March 2003 Archives

In Washington Monthly, Joshua Micah Marshall (his stellar weblog: Talking Points Memo) has a sobering look at the neocon view of Baghdad-as-beta for "rolling the table," i.e., regime changing the entire Middle East. Slate's Kaus realizes that this explains Rumsfeld's hubris and micromanaging (cf. Sy Hersh) a small military footprint--so Baghdad's fall puts Teheran, Damascus, and Riyadh (!?!) on notice.

One conclusion of Marshall's article: this neocon war strategy is self-fulfilling prophecy; the more they pursue it, the more "painfully necessary" constant war becomes. "The White House really has in mind an enterprise of a scale, cost, and scope that would be almost impossible to sell to the American public. The White House knows that. So it hasn't even tried. Instead, it's focused on getting us into Iraq with the hope of setting off a sequence of events that will draw us inexorably towards the agenda they have in mind."

Which puts me in a coining mood (Hey, why should Jarvis have all the fun?). The war to begin all wars. mostly books, and gym stuff, since there are two gyms near the courthouse. I searched several used bookstores* for a paperback copy of Infinite Jest, which I could rip into more portable chunks. But I learned an obvious lesson: if you go to a used bookstore with a specific book in mind, you're setting yourself up for failure. Here's what I discovered instead:

  • In the Blink of An Eye, A Perspective on Film Editing, by Walter Murch
  • The Orwell Reader, 1956 ed. (without the inaccurate cover the Amazon reviewers complain about.)
  • Among the Believers, An Islamic Journey, V.S. Naipaul -- travel through the ancient (i.e., late '70's) Islamic world.
  • The Believer, Among the things Dave Eggers has been up to. We'll see.
  • The real find: Hollywood on Trial: The Story of the Ten Who Were Indicted, 1st ed., 1948, by Gordon Kahn, a contemporary, insider account of the 1947 HUAC hearings.

    (Blacklist trivia: The blacklist era didn't end until the director Otto Preminger openly hired Dalton Trumbo, one of the original Hollywood Ten, to write the script for Exodus, a 1960 movie about the founding of Israel. Preminger's sleek, modernist house was across the street from mine. I'm looking at its English/Portuguese replacement right now.)

    * Shopping credits: East Village Books, 101 St Mark's Pl (1st & A); Bookleaves, 304 W 4th St.

  • Go right now, before it closes. You've got three minutes. Just after 8:00, there wasn't any line at all. Galleries were crowded at first. Seeing the drawings required surrendering your personal space in this strange, silent, dance, like having to get out of a hundred elevators. But the throngs fell away, and when we left at 9:30, artist friends were sauntering back for a leisurely second lap.

    Jeff "Buzz" Jarvis suggests I give to the (eventually) liberated Salam Pax, who he notes is "the true Baghdad Blogger."

    I like it.

    To make it happen, I'll link up with an NGO and petition the ITU liaison at the UN's Interim Iraqi Administration Authority and... oh, what the hell, just get me Richard Perle on the horn.

    March 30, 2003

    When Bush's Ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, blamed Canada for not supporting the Administration's war policy, it set of waves of self-criticism and anguish across the whole country (granted, they probably do that a lot up there...). Aaron has a day-by-day, um, breakdown of the whole crisis on 601am.

    In today's Halifax Herald, the Nova Scotian writer Silver Donald Cameron sets the record straight. After turning the Administration's French taunts of "Remember WWI? WWII?" back on the US--which entered the wars three and two years after Canada--Cameron adds "Remember September 11th," that day when Canada took 40,000 stranded US airline passengers into their homes on a moment's notice. [via IP]

    March 30, 2003

    Gary Wills' NY Times Magazine article, "With God on His Side," a long look at presidents' pressing God into the service of politics. Keywords: "Missed you at bible study," (an unsubtle slam in the Bush White House) and "muscular Christianity."

    Wills closes with an excerpt of Mark Twain's "War Prayer," written to protest the US invasion of the Philippines.

    March 29, 2003

    So rather than reinvent the war-related weblog wheel, develop an RSS/XML aggregator that categorizes all the war-blog posts by politico-ideological slant, or simply redirect it to Slate, I've decided that will be an unpredictable feature where I point to some war-related post or another that lays siege to my attention.

    And the first strike: Jeff Jarvis's Buzz Machine, Saturday Edition.
    Why? Jarvis leads off with "Also click here to go to my war news weblog," yet he still posts eighteen war-related stories in one day. Disagree with him if you want (and I do, a lot), but get used to it; it's urban blogfare.

    Russian Ark, dir. Aleksandr Sokurov,

    In the Guardian, Jonathan Jones talks with Aleksandr Sokurov about his latest film, Russian Ark, and he retraces the path of the single 96-minute Steadicam shot through the Hermitage with the museum's director, Mikhail Piotrovsky. I've written about this before, but what comes through here is a double view of serious passion for art.

    The Hermitage dominates the lives of those who work there: It "has its own school where children can learn archaeology and art history from the age of five, preselected for curatorial lives like gymnasts or violinists." Piotrovsky appears as himself in the film, talking with his deceased father, who was also director.

    And for Sokurov, encountering art, not just seeing or presenting it, was a central goal of the film. "Sokurov films paintings from the side, in normal lighting, so that reflections - as they do - obscure one part of the picture and make the texture of its surface visible." One encounter Sokurov provides is Rembrandt: "When you meet the real painting, you meet a real creature. Rembrandt left part of his physical being in his painting - every time you come up to a painting, you feel part of this energy, this sense of something being alive."

    Sokurov dismisses modern works---the museum's famous Matisses don't make the film's, um, final cut--saying "the main criterion in art is time. It seems to me that those artists who are considered modern classics are to be tested by time yet." And the director chides film for utterly lacking historical awareness ("due to the lack of cinema museums," he claims) even as Jones points out the contrast of the unedited Russian Ark and its Russian Avant Garde antecedents--like Eisenstein, who also filmed in the Hermitage--whose "great modernist aesthetic" of editing became the foundation of our entire visual language.

    So, Sokurov, what's a better way to spend four hours today, watching my Criterion Collection Andrei Rublev DVD (aka, the cinema museum?) or standing in line at the Met for the last day of daVinci? "Museums make culture stable," Sokurov notes, and they perform an invaluable conservative function, that is, conserving the "real creatures" of our collective past. As Sokurov would no doubt agree, in contemporary art, the artist leaves no part of his physical being in his work: he leaves his thoughts, his mind, his idea. And when I encounter a Felix Gonzalez-Torres light string, fabricated with parts off the hardware store shelf, I still have a sense of something being alive.

    Air Force Memorial, James Ingo Freed,

    Earlier this month, the Air Force unveiled James Ingo Freed's design for the Air Force Memorial, which will be located on a ridge overlooking the Pentagon and the Pentagon's own recently announced September 11th Memorial. The design is inspired by fighter jet contrails, which I can't complain about, since my disappointment with the 9/11 memorial competition drove me to a similar--but more jarring, and far less elegant--concept for the Pentagon Memorial.

