Monday, 30 December 2013

My Love Affair with USA Today

How’s this for a Coincidence? “USA Today” started publishing in August, 1982. I quit teaching in the same week! Everybody mocked both me, the wild professor, and the innovative newspaper. Goons predicted the experimental daily would flop in months. It puzzled my colleagues at Arcadia University (in a Philadelphia suburb) that I would walk away from a full professorship with tenure, or indeed I had chucked the English chairmanship ten years before. And I taught often in London every summer and often the whole year.

Well, here’s a quick Curriculum Vitae explaining my paradoxes. It all began in 1930 when my furniture salesman father abandoned  my Mother, me and a brother seven years older. He flew off to Las Vegas with his secretary Ruth to bigamy.

I was the A+ favorite of Sister Mary Felicia (“felix” means “happy” in Latin. I was there ten years until I entered Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit to become a Catholic priest. I wowed them in both Greek and Latin! But one night just before Easter vacation, my pal Jim VanSlambrouck and I were experimenting for the first time in Chesterfields (That cigarette sponsored Glenn Miller’s Orchestra every weeknight at 7:00 p.m. But tonight, after midnight, sneaking a smoke in the Gothic Tower.  Bang. Suddenly, there was the Rector, Henry Donnelley. (We adored him because he was so good at playing short stop that the Detroit Tigers gave him a tryout! He asked angrily,”What are you seminarians doing after midnight?”  My smart answer was “We trying to learn how Glenn Miller smokes Chesterfields. Any suggestions?” He kicked me out the next day.

I attended my neighbourhood Edwin Denby High, known as “the Whorehouse of Detroit”. I was too innocent to learn why! (I graduated 2nd in the class of 432 students. I joined the Navy on my 17th birthday, joining as a Seaman 1st class (instead of the usual Able-bodied Seaman) because I had scored so high in the application tests. I was eager to appear at Boot Camp, Great Lakes, September 18, 1944, Wilbur Wright Junior College (to purge sailors not good enough in math to become a Radar Technician. Gulfport, Ms. And Corpus Christi,TX and I was Radar Tech 2nd class. Assigned to Pensacola,Fl Naval Air Station, where pilots just a little older than we were learned how to land on aircraft carriers or how to fly the huge Catalinas.

I was discharged in July,1946 and entered the Jesuit U of Detroit, graduating in 1949 as a Ph.B. in philosophy. Grad School at Western Reserve/Cleveland for a Ph.D. in American Lit. I married the best looking blonde in Detroit, Mary Elizabeth Schneider, at the end of 1950, We soon moved to Michigan State, East Lansing, because in-state tuition was cheaper. (I worked summers in automobile factories for tuition.) I was the janitor at East Lansing State Bank where I leaned that the local high school needed a 10 & 12th grade teacher. I took it. MSU had its first TV station, WKAR, so I talked them into a teenage weekly hour, “Everyman Is a Critic.”

I had become a Marshall McLuhan media freak. That got me a Ford Grant to study the newest media up close in New York City. Scholastic Teacher hired me and my wife to edit a weekly guide to radio and TV, and a monthly column in “The English Journal” on Media Teaching. I read the NYTimes every day as I subwayed from Flushing to Manhattan. One Thursday I read there was to be a media education on Saturday in D.c. I invited myself.

As I opened the auditorium door I saw a black man, Dr, Ralph Bunche, talking intently to an unidentified man: Bunche had just been a “Time” cover. I interrupted their conversation boldly: “Hi! I’m Pat Hazard from East Lansing with a For Foundation grant to improve media education in American high schools. DEAD SILENCE! Finally, the unidentified man asked, Well, how’s it going, Mr. Hazard?” “Lousey,” I replied. “I've been calling the secretary of NBC’s president Pat Weaver, the most innovative TV boss.”. And so  on and on.”

Suddenly, the unidentified guy identified himself. “I’m Roy Larsen, the publisher of “Time” magazine and I like your ideas. And I’m on the Ford Foundation advisers. How would you like an office in “Time”? as he slipped me his card! GULP. “See you Monday morning”! That lucky day I soon had my own office on the 34th floor of the Time-Life Bldg! Looking enviously across Sixth Avenue where now sat Pat Weaver, the NBC boss.

I called his secretary one final time! “Mr. Hazard, it’s the beginning of the Fall TV season, and Mr. Weaver is very busy.” Lamely, I countered it was the start of my grant. “If he ever has 15 free minutes, Please call me. I’m just across Sixth Avenue.” Then I gave the sacred Time number Judson 6-2525.” Five minutes later there was a PA question: "Is there a Patrick D. Hazard here today? Please call Pat Weaver at NBC.” Soon I was in his office where he riding a one man seesaw. It was alleged to reduce tension. Anyway my fifteen minutes exploded to three hours during which he fixed me up with all the brass at NBC.” A great year had begun!

Internationalizing The New York Times

I first “noticed” a "New York Times” as a nineteen-year old swabbie at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1946. I had just finished a year-long training in Naval Radar in Chicago, Gulfport,Ms, and Corpus Christi,TX and proudly showed the Aviation Electronic Mate, 2nd Class sign on my dress blues. It was my first year away from home, and was eager to appear grown up. The pilots who were learning to land on aircraft carriers or fly the huge Catalinas were just a little order than we were and equally eager to appear cosmopolitan. We picked up the paper at the local drug store and looked serious. It wasn’t until I entered the Jesuit University of Detroit (my home town) in September, 1946 that I became a regular reader in the college library.

So here I am now, in Weimar, Germany, finishing a fourteen year stint researching and writing a critical evaluation of Walter Gropius’s innovative art school to bring good design to the working classes. I call my book, “Bauhaus: Myths and Realities”, emphasizing the current school leaders as “Bauhustlers” for their betrayal of his blue-collar meliorism for their Upper Muddle Class snootiness. 
I was also astonished to discover that they had never even heard of the greatest factory designer in history, Albert Kahn, who immigrated from Hesse, Germany in 1880, at age 11 to Detroit, the oldest son of a Jewish Rabbi, who was so poor his oldest son didn’t even finish High School, but who was so gifted a designer that the leading architecture firm hired him until he was 21, when they splurged him to know Europe, from which he returned to be Henry Ford’s architect. He also was a leader in forming the so-called American Bauhaus, the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1932, which actually achieved what the German “pioneer” merely hoped to accomplish.

The Times has been indispensable to writing that book, but even more essential in setting an example for my sixty years of “Internationalizing” American Lit into “International English Lit”. America made the fatal error that still corrupts US of believing that the Puritan God set aside North America so it could be Christianized. This foul “Exceptionalizing” legitimized killing and reservationizing hundreds of indigenous tribes, justified the slavery of four million African slaves, as well as incarcerating literally millions of poor blacks and Hispanics for the same “crimes” whites enjoy with impunity. It also, alas, falsely justifies the 1%/99% irrational ratios currently crippling our nation’s economic maturity. Before I analyse the hopeful internationalizing of the December 23rd issue of the INYT (I like to hear it as the false pronunciation of “Isn’t it”), I want to describe how I internationalized American Lit during my public career.

It started with abolishing the scandalous absence of Afro-American Lit. Then Appalachian Lit which suddenly bloomed in the sixties. Next, Jamaica, when Dean Landis financed a seminar between Rex Nettleford,the so-called Thomas Jefferson of the U of West Indies, Seamus Heaney whom I met at the Belfast Festival when he read to my summer students a chrestomathy of Northern Irish poems, and Michael Harper, the black poet at Brown University. Once you get the hang of it, IE Lit is the only logical way to expand. Teaching one year in Britain I paired Emily Dickinson with Gerard Manley Hopkins, Twain with Dickens, und so weiter. We booked Australia’s Robert Frost who was summering in the UK.

