Archive for August, 2006

Cane Hill

Saturday, August 26th, 2006

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Once in a while, you stumble upon something online that almost justifies the time you waste there. This happened to me, tonight, when I discovered this photojournal about Cane Hill, an abandoned psychiatric hospital in South London. Built in 1882, it was finally closed in 1991, and today has acquired a certain following among artists and tourists. It is still filled with equipment, furnishings, medical records, and countless physical testaments to the lives spent within its walls.

If you click on this link, please allow some time to take it all in. It’s worth it. Together, the photos and text are an incredibly poignant experience.

More Tom Cruise

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

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Didn’t it seem like we could be happy if Tom Cruise got punished for his ridiculous preaching about scientology and his fake girlfriend? It should have been a really nice moment, but no, now we have to wonder if Viacom is leading a march back to the 50s, when Hollywood blacklisted Commies. Shit. Tom Cruise stands for so many things that are offensive: homophobia, L. Ron Hubbard, bad action movies, and overall insincerity. I want to just be annoyed by his antics, without politics coming into it.

But when Sumner Redstone stops doing business with someone on account of their personal behavior, that’s just a dark cloud on my parade. If Tom Cruise can’t be a raging asshole, what about Lefties like Tim Robbins and Sean Penn? What about celebrities who admit to being atheists or potheads? No wonder Tom won’t come out of the damned closet! He has now proved that what you do offscreen can be used against you by the corporate pseudo-Christians who run everything, including mySpace and Yahoo and AOL. Time-Warner just bought my cable provider in Los Angeles, and my only other option is Direct TV. All our options are dwindling. Eventually, we’ll just have whatever Wal-Mart and Viacom and Rupert Murdock wants to give us.

I want choices! I want my celebrities to act crazy and still keep their lucrative contracts! Let them worship the fucking devil if they want to. Let them hate Jews, even, since that’s their personal right, as long as they don’t put a burning cross on my lawn. I think we should support Tom Cruise, condemn small-mindedness and witch-hunting in any fashion, and keep our eyes on any corporate entity that fucks with our religious, sexual, intellectual and artistic freedoms, such as they are. If even Oprah can’t afford to admit she’s gay, we’re not really getting anywhere. Fight the power, in the name of baby Suri.

Obsolete

Monday, August 21st, 2006

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If pretentiousness were a crime, and it is, a shop in my neighborhood called “Obsolete”? would be guilty with Special Circumstances. You really haven’t experienced the extreme limits of absurdity in art collecting until you visit Obsolete in person, but its website will illustrate what’s afoot here. I first read about Obsolete in the Los Angeles Times, in a profile of a local entrepreneur who collects crap like trays of old teeth and tin aircraft dummies from WWII. The dummy cost around $60,000, just a drop in the bucket for this particular “collector”?, who gushed about Obsolete and called its owner a “Visionary.”?

The first time I went there, I was simply overwhelmed by both its rarified atmosphere and its awful collections of useless crap. Each “piece�? was accompanied by a small white index card with a terse typed description of the item and a price, roughly a thousand times more than its value. A giant wooden pencil from some old advertising campaign was propped in a corner and priced at $5,000. A chipped painted doll head was listed as “antique German doll head with chips. $3,500.”? (Alas, the “French hand-made cheese bowl”? pictured above has been sold.)

My friend and I wandered around the shop, hissing “Look, look!” like little kids in the porn section of a video store. We were excited, disgusted, and trying hard not to laugh. Whenever the young clerk seemed to look our way, we pretended to be admiring something. I adopted my loud Foreign Lady voice, which allows me to act stupid without feeling embarrassed. We flipped through some pricey photography books, which all featured children or adolescent boys in various states of undress. We finally walked out into the fresh air, feeling a bit like Alice emerging from the rabbit hole.

I find myself telling friends about Obsolete whenever the subject of pretentiousness comes up. I always get excited, and I always propose a field trip. I will be the Foreign Lady, and maybe I will have the nerve to barter for a rickety old wooden picnic bench like the one I got at a yard sale once for fifty cents, but is priced by the Visionary at Obsolete at a dignified $6,000.