    What I objected to was the many designs' near-total emphasis on the individuals who died, to the exclusion of the greater import of the event. What turned out to be the winning design, in fact, was the apotheosis of this trend; it features 184 "memorial units," aka benches, with individually lighted reflecting pools. I blame a bathetic misreading and misapplication of Maya Lin's minimalist memorial language. But I've written a lot of this before.

    What's new, though, is Bradford McKee's piece in Slate, where he points out an other, more fundamental flaw in the Memorial plan: no one will be able to actually visit. The Pentagon's chosen site is essentially inaccessible, for both logistical and security reasons. Oh, and it's right next to a noisy highway.

    To imagine the resulting memorial's best case scenario, just look at the completely unvisited Navy and Marine Memorial, which is located on the Potomac in the Ladybird Johnson Memorial Park, part of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove, aka the landscaping along the highway.

    No, not Iraq, I mean one of the other hundred+ countries who aren't "with us," that "second largest landmass in North America," the nation high-sticking our northern border, Canada.

    I've fled to Canada for 1) research/groundwork for the Animated Musical, part of which is set in Montreal, 2) skiing in Mont Tremblant, a hothoused attempt to create a Quebecian Aspen or Park City, which ends up looking like Universal Studios CityWalk, 3) to get away from the incessant, empty haze of American media on the war, and 4) to hang out with my wife, who's attending an astrophysics conference at said resort.

    Here's a status update: 1) rather than repeatedly dig their car out every morning, driveway owners in Montreal put up these temporary plastic tent garages, which look like crappy greenhouses. Also, they bilingualize everything, even things that shouldn't be translated, like steak au poivre and croissant. That's all I can reveal at this point. 2) It's raining at Tremblant, so skiing is losing out to weblogging in a room full of telnetting physicists. 3) Canadian media, or the CBC, at least, is comparing the breach with the US over Iraq to the whole softwood export turmoil. Yep, coming to Canada's certainly put the war in perspective for me. 4) well, one outta four ain't bad.

    March 23, 2003

    (VIA CEL) if u think u cn

    skip church & beat the line 4 the davinci sho, 4get it. Godll cu & put 5k old ppl (who only sleep 4hrs/nt) in line ahed of u

    Since I read a WWII novel in the buildup to GWII (If you can boil Gravity's Rainbow down to a WWII novel), I thought I'd better go back to the Mother of All War Stories, another book you pretend to have finished in college, Thucydides' History of The Peloponnesian War.

    Considered the first clear attempt at fact- not myth-based history, HOTPW puts paid to the idea that there's anything new in the art or business of war. I'm only about a quarter of the way in, still in the escalation to war between Sparta and Athens, the alliance and superpower, respectively, of their day, and page after page have played out in the news.

    Some things change forever, but some things are painfully the same, no matter what you hear.

    Eh. Who needs to watch the Oscars, with their self-serious, press conference-addicted producer, Gil Cates, and their Chicago faits accomplis. The IFP Spirit Awards are like a hundred times better. It's on Bravo right now (and it repeats, uncensored, on IFC, again and again). Some highlights:
    Derek Luke,

  • Host John Waters quote: "Technique is nothing more than failed style."
  • The presenter of Best Debut Performance nearly had a meltdown three, four times, as she tried to read, over shouts of protests from the all-potential-presenter crowd, the winner without reading the nominees.
  • While the Oscars are making a blacklist, the IFP Board made a moving statement about Independence. Of thought, of opinion, of expression. And they encouraged, even demanded, that artists speak out and call attention to things that need to be changed in the world.
  • Mike White won Best Screenplay for The Good Girl, otherwise Todd Haynes and Far From Heaven cleaned up.
  • Killer Films is a Miramax, but with Google's "don't be evil" soul.
  • Derek Luke, who won best male lead for Antwone Fisher, pulled his wife along with him, and suddenly gave her his statuette. Cue widespread emotion. On his way off the stage, he shouted out, "Four years ago, I was a waiter. Here, at the Spirit Awards." Cue wild cheers.

  • As in matters of war, the British press is out-reporting the US on the impending Oscar crisis. See, for example, this Observer article, "Glitz out as stars ponder Oscar protest."

    "A determination to 'down-gown', that is, to exchange frivolous glitz with muted glamour, has been announced as the tactic of choice by celebrities keen to demonstrate their sensitivity and political awareness but unwilling to boycott the ceremony altogether." [italics added for shock and awe, -g]

    Phillip Bloch, keeper of Oscar and world peace secrets, image:"Ben Affleck is among those who has apparently not yet made up his mind [about wearing an anti-war totem of some kind] . Instead he has announced that the final decision will rest with his stylist."

    Just as peace descended on the ghetto, albeit briefly, when breakdancing supplanted gang warfare, maybe what our war-torn world needs most right now is a serious political and military down-gowning. I never thought I'd say this, but: Phillip Bloch, put down that breast petal; it's time for you to save the world.

    I became familiar with Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale, through its horrible film adaptation, a numbingly unsubtle reproductive fascist farce. I guess in 1990, the only totalitarianism that director Volker Schlondorff could get people to accept is the East German kind.

    Anyway, on the occasion of its premiere at the English National Opera, Atwood writes in the Guardian about allowing the Danish composer Poul Ruders to make an opera of it in the first place. One challenge turned out to be the lack of contractual precedent for adapting an opera from a living writer's work.

    Then there was the Danish and/or lawyerly cast of mind, an introspective one given to second thoughts, as in Hamlet. ("Whether 'tis prudenter in the contract to offer/ The perks and carrots of outrageous royalties/ Or to strike pen throughout a sea of clauses/ And screw the writer blind?") But with the help of various agents we managed to cobble something together. I forget who got the T-shirt rights, but it wasn't me.
    That was 2000, and Atwood's world--a fundamentalist takeover of the US government, a rollback of civil liberties, secret police with the all-seeing eye for a logo controlling the population through credit card surveillance--seemed like a liberal campfire story, best told with a flashlight under your chin. The Danes loved it, though. So did Time, which compared it to the Taliban. You may have to travel to the UK for this one; I don't imagine it opening in the US for 2 or 6 years.

    One upside: at least now we know it doesn't look like East Germany.

    March 22, 2003

    On Art On My Mind

    Generally avoiding television "coverage" of the war, but some images inevitably bleed in. Here is some art that's been on my mind as a result. [Also, gmtPlus9 went black in Japan and posted some war-related art. Thanks, Travelers Diagram.]

    Blast, by Naoya Hatakeyama, image: LA Blast, from a series of photographs by Naoya Hatakeyama, image: LA Galerie

    Nacht 1, II, Thomas Ruff
    Nacht 1, II
    by Thomas Ruff, who began using nightvision after
    the technology was popularized in Gulf War I (GWI), image:

    Olivier Silva, Foreign Legion 2000-2002, Rineke Dijkstra, image: Galerie Jan Mot Olivier Silva, Foreign Legion 2000-2002, Rineke Dijkstra, image: Galerie Jan Mot
    Olivier Silva, Foreign Legion
    2000-2002, ongoing, by Rineke Dijkstra,
    who is photographing one man through his term of
    service in the French Foreign Legion. images: Galerie Jan Mot

    Hmm. JP, DE, FR, NL. I just noticed these are all from countries who know war firsthand, on their own soil.

