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On the Culture Front: The Return of Soundgarden and Curb Your Enthusiasm

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The other week marked the return of two of my favorite things: Curb Your Enthusiasm and Soundgarden. My love of Curb and its star, Larry David, extends back to the days of Seinfeld and my childhood. It's the show (more than any other) to which I relate life. My friends will note that nearly everything reminds me of a Seinfeld episode. I also grew up in the building where Larry David lived when he created the show with Jerry Seinfeld, and where the real Kramer (David's former neighbor) still lives.

At a panel talk at 92Y the other week about the show with the core cast members (Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman, and Cheryl Hines), David recalled living across from Kenny Kramer and how he gave him the advice to pretend (after quitting Saturday Night Live in a rather vocal manner) that it was all a joke and go back to work. It didn't get him his job back, but it did make it into an episode of Seinfeld ("The Revenge").

Moderator Brian Williams was particularly interested in the intersection of David's personal life and Curb, wondering (as many of us do) how much of the show is reality vs. fantasy. These questions seemed to make David particularly uncomfortable, causing him to blush on multiple occasions. While he didn't reveal much about his personal life, he did defend his fictional approximation of himself, pointing out that his character is very concerned with the way people treat each other and that's a good thing. So what if he doesn't care for the "stop-and-chat" (I secretly hate them too) or refuses kids candy on Halloween who aren't properly dressed for the occasion, he lives life on his own terms, and that's what is so appealing about the show.

Soundgarden have also carved out a career moving at their own pace. Despite their enormous popularity in the 90s, they resisted the corporate machine that's consumed their contemporaries and dropped off the face of the music scene for nearly 15 years. While that's disappointed many fans, it's kept their primal energy intact, and they're now delivering a hell of a reunion show. When I caught them the other week, they were just as good as I remembered. "Spoonman" came early and its driving riff landed like a dream, while Cornell and co. had us wait a little longer for "Black Hole Sun." It's one of the those shows where you just can't help but smile throughout and wish those two hours could last forever.