I just thought I’d share here what I had to say last night when I got the news….
Wouldn’t it have been great if that $450 million had been spent on the work of the ACTUAL Salvator Mundi — feeding the hungry, comforting the afflicted, housing the homeless, welcoming the stranger, giving hope to all — instead of on a painting?
The other day, I showed a screenshot from my NYT app in which everything visible on the page was about Hurricane Harvey. Well, that’s not the only thing the paper covers thoroughly.
A couple of days back, poet John Ashbery died, and the Times went pretty big with it — as you see, four separate headlines.
And this made me feel dumb, and out of it.
It got me to thinking: Aside from that anthology of Yeats (which I’ve had since college) that sits on a shelf in our upstairs bathroom, which I may glance at once or twice a year, when do I ever read poetry any more at all? (And let’s be really honest here: When I do pick up the Yeats book, I don’t read anything new — I turn either to “The Second Coming” or “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death.”)
Can I even name a living poet? I mean, I sort of think of Elvis Costello as a poet, and some people might cite rappers, but here I’m using a more restrictive definition: Can I name any living people who just write verse without being known for anything else, full-time poets like Yeats and Keats and Coleridge and e.e. cummings, or, I don’t know, Edwin Arlington Robinson (who I had to look up to add to the list, even though I do remember one of his poems)?
No, I cannot. As much as I was immersed in such in school, it’s like poetry was a thing that ceased to exist after graduation, as much a thing of the past as knights in armor. And I’m a guy who’s always made his living with words! If there’s a latter-day belle dame sans merci, or a goat-footed balloon man still out there whistling far and wee, I am unaware of it.
Apparently, this John Ashbery was a major deal. He won every poetry prize there was, and lived to be 90 without my being aware of him.
Yowee! Never mind the meaning! That is one ugly statue!
Personally, I would lead the charge to get that taken down — if I were the president of a society dedicated to protecting the reputation of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Meanwhile, folks who don’t want the Confederacy glorified would seem likely to demand that this one stay up.
The sculptor must have really hated the early KKK leader. Do they keep that up to frighten children? Or to make them laugh? I think the former would be more likely to happen…
I had to reply to that, asking “Ten YEARS?” You might not have been able to tell on Twitter, but I was channeling Jeremy Piven in “Grosse Pointe Blank” (see above).
I was assured that yes, that was correct.
Huh. It sounds cool for a night, sort of, but don’t they think people might tire of the same shtick over the course of TEN YEARS?
I think so. Some folks might even grow to find it irritating.
I mean… isn’t the really cool thing (or one of the really cool things) about light the fact that it’s so fast. 186,000 miles per second? Having a beam of light last for 10 years seems to take the shine, so to speak, off that reputation. It might make some ungrateful philistines wish they were 10 light years away from it.
I’ll close with what my state representative, Micah Caskey, had to say about it:
Seems like a good time to remind everyone I represent many people injured in car accidents.
Women employed as wipers in the roundhouse eat their lunch in the break room of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad in Clinton, Iowa, in April 1943. (Jack Delano/Library of Congress/Courtesy of Taschen)
As you know, some of the more creative ways FDR tried to get the economy going again were pretty cool.
We’re all familiar with at least some of the work done by photographers under the auspices of the Resettlement Administration, such as Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother.”
Well, there were color photos, too, and they’re all stored at the Library of Congress.
A new book by Peter Walther, called “New Deal Photography. USA 1935-1943“ (Taschen, 2016) brings together a comprehensive survey of the work done by the FSA, including that more rarely seen color work. From street scenes to pictures of field laborers and train yards, these images show us what the United States looked like in a bygone era, one rife with economic struggle. Here are a few of the incredible images produced by photographers Marion Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, John Vachon, Fenno Jacobs and Russell Lee.
In an attempt to cheer me up a bit at the end of a rough week, Bryan Caskey sent me this link. As the page explains,
The White House’s Pete Souza Has Shot Nearly 2M Photos of Obama, Here are 55 of His Favorites
I’ve long appreciated Souza’s work. You see it here on the blog from time to time, often illustrating my Open Threads — even when it has nothing to do the topics in the thread — partly because I like them, and partly because they’re in the public domain and I can use them without being sued.
