A slice of a Wikipedia column of information is enough to read how unreliable that information is.

You can whack off a part of every paragraph and still make enough sense of these to understand how unreliable the explanations are.


A linguist might well ask (probably study) the minimum proportion of message that you must reveal in order to assess the value of it. Of course paragraphs of Shakespeare will return different values than a treatise on sore throats.


The lesson I draw here is that plenty of twaddle is freely fed, with a satisfying sense of authority (or mischief), into the internet. Look something up at your own peril.

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Trump Talk Bubble

We’ve all heard about the little man who wasn’t there but now we have the fatsy man who couldn’t mean.

What do you mean he couldn’t mean?

He would say ‘high’ and he’d mean ‘pink.’ He would mean ‘dog’ but he would say ‘star.’ When he kinda sorta saw a ‘bear cub’ in his color-changing thoughts he’d wrap his mouth around ‘cockadoodle.’ Because he didn’t mean anything he said. And he didn’t mean everything he said. And whatsoever his whim was, was. And if you wondered about it one whipstitch later he’d be miles ahead of you. ‘Creamy ranch.’

What do you mean he couldn’t mean?

I mean if he felt ‘yes’ it would be about something you’d think wide of the subject. And if he said ‘damed no!’ it would be about something you and he had yet to consider. Like plum pies. Like mud pies. Like gingham aprons.

Do you mean he couldn’t signify?

Yes but only if you understand that words were whatever came out of his mighty mouth, words were the blather stream, words were sounds going through him – his impulse, his blah, his vocal chords — which were Presidential vocal chords — his sounds which were like the sounds of frightened deer when gunshots rang out, were like the sound of industrial effluvia chuffing into the sky, were like the screeching of brakes when its too too late.

Do you mean he couldn’t give a damn whatever he might say aloud?

I mean he couldn’t even remember whatever he had said.

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Portraits of Ellis Island Immigrants from The Public Domain Review.


I’m enjoying the pleasures of writing  with pointed words — as if this administration was Saint Sebastian and my arrows would sink in.


Smart Person

He positioned himself behind the famed desk and signed with a broad black ‘You won’t forget ME’ felt pen whatever impressive document they handed him. Handpicked, they knew what he wanted. Thing is to delegate. He imagined himself that little boy on pajama flannels, straddling a rocketship like a bronco, lassoing  comets as they threatened his mom, his dad, his elementary school. Hero, saves ‘em all. He adds his own flatulence to power the rocket, because (snicker) who’ll ever know?

He’s a very smart person.

Without his money — and it’s a lot, believe me — has he ever had a friend? Someone who could trust him? Without his lots of money — and he’s a known -ionaire — but no peeking! — would his family stay around?  If he was just a schmuck?

But hey, he’s a very smart person.

Obama showed him how to be a man but he didn’t get it. He never looked relaxed or easy in his flesh or debonair like the Obamas kept doing.  They do it on purpose. Mean.  So what if his rear end’s a laughingstock? It looks Presidential, see? Presidential, because he’s the President. End of it.

He’s a very smart person.



Ellis Island immigrant, Public Domain Review.

Immigrants With Pets

Immigrants with pets. What could you do but desert them when facing a risky rubber boat across the Mediterranean? Leave them behind to scavenge and beg. Missing you while you miss them but don’t dare, your kids need you strong. The kids miss the pet, how can they not? But all the acts of dislocation pour salt water over memories writ in bleedy ink.  Or do you put the pet out of its misery-to-come? Do you? Or pay a distant cousin handy with a knife?  So many choices to  make as you leave behind your property deeds and mementos, your books, grandparents and lifetime friends.


I’d enjoy your thoughts and comments. 

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Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

I need to write this. Now.

I’d heard of a prize-winning novel by a black man writing of black experience. A quick search turned up The Sellout by Paul Beatty.  The Man-Booker prize.  OK!

So I read it and loved it — at first.  The urgency of the prose, a burning wick of intensity. If you’ve read Robert Coover’s The Public Burning you’ll recognize that unsuppressable push of words.

But then The Sellout started maundering. The snappy jokes — not the characters, not the plot — became its reason. By the end I was annoyed. Annoyed.

So I Googled the same requirements.  This time the prize turns out to be the National Book Award.  Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad. I’m blown away by the novel’s power. Its vision. Its truths.