    I've never mentioned it, but a couple of people asked, and it seems to be mildly popular, or at least amusing: I'm trying out the Japanese translator link at the top of the page. It's a handmade URL that runs the front page through Excite Japan's site translator. The output's fairly accurate. Japanese will happily adopt a foreign word rather than use an awkward translation; Excite leaves some things as is, avoiding some Babelfish-style gaffes.

    Of course, making translation available and building up a Japanese audience are two separate things. [Thanks to Jason for the heddo appu.]

    Utterly remarkable.

    Tuesday on NPR, I heard an excerpt of British MP Malcolm Bruce's comments in the marathon Iraq debate in the House of Commons. What I heard

    That leaves us with the United Kingdom divided, Europe divided, NATO divided and the UN divided. Many of us share a deep anxietyóand it grieves me to say soóthat those divisions may be exactly the outcome that the Bush Administration wanted.
    wasn't as widely reported as his closing comment,
    ...if the United States is going to provide leadership for the world, the United States needs to provide a world leader.
    , and I couldn't yet find a transcript online. So I Googled Mr Malcolm Bruce, found his official page, and emailed a request for a complete transcript of his remarks. Here they are.

    They came this morning via email, excerpted from the official proceedings, put into Word, and accompanied by a note from Mr Bruce himself. If you can show me one US representative who even reads, much less answers, his own email, I'll post a giant picture of him or her here.

    Update: Mr Bruce's Parliamentary researcher has followed up with links to both his comments, and all the comments made in the (10-hour+) Commons Iraq debate. Also, listen to the NPR report of the debate.

    Forget 1991, it feels like 1999 around here. That was the last time I made an impulse buy. of a URL.

    If anyone has a good idea for what to do with, let me know. The clock is ticking.

    Some things I'm not considering:

  • starting a warblog. The world needs another warblog like the portal business needed (speaking of 1999...)
  • giving it to Slate's William Saletan, although he gets a shoutout for going wide with the term. (an excerpt from the latest "moment of truth": "But forgive me if in its first hours this doesn't look like a war of self-defense.")
  • getting into either a a WIPO dispute or a Talking Points Memo/Washington Post-style brawl with Microsoft.
  • giving it to Jeff Jarvis, who's got the earliest Google mention.

    Hmm. But is there anything else?

  • Rick Lyman writes about the decades-long battles to make a film version of Chicago, including a Chandler Auditorium-ful of cast, director, and writers who were attached to the project through the years. One star is conspicuously absent from the scrum, Bebe Neuwirth, whose Broadway Chicago won her a Tony and transformed the property from a "half-remembered musical from the 1970's [into] a fresh hit." Yet somehow, casting "Catherine Zeta-Jones was an easy choice, with her musical comedy experience."

    Lyman leaves more such hints at the bitchy article that could have been, except that "upbeat amnesia" reigns among the "formerly fractious creative team," the Neuralizer-like effect of a dozen glinting Oscar statuettes (and Harvey "the Hutt" Weinstein's Academy-muscling for all the film's nominations).

    Well, almost all. Apparently director Rob Marshall's not feeling the love. He thinks Miramax is not only not doing enough to promote him for Best Director, Harvey's thrown his full weight behind Marshall's competition, some flash-in-the-pan named Martin Scorsese. Miramax had Robert Wise "write"* a recommendation for Scorsese and his little film, Gangs of New York, but for Marshall, "to have Mr. Wise, the director of The Sound of Music, [and West Side Story and, oddly, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, - g.] come out in favor of the Gangs director was apparently the final straw."

    I threw together a quick PowerPoint slide on why, seriously, Marshall should be happy to be nominated:

    Rob, seriously, we need to talk.

    * Wise, a former president of the Academy, found Harvey'd pulled him into a controversy."His" essay pushing Scorsese for the Oscar was actually written by a Miramax publicist. The company had run the whole thing as an ad in Variety and other papers. Previously, the LA Times' John Horn busted Sony for inventing reviews from an imaginary critic. Someone embed that man!

    On, Roy Peter Clark (if you lived in Hee-Haw country, you'd use your middle name, too) writes about the war networks' using "one of the oldest and most powerful narrative devices ever conceived," the countdown clock.

    High Noon poster, image :
    Have cable news graphics always looked
    like movie posters?

    Clark points out that movies are frequently structured around the ticking clock: "from the Wicked Witch's inverted hourglass to the 007 nuclear bomb timer at the end of Goldfinger (um, and every other Bond film?)... the Fox drama 24 Hours," and his childhood favorite, High Noon.

    Jon Stewart also had a hi-larious piece about these clocks last night on TDS.

    Update: On that note, here's how classics professor/kingmaker Donald Kagan--who headed the Project for the New American Century, the roadmap to Pax Americana we've been set upon, whether we know it or not--envisions the US in the 21st century: "You saw the movie High Noon? he asks. "We're Gary Cooper."

    Hmm. If this Bush Doctrine (as it's now called) isn't repudiated, it'll be more like High Noon meets Groundhog Day.

    In this interlude before war, the US administration and its pundits are trying to sound reluctant, entirely forced into war by either evil Iraq or feckless France. This war, we are told, results from "failed diplomacy." Bush supporters are rewriting November, pointing to signs--apparently apparent only after diplomacy's declared dead--that France (and others) were duplicitous, diploming in bad faith, all the while set on derailing Bush's war. Bush critics, on the other hand, place the blame squarely on the administration, decrying its diplomatic missteps, mistakes, blunders, post-9/11 hubristic bumbling, and/or lack of international awareness.

    Declaration of Independence, image: archives.govDoes this miss the point, though? Isn't it possible, likely, blindingly obvious, even, that what Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld want is to dissolve political bands? To create a US, free and unencumbered by multinational/international restrictions, obligations, responsibilities, and alliances, at least those the US isn't able to control? viz. Kyoto. ABM Treaty. ICC, Geneva Convention. Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. NATO. UN. a Gulf War-size coalition. Are "failed" diplomacy, "doomed" inspections, a diminished UN (either fallen in line or declared irrelevant) actually strategic objectives of this administration?

    Could this administration be consciously pursuing a strategy of disengagement from a multilateral world is considers an anachronism? Of setting out to reconfigure the world--in ways that even our "allies" may find painful, but too bad--to reflect their view of the US' Unique Status, whether that unique status is derived from Providential annointing, a $400bn/year military, or some rationalized confluence of the two? The US stands, unparalleled, above the rest of the world, and the world must acknowledge it and adapt.

    Of course, there was once a time when the US could claim its unique status derived from its ideas, from its founding principles. Advice to those who stopped at "dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another": KEEP READING.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal (not American and Other)...
    Am I off base here? [update: Hmm. One MP, Malcolm Bruce, said the same thing about the Bush strategy: "This division may be exactly the outcome the Bush administration wanted" Listen to the NPR report from 03/18/03 while you can.]

    When Maciej started French Week ("fighting francophobia since wednesday"), Jason linked to the first installment, "Ten Reasons to Love France," which was a breezy response to the frivolous tone of the fries/toast/kiss gag.

