Saturday, February 24, 2007

What's That Taste in my Mouth?

What's that awful taste in my mouth? Kimchee?

No...that's too easy.
Nuoc Mam, you might alternatively suggest? The fermented fish paste from Vietnam?

No--although you would get points for international food awareness.

Would that the taste in my mouth be as sweet as a heaping tablespoon of nuoc mam.

Let me give you a hint by means of the following progression:


Do you see the pattern?

Now consider this:

Now this, I want to tell you, is a bicycle. This might--and I say this without a trace of my usual load of bullshit--be the most beautiful bicycle in the world. Ever. You can see more pictures of it here--at some Japanese guy's website homage (or fromage...whichever isn't the cheese) to Bianchi bicycles. Bianchi bicycles are to this guy what pictures of Brittney Spears getting out of a limo are to an entirely different sort of pervert. I would urge you to visit his site.

Anyway, I'm getting off track--which is odd since we're talking about road bikes. But while we are, consider this:

This guy has more pictures of Campagnolo deraillieurs than you could possibly imagine. This one is a Record, circa 1966. I must also tell you that if you have ever held one of these babies in your hand, rolled it around, felt the perfect coolness of the aluminum, the perfect proportion of the casting, the majesty of the thing...well it helps you understand why people lay down several grand for state-of-the-art bicycles.

As if a mere several grand would actually buy a state-of-the-art bicycle. But you get my drift.

Anyway, imagine the bitter taste in my mouth when, upon finally seeing a Liquigas rider roll past the camera during this week's television coverage of the Tour of California, I discover that the Liquigas team (pronounced, by the way, as Leaky Gas...which, honestly, here in the States, is a lousy name for a natural gas company), formerly the Liquigas/Bianchi team, formerly the Bianchi team, is now riding Cannondale bicycles.


Would that the taste in my mouth would be so sweet as a heaping tablespoon of nuoc mam.

Fausto Coppi, who (pre-Lance) was generally considered the greatest bicyclist of all time, must be rolling over in his grave. This, of course, would be him:

I have but one hope. That being the return of the actual Bianchi Team to the Tour de France. Let those bastards at Liquigas do what they want. Because without the celeste green flash on the roads of France this July, I honestly don't know what I'm going to do.

Let's go back to the picture of the bicycle.

This is a Bianchi Tour de France bicycle from exactly ten years ago. It is, if I do say so, a work of art. Look at the polka-dots on the chain and top stays. Polka-dots! If you look closely at the yellow part of the downtube, you can see that the artist has painted the actual route of that year's Tour.

It features Campagnolo Record running gear. See above.

I have two announcements:

First, it isn't a Tour de France without a team riding Bianchi bicycles.
Second, I've decided, after much pussy-footing around, to relocate to Leesburg for the next year.

And, since it is getting warmer here in the south and because I find it almost impossible to consider extended periods of warm weather without the comfort of my Bianchi (Veloce 10), I will be traveling to New York tomorrow to pick it, plus some othe stuff up and bring it back down. I do plan on making a public appearance at the Peter McManus Cafe on Monday in the late afternoon, so don't hesitate to come by, introduce yourself, buy me a beer.

Back to Cannondales: I've always felt that although Cannondale, and likewise Trek, make fine bicycles, owning one shows a distinct lack of imagination.

This would be Fausto, riding in the Tour de France about 14 months prior to day I was born:

I love how he didn't wear a helmet (which is a bad idea, but those were different times) and he carried spare tubes over his shoulder.

He is, of course, riding a Bianchi.

To paraphrase Bob Dylan: "Nuoc mam...I'm only bleeding."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Some painters are always with us...

My daughter Meg and I went to the National Gallery to see the Jasper Johns show. It was everything it's advertised to be. A model of both restraint and completism. Right on target, if you will.

On our way to the section of the museum where the exhibit was displayed, we passed a massive Motherwell. I thought of how deKooning once said, roughly, "Some painters are always with me. Picasso is one."

Me too. Likewise Motherwell.

I call it "Elegy to the Spanish Republic (bread, lunchmeat and pepper jack) 2007."

Just for the record...

Just for the record, here I am, hawking (not my word; The Times's) Big Jim I.

Unsold, I remain fond of it.

