Thanksgiving Week. Last night an interesting coincidence. My wife and I, side-by-side in bed, reading. She: Tina Brown’s Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992; me: Chips: The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon (1934-1958). Two diaries by people of some consequence in the spheres they coveted; two accounts of what ambition looks and sounds like, stripped naked and given its head, written by skilled and successful practitioners of the art. Of course, the types of ambition are different: hers professional, his social, but they express themselves in oddly similar way: he fixated on who will come to his parties and in whose company he’s to be seen; she in what big names she can “get” for an issue and hangs out with. Both are strong books, however, remarkably clear-eyed. They invite the reader to correlate what he thinks of the diarist and what the diarist apparently thinks of her(him)self. Or, as Anthony Powell notably put it: “It is not what happens to people that is significant, but what they think happens to them.” I wonder if there are book groups out there devoted to reading and discussing diaries, starting with Pepys (or perhaps St.Augustine). They might take Powell’s observation as their motto.
Speaking of the former, this past Friday – can’t recall off hand whether I mentioned – we saw a rather odd little diversion based on Pepys called “17c” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. A real curate’s egg – “good in parts”: mainly off point, except for one monologue (and what is a diary except a monologue?).
In his entry of June 11, 1936 (I was just short of two months old then, in my cradle on the other side of the Atlantic), Chips Channon gives a dinner party which the newly-crowned King Edward VIII, who will abdicate and turn into the Duke of Windsor six months later, graces with his royal presence. Channon writes, breathlessly: “…It was the very peak, the summit, I suppose. The King of England dining with me!” I like that “I suppose.” Lets slip a self-awareness essential to a great diary. But Channon’s social ecstasy also brought forth an amusing memory. It would have been around 1954. My father and stepmother were giving a cocktail party in their Long Island house, and one of the invitees had brought her houseguests, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Just after the house was graced with royal presence, my father’s butler, John Hare, a resolute Scot of the kind that wins wars, came to him and said, “Mr.Thomas, I canna serve that man. He did not do his duty!” He was speaking of the Duke. Joe Thomas understood perfectly, and immediately dragooned me (or my brother) to bring HRH his whisky. Sic semper tyrannis!
So – with a week behind us to reflect – what do we think about the $450 million Salvador Mundi by Leonardo? First of all, my own sense is that the original was by Leonardo and that his matchless skills are still evident in the blessing hand, the lower passages of Christ’s hair, the orb and the hand that holds it. With respect to the latter, arguments have been put forward that since the reflections in the orb aren’t flipped, it can’t be by an artist whose passion for scientific accuracy and tricks of the eye is a matter of (his own) record. This is idiotic. There’s a Salvador Mundi in the Metropolitan Museum (Friedsam Bequest) of roughly the same date (1500-05) painted by Albrecht Durer, an artist of punctilious observation, that commits the same optical “errors” as the Leonardo. All this said, the Leonardo isn’t a picture I’d want to own; there’s something about Christ’s face and expression that I find off-putting. Purely artistic issues aside, two final thoughts. Bendor Grosvenor, who writes what I consider the best art blog (http://www.arthistorynews.com/) considers that Christie’s did the greatest marketing job in auction-house history, and I wholly agree. And perhaps more important: the price of anything can only be evaluated in terms of what the money paid means to him or her who paid it.
OK – Time Out! Charlie Rose has now been put in the stocks reserved for those purported to have harassed. The last such alleged incident was six years ago! This is now getting ridiculous. I have a feeling that, back then, alcohol may have been part of the equation. It is no longer. And on and on drone the media about some woman’s memory of having been rubbed up against, while in Washington the proven liar, swindler and butt-pincher in the White House, along with his cronies, conspires the steal the country out from under us! CBS and PBS have put Charlie on ice. They ought to be given a good swift kick for not standing up for a man who’s a good guy and saying they will take no action pending an investigation. And Charlie should get ready to sue their asses if they don’t!
Moved, seconded and passed by acclamation: https://dealbreaker.com/2017/11/steve-mnuchin-bad-liar-or-dangerous-idiot/?utm_campaign=Dealbreaker%20Daily&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=58629372&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–UKOAzVyJuW0CmvsM7eY2zi7RnM0FCXEapj8zkSa8TQuSAr_WCYuAFSubFczxmUeTvEnDKLD7cypZCNGNUNrJisRjR2Q&_hsmi=58629372
This is what I’m waiting for, source to be decided: “And then she told me that if I’d go down on her, she’d see I got the VP job I’m in the running for.”
