Monday, December 23, 2013

Final Scene

The restaurant is a typical Greek diner -- a counter with stools runs from the front door down the right side, ending at the entrance to the rest rooms.  On the left side runs a line of booths -- red plastic seats; formica tops; each booth has one of those mini-jukeboxes with the lists of songs you can flip through.  In the last booth, The Artist and The Dog sit across from one another, engaged in small talk.  The Dog is wearing an Service Dog vest.  The waitress arrives at the table, shoots The Dog a look, and asks The Artist what he'll have.
Fries for me.  A side of bacon for the dog.

 Not too hot.

The waitress jots it down and leaves.

Dinner last night was fabulous.
Really?  Once I saw the Brussels sprouts I lost interest.
   First I diced and cooked some of that really expensive
smoked bacon you get at The Grocery.  
I love bacon, but that place gives me a cramp.
Then I blanched some Brussels sprouts, cut them
in half and lay them flat side down in the same
pan.  A couple of minutes later, more olive
oil, then the garlic for a minute, then chunks
of tomato.  Toss in the home-made pappardelle.
A little salt, some shaved cheese.  Unbelievable.

The waitress brings the fries and bacon.  The Artist puts ketchup on his plate, dips a fry and pops it in his mouth.  The Dog starts wolfing down the bacon.  As they turn their attention to their food, a bell rings when the front door opens and Xerxes enters.  He strides quickly down the aisle and directly into the mens' room.  The Artist and The Dog are too occupied to notice.

Xerxes feels around behind the toilet tank looking for something.  It's one of those old-fashioned ones with the tank suspended from the wall several feet above the bowl.  At first he can't find what he's looking for and begins to panic slightly.  Then his hand locates the object in question and he pulls it out.  It's a Colt Python with a six inch barrel. 
Hefting the weight of the gun in his hand, he takes a quick look in the mirror then reaches to open the door.

The Artist has just punched in a song and the music begins to play.  It's The Rolling Stones.  Sweet Virginia from Exile on Main Street. 
Let's play a game.
Best ending of a series, all-time?
Bob Newhart waking up with Suzanne Pleshette.
Best ending, Breaking Bad or The Sopranos?
The Sopranos.
Xerxes comes out of the mens' room and raises the gun just as The Artist pops another french fry in his mouth.



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Golden Years

I love that David Bowie song from Station To Station.
Golden Years.  Mmmmm gold, wop, wop, wop.
Classic.  But I'm not here to talk about David Bowie.

No, friends.  Before the grizzly business of tomorrow ensues (don't ask), I'm here to say a little something about my favorite bar, the Peter McManus Cafe.  You might think this is Xerxes and The Dog, having finally put their differences behind them and sharing a friendly drink ...

... but you'd be wrong.  It's my old friend Patrick and his dog, Hudson.  Actual people, more or less.  Active participants in The Golden Age of McManus.

Some people say the Golden Age ended when Lisa complained that she should be able to bring her dog into the bar if Patrick could bring Hudson, resulting instead in the banning of all dogs.  Even the good dogs (although it should be noted that this is just rumor and perhaps Lisa had nothing to do with it.  Perhaps bar management simply decided to comply with health department regulations).  None of which matters because I would suggest that it ended when they bulldozed the parking lot across the street from McManus and built a large, fairly attractive I have to admit, apartment building.

My favorite memory of that parking lot was that sometimes I'd park a rental car there overnight and, during a subset of those nights, the attendant would get in the car, turn on the heat and listen to the radio.  All of which was fine with me except for the time when he reprogrammed the selector buttons on the radio (it's that long ago) to all his favorite stations.  That annoyed me.

Anyway, the apartment building -- it might be called the Winchester, or maybe the Westchester -- was only a symptom of the real estate boom in Chelsea.  Which resulted in an influx of what one might call high-net-worth riff-raff that, while bringing the property values up served at the same time to bring the quality of life down.

Which could just be me being selfish, but I liked it better when, on a dreary afternoon I could walk into the PMC at, say, 3:15 and be one of eight or ten people there, two or three of which might have been detectives from the Tenth Precinct, including my buddy Stevie D, drinking at the back end of the bar, kind of in their own little club.  Which was fine because they all had guns and we didn't.

Up near the front, where the light was brighter and a person could look out the window, I was as likely as not to find my friend Patrick.  And Hudson, his almost perfect Huskie, who never bothered anybody and was a good friend of mine.  Howie would be behind the bar and Patrick and I might just while away a bit of the afternoon, me drinking Bud Light and him drinking Heineken and Cuervo Gold.  Just shooting the breeze.

At a certain point, Jimmy Perez might come in and it would be the three of us.  And at some point, Jimmy would buy all of us a shot.  And man, that was fun.  Not the shot, but the whole thing.  Then Jimmy would run out to fix the faucet of some old lady, because he was the super of a big building on 20th Street.  But he'd come back soon enough.  And the odds were also fairly good that African Rich would have been there with me, and it would have been the four of us.  And that was good too.  And, on some days, the afternoon would start to become the evening, and lots more people we knew would come in, people like Mark and Big Pat, just to pick a couple, and the evening felt like it was rife with intriguing possibilities.

Now you walk in there on a quiet afternoon and it's like Grand Central Station.

Anyway, Patrick got divorced and moved uptown and stopped coming.  Jimmy lost his job as Mayor of 20th Street and moved uptown and stopped coming.  African Rich moved first to Troy, then to Africa (hence the name), and stopped coming.  What I don't understand is: how hard is it to jump on the subway and come downtown to have a couple of beers with old friends?  Which is something Patrick does sometimes but Jimmy does never.  African Rich has a geographic dispensation, although even when he's in New York he stays away.

Theory:  The reason they don't come back is that they know it will never be better than it was.  Me?  I obviously never got that particular memo, since I still go there all the time and I live one hundred fifty fucking miles away.

I've always had trouble letting go.