Anyway, here are a few that particularly appealed to me out of the 55.
Well, I’ve got a tougher one today. This morning, I was listening to “One-Note Samba,” and wondered how in the world that could reach out and grab me or anyone else.
Maybe it doesn’t speak to you, but I’ve always had a thing for samba music ever since my Dad brought back some records from a trip to Rio when I was a kid (sort of the way Liverpool kids learned about rock ‘n’ roll from the discs brought into port by sailors). And obviously some people besides me like this one, since it’s been covered so often.
So tell me:
Why does it work? Why isn’t it too monotonous? Does it keep us listening purely because of the rhythm? Is that it? Or is it the fact that we know, as we endure the one-note parts, that it’s going to change, and that change is what rewards us? Or is it because of what the instruments are playing while the singer is stuck on the one note?
Just wondering. Because to me, music is just magic, and far beyond my ken…
Ride of the Valkyrie: Think how disappointing ‘Apocalypse Now’ would have been if Coppola had shown just one Huey.
It’s bad enough that amateurs are providing video content to news organizations shot with their stupid smartphones in a vertical position — thereby causing us to miss most of what is going on, and having to look at those irritating black bars where we should be seeing something that provides us with additional perspective.
Now, we have professionals telling them not only that it’s OK to do that, but it’s the right way!
And their only excuse for doing that seems to be, Everybody’s screwing up this way, so let’s just say that’s the way to do it.
It’s more comfortable to read things when the phone is standing up. Smartphones and their software were designed to fit in our hands. So why do we turn our phones to shoot and watch video? We shouldn’t. Those of us who used to scream, “You’re holding it wrong!”—we were really the ones who were wrong.
Mobile video is exploding. Fifty-five percent of the world’s mobile traffic is now video, according to Cisco. And U.S. adults now spend 29 minutes a day watching video on their mobile devices, says eMarketer…
Yep, I’m one of those people. Although when I do watch video on my phone, I turn it sideways to see everything that’s going on. And of course if I’m near my Apple TV at home, I project it onto the TV screen — which is way more horizontal than TVs used to be, because the TV industry finally developed a rudimentary aesthetic sense. Because horizontal is the best way to present practically anything.
Notice how much better TV is now? I don’t think it’s an accident that it got better when it went horizontal. Who wants a closeup of Walter White standing there in his silly underpants? We need to see the RV and the desert spread out around him.
Vertical video is the unmistakable mark of the clueless — or of someone who’s hiding something, trying to make you look at this one thing rather than see the context in which that one thing is occurring.
When Burl Burlingame and wife Mary were here last month, we took them with us to check out First Thursday on Main. While we were strolling about in Tapp’s, Burl shot a picture of J and me and processed it through the app Prisma before showing it to us. It was pretty cool.
So tonight, while we were playing a game of Words With Friends across the kitchen table with our iPads — a bit weird, as you wait for your opponent’s move to bounce off a satellite or something and come back down to the table where it originated so you can make your move — J took a picture of me, downloaded Prisma, and chose the “Mosaic” filter.
You see the result above. The really awesome thing about it to me is what it did with our wild kitchen wallpaper — made it look a lot cooler than real life. I’d like to have wallpaper like that.
Anyway, she posted it on Facebook, and Kathryn Fenner responded, “The Old Man and the iPad.”
This takes me to the film we watched last night on DVD, “Love and Mercy,” starring Paul Dano and John Cusack as Brian Wilson at different stages of his life — in the ’60s, when his mental illness first interfered with his career with the Beach Boys, and in the ’80s, when he began the process of recovery.
I definitely recommend it.
A few points I came away with:
It had never occurred to me before that Cusack and Dano were so much alike. But when Cusack first appeared after several scenes with Dano, I immediately knew he was supposed to be Wilson, only older. I can’t put my finger exactly on what the commonality was — I said to my wife “I never realized before how much they look alike.” But that’s not it. They don’t really look alike. It was something else. Maybe the voice — the lost-child voice Cusack affected for the role. In any case, deftly done.
