Archive for October, 2008

Welcome to Goldmansachsastan

Posted in political with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2008 by barryshapiro

Our nation is now in the hands of about a dozen former executives of Goldman Sachs. If no one thinks this is not an amazing conflict of interest they should have their head examined. The bailout is good for banking and gets better every day. For the rest of us maybe no so much. Since George Bush seems to be taking a pass for the next few months and neither Obama nor McCalin is in a position to do anything, we are all at the mercy of the annointed prince Henry and his trusty squire Ben. Welcome to the nation of Goldmansachsastan.

Things get sillier every day as I watch my 401K become a 101K and perhaps, eventually, a No K. If you live in the Sunshine State, our property values are dropping at the unbelieveable rate of about $20K a month. That’s not my estimate but rather came directly from the appraiser who just did the work on my house on Anna Maria Island, a resort area where you would think prices would stay somewhat steady.

Of course the good news is that oil prices are dropping precipitiously. That’s great for homeowners in the Northern States this winter and for drivers down South who love their NASCAR. However, it’s bad for alternative enegry development which means that more shortsighted thinking will prevail.

Meanwhile, John McCain thinks we need to know more about a washed up old terrorist and Sarah Palin still doesn’t know what the VP job is and Joe Biden can’t keep his mouth shut. Thank goodness Obama is taking a few days off to spend with his grandmother. There is no telling how the Democrats will screw up this election next. And while the politicians running for office talk about the need for renewable energy sources, the financing for those new energy sources is drying up as the cost of a barrel of oil is dropping. Someone is happy about all this but I can’t say who.

Every day the news gets worse. I may have to drop my subscription to the Times to save my mental health. I have joined the legions of Americans who can’t afford their monthly nut and are cutting back and possibly cutting loose. I know of one friend that was smart and last year took advantage of the banks largesse and mortgaged themselves to the hilt. They then took the cash, gave the keys to the banks and moved to Panama. They are feeling good right about now. Of course those HELOCs are no longer available so that strategy is out the window.

All of this brings me back to a book I read in high school. The Peter Principle is the principle that “In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence” formulated by Dr. Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull. John McCain, Sarah Palin, Ben Bernacke, Henry Paulson – have these people all failed up to a point of such heights that their ability to do damage to the nation is at a critical moment in history? George Bush was an excellent an example of how the principle works. Watching Bush on the news these days is a little like watching Dilbert Goes To Washington. Will Obama reach his pinnacle of incompetence?

I am no financial savant. I have trouble balancing my checkbook and I am highly leveraged. I am frightened by the possibilities like so many others. If I had a clue as what the smart move would be I’d share it but I have absolutely no idea. The only thing we can do is vote and hope for the best. I am putting my money and my future on Obama and I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Draw this for me…

Posted in art, personal with tags , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2008 by barryshapiro
It’s hard for me to publicly bash a fellow artist but I am going to do that here. It’s not meant to be mean spirited and it’s not personal. It’s just a peeve I have had going back to my days as a student artist and later as a working artist in New York. It is simply that most of the successful gallery artists who make it in New York today are just not that talented. What makes an artist today is as much about politics and marketing as it is about talent – actually much more so.

My case in point is the canonization of Elizabeth Peyton by the New York critics.  Peyton is currently the subject of a “mid-career survey” at the New Museum on the Lower East Side. I must state here that I have not seen the show in person yet but I intend to do so when I visit the City in a couple of weeks. I tend to get a little behind in my reading and I stack up newspaper and magazine articles I want to get to in my bathroom for when I can get in a little throne time and this morning I picked up the Weekend Arts section of the October 10 Times. The big bold story was a review of the Peyton show by Roberta Smith. The Times and Ms. Smith obviously sees Peyton as one of the most important artists of our time. They must because they’ve committed a huge spread to her review. I just don’t get it. Elizabeth Peyton is a very nice,  minor artist. Her work looks great when reproduced in periodicals but does not stand up when you see it in person. She may be prolific but she is not substantial.

Peyton's Live To Ride

Peyton

 

 

 

 

 

I first encountered her work when one of her portraits entitled “Live To Ride” was featured in the Whitney Biennial. I saw a photo of it in a magazine and was intrigue enough to immediately head over to the Whitney to see it in person. It left me scratching my head as to why this womans work had even made it to the exhibit. My thinking at the time was very much in line with a post by Harry on the Daily Gusto at the time http://www.dailygusto.com/blog/archives/features/000070.php. Shortly after that viewing I learned that Peyton lived in my then hometown of Southold, New York and that again peaked my interest in her work. I began to look for her wherever I could and what I found was a nice person with what I considered marginal talent who liked to paint rock stars and had a lot of friends in the art community. But I found her work to be uninspiring and lightweight.  My view hasn’t changed over time. That Elizabeth Peyton could be mentioned in the same breath with artists like John Currin or even a artist/cartoonist like Lisa Yuskavageis beyond me. I believe she is the creation of her dealer Gavin Brown and the New York critics who suck up to those gallery owners who shop the trendiest boutiques in Soho. It’s all about the show and notabout the work.

