Corona Stories – Gone Viral: Foster the People’s Mark Foster Gets Introspective

 

 

Since exploding onto the scene in 2010 with the now classic single “Pumped Up Kicks,” Foster the People have released three albums—their debut Torches the following year, plus 2014’s Supermodel, and 2017’s Sacred Hearts Club—which have proven them to be a band that could reliably conjure a massive hook, while also taking on lyrical subjects that decisively tap into the visceral tenor of our times.

And despite four years having passed since their last long-player, they have remained front and center of the musical zeitgeist, with regular single releases (we loved last September’s new-wavey “Pick U Up”), including a new one, “It’s Okay To Be Human,” which really hits home right now. They have also continued to tour—in fact, they have a full slate of European summer festival dates ahead, something to look forward to on the other side of the coronavirus outbreak.

In the meantime, singer Mark Foster has taken the time out to write down his thought-provoking insights on this ominous pandemic that has veritably ground the world to a halt.

 

Time For a Pause

 

This is the first time in my life I have ever seen the world unite around a singular cause. I’ve heard about it happening in the past. I’ve heard stories about what it felt like after World War II ended; when people were broken, in mourning, but optimistic about rebuilding a better world. There was a feeling of unity after the twin towers fell and shook the nation. There was a sense of unity after the terrorist attack on the Bataclan in Paris; but the essence of the feeling was different. This feels different. Maybe it feels different because the past tragedies were thrust upon us in an act of human violence; being punched in the stomach by our fellow man. Maybe it’s because they were isolated incidents that the survivors could look at from a distance and mourn in the safety of their own home. I haven’t put my finger on why this time it’s different. It just is.

The fear is different. The uncertainty is different. The unity is also different. As I woke up this morning to texts from friends and family with updates, warnings, and the desire to connect with other people, I found myself thinking about the beauty of this pause. The entire world has pressed pause. It’s as if mother earth said, “O.K. you degenerates give me the wheel. I’m gonna steer us back in the right direction.”

Sometimes, a pause is the only thing that can bring clarity to the manic momentum of the rat race we’ve allowed to hijack our humanity. Sometimes a pause is what we need to remind us that we are not gods. We forget that we’re actually sensitive, vulnerable, weak creatures that need to breathe oxygen multiple times a minute, drink water, eat food, and maintain an internal temperature of 98.6 degrees. It’s easy to forget about our vulnerabilities when we have been spoiled with the comforts of societal excess.

Man is born with an instinct to go further than the previous generation; to achieve more than our mothers and fathers. We are born with an innate fear that when we take our last breath, we will be forgotten. Our fear of death drives us to leave behind some kind of legacy to be remembered forever. We want to feel like we made a difference. We want to build. To create. Whether it’s a legacy by passing our DNA to children, breaking “impossible” world records, or building skyscrapers that tower above the clouds, we have a deep desire to feel like we matter. In that desire, we tend to make a lot of mistakes chasing the trophy while turning a blind eye to the trail of dead we leave in our wake.

In today’s world, the end is much more important than the means. If you become the greatest at what you do, it doesn’t matter how you got there. It just matters that you’re at the top of the hill. We want to be famous. We want to be rich. We want to be special. We want to have likes on Instagram, friends on Facebook, and retweets on Twitter.

In an age where everything is more connected than ever before, this attitude has seemed to affect, and infect cultures that historically have placed the health of society over the success of the individual. This western philosophy of being the god of our own universe is contagious. “Your truth is your truth. My truth is mine.” It’s got a seductive ring to it.

 

 

 

The age of misinformation and creating our own narrative has dangerously replaced reality. In our quest for power, we’ve learned if we create our own reality, nobody can tell us we’re wrong; or we failed, or we’re not on the right path. The spoils don’t go to the victor. They go to the person who successfully shapes the perception of who won the battle.

Our greedy endeavors got us here, no doubt. This tiny virus has effectively put its finger on the very core of our selfishness. We’ve become gluttons in industry; destroying the planet with pollution, waste, and excess out of our hedonistic desires to accumulate wealth. We’ve become lords over the land we inherited, denying people the right to partake in the very dream we are benefitting from. Unchecked capitalism encourages us to enjoy the view from the best possible vantage point, even if that means building our castle on the bodies of others.

The evidence is now overwhelming that we are facing the most dangerous enemy the world has seen since the atomic bomb was introduced to the world in 1945. If this is not contained, there will be millions of deaths. This isn’t just a physical virus. It’s an economic virus. And when the economy suffers, people die. In the coming months, our survival is dependent on our willingness to put the needs of others ahead of our personal comforts. It is the ultimate test of our willingness to sacrifice our personal luxuries for a stranger’s necessities. Are we willing to trust each other enough to buy only what is necessary if that means our anonymous neighbors will have a fighting chance of survival?

