The Right to Disassembly

On April 5th, 2013, a cold early-spring day in Montréal, I interviewed a young activist during a protest, walking briskly alongside her as the march circled a public park. Police and their cars blocked every intersection where protesters might deviate from the park’s periphery to roam around the city, as Montréal protests often do. There was a blaring, unintelligible announcement over police loudspeakers. Then the riot cops charged; they encircled the crowd, their shields between us and them, faces blank. “Excuse me,” I said, “I’m a journalist. I came here as a journalist.”

“This protest has been declared illegal under municipal bylaw P-6,” an oversized megaphone announced in French.

No one was surprised. Municipal bylaw P-6 was the reason people were protesting. Over the past three years, P-6 has been used to control and suppress over a dozen protests in Montréal. It gives the police a range of different strategies for arresting and ticketing protesters, and has been used as a tool to target certain political activists and movements whenever it suits the authorities. In other words, P-6 is a textbook anti-protest law.

The Property Manager Who Knows Every Tenant

41 Kosciuszko Street, #320 $1850/monthStudio Nearest subway: G train at Bedford-Nostrand Avenues

Nathan Rosenberg, a property manager in Bed-Stuy, knows everyone in his buildings. On Tuesday, when I went to visit a studio apartment at 41 Kosciuszko Street—the Craigslist post described the location as Bed-Stuy/East Williamsburg—he addressed all of the tenants we ran into by name, flirting with a mother and her infant child, asking how a struggling musician’s band was doing, and confirming with someone that a leak had been fixed. Rosenberg manages three buildings in the immediate area, and another on Jefferson Street that used to be a stable house. “Everything in the building is shoe horses,” Rosenberg said. “The chandeliers are shoe horses.”

Now a ninety-eight-unit residential behemoth, 41 Kosciuszko Street—or, as it is currently being styled, The Aviary—used to be a linen factory. Best-Metropolitan Towel & Linen Supply Co., Inc. sold the building to Kosciusko Rehab LLC for $9.7 million in 2008, according to Department of Finance records. Nearly a year later, Kosciusko Rehab passed the deed to New Kosciusko, another LLC located at the same address. In 2012, New Kosciusko passed the deed to Kosciusko Plaza. “It’s a rehab. We only do rehabs,” Rosenberg told me.

Derrick Beckles and the Art of Weirdness

Derrick Beckles has made his career out of pursuing the subversive and strange. Growing up in Canada, Beckles was inspired by the absurdity of infomercials and paid programming, eventually creating TV Carnage, a compilation of bad clips from public access shows and infomercials. In addition to creating these compilations, Beckles has directed several music videos, helped shape the humor in VICE, and is currently working on a sitcom called The Hopes in which Courtney Love plays his wife. I spoke with Beckles about his eclectic jobs, being accessible to mainstream audiences, and his current stint as host of Hot Package. The second season of the show airs every Friday at 12:30 a.m. on Adult Swim.

It’s becoming more common to make comedy shows that are intentionally poor in quality, but you’ve been interested this type of programming for a while. What got you into this?

I was in my parent’s basement in Canada and Canadian TV is especially interesting, in many cases mind-blowingly shitty, in ways that are magnificent. So I would start taping stuff with friends, putting them together on tapes when I was a kid. It just kind of blew up. I was doing them on my own and then I was making them for friends and they started trading them. I was doing it anonymously for years and then I started developing this editing style. These Canadian TV shows and public access shows were really weird or wrong, but they were so differently weird or wrong that I really became attracted to a specific kind of wrong that people were achieving. There’s the standard shit on TV, that popular bad TV. I completely stayed away from that stuff and sought out really weird specific stuff. I used to do it with a good friend of mine in Toronto. We would constantly search for specifically bad TV. And the more earnest the performances were, the more we were attracted to it.

