Summer’s here and the time is right…

…for outdoor art installations. The city is littered with these things—and I mean that in the good way. Not all of the installations work—I’ll spare you the sight of the ones that don’t—but here’s one that amused me.

nearness5It runs through the center of Times Square—Broadway between 44th and 45th. This is Nearness by Cuban artist Arlés del Rio. It’s a simple concept that works because of its placement. It creates a nice flow.

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They’re exactly what you see; a series of chain link fences with the centers cut in the shape of silhouettes. They’re participatory, which I always like. People walk through them and have their pictures taken while standing in the middle. You don’t see anybody in these photos because it was 6:00 a.m. and anyone in their right mind is still in bed, not traipsing through Times Square. I think the exhibit is more striking without people around.

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According to the literature provided, these figures metaphorically represent

“…the social, political, cultural and personal barriers, among others, that may keep us away from one another.”

These concept descriptions are always too high-minded for me. They always sound like ArtNews blather. Perhaps the artist needs that gobbledygook to feel connected to his work but I always take it at face value. I’m the opposite of complex.

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This one’s my fav. Placed in front of the Times Square military recruiting center.

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Next up: a Jeff Koons horse.


While daddy’s at work, proud new mommies often bring their babies into the office for show and tell. The little bundles of screaming joy always have names like Halston or Eureka. [I recently saw Tiffany but it was spelled "Typhanie."] Someone just paraded a stroller through the corridors here at work. It’s a disruption but everyone has to feign interest. Like when you’re forced to sing happy birthday in the break room. I’m guilty, too. I brought the first daughter in when she was born. Not the second one, though.

What I’ve noticed over the years is that when it’s the wife of a senior executive, it’s always the wife, the baby and a nanny. I guess if you can afford one, you get one. Why wouldn’t you? But I think it makes them seem frail. Like they’re too delicate or detached to shoulder the heavy responsibility of caring for a baby on their own.

I think that wealth makes some people soft. It robs them of their natural, God-given coping mechanisms. Their grit. Their ability to navigate through adversity or a lifestyle crisis, like a new baby. Instead of planting their feet, striking a defensive pose and dealing, they throw money at a problem and hope it goes away. Here in NYC and on Long Island, you can hire someone to teach your kid how to ride a bike. I’ve worked with and have known some very well-off people. It doesn’t seem to take much to harsh their mojo.


Speaking of mommies. Sex Tape with Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz just opened to disastrous reviews. Only a 20% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s toast. I don’t want to say I enjoy reading bad reviews, because that’s not nice, but I laughed at this bon mot from the New York Times review. It said the movie…

“…asks us to believe that Annie is on the verge of selling her blog about motherhood for big money, a plot point that inspired raucous laughter from the press rows at my screening.”

Mommy blogs—hell, blogs in general—are about as rare as oxygen molecules. So the thought that one would actually sell for big money is pretty funny stuff, which I’m certain wasn’t their intent.

I Spy With My Little Eye: Something Dangerous

I finally committed the crime I said I’d never commit: I made a parental decision based on what everyone else is doing. How lame is that?

I broke down and got an iPhone for my 12 (and a half)-year old daughter. I felt (feel) that that’s too young to mess with something as hedonistic as a smart phone but my hand was forced. She’s got a lovely group of girlfriends. They all do well academically. They’re polite and can hold their end of a conversation. They’re the types of kids I want her around. And they’ve all got iPhones. ALL OF THEM. When they group text or share photos, Daughter Dear is left out of the loop. I know how that feels. I spent my entire childhood out of the loop and if I can spare her that burden by breaking one of my rules, I’ll break it. I don’t want her drifting to a different crowd because she was disconnected.

This has lead to no small amount of angst, worry and sleepless nights. I’ve taken a dramatic and, some would say, unethical step.

I loaded tracking/monitoring software onto her phone.

You can lecture me all you want about trust and privacy issues but, Jesus H. Criminy, she’s just 12 (and a half). I don’t think ANY 12 (and a half)-year old girl should be left on her own to navigate the scary world of Instagram. I don’t feel good about reading her text messages. It makes me feel kind of dirty. But I’m in a no-win situation.

I’m finding that “little kids, little problems/big kids, big problems” is more than just a clever turn of a phrase. It’s pregnant with truth. I wonder if any of the other parents monitor their kid’s mobile phone use? Could you accuse them of being lazy and uncaring if they don’t? What would you do?


We made our annual pilgrimage to the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the summer installation. Every year they do something special on the roof and every year I drag the kids up there whether they like it or not. (I think they like it.) We arrive when the museum first opens so that we have the roof to ourselves.

Some of these installations are pure genius and some of them fall flat. This year’s model lies somewhere in between. The Roof Garden Commission by Dan Graham is an interesting “S” of steel and glass set between two ivy hedgerows.

Roof Garden Commission4The roof was covered with grass (actually artificial turf) and is meant to be viewed in conjunction with the lush greenery of Central Park.

Roof Garden Commission5The interesting part, the “get,” is the glass. It’s two-way mirrored and while completely translucent from one side, you see a gentle refection from the other.

Roof Garden Commission2It’s a neat trick. You can still see through the reflective side, but the ghosted images of the city can be seen distorted in a half-circle. It makes for a fun family portrait.

Roof Garden Commission1I wish it were a larger exhibit. Once the crowds arrived, it lost some of its magic. People waited in line to take photos from the best, most reflective, angles.

My Bride points. I imagine the dialogue is something like, “See that building over there? That’s where Daddy wishes he had a pied-à-terre.”

Roof Garden Commission3It’s an interesting enough piece although I was somewhat underwhelmed. To date, the best installation I’ve taken them to—hell the best one I’ve ever seen—was Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto’s anthropodino at the Park Avenue Armory in 2009. THAT’S how it’s done.


After the museum we saw a Broadway musical. Despite visiting the theater on an almost weekly basis, the fact is, with a few exceptions, I can’t stand Broadway musicals. Quintuple my nausea if there are children on stage. Broadway kids are the worst. They’re precocious, overly-talented mini-adults. Behind each one, giving a good hard shove, is a failed actress trying to relive the dream.

My kiddies wanted to see Matilda and since I’d be willing to take a bullet for them, suffering a musical seemed like a small matter in comparison. So there I was at the Shubert Theater for a Saturday matinee with a stage and house full of children. Dreadful. Strike up the overture. Let’s get this over with.

I may have to re-think my knee-jerk revulsion. The girl playing Matilda was a joy to watch. The stage design was magnificent. The lyrics are peppered with hilarious asides for adults. Matilda’s mother sings this one from her hospital gurney just after giving birth to Matilda, a child she neither wanted nor loves. Where you’d expect an ode to the joys of childbirth, you are treated to:

“Oh, my undercarriage doesn’t feel quite normal.
My skin looks revolting in this foul fluorescent light.
I should be dancing the tarantella -
Cui buon fare Italiano. [Italian: With good Italian manner]
Not dressed in hospital cotton,
With a smarting front bottom.”

How can you not like that? Thank you, Royal Shakespeare Company.

matilda

NOW How Do You Like Facebook?

In a controlled experiment, Facebook clandestinely altered the news feeds of 700,000 users. People who received slightly happier news posted positive updates, while people who received sadder news posted sad updates. What does this mean?

Facebook can control your emotional state.

In the 2010 Presidential elections, Facebook divided 61 million Americans into three test groups. Each group was shown a different, nonpartisan get-out-the-vote message, or no message at all. The results showed that certain messages could significantly increase the inclination of someone to vote. What does this mean?

Facebook can control elections.

I’ve not been prescient about much in life. For instance, many years ago, someone in finance told me I should look into buying Google stock. This was not long after the internet bubble exploded. I, like a lot of people, had gotten burned. My exact words to him were:

“Do I look stupid to you? No more internet stocks for me. Ever.”

At that time, Google was $32/share. Google closed on Friday at $593.08/share. I believe it actually split at one point.

In 2008, a friend said that I had a knack for pollinating my emails with short, clever quips. He suggested I sign up for a Twitter account. He said it’d be a excellent venue to to showcase this supposed talent I have. I signed up, posted for about three weeks and quit. “This is stupid and boring,” I thought. “This’ll never go anywhere.”

When it comes to Facebook, I smelled a rat from the start. I couldn’t figure out Facebook’s business model. What do they have to sell? What’s their product? It turns out the thing they have in abundance is personal data. Personal data is power and they can use it any way they wish. It’s in your User Agreement. I also felt there was an addictive quality to it not unlike gambling. And I know all about gambling.

I badly miscalculated Google and Twitter, but I think I was right about Facebook. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. But I’ve heard that I might be able to increase my blog audience with a Facebook page. Is that true? Well, that’s worth considering…


I stumbled across this model shoot while walking through Madison Square Park. Isn’t it weird? They’re just children!

model2I think they were from South America. Maybe Brazil. It sounded like they were speaking Portuguese. They were consummate professionals, from what I can tell. I can assure you they are wearing clothes that are too expensive for me to buy for my kids. Plus, this stuff is so season-specific, and they grow so fast at that age, that they could probably only wear each outfit a few times until they outgrew them.

model1 I don’t know how I feel about this. I think the parents are exploitative. I mean–what’s the message here? Also, I’m envious that I can’t provide this stuff for my daughters. Not that it matters to them. They couldn’t care less. It’s all in my head. And now, here in my blog.


 

birthdayBirthday bonfire, 2014.


giraffe lizard

Mad

Mad at myself
for lacking ambition.

Mad at my alarm clock
for going off at 4:53 a.m., M-F.

Mad at sex.
More trouble than it’s worth. There’s always a price to be paid.

Mad at Lay’s potato chips
for being spiked with a mysterious addictive ingredient.

Mad at myself
for not jogging enough.

Mad at my sister-in-law
for how she treats my wife.

Mad at my wife
for [***redacted***].

Mad at my 12-year old daughter
for entering the argumentative/hyper-sensitive years.

Mad at Vladimir Putin
for fucking up Ukraine.

Mad at Uri Ariel
for fucking up Israel.

Mad at Nuri Kamal al-Maliki
for fucking up Iraq.

Mad at twitter
for posting ISIS taunts. Why do they do that?

Mad at wealthy people.
Because of them, I can’t afford concert tickets anymore.

Mad at myself
for being so jealous, jealous, jealous.

Mad at religion (ALL SECTS).
The source of the world’s misery.

Mad at the gay couple at the beach
for wearing bright, canary-yellow Speedos. My children don’t need to see your junk. A little discretion, please.

Mad at the woman who cuts my hair.
If you’re such a ‘Master Stylist,’ why are you working at Cheap Kuts?

Mad at my old job
for not hiring me on staff.

Mad at my new job
for mistakenly thinking I’m smarter than I am.

Mad at gas.
And I don’t mean gasoline.

Mad at my commuting bus pass
for costing $430/month.

Mad at my bus driver
for using the back of his hand to steer a bus full of suburban lemmings going 60 mph down the New Jersey Turnpike so he could text.

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Mad at the dog
for acting like a dog.

Mad at Amazon
for blowing up bookstores. Bastards.

Mad at white people
for acid/techno/house music.

Mad at black people
for rap.

Mad at myself
for not attending college. (An oldie but a goodie.)

Mad at social media.
You don’t have 200 friends, okay? Stop it.

Mad at mobile phones.
A bigger threat to civility than Al-Qaeda.

Mad at this stupid blog
for yanking me out of bed at 3:25 a.m. to write this post.

Not mad at:

My 8-year old daughter.
Still so sweet and innocent.

New York City.
Shelter from the storm.

Desensitizing Children to Violence: NYC Edition

The dictionary defines desensitization as:

“…the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it. To make indifferent, unaware…in feeling.”

Look at this horrific ad that’s currently running on New York City buses:

photo 1 (3)

Every child walking down the avenue—from ‘tweens to infants in strollers—sees this. The Metropolitan Transit Authority reviews the ads posted on buses and subways for appropriateness. Some years ago, they rejected an ad that referred to Israel’s enemies as “savages.” Just this past January, they rejected an ad for an urban art exhibit that featured a subway car covered with graffiti. No need to revisit that, I agree.

But this is acceptable? Have you ever seen anything so vividly grim in a public space? And, OF COURSE, the victim is a woman. The victims in torture porn film ads are always women.

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I’m so sick of these graphic depictions of violence against women. I don’t want my 8-year old daughter to see this! This stuff is impressionable. You can’t un-see it. If you repeatedly expose little kids to this kind of appalling imagery, they’re going to grow up void of empathy. I get angry at the morons who take their toddlers to The Dark Knight for the same reason.

Am I making too much of this? You can tell me. Do I need to chill?


My Bride and I walked through Chinatown last weekend. It’s one of my favorite neighborhoods. I like it because I can walked down crowded Mott Street and see over everybody’s head. Here are some pics of the open-air produce markets and a paper-folding artisan selling his wares on the sidewalk.

china7Octopuses. Or is it octopi?

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A basket ‘o blue claws.

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Dragon fruit. Whatever that is.

china5Croc/Gator. Do you like the goose in the foreground? I did that on purpose. Or do you think it’s clutter. Tell me the truth!

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Fox and penguins.

china2Four blind mice. And a cat.

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Parading peacock.

Here’s a price list. Very reasonable considering the artistry and labor involved.

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The weather was perfect so we walked from Chinatown to Little Italy and got a sidewalk table at a café on Mulberry Street. We had pastry and cappuccinos (hers iced, mine hot) and watched the big parade of humanity. Best show in town. Then we walked east on Houston Street to our old apartment on Clinton and Avenue B.

I don’t think my wife had seen Clinton Street since decamping for New Jersey 12 years ago. So much has changed but some things are still the same. We walked past my old Dominican barber. He looked up, his face brightened with recognition, he put his scissors down (he had a customer in the chair!) and came outside to greet us.

We hugged and he insisted that we come inside for a visit. He opened a bottle of red wine and everyone in the shop drank a toast to old friends. I apologized to his customer for the interruption and he said, “He can’t help himself. He’s a social animal.” We talked about the junkies and gypsies who once prowled Clinton Street. That guy was one tough muther. If someone tried to sell heroin in front of his barbershop, he’d chase them away with a straight razor. “Take it down the street!,” he’d yell. He could have been shot. But he’s a survivor. I remember.