November 2004 Archives

I just learned that the donuts I love to hate are more distasteful than I had thought.

Krispy Kreme* contributed $90,260 to the Republican Party and only $1,842 to the Democratic Party during the 2003-2004 election cycle, according to data assembled by the creators of a new (and very interesting) website, Choose The Blue, designed to help consumers identify the politics of the corporations whose products and services they patronize.

So not only are these donuts bad for their patrons' health and bad for at least one of the communities in which a plant/store is located, but they subsidize the regime which threatens the nation and the world.

But maybe the relationship is about to come apart. Yesterday's donut star is also in trouble and even their Republican friends may not be able to bail them out.

The corporation's earnings are sharply down, the result, according to the NYTimes, of "slipping sales and underperforming franchise operations."

The disappointing news is the latest in a string of troubles for Krispy Kreme. It is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for the aggressive manner in which it accounted for franchises that it bought back and for the prices paid for some of these franchises. Last month, the investigation was upgraded to a formal inquiry.

This year, the company's stock, which once traded as high as $50, has been in free fall.

But what do I know about this financial esoterica? I admit that my relationship with the un-donut company is on a personal level, and it bagan just after they first opened a New York location. I tasted their incredibly-hyped product and found that I really hated it. For this kind of sugar and fat, if I'm going to support a chain store, I'd rather follow the example of the gentleman in the picture at the bottom of my previous post: He's licking a cone just purchased at the neat little Ben & Jerry's shop to the right of the Krispy Kreme. Now there's a politically-wholesome treat I could support!

* According to Choose The Blue, "Corporate totals are based on donations from PACs, employees, subsidiaries and affiliates for the 2003-2004 election cycle."

[thanks to Barry for the Choose The Blue site tip]

donut detritus

What is it they say about sausage making? Along lines of the same argument, I think Chelsea's Krispy Kreme fans should stay clear of their favorite donut haunt on the nights the raw materials are dumped on West 23rd Street. Tons of large bags of flour and sugar are stacked across the sidewalk until workers manage to drag into the machinery at the rear of the shop that which hasn't already spilled onto the pavement. The piles are scary and the residue isn't pretty - especially if it's raining.

I'm sensitive to the intrusiveness of this little manufactory/shop because of its large impact on myself and my neighbors, all of whom, regardless of our taste in donuts, prefer not to live in apartments which are permeated with the sweet smell of yeast and sugar. Many of these same neighbors labor in love for most of the year on a beautiful common garden where the overpowering smell of donuts has regularly displaced the scent of Phlox, Nicotiana and Roses.

But above all I am keenly aware that in a city where most of us travel on foot most of the time, ordinary inconveniences ignored by most pedestrians actually present huge, often dangerous, obstacles for many others. All of us should be able to expect uncluttered sidewalks whether or not we are personally free of any disabilities.

donut dough

Kalup Linzy, still from Ride to Da Club (2002) 5 minute dvd

The title of the show is "MOMMY, I'M! NOT! AN! ANIMAL!" The Sex Pistols? Even after seeing the installation at CAPSULE gallery, I'm not sure how it computes. If there was a press release on the desk, I guess I forgot to pick one up. I've decided I can do without the information for now, since even unenlightened by anyone's notes I think it's a damned good collection. The curator is the brilliant and very generous artist Andrew Gunther.*

You won't find much of anything on the gallery's website, so you'll have to take these pictures and/or my word for it. Oh, yes, there is this short blurb on

Curated by artist Andrew Guenther, the show explores the idea of influence through semi-autobiographical work -- paintings made of tar, a transcendental preparation room, a portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt made of yarn and sculpey with bobcat eyes, a flag monument in honor of those who have lost their lives in the battle for the environment, letter enigmas, a primal rock and psychedelic ink journeys that pit nature against nurture. Two of the artists in the exhibition are tattoo artists, who mark the world around them through people wearing their work. At the opening, video artist Kalup Linzy will lip synch in drag as Labisha (The Diva), in a hyperbolic homage based on the soap opera of everyday life.
I have to go back, but my fancy was immediately attracted by an incredible Kalup Linzy video from which the still at the top of this post is excerpted, the entire backroom installation by Justin Samson and Muffy Brandt, the two shiny packing tape-like abstractions of Mathew Abbott, and Joseph Ari Aloi's fourteen gorgeous, almost compulsive, doodle-like (meant in the very best way) drawings massed on the east wall.

But I'm really, really sorry I missed that performance the opening night.

