Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quote of the Day: Chuck Close

"I hate art fairs. I think that for an artist to go to an art fair, it's like taking a cow on a guided tour of a slaughterhouse. You know that sort of thing is going on, but you don't want to see it."
That's artist Chuck Close, speaking to New York Magazine at the 2007 Whitney Studio Party at the Whitney Museum last week.

The painting above (acrylic on canvas) is from 1967-8, and it's called "Big Self Portrait." It was acquired by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1969. It's about 9 feet tall.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Art For Business' Sake

In the previous post, I showed a page from Chairman Mao's Red Book that said that "There is in fact no such things as art for art's sake." Mao sees everything in terms of class and politics. "Our purpose," Mao is quoted a couple pages later, "is to ensure that literature and art fit well into the whole revolutionary machine as a component part."

What if art were self-consciously working -- or employed -- to fit into the commercial machine? In the latest (and maybe last) issue of The Baffler, Catherine Liu is skeptical of business' embrace of the "creative class," especially in Singapore:
"Today it is creativity, not eugenics, that fires the fancy of Singapore's rulers. But the hyper-rational logic remains the same. The government still wants to engineer social progress and prosperity -- only the new maxim is art equals money."
Apparently, some Singapore government research proved that art and culture bring greater returns than banking or petrochemicals these days. Introducing: "Art for Business' Sake." No one has spelled it out so explicitly before. Liu continues:
"Thus the winding path by which art for art's sake has become an official initiative of an authoritarian government."
So Mao's idea of art for revolution's sake, is turned into a much more insidious project. But as Liu points out, Singapore got the idea from America.

But the idea of an authoritarian government taking control of art as a way of taking control of people is not new, nor necessarily American. In Tom Stoppard's play Rock 'N' Roll, now in previews on Broadway, Jan (played by Rufus Sewell on Broadway and in London last year), a Czech intellectual and rock connoiseur, had served some prison time after being arrested with the Czech rock band The Plastic People of the Universe in 1976 -- the band was accused of "spreading anti-socialist messages in their songs."

In one scene, Jan is talking to a British journalist (Nigel) in Prague in 1987 -- more than 10 years after the Plastics did prison time. He is explaining "Rockfest," a government-sponsored music festival:
Nigel: Rock Fest . . .?

Jan: Sure. Even a Communist government wants to be popular. A few years ago life was getting better, everybody could have a refrigerator, okay, but the West was going to hell with Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, the Sex Pistols . . . But now economically we are behind Nepal, it's embarrassing for the leading role of the party, and rock 'n' roll costs nothing so we have rock festival at the Palace of Culture.
The Plastics were invited to play if they changed their name to PPU. There was an argument in the band. Well, it's a question. If you play your music and hide your name, are you making fools of the government or is the government making fools of you? Finally they agreed PPU was not exactly changing their name. They got a girl singer, like Nico, and rehearsed. But the police found out and cut off the electricity.

Nigel: When was this?

Jan: Then they were offered to play in a club in Brno if they agreed to be on the poster as 'A Band from Prague'. It was a crisis. Some said yes, some said no. Bad things were said between the band. Terrible things. It finished the Plastics. There is no Plastics now, after twenty years, it's over.
And so a quasi-dissident rock band was made inneffective by mild government pressure, in the guise of a loosening of the rules.

We act horrified by this brand of culture control by a government, but we used to do it all the time. We -- the U.S. -- would export our abstract art, our anti-communist intellectuals, all fully sponsored by U.S. intellegence services. It's not a conspiracy theory, nor is it an unproven technique. It worked. We remade Germany and Japan in our own "free-market" image after the War.

The only question is: Why the hell aren't we doing it in the Middle East and Iraq today? Surely it would be better than paying private military contractors loads of dough to hide the fact that it takes a shit-ton of guys to pacify an angry and unstable post-dictatorship country.

Slavoj Zizek, the Slovenian cultural critic, used to joke about how much more free he felt under the grip of Eastern European communism before the Wall and the Soviet Union fell. Back then, the enemy was not subtle. In his 2002 book of essays on the September 11 attacks, he wrote in a footnote that when he was involved in Slovene politics in the early 1990s, he was considered for a government post:
"the only one which interested me was that of the Minister of the Interior or head of the secret service -- the notion of serving as Minister of culture, education, or science seemed to me utterly ridiculous, not even worth serious consideration."
But are they not the same posts from different ends? The one pretends it doesn't have an influence on culture and the other pretends it does -- at least in a "free" society.

