July 2005 Archives

O me of little faith. Richard Dutcher, the guy who made the first Mormon niche film, God's Army, goes around making sure he's referred to as "The Mormon Spielberg." Meanwhile, the guys at HaleStorm seem to have set their sights on becoming "The Mormon Farrelly brothers," I guess. But with their new film, Church Ball, as they try to break out of the Mormon ghetto they helped define--and saturate with mediocre comedies--I think they're well on their way to earning the title, "The Mormon Rawson Marshall Thurber," and they're welcome to it.

From the NYT puff piece hailing The New Mormon Wave of fogettable cinema:

So far, the price of cultural crossover seemed to be merely good-natured exasperation. As the cameras rolled, an actor unspooled streams of profanity, and Hale had to assure his extras, all Mormon, that the four-letter words would be dubbed over with a ref's whistle.
The Cinema of Latter-Day Saints [nyt mag]

Also in the NYT Mag: Jim Jarmusch shows how it's actually done.
Related? A guy who went to high school with Napoleon Dynamite producer Jeremy Coon is trying to out-filmmake him before their 2007 reunion. Good luck with that.

July 29, 2005

"Films as Found Object"

Stefano Basilico's well-rounded exhibition on artists' use of films--not film--as a medium got a nice review from Roberta Smith in the NYT. My absolute favorite piece in the show--which was in Miami last winter--is Christian Marclay's Video Quartet. But Pierre Huyghe's smart, touching work, L'Ellipse also stands out for the way it toys with film's conventions of time and narrative. Huyghe filmed a 10-minute walk across the Seine that was implied by an edit in Wim Wenders' film, The American Friend. [Smith calls it a jump cut, which it's technically not. True, the movie jumps from one side of the Seine to the other, but a jump cut is actually a break in time at the same spot or scene.]

A Medium In The Making [nyt]
CUT/ Film As Found Object, at Milwaukee Art Museum through Sept. 11 [mam

Turns out the art world's problem isn't that it's a market-obsessed, commoditization-frenzied bubble; it's that it isn't a market-obsessed, commoditization-frenzied bubble enough. No need to fear, though, Domino magazine is here:

ìArt is another form of shopping,î [Domino editor Deborah] Needleman said by phone July 25. ìItís not like buying a toaster oven, but itís not that different, either.î

Ms. Needleman said that her magazineís monthly arts coverage will aim to ìdemystifyî art in the same way the magazine makes home decorating simple.

ìI feel like the art world tries to maintain this mystique,î she said. ìItís particularly apparent when you go into a Chelsea gallery and thereís this big lie theyíre propagating, like theyíre pretending theyíre not selling stuff. They make you feel bad for just looking. Those gallerinas are there, but I donít know what theyíre there for.î
I wish someone could demystify magalog editors for me.

Off The Record [observer.com, 3rd item, right below a shoutout to one of my fearless NYT editors, Jodi Kantor. Mazel tov all around!]

Santiago Calatrava's desgin for a WTC site transit hub has been altered for security reasons. The soaring wings and the glass atrium? Gone, filled in with concrete, to match the new "beak" and solid concrete wall surrounding the joing. According to the NYT's achingly diplomatic David Dunlap, the new design "will almost certainly lose some of its delicate quality, while gaining structural expressiveness. It may now evoke a slender stegosaurus more than it does a bird."

But didn't birds evolve from dinosaurs, not the other way around?

Approval Expected Today for Trade Center Rail Hub

The Observer reports from the premiere of Gus Van Sant's latest film, Last Days, which completes a teen trilogy of sorts, with Gerry and Elephant:

On the red carpet at Landmarkís Sunshine Cinema, a reporter for a vapid monthly didnít recognize rock royalty Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. Ms. Gordon plays the role of a music executive in the film, and Mr. Moore was the music consultant for the film. ìWaitóso there are two people in the band?î There are five. ìAnd theyíve been around for a while?î Theyíre in the Marc Jacobs ads. ìOh.î

It seemed the stupidity was contagious. (ìEveryone here is from L.A.î) One columnist asked Lukas Haas about his biggest fear. It turned out to be spiders. Mr. Pitt, looking ever so grungy in his torn-and-splotched T-shirt, was asked the same question. ìJournalists and photographers,î he graciously replied. Vapid Monthly wrote that down.
Like I've got a lot of room to talk. I was supposed to throw a contest for the build-up to the premiere, but deadlines for a monthly (not vapid at all. really.) and travel to the other side of the world made me miss it completely. There are readers among you who will not get a Last Days poster or a William Blake commemmorative guitar pick because of me. I feel your pain. Now go see the movie.

