December 2003 Archives

image of part of Joe Ovelman's installation, "Two Walls"

The picture is big. It runs across one page and onto the other. I'm credited for the casual image captured by my tiny digital camera, but it was just for the record. No, it was an act of love.

It's only because of the surprise element and the ephemeral nature of the artist's September 13 Chelsea wall installations that in Wayne Norcross's review of Joe Ovelman's "Two Walls" in the Jan/Feb issue of Genre my own photograph dominates the magazine's two-page spread. At the time I thought of the picture as a modest documentation of something I would not see again. Except for the images in my head it was all I could take home with me that day if I wasn't going to rip the color zeroxes off the plywood wall.

For more images of details from the wall on 10th Avenue, and the remnants of the wall on 25th Street, see the "gallery" links on two earlier posts.

At rest with the flu, in a room at the top of an old farmhouse in the rural American Northeast [an excerpt from a short piece in the NYTimes]:

I was raised to believe that sleep is a sovereign remedy for everything but death itself, so I drift between waking and sleeping, visited mostly by one of the cats, who likes the third floor — a converted attic — as much as I do. I wake just long enough to see the snow falling, and to judge how sick I feel, before drifting off again. The pleasure of it — waking only long enough to know you're dozing — confirms something one of Ishmael's shipmates said in "Moby-Dick": "Damn me, it's worth a fellow's while to be born into the world, if only to fall right asleep."
This is for those, like myself, lucky enough to be able to share memories like his but also for those who can only enjoy such beauty through another's account. This is one of Verlyn Klinkenborg's gentle evocations of the place where man meets the rest of nature.

Guerrillas Kill 3 U.S. Troops; Bomb Kills 5 Iraqis

This is the first Reuters headline I spotted on my home page as I got up this morning. Before reading the story I had perversely assumed that "we" were the party responsible for the deaths of the 5 Iraqis. Actually it was the work of a suicide bomber in a northern Kurdish city, who died along with two guards, a passerby and a 13-year-old girl.

Now I would say that while the "score" should read, 8-0, it's actually the coach in the White House who deserves the credit for every one of those eight - and for every other death in this monstrous war that has been and is still to be.

untitled (Berry Street, December 22)

Finlay Johnson Richards, 2, of London, England, points at New York City police officers patroling Union Square as part of Operation Hercules as his twin sister Maya Rose looks on, Monday, Dec. 22, 2003 in New York.

The uniforms and the guns have descended in force once again.

Our little general tells his people to just go about their lives, and leave everything in his care. And all has been absolutely super under that arrangement so far, no?

Jimmy Breslin describes what this looks like on the streets here in New York.

. . . over the weekend, Homeland Security raised the terrorism alert to condition orange. By Saturday night, the streets of midtown looked like a parking lot at a police precinct. Vans were all along the curbs. Patrol cars were up on the sidewalks. All had lights, yellow and white, flashing in the night air.

Cops took over the sidewalks and lined them with metal barricades. On Seventh Avenue, 44th Street was blocked and traffic waved on. A friend was in a cab on Seventh Avenue trying to get to the Algonquin Hotel on 44th and Sixth, but as the cab couldn't turn on 44th, he said he would get out.

The driver stopped and said, "Get out now. Hurry up!" They were too slow. A cop was at the door when it opened and he shouted that he was giving the cabbie a summons. Nobody was to stop. This was a civil defense emergency.

This great big city now belonged to the nearest badge.

We're now being told that the "alert" will not be called off at the end of the holiday season. Is that supposed to please or upset us? Do we bother to think about it at all? All of this is only a rehearsal anyway, for something much bigger. If and when just one more terrorist succeeds within our borders, much more than lives will be lost. Our entire political system will be destroyed forever, permanently replaced by a military dictatorship. We can be sure no voice will be heard to object.

If, in this interim, anyone manages to think about it at all, she or he knows that no SWAT team, no army, can make us safe. Only an intelligent executive, and above all an intelligent foreign policy, could give us and the rest of the world any security. But Americans don't want intelligence, especially in their government.

Hail to the [fill in the blank] chief!

In the Fall of last year I wrote in this space:

Almost two years ago, in the months after the 2000 elections, I bored or frightened my friends with my prediction that we would never have another Presidential election, and we would very likely be relieved of the messiness of another congressional election as well. I believed that the Republicans would never give up what had been so ill-gotten in the winter of 2000-2001.

