November 2005 Archives

Living in both towns for a few years, I should be used to this by now, but it never fails to amuse. The Washington Post dispatched a correspondent to uncover rumors of hipness in Williamsburg. Brooklyn. You know, to distinguish it from the expensively fabricated, "keepin' it real" dress-up themepark built with lots of parental money:

... Grand Street is a rich gallery row: The "chess set" of pedophiles and their victims at Ch'i disturbed; a collection of deli coffee cups at City Reliquary amused; and Martin Gurfein's kaleidoscopic scenes of daily life at the Hogar Collection dazzled....

...I assumed that the gig by Montreal's Bell Orchestre would be a casual CD-hawking session in a corner of the shop. But Sound Fix hides a back room that's like a slice of fin-de-sicle Vienna, a dimly lighted, sofa-filled bar/coffeehouse with pressed-tin walls. It was crammed with Billyburgers who clearly knew of the band...

With this much hipness sloshing around the scene, I predict that one day soon, someone will write a book about one of these young, edgy, emerging musicians, and it will be a smash.

No, Not That Williamsburg [wp via gawker]

Grr. Sometimes I don't know which is worse: the cloying, dishonest schmaltzfest of a master plan put forward for the WTC site by Pataki's democracy organ grinder monkey Danny Libeskind, or the de facto plan that eviscerated it, the one that's actually being built under political cover of Libeskind's handiwork.

Then, I read about a 9/11 memorial he built in Padua, Italy, which uses the same bogus, headbanging numerological symbolism to beat its message into visitors heads--in this case, the debunked email spasm that claimed Nostradamus predicted the 9/11 attacks--and I feel relief that that opportunistic little Minstrel of Death won't leave a fingerprint on my city. [via archinect]

Annie Proulx has seen "Brokeback Mountain" twice: once, when the characters and story originally made their way from her head to her short story in the New Yorker. Then again, when Ang Lee's film rose up before her on the screen. She's as happy as a woman can be about doomed gay cowboy love.

The Village Voice's Jessica Winters has an account of the story's translation from the page to the screen:

In transcribing a 10,000-word story onto a celluloid canvas, Brokeback Mountain takes the opportunity to enlarge and embellish upon Proulx's glancing details and grace notes, or as [co-screenwriter Larry] McMurtry puts it, "We milked it for every single sentence, every single phrase we could." Proulx adds, "Usually, screenwriters work with novels, and that means whittling and chopping and squeezing it down into 90 minutes or whatever approved movie length."

Presumably because he was made to by his editors, Andrew Pulver momentarily entertains the notion that a film directed by Madonna would somehow not be an utterly self-absorbed, epically unwatchable trainwreck:

She certainly has the strength of will to become a film-maker, too. [Jonas] Akerlund is the credited director of [the widely panned as sycophantic] You're the Next Best Thing, but you can't imagine a single edit got in without Madonna's approval. And she knows the worth of a good photographer and art director, which is half the battle of film-making.
What I really want to do is not have to see or hear about another Madonna-related film project ever again.

Can Madonna beat Guy at his own game?

In the magazine header, image: newyorker.comIssue of 2005-12-05
Posted 2005-11-28

COMMENT/ FLOOR WAR/ Hendrik Hertzberg on the war over the war in Congress.
BEIJING POSTCARD/ POPPY, SHOPPING/ Peter Hessler traces the steps of Old Bush.
VISITING DIGNITARIES/ GIBBONS/ Nick Paumgarten meets the lead guitarist of ZZ Top.
TEXTURE DEPT./ WALING/ Ben McGrath attends a meeting of the Corduroy Appreciation Club.
MOONLIGHTING DEPT./ MOB APPEAL/ Lauren Collins on a best-selling prosecutor.
POSTSCRIPT/ CECILLE SHAWN/ Remembering the wife of the late New Yorker editor William Shawn.
ANNALS OF NATIONAL SECURITY/ Seymour M. Hersh/ Up in the Air/ Bush's intransigence and the coming air war.
SHOUTS & MURMURS/ Bruce McCall/ Getting Started
FICTION/ Alice Munro/ "Wentlock Edge"

BOOKS/ Adam Kirsch/ Strange Fits of Passion/ Wordsworth's revolution.
BOOKS/ Louis Menand/ Everybody's an Expert/ Putting predictions to the test.
THE THEATRE/ John Lahr/ Bleak House/ A child's fantasy life and a failed inventor Off Broadway.
THE ART WORLD/ Peter Schjeldahl/ In the Mood/ New works by Gerhard Richter.
MUSICAL EVENTS/ Alex Ross/ The Evangelist/ David Robertson lifts up the St. Louis Symphony.
THE CURRENT CINEMA/ David Denby/ Company Man/ "Syriana."