Excerpts From the March 2015 Vogue, Presented Without Commentary

Then again, during the entirety of the three-day affair, sandwiched between Christmas and New Year’s, white and black tie were the easiest dictates of a quartet of dress codes that included Gaucho and Tango Smart.

The arrival of the bride, meanwhile, who emerged on the bow of the wooden speedboat like a living figurehead, veil whipping in the wind, was mirage-like, for even the most jaded fashion folk in attendance. Her Valentino couture dress, which required 1,800 hours’ worth of bas-relief pearl and crystal embroider, forsook the traditional bridal white for pale chalcedony tulle that blended seamlessly into the soft gray of the beach and the murky green of the Machete River beyond.

And so the bride and groom, who have homes in New York and Paris, selected a series of venues that represented Sofia’s own history in the region and revealed the most pristine and epic vistas of untouched nature, from the foothills of the Andes to desolate lakeside beaches.

For the wedding lunch the next day, sixteen whole lambs were cooked on weeping willow-branch crosses.

‘Last Week Tonight’ Makes America’s Crumbling Infrastructure Sexy Again

Last night’s Last Week Tonight took a closer look at the crumbling infrastructure in the United States, from the thousands of uninspected dams across the country to bridges in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New York that could realistically collapse at any minute: “When we’re at a point where the Secretary of Transportation is struggling to decide between using the word ‘unsafe’ and the word ‘dangerous,’ we might have a problem worth fixing.” Since no taxpayers or politicians seem interested in the very unglamorous job of routine road maintenance, Last Week Tonight enlisted the help of stars like Edward Norton, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Steve Buscemi to film an intense thriller called Infrastructure with the hopes of making the issue sexy enough for people to start caring about again.

The Ombudsnerd

Since Arthur Chu’s historic win streak on Jeopardy! early last year, he’s shrewdly turned his still-minty viral celebrity into a regular gig as a cultural critic and, as some have put it, “the ombudsman of the nerd community.” At Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Manhattan’s Chinatown, we talked about milking his fifteen minutes, the crisis of nerd culture, and becoming an unlikely Asian-American male icon over a plate of chicken feet. (For me, since he politely declined.)

Is online celebrity strange?

It is, because stuff that’s happening on Twitter, you feel like it’s the whole world and you step off for a few minutes and it doesn’t matter to the majority of people. Even to the extent that it does, there’s a huge decoupling of what makes you important online. A lot of times, I just throw up my hands and say, “I don’t even know what my follower count means anymore.” You just have to keep that in perspective. It affects the real world but it’s something separate from the real world.

What did you do after Jeopardy!?

Call up publicists and PR firms, and said straight up, “Hey, do you work with viral celebrities?” Then I’d ask, “If you were me, how would you hang on to the fame, how would you monetize it?” I got good answers—they weren’t bad answers—but it was stuff I couldn’t imagine myself doing. It was stuff like, “Well you should take the whole idea of game theory and you should become an advice kind of guy, you should do lifehacker stuff, stuff like how-tos on how to invest, get a mortgage.” I said, “That stuff doesn’t interest me.” I didn’t want to keep talking about that for the rest of my life.

What Happens If You Put Placenta on Your Face?

“It’s, like, gooey.” “Yeah, dude, that’s the placenta.”

After the incredible success of our first foray into the placenta-powered world, Jaya Saxena and Jazmine Hughes decided to go one further. We learned that putting placenta in our hair made it a little bit softer and smell slightly of cornchips (which men LOVE)—what would happen if we put it on our faces? Enter the Placenta & Collagen Premium Facial Mask Pack, available on the well-known site Amazon.com for as little as $5.95.

Here is the only information that the Amazon listing gives:

- Placenta & collagen mask pack with placentl liquid will give you a fantastic beautiful treatment – Also gives your tired skin moisturizing effect and beauty effect – Our placenta & collagen mask pack contains green tea, aloe, licorice, seaweeds extracts and so on.