Sometimes the only way to shake us out of our arrogance, is to remind us that we are only human. The world existed before we were born, and we don’t know what happens after we die. This is the most terrifying thought that exists in our mind. It goes against our very nature of living our lives like we are gods. We spend most of our life consciously or unconsciously suppressing this question. We try our best to “be in the moment.” But the truth is, when we’re confronted by a tangible threat to our survival, these internal tenets of our faith-in-self disappear and we return to the most haunting question we are born with: why are we here, what are we supposed to do while we’re here, and why does any of it matter?

My hope is that as we are in this pause of reflection, we will dig within ourselves and find our soul again. I hope we will reach out to people in need and give them the other half of our sandwich. I hope that our governments work together, comparing their research and sharing their best scientists work to collectively find a vaccine. I hope our employers and heads of companies will reach into their profit margins and share a piece of the pie with the workers that helped build the empires they lead. I hope that landlords will be patient with their tenants paying rent on the first of the month, knowing that they may have been laid off of their job. I hope banks will give a grace period to debtors paying back their loans. I hope our farmers will continue to supply us with the food we need at a reasonable price. I hope that healthy people will respect the fact that they may carry a virus that could take the life of someone less fortunate. I hope that in these times of fear, we will have faith. Faith in nature. Faith in our fellow humans. Faith in our scientists. Faith in our doctors and nurses. Faith in our government to govern with empathy. Faith in a higher power to help us find the solution and save us from ourselves.

Fear, pride, greed, and selfishness will cause unnecessary deaths. I encourage our leaders to lead with humility. We will come out of this on the other side stronger and more connected. When this storm passes, we can’t forget what it feels like right now. We are fragile. We are not gods. We came into this world with nothing, and if we live our lives only for ourselves, we will leave the world with nothing.

Alice Merton Joins AWOLNATION for New Version of ‘The Best’ – Lyrics Hit Home Right Now

 

 

When AWOLNATION debuted the single “The Best” in autumn of 2019, it seemed as if it could easily serve duel purpose as an inspiration for reaching for greatness, and an accidental parody of an American president who has little idea of what such greatness actually requires.

Now the exalted LA band have just released a new version featuring the fierce young British-Canadian songstress Alice Merton (whose 2017 single “No Roots” has racked up an astonishing 219 million views on YouTube). But in the context of this harrowing current coronavirus outbreak, the lyrics to the track have seemingly taken on an entirely new meaning. Indeed, as Merton and AWOLNATION frontman Aaron Bruno together intone, “Me I wanna walk a little bit taller, oh / Me I wanna feel a little bit stronger, oh / Me I wanna think a little bit smarter,” it sounds like a veritable survival mantra.

 

 

Perhaps more importantly, it also reminds us of the power of music to reach across crisis and unite us when we need it most. And in truth never have we needed it more.

“I’m very excited to have Alice join me on this song,” Bruno enthuses. “I’m glad that we were able to connect to create this new version, even though we are in different parts of the world as we all stay home right now.”

Both Merton and AWOLNATION have upcoming live dates that may face rescheduling due to the global pandemic. Stay tuned.

 

Please Buy Restaurant Gift Certificates…NOW

Ama

 

 

From the first time your parents took you out for a “fancy” dinner, on through to graduation celebrations, weddings, and surely all those special meals you’ve shared with friends and family that you’ll never forget, restaurants have provided the setting for a wide, and visceral swath of our lives.

Now, shockingly, as if we were suddenly thrust into the middle of a terrifying dystopian novel, an insidious virus has forced nearly the entire American restaurant industry to grind to a halt in order to literally save our lives. Some will not survive several weeks without income, and many just barely.

However, you need not stand idly by—there are two big things you can do to help. First, consider how many times in a normal week you would be eating out, and then order takeout from a favorite restaurant as if you were actually planning to dine there…and maybe throw in an extra night of doing so, if you can. But more importantly, go to restaurants’ websites and buy gift certificates—as many as you possibly can.

 

Ama

 

“Purchasing gift certificates from any of your favorite restaurants, is one of the best ways to support local business,” urges Nathalie Hudson, Co-Owner of Dante in NYC’s West Village, winner of the 2019 World’s Best Bar award. “At Dante we are continuing to pay the wages of our core team and also the health care for all of our employees…every little bit helps. Gift cards are a great way to inject a little cash flow into businesses which currently have none, and are doing everything that they can to look after and support their employees.”

