Dog Star / A Creative Arts Guide






Image above: Vik Muniz

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère after Édouard Manet, from the Pictures of Magazines 2 series, 2012.

Out of the refuse of modern life—torn scraps of outdated magazines, destined for obscurity—Muniz has assembled an ode to one of the first paintings of modern life. Édouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, painted in 1882, explores the treachery of nineteenth-century Parisian nightlife through the depiction of a bartender attending to a male patron reflected in the mirror behind her. Muniz plays on Manet’s style, replacing Manet’s visible brushstrokes with the frayed edges of torn paper and lending the work immense visual interest.

“Thank you for DogStarNYC, in general. The site speaks to so many kinds of interests; it discerns which qualities will appeal to many different tastes in a tremendous number of activities. I love how it encourages young people to pay attention to the unusual.

In New York we let so many teens walk around the periphery, mildly shell-shocked by life, while the information that they need to make sense of their world sits in the center of the room. DogStarNYC welcomes them into the middle of the room; the blog tells them how to walk there. ” - Stacy L.


DOG STAR is the creation of a high school English teacher in New York City. This blog began in 2008 as an online community for a journalism class and has since evolved into a curated site on the creative arts, arts-related news and a guide to free and low-cost events for teens. Our mission is to offer teens real-life options for enjoying all the creative arts in New York City. May wisdom guide you and hope sustain you. The more you like art, the more art you like!

IMPORTANT NOTICE OF NON COMMERCIAL & EDUCATIONAL CONTENT Unless otherwise stated, we do not own copyrights to any of the visual or audio content that might be included on this blog. Dog Star is for criticism, commentary, reporting and educational purposes under the FAIR USE ACT: Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. If you own the copyright to any images and object to them being included in this blog, please advise and the content will be removed. No attempt is made for material gain from this blog's content.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hindu Holiday HOLI Celebrated in Queens!

Dog Star re-posts this from Gothamist:

Yesterday marked the colorful, joyous and somewhat messy Hindu celebration Phagwah (also known as Holi). And there's a damn good reason why it's known as a 'festival of colors,' as you can see in the gorgeous portraits of many of the revelers in Richmond Hill, Queens. Check out the photos taken by Tom Giebel above, then look at more portraits here.
The celebration occurs every Spring on the Sunday after the first full moon of the Hindu calendar—kids and families are encouraged to 'color' one another with dye (abrac) and powder to signify the end of winter. You can check out a few videos from yesterday's festivities below.

A Selection of Editorial Cartoons by Walt Handelsman

Open Now! Go See "Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced" at the Museum of the City of NY - Bring your friends!

Dog Star says fans of fashion will be excited about this new exhibition - a closing date has not been announced but it is likely to be open through the Summer.  Be sure to check the museum's website to confirm it's still open before you go!

How to get to the Museum of the City of NY:
1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street
The Museum is open seven days a week: 10:00 am–6:00 pm.
#6 Lexington Avenue train to 103rd Street, walk three blocks west, or #2 or #3 train to Central Park North/110th Street, walk one block east to Fifth Avenue, then south to 103rd Street.
Suggested Admission Adults: $10 Seniors, students: $6 Families: $20 (max. 2 adults) Children 12 and under: free
"Suggested" means "the museum suggests this amount" and Dog Star suggests you pay just $1 per person in your group - really, it's okay!

When an energetic young designer named Stephen Burrows entered New York’s volatile fashion scene in the late 1960s, neither he nor the design community could have predicted his meteoric rise as one of America’s most celebrated creative forces. 

The first African-American designer to attain international stature, Burrows helped define the look of the disco club scene, ushering in a new, liberated version of American fashion. 

Opened at the Museum of the City of New York on March 22, Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced is the first exhibition to focus on Burrows as an American design force, featuring original sketches, photographs, video, and over 50 garments, ranging from his first fashion collection to slip dresses that twirled on the floor of Studio 54. 

The exhibition focuses on a pivotal period in the designer’s career—the years between 1968 and 1983—when Burrows’s style epitomized the glamour of New York’s nighttime social scene. 

Known for his signature “lettuce” edge, red zig-zag stitching, his use of fringe and metallic fabrics, bold color blocking, and slinky, body-defining silhouettes, Burrows created danceable designs that were firmly rooted in the glamorous, over-the-top nightlife of the era. 

Among his celebrity clients were such style icons as Lauren Bacall, Cher, Farrah Fawcett, Jerry Hall, Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross, Ethel Scull, and Barbra Streisand. 

Burrows’s career was distinguished by a succession of “firsts” – he was the first American designer given a free standing boutique called Stephen Burrows’ World at the trendy retailer Henri Bendel; he was among the five American designers (with Halston, Anne Klein, Bill Blass, and Oscar de la Renta) invited to show in Paris in 1973 at the legendary “Battle of Versailles,” which for the first time pitted American designers against the French; he was included among the “Best Six” International Designers in Tokyo in 1977; and he became, in 1973, the first African-American recipient of the prestigious Coty Award (his first of three). 

