Re “The two-state solution meets the elephant in the room,” by Dan Rottenberg
Having watched Benjamin Netanyahu debate the two state solution with Charlie Rose for an hour on Bloomberg TV last night, I’m convinced Netanyahu intends to “settle” once and for all that Palestinians will be persuaded to move out of Israel as more and more Jewish “settlements” make their “one state of Israel” less and less accessible and/or tolerable to Palestinians.
Oi vey! Our editor reveals a suppressed hunger to suddenly become an art critic with balls.
Mishigoss, I learned just now from the Urban Dictionary, is “a complex, annoying, stressful problem, made all the more frustrating in that it could have been prevented if certain people had just used their brains before.”
Yeah, for example, the allegedly great architect Philip C. Johnson, who corrupted our architectural discourse over a too-long life with his nouveau riche anxieties. Like Mies, Johnson was obsessed with the “A” in architecture, ironically creating uninhabitable buildings.
Patrick D. Hazard
October 24, 2011
A regular reader of the London “Guardian”, I was astonished to find in the August 23rd edition an Obit for one 85 year old American poet Samuel Menashe, who won the Poetry Foundation’s 2004 Neglected Masters Award ($50,000). Who, he? Imagine the panic of having taught poetry for over sixty years and never even heard the name! It turns out I was not the only lyric ignoramus.
Dana Gioia, arguably the best (only good?) appointment of George W. Bush, as director of the National Endowment of the Arts, 2003-2009 commented: "The public career of Samuel Menashe demonstrates how a serious poet of singular talent , power and originality can be utterly ignored in our literary culture.” And Stephen Spender declaimed in the New York Review of Books (1971) that there was nothing more remarkable than “the fact that his poetry goes so little remarked.”
Sam was not humble about the $50G’s awarded in 2004. “When one gets what one deserves, it’s a wonderful thing.” But he was less positive in an interview with “Contemporary Authors” in 1984. He complained that “the poetry editor is invariably the house poet or a person who is working with the interlocking directorate of established poets. . .”
He growled that you weren’t sent to Siberia (his parents were Russian Jewish immigrants to Brooklyn), but that “you are just kept out of print.” The British poet Kathleen Raines helped him get his first book published—in Great Britain, by a major publisher, Victor Gollancz in 1961, at age 36. A minor American firm, October House, published him ten years later. He sought out Robert Graves in Mallorca, who exclaimed,”Young man,you are a true poet,” the greeting Thomas Hardy made a generation earlier! But except for brief stints at Bard College and C.W.Post College, he was shut out of the creative writing faculties that now dominate the genre.
But his troubles started after one year at Queens College, He joined the Army at 17, and was soon in the infantry fighting the Battle of the Bulge. All but 29 of his company of 190 were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. When he returned to America, his mates all spoke of what they would do next summer. “I was amazed that they could talk of next summer. As a result I lived in the day.
For the first next few years, it was the last day. Then it changed. It was the only day.” NYTimes 8/23/11. C.W.Post College fired him for passing all his students eligible for the Korean Draft! He took odd jobs as a Gray Line guide, a French tutor, a lecturer on cruise ships. He sold his first poem to the Yale Review in 1956, moved into a Thompson Street walk up and stayed there till the day he died.
But let him continue his own story, poetically.
Who is mother
Of more than one
Is not the same
As the mother of an only son
Who never became
Still only a son
As an old man—
What I have not done
Made me who I am.
By my steadfast prose
The dead I ghost write
Shed shadows that shine
With hindsight, hearsay—
The last word is mine.
For what I did
And did not do
And do without
In my old age
Rue, not rage
Against that night
We go into,
Sets me straight
On what to do
Before I die—
Sit in the shade,
Look at the sky
Salt and Pepper
Here and there
White hairs appear
On my chest—
Age seasons me
Gives me zest—
I am a sage
In the making
A pot poured out
Fulfills its spout
(NO TITLE! Think about it, the cryptic poems his careless readers scorned.)
I think I like most his bird poems. Here’s a few to round off your visit:
Lust puffs up
Taut tail strut
Fan of fire—
Shakes a Sire
Scampers over sand
As breakers disband
Each wave undergoes
The bead of his eye
He pecks what it tows
Keeps himself dry
Crow I scorn you
You’ll not subdue
This blue air
One imaginative idea in "Samuel Menashe: New and Selected Poems" edited by Christopher Hicks (Broad Axe Books,2008), with DVD by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, was to include a DVD of the poet reading. This film is a flop, but such DVD’s should become standard in poetry published. Praise for a good try.
I have long admired Michael Moore's committed idealism, but have known little of his slowly sliding into media. I grew up in Detroit (1930-50) and worked in three different factories to finance a PhD in American Literature. I taught college for almost 30 years then became a freelance media critic where I could do more to change opinion.
The most salient point of the interview is the analysis of Reagan's deliberate deindustrialization of America through his Acapulco secret meetings. First, auto execs shifted production from Michigan to the union free South, then Mexico, then anywhere cheaper.
This was an egregious treachery which we must report to the American people like this Goodman interview does.
From "Every American can be President" to the sleazy shift from workers making a decent wage to Bushed-up execs becoming millionaires.
Chris Hedges has pointed out how Ike's fear of the military industrial complex has come true with America having almost 800 bases around the world and a military budget more than the entire rest of the world.
Bless Michael for digging in up to Northern Michigan (where I spent grand summers) before Reaganism deindustrialized the state.
Dear Editor, It’s about time someone pulled Jerry Boris’ sleazy chain. I’m no fan of Professor Edward S. Herman. Indeed I have had better public debate with him, but to use the scumbag rhetoric Boris uses in his “Not-So-Fast, Eddie” simply demeans Boris himself in the judgment of all serious and fair persons. Boris, by the way, has written that I am an anti-Semite and Nazi for having the temerity to criticize Jews and Israeli foreign policy in an essay I wrote two years ago. He has recently repeated this baseless slander, if he does it again in print, he’d better get himself a good libel lawyer. Intellectual punks seem to fear to no lighter sanctions.
