Friday, November 28, 2008

Sadakichi Hartmann

The mosaic hat above represents Sadakichi Hartmann, one of dozens representing New York artists and entertainers in the 23rd Street R station in Manhattan. It's part of artist Keith Godard's "Memories of 23rd Street".

Hartmann (1867-1944) was a New York poet and critic of German and Japanese descent. He was a friend of Walt Whitman and the anarchist Emma Goldman. He was an excellent pickpocket. He wrote a play called "Christ" that was banned in Boston for obscenity when he was 23. And he may have been the first poet to pen a haiku in English.

He once wrote, "I have devoted my long literary career largely to a promotion of a National U.S. Art and a lifelong plea for tolerance in religious matters. I wrote six dramas to prove that every religion has profound merits and deplorable defect."

But he wasn't a total success. He tried writing screenplays in Hollywood but became a fixture in bars, drinking with John Barrymore's entourage. George Knox writes in a 1970 bio:
His tales of Whitman and Mallarmé, of Isadora Duncan and Greenwich Village characters -- tales related with a half-mocking quality and often fantastic embellishments -- were regarded as sheer invention by the Hollywood crowd that kept the old man in drinks in order to be entertained by his talk, recitations, and bizarre dancing. They liked this shabby self-proclaimed genius with termagantish tongue, and they brought him to parties as a put-on guest to shock the easily outraged. But they were convinced, nonetheless, that he was essentially a hoax and a poseur. How else explain the sly mockery of a man who would outrage all credibility by beginning an anecdote: "On a day like this, there were Rodin, Whitman, myself and three beers in a cafe in Vienna . . ."
But at that same time, writes Knox, Hartmann was also championing and encouraging young painters.

Although Hartmann was a citizen since 1894 and wrote a lengthy history of American art, he was tormented by the FBI for his German and Japanese heritage during WWII.

Hartmann died in St. Petersburg, Florida at a daughter's house at the age of 77 in 1944.

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Scholar Rocks

Scholar rocks from the collection of Kemin Hu, via


Monday, November 24, 2008

Revenge of the Lizard People

25-year-old Lucas Davenport of Bemidji, Minnesota -- not John Sandford/Camp's protagonist from the Prey series of thrillers -- is claiming the above ballot was his. Davenport, if that is his real name, says he wrote in Lizard People as a joke. The ballot has apparently been rejected as a vote for Al Franken, even though Franken was checked for senator and the write-in clearly was not.

Now Davenport's ballot has become national news, with mentions in Hardball with Chris Matthews and the Wall Street Journal. And Gawker has taken to calling all Democrats "Lizard People."

Who are the Lizard People? According to Minnesota Public Radio,
"Lizard People refers to the conspiracy theory there's a race of shape shifting lizards masquerading as humans who rule the world, but Davenport doesn't consider himself a believer."
In a list of the best conspiracy theories about a year ago on, the Lizard People made the cut:
Lizard-People Run the World

If a science fiction-based religion isn't exotic enough, followers of onetime BBC reporter David Icke believe that certain powerful people — like George W. Bush and the British royals — actually belong to an alien race of shape-shifting lizard-people. Icke claims Princess Diana confirmed this to one of her close friends; other lizard theories (there are several) point to reptilian themes in ancient mythology. And let's not forget the '80s TV show V.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Oxford's Ten Most Irritating Phrases

To the following list of the ten most irritating phrases, compiled by Oxford University, I would add: It is what it is.
1 - At the end of the day

2 - Fairly unique

3 - I personally

4 - At this moment in time

5 - With all due respect

6 - Absolutely

7 - It's a nightmare

8 - Shouldn't of

9 - 24/7

10 - It's not rocket science
Any other candidates?

UPDATE: I would add the phrases "that said" and "I myself." Commenters have nominated "Frankly" (especially when uttered by politicians), "It's all good" and "Back in the day," and finally, the oh-so-grating academic cliche "What I find striking."

Labels: ,

A Dark Day for Corduroy

When I put on my black medium-wale corduroy blazer this morning, I wasn't thinking about the date. It's November 11, or rather 11|11, the date which most resembles corduroy.