I know this sounds like a rant against Peyton but it’s really a rant against an art scene that is devoid of real art. Peyton should be illustrating articles for Rolling Stone, not hanging on the walls of the Whitney. I used to sit in the Soho studio of my friend Paul Levitt, an abstract painter who made quirky lamps and sculptures on the side. His studio had windows that looked out into a large air-shaft and opposite his place was the studio of another, more successful painter, whose name I cannot even remember now. We used to peer in at these amazingly large, awful paintings that weer so amateurish it was laughable. The colors were muddy and thin. The imagery was childish and not well thought out. The main topic was sex but there was no sensuality or eroticism or even a sense of proportion. It was if someone had told a 11 year boy old to go play with paint on a giant canvas. Yet this person was selling these grotesques, really ugly images for thousands.

Paul’s work, though intellectually superior and vastly more ‘painterly’ could not find a buyer. The difference? One difference for sure was that the guy across the hall was a showman and had dealer support. Paul was  not a Soho character, controversiall or flamboyant. In fact he was a normal suburban kind of guy who had a very Academic approach to painting which no one on the Soho scene really cared about. What they cared about was flash.Paul Levitt and wife Robin Lung at opening in Honolulu 
                           Paul and his wife, filmmaker Robin Lung in Honolulu

I felt the same about Basquiat. From the first time I saw his work I thought he was a bum without talent yet he was hugely successful. Drive and ambition for sure but very thin on talent. He was, in the end, exactly what he started out to be – a graffiti artist.  Theh real talent was Mary Boone. Which is why I was really turned off by Schnabel’s film, even though it was really well done. The film was good, the artist not so.
When I see an artist like Currin I get excited. When I see an artist like Peyton I get depressed. I know it takes all kinds but do we always have to elevate the mediocre? I know I will sound sacrilegious when I write this but I always felt the same about Keith Haring. He was a graffiti artist who made some very colorful cartoons for subway station walls and later on T-shirts and sweatshirts but really nothing more. I could never consider him a real artist in the classic sense of the word.

portrait by Basquiat

 So what’s it all about? I hate to be so cynical about art but I just feel that the really good art is not getting seen. It’s all buried in some loft somewhere in Cleveland probably. Sour grapes? I don’t think so though I do take great pride in my own ability to draw. Drawingis the basis for all fine art as far as I am concerned and if you can’t draw then I feel you cannot be an artist. that doesn’t mean everyone has to draw like Raphael but you have to be able to draw.

Katherine by Barry Shapiro
Katherine by Barry Shapiro

 Paul and his wife now live in Hawaii where he teaches art and has taken to a more representational style of painting. I am living in Florida doing work in pastel and crayon. I am awaiting the next generation of portrait artists to impress me and I hope they do. Ms. Peyton does not. Send me your work.

Rays!

Posted in personal with tags , , , , , on October 20, 2008 by barryshapiro

I love baseball!
Congrats to the Tampa Bay Rays on going to their first World Series. Earlier this season I played a little hooky and caught an afternoon game at the Pit (also known as The Tropicana Dome) against the Yankees. Actually, I wasn’t interested in seeing the Rays as I knew their horrible history. They were playing my team and I was going to see Jeter and company. What I witnessed was the dismantling of the highest paid lineup in baseball by a young, spirited, fundamentally sound baseball team. I sensed that this was not your grandfather’s Devil Rays but a new breed of fish.

Since then I have followed the Rays closely. As my Yanks tanked and fell out of the race, I threw my support to these kids. Nothing makes me happier than watching them knock off the hated and venal Red Sox.  Now on to Philadelphia, a good team with some very exciting players. It should be a good series but I’m picking the Rays.

Shell Game

Posted in marketing, personal with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2008 by barryshapiro

Over the last couple of weeks i have given more thought to my body and my life on earth than I have in many years. The death of my father, the health issues I personally am facing, the news of a tragic death in Texas this week and the insanity surrounding the political and economic climate in America and the entire world for that matter have given me pause to reevaluate my feelings and positions.

While standing at the side of my father’s body in the emergency room about 4 hours after his passing I looked carefully for any indication that this was my father on the gurney. I held his hand, I looked under the gauze pads that covered his eyes (to keep them from drying out), I looked under the sheet that covered him, I touched his forehead but I could not see anything that in any way resembled my father. What I was left with was his shell. He had apparently left that shell and was no longer around. At that moment I felt no sadness, no repulsion or any real emotion at all. I just felt that he was gone. I’d miss him in my own way but I would not miss that shell.

