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.

nearness2

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.

nearness3

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.

nearness4

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

nearness_lg

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.

69 thoughts on “Summer’s here and the time is right…

  1. Waddya mean – 6am is too early to be in the City? For dawn-risers like me, it’s the best.
    Oh dear…I suppose there had to be a Typhanie.How many more, I wonder?
    Thanks for the tour.

  2. I just love these artsy posts, Mark! I also think these installations are even kind of mystical with no people around. Or, maybe the word is stark. Very cool! Did you walk through the figures? How could you not? I think about your mom/executive and just think it’s a different experience with the nanny than it is with the nanny. Her experience is different from someone who must be solo! That has an effect on probably everything, but who is to say what exactly. That’s too bad about Sex Tape. I don’t know much about it, but it sounds saucy. Ha ha on the mommy blog. Doesn’t anyone do any research? Duh!

    • Hi Amy. Glad you enjoy this stuff. Sometimes I wonder if anyone else is interested. Of course I walked through them! How could you resist?

      Having been through two babies, I certainly see the attraction to hiring a nanny. But it’s a slippery slope, isn’t it? At what point do you say, okay, I’ll take it from here? Ever? The next thing you know you’re hiring someone to show your kid how to ride a two-wheeler. which should be right of passage

  3. That art work should have been called “The holes that people make when they jump through fences.” I’d like to see those things used in an obstacle course. Has any blog been sold for big money? I think people with famous blogs normally write books which make modest amounts of money. Emma Kaufman used to write a lot about sex in her mommy blog. I miss those days!

    • I like your obstacle course idea. If they made the structures out of razor wire, it could probably be a big hit on American TV.

      As stated below, I think they might have gotten the blog = $$$ idea from Huffington Post but aside from that I can’t imagine any media conglomerate offering a plug nickle for a blog. Especially a mommy blog.

  4. What a striking exhibit!

    I want to know who said “This movie will be a hit! It’s relevant! Sex AND The Cloud?”

    Some people have too much time on their hands and/or too many connections that owe them favors in Hollywood.

    • It’s a pretty nice exhibit and do you know what? It’s FREE! Another reason for you to hook up with the Mega Bus. Do it for a day!

      Too much time and too much money. I’m CERTAIN that if someone paid top dollar for my blog, I’d change my tune.

  5. I suppose they meant a blog like the Huffington Post… that started as an ordinary blog, didn’t it?
    But I will put my blogs on Ebay…. and see if I get any interest. I could be a millionaire next time you see me.
    Sx

    • I gather you’re correct. Huff Post was probably the model but they should have made it a political blog or an entertainment blog a’ la Jump the Shark (which actually DID sell for a ton of money). Sane idea executed in an insane manner. Fail.

      If you become a millionaire I’ll be able to say I knew you when…

    • “Blog on Ebay…”
      Now, why did I not think of that?

      My ad will read: “One slightly used (viewed?) blog for sale. Make Offer. Copyright rights and mineral rights all reserved.”
      😉

    • Isn’t that a right-of-passage between a parent and child? But I’m not making that up. It was in the paper. The people being interviewing thought it was a great idea but after reading the article you felt bad for the kids. Some busy professional parents don’t have the time or are too stressed out to run next to a two-wheeler so they pay someone to do it for them.

  6. Ah, Martha & the Vandellas. I miss those good ol’ days. When Van Halen covered that song I wanted to declare a national day of mourning.

    I *love* that del Rio installation (speaking of high-minded words. Installation. Geez.). I had not seen it before but your photos make me want to hop a jet to see for myself….alone…as you did. It kinda reminds me of a circus act where performers go through hoops of fire. Or something like that.

    I never understood the Bring Baby To Work Day(s). If I were a barren woman could I bring my new kitten or puppy (or guppy) in to show off the latest addition to my family? But I’m not a barren woman and I was smart enough NOT to bring my newborn in to work once he made his appearance in the world. He was one ugly baby.

    P.S. I’d pay money to READ your blog, Mark.

    • I was hoping to put an earworm into someone’s ear and it looks like you’re the winner! (Or the loser if you can’t get it out.)

      Man, I love ‘installation.’ I use it instead of exhibit for these outdoor pieces. I don’t know why it sounds so much better. The lexicon of love. Looking at the shapes reminded me of the old Warner Brother’s Bugs Bunny cartoons when someone crashes through a door and the hole is in the shape of a body.

