A potpourri of interesting tidbits

I have some bits and pieces lying around that, individually, wouldn’t have make a proper post so I’ve decided to gather them all together and drop them here. That’s how The Beatles recorded the medley at the end of Abbey Road. They merged several half-baked songs together and created a masterpiece.

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Speaking of The Beatles…Carnegie Hall has a wonderful museum with some fun relics and artifacts on permanent display. Here’s a program from February 12th, 1964 when The Beatles played their first U.S. date. This was just three days after their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, a broadcast that was viewed by over 74 million people and one that changed the course of popular culture. It’s signed by all four Beatles! Can you imagine what this would fetch on today’s market?!


Apparently, The Beatles weren’t THAT well known, because there’s a typo. They got McCartney’s name WRONG.


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I bought a new winter coat this season. It’s a good thing because the city has been bitterly cold over the past several days with more on the way. It’s long. Almost to my knees. The other day I ate something that didn’t agree with me and it gave me terrible wind. It was wafting up through the coat and exiting at the neck. I was riding on the subway and almost passed out. Awful.

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When I was a kid, Norman Rockwell was not cool. His flag-waving Americana was viewed as antiseptic and lacking soul. That was then. Today, his stuff sells for millions. Steven Spielberg is a collector, which makes perfect sense, if you think about it. Here’s an atypical and striking work by Rockwell that recently sold at Christie’s.

rockwell1The Thing to Do With Life is Live It! (Outrigger Canoe)
Estimate: $800,000 – $1,200,000. Sold for $1,625,000

This painting was commissioned by Pan Am Airlines in 1955 as a travel poster. Here’s a detail. Note the company logo on the bags and happy, well-fed tourists.

rockwell2I don’t think he captured the water spray. It looks like–I don’t know–paint. But just look at the way the sun is hitting their arms. Nice work, Norman.rockwell3

I’m reluctant to admit this because it sounds idiotic but this image strikes me as the quintessential, mid-1950’s Republican fantasy. Soft, middle-aged, wealthy, white people are served by island savages. Everyone knew their place in this ring-a-ding, rob roy, on the rocks era. They miss it. It’s what they’re trying to turn the clocks back to. It’ll never work.

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Last weekend when I took the daughters gallery-hopping, we were walking up 10th Avenue and 12-Year Old stopped dead in her tracks looked down and said, “Guys! Look at this!”


Someone painted this portrait onto the sidewalk. Don’t you love that!? It looks like it was dribbled off the tip of a paint brush. I think he captured something here and the reason it’s so striking is because it’s on concrete. No artist accreditation anywhere. Created because he had to. Because it would have killed him not to. And I love the impermanence of it. Four months from now it won’t be there anymore. It’ll have been scuffed onto the bottom of shoes or scraped away under the blade of a snow shovel.

22 thoughts on “A potpourri of interesting tidbits

  1. The Rockwell painting would have been good if he’d replaced the fat tourists with a couple of extra rowers. I would have then played the Hawaii-Five-0 theme in my mind. When I look at it now, all I can hear is “Boy, you’re going to carry that weight a long time”.

    • I don’t know why I have such reservations about this painting. Aesthetically, it’s a really nice piece. But I find the scene depicted weirdly offensive. What the hell is wrong with me, anyway?

  2. Rockwell… an artist of amazing foresight and ingenuity with what the eye does not immediately see. Take for instance the natives in the outrigger canoe. They are leaning forward to emphasis the fact that they are at ease with the surroundings, where as the tourists are leaning back, gripping the sides and acutely ill at ease with the very different environment they have (as you quite rightly pointed out) just arrived in. Rockwell, I believe, used his own tongue-in-cheek humour in this painting, regardless of the commision by Pan Am to ’emphasis’ the travel crux as the main feature.

    An interesting point that I will disagree with you over is the Republican fantasy suggestion, in fact I would go so far as to reverse the thought and suggest that it is the American tourists who are being kindly mocked in this case. I believe he has captured very well their desire to ‘fit in’. Look closer at the clothing being worn by the oarsmen, note the renowned Outrigger Canoe Club logo on the shorts? Very prestigious, as is what also appears to be the very luxurious overhang in the background which I am assuming is Diamond Point.

    The only other artist I am aware of who painted several meanings into one unique, mind bogglingly clever portrait, was of course, La Gioconda, (Mona Lisa) by the extremely intelligent Leonardo da Vinci.

    Very briefly… The Beatles, not as popular in the UK as most people in the States are lead to believe. Samey-same chords over scrappy lyrics, they never once floated my boat! Besides, Scousers have never been the apple of the British publics eye. The Rolling Stones however…. now we’re talking.

    Another great post that got me thinking sir.

    • You’ve made some incredibly astute observations (as usual). Your critique of the painting mirrors the artist’s intent when he created the piece (according to Rockwell’s biographer). And spotting the Outrigger logo is also a keen-eyed observation. That, too, was included in the painting’s history description, but I thought it too minute a detail for anyone to pick up on so I didn’t mention it. And you’re correct about Diamond Point, too! I wish you could have see it in person. It’s quite large (25 x 84 in. (63.5 x 213.4 cm.) and fetching to stand in front of. Here’s a link to the lot notes from the auction that you might find of interest.

