Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Can somebody tell me why one of the largest Networks in America can post what happened on "The View" and "Lost" on its website, but can't seem to figure out a way to stream live video or audio for one of the most important debates of THE LAST SIX WEEKS (big stuff!) for people who don't have TV or cable? Do I really need to get all my news from CNN and MSNBC? Come on ABC, join the 21st century already. You look like out of touch dinosaurs.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
The example above was one of a series on display at the museum. Ah, de Kooning. A sometimes disgusting talent. Visceral paintings of female viscera. His women, rendered pink and red split; flayed open as if on some sadist's dissection table. Lips partially removed. Cheeks peeled. Tears in the sex. Glorious misogyny, rendered with the disturbing accuracy of a painting genius. Why do I like de Kooning? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps it's more because of what I think he is honest about in his work, rather than whatever his darker impulses might be.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
What became clear after California, and Barrack Obama’s impressive string of primary victories, was that Senator Hillary Clinton was perfectly willing to entertain the notion of a better tomorrow, as long as it was her tomorrow. Barring that, if the America people, by way of their voting behaviour, were not going to grant her the image she held for herself—that of the put upon and worthy Cinderella who, for years, scrubbed her wicked step-sisters floorboards so that she could eventually be rewarded her “happily ever after”—then she would be just as happy and willing to play any one of the three wicked step-sisters—sometimes all three at once.
I have long been fascinated with the scheming nature of politics. But the events of recent weeks have caused me to pause; and, in addition to being angry beyond ability to sleep comfortably, I find myself truly puzzled as to what, exactly, the endgame is in the Clinton Campaign. First, the facts as I understand them: In order to secure the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton will have to win every single remaining primary by at least 64%. That’s right, every single one. That means North Carolina and Oregon (two states many “experts” feel will go to Obama decisively). This would include the Michigan and Florida Primaries she is so desperately trying to resuscitate (but not really it seems, as she would rather take the current results rather than have to campaign again). 64%. A percentage she hasn’t managed all election. To make this even clearer: should Hilary lose any of the subsequent primaries, or win them by less than 64%, that percentage will only go up. As for the Obama camp, if he didn’t win another primary (not likely), he could squeak by if he only pulled in (roughly) at least 46% of the remaining states and still be able to secure the nomination (a number he has easily obtained if not exceeded in his few loses), and these percentages also translate to the uncommitted superdelegates. Should Obama win a state or lose by closer to 50 than 40 percent of the votes, that number will only decrease.
What does all this mean? It means that there is no way that Hilary Clinton can secure the nomination through any method that most democrats—for that matter, believers in democratic theory—find acceptable. Does this mean she is preparing for a coup at the convention, and is prepared to gut the democratic party and its base months before what (largely due to her tactics) is suddenly becoming a race that, once upon a time (five weeks ago), was looking like a slam dunk? Maybe. Perhaps her desire to be president is so strong, her ego so inflated, as to believe that, after Denver, people may feel burned—the echoes of Bush’s stealing of Florida still prevalent on their democratic tongues—but that, miraculously, they will, in the three short months until November, bury the hatchet when the smoke settles and join the caravan, even if they don’t like it. Of course, this is assuming that, after having the nomination stolen from him at the convention, Obama would, somehow, become a good “House Negro” and get on board for the “sake of the party”—you know, the one that just stabbed him in the back. There are too many factors, some of which strain credibility too far, that I can’t help but think that even this is an improbability, surely the democratic party could, for once in its life, stand up for itself. Cross your fingers!