Its worthwhileness.

If you ask me to compare the two books I’ll tell you it’s like comparing Moby Dick with Mad Magazine.

If you feel strong, read this book.  Perhaps use the January 20 Inauguration time-slot to remind you of why you’re not watching that ceremony.

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Diane Savona — her textile work wows me with its ingenuity, personal vision, its way of making more than you’d expect of little.  A thinker.

All images are from her website, https://www.dianesavonaart.com/

Diane Savona's, Structurally Unsound nearly-human textile art.

Diane Savona, Structurally Unsound. Textiles and everyday objects.

Highbrow textile art, Diane Savona

Overgrown Fossil by Diane Savona. Found/scavanged textiles, thread.

Highbrow textie art, Diane Savona

Diane Savona, found or salvaged textiles, thread

Highbrow textile art, Diane Savona

This Too Shall Pass by Diane Savona. Found textiles and bits of mechanical objects.

Diane Savona, Kiosk, textile art that includes text.

Diane Savona, Kiosk, textile art that includes text.

Some Savona quotes:

How do we learn history? Textbooks give us dates and leaders; students memorize facts for the test, but few people have a deep understanding of how our ancestors lived.

As a child I felt that lessons of wars and nations had little bearing on my family history. It was like studying weather patterns, gusting far above, knowing that my peasant grandparents had survived in thatched huts in Poland. What was their story? My art is created with that question in mind.

The objects I use are collected at my equivalent of archaeological digs: garage and estate sales. In my Passaic neighborhood, there are still large numbers of first and second generation immigrants from Eastern Europe. At these sales I hear the language and find the tools of my grandparents. There, I unearth items that were once commonly used in the domestic sphere – pincushions, darning eggs, crochet hooks – but are now almost extinct. I exhume forgotten embroidery and mending, and present them as petrified specimens.

My textile works are art and archaeology. They are the stories of past generations. By deconstructing past artifacts and preserving them in an archaeological presentation, I hope to change viewer perception of our textile heritage.


This Too Shall Pass
Ancient knowledge was preserved on clay tablets. As we progress from punched cards to zip drives, what information will be readable to future generations? Like rotary phones and typewriters (once cutting-edge communication) all equipment becomes obsolete.  By disassembling technological devices and sewing the parts tightly under vintage cloth, I am ‘fossilizing’ them – preserving their forms, not in the permanence of clay or stone, but in relatively fragile textiles.

This Too Shall Pass is a series of hundreds of 6” tiles, each mounted on industrial felt.

See plenty more of Savona’s work on her website https://www.dianesavonaart.com/


A note to my readers: This represents a radical rethink of my blog so I can spend less time formatting and more time making my own art. Hope you’ll enjoy seeing the increased number of artists appearing here.

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Avital Sheffer, ceramics

Avital Sheffer, Askos I 2013. via avitalsheffer.com.

Try to take in that over 7 billion minds are alive with you on Earth today. While you’re focused on your thing a Chinese fisherman focuses on his cormorant. He’s night fishing in a boat. Lanterns, reflections, birds — and fish.

Among those 7 billion Homo sapiens (noteworthy symbolic skills) are some who have a need to speak with visuals. Artists. How many hundreds of thousands alive today? Among them are the anointed few who are not playing copycat but see a patch of the unknown they must investigate. Vision, direction, grit. And they go exploring a path inside themselves.

Those of us who pay attention to the makers are usually opinionated about who is the real deal. Me too.

So here’s The Art of Tuesday, a new feature of this blog. Showcasing under-known makers of visual things who strike me as honest explorers.

On Tuesdays. Please enjoy.

Avital Sheffer, ceramic s

Avital Sheffer, Chalcos II.
earthenware clay dry-glazed and printed. via avitalsheffer.com.

Our inaugural artist works in clay: Avital Sheffer.  Her elegantly shaped vessels have a marked purity of line, with subtle nuance in their changing profiles. Her surfaces have delicate rhythmic decorations often incorporating Hebrew or other Middle Eastern script.

My work is informed by an investigation of my Middle Eastern and Jewish heritage and an ongoing engagement with the landscape, architecture, languages and wisdom of that part of the world, and that way of being in the world.