You’ve probably guessed I was McLuhanized by the Jebbies in Detroit. Indeed in 1949, with a Ph.B in philosophy, I won the annual Mid-American Jesuit Universities essay contest with my first published rant, “Needed:More “Red-Booded”American Catholics”, by which I mean agreed with the local Communist moves to free American blacks. For good measure, my girl and I double-dated with a black couple to integrate the Senior Prom at Eastwood Gardens!

As I finished my dissertation, I got a Ford Grant to spend a year in New York getting the media used to school criticism. I was appointed radio-TV editor of Scholastic Teachers which put my columns in millions of classrooms. Roy Larsen, publisher of “Time” gave me an office on the 34th floor of the Time-Life Building, whence I dreamed of snagging NBC’s innovative Pat Weaver, across Sixth Avenue. After he fixed me up with his brass, CBC, ABC, and NET followed. The British Film Institute commissioned me to write a quarterly summary of American TV for its journal, “Contrasts”. TIO head Roy Danish helped me organize a weekly screening of “unseen American TV” under the name “24 Hours” BBC 2’s nightly news. I appeared on “Late Night Lineup” with a PBS name to tout this media at their School of Art. Time-Life Films booked me to New York every Tuesday to screen the possible films we asked to be taped the week before. 

Our chief, Peter Roebeck, cancelled our Monty Python opener, “I’m not paying you a $1000 a month to look at that crap.” Yes, Peter,” we humbly replied, making sure WTTW/ Chicago started the Python crawling into all of the PBS circuits. I claim solemnly that sneaking Monty and his other sneaky snakes onto PBS is my only contribution to the maturing of America.I took American media to Senegal in 1964 for the First World Negroes Art Festival. In 1964 I took a Wole Soyinka film to Lagos, Nigeria for exhibition at the American Embassy during the annual Commonwealth Educational Conference. We urged each Commonwealth country to go home and do likewise.

In 1982, my mother died, and now I was free to write my weekly “Hazard-at-Large” letter from anywhere in the world in Philly’s “Welcomat”. I started by going to Shanghai to study Mandarin for six weeks, Actually, I was really after my first International Scoop, because the first Chinese art museum to leave their country was headed for San Francisco, where I spent my first free two years with Mary Mueller, a sweet Okie exPat! Sure enough, I got the May KQED mag cover. Whoopee.

Heard enough of Hazard’s Internationalizing? Here goes my critic of today’s INYT! Monday, December 23, 2013. Hotel Elefant had no delivery. Anna Amalia Kubus is closed until the day after New Years. It has a grand display of German dailies including both TA and TLZ local dailies,, Swiss, Russian, French, British, Turkish, TLS, NYRB, The Economist (the most literate daily in the English speaking world, and a few freebies who don’t deserve this commendation. It’s my current Church. I’m there, sharply at 9 a.m., every day but Sunday where my Church of the day is my sack where I read a swatch of daily newspapers and weekly mags. Today, for example, Die Welt Compact, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and Suddeutsche Zeitung (Bavaria), and Der Spiegel (Virgin Mary and Lutheran theology) and Focus. (“Thin without Stress!)

The first thing I noted was the dark blue view of a kid who has been flying a kite atop a favela, where the story tells of families renting their slums for World Cup visitors. Can’t be more concerned about Brazil’s fragile economy than that. Top above paper’s name are ticklers about an Opera boom, EBay’s devious payment scams, and a Rustic New Home. Left column is on Iceland scamming Bitcoin. Right column is Khodorkovsky’s Berlin free press conference. Four columns explores the Rio favela contradictions. Three short midcolumns analyses new Polish midsize cities providing business services. The bottom third of the front page with six teases, plus five online stories at INYT. Com. I love this hidden expansivesness. More analysis for my 3 euros.1/12 page,lower right corner, ad for BVLGARI watches.UGH! Prestige objects and Fashion jerk my prole soul.

p.5 ¼ page Paul Smith/Design Museum/ until 9 March
I’ll be there: Germania just listed 59Euro Trip!
p.8,1/6 BBC Tout. I internet BBC International every morning and go to sleep on New York Jazz. During the day I scan WHYY, my hometown FM, for which I gladly pay $120 a year. I sneak onto Boston’s high IQ WBUR-Fm. But almost never listen to Temple U’s classics. INYT Classified parallels BBC. Cluttered, except for Villoldo v. the Republic of Cuba!? Tiny plug for Classifieds.Pp. II AND III devotes ¼ of two adjacent pages pushing Rolex. Yuck II. Pp.I-IV are called Front Row Center, special reports on opera, “Manon” to “Moby Dick” in 2014. Berlin’s Philharmonic, and neglected composer Phillipe Rameau. Looks like secretly advertised KULTUR!
P. 9.1/4 page, urging readers to Increase Your Global Intelligence via INYT:COM/EURO. A cheapie under 1 Euro for your first four weeks. I guess I risk getting stung/hooked. Especially hating 10 freebies a month!
P.13 ¼ page to Luxury Law Summit. Brits who can afford such real estate should pay higfher taxes, this red radical groans.
p.14 ¼ page..Dubai Dty Free. Yuck, Arab shahs holding down their women!
p.18 (last page) ¼ page Cartier Exhibition, Grand Palais, Paris.
Back to text: What#s In it, INYT!
p.2, In Your Words. Best new feature. Often better than long articles in persuading.
In Our Pages. Smaller than before but essential to the historical mind
Lessons During Wartime”. The best new feature. Excellent photography, deepening text.
Albert R. Hunt, always enlightening
p.8 Clinton the Arkie almost a ½ page .
Right column on spy program --!/6
Front Row Center 4 pages good art criticism
p.9 Egypt turmoil reaches U’s
Am U’s job security/ See my closing song in my VITA
pp.-.10-12 SPORTS in SPURTS . I’m excused. Not as good as USA Today. Mea Culpa!
Love the presence of Peanuts (Though I had a grand hassle with his author when I taught in Santa Rosa for a year. He’s a rich creep whoi pleaded poor. BLAH!

Perfect retreats bore me! I just sold my Louie Kahn 1952 GreenBelt Knoll 19 family experiment in integration for $110,000. Paid $24,000 in 1956. I loved it for 50 years. 1783 villa, modernized in 1999 cost us 130,000 Euros. Goethe lived on Seifengasse 1. Hazard at 10! It’s a glory on the third floor!

p.14 Fewer movies, wider profit margin will interest my son Michael who is a poet, photographer, and filmmaker in that disorder, in Minneapolis.

p.14, Irish housing complexities interests me the more since my Deidre, an etymologist at Michigan State just tracked its history. In the eighth century, the French were fighting the Moors in the South of Spain. They won and the defeated graciously invited them into their Castle, El Azard, where they taught the French a new dice game. Returned to France, they yelled”Lessons-nous enjoyons Le Hazard!” 1066, they stole all the duchies they could find there, then moved to Ireland for more theft. Behold this Arab Irish man whose green grandparties were either Fitzpatrick or El Hazards.

p.18 International Travelers as usual as always.#

Pardon me, I’m signing up for a month!

Bottom Obit. Only feature better is “The Economist ”’s final page obit.
P. 3 World News/Middle East/Europe. Ukraine (excellently revolting pix),Turkey snoots US, The Crime of Droning Civies,Egypt gips dissenters.
p.4 World News/Europe Africa
Rescue in South Sudan
Putin’s Wobbley character
Vlad#s unfavorite Billionaire airs his headache
p.5 World News Asia
Brunei, India, Thailand, Dhaka Fire, Beijing antigraft panel

Saturday, 21 December 2013

X Marks Malcolm's Newest Re-incarnation

Malcolm X is still America’s most moral hero, unfortunately less lucky than his South African counterpart Nelson Mandela. He was nipped by a buddy before Islam could build its power in America. Consider the stuttering Christianity which was his (super) natural competition. 