But don't get me wrong.  The Golden Age may be over, but McManus is still the best bar in the world.  Howie is still there.  Ditto The Gravedigger.  New people like Harbour have made their presence felt in a positive way, and if they keep up the good work in five or ten years they might actually be considered regulars.  Lisa's still there (who I still love, despite the whole dog business).  Adam.  Phil.  Sometimes my boy Lance, who moved downtown but does, to his credit, come up.

But it's not quite the same.  And it's never going to be.

Which is both life and sad.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Greek Chorus Weighs In

You think I don't see what's happening?
Pardon me?
I said, 'Do you think I don't see what's happening?'
Nothing's happening.  What are you talking about?
The dog!  The fucking dog!
What dog?
The one in the last post.  You think I can't smell change when it's in the air?  Out with the old, in the the new?  Dump the Greek Chorus and get yourself a fucking talking dog?
Whoa Nellie.
Don't call me Nellie.  My name's Xerxes.
Well, sometimes change is good.
Good for you, maybe.  Do you have any idea what our employment prospects are if you let me go?
Well, we're one of the few Greek Choruses in existence, and there's not a lot of call for this sort of work.  So they're shitty.
Go over to  He's got a Greek Chorus.
Too late.  All the slots are taken.
Even the sopranos?
Fuck you.
Look.  We're downsizing to enhance shareholder value.
So you're firing us.
And going with some sort of fakakta screenplay format when you need to step away from the formal narrative train.
That's the thinking.
And did you really just say the words "shareholder value"?
Yes.  Although I understand that it's one of the great evils of the world.
I don't know what to say.
Me neither.  I'm sorry.

The Artist sits on the sofa, drinking some cognac, reading The Goldfinch.  The Dog, a Redbone Coonhound, is curled up next to him.  Yo-Yo Ma plays the solo cello suites by Bach while a Christmas tree twinkles on one side of the room.  A fire crackles on the opposite side.

That dude's a pantload.  Man up.  Stop whining.  Shit happens.
He's really okay, once you get used to him.
So are his friends.

I didn't like the smell of them.  
The Dog barks.
Too late.  They left.
Out the window it starts snowing.  Under the cello you can hear the ringing of bells.

Old and Cold

The Artist is 85 years old.  It's cold in his room.  He's wearing two jackets and the only thing that's keeping him warm is tearing his paintings into strips and burning them in the wood stove.  All the wood he had, including the stretchers for the paintings, is gone -- already burned.  He'd get more, but walking is difficult.  He weighs 450 pounds.  He's warmed a can of dog food on top of the stove and is in the process of scooping it onto two plates.
I can't believe you're eating that shit.  I can barely stomach it.
It's not so bad once you put some salt on it.  Oh look!  A worm! 

Wow.  That's a grim image.  It came to me this morning as I ate my corned beef hash (Hormel) with two fried eggs on top.  Because it's not that big a leap from corned beef hash to dog food.  I guessing the only difference is the presence of salt and monosodium glutamate.

And the hash was great.  Way better than the cream of mushroom soup I had a week ago.  I don't think I've had real corned beef hash in ten years.  Maybe significantly longer.  The Ilium Cafe in downtown Troy serves something they call corned beef hash, but as is often the case in high-end restaurants, they over-think the hash and lose the truth of the thing.

Back to the cream of mush:  A friend of mine told me that if I'm going to go the food nostalgia route then I have to go all the way.  Meaning that I cook some chicken thighs in the C of M and serve it over rice.  Or better, egg noodles.  My mother was an egg noodles girl, while Dad skewed towards rice.  But I'm not sure I'm that motivated.

Furthermore, while we're sharing, I didn't actually get to bed at 9:20 last night.  Closer to midnight.  I spent the interval sitting on the sofa reading The Goldfinch, which I finally just bought for myself as an early Christmas present.

Note to readers:  It's entirely possible that I've been referring to both this painting and the identically named novel by Donna Tartt as the Bullfinch, since that's how I subconsciously typed it when I googled the image.  If I did, I apologize.  I'm disinclined to go back and change.

Once it's down, it's down.

Friday, December 20, 2013

I'm Going to Bed Now

Let's say you're like me in that you will, on occasion, scratch a food nostalgia itch.  I call your attention to my recent post about Cream of Mushroom soup.  Likewise several mentions in the past of Kraft Mac and Cheese.

Okay.  So one day you're in an aisle full of cans and you look up and see, out of the blue, a can of  Corned Beef Hash.  And you buy it.

Then you take it home and forget about it for months and only this very night find the can of CBH in the back of your cupboard.  If this happened to you then you are very much like me, my friend -- spookily so, one might argue -- because that's what just happened to me.

I've taken the can out and placed it in a prominent position on the counter.  Tomorrow morning I'll eat some with a few fried eggs.  Two, more specifically.  Maybe some toast.  I would urge you to do the same thing, assuming we remain on parallel tracks.

As for now?  I'm going to bed.  Even though it's only 9:20.  The thinking being the faster I fall asleep the faster breakfast will get here.

This same strategy is sometimes employed by young people on Christmas Eve.

Crisis at Daisy Baker's

The shit has hit the fan at one of my favorite watering holes.

Two nights ago pipes froze in the upper floors of the building in which historic Troy restaurant Daisy Baker's is located.  The resulting flood will close the place for possibly months.  The Troy Record has the story here.

They've set up a fund for employees who will be out of work for the duration.  Daisy Baker's will match all contributions.  Me?  I am putting a beautiful Map of Troy painting up for bid.  Highest offer takes it home sometime in January (it's not painted yet, the image below is a rough study), and all proceeds will be donated to the Daisy Baker's employee fund.


1 -- Help some people who just lost their jobs right before Christmas.
2 -- A good map is always handy to have around.
3 -- May be worth millions someday (Past performance is no guarantee of future results).


Don't see any.

Note:  If you don't want to bid on the painting, you can also just make a quick donation here.

Oh My God! Brian Boitano is Gay?