It dawned on me at work when I saw the date coming up in e-mails. Wait a minute, I thought, why haven't I heard from the Corduroy Appreciation Club? Alas, the Club is not meeting this time.

Club leader Miles Rohan listed a number of reasons for the meeting's cancellation this year. Between the bad economy and the election a week ago, the meeting didn't have a chance. Still, Rohan looks forward to the biggest corduroy celebration ever on 11|11|11.

I went to the Club's "secret" meeting last year. Read about it here.

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 09, 2008

War Rug Interview with Kevin Sudeith

The phenomenon of "war rugs" started in about 1979 with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Baluch rug weavers in Afghanistan started to incorporate military imagery into their rugs, such as tanks, AK-47s, helicopters, and fighter jets. This strange new tradition has continued and evolved as other traditional weavers in Central Asia and the Middle East followed suit. The War on Terror has provided much more inspiration for weavers.

The video above is an interview with Queens-based Minnesota native Kevin Sudeith, the best source of war rugs for sale around. Sudeith sells them online (his site has long been linked here on The Masticator) and at various New York flea markets. The interview above took place at the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

For more information on war rugs, see the site Rugs of War. It's run by Nigel Lendon and Tim Bonyhady, two Australian scholars who have been researching and writing about war rugs for years. And see my May 17th post on a reception Sudeith had for Nigel Lendon when he was in New York last May.

Labels: ,

Quote of the Day: Ted Nugent

“Free-range chicken ain’t free and that ain’t no range. Venison is free-range. Pheasant is free-range. The almighty Ruffed Grouse is free-range. I’m free-range. Chickens are incarcerated. . . . If it can’t get away, it ain’t free-range and I ain’t interested.”
That's Ted Nugent, aka 'The Motor City Madman,' in his 2002 game cookbook Kill It and Grill It (as quoted in the New York Times Book Review last week. Nugent has a new book out, Ted, White, and Blue, which was at number eight on the nonfiction bestseller list.

While the always colorful (and, interestingly, life-long drug- and alcohol-free) guitarist Ted Nugent never sang on the first (and best) albums bearing his name, he has a way with words. "Praise and braise the flesh!" he writes in the introduction to KIll It and Grill It. "Wild game meat has no equal. Tribe Nuge has not bought domestic flesh since 1969, and the quality of our average meal is nothing short of awe-inspiring."

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Laura Bush

The following is from an op-ed piece in the Sunday, November 1 New York Times. A handful of contributors, including Ari Fleischer (who is kind) and Scott McClellan (who is not)--both former Bush press secretaries--talk about what they will miss about the Bush presidency. Curtis Sittenfeld, who wrote the excerpted, is a liberal and a novelist. She wrote a fictional account of Laura Bush and her marriage to George W.

During the last eight years, when I’ve mentioned to people that I’m completely fascinated by Laura Bush, most think I’m kidding. They see her as a traditional wife and mother, a gracious and well-mannered conservative. And while this might, depending upon whom you ask, be an admirable description, it doesn’t tend to prompt fascination. Oh, I say, but there’s so much more to her!

Among my favorite facts: She spent her 20s working at ethnically diverse, low-income schools and was a Democrat until she married George Bush at the age of 31 — after knowing him just 12 weeks. As first lady of Texas, she’d eat at hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants, shop at Wal-Mart and fly Southwest Airlines to visit friends. In the White House, in addition to organizing literary events that featured writers who have publicly disagreed with her husband’s policies, she has been far more politically involved than people realize — traveling to Africa and the Middle East to raise awareness for, respectively, AIDS and breast cancer, and advocating for the opposition leader of Myanmar, who has long been under house arrest.

Of course, what’s most intriguing to Democrats like me are the suggestions that Mrs. Bush might still be considerably less conservative than her husband: She has said that she does not think Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Asked in 2004 whether she and the president have gay friends, she told a reporter, “Sure, of course. Everyone does.” And earlier this year, Mrs. Bush spoke publicly of her admiration for Hillary Clinton’s “grit and strength.”

