Sunday, August 14, 2022

"The Shop Around The Corner"

If you like "You've Got Mail," you should see the original movie it was based on, "The Shop Around The Corner." Made by Ernst Lubitsch in 1940, that film stars James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan and Frank Morgan (who had just played the Wizard in "The Wizard of Oz").

A decade later (1949) MGM re-made this movie as a musical with Judy Garland ("In The Good Old Summertime"). A decade after that (1963) a new musical adaptation of the story opened on Broadway and was a success. That show was re-staged in 1993 ("She Loves Me") and again won over audiences.

Finally in 1999 Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan starred in "You've Got Mail," updating it with e-mail instead of letters. As a tribute to its source, Meg Ryan's store in the movie was called The Shop Around The Corner.

I find "The Shop..." to be even better than "You've Got Mail." It's smart, witty and emotional. It's writer/director, Ernst Lubitsch, was one of our greatest film artists and he considered this comedy to be his best work. Go check it out!


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

"Scenes From A Marriage"

Some art, made before we were old enough to appreciate it, deserves being experienced now.

I can't believe how good "Scenes From A Marriage" is. Made in 1973 by Ingmar Bergman, this six-episode Swedish TV series earned raves from everyone including Roger Ebert ("best of the year") and The New York Times. It was later transformed into a shorter movie but see the TV show for full impact. Libraries have it on DVD.

The ostensible subject is marriage but, more than that, it explores intimacy in relationships. Emotional, sexual and practical. Despite being made with almost no money the show entrances you by its deep writing and skillful acting (e.g., Liv Ullmann). It'll make you laugh and cry at the absurdity of human relations.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Solar-Powered Cars

If you visit an antique car museum you'll be surprised by some unexpected facts. A century ago there were hundreds of inventors, working at small companies, exploring diverse approaches to transportation. As we sought to replace horse-drawn carriages various possibilities were tried. Nobody knew what would catch on in the future so all ideas were considered.

Many of the new cars were powered by electricity. Their energy was cleaner than gas-powered internal combustion engines (ICE). Only sleazy political dealings gave the petroleum industry and ICEs commercial advantages that allowed it to dominate the automotive industry for the next hundred years.

As we now return to electric vehicles (EV) to combat climate change we're starting to see new car companies and designs emerge. The creativity of a century ago is emerging again in developing alternatives to carbon-spewing ICEs.

I'm sure you know about EVs but have you heard about solar-powered cars? Really! They're in final stages of development and one company will produce cars later this year (Aptera). Two other companies will open soon in Europe (Lightyear 0 and Sono Motors Sion). These vehicles charge their engines by solar panels and can also accept power from other sources. They pollute less than EVs and will become an interesting alternative. I plan to be the first kid on my block to get one!



Saturday, August 6, 2022

Anniversary

Hard as it is to believe, today is exactly 25 years since I first got on a motorcycle. Naturally this causes some reflection.

I ride motorcycles because I like to ride motorcycles. They offer real, intrinsic pleasures. Like the joy of dancing with nature's forces, getting thrills from fierce acceleration, and savoring the excitement of leaning deeply into curves. In short, motorcycles are fun.

I never cared or worried about their social status. I don't cosplay as a tattooed biker or resemble a teenage squid. I'm simply a guy who enjoys riding.

In the 1950s and '60s, motorcycles became cool. They acquired social cachet from Hollywood movies and national magazines that glamorized them as the pinnacle of social deviance. They were seen as forbidden toys for dangerous bad boys. That image caused many young people to try riding. 

The symbolism dwindled, however, and later disappeared. Today you might see a motorcycle in a brief cameo during an action-movie but they aren't the stars anymore; films aren't centered around motorcycles the way they used to be. This change diminished the interest of some young people in riding -- which is sad, because speeding through space on two wheels has real-world appeal.

As the motorcycling community gets older and smaller, I refuse to abandon an activity that makes me happy. I didn't get into motorcycles because of "society" (which is just other people's views); I won't get out of it for the same reason. As long as I can continue to swing my leg over a piece of hot metal, I'll do so.