Crikeys.  Next thing we know, Johnny Weir's gonna come out of the closet.

Joking aside, I am impressed with President Obama's decision in response to Russia's draconian anti-gay laws to not send hi-end politicians to the Sochi Olympics.  Instead we're sending a delegation of former athletes, several of which are openly gay.

And I greatly admire Brian Boitano -- a part of that delegation -- and his decision yesterday to reveal to the world that he's gay even though he had chosen to keep that private until now.

"It's nobody's business," was the gist of his thinking until the import of the moment made, in his mind, his announcement imperative.

Me?  I love the Winter Olympics best of all.  And despite that miserable shit Vlad Putin and his soul-shattering social politics, and despite the spinelessness of the International Olympic Committee, for whom, despite their oily mouthed platitudes about the Olympic spirit,  everything is measured in krügerrands, I'm gonna watch as much as I can.  The list is endless -- thank God I'm unemployed.  Curling!  Cross-country skiing!  Skiing and shooting -- I love that.  Whatever kind of skating it was that Apolo Ohno did -- that's unbelievably cool.  The US has the best two-man bobsled team in the world, so that's lovely.  And speaking of lovely, I even like figure skating, even though they don't make them do figures anymore.

Denise Biellmann is a favorite of mine, she being the creator and namesake of the now ubiquitous Biellmann Spin.  This is the one where a skater is just spinning away and then says to herself Oh what the hell and reaches back, grabs the blade of her skate, and pulls it over her head.  Backwards.  While spinning.

Dog -- Who thinks this shit up?

I'm serious.  I wonder how she thought it up.  People sometimes ask me how I came up with the idea of annotating my paintings and I have a long, boring story about it that I'll spare you now.  But it did happen in a bar, and my friend Eric was there.  I wonder if my girl Denise was sitting in a bar doing beers and shots with a friend and just thought it up.  I hope so.

Thank you, Denise.  Honestly, that's too much by half.

There's no umlaut in krugerrand.
I know.  But I'm in love with the new keyboard function I just figured out.
That being?
That being if you want to put an umlaut over the u in krugerrand, you just hold down the u button and a little menu pops up.  You can choose what u you want.
God bless Bill Gates.
Even though you're typing on a Mac.
Even though.

Identifying the Perps Slash Not Safe For Work

While in New York last week I found myself in the Boston Market.  Don't ask.

Anyway, while leaving I couldn't help but notice the graphic device that the BM people use to identify how tall the person is who has just robbed them and is now exiting the premises.  Bad picture, but you can see it on the upper left corner of the door ...

And on what might at first glance appear to be an unrelated note, Alan Greenspan is five feet, six inches tall.  I know this how?


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Here's what's wrong with Esquire Magazine

The first thing:  They just sent me a note telling me I could renew my subscription for six bucks.  For a year!  Simple math tells you that's less than two dollars an issue.  What's that joke about not wanting to join any club that would have you as a member?

Then there was the decision to name the Lexus something-something-something (who can keep up with all those fucking letters and numbers?) the car of the year.  Have you seen the front of the thing?

God help us ...

The whole idea of cars is that the fronts of them look like faces.  Headlights are eyes.  Grills are mouthes.  And if you buy into that, then the truly beautiful cars hew to the same general principals as truly beautiful faces.  And that excludes a mouth like this ...

I think they fell in love with Audi's idea of the grill extending down through the bumper line.  But unlike Audi's grills, which actually are reasonably attractive if you're in a quirky sort of a mood, they screwed it up completely by pinching in the sides to create an hourglass shape.

What an ugly car.  And I think ugly should count for something.  In a negative way, obviously.

So that's another thing.

The last straw is their inclusion of Exile In Guyville by Liz Phair as one of the 75 Albums Every Man Should Own.  Please.  This is just one more reason to never trust music critics, who, on a per capita basis, are probably more full of shit than any other category of critics.  Exile in Guyville achieved critical acclaim because it's a song-by-song feminist take on the Stones' famous album of a similar name (an album every man should own).  Notwithstanding the fact that the album is horrible.  Virtually unlistenable.  Excresance.  Which is a made-up word that I use frequently.  I'll bet most of the people who recommend Phair's album do so having never listened to the whole thing.  I'll bet if you polled everyone on the Esquire masthead you'd find that nobody -- okay, maybe one person -- has ever listened to the entire thing.

I'm not renewing my subscription.

[Update:  the name of the Lexus in question is the IS 350 F Sport]

One Hundred Forty Bucks for a Pen?

Check this out.  Gets a little tiresome towards the end -- I think the writer is a bit too much in love with his writing -- but the front part is lovely ...

I'm totally buying one.  In lieu of eating.

George Rodrigue, Dead

It's a big day for obits at TYOMP.

George Rodrigue was a Louisiana bayou painter who created the famous Blue Dog paintings and made a nice chunk of money doing so.  While not exactly my dish of tea, I say God bless the man.  Who doesn't like a chunk of money?

He didn't always paint blue dogs, though.  This, which I like, is one of his early works ...

Speaks nicely to that Louisiana experience.

Al Goldstein, Dead

Here's a photo of Al Goldstein, founder and editor of Screw Magazine, in his office ...

Alan Dershowitz, his sometimes lawyer, had this to say about the man ...

“He clearly coarsened American sensibilities.  Hefner did it with taste.  Goldstein’s contribution is to be utterly tasteless.”

Here are two sample covers.  You be the judge ...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

This Just In Slash Nice Judge, Not Rakoff

Does the name Michael Steinberg mean anything to you?  Highest ranking guy at SAC Capital to be convicted of insider trading.  Just happened.

I don't understand why these guys don't just cut a deal and sing.  Sing about Steve Cohen, specifically.  If you help my boy Preet nab Steve Cohen I would bet my bottom dollar you'd not go to jail.  Maybe the man really is made of Teflon.

Regardless, check this out from The Times ...

