowing.February 2nd, 2009
Chef Roy Choi with a pork belly taco in one hand, a tofu in another.
Late last night in Westwood, among the dense maze of housing east of UCLA’s campus, was a line, at least an hour’s wait for some, of some 500 people waiting to grab some Korean inspired tacos and burritos and maybe the day’s special–Kimchi Fried Rice Cake with Egg-Shiso. Meet Kogi BBQ. It’s Korean food with the edge of a street taco on a catering truck mixed with the savvyness of Web 2.0 (follow them on Twitter to know their location).
Inside the truck is Chef Roy Choi, who speaks of food like its poetry. After all, Choi graduated at the top of his class at the Culinary Institute of America and has cooked at Le Bernardin in New York, in Iron Chef Michiba’s kitchen, at the Beverly Hilton and Rock Sugar Pan Asian Kitchen. But when he heard about an idea of Korean food on a taco truck, he said “sign me up!”
This is guerrilla gourmet at its best. “We’re Korean, but we’re American and we grew up in LA. It’s not a stigma food, it’s a representation of who we are,” explained Choi on the street last night. “Everything you get in that taco is what we live in LA. It’s the 720 bus on Wilshire, it’s the 3rd street Juanita’s Tacos, the Korean supermarket and all those things that we live everyday in one bite. That was our goal. To take everything about LA and put it into one bite… It’s Mexican, it’s Korean, it’s organic, it’s California, it’s farmer’s market, it’s drunk people after midnight.”
It was just over a month ago that Kogi BBQ founder Mark Manguera came up with the concept. It was one of those post-clubbing in Hollywood inebriated ideas born out of “I’m drunk and I’m hungry, why can’t I get some Korean food right this minute?” When you get those drunken thoughts, how often do you act on them? Not often at all, but Manguera did it in less than 30 days, just beginning last week, and is now the buzz of the town, thanks to online social networking and some damn good food.
“With Kogi, we really wanted to focus on grassroots,” said Mike Prasad, who is doing the branding and new media marketing for them. “Connecting and interacting with food lovers in real-time. Since the truck is out and about, it gives us a unique setting to engage people via Twitter, qik, and other social media tools. Like Roy says, it’s about the culture AND the food.”
UCLA student and LAist writer-on-hiatus Henry David came out to see why there were hundreds of people outside his apartment window last night. Of course, he had to sample. “They did a pretty good job of meeting the demand, churning out the food as quickly as possible while socializing with us at the same time,” he said. “I knew I had to try two of the KBBQ staples, short ribs and spicy pork. I was expecting Korean BBQ coming from a mobile kitchen to be a little tame, so I was surprised by the boldness of the flavor when I bit into the first taco. It’s not just that the spicy pork was well-seasoned (I’m not a fan of Korean BBQ that lacks marinade), but also the lettuce/onion/cilantro fixings were dressed with a flavorful sauce; possibly their own spin of miso? The combination of the meat and vegetables is quite rich and delicious, and the generous usage of cilantro definitely gives the dish a street taco taste. What I got from it was a very good marriage of Korean and Mexican flavors — and what could be more Angeleno than that?”
The Kogi BBQ team is taking the energy they’ve received from their online and street following and is going full force. This week, they’ll be at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, hoping to be a permanent fixture there, a bar in Venice wants them to feed their customers on weekends and within the next couple weeks, they’ll add two more trucks to the fleet for the holiday season. Ultimately, one of their goals is to expand regionally.
Their menu consists of Korean Shortrib, BBQ Chicken, Tofu and Spicy Pork tacos ($2 each or 3 for $5). Add to that burritos ($5) and daily specials like Pork Belly Kimchi Fried Rice Cake w/ Egg-Shiso salad or short rib sliders. If those become popular, there’s a good chance they’ll become a regular menu item at the will of the people on the street.
