Two of my recent New Yorker cartoons, start to finish, in GIF form. Separated by pictures of otters, so it’s not so visually confusing.
Well, except for YOU KNOW WHO.
Here is my meta-list of my favorite music, films, books, and whatevers, from the Year That Shall Not Be Named.
1. David Bowie, Blackstar I listened to Blackstar on repeat the night after its release in January of this year. I was astounded by it’s brilliance, and I was equally excited that David Bowie was making vital art into his eighth decade of life, emerging once again as a presence in NYC. I drifted off to sleep with the album on, and then woke up the next morning to the news alert that he had passed away. The shock and sadness of that lasted with me for a long time, and it made it difficult for me to listen to Blackstar again until just recently. It was a tremendous farewell act.
2. Stranger Things, Netflix’s thrilling, funny, sci-fi mystery series which bullseyed both taut storytelling and 80s nostalgia. I told you, Lando.
3. Kanye West, Life of Pablo and Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book Both of these Chicago rappers created compelling music this year that had a heavy gospel influence. Kanye’s was tormented and messy – gospel as desperation – and announced itself as being capital “I” important. Chance’s was both full of explicit Christianity and also fun as hell, and settled for merely being maybe the most infectious record of the year.
4. The iPad Pro Finally an Apple computer whose screen you can draw on! It’s not perfect, but I enjoyed digitally drawing for the first time. When I found the software lacking I turned to AstroPad, which turns the iPad into a tablet that could run my desktop Photoshop.
5. Blake Crouch, Dark Matter A page-turner based on Schroedinger’s Cat? Say no more.
6. Triumphs and Laments I was glad to be able to visit William Kentridge’s impressive 550-meter long mural, created not by painting, but by by power-washing around the black soot on the walls of the Tiber River in Rome.
7. LCD Soundsystem reunion I hardly ever bite on the “Band Who Broke Up X Years Ago Reunites For Summer Festival” bait, but I somehow missed seeing them while they had been together, and I believed James Murphy’s promise that they’re in this to do something better than they’ve done before. So I ponied up the money to see them at Panorama, and they didn’t disappoint. My fingers are crossed for some studio music from them in 2017.
8. Unfinished Opening in the old Whitney Museum space on the UES in March, the Met Breuer (the Met’s new museum for contemporary art) crushed it this year with it’s inaugural exhibitions. Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible featured works that were unintentionally unresolved and also those that embraced an unfinished, “work-in-progress” aesthetic, leaving it to the viewers to ask themselves: when is a work really “done?” Never less than fascinating, my highlights were:
this abandoned Lucian Freud, a portrait that Klimt was still roughing out when he died,
a Daumier that was gorgeous not despite but because of being mostly scraped away, this creepy incomplete work from Anton Raphael Mengs,
and a room full of atmospheric Turners.
9. Kerry James Marshall: Mastry The next show at the Breuer (still on display through January 29) is a retrospective from this Alabama man who deals with the American black experience through both honoring and subverting the many stylistic traditions of Western art which he is well-versed in, from Rococo painting to comics. There are so many things going on in his works that it’s hard for me to accurately summarize it here, but it is powerful.
10. Empire Strikes Bond It’s refreshing to remember that the internet isn’t just a forum for fake news and hateful trolls. It’s also a place where art that would previously have gone unnoticed can find a wider audience. So what would the opening credits for The Empire Strikes Back have looked like if they were done in a James Bond style? This amazing visual mashup piece by a student filmmaker answers that question.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
My friend recently told me I had too many apps on my phone. Maybe, I said, but no harm in that. If you use it, even just once or twice, you might as well keep an application on there, right?
But there’s a word for it, he said, which is “overapplicated.” It means you’ve got too many for your own good. I disputed this fact, but he doubled down on me, saying that no, I was pretty much a textbook version of it. “You’re so effing overapplicated it’s not even funny,” were his exact words.
Then I started to read the icons on my phone and I said whaddya know? Guilty as charged, man, Guilty. As. Charged.
The camera application which I prefer to use on my iPhone is different than the built-in camera. It’s one in which you touch any part of the screen to take a picture instead of a single “shutter” button. It’s fine, except that it also means that in handling the camera – switching between hands, taking it in and out of my pocket, shoving it in my armpit as I fumble through my bag looking for something – the screen gets touched a lot. I think half of my pictures are of the accidental, oh-crap-I-thought–the-camera-was-off variety. But you know what? Some of them actually look kind of cool, especially when you gallery them. So I’m committing to this. If you need a wedding photographer and you don’t care if the pictures look like arbitrary screenshots from The Bourne Ultimatum, feel free to make me an offer.
They say that tragedy plus time equals comedy. I’m going to go ahead and say that travel plus fatigue equals comedy also. I think that’s the only reason to describe why Matt Diffee and I snapped these pictures at the end of our trip to the Bay Area this week.