Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Today (Wednesday, Feb. 15) was spent trying to get things done: sending in my ballot for the Independent Spirit Awards, sending in my "affiliation statement" for the New York State Council on the Arts, etc. So i spent the day in Brooklyn, reflecting on the situation of being in this new home.

During the period when i was actually involved in moving (which went pretty swiftly), i was also going to some press screenings at the Tribeca Film Festival, and a lot of the documentaries (such as "Bowery Dish" and "Excavating Taylor Mead" and "The Lady in Question Charles Busch") had a certain nostalgia about Lower Manhattan (the East Village, the Bowery) and how all this has changed. Gentrification, the "commercialization" of the arts, and so on. But, of course, going to the opening of "The Downtown Show" at the Grey Art Gallery a few weeks ago, it was the same feeling, that nostalgia for an era which has passed. And in that passing, i've been forced to move, to leave Manhattan; maybe, for a lot of people, this is no big deal, since they've been on the move all the time, but for me, it was a huge deal, because i'm the fourth generation to live in the same neighborhood; my great-grandparents lived on Mott Street, my grandmother was born there, and my father and mother grew up and lived in that neighborhood. Sociologically, before World War II, it was not unusual for a person to be born, live and die within a two-mile radius. I'm one of the people who found Manhattan getting too expensive, and so i had to move, to find a place that was more affordable. Of course, my sister and brother had already moved out of Manhattan (one reason i moved to the Brooklyn neighborhood that i did was that i am now less than a mile away from my brother), but i was continuing the family presence in Manhattan. (My mother still lives there, of course.) When i was moving, i felt that apprehension, that feeling of being driven out by the spiraling costs. I suppose i thought of this because one of the other chores today was sending in my accreditation for the Tribeca Film Festival.

The whole issue of gentrification and the flight of the middle-class from so much of the parts of the city that i knew while i was growing up: is this inevitable? And so many of those places seem foreign to me, alien and strange. When i was growing up, The Museum of Modern Art was like a playground, and i knew it inside out. I knew where many of my favorite paintings were, and i could always be assured of the intense joy of seeing certain works of art. But now, with the expansion, so many of the paintings have been stranded. It was like the effect of the "Cezanne/Pissarro" show: those paintings, hung in that cavernous space on the top floor, looked shrivelled and shrunken and downright puny. (Whatever else i thought about the show, and i did think it was considerable, i thought the Elizabeth Murray retrospective really worked in the space, because the scale of her work - the largesse of her post-Abstract Expressionist canvases - was appropriate for the huge walls. It's funny: at a time when movie screens, once so voluminous, are shrinking in size, museum walls are growing bigger and bigger.) Most paintings were designed to the scale of the living spaces of the painters. (The expansion of the Abstract Expressionist canvas came about because of the cheap housing in lofts which had been factory spaces, and people could paint in these large spaces.) Cezanne and Pissarro did not live in factory buildings, and their paintings (and the paintings of Vuillard and Bonnard) reflect the dimensions of their domiciles.

Blogging is seductive, i must admit; right now, i've gotten back from the post office, and this is the first time i've been alone in this house since i've moved in: my partner, Larry, is on a junket to look at the new Performing Art Center in Orange County. Of course, it's only for two days, but still, it's a strange experience to feel so isolated. One thing i've found is that it's hard to proof when you blog: transposed letters, dropped letters (in my first entry, i dropped an "s" so that what should have been "years" reads "year"), and misspellings (the title of the Israeli movie is "Ushpizin" and i misspelled it) abound. I'm not that bad an editor, but when you're writing fast, a lot can happen!

Well, i got hooked on watching the Olympics from my father: he would love to watch the Olympics, especially the more arcane events. My father was always so concerned about sportsmanship. There was that runner, i can't remember her name, Mary Jo or Mary Ann or something.... anyway, she was a long distance runner, and she was involved in the stumble with Zola Budd, the girl from South Africa. (Was her name Mary Jo Slater?) I remember when that happened, and she gave all these press conferences, protesting and complaining and whining. And my father finally said, i used to respect her, but now i hate her, because if you don't get a medal you don't get a medal, you don't keep whining and blaming other people.

Sure, it's like Bode Miller: the guy is some jerk. Does he want to be an athlete, or does he want to be a party animal? He got disqualified, and he lost out on a medal in his first event. But his attitude is, hey, shit happens. So that's ok. He doesn't blame anyone else. (It was also cute that Ligety got the gold medal - that kind of sudden twist of fate is what makes the Olympics so much fun.)

In The New Republic, Ryan Lizza cuts to the chase and states that the issue in the recent Cheney debacle shouldn't be whether or not Cheney notified the press in time, but the fact that he shot Whittington! It's also obvious that George W. Bush is totally disengaged from anything that happens around him. But what can you say from a man whose mother could say (a propos the devastation of Hurricane Katrina) that why would those people want to live in such hovels, and now that they've been destroyed, this is a good excuse for those people to move.

After four days, Cheney has been forced to make a comment... four days. That seems to be the response time for the Bush White House. Heaven knows how long it would take for them to respond to another attack....


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