Recommended Viewing: We Are X, The Death and Life of X Japan

We Are X Movie Poster
Above Image Courtesy of We Are X Film Dot Com. All Other Photos By Gail

When the most popular heavy metal band in Japan came to New York in October of 2014 to play a show at Madison Square Garden, they managed to sell out the legendary arena, despite being virtually unknown in America. X (known stateside as X Japan), got their start in the 1980s as a glam metal band, doing their best to shock audiences with their outrageous stage show and equally over-the-top, gender-bending physical appearances that included flamboyant rock fashions, wildly theatrical hairstyles and Kabuki-esque make-up. But what critics who initially dismissed the band as all style and no substance didn’t realize was that these guys could play their asses off, and were selling the type of rebellious image that repressed Japanese audiences couldn’t wait to buy. Now, an award-winning documentary, We Are X,  aims to bring the myth and enigma that is X Japan into your consciousness.

X Japan Concert Ad

Critics say that the mark of a good documentary is when its story is accessible to, and can be fully enjoyed by, audiences who are completely unfamiliar with its subject matter. Using the career-milestone Madison Square Garden concert as a jumping off point, and circling back to that show (which I attended) at the film’s end, Director Stephen Kijak (Stones in Exile, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man) has succeeded wildly at crafting a career-spanning Rock & Roll fable that will surely hook those who’ve never even heard of X Japan right from its opening credits.

Yoshiki at MSG
Yoshiki on Stage at MSG

Told primarily from the viewpoint of founding member Yoshiki; X Japan’s drummer, composer and charismatic leader, We Are X is both the story of the band’s groundbreaking 30-year career, and also the life story of Yoshiki, who turned to music as a child as a means to cope with the suicide of his father. Forming X as a teenager with school friend Toshi, who became the band’s lead singer, Yoshiki was driven to succeed by existential questions that haunted him from his father’s death; namely “What is my purpose?” and “why am I here?”

Yoshiki and Stephen Kijak
Yoshiki and Stephen Kijak Discuss the Film at a Post-Screening Q&A Here in NYC

Embracing a ‘Do or Die’ sensibility, X Japan became not just an innovative and successful rock band, but a cultural force as powerfully influential as that created by The Beatles decades before them. Not only have they achieved phenomenal record sales and concert attendances, but band members’ personal brands are associated with products as diverse as credit cards, wine, comic book superhero alter egos, and dolls made in their own likenesses. X Japan is also credited with spearheading the uniquely Japanese Visual Kei movement.

X at MSG
X Japan on Stage at MSG

The band’s great successes, however, were tempered with equally great tragedies. As a counterpoint to the celebratory  moments, the film carefully explores the suicides of two seminal band members, Hide (in 1998) and Taiji (in 2011), which shattered the lives of both X Japan’s surviving members, and devastated their fans, one of whom was driven to suicide because of the news. We Are X is a true life Rock & Roll story that really has everything.

Yoshiki and Toshi
Yoshiki and Toshi Rocking It Back in the Day!

Despite the intense personal/personnel drama, career challenges and many heart-rending moments, We Are X is also good fun, and thoroughly entertaining. One of my favorite parts happens towards the film’s end, when Yoshiki and Toshi are reunited in 2007, ten years after the singer abandoned X Japan to join a mind-controlling cult. Yoshiki recalls hanging out at the Palladium in Hollywood, where the friends were approached by two guys looking to buy drugs. One of the men asked the duo if they knew where they could score some X (meaning the psychedelic drug, Ecstasy). Yoshiki, whose grasp of the English language is obviously much  better now than it was back then, laughs when he recalls replying to the guy, with complete sincerity, “We are X!” Hilarious.

We Are X opens in theaters nationwide on Friday October 21st, 2016.

Grade: A+

X at MSG
X Japan On Stage at Madison Square Garden, October 2014


Those Who Can’t Season 2 Subway Ad

Those Who Cant
Photo By Gail

Whoever created this Ad is a marketing genius.

From Wikipedia:

Those Who Can’t is a half-hour show, based in Denver, Colorado, that follows three dysfunctional teachers, played by show creators Adam Cayton-Holland, Andrew Orvedahl and Ben Roy of the Denver-based comedy troupe The Grawlix. More inept than the kids they teach, they’re out to beat the system as they struggle to survive each day on their own terms. Maria Thayer stars as the school librarian with a bubbling passion for life.