But after a monthlong trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan – a dramatic display that illuminated the culture of a hedge fund that prosecutors now view as corrupt – the jury took only two days to reach the guilty verdict against Mr. Steinberg. The jury of nine women and three men, including two accountants and a former Postal Service worker, found him guilty on five counts of securities fraud.
Mr. Steinberg, 41, a husband and father of a young family that lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, appeared to faint briefly as the jury filed in to render their verdict.
Judge Richard J. Sullivan sent the jury back to the deliberation room as Mr. Steinberg’s lawyers rubbed his back, his stricken wife looking on from the front row. The judge sent out for some juice and asked Mr. Steinberg, a towering figure, if he could stand and walk.
Mr. Steinberg, his face ashen, complied.
“Yeah, I think I’m O.K.,” he said.
A courthouse nurse examined Mr. Steinberg. And his brother, who is a doctor, also checked on him.

After a 30-minute delay, the jury assembled back into the courtroom, delivering the verdict as Mr. Steinberg stared blankly, his eyes sunken.

That's it?  Only two days to convict the guy on five counts?  I love the part about the judge sending for some juice.  I don't remember them offering Aaron Hernandez any juice.

It will be interesting to see what happens to Mathew Martoma, about whom I painted this ...

... in the manner of Roy Lichtenstein.

Right now, somebody on Martoma's legal team is saying something like "Hey Mathew.  No way we thought they'd convict Steinberg.  Now it's a whole new ballgame and we've got to start talking about cutting a deal.  And right now!"

Meanwhile, it's conceivable that the Stanford Whale is completing the construction of an entirely new identity for himself and his family -- foreign citizenship, fake passports, drivers' licenses, SS#s, whatever.  Me?  I would go with French citizenship, then buy a sprawling villa in Cuba.  An hour or so from Key West in one of those massive cigarette boats and you're safe.  Pay extra and I'm told this guy will drive ...

A Man Can Dream, Can't He?

From the blackness of the abyss currently known as New York basketball a vision comes to me.  A vision so pure, so magical, that I now no longer dream of Carrie Underwood as a nun.

Presented without further comment ...


I'm struck by the similarity between the PS161 portrait ...

And the cover of Bob Dylan's Self-Portrait album ...

Painting is a funny thing.  My initial reaction was to assume Dylan stole the image from me, but Self Portrait, the album, was published in 1970 and the PS161 painting was executed last week.

Plagiarized might be a better word.
Don't you say, over and over again, that stuff like that is okay?
Yes and no.

About a year and a half ago, the Huffington Post offered this about Bob's show of paintings at the uptown Gagosian gallery.  The New York Times chimed in with this.  Plus this picture of Bob in his studio.  His painting studio ...

God help us.  Although that's a nice looking dog.

Me?  I'm choosing not to think about it.  Instead, I'm going downstairs to make potato salad.  About which I'm becoming obsessed.  It's the dill I can't stop thinking about.

A Moveable Feast

First off, let's be clear that Ernest Hemingway was a shit of a man.  Quite a writer, but a shit.

The Bing Crosby of writers.
Some would say.

As has been noted earlier, I gave a painting lesson to Daughter #2's 4th grade class last Friday.  The kids' ages seemed to range from 8-10, and that's really an excellent time to be alive.  These kids, I'm telling you, were really cute.  Old enough to be almost human but still young enough to just make you want to smile at them for no reason whatsoever.  Of course, I don't have to deal with them on a daily basis.

I was happy to pitch in and help my daughter.  And, having seen her in action in the classroom, I will take the opportunity to say that I'm so proud of her I can barely stand it.  Apparently, my X-Wife (who, for security reasons, will be called Mona Mulholland for the duration of the post) felt the same way.  A few weeks ago, Mona helped as a chaperone for some kind of a field trip.  Good for her.  And during that time the fact that Mona and I are divorced came up.  Don't know how, but kids ask the craziest questions.

Anyway, at the end of my paint class, one little girl came up to me.

"Mr. Raymond?" she asked.
"Yes," I said, beaming at her.
"I just want you to know I hope the divorce is going okay."

This was deeply amusing to me.  I thanked her for her concern and told her it was, she handed me a drawing she'd done during the class, and we went our separate ways.  I guess my divorce is going okay.  It's been fifteen years or so and I'm still alive.

As has also been noted earlier, I'm up to my ass in Paris in the 20s.  It started out as research for Saigon: Too Big To Fail but ended up being its own thing.  So I've read all about Scott and Zelda, Ernest and Hadley, etc.  I've read a couple of Hemingway books and short stories, most recently A Moveable Feast.  I'm currently in the middle of A Farewell To Arms.  Next on my list is Calvin Tompkins' book about Gerald and Sara Murphy, recommended to me by my buddy Eric, titled Living Well is the Best Revenge.  The Murphys were also part of the Paris ex-pat community at the time.  All with the understanding that these books will be put down immediately upon the arrival from the library of The Goldfinch.  Which I'm exhausted just thinking about.

In the fifth paragraph from the end of A Moveable Feast, Hemingway describes a reunion with his wife Hadley.  They had been apart while he had been in New York on book business.  Once he was back in Europe he spent some time in Paris, unbeknownst to Hadley, banging Pauline Pfeiffer, the woman who would become his next wife.  Then he got on the train to Austria.  The paragraph reads ...

"When I saw my wife again standing by the tracks as the train came in by the piled logs at the station, I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.  She was smiling, the sun on her lovely face tanned by the snow and sun, beautifully built, her hair red gold in the sun, grown out all winter awkwardly and beautifully, and Mr. Bumby standing with her, blond and chunky and with winter cheeks looking like a good Vorarlberg boy."

And all I could think of was Bing Crosby singing White Christmas.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Meanspirited Review

The good thing about not having to read something for anything but personal enjoyment is that you can put it down and walk away anytime.  Particularly if you are borrowing it from the library.  It took me three pages to put down Night Film, Marisha Pessl's new book, and walk away.  Which I think is a record.

