Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Rise of the Bi-Polar

On fads in mental disorders and their relation to drug companies' interests. Gems from an interview with British psychoanalyst Darian Leader this Sunday in El País:

"There is one pharmaceutical industry salesman for every three doctors prescribing drugs. The pharmaceuticals manage lists that classify doctors into what you might call Aristotelian categories in terms of what kind of professionals they are: whether they are easy to influence, whether they talk with their patients a lot. There's a whole new industry selling clinical data about how doctors practice so that pharmaceuticals can approach them more efficiently. With things at this level, one can talk about a conspiracy." (Translations: DC)

 "The commercialization of medicine is a very curious process. In the first step, pharmaceuticals pay famous people not to promote a medicine, but to say they suffer a disease. Ricky Williams, for example, a player with the Miami Dolphins, received a pile of cash to say on Oprah Winfrey that he was shy. No company is going to promote a disease unless they have a cure ready to sell afterwards."

 "In the middle of this decade it became evident that patents for the principal anti-depressants, which enjoyed extraordinary high sales, were about to expire. The marketing departments of pharmaceutical companies decided –all the historians coincide on this– to put money into bipolar disorders: congresses, scientific articles… You have to keep in mind that research is financed mainly by the pharmaceuticals. This lead to a gradual expansion in the diagnosis and to the sale of traditional anti-epileptic drugs, which now have new patents for treating these so-called bipolar disorders.

 "The epidemic of depression which we saw in the 90s, in turn, was produced by the collapse of tranquilizers. In the 70s, the market for anxiolytics or anti-anxiety drugs was enormous. When the negative effects of their regular use became widely publicized, marketing money went into the market for depression. People who had been diagnosed as suffering anxiety received a diagnosis of depression. Now, 25% of depressed patients are being re-diagnosed as bipolar."

 "There is a difference between being crazy and becoming crazy. Between having a psychotic mental structure, which a lot of people have, and having a truly active psychosis. Once you've made this elementary distinction, defined by psychiatry in the 19th century, a whole new path opens up in therapy. You have to ask yourself what allows all these people to lead stable lives. I don't believe in categories of mental health or mental illness. Mental health doesn't exist. When people do terrible things, sometimes it turns out that they are very sane. What then is mental sanity? We should eliminate the distinction between mental health and mental illness, and see people in terms of mental structures. Which don't have to be labeled in order to obtain help."

Pablo Guimón
"Hay que eliminar la distinción entre salud y enfermedad mental"
 El País, Sunday, February 22, 2015. Section Domingo, p. 6

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why they call them Blimps

The Mail OnLine presents the new JLENS aerostats, posted at 10,000 feet over the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, allegedly to secure the East Coast from incoming cruise missiles (January 24th, 2014).

Ugly things.

Nothing up to the standards of the early-20th century LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin – they look more like something thrown out of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, an eyeless white whale with an inflated udder, witless flippers and its seams showing.

Now that's one hell of a cucumber!

And dig those fins!

On the other hand, maybe they should have talked to Jeff Koons.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Born to Run

Readers of Spanish, please don't miss Jacinto Antón's virtual tour of the new museum of Catalan hurt feelings in El País this Sunday, Born to Si, Si.

During the restoration of the Born, a19th century market, archeologists discovered the remains of an entire neighborhood demolished by Bourbon conquerors in the early 18th century, in reprisal for Barcelona's siding with the wrong monarchy in the War of Succession.

The project for a library in the building was cancelled, and now it has been opened as the Born Centro Cultural, "a sort of theme park glorifying that Barcelona razed by Phillip V's Bourbon troops in 1714," in the words of a more uncritical report published in El País on September 10th.

Antón explains:
"The Catalan sovereignty movement finally has a modern tool capable of transmitting its version of history and stir emotions in a mass audience... 

"The fundamental experience pursued in the Born CC does not truly belong to the field of historic knowledge, but rather to that of emoción identitaria, the identification with a people and a destiny,with its projection into the future ('the Catalan people maintained the memory of their liberty forever after'). And everything with a modern, impeccable aesthetic and design, equal to that of any European museum."

September 11, 2014 will be the third centennial of this conquest, just in time for the referendum on Catalan independence that the government of Arturo Más is attempting to organize, as a diversion from his disastrous economic policy.

You know the old routine, things are going bad, find someone to blame. 

Makes me think back on the emotionally manipulative  exhibit displays at Washington's Holocaust Museum, opened in the 1990s. There the aim of moral education is theoretically more universal, but as my friend David Cohn wrote at the time, shouldn't we have more faith in reasonable argument, also on moral grounds? Emotional communication is for another sphere -- but exactly which one?