In the magazine header, image: newyorker.com
Issue of 2005-08-01
Posted 2005-07-25

COMMENT/ ROE V. ROVE/ Hendrik Hertzberg on the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts.
THEME AND VARIATIONS/ BAG CHECK/ Nick Paumgarten observes new subway security measures.
WIND ON CAPITOL HILL/ THE BRITNEY OPTION/ Adam Green on a pop-culture gimmick gone political.
DEPT. OF MULTITASKING/ ONE-MAN SHOW/ Lauren Collins on the actor who is many Oompa Loompas.
DEPT. OF EDUCATION/ THE GOOD NEWS/ Nick Paumgarten visits the cityís only evangelical college.

ANNALS OF LAW/ Jeffrey Toobin/ Sex and the Supremes
The Courtís looming battle over gay rights.
REFLECTIONS/ David Sedaris/ It's Catching/ All the icky things.
PROFILES/ John Cassidy/ The Ringleader/ The man who sets the conservative agenda.*
LETTER FROM SRI LANKA/ Philip Gourevitch/ Tides of War/ A legacy of violence in the tsunami's wake.*
FICTION/ George Saunders/ "CommComm"

BOOKS/ Jonathan Rosen/ Writer, Interrupted/ The resurrection of Henry Roth.
BOOKS/ Steven Shapin/ Liquid Assets/ The social life of beverages.
POP MUSIC/ Sasha Frere-Jones/ Brazilian Wax/ Two top d.j.s get together.
ON TELEVISION/ Nancy Franklin/ The Yanks Are Coming/ "Over There."
THE THEATRE/ John Lahr/ The New Nomads/ Ariane Mnouchkine turns asylum seekers into voyagers.
THE CURRENT CINEMA/ Anthony Lane/ Opting Out/ Three views of rebellion. ["Last Days," "The Edukators," and "9 Songs"]

THE TALK OF THE TOWN/ Notes and Comment/ Louis Menand reflected on the bitter confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas./ Issue of 1991-10-28

* Not currently online.
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Hedge funds are a lot like trucking companies: they're usually started by one rather strong-willed guy who gets fed up with his bosses and decides he's going to work for himself. One of the first things these egotistical entrepreneurs do is come up with a name and an identity for their companies. In both cases, the process is entertainingly amateurish, at least from a branding professional's perspective.

Trucker logos--which I study regularly from my driver's seat on the turnpikes between DC and NY--are achingly literal; I can easily imagine a trucker dictating the logo to his "artistic" sister-in-law ["It's got a map, with a scroll on it, like the Declaration of Independence. And a cross." "Put my name on a scroll, like the Declaration of Independence." "It's gotta be classy, with my coat of arms on it. And old-style writing."] They're little windows into what one man sees as important to get across: his ambition, his faith, his name.

So when the Wall Street Journal says hedge fund managers are trying to come up with names that are "soaring, mighty, fast or majestic," --and that they frequently use their own initials--it feels familiar.

The hedge fund guys who put a lot of time into it also try to sound erudite and exclusive, like they've already arrived. They feel their fund's name must somehow communicate not just their strategy or methodology, but their outlook on life; their firms are extensions of themselves. They try to assure potential investors--high net worth individuals and other fund managers--that they understand how these things are done. They're a particular kind of unabashed lifestyle marketing, with a personal touch.

And so what's important to hedge fund managers, besides Greek gods? There are the formative writers from college--I've seen Thoreau, Melville and Proust references--they presumably don't have time to read anymore. But what's most important to hedge fund guys, it seems--besides themselves--are luxe vacation spots: Aspen; mountains in Maine; that river in Idaho or Argentina where they go fly fishing; the peak near Val d'Isere with the double black diamond helicopter skiing. The Good Life. [thanks, TMN]

schneidercube.jpgA couple of months ago, I wrote a NYT piece about artists' unrealized projects. The piece quoted several interviews conducted by the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, who sees these unrealized projects as under-publicized and under-appreciated aspects of an artist's work, especially compared to the high level of attention regularly paid to architects' unbuilt proposals.

Well, Gregor Schneider's Venice Cube 2005 is one piece that's getting plenty of publicity. Schneider proposed building a large black cube out of scaffolding and fabric in the Piazza San Marco for the Biennale. It was reminiscent of the Kaba'a, which is at the center of Mecca. The proposal was rejected several times by Italian officials for what they now acknowledge were "political reasons," to use the artist's description. Schneider wanted to publish his documentation of the piece and the controversy--including emails between government officials and Biennale organizers, but he was forbidden to do so. His entry consists of six all-black pages in protest.

It would be interesting to see those emails. And to see this story get attention beyond The Art Newspaper, a worthy publication though it is.

Art in the age of global terrorism
Previously: Unrealized Unrealized Projects
Buy Hans Ulrich Obrist Interviews: Vol. 1 at Amazon

This afternoon just after 4:30, we heard a low rumble and felt everything sway and tremble for about 15-20 seconds. It was strong enough to make you stabilize yourself, but not so powerful that people realized it right away.

