The Unbearable Banishment: September 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I am reposting this per Rob’s request. I took it down because I thought that EVERYBODY was commenting on the Wall Street mess and I didn’t need to add my two cents, but he seemed to enjoy it so here ya go.

Gentlemen, I have had men watching you for a long time, and I am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the bank and annul its charter, I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers and thieves. I intend to rout you out, and by the eternal God, I will rout you out.

Andrew Jackson
7th President of the United States, speaking to a delegation of bankers in 1832

* * *

I heard a few bars of The Knack’s My Sharona at 6:00 o’clock this morning. That was over 10 hours ago. Does anybody know if I can get this guitar lick surgically removed from my brain?

Ooh you make my motor run, my motor run
Gun it comin' off the line Sharona

Oh, dear God in heaven, please PLEASE make it stop! I can’t take it anymore! I’m going to jump out my 9th floor window and splat all over 5th Avenue. Damn you to hell, The Knack! DAMN YOU TO HELL!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Tormented Artiste

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

This piece of drivel is from a fluff article on Michael Cera in the New York Times. Master Cera is the young actor who played the accidental father in Juno and was also in Superbad. He’s concerned about being too famous. He wants to be just a little bit famous, but not a lot famous. A while back, I read an interview with Nora Jones and in it, she said that the release of her first album was the beginning of one of the most unpleasant periods of her life because the album was a huge success and, “I was everywhere.”

Listen here, you fucking nitwits: If you don’t want to be famous then, for Christ’s sake, don’t pursue a career in the performing arts. Are you KIDDING me?! Do you have any idea what a rare gift you’ve been given? Of course you don’t. You’re too young to realize it. At the very least, you need to keep those sentiments private and not soil yourself in the New York Times. Your job is to promote your new work. Keep you pie-hole closed about the horrors of success. Kurt Cobain’s daughter is fatherless because he didn’t like being famous. Boo hoo hoo. Poor Kurt. If you don’t want to be famous, then don’t choose a career whose success is measured in the size of an audience.

A special note to the delicate Mr. Cera: Don’t stress about being too famous. You’re too shitty an actor for that to happen. You play the same guy in every film. You can get away with that stuff if you’re Al Pacino or Jack Nicholson but until then, you’d better concentrate on showing some depth, junior. For now, you’re just a wart on the ass of Hollywood.

You’ll have to excuse me, but I gotta run. I need to start my 2-hour commute home.

Grrrrr. Arf! Arf!

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I’m fixated on the theft of my credit card. When I think about it, which is often, I get angry. Too angry, really. Mrs. Wife said that we’re not responsible for the post-theft charges so I should just move on and forget about it. You can ask any ex-girlfriend; moving on quickly is not one of my strengths. You lucky readers who have normal, healthy psychological predispositions probably would have forgotten the incident by now.

I found out that there were only two charges made before I was able to pull the plug; $3.79 at Pop Burger and $1,449 at Adrien Linford. Adrien Linford is a luxury goods shop on Madison Avenue and 74th Street. The fact that my credit card was used to buy a $1,449 bauble—probably a Gucci bag or Prada shoelaces—really irks the hell out of me. You have to be brand savvy and, presumably, moneyed to know about Adrien Linford. A shallow, materialistic grub got my credit card. If the thief had charged a case of Similac or a box of Pampers, I probably wouldn’t be so irritated.

* * *

As I was typing this out I had the news on in the background. They just reported that in India, a bomb went off in a flower market killing one and injuring 15. The fatality was a 12 year old boy. They bombed a flower market. Think about that. I really do need to move on.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Action Takes Place During the Plague Year 1593

Well, that sounds like a cheery evening of theater, doesn’t it? This time I was about as far off Broadway as you can get. The Abingdon Theater Company is one of a myriad of black box theaters that dot Manhattan. I saw The English Channel, which I was drawn to by a favorable review in the Times but I wasn't impressed. It revolved around the love/hate friendship between William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. Does anyone know if Marlowe was gay? Because this Marlowe was really, REALLY gay. Another English historical drama. Some people would say that I’m in a rut. I prefer to call it a groove.

* * *

Before the play, I ate at the Tick Tock Diner on 8th Avenue and 34th St. It’s not really a diner. It’s a restaurant with a diner theme which is pretty lame, since there are plenty of authentic diners still around. My waiter was an old man who had no business waiting tables. He should be retired instead of grinding out a restaurant job. I felt just awful for him. He looked to be in his late 60s and had to wear a stupid Tick Tock Diner outfit—a blue logoed polo shirt and a blue baseball cap. It seemed undignified for someone his age. All the other waiters were young men and women. There’s little doubt he does it for the money.

My dear mother, who is 73 years old, just had to quit her telemarketing job for health reasons. She claims she liked working because it got her out of the house. I’m sure there’s an element of truth to that, but the fact of the matter is that she has a tough time making ends meet on Social Security alone. I do what I can and send her some money every month but it still isn’t enough. What’s going to happen when all the aged Americans who need to work because they don’t have enough money to live on can’t work anymore? How did this happen in such a prosperous country?

* * *

I came out of the gym shower and saw a guy close my locker. I walked up and said, “What are you doing in my locker?” He said, “You lock was left open and I closed it for you.” “Thanks!,” I said. Three hours later I looked in my wallet and my credit card was gone. Mrs. Wife called the bank to cancel and over $1,000 had already been charged. I found all this out just minutes before the curtain went up. I spent the first :10 minutes of the play stewing in a deep, violent, hateful, very un-Zen like anger that I had been so incredibly stupid.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Great Man, A Great Poem Pt. 2

Charles Bukowski on being alone:

oh, yes

there are worse things than
being alone
but it often takes decades
to realize this
and most often
when you do
it's too late
and there's nothing worse
too late

* * *

Some people have a city instead of a life.

How's that for an opening line? It pulled me right in. Guess what? It gets even better. This is from FULL OF IT - The Birth, Death, and Life of an Underground Newspaper the new novel from friend and writer extraordinaire Tim Hall. Tim is fresh off his appearance at the Omaha Lit Fest. His new book is a good ride. Take it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Boooooo! FAKE!

I walked up to Central Park to see David Blaine hang upside down.

I saw Street Magic years ago on TV and thought it was a lot of fun. I like that he fucked with the denizens of the Lower East Side, where I happen to be living at the time. They deserved to be fucked with. After that, he performed a series of stunts here in the city that I saw in person. I saw him buried alive for seven days, stand in a block of ice for 63 hours, stand on a 90 foot high pillar for 35 hours, spin in a gyroscope for 16 hours and be submerged in water for seven days.

I didn’t feel a burning desire to see this latest stunt, but I have a collect ‘em all mentality and thought I shouldn’t miss it. It’s like those damn Harry Potter books. You can’t bail out if you’ve read through book IV.

Today in the paper, it was announced that Fox News caught him taking stand-up breaks. WTF! When confronted, Blaine’s reps said he “never intended to stay upside down for 60 consecutive hours.” What a liar. He probably cheated on the other stunts as well. Maybe he should run for office.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Great Unknowable

Sunday was the second anniversary of the passing of Mrs. Wife’s grandmother. In the morning, the four of us took a drive out to the cemetery to pay our respects. It was simply beautiful out. Blue skies and cool, early fall temps. Cemeteries are peaceful, remarkably well-manicures places. They’d make great open spaces for the public if it weren’t for all the corpses.

We found the tombstone and while Mrs. Wife and 6-Year Old Daughter said a prayer, I had a look around. It’s a Catholic cemetery and as such, all of the names on the tombstones are either Irish or Italian. Really. All of them. My favorite was a heart-shaped tombstone of pink granite with a very Italian name. In addition to the name, they carved a horse and a pair of dice into it. The dice showed 11 and for those of you unfamiliar with craps, 11 is the friendly number. It’s the only number you can throw where nothing bad will happen to you. You’ll never lose money throwing an 11. He was my kind of paisan.

I heard 6-Year Old say, “Is she buried in the ground?” Mrs. Wife said, “Only your body goes into the ground. Your soul goes up to heaven.” I looked at Daughter’s face and she wrestled with this concept. I wrestle with it, too. The Buddhists believe that you are reincarnated over and over again until you obtain Nirvana. Every culture has its own take on what happens after you die.

Do you know what I think? I don’t believe ANYBODY knows what happens after you're gone. Each culture has its own story to tell. Your personal belief is not rooted in fact but, rather, where you were born how you were raised. Nothing more. I think these stories were made up by man and handed down from generation to generation, just like what Mrs. Wife was doing to Daughter, because mankind is terrified of death and these legends give us comfort and a sense of order. It’s part of the human fabric. But I don’t think anybody knows, really. If everyone adopted this attitude, the religions of the world would crumble.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Hazard of Performing Live

At the beginning of Act 2 during Friday evening's performance of A Man for All Seasons, the lights dimmed, the curtain rose and Frank Langella stood on stage with Michael Esper, who plays Sir Thomas More's son-in-law, William Roper. There was a brief pause and then both actors walked off the stage and the curtain came back down. Odd. An announcement was made over the public address, "Ladies and gentleman, we'll try that again." Everyone chuckled. We assumed a prop was missing or someone didn't hit their mark. Four or five minutes passed, Act 2 began and the play unfolded without further interruption.

When the play concluded and the cast was on stage for their curtain call, Frank Langella held up his hands to silence the audience. He apologized for the false start at the beginning of Act 2. (Nobody cared. An apology wasn't necessary.) He said that just prior to the curtain being raised when he walked out on stage to take his place, he stumbled and fell backwards and hit his head, hard, against a wooden post in the middle of the set. He felt it was better to walk to the wings and allow his daze to lift than to try and fight through it.

Working without a net. There's nothing like it.

* * *

While waiting for the F train at 34th St. this morning, I saw this written on a steel girder:


A play on words! How fun is that? That little piece of levity is enough to give me a needed smile on the same morning I woke up to find that Benevolent Dictators, Inc. was converted to a holding company last night while I slept.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

There is a Season

According to the lunar calendar, autumn doesn’t begin until Monday but as far as I’m concerned it started last night. I saw my first Broadway play of the New York theater season. A Man for All Seasons with Frank Langella playing Sir Thomas More. I saw Langella play Richard Nixon last season in Frost/Nixon and he is a great actor. (Watch for the Ron Howard-directed Frost/Nixon out in November.)

A Man for All Seasons is a dark, thick piece of theater that requires your full attention. The elderly patron seated to my left fell asleep, and I completely understand that. It helps to have a fetish for British historical dramas, which I do in spades, but I’m not entirely convinced that everyone would enjoy it as much as I did. I thought it was fantastic.

It’s hard to believe that executions, betrayal, false imprisonment and a potential war could result simply from the want of a divorce, but it all really happened. Get this: In 1527 Henry VIII wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry his mistress Anne Boleyn. The only thing standing in his way was the Catholic Church. The Church wouldn’t sanction the divorce, so he got rid of it! A righteous dude! In 1532, he severed ties with Rome and passed the Act of Supremacy, which installed himself as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. What nerve! He finally married Anne Boleyn. Catherine of Aragon’s nephew, Charles V, King of Spain, didn’t like seeing his aunt removed as Queen and tried to instigate a war.

More, the influential Lord Chancellor of England, refused to sign the Act or endorse the divorce on moral grounds. Well, you can guess where that got him. A year in a dungeon and a beheading. All that occurred simply because the King wanted a divorce! Isn’t that nuts?

What do you think has caused more trouble and misery throughout history, religious doctrine or what a man keeps in his pants? I’d say it's a toss-up.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hope I Die Before I Get Old

I needed to get some blood work done. Nothing newsworthy. Just some routine tests. Typically, whenever I need to see a doctor (which is rarely, knock wood), I go on a Saturday morning because during the week I am preoccupied with trying to pay the mortgage. Today, however, I decided to remote into my desktop and work from home.

The weekday crowd in the doctor's waiting room is not the same as the weekend crowd. It is similar to a casino crowd, with the M-F patrons being a bit older and slower than the weekenders. I am not accustom to being around sick people. I'm lucky that way. nursemyra and Nurse Heidi deserve to be canonized for helping people through an illness. I award myself the golden shithead award for being so uncomfortable around the old and sick.

Sitting in that waiting room today provided a sobering reminder of my (our) mortality. I was the youngest one in there by a few generations (and I'm not that young, remember). Of course, you would expect to see old, sick people in a medical waiting room but some of these people were visibly fucked up. Most were physically incapacitated and one was clearly having a psychological episode. The whole ordeal had a profound and lasting impact on me. I hope this doesn't lead to a religious epiphany or anything tacky like that.

When I got home, 2-Year Old Daughter ran across the room and wrapped her arms around my leg. "Daddy home!" Therein lies the antidote for my poisonous thoughts.

* * *

You can learn a lot by working from home for a day. I came out of the office at 2:30 to make a cup of tea and you’ll never guess what I came across; Mrs. Wife was having a little snooze. 6-Year Old Daughter was in school and 2-Year Old Daughter was having her afternoon nap. Mrs. Wife was wrapped in a blankee on the living room sofa all roasty-toasty warm. Asleep. At 2:30 in the afternoon. Typically, at that time of day, I am fighting corporate demons. No big deal. I'm just sayin'.

* * *

Here's the best line from Jon Caramanica's New York Times review of the Celine Dion concert at Madison Square Garden:

Her outfits were, invariably, sparkly, as if she had just lathered herself in glue and rolled around on crushed mirrors.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Great Bijou in the Sky

The flight home from London was a breeze although the movie selections were predictably lame. It was seven dead hours with nothing to watch. Mrs. Wife watched Notting Hill for the 137th time and also Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, which she liked. Our other boffo selections included Forrest Gump, Indiana Jones and the Death of a Franchise, Sense and Sensibility, The Cell, The Cell 2 (wha ?!), and The Cable Guy. Urp.

I finally broke down and watched Speed Racer. Christ. I’m glad I didn’t slap down $12 to see it. Would you like me to summarize the experience for you? Blink your eyes as fast as you can while violently whipping your head from side to side until you have a massive headache and a sore neck. There. It’s too late for me, but I just saved you 135 valuable minutes of your life.

I must have been oxygen deprived from the altitude because I actually became involved in the story. Here’s the O. Henry twist: I started watching it so late in the flight that I missed the ending. They shut down the in-flight entertainment system just as the “big race” was about to begin because we were about to land. I was crushed. Does anyone know if Speed won? And what of Racer X? Does Speed find out that he is actually his older brother, Rex Racer, whose identity was hidden from Speed by a full-head mask and cosmetic surgery? (Oops. Sorry about that.) Did Pops Racer sell Racer Motors to Royalton Industries? And, most importantly, did Christina Ricci, John Goodman and Susan Sarandon laugh uproariously while cashing their checks, or did they actually feel some pangs of remorse? If you know the answers to any of these questions, but are too ashamed to admit it, you can always post them anonymously.

* * *

Here’s an appreciation for contemporary author and recent suicide David Foster Wallace from the New York Times. Would it be in poor taste for me to tell you the story about how that guy treated me like a piece of dirt at a book signing a few years ago?

Yes, it would be.

New York City Meltdown

Mrs. Wife and I boarded our plane at London’s Gatwick yesterday morning after a very satisfying holiday. When we deplaned in New York later in the afternoon, we walked into a 504 point Dow Jones meltdown and 85 degree heat. 85 degrees in the middle of September is just so wrong. (Come to think of it, a 504 point drop in the Dow seems pretty wrong, as well.) I can hardly wait to see how everyone at Benevolent Dictators, Inc. is taking the news. We announce our earnings tomorrow, so that should be a lot of fun.

I tend to suffer from post-vacation sadness. I know that everyone does, but I think I take it a bit harder than everyone else. While there are aspects of my job that I enjoy, a successful vacation always reminds me that if I had the freedom to do anything I wanted, it wouldn’t be commuting into the city to sit at a desk. Unfortunately, I have too many responsibilities to just chuck it all and try something different. Some are lucky enough to live their fantasies. It seems that most of us have to make do with occasional bliss.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sucking on the Glass Pipe

Mrs. Wife turned me loose on Cecil Court, which is the epicenter for rare book dealers here in London. It’s a hornet’s nest of trouble for someone with my proclivity. I was just going to “look” because the exchange rate is so abysmal that it doesn’t make sense to buy anything. Yea, right. Two hours later:

● A signed first edition of the script from Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby. (In paperback. There was never a hardcover issue.)

● A signed UK hardcover first edition of Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

● A copy of Intrepid—a poetry mimeo journal from 1967 with an appearance by Charles Bukowski

● A signed hardcover first edition of Purple American by Rick Moody that has a wrap-around promotional band advertising the paperback release—a real oddity!

The first step is admitting…oh, never mind.

* * *

As I mentioned earlier, I saw The Female of the Species and loved it very much. I was going to attempt to describe how good of an actress Sophie Thompson is but, thankfully, Bob said it far better than I ever could.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Good Day to Play

Two plays in 18 hours isn’t everybody’s idea of a good time, but it works for me. Zorro was enjoyable as long as they were singing and dancing. Have you ever watched someone play flamenco guitar up close? If I tried to play that fast I’d break my fingers. Some of the dialog was a bit stilted and unintentionally hilarious. The Female of the Species featured British national treasure Eileen Atkins and was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in quite a while. After the matinee, a long walk through a sunny London. How can I turn days like this into a money-making venture?

* * *

I’m watching Bob play Guitar Hero III. I know this is going to make me sound a bit behind the times but I’ve never seen anyone play Guitar Hero before. I’m not sure how I feel about it. It looks tough although not as tough as learning how to play a guitar. I guess that’s part of the appeal. Quick results.


Friday, September 12, 2008

A Whisper of Love. A Whisper of Hate.

We went to the big Ian Fleming retrospective at the Imperial War Museum. I know for a fact that the vast majority of you, the reading public, probably wouldn’t be the least bit interested in spending an afternoon ogling—no, salivating over—a complete set of first edition Bond novels in perfect dust jackets along with (are you sitting down?) many of the original manuscripts and many other sundry literary items, but I was in heaven. There was some movie memorabilia that was kinda fun but the bulk of the exhibit focused on Fleming's literary output. How did he ever get away with calling a character Pussy Galore? In 1959?! Pussy Galore was a lesbian who worked for Goldfinger. She was converted to heterosexuality by James Bond’s superior lovemaking skills. They don’t write ‘em like that anymore! The exhibit was so good that I might ditch Mrs. Wife tomorrow and see it a second time. That wouldn’t be too crazy, right?

* * *

After the low-art of Bond we went high-end at the Courtald Galleries. It was an unexpected surprise. Who would have suspected that such a small, unassuming gallery would house such a spectacular collection of Impressionist work? They have a Cézanne exhibit which was okay, but their permanent collection is a real smack in the kisser. It includes Manet’s most famous work, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

along with van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Also, a big room full o’ Rubens, if you like that sort of thing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Royal Crib

If you’re going to visit Buckingham Palace, then do yourself a favor and bring Bob along. He has ninja-like skills when it comes to skewering the bubbles of pomposity with a well-timed quip. It’s like having the audio commentary supplied by Statler and Waldorf. We passed through the room where the Queen’s children were baptized “with water from the River Jordan.” Bob thought it could quite possibly also be the room where all that royalty was conceived. He works blue.

Arrived in London from an overnight flight a few hours ago. Typically, we are calm, cool, sophisticated travelers from another Metropolis. This time, however, we are going to be über tourists. A sassy West End musical. The Ian Fleming exhibit at the British War Museum. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we wound up on the top deck of a big red bus. We’ve even made reservations to tour Buckingham Palace. While there, I want to try and use the royal loo. That’d be as close as I'll ever get to a throne.

* * *

You can tell what rung of the economic ladder you occupy by where you sit in an airplane. Are you up front in one of the comfy "sleeping pods" or are you waaaay in the rear of the plane with a seat back just a few inches from you nose? Who knew they could fit 64 rows of seats on an airplane? It's surprising, but they did it. Well, if you don't like those flying arrangements, perhaps you should have worked a little harder and paid attention in school.

While being served dinner, I asked the steward if first class has eaten yet. He said that not only have they already eaten, but the crew just sang them lullabies and they are already asleep, so please don't make a lot of noise by clanging my plastic flatware together. Funny.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Book Collecting: A Primer for nursemyra

If you check the comments of my previous post, you’ll see that the always lovely nursemyra had a few good questions regarding book collecting. Here’s a short answer for you, my dear.

Like Dante’s hell, there are many levels to collecting a book. First there’s the manuscript, which neither you nor I will ever see. Then there are the galley proofs. Although pretty rare, I’ve seen a few. Then there are Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) and proofs, which are fairly common if you know where to look. Then, the first edition. Did I leave anything out, mjp?

If any of these are signed, all the better. To some collectors, the earlier a book's iteration, the more desirable. Others are only interested in first editions. There are SO MANY nuances. Does an author tour and sign? If not, signed copies will be sold at a premium. The smaller the first edition print run, the better. Those Harry Potter and Stephen King firsts? Worthless because there are so many of them (not counting the early titles). Do you “follow the flag?” (This means to only collect the first edition in the author’s home country, i.e., only the British firsts of Graham Greene, only the Australian firsts of Peter Carey.) I could go on and on ad nauseum. Feel free to email me.

If you buy a first edition that’s signed, you cannot read it. Reading it, even once, degrades its condition and condition is paramount. Who in their right mind buys a book that cannot be read? It’s nuts. My advice is to not get caught up in collecting books. Or shooting craps. Both are quicksand.

Can Book Collecting Lead to Dementia?

I bought a signed proof of Nick Hornby’s last book, Slam. I don’t think this book was given as much attention as his others because it’s a young adult novel, but I thought it was a fine read. I was amazed at how inexpensive the proof was. And signed, no less! Every once in a while, if you keep your eye out, you stumble across something that’s being sold way under market value. Then you pounce.

I finally got it in the mail and it was in perfect condition. Proofs are nothing more than perfect bound paperbacks that are prone to damage and when you collect books, condition is king. I happily trotted over to my bookcase, opened the glass doors and there on the Nick Hornby shelf was a beautiful signed proof of Slam. I forgot that I had already bought one.

I’ll bet your thinking that I made a clumsy mistake, but you’d be wrong about that. If one signed Nick Hornby proof in mint condition is good, then two are GREAT! Especially at this price!

The first step is admitting you have a problem and I’m just not there yet.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Building Vanishes

How cool is this?

The See-Through Skyscraper

Once in a while…when the light and the angles are just right, a skyscraper can come close to vanishing.

That happened last Thursday, when the 52 floors of 7 World Trade Center faded into the cloud-flecked blue of a late summer afternoon. Its masonry neighbors (140 West Street and 90 West Street) stood out in contrast.

That’s not Photoshop trickery, folks. It’s an unedited pic. I usually have nothing but distain for glass towers, but I have to admit that this is really nice.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Whores in the Museum

People come from all over the world to visit the Museum of Modern Art. For some, it’s the only reason to visit New York. MoMA is just 10 short blocks from my office—a few minute jaunt up 5th Avenue. Benevolent Dictators, Inc. is a corporate sponsor and by showing my company ID, I avoid paying the $20 admission fee and I can jump the queue. I’m very lucky in that regard. If I don’t pop in for a visit every so often, I start to feel like a Big Loser who doesn’t take advantage of some nice things that are laid out on my table. Plus, I really like looking at paintings. Always have. So it doesn’t feel obligatory.

I saw the Ernst Kirchner exhibit last night. I knew very little about him going in. I loved it. Do you know that thrill you get when you discover something new? I got it last night. I wish it occurred more frequently. It seems that the older you get, the less it happens.

Kirchner was a German Expressionist who lived in Berlin around the turn of the century. The focus of the exhibit was a series of Berlin Street Scenes.

The exhibit’s centerpiece was seven amazing works painted in 1914 that feature elegantly dressed prostitutes working the busy Berlin streets. He had a sharp, knife edge style that worked perfectly for urban images. The exhibit was padded with some studies and sketches, which I always think is such a cheap shot. What artist wants his working sketches exhibited? It’d be no different than authors releasing working copies of their manuscripts. It’s ridiculous. Stop it.

* * *

I felt I should have a counterweight to all that high art so after MoMA, I ducked into a theater and saw Tropic Thunder. I paid $12 to get in and it was, at best, a $5 movie so if you see Ben Stiller, tell him he owes me $7 bucks.

Free Tips From the Buddah 6

We who are like senseless children
Shrink from suffering, but love its causes.
We hurt ourselves; our pain is self-inflicted!
Why should others be the object of our anger?

Santideva, Bodhicaryavatara

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Please Watch This

This clip from Jon Stewart is making the rounds. It's beautiful. Pass it on.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Whiny Wealthy White Folk

The Upper East Side of Manhattan is an enclave of astonishing wealth. They are the idle rich that you and I envy. One of the cultural epicenters of all this wealth is the 92nd Street Y. Every fall, the Y holds a series of lectures. It’s all very stimulating stuff and tickets can become a hot item, not necessarily because of the subject matter, but because of the unrelenting need for wealthy folks to feel like they’re a part of something exclusive. For instance, if rumor has it that Meryl Streep might attend the Sigd: Ethiopian Jewish Celebration, tickets will suddenly become scarce and sought after.

The midday lectures are the best. Who do you suppose is able to attend a midday lecture? Wealthy people who do not need to work a proper job, of course. These lectures are tailored to address the problems and challenges facing this exclusive clientele. They've just released the fall schedule and here, verbatim, are some of the lectures that address the more pressing issues facing those beleaguered souls:

Tue, Oct 28
When Your Grown Kids Disappoint You
[How sweet.
“Mom, do you want to come to dinner on Tuesday night?”
“I can’t. I’m attending a lecture on how to cope with my disappointment in you.”
I’ve noticed that there are no lectures for children who have been burdened with the failed dreams of their parents.]

Thu, Nov 6
The Truth About Why Women Lie
That would be a paradox, right?]

Wed, Nov 12
Beyond Botox: Advanced Anti-Aging
[The audience is a room full of smiling stone-faced bitties clutching Hermès birkin bags.]

Fri, Nov 14

Wed, Nov 19
Mothers-In-Law and Daughters-In-Law: Love and Hate
[I’m betting the emphasis is on hate.]

Mrs. Wife and I saw the Dali Llama speak at the 92 St Y. He’s a mumbley son-of-a-gun and because we were seated in the back, we couldn’t understand a single word he said.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I stumbled across this headline on the Reuters scrawl:

GOP Convention: Bush Still Enjoys Strong Support in Nebraska

How can that be? And I don’t mean to single out Nebraska. I’m asking in a much broader sense. How can that be? I tried to step outside of myself and take a good, long, non-judgmental look at the President. I wanted to be completely objective and set aside any emotion. I just don’t see it. How can anyone still support that guy?

* * *

Take a look at this fun sculpture:

This is “Shine” by Willie Cole. It’s a primitive-style mask made from more than a dozen high-heeled women’s shoes. Upon first glance, I didn’t see the shoes. Could I have come up with something as bizarre and creative as that? Not in this lifetime. It’s part of a new exhibit that just opened at the Met.

And how about this still life?

This was drawn by my niece. She’s SIX YEARS OLD! She indicated a light source for the apples.

The oranges are brilliant. And look at that vase with flowers and water!

It's much more vivid in person. She's definitely got some skills. Having a gift in the arts can be a blessing but it can sometimes lead to a lot of heartache, as well. I hope her parents nurture her. If they don’t, I might have to step in.

Monday, September 1, 2008

RIP Walter “Killer” Kowalski

Old school wrestler Walter (Killer) Kowalski has died.

The NY Times wrote yet another one of their fantastic obits. Their obits read like very short short stories. Here’s how Kowalski got his “Killer” moniker:

“I was leaping off the rope, and Yukon Eric, who had a cauliflower ear, moved at the last second,” Kowalski told The Chicago Tribune in 1989. “I thought I missed, but all of a sudden, something went rolling across the ring. It was his ear.”

Yukon Eric was taken to a hospital, and the promoter asked Kowalski to visit him and apologize for severing his ear. Reporters were listening to their chat from a corridor.

“There was this 6-foot-5, 280-pound guy, his head wrapped like a mummy, dwarfing his bed,” Kowalski said. “I looked at him and grinned. He grinned back. I laughed, and he laughed back. Then I laughed harder and left.

“The next day the headlines read, ‘Kowalski Visits Yukon in the Hospital and Laughs.’ And when I climbed into the ring that night, the crowd called out, ‘You animal, you killer.’ And the name stuck.”

Killer Kowalski was before my time, but I do remember going to the now defunct Cleveland Arena (site of the first rock n' roll concert—the Moondog Coronation Ball hosted by Alan Freed) to watch Pamparo Firpo, Bobo Brazil, Ernie “Big Cat” Ladd and a host of other glorious misfits. The rest of the obit is pretty killer. (Ha. See what I did there?) If you need a laugh, go read it.