Friday, November 12, 2010

Another Reason to Love Painting

From the left hand of Titian's Venus of Urbino to Mel Ramos's Val Veeta, painting and sex have had a wonderful history together. The Freudians have described the paintbrush as a proxy phallus, and art historians have argued that Rubens painted his women as he did because there was a certain masturbatory pleasure embedded in the application of layer upon layer of paint. Hell, even Susan Sontag argues that what we all need is an erotics of art. And if Sontag says it, you know it's got to be worth thinking about.

For this reason, I am utterly compelled to point you all in the direction of a painter I know, Alla Bartoshchuk. Now, Jerry Saltz says that I should offer the following disclaimer: I know Alla, she was one of the students at the Memphis College of Art, where I teach, and I own some of her work. So, if you want to judge me and claim that my criticism is corrupt, that's fine. I don't care because good painting speaks for itself. I am simply the messenger.

At any rate, the painting that greets you at the beginning of this post is one of her most recent works, which she just posted today, Fertility, 2010. I would like to extoll its virtues for a moment or two.

Firstly, pomegranates are just plain pornographic, second only perhaps to figs. And the role that they played in the abduction of Proserpina by Pluto simply elaborates the tense sexuality embedded in the history of this one fruit. Moreover, Pluto's plight, where he was unloved by women and had to take his, ahem, wife by force speaks volumes to the danger inherent in such iconography. The devil's deal, if you will. Pluto was, after all, the Lord of the Underworld.

Looking at art is an act of forceful possession. Optical, yes, but if Laura Mulvey teaches us anything, it's that all looking is an act of possession, often of an explicitly sexual kind. And that the subject of this painting is a young woman, the eternal cipher of fecundity and seduction, I can't help but think that we're looking at one apotheosis of Mulvey's construct of gendered taking.

Now, watch the juices drip for a second. Look closely. Luxuriate in them. Don't be afraid. Looking at art is already a quasi-sexual, optically masturbatory act that we are all complicit in, whether we want it or not. Nobody's going to judge you. And if they do, they're hypocrites. This is the same reason why Wayne Thiebaud's cakes are so infinitely wonderful. The fusion of subject matter and viewing pleasure, the way that whichever neuron is responsible for the pleasure of looking is that same neuron that governs the pleasure of a sugar high, or any kind of arousal.

Now, doesn't that juice look like blood? There's a sinister side to all of this, a threatening side. Women dripping with blood generally calls upon one of two situations. Violence or menstruation. Or, if you're a Freudian, both. The good Doctor tells us that all men are roving the earth in mortal fear of having their own personal Bobbitt experience. Vaginas are nothing more than absent penises, and the first sight of this absence is the most terrifying realization any young male might have, doubly frightening when blood issues from the wound. That's why we used to make the women go live in tents outside of the city for that one dangerous week of the month. This woman, with those drips running down her arm, simultaneously pure paint, and pure menace, looks as if she's just come from the kill. That pomegranate drips like the severed head of Medusa, which only complicates the gendered danger in play. And then she offers it to you, as if to ask that you too participate in this vampiric ritual. Oh, dear.

So here we are, caught in between. The pleasures of paint. The violence of emasculation. The nubile, stolen daughter of the goddess of crops. The God of blackened death. The pleasure of looking at beauty. And the puritanical guilt of lingering too long.

As a painting, it's nearly perfect. It's both beautiful and terrifying. And that it's both simultaneously only redoubles its potency. What more can you want?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In Case You Want to Be Like Me...

I've really been sucking at this recently.

But I have an excuse. I've been totally busy at work. And, since this doesn't pay yet, all I've got is an apology.

If it makes you feel any better, though, I've given two conference papers, went to see my parents for my Dad's 70th birthday, joined a search committee at work, and managed to be accepted to participate in a forthcoming issue of Aspect, with my friend Anne. So, I feel pretty productive, except here.

Anyway, I was in class today teaching about Mesoamerican art and, as it always happens, I was trying to explain human sacrifice to my students. Now, I'm not advocating human sacrifice, but I don't see why it's so confusing to people. So, in my crap way of being an academic, I tried to explain to them that it was just like Highlander, where cutting off someone's head gets you their powers. But, instead of a parking garage, you need to be at the top of a temple and pull out someone's still-beating heart.

Pretty simple, really. The difficult part was when I realized that most of my student didn't know about Highlander. They were talking about some movie called The Prophecy, which I've never seen, so we broke even.

So, in an attempt to make sense of each other, one of my students suggested that I make some lists of things that I think they, and by extension everyone, ought to know about for me to make sense to them. I thought that was a pretty good idea, mostly because I think the stuff I like is pretty good. Please be aware that these lists are partial and subjective. Here goes...

Ten Books I've Read That I've Learned the Most From, or Had the Most Fun Reading:
  1. Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum--Helped me make sense of Postmodernism. And proved that being a conspiracy freak is really fun.
  2. E.L. Konigsworth From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler--Turned me into an Art Historian.
  3. Dr. Seuss The Lorax & The Butter Battle Book--Taught me that we should care about the planet. And that war is stupid.
  4. God The Bible--My parents tried to raise me Catholic. Go Irish. The Bible taught me the difference between what Jesus says and what religion says. And it's really helpful if you're into art. And the Psalms and the Book of the Apocalypse may be the most amazing imagery I've ever read.
  5. Pearl S. Buck The Good Earth--Quite simply the most magnificent novel I've ever read. Stunning in scope. I don't care if you think I'm a wuss, I get weepy every time O-Lan dies.
  6. Paul Zimmerman The New Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football--Mandatory.
  7. Confucius The Analects--Proves that efficiency is the best way to write. And that you need to act right if you want your civilization to work.
  8. Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching--I'm not really one for poetry or religion, but this is one of the better examples of each that I can imagine.
  9. Gene Colan's work in the Tomb of Dracula series--If you like things with fangs, this is where you go after you're done reading Stoker.
  10. Leon Battista Alberti On Painting--It begins here. And everything else is explainable through or in relation to this.
Ten (or more) Albums I Can't Stop Listening To:
  1. Social Distortion Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell--Badass songwriting 101.
  2. Brian Eno Music for Airports--You want sound? You want calm? You want beautiful modulations? Ding. Ding. Ding.
  3. Metallica Master of Puppets (3b. Ride the Lightening)--As perfect as the first 2 Godfather movies. May not be as fundamental as Sabbath, but I would argue more pivotal.
  4. The Beatles Rubber Soul (4b. Revolver)--IMHO, the best albums by the best rock band ever.
  5. Lush Split--Can't explain it, but everything about this album strikes me as amazing. Saw them at Lollapalooza and haven't looked back.
  6. Ice Cube AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted--This is why Hip Hop is serious social critique. People who say otherwise are ignorant. Of this album.
  7. Slayer Seasons in the Abyss--If rock and roll is cocaine, this is absolutely the best freebase you can imagine. Loudest band I have ever seen live. Just fantastic.
  8. Outkast Aquemini--People who think Hip Hop is stupid or uninventive need to shut up and buy this album.
  9. Arcangelo Corelli 12 Concerti Grossi--I tried to convince my wife that this should be our wedding music. She didn't buy it, but I still think it's that good.
  10. Eric Satie 3 Gymnopedies--Imagine a small child trying to learn the piano. Imagine that that child is an unadulterated musical genius. This is the best I can describe this.
  11. Wu-Tang Clan Enter the 36 Chambers--It's true. You best protect your neck.
Ten Essays You Should Read to Be a Good Art Historian
  1. Susan Sontag "Against Interpretation"--Looking at art is best as an erotic experience.
  2. Giorgio Vasari "Life of Michelangelo"--This is the cornerstone of everything that is right and wrong with modern art writing.
  3. Rosalind Krauss "Sculpture in the Expanded Field"--Think about what art is. Now think that it's the opposite. And consider that those might be linked. Or, just read this.
  4. Clement Greenberg "Modernist Painting"--So filled with problems that it might actually be flawless. If you want to think about the last few centuries of painting, start here.
  5. Clement Greenberg "Avant-Garde and Kitsch"--Anyone ever tell you that something isn't art? Anyone ever tell you that visual culture is BS? This essay will put all of that in perspective.
  6. Clement Greenberg "Can Taste Be Objective?"--The answer is no. Except that it might be yes. Even though I know it's not.
  7. Umberto Eco "How to Write an Introduction to an Art Catalog"--Art Critics beware. The rug is being pulled out from underneath us.
  8. Roland Barthes "The Death of the Author"--Attention artists. This is why we like you better dead. Just kidding. We love you. But we don't care about what you think your work is about as much as we used to. This is one of the reasons why.
  9. Theodor Adorno "Commitment"--If your art isn't about anything, your art isn't about anything.
  10. Walter Benjamin "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"--Sometimes somebody figures it all out at the beginning. This is one of those essays that helps explain everything from photography to DJ Shadow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More Memphis Malarkey

One of the other things that we have here in spades is good radio.