Justin Samson and Muffy Brandt Astral Projections, Aural Protection, and Transcendental Preparation (2004) in mixed media, found objects, painted wood, detail of installation

*see Perry Rubenstein's artist list, and click on Andrew Guenther; or check out the installation images on Brooklyn Fire Proof's site

Banks Violette, detail installation view of anthem (to future suicide), untitled (disappear) and hate them (single stage), moving from the rear to the front in this image

Ooooo. Another black and white show. But they never seem to be boring. For those who live in a world of color, what could be more abstract (read, "challenging") than black and white? TEAM [I love the gallery's motto inside their site description: "Team Gallery, a commerical art gallery dealing in work by emerging artists and the fringe of contemporary culture"] is currently showing, "the ice age," a show which includes work by Muntean/Rosenblum, Guillaume Pinard and Banks Violette.

All black and white, but not so easily read all over. I like that. The gallery's largest room is occupied by three large, severe, abstract sculptures, and one exquisite five-panel piece, "sunset (Ithaca)," comprising graphite drawings on paper. All of this is by Violette. While the work of the other artists shown in rooms and on walls which surround that space may offer a touch more of an anchor in what many call "reality," in the end each of these also ends up spinning its elegant concept into more obscure realms.

There are two beautiful video-based works, by the collaborative Muntean/Rosenblum and by Pinard, occupying the two rooms in the rear. "Never Facts that Tell," the Viennese collaborative's digital projection of a great world emptied and reduced to an enormous landfill would be achingly beautiful even without the music which accompanies its hooded figures, excerpts from Vivaldi's 1726 opera, "Il Farnace."

The imagery in Pinaud's projection, "Monk," essentially a static Flash animation, is also fortunate in its soundtrack, this time almost fully abstracted.

Pinaud's drawings take over every other wall in the gallery. Although they might be described as cartoons, they remind us that the genre didn't begin, and won't end, with Disney or Merrie Melodies. These are some very heavy images; they don't try for cute and cuddly.

[image from TEAM Gallery]

Kim Fisher Corundum (Saphire Gray Scale) (2004) oil on linen 84" x 68"

Kim Fisher Padparadscha 40 (2004) oil on linen 90" x 71"

Minimalism, a little ragged on the edges - and sometimes elsewhere. I liked the small show of large paintings by Kim Fisher at John Connelly, much more than I was prepared to. I thought I wanted to resist their appeal, I guess because it seemed too easy, but these abstractions really stick.

All my life I've been obsessed with minimalism, beginning well over 50 years ago (even before I jumped at the chance to simplify further the already-pretty-simple face of a gift watch after its disastrous encounter with too much moisture). The only thing which has changed is my ability to live with and eventually totally embrace the imperfection, messiness and glorious complexity of the world whose perceived ugliness drove me to the minimalist camp to begin with. Fisher's work seems to have survived the same odyssey.

our own moment on the [silent] screen, included here in an installation view of Morgan Fisher's Silent 1.33:1 (2004) mirrored glass

Just in time for the holiday movie crush, Greene Naftali has installed a show for people who aren't content with the passive conventions of film buffery. The first solo exhibition of work by Morgan Fisher first brings the viewer onto the screen itself and then invites him or her, now as audience, to think about the norms of the visual devices which allow us to through read a film's story.

The Angelika just can't do this sort of thing.

From the gallery's press release:

Fisher will present an installation of inscribed mirrors as well as a 16mm film titled ( ). The mirrors are in the proportions of motion picture images ranging from those of the silent period to the present, with the name and ratio of each format sand-blasted onto the surface. The film, titled ( ), appropriates black and white and color footage to create a non-narrative sequence of chance juxtapositions.

store-bought cut celery

Overheard from the loudspeakers at our neighborhood Whole Foods this afternoon, clearly audible above the sounds of colliding shopping carts being pushed by harried people with long shopping lists, [almost] all prepared for elaborate home-cooked feasts tomorrow:

". . . calling the lady who wanted the cut celery, . . . calling the lady who wanted the cut celery; your cut celery is ready at customer service . . . ."
I looked around and caught the attention of the store's excellent produce department's wise sage. He rolled his eyes upward. I smiled at this discreet admission of his dismay, and I shrugged my shoulders in an acknowledgment of its source.

For the sake of the other guests at the Thanksgiving meal she certainly will be sharing, I hope she doesn't have any more complicated assignments.

When I told Barry about the announcement he had an immediate explanation for the woman's strange request. "Maybe she didn't have time to cut it and still put the Cheez Wiz in it."

