TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT March 2001

TOP TEN

Charles Long

Charles Long, a New York-based artist, is collaborating with Merce Cunningham on Way Station, premiering March 31 at City Center, New York.

  1. CAROLINE NOW! AND THE SONGS OF BRIAN WILSON AND THE BEACH BOYS (Marina Records)

    This time, the blind date that is the matching of contemporary stars with historical icons produces something more than a pleasant novelty. A few adoring fans have paired twenty-four mostly unknown artists and cult heroes (Kim Fowley, Alex Chilton, Jad Fair) with some gems from the previously undiscovered work of Brian and the band. It's hilarious and surprising without being ironic, beautiful and idealistic without being nostalgic.

  2. HARVARD MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (Cambridge, MA)

    I went to see its famous collection of over 3,000 glass flowers expecting to encounter a psychedelic fantasyland. Instead I found a perfectly sober, faithful re-creation of stems, leaves, buds, and seeds. Euphoria hit me in the nearby mineralogy collection, chunk by idiomorphic chunk. The rush I got jumping from one crystalline reality to the next felt almost as addictive as crack.

  3. AMTRAK'S ACELA EXPRESS

    Wow, I lived to see 2001 and it looks just like the film! For over two times the fare, my usual four-hour commute from Boston to New York is at least fifteen minutes shorter! In overlit first- and business-class comfort, we were propelled forward at 20,000 fluorescent flickers a second. Perhaps the speed comes from eliminating all that weight in coach? It looks space-age but feels Louis XVI, as the elite clobber their crowns on the vast modular overhead compartment and the clunky tray table folds away with the swiftness of a guillotine ... chop, chop!

  4. LEE MINGWEI, THE SLEEPING PROJECT (Lombard-Freid Fine Arts, New York)

    Prowling around this show last fall, I figured out that the two wheelbarrow-like beds acted as accommodations for the artist and a guest, a different one each night, for the run of the show. The most evocative aspect of the work was the often tender morning-after notes left on the Shaker-style nightstands by each bed. As I snooped through the other items the guests had left—Flannery O'Connor stories, the I Ching, bowls of pistachio shells, empty bottles of mysterious liquids, and various articles of clothing—I was reminded of the pleasure that comes from long-night one-on-ones, when getting to know a single soul tells you about the whole world. Behind a short wall I noticed a hatchery of still more nightstands, waiting to take on the identifying features of the next sleeping guest, like pods in the suburban basements from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

  5. ADAM PHILLIPS, MONOGAMY (Vintage)

    The British psychologist argues that the word we is “an exaggeration of the word I. We is the wished-for I, the I as a gang, the I as somebody else as well. Coupledom can be so dismaying because the other person never really joins in.” Reading these 121 aphorisms is as fun as it is vexing and reveals just how unknown the expanded self is. Phillips's books are my mind-altering substance of choice now that I've exhausted all of Alan Watt's lectures.

  6. A.L. KENNEDY, ORIGINAL BLISS (Vintage)

    A funny and affecting romance novel to be shelved somewhere between self-help and self-abuse. A battered and emotionally numb housewife in Glasgow thinks she's found a way back to the land of the living after hearing pop psychologist Edward E. Gluck articulate his offbeat ideas about how something called The Process can deliver her contentment. Housewife and quack meet in the lobby of the hotel where he is taking part in a week-long conference. Their mutual attraction is quickly derailed when Gluck discloses why he locks himself away for days surrounded by the mysterious cargo that accompanies him on the book circuit.

  7. BLACK BOX RECORDER, ENGLAND MADE ME (Chrysalis)

    On the import version of this, the band's first album, is a stunning photo, circa 1974, of a coal-mine operator and his son. Dad gazes on with pride as if the son were the product of an alchemical transformation: coal dust into glitter. The music here—as on the band's more recent The Facts of Life—is bleak to the point of becoming uplifting and liberating.

  8. FLOWER DRUM SONG, ORIGINAL CAST RECORDING (Sony Classical)

    Following The King and I and South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote another great East-meets-West musical in 1958, this time set in San Francisco and featuring an all-Asian American cast. With clever and brassy numbers like “Grant Avenue” and “Chop Suey” (and my fave, “I Enjoy Being a Girl,” which would make a drop-dead drag anthem), I was puzzled as to why it had never been revived. Then I viewed the 1961 film version and was not prepared for the bracing racism and sexism of the dialogue. Still, the film is a fascinating mess.

  9. KATHY BUTTERLY (Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York)

    As successive waves of Tate-style gigantism fail to inspire me, I look to just how moving a small amount of material can be. Averaging six inches tall and made from porcelain, clay and glaze, Butterly's cups amount to modern Fabergé confections. Running my eye along the exquisitely perverse folds and interstices of frippery, I fear the impossibility of seeing the work that is so clearly before me.

  10. THE CLIENTELE, SUBURBAN LIGHT (Pointy Records)

    The dreamiest, most escapist pop I think I have ever listened to over and over. Help me ... no, don't.