His mindless anti-anti-Semitism is evident in his puerile sneering at a man with a distinguished intellectual reputation as “Eddie.” Later, he somehow confuses Herman with the German Ph.D.’s who collaborated with Nazism. And because Norman Podhoretz (with his own very well-known axes to grind) says, “It takes an academic to really get things screwed up,” we are to assume that Herman is such a screw-up. Boris badly needs an introductory course in logic.
“Herman strongly suggests,” Boris goes on—and I do mean goes on, “that the U.S. politicians protect Israel. Yet we only have to consider the hostility of the Bush Administration to Israel in its effort to appease the Arabs.” Since about August 2, thick-headed one. When it has appeared that U.S. foreign policy and Israel strategic interests might not coincide for a while. That proves Herman’s very point: when some American has the temerity to diverge from Israel interests he’s dubbed an Israeli basher. It won’t wash, Mr. Boris. You prove the very opposite of what you intend with your loose cannon logic.
“Herman also incorrectly indicates that ‘U.S. editors are sympathetic’ to Israel. To refute this obvious truth, Boris alleges that the Inquirer is anti-Israel. Alleges, midget mind, is not proving. This Narbeth Nincompoop deserves some kind of Logic Chopping Award. If he wants evidence of Pro-Israel bias in the American media, let him start with the Katzenjammer Kids of U.S. journalism. William Safire and A.M. Rosenthal, and work on down. We’re biased in favor of Israel, schmuck, because we love her and want her to survive, but not at the expense of the Palestinians or anyone else that gets in Yitzak Shamir’s way. But that means we have to try all the harder to give the Palestinians a fair shake in the American media, skewed as they have been since Ben Gurion’s days, in favor of the country of the Diaspora.
But Holocaust Hustlers like you don’t understand that, you’d rather score cheap debating points off a man who has done more to reveal the systemic biases of the official American media than anyone else in the world today. His and Noam Chomsky’s content analysis of major American media coverage of the Polish priest’s murder by security forces compared with how they covered up by omitting coverage of the savaging of El Salvador priests and peasants by right-wing U.S. funded fascists is a classic of contemporary press criticism.
But I suppose it’s too much to ask you to read anything beyond the agit prop slogans you periodically rearrange in your obsessive letter writing to the press. What we want from the rest of you, to answer your hokey rhetorical question to Professor Herman, is a minimum of civility in political discourse and a cessation of your equating Israel’s passing set of predicaments with world humanism. I’d tell you to go to Tel Aviv to help build Israel with real deeds not phony words like those you dump on Herman and me.
But I infer form the shabbiness of your discourse that you’re just a Big Mouth who gets off on sounding off. Israel I fear would be worse off if you migrated there. They’ve already got nutty rabbis who attribute the Holocaust to too many Jews eating pork. Well, on second thought, you might really get along with such an idiot. In any event, Sir, stop bothering your intellectual betters with trash like your letter of December 28. Israel’s got enough real enemies; it doesn’t need stupid “friends” like you.
“Healing and history,” Patrick Hazard’s account of the benign multiculturalism of the new Europe, leaves this reader a little skeptical.
To be sure, Europe has a lot of history to digest, and the experiment of creating a united continent out of long-warring nations has a long and perhaps rocky way to go. But the current spectacle of Germany and France ganging up to squeeze Greece to the pips over its debt (a debt German and French banks quietly colluded in) is as ugly in its way as the former traditions of military aggression were.
Those good German taxpayers who resist a bailout of the Greeks because of their alleged moral turpitude are the same ones who funded the Nazis when they flew the swastika over the Parthenon. Which sin was really the more grievous?
The current North-South divide over the crisis of the euro is economic warfare, and the losers will find themselves occupied territory, perhaps for generations. The Turks are probably thanking their lucky stars they didn’t get invited to join the Club of Europe. The Greeks might well think hard about the desirability of leaving it.
Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
October 26, 2011
Patrick Hazard replies: The Greeks’ tax-avoiding, bloated state amenities are a potential fatal drag on the euro, not to forget Greece itself. Give me the stolid German sturdiness any day.
Robert Zaller replies: The extent to which the Greeks are responsible for their own woes is debatable, but the Greek work week is one of the longest in Europe, and the vast majority of Greeks are the victims rather than the beneficiaries of the corruptions and redundancies that beset their economic system. I have seen this at first hand.
Patrick Hazard replies: Your take on the Germans “reoccupying” contemporary Greece as in Nazi Germany is about as relevant as their occupying Lorraine in 1871. They will be paying the most, after all, for Greek improvidence and pervasive tax avoidance. It is my considered opinion after a decade of close observation that the Germans have almost entirely absolved themselves from your absurd implication they remain the same old Nazis, however nice.
Robert Zaller replies: Your spirited defense of your second country clashed with my defense of mine. I don’t know how virtuous contemporary Germans are, but I wouldn’t want the burden of living with the Nazi past. There is a line that connects Bismarck and Hitler— that of German history. Bismarck built a great country, however perilous its foundations, and Hitler destroyed it along with much else. That the Germans were able to rebuild themselves materially is much to their credit, but the job of moral repair is simply a longer task. I wish them well with it, and I certainly don’t mean to suggest that people who want others to pay their bills are neo-Nazis, whatever their flag. But there is a certain amount of insensitivity, not to mention bullying, in the way the Greek situation has been handled.
I was enjoying Patrick Hazard’s article about healing among countries, but, darn it, remembered that I can’t trust myself. I’m a bit slow, and I thank him for reminding me, but am I semi-literate because I’m monolingual? Or, comparing trilingual to monolingual, am I tertio-literate?
