I don’t typically find myself flocking to tourist spots when I’m visiting a city. I usually try to find the time to visit new museums and galleries, but at this point in my life trips to new cities are more often than not dictated by occasional chances to spend time with distant friends, and the typically high cost of visiting a tourist attraction is usually enough to stop any potential plans in their tracks.
My once-a-year family trips growing up tended to be filled front to back with visits to various tourist spots: the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center in New York, the Polar Caves in New Hampshire, and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina are a few of the countless daytrips that occupied my childhood summers. But at some point these trips came to a relative halt. I don’t think I’ve ever actively considered myself to be “too old” to enjoy a tourist attraction, but there’s something about living in a city – any city – that makes the consideration of visiting these sorts of destinations less compelling.
I visited Seattle this past week for Thanksgiving, and the day before the holiday I found myself at the base of the Space Needle with a ticket bearing a 2:30 PM reservation for an elevator ride to the tower’s observation deck. This was the first time in years that I held such a ticket, and as I rounded the ramps up to the elevator my cynical side was trying to get the best of me. I looked around at the swarms of families and other tourists eagerly awaiting the chance to ride to the top of the iconic structure, and my inner sarcastic self couldn’t help but smirk at the commotion surrounding me. As I stepped into the glass-walled elevator with my eyes ready to roll, my mood was quickly overpowered by the excitement in the air. In the years that had transpired since my last trip to the top of some tall building, I had managed to forget that the real reason to do these things is purely for the unashamed amusement.
Wednesday was beautiful, and the mid-afternoon sun cast a soft glow across the city’s skyline in all directions. We spent about an hour on top of the Needle, first gazing out from the outdoor deck and then sitting and drinking a beer inside the tower. It was refreshing to allow myself a bit of earnest enjoyment, and as I anticipate a few more trips out of Chicago I hope that I continue to set some time aside to simply sit back and look out.
In honor of the black friday, I would like our present our devoted and probably tiny fan-base with what I view to be the most truly unappetizing and distasteful scenes of eating in film history. Evident to everyone who has ever watched people eat after becoming full or observed residual soup on anyone’s mustache, something about eating and disgust just go together. If that isn’t evident to you, I hope these NSFW clips veritably ruin your post-thanksgiving leftovers.
The Fly (1986)
David Cronenberg’s visceral masterpiece The Fly provided us with some pretty disgusting moments. After a experiment with a teleportation pod goes horribly awry and scientist Seth Brundle’s (Jeff Goldbum) DNA becomes inexorably fused with that of a fly, the movie becomes a non-stop horror show of pustules, ground-meat looking skin, and various appendages falling off. To name a few of these horrors, Brundle snaps a trucker’s wrist asunder in an unfair arm wrestling match, Veronica Quaif (Geena Davis) gives birth to a gigantic maggot in a dream sequence, a baboon gets turned inside out, and Jeff Goldbum is shirtless for a good portion of the film. But one scene that always particularly disturbed me (especially as I first watched the film while eating an Italian Beef in fourth grade) is when Brundle demonstrates his descent into the annals of inhuman fly-logic by grabbing a donut and proceeding to vomit his own stomach acid on it for the purposes of digestion.
Nothing does the heart good like watching a deformed Jeff Goldblum barf onto a glazed donut.
Originally released as a short film in the east-Asian horror compilation movie Three…Extremes, Dumplings tells a tale of philandering husbands, black market abortions, and fetus dumplings. In the quest to become younger and gain the favor of her disinterested husband, Mrs. Li (Miriam Yeung) seeks treatment from Aunt Mei (Bai Ling), who specializes in creating fetus dumplings intended to rejuvenate the consumer. This film was clearly the best film within in Three…Extremes and the short film’s ending is much more concise and interesting than that of its later film adaptation. That being said, for some reason the fetus-eating didn’t gross me out as much as it did for the other people I was watching the movie with. Balut, or developing duck embryos, are a popular (and apparently nutritious) street food throughout Southeast Asia, and in this snack the embryo is usually eaten whole. To me, chopped up human embryos in a dumpling-format seem more palatable by comparison. In all honesty I’d probably eat the fetus-dumpling over the developing duck embryo.
Dead Alive/Braindead (1992)
There are plenty of disgusting moments in Peter Jackson’s 5th film, the horror-comedy flick Brain Dead (released as Dead Alive in the U.S.). Though a baby rips through a woman’s face, zombie parts fly with the help of an upturned lawnmower, and a man punches his fist through the back of a woman’s head, the dinner scene particularly gets my goat. I don’t know why this one bothers me more than other moments in the film. Something about the combination of creamy substances, fat men, and disintegrating old women. It probably would have just been gross enough watching a fat man eat custard for 5 minutes.
