Monday, 11 February 2008

Art Theft : Bring it On.

Checked the Times today?

Armed robbers have taken 4 Impressionist paintings from a museum in Zurich, Switzerland. They are worth lots of money. A Van Gogh, Cezanne, Degas, and a Monet… now stolen from the art-loving public’s eye. Aside from creating a big stir of publicity, these thieves have deprived the world, at least for a duration of time, from viewing four masterpieces of Impressionist Art in person.

Let’s face it. Art Theft is unlike any other crime. We are not talking about the immoral depravation of personal property or assets. We are talking about Art, privately owned by museums, publicly ‘owned’ by the the world. Sure, the thieves will bank on this job, but ultimately, whoever hired them is not going to be able to make money off of these objects. They’re flagged! Sure, there’s a black market, but the paintings aren’t going to circulate for long before they reach the source – and this is where things get cool.

Someone is risking their lives to get at a few yards of canvass, and what’s driving them is dedication, appreciation, love, obsession, and a dangerous collector’s mentality (ok, and greed, selfishness, public disregard…). The fact that people value works of art in this criminal manner actually gets me excited – while these thieves may not be a cut above, they are certainly from a different dimension than your average bank robber, who is in it for the financial gain.

What does an art thief stand to gain from their spoils? In the end, it’s not financial... and unless there is an as-of-yet unknown mystical power imbued in these paintings, like the Nazi’s felt there was in the Ark of the Covenant, it’s not about medicine, power or world domination. The only borderline lame motivator might be status & thrill… a collector could possibly have no interest whatsoever in a particular artist, or art in general, but crave the attention afforded by the media and general public surrounding the outrage and mystery behind such a heist. But even this must be kept private, or at least divulged in only the inner most circles of our thief. In order to keep the mystery going, one must remain anonymous. On the subject of thrills – these types are found in all walks of robberies, but there is something both poetic and impressive about the art thief, who stands to gain symbols of history and culture, and is up against very sophisticated security systems.

So that leaves a dangerously intense passion for artwork. In reality, if anyone did possess this passion – and this passion alone – one would be stealing/acquiring anything deemed personally valuable, not just famous and extremely expensive Impressionist works hanging in museums. But this motivating factor is still more honorable, or at least admirable, than the desire for financial gain.

It is this factor that makes the entire heist more of a game played against the legal powers of the world… much like in the movie the Thomas Crown Affair (1999 – the original did not involve an art theft). I’m not saying that I admire billionaires who have nothing better to do than rob the world of it’s cultural treasures, but I am saying that reading about a successful heist of this nature does bring a smile to my face, whereas other accounts of robbery that involve money or the eventual promise of financial gain do not.

I mean, think about it! Those paintings are out there, and no one knows where. How the hell do they get away with that!? And now there will be hoax copies reproduced by those who do want to make money… and authenticators will have their work cut out for them. And who even CARES about the entire event other than a small portion of the population who appreciates art in museums?

On an interesting side note, The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) features a robbery based on a 1961 robbery of the Louvre, in which 7 Renoir paintings were supposedly taken via a dune buggy by a certain Thomas Van Der Heijden. There really is no information on this event other than in reference to the movie, and a short Wikipedia Article with no references.
Here’s an account of two researchers on the subject:

Friday, 8 February 2008

Pork Soda

Seauxe… any fans of the television series “House” will appreciate this medical mystery. According to the New York Times, a mysterious neurological illness has been noted amongst workers in a pork processing plant in Minnesota. Specific targets include the workers whose job requires them to take a compressed air hose and blow the brains out of pig heads, causing the brains to vaporize. The Pig brain vapor is subsequently splattered on the exposed skin of workers, and also inhaled. Experts believe that the illness is a result of something in the pig brains that the human immune system violently reacts to – something that is similar enough to human nerve tissue to cause the immune system to attack it’s host, the pig brain blower.

Whew. Ok, where do we start? These jobs are for real, yo. Reading stuff like this confirms my belief that the human carnivore is a carnivore by way of blissful ignorance alone. The longer I survive on this planet, the more disgusted I am by the idea of eating land animals. It could be because I am an air sign, and I prefer the flesh of things that ‘fly’ through the ocean. Flesh that is imposed upon by uniform pressure, not gravity. Flesh that comes from that mystical dreamy sea. When I look at a pig, I don’t see a meal.

Here’s where I’m going with this: if you can’t look the raw source of your meals in the living eye and lick your lips, best to stay away. That’s how it used to be! If you wanted pork for dinner, you’d find a boar in the woods, or walk outside to the pig pen with an axe and a grin.

Let’s see a show of hands: who’s hungry?

And now, the personal meat of this blog: my detailed explanation of my eating habits and how I justify the simultaneity of my love & fascination for all things aquatic and my fancy for their flesh in my mouth (marine mammals excluded, of course). I was a sushi chef for two years in Florida. In essence, a fish butcher. But I digress…

I was raised on Papy’s Bayou near Riviera Bay. By New York City standards, I was practically born in the everglades swamp, the midwife an alligator, the nurse a dolphin (the bay is a brackish mixture of salt and fresh water). My brother and father were inshore fishermen, experts at extracting the elusive inshore species of gamefish from the mazes of mangrove roots and salt flats. I fished too, but I was always more interested in seeing the creatures once they were landed – and often released to live again. Where my fellow fisherman sought the chase and the fight, I wanted the facts. I wanted to see the fish, handle it, watch it swim, swim among them. Not exactly knowing how to indulge my fishy desires, I just kept fishing, since it brought me closer to my goal.

I moved away from the swamp to go to school, and eventually disassociated myself from the fishing industry. I drew fish in my sketchbooks, I painted them on canvass… I was introduced to a cosmopolitan delicacy at a small restaurant in Gainesville – Sushi. Years later I found myself in front of a cutting board in the back of one such restaurant, learning the art of carving raw fish flesh and presenting it in a clean, aesthetically pleasing manor. I loved it, and excelled. I earned myself the honor of receiving the salmon whole from the distributor and making the first cuts from the fish, removing the head and skin and tails and fins. I felt no remorse, as the fish were already dead, and I’d witness many a cruel death of these beautiful creatures as a child of a fisherman. Raw salmon flesh is free of blood, vibrant in color, and interlaced with wonderful lines of off-white fat. I thought it a most delightful texture and color, a marvel of nature. And I loved eating it. When I ate sashimi, I meditated on every calorie, previously hunted and cultivated by a sharp toothed, free-swimming silver-blue speckled spirit or ghost of cold running waters (unfortunately I had not yet researched salmon farming and how potentially disgusting and environmentally disruptive it can be if practiced negligently, as it is of the coasts of Chile, Norway, UK, Canada).

I would often save the decapitated heads of these salmon and take them home to my roommates, extract the remaining meat and make delicious sautéed dishes. I would set the heads up on a wooden plank and photograph them. I would take the sheets of skin with the silvery blue black speckled shine and hold it, wondering what it would be like to glide through the water with this layer of aquadynamic armor covering me.

Ok, ok, I’m elaborating a bit… i don’t want this to sound like Silence of the Sealambs. But everyone who knows me is aware of my strange and complicated love of fish. But couple this with a childhood routine of such ghastly feats as pushing a hook through the eyes of a poor little whitebait to catch a larger fish and you get someone who can look a fish in the eye and lick his lips. Perhaps it’s the Gemini in me who simultaneously feels a deep love for this same fish and her ecosystem. I don’t see any discrepancy…

But show me a cow, or a pig, or a chicken, hand me an axe and call me hungry, and all I want is eggs n’ cheese on rye toast, please. We are so far removed from the processes that make our food what it is. I mean, even vegetarian delicacies like tofu and soy-meat products… I’m not particularly suspect of the safety of these processes, but who amongst the regular consumers of said food products knows how to prepare them from scratch? I always loved the simplicity of being able to eat raw fish, and felt especially lucky to be the one preparing my raw fish day after day for as long as I did. When I worked at these restaurants, I ate sushi / fish prepared by myself five nights a week... never tired of it.

