Sometimes, we fuck up our Stranger Suggests. Sometimes there’s an event that looks good—good concept, good players—but turns out it isn’t. Turns out it blows. And we owe you a mea culpa for steering you wrong. So here it is, the first edition of The Stranger De-Suggests:
Clear Cut Press Potlatch
(Happening) This event has trouble describing itself. According to the invitation, it is a “maelstrom” in “a cathedralesque barn of a space” with a “steaming sulfuric acid bath.” Matthew McCormick plays a new music and video piece. Matthijs Bouw gives a slide talk, Michael Brophy’s paintings are auctioned, DJ Masa mixes, and the few who made reservations eat dinner. (Chateaux Duwamps, 207 S Horton St. Dinner at 7, register at onepot.org. Auction/party at 8, no registration required. The invitation says: “Money will be recycled at the door.” We’re not sure what that means.) Jen Graves
“Money will be recycled at the door” made me hope they’d do something crazy and pot-latchy. Like put your money through a shredder. Or randomly redistribute it. (“This lady gets fifty bucks! This dude gets a nickel!”) Or something fun. But “money will be recycled at the door” was actually just a sly way of saying, “we’ll just take your money and stick it in our pockets.” It’s a small complaint, but that kind of cute dishonesty was indicative of all the problems that night.
The dinner, by One Pot’s Michael Hebberoy, was actually $35. And BYOB (which, actually, was a nice touch because everyone was expected to share so it turned into a giant tasting with a sip of prosecco here, a sip of white rioja there, a sip of Miller Genuine Draft way over there). The food was fine, but not $35-fine: mixed greens you could’ve bought in a bag at the store, some beets. Then a significant wait for the second course: Long-simmered pork and asparagus on a bed of croutons. There was a vegetarian option (artichoke with asparagus, I think) somebody described as: “a vegetarian meal made by someone who doesn’t know any vegetarians.” (To Mr. Hebberoy’s credit, he said up front that he had relatively little control over this night’s event. Other people say he has hosted some excellent dinners.)
The paintings, by Michael Brophy, were small and romantically sad and good. The table they were on seemed sort of remote in the room’s arrangement, so they didn’t have much presence. But here is one:
The “steaming sulfuric acid bath” was not steaming.
The announcement from Clear Cut Press seemed to take hours to say two simple things: (1) Matthew Stadler is leaving, ceding editorial duties to his partner Rich Jensen who, at one point, said something humbling, self-effacing, and disconcerting for the new editorial duty-doer, something like: “I don’t know much about books.” And (2) something to the effect: “give us your money because we’re awesome and you might get some good books from us.” Which, if we take Mr. Jensen’s word for it, seems unlikely. Plus, Clear Cut Press is not a kid to whom we should give an allowance just because. Plus, it’s unwise to treat your prospective patrons like ignorant sacks of money who need you to tell them when a book is good. Because that doesn’t make me want to give you anything. It makes me want to say: Fuck off. And still they kept talking.
The tablecloth was bubble-wrap, which was nice and fun to pop. And when people got bored with the blah-blah-blah, they’d announce their displeasure by popping some. Great idea, right? Give your audience an anonymous, easy way to communicate when it’s bored and encourage you to hurry the fuck up. But no such luck. Instead, the speakers, when confronted by the snap-snap of the bubble wrap, glared and smiled tensely, as if to say: “You all are not using that in the way we intended you not to.”
After the blah-blah-blah, I left.
The movie, by Matthew McCormick, was reportedly very good.
The slide talk by Matthijs Bouw was canceled due to indifference. (Update: Sorry, that was bad information—the Bouw lecture was merely postponed until 11:30 pm. I’m sorry I missed it.)
The atmosphere, the major selling point, was thin. It never became a party. Hebberoy kicked off the evening by making it sound like a whatever-make-your-own-party-free-for-all, but there was a real program: “now eat,” “now listen to me,” “now watch this.” Either tell us what to do or let us have a free-for-all. Either one is fine. But to pretend everything is permitted when that is not, in fact, the case, is another cute lie.
It ended, someone said, with “people huddled around being cold.”
For those of you who might have attended it because we suggested it—we’re really, really sorry.