There should be a lesson in all of this. If you have an idea that believe in, go for it. The Kogi BBQ team has proved that with smart planning and a solid business plan. Manguera admits that if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But you don’t know until you execute, experiment and have some plain old fun doing what you love.February 1st, 2009
This bluegrass classic The Lonely River by Ralph Stanley is played by Roman Barten-Sherman(age 5 3/4) on his baritone uke. recorded 1/09February 1st, 2009
February 1st, 2009
Juvet Landscape Hotel, NorwayJanuary 31st, 2009
Small Case Study House
Opening reception: Friday, January 30, 6:00 – 9:00 pm
Artist talk: Friday, January 30, 6:30 pm
Founded by Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kaijima in 1992, Tokyo-based architecture studio Atelier Bow-Wow explores the use and function of space within urban environments. Bow-Wow developed the term “pet architecture”–a style of small, ad hoc, multifunctional structures that make the most of limited space. Using the framework of art galleries or museums to experiment with form and behavior, Bow-Wow’s newly commissioned project for REDCAT is the culmination of an extended Los Angeles residency period, during which Tsukamoto and Kaijima researched the Case Study House program and made this postwar project a point of departure in thinking about domestic dwellings. Informed by the principles of the program–which enlisted architects to design low-cost homes for the masses with prefabricated materials–as well as the urban dynamics of contemporary Los Angeles, Bow-Wow’s Small Case Study House responds to contemporary models for housing in L.A. as they relate to concepts of customization, re-use, and “architectural behaviorology.” This is Atelier Bow-Wow’s first solo exhibition in the United States.January 30th, 2009
Oliver Matter, a Swiss distiller in Kallnach who makes Mansinthe.
By JOHN TAGLIABUE
NY Times Published: January 28, 2009
KALLNACH, Switzerland — Few people in this quiet village of quaint chalets know the album “Eat Me, Drink Me,” by Marilyn Manson, the shock rocker. But almost everyone knows his taste for absinthe.
There could hardly be a greater contrast between Mr. Manson, the American bad boy who introduced the golden age of grotesque, and the 1,500 people who live quietly in the squat farmhouses strung out along Kallnach’s main street, their eaves reaching almost to the ground.
“They’re completely different,” said Beat Läderach, 47, who has been the town manager for 17 years. “We live off the land, a very sleepy existence. But it has its advantages: There is little unemployment, no vandalism; life is modest, comfortable, friendly.”
Yet Mr. Manson’s link to the town “is important for us,” Mr. Läderach said. The name Kallnach has become well known, he said, thanks to the success of a superpremium absinthe developed with Mr. Manson.
In a sense, the hills and valleys northwest of Kallnach, otherwise known for clocks, could be called the cradle of absinthe. Wormwood, absinthe’s defining ingredient, as well as the other herbs that go into it, grow in abundance here, deep in Switzerland’s Jura Mountains. In the late 19th century, absinthe was so popular that in Paris it rivaled wine as the drink of choice. French impressionists, like Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet, not only drank it, but featured it in their works.
But absinthe, a liqueur that can have an alcohol content as high as 75 percent, was also known as the Green Fairy, a malicious sprite that was said to twist men’s — and women’s — minds and cause delirium, hallucinations, vertigo and even madness.
By the early 20th century, governments around the world were banning it. Absinthe lovers denied its toxicity, and blamed the wine industry for seeking to sideline a competitor. (Modern analysis has shown that the absinthes produced today have none of these effects.)
So how did the link between the shock rock singer, actor and artist and this drowsy village come about? It began in 2005, after Switzerland, following the example of the United States and many countries in Europe, legalized the production of absinthe.
The man who revived absinthe in Kallnach is Oliver Matter, whose great-grandfather first distilled schnapps here in the 1920s and shipped products to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 under the brand name Will Tell.
In 2004, just two months before absinthe was legalized by a Swiss national referendum, Mr. Matter turned his stills, big copper spheres in a shed just outside of town, to making the liqueur. “Actually I didn’t want to,” he said, leading a visitor through the still. “But I had a recipe. My great-grandfather was once owed money by a livestock trader who couldn’t pay him, so he gave him a recipe for absinthe instead. I had big mountains of my great-grandfather’s papers, and that’s where I found the recipe.”
After absinthe was banned by the Swiss in 1910, it went underground. “You could find it in every household,” said Mr. Matter, 40, a lanky man with a shaven head. “It was kept as medicine.”
By one guess, more than 20,000 gallons of this moonshine absinthe were produced annually, an estimate made possible because the orderly Swiss were meticulous about paying the alcohol tax.
Obviously, the world was ripe for the return of absinthe. Within days of beginning production, Mr. Matter was contacted by distributors seeking to sell his absinthe in big markets like England, France and the United States, where absinthe was rapidly becoming a craze.
