Thursday, February 28, 2019

Monday, February 25, 2019

No escaping Sophie Blackall

LinkNYC kiosk with blessedly non-Blackall content
Well so much for my hope that the dread Sophie Blackall would stick to illustrating children's books after winning the Caldecott medal.

When the LinkNYC kiosks started popping up all over the UWS I was inclined to think they were, on the whole, good things. 

But then.

I was schlepping my laundry down the street the other day and was approaching the kiosk on the corner of my block, not really paying attention. Then I felt an inexplicable sickly feeling and my eyes beheld that all-too-familiar combination of faded colors, shoddy draftsmanship and humanoid characters with faces all built on the same weak and simpering template and instantly I knew what the source of my sickness was.

Blackall!

I tried to get my phone out quickly enough to document the atrocity but by the time I found my camera app it was gone and I was not about to stand out in the cold with twenty pounds of laundry on my back waiting for it to show up again.

It was bad enough I had to look at her hideous work in the subway, still a traumatic memory almost seven years later, but now it's ambushing me on my own block. And the thing is you never know, when looking at one of these kiosks, if a perfectly useful subway status is going to suddenly be replaced by a Blackall image.

Clearly there are some people who like Blackall's work but I can't explain their bad taste. All I know is that Blackall cannot draw for shit and I despise her work and it pisses me off that there are so many good artists all around and yet people keep encouraging Blackall and giving her money to perpetrate her awfulness. And then sticking it in my face without warning or mercy.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

KRUGMAN MASTERCLASS WHOOHOOOO!

Anybody reading this blog (now in its fourteenth year!) knows how much I admire Paul Krugman.

So of course I absolutely had to sign up for the Krugman Masterclass which was advertised on Youtube videos for Rachel Maddow. It was a little pricey at $90 but I decided to treat myself for my upcoming birthday (I share the date if not the year with Krugman.)


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

When Black Friday comes I'll be on that hill, you know I will

When Black Friday comes I'll fly down to Muswellbrook, gonna strike all the big red words from my little black book.

Gonna do just what I please, gonna wear no socks and shoes with nothing to do but feed all the kangaroos.



Sunday, February 17, 2019

Eileen's sister the Communist

Unlike my own mother, my friend Laura's mother was interested in politics and culture. My strongest memory of Eileen McGowan was her at her usual spot on the living room sofa watching the Watergate hearings. My first political involvement was going door-to-door giving out McGovern campaign flyers at her behest. My parents voted for Nixon.

And because Mrs. McGowan (I never called her Eileen myself) was interested in the arts, she took an interest in my cultural affairs. She knew that Laura and I had written our own fan fiction for "Tom Sawyer" - something my mother never knew, and frankly would not have cared had she known.

My mother has never recommended any literature to me, because she has no interest in literature herself, and has bragged that she got through high school English courses by reading the Classic Comics versions of novels.

Mrs. McGowan recommended I read "My Sister Eileen." I was never sure why exactly, other than, I guess, she enjoyed the book herself and wanted me to enjoy it. But I could not have been any older than eleven or twelve when she recommended it to me - in fact I wonder now if she recommended it to me because the author, Ruth McKenney, died in July 1972, only sixty years old. Her NYTimes obituary is here. Mrs. McGowan herself died in the mid-1980s and was in her late 50s.

I think I tried to read the book but didn't find it interesting. Primarily because it was about adults and at that time I was only interested in books about people my age.

So on Saturday I was researching for the next NYCPlaywrights podcast and wondering if I should put an audio clip from "His Girl Friday" into the podcast, since the theme is "romantic comedy" and I think the movie counts. Also, it's now in the public domain.

So while watching the movie for the tenth time, I was Googling around about the people in the movie and saw that Rosalind Russell, in addition to starring in "His Girl Friday" also starred in the first adaptation of of the book "My Sister Eileen." So I read the Wiki page for that and saw that the book was based on stories McKenney first published in The New Yorker - and since I have a New Yorker subscription which provides access to its entire archive I tracked those stories down.

Then I read McKenney's Wiki. Very very sad. "My Sister Eileen" was based on McKenney's adventures with her sister Eileen, who died at age 27 in a car crash, days before the theatrical adaptation of the book opened. McKenney's husband killed himself on her 44th birthday.

Over the opposition of lawyers for a company owned by President Donald J. Trump, State Supreme Court Judge Eileen Bransten ruled Thursday that a condominium on the Upper West Side could remove the bronze letters spelling out his name from its 46-story building.
McKenney became famous for her humorous stories about her family but what she really wanted to write about was labor issues. And until they were ousted by the Party, she and her husband were Communists.


McKenney's husband Richard Bransten, writing under his pen name Bruce Minton and speaking on behalf of himself and McKenney makes it clear that the couple believed that the US Communist party was not hard-core enough for their liking:
The leadership does not emphasize the great truth that workers must learn; Only socialism can make the people free, only socialism can rid the world of war and fascism. By no word does the American Communist Party at its National Committee Meeting hold the capitalist system to the full light of scorn. The leadership does not educate the American masses to the horror and evil of capitalism, to the awful reality that capitalism offers only terror, lynch, poverty, oppression of women, persecution of minorities, starvation, exploitation, racism, enslavement of peoples and nations, fascism, and war.
Wow, they took their Communism very seriously.

I'm afraid like all serious idealists they were doomed to disappointment. I was first disabused of political idealism when I sat in on a food co-op meeting when I was eighteen and for most of the meeting it was simply people complaining about other people in the group.

No organization of any significant size, from a Philadelphia food co-op to the Communist party will ever be peopled by enough obsessive policy wonks and nerds to satisfy the purity tests of idealists.

More people than not would rather get by with Classic Comics than making the greater effort to read the original. 

Would-be organizers of human beings ignore that at their peril.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Thank you once again, Kwame Anthony Appiah

Appiah in Foreign Affairs writing in defense of Cosmopolitanism 
Furthermore, societies have moral and legal duties to admit at least some foreigners—namely, those escaping persecution and death. Those obligations are shared by the community of nations, so the burden must be distributed fairly. But each society must contribute to meeting the need.  
The fact that the localists share societies with cosmopolitans in countries that have duties to asylum seekers constrains the ways in which the localist camp can achieve the comforts of home. But the existence of the localists constrains what the cosmopolitans can do, as well. Democracy is about respecting the legitimate desires of fellow citizens and seeking to accommodate them when you reasonably can.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Speaking of poetry...

Public domain, baby.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

It's nice to be appreciated



I wrote this haiku six years ago. When Jordan Davis, who I follow on Twitter, tweeted  this morning "I would like to read some poetry now please" I impulsively tweeted him my haiku.

Davis is poetry editor for The Nation so it was especially nice to have him react positively to my work.

According to Wikipedia Davis is a "flarf" poet.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Pinkerite


One of these days I'm going to get the Pinkerite podcast off the ground. In the meantime I've been adding to the blog of the same name.

I created the logo. I think it's pretty snazzy.