Archive for January, 2008

The LA Café Phenomenon

I have a love/hate relationships with cafes in Los Angeles. Evenings and weekends, without exception, every Starbucks, Borders, Barnes & Noble and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in town is filled with People Who Are About To Be Stars. You sit down with your coffee and your laptop, and as soon as your ear starts to sort out the buzz of low-toned conversation, you realize that everyone is on the phone with their agent, their manager, their writing partner, their stylist, their publicist. Everyone has a blog. Everyone’s working on their first novel. Everyone just sold a screenplay. Everyone went to an industry part last night. Everyone’s going to a promotional event next weekend, then to Vegas for a week to chill out. Occasionally, you’ll pick up bits of conversation that reveal what all these people do during the daytime – jobs which are just the same as those held by everyone else in coffee-shops across the country. This would seem to be a community of otherwise ordinary folk, who are convinced that with enough ambition and perseverance, they’ll overcome staggering odds and a lack of industry connections and break into the artistic/entertainment career of their dreams. I love them! I hate them! What a novel experience, to feel like I belong somewhere! How terrifically irritating, to be just like everyone else!

Add comment January 14th, 2008

Olfactory Heaven

Autumn, Winter, Spring – and the occasional cool Summer night – it’s possible to wander around close to the ocean, and smell the sea air and wood smoke at the same time. Add the exotic perfume of flowers that only bloom after sunset, and one could get tipsy just from inhaling.

Add comment January 10th, 2008

Tours by People Who Know Nothing

Hello, hello. Everyone. I guess I’m giving you a tour today. Of this painting. Here on the wall. Right. Let’s look at it up close. And now from far away. And up close again – look at the brush strokes! And now far away – see how it gets all blurry when we back out of the gallery? Try closing your left eye; and now your right – see how it goes in and out of focus when you squint? Okay, okay, no I don’t want you to get dizzy; you can all stand still now.

Let’s see, where to begin… So there’s some countryside – yeah, this looks pretty rural. Rolling hills, fields, a tiny little house over there in the distance. And cows. I see cows. What are they doing in there? Standing, facing forward… they appear to be making eye contact with the viewer… They have their mouths open. I wonder what they’re doing. Chewing? Do cows chew with their mouths open? Or maybe they’re baying at the moon? Yeah yeah you’re right. I think those yellow spots on the ground are supposed to make us think of this as a “sun-dappled” scene, not a moon-dappled one. Okay, so where does that leave us? With a herd of cows who are looking right at us, and baying at the sun.

Right.

So, what do you think it means? Oh, you want me to tell you what it means… Hmmm.

Could it be that this 19th century painter forsaw mad cow disease and did his best to convey this frightening possibility to 21st century viewers? This cow looks kind of mad to me – crazy mad, not angry mad. Or maybe in 1850 cows were capable of a broader range of expressions; maybe we’re seeing bovine emotions here that we simply don’t know how to interpret.

Yeah, I don’t have an answer for you. But isn’t that the point of good art? To ask questions and make you think? Let’s have a round of applause for art that leaves us confused, and understanding less about the world than we did before. All right, thank you for your time. Next week, our regular tour guide will be back from vacation and I’m sure you’ll hear a totally different interpretation of this painting.

Add comment January 7th, 2008

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