And this why Zizek had the odd nostalgia for totalitarianism: because the rules were clear, the roles were clear, and the rebellion was a fight by good (the people) against an obvious evil (the government).

So when the government -- and in America, this means business -- starts telling you that it's interested in your art, something is very, very wrong.

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The Poetry of Chairman Mao

That's a page from Chairman Mao's Red Book. And so it is that Mao's own poetry, even when he tried to make it about nature, had a political tone. Mao, like many well-educated Chinese, wrote poetry. He was also an accomplished calligrapher. The picture below, though not Mao's own calligraphy, is of his poem "Snow" from about 1936.
Here is the poem in translation:
North country scene:
A hundred leagues locked in ice,
A thousand leagues of whirling snow.
Both sides of the Great Wall
One single white immensity.
The Yellow River's swift current
Is stilled from end to end.
The mountains dance like silver snakes
And the highlands charge like wax-hued elephants,
Vying with heaven in stature.
On a fine day, the land,
Clad in white, adorned in red,
Grows more enchanting.

This land so rich in beauty
Has made countless heroes bow in homage.
But alas! Chin Shih-huang and Han Wu-ti
Were lacking in literary grace,
And Tang Tai-tsung and Sung Tai-tsu
Had little poetry in their souls;
And Genghis Khan,
Proud Son of Heaven for a day,
Knew only shooting eagles, bow outstretched
All are past and gone!
For truly great men
Look to this age alone.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New York Papers

"In New York one may find every class of paper which the imagination can conceive. Every grade of society is catered for. If an Esquimau came to New York, the first thing he would find on the bookstalls in all probability would be the Blubber Magazine, or some similar production written by Esquimaux for Esquimaux. Everybody reads in New York, and reads all the time. The New Yorker peruses his favourite paper while he is being jammed into a crowded compartment on the subway or leaping like an antelope into a moving Street car."
That's an excerpt from the first page of Pelham Grenville Wodehouse's Psmith, Journalist of 1915, the first in a series about an eccentric named Rupert Smith who added a silent "P" to his surname to bring it more in line with his outstanding character.

This reminds me of a curious lunch I had a week or two ago at a mediocre Chinese joint run by Orthodox Jewish folk. They serve a "Chinese hotdog" in which a kosher frank is deep fried within a crusty egg roll. It's awful. I eat there once a week or so.

I was interrupted one day by the manager, a slim, spectacled gentleman with a great big beard who always wore a yarmulke. "What is this you're reading?" he asked me. It was the New Yorker, I showed him. "What is it about? I mean it's about New York, I see, but what makes it different from any other magazine about New York?" he asks. I was stumped for a moment: A New Yorker who knew nothing about the New Yorker. "It's been around for about 80 years, it's smart, and whereas most magazines these days are mostly pictures, this one's mostly words," I told him, showing him the pages. "And you like it?" he asks. "Yes, I do," I smiled at him. "Enjoy then," he smiled back.

It's funny, growing up in St. Paul in a house that had a subscription to the New Yorker my entire life, it never occured to me that a New Yorker curious enough to inquire about a stranger's reading material would not be familiar with such a storied publication.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Adios Laughlin

Awww, too bad -- Viva Laughlin, CBS's bizarre adaptation of the British series Blackpool, which was itself renamed Viva Blackpool for BBC America, has been canceled after a mere two episodes. America's just not ready for a musical mystery series. Or maybe it's that America felt swindled by ad after ad that made absolutely no mention of the fact that the drama would be interrupted by bursts of song.

The town of Laughlin, Nevada, about 60 miles south of Las Vegas, was named after Don Laughlin, an Owatonna, Minnesota native who opened a casino there in 1964. According to WCCO TV, Don Laughlin was in the illegal slot machine business as a teenager in Minnesota, renting them to bars:
Laughlin's high school principal didn't approve of gambling and told him to stop. When Laughlin realized his income from slots and other machines was three times what the principal was making, the choice was simple. Laughlin quit school.
A crack-down on gambling in Minnesota led him to move to Nevada.

