Friday, February 24, 2006

Indo-U.S. Startup

Last Thursday, Gloria Starr Kins and John D. McCahill Co-Chaired a Diplomatic Reception for The New Jersey World Trade Council at the Indian Consulate. Virginia Bauer, New Jersey's Secretary of Commerce, spoke about John Corzine's financial industry background helping to enhance the business climate in New Jersey........
link to the website of The Consulate General of India
Ms. Neelam Deo, the new Consul General of India in New York, gave a brief speech, noting that India welcomes foreign investments now. The mood was one of muted caution and temperance, in view of the unpredictable outcome of next week's state visit, but inevitably, even at a low key, the gathering became convivial.

For those of us who've spent our lives on the cusp, absorbing soundbytes about the two democracies since childhood, the near possibility of an enhanced relationship between the two countries opens up a familiar fantasy with a colorful prospect, including a feast of cross-cultural possibilities for a content-hungry world, not to mention a separate feast at the table of
intellectual property rights, and visions of jatra performances here and Pilobolus there, and so on....

Urban India sure has become shiny-shiny, but intellectual and politcal India is currently bristling from the
Left, Right, Left, Right and Center at any hint of patronage from the Bush Administration, in whatever way it variously applies. Here, the mainstream press has concentrated on America's future ability to control nuclear proliferation on the Subcontinent, but the press here is not as yet looking at what I was looking for a few weeks ago, which is that The Durand Line has become a real, operative, confounding issue. (all these links are for friends who don't read the papers from both countries.) It would be unfortunate indeed if a Masterpiece Theater view of India among the Bush entourage holds sway over current fission-fusion negotiations. Some sources say all Islamic monuments are off limits for the India tour of GWB; others say Purana Qila is all good, identifying with the Pandavas and not Sher Shah's renovations, I suppose, although why that is supposed to be correct and necessary is anybody's guess. I just hope that arranging for him to address a giant gathering (okay, not multitudes) from a spot right next to The National Zoo inside Purana Qila doesn't incite some other kind of pandemonium.
picture of Purana Qila from

No point in AISers and all other cuspy types growing old waiting with bated breath for all the
right things to happen, though. The time to party is now!
Maura Moynihan
says the K2 Lounge at the Rubin Museum is the place to be on Fridays - for desis and videsis - and I'm adding for pardesis and swadeshis also. The newest museum in the City is a luminous grandchild of the FLW Guggenheim, and houses a magnifient collection of Himalayan art from every period. There are dieties and demons, mendicants and meditators, tankhas and mandalas, tantric siddhas and perfected beings from all over the vastness of the Himalayas. Next Friday is Tibetan Independence Day - there will be momos and more. 17th Street and Seventh Avenue, where Barney's used to be. More on this later.....

Friday, February 17, 2006

Sisyphus on 57th Street

John van Alstine, who lives within range of mountainous vistas, explained at the opening of his new exhibition that creating sculpture is a Sisyphean task. At least one guest wondered briefly whether this meant his sculptures topple down the mountainside on completion - but of Sisyphean Circle III, 2005 , 44 x 42 x 19 inches,course they don't.
at Nohra Haime Gallery through March 14 Why this should be is largely for John to know and everyone else to guess, especially as at least one element in each composition appears to be caught in flight. This collection in particular, scaled down but not domesticated by any means, explores the interaction of natural forces and industrial products by revealing the delicate subtleties of corrosion
on the polished surface of the steel and the internal structure and history of the pieces of slate, including a bloom of pale script lichen on one piece. Besides displaying the vitality of sustained effort, the other Sisyphean aspect of John's works - his material gamesmanship, or, if you will, his challenge to the gods - is as visible here as in his monumentally scaled works or in his larger installations in private settings - here are more pictures from his web site.

Above left, Dayton Pointe, 2002. On the right, Fleche III 2005, slate and steel.