[image from ClubChef]

Louise Lawler, detail view of installation

A visit today to the Metro Pictures show, "Looking Forward," was an excellent tonic after the somewhat over-the-top week which saw the opening of the new MoMA.

Lawler's subject, and obsession, remains the ordinariness of the awesome, specifically, the low materials of the high mysteries which end up in our great shrines and temples of art. On 24th Street today her installation described works of art, mostly iconic, as they appear while in the process of some kind of transition - images the unannointed acolyte never sees. But she is not a mere documentarian. Her art leaves us with an understanding of both the processes and the products of the institutions which elevate these works, and which their formal display could never provide.

Besides, her own processes and products are themselves as beautiful as they are smart.

Louise Lawler Big (2002-2003) cibachrome mounted on museum box 52.8" x 46.5"

[image at the top undocumented for now; second image from Metro Pictures]

untitled (Chelsea roofs, October 15, 4 pm) 2004

Limborg brothers Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry: Novembre (1412-16)

Barry has now set up ArtCal, a way-cool art openings/events calendar, and it's linked on the left side of both his site and mine, where it's easily downloaded and printed.

It is a very subjective list of gallery shows up in New York at any given moment, and right now it includes, also subjectively, information about shows which open in the next few days. Still to follow will be the iCal and RSS feeds, offering even more convenience to art fans who want to plan ahead.

[image from The Web Gallery of Art]


one of my favorite "discoveries" today: David Hammons's High Falutin' (1990) in the Contemporary galleries, with Barry contemplating its delights

We were there about two and a half hours, had a few croissants, a sip of coffee and a bit of mineral water (there were a number of white linen-covered catering stations, and even small tables and chairs, always within easy reach throughout the six floors of galleries) on our Members visit to the "new" Museum of Modern Art this afternoon.

I liked the easy access to refreshments and the contemplative moments which went along with enjoying them while we could hang out in the gallery spaces, but all of that will disappear after this week. What will remain are the new museum spaces and yes, a few restaurants (not yet opened) which will be assigned their own rooms.

There's more space.

skylight, with lots of lines

There's also more natural light, more views, of the stuff both inside and outside. The building is still sandwiched between 53rd and 54th Street west of 5th Avenue, but it's now spread out on a much wider footprint. The facade of the original 1939 building has been uncovered/restored and at least one of its interior spaces is still recognizable in the S-curve of a stair landing and its black terrazzo staircase. The old main entrance however, with its curved stainless steel marquee, will now serve an elegant restaurant, "The Modern," and not happy pilgrims entering New York's oldest major shrine to modernism.

the 1939 entrance, soon to be a restaurant

There are lots of neat lines (all of them very crisp indeed) including a few very good sightlines. But no, contrary to the hype, neither the lines nor the idea of the architecture itself really disappears, even in those rooms where the art is hung comfortably cheek by jowl.

That architecture looks, well, old-fashioned. Eeegads!

Why do we have to spend half a billion dollars to construct a new building which nobody is supposed to notice? Why should it cost $425,000,000 in order to seem not of our own time, not too contemporary, just because we need more room to display more modern art, some of which as I understand it, is still supposed to be contemporary art, art of our own time? Actually, maybe the trustees wanted to build something which could be identified with the chronological mid-point of the collection as it now exists, the art and architecture of the "median era," but if that is the case, why not acquire a real mid-twentieth-century building and refit its interior to display the magnificent collection of the Modern in a context with real integrity?

This evening Barry recalled the extraordinary success of the conversions for modern museum spaces we had seen in Vienna. We have the equivalent of the Austrian Imperial stables right here; there are buildings all over New York begging to be brought back to life. I'm afraid this new architectural mediocrity, no matter how much its details are described as exquisite, will turn out to be at least a little embarassing for a city which used to know how to do these things so well.

The building we got is awfully Park Avenue - 50's and 60's Park Avenue - and so it is without the integrity which is the minimum which we should expect of a building which reflects its own time. I went to the new MoMA today after reading the previews written by those who are supposed to have the educated and aesthetic judgement which can critique as complicated a project as that just completed in Midtown. I told a number of people that I expected to be delighted, okay, at least clearly pleased, even if I did not expect to be overwhelmed.

But after experiencing the architecture first hand, doing for the Museum what it is supposed to do, I simply don't have any strong feelings at all. I'm not used to being without any aesthetic sentiments, perhaps most of all when it comes to architecture, so I'm not certain, but right now I think I'm just indifferent to this building.

