Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cai-Guo Qiang - "I Want to Believe" at the Guggenheim

We saw the Murakami exhibit a few weeks back at the Brooklyn Museum. Except for the "flower room" there was not much one would consider exciting or inspiring at this exhibit. From an aesthetic standpoint -- forget the commercialism and the presence of the Louis Vuitton accessories being gobbled up by visiting Eurotouros-- there was something a little too reductive and hollow about the show, like they could have shoehorned most of what was interesting and sincere about the content of this huge show into Manhattan's "Museum of Sex" and still had enough room for (to paraphrase Fred Allen) three carraway seeds and Bruce Ratner's heart.

On the other hand, the soon-to-be closing Cai Guo-Qiang's exhibit at the Guggenheim is remarkable, creative, inspiring, dramatic, and visionary.

The installation at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is remarkable both in Cai Guo-Qiang's work and in the huge and impressive way it has been incorporated into the Frank Lloyd Wright structure. The exhibition of "Inopportune" with its lifesize exploding Ford Taurus's hurtling (metaphorically)from the ground up through the atrium to the roof of the Guggenheim is breathtaking. The life-size clay sculptures of Chinese farmers and landlords lining the ramp of "New York Rent Collection Yard," the incredible rush of a huge pack of life-size snarling (some almost cute) wolves in mid-flight, the re-creation of antique ships and thousands of arrows, or antique ships and tons of broken porcelein, the gunpowder paintings, the videos of the firework extension of the Great Wall in the Gobi Desert -- the artist appears to be an unlimited source of energy and creativity. I guess in these politically complex and confused times, issues can be found with the artist's association with the forthcoming Beijing Olympics (he is involved in the designing of certain key events) which is supported by the People's Republic of China. The artist is being offered a world-wide showcase for his dramatic and inspired vision. There is nothing cold, abstract or exploitative here. Cai Guo-Qiang explores social realism, technology (both contemporary and archaic), nature, and the spirit. His concept of "Everywhere is Musuem" explores locally curated sites (former military bunkers, the Gobi Desert, Chinese waterfront areas) to promote contemporary art with community involvement where art is often not regularly viewed). It will be amazing to see that vision enacted on a world stage. (At the Guggenheim through May 28th)


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Black and White Years

One of the great surprises of the Albany Tulip Festival was the great free music offered in Washington Park. I have to write a little bit more about The Black and White Years who have a new CD on Brando Records. The band has a strong post-punk feel, their tunes are so amazingly hook-laden that they instantly caught my attention. Strong ska influences, but in a totally American pop style, with lead singer Scott Butler's great vocals, that draw comparisons to David Byrne, but to me were more resonant in the idyosyncratic Danny Elfman/Oingo Boingo style which, to this listener, is high praise indeed. In any case, BWY are originals and if you are looking for a fresh rock sound, give a listen. Especially notable is "Power to Change" which, like much of the album, playfully mines its obscure lyrics but clearly wears its green heart on its sleeve. "Evil Ape," "A Wetter Sea," are among the other great movers and shakers on their eponymous The Black and White Years.

At the show, I picked up the CD, produced by Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads, which I am still exploring. The band originally used synth drums but for the album added the great Steve Ferrone of Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers and Average White Band.

Ya gotta hear this.

Black and White Years is --

Scott Butler - vocals, guitars, keys, words
Landon Thompson - guitars, keys, vocals
John Aldridge - bass, brass
Billy Potts - drums


Video: Power to Change - http://www.switchburn.com/theblackandwhiteyears/powertochange

Monday, May 12, 2008

Brooklyn on the Road Again: The 60th Annual Albany NY Tulip Festival

We hit the road again for My Better Half's Birthday and of course Mother's Day. We picked up our oldest and her pal at their college campus and drove up yonder on the Thruway to Albany NY with our 3 younger kids. Rented a couple of cozy, reasonable 2bedroom suites at a great motel near the SUNY Albany campus. Having set up our headquarters, we proceeded to paint the town pink, and purple, red, and yellow: after all, we were in town to check out the 60th Annual Albany Tulip Festival which our daughter had visited before and was the prompt for this Mother's Day weekend away.

Located in Washington Park, a lovely preserve located in the center of downtown Albany, designed by Olmstead and Vaux, designers of Central and Prospect Park, the Tulip Festival is a local tradition that includes the washing of the streets of Albany, followed by a weekend of fleurs and frolic, and capped by the crowning of the Tulip Queen.

The Tulips are lovely, numerous plantings on a hill in the center of Washington Park (which is about 4 blocks by 3 blocks in size), resulting in fields of lavish color. Lots of photographers out there. But, as Jerry Garcia used to say about the Grateful Dead, and Jagger said about the Stones in Gimme Shelter, the center of attraction, while cool and loads of fun, is really more of an excuse for folks to get together, listen to music, eat food from a variety of vendors and shop like crazy from artisans, craftsfolks, etc. who are set up throughout the park.

The music was great, especially The Black and White Years, produced by Talking Heads' Jerry Harrison, a band that reminded me a little of Danny Elfman's Oingo Boingo, crossed with TH. Performances concluded with an appearance by The Spin Doctors, of the multiplatinum "Pocket Full of Kryptonite," who have a new album coming out soon.