The worst prose I can remember reading in my entire adult life was the free sample of 50 Shades of Grey that Amazon sent to my Kindle.  And I read all of that, in part because I couldn't organize in my mind the horrible writing and the popular success; in part because I hoped they'd put one dirty scene in the sample, which they didn't.

Me?  I really liked Ms. Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics.  So I went into Night Film with a bit of enthusiasm.  I also love the spelling of her last name.  Pessl.  I just love that.

Now the nastiness:  The book opens with somebody jogging around the Central Park reservoir.  Ms. Pessl writes "Every time I sprinted past one of the iron lampposts, my shadow surged past me, quickly grew faint, then peeled off -- as if it didn't have the nerve to stay."

Are we jogging or are we sprinting?  This really annoyed me, but I'd read less than 250 words at that point, so I continued.

The jogging guy then spies a woman.  Shortly after that Pessl writes, about what she terms "Women of Manhattan," the following sentence and a half:  "... they forgot sometimes they weren't immortal.  They could throw themselves like confetti into a fun-filled Friday night, with no thought as to what crack they fell into by Saturday."

I hated that sentence, particularly the second half.  There seems to be something out of whack with the parallel structure.  Maybe it should have read "... as to what crack they'd find themselves in on Saturday morning."  Something like that.

The jogger is worried that the woman is in trouble.  It is, after all, two in the morning in Central Park.  So he decides to jog another lap of the reservoir and see if she's okay when he comes around.
Who would do that?  Do you know how long it takes to jog a lap around the reservoir?  It's just under two miles.  So, jogging, we're talking between fifteen and twenty minutes.  Sprinting, it's maybe ten minutes.

Why not stop this time around if you're really concerned?  I stopped reading.  Really it was the jogging versus sprinting thing that I couldn't quite get past.  The rest seemed additive.  But I'm too emotionally fragile to expose myself to any more.

If memory serves, this was Pessl's dust jacket photo from her first book ...

... which, I think, was inappropriately sexy for a dust jacket.

What does that have to do with anything?
Nothing, really.  She has a wonderfully shaped nose.
She's hot for a writer.
As opposed to hot for, say, a movie star?
Exactly.  The order goes politician, writer, athlete, Broadway actress, model, Hollywood actress and stripper.  
Great.  Thank you.

I should also admit that I'm waiting for the library to send me an email telling me that Goldfinch is now waiting to be picked up.  And at 800 some pages, I'm going to need the full amount of borrowing time to get through it.  So I didn't want to be stuck half way through Pessl's book and by that time be emotionally invested.

It's like the joke about the old Jewish mother who tells her son she hasn't eaten in a week.  He asks why and she answers, "I didn't want my mouth to be full in case you called."


The Honorable Jed S. Rakoff

The man is my hero.

First, and to my mind most important, a couple of years ago he refused to accept a plea bargain between the SEC and Citigroup about something or other (and for clarity sake, it might not have been the SEC or Citigroup but, rather, organizations just like them) because of the then-standard no-admission-of-guilt clause.

Why, Rakoff asked, were they allowed to claim no wrong-doing (and by doing so gain myriad legal benefits) after pleading guilty to fraud?  Now enforcement agencies are doling out the no admission options with considerably less frequency.

So there's that, for sure.

And now, in the New York Review of Books, he's published a lengthy screed asking why nobody of substance has been indicted for crimes committed in the run-up to the financial crisis of 2008.  I was sorely tempted to print the whole thing, because attention must be paid, but it was just too long.

Read it here.

All this on the heels of the Fabulous Fab, Fabrice Tourre, getting slammed by the SEC.  The agency is seeking what looks like a million-plus bucks in fines and restitution for what amounted to a mid-level schmuck who sent a few too many audacious emails to his girlfriend.  Adding insult to injury, the SEC is asking that Goldman be prohibited from contributing to the fines.

Me?  I'm fine with making the individual pay the fines.  But the lunacy that Fab Tourre was the best they could come up with strikes me as lunacy, which is what I said at the beginning of the sentence.

Why don't you just go back and rewrite the sentence?
John from the Bar tells me I'm not allowed.  Once it's down, it's down.

I think this says it all ...

NBC Weighs In

Not about me, which is the preferred topic for weighing in, but about Troy.

Did you know that the Troy Sentinel, in 1823, first published The Night Before Christmas?  Check this out ...

The NBC article (why does a TV network have an article and not a television piece?) is here.

Ahhhh, Troy.  Another two to four inches coming down as I type.   Click here for Bing Crosby singing White Christmas.  I'd post the video itself, as is the usual practice here, but copyright holders won't allow it.  But I'd urge you to take the plunge.  It's the colorized version of Holiday Inn.

Which doesn't seem very Christmas-y.
No it doesn't.
That Bing was something though.
Yes he was.  I particularly love when he starts whistling about half way through.  What a cheeseball.
What a cheeseball?  Cheeseballs be damned -- the salient point is what a miserable shit the guy was.
Wonderful voice; horrible man.  A role model to artists everywhere.
Marjorie Reynolds had a nice voice.
She was pretty hot too.
Yes she was.  Those two were totally going to bed after they finished singing.
That is if he doesn't shag her right on the library rug.
Happy holidays!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Job Well Done, Sorta

He walks tallest who stoops to help a child.  Or something like that.

I bring this up as prelude to showing you the painting that I, Geoffrey Raymond, and 25 or so members of Ms. Raymond's and Ms. Harmon's 4th Grade class at PS 161 in The Bronx created Friday afternoon...

You'll notice the prominent use of the numeral 2 in creating the nose and brow.  This, friends, was the gist of the lesson and the children learned it well.  Next time around we'll work on brushwork skills.

The red background is the top of an oddly shaped table that I set the painting on to photograph.

The Ring

I know what you're talking about already.
No you don't.
Yes I do.  The Ring of Power.  To wit:  One Ring to rule them, One Ring to bind them.  One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness find them.
That's not it.
How about the Nibelungenlied?
Not that ring either.

