Culture Diary: Irin Carmon Dances Salsa, Watched ‘Page One’ And ‘Kindergarten Cop,’ And Detoxes From The Internet With Shakespeare

On Mondays, progressive leaders from all parts of the movement, from the blogosphere to the Hill, take a break out of their schedules to tell us what they’re watching, reading, and listening to. Suggestions or requests? Email AlyssaObserves (at) gmail (dot) com.

Irin Carmon writes about everything from the Rwandan genocide to the meanings of Cameron Diaz vehicle Bad Teacher for Jezebel, Gawker Media’s blog for women. She’s covered media and luxury industries for Women’s Wear Daily and written a travel column for the Boston Globe. Today, she takes us through her week in culture, from art exhibits and movie screenings at Gawker HQ, to salsa in Prospect Park, to a Father’s Day cruise on Jamaica Bay


To offset the hyper plugged-in nature of my job (ten hours of blogging, Twitter-while-walking), am reading the classics on my Kindle. Today: The Tempest, in advance of tonight’s performance. Upon arrival, Gawker Media headquarters are hung with employees’ portraits, by Mark Mann, which he shot on a Graflex 1950s camera. “It’s a very tough camera to lie to,” he writes. “I think these pictures show that.” Mine is right by the bathroom.At a pre-theater dinner, my father implores me to stop writing about “penises and vaginas,” saying ominously, “It will haunt you.” I reply that so far it’s only haunting him. The production, at Juilliard, is a mishmash of selections from The Tempest and 17th century music on original instruments. We came for Derek Jacobi (my anti-blog/analog plan has me on track for five Shakespeare productions this year so far, counting Measure for Measure next week, and Jacobi in Lear a few weeks ago, the best production of anything I’ve seen, I think) but it doesn’t quite hang together. In the car, we listen to the GOP debate and read the funniest tweets aloud. Later, I watch The Daily Show and Colbert while catching up on the Internet. TuesdayMake this for lunch (pickling my own onions feels like a brownstone Brooklyn rite of passage), head to yoga here (a place saturated with journalists and novelists to an almost embarrassing degree), and then straight to salsa class here. Come home with hands smelling like many men’s colognes. Wash them. Chop vegetables for this while watching Colbert and read Toobin’s The Nine before the bed. (I have long owned an untouched hardcover copy. More points for the Kindle). WednesdayI listen to Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion roughly daily, rotating arias and comparing productions on YouTube. Today it’s overtaken by Ismael Rivera, whom I discovered via Pandora, and in particular this on repeat, reminding me that I need to learn to cha cha. En route to dinner in the West Village, I watch a rental of Conan The Barbarian on my iPhone to prep for a panel on Friday.

ThursdayConveniently, there’s a screening of the documentary on the Times, Page One, on the rooftop of my office, with a Q&A; with the stars. (Is it “stars” in square quotes when it’s nonfiction and about journalists?). I tend to agree with Kinsley, whose sting is felt around the pre-movie cocktails, about the chaotic lack of focus. Still, I love the scene when editor Bruce Headlam desperately tries to figure out whether there’s a substantive change in the war or just a pseudo-event concocted by television. I get someone who knows both of them to agree about the resemblance between David Carr and Mark Rylance’s Tony-winning performance of Johnny Byron in Jerusalem, which I saw last week. (It was recommended by a Twitter friend.) Both are surrounded by young acolytes; are volatile, charismatic storytellers; have a sort of fierce and coiled physicality. Also, the dance moves.

More wine than food, so it seems both wise and urgent to have a cab drop me off at my studio’s weekly salsa party, though it’s midnight and I lack proper shoes. Get in a few dances before the music switches to merengue; watch wistfully and happily as the floor clears for cha-cha and the best dancers remain. Stumbling home, I realize I forgot my headphones at work, so I just hold my iPhone to my ear to keep the music going. Friday

Watch Kindergarten Cop and then sit on a panel about Arnold Schwarzenegger and masculinity at the 92Y Tribeca with some fine people. I read aloud the following incredible quote from this 1977 interview in Oui magazine: “Men shouldn’t feel like fags just because they want to have nice-looking bodies. Another thing: Recently I posed for a gay magazine, which caused much comment. But it doesn’t bother me. Gay people are fighting the same kind of stereotyping that bodybuilders are: People have certain misconceptions about them just as they do about us. Well, I have absolutely no hang-ups about the fag business; though it may bother some bodybuilders, it doesn’t affect me at all.” Saturday

A party for my college roommate on Long Island introduces me to Ghanaian music, which she says is funeral music no matter how lively it sounds. Her mother and church friends lead the dance party. I’m struck by the food’s similarity to Brazil’s, especially whatever they call the powdered cassava. Later, I make it to the latter half of this salsa party in Prospect Park, but concrete isn’t easy to dance on. There is a nearly solitary man playing the bagpipes at a corner bar called Jackie’s Fifth Amendment, on my way home. A cop inside and a man doing a sloppy jig outside. I pause, and then clap when it’s over, but when I return with a friend, the bagpiper has disappeared. We go home and watch Blue Valentine instead, which shamefully it has taken me this long to see (and love). Sunday

Father’s day cruise on Jamaica Bay (I get them to play a paternal favorite, John Denver and Placido Domingo’s “Perhaps Love” duet, which we warble along with) followed by The Battle For Brooklyn, which was waged a few blocks from my home. I’m struck by how essentially conservative and property-values-oriented the “battle” is at the outset. I like protagonist Daniel Goldstein’s habit of convincing himself to the contrary mid-sentence, like, “It’s un-American — no, actually it’s very American — actually, it’s the American way.” Though erratically paced and occasionally unfair, it’s a good dramatization of an objectively terrible sequence of events perpetrated by Democratic donor developers and enabled by elected officials. Burritos follow.