The 10 best arty and musicky and designy and webby things that happened this year, to the best of my memory

A meta-list of notable and memorable things from 2014, in more or less chronological order.

1. Getting to see Vermeer’s famous Girl With a Pearl Earring in person, albeit with about a thousand other sweaty persons stuffed into the Frick on the last day of this Dutch painting exhibit. I couldn’t get as close as I hoped, but it was still worth it. The painting is luminous.

2. St. Vincent’s better-than-ever live show in support of her best-to-date record. I love how she shreds. And shreds.

3. A trip to Vienna, where I took in the Egon Schiele- and Gustav Klimt-heavy Leopold Museum, and a day running around spying murals in Berlin, including this massive spaceman:

spaceman

4. Graphic designer Adam Lewis Greene was looking for $37,000 to Kickstart the designing of a new Bible and wound up blowing well past a million dollars. Why? It’s a simple but cool idea: to present it in the format of a novel, with no chapters or numbers or annotation, with the possible benefit that someone might read it for what it means on the whole (and not to “aggressively” pull out single verses to clobber people with). It’s called Bibliotheca, elegantly presented with a font he designed especially for the project, and with stylish letterpress prints that caught my eye.

biblioteca

5. Boyhood. Coulda watched it for three more hours. It ended just as my interest was peaking.

6. Wait, is it still 2005? I wouldn’t have anticipated that both Spoon and the New Pornographers would put out fantastic releases this year – arguably the best of their careers? – ten years after the height of their popularity. Or whatever you call popularity in the world of indie rock. “Educated folks singers want my soul.” I’m feeling you, Britt.

spoon pornos

7. TL;DR Wikipedia: Wikipedia condensed for your pleasure, in this parody site from someecards. (Full disclosure: I’m a contributor, but if I wasn’t I’d still be on here all the time.)

conf call

8. The street art show at the now demolished but long defunct Precinct 21 police station on East 22nd St. in Manhattan. “four floors of dope.” I wrote about it in August.

9. Um, Too Many Cooks.

10. Lucius at Terminal 5. I liked Lucius’ more-or-less debut album in 2013, and I liked the band even more after seeing them live at the beginning of the year – the kudos they get for their live act is well-earned. This show was a homecoming for them after a year on the road, and it was a total home run, from the goosebump-inducing opener of “Go Home” to the ambitious crowd surfing to the confettied John Lennon Christmas-cover finale.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

honorable mentions 2014

Swoon at the Brooklyn Museum, the (announcement of the) resurrection of Twin Peaks, Over the Rhine’s continued excellence in the musical space they call “reality Christmas,” The Juan Maclean keeping DFA dance music on the map, and – is this really the only book I can recall reading this year? – my New Yorker editor Bob Mankoff’s entertaining cartoon memoir.

 

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Merry Xmas! 2 for the price of none

OK, I like Christmas music. I shouldn’t have to apologize for it. Well, some of it.

An author once said that the reason he writes books is because he has questions, not answers. Every year I put together a mix of Christmas-related music here, and it is my own attempt to address the question “where can I find good Christmas music that I’m not going get bludgeoned with everywhere else, but that isn’t just different for different’s sake?” So I’m at it again. As per usual, there’s every type of music on here – cheeky mashups, golden-era chestnuts, juicy soul, pine-scented Americana, gluten-free desserts, firesafe lighting strings, vintage stockings, I don’t even know where this list is going. Just enjoy it. You can listen to it here and/or download it from SoundCloud.

 

 

And… just because I was feeling it, I decided to make another mix with all of the songs that I liked, but that were too snoozy, and would have killed the vibe of the previous one. Yeah, another! But its quieter. It’s pretty nice. I have to admit something: I tested this mix on animals. I totally did. Defenseless bunnies and rescue monkeys and a turtle. No worries: they freaking loved it. So I think I’m in good shape, legally. It’s here also. Enjoy!