DAYTON, TENNESSEE/ Marquis James/ A Summary/ A 1925 report on the Scopes monkey trial, in which a teacher stood accused of teaching evolution in school.

Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish was what finally woke us up. Attributions are a vital ingredient to that get added after a recipe is passed along, often without the original chef's knowledge.

We've been eating Val's rolls at family gatherings for as long as I've been on solid foods, but once when my mother mentioned them to Val's granddaughter--who then asked Val--Val said she wondered if she'd ever made such rolls. She doubted it.

Winifred's granddaughter, meanwhile, called on Wednesday to ask my mother a recipe question. My mother--whose tenure as the food editor of the local paper followed and was dwarfed by Winifred's--said, oh, you should have her bring something. Her cranberry relish. It's Susan Stanberg's recipe, but she gave it to me years ago. Within five minutes, Winifred called my mom to find out what her own cranberry relish recipe was, because she'd just been asked to bring it. When they're passed along, recipes get marked and remembered by the recipient, and every taste ever after is a one-way mnemonic trigger of the connection.

Also on the table:

  • Doris Epps' sweet potatoes
  • Grandma Mary's sausage stuffing
  • Grandma Mary's bread [which has since been commercialized by a distant cousin and is available fresh every day at a local bakery.]
  • Aunt Marilyn's coconut bavarian cream pie [which, we suspect, actually originated on the back of an ancient bag of coconut flakes. Someone at Kraft needs to send Aunt Marilyn a check.]

  • White House Productions ordered up this backdrop for use at GWB's hotel press conference.


    As the camera angle in the BBC screenshot above shows, the "China" & "Beijing" characters are perfectly placed to flank GWB's talking head (in the TV camera's frame).


    The trompe l'oeil gates and knockers--they're copied from The Temple of Heaven--complete the backdrop, and provide an exit "backstage."

    According to wikipedia, the Emperor would visit the Temple of Heaven each winter to make elaborate ceremonial offerings. "It was widely held that the smallest of mistakes would constitute a bad omen for the whole nation in the coming year." Fortunately, no one believes that kind of superstitious mumbo jumbo anymore...

    No exit, stage right.


    And in other Sforzian news...Dateline - Ulan Bator:


    To see what a barebones Sforzian Backdrop set-up consists of, check out this wide shot of GWB on stage in Mongolia [addressing the Mongolian parliament who, it turns out, meet in the auditorium at Ulan Bator High]: one head-on and two profile backdrops, and then 2-3 setups from the side and below--note the panels in the foreground next to the podium and the little planter/flag thingies below that. I wonder if that pendant hanging above center stage gets into those photos from below?

    Also, Mongolian Dutch photographer Iwan Baan was on hand the official photographer for the Mongolian president during Bush's visit, and his images capture a lot of the backstage activity that is normally invisible in the work of the wire service journalists.

    Some highlights: a Mongolian TV crew's ancient 35mm Arriflex 35BL camera; knots of cameramen perched on the ridge to get wide shots--as if the Mongolian landscape demanded anything less; the Secret Service-issue Porta-potty, surrounded by Mongolian horsemen; the meticulous set dressing, presumably Mongolian-driven symbols of hospitality--the wrapped candy showed up here as well; and the suspicious glances of security agents toward the random Baan, who gets pretty close in to Rice. [Rice & Baan. heh.] The whole thing looks like a visit to the set of a Kurosawa film. I'm thinking Ran, Kagemusha, or Dersu Uzala.

    [update: thanks to Iwan for the corrections, and to Chris for ID'ing the Mongolian crew's camera: "heavy as shit and none too quiet, either," he points out.]

  • Bosnian filmmaker Jasmina Tesanovic writes in the latest issue of Make Magazine about turning her website, Diary of a Political Idiot, into a documentary--while her city, Belgrade, was being bombed by NATO forces in 1999.