I really don't know what to say. I feel post-coital without ever having enjoyed a coital.

my own little protest buttons went virtually unnoticed, except by one of the caterers, who agreed with their message enthusiastically and spoke movingly of the burden the price presented for "working class" families

If I'm indifferent about the building at the moment, I'm left with one at least one strong impression, even if it's one which I brought with me when I left for the Museum today. The $20 admission fee is appalling, if not just plain immoral. All of the arguments about the price have been raised better and more dramatically elsewhere than I can here, but the fact remains that the exclusivity represented by the decision to raise the fee to a level which makes regular access to modern art almost inaccessible to just about anyone not already more or less in the club is simply unconscionable.

In the end I did leave with one negative impression I hadn't brought into the building with me, and I don't think it's a criticism which should shake the Olympians in the trustees room. In fact, accomodating it would please just about everyone: There just aren't enough benches in the middle of those huge rooms. If it's worth looking at, it's worth looking at for a while, and that sometimes means sitting with it for a bit, especially after spending that twenty dollars.

On the sixth floor only the James Rosenquist gets to rest

But go look for yourself, and when you've saved up some more money, go back again. It's a clean, well-lighted space. They haven't wrecked the art; in fact most of it looks better than ever, so some people will be happy enough. I'll be back too, especially since Members don't pay per visit, but yesterday's experience mostly makes me just want to go back to visiting the often-struggling little private and public gallery spaces I've been haunting all along. I hope to see you there too.

Sentencing of the four remaining M26 defendents, until now scheduled for November 18, this Thursday, has been stayed pending the New York State Court of Appeals decision on whether or not it will review the unsealing of their older dismissed cases. This means that unless there is a last minute change there will not be any significant activity in court this week other than an announcement of the rescheduled date.

The defendents will know in four to eight weeks whether the Appeals Court will consider their petition. If the Court of Appeals agrees to review the petition, the defendents expect that sentencing will continue to be stayed in the interim. The review decision itself would not come until next string at the earliest.

If it decides not to review the petition, there will be no higher recourse and the D.A.'s sentencing memorandum will stand. They will be sentenced as Judge Stolz sees fit, which could mean anywhere from zero to 365 days in jail. If it decides in their favor, it will be, as Steve Quester writes, a great victory for the entire civil rights community in New York, and these defendents could be sentenced only with jail time effectively off the table altogether.

I will post more developments as they happen, including of course any and all future court dates.

Ah, how the sledge of justice does plod on.

He's gone. Colin Powell's finally gone, and under the most cowardly of circumstances, just slipping out the back door quietly to no good purpose, and not three years ago, not two years ago and ultimately not at any time before November 2, but instead only days after the apparently successful election campaign of the man for whose stupidity and insane belligerance he destroyed whatever reputation he may* have assembled years ago.

That same cowardice, in the line of his duty as Secretary of State, is responsible for the deaths of perhaps over a hundred thousand Americans and Iraqis.

Powell's legacy will, and not incidently, include his argument that the U.S. armed services couldn't (shouldn't?) be integrated - for homosexuals, that is. I'm sure however that he would have made the usual exception for times of war like the present, when they are needed for cannon fodder.

A very small man indeed.

*I'll leave it to others, who know much more than I do, to comment on Powell's early, very problematic career in the Viet Nam war (a Mai Lai cover-up is apparently only part of it) and in the Iran-Contra affair (coordinating the sale of missiles to Iran), and I'm sure they will.

[thanks to Elise Engler for the reminder about Powell's early days]

running throughChelsea.JPG
seen on the south side of West 24th Street, Saturday at 6 pm

We hit a number of Chelsea galleries this afternoon, but we were both more more relaxed, and better dressed for the weather, than this gentleman.

David Wojnarowicz untitled (1988-89) collage on masonite 39" x 32" detail

David could make the stones weep, but he could also make them scream. Last night we were welcomed by PPOW and Poets House to a tribute to the artist and writer David Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS complications in 1992. The evening was scheduled for one of the last days of the gallery's current show, "Out of Silence: Artworks with Original Text by David Wojnarowicz." Five writers, artists and activists read from his texts or delivered original work inspired by his art and his rage.

For someone who had met David and who had been familiar with and in awe of his power for twenty years, the most surprising thing about the evening was the description and engagement of the overflow crowd; most of the people in the room were too young to have known the man whose memory brought them together last night.

The young novelist and poet Douglas A. Martin read an excerpt from Wojnarowicz's powerful memoir, "Close to the Knives," the scene where the artist/poet describes an erotic encounter with a stranger inside his "salesman station wagon" parked off a deserted road somewhere in Arizona. This was more of a performance than a reading. David was in the room.