    It's not funny anymore. From day two, "WWII, the Real Story"

    ...But there's a more profound, indirect reason for the French defeat [in 1940], which explains why the German armies were able to score this tactical coup in the first place. And that reason is the French experience in World War I.

    World War I has almost comical connotations in our own popular culture. American doughboys, kaisers and marshals in funny hats, the Red Baron. But for France, the Great War was the most traumatic event of the twentieth century. No country lost as great a proportion of its population in that war: 1,400,000 men were killed outright, two million were wounded. A million of the wounded had debilitating injuries, and could never work again. They were a lost generation, and a living reminder to others of what war really meant.

    is Bill Morrison's fascinating, expressive film composed of beautifully deteriorated nitrate film stock. Last December, Laurence Wechsler wrote about showing it to Errol Morris: "I popped the video into his VCR and proceeded to observe as Morrison's film once again began casting its spell. Errol sat drop-jawed: at one point, about halfway through, he stammered, 'This may be the greatest movie ever made.'''

    Morrison will be at some Anthology Film Archive screenings. The film's website has a growing schedule of other screenings, including 26 March at Baltimore's Walters Art Museum. Read J. Hoberman's Voice review. Also, buy Decasia on VHS.

    Meanwhile, in his short review, the Voice's Dennis Lim guts the Oscar-nominated short films like a Hebrew-speaking carp. Lim's joyless Oscar prediction: "Inja, a pat anti-apartheid parable manipulative enough to enlist a dog and a child." Yikes. What's the endgame for making shorts again??

    March 18, 2003

    Cannes Not, Cannes II

    For the diehard fan, who's not related to me and/or not chased away by my recent forays into my perspective on current events which keep relating back to the themes of my first movie, otherwise I'd have just started a 9/11 blog and turned it into a warblog and... ahem:

    I've been writing the press kit for Souvenir (January 2003), my second short, which has been holding in a sort of DV-to-film transfer limbo. Also, I started dubbing a bunch of screener tapes, because there's a world of film festivals out there waiting for a reflective look at ironing.

    From The Scotsman (and I don't mean Sean Connery), via The Morning News: "Oscars blacklist stars in bid to prevent peace protest speeches"

    Who's on the list, you wonder? Meryl Streep, Sean Penn, Vanessa Redgrave, George Clooney, Dustin Hoffman, Ed Norton, Dennis Hopper, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, and Spike Lee.
    Who's still going on, for now, even though she's opposed to war? Salme Hayek
    Who keeps Oscar producer/Elia Kazan Lifetime Achievement award winner Gil Cates up at night? Michael Moore ("you can pry my mic from my cold, dead hand"), who, "worryingly, for the Oscar producers, won loud applause after telling the [Writers Guild ] audience: "What I see is a country that does not like whatís going on. Letís all commit ourselves to Bush removal in 2004."

    ANNALS OF NATIONAL SECURITY/Seymour M. Hersh/ LUNCH WITH THE CHAIRMAN/ Why was Richard Perle meeting with Adnan Khashoggi?

    [just found this on Google, and thought I'd add it to the NYMDb. Normally, I set the post date so the links appear in chronological order, but since this story is so timely, I'll leave it on top for a few days. - greg]

    Under Attack, Director Says Hollinger's Black Misled Him [NYT]

    March 17, 2003

    the old Blogger Directory

  • the old Blogger Directory description for is now being beamed to the whole world in Google's search results.
  • the servers are lightning-fast, and they'll time you out faster'n a poorly implemented Verizon webmail service.
  • I'm #11. After vanquishing that Axis of GregEvil, Supergreg, Dharma's buddy was my personal Afghanistan. It follows, then, that Greg the (cancelled) Bunny's my Iraq; I will thus achieve first page placement, and according to the tenets of my Greg Security Strategy, Louganis (aka my Iran) will be the next to fall. All the writer or musician Gregs will join me, or demonstrate their irrelevance (aka 21-30). Finally, the stage will be set for ArmaGregon, where Greg Allen (Mormon filmmaker) and Greg Olsen (Mormon inspirational painter) face off for Gregworld domination. As Bush said, "we know Google is not neutral between them."

    Of course, it's entirely possible that, after "winning" this war, I find it's not at all the victory I had in mind. Who knows, dominating Google's "greg" search results to become a well-regarded filmmaker may be as misguided as, say, invading Iraq to bring peace and security to the world.

  • When I rule the world, or at least the greg search on Google
  • The old Blogger Directory description I wrote for is now being beamed to the world in Google search results.
  • BloggerPro server response is lightning-fast.
  • Somehow, login timeouts are even faster, meaning you can't write a single paragraph before getting dumped. solution: stop writing in paragraphs. Alternate solution use a weblog editor app like wbloggar instead.
  • I'm #11. Supergreg and Dharma's Greg have both fallen quicker than an Afghan/Taliban frontline. Greg the (cancelled) Bunny, I'm comin' for you next. You're my own personal Iraq, and your spot on the first search result page'll soon be mine. Greg's Webworx, you're my North Korea, what with all your reciprocal links and massmailings and such. Your days are numbered. Note to all the writer and musician Gregs clinging to 1-10 power: If you read my recently declassified Greg Security Strategy, you know I'll let nothing stop me from being #1. The choice is yours: link to me, or make yourselves irrelevant. Drop your sites to at least 15, preferably 21-30. Then, the stage will be set for the great battle of ArmaGregon, the New and the Old, the future and the past: Greg Allen, Mormon filmmaker takes on Greg Olsen, Mormon inspirational painter. The prize: Gregworld domination. I remind you of Bush's words, "Google is not neutral between them."

    Cool. Now I have a wrong-headed war to fight, too. I only hope being Google's #1 Greg is as grand a victory as taking over Iraq.

  • I survived Cremaster 3 T-shirtOK, before I talk about how seeing The Cremaster Cycle straight through changed my understanding of Matthew Barney's work, let me get a couple of things out of the way:
    1) FLW didn't design those theater chairs to be sat in at all, much less for eight hours in one day Aggressive, non-user-centered architecture should be taken out and shot.
    2) Best overheard comment after Cremaster 1, when a guy at a suddenly partially visible urinal complained that the mens room door was being propped open by the line: "We just spent 45 minutes in someone's ovaries. I'm sure no one cares about seeing you take a piss."
    3) I don't know what country you're from, and frankly, I don't care. On this island, we keep our hands off the freakin' art, especially when there are signs and guards at every piece. And if you pull the dumb foreigner shtick every time a guard tells you not to touch something, I'll bust you again.
    3.1) I swear, between this show and the MoMA QNS opening, I may never loan anything I own to a museum again.
    3.2) What really makes me mad, is that now I'm all jingoistic, when I should just be anti-B&T. Oy, the world we live in...

    Cremaster 4 Vitrine, Matthew Barney, from Sotheby's, image:artnet.comNet net: Matthew Barney's films are worth seeing, again, and in order. They're the strongest expression of what he's doing. He may call himself a sculptor, but that's just a numbers game. He clearly exerts phenomenal time/effort/thought on materials, objects and spaces; but the experience of his sculptures pales to that of the films (and the experience of sculpture-in-film). Likewise, his drawings--which are small, precious, slight, almost invisible--get subsumed by their giant sculpted vitrines.