Yet one can't help but second guess. For me, I'm haunted by the question of whether I should have extended his index finger to further frame the right side of the face.

But you know, you can second guess yourself to death.

There's a scene described towards the end of "The Killer Angels" of General Longstreet sitting on a fence, watching Pickett's men get ready to storm the Union position. He is sobbing, but he won't second guess Robby Lee.

Another chance at bliss...

I return on Saturday to the place where I've most recently nearly lost my life.

That would be the John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia, otherwise known as The Boat, otherwise known as the Crystal Ship. The plan is to join my friend Dave to review the Virginia men's basketball team as they play Florida State. How they ever allowed Florida State into the ACC is beyond me; likewise Boston College. Still there they are and there I shall go.

My friend Dave is apparently quite an important person. Not as important as my friend Earl, who I believe has testified before Congress (which puts him one up on all of us, with perhaps the exception of me), but still obviously a man of considerable substance. I say obviously, yet prior to my last trip to The Crystal Ship I had no idea Dave held such sway in the Commonwealth of Va (pronounced "vah" by no less than Michael Vick). The minute we sat down he was shaking hands with everyone. For a moment I thought he was running for Governor.

I was introduced to any number of people, all of whom I've forgotten. This could be attributed to the beer I drank prior to the game or otherwise perhaps to a general, increasing loss of cognitive function. I do remember someone was introduced to me as Meredith's coach. At this I nodded vigorously, although I was having some trouble piecing together just who Meredith was. They say that you can tell you are overweight if, when running down stairs, parts of your body shake in counterpoint to the general scheme of things. Likewise too much to drink if one's eyeballs shake in counterpoint to one's nodding head. I realized at some point that Meredith's coach was looking at me oddly. I can only assume this had something to do with the way my eyeballs were vibrating--a cross, perhaps, between now-dead, what hump? Marty Feldman and Mike Singletary.

Too vigorous, I thought, trying to calm myself. Nonetheless, I clearly had my gameface on.

Which brings us to the dicey part.

Dave and I had lovely seats--the lowest row of the upper deck. High enough to see the overall game; close enough to see the fear in the eyes of the opposing team. I might have preferred a lower angle on the cheerleaders, but that's just one man's quibble.

In front of us was a foot-tall concrete lip upon which we could rest our feet or drinks or both. Extending up another foot or so was a Plexiglass (which I have capitalized as a nod to Tom Wolfe) shield. So situated, and with Virginia crushing the opposition, raining three pointers down on them the way the skies of Northern Virginia so recently gave us snow, life was good. At least until halftime.

Now, at halftime, the cheerleaders like to shoot balled-up t-shirts into the crowd as a way of stirring us up. They use a type of bazooka. Towards the end of these particular proceedings, I could see one of them aim his device straight at me. Well, not exactly straight at me--a bit high, actually--but anyone who has ever shot free throws knows that line is important.

So the t-shirt arcs past me and strikes the crowd some five or six rows above. Of course, no one up there can catch it, so it caroms in my direction. I reach way out--waaay out--to get it, manage to put a couple of fingers on it, then bobble and drop it over the edge to the crowd below. At this point, I realize that God Herself is about to bobble and drop me over the edge to the crowd below. Miraculously, I regain my balance and return to my seat.

And that's how I nearly lost my life.

And now I find I am returning not only to this very same Boat, but to the very same seats within the Boat.

If this time I fall to my death, I'd like to be buried in Le Pere Lachaise, next to Jim Morrison. I believe my credentials as one of the world's leading neo-impressionist portraitists will withstand whatever scrutiny is employed to screen candidates for what, I am sure, is a highly-coveted spot.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Reader Writes...

A reader writes: "I didn't know you were Irish."

Odd. With a name like Raymond, what else could I be?

Man, What a Day

I sit, here in my father's solarium (which is really a glassed-in balcony in a 12 storey building full of old people), staring out at the snow, which is coming down to beat the band. I am at a point in the preparation of a new canvas that requires a good bit of sitting around, so I sit, here in my father's solarium, reading Cakes and Ale and listening to the Fifth. Life is good, up to a factor of about 80%, and all traces of the bitterness previously reported have been brushed away by the snow.

