Saturday, March 27, 2004
Out with the Old, in with the Same-old
In the last few months, it seemed as if Gage & Tollner, New York's oldest
restaurant (established in 1879), had fewer and fewer customers. I didn't see
the classically-dressed white-golved
waiters in front of the building anymore. People no longer pulled their
cars into the valet spot that competed with the B-52 bus stop. I can't tell
you the last time I saw a limousine parked in front of the old restaurant.
The place seemed dark at times when healthy restaurants ought to be doing business.
I saw the white butcher paper in the window, and a sign that simply said “Sorry,
we're closed.” Most long-standing restaurants go out
with a gushing tome saying “Thank you for being loyal customers for so many
years... blah, blah, blah,” but I think Gage & Tollner may have become
the restaurant equivalent of a ghost town. Maybe they had no more customers
to thank, and so they just quietly closed shop.
The truth is, even though G&T was the oldest restaurant in New York, that
was never compelling enough for me to want to try it. It never seemed as inviting
as the Old Town Bar in Manhattan, which used to be featured in the opening
sequence of the old David Letterman Show. That was a classic, smoky tavern
with a kind
that appealed to me. Gage & Tollner, in contrast, seemed stuffy and exclusive
and well – old. And so, it's probably fitting that they closed, but it still
seems a shame.
Not long after the butcher paper went up, the new occupants of this quasi-historic
space unfurled their new banner:
I can see the appeal for the TGI Friday's chain. It's their kind of space.
At least they're likely to maintain some of the atmosphere of the old restaurant.
I won't be running down to visit when they open, though.
the War in Context:
Iraq + War on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives
This looks like a very juicy site. Lots of good recent entries on the 9/11 commission
and the Administration's [mis]handling of Clarke's testimony. Links galore.
A little taste –
Thomas H. Kean (R), the former New Jersey governor Bush named to be chairman
of the commission, observed: "I think this administration shot itself
in the foot by not letting her testify in public."
What would a "wartime president" have done this week, as a bipartisan
commission's public hearings on the Sept. 11 tragedy were being engulfed
by political bickering?
I like to think that this hypothetical leader would have found a way to
rise above the fray and unite the country: He would have embraced the commission's
work, forthrightly admitted his own mistakes, sent his national security
adviser to testify publicly -- and insisted that the security of the United
States was too important to be buried in election-year squabbles.
President Bush and his White House handlers did pretty much the opposite.
They fanned the flames of partisan debate; when asked awkward questions,
they stonewalled; rather than testify before the cameras, national security
adviser Condoleezza Rice spent part of her Wednesday afternoon dishing dirt
to reporters about a commission witness who had criticized the president.
For both the UK and US, an energy crisis is looming. The latest BP statistical
review of world energy predicted that UK proven oil and gas reserves will
last, respectively, only 5.4 and 6.8 years at present rates of use. It has
been estimated that by 2020 the UK could be dependent on imported energy
for 80% of its needs. The US energy department has calculated that net imports
of oil, already at 54%, will rise to 70% by 2025 because of growing demand
and declining domestic supply.
Friday, March 26, 2004
Another pic taken during my last swing through the WTC PATH station on Tuesday.
I like the mood it captures. As you can see, the site is in many ways a point
of pilgrimage and a de-facto memorial.
A group called “The Expressions”
from Hattiesburg, MS had hung a cardboard sign on the fence. The weather
will eventually take its toll on it. Some of the flowers are already withered,
but new visitors arrive daily to refresh the display of remembrance.
Notice the movie camera on the right. Lots of people were taking pictures
that afternoon, but when I came back through in the evening I was told “Sir...
Lucky for me, I'd already caught a few shots. If I'd have used flash, the
cop might have asked me to delete them.
“...If you don't exercise responsibility then freedom, its Siamese sister,
as well. Sadly, now, freedom first needs to be exorcized before it's exercised.”
My friend James Nordlund said that in a recent e-mail.
detail from a “Hellboy” poster seems to sum up the tone of much
of the news squawk about what America stands for these days. Notice the proportions.
If you get a look at the poster, you'll also see that Hellboy has a tail.