So yes, buy them from your favorite little corner Indian or Chinese place; buy them from the trendy hotspots that you always hit up for an Instagrammable night out; and just buy them from anywhere that you can’t wait to return to once the coronavirus scare is over.

It can even even provide a welcome distraction from our harsh reality to start planning future nights out, while paying for them in advance, to show your support in these difficult times. Also, think of anyone who has a birthday coming up, or what your parents’ favorite restaurant is, or maybe an important client that you’d like to treat…and buy one for them, as well.

The restaurant industry has enriched our lives immeasurably, and they really, really need us to help them pull through—as it will likely be the hardest hit business in America.

 

Laut Singapura

 

As Chef Salil Mehta, of Michelin starred Laut and the newer Laut Singapura—both in the Flatiron—so succinctly puts it, “Dining bonds are a genius idea, as it allows the community to support their favorite restaurants, and allows restaurants to make the brave decision to shut down as they know business awaits.”

Best of all, it will give you the feeling of making a difference, during a crisis that has left so many feeling utterly powerless.

“Our focus should be on supporting each other and our community in a safe and proactive way,” says Executive Chef Randall DeFalco of Ama, which opened earlier this month at Long Island City’s Paper Factory, serving globally-inspired cuisine in an industrial chic space. “During tough times it is important to remain unified, and together we will get through this. When you can, support your local restaurants through purchasing take-out, delivery and gift vouchers, it will go a long way in helping our employees and business.”

But we cannot stress enough that patience is needed right now, as the sudden shift to delivery and take-out has created the expected logistical problems—with Grubhub, Postmates, and Doordash all being pushed to the limit. When you have a moment of feeling frustrated, remember that everything is being done to save lives, while also maintaining the connection between the restaurants and consumers.

Satoru Yasumatsu, Co-Owner os HALL and o.d.o by ODO, explicates it best: “It is challenging not only from the standpoint of absorbing increased delivery service fee, but also implementing internal procedure change. Additionally, we are working on communications with our customers in a calm manner and about sanitary measures we are taking to ensure safety. Though difficult, we have received some enquires from regulars offering their support, and their messages keep us hopeful to do better in near future when we come back.”

And rest assured, they will come back.

Dante

Pandemic Response: Gagosian’s Sam Orlofsky on the Launch of Art Basel Hong Kong Online

Takashi Murakami, Kaikai, 2018-2020. © 2018-2020 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy Gagosian.

 

 

Some of the obvious casualties of the coronavirus pandemic are the global art fairs which were scheduled for now and the weeks ahead. Notable amongst those are Frieze New York (cancellation just announced yesterday), and Art Basel Hong Kong, which, since its debut in 2013, has arguably become Asia’s most important gathering of the international culture cognoscenti.

Of course, living in the digital age has also made the buying and selling of art an entirely different proposition. And though a great deal of the attraction of the trio of Basel fairs (including also Switzerland and Miami) are the schmoozing and networking opportunities, as well as the glamorous parties, current circumstances have, interestingly enough, brought it back to being more just about the art.

And indeed, in the wake of the cancellation of the physical fair, the Basel people undertook to launch the Art Basel Hong Kong Online Viewing Rooms. Powerhouse gallery Gagosian quickly signed on to the project—though Director Sam Orlofsky insists that there were reasons that it was very much imminent anyway.

“It has been inevitable that there would be this online parallel universe to the physical,” he says. “But this just accelerated something they were already working on.”

 

Tom Wesselmann, Still Life with Odalisque and Goldfish, 1998. © The Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by ARS/VAGA, New York. Photo by Jeffrey Sturges. Courtesy Gagosian.

 

Not surprisingly, he is quick to remind of the sensitivities attached to any mercenary undertakings at this particular moment: “We knew what our timeline would be to execute our own online viewing room, because we’ve done it before. But we didn’t want to rush into something that seemed insensitively mercantile. As soon as it became clear that the entire industry was going to proceed this way, then we ramped up our process.”

Of course, the considerable resources available to such a global player as Gagosian (they have five spaces in New York, three in London, two in Paris, and one each in Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Rome, Athens, Geneva, Basel and Hong Kong) means they can often undertake such projects in house. Orlofsky points to their not only having the largest physical footprint in the art business, but also the most extensive social media reach; they have the content, and the distribution.

But for smaller galleries, obviously, the common Viewing Rooms are a godsend.

Still, Gagosian’s presence is not inconsiderable, featuring amongst others works by Takashi Murakami, Jen Guidi, Georg Baselitz and Mary Weatherford, all of whom have current or scheduled shows with the gallery—and marking the first time the latter three have exhibited anything with Gagosian online. Weatherford’s inclusion even managed to overcome a specific regulatory dilemma.