So the question arises again: What then is the endgame? After many sleepless nights pondering this question, I have been able to come up with two potential answers, the second answer being absolutely dreadful:
1.) Hilary wants to be Vice-President. This answer presented itself to me after she floated the audacious offer to the media that her and Obama would make a great joint ticket, with her (the current loser), obviously, at the top of it. This originated from either incredible arrogance (something Clintonian’s have been known for), or was brilliantly shrewd. Float the question out there to the press so that the media would then approach Obama with the same question in the hopes that it would pin Obama into a corner and force him to place her gingerly on his coattails. If he declined, she could play the wounded bird and declare umbrage at the notion that Obama doesn’t care about “winning” (with her/Bill’s perceived “dream ticket”) and only cares about himself. If they could get him to declare his willingness to entertain the notion, then she could play nice and not “quit”, per se, but instead “fold” her campaign into his and save face. Vice-president wouldn’t be so bad. Especially since we live in a country in which prominent and inspirational black leaders often find themselves at the business end of a sniper round. If history were any indication, she would be in the office faster as a VP and on the ticket than as an outsider looking in. Brilliant. But, amazingly, this blew up in her face (give the media credit for once!). Rather than turning the question back to Obama, the media (like most Americans) did a double-take and instead asked, “But wait—aren’t you losing? Why would the guy winning agree to be your vice-president? Wait, we’re sorry, but haven’t you been saying he’s not ready to be president, how can he be a good candidate for VP?” This mushroom clouded in her campaign’s face and they are still reeling from this. And, to my knowledge, no one has seriously approached Obama with this suggestion—especially after the Ohio primary and her Red Phone ad. This notion was staked in the heart by Nancy Pelosi who recently stated that, given the flavor of the current debate between the candidates, that this notion of a joint ticket was an “impossibility”. That Clinton doesn’t still hold out for this and hope that her nail-dragging campaign wears down Obama to the point that he offers her a slot on the ticket can’t be completely ruled out, but it is highly improbable. So, then I ask again: What is the endgame?
2.) I’m not happy about the suggestion that follows. I find it repugnant and morally reprehensible, but I can’t deny its Machiavellian brilliance—especially if the endgame is to become president at any cost (and, given the many ethical issues the Clinton campaign has raised by its “kitchen sink” strategy, we can not ignore it). Quite simply: they want Obama to lose. Obama’s lead over John McCain has dwindled significantly in the last month, and I don’t think there is a sensible person out there who could point to anything McCain has done to affect this change. Most would say that this change in national attitudes is a result of the Clinton campaign tactics. The fact that the Clinton campaign has, in effect, seceded “national security” to John McCain and his “experience” is the first sign that they are doing the Republicans dirty work for them; months before the RNC has to, and without republicans even having to spend a dime. This tactic has taken the form of Mark Penn flat-out saying that Obama will lose, which has the vague connotation of a threat. Wasn't the assertion (by Clinton) at that wonderful Californian summit that (undeniably) one of the candidates on the stage would be the next president? Now not so much? One has to wonder how many of her supporters thought at the time that their Hollywood dollars would be going towards Clinton's message out and not those of the competing candidate. The recent race-baiting of Geraldine Ferraro—who has now taken to playing the “reverse discrimination” card—is straight out of the Republican anti-affirmative-action playbook. And the Clinton’s leaking of Obama in ceremonial Somali garb to The Drudge Report is exactly the type of thing Karl Rove made popular in D.C the last 15 years, a tactic proved very effective during the “vast right-wing conspiracy” of the 90's. But, still, why? The answer can only be, given the numbers at this point, that the Clinton Campaign isn’t running for election in 2008, but in 2012. If McCain beats Obama in a year when the democrats, by all hopes and dreams, should win the presidency, he will effectively be neutered as a future candidate and be forced to slink back