Oh, I just got it: I’m semi-literate because I’m an American, right. Or, wait, is it because I’m an American who hasn’t moved to Germany? You see how difficult this is for me to figure out.
Fox Chase/ Philadelphia
October 26, 2011
Patrick Hazard replies: I chide intellectually lazy Americans because I deplore their imminent loss of a great country. I’m living in Germany because I fell in love with a German woman. As a retired professor of American literature, I’m ashamed of my countrymen’s fatal ignorance of their great writers. Incidentally, the Germans are retrieving their culture from the dead end of Nazism: business executives here worry about their workers, defend unions, strive to give the young the skills that will support their industries.
As I enter my thirteenth year as a “visitor” to Weimar, I’m finally comprehending the splendid woods of Europe instead of gawking at its disparate trees! Take today’s little story in BILD (10/19/11,p.2 col.8) about the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl just getting the Polish decoration (The Golden Bridge of Dialogues) for his work in reconciling the two countries after World War Two. The triangle staffs of adjacent Germany, France, and Poland are constantly organizing conferences, exhibitions and awards under their corporate title “Die Drei Ecke” (The Three Corners). Serious Europeans are obsessed with avoiding a repetition of their destructive twentieth century. And Germans are still regretting the scandal of Nazism, long after they have adopted more civilized habits.
Take the new exhibit in the Weimarer Kunsthalle on Goetheplatz, ”Kampf und Leid” (Battle and Grief), of 110 items(out of 50,000)from the Museum of the First World War in the tiny French village of Peronne near Amiens. I asked their director at the press opening why so small a place would have such a large collection. The answer was simple: their proximity to the Battle of the Somme, that most destructive event, analogous to the Battle of the Bulge in the Second World War. Paintings and drawings, posters and engravings, soldier to soldier weapons, a helmet with artillery damage, an American gas mask!
(My then twenty-eight year old father was a captain in the American Expeditionary Force, and he was gassed in that war. He abandoned his family when I was three, a victim of Paris whorehouses returned to marry a Catholic virgin, so I never talked to him about the war, until aged 45, I made a surprise Las Vegas visit where he had become a millionaire selling real estate.)
The diverse imagery touts the Germans as fighters, and losers. Ditto the French. No one wins in such carnage. That is an insight more significant than the current spat over the Euro. Americans could emulate them by communicating with Cannucks to the North and Mexis to the South, not to forget all of Central and South America almost all of whom have at one time or another felt the baton of our Marines and the perfidy of our banks. And inside America we could stop the pseudohistory of Civil War battles and really join US into one nation, with liberty and just us for all!
The exhibition was borrowed from France by a new Weimar “Club” called “Rendezvous with History” which will hold a conference during the exhibition on the “meaning” of the War. Not to be confused with an idiotic recent replaying of Napoleon’s battle here in 1806, an event repeated every five years! By the way, the French sent “soldiers” to make this farce more “real”. Incidentally our greatest writer Goethe didn’t have the balls to counter the French when they tried to break into his house. But his blue collar mistress stood up to the Frogs! Real history is ambiguous.
A mere 30 minutes by fast train from Weimar lies the medieval city of Naumburg , now simultaneously exhibiting the architecture and sculpture of the Naumburg Master. (He identity is unknown—I call him the Mystery Meister—because the legal papers on his thirteenth century work burned.) In the first two weeks, 150,000 visitors have crowded into these ecclesiastical grounds to savor a complex presentation. This most expensive exhibition is cofunded by the German chancellor and the French president—a current investment against future follies. A most touching minifilm (there are many such visual aids replacing traditional captions) concerns the German military’s joy at having destroyed Reims cathedral at the beginning of World War I, the place where French kings were crowned!
I have just spent two days exploring their explanations of how German medieval cathedral builders learned how to do it, like the Naumburg Master, by apprenticing at Reims and other innovative French churches. But the two-volume catalog (a steal at 50Euros)is so physically heavy and metaphysically complex, you may get a hernia from the first and have to retire to comprehend the second. However, the captions are trilingual (German, French and English)and there are splendid simplified and cheaper brochures to tantalize you over the medieval exchanges between the cultures who later would try to destroy each other (and inadvertently themselves.) I have petitioned the Naumburg management to let me publish the English language captions as a book for my semi-literate, monolingual countrymen.
And I must tell you an astonishing crosscultural development: BILD, the tabloid best known for its front page bulbousbusted broads, has just published a twenty volume collection of novels by Nobel Laureates translated into German.(For 99 Euros, in a box for your mantel! I’ve just bought it for my Ossi librarian Frau’s forty-fifth birthday Friday.
And I’m beguiling the Anna Amalia Library’s brass here to do a similar but bilingual collection on Nobel Laureate poets, beginning with Seamus Heaney. Geared to Friedrich Schiller’s December 10 birthday. Every year a new Laureate, with a party like the one I organized at Arcadia University in Philadelphia for Emily Dickinson’s 150th birthday in 1980, where couples came dressed as two lines from an ED poems (Two lesbians won first prize, an all expense paid lark in Amherst on Walt Whitman’s birthday, May 31.) We read all 1767 of her poems overnight! Great literature is for joy, not drudgery. Ditto medieval cathedrals. We all need to be healed!
Alas (83) Parrington was my first taste of lit crit in 1949! I knew Trilling flinched at the rejection of his novel (I'm finally moved to read it!), but I never knew how deeply it paralyzed him.
The distance between Queens and Upper Manhattan was not nearly as distant as Columbia sociologist Herb Gans (b.1927) who spanned his birth in Cologne and fled to America in 1941--to became a sociologist much more humanistic than lit crit Trilling was sociological, and who had to scrounge for mentors in late Victorian England. Gans metabolized Blake, Whitman and Melville more than this faux elegant Whiner.
