Sunday, May 31, 2009


Adventureland is a charming, sweet, and pleasantly predictably coming-of-age story set in the olden days of 1987. Even though there is nothing particularly interesting here, the mood, the dialogue, the acting, the locale, all hit the right note, making it thoroughly watchable, emotionally accessible. There is enough wit and intelligence in the script and the performances that it is not sickly sweet or harshly ironic, and I didn't feel like I wasted my time at all.

Jenny Holzer Protect Protect

I was blown away by the Jenny Holzer show at the Whitney, Protect Protect.

I have loved her work since I saw a huge show in 89 at the Whitney, although that, 20 years ago, was the last time I saw any of it "live" (not in a book or article).

I don't know how to talk intelligently about my experience of her pieces. The words cut through in this way that is piercingly intimate, yet also cold and public and indifferent and institutional. Because of the sophisticated way that she visually presents the text -- layered, lots happening -- the words accost; and yet it's through your mesmerized effort at taking them in that you read them. You have to be there for them. You can walk away, you don't have to give them your attention, and yet you stand there absorbing them, being implicated by them.

Her work is not "enjoyable" -- it's unpleasant being surrounded by flashing lights, it's like an experience of hyper consumer modernity. Yet there is something so tender, and fragile about much of the text. At least for those that employ her early writings. My favorite was the one pictured here, For Chicago, which I wish I had given more time to.

Other pieces are more overtly political, using text from her Inflammatory Essays, or from these very scary declassified documents. They spoke to me less, but I was utterly moved and awed by them. They really implicate you in the violence that our nation is doing in the world. These works included more of the LED installations as well as haunting paintings of the documents, including a full room of paintings of hand prints, that were stunning, powerful.

The show closes today. I wish I had time to go back. I feel like I rushed through...

Another Holzer work

An Oldenburg painting that was on view...

Claes Oldenburg at the Whitney

I briefly visited the Claes Oldenburg exhibit at the Whitney yesterday. After the intense Holzer experience it seemed...mundane?... simple?.... small? dated?....

I enjoy his work. It is in fact, deeply, "enjoyable". A collection of early soft sculptures featuring the sandwich, the suspended, drooping toilet, cigarette ashes, etc. And very charming drawings and paintings that I had never seen before.

Also on view was a series he made with his wife van Bruggen called The Music Room that included more of the wonderful, whimsical soft sculptures, and more drawings.

Not bad. Fun. But should not be seen after Holzer...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mark Ettinger

I was fortunate enough to catch Mark Ettinger performing at Morningside Bookstore last night.

He sang many wonderful songs that were heartfelt and joyous and serious and funny all at the same time and he has a seemingly effortless ability to establish rapport with the audience and create a sense of, well, community. Which was significant in this case because the performance was mourning (okay, raising money for) the closing of a community bookstore up by Columbia that has been there for decades.

In real life, Mark Ettinger has a complete face.

Oh, and my favorite series of songs were the Buddhist ones!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I thought Laura was just so-so. It's a noir mystery about a woman with two suitors (one of them Vincent Price) who is found dead. Presumably. She reappears, and then the mystery is about who killed the other woman. Was it Laura, one of her suitors, or her one of her suitor's lovers?

To me it was lacking in tension. Laura, Gene Tierney, was beautiful. And Vincent Price had many wonderful lines.

Barbara Kruger at the Graduate Center

Barbara Kruger installed several pieces in the windows in the front and in the lobby vestibule at the Graduate Center. I think they are just okay. I'm kind of "over" Kruger...

Pistoletto, the "Mirror Paintings"

A selection of photographs by Michelangelo Pistoletto are on view in a small room at the James Gallery and they are so lovely. The "Mirror Paintings" are surreal and elegant black and white images of people in interiors in the early 1960s. They include cut-out silhouettes of people and objects placed on reflective surfaces. I don't really understand the process, but it created a ghostly effect, as if two realities were inhabiting the same space. I loved them and thought that they had so much more depth and substance and visual beauty than the more garish and complicated "Peeps" installed in the main gallery.

Amy Herzog, Peeps

Amy Herzog's multi-media installation, "Peeps," at the James Gallery explores aspects of the peep show and pornography. The catalogue copy reads: "Amy Herzog's "Peeps" grows out of her work on peep-show pornography and the inhabitation of public and private space. The peep-show install features a mix of vintage gay and straight porn film, as well as current artworks that make inspired use of the genre. It also suggests that the self-consciousness and frisson incited by the experience of much contemporary art may owe something to the furtive viewing habits pornography has long attracted."

