28 February 2006


"If you ask why I make sculpture, I must answer that it is my way of life, my balance, and my justification for being." —David Smith

So... I was just meandering through the museum sites – you know, the usual suspects and all – and I ran into the current exhibition at the Guggenheim in NYC: “David Smith: A Centennial.”

The exhibition description includes this remarkable claim: “Widely considered the greatest sculptor of his generation, David Smith (1906–1965) created some of the most iconic works of the 20th century.”

While Smith deserves his due, how many of you out there could describe a single David Smith sculpture. Not that wide audience is necessarily an indicator of value, but that claim is a bit large.

Perhaps I am a bit too biased. For me Smith is the sculptor who was associated with Abstract Expressionism, got caught up in the group and the endless bounty provided by ol’ Clement Greenberg. Personally I would be happy to never see another Cubi in my life.

Yes… I take it all a bit personally. Sculpture is where I started as an artist and I feel that too often sculpture has received a critical Free Pass from the art world. Sculpture so often has been given permission to lag behind other media as far as critical dialogue. Come on. Smith’s Cubis are what? Homages to Cubism with a little extra Mondrian? And these are made in the ‘60s. Even the early work never really surpassed 3-D variants of Miró drawings and paintings for me. [See above image]

Yes. David Smith has made some important work. He – if I am remembering correctly – was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists in NYC in the mid-30s. He is significant, but let's keep our claims in this ballpark. Does “widely” signify “by the writers of this catalog?" David Smith perpetuated the formal burden that lay upon sculpture for so many years. Thank goodness Joseph Cornell was out there, that Oldenburg – at least those early years – came along, hell, let us not forget good old Marcel [Duchamp that is] and the Large Glass.

David Smith is always there if you need a bit of a fix from your Sculptor’s Handbook: If you can’t make it good, make it big; if that doesn’t work make it red; if that still doesn’t work, let it rust; and if all else fail burnish it.

But for my two cents he is simply another of the legion that owe their souls to Clement G. and Harold R. [That would be Greenberg and Rosenberg: the dynamic duo of NYC art criticism back in the 40’s and 50’s]


The wife and I just went and looked at houses. I know, I know… Terribly grown up of us but there it is. We talked to a real estate agent and everything.

But now we actually have to think about stuff and stuff. Like: can we afford a house, how much, where, when, etc…

To be more specific, we went and looked at houses around the Clinton area today. In fact we saw one absolutely fantastic house. [See picture above] It is a gorgeous stone cape cod w/ 4 bedrooms, two baths, huge rooms, hardwood floors, and 2 1/2 acres with woods. The interior is way cool. But the question is, should we be purchasing a house at this price?

[If you follow the above link it is the one at 4647 Clinton Street]

Or… Should we consider houses in South Utica? We have seen three online. [This time, see pictures below] These go in the $65K to $75K and seem to be quite lovely. In fact we know someone who just bought a house in south Utica for $40K; it needs a bit of work but is quite nice.

I would never have thought that possible. Surely a house in that price range must have only three walls, half a roof and a choice between electricity and plumbing. But no... Apparently in the Utica area houses are cheap, while in the Clinton area they are not. And all that brings in things like school districts and other grown up things like that.

Ah… the dilemmas. What the Hades do we know about buying houses and such? What are we thinking? We just started living together. I mean we are married and all, but golly. Are we really ready to be adults?

No I am not getting all cold-feety here about buying a house with the wife. I am like crazy happy being together and all. But buying a house??? Isn’t that madness???

What to do? What to do?

Does one wait for tenure to buy an expensive house? Does every sane person begin with a starter house? What the hell is equity exactly? Shouldn’t I find a job before we drop a couple hundred grand-ish into a mortgage?


But then again… We just went and looked at houses. That was really freaking cool. At one point I was standing in the kitchen and the wife was leaning over the half-wall to the sitting room/sun room off the kitchen at the back of the house and I could just see here twenty years from now popping up from reading some bit if medieval lit and asking if dinner were ready and was there something she could do. It made me smile.

I liked that house.

26 February 2006


I'm not even going to mention Cheney [though I suppose I just did] in this one. Today Supreme Court Justice [and all around creepy guy] Antonin Scalia gave use yet another view of the utopian world republicans apparently grew up in.

Addressing the National Wild Turkey Federation [yes it exists and is dedicated to shooting the birds not shots of the booze] Scalia said, "I grew up at a time when people were not afraid of people with firearms... I used to travel on the subway from Queens to Manhattan with a rifle. Could you imagine doing that today in New York City?"

Of course not. Nor would I want anyone to. It perpetually amazes me the ways the old "When I was growing up..." argument gets used. "I rode the subway with a rifle, so guns are safe." Does no one else see a rhetorical problem with this one???

While I am personally opposed to hunting [I am admitting my bias], that really has little to do with arguments for gun control [which I strongly support]. I am not going to completely rehash the arguments for stronger gun control; I just needed to express my outrage at the rhetorical ineptitude of a Supreme Court justice. We really should screen them better...

On another note... It is amazing how much better one's life can be once one goes to the grocery. I now have milk for my coffee and the world is much rosier. And soon the wife comes home [hooray] so I made her a lovely banana bread.

Mmmm... Coffee.


This is my house…

Actually, it’s the house I grew up in, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.

And this is where I grew up: Bricktown, New Jersey, ten minutes away from Seaside Heights, New Jersey’s version of the South of France. And this is the story of my hallucinogenic stepfather.

