May 31, 2003

Josef Albers at Pace Wildenstein

Saw the Josef Albers paintings at Pace Wildenstein Gallery on 57th Street.

Nearly all the works are "Homage to the Square" or "Study for Homage to the Square". It's wonderful to seem them all in one space. Some observations:

• These are paintings, not screenprints. When seen up close, they have texture, brushstrokes, gesso showing through. So much of that is toned down in the "known" museum works, the screenprints, the posters.

• The show is grouped by color. The result is to have paintings that seem to refer to each other in a fairly taut conversation, yet are dated 5 years apart. Ah, to have that kind of attention span.

• One gem of the show is the small side room of Albersiana: paper sketches (including intense mathematical calculations), photographs of Albers by Henri Cartier-Bresson, and some lengthy text. There are four unframed sketch pieces on Masonite with Albers squiggles and notations and a range of masonite chunks with color swatches. Just so no one thinks that Albers phoned this all in.

• The printed, hardbound catalog ($60), while attractive, seems to have been made without photographs, but instead has reconstructions of the pieces in offset colors. And the colors don't seem to relate to the actual works. Not worth the price, in my opinion.

Here's an undated study:

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May 30, 2003

Ahhh, did your widdle feelings get hurt?

This article should have been titled: Canadians snippy about being stood up at Prom

This is how silly it has become; and how petty. President Bush is forced to cut short his visit to the G8 summit and that has the Canadians miffed:

"Personally I'm disappointed he has to leave," the [senior Canadian] official told reporters... We have two long formal sessions on Monday morning and afternoon. We have two formal lunches and dinners that day, which means that if he leaves mid-afternoon Monday he will miss maybe half of the session and the dinner."

While it is solicitous of the Canadians to worry about Bush's dinner, I suspect that White House staffers will ensure that he doesn't go hungry.

Of course, recent Canadian, French and German behavior hasn't been particularly promising in guaranteeing bonhomie around the old Summit dining table. Who can blame W. for slipping away as soon as he decently can? "It's been fun, but I have to get home to, er, umm, walk the Scottie."

The real reason Bush needs to rush off:

U.S. officials say Bush needs to leave the G8 meeting early to fly to Egypt to prepare for a meeting with Arab heads of state in Sharm el Sheikh and with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians in Aqaba, Jordan.

Oh, letting a mere bagatelle like Mideast peace get in the way of a leisurely dinner? What a cad! Someone should tell the Canadians that this is what grown-up diplomacy is like: not swanning around in French spas bitching and moaning about every little US slight. But then maybe they would regain some international significance.

Two Canada posts in one day! One more for the Hat Trick.

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Oh, the Humanity!

First SARS, then BSE, now this...

Will Canada never be free from disasters?

Miss Canada showed up at the Miss Universe pageant in this over-the-top costume that is said to represent the Canadian penny ($0.0073 US, 0.0062 EUR), although the last I looked the penny wasn't covered in peacock feathers. Not to mention that peacocks are not indigenous to Canada.

Some commented that the costume could have been a touch more "revealing" [insert usual smutty reference to actual national animal here]:

"Jeanne Beker, the host of Fashion Television, said Canada's costume was 'absolutely frightening.' ... The maple leaf mask should be sent to Jean Chrétien so he can wear it next time he visits the United States, she added." Now, that's a frightening idea.

Thanks to Paul Jané for this item.

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We needed a study to tell us this?

Study: Laziness Makes for Dangerous Fat

The team of experts looked at visceral fat — that hidden flab tucked in among the organs. It is often invisible, but unlike an obvious paunch or heavy thighs, it is linked with insulin resistance — pre-diabetes — and heart disease.

And Snoof used to worry only about his visible fat. Oh well, back to Weight Watchers.

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May 29, 2003

May all your work be fat!

Despite my past career as a typographer, I had never heard this one. But now I have and I'm laughing:

fat \Fat\, a.

6. (Typog.) Of a character which enables the compositor to make large wages; — said of matter containing blank, cuts, or many leads, etc.; as, a fat take; a fat page.
Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary

Type used to be charged by the galley, i.e. by the inch. So, lots of leading, lots of white space meant more money.

The new motto: May all your work be fat!

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Don't Even Think of Doing That Here

When I was a teenager, New York tried to style itself "Fun City." Well, in the words of The Daily News: Welcome to Nit Pick City.

There is a ticket blitz going on. Among the miscreants: an 86-year old pigeon feeder, a very pregnant woman resting on subway stairs, someone riding a bike with feet off the pedals, a tourist falling asleep in the Subway.

Few people know that my only hobby is parking my car on West 92nd Street. If Calvin Trillin hadn't beat me to it, I was angling to produce the great New York parking ode.

Around the last three or four days of the month, the ticket blitz begins. Quota time. Anonymous cops on radio talk shows have, er, copped to what everyone knew who'd lived here for 15 minutes — law officers need to produce a couple of dozen tickets a month.

Come the waning days of the moon, the cops put down their coffees and start creative writing courses. The traffic wardens, usually content to sashay the boulevards lazily, swarm down the byways, scattering little orange blossoms as they go.

There are dozens of nuances in the parking code that get hauled out this time of month. Distances allowed to hydrants shrink like a Wal-Mart shirt. Bumper hanging a molecule too far over crosswalk lines? Too bad.

Last month, I watched a ticket go on a windshield 1 minute after the alternate side time went off. That's cold.