      I believe there’s a whole genre of British 60’s pop that capitalized on the “sameness” of a chord progression. The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Who, et. al. each wrote, basically, one song that was a good fit for the band and reworked it over and over. DO NOT misinterpret this as a veiled criticism. I absolutely love all the aforementioned bands and always will.

      Another insightful comment. Well played, sir.

  3. colored girl that i am, i tend to agree with chef’s analysis…tis the tourists being gently mocked. i think i’m becoming a tad too cynical for blogville again. we can thank fucking facebook for that…

    i LOVE that bit of street art The Daughter found!

    (ever have one of those days when you just want to say, fuckit, i’m done trying to explain why i say the things i do about living in america?)


    • Today, in 2013, it looks like they’re being gently mocked but I’ll bet back in 1955, if that was the feeling the painting conveyed, Pan Am never would have used it. Times change!

      There’s art everywhere out here. Even plastered onto the sidewalk. If my daughter hadn’t spotted it, I would have walked right over his face and missed it. A bow tie! What an excellent touch!

  4. I wish I was as learned and intelligent about art and everything else as my dear friends Chef, Sav and you are. I’m not. I don’t have anything good to say except that is one star of a painting. My bad. But then again, that’s why I hang out with you guys, I’m learning all the time. Thanks for being my friends.

    I have to say I do like the Beatles, and the Stones, and Gary Numan, and Tony Bennett, and Eddi Reader, and Mary Black, and Nat, Sammy, Dean etc…

    Thank you for the lovely thing which I received in the post, what a beautiful family you have, Mrs. Wife is indeed quite beautiful, as are your wee ones. Fuckit, you’re not bad lookin’ yerself! :¬)

    • That whole “learned and intelligent” business is a bunch of crap. We all can’t be surgeons. It requires too much training. Not everyone can be elected into high office. But everyone, EVERYONE, can voice an opinion about art. It’s completely subjective. No one opinion weighs more or less than any other. That’s the beauty of it, really. Art appreciation is completely democratic.

      A holiday greeting to you and all the Maps.

  5. I kind of really like that Sir Paul suffered the indignity of having his name wrong on the program – nothing against him, just a nice reminder that we all started somewhere!

    Last winter I learned to cross country ski, which is awesome, except, it’s a pretty tough cardio activity, and yet you have to wear a ski suit… the first time I got home and released the results of all that sweating just before stepping into the shower, I nearly passed out. I never thought I’d come across someone who could empathise. Yay internet!

    • Hi Claire. Welcome and happy holidays!

      I’m going to respectfully disagree. Cross country skiing is not awesome. Pain + cold = a grumpy Mark (although, admittedly, the scenery is fetching). I’ve gone a few times and in each case, I wound up with my muscles howling in protest and, as you point out, profusely sweating. Meet me by the clubhouse fire, thank you.

  6. Spotted the ‘out of touch’ tourists in the Rockwell bit, and agree with Chef on this one… he’s far more eloquent than i could ever hope to be…

    Also have to agree that from my perspective Rolling Stones >> Beatles.

    Of all the art work you’ve posted through the years, i absolutely adore the sidewalk portrait. It was hoarked up out of need… god knows why. and it will be gone… delighted that it was a daughter who first spotted it, too! you’re doing it right…

    • That guy has a way to weave a sentence, doesn’t he? Puts my cheap efforts to shame.

      Some wise ass journalists recently asked Mick Jagger if he was a Stones guy or a Beatles guy. He deadpanned, “I’m a Stones guy.”

      I regret not putting a quarter on the sidewalk next to the portrait to give it perspective. Actually, I got my big, stupid foot in the shot and I cropped it out. Should have left it in.

  7. The pavement painting is interesting. It’s art that precedes the state in which it gets swallowed into criticism.

    I take your point Mark about the skilfulness with whiich the leaning forward figures are painted, but then, as you also say, there’s that ridiculously straight and artificial spray, which leads me to think that the skilfulness of the figures’ positions and bodies was partly an accident.

    • Rockwell was a skillful enough painter. You’ve got to admit it, even if his work is not to your liking. I don’t think there’s any accidents here. I’ve had artist friends say that water is difficult to paint. But he could have left the spray out entirely and it wouldn’t have harmed the painting one bit.

      My God…what are we discussing here? Such minutia.

  8. This has nothing to do with your current post.

    My son has become obsessed with blogging. We are always looking for posts to read together. He has a fondness for your blog, ever since I read him the post in which you took your daughters to the art gallery.

    We stumbled upon your wrestling post. You are now his True Blogging Hero. He is just exiting his WWE obsession; still halfway in/out the door. That post clinched it. You are IT for him, and he loves a LOT of blogs.

    On another note, I wanted to email you about some shiz I was thinking. If I get around to writing it – check your emails today. I had some interesting thoughts that seem aligned with yours.

    jeez- that stupid box. I’m not a spammer. They look much better in the morning.

    • Man, I love that wrestling post. I wish everyone would read it. Did you see it in my “Five Good Ones” sidebar? If you have some free time click on any one of those. I’m really proud of them.

      I’ll wait for the email but please don’t misinterpret my silence as lack of interest. I’m swamped at work and might not be able to get back to you right away. Okay?

    • Let me tell you something, my little flower. Your opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s. You count. Cut that shit out right now before I first, turn you over my knee and then force you to bake me a scrumptious pie.

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