The German translation of "it is snowing" is, I believe, es gibt schnee. Which I have always found to be the case. Snow always feels like a gift. I can't see the Potomac, but I can see through the trees the fog that enshrouds it. Life is good.

Truth be told, I've not yet decided whether to paint Robert E. Lee or J.E.B. Stuart--both of whom provide compelling visuals and a tastey back-story. I will know before the day is out. Maria Bartiromo, just off the CitiGroup jet, lurks in the shadows.

In the meantime, Maugham writes:
The Americans, who are the most efficient people on the earth, have carried this device (by which he means peppering conversation with meaningless phrases and jargon) to such a height of perfection, and have invented so wide a range of pithy and hackneyed phrases that they can carry on an amusing and animated conversation without giving a moment's reflection to what they are saying and so leave their minds free to consider the more important matters of big business and fornication.
This made me stop and laugh.

Back to grey-clad men on horses, this from Churchill:
... (The American Civil War) must upon the whole be considered the noblest and least avoidable of all the great mass conflicts of which till then there was a record.
Man, What a day.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Do you realize it costs $32.50 for a gallon of Benjamin Moore acrylic primer. Primer! Not even the real stuff!

For someone in as financially compromised a state as me, that seems like quite a lot.

The obvious joke goes something like:

--How financially compromised a state are you in?

One could follow with the connected notion that $32.50 for primer (primer!) represents The Audacity of Hope.

Me? I prefer to think of it as Manifest Destiny.

Or the Louisiana Purchase.

Or Pickett's Charge.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Chuck Close Must Be Freaking Out Even More

Sometimes it's good to look back at some of the good stuff.

This, I always thought, was some of that.

The first post of this blog, some 159 ago, entitled "Chuck Close Must Be Freaking Out" was this:
If I'm to become the pre-eminent portraitist of my time, I'll have to somehow get past Chuck Close to do so.

Because it's a friendly competition, I painted this picture of Chuck. I call it "Close, But Not Quite", which does make me laugh.

Although I used a grid technique for all my painting, I left it more conspicuous in this painting than I usually do, as a bit of homage.

I think it's going nicely. I bet he is.

I'd be. Were it me.

(Angostura) Bitter(s)

I think I'm becoming a bitter man.

Did you know that if you soak a wedge of lemon in angostura bitters, then dip it in sugar, then eat the pulp, it will stop your hiccups?

But back to the original statement. I was rereading my screed about not trusting people who invest too much energy in the advertisements during the Super Bowl and although I believe every word, I've decided that the tone was decidedly bitter. Particularly the line that went:
You do the math, sucker.
Manomanoman. I think it's time I stept back and smelt the flowers. The fact that it's ten degrees in northwestern Virginia, the basket of the Civil War, doesn't help. Maybe that's why I'm bitter. No flowers to be smelt.

Or perhaps it's because I want to paint like William Faulkner (dark and dank, rich with meaning like a stump rotting in the Mississippi swamp) and I feel like I'm writing like that guy who writes the Spenser books.

The obvious literary reference would be:

Oops, that's not it. But you have to love this picture. The stuff they make actresses do before they get to play Allie McBeal. Honestly.

No. The obvious literary reference would be:
The guilefull great Enchaunter parts
The Redcrosse Knight from Truth:
Into whose stead faire falshood steps,
And workes him wofull ruth.
Of course, from The Faerie Queene. I love when Bogie kisses that shakey girl for the first time, then they blow up the German steamer.

Anyway, here I sit in my father's solarium (which is really just a glassed-in porch on a 12 storey building full of old people), staring across the Potomac River, towards Maryland. Towards Pantops Mountain. Towards Sharpsburg...and Gettysburg. Antietam.

Which is what I said the first time my now ex-wife cooked pork chops for me.

"Can't eat 'em."

This, of course, is not true. But it does make me laugh.

Anyway, back to Spenser. Here I sit in my father's solarium, staring across the Potomac River, towards Maryland. Towards Sharpsburg ... Gettysburg ... Antietam. And I feel like I'm painting like that Spenser guy, not like Faulkner. Pathetic. I was staring at the guy's picture on the dust jacket of one of these Spenser books. He's about 60, he's got his foot on the lowest rail of a wooden fence, he's wearing a leather bomber jacket and his hair is slicked back. His character, whom he so desperately tries to make interesting by giving him a charming dog and a less-charming girlfriend, is an unlikely magnet for women of every kind. But he tosses them aside like unused Kleenex. In truth, its the pathetic re-living of an otherwise failed life through the fiction. Hell, if I was going down that road, I'd rather paint like the guy who writes the Travis McGee stuff.

But not Carl Hiaason.

Nooo. I'm not that fucked up yet.

But I do feel like the work of late, with the possible exception of my boy, Cramer, has been workmanlike. Uninspired. And I'm seeing, perhaps, the market reacting to the work in the same way. That is to say, they're not buying.

Which makes me bitter. You think this shit is easy? It's not like the bad ones just roll off the stick. You gotta sweat them too.

Another thing that makes me bitter, as long as we're just laying it all on the table? I always stay tuned when the voice-over says: "Stay tuned for more scenes from Friday Night Lights." Or 24. Or Dirt. Or Men In Trees (for which I apologize). Or The Hills (for which I don't apologize).

I always stay tuned, even though I realize that the same evil forces that impell me to watch Super Bowl advertisements are at work here as well. So who's the sucker now?

A couple of quick notes:
  1. The SISSI hits the newstands next week.
  2. Dealbreaker and both carried the YouTube clip of me talking about Big Jim I, albeit too late to stimulate the market. In either case, if you want to see it, you gotta scroll down a ways.
The first note makes me think: hmmm, I haven't lost my sense of timing.

The second one makes me bitter.

I'm thinking of Eric Burden. And the Animals.

I can see the Mason Dixon line.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Next painting

I'm torn between two possible next subjects. First, since I'm in the South, I thought I might take a stab at a series of Civil War generals. This would of course be The General Lee:

An alternative version might of course be:

I'm reading "The Killer Angels" by Michael Schaara, so I'm pretty fired up about Old Bobby Lee, as they like to call him in the book.

The other thought is to continue my Wall Street series with a picture of Maria Bartiromo. There's a publicity photo of Calista Flockhart that makes me laugh...

I thought I could cement Bartiromo's face on Calista's body in some bizarre Pollock/Photoshop fusion and see what I come up with.

I also remain drawn, in spite of suggestions from my friend Earl, to the idea of scrawling stuff on my paintings of the Wall Street people. And, in fact, I am considering taking the scrawl and running it around the entire perimeter of the painting.

Which is an interesting idea--to me, at least. I use irridescent gold paint straight from the tube to write the stuff and it is fun how it catches the light sometimes. NOTE: this is a phenomenon that can only be appreciated in person. The irridescence remains elusive in the face of my meager photographic talents. But in person it's cool.

So the idea is to take a somewhat longer title, which of course would be:
Big Maria I (Jet Too Many): A Portrait of Wall Street Starlet Maria Bartiromo, who's Mile-high Dalliance Cost CitiGroup Exec Todd Thompson his Job..."
Surely that's going to be long enough to stretch around all four sides of the painting. If not, I can add copy.

But the idea is to create what will, in essence, be a gilt frame around the image.

The obvious joke would be: Surely there's enough gilt to go around.

And also in the running, while we're on the subject of business, is my Steve Jobs/penis head idea. See below for clarification.

Do you know who I don't trust?

Do you know who I don't trust?

I mean, besides Jeff Koons, of course?

I don't trust people who think the best thing about the Super Bowl is the advertising. I mean really. Wake up. There was a time when the ads in the Super Bowl were memorable. The throw-the-hammer Mac ads for one. And some others, like those Bud frogs. See here for more. But now? Please. Wake up.

Here's a question for you. Do you remember when people used to go gaga over the Sports Illustrated swim suit issue? The idea of the SISSI (how's that for an acronym?) is for men to get their rocks off looking at beautiful women in bathing suits. But really, in this day and age, you can go on the internet and look, for free (I'm assuming), at beautiful women who've taken their bathing suits off. Isn't this a better way to achieve the stated objective? So why then does the SISSI remain one of magazine publishing's most talked about events, despite the fact that the magazine itself is one big stupid bore?

Public relations.

Now let me ask you this: who do you think places all those stories about Super Bowl ads in the newspapers and on television shows? All those polls about which was the best one?

