Gret Stet of Louisiana, Now Literally About to Slither

From The Earl of Louisiana p. 277 in the Library of America edition of a true master, Mr. A.J. Liebling. I might as well also express my unlimited enthusiasm for “Yea, Verily” and/or “The Honest Rainmaker” (to say nothing of everything else Liebling ever wrote).

“Oil is to Louisiana what money is to a roulette game,” Tom said. “It’s what makes the wheel go round. It’s the reason there are so many big bank rolls available to stake any politician who has a Formosa Chinaman’s chance to get into office.” Louisianians who make money in oil buy politicians, or pieces of politicians, as Kentuckians in the same happy situation buy race horses. Oil gets into politics, and politicians, making money in office, get into oil. The state slithers around in it.

Thoughts on Rosson Crow and Michael Kimmelman’s take on Shea

I checked out Rosson Crow’s show yesterday. It was my first in-person viewing of her work. (My favorite painting by her, New York Stock Exchange After Bond Rally, 1919 was not there.) I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the giant canvases. The colors were extraordinarily snappy, esp. on such a dreary day with a Noreaster going on outisde. I was not crazy about every piece, or every aspect of every piece, but it was generally very enjoyable. The scale of the work impressed me and left me looking forward to a book of her work. All in all, I kept thinking (though I tried to stop) of 80s splatter paint and I feel less paint actually might have worked better. But I enjoy her work more for the ideas than the acrylic. The fantastic color is a bonus. I’m intrigued by her idea of meditating on the abandoned spaces where something exciting once happened. I think she has struck gold with it and generally executes it well. (Now that I think about it, maybe that’s why I so enjoyed the peripheral rooms on the stage of Radio Golf – the abandoned lunch counter and so on. I was also intrigued by the made-to-look-old-and/or-eroded shoe shine chair [contrasted with a futuristic shoe shine chair] at the Whitney Biennial.)

While looking at the neon figures in Crow’s (non-great, imo) painting The Bang Bang Room (about Plato’s Retreat – and the only one to feature anthropomorphic images), I was reminded of a letter (unpublished) that I dashed off to the New York Review of Books some months back in response to Michael Kimmelman’s review of the new Yankee Stadium and Citifield:

I agree with most of Michael Kimmelman’s superb analysis in “At the Bad New Ballparks,” but I was surprised by his declaration that he found the giant neon baseball players that adorned Shea Stadium “appalling.” With all due respect to Mr. Kimmelman’s expertise, I would like to venture that the spare and not un-graceful neon figures were Matisse-inspired and/or Calder-inspired, and while they were perhaps somewhat hokey, they were far from appalling and could have been much, much worse. I never saw in person the panels that the neon figures replaced, but the figures made driving past Shea Stadium more interesting than driving past Yankee Stadium. They were reminders of summer on a winter’s ride on the Grand Central Parkway. Not to overthink these loud neon relics from the 80s, but wasn’t there something almost primordial about them, bringing to mind the Cerne Abbas giant in England or the Nazca Lines of Peru?

Well, that was the text of my letter. Googling around has let me know that popular wisdom called the old neon ballplayers “embarrasing.” Such vast amounts of our culture are embarrasing that the word really does not mean much. But I think  the fact that Kimmelman’s highly trained eye found them appalling does mean something. Then again, perhaps he did not mean “appalling” as “appalling” but as “appppaaaaaallllllllling” as in “oh this Big Mac is appppalllllling” when it fact it’s actually pretty good, yet still appalling.

George Burns the Blunt William’s Holden

I watched Stalag 17 last night, a near-masterpiece of a film almost destroyed by the unwatchable and unfunny antics of the characters Animal and Shapiro. In fact, it was really two films in one: one real about the William Holden/Peter Graves characters and one tenth-rate vaudeville act involving Animal and Shapiro. Anyway, the best and most surprising scene was when the soldier who did the outstanding impersonations impersonated Hitler, passionately giving a speech composed of words like “apple streudel” and “gesundheit” (“everything is gesundheit!”). He neatly encapsulated everything that is so searingly repellant about Hitler’s speaking style, even if you cannot understand what he is saying.

My point in posting this was that watching the film illuminated a lyric (“George Burns the blunt William’s Holden”) from GZA’s 2002 song Fame, in which he tells a story (of sorts) using the first names of a wide variety of celebrities followed by using their last names  (or close variation of it) as the next word, if the name could be re-interpreted or presented as either a verb or noun – that is, as a verb or noun that could continue the “story.”  It’s clever and I listened to it a zillion times in 2002. Anyhow, William Holden is smoking a cigar throughout Stalag 17 from start to finish, which probably explains the line.

Fame, of course, is the third joint in which GZA exhibits similar such wordplay, the first being Labels (1994, using the names of record labels) and the second being Publicity (1999, using magazine titles). I don’t know if he tried it again with another topic, but it seems as if Fame was the crowning achievement of the concept.

They Like Our Food. They Like Our Girls. They Like Our Style.

What a great find is this pre-NetJets Braniff Air ad featuring Andy Warhol and Sonny Liston. It is played perfectly by both men. It is cleverly suggesting that you might meet a fascinating character on a Braniff flight but also humorously noting that people often sit next to people that they’d like to knock out.  (A professional boxer must be even more restrained than the common man in that regard!)  Warhol’s lines are also about as good as they could be for a twenty second ad. Liston’s look is priceless.

And the orange seats! My word!

I like the Warhol/Liston ad better than the Whitey Ford/Dali ad, which is OK, and delightful because surprising, but does not work the same way.

25 Great Movies of the Decade

I’ve been looking at a lot of best movies of the decade lists and while some of them are good, many turkeys are being promoted while some cinematic triumphs are being overlooked. Here are 25 great movies that I would watch again right now, in no particular order, but the top 5  are top 5 for a reason.

1. Look at Me

2. The Lives of Others

3. No Country for Old Men

4.  A Very Long Engagement

5. Lost in Translation

6.  Casino Royale

7. Little Miss Sunshine

8.  Enigma

9. Gosford Park

10. Sprited Away

11. The Proposition

12. Kissing Jessica Stein

13. Amelie

14. Ratatouille

15. The Futurama Movie

16. Pan’s Labyrinth

17. Hotel Rwanda

18. The Constant Gardner

19. I Heart Huckabees

20. King Kong (for the dinosaur wrestling scene)

21. Le divorce (it was good!)

22. The Last King of Scotland

23. Baby Boy (that was some funny shit!)

24. The Royal Tenenbaums

25. The Kill Bills

Of course, the greatest cinematic thing of the decade was that mega-movie known as The Sopranos.

Fly Eddie Cheeba Routine

Thank goodness for this classic Eddie Cheeba routine.

If your name is Kenny…Jack Benny, Jack Benny.

Leshan Giant Buddha

I watched a good documentary the other night on the 200 foot Leshan Giant Buddha in Sichuan, China and the attempts to preserve it, as it is carved of fragile red sandstone and it is the last of its kind, since the Taliban blew up the world’s other giant Buddhas.

I would like to propose, since this is China and money is no object, that Shigeru Ban (I know he’s Japanese) or some sort of Shigeru Ban imitator be brought in to design some stylish canopy to protect the Buddha from acid rain.  The canopy could be retractable and a giant curtain could fall from it. Christo could be involved in the curtain design.

Finally, I was reminded of the MET’s stunning ancient Sichuan show of some years back. 2003? So many statues with those unique eyes. How do they relate to the eyes of the Leshan Buddha? Were there remnants of that ancient style still in the air in 700 AD?