I never used a compressed air hose, either. I am repulsed when I think of assembly line workers blowing pig brains all over themselves and their buddies for hours every day. The sushi “butchering” process was an art, very clean, and when executed at my own hands, not without respect.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

When Photoshop is not on hand...

The "internet was down" yesterday at work, so i had to spend my time on "local" projects, like MS Paint...

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

A Million Shoppers

Thank you and for alerting me to the following image:

first of all, is that leila & hayley in black back there? the two horsewomen of the apocalypse... I offer, for humor's sake, an alternate rendering:

Wow. I’m floored. I’ve seen a lot of shit regarding Williamsburg development in the recent past, but this tops it all.

In the course of 3-1/2 years in New York, I have lived in Jackson Heights, Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Crown Heights. Now, I’m a newcomer to NYC, I can’t claim any cred for being here for very long, or being from the area. I’m an outsider. I know that writing an entry like this is generally a controversial move for someone like me – that is, if my blog were well-read by locals. Being that it’s not, and you, dear reader, probably both know me well and are not from NYC either, I shall continue wading through this murky water.

I hopped freight trains to NYC from Florida in 2001 with my buddy. So NYC was the culmination of an amazing journey for a young man of 22. all the rules changed, everything I knew about society, architecture, urban planning, culture, day to day life, social networking, politics, education, communities – everything was dramatically different here in the big city… but I’ve mentioned that before…

I am currently reading Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Some of the terrifyingly beautiful descriptions of turn-of-the-century Chicago recall what I felt after a few visits to NYC. I immediately thought that I had found a place whose mysteriousness and sublimity were magnetic & made sense to me, a place whose mechanics, relics, and social & architectural history were worth investigating, if not protecting.

As it turns out, I fell in love with a big gritty machine already in the midst of a great transition, and what I saw was only the tip of an iceberg that had already melted significantly.

So when I say to you that I am appalled at all the development that’s going on in the little neighborhoods I’ve lived in since moving here, I realize that it’s a “natural” real estate trend. It’s what makes us nomads.

I just can’t help but feel the sadness and anger that the above image implies. What the fuck are people thinking? And if I feel so invested and personally attacked by this rendering, I can only imagine how others who have made Brooklyn their home and feel inspired by this place, feel about it. again, wow.

But I represent a very small slice of the demographic pie. Barely visible, I imagine. And what’s more, I feel like new Yorkers in general represent a similarly small national slice of pie. Now you have representatives from the big meaty national pie imposing suburban ideas into outer-borough urban environments. Ikeas are going up. Beautifully scaled building fabrics are being raped by condominiums that dwarf their predecessors, both in height and market value. Oh, and they also all suck in terms of design, but that’s a given, sadly.

So when I see this rendering, my only solace is in the possibility that those two gothy (albeit condo-goth) ladies in the background are packing Uzis in their shopping bags, and they’re about to Matrix-bank-scene (that’s a verb) everyone else in sight. I’m sorry, mothers of the earth, but in this dystopian state my brain wants to see the woman in the salmon explode. And what’s with joe-condo in the blue strutting his shit-eating grin next to her? One slow & painful, please.

Unfortunately, those gothy-chics are just walking to the L train, which – and this goes out to CURBED commentators – is at this point working flawlessly because the money and the REAL people have finally moved in, the movers and shakers, the computer-generated doll-eyed wastoids who will eat this borough alive. They have jobs in the city, most likely because they’ve gotta pay high rents to live in those condos.

