OMA’s Milstein Hall at Cornell University

Milstein Hall at Cornell University. Image from dezeen.com. Photography is by Philippe Ruault

Last week, on my way down to New York City, I stopped at Cornell University to see their new Architecture, Art and Planning building, Milstein Hall. The OMA-designed facility looks like a Mies van der Rohe-style box propped up on a concrete ant hill, floating not incongruously between the kind of Victorian and Georgian structures one imagines at an Ivy League school. Some of the design is quite subtle — part of the exterior is clad in elegantly stripped Turkish marble — while some of it is showy and loud — a giant, 50-foot cantilever reaches over University Ave., almost-but-not-quite touching the 150-year-old Foundry Building across the road. I wasn’t sure if this latter gesture was an act of aggression — like a bully announcing its presence to a meek, helpless victim — or one of kindness, like an outstretched hand between a young spunky kid and an old, fair lady. This ambivalence basically describes my reaction.

What I liked: The building is porous. As people walk or bike by, there are interesting opportunities to look into spaces that are normally much more cloistered in a school: a lecture hall that has windows on three sides, or a submerged auditorium/crit space with large clerestories.  Continue reading

Getting to Know Bob Marley

Marley, directed by Kevin Macdonald

In a sense, I grew up listening to Bob Marley’s music. My mother was born and raised in Mandeville, Jamaica, and although I wouldn’t say she was necessarily a big fan — we probably listened to The Very Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber more than Legend — I definitely wore a One Love t-shirt in grade school and could probably sing along to No Woman, No Cry, even if I didn’t understand the lyrics. My grandmother was the main source of exposure, though. She managed a hotel in the Cayman Islands where my brother and I would spend part of every summer. To satisfy rum-drunk Brits and Americans, the hotel played Stir It Up, Is This Love and Jamming on a seemingly endless loop. It’s because of this over-exposure that I developed a cynicism about Bob Marley in my teens. I didn’t really pick up on the poetry of his lyrics — the songs just felt like touristy kitsch to me.

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The Gross Guys of HBO’s Girls

Obviously, Lena Dunham’s new dramedy, Girls, isn’t about men. But as a guy, I have to complain a little about how grossness of the dudes on the show. To be plain, Dunham’s character, Hannah, is dating Frankenstein, and her best-friend Marnie is dating a 12-year-old girl trapped in a 16-year-old boy’s body. Let’s have a look:

Adam Sackler

Adam Driver plays Adam Sackler on HBO's Girls.

He’s dense, poorly-shaven and unemployed, but that’s not the worst of it. Adam seems to have learned about sex from a curious mix of raunchy porn movies and professional hockey. What girl doesn’t like being surprised by a little anal action, or hearing sweet nothings like: “You’re a dirty little whore and I’m going to send you home to your parents covered in cum?” But I can see why Hannah likes him. Not only does he have special skills — ejaculating in the shape of Africa takes a lot of hand-penis coordination — he can also be quite considerate. Offering Hannah a bottle of orange Gatorade after she “almost cums” shows that he cares about her, and doesn’t want her getting too dehydrated. After five minutes of traumatizing sex, though, I think Hannah should be reaching for the gin.

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HBO’s Veep: Like a Meat Grinder with No Meat

HBO's Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus

I was really excited for HBO’s new comedy Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Like any good satire, I hoped it would shine a slightly harsh but terribly amusing light on its subject matter — in this case the fraught American political system, and specifically the neutered, ineffectual office of the Vice President. Watching it, though, I was left wanting: for a solid story line, for somewhat believable characters, for a reason to tune in again.

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Titanic Revisited (Or Not)

I just finished reading a review of Titanic by Slate Magazine’s Dana Stevens. The review is premised on the fact that when James Cameron’s epic was first released in 1997, Stevens snubbed it for being “a schlocky, sentimental blockbuster that would force [her] to listen to that Celine Dion song again.” She claims, admittedly snobbishly, to have been too busy with her nose in Walter Benjamin to see the movie in theatres, and, before its current 3D re-release last week, only ever half watched it on TV while distractedly folding laundry. Stevens goes on to admit, however, that after finally seeing it on the big screen, she can understand the mass hysteria that surrounded the film 15 years ago. “Titanic isn’t subtle or tasteful or novel,” she writes “but it’s indisputably big and bold and beautiful.”

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