to the Senate to wither away with John Kerry and Joseph Biden, because he would be proved to not be, as the Clinton campaign has been arguing, “tough enough”(as if they are somehow doing Obama a favor). If they don't do it now, neither her, or Bill for that matter, who has always, somewhat deludedly, coveted the notion of being the (Regan-like) face of the Democratic party. If they don't take out Obama now they will never get out from beneath his shadow. This will effectively deal with the “Obama problem” the Clinton’s have been struggling with since the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The cold reality of the politics of the situation dictates that if Hillary is “barely” denied the nomination and Obama loses, given the fact that many wonder if McCain is a viable 2-term candidate, she can spend the next four years campaigning against McCain (differentiating herself from him in a way she has been unable to do until now) and emerge as the savior of 2012. Four years later? Better late than never, right! I am completely aware that such a plan exists within the highest realms of cynicism. But we can’t ignore the numbers. She is losing, and by all accounts will lose. So then what is the point of all the misinformation, the fear, the race-baiting if it is not to sink Obama before he has a chance to sail? At this point, I can’t think of any other explanation. And I can say the answer hasn’t helped me sleep any better.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
1. There Will Be Blood: I’ve already written about why this is the best movie of the year (here), but I would like to take this moment to mention something I forgot to talk about in my review by stating that it takes nothing from the greatness of Anderson’s film to give credit where credit is due: namely the fact that the first half-hour of Anderson’s masterpiece owes a lot to Mathew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle—specifically Cremaster Cycle 3 and that film’s spotlight on the Masonic quest of The Apprentice. Barney’s obsession with work, material, the earth, the body and physical labor—or his “worship through works and labor” in solitary wish-fulfillment removed from religion (if not its own type) and demagoguery—is all over
2. No Country For Old Men: Feel free to read my review of the book (here), or my thoughts on the narrative discrepancies between this book and McCarthy’s subsequent Pulitzer Prize winner The Road (here). For this post, I would simply like to applaud the Cohen brother’s for making their best film in a decade. Kudos to the brother’s for finding the black humor in McCarthy’s prose that those of us who read the book could not see (for it was too bleak). Bravo, Javier Bardem, for so completely inhabiting Anton Chigurh that I couldn’t help but sit in fear throughout the movie and hope that he, Chigurh, wouldn’t notice me deep in the dark theater spying on him and his work, thus making me a priority. A round of applause for Tommy Lee Jones who, at the end of the film, delivers one of the more emotionally wrenching monologues in recent film. Finally, let us not forget to give major props for Brad from Goonies—I mean Josh Brolin—who has been lights-out this year (stealing the show in Grindhouse, and being one of the only actors in film, specifically American Gangster, to effectively intimidate Russell Crowe), and who nails the resolute but hapless Llewelyn Moss.
3. Zodiac: Am I crazy or has this been a forgotten film during awards season? It may not be David Fincher’s neatest film (that would be Fight Club), but it may be his best. For almost three hours Fincher’s ability to multi-task during a scene is on full display: effectively directing the slightly boring Jake Gyllenhal, standing back and letting Robert Downey Jr. do his thing, and, at the same time, knowing when to center the camera on Mark Ruffalo, a criminally underappreciated actor (one wonders if he sweated more and had bigger chest muscles, would he not be a dead ringer for early Brando?). A film with an ending as ambiguous and as powerful as any of the above mentioned films.
4. Ratatouille: If you feel like it, read my extended review here. Pixar has never made a bad movie, and Ratatouille is one of its best—right up there with The Incredibles, which was, oddly enough, also a Brad Bird film. As anyone who has sat through food-critic Anton (what is it with this name this year?) Ego’s wonderful soliloquy about art and food and criticism can attest, Brad Bird isn’t simply an animating marvel, he is an Oscar worthy screenwriter. You say there are rats in the kitchen? C'est parfait avec moi! (note: I take no responsibility for the accuracy of internet translations.)