"When the path reveals itself, follow it." 

(C. Strayed, "Brave Enough," p. 79)

"Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba." 

(H. Thompson, "Kingdom of Fear," p. 173)


Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Value of Money

If you keep your eyes open you'll see odd sights.

I was walking from my motorcycle to the Starbucks in Syosset. Something in the parking lot caught my eye. I mean literally *IN* the parking lot. 

A coin! An actual U.S. nickel. Judging from its half-encased position the coin got embedded there when the asphalt pavement was laid down; it'd be impossible to slip in after the pavement hardened.

An oddity as strange as this deserves comment. Perhaps a metaphor, perhaps humor. Any ideas?

I'm quoting Yogi Berra who said "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore" -- and adding this nickel ain't worth anything anymore!



Tuesday, July 26, 2022

More Art

Art is subjective. A good way to explore it is by jumping into the pool, looking at a large collection and seeing what resonates with you personally. You're often surprised to like both a contemporary photograph and a 400-year old painting. You do you.

Here's art that spoke to me at the CMA on Sunday.


John Singer Sargent, "Carmella Bertagna" (1880)



Frank Stella, "La vecchia dell'orto" (1986)



Lucas Foglia, "Amanda After A Birthday Party, Jackson, Wyoming" (2010)



Richard Anuszkiewicz, "Dual Red" (1979)



Alison Saar, "Nocturne Navigator" (1998)



Erika Stone, "Lower Eastside Facade" (1947)

Monday, July 25, 2022

Columbus Museum of Art

While in Ohio I accompanied my good friend Emma to the Columbus Museum of Art. As we entered the museum I was delightfully surprised -- the first thing we saw was a large work of glass art by none-other-than Lino Tagliapietra, the world-famous Maestro whose work I collect. In fact, I had dinner with Lino and his wife two months ago.

I learned Lino made the large piece ("Endeavor") specifically for this location in 2003. It fills the space with bright colors and dynamic energy. 

The CMA accurately reflects Columbus and possesses terrific art. I'll post more pictures soon.









Saturday, July 23, 2022

Motorcycle Rally

I travelled 600 miles so I could attend a vintage motorcycle rally in Ohio today. It's the largest one in the country, full of people selling, doing and riding everything you can imagine. It was fun!



























Thursday, July 21, 2022

Human Behavior


Two centuries ago novelist Gustave Flaubert wrote something wise. 

He said: "A man judging another is a sight that would make me burst with laughter if it did not fill me with pity."


Monday, July 18, 2022

Art

"Artists are the only ones who do any good in the world."

  - Albert Camus, "Notebooks 1942-1951" (p.81)




Sunday, July 10, 2022

Herman Munster

Today is actor Fred Gwynne's birthday. He would have been 96 years old. (He died three decades ago.)

Everyone recognizes Fred from his iconic performance as Herman Munster in "The Munsters," a classic TV show from the Sixties. Even though it only ran for two seasons its impact was deep and lasting due to syndication. 

Aside from an amusing role as a Judge in "My Cousin Vinny," my favorite perfomance of Fred's was "Car 54, Where Are You?" That was an earlier Sixties TV show which included Al Lewis (Grandpa on "The Munsters"). I saw Al Lewis in person in the 1980s when he owned a restaurant on Bleecker Street in Manhattan. Every day he stood there smiling at everyone. What a nice guy.

Life is funny and moves in unpredictable directions. For example, Fred Gwynne was born into a wealthy family, attended a fancy prep-school (Groton) and graduated from Harvard University. He acted in respectable plays by Shakespeare. One would never guess he'd be best-remembered for clownish Herman Munster, but there you go. :)

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Long Hair

Do you have long hair? Have you ever had it?

Long hair is more work than short hair but I believe the trouble is worth it. I'm paying more attention to my hair right now and enjoying the effort. There was a learning curve at first but I've jumped that hurdle.