Stephen Burrows’s designs reflected a fresh fashion sensibility that helped to solidify America’s identity as a pioneering force rather than a follower of Europe’s fashion lead. 

Above:  Models in Stephen Burrows, 1973. Photograph by Charles Tracy

The Museum’s exhibition connects these milestones with Burrows’s influential mark on fashion in the 1970s and beyond, and examines his work within the context of the changing New York of the era. 

Exhibition highlights of Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced: 

• Early patchwork, fringe, and leather designs from the Stephen Burrows collection at “O” Boutique. These garments are on display for the first time and remain in remarkably pristine condition. 

• Two designs worn on the runway at the Palace of Versailles in 1973. Both dresses feature the bold color blocking and form-fitting silhouettes that became a sensation as the models swayed and danced down the runway. 

• Burrows’s masterful sketches illustrating the movement and freedom of his clothing. Including his original design concept for the gown modeled by Norma Jean Darden on the runway in Versailles. 

• A 1972 chrome-yellow wrap dress, one of Burrows’s first examples of “lettuce” edging—the lightweight finishing technique that became his design signature lending a lighthearted effect to his clothing. 

• A chromatically colored jersey jumpsuit worn by Cher in a 1970 photo shoot at Henri Bendel.

• One of Burrows’s three Coty American Fashion Critics’ Awards 

Above:  Pat Cleveland in Burrows, 1972. Photograph by Charles Tracy

Stephen Burrows, a New Jersey native, entered the New York fashion scene in 1966 as it was in the midst of a transformation.

At the beginning of the decade, the city’s fashion industry still largely followed the directional edicts issued by the French haute couture and the American design hierarchy, but over the course of the 1960s, the emerging counterculture broke all of high fashion’s rules, embracing handcrafting, hand-dyeing, surface embellishment, and explosive color combinations.

As a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology and as a young designer, Stephen Burrows embraced the sensuality and free-spiritedness of the time, creating colorful garments that playfully wrapped the body, accentuating the movements of the wearers – many of whom were his circle of friends caught up in the freewheeling club scene of the East Village and Fire Island in the late 1960s. 

What began downtown as a visionary, small-scale design enterprise building a cult following at “O” Boutique (across from the legendary Max’s Kansas City) rapidly leaped into full-blown commercial production as Burrows’s clothing caught the attention of a broader fashion public. 

In 1970, Geraldine Stutz, the president of Henri Bendel on West 57th Street (who was on the lookout for hip new designers to invigorate uptown fashion), made Stephen Burrows Bendel’s designer-in-residence, providing him with his own atelier in the store. 

There, his debut collections featured vivid jersey color blocks and tightly fitted, studded leathers that directly reflected his East Village sensibility. Although he proceeded to simplify his approach to feature linear, monochromatic design, more explicitly sensual women’s wear, and lighter fabrics (notably chiffon-weight, matte Jasco jersey embellished with his signature lettuce edge), his work always maintained the spirit that had characterized it from the beginning. 

From creating eclectic looks for his friends in the 1960s—unisex, anysex clothing of leather and suede, studs and fringe patched and whip-stitched into pants and vests—to his full-length, slimming jersey works on the floor of Studio 54, Burrows’s distinctive style has steadfastly followed his overriding design philosophy: that “clothes be colorful, alive, fresh, sexy, feminine, and most of all, fun to wear. They must move as the body moves, be danceable, comfortable and have a great fit, and they should give the feeling of an engineered sensuality." 

Even when forms took new directions, the colors, freedom and danceability of the 1960s never left Stephen Burrows’s work. 

He is alive and well and still in the fashion business - 45 years strong!

This video will CHANGE your life (or your attitude)

Dog Star knows this video is worth seeing.  Devoted Dog Star readers know that we strongly urge everyone to seek out a rich life filled with what makes you happy.  Leave behind other people's expectations.  Leave behind toxic relationships.  Think about what will truly make you happy in life and be creative about how to pursue these dreams.  We first saw this video passed around on Facebook.  By the time we saw it nearly 500,000 people had shared it.  We also read many of the comments below the post we saw - there were about 500.  While most were positive there were a few that really stand out for taking the opposite view, like this one:

"I've seen this on facebook a lot lately, but let me just say this Mr. Alan Watts. You can want, desire, even need this "something" in your life; you might even be convinced, or know for a fact that the attainment of this "something" is crucial to your life purpose or the fulfillment of your individual vocation. However, there is a very good chance that you will be denied, endlessly, any access to that very necessary thing, always and in everything you do. You might try to will it, with every fiber of you being. You might try to delude yourself with notions of detachment or an enlightened patience. You just won't get it, never ever, that's just the way it is. Hope might make waiting out the time a more bearable practice and aid in the endurance of your suffering. The truth is, this video won't change your life, and you can't either, this is just the way it is."