Check out the following.

WEGR-FM 102.7 classic rock

WKQK-FM 94.1 funk soul r&b

WEVL-FM 89.9 hawaiian slack key guitar the best rock show ever is on friday evenings susan does a show with louisiana music there is apparently a metal show on sundays that i keep forgetting to listen to because i listen to enough metal already and they do all sorts of things that you have and have not heard all of which is of extraordinarily high quality

WKNO-FM 91.1 is our NPR/classical

I'm not kidding. If you skip around between those four stations, you don't ever run out of something to listen to.

Look Into This.

I just watched this when I was watching dinner tonight.

It was totally amazing.

And actually came down to the last trick.

I'm in.

These are the terms of the deal.

Literary Conflict

I'm trying to read Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury (for the second time.)

I'm not that far into it, but am having a really hard time figuring out what's going on.

I have two possible explanations:

1. I'm a Yankee.
2. Dave Mustaine's autobiography, which I just finished, actually was that good.

Can anyone offer a few pointers on what I'm supposed to be getting out of this?

Maybe I need to go to Oxford first. I just added Dexter McCluster to my fantasy team, which I'm hoping is a start.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I just got finished listening to Back in Black. The song, not the whole album. I'd forgotten how slow Angus plays that solo. It's pretty awesome. Sometimes I forget how heavy slow can be. That's why the first Sabbath album is so great. Sludge. Angus is playing the blues, which is why we shouldn't ever forget that metal is the child of the blues.

That's also why there are certain moments of greatness in some of the stuff that came out of Florida.

Al, when you read this, I want to hear your take on Florida metal.

Chuck Shuldiner RIP

Photograph: Erwin Olaf. Used without permission, but respect.

Zep just came on the radio. I love it when the universe throws a perfect pass.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

In Summation...

"No, no, I’m a lowbrow. I read that material, more out of obligation than enjoyment. For enjoyment, for me, it’s a beer and the football game."
--Woody Allen

"Oh, yes. But I don't distinguish between being laughed with and laughed at. I'll take either."
--David Sedaris

"Hey, Bartlett. Suck it."

Shake My Money Maker

I'm not the most inventive person in the world, but every once in a while I really convince myself that I have a good idea, one that will make me such a pile of cash that even Scrooge McDuck will want to come over for a swim.

These are my top two, which I submit to the interwebosphere in that hopes that I am not bamboozled by some parasitic capitalist bastard looking for an idea to exploit for its potential for the generation of filthy lucre. By which I mean if you steal this idea I'm going to sue the crap out of you like your name was Mark Zuckerberg. (Me getting sued for picking a fight with the FaceSpace? Unlike.)

1. The "You're Welcome" card. Everyone knows that we are a species governed by social grace and obligatory obligation. It's what separates us from the monkeys at the zoo doing a Nolan Ryan with their aftermath. But, did you ever give a gift that was so awesome that whosoever was the recipient immediately sent a Thank You card? And, since you were their friend, you thought "Hey, man, no dilemma." "No sweat." or "Of course I bought you a thoughtful gift. We're pals."? Hence the "You're Welcome" card. Easy peasy. Just fire back an Adrian Duran Industries patented "You're Welcome" card. No obligation to thank me. But, since you've gone through the social motions of saying thanks, I, by the transitive property of expectation, am supposed to brush off the gratitude in a very self-deprecating Max Weber Protestant work ethic sort of way. Hence the "You're Welcome" card.

2. The no splash urinal. This is sort of gross, but every one of you with a phallus will understand. Sometimes, just hypothetically, because none of us have ever done this because we're all professionals here, you find yourself about three pints into the night with a bladder suited for two. What then, you ask? Naturally, as the Aussies say, you're busting for the dunny and end up with a stream to strum about as loud as a Kerry King riff. And, since porcelain is neither absorptive nor textured, there is the inevitable threat of backsplash. Gross, isn't it? So, some ceramics engineer (and I'm thinking about that building at my alma mater the illustrious University of Delaware) should create a way to divert the inevitable physics of the equation away from unsuspecting pant legs or bare, flip-flopped feet. Sort of like those fancy suits the speed skaters wear. You can kill two birds with one stone. Relief and dryness. Like a chaise-lounge in the desert. It's just a question of changing the mold, I would presume. But, since I'm an Art Historian and not a materials engineer, I'm just going to throw this up for grabs. Especially since the shuttle program is being shut down and someone somewhere has been spending their career perfecting heat-resistant reentry tiles and probably needs something to do.

The other one that I think might be worth mentioning, Genius Idea 2.5 if you will (even if you won't), is the temperature regulator on those amazing Xlerator hand dryers. Explain to me why it doesn't make sense that you should be able to make cold air shoot out of those things. Nothing is less enjoyable than a blast of hot air during the summer. Cold air would be great. You could dry your hands and air condition simultaneously.

That's what I'm talking about. Innovation, people. It's what makes America great.

Ask Bill Gates.

Or P.T. Barnum.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quit Hatin'

I am sick and tired of people bitching and moaning about Memphis.

This city is great. Sure, we're apparently violent and sedentary, but we've got lots of things going on. Here are my Top 5. There are more, but I'm starting to fall asleep.

1. Music. Where else in the world, in a period of just a few years can you see, among others, James Brown, Booker T and the MGs, Government Mule, Chicago, KRS-ONE, Blackalicious, Exodus, Megadeth, Testament, Amy LaVere, the Cowboy Junkies, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, 38 Special, Lord T & Eloise, High on Fire, and Nachtmystium? And I haven't even been trying that hard. I just recently missed Blondie and Nancy Wilson, simply because I was being lazy. Try and beat that. And when you can't, I'll meet you at Wild Bill's. Oh, wait a minute. You don't have Graceland, do you? Or Sun Studios, where they sort of invented rock and roll? Or Beale Street, where WC Handy sort of invented the Blues? Do your local Hip Hop legends have an Oscar? No? Then shut up, hater.

2. Fried food and BBQ. I don't give a damn what any of you other states say. I've eaten 'cue in Texas, North Cackalack, and Kansas City. Ours is better. And if you find a better fried chicken joint than Gus's, I'll buy. And then I'll take you out for some meatloaf, mac and cheese, greens, cornbread, and sweet tea. Maybe my friends will give us a ride in their 'lac, like we did this Sunday. Don't sweat the technique.

3. We've got all the stuff you have, but easier. Ballet, opera, symphony, I just saw that Wicked is playing here and, even better, so is 9 to 5. There's a brand new theater three blocks from my house, just a bit past the local brew pub, the southeastern Italian restaurant, the Cajun place, the movie theatre, the place where I get my haircut, and a fairly good massage spa. How far, you ask. Less than 10 minutes on foot. Beat that.