Salo, or 120 days of Sodom (1975)
Released shortly after the director’s tragic murder, Pier Paolo Passolini’s Salorecontextualizes theMarquis de Sade’s 1785 novel in the final days of Mussolini’s regime in Italy. Following the exploits of a group of wealthy libertines who sadistically (no pun intended) torture and sexually humiliate a large group of teenagers, this film has more coprophagia, or feces-consumption, than you could shake a stick at. But for those of you who haven’t seen it, there are much more disturbing and harrowing scenes of coprohagia in the film. After re-watching this clip, and seeing the scene out of its original context, its black comedy made me laugh a bit. Still, I’m not going to be eating chocolate or beef for a couple of days.
The Tin Drum (1977)
I’m not sure why I included this one because it doesn’t gross me out nearly as much as the clips above. After my father told me multiple times about the scene, my sole impetus for watching this film was to see eels taken out of a horse’s head. Though I love this scene in and of itself, Volker Schlöndorff’s The Tin Drumholds much more intrigue beyond it. The puking woman in the clip, Agnes Matzerath (Angela Winkler), the main character Oskar’s (David Bennet) mother, develops an addiction to raw fish soon after and eventually dies because of it. All and all, at least these chefs were slightly humane in their eel cutting techniques. It beats the Iron Chefmethod of pinning the eel down and slicing its wriggling body while still alive.
If we’ve been able to learn anything out of this experience, it’s that horrible skin deformities and crumbling ears are not conductive to eating.
The 20teens are seeing the return of electronic dance music in a big way. In the late 80’s and 90’s, house music and other electronic styles in a few cases transitioned into the mainstream, especially in countries outside the U.S. But today, names like Avicii, Swedish House Mafia and Tiesto are not only on the tongues of electronic dance music (EDM) lovers. Both Deadmou5 and producer-DJ David Guetta performed at last year’s Grammy Awards, and dubstep artist Skrillex won three out of the five Grammy nominations he was up for.
In the past four years, five new EDM festivals have popped up stateside: Identity Festival, the Electric Zoo Festival, Dance.Here.Now.Series and Dayglow, and they attract upwards of 100,000 revelers. EDM is no longer a niche carved out by DJ’s, fans and a few record labels. Its artists are fusing with pop, hip-hop and rock artists entering the mainstream and giving fans of other genres the bass-thumping, heart-pulsing beats they were too young to get 20 years ago. Turn on a pop radio station today, and it’s difficult to find a song not infused with elements of dance music.
When a friend was in town recently to see Holy Ghost at Chicago’s Metro, I tagged along. The New York-based take the stage with a group of six or seven other guys to play their brand of synthpop, essentially EDM but with real instruments, too.
Before the show, we went to Raw Bar and Grill next to Metro. You could see the place was in transition, trying to swim with the Wrigleyville fishes, but having some difficulty wiping away decades of supper club patina, and not being sure it wants to. But it’s difficult not to take pleasure occasionally in the institution of the supper club. In early autumn, my wife and I were in Door County, Wisconsin, the peninsula jutting out into Lake Michigan where people from places like Chicago go to spend money in the summer, and a beautiful place. When we found a neon sign as big as a house in front of a place calling itself a supper club, we had to inside. It was called Florian II.
We walked through several dining rooms added on over the years. They still served mini loaves of bread and baked potatoes, and you could see the years on the waitresses (not servers) by looking at their eye shadow, like counting the rings of a tree. Raw Bar and Grill was like that. In the midst of individually wrapped pats of butter and idiosyncratic décor was a small stage where Ronald, who had worked there for 14 years, played piano. Though we were one of two parties in the place over the dinner hour on a Friday, he still played. Sinatra, Nora Jones, the “Hillstreet Blues” theme. Afterward, he came around to the tables to make sure we were all enjoying ourselves.
Watching young people on the dance floor after that was a bit shocking. I was not there to dance, maybe because I had done enough of that sort of thing in years past. My interest was in being at a show again and watching what were fine musicians. There were tech geeks in t-shirts manning synthesizers, but it was the drummer’s miracle-working that at times left my mouth agape. Another guy had six different keyboards and worked like an amphetamine alchemist, on to the next sonic transfiguration before I could realize what just happened. I must have been the only person in the middle of the floor not moving and just watching. I thought I caught the lead singer’s eye a couple of times, and the look on his face was one of someone who fears they are being stalked. Was I about to pull out a pistol I’d smuggled in, because if I couldn’t have that lead singer, no one could?