We were at Open Campus Day at ISAS/JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Agency's mission control center for Jean's X-ray telescope satellite, Suzaku. We were in the lobby of the building; the sheet glass handrails along the central staircase all wavered back and forth throughout the quake.

In the mean time, a bunch of train lines across the Tokyo region were shut down, which backed up human traffic, even to Machida, on the west side of Tokyo. [Of course, watching the news, it turns out that Yokohama, on our side of Tokyo Bay, and opposite the epicenter, registered at least a 5 on the Richter scale.]

Anyway, the only real effect we've had is having to heft the stroller up five flights of stairs at the hotel because the elevators aren't working anywhere.

July 22, 2005

To: The Prada Hataz Crew

image: dezain.netA report from the Herzog & deMeuron-designed Prada store in Tokyo's Minami Aoyama neighborhood. I have some good news and some bad news.

First the bad news. It was reported earlier that the store smelled like feet cat urine. It appears this is no longer the case. The white carpets seemed freshly--and repeatedly--shampooed, which may explain the lack of odor.

Also, I saw no evidence to support reports that the windows were cracking and popping out, and that the clothes were fading at an excessive rate.

Worst of all, it's actually quite nice, much nicer than the Rem Koolhaas fiasco, anyway.

Now the good news: we were the only customers in the store during the entire time we were there. Also, the kid's all-terrain stroller left calligraphic trails in the untrodden carpet.

Prada Tokyo images at Dezain.net
previously: "damn, but that company pisses me off."

July 19, 2005

The Withdrawing Center?

Well, that's one way to keep the memory of September 11th alive. Remember how people had these stories about how they were supposed to be at the World Trade Center, but then for whatever reason, they didn't go? And how lucky they felt?

Well, now you can add The Drawing Center--and possibly the Joyce and Signature Theaters to that list. The Drawing Center is putting its move and development plans on hold until it gets assurance that its curatorial program won't be subjected to LMDC or any other governmentally mandated censorship.

In related news, the Freedom* Center, which is to share space with the Drawing Center, "in response to a request by Gov. George Pataki, has assured the LMDC that its content wouldn't be un-American."

* offer not valid if it displeases anyone named George.

Drawing Center may quit WTC [crain's, via curbed]

In the magazine header, image: newyorker.com
Issue of 2005-07-25
Posted 2005-07-18

COMMENT/ NOT SCARED/ Adam Gopnik on the mood in London on the day of the bombings.
MIRROR, MIRROR/ FACE-OFF/ Ben McGrath on what we might see in a candidate's countenance.
DEPT. OF TRYOUTS/ LOW NOTES/ Ryan D'Agostino on the search for a new bass player at the Met.
SPINOFF DEPT./ REPORTER GUY/ David Remnick on Stephen Colbert's new fake-news show.
THE FINANCIAL PAGE/ A FAREWELL TO ALMS?/ James Surowiecki on how foreign aid is administered.

VATICAN NOTEBOOK/ Anthony Grafton/ Reading Ratzinger/ What the Pope's theological writings reveal.*
SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Noah Baumbach/ My Dog Is Tom Cruise
ANNALS OF NATIONAL SECURITY/ Seymour M. Hersh/ Get Out the Vote/ Did Washington campaign in Iraq's election?
A REPORTER AT LARGE/ William Finnegan/ The Terrorism Beat/ Inside the city's defense command centers.*
ANNALS OF MEDICINE/ John Colapinto/ Bloodsuckers/ Leeches are good for you after all.*
FICTION/ Tobias Wolff/ "Awaiting Orders"

BOOKS/ James Wood/ Red Planet/ The sanguinary sublime of Cormac McCarthy.
BOOKS/ Joan Acocella/ Devil's Work/ Hilary Mantel's ghosts.
DANCING/ Joan Acocella/ Recovered Treasure/ Frederick Ashton's "Sylvia" and George Balanchine's "Don Quixote."
THE CURRENT CINEMA/ Anthony Lane/ Making Mischief/ "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Wedding Crashers."

* Not currently online.
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A man can go his whole life waiting in vain for a week such as this one, where he has occasion to thank both Hulk Hogan and Pauly Shore for their [advertising] largesse.

From now on, I'll just have to learn to live with the knowledge that it's all downhill from here.

I'm heading to Japan for a month with the family. Tokyo this time, so there's a lot to do and see. I've got a couple of projects I'm working on in and around Tokyo, and I'm going to shoot another installment of "The Souvenir Series," my 12-part short film series about different aspects of memory.

I'll post more details later, but the idea is one I've had since freshman English in college. My teacher at BYU, a woman named Elouise Bell, talked about how the world she knew, knew firsthand, that is, was actually quite a narrow place: Utah, parts of Los Angeles, some small towns in France where she'd lived as a young woman... Ever since that class, I've seen the idea of "my world" as something ressembling a cell phone coverage map, but for a very crappy service provider: thin ribbons of well-traveled routes connecting small-to-largish zones of familiarity, but surrounded by unknown, uncovered territory.