OK: read this carefully. If what’s in here is what Charlie Rose has been decreed guilty of, then we truly are in the Golden Age of Whine in which perceived “disrespect” (a word and notion I hold in contempt: https://www.dailywritingtips.com/that-annoying-new-verb-%E2%80%9Cdisrespect%E2%80%9D/) is equivalent to sexual harassment or (as the squib captions it) “creepy” behavior. There’s not a whiff of matters erotic in this protracted howl from a young woman who obviously didn’t know how to behave in the presence of an older man (and superior) who did. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/charlie-rose-creepy-meetings-job-interview_us_5a1456d0e4b0c335e997bfdc?ncid=engmodushpmg00000004
There’s a mighty brouhaha on Instagram about Tom Campbell’s purported “criticism” of Diane Modestini’s restoration of the $450 million Salvador Mundi by Leonardo. I’m with Campbell. Below are the images of the painting pre-restoration (top) and as restored and sold. There is just something about the face in the earlier state – call it”sharpness,” or “masculinity” or “directness” – that is lacking in the later condition, where a kind of emotional intensity has been lost, especially around the mouth and in the gaze. This isn’t to deprecate Diane Modestini’s work. She is a fine, skillful restorer. But great restorers aren’t necessarily great artists, and there’s a unified physical and emotional presence – a strong focus -at work in the unrestored version that could only come from inside a great creative talent. Hand and face, gesture and expression, have a strength and cohesion – a power – that simply isn’t there in the restoration. Or I don’t see it. Funny. I once took Diane’s late husband Mario Modestini through the Yale Art Gallery to see the Jarves paintings fresh from an absolutely catastrophic restoration, and I thought that if he could have, Mario would have then and there strangled the “restorer” who all but wrecked some of the greatest Italian primitives in this country. Diane Modestini has probably done as well as any restorer could – but she isn’t Leonardo. Who is?
From the sublime to the…give me a f***ing break! https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/22/gop-congressman-barton-apologizes-for-nude-selfie-259442
Why we live the way we live now. Happy Thanksgiving. There may not be many more: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/12/07/big-money-rules/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NYR%20Louise%20Bourgeois%20billionaires%20Anni%20Albers&utm_content=NYR%20Louise%20Bourgeois%20billionaires%20Anni%20Albers+CID_e1dc911ab5788f8fed9b7ba60b49c1a8&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_term=Big%20Money%20Rules
THANKSGIVING DAY. In NYC, bright and clear, the way Thanksgiving ought to be. For whatever reason, my mind goes back to similar Thanksgiving Days long, long ago – in Southampton, where my second wife Wendell and I were raising a young family. We’d all join in a big touch football game, five, six, seven families, each with three or more children, forty or fifty bodies all on the field at the same time. It was so different then. Money – and the sort of people who consider wealth the ultimate empowerment – hadn’t taken over life. Southampton was a quiet kind of place. We were a real community. All scattered and dispersed now. I took a self-timed photograph one Thanksgiving Day – fifty of us, I guess, tall and small, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, the odd in-law. A few of us have stayed close, but the rest have scattered, there have been deaths, divorces, remarriages and most of the young children in that photograph are fifty now (give or take a few years) and have children of their own. Southampton has changed beyond recognition, physically and in spirit. “Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit,” as Virgil puts it in The Aeneid: “Maybe someday you will rejoice to recall even this.” I do. And here – from Michael in Texas (fifth from left, seated – just turned 56) – is the photo.
Madam returns from downstairs bearing a box in that unmistakeable Tiffany blue with an envelope addressed to me. “You have a secret admirer,” she announces with mock suspicion. We have no idea what it could be. Well, I swan! It’s from American Express – two handsome champagne glasses – thanking me for having been a cardmember for fifty years. My God, how time has flown!
We turn on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I miss it as it was when just balloons. Now most screen time seems to be devoted to Disneyfied singing groups and it seems cheesy to me but the crowds on-camera seem to love it. Another Miniver Cheevy moment for yours truly.
