Saturday, 30 August 2014

Fly on the Wall

Somm Wine, Somm Movie
By Don Merlot
[WritersClearinghouse News Service] Posted 30 August 2014
New Orleans
As soon as I heard that the documentary movie called Somm was released I wanted to see it. I looked for a cinema house that would carry this and found none in my area. At the time, as now, there were so many events going on my splendid life and thoughts, it just slipped away. The magic of the digital world came to me with Netflix and I searched for that movie, and found it and saw it. 
After I saw it I read the reviews of the cognoscenti, I came to the conclusion that the movie they saw was not the same movie I saw. The question remained, however, does it have something to teach and can it advance one’s knowledge and appreciation for wine?
That mentor I had who directed my first steps into the world of the global stage said that as you muddle through everyday life, try and learn something new every day. He also offered the unique thought (because he was a New Yorker at heart), never eat at the same restaurant twice. If you liked it the first time, you will be disappointed the second time. There is no second time for a restaurant that did not pass the test the first time, because it should have been right the first time. He recommended that wines should be treated the very same way. There are so many good wines and types that one should find as many of the wines he or she like to drink and stay away from the ones that their taste does  not please them: red  rosé white, tannin, dry, sweet, fruity, so on. Back when I first started, the French were known for saying that wine is like women: there are some women (or bottles) that are more beautiful than others. But that was then. Now is now, 50 years later. 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

At the Cincinnati Art Museum

Daughters of Revolution
American Gothic

By Richard Carreño
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
Posted 21 August 2014
Cincinnati, Ohio
Cincinnati arts lovers are understandably thrilled that American Gothic, the iconic portrait of two stone-faced Midwestern homesteaders, will be displayed at the Cincinnati Art Museum this month, thanks to a loan from the Art Institute of Chicago. The signature work of Grant Wood, the enigmatic mid-20th century regionalist from Iowa, has become America's answer to the Mona Lisa. As with Leonardo's best-known portrait, everyone thinks they know Grant's 1930 painting. Everyone has seen a reproduction, or a parody knock-off. And everyone sort of likes it. But why?
The answer to that lingering conundrum — one that I've wrestled with over the years — will likely be revealed when American Gothic is paired, in late August, in an exhibit titled 'Conversations Around American Gothic,. with Grant's other great work, Daughters of Revolution, one of the many jewels of Cincinnati Art Museum's permanent collection. Think of Daughters as a pictorial road map to American Gothic: Its satirical narrative of mincing, tea-swigging old biddies can serve as a key to unraveling the rigorous, complex character study in Gothic. Together, this duality results in an unexpected epiphany, chipping away maybe — just maybe — at the Wood enigma.
What's revealed, at least, in part, is a Depression-era artist (1891 - 1942) who was a powerful societal critic of anti-Roosevelt Farmland, USA. As Midwest author Sinclair Lewis did for literary satire, Wood stepped forward — if sometimes only tentatively — as a regional critic. Using modern art as his form, in Gothic and Daughters, we witness Wood Unplugged.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Letter from Switzerland

The author and her grandfather (1964)
Yodeling and Kvetching in the Alps
By Harriet Eser Phillips
[WritersClearinghouse News Service] Posted 19 August 2014
South Bend, Indiana
That damn it to hell Linkedin.... I was trying to look somebody up and of course without "joining" you can't do that.... and even then the info was sketchy so I am triple aggravated.  Chances of deleting myself are very good indeed.
I truly hate gadgets. Mme Ludite for sure.  21st Century version of Mme Lafarge, I think.  Watching the death of civilization while I dust.
Oh Lausanne!  Ponce de Leon threw up the pizza he swiped.  Yes, I could have told him that was a foolish heist.... I remember it well....
Barbara was a drunk as a witch on Halloween and descended into the potted palm.... It was Fourth of July time, 1964, we flew to Europe from Venezuela, and there was a massive patriotic themed dinner at a swanky restaurant complete with a gigantic ice carving of a goose (well swan, maybe), featuring caviar or some such between his fridgedly  frozen wings. Must be the company picked up the tab.
I sat next to the Swiss office comptroller, if I say Fogelsanger I'm close, could have been Feuchtwanger. Anyway, he was pointing out the wonders of the Swiss navy, and I asked him if he thought maneuvers in Lake Constanz would serve them well when there is a major invasion?  Am I wrong, or is Switzerland landlocked?

