Saturday, September 08, 2007

I'm Kilroy! Kilroy! Kilroy! Kilroy!

Two Fridays ago, Fosco and his adorable boyfriend Oz devoted an evening to art at the rockin' Dennis DeYoung Museum. Did you know that, in the future, rock music will be outlawed? Luckily, "rock and roll misfit" Robert Orin Charles Kilroy will escape from the futuristic prison by pretending to be one of the robot guards. That's what happens when you try to outlaw rock and roll. Word.

Oh wait. Oz and Fosco actually went to San Francisco's delightful de Young Museum (of art). You may recall the de Young's flashy new copper-clad Herzog and de Meuron building.

The building is gorgeous in pretty much every way. But what else does the de Young have going for it?

Well, for one thing, it's not afraid of some fun. Fosco and Oz went for the weekly Friday night cocktail party and it was great. The museum stays open until 8:45 and serves cocktails, offers children's activities, and has a live DJ spinning tunes in the main hall. The crowd was a great mix: arty yuppies in fancy clothes, families in casual dress, hip art students with clunky glasses, young professionals, old people, and tons of hippies. Check out the ensemble on this chubby guy in his fifties (it's hard to take a surreptitious photo of someone in a museum):

That's a purple and white leopard print fur jacket. With purple bell bottoms (with the embroidered pattern on the bells). What you can't see: the skintight purple stretch shirt over his potbelly and the black kufi hat. That is some kind of style!

The tower observation deck was great fun, although the fog was rolling in and obscuring the long view. Here's a pic of Oz taking a phone call in the tower:

See the fog? And the metal grate trim? Very cool.

Here are two views of the museum from the tower. The first is of the main entrance courtyard.

And here is the rest of the museum as seen from the tower.

But what of the art? The de Young has been criticized recently for booking mostly "fluffy" visiting shows (lots of fashion, etc.) at the expense of serious fine arts shows. To some extent, this criticism is probably fair; however, Fosco can think of some pretty fluffy fine arts shows at "serious museums" around the country (think of those blockbuster French Impressionist shows that the Art Institute of Chicago is always doing. Ugh.).

Not to mention that the de Young offered us a thrilling visiting retrospective of Hiroshi Sugimoto--the extremely-serious contemporary Japanese photographer. Fosco has loved Sugimoto for years, having seen an installation of his seascapes at the Met in NYC during Semester Break 1993 (on a trip with his college roommates). The de Young installation was breath-taking. The photos were spotlit in completely dark galleries: they took on the force of religious objects. The seascapes were remarkable as always:

I had always wanted to see his film photographs, in which he uses a long exposure to take a photograph of an entire movie. The result produces a bright and otherwordly movie screen, surrounded by a still (and often ornate) theater:

And how irresistible is the 50 foot long backlit photograph of 1000 Buddhas in Kyoto (excerpt below):
The Sugimoto show was brilliant and entirely satisfying. It was the highlight of the evening.

But what of the art in the de Young's permanent collection? As Fosco is unfit to judge anything but twentieth century European and American art, he cannot comment on the permanent collection as a whole. However, the parts he saw were not entirely distinguished.

The de Young has a beautiful collection of art glass, with attractive works by Chihuly, Bertil Vallien, and Jon Kuhn. Here's a picture of Kuhn's "Portals of Andromeda" (with Oz in the background):

The glass work is all very impressive and quite eye-catching, but what exactly is it saying? It's all a bit... decorative.

As for more meaningful art, the de Young isn't too stacked. They have some decent pieces by important artists, but very little that stands out. There is one gorgeous Diebenkorn from his "Ocean Park" series. Here is Ocean Park 116:

There's a charming Demuth (and Fosco does love Demuth). This is "From the Garden of the Chateau":

Oh, and there's one fun (though ultimately unsatisfying) Wayne Thiebaud:

Yum, bubblegum!

On the whole, it was a completely magical evening. Art (even less distinguished art) is fun. Oz is fun. An evening in Golden Gate Park is fun.