Douglas A. Martin inside David Wojnarowicz

His former lover, Tom Rauffenbart, reminded many in the room that David was not just an angry man. A child who loved life of all kinds, he never shut down an extraordinary curiosity which began very early. One of the works on display in the room was a black and white photographic print showing an obviously homemade biological specimen (certainly not dead from David's hand) in a jar on a windowsill. There was a text within the image, small white print in the lower right corner:

When I was a kid I went into the backyard and tried to
dig a hole to China with a shovel and a bucket. After an
entire afternoon I hadn't even left New Jersey
For more on David and the evening, see Bloggy.


"In Minnesota," this morning's NYTimes headline reads, "Flu Vaccines Go Waiting."

Setting aside the question of how we got into a situation where throughout the country this year there are only a fraction of the flu shots which should be available, how can we get a bigger supply of this kind of people?

In most places, people are clamoring for flu shots - waiting in lines, calling every clinic in town, even going to Canada. But in Minnesota, the opposite problem has emerged: even people considered most vulnerable are forgoing the shots so there will be enough left for others.

This puzzling reaction has left state health officials charmed, but also urging an estimated 1.6 million high-risk residents to be vaccinated.

Concerns about quality control at a vaccine plant in Britain led to a shortage of flu vaccine in the United States and led health officials to ask that shots be limited to those most susceptible to complications from the flu, including children younger than 2, adults older than 65 and the chronically ill.

But in Minnesota, officials said, more high-risk people are passing on the shots than in years past.

Ann Thiel, 88, of Inver Grove Heights, said she had gotten a flu shot every year for the past decade after a case of the flu caused her esophagus to rupture. But after hearing about the shortage, she decided not to get her annual shot.

"I think an awful lot of money is spent on people my age at the expense of younger people," Mrs. Thiel said. "I think I've had more than my share of good luck."

[image from Northwestern Health Sciences University]


We spotted this wonderful, much-used Toyota last night while walking to the E train Spring Street stop. I had already taken this shot before I walked around the side of the car and saw the door emblazoned with a large "Citizen Reno" sign. Of course!

Inside on the dashboard was a small stack of her DVD, "Rebel Without a Pause." Is our hero tempting the culturally and politically savvy thief, or just advertising?

Practice, practice, practice.

this tank is one of two which circled the block and then parked in front of a modest anti-war demonstration in Los Angeles yesterday evening.

This is on Wilshire Boulevard, in Westwood, people! I can't think of anything more useful for generating civic anger and destabilizing an uneasy civil peace than the appearance of tanks in our own neighborhoods. In the 1920's and 30's they sent thugs out on foot with clubs, but they didn't have a mandate then. Actually, the National Socialists never did win anything close to a majority.

For more see Bloggy.

[image from MyDD]

Troy Richards, This Light You Speak Of (2004) installation view of site-specific installation: Jolly-Ranchers, Plexiglas and resin 108" x 51" [QMA reception revelers faintly visible below]

We absolutely did get out to the Queens Museum of Art (QMA) last Sunday for the opening of the Queens International 2004. It was almost five when we got there, so we were pretty busy for the next hour. Most everyone in the very interesting crowd was pretty laid back, so we must have looked pretty intense as we made our way through galleries showing the art of some 50 or more Queens-based artists. Even so we managed to talk to a number of them while they hung out near their work.

There is nothing of the provinces, the "outer boroughs," about this show - except maybe for the incredible ethnic diversity of the artists included - a heterogeneity which frequently shows up even in the compound heritage of one individual. The name of the show, "Queens International," is a salute to that diversity. Any city in the country would be proud of the quality of the art represented. It's a first-rate show, a first-rate New York show.

Some of my favorites:

Haeri Yoo's wall of childlike drawings which almost mask her sophisticated humanism

Cui Fei's enormous, but so delicate, sculptural evocation of Chinese caligraphy employing grape vine tendrils

Chris Dorland's use of World's Fair pavilions to comment in his paintings on our utopian dreams - and follies

Aissa Deebi's photographic documentary of exile, using a shisha cafe in Astoria as his canvas

Matt Ducklo's sort-of-photojounalist suburban grotesques (especially the Kentucky shopping center/cemetary/mountain range combo)

Pascal Jalabert's heroic paper-tape bridges in electric colors

Kurt Lightner's magical mylar cut-out collages (and ink drawing)

Nava Lubelski's abstract canvases, which she stains and then adorns with needlepoint to almost electric effect

Troy Richards's bold candy windows (see above)

Earl Howard's sound sculpture installed in the Whitney-size elevator

Shin Il Kim's animated video whimsical profundities

Minshik shin's totally wonderful and sincere "American Dream" video

Because of the crowds and because of our limited time, we missed our chance to see most of the video art, so the list above is even more imperfect than usual.

