Category Archives: Review

Fortunato Depero, Skyscrapers and Tunnels (Gratticieli e tunnel), 1930

Back to the Futurists

The Guggenheim is a machine for viewing art… and as luck would have it, the swirling, whirling lines of the Italian Futurists coincided nicely with the building’s aspiring spiral. But alas, the happy accident went downhill faster than the sloping floor. It was amazing that Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) outpaced the younger Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944) and his avant garde dilettantes on the speedway of time.

My interest in these vogue rogues was the drawings of utopian visionaries Antonio Sant’Elia and Mario Chiattone. Many of the others I remembered from The Machine exhibit at MoMA back in 1968 and I can tell you the second time around left me feeling that Futurist art is best suited for costume dummies and their manifestoes were as frivolous as the fads of fashion. Their art parroted every contemporary movement of the time in affectations that could be called Kubisim, Tubeism and Dude Descending a Staircase.

There is nothing futurist about these fascists phonies. Railing against museums and libraries without offering alternatives is just plain backward. And as I wondered the meaning of it all, I came across a book in a side gallery off the ramp which had a picture of the group dressed in formal attire.  Suddenly it occurred to me, these guys were a band of brash young gynophobes lacking in sexual prowess. Ah-ha! That explains the guns, cars and violence. It never got much deeper than that.

The Guggenheim is a machine for making money…and they make a lot of it. But the more they make the more they take. Students are gouged $18.00 and the pay-as-you-wish day is now down to two hours, from 5:30 to 7:30 on Saturdays. Get there early because the end of the line may not make it inside before closing. With such riches, why be so petty? Art makes you smart but the machine is not taking any questions…just cash or credit.

The Italian Futurists share the same dislike of museums and libraries as the Guggenheim and other “iconic” art palaces. Guards suck the joy out of enjoyment and they smother any ferment or conversation, no matter how interesting. But children can be loud and run rampant because there is a price on everything past, present and Futurist. Damn the starving artists…full steam ahead.

Guggenheim

Guggenheim

IKLAND the worst people in the world

 

Ikland movie still frameIkland is a movie about man’s inhumanity to man but more than that, it is about the value of verification in the scientific method. For over fifty years, the world accepted the flawed 1965-67 research of Colin Turnbull simply because he had the trappings of a scientist.  His report of the Ik, a remote tribe on the border of Uganda and Kenya, concluded that they were so depraved the world would be better off without them.

Margaret Mead, who has been known to fabricate a few facts of her own, repeated the lie without any hesitation whatsoever. There were doubters along the way (Bernard Heine in ‘83) but the lie persisted until Cevin Soling put it to rest once and for with this riveting documentary.  We can all be grateful that Soling’s dogged quest for the truth was not deterred by Turnbull’s British accent, which Americans tend to associate with facts and intelligence.

Turnbull died in 1994 and was so haunted by his undiscovered lies that he split his estate  between the United Negro Fund and the College of Charleston which is dedicated to British culture. That he included the latter shows his remorse to be only partial. Fact is, he is not truly dead; there are Turnbulls at every turn…and the world would be better off without them.

Ikland opened my eyes to a world I knew nothing about. It was brutal but edifying to learn of a people shot for sport especially when contrasted with my Chelsea neighborhood where dogs wear rain boots. I was equally struck by the absurdity of the emaciated Ik performing “A Christmas Carol” at the pleasure of the fecund Rubenesque drama teacher Soling brought along. I would have traded that segment to ask, what if the Ik were a tribe of blondes, would they be left to their own devices?

To any student of history or anyone who has ever been a victim of lies, this film as a must see.

The PRUITT-IGOE MYTH

Pruitt Igoe Myth Movie Poster

In 1977 Charles Jencks, architectural historian cites the demolition of Pruitt-Igoe as the death of modernism. Jencks blamed architecture for the failure instead of the real culprit: the St. Louis Housing Authority. Architectural schools accepted it as fact, but in reality the housing development worked when it was white. Jenks wouldn’t say that, so he deftly spun it into a denouncement of the housing type. Critical thinking in architecture died that day.

There were good egalitarian ideas in Pruitt-Igoe, ideas that an industry of maximum profits found threatening. Slumlords had to nip it in the bud. Innovations such as skip-stop elevators, generous stairs, wide corridors with laundry, trash chutes and other community spaces and amenities that would inspire a pride of place in spite of the low maintenance charged. The list goes on; it was a prototype with all the ingredients for success.

Corbusier and modernism took the fall for a housing administration bent on revenge and sabotage. Smarting from a 1954 civil rights mandate to integrate, they had reason to be vindictive and to show the world, even at tremendous costs to themselves, that equality for blacks was no better than casting pearls to swine. Keep in mind that Missouri was the site of the dreadful Dred Scott Decision, and the northernmost state adhering to the deep-south segregation laws outlawed by Brown v. Board of Education on May 7th, 1954.

The movie featured the nostalgic recall of former residents who saw their dreams dashed, reminiscing about what could have been.  It was sad.  We all know it as Pruitt-Igoe but they call it Pruitt and Igoe. Wendell Pruitt (1920-45) was a Tuskegee Airman and William Igoe (1879-1953) was a white local politician. It struck me that the black residents could not bring themselves to integrate the names.  It was even sadder that the prophetic promise of the names failed to materialize.