 

Mary Weatherford, Splendor in the Grass, 2019. © Mary Weatherford. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Studio.
Courtesy Gagosian.

 

“She uses neon light assemblage in her work,” Orlofsky explains. “And there’s a fire code issue at the convention center in Hong Kong, so they have never allowed us to exhibit a work of hers in the physical space. So for the first time technically we were getting to show her work at Art Basel Hong Kong; and in the first thirty minutes the painting sold at a very high price point.”

Orlofsky also observes that, while it may make for a few less champagne-fueled soirees on the annual art calendar, there is very much a silver lining to the move towards a more digital sales model.

“The art world has been in denial about its own carbon footprint,” he suggests. “There’s a lot of travel, and a lot of transport…and maybe this will accelerate the realization that we can do things more remotely. And it will just be better for the planet.”

The Art Basel Hong Kong Online Viewing Rooms are currently available to view.

 

Georg Baselitz, Die andere Seite vom Ölfleck, 2019. © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann.
Courtesy Gagosian.

Naomi Campbell Wants to Save Your Life…Seriously

 

 

The really unsettling thing about the coronavirus panic, is that the people we were always told to look to for guidance through such an overarching tragedy—the president, the news media, the highly paid experts trained in said tragedies—seem to all be bungling their way through it right now.

Into this black hole of hope(lessness) has stepped Naomi Campbell, who has just made a six minute video for her wildly successful YouTube channel that offers a surprisingly succinct and helpful assemblage of information about surviving the coronavirus pandemic while traveling. She gives an endearing peek behind the supermodel iron curtain, unabashedly confessing to her own fears, but also expressing confidence that her years of vigilant experience battling the forces of life-threatening ickiness can help guide us through our own sense of panic, confusion and dread.

 

 

“In all honesty, this is not a humorous time, I’m not doing this for laughs,” she insists, as she dons a quasi hazmat suit, and suggests that fellow supermodel Linda Evangelista is in on the game with her. “The mask I started wearing in the ’90s, and the cleaning of the seat I started doing about seventeen years ago,” she reveals, suggesting that, perhaps during numerous bouts of Frasier binge-watching, Niles Crane had decisively rubbed off on her.

As the passing of time tends to bestow humility on the supermodel class, there’s something distinctly endearing about Mlle. Campbell gracing us with useful safety information at such a terrifying moment as this. Then going full egalitarian, she offers, “I hope that the lady or gentleman who looks at our passport will also be wearing gloves, because for them to have to touch thousands of passports a day is also a risk.” It’s a genuinely heartwarming moment, at time when mostly our hearts have just been racing with fear. Thanks NC!

 

New ADULT. Single ‘Have I Started at the End’ is Eerily Prophetic

 

 

Since their 1998 inception, Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller, collectively known as ADULT., have never shied away from unsettling subject matter. And with the foreboding new single “Have I Started at the End” (taken from their latest album Perception is/as/of Deception) they now seem to have effortlessly slid over into the prophetic.

With its ominous, Nizter Ebb-like beat and eerie, echo-drenched synths, it bears a whiff of the quasi-apocalyptic. And as Nicola’s spectral howl entreats, “It is a dream / Slipping through my fingers / Come closer / Have I started at the end?,” you can’t help but wonder what she knew before we knew it.

As it turns out, they also borrow a line from Goethe—”We only see what we know”—whose involvement in the 18th Century Sturm und Drang literary movement marked him out as someone who decisively kicked against the tyranny of “rationality.”

 

 

“When this song was written in a cool, dark, black basement in the middle of summer 2019,” Nicola recalls, “little did we know the lyrics would be completely relevant today…but would come to express a much different message than was initially intended. The unpreparedness of our government and their ‘wool-covered eyes.’ Their inability to look ahead. Their total stubbornness, may leave us all having to start over.”

Still and all, they hold out hope that it could at least be the “psychedelic dance anthem” that this moment is obviously calling for. And to be honest, we’re feeling a little bit better already.

(N.B. – The first 13 dates of their upcoming North American tour have been cancelled or postponed—but ADULT. are now scheduled to kick it off in New Orleans’ Gasa Gasa on May 19).

 

Here Are the Season 2 Teasers for FX’s ‘What We Do in the Shadows’

 

 

When last year the overwhelming grimness of the combination of Chernobyl and Season 3 of A Handmaid’s Tale left us trembling in a corner somewhere, we were only coaxed out by the promise of the premiere of an eponymous new FX series based on the 2014 film What We Do in the Shadows. A brilliantly absurdist mockumentary about four vampires living in a lugubrious mansion in suburban Staten Island, the series reveled in its carefully crafted gothic aesthetic, while also gleefully poking fun at familiar goth cliches.