Meanwhile the grim historic facts about the repression of Catalan identity on the part of centralizing forces from Madrid are quite solid. Archeologists recovered 300 cannon balls from the ruins under the Born, for example; 60 are in the exhibition.

A few more pearls: 
 "El Born CC, que tiene parte de Yad Vashem —el museo de los mártires y el heroísmo del Holocausto, en Jerusalén— y parte de parque temático, con un puntito de Nou Camp (en los dioramas y reconstrucciones históricas las casacas de las tropas que defendieron la ciudad son mayoritariamente azul y grana y las de los atacantes borbónicos, blancas)..."

"...por todas partes en el Born CC el visitante encuentra alusiones a lo feliz, fantástica y próspera (incluso con helados) que era la vida hasta la Guerra de Sucesión —como si los catalanes fueran un pueblo de industriosos hobbits sobre los que se cernía la sombra del Mordor borbónico y su “barbarie absolutista— y mensajes más o menos subliminales tipo '1714-2014 Vivir libre', 'Feliz Tricentenario', 'Reborn'...."

Headlines that double-speak for themselves


Dubai Aims to Become World's Most Sustainable City in Time for Expo 2020

The headline is from GreenSource, sister publication of Architectural Record, dated December 16, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Attention, George Saunders

I preserve a tender spot somewhere in me for these missives from Russian bots.
Here's a recent one:

"From: Anna
Sent: Monday, February 04, 2013 4:47 PM
To: John Sandwich
Subject: your profile to produce on me greater impression
Hello my lonely heart! I liked your profile and I would like to learn you
better. To me of 25 years, my name is Anna. I the beautiful, kind, clever
woman looking of serious attitudes... If you wish to learn me better and you
were interested with my letter write to me on mine E-mail
kegedsdsdsdfsdsdisdsi60@ysdsdsasndddqwegx.ru [Not actual email]
Please Specify The
1 Full name
2 Date of birth
3 Your Country
I shall wait for your letter."
So she loves me, but with the love of a customs official. Just when I was getting warmed up.
My, that prose style is catchy. 
Will have to work on my wracked grammar to get it downright. Very endearing.

Department of Cognitive Dissonance

Straight from the email PR:

"The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism: Part Two"

"Conceptualized by Warren Neidich, TU Delft School of Architecture, and hosted by The ICI Berlin, Villa Aurora, Berlin, and The Office of Artistic Occupation, Los Angeles, “The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism: Part Two will bring together an international array of philosophers, critical theorists, media theorists, art historians, architects and artists to discuss the state of the mind and brain under the conditions of contemporary capitalism, in which these cognitive apparati have become the new focus of laboring."

"This symposium continues to ask many of the same questions posed in Part One held in collaboration with California Institute of the Arts and Art Center College of Design last November, but elaborates upon many of the questions left unattended. Questions such as: What is the future of mind in Cognitive Capitalism? Can a term such as Plastic Materialism describe the substantive changes in neural architectures instigated by this contingent cultural habitus? What about the Unconscious as it known to us in dreams and other implicit psychic phenomena? Is it also modified, mutated and modulated by these evolving conditions of global attention? Is there such a thing as Cognitive Communism, and does it have distinct patterns of pathological enunciation? How has the idea of the Post-Colonial mutated as a result of these conditions?"

"Is parametric design, which is computational and generative, an apparatus of cognitive capital? Is designed space an agent or platform in the production of subjectivity, and is parametrics complicit with its devices? Does architecture have a humane answer to its lack of empathy?; How does artistic research – the methods and practices of artistic production and the knowledge they produce – create new emancipatory possibilities in opposition to the overwhelming instrumentalization of the general intellect in Semiocapitalism?"

Whoops ! Still awake there? Sorry you missed Part I? Maybe you can buy the book. 

Hell, I'm no philistine, but sometimes the Ivory Tower should take a peek outside. 

And whoops, almost forgot the list of sessions. (This goes on for a while, but there seems to be no link for a full list on the web. Sorry).
Plenary 1 
Yann Moulier Boutang 
Mental quilombos in production of value. Flights and counter-forms of mania under cognitive capitalism in a postcolonial world. 

Plenary 2 
Abdul-Karim Mustapha 
Antinomies of Flight: Between Cognitive Capitalism and Postcolonialism

Plenart 3 
Ina Blom
Video and Autobiography Vs. the Autobiography of Video. Technicity and subjectivity in the Realm of Realtime.....

How do I get on these lists? Where was I when all this came up?