The Ugliest Shoes in the World!

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

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There are really no words to do these shoes justice.  They’re just so horrible, beyond human conception. Why do these shoes exist, except to evince speechless horror? They even have a “genuine fur accent!” Click here for other views.

Thank You, JonBenet

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

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Just when I’ve been complaining that what we all need is a nice OJ Simpson style news story, along comes John Mark Karr to claim he killed JonBenet Ransey! This is like pennies from heaven for me personally and for our Great Nation, which is in dire need of a distraction from all the bombing and killing and killing and bombing.

Remember how OJ pulled our country together (except for how it pulled us apart, along color lines)? We were all glued to our TVs, all of us enthralled by the hideous real-life melodrama, all of us learning to speak like trial lawyers about sidebars and rules of evidence. I never wanted it to end.

Remember Scott Peterson and poor Lacey? God, that one was addictive. No one believed Scott, no one could remain uninvolved once they saw his smirking face. Amber Frey, Baby Conor, they were like family!

When I read that Patsy Ramsey had died of cancer, I felt a real sense of loss: There goes the murder trial, I thought. I never followed the case too closely but like everyone else, I was convinced the parents did it. They were horrible enough to deform their child into the image of a miniature prostitute, so why put it past them to bash her head in during a bad moment? I saw them on TV once, calmly explaining why the evidence proves they couldn’t possibly be the killers. They sounded like the culprits always sounded on Columbo: too eager and too focused on dry facts.

Now, check out John Karr, the weirdest weirdo money could buy! I don’t think he did it, or at least not without the parents’ involvement. I’ve got a five dollar bet riding on it. But the guy himself is a fucking masterpiece of weirdness! He used to drive around his hometown in a red DeLorean with gull-wing doors. He married a 13 year old girl named Quientana Shotts, who divorced him; and then married a 16 year old who had twin babies named Angel and Innocence (who died on the day they were born.) That wife has 3 other children, who Karr delivered at home!! All this BESIDES being a fake teacher and nanny and porn enthusiast.

I love this guy, and I know I’m going to love him much much more. He seems to be totally insane, just like JonBenet’s parents, only different. I hope the trial goes on and on, and I can’t wait to hear Nancy Grace go berserk about it. I hope every man, woman and child can get some relief from the terrifying spectre of George Bush and the apocalypse he seems determined to bring about. Murder, perverts, child beauty queens, insanity, thank you Lord, my plate is full.

The Horror of Kimora Lee Simmons

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

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Those of us with a perverse interest in awful women are inclined to agree that Kimora Lee Simmons is worth her weight in diamonds as an object of appalled fascination. Pound for pound, KLS is more trashy and bizarre than Donatella Versace — a huge achievement! – and greedier than Imelda Marcos. Now that her husband has finally had enough of her, we can look forward to her swift fall from the social ladder, such as it was. In the meantime, let’s just enjoy her for being the definitive Piece of Work for the Bling Zeitgeist (or, PWBZ for short.)

Kimora Lee was a “model” when Russell Simmons first set his eyes on her. Presumably, he had one of his posse go out and procure her for him, like an Adidas jacket. Soon they were married, and he gave her a line of fashion to “run”, called Baby Phat. Baby Phat is designed for the young African American woman, and features a stupid Siamese cat type thing as its logo. The jeans run very small and look like they’d fall apart after one washing. There are shoes and outerwear too, all reeking of third world sweatshops and inferior materials. Her first really noteworthy product was a pink rhinestone covered cell-phone that sold for $600.

Somehow, KLS became a member of fashion royalty, not only in the hip-hop world but even in the pages of Vogue magazine. Remember when Vogue did a long piece on Puff Daddy’s trip to France, where he said of the Versailles: “That’s some awe inspiring shit.” Well, these are nearly the exact words I said to myself upon seeing a photo spread about the Simmons manse, where Kimora requires her stable of housemaids to wear demeaning old-fashioned maid outfits with aprons and little hats. There, KLS prances around in tight mini-skirts and dresses her tiny children in British school uniforms, for a badly needed touch of “class.” She also collects Hermes handbags, and a peek at her closet suggests that she has acquired around 400 of them.