That brilliant self-made Okie, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (NY, Dem), had used his brilliant Harvard education to write the most important American document since the Constitution: the demoralization of the American Negro family. Literally millions of blacks were incarcerated for minor drug offenses for which the second President Bush got not a minute in jail. 

As I took a first look at  Barbara Chase-Riboud: The Malcolm X Steles, the inspiring catalogue the Philadelphia Museum sent after four ignored requests with $13.75 postage and my spending four hours tracking down Customs at Erfurt Airport, the state capital of Thuringia, where I have been writing a book on Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus he had founded in 1919, I was drawn in. 

In 1999 Weimar became the Cultural Capital of Europe, Helmut Kohl’s maneuver to seal the heals of East and West Germanies. Chase-Riboud explores the new moral world of potential liberation. Raised Catholics, my first wife and I were totally ignorant of this innovative behavior.

Plate 1 is called “The Bed” in which two women are resting from “soixante-neuf” sex, the numbers 6 and 9, illustrating that the lovers were mouthing each other’s vulvas. A newly liberated world. I was divorced in Juarez at 43 before I experienced this avant-garde maneuver. At best, superbly evocative. Ordinarily, mediocre messiness. Malcolm surely was better at it than I ever was. But it was one of his many “X”’s that were opening his innovative, revolutionary life.

Her Steles imitate and innovate the great remembrancers of the two civilizations that generated our most generous virtues. Without honorable memories, we humans slither snakishly. America, born on the Puritan lie that God saved the Americas to bless Christians colonizing its expanses. 

Exceptionalism the sociologists dubbed it. Exceptional Self-Delusion is a more accurate description of its falseness. The splendid “Steles” she has populated the world with are our last chance to purge us of that self-destruction habit. Exceptionally stupid as OUR GREAT LIE has made USA. She could be our last chance. At the very least, she is a grand conversion potential. We have until January 20, 2014 to save ourselves from self-extinction.

Monday, 16 December 2013

The (ST)Inky's Long and Most Unhappy Unhappy Lives

Dan Rottenberg's superb and elegant obit for a crappy daily that shit too much reminds me of involvement in the creation of the Annenberg Congratulation School,1957-61, began with my Ph.D. from Western Reserve where two fellow students, Ray Ginger and Harvey Goldberg, taught me by example how to be radical and objective simultaneously. They made me the first president of the Thomas Jefferson Forum, because they erred in thinking a Jesuit University (Detroit) could be a soft touch leader. They never knew I won the Midwest Provinces annual essay with a rant entitled "Needed: More Red-blooded American Catholics" by which I meant opposed to segregation as the local Communists were. They didn't know either that my girl and I dated the Senior Program with a black couple.

I got a Carnegie Postdoctoral grant at Penn to create the first Mass Culture course in America, spooked by that intellectually crazy Canadian Catholic Marshall McLuhan. As a UD undergrad I read every essay he wrote 1946-49 in the lay Catholic weekly "Commonweal" as well as the weekly Jesuit "America" . Those essays made the second mass culture Bible, "The Folklore of Industrial Man" (1951). The first was Gilbert Seldes's "The Seven Lively Arts" (1924).

It helped that this Philly Jew (immigrating from his father's experimental farming around Atlantic City graduated poor from Boy's High but earned scholarships to Harvard. He took over editorship of "The Dial", the intellectually hippest mag in the twenties. So when Annenberg gave Penn $2 million to start, "faute de mieux" I became the "gofer" getting the plot to boil! The first official meeting of the Annenberg School opened on the Monday after Walter had splurged with a Sunday edition of new comics. As President Gaylord Harnwell, Walter, and I waited for the rest of the committee to gather, I decided to tease Mr. Big: "Is this the way you plann to raise standards in American communities?". Harnwell looked like was about to piss his presidential pants. Walter looked dazed and completely silent! Amazed that a new assistant professor without tenure would tweak his balls.

Later, when my Greenbelt neighbor Leon Sullivan complained to me Saturday at the community pool that the Inky had not printed a word about his six-month old strike against TASTYKAKE. "Hire us blacks or we'll avoid your cakes." Monday, bright and early, I was being frisked for weapons for the first and only time in life as I took the elevator to his 13th floor eeyrie. First he called Dimmitman who argued that they had hired a black boy the summer before, but he hadn't cut the mustard. And his lawyer came next. (His wife was working on a Ph.D. and often visited me in my office, absurdly believing this would ease her Ph.Deification. I warned them that "The Reporter" was publishing a story on their censorship the next week, and if they had any honor they'd beat their star lady reporter into print. They didn't.

I taught the history of media until David Riesman recommended me as the first director of the brand new Institute of American Studies at the East-West Center in the University of Hawaii. It was the best job I've ever had--until I discovered that my No. 2 Seymour Lutsky had been in the CIA since his Iowa Ph.D. ten years ago--to silently police Asian and American lefties. I quick on the spot when I offered a full professorship and English chair at Beaver College.

We happily reoccupied our Louis Kahn house in Greenbelt Knoll. By the way, Penn had promised the right to return, but Veep Charles Lee (born Levy) and Walter decided I was a threat to their Dream! I've lived happily ever after.

Putting Up Your Dukes

Terry Teachout’s splendid bio ,”Duke A Life of Duke Ellington” (Gotham Books, $30) reminded  me of my brief encounters with t hat great man. As a Detroit high school  enthusiast I’d skip  Edwin Denby High to hit the downtown Paradise Theatre  with Glen Kemp, a promising  drummer. We’d put up with the petty piffle for the blacks who dominated the crowd. Just to hear his standards thrilled us in a way Art had not yet touched us.

I was depressed to learn in the 60’s rock music killed it. Not until the 80’s did an obsessed oboeist in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra  collect $23,000,000 to reopen what had been the Orchestra’s  first home. So many Southern blacks moved into the neighbor hood as defense workers in World War that the whites fled to the Burbs. No less an ear than Pablo Casals affirmed it had the best acoustics in North America. In the 80’s, visiting my aging mother, I teased that musician that he had killed my youthful  enthusiasm. “Not so,” he amiably barked back.”We have a jazz concert every Saturday night.”

Later, when I had been Ph.D-eafied and taught Am Civ at Penn and lived in Philly, I took my daughter Catherine into Trenton so she could take the train to the Rhode Island of Design, I had time to kill before the superb but neglected New Jersey museums, I took a new Hotel elevator into see if the big T was as ugly upstairs as it mostly was on the ground. It was. Really ugly. On the 7th floor who should enter alone but the one and only D. “What, Mr. Ellington, are you doing in Trenton, noon of a Sunday.” “Another Doctorat”, with an ironic smile.6th Floor: “Princeton, this time.”

Meaning I guess you can stuff the old ones from Fiske and Tuskegee.I reminded him I had spent Easter Saturday  evening in the American Embassy in Lagos, kanoodling with my fave, Johnny Hodges.5th Floor I was there to report on the very first African World Art Fair.4th Floor. “And the next day we opened the Fair with your theme song, “Take the A Train”! Now he was smiling like a kid remembering a Birthday Party. 3rd Floor. “ And I was so hung over from your booze last night, I could hardly hold my TV camera steady!”  2nd Floor. “I remember now,” he gleamed! Ist floor. The door swung open.”What’s your name.” I walked over to the registration desk and gave my first and only anti-autograph. "Dr. Patrick D. Hazard, Chairman, English Department, Beaver College, Glenside, PA.” As he hailed a cab for Princeton, I hollered “And I have the only footage of that concert!” He smiled and mailed a winning “Oh!” with those priceless fingers. He would never know the tragedy: KQED-TV lost it, creating a jazz series.

