When Reality was a Joke: The Making of Albert Brooks’ Real Life

By Tom Teicholz

Today, reality TV is a genre for which they award Emmys, from which careers are born, love is found, and fortunes are made. Reality TV represents a huge share of the television industry, and we accept that these shows are cast, produced, and edited to enhance their drama. Yet if we see humor in the self-seriousness of the participants and delight in the outrageousness of their antics, if we see the irony in the genre’s ability to produce stars (and even presidential candidates!) and acknowledge it as part of “show business” — then we’d do well to recall that these insights have already been abundantly elucidated in Albert Brooks’ prescient 1979 debut feature film, Real Life. Continue reading


Vanitas: Notes On 9/11 Art

By Zack Hatfield

To see the first-ever art exhibit at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, you must first descend the escalator, walk past the spotlit wreckage displayed as part of the museum’s permanent collection, past armed guards, past fire trucks warped beyond recognition, and, finally, past the buckled I-beams and other debris that haunt Ground Zero. These artifacts serve as totems of perseverance and frangibility, souvenirs of past atrocity. Yet this preceding layout is such that, once you enter the gallery, the art feels unnecessary, perhaps even insensitive. What can creativity achieve amid so much pain and loss? In light of this duality, both the helpfulness and helplessness of art are on display in Rendering the Unthinkable: 13 Artists Respond to 9/11, an exhibit that embodies the comforting generalities that annex America’s remembrance of 9/11 today. Continue reading


Flung Into Orbit With April Ayers Lawson

By Luke B. Goebel

April Ayers Lawson’s first collection of stories, Virgin and Other Stories (out November 1st from Farar, Straus and Giroux), embodies anew the Southern Gothic, with its twisted, oft-hackneyed Christian traditions, sexual hunger, and isolated yearning. In today’s secular literary climate, transgressive and unnerving fiction from a Christian Southern author is a rare find — and rarer still is the quality of subjects and craft in these stories. Virgin and Other Stories emerges from a brilliant young mind, living open-eyed through transgression.  Continue reading


Journalism and Love in Wartime China: A Q&A with Eve of a Hundred Midnights author Bill Lascher

By Paul French 

Bill Lascher is an Oregon-based journalist who didn’t realise he was related to one of the great journalists of the China Press Corps in World War Two, Melville Jacoby. Lascher set out to write a dual biography of his cousin and Mel’s wife — and fellow China correspondent — Annalee Jacoby. Before World War Two Melville Jacoby had found himself in China and ended up in journalism by a round about way (all explained by Lascher in his new biography of the couple, Eve of a Hundred Midnights: The Star-Crossed Love Story of Two WWII Correspondents and Their Escape Across the Pacific, which was published earlier this year). Annalee (then surnamed Whitmore) had tired of working as a scriptwriter in Hollywood and found herself in China, too. Continue reading


November Horoscopes

By Ichrak Dahou

There are months that are about chatter and engagement, months about diligence and purity, months about social exchange and the intricacies of a just society, and then there are the months that grab you by the gut and ask you to say without words what you’re really about. That’s part of the reason why Scorpio season is associated with therapy. Therapy, ideally, is a safe space where dropping boundaries and presenting the most raw and honest version of yourself finds a ready container. It is a place to process and heal, to change what used to be a crippling vulnerability into a formidable storehouse of strength. But there is a lot that happens in the middle of those spaces, and there is no skipping over that difficult, tumultuous part. That middle is what Scorpio is about. Continue reading

Image via Boston Public Library

Go, Cubs, Go!

By Sean McCoy

All of Wrigleyville, from the bars to the bleachers and beyond, was on its feet for Aroldis Chapman’s final three pitches of last night’s game: consecutive 101-m.p.h. heaters to the Indians’ José Ramírez, who managed a foul and a foul tip before striking out, preserving the Cubs’ season and sending the fall classic back to Cleveland. The 3-2 victory brings the series ledger to 3-2, still in the Indians’ favor. Continue reading


Problems, Provocations, Roller Coasters, and Guns

By Alina Cohen

A few days before the Problems and Provocations book launch, Stacy Switzer mused that the promotional materials somewhat misrepresented the nature of the event.  “They’ve been saying panel discussion, but it’s not really a panel discussion,” she told me by phone. “It’s framed as more of a variety show.” Switzer is the former artistic director of Kansas City-based Grand Arts, a contemporary art project space that closed in 2015. Problems and Provocations, which she and collaborator Annie Fischer edited, celebrates the organization’s mission and projects throughout its 20 years of operation in pages both commemorative and absurd. Given the unconventional, expansive nature of Grand Arts’ work and the new book, a simple panel discussion just wouldn’t be fitting. Continue reading


Finding a New Seoul in the Old Buildings of Kim Swoo-geun, Architect of Modern Korea

By Colin Marshall

Like many a Westerner with an interest in Korea (and without any stake in the relevant historical conflicts), I’ve also cultivated a parallel interest in Japan, and I find few things Japanese as interesting as I find Japanese architecture. Who, I began to wonder as I learned more about the architecture of Japan and the culture of Korea, stands as the Korean equal of a Kenzo Tange, a Kisho Kurokawa, or a Tadao Ando, with their deep concerns not just for the aesthetics but the shape of society to come? I didn’t have an answer until, on a walk through central Seoul with scholar of the both the Korean language and built environment Robert Fouser (whom I more recently interviewed here on the Korea Blog), I first visited Seun Sangga, South Korea’s first large-scale residential-commercial complex. Continue reading