[link to Haeri Yoo images was added June 6, 2005]

I don't know what to say about this story, but it has moved me more than I thought possible.

November 6, 2004, 4:39 PM EST

A 25-year-old university worker from Georgia shot and killed himself at ground zero Saturday morning, authorities said.

The man, Andrew Veal, of Athens, Ga., was found atop the structure housing the 1 and 9 subway lines after a hotel worker spotted what he believed was somebody sleeping inside the site around 8 a.m., said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

A shotgun was found near the body, Coleman said. No suicide note was found, he said.

Police were investigating how Veal entered the former World Trade Center site, which is protected by high fences and owned by the Port Authority.

Veal worked in a computer lab and was planning to marry, friends said Saturday.

I used to live just blocks away from the Trade Center and for over six months even here on 23rd Street I lived with the acrid smell of the fires which destroyed it on September 11. I watched out the front windows and I heard hundreds of police motorcycle-escorted ambulances speed down the street to a temporary morgue on the East Side which is still there. For a dozen years I worked at the Trade Center, each day entering and leaving the 1/9 subway line through the concrete structure on top of which Veal took his life; it's the only part of the original complex remaining above ground today. I made repeated heartbreaking trips to the site beginning two days after its destruction. The neighborhood was my first home in New York.

I'm still in New York today and I've grown to love it even more than I did when its wonders first brought me here. This also means, strictly speaking, that I'm still in the country where I was born, but I no longer feel that I am. If this was true before the election on Tuesday, the results which were announced have confirmed my exile.

Andrew Veal felt that dispossession more deeply than most. His despair brought him to the site which is still cynically being used to feed the agony in which so many of us share, and there Veal at least was able to end it.

Why were the exit polls so completely "wrong" in Ohio, Florida and certain other states this year? Was it because of massive election fraud?

The administration didn't need an October surprise; they knew it was already wrapped up - by their own people strategically placed where they really counted. And we were all fools to imagine otherwise. We'll be even greater fools if we let them get away with it a second time, but we'll have to hurry if it's going to be resolved without civil war. The Electoral College meets on December 13, and Congress counts their votes out loud on January 6.

My own representative, Jerrold Nadler, is one of the three Congressmen who asked on Friday that the General Accounting Office immediately begin an investigation into irregularities with voting machines used in TuesdayÂ’s elections. [Incidently, Nadler won re-election handily on Tuesday (80 points) against the stealth Republican, Peter Hort. Hort would presumably not have seen anything irregular about his leader's second "victory," and I expect that at some time in the near future his brethren will reward his sacrificial candidature with a juicy patronage appointment.]

Wednesday, the stage at the New York State Theater, before the lights darkened

We went to New York City Opera Wednesday night to see Charles Wuorinen's new opera based on a short novel by Salmon Rushdie, "Haroun and the Sea of Stories."

Almost totally bummed because of the national disasters reported over the previous 24 hours, we really weren't expecting to be greatly amused. According to the reviews we had read we would find a delightful story seriously handicapped by its dependence upon the composer's complex 12-tone techniques.

We both loved it on every level, for each of its elements.

We knew the story and it really is delightful. It's definitely not simply a children's story, although there were plenty of smart New York kids there with their parents. It was written while Rushdie was forced to hide from the mortal threat of the fatwa directed against him because of his writings. The book is a fable about free expression. It's as fresh as tomorrow morning's bread. In Act II the evil Khattam-Shud complains about the limits of his dark authority, singing,

Inside every single story
There lies a world, a story world,
That I cannot rule ar all.
It is beyond my control . . .
It spoils everything!
The libretto by the poet James Fenton, necessarily more condensed than the book, did so with great success, tightly playing with the pleasure of words both real and imagined, in delightful groups strung together and wound around or threaded through each other.

I admit that serial music holds no terrors for me and under normal circumstances I would have been delighted to be looking forward to a live performance of an entire opera using its forms. We have a large wall cabinet stacked with the sadness of 12-tone opera sound-only recordings, their visuals unfulfilled. I was surprised and delighted to find that Wuorinen's score was a perfect foil for the story, the singers and the glorious sights unfolding on the stage.