But we probably won't be hearing much about Laughlin anymore.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The New Museum is Almost Open

The new home of the New Museum for Contemporary Art is almost done. It's on the Bowery in a sort of a rougher section of SoHo filled with restaurant supply stores and homeless shelters. The neighborhood is ripe for gentrification, though, and this museum is the beginning of the end of the old Bowery. The stacked metal box design is by Tokyo-based architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA Ltd. Back in 2003, when the New Museum announced the selection of the architects, they predicted a 2006 opening. Now it's supposed to be December 1, 2007.

The New Museum was founded in 1977 by Marcia Tucker, one day after she was fired from her job at the Whitney Museum as a curator. It's had a number of locations since.


Bobby Seale on Mao's Little Red Book

"I think we were about five months old, and one day Huey had an idea how we could raise some money. And what happens here is that Huey calls up and says, 'How much money have you got?' I say, 'I don't know; a hundred or so dollars.' He says, 'Come on over. I know how we can raise some money to pay some rent and buy some more shotguns.' And so I picked him up [and he] says, 'Let's go a place called the China Bookstore.' When we got there, this particular bookstore sold all kinds of publications from China, Hong Kong, Red China, whatever, OK? Taiwan, whoever. And he says, 'The Red Book,' he says, 'do you remember seeing ...?' I says, 'I remember seeing something about Mao Tse-tung,' I said, 'I saw it two or three times, and millions of people were holding this little red book up telling the thoughts of Chairman Mao Tse-tung.' He says, 'I just found out we could get these things here for 25 cents.' And he says, 'I'm sure we could sell them at the University of California, Berkeley, for a buck.' ...

"So I says, 'OK, [Huey],' I says, 'let's get a couple of hundred books.' So we got a couple of hundred books ... and went to this gate at the University of California, at Berkeley: 'Get your red book, the thoughts of Chairman Mao Tse-tung! One buck!' They went like hot cakes. I'm talking about in a matter of an hour all 200 or so books were gone. We jumped in the car, ran back, got some more books, came back up, sold a couple of hundred more, ran and bought a shotgun, went and paid some phone bills, paid the rent up. And this was like, now, we had not read this book. I mean, the next thing you know, we're selling books [right and left]. ... We were busy selling the book for the dollars to get our rent, to buy more shotguns, to buy more books for the reading list for the party members that we had going."
That's Bobby Seale, the co-founder (with Huey Newton) of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in a 1996 interview with CNN on how they sold Chairman Mao's Little Red Book to pinko college students to raise money for shotguns.

The book above is mine -- my brother got it for me on a trip to China. It's 4 inches by 5 and a quarter inches and it has a thin plastic jacket over a cardboard cover. The jacket isn't intended to be removed. It says it was published in 1966, a first edition by Foreign Languages Press in Peking.

(The Black Panthers were not perfect, but they were misunderstood. Their original plan included free meals for school kids and armed patrols to monitor police interaction with black people. The Panthers carried law books and tape recorders and were able to quote sections of applicable local laws when challenged by police. It worked for a little while.)


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tears of Autumn, Again

In another scene part-way through Charles McCarry's The Tears of Autumn, CIA agent Paul Christopher is having lunch in Saigon with Nicole, a Vietnamese woman of about 24. She's a relative of the South Vietnamese president, who's been recently assassinated, followed by President Kennedy 21 days later. Christopher accuses Nicole's family of taking pride in the murders it's ordered lately. He continues with an example:
"There's a tribe in Ghana that believes no one dies a natural death -- when a man dies, they use magic to find who in the tribe has killed him, and by what spell. Then the dead man's son is given his father's sandals. When he grows big enough to wear them, he kills his father's murderer. Eventually, of course, he too is killed in revenge. It goes on, generation after generation."

"You think the Vietnamese question is as simple as that?" [asks Nicole]

"I think the human question is as simple as that, Nicole. Intellectual systems are developed to justify the exchange of death; the system of the Ghanaian tribe is as sensible as Christianity or your own family's sense of aristocracy, or what the Americans call the dignity of the individual. In Germany, two thousand years of Christian teaching produced the SS. In Vietnam, two thousand years of colonialism produced this slaughter of peasants Ho Chi Minh calls a revolution and Diem never put a name to. It required only a hundred years of technology to produce the Hiroshima bomb. All achieved the same results -- Murder without guilt."