      I get it. People are happy about their new baby. They’re proud parents. It’s a disruption but I try not to hate all over someone’s joy. That’s not a healthy attitude.

      I appreciate the P.S. but, as it says up top, there’s NEVER A FEE. But if someone wants to buy this spot it’s definitely for sale.

  7. Ah, Hollywood. First alien invasions, now mummy blogs getting sold for millions. It’s definitely gone too far.

    I don’t know about the child / nanny thing, but when I still had my horse which is as close as it’ll get for now, after years of looking after him myself, for the last couple of years I was able to keep him at stables where someone else did the hard work (the day to day) and I could just turn up and ride. I completely lost the connection with him by doing that. I didn’t know how much feed he had, or what rugs he had on. You have to do the day-to-day stuff, the nitty gritty, I wouldn’t do it again. I wonder if it’s the same with kids.

    • There have been blogs that actually blew up and sold for a ton of cash but it’s a rare thing. To imagine that a mommy blog would draw the interest of a media conglomerate is just too, too funny. Unintentionally so.

      My sister had to work for a living so my two nieces were raised in daycare. She said she came home from work one day and they were potty trained. While that’s awesome on some level, I think she would have absolutely preferred to stay at home and do that herself. Why someone who actually COULD stay at home but still relinquish the raising of their children to an employee is a mystery to me. Some folks just aren’t into it.

  8. Why have children if your going to have a nanny around to raise them? Yes I worked full time but when I got home & weekends they were all mine. I did the brownies, Girl Scouts even played cookie mom. Traveled while one was on a competing drill team, never missed a football game because of band. Can’t imagine missing all those great memories because someone else is raising them. PS-I did have to potty train one if them.

    • Umm…because it makes life easier? But you are robbed of something as well, I think. I’d never want a nanny raising these rotten kids of mine.

      To this day I have no idea how you managed it all. It’s a pretty admirable feat. You’re still managing!

  9. Man, I’m so with you on the striking significance of this street art piece, Mark. How cool! I’d love to run through at least one fence. For some reason, the top one reminded me of the cartoon Fat Albert gang. Go figure my brain. I can’t.

    I also thing this artist’s written blurb sucks. It’s 180-wrong! His work represents the breaking down of the barriers between us. To me, anyway.

    Worse than destroying your mojo, don’t you think that the hired-hand approach just tells your kids your time is too important to spend on them? That’s the freaking problem with the Tyffanees that are coming out of the upper-end mini-manse’s of Long Island and Northern Jersey, no? Rich kids know that mommy and daddy never really cared. The no-grit problem is further down the list.

    Hey, anybody out there want to buy a generalist’s blog that gets HUNDREDS of views a day?!

    • I love street art. Even the failed attempts. We have an arts council in the city that funds these projects every year. I look forward to what they’ll come up with next. At long last, a justification for my taxes.

      That’s an astute observation regarding the kids. Once these kids are parents, do you suppose they’re going to raise their own kids? Probably not. That sounds so cynical but they learn at the feet of the masters, don’t they?

      Hundreds. You braggart. I aspire to hundreds.

      • I think the kids will resent the parents so much that they’ll reverse the cycle and love the hell out of their own kids, Mark.

        As for hundreds … I’m shocked you’re not there now.

        Keep commenting on Aussa’s blog in your wise, sarcastic and sometimes even apologetic manner and you will get there. Her crowd should be jumping over in droves for you. I’m under the impression (look at her number of commenters) that’s she’s well in the thousands.

      • That’s more plausible than you think. Dear old dad was a little, shall we say, detached. Consequently, I’m involved with my daughters in a way he never was with me. I learned the valuable lessons he taught me.

        Aussa’s a hell of a writer and deserves that audience of hers. Copernicus was wrong. Hacker, Ninja, Hooker, Spy is the center of the universe.

  10. I love street art and think those chain link fences are cool. I also like good graffiti.

    I think if you get someone else to look after your kids to the extent of getting someone to teach them to ride their bike, then I would question why on earth you are having them. I agree with you in that you need to experience the ‘everything’ of it all. To me, they are missing out.