5. Juno/Superbad: I wrote about Superbad earlier this summer (here), but haven’t gotten around to saying much about Juno. So, in the “Best of” tradition (of which there is none), let’s simply look at these films as the entertaining bookends on the teen-sex comedy/drama genre they are. Hopefully
Sunday, February 10, 2008
"Reclining Figure: Internal and External Forms (Working Model)", Henry Moore, 1952
There is nothing easy about Henry Moore. Anyone interested in complicated expressions of form would be wise to focus on
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
As an independent voter and a person who has long distasted group-think, I have to admit that, watching the Democratic debate the other night, and listening to the crowd react to Hillary’s “It took a Clinton to clean-up after the first Bush…” line, I was stunned. As someone who voted for Bush in 2000 (and has had to live with it for 8 years), I found the fact that Clinton could be so glib and slightly delusional regarding her husband's (and, by a proxy she is attempting to assert, her) role in helping W. Bush to power, arrogant and insidious. No person of sound mind and body would claim that Clinton (and Obama) are not benefiting from Bush fatigue. Is there anyone who doesn’t think that the Democrats will win the White House? If Hillary plans to trot out and celebrate the Bush fatigue that propelled her husband into the White House, than she had better—by Zeus’ beard!—be willing to answer the tough question of whether or not eight years of her husband Bill helped Bush-Part-Deux into the White House. Can she seriously claim that Clinton fatigue did not help W. Bush into the White House over the more “qualified/experienced” (those fancy Hillary cards) Al Gore? I know it mattered to me in 2000. I was, quite frankly, so over the shameless politics of Bill Clinton: the impeachment, the lies, the false modesty, the smugness that could only have resulted from taking on Congress and winning, the pardons, the investigations, the arrogant infidelity, the careless humiliation of poor Chelsea at the hand of a media who wanted to see the sins of the father vested on her, that aggravating lack of humility. Let’s not forget that many people in the Clinton White House (Hillary included, although off-screen) inferred that Paula Jones was too “unattractive” to ever have ever been harassed the President—after all Jennifer Flowers made it into Playboy! Take that patriarchy! How many Americans were tired of their duplicity and shameless politics and instead saw a neutered, poor-speaking, governor from Texas as an outsider (as ivy league and as privileged as they come), who, at the time, seemed to offer up a cabinet that we might have assumed had integrity (sadly, how wrong I/we were—but there was that dash of pepper that was Colin Powell: forever to be remembered now as an awful politician, out of his element against Cheney and Rumsfeild, rather than a four star general he was). Bush’s crimes have clearly dwarfed
Which is why Barack Obama, and not Hillary Clinton, should be the democratic candidate for president. As a teacher, I see the unexplainable disgust on many of my students face when you mention Hillary Clinton. That this reaction is misguided and ill-informed is obvious—they were children during the first Clinton-era and could hardly have any real, well reasoned, feelings about Bill. Yet, those poisoned waters (their parents) remain and are palpable. To think that Hillary can reach across the aisle and help us get past the partisan blockades that have taken over this government (blockades she did her fair share of building in dismissing real American concerns as “a vast right-wing conspiracy"—not exactly the words of a uniter), is the height of delusion.
…Did you check them out? Good. Allow me to close on this point. If you can find no reason in the above links to vote for Obama, then let me ask you a simple question: What major sport/endeavor/field has not experienced its own renaissance upon the inclusion of African Americans? Baseball, basketball, football, music, literature, art, and business—has a one suffered as a result of the inclusion of African Americans? While investigating the appeal of Pan-Africanism, it was James Baldwin who argued that African Americans could never be African, because they were inherently American, probably more American than many of the Whites who sought to keep them segregated and marginalized. In fact, if one traced back the lineage of many African Americans and compared it to the standard Cracker, we might find that, for the most part, they have been here longer (I have no basis in science for this statement, it just seems right since slavery was here at the beginning). That finally, after four hundred years, we finally have a candidate who has the potential to bring a diverse experience to the White House, should be a cause for celebration. Still, you shouldn’t vote for Obama because he is a black man. You should vote for him because his is an intelligent, articulate, charismatic, impressive, black man. You know all the things we used to think a president had to be.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Friday, February 1, 2008