I would’ve liked to also hear the recall of the whites that abandoned the project in the flight to the whites-only suburban alternative provided by the same housing agency. The vignette of a white woman strenuously objecting to living with blacks revealed to me that she too was a victim.  I know I cringed when one of the Pruitt-Igoe resident’s happiest memories entailed blasting music in the corridor to express appreciation of moving into the project. For me that kind of culture shock is much more troubling than skin color.

Despite all the questions of racism, corruption, and lack of maintenance that the movie raises, one is left to wonder why a community of 12,000 residents could not muster the votes to affect improvements?  Pruitt-Igoe was ahead of its time and in the final analysis, architects must not be deterred by those with other fish to fry.  My advice is to stay focused on the commitment to the social contract for it is the inhabitant that decides whether the architecture lives or dies.  Jencks was dead wrong. Modernism lives.  Truth is beauty and form follows philosophy.

Alito

Alito is bad news for progress. Unitary presidency? George Bush doesn’t need any more power to abuse.
The Supreme Court hearings again exposed the Democrats as paper tigers infatuated with the sound of their own voice. How could they allow themselves to be bullied by two old fogies like Arlen Specter and Orrin Hatch who are know for their blatant disregard of the facts. Specter was caught in a lie when he said he received no correspondence from Kennedy regarding Alito’s membership in a Princeton hate club.
I wanted to hear more about what the club stood for; but Hatch decreed that I couldn’t because Alito’s name did not appear in the records. And the docile democrats took it lying down once again. They dropped the subject and droned on and on instead of turning the screws. They were more concerned with the pundits than with the people.
It makes sense only when you remember that they are all members of the most exclusive eating club in the world. Both parties believe that God wills them to be rich but the difference is that the democrats pretend to have a conscience by leaving more table scraps.

Republicans are mostly chicken hawks: they talk tough as long as you do the fighting for them. Should anyone be surprised that they are riddled with corruption? Their tactics are as dirty as the terrorists they vow to defeat. Fight fire with fire is what people are inclined to endorse when they feel desperate. It gives comfort to the gullible and they know it.
Critical thinking will never be in style as long as the democrats choose to dumb down the rhetoric and join the suicidal stampede hoping for a miracle instead of grabbing the lead bull by the horns and putting a stop to this madness once and for all.
You don’t have to look beyond Alito’s family sitting behind him to see what’s in store for us. They all wore a smugness that that he was almost able to conceal in himself. Someone advised his wife to switch from conceit to disconsolate and it worked. The democrats backed away from her tears. The whole scene tells me that this guy has a lot of scores to settle. He came a long way, bided his time and now those anti-war, abortion-loving, race-mixing jerks that razzed his berries at Princeton better watch out.
The tone and timber of his voice was stressed and his answers were weak and evasive. It seemed clear that he has a lot to hide. Membership in a racist organization and refusal to recluse himself from ruling in cases involving his own stocks in Vanguard are things worth hiding.
Happy birthday Martin Luther King. Germany, Liberia and Chile elected females to lead them for the first time and yet your dream just took a giant leap backward.

Are men necessary? Comments on Maureen Dowd’s book

Maureen Dowd refuses to accept the premise of Jerry Seinfeld that “men are really nothing more than extremely advanced dogs” who want from their women what they want from their underwear: “A little bit of support and a little bit of freedom”.
Seinfeld sums up it up very succinctly except that men are not at all like dogs. The female in heat triggers the male dog’s sexual frenzy. She dictates the window of copulation. Men on the other hand are always ready for sex because women keep them guessing. This behavior evolved to keep the man from running off like a dog to the next available vagina.
Withholding sex is intriguing but men get tired of begging. When the tease becomes torture only masochists stick around. It is my observation that shallow women withhold sex, smart women hold with sex. Men do not possess anything near the complexity of the female psyche. They are just pawns in a game devised by women. Men want sex on demand. That’s all there is to it. They live for sex and will go to extremes for it. Backed up sperm is what they fear most. It renders them helpless and stupefied. In a month a woman produces a single egg. A man, on the other hand, produces twenty billion sperm and counting.
Obviously, this super abundance exists to indiscriminately flood the gene pool. The female on the other hand, is motivated to be discriminating and selective in the best interest of her precious charge. Furthermore, the sexual instinct in women declines along with the urge to conceive. Men, on the other hand, are always in a steady state of lust that is completely at odds with monogamy. He must seek release of this excess energy by other means, be it masturbation or extramarital forays. Unfortunately, for him, both outlets are taboo.
Women are internal and complex by nature. Men are external and simple. Each sex operates at opposite poles exerting a magnetic pull on each other. Unfortunately this irresistible attraction collides head-on with Maureen Dowd’s sensibilities.
Opposites attract. Men use power for sex. Women use sex for power. And make no mistake about it, women have the upper hand. Dowd fails to see that women are responsible for the current state of affairs. They are the majority and men do their bidding. Hillary wants power, Bill wants sex. It’s elemental my dear Dowd.
Modern science has rendered men redundant. Today, the two primary functions of men can be outsourced to labs…fertilizing the egg and hunting red meat (to provide the iron supplement required for the development of the fetus).
Yes, men are no longer necessary but what about the ga-ga stuff?
To be continued.