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November 28, 2003


Dear Friedrich --

* Brian Micklethwait declares himself medium-agnostic where the visual arts are concerned, here.

* Julie Iovine at the NYTimes (here) asks how much of a future the current generation of architecture-based memorials will have. They require lots of money and maintenance, it turns out; the Irish Hunger Memorial in lower Manhattan, for instance, is undergoing reconstruction a mere year after opening.

* Criterion has brought out a DVD of Yasujiro Ozu's much-beloved "Tokyo Story," a film that's on just about every serious film nerd's best-of list. George Hunka (here) recommends the disc and has come up with some fresh things to say about the movie -- not an easy thing to do, given how much Ozu criticism there has been.

* Aaron Haspel is once again up to some entertaining no-good, here. Would someone please give this man a satirical magazine to edit?

* I have a theory that arty Americans live in mortal fear of a demon figure that they call "conservatism," and about which they know almost nothing. Ask them what they think they know about it and they'll get wild-eyed and mutter something bitter about Rush, homophobia and racism; it's dead certain they've never read any of the substantial and impressive conservative thinkers. Owen Harries, here, supplies a good, quick intro to what conservatism really means. My feeling is that we're all conservative to some degree, and necessarily so; and my conclusion is that we might as well get over being hung up about the fact. As some great writer or other once said, Everybody is right-wing about the things he knows about.

* David Sucher wonders what Ah-nold's approach to urban issues (growth, sprawl) will be here. David also does me the honor of promoting a comment I left on his blog about genre fiction to a guest posting, here. I'm blushing, yes -- but I'm also not about to let this great moment go unnoticed.

* Barry Humphries, touring his "Dame Edna" act through America, gets off some well-aimed wisecracks about our food and our art museums, here.

* I was in the mood last week for reading interviews with and profiles of some of my favorite actresses. Diane Lane is earthy and funny here and here. That charming ragamuffin Miou-Miou is profiled by Alan Riding here. Kelly Lynch and Maggie Gyllenhaal horse around sweetly here.

* Alice Bachini declares unbounded love for the mass media, here.

* Joel Kotkin thinks "diversity training" should be done away with and that we should all study history instead, here.

* Here's a visit with the burly and entertaining historian Paul Johnson on the occasion of his new book about art history.

* I'm not sure Tyler Cowen's piece for TCS about media bias here will prove to be the absolute and final last word on the subject. But he certainly makes an important and all too often overlooked point.

* This week's medal for Atrocious Architecture goes to the Briton Will Alsop for a building he's putting up in Toronto, the Ontario College of Art and Design. James Kunstler (here) doesn't like the building, to say the least. Be sure to look at Kunstler's page if only to eyeball an image of havoc Alsop is perpetrating -- a "flying box" nine stories above street level that's to be painted in bright confetti-ish spots. "Alsop wanted to achieve a scaleless building to further mystify the Canadian public," writes Lisa Rochon for The Globe and Mail here, in an article about the building's cost overruns and other problems. "No clues would be given to the public about the number of storeys being housed in the flying rectangle. It should read as a container of anonymous activity. Achieving that meant expressing the windows as part of an overall building pattern." No, this is not a practical joke. How I'd have loved to watch Alsop sell his concept to the board that hired him. He must be very charismatic and convincing.

* Speaking of James Kunstler, he also runs a worth-checking-into, gonzo-ish, semi-blog about buildings and neighborhoods, etc., here. The posting currently at the top tells you just about all anyone really needs to know about American architecture since World War II.

* Polly Frost once interviewed the film critic Pauline Kael. Polly has posted her fascinating piece here.

* Have you seen this website here? I can't figure out whether it represents a real outfit. Is it some kind of parody? Oh, dear: could it be that we've entered the post-post-irony age? It all does get to be a bit too much, doesn't it? But the website is rather funny in any case, and very well done.

* Why are Mexican leaders tall and slim? Why are Mexican TV starlets blonde? Why are so many Mexican peasants and rebels short, dark, and heavyset? Steve Sailer dissects Mexico's racial hierarchy (and what it might mean for Americans) here, here and here. Mexico's racial problems make ours seem like minor annoyances.

* If any visitors aren't yet sure whether they've got a handle on this big-city thing called "camp," they might try eyeballing this list of recommended trash videos, here. Christian McLaughlin, the Amazon viewer-recommender, has perfect pitch where camp is concerned, IMHO: perfect choices, perfect comments, perfect attitude. I confess that, despite being the most macho/butch/awesome uber-hetero dude who ever burped, farted and scratched his balls while nonchalantly terrorizing lesser creatures, I've always responded to much art a lot more more like Christian does than I do like the squares I grew up with. Er, I mean, the perfectly nice people I grew up with.

* Wendy McElroy has looked at what's being taught at some fancy colleges and she doesn't like what she's found, here.

* Lots of good, fresh reading: a new issue of Paul Williams' one-man magazine Cipher Culture, here. This time around, Paul offers up distinctive musings about Kiwi art, computers, obesity and something I can't make any sense of called Outkast.

* Lindsey Vuolo, Playboy's Miss November, is apparently (and amazingly) the magazine's first-ever Jewish Playmate. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the author of such books as "Kosher Sex," interviews Lindsay for Beliefnet here. He asks her -- no, really, he grills her -- about her views on a variety of topics: nudity, husbands, going to temple ... "What about if you're married to man and he's making love to you and he thinks about other women," asks the good Rabbi. "What if what he's really being excited about is that he saw a woman on the street that excited him or he saw Playboy and he's thinking about those pictures? Let's say right now a man would make love to his wife tonight thinking about the pictures he saw of you? Would you find that perfectly acceptable?" Gasp: given my boring whitebread upbringing, not the kind of conversation I'd ever expect to have with a religious teacher. (Link thanks to Fool in the Forest, here.)