 

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Me and Bobby Flay

One day recently I was thinking about whether all those cooking shows on TV really help people to become better in the kitchen, or if, at the end of the day, it’s all just mere entertainment. But it occurred to me that those shows might actually put pressure on those who have to cook dinner regularly. Kind of like the Victoria’s Secret fashion show (which apparently is on right now because I see people angrily Tweeting about it) – I wonder if moms just say “I don’t need this in my life.” And that led to this cartoon, in this week’s magazine.

Flay sketch

 

Flay

I really sweated one particular detail in this one, which was the image on the TV. My instinct was to show a plain white screen, and you should almost always listen to your instinct. Instead, I overthought it and tried to put a silhouetted image in there. I thought some people would get the joke more easily if they saw a hint of Mr. Flay on the screen. But I can’t draw anything resembling a likeness, especially at this scale, and having a clunky approximation doesn’t help. Your eye wants to fill in the rest of detail that you know is there, that’s been started but not finished, and it’s an unnecessary distraction. It’s beside the point.

Tvs

When I returned to the white screen it seemed empty to me, so I then scratched in what I thought would look like a vague shot of food. But this was even worse. I found my eye constantly being drawn over to it, and thinking “what the hell is that?” So then I colored the screen in fully, thinking that would be an improvement, but to me it looked like the set was off. This took way longer than it should have. So I went back to the white screen, which suddenly looked fine.

Obviously, you could have asked: why didn’t you show the room from an angle where you didn’t see the front of the TV at all? Well, maybe it just all comes down to laziness. But I wanted to trust my first instinct about the perspective. Yeah, trust the instinct. Bah. You could also ask: why Bobby Flay and not Anthony Bourdain or Mario Batali or somebody else? Instinct. You could also ask: is she cooking the sweet potato soup with the blue corn tortilla chips in it? Hey, now who is overthinking everything?

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I just reheated the leftovers from last year’s Black friday.

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November 28, 2014 · 5:03 pm

Thankfully condensed for your pleasure

The guy who I did this with has launched a new thing online: TL;DR Wikipedia, which I’m now writing for, because the actual Wikipedia is too long and too boring. We put up new entries every day. Check it out today in between rounds of gorging yourself on turkey – and Happy Thanksgiving!

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TLDR_pilgrims

TLDR_whitezin

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Not buying: the new stealing

Here’s my cartoon in this week’s New Yorker, done with Black Friday in mind. But it could also apply to anytime in December, or early January, or President’s weekend if it was at a car dealership, or Valentine’s Day, or – you get the idea. This is America, after all. Does anybody else sometimes feel like you’ve got to sneak out of a store if you’ve been there awhile and haven’t bought anything?

My initial sketch cut the figures off at the knees, which is an awkward place to do it. The are no rules for this kind of thing, at least nowhere in the Constitution that I can find, but generally if you’re gonna crop a cartoon person you do it around the waist. When I went to do the final drawing for this, though, I decided to include the full figures. Because this scenario presents something of a physical confrontation and not just a line of witty dialogue it seemed to warrant that arrangement. When this cartoon is adapted for an off-Broadway show, the director may want to do the blocking differently. I’ll leave that up to him.

Happy shopping!

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Paleo Gym

I’m in the New Yorker again this week with a cartoon began as this idea:

gymcolorYup. “The gym,” with some cavemen standing around and large boulders on the ground. It’s a fragment of an idea, that I wrote down a while ago and figured that I’d do something with it later. But I kept looking at it and thinking “meh” and moving on to other fully-realized ideas. This happens a lot. When I go to draw my weekly batch, I paw through my sketchbook and if a concept requires too much work, then sometimes I leave it for another day.

I did that a couple times with this, but then I must have had just the right amount of coffee, because I realized all it needed was a simple scenario to illustrate it.

gymFor a moment I considered trying to invent a clever prehistoric treadmill, or some primitive version of a modern stationary bike or elliptical machine using a pterodactyl or something, but that seemed to make the joke weaker. The pile of rocks was enough. Things were, you know, simpler back then.

gym6

And here’s the final version that ran.

gymfinal

 

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