Later, jazz scholar Marshall Stearns invited me to the first Newport Jazz Festival after I got a Carnegie Postdoctoral two year grant to create the first “Mass Culture” course for the new Annenberg School of Communication, where I was “gofer” for my first academic mentor, Dean Gilbert Seldes. I drove over from Philly, pooped, ordered the last steak dinner to relax. Ten minutes later the great jazz singer Mahalia Jackson arrived, equally hungry. I gave her my meat if she’s whisper sing “You go to My Head” for dessert! What a deal. How sweet she was! Alas, it was a sleepless night. My room was next to Miles Davis, and as usual he was beating up his date! I didn’t have the Balls to turn him in. And I still feel dirty guilty, 55 years later.

The last day, the semanticist heading the egghead side of the Fair saw Mahalia at the back of the hall and complying with his Semantic Decalogue’s First Amendment, “Everyone Must Talk UP!” “Mahalia, what do you think about the Critics Symposium?” PAUSE. “I don’t knows what youse been talkin’ about.”LONGER  PAUSE. “But I sure doos like Jazz.” Symposium simply closes. Mahalia smiles like an Angel. Put up you dukes, all of youse!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Hitler's Last "Stand"!

As we all wonder (in a state of total wonder!) about the latest cache of “degenerate” art Hitler banned in 1938, please notice a forgotten detail. As Hitler, his favorite architect Albert Speer, and his favorite (if unknown) sculptor, Arno Breker, drove together into Paris victoriously in 1940, he declared he wanted to have a German museum as great as the Louvre. 

The art dealer Gurlitt who was preparing that Museum in Linz, Austria (where the dictator grew up) was also the one whose secret cache was just uncovered in Munich: (It pays to know the Boss!) I serendipitously “discovered” Breker in Schwerin, where my new German wife was celebrating a relative’s anniversary. 

 This was the exhibition that the poster designer Klaus Staeck, who is the current Head of the Academy of Art in Berlin, boycotted! BERUF VERBOT! When Alfred Rosenberg, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, hassled the apolitical Dusseldorf sculptor, the failed artist Adolf told Arno not to fret: Artists don’t understand politics, as he bestowed a great ranch on him to expedite his sculpturing! The soft, benign side of Adolf!
But I came not to praise Hitler (although the failed artist had a soft place in his heart for artistic beginners) but to say what we may be missing because of his Entartete Kunst campaign in 1938. For example, George Grosz (1893-1959 ). Lutz Becker has just written a lively take on his career in Germany, America, and returning to Germany in “George Grosz: Drawings from two portfolios: “Ecce Homo” and “Hintergrund” THE BIG NO (Hayward Publishing (2012). 

My wife Hildegard has scanned this black and white collection of Gross’s (he de-Germanized his last name when he fled Hitler to New York in 1933.) Hilly’s visual selections begin with his Dada premiere. Get the whole book. It’s the grossest Gross I have yet seen. NO has never been so beguiling. “Degenerate”, my ass! Say a big YES to his shrewd NO’s.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Closing the Book on Elmore Leonard

The obit read: “Elmore Leonard, crime fiction writer, died on August 20th, aged 87.” I didn’t catch up with that news until I opened my issue of “The Economist” (August 31, 2013) to the obit page: There was the author looking miffed, shaking a fist at me. Sorry, I thought: I’ve been meaning to read something of his ever since we graduated together August 1949 from the Jesuit University of Detroit, he with a business degree, mine in philosophy; we were eras apart from the start. 

And psychologically even more distant. He started out writing ad copy for Chevrolets. I despised the Car Culture that corrupted the emerging metropolis. And I confess I was something of a Patsy, never in a fistfight in my entire life. (Still true!) And yet my closest UD chum, Henry B. Maloney (“Call me Hank!”) was a Leonard Freak. Checking Google today, Henry was quoted in the first six citations! Partly geographical: Hank lived in Troy, due North from Detroit Proper, and Kitty Korner from the Upper Sloburb Bloomfield Hills where Leonard lived like a prince. (I lived due East of UaD where the Nouveau Pauvre were invading their first new house, courtesy of FDR’s New Deal.

So instead of attending his Funeral Mass, I checked out the expat American’s secret weapon, the Universal Library Union whereby you can order by computer for 1.5 Euros whatever American book your German library didn’t have, and didn’t care! (Nearly everything!) Bless Göttingen University, a required pitstop for intellectually upward Amis as early as the beginning of the 19th century. Before the week was out, I held his “Road Dogs” (William Morrow, 2009) for a month if necessary

Taught to climb the shoulders of other better informed citizens, I Googled the poet Robert Pinsky’s review (New York Times, May 28, 2009): In his review,”Playing Dirty”he characterized the novel as “about the varying degreees of truth and baloney in human relationships.Sometimes the truth or the baloney is lethal. Droll and exciting, enriched by the self-aware, what-the-hell-why-not insouciance of a master now in his mid-80s,”Road Dogs”—underlying its material of sex, violence and money, and beyond its cast of cons and thugs and movie stars—presents interesting questions.” 
Leonard had the chutzpah to rerun old characters in new books. Or maybe this strange habit derived when he began writing western tales in the 1950’s for two cents a word. Three retreads bear the burden of this novel. There’s Cundo Roy, a Cuban Castro bequeathed to America that became great friends with another export, Jack Foley, the esteemed anti-hero who preens with the fact that he has robbed more banks than anyone else in history. (So far as we know! A Fed who tries to put him back in jail is writing a novelized biography of Jack—and hopes he’ll do another robbery—to hype the book he is finishing.” (Another novel centers on Jack’s seducing the girlfriend of that Fed!) All characters seem to need to be ready to be reused in another story line.” 

Finally, there’s Dawn, a really raunchy broad who is waiting for Cundo to be freed from the prison where he got to be a great friend of Jack. I don’t think you’ll surprised to learn that Jacks bangs and bangs Dawn until the sun comes up. Again and again. Another motif is that they all have fiscal assets, Cundo’s being two million dollar mansions in Venice, California! And they fantasize without end on changing those ownerships.

I’m not going to spoil your weekend by telling you which of the three kills of the remaining characters. I recently stumbled on German across a film based on his “Jackie Brown” novel. She’s an airline stewardess serving Mexico. Her second job is taking stolen drug funds in and out of the country. Her ATF contacts compromise her so she has to do away with them. HoHum. I look forward to seeing “Out of Sight” a Steven Soderbergh film starring George Clooney, on another Leonard novel. Heh, Hank’s daughter Caitlin was even aide to Soderbergh for several years. It’s a tight life supplying L.A. I must conclude with a Leonard lark over Catholicism in “Road Dogs”. 

Chapter Twenty-Two(for impatient readers) concerns a minor character Little Jimmy who has a heavy conscience crisis.The sinner is on his knees in a confessional. Jimmy confesses: “Bless me father for I have sinned. It has been twenty-seven years since my last confession.” “Twenty seven years?” the stunned padre replies “Yes, Father. Since the I have missed Mass almost 1400 times.” And so on, implausibly. It turns out Jimmy was gay and didn’t think doing it with dudes was a sin! 

It’s called comic relief! You’ll love him. But not as often as Jack scores with Dawn, in the early light.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Writing as a Vocation

My first son Michael is my extra-conscience, advising me softly when he sees me slipping off the rails. When I wrote him I was so eager to read an earlier colleague’s novel, he warned me that the book I had just booked from Göttingen University was not the novel, but a long rant on becoming a successful writer when you were chained to six classes a day at a junior college. What a delicious rant! I was back teaching high school and maneuvering to be an American Studies scholar. Talk about nostalgia’s warm embrace. 