If you are, like me, fairly ambivalent about the Beach Boys — enjoy their music, but not a huge fan — this film will help you enjoy their work more deeply, especially the “Pet Sounds”-era music. Watching Dano struggle to translate what he was hearing in his head into something others could hear as well, and gradually recognizing the sounds he was picking out on a piano or through some other means, will connect you to his vision on a whole new level. The best pop-music biopics do that, and this one does it better than most. That’s because the music is so central to the character’s central conflicts.
The sounds only he could hear…
This was probably the best depiction I’ve ever seen of the fabled connection between creative genius and madness. At one point in the film, Wilson says he started hearing “voices” in 1963. In late ’64, he experienced a terrifying panic attack on an airliner while traveling home from a gig, and persuades the band to tour without him while he stays home and works in the studio. That eventually led to “Pet Sounds,” which was all about getting the sounds in his head out onto tape. Well, that’s not all it was about — he thought the band needed to grow to keep from being left behind by the Beatles. The problem was that he was the only one who thought this — the others, especially Mike Love, wanted to stick to the surf and sand and cars and girls formula. But because he was the only one pushing in a new creative direction, the sound became much more about what only he could hear, as his bandmates and studio musicians looked on in bewilderment and tried to follow along, when they weren’t resisting with all their might.
For a time, this tension led to some great work — before Wilson pulled away from everyone and everything, fell further into drug abuse, lost his wife and family, spent three years in bed and ballooned to 300 pounds — all of which happens off-screen, between the Dano and Cusack periods. That brought therapist Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti) into Wilson’s life, which led to Landy taking over his life, overmedicating him and ruling him in a fashion reminiscent of Wilson’s abusive father. Which is where Cusack takes up the story.
To a great extent, the film is about how Melinda Ledbetter, who become’s Wilson’s second wife, manages to involve his family in freeing him from Landy.
Best — and possibly most painful — scene: Dano is tentatively, his voice cracking, playing a demo version of what would become “God Only Knows,” just sitting alone at a piano. At least, you think he’s alone until the camera shows his father seated on a sofa in pajamas and bathrobe. Wilson is seeking his father’s approval for his new direction. The father’s brutal, knife-twisting rejection of the song tells you almost everything you need to know about Brian Wilson’s problems. Later, you learn that his Dad slapped him upside the head so often as a kid that he is 96 percent deaf in his right ear.
Here’s the first part of that scene. If it doesn’t make you appreciate the song more than ever, don’t bother watching the film:
When I walked into the church last night, I was handed an Order of Worship with the above image on the front of it, and I was blown away by it.
First, it just had so much heft to it, compared to the usual clip art that appears there. It’s usually something illustrating one of the readings, and it’s generally also forgettable. At the Spanish Mass I attend most Sundays (but not last night), it tends to be an innocuous-looking line drawing featuring people who look vaguely like campesinos in some rural setting, acting out the reading. OK, but they don’t grab you.
This grabbed me. It had such immediate, powerful life to it that for an instant I thought it was a photograph (the part in Jesus’ hair is so naturalistic), then realized it was a reproduction of a painting — one that made extraordinary use of chiaroscuro. It also let me know right away that this would be the Gospel reading:
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered him,
“It is written, One does not live on bread alone.”
Then he took him up and showed him
all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.
The devil said to him,
“I shall give to you all this power and glory;
for it has been handed over to me,
and I may give it to whomever I wish.
All this will be yours, if you worship me.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God,
and him alone shall you serve.”
Then he led him to Jerusalem,
made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,
and: With their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
When the devil had finished every temptation,
he departed from him for a time.
So, yeah, heavy stuff.
I started at the image a good bit during Mass, noticing the detail. First, there was the youthful, brooding Jesus, somehow reminding me of Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov — partly because he looked younger than usual, but then still believable for a 30-year old. He’s hungry; he’s tired, and you can see that brushing off the Tempter’s blandishments under these circumstances isn’t as easy as we might assume.
Then there’s the intensity of the Devil, who is trying to seem reasonable, but whose desperation can be seen in the tension of his fingers clutching Jesus’ shoulder in a way intended to seem amiable, avuncular, even fatherly, but which is suggestive of an animal desperate not to lose its prey. After all, for Satan, this is the Big Game, the one to pull out all the stops for. He doesn’t offer the whole world to just any victim. (It also occurred to me that this Devil was a close relative, visually, to the Emperor in “Return of the Jedi.” But I brushed that aside; I rather think the Emperor was imitating Satan rather than the other way around.)