    An extremely useful/interesting educational aid is The Gospel Cremaster Cycle (According to Neville Wakefield), an exhaustive catalog/glossary which functions like an encyclopedia of Barney's universe. It weighs like a hundred pounds, though, so plan be home when it ships; you don't want to carry it back from the post office (or the Guggenheim, for that matter).

    There are a few exceptions: I found the flags and banners interesting, and some metal objects (e.g., the Masonic tools from C3) are exquisite. The mirrored saddle is in a class by itself (yeah, there are at least two, but only one's on exhibit). [An art market side note: I don't know, but a significant number of the C3 work is large, institution-sized, and all "courtesy Barbara Gladstone Gallery," almost as if it's a showroom for out-of-town curators. All that's missing is a "to the trade only" sign in the window.]

    As for the photographs, which I'd liked best going in, most feel inexplicably lifeless compared to the films they came from. Barney can create absolutely stunning images, but they're on film, where stunning often morphs into mesmerizing. It's telling that while the photos reproduce very well, I could only find one image of a Barney vitrine online--from an auction report; even though they're display cases, these non-filmic sculptures seem innoculated against reproduction.

    Cremaster 1 still, Matthew Barney, image: pbs.orgThe films hold up very well, but as film-as-art, not art-as-film. Consecutive viewing (as opposed to the in order they were made) strengthens both their thematic/narrative and their visual impact. I was surprised to realize how many elements are from Barney's own life/world/story; it was unexpectedly personal, as opposed to issue/metaphor-driven.

    In his review, J. Hoberman says that the press screenings for the whole Cycle were sparsely attended; he (like everyone else, he concludes) prefers the ambient, less demanding mode of watching a few minutes on the gallery flatscreens. "One scarcely staggers from this six-and-a-half-hour magnum opus inclined to proclaim the second coming of David Lynch�or even Julian Schnabel," he writes, in full "when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail" mode.

    Cremaster 2 still, Matthew Barney, image: bienniale of sydneyWhich makes Barney's claim to be a sculptor, not a filmmaker, relevant. He's asserting his identity as an artist. Cremaster 2, which Hoberman slammed the hardest as a film, is one of the most haunting and beautiful works of art I've seen. Jeremy Blake told me Paul Thomas Anderson had asked him, "Man, why do artists have their heads so far up their asses sometimes?" "They like the smell," Jeremy deadpanned. "But seriously, it's introspection. Contemplation. You should try it sometime."

    In my budding filmmaker mode, I had had some of the same complaints as Hoberman (ie., simplistic camera angles, AWOL editing), but his glib dismissal of Cremaster says more about the diminished expectations and limits of film. Sure, movie directors think they're God, and Barney's conjured up a complete, system of symbols and myths that'd make the Catholic Church proud. Whether that means he thinks he's God, Jesus, or the Pope, I can't say, but at least he isn't the second coming of Julian Schnabel.

    I'm watching the entire Cremaster Cycle today, a Friday feature of the Guggenheim show. In the mean time, Matthew Barney's site,, is up and running. Check out the trailer; it's beautiful. And it doesn't take all day (unless you're on a dialup).

    In the mean time, brace yourself and go see Olivier Assayas' Demonlover tomorrow at Lincoln Center's Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series (or, if you insist, Rendez-vous with Freedom Cinema series. Assayas will be at the screeningNow who's all PC?) Read about it in Film Comment, where Gavin Smith saw it at Cannes. Smith called it the best undistributed film of 2002. Assayas'll be there. Order tickets online, if you can. Yesterday's screening sold out++. Assayas was there yesterday, too, and we talked a bit about collaborating with anime studios, CG'ers, and Sonic Youth.

    Eidid II, Richard Serra, 1991 image: Gemini GEL
    Eidid II, 1991, Richard Serra, an etching available at Gemini G.E.L.
    Related to Afangar, a sculpture Serra created on Videy Island, Reykjavik, Iceland.

    Installation View, Anne Truitt, Danese Gallery Feb 2003,
    An installation view of Anne Truitt's recent show at Danese Gallery.
    See more views and work at

    My desk the other day, even though my desk is not a desk, either
    Not art, not by an artist. Actually, the table is not a table, but part of a sculpture by Wade Guyton

    Subject: Poisonous insults. They're used both to signal to your own ideological troops or to tar your critics with an invidious brush. If you can tell me what the hierarchy of venom, let me know. (Whatever the ranking, I think the whole world needs to take a freakin' time out, or their mothers will be called.) Here are some options:

  • "Zionist neoconservative cabal" [Pat Buchanan, in the American Conservative, via robot wisdom] *
  • "Jewish leaders" [Rep. James Moran of Va., via Slate] *
  • "Anti-semitic" [Pat again. What the neocons call critics of its Israel-positive positions. cf., to Mickey Kaus] *
  • "Terrorist" [what Richard Perle called Seymour Hersh for busting him on his blatant conflict of interest dealings with Adnan Khashoggi )
  • "Communist" [Hersh's retort, given at Harvard: "Forty years ago I would have been called a Communist..."
  • "Jew" [ibid., "...and 70 years ago I would have been called a Jew..."]
  • "French" [I think this has been covered enough. Ditto, "American."]
  • "Canadian" [I think I have covered this enough**.]

    * Nick Denton has been writing more about this (pretty serious, considering weblogs apparently "are not media").
    ** One summer, Katie, a girl at college with me, worked at Nordstrom in DC. She said at that store, the salespeople used "Canadian" in place of "Jew," (specifically, "Potomac Jew") so that they could "make fun of 'them'" without getting in trouble. So. Whether we're repeating 1991, 1941, or 1914, it's a cold freakin' bucket of water in the face of anyone who thinks we've made any progress as human beings in the last 100 years...

  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, image: shows that a war which follows on the heels of a Serbian assassination doesn't go well for anyone involved.

    As I've written before, one reason I chose a WWI battlefield as an object of my first film, Souvenir (November 2001), was because it had been "forgotten." Practically speaking, there is no one left alive who has direct experience or memory of WWI in general and the Battle of the Somme in particular. At best, it's taught, analyzed, considered, memorialized, but it is not remembered.

    Generally, in the US, if WWI's known at all, it's as dim, dusty, unfortunate history, where "history" translates as "has nothing to do with what's going on right now." In this absence of memory, attempts to liken the current political/military situation to WWI are countered with pious promises to "never let such a horror happen again." But those promises are almost never accompanied by an understanding of why or how WWI unfolded, or even what such a horror actually comprised.

    Thiepval Memorial, image:firstworldwar.comSuch benign ignorance afflicts the New Yorker protagonist in S(N01), whose "search" for The Memorial to The Missing at Thiepval is driven by his own involvement in the "most horrible violence ever." He ambles in a naive daze across the modern era's first "most horrible violence ever," and finds not just one memorial, but hundreds: countless markers and cemeteries; fields still yielding up remains; razed and rebuilt towns; and rare, preserved sections of battlefied What's more, though, as he drives his German car across France, he finds people--French locals and British caretakers--who show the 80-years-on effects of the war, which--they're painfully aware--are nigh-unbearable, even when your side "wins." They also show the New Yorker a welcoming-but-pained sympathy, as if he's rushed home with bad news, only to find a passel of neighbors and friends waiting to tell him something even worse.

