Monday, December 29, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Mind you, I'm not opposed to the practice in principle. It's nice to reconnect with high school classmates, bridesmaids, fraternity brothers, and anyone else with whom we've shaken hands over the last three decades. Sometimes it's just nice to know that an old friend is still alive and leading the weekly sing-along at the nursing home in one's old home town. And it's ok to tell us that you're a new grandparent or served as best man at your son's wedding.
My complaint is with the Christmas letters that ramble on for multiple pages, detailing the minutiae of a child's athletic or academic exploits. We don't need to know that your dad had successful surgery for hemorrhoids. We don't need to know about your low golf score or fantastic find at an antique show. If your Christmas letter needs a table of contents, it's too long! I realize that these are the same people who sport the "My child is an honor student at [insert school name here]" or "This car is chihuahua friendly" bumper stickers on their cars. God may be your co-pilot but he doesn't need to be given credit on a bumper sticker . . . Just as we don't need a detailed analysis of your stock portfolio's performance in the annual Christmas missive. If you really want to give out that much information, pick up the phone or schedule a visit, if that's possible. Don't assume that we all want to know you attended the World Series and cheered for the Phillies, because we rooted for the hapless Mets. (These photos came from one of my favorite websites, "Look at Me," which I've mentioned in earlier posts.) Also, please don't take this post too seriously. This is essentially tongue-in-cheek commentary. :-)
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Obviously much has changed in the year since I wrote the following post, and It's a Wonderful Life continues to attract attention. Even the New York Times has taken up the subject with a couple of articles, including "Wonderful? Sorry, George, It’s a Pitiful, Dreadful Life." My original post from December 19th, 2007, follows:
It's a Wonderful Life
I had originally written a long post in response to a bit written by a friend over at another blog. She raised an interesting point about the direction our society has taken in recent years, a seasonally appropriate theme since it involves Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. Sure, jaded critics like to point out how corny Capra could be - hence the derisive term "Capra-corn" - but the director was a great storyteller. Moreover, his populist vision of America reflected a very important element in the national psyche during that period. But, alas, a computer malfunction caused me to lose two-thirds of what had become a rather curmudgeonly post on the effects of sprawl and how it is analogous to the depiction of George Bailey's alternate reality - Pottersville - in the movie. (If you've read this blog for very long, you know how I feel about sprawl!)
Last week I managed to watch bits and pieces of Capra's classic on NBC, making sure I saw that unforgettable ending. It's a Wonderful Life remains one of my favorite Christmas movies, along with Miracle on 34th Street (the original), A Christmas Story, The Bishop's Wife, and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (just kidding . . . maybe). And I still manage to shed tears at the end, when they're singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Auld Lang Syne."
Why do I love this movie? First, I've always been a big Jimmy Stewart fan. That "aw shucks," "everyman" quality is perfect in this role. (One also has to admit that Donna Reed was hot as George Bailey's wife.) I also enjoy the contrasting visions of the town, between the quiet, friendly Bedford Falls, and the frenetic, noisy Pottersville. The ugly truth for most of us in America today is that we live in scattered equivalents of Pottersville. So it's nice to think there could be idyllic towns like Bedford Falls in which one has neighbors like George Bailey. Moreover, who wouldn't want to be hailed as the "richest man in town," not by virtue of our bank balance or political influence, but measured by the friends and family one can count on in good times or bad. And finally, one has to enjoy the idea of a "do over" or the opportunity to witness how the world would fare without one's presence, thanks to a visit from Clarence the angel.
Jimmy Stewart always said this was his favorite role in a lengthy film career. I think if one possesses a mere gram of Christmas spirit, it has to be a favorite for many people. With its talk of savings and loans, runs on the bank, and possible suicide, it may prove a little dark for my kids. But having experienced Dickens' Christmas Carol this year, they may soon be ready to discover the joys of Bedford Falls and the Bailey family.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Dick Cheney has admitted to authorizing the use of torture, including waterboarding. As Rachel Maddow points out in last night's show, the United States has prosecuted war criminals for this very practice. Following the Second World War, for example, Japanese officials were convicted and executed - hanged - for committing such atrocities. Obviously Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and complicit criminals should be arrested and charged with war crimes once they leave office.