The Chrysanthemum

Frost! You may fall!
After chrysanthemums there are
no flowers at all!
That's a haiku called "The End of Autumn" by the 18th century poet Otomo Oemaru. It appeared in the New York Times this week as a part of an article on the New York Botanical Garden's exhibit "Kiku: The Art of the Japanese Chrysanthemum," which opens soon.

There's something odd about such a short poem with so many exclamation points -- are we to read it as more urgent? Or as if it's being yelled at us? Something is certainly lost in the translation.

The name of the flower comes from the Greek: "krus anthemon" which means gold flower, but the flowers originate in China. And they come in many more colors than gold. It was brought to Japan from China (like much of Japan's culture).

In other, more brutal Japanese news, the Times has a fascinating article about the troubled sumo wrestling world, in which Mongolian champs fake injuries and fix fights, teen novices die in hazing rituals, and women, all considered "spiritually unclean," try to taint the sacred sumo ring.It makes one long for the days of Akebono Taro (pictured above), the 500 pound, 6-foot 8-inch Hawaiian who was the first foreigner to reach the level of Yokozuna, sumo wrestling's highest. Akebono, born Chad Haaheo Rowan, won the Emperor's Cup 11 times in 13 years. He retired in 2001.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Charles McCarry's The Tears of Autumn

I'm reading Charles McCarry's great spy novel The Tears of Autumn. His books were out of print for a while, but they've been brought back by Overlook Press.

I wrote about McCarry's recent spy novel, Old Boys about 15 months ago (read it here) and his first one from 1972, The Miernik Dossier, about a year ago (read that here).

The Tears of Autumn is a book that some have called one of the best spy novels ever written. Brendan Bernhard (no big name, I'll grant you) wrote in L.A. Weekly a couple of years ago that "The Tears of Autumn is the greatest espionage novel ever written by an American, if only because it’s hard to conceive of one that could possibly be better."

Bernhard at least has the distinction of having interviewed the McCarry, and McCarry has the distinction of having been a CIA agent himself. As with agent Paul Christopher in the book, we learn from Bernhard's interview, McCarry heard that Kennedy had been killed "from a Belgian priest at the airport in Léopoldville, now Kinshasa, the capital of what was then the Belgian Congo." The book is said to solve the Kennedy assassination; I haven't gotten that far, though I can see that it ties in with the assassination of South Vietnam's president Ngo Dinh Diem. That happened just three weeks before the Kennedy assassination.

Half-way through the book, in a scene in Vietnam after both presidents' assassinations, an agent takes off his jacket in the comfort of another's heavily-fortified Saigon flat. He sees our hero, agent Paul Christopher, looking at his gun and shoulder holster. "Station regulations, we never go out without a gat," he says. That made me pause. We never go out without a gat. I had always associated the word "gat," slang for handgun, with a more recent, urban and hip hop source. Where does it come from?

Merriam-Webster says it's short for Gatling gun, dating back to 1897. Below that entry, it says it's slang for handgun. It's that definition that I'm more interested in.

The not-so-reliable Wikipedia-style Urban Dictionary has 61 contributed definitions, many of them arguing for an etymology based in the prohibition with Tommy or Thompson submachine guns. A couple mention the Gatling gun. An edition of Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary from 1963 -- the year the action in Tears of Autumn takes place -- lists the word as:
gat n [short for Gatling gun] slang : PISTOL
The Online Etymology Dictionary says:
"pistol," 1904, slang shortening of Gatling (gun); by 1880, gatlin was slang for a gun of any sort.
The Gatling gun was a machine gun created by American inventor Richard J. Gatling in 1862, in time for use in the Civil War. From that point on it was constantly being improved upon, and in 1874, the Gatling company partnered with Colt. The companies merged shortly after that.

The Gatling gun used six hand-cranked rotating barrels to fire more rounds faster. Some accounts say that Gatling thought his weapon was more humane because it was more lethal, making smaller armies more effective.

[photograph of a British model of an 1865 Gatling gun from Max Smith, here.]


