7/31/2008

7/29/2008

First trailer for Oliver Stone's "W" movie

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Stone's a crackpot, but maybe he'll make it happen this time. Check out the cast list at IMDB. I thought sure Laura Bush was being played by a plumped-out Parker Posey, but, alas, no.

Here's what I'm wondering: if Stone portrays Bush as a worthless tool -- and, c'mon, don't you think he will? -- then won't this pretty much trash red state box office? Or have the Red States of America really come around enough to face what they've done in putting this worthless tool in office, so much so that they're willing to pay to have it shoved in their faces?



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7/28/2008

A Salvador Dali postscript, from the mind of Alex Butera

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I gotta believe this kid's going places --

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7/19/2008

Take a vacation around the world for free, courtesy of Webcams.Travel

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It's a Google maps hack and it works like a happy dream. Click and drag around the world map to expose webcam sites, images from which appear in thumbnails to the left.

So as you click and drag around the world, you see daylight, twilight, night, dawn and daylight again, in exotic and exciting locations around the world.

It's a laugh in the dark, a mad scream, a cheery bleary masquerade of mirth and merriment!

My only cry of "Jive" arises because it's clear that these are all still cams. How about some live streaming video, Webcams.Travel guys?

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Cambodian Buddhist Society kicks back against court-ordered prohibitions of religious observances that no American would tolerate

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The struggle between the Cambodian Buddhist Society and the town of Newtown, Connecticut, has now become a First Amendment issue.

The most recent standoff took place last week before the Newtown Zoning Board of Appeals as the Buddhist society sought to have a cease-and-desist order issued by the town's zoning enforcement officer overturned. The order — which was issued on April 16 after neighbors complained that there were at least 60 cars on the property three days earlier — instructs the society to "cease all religious services and festivals permanently."

At issue, though, this time is what, exactly, constitutes a "religious service or festival" and whether or not the Supreme Court decision prohibits the society from holding any large gatherings that are deemed to be religious in nature on the site.
So the Society can have a large gathering, so long as it's not religious in nature. Get it?

Just as a reminder, here's the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
You'll recall that the Cambodian Buddhist Society, one of the last vestiges of a once-vibrant culture that was displaced by war, had owned a ten-acre property in Newtown, Connecticut, and had applied for permits to build a temple there. Permits were not issued, ostensibly because the town determined that the CBS hadn't adequately made provisions for a septic system.

If you read between the lines you get the sense that, just maybe, there's a chance the real reason is that the neighbors don't want non-Caucasians gathering en masse, perhaps speaking funny-sounding languages and singing weird songs, cooking strange food, burning funky incense, and worshiping foreign gods anywhere near them.

Of particular note is this line in the town's list of objections:
At issue, in addition to the town's concerns about septic usage and traffic on Boggs Hill Road, was the Asian design of the proposed 7,600-square-foot temple and meeting hall.
The State Supreme Court, no doubt composed largely of people living in upscale suburban towns similar to Newtown and perhaps sharing the sympathies of their citizens, stated in a ruling that Newtown had valid reasons to object to the building of the temple.

But somehow the Cambodian Buddhist Society's neighbors and the town's zoning board have taken this to mean that they can have no religious observances on their property -- hence the silly and unconstitutional cease-and-desist order, which has nonetheless given the neighbors something to do with their obviously vast quantities of free time:
The neighbors are keeping track of all holidays celebrated by the Cambodian Buddhists and correlating them to increased use of the property. On March 22 and April 13, they say, they counted roughly 23 and 60 cars on the site, respectively.

The neighbors took photos of the cars and submitted them, with a written complaint, to Gary Frenette, Newtown's zoning enforcement officer.
Imagine a half-dozen Gladys Kravitz's snooping around your house and maybe you'll have something of a picture of what the Cambodian Buddhist Society has been forced to tolerate. It would be hilarious if it weren't so sad.
"People go to the monks and offer them food and their respects," said Pinith Mar, a member of the society. "We rented a hall in New Britain for our celebration [of the Cambodian New Year] because we know we can't do that on the property."

Mar said he believes the society, which has about 450 members, is being targeted because of religious intolerance, but made clear that he does not speak for the group.

