Monday, October 24, 2016

Brian's old trailer

I believe that I took this shot with my Sigma DP2 - Merrill

Little Richard - Rip It Up

The influencers

Isak sent this link over.

I write a widely read blog. I touch a lot of people, especially since I don't push it, don't facebook it or instagram it, or snapchat it, or tweet. I had a lot of opportunities to sell advertising through the years but I resisted. Thought it would or could subtly alter the message. Money has a way of messing things up. Wanted to put something out that was honest and hopefully occasionally beautiful. Missed the very narrow selling out window. Damn.

Guess I missed the boat.


Flying to Heathrow Leslie and I met two British men who had come to America to see Kraftwerk perform several shows. We mentioned that we had seen the Zombies in Los Angeles a few years ago. They had no clue who they were. Time marches on.

Modern Post Mortem

I am back from my most recent excursion, the Fall Modernism show in Palm Springs.

Unfortunately, for the second week in a row, a show failed to fire for me.

Of course there are a thousand reasons one can glom on to when business is stinky and I can point to a few easy excuses.

The show might be too early in the season, it is dwarfed in the local community by the ever popular Spring show, there weren't enough exhibitors to whet the local or Los Angeles appetites, election tsuris, yadda yadda.

The more probable reason, at least in my case, is that my material is losing its traction with the new generation.

The reality is that I have always been a very reluctant modernist. When I first started doing modernism shows, at the Santa Monica Civic twenty or so years ago, all sorts of styles comfortably fell under the rubric of twentieth century design, including art nouveau, art deco, arts and crafts, WPA, psychedelia and post modern.

Things have changed. They have become much more parochial. The window of acceptability has shrunk to a narrow crevice located somewhere between MadMen and Kardashian. Nouveau and even deco are dead in the market as are arts and crafts and the wonderful WPA era. Nothing pre 1950.

All of the stuff I actually liked is now as popular as a fart in church. Ethnographic is out, Historical is out. Clutter is of course out. What are we left with? Sort of a machine made space Calvinism.

Walking through the shops was like walking through a cookie cutter jungle of extruded plastic jelly donuts. The worst of fifties pottery, in the favored hues of avocado and ochre, stand across from a tapestry of blotchy bad abstract canvases and vividly enameled copper plates. Oppressive.

With the exception of some very expensive and truly wonderful furniture by Art Carpenter, I saw nothing that resonated with my design sense at the shops. They seem to be selling a certain look by the pound. But the pieces themselves, to my admittedly prejudiced and jaundiced eye, looked quite undistinguished.

I have sold what I think is the best of the best of design, at least of what I could afford, since I first started selling and collecting art in the mid 1970's. Design of any kind.

My philosophy was always that great design fit together, regardless of the era in which it was conceived or executed.

I have sold Natzler and Beato, Maloof and Nakashima, along with Sargent, Redmond and Reynolds.

While I have always kept a foot in both the classic and modern worlds, I have also skewed a little more Flintstones than Jetsons. And always favored craftsmen who knew how to use their brushes and tools over the pure conceptualists.

My day is waning. People simply don't care anymore.

They don't get taught about history, art or design in schools, they buy their mass marketed furnishings at mass marketed stores like Walmart and Ikea and as long as they have ample gruel and a permanent connection to the cyberhive and television, they are happy. Feathering the nest appears to be a relic of the past.

In addition pedigree and authorship seems to be out. The needle has swung from collectable to purely decorative. Not necessarily a bad thing but terrible for my business model. Gary Breitwieser told me twenty years ago; the era of connoisseurship is ending. He was right.

I worked in Palm Springs for two years in the early nineties, doing redevelopment work. I went to boarding school on top of the mountain, had one of my greatest personal sports victories at the Stadium soccer field. But the Palm Springs I loved, the Desert Inn, twenties era rancho-spanish Palm Springs, is now a thing of the past.

Lovely old red tile structures are now boarded up and awaiting their inevitable execution, supplanted by the crushing wave of Space Age Retro. I felt the same sick feeling in Barcelona really, liking the Gaudi but sad for the beautiful baroque buildings that met their end in its onslaught.

I had an older gentleman walk into my booth and question why I had a colored woodblock by Gustave Baumann on the wall? "That's the past," he told me. "We have to look to the future."

Ready and willing to receive the clarion signal from space and future, comrade. It's the present that scares the shit out of me.

Postscript - My friend Gary called and told me to chillax. He reminded me that I have had a great six months (I have.) I have been on the road without stopping for a solid month and I am toast. Even if the long term fundamentals are dismal, life is good and I need to stfu.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Eva Cassidy

Postcard from heaven

Do you remember the cool catholic sisters that I met at the Salt Pueblo of Qurai in New Mexico this summer?