Didn't they learn anything from the French post-structuralists?  I mean, where is their Oedipal killer instinct? Let's out-ditz Daddy's ditz?

Actually, you read it over three or four times and it all starts to make sense.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Counting the Lavender

 A description of Steven Holl's plans to enlarge Washington, DC's Kennedy Center, which ran in Salon on January 29, talks about a Memorial Garden:

"It could include 46 Gingko trees to note the number of years Kennedy lived, 35 lavender rows for the 35th president..."

"It could include a reflecting pool the exact length of the PT-109 boat that Lt. John Kennedy commanded during World War II. Holl envisions a deck along the pool made from the same mahogany wood as the boat. It could also include inscriptions of Kennedy’s words."

Daniel Libeskind made a perfect ass of himself with his Ground Zero plan and Freedom Tower, 1776 feet high, which is just about the only feature of his design that survives. And now Steven Holl has caught the bug.

What is it with egghead architects and highly-visible public memorials? Do they think this number game is some kind of conceptual art? Are they being bamboozled by K Street public relations goons?

They seem to have overdosed on Patriotism, while at the same time find themselves incapable of covering up its naked, stupid vacuity with anything resembling intelligent thought.

All they can hope to accomplish is to give inane tour guides some nonsense to prattle away about as the tour bus slows down for a photo opp.

And what about the lame, repetitive prose of this quote, which most likely comes straight from the press release? Where is the independent critical judgement of the Fourth Estate? Do they think they have to faithfully repeat this stuff or be accused of being unpatriotic? Or of hurting someone's feelings?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Love Letter

Love letter received from a foreign robot, very touching:
-----Original Message-----
From: albertporter
Sent: Saturday, December 29, 2012 3:16 PM
To: John Sandwich
Subject: I will wait That you smiled at me
I wish to find my soul mate!
I am a attractive and confident woman. I do believe in love based on a deep passion and even deeper understanding
And I know how to love and appreciate a really fine man.
I appreciate in men their ability to communicate with lady.
I am an honest woman and I have nothing to hide from you. My dream is to create a family with a decent man. Here are my photos and my profile, may be http://kzK65fcffd5hhwXol3mRr.populus.ch I am yours fate.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

America, A Paranoiac-Critical State of Mind

Free association via Dali's Paranoiac-Critical Method
Another bad time for Hillary Clinton, just out of the State Department and she slips and falls in the bath before her Senate hearings over the Libyan fiasco.

And what’s with John McCain for State? Too much conciliation with stuff the way it is, they must have Obama by the balls in foreign policy and “defense” – the Libya thing seems like a symptom too.

And military power to the CIA, drones galore.

There’s good movie they’ll never make after Argo and the Kathryn Bigelow, thing about blowing away Bin Laden: living poor in the Pakistani highlands with drones over your head 24 hours a day. We’re making lots of new friends over there for sure.

And I hear rabid police departments are salivating over having drones of their own, for “surveillance” purposes, naturally.... for the moment.

Did you see that photo of the local constabulary patrolling the streets of Newton, the fat guy with the shades and the automatic rifle, grinning from ear to ear? He looks like the next one ready to burst into a school or a shopping mall with his big dick substitute blazing away.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why We Hate The New York Times Part 3 or 4

The New York TImes will never learn. Look at this profile in T-Bone Magazine on my favorite slicko-French architect. Rudy Riccotti (above), and his new cultural center in Marseilles, a city which is described in the article as that "simmering bouillabaisse of Mediterranean cultures".

Rudy had my friend David Cohn simmering too this summer when he reviewed his Jean Cocteau Museum for Architectural Record. And they hired this guy for the Islamic wing of the Louvre? The French are really hard up for architects these days.

Here's more of that T-Bone prose I just can't get enough of:

"Dressed in a faded navy tank top, khaki jeans and espadrilles, Ricciotti conjures the casual nonchalance and swagger of a Rolling Stones-generation rock star. This is no accident. At 60, the French architect has earned a reputation as a tempestuous and provocative iconoclast with a sly sense of humor, a thick-as-olive-paste southern accent and an effusively gesticulating manner....."
 Isn't he just yummy?

Obstructed Voter

Take a look at the New York absentee voter ballot package I received here in Spain. If you can make heads or tails of it. Beats me.

First, try sizing the PDF ballot (above) to print on letter paper, as per instructions. It doesn't print correctly, the names don't come out, and it's full of black streaks -- I tried 4 different ways and downloaded it twice.