What's your hair look like?



Tuesday, July 5, 2022

In Print

Imagine my surprise when I opened the new July issue of BMW MOA magazine today and saw my motorcycle. Not one like my bike but my ACTUAL motorcycle!

Displayed on page 11 is my red S1000R with my name and quotation alongside it. I took this photograph recently with my best digital camera (Nikon D5200); you may recall seeing the image about a month ago.

This is a sign it's time to ride!



Thursday, June 30, 2022

Hells Angels

Sonny Barger -- whose real name was Ralph -- just died at 83 from cancer. He was the famous leader of the Hells Angels (Oakland chapter). Sonny founded the group the year I was born (1957) and ran it at the tragic event in Altamont when the Angels (hired as "security") killed a Black man during a 1969 Rolling Stones concert. (The murder was captured on film and is at the center of the documentary "Gimme Shelter.")

I read Sonny's autobiography four decades ago. One notable thing that jumped out at me was Sonny's admission that he wanted to ride a Honda sport-touring bike but feared his fellow gang-members would make fun of him for not riding a Harley so he never switched bikes. Here's a guy, leader of the Hells Angels, who's afraid to ride the motorcycle of his choice because his male buddies might tease him. That story taught me about real courage and cowardice.


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Just Room Enough Island

The 1,864 islands in the region I just visited vary in size from big (40 square miles) to small. To count as an island a place has to be above sea-level all year round and have at least one living tree on it.

Most of the islands I saw have only one or two homes on them. I laughed at one called "Just Room Enough Island" which is true to its name; it's only 3,300 square feet and amazingly has a full-sized house on it. The owner says "One misstep and you're swimming."

Would you live there?!

Monday, June 27, 2022

Thousand Islands

My friend Aimee and I had a wonderful day yesterday. 

We explored the Thousand Islands of St. Lawrence River near the east end of Lake Ontario. The area straddles the Canadian border and literally contains 1,864 islands. 

We rode a boat from Alexandria Bay to beautiful Singer Castle and newly-restored Boldt Castle. A century ago this is where the wealthy spent their idyllic Summers. 

I'd enjoy living in a castle on an island. :)





















Sunday, June 26, 2022

New Art

Yesterday, en route to Potsdam, I stopped in Syracuse to visit the Everson Museum of Art. You never know what you're gonna find in small regional museums.

I discovered the works of two artists who are new to me. Their paintings are impressive. One artist, Morris Louis, lived during the Abstract Expressionist period and the other, Angela Fraleigh, is painting now.

The museum lobby has two large paintings, one by Helen Frankenthaler and another by Morris Louis. That makes sense because Helen influenced Morris; both were painting in the 1950s and Morris adopted Helen's new technique of staining canvas with poured acrylic paint. Morris, unlike Helen, lived in Baltimore and had a long affiliation with the Maryland Institute (where Grace Hartigan later taught). Morris was heralded by art critic Clement Greenberg who also lauded Helen and Grace. Sadly, Morris died at an early age (49) from cancer in 1962.

Angela Fraleigh is a young artist working in both New York and Pennsylvania where she teaches at Moravian College. One of her paintings struck me and I'm considering acquiring some other available pieces.

Photos below of their respective paintings.





Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Summer Reading

Summer is a good time to read. What are you bringing to the beach?





Sunday, June 19, 2022

Summer Fun


Summer's here -- What fun are you looking forward to? What are your plans?

I'm traveling to visit my close friends Aimee and Emma. And attending a vintage motorcycle rally in Ohio. I hope to do more, like see my dad in Florida, and need to make plans for that.

How 'bout you?

Saturday, June 18, 2022

(Not) Fitting In


I'm normally a happy person which is my way of surviving a hostile environment. Sometimes, however, cumulative pressures mount and act to depress me. I'm in that condition now.

When I was young I realized I couldn't fit into society because of my transgender nature. That fact was explained to me over and over. In case I didn't grasp the lesson, it was forcibly imposed on me, limiting my behavior, my choices, my freedom.

