Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kuntzman, Assmann, Pamela Anderson, and City Life

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Having blogged about Barbie yesterday, it’s only fitting that I mention Pamela Anderson today — no, not the fact that she said Sarah Palin should “suck it,” since I’m avoiding commentary on right-left disputes for the next month and a half — but rather the fact that she stripped in front of Ellen DeGeneres, as seen in this clip.

And Pamela Anderson in turn reminds me of the principle that for beauty purposes, one should alter nature as little as possible — don’t let plastic surgeons or fashion magazines tell you otherwise. There was no need for Anderson to get breast implants, and I suspect that one of the reasons so many men find fashion models “beautiful but not exactly attractive” is that the men sense on some instinctive level that most fashion models have had so much work done — even ribs removed to create narrower waists and cheekbones artificially heightened, they say (Or was it teeth removed to make their cheeks seem hollower? I have no idea) — that they don’t register as fully human anymore. Because they aren’t. Likewise, breast implants read as “prostheses” to my brain, as unwelcome as hook-hands. Better flat-chested than that.

At the same time, I think we can all agree that it’s sad to hear that Swedish-British TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson, having had four kids by four fathers, now feels she must get breast reduction surgery for her G-cups. Hello! indeed. A pity that here, too, nature is being thwarted (though I would not want her to be uncomfortable — indeed, I knew a woman who considered breast reduction surgery, but she instead ditched her husband, many of her friends including me, and her country, moving overseas to live in a b&d-oriented relationship with a sci-fi writer, not that I’m suggesting that was the only alternative to breast reduction).

I suppose, though, that treating bodies as fashion accessories is no stranger than treating fashion as an adjunct to politics, as left-leaning designer Kate Goldwater has been doing with her AuH2O line, organizing an AuH2Obama fashion show — and as a fan of Barry Goldwater, who also used that elemental abbreviation for his last name, imagine my initial confusion on seeing the name of that show. I thought a convention of Obamacons or Obama-libertarians was occurring.


But getting back to fashion: I did indeed purchase New Balance sneakers Friday, as promised in that day’s blog entry, and they were so comfy that I wore them out of the store and discarded my decaying Vans in a garbage can on 42nd St. right outside the store. Since I failed to find plain black dress shoes in the time I’d allotted for the task, though, I found myself marvelously unencumbered, New Balances on my feet and only a copy of Jack Kerouac’s The Subterraneans in my hand (not to be confused with the Fixx song “Subterranean” nor the conspiracy theory that underground lizard men — including Kris Kristofferson and Boxcar Willie — secretly rule the world).

I wonder if, in the first of several coincidences that evening, The Subterraneans inspired the name of the fiction prize once won by the very woman who’d urged me to buy the New Balances, Katherine Taylor — since the Pushcart Prize is intended for Californian writers, and I couldn’t help noticing that the turning point at the center of Kerouac’s novel, as I read it in a succession of Williamsburg bars, is referred to as the “pushcart incident” and involves romantic intrigue among a cabal of (stoned) San Francisco writers (but more about that novel — and beatniks in general — later in the month!) [CORRECTION: Pushcart's national -- I was thinking of Zyzzyva magazine].


In any case, readily mobile, I headed to a rainy Williamsburg — where you’re still allowed in whether your shoes are hip or not, despite what you may have heard — to eat a decent-sized free pizza at the bar Charleston just for ordering a drink (making the place superior to Ruby’s on Manhattan’s West Side, which only offers free hot dogs, great though that is) and then hear the swell and eclectic (in a Roxy Music way, not a totally-crazy-postmodern way) band the Disclaimers, containing two libertarian friends of mine, Dylan Keeler and the delightfully-named and now blue-haired Naa Koshie Allaway, newly returned from the annual Burning Man festival, where, I’m starting to realize, I must know a decent-sized .1% of the annual population despite never having gone myself, whatever that says about my social circle.

Speaking of my social circle, by sheer coincidence, just before seeing the band and their likable circle of friends — and just after reading for a bit at a bar where a young man kept calling to a dog named Gerd hanging out at the place, reminding me that just a day earlier at work I’d learned of the existence of a heart expert named Dr. Gerd Assmann, which struck me as odd — I found myself standing at a fairly empty bar up to which walked young Andrew Muchmore, himself just wandering into the place to kill time before seeing some art and newly moved to New York City, a friend of Diana Fleischman, one of our panelists from the egg-selling Debate at Lolita Bar. Andrew also happens to be one of the surprisingly global-warming-fearing libertarians who have badgered me into reading the IPCC report on climate change, which will now be part of my November Book Selection blog entry.