Anyway, I later looked up the painting, and found it. It’s a recent work, painted in 2011 by Eric Armusik. And no offense meant to Mr. Armusik, but his full-color original was a disappointment after the reproduction I had seen in our order of worship. Somehow, by cropping it tightly, dumping the color and photocopying it — which made the image much darker than the original — it was made more powerful. For me, anyway.
So for this post, I grabbed a cropped-down version, got rid of the color and darkened it, recreating what I originally saw — which was an image perfect for contemplating during Lent…
Nobody retweeted it, so I guess no one was struck by the similarity the way I was. (It’s not any particular detail about the photos. They just felt alike, to me. I saw it, felt it, got my phone up, zoomed in quickly and shot it, less than a second before she sat down.)
Is this beautiful or what? Has South Carolina ever had a license plate that looked this good? If our state leaders had the good sense to adopt it, could you ever imagine us wanting to change the design again? I can’t.
Thank our own Mark Stewart for putting the image together, based on a conversation he and I had on an earlier post.
Reacting to the blah new design we’ll have to start putting on our cars next year (it lacks lust; it’s so lackluster), Mark said:
I see they are still designing license plates by committee over at the DMV. Another dreadful effort is on display here. Better than last year’s; but that isn’t saying much as those were clearly DOA.
When you have a flag like SC’s for inspiration, how hard is it to bollocks it up?
Absolutely, said I:
I know! We need a dark blue plate with white letters and a white Palmetto tree and crescent moon in the center. How complicated is that? It would be beautiful, and we would never need a redesign, because it couldn’t be improved upon…
I have a lot of respect for states like New Jersey, who have a simple design and just stick with it. You can tell a NJ plate at quite a distance.
I want a plate like that, only beautiful. The flag design is the way to go.
Anyway, we riffed back and forth on the subject for a few more comments, and then Mark, fired up, went and created the above.
Isn’t it gorgeous? If only we could adopt this plate, we’d never need another. It would be impossible to improve upon.
If I were to make any change at all, I might make the blue just a tad darker. But I’d also be satisfied with it just as it is…
No, this is not Fitsnews. The nekkid woman at right is a work of art — a very valuable work of art.
An ex-cab driver who is now a billionaire in China bought the above Modigiliani, titled “Nu Couché,” for — maybe you should sit down first — $170,405,000.
Unlike with some extremely expensive works of art, I totally get why he liked it. It’s appeal is rather straightforward and visceral. But so is the kind of picture that will no longer appear in Playboy. I would not pay $1.70 for a picture in Playboy (which is why Playboy is struggling), much less $170 million for any picture that has ever been put on the market. If I had $170 billion, I wouldn’t spend that much for a picture. I wouldn’t want to be such a sap for one thing, and there are far better ways to spend the money.
Besides, to see that very same picture, all I had to do was Google it. I don’t care how nice the brushstrokes are, a picture is a picture.
Which means that even if I were a billionaire, you probably wouldn’t find me at Christie’s. Although I did have a pint in a pub across the street from Christie’s when I was in London. In the pub were a number of guys who apparently worked there, but I didn’t talk to them while enjoying my bitter.
However, I’m not entirely lacking in the sensibilities necessary to see marketability in art. Check out this interactive feature from The New York Times, which asks you which works of art brought the highest price. I got the first three right and thought I was really savvy, but I missed on the rest of them.
Another good reason for me not to spend millions on a painting even if I had billions. I’d be a lousy judge of resale value.
I’m an editor, and as an editor — although not a book editor, I’ll allow — I understand why a book, or a column, or a news story, doesn’t get published: Because it wasn’t good enough.
Here’s what happened: A wannabe novelist submitted a manuscript, and an editor took a look at it, and said, essentially, This is not the novel you want to publish. The novel you want to publish is in these flashback passages. Dig into those, make those into your novel, and then you’ll have something.