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Quote of the Day: Paddy Johnson

"I know this sounds snotty, but the media phenomenon of Marla Olmstead, the then 4-year-old painter whose brightly colored abstract canvases sold for upwards of $20,000 dollars each in 2005 represents my worst nightmare as an art critic. I say this not because I believe good fine art can only be made by adults, but because her status as a child prodigy is constructed upon popular myths I work to dispel on a daily basis: that artists have innate talent that cannot be taught; that virtually anyone working in the field of art has the knowledge and background to properly evaluate abstraction; that exacting skill and authorship necessarily correlates to artistic talent or the intrinsic worth of a painting."
That's Paddy Johnson, the blogger behind Art Fag City, reviewing the documentary My Kid Could Paint That in The Reeler.

Marla Olmstead seems to be caught in a limbo between critics who think she had help making her pictures (which implies that they're good) and others who think her art (and the fact that it sold for such high prices) is proof that the art world is nuts. It doesn't help matters, writes Johnson, that the film does nothing to seek any conclusions. The sole art critic featured in the film is the New York Times' Michael Kimmelman, and he "never issues a statement on the child’s actual talent."

Without having seen the movie, I can only comment on the issues brought up in the review. The biggest issue to me is that of talent. The art world has embraced children's art as a sort of "pure vision" for at least a century. Artists like Wassily Kandinsky championed the art of children, the insane, and the un-trained before WWI – not for the talent or technical skill in the art – but for the glimpse into the spiritual world such creations provided.

Then again, once we put a monetary value on such art, all aesthetic criticism fades into the background. Marla Olmstead becomes a fad and her collectors, chumps.

The photo of Marla Olmstead is from Sony Pictures Classics


Monday, October 15, 2007

Brought to You By...

With newspapers and magazines struggling to find a way to attract ad dollars to their print divisions and scratching their heads over making money on the web, will advertisers cut out the middleman?

As Nike's corporate vice president for global branding and category management Trevor Edwards told the New York Times yesterday, "We're not in the business of keeping the media companies alive. We're in the business of connecting with consumers."

Is this the future of media content production on the Internet? Refrigerator maker Sub-Zero has raised the profile of its wine blog by commissioning novelist Jay McInerney and restaurateur Lora Zarubin to contribute as guest bloggers. Both McInerny and Zarubin write columns for House & Garden.

If a damned fridge maker can get regular people who aren't necessarily in the market for a new appliance to come to its website, it's really pulled something off. If I bookmark the Sub-Zero Wine Blog, etching the brand into my consciousness, maybe it's the first company I think of when I am in the market for a new appliance.

But more upsetting to the status quo, what if the media companies lose the race to monetize the web? We may be getting all of our entertainment from wholly sponsored sources.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Leonard Cohen on Miami Vice

I've been watching the second season of Miami Vice (1986) on dvd and I'm impressed with the list of guest stars: Miles Davis playing a pimp, Ted Nugent playing a con artist who kills rich men lured in by his sexpot girlfriend, and Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy playing an army sergeant who made a fortune in heroin in Vietnam.

So far I've skipped the Phil Collins episode. Then I started watching an episode that didn't list any stars in the dvd menu, and was suprised to see Leonard Cohen as François Zolan, head of Interpol. Rumor has it his son Adam, a fan of the show, convinced him to do it.

When I did a quick Internet search on Cohen, I found a great article from The Guardian -- a list, really, of Leonard Cohen trivia in celebration of the Canadian singer-songwriter's 70th birthday in 2004 -- 70 of them. My favorites, excluding his Miami Vice appearance:
5 Cohen's albums regularly go to no 1 in Norway.

6 In America, his last album entered the Billboard chart at number 143.

9 Cohen was 32 and an established poet and novelist before deciding that songwriting might pay better. When he first touted his songs around New York, agents said to him: "Aren't you a little old for this game?"

10 He has never married - "too frightened". He had two children with Suzanne Elrod, and also had a long relationship with the film star Rebecca De Mornay.

21 He liked the Greek island of Hydra so much that he bought a house there in 1960 for $1,500. It had no electricity or running water. He could live there for $1,000 a year, so he would go back to Canada, earn the money with his writing and head back to Hydra "to write and swim and sail".

30 Some time in the early 70s, his songs were dismissed as "music to slit your wrists to". The phrase stuck. "I get put into the computer tagged with melancholy and despair," Cohen said. "And every time a journalist taps in my name, that description comes up on the screen."