You look at Sheffer’s work and may wonder whether the shapes include ancient fertility goddesses [I always wonder, goddesses or fertile women? fertility itself?]. Some of the surface decoration is as tightly packed as pomegranate seeds — fruit favored as a stand-in for fecundity.  Some of the vessel tops make convincing phallic symbols, some vessels are cloven at the base. Pudenda? legs? Looking at her earlier work you see an anthropometric urge, and a theme of home and housing.  The words she selects for her surfaces must have rich meanings for her.

Though I use the word ceramics promiscuously Sheffer’s work is earthenware clay dry-glazed and printed. Earthy material not to be confused with gleaming porcelain.

A native Israeli, she’s now based in Australia.  Her background “encompasses textile design and fashion, town planning and building design, classical homeopathy and the establishment of an alternative community in Western Galilee, where traditional farming methods were practiced in collaboration with neighbouring Arab villages.”

This helps to explain the methods used in creating her pieces. Textile design is especially illuminating for me.

[She] employs hand-forming techniques along with a unique printing practice to which she brings her life experience in working with other mediums.

Avital Sheffer is a real explorer.  All quotes and images here are from her website avitalsheffer.com.

Avital Sheffer ceramics

Avital Sheffer, Miftan IV, 2010. via avitalsheffer.com.


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map, US legal gay marriage

This Map Shows How Gay Marriage Spread Across the US. via time.com.


My mother’s family was actively American.  Example: a few of us kept an Underground Railroad safe house for escaping slaves in the Civil War. I say a few because my then-teenaged great-grandmother helped her father hide escapees in the barn while her mother stayed in the house and refused. Heritage is tricky. This is a skimpy list, suffice it to say that red, white and blue ran in my veins.

I grew older, along came Vietnam, Watergate, and my criminalization for using a substance no worse than alcohol or cigarettes — both of these legal and subsidized by the nation of my birth.

(To clarify, never caught but well imprinted with the zeitgeist paranoia.)

For years the red-white-blue in my veins alternated with a murky low-chroma mix.  George W. wrote the book on murk.  But my mother was alive  long enough to see Obama win.  My gratitude for that happenstance beats strong to this day.


my great-grandmother

The alert and wry visage of my great-grandmother

Yesterday I caught up with Obama’s Charleston eulogy.  Although my mother was agnostic, her favorite song  was Amazing Grace.  President Obama’s eulogy was a speech for the ages, nuanced and blunt — it would have filled her, as it did me, with Yes. As recent days have done, a growing wave of  national open-heartedness pushes back against the haters.

Gay marriage rights.  Like most Americans I didn’t get there at first, but the more LGBT people came out, damn there they were. Funny, fickle, politically committed, shy and retiring, smart, dirt stupid — they were remarkably human like me.  Why should I get excited about which portions of skin they chose for intimacy?  That smeary veil fell from my eyes like like pond scum flushed with spring water.  I deeply love my friends and some of them are LGBT.  (Big hugs of glee to you, my a-little-bit-different friends.)

The New York Times has quickly posted these articles: As Left Wins Culture Battles, G.O.P. Gains Opportunity to Pivot for 2016 and Next Fight for Gay Rights: Bias in Jobs and Housing.  Is this news or is churning up readers?  Wait a decent interval, a respectful interval, and give human hearts space to celebrate.

Yet the NYT also carried this:

 "Gay is not enough anymore"

John Waters, “Gay is not enough anymore”. via New York Times.

John Waters, the film director and patron saint of the American marginal, warned graduates to heed the shift in a recent commencement speech at the Rhode Island School of Design. “Refuse to isolate yourself. Separatism is for losers,” he said, adding, “Gay is not enough anymore.”


If Waters were to talk about the Confederate flag he might likewise point out, “The Confederacy is not enough anymore.”  The Civil War is so yesterday.  This is the 21st century and Americans — yea, all global humanity — face huge challenges.  We need all brains on deck, we need to focus on Now.  “Refuse to isolate yourself. Separatism is for losers.”

And the Charlestown terrorist attack has maybe opened a door to gun sense.  Oh please, my country, let the majority rule.  Most of us don’t need semi-automatic guns in our grocery stores.  Or carried around in children’s parks.  Or paraded through zoos full of animals with sense enough to play down their weapons until they face a threat.