    On a side note: I now have follow buttons on my new site – hoorah – and you can now add me to your reader. My RSS feed – http://www.julessmith.co.uk/feed
    Thanks 🙂

    • Honey, you are already in my reader. I use Feedly. You’ve been in my reader for a very long time now. Don’t take that lightly. I dump out when things get dull. Life is too short for boring blog posts. You’re a double-treat. Words + photos.

      I am anti-graffiti. Almost irrationally so. The problem is that I lived in NYC when graffiti was EVERYWHERE. And it wasn’t the clever, clean versions you see in the art galleries. It was a lot of junk. It uglied-up my subways. It made my town look like a dump. I cannot stand when it’s given cred as an art form. It is not. It’s vandalism.

      • Well thanks, honey. My rss at new place wasn’t working so I thought I’d tell everyone that it is now.
        Yes I agree that it Graffiti is vandalism if it’s “BAZ WOZ ERE” written on some historic piece of architecture, or on any building. However, I’m talking about the real talented urban artists that have brilliant art skills. The kind that jazz up some worn down, decrepit place with spray cans.
        Also, in Verona as you walk into the Juliet’s house, the entry wall is covered in names and messages from all over the world and it looks amazing.

      • rss. What the hell is that, anyway? It’s all so complicated. Can’t it just be about the posts? No. That’s why I had to HIRE someone to get this idiot site up and running. That person has disappeared so if something goes wrong and it’s something that she did that can’t be understood by someone else, I’m screwed.

        I don’t separate it out. (Graffiti, that is.) It makes no difference to me if it’s the product of a genuine talent or a thug. It’s all vandalism in my book. I saw too much of the crap and destruction. It has clouded my judgement.

  11. Those art installations are cool indeed. The shapes of the people are gentle, just standing normally, but the blood red alludes to some kind of horror which makes it all quite chilling. Makes me think of a Stephen King novel or something.

    The nanny thing is strange isn’t it. Especially when people don’t have to work and have the nanny there anyway. To me, if you’re wealthy then sure, have staff to do your cleaning, your laundry, your gardening, maybe even you’re cooking if you’re not into doing that, whatever, but surely all of that is so as to free you up to be able to spend the time with your children right? But even if you’re at work, I would personally rather send my child to a daycare I think so that they get to interact with other kids and learn social skills etc rather than just be at home with a nanny. My sister works as a nanny in London.

    One of my friends here recently went on a trip to Detroit, and guess where she stayed? Not a hotel, no, Martha Reeves’ apartment! Oh yes. Long story about how she ended up getting to know her which I won’t bore you with.

    • You’re correct about the outlining of the fences. Just to have the shapes cut out would have left me cold. The added color makes it work in a big way. It makes it *pop*. So clever, don’t you think?

      I understand the temptation to get a nanny. Children–especially babies–are a lot of unpleasant, time-consuming work. You’d avoid it if you could. But that doesn’t preclude me from writing a post about how lame it makes you look. And just to make the distinction, I’m not talking about working mothers who use daycare. I’m referring to the women of leisure who don’t want their leisure spoiled by something as inconvenient as a new baby.

      Does your nanny-sister keep a blog? Probably not in her best interest professionally but I’ll bet it would make for some compelling posts. How about a guest post on your place? That’d be safe, don’t you think?

      The Martha Reeves’ story needs to be told, please. We’ll be the judge as to whether or not it’s dull. If nothing else, I’d like to know WHY someone from the UK would go to Detroit in the first place. Was it specifically to meet Ms. Reeves?

      • No my nanny-sister doesn’t keep a blog, and I’m not sure that’s her thing really, but it probably would make a good one if she could be sure to keep it anonymous!

        Ok, well the Martha story in brief – my friend is a huge Motown fan, and saw Martha and the Vs performing in the UK, ended up going back stage and chatting with Martha and her sister. This happened a couple of times and they became Facebook friends and kept in touch. So the trip to Detroit was really a Motown pilgrimage, but also an opportunity to see Martha and her sister again.

      • That’s not a boring story at all! How many people do you know get to meet someone as important as her and have enough of a chemistry to establish a real friendship? That’s beautiful. I find it strangely satisfying that Ms. Reeves still lives in Detroit. That city is flat on its ass like few others. Good on her for not bailing out.

