January 2005 Archives

In the magazine header, image: newyorker.com
Issue of 2005-02-07
Posted 2004-01-31

COMMENT/ HOMELAND INSECURITY/ William Finnegan on whatís missing at the mammoth government agency.
DEPT. OF PREDICTION/ THREE TO FIVE/ Ben McGrath on how long it takes to fix a subway line.
HAPPY RETURNS/ KOONS AT FIFTY/ Calvin Tomkins at a birthday party for the boy king of the art world.
HOMECOMING DEPT./ FOLLOW THAT CAB/ John Lahr on why ìTaxicab Confessionsî came back to New York.
POSTSCRIPT/ JOHNNY CARSON/ Nancy Franklin says good night to the late comedian.

LETTER FROM THE INDIAN OCEAN/ Dan Baum/ Mission to Sumatra/ A Marine landing in a devastated region.
SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Paul Rudnick/ Prince Harry: The Royal Excerpts
POSTSCRIPT/ Paul Goldberger/ Philip Johnson
FICTION/ John Updike/ "The Roads of Home"

A CRITIC AT LARGE/ Louis Menand/ Gross Points/ Is the blockbuster the end of cinema?
BOOKS/ Briefly Noted/ Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld; Voices of Italian America, by Martino Marazzi; Pol Pot, by Philip Short; Maharanis, by Lucy Moore.
THE ART WORLD/ Peter Schjeldahl/ Rubenessence/ The making of a successful style.
THE CURRENT CINEMA/ Anthony Lane/ Guilt and Innocents/ "Nobody Knows" and "Turtles Can Fly."
POP MUSIC/ Sasha Frere-Jones/ New Morning/ Indie rock's reigning poet-prince.

THE TALK OF THE TOWN/ Social Notes/ Paul Goldberger writes about architect Philip Johnson's return to The Four Seasons restaurant--which he designed--after recovering from heart surgery./ Issue of 1997-10-13
PROFILES/ Forms Under Light/ Calvin Tomkins/ a profile of architect Philip Johnson/ Issue of 1977-05-23

January 31, 2005

Musical, Re-Animated

genekelly_vw_ad.jpgAfter the initial surge of self-righteous outrage-alin subsided in my veins, I decided that this British VW commercial that re-animates Gene Kelly in order to have him Breakdance In The Rain is, in fact, a rather brilliant tribute and an awesome piece of work.

Someday, we'll all need to think about who makes decisions about who gets to decide how and when our content and likeness will be used after we're dead. Kelly got lucky here; you wouldn't (would you??) want heirs like Samuel Beckett's, whose fundamentalist dictums foreclose any possible future innovations. Of course, you wouldn't want Fred Astaire's heirs, either, who sold him out to a freakin' vacuum commercial, or MLK's, who pimped one of the most important speeches of the 20th century to a phone company that probably doesn't even exist anymore.

No, you'd want--ok, I'd want--to come up with a committee of sorts, a group that self-perpetuates, with a diverse enough membership that stays able to judge the current context, and position dead-me in it an innovative, relevant, and reputation/"brand"-enhancing way.

xanadu.jpgWho knows, the people I designate--and the types of people they're replaced with; I wouldn't want my committee to ossify or to get hijacked/blockaded by any one generation--might even make better career choices for me after I'm dead than I make while I'm still here. After all, Gene Kelly's last dancing movie was the hapless Olivia Newton-John rollerdisco musical, Xanadu [here's the DVD].

VW GTi, Gene Kelly - Singin' In The Rain (60s) [DavidReviews.com via nathanpitman.com via waxy.org]
A generous and funny Xanadu synopsis [coolcinematrash.com]
A Pile of Rubble Topped by Nudes. Now That's a Musical!

[Update: Holy crap, Xanadu was the first feature film of Robert Greenwald, who directed Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War On Journalism and Uncovered: The Whole Truth About The Iraq War]

[On the other hand: Wayne Bremser--he of the Matthew Barney vs Donkey Kong fame--sends me to the showers thus:

I disagree with you, Greg. The first thing that stands out is that the music isn't "breakdance" music at all - it's bad generic euro dance music. They should have done a mash up of something, would have been more interesting and perhaps there is something related to "rain" that would have been more interesting.

While I don't think this scene is sacred, I do think there is something perverse about manipulating Gene Kelly to look like a much worse dancer than he was. It's not that bad at the end when the camera is not so close, and they don't have to maintain the illusion of his head, but the rest of it, the way they have manipulated the head to always look at the camera, it looks like Jim Carrey doing a dance while trying to keep up a wacky face.

With the wealth of original homegrown media mashups online (i.e. Planet of Apes remixed as a Twlight Zone episode), a commercial like this seems amateur in concept and style (perhaps more polished, but certainly amateurs would use better music).

I DID totally call it on Xanadu, though. - g.o]

Philip Johnson called himself a whore, partly to diffuse critics who didn't like his constantly changing style or his intense curiousity in pursuit of new architectural ideas.

Apparently, though, it didn't save him from an eviscerating obituary in the Guardian at the hands of Andrew Saint. Unlike Homer Simpson--who likes his beer cold and his homosexuals flaming--this venal Cambridge architecture professor prefers his beer warm and his homosexuals safely confined to those four years of British public school, thank you very much. At least that's what the whole obituary is about.

Saint's acid conflation of the evils of gayness, inherited wealth, corporations, aesthetics, modernism and Nazism was enough to drive archinect's Javier Arbona to the typewriter to call Saint to repentance.

Philip Johnson: Flamboyant postmodern architect whose career was marred by a flirtation with nazism [Guardian]
A response to Andrew Saint, by Javier Arbona [archinect]

[update: In a NYT op-ed, Mark Stevens says basically the same thing as Saint, but with more quotes and less gay.]