A surprise hit, it is returning for a Season 2 on April 15—and the first teasers have just been released.

 

 

Smartly postmodernist, three of the bloodsuckers have dramatic, eternal Eastern European backstories—with correspondingly funereal fashion sense. While the other, Colin (Mark Proksch), is a preppy looking American described as an “energy vampire”—which is exactly what he is, working in a soulless office and draining co-workers of their energy by boring them senseless. Long suffering Guillermo (Harvey Guillen) is the “familiar” to pompous, puffed up vampire Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak), with the former describing his position as, “like being a best friend…who is also a slave.”

Rounded out by married vampires Laszlo and Nadja (Matt Berry and Natasha Demetriou, respectively), the trio+Guillermo go about their daily lives seemingly oblivious to what would constitute any semblance of normal living…except when circumstances find them, say, shopping at the big box pharmacy for glitter and crepe paper. The also attend a city council meeting as part of their attempt to, um, “take over” Staten Island.

 

 

One of the Season 2 teasers hilariously shows Nadja prepping for a drug store blood pressure test, in full garb. And since the first season’s list of special guests was so deliciously head-spinning, including Nick Kroll,  Tilda Swinton, Paul Reubens, Evan Rachel Wood, Oscar-winning director Taika Waititi (who helmed the original film), and Wesley Snipes, surely as a wink to his vampiric role in the Blade films, we can’t wait to see who pays a visit to Staten Island this time around.

What We Do in the Shadows Season 2 will be streaming on Hulu as of April 15.

 

Costa Rica’s Santarena Hotel Now Has a ‘Germ Butler’

 

 

You know that friend of yours who always wraps his or her hand in something before touching the public bathroom door knob? And plans their entire existence around potential pathogen encounters? Of course, it is perfectly fine to still roll your eyes at that person—only now they’ll be looking back at you with a condescending, “At least I’m not the one who’s going to contract coronavirus” sneer.

But a hotel in Costa Rica has just brought luxury amenities into the current global pandemic zeitgeist, introducing a timely—and frankly extremely thoughtful—”Germ Butler.” Indeed, the chic, and very trendy with American visitors Hotel Santarena, in beautiful Las Catalinas in the Guanacaste Province, now has someone on hand full time to carry out the worry-relieving task of wiping down luggage, passports, phones, wallets and such on arrival, while also disinfecting surfaces all over the property throughout the day.

Guests will also be given a distinctly motherly greeting: being ushered immediately to the hotel’s sparkling clean lobby bathroom for an arrival scrub up, creating a sense of communal responsibility and purpose.

 

 

 

The Preferred Hotels property itself was already well worth a weekend away, with its Old Havana meets Cartagena historic style architecture, plush but breezily comfortable rooms (just 45 of them, to be exact), stylish rooftop terrace with ocean views, Ponciana Restaurant & Bar, Calle la Ronda Bakery, and 35 square meter pool. It is also surrounded by about 40 kilometers of what we can only imagine are completely virus free hiking trails.

Whether or not this sets off a temporary trend remains to be seen—but considering the unease that will accompany most travel over the next several weeks, it’s commendable to see hotels finding ways to ease guests’ worries. Of course, the sheer scope of the psychological effects of this outbreak, could mean that “germ butlers” and disinfectant programs may become permanent amenities, the new reality for a decisively shellshocked populace.

But hey, it’s certainly far more useful than whatever in god’s name a “bath butler” does—and the Santarena can take pride in knowing that it helped to lead the way to making “safe travels” more than just a tired old vernacularism.

 

In These Dark, Uncertain Times, Listening to Chelsea Wolfe Will Save Your Soul

 

 

Whatever the administration is telling us about the coronavirus “pandemic” strikes us, frankly, as glaringly untrustworthy. But for all its good intentions, the media hysteria doesn’t seem to be helping either.

It is exactly such times as these which remind us that music has always been there to pull us through—and rescue us from the abyss. And ethereal songstress Chelsea Wolfe has been a go-to soul soother for as long as we can remember. In fact, we’ve had her stunning new album Birth of Violence on repeat these last few months…and the video for the haunting new single “Highway” has us utterly mesmerized.

Now normally we would be hopping a flight to Prague right now, to catch her show at the Archa Theatre tomorrow evening, March 11 (part of a larger European tour). But since that doesn’t seem like a very good idea right now, we strenuously suggest switching off the news, lighting a few candles, and losing yourself in the entrancing 45 minutes of piercing gothic blues that is her Birth of Violence. Immediately.

So much of the rest, sadly, is simply out of our control.