The show airs Thursdays on TruTV.

Product Review: Frisa Sparkling Botanical Beverages

Frisa Black Currant and Elderflower Bottles
All Photos By Gail

Healthy Soda: it is a Thing. You might recall my awesome event recap from the 2016 Summer Fancy Food Show, where I met This Handsome Guy at the booth for Frisa Sparkling Botanical Beverages, and was compelled to stop and learn more about this delicious drink. Because, healthy soda; I’m all about it.

Frisa Elderflower 4 Pack

I found out that Frisa sparkling botanical beverages are 100% natural, GMO free, gluten free, caffeine free, and are made from the finest ingredients including European spring water sourced exclusively from the Pyrenees (which are a range of mountains in Europe – learning!). But when discussing Frisa’s different flavors, I admit they had me at Elderflower: which is my single favorite ingredient in any cocktail. To sip an elderflower-enhanced, natural sparkling soft drink, surely this was too much goodness for me to resist. I agreed to receive samples of Frisa to try at home and review for this blog. Here are my findings.

Frisa Black Currant 4 Pack

Frisa sparkling botanical beverages are newly available in single serving four packs, as seen above, and each 8.45 oz bottle is the ideal size not only for enjoying chilled straight from the bottle, or poured over ice, but also as a base to create a totally kick ass cocktail when mixed with your favorite vodka! Your friends will think you went to a fancy mixology school, or something. And you can lie and say that you did. I’ll never tell.

Frisa Elderflower

Frisa beverages are lightly sweetened with a hint of natural cane sugar, and the Elderflower showcases the aromatic, honey-scented flavors of this natural ingredient. This sparkling beverage combines the finest ingredients to embolden the natural subtleties of elderflower — which is the flower of the European elderberry plant, in case you did not know. Its taste is really one of a kind, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Frisa Black Currant

I also received a four-pack of the Black Currant Rosehip variety, which offers a unique flavor profile and combines the boldness of black currant with the botanical notes of rosehip. The result is a beverage unlike any other: light and refreshing with the complexity of its unique ingredients. It tastes like you made it fresh yourself! And look at the gorgeous, ruby-red color: just look at it! You could make cocktails with this uniquely delicious beverage at the holidays and blow people minds.

Frisa Sparkling Botanical Beverages are truly delicious and it is my pleasure to recommend that you also try them for yourself. Find out more about Frisa products, including their latest flavor variety, Ginger Hibiscus, at Frisa Beverages Dot Com!

Eye On Design: Flying Saucer Dress By Issey Miyake

Flying Saucer Dress
All Photos By Gail

The Flying Saucer Dress from Miyake Design Studio (Spring/Summer 1994, prêt-à-porter collection) represents a continuation of Japanese fashion design legend Issey Miyake’s exploration of pleating garments with a playful element. He explains, “The Flying Saucer was a search for what could be done with different sorts of pleating — in this case, accordion pleats  — and to see what could be done by combining fabric, design and movement. Why not make brightly-colored, wearable accordion?”

Flying Saucer Dress Flat
Flying Saucer Dress, Flat (Detail)

The dress is made from machine-sewn polychrome polyester plain weave, and is machine-garment-pleated.

Flying Saucer Dress Expanded
Flying Saucer Dress, Expanded (Detail)

Photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Manus x Machina Fashion Exhibit in the Summer of 2016.

Flying Saucer Dress

Product Review: Molly’s Suds Laundry Powder

Above Image Source. All Other Photos By Gail

As consumers, we are constantly monitoring what we eat, and scrutinizing food  product labels; but we don’t think as deeply about what we allow to touch our skin. Not many people are aware that a skincare product’s ingredients can, and do, find their way into our bloodstream. It’s a scary thought. After watching This Film, I became increasingly vigilant about checking labels on household products, searching out natural, fragrance-free, and chemically safe product alternatives for cleaning around my home.

Mollys Suds Advisory

Recently, I was asked to try the laundry powder Molly’s Suds and received a small sample packet it email to try on my own laundry. Molly’s Suds has a fascinating back story: the product line was created by a pediatric nurse, who began to do extensive research on chemical product additives after suffering the stillbirth of a child. She discovered that newborn baby cord blood and amniotic fluid have shown the presence of multiple non-natural toxins (as many as 240 chemicals have been found in cord blood). More than 120 of the chemicals were from toxins in food, personal care, household and environmental products. From her own personal tragedy, she felt a responsibility to teach others about these toxins, and to make a difference.