4. Sports. Sure, the Grizzlies suck and the Calipari era was crooked as a bent stick, but we got hoops all day. And two semipro football teams. And the Memphis Redbirds, who have swept three PCL AAA championship series. And roller derby. And those people who joust in the park on Sundays. And, the cherry on top of all of this is the Liberty Bowl, one of America's most beautiful football stadia. Google it. Never before have I seen such a beautiful, graceful profile of a football stadium. And I went to Notre Dame, so that's saying a lot. Blasphemy even. Hell, there's probably a jai alai team here that I just haven't heard of yet.

5. Memphis is cheap as a mother. For less than $100 more than we paid in Philly for a studio apartment with crap carpet and a view of a parking lot, we've now got a sunlit, 1920s-era three bedroom place literally across the street from a park, in which there is a museum, a bandshell which has free concerts during the summer, and the zoo. And I can walk five minutes from my house and get a Peroni on tap in a glass as big as my forearm for about $4. And the guys working there know us all by name, give out hugs if we've been away for more than a week, and will turn the tv on whatever game we want to watch. Best $4 ever.

So, if you don't like it here, go somewhere else. I ain't got time for your whining.

I'm the New Peter King

Not yet, maybe, but who says I can't dream big? If he can watch all the games and say things that get him on tv, why the hell can't I? All that separates the two of us is a big ass contract with Sports Illustrated, a half-time show, and millions of readers. Well, that and his connections, but I don't care. I watch just as much football as he does and see things with two eyes just the same.

So, here's my version.

1. Soft corners suck. Notre Dame, I'm talking to you. Press. I always vote that getting burned is more acceptable if the guy beats you fair and square. If you get jerked just waiting for the guy to run into your five yard cushion, you're a schmuck.

2. I hereby retract all bad things I've said recently about Vince Young. Until he screws up. But I was really impressed with ol' Vince's poise and presence in the pocket, like a 6' 5" wocket. Nice distribution, none of the typically stupid decisions he tends to make late in the game on third-and-longs. By the way, where the cow is Kenny Britt? One more week of this, and I'm dropping you off my fantasy team, sucker.

3. Albert Haynesworth is a punk. If you gave me that much money, I'd shut my fat face and play whatever position I was told. 4-3. 3-4. Get on the field and quit making grumpy face. If Tennessee spends a single cent or draft pick on this jackass, I'm going to drive to Nashville and give Bud Adams a piece of my mind. He's a overgrown, lazy whiner. And if you've got an issue with that, Fat Albert, bring it. I'll bet you $100 million that you'll kick my can, but I'll put in more effort. Sucker.

4. If Mark Sanchez throws one more check down, I'm so not going to the prom with him.

5. Those Philly throwback uniforms are the coolest. Best. Helmets. Ever. And Michael Vick just turned into the greatest moral dilemma this side of trading McNabb.

6. Speaking of which, nicely done #5. Don't hate. Congratulate.

7. Don't even talk to me about the Jets not being that great. Sure, their offense was dull as dishwater, but that defense gives me tingles where they don't belong. Did anyone else see that eight man blitz? That's what I'm talking about. All in, gentlemen. Sure, defense alone won't win championships, but it sure is a good start. It's only Week 1. If the Sanchize can get his act together, there's still much to be seen.

8. I'm not comfortable with the increasing use of the word "violent" to describe football. I'm not so naive to think that it isn't a violent game, but we need to reconsider. Football is also a game of finesse, whether it's the footwork of a pulling tackle or the touch of a ball dropped in between double coverage. It's just that I can't figure out how violence is a virtue. I love watching Ray Lewis drop some unsuspecting back as much as the next guy, but violence isn't the thing we should be concentrating on. Sure, F=MA, but what the hell ever happened to technique?

9. Legadu Naanee is a name you need to learn, and not just because it's fun to say. He's the newest member of my fantasy roster, mainly because I can't justifiably fantasize about Andre Johnson actually having a good week next week after all of that coverage.

10. Speaking of which, every player on the Chargers and Chiefs should be heralded far and wide. That MNF game in a downpour is one of the best things I've seen in a while. And I saw Slayer just over a month ago. I've never been to a game at Arrowhead, but those Chiefs fans look like a great bunch. I haven't seen that much red since May Day. Love it.

11. Dexter McCluster should never be allowed to rap again. His Cellular South commercial stinks more than a cow pie. That being said, at least someone is addressing all of these idiots who are texting and driving. Memphis, I'm talking to you. Guy driving past my apartment today, I'm talking to you.

12. Randy Moss needs to shut up and play ball. He's as bad as Haynesworth, just less expensive. If he doesn't quit this crap by the time I get famous, I'm not voting for him to go to Canton.

Baker's Dozen: That Calvin Johnson no catch call is malarkey. Especially because it cost them the game. And would someone please keep Matthew Stafford intact? He's getting paid too much to get broken like that again, for the third time. Speaking of which, Bob Sanders gets hurt so often that I actually can't remember if I think he's any good or not. Shame.


Seriously, what the hell is a Big Red?

Someone from Western Kentucky hit me up.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Think or Two

Well, I'm still waiting to hear from Rich Eisen and the people at NFL Network, so I thought I'd give them a reason to not forget about me.

And, since I'm sure you are all tuned in to the NFL, here are a few things you might consider as things progress.

  1. Tim Tebow isn't going to suck. Overall. There will be times when he really sucks. Or gets himself damn near killed. But he's going to do some pretty slick things as well. He might lose them a game or two, but he'll break even with the other stuff he does. Kyle Orton, by the way, needs some damn respect. I'm not saying he's Joe Montana, but his stats are fully respectable.
  2. The NFC West is crap. The Cardinals are looking such a mess at Quarterback that even Derek Anderson is starting to look good. The Seahawks are just as dull and will have the inevitable new coach growing pains. Nobody's fault, but it'll just happen. That leaves us with the 49ers, who at least have a group of compelling personalities, and the Rams, who are at the point of pathos. I'm intrigued as to what Sam Bradford is capable of, cause I've seen him look pretty solid at certain points.
  3. Vince Young can't ever seem to look to me the number of years he's been in the league. Somehow Vince has managed to slip into the slow-developing category or something that keeps him from being a total bust. I know Bud likes him, but look at what's happening to Matt Leinart. Other than his rookie year, Vince isn't really blowing anyone away. I hope he finally has a huge breakout year this year.
  4. LaDanian Tomlinson has been looking good. I wonder if there will be some crow eaten somewhere in southern California.
  5. Joe Flacco. You better recognize.
  6. The Eagles remind me of the Memphis Grizzlies. Young. Lots of really highly drafted talent. Maybe going to come together sometime soon here? Sure would be great if it were this year.
  7. The NFC South bores me.
  8. Brian Urlacher should just retire if he gets a bad injury again. Nobody's going to forget that he's one hell of a linebacker. Chicago certainly won't. Speaking of which, which one of these Bears WRs is going to surprise all of us?
  9. I don't really want the Bengals to win the Super Bowl, but I certainly will be taping whatever the hell Ochocinco and T.O. will be talking about. I really couldn't care less about the Bengals, cause I really just want to see the Ravens win that Division in perpetuity, but this lineup is really powerful. They certainly have the talent. And I want to see what happens when those two meet the President.
  10. I'm tired of Peyton Manning. I get it. He's great. He throws a million passes to a million guys who catch them all. He wins lots of games every year. He moves his arms around a lot at the line of scrimmage cause he understands football better than all of us. He's boring. His only redeeming quality is that he's hilarious in commercials. I'm tired of all of this talk about him and best quarterback ever. No. Way. You ask me, we need to talk about rings. Best quarterback ever? There's three possibilities. My vote is for Otto Graham. Look him up. If you didn't think of him first, you probably said Joe Montana or Terry Bradshaw. Except for all of you that said Troy Aikman. The first two would have made my top three, and I hate the Cowboys. I was just telling my students today in class that they needed to be more critical of greatness. I reminded them that Peyton has exactly as many rings as his brother. And one fewer trip to Disney World. So, enough with the Peyton Manning already. Blah blah blah.
  11. What the hell is going to happen to the Raiders this year? Seriously. Does anyone know?
  12. Mark Sanchez is, unfortunately, becoming less interesting. But The Jets keep getting more and more fun to watch.
There you go. A dozen. I'm tired now. Let the games begin.