It is true there will be roadblocks in life.  The Facebook commenter who wrote those words may have experienced serious setbacks, hate or failure.   Those things are NOT a confirmation that the pursuit of your dreams is pointless.  They confirm that pursuit of your dreams WILL be difficult.  We all have just ONE life to live and it is precious - live boldly, imaginatively and follow your dreams!

Words to Live By

FREE! New City Park Honors F.D.R. & His Famous Speech "Four Freedoms"

Dog Star admires F.D.R. and knows he is an important man during the Great Depression and at the start of World War II.  He is also the former governor of New York State.  His family's estate north of New York City - Hyde Park - is open to the public and a great way to spend a Summer or Autumn Saturday with your family.  Of course, F.D.R.'s wife - Eleanor Roosevelt - is also an important figure and she had a huge role in drafting the Universal Human Rights delivered at the United Nations.

It's been 40 years since New York has been planning a memorial park for 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the east end of Roosevelt island. Originally designed by Louis Kahn in 1974, New York's almost bankrupt economy put the project on hold until the release of the documentary "My Architect" when enough support was fostered to fund the completion of the project carried out by local firm Mitchell Giurgola Architects.  

The triangular site of the 'FDR Four Freedoms Park' funnels visitors along a white granite plinth lined in linden trees to an open-air courtyard, at the entrance to which is thick block with a 28-inch bronze bust of FDR's head, sculpted by Jo Davidson, facing the united nations headquarters only 300 meters away. On the backside, the four freedoms speech is engraved as a symbol of the president's legacy to the building blocks of contemporary democratic principles. The project is planned to expand in the future, transforming a 19th-century small pox hospital to an auxiliary visitor center. The park is now open to the public.

Read more about F.D.R. here.

Go here for directions to the Four Freedoms Park!

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is an enduring tribute to the life and work of President Roosevelt. In the late 1960s, during a period of national urban renewal, New York City Mayor John Lindsay proposed to reinvent Roosevelt Island (then called Welfare Island) into a vibrant, residential community. The New York Times championed renaming the island for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and constructing a memorial to him, remarking: "It has long seemed to us that an ideal place for a memorial to FDR would be on Welfare Island, which...could be easily renamed in his honor... It would face the sea he loved, the Atlantic he bridged, the Europe he helped to save, the United Nations he inspired."

FDR's Famous Speech on The Four Freedoms On January 6, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered a speech that shaped this nation, now known as the Four Freedoms speech. He looked forward to a world founded on four human freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.  Today, by building Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, we have the opportunity to honor this man and these essential freedoms.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Drake Parody (Started from the Bottom)

Discover Photographer LATOYA RUBY FRAZIER at the Brooklyn Museum - Bring your friends!

Above: “Fifth Street Tavern and UPMC Braddock Hospital on Braddock Avenue” (2011).

Dog Star is deeply moved emotionally by the pain and nostalgia of this very special photography exhibition by LaToya Ruby Frazier, on view now until August 11 at the Brooklyn Museum.  It's called LaToya Ruby Frazier: A Haunted Capital.

Her work explores corporate co-optation of a community (see bottom video about Levi's using her hometown for an ad campaign, healthcare in America, family bonds, environmental racism, racist stereotypes, the African American experience in America and images of women in the media.

"The mind is the battleground for photography...Our mind sees in images - we imagine ourselves to look a certain way, we imagine ourselves in a certain place...," explains Ms. Frazier in the first video below.

Oddly, though, the photographs are not depressing - even when they show empty rooms where loved ones once lived, or demolished towns - but filled with a loving appreciation for what makes a hometown.  But they will make you angry and they will challenge you to accept some very difficult truths about this country.

My mother had the idea to shoot a portrait of me wearing this T-shirt printed with a Huxtable family portrait. As a child I watched The Cosby Show in order to escape the reality of my dismantled working-class family. My mother set up the camera in the bedroom doorway, facing a mirror reflecting part of her image. Both the mirror and the T-shirt are scratched, dusty, and fading in the light. In the text that I perform live, for this particular photograph I wrote, "Between my background and my foreground, I am not sure where I stand."
—LaToya Ruby Frazier

Devoted readers who are working on a self-education in photography and those who simply want to be challenged and engaged by creative work will run to this exhibition.  

Take your time - there's so much to see and so many ways to connect the dots.  You will likely find your own heart and mind wandering to re-think the ways you think of family, homes and the bonds between both.

Be sure to scroll all the way down to the bottom of this post to see TWO VIDEOS about Ms. Frazier's photography and video projects as a "documentary radical."  