  • Advertisers first: See See Arnold Run the triumphant story of an Austrian bodybuilder who overcomes his past Nazi ties, hedonistic Hollywood antics, and widely known and repeated sexual harassment allegations to become a big-time star--of the Republican party. From the director of American Pie 2 and the writer of The Unauthorized Story of 'Charlie's Angels', Inside the Osmonds, and Growing Up Brady (so you know the sex and period details'll be spot on). On A&E Sunday Jan. 30 at 8PM EST. Reportedly based on a true story.
  • Second--although it takes like five minutes, so you could still see it before Arnold--Mark Romanek's incredibly moving video of Johnny Cash's rendition of Hurt, which sensibly beat out Thriller in a music industry poll of the best music videos ever. Finally. Stairway to Heaven, we're comin' for you.
  • [via fimoculous] Jared Hess, the director of Napoleon Dynamite, made a video for The Postal Service's song, We Will Become Silhouettes.

  • The writer-director Noah Baumbach, 35, based the film on his own experience of his parents' divorce. He said that he had struggled for years to find his voice as a filmmaker after making Kicking and Screaming in 1995 but had an epiphany at a screening of the Louis Malle classic Murmur of the Heart, organized by his friend Wes Anderson (a Squid producer).

    "I thought I should deal with this moment in my life," he said after an early morning screening on Wednesday. "But it's why it took me a long time to get it done. There was a censor in me, not in a literal way, more in general, wondering what people might think and who would care - it's only my story. Letting go of that censor was really important; personally, it was a breakthrough."

    Mr. Baumbach's mother, Georgia Brown, was a film critic for The Village Voice, and his father, Jonathan, is a film critic and novelist who teaches at Brooklyn College. Neither parent, as portrayed in the film, is particularly sympathetic. Mr. Baumbach said it was all right with his real-life parents "because they're writers."

    The director had [Jeff] Daniels borrow some of Jonathan Baumbach's clothes for his wardrobe. "I liked to use things that connected me to that time, in a Proustian way," he said. [nice. -g.o]

    Discussion of an actual film, buried in Tony Scott's nerdy "Sundance is all about scamming free stuff" article.

    January 28, 2005

    Buying a Tino Seghal

    Things perked up when Sehgal explained how he actually sells his work in the absence of documentary photographs or certificates of authenticationóa weird tale of oral contracts memorized by lawyers and of the artist teaching the buyer how to perform the work, thus instigating a pedagogical daisy chain if and when it's sold again. Later, he convincingly refuted suggestions that his work was either subversive or a rehash of '60s conceptual strategies, asserting that it is, rather, a politicized inquiry into the mutability of modes of production. He resembled an earnest economistódisinterested in getting Croesus-rich off his art and mentioning only in passing that Joseph Kosuth had told him he'd solved a fundamental problem of Conceptualism. Perhaps seeking to keep his friend's self-esteem in check, Hoffmann needled him for that. "You finally achieved the dematerialization of the art object," he said dryly, to a ripple of laughter. Sehgal quickly changed the subject and, shortly afterward, dematerialized into the night.
    Tino Seghal's show at ICA London runs through March 3rd. It is a series of staged responses and actions--not quite performances, per se, from what I understand. Seghal's discussion of his work comes from Martin Herbert in Artforum's Scene & Heard.

    [Update: interestingly enough, Seghal is one of two artists representing Germany at the Venice Biennale. The other is Thomas Scheibitz, whose work you can't buy because they're always already sold out.]

    January 25, 2005

    On Jem Cohen's 'Chain'

    Chain, was directed by Brooklyn-based filmmaker Jem Cohen. The movie tells the story of a pair of women seemingly stranded in an instantly familiar, parking lot-filled landscape of big box retail stores, fast food restaurants and malls. It looks like it could have been made in one pass through AnySuburbanTown, USA, but it was actually shot in 11 states and seven countries over seven years.

    Don't miss the unintentional National Security subplot.

    Chain, dir. by Jem Cohen, is screening at the Curzon Soho in London on Feb. 8. It showed at MoMA Gramercy in a 3-screen format last year.

    All the world's a car park [Guardian, via archinect]
    Wendy Mitchell on Jem Cohen's Chain Times Three at MoMA [IndieWIRE]

    January 25, 2005

    Miuccia Pravda

    What with all the access preserving, the source stroking and the advertiser cultivating going on, I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the utter lack of real context or actual reporting when it comes to fashion.

    Stories about Helmut Lang's split with Prada dutifully transcribe Patrizio Bertelli's party line about how unprofitable Lang's line had become, thanks to his "reputation for being stubborn, refusing to work with fabrics or techniques he deemed inferior even if lower costs would help the bottom line." Meanwhile, Bertelli, who has clashes with any designer not his wife, is "an intense and uncompromising businessman dedicated to improving the performance of the brands Prada acquired."

    The magic formula, of course, was--and still supposedly is--high-margin accessories and fragrances. Um, yeah, but that's the same story Prada was telling when they bought control of Helmut Lang's business six years ago. And didn't I buy Helmut Lang fragrances several times in a Helmut Lang Fragrance Store across Greene St from the original boutique?

    These multi-luxury brand companies are managed like portfolios, with their different brands positioned to complement and offset each other. Problems arise when these brands are highly correllated, and they end up competing instead. That can throw a portfolio's performance out of whack.