I had asked them for a blessing for my brother, who remains really sick with serious complications from his kidney transplant.

And they assented graciously and also allowed me to take their picture.

I got this postcard from them the other day:

I am not sure which order these nuns are from but they hailed from Kansas City.

It was very sweet and touching to receive this postcard from them. Please keep my brother Buzz in your thoughts and prayers.

Not a religious person myself but will take any help we can get.

Old friends, Parma B&W

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Children at beach

high flyin' bird

Paint can drummer, Ponte Vecchio

He was pretty good. Cops busted him at the end of the song.

El Chicano - Chicano Chant

Friendly Reset

It's not easy for me to write about Israel. I even mention the name of the country and my inbox gets instantly inundated with messages about me being a traitorous fifth column of the Likud.

But having actually lived there for two protracted periods as well as during times of warfare, I believe my perspective and understanding of the reality there is a little better than those people that merely have a conceptual view of the country.

I abhor the WikiLeaks people and have been on record saying so since the first document dumps several years ago. Gentlemen and women don't read each others private conversations and have no right to do so. Our government officials should be able to communicate with each other freely without snooping. And Assange may have gotten people killed in Afghanistan when he injudiciously outed dissidents and informers.
"Well, they're informants," Assange replied. "So, if they get killed, they've got it coming to them. They deserve it."
Hillary Clinton may actually have helped herself on one issue, at least with me, with the recent Wiki disclosures. She seems to be distancing herself in candid conversations from her predecessor's anti Israel and pro Iranian policies.
According to a speech transcript made public this weekend by WikiLeaks, Hillary Clinton on October 28, 2013, told the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago: "I believe that Rouhani was allowed to be elected by the two major power sources in Iran, the supreme leader and the clerics and the Revolutionary Guard … in part because the sanctions were having a quite damaging effect on the economy."She continued: "I don't think anyone should have any illusions as to the motives of the Iranian leadership. What they really want to do is get sanction relief and give as little as possible for that sanction relief."
Which leads me to my topic for the afternoon, Iran. I am trying to wrap my head around the rationale for President Barack Obama to want to fund the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps. On the same day that the four Iranian hostages were released and the Iranians were given the $400 million dollars in cash, the Obama Administration lifted the sanctions on Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International from the sanctions list.

Bank Sepah has been the historical funding arm for the Iranian missile program and many other covert weapon systems as well as the IRGC.
The Obama administration had told Congress that under the deal the U.S. would lift sanctions only on companies and individuals tied to Iran’s nuclear development. Sanctions on those involved in missile development were to remain in place, these critics said.The Obama administration has repeatedly said it is committed to rolling back Iran’s ballistic missile program.“By agreeing to remove U.N. and EU sanctions eight years early on Iran’s main missile financing bank, the administration effectively greenlighted their nuclear warhead-capable ballistic missile program,” said Mark Dubowitz, a top critic of the Iran nuclear deal at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank.
The Bank had been sanctioned in 2007 for funding Iran's ballistic missile program. According to National Review, the removal of sanctions may violate the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, passed in July 2015, which endorsed the JCPOA or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. This resolution stipulated that U.N. missile-related sanctions against Iran would remain in place for eight years.
In July, the President praised his Iran deal, saying, "We are not taking the pressure off Iran ... with respect to ballistic missiles. As I just explained ... we maintain the eight years on the ballistic missiles under this particular UN resolution. ... So we have not lost those legal authorities."
Well whoops, what the hell happened to the eight years? Why does this President want to help Iran finance this type of activity and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which it previously refused to denote as a terrorist group? The same Revolutionary Guard that is backing the Houthi rebels in Yemen currently lobbing missiles at our destroyers and was once implicated in killing 19 Americans at the Khobar Towers?

Let us sincerely hope that a more realistic Hillary can undue some of the the damage that Barack Obama has wrought in the middle east by allowing himself to be suckered so by the Iranians.

New Beginnings

Ready for a nice story? Read Eli Saslow's tale of Derek Black, a white supremacist kid and scion of a KKK Grand Dragon, befriended by an orthodox jewish student at college, a courageous young man who actually had his mind changed, and heart opened, a very rare event in today's world.

Firenze Tower at dusk

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tomorrow is a long time

Surf Shack, Rincon Point

Judy Roderick


I knew the week was going to be tough but I didn't think that tough. I was up doing a show in Santa Barbara, a week after coming back from Italy. Sales slow, my never effervescent personality even more disagreeable and discordant than usual due to a persistent bad cough and bronchial condition.

