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June 2006
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August 2006

It Wouldn't Be Much of a God If It Couldn't Be Resurrected, Now Would It?

Silent for nearly a year -- he was last seen savaging some of Camille Paglia's more dubious views on poetry, the ease of doing which probably bored him nearly to death -- Aaron Haspel has returned today with a refurbished edition of God of the Machine.   He explains all here, in a post that encompasses E.M. Forster and Spinal Tap.

It appears that the gentleman has de-linked me in the process of toning and trimming his sidebar, which puts him in good company: big-time cultural and lit'ry bloggers the likes of Terry Teachout and Ron Silliman* have exercised that same privilege, when I have either lost their interest or shifted my attentions away from their preferred topics.  *sniff* 

In any case, get thee hence and welcome Mr. Haspel back to the land of the webliving by adding your visit to the Instalanche he's been granted by Megan McArdle.


*  Per what I see on Technorati today (8/2/06), either I was mistaken in my statement above or else Ron Silliman has restored me to his blogroll.  I took no offense when I/when I thought I had disappeared from it before, given that Ron's list focuses pretty exclusively on poetry weblogs -- it probably represents the most comprehensive list of poetry weblogs that is to be had -- and further given that the frequency of poetry posting hereabouts has gone down significantly in the past year or so.  Pressure's on now, I suppose, for me to reinvigorate the poetic percentage in the content mix.  Some among you (you likely know who you are) may consider yourselves warned.

Rocky Mountin' Tie 'n' Collar Ado

From the "Perils of Public Art" file:

Los Angeles' landmark Walt Disney Concert Hall has been open for almost three years now, but remains incomplete in at least one respect.   The broad expanse of now-empty sidewalk in front of one of its major entrances has been intended from the outset to include "Collar and Bow," an enormous sculptural representation of a starched formal collar and accompanying black tie -- think of it as the collar and tie from King Kong's monkey suit -- by the team of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

The only image of the work I have been able to find online is the very small rendering that accompanies this overly optimistic press release from a year ago, announcing expected completion and installation by the end of 2005. 

Alas for supporters, not only is the work not yet in place, but today's Los Angeles Times reports that the entire project now appears to be falling apart:

'Collar and Bow' — a major outdoor sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, designed for the Walt Disney Concert Hall and scheduled to be installed this summer — has been put on hold, stalled by a technical problem requiring two components to be rebuilt at a cost that may be prohibitive, the Music Center and the artists say.

The 65-foot-tall metal and fiberglass sculpture takes the shape of a men's dress shirt collar and bowtie.  Set for installation on the sidewalk at the corner of 1st Street and Grand Avenue, the artwork was intended to complement the sail-like curves of the concert hall, designed by architect Frank O. Gehry.

The foundation of the sculpture, the bowtie, its band and the base of the collar are complete.  One of two upper sections of the collar was finished too, but it began to come apart in December, said Stephen D. Rountree, president of the Music Center of Los Angeles County.  After several months of study, the artists, architect, engineers and fabricators determined that the problem affected the structural integrity and viability of the sculpture, he said, and that the only way to fix it is to remake the two parts of the upper collar using different engineering and fabrication methods.

The estimated cost for reconstruction is $3 million -- more than the entire project was intended to cost in the first place -- in addition to $4 million already invested.  Life may be cheap in this town, but Art is not.  The Times identifies some of the factors contributing to the run-up in the cost of the piece:

Oldenburg, Van Bruggen and Gehry began to conceptualize "Collar and Bow" in 1993.  As the idea evolved, the artists designed an enormous sculpture meant to look as if it had been flung into the air and had landed lightly on the sidewalk.  Many changes occurred while the work was in process.  It grew from a height of about 35 feet to nearly twice that, and an unexpected slant in the sidewalk required tilting the artwork on its foundation.

I'm all choked up, though this piece has never struck me as being particularly promising.  Here at a fool in the forest, we intend to grab this story by the throat and not to let go.

Of related interest:

Apologies to my readers generally, and to John Denver fans particularly, for the more than usually strained pun in this post's title.

Wet Zeppelin


Here we have the makings of a blockbuster historical thriller:

On your right is Flugzeugträger A, also known as the Graf Zeppelin, the Nazis' one and only aircraft carrier. 