    By buying Jil Sander and Helmut Lang, Bertelli wasn't just expanding the reach of Prada's empire; he was co-opting any potential rivals for Miuccia's own throne. If Lang's sales suffered under Prada management, maybe it's because they forced his brand down market and out of direct competition with Prada both on price and quality. After the 1999 deal, Lang's clothes dropped 20-30% in price, but the quality easily dropped in half, especially on the menswear side. I tried for a couple of seasons to keep buying his suits, but they just sucked. Lang had been transformed into basically a Prada bridge line, Prada University Club. The kicker, of course, was that even though it cost more, Prada's menswear also sucked, thanks to Bertelli's commitment to the bottom line.]

    Given Bertelli's evident management biases and track record, is it any wonder about why Prada has such a hard time going public? Damn, but that company pisses me off.

    Helmut Lang to split from Prada [IHT]
    Question for Prada: Now What? [NYT]

    "There's a certain enjoyment in facing death, periodically."
    - actor Robert Blake discussing--no, but good guess--discussing his appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, as quoted in a 1978 New Yorker profile by Kenneth Turan. [Day-um. Turan kept a Carson Watching Journal in 1976 that uses words--in his JOURNAL--like 'exordium'? It's like College Bowl meets Television Without Pity.]

    Bonus celebrity murderer mention: O.J. Simpson

    As people were rushing away from her or avoiding her while they were caught up in a bidding war at Sundance for the Craig Brewer-directed, John Singleton-produced Hustle and Flow:

    "The adrenalin is flowing," David Dinerstein, co-chairman of Paramount Classics, tossed over his shoulder as he hurried out of the screening...

    Specialty movie executives went barreling from the hall to their cell phones, then back into the hall to make initial offers to the United Talent Agency agents...

    "This is torture," mouthed the Focus executive John Lyons...

    In the true indie spirit of Sundance, the previously unknown Singleton--who financed the $3.5mm film himself--got a $17 million, three-picture deal with scrappy upstart distributor Paramount. Reports Ms. Waxman, "Mr. Singleton gleefully boarded a charter jet, paid for by Paramount [obviously, Singleton has points against gross, not net] to return to the set of his movie Four Brothers in Toronto.

    Note: Heisenberg's Principle is obviously suspended for the two weeks at Sundance; the NY Times Hollywood correspondent's attending the crew's pre-screening dinner, the screening, and the afterparty, and chasing down the principals during negotiations in now way influenced the outcome.

    Wee-Hours Wheeling and Dealing at Sundance

    While the entire New York film world was focused on my Reel Roundtable screening of greg.org-as-videoblog January 10th, the Museum of Modern Art, in a moment of magnanimosity, hosted a discussion with the obscure director Quentin Tarantino and one of his muses, the equally unknown Uma Thurman. It was the inauguration of their new series, "Great Collaborations." Here's hoping them all the best success, and that they'll eventually be able to rope in some recognizable names.

    Any-who, since I'm pretty sure nobody was there, WPS1 is offering the first chance to hear Uma and Quentin talk about their work together.

    Great Collaborations: Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman [WPS1.org

    January 23, 2005

    Since "La BohËme" Was Taken

    Quotes from two consecutive paragraphs of Peter Schjeldahl's review of "East Village U.S.A." in The New Yorker:

    There was something toxically facetious about the East Village versions of avant-gardism and la vie bohËme...

    ...A suggested title for a musical version that would be truer than the formulaic "Rent": "What I Undid for Love."

    Yeah, and now that you mention it, where'd they get the formulaic "story" for West Side Story?

    My favorite IFP Spirit Awards moment was two years ago, watching some young, dumb AMW whose agent thought she needed some indie cred (it turned out to be Brittnay Murphy, unrecognizable to me as the loozah Jersey girl in Clueless) introdue a nominated film. She lost the teleprompter, and froze.

    After a panicky moment where her plea for help took the form of a narration to no one in particular (and everyone, of course) of her own predicament, they cut away. When they cut back, she'd decided to adlib, and rambled, as wacky as all get out. Quick cutaway again. When they returned to her a final time, she'd obviously been slapped out of it by someone and turned into a pod person. Close call! If Joe Roth had ever seen--or heard of--the IFP, Murphy would never have scored the lead in Little Black Book.

    Now we learn from Richard Rushfield's NY Times report on the IFP's transformation into the practically-the-Oscars, that "presenters are encouraged to ignore the scripts provided them and fumble freely." Uh-huh.

    It All Depends On What You Mean By 'Independent' [NYT]

    Stephen Frears, the rather gritty naturalist British director, is finishing his first musical, Mrs. Henderson Presents, which tells the story of a London burlesque-like theatre during the Blitz.

    I get cheered up when I hear stories of people who didn't want to make a musical making a musical, and in the NY Times, James Ulmer's October visit to the set reveals a bit of how Frears did it. One key was taking a page, literally, from Hollywood:

    [Frears said] "Alan Parker once told me you can wing a movie, but you can't wing a musical. So yes, I did feel trapped."

    Until, that is, he and his team discovered a book and saw a documentary on the world of Arthur Freed. From the 1940's to the early 1970's, Freed's ability to lure top actors, directors, choreographers and composers to work cheek-by-jowl in his MGM production offices delivered such classic musicals as Singin' in the Rain, Meet Me In St. Louis and Gigi. The Freed Unit created Hollywood's first and greatest musical repertory company, and counted Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Gene Kelly and Busby Berkeley in its fold. That model gave Mr. Frears the key he had been searching for.

    "Freed had figured out that you must have all these creative people working together in the same room," the director said. "You can't do it right unless they're all present and thinking the same way. So I got everybody into the same place - the writer, composer, musical director and choreographer - and worked it all out. Thank God we read that book."

    That book, I'm guessing, is Hugh Fordin's expert M-G-M's Greatest Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit and the documentary is probably Musicals Great Musicals by David Thompson, a global public tv-style puff piece which is not as informative, but is still pretty and entertaining.