If The Godfather made epic the underbelly of the American Dream, and Citizen Kane made dark the ego and entitlement of privilege, There Will Be Blood has, at last, provided an irrefutable account of the scorched earth between, shinning a head-lamp-light on the corruptible relationships at the heart of the rest of us. As far as protagonists go, Michael Corleone, having risen to the top of his game as a criminal, was always near the bottom; while Charles Foster Kane, starting at the top before catastrophically collapsing upon himself, was (as that final scene in the basement incinerator illustrated) never low. As There Will Be Blood opens, Daniel Plainview finds himself pretty low (beneath the surface actually), scratching and digging away at the skin of the earth for whatever meager nugget of silver he can find, and, over the course of two-plus hours, after a successful life as “an oilman” (back when such a thing was the embodiment of “working class”) finds himself sniffing the top. The wonder of
All of this might seem trite now (seriously…an oilman? after innumerable “message pictures” about the war in
Have I said yet that this is a great film? What makes it great is the collaboration between Day-Lewis and
Sunday, January 27, 2008
"Soft Night", by Arshile Gorky, 1947
A painter who is undeniably talented and important, but one whom I find, more often than not, I'd rather read about than spend hours contemplating. With the exception (of course) being this piece: a disquieting gray exercise with essential splashes of color that hint at an underlying wish reacting against an imposed paralysis.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
"Video Flag", by Nam June Paik,, 1985-96 (watch a grainy video of it here)
I could stare at Paik's video-drone art for hours, relishing the retinal punishment and mulching of my cerebrum. Like some benign Cronenberg-hell, Paik's work invites (and traps) observation: An electric pop-hole, sucking in anyone who looks.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Sadly, I could not find an image of this. Painted a few years before she died, "Sky Light" is one of those paintings that has the unique ability to induce a sense of vertigo when looked at for prolonged periods of time.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Since I don’t have cable, the following is a list of the best TV shows I watched (on DVD) all year (Netflix is awesome):
1. The Wire (Season 3&4): While not being as literary as The Sopranos, or as beautiful as Deadwood, The Wire is, without a doubt, THE MOST IMPORTANT SHOW IN THE HISTORY OF TELEVISION. Much like Paul Thomas Anderson did this year with There Will Be Blood (more on that later), David Simon (with help from Ed Burns, Dennis Lehane, George Pelacanos, and Richard Price) has, with divine insight, tapped into what it really means to be American and created a saga that makes The Godfather films look like a high school prepatory course on the American Dream (that’s right, I said it!). And, while The Godfather looks decadent and dark on a theater or widescreen TV, Simon’s show has found an equal home within the confines or 4:3 TV (seriously, I can’t get the show, no matter how bad I want to, to fit the widescreen setting on my TV—because they film it that way). Since, with a gun to my head, I couldn’t point to a single character on this epic show and say, “that dude/ette is what The Wire is about”, I’ll instead take this as an opportunity to list my favorite characters in no particular order (single names only please): Bunk, McNulty, Bubbles, Kima, Lester, Prez, Rawls, Snoop, Avon, DL, Bodie, Marlo, Daniels, Carcetti, Carver, Hurk, Wee-bey, Bunny, Randy, Michael, Sobotka, The Greek, Cutty, Cheese, Omar, Prop Joe, Stringer Bell and Brother Mouzone (okay two names).
2. Lost (Season 3): The Wire may have been the best show on television, but Lost is what brings me to Best Buy at 9 AM on new release Tuesday. The only show that successfully manages to provide more questions than answers—and I don’t care! Jack and Locke are iconic television characters, but let us not forget the fantastic Josh Holloway, whose “Sawyer” is currently redefining the anti-hero on non-premium cable. A show with genuine moments of drama and wit. Sure the season finale should be applauded for its’ surprise twist (for people who didn’t know beforehand—sadly not me, I can’t abide a surprise on this show, I have to know what is happening even if I’m not watching it. Thank you EW!), but what should be praised instead is the creative the nerve it took to make that leap in order to open up the show for the next few seasons. Coolest line: Sawyer to Mr. Friendly (in the season finale), “That’s for the kid.” If you saw it you know what I’m talking about. Awesome.