I found the whole thing uninteresting and unpleasant. I didn't like walking through it and peering at pornography. I essentially found it unattractive and just wanted to be out of there.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Watched Slumdog Millionaire last night and really didn't care for it.

The beginning, when they were young orphans, was gripping, but as the story moved on I felt less and less invested. I didn't buy the torturing him to see if he was cheating, nor did I buy the slimy character of the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire host. Finally, I was not at all gripped by the love story, which was very saving the innocent damsel in distress. Basically, I didn't like the main character and didn't sympathize with his obsession for his childhood friend.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Parliament of Reality

Yesterday before leaving campus I stopped by a wonderful new artwork installed in a huge field in north campus, in front of Manor and Gerhy building. This is a photo from a press release about the installation The Parliament of Reality is the first permanent installation by Olafur Eliasson in the US, the artist who made all the waterfalls around New York City last year...

Monday, May 18, 2009


Last night I went to a staged reading of two monologues, written and performed by David Hare (directed by Stephen Daldry) at The Public Theater. Berlin, and Wall. The first was a meditation on Berlin, and it was brilliantly thoughtful. Brilliantly meandering and focused. Brilliantly witty and sad. I loved it. The second was about Jerusalem. It had a very, very different tone. A bit more of a lecture, less of a personal/political meditation and more of a political/political meditation. Still, the personality, the brilliant writing, the sense of urgency and passion. I felt honored to witness these works, and was amazed at this man's talent.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Fugitive

Last night while elevating and icing my sprained ankle I watched The Fugitive with Harrison Ford on Netflix Watch Instantly.

Even though I had seen it before, I thoroughly enjoyed it. They really keep the suspense going, and even though it's in some ways predictable, who cares? I like Tommy Lee Jones a lot.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek

My mom wanted to see Star Trek for mother's day, and so I took her. I was kind of relieved not to see something too heavy. Plus, a number of people on facebook were raving about it, so I was looking forward to it.

It is a prequel to the series, going into the early lives of Spock, Kirk, etc. The story was very complicated, about the Romulans destroying Vulcan, etc. And there was stuff about time travel that really lost me. But as it was happening I understood it; it was more that afterward I was like, what? Also, I enjoyed the sort of two dimensional characters and two dimensional melodramas while they were happening. But afterward I thought it was cheesy. So, all in all I really enjoyed it, but ultimately don't think it's that "good."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Our Guys

I read Our Guys by Lefkowitz at this time last year. Now I read it for the class I'm teaching. It generated great discussions. Comparisons with other readings, reflections on social science versus journalism, critical insights on bias and perspective in framing data, etc. Definitely worth including in the syllabus.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Doubt is an intense and very focused movie that on the surface is about suspicions one nun (Meryl Streep) has about the relationship between a priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a young boy. But the performances are so magnificent, fierce and nuanced, that it is about much more. Conflict, love, and, yes, doubt.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Everyday Rapture

I went to see Everyday Rapture, a semi one-woman show playing off Broadway (she has a band a supporting cast, but basically it's all her). It's an autobiographical story told through funny monologues and very, very engaging musical numbers.

The story is about a "half Mennonite" girl from the Midwest who's narcissism has been damaged or compromised by a narrow religious upbringing. She moves to New York to be a star, and eventually finds a way of being okay with herself. It's told through many references to Jesus and, brilliantly, Mr. Rodgers.

The star, Sherie Rene Scott, was infectiously charming. A wonderful stage presence, very talented, wonderful to watch. And, she has an amazing, versatile voice.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Jonathan Berger and Vim Diagrams

Last night I saw Jonathan Berger, a terrific poet/rapper, perform at Sidewalk on Avenue B. We got there late so I only saw one piece, which was terrific, and I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future. He was followed by a two-person act that I believe was called Vim Diagrams. It was comprised of a male chanteuse who played the ukulele and a guitar player back up singer. They did a number of wonderful, wonderful covers, including Kurt Weil and Dolly Parton, and they ended with a wonderful tribute to Bea Arthur, singing Thank You For Being a Friend, the theme from The Golden Girls, which actually got me choked up!