Mollys Suds Sample Package

The sample I received (shown above) contained enough laundry powder for two average-sized loads of wash, and you need to use just over one measured tablespoon for effective cleaning! If you are in the habit of using half a cup of liquid detergent (or more) per load, as I am, you know this may seems weird, because you can’t believe that such a small amount of product will really work. I was excited to put it to the test!

Being detergent-free, Molly’s Suds is low-sudsing product (in fact, you may see no suds at all), but don’t panic just because you are accustomed to equating lots of suds with a higher degree of cleanliness. One thing has nothing to do with other, so just trust that the small amount you’ve added to your wash is sufficient to get your clothes clean.

Upon coming out of the dryer, my clothes smelled fresh and clean, but had no discernible perfume-y scent, and even a well-trod-upon rug came out bright and stain free. I am sold on this product and happy to spread the word about Molly’s Suds: A safe and effective laundry product! Learn more about Molly’s Suds and buy their products online at This Link!

Mollys Suds Label

Lynda Benglis: New Work, at Cheim & Read

Lynda Benglis New Works
All Photos By Gail

Since the 1960s, Lynda Benglis has been celebrated for the free, ecstatic forms she has poured, thrown and molded in ceramic, latex, polyurethane and bronze. In her new work, she turns to handmade paper, which she wraps around a chicken wire armature, often painting the sand-toned surface in bright, metallic colors offset by strokes of deep, coal-based black. At other times she leaves the paper virtually bare.

Lynda Benglis New Works

Lynda Benglis New Works

These works reflect the environment in which they were made, the “sere and windblown” landscape of Santa Fe, New Mexico, as Nancy Princenthal writes in her essay on the exhibit. “It is possible to see the bleached bones of the land—its mesas and arroyos; its scatterings of shed snakeskins and animal skeletons—in the new sculptures’ combination of strength and delicacy.”

Lynda Benglis New Works

Simultaneously playful and visceral, the new works enter into a lively dialogue with Benglis’s previous explorations of materials and form, but with a raw immediacy inherent to the moist strips of paper she uses as their skin. Stretched, crimped and torn into richly organic shapes, the paper becomes both the sculpture’s shell and a repository of the artist’s touch. “The flexibility of the paper is marvelous; it’s just very loving,” she tells the filmmaker Burrill Crohn in Benglis Skin Deep, a video interview on the making of this body of work.

Lynda Benglis New Works

The sculptures are light and open, with slits and apertures revealing their wire supports. “I’m drawing with air, and wire, and paper,” Benglis remarks in the interview. Princenthal compares the paper skins to shattered piñatas and animal hides, as well as to the kites that the artist’s father made by hand (Benglis attends the kite festival held yearly at Ahmedabad, India, where she maintains a residence).

Lynda Benglis With Fan

Lynda Benglis With a Fan at the Exhibit’s Opening Reception in September

The Fall Caught

As a counterweight to the paper sculptures, Benglis will also exhibit The Fall Caught, a new large-scale aluminum work made by applying spray foam instead of strips of handmade paper on the chicken wire armature, as well as a new series of spiraling, hand-built black ceramics called Elephant Necklace. Benglis has said of this work, “Elephants necklaces are artifacts that I imagine in the long and short of the extrusions of life. The expulsion from the garden with the umbilical cord attached are perhaps the fragments left of the family of mammoths trunks. Having left only parts of their trunks in our imagination, I long to find out more about them through a united collaboration with Saxe Patterson, my exploration team, and others who may decide to question their existence in this hemisphere.”

Elephant Necklace
Elephant Necklace

The sexual politics at the heart of Benglis’s career is intrinsic to this work. The cylindrical shape of many of her new sculptures can bring to mind phalluses and vaginas (“considered as tubes, one becomes the other”), and yet, as Princenthal observes, “Of all the sensations her work evokes, pure delight is among the keenest.”

Lynda Benglis New Works

Lynda Benglis Signage

Lynda Benglis: New Work will be on Exhibit Through October 22nd, 2016 at Cheim & Read, Located at 547 West 25th Street, in the Chelsea Gallery District.

Lynda Benglis New Works