The society's attorney, Mike Zizka, said it doesn't matter why they were there. He appealed the cease-and-desist order on the grounds that it is unconstitutional because it prohibits society members from engaging in any religious observance on the property.

"Basically what they are saying is that the particular use is OK, unless it's religiously motivated," Zizka said Thursday. "I asked [Frenette] last night, 'What if somebody had a New Year's party and invited 50 to 60 people? Would you issue a cease-and-desist order?' And he said of course not. I said, 'Why not?' And he said, 'Because it's not religiously motivated.'

"Well, how about a Christmas party then?"
Are you getting this?

Why did these nice people have to rent a hall in not-terribly-attractive New Britain for a Cambodian New Years festival when they had ten beautiful acres in sunny Newtown? Wouldn't the town have benefited from such a gathering, financially and culturally? Wouldn't the schools have been provided with rich fare for a field trip, so that the children can learn about a magnificent culture that was forced to flee its faraway homeland?
Zizka's point — that the town does not rush to issue cease-and-desist orders every time residents hold gatherings at their homes on significant religious holidays, such as Christmas or Passover — exasperates Janis Opdahl, who lives next door to the monks.

Opdahl said there is a difference between a homeowner hosting an annual Christmas party and the more regular gatherings she says occur at the monks' property. She also took issue with the society's contention that people were simply "visiting" the monks, just as they would a friend or family member.

"I asked them the question, and I know it probably sounded a little sarcastic and I didn't mean it to sound that way, but I said, 'Do any of you have 400 relatives who might on any given day come to visit?'" Opdahl said, recounting what she said at the ZBA meeting Wednesday.
Does Ms. Opdahl even hear herself as she's saying this? Nobody in America is restricted to inviting only relatives to events at their homes. You can invite friends, strangers, whoever you want, to any religious or non-religious event taking place on your property.

And you can do it every day of the year.

What a community of small, frightened and painfully ignorant people Newtown must be.

They've certainly proven to me that they don't deserve the rich opportunities that a Buddhist temple and sangha presents to any community.

I'd like to think that the Cambodian Buddhist Society should shake the dust off their saffron robes against Newtown and move someplace where people read books, such as the empty llama farm up the road from me, but now it's become an issue of constitutional rights. Now it's becoming a situation where the Cambodian Buddhist Society is being presented with an assortment of legitimate reasons to sue the town of Newtown in general and specific snooping neighbors in particular.

The fact is they can do whatever they want on their property, with whomever they want, so long as it isn't building a temple. Were I them I'd immediately set up one hundred yurts. I'd service them with a wall of port-o-lets, as seen at outdoor rock concerts. And whenever there was a big event that Newtown couldn't tolerate, I'd make sure that everyone going to the event stays at our big Buddhist Yurt Village, takes big noisy buses to and from the event, and that the buses circumambulate the Buddhist Yurt Village ten times, using all the surrounding roads to do so, upon leaving and upon returning.

Artists have colonies too, Newtown. I can get the CBS to donate that land to me for use as an artist's colony. Then I'll apply for a permit to build a seven thousand square foot white clapboard Congregational Church, which Newtown's zoning board will pass in three minutes. Some of its members might even donate their time and resources to help build a more-than-adequate septic system.

After it's built, however, we'll find it difficult to hire a Congregational minister we feel is a good fit for our community. However there will be an abundance of Cambodian Buddhists available to hold services for us. It's amazing how many of them are artists who enjoy living in art colonies.

It won't be long before we begin working on a group project -- a seventy-five-foot-tall sculpture of the Buddha, with both hands posed in a mudra that has become popular with aggressive drivers.

Zone that, Newtown.

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7/18/2008

More about fake art sold at cruise ship auctions --

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The site is called Salvador Dali Fakes.

On the page I link to here, the author discusses Park West Gallery, the company discussed in a recent NYTimes.com article. The author specifically asks, "Where do Park West Gallery Dali Prints Come From?"

Read on as the author follows a trail of provenance, from certificates of authenticity to specific collections to a letter by Dali attesting to his signing of a series of prints on a single day in 1974.