Reflecting on it all, I have come to realize, experientially, that when we arrive here on this planet for what we define as a lifetime, we are given a shell to use and that’s all it is. We then go about changing, abusing, pampering, reshaping or just living in that shell while we are alive. It’s one pretty tough shell but it does take a battering. The shell breaks down and deteriorates and eventually can give out. But the shell is not us. The shell is the shell. Our value judgements about the shells we use have nothing to do with our use of the shell. These judgements (she’s got a nice ass, he’s a ugly so and so, that kid has ugly freckles, etc.) have no reality and only have meaning by the agreement of society – but serve no actual purpose. We believe we are our shells and we attach our egos to them. Only when we have a moment of clarity brought about by something like meditation, drugs, an out of body or near death experience or extreme suffering do we realize experientially that we are not the shell. It is why the ancient ascetics practiced suffering – so they could get out of their shells.

We get the shell we get and all the shells are perfect when we get them. Now one might ask about seemingly imperfect shells – like what about someone born with Down’s Syndrome? I understand now that we do things to our shells that either distort them or fuck them up totally. They are still perfect shells but somewhere along the line we damaged our shell. I know that seems unfair – after all, what did a kid with Down’s Syndrome ever do to his or her own shell if they were born that way? I don’t know. All I know is that somewhere in the life process their shells were damaged and this is what they have now. It’s not fair but it is the truth as I see it.

In some ways, this is very freeing and allows me to see all shells, even the ones that seem flawed, as perfect just the way they are – and are not. I realize that this sounds like a lot of airy-fairy BS or like a talk at a self help meeting but I really had this exprience and I can now intellectually speak about it from a different perspective.

Sunday I will have to go to a funeral and say goodbye to someone I have never met who died in a tragic accident. No need to discuss the gory details. It’s enough to say that it was a tragic accident and this person should have had the opportunity to have more life. But it was his time to give that shell up. I know what’s next – the age old question of what happens after life on earth is over: heaven or hell, limbo, reincarnation as a kitty cat or Catherine the Great. I don’t know and no body else does either so I don’t think the question is really worth discussing. It is a question that has caused a lot of pain in suffering over centuries and since no one has ever come back with a definitive answer then let’s just drop it and concenrate on this life in this shell.

Now, it wasn’t just my father’s passing that led me to all this talk of shells. His dealth was a catalyst in a series of events that have been on-going for me for several months. One of the reoccurring issues is my own health. I have extremely high blod pressure and no matter what approach I have taken I cannot seem to keep it at a safe level. I have tried diets and exercise, medication, herbal and ‘natural’ remedies, accupuncture, yoga, controlled breathing exercises and you name it. Still, my dyastolic pressure rate hovers around 104 and has averaged about 95 over the last 5 months. (By the way, the only diet that has ever affected my pressure positively was the Atkins Diet but it was just too much to sustain after about a year of eating a high fat, low carb diet.) My last reading was 158/104 and if you know what those numbers mean you will understand my concern. And that is while I am taking 2 medications and bicycling an average of 40 miles a week.  Hypertension usually has no immediate symptoms and you can drop dead at any moment without knwing you even had a problem.

In the midst of all this concern over my pressure I picked up a new client, True Healthy Products (www.truehealthyproducts.com) which specializes in all natural, organic vitamins and supplements and I have been learning an awful lot about what we are putting into our shells. I was already fairly knowledgeable about supplements and diets but lately the information I have been absorbing has had a mind blowing affect. For example, I have learned the difference between whole food vitamins and fractionated or synthetic vitamins. If you take vitamins and don’t know the difference I suggest you find out and stop wasting money by ingesting things that your body really doesn’t use.

Additionally, I have suffered all my life from allergies. I was told from the time I was a boy that I was allergic to grass and pollen. The solution then was to stay inside. That didn’t work so I learned to put up with it.  My first inkling that my allergies may have been food related and not grass or pollen related came when I did Atkins. Aside from my pressure going down one of the benefits I found was that I know longer was sneezing in the morning. Well, recenly, while working with THP, I had the privilidge of meeting a world reknown allergist, Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby. Dr. Keith is British but I didn’t hold that against him. He’s a terribly funny guy who has a totally different way of looking at disease than the normal medical practicioner.

Dr. Scott-Mumby, who was the inventor of The Doctor’s Chocolate (a dark chocolate candy that allows people to loose weight and reduce stress) has written a book called Diet Wise. He gave me a copy which I began reading about a week before dad died and it has really been another eye opener. I have stopped consuming all dairy products and my life is completely different because of it. I hate not having ice cream but I think I can live without it if it means sleeping through the night and waking up able to breathe normally without pills.