One of the distributors who contacted Mr. Matter was Markus Lion, 41, a compact, lively businessman from southern Germany who was looking for quality absinthe for a particular customer, Marilyn Manson, whose manager was friendly with Mr. Lion. “Absinthe was becoming a topic,” Mr. Lion said. “And Manson was known as a connoisseur of absinthe.”
After a concert in Basel, a Swiss city northeast of here, Mr. Lion met Mr. Manson, a k a Brian Hugh Warner, and discovered they had friends and tastes in common, including absinthe. They agreed to produce a special absinthe, to be called Mansinthe, at Mr. Matter’s distillery.
After several trial distillations, Mansinthe was introduced in the summer of 2006, selling for about $65 for a 24-ounce bottle. Sales soared in the remaining months of 2006, to more than four times the total amount of absinthe Mr. Matter sold the year before. Now absinthe accounts for about half his annual sales of $1.3 million.
Soon the name Manson was on everyone’s tongue in Kallnach. Now Fritz Meyer, 68, stocks Mansinthe on the liquor shelves of his butcher and grocery store along Kallnach’s main road, next to bottles of Jack Daniel’s and Baileys Irish Cream. He sells pork sausages flavored with absinthe. “They’re very popular,” he said.
Mansinthe, Mr. Lion said, “gave a real push to the absinthe world.”
“We didn’t have to do much else,” he continued. “Manson was already a very controversial figure, just like the artists of the 19th century. So for me he was the ideal partner.”
Mr. Matter, who now has a T-shirt with the words “The Manson Gang” and “66.6 percent,” for the alcohol content of Mansinthe, said he was astounded by how well Mr. Manson was accepted locally, though he had never visited the village. “Curiously, no one ever came to us and said, ‘Why are you doing something like this?’ ”
Stefan Johner, 19, said he was not surprised. An apprentice mechanic who fixes tractors, he said he had never tried absinthe, preferring beer or wine, or whiskey or vodka if he wanted stronger drink. But he agreed that absinthe had a “certain tradition” locally.
Did Marilyn Manson fit in that tradition? “A little bit for sure,” he said. “He’s a little bit crazy,” he went on, his hands deep in the pockets of greasy blue overalls. “In Kallnach there are perfectly normal people, but also some who are a little bit crazy.”January 29th, 2009
January 28th, 2009
By ELAINE SCIOLINO
NY Times Published: January 26, 2009
OLHÃO, Portugal — In the early 1990s, João Navalho, a microbiologist fresh out of graduate school, came to the salt marshes in the Algarve region with a handful of young partners to grow and harvest microalgae. Their dream was to market the algae’s beta carotene as natural orange dye for the fast-growing organic food market.
The business foundered; the 37 acres of marshes, known as salinas, became a garbage dump for residents in this pocket of southwestern Portugal who did not know what else to do with their outmoded kitchen appliances. After years of frustrated effort, the partners suddenly changed course.
“We looked around and said, we’re stupid!” Mr. Navalho recalled. “We have a lot of land here. What we should do with the salinas is produce salt!”
They asked the longtime locals for someone who might remember how to harvest salt the old way: by hand, as it was done here before industrialization made it cheap and plentiful, and small salt works fell into desuetude.
Like everything else in this undertaking, the answer was staring them in the face. Living on the edge of the marshes was Maximino António Guerreiro, a sunburned retired salt worker with a grizzled beard and missing teeth, who started harvesting here with his father more than four decades ago.
In 1997, the salt project began. Mr. Guerreiro cleaned out and rebuilt the long-abandoned patchwork of rectangular, clay-lined salt beds. With young workers from Eastern Europe, he opened sluices from the sea and set up a system of dams to control the water flow. He shared the secrets of salt: how to measure evaporation levels and determine the correct salt density and water temperature, when to add water and when to rake and skim.
“I had to quit school when I was 14 to help my father make salt every day, and then the work disappeared,” said Mr. Guerreiro, 56. “Now we’re back — making the most beautiful white salt in the world.”
The financing was difficult, Mr. Navalho said. “When we told the banks we wanted to make salt, they said that everyone had gone out of the business,” he said. “So we promised if we didn’t pay back they could take our necks.”