But then we had to ruin it by having an uncharacteristically bad meal at Fosco's beloved Chow.

"Hey little girl...

...have you ever seen a Mormon naked? Me neither."

[Picture of Mitt Romney from the Times.]

I will be your preacher teacher (Be your daddy)

Fosco was raised Catholic. Thank goodness that's all over. But sometimes Fosco thinks back to his days as an altar boy at St Linda's and how he was lucky to evade the romantic attentions of Father Fingers.

We all know that the Catholic Church's response to sexual molestation has been completely shameful. But you know what else is shameful? That millions of Catholics continue to give money to the Church every week at Mass. The Church took advantage of its members (and their young sons) for decades; now it continues to take advantage of the financial resources of its members to pay for the sins of its priests.

This is all old news, of course, but Fosco got angry again today as he was reminded of the scale of it all:

  • Archdiocese of Los Angeles, 2007, agrees to pay $660 million to about 500 people.
  • Diocese of San Diego, 2007, agrees to pay $198 million to 144 people.
  • Diocese of Orange, Calif., 2004, $100 million for 90 abuse claims.
  • Diocese of Covington, Ky., 2006, up to $84 million for more than 350 people.
  • Archdiocese of Boston, 2003, $84 million for 552 claims.
  • Diocese of Oakland, Calif., 2005, $56 million to 56 people.
  • Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., 2007, agrees to pay about $52 million to 175 victims to emerge from bankruptcy protection; sets aside another $20 million for any future claims.
  • Diocese of Spokane, Wash., 2007, agrees to pay $48 million for about 150 claims to emerge from bankruptcy protection.
  • Diocese of Sacramento, Calif., 2005, pays $35 million to 33 people.
  • Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky., 2003, $25.7 million to 243 victims.
  • Diocese of Tucson, Ariz., 2005, agrees to fund a settlement trust worth about $22 million for more than 50 victims to emerge from bankruptcy protection.
[Source: NYTimes 9/8/07.]

This is all money that could have been spent on education or on charity. If you are Catholic and you care about educating children or alleviating suffering, maybe you should think about withholding your money from the Church and giving it to a non-religious charity.

Judy Blume Is Next

Although this news is not exclusive to Fosco Lives! (like our recent report of the death of Roberto "Len" Butler), we are sorry to note the passing of author Madeleine L'Engle. You can read the NYTimes obit.

Fosco recalls being thrilled by Ms. L'Engle's fiction, especially A Wrinkle in Time, as a seventh-grader. Fosco's English teacher Mrs. Eycleshymer (seriously!) assigned all of the L'Engle books to him for extra credit reading (yes, Young Fosco was just that obnoxious). It was even more thrilling when, a year or so later, Mrs. Eycleshymer and Young Fosco were able to attend a reading by Ms. L'Engle at a nearby community college. Young Fosco was selected by Mrs. Eycleshymer to be allowed publicly to ask Ms. L'Engle a question.

Young Fosco asked: "Which of your books is your favorite and why?"

Madeleine L'Engle answered: "You may as well ask me which of my children is my favorite."

To this day, Fosco considers this answer to be bullshit. Parents obviously have favorite children; there's no reason that authors shouldn't have favorite works. Fosco certainly knows which of his creative or academic endeavors he likes best. The nice thing about choosing the favorite of your textual progeny is that the other books don't get jealous and get pregnant to try to get your attention. Actually, come to think of it, Fosco still slightly resents her for that answer.

I would love to be able to say that Ms. L'Engle's books were important to the development of Young Fosco. Or that they somehow made Fosco who he is today. To tell the truth, Adult Fosco doesn't remember anything about any of her books. Was there time travel? That sounds about right. Precocious kids? Signs point to yes. Talking cartoon bats? Sure. Why not.

He does remember a diagram of a tesseract in one of the novels that completely blew his mind. There was this whole thing about trying to imagine the two-dimensional diagram in four dimensions. Fosco can honestly say that this was the last time he thought math was cool.