We strongly urge you to watch the videos and read the NY Times review - all of them below - before you go to give you background information that will enrich your visit to the exhibition.
In the top video Frazier reveals the story behind a series of videos and photographs of her family in Braddock, Pennsylvania. Video courtesy of Art21, from their “New York Close Up” series.

In the bottom Frazier discusses the economic and environmental decline of her hometown, Braddock, Pennsylvania—the city that clothing company Levi's used as the inspiration and backdrop for a major 2010 advertising campaign. Video courtesy of Art21, from their “New York Close Up” series.

Getting to the Brooklyn Museum:
Trains: 2/3 to Eastern parkway - the museum is literally right upstairs - you cannot miss it. 
Wednesday: 11 am–6 pm.
Thursday: 11 am–10 pm

Friday–Sunday: 11 am–6 pm
Admission is by Suggested Contribution which means the museum "suggests" an amount of $8 for students but it is okay to pay just $1 - Seriously!  It's okay!

From the museum's website:

LaToya Ruby Frazier: A Haunted Capital uses social documentary and portraiture to create a personal visual history of an industrial town’s decline. Through approximately 40 photographic works of her family and their hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania, Frazier offers an intimate exploration of the effects of deindustrialization on the lives of individuals and communities. Home to one of America’s first steel mills, Braddock now has a population below 2,500 and has been declared a “distressed municipality.”

Frazier began to explore Braddock’s history in her series Notion of Family, four examples of which are on view in this exhibition. That project uses the bodies of the artist, her mother, and her grandmother to both reveal complex intergenerational relationships and to serve as a metaphor for their town’s decay. Frazier’s portrayal of this American landscape is in stark contrast to images from a recent corporate ad campaign set in Braddock, which she felt not only erased the troubled realities of her endangered town but also excluded the community to which her family belongs.

Here is the review in The New York Times - read it and it will make you want to see the exhibition!

The Flesh and the Asphalt, Both Weak 


Braddock, Pa., is about nine miles southeast of Pittsburgh, hugging the eastern bank of the Monongahela River. But in the photographs of LaToya Ruby Frazier, who grew up in this steel town, its coordinates are not so precise. Braddock is in the bodies of Ms. Frazier’s elder family members, who used to work at the local mills; it’s in the empty foundation of the hospital that used to serve them, before it was closed and demolished. It’s there in every picture Ms. Frazier has taken, and it’s here in her outstanding first New York solo show. 

The exhibition, “LaToya Ruby Frazier: A Haunted Capital” at the Brooklyn Museum, follows her standout appearances in the 2012 Whitney Biennial and in the New Museum’s “Younger Than Jesus” triennial of 2009. It offers further proof of her gifts and a deeper look at her series “The Notion of Family,” initiated in 2002. 

This preternaturally mature body of work (Ms. Frazier is just 31) connects bedrooms and streetscapes, the suffering of loved ones and the afflictions of a “distressed municipality” (the state’s official term for Braddock and other ailing Rust Belt towns). Simultaneously introspective and extroverted, it’s composed of arresting black-and-white photographs that sometimes look like studio portraits or social documentaries but aren’t fully at home in either category. 

Take “Huxtables, Mom and Me,” in which Ms. Frazier stares at the camera and her mother, reflected in a full-length mirror. She is wearing a faded T-shirt emblazoned with the cast and logo of “The Cosby Show,” a program she recalls having watched “to escape the reality of my dismantled working-class family.” You don’t even need to read that statement, in the wall label, to grasp that this is an image of regression to childhood that’s laced with a very adult sense of disillusionment. 

Another photograph shows an elderly woman standing next to a lamppost outside the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Braddock. It seems to belong to the genre of street photography — the woman does not make eye contact, and the camera catches a man striding through the intersection — but the main subject is identified as “Grandma Ruby,” and we have already seen her as the frail odalisque of “Grandma Ruby on Her Bed.” A few pictures later we will see her lying in her coffin, attended by her daughter and granddaughter and some dolls from her collection.


The Rap Quotes Project

Dog Star re-posts from Gothamist:

Previously, street artist Jay Shells has taken on etiquette of all kinds, from human behavior to animal behavior to subway behavior. But now he's back with something totally different, albeit still in his signature sign form: Rap Quotes. The idea is simple, and the result is sort of amazing: he has taken rap lyrics that mention specific locations around New York City, created signs with those lyrics, and has installed them at their appropriate locations. Animal has video of the installation process of the signs, which feature lyrics from Kanye, Jay-Z, GZA, Mos Def, Nas, and more.

Click through for a preview, and you can follow along on The Rap Quotes Twitter feed.

ONE MONTH LEFT! Blues for Smoke at the Whitney Museum - Bring your friends!