Begun in 1936, construction was never fully completed and the ship was never actually put to use.  It was scuttled by the Germans somewhere near Gdansk to keep it from the approaching Russian army in 1945.  Having taken possession of the neighborhood, the Russians later raised the vessel and sailed it into the Baltic, where it disappeared under Mysterious Circumstances, most likely involving loud and dramatic explosions.

Today, nearly sixty years later, DER SPIEGEL reports that what remains of the Graf Zeppelin has been found:

Divers working for the Polish oil firm Petrobaltic on Monday discovered the rusting hulk of Nazi Germany's only aircraft carrier, the Graf Zeppelin, sunk in mysterious circumstances by the Soviets after World War II.  Its exact location had been a riddle for almost 60 years.

* * *

On Monday, while sounding for oil deposits in the Baltic Sea, Polish workers discovered the wreck about 55 kilometers (34 miles) outside the Polish harbor town of Wladyslawowo, near Gdansk.  According to international maritime law the remains belong to the Federal Republic of Germany, but the German Defense Ministry told news agency ddp that jurisdiction is still under discussion.  In the meantime, the ship's mysteries are far from fully solved.

'It's difficult to say why the Russians have always been so stubbornly reluctant to talk about the location of the wreck,' Lukasz Orlicki, a Polish maritime historian, told the Times of London.  'Perhaps it was the usual obsession with secrecy, or perhaps there was some kind of suspect cargo.'

Perhaps . . . .

I'm thinking Nicholas Cage in the lead, racing through the backwater shipyards of Old Europe on the track of nautical clues while dodging bullets and pondering the romantic yearnings of an attractive Estonian sextant refurbisher (Lindsay Lohan) with mysteries of her own, climaxing with an elaborate battle of the mini-submersibles beneath the Gulf of Bothnia and the discovery of the Graf Zeppelin's Secret, for which the world will not be ready -- until July 2008

You read it here first, and I'll be expecting my points from the gross, in cash and up front.

And in other news from DER SPIEGEL:

Fire Brigade Called as Rodents Go Nuts:
Squirrels Storm German House

I'll Take "Bad Luck Streak in Journalism School" for $1000, Alex

Thanks to Ken Layne and Sploid, I now know why there has been a sudden resurgence of traffic to my old, old item on mighty Jeopardy! mega-champion Ken Jennings: Ken J is in the news again, on account of certain Professional Newswriters who can't actually recognize news, or a joke.  Per the deadly serious Mr. Layne:

Quiz-show hero Ken Jennings is in hot water for writing a humorous blog post that confused and angered the idiots who work for the New York Post, Associated Press, USA Today and other media.

Jennings, who won more than $3 million on "Jeopardy," posted the satirical "Dear Jeopardy" essay on his website.

In the easy-to-understand fake letter, Jennings claims host Alex Trebek died in a car crash and was replaced by a robot.

Ken Jennings' joke is not for everybody -- it will be most amusing to longtime Jeopardy! fans -- but it is Very Obviously a Joke.  Very Obviously, that is, unless you work for the New York Post or the Associated Press.

The lesson is: don't believe anything you read anywhere, anytime, unless it is written by someone named Ken.


Given Ken Layne's yeoman service in keeping the record straight on this and many another earth-shattering story, I am hoping that some sympathetic buyer will be found now that overlord Nick Denton has gone and put Sploid up for sale

Attention domain name shoppers!  Past Jeopardy! Champions agree:

The inimitable voice of Ken Layne must not be stifled.  The Internet will be meaningless, without form, void, and really really dull if he is silenced. 

And no, I'm not just saying that in the vain hope of scoring one of those precious review copies of the new Ken Layne & the Corvids album.   Howard Owens has one.  (I liked the first one a whole lot, including the reference to a certain affordable but Potent Potable.)


P.S., Vaguely Topical Musical UPDATE [072606]:

A constellation of weblogging luminaries including the aforementioned Ken Layne, Colby Cosh and tony pierce (who is editing LAist these days) are hanging about in the comments to this post from Matt Welch about the life-altering effect of seeing Prince & the Revolution perform "Purple Rain" on the American Music Awards lo some many years ago.  Matt has the YouTubean evidence.  In the course of the colloquy, Mr. Layne and mr. pierce generously provide links to some extremely fine live performances by The Clash from around 1980.  Jeopardy! is not mentioned.