Thank you, Jon Hassler, the late Regent’s Professor Emeritus at St. John’s University, Minnesota. Where, in fact my best pal at Michigan State for three years was none other than Stanley J. Idzerda, Dean of Humanities there. What stimulating company. “My Staggerford Journal” (Ballantine Books, 1999) is a diary of his wins and losses as he painted landscapes and taught English to become a successful writer. Joyce Carol Oates panned it in the New York Times. Gulp. But she has a rep as a nasty critic. Jon didn’t let this stop him dreaming and revising when he could squeeze time enough, as the college tuition of his daughter kept him chained to teaching!

The first episode I most thrilled to was a department meeting to change the way they were teaching GRAMMAR. Ugh. He moans to his pal Dick in this writer’s diary, July 31, “I am not, by and large, thought of as a curmudgeon, Dick. I am basically the same nice, patient, cooperative person you knew at St John’s. There are, however, certain times during the year (maybe five or six times) when the urge to be irascible takes me by surprise and with such force that I hardly think I can be responsible for what ensues. What ensues is probably not all that terrible, usually a nasty, cynical, ironical remark just funny enough to be forgiveable; but it is evidence of some fault or fissure in my psyche, and most likely—nay, destined—to occur during the five or six committees I attend each year. Committees (and that monster spawned by committees: the workshop) call up the worst in me. During workshops I am not only uncooperative, I am downright unmanageable.” 

Jon then describes how he has brought 290 pages of student writing, believing you learn grammar by expressing your ideas under observation. All the other “participants” had idiosyncratic impulses, not ideas. They got nowhere—unless turning the whole problem over to Jon is considered a solution! On their communal directive, they spelled it GRAMMER. Loose vowels, No?

My first chairmanship was as director of the East-West Center of the University of Hawaii. Our mission was to introduce Asian students to American ideals, and the Americans to Asian culture. The State Department gave the U the cash. Which I first learned when the unusually ignorant Ph.D. appointed my assistant without my knowledge had spent his career as a CIA operative! His task was to throw parties to see which students were dangerously Lefties! 

I won’t mention their reducing my salary when I arrived from $13,000 to 10,000, no questions allowed! I loved Hawaii, and wrote a book about it. And I created radio and TV weeklies where I was the host. I quit after a year, to return to Philly as an English chairman where we had recently bought a Louis Kahn house in a pioneer integrated Green Belt Knoll. I dumped chairmanship after eight years because I despised committees!

Jon is most thrilled when he’s visiting the homes of the likes of Emily Dickinson, Thoreau, Twain, and Hawthorne. The ignorant lack of preparation of the local guides shoots him into an air of contempt. It makes him value re-teaching those stars when the press hassle him about vacations. 

If you hanker becoming a writer, his wrestlings with new texts are very educational. I can hardly wait until I can read his “Staggerford” novel. Minnesota libraries are full of all his work. Weimar had never heard of them. They will soon, as I get busy with You’re a kick, Jon. I’d still be a teacher if my colleagues were as hip as your muse!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Near Missus

The Older You Get
The fewer you want to do It with
Reminiscing Golden Oldies
Is more a joyful hour than a miss
Spent evening not really
Together in bodies slowly
Rebelling against TIME lost

The more you try so hard
To remember their names,
Breasts, lips, and soothing old Golden Triangles
Bring us erections
To erect a bedraggled old penis
It’s easier to recall what we did, ate, saw,
Than how we came
Alone or almost together

The first came, at 23 and 20. A
Double failure, all ass at last in
Dearborn Inn, Henry Ford’s Mausoleum,
Not back in Detroit in our own beds
Embarrassing our Virgin Mothers,
Ignorance frustrating simple joys

The second Trial fizzed funnily
It was her first attempted temptation
In our best friend’s house
Guarding our privacy from embarrassment
From his front room TV
At her callow 35 versus his used to 74, she was
More than satisfied with a meagre blessing
Never having felt one before
He never having had so innocent a student
Thinking about his fled first wife
And their now grown children
Loving their own lives.

We new two
Feeling each other up
And down, recalling their recent
Being married on the main steps
Of San Francisco City Hall
Almost 4,000 miles from the first debacle
We would never learn
To be perfect lovers.
But good enough is more than great!

Monday, 25 November 2013

America's "Bauhaus" / The Mystery of International Reputations

I got interested in the German Bauhaus because of Gropius’s ambition to found an art school that would bring good design to the working classes. Philip C. Johnson, the American architect who mocked this ideal when he first studied architecture under Gropius at Harvard in 1938, corrupted professional conversation over the social importance of the art for the rest of the twentieth century. (He lived to be a 105!)

My interest in the Cranbrook Academy of Art, the American Bauhaus, began as a student of University of Detroit American Lit professor of C. Carroll Hollis. He supplemented his meager salary summers by running the shop of the Detroit Golf Club, on the road to Cranbrook. There was a historic confrontation of the two Bauhauses in 1941 when Albert Kahn, the greatest American architect of the twentieth century, sponsored a conference at the University of Michigan in 1941 for architects seeking commissions for defense factories, as America started participating in World War II. Gropius and Mies, brand new American citizens, were there, along with the Saarinens, Eliel and Eero, father and son. 
Kahn openly mocked Gropius and Mies, sneering at them as “the Glass House boys”, more interested in splashy form than in effective function in building design. He proudly asserted that architecture was 90 percent business, 10% art. (The Bauhauslers reversed that ratio.) Kahn had the buildings to prove it: many major buildings at the University of Michigan, diversely Europeanized villas in Grosse Pointe for the new automobile aristocracy, and innovative commercial structures like my favorite, the Fisher Building (1927) born the same year as me, and great factories like the Henry Ford Highland Park array, which I passed every school day en route to the University of Detroit, and especially his Dearborn complex.

The biggest difference between the German and American Bauhauses was the tactical simplicity of the American. Gropius rounded up a half dozen major painters for his art teachers, an idiosyncratic grab bag of famous talent always more committed to their status and prestige than humdrum teaching. It was Mies’s same failing tactic of choosing 17 internationally famous architects to build Weissenhof (1927). Eliel had his wife Loja, a talented fashion designer, the Swedish sculptor Carl Milles, and his increasingly brilliant son Eero. 
But the real “founder” of Cranbrook was George Booth, publisher of The Detroit News. He was inspired by a visit to the Academy in Rome. Detroit was then a hick town faced with the multiple tasks of becoming an overnight metropolis. The Finnish master Eliel had achieved instant American notoriety by coming in second in the 1924 Chicago Tribune architectural competition. That led to a visiting professorship at the University of Michigan; Booth’s son Harry had Eliel as a teacher there who knocked his socks off. George hired him as the head of Cranbrook.

The biggest difference between German and American Bauhauses was that the former was big on aspirations and very small on products. I’ll always remember my first visit to the William Wagenfeld Museum in his hometown Bremen where I read on the last wall about Gropius’s grief at how few Wagenfelds his school had produced. All talk. Little achievement. Cranbrook was the opposite: small on self publicity, great on achievement.