When a woman beside me stopped dancing to ask if I was “okay,” what she meant was “why aren’t you doing what I’m doing.” Yes, why wasn’t I? I saw King Crimson with my father a few years ago in a big auditorium with a lot of other people his age. There were chairs. Was I just not moved by the spirit of EDM? Standing in the middle of a dancing throng, was I stumbling headlong into middle age? Was it more enjoyable to watch Ronald play the “Hillstreet Blues” theme? Well, yes. Also the sound at the Metro is crap.
Hello, SAIC! The holidays are upon us, so now seems like the perfect time to take a look at some of this season’s big campaigns. Happy shopping!
Miu Miu Resort 2014, Inez and Vinoodh:
Inez and Vinoodh shooting Blue is the Warmest Color’s Adèle Exarchopolous and Léa Seydoux for Miu Miu’s new resort line sounds great on paper, but this campaign is nothing but boring. The duo similarly moved away from their trademark studio style for their last Miu Miu shoot, and once again the result is just lacking … something. The hair, makeup, and styling are spot-on, and yet I just cannot bring myself to care about this shoot. Too dull! Sorry :(
Louis Vuitton L’Invitation au Voyage (F/W 2013), David Sims:
Poor David Sims. He gets two huge Vuitton jobs in the same season and both shoots end up embarrassing. I won’t bother going on about the men’s shoot (simple summary: Tony Bryan, Blue Steel), but this David Bowie campaign is just weak. Obviously Sims is dealing with creative constraints due to the shoot’s monstrous budget and the casting of a 66-year-old musician, but the fact remains that these images are overcooked and silly. A masquerade theme? A hot air balloon? Arizona Muse, what are you doing? Hopefully now that Marc Jacobs has left the label can rebrand itself visually over the next few seasons.
Michael Kors Holiday 2013, Mario Testino:
Michael Kors brings trashiness to a new level this holiday season, employing the aesthetic of a high school junior’s faux-H&M Tumblr spread to announce its plans to brighten up next year’s Nordstrom Rack clearance section. Mario Testino apparently took a day between creating fantastic Vogue editorials to churn out this lifeless shoot, and the pages of Redbook couldn’t be more thrilled.
Balenciaga F/W 2013, Steven Klein:
Balenciaga has been switching things up a bit lately, possibly due to the lukewarm reception to Alexander Wang’s first few collections as designer. The brand has ditched Steven Meisel for the first time in several seasons, and the decision to go with Klein seems to be working well for them. They’re clearly trying to creep toward “edginess” to appease some of Wang’s longtime fans, but the result is surprisingly fresh in comparison to their last several campaigns. Diane Kendal’s makeup works well on McMenamy, and the hair and styling are subtle without being understated. Great job!
Lucky Brand Jeans F/W 2013, Mario Sorrenti:
This campaign seems uninspired on first glance, but I’d like to think that Mario Sorrenti is actually just using it in an attempt to visually illustrate the massive size of David Gandy’s insufferable ego (his ABC interview, “David Gandy, Life as a Mega-Successful Male Model” is a thing of true beauty). Sorrenti, displaying his expertise, shoots Gandy from an awkward top-down perspective, foreshortening the arms and cropping the legs. The result is a precisely-executed composition that magnifies the head while downplaying the importance of the actual product being sold. I, for one, applaud this subversive and defiant act: it is not often that a mega-successful male fashion photographer is willing break the mold and criticize the hubris of a mega-successful male model. Bravo, Mario!
The Malambo is a typical Argentinian dance performed by men and involving intricate and diverse stomping techniques. Gilles Brinas, a french choreographer, developed a passion for this characterful dance and put together the show Che Malambo!, with dancers from the Argentinian ballet company, Pampa Furiosa.
The show opened with a guest performance from the Chicago-based Mexican Dance Ensemble presenting a typical dance from Veracruz. Composed of both female and male dancers, the Mexican Dance Ensemble also has gifted musicians and singers. The dancers smoothly transition from one geometric design to another, achieving a harmonious unison as they perform the characteristic footwork of the dances from Veracruz. After a few minutes, the cheerful Mexican Dance Ensemble passed the stage over to Gilles Brinas’ all male company for the choreographic tour de force to begin.