Then all the nonsense about cutting and pasting the two envelopes they want you to print out. "Fold on the dotted line": I remember that joke from third grade. Haven't they heard about labels? You know, cut it out, tape it on an envelope, vazoom.

 Or why not vote on the web? We do out banking on the web, pay our taxes on the web, so why not?

Seems designed by idiots, or people who don't want absentees to vote.

And then of course being digital, I can print and fill out as many ballots as I want and send the forms to all my friends so they can do the same. If any of us can manage to assemble it correctly and not have our ballots thrown out as unreadable.

 It is so bad it should be denounced. Will try to do so. Please help!

Meanwhile,  how am I supposed to vote?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Guisqui a Go-Go

While Madrid seethes with battle-frenzied protestors and politicians, and Catalunya plots  sedition, a Spanish magazine has found the receipts for Spanish President Mariano Rajoy's 1000 euro dinners aboard government planes. 

And all this, absolutely all of it, is designed simply to distract us from the fact that there is no ready solution for the problem at hand, and we are all going to hell in a basket. 

Article thanks to Jeff English. 
Text in Spanish.
Rajoy: “Extra de whisky y vino”
Interviu, 24 Sept. 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Warbucks and the General Strike

Funny Coincidence Dept: The New York Times chronicles Starbucks efforts to open the European market the day after fringe extremists in Barcelona torch a Starbucks during the General Strike of 29 March. I hope the executives in Seattle can take a hint.

One of the obstacles to profit in Europe: supposedly high employee wages.

Photos of the Barcelona rioting were widely distributed in the world press, especially in financial coverage, but you don't see many photos of the hundreds of thousands peacefully demonstrating in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, with their massed red flags and standards of the leftist national unions, looking quite photogenic in the haze of a fine spring day. Evidently,. the old Commie scare doesn't do the trick anymore.

The financial markets, real drama queens, make money with scare stuff, and the pornography of  violence blown out of proportion beats peaceful red-flag waving these days.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Howlin Wolf

A friend who likes to provoke sent us the following article from The National Review by one Victor Davis Hanson, reflecting on the effect of metal-hunting thieves on his rural California community. Hanson writes, "I am starting to feel as if I am living in a Vandal state, perhaps on the frontier near Carthage around a.d. 530, or in a beleaguered Rome in 455."  He goes on for four pages documenting the atrocities committed in his vicinity, and punctures a "vague code of silence" to pont the finger at "gangs of young Mexican nationals or Mexican-Americans." Here's one typical lament:

"Last week an ancestral rural school near the Kings River had its large bronze bell stolen. I think it dated from 1911. I have driven by it about 100 times in the 42 years since I got my first license. The bell had endured all those years. Where it is now I don’t know. Does someone just cut up a beautifully crafted bell in some chop yard in rural Fresno County, without a worry about who forged it or why — or why others for a century until now enjoyed its presence?"

Too bad about the bell, but on the subject of the end of civilization our author hasn't been to, say,  downtown Detroit over the past 50 years?

What's going on here is described in Christopher Leinberger's column in The New York Times on The Death of the Fringe Suburb (November 11, 2011), which explains how the real estate crisis and the trend back to urban centers have finally doomed the unsustainable sprawl of the outer suburbs.

Crime in cities has gone down so it is logical that crime in the outer burbs will go up. Mayor Giuliani, prisons and demographics made cities safe for the bright sons and daughters of the well-to-do, and now society’s honest minimum-wage working-class losers must move out with their frustrated offspring to bankrupt subdivisions in the outer burbs. Out there with the deer, coyotes and other wildlife.

In this apocalyptic scenario, our author will soon be joining a panicked swarm back to urban living, just as he and his parents swarmed out of the cities from the 50s until now. All to be accompanied, as the article's subtext foreshadows, by very civilized fantasies of Dirty Harry revenge.

Photo:John R. Street, Detroit, 2003, by Camilo José Vergara
From a silly article in Domus, 2011, that almost merits an Exabrupto of its own

Monday, January 2, 2012

Fluff and Filth

Why I Hate The New York Times update
T Mag has a blog by Christopher Petkanas specializing in, quote, Fabulous Dead People, which as you can guess are decadent French aristocratic gays and socialites.

If it were Warhol's old Interview I couldn't object, but isn't this getting a little tiresome?

What is it with the Times? Even Vanity Fair has more aggressive reporting on the general stink of things -- see the January article on the military-industrial complex by Todd S. Purdum.

The Fab Dead blog's latest role model is one Alexis, Baron de Red (pictured above right at a costume ball).  Makes you want to run out and get a subscription to the Wall Street Journal.