Music Recommendation

You should listen to Nachtmystium's CD Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1.

I've only just gotten it (from my Wife, who gives the best presents ever) and haven't really had enough time to digest all of the lyrics, so I'm not going to hold your hand when you go and turn Satanic. You're grown. That's on you.

But, if you like really heavy, smart, forward-thinking metal, I'd give this one a shot.

Lucky for me, they're playing in Memphis on the 27th at the Hi-Tone.

I Volunteer for this One

We might have a problem. And, if they form a committee to help figure this one out, I hereby nominate me.

See, the Catholic Church is in it pretty deep. I don't know how deep in the grand scheme of things, but deeper than in a while. Numbers were down even before this madness over the priests started. And all this new wave Jesusism is drawing people in other directions. And I certainly wouldn't disagree with someone who said that the current Pope is less cuddly than the previous who, while one formidable footballer, might not have been super progressive.

And I'm not wishing the end of the Catholic Church, if only for Notre Dame Football reasons.

But here's the rub. What the cow in the manger next to the baby Jesus are we going to do with all that art?

Let's just, for the sake of me being a paranoiac on the level of a two thousand year old religion coming crashing down to the ground sort of way, say that La Chiesa cade, eventually all the Catholics will go where all the Catholics go and there will be a whole lot of buildings with a whole load of art in them.

How are we going to take care of that stuff? Presumably someone in the Vatican should form a commission to consider the issue.

I volunteer to be on it.

Wir brauchen Solomon.

Image: Time Magazine. Photo: Jodi Bieber.

I'm in a moral quandry.

I've talked to a few people about this and it came out awkward no matter how I tried to put it, so forgive me when I say something absolutely unbelievable.

I think I've found a loophole that might make human trafficking justifiable. See. That sounds insane. Seeing it written down is even worse.

Anyway, I was reading a Time magazine article in a magazine I picked up in some airport at some point towards the end of this summer. It reported on an Afghan woman who, in some insane form of what was claimed as justice, had her nose and ears cut off by her husband as a punishment for running away from him.

And somewhere else, where I cannot remember, I read about women who were being sold into marriage. And for prostitution and who knows what other horrific things.

So, let's just say that I was someone with some extra cash. Why should I not snatch up these cruelly unfortunate people and bring them somewhere safe and help them get set up on another path? We adopt kids for those reasons all the time. Why can't other people catch the same break?

Yes, I realize that it's a mess to participate in, let alone condone, the buying and selling of humans, but what happens when it's done for the sake of betterment?


Friday, August 13, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

I'm going to say it out loud, and not just cause I was recently in England. The traditional English Fried Breakfast is the best breakfast in the universe.

And I say this with absolute deference to the German muesli + yoghurt + fruit meisterstuck, which I also duly love and recommend for the days following the English Fried Breakfast.

But, before I start someone humming the Dambreakers theme, let's get back to the point.

The English Fried Breakfast is two eggs, a fried tomato, baked beans, fried mushrooms, and, in the pig eaters' version two rashers of bacon and two sausages. For poofs like me who don't dig on swine, you get those amazing hash browns in the shape of a triangle things, which I've inserted above for your viewing perversion. The best I've had is at the Hackney City Farm, where I believe all the food you eat comes from within about 50 feet. People who think British cuisine is bad are ignorant.

Magictastic. Rule Britannia. Britannia rule my plate.

Review: American Carnage Tour 8/12 New Jersey

(Graffiti in Faenza, Italy)

Full disclosure: I was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey in the Fall of 1976 and left for college in the Fall of 1994.

This means one thing exactly: heavy metal was and continues to be my destiny. If Megaforce Records, WSOU, and the Rte. 1 Flea Market mean anything within this strange universe of ours, it will offer some credence to my words. Put it like this, I was the nerdy kid on the track team, building sets for the drama club (Alchemists, stand up) with the Testament and Obituary tapes in my walkman. One of my bands stole chord changes from Metallica when we needed a bridge for a song. On another occasion, our drummer and I declared that playing Aerosmith songs wasn't metal enough. I'm not saying that I'm the most metal dude in the world (see below), but I think I have some critical experience to let you know what I just saw last night.

Earlier this year I had enough sense to go see the Megadeth 20th Anniversary Rust in Peace tour when it came to Memphis. Exodus, Testament, Megadeth. Testament played the entirety of The Legacy. Megadeth played the entirety of Rust in Peace.

With all due respect to that flawless night, and to the true greatness of Exodus, last night's second date of the American Carnage Tour (tix here) was arguably the greatest concert I've ever seen.

And this includes sublime shows by KRS-ONE, Phish, the Philadelphia Opera, and a pair of the early Lollapaloozas.

Testament opened.

A pestilence on all of you who skipped their show. Testament is the unfortunate victim of the Big Four (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer & Anthrax). My suspicion is that this is geographism. Testament, like Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer are from the Bay Area, so you can't have all four from the same place. Admittedly, they started out a bit later and could very easily be seen as a second wave after the Big Four, but this is no explanation away from their fantastic career, innovative writing, and absolutely gigantic stage show.

And, with all due respect to Ozzy and Ronnie James Dio (RIP), I will always argue that Chuck Billy is the greatest metal singer ever. Maybe he isn't Giotto, but he's definitely Michelangelo. Firstly, he must be at least 8'10"--at least that's what he looks like towering from the stage. And, moreover, his voice ranges from subtly melodic to a bellowing growl that sounds like the gates of hell opening. I may be wrong, but I think it was John Tardy, the singer from Obituary, who said that Chuck was the most important metal singer ever because he was the first to demonstrate the vast range within metal singing. The guy from Fear Factory, who I do in fact like quite a bit, owes a lot Chuck. All respect due. The rest of the band is equally amazing. Alex Skolnick is my favorite guitar player ever (except, maybe, for Dimebag) and living proof, like Chuck, of the virtuosity within metal (though he should fiddle with his volume knob a bit less). Don't believe me? Check his jazz cred. Eric Peterson is metal's most underestimated rhythm guitarist and no slouch at lead either, and Greg Christian is just fantastic--everything you want in a metal dude, and perhaps the most thundering bass player this side of Geezer. Both are blue chippers. And Paul Bostaph, though I regret never having seen the band with Louie, is a titan. There were points where I was quite fearful for my heart rhythms, which is just what a metal drummer should induce.

Their set was about 45 minutes of new and old, all as good as the rest, and an absolute pummeling. As is often the woe of openers, the sound was a bit imperfect, but everyone was clear and audible nonetheless, prowling the stage and absolutely putting on a master class of what happens when five boundless talents work together for decades perfecting their craft. For the life of me, I don't understand why these guys don't get more credit. If metal was a basketball team, they'd be one of my starters.

Megadeth? If I have to explain why they are on par with or superior to every metal band since Sabbath, I'm going to ask you to stop reading now. And, pound for pound, to my tastes, I think Rust in Peace is one of the best metal albums ever. See, Dave's whiny paranoia is a font of intelligent writing and constantly compelling material. Sure, he's got an ego the size of Montana and probably could stand to be less of a grump in interviews, but the guy makes a good point. Heavy Metal, born of the industrial wastelands of Northern England filtered through the demise of the promise of 1968 and incubated in the pessimism of 1970s America and the Reagan/Bush debacle, owes it to itself and us all to be smarter than its critics. Metal, despite all of Tipper Gore's rantings and ravings, offers a remarkably acute view of the societal ills we've faced over the past four decades and should be given credit for its insight. Megadeth is sort of like the Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky of the genre. And Rust in Peace is the dissertation we should all have at hand.