Shore and Cher Get Jiggy With Ziggy and Iggy [YouTube]

In the later 1970s, David Bowie had a penchant for turning up on in unexpected contexts on U.S. television.  The most notorious, perhaps, is his holiday-special duet performance of "The Little Drummer Boy" with Bing Crosby.  Thanks to YouTube, several other examples have been preserved.

In 1977, between albums of his own, Bowie co-wrote and produced two collections with seminal American punk Iggy Pop, and toured as keyboard player in Iggy's band.  Somehow, the group was booked on Dinah Shore's afternoon talk show, a context as pleasant and genteel as Iggy's music was not.  I saw that broadcast when it aired -- I must have stumbled on it by accident while flipping channels -- and the contrast between Iggy's and Dinah's sensibilities was something to behold.  This clip (which looks to have been lifted from a VH1 Behind the Music show) includes a small snippet of the interview, in which Dinah expresses her concern for Iggy's health, given his oft self-damaging behavior.

If you pay close attention in that excerpt, you will discover that Dinah throughout the interview insisted on calling Iggy by his given name, "James." 

The interview segment followed this performance of "Funtime."  Dinah's introduction gives an idea of her progam's usual level of decorum, which was promptly shattered by Iggy getting his shirt off in the first seconds of his performance.  With his dangling cigarette, Bowie at the piano seems to be channeling Sinatra's cameo from Around the World in 80 Days:

And here we have Mr. Bowie on his own in 1975, as a guest on Cher's comedy-variety show, duetting with his host.  There's trouble from the outset, as the studio orchestra and choreography conspire to strip nearly all the soul from "Young Americans," but at the 1:17 mark it launches into an entirely new realm of dreadfulness: Great heavens! it's a medley!  And the theme is: take a random word from the lyric of the song you happen to be singing and switch in mid-phrase to another song in which that same word appears.  Cher is also sporting one of her more ill-considered wigs, a striking contraption that's half Toni Tenille, half mushroom.  Somehow, consummate professionals that they are, both David and Cher get through this with at least a semblance of their artistic credibility intact, but it is a near thing.

Well, My Blogroll is on the Left

To quote Hermia (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III, Scene ii):

I am amazed, and know not what to say.

Here I am, a socially liberal, tax-disliking, minimal-government-preferring, insurance-company-representing, libertarian-leaning registered Republican attorney.   Does it make any sense that my weblog would be linked -- favorably, no less -- on that bastion of foaming activist progressivism, Daily Kos?

Sensible or no, it is true: this Fool garners a link in this comment attached to a post asking the eternal question, "What Blogs/Websites Are You Reading?

Thank you for your endorsement, Mr./Ms. bumblebums.  Good taste is timeless.


How Great Thou, Art

Once again, it's cultural miscellany time.  A selection of items from elsewhere, mostly relating to topics taken up here in the recent past:

  • Peter Schjeldahl, writing in The New Yorker on That Darned Pricey Klimt that's all the rage, nails the silliest bit of hyperbole thus far launched in its honor:

Lauder, speaking for the Neue Galerie, has called the painting 'our "Mona Lisa." '  I have seen the 'Mona Lisa,' and 'Adele' is no 'Mona Lisa.'  Not very much is mysterious about this cookie.

Link via Donn Zaretsky's Art Law Blog, which I have also added to the links list -- I categorized him with the lawyers, but he would fit in just as well among the cultured -- at left.

  • Playbill reports on Opera News' list of "The 25 Most Powerful Names in U.S. Opera."  I leave it to the knowledgeable to comment in depth, but will note that Los Angeles is at least indirectly represented on the list via Placido Domingo in his administrative capacity as general director of the Los Angeles Opera, incoming LA Opera principal conductor James Conlon, and recently-in-LA Grendel director Julie Taymor.  International ultrasoprano Renée Fleming makes the list as well, just when she is at the heart of an LA Opera-related fiscal drama.

Los Angeles Opera has given itself less than two weeks to find the money needed to salvage a star-studded revival of Verdi's 'La Traviata' that the company trumpeted at the beginning of the year as the glittery opener of its 2006-07 season.