And what sights they were! In their totally uninhibited color and movement, and with imagination not bound to any reality or even to the usual conventions of fantasy, the sets and costumes fulfilled the promise of the story. I don't think I've ever seen anything more delightful on a stage, opera or otherwise. I'm not normally sighted shrieking in glee from a seat in Linclon Center.

Election? What election?

There are still three more performances, one tomorrow afternoon and one in the evening on Tuesday and on Thursday.

Why don't we just order everyone (except males under 45, meaning "the enemy") to leave Iraq altogether? We're going to level this city of 300,000 people (since a ground battle would mean too many casualties for the good guys, that is, the ones belonging to the country which invaded theirs), and Ramadi, where there are 600,000 more people hungering for our freedoms, is obviously going to be next. The logic of our scorched-streets policy will require that we go on to do the same thing in every city of Iraq, so why prolong the agony for these people?

Iraqis have obviously given Bush the same unqualified mandate he got from me.

Can you sucker yourself? Maybe, if you're an incurable optimist. For a few days I actually had convinced myself that this country would redeem itself, and yesterday evening I was bursting with such confidence that I posted this almost giddy secular Te Deum. I'm now cured, almost certainly for good (or evil).

NEWS FLASH: Kerry has just conceded* (Didn't he repeatedly say something about making sure all the votes are counted this time?)

Right now I'll only add a few words to the piles accumulating everywhere in reaction to yesterday's debacle.

Americans have destroyed their own country out of ignorance, superstition, bigotry and fear.

And we have absolutely no excuse. Unlike other nations which have resorted to autocracy, fascism, dictatorship (by party, cabal or leader) our majority decision to endorse this regime was done with eyes wide open, without threat of invasion, not prostrate in defeat, and even absent economic depression or civil war. In fact the U.S. stood on top of the world, the most admired, the richest and most powerful state of all time, and that's when we blew it, big time:

For four years the gang we have now installed legitimately (although by only a narrow majority), in full view of the rest of the world, has shown that it really believes in our balloting system of "winner-take-all." Since the beginning of 2000 the Republicans have operated as if there were no interests other than their own; Never before in American history have the welfare or the concerns of the "losers" been so totally eliminated from the agenda of the party in power, and it's now going to get worse.

From today we will be living in a nation whose Republican executive will have no restraints, whose Congressional Republican majorities will soon be larger and therefore more alarming than ever and whose courts, above all the Supreme Court, will be in the posession of a radical Republican Party for decades, regardless of the longevity of its dominance elsewhere.

And it gets still worse. The more alarming consequence of this election will be the real evil its winners do here and abroad, and attract, here and abroad. But the most depressing thought of all is that things will absolutely have to get much worst before they could get better, and there's no guarantee of that.

Although the blue sky I included in yesterday's post is still there (I cannot strike a line through it, like I did everything I wrote), and it is still above New York this afternoon, the heavens never did care what was happening down here. We're on our own.

Listening to: Gustav Mahler, Adagietto (Sehr Langsam), Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor (Haitink, Berlin Philharmonic)

*They used us, the Republicans did, to swing their cultists to the polls. So Bush's victory is ultimately my fault and the fault of every other faggot for choosing our "lifestyle," even if only some of us were bent on shredding into pieces the other 50 percent of the precious marriages they hadn't already destroyed themselves.


The skys are blue again, all over the world.

But the real work is only beginning.

It's not going to be easy rebuilding a nation and removing the curse which has rested so heavily on the planet [the cultists will remain to plague our wounded polity, and a hundred thousand lives have been wiped out in Iraq alone], but tonight Barry and I will be celebrating a new world with champagne. It will be French, of course, by definiton - and by choice.

Listening to: Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection" (Klemperer, Philharmonia, Schwarzkopf, Hilde Rössel-Majdan)

[image taken on Sunday afternoon outside our windows, about the time I was first convinced that Bush would not survive this referendum, at least without overturning it]

Despite the Sun.jpg
Yuh-Shioh Wong Despite the Sun (2004) pigment, oil, styrofoam, concrete, MDF 14" x 12"

Being Invisible.jpg
Yuh-Shioh Wong Being Invisible (2004) oil, styrofoam, concrete, MDF 36" x 27"

I told myself while at the opening on October 23rd that I really had to stop reporting on so many Foxy Production shows (they're very, very good), since it looks like I'm virtually living on the sixth floor above 27th Street.

But that same evening, just before my almost-resolution, I had asked for some JPEG images of Yuh-Shioh Wong's work (one of three artists included in the current show), and they just arrived today. Now there was just no way I wasn't going to share these wonderful sculptural paintings with others.

