I Wish I Had Died before I Saw the Biennale – Venice Part 3

Editor’s Note:  As promised, here is the concluding chapter to our visit in Venice:   “I Wish I Had Died before I Saw the Biennale – Venice Part 3.  I was reluctant to post this item on Gourmay as Sheila had decided that I was becoming rather “pig-headed” and that our readers would not be amused.  She is probably right, but she can object in writing by submitting a scathing comment to this Post.

There are few things more disturbing to me than art critics/organizers imposing their views on your personal interaction with a piece of art.   Now, I don’t consider myself to be a snob – even though Sheila thinks I am beginning to manifest a few “snobbish tendencies” – but I do not take kindly to filtered versions of what I can see for myself.  As such, I took exception to Venice Biennale Curator Okwui Enwezor’s argument that art should be shaped by “looking at what’s going on around us today.”

While I respect Mr. Enwezor’s opinion, I don’t happen to share it.  It smacks of “being on the right side of history” and I would argue that this widely shared view is about as inspiring as attending an exhibit of Communist or Fascist “utilitarian” works of art.  I am simply not interested.

While there are many notable exceptions, in my opinion most great works of art were created by artists working for a living or simply “looking” at the world quite a bit differently than the  chaotic world around us. Leonardo da Vinci created “The Last Supper” while experimenting with paint colors. Monet was more interested in lighting than illustrating political manifestos.

In any event, I childishly decided to boycott the Biennale and visit Murano instead. There, artisans continue to work for a living as they have for decades.  (Editor’s Note: I had wanted to visit Venice’s San Michele Cemetery instead, but Sheila nixed it.)  In any event, I gamely sat in the park sipping a beer and occasionally taking a nap while Sheila toured the Biennale.  I think I may have had a better time than Sheila, but it was probably not the “politically correct” thing to do so early into our vacation.

I have always been interested in the history of the term “politically correct” and turned to Gourmay’s noted historian, Rudi B., for an explanation.  Thankfully, he discovered this exchange of telegrams between U.S. President Harry Truman and General MacArthur in a dusty historical archive that only recently was opened to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

(1) Tokyo, Japan 0800-September 1, 1945

To: President Harry S Truman

From: General D A MacArthur

Tomorrow we meet with those yellow bellied bastards and sign the Surrender Documents, any last minute instructions?

(2) Washington, D C 1300-September 1, 1945

To: D A MacArthur

From: H S Truman

Congratulations, job well done, but you must tone down your obvious dislike of the Japanese when discussing the terms of the surrender with the press, because some of your remarks are fundamentally not politically correct!

(3) Tokyo, Japan 1630-September 1, 1945

To: H S Truman

From: D A MacArthur and C H Nimitz

Will do Sir, but both Chester and I are somewhat confused, exactly what does the term politically correct mean?

(4) Washington, D C 2120-September 1, 1945

To: D A MacArthur/C H Nimitz

From: H S Truman

Political Correctness is a doctrine, recently fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and promoted by a sick mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end!

Got to love “Give ’em Hell, Harry!”   Thanks Rudi for your research.

Smoking Miss Piggy on Father’s Day

While Dan and I would have preferred a large T-Bone steak on Father’s Day, we have had to settle for Pulled Pork sandwiches to accommodate family eating “issues” (Editor’s Note:  “Issues” were referred to as “disorders” when I went to school, but I now understand it is no longer fashionable or politically-correct to use that term.)

Sandwich from Lillie Q?

Sandwich from Lillie Q?

In any event, I like a slow-cooked pork butt, but I hadn’t realized that I would be smoking it all day in the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill  (Editor’s Note:  I guess this is what you get for living so close to Chappaqua).

We purchased a great looking 10-lb pork butt and “Pit Bull” Dan is soaking three handfuls of hickory chips overnight. Also,  I have selected some colorful new potatoes for potato salad (no mayo as per Dan’s instructions) and we will have a nice cole slaw for the pulled pork sandwiches.  Grand-mommy (aka Sheila),  is making a raspberry pie and I do hope that Dan and Miranda have vanilla ice cream in the refrigerator.

The dry rub (see recipe below), will be applied this evening by yours truly.