Saint/Sinner/Killer. That's [the] US.
Further Adventures of the Plastic Consciousness
These are my
last two sketches from last night. The one on the left was a 10 minute pose,
and the one on the right was a 20. Yeah, sorry... he's not anatomically correct.
On the other hand, Houston, we have proportion!
I've made progress every single session at the Studio School. Last night,
we started drawing from 2-minute poses and when Bruce, the instructor, had
our shoulders, he said none of us were using his input
Speaking a little like a soft-spoken version of a Drill Sergeant, he reminded
us that the short poses are meant to be structural foundations for longer drawings.
He pushed us to draw reference lines that “subdivide the picture plane,” and
to find lines that defined the angles and limits of the form. Every 2 minutes,
the pose would change, and I'd start over again on a new sheet. I started using
the front and back of my pages to conserve paper. The guy
next to me would waste the first 30 seconds or so of each pose, erasing his
drawing. For a while,
it was all I could do, just to get the reference lines down in the time allotted.
either looked nothing like the model, or only contained a fragment of his
body in very rough form. It took some effort to avoid slipping into the mode
the way I always have, but I know that mode doesn't produce very good drawings.
I pushed myself to draw the reference lines and avoid rushing to try and draw
the shapes directly. At one point, Bruce came by and told me to extend the
reference lines all the
within that tangle of lines had looked simple when Bruce had done one of his
many drawing demonstrations, but I lost track of what the lines represented
several times, and the tangle of lines would become overwhelming. In other
words, my brain would vapor lock.
I began to get it though, and when Bruce came by again, he said “OK, now when
you see a line that doesn't work, erase it, and draw another.” I was working
with vine charcoal and chamois in the same hand, switching back and forth between
drawing and erasing. I would make a few reference marks, rough out that part
of the form, remove the reference marks, and move on. I began to find it easy
to map horizontal points onto the paper by sight. I still had to measure my
vertical points, but working with the idea of finding the center and angle
of the arms, legs, torso, etc. was giving me a more effective means of finding my way into the
Slowly, I started paying less attention to the model, but the drawings were
getting stronger. I was beginning to grasp the notion of seeing the figure
in 3-D space and mentally mapping that onto the picture plane. I was about
half way through my 20-minute drawing at the end of the evening when Bruce
walked by again. He said “Hey!...” with a smile in his voice. “That's a good
drawing... Now, make sure you hold the charcoal so you get a good line...”
The first couple of sessions, I had peeked at other students' work, and I
noticed that many of them did the same. I'm feeling less concerned about comparing
the quality of our work now. The game for me is to push my own drawing as far
and as fast as I can.
The Dobro player's name is Alexander. He made a point of saying that, so that
there'd be no confusion. He's not Alan, or
that can be shortened to “Al.” He's a good slide player, and he often plays
in the same entryway at West 4th Street – which is where I saw him last night
on the way home from drawing class. The acoustics are pretty good; the tile
and concrete add a natural hard reverb that suits
and the twangy sound of his guitar. He talks a lot, as if he craves conversation.
I asked if I could take his picture, and
snaps. A first, he asked for a print – which I'll be happy to give him. “I
keep a scrapbook,” he said.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
Uncle Richard “Fester” Armitage?
“Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed
you and I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter because we failed...
And for that failure, I would ask - once all the facts are out - for your understanding
and for your forgiveness.”
At the hearing, Republican commissioner James R. Thompson, a former Illinois
governor, held up Clarke's book and a text of the briefing and challenged
the witness, "We have your book and we have your press briefing of August
2002. Which is true?"
Clarke said both were true. He was still working for Bush at the time of the
briefing and was asked to highlight the positive aspects of the administration's
counterterrorism efforts and minimize the negative, he said.
Seeking to counter White House suggestions that he is seeking a job in
a future Kerry administration, Clarke said he wouldn't accept a position
he was under oath.
- A.P. report
Watched a little of the 9/11 hearings yesterday. Clarke was spectacular. The
Republican spinmeisters on the panel were no match for him. There was one moment
where he stopped speaking and the room was dead silent for about 10 seconds,
though it seemed like 30 or more.