    We just caught the end of Signin' In The Rain on TCM, so my Freed awe factor is running kinda high right now. [Musicals Great Musicals is included in the Singin' In The Rain 2-Disc DVD, by the way.]

    A Pile of Rubble Topped by Nudes. Now That's a Musical! [NYT]

    Things don't look good--and some things can't be seen at all--in Jacob's critical look at the BAFTA nominations. And the problem is the studios' stupid MPAA-legacy DVD screener system.

    Hero and Million Dollar Baby were left off top-10 lists and didn't get a single nomination for anything, while House of Flying Daggers got nine. One possible reason? Studios didn't send out DVD screeners at all.

    The Life Aquatic didn't get any nods, either, even though Buena Vista Pictures Marketing sent out screeners to all BAFTA members. The only problem: those DVD's had "PROPERTY OF BVPM" and "DO NOT DUPLICATE" burned into every one of Anderson's fanatically composed frames.

    Occasionally, this is amusing--in the last of those images [on Yankeefog.com], you'll notice that the back of Cate Blanchet's shirt seems to be advertising her new biography, "I, Cate"--but most of the time, it's even more incredibly distracting than you'd imagine from looking at the still images above. In every one of Wes Anderson's carefully planned tracking shots, the most noticeable element becomes those big, unmoving letters at the top and bottom of the screen. Every one of his carefully composed static shots is thrown out of balance by their presence. It becomes difficult to notice Bill Murray's wonderfully subtle performance, or Owen Wilson's understated humor, because your eye keeps being drawn to the giant words hovering in front of them.
    As if it could get worse the texts aren't in Futura, Wes Anderson's font of choice.

    Looking Where The Light Is Good [Yankeefog.com, via kottke]
    Related: Wes Anderson's Favorite Font [greg.org pointing at kottke. kottke, kottke, kottke!]

    I'm gonna be working at the Clementine Gallery as part of Choire's show again today. If you're in Chelsea, stop by and say hi.

    Clementine Gallery, 526 W 26th st, Suite 211

    Previously: Regarding greg.org at Regarding Clementine

    When Richard Hatch of Survivor fame [sic] got busted for failing to report his $1 million prize to the IRS, my mind raced back to some of the first tax advice I ever heard:

    You.. can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You say.. "Steve.. how can I be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes?" First.. get a million dollars. Now.. you say, "Steve.. what do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, 'You.. have never paid taxes'?" Two simple words. Two simple words in the English language: "I forgot!"
    The title of this post pays homage to Mr. Hatch's previous appearance on this website, which is hella funny.

    Richard Hatch Hit With Tax Evasion Rap [thesmokinggun.com, via towleroad]
    Steve Martin's Monologe [snl transcripts]

    January 19, 2005

    On Smithson, Space & Time

    Another cover from Life"the lunar surface photographed by the Apollo astronauts in 1969" yields a comparison to Smithson's cover for Artforum published just a month later: a distribution of mirrors across a square of parched earth, one of a number of illustrations from his "Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan." Placing these images together, which speaks to an argument about travel as a form of cultural repetition that suspends an experience of the present, demands a great deal of archival legwork on Reynolds's part.
    -Pamela M. Lee writing about new books about Robert Smithson in "The Cowboy in the Library," published in the Dec/Jan 2005 Bookforum. She's referring to Ann Reynold's 2003 book, Robert Smithson: Learning from New Jersey and Elsewhere, which draws intensively and creatively on Smithson's archives at...the Smithsonian.

    The image above is Moonworks, artist Craig Kalpakjian's 2003 proposal for creating earthworks on the moon. Read about it in Issue Magazine. Craig's got a show up through Saturday at Galerie Edward Mitterand in Geneva.

    Lee continues:

    In one of the most striking passages of art history I've read in a while, Roberts connects a Mannerist altarpiece Smithson studied at length with the abstract sculpture he began making in the mid-'60s, by bridging a discussion of Jacopo Pontormo's Descent from the Cross, 1525-�28, a deposition image composed around the rotational forms of its sacral actors, to the spiraling forms and crystalline structures of works such as Gyrostasis, 1968. What connects them in Smithson's oeuvre, Roberts argues, is their attitude toward the deposition of time: Pontormo's languorous Christ now exhibits a "depositional temporality," whereas the growth process of a crystal is itself called a "deposition." It says something about Roberts' gifts as a polemicist that she can make this leap wholly convincing for the reader. More art history should be written with the kind of imagination and verve displayed here.
    Roberts is Jennifer Roberts, who wrote Mirror-Travels: Robert Smithson and History. Smithson's sculpture Gyrostasis was recently on view at the Hirshhorn.

    January 18, 2005

    On Math & Art In France


    Although Gustav Eiffel didn't explicitly use one himself, an American engineering professor has come up with a mathematical expression for the shape of the Eiffel Tower, based on its creator's own studies of wind resistance, torquing, and load transfer.

    Which reminds me of the photos by Hiroshi Sugimoto at the Fondation Cartier, Mathematical Forms. They are monumental images of beautiful, little plaster stereometric models, which were created in 19th and early 20th c. Germany to illustrate complex trigonometric formulas. Several were published in the NY Times Magazine last month.

    Elegant shape of Eiffel Tower solved mathematically [PhysOrg.com, via archinect]
    Etant Donne: Le Grande Verre by Hiroshi Sugimoto through Feb. 27 at the Fondation Cartier
    Hiroshi Sugimoto's Mathematical Forms [NYT Mag]

    Check out Michael Bierut's appreciation of the bracing architecture environment photographs of Robert Polidori. Polidori's are not photos for architects, who want their buildings to look their renderings--pristine and perfect, unsullied by unpredictable humanity and the less-pedigreed landscape surrounding them. No, Polidori makes photos that seem real; when you go to Bilbao, it'd actually look--and feel--like his picture, not the postcard. His work appears often in The New Yorker, Architecture Week, and in his books (actually, it appears all the time in his books).