ABOVE:  Martin Wong - La Vida - 1988

Dog Star knows this is going to be an incredible opportunity to explore the idea of the "blues" in all kinds of ways.  This exhibition is a special chance for devoted readers to explore how music, dance, video and the visual arts might be connected through “blues aesthetics.”  This means that the ways we define and describe "the blues" show up in places - and in art work - that is unexpected and surprising.  The exhibition brings together both the expected and unusual to show how "the blues" has filtered into all kinds of ways in American life and culture.  The exhibition asks:  Where can we find the "blues" in contemporary art?

The Whitney Museum is EASY TO REACH and ALWAYS FREE FOR H.S. STUDENTS WITH SCHOOL I.D. Located at 75th Street on Madison Avenue - take the #6 to 77th Street & Lexington Avenue and walk west to Madison Avenue then south to 75th Street.  Closed Mondays and Tuesdays and open until 9pm on Fridays - great for date nights (and it's FREE!)  ON VIEW February 6 through April 28, 2013.

The Whitney Museum is proud to present "Blues for Smoke," a major interdisciplinary exhibition exploring a wide range of contemporary art, music, literature, and film through the lens of the blues and “blues aesthetics.” Turning to the blues not simply as a musical category, but as a web of artistic sensibilities and cultural idioms, the exhibition features works by more than 50 artists from the 1950s to the present, including many commissioned specifically for this occasion and others never before shown in New York, as well as a range of musical, filmic, and cultural materials. 

ABOVE:  Jean-Michel Basquiat - Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta - 1983

Throughout the past century, writers and thinkers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Albert Murray, Amiri Baraka, and Cornel West have asserted the fundamental importance of the blues not just to American music (in its course from the blues proper through jazz, R&B, rock, and hip-hop), but to developments in literature, film, and visual art. 

In all its diversity, the blues has been called one of the greatest cultural inventions to emerge from American modernism. Along with jazz, its close relation, it has even been called America's classical music. In some sense, everyone gets the blues.

But what could the blues mean for contemporary art?

What ideas, forms, and feelings could it direct us to?

How is the blues more than music?

Where might it be found today?

And why would we look for it?  

ABOVE:  Bob Thompson - Garden of Music - 1960

Ambitious, cross-cultural, and sensitive to history’s influence on the present, "Blues for Smoke" positions the blues as an imaginative terrain perfectly suited to questions of identity and expression in this Age of Obama. Though our moment is often called “post-identity” or “post-black,” this exhibition argues for the vitality and innovation at the core of the blues tradition, and for the forms and aesthetics of African-American culture more generally, as major catalysts of experiment within modern and contemporary art.

ABOVE:  Glenn Ligon - No Room (Gold) #42 - 2007
Presenting an uncommon heterogeneity of subject matter, art historical contexts, formal and conceptual inclinations, genres and disciplines, "Blues for Smoke" holds artists and art worlds together that are often kept apart, within and across lines of race, generation, and canon. The exhibition resists telling a single story based on the assumed self-evidence of a category or culture, but maintains the urgency for a multiple-meter of ostensibly divergent narratives. “Though it takes up ideas from the past, this exhibition is pitched at the present moment,” says Curator Bennett Simpson. “The questions and topics the blues makes us think about, from ambivalent feelings to form as cultural expression, are fundamental to recent art. As I see it, the blues is about anticipation.” 

Bringing together works and contexts in the contemporary period that contribute to the ongoing definition of a blues aesthetic, the exhibition is organized around a group of thematic topics resonant in the blues: articulations of domestic life; modes of abstraction and repetition; self-performance and extravagant subjectivity; ecstatic and cathartic expression; an impulse towards archives and reference; and metaphors of hauntedness and memory

ABOVE:  Mark Morrisroe - Light and Shadow - 1986

Certain works in the exhibition—for instance, Romare Bearden’s collaged narratives of everyday life, Roy DeCarava’s atmospheric photographs of music halls, or expressionistic depictions of music legends in paintings by Bob Thompson, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Jutta Koether—fall within familiar blues territory.

Others communicate aspects of the blues without naming them as such: the “discrepant abstraction” of paintings and sculptures by Jack Whitten, Alma Thomas, and Melvin Edwards; the performance of resistant, extravagant subjectivity in works by David Hammons, Jimmie Durham, and Rodney McMillian; or an emphasis on archives, cross-cultural interpretation, and memory, for instance, in Glenn Ligon’s “Richard Pryor” paintings, Reneé Green’s installation Import-Export Funk Office (1992–93), or Stan Douglas’s video installation Hors-champs (1992).

Works by Zoe Leonard, Mark Morrisroe, Carrie Mae Weems, and Lorraine O’Grady, among others, suggest intersections of sexual politics that have always marked the intimacy of the Blues as simultaneously personal and social.