It's like saying you konw New Jersey because you take the Turnpike. Trust me, get about 30 seconds off the Turnpike, and you'll be in a foreign country, my friend.

In the film, I'm going to retrace some of the paths I laid down in rural Japan almost twenty years ago, when I lived there as a bike-riding, 19-year-old Mormon missionary. The core idea is retracing, to document some attempts to retrace the routes I used to take every day, all the time. It may be like riding a bike, or it may not. We'll see.

In the magazine header, image: newyorker.com
Issue of 2005-07-11 & 18
Posted 2005-07-04


COMMENT/ DECISIONS, DECISIONS/ Louis Menand on Sandra Day O'Connor.
SPORTS DEPT./ TEAM FOR SALE/ Hendrik Hertzberg on George Soros's bid for the Washington Nationals baseball team.
AROUND CITY HALL/ THE PUBLIC WHAT?/ Ben McGrath on the race for the city's second-ranking post.
FIGHTING WORDS/ WHATEVER/ Nick Paumgarten on why Russell Crowe got angry.
THE FINANCIAL PAGE/ ALL THE OIL IN CHINA?/ James Surowiecki on the Chinese government's bid for Unocal.

ONWARD AND UPWARD WITH THE ARTS/ Calvin Tomkins/ The Missing Madonna/ The Met's fifty-million-dollar painting.
SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Ian Frazier/ Square One
ANNALS OF ENTERPRISE/ Kevin Conley/ The Players/ Poker becomes a career path of choice.*
A REPORTER AT LARGE/ Jane Mayer/ The Experiment/ Is the military devising new methods of interrogation at Guant·namo?*
LETTER FROM BEIJING/ Jianying Zha/ The Turtles/ The star couple of Chinese real estate.*
FICTION/ Allegra Goodman/ "Long-Distance Client"

A CRITIC AT LARGE/ Margaret Talbot/ The Candy Man/ Why children love Roald Dahlís storiesóand many adults don't.
THE ART WORLD/ Peter Schjeldahl/ Two Views/ CÈzanne vs. Pissarro.
THE CURRENT CINEMA/ David Denby/ Stayin' Alive/ "War of the Worlds" and "Hustle & Flow."

ANNALS OF JUSTICE/ Jane Mayer/ Outsourcing Torture/ The secret history of America's 'extraordinary rendition' program./ Issue of 2005-02-14 [see other articles from this issue.]

* Not currently online.
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guy_ben-ner_elia.jpgGuy Ben-Ner's in the zone these days; his ingenious video, "Elia - a story of an ostrich chick," made like one of those anthropomorphizing Disney nature documentaries from the 50's, is included in PS1's Greater NY show. Now, he's representing Israel in the Venice Biennale.

At Venice, Ben-Ner talks with PS1 curator Bob Nickas about his work and how he uses adaptive techniques for shooting under directorial duress. He references silent film, in which the camera couldn't move, and nature documentaries, where you can't direct animals. Ben-Ner uses his kids in his videos, which requires a certain creativity to get anything down on tape.

Ben-Ner's segment lasts about 15 minutes, and then Nickas and his too-smart sidekicks spiral out of control, gushing over Vezzoli's Caligula trailer--in exactly the critically unaware way that bugs so bad. While Ben-Ner sits silently by for the next 30-40 minutes, the curator/writer conversation encapsulates exactly the kind of hermetic, bitchy Venetian oneupsmanship that shouldn't be recorded, much less broadcast. Don't miss it.

WPS1 Venice Conversation - The Bob Nickas Roundtable

cardiff_spock_five.jpgSarah Boxer is disappointed in--can I say it? too late--Janet Cardiff's online piece, Eyes of Laura. Cardiff created a journal (don't tell the bloggers, but she actually calls it a blog) for a bored security guard in the Vancouver art gallery which commissioned the piece.

Boxer seems to feel the work depends on a suspension of disbelief that is actually IS a work of art, particularly one by Cardiff: "Maybe the illusion of the Web site collapses because it is, paradoxically, too complete, too fleshed out." I can't imagine this is the case.

While the site doesn't have opening credits or anything, Cardiff's association with it is not as secret as Boxer seems to think. First there's the site's distribution. I'm sure it's promoted/shown at the gallery itself, as any artwork would be. And as Zeke pointed out, the project launch was advertised on e-flux, the giant art world mailing list. Articles like Boxer's mention it in the context of Cardiff. Googling either Cardiff or "Eyes of Laura" completes the circuit, too. The number of site visitors without a Cardiff clue must be miniscule/irrelevant.

As for the site experience itself, Boxer's right, it's too slick. What security guard's blog asks you to check your media player preferences and tells you to get Flash before entering? From the get-go, it's an intentional construct, an Online Experience. It's true the red-on-red text (hidden in my browser) on the splash page gives only the fictional author's explanation of her site, but Cardiff is mentioned multiple times in the source code. And of course, the domain name itself belongs to her.