    Robert Polidori's Peripheral Vision
    Book Review: Polidori's Metropolis [metropolismag.com]
    Buy Robert Polidori's Metropolis for 65 undiscounted bucks at Amazon.

    There's a long profile in the NYT of Section Eight, Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney's Warner Bros-based production company, whose deal is set to run out in a couple of years. I'm not quite sure what the takeaway is:

  • George and Stephen were so focused on creating an environment where filmmakers could work free of studio meddling, that Soderbergh buddy and first-time director Ted Griffin got sacked during the first week of shooting from Untitled Ted Griffin Project and was replaced by Warner chief's old pal, Rob "Meathead" Reiner. Fittingly, the project's now called Rumor Has It.
  • Section 8 works well as a farm team. Seriously, do you think Chris Nolan could've gotten the Batman gig without making Insomnia. I mean, tell me what he had EVER done before that?
  • Even in a discussion of disappointing performance, literally, no one wants to talk about K Street.
  • The duo set out to make movies, not money, and they've succeeded spectacularly.

    Trying to Combine Art and Box Office in Hollywood [NYT]
    Previously: Speaking of Losers, We Found A Bag Of Mail [greg.org]
    No one except me: greg.org posts regarding K Street

  • In the magazine header, image: newyorker.com
    Issue of 2005-01-24
    Posted 2005-01-17

    NOTE: This week the Magazine published all its major pieces online for, I believe, the first time.

    COMMENT/ UNSOCIAL INSECURITY/ Hendrik Hertzberg on the Bush Administration's plans for retirement.
    IN THE AIR/ DO-GOODER/ Dan Baum meets a Red Cross volunteer with a bag full of cash.
    DEPT. OF EDUCATION/ SAFE JOURNEY/ Ben McGrath on sending a school hall monitor off to war.
    POSTCARD FROM THAILAND/ SEA GYPSIES/ Eliza Griswold on the plight of the diminutive, indigenous Moken.
    THE FINANCIAL PAGE/ DON'T DO THE MATH/ James Surowiecki on weighing costs and benefits in medicine and business.

    ANNALS OF NATIONAL SECURITY/ Seymour M. Hersh/ The Coming Wars/ The Pentagon has new powers.
    SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Andy Borowitz/ Real-Estate Note
    NEW YORK JOURNAL/ Rebecca Mead/ Funny Boys/ How to get rich off dumb jokes.
    PROFILES/ Jon Lee Anderson/ A Man of the Shadows/ Iyad Allawi's past and Iraq's future.
    LETTER FROM EUROPE/ Jane Kramer/ Blood Sport/ What's really at issue in the foxhunt debate?
    FICTION/ Thomas McGuane/ "Ice"

    BOOKS/ Jim Holt/ Measure for Measure/ The strange science of Francis Galton.
    BOOKS/ John Updike/ Subconscious Tunnels/ Haruki Murakami's dreamlike new novel.
    THE THEATRE/ Hilton Als/ Mad Women/ "K.I. from 'Crime'" and "Belize."
    THE ART WORLD/ Peter Schjeldahl/ That Eighties Show/ Revisiting the East Village.
    THE CURRENT CINEMA/ David Denby/ The Contender/ Ben Stiller onscreen.

    LETTER FROM TEHRAN/ SHADOW LAND/ JOE KLEIN/ Who's winning the fight for Iran's future?/ Issue of 2002-02-18 & 25
    Q&A/ All That Nature Cares About/ Author Thomas McGuane discusses his work and the world of fiction writing today with the magazine's fiction editor, Deborah Treisman./ Issue of 2003-01-13
    PROFILES/ Kenneth Tynan/ Fifteen Years of the Salto Mortale/ A profile of Johnny Carson which was not, despite what the page says, "Posted 2005-01-24"/ Issue of 1978-02-20

    I just read this Friday night on the train. Seemed apt:

    Brenda Richardson, deputy director of the Baltimore Museum, installed the exhibition there. We had agreed that she would install alone so when I walked into the rooms filled with work dating from First, 1961 to 1991, I had the delight of seeing it from an entirely fresh point of view. One of the trepidations I feel when my sculptures are exhibited is that they may be harmed: people like to touch their surfaces, they mar them without intending to. Brenda forfended this possibility by isolating groups of sculptures inside a designated pathway: they stood aloof from touch save by imagination. I had the happy feeling that the work was safe. [p. 146]


    Some time ago a friend who had flown from his home in Boston down to Richmond wrote me a postcard to say that he had seen in a bank there a sculpture he instantly recognized as mine. Recently a little girl saw that same sculpture, Signal. It is a small column, 59 inches tall x 5 1/2 inches x 4 inches, painted in clear yellow, white and blue horizontal planes. It must have looked like a Maypole to this enthusiastic child: she ran to it, hugged it, swung around it--and scuffed it. I do so like her reaction, which mitigated the automatic spasm of anger I always feel when one of my pieces is damaged. The bank has sent me the sculpture for restoration. I am working on Signal now, with the good feeling that I can return it in pristine condition to a place where it apparently encounters appreciation.