PS: Don't miss the comments, including this by Brightshadow:
"It is utterly tragic to read about someone, obviously one's soulmate, whom one never met and now, never will. I feel the same way when I read about Erasmus, Diderot and Lord Byron." 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Back to Work

Trying to get back up and running after a trip, but it occurred to me to launch a new computer with Windows 7 (up from XP).

In the new Word the menus have disappeared and it seems all must be done with the mouse, with tiny new symbols and lettering arranged not in a line but all over the place. It's just as if they rearranged the keyboard, the bastards.

The image above is driving me nuts too, but its days are numbered.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bring in the Clowns

I had a friend in college, call her Sugar, who knew Tom Waits when he was just another suburban middle-class Dylan wannabee, and of course it's all an act. That's show biz. But you've got to have an act that, well, is a good act, and he just doesn't sell me. Sugar had sour grapes on a sour romance too I think, but he sings like a genuine phony. 

I read in some silly echo in El Pais of the silly branding of Zuccotti Square, how they didn't have a song yet, and maybe Waits had the song. Like Joni and Woodstock. Plu-eze! Call off the revolution, call in the merchandisers.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Crystal Bridges versus the Strip

On Walmart's Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansaw: They could have spared us the stores and spared us the museum too. Look at Carneige, who built magnificent libraries everywhere. What have they given back to the towns they've bled to death economically?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wailing Wall

Glad I'm far away from all the 9/11 commemorations, as reported in the Times last week. If they commemorated every dead Iraqi or Afghan like they do every American, the world would become one big version of the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem. No one hears them over there but everything is connected.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Airport Security: A Modest Proposal

In light of increasing complaints on airport security measures (click here for example), we offer a modest suggestion: A special optional flight plan available to all travelers: pay less for your ticket in airport taxes, sign a waiver against suing the government if the plane blows up mid-flight, and you can skip the airport shakedown.

It's win-win for everyone. The only trick is to make sure terrorists buy the more expensive tickets with the pat-down included. Maybe something sacriligious to Islamic faith, like a pork-only menu on budget flights.

It makes about as much sense as the current system.

For more interesting observations on this issue, click here for Amazon customer reviews on the Playmobil  TSA Security Checkpoint pictured above.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Middle Brow Gourmandie

From our ongoing anthology Why I Hate The New York Times, in a book review about Americans in Paris in the 19th century:
"This is history to be savored rather than sprinted through, like a Parisian meal. It amounts to a meaty collection of short stories, expertly and flavorfully assembled, free of gristly theory."
The review  includes a good example of confusing diction and a curious way of seeing history from a Westchester perspective. The presumed dead and resurrected Washburne referred to was the US ambassador in Paris during the Franco-Prussian War. Fortunately everything was back to picture-postcard-perfect in a jiffy despite that  nasty little revolution: 
By the time German troops marched down the Champs-Élysées, on March 1, l871, more than 65,000 Parisians had died. The only prominent diplomat to do so, Washburne valiantly refused to budge even through the months of the Commune, one of the bloodiest chapters in French history. His was no paradisiacal Paris; as the atrocities mounted, the distraught Washburne noted that the city was “a hell upon this earth.” At one point the Seine ran red with blood. A team of 60,000 masons would be required to put Paris back together again. On Mary Cassatt’s arrival shortly afterward, the Hôtel de Ville looked like a Roman ruin.
And the review closes with this immortal line, after reporting on how Saint-Gaudens wrote of Paris, “Coming here has been a wonderful experience, surprising in many respects, one of them being to find how much of an American I am”:

Paris is the city to which good Americans go to learn that they really do love peanut butter.

And bad Americans? Is this is what passes for lively prose writing these days?

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Patent Office is Open

Some ideas just keep popping up in our head, time to unload. Interested developers, leave a comment and our lawyers will be in touch shortly. Reasonable rates:

  • The Pedal-Powered Computer Desk. Remember those Singer sewing machine tables with the cast iron foot pedals? From Sweat Shop to Ye Olde Cafe. Hook one up to a dynamo and a lithium battery, and you can cruise the internet off the grid! Work off that flab too!! And help Save the Planet, so help me God. This should be under every Christmas tree by 2012.

  • Chinese European Bus Tour: The Musical. The new Chinese middle class, 200 million strong, is hoofing it to Europe to take in the sights. There are laughs galore for all as they shoot photos of Karl Marx's birthplace in a lost town in western Germany, do the Printemps department store big time (dance number) and wonder over Western decadence. With hit songs like Louis Vuitton Loves Me, No Smoking Blues and Which Way to the Nearest Chinese Restaurant. Based on an article in the April 18th New Yorker.