I was certain that some pretext would be invented to distort the electoral process, or even entirely suspend the Constitutional niceties providing for the election of a Congress and a President, in order to protect us from enemies at home or aboad.

Absent any compelling case for Republican involvement in the events of September 11, we still have a case for a Republican conspiracy, one which is subverting the political process at this very moment, and it's working very well indeed. Most of the Democrats have bought into the monstrous idiocy of this regime's war arguments and practices, with disagreement only in the details, at best.

It looks like they're going to pull it off.

[image, and the excerpt from its caption there, are from Yahoo! News (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)]

(Conceived and executed by Ed Sedarbaum. This product conforms to official Patriot Act requirements: it's useless.)

What possible purpose is served by the government making an announcement that should totally distract, if not scare us to death? Hmm.

[the image caption is from the artist himself]

the latest (last?) proposal for Larry Silverstein's new World trade Center cock

If there's more of it to be made, money really does always win in New York, so I really wanted to stay out of this thing, and recently I told myself I don't care what happens to that damn vacant lot, but what they've come up with is just too outrageous, and if they carry it through we're all going to have to live with it, on a big, noisy, obsessive scale which will make the original WTC site seem like an anonymous Staten Island mini-mall. It's a Jackalope, it's an abomination, it's an outrage for New Yorkers, a betrayal of trust, and an assault on good sense and every aesthetic sensibility.

We can't let them get away with this.

The NYTimes editorial board and their very strange architecture critic, Herbert Muschamp, seem to be crazy about this monstrous* "Freedom Tower" stuck in Liebeskind's office park. Didn't they do enough damage in Columbus Circle? I'm scared.

* I call it "monstrous" for its hideousness, and not for its size, to which I have no objection. I note that its designers and backers don't even have the courage of their own pretensions, since only 60 floors are actually to be occupied. The rest of the height of this building which will replace a World Trade Center is a phallic conceit they hope to make respectable with narrow patriotic references, and an expedient "green" gimmick unlikely to make the final cut.

As long as we're talking marriage and stuff, let me talk about Hillary, or rather let me report the noble Michelangelo Signorile talking about Hillary. Last week Signorile very efficiently answered a reader who was unable to reconcile New York's junior senator's very public statement's opposing gay marriage with what many people imagine to be her private opinions.

It honestly doesn’t matter what Hillary Clinton really thinks, since, on the record, she is opposed to same-sex marriage, end of story. To cut her any slack because she might truly have no problem with same-sex marriage but is being politically pragmatic would be no different than cutting George W. Bush slack for having gay friends yet supporting sodomy laws or the federal marriage amendment because he has to pander to the religious right.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m in no way comparing Bush to Hillary, and she is light years ahead of him on gay civil rights. But politicians should only get points from us for what they’re willing to expend, not what they truly believe but don’t act on. In fact, they should get points deducted for not following through on their convictions.

I agree that Hillary’s opposition to same-sex marriage seems totally insincere. And I don’t believe for a minute that Bill Clinton believed in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—but he signed it nonetheless. It’s an annoying, sometimes enraging aspect of the Clintons, where they wimp out just when it really matters. And in the end, it usually turns out that they could have taken the chance with no repercussions. Does anyone really believe, in hindsight, that Bill Clinton would have suffered if he didn’t sign DOMA? If Hillary Clinton were truly a leader among the Democrats, as you describe her, she would be moving them on this issue. She has a lot of admirable traits, and she can count me as a fan in many respects. I also accept political pragmatism; sometimes it’s the way you have to go. But no, it doesn’t comfort me to imagine that Hillary does support same-sex marriage but is lying and in the process passing religious judgment—“It’s traditionally been between one man and one woman”—on us. And it shouldn’t comfort you either.

Lest I myself be accused of fomenting a one-note anti-Hillary campaign, can I remind all of us that she voted for the Patriot Act and the Iraq War resolution? Moreover, her responsibility, which her husband must share, for the failure of health care reform during President Clinton's administration is almost as profound as that of the drug and insurance lobby.

I'm sorry, I can see absolutely no reason for her popularity with any groups or individuals today, just as I still cannot understand why she was once so viciously demonized when she was the wife of a governor and later of a president.