When I say "The Ring," I refer to the Nordschleife Course at the Nürbergring.

You've driven it?  Likely not, although if you find yourself in Nürberg and are willing to sign an insurance waiver and pay a fairly hefty fee you can lap it in your road car.  Best to go on a Sunday in the summer.  Jackie Stewart called it Green Hell -- the most difficult road course in the world.

Me?  I've driven The Ring any number of times on my Playstation 3, my weapon of choice being a highly-modified Lamborghini Gallardo 560-4.  Full-time 4WD.  Perhaps 800 BHP (way up from the stock 650).  Matte black, like an assassin.  You should see the thing.  It doesn't go around corners very well, but when you put your foot in it ... well, it's like the Millennium Falcon engaging the hyperdrive.  If you come over and bring some beer I'll let you drive it.  Lately I've been drinking Blue Moon Heart of Darkness Stout (which, if you like Guinness, is worth a test drive).

Anyway, there's much talk about Formula E -- the electric car racing formula that will start next year, so I thought this might give you some helpful background ...

This, I guess, is the baddest Prius in the world.  It laps The Ring at 7:47.  The fastest I've ever been able to muster is the high 9s, although my Lamborghini sounds way cooler than the Toyota.  In fact, the voracious whoosh (twin turbochargers) it makes under full acceleration has to be heard to be believed.

The knock against Formula E is that nobody wants to watch race cars that don't sound like race cars.  I'm not sure I have an answer for that.


I've consumed so much beer these last few days that if I never see another beer again I honestly think I'll be fine.  The better for it, perhaps.  We're talking gallons, at least one of which was consumed at the Old Town Bar on 18th Street.  Because you people think I always go to Peter McManus.  Which is patently wrong.

Actually, the Old Town and McManus are kindred spirits.  Although the Old Town is slightly more of a tourist place, they have the same neighborhood-ly feel and a sense of themselves as the PMC.  Case in point, the Old Town had a sign on its door saying "No Santas Allowed."

Because Saturday night was Santa-Con.  I don't know what that specifically meant, but functionally, it meant that the streets of New York were littered with fully-drunk college kids half-dressed as Santa Claus, slogging around in six inches of snow.

The snow was fun.  The Santas, less so.

The Old Town also makes a vastly better Nachos Grande than McManus (which, upon reflection, doesn't make them at all).  By Nachos Grande I mean a plate of chips with chili, cheese, sour cream, ideally guacamole, and maybe some salsa.  Not to be confused with Ariana Grande.  Who, if I were her father, I'd spank soundly and then say that the next time she goes on-stage she should remember to bring the bottom half of her dress.

The Man in the Boat

Usually I think of that as an anatomical term.  But today I refer, of course, to Bob Redford's mute turn as "Our Man" in "All is Lost."

[Minor spoilers ahead]

Call me a hater, but I was less excited than most of the reviewers.  Not to say the movie's bad, but I'm not checking off my best actor slot for the Sundance Kid.

That said, certainly much credit is due.  What an unusual movie.  Showed quite a bit of courage to produce and direct, as well as to act in.  But I'm not sure how much acting was actually involved.  It seemed a lot more like doing than acting.  Trim the sail.  Fix the hole.  Hoist the storm jib.

And speaking of the storm jib:  Okay, you're in the middle of the Indian Ocean, or wherever.  You can see a storm heading your way.  It looks big, but you've got a couple of hours to prepare.  So what competent sailer doesn't get the storm jib out of storage and ready to deploy ahead of time?

Note:  A storm jib is a small sail designed to give the boat just enough sail power to maneuver, but not enough wind resistance to potentially damage the rigging the way a larger, standard sail might in really heavy weather.

So that bugged me.

Also, it's raining like this ...

... for significant parts of the movie.  Yet every time he goes down into the cabin for something, when he comes back out he leaves the hatch wide open.  I wanted to scream "Close the fucking hatch!"  The whole idea being that the inside of a boat should not be filled with water.  The water is supposed to remain on the outside.  This becomes important later.

Finally, I didn't like the Sopranos-lite gimmick ending.

Closing thought:  Robert Redford is both a good guy (by general consensus) and has been a force for excellence in movies for most of his career.  So he'll probably get the Best Actor award as a nod to that, not necessarily for the finest acting job of the year.

Letter Grade?????      B+

Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's Good To Be Home

... but this is depressing.

Graph of Blogger page views

I don't understand why I have to always be here for you people.  It always bugs me when daily visitors don't hit the 250 mark, so I'm having a lousy week.

Tomorrow, however, will be full of posts and observations.

Aren't the observations inside the posts?
So it's kind of apples and oranges.
I suppose, although it would be perfectly acceptable to say tomorrow will be filled with apples and oranges.
Yes it would.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Polaroid #2 ...

The study breaks down like this ...

So at least we have a starting point.

I leave now for New York

I've been invited to teach Daughter #2's class of 4th graders how to paint a portrait.  Should be exciting.  I thought I'd open with a lecture -- perhaps a good forty-five to sixty minutes of art history, just so they have a conceptual framework -- then maybe paint something.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

You Write In, I Publish

Some knucklehead wrote "I want some lipstick on my [    ].  Thanks Boss."

Brackets mine.  Honestly.

Still, people write way worse stuff on my paintings, so, in truth, this blog is littered with obscenities and scatology.  Consider the lower right hand corner of Blue Paulson (Day Three) ...

Best comment on this painting?  Just under "Blue" -- "I HATE BEING UNEMPLOYED!!"

My Next Polaroid(s)

I'm taking out-takes of friends I've painted before and making Polaroids.  And I've decided to stop putting quotes around Polaroid going forward.

Rose was first.  This one, of Ali, is next ...

Followed possibly by this ...

Which is a beautiful photo, if I do say so myself, if perhaps a bit green.

I think the Polaroid crop for the first one is this ...

