Nuclear recycling

I was reluctant to write a post about Ghanaian contemporary artist El Anatsui’s solo show at the Brooklyn Museum, Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui, fearing that my lame photos and prose wouldn’t capture its freakish, alive spirit. His medium is discarded bottle caps, bands and found objects. He turns them into giant, fluid, flowing works. He gathers thousands of pieces like this:


And connects them together with copper wire to create stunning curtains like this:


This is some of the most painstaking work I’ve ever seen. It’s like pointillism except your fingers bleed. Where does his ambition come from? He connects flattened caps together with a painstaking specificity…


…to create splashes of color and texture. Look how this piece spills onto the floor.


Here he collected the tops of tins…


…to create long, snake-like sculptures that ooze across the floor and up the wall.

photo-12 photo-22

From a distance, the pieces hanging on the wall look like great swaths of multi-colored fabric. You want to reach out and caress it. Closer inspection reveals its sharp edges and copper wiring, not soft to the touch.

Behind a curtain of pop top rings.


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Summer is half over. Do you guys call them lightning bugs or fireflies? It’s a regional preference. Do you call it a bucket or a pail? Pop or soda? The Daughters gather them up in our back yard and I always insist they release them. They’re not permitted to stuff them into jars. They’re such beautiful, innocent, harmless creatures. Both The Daughters and the fireflies. I wouldn’t keep either one imprisoned.

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This pic is raw, straight from my iPhone. No Photoshopping, no Camera+, no Picoli—nothing. The technology behind this astonishes me. Some guy wrote a code that allows this to happen. Man, I’ll never be that smart.


My quasi-liberal bent is sorely tested

ALBANY—The New York State Senate has passed the “Public Assistance Integrity Act,” that would prohibit welfare recipients from using cash assistance for tobacco, alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets or gambling.

Waitaminute. Are you telling me that people are using food stamps to buy lotto tickets?

Let me establish my bona fides. When dear old dad decided to bail out because being a dad wasn’t his thing, man, we went on food stamps for a brief period of time. Additionally, Fr. Tulley from St. John Bosco arranged a few food drops. Overnight, my mom went from housewife to breadwinner. She hustled and got a job at an office supply store and got us off food stamps as quickly as possible. This all occurred during my formative years and needing a hand-out was a grievous humiliation that I used to define who I was for a long time.

It depresses me a little to think people are gaming the system in this way. I can almost understand tobacco and alcohol because those are addictions and when you have a substance addiction, you’re not going to let a little thing like an impropriety stand in the way of getting what you need. But lotto tickets?

I am a naïve waif to be surprised by all this. You can take the boy out of Ohio but, etc. I am in favor of this law. Merchants can now refuse to sell these items to customers who are paying with food stamps. Does that make me heartless or (shudder) conservative? Christ, I hope not. I don’t want to be either.

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The New York Times and CNN have been following the story of the Norwegian ex-pat in Dubai who went to the police after being raped and was promptly sentenced to 16 months in prison for illicit sex outside of marriage and alcohol consumption. It doesn’t do much for my opinion of Islamic law and even less for Dubai, which is apparently a gilded cage and a hell-hole for women.

I meditated on this. I’m a tolerant guy but reading stories about Muslims who immigrate to Western countries and then wall themselves in and refuse to follow the rules of law when they conflict with their cultural or religious beliefs doesn’t give me warm feelings. It makes me wonder why they’d want to be here in the first place.

Dubai is an appalling place but everyone going there knows the rules. As egregious as they are, should they to be condemned for enforcing their laws any more than we are for enforcing ours? They have since issued a pardon, but a pardon implies she’s guilty of the crimes charged. I hope they realize how foolish they look.

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It’s helpful for small children if the first book that grabs their attention is also the first book that breaks their heart. It gets them in the mood for Romeo and JulietEthan Frome, marriage, life.

Joe Queenan
One For The Books

Summer is half over.


A Demure Hobby

I’ll try to articulate my point without sounding like a pretentious toff but I’m warning you ahead of time I might not be able to pull it off.

If you live close to New York City and never take your kids in to experience its rich cultural offerings, you are a negligent parent. Art is life. It’s important. At this point, The Daughters walk around the Metropolitan Museum of Art like they own the joint. They can spot van Gogh’s thick, juicy brush strokes at 15 paces. They know their way around the mezzanine section of a theater. But turning them into culture snobs is also a terrible mistake. They need a variety of experiences. That’s why when summer rolls around, we make sure they get a good, healthy dose of loud, violent fun. It’s summer and time for…



WOO HOO! That’s right, bitches. Roller Derby is alive and well and flourishing in New Jersey. Our team, the Red Bank Roller Vixens, recently went head-to-head with their arch nemesis (not really) the Shoreline Belladonnas. I don’t want to get all Oprah on you guys but aside from the purely visceral  pleasures of watching a bout, I like the fact that the girls get to see a bunch of women out there knocking it around a bit. Roller Derby is just as important an influence as Degas, and I’m not joking about that.


A funny thing happened. I asked My Bride if she wouldn’t mind taking a pic of me with one of the derby girls. Everything, and I mean everything, is a potential blog post. She knows this and indulges me. (It could be worse. It could be whisky and whores. Some guys take that route.)

At halftime I walked up to one of the toughs and sheepishly asked if she would take a picture with me. She took her mouthguard out, looked up at me and said, “I know you.” I didn’t recognize her with all her equipment on but this girl used to cut my hair! For about two years! We had a happy reunion. She left to teach so the first thing I did was yell at her for dumping me. Hair care is critically important to me and she was a grand master ninja with the scissors. I think The Daughters were kind of impressed. Hey, fellas. Check out those fish nets. Meow!


