Thursday, May 26, 2011


The Upholstery Eater is about to be five and I wanted to send a special gift, which was not as easy as I thought. The books in the bookstore were all dreadful, so when a friend with grandchildren suggested games, I went to the local toy store, not realizing that I was venturing into a cultural minefield.

I was pleased with what I finally bought—a building set with geometric pieces that stick together with magnets—but was otherwise appalled at the aesthetics and messages of toys for children. (And this wasn’t even Toys ‘R Us!) For little girls, it's all about clothes, plastic bling, princesses, coloring within the lines, and making potholders (Potholders! While I’m all for knitting for both sexes, I struggle to find relevance in potholders for a five-year-old in 2011).

And for boys, of course, almost everything has to do with replicas of gas-driven vehicles. Even things to build, like Lego© sets, are designed to duplicate a prescribed object. Nothing is freeform or left to the imagination.

After being away from the culture for a good while, it all looked like societal conditioning and materialistic indoctrination.

Another reason to be grateful for Lady Gaga.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Back again

I had to take a mental health break from my blog—make art instead of thinking about it—but got back in gear when I read Jon Pareles quoting Lady Gaga in the Times this morning:

“It’s always very strange when people say, ‘Is this the real you?,’ or ‘Is this really who you are? Is this an act?,’ …I believe magic is real. I believe fantasy is real. I live halfway between reality and fantasy all the time.”

Meanwhile the rest of the world seems bent on substituting linear thinking for emotion, and information for experience.

The same week I watched Lady Gaga’s Madison Square Garden blowout on HBO (on a neighbor’s insanely big flat screen—snob that I am, I don’t have TV access, but I’m grateful for my friends who do) I went to a concert in the Berkshires—the Avalon Quartet performing Osvaldo Golijov, Steve Reich, and Schubert—where my worst nightmare came true. Readers know about my antipathy toward artists’ statements and museum wall text (my reason being that it puts the emphasis on the intellect rather than the senses and becomes the lens through which art is experienced, thereby inhibiting personal reaction) and have pointed out how, at a musical performance, no one feels the necessity to get up and explain it first.

No longer.

Before the Avalon concert began, a man who didn't introduce himself but was, presumably, the artistic director, gave a little speech, incorporating biographical tidbits about the composers and making points about the relationship between speech and music (the theme around which the pieces were chosen), even “singing” a passage from Beethoven's 7th Symphony (dum dum-dum dum dum). I wanted to scream. And that was before I read in the program about the upcoming Tanglewood season, where you'll be able to go to the concerts an hour early for a talk by the conductor about what you’re about to hear.

Next magicians will be explaining their tricks in advance.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Snartorialist

"Clothing is armor to survive the reality of everyday life," says Bill Cunningham in "Bill Cunningham New York," an utterly charming film.  I don't intend to make repeating blog posts a habit, but under the circumstances, this one from April, 2008 seems appropriate. BTW I'm told told by a friend who worked for her that Anna Wintour (who figures prominently in the film) hated the word "blog" and insisted that everyone around her say, "weblog." I'm working on creating the situation where I never have to hear the word "enthuse" again.

The Sartorialist, who I check in with daily, has a hard row to hoe. He takes a picture like this one, yesterday, and in the comments someone complains that the dress is "wrinkled” (hey, he’s a street photographer; people actually stand up and sit down in these clothes) and “gaps at the bust” (cutely, I think). My own brush with fashion fame came several years ago. On one of the most horrid hot humid days ever in New York, I was on Fifth Avenue with my Chinese paper parasol when a man with a camera ran up and snapped it in my face. I said, nastily, “You can’t do that” and he said, just as nastily, “I wasn’t taking a picture of you, I was taking a picture of Tiffany’s window behind you.” I got about three more blocks before realizing that he was Bill Cunningham from the Times and when I got home, wrote him a short apology, saying that I mistook him for a rude tourist from Iowa. I forgot about it completely until several Sundays later when I was meeting a friend who had with her a copy of the Times—and there I was, in a layout about parasols, snarling under mine. That week I received a print of the picture in the mail and a note from Cunningham who wrote, “It’s the tourists from Iowa who are the polite ones. I was undone by the sight of you with your parasol” –more gracious than I deserved. The picture is somewhere in the gazillion boxes that are still unpacked after my move of a year and a half ago—when I unearth it (if they still have blogs then) I'll post it.