However, since I don't believe in the death penalty, we would have to find some other means of punishment. Here's a suggestion: Drive Cheney into the most volatile Baghdad neighborhood and drop him off. At that point he can fend for himself. That would be a fitting end for a dictatorial murderer who masqueraded as a champion of democracy!
Monday, December 15, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Under a fresh blanket of snow, New York City is magical, like George Bailey's Bedford Falls in It's a Wonderful Life. Give the city a day or two, however, to trudge through the curbside snow drifts and flooded crosswalks, and one is reminded that our reality is closer to Pottersville, with plenty of Lionel Barrymores to sour the mood. In the end, I guess there are many of us who put up with the inconveniences of this city just to experience those occasional moments when New York City actually resembles the Hollywood fairytale version. At those moments it all seems worth it.
P.S. I love these old photo borders!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
At the time I promised myself to revisit the picture - sooner rather than later - but didn't take up the project until a couple of weeks ago when I made the initial rough sketch. Last week I realized it would be a perfect image for a detailed pen and ink drawing with watercolor washes. So for the last several days I've worked until 1 and 2 a.m., squinting through my glasses to get the India ink details just right. Once that was done, the watercolor portion moved rather quickly. This time the image is slightly larger - 9"x12" rather than 8"x10" - and I cropped the view just a little. The results, I think, are as satisfactory as the original. And this version I will not sell! On to the next project! (9" x 12", pen and India ink, watercolors, Fabriano paper) You can click on this thumbnail for a larger image.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Having studied this mixture of media over the last month, I decided to experiment more extensively with pen and ink. The result is this tightly-focused study of a barn door and rusty hinge from Scott Farm in Vermont. As you might have seen from many of my earlier farm photos, the wood on these 19th century barns displays incredible variation in weathering. Some boards retain large patches of whitewash and others stand with their intricate grain patterns bared to the harsh Vermont winters. In the end I was happy with the results, but recognize that this can prove a time consuming process on more intricately detailed subjects. Wood grain isn't easy to create! (9" x 12", pen and ink, watercolor, Fabriano paper)
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
I understand retailers' desperation at this point. Many smaller stores will barely survive into 2009. (Here in the city, many have beaten the January stampede and closed their doors already.) Several national chains have also announced that they will close all or many of their stores in the new year. Discount chains (ie. Wal-Mart, Target, etc.) will enjoy higher sales, I predict, simply because more shoppers are searching for bargains, especially bargains for toys and games.
We haven't even begun to think about Christmas yet. I'm normally very enthusiastic about Christmas and the holiday's trappings, but I'm already sick of the piped-in Christmas songs that echo in every store and bodega. (Who in god's name decided that "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music is a song appropriate for Christmas?!) I may yet become a Scrooge!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I saw this posted in Chelsea and couldn't resist sharing. Can you believe there are still people out there who honestly believe she is the future of the Republican party? If she's the future, we can just assume that the Republicans will be even more ill-informed and ignorant than they are now. As Bill Maher observed on Jay Leno last night, referring to Palin's failure to know that Africa is a continent: "That's some mighty powerful stupid."
Monday, November 17, 2008
Yes, there is plenty to celebrate in President-elect Obama's victory. It represents a signal moment in U.S. history - a moment that is already prompting reconsideration of this country's direction around the globe. Nevertheless, I'm a political realist and understand that presidents are not "saviors" in the messianic sense, able to single-handedly lead a nation to salvation or some idealized, patriotic "promised land." The latest issue of Time casts Obama in the role of FDR, potentially offering a "New New Deal." As an admirer of the Depression-era New Deal, I fervently hope that Obama will succeed in changing the governmental paradigm of the last eight years. The country needs bold action and leadership that is willing to tackle fundamental problems - economic and social. Washington, of course, isn't the same place it was in 1933 when Roosevelt had a clear popular mandate to effect change. Obama will not have the opportunity to experiment in the same way FDR and his "brain trust" attacked the Great Depression. Still, we can hope that the severity of the current crisis prompts a unity of purpose between the White House and Congress in the coming months.