Barry and I had first seen her work as drawings at *sixtyseven when that gallery (now simply sixtyseven) was still in Williamsburg and we thought they were terrific, but we had missed what photographs document must have been an extraordinary installation at the excellent ATM Gallery in the East Village.

The prominent three-dimensional physicality, the robust surface textures, and the lusty colors describe what are totally winsome shapes, but there are hints that something just a little more disturbing is working itself out here.

Thomas Nast cartoon, featuring Boss Tweed ( referencing the 1876 disputed election)

The caption:

Boss. "You have the liberty of Voting for any one you please; but we have
the Liberty of Counting in any one we please."

"Do your Duty as Citizens, and leave the rest to take its course." - New York Times.

My overwhelmed friends in Washington, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and elsewhere will find it difficult to believe, but I've barely seen a single political campaign ad, TV or print, all year long. (I'm not complaining, of course, especially since no real information is ever conveyed by this stuff.)

Yeah, so I don't even watch TV (except Jon Stewart and SNL) and somehow I've always been able to turn a blind eye to print advertising of any kind (except for those which include particularly sexy men). Actually however my relative isolation from the campaign (it's always war metaphors in America) has more to do with the perverse wonders of the Electoral College and the fact that everyone long ago agreed that New York belongs to the Democrats.

So where do I leave my teeny tiny vote for president tomorrow? Not for the Republican candidate of course, but I'm also not going to check the Democratic column. As I've said often before, both clubs are Rightwing parties and while only one of the two standard-bearers has a mind, he's used it to argue, among other things, that the Iraq war must be expanded, that Americans can't have single-payer universal health care, that he might nominate anti-choice candidates for federal courts, that the WTO is a good thing, that lesbians and gays should not be permitted to marry and that we need the Patriot Act.

But do I have an alternative? Like most of the United States, New York makes it very difficult for parties or candidates to get onto the ballot, the result being this abysmal selection (taken directly from the New York State Board of Elections site).

[REP] REPUBLICAN: George W. Bush







[LBT] LIBERTARIAN: Michael Badnarik

New Yorkers can choose among only five people (all men). There are probably twice as many kinds of premium brands of butter available at each of the two food stores a block away from where I'll be voting tomorrow!

The Democrats and the Republicans are clearly part of the problem and are both responsible for our current crisis, the Conservatives think the Republicans are too Lefty and the Libertarians would eliminate government from all regulation and welfare responsibilities.

I don't know whether to admire or ridicule the fact that the only socialist party on the ballot has advanced a candidate who, regardless of his merits, could not Constitutionally become President of the U.S. and who in fact is not even a U.S. citizen. I do think this tells us a lot about support in the U.S. for the kind of social contract other industrial societies take for granted, even the parties on the Right.

Aside from his own heroic history of social contributions which have benefitted the entire world, Ralph Nader once again represents an almost perfect platform, and I will not condemn his campaign for accepting funds from sources to whom he could never be beholden. The money is well-spent. Nader is one of the few true democrats in American politics.

There is still the possibility of pulling the lever for Kerry on the Working Families line, but while that excellent party is worthy of the attention and support of any progressive, that is still a vote for a seriously flawed candidate. Besides, it's totally unnecessary to keep every one of New York Electoral votes away from Bush.

Whoa, wait a minute. Where are the Greens? What does it say about our fake democracy that so important a party (okay, make that any party) is not permitted on the ballot? But I think we are still allowed a write-in candidate, so in very good conscience we could make it David Cobb, the Green Party candidate for President.

But back to the discussion of the least of many available evils, or at least a resolution of the current dilemma. Even now I can't say for sure if I'm going to vote for Nader on the Independent Party line, Kerry on the Working families Party line or Cobb as a write-in. Wow! I guess this means that technically I could be labelled as one of those reviled "Undecideds," even if my indecision does not relate to anything having to do with Bush or the Republicans. At least I don't have to agonize about deciding between someone who has already demonstrated he's a bungling idiot and someone without Bush's extraordinary record.

Anyone but Bush? I don't think so.

The only point I wanted to make with this post is the fact that in New York and a large number of other states voters with consciences and minds should be able to see that "anyone but Bush" could still mean that there is a choice, even on Election day itself. We don't have to feel totally powerless when we walk into a polling place. The anti-democratic system we have to work with allows at least some of us to balk at ratifying a slate or a platform not established democraticaly.

Many of us do have some choice tomorrow, and our numbers will be recorded. We have to think ahead - now.

[image from HarpWeek]

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