21 July 2008

MTBE Re-Opens in Brooklyn!

After a month of touring the States to catch up with friends and family, I’ve settled back into Brooklyn for the long haul. The intent of this post is to get you, my long neglected readers, up to speed on where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Week One: Brooklyn limbo

As a sublettor continued to occupy my room, I couldn't unpack. So I spent my days wandering around Brooklyn, visiting the NYPL to read the run of the magazine Pan-Pacific Worker (1928-1932) and generally feeling unsettled. Also managed to visit the Asia Society to see the Ardeshir Mohassess: Art and Satire in Iran exhibit, which I liked, though the interpretive schema offered by the signage was a little lame. I also saw this enchanting little movie The Salamander (1971) that John Berger wrote the script for. Wanted, with Angelina Jolie, was less captivating but I had to witness it for the Russia connection (Timur Bekmambetov).

Week Two: Where's the Fire, Baby?

Then I headed out to California to see my parents, sister, nephews and West Coast friends. But to be honest, the main reason for visiting was because I didn’t get enough of this type of exchange during my year in Moscow:

Buster: “Ma, you look tired, I’ll clear the table.”
Modesto Uncle: “She wouldn’t look so tired if you found a daughter-in-law for her!”

Ah, home.

Then a fire ignited in the hills above my parents’ house and the power went out. I think it got especially freaky when the winds were blowing the smoke directly over our house.

First the smoke looked like this:

Then it went from that Shyamalanesque creeping smoke to an ominous Spielberg-inspired cloud, concealing sunlight and sky alike:

So we high-tailed it to the Bay Area where I caught up with my nephews, my former Moscow roommate and a friend who was turning thirty. I also managed to catch the Fourth of July parade in Piedmont, which may have been my greatest moment of reverse culture shock since my return. Let's try a little compare and contrast to see what a difference a couple of months and a few thousand miles makes.

Victory Day Parade in Moscow 2008 [photo source]

Fourth of July Parade in Piedmont 2008

I also spent some time in LA and for the first time, I visited LACMA. And since I know that you all favor the haiku review, here you go, exhibit by exhibit:

Broad Contemporary Art Center
I made the mistake
of visiting this building
first—almost ruined trip.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia
Japanese tourist
shocked when I explained price tags
on “Hustler” series.

Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement
Quality mixed, but
here—and only here—did teens
stop to engage art.

Tradition as Innovation in African Art
A clever idea,
but one little corner just
wasn’t enough room.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
It is no surprise,
is it? I’m a sucker for

Doctrinal Nourishment: Art and Anarchism in the Time of James Ensor

Whoever curated
this one deserves a medal—
smart art with smart signs.

Week Three: Red Eye to JFK, then a Drive to DC

After arriving in New York at 5.30 AM, I came home, dropped off my luggage and packed a new bag for a trip to DC. While waiting for my ride, I went to BAM to see Up Tight (1968), a fairly brilliant movie directed by the recently departed, one-time blacklisted Jules Dassin. I only wish I wasn't so tired so I could have appreciated it more.

Then Mr. Buster went to Washington.

My main tasks in the nation's capital were to pick up twelve boxes of my books that were in a friend's closet for storage and to orient some scholars heading out to Russia for research next year. I also concocted a pretty good lamb-cashew-papaya-rosemary stir-fry for friends and drank a fair amount of wine and champagne.

And since it's all free, I squeezed in a little culture at the Smithsonian museums. The Cinema Effect at the Hishhorn was just alright. Mainly I went to see Isaac Julien's piece Fantôme Créole, which was interesting, but not moving. The rest of the works were, for lack of a better word, hokey.

Next, I took in the Aaron Douglas exhibit at the American Art Museum and Hip Hop Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, including the work of Kehinde Wiley, whose reception at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow I wrote about last year.

Then it was back to Brooklyn, again.

Week Four: Setting up Shop in Brooklyn

With the sublettor gone and all my books reunited in their Sunset Park home, I got down to unpacking, sorting and shelfing. But first, I needed some furniture. And for that, I made the requisite trip to Brooklyn's new IKEA.

Here’s the view of the Gowanus Canal from a rented U-Haul van stuck in Red Hook morning traffic (who knew?):

While I waited to return the van in the morning, I took a stroll around Red Hook. Those BK hipsters just won't stop:

And now, after a week of unpacking, buying furniture, assembling furniture, flipping through files and re-alphabetizing my book collection, I am back at work in my new shop:

Once again, you can expect MTBE—which is keeping its name for simplicity’s sake—to continue its regular reporting on this and that related to whatever I’m interested in.


Jeff said...

Phew! You've been busy. Glad you're back!

The boy in the middle with his mop sure is purdy! :-)

PS: I sent you an e-mail last week at the address listed in your profile. I'm not sure how often you check that account, but I wanted you to know it was there.


kg said...

It's actually a huge surprise that you're a sucker for Expressionism - Kirchner and Primitivism are pretty much inseparable...
Also, that is one disturbingly organized room. How can one think in a place so tidy?! :)

lena said...

Ahh, Katzner, how I love thee. I have 2 copies (home+library carrel) and recently found another one in a free box on St. Marks!

As for the books, congratulations...for not doing this: http://pwelverumandsun.com/collection

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you back, and to learn the fire didn't reach your family's home.

Did Karl Yoneda write for the Pan Pacific Worker? We knew him and his wife Elaine, a remarkable pair.

BusterPh.D.Candidate said...

Jeff, Got your email but have just been to busy to look at any of the links or write back. Hope to listen to some of those radio streams soon, though. And thanks for bringing them to my attention.

kg, Like Echo and the Bunnymen, to quote a source way before your time, we "do it clean" around here.

Lena, Oh, my Katzner needs some updating. While I was in Moscow I found all kinds of things that the '97 Katzner just didn't address. But still pretty solid, if unhelpful when it comes to the juiciest bits of bad detektivy.

Rootless, I've never run across any articles signed Yoneda/Hama in PPW, nor did I see any contributions in his papers down at UCLA. But then, I don't read Japanese, so if it went into the Japanese-language edition (the magazine came out monthly for much of its run in three languages--English, Chinese and Japanese), I would have missed it. There were a couple of Yoneda letters in the Katayama papers in Moscow. You didn't know him when he was staying with the Jewish chicken farmers in Petaluma did you? In my fantasy world, there's always been a secret connection between him and that Petaluma native Nony Horowitz (AKA Winona Ryder). But, then again, my fantasy world is full of all kinds of ridiculous scenarios and baseless conjectures. All the same, I wish that KY wrote more about those weird post-war years and wondering in *Ganbatte*. For this reason, I've always liked Paul Goodman's *Five Years: Thoughts During a Useless Time* as a chronicle of a radical in time between the Popular Front and the 1960s. Ummm, as usual, I digress.

Anonymous said...

No, when I knew the Yonedas, Karl had already retired from the waterfront and was working on Ganbatte, consulting on the TV version of "Farewell to Manzanar" etc. It would indeed be satisfying to find a Yoneda-Ryder nexus. Meanwhile there's a movie about the Petaluma chicken folks


and I've got a copy.