    Not all damage is that minor. A columnar structure running on a line of gravity from earth to sky is as intrinsically precarious as a human body; no matter how carefully weighted and how strongly constructed, it can be struck down. Knot, a column 81 inches x 8 inches x 8 inches, was recently so toppled. This sculpture had survived the Persian Gulf War in the basement of the American embassy in Tel Aviv, but last month a photographer backed into it and knocked it over. A representative of the U.S. State Department Art in Embassies program, under whose aegis Knot had been placed in Israel, was present the other day in the studio when I uncrated it. As I raised it to its full height over our heads, we heard loud cracks. The material wedged into a solid cradle at its base, ballast to prevent its tipping, must have been shattered by the force of its fall. To judge from the scars denting its pure yellow, white and black encircling colors, it probably dropped at so tipped an angle that it hit the floor twice. The Art in Embassies representative remarked that the Tel Aviv embassy has a marble floor. In any case, the internal damage is, for a variety of structural reasons, irreparable.

    I have never been able to detach myself sufficiently to prevent a feeling of having been hurt myself when my work is damaged. I use the money I receive for restoration to make new work, but I never stop rather anxiously holding all my own work intact in my mind, hoping for its safety. In Knot's case, this attachment was augmented by the fact that it had traveled in a foam-lined bed inside a wooden crate beautifully made by an old friend. He had for many years packed my work. Last December, he was killed, senselessly gunned down in the street, instantly bereft of both dignity and life in yet another of the wanton murders that now characterize our urban area. His crate was perfect; it stands in my studio reminding me of him, and of Knot as it will never be again. [pp. 159-60]

    Excerpts from Prospect: The Journey of An Artist, by Anne Truitt, whose sculpture, Catawba, was recently damaged at MoMA.

    The shows are almost entirely presented as direct addresses, and the actors will often talk to one another between plays, using one another's real names. Every performance of "Too Much Light" begins like a political stump speech: someone stands up, looks at the audience and says, "We're not going to lie to you."

    Rob Neill, the managing director of the New York branch, said: "There's not a lot of pretense in what we do. We're not playing characters. We're relating things we feel and stories from our lives."

    Since cast members build shows around their own break-ups, feelings of depression or idiosyncratic theories about life, the show can occasionally feel like a clever and deeply felt blog performed onstage.

    "Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind," the long-running production by the Neo-Futurists of Chicago (whose founder, Greg Allen, 'wrote' the original) has returned to New York City. The show plays at the Belt Theater,336 West 37th Street.

    Don't Blink: You May Miss The Show [NYT]

    In this week's Arts & Leisure section, Adam Leipzig entertainingly/depressingly lays out the beyond-improbable odds of 1) having a successful independent film, and 2) getting your script made into a big studio hit.

    Not that I would EVER question the brilliance of the editors who this week afforded me the opportunity to speak with Pamela Anderson, but I worry that if Leipzig's arguments go unchallenged, too many doctors, dentists, and uncles will be dissuaded from investing in surefire hit films, and then where would our culture be? We'd only have 2,000 features trying to get into Sundance.

    That said, while I could dig up data on indie films and indie scripts and indie budgets and indie returns on investment, I'm kinda wiped out right now. Leipzig's numbers are empirically correct, but don't reflect even the basic risk-mitigating, probability-enhancing factors that should accompany a deserving film.

    What are the odds for films that were developed in the Sundance Institute writer's workshop? How about for movies featuring a recognizable actor? Or the distribution pickup rate of films shown at IFC Market? Or of films by former IFC volunteers, even? How many $5 million films make back their investment? How many $100,000 films? How many films were self-distributed, and at what budget level does self-distribution start (or stop) looking viable?

    The Sundance Odds Get Even Longer [NYT]

    January 15, 2005

    Puppet Masterpiece Theatre

    Umm, I thought the British were supposed to be smarter than Americans. How else would they get all that work narrating documentaries? Yet the Guardian's film critic Peter Bradshaw gives Team America World Police an ecstatic review. And his Observer colleague Philip French calls it "better sustained than [Parker and Stone's] feature-length animated comedy, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Fundamentally, it's an extended parody of Thunderbirds and centres on a group of super-patriots dedicated to--

    No, fundamentally, Mr Belevedere, it's a sloppy, thin pool of disappointing puke, with a few chunks of humor floating in it.

    Maybe things look different from the other side of the pond. Maybe the movie's obtuse, pig-headed politics look more prescient after the 2004 election than it did last summer. [ummm, indeed.] Whatever. Which country, exactly, is to blame for Benny Hill, AbFab, AND Bean? That's what I thought.

    America, &^*(W$&^ Yeah.

    'hilarious movie' [Observer]
    'Why can't non-puppet films be as good as this?' [Guardian]
    Previously on greg.org: Smaller, Shorter, and Most Definitely Cut

    Don't quite know what to make of this:

  • For a town-hall-style pitch for phasing out Social Security, G. W. Bush's hand-selected audience included Josh Wright, a representative of "the youth movement," who is also a Utah dairy farmer (and son of a Republican state senator.) When Wright started talking, Bush said, "Wait a minute, you don't need to talk about private conversations. OK, you're a dairy farmer? Good. Milking those cows."
  • For the introduction of its new Tacoma pickup at the Detroit Auto Show, Toyota hired Mike Reid, a 20-year old pizza waiter, " to skateboard around the truck for three of the show preview days in order to 'associate the vehicle with youth culture.'" On the other side of the truck was a magician "dressed like an ice fisherman."

    With Utah dairy farmer, Bush talks Social Security
    [SL Trib]
    Reporters Notebook from the 2005 Detroit Auto Show [NYT, Sunday Jan. 9 5:27 entry, fyi]

  • The Smithsonian, specifically the National Museum of The American Indian, accepted a gold record for "Y.M.C.A" from the Indian guy in the Village People. For all the disco celebration in the rotunda during the handover ceremony, it pales in comparison to the Washington Post writer's own campiness.

