On Paint Pens in Purses (aka a totally rad female urban art collective).

Photos from a series I shot for the Boston Phoenix of the Paint Pens in Purses art show at the recently-closed Marty’s Liquors space. See the whole series here.

Previously: Photos, video and a write-up of the Paint Pens gals muralizing LAB’s windows


On Of Montreal.

Photo by Eric Baumann for the Boston Phoenix

The Of Montreal show at the Paradise Tuesday night, the second of their two sold-out shows at that venue this week, wasn’t just a concert — it was an interpretive dance performance, an assemblage of trippy video installations, an excuse to parade a multitude of animal-head masks across the stage, and one giant homage to Flaming Lips–style stage antics. Of Montreal’s previous appearances in town, at Avalon and the Middle East downstairs, had merely hinted at their theatrical aptitude. At Avalon they’d incorporated video projections from the cover art for 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? At the Middle East, lead singer Kevin Barnes had donned a wedding dress and proposed to the audience.

This time, the Athens-based outfit brought along a hype man in a white tiger head and a team of ambiguous, unitarded dancers who transmorphed themselves with silver Buddha costumes, platinum-blond wigs, and plastic pig masks in a confusing series of skits. It was a spectacle, for sure, but it didn’t always work to the band’s advantage. At times, it felt like commotion meant to distract us from the weaker songs in the set, which consisted of tunes from Hissing Fauna and the band’s most recent release, Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl), with a few staples peppered in between. “Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games” and “Forecast Fascist Future,” both from 2005’s The Sunlandic Twins, were highlights.

Read the full review I wrote for the Boston Phoenix here.

On Shepard Fairey at the ICA, and street art.

Photo from a series I shot for the Boston Phoenix, when Shepard Fairey put a mural up outside the offices.

If you’re in the Boston area tomorrow (Saturday, April 4), you might want to check out the Institute of Contemporary Art’s Design as Social Agent talks and tours, which they call a “full day conversation on design and culture.” There’ll be talks happening all day long, from 10 am till 3ish, by all different types of people – art critics, street artists, designers, curators, etc. I’ll be sharing my own street art-adoring point-of-view at 11 am in the galleries.

Here’s a link to the event on Facebook.

On Sarah Haskins and “Target: Women.”

“Yogurt is the official food of women.” Or so enthuses TV writer Sarah Haskins in her sarcastic three-minute video “Target Women: Yogurt Edition,” which aired this past May on Current TV, the largely Internet-driven independent cable network founded by Al Gore.

“Just turn on your TV,” continues Haskins, a pretty 29 year old with an unfussed blond ponytail and an oblong face. “Day and night — but mostly day, unless you’re watching Lifetime — there’s gonna be some ladies just chilling out, eating some yogurt, and appealing to our inner woman, to get us to do it too.” She then bombards viewers with clips from yogurt commercials — which she points out are targeted at women of every race, but specifically ones who wear gray-hooded sweatshirts (“It’s that ‘I have a master’s but then I got married’ look”) and are on diets. We see women likening the experience of eating yogurt to getting a long massage, gushing over unlikely flavors such as apple turnover, and Jamie Lee Curtis advocating the power of certain yogurts to regulate digestion.

“Yogurt,” Haskins concludes. “What else could a woman possibly need?”

Read the rest here.

On Antje Duvekot.

Midway through her set at Club Passim last Friday, right before covering Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee,” Antje Duvekot remarked on something she’d read about the Great Depression. “Lighthearted entertainment became important to people,” said the Somerville-based singer-songwriter. “They needed it to get them through it.” A beat of silence, and then laughter rose from the crammed, brick-walled, basement folk club.

The unstated punch line of Duvekot’s self-depreciating joke had been made evident by the first half of her show, the second of four sold-out gigs promoting her just-released second studio album, The Near Demise of the High Wire Dancer (Black Wolf Records). Duvekot, who’s become one of Boston’s folk darlings over the past five years or so, writes songs soaked in forlorn wisdom, with lyrics like “the moonlight has made it plain that nobody needs me to call them home,” sung in her trademark weather-worn throatiness. They’re the opposite of lighthearted entertainment, but without the generic, maudlin cheese that plagues less skilled folkies.