To put it lightly, Megadeth is the F1 car of metal. A highly tuned, laser-precise machine that exceeds even our most wild visions of possibility. I listened as hard as I could last night, from the center point of the GA floor leaning against the soundboard barrier, and I don't think I heard more than one or two flubs. Chris Broderick deserves tons of props. Despite what might be one of the schlockiest guitar ad poses ever, the guy is a master. If we could photoshop Marty's head onto his, I'm not sure anyone would notice that the old samurai isn't with the band anymore. The guy shreds. Makes you want to put down your own guitar and cry. David Ellefson is maybe third in line after Geezer and Cliff in the metal pantheon (JPJ fans, I'm not counting Zep as metal here), and somehow looks like the nicest guy in the world. Actually, I think Chuck Billy, Ellefson, and Tom Araya all look like unbelievably nice guys. I sort of wish we could all have tea one day. Seriously. Call me. And Shawn Drover, who I don't mean to make sound like a footnote, is spectacular on the kit. I remember thinking to myself what a horrible task it must have been to sit on the Menza stool. My next thought was, damn, Drover's really as good as anyone could ask for at any point.

At any rate, the show was great, a perfect 10 with a bonus plan and a kiss goodnight. Launched directly into Rust and put the pedal to the floor the whole time. I've never been decapitated, but I know that they used to take the just-severed head and show it to the crowd and the body. That's about as close as I can get to the sensation one has after hearing these guys just plain burn it down. To boot, they followed up with a set of other material. I'm not really big on Headcrusher or A Tout Le Monde, but neither is necessarily a drop-off of momentum, and Symphony still holds up after 18 years. To say that Peace Sells should be the new American national anthem might get me thrown in Guantanamo, but I'm hoping Dave finds it in his heart to bail me out when that happens. Megadeth is what happens when masterpieces are allowed to age properly. Sure, there were hiccups and growing pains, but we're talking about Rembrandt level stuff here. Proof that the cream will always rise to the top and a stern lesson that any artist in any medium should be certain that what they are doing is good before they even begin to do it.

Slayer? Excuse me and pardon my French, FUCKIN SLAYER! I'm going to go on record now and probably be accused of blasphemy for it, but I think Seasons in the Abyss is a better album than Reign in Blood. I think the writing is more interesting, the lyrics more diverse and mature, the production is better, and, frankly, I think it hits harder. Maybe not faster, maybe not quite the shock (only because by then we'd heard Reign in Blood), but better overall.

And, though this might make me sound like a nostalgic, I think the old material (Reign, Seasons, South of Heaven) is superior to the new stuff. True, I don't know the new stuff as well, but it seems oddly coy to me, as if they're aiming, rather than just swinging with power. But, listen, Slayer is undeniable. Listening to them is one of the world's great adrenaline rushes and their power is unparalleled. Sort of like a buzzsaw, road-grader, energy drink, cayenne, gunpowder smoothie IV. Great stuff.

Now, Mom, before you get concerned that I'm listening to devil music, let me make the following argument. Yes, I am. But so was Robert Johnson when he went down to the crossroads to learn the blues (And, for the record, I've been there too. No devil, though.) or Elvis when he shook his hips below those tv cameras. Or Wagner. Or Stravinsky. Diabolus in musica, friends, do the research.

I'm not saying that they're not terrifying. Kerry King is the single scariest human I've ever laid eyes on. And Jeff Hanneman looks like someone who would rather not be near you. (Watch this amazingness.) But, frankly, they're probably the two nicest guys around and are certainly the Jordan-Pippen of this metal universe. Well, if either of those guys was super scary and made a guitar sound like it was an instrument of damnation. The only other person I've seen strangle a guitar to this kind of sonic effect was Stevie Ray Vaughan. In comparison, even Hendrix looks like he's got the thing under control. Oh, and Tom Araya is flawless and Dave Lombardo is the gold standard for metal drumming. The gold standard.

Slayer's music is fantastic. Brutally direct and relentlessly fast (proof that metal and punk are siblings, not cousins), masterfully technical and really quite groovy. Seriously, the stuff makes me want to dance. Not mosh, dance. It's beautifully syncopated stuff, for which Tom Araya deserves a ton of credit. And, before we return to the satan accusation stupidity, go read the lyrics. Sure, there's plenty of the demons/satan/blood and gore stuff, but that's one of the metal food groups. There's also loads of reflection on militarism, gun violence, human psychology, and the complexities of religion. Dig it, kids, Slayer is sociology, plain and true. Oh, and their live show is a malestrom. Thank you, sirs, may I have another?

Anyway, best show ever, no exaggeration. And not just for fanboy reasons. There is something deeply satisfying to watch three bands age gracefully and skillfully. People who said that metal was a stupid, childish outburst were and continue to be wrong. These are grown men whose virtuosity continues to impress and grow, pillars of their genre and masters of their craft. It's endlessly reassuring to know that there are bands that still respect the album as an art form, and even more gratifying to see them maintain the album as a standard of performance. And, like other masterpieces, it's wonderful to know that you can return to great works again and again and derive just as much pleasure as from the original revelation and continue to find new nuances and points of fascination. That's what great art is and what great art is for.

On other fun notes, I was heartened by how great the pit was, how everyone helped each other out and up, kept each other from being trampled, and acted so intensely civil in what is actually a rather dangerous thing to do. I was also happy to see how many friends seemed to be reuniting, giving daps to everyone around, and, yes, giving out hugs.

Metal is a culture that we must defend with our words and our acts. If last night was any sign, we're in good stead. Let's help keep it that way.

Oh, and I caught a shoe that came flying way up in the air from out of the pit. The people next to me gave me looks that will stay with me forever.

Peace, love, and metal forever.

And, follow my craziness on Facebook and Twitter at adrianduranblog.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Travel Advisory

This will run counter to what many of you may hold dear about travel.

Travel in France and Italy is the worst thing ever.

Being in France and Italy is one of my favorite things to do, but travel in either is a cacking nightmare.

See, neither the French nor Italians have any sense of the Pauli Exclusion Principle which, according to my research on Wikipedia and, is the source of our general belief that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time.

Kids, research on Wikipedia and/or is not acceptable in an academic setting. It only works if you intend to fail your assignment or use it for the less credible venues of life.

And, by the way, full disclosure, if you are a boson, apparently, you actually can occupy the same space as another boson at the same time.

However, neither the French nor the Italians, though filled with bosons, are themselves bosons.

The proof for this is the past two weeks of my life, when I have had to inform a number of our European friends that I am neither permeable nor invisible. This, unfortunately, did not impede any of them from attempting to walk right through me. Nor did it prevent my rear end from being the recipient of a number of blessings from innumerable luggage handles.

Even worse is what happens when attempting to get on a flight. At the first available opportunity, whether French or Italian, everyone rushes to the front of the waiting zone, smashing themselves in like a herd of sardines looking to have a family reunion all in just one tin. It's preposterous. Forty minutes until takeoff, and they're crammed in like bosons in the same place at the same time.

Even worse still is when they have to drop off a loved one. I swear, just a few days ago in Tours, two Frenchies were dropping off their English friends at the airport. They waited at the end of the line. The end of the line. Not near the beginning of where you line up, but actually at the end of the line of people who were getting in line for the plane. A friend with whom I was traveling actually had to smoosh by them to get on the plane for which he had a ticket. Too bad he wasn't a boson.

Frenches. Italians. If any of you cares for your fellow man, and you both claim to have invented western civilization, I would humbly beseech thee to cut it out.

It's far more annoying than wearing white sneakers, visors, or fanny packs.

Trust me. I'm a boson.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My First Dwayne Butcher

Dear London,

You'd be way better if you were as affordable as Memphis.



Friday, June 11, 2010

Killing is Complicated

I've been on a killing spree. It's been great. And I don't want to hear anything about it from all you moral crusaders up on your high horses about how killing is all that bad.

A bunch of wasps have attempted to colonize my dwelling. And not the Blackie Lawless or Brooks Brothers kinds.

There's a crack in the pane of glass in our middle front window. It's horrible, cause it's one of those poured glass glass windows, so it's really great to look at and through.

But these bastards are sneaking in and building up a breeding ground hive thing.

And if you know me at all you know two things. I have personal space issues. And I'm terrified of flying insects.