I was human kryptonite in the booth and I think the underlying message to the public was DO NOT ENGAGE. They did not. Got into a pissy perimeter squabble with a full of himself neighbor who insists on blocking the entrance to my space with his stuff and then took petulant umbrage when I nicely asked him to vacate my space.

Purportedly the normal advertising for the show was bumped by the local stations so that they could run higher paying political ads. Great. Another reason to hate politicians as if we aren't all sick to death of them already. The whole country mucking through the fetid sewer together at this point.

Anyway lots of regulars never showed and I just might have broke even, well not if you figure cost of goods, which most of us don't have the luxury of thinking about, cashflow being king or at least crown prince at this point in the game.

I stayed in my normal shithole, Motel 6 Carpenteria South, the only motel any normal human can afford in the Santa Barbara area. Transparent towels, bunk-bed thick mattress, no clock, sharp instruments, room decoration or kleenex, made the old Spokane Jail cell seem homey by comparison.

You're not going to get a full blow by blow. I pissed off a good friend by opening up a little too much regarding a personal matter and felt terrible.  Got off on the wrong foot with my wife several times on the phone. I ate, I coughed and hacked, threw up on occasion, often wondered if I could hold up through the next four weeks, which will largely be more of the same. Palm Springs this week.

Hopefully the cough will stop one day soon or I go and see a doctor. Alyssa's mom told me that she was paralyzed and had a stroke last year when she ignored a persistent cough and ended up with a serious auto immune disease. Hope I get hit by a bus first.

I drove to Ojai one day and up the 33, the signs pointing to Maricopa in the distant future. Made it up past the steep Wheeler Gorge to the top of the ridge and the turn off for the Sespe Rendesvous. Beautiful views and a nice drive. Would like to explore the area further one day.

I also drove down to Rincon yesterday morning, one of the best surf spots in California. The waves from this point go on forever, giving surfers really long rides to the shore.

I watched the surfers for a while. Nice to be in the salt air. Unfortunately there is a bush on the trail down to the beach that is now flowering and it has the most noxious smell imaginable.

I have a very sensitive schnozz and stomach at present and I took one whiff and then lost my cookies in the parking lot.

Got home near midnight last night, completely fried. Trip wasn't a total washout, bought a few nice things that might prove worthwhile including one of my favorite colored wood block prints, Zabriskie Point by Anders Aldrin.

Not a lot else I can think of. Lady packing out next to me had a pro Trump sticker on her truck window.

I politely asked her if the general reaction to the sticker had been positive or negative and she said it had only been up for a week but she was happy that the truck hadn't been keyed yet.

Whole country is bummed out, no matter what side you happen to be on.

And no matter how high you happen to riding, the shit sandwich is always just an arms length away.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Girl at Joshua Tree

Paul Winter

Magnus and the fight against the machines

I watched the whole incredible documentary on World Champion chess champion and child prodigy Magnus Carlsen on the flight back from Italy. If you are interested in the human mind, I highly recommend you watch it, whether you have an interest in chess or not.

Magnus plays a positional and intuitive brand of chess and has the highest chess rating ever recorded. Whether he Is the equal of Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov is open to some debate.

There is a point in the film that is so fascinating. He is playing Vishy Anand in his first World Championship. Anand is the master at using supercomputers to evaluate moves. Magnus is getting beat up at the beginning of the match and then he does something that the narrator calls going "inside the matrix," he flips the computer on its head, reinvents his game and engages in some completely outside of the box moves, causing the computer to pull its virtual hair out, if not blow a circuit. Ah, humania...

I will not say anymore and play the spoiler but I found the movie incredibly engrossing.

Jonathan Hill sent me a link to this interesting talk by the musician T Bone Burnett that sort of continues in the same vein, in talking about art and human potential. A quick and interesting read, it is entitled Music confounds the machines.

On another note, a Google self driving car was involved in another accident last week. Google blames it on the human in the other car. But in February it was clearly the machines fault. Now news of another Tesla autopilot death. Elon thinks that there will always be an engineering solution out there but can one truly ever feel confident in taking the human mind completely out of the decision making equation?

Urn, Uffizi

Il Cosa Nostra

Donald Trump paraded out a table of alleged victims of Bill Clinton in St. Louis the other day and warned if any more salacious tapes come out relating to his own bad behavior, he is going to get even dirtier still.