Best of Boston: Bookshops

 The Raven and the Brattle
The Raven

The Brattle's Ken Gloss
In 2009, John Petrovato began to search for a Boston location for a second store. Despite trepidation among the general public about the declining state of the retail book business, John felt a quality bookstore in a prime location could do well. In March, 2010, he opened Raven Used Books on the best known shopping street in New England-- Newbury Street in Boston.
The Raven's John Petrovato
Located between Gloucester and Fairfield streets, The Raven has already established itself as a prime tourist destination as well as local community bookstore. As in Harvard Square, neighbors and visitors alike were excited to see a privately owned local business open up in an area where chain stores have become more prevalent. In 2011, the store began hosting readings and book launches, including luminary speakers such as Noam Chomsky. In its first year of business, the book store sold almost 50,000 books. The Boston store was awarded "Best of the New" by the Boston Globe in 2010 and both shops won the Boston Phoenix's readers poll for "Best Used Bookstore" for 2011.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

Photo: WritersClearinghouse News Service
Mario Botta: Architecture and Memory
Mario Botto

Location: Fourth-floor gallery On View: January 31, 2014 - September 1, 2014 (extended)                

Charlotte, North Carolina
Mario Botta: Architecture and Memory is an exhibition spanning the 50-year career of internationally acclaimed architect Mario Botta, the designer of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art building and one of the century's most fundamental contributors to postmodern architecture. Featured are sketches, original wood models and photographs exemplifying Botta’s use of geometric shapes that juxtapose lightness and weight. The run of the exhibition has been extended through September 1, 2014.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

City Lights Bookstore

MInD THe_Gap
By Richard Carreño
[WritersClearinghouse News Service] Posted 7 August 2014
San Francisco
San Francisco is well known for many things: Steve McQueen's blistering car chase in Bullitt. For the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and huffing and puffing up (and down) Telegraph Hill. Its user-friendly public transportation system (refurbished, retired trolleys and, of course, its hokey cable cars). An odd comestible known as Rice-A-Roni (and its catchy 'San Francisco Treat' ad jingle). Levis are of course synonymous with the city, and so are the 49ers who wore them. And who can forget the still wet-behind the ears Michael Douglas debuting in the TV series The Streets of San Francisco
But I knew I was in for a different kind of 'treat' as I settled in with my cabin mates for my flight from Philly to SFO. The surrounding businessmen were clearly representatives of a new, evolving San Francisco, and one I hadn't known before. And my last visit was only five years ago. Sporting iPads, iPhones, laptops, ear-plugs, and headsets, these New-Age 49ers where hardly Rice-A-Roni types. My heavily-wired companions, of course, were newly-minted Silicon Valley standard-bearers, and I doubt they were iTuned to Tony Bennett waxing lyrical about leaving his heart in the 'City by the Bay.'

Welcome to San Francisco's corporate world of Google, PayPal, and Facebook -- and generic billion-dollar 'Googlers' from Instagram, Yelp, HubPages, Dropbox, Pinterest, Twitter, and dozens of other Internet sensations. If there were any Levis in sight, they were skinny jean versions, matched with shortie jackets, skinny ties, rectangular-shaped eyeglass frames, and other accouterments pinched from the pages of a recent J. Crew catalogue. Or, rather, this being San Francisco, Gap Inc and Banana Republic, also headquartered here.