The best thing about Kimora Lee Simmons is that although she travels constantly, and has several nannies, she maintains that her children are her Entire Life. It is good to hear, but somehow the handbags and fur coats beg to differ. To gaze upon the smooth, strangely undefined features of Kimora’s face, to admire her toned and perfect legs, to see her piles of ridiculous couture gowns and her jewels worthy of an Egyptian queen, is to behold the power of rap music, the outer limits of ego, and the overwhelming luck of a bird-brained hottie who was at the right place at the right time. As she ages like a worn-out Manolo, I hope she remains in the public eye, to entertain and instruct much like the ruins of the Colosseum, which might leave even Puff Daddy speechless with humility.

Chanel: 0 / Kate Moss: $15,000,000

Monday, August 14th, 2006

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I hate Vanity Fair, but I bought the new issue simply because of Kate Moss. There she is on the cover, looking as adorable as ever, if not more so. I fucking love her, and I don’t care who knows it. Kate, do as many drugs as you see fit! Unless you kill a baby or a puppy, I love you unconditionally. Kill the puppy even, if you have to. I just need to know what lipstick you’re wearing on that Vanity Fair cover, and I will charge it on my Neiman Marcus card.

Wasn’t it stupid of those companies to fire Kate Moss from their ad campaigns a few months ago? We all knew they’d be sorry. I hope Kate has doubled her fees for the companies that dropped her. Now in Vanity Fair, she is featured in ads for Versace, Calvin Klein, Longchamps, David Yurman, Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Dior. You go, Kate! Show those idiots that women want to see you, and only you, flogging these luxury items.   We don’t care about the brands; we just want to imagine ourselves as Kate Moss, eternally youthful, waiflike, pouty, slutty, and good enough for Johnny Depp. When I see Kate’s lips alone, I feel my endorphins flowing. When I see her whole face, I want to disappear into it. When I see her laying on a couch naked, wearing David Yurman jewelry, which I’ve never liked, I want to press my body to hers. I would remain fully clothed, though, because I am no lesbian.

Perhaps Chanel and Burberry and the rest of them can now recognize the power and glory of Kate Moss. Let her snort her blow or shoot up or get rehab or date that stupid junkie musician. Let her be shorter than other models. No one gives a shit! She fills me with yearning for lipstick, handbags, boots, jeans, necklaces, trenchcoats and so much more. If scientists could create the perfect face, they would come up with Kate Moss. Next to Kate, Giselle is a big giraffe. No wonder Kate will make $15 million next year! I love you Kate, you deserve every penny.

The Greed of the Hollywood

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

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I think there are movies you don’t have to see in order to hate them.   “The Passion of the Christ” is certainly one of them, and from my perspective, “World Trade Center” is another. I only heard about it recently, and at first it seemed like an interesting idea. Then I saw that Oliver Stone was the director, and Michael Shamberg the producer. Uh-oh, and uh-oh. Then I read an article about the project’s history: At some point, two hugely successful female studio executives met on a street in New York, and discussed the script. One says, Oh, we must make this movie! Then, one reports that she cried when she read the script. If you don’t live in Hollywood, you may not know that   “I cried!” is the stock response to any script that isn’t a comedy. You HAVE to cry; it shows how sensitive you are. You can then go ahead and pass on the project, after making sure it’s understood that you Cried.

Hollywood shit aside, I don’t want a film about September 11. It strikes me as stupid and ghoulish, and incapable of providing any insight into anything. The use of this event as entertainment of any kind is just preposterous, verging on pornography, in my opinion. But of course, I don’t approve of Holocaust movies either. The notion of actors shaving their heads and running around pretending to be in gas chambers, while people watching them do this eat popcorn, is just outrageous to me. If you need to be “educated” watch a newsreel or “Shoah”. Likewise, the cataclysmic deaths of so many people, on September 11, should not be fodder for entertainment, and certainly not in the form of a schlocky studio film by Oliver Stone.