  12. Wow, great post Mark. I love that “installation”. It is so full of imagery and levels of meaning. Whew. I often think of obstacles in our lives as fencing (actually I think chicken wire). They are necessary to define us and yet have to be passed though in order to grow. The fact that all the various parts of the installation show multiple people passing through, suggests that relationships are the key to passing the barriers to growth. And the fencing that surrounds the silhouettes is doubled up or bent back – not cut out. That to me suggests that the people who passed the barriers pushed through against the resistance of the barriers. They used personal strength and relationships, not tools to overcome. The red color (more like orange) does not resemble blood to me but rather heat – the residual glow of steel that has been heated and then shaped or penetrated. That the figures applied so much energy to the steel barrier that it left the barrier glowing after they’d passed through. Very neat.

    Anyway, I could go on forever about those pictures of that installation. Very well done and well photographed Mark. Thank you.

    On other fronts: yes, I agree that having nannies look after children clearly says to the kids that they are not the most valuable in their parents’ eyes. This is sort of a pet peeve of mine as I see our society gradually tending more and more towards individuality and wealth. And less and less towards relationships and belonging. Actually a neat statement about the installation – realtionships enable growth and the crossing of barriers.

    Sex tapes: I haven’t seen it but the trailers made it look like it could a lot of fun. Obviously with an R.T. rating of 20% the producers missed the mark (Ho, Ho and also missed the Mark). I’ve seen movies like that before that saved the very best for the trailers and everything in between was junk. I doubt I’ll make the effort to see it now.

    Thank You Mark for the cultural and artistic update. Much appreciated.

    • What a beautiful and precise right up! THAT’S how it’s done. The artist should adopt your interpretation. It’s more accessible than what’s provided. I’m particularly pleased that he included the silhouettes of children holding hands with an adult. It makes it seem more humane.

      Theres a long piece in the Op-Ed section if the Sunday Times today, the sub-caption if which reads: “What do fame, wealth and lots of sex bring? Exactly the opposite of what you think.” This pleases me to no end because I don’t have over abundance of ANY of those and I often mistakenly think those are the ingredients to fulfillment. I need to be slapped some sense every once in a while.

      Your comments are always so well-articulated and thoughtful. Thanks for that.

  13. Very interesting and entertaining post! It’s always so much fun to see creative minds at work! I I agree with you though about the explanations being too high-minded. I’d be a little meaner and call them pretentious.
    And just the title of Sex Tape makes me feel like I’m being manipulated patronizing eighth grader. (By the way, I think I have a buyer for this comment — I’m working on a screenplay about it right now)

    • Scroll up and read Paul’s impressions. That’s how it’s done. Exhibits of this ilk make me feel like a creative pipsqueak. I couldn’t come up with this stuff! But I always say that artists need an audience. They’d be nothing without my appreciation.

      If there’s any money to be made on this site it’s to be paid to the bank of Mark. Yeah?

    • I haven’t read enough Ford. I think I read The Sportswriter when I was in my 20’s but, of course, I was too young to understand or appreciate it. Have you read the whole trilogy? What about Cheever? Have you read him? Then other patron saint of the ‘burbs.

      • Yes, I’ve read the other two. Loved them both, especially Independence Day but also this one very much. Detail heavy, but Ford turns phrases that make you go, “gawdDAMN!” Have read some Cheever but not enough.

  14. “I think that wealth makes some people soft.”

    Perhaps so, but I’d love to have the chance to find out for myself…

    As to Sex Tape, the preview for it looked really funny. I’m surprised to see it flopping so hard.

  15. “Mommy blogs—hell, blogs in general—are about as rare as oxygen molecules.”
    Mommy blogs. Gotta love ’em. I’m gonna buy a computer and an internet connection for my mommy. I am quite sure she will have some choice words about her ‘Raising Lance’ experience.
    Cheers!

  16. I’ve recently read of services that provide (a) potty training for little children and (b) packing for overnight camp for older ones.
    Yep…must be coming on to End of Days

  17. I do like Jason Segel though, despite his bad choices. I’m still enamored of him as Marshall on How I Met Your Mother. He was just one of the nicest people, real or imagined, I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

    • I love how you binge on my posts. It’s an interesting way to go about it. As if my blog were a Netflix series. Is this how you navigate through blogland? In big meals vs. small morsels?

