A Healthy Dose of Cleverness

November 13th, 2008 § 1 comment

Around Penn Station I hesitated at a stoplight, despite the walk signal, because of a man handing out newspapers. This itself did not strike me as strange, as “free” papers are shoved daily into the outstretched hands of a mass of workers heading toward various offices. The man handing out this particular paper, however, was different: why had I never seen him before? a free New York Times? a young, Columbia-like student handing out papers? breaking news that did not make the press? I almost continued on my way, hesitated, stepped back, and reached out to take a paper. The way he handed it to me, carefully folding it in half, suggested it was an item of significance, and this too struck me as strange. Who still carefully fondles a newspaper most of us read online? It is safe to assume I read too much into the way people handle and view objects, the chances of this being like any other “promotional paper” were much higher than it being different, but in this case I was lucky in being correct.

iraq war

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Hysterical Encounters III

November 6th, 2008 § 2 comments

(after the election)

At the conclusion of a long campaign that gracefully skirted around the issue of race, it was amusing to see what a central tropic it became on election night. News coverage on the 5th took calls from african americans living all over new york city, most of whom talked about previous resentments such as the gentrification of their neighborhoods, and concluded by saying that the election had changed most of their anger into something more hopeful. While it was a “historic” night for our country, it is clear that the president-elect was not made such by minorities alone, and Obama’s election, perhaps because of the pressing issues of the American pocketbook, did appear to transcend race—his “landslide” victory (364 votes) proves that. Getting lunch at the local deli yesterday, pictures of Barack had been cut from various newspapers and taped to the fronts of cash registers, and the conversation of various couples over lunch revolved around the previous night. A group of african american girls were teasing a young man who said he cried, “well it might be the only time I get to see that happen…” The general mood of new york, and elsewhere I am sure, is one of excitement. There is so much energy in the air of this city already that the election outcome seems to have added a new frequency, a higher pitch, to the crowded streets.

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Redrawing Maps

November 5th, 2008 § 2 comments

us map

I am proud of all my states today, all four.

Pallet-Knifed Ambition

October 29th, 2008 § 0 comments

“We love our children, and we long for the children we used to be.”

marla olmstead

Though My Kid Could Paint That (2007) is a documentary that follows the story of a little girl, Marla, who became an art world darling in 2004 when she was four-years-old, I would venture to say this film has little to do with children or art. The main themes deal instead with parents, their children, talent, and society’s encouragement for the former to exploit the latter two. Marla alone, the painter and artist in the film, emerges with her integrity—she is protected from her own grubby story by her innocence, childhood, and her strong refusal to be a pawn in adult games. Do you want to talk about your paintings? NO. Do you like riding in limos? SILENCE. It is not really clear if Marla’s mother Laura knew or not that her husband helped her daughter paint, though it seems she didn’t in the beginning and gathered as much in the end. The director, Mr. Bar-Lev, states that he saw his documentary as a film about “modern art,” though in the end he saw it more as an exploitive disaster he had not intended to make; however lovingly he edited his footage of the Olmstead family, he leaves little doubt that this child did not paint those paintings. As A.O. Scott states of the director, “he has made an excellent documentary, but it would have been better if he had not made it at all.”

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Philippe Petit’s Gesture

October 19th, 2008 § 0 comments

The most inspiring fairytale, as it turns out, does not involve a prince, a castle, or a kiss, but is simply a gesture beyond the rationality of “why.”


My only complaint with Man On Wire would have to be that the creators of the documentary forgot at times that no matter how they told, filmed, recreated, or edited the story Petit himself would still remain far more interesting. French men don’t tend to have excessively extroverted and magnetic personalities; they are almost too French to have that smiles-at-nothing charm of American celebrities—if you are inclined to think that is charm. Petit, arguably the world’s greatest tightrope performer, has the combined presence of an actor, a performer, a dancer, a lover, a comedian, a poet, an acrobat, and an artist. In 1974, after years of obsessive planning and preparation, he managed to string a wire between the newly erected WTC, walking back and forth across it eight times on a cold and foggy morning in Manhattan—the art crime of the century. The opening of this film shows the towers under construction, grainy images of steal beams stacked like toy blocks, creating hugely ugly towers. In light of the now gaping hole in the financial district, full of dozers and dirt, his “crime” seems more like the perfect memorial for all those towers could have stood for, and what they metaphorically stand for now.

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