I will miss Mrs. Bush not only for keeping me guessing but also for seeming like an intelligent and compassionate presence in a White House not widely recognized for its intelligence or compassion — for being the one person in there whom I’m pretty sure a lot of us would like even more if only we knew her better.

— CURTIS SITTENFELD, the author of the novel “American Wife”

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Obituary: Critic John Leonard

If there is any career in media I've envied, it's that of the critic John Leonard. He wrote television reviews for New York Magazine, occasional book reviews for the New York Review of Books, and a monthly book review column for Harper's. He has written for the New York Times and for The Nation. Leonard was 69.

Bill Moyers has called him "our most prolific and eclectic cultural critic." Meghan O’Rourke described him in a profile in the Columbia Journalism Review last year:
"Unlike James Wood, the chief literary critic of The New Republic, he doesn’t have a grand theory of fiction; unlike Michael Dirda, a senior editor at The Washington Post Book World, he is not a man of belles lettres; unlike the novelist and essayist Dale Peck, he is not a pugilist. He is neither a Freudian, nor a Marxist, nor a proponent of one aesthetic camp or another. Rather, his is the role of the discerning enthusiast, the Saturday reviewer who has read far more than most people and who writes about his discoveries with greater attention, insight, and felicity of self-expression than most of us can muster on any day of the week."

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Flawed Funnyman Franken Frustrated by Flip-Flopping Fool

It always strikes me funny when Minnesota goings-on make New York news, but it's even weirder when Minnesota politics makes Gawker.

Here's what they said:
"Poor comedian Al Franken should've won this, but a third party candidate took more of his votes than Coleman's (instant runoff voting, anyone? please?), and also he didn't run a very good campaign, and also Minnesotans, like many Americans, are in love with the idea of a divided government as some sort of good thing, because we all remember how well that worked in 1994, when the government shut down, as a stunt."
Norman Bertram Coleman, as some readers know, used to be a Brooklynite (moved to Minnesota after law school in Iowa), Jewish (no longer practicing), Married (his aspiring actress/model wife wanted an "open" marriage), and a Democrat (became mayor of St. Paul in 1993 as a Democrat and switched parties in 1996). Ironically, he was the Republican point man on accusing Kerry of flip-flopping.

Franken turned out to be surprisingly un-charismatic as a candidate. Running as a comedian seemed too Ventura-esque, so he started calling himself a "satirist" and stopped being funny. Consequently, he stopped being likeable. Or everyone realized he never really was that likeable in the first place. Still, he had to be better than Norman Bertram Coleman. Any Democrat would be.

What were Minnesotans thinking? How could the state that brought Obama 1,573,210 votes give Coleman a win? 1,211,435 people voted for Coleman -- just hundreds more than the 1.2 million that voted for Franken.

One way of looking at it -- as Gawker does -- is to blame the third party candidate, Dean Barkley. He actually had the job just before Coleman did. He's the guy Governor Ventura named as a temporary replacement when Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash two weeks before the 2004 Senate race.


Celebrities Love Voting


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Halloween in New York

The Halloween costumes I saw on the A train between 59th Street-Columbus Circle in Manhattan and Jay Street-Borough Hall in Brooklyn:

Bjorn Borg-esque tennis player
Newspaper reporter with pump shotgun
Race car driver with pharmaceutical sponsor jumpsuit
A pack of young women whose colorful miniskirts and makeup suggested "prostitute"
A young black girl with a blond wig and princess costume
The Joker from the last Batman movie
Sarah Palin
A girl whose glasses were more Tina Fey than Sarah Palin but may have been aiming for Palin anyway
Another Sarah Palin (her costume elicited a double-take and a "daaamn" from a homeless man)
A man in a suit and tie wearing a Mexican wrestler mask
Countless women in various scantily-clad renditions of everyday jobs
People with blood all over them
A doctor in scrubs and surgical mask
Charlie Chaplin
Groucho Marx
A flamingo
A man in a wig, glued-on mustache and colorful outdated suit and tie
Various people who were with people in costumes, but not in (obvious) costumes themselves
A wolfman with fuzzy claws bursting out of his sneakers
Site Meter