There are worse things than being a flop as a novelist, e.g. poisoning the term "Liberal" because his more perceptive contemporaries rejected his second rate fiction.
The spiteful grudges of the New York (mainly Jewish) intellectuals revealed themselves at the Daedalus conference on Mass Culture (1959) when they spurned my common sense proposal that teachers identify excellence in mass culture and urge their students to go and do likewise.
The NYI's would rather debate their own alleged excellences than do the grub work of aiding their students to excel in the new environment. I blame the mess of Rush Limbaugh and other mindless cranks on their failure to see this, their own "trahison des clercs".
Mass Culture is an American mess mainly because our eggheads, conservatives as well as liberals, engaged in a childish status race.
Alan Brinkley’s perceptive biography of Henry B. Luce and all his works and pomps starting me thinking about my four years (1968-72) as education adviser for TIME-LIFE FILMS. It all began one Friday in New York (October 1955) on the E train to Manhattan as I reveled in my new daily reading of the New York Times en route to my job as the Radio-TV editor of “Scholastic Teacher”.
I noticed a small story about an Education conference in Washington the next day in Washington. I decided on the spot to go uninvited to explore possibilities about my Ford grant to advise high school teachers on how to deal with the new mesmerizing medium. My first national publication (in Scholastic Teacher), ”Everyman in Saddle Shoes” proposed, as I had done as a tenth and twelfth grade teacher at East Lansing, Michigan High, that teachers assign teleplays by writers like Paddy Chayefsky, Gore Vidal, and Horton Foote to encourage them to be thoughtful about the Newer Media.
The first thing I noticed as I enter the ballroom of the Washington Hilton were two men deep in conversation. I recognized one as Ralph Bunche, our first black ambassador to the United Nations, whom I had seen on a “Time” cover. With unbecoming chutzpah, I identified myself: “I’m Pat Hazard from East Lansing High, and I’m in New York on a Ford Foundation grant to find ways of giving English Teachers more control over their students TV watching, which was becoming excessive, and potentially subversive to educational success." The two men were temporarily speechless!
Finally, the unidentified man exclaimed, ”I’m Roy Larsen, the publisher of “Time” magazine, and I’m on the board of the Foundation that gave you grant! How’s it goin’, Mr. Hazard?” Now I was struck dumb! “Well.” I finally got back in focus enough to reply, ”I’ve been trying ever since I got here to set up an interview with Pat Weaver, the head of NBC television. His “Enlightenment through Exposure” theory about TV watching is 100% my modus operandi. But every time I call his secretary, she becomes more distant and uncooperative.”
“Well, how would you like an office at Time, Inc. to give you better media access?” Uh, oh, ah, that would be swell!” “Well, here’s my card," Larsen replied “Call me Monday, and we’ll find you a place. And Good Luck. You’ve given yourself an important mission. Keep me in touch with your progress. We’ll do all we can to help.” Dazed, I pottered about the rest of the convention, and quickly returned to Flushing to bring my wife Mary, also an English teacher, up to date. Michael (3) and Catherine (1) were too young to care!
Bright and early Monday I was showing my Roy Larsen card to the Reception Desk at the Time-Life Building. Security soon whisked up to the 36th floor to “my Office.” I gawked at the views of Sixth Avenue and 48th Street, thumbed through the current copies of “Time” and “Life” deployed invitingly for my use. (Copies of “Fortune” and “Sports Illustrated”) could wait till later. Now what the fuck do I do? I mused, nervously. I’ll call Pat weaver’s office! Nervously I fingered his number. When I identified myself, the phone’s temperature dropped 10 degrees! “Mr. Hazard,” the whinier and whinier voice of his secretary boomed, ”It’s the beginning of the fall season and Mr. Weaver is very, very busy.”
I replied, fake humbly, ”It’s the beginning of my Ford grant, and Mr. Weaver’s 'Enlightenment through Exposure' concept is spot on. So as soon as he can spare fifteen minutes, please let me now.” And gave her Time’s number and my extension—and hung up, noisily!It was 09:30. Shortly after ten, an office secretary PAed, ”Is there a Patrick Hazard here?” I picked the phone and heard a very different secretarial voice: “There’s a cancellation: Mr. Weaver can see you for fifteen minutes at 10:30. Please be on time!” I asked the secretary, how do I find the RCA Building. “No problem. Cross Sixth Avenue and ask Reception for Pat’s office.”
I was there by 10:10, nervously nibbling at my nails. The “hostile” secretary greeted me warmly. (That “Time” phone made all the difference!) She knocked on his door and Weaver replied “Enter”!
To my astonishment he was rocking on a Bongo Board. To flatlanders that’s tiny seesaw that rocks up and down. “Holy Moses!” I exclaimed silently. Is my hero a nutcase? “It clears my mind,” Pat explained tersely. As he came down to earth and settled in a sociable sofa. “Tell me what you’ve been doing out in East Lansing. And we can do to help you in New York?” I described the excited way my tenth graders responded to an overnight assignment to do a TV crit of Paddy Chayefsky’s “A Catered Affair” about the fiscal dilemmas of a cabbie torn between giving his only daughter a fancy wedding and paying for his hack license.
“I’ve never had a more stimulating day in the classroom. And how I never taught “Macbeth” better than the time NBC broadcast Maurice Evans performance for my twelfth graders. And I told him how my wife and I wrote a weekly TV/radio suggestion column for” Scholastic Teacher”, one-page Teleguides for special programs. We also wrote a monthly column called “The Public Arts” for “The English Journal” of the National Council of Teachers of English. He was clearly fascinated. He called on the spot Nancy Goldberg of their PR Department with the charge to help us out whenever possible.