33 His song Chelsea Hotel No 2, about Janis Joplin, may be the only song overtly written by one pop star about sex with another. "You said to me then, you preferred handsome men, but for me you would make an exception ... giving me head on the unmade bed, while the limousines wait in the street."

37 Cohen has been with Columbia for 37 years, but relations are ambivalent. Accepting an award in 1988, he thanked Columbia and said: "I have always been touched by the modesty of their interest in my work."

38 When he wrote Bird on a Wire, Cohen felt he hadn't "finished the carpentry", but Kris Kristofferson said the first three lines would be his epitaph: "Like a bird on a wire/ Like a drunk in a midnight choir/ I have tried, in my way, to be free"

41 His album Death of a Ladies' Man was produced by Phil Spector, the reclusive genius of girl-group pop. "I was flipped out at the time," Cohen said later, "and he certainly was flipped out. For me, the expression was withdrawal and melancholy, and for him, megalomania and insanity and a devotion to armaments that was really intolerable. In the state that he found himself, which was post-Wagnerian, I would say Hitlerian, the atmosphere was one of guns - the music was a subsidiary enterprise ... At a certain point Phil approached me with a bottle of kosher red wine in one hand and a .45 in the other, put his arm around my shoulder and shoved the revolver into my neck and said, 'Leonard, I love you.' I said, 'I hope you do, Phil.'"

61 As a marketing ploy, cafes in the US that had "the Leonard Cohen vibe" were sent a free copy of the Tower of Song album. "I'd like to go to some of those," Cohen said. "I can rarely locate my own vibe."

66 Cohen was much admired in 1960s France. The president, Georges Pompidou, was reputed to take his LPs on holiday, and it was said that if a Frenchwoman owned one record, it was likely to be by Cohen.

68 He always has excellent backing vocals. "My voice sounds so much better when a woman is singing with me," he has said. "Some dismal quality is neutralised."

And finally:

70 In 1994, Cohen said: "If you're going to think of yourself in this game, or in this tradition, and you start getting a swelled head about it, then you've really got to think about who you're talking about. You're not just talking about Randy Newman, who's fine, or Bob Dylan, who's sublime, you're talking about King David, Homer, Dante, Milton, Wordsworth, you're talking about the embodiment of our highest possibility. So I don't think it's particularly modest or virtuous to think of oneself as a minor poet. I really do feel the enormous luck I've had in being able to make a living, and to never have had to have written one word that I didn't want to write.

"But I don't fool myself, I know the game I'm in. When I wrote about Hank Williams 'A hundred floors above me in the tower of song', it's not some kind of inverse modesty. I know where Hank Williams stands in the history of popular song. Your Cheatin' Heart, songs like that, are sublime, in his own tradition, and I feel myself a very minor writer. I've taken a certain territory, and I've tried to maintain it and administrate it with the very best of my capacities. And I will continue to administrate this tiny territory until I'm too weak to do it. But I understand where this territory is."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Curta Pocket Calculator

"It is a precision instrument, performing calculations mechanically, employing neither electricity nor electronic components. The sensation of its operation is best likened to that of winding a fine thirty-five-millimeter camera. It is the smallest mechanical calculating machine ever constructed.

"It is the invention of Curt Herzstark, an Austrian, who developed it while a prisoner in Buchenwald. The camp authorities actually encouraged his work, you see. 'Intelligence slave,' his title there. They wished his calculator to be given to the Führer, at the end of the war. But Buchenwald was liberated in 1945 by the Americans. Herzstark had survived."
That was a monologue from a character out of William Gibson's excellent 2003 novel Pattern Recognition about the object pictured above.

The first time I read the book, two years ago, I assumed that the Curta was an invention of the author. When I re-read it this summer, I noticed in the acknowledgements that Gibson thanks a James Dowling "for introducing me to the Curta calculator."

It is a real thing. There's a good description of its operation at the Museum of HP Calculators website. And there's a website that simulates the Curta's operation if that doesn't make sense.

When Curt Herzstark got out of the concentration camp, he arranged to have his invention produced. The Curta was made from 1948 to 1972, the year that electronic pocket calculators got cheap enough to put the mechanical calculator out of business. They seem to be going for between $600 and $1,200 on eBay right now.
The Hearst Tower, designed by London architect Sir Norman Foster. The 46-story building just off Columbus Circle at 57th Street was built on top of the existing six-story headquarters of the Hearst publishing company.