Two years later, Necton, the salt company Mr. Navalho created here, produced its first salt crop. Now it is one of the region’s new salt pioneers, struggling to revive what was once a flourishing trade in this part of Portugal. They are trying to convince consumers of the health and taste benefits of handmade, non-industrial salt and to compete in an increasingly sophisticated global salt market.
“Life begins in the ocean,” Mr. Navalho said. “What we are selling is ocean saltwater without the water. Call it sea dust.”
To many people, salt is salt. But to those for whom it is a gourmet condiment, few varieties compare to the crème de la crème of salt known as fleur de sel, harvested by gently skimming the white, lacy film from the surface of salty beds when weather conditions in summer allow.
Necton produces both traditional hand-harvested salt as well as a gourmet version, known here as flor de sal.
The history of Portugal and salt is long and romantic. The first known document related to Portuguese salt works dates from the 10th century, when a countess donated salt marshes to a monastery that she founded. A century later, the Algarve region was shipping salt across Europe; in the 15th and 16th centuries, salt helped make Portugal a global power. In one of his best-known works, the 20th century poet Fernando Pessoa, wrote, “Oh salty sea, so much of your salt is tears of Portugal.”
But Mr. Navalho confesses that his team learned many of its techniques from Guérande, the Brittany-based cooperative that restored traditional salt-making to France in the 1970s and whose brand dominates the hand-harvested salt business. France produces about 80 percent of Europe’s hand-harvested salt and fleur de sel.
Unlike French salt, which has a grayish hue, the Portuguese is a pure, shiny white. In France, rain churns up charcoal-gray mud from the bottom of the salt pans and leaves behind a grey residue, while Portuguese summers tend to be sunny and dry.
These days, European designer salt must compete with exotic salts from around the world, including Himalayan pink salt harvested at altitudes over 10,000 feet, a South Korean salt that is roasted in bamboo, and Hawaiian red Alaea, which gets its color from red clay.
There have also been reports of counterfeit hand-harvested salt. Nico Boer, the German co-manager of the Marisol salt works in nearby Tavira, said one Portuguese salt producer sold more than a dozen tons of industrial salt to the French several years ago, passing it off as hand-harvested.
“It’s a tough business,” he said.
The operations at Marisol and Necton are set on protected national land. At Necton, salt mountains sit in the open air, protected by black tarps. Women wearing hairnets and rubber gloves sift through the shiny salt as it flows along an assembly line, picking out bits of insects’ wings, brine shrimp and wood chips.
But Necton has bigger plans. Mr. Navalho has begun to cultivate an exotic salad vegetable called salicorne, which is in fact a small weed with fleshy, tart, dark-green branches. He hopes to build a bird sanctuary for the flamingos, egrets, plovers and other wild birds here. He is trying to draw summer visitors for tours of both the salts works and the little algae-growing he still does.
And Mr. Navalho, who was born in Mozambique, wants to expand operations to the eastern coast of Africa, to restore some of the abandoned salt fields built by the Portuguese 300 years ago.
First, however, he has to persuade customers to think about salt differently.
“People might like to drive a Ferrari, but they can’t afford it,” he said. “But they can afford the best salt in the world. I want people to stop asking, ‘How much does it cost?’ and start asking, ‘Where can I buy it?’ ”
Basil Katz contributed reporting from Paris.January 27th, 2009
The Amberieu archive in Southern France contains a collection of 2,500 unpublished – and mostly unpublishable – autobiographies, diaries, scrapbooks, bundles of letters and collections of emails dating from the early 19th century to last month
By John Lichfield in Paris
The Independent UK
Everyone’s life is a novel, which has not yet been written. Or in some cases, it has been written but never published.
In a small town in eastern France, there is a library, or archive, of intimate secrets: a collection of 2,500 unpublished – and mostly unpublishable – autobiographies, diaries, scrapbooks, bundles of letters and collections of emails dating from the early 19th century to last month.
“There are as many diarists as there are amateur pianists. They just make less noise,” says Michel Vannet, custodian of the archive at Ambérieu-en-Bugey, near Lyons.
The man who co-founded the association, which snaps up these previously unconsidered literary treasures, Philippe Lejeune, puts it another way.
“There are no limits to literature,” he says, “it can turn up anywhere.”
Similar archives of unpublished “autobiography” exist in other countries, including Britain (at the University of Sussex). There is a library, in Burlington, Vermont, which offers a home to unpublished books of all kinds.