    The schedule for each of the 19 days of shooting was determined by which sector of the city had power at any given moment. Editing took place on machinery cobbled together from a bombed out TV station, and the film was smuggled out to the Venice film festival and German TV by a couple of blondes carrying "a car full of Walt Disney cartoons."

    How to make a film without money, while being bombed [pdf, makezine via boingboing]

    Meanwhile, in other, suddenly much less dire-sounding filmmaking news, the NY Times resports that fledging filmmakers who've spent between $0 and $1 million on their projects, only to find no commercial success, are variously moving back in with their parents, working dayjobs in the industry, or looking forward to attending high school. Go figure.

    Join a Revolution. Make Movies. Go Broke.

  • Like this music video, "Motorcycle," from The Rumble Strips, which involves a roundabout, some bikes, a delivery lorry [sic], one light, and a guy who sounds a lot like Lloyd Cole.

    "Motorcycle," directed by Harry Dwyer [ via waxy]

    Mike Ovitz can fight his own battles--although he's been nothing but genial to me, I don't doubt he can be a pretty scrappy guy. But Nikki Finke's LA Weekly article on Hollywood-style dealmaking supposedly poisoning the art world is such a raw-yet-feeble Ovitz takedown attempt, I can't see why it even exists.

    kcostner.jpegAnd that's even before you notice that the story's so old, a veritable reportorial time capsule. The most recent anecdotes are from the early 1990's. Julian Schnabel--get this!--has a movie about Basquiat. Up-and-coming dealer Mary Boone has revitalized SoHo's gallery scene. One interviewee, Leo Castelli, actually died in 1999. Rather than even update the story or provide any la plus ca change context, it reads like Finke handed in an old floppy disk she found while cleaning out a storage unit in the Valley, and her editors published whatever killed story or chapter of an abandoned book happened to be on it. What's next? Finke's incisive report whether Waterworld's production turmoil will threaten Kevin Costner's status as Hollywood's sexiest leading man?

    Lest you think the cluelessness is confined to alt-freebies on the West Coast, Artforum linked to Finke's story with a headline and a blurb so inaccurate ["For Hollywood Moguls, Collecting Is Increasingly De Rigueur"] it's obvious they didn't even read the piece.

    Blame Ovitz: When Art Started Imitating Hollywood [laweekly via artforum]

    If the Washington Post, of all "can't dance" papers says someone "break-danced and jigged in a manner so lifelike they seemed like hip-hop aliens from the planet Funk," you're right to be wary. And yet we were seduced, at least for a couple of days.

    the underdelivery: the video for "Hell Yes" on
    the oversell: Beck Gets World's Only 'Dream Robots' Dancing To 'Hell Yes' []
    qrio robot home site []

    November 15, 2005

    Gorillaz "Live" Performances


    Using 19th century illusionist technology known more formally as "smoke and mirrors," Gorillaz performed live and simultaneously last week at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Lisbon and at the Manchester (UK) Opera House.

    The Times of London has a bit of the "how'd they do that?"

    Gorillaz ape a Victorian parlour trick for a bit of stage presence [ via core77]
    So far, Gorillaz Live Shows covers just the 2000-2001 appearances []

    November 15, 2005

    Monkey Business

    In attempting to "remove the clutter" that normally accompanies such "major tent-pole movies," Universal has pared down the marketing and product licensing partnerships for Peter Jackson's King Kong to the barebones minimum.

    Here's the list. If you start reading now, you may finish before a second Collector's Edition 3-version DVD pack comes out [which may include never-before-seen outtakes from the original Peter Jackson's Production Diaries 2-disc set.]

    King Kong - Business Monkey [kokogiak via waxy]


    There are some posters, and some beer, and the gas for the motorboat had to cost a pretty penny, but that's about it. Compared to the expensive (and purportedly expensive) public art it skewered, The Gate that chased Robert Smithson's Floating Island up the East River a couple of months ago cost nothing. Now the Gate and the boat, and a documentary about the project will go on exhibit 11/18 at Redhead, the gallery of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

    The artists--who still remain unnamed--intended their project to ask and answer the questions, "Is public art still possible? Can a cheap stunt pack a punch? Does art make enough room to laugh at itself? Yes. When money steps aside and lets the work do the talking."