Consider the talent gathered over the years: Harry Bertoia, Minoru Yamasaki, Victor Gruen, Ed Bacon, and most famous of all, the creative couple Charles and Ray Eames, whose multiple achievements started at Cranbrook. Their grandson Eames Demetrious (!) has summarized their artistic contributions in “an Eames primer” (New York, Universe Publishing, 2013) a new edition timed with the current “Essential Eames” exhibition at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore curated by their grandson. (

Booth bought 120 acres, beginning with a home for his family and another for Kahn. Then a Greek theatre (1915), Christ Church (1928), Boy’s School(1928),Girls (1931),Academy (1932),Art Museum and Library (1942). It is of course sad for a former Detroiter to think of their current bankruptcy. From 2 million population when I went off to Graduate School in 1949, to 800,000 in 2013, it’s going to take all the idealism of Cranbrook to rescue Detroit from self destruction.

The German Bauhaus died in 1928 when Gropius gave up and fled to Berlin, turning the school over to the Swiss Communist Hannes Meyer, effectively ending their dream.(He taught the first Bauhaus architecture in 1927!) When Mies took over in Berlin at an abandoned telephone factory, he had to explain to Hitler’s propaganda master Alfred Rosenberg why his first achievement was a Denkmal to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg (1926), the founders of the German Communist Party. He had no believable answer! By a marvelously serendipitous encounter in 1970 I met his Azubi in the last class--Bertrand Goldberg, the Chicago Jew who soon fled to Paris after his year with Mies.

Mies became a Nice Nazi sucking up to Albert Speer unsuccessfully until in 1938 Gropius got him a commission for a millionaire’s summer home in Yellowstone, Wyoming. Goldberg is the greatest architect to come out of the Bauhaus. Meanwhile what I sneer at as the current Bauhustlers have just published a brochure dubbing themselves “the Triennale” (Weimar, Dessau, Berlin), anticipating the centennial in 2019.

I’m eager to learn what they mean by establishing workshops for children 12 years and up fighting “Hateful Propaganda” against the Bauhaus. Hmmm! Wonder whom they mean? Or is it just more betrayal of Gropius’s idealism about helping the working classes: content to fake the sad true Bauhaus agenda by building more museums for middle class tourism instead of his true ideal of building for the poor German immigrants as well as the underhoused millions outside Germany. Architecture for Humanity and Habitat for Humanity both keep alive the real Gropean idealism. 

Heh! Last word: the German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt has just opened an exhibition, THINK GLOBAL/BUILD SOCIAL. Maybe the demented era of Bauhustling is over. I hope so. So would Goldberg, who has never had an exhibition in Germany even though he’s the greatest Bauhaus architect-ever and swore to me his undying compliance with Gropius class idealism when I last talked with him in Chigago, two years before his death in 1997!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Intellectual Prisoner

I should preface my comment on Kile Smith's message by telling you I was the intellectual prisoner from age 3 to 13 of the German Catholic nuns at Holy Rosary Academy, Bay City, Michigan. They even told us to cross the street away from the Lutheran Church opposite the city public library. But my virtual mother, Sister Mary Felicia, the first grade teacher, was as sweet and civilized as any woman I ever met. But Luther vs. Pius XII was a bloody fight in my youth!

I'm certain the stability of German families and political stability I admired so much stems from its Lutheran heritage—unlike the loosey-goosey Catholicism of Italy, Spain and Portugal. Kile seems to be eager to de-theologize that tradition, secularizing civilized artistic and moral behavior. Luck to him. Pope Francis I may very well humanize those sloppy Catholic countries. I love his style, sneer at his theology. But we need to succor all possible sources of ethical behavior.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Curriculum Very Vita / "Dumb Irish Luck"

This outline of my life so far lived is a pleasure to inscribe. 

My father Harry’s abandonment of me at three (1930) left me psychically edgy. My mother May had to go to work, teaching at a middle school in Hamtramck, the Polish “suburb” of Detroit. My brother Harry, Jr. born in 1920, as soon after our parents’ marriage in 1919 in Pinconning, Michigan was as soon as it was possible, Catholicly. Harry Senior, had made Captain in Black Jack Pershing’s American Expeditionary American Force. He was also gassed and spent a long spell in Paris where the plentiful whores houses would make it very difficult for her to please him sexually. 

Notice I was born seven years later (February 8, 1927). My brother was in the same hospital with infantile paralysis. The Nurses dubbed him “Mike” (a Pat and Mike joke that stuck) Harry became a furniture salesman in Battle Creek, where I was born. I tease Germans who have never heard of that minor burb that my mother had found me in an empty Rice Krispies carton. Holy Moses, there was no river to cast by. Harry senior passed through Jackson dealer dealer (somewhat bigger than BC) to Detroit where he fled with his secretary Ruth, to eventually become a wealthy real estate dealer in Vegas.

I still remember with painful recollection my next contact with him when he died. I was a 34 year old assistant professor in the new Annenberg School of Communication I designed as the only Mass Media specialist around. (I taught History of Media.) But I had been, faute de mieux, the only qualified man to be a “gofer”. Go for this. Go for that. I had maneuvered so that Gilbert Seldes would be the first Dean because he had been my first mentor after Marshall McLuhan. His pioneer book, “The Seven Lively Arts” (1924), was the first in the subject, antedating Marshall’s “Mechanical Bride” (1951) by a generation. So becoming the Dean’s “gofer” was a Big Deal. He was too old and tired to travel much. (He died in 1970.)

So, for example, NBC wanted to know what we up to, so I flew to LA where the entertainment programs were centered. The day I came the press person meeting me at LA International said that Polly Adler’s brother was opening a new restaurant today and if I was interested I was welcome. Having majored in FREEBIES at the Jesuit University of Detroit. My companion at Lunch was Pollay Adler! (As the leading Madam in Tinsel Town: her biography is entitled “A House Is Not a Home” she had upped her opportunities by finishing an Associate in the Arts degree at LA Community College. Apparently her major was professor evaluation since throughout lunch she lobbed questions that tested whether I was a Good Guy or a Horse’s Ass. Luckily I fought off the animal as she embraced me in the omnivorous LA style whereby the Contaflex around my neck bumped her full on in the Boobs. She screamed, softly, “Patrick, You look like a Goddam Tourist!” Boyscoutishly, I quietly replied,”Polly I AM a Goddam Tourist whereat the honoree brother let a whoop of delight that could have been heard in Philly on a really cold night.

After my interview on the emerging Annenberg I asked them to drive me to LA International I had decided to overnight in Vegas—after No Show 30 years. I asked the Vegas taxi driver if he knew where Harry Hazard’s Real Estate was. “Hell, everyone knows where Hap works!”, and promptly drove me there. I asked the doorman if Harry Hazard was in today, and he pointed to a nearby door. I knocked like I was taught in the Boy Scouts. And a affably smiling emerged. “Are you Harry Hazard from Battle Creek?” The smile disappeared, and he looked like he was pissing his pants! You see, my older brother Mike had become a drunkard gambler and often gray-mailed Harry the Bigamist to dissolve his debts. Harry got me in his Buick as fast as he could and drove me to Hoover Dam, the greatest tourist attraction. 

He relaxed as my questions revealed I was just a professor with curiosity.I asked him if he wanted to meet them at the Montreal World’s Fair. He declined, gratuitously promising he’d put them all three through college. I skipped the overnight, asking him to drop me off at McCarran Airport , named after the Democrat Senator he helped getting elected. Some years later I was romancing a graduate student at UCLA when word of his death broke my date. 

At Vegas his bigamist “wife” Ruth explained that Harry had a secret political secretary who had organized a Democratic Womans Day tomorrow. “Would you like to come?” I couldn’t attend the funeral for fear of her bigamy’s being revealed! First there was Veep Hubert Humphrey: “ Aw, Hap was a great guy. We’ll miss ‘em.” 

Then Nevada Senator Bible: “It’ll be hard as hell replacing that guy.” (Heh, Tell me!)Finally as the mayor shook my hand softly and funereally, I thought: "Should I ask what a SOB he had really been to us,” but the Dominican nuns of Holy Rosary Academy, Bay City, Michigan prevailed. I flew back to Philly wondering what I would do with the $150,000 he left us, not to forget the further $100,000 left us, to debigamize herself. 