I'd vote for absolutely any donkey in sight if doing so would get rid of the missile-in-a-horse's-ass sitting in the White house now, but there's only one Democrat in the race I could support absolutely without any hesitation.

Dennis Kucinich appears to be so good it's a little scary.

I'll try to explain, and I'll make it short and to the point, by pointing to Paul Schindler's account [in an issue of Gay City News not yet on line] of Kucinich's December 7 appearance before a group of Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats (GLID).

In his presentation in New York's Lesbian and Gay Communtiy Center, Kucinich focused on only three subjects, same-sex marriage, healthcare and the war in Iraq, but both his choice of issues and the positions he outlined for himself were far bolder than what we have come to expect from any candidate for national office.

He declared unequivocal support for equal same-sex marriage rights, and is the only candidate to do so. He told Schindler: "The idea of being fearful of this issue, running away from it because you think George Bush is going to use it as a wedge issue - the pursuit of the White House should not for the faint of heart."

He distinguished his own position on health care from each of the other "leading" candidates by saying that while they favor incremental change to the existing chaos [my noun] he favors Canadian-style, single-payer universal coverage. Kucinich told the GLID assembly, "Insurance companies do not make money providing health care, they make money not providing health care. Most people ask, my God, how are you going to pay for that? Well you know what - we're already paying for it."

Speaking to Gay City News after his speech, Kucinich said he is the only candidate with "a plan to end the occupation of Iraq. . . . It's one thing to say you were against the war. But you know if it was wrong to go in, it is wrong to stay in." The Ohio Congressman pointed to his website, which the article reports, "details a plan for bringing U.S. troops home within 90 days of winning a United Nations resolution for sharing the burden of restabilizing Iraq."

For more on his platform, including detail on these and some 60-odd other issues, see his website.

I don't think a progressive could even invent this guy. He seems too good to be true, and, in doing a pretty good job of ignoring him, the nation's going to see to it that it never will be true.

[Photo by Eric Rife]

Lysistrata Defending The Acropolis

We have no "security" and we won't be "secured".

Last week we found out that the great and generous non-profit gallery space, White Box, is planning an important "political" show concurrent with the Republican National Convention to be imposed on New York late this summer.

Our first reaction was, yeah, Juan, like all the bold shows you assemble which aren't political! Then I thought about just how specific and how useful the theme could be this time, because of the timing of course, but also the place! White Box is only about six blocks away from Madison Square Garden, which will be the scene of fascist rallies from August 30 until September 2, and it and many of the other Chelsea galleries are likely to be in a security lock-down zone.

A formal call will go out early in the year for proposals and submissions from artists. [I'll post the details here when I get them] The challenge should be as irresistable for artists as anticipating the sudden descent into Manhattan of antediluvian lowlife obscurants is for activists generally.

For the honor of New York, if not that of the entire human species, I hope both the performing and visual art worlds really work the theme this summer, but I'm thinking especially of hot "destination" galleries all over the city. What I'd really like to see is Republican delegates' wives go gallery hopping during slow afternoons and then head straight back to their hotels to lock their blackguard husbands out - or report them as the terrorists they are.

[Aubrey Beardsley image from House of Pain]

West 27th Street, December 12, 2003

Scott Hug entertains in the game room

Scott Hug's wonderworld curatorial set, "Attack--The Kult K48 Klubhouse," originally scheduled to be struck yesterday, will remain in the Deitch Projects space in Williamsburg through Saturday. Yea!

He's done it again.

It's another incredible trip through a bold, irreverent new world of creativity which is still only barely understood even by scribes and gallerists who make emerging art their business.

Scott's created an incredible environment related in one way or another to the idea or practice of cults and Kults, and he and the other artists have divided it into microworlds, but the gods are also in the details of individual works. You'll need plenty of time, but you still won't be digesting it easily.

I can't begin to name favorites, since any list I would draw from this show would be totally arbitrary, if it didn't include every artist.

Only one small complaint: There's no checklist, although I'm not surprised, given the scale and complexity of the installation. Big compensation: You get to talk to Scott if you want to know more about individual works.