Passing through the WTC PATH station a couple of days ago, I came upon two
of these matchbook icons taped to the posts that support the fencing around
the open pit at the WTC site. There were also braided green garlands and what
looked like flower leis woven into the fences. I suspect the green garlands
have some sort of religious significance.
I got a glimpse of how simple it is to adjust NEF (RAW) files in Photoshop
CS yesterday, and how good the resulting image quality can be. I feel another
upgrade coming on...
Monday, March 22, 2004
Redoing the Math
I revisited my print cost calculations, and I'm happy to report that my first
estimate was way off. I went back and calculated my costs based on the number
prints produced vs the number of ink cartridges consumed, taking into account
the two different sizes I've been printing.
I've used 5 whole cartridges of ink, with 5 more cartridges at about the halfway
mark. I've used about 25 sheets of letter (8.5 x 11) paper, and 10 sheets of
super b (13 x 19). That
amounts to about 5549 square inches of print. Ink cost comes to about
$75, and paper cost is $43, making total print costs $118.
That works out to 2.13¢ per square inch, meaning letter size prints cost me $1.99 each, and a super
b page costs me $5.25. These costs are based on using 1440
dpi print mode. “Super Photo” pages
use more ink, although I doubt that it's twice as much ink. If they consume
50% more ink, that would work out to about $3 per print for letter size and
$7.88 for a super b print.
The Deal on Roger Green
I found out that Roger Green pleaded guilty to double-dipping on travel expenses
over a period of nine
He'd accept free rides to Albany from vendors, then submit a claim for travel
expenses anyway. Green says all of his fellow legislators double-dip, and no
one seems to be denying it.
City In the Sky
by NYT reporters James Glanz and Eric Lipton is an account of the “life” of
the World Trade Center from its beginnings to its final destruction, and
the forensic inquiry afterward. It's described as a page-turner, packed with
well-researched details, and a “Robert Altman-sized cast” of characters.
“Like David McCullough's The
Great Bridge, City in the Sky is a riveting story
of New York City itself, of architectural daring, human frailty, and a lost
American icon.” - Amazon review
I think I'll have to pick this one up.
The Weekend in Politics
Saturday, I wandered into Union Square park, and got a glimpse of some of
the protest activities that were underway. A small group of marching protestors
were leaving the park as I got there, and a group of cyclists was gathering.
I'd say there were about 40-50 marchers, and about 70-80 cyclists.
were a noticeable, but not overwhelming presence. Cops on bikes, cops on
motorcycles, and a cop chopper hovering way above the park... The motorcycle
cops looked very much like a throwback to the early 1960s, except that I don't
think there were any African-American motorcycle cops in the 60s.
It struck me that the bike protestors were very sophisticated in their
use of visual communications. There weren't just placards, but lots of logos
and icons – once primarily the tools of corporations and governments.
The protestors were brandishing their own symbols and appropriating and recontextualizing
the symbols of the opposition. Even though we had the peace symbol in the 60s,
I think the current use of symbols and logos by activists is significantly
more sophisticated than it was then.
Seeming to position themselves as an alternative to both protest and violence,
religious groups, especially Christian groups, are turning up at protests to
spread their message. This booth has a few clever promotional elements: “Serving
the community of over 2000 years,” plus a laundry list of prayer subjects:
tragedy, friends, family, health, happiness, seeking god, seeking purpose,”
and the ever-so-versatile “other.”
Not far away, people were using the park for the kind of stuff that people
always use parks for.
Dimitri makes these acrylic spheres appear to be weightless
This is Spike. Spike is a bitch.
Sunday, I attended a very pleasant brunch. The theme was “Bashing
was especially pleasant because we weren't simply sitting around calling Bush
names, but talking instead about details of the case that can be made against
him and strategies for making sure that he doesn't get reelected. In other
words, the conversation wasn't mired in our personal dislike for the man and
his policies, it was about action and strategy.
A while ago, I said I'd post some more pics of Jake Stigers' most recent gig
at The Bitter End. Here ya go...