Someone yesterday made the brilliant observation that this was like the scene in The Godfather when "Frankie Pants'" brother Vincenzo is brought back from Italy and Frankie clams up during the Senate trial. Omerta or you know who gets it.

A brutal but effective scorched earth strategy. And I started thinking about just how much this modern day Shakespearean tragedy of an election resembled the Godfather and the machinations of the mafia.

Trump isn't Michael Corleone, he is not quite shrewd enough, but he is a lot like Sonny, a hot head who has his way with and abuses women and knows no limits or discipline. Stay away from bridges, Sonny. The final act is a bitch.

Speaking of bridges, every Don needs a capo or two. While some liken Chris Christie to Luca Brasi, with his prodigious appetite, I vote for Clemenza. Loyal but no moral center.

Every Godfather needs a wasp straight man consigliore that can smooth things over. Mike Spence, meet Tom Hagen.

Then there is the wayward kid partyboy, this time from the other family that goes away and dishonors the clan; Billy Bush aka Fredo. Now quickly being frozen out in the cold like a smelly piece of bacalao.

Then there is Giuliani, the two faced hypocrite. A man who had an affair and told the papers he was leaving his wife before he had the decency to tell her or the rest of his family. Much like the other caporegime, Gingrich, divorcing his wife #1 while she lay on her hospital bed fighting cancer.

Despicable characters.

Two fellows who still have the audacity to attack Hillary Clinton. Giuliani says everybody cheats and that the matter  is between him and his priest. I am sure that Newt has been similarly forgiven.

Are there any characters in the godfather venal and evil enough to represent them? Newt, you get Tessio and I'm sorry Abe, you're better than that.

In Kellyanne Conway we have the perfect enabler Kay Adams, as played by Diane Keaton. See nothing, no nothing, but all the time it is right in front of their face.

Got to have a guy in Vegas. Moe Green - Sheldon Adelson?

There is of course a war going on right now, at least in the GOP. Everybody to the mattress rooms. This thing is going to get real ugly.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Aemilia, it was a false alarm

Sweet Tooth

Trouble in Candyland

So now I'm home, mostly cured of my jet lag but not my upper respiratory tsuris. About to get very busy again with my job. And there's this election thing still happening. We're still hating on each other and in some cases it is getting ugly.

We all know somebody on the other side and we are all walking on eggshells so as not to engage and offend. Sometimes it is even close friends and family.

And unfortunately no matter who wins, it doesn't look like the polarization will abate any time soon. I am busy and have to get going but want to get a few words off my chest without running it into the ground.

Chessmaster and long time Putin nemesis Garry Kasparov had a very pithy tweet today.

He is so right. Where are we, Venezuela? Do we need an oligarch like Hugo Chavez or Putin running the show, threatening to throw his opponent in the clink? Is that American? Rumor has it that the impeachment machine is already lubed up in case Hillary gets the nod. Figure on a continued course of endless paralysis and tooth gnashing for the foreseeable future.

The idea that a spoiled brat rich kid (with the manners of a swine) who has destroyed thousands of lives with his bankruptcies and shifty business deals can suddenly fix the nation's ills with his bravado and supposed negotiating prowess is so preposterous. Sorry, I'll take the bureaucrat. Truthfully, your track record just doesn't look too inspiring, Don.

You want to read something weird that doesn't really get mentioned, try googling Epstein Trump rape.

I lost five bucks today, thought Pence would turn it in after his running mate threw him under the bus last night on Syria. Congrats Mike.

Interesting that both Skittles and Tic Tacs have condemned the Republican nominee this year. He may be doing okay in Biloxi or Wasilla but he is taking a real hit in Candyland.

Grand delusion: What alternate universe does Breitbart live in?

The Republican party is hemorrhaging big time. William Kristol has the serious vapors. The country kin have invaded the big house and stolen all the silverware, now they're fixing to throw the ol' 'stablishment tenants right out on their ear. There's a great big Mason Dixon line running through the GOP and a lot of downstream blood is about to get spilled. Fish or cut bait?

"It's like in the movies where a guy is riding a horse, gets shot, but the horse is still alive so it keeps running while dragging the corpse in its saddle." GOP Operative

Our country needs two healthy parties, as a check, both sides tend to royally fick things up left unabated. But why do so many of us feel that this is exactly how that bad Austrian painter got his start eighty years ago?

I have mentioned this quote from Ken Kesey many times. You won't find it in a book because I heard him say it with my own ears.

"Just remember, in any given situation, there will be more stupid people around then smart ones."

Jeez, help us.

Sleeping beauty, Firenze

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Italia Tre

I woke late the next morning. The room and bed at the Ville sull'Arno was so comfortable I lost track of time. Leslie was up and gently shook my shoulder.

