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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Top Ten BAM Blog Posts of 2013

By Robert Wood

Carl Einhorn and Karen Weiss in Paradise Now, Living Theatre, 1968.
Photo: Kenneth L. McLaren

For most respectable publications, the window for posting 2013-related top 10 lists closed a few weeks ago. But any blog representing the "home of adventurous artists, audiences, and ideas" is obligated to flout journalistic convention. Besides, the year would feel incomplete without at least a cursory look back at our year in self-publishing, so here, without further ado, are our top 10 most popular posts from 2013.

10. King of New York: Remembering Lou Reed at BAM

As we implied above, BAM has always committed to being a home for adventurous artists, and never has that mission excluded the chain-smoking, poker-faced, proto-punk-innovator set. Lou Reed, who died in October of last year and who performed at BAM frequently throughout the 90s, was an important part of that pantheon. Susan Yung remembered Reed in this lovely piece.

9. John Cassavetes: Criminal Minded

What’s cooler than being a pioneering director of American independent film? Being a pioneering director of American independent film who also steals people’s sweaters. Critic Pauline Kael had it coming, according to John Cassavetes, who was the subject of a retrospective at BAMcinématek in July. BAM’s own Nate Gelgud recreated the director’s sleight-of-hand vengeance in this comic.

8. BAM Illustrated: John Turturro Mid '80s Hat Trick

It’s John Turturro’s own fault that he’ll always be known as “The Jesus.” That’s what happens when you lick a bowling ball while wearing a purple onesie and it’s all caught on film. If Turturro’s other roles with the Coen Brothers—and to a large extent, Spike Lee as well—were no less iconic, they also overshadowed lesser known but equally fantastic turns in '80s films from Woody Allen, Susan Seidelman, and William Friedkin. BAM illustrator Nate Gelgud paid homage to these underrated roles in conjunction with Turturro’s stint in Ibsen’s The Master Builder.

7. BAM Illustrated: Junot Díaz’s "Miss Lora"

To help celebrate author Junot Díaz’s appearance last year as part of our Eat, Drink & Be Literary series, BAM's prolific illustrator offered up a comic rendition of the former’s New Yorker short story “Miss Lora,” about an erotic student-teacher tête à tête in the shadow of mutually assured destruction.

6. Our Favorite Independent Record Stores in Brooklyn

Black Gold, Earwax, Academy Record Annex, and Record Grouch made the cut in this BAM blog paean to brick-and-mortar record stores and all of the quaint rituals that inhere therein. The occasion was Record Store Day, which, barring the encroachment of the horror of horrors—iTunes Week—will hopefully always be a thing.

5. The Way We Are/Were: Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia 

“All human beings are countries with their own boundaries.” With that, freelance writer Keith Uhlich inched close to the sense of isolation at the heart of filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia, which the latter intended to be a work “about that state of mind peculiar to our nation which affects Russians who are far from their native land.” It was a beautiful post (originally published in the BAMbill) for an equally beautiful film, screened in June in a two-week-long run at BAMcinématek.

4. Miyazaki Merch

One way to gauge the wide-ranging impact of a master Japanese animator is to assess his effect on the topiary industry. As BAM’s Andrew Chan revealed, the truly great leave their mark on the jewelry, iPhone case, and Zippo lighter trades as well. Assess this list of merchandise inspired by the great Hayao Miyazaki, who was the subject of an eight-film BAMcinématek tribute in April.

3. Record Your Rime: A BAM Poetry Project

Crowd-sourced poetry readings: it could have gone very badly, but for this experiment in collective oration—held in tandem with Fiona Shaw’s performances of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner—BAM had the great Samuel Taylor Coleridge and an extremely talented audience on its side. Our solicitation of dramatic readings of Coleridge’s poem attracted readers in droves, as did the final product, which you can see here.

2. The Living Theater at BAM

They once left their collective underwear behind in the balcony of BAM’s old Carey Playhouse (now the BAM Rose Cinemas), according to former BAM President and Executive Producer Harvey Lichtenstein. That should tell you something about the free-spirited nature of the Living Theater, co-founded by Judith Malina in 1947 and an important avant garde presence BAM in the '60s. Sadly, Malina retired last year, which occasioned this remembrance from BAM archivist Louie Fleck.

1. Baby Einstein on the Beach

Sponge Bob is patronizing. What babies really need, BAM suggested last April, is to work together to produce epic five-and-a-half-hour masterpieces of operatic minimalism, just like the big kids do. It was an April Fool’s Day joke, of course, but one that scored more hits on our blog than almost all the others put together.    

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