Also at
Nohra Haime Gallery, Adam Straus' paintings, on the other hand, revel in low, flat and wide sea-level horizons, and present the interface of his luminous landscape paintings with their riveted, lead-faced encasings. Moonrise being the essential ingredient of these nano-narratives about the intrusion of artificial light, these are views of nature desiccated under challenge from machines. Each painting in this sophisticated collection looks limpid from about five feet away, but on closer inspection, is heavy with multiple layers of pigment and glaze, dried slowly at low temperatures and lower light, to build up a heavy base for impasto flourishes.
Moonrise: Long Island Country Road, 2005, at Nohra Haime Gallery through March 14.

Leaving the Fuller Building, a group of guests pondered the restored finish of the Art Deco bronze reliefs on the elevator doors. Then, noticing the date inscribed in the floor mosaic in the lobby, which said 1902 to commemorate the Flatiron Building, also built by the George A Fuller Company, everyone became confused. Some wondered how much it had cost to maintain the marbled lobby of the Fuller Building for a century. Others said marble facing on interior walls had survived over the millenia in Rome and so would also survive, possibly for millenia, in New York.

Floor picture: courtesy Michael Leland

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine for Wynton Marsalis

acrylic painting by Neil Barbosa @
He's not always there, because
of his busy schedule, but the
kids and parents who came
to The Rose Theater
just before
The Blizzard of 2006
got lucky! There WM was, strolling left and right and around and around the
telling about Count Basie and about conniving, and jamming and cor-r-r-r-
mixed right in with childhood photo from explanations of Stride, and tempo, a startling display of dynamics, and then introducing Gregory Porter, who showed us all exactly what it means to Sing the Blues (Going to Chicago and Every Day I Have the Blues). We also found out why it's a good idea to be nice, and what to do when you have a job (show up). WM offered the happiest explanation of improv I ever heard -- he said it's like talking instead of reading out loud. The kids (aged three to twelve, I think) soaked it all up like sponges, easily echoing complex melody lines in whatever syllables came, as if they'd all been scat-singing in the shower since they could speak. Possibly some of them had-- I heard they often bring their mini-instruments to play along. Fine to hear them all call out "Fats Waller!" on cue, and also to hear them, to a child, yell, "Five by Five!" twice over, when all WM was looking for was for them to call out, "Jimmy Rushing!!!"
portrait of WM from
Now. I'm not actually in the loop for doing this and indeed I was sitting among young Dalton-
going families, where, strictly speaking, I don't belong. It was because of R that I got to see it all. Later, I asked her if she had seen the video of WM at the Apple Conference celebrating the début of the new generation of iPods, and she hadn't, so R., THIS LINK is for you. Hit number eight down the page for some great music and click here for the iPod ad with WM for fabulous imaging added.

While I'm adding links to videos, here's a terrific one of WM speaking at Tulane on Martin Luther King Day. Did everyone else already know he's a great orator too?

As WM belongs to New Orleans as much as to New York, watching the Tulane video put me in mind of THE FIRST POST-KATRINA MARDI GRAS which is in two weeks exactly, February 28. My cyberfriend, New Orleans artist Jamie Hayes, has made posters to celebrate Mardi Gras 2006, and is selling three editions, mit and mitout varying applications of gold and silver leaf. He can be reached at:

Monday, February 06, 2006

Five-Year Brides

Hogarth's Marriage à la Mode, plate 1, aka 'The Marriage Settlement' - image file from Wikipedia

In one of my favorite passages from The Second Brain (1998),
Michael D. Gershon argues merrily that there are no such things as Laws of Nature. If there are, he asks rhetorically, where's the law enforcement? How cheerful it is to assume that natural laws, should they exist, would operate on the same principles as criminal law. But, as everyone finds out sooner or later, the enforcement of contracts, or of court orders sent down in civil suits, depends greatly on the relative zeal, muscle and purse of the interested parties. With that scope for irregularity in mind, one might step back and consider whether natural laws might yet exist, and ponder whether matrimonial law, at least, has something to do with Nature or possibly Music.