What makes the Ambérieu archive unique is that it is not just an archive. It is also a kind of intimate “book club” – everything received is read by volunteers and a one-page “review” published in the association’s journal. However, contributors can ask for their secrets to be hidden until their death or locked away until an agreed date in a “cupboard of secrets”. Inclusion in the Ambérieu archive guarantees simply that their writings, and their life’s story, will not die.
The closed archive contains a large, brown envelope which was deposited recently by an old woman with failing eyesight. In a covering letter, she wrote: “I don’t want you to read my diary because it will not contribute to public understanding. It is only a banal story of adultery … Until now I have destroyed all my writings… I felt the death of my words like a series of small suicides.”
The contents of the “open” archive range from a single, autobiographical poem, written in alexandrines, to a diary consisting of 65 200-page notebooks, delivered in a trunk. There are moving autobiographies of wartime, banal descriptions of the working life of postmen or plumbers, surreal scrapbooks of personal mementoes and a small sack of rose petals grown in the compost of a burned diary of “personal suffering”.
One woman sent a bundle of printed-out emails which she had sent to her friends when she thought she was dying of cancer. Someone tried to bequeath their furniture, claiming it represented his life. This was refused (for lack of room) but photographs of lovingly-assembled interiors are accepted.
After 16 years of existence, the Ambérieu library of secrets is proving to be a goldmine for researchers. A book appears this month by the historian Anne-Claire Rebreyent, Intimités Amoureuses. France 1920-1975, which charts changing French attitudes to love. Mme Rebreyent researched the book entirely in five years that she spent visiting the Ambérieu archive.
Some of the material consists of diaries or letters found in attics or antique shops. About 80 per cent was sent in by the authors or their children. Some “living” diarists are permitted to send an update every year.
More women contribute than men. Three-quarters of the texts are autobiographies, 20 per cent are diaries and five per cent are letters. The archive is the work of the Association pour L’Autobiographie et le Patrimoine Autobiographique (APA), founded in 1992 by Philippe Lejeune and Chantal Chaveyriat-Dumoulin,
M. Lejeune is France’s best-known academic specialist on autobiography, sometimes known as the “pope of autobiography”. Much of what is preserved at Ambérieu would fail the usual tests of literary merit or publishability, he says. But the texts have other qualities – of authenticity, of freshness, of originality of voice – which are not always found in officially recognised literature.
“The aim of an autobiography is not to be good but to be true – which it rarely fails to be,” M. Lejeune said.
No attempt is made to try to identify publishable work. Nothing is refused.
“We don’t want to establish a hierarchy among texts, but to give each of them a chance of being read,” M. Lejeune says. “Our ambition is to establish a system of ‘micro-reading’. Our aim is not for three or four texts to be read by a thousand people, but for a thousand texts to be read by three or four people.”
The 800 members of the association, who pay €38 (£34) a year, are split into half a dozen study groups. Each new entry to the archive is taken on by one reader, who writes a review published in the association’s twice-year Gardé-Memoire or memory safe. This acts as a kind of index.
Some insufferable texts are never read again. Writings which receive glowing reviews are passed around and discussed. Some – the “best-sellers” – end up being read by everyone in the association (many of whom are diarists themselves).
M. Vannet, director of the mediatheque which houses the archive, says: “We are a club of strangers that you meet on trains – the kind that want to tell you their life story.”
Hidden gems: A homage to melancholy
One of the oldest texts in the “archive of autobiography” at Ambérieu is a classic piece of early 19th-century melancholic romanticism by Victor Audouin, an obscure Parisian medical student. His diary was found in an antique shop: “I went to the Jardin du Luxembourg. The weather was magnificent. I found that I could not think. No idea presented itself to my imagination, which had been so lively a moment before. A melancholy, which was not without charm, captivated me entirely… Tears ran down my cheeks, which had no cause in my thoughts and which no amount of reasoning could halt. Finally, seven o’ clock came and the [park] drum woke me from this strange ecstasy. I walked home.”January 27th, 2009
Christopher Williams 2005
(Triptychon / Triptych)
Velosolex 2200 (Front, Side, Back)
Serial Number 3128819
Date of Production 1964
Among the artists on the King roster were the Stanley Brothers, top; James Brown, center, who cut “Papa’s Got a New Bag” for the label; and the saxophonist Earl Bostic, above right, with King’s owner, Syd Nathan.