ABOVE:  Kerry James Marshall - Blue Water Silver Moon (Mermaid) - 1991

ARTISTS: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Romare Bearden, Gregg Bordowitz, Mark Bradford, Kamau Brathwaite, Ed Clark, Roy DeCarava, Beauford Delaney, Jeff Donaldson, Stan Douglas, Jimmie Durham, Melvin Edwards, William Eggleston, Charles Gaines, Renée Green, David Hammons, Kira Lynn Harris, Rachel Harrison, Barkley L. Hendricks, Leslie Hewitt, Martin Kippenberger, Jutta Koether, Liz Larner, Zoe Leonard, Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Barbara McCollough, Dave McKenzie, Rodney McMillian, Mark Morrisroe, Matt Mullican, Senga Nengudi, Kori Newkirk, Lorraine O’Grady, John Outterbridge, Adrian Piper, William Pope.L, Jeff Preiss, Amy Sillman, Lorna Simpson, Henry Taylor, Alma Thomas, Bob Thompson, Wu Tsang, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, William T. Williams, Martin Wong

Words to Live By

The Psychology of Tetris

This article is from here.

How the secret to the popular game’s success is that it takes advantage of the mind’s basic pleasure in tidying up and uses it against us.

Shapes fall from the sky, all you have to do is to control how they fall and fit within each other. A simple premise, but add an annoyingly addictive electronica soundtrack (based on a Russian folk tune called Korobeiniki, apparently) and you have a revolution in entertainment.

Since Tetris was launched on the world in 1986, millions of hours have been lost through playing this simple game. Since then, we’ve seen games consoles grow in power, and with it the appearance of everything from Call of Duty to World of Warcraft. Yet block and puzzle games like Tetris still have a special place in our hearts. Why are they are so compelling?

The writer Jeffrey Goldsmith was so obsessed with Tetris that he wrote a famous article asking if the game’s creator Alexey Pajitnov had invented “a pharmatronic?” – a video game with the potency of an addictive drug. Some people say that after playing the game for hours they see falling blocks in their dreams or buildings move together in the street – a phenomenon known as the Tetris Effect. Such is its mental pull, there’s even been the suggestion that the game might be able to prevent flashbacks in people with PTSD.

I had my own Tetris phase, when I was a teenager, and spent more hours than I should have trying to align the falling blocks in rows. Recently, I started thinking about why games like Tetris are so compelling. My conclusion? It’s to do with a deep-seated psychological drive to tidy up.

Many human games are basically ritualised tidying up. Snooker, or pool if you are non-British, is a good example. The first person makes a mess (the break) and then the players take turns in potting the balls into the pockets, in a vary particular order. Tetris adds a computer-powered engine to this basic scenario – not only must the player tidy up, but the computer keeps throwing extra blocks from the sky to add to the mess. It looks like a perfect example of a pointless exercise – a game that doesn’t teach us anything useful, has no wider social or physical purpose, but which weirdly keeps us interested.

There’s a textbook psychological phenomenon called the Zeigarnik Effect, named after Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik. In the 1930s, Zeigarnik was in a busy cafe and heard that the waiters had fantastic memories for orders – but only up until the orders had been delivered. They could remember the requests of a party of 12, but once the food and drink had hit the table they forgot about it instantly, and were unable to recall what had been so solid moments before. Zeigarnik gave her name to the whole class of problems where incomplete tasks stick in memory.

The Zeigarnik Effect is also part of the reason why quiz shows are so compelling. You might not care about the year the British Broadcasting Corporation was founded or the percentage of the world’s countries that have at least one McDonald’s restaurant, but once someone has asked the question it becomes strangely irritating not to know the answer (1927 and 61%, by the way). The questions stick in the mind, unfinished until it is completed by the answer.

Game theory
Tetris holds our attention by continually creating unfinished tasks. Each action in the game allows us to solve part of the puzzle, filling up a row or rows completely so that they disappear, but is also just as likely to create new, unfinished work. A chain of these partial-solutions and newly triggered unsolved tasks can easily stretch to hours, each moment full of the same kind of satisfaction as scratching an itch.

The other reason why Tetris works so well is that each unfinished task only appears at the same time as its potential solution – those blocks continuously fall from the sky, each one a problem and a potential solution. Tetris is a simple visual world, and solutions can immediately be tried out using the five control keys (move left, move right, rotate left, rotate right and drop – of course).

Studies of Tetris players show that people prefer to rotate the blocks to see if they’ll fit, rather than think about if they’ll fit. Either method would work, of course, but Tetris creates a world where action is quicker than thought – and this is part of the key to why it is so absorbing. Unlike so much of life, Tetris makes an immediate connection between our insight into how we might solve a problem and the means to begin acting on it.

The Zeigarnik Effect describes a phenomenon, but it doesn’t really give any reason for why it happens. This is a common trick of psychologists, to pretend they solved a riddle of the human mind by giving it a name, when all they’ve done is invented an agreed upon name for the mystery rather than solved it. A plausible explanation for the existence of the Effect is that the mind is designed to reorganise around the pursuit of goals. If those goals are met, then the mind turns to something else.