Add in the stinging and the devil form of the damn things and I'm doing a George W Bush preemptive come in and bomb your ass into the Stone Age sort of thing.

So I got a can of some wasp death spray foam and popped the window open and blasted those bastards. The bodies are still at the scene of the crime.

And then, just yesterday when I got back from teaching, some other bunch of those sumanabeeches had begun building one on the back staircase. And fast, too.

So they went the way of the first ones. With equal, if not greater cataclysm, as the attack had been effected from above.

I don't care if it makes me a bad person and I have to pay for it in an infinite number of afterlives, which would be perfectly fair, I think I'll be zapping every future wasp that attempts to invade my domicile.

I Learned Something from Capitalism!

So there's this new product that I saw on TV. Hanes Lay Flat Collar t-shirts. I mean, I've worn Hanes t-shirts before and I think they're (that's their or there to all you anti-spellaticians) ok, but this new Lay Flat technology is actually some far beyond stuff.

It can teach you English.

See, and as Betty will tell you just as she told me, the best way to remember this rule.

Things lay.

People lie.

So. Bravo Hanes. For holding down some semblance of educational intent.

Star & Micey

I saw a really amazing band last night here in the M-town.

Star & Micey
Folk / Pop / Soul

Their website is here or you can probably Google them.

Trust me, they're dope. I can't wait to hear what the Deusners think of them.

Why Wii Rules

I'm sure you already know that the Wii rules. But I had another moment today that verified this on a deeper level.

The Wii Madden 10 game is real.


I was playing as the Cardinals against the Raiders.

Two things happened.

Kurt Warner threw up a bomb for a touchdown. Forgotten--by myself as is also true of reality--and woefully underestimated third receiver Steve Breaston caught this one.

And JaMarcus Russell, as he is wont to do all too often in reality as well, held the ball too long, rolled too far out, and got sacked.

Wii rules.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An Open Letter to the New York Times

Dear New York Times,

Whoever decided to switch the format of your online slide shows should be petitioned to switch it back. Please.

I understand that this is probably a violation of every copyright rule ever, but it used to be possible to save the images. This was intensely useful for people like me who use these images for blogging, study, etc. etc.

I can't explain how useful this was. This new format is the loss of a terrific resource.


The Management

Review Addendum: Marina Abramovic @ MoMA

That Abramovic show must have really done something to me. I woke up this morning thinking about it, instead of my usual thoughts about food and going back to sleep.

I have had two more thoughts in the night.

Uno: Too many documents, displayed too wrongly. There is not only a whole room filled with Abramovic-related documents and exhibition ephemera, but a case filled with documents pertaining to her parents. The latter was quite smartly placed near The Hero, which does, in fact, take her parents' careers in the Yugoslav(ian?) military as its subject matter. But, in a show that is so much about self- and body-abnegation, there is something a bit pornographic-fetishistic of the artist's biography and physical artifact that seems all together too MoMA for my tastes. I understand that MoMA is the house that Pablo built, and that Alfred Barr (bless every bit of his heart) may have created an institution specifically designed to perpetuate the myth of the heroic artist (let's toss that one, along with the whole divine inspiration and "it can mean whatever you want" malarkey), but it's just plain off-key for a show about Abramovic, who seems so focused not only on self-denial, but also collaboration.

Dos: Talking about Abramovic's work solely in terms of body damage-stress-denial misses one of the really amazing things I noticed yesterday. The works measure themselves in the smallest and most silent of increments. For every gun pointed at the throat and burning-star almost asphyxiation, there are an infinity of micro-motions. I was absolutely floored watching the arms of the performer in Luminosity slowly weary and descend from the upper position of Vitruvian man to the lower. It was like seeing St. Andrew's martyrdom take an intermission. And the slight ticking back and forth of the performer's eyes as she tried to hold them up was one of the most profound envisionings of futility I can think of.

Same with the performances of Relation in Time and Point of Contact. Slow incremental movements and microscopic alterations of distance. Like breathing or growing or each and every measurement of the body.

Pretty great stuff.

By the way, this is a really amazing site for Abramovic's work. Kudos to those who designed it.

Point of Order: Sex and the City Dos

I'm certainly not a graphic designer. In fact, I've been told that my unwavering love for Times New Roman 12 point automatically excludes me from even talking about graphic design. But I know a bunch of designers, many of whom are quite good.

Which is why I feel compelled to cry foul on this damn Sex and the City unnecessary and conspicuously indulgent at a time of national financial and economic crisis sequel movie advertising campaign.

Look at that ad, which is on buildings and billboards all over Manhattan and presumably elsewhere.

If I were Matthew Broderick, I'd be really confused about waking up next to Kim Cattrall each morning. And how come Cynthia Nixon is the only one properly labeled? Can I be a conspiracy theorist and say that this is some nefarious way of making sure we know which one is the, ahem, non-traditional-lifestyle one? Because, frankly, that's conspicuous.

What I do know about design is that it's about two things: communication and brainwashing people into buying crap they don't need.

Houston, we have a problem.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Review: Marina Abramovic @ MoMA

Went to go see Marina Abramovic The Artist is Present at MoMA today. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that this might be the show of the year. The whole art world (by which I mean everyone in the 5 boroughs) is atwitter. And, since the reviews have been rather mixed, I feel like I need to add to the chatter. And because you probably won't learn much from them that you don't already know if you know anything about Abramovic or her art. That is, of course, that Holland Cotter doesn't exactly like some of the work (really useful information) and that someone, either Jerry Saltz or his editors, thinks it's ok to write a three paragraph review about the first major retrospective by one of the most fundamentally important artists of the past 50 years. Seriously? Only Arthur Danto got it somewhat right, but, in his usual Arthur Danto way, he offers a plethora (Forgive me, El Guapo) of amazing ruminations without much of a sense of whether or not the exhibition is going to be satisfying or not.

I'm going to do a lot of the same, mainly because you'd be an idiot to think that the exhibition wouldn't be satisfying. What I'm not going to do is offer much information on Abramovic or her work. Go read a book. Or, God forbid, take an art history class. That's where that happens. This is criticism. I'm here to criticize. I mean critique.

So, let's start with the obvious. I have personal space issues. This makes for an exceedingly rewarding experience in a Marina Abramovic retrospective on its last day, on Memorial Day. MoMA deserves kudos for being open on Memorial Day. We don't all like parades. But, for those of you keeping score, going to MoMA on Memorial Day is really stupid. Really stupid.

But, within the context of this show, it was almost ideal. My wife told me to keep an eye on the crowds, so she deserves the credit for this, but there is much truth to my saying that Abramovic's work is best experienced with too many of your closest friends, bashing bodies with strangers and being constantly forced to jostle for space in and around the crowds. It wasn't simply that Impoderabilia was one of the centerpieces of the show. For all of you who don't know, this was a 1977 work in which Abramovic, with her then art-making partner Ulay, stood, as they say, butt-ass nekkid, in one of the doorways of the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Bologna. It was recreated, as were a handful of other works, by Abramovic-trained performers at MoMA.

And, yes, I squoze (not a proper conjunction, but an in-joke with my parents) myself through two naked bodies. I faced the woman, mostly because all the other people in line in front of me did and I thought they must be onto something. To be honest, it was an amazing experience. Firstly, the tangible smooshing of three bodies together is unbelievably tectonic. And, no, juveniles, it wasn't sexual. But it was one of the most tangible bodily experiences I've ever had. The performers were standing really close together and even my skinny ass had some trouble getting through. I felt everything. The closest comparison I can imagine would be blindness, and the way that blind people report having a heightened sense of touch because of their lack of vision. All of a sudden my torso, arms, legs, everything became hypersensitive and aware of every smashing, rolling, pushing that it took to get through two naked bodies. It was perhaps the most fantastic reminder that all art, even the optical Greenbergian stuff, is supposed to hit you everywhere. Art, dear friends, is a visceral experience. All of this Cartesian bullshit that we've been forced to believe for centuries is exactly that. Bullshit.

Op. Cit. Susan Sontag. Art, dear friends, is best when it is erotic, not hermeneutical. Look it up. It's the titular essay in Against Interpretation. If you haven't read it, you haven't lived.

Those of you that know me know I have this thing about being too close to people I don't want to be too close to. Watch my students corner me after class and watch me back up until I'm melting into the wall. This was totally different. The anticipation was, to quote a cliche, palpable. The only thing I can compare it to is the rush of adrenaline one gets before performing on stage, an apropos sensation. But I have to say that the rush kept going for quite some time after. Shaky legs, dilated pupils. I'm anything but an adrenaline junkie, but it was pretty cool.

Angular narrative turn here.

One of the best things about this exhibition was its way of navigating the impossibility of showing performative works, a dilemma that Abramovic herself attacked head on at the Guggenheim in 2005. I'm not interested in the ideologies of recreating performance pieces, or debating the necessity of ephemerality for the credibility of performative art. That's for the artist to decide, the critic to pontificate upon, and noone to decide.

But, MoMA really got it right today. They placed the script (that's what I'm going to call it) next to a single still from the performance. Then, next to it, there was one of those fancy digital picture frames that rotated through a series of still images from the original performance. It was actually a pretty successful way to give a sense of the works that weren't recorded to video. Those, to my great enjoyment, were on huge screens at grotesque volumes, just the kind of multi-sensory assault that made sense for the work.

And, of course, I must offer this caveat. Whoever decided to put the performers in the free-standing boxes might have dropped the ball. It was simply too detached from the communal space of the viewers' bodies, our bodies, all of which are implicated in any of Abramovic's works. Her body becomes ours, her fragility and mortality ours. Separating the performers in these oddly Turrellian spaces didn't make any sense. It was too pictorial, which doesn't make any sense to me for an exhibition focused on performative art.

Before I go, I need to make a point of something remarkably obvious.

Marina Abramovic is beautiful. She has been stunningly beautiful her whole career and is even moreso today, as I saw her, seated in the atrium of the museum, draped in heavy gown that framed her face against the space, the crowd, and her entire career.

This shouldn't be such a big deal, except that we, as an art culture, have been deeply and overly ashamed of beauty for far too long, at least since Caravaggio or Goya or Courbet or something so obvious I'm forgetting it. Perhaps, pace Laura Mulvey, this is because we've all been party to centuries of patriarchy and the exploitation of the bodies of infinite women for the purely genital pleasure of mostly white, upper-class, heterosexual males. That is, looking at beautiful women has been a guilty pleasure for centuries, laden with the baggage of misogyny, intentional or otherwise. Abramovic herself made this unbeliveably apparent and complex in her 1975 work "Art Must Be Beautiful, Artist Must Be Beautiful."

And it got even moreso today. There is something particularly spellbinding about Abramovic's beauty, perhaps because we all know such a beautiful body was subjected to such dangers and damage. Perhaps because we all know that her beauty is not ephemeral, as we have all been convinced that beauty must be. Perhaps because we all know that this beauty hides the fact that she is the strongest among us, both in body and will.

I'm not sure that I can put my finger on it exactly, but I am sure that I have seen no more compelling argument for the necessity and value of beauty than I did today.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Adrian Diet

I'm a skinny little bastard. Have been since I was born. In fact, if it wasn't for my Herculean athleticism and natural balletic grace, you might get away with calling me scrawny. This is mostly a gift. See, I was born about six weeks early and have a lightning-fast metabolism. You combine being undercooked and overly excited and the math just sort of works out.

Of course, this hasn't prevented nearly everyone I know from remarking about what a skinny little bastard I am. But, as I'm sure Kate Moss and Lindsay Lohan can tell you, there are other ways to stay skinny than skiing the snowy mountains. And, since one of my cousins raised this highly interesting question on the FaceSpace earlier this week (I'll give you a cut if this makes me rich), and since, as a certified professorial-type, I think that every opinion of mine is both worth saying out loud and the solution to all of your problems, I thought I would contribute to our national dietary hysteria and introduce The Adrian Diet, the virtually-all-natural way to get in touch with your inner skinny little bastard.

But, before I change your lives (Can you believe how arrogant you need to be to be a self-help guru? What a bunch of smug bastards...)...let me congratulate Dario Franchitti (known to most of the world as Mr. Ashley Judd) on winning his second Indy 500 in three years. And, on a similar pitch, let's all give thanks that both Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay walked away from that horrible crash. In the immortal words of Reggie Noble: "the bricks the bricks the bricks."

Prelude: This ain't about being fat. People in America need to reevaluate their attitudes toward fat. I'm not going to get all soapboxy about this, but let's just say that if we substituted all the fat jokes for African-American jokes or gay jokes or Asian jokes we'd all have the ACLU's foot where the sun don't shine. Next time you make a fat joke, substitute a racial slur for the word fat and get back to me on the results. So, all you fatists can go fat yourselves.

This is about eating good stuff and not being unhealthy.

Anyway, here's how you do it:

Rule #1: Don't listen to me. I am not a dietician. Therefore you shouldn't listen to me. You should listen to your body. I read a great book a few weekends ago at my sister-in-law's house. It should be on everyone's bookshelf, next to Everybody Poops, mainly because it's about poo. Before you all get grossed out, why don't you go write a review of the latest Saw movie and get back to me when you toughen up. See, I have a yoga friend (who does yoga--I stay away from the stuff) that says "Your only as healthy as your spine." And, my Mom's a nurse, so I know that you can get most of your health info from your excretions.

You make the yellow pee? You need more water. You got funky ear wax? Probably the same. You sneezing a lot? Probably getting sick or allergic to something.

Alls I'm saying is that you got to listen to your body. If eating something gives you heartburn, cut it out. If it makes you tired and worn out, cut it out. I read an article in the Nueva York Times a while ago that said that most Americans get sick at work because some idiot decided that work was so important that they couldn't lay at home in bed and get rid of their cold. I'm just saying. That we're stupid about our bodies. You got to listen. Pretend your body is Oprah if you have to, but keep your ears open.

Rule #2: Apples. You know that old saying about keeping the doctor away. Well, they're not bullsnapping you. Apples rule. Natural sugars are good for a quick, natural, totally legal high. The fiber is amazing for your digestive health. The vitamins and minerals in an apple are good for you. And the crunchy noise is so satisfying. Keep them in the fridge for extra crunch. Imagine, when you hear the crunch, that you're biting Sean Hannity's head off, Ozzy-style. Or whoever bugs you. Pretend you're a Sarah Palin dinosaur that roamed the Earth about 35 years ago and chomp those buggers till there gone. I prefer Cameos and Galas, mainly because I like R&B parties, but you do what you want. Just eat a bunch of them. One a day minimum, national holidays and all.

Rule #3: H two motherskunking O. You all remember Chemistry, right? How many electrons does Oxygen have? If you said eight, you're right. This means that it makes one hell of a bond (word is...) with a pair of Hydrogen atoms. That gives us water. Did you know that each one of us is mostly water?

I know, I know. The French are all "Ma, non, je suis totalment French." And the Germans are all "Was the hell ist das? Ich bin total aus bier gemacht." Whatever, my dear Maginot-straddling friends, you, like beer, are mostly water. You gots to drink it all. They say you should drink 8 8 ounce glasses a day. That's 64 ounces, not a stutter. That's a little more than 3 pints. English people, this should be easy for you. Drink a pint of water between each pre-dinner beer and you'll be good. I say that you should drink enough water to have to pee every hour. You'll know that you've got it right when you pee clear, like water. Eeeeew. That's gross. Yeah, so it what the Titans paid LenDale White to get fat on tequila, so I don't want to hear it. You want gross? Go read The 120 Days of Sodom. Otherwise, fuggeddaboutit.

Rule #4: Pot of Beans. I eat one of these a week. Fo sho. A pot of beans is the cheapest, easiest way to get a whole load of nutrition. I do it like this, and you needs to be patient, or the beans won't work out. And beans that don't work out are inevitably trouble.

Go to the store. Find the Goya aisle. Buy some damn beans. Dry ones. No canned premade anything. That shit will kill you. If it comes in a box and it is premade, that shit will kill you. That's why they call it shit. It's about as good for you as what you'd normally flush down the loo. I prefer red beans. I also like black beans and pinto beans, but you know, you've got to have a favorite.

This is important. Don't mix beans. If your bag o' beans is ending, continue with the exact same beans. I mixed brands once and I had half a pot of cooked beans, half a pot of gravel. No go. I think the best way to do this is to start before you go out on Friday night. Soak the beans in a vat of cold water. I use about half a pound of beans a go. Soak them until they bloat with water, like a dead guy fished out of the New Jersey swamps. Overnight and the whole next day usually does it. Then, here is the best part.

Get a bunch of vegetables. I have friends that don't eat vegetables. They think they're gross. Well, so is dying from malnutrition. You got to eat your veggies. I go for onions (red and white, for ethnic harmony purposes), celery, carrots, peppers (of whatever colors, see onions). If you're totally renegade, use other things. Now, you only need one pot for this recipe (shout out to my grad school roommate who swore by one-pot cooking). Put some olive oil in it (no butter. minimizing butter is key to The Adrian Diet). Chop the veggies and sautee them until you get them to where you want them to be. Sautee is French for cook over low heat. It'll make you sound like you've read a cookbook if you use the big words every now and then. Works with art history as well, but don't tell anyone I told you that.

Once the veggies are just so, pour the beans in. Drain them first. Then, take as many cans of diced tomatoes (one of the few times canned food is ok for The Adrian Diet) as needed to fill the whole concoction with liquid. Cook slow over low heat. This is the hard part, Americans. You need to be patient. When I say slow, I mean you need to cook this for about 8 to 10 hours. Sloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow. Like the plot of the nominees for Best Foreign Film. We all know what happens if you don't shower for a few days, right? You start to stink exponentially, cause the filth creates more filth, which makes for profound stinky. Same theory, just reverse. The longer you cook this, the deeper and richer the taste will become. If you don't belive me, ask someone's Italian grandmother how long she cooks her sauce. Then ask her why. The nice thing is that you can do other stuff. Just get up and stir it every half-hour or so. This is why I think starting Friday night is best. You can cook the beans all day Sunday, while you're reading the paper or watching the game or doing whatever you do. Oh, yeah, add spices. I do salt, black pepper, cayenne, hot sauce, and without doubt a few squirts of high quality barbecue sauce. And not that KC Masterpiece sluice. Something made below the Mason-Dixon line that has a secret recipe. It's the right touch of sweet and sour and happy. Trust me.

Now, if you do it on an industrial scale, you'll get enough beans for multiple meals, and the veggies and beans will stew themselves into a delicious zinger of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You can add meat if you want. Chorizo is the best, cause it's the most flavorful, but I've used chicken, beef, and turkey, all of which are perfectly fine.

Pot of beans: the whole food pyramid at once, except for milk, which comes later.

Rule #5: Drink Mexican Soda. I mean, you're not supposed to drink soda on The Adrian Diet, except for one small glass a day. I do it with lunch, so I can break the day up with a nice jolt of sugartasticism. But, as you all know, that partially hydrogenated horseshit that they put in all of our beloved sodas is terrible for you. Mexican soda has real cane sugar in it. The reason that they call it cane sugar is because it's as addictive as crack cocaine, which is sort of what regular Coke is like. Crack. Because of the freebase corn syrup. Avoid that by drinking Mexican soda. Jaritos are really awesome. And fancy flavored. Flavoured if you're European. Frankly, your best bet (that's "you're" for all of you internet-educated spelling deficients) is to stop shopping at the white people supermarkets all together. Now, before you call me a reverse racist, let me remind you that I'm half white. And, truth be told, the non-white people markets have more interesting food that, generally, is less industrially-produced than the white people food. Industrial production is the enemy of food. You can take that to the bank. Avoiding industrially produced food is pretty key to The Adrian Diet, barring certain exceptions, which, in a Scientology-derived scheme, I will not reveal to new initiates. But you're better off avoiding them anyway.

Rule #6: Exerciso ergo shrinko. Get off your ass and move around. Take the damn stairs. Walk to work. Jump up and down on the bed. Whatever. Just keep moving. You can't intake calories without having a way to burn them. And, exercising makes you feel good. It's good for your spine (see above) and might actually have you looking all grown and sexy before too long. And don't try to act like you don't want a six pack. We all do. It's just that sometimes it can't be a sixer of PBR. You gots to moderate. That's another critical law of The Adrian Diet. Moderation. Everything in moderation. Including moderation. I'm not above eating a whole tube of Thin Mints. But I do it once a year, not whenever I get the spirit, or I had a shitty day. You having a shitty day, puddin? Get a punching bag. Beat the hell out of it. See Rule #6.

Rule #7: Beer and Ice Cream. I'm not kidding. There is a reason that we're not all monks and nuns. It's cause most of us can't handle that degree of asceticism. Same with dieting. You need to be realistic. If it took you 30 years to build up that beer belly, it ain't going away by swimsuit season. Seriously. It doesn't take a time-space genius to know that a lifetime of excess and indulgence is going to go away RIGHT Fing NOW. Americans, this is on us all. Patience is not a virtue we have maintained over the years. You need to nurture a slow patience. You know how long it took to build the Duomo in Milan? Damn near 600 years. So, taking a few months to get all grown and sexy isn't asking much. Truth be told, grown and sexy is like keeping the car running or the house intact. It's a constant effort.

My point, however, is that you need to drink beer and eat ice cream now and again. If you aren't used to The Adrian Diet, it will take some acclimatizing, like deep sea diving. You can't be expected to jump right in and, even once you're in, you need to be realistic. We are all humans. Humans like fun. Humans like to self-indulge. So, do it. Just don't be an idiot. And remember that every self-indulgence might set you back a moment or two, so you might have to double-up on the exercise tomorrow. But, trust me, it's worth getting a little fatter if you get to enjoy yourself.

Rule #8: Reset foods. Everybody has them, you just got to figure them out. Everyone get to feeling bloated or lazy or unhealthy. This is where reset foods come into play. Mine are cheeseburgers and macaroni and cheese (I used to be a Kraft Klassicist, but have recently learned that Whole Foods 365 brand is actually quite good. That Annie's stuff tastes like reconstituted cardboard to me, but you can figure that out for yourself). If I get to feeling like hell, I go eat a cheeseburger. A good one. Not some rubberized cow-butt meat from MacDonalds. Avoiding fast food is rule number one for The Adrian Diet. Go to a farmer's market and get some good grass-fed, beer-rubbed, free-range, laughing cow cow meat. That'll set you straight, oooooh yeah. Figure out what your reset food is. If your belly is gurgly, eat it. Sushi also works really good. You vegetarians are sort of on your own, but bless your heart for keeping the animals in mind. I'm not that kind of dude.

Rule #9: This is sort of a personal one, but I swear by four small meals a day, not three ginormous ones. And you, there, the one skipping breakfast or lunch or both and then going apeshit at dinner. That isn't smart. Metabolism needs a constant burn to work at all. Think about leaving the heat off in the winter. When you get home, it's gonna be cold as hell and you're going to have to crank it up, which isn't good for heating or your sanity. Same principle. I do breakfast at 8, lunch at 1, snacky snack at 6, real dinner at about 8.

Anyway, that's how it all begins. Frankly, I don't know why any of you should listen to me, but I feel like I have a few secrets in here worth sharing. More than that Atkins craziness. My wife tried that once and said that all the protein made her so energetic she had to take up kickboxing just to burn off all the energy. I'm a believer in balanced mediumness.

If this works, please let me know. Maybe then we can all get together and make an infomercial, like that Tae-Bo guy. You know that you all want to see me in sleeveless shirts and a wireless microphone anyway.