With its diagonal grid, it is the first office tower in North America to be built without vertical steel beams. And according to the architects, the "diagrid" structure saves steel -- it uses 20% less than a typical building of its height. It was designed to be "green," too. Lights inside adjust according to the amount of natural light coming in and turn off when motion sensors detect no movement. The roof collects rainwater and uses it to water plants and replenish the A/C system's evaporated water. The Hearst Tower was certified as New York City's first green building with a Gold rating for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) by the U.S. Green Building Council a year ago this month.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Finally: A Magazine For Prudes

New! From the people who fight to cover cleavage on women's magazine covers in supermarket checkout lines and edit popular movies for religious family consumption, a magazine for the modest girl who doesn't necessarily have to be a Mormon: ELIZA.

"Why isn't there a fashion magazine without nakedness that still has great photography and beautiful models?" asked Mormon model Summer Bellessa. And so she started one. The 3,000 circulation magazine's board is made up of religious prudes of Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Protestant faiths.

Writes Deirdre Fulton in an article for The Phoenix called "Prudish Publication Makes Its Debut":
"A casual reader may see the rail-thin model on the cover (who also happens to be Eliza’s editor, Summer Bellessa), in combination with inane feature articles such as “Get Your Yoga Om,” and think this is just another Cosmo knock-off. But it’s more than that — it’s Bellessa’s answer to today’s female fashion choices, which this member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints perceives as provocative, skimpy, and tacky. One senses that the Utah-based Eliza crowd feels the same way about modern female behavior in general."
Predictably, Eliza's fashion features consist of more and more layers, plenty of contour disguising, hot-weather-be-darned layers.

The magazine is quarterly for now, and a year subscription costs $13.97. Editor Summer Bellessa and her magazine have been covered on Fox News, Good Morning America, and Newsweek.


Cashing in on the Convention

2008 Republican National Convention

Yes, the Twin Cities have endured this scourge once before. It was back in 1892 when the Republican nominated Benjamin Harrison in Minneapolis. With the GOP's return, Minnesotans are scurrying to cash in, putting their homes and apartments up for short-term rental.

Spotted on Craigslist:
I am the owner of a beautiful home just minutes away from the Xcel Center in downtown St. Paul. I am willing to rent out my home during the week of the 2008 Republican Convention.

About the home:
Three spacious bedrooms, three full bathrooms, 2,000+ square feet overall. Game room, big screen flat panel HDTV, high speed internet, cable with on demand. Each bedroom has a comfortable queen or full size mattress. Bedrooms plus two sofa beds can accommodate anywhere between 5-10 people comfortably. House will be professionally cleaned and new linens and pillows will be provided. Fridge will be stocked with beverages. Back patio with outdoor table and gas grill. You will also enjoy 24 hour access to a clubhouse that includes a heated pool that is open through September, sauna, weight room, and party room that can accommodate 40-50 people. FYI: weather in St. Paul is typically still very warm and nice during September.

About the Neighborhood:
Home is on a cul-de-sac in a quiet and secluded area. Back yard is wooded and there is a beautiful park with trails, basketball and tennis courts. This is a secret gem in the city. Well maintained homes. Just a few miles to downtown St. Paul.

Services Included:
24-hour limo service. Get a tour of the Twin Cities. And, get tips on places to go for eating and socializing.

$15,000 for first week. Will pro-rate that amount if needed to stay more than seven days. To reserve the unit, you will need to sign a rental agreement and pay a damage deposit of $5,000 which will be refunded after the convention. Need to pay full $15,000 prior to arriving for the convention.

Enjoy the convention with the comfort of home. Don't let this opportunity pass you by.

For those who are interested, I can provide a video tour and more pictures.
Thank you for the tip, Mr. Christopher. This is the priciest of a flurry of temporary Republican Convention rentals popping up on Craigslist lately. If you look at the photos for this particular home rental, it's not nearly as nice as it sounds. It all recalls the opportunism of selling parking space on the grass in your front yard during the State Fair. Nice racket if you can pull it off.

Oh, and did I mention that the convention is still a year away? The 2008 Republican National Convention is scheduled for the first week of September.

The Convention logo at the top of this entry is courtesy of the GOP. To get the logo for your own website, go here. You know you want one.


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