The Economic Crisis 2009 crowd seemed cool with a gloomier tone, perhaps because the formerly dry Club Passim now serves wine and beer. Or perhaps because they knew what to expect.

Read the full review here.

On Rihanna and Chris Brown.

Today on Here and Now, the mid-day news program on the Boston-based NPR affiliate WBUR, reporters spoke with Boston-area teens about the recent news that pop singer Chris Brown allegedly physically abused his girlfriend (and fellow pop star) Rihanna. The idea for consulting local youths came from a recent survey conducted by the Boston Public Health Commission , which produced some surprising results:

  • 51% said Chris Brown was responsible for the incident
  • 46% said Rihanna was responsible for the incident
  • 52% said both individuals were to blame for the incident, despite knowing at the time that Rihanna had been beaten badly enough to require hospital treatment

On Here and Now, students from Match public charter high school shared their opinions. “She must have done something to provoke Chris Brown to hit her like that,” says one male student, adding that he doesn’t know enough about the relationship to say whether it was “right” or not – somewhat disturbing sentiments, until a female student named Denise disagrees, as does another male student, who says Brown needs “anger management.”

Much like the survey indicates, this sampling of students is conflicted over the boundaries between arguing and abuse in a relationship. Here and Now guest Nick Shiggs-Quiroga, a third grade teacher at Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, expresses that same thought, saying that he feels this is something he needs to discuss with – and to some degree, teach to – his students.

As someone who tutors Roxbury high schoolers (via 826 Boston), helping them to analyze and discuss required literature, this report made me feel like I should be spending less time on Hemingway heroes, and more time on the fact that no one (male or female) ever “deserves” – the word that several students used on Here and Now – to be physically abused. I recently had a conversation with a tenth-grade female student at English High, about how Frederic Henry from Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is similar to men that she knows, in that they are both emotionally unavailable. That may be par for the course with tenth-grade boys – I don’t remember any of my sophomore year relationships being rife with outpourings of emotions – but abuse is an entirely separate issue, one that I hadn’t considered as a topic to be discussed during school hours before. But maybe it should be – or maybe we just need more groups like Girls Leap out there.

On women of courage.

Yesterday, while the rest of the world was still obsessing/dissenting over Zach Snyder’s film adaptation of Alan Moore’s the Watchmen (I probably shouldn’t have mentioned Moore there, since he doesn’t want to be associated with the project), and it’s associated heroines (see above) – though people seem more concerned with Dr. Manhattan, and his “giant blue wiener” – Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton (who I personally hope will be pairing up for more projects in the future) were recognizing some real-life female superheroes. The first lady and Secretary of state co-hosted the Secretary of State’s 2009 International Women of Courage Awards. Here’s a smattering of the admirable ladies who were honored:

Ms. Suaad Allami (Iraq)
A prominent lawyer, Suaad Allami fights against the erosion of women’s rights and defends the most disadvantaged. She founded the NGO Women for Progress and the Sadr City Women’s Center, which offers free medical care, literacy education, vocational training, and legislative advocacy. She has accepted a Humphrey Fellowship from the State Department for academic year 2009-2010.

Ms. Hadizatou Mani (Niger)
Sold to a “master” at the age of 12 for the equivalent of $500, Hadizatou Mani persevered in gaining her freedom and helped pave the way for others trapped in similar circumstances to seek justice. Through her valiant efforts, persistence, and refusal to succumb to social pressure to abandon her case, she won a historic, precedent-setting decision in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice that condemned her enslavement.

Ms. Reem Al Numery (Yemen)
When she was 12, Reem Al Numery had her childhood cut short when she was forced to marry her 30-year -old cousin. She has emerged as a strong and brave voice on behalf of other girls facing a similar fate. Her courage has inspired a widespread drive against child marriages in Yemen.

Kind of makes me wonder what I’ve been doing with my life. Read the full list of award recipients here.