Don't miss the show no matter how you fit it in, but it's probably best to experience the Klubhouse twice, once while it's at rest, if it could ever appear to be at rest (afternoons), and once when it will be further amplified by partying and music this Wednesday and Thursday evening. Ask Scott for details, or see the Outlaw Series posting for Wednesday night's special amusements.

Hey, if B and I could wade through the slush and heavy rain in the dark yesterday, both of us with bad colds (with an East River crossing detour via the E and G trains because the L was down), there's no real excuse for other curious fanatics to deny themselves in better weather. We're definitely going to check back ourselves.

The venue is a garage at 110 North 1st Street, between Wythe and Berry, just a few blocks south and west of the Bedford Street L stop. "Normal" hours are 12 until 6.

Scott's newest issue of his sensational glossy zine, K48-4, is now available at the space on North 1st and everywhere good cultish literature can be found, like St. Mark's Book Store, Other Music, Mondo Kim's, Dia Center for the Arts, Printed Matter, alife, The New Museum, MOMA Design Store, See Hear and Isa.

[our own helicopter makes no noise - oh, and it carries no bombs]

Late one night early last week I posted a brief mention that the next day I would be going to a meeting about New York's helicopter pestilence, so I owe this space at least some kind of report.

Helicopters love New York, even if New Yorkers don't love helicopters.

On December 9 I said that my concern was "our neighborhood's regular assault by low-flying and low-hovering helicopters." I had been invited by my very-excellent-indeed City Council member Chris Quinn to join her legislative aide Danielle DeCerbo at what I discovered was a regular meeting of what was called the "Manhattan Helicopter Task Force." I was surprised, and I suppose disappointed, to find that the group was not a recent creation, but was rather a bit long in the tooth. I was not surprised however to find that the problem was not limited to Chelsea, but that it plagued the entire borough and likely the whole city.

Does any of this mean that we can expect to get relief?

My short answer is no, and I should drop the discussion there. I think the situation is absolutely hopeless, although my pessimism may not be shared by everyone working on the problem. There were 30 people around a table in the office of the Manhattan Borough President, even if only some of them could be described as complainants. The rest were from offices of elected officials or were people who work in and for helicopter aviation. I believe I was the only just-plain-old-citizen present.

The longer answer to the question of relief would describe the obstacles I believe are insurmountable in today's political and economic world. Those obstacles include the facts that New York has an unworkable noise code, that New York City long ago decided on its own that anything to do with any aircraft over its territory was entirely a federal responsibility, that ordinary tour companies are still permitted to contract for Manhattan overflights and will continue to be able to do so even when they can't take off from Manhattan heliports, that there are dozens of commercial "news" company helicopters whose patrol area is New York, that corporate demand for the prestige and convenience which helicopters can offer in a city which refuses to deal with its increasingly crippling automobile traffic is growing and is likely to explode, that the police are more and more attracted to sexy helicopter patrols, that any helicopters or other planes operating below 2000 feet are not in "controlled airspace" [that regulated by FAA traffic controllers at area airports] and are therefore free to use their own judgment in deciding what flying height, even down to rooftop or ground level, is safe or appropriate, that only Congress can regulate altitude rules in New York City or anywhere else, and finally and most devastating, that at any one time there are between 40 and 50 helicopters in the immediate New York area whose dedicated role is "security," making them unanswerable to any reponsible party. Those "security" craft are incidently totally unidentifiable and cannot be traced by anyone, or by any agency which is not the Department of Homeland Security in Washington.

The moderator of the meeting, Rick Muller, Environmental/Transportation Policy Analyst in C. Virginia Fields's office, may only have been reflecting the sentiments of most Americans when he commented sadly, in the context of statements suggesting that security trumps all, "Post 9/11 it's a diffferent world." But what he is really describing is the death of representative government, since agencies not responsible to either the electing or the elected can initiate or veto every action the nation takes, at any level of government and regardless of scale. In the end we will be neither free nor secure. It is up to a free people to decide how much and what kind of security it will contract for; the final decision cannot be left to the salesman, even if he's wearing a uniform.

If 40 or 50 helicopters is what gives us security, an insurgency in Iraq should not be possible today.

FOOTNOTE: Since September 11 there is one U.S. city not burdened in the least by low-flying aircraft, other than those assigned to "security," and that city is Washington, D.C. "Washington is [now always, totally] shut down," announced the FAA representative at the meeting in the Municipal Building on Tuesday. He added that New York airspace is also totally shut down whenever the President is here.