She was an enthusiastic wonder. Before you could spell Neilsen, she was letting us watch Arthur rehearse a new teleplay. Have dinner with director John Frankenheimer and TV play anthologist William Kaufmann. Palaver at will with Ed Tanley who ran the Public Affairs Department. Down the road it would lead to a marvelous encounter in 1964 with David Frost and the That Was The Week That Was cast while the Modern Language Association was having its annual convention: dinner in General Sarnoff’s apartment during the telecast for 9 (the muses!) MLA satire specialists (and media sociologists like Herb Gans and Webster lexicographer Philip Gove). After the telecast, the cast partied with us to the wee hours.
Nancy introduced us to the Television Public Affairs Office where we plotted an TV for English Teachers in 1965 in Cleveland from which came the book“TY AS Art” . And “24 Hours of UnSeen American TV” a semester long screening at the Royal College of Art in London when I taught there.
These various activities led to my appointment as Education Advisor for Time-Life Films (1968-72). Our program was simple: Every Tuesday I’d train into New York, scan the next week’s BBC “Listener” for promising program for our American clients—public TV, schools, museums. The most promising were recorded in color during transmission and airlifted four our critical screening the following Wednesday. Some perks were Linda Kefauver (yep, Estes’ daughter) assigning me to shoot pictures for filmstrips derived from BBC Telecasts like Kenneth Clark’s “Civilisation”. Two I remember best were Robert Venturi’s Guild House and a sequence from the Phillies’ dugout in Vet Stadium.
Sometimes our “Managing Director” (that’s how fauxBrit we could be) Peter Roebeck could be thick, as when he fired off a nasty note forbidding us to spend time screening “Monty Python” (my favorite!) ”I’m not paying you $1000 a month to watch that crap!” Luckily we had already clued WTTW/Chicago, so Monty accessed America! I actually was canned at a London seminar for not wearing a tie! I think my Ph.D. intimidated him because it seemed to give me more easy access to the Brits that care about such matters! I’ll never forget my connection with Jacob Bronowski at one of those summer seminars. We were looking at the rushes of his series “The Ascent of Man”.
He had grumbled in his palaver to us how he wanted to spend his time writing math books, his specialty, and essays on William Blake, his favorite poet. He hated the time “wasted” learning how to talk television. After the screening I said that his remarks reminded me of my favorite William Blake aphorism-“He who would do me good must do it with minute particulars!” His eyes blazed: “Precisely, precisely.”
That night I threw a party for the BBC and American salesmen at my girl friend Phyllis O’Leary's flat overlooking Regents Park.
She was a wonder, a working class girl who had taught herself so brilliantly that her “lecture” at the Whitechapel Gallery wiped me out. I especially wanted two Jews who fled from Vienna, Stephen Hearst, head of BBC 3, and Martin Esslin, “absurd theatre theoretician”, to see my autodidact in action. I was hypothezing as well that the Beatles would civilize working class barbarians single-handedly! Oh well! (They were sufficiently astonished.)
But the biggest effect of mixing with “commerce” is that it moved me to abandon academic tenure for cultural freelancing. Most American academics were snootier than imaginable about the Luce publication even though a long list of the best—from Archibald Macleish to James Age--cut their editorial teeth there. I loved working on the same floor and chatting with them. And I’ll never forget the day I and the son of the founder of Der Spiegel watched the editor, the photo director, and the managing direct put an issue of “Life” together.
There was more intellectual energy there than in any English Department meeting I attended! Writing for the Welcomat was more civilizing than any academic exercise I survived. Alan Brinkley’s book makes that clear. The most serious trahison des clercs of twentieth century America has been their being too snooty to help the “ignorant masses” up a step or three. Their failure to lead is the single most culpable fault in the success of the cashocracy.
While I value the “what if” speculations about our unCivil war, I’m much more concerned about the shadow slavery of blacks and browns overincarcerated for minor drug offenses whilst their white counterparts go scot free. Not to forget the zillionaire bankers who gamed the system with total immunity, blocking with cash bribes a real judge like Elizabeth Warren.
Nostalgic conundrums are silly when we totally ignore the fiscal slavery we allow without a whimper of dissent.
Patrick D. Hazard
Accusations of anti-Semitism have made me re-analyze the biggest year (yet!) in my life, 1961. I had clambered from high school teacher in 1956 to Ivy assistant professor in the Penn’s new Annenberg School of Communication (with a pitstop at Trenton State), where de facto at Penn I wrote the new curriculum based on what I had learned about American media during Ford and Carnegie grants. I maneuvered Gilbert Seldes in as Dean and became his gofer, questioning whether Charles Lee (ne Levy) was a good move as Vice Dean, cultivated an instant friendship with fellow Mick Charlie Hoban as professor of communication education. I taught media history, from Cave Painting to Conic strip as they used to say.
My favorite course was Media Policy, every Thursday night faculty dinner with a media leader, followed by a freeforall debate with the students who had just listened to the visitor’s timely lecture. The point was to understand better who moved and how he/she shaked the status quo. Lee, who had been the first Jew in Penn’s English Department, was a trimmer. No tough questions. Softballs till I was bored. I saw this course as the ethical center of the curriculum. He demeaned it by being the too genial host.
Thus in spite of my being thrilled by my rapid academic advance, I was so disillusioned by his stalemating that I gladly took the first most challenging assignment in my life—first director of the Institute of American Studies at the East-West Center of the University of Hawaii, a post the sociologist David Riesman recommended me for because of my unique blend of media and American Studies. The Asians were to learn technology to modernize, the Americans to comprehend Asian languages and culture to humanize.
The only fly in this ointment was another Jew, Seymour Lutsky, appointed my Number 2 without a word of my approval. He, I learned to my dismay, had been in the CIA for the 10 years since an Iowa PhD. His job was to monitor at parties and such Asian and American students for leftishness. The only public assignment we gave him was a lecture on architecture that was so ill-informed, we were too embarrassed to ask him again. Because the State Department was largely funding this innovation, we just pretended to ignore him. I’m not being malicious, only truthful, when I say he was the dumbest Jew I ever met. And there are damn few of those!