    A Cheap Publicity Stunt, 11/18-12/22, at Redhead [ via reader chandra]
    Previously: Water, Gate. The Gates Bill

  • Gabriel Orozco's computer animated film at Marian Goodman, which morphs through all 700-something color permutations of the paintings in the main gallery. It's like Jeremy Blake-meets...Gabriel Orozco.
  • Shirin Neshat's Zarin, in which a Muslim prostitute's spiral descent into psychic delerium is revealed. May not be suitable for infant children. At Barbara Gladstone.
  • The Journal of Short Film is throwing a launch party for its first issue, Saturday at 3pm at Columbia. The JSF will present experimental and independent short films (are there any other kind? Yes, Hollywood vanity projects for career-switchers and sponsored shorts) in a DVD-based quarterly format. Check the website or this pdf invite for details.
  • And speaking of Jeremy Blake, you now have until Dec. 3 to see his exhibit at Feigen. His latest film, Sodium Fox, is a dazzling collaboration with poet/musician David Berman. [Good to know people are calling themselves poets again.] Also good to see the gallery of paintings, drawings, c-prints, and collages; it's like buying a "making of" dvd and finding a bonus disc with the film on it.

  • November 10, 2005

    The Sound Of One Hand Bidding

    What with the hazmat crew required to neutralize the thousands of gallons of formaldehyde and the efforts to stabilize the rotting, soaked corpse, moving Damien Hirst's shark costs an estimated $100,000.

    Meanwhile, Mark Fletcher and Tobias Meyer ended up donating a John Bock sculpture to the Carnegie rather than keep replacing the fresh melons in it.

    [Maybe they should have become Buddhists. When I was a missionary in Japan, old ladies were always offering us the fruit offerings--pyramids of oranges and melons, usually--from their butsudans, the black lacquer, gilt-edged, in-home shrines where they prayed to their departed family members.]

    "These works become like devotional objects. It's like caring for your altarpiece," said Amy Cappellazzo, Tobias Meyer's Christie's counterpart.

    Ephemeral Art, Eternal Vigilance [nyt]
    Previously: how contemporary art is like a renaissance tapestry

    November 10, 2005

    Pottery Barneys

    I'm totally with her on the Calypso Hamptons hegemony, but for someone with spreads in Southampton and Montana [or is it Wyoming? or both?], Alex Kuczynski sure spends a lot of time thinking about Pottery Barn.

    In the Sort-of Ethnic Home [nyt]

    November 8, 2005

    First, I'm trying to imagine what kind of fundraiser one would find both David O. Russell and George W. Bush. But allowing for that possibility, I have to say I was surprised to hear this anecdote:

    [Three Kings] director Russell ran into candidate George W. Bush at a Hollywood fundraiser in the summer of 1999 and told him that he was making a movie critical of his father's Gulf War legacy. "Then I guess I'm going to have to go finish the job, aren't I?" the younger Bush replied.
    From J. Hoberman's review of Jarhead in the Village Voice

    According to an LA City Beat interview last year around the time of I Heart Huckabees, Russell met GWB at Terry Semel's house in July 1999. DOR called Semel "an opportunist who was jumping off Clinton and onto the Bush bandwagon at the time." Of course, now we call him the CEO of Yahoo.

    Jia Zhangke's Unknown Pleasures was eye-opening, the tale of two disaffected slackers told in a Chinese-inflected, naturalist style.

    Now Jia has turned his eye on a symbol-soaked Chinese theme park full of miniature world landmarks, which provides the impossibly contrived backdrop for an unassuming, bleak narrative. Roger Ebert loves it.
    The World, dir. by Jia Zhangke [ebert via archinect]

    Caryn James acknowledges that talking about Terrence Malick's career involves a lot of speculation--before she proceeds to speculate on his "20 year absence" from filmmaking:

    Logic and cheap psychology suggest that fear of success or fear of failure might be involved. He may never duplicate the artistry and acclaim of his early films, and it wouldn't be surprising if the prospect of competing with himself caused creative paralysis in a filmmaker who likes every blade of grass to be shot perfectly.
    Whatever. With the man's next movie, The New World, supposedly set to debut this Christmas, you can't help but write about him. I can totally appreciate that.

    The Enigmatic Malick Is Back [nyt via iht]

    November 5, 2005

    Digging Dugway


    Whoa. The Dugway Proving Ground is in Skull Valley, an hour and a half west of Salt Lake City. It's where the US Army tests chemical and biological weapons and defense systems. It's the site of an incineration program for the US's stockpiles of bio/chem weapons. And it's probably the greatest piece of Earth Art since the Nazca Lines.