  • Sick and tired of the Same Old TV News, day-in, day-out? Download the Instant Laugh Track®, compatible with all major brands. Simply push the Instant Laugh Track® button on your remote and chuckle your way through floods, wars, bombings and boring Presidential addresses. 
  • Works on Fox News commentators, Bloomburg market reports and commercials too!
  • Extra option  for BlowTime™ subscribers: every time you push the Instant Laugh Track® button, BlowTIme™ bills you one red cent for relief work in Haiti with only minor handling  costs included. Ease that Guilty Conscience for a Worthy Cause! 
  • Sixteen hundred completely unique and different laugh tracks, delivered by new digital lie detector technology that captures your every mood through the intensity of your hand grip on the remote. Results sent to your broadcaster for free opportunities to win Big Cash Prizes. 
  • And don't forget Laugh Track MeToobe® and Laugh Track Faceshock® for your browsing pleasure. No batteries required.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Nero from New York

If you had to chose between Donald Trump and Sarah Palin as President, who would it be? (He's looking pretty Presidential for sure).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Renewable Enegy

I've seen the future -- a radio/flashlight with a lthium battery and a hand crank. Soon we will be all running in circles like gerbels to power our computers, heat our houses and move our cars -- back to the Flintstones. WILMAAAA!

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Man Kimmelman

Here's man after my own heart. Michael Kimmelman in the NYT (December 16th, selected excerpts):
"Notwithstanding the recession, art-worlders insist smart people still pay good money for great art. (Really? Smart? Hirst?)

The current art world, in the form of art fairs like Frieze, as well as the ubiquitous biennials and other festivals, is without debate succeeding at something now. It's succeeding at providing relatively cheap forms of mild distraction for ever-larger masses of fashion-conscious people whose budgets cover dinner at PizzaExpress, but not works of art.

...the art world, having become almost entirely an extension of the fashion and entertainment industries, offers its own version of bygone Hollywood's outlandish riches and loopy entertainment. Instead of Esther Williams, it's Jeff Koons. Instead of Tarzan, there's Olafur Eliasson.

If this were all that art produced, the era's legacy would look dire. But it would also be grim to contemplate the arts being serious and important all the time." 
He hems and haws a bit there, but he's got a dozen editors and Sulzberger Jr. looking over his shoulder.

"Culture of Recession? Or Vice Versa?"
by Michael Kimmelman
The New York Times, December 16, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010


The shell game continues. Countries hike debt to rescue banks, which then threaten their rescuers with bankruptcy by shorting their bonds. Blackmail: countries in okay shape but with a plunging bond rate must accept to be rescued in exchange for ditching the Welfare State and imposing Libertarian Capitalism, i.e. every man for himself. Unemployment jumps, real wages drop, everyone is screwed, and the rich get richer. After Ireland comes Portugal, Spain and all the rest of the little duckies. The US too: this is like Brecht: when they come for you there will be no one left to object.

Everything, absolutely everything in the financial markets is a scheme to rob the working wage earner and create the conditions for Third World bliss: 1% of the population with 99% of the wealth. Check out how far along the US is on this road, and you have the country's history of the last 30 years in a nutshell.

The little man revolts but he hasn't a clue: there is a grass-roots movement by Spaniards to withdraw all their savings from banks on December 18th. Good luck. But if this goes on, the little man could get really angry and start thinking. Let's hope so.

Photo: Favela Morumbi, Sao Paulo
From Treehugger

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Campaign Lessons from Catalonia

Note to the wary: the links on this post are not for minors, even if they are in Catalan. And they are not for your Aunt Minnie either.

American politicos can learn something from the election campaign in Catalonia, the autonomous region whose capital is Barcelona. Videos by different parties have added some spice to the process, always welcome in bringing out the vote.

First the youth division of the Socialists came out with a video in which an attractive young female voter gets a little heated up on entering the polling station, and then has a rather sublime time of it introducing her ballot into the ballot box. See it here (sorry about the ad).

Then a fringe party (Alternativa de Govern) did a video with its leader, Montse Nebrera, appearing on camera wrapped in a towel after sounds of sex, and saying something like, "I could go further but...."  The video is a little long, tracking through a disheveled bedroom and some political messages in Catalan while the soundtrack plays out to its conclusion, but Montse is worth the wait, even if she must be some kind of political kook (she is backed by the Opus Dei, altho I'm not sure if they previewed her campaign material). Judge for yourself here.