My return involved a more old-fashioned mission. Armed with a copy of Long Ago in France by M.F.K. Fisher (my non-electronic form of entertainment), I came to visit a Bay bookshop -- and buy a book. Not any bookshop. Nor any book.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Cable Car Clothiers

Richard Carreño/WritersClearinghouse News Service
More Oxbridge than Ivy
A San Francisco Treat
By Richard Carreño
[WritersClearinghouse News Service] Posted 2 August 2014
San Francisco
Until a few years ago, almost every American city of size -- even some smaller places, especially if they were college towns --  featured at least one haberdasher known to its residents as the university, or Ivy shop, local purveyors of traditional men's clothing. These clothiers also bred what was to become known as the 'preppy look, the full definition of which flowered in the mid-20th century in a combination of American and British styling. In other words, think of an earlier version of Brooks Brothers, which through the 1900s vigorously marketed its singular American look via a coast-to-coast network of branch shops.
Or, in this city, think Cable Car Clothiers, which, since 1939, has been emphasizing its own British pedigree in its clothing lines. At Cable Car, it's more Oxbridge than Ivy.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Fly on the Wall Sips Wine

Château Grillet:
Rare Bliss Shared by Thomas Jefferson
By Don Merlot
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
New Orleans
Château Grillet from the Rhone Valley in France is a fascinating white wine. Wine lovers may or may not ever taste this wine, because its availability is so scarce. In 1991 it attained its present size of 9.4 acres along the Rhone River, and it produces up to 10,000 bottles of wine a year. When it first became recognized as an elite wine it was one of three of the smallest foot prints of a premium French wine obtaining an appellation contrôlée status for the property. A few properties in Burgundy are smaller and have the AOC status: such as La Romanée Conti.
Coming south out of Vienne on the road into Rhone’s Northern section, the highly prized Rhone wine names pop out like a constellation in the sky: Côte Rôtie, Condrieu Château Grillet, and St. Joseph. The red wines come from the varietal Syrah and the white wines from Condrieu, and Château Grillet are white wines that come from the Viognier grape. In the 19th century as it wafted its great heights of the great white wines of the world, this wine had become among an elite white wines: It enjoys a lofty status and was found in the cellars of kings and the European wine consuming aristocracy. The name “Grillet” may refer to hillsides “grilled,” or burnt by the sun.

Friday, 25 July 2014


A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal
Is It for Real?
By Richard Carreño Posted 26 July 2014
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
It's hard not to like the works of the 17th-century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). His paintings are easy on the eyes, noted for a bright, luminous palette; portraying attractive studio scenes, populated with attractive people. He shows off Delft, his hometown, as a middle-class burgh; it's denizens, prosperous and well-attired. Comfort zone, anyone?
There's no better Vermeer poster child than Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665). Recently rehung at the Mauritshuis in The Hague, Pearl has most notably in recent years become one of the world's most recognizable portraits. Along the lines of that other general public icon, the Mona Lisa. As in the case with Mona, a door-buster at the Musee du Louvre, mass appeal means massive lines. Before returning to The Netherlands, Pearl had a brief run in New York. The lines were of fire-sale proportions.
Not to worry, Philadelphia. Philly Vermeer aficionados are not so troubled in viewing Young Woman Seated at A Virginal (1670-1672), now on a year-long visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That is, if local fans even want to be so bothered. Amazingly, for a Vermeer, the diminuative oil (25 centimeters by 20 centimeters) is more door-stopper, than buster.
I visited the painting recently in Gallery 264, where it has been hanging forlornly on loan since late last year. The gallery is a walk-through space (not a destination gallery), and Young Woman gets nary any attention.
'You're here to see the Vermeer, eh?' the museum guard on duty says to me. I nod. 'Oh,' he says. Not exactly, any variant of 'Make my day!'
The problem is that Young Woman, one of Vermeer's last works he painted in his truncated, 43-years, isn't really a Vermeer.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


Folk Museum: Going... Gone
How MoMA Trashed West 53rd Street
By Catherine Smith
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
New York 

In 1961 a folk art visionary conceived and established the Museum of American Folk Art and, with his collections and other donations, endowments and support, inaugurated
the museum in 1963 on the rented parlor floor of a brownstone on West 53rd Street. The collections, endowments, subscribers and visitors grew. 
In 1979 MAFA purchased two brownstones on West 53rd Street. In its quirky, somewhat  ramshackle venue the museum gained renown and clientele, and, to the surprise of all, began to become a destination. Growth and popularity continued. Exhibitions gained favor. The Clarion magazine succeeded. Notable art, collections and quilts and textiles continued to be donated.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Road Trip

We drove through the "Avenue of the Giants" Redwoods National Park some thirty to forty miles south of Eureka,California.These trees often reach heights of 350 plus feet and in the middle of the day, casting long shadows on the roadway making it feel like you're driving through a dark tunnel.Thank God for the preservationists of the early 20th century, otherwise the lumber industry would have decimated this forest.

