Month: November 2005

Andy Warhol at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

When there’s an Andy Warhol exhibition in town, you go. Or maybe you don’t go, I don’t know. I went. I’d always thought of him as a big put-on, one of those people who babble on about the meaning of what they’re doing. An earnest guy, who, in all seriousness, could claim to be celebrating the icons of our culture. Yadda yadda yadda.

I get to the museum at the same time as two buses full of kids, one group of high-school students and one group of second-graders. I rolled my eyes and went in anyway: I’m brave. I went to the other exhibit first, a collection of modern- and pop-art prints and sculpture from a local collector. I saw Dali, I saw Magritte, I saw Picasso, I saw Liechtenstein.

I saw a room full of adolescents trying to find meaning in everything:

“I saw a face in the stained-glass one.”

“He saw a face! Come see!”

“See? It’s right there. The head’s kind of tilted to the side…”

They all tilted their heads to the side.

“I see it!”

“You do not. There’s nothing there.”

“No, there is. Right there. You’re just not looking at it right.”

I saw a room full of delight and nonsense: the irreverence of one picture fed into and off of another. A room with only one of those would have been a lonely, lonely room, the class clown forced to sit alone and think.

After that, I went over to the Andy Warhol exhibit. It started out with other people’s pictures of him: the white hair all askew, dark jacket. The same seriousness of expression you’d see on one of William Wegman’s dog photographs. And then there was a TV screen playing snippets of interviews.

“Does it bother you that the American public has misinterpreted Pop Art?”

“Uh, no.”

“Do you think Pop Art is dying out?”

“Uh, yes.”

“Is it time for Pop Art to move on?”

“Uh, no.”

“Are you going to continue to create Pop Art?”

“Uh, yes.”

Quotes are printed directly onto the walls, and the windows have been covered with translucent film. It’s a graphic designer’s world, big blocks of color and simple shapes everywhere. You find out that Warhol was born to Czech immigrant parents, that he was a lifelong Catholic and churchgoer, that Warhol first decorated the canvas and only then silkscreened the photographic image on top, that the fabulous shock of white hair was eventually replaced by a series of wigs.

Then, and only then, was I allowed to wander around his art. I saw Campbell’s Soup cans (one of them sported the soup type “PEPPER POT”). I saw Marilyn, at first cartoonish with yellow hair and pink lips, become progressively more disfunctional, her skin lurid shades of blue or green, the color swatches and outlines more and more out of alignment with the silkscreened photograph. I saw Chairman Mao: were we afraid of this man with the button-up collar and the effeminate lips? Or was he only the bogeyman that Warhol turned him into? I saw JFK (today is the anniversary of his assassination) through a printbook that retroactively orchestrated his assassination.

The series that cut closest to home was called “Cowboys and Indians.” He didn’t show Russell Means; he didn’t show poverty; he didn’t show Wounded Knee. He turned John Wayne, Custer, Crazy Horse (was it Crazy Horse?), a Squaw carrying an infant in a papoose, an Indian-head nickel with the word “Liberty” on it. Here are our myths: what a crock of shit. We believed in Custer with his shiny buttons. We believed in John Wayne and his manly drawl.

Near the end of the exhibit was a room, painted matte black, set with track lighting and a curtain of silver ribbon across the door. Inside were four fans and about fifty silver mylar balloons the size of body pillows. And a room full of teenagers.

At first I was angry at them. Most of them were lying on the floor, face-down, taking a nap, or picking on each other. One was trying to collect as many balloons as he could, holding them by the corners. And so on. One kid was watching the reflections the balloons were throwing on the walls–that was it. One kid out of twenty. And then it clicked: a room full of balloons, even that room, could only be interesting for a little while. It wasn’t about the balloons. It was the people. I watched them: some of them, when brushed by a balloon, didn’t noticed. Some brushed them away. Some shoved them, flung them away. Some of them invested all their attention into making sure they wouldn’t get touched. Some of them tried to control the balloons. And so on. I wonder if Warhol did that: went to his own exhibitions just to watch people, because they were so much more interesting than the art.