Actually, if you want to see a really nifty animated version of a tesseract, please check this out. But even so, math still isn't fun. Math: it's never fun. Oh, and it's completely useless.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Smoke Factory

Here's a satellite picture of the Santa Cruz area today:

Okay, not really. But it feels like it.

I hope the fires don't threaten the historic site of the first UCSC Pot-Lympics.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thursday Quickies

There is a nasty haze of smoke over Santa Cruz today, thanks to a big (though non-threatening) wildfire over the mountains. Fosco has a scratchy throat today and he's blaming it on the smoke. I don't know how they're going to put out the fire, because it hasn't rained here since April or so. Maybe they'll just let it burn for a few months. I'm starting to feel like I'm living in John Mackey's LA (click on the "Griffith Park Fire" link to see some thrilling pics). But hey--that's LA! LA is supposed to be an inferno. This is the nice part of of California. There shouldn't be smoke in paradise, baby.

Fosco has no energy to write a long post right now. So here are some quickies:

  • Speaking of the Inferno, there is a Purity Test based on the sins in Dante's Scholastic hell. Take it here. Fosco gets placed in the Seventh Level:
    Beyond the wood is scorching sand where those who committed violence against God and nature are showered with flakes of fire that rain down against their naked bodies. Blasphemers and sodomites writhe in pain, their tongues more loosed to lamentation, and out of their eyes gushes forth their woe.
    That sounds about right.

  • Football-loving homosexuals unite! Outsports has created a head-to-head Gay vs. Straight Fantasy Football Contest. Can the gays play FF better than the hets? Well, Fosco played fantasy football for like eight years with eleven straightish people. He won the championship once, was runner-up once, and finished third twice. That's not bad. Respect the homos, football fans--we know a little somethin'.

  • You may recall that Fosco loves "High School Musical" (and the sequel!). So how irresistible is it that a nudie pic of HSM star Vanessa Hudgens showed up on the internet today [link is sorta SFW, thanks to Photoshop]. Even better, the always reliable TMZ confirms that the pic is real. I bet Disney will be really happy, because any publicity is good publicity, right?

    Of course, a nude VanHudge still doesn't compare (in Fosco's book) to a shirtless Zac Ephron.

    Even better, there is a report that Zac's orange tan is fading.

  • You may remember Ted's infatuation with the line "It was like watching a dog play the piano" (over at the Gideonse Bible). It's a good line.

    Now Fosco has come across a similar line that he's pretty fond of. From yesterday's Gawker post on socialite Tinsley Mortimer's new blog:
    It's like My Little Pony learned how to type!
    Fosco is thinking about changing his whole blog concept so that he could claim that title.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Orville Redenbacher: Mass Murderer?

In her book, Raw Material: Producing Pathology in Victorian Culture (incidentally, one of Fosco's favorite academic books), Erin O'Connor describes how conditions in Victorian factories destroyed the human flesh of the workers:

This problematic relation, in which manufacture altered bodily composition, took a variety of forms: industrial disease manifested itself as an adaptation of parts, as when the skeleton deformed itself to fit a machine; as a mixing of human and industrial waste, as in metallic mucus or lumps of phlegmatic coal; and, most dramatically, as a chemical reaction between flesh and raw material. Copper poisoning, for instance, converted the worker into a kind of anatomical alloy; smelters absorbed so much metal that they acquired its chemical properties. They tasted like copper [...] and they even oxidized: as copper molecules fused with oxygen in the body's tissues the hair, gums, urine and stools all took on a greenish tint [...]. Likewise, matchmakers suffering from phosphorus poisoning became phosphorescent. As the phosphorous penetrated into the jaw and spread to the surrounding tissues of the head and neck, workers laboring under matchmaker's necrosis began to glow; indeed, with their luminously decomposing heads atop comparatively inert bodies, matchmakers with 'phossy jaw' were living lucifer matches in their own right.

