Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hirshhorn Diaries--9

"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

Hirshhorn Diaries--8

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"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

Hirshhorn Diaries--7

"Sky Light", by Alma Thomas, 1973.

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

Best of: TV

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), Rome (season 1)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hirshhorn Diaries--6

"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

Best of: Reads

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 Middle East. After reading this book, it was not hard to fathom the idea that had America stood with Mohammed Mosedegh, rather than orchestrating his downfall (Kermit Roosevelt making James Bond look like a pussy), a progressive Middle East might not have seemed like such a pipe dream. It also goes a long way towards illustrating America’s willingness to forego its’ integrity and principles for the sake of economic supremacy. Not to mention those fucking British…

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 Pullman’s books as a better example of young adult fiction. Boy was he right! Let me go on record as saying Pullman’s canny and vicious Lyra Belacqua could kick Harry Potter’s pouting ass, and that Will Parry could make mincemeat of Ron and Hermione (that is assuming he could handle Hermione’s dangerous EXCLAMATIONS!!!). A saga in which the young heroes actually aged, while, with great vigor, rigorously dissecting the confusing morality and complexity of the adult world. A believable relationship between two budding adults, no short cuts, no neat tidy thirteenth-hour revelations—oh, and two words: Gay Angels… (Note: Avoid the movie adaptation at all costs!)

4. Into Thin Air by John Krakauer: Everything I ever wanted to know about Mt. Everest and an effective missive about why I should never go. Adventure writing at its peak (heh, heh…)

5. “Disaster Capitalism” by Namoi Klein (Harper’s Magazine): If reading this doesn’t put you into an existential funk, then might I suggest her book The Shock Doctrine. Word of advice: Do not read said book with a loaded gun in the house. You may not survive.

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.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Hirshhorn Diaries--5

"Torso of a Young Man" by Constantin Brancusi, 1924

If by "young man" you mean large, smooth, thick, bronze penis--then, yes...