    The DoD's alterations of the landscape--seen here in Terraserver photographs--rival the Spiral Jetty, Double Negative, Roden Crater, even, in both aesthetic power and content. Flash forward a few hundred years and ask yourself, which desert markmaking will have the most to say about the mid-20th century?

    Dugway's been dealt out of the Earth Art discussion because it's a) functional, and b) institutional, not individual, but those seem like quaint technicalities. What if the only reason they're not considered art--or considered alongside art, at least--is that no one's really had access to them?

    Dugway Proving Ground [pruned, via tropolism]
    previously: earth art via satellite

    November 5, 2005

    N.Y. Doll Revelations

    Stuart, our man in Los Angeles, files this report from a KCRW-sponsored screening of N.Y. Doll last weekend where director Greg Whiteley and his producers Ed Cunningham and Seth Lewis Gordon, discussed making the film:

    Greg had known Arthur had been in a band as another church member had told him, but the film really started when Arthur told Greg that he had an email that his band was reforming. The first piece filmed was the recovery of the bass guitar from the pawn shop as he had to practice.

    The producer also talked interestingly about the way that Arthur's voice changes through the filming from rather stumbling speech patterns early to the rather stirring and dramatic prayer at the end.

    The Morrissey part was filmed and edited in after the Sundance festival so it has a changed tone now. [And it's pretty clear that all the celebrity interviews were grabbed in one shot at the Meltdown Festival. In the production notes, Whiteley talks about never having permission to do anything, just going as far as their "Killer has a posse" stance would take them.]

    It is also never quite clear, and Greg said this as well, whether
    Arthur was expected to be part of the reunion, as he found out almost by mistake. Obviously his fan club had an email for him, and Greg said that Sylvain probably met Arthur about once a year on his annual tours, so he knew he was available/alive.

    They do briefly mention [Kane & Johansen] last being together shouting at each other in a trailer park in Florida but nothing more than that. I get the feeling there is a great "New York Dolls" documentary waiting to be made. The Ramones doc was ultimately depressing after seeing these people just beaten down trying to get a big enough audience for their music. [Yeah, does anything good ever come from Florida trailer parks? And the Dolls seemed to drop with predictably Spinal-Tappian frequency, too; not so feel-good.]

    I thought Johansen's entrance to the practice area with another video
    behind him a day late in the middle of a song rather stagey but Kane seemed genuinely pleased to see him. Also what was the idea
    behind only having less than 7 days rehearsal before flying and doing the gig? that almost seemed set up for failure.

    Most of the stage footage is from a second show where he is
    wearing the spotted shirt with the "diamante tie"; very few shots from
    the first show, with the white shirt.

    Johansen recorded 2 Mormon psalms, and Greg hoped they would both be on the dvd release.

    The DVD is in my prayers. Bless you, Brother Stuart.

    Previously: NY Doll - The review

    When watched together, in sequence, Film professor Aidan Wasley says, the Star Wars 6-ilogy is actually revealed to be the world's greatest art film, ever:

    Star Wars, at its secret, spiky intellectual heart, has more in common with films like Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books or even Matthew Barney's The Cremaster Cycle than with the countless cartoon blockbusters it spawned. Greenaway and Barney take the construction of their own work as a principal artistic subject, and Lucas does, too.
    Wasley goes on to talk about Lucas's interest in both the "never in a bajillion years long, long time" narrative coincidences which make up the films; and the deterministic, aesthetic order that is required for the thousands of CGI scenes.

    So you mean the stilted storytelling and embarassing acting is good because Lucas intended it that way? I think that by defining "art films" as the uncompromised vision of a single individual--who we'll call an artist--then yes, Cremaster and Star Wars are both art films. But don't expect critical or audience opinion to be swayed by someone re-ascribing a whole host of a film's shortcomings as the artist's intention.

    There's as much risk of turning out a dud from this kind of mythic, singular, lone artist process as there is from the much more maligned studio-meddling/compromising hack process. Think Gangs of New York, Baseketball and Team America World Police.

    Star Wars: Episodes I-VI, The greatest postmodern art film ever. [slate via kottke]
    Previously: On watching Cremaster 1-5 in order

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

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

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

    find me on twitter: @gregorg

    about this archive

    Posts from November 2005, in reverse chronological order

    Older: October 2005

    Newer December 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