On those terms, then, Eyes of Laura is The Idea (a fictional journal) plus the ideas and observations within it, which are thoughtfully, earnestly cryptic and fragmented, but self-consciously so (no "I'm scratching my butt, I'm so bored." entries, but then maybe Laura just would never write that. Oh wait, I'm wrong: "June 28...Have you ever seen a 'Spock Five'?")

Compared to her audio walks, the online piece may feel over-produced, but it's within Cardiff's range: she's done video tours, too, after all, and her Venice pavilion/theater was like a ride at an art world Epcot Center. As one who's lost the trail on a Cardiff walk before (St Louis), and had her stage-whispered narrative play out over visuals I selected myself, the website's degree of user control is welcome. I'd argue for even more--an actual blog format--even at the expense of some slickness.

Ultimately, though, Boxer and I agree on one point, if for different reasons. The character of Laura doesn't quite work. Cardiff's pieces are always mannered, and I've always taken them as extensions or iterations of the artist herself. A lot of art works that way; even when the artist doesn't intend it to, it gets read that way. So when I read "Laura" explaining "her" site, like this:

"But remember this is all illicit and voyeuristic and illegal. Remember, I am putting my job on the line so you can see this stuff."

I don't hear a 25-year-old guard; I hear an artist in her late 30's trying real hard to sound transgressive, to sound cool, to sound 25.

Eyes of Laura, an online project by Janet Cardiff [d'oh!]

When Seeing Is Not Always Believing

Raw, sliced thin, and artfully arranged on a large platter, studded with fresh jalapeno.

cf. Richie Notar, the manager of soon-to-open Nobu 57, who long ago left his sense of humor in Queens:

"I think a lot of the wealthier people will be popping in: ladies who lunch, power tables with businessmen, tourists walking through New York, the bluebloods, the ladies who're shopping at Bergdorf, CondÈ Nast Ö"


Is Nobu fretting over the competition [from another 2-story "event-style" Japanese restaurant in the building, Benihana]? ìDo you think we're in the same league?î Mr. Notar asked. ìI don't think it's even worthy of a mention. They don't have hibachi tables; they have teppanyaki tables. That's like a Hyundai of a caróit'll be there to get you from A to B, but it's not a Porsche. That's what everyone does. Look at the Chrysler next to the Bentley. It is what it is.î

As Goes deNiro...Nobu North [warning: expiring link at observer.com]

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/10/arts/design/10alle.html">And Now, a Word From the Streets. Thanks to Noah at Critical Massive and Edmar at Lumpen for their help, and a special thanks to Marc at Wooster Collective, for both his help and his insights; it always amazes me how quickly and thoroughly he and Sara have grown that site into one of the most important crossroads of street art on the planet. Day-um.

So someone wrote to the Observer suggesting--in the nicest, possible way, really. really--that maybe it's your "yucky" outfit. Maybe the expensively groomed people you're covering aren't recoiling at your little tape recorders, dear Observers, but at your obvious lack of style. Why not dress like the people you report on? It can only help loosen their finely lined lips. "Or, you know, you could bring back Candace B. :)"

Whoever wrote that, I hope you meet George Gurley after too many mojitos. Because in Choire's now-Daily Transom, not only have they brought back Candace B., but this time, she can actually write.

So maybe you've noticed the "1 in 12 wins!" promotion campaign on the lids of most Coke products the last few months. As a pathetically, alarmingly addicted, inveterate loyal Diet Coke drinker, I know I have. The lids are on 20-oz and even 2-liter bottles, but the prize is a free 1-liter bottle of product. While I have to admire the company's insidiously effective strategy of getting America to change its idea of a serving of Coke [over the years, we've gone from 8-oz glass bottles, to 12-oz cans, to 20-oz bottles, and now to 1-liter, or, in NYC's case, 1.5-l bottles which are, that word again, insidiously easy enough to drink out of], I have to say, from where I sit, the campaign is an utter and complete failure; it has turned my Diet Coke buying and consuming experience into an annoying, shame-filled, welfare hell.

It's not that I never win; that's not a problem. It's that many retailers refuse to redeem the little caps, even if they sell product with the contest-bearing lids, and even if they carry 1-liter bottles (which turn out to be in far fewer distribution channels/retailer types than you might expect, especially in DC and NYC where we live). And it's not like I can tell you which kind of retailers reject them; I've had it happen at grocery stores, 7-11's, gas stations, Korean delis, newsstands, bodegas, on the NJ Turnpike (where I've won at one rest stop and was unable to redeem at another), chain drug stores--there's no way to know if you'll fail without trying.

It doesn't take many failed attempts to redeem a winning cap, which have involved confounding--and even angry--explanations from store managers about how Coke won't credit them for the freebies, or how they don't use a Coke distributor so they're not participating in the campaign, etc.--to make one weary of the fight for one's right to free soda. Except that it's not a right, it's an entitlement. Welfare.