Public relations agencies. And their clients? Organizations like the Ad Council. An organization that wants you to watch the ads.

You do the math, sucker.

Me? I tivo'd the SB, didn't start watching until about 8:00 pm, fast forwarded through the commercials completely. Likewise all the crap that passes for sports analysis and commentary. Watched the Prince halftime show twice. Did you see those dancers? When I caught up to real-time somewhere around the beginning of the 4th quarter I paused the playback, went into another room and read one of those Spenser for Hire detective novels. One of the tricks for the Spenser novels is that the chapters are really short. I read maybe three, then went in and was able to enjoy the rest of the game without having to watch a single commercial.

Actually that's not true. I did, by accident (sometimes you misjudge the speed with which the fast forward function is working and push play too soon), see the now-controversial Snickers commercial and found it moderately offensive, not very amusing.

Have you noticed how Andy Warhol is everywhere this year?

I don't trust him either. I mean, look at him. At least he's dead.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I'm not sure I'm L.P.'s friend

Actually, despite my claim of friendship made two posts below this one, I am not actually L.P.'s friend. In fact, I only learned her first name a couple of weeks ago.

I have, however, had dinner with her (and a bunch of friends) once. And drinks. And I think we bonded over beer when (she having just recently returned to New York for the holidays from Los Angeles--where she's been recording what those who know her assume will be her breakout album) I asked her how many people have asked her: "When does the album come out?"

Based on the rueful smile on her face I'm guessing five to ten million.

Me? I didn't ask. Which, I think, cemented our friendship, if you will.

And in addition to all that socializing, I've seen L.P. in concert five times or so. And once, when I couldn't get Matt the Intern through the door at the Mercury Lounge because he wasn't 21, she autographed the back of one of my business cards for him, writing something along the lines of:
"Hey Matt. Sorry the wouldn't let you in. Next time, just show them your package and they'll probably let you through."
I was never sure exactly what that meant. She was pretty drunk, it seemed to me. Matt the Intern seemed unimpressed when I presented him with this treasure and he left it behind when he went back to school--a move he's going to regret someday, particularly if his seemingly promising career in accounting goes down the tube and he becomes, say, a dealer in Rock and Roll Memorabilia.

I must say that his work under my then obsessive tutelage was first-rate, and that the overwhelming odds are that his career will not go down the tubes. But if it does, he's gonna wish he had that card.

The good news? My friend Eric and I did manage to sneak him into the B.B. King lounge to see Gary "U.S." Bonds open up for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, which was about as much good clean fun as you can have on 42nd Street, and were able to purchase bottles of Heineken at the bar, as if for ourselves, and hand them to him, sotto voce (if you catch my drift).

Don't tell his parents, if you see them.

Plus I own a couple of L.P.'s albums. Which I must tell you are available on iTunes and well worth the price of admission (if you catch my drift).

For a listen, go her website.

If I was quibbling, I'd ask: Would it kill them to throw a couple of free downloads on there?

Still...something else.

Here'sh Rookin at You, Kid

The stuff I have to put up with. Honestly.

If you click here, you can see an interview with me conducted last Thursday while I was exhibiting Big Jim I.

The interview is fine--good even--but the audio is quite odd. Gives me a Bogart-esque sort of a lisp that I really don't have.

I shwear.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Purple Rain

Rumor has it that Peyton Manning is the Super Bowl MVP. Now I'm as glad, if not gladder, than the next guy that Peyton has gotten the monkey off his back (The hope here is that whole monkey thing will rub off on Eli). But if I am voting for most valuable player, hands down I'm going with the artist currently known as Prince.

What an amazing show, given the rain and all. Plus, how hot were those dancers? I mean, honestly. And I wonder how many times Billy Joel has played piano in the rain.

Best part of the performance? Unquestionably when he opened his hits medley with "All Along the Watchtower."

I haven't gotten this worked up since my friend LP turned the bridge of a song she was singing into "Whole Lotta Love." This would of course be her:

Memorize this face so that when I say I told you so you will know what I'm talking about.

Final note: In a perfect world, the sound on Prince's guitar wouldn't have crapped out during the finale of Purple Rain.

Did I mention those dancers? I think they were twins.