And wonderfully, Pope Francis — that strong and big-hearted man — released his Climate Change Encyclical also in this month of June, 2015.  Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.


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I have long believed that a rich vocabulary could be used as code to imbue a risque glow in everyday text.  Nudge nudge.  I’ve maintained a database of unusual words — quite innocuous by themselves — that could be deployed in this manner.

Above is a go at achieving the effect.  First I plucked random words to offer you here — vocabulary-builders, possibly useful.  Then gleaned a few of these to put into the mouths of babes.  As in the cartoon.

Following are 14 words with definitions from the database.  Five of them are keys to the saucy dialog above.  Whether or not this is a useful literary pursuit has yet to be decided — but the literati Valley Girl has some tang perhaps.

(A note on the sourcing of material: Where possible I relied on notes made when entering words.  But the web sheds links like old leaves — and sources weren’t always on my word-collecting mind.)


  • abiogenesis or biopoiesis – Abiogenesis (pronounced /ˌeɪbaɪ.ɵˈdʒɛnɨsɪs/ ay-by-oh-jen-ə-siss) or biopoiesis is the study of how biological life would arise from inorganic matter through natural processes. Iabiogenesisn particular, the term usually refers to the processes by which life on Earth has arisen.  [Definition: Wikipedia]
  • agitrons – Wiggly lines around a shaking object or character.  In many paintings Burchfield uses cartoon-strip squiggles (agitrons, cartoonists call them) to indicate movement or vibrancy. From the cartoonist’s vocabulary he also took squeans and blurgits to indicate shafts of sunlight and sounds of crickets.  [Quote: Charles Burchfield’s Journals: The Poetry of Place. Definition: The Lexicon of Comicana in Wikipedia.]
  • apotropaic – designed to avert evil <an apotropaic ritual>  [Definition: Merriam-Webster.com.]
  • birefringence – Birefringence, or double refraction, is the decomposition of a ray of light into two rays when it passes through anisotropic materials, such as crystals of calcite or boron nitride. The effect was first described by the Danish scientist Rasmus Bartholin in 1669, who saw it in calcite.[1] The effect is now known also to occur in certain plastics, magnetic materials, various noncrystalline materials, and liquid crystals.  [Quote: an article in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston CAMEO database.]
Example of birefringence by APN MJM        via en.m.wikipedia.org
  • cnidosac – The Glaucus Atlanticus Sea Slug may look like something out of a Final Fantasy game, but this tiny creature is all too real and can pack a nasty sting! It is one of the few creatures able to feed on P. physalis or the Portuguese Man o’War due to an inherent immunity to it’s toxic nematocysts. After ingestion, G. Atlanticus collects the venom in specialized sacs or cnidosacs that lie on the tips of thin feather-like fingers on its body. Because this venom is stored, it can eventually be even more powerful than the original toxin from the Man o’ War itself.
  • comminute – 1. To pulverize; to smash.  2. (injury) To cause fragmentation of bone, an intense skull fracture.  3.  To break into smaller portions.  [Taught to me by an orthopedist when I had comminuted a major bone.
  • demux – (synonyms: Demultiplexing)  Demuxing / demultiplexing basically means, when speaking of video formats, splitting the file that contains both audio and video data (and possible other data streams as well, like subtitles), into separate files, each containing one element of the original file.  Demuxing a file doesn’t weaken the video nor audio quality, it doesn’t do anything for these data streams, it just simply saves them into separate files.  (Opposite of demux is muxing, which basically joins the datastreams back together.)
  • flehmen response (/ˈfleɪmən/; German: [ˈfleːmən]), also called the flehmen position, flehmen reactionflehming, or flehmening, is a behaviour whereby an animal curls back its upper lips exposing its front teeth, inhales with the nostrils usually closed and then often holds this position for several seconds. It may be performed over a site or substance of particular interest to the animal (e.g. urine or faeces) or may be performed with the neck stretched and the head held high in the air.
  • Male individuals commonly use the flehmen response as an olfactory mechanism for identifying the reproductive state of females.  