By RJ SMITH
NY Times Published: January 23, 2009
A CROWD gathers around crumbling walls that are a small evolutionary step up from a miserable pile of bricks. The facade leaks water, and masonry falls off the sides of this big, old building, in a working-class neighborhood here.
This structure is a landmark of pop culture that never received the sendoff it deserved. Yet people are gathered here on a cold afternoon in mid-November not for a memorial service but to help resurrect King Records, the label that was once the home of James Brown, Nina Simone and Charlie Feathers.
King started as a so-called hillbilly label in 1943; moved into “race music” — the onetime name for what became rhythm and blues — around 1945; and attempted in ways great and small to merge both audiences until it essentially shut down a few years after the death of its owner, Syd Nathan. It never achieved the household-name status of Stax or Motown, but the crowd wants to change that.
It’s an appropriately eclectic mix of folks dressed in country and R&B styles from 40 years ago. There’s a septuagenarian African-American man in an ermine coat and felt bowler. There’s a bouffant-haired woman with a hard twang leaning on a walker. There’s even a guy with mutton chops who looks like a rockabilly werewolf.
That would be Billy Davis, onetime guitar player for Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. And like many of those assembled today, he recorded for King, the independent label where Charlie Feathers cut “One Hand Loose” and the R&B singer Little Willie John cut “Fever.” King is where “The Twist” was first laid down, by Ballard, and where Wynonie Harris made “Good Rockin’ Tonight.”
Now Cincinnati is rediscovering a landmark it barely knew it had. The occasion is the unveiling of a historical marker, financed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, celebrating the site as a historic address. Also announced at the event were plans to establish a King Records Center, including a recording studio, in the neighborhood. (Later this year the University of Illinois Press will publish “King of the Queen City: The Story of King Records,” by John Hartley Fox.)
Enough about New Orleans, Memphis or Nashville, and other, better-celebrated cradles of popular music. For Cincinnati, it’s star time.
“While no single city has naming rights as the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll, the elements that made rock ’n’ roll — the blend of country, blues and the big beat — were being created at King Records,” said Larry Nager, former pop music editor for several Cincinnati dailies and the author of the book “Memphis Beat.” “Whether it was the big-voiced jump blues of Wynonie Harris or the hillbilly boogie of Moon Mullican, these were the records that the first generation of rock ‘n’ rollers were cutting their teeth on.”
For about a decade, musicians, fans and local politicians and businesspeople had been working on their own to elevate King’s profile. “This place is holy, sacred ground,” said John Cranley, a former city councilman, who had started an effort to preserve the structure while in office. In recent years they’ve joined together to meet, and to watch their efforts reach a critical mass, in part because of the city’s nationally publicized racial problems.
“In 2001 the city made a name for itself with what the papers called a race riot,” said Elliott V. Ruther, a founder of the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation. “On some level it became, ‘O.K., Cincinnati, what are you going to choose to focus on about yourself? The K.K.K. at Fountain Square?” (He was referring to notorious displays erected at that site.) “We can focus on that. Or we can look to the 1940s, and the creative vision and business plan one man had.”
Another reason for the renewed interest in King is the energy of one of Cincinnati’s leading citizens. His name is Bootsy, baby.
At the dedication, Bootsy Collins — who was a studio musician at King until James Brown took him on the road, to say nothing of his long membership in Parliament-Funkadelic — pledged to say just a few words, but ended up calling local dignitaries out of the crowd and exuding an enthusiasm for what King meant — to the city and to himself as a young man raised in Cincinnati.
“All the artists and all the hip people hung around King,” Mr. Collins said later, at his home outside Cincinnati. “I was still going to school and I wanted to be hip and cool. At that time I never thought I’d actually be a professional musician; I thought playing music was just fun.”
“But the more I hung around King,” he added, “the more I started falling in love with music. From seeing how passionate and dedicated those musicians and artists were, I realized, ‘If I’m going to do this, I can’t be joking.’ ” Mr. Collins has even opened a restaurant in downtown Cincinnati that displays vintage King lore.