    Celebrity Artifact
    [WaPo, via Towleroad]

    January 13, 2005

    Archinect T-Shirts Rock


    Archinect's empire just keeps expanding. They just launched their Winter/Monsoon 2005 Collection of limited edition T-shirts. This one's designed by Christian Unverzagt of the Detroit-based M1/DTW. Also available: M/F robots made from old cathedral floor plans and a trippy something or other involving packing tape.

    Why, they're like getting beat with ten pounds of El Croquis.

    Archinect T-Shirts
    related: "beat me with ten pounds of Vogue" [Gawker T-Shirts]

    Demonstrating a curatorial wisdom so vast it puts the [sic] in Sicha, Choire has put me in his show at the Clementine Gallery.

    I'll be screening and editing a new/old short, footage we shot in the summer of 2001 that I haven't been able to look at since, tomorrow (Friday) from 11-6.

    Stop by and say hi if you like, and ask me what the hell I'm doing. Not that I'll have an answer, mind you, but you're welcome to ask.

    The Show: Regarding Clementine
    Clementine Gallery, 526 West 26 Street, Suite 211, New York.

    In the magazine header, image: newyorker.com
    Issue of 2005-01-17
    Posted 2004-01-10

    COMMENT/ FLOOD TIDE/ Hendrik Hertzberg on the response to the tsunami.
    COLD CASE DEPT./ VISITING PREACHER KILLEN/ Jeffrey Goldberg remembers a trip to Philadelphia, Mississippi.
    AFTER THE FLOOD/ THE THIRD "R"/ Akash Kapur on what follows rescue and relief.
    WRONG NUMBER DEPT./ NOT DIRTY/ Michael Agger meets a man stuck with a rapper's real name.
    DEPT. OF INQUIRY/ STUMPED NEW YORK/ Rebecca Mead on the librarians at the New-York Historical Society.

    ANNALS OF WAR/ Dan Baum/ Battle Lessons/ Officers learn what the Army couldn't teach.
    SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Billy Frolick/ 1992 House
    FICTION/ Lorrie Moore/ "The Juniper Tree"

    BOOKS/ Adam Gopnik/ Renaissance Man/ The life of Leonardo.
    BOOKS/ Hilton Als/ I, Me, Mine/ A new biography of Christopher Isherwood.
    POP MUSIC/ Sasha Frere-Jones/ When I'm Sixty-Four
    Aging rockers onstage.
    ON TELEVISION/ Nancy Franklin/ Women Gone Wild/ "Desperate Housewives."
    THE CURRENT CINEMA/ Anthony Lane/ Go Fish/ "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou."

    THE TALK OF THE TOWN/ THE PICTURES/ Lillian Ross/ A visit to the set of Wes Anderson's "The Royal Tenenbaums/ Issue of 2001-05-21

    Caryn James barely scratches the surface with her article-cum-warning about directors' dream projects: "Here is a basic rule of moviegoing," she starts, "when you hear about someone's dream project, run from the box office fast."

    On the list of dreamers and their flops: Oliver Stone (Alexander), Kevin Spacey (Beyond The Sea), Scorsese (Gangs of New York, AND Last Temptation of Christ), John Travolta (Battlefield Earth)... seriously, there's a year's worth of articles to write on this. I'll leave the comments open for a while, so feel free to add your own favorites.

    The Making of The Megaflop: Curse of The Pet Project [NYT]

    Jonathan Jones gives a brilliantly outraged review of a show of 'Italian Aeropaintings,' a Futurist subgenre which flourished in the 1930's. The curators at the Estorick Collection say this work demonstrates "a passion for the new perspectives and vertiginous excitements of aviation - an innocent wonder we have lost in our age of routine civilian flight."

    What they don't say, and what gets Jones so rightly worked up: '30s Italy was ruled by fascists; the planes in the paintings are bombers; the Futurists--especially Marinetti--were friendly suck-up loyalists to Il Duce--who loved to fly and was photographed in his flight suit climbing out of a biplane. One 1937 painting, Aerial Mission, Jones deduces, may even refer to the bomber's-eye view of the Luftwaffe's Guernica carpetbombing experiment itself.

    Yeah, funny how they forgot to mention all that. The Italian government is thanked for its deep and stalwart support of the show.

    Birds of Prey [Guardian]
    Fascism? What Fascism? [Estorick Collection]

    Remember? I'm turning the blog into a movie? Monday Night? Millennium Theater? 7:30 for chilling, 8:00 for starting?

    Here's the previously announced program, which will be musically, if not surgically, enhanced:

    Coming January 10: greg.org - the movie
    The Reel Roundtable site
    Elizabeth's IndieWIRE blog

    Yow. If Philip Nobel's interview is any indication, his new book, Sixteen Acres: Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero, is the most incisive telling to date of the architectural and political developments of the World Trade Center site.

    Nobel counters and corrects a lot of PR-driven conventional wisdom about the plans, designs, objectives, and personalities that dominated the redevelopment process. He identifies already-forgotten incidents that politicized the redevelopment process, that canonized certain symbols (e.g., the Tower footprints), and that thwarted the possibility for real planning, rethinking, or architectural renewal:

    Around April 2003, Danny was saying, ìThis 1776-foot-tall tower will stand as a symbol of freedom and beauty, reinforcing the worldís understanding that weíre rising from the ashes, and moving boldly into a glorious, optimistic future.î In a subsequent speech, Pataki condensed that and simply referred to the building as ìFreedom Tower.î When that happened, it became clear that what Libeskind had done was shrewdly, brilliantly, and cravenly produce this symbol that could be used as a cudgel by right-leaning politicians, during the war and during the build-up to the war in Iraq. That seemed inexcusable and ironic, given Libeskind's political leanings.
    Book Casts WTC Redevelopment as Modern Epic [Metropolis Mag, via Curbed]
    Buy Sixteen Acres:... at Amazon or read a tiny excerpt at Metropolis.

