30 January 2007

New dvds/ elections

The documentary Giuliani Time, which I haven’t seen, comes out on DVD today for those who rent these things.

Interestingly, there’s talk of a Chuck Hagel (anti-war conservative) third party candidacy in 2008, possibly on a ticket with Mayor Bloomberg, which makes sense for Hagel since he wants to run, is a long shot to win the Republican nomination and anti-war positions rile the Bush faithful. That would make it more difficult for Giuliani to run as a third party candidate, which is, according to polling expert Charlie Cook, his best chance for winning.

Giuliani leads polls for the general elections and for Republican primaries, but speculation is that if he ran as a Republican his centrist positions on abortion and gay rights, as well as tales of his corruption, would stick to him and he would nose dive in the polls. McCain seems to want Rudy in the race, since that would be more cause for conservatives to rally around him, while a one on one race against a conservative (Romney or Brownback) could end badly for him. This is hard to picture for people who aren’t xenophobic but one way to look at it is to look at all the people who voted for Bush against McCain in 2000, and guess how many of them would vote for McCain or Giuliani in 2008. My guess is not too many.

Any Republican third party candidacy would be good for the Dems and thus the nation. After watching African-American congressman Harold Ford get beat for Tennessee Senate by an attack ad with guys in blackface and naked white women scripted by a guy that was later hired by McCain, I am inclined to think Barach will need this kind of help to win the battleground Bible Belt states (TN, Missouri, Arkansas) though he could win without them if he gets the Midwest and Florida.

29 January 2007

Prime time

Angel no. 1: Is that Rilke crying out again?
Angel no. 2: I think it’s coming from the TV.

24 January 2007

I sent a pic to Big Bridge, effectively ending my No Graven Images of Ian policy, explained here and here. It was fun, but a further image blackout would require being either hermetic or anal about people getting their digital cameras out.

17 January 2007

Folks tend to think of ‘outsider’ artists as utilizing brushes and paints and installation artists as being more well-connected, so the back story of Georges Adéagbo – who developed his craft while held against his will in Benin after getting engaged in France – is as surprising as his installation. Down the hall in the first floor of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where his Abraham, Friend of God, named after Abraham Lincoln and the biblical Abraham, hangs until April, I tend to seek out Pissarro to transport me to a visual consciousness that doesn’t involve billboards and SUVs, but Adéagbo demands that each of his completed works be site-specific, mindful of the culture around it. A reworking for Philly of a work originally made for PS1 in Queens, his traveler’s perspective takes root in the installation, as he juxtaposes found images from print media, entertainment, and everyday life to create a quilt of mental associations, structured loosely around slavery and colonialism in the two hemispheres but tending to focus on current events and cultural interchanges. Worth checking out.

Gallery 176 would be a great spot for Joseph Beuys’ Lightning With a Stag in its Glare, which is owned by PMA but I don’t think they've ever shown it. It’s at MassMOCA, listed as ‘ongoing.’

16 January 2007

Notubo ergo sum

I wake up, check the news, and if there is no frequently viewed pirate video of my execution on YouTube denounced by Western heads of state, I start the kettle...

10 January 2007


To clarify: any and all commentary on tea is expected of the readership here, especially from travelers in far-away places. This may be stating the obvious but there’s no harm in reiteration. I was a tea enthusiast even when I was keeping the Polish distillers in business; my enthusiasm now is unhindered by more powerful beverages. David is in Beijing having just been served 80-year-old pe-erh tea and chiding me for pe-erh not being available outside the mainland owing to export controls. Ha! I have settled on a price with a respected merchant from Kunming and my tea bricks go out on Friday.
At the low end of pe-erh you have the option of getting a new ‘raw’ variety and waiting a few years to drink it, or getting a ‘ripe’ variety, which is fermented early to taste like aged raw. Since I am currently not jaded, I am going to get started on the ‘ripe’ stuff, with bricks from two factories in the Menghai area of Xishuangbanna.

Amusing translations on my teas:

“China green tea grows among undulating mountain ranges and soggy mountain streams. ..The tea is green and luxuriant, constitute a flourishing tea forest... You take it and taste it, you enjoy your healthy and wonderful life.”

Polygonum Multiflorum (Vietnam): “Make blood, liver and kidney good. Make hair and beard black and prevent hair from whitening prematurely. Cure some diseases such as : post-partum disease, leukonhea, lunbagi, impotence, and urine.”

Can’t find the corporate philosophy card for the tasty masala tea Wagh Bakri, but these verses accompany their logo:

Of co-existence & harmony.
Of the strong & the meek.
Of the Tiger (Wagh) & the Goat (Bakri),
well summed up as - WaghBakri.

09 January 2007

Review: Home Pics

Maurice Pialat’s Van Gogh, which along with Peter Watkins’ Edvard Munch, Paul Leduc’s Frida: Naturaleza Viva, and Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev make up the best quartet of artist biopics, comes out today on DVD. Pialat’s best known work in the US is his Depardieu-Huppert vehicle Loulou, a favorite of mine which takes the romantic genre to its full extension by depicting a couple that has absolutely nothing in common other than sex, and unflinchingly and comedically looking at the class dimensions of this relationship.