This was all very fun, but then the conservative Popular Party's youth brigade sent out a video game where their candidate avatar gets points for shooting down illegal immigrants and symbols of Catalan identity such as paellas and butifarra sausages  (stand-ins for those pesky Catalan indepentistas). But there was a fuss and  they had to withdraw the game and come up with some plausible excuse. Here's a couple of screen shots someone got before they pulled it, where you can appreciated the campaign's graphic skills:

There she is, up in the left hand corner on the back (or neck) of a seagull, a party symbol, whacking away at immigrants and butiffaras with her light bulb missiles (get it? -- bright ideas). Note the apocalyptically silhouetted homeland, with Calatravian doodles in ruins, a beseiged cross, and a burning glow on the horizon....

With only 40% of the electorate expected to turn out, anything is worth a try.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tea, Anyone?

The New Yorker has been doing a quick intensive course on the new right wing and its been a lot of fun. About how Wm F Buckley worked to keep the John Birch nutcases from taking over the GOP, to keep the party in the center of the road, from Goldwater to Reagan. About the Koch Bros, descendants of John Birchers with reasons of their own to be rabid libertarians and anti-regulators (oil and gas pipelines), secretly financing the tea takers to the tune of millions. On the origins of the Fox news guy Beck's rants and raves (John Birch again and worse, and all based on fictionalizing history, the Constitution and so on). 

My new theory: Yes to a weak federal govt, yes to states rights. If the east coast and the west coast want health care, pass it state by state. If all the rest of the middle of the country wants to prohibit abortion, jail homosexuals, throg immigrants and worse, let'em go back to the Stone Age on their own. And while Idaho, Texas and Colorado are busy with these pressing social issues, who cares about foreign affairs? That will be the beginning of the end of the military-industrial dictatorship (I admit, a rather remote possibility) and give the rest of the world a rest from American foreign policy. I mean, Iraq, where's that? What we have to worry about now is Massachusetts!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Now that the cat catches mice...

A new quote for the new China: Xi Jinping, Chinese leader-designate, cited in El País from a speech in Mexico in 2009:
"Some foreigners, with their stomachs full and nothing better to do, dedicate their time to pointing the finger at us. In the first place, China doesn't export revolution. Secondly, it doesn't export hunger and poverty. And thirdly, it doesn't go around looking for trouble. What more is there to say?"
 Translated from the Spanish by JS

Photo from Chinesehour Blog
Xi's wife is a popular singer

Friday, October 22, 2010

Madrid is Bankrupt

Zap is putting the screws on municipalities so they can't keep increasing their debts. He's been especially hard on Madrid (PP), with the biggest debt, and the Mayor was seen literally begging the Pres for a break at the Spain Day parade on October 12th.

He owes trash collection and street cleaning companies over 250 m euros, hasn't paid them in 9 months, and they are threatening to cut services (total debt owed by Spanish municipalities to the big trash haulers (spin-offs of once-rich construction firms) are over 2 bn euros).

The Mayor (Alberto Ruiz Gallardón) owes money to everyone. He put Madrid thru two Olympic bids (2012 and 2016), buried a highway under the Manzanares River, a 10 km underground six-lane salaam course with countless interchanges and extensions, that cost about 6 bn (the best work of interactive installation art I've ever seen, I must admit), built a Dominque Perrault tennis stadium that cost 300 m (double the budget) and that really sucks (The roofs slide up and down but so what? Its a big Kemedy-Center box (Ed Du Stone, Washington DC) finished in galvanized steel and concrete), and uselessly moved city hall into the old post office at Cibeles for a cost of over 100 m, not to mention a lot of other things. When he was Pres of the Madrid regional govt. he sunk another big chunk in a regional subway, underground, that connects all the southern suburbs. A total waste.

It would be great if Madrid forecloses. Its the only thing that might hurt this idiot's popularity -- he is by far the most popular politician in Spain, altho his own party hates him -- they think he's a socialist, because he's not exactly a Francoist. The PP puts up with him because he's unbeatable. And municipal elections are coming up next May -- let's see if he can hold his load until then.

Above, M-30 underground salaam. photo from Wikimedia Commons by FDV; used with permission.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Koons the Collector

Don't miss the New York Times piece on Jeff Koons and his art collection, hidden in his bedroom in his Upper East Side apartment. A portrait, as true as any, of the present moment. History is made by the new rich, and so the most successful striver in American art of my generation, an aw-shucks kid from York, Pennsylvania,  has staked his claim on the Upper East Side -- Park Avenue, surely-- and any Old Masters within reach (he started off on Lichtenstein but now he's on to harder stuff). Does this betray his contemporaneity? Hardly. He just puts himself up there in the best company he can find.

