The Unbearable Banishment: June 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It’s a jungle up here

Every summer, the Metropolitan Museum of Art mounts a sculpture exhibit on its roof. Aside from the sweeping views of Central Park and the mansions along 5th Avenue, it's a chance to see some big-idea installations. I don’t know who curates these things but it’s been one home run after another. Last year’s Maelstrom by Roxy Paine was a hoot.

This year, Doug + Mike Starn have mounted Big Bambú. The project consists of fresh cut bamboo poles lashed together with nylon rope. The construction of the sculpture is ongoing and will continue throughout the summer. It closes October 31st, which is pretty late in the year for this sort of thing.

The cool interactive aspect of this project is that the sculpture contains a series of steps and ramps that allow you to actually walk up into it. During the day, workers continue to assemble the sculpture around you. Unfortunately, you have to be at least 10 years old in order to walk into the sculpture, so when I was with 8-Year Old Daughter, I couldn’t go up. But the exhibit is there for a while so I’ll make my way up at some point and post photos. At its completion, it’ll be 50 feet high!

You have to get a (free) timed ticket in order to go in the sculpture and my understanding is that you’re better off going on a Wednesday or Thursday because on the weekends, tickets for the entire day are taken fairly early in the morning. For me, the exhibit doesn’t have the “wow” factor that Maelstrom did, but it’s worth a visit simply because of the grandeur.

What’s a trip to the Met without visiting some old friends? Take a look at this photo and compare it to the one in my banner. She grows! The background on van Gogh's irises was originally painted a pale rose, but over the years the pigment has faded out of the paint and now it's a chalky white. The original color can still be seen along some of the edges if you get close enough.

This shot of Damien Hirst's shark in formaldehyde was taken surreptitiously. You can take photos of pretty much anything you want in the Met as long as you don't use a flash. But a security guard is always on hand to prevent people from taking pics of this piece. I wonder why? I quickly snapped this while the guard was yelling at someone for taking a picture. Yes, the shark is (was) real.

Daughter made a special request to visit Degas’s little dancer. She walks around the Met like she owns the joint.


Monday, June 28, 2010

A little art deco in the morning

I'm feel a bit of a lazy bones this morning and I'm also inexplicably melancholy over the U.S. loss to Ghana in Saturday's World Cup match. I didn't think I cared all that much but it turns out I *did*! After the U.S. was ousted, I hung my hopes on England and you saw what happened there. It's going to make for a long Monday morning. In deference to my laziness, I thought I'd toss up a few random art deco shots.

This is the interior of the Chanin Building on 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. It's another in a series of architectural masterpieces that seem to be around every corner out here.

The Chanin Building went up in 1929, just a few years before the Chrysler Building (which is right across the street). It was built by Irwin S. Chanin. Imagine; you're such a megalomaniac that you build a skyscraper and name it after yourself, but a few years later, someone builds the Chrysler Building across the street and your place becomes a footnote.

This is, quite possibly, the most elegant font ever created. Bronze lettering on black Belgian marble.

This grill and reliefs are in the vestibule just before you enter the lobby. Hurried commuters rush past without giving them a second look.

This one reminds me of the cover of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

I see thunderbolts/radio waves as a reoccurring theme in many art deco buildings. I guess someone discovers what works and everyone follows suit.

* * *

There's a bit of a heat wave in the city. There's no heat like New York City heat. The subway system keeps the ground warm and the skyscrapers reflect the heat downward onto the streets. The filth clings to your skin. And it's only June! I just don't feel myself in the morning unless my underwear is sticking to my ass and I get a blast of bus fumes in my face as I try to cross 42nd St.


Friday, June 25, 2010


I have an almost maniacal dislike of the fashion industry. It strikes me as an industry that's wholly built on, and feeds off of, the vanity and insecurities of (mainly) women. I am tempted to say that it's psychologically predatory but I'm afraid that would make me sound crazy, so I won't say it. Plus, I've met F.I.T. students in my dating past and they always seemed kind of vapid to me.

Having said that, there's a new public art exhibit mounted by the New York fashion industry that is simply fantastic. It's called Sidewalk Catwalk and it runs through September 3rd. 32 giants in the industry (At least, I think they're giants. I didn't recognize 80% of the names.) dressed mannequins that are mounted on Broadway from 35th up to 42nd St. [It's a portion of Broadway that's been closed to vehicular traffic and made into a pedestrian mall, an idea that I wholly approve of.]

Here's a photo essay of some of the more interesting ones. I can't help wondering if they'll survive the summer. Won't they be destroyed by summer storms or ripped apart by screwball New Yorkers? Better see it while you can. I've uploaded larger-than-normal jpegs so you can click on them for a closer study.

Betsey Johnson. Of course. She's like the crazy cat lady down the block except with a big pile of cash.

Michael Kors. I'd like to see Nursemyra poured into this one.

Nannette Lepore. Does anyone recognize that name?

Victor Alfaro. Another name I don't recognize.

This is made from a parachute, which billows out in the breeze. Clever!

Tommy Hilfiger. Easily, for my money, the best of the bunch.

Jill Stuart. The only mannequin with "hair."

Thom Browne. Seashells. Really imaginative.

This is by Kenneth Cole. I only included it because it's one of the names I actually recognize. But I think the design is kind of lazy.

I believe this one was designed by Parson students. It's better than some of the "pros."

Won't a lot of these be annihilated by August?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A $22,500 used typewriter

Back in April I did a post about the annual rare book fair at the Park Avenue Armory. One of the more unconventional non-book items up for sale was Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter. Asking price: $110,000.

I thought it was silly and couldn’t imagine why anyone would buy a typewriter when, for that kind of money, you could almost have a complete run of Hemingway first editions. Almost.

Lo and behold, on Tuesday, Christies sold Jack Kerouac's Hermes 3000 manual typewriter (not the one he fed a roll of teletype paper into to write On The Road) for $22,500. It was the last typewriter he owned. The estimate had been $20,000-$30,000. Auction listing here.

At the same auction, John Updike's typewriter sold for $4,375 (est. $4,000-$6,000). Listing here.

Neither of those prices touch the $254,500 paid last December for Cormac McCarthy's old Olivetti (est. $15,000 - $20,000!!! Proof positive that all you need at an auction are two people with deep pockets who want the same item really, really bad). Auction listing here.

This was the typewriter McCarthy used to write all of his major novels. McCarthy still owes me the $14.95 I paid for a paperback of The Road. A depressing, over-hyped novel that I didn't waste my time finishing.

There’s no accounting for what people are willing to collect. I, myself, have a few book cases full of rare books that cannot be read. They shouldn’t even be opened for fear of cracking the glue in the spine. Books that can't be read!? How lame is that?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Too many masterpieces

One of the many advantages that this shining city offers is an obscene wealth of art. There are the big-named museums that you've already heard of, but the nooks and crannies contain small galleries that occasionally house blockbuster shows.

A few weeks ago I did a post about the Monet: Late Works exhibit at the Gagosian Galleries in Chelsea. It was a large showing of water lily paintings, many of which are held in private hands, so it's not likely they'll be seen in public again anytime soon. I was so taken aback by the show that I had to insist that CB see it, as he lives just a short walk away (which he did), and I also wanted to bring 8-Year Old Daughter into the city to see it (which I did).

The show is set to close this weekend and as such, I thought it would be packed. But the blue, blue skies and warm summer temperatures caused a mass exodus from the city to the beaches, so Daughter, Artiste Florenza and I made the trek to Chelsea and the galleries were gloriously empty.

We had unobstructed views of the paintings. You could stand there and really get lost in the brushstrokes without anyone walking in front of you.

You'd think that that would be enough art for one afternoon but nooooo! While the Monet show is getting ready to close, at the OTHER Gagosian gallery just a few blocks away, the big Roy Lichtenstein: Still Lifes show just opened. And, Sweet Jesus! What a fantastic, fun show!

You don't get to see that many still lifes from Lichtenstein, as it wasn't really his thing. So to have such a large gathering under one big, beautiful, well-lit gallery is a rare treat. And it's FREE! Just walk on in!

There are a few fun sculptures. This brightly-colored glass with a goldfish looks like a 3D comic when viewed against the stark white background of the gallery wall. The photo is a gross injustice. I wish I could buy this one.

CB, this gallery is on 24th Street, so I'm going to have to insist that you walk down the block and pay a visit. I'll undoubtedly be going back for a second look before it closes at the end of July, so perhaps I'll tag along.

I'm not convinced that Daughter is getting anything out of these museum visits, but the time we spend together is invaluable. Several years from now, she'll be in her You Embarrass Me/It's All Your Fault stage, so I'm trying to capitalize on these moments while she can still stand to be in the same room with me.

Just as she's pulling away, the other one will be old enough for my New York City brain washing program. There's no escape. Muuhahaha!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Your horrible success

“It can get a little boring,” he said softly over coffee at the Four Seasons hotel here...
Actor Robert Patterson on fame in a June 20th New York Times fluff piece titled His Cross to Bear.

Oh, boy. Here we go again. I got a Slowly I Turned* moment first thing on a Monday morning. Longtime readers know that nothing pushes my buttons more than listening to someone complain about their success. The success that they actively pursued, by the way. It's always some young, 20-something, clueless, dope who has an underdeveloped sense of struggle.

For instance, this Patterson shithead. So. Your popularity is a cross to bear, is it? (Ha-ha. Get it? He plays a vampire.) This morning I took the 5:35 a.m., sat in the middle of a three-seater and the weight-challenged construction workers on either side of me fell asleep and used me as a pillow. By the time I pulled into New York, my thighs were moist from their sweat. They, on the other hand, seemed refreshed. I'll bet that never happens to people who sip coffee at the Four Seasons.

My favorite example of clueless ingratitude is from boring lite rock droner Nora Jones who was quoted as saying:

On the first record I was everywhere, and it was, like, the worst time in my life.

Equally boring one-note actor Michael Cera said:

I don’t really want to be famous, and I’m kind of scared that might be happening.

And, finally, Emily Blunt, who starred in the bomb Young Victoria said:

It's just never been important to me to make a big splash and I don't care for it.

The people who finance your projects will be happy to hear that, Emily. Don't you want to just smack every one of them upside their empty little heads? I sure do. The last time I did one of these rants I posted an example of how it's done. Brad Pitt is quoted as saying:

It's so tough being an actor. Sometimes they bring you coffee and sometimes it's cold. And sometimes you don't have a chair to sit on.

See? Isn't that just so much better?

* "Slowly I Turned" is the most common name associated with a popular vaudeville sketch whereby words are used as the trigger, which then sends the unbalanced person into a state of mania.

* * *

I'm actually not much of a ranter but here's a quick bonus rant.

The Harry Potter Theme Park opened in Orlando last week. Daniel Radcliffe and Michael Gambon were on hand for the ribbon cutting. The success was beyond Universal's wildest imaginations. The wait was SIX HOURS just to get IN! They interviewed some guests as they exited the Park and here's my favorite quote:

Blythe Passantino, 21, followed with a tearful admission of her own: “I really wanted to live here; it was so much better than our real lives.”

Doesn't that sound terribly childish for a 21-year old? Our real lives should be like a theme park? Parenting fail.

Good morning, everyone! Welcome to the working week!

Friday, June 18, 2010

...only the echos of my mind

UPDATE: I just found out that the extraordinarily talented, dangerously attractive Everyday Goddess tagged this post as part of her Toasting the Posts of the Week. She follows over 250 blogs, so this is no small feat. Many thanks to her.

I can assure you that no money changed hands as a promotional consideration.

* * *

Here are a few random bits that are not long enough for a proper post, so I’ve lumped them together. Kind of like the medley at the end of Abbey Road.

* * *

Mission Control

This is my desk where I'm consulting. Isn't it ridiculous? It looks like I'm about to launch the missiles. I thought technology was suppose to set us free but I've never been more plugged in. I'm a prisoner! It's a good thing we're not having any more children because being surrounded by all these electronics will probably shrink my testicles to the size of raisins.

* * *

An ex-colleague has asked me to recommend her sister for a position at the company where I’m working. I know nothing whatsoever about her sister—I’ve never met her—but my colleague has been a tremendous help to me in the past, so I feel somewhat obligated. Am I obligated? When you recommend someone for a job, you’re putting your own reputation on the line. What if she’s incompetent? The whole thing makes me very uncomfortable.

* * *

During Congressional testimony this week, top executives from the four largest privately held oil companies assured everyone that the BP oil spill was “an aberration” that couldn’t happen again.

Whew! That’s a relief! When corporate executives raise their right hand and swear that nothing can go wrong, you can take that to the bank. We should just leave them alone and let them go about their business. They know what’s best. For all of us.

Do they think we’re stupid?

* * *

Grim-faced and forbidding
their faces closed tight

an angular mass of New Yorkers.

Pacing in rhythm

race the oncoming night

they chase through the streets of Manhattan.

Headfirst humanity

pause at a light

then flow through the streets of the city.

Isn’t that just beautiful? All those well-placed verbs! I walk east on 42nd Street and turn left on Lexington Avenue with that pounding in my earbuds. The soundtrack of my life. This town is under my skin for good. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Career opportunities

Currently, I'm a consultant on a project that should stretch through summer. I'd prefer a nice, cushy staff position, but this is the best I can do for now. In the meantime, I keep my eye out for other opportunities. Towards that end, I receive job-post emails on a fairly regular basis from a number of different sources. Here's a prospect that I'm considering:

Temporary workers for Gulf Coast

Shamrock Environmental Corporation (Shamrock) has been contracted to provide support personnel to assist with the oil spill clean-up throughout the Gulf Coast. All workers will require OSHA 40 hour Hazardous Waste Operator Training (WE WILL PROVIDE). The hours will vary but expect LOTS of overtime.

RATE OF PAY: $13.00/hour straight time
. $19.50/hour overtime (after 40 hours/week)

PER DIEM: $26.00/day for meals

LODGING: Provided

Work may include, but is not limited to, manual labor associated with removing crude oil from impacted beaches, rocks, boom, or any other items that have come in contact with the oil. Work Environment may include working on or near water, in marshland, beach and estuary locations in hot and humid conditions day or night.

Work is available IMMEDIATELY.

Whaddya think? I'm particularly looking forward to working in hot and humid conditions (+ oily w/ Looziana swamp creatures) in the middle of the night.

* * *

One of our clients is in need of a proofreader last minute for a catalogue (sic) spot. Must be fluent in Danish.

WTF? I don't know how to proofread (as regular readers of this blog can attest to) and I sure as hell don't know nuthin' about speakin' no Danish. Why was this sent to me? Next.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A secret New York City place

Governors Island is a little drop of land in New York harbor. If you draw a triangle between the southern tip of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn, the island is floating in the middle. It's a small miracle. There are quiet, tree-lined streets, a 9-hole golf course, historic forts and spectacular, panoramic views of the city and harbor.

It was off-limits to the public for decades because it was, first, an Army base and then a Coast Guard base. I lived there for a few years while in the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard abandoned the island years ago and now, thanks to populist mayor Michael Bloomberg, the island is open to the public on summer weekends. It's accessible via a (free) short ferry ride from either Manhattan or Brooklyn. No motor vehicles are permitted. Just bikes. Here is 3-Year old on the (closed, unmaintained) golf course. That's Manhattan in the distance.

There are events and concerts all summer long (check the above link). This past weekend, the annual Figment Festival was held. It's an arts/music festival. Lots of big, outdoor, interactive installation pieces and sculptures. I love the impermanent nature of the festival. The stuff goes up for one weekend and that's it. I went a bit overboard with the photos but here's a sampling of some of the better pieces.