    Lochnagar Crater, image:firstworldwar.comLutyens' Memorial to The Missing of The Somme is powerful; visiting can be an overwhelming experience. But its power pales in comparison to the concerted efforts to teach about WWI that take place in every school in the UK. The Lochnagar Crater now sits alone as a souvenir in the landscape, a scar that--according to those who visit it or live around it--still aches, recalling them of old wounds. But its influence pales compared to the effect of a lifetime where every errand you run in your entirely-post-war village takes you past half a dozen cemeteries, and where, spring after spring, you turn up mortars and rotted boots when you plant your flowers.

    When I made S(N01) exactly a year ago, I was nervous about drawing false parallels between the attacks on New York and an "actual" war. Tragedy was tragedy, loss was loss, but a terrorist attack was not The Somme. 2001 wasn't 1914, I mean, how could it be, when the civilized world was united? I expected the need for S(N01)'s solace would pass: we'd learn to deal with the loss of September 11th, and move gingerly toward a safer, more peaceful future. The movie'd become a time capsule, a sad-but-nostalgic reminder of the moments of our resolve. Instead, I wonder if I've unintentionally remade someone's film, Souvenir (July 1914).

    Is this you?

  • Did a thorough find and replace with "French" and "Freedom" (cf. fries, toast, kiss, dip)? Yet still harbor feelings of exasperation toward those ingrates in "Old Europe," such as:
  • "After all, we saved France's butt and kicked Germany's butt, twice, and then we rebuilt their whole countries. Marshall Plan? Hallo?? And carried and protected them for years...Cold War?? Guten tag?"
  • And especially, "I even bought this car from those potato-lovers, garaged it exclusively, drove it only rarely, maintained it religiously for 18 years, kept all the records for it, loved it like a member of the family, even, and this is the thanks we get?"
  • The car those potato-lovers sold you is an original red (not burgundy) 1985 Mercedes Benz 300D turbodiesel, 4-door (or wagon), with leather (not MBTex) interior, with 150k documented miles +/-, similar to the photo below:

    For reference only. This is an earlier 240D.  For your protest to be effective, you must have a 1985 300D. image: sveinn

    Then you're in a unique position to stick it to Old Europe and demonstrate your support for Bush's war. Here's what you do. Don't sell it, that's what Arianna'd do. Not the message you want to send. Instead, give it to me, keys, title, maintenance records and all. Just give it here. Then I'll take it, and park it prominently in Manhattan and DC. You'll sleep easy, knowing that your once-embarassing Mercedes is poised to be blown to smithereens in a terrorist attack, an attack that's only a matter of time now, thanks to those Germans, who sided with the rest of the world (minus Bulgaria) to oppose Bush's war.

    [Note: If you'd like to be notified if/when your former car gets what's coming to it, please include a self-addressed stamped postcard.]

  • Creating an army of shopping clones, one Safeway Club Card at a time, image: cockeyed.comA NYT article about Cockeyed's great barcode hack, written by David F. Gallagher (the Lightning Field one, not the shirtless one. "F." must stand for "fully clothed." David, you have my sympathies. At least you're going up against a real person. I'm still being out-Googled by an ad-agency caricature, an off-the-air bunny puppet, and a friend of Dharma, two if you count Greg Louganis.)

    Rob Cockerham is distributing clones of his Safeway card online, thereby commenting on/thwarting the supermarket's tracking him and and "his" purchases (which "he" now makes in stores all over the country, as far as Safeway knows, anyway).

    Interesting that this article appears in the Times. Whenever I'm traveling and airdrop into a netcafe, or login to from someone else's computer, I've always saved my login info on that machine. Over the years, I've wondered what the Times thought of my appearing in dozens of places at once. (They had enough, I guess; a few months ago, they started expiring their cookies after 30 days.)

    Other barcode links: Peter Coffin's Free Biennial art project, Scott Blake's Barcode Art site [both via Wooster Collective] And in the view of many End Time pundits, barcodes are the "mark of the beast." Left Behind's 8th book was called The Mark, as this Australian

    And they're hitting for the fence. For years, silence. He's over, you think. Like oxygen bars and impeachment hearings. Then in 24 hours, BAM! three completely different press mentions. Can you find the level of Deepak's room?

  • Hm. Nice grouping. "Deepak Chopra proposed Wednesday that the Pope, the Dalai Lama and himself serve as human shields to avoid bombing in Iraq and to rid the world of Saddam Hussein." [GoMemphis, via BoingBoing]
  • Aladdin, ambassador of peace. Just a minute ago on the CBC's As It Happens, they mentioned Chopra's proposal to build a Disney theme park in the Middle East, to "help the children relax and understand Western Culture."
  • "Gina de Franco, who organized the [Quest Magazine Mardi Gras] festivities [at Man Ray], wore tropical flowers in her hair and Halston couture. She chatted over dinner with Deepak Chopra about his four new book launches for 2003." Ahh, four book launches. Now I get it. [See "downtown diva" Deepak en masque at NY Social Diary. via the estimable Gawker]

  • Yes, I was glad to see you, and that was a Bible in my pocket. As I tee up to write what appears below, I just realized my schedule yesterday (aka the Sabbath)--church in the morning to the Armory Show (similarities to Gilligan's Island: began as 3-hour tour, saves self with pleasantly endless supply of special guest stars) to a friend's dinner for a visiting artist--and my increasing revulsion at politicians' Christian justification for war, left me toting the Good (but not tiny) Book around all day, and unselfconsciously reading on the train about "blessed are the peacemakers," "wars and rumours of wars," and the end of the world as we know it.

    I remember being advised, soon after moving to NYC in 1990, that reading the NY Times or the WSJ on the train was a surefire invitation to be mugged. And The Wall St. Journal? Forget about it. The only way to protect yourself, I was told, is to be a less attractive target than other passengers: you can either talk loudly to yourself (i.e., act insane, and thus, unpredictable, possibly dangerous, not worth the hassle) or read the Bible. It's the pickpocketing equivalent of The Club, self-centered public religiosity that really says, "mug my neighbor." What would Jesus do, indeed.

    WWJD? How about WWGWBD? Bob Woodward in Hendrik Hertzberg's New Yorker commentary: "'[Bush's] instincts are almost his second religion.' And if the commandment of his first religion is peace, that of his second, it seems clearer than ever, is war." Not so fast. Bush's flavor of Christianity has little to do with the Bible (King James Study Bible , Amazon sales rank: 3,598), and everything to do with Left Behind (Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages vol. 11, Amazon sales rank: 67).

