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Saturday, February 15, 2020
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Suggestions for your senses,
every Saturday at 9 a.m.
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SPONSORED BY
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Good morning.

This week, we preview architect Rem Koolhaas’s exhibition at the Guggenheim, get ahold of hand-massage tools from The Wax Apple, toast a round of Makku to Parasite director Bong Joon-ho, revel in graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister’s eclectic playlist of David Byrne covers, and visit the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents in Berkeley.

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See
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Gone Country
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Courtesy OMA
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Dutch architect, urbanist, and theorist Rem Koolhaas is the rare figure whose outsize influence is evidenced in cities around the world, as well as in our thinking about them. The designs of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), the firm he cofounded, in 1975, are as famous as the books he’s written over the years, not to mention the number of architects under OMA’s employ—Jeanne Gang, Joshua Prince-Ramus, and Ole Scheeren, among many others referred to as “Baby Rems”—who have gone on to make their own marks in the field.

This month, Koolhaas presents his latest thesis and provocative topic of interest—the countryside—with a building-wide exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York. Organized by curator Troy Therrien, “Countryside, The Future” (on view from Feb. 20–Aug. 14) would seem to be a departure from the architect’s career-long focus on cities, an irony not lost on him: “New York is obviously a fantastic platform to launch a show which is about the absolute opposite of New York—the space on the earth outside the city, that is, the countryside,” Koolhaas says. “The countryside is now the site where the most radical, modern components of our civilization are taking place.” Presenting original findings with an international team of researchers, the show promises to address urgent environmental, political, and socioeconomic issues by looking at the countryside to forecast possibilities for the future.

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Touch
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Close to Hand
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Courtesy The Wax Apple
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Designer Juliana Huang spent much of her childhood in Taiwan, before moving to Los Angeles after high school. Living halfway around the world fostered an appreciation for everyday objects found back home, and with her project, The Wax Apple—affectionately named after her favorite fruit native to Taiwan—she’s able to share a little piece of her culture with a stateside audience. A catchall moniker for her roving series of pop-ups, events, and food workshops, The Wax Apple was “never intended to compete with the mass market,” Huang says (especially in the age of Amazon), though she does keep an online shop. “I find that the objects are most powerful when you can physically touch and see them.”

Often scouted with the assistance of her grandmother, many of Huang’s picks support the work of artisans whose generations-old crafts traditions are slowly fading, along with their local dialects. Among the wares are home goods and accessories, monk-wear clothing, and shoes—as well as a collection of handheld massage tools, which caught our attention in particular. Crafted from natural materials such as ebony wood, cedar, and oxhorn, the little pocket-size tools for self-care take on a few different forms, each designed to stimulate specific pressure points. A massage tool meant to be squeezed in your palm resembles an eight-sided die; another, intended to relax the eyebrow, comes with two snail-like tentacles to run alongside either end. Soothing to body and mind, the abstracted sculptural forms make for beautifully crafted objects themselves—and the perfect thing to have on hand for a long flight.

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SPONSORED BY
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Taste
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Cheers to This
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Courtesy Littledrill
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South Korean cinema has been on everyone’s lips this week, in the afterglow of director Bong Joon-ho’s triumphant Oscars sweep for Parasite, the grand finale to a months-long award spree that began with a Palme d’Or win at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Set in Seoul, the timely and genre-bending social satire of class warfare took home four Oscars this past Sunday—making history in more ways than one. By his second acceptance speech, Bong, whose reactions were being duly memed, was ready to hit the bar. His exact words: “I’m ready to drink now, until the morning.” A total mood.

May we propose, in a festive toast to the winning auteur: a round of makgeolli, a sparkling rice wine that’s as ubiquitous as beer in Korean culture, and just as easy to down. Slightly cloudy with a gently sweet, creamy taste and soft, effervescent mouthfeel, the traditional everyman’s drink dates back to the 10th century, though these days, you’re most likely to see it sold in plastic bottles at grocery stores, with fruity flavors like peach and mango; in casual pubs and restaurants, makgeolli is often served chilled in an aluminum kettle, with bowls to share.

As Korean cuisine, too, finds a larger footing with an international fanbase in recent years, the old-school “farmer’s liquor” has recently received a hip update by an enterprising millennial. We’re currently sipping on Makku, launched last year by Carol Pak, who became smitten with the drink on a visit to South Korea, discovering its history and many varieties reflecting the country’s terroir. Makku offers an all-natural, craft-beer take with three flavors—original, blueberry, and mango—that, of course, comes in a fetching, Insta-ready can (designed by Joe Doucet). Geonbae!

