At Modern Luxury, connection and community define who we are. We use cookies to improve the Modern Luxury experience - to personalize content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyze our traffic. We also may share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. We take your privacy seriously and want you to be aware that we have recently made changes to our Privacy Policy, which can be found here.


Snap Judgements

| November 23, 2011 | Lifestyle Story Culture

It’s almost a whimsical act in this digital age and town for a magazine to invest any new energy and cash it might have in its print version. But under the fresh leadership of editor-in-chief Laura Cogan and managing editor Oscar Villalon, who took over from founder Howard Junker earlier this year, that’s what this 26-year-old literary magazine has done. We shouldn’t be surprised: Although a scant 30 years old, Cogan has an old-timer’s love of print. (She expressed her concern about the Internet’s threat to literary journals even as she digitized Zyzzyva’s archives last spring.) Rather than making Zyzzyva shorter, thinner, and cheaper, which is what most publishers and editors are up to, Villalon and Cogan have added 40 pages and printed it on a more bookish stock, reflecting their desire that readers treat each issue as an object of beauty. They haven’t changed the mandate: publishing the best prose, poetry, and visual art of West Coast artists. But they feature art better—this issue has the magazine’s first full-color spreads ever, portraits by Katy Grannan and paintings by Julio Cesar Morales—and have broadened the mix (and hopefully the audience) by including recognizable writers like David Guterson and Tom Bissell. Cogan’s passion for the genre and Villalon’s relationships with name writers have produced a journal of satisfying weight, both literal and figurative. Lovers of the printed product and word, here’s an $11 opportunity to join an intellectual mutiny that might just succeed. A - STEPHANIE LOSEE


The third album from the überindie duo of singer-songwriter M. Ward and actress-singer Zooey Deschanel would sit quite easily alongside holiday discs from Lena Horne and Mel Tormé. There are no bizarre reworkings or unorthodox deconstructions here—only sweetly sung, carefully arranged, impeccably played standards you’ve heard many times before. It’s not that Ward, who has performed on songs by locals like Carlos Forster, doesn’t offer his usual amount of evocatively strange guitar. But anyone who’s seen Elf, in which she sings “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in the shower, knows that Deschanel prefers to nail a Christmas nugget unadorned; the sparser the better. Her version of “Silver Bells,” sung over strummed ukulele, delivers more shivers than a winter cold snap, and her twangy rendition of “Blue Christmas” turns it into an epic country weeper. And Ward’s ethereal, jazzy playing on “The Christmas Song” adds new emotional depth to the schmaltzy lyrics. After just a few plays, A Very She & Him Christmas already feels like a seasonal classic. A - DAN STRACHOTA

Cull TV: New Music Television
With MTV focused entirely on the dramas of Guidos and Guidettes, the music video seemed a distant memory, a trend that had gone out the window as fast as Beanie Babies. But a revival is afoot: S.F.-based Cull TV streams a literally ceaseless succession of music videos the way Pandora streams music. You either choose a pre-curated channel focused on a specific genre or create your own by searching for a specific song and letting the site choose from there. The genre channels are where the site shines: Imagine a stream of the highest-quality, most aesthetically intriguing videos from, say, Tune-Yards and Starfucker and Phantogram, and so on, with zero commercial interruption (just ignore those banner ads). Searching for videos, on the other hand, often culminates ina low-quality freeze-frame clip with the music playing behind it for 30 seconds, à la so many rap songs on YouTube. And unless you’ve got the steadiest possible Internet access, you can spend too much time waiting for videos to load. Cull TV may have adapted to today’s medium, but it’s still too lowtech for the impatient Gen Y it caters to. Nice to see great videos back in the musical mix, though. B+ - ANNIE TITTIGER

(Warner Bros.)
A punk iconoclast known for controversial lyrics collaborating with one of the Bay Area’s titans of noise—what could be more intriguing? Almost anything, it turns out.
Problem one is that the artists decided to record material Reed had written for a play by avant-garde scenarist Robert Wilson that was itself based on two plays by the 19th-century German dramatist Frank Wedekind. Even with liner notes, you’d be hard-pressed to make sense of the labyrinthine plot, which has something to do with a small-town girl who becomes an adulteress, a prostitute, a prison inmate, and a murder victim. Reed often sounds like he’s spoofing himself, delivering a mixture of lurid and nonsensical lines in a rambling manner (for instance, “If I pump blood in the sunshine / and you wear a leather box with azaleas / and I pump more blood / and it seeps through my skin / will you adore the river?” from “Pumping Blood”). Meanwhile, Metallica grinds away nondescriptly, repeating the same uninspired riffs over and over. Most of these songs exceed the seven-minute mark. The effect is bad coffeehouse poetry, with the poet backed up by his teenage nephews’ metal band. An opportunity wasted. F - DAN STRACHOTA

(Simon & Schuster)
Like everyone in this town, I’ve been locked on the Steve Jobs channel, devouring all the words and images memorializing his “ascent to the brightest heaven of invention” (the author, citing Shakespeare’s Henry V) and his utterly sad and premature end. Still, Walter Isaacson’s tome, which Jobs asked for and I devoured in
two days, was unexpectedly sobering. I disagree with Janet Maslin’s take in the New York Times. This is not a book that “greatly admires its subject.” It piles on endless moments with the same uncomfortable story line—an audacious move made by an impetuous, narcissistic, even perverse tyrant with a pathological need to run roughshod over any impediment to his higher mission. The details are riveting, from Bill Clinton’s late-night call for advice about the Lewinsky scandal, to Jobs’s wooing of Mick Jagger and Bono so iTunes could happen, to what Jobs wrote to his wife, as he was dying, for their 20th anniversary. Isaacson was handed the ultimate subject, but not the ideal deadline (now!), and the task of simultaneously standing back from and intimately experiencing Jobs’s demise does not wise biographer/y make. Absent is why Jobs was so detached, what disorder (biology? abandonment?) made him such a “magician genius” and cruel soul, much less our greatest innovator. Yes, you need to be crazy to think you can change the world. But learning that hasn’t helped me make sense of this man. B - ELIZA FOXCREEK


Photography by: