Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gobble, Gobbledygook

Color image site here. For b/w image link (and punchline) see item 5.

What is there to swamp my attention despite the sludge-bound shallows of bad art? Plenty.

1) The Brazilian lady who thought her cat had given birth to puppies has been disproved by gene testing. If such a thing could happen, it probably would have already, given the hordes of stray and fertile domestic animals roaming around. Her generous kitty probably took three abondoned puppies to nurse, something not at all uncommon in history. For her cat to save three tiny lives rather than proving herself a floozy to one Fido makes this a triumphant outcome, right?

2) Via the Grumpy Old Bookman, the Publishing Contrarian lists examples of cringe-worthy book jacket copy for some well-known, award-winning books. She points out that this is, in itself, an art form at which many practicians stink up the joint.

3) Fret not, fans of the fuzzy. When informed in media reports that the creatures would be extinct in 25 years, biologists who study polar bears were surprised, too. Especially since their data largely show stable, even expanding populations.

4) Demanding respect and recognition as Britain's 4th largest religion? Jedi Knights.

5) Has the face of London's infamous Jack the Ripper been revealed? Using the 118-year-old statements of 13 witnesses, a Metropolitan Police analyst created an image of what the prostitute-killer is believed to have looked like. However, scientists still need to explain to my satisfaction the space-time continuum that makes it possible for 19th-century murders to have been committed by 20th-century rock icon Freddie Mercury.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

My Intermittent Art Bash

See item 3 for image link to Graydon Parrish's Cycle of Terror.

I'm all about the art today. I've been accumulating stories, and now, BLAT... here they are.

1) In delightful art news, two paintings by Renaissance master Fra Angelico were found behind a bedroom door in Oxford. These were commissioned by the de Medici family and later lost when Napoleon invaded Italy.

2) In another house where it's easy to lose things among all the magnificent closetry, at the Queen's Hampton Court palace, a spare Caravaggio which had been thought to be a mere copy, has turned out to be the genuine article.

3) I enjoy the upsurge of painters developing representational work using traditional techniques. Not least because it requires an admirable level of technical skill, far above your average, MFA-degreed tampon-collagist. However, it's possible to travel too far up one's allegorical and monumental cloaca. For example, referring to the undeniably gifted Graydon Carter's Cycle of Terror, a wall-sized piece of Classical Realism, James Panero blogs:

To my eyes, Parrish's work is yet another tragedy of 9/11. It is literal if not didactic. It is a machine for illustrating technical skill, far more than it is a moving memorial to September 11. When you visit New Britain, the museum front desk hands you a four-page cheat sheet on the meaning of all the allegories Parrish has built into his canvas. This document says things like "just to the right of the two central male figures are three female figures representing the three fates, or three mourning women. These figures are not wearing blindfolds. They are no longer innocent but completely knowing. An unusual aspect of these three fates is that two of them are handcuffed together, like the wives or husbands of many of the victims of 9/11 who suddenly found themselves 'bound' to one another, to a new community of victims, and to their fate" And: "Note: also near the old man is a skull, a traditional symbol of tragedy and death."

This explanation is so dense, you need a cheat sheet for the cheat sheet. Any work of art that requires a four page explanation to "get it" is going to leave you pretty cold.

4) However, much as I dislike intellectual pomposity, I find it much more tolerable among the talented. In another story, an art student's work was removed from a museum's walls after 18 hours, because of the charged nature of the work. I agree with the removal, but it has nothing to do with any offense on my part that the work is called The Fat is in the Fire and composed of deep-fried American flags. What offends me is the utter bankruptcy of content or or creativity or skill.

On the flags, *artist* (read * as disdainful air quotes) William Gentry imprinted slogans such as,"Poor people are obese because they eat poorly." A lot of these lowly, knuckle-dragging ignoramuses you hold in such contempt going to see student art exhibitions, William? In case his cleverness had eluded you and you weren't yet feeling concussed by the bludgeon of his observations, he included "more than 40 smaller flags fried in peanut oil, egg batter, flour and black pepper."

Get it now? Some people are fat! And it's the sacred obligation of every nannified, simplistic nincompoop in art school to shake a bossy finger at you and tell you what your waistband and GP apparently won't: If you don't eat well, you won't be as healthy. It's so trangressive and innovative, I can barely stand the rush of Gentry's get-real juice to my overfed, undernourished brain.

Predictably, there are always those who claim censorship blah-blah, but I only claim superior sensibilities. One presumably unhappy patron said "the museum shouldn't restrict the free speech of an artist based on public response."

What clearer call could there be for Citizenry Refresher number 15,257? You have the right to say what you'd like and produce whatever craptacular art you choose, but no other individual or entity is required to promote it for you. Museums are allowed to choose what they wish to display. While it is a discouraging sign that this one agreed to display the dreck in the first place, however, without a paid contract, the artist's position is more one of sufferance than suffrage. Widepread Distribution and Marketing of your concept, products, and/or career are not actually guaranteed by the Constitution.

The unhappy patron further opined, "The museum is obligated to the citizens of the community to present art, and it totally failed in that regard."

I agree that they're failing to present art, but I probably mean it differently than the griper. Adult Education guidelines indicate 7 to 21 instances of repetition will solidify new concepts. The fact that this gent couldn't phrase his compaint to be less inviting of punch lines means, to me, that he may be of appropriate intellect to walk up to fried flag #22 before the thematic revelation hits him. Of course, I prefer to believe that his ambiguous wording is a Freudian cry for help, the deepest yearning of a starved soul for something of transcendent aesthetic merit and lasting significance.

Gentry, who had to publicly display his work for a senior project at Austin Peay State University, said he hoped people would get past the flag imagery and address the health issue. "I hope they are upset, but I hope they don't miss the point," he said.

I'd go so far as to say for those standing upright with operating brain stems, it's practically impossible.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Own Monkey Tuesday

Image borrowed from Penn Jillette's site, where I hope tomorrow there'll be posted a new episode of his often intoxicatingly amusing feature, Monkey Tuesday.

I'm back from the New England Crime Bake. I did have fun, although the drive to Lowell, MA from NYC took 5 1/2 hours and two almost accidents: a chain-reaction rear collision before a tunnel in Connecticut which concluded with the car in front of me, and a tire blow-out and subsequent spin-out onto the shoulder and into the opposite direction just two car-lengths ahead of me. For some reason, that whole trip was marked by high-speed traffic suddenly accreting and slamming on the brakes. It was unsettling and scary, again and again. By the time I arrived, almost late for my first session, the muscles running down my neck and into my shoulders were tighter than piano wires. However, the trip back only took 3 1/2 hours, and other than some rain, was pleasant and relatively stress-free.

I'm still hammering out the last dimples in this last painful bit of manuscript editing. I don't know why I bother to feel that way, as if it's a real finish line. Should somebody want to print the thing, I'll have to go through this all again with an editor. Fortunately, there's always something more interesting than my pathetic self to discuss.

1) Like this story-
Under New South Wales state law, if a car owner signs a sworn statement that they were not driving the vehicle when an offense was committed, they can avoid paying speed camera fines, which arrive by mail, and parking tickets left under windshield wipers.

238 fine Australians have blamed the same two guys by name, one of them deceased. Conclusion: We're only asking for trouble if we don't buy zombies their own cars. Imagine the messy residue they must leave on borrowed seats.

2) From the Magistrate's Blog, a list of unacceptable language in the workplace, which, in addition to lots of other epithets including "British" (?!), also discourages specification of age and usually gender. I hope this catches on, so if one's workplace happens to be a medical practice with an obstetrician, pediatrician, and gerontologist, you can happily categorize patients as "broads, geezers, and ankle-biters" which aren't specifically discouraged.

3) Via apostropher, don't go to this site unless you want to see awful pictures and read horrible accounts of the wounds inflicted by pet monkeys.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lobsters in Hancuffs, You Say? Count Me In!

Sadly, this isn't a rescue mission. It's foreplay. Image via Details below.

Thank Jah and Java, very late last night, I reached the approximate end of another, entirely hairy-legged manuscript process, and I rewarded myself by watching the Addams Family movie (with cupcake accompaniment). Raul Julia is so adorable as Gomez, and even though Angelica Huston's upper lip seemed to have a lipstick migration issue, I just adore the ambiance, attitude, and visual sensibility.

"Let's play Wake the Dead!....Great aunt Lavinia was beheaded by her own children! Yayyyyy!"

However, let's say your bag runs to lobsters in handcuffs. Why you'll be envious to know I'm racing to get on my way here! Let's see, is there anything more I can share with a fire at my hinders?

Of course, I've got it. Thanks to April, it's only the best and worst news story ever-
Just because this Russian tournament involves rafting on inflatable sex dolls doesn't mean there aren't rules. Oh, Igor, noooooo....

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Elections or Psychic, Lovelorn Europeans?

It's no contest. You know what you really prefer. 31 days of Tweedlesketches by Michael Fleming.

Another Election Day in America, and you may care or not. I even care, but I'm still past ready for it all to be over. So, let's refresh ourselves with what's going on elsewhere.

1) Uri Geller's climbed from the rubble of obscurity, along with a Brazilian psychic, to claim credit for having located Saddam Hussein's spiderhole through paranormal methods. Do not think I'm dubious, but I wonder if this has anything to do with the $25 million-dollar reward? Too bad none of these phenoms have taken up James Randi's challenge. That's a cool mil for the asking- easy-peasy for someone who can pinpoint a tyrant's ditch in a country the size of California.

2) You may not have heard that this weekend, Europe suffered its worst blackout in three decades, affecting 10 million people across Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. Fortunately, it was relatively brief and appears to have been more inconvenient than injurious.

We have similarly entangled power grids here of inconsistent condition, and have had similarly cascading situations. This is an ongoing problem in modern, connected nations. But what's tre European, it seems to me, is that Germany's suffering a brain drain due to economic conditions/taxation for highly-skilled workers, and, according to the Independent's coverage, "The European Commission is investigating the structure of the EU's power market and whether the Continent's giant firms need to be broken up to encourage greater competition." However, the reaction to this situation is not better technological information sharing or standardization of communication mechanisms to allow swift management at functional levels across borders. Oh, No. The answer is the cozy, woolly sweater of Another Centralized Bureaucracy where each country may argue about funding shares and war for internecine dominance.

I'm sure that'll prove to be as credible, efficient, and nimble a system as the one self-inflicted upon the beleaguered Airbus A380, whose EU subsidies mean that politically the construction contracts get parceled in chunks to four different EU countries, and the disaparate parts work together worse than Frankenstein's.

3) But what, you ask, what if you're a lonely U.K freakazoid who just wants love? The London Review of Books aims to serve with personal ads guaranteed to make you laugh and feel better about yourself.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Not So Much Lazy As Preoccupied- Nice, Huh?

This Bionic Bigfoot toy ties in the children and Sasquatch and even Chicago, thanks to the Left Behind Child blog which notes sightings in Seneca, Illinois reported in the Trib from 2005. To tie in my last theme, you'll just have to imagine this action figure, from the era of joyfully hazardous products, wreathed in happy flames.

There are exciting things in the works with which I've been alternately busy and giddily unproductive. I hope to have concrete announcements soon, but until then, here's the normal casserole that I hope will temporarily give you a cozy feeling of familiar comfort, even though I've been wearing higher heels and bringing home people for you to call "Uncle."

1) Discussion in the Grauniad of why celebrities write children's books. I make some exception for Jamie Lee Curtis, whose books I hear are good, and for Julie Andrews, who, because of her legacy I'm willing to extend some credit, sight unseen. I believe, inclusive of self-aggrandizing or financial motives, it happens because writing a book for adults seems a lot tougher and is, undoubtedly, more time-consuming. The simplicity and length of kids' fare convinces many it's a piece of cake to do well. However, it'sssssssnot.

2) There's been a tragic run of fires this at historic, Louis Sullivan-designed buildings. Preservation Chicago has the scoop on the decimated Pilgrim Baptist (important for much more than architecture), the Dexter Building, and now, the Harvey House, likely the last wooden Adler & Sullivan structure standing after two other cottages were lost in Katrina. PC also explains the kind of incautious "repairs" which keep torching edifices of import. Is it a bad-luck trio that's now completed, or is some architecture-hating brownie just getting started?

3) When you're the lone professor studying Bigfoot, even if you're trying to perform serious anatomical research, life in academia can get lonely. But with all the new and assumed-extinct species we keep finding in the deep oceans and artic climes, why couldn't there be marvels yet to be discovered atop mountainous crags, within impenetrable forests, or beneath the jungle canopies? Worry not, Professor Meldrum. I'm sure neither Copernicus nor Galileo were invited to share coffee in the faculty lounge either.