[the helicopter was found at Wallspace, in "The Holiday Shopping Show II," where there are more, as well as many other wonderful inexpensive artist works: Koji Shimizu, Fluffy Green 2003, satin with polyester stuffing, ed. 7/10]

Shaking Hands: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983 [in the midst of the war begun in 1980, when Iraq attacked Iran]. (video clip still)

Hussein now as good as dead? If we think about it for a second, we can see that's not a good thing for "freedom." [since Bush, we have to put the word in quotation marks]

First, let's see, what do we know for sure about the Iraqi dictator's sudden reappearance?

There seems little reason to doubt that Saddam Hussein is in Iraq and currently in the custody of its American owners. Everything else being reported should be subject to the most intense scrutiny.

What we do know, those of us who have kept abreast of the story from the beginning, is that it isn't in the interest of anyone in power in the U.S., Britain, or just about any other nation, and not excluding the paper governing committee we have installed in Iraq, to see him actually put on trial. Any legitimate, fair trial would permit Hussein to speak in his defense. Every one of his current enemies has been compromised by contacts, agreements, support and conspiracies which stretch back 30 years, many continuing even until only months before the hostilities which began in March.

From Bloggy, writing about our own government's relationship to the man we now describe as a monster:

Are they going to allow his defense to bring up things like the fact we provided satellite intelligence to him when he was gassing Iranians and others during the Iraq/Iraq war, or that Rumsfeld was happy to meet with him during that time? I doubt it.
There will of course be no fair trial. There may in fact be no trial at all.

At least one blogger has suggested that there's a possibility that the former dictator has actually been in U.S. custody for some time. Then why weren't we told about it?

Easy. Early reports describe the captured Hussein as appearing bewildered, disoriented, perhaps in some kind of stupor, even "broken." The circumstances of his discovery and arrest were anything but public. It all happened under cover of darkness, and the 600 troops which were part of the task force did not know the nature of the operation. Could the events of Saturday night have been an invention? But to what end?

I'm sure many hypotheses might be advanced, but my own should appeal to more than just those who revel in conspiracy theories. I think Saddam Hussein may have been captured some time ago, and the reason we are only hearing about it now, the reason it is being described as if it had just happened is that his captors first needed some time with him in private. I think there's a good chance he's now been "modified."

Ok, too fantastic? Perhaps, especially since the same purpose would be served if Hussein didn't get to testify in the first place. Any number of people could be found to see that he was murdered first, but maybe it would be neater if he managed to die of some unfortunate medical condition. No matter how the arrangements are handled, we're never going to hear what he has to say.

So in fact his life is already over. Only the details have to be worked out.

How did we get to the point where we could imagine the very worst in the conduct of our own goverment? In fact I think we now can actually expect the very worst.

And I think this means it's all over.

[image and caption from George Washington University, The National Security Archive]

Collier Schorr, Jens im Weizen (Topless) 2000
c-print 55 x 37 inches

We went to a benefit for the New Festival two nights ago. It was essentially a silent auction of nearly a hundred items related, directly or remotely, to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered film.

A few items, paintings and photographs, would have been standouts even in a benefit specifically oriented to the visual arts. They were of extrordinary quality.

In the midst of the minor chaos of the competition, Barry and I quicky zeroed-in on two items. I think we were successful with both because our interest in those pieces was not shared by other males in the room, and the lesbians present may have been too impecunious, in spite of the great personal style of a number of the women there.

One prize was a new history tome titled, "Entertaining Lesbians," by Martha Gever accompanied by a unique, hand-assembled photo album memorializing a pioneer female Hollywood director, Dorothy Arzner. The other catch was a wonderful example of the confounding art of Collier Schorr, whose photographs usually portray young males in a way which discomforts even those who would normally be attracted to them. This image was different. The small color print portrayed two affectionate young lesbians who could easily be mistaken for boys. In fact one member of the Festival staff insisted that they were male. Even after he was shown the title of the image I think he still had his doubts. The title? Karin & Michelle, Bismark Kassern 1998-2000

Arzner was a lesbian, a very successful director and later a film academic whose students incuded Francis Ford Coppola. Schorr is something like a gay man in a woman's body. Although I have a curious, remote connection with Arzner through a visit I made to Coppola's Rome apartment in 1961, neither B nor I is yet acquainted with her films. That's obviously going to be remedied soon, thanks to NETFLIX.* We've both admired Schorr for years, even before the wonderful show of her own "stuff" (not her work) which she curated at Apex.

Our thanks to the New Festival and everyone who went home happy that night.

* [later the same day] Oops. I placed too much confidence in our suppliers - or their suppliers. Barry just checked, and found that none of her films are available on DVD, although some are available on tape.

[image from 303 Gallery]


Zowie! It's 12:30 already! Gotta get to bed early, since tomorrow morning at dawn [10 am in C. Virginia Fields's office downtown] I have to talk about our neighborhood's regular assault by low-flying and low-hovering helicopters.

Is it Donald Trump, network news, traffic reports for the burgs and the burbs, or spyships?

More about it here tomorrow, especially if the meeting turns out either productive or disastrous.

[image from]

the first ACT UP demonstration, March 24, 1987

"Fight Back, Fight AIDS: 15 Years of ACT UP", the documentary by James Wentzy which first shown last November in New York at MIX 2002 and at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, will be screened this Monday at Two Boots Pioneer Theater in the East Village.

Over a year ago I wrote that Wentzy was [South] Dakota's [more ethical] answer to Leni Riefenstahl, adding later, in November 2002:

The ACT UP documentary was beautiful, but for all the evidence of the success of the activism it records, the reminders of how little has changed in the world in fifteen years is a horrible concomitance. Bush, war in the middle east, health care, drug company profiteering, oil, greed and stupidity. There were also the images of so many activists whose lives were destroyed at the height of their beauty and their powers. I would not have missed this screening for anything, but it was a melancholy, if not terrifying, experience, and one which an intelligent and generous world could have prevented.
Oh, just go next Monday. The time is right. Even Berlin thought it was important, the NYTimes still thinks ACT UP-style and substance is important, as is suggested by Jesse Green's Sunday magazine piece yesterday, the Ford Foundation is now throwing big money into a very important ACT UP oral history project, and a viewing now should be a good spark for the activism we all should be planning for a face-off with the Republican convention in New York next summer. It's important.

All ticket sales benefit ACT UP/New York.


Monday, December 15th, at 7 pm
Two Boots Pioneer Theater
155 East 3rd Street at Ave. A

[image from ACT UP/New York's "Actions" file, where you can view other documentation]

We had every intention of making it three days in a row, but we stayed inside out of the storm today. Our unusual homebody status was established mostly through reports that the streets linking the artists of the weekend's Long Island City "Open Studios" event were unplowed, but we had some catching-up to do around our imaginary hearth, so we may only have been looking for a convenient excuse.

On Friday we trekked to Brooklyn for a performance at BAM of John Adams's "The Death of Klinghoffer". No machine guns or bombs, thank goodness [the metal detectors we're all now taking for granted surely must have saved the evening - may the devil not take this new America!], but there was still a lot of snow and wind.

Something was missing from this performance, but I have no idea what it was. I've now seen "Klinghoffer" three times. We have the beautiful CD and it never collects any dust on the shelf. For the first time, I was not moved upon hearing the music and Alice Goodman's sensitive libretto. Much of the time the evening seemed to crawl. Maybe the busy Mark Morris choreography I found so annoying in its New York premier over ten years ago, missing last night, made all the difference, but the Ridge Theater Company's minimal staging of the current production was certainly very beautiful.

For a real review, see Felix Salmon.

We ducked across the street in the swirl of a real nor'easter, into the warmth of Thomas Beisl, a very comfortable and very real Viennese restaurant/conditorei (ok, bistro). I ordered the esoteric Sulze appetizer , but the beautiful Hungarian waitress didn't bat an eye. We could have been at Freud's own Stammtisch. I sat facing a window which framed a view of the magnificent storm. The driving snow, dramatically lighted by street lamps, only partially obscured Vic Muniz's fanciful gingerbread house image painted on the canvas still covering the scaffolding on the facade of the Opera House. Wow.