Mary soon demanded a divorce in Juarez because Adultery was the only justification in Pennsylvania. Huh? God knows I wandered as her father’s sexual abuse and incarceration in Jackson State Prison for Detroit politics disqualified her in bed for me. Detroit politics She ran off to New Jersey with the psychology professor Zuckerman next door. Oh, hell I called her ZUCKER FUCKER in my empty head, and celebrated the country’s Bicentennial by having my balls clipped. Des Gustibus Non Est Demostrandem!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Frank Lloyd Wright's Best Student Ever

Holy Moses! I thought I knew everything significant about America’s most visible architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Until this morning when I made my weekly scrutiny of the newest books in the Anna Amalia Library. To my utter surprise and equivalent joy, I started riffling through Vincent L. Michael’s “Barry Byrne: Taking the Prairie School to Europe” (University of Illinois Press, 2013) . Barry Byrne (1883-1967)? Huh? Who he? FLW’s greatest student? 
Who, I then discover, not only didn’t go to an architecture school. Or college? Or high school? 

Migod, when a Minnesota university offered him a professorship, they had to withdraw that honor because he didn’t even have an elementary school diploma. OK, so Wright let him observe the master work (1902-1908) in his studio in Oak Park, Illinois.

And that’s just a beginning. He was, like me, a radical Roman Catholic! His closest intellectual pal was Dorothy Day! Me too. And when the Depression bankrupted his own office, he wrote art criticism for the Catholic layman’s weekly” Commonweal” and the Jesuit biweekly “America”. (They paid him $10 per essay!) A generation later, as a philosophy major at the Jesuit University of Detroit, I read every issue of both magazines. 

Most insulting to my ignorance was the fact that his most interesting new buildings were a seminary and cathedral across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario! Now my closest pal, Hank Maloney, and I were fanatical fans of two CBC radio comics we just had to visit often. Indeed while I stopped being a Catholic in the Navy, most of their work appeared throughout the American Midwest and increasingly in Europe as his idiosyncratic modernism bloomed. I’ve never seen such “sui generis” architecture anywhere in history. Most of the photos in this book are by the author and a formerly unknown to me, one Felicity Rich. I just discovered FR was BB's grandaughter! “Felix” means “happy” in Latin and her pix of BB’s buildings turn me on like I have never felt before!

He also writes clearly and passionately about his commitment to devise buildings that further the religious ideals of his coreligionists. Indeed, he is a unique human. Before reading the essays by Professor Michael, look at these photos. Carefully. Then read both writers. They’re very different, but both are great teachers. Now you know why every Monday I scan the five levels of new books. You’ll never forget the experience. It’s that powerful.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Internationalizing the Bauhaus

Bauhaus/Dessau in presenting "Das Bauhaus in Kalkutta: Eine Begegnung Kosmopolitischer Avantgarden“ unsuccessfully tries to make a mountain out of a molehill" (Hatje Cantz, 2013.) It is surely significant to publicize the intellectual ambitions of the future Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore and his innovative University with world culture intentions. But Kandinsky, Itten, Feininger, and Klee do not represent the German Bauhaus in any significant way. And the Indian commentary on Kandinsky’s experimental abstractions is more Indian local than Bauhaus global and utterly unconvincing: Kandinsky, the Russian painter has been for more than ten years the herald of the “Spiritual in ART2".

His power of abstraction is unswerving, put into action as it is by the fervor of a mysticism which has no other name but that of Russia. He was the first to paint pictures without any subject matter. /God help us!/ He avoided all allusions to literature and nature and so made himself free to infuse his inner experience into mere lines and mere colours which are organized into compositions of intoxicating Harmony.” (pp. 2-3.) "De gustibus” but this Indian “thinker” needs to visit Gabriele Münter’s Murnau home where Vladimir glorified their furniture with rural iconography as he tried so hard to feel like a farmer! And then he absconded to Russia with Nina, leaving poor Gabriele to wait in vain for him in Stockholm! Artist’s blather is just that, not to be believed forever.

Indeed, in my Albert Kahn-influenced judgment the Bauhaus was a real Floperoo, a failure that post Nazi guilt has created a laughable myth. Gropius gave up on the Bauhaus in 1928, when badgered by his hot shot faculty into calling them “Professors” not the idyllic “Masters” as the budget reduction hit them hard. A local journalist was harassing him for “double dipping”—one salary as Director and another as Törten Junker suburb! It’s even whispered that Herbert Bayer was pursuing his second wife Ilse. Remember, the first architecture course was in 1927, taught not by Gropius, but the Swiss Communist Hannes Meyer. That was the end of the Bauhaus! Pious and Marianne Brandt fled to Berlin to create Siemenstadt.

Gropius knew that appointing a Communist the Bauhaus director was the end of the Bauhaus—as Dessau’s City Hall slithered to Naziism. But Meyer and several of Commie students fled to Moscow in 1930 where Kruschev had cancelled Stalin’s “Wedding Cake architecture” (It was too expensive!). The modern “Bauhaus” buildings Meyer and his former students built so impressed Holland’s most innovative architect arrived as a journalist to report and he recently revealed that it turned him into an architect. 

Incidentally, my Detroit hero Albert Kahn faced with a depression in Detroit worked several years in Russia. He returned to Detroit because the Soviets were slow to pay him. Back in Detroit, he held a Conference at the University of Michigan in 1941 (where he had made many of the major buildings) for architects who wanted to build defense factories: Present were both Gropius and Mies as well as the Finnish giant Eliel Saarinen, director of Detroit’s Bauhaus, The Cranbrook Academy of Art, along with his brilliant son Eero. 
Kahn greeted Gropius and Mies teasingly as “the Glass House Boys” and lectured them that architecture was 90% business and only 10% ART. He chided them about fancy facades when they should be assessing the factories’ programs and build to achieve those aims. The Germans got no defense assignments.
Meanwhile other Bauhaus students went to Palestine where they eventually made Tel Aviv into the greatest Bauhaus suburb in the world. Back in Berlin, where Mies became the third director of the Bauhaus kicked out of Dessau. He dismissed the Communist students who hadn’t followed Meyer to Moscow and rented an abandoned telephone factory for the failing school. He had an immediate problem: his first building (1926) a Denkmal in a Berlin Cemetery for Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg attracted the attention of Alfred Rosenberg, Hitler’s propaganda chief. He asked Mies what the hall was he doing praising the founders of the Germany Communist Party who had been assassinated by right wing soldiers. GULP. Mies became instantly a Nice Nazi! And spent the next eight years unsuccessfully begging Albert Speer for commissions—until Gropius, by then Dean of Harvard’s architecture school, got him in 1938 a commission for a millionaire’s summer home in Yellowstone, Wyoming. (Mies was first considered for the Deanship but he couldn’t speak English!)
Mies had an inferiority complex from being the blue collar son of an Aachen stone mason. In 1910 whe he was one Azubi of four for the great AEG architect Peter Behrens: the others were Corbusier, Gropius and his future silent partner, Adolf Meyer. Mies bitterly resented having to report to upper class Gropius. Unhappily for him, the parvenu Clevelander Philip C. Johnson (1900-2005) made Mies his protégé in America. Johnson was an unbalanced gay man who dropped out of Harvard several times as he pursued historical studies. He had a German nanny so he gladly chased other gays in Berlin in 1926. His other mission was to be the architecture scout for the future director of the Museum of Modern Art, planned for a 1928 opening. Johnson excitedly phoned him to come to Dessau where he declared their glassy HQ the greatest modern building. 