Maybe I should stop capitalizing it too.  I mean, the paintings have nothing to actually do with the company (if it still exists anymore).  It really just a reference to the format, and the idea of quickly painting friends the way you used to be able to quickly shoot friends with your Land Camera.

I have someone coming over tonight for a quick shoot.  Usually I prefer to paint women, but he put up a gallant effort in the bidding war for my Uncle Sam sculpture and I sent him a note telling him I'd do a polaroid for about what he would have spent on the statue.  Obviously he said yes, since he's going to be knocking on the door in a couple of hours.

He'll likely be impressed with my big chimera box (a type of diffused light source).  He'll be less impressed when I shoot him with my iPhone.  Which made the Polaroid Land Camera, and a bunch of other stuff, obsolete.

At least he's bringing some beer with him.

More on Lipstick

Check this blog out:

Also here:

Written by a woman named Sarah Britten, she's doing beautiful work with lipstick.  I love that cow.  Likewise the onion.  I just sent her a note asking for some tips.  I hope she replies.

Winter is Coming, But I Can't Wait for Summer

Check this out ...

I think Mila Kunis is my favorite of the younger Hollywood actresses.  Perhaps tied with Jennifer Lawrence.  Certainly they're both extremely attractive, but that's always been a common commodity in Hollywood.  More importantly, by all accounts both sound like they'd actually be fun to sit at a bar and have a beer with.  And that's a far rarer thing indeed.

And perhaps a shot!
That would be even better.  I think if I was at a bar with either of them, I'd spring the extra bucks and get a bottle of Heineken and a shot of Gran Marnier.  Which I would sip, because who just knocks back Gran Marnier?
I bet they would both find that to be impressive.
That's the rough strategy.

Wow.  You don't see that everyday.  Ann Reinking, Bob Fosse's muse, doing Hey Big Spender from what I'm assuming is the original Sweet Charity production.  I wish the focus was better, but those were the old days.  Everything you need to know about Bob Fosse is inclosed in that clip but I'm still thinking about getting Fosse, by Sam Wasson as a Christmas present for myself.  But I'm not sure if I'm ready to invest 800 pages in jazz hands.

Goldfinch might be a better choice, if I'm going long.

Hubris. And Hookers.

As the year winds down, it's fun to look back.  Quite a ways back, as it turns out, but still ...

Steve from Union sent me these two pictures.  Kind of a giggle ...

The top is the New York Post.  The next one down is a typical business day for me at the Peter McManus Cafe.

Me?  I wish Eliot had been able to crack through in the recent elections.  What was he running for?  City Comptroller, I think.  Because I'm a lover, not a hater, I like to think perhaps he learned something about hubris.  And hookers ...

Although this picture of "Kristen" -- that being Ashley Dupre's nom de bonk -- makes me think that if I was governor of the Empire State I'd ...

Best not complete the sentence.
Just so.

Here's another picture ...

Strange.   An ad for Playboy popped up on my Facebook page the other day, offering steep discounts.  I'm more of a Vanity Fair guy, but I clicked through the ad anyway.  The gist of the thing is that they offer a year of the actual magazine, plus full access to the electronic edition, for about 20 bucks.  What galled me was that I could also just subscribe to the electronic edition and spare them the cost of printing and shipping twelve magazines to my house.  The price?  Twenty bucks.

I chose not to subscribe, if for no other reason than having the hard copy price and the digital price be the same is bullshit.  I'd rather give my money to Rolling Stone, which costs just ten bucks more a year and sends you 26 full, rich magazines.

Plus access to my boy Matt Taibbi, who has been doing some of the best political/social reporting around.

Rolling Stone digital access, just for the record, costs just under $20.  Which means it's two thirds the price of the hard copy subscription plan.  Which seems about right to me.

Good News Out of Formula One

The good news isn't nearly as good as the bad news is bad.  But the good news is that drivers will, from now on, be designated numbers for life, as opposed to the current policy of taking the number that indicates how they placed the previous year.

The thinking is that this will help the fans identify more closely with their key guys, and maybe buy t-shirts.  NASCAR has been doing this for a long time:  Jeff Gordon has been the 24 forever.  Dale Earnhardt (the good one) was the 3.  Jimmy Johnson (the best of all time) is the 48.  Etc.

The fault to this plan is that, given the advertising value of almost every inch of a Formula One car, the numbers are weirdly small and difficult to find.  So who cares, really?  I simply report this stuff for your benefit.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fire and Ice

Remember that old poem about how the world ends?  By Robert Frost?

Me?  I don't accept it.  I think my world will end the day they bolt this horrid little thing, with its brand new leopard-skin pillbox hat, onto the backs of the 2014 Formula 1 cars and go racing ...

Crikeys.   F1 gets a bee up its ass about "relevance" and suddenly a lap around Monza sounds like the sewing machine Olympics.  I personally prefer the F-4 Phantom Jet slash pack-of-really-angry-bees school of engine noise.

If you want to know what I'm talking about, just click "play" on this bit of excresance ...

God help us all.

First, where's the front of the car?

Second ...   Well I can't think of a second thing because I'm too depressed.

If I might?
Go ahead.
I don't think that's leopard-skin.  I think it's carbon fiber.
Really?  You're choosing exactly now to bust my chops about exercising some narrative flair?
You're right.  I'm sorry.  But there is something to be said for getting 650 horsepower out of something you could put inside a large woman's purse.
The woman is large?  Or the purse?
The purse.
But she'd have to be a big girl to carry it.
Yes, I suppose so.  

The only interesting thing in the whole video is sitting in the simulator driving through the final turn at Monza -- the famous Parabolica -- which gets its name from the way the radius of the turn gets longer and longer as you come out of it.  Most turns you brake til you reach the apex, then accelerate out.  On the Parabolica you brake at the beginning and then just get on the gas.  Three upshifts later you're still in the turn.  Very exciting.  Check this out, from 1971 ...

François Cevert leads going into the turn, Gethin wins it coming out.  Five cars within six tenths of a second.  Very exciting.  And when was the last time you thought about a BRM?  Here's one from the late 60s, just to jog your memory ...