According to an L.A. Opera spokesman, the company does not currently have the funds to fulfill a contractual commitment it made to soprano Renée Fleming to produce a video record of this staging of Verdi's opera at the same time that it mounts three performances in September.  Unofficial estimates put the price tag for the taping at $600,000.

This is not the first hitch the production has faced since the announcement in January that Fleming would be joined by the magnetic baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and rising tenor Rolando Villazón for the performances, also scheduled to mark conductor James Conlon's debut as the company's music director.

Playbill link found, most unexpectedly, via Coolfer.

  • At the Opera News site, I stumbled upon a story on the exhumation of the remains of Farinelli, the great 18th Century castrato.  That story provides a convenient excuse to point to Christopher Peachment's recent castrati piece at The Social Affairs Unit, inspired by a current London exhibition on Handel's involvement with those now-extinct vocalists.  It begins in clinical fashion thus:

The deed was done with a device like a sheep-shearer. The boy was first placed in a bath of warm milk, which was thought to be relaxing, and then drugged with opium or alcohol.  This had its own dangers, and many died from an overdose.  Some surgeons would also use half-strangulation as a sedative, and many candidates were lost from too tight a pressure on the jugular.  It seems that about 4,000 boys underwent this operation in the 17th and 18th centuries, lured by the prospects of the huge rewards for a good castrato singer.  The most famous, Farinelli, earned more for an opera performance than Handel's fee for writing one, and by the end of his career was able to buy a Dukedom in Italy.

Read on, to learn the environmentally-sensitive reasons why Mr. Peachment proposes that everything old might be made new again.


George Hunka provides a link to a very recent (June 23) BBC video clip of Harold Pinter and Rupert Graves performing Pinter's 67-second long "Apart from that," in which neither speaker speaks of what is actually being spoken of.  A reminder, among other things, that in British theatre circles Pinter is as well regarded an actor as he is a playwright.

I mentioned Pinter here on the occasion of his Nobel Prize and later noted a Pinter parody here [last item in post].  And be sure to follow George Hunka's link to his earlier post reproducing one of the most quietly astonishing monologues ever, from Pinter's The Homecoming.  Vivien Merchant delivered it to spine-chilling perfection in the film version.

A Tale of the Vienna Woods

If this painting fell off the wall after hours, would it make a sound?

It's all Los Angeles imports all the time in New York City just now: 

In addition to LA Opera's Grendel, New Yorkers this week also gain the opportunity to visit the Bloch-Bauer family Klimts: stolen by Nazis, held by the Austrian government, recovered for the family by intrepid lawyers, and last seen at LACMA. 

At the New Criterion's ARMAVIRUMQUE weblog, writing of the glittering centerpiece of the group, James Panero opines that "[i]t is this story of ownership, rather than the value of Adele Bloch-Bauer I as a work of art itself, that is most apparent now" in the paintings' display at Ronald Lauder's Neue Galerie.   Mr. Lauder recently arranged to purchase the painting for his Galerie for a walloping $135 Million, leaving the hopes and dreams of Los Angeles art lovers to blow away with the dust and palm fronds when next the Santa Ana winds pass through. 

In addition to a skeptical subscriber-only (hence unlinked by me) piece in the New York Sun, Panero points back to Tyler Green's June 4 post at Modern Art Notes, suggesting that the true apex of this group is the 1903 Birch Woods (aka Beech Woods):

* * * As with Adele, reproductions don’t communicate the handsiness of the painting, the witty way Klimt built his autumn forest.

Beech Woods is more than just a landscape.  Klimt painted it in 1903, when Matisse was on the cusp of fauvism and years before Picasso and Braque created cubism.  During the next decade the flattening of perspectival space, the race to the picture plane, would drive the three Parisian trifecta (and an army of mimickers) to greater and greater paintings.

Klimt got pretty close in 1903. . . .

[Green has the distinct advantage over me of actually knowing what he's talking about when it comes to this sort of thing, and the description he provides of just how Klimt does what he does is terrific, especially worth reading if you are a New Yorker waiting in line to look at the thing itself.  Do I earn any aesthetic points or credibility for having mentioned the Matissiness of the other, 1912 vintage portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer included in this group?]

For Extra Credit: In keeping with my New York theme, read some more Tyler Green as he reports today on the Metropolitan Museum's Secretive War on the Struggling Middle Class.