After a while, I left. The docent said, “Every house needs a room like that.”

I said, “For at fifteen minutes a day, at least.”

Harry Potter 4 Review.

Oh, man. What a disappointment. You’ve probably already seen the movie–or else you’re the kind of person who’s going to go no matter what I say.

Nevertheless. Don’t go! Don’t gooooooooo!

Ray and I tried to go on Saturday. We got to the theater at 10 a.m. Everything up to 9:45 p.m. was SOLD OUT. We went back on Sunday at noon and got tickets for a 6:05 showing. Lucky us!

The theater attendants led us in the wave. We watched ten minutes of ads and previews…and then, the movie. How do I describe it? This is the kind of book adaptation where a complicated plot, rich characters, and heavyweight themes are reduced to a few mis-timed facial flickers and sideways glances, while the bulk of the movie has been given over to SPECIAL EFFECTS!!! and COVER BANDS!!!

Ugh. Case in point: Alan Rickman, i.e., Snape, has maybe ten lines in the entire movie–and he doesn’t bother to piss anybody off.

All right. That being said, there was some excellent acting: Michael Gambon as Dumbledore shows all the care and fear that will lead him into keeping secrets from Harry in the next movie; Shirley Henderson* as Moaning Myrtle captures all the ickiness of teenage ghost lust you could ever want to avoid; Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort moves so smoothly his gauze cape looks like CGI–and manages to show all the fear and pride that could drive a human being into becoming just his sort of monster. The three main characters could have done better, but I don’t think they had the direction they needed to be up to their Harry Potter 3 standard.

To sum up: a generally clumsy adaptation of a difficult book. Poor script and bad direction. Good acting from some seasoned pros. Motto: special effects still don’t justify themselves, even if they are top-of-the-line CGI.

*Who is older than I am.

Seafood Allergies a Punishment from Above.

God Hates Shrimp.

Because Leviticus 11:9-12 and Deuteronomy 14:9-10 can’t be wrong.

Update: Oops! Via Randy.

Geoff Ryman’s Air.

You know, I’d been bitching about not having read any good SF lately, and then I read this:

“Mae thought:

“I am trapped ina car with a madman who happens to tell the truth. I am trapped in a car with someone driven so crazy by a big opinion of himself that he thinks he will live forever. He thinks he will shake God’s hand by machines. The truly awful thing is that he just might do it…

“The only thing she could do that would not help him would be to stay silent. Staying silent would prevent him from wanting to know anything more about her. If he felt there was more Info to be derived, he would imprison her again until he had it.

“Mae pretended to go asleep.”

Air is the story of how the internet is beamed into the minds of the villagers of a tiny Asian country using equipment based in the “other” dimensions of the string-theory cosmos. Because these “other” dimensions are outside time and space, it turns out that the ‘net is, too.

Mae is the “fashion expert” of a small village where some people still keep pigs in the kitchen; when the new “Air” system is tested in their country, thousands of people are so disoriented that they have fatal accidents. Mae is with an old woman, Mrs. Tung at the time of the Air test; Mrs. Tung has an accident and dies while both are connected to each other through Air, downloading a copy of Mrs. Tung’s personality at the time of her death into Mae’s mind.

It gets weirder from there. In fact, it gets as weird as anything I could come up with, but Ryman never loses control. The ending is inexplicable–but by the time you turn the last page, it doesn’t really need to be explained. Coooool.

Forget about having a computer implanted in your head, man. Go for Air.

Over a hundred years later, I get the joke.

In Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carrol writes:

“Then you should say what you mean.” the March Hare went on.

“I do,” Alice hastily replied; “at least — at least I mean what I say — that’s the same thing, you know.”

“Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter, “Why, you might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!”

It’s an alimentary course in logic.

Sex Ed.

Scarleteen. Mostly teen girls. Funny at times.

Sex, Etc. Mostly for teens.

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States All grown up and professional-sounding.

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