So, between Dr. Scott-Mumby’s book, my adventures in dieting, my battle with hypertension and my experience with Big Al’s cold, rubbery body I began to see my body in a different way – as a vessel or a shell rather than as being me. It has made me think of all the time I had wasted because my shell wasn’t cooperating with my mind. My mind (my mind in a clear state and not it’s more often jumbled, ego-driven messy state) is a better representation of who I really am. If I allow my body to get in the way of my mind than I am denying myself a life of possibilities and fulfillment. It’s like getting into your car and it won’t start so you decide that you’ll just stay home instead of go to the party, rather than call a cab and have fun.

How often had I not done something useful because I was tired or had a headache? How often had I said I could not do something cause my shell wouldn’t like it or be up to the task? 3 weekends ago I did something that my shell definitely did not want to do but my mind was able to overcome. I jumped out of an airplane. It was scary as hell and exillerating. My shell was shaking like a leaf in a hurricane. My mind said – “just do it!” Thank you Nike.

Nothing I’ve witten here could be misconstrued for ground-breaking health news or particularly original thinking. I am only relating an experience, my own moment of clarity. But this clarity for me has opened up a whole new world of possibility and made me look more closely at my motivations and the things that keep me stuck. It has even given me some insight to our current national financial crisis and political situation. There are alot of people out there in pain and they don’t know why. It makes them do stupid things, bad things. It’s what my favorite therapist, Dr. Ram Giri Braun (http://www.becomingwhole.com/), refers to as the “Pain Body” and most of us seem to be stuck in that pain body. The pain body is a mental state but it manifests in a physical state. I just cannot go into it here but you can read more about that in the works of Byron Katie, one of Braun’s mentors. Katie’s work is very positive and worth delving into.  http://www.thework.com/index.asp.

Most of us are stuck one way or another. A big part of that is thinking that we are the shell. I can clearly see that now in a way I could not before, even having read all the right books and done the right classes and workshops. I just had to experience it for myself. I’m not the shell. I am something more. For the rest of my time I hope to be able to keep that in mind.

Nelly

Posted in art, personal with tags , , , on October 12, 2008 by barryshapiro

Most of you don’t know Nelly Charbonneaux so I’d like to introduce you. Nelly and I go way back to our days at Pratt Institute and she went on to be one of the best illustrators in the history of France – and that’s saying alot! Nelly is witty, gifted and, I must say it: adorable. We love her. Check out her work at http://www.veer.com/products/artistgallery.aspx?artist=2492.

Nelly has a blog she does for her students. I have no idea what she is writing about because I don’t speak French but I am sure it is somehow about illustration and illustrators and so I encourage you who do speak French or know how to translate French or really love French Fries to check her out cause I am sure she has something brilliant to say!

http://nelly-charbonneaux.blogspot.com/

Viva la France! Viva les arts!

Barry Goes Global!

Posted in personal, political with tags , , , on October 12, 2008 by barryshapiro

I am now officially an international star! Check out my on-line interview in the Pakistani Spectator. Who knew a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx would one day become the digital voice of of reason in the Third World!

http://www.pakspectator.com/interview-with-blogger-barry-shapiro/

By the way, pardon the spelling. I don’t think it was me but it may have been. In any case, it is truly fascinating to just appear on their blog and I hope you’ll check it out.

Barry

OK. I’m really dropping names now…

Posted in personal, political with tags , , , , , on October 11, 2008 by barryshapiro

Yesterday I wrote about Elayne Boosler’s post on the Huffington Post blog and I said some flattering things about her but now I am really going to start dropping names so as to impress the hell out of you. I got an email from my good friend Cliff Fagin (that’s writer, producer, director Cliff Fagin by the way) and in it he mentioned I should read Rosanne Cash’s article in The Nation. Since I consider Rosanne a friend, or at least a solid acquaintance, I thought I should mention her in my blog so that anyone reading it (all 4 of you) would understand just what a big shot I really am!!!

Rosanne, daughter of a very famous man in black named Cash (who I never met) is a very talented singer, song writer and author. I know this because I have some CDs with her music and a book she wrote and autographed for me, though she misspelled my name.

Anyhow, Rosanne is very funny. I met her when I was dating Paula Sartorius, who is now a big shot at some record company (or so I was told – most women become very successful AFTER dating me – just ask Veanne Cox). OK, so that’s enough name dropping for tonight. Read Rosanne’s article at http://www.thenation.com/doc/20081027/cash. I can’t say that she is as funny as Elayne but she sings better.