Her Roller Derby name is Lady Speedstick. They all have made-up names and they’re hilarious. Also skating on the quads that night were Pushy Galore (jersey #007), Particle CollideHer (#U235), Anita Guinness (#16oz), Strawberry Shortfuse, Fire Crack-Her (#M80), Slamour Doll, Smacks 5th Avenue, Hip Czech, etc., etc. You get the idea. This is an excellent education for The Daughters. I wouldn’t mind one bit if they signed-up.

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deck1deck2deck3deck4Hey, robins! Building your nest under the floorboards of a deck is a terrible idea. There’s a lot of foot traffic there. Should we charge them rent? Or fire up the omelet skillet?

Coffee Klatsch

Unable to walk because I was wearing shoes that are a bit too tight but too damn cool to discard, I boarded the R train at 42nd Street heading for 57th. I sat next to two girls who looked like living Barbie dolls. Early- to mid-20s. Blonde hair that I strongly suspect might not be natural. All of their clothing was candy-colored right down to their socks. Two cute little buttons. I wanted to buy them a sundae. Their thoughts must have been of chiffon and white clouds and holding hands with harmless, pretty, all-American university boys.

One was leaning close to the other and reading something off her her iPad. She read in a conspiratorial whisper, so as not to disturb anyone sitting around them. How thoughtful! The new issue of Vogue? An advice column on how to apply make-up? I looked over.

I cannot report what she was reading because it was in CHINESE. That young, cute  cheerleader is FLUENT in CHINESE. She was interpreting what it said to her friend.

Am I EVER going to STOP judging people by the way they LOOK? How many times do I need to be taught the same lessons over and over?

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This is where I have my morning jolt, weather permitting.

Michael Bloomberg, genius mayor of New York (may he run for president someday), is leaving office. His greatest legacy, as far as I’m concerned, is closing stretches of Broadway and other Avenues and converting them into public spaces. They’re great for hanging out and watching the big parade of humanity march by. Here’s the view from my morning coffee. This used to be a section of Broadway that roared with traffic. Now look at it. The reason there are so few people around is that it’s 6:30 a.m. Come back at 8:00 p.m. and there isn’t room to walk.


A: The New Year’s Eve ball. A few years ago they decided to leave it out year-round. Every time I have guests and point it out, they all say the same thing: “It’s a lot smaller than I thought it would be.” Boy…if I had a nickel for every time I heard that…

B: Disney. Ubiquitous. Has come to define what Times Square is vs. what it was. I’m not crazy about it, but I remember the pimps, whores and junkies. I know that image has a certain dark, poetic panache, but that’s all just selective memory. This is the lesser of two evils. Listen to Travis Bickel’s monologue as he drives his taxi through the area. It’s accurate.

C: A gaggle o’ NYPD.

D: A gaggle o’ tourists.

E: NYC wildlife.

F: A damn good cuppa. Only $1.25! Or, you can go to the Starbucks that my coffee cart guy parks in front of and pay double or triple or quadruple. And they say there aren’t any bargains in NYC. Feh.

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Billboard in the northeast corner of Times Square courtesy of French artist JR. It was more amusing before government surveillance revelations were made.


The existential crisis of 8 July

I’ve posted plenty of photos of The Daughters but I never show their faces. It feels intrusive and ill-advised. This is an open-architecture environment so I think some restraint is in order. [Per her request, I’ve never posted a photo of My Bride. You have to respect people’s wishes. Especially the ones you sleep next to every night.] Honestly, I don’t know what I’m so worried about. This isn’t a well-trafficked site. What harm can come of it?

Nevertheless, since I started blogging, I’ve allowed the indulgence of a full-frontal photo of The Daughters every year on my birthday. Why do I do this? What’s the difference between posting ONE revelatory photo and posting DOZENS? Why is it okay on one particular day of the year but verboten the other 364? It is, of course, ego-driven. A cry for attention. Look at my kids! Look at me! Today’s my birthday! It all seems (seems?!) kind of needy, don’t you think? But I make no apologies. A blog can be an artistic endeavor. A means of expression. But, let’s face it, it’s also a cry for attention and a sop to our egos.

Look at my kids! Look at me! Today’s my birthday!


This was taken backstage at a big rock concert at Giants Stadium. Everyone pines to go backstage but, take my word for it, it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. I always feel like an intruder who has no business being  there. That’s because I’m an intruder who has no business being  there. I feel like I’m in everybody’s way. But it’s nice if it’s raining. And I think The Daughters enjoyed themselves.

My age? I’m feeling very old this year. Very old. I will not reveal it. I never do. It’s a tic. Don’t judge me. Some people smoke. Others gossip. I’m hung-up on my age.

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Speaking of daughters, I see that Kim and Kanye named their newborn North West. Celebrities shouldn’t be permitted to name their children. In honor of North’s birth, I quote the following lyrics from various Kanye West songs.

“We in the bathroom now, she get her back blew out
She can’t clean but I bet she got a vacuum mouth”

“To all my second string bitches, trying to get a baby
Trying to get a baby? Now you talkin’ crazy!”

“Like my bitch when she pop champagne bottles
I tell you about them damn models
They can’t cook a lick but they’ll lick a dick and swallow!”

“Come and meet me in the bathroom stall
And show me why you deserve to have it all
Ball so hard
You know how many hot bitches I own?”

What do you think ol’ Kanye’ll do to the first man he overhears telling North she’s one of his second string bitches? Laugh at the irony? Or do you suppose that little fool has seen the light now that he has a daughter?

Hip-hop is a blight on the black community. They got rid of one ball and chain and replaced it with another. I guess I’m just an old, broken down white guy. One year older, to be specific.