  • Flehming horse     via Wikipedia

  • gallicide – A killer of fowls.
  • Kunstwollen –  artist’s will to form, their inner drive.  Idea of a Kunstwollen (difficult to translate, although “will to art” is one possibility). Riegl seems to have conceived the Kunstwollen as a historically contingent tendency of an age or a nation that drove stylistic development without respect to mimetic or technological concerns. Its proper interpretation, however, has itself been a subject of scholarly debate for over a century
  • opusculum (usu. pl. opusculi) – a minor work of art (as of literature)
  • saudade – the barely translatable Portuguese term used to describe deep longing for something or someone that is lost.
  • spectophobia – Spectophobia the fear of mirrors.
  • uchronic – (neologism: from the word utopia )  “…We would be dealing not with a historiacal novel, apparently, but with one of those stories that are called uchronian — that take place in a historical time all upside down, where Julius Caesar fights a duel with Napoleon and Euclid finally manages to demonstrate Fermat’s theorum.”  [Quote: Umberto Eco, Six Walks in the Fictional Woods.]


This blog allows you to add comments.  I’m quite interested in all seemly thoughts you may have.

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* Links to New York food and attractions are at the bottom of this post.  Leap ahead to access them.

Detail of a dress in a Bergdorf Goodman window (full view below)

New York.  Just what you want on your way to Penn Station — a taxi driver who’s timid and law-abiding.  But when your feet have walked literally hundreds of blocks in the past ten days you’ve gained a certain perspective.  Plus I’m now ensconced in the blessed ambiance of Amtrak’s Quiet Car — perfect for reflecting on my recent altered state as a vacationeer.

Perhaps you remember this dress from my March 22 post.  It’s the actual dress worn in a painting in the Met’s show Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity.  I remarked on the dressmaker’s skill in handling the stripes of the fabric both in the skirt and the cuffs.  Hence the detail above of a polka-dotted dress now in a Bergdorf Goodman window.  And the whole dress below.

Full dress in the Bergdorf Goodman window

This dress is a stunning example of design and facture.  See how the dots and seams are handled, the slants and verticals, the added flounces, all in perfectly tamed sheer fabric, polka dots as regimented as Rockettes in a chorus line.  Wish I knew the designer’s name, but I couldn’t find the dress on the store’s website.  Please send me a note if you know who this designer is.  Work this exquisite shouldn’t go unattributed.  [The dress is from the Italian fashion house Marni.]

My view is every visit to New York deserves a stroll by Bergdorf Goodman’s windows.  The wild invention of its window-dressers is justly renowned.  They were finishing a suite of windows while I was there.  An unassuming man in shirtsleeves was standing on the sidewalk telling his staff just how to position a mannequin inside the glass.  “Higher.  Facing me.  No.  Ah,”  and he disappeared.


One adventure began at New York Central Art Supply at 62 1st Street.   Never knew about it — a richly patinaed store with drawers and drawers to prowl for a perfect blue in your favorite medium.  Upstairs is the paper department with a knowledgeable and friendly staff and a luxurious selection of Japanese rice papers, marbled papers, embossed, gilded, printed papers, papers galore. Missed the NY Central Art Supply’s Pop-Up Shop at 130 East 12th St, #1.  Hear it’s a great place but failed to listen carefully enough to directions.

A few blocks away is Casey’s Rubber Stamps, a wee dark shop with an engaging Irish owner and a whole lotta rubber stamps.  I bought a curvy octopus and had fun to boot.  It’s the kind of un-gentrified establishment that’s a joy to find in our Gap-ified land.

When it was time for a tea break I lucked onto Frank, A Place to Eat.  Their website quotes this review:

Good luck getting into this itty-bitty teeny-weeny, no reserving East Village Italian, but “dreamy” pastas and “heavenly red sauce” justify the “cramped” digs and “obscene wait”: wags advice “go with petite friends” and “bring your own table”             Frank Restaurant and Vera Bar

I’d already made dinner plans or would have stayed for a whole meal.



Here are a few random New York highlights before the section of links begins.  The top floor of ABC Carpet on Broadway is better than some galleries.  They feature a line of such glowingly hued carpets that they may be sprinkled with fairy dust.  They’re high-priced, but eyeballing them is free.

If you’re on the Upper East Side Carl Schurz Park offers a pleasant stroll beside the East River.  Sit on a bench and watch tugboats escorting ships through the channel.  Or lean on a railing above the big dog run and watch a bunch of exuberant canines having a blast.  Remember they live in apartments.  There’s a benched section not officially dog territory that I call the Yippy Corner.  Here the really small pooches romp together — small dogs, big glee.

