Every line in Howl (the movie) is taken from actual sources: Allen Ginsberg's first reading of the poem in 1955, interviews he gave later, and the 1957 obscenity trial, in which publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti was acquitted, despite the best attempts of the prosecution and various New Critics to deride the work as obscene, objectionable, lacking in "opportunity," and just plain awful. After a screening sponsored by the Poetry Society of America last night at the Angelika, three poets spoke in different ways about their relationship to Ginsberg and the poem.
Mark Doty recounted how at each of his three meetings with Allen Ginsberg, he encountered a new persona: in 1969, he saw the poet as spokesperson; sometime in the 1970s, at a frat party (!), he saw the poet as confessor; and in the 1990s, Doty saw that both Ginsberg and Howl (the poem) had become entertainment in a broad tradition of "Jewish transcendental comedy." The lines, Doty said, still retain the dirty, rageful, hilarious facets they had at the poem's debut 55 years ago. Indeed, James Franco, somehow, fully inhabits Ginsberg's comic nebbishiness, down to a faint jazzy buzz in his voice.
Less prepared, Eileen Myles began by praising the movie, particularly Franco, whose good looks allowed "Allen [to be] played by Allen's desire." Speaking of desire, she mentioned how at their first meeting Ginsberg tried to set her up with his long-term partner, Peter Orlovsky, in part because Ginsberg thought Myles was a boy. She praised the movie's animated bits (!!); it's true that without the cartoons the movie would be pretty short (scenes toggle between the first reading, an extended interview, and the trial) and pretty talky (while we see Franco as Ginsberg interacting with Kerouac and Cassady, these men don't speak).
The evening concluded with a bit of rambling from Anne Waldman, whom Ginsberg referred to as his "spiritual wife." She talked less about being a woman in this man-centric circle and more about all the people she and Ginsberg got to teach at Naropa. But Waldman spoke meaningfully about the way Howl was a "breakthrough in greater candor," a point the movie admirably drives home as well.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Given a cursory glance, the Astor Bake Shop might appear to be yet another cupcakerie in a city overrun with them. Oh, don't get us wrong: the cupcakes here are nice, especially since you can order miniature versions, thus enabling a wide sampling of flavors. But the reason we endured the manifold weekend subway service changes out to Astoria had to do with the savory side of the menu, particularly their acclaimed Astor burger.
A juicy half-brisket patty gets coleslaw and "Astor sauce" to go with the usual toppings. The eponymous sauce is the key --- a tart, tangy blend of three kinds of peppers (ancho, piquillo, and chipotle), plus garlic, onion, tomatoes, and mayo. It balances with the cool crunch of the cole slaw and leads to a flavor-packed bite. We also had a respectable Asian pork sandwich and a bag of garlic herb fries before moving on to the minicakes, which we found eminently eatable.
Monday, September 27, 2010
When a restaurant is named for a particular dish, as is the case at Cachapas y Mas in Inwood, one has to try it, lest one go away with a less than full experience. One would also be wise to avoid referring to oneself in the third person, lest one enjoys eating alone.
The cachapas is a Venezuelan version of a sandwich: two baby corn cakes, fried in soybean oil, with a whole mass of fixings in the middle (spicy chorizo and veggies, for us). The "y mas" in this equation includes arepas and patacones, another type of sandwich, with fried plantains as anchors. Stuffed with goodies like fried cheese, thin-sliced ham, shredded chicken, and slow-roasted pork, they make a good case that the restaurant should call itself Delicioso and leave it at that. Everything is made to order (expect to wait), then wrapped in tinfoil. Learn from our mistake, and keep the this shiny wrapper snug around whatever sandwich you choose, as these are squirty, messy beasts, the size of a dinner plate.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
At the 2010 Dumbo Arts Festival, we saw nylon-clad gladiators attacking one another with water balloons, murals by Mania, Imminent Disaster, and Chris Stain; a three-piece brass-punk-ska-band; Smack Mellon transformed into a 1930s cruise ship; and a cat who leads an anti–Coca Cola campaign. Dozens and dozens of other installations, open studios, and performances continue today.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
The original Totonno's, in Coney Island, doesn't serve the best pizza in New York, or even the best pizza in Brooklyn. But it's a classic --- eighty years and counting --- and for a slice of old New York, it's tough to beat.
Friday, September 24, 2010
The Emerging Artists Fellowship Exhibit at Socrates Sculpture Park, on the border of Astoria and Long Island City in Queens, highlights interesting work from up-and-coming sculptors working in a wide variety of media. Bonus: oodles of friendly dogs.