Next up: Driving up to Crater Lake from Grants Pass. We ran into rain that quickly turned into a mid winter type snowstorm. Temps dropped from the 50's to the mid 30's. In June no less! This national park is at an elevation of 8,000 plus feet, and they told us that summer doesn't arrive until late July and lasts till around Labor Day.
The lake was totally enshrouded in fog when we arrived  but eventually it cleared (as we were having lunch at the lodge)  and the views were awesome. Crater Lake was formed by volcanic activity and its depth is almost 2,000 feet. This just may be the purest water in the world and its blue color, almost indigo-makes it unique.The rim road runs 33 miles around the lake but half of it was closed due to heavy snow as well as rock slides.
— Jonathan Loftus

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Jacob Epstein Busts of Einstein and Weizmann...

By Richard Carreño
Posted 9 July 2014
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
Despite their coevality, a cursory comparison would not suggest much commonality between Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952). Einstein, of course, went on to create the Theory of Relativity; Weizmann, in 1949, was among the founders of the new State of Israel. (He also became its first president).
Interestingly enough, Weizmann, like the physicist Einstein, was also a scientist. They were both Jewish refugees, on the run from Nazi terror. And they both wound up, at different times in 1933, in the London studio of Anglo-American sculpture Jacob Epstein (1880-1959), where, thanks to Epstein's artistic skill, nay, genius, they were immortalized in bronze busts that have become the iconic images of both men.
Einstein and Weizmann have something else in common: Epstein's sculpted tributes to them share nearby space in a little-known installation at the Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsylvania.
For Philadelphia, the Penn-sited busts also contribute to a startling statistic; they double, yes, double, the number of Epstein sculpted works believed to be available for public viewing in the city. A large, outdoor sculpture, titled Social Consciousness, is located (and, unfortunately, largely ignored) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and a bust of Epstein's wife is part of the permanent collection at the La Salle University Museum.

Saturday, 5 July 2014


 Photos: WritersClearinghouse News Service
By Richard Carreño Bio Posted: July 5, 2014
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
For two years during World War II, from 1942 to 1944, the Metropolitan Museum of Art went to war -- in Philadelphia.
      Thanks to the Monuments Men, a recent film and a book by the same title, the war-time Met is now best known for its one-time director James J. Rorimer, a principal in organizing the group of GIs who, in their role in hunting down Europe's art treasures stolen by the Nazis, became known in romantic vernacular as the 'Monuments Men.'
      Less known is how another Met director, Francis Henry Taylor, Rorimer's predecessor and a former curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, worked quietly during the early war years to protect America's art patrimony.
      And how, thanks to Taylor, a mansion in the contiguous northwest Philadelphia suburb of Springfield became an auxiliary venue of the venerable New York art institution. In secret. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Now @ Tate Britain: Lord Clark Retrospective

Posted: 4 July 2014
This exhibition explores the impact of art historian, public servant and broadcaster Kenneth Clark (1903–1983), widely seen as one of the most influential figures in British art of the twentieth century. The exhibition examines Clark’s role as a patron and collector, art historian, public servant and broadcaster, and celebrates his contribution to bringing art in the twentieth century to a more popular audience.
The exhibition focuses predominantly on Clark’s activities in the 1930s and 1940s when he was a leading supporter and promoter of contemporary British art and artists. Using his own wealth to help artists, Clark would not only buy works from those he admired but also provides financial support to allow them to work freely, offered commissions, and worked to ensure artists’ works entered prestigious collections. Believing that a crisis in patronage had led artists to become too detached from the rest of society, Clark promoted a representational art that was both modern and rooted in tradition. The artists he favoured included the Bloomsbury Group, the painters of the Euston Road School, and leading figures Henry Moore, Victor Pasmore, John Piper and Graham Sutherland.