We’ve been the only Trump-loathers at a Trump table: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/22/trump-supporter-thanksgiving-dinner-family-215853
Food for thought: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/nov/23/from-inboxing-to-thought-showers-how-business-bullshit-took-overThe origin of “Dilbert.” Who knew?
Help! Someone’s spilled horses**t on my Op-Ed page: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/23/opinion/saudi-prince-mbs-arab-spring.html?_r=0 I can see them sitting around Riyadh asking each other “Who’s a major Western media burnoose-kisser who’ll take dictation from us and present it as his carefully considered opinion?’
Well, that – 18 holes at Mar-al-Dickhead – does it for me with Tiger Woods. Will never root for him again. Johnson was always a peckerwood, so no loss there.
Schadenfreude Dept: Alabama loses to Auburn! Deeply satisfying. Wonder how Coach Saban’s black players feel about representing a racist state that may well deny them of their voting rights when they graduate (if they do)? Wonder if they actually know they’re representing such a state?
Last night a friend came for dinner; she;s now representing The Browser.Com in the USA. I had forgotten what a really terrific all-rounder Browser is, the perfect place for the curious, cultivated mind (which I fancy mine is) to turn to once email and the quotidian horrors of TWAT (The World According to Trump) have been scanned on Bloomberg and WSJ. This Christmas, I intend to give Browser to my children and certain close friends. It’s only $34 a year. I can think of no better gift. I’m going to recommend that certain business acquaintances do the same, rather than send clients art books of a generic kind. Now I know what you’re going to say: we all already have too much ‘Net stuff in our lives. But one can never have enough really good, mind-opening stuff. Every week I hit the “unsubscribe” button at least two or three times.
Speaking of which, here’s a sample from today’s Browser: https://bankunderground.co.uk/2017/11/24/is-the-economy-suffering-from-the-crisis-of-attention/
Project Syndicate is another fertile, reflection-provoking website. Here, Lord Skidelsky reminds us of an essential truth: economic and social policies that stem from a calculus whose base unit is thousands need to be thoroughly rethought when that base unit rises into the millions: https://bankunderground.co.uk/2017/11/24/is-the-economy-suffering-from-the-crisis-of-attention/
Globalization takes a lot of hits for this nation’s woes, and I think most of them are deserved. One deeply-felt, long-lasting source of economic and political disruption, seldom commented on, is that globalization severs the bond between business owners and executives and the people who work for them, an essential component of that sense of community that many of us think has been trampled under in the West by greed and rent-extracting.
I think this guy is always worth listening to: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/republican-supply-side-budget-blowout-by-stephen-s–roach-2017-11?utm_source=Project+Syndicate+Newsletter&utm_campaign=3cb5da1806-sunday_newsletter_26_11_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_73bad5b7d8-3cb5da1806-93490385 If you link Roach’s commentary to my reflection on the most pernicious social effect of globalization, the breaking of the bond between corner office and factory floor, you could argue that the corporatization of pending tax reform deepens that slicing to a point where it’s beyond repair.
And now this son-of-a-bitch – of whom I’ve been suspicious since first he hove into prominence. He makes Friedman look like Gibbon: https://www.buzzfeed.com/evefairbanks/mark-halperin-poisoned-our-politics?utm_term=.dyBd6vjbjN#.toRqA0XoXL Here’s an example: “We have an apocalyptic politics in part because Halperin helped promote an apocalyptic approach to political coverage. It made him and his little scoops seem hugely important: that conversation he overheard between McConnell and Schumer meant everything. The title of his career-making book, 2008’s Game Change — which sold over 350,000 copies and netted him and his coauthor John Heilemann a $5 million advance for a follow-up — says everything. Politics is a game and its rules are constantly being transformed. Its intentionally hyperbolic, breathless text presented details like the fact that Obama “woke up late … and went for a haircut with his pal Marty Nesbitt” the way an ancient monarch’s courtiers used to examine his every sigh for divine omens.” Or as in ancient times, the ruler’s turds were examined for auguries. But what if the ruler himself is a turd?
And now, to close, this is what a traitor to his class looks like: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-11-26/this-new-jersey-house-race-is-scary-for-the-gop On the other hand, this may well be what his class truly is.