Then, watch as the author uses the markings on the prints to determine how large that one series had to have been --

Wait a minute! So that means that there are several examples with an alphabet letter (at least up to "t" which means 20), twenty-five with Arabic numerals and eight with Roman numerals. I am not a mathematician but that means that there are at least 53 examples of each of the series of 100 illustrations, each hand signed by Salvador Dali and presumably, because this is the same letter used to prove that he signed all of them, all signed on the 24th of November 1974 at Les Heures Claires in Paris. That must have been quite a day. The pencil companies of Paris must have made a fortune. That’s 5,300 prints all hand signed by the Master on that one day. Keep in mind, this was ten years after the edition was published.
And this was just one series of prints. There are many thousands of signed and numbered Dali prints in circulation. There's no question that Dali could not have signed the vast majority of them, because, as the author at the Salvador Dali Fakes website points out, this would have been simply impossible.

Now, I didn't need to do the math to realize, twenty years ago, that the market was being flooded with fake Dalis. All I had to do was see that they were available in gallery after gallery, mall after mall, and being sold in auctions at hotels and local clubs.

Buy art, but buy smart.

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7/17/2008

Exclusive Scenes from Batman: The Dark Knight, In Theaters Starting Tomorrow

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This flick looks absolutely awesome. Do NOT miss it --

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7/16/2008

Cruise ship vacationers: easy pickings for fake art auctioneers?

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See NYTimes.com's article today on the particularly piquant aroma of buyer's remorse that sets in when the bags are unpacked, the hangover wears off and people learn that the print they'd purchased at a cruise art auction ain't all it was made out to be.

From the Times article:

Perhaps most disturbing, (this particular auction victim) learned from The Official Catalog of the Graphic Works of Salvador Dalí, by the Dalí archivist Albert Field, that the pencil signatures on Mr. Maldonado’s prints from Dalí’s “Divine Comedy” series (prints without a signature in the woodblock itself) put them in Mr. Field’s column of “unacceptable” prints.

“Since Dalí did not sign any of these prints in black pencil, a pencil signature on one must be a forgery,” Mr. Field wrote.

“It was very upsetting,” Mr. Maldonado said. “I’m not mad about spending $73,000. I’m mad about spending $73,000 for works that I was told are worth more than $100,000 and are probably worth $10,000, if they’re even real.” (emphasis mine)

He said he contacted Park West “dozens” of times requesting a refund, beginning in early 2007 with multiple e-mail messages to the auctioneer, who responded that all sales were final. More recently, he has pressed Park West’s customer service department for a full refund, without success.

Reached by phone in Michigan, Albert Scaglione, the founder of Park West, said he stood by the company’s certificates of authenticity and its appraisals. “I am absolutely confident that if we had the opportunity to give Mr. Maldonado the history of our pricing, he would have a different view,” Mr. Scaglione said on Monday.

But about two hours after The New York Times asked Mr. Scaglione about Mr. Maldonado’s case, Park West phoned Mr. Maldonado to offer him a full refund.
People, please tell all your relatives and friends:
  1. Limited editions by Picasso, Dali, Chagall, Vasareli, Rembrandt, or anyone whose name you vividly recall from an art museum, may be highly suspect. A certificate of authenticity is no guarantee of authenticity.
  2. All of these artists had much better things to do near the end of their lives than sit around and sign the thousands upon thousands of prints that now appear around the world in shopping malls, movie theaters, and auctions at hotels and on cruise ships.
  3. Legitimate, valuable, big-name art is not generally sold in common places such as shopping malls, movie theaters, hotels and cruise ships.
  4. If someone offers you art at one price that they insist is worth substantially more, ask yourself this: If it's worth so much, why isn't he selling it where he can get the higher price? Why is this guy taking such a huge cost hit to sell this to me? Does he really like me that much?
Buy art, but buy smart. Yes, you can put that on a T-shirt, and I'll sign a limited edition of one billion of them for five bucks a pop. You can auction them off on cruise ships for $40,000 each.


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7/12/2008

Artist Steven Kurtz, cleared of all charges, needs your help

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In 2004 Dr. Steven Kurtz and his wife, Hope, were working in their Buffalo, New York home on a project for an exhibit at Mass MoCA related to the genetic engineering of crops. They maintained a small lab with petri dishes laying about and various things growing inside them.

When Hope died of congenital heart failure, Steven dialed 911. The police arrived to find the Kurtz's lab, and decided that it was suspicious, perhaps related to bioterrorism. So they called in the FBI. Hazmat-suited agents arrived, cordoned off the house, searched and confiscated everything related to Kurtz's project.