3. Battlestar Galactica (all of it so far): Take the politics of The Wire and mix it with the sci-fi mystery of Lost, and you have Battlestar Galactica. Props to Starbuck for being the strongest female on TV, and let us heap praise on the dynamic duo of Admiral Adama and President Roslin, not to mention the ever expanding mystery of the great Cylon “plan”, and you have something you can’t take you’re eyes off of. At one point during the mid-season finale of Season 2, when Helo and Chief Tyrol are racing through The Razor, I actually yelled at the television. Now that’s good TV.
4. The Office (Season 2&3): Let us hope that the movies never take Steve Carrell away from this show. I never thought Carrell would be able to outdo Ricky Gervais, but he has made Michael Scott his own kind of awkward beast. Bravo to a show that has never been as painfully awkward as its’ British counterpart, but has found its’ sweet center by regularly going beyond the whole Jim and Pam thing (example: Michael’s presence at Pam’s art show—one of Carrell’s finest bits of acting).
5. The Sopranos (Season 6, Part 2): For being one of the best things on TV and ending strong. By the way: Tony dies. Did you catch that?
Honorable Mention (in no particular order): Angel (all of it), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (all of it), My Name is Earl (season 1), Arrested Development (season 1 & 2), 30 Rock (season 1),
Sunday, January 13, 2008
"Head of Woman", by Pablo Picasso, 1909
Let us pause a moment to, once again, observe Picasso's "Head of Woman". A sculpture that--paired with Rodin's "Balzac"--will remain, for museums around the world, the equivelent of Skittles and Snickers at a gas station.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
What follows are the best books/articles/reviews I’ve read all year:
1. Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer: One of the more mind-boggling and terrifying books I read all year. A must read for anyone obsessed with the blotchy path of religious/political history between the crucifixion, Constantine’s dream, and ascension of Charlemagne. If at any time you’ve wondered how a poor Jewish carpenter, with a few words and a glorious death, could have taken over the world, might I suggest looking no further than Salt Lake City, Utah, a place where history is being gathered and vaulted by the LDS. That Joseph Smith lived during the modern age (the fact that there are book reviews of the Book of Mormon blew my mind) and thrived during the Second Great Awakening, having established one of the fastest growing religions, is, on the one hand, perfectly American—which is to say that Joseph Smith and Brigam Young’s (one of the true criminals of American history) legacy has been one of violence and subjugation during the age of manifest destiny should be a given. That Mormonism's more fundamentalist aspects still exists and are growing should be terrifying (seriously, see if you feel safe driving through Colorado City). Anyone who looks at Mitt Romney and is perplexed at how one could have risen so high so fast, for essentially tailoring his message (a nice way of saying contradicting himself) to an exceedingly desperate audience (republican voters in the wake of W. Bush), need look no further than his religious idol Joseph Smith: a first rate, handsome, showman, who always seemed to have the “perfect story”, not to mention a peep stone and a black hat that gave him all the answers.
2. All The Shah’s Men by Stephen Kinzer: No other book I’ve read this year better illustrated the way in which American arrogance and small mindedness has damaged the
3. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman: After a good week spent raging against the last Harry Potter, I needed my pallet cleansed. I remembered a friend mentioning
4. Into Thin Air by John Krakauer: Everything I ever wanted to know about
5. “Disaster Capitalism” by
Honerable Mention (in no particular order): The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright, Lost Girls by Alan Moore, Y the Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra, 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, “Clueless into Kabul” by Michael Scheuer (The American Interest), “Making Enemies” by Anna Simons (The American Interest), “The Vacationers” by Colin Mort (Virginia Quarterly Review), “Utopianism Redux”: a review of Leszek Kolakowski’s Main Currents of Marxism by John Gray (The American Interest), “Their Men in Washington” by Ken Silverstine (Harper’s Magazine), “Literary Entrails” by Cynthia Ozick (Harper’s Magazine), “Moby-Duck” by Donovan Hohn (Harper’s Magazine), “The Madness of Jewcentricity” by Adam Garfinkle (The American Interest), “Shepherdess by Dan Chaon (Virginia Quarterly Review), The Headmaster Ritual by Taylor Antrim.