Somewhere between my second and third stepfathers I had another stepfather: In fact, my favorite stepfather. I don’t really remember that much about the one before or after him, mostly just that they were there, but him I remember distinctly.

When I turned eight he took me to Great Adventure…. Two weeks later we went to a Yankees game. In fact, his youngest daughter was my first love…. Okay, maybe love is an overstatement…. She was my first kiss.

We were in the living room watching TV. We had special permission to stay up late on Tuesday nights to watch the Dukes of Hazzard. Right after those Duke boys got themselves in another fine mess and the show went into commercial she grabbed my arm, pulled me toward her and kissed me. Nothing big or anything, but there it was, my first kiss.

But back to the stepfather…. I don’t remember his name or anything, though I do remember at least that much about all my other stepfathers, but I liked him. I’m not going to say he was perfect or anything, he was just a generic guy I guess, but he was nice. He didn’t yell at me, sometimes we did stuff, you know… he was my step-dad.

So… over the years I obviously had my suspicions about him. I couldn’t remember his name, I could never find any pictures of him, but I always put off asking anyone in my family about him…. At least until I was twenty-two and was living with my girlfriend. She finally got me to ask my mother about him.

That is the day he changed, though I guess not that much really. Of course my mother had no idea what I was talking about, but he didn’t stop being my step-dad. He just moved a few syllables to the right and became my hallucinogenic stepfather. I still remember going to Great Adventure with him on my birthday and his daughter being the deliverer of my first kiss, and I still love the Dukes of Hazzard.

So he doesn’t exist. Big deal. I’m not so sure that evidentiary existence is a prerequisite for being family these days anyway. Hell… I’m a retroactive bastard too while were at it…. But that is a story for another day. For now I am going to grab another cup of coffee and see what else I can remember about him.

*Elements of the story have been altered, though it is primarily factual.

25 February 2006


image of the blizzard raging ourstide my window

So… I just returned from a conference [College Arts Association] in Boston and for the first time since leaving my teaching job at Drake University in Iowa I am staying by myself in my wife’s and my apartment in Clinton. [We’ll get into the back-story eventually] But more to the point, the wife is presenting a paper at a conference in Miami. I am stuck here in what is still a strange apartment with a freaking blizzard going its merry way outside [see above picture taken from our front door five minutes ago] with no milk for my coffee and I can’t even go out to get any or for a DVD to entertain myself since I am tired of the Olympics [though Smackdown is on tonight, I think… oops it isn't. Today is Saturday not Friday. Well... double crap then.] and the wife is gallivanting with a friend from Cornell in Miami Beach.

[Hi Z…]

Yes… I am whiny, but I’ll stop now.

I did find this when I went to CNN.com. I couldn’t even muster any interest in finding abd/or watching any of these reports; I still just remain amazed at what happens on the web sometimes. This must be one of the most beautifully bizarre synchronicities I have run into in quite a while. Also, where to these journalists learn to write headlines? I am seriously asking this question….

Well… perhaps I will go prance about for a while and pretend I am in the tropics [or sub-tropics or whatever]. Or should I mince???


image of depression era foodline
While everyone in Congress, the media and much of the public is in a tizzy about the Dubai Ports World deal [perhaps with good reason considering the Bush administrations historic use of the “Just trust us” ploy along with the UAE’s $100 million donation to Katrina relief], the Federal Reserve’s “Survey of Consumer Finances” seems to have been barely noticed. Average family incomes are down for the first time since the 1989-92 report [coincidence that Bush Sr. was in office for that period as well?].

But wait… [comes the cry from the White House] The economy is in great shape! American families are doing better than ever!

Or so the Bush administration would have us believe. Today’s report is yet another condemnation of trickle-down economics. While in a vacuum it should work, more money in the hands of corporations theoretically would be re-invested, more money maintained by the wealthy should be returned to the economy through increased spending and investment. But alas… this supposedly conservative policy forgets much of humanities seemingly infinite capacity for acquisition, the desire to have more and more, in short the hoarding principle.

And it gets worse. These drops affected the poorest 40% of families while those at the top saw gains. The trickle has in fact been damned up, much like the original incarnation of Reaganomics. Worse still… the income of minority families was stuck at about 60% of white families. This following the news that Americans as a whole actually saw a reduction in their personal savings last year only emphasizing how inadequate republican economic policy is to providing actual opportunity for the vast majority of the country.

But wait… [comes the cry again] Unemployment is down.

Except that the percentage of families living below the poverty level has been rising steadily since reaching its lowest-point in 2000 [coincidence again that this number also rose during Bush Sr.’s administration, See the Statistical Abstract of the United States]. And the recent report that 36% of people eating at soup kitchens/food banks/shelters are from households where at least one person had a job.

And we could go on.

So… what do we do? Step one: we need new leaders in Congress [I suggest voting Democrat]. Step Two: demand that the Congress block the Bush administrations attempts to highjack the economy and consolidate wealth in the hands of a few, repeal and/or discontinue the Republican tax hand-outs and invest in new [green]industry that will create real jobs instead of relegating more and more Americans to the retail world which is unable to provide a living wage [see Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich].

But really, I am not an economist, nor do I play one on TV, but it seems entirely evident that there is a radical disconnect between the rhetoric of the Bush administration and the reality of the American economy. My question is why aren’t we screaming out loud about this and demanding Congress to impose some over-site on the direction we are going?