The advantage to the authorities of the tickets is that they are given out one at a time — which doesn't build much group dynamic, like higher subway fares tend to.

I am unlikely to get a ticket for parking (because of my spider instincts), although maybe if I'm tired and use a space just two inches too close to the hydrant... But I jaywalk at will, I take stairs two at a time, I lean against subway bench backs instead of sitting in the seats. Who knows in the course of a day how many antique laws I break?

If you go to Toronto, you'll see the people standing politely (some might say docilely) at crosswalks. Why? Because they really do get tickets for stepping off the curb against the light. Makes for a more civil society — but it has been happening for generations, so its bred in the bone. New Yorkers aren't so "whipped" and, I suspect, are essentially untameable.

Tickets as revenue sources? Okay, but then I think I should get a tax rebate for not actually hitting anyone with my car as I drive through the streets of "Fun City."

Strange times, indeed.

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May 28, 2003

Adam : "The hatred felt toward America becomes absurd..."

Adam , unlike the "antiwar" critics, bears the credibility of actually having risked his life for his beliefs. Rather than demonstrating in a comfy, Western European democracy, he confronted a brutal totalitarian state and spent 6 years in a Polish prison.

Yet a German journalist has claimed that "Vaclav Havel, Adam , and George Konrad, Europe's long-standing moral authorities, [have] suddenly become undiscriminating admirers of America." has replied in a thoughtful piece in Gazeta Wyborcza. He argues against the "moral equivalency" doctrine that puts US action on a par with totalitarianism.

The hatred felt toward America becomes absurd when it ceases to be a critical stance that is normal within democratic discourse and takes up the defense of brutal, totalitarian dictatorships. The so-called peace movements of the Cold War burned effigies of American presidents and genuflected before Stalin's portraits. We will not repeat such a masquerade today.
Do we like the internal politics of the Bush administration, its projects to spy on citizens, or the rightist rhetoric of the Christian fundamentalists of the Republican Party? No, we do not, though we do believe that the American democracy, the wiser for the lessons of McCarthyism and Watergate, will be capable of protecting itself from the self-poisoning of the "open society."

An otherwise sane Canadian filmmaker told me last month that the US frightened him. Unaccountably, he claimed to be more fearful of George Bush than Islamic terror thugs with nuclear weapons!

, I suspect, would not suffer such foolishness. He at least is clear on the main enemy of civilization today, and it isn't the US:

Today, however, the primary threat is terrorism by Islamist fundamentalists. War has been declared against the democratic world. It is this world, whose sins and mistakes we know all too well, that we want to defend.

These are the reasons behind our absolute war on the terrorist, corrupt, intolerant regime of the despot from Baghdad. One cannot perceive totalitarian threats in George W. Bush's policies and at the same time defend Saddam Hussein. There are limits to absurdity, which should not be exceeded recklessly.

There you have it, one of the moral voices of our time versus the usual salon radicalism blinded by hatred of the United States.

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May 27, 2003

Lazy Quote of the Month

I think it was Shakespeare who once said: 
"Blipverts may come 
And blipverts may go 
But the laziness upon which they breed is with us always." 
Actually, that's quite good; perhaps it was me who said it.

—Max Headroom

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Logo Update

When someone gives you lemons, they say, make lemonade.

The Times should take these scandals as a branding opportunity, launching a new campaign to improve its image. Look at the positive characteristics it can project in its new slogan:

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The Celts Had a Word for it

Stumbled across a delightful site where the author has helpfully assembled a massive list of English words borrowed from other languages.
Many languages, from the obvious (French) to the obscure (Kimbundu of Northern Angola: banjo).

Favorite of this batch: Tory meaning outlaw.

banshee (woman of the fairy mound), bard, blarney, bog (soft), bother, brat, brisk, brogue, caddy, cairn, clan, claymore, crag, dour, dune (heap), gab, galore, gob, glamour, glen, golf, hooligan, keen, Kent (English county -white), lashings (abundance), leprechaun, loch, moniker, pet, phoney, pillion (cushion), pony, puck, shamrock, shanty, slob, slogan, smashing, smidgen, smithereens, sporran, spunk, Strontium, swap, Tory (outlaw), trousers, twig (understand), whiskey

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The Poetry of Robert Byrd

Earlier I posted a discourse on a passage of poetry chosen by that great orator, Robert C. Byrd, Senator of West Virginia.

But we shouldn't ignore the Great Senator's own contributions to the literature of this country.

I have taken the liberty of setting some of his choicer pieces as verse. It helps their impact in ways the mere prose renditions do not.

Submitted in the interests of literature, a piece from 2001 and two earlier works from 1946:

I'm going to use that word

There are white n----rs.
I've seen a lot of white n----rs
        in my time.

    I'm going to use that word.

But we all —
        we all —
    we just need to work
    to make
our country a better country,
    and I —

    I'd just as soon quit
    talking about it
        so much.


The Klan is needed
    as never before

and I am anxious to see
    its rebirth here
    in West Virginia.

It is necessary that
    the order be
immediately and

    every state
    of the Union.

Rather would I die

[I will] never submit
    to fight
        that banner
    with a Negro by my side.

Rather would I die
    a thousand times,

and see Old Glory
        the dirt

    never to rise
than to see this beloved land of ours
    become degraded
        by race

a throwback to
    the blackest
    specimen from

the wilds.

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May 25, 2003

Memorial Day 2003

Ground Zero Memorial Wall, St. Paul's Church, New York    Dec 1, 2001

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