Sunday (Father’s Day) Pulled Pork Cooking Timetable:
  • 0230 hrs – Papa awakes to take Ms. Piggy out of refrigerator to bring to room temperature;
  • 0715 hrs – Papa takes Ms. Piggy to Broderick house (Hopefully, someone will be kind enough to give this Old Father a coffee and say “Happy Father’s Day!”);
  • 0730 hrs – Papa at Broderick’s to light fire;
  • 0750 hrs  – Papa places drip pan with water in center of grill;
  • 0755 hrs – Papa adds a handful of hickory chips that have been soaked the evening before;
  • 0800 hrs – Ms. Piggy strategically placed by Papa for ideal smoke;
  • 0810 hrs – Papa departs Broderick’s for a bit of exercise and a long steam bath;
  • 1000 hrs – Papa returns to check temp and to add more chips (possibly more charcoal to keep heat level at around 200º F);
  • 1130 hrs – Papa adds more hickory chips and possibly charcoal;
  • 1300 hrs – Papa wraps Ms. Piggy in aluminum foil and adds more coals.  Maybe turn up the heat up a bit more by opening the top vent to halfway;
  • 1600 hrs – Papa removes Ms. Piggy from Weber;
  • 1640 hrs – After Ms. Piggy has been allowed to rest, discard layer of fat and with two forks shred pork;
  • 1700 hrs – Pulled port sandwiches with cole slaw and German potato salad

Dry Rub Recipe (reduced heat element for palates of children)

  • 1 cup of light brown sugar
  • 3 to 4 Tbs of cooking salt
  • 1 to 2 Tbs of ground pepper
  • 1 to 2 Tbs of cumin
  • 2 tsps of oregano
  • 2 to 3 tsps of ground chili powder
  • 2 to 3 tsps of garlic powder

As mothers can attest, “A father’s work is never done.”  Happy Father’s Day.

Infrastructure: Reflections on Italy

For the last several years, I have been become increasingly fascinated by auto-centric planning and its profound impact on our nation’s infrastructure and urban development. I suppose that most people never really think about our country’s decaying “infrastructure” until they blow a tire when their auto runs over a neglected pothole, but even the densest politician realizes that our transportation infrastructure is broken. Conventional wisdom suggests that we should throw a lot of money at our decaying road, bridge and rail system to “fix it.” I am basically in agreement, but would insist that no new roads should be built until the nation’s existing road “infrastructure” is fixed.

I realize that this may seem a little draconian given the fact that politicians love to name new roads after themselves, but it seems to me that infrastructure planning over the past 70 years has revolved around the automobile rather than people.   Some would even suggest that transportation “planning” was more of a “social experiment” than any real attempt to develop a limited but effective transportation system.   Regardless of one’s point of view, our current infrastructure planning requires quite a bit of rethinking.

After spending a month in Italy, I realize now that this American “social experiment” could never have occurred in Italy without totally demolishing a culture that has existed for some 2,000 years. Would anyone want to visit Tuscany if its hundreds of medieval villages had been substantially altered to accommodate the automobile?  I think not.  While Italy has an effective and well-designed interstate road system to efficiently get people from one distant location to another, the streets in its towns have been largely unaltered for hundreds of years.

In fact, the charm of Italy is that its towns are about people and buildings rather than the automobile.  Isn’t it ironic that we need to spend thousands of dollars to travel to this “old” culture, because the automobile has drastically altered our ability to create our own unique culture.  In Italy, Italians and tourists alike live the romanticized “Williamsburg experience” everyday.  Their towns and villages are not Hollywood stage sets, but real communities of people going about their lives as they have for many centuries.

I realize that this is an exaggerated and romantic vision of Italy that many – if not most – Italians don’t share.  Many  towns are literally dying as young people can’t find employment, but I doubt very seriously whether auto-centric development would have improved employment opportunities.  The important question is whether the United States can create its own cultural legacy from the abandoned malls and parking lots of a “social experiment” gone awry.  Consider these staggering facts from an article that appeared in 2012 in the New York Times:

  • One study says we’ve built eight parking spots for every car in the country. Houston is said to have 30 of them per resident;
  • Eran Ben-Joseph, a professor of urban planning at M.I.T., points out that “in some U.S. cities, parking lots cover more than a third of the land area, becoming the single most salient landscape feature of our built environment.”
  • Absent hard numbers Mr. Ben-Joseph settles on a compromise of 500 million parking spaces in the country, occupying some 3,590 square miles, or an area larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

The automobile is so embedded in the American psyche that “a Citizen” representing Citizens for Road Asphalt and Parking remarked that “I like the freedom of owning a car, and it sounds to me … like you’re going to make it punitive, like you can’t own a car. People don’t like to come where they can’t park.”  I hadn’t realized that the “rights” of the automobile and parking were protected by the Constitution, but then I am not a Constitutional scholar.  Now, I have to assume that this Facebook Page is a bit of heavy-duty satire that I love, but you never can be sure anymore.  (Editor’s Note:  Sadly, I have learned that the folks at Citizens for Road Asphalt and Parking take “automobile freedom” very seriously).

In any event, I have become a Member of Strong Towns to remind myself everyday that we can create our own culture by debunking the myth of prosperity through auto-centric development.  It’s not rocket science, it’s simply common sense.