    With over 50 million copies in print, the Left Behind series is the Harry Potter of the Apocalypse, (If God doesn't call the authors home soon, there'll be 12 books total; never seen onr on the subway, though). It the end of the world as its authors (Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins, evangelical ministers/ex-political aides/anointers of John Ashcroft) know it. After millions of True Believers are suddenly caught up in The Rapture, the world stops slouching toward Gomorrah and starts lurching toward Armageddon. Plagues and war ravage the unbelieving earth. After a feckless Democratic president sells the US out to international organizations (it's not one of heaven's mysteries that the series began during Clinton's tenure), the Anti-Christ steps in, seduces shocked citizens with pleas of global tolerance, uses the UN to establish world government, and settles down to rule and reign. From Bahghdad. Oh, and before the world ends, Israel gets all the land it wants. Oh, and the Jews convert to Christianity, etc. etc.

    Articles appeared last year (in Salon and the Guardian, for example) after Left Behind took over the NYTimes bestseller list, causing lamentation in the mainstream publishing houses, and (you have been warned) got ready for Y2K with a veritable Baskin-Robbins (31+ flavors) of End Time culture. But as Zachary Karabell writes in last week's LA Times, "The response of some in the U.S. government to the crises of the last year and a half feels ripped from the pages of the Left Behind books." If Bush were a straphanger, he'd be doubled down, flaunting the Bible and acting insane, thinking he's safe (yet somehow unaware that all the other passengers are nervously switching cars).

    Frankly, Left Behind strikes me as gratuitous vengeance porn, designed to feed the smugness and self-satisfaction of "Christian" readers, who want to have their cake (their own seat on the Rapture train) and eat it, too (the details of their critics' impending, gruesome suffering). Is Bush taking his war script from the Gospel according to Left Behind? Is he gonna have a lot more to answer for than he thinks? Is the Pope Catholic?

    Boogie Nights promo photo, image: image:

  • If my mother ever gets around to seeing Boogie Nights, and asks me if she should listen to the DVD commentary tracks, I'd be obliged to warn her that, even though they're informative and fun, Paul Thomas Anderson swears quite a bit. Of course, the probability that she'll ask about such a film (her dealbreakers: the whole pr0n thing, Burt Reynolds) is roughly zero. For the rest of you, though, start clicking on that Amazon link. [There are moments where PTA pulls a Bingham on a drunk-and-trying-to-flee-the DAT Mark Wahlberg, asking him to "tell me that story where you..." and proceeds to tell the story. Credit where it's due: Bingham occasionally pulled a PTA.]
  • To replicate today's Amazon delivery perfectly, add Krzysztof Kieslowski's trilogy, Blue, White, and Red, which was just re-released last week as a boxed set. [I bought mine from Jason Kottke's Movie Hut.]
  • The problem with Pringles: you keep eating them, even though there are technically six servings in a cannister. More a way to deal than a solution: the last 2.5 servings are just hard enough to get out of the can, logistics eventually overtakes lack of will.

  • Other Noteworthy Events (From Different Ends Of The Creative Spectrum)

    From the LA Times, Mark Swed's rather lyrical article about "See Here, A Colloquium on Attention and the Arts," held at Pomona College. Alumnus James Turrell and others spoke, and works by once-attention-trying composers like Anton Webern were played. [via Peter Johnstone's]

    Something I never thought I'd see - a broadcast version of Paul Verhoeven's classic, Showgirls, the first NC-17 film released by a major studio. I kid you not, it's on VH-1 right now, complete with thoroughly dubbed dialogue and low-budget, digitally inserted bikini tops in the scenes they just couldn't cut out. [Or settle for the original on DVD.]

    What VH-1 should do, is Showgirls: Behind the Music. Space Ghost up some clips from Saved by the Bell, throw in some childhood home-style footage, and interviews with former classmates, and explain to me why Nomi's so angry.

    March 7, 2003

    Big Art Events (Now and

    Big Art Events (Now and Upcoming)

    Boiling study, Ricci Albenda, at Momenta's silent auction 3/15, courtesy Andrew Kreps Gallery Untitled (Boiling Study), 2002, Ricci Albenda, at Momenta Art's Benefit Auction 3/15

    The Armory Show (through Sunday)
    -Scope Art Fair (through Sunday, including Bill Previdi's always-interesting collector panel Saturday afternoon)

    Upcoming (Saturday, March 15)
    Momenta Benefit Auction and Art Raffle, at White Columns, bid on/buy some great art and support the program of a pioneering Williamsburg gallery.

    Vince Vaughn, image: Vince Vaughn, US Marshall (Plan evangelist) image:

    My dad is in town for a meeting, and he brought his free USA Today down Via IP: This USAT article about Americans abroad feeling burned by Bush's wildly unpopular unilateralist "megalomania." The punchline stars Vince Vaughn:

    But one incident really stung.

    "Man, it was bad," says the Rat Pack-y star of Swingers. "These girls saw us and were kind of flirting, and they kept asking us if we were American. Finally we said, 'Yes,' and they just took off.

    "One girl turns and says, 'We were hoping you were Canadian.' Canadian? Since when was it cooler to be Canadian?"

    Welcome to the New World Order, baby.

    A very good, long Guardian interview by with Julianne Moore and Todd Haynes at the National Film Theatre in London.

    And I have to say, I look back on Lindsay Law, who was from American Playhouse and was our producer on Safe, and David Aukin, who worked at Channel 4; those guys are so rare, I realise in hindsight how much courage financing producers had to have to stand back and trust you. Now I would look at these dailies from Safe, where Julie was a speck on the screen and the whole film would be played out in a single shot. And he was like, "I don't get it. I don't get it." But he would never talk to me and never say, "Oh, more coverage" or put in his two cents just to make himself feel more creatively esteemed. That's so unusual, that kind of courage and I just now realise the extent to which that helped me. So we were really lucky and although we had just under a million dollars to make Safe, which isn't amazing to think of, but it felt like it. It was tough. But I still had the freedom to do what I needed to do.

    March 4, 2003

    On Fashion On War

    From Guy Trebay's column in the NY Times:

  • My prediction: Canadian flags on YSL backpacks. "I am not a politician," Mr [Tom] Ford said, "but at this point I'm embarrassed to be an American."
  • Majed al-Sabah, who owns Villa Moda, the Barney's of Kuwait: 1) gets all testy over the anti-war rainbow flags on display during the shows ("I thought that Milan had turned totally gay."), 2) Comissioned Prada and other designers to make him some caftans (see them here), and 3) wears a diamond-and-ruby pin that says "I love Bush." Verdict: Gay.
  • Who'da thought? Famous-for-poufs, Pucci designer Christian Lacroix turns out to be a philosopher statesman. Note to all other designers: Be quiet and let, um, Lacroix..lead the, um, crusade.
    During the Second World War, Mr. Lacroix went on, his mother was a girl of 16 living in occupied Arles. To signal her own resistance, she incorporated a fragment of color from the forbidden French flag in her clothes every day. "A little bit of blue, red or white in each outfit," Mr. Lacroix said, adding that if there was anything that decades in the design world had taught him, it was that symbols, however small, can sometimes surprise you with their weight.

  • model for Kaseman Beckman Pentagon Memorial design, image:

    And the winner is: A proposal by Keith Kaseman and Julie Beckman, two recent Columbia grads, to build 184 "memorial units" in a grove of maple trees. Interesting details: All benches are aligned with the flight path of AA77. Memorial units for those who died on the plane cantilever away from the building, while units for those who died in the Pentagon cantilever away toward it.