The interim director, Charles Bouslog—otherwise English chief, put us sight unseen in this dinky house in Manoa, empty because a pal of his was on sabbatical. My wife and I and our three children (9,7,and 5) has just spent two glorious years in a Louis Kahn designed home in Greenbelt Knoll, Philadelphia’s first racially integrated community. And it was my wife’s first college teaching job. Besides the president of the University reduced my promised $13,000 salary by $3,000, with no appeal! (Ignorance of the law made me fume silently instead of suing him for breach of contract.)
Here’s where Greenbelt Knoll reenters our picture. One of our headline neighbors, chosen to make integration plausible, the Rev. Leon Sullivan (known locally as the Lion from Zion—Baptist Church that is) confronted me one Saturday morning at the community pool in 1960 with a tirade on Walter Annenberg’s temerity in talking about raising media standards while censoring Sullivan’s Boycott of TasteeKake (you don’t hire blacks, we don’t buy your cakes!)
Bright and early Monday morning I was being frisked like a common criminal by the porter who ran the elevator to Walter’s 13th floor eyrie in the Inquirer Building. The first thing that caught my eye was a huge poster on his desk reading I WILL SO LIVE MY LIFE AS TO HONOR THE MEMORY OF MY FATHER! That’s Moe he referring to, the Moe who dumped opponents newspapers in Milwaukee and Chicago into the Illinois River, and spent time in the federal pokey for income tax evasion!
When I explained to Annenberg the purpose of my visit, he was stunned and speechless, trying to comprehend the motivation of an untenured assistant professor accosting him in his lair. (It reminded me of our first Annenberg School meeting a few years before with UP prexy Harnwell. While waiting for the rest of the conferees to assemble, I teased Walter by wondering if the vastly expanded comics section announced in the Inquirer the day before was raising standards. Academics I discovered are such Uriah Heaps when confronting their donors that they are speechless when teased. (What a grim fate!)
He finally called in his lawyer Joe First, whose wife Elizabeth was working for a Ph.D. and bugging me, as if Annenberg clout could somehow shorten her doctoral quest. Joe had no ideas. He called in his executive editor, E.Z.Dimmittman, who offered in his Southern drawl, “We tried a colored boy last summer, but he never worked out. We had to let ‘em go.”
Stunned, I replied: “What in the hell has that got to do with censoring your news coverage of a black boycott!” Silence ensued. I wrapped up this nonmeeting of minds with a warning: “The Reporter magazine is breaking this story next week and if you have any dignity left, you’ll beat them to the draw.” They didn’t, of course. And Walter stumbled along, riding shotgun with Frank Rizzo until his star “Investigative” reporter was dumped for outright fraud. He who had fled the shame of his father in Chicago then sold the Inky as quick as he could find a buyer.
Gilbert told me sadly when I “retreated” to Philly to rejoin the Annenberg School (as promised) that Charlie and Walter had voted NO. He was sad as he told me. But we ended our days together tight, sharing our mutual joy in Goldie Hawn on TV in his New York apartment. After all, Gilbert was my first and greatest mentor. The first Jews I ever met was in 1944 (aged 17) at Great Lakes Training Center’s radar tech program, full of smart, friendly Jews, who were represented laughably higher than their percentage of the population—well, because most Jews are smart and well-educated.
Shall I make a list of my faves? Harvey Goldberg, one of Ohio State’s greatest teachers, who as a grad student at Western Reserve showed me how to be political active and scholarly, simultaneously. And Harvey Wish, who directed my dissertation. And Mortimer Kadish who wiped my Jesuitical medieval slate clean with one semester of Logical Positivism. And Kenneth Goldstein at Scholastic Teacher who introduced me to weekly journalism. And I.F.Stone, for whom I awarded the first (alas, and last) IZZIE, for the best investigative student journalism in Stone’s tradition—to Arizona State for their quarterly analysis of Arizona media.
And Studs Terkel, who brilliantly tutored me on how to take the common man seriously. And Bertrand Goldberg, the best student the Bauhaus ever had(in Mies’s last class, 1933), but which institution has never given him an exhibition. When we last talked (in 1995, two years before he died) he proudly claimed that he had remained faithful to the Bauhaus promise of fidelity of good design for the working classes for 62 years, the only one who can say that. Walking Chicago’s streets with Bernie and his dogs was the best seminar I ever had on architecture.
So don’t talk to me about anti-Semitism: a dumb Jew is a dumb Jew (Lutsky) and a gutless Jew is a gutless Jew (Lee ne Levy). And an arrogant Jew (Annenberg) is an arrogant Jew. And Jews who think a mediocre Jewish captive is worth a thousand Palestinians express a truly dangerous hubris, just as building illegal (by international law)settlements is a bid for voluntary self-extinction. And Jews who bomb Syrian atomic installations and threaten Iran are playing the End Game. Self Chosen Peoples (Jews and Americans, for a start) are urged to join the Human Race, before there isn’t any. Amen.
P.S. My failing memory is irresponsible for my not citing two Good Jews who made my life fuller. Dave Funt, an Annenberg grad who followed me to Honolulu and capably supervised our many media ploys. And Herb Gans who taught me by his example that sociology at its best is a central part of the humanities.
Alas, no one can have the last word on obits! But as I keep a daily eye on my last contact with Philly, I’ve been struck by the growing political correctness of the subjects chosen. As if the circulation department had the last word on who rates a last word. Dan’s trifecta makes me wish he’d take over the Inky’s Last Word Department. But that, alas, would kill the BSR. Too high a price.
Witold Rybczynski: I'm puzzled by your describing Cranbrook as an Arts and Crafts Bauhaus. You've got it turned around! In the 90's the Prussian government sent architect Hermann Muthesius to its London Embassy for nine years to spy on why the Brits were beating them in massproduced design.
Even though HM would later (1907) help found the Deutsches Werkbund, he totally missed the real story in the 90's--Christopher Dresser, who said after he left the Philly Centennial Expo for a research trip to Japan: "I went to Japan a mere decorator, but returned a designer." Indeed I regard him as the de facto founder of ID. From 1877 on he created mass produced designs for several Brit factories, almost 50 years before Gropius promised the same but delivered only rarely--say,with William Wagenfeld and Marianne Brandt.
There's a pathetic bleat on a wallboard by Gropius in Bremen's new museum on hometown boy Wagenfeld that he was one of the very who achieved what he hungered after. Muthesius got sidetracked by his infatuation with William Morris, who hated factories! His long years of espionage resulted only in a splendid set of books on Arts and Crafts Villas. Cranbrook, on the other hand, was factory oriented from the get-go, with Knoll Asociates, the Eames pair,usw.
Eliel's 1911 Helsinki Main Train Station is what gave him the international rep that made George Booth get him to head Cranbrook. Albert Kahn was also involved. I would say Johannes Itten, a spiritualist Goofus, got Gropius so off on the wrong foot of A&C that he never really overcame the misorientation, and Hannes Meyer was a Commie flack, followed by Mies who was too busy(according to my old Chicago friend Bertrand Goldberg--Mies' best and last student in the Class of 1933) trying to explain to Nazi propagandist Alfred Rosenberg that he was not the same Mies whose first acclaimed work (1926) was a Denkmal to Communist founders Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemborg that he never really ever got around to directing the Berlin Bauhaus! Gropius's first St(artist) faculty is basically an A&C fantasy that led to the Free Art dodge that has turned our Art Schools into Shtick Factories.
Did I ever tell you about my going to Charleston, S.C. for the Centennial of the start of the Uncivil War to visit Bishop Paul Hallinan? My Newman club chaplain at Western Reserve, he told me as he arrived at the airport to take over as the first Northern Bishop in the South since the Civil War that his driver had warned him that "they" were trying to integrate the new Catholic hospital. Paul's reaction: "It's got to be integrated!"
He later became the first Archbishop of Atlanta and a pal of Martin Luther King, Jr. He died at 58 from hepatitis, probably from his service as a WWII chaplain in the South Pacific. I grieved like I had lost my father, which he virtually was.
Howard Pyle (1853-1911) was surely never a prophet without honor in his own county. The ingenious folder catalog (with eight color repros stuffed in at the back, ready for framing and hanging), Howard Pyle: The Artist and His Legacy ($15) is replete with savoury local art history, including DAM’s origins in an art society apparently largely organized to conserve and enhance the rep of this hometown boy. He not only made good in the magazine and book media of Philly and New York but also founded the first curriculum for commercial illustrations in this country at Drexel U. (then the Institute for Art, Science and Industry), 1894-1901.
It was so successful that he returned to Wilmington to found his own school. This tandem exhibition, indeed, celebrates the diamond jubilee of DAM (its show of HP proper runs through June 21, a feisty visit for relatives in for the BiCen, DAM being an hour away from center city on I-95) as well as the continuing reverence for fin de siecle American print illustration perennially on view in one form or another at the Brandywine (which ran through May 17).
I wish I liked the shows themselves as much as I have relished learning from the dual catalog. It may be churlish to say it out loud, but Pyle’s zest and energy as a teacher are a lot more beguiling than his work. Even most of his students, who tend to be facsimiles, Pyle fils (et filles—four of the eight students billboarded are women) so to speak, are more interesting for what they reveal of the obscurantist sentimentality of our Mainline ancestors and the narrow agenda of the Curtis mass media they worked for then for enduring artistic value.
The mess, deracination, and lack of community that had demeaned the Delaware Valley since World War II can, I believe, be traced to the unleaderly escapism our cultivated classes practiced when the “Mainline’ (of the Pennsy train between Philly and Pittsburgh) became the jumping-to places for those who made megabucks in the industrial core but fled the horrors they left behind, except when they were chauffered in to sit on WASP dominated PSOrchestra boards.
Pyle’s world is a pseudo-Eden for robber barons and their progeny who were too fastidious to grapple with the city that Lincoln Steffens characterized in The Shame of the Cities as not only corrupt but “content in its corruption.” A pusillanimous aristoi is never an edifying sight, and you who would understand the pre-history of Digby Baltzell’s paradigm of a WASP elite without a sense of engagement could do no better than scrutinize Pyle and his peers iconographically.
Great art it is not. It’s the raw material for a humane sociology nonetheless. Even Woodrow Wilson’s praise for Pyle’s illustrations for his George Washington biography rings jarringly on the tuned-in ear. This, after all, was the same President who praised D.W. Griffith’s racist masterpiece, “Birth of a Nation,” as “history written in lightening.” By their encomia shall ye know them! Another invaluable contribution of these two cheers for Pyle and his followers are the pre-Hippie artist colony photos. How staid! How stiff!
When I flew from Detroit to Havana ten years ago on the first legal flight to Cuba since the Bay of Pigs (the DC-8 listed to port with all those UAW lefties looking for a Socialist Heaven), I found a narrow but thriving art community. The cinema and public health posters were as good as the Polish ones, and billboards were not bad if boringly repetitive. And the prints artists had donated to raise money for foreign students to come to the Youth Festival were the best art bargain I had ever found before visiting the PRC where the cheap wood cut is the genre of the Long March.
So I was eager to see “Outside of Cuba / Fuera de Cuba,” which is on view until May 26 when it begins a tour to New York City; Oxford, Ohio; Ponce, PR; and Miami. It is well worth seeing. Some of the surreal works remind one of the magic realism that has made Latin American literature so fascinating since World War II.