Friday, 27 June 2014


A Church Archway? A Street Loggia?
Groin vaults, that is.

Since 1962, the northside arched entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been closed. That's about to change.

At least it will, if the multi-million-dollar Frank Gehry-inspired design plan to expand interior contemporary art gallery space gets done anytime soon.

Museum officials have their fingers crossed. It's one of those run-it-up-the-flagpole,- see-if-anyone-salutes plan.
 WritersClearinghouse News Service

Starchitech Gehry was in town yesterday (26 June) to do a bit of flag waving.

Instrumental in the plan, which
will principally involve new gallery space under the Rocky steps, will be the reopening of the north-south groin vaulted loggia-like corridor that cuts across the building. The north end will be re-introduced as a new museum entrance.

The corridor, or walkway, the museum calls it, is a mammoth, imposing space -- a delight to behold.

Fortunately, progress on building and repurposing the building -- already in the works for more than five years -- will proceed as the cash rolls in, according to museum officials. A good thing! As of now, they don't think the project will be completed until 2028. Ouch!
--Richard Carreño

The Rocky Statue? Look Closely Below

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


By Richard Carreño
[Writers Clearinghouse News Service]
As its editor, patron, and publisher, Scofield Thayer revamped the Dial, an early 20th century literary monthly based in New York, into what today's readers might recognise as a late 20th century version of The New Yorker -- on steroids. Not for the little old lady from Dubuque, nor, really, for the patrician salons of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.
Thayer (1889-1982) himself was a wealthy, blue-blood (Scofield, PUL-lezze), born in the central Massachusetts mill town of Worcester. In the course six short years from 1920, Thayer harnessed bursts of inspiration and exasperation to interpret a then-burgeoning 'modernist' creativity (in poetry, literature, and art) to a growing urban, upper middle-brow readership. The Dial was a savvy, avant-garde periodical. But Thayer never walked on the wild side, inviting legal censorship.

James Dempsey
In one typical issue alone, his contributors included T.S. Eliot, John Dos Passos, George Santayana, D.H. Lawrence, Gilbert Seldes, William Butler Yeats, and Wallace Stevens. There was never a culture magazine quite like it before, nor arguably one since that could match Thayer's Dial for literary star-power and influence.
Thayer published then-controversial writers (including Ezra Pound); thought enough of James Joyce that he gifted him several thousand dollars in today's money; and regularly gave E.E. Cummings a literary platform. (And his blessing to bed is wife. Elaine Orr Thayer was an angelic-looking knock-out, who also liked to screw around).

The PJ depends exclusively on reader support. Please help us continue by contributing directly via PayPal, or by contributing editorial content via Empowered by WritersClearinghouse | S.P.Q.R. 1976 Richard Carreño, Editor Copyright MMXIV. All Rights Reserved

Monday, 16 June 2014

$1,000 Per Bottle

Château Pétrus: Notes from DON MERLOT                                                
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
New Orleans
The wines of Bordeaux are considered some of the best and most elite wines in France and/or the entire wine world. Historically they have been given the highest ranking as great wines in the world. There was a wine classification in the 19th Century (1855) that ranked Bordeaux wines, and the wines that were elevated to the zenith of wine greatness enjoy that nirvana today. The ranking continues.
Chateau Pétrus is a wine from the Pomerol district (AOC) of Bordeaux and is a wine that oenophiles know of its lofty place. Chateau Pétrus is a red wine and has its own delicacy and heritage. Pomerol has become a producer of finely cultivated red wines. Petrus is the only wine ranked in Pomerol. It is hors classé.
The best and famous top Bordeaux wines are: Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild, Haut Brion, Cheval Blanc and Ausone. Pétrus rounds of the top eight.

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