The three words that instantly come to mind within the very first seconds of the Argentinian dancers’ performance are: sexy, strong and masculine. Three words that no one would have thought of if the dancers had stayed still; because of their long hair, their form-fitting sleeveless black shirts, skintight trousers, and their almost too graceful and upright stance. But as they start dancing, the audience, captivated, watches them alternate between slow movements, smooth ronds-de-jambe and subtle weight shifts, and demonstrations of precision and strength in high-speed footwork sequences.
Their stance, appearance and gestures are meant to mimic that of horses. Through a combination of stomping, body percussion, clapping and use of boleadoras and bombos the dancers recreate the sound of a galloping horse.
Some passages reminded me of Paco Peña’s sublime flamenco solos I had seen last year at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, yet Che Malambo! seems riskier, more dangerous as the dancers contort their legs in very sharp movements. It seems that they are on the verge on dismemberment, and the visible risk within the choreography creates palpable excitement within the audience.
The dancers of Che Malambo! engage in highly energetic solos and physically demanding group choreography. Their passion is tangible, perceptible to the naked eye: they raise the dust around them as they dance, and sweat drops explode out in the light as they pirouette on stage. Their harmony is outstanding. How can such a large group manage perfect unison while performing this fast-paced and intricate footwork? The Che Malambo! dancers are so quick that the sound of their stomping can’t keep up with their moves.
A whole section of the show is centered on the use of boleadoras, heavy balls at the end of a rope originally used by the Gauchos to capture cattle. The performers control over this unforgiving tool is mind-blowing. Watching the boleadoras sequence, I realized after a while that I had the palms of my hands pressed on either sides of my face and my mouth opened in awe. The rhythm, the colors and the light makes it a key moment of this wonderful performance. As they swing and circle around the performers, the boleadoras seem to turn into giant paper fans and scintillating suns.
Che Malambo! will be at the Edison Theatre November 22, 23 in St Louis, the last dates of their American tour. Whether dance is your thing or not you will undoubtedly enjoy this explosive performance and the dancer’s genuine passion.
As someone not earning enough money to live outside of my parent’s home, this weekend, I looked into becoming a sperm donor. In the Chicagoland area, there are only two avenues for those who want to trade sperm for cash (there should be a Cash4Sperm store attached to local Cash4Gold stores) and they are the Midwest Sperm Bank, and The University of Illinois at Chicago’s urology center. The sperm industry is a lucrative venture for both donors and clinics, as those who are eager and willing to ejaculate in a cup once every week, for 12 months, and then hand it over to a sperm bank, can be paid up to $350 dollars per vial. But its not all a plastic cup of peaches and creme, as the screening process is highly selective, with less than 5% of applicants accepted. Only donors with the highest sperm counts are chosen and the bank only accepts samples that are the crème de la crème – those that meet their “quality standard of 20 million motile sperm.” It’s like Yale, but for sperm. But even Yale applicants aren’t subjected to such rigorous standards. Applicants are required to submit endless blood tests, urine samples, baby photos, undergo screening for 100 recessive genetic disorders and regale doctors with extensive explanations of personal sexual histories. Additionally, during this 6-8 week process, applicants can be rejected for just about anything, at any time.
But these rigid requirements were not the most disturbing thing about the process. Though in the end I qualified for all of the ultra-specific requirements expected of donors, such as being at least 5′ 10” and attending a four year college, one of the requirements really perturbed me. It stated that donors must have “Sexual parters [that] are specifically Female.” Though the clinic states on the front page that it works “with heterosexual couples, lesbian couples, and single women of all races, religious and ethnic backgrounds,” apparently this does not apply to the donation process, as gay men are explicitly excluded. After doing some research, I found that this ban is part of a larger homophobia enacted by the FDA against potential gay sperm, organ and blood donors. It cites a fear of HIV as its raison d’être. This is an absolutely absurd claim, as the process for organ, blood, and sperm donation requires examinations of medical history and individuals with diseases like HIV are immediately ruled out as donors. Instead, this decision is part-and-parcel of the larger role of homophobia in federal policy, which essentializes gay identities by conflating them with disease.
While the human seed industry has a seedy (and disgustingly prejudiced) underbelly, its procedures are at least less terrifying than the egg donation industry, which requires even more invasive procedures but pays significantly more (upwards of $5,000). After shooting the clinic an email, calling for information and being directed back to their website, I am contemplating giving up on becoming a sperm donor. I guess I’ll see if they write me back, as passing up the possibility of getting paid $350 a week to ejaculate in a cup deeply saddens me.
As a rational human being, I have reason to believe that this song is about sperm donation when it describes “slipping and sliding” “living things” that are “a terrible thing to lose.“