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Hear
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Feel the Byrne
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Courtesy Stefan Sagmeister
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Stefan Sagmeister has designed a lot of album covers in his day—among them, David Byrne’s Feelings (1997) and Talking Heads’s 2003 box set Once in a Lifetime. Here, the notoriously cheeky graphic designer (interviewed by Spencer on Ep. 8 of our Time Sensitive podcast), shares a playlist of some of his favorite Byrne cover songs. Byrne himself wraps his Broadway tour of American Utopia tomorrow, Feb. 16, after a four-month run.

“Once in a Lifetime,” Big Daddy
“Big Daddy transforms ‘Once in a Lifetime’ into a pure party song, suggesting we end up at points in our life without any idea of how we got there—all while partying our days away.”

“Heaven,” Jessica Lurie
‘Heaven’ has been covered by everybody from K.D. Lang to Simply Red. I prefer Jessica Lurie’s ‘Heaven,’ where the tuba and the harmonicas rule.”

“Road to Nowhere,” Greensky Bluegrass
“Greensky Bluegrass pick their banjos at breakneck speed all the way through the sunny fields and rolling hills of ‘Road to Nowhere.’

“Psycho Killer,” The Bobs
‘Psycho Killer’ as interpreted by The Bobs, performed without the help of any instruments, is pure silliness, successfully exorcising all hints of anxiety within it.”

“(Nothing But) Flowers,” Caetano Veloso
“Caetano Veloso performing a gorgeous ‘(Nothing But) Flowers’ all by himself—he and David also re-created this memorably as a duet at Carnegie Hall.”

“This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody),” Kishi Bashi
“Kishi Bashi plays a lovely ‘This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)’ using nothing but strings.”

“Life During Wartime,” Sheri Rene Scott
“Sherie Rene Scott has no time for party or disco and successfully moves the setting of ‘Life During Wartime’ from the post-apocalyptic landscape of the late seventies Lower East Side to something closer to the Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel.”

“Slippery People,” Mavis Staples
“Mavis Staples celebrates a live ‘Slippery People,’ injected with another double dose of funk by Win Butler and Regine Chassagne.”
 

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Smell
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Slow Perfumes
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Photo: Foster Curry
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Natural perfume-maker Mandy Aftel was hiking through old ghost towns in California’s Gold Rush country when she found unlikely inspiration in an old folk museum the size of a living room. “There were these little, little personal museums, about the area and about the people that live there,” she says, “and I looked at it one day and thought, I could do that.” 

An author of several books, including Essence & Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume, Aftel has spent much of her career cultivating and sharing her fascination with scent. Creating her own speciality museum, she decided, would open the doors to the scent collection she’s amassed for more than 30 years. In 2017, she launched the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents, the first museum in the U.S. dedicated to perfume, in her North Berkeley cottage situated right behind Alice Waters’s famed Chez Panisse restaurant, a longtime neighbor that also shares a proximity in ethos. In many respects, Aftel has done for perfumes what Waters has done for the Slow Food movement, placing an emphasis on all-natural, high-quality ingredients, and garnering a cult celebrity following along the way. (Madonna, Lucinda Williams, and Leonard Cohen are fans of Aftel’s “Slow Perfumes.”)

One $20 admission fee to Aftel’s museum grants visitors to an hour-long visit and guided experience through the origin, source, and making of scent, with smelling stations that deconstruct the notes of a “chord,” various displays of antique perfume ephemera, rare books about scent, and collections of natural and historic scent specimens. There’s even a stuffed civet on display, standing in for the creature’s secretions that are sourced to produce musk. Among Aftel’s most prized holdings, though, is a century-old sample of ambergris—a solid, waxy substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales, as described in Moby-Dick, that was cherished for centuries for its sweet, earthy scent. “It’s so unbelievably gorgeous-smelling, it’s just phenomenally beautiful,” says Aftel, who likens the aged specimen to a fine wine or cooking ingredient, with notes of “damp, moss-covered forest ground, but also of exotic woods and spices, faded flowers, and a warm, animal, musky air.”

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Until next week...

Today’s email was written by Aileen Kwun.

Editor: Spencer Bailey
Creative Director: Andrew Zuckerman
Producer: Mike Lala

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