Trivia takes advantage of this goal orientation by frustrating us until it is satisfied. Tetris goes one step further, and creates a continual chain of frustration and satisfaction of goals. Like a clever parasite, Tetris takes advantage of the mind’s basic pleasure in getting things done and uses it against us. We can go along with this, enjoying the short-term thrills in tidying up those blocks, even while a wiser, more reflective, part of us knows that the game is basically purposeless. But then all good games are, right?

Friday, March 29, 2013

FREE! Brooklyn Zine Fest

Dog Star saw this on Gothamist:

Do you remember zines? Those self-published print relics of decades past in which youths expressed their hearts, minds, political rants and opinions of obscure cinema? Though some writers had thought that the internet has extinguished the tradition, zines are alive and well in some communities—including Brooklyn! (No surprise.) The Brooklyn Zine Fest brings together over 80 writers, artists, and music buffs making zines in the New York area at Public Assembly.

Sunday, April 21st, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. // Public Assembly // Free

FREE! Shakespeare as an Actor or in the Audience!

Dog Star saw this on Gothamist:

Your thespian dreams can finally be realized April 16th-20th, when the Company's Marathon stages its annual non-stop reading of the entire Shakespeare canon

The marathon, held at the 4th Street Theater, will run through all 101,919 lines from the Bard's 37 plays, and you are invited to participate: Anyone can sign up to read a role here on their website. 

Everyone knows playing Hamlet in the evening is more desirable than reading Tybalt at 2 a.m., so if you want to read a certain part, try to reserve it early. 

Free audience tickets are available too, in case you don't have that deep-seated desire to prove mom and dad that you were meant to be an ac-tor all along.

Begins Tuesday, April 16th at 8 p.m. and ends Saturday, April 20th at 10 a.m. // 4th Street Theatre // Free, but reservations required

FREE! NEXT WEEKEND! East Village Theaters Giving Away Old Costumes, Sets For Free

Dog Star saw this on Gothamist:

The bi-annual Load Out! began in 2010 as a way for Fourth Street theaters to recycle the detritus of their productions without heading to the landfill. Furniture, clothing and set pieces from the shows will all be up for grabs. The public is invited to both donate and peruse items at the event, which will happen in the vacant lot at 19 East 3rd Street between Bowery and Second Avenue from 12 to 3 p.m.

"A lot of our members, which are primarily theaters and cultural groups, were loading out sets and props after their seasons into dumpsters — which means they would go straight to landfill," Hannah Krafcik, Fourth Arts Block's Marketing and Development Associate told us. "Since the program began," she said, "more than 43 tons have been diverted from the waste stream.

Entry is free for artists and art students, and $5 for everyone else (so put on your paint-splattered shoes and looks of angst before you get to the door). Still, $5 is a small price to pay for getting to haul away as much sweet theater refuse as you can, all free of charge.

Last year, shoppers picked up everything from a t-shirt gun to Wonder Woman cake tins to vintage bikes, furniture and housewares. There's no telling what will turn up at next week's event, but recent Fourth Street productions include LaMama's "Fever" and Metropolitan Playhouse's "The Detour" — so maybe expect some oversized thermometers and vintage street signs?

If you want to donate to the open collections, Fourth Arts Block has a list of desired items on their website. And if you'd like to donate furniture to the cause, they'll even come pick it up for you if you email It's not often you can get something for free in this city without waiting in insane lines at the behest of a corporation or possibly getting Craigslist-murdered, so make sure to get there early and happy rummaging!


Dog Star is excited about this exhibition because we have seen a few flamenco performances both here in NYC and once in Madrid, Spain.  Devoted readers interested in world cultures, Spanish culture, dance and music will run to this FREE exhibition at the NY Public Library's Performing Arts branch at Lincoln Center.  Go here for the exhibition website with links to other resources.

Directions to this NYPL Library branch:
Take subway #1 to Broadway & 66th Street - walk south along Boradway to the main plaza of Lincoln Center.  Enter the Lincoln Center Plaza from Broadway with the fountain straight ahead of you.  Immediately in the background (straight ahead of you) is the Met opera building.  Walk to the RIGHT and then continue walking further back along the wall (on your left) of the Met Opera to the NYPL Library branch.

New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY 10023-7498

Open Monday through Saturday from 12-6pm, Thurs. 12-8pm, Closed on Sundays

Exhibition is on view now until August 3, 2013.

Go here to read a fantastic review in the NY Times - it will make you want to go see the exhibition!

From the NYPL Website:

Spanish and Gypsy Flamenco dance and music, while imports from Spain, evolved as modern art forms in front of a New York City public, who flocked to theaters from the early 19th century to the early 21st century.  

Flamenco, in particular, has played a vital role in shaping culture in New York City for over 100 years. As early as 1830, Spanish dancers included New York on their tour routes from Europe to North and South America.