Inside the dark tunnels underneath old Fort Jay were two light and sound installations. This one allowed users to control the color and movement of the light by holding an orb containing a sensor. As you tilted the orb, the light and sound would pulsate and change color. I regret not having taken a video of this. It scared the hell out of 3-Year Old and she ran out screaming.

The other end of the tunnel featured a luminescent floral display. The sounds of frogs and crickets were piped in.

There was a 9-hole miniature golf course. Each hole was a sculpture. Honestly, they functioned a lot better as sculptures than they did miniature golf holes. Some of them were impossible to navigate, even for a seasoned mini golf pro like myself. This one was based on The Wizard of Oz. There's the Wizard's balloon, the yellow brick road and, on the right, the Wicked Witch's feet protruding from under the house. Hole 7 was done in a cool Andy Warhol/Edie Sedgwick/Mona Lisa motif.

This was a bed of roses. An artist who works as a florist brought a dozen garbage bags FILLED with rose petals and spread them out on the ground.

There were a few large inflatable sculptures. 3-Year Old had the odd inclination to pummel this one with her fists and then give it a few solid head-butts. What's with the aggression, I wondered?

8-Year Old was in more of an absorption mode.

This one had a free-standing end that could be picked up and toss around. After I took this photo, I pushed her aside and made her give me a turn. It was fun!

This was a star sculpture that you could crawl underneath and get inside.

Once inside, there were thick pieces of different color chalk that allowed you to draw all over the interior.

I would have been disappointed if there hadn't been some bad art. This was a hill of molding bagels with an old TV and bicycle wheel. I think they were inspired by Marcel Duchamp's playful Readymades but it was CRAP-OLA.

We packed a picnic and listened to some talented musicians while eating lunch in the grass. Leah, you should take a day and visit. You can rent bicycles. All you have to watch out for are the maintenance crew golf carts. And it's never crowded! I don't understand it! I don't think many people know about it. When you're on the Island, it doesn't even feel like you're in New York City anymore.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Professional wrestling/theater mash-up

In honor of tonight's Tony Awards, I'll do a theater post, although this play is very, very far removed from what's being shown tonight.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity is a hard title to remember but, Jason, I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist that you beg, borrow or steal a ticket to this show. It's a look at professional wrestling. The stage consists of a wrestling ring and you are treated to a match or two. It's a satire on how wrestling is a crash of economics, race, ego and ambition.

It's a comedy and I laughed my ass of from opening until final curtain. A great piece of theater. And don't just take my word for it. The play was a finalist for this year's Pulitzer Prize and lots of folks, myself included, think that the only reason it didn't win was because it was still playing in Chicago when the prize was awarded. New York theater is unfairly favored. It's a fact!

Regarding the fakery and predetermined outcomes of wrestling, a very good point is made. It is, after all is said and done, a performance piece. Aside from the content, is it any different than seeing Hamlet and knowing exactly how it's going to end? Not so much.

The last time I saw a wrestling play was Teaneck Tanzi: The Venus Fly Trap (1983) starring Andy Kaufman and Debbie Harry. Kaufman played the ring referee. Harry played Tanzi, who had a special deadly hold: The Venus Fly Trap. For real.

* * *

Here's a fun article from The Wall Street Journal about a self-described Manners Enforcer. He's a dapper, bow tie-wearing gentleman in his 60s whose mission in life is to get folks to behave in a more civilized manner when in public. His weapon of choice? The cell phone jammer, of course! Here's the photo from the article. It's the exact same model I employ! We are brothers in the same war.

Alfred Giancarli for The Wall Street Journal

Additionally, here's a card that was posted to PostSecret today.

I'm hoping an army of us arises to take back our peace quiet. Simply put, people who abuse their cell phones in public are assholes and deserve to have their service cut off. Sometimes I think that cell phones are a greater threat to Western civilization that Al Qaeda.

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