To taste a city find out what’s passing through town while you’re there.  The living breath of a city.  Couple of the things I caught were a performance in Grand Central Terminal and a temporary sculptural installation in Central Park.  The performance featured Alvin Ailey student dancers in soundsuit costumes by Nick Cave.  Cave’s two-person costumes made shaggy horses with elegant heads.  They ambled round the space, then the dancers split apart and the raffia-draped hind persons shook and rolled and made a fine susurration as the horse heads made their own moves — then all rejoined and the horses moved back to their initial positions.  Part of the fun is that the costumes were draped over sawhorses before the performance.  The dancers then march out and don the several layers of costuming.  They merge into horses who horsily rove, then the dancers step out of costume and march out in rows.

Nick Cave equestrian soundsuits, Alvin Ailey students performing, Grand Central Terminal.       via hyperallergic

United Enemies by Thomas Schutte in Central Park, New York    via NY City Art In the Parks

The pair of bronze sculptures is deliciously placed so that it addresses the gilded rump of General William Sherman’s horse across the street.  I understand that Sherman is a Union Army hero from America’s Civil War, but his tactics were savage.  This is a Southern woman’s account from the time:

Atlanta fell to Sherman’s Army in early September 1864. He devoted the next few weeks to chasing Confederate troops through northern Georgia in a vain attempt to lure them into a decisive fight. The Confederate’s evasive tactics doomed Sherman’s plan to achieve victory on the battlefield so he developed an alternative strategy: destroy the South by laying waste to its economic and transportation infrastructure.

“Sherman’s Sentinels”
Only the chimneys stand after
a visit by Sherman’s Army

Sherman’s “scorched earth” campaign began on November 15th when he cut the last telegraph wire that linked him to his superiors in the North. He left Atlanta in flames and pointed his army south. No word would be heard from him for the next five weeks. Unbeknownst to his enemy, Sherman’s objective was the port of Savannah. His army of 65,000 cut a broad swath as it lumbered towards its destination. Plantations were burned, crops destroyed and stores of food pillaged. In the wake of his progress to the sea he left numerous “Sherman sentinels” (the chimneys of burnt out houses) and “Sherman neckties” (railroad rails that had been heated and wrapped around trees.).

via Eye Witness to History.

The golden statue of the general and horse puzzles me.  It seems like enshrining replicas of Little Boy and Fat Man, the atom bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Enshrining in glittery gold.  Off key.