A century later, Spanish dance, now called “Flamenco,” emerged as a modernist language in the 1910s – 1930s, making international stars of La Argentina, La Argentinita and her sister Pilar Lopez, La Meri, and Carmen Amaya.

They moved from vaudeville houses to concert halls, inspiring audiences and both ballet companies and modern dancers.   The male stars, Vicente Escudero, José Greco, Antonio Gades, Roberto Ximenez, and Mario Maya joined them to set masculine standards of Flamenco performance and training in New York, as political events in Spain brought many dancers and teachers to settle here.  

By the 1940s and 1950s, Flamenco was presented by Sol Hurok and Columbia Artists Management on their rosters of international known classical musicians and dancers. More recently, it is linked with the widespread popularity of world music.

Artists, most notably Greco and Gades, were featured in Hollywood and international film.

Today, resident and touring troupes have made Flamenco into one of the most popular and influential performance forms in New York.
Among the artifacts on display will be:
  • Costume pieces and performance regalia, such as La Argentina’s lace mantilla and mirror and male flamenco costumes of Mariano Parra, as well as contemporary costumes from Flamenco Vivo
  • Engravings of Spanish and Gypsy dance performance and venues from Spain and NYC, from 1840 - , and photographs up to the present
  • Souvenir brochures and original texts for publicity for tours and NYC performances by La Argentinita, Pilar Lopez, and José Greco
  • Castanets, castanet instructions and castanet recordings (of La Argentina)
  • Film and video, beginning with Edison’s 1-minute film of “Carmencita” (1894), performances and demonstration films by Matteo, Escudero and La Argentina (1940 – 1960s), and moving into the present-day documentation by the Dance Division

Urban Word Poetry Slam 2013 PSA

FREE! Go See STREET by James Nares @ the Met Museum

"My intention was to give the dreamlike impression of floating through a city full of people frozen in time, caught Pompeii-like, at a particular moment of thought, expression, or activity…a film to be viewed 100 years from now."

 —James Nares  

Dog Star saw this last weekend at the Metropolitan Museum. DO NOT MISS THIS!  The Met is ALWAYS FREE FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS - Show your school I.D. at the admissions / cashier desk.

The description and link on the Met's website DO NOT EVEN CONVEY at all he full experience of seeing the video in person. Below there is a clip of the video on the Met's website. If you are curious I have to warn you - the actual video is WAY BETTER because the screen is giant at the Met and it's dark with benches and speakers for the soundtrack - please do go.

You will be rewarded by being patient and watching the video a few times - or stepping in and out of the video gallery and coming back later.  We did both - we sat and watched the whole hour and later returned to notice other details.

Street, a new video by the British-born artist James Nares, forms the centerpiece of this exhibition. Over the course of a week in September 2011, Nares—a New Yorker since 1974—recorded sixteen hours of footage of people on the streets of Manhattan from a moving car using a high-definition camera usually used to record fast-moving subjects such as speeding bullets and hummingbirds. 

He then greatly slowed his source material, editing down the results to one hour of steady, continuous motion and scoring it with music for twelve-string guitar composed and performed by his friend Thurston Moore, co-founder of Sonic Youth. 

Accompanying Street in its New York premiere are two galleries of objects from the Museum's permanent collection, chosen by Nares to provide different points of entry into aspects of his work.  These include objects, sculptures, photographs by others and drawings.  Be sure to look for the tiny "elf" sculpture (about 5 inches high) from ancient Iran!

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Teen Values Education Over Convenience

Dog Star re-posts from NBC News:

Think you have a lousy commute? Don't complain to Santiago Munoz.

The New York City 14-year-old spent five hours a day on subways and buses to get to his elite high school, earning him recognition in a United Nations exhibition about the world's longest school commutes.

His days of waking up at 5 a.m. are over, though. Last week, the freshman moved to a new public-housing complex that's closer to the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, and now it only takes him an hour and 10 minutes to get to class.

"I used to take two buses and two trains," Munoz said Tuesday. "It was two and a half hours each way."

He said "some people thought I was crazy" to make the long journey from the Far Rockaway section of Queens to the Bronx when he could have gone to a high school closer to home, but he put education over convenience.


Discover STREB Teen Action Club

Teen Action Club is Back! 

SLAM is hosting a teen social networking event the 1st Saturday of every month Feb-June from 7:00-10:00PM. 

Learn extreme action moves, fly on the trapeze, jump on the trampoline, meet new people and hang with your friends! 

Who: Teenagers ages 13-18 
What: Extreme action! Trapeze, Trampoline, Pop Action, Food and fun! 
Where: 51 North First street Brooklyn NY 
When: First Saturday of Every Month! 7-10pm 
For: Just $15 per teen for the whole evening! 
How: Take the L train to Bedford Ave (1st stop in Brooklyn) then a quick walk to North 1st Street between Kent and Wythe. 

Call 718.384.6491 to purchase or pay at the door.