The Tulip Fest was also the site of a Wellness Green, health care and organic foods providers, yoga lessons, etc. Finally, Grannies for Peace held a demonstration for world peace, in which they invited participants to help produce "Peace Soup" by working for a better world. We walked away with great freebies, including organic dog food, too.

Later that night we were invited to fantastic home thrown pizza fest (baked on the barbecue grill)at the home of friends in Albany, plus vino and homemade desserts. It was a fun, lovely and warm evening with a delightful family.

The next day, we celebrated Mother's Day/Mom's Birthday at a great place, Provence, in town. Funny, we were originally trying to find its sister restaurant, Milano, in Latham NY, but got hopelessly lost, and we were heading back into town when we stumbled on Provence, which we had scoped out the night before for its lovely sounding brunch buffet, but which we gave up hope of getting into because of the lateness of our reservation. But, out of sheer desperation we ended up in Provence, its sister bistro, and the manager took pity on us Out-of-Towners, got us a table, where the six of us enjoyed the warm ambiance and great brunch. Just shows you never can tell. Then we headed back to New Paltz and back to the City, thinking about our great weekend away and looking for excuses to visit Albany again

Friday, May 9, 2008

Let's Get Started - It is Time for the 2008 Presidential Campaign to Begin

Whatever happens happens. While I am reluctant to join the "pile-on", I have to agree with the Reverend Al, but, at this late point, for Senator Clinton to be declared the winner would result in the destruction of the Democratic party. So let's get started. In the past 2 elections against the GOP media onslaught, the Democrats put forward candidates who had the full support of all areas of the party. And then the candidates lost.

This time, we have two Democratic candidates who fundamentally would represent enormous change, change that is appropriate to the 21st century. Perhaps because of this, they have fought a tough, tough battle. The party is in ferment. I saw uncommitted superdelegate Donna Brazille arguing with Clinton-supporter Lanny Davis the other night and she could barely contain her anger. Clearly, the stage has now shifted. Regardless of the rhetoricality of "who would be the better candidate in the upcoming general election, " after Senator Obama's strong win in North Carolina and Senator Clinton's squeaking victory in Indiana, and whether it is now media and pundit weariness, or just the general sense that this arm wrestling has gone on long enough, after this last go round, reaching this point in the nominating process, and while it is still Senator Hillary Rodham Clintons' choice to make, it seems impossible for Senator Clinton to prevail. Even were it possible, a decision based solely on the superdelegates that bypasses the democratic nomination process as instituted in the primaries would be nothing short of a disaster for the party. Even supporters of Senator Clinton are battle weary by this point.

The common wisdom suggested that perhaps Senator Clinton is the stronger candidate from the perspective of that old timey, alligator-wrassling, thumb-in-your-eye, butt whupping contest that we have known as American politics up to this point. But in the current nominating process, among independents where they were allowed to vote, as well as among the Democratic party faithful, Senator Obama continues to do well, strategically pulling in the delegates required to maintain a victory margin. Like Senator Clinton, he has some wicked friends and has said some dumb things in unguarded moments. Amnd maybe when it comes down to the general election, the Republicans will use whatever old school, swift-boatin' dirty tricks and negative media that they can against Senator Obama. Maybe lofty rhetoric won't cut it. Maybe politics remains a series of pitched battles. Or maybe Senator Obama is right and people are tired of the politics of the past and are ready to try something new, waged on ideas and possibility instead of 2-party polarization and media blather. Maybe the incredible tension that the nominating process has stirred up will prove to be beneficial, battle-testing Senator Obama and giving voice to the reality that if not now, very soon, a woman will lead this country. I hope so, but I don't know for sure. No one does. But at this point, with all due respect to Senator Clinton, it seems clearer than ever that the primary process is over, and it is probably time to find out which course this country is ready to take.

Let the real 2008 Presidential campaign begin.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Edible Brooklyn: Hoyt Street's Main At"traction"

My cousin's husband has, in the words of Edible Brooklyn, a "License to Till." This is the 3rd article I think I've read about Andrew's antique tractor and my cousin Cathy has yet to make an appearance. A man and his tractor shall not soon be parted. If Cortelyou Road can feature the "Farm on Adderly" than I guess Hoyt Street can have it's own Tractor Pull.

(Keeping it all in the family, I have to sincerely thank my nephew, currently keeping his head down at the Bear, and his inimitable blog, Gotham City Insider, for clueing me in on this item.)

Full article here: http://www.ediblebrooklyn.net/content/pages/issues/spring2008/obsessions.pdf

2008 Brooklyn Blogfest --Tonight's the Night

Tonite. 8 PM. Brooklyn Lyceum. 4th avenue and union/president street. $10. Nuff said. We're blogging, hope you like blogging too...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

PRIME GREEN: Spring in Flatbush

Oh, yeah. It is here. The blossoms have fallen away, like ochre on a stone. The buds which had turned to blossoms are nearly withered away, replaced by the fresh, vibrant prime green that comes with the beginning of spring. Not the calendar beginning, but the beginning when the hundreds and hundreds of tulips lovingly planted by neighbors are in a joyful array, and when the roses are beginning to stir, the first flowers are well established. Spring in Brooklyn, a feeling of lightness and buoyancy that mirrors the glorious first coming of a brighter sky, not icy and remote like winter, and not punishing and martial, like deep summer. But a gentle sun in a gentle sky, full of promise.

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo