Hath not a Jew eyes?

I’m usually pretty quick to dismiss the most recent efforts of guys like Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. At this point in their careers, they phone in their performances. They’re the same character in every film. Even Clint Eastwood’s angry old man routine is getting kind of stale.

On Thursday I saw Al Pacino play Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. I’m like everybody else. I get sucked into these shows because it’s a thrill to see if a name-brand actor can deliver the goods on stage. Holy Mother of Jesus, this guy has it. I saw Pacino transform. He vanished into his role as Shylock and became a completely new, fully-formed human being—unrecognizable from anything he’s done on film. It was a pretty impressive feat.

This is an emotionally complicated piece to sit through. You find yourself laughing at the comedic aspects but also watching in abject horror as Shylock is, quite unfairly, stripped of his business, his daughter and his faith by what are supposed to be the “good” Christians of Venice. (Every one of them a blatant anti-Semite, which I suppose was all the rage in 1597.) One of his punishments, none of which, it can be argued, he deserved, required that he abandon his Jewish faith and become a Christian. In one of the final scenes, a center section of the stage opens and a pool of calf-deep water rises. He is forcefully dunked three times and baptized by a priest, while his Jewish family looks on in horror.

After that we all had a good laugh at the lighthearted closing scene where Portia’s husband is made to look foolish by her clever manipulations.

During the trial scene, dear Lily Rabe stood her ground and gave as good as she got. An excellent Portia. The play really was just the two of them, though. The other actors were fine, but I don’t think Shakespeare fleshed out their characters very well. There was only so much they could do with the roles.


Have a look at this brief clip. This is how it’s done.

Al Pacino in the Shakespeare in the Park production of The Merchant of Venice.

Somewhere over the rainbow

When I left work yesterday, there was a steady rain. I ducked and weaved between the raindrops and made it to rotten old Port Authority relatively unscathed. We came out of the Lincoln Tunnel on the Jersey side and it had stopped raining. We turned a corner and I saw this:


Boy, if this isn’t a metaphor, then I don’t know what is. It was vibrant and bright. The picture doesn’t do it justice. By the time I got my camera out we had shifted position but when I first laid eyes on this, it came down directly onto Times Square. A direct hit!

This may be bad poetry, but Manhattan has always been the Emerald City to me. And in my world, Times Square is what lies at the end of the rainbow.

* * *

I had this friend, Klinger, who was one of the all-time great schemers. He had a million ideas for cutting corners and gaming the system.

My favorite grift was the one he pulled on the post office. He and his Chinese girlfriend, Fun, decided to throw a dinner party. This was long before the internet invaded our lives in any meaningful way, so they sent the invitations via the post office (which now seems quaint and unsophisticated).

He took all the invitations, addressed them to himself and put the invitees return address on the back. Then he deposited them in various Manhattan post offices and letter boxes, but didn’t affix any stamps. Every single invitation was delivered with “RETURN TO SENDER FOR INSUFFICIENT POSTAGE” stamped in red on the front. Genius.

We both kind of liked the same girl in that special way, if you catch my meaning. An actress named Mimi. (I was a sucker for actresses in my youth.) Mimi took up with a successful artist who had a place out in the Hamptons. She would go there for the weekend and Klinger and I would sit in Manhattan and stew in our rejection. We’d spend the weekend insulting his talent and manhood and question Mimi’s taste in men.

Klinger tried his hand at acting, writing, stand-up comedy, directing and promoting, all with limited success. He eventually broke up with Fun and moved to Los Angeles to try his luck there. I wonder what ever happened to that guy?

It’s a thin line between artist and thief

I’m a big Roy Lichtenstein fan but the Morgan Library does him no favors in the Black and White Drawings 1961-1968 exhibit currently up through January 2nd. Pop art has always been criticized for not being “serious.” In my mind, that’s a load of horseshit. The works that Lichtenstein, Warhol, Damien Hirst, Red Grooms, et. al. have produced are fun to look at. Does it have to be deep all the time? Lighten up, snobs!

One criticism is that pop art lacks originality. Well, they naysayers may have a point. Lichtenstein made a career out of reproducing already existing comic drawings and rechristening them as art. The Morgan takes some of his work and lays it side-by-side with the source material and do you know what? It’s kind of disheartening! He really did just copy comic panels and call it art.

Clandestinely take with my crappy cell phone camera. I got yelled at by security.

I still think he’s a great artist and it hasn’t robbed my of any enjoyment, but I wonder how the original artists who drew these covers feel? Can you imagine?! These drawing are worth hundreds of thousands and some of his paintings have sold for millions! That the source material a lousy 12 cent comic should be taken into consideration when evaluating the art but, honestly, it simply doesn’t matter to me.

Having said that, I thought it was a great exhibit. Even though they’re black and white drawings, they’re fully realized pieces—not studies or works in progress.

* * *

In addition to the Lichtenstein exhibit, the Morgan also has a juicy Degas: Drawings and Sketchbooks exhibit through January 23rd. It’s just 20 drawings and two sketchbooks, so it’s easy to do both the Lichtenstein and Degas exhibits in just one visit.


It’s worth your while to take a few minutes and click though the online exhibit of the drawings. They’re so beautiful. There’s a few haunting self portraits.

The exhibit includes prototype sketches of his little dancer sculpture.


That piece is one of my daughter’s favorites. She has a children’s book that creates a story about the little girl who posed. I don’t know if the story is accurate or not but it pulled her in and that’s good enough for me.

* * *
Random shot of the façade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and 5th Avenue. Thanks, Romans, for the cool columns!

No bullets in the chamber

I don’t have a damn to write about. I think I might have writer’s block. Perhaps something sufficiently entertaining/horrifying will occur over the weekend. Until then, here’s a beach post from summer that’s been languishing in drafts for a few months.

* * *
We visited Seaside Heights on a hot, sunny afternoon. We don’t go there often because it’s a bit of a drive for us and there are nice beaches much, much closer. But Seaside Heights has a kick ass boardwalk, so I nag Mrs. Wife into going a few times each season.

Here’s the giant, Plexiglas Alfred E. Neuman statue that’s mounted on the roof of a carnival game. He use to have something in his hand—I think a shovel or an ax—but it’s long gone. I grew up on a steady diet of Mad Magazine and when I saw this for the first time I almost wept. Some little animals have thrown mud balls on his face. Bastards. It’s like spitting on the Mona Lisa.


This game causes a TONS of controversy every summer. Shoot the Guido. You rent a paintball rifle and shoot at some guy who runs around dressed like a Mafia don. There’s a large segment of the Italian/American community who deeply resent the term “Guido.” They feel it’s a derogatory racial term. Their argument is that this is no different than if the game was called Shoot the Kike or Shoot the Coon. I hate to sound like I don’t have a sense of humor but I see their point. I’m Italian and am not bothered by the term Guido, but they make a pretty convincing case, don’t you think?


Midway Steak is one of my favorite food kiosks. It’s got all the major beach food groups: cheese steaks, Italian sausages, burgers, cheese fries, etc., etc. Urp.


That afternoon, we were lucky enough to stumble across a performance by the fabulous rock-a-billy hellcats, The Razorbacks. Good Christ almighty, they’re great musicians. The guitarist/vocalist is astonishing. I honestly have no idea how anyone could NOT like rock-a-billy. They were playing one of the sports bars on the boardwalk. The music poured out onto the beach and I had to wander in for a listen.


Geeze, this post is making me miss summer a little bit. And it’s only October! I’m screwed!

Me + 4-Year Old Daughter + New York Times

How to be rich 101

I designed another marketing piece that’s intended for a high net worth/ultra high net worth audience. It’s a conference invitation. The speakers include representatives from a company called The Institute for Preparing Heirs and another from The Wealth Legacy Group. They do exactly what their names imply; train heirs on how to handle the wealth they’re in line to inherit.

Does that blow your mind just a little bit, as it does mine? That there are companies whose sole purpose it is to train people how to be rich? Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s a fantastic idea. Without proper guidance, an heir could piss away the wealth that previous generations built up on stupid shit like $600 shoes and $150,000 automobiles. But it’s a concept that’s so foreign to me and so far out of my ken, that learning of their existence was a shock. The feeling is no different than if I had just found out there are support groups for space aliens who are stranded on earth.

I spent a goodly chunk of my life worrying about money. (Still do, although less so.) I didn’t grow up dirt poor but we always seemed to be broke. I’m pretty sure my dad died penniless, although I don’t know for certain. [He left when I was 16 and I never heard from him again. Believe me, I was better off for it.] After my mother passed away and her estate settled, there was about $63 left.

Can you imagine gliding through life never, ever worrying about money? Yeah, yeah, money doesn’t buy happiness. I know. It took me years to learn that hard lesson. I had to meet a series of wealthy, miserable New Yorkers to be finally be convinced of it. But it sure can sure ward off a lot angst, don’t you think?

* * *

This is as close as I ever want to get to a stroke. Wings is about to open at the Second Stage Theater. In it, a woman awakens from a stroke. The first half of the play is seen through her addled, broken mind. It’s a visual and auditory hallucination. Although the audience can understand her clear, rational thoughts, her medical team cannot. Their dialog, in turn, is babbled nonsense. The script must have been murder to memorize.

It’s a contrivance that could have gone horribly wrong but it holds together remarkably well. Broadway veteran Jan Maxwell is on stage the entire time and produces real tears when the script calls for it. That’s not easy, folks! The running time is a swift :65 minutes and that’s fine with me. It’s a pretty dark stuff but a compelling night out.

Actress Patricia Clarkson sat a few seats down from me. I try to play it cool but, all these years later, I still like spotting the celebs.