On September 11, I was awakened by my best friend, who was watching TV. She knew my son worked at the World Trade Center, for a snooty investment company. For the next three hours, I sobbed and tried to call New York. I watched the news on the internet and all I could think about was finding my child. Life could not go on without him, I kept thinking in my panic. Finally, his friend’s mom called to report that my kid was okay. He called later, and told me how he had run for his life, and how his office in the building next to the Twin Towers had been sheared off by fire.

My great sense of relief was soon followed by tremendous guilt. This was pretty common, I hear. It’s terrible to realize how many other moms didn’t get good news that day. I still don’t know to what extent my son has been affected by his experience. I can’t think of anything more traumatizing, outside of war.

I don’t see how anyone would want to make a film that focuses on the “bright side” of September 11. Courage and compassion are beautiful traits, but should not be celebrated in the context of a feel-good movie that exists to enrich the director and producers, all of whom could already afford to feed the greater part of Africa. I hate these guys for personal reasons and political ones (aesthetic ones, too.) But I’d hate this movie no matter who made it. It underscores everything that Muslim Fundamentalists think about us Infidels: Nothing is sacred, nothing. At least, not if there’s some money to be made.

I Own, Therefore I Am.

Sunday, August 6th, 2006

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Five years ago, a British artist named Michael Landy performed the public destruction of all 7,226 of his belongings in a vacant building in central London. He stood on a platform over a production line of ten “blue-collared operatives”, directing the cataloguing and destruction of all his possessions, down to the last sock. It took nearly two weeks, and attracted 45,000 visitors. Landy called it an examination of consumerism.

When he finished, he told an interviewer, he felt a tremendous sense of freedom and possibility. But that freedom was eroded “by the everyday concerns of life.” His performance piece, called Break Down, was the subject of much controversy. He was criticized by art dealers for destroying the work of other artists, and was decisively removed from the running in the competition for the prestigious Tuner Prize.

Landy mentions in interview that he was a little annoyed by the fact that some of his possessions might have eluded destruction: Love letters, for example, that he had returned to an ex-girlfriend at her request. He also admits that it was very hard for him to see the last item go…his father’s sheepskin coat, which he hoped someone would steal in order to save it.

These last two conflicts seem like the ones that would drive me nuts. If you’re set on destroying all your belongings to make a statement, I can see how you might feel a certain psychotic level of scrupulosity: Everything means every goddamned thing! Forgetting a toothbrush would just fuck the whole thing up! All that for nothing! you might feel.   Likewise, wanting to spare a certain special item sort of negates your whole aim. If you are too attached to even one thing, you might as well keep it, as well as all the rest of your shit. It’s your shit, after all! It’s all you can acquire in life, besides debt and if you’re lucky, some amount of knowledge.

Poor Landy. He didn’t feel the desire to work for a long time after Break Down. I can see his dilemma: Why bother? Once you have made such a huge gesture implying the nobility of destruction, why create? But later, he went on to become the subject of a BBC Documentary, and published a book of the computerized catalogue of the stuff he destroyed.

I sometimes like to imagine the purity and weightlessness I would feel if I lost everything in a fire or tidal wave. To be free from the ballast of all my shit…free to start all over, not just collecting shit, but to be someone else. Someone defined by the new shit I would acquire! Did George Carlin discuss this angle in his rumination on “Stuff”?

Unlike Michael Landy, I am neither ready to give up my belongings, nor impressed with them enough to think they deserve cataloguing. Except for my lipstick collection, of course, which will be curated at a later date. But I have to admit that his endeavor provokes a complex array of feelings, from “What an Idiot!” all the way to “How Liberating!”   I will probably settle down, though, at my standard default position, “How soon can I go shopping?”