Monthly Archives: March 2009

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.

On texting Damien Hirst.

Here’s what I’ve gleaned from the New York Times and the New Yorker so far this week: Art sales are down. Lily Allen is a big celeb here, but not as big as she is across the pond. And everyone’s texting Damien Hirst! Observe:

From last Sunday’s New York Times magazine piece on the state of the art dealing world (some scene-setting background: Jose, Alberto, and David Mugrabi – art dealers, whom the Times says own “what is believed to be one of the largest and most valuable private collections of art in the world” – are at a Sotheby’s art auction, where several of Hirst’s works are up for sale):

The first four lots sold quickly, for more than their high estimates… Then came the shark. Alberto started trading text messages with Hirst, who was apparently playing snooker at a pub but eager to receive a play-by-play of the auction…

Bidding began at £2 million but quickly stalled at £3.2 million — below the low end of the house’s estimate, which was £4 million to £6 million. The auctioneer, Oliver Barker, looked beseechingly at two long tables, which were lined with perhaps three dozen Sotheby’s employees, each manning a telephone to field remote bids from collectors across the globe. But none of them proffered a bid…

But before the hammer went down, a remarkable thing happened. Jose sat up and began waving his hand, to get the auctioneer’s attention. Then he motioned toward one of the phone attendants, who he could see was still talking to somebody on her line.

Barker kept on going, and a new bidder came in. There was another lull — the piece almost sold at £3.7 million — but an auction-house staff member on another phone could be heard successfully coaxing her bidder.

Once the low estimate was reached, a couple of other would-be buyers bid £4.5 million, £4.6 million, £4.7 million and beyond — in no time, all the way past £8 million… The hammer finally landed at £8.5 million — which, once Sotheby’s commission and taxes were added in, translated to a £9.6 million payout, or about $17.2 million. The room broke into applause.

Alberto received a text message from Hirst and smiled. “Damien made one of these symbols,” he said, sticking out his tongue to demonstrate.

And then, from Sasha Frere-Jones’ lengthy piece on the original MySpace pop star, Lily Allen (subscription required):

Through her father, Lily became friendly with celebrities like the late Joe Strummer, of the Clash, and the artist Damien Hirst. “We were BlackBerry messaging last night,” she said of Hirst. “I was trying to get him on Twitter, but he wouldn’t do it. I signed off, ‘Good night. – Dame Moody Wench.'”

All of this means nothing at all, of course – except perhaps that Lily Allen and the Mugrabis share a mutual friend, a fact that probably no one will find exciting – but it was a funny coincidence of text message-friend name-dropping, nonetheless.

On MOMA, Poster Boy, and street art marketing.

One museum’s major exhibit-worthy street artist is another’s vandal, I suppose. Last week, while Boston was all a-chatter about Shepard Fairey’s exhibit at the ICA, and his arrest (en route to the opening, no less) for plastering our city walls with sneak peaks of said exhibit, something different was going on with MOMA.

The Museum of Modern Art’s crafty marketing executive, Doug Jaegar, “CEO of the brand-management agency the Happy Corp and president of the prestigious Art Directors Club,” according to New York Magazine, came up with an ad campaign that involved reproducing 57 of the museum’s most famous works, and wallpapering a Brooklyn subway station with them. But then, knowing that a) subway ads are prime targets for graffiti and street artists, and b) Poster Boy is New York’s street artist du jour, Jaeger recruited Poster Boy to intentionally “re-mix” the ads, in his own style – in the hopes of attracting even more attention to them. The remixes included giving Warhol’s screen print of Marilyn a nose job. NYMag writes:

“Early on we saw Poster Boy’s work, and we realized it was inevitable that if we did this project, his crew would likely see it as an opportunity. Whenever you create something, you want to make sure you’re prepared for that,” Jaeger says. “What I would hope is that it would cause debate and generate some argument, at a minimum.”

This is an ingenious move, especially for a museum of contemporary art. Simply plastering the subway with images from MOMA might remind some people of the great artworks that reside there – the Warhols, the Rothkos – or, it might introduce certain subway riders to artists they did not already know, thus drawing them to the museum.

But inviting Poster Boy to remix the ads presents a new angle. It’s the idea of sort of new art vs. really new art. It’s unpretentious and all-inclusive. It’s like MOMA saying, “Hey, we have a plethora of works by important artists from the last few decades, AND we’re also on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the art world now, from the echoing halls of our museum to cement ones on the streets, and in the subway stations.”

It’s not all that far off from what Shepard Fairey was doing in Boston, wheatpasting walls in virtually every neighborhood of our city to promote his show. The city may have arrested him, but at least the ICA had his back. The same can’t be said for MOMA, who made the decision to sever all ties with Jaegar after the Poster Boy incident, and denies approving the re-mixed (or destroyed, as the naysayers are calling it) ad campaign.

The museum had previously declined to comment, saying only that the destroyed ads would be reinstalled by Wednesday. But today it denied authorizing the attack. When it was suggested that actions took place with MoMA’s consent, Kim Mitchell, the museum’s spokesperson, responded: “That is not correct.”

Shouldn’t MOMA be defending and promoting new art forms, rather than discouraging them?

View photos of the remixes over at NYMag.