Because the exhibit of the 1959 diaspora is part of a university research project to document the phenomenon, the ninety-one works are only part of the package which includes a symposium on literature next October. You learn that the one million refugees already constitute 14% of the Cuban population, and that of 49 artists displayed, 35% reside in New York, 38% in Miami, with the rest scattered throughout the U.S., Latin America and Western Europe.
There will eventually be a catalog but even the brochure is helpful in establishing that “modern art” in Cuba did not start with the fall of Batista, but was a continuing trend begun much earlier in the century.
I skipped across the street still under the spell of the Glass Art Society’s heavenly pitstop in these parts last month. “The Saxe Collection: Contemporary American and European Glass” from the Oakland Museum is all right, world class glass squiggling—the only figurative piece in the show is a Czech’s portrait of the glass collecting couple.
But “Interlacing: The Elemental Fabric,” curated by Jack Lenor Larsen, is simply the most stimulating show I have seen in ten years. It boldly announces the astonishing thesis that plaiting fabrics is the first human art form. And it playfully presents this view with photos of overwhelming credibility. Women fixing their hair, baskets, houses, all of this elemental stuff from the beginning of human history beguilingly paired with contemporary fibre art.
I came to check out the glass and ended up enchanted by a brilliant historical essay by a man of fibre. This should end forever that stupid art / craft dichotomy. Don’t you dare miss this one.
Klee’s feats induce a kind of Will Rogers esthetic in me: I have never met a Klee I didn’t like. God knows MOMA gives you enough to mull over here—about 200 paintings and watercolors and 100 drawings and prints from 1905 to his death in 1940. I found myself doubling back more and more to the “magic square” abstracts, such as “Abstraction with Reference to a Flowering Tree” (1925), where springy greens and blossomy light colors gather to a greatness. You can always see his “Cat and Bird” (1928) since it belongs to MOMA. If your reaction time is slow, the paperback catalog (137 color and 309 black-and-white illustrations) is a steal at $22.50.
I am the kind of man with a backbone who will (temporarily) bypass the Courtauld Collection of Imps and Post-Imps (but not beyond June 21) to stick my toe in a new pool: “The Age of Carreggio and the Carracci, Emilian Patining of the 16th and 17th Centuries.” Doubly tempting because I wanted to mock my own anti-Baroquery and savour a province taking off: The Age of C and C is definitely worth an ogle, even though the heaven-scanning laser eyes of many of the subjects make you fear you’ve stumbled onto an ophthalmologists’ symposium. It’s a way of painting, sort of foreplay for the El Greco we feel easier with. I wouldn’t want to have any of them on my walls (except possibly Bartolomeo Passerotti’s “Merry Company,” allegedly a satire on the evils of lust, but judging from the contented looks on a man fondling the largest erect nipple in the history of painting, a failed lesson). I mean the Counter-Reformation was heavy stuff.
Moving right along, I wanted to see what the new Lila Acheson Wallace Gallery felt like. My first treat was the Philadelphia painter John Moore whose spooky interior landscapes giving on to an urban exterior “Thursdays “ makes me want to see a lot more of his eerie stuff. He is sort of a city Wyeth. Some witty preparator has hung the canvas ironically next to a triptych of windows opening onto Central Park South. Psyching myself up for Klee at MOMA, I tarried as well over the splendid Berggruen Klee collection, which a Chicago collector started fifty years ago. And I came down from Gaudi, drooling over three pieces of his in their Modern Design hall, a small but tasty display. The iron gate is worth a trip to New York on its own.
Decompressing from the luminous double feature of “Antonio Gaudi and the Catalan Spirit” and “Louis Sullivan and the Uses of Ornament,” I had a fantasy that I ran into Andrew Carnegie on Fifth Avenue at 91st Street, just outside his old manse that the Smithsonian has transformed over the past decade into the most imaginative design museum in the world. This is the AC whose passion for bringing classical replicas to Pittsburgh for the edification of its burghers was memorialized last year with a centennial Corten by Richard Serra! AC looked mighty despondent until I explained to him that both Gaudi and Sullivan gave a considerable boost to steel and iron sales with their diverse geniuses. (The most depressing thing to the shade of AC about the Serra was that they had to go to Lukens Steel to get the Corten. Coatesville instead of his Bigger Pittsburgh! What a bummer!)
It is odd that the three most inventive architectural artists we have come to associate with Art Nouveau—Macintosh of Glasgow, Gaudi of Barcelona, and Sullivan of Chicago—were non-Metros, talking their newly engoldened local businessmen into buying their fresh stuff. (The Chicago crowd chickened out during the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, setting back American architecture fifty years, as a glum Sullivan conjectural.) At least, given our Post-Modernist overreaction to BowWowHaus. I saw the Sullivan at the Chicago Historical Society where it originated, and where the galleries were more spacious. Here they have a number of fresh angles, including retrieving the disassembled parts of the Chicago Stock Exchange elevator from thirteen different collections.
But Gaudi and his peers are C-H originals (and only). It was almost as levitating as the first time I turned a corner in Barcelona and saw La Sagrada Familia. I must have visited it a dozen times since 1970, but the sense of exaltation (after an all-night train ride from Geneva) eighteen months ago was the same, like a surge of joy. So to see how Gaudi emerged with his contemporaries Puig and Montaner is simply overwhelming. There is furniture, mosaics, iron work as well as the architecture itself presented in good photos and even more delectable drawings. (Gaudi’s first student project, a sort of high tech Venetian gondola stop for the Barcelona waterfront, though interesting in its own right, shows just how far the genius developed under the fiercely partisan sun of Catalonian nationalism.) You have until June 9 to savor Gaudi and his fellow Catalans, June 28 for Sullivan. If you go, your riches will be embarrassing, because “Frank Lloyd Wright and the Johnson Wax Buildings: Creating a Corporate Cathedral” will run until July 19. What a triple ploy for the founding director’s exit. What a tough act to follow.