    January 5, 2005

    All That And A Bag Of Chips

    Who needs Vanity Fair? Sometimes a surefire pitch is just waiting for you on the side of the road: two Long Island women were arrested for selling hookups in the back of their hot dog truck, which they parked on the side of the Sunrise Highway.

    "'We've never seen hot dogs mixed with prostitution before,' Deputy Inspector [and aspiring screenwriter, who'll settle for story credit and a low-five option, I'm sure] Rick Capece said. 'There are so many jokes, so little time.'"

    'Hookers' Relish Wieners

    January 5, 2005

    Hey, It Worked For Kinsey

    The must-have vanity project for 2005: your own biopic.

    Andy Towle reports that the NY Post reports that W Magazine reports that Bill Condon's developing a script based on a 2001 Vanity Fair article for Tribeca Films. The subject: Pepe and Alfie Fanjul, the socialite sugar overlords.

    Which makes sense, because that NYT article a few weeks ago about Castro stealing Pepe's painting seemed like such a brazen movie pitch.

    In the magazine header, image: newyorker.com
    Issue of 2005-01-10
    Posted 2005-01-03

    LETTER FROM KALAPET/ TSUNAMI/ Akash Kapur reports from the coast of South India.
    DEPT. OF MELTDOWNS/ BUSTED/ Rebecca Mead on Bernard B. Kerikís place in the cityís history of scandals.
    POSTSCRIPT/ SUSAN SONTAG/ Joan Acocella remembers the writer, who died last week, at the age of seventy-one.
    THE FINANCIAL PAGE/ THE CATASTROPHE PROBLEM/ James Surowiecki on insuring against disasters.

    ANNALS OF MEDICINE/ THE PEDIATRIC GAP/ JEROME GROOPMAN/ Why have most medications never been properly tested on kids?

    A CRITIC AT LARGE/Claudia Roth Pierpont/ Jazzbo/ Why we still listen to Gershwin.
    DANCING/ Joan Acocella/ Ladies and Gentlemen/ The Trocks.
    POP MUSIC/ Sasha Frere-Jones/ 1 + 1 + 1 = 1/ The new math of mashups.
    THE CURRENT CINEMA/ David Denby/ Masters and Servants/ "Spanglish," "The Assassination of Richard Nixon."

    PROFILES/ RACHEL L. CARSON/ The Sea IIIóWind, Sun, and Moon/ A 1951 article, the third of three parts, that considers the science of waves.
    A CRITIC AT LARGE/ Susan Sontag/ LOOKING AT WAR/ Photographyís view of devastation and death./ Issue of 2002-12-09

    January 3, 2005

    Good Morning, Brother Worf

    "As we discussed Beth's bizarre ability to speak the Klingon language, it suddenly hit us: Why not translate the Book of Mormon into Klingon? It was just quirky enough to be interesting. So Beth whipped out her two volumes of the Klingon Dictionary and James pulled out his scriptures and we set to work."

    The Book of Mormon, translated into Klingon.

    It's too bad it's not online, becauseThe NY Times City section's feature, asking 14 prominent New Yorkers when the city's "Golden Age" was, makes for interesting reading. Counting the two who said, "Always," five people said "Now": John Leguizamo, Robert Stern, Laurie Anderson, Oscar de la Renta, and Yoko Ono.

    But the choreographer Bill T. Jones said "Right after 9/11," which, I agree, was a unique time that's being lost and forgotten:

    New York had a true reappraisal of itself at a tragic and introspective moment. New York had the attention of the whole world; it was a frightening moment. But the world was ready to follow, to assist.
    It lasted a few months. We were vulnerable and open to the rest of the world, and we were ready for a change. There was a chance to ask questions, and it was a time when we were forced to do so.
    But it didn't happen. There wasn't a true conversation about what America means to the rest of the world or about why New York was chosen. It was an opportunity. And then the politicians took it.
    Glory Days [Thanks to Jason, a closer reader of the NYT, for the link]

    img: Dan Flavin: The Complete Lights, 1961-1996

    Stephen Flavin is the only child of Dan Flavin and his first wife, Sonja Severdija. Trained as a filmmaker, Stephen, who lived apart from his father since his parents divorce, began assisting his father's company, Dan Flavin, Ltd, in 1992. His first efforts--producing the artist's all-important certificates by computer (previously, they had been variously handwritten or typed) and converting the elaborate and disparate index-card-based inventory of works, which was split among several galleries, to an electronic database--have helped in efforts since his father's death in 1996 to create a catalogue raisonne of the artist's work.

    Stephen Flavin has overseen the activities of his father's estate since 1997. He is private and is generally satisfied to have others--such as Steve Morse, the estate's studio director, or Dia experts such as Michael Govan or Tiffany Bell--speak publicly about Dan Flavin's work. While my several attempts to contact Stephen before the article's deadline were unsuccessful, he did call me shortly thereafter and graciously agreed to discuss his experience with the estate, his father's work, and Dia:

    Although they happened too late to make the article, I had some enlightening conversations with Emily Rauh Pulitzer, a collector and curator of Flavin's work, and with the artist's son, Stephen Flavin, who manages his father's estate. They're worth sharing here for the additional light they shed [sic] on Flavin's legacy and the complexities and contradictions inherent in his deceptively simple work. I'll post them separately, first Pulitzer.

    Since 2001 here at greg.org, 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 greg.org that time.

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

    find me on twitter: @gregorg

    about this archive

    Posts from January 2005, in reverse chronological order

    Older: December 2004

    Newer February 2005

    recent projects, &c.

    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
    about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

    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