On Saturday we bundled-up again and tramped around west Chelsea mostly visiting those galleries which had shows we knew were about to close. The storm continued all day, and eventually into the night. There were a few other souls about, but we shocked the galleristas in several spaces when we walked through their doors, and the only place we found the kind of crowd we'd normally expect on a weekend was LFL Gallery, where the collaborative PFFR was about to break camp. Lots of fun for the entire family there. We bought some more souvenirs, a video and a CD, having grabbed a small drawing on an earlier raid.

For more on our Saturday afternoon adventures, see Bloggy.

That evening, after a brief stop home for a cappucino and half of a cinnamon pastry each, we headed back into the wind and snow on a return to "Breukelyn," this time to the granite-block streets under the Manhattan Bridge, for a benefit for the D.U.M.B.O. Arts Center Winter Auction.

We were delighted to be able to bring home two great pieces, a small painting by Johathan Podwil and a large drawing by Fritz Chesnut.

We had been afraid that the place might be mostly empty, because of the storm, but were [almost selflessly] delighted to see we had the decent bidding competition of a very good size crowd. Obviously we weren't the only fanatics not easily discouraged by the elements. Less than is sometimes the case at these events, there was no heavy anxiety and no trampling of competing bidders, just good food and wine, and lots of laughter and smiles. Folks at the party, guests, artists and patrons, were all in a festive mood. Some of that must have been the snow, the rest the great vibe of this very interesting, and "developing" neighborhood of artists and . . . others.

Jonathan Podwil, Huey, 2000
oil on paper, 5 1/8" x 10"

Fritz Chesnut, Total Request Live/J. Lo #1, 2001
graphite on paper, 24" x 18"

UPDATE December 11: For a full c.v., and more still and video images of Jonathan Podwil, see his own site.

Near ecstasy

[the image is of our wonderful new Fritz Chesnut drawing, before it was unwrapped today]

just outside the window, early this afternoon


Hieronymus Bosch, Ship of Fools

I still think I was right. There is nothing more damning than the facts, but the NYTimes editorial department must have had fun with this one, and their product shows it.

I wouldn't want anyone to miss its bravura, so here it is in its entirety.

Bobbing Aloof From the Apple

New York's landlubbers find it more ludicrous than insulting that Tom DeLay, the majority leader of the House of Representatives, may offer to house hundreds of solons, fat-cat donors and lobbyists in a luxury cruise ship off the Manhattan shore during next summer's Republican National Convention. If he prevails over growing G.O.P. embarrassment at such a floating symbol of gated plutocracy, we urge Mr. DeLay to forgo any "Master and Commander" regalia he may have in mind. Instead, the flinty Texan should borrow Nathan Detroit's double-breasted pinstripes to come ashore from the newest established permanent floating avoidance game in New York.

At the rate he is going, Mr. DeLay will steal the show from President Bush — in ways the Republicans may regret. His plan to have a children's charity help underwrite the expenses for convention galas and provide a tax-free spot for major donors to deposit their cash is controversial enough. But having some of the G.O.P.'s best and richest walk a gangplank to and from the city each day has just the hint of xenophobia that already finds Democrats dancing in the streets. The Republicans made much of their decision to hold the convention in Democrat-heavy New York, in no small part as a gesture toward the city's perseverance after 9/11. Mayor Michael Bloomberg welcomed the custom for the city's hotels, restaurants and nightspots. But Mr. DeLay's former chief of staff has been lobbying for the mass embarkation to the Norwegian Dawn, a 15-deck, 14-bar, 10-restaurant ship offering ultrapriced rooms and what Mr. DeLay's office deems "good security" for up to 2,200 passengers.

What is the normally bold Texan afraid of? The ghosts of squeegee beggars? Pedestrian Democrats? There are scores of thousands of fine hotel rooms available for a closer sense of the city. We urge Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg to show some hometown clout in demanding that conventioneers be firmly housed. True, both parties can't help reaching for touches of skybox Babbittry for their conventions. But going offshore is going too far in New York.