Alas, the professors and students grumbled that that they froze in the winter and sweated in the summer! Johnson turned Nazi as he partied in Berlin.He returned to America bleating anti-Semitic blather for the Catholic radio preacher Charles Coughlan who fumed that FDR created a “Jew Deal”. Johnson promoted FDR’s opponent in the 1936 election, Huey Long, the governor of Louisiana. When Long was assassinated, Johnson quit politics and entered Harvard, where he studied architecture for the first time—under Gropius. He wrote hateful letters accusing Gropius of being obsessively in pursuit of housing for the working classes. That indeed was the original ideal of the Bauhaus!
Incidentally, I serendipitously became the “student” of the greatest architect to come out of the Bauhaus, Bertrand Goldberg, a Chicago Jew in the last 1933 class. When the Bauhaus folded he became Mies’s Azubi until he fled Berlin for Paris and Chicago as Hitler took over. Until he died in 1997, he was my mentor. To his dieing day he was proudly faithful to Gropius’s working class ideal. Peter J. Blake, a pseudoname for a Jew who became an American journalist, declared in his obituary of Johnson that he corrupted for a century a serious dialogue about the social importance of architecture. And Mies went along with him. The real internationalization of Bauhaus ideals is ignored, from ignorance and malice by the Bauhaus Triennale organized in 2013 to prepare for hoopla for the school’s centennial in 2019. 
They should be ashamed, not only for their glib ignorance of the Bauhaus’s true history but for the secret scandal of banning me from their press lists. While Mies was a Nice Nazi the triple brass has descended into Nasty Nazism for blacklisting me: Beruf Verbot is evil. Gropius deserved better. Though he was confused at the end of his life. When the putative successor to the Bauhaus, the Ulm School of Design was threatened with closure, the students swarmed about Gropius as he gave a final speech there. He denied to support the students. “There is no connection between Art and Politics!” Oh, Pious, what a comedown. It’s tome for the Bauhustlers who have darkened his name to talk truthfully about the Bauhaus and its history. The Kalkutta essay is, sadly, “poudre aux yeux.”

Gropius deserves better, in spite of all his errors.”

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Regarding If I Had a Hammer

I should preface my comment on Kile Smith's message by telling you I was the intellectual prisoner from age 3 to 13 of the German Catholic nuns at Holy Rosary Academy, Bay City, Michigan. They even told us to cross the street away from the Lutheran Church opposite the city public library. But my virtual mother, Sister Mary Felicia, the first grade teacher, was as sweet and civilized as any woman I ever met. But Luther vs. Pius XII was a bloody fight in my youth!

I'm certain the stability of German families and political stability I admired so much stems from its Lutheran heritage—unlike the loosey-goosey Catholicism of Italy, Spain and Portugal. Kile seems to be eager to de-theologize that tradition, secularizing civilized artistic and moral behavior. Luck to him. Pope Francis I may very well humanize those sloppy Catholic countries. I love his style, sneer at his theology. But we need to succor all possible sources of ethical behavior.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Revisiting Tony Auth

 Reading “The Art of Tony Auth” (Camino Books Inc, P.O Box 52096, Philadelphia 19102, 2012) is a historic event for me, like meeting a favorite teacher, who turned you on to thinking as a profession. Tony turned me on to believing that the maturing of the editorial cartoon in America is a “sine qua non” if we are ever to mature as a civilized society.

Alas, it scared me at first to read here that 200 regular American newspaper cartoonists (when Tony began nationally in 1971) has shrunken to a piddling 80. As I bleakly thought the more, I remembered his sudden recent emergence as the digital cartoonist at WHYY-TV. Heh I suddenly realized it matters not what’s in the scabbard, as long as the blade is as sharp as Tony’s always is. “To Stir, Inform and Inflame” indeed.

I also enjoyed learning about his L.A. past. His passion for drawing seems to have been motivated by his having been bedridden young. And his UCLA education in medical illustration deepened this professionalism. He began as a teacher, period. And he sought cartoonish outlets in leftie and “alternative” media. (Shades of “Professor” Hazard peddling himself at the “Welcomat”.)

But Tony had to break into middle class newspapers like the Inky whose First Commandment was “Don’t meddle with the Muddle of our middle class readers”. To watch Tony maneuver with the Inky’s editor without compromising his leftish ideals is as salutary an episode of media courage as I have observed as an ornery leftie! It’s worth the price of the book itself.

But the memorable cartoons are the main course, especially his retelling the issues of the Presidencies between LBJ and Obama. I solemnly declare that any historians assessing those Leaders had better begin with Tony’s pen! I could list my faves, but why deny you a clean sheet to wallow in your own Auth.

I consider it historic that Tony’s gift of the catalog arrived the day The International Herald Tribune became the International New York Times! I started reading that paper daily as I entered graduate school in 1950. My fidelity to Tony began in 1971 and never wavered. 

Thanks for the Melodies, Tony. You gave eyes a life.

Another version of this essay is published by Broad Street Review.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Comical Seriousness from Sweden

Jonas Jonasson’s first novel, “The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared”(Hesperus Press, 2012) is “sui generis”, unlike any book I have ever read, with a biography unlike any other writer I have studied. Born in small town Sweden in 1961, he studied languages at the University of Gothenberg,and then he became a journalist, first for a local paper, Smälandsposten, and later for a national journal Expressen. 

Finally he became a media advisor and head of a TV production company. Burned out after twenty years in all that media, he sold his companies and moved with his small family in a Swiss village. Three years later he published this strange novel which became an international bestseller, accessible in 38 world languages, including a film version about to be released. 

Strangely, my wife gave me this German smash for Xmas and I picked it up a dozen times for a quick read, but immediately put it down! Eventually I agreed with the German critic who called it “a mixture of a road movie and a picaresque novel in modern packaging.”

The beguiling anti-hero is one Allan Karlsson whose specialty is using dynamite to enable mining. The book opens with the overbearing old persons home directress. And Allan is about to be the victim of a centennial birthday party. He escapes, to run into a pair of bandits who are stealing a suitcase full of cash they have in turn stolen from local crooks. 

The pair takes too long a break on the train escape they have started, so Allan is suddenly a very rich man. And a local incompetent chief of police so confuses his local prosecutor that their stupidities are a regular feature as the old man goes his own ways. Eventually he joins a small group of excons who unwittingly amuse the reader as they stumble their way ahead of the cops.

But the central line of action that introduces you to the hundred years of his marvelous life is his skill as a designer of bombs that involves him in all the great military crises of the twentieth centura. And he revels in helping the incompetent leaders of the twentieth century: Spain’s Franco, Harry Truman who sends him to Las Alamos, New Mexico to aid the builders of the atomic bomb, Stalin invites him to Moscow to create an atom bomb for the Soviets, and he blows up bridges as Chiang Kai Chek chases Mao on the Long March. 

His interpersonal confrontations of celebrities like Lyndon Johnson are hilarious as our hero’s skills as a blower upper are exaggerated for comic affect. He is as skillful in humbling these twentieth century Big Wigs as he is in designing explosions. 
There is a charming interview with the author to ease you out of his crazy story.

Are you just as funny in everyday life?”

His reply: I think it was Mark Twain who said something like this: ”To read an interesting book and then to meet the author in question, is like first having a great goose liver pate´ only afterwards to meet the goose. (I am sorry, Mr. Twain, if I remembered this quote incorrectly." (p.393).

This is followed by two pages of Discussion Questions. Man, I would give a hundred Euros to be set loose with those hints in a college classroom.

The author now lives with his kids, cats, and chickens on the Swedish island of Gotland. Where has been writing another idiosyncratic novel. I can hardly wait!