You're reduced, essentially, to begging for a dollar (or $1.50-1.75, usually) from a diffident cashier or a put-upon manager, when it's obvious that you can afford it, you cheap bastard, trying to get something for nothing. Meanwhile, the line builds up behind you, and now you're the jerk who's holding everyone up for what, a dollar? I'll give you a dollar to get out of the way and let me buy these Pampers, ya junkie!

But it's not like I sought this out; I didn't scratch off anything, or Supersize to get two more chances to win. Coke put me in this situation where I feel like a wronged, government-cheese-stealing welfare queen, whose resentment builds with the fresh taunt of each unredeemable winning lid I find; they're lining up on the kitchen window sill pissing me off at this very moment. Now every time I lose, I feel a small sense of relief, one less pang I'll have to endure.

Before I decided to rant--I'll show them, Don't they realize I have a blog??--here, I actually called the Coca Cola company for redress, sure, but also to report that their marketing campaign was having the exact opposite effect on at least one loyal, concerned customer. A very sympathetic representative comforted me, asked who these offending retailers were (um, all of them? I got so ashamed, I stopped trying. choke back the pent-up tears.), and asked would I be willing to speak with someone from the marketing and promotion department within 7-10 days? Sure, of course, I just want what's best for you, Diet Coke.

She took down my number, and then she offered to mail me eight coupons for free 2-liter bottles. No offensee, I said, but the one time I called to get my money back from a Coke machine, I got one of your corporate coupons, and I couldn't find a retailer who'd take it.

[update: my wife reminds me of a recent development, where I was able to use a bottlecap at the on-campus "grocery" store at Georgetown, where we'd taken the kid to the pediatrician. I figured it was because these college students were Coke's most important customers (and also their cheapest and most demanding, and with the most unalloyed sense of entitlement and self-absorption)... Oh, Diet Coke, you know me so well. I could never stay mad at you...]

July 11, 2005


Gotta give a big shoutout to the folks at NASA and JAXA, the Japan Space Agency, for the successful launch Sunday of Astro-E2, the next generation of X-ray telescope satellites.

Astro-E2 was the working name of the satellite on the ground; it was a rebuild of Astro-E, which blew up when its rocket went off course soon after launch in 2000. Since that mishap, there has been a gap in the X-ray spectrum that scientists could study. Two other X-ray telescopes (or spectrometers, actually) are in orbit right now: one is called Chandra, and there's one called XMM-Newton, which is run by the European Space Agency. All three were designed to be complementary in their coverage of the X-ray spectrum and their resolution.

It's traditional to wait and name a satellite only after it completes its second orbit, and after Astro-E2 made its second 90-minute pass over its Japanese launch site, it was announced that the name would be "Suzaku," which translates variously as "red sparrow," or "phoenix." It derives from a creature guarding one of the four points of the compass on ancient Chinese astronomical charts, and it apparently has some regenerative characteristics like the phoenix in western mythology, something that obviously appealed to those scientists responsible for building and using this important satellite.

Those people include my wife, Jean, who is calibrating and characterizing the XRS, or X-Ray Spectrometer, and who will use it to continue her research on the composition and behavior of binary neutron stars. Congratulations and good luck. If I live to be 100, I'll never figure out why someone so smart decided to marry me, but hey, I ain't complaining.

Suzaku/Astro-E2 Homepage
How 'bout that, Suzaku is also the name of an anime demon character in Yu Yu Hakusho [absoluteanime.com]

July 8, 2005

You Decide, Indeed

"I mean, my first thought when I heard -- just on a personal basis, when I heard there had been this attack and I saw the futures this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought, 'Hmmm, time to buy.'"
- from an on-air transcript of Brit Hume, Washington Managing Editor, FoxNews, 7/7/2005.

Credit where it's due: one summer in the Hamptons, a housemate picked up Zsa Zsa's autobiography at the Southampton library booksale--the one written in response to her Beverly Hills copslapping incident, not the other one--and it was hi-larious. Lots of stuff like, "I wear nothing in bed. Except for diamonds."

Zsa Zsa Gabor In Critical Condition After Stroke
[nbc4, via trent]
Buy Zsa Zsa Gabor's One Lifetime Is Not Enough, from $0.49 at Amazon [amazon]

Architect and one-time actor Brad Pitt is making a documentary about Frank Gehry and the development of his billowing-skirt residential towers in Brighton, Eng-uh-land.

PITT TO MAKE UK DOCUMENTARY [contactmusic.com, via gutter, the source of that sweet quote above]
Brighton and Hove's brave new world [bbc]
Previously: How To Tell Me and Brad Pitt Apart

Jason writes about John Sheetz, a longtime HAM and a Teletype artist [who knew? which is precisely the point] he interviewed in 2003 for his BBS Documentary, and who passed away last January.