[image via Brad McCormick]

Boys at war

The caption which accompanies this photo from the current Yahoo News slideshow reads:

Two US soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of the 173 Airborne Brigade take position next a group of Iraqi youths during a massive raid in Hawijah, 45 kilometres (nearly 30 miles) west of Iraq's northern oil center of Kirkuk.(AFP/Mauricio Lima)

[from the look of it, in this case the photographer probably agreed with the Iraqi youths' estimate of the danger]

Here it is, "World AIDS Day" and all I can think of posting here is a story about health insurance. Well, unfortunately every day is a day with AIDS in this world, thanks to criminal disregard which began almost 25 years ago and which continues, little abated, today.

And, if posting this bit of information can help even a handful of people, it will have proved to be something other than just another AIDS day.

Barry has the information on his own site about a new ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) plan which offers to pay for health insurance for New Yorkers (the whole state) who are HIV+ and something less than rich.

It's a win-win deal.

Spread the word.

[thanks, Karen!]

Bedford Avenue L platform, Williamsburg

This mysterious, newly-installed, booth, which sits in the middle of the platform, confounding safe passage for actual people, was deserted last night, as it has been every time I have passed around it.

Raymone J. Pettine, federal judge in Rhode Island from 1966 until 1996, died on November 17.

The NYTimes obituary in today's editions cites his landmark rulings from the bench supporting humane prison conditions, civil liberties for individuals, equal rights for women and girls, the separation of church and state, free speech and abortion rights.

At least one of his judgments attracted attention all across the country:

In 1980, he ruled that a gay student had the right to take a male escort to the prom. The student had filed suit after the principal denied his request for the date.

"To rule otherwise would completely subvert free speech by granting other students a `heckler's veto,' " Judge Pettine wrote. "The First Amendment does not tolerate mob rule by unruly schoolchildren."

On this and other issues the jurist was an independent mind, independent above all of his own church.
"He truly was one of the most devout Catholics I have known," said his daughter, Lydia Gillespie. "But he was able to separate his beliefs from the dictates of the Constitution."
Judge Raymond J. Pettine (it was always the full name) was a very big man produced by a very small state. Throughout most of the twenty years I lived in the wonderland called "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" blessed with this good man, his name was regularly broadcast throughout the entire region. To this day, even after almost another two decades away from what were my own Newport and Providence plantings, if I think of the Providence Journal-Bulletin or WPRO the letters or the sound of "Raymond J. Pettine" somehow crowd or shout anything else which might be stored in my memory.

In the early days, his was a voice crying out in the wilderness, just about the only voice. Today Rhode Island is another place, largely because of this man and those he inspired.

One of his colleagues remembers a great jurist with this surprising encomium:

"He was one of the great romantic [my italics] judges," said Burt Neuborne, a New York University law professor who as an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer brought a series of cases before Judge Pettine in the early 1970's.

Mr. Neuborne added that Judge Pettine was among the judges who had a "grand conception" of "what the possibilities of American justice were and what their role was in helping achieve individual liberty and equality."

Pettine was born on America Street on Federal Hill, Providence's "little Italy" in 1912, and it's still a healthy Italian neighborhood today. As judge for the federal district, he lived in a comfortable old yankee mansion on Angell Street, very much the other side of town. Now that's romantic.

Here is more on Pettine's take on religion and the state, this from the Providence Journal November 18 notice:

In 1993, looking back on his years on the bench, Pettine said: "In all God's truth I must say, it is an awesome privilege to be a judge."

But it was a privilege that exacted a price. When Pettine, a practicing Roman Catholic, ruled against the Nativity scene, The Providence Journal-Bulletin printed a full page of letters, overwhelmingly opposing the decision.

"I could never understand why so many Catholic people held the Nativity case against me. And they really did, believe me when I tell you; I got some very, very vicious correspondence. Vicious correspondence."

Feelings grew so tense that Pettine stopped attending his church, St. Sebastian, and went to Mass at the Franciscan chapel on Weybosset Street.

On a personal level, Pettine said he didn't see how a Catholic could support the Nativity display in the first place. "You know, the birth of Christ is something that stands alone, and they just trivialized this in the way they wanted to display it.

"Then, as far as the law is concerned," he said, "I firmly believe this with great conviction: that there has to be a separation between church and state -- that one of the saving graces of this country is the fact that we are tolerant of all religions, and even of those who have no religion [my italics]. And if we start breaking that down, we are going to be in an awful lot of trouble."

Judge Raymond J. Pettine was a liberal, a breed which, if not quite extinct, lives pretty closeted in the new America.

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