    Read the Wash. Post article, including comments by the designers and jury chief/MoMA architecture curator Terence Riley. Read Post critic Benjamin Forgey's generally positive review. Read my posts about my frustration with the hyper-individualization of memorials, follow competition links, and see my rash design response.


    US Attorney/curator with posters of Rothko, Bacon, deKooning and either Twombly or Clemente,
    purchased by Sam Waksal with an 8.25% discount, at least.

    In the grand tradition of deposed CEO's, but with downtown sensibility (and far better taste), Sam Waksal pleaded guilty to evading sales tax on $15 million in paintings he purchased through a major New York dealer. It was the old, "send it to my factory in NJ, nah, just fax the invoice there" ploy, which has been tripping up art world naifs since the 80's, at least. (Clearly, it's worth it to work it and get your 10% discount from the dealer instead.) Waksal's lawyer tells the Washington Post that his client was "not the architect of the scheme." Yow.

    Since no report names all nine works involved, here it is, a exclusive:

  • Mark Rothko, Untitled - Plum and Brown - $3.5m. Didn't reach $2-3m estimate at Sotheby's last May. Pic above, or buy a painted copy of it online for $275 [!!?].
  • Francis Bacon, Study from the Human Body - $3m. Also unsold at Sotheby's, against a $2.5-3.5m estimate. City Review has the war story of the failed sales.
  • Franz Kline, Mahoning II - $3m (via the Posts. Mahoning is in the Whitney.)
  • Willem deKooning Untitled V - $2.4m (via NYNewsday and AP/ABC).
  • Roy Lichtenstein, Landscape with Seated Figure - $900k. (via AP/ABC)
  • Cy Twombly, Untitled (Rome) and Solar Barge of Sesostris - $1.3m and $800k. (via Boston Globe. The first was exhibited at Knoedler in 2000, and the second was shown in 2001 by the Dealer.
  • Francesco Clemente, Lovers - $60k. (via The Post.) Eh. For a Clemente, you risk jail? A definite Koslowski moment.

    That adds up to $14,960,000. Any guess what the last, $40,000 work could be? According to the Times, it's Richard Serra. His sculptures can go for more than $1m, but $40k for a painting is doable. What's more, these last three artists show with the Dealer. Waksal can brag about the sweet deal he got on them, all while paying the Dealer super-retail for what amounts to personal shopping.

    [Update: The NYPost pegs Waksal's total at $15.31 million, which means the Serra was $350,000. That sounds like Sam didn't even get a discount on the in-house stuff. No wonder he's fingering The Dealer. Update #2: Turns out the Serra was titled, The American flag is not an object of worship. Don't let FoxNews get wind of that sale.]

  • alexander_payne_moma_dor.jpg
    from r: Jane, David, Nancy, Swoosie

    First, the good. Star photographer-to-the-stars Patrick McMullan has posted Billy Farrell's party pics from the Alexander Payne event last week.

    Then, the lame. In a bit they call House of Payne, the Daily News pretends that Alexander Payne was a pain in the ass and that "he should get over himself," slamming him for his "snippiness" toward good friend and interviewer, UA chief (and legendary indie film producer/distributor) Bingham Ray. But it's totally not true. Here's the deal: Rush & Molloy are too afraid of upsetting a studio head by saying he talked too much or sometimes inadvertently cut Alexander off; instead, they'll take lame shots at an extremely friendly, self-conscious director.

    Ray and Payne had gone off earlier in the day to discuss what themes and ideas they'd talk about on stage. During the rehearsal, their back-and-forth conversation was both animated and fascinating. Both are behind-the-camera guys; performing for a crowd doesn't come naturally to either of them. When the lights went down, Alexander was much more self-conscious, and Bingham was much more talkative.

    Many people told me they found the whole conversation very interesting. Some found it interesting, but thought Ray talked too much, at least for an event about Payne. And a couple of people wondered, who was that guy? If that's you, you're not in the film industry. But if you know Bingham Ray, you want to work with him, and so you're probably not going to tell him he talked too much. It's the paradox of power.

    My take: Ray said several times that night he'd never spoken in a one-on-one format like that, and he'd be mortified to think he messed up Payne's evening in some way. So if he talked over Alexander's answer, or told some story of his own, it was with the best of intentions. But hold a position of power and be sought out for your vision, for a long time, and you can become accustomed to being listened to. Bill Clinton was the same way. And Payne was a combination of polite, nervous and self-effacing; he's not gonna call a friend on something in front of a crowd, and his own reluctance to analyze his work beat out any fleeting desire to spoon-feed the crowd.

    As these two brilliant behind-the-camera guys gamely put on their best show, the producer sitting next to me had quickly figured it out. She leaned over to me at one point and whispered, "I want to hear the DVD commentary track for this."

    Untitled (Republican Years), Felix Gonzalez-Torres, 1992
    currently in "Stacked" at D'Amelio Terras

    If you are boycotting the French right now, you're a loser. They're putting on some of the best shows in town. Additions to an incomplete list:

  • "Back Grounds," at Andrew Kreps [Dude, get a website!] a show of intricately made B&W photographs by Liz Deschenes, James Welling, and Adolphe Humbert de Molard. Curated by Olivier Renaud-Clement.
  • "Stacked," a group show of, well, stacked works at D'Amelio Terras.
  • "Architecture and Furniture by Jean Prouv� at Sonnabend," with Galerie Patrick Seguin, including remarkable 1950 pieces from the Air France office in Brazzaville, Congo.
  • "The Extravagant Vein," at Marianne Boesky. Drawings, video projection and oil painting by Donald Moffett.
  • Photographs by gallery artists at Andrea Rosen, including Craig Kalpakjian's proposal for creating an earthwork on the moon (which would, by definition, not be an earthwork).
  • Douglas Gordon at Gagosian. What's the big deal? Or, more precisely, what's the big deal with "big?"

  • Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

    Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

    comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
    greg [at] greg [dot ] org

    find me on twitter: @gregorg

    about this archive

    Posts from March 2003, in reverse chronological order

    Older: February 2003

    Newer April 2003

    recent projects, &c.

    Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
    about/kickstarter | exhibit, 2017

    Social Medium:
    artists writing, 2000-2015
    Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
    ed. by Jennifer Liese
    buy, $28

    Madoff Provenance Project in
    'Tell Me What I Mean' at
    To__Bridges__, The Bronx
    11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
    show | beginnings

    Chop Shop
    at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
    curated by Magda Sawon
    1-7 March 2016

    eBay Test Listings
    Armory – ABMB 2015
    about | proposte monocrome, rose

    It Narratives, incl.
    Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
    Franklin Street Works, Stamford
    Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
    about | link

    TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

    Standard Operating Procedure
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    CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
    Canal Zone Richard Prince
    YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
    Decision, plus the Court's
    Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
    about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

    "Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
    Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
    about, brochure | installation shots

    HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
    Printed Matter, NYC
    Summer 2012
    panel &c.

    Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
    background | making of
    "Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

    Canal Zone Richard
    Prince YES RASTA:
    Selected Court Documents
    from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
    about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99