One crisp day in November, Brian Powers, a city librarian, offered a reporter a tour of other local landmarks. He parked beside the site of Herzog Studios, where Hank Williams recorded “Lovesick Blues” and which King used for some early recordings. Then he drove to the formerly blacks-only cemetery (this being in many ways a Southern town) where the bandleader Tiny Bradshaw rests. Bradshaw bridged big-band jazz and small-group R&B; he came to Cincinnati to record at King and liked it so much he stayed.
“Guys like this just did so much for American music, and America doesn’t even know about them,” Mr. Powers said. “Heck, Cincinnati barely even knows.”
Then he drove a short distance to a Jewish cemetery where lies the body of Syd Nathan. Syd, as any King pilgrim quickly learns, Syd was a trip.
Mr. Powers has written a reference book for the library on King and Mr. Nathan, the mogul who founded the label. Born in Cincinnati in 1904, as a young man he worked at a pawnshop and promoted wrestling matches. Then he opened a record shop and found he had, as he would put it, “shellac in my veins.” (In the early days, records were made of molded shellac.)
Mr. Nathan could be a loud and tactically crude man, who chomped on cigars and argued with half the artists who came through his studio. A stubborn self-starter, he would shout down James Brown when he thought he was right.
He brawled with Brown, his biggest act, countless times; he legendarily refused to record him live at the Apollo Theater in Harlem until Brown agreed to underwrite the recording himself. Despite their explosive relationship, together they helped change pop history.
One of Mr. Nathan’s innovations was to construct a facility not just for recording music but also for pressing records, designing album-cover art, and packing boxes and shipping them out. An industry outsider who learned as he went, Mr. Nathan to some degree assembled a music industry that he could control, all under his roof. Except for the cardboard album covers, which were manufactured elsewhere, the label did it all. With King’s facilities a record could be cut in the morning and acetates placed in D.J.s’ hands that night. More than once, a King artist was on the road back home to Macon, Ga., or Philadelphia, when he was surprised to hear his new song playing on the radio.
Another key to King’s success was its racial pragmatism. It’s probably a stretch to call Mr. Nathan a progressive, but he was colorblind in his pursuit of the widest possible audience. He didn’t just record both white and black acts; he had his ace R&B studio band playing on country records, and his country bands trying their hands at black pop hits, an almost unthinkable practice at the time.
The Stanley Brothers, for instance, did a version of Ballard’s “Finger Poppin’ Time,” and the African-American shouter Wynonie Harris covered the honky-tonk singer Hank Penny’s “Bloodshot Eyes.” It was a way of getting the most out of a hit, and perhaps it was Mr. Nathan’s stubborn nature to argue to those who told him blacks and whites would never like the same records how very wrong they were.
Besides King, Cincinnati has a notable musical history that has largely been forgotten inside or outside city limits. The local singer Mamie Smith moved to New York and recorded the pioneering “Crazy Blues” in 1920; Jelly Roll Morton recorded onto piano rolls in a downtown studio. After Prohibition a circuit of illegal casinos employing many musicians popped up across the Ohio River in Kentucky.
“Cincinnati was settled by good, solid German folk,” said Mr. Nager, who wrote the text on the King marker. “To them, honest work was making soap and killing pigs, not making music or cutting records. To them, the Jews, blacks and hillbillies working at King Records were gypsies, outsiders.” King Records, he said, “remains Cincinnati’s single most important cultural contribution to the world.”
Syd Nathan died in 1968; the label changed hands several times in subsequent years. Today the bulk of its catalog rests with Gusto Records, a Nashville company that appears to neglect its treasures.
The night the historic marker was unveiled, the alternative weekly City Beat held its annual Cincinnati entertainment awards show. The event was built around a tribute to King, and opened with a blazing, freaky set by Mr. Collins, paying tribute to James Brown. There was an acrobatic, youthful singer billed as Young James Brown, with Tomi Ray Brown, Brown’s last wife, singing backup for him. Even Danny Ray, the man who had draped the cape on Brown for decades, was there to introduce the tribute. At the end of the show, Ralph Stanley, the bluegrass patriarch who recorded for the label in the early 1960s, sang and sang until his voice gave out.
The music was a mix of the faith and the funk, fatback and fiddle tunes. Whatever happens to the brick structure that used to house the label, King will never really die as long as music like this can be heard in an old music hall in Cincinnati.January 25th, 2009
Blood on the Tracks
January 22nd, 2009
January 21st, 2009