"Look out the window, dear."

I drew back the gauzy curtains and was immediately struck by the beautiful reflections of the trees on the Arno River. My namesake bird perched on the opposite bank.

We leisurely got dressed and then made our way to the dining room and to an incredible breakfast.

When I tell you they pull out all the stops on the buffet you will have to believe me.

All manners of pastries, eggs, salumis, fruit, fresh honeycomb and jams. Extraordinarily good.

We sat next to a bunch of brits of Indian extraction and talked curries. Nice people, down to earth.

We took the free shuttle into town and prepared for our morning appointment at the Uffizi Gallery, which I had made a month in advance. The square was a crazy bustle.

When they tell you to be in line at 11:15 to 11:30 they mean it. If you are a minute out of schedule you are sent to the back of a line.

I believe that I counted three long queues and a near interminable wait. We met a lovely mother and son, Doris and Luka, from Australia and had a delightful conversation with them while in line.

The Uffizi is huge and it is overkill. There is no time to see every jewel in the Medici's museum but we did our very best.

What is amazing is that there are these long lines for three artists, Botticelli, Leonardo and Michelangelo but humans, being such an ignorant lot, walk right by works that are equal or maybe even better.

But we bipeds have to be told what is good and we lionize and celebretize our favorites and so you get a twenty minute wait for the Birth of Venus while a remarkable Durer in the next room barely gets a look. Ba-a-a-a.

It is not just paintings and sculpture that are remarkable. The ceilings ain't bad, either.

Alessandro Botticelli - Adorazione dei Magi
Perhaps the painting that stuck the strongest chord for me this visit was the Rubens, which stands with the best work of his that I saw at the Prado.

Gorgeous light and movement. My friend Gary told me that Rubens liked to put a round element in the dead center of his paintings and you clearly see it here with the man's head.

Giovanni Canaletto - View of the Ducal Palace in Venice

My advice would be to not focus on the rock stars because there is so much more to see and love. Every human being is capable of great work and inspiration. These paintings represent a time of artistic skill and flourishing that I would guess will never be equalled again.

Michelangelo Buonarroti - Doni Tonti
And of course that Michelangelo fellow is pretty damn good too.

Giovanni Larciani - Allegory of Fortune

We had a personal mishap at the Uffizi. I wanted to get a quick look at the Caravaggio and said I would be back in front of room 45 in 10 minutes.

Leslie never heard me and we spent the next two hours looking for each other, both sneaking in the building a second time to look for each other.

It freaked us both out but I eventually found her on the stairs to the exit. Neither of us enjoyed the Uffizi experience as much as we could of and now we have a good reason to come back and try again. A remarkable place.

Caravaggio - Testa di Medusa
We needed to catch a train to Bologna and headed back to the plaza where we would take a shuttle back to get our things from our hotel.

Hard to leave Florence. Now I know why some people stay weeks or months at a time and never leave.

The train to Bologna was quick and uneventful. We got into a conversation about food with a man whose girlfriend was a native and he suggested we eat at a place called Buca Manzoni.

We took a cab to the trattoria but it would not open for over an hour so we went to a wine bar, had a drink and relaxed. Played cards.

A very interesting town, but a city we had no time to penetrate since our flight was leaving the next mid day.

The restaurant was fantastic but I must admit to losing face. I ordered five or six things and said just feed us like a Bolognese and keep it coming.

Plates and heaps of food did just that, just kept coming. Stracchino, a creamy cheese with square pillows of dough like sopapilla. Two kinds of tortellini, Bologna's specialty, cured meats, cheese, antipasti, salad.

So much! Honestly I have not felt this full since the twenty courser at the French Laundry. Make it stop Mommy... Leslie wanted to put an end to it and cancel the veal cutlet but I would rather keel over than lose face and I refused. 

They sensed our plight and cancelled it themselves. The waitress looked at me with a touch of scorn and said, "You can't eat like a Bolognese."

Ouch. The shame.

The Aemelia Hotel was modern and great. We lucked out on every hotel of the trip, all wonderful. Another great breakfast the next morning, talked to a lovely Spanish couple from Madrid, feasted on three types of cornetti, chocolate, cream filled and straight, eggs with red yolks, the great Italian bacon that I will yearn for in the years ahead until we can make our return.

Flew over Milan and Lugano. Switzerland. The alps look pretty good too.

Thank you Italy. You were better than I ever could have imagined. Thank you Francesca and Jacobo, Antonella and all the good people of the Mercanteinfiera. Graci.