But it happens everywhere. It starts at a point when most folks are afraid to walk around at night, in places where it’s not safe to have a family, places that are commercially barren. Cheap rents attract parasites like myself, who enjoy the fringes of big cities because of the lower rent and the proximity to the beating heart of that tastey ol’ magnetic sublime. Soon, buzz is created, and you get your first brunch restaurants next to the pioneering coffee shops and bodegas. Next thing you know, you feel safe walking around with cash at 2am after drinking at the local bars or clubs, and by that time, plans for the condos have already been drawn. Sprawl hits home, as it did for the classes you and your friends replaced. Etc, etc

But what happens next? Can we rely on past models of different areas? Can we look back and see the same thing happening in the exact same area under the cloak of a couple decades? Are other adventure seekers snarking at my bitching while reading their laptops in secret cracks and loopholes in the belly of the beast? Is New York really dead?

No, it’s quite alive. This cycle is all the evidence that I need. Cities undulate at frequencies only giant sloths who live hundreds of years can comfortably read. We ants are restless, and don’t have time to wait for the next supernova. So what’s in store?

I know f’sho I’ll be making some monstrous drawings as a result.


Friday, 1 February 2008

superbowl superbugs

I AM AT WORK THIS MORNING, the first of February, diddling away at my computer. The pest control guy, a big bald gruff with a true blue New Yak accent, has paused on his way out of our facility here in our receiving room, where I work alongside three red-meat men. It is the weekend before the Superbowl, and one little utterance, “you going for the Giants?” sets off an incredibly passionate and articulate conversation between three brutes of an otherwise limited vocabulary.

I am sitting here, rather amazed. These guys are talking stats, team histories, rookie stories, talkin’ ‘bout kids in college who “look good”, talking about strategy, offense, defense, player trades, contracts, etc… as if they were COACHES! Like they’ve invested in these teams. Well, as it turns out, they have, and begin talking about their personal gambling strategies for the bowl.

I’m sayin’, what an incredible amount of attention and passion these men save for football! Footballs get guys going. I’d be willing to bet that these guys are more invested in the superbowl than in the presidential elections… and I mean, considering our nation’s invincible money-run two-party system, I’m really not blaming them.

But this is what prompted me to write this blog – I try to put myself in their shoes, and I start to think… I really am the type of person who cannot obsess over anything that I can’t directly participate in. getting involved in football would just make me want to play, to experience it first-hand.

I love music, I love seeing my favorite bands play. But seriously, every time I see a musical performance, I don’t care who they are, I am wrought with anxiety! I want to DO IT, not watch it. One of my favorite bands has always been Radiohead, and when I finally got to see them live, it was one of the coolest live music experiences I can recall. But even then, there were times when all I wanted to do was run home and fire up the computer and grab a guitar and start recording. NOTHING can trump the feeling of that process, it’s truly an addiction, and it’s a condition that really defines me as a person.

When I visit MOMA or the MET, or go to an art opening and see work that blows me away, I am immediately inspired and I feel the pain. I want out, I want to get to work right away. This is one of the strongest, most driving forces in my life – to create… and when I am a spectator, I am writhing in a pool of excitement and inspiration, often uneasily until I can get home, get alone, and get to the drawing board.

So when I picture the football fan in me, I believe I’d be feeling the urge to play a pick-up game in the street, rather than watch the superbowl on Sunday. And what’s more – and why I believe I am NOT a fan of the sport, or any sport, for that matter – is because I imagine myself jumping over the stands and into the field and getting my little whimpy frame crushed to kibbles by elephantine brutes.

I back out of things I don’t excel at. I mean, I enjoy challenges… and I challenge myself / accept challenges in my own “fields of expertise” as often as possible, but when it came time to decide whether or not team sports would be a big part of my life – 7th grade – I felt totally confident in my decision to not try out for basketball despite the protests of my classmates (we had a small class – only 5 guys – and they sort of needed the extra body and couldn’t understand what I was thinking). At that age, you want to put your all into things you’re good at, into things that are somewhat rewarding, not punishing. I quit Tee-Ball too. Shortly after, so too died my enthusiasm for team sports, which had previously been bolstered by my wearing of ball caps, participating in neighborhood sports, and watching games on television.

Speaking of dying enthusiasm – as I watch the surprisingly articulate and sports-savvy pest control giant lumber out of our facility, I can’t help but imagine taking his lead. soon, soon…