While Watkins’ masterpiece is a revering epic that wallows in the historical dimensions and personal anguish in Munch’s work, Pialat’s is historically irreverent enough to, for instance, imagine a fling between Van Gogh (Jacques Dutronc) and Dr. Gachet’s daughter (Alexandra London), who uses the situation to rebel against her only surviving parent and becomes a devoted champion of his art. There is none of the Lust for Life/ Vincent and Theo sensationalism and moralizing here: Van Gogh gets to be an ordinary person, socially functional and humorous, with depression and bitterness below the surface. He talks about art as little as possible, a trait perhaps useful for the tone of the film depicted as a result of years of contempt for his contemporaries’s viewpoints, as when he is criticized by a peer and when Gachet tries to talk shop with him, he reacts only with pained facial expressions.

A brilliant scene for the ‘Landscape with the Fall of Icarus’ / 'Musee des Beaux Arts' department is when right after Van Gogh dies and Theo and Gachet (Bernard Le Coq and Gérard Séty, who turn in the best of many convincing performances) solemnly settle his estate of paintings in the tavern of his low-rent inn, a storage chest closes on the foot of the innkeepers’ wife, causing the drama to move on immediately from the death of the then-unimportant Vincent. The film covers the period from his arrival in Auvers-sur-Oise to just after his death.

Le Coq’s Theo is an imperfect but magnanimous and self-effacing dealer whose loyalty to Vincent is portrayed as a byproduct of his passion for paintings, friendship depicted through bonding scenes in Paris bordellos, and bourgeois family pride. A revealing scene of Pialat’s imagining of Theo comes from this private conversation with his wife:

Theo: He could have been one of the great painters of his time. But he started late and rushed things. He always does. Like when he wanted to be a priest. He never learned. I don’t understand him. The truth is, deep down I don’t like his painting. I wish he painted like Renoir. I’d love that. No, I don’t want him to paint like Renoir. Not that either. But if Renoir painted like Vincent... I’d like it because my brother hadn’t done it. See?

Jo: What nonsense. You complicate everything. Life just happens, that’s all.

For people who want to hear more from Van Gogh’s mouth, Paul Cox’s ‘87 Van Gogh, which involves John Hurt reading from the diaries for almost the whole film, is recommended for those who may find the diaries full of pages of minutia and want striking images to go with the words. Watkins’ Munch has also been released on DVD within the past year, and another recently released artbiopic that uses a similar approach to Cox’s, about Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, is recommended. Also my summer pick, La Moustache, comes out next Tuesday.

A quote from Van Gogh's diaries (September 1889) that relates to the 'fear of faith' I have attributed to Robbe-Grillet: "I am astonished that with the modern ideas that I have, and being so ardent an admirer of Zola and de Goncourt and caring for things of art as I do, that I have attacks such as a superstitious man might have and that I get perverted and frightful ideas about religion such as never came into my head in the North."

06 January 2007

Review: Museum shows

I took off yesterday to see the ‘Cezanne to Picasso, Ambroise Vollard’ show at the Met, which ends tomorrow. It was rather crowded for a Friday and will be very crowded this weekend, but if you can get there, say, first thing in the morning tomorrow (a cause which may be helped by two NY playoff football games) it’s most worthwhile, as it has a few major paintings (including a few Van Goghs) from Russia and elsewhere. Most of the art is from the US, so a little driving will get you to it. I’ve never been to the Albright-Knox in Buffalo and have never seen Gauguin’s Spirit of the Dead Watching in person, which made for quite an event yesterday. The display cards discussed collecting, which kept the curators from making irritating comments about the paintings (the cards at the Ernst show were unbearable).

Also I saw the Glitter and Doom show of Weimar Expressionist portraits, there until Feb. 19, which was also very crowded, no doubt as a result of it being written up by both me and Charles Bernstein. I hope to return on a slower day. The show sheds light on how caricature functions in general as a descriptive device. Grosz's Weimar paintings and Beckmann’s War series, which has recently been in a couple places nearby including the Met, are really the best paintings about the US from 9-11 to last November, despite being painted long ago.

I’m a little jealous that David is going to China and India, and in general I often go first to the crowded temporary show there, anticipating it will be more crowded later in the day, and then chill out in the serene and less trafficked Asian galleries. In the Japanese section I realized that I wanted caffeine. I visited the new cafeteria there for the first time, and though it is larger and more functional, with the same overpriced museum food you find elsewhere, I long for the old days when you could caffeinate below an ancient bas relief (in Philly you still can). On the way back I drove to Iselin, NJ, which has the best Indian food outside Asia, to get a large Mysore thali.

OK I’ll do the meme:

I have loose jointed fingers and toes.

The first poem I wrote was ‘John Dean told a lie/ to the FBI’ as a preschooler.

I’ve gone through two events in little over the last three years where I felt for certain I was going to die (one hiking, one health-related).

I’m not a trust fund baby, but when I was a teenager my Dad bought me a tuxedo to meet Richard Nixon.

When I’m in Baltimore, I always confuse North with South and East with West.

I tag Andy, Shanna, David (if he has a chance before he leaves), Lorraine (when back from camping).

01 January 2007


Foods are symbols from time gone, ‘winged shoes of the forest.’ The onion doesn’t symbolize anything, it’s just visceral. Remove it from your poetry at once and eat it.

Days gone by

Manny Mota could roll out of bed New Years’ Day and slap a base hit.