He saw the truth in those passages, when Scout was just a girl. So, the editor did what I did when a piece just needed way more change than I had time to give it in the editing process — he kicked it back, gave her the chance to redeem herself as a writer, to write the great book that the editor saw in her.
No one has said this, but I strongly suspect that the editor had had his fill of novels by young folks who had come to New York, donned a mantle of self-conscious sophistication, gone home to visit their small-town homes, and then thought they were being terribly original by coming back to Manhattan and writing about how small, provincial, narrow and stultifying their home towns were. When really, they were being painfully trite.
He wanted Nelle to dig into the true story that she had in her, the one before all that, when she and Scout were unspoiled by the world, and yes, her Daddy was a hero.
And of course, being the editor, he was right. What he directed her to write was perhaps the best-loved American novel, one that was true, that spoke to people, that hit them where they lived, that said something about the American experience and its central conflict that needed to be said, and needed to be said in precisely that voice. (Interesting, isn’t it, that the two great, profound American novels that examine the narrative of race in this country — this and Huck Finn — are both told from the perspective of a child…)
I plan to read Go Set A Watchman, and I expect I’ll enjoy parts of it, here and there — it will be nice to hear that voice again. But I’m not going to get upset thinking something happened to Atticus. I know the real Atticus. This isn’t some sequel revealing some new, shocking side to him; this is just an imperfect, throwaway, first draft of him. And I know how little first drafts may be worth, before an editor gets ahold of them.
Anyway, this morning I was looking for something unrelated among my pictures from my recent trip, and ran across this one that I had failed to share when I wrote about visiting Burl’s aviation museum on Ford Island.
It was a touch of home, one rivaling those sunsets in pulchritude.
On a display next to a C-47 — something that fills me with nostalgia, since it’s the first aircraft I ever flew on (in South America, over the Andes, when I was about 9 or 10) — there it was: The most popular pinup of South Carolina model Jewel Flowers Evans, whose face and figure was made famous by artist Rolf Armstrong.
Her obituary in The State in 2006 called her “probably the number one pin-up girl of all time.” Whether she was or not, she gets my vote. Here are some other images of her, including this photo that is apparently from the same session in 1941 that produced the one on the nose of that plane.
It was the first time I’ve actually heard Phillip in concert, and it was awesome. (I’m not counting this impromptu performance in Kathryn’s salon.) Although he would have been even more entertaining had he given us some of the extremely intense facial expressions offered by the lovely visiting violinist. That was worth paying extra for.
But seriously, folks, Phillip is an amazing talent.
I apologize for the low quality of the photo below. I shot it as the musicians were taking their positions as the intermission ended. I wanted a shot of Phillip and also of the violinist, so we could tell the Twins that if they really practice hard on their cellos, they, too, will be able to wear such a shiny dress.
That’s Phillip behind the grand. The guy whose head you can see, not the guy in the khaki pants — that’s his page turner. Talk about having a great seat! I was pretty envious of that guy…
Seems a bit off, doesn’t it? Here’s what they were reaching for.
The website the Pin linked to didn’t offer any information beyond the headline, “Abbey Road Album Cover Outtakes.” You’d think there be a word or two about the photographer, etc.
But no. In this increasingly image-oriented world, too often we only get the pictures.
But I went and found this info elsewhere:
Iain Macmillan was a freelance photographer and a friend to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. He used a Hasselblad camera with a 50mm wide-angle lens, aperture f22, at 1/500 seconds.
Prior to the shoot, Paul McCartney had sketched his ideas for the cover, to which Macmillan added a more detailed illustration….
A policeman held up the traffic as Macmillan, from a stepladder positioned in the middle of the road, took six shots as the group walked across the zebra crossing just outside the studio.
The Beatles crossed the road a number of times while Macmillan photographed them. 8 August was a hot day in north London, and for four of the six photographs McCartney walked barefoot; for the other two he wore sandals.
Shortly after the shoot, McCartney studied the transparencies and chose the fifth one for the album cover. It was the only one when all four Beatles were walking in time. It also satisfied The Beatles’ desire for the world to see them walking away from the studios they had spent so much of the last seven years inside….
Of course, we are left to guess whether that’s accurate. But it sounds right. Notice how Paul was driving everything? By the end, he was the only one interested in doing things together as Beatles…