How many life's works are biding time in cluttered New Jersey garages, forgotten by nearly all but their creators--and sometimes, even by them?

A Silent Key [textfiles.com, via waxy]

Nothing like a terrorist attack to whipsaw our sense of context, priorities and emotions. From Kottke's links this morning [note: the older, carefree links are at the bottom]:

# A series of explosions in London this morning during rush hour; at least 2 dead and 160 wounded   # 
The explosions were coordinated and officials have shut down the tube and central bus service.
# Mariopedia is "an illustrated listing of virtually every character, item, and enemy from the 'Super Mario Universe'"   # 
# A list of mini golf holes based on movies   # 
"Raiders of the Lost Ark: You must putt the ball precisely into the idol's head, or a 15-foot-high, 1-ton golf ball comes rolling after you."

July 6, 2005

So September 10th

Hmm. I don't really know what to make of this. In the months after September 11, when no one knew what shape the WTC site would take in the future, but when people were at least entertaining the possibility that architecture and contemporary art might be able to make some sense of what'd happened, John Powers' ideas from a show about memorials earlier that year kept coming to my mind.

He proposed aggressively political minimalist gestures for sites in Manhattan (Penn Station, the now-defunct East River Guggenheim) and DC (the WWII Memorial) that upset prevailing notions of public space, spectacle, sentimentality, order and control, and history, among other things. [Although more successful and uncompromised by virtue of its sheer impossibility, Powers' proposal for a WWII memorial eerily prefigures Michael Arad's original fountain pit design, transposed to the end of the Reflecting Pool on the Mall.]

Powers never pursued any direct responses or proposals to the WTC site, either for Max Protech's early display of (as it turned out) architectural impotence and hubris, or for the WTC Memorial 'competition.' Still, I thought of Powers when I saw Ellsworth Kelly's collaged proposal for the WTC site--a NYT aerial photo with a trademark Kelly trapezoid superimposed on it.

Meanwhile, I followed along (or obsessed over, take your pick) the WTC rebuilding issues and saw the craven folly and political machinations unfold before my eyes--and anyone elses? I often wondered. Then I found Philip Nobel's book Sixteen Acres, the first unsentimental look at what was actually transpiring behind the scenes and in front of our still-teared up eyes. It's harsh in places, mostly as it should be, and I only wish it could've brought some things to light sooner. It's the same kind of weary wishfulness that allows you to entertain fleeting thoughts of disaster averted, "what if we'd--" and "if only we'd--" before snapping back to the grim reality of our political failures.

Anyway, I only bring this up now because a friend showed me Powers' early 2001 invite with details of his projects and then pulled out their own copy of Sixteen Acres. [They're scanned side by side above.]

I am a solid fan of both peoples' work, but there was clearly something going on in the design process for Nobel's 2005 cover which needs some explaining. The frontispiece says "Design by Fritz Metsch, Map by David Cain," with cover design by Raquel Jaramillo. But to me, it's clearly John Powers' work.

Buy Nobel's excellent Sixteen Acres : Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero at Amazon
Previously: Ellsworth Kelly on Ground Zero

UPDATE: I emailed Philip Nobel about this. Here is his reply:

Thanks for the heads up. I've been on both sides of this sort of
accusation before (this time, I guess, I'm a bystander). But I can
assure you there was no foul play. Re "explaining to do": Before the
book was written, the Holt art department had cooked up something that
looked like a Bob Woodward book (still posted around online in spots).
My editor and I didn't think it made sense with the feel of the
finished thing, so we cooked up the idea of a map (sitting in her
office on 18th Street; no graphic cues on hand). I said "black" and
that it had to go as far north as possible (in the spirit of that
Borges quote and the first lines of the prologue), and she said we
should just box out the shape of the site like a symbol. Raquel worked
from those directions. She's good people, and i don't think so mobbed
up in the art or architecture worlds that she would have seen your
friend's work, which, of course, looks really interesting. I imagine
"map" led her to an aerial view, "black" led her to the one in
question, and "box out/symbol" led her to treat the site as she did.
You know from reading the book that I'm all about seeing the worst in
our fellow men. But this sort of convergence reminds me of the recent
forced frenzy (Lock was tracking it) over Freedom Tower cognates. Might
it not just be a case of two people with good taste seeing the graphic
possibilities of applying a color field (red, an obvious choice) to
what appears to be the same publicly available (via the Library of
Congress) image?
Also, timely but not quite directly related: With Covers, Publishers Take More Than Page From Rivals [nyt]

Memphis's own Brett Ratner mouths off, which, after scoring $9mm for your film that'd been passed over by every studio dawg in town, is just fine.