The name Gerd Assmann in turn reminds me of a writer-editor whose name, as a mutual friend of ours put it, sounds like a Hassidic porn star, Gersh Kuntzman, so now is a good time to let you know that he’ll be one of the reader/performers elsewhere in Brooklyn this Tuesday (Sept. 16, 8pm, doors at 7:30) at Union Hall (702 Union St. at 5th Ave. in Park Slope, $5 cover), as the multimedia lecture group called Adult Education presents a night of readings/visuals on the theme of scandals (Gersh’s explosive presentation will reveal that “Takeru Kobayashi Cheated!” [ADDENDUM: I would be falling down on the job nerdwise if I failed to point out that some say the only way to beat the Kobayashi scenario is to change the rules, though Capt. Kirk wasn't talking about competitive eating, despite his appearance]).


A bit of performance art rounded out my odd Friday, too, as I saw two hipsters beating up a third hipster on the Bedford Ave. subway platform just before heading home (the opponents were soon separated by a train arrival that made two combatants decide to board the train instead of continuing the fight), a reminder that a lot of those sensitive-artist types are in fact the most psychologically screwed up and dangerous people in the City — but they know how to wear ironic horizontal stripes better than we normals do, and that makes them our cultural superiors. (Those free-associating, city-wandering Kerouac narrators have nothing on my strange little world.)

That may be the first real fistfight I’ve observed in the City, if memory serves, and such things must be relatively rare now with our sterling low crime rate — though in the past I’ve seen a lunatic pepper-sprayed, seen a guy toppled by a bouncer with one slap, and had a co-worker describe witnessing a little-reported subway attack by a machete-wielding lunatic. That last incident, around 1994, became part of the moment that I still tend to regard as my least pro-New-York moment.

I’d been wondering for a couple days why the machete-wielding lunatic (who’d hack at a couple people before having the misfortune to discover that the subway’s next stop let on numerous police academy cadets, putting a quick stop to his rampage) didn’t rate press coverage and, frankly, worrying that the lack of coverage meant this sort of thing went on all the time in New York City, when my friend Dave Whitney came to visit from Boston.

As it happened, my apartment doorbell wasn’t functioning (this was my previous building), and I had to walk down into the scary-looking alley where my door was to let Dave in, discovering as I did so that a crazy hobo with inexplicably bloody kneecaps was leaning against a wall nearby and that the nearest garbage can contained a newspaper with an item about a machete-wielding attacker — but as I peered into the garbage can, attempting to keep one eye on the bleeding-kneecaps guy, and with Dave walking across the intersection at 27th and 3rd to meet me, I realized (a) that this piece was about a completely different machete-wielding attacker and (b) that I didn’t dare remove the newspaper from the garbage can, as it was wrapping dog feces. For a moment, I considered moving to another city, but I’m still here, and ever since Giuliani’s election around that time, things are fine.


Jacob T. Levy said...

“(Those free-associating, city-wandering Kerouac narrators have nothing on my strange little world.)”

Really, really true.

David said...

I was blissfully unaware of all of those details, wasn’t I? They ring no bells.

Todd Seavey said...

Well, you know, I try not to frighten the guests.

Link Buffet: September 16, 2008 | EatFeats said...

[...] Gersh Kuntzman to give talk in Brooklyn today alleging Kobayashi cheated in the Nathan’s finals [...]

Todd Seavey said...

[...] One other option tonight brings, by an astonishing coincidence (given my reference in Sunday’s entry to the Kobayashi Maru scenario from Star Trek II), is a burlesque performance called Revealed (at 10pm at Under St. Mark’s, 94 St. Mark’s Place) featuring, yes, a performer named Kobayashi Maru (and as it happens, I heard about the event thanks to the ToxicPop events e-newsletter co-edited by Michele Carlo, who I bumped into on that same outing described in Sunday’s entry — small world). [...]

Todd Seavey said...

[...] My original plan for this entry was to just sort of review Jack Kerouac’s beat novel classic The Subterraneans, which I noted about a week and a half ago — and toward that end, I’ll say it’s great and that he may do stream of consciousness better than anyone else, capturing the way the mind slides from topic to topic not just in everyday thought but, since he’s depicting a frequently drunk or stoned artist amidst similar mid-century San Francisco artist folk, in thoughts addled by substances, artistic pretensions, and self-deceiving romantic and sexual impulses (very fitting reading for this Month of Sex). Good stuff, and probably an important model for much that came after it. [...]