Today I conclude with sadness that I don't want to fit into mainstream society. Most people there don't understand -- or care to learn about -- my reality. Why should I join them when they don't want me?

Don't be alarmed, I'm okay. Just pulling back for a bit to re-assess my place in the world.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Marriage

I saw some funny tweets on marriage:

- My husband says he loves baseball but what he really likes is to leave cupboard doors open

- When my wife puts on a dress I wear cargo pants and complain I can't find my wallet 'cause I have too many pockets

- My wife put parental controls on Netflix because I watched one of our shows without her

- My wife and I got a sitter for date night. We might get a little crazy after dinner and hit up the good Target on the other side of town

- My husband likes to grill. He never makes a side-dish. Last night he smoked a whole chicken and was just gonna have us eat chicken with nothing else

- I hung a world map on the wall, gave my wife a dart & said "throw this: wherever it lands, we're going there for vacation." Turns out we’re spending three weeks behind the fridge

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Portals

Just when you think life is mundane you discover secret portals to hidden treasure. They're there; you just need to learn how to look for them.



Friday, June 10, 2022

I [Heart] You

Hard to believe a 1972 Kodak Instamatic 30 can produce a sharp, colorful picture like this. Doesn't the image look like a heart turned on its side?



Monday, June 6, 2022

B/W

I love shooting film, especially black-and-white. It offers tools that focus visual attention on imagery that exists in real life but is overlooked by our eyes/brain.

I found this image at my local train station.



Friday, June 3, 2022

Poetic Postbox

Last month the most influential person in my life (sorry, Mom) visited for two weeks. We trekked to my favorite landmark, the Cartas Al Cielo sculpture in Avalon Nature Preserve (Stony Brook).

The sculpture "serves as a vessel of communication with those who have no earthbound address." We sent missives to deceased loved ones via the poetic postbox.

Without fanfare I recorded the moment for posterity. I used alchemy (silver halide film in an ancient camera) which was appropriate for a magical experience.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

BMW S1000R

My candle burns at both ends;

  It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends --

  It gives a lovely light!



Monday, May 16, 2022

Friends & Art

I hope you're having a nice weekend. I was in Baltimore visiting friends and looking at art. Friday I went to the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA); yesterday I dropped by The Walters Art Museum in the company of my lovely friend Hillary and her delightful hubby. (Check out Hillary's superb Makeup Museum website.) Today I popped into Washington, D.C. to brunch with an old friend, Tanvi, whom I met blogging a century ago.

A highlight of the trip was a historic special exhibition of work by Joan Mitchell at BMA. The show presents over seventy of her paintings, showing the full range of her oeuvre (1950-1992).

Joan was a member of the Second Generation of Abstract Expressionists who came to prominence in the 1950s. Joan, like contemporary Grace Hartigan, started her career being promoted by John Bernard Myers at Tibor de Nagy Gallery in NYC. I met John once at a party in his house that Grace brought us to. 

I just finished re-reading John's 1983 memoir, "Tracking The Marvelous," which describes the heroic struggles of artists of that era to create new, innovative art -- and later how fame and money ruined everything. Today Joan Mitchell's paintings sell for $20 Million dollars, a price inconceivable to the artists living back then in cold-water flats on decrepit Tenth Avenue.

Almost from the start Joan found her home in abstract art; once there she never left it. Her paintings explore experiences, not appearances, and can initially be challenging. My goal this weekend was to travel and immerse myself in the work, like an ocean, and feel its impact. A month ago I visited MOMA in NYC and was startled at how powerful Jackson Pollack's painting is when approached in person. The same with Joan's work. Reproductions don't do these majestic pieces justice. They're large, potent objects brimming with life and meaning. They touch you in multiple ways beneath rationality. 

Artists of this period were recoiling from chaos and carnage of the Second World War. They looked for alternatives to human rationalism which had shown its limits. In today's increasingly anarchic world we need to continue that search in all directions.