"What is interesting is the 'indie blockbuster' idea; that Hollywood's going to buy cheaper movies and put the kind of money behind them that they would a blockbuster. What's wrong with that?" He cracks, "Look, we didn't make The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. [Hustle] has a commercial, mythological, hero's-journey structure to it. I have always wanted it to be reflective of The Commitments, Footloose, Flashdance, and Rocky."
Yes, interesting. Slate's Christopher Kelly thinks it's train wreck interesting, at least: "Funny, though, that this 'vision of what's hip and what Hollywood isn't doing,' as Singleton has described it, should look exactly like what Hollywood's been doing for years."

Rhyme Scheme [vv]
The Pimp Who Saved Hollywood [slate]

Making a "short feature film," just for the heck of it, it turns out, and documenting the production online:

The very first thing that happened is that we dropped an expensive rented audio remote unit down three flights of stairs. Oops. I wonder if Kubrick had to take a conference call about an advertising project after finishing just three set-ups on the first day of shooting Barry Lyndon?
Check it out: Copy Goes Here [coudal.com]

At least in public, anyway.

With its eye on the Chinese market, Disney is producing a martial arts remake of Snow White.

Yuen Woo-ping, the wire fighting guy from everywhere, is directing, and Michael Chabon is writing the screenplay. Too bad it's not animated. This could be horribly, horribly wrong, or oh-so right.

Snow White and the seven kung fu monks: Disney sets sights on China
[guardian, via robotwisdom]

In the magazine header, image: newyorker.com
Issue of 2005-07-11 & 18
Posted 2005-07-04


COMMENT/ DECISIONS, DECISIONS/ Louis Menand on Sandra Day O'Connor.
SPORTS DEPT./ TEAM FOR SALE/ Hendrik Hertzberg on George Soros's bid for the Washington Nationals baseball team.
AROUND CITY HALL/ THE PUBLIC WHAT?/ Ben McGrath on the race for the city's second-ranking post.
FIGHTING WORDS/ WHATEVER/ Nick Paumgarten on why Russell Crowe got angry.
THE FINANCIAL PAGE/ ALL THE OIL IN CHINA?/ James Surowiecki on the Chinese government's bid for Unocal.

ONWARD AND UPWARD WITH THE ARTS/ Calvin Tomkins/ The Missing Madonna/ The Met's fifty-million-dollar painting.
SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Ian Frazier/ Square One
ANNALS OF ENTERPRISE/ Kevin Conley/ The Players/ Poker becomes a career path of choice.*
A REPORTER AT LARGE/ Jane Mayer/ The Experiment/ Is the military devising new methods of interrogation at Guant·namo?*
LETTER FROM BEIJING/ Jianying Zha/ The Turtles/ The star couple of Chinese real estate.*
FICTION/ Allegra Goodman/ "Long-Distance Client"

A CRITIC AT LARGE/ Margaret Talbot/ The Candy Man/ Why children love Roald Dahlís storiesóand many adults don't.
THE ART WORLD/ Peter Schjeldahl/ Two Views/ CÈzanne vs. Pissarro.
THE CURRENT CINEMA/ David Denby/ Stayin' Alive/ "War of the Worlds" and "Hustle & Flow."

ANNALS OF JUSTICE/ Jane Mayer/ Outsourcing Torture/ The secret history of America's 'extraordinary rendition' program./ Issue of 2005-02-14 [see other articles from this issue.]

* Not currently online.
Subscribe to the New Yorker via Amazon

A scene this past weekend at a wedding in the Hudson River Valley:

At dusk, a 6-year-old boy would charge up to the younger kids and, with his fists full of sparklers, he would roar and shake his hands until they would run away crying.

When the sparklers went out, he marched around proudly, shouting, "I am the dominant democracy! I am the dominant democracy! Did you see them? They bow down to me!"

Happy Fourth of July!

About that 8-minute short subject documentary showing at the Lincoln Memorial, the one about all the people who use "America's Soapbox" to protest in support of their causes? Well, the Religious Right screened the first cut, and they loved it, they just had a few notes... Aww, who're we kidding? They hated it, and they had a ton of notes, which they sent to the producers at the National Park Service. So consider that you've been watching the rough cut of history for the last ten years.

Of course, to even see the production notes required a FOIA request, and even then, major portions of the conservative suits' demands and the NPS's editing decisions that flowed out of them have been redacted. So until the Extra-Special Impeachment Edition DVD comes out sometime after Jan. 20, 2009, this is about all we know of their re-edits:

  • Lose that Clinton character.
  • Add more pro-gun marches.
  • Nixon protesters? They're hippies. Take'em out.
  • What's with The Gays? Cut'em. You want people to think Lincoln approved of man-on-man action? [Wait, don't answer that.]
  • Add some Pro-Iraq War marches [note: maybe we can bluescreen some town hall rally footage onto the Memorial steps? tk]

    Lincoln Memorial Video May Be Revised
    [guardian, via robotwisdom]
    View Lincoln Memorial's 8-min short [ap.org]

  • 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 July 2005, in reverse chronological order

    Older: June 2005

    Newer August 2005

    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
    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