Places to Eat, Things to Do, Oddball Shopping in New York — my past ten days

East End Kitchen on East 81st Street
EAT    Food is among the city’s famous pleasures.  Expect to see haricorts verts and baby artichokes on a dinner menu.
•  East End Kitchen      539 East 81st Street, btwn York & East End Avenues
     Food so good I went there twice.  Pleasant room and staff.
*  Uva  1486 Second Ave, btwn 77th & 78th Sts
     Buzzing popular spot.  Salad with baby artichokes was delicious.
*  Frank Restaurant & Vera Bar   88 Second Ave, btwn 5th & 6th Sts.
     More about this above.  Cash only, reservations for large groups only.
•  L’Ecole     462 Broadway, corner of Grand St
     “Delicious food prepared by prestigious student chefs at The International Culinary Center.”  Wish  they hadn’t changed their champagne cocktail.
*  B Cafe West      (There’s also an East version on East 75th St.)    566 Amsterdam Ave, btwn W 87th & W 88th Sts.
     Zagat rated “Belgian Pub Grub” — the mussels and fries were a big hit at our table.
*  Cafe Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie   1048 Fifth Ave, at 86th St.
     The Neue Galerie museum focuses on German and Austrian art.  Klimt, Beckman…  Their cafe is a timeless haven away from urban nerves.  Had a cold smoked trout crepe that was delicious.  I love this place.  Download the menu from their website.  There is also a Cafe Fledermaus that I haven’t seen.
FOOD EMPORIUMS       Two stores crammed with foods and customers.  Zabar’s is famous and luscious but I actually felt Agata & Valentino had the more succulent array.  Go to both for quality ingredients, specialty goods, prepared foods.
*  Zabar’s     2245 Broadway at West 80th St
     Zabar’s in Wikipedia
*  Agata & Valentino    1505 1st Ave at East 79th St
ART     Hard to visit New York and miss the art.  It’s public and it’s everywhere.
*  The Museum of Modern Art  (MoMA)
*  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
      Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity
     Plain or Fancy?: Restraint and Exuberance in the Decorative Arts
   After Photoshop: Manipulated Photography in the Digital Age
     Birds in the Art of Japan
     At War with the Obvious
•  Chelsea galleries — A couple of guides.  Don’t expect them to be complete.
     On Art-Collecting.com
     Chelsea Galleries map
•  The Frick Collection     The Frick has some superb Rembrandts and Vermeers and other nice surprises.
     The Impressionist Line from Degas to Toulouse-Lautrec        Didn’t think the curator(s) explained enough about the supposed focus: line in Impressionism.
*  Morgan Library
       The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, founded by Pierpont Morgan
      Drawing Surrealism
      Degas, Mis La La, and the Cirque Fernando
      Marcel Proust and Swann’s Way: 100th Anniversary
SHOP    At least window shop and poke into unexpected little stores.
•  MoMA Store — just across the street from the museum.
      A delightful collection of design you can own.
*  The Bowery   Great stores to poke through on Bowery Street.  Kitchen supplies (as in deli cases, monster stoves).  Also numerous lamp and chandelier shops.  Who’d think so many designs were on the market?
     Lighting by Gregory, 158 Bowery     very contemporary and fun to browse.
     The Light House, 162-164 Bowery  This is next door to the above, more traditional.
•   ABC Carpet & Home     888 & 881 Broadway, at East 19th St    (mentioned above)
ABC Carpet Color Reform rugs
*  New York Central Art Supply    62 Third Ave, btwn 10th & 11th Sts   (mentioned above)
*  Casey Rubber Stamps        322 East 11th Street, btwn 1st & 2nd Aves  (mentioned above)
*  Strand Book StoreNew, Used, Rare and Out-of-Print Books      Corner of Broadway and 12th Street
     I’m among those book lovers who can’t go to ZNew York without passing through the Strand.  Art books — on the 2nd floor — is comprehensive and varied.  Look for the changing wares on the Monographs table.
OTHER    Other, other, other — this is the feast called New York.
•  NY Society Library     53 East 79th Street, btwn Madison and Park Avenues
     Got a tour of this wonderful old place.  Quiet places to read or write.  Members only ($275/year per household).  A Tea and Trollope group meets monthly in a booky woody room.
•  Bergdorf Goodman windows             5th Avenue at 58th Street     (mentioned above.)
      Windows so famed there are books about them:
          Windows at Bergdorf Goodman Anniversary Edition      This is a mere $157.50.  Another version will set you back $585.  Check your library.
          Dreams: Through the Glass        Same authors, published earlier.  $88.
 *  Paley Center for Media         25 West 52nd Street (near MoMA)
Imogene Coca and Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows
     Choose from 100,000 TV shows to watch, 1.5 hours a sitting.  Parties of two (possibly more) can share a monitor, each with headphones.  Priceless memory: Looking up from the oldtime puppet show that a friend wanted me to see, and across the way were Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca.  Never appreciated Coca’s physical comedy so much.  One of the great comediennes.  Comedy must be big — you hear laughter all around the room.
*  Carl Schurz Park     East End Ave To East River, E 84 St To E 90 St     (mentioned above)
*  Grand Central Terminal —  89 East 42nd St & Park Ave    (mentioned above)
     Grand Central Terminal :: Guess Who is Turning 100?
     Nick Cave’s Herd of Horses Hits Grand Central | GalleristNY


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A critic once described the painter James Ensor’s inner world as

too redolent of pitiable psychological distortions for me to visit longer than half an hour… I always skipped the fun house when I went to the county fair.        Huntley Dent in The Berkshire Review

Me, I crave the funhouse.  It distorts the familiar into questions you haven’t asked.  Facts that you can’t pin down loom large — or shrink to magic beans.

Lawrence Norfolk’s novel John Saturnall’s Feast has a particular flavor of darkness that I needed to separate from the novel’s succulence.  Norfolk has no problem handling them together — I did.