* Milt Rosenberg (here) is one of the really gifted blogger-linkers. He's got an interesting mind and an interesting set of interests; check in with Milt and you'll come away a far better-informed person than you'd otherwise be.

* Martine gets her hair cut and remembers what it was like to appear on TV, here. "It is the biggest paradox about television but it's true," she writes. "It takes very good actors to make things look natural."

* This website devoted to the French filmmaker Claude Chabrol (here) is one of the best of the highbrow film fansites I've run across.

* The art commentator Matthew Collings thinks more like an artist than he does like a critic, for better and worse; he's often smart, wiley and annoying. But in this article here for the Times of London, promoting an art-history TV documentary, he's not only smart, he's provocative. "Contemporary art exists within an official framework of institutions and rhetoric which are trivial and corrupt," he writes. "This framework is all about mixing populism with obscurantism and isolationism. And that situation, where art is no longer life-affirming but merely exists in order to make a few pseuds feel important, is what I want to attack." And this from someone who generally promotes the contempo scene! You go, artboy.

* Ronnie, at his blog Sublethal (here), says that there are times when he likes books just fine. But then there are those other times too ...

* The editor of a rowdy, young-turk British magazine I used to write for was once interviewed by a confrontational and over-earnest American journalist. She asked him, "But once you've become a success, aren't you going to stop being a radical and turn into a reactionary fogey like every other Brit?" "God, I certainly hope so," responded my editor. That story came back to me when I read this article here about Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards by Christopher Sandford for the Spectator. Keith -- legendary death's-head bad-boy, right? Er, no. Lovable old country-dwelling geezer seems to be more like it.

* Someone out there really, really likes lady newscasters, especially when they look like they've just had an ... Or maybe it's more that they look like they're actually having an ... Well, you'll see if you click here.

* Some people have a lot more patience than I do. Some of them get much more beautiful results than I do too, here.

* I thought Carrie Fisher looked plenty cute wearing a metal bikini in that "Star Wars" sequel, whatever it was called. But some people were apparently lastingly affected by the sight of a sexed-up Princess Leia, here.

* Scott Chaffin is putting his farm machines to good use here.

* Do you like fruit-crate art? Those smiley, citrusy labels that got put on crates of fruit back in the '30s and '40s? I always thought fruit-crate art was one of the most likable of American commercial art-and-design forms, and one of the few that could stand up to, say, Euro-deco design. Here's a site devoted to fruit crate art.

* Interesting, or maybe just cheesily amusing, developments in the world of stained glass, here.

* Steven Johnson, reviewing the excellent Steven Pinker book "The Blank Slate" for the Nation (here), thinks that lefties have nothing to fear from evo-bio and evo-psych. I hope he's wrong, but he's written an informative review anyway.



posted by Michael at November 28, 2003


That Harries essay was interesting. I particularly liked this statement:

[Conservatism's] true opposite is not liberalism but radicalism.

This is a lesson both left and right sides of the political spectrum could do with learning, that the left's opposite is not the right per se (and vice versa, of course) but the extreme element present in each. Unfortunately, it seems to be much easier to simply demonise the other side on the whole by picking out a certain extreme element and extrapolating them as being representative of the entire group; thus liberals damn conservatives with the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Pat Buchanan and conservatives damn liberals with the likes of Noam Chomsky or ANSWER. (Part of the problem, of course, is that the extreme element often seems to be the most visible one.) Politics is a real short-cut to actual thinking for a lot of people on both sides. Worse than religion.

Posted by: James Russell on November 29, 2003 11:14 PM

Oh, and "trash video collection to kill for"? My arse. There's some not bad stuff on that list, but there's disappointingly little real trash to be had for my liking...

Posted by: James Russell on November 29, 2003 11:18 PM

Too bad that Rochon's article on the Alsop silliness doesn't include any photos or even a clear statement of the project's status.

The picture at Kunstler's page couldn't be accurate --- I hate to show my bourgeois philistine ways but where are the stairs for emergency exiting? You've got a 90,000 sf building 100 feet off the ground with no apparent means of leaving quickly if the elevators can't be used.

Oh I forgot: safety for the building's users are not an issue when it comes to art.

And yet Rochon takes the design seriously and regrets that its power has been degraded. Weird.

Posted by: David Sucher on November 30, 2003 12:30 PM

James -- I'm often amazed by the way so many people apparently like to choose sides and then start blazing away at each other. Mystifying, to me at least. Seems to me that good points and observations and suggestions can come from everywhere on the map (or almost everywhere). Why turn 'em down or oppose 'em just because of where they come from? But, as FvB has pointed out to me, I much prefer discussions to debates, so maybe that's a personal quirk of mine. As for the trash list -- really? He came up with amusing comments about the camp warhorses, and with some unexpected nominees. Plus: hey, "A Summer Place" -- who's volunteered that movie to you recently? If you find a better quick intro to the camp-trash approach to moviewatching, please let me know about it. I'll be there in a flash.

David -- No photos: odd, huh. I did a little websweep about the building, though, and didn't find too many images of it at all. Is someone holding on tight to the rights to the building's image? I don't know how such things work. The NYTimes had a piece (w/photo) about the building a few weeks back, but it's been archived and has to be paid for now. Don't you love the bit about Alsop wanting to mystify the public and keep it in the dark about what's going on inside the building? Ah, radical architects.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 30, 2003 03:43 PM

My take on the image business is that all parties concerned might have the grace to be embarrased about the silliness of the thing and so they don't want to really let too many people know.

Not directly on point but I see that ARMAVIRUMQUE is revving up to take on the issue of bizarchitecture.

Good on 'em.

Posted by: David Sucher on November 30, 2003 10:24 PM

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