Of course, this horrible tradition continued even into our own time with cotton workers lung and black lung disease. Even so, industry must be cleaner and safer now, right? Isn't there some sort of government regulatory agency that protects (American) workers? (Of course, I have no doubt that the poor workers in China are slathered in lead paint.)

But of course, industrial capitalism hasn't gotten any less evil--not even in the United States. Allow Fosco to call to your attention something called "popcorn workers lung," also known as (seriously!) "butter flavoring lung injury." Now, while buttery lungs may sound delicious, they're not: it turns out to be a horribly debilitating disase. According to the NYTimes, the disease

seems to lead the small airways in the lungs to become swollen and scarred. Sufferers can breathe in deeply, but they have difficulty exhaling.

And yes, it can be fatal.

An article in the Times today calls attention to the fact that

exposure to synthetic butter in food production and flavoring plants has been linked to hundreds of cases of workers whose lungs have been damaged or destroyed.

And now, for the first time, popcorn lung has been diagnosed outside the factory: in a man who regularly ate microwave popcorn.

The man told Dr. Rose that he had eaten microwave popcorn at least twice a day for more than 10 years.

“When he broke open the bags, after the steam came out, he would often inhale the fragrance because he liked it so much,” Dr. Rose said. “That’s heated diacetyl, which we know from the workers’ studies is the highest risk."

Fosco hates popcorn in all of its varieties, but he doesn't think popcorn lovers (or popcorn workers) deserve this kind of punishment. This is ridiculous. Is it really possible that butter-flavored popcorn cannot be made without crippling or killing workers? Fosco finds himself more and more in agreement with Theodor Adorno in Minima Moralia: "There is nothing innocuous left."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Alternative Mindset List

Every fall, Beloit College publishes its Mindset List, attempting to capture the life experience of the incoming first-year college students to a much older faculty. This year's list assumes that the future Class of 2011er was born in 1989. In previous years, Fosco has found this list to be moderately interesting, in a "damn I'm old!" kind of way.

This year's list is quite disappointing. For example, look at #4: incoming firstyears "never 'rolled down' a car window." Really? Fosco was still driving a car with manual windows until 2002. What cars were these kids riding in? And as for #58 ("They get much more information from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the newspaper."), I don't think that's limited to just 18-yr-olds. Fosco has gone through long periods of time when that was true for him. And he refuses to be ashamed of that fact.

Count Fosco would like to offer some additions to the list. For the Class of 2011:

  1. "George Bush" is a popular name for presidents.
  2. Zebra mussels have always lived in the Great Lakes.
  3. The hypothetical actions of Jesus have been a source of curiosity.
  4. There's only been one war in Afghanistan.
  5. Wrigley Field has always had night games.
  6. The Olsen Twins have always been sexually intriguing.
  7. Tacos have always been a popular dinner option.
  8. Kirstie Alley has always weighed more than fifty pounds.
  9. Everyone has made out with (or will make out with) someone named Jessica, Ashley, or Brittany.
  10. The Pope has always been an old white man.
  11. Queer theory has always existed.
  12. Candles have always been scented.
  13. Hooking up is a popular way to show affection.
  14. Corpses have always been comedy gold.

Yikes. Who are these kids?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Count Fosco Salutes...

Another Sunday with no Dan Harper column. But you know who might cheer you up? A gentleman named Michael Attree. He loves the ladies and he loves his facial hair. And he is apparently some kind of Edwardian supervillain.

How much do moustache rides cost in the UK?

I don't know why this guy makes me feel so happy. But he does.

[N.B.: check out the thrillingly-moustachioed aviator in this post by Fosco's new blogopal kungfuramone. I like what's happening in the world.]

Denouement: 8/26-9/1

Last week, while you were coming to terms with your terrible knowledge of Judith Thurman's colonic irrigation, Fosco was

Oh, and he changed the blog color scheme like five times. Now it's red.