Two years later I was at Watkins Glen when Cevert cast off the mortal coil in spectacular fashion.  Very sad.

Ladies and Gentlemen:  Bob Frost ...

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Blow me, Bob.

And one last thing on this Polaroid, and then I'll be done

You won't hear another peep from me about this painting.  Or, barring that, I at least promise I won't go on and on and on about it.

But look at this cropped detail ...

I want you to double click on the image to expand it, then drag it onto your desktop and expand it another couple of times, until it's huge.

Now check it out.  All that lush, rich paint.  Those brush strokes.  The rich saturation of colors.  It's hard to believe the whole thing is computer generated.  I'm sure there are several programs on the market similar to Artrage, but every once in a while I am stunned all over again.

One of the best 50 bucks I think I ever spent.  The iPad version, which is also a hoot, is under ten.

The Commentariat Weighs In

John from Manhattan just wrote the following:

I really like this. And I'd leave the squares mentioned. I like the way it breaks up the pattern ever so slightly.

Which is lovely.  And nicely said.  Although breaking up the pattern ever so slightly is not the reason why I'm going to just leave the thing the way it is.

But before we go any farther, you have to admit that it is amazing that this ...

 Is an integral part of this ...

Without modification, there they are, those sixteen little buggers just trying to carry their weight in a hard, cold world.  In fact, one of them is the offending party on the second row, six squares in.

A couple of random thoughts:

First, it's always fun to see how hard geometric patterns interact with something as amorphous as free-form painting.  One of my favorite parts of this painting is the ascending diagonal of browns that start in the lower left corner and head northeast.  If not purely accidental then certainly a subconscious eruption rather than conscious act on my part, but if I wasn't so fundamentally truthful a person I could easily say it's a visual element designed to direct the eye (of the viewer) towards the eye (of the subject).  Works great, too.

As relates to the very misshapen Square 2.6, I decided that since I wasn't going to change the big brown goober of paint on Square 6.4 that contributes to the tip of her nose, then I'm not going to interfere with 2.6 either.  To do one and not the other would lead to a loss of morale amongst the other squares, and we don't want that.  Also, I love her nose just like that.

I also like that, although the painting obviously hews to a grid, the lower right corner is really almost completely chaos.  Any attempts to represent something have long since flown the coop.

And speaking of coop, are you familiar with the group Koop?  A couple of Swedish guys with a drum machine, some synthesizers and a lot of guest singers?  This is one of their best songs (although the video itself is a bit of a downer in -- if I'm reading it correctly -- a The Crying Game sort of a way) ...

The cool thing about Koop is that, on a good stereo, you can really hear the silence between the notes.  Feel the space.  And then, when they come at you, those notes, it's all good, dear friend.  It's like dropping acid without the potential health risks.

Back to the squares, I may actually change 7.4, just because it annoys me so much.

Eleanor Parker, Dead at 91


This is Eleanor Parker as shot by the famous Hollywood photographer George Hurrell.  I only bring up Ms. Parker's death because one of her claims to fame (she nabbed three Oscar nominations, so we're not talking chopped liver here) was playing the Baroness in the film version of The Sound of Music.  The Julie Andrews version, not the Carrie Underwood version.  Which we've talked about at great length already.

Bon grand voyage, ma chérie.

Sometimes the Cynic In Me is Silenced

Do you remember that scene in Lord of the Rings when the sharp-toothed hordes of Isengard stood at the gates of Helm's Deep?  Those dudes wanted to kill every man and literally eat the women and children.  Gobble them up.  Pretty scary.  Looked like this ...

And then, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it started to rain?  Crikeys.

Anyway, roughly this same scene has been playing out in Washington DC for the last couple of years.  The men defending Helm's Deep are of course, in real life, the men responsible for crafting the so-called Volcker Rule.  And all those fucking Orcs?  They're the lobbyists hired by banks to make sure that if such a set of regulations ever became law they would be so watered down and full of holes as to be completely useless.

Hell, I even painted the event (I'm sorry it looks like a goose.  I didn't mean for it to) ...

And yet now, as the Volcker Rule moves closer and closer to becoming law, it looks as if I might have been wrong.  It looks like the confederation of Elves and Men may have victory within their grasp.

"Look to my coming
on the first light
of the fifth day.
At dawn look to the east."

Who said that?  Doesn't matter.  Of course, shit can still happen.  There is still a lot of writing to be done, and the devil is in the details.

I thought God was in the details.
They're both in the details.

As I said, the devil is in the details.  But a man can be sanguine, can't he.  Whatever that means.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Polaroid 6 -- Now I'm Really Cheating

I took the image you saw in the prior post and stretched it horizontally, just enough so that the image is slightly rectangular.

[Painting tip: you can't do that with regular paintings]

I then enlarged it slightly and repositioned it on the canvas (see tip above).  Then I cleaned it up and voila!

Now it really does look like a Polaroid.

A friend wrote me earlier today, saying nobody even knows what a Polaroid is anymore.  Well ... I do.  And I'm painting for myself here, people.  If you want to get on board, that's great.

There's a part of me that wants to clean up the sixth square from the left on the second row.  And get rid of that slash of pink on her forehead.  And the fourth square from the left on the eighth row down could use a tune-up.  But there's another part of me that says it's done.

Because you never know what's gonna mess it up.  And I really like it the way it is.

Polaroid 5

Take this ...

Add this ...

 Yields this ...

Do some cheating, yields this ...

Which isn't the greatest thing in the world, but I think the process (which is essentially another version of the Obscured Box Technique) has promise.

I'm not comfortable with the cheating.
Me neither.  Nor the forehead and hair, although amazingly it's not that bad.
I like the lower right corner the best.
Odd ... that seems the most problematic.  You must have a darker vision than me.
Probably.  The alternative theory is that all my taste is in my mouth.
Same with me.  Let's have some lunch.