After it was determined that the project was benign, a grand jury returned an indictment related to the way Dr. Kurtz and a colleague were shipping various components of this project back and forth, under the charges mail fraud and wire fraud.

Right up until this past June 11, Kurtz has had to defend himself against these charges, which, under the USA Patriot Act, carry prison terms of more than twenty years. During this time Kurtz, a 27 year survivor of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, also experienced a series of strokes.

Efforts including a website were launched to help Steven Kurtz pay his astronomical legal bills. Now that the case is closed, he's trying to get his work back from the FBI. Visit CAE Defense Fund online, read more about what the case against Dr. Kurtz implies as far as you and your work are concerned, and learn what you can do to help.

For me it all comes down to the Buffalo police. All they needed to do was get an explanation from Kurtz, look him up for any priors or for his presence on the ridiculous terrorist watch list, maybe get someone else at his university to vouch for him, and that's it, case closed. As it was they followed the path of least resistance -- "Don't think about what's really going on here, since we're too stupid to actually understand it. Just pass it off to the FBI."

The result was the destruction of the life of a longtime cancer survivor and recent widower, who has probably never had the time to focus on grieving for his lost wife. What the hell, he's not suffering enough, let's see if we can't drive his soul into the ground. See Israel not allowing Palestinian Fulbright awardees to leave Gaza and any given child pulling the wings and legs off a fly, one by one, for further examples.

I don't know, maybe I need to live in another country for a while to gain some appreciation for what we've got here. Because right now, baby, I ain't feeling it.

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7/11/2008

Larry David says "Stand Up to Cancer"

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What brilliant guy. I own three seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I could watch them on a loop. It's not as though it's a continual gut-busting retch-fest either; it's just really sharp, relevant comic fare.

You could say that the anti-cancer industry has become self-perpetuating over the past half-century, and I could share my reasons for believing that there's some measure of truth to that. But even so, things have gradually improved on the cancer front during that time, and the only way they're going to continue is with the help of organizations like Stand Up 2 Cancer. Watch LarryDavid's promo spot, hit the link and learn what you can do.

Who knows? Maybe this is part of one massive final push that puts us over the top. Wouldn't it be great if we could do to cancer what we did to smallpox and what we're doing to polio and Guinea Worm disease?

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Geeks make the world go 'round -- check out this kid who made all the weapons from HALO out of cardboard

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Look at how well worked-out this kid's pieces are. He's got them detailed down to magazine clips, compartments and hatches, all useable.

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7/09/2008

The Brooklyn Museum reinforces my sense that museums aren't even trying anymore

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I love the place, had a number of great times there. But they sent me this press release today and it just sets my teeth on edge:

21: Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum
to Open September 19, 2008 -- Media Preview September 17, 2008, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
So far so good. Follow along, people:
More than forty works from the Brooklyn Museum's expanding collection of contemporary art will go on long-term view on September 19, 2008, in 5,000 square feet of space newly renovated for this purpose. With contemporary works ranging from Andy Warhol's Fragile Dress, 1966, to Mickalene Thomas's A Little Taste Outside of Love, 2007, 21: Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum will focus primarily on work produced since 2000, particularly from the richly diverse artistic community of Brooklyn. (emphasis mine)
Say it with me, kids: Andy Warhol is not contemporary. Not to us, certainly, but not to anything beyond the late 1960s. That era of Pop art is highly dated. It is no more. It has ceased to be. It's kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible.



Yeah, plenty of artists are riffing the living daylights out of the Warhol message, but they've gone so far beyond it as to present very clear distinctions between today's unfortunately pervasive Post-Pop and the original, classic Pop.

So, how many other non-contemporary artists is the Brooklyn Museum lumping into their new Faux-Contemporary Gallery? Shouldn't museums have standards of some sort? Don't we rely on them for research, clarification, academic enrichment, expanding our understanding of art?

If so, why can't the Brooklyn Museum, not to mention MoMA, project a rudimentary understanding of the meaning of the word
contemporary?


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7/05/2008

Happy 60th Birthday, President Bush

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Been puzzling over a present, but, you know, it's tough.
What can you possibly buy for the guy who havocs everything?

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