      Jason Segel hasn’t made very many bad choices, as evidenced by how well he’s doing for himself. He will always be given a pass because of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Best break-up movie ever make.

      • I do it to just about everyone. I’d rather read them as they post, but there’s only so much free time and a lot of mine is spent away from the laptop. So… better late to the buffet than never!

      • That’s smart. I’m pretty good about reading a post a day or two after it’s up, but I’m at capacity for following. I can’t add a new blog to my reader unless I take one out. It’s sad but this pesky life gets in the way.

  18. Hire someone to teach your kid to ride a bike? I think this and other parenting ‘aides’ like nannies rob parents and their kids from those token childhood memories… your first step, the loss of your first tooth, falling off your first bike. Life might be easier, but I think those parents lose the substance, the real juicy and fulfilling parts of life.

    • The sad fact of the matter is that there are people with children who have no desire to be a parent. There are other aspects of life that are more interesting to them. Some find fulfillment with their work. Others can’t bear to lose their freedom. When these things occur and you have the means, you pay someone else to raise them for you.

  19. Love the outdoor installation! You are making me twitch for a return visit – won’t be there til October, and then i might be on a short leash as i’m attending a Long Islant wedding. That last one, in front of the recruiting station, made me choke up a bit, as you can imagine…

    Babies at work? Unless the little shits are on the payroll, i say keep the germbuckets out of the office. i work adjacent to laboratories – where there are seriously toxic chemicals. i would not bring a baby into that environment – it happens on occasion, though. i am that person – when others are passing around a baby and oohing and cooing and fussing over it – that will smile politely, offer words such as ‘how adorable! looks like Winston Churchill as an old man!” and then get on about my day… If asked (god forbid) “would you like to hold the baby” my answer is a solid “No, not really! But thanks!”

    i liked my kids. As babies? i managed not to kill them through ineptitude. i really don’t want the responsibility of someone else’s kid…

    • If you get any time at all in Manhattan I called dibs. October is a beautiful time to be here.

      You (we) are right to play along with the baby game. They’re proud parents. Who are we to spoil their joy? But I draw the line at holding babies. I’d rather pet a cat.

      • i’ll keep you posted on plans – wedding is on 11 Oct (Sat). We’re thinking of coming in on Thursday prior to fart around and see a show… leaving the morning of the 12th because we need to get to Miami for a drunken regatta. rackin’ up them frequent flier miles!

  20. I never had a nanny for my boys although I found domesticity achingly dull. As soon as the cleaner came I would rush our and do some sort of job. When they went to school I created a job which meant I delivered them to school in the morning, picked them up in the afternoon and worked in between. It meant involving a couple of partners – one with children one without but we built a very successful business and hopefully the boys didn’t suffer.

    • That’s actually a very courageous thing to admit. Having children and the wherewithal to stay home to care for them is the dream. You’re not the only one who finds aspects of it dissatisfying but not many are willing to admit it.

  21. Love that exhibit. Sigh. The best art exhibit around here is the sidewalk chalk. I mean, there’s some talented kids out there, but it’s hard to really enjoy artwork that’s interspersed with nose cheese.

    Someone named their kid Eurkea? What is a Typhanie? This kills me. Mind you, my kids’ names are a bit off, but that not that off. But I guess others might think the same of me. Rich people soft? Yes, intentionally so in my opinion. They don’t want to be hard. They don’t want to slog. They’re happy to give away the things that they don’t have to do. I know someone at work who is young and zooming through the company, he works about 75 hours a week on average. I asked him how he does it – he has a wife and kids. He told me he outsources everything in his life, pretty much. I don’t know how far he’s taken that line, but I figure it’s further than I would imagine.

    • I guess is part of our nature to avoid unpleasantness whenever possible. If wealthy people can surround themselves with a protective bubble and avoid The Slog, when why not do it? But you’ve got to be careful to not surrender your humanity, for cryin’ out loud. Your colleague had better be careful. His single-minded focus on career is going to cause some regret, methinks. I’ve see that play before.

      • Yup. He’ll not know his one child. When he has another, he won’t know that one either. He’ll look back on it, and he’ll be rich. But that’s all he’ll be. And that’s not enough. Hey, I like money as much as the next guy, and I won’t say that it doesn’t matter, but it’s not everything.

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