Koons on his own work: "With an ever-present warm smile and the comforting tones of a guidance counselor, he has spoken about how art 'lets you kind of control physiology and the secretions that take place within the body,' how his art operates in 'a morality theater trying to help the underdog,' how his balloon-based sculptures, at least sexually speaking, 'really try to address whatever your interests are.' "

This guy is money in the bank.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Free Association a la FBI

Spain got an official apology from the American Embassy in Madrid after a newspaper revealed that an FBI "most wanted" photo of a digitally-aged Bin Ladin used parts of the face of Gaspar Llamazares, former leader of the Izquierda Unida Party -- a coalition of Communists and left-of-the-Socialists leftists. Some hack at the FBI admitted he had picked Llamazares' face from a campaign poster. Nice to know the FBI is still keeping track of dangerous leftists, and puts the information to good use.

Update 10/20/10:  Not long ago the target of the FBI hunt --not Bin Laden after all, it seems-- was blown to bits by a missile from an unmanned Predator. Don't know if this helps Llamazares sleep better at night or not.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ever Higher

Did you catch the fireworks show at the inauguration of the Burj Dubai? Pretty close approximation to what a controlled demolition might look like, or a crippling orgasm.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Performance Art by the Hyper-Rich

First I caught up with a "food installation" by Jennifer Rubell, of the real estate family, for New York's Performa, a three-week performance-art festival, reviewed last fall in the Talk of the Town section of an old New Yorker. It featured a dessert course consisting of "three large apple trees, which will be chopped down, brought to the gallery, and laid out on the floor, so that guests can eat fruit from the branches." (October 26, 2009)

Now I find another Talk of the Town piece from the November 30 issue, on a benefit for MOCA in LA featuring Lady Gaga in a Frank Gehry hat, a Steinway decorated with butterflies by Damien Hirst (auctioned and sold to Hirst's dealer, Larry Gagosian, for $450,000), and three heiresses "in matching gold diadems" doing a "visual art act." “We’re a cross between the Spice Girls and Burning Man,” [Margherita] Missoni said, dissolving in giggles." Etc. All presided over by the Russian art promoter and billionaire's daughter Dasha Zhukova.

It's about time real idiots got in on the scene. Maybe now art can move on to something else.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Las Vegas - Dubai Express

David Littlejohn in the Wall Street Journal on CityCenter Las Vegas:

"The second highly-touted good work of CityCenter is its achievement of "LEED Gold" status for six of its buildings, a high mark of distinction for environmental responsibility never before achieved in a project of this scale. ... The center has its own power regeneration plant, energy-saving glass walls, and automatic means of limiting the use of electricity and water. Smoke is pulled upward from the casino floor (all hotels except the Aria are nonsmoking), and slot machine bases house air conditioners. The Aria's fleet of stretch limos to ferry high rollers runs on compressed natural gas."

I'd like to think Littlejohn is choking up on the irony here, but I rather suspect he is simply clueless.

Also clueless: I didn't know that Dubai World is the major outside investor. If you're ever looking for a big-time sucker, go East, man, go Middle East.

Sorry, no pictures -- can't find any that look real.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Modern Potlach: From Axe Heads to Medicine Cabinets

Don't miss this hilarious philistine take on Damien Hirst as a conceptual artist and a bad investment in the ever-earnest New York Times: New Zealand Professor of Art History Denis Dutton weighs in.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Condoms at the Thyssen

For its upcoming Tears of Eros show opening October 20th, El País reports, the Thyssen Museum in Madrid will offer condoms in its gift shop, packaged in some of the show's 120+ artworks of "high erotic content" such as Courbet's The Woman of the Waves, Ribera's San Sebastián or Sam Taylor-Woood's video portrait of a sleeping David Beckham.

With her characteristic false innocence and charm, the Baroness Thyssen, Vice President of the Thyssen Foundation, told El País, "I don't think anyone will be scandalized. ... It seemed like a good idea to me because it means security for the young, more than the day-after pill." Click here for the full story (in Spanish). Photo, Rachel Weisz by James White, one of the works in the show.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


The New York Planning Commission cuts the Jean Nouvel tower by 200 feet, Nicolai Ourousoff reports.

Paraphrasing Diana Vreeland, in Manhattan a tower can never be too tall or too thin. And you can never have too many of them. As for tops, anything goes, the wackier the better, given the context (wouldn't say the same for Shanghai). Where would the Chrysler have got to if a bunch of middle-aged socialite bureaucrats had to approve it? No one's come up ever with anything wackier, not even Libeskind.