James Ensor painted the darkness in the menacing faces of The Intrigue.



The Intrigue by James Ensor        via The Berkshire Review


Social masks sitting lopsided on humans who hide incendiary tar pits of malice and fury below.  Human beings eager to bond ids and do harm as a pack.  The House Unamerican Activities Committee.  The Inquisition.  Lynch mobs.  Germany’s Kristallnacht.  Amazing how hard it is to find paintings that conjure this part of human nature.  Not wars (plenty of battle scenes) but the raw face of human hatred unleashed.

The artist Oliver Lutz has made art from a famous lynching photograph.

The original photo was taken on August 9th 1930, on the evening of the lynching of Abram Smith and Thomas Shipp in Marion, Indiana. The photo, which was taken by studio photographer Lawrence Beitler, was printed (and distributed) as a postcard – a common practice in lynching culture of the United States during that period. In the photograph, lynchers and spectators are shown congragated below the two bodies that hung from a tree. Some people looked towards the bodies while smoking (or lighting) cigars, while others posed for the photographer. The rags clenched in the hands of a few, are commonly thought to be the torn remains of the pants of Abram Smith, also a common souvenir practice of that time.


Lynching 1 painting by Oliver Lutz (detail)           This image and the following via Lutz’s website

The entire Lynching 1 painting

Monitor view of the installation Lynching 1

Image of CCTV monitor displaying live surveillance video of the painting (and viewer watching monitor). The bodies of the deceased are only visible to the viewer once s/he looks in the monitor (and inadvertently becomes part of the spectator mob).

The harsh revealing artistry of his brushy paint.  Murderous mobs have ignited like gunpowder and dispersed in wisps throughout humans’ life on Earth.


Gristly images aren’t as disturbing as, say, Goya’s dark paintings.  His Saturn Devouring His Son doesn’t scare me but his Witches’ Sabbath does.

Witches’ Sabbath (The Great He-Goat) by Francisco Goya        via WikiMedia

Jim Jones and his Kool-Aid.  Herr Goebbels of Hitler’s Propaganda Ministry.  You will meet the He-Goat in Norfolk’s book.  He-Goat, She-Goat, Pied Piper of our inward urges to join the dog pack and be off ravening.

It’s striking how difficult it is to find paintings that depict the face of raw violence.    It’s possible that while people are in the frenzy they can’t see what the funhouse mirror does to faces around them.  Or maybe it’s a database blindness, an unwillingness to tag the despicable.  Search for lynching, violent mobs, hatred — you get boxcars of news photographs.  If Rembrandt had ever seen the face of true evil what complicated face would he have left whose eyes would gimlet ours?


In 2011 while the state of Wisconsin was trying to bust the teachers’ unions I happened to read this description of a British pub in a book by the poet Robert Hass:

“…built just before the regency in the year when the first man who tried to organize a craft union among weavers was whipped, drawn, quartered and disemboweled in a public ceremony in London”        via the essay Lowell’s Graveyard, in Twentieth Century Pleasures by Robert Hass

The uproar in the state of Wisconsin made this quote resonate like a gong.  Yet today there is a London Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers.  Gauge the above against this from the guild’s current website:

Publicity has always been important for the guild – in the 1980s the British Wool Marketing Board invited the London Guild to try to break the world ‘sheep to shoulder’ record (creating a knitted jersey from a fleece shorn on the spot). This we did successfully, taking 8 minutes off the record.                                    via London Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers

 Whipped, drawn, quartered and disemboweled.  A political murder.  The Gestapo, in 17th C. Salem, Massachusetts, hosting a lunch for  top 13th C. Inquisitors.


Look further:

The darkness in literature

  • •  Waiting for the Barbarians, a novel by J. M. Coetzee.  There’s a reason he won a Nobel prize.
  • •  The Lottery, short story by Shirley Jackson.  Different dark, but the very same.

The darkness in news, two commentaries

Twentieth Century Pleasures by Robert Hass

  •  •  In 2011 I wrote Robert Hass asking for the source of his disturbing facts.  If you want to look further: The Making of the English Working Class by E. P. Thompson.   Hass said I think it is in the first chapter — and so it is.  Read it and then thank Hass for his linguistic gifts.
  • •  Hass’s fine book of essays is Twentieth Century Pleasures.



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