Green tea! Aloe! Licorice! Placenta! All things that sound very chill and normal to put on your face. We were excited! Then we read some reviews:

I just apply the mask after I wash my face then apply the mask and keep it on for about 15-20 minutes, rub in the juices lol

It comes drenched in the baby sheep juice,so as long as you seal it up and don’t leave it sitting out in the air, it will stay moist.

Helpful and gross! It is far better to just stick to the official company description.

Undeterred, we opened the masks — Jaya was right; they were, indeed, incredibly gooey, and it was at that moment we realized what we were putting (placenta, if you forgot) onto our beautiful faces. We put on our masks and looked at each other. “You look like you’re a robot trying to convince someone they are, in fact, a real human.” “You look like Hannibal Lecter.”

Here’s how it went.

Eat the Garlic

Almost everything I cook begins the same way: Take out a head of garlic, separate the cloves, and begin peeling, trimming, and chopping. From there, ninety-five percent of the time, its job is to help accentuate the flavors of something else: vegetables, seafood, tofu, beans, pasta. Garlic is a key ingredient in the flavor bases for most world cuisines, and yet few people treat it as anything more than a spice, or an aromatic. That should change. Every recipe this week will destroy your breath and create a difficult predicament for your loved ones, who will be simultaneously impressed by your cooking and very turned off by your aromatics.

There are two main types of garlic: hard-neck and soft-neck. Hard-neck can typically only be found at farmers markets; like its name suggests, it has a long, hard stem, and is very expensive. It has fewer, but larger, cloves, and also has a slightly more intense, complex flavor. Soft-neck garlic is more common, more inexpensive, and more mild in flavor. Honestly, I tend to buy hard-neck garlic once in the springtime and think “huh tastes like garlic” and then go back to not spending like four dollars for a single head of garlic. (Oh, and there’s black garlic, which is a fermented garlic. It’s tasty but not a raw ingredient so we will ignore it today. Garlic scapes are the young necks of the hard-neck garlic variety, but they won’t be available for another few months so we’ll set them aside for another day.)

The Time I Tried to Be a Literary Agent

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, writer and TakePart Food Editor Willy Blackmore tells us more about what it’s like to sort of, but not really, work as a literary agent.

omg I tried to be a literary agent once and people maybe still query me? http://t.co/e7ZODWeHtW

— Willy Blackmore (@willyblackmore) February 12, 2015

Willy! So what happened here?

I was googling myself the other night, as one does (in my defense, I was searching for some old stories), and I came across this listing for Willy Blackmore, book agent, on a website called QueryTracker. It’s a sort of forum that writers use to keep tabs on agents, the queries they’ve sent out, etc., etc. Considering that I have a backlog of a couple hundred unread agenting emails sitting in a strange corner of my Gmail, it’s unsurprising that I have thoroughly shitty reviews on QueryTracker. Writers have determined that I do not find phone, email, or snail mail queries acceptable. Queries, apparently, are unacceptable.

My page on QueryTracker says that emails have repeatedly bounced, and the website of the agency that I so briefly worked for has now been taken over by pay-day loan spam bots. (“Opt for Wisely When Contemplating A Pay Day Loan.”) I haven’t been an agent for nearly six years—and arguably never really was one in the first place.

I moved from Iowa to California in 2008, and the indie publishing house Jennifer Banash—my then-girlfriend and now fiancé—and I ran out of our apartment in Iowa City moved along with us. It was a shitty time to move to a major city without any job prospects, to say the very least, and while there was plenty of work to do on the books Impetus Press was slated to launch the next spring, finding actual paying work was nearly impossible. I worked at an art gallery for a month or so before Lehman Brothers failed, after which the position just kind of disappeared. And while I found a few different food-service jobs after some hunting, they were part-time and low-paying and didn’t satisfy my artistic needs. So I started writing a series of resumes that (somewhat) exaggerated the work experience I had that could apply to fields other than art or publishing. Social media marketing “ninja” or young adult novel ghostwriter. Literary agent.