Various systems of matrimonial law have long focused on who might marry, under what circumstances they might marry, and, secondarily, how to assure future support for the parties and their offspring. In Hogarth's day,
complicated individualized contracts had come into widespread use in England and elsewhere in Europe, but were still far enough outside the norm to be worth satirizing. The provisions of such contracts might have remained in place for the lifetime of the parties, with continuing effects devolving on the offspring of the marriage and questions of their inheritance. These days, by contrast, it's a toss up whether support obligations will be honored at dissolution at all, let alone whether property rights be will be preserved - if there is any property left after funding the divorce. Now, in some well-publicized instances, the interests of the future offspring are being frankly bypassed in favor of the interests of the supporting or richer spouses. This overriding concern for the financial well-being of the richer spouse and the safety of that spouse's assets might change the focus from whom to marry to how long it is safe to stay married.

The current pitch for pre-nups is that they will make the coming divorce less painful, complicated, expensive, and generally hazardous, though it's far from clear whether things can possibly work out that way. Of course, the prevalence of divorce and the contemporary delay in marrying makes it necessary to protect one's assets and prospects before and during marriage and remarriage as well. The proponents of pre-nups claim that they are needed in many more instances than before, so everyone should have them, i.e., in these days of synthesized families and unpredictable career growth (or failure) for either party, a prenuptial agreement is essential for anybody with any assets or future at all. It used to be that betrothal pacts between families were sealed by a religious ceremony followed by nuptial consummation by the couple. If pre-nups turn out to be as popular as their proponents would like, instead of saying, "You may now kiss the bride" on closing the ceremony, it will probably be better and more useful to say, "Now, please shake hands with the bride."

handshake photo from --Canada's leading resource for prenuptial agreements

In recent but more sentimental times, a fifth anniversary was considered good enough to be celebrated with wooden presents - or, for the more forward-looking or luxury-minded, with clocks.
Going forward from paper at anniversary number one, it was fine to anticipate silver, golden and ruby weddings to come. Now, the fifth anniversary is becoming the upper limit. Recently, it seems, every other high-profile player is being publicly instructed by legal advisors to call it quits at five years, for no better reason than that five years are up, which begs the question, what is the magic of the five-year milepost?

The first misunderstanding or miscalculation fostered by the pitch for pre-nups is that a pre-nup takes the last word during the breakup. Actually, when a relationship falls apart, or its time is up, whatever, a court is free to divide and award the marital property in a manner deemed fair and equitable -
without regard to the terms of the pre-nup, if necessary. Typically, if the contract gets in the way of other laws or superseding considerations, the court will override its provisions. (This is why divorcing spouses bring in objections to the agreement on charges of fraud, duress, unconscionability and the like.) The rule of thumb, in any event, is that the longer one is married, the more likely it is that the entire marital estate will be divided equally between spouses when divorcing. For a short term marriage, on the other hand, the most typical approach the courts take is to return the parties to the financial condition they were in before they got married. This is often the intention behind the pre-nups drawn up where one spouse is vastly wealthier than the other. Under five years is generally taken to be a short term marriage. The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps track of such things and reported eight years ago that twenty percent of all heterosexual married couples either separate or divorce within the first five years of marriage. This means that there's a Five-Year Itch as well as a movie called 'The Seven Year Itch'.

Besides, if more than six years elapse in the course of a marriage without any attempt to assert the terms of the pre-nup, the Statute of Limitations would be held as having been tolled on the unenforced pre-nup, so that either party would then be well within his or her rights to shred (or, more politely, "set aside") that pre-nup. Conversely, if either spouse wanted out of the agreement after six years, that would be too late. If you are canny and start a divorce a year ahead, there's time for your lawyer to amend pleadings and fine tune them to the situation at hand. If there's a so-called "sunset clause" in the pre-nup, meaning an internal agreement as to its expiration date, which is often set at five years, this sunset might backfire and, rather than allowing the pre-nup to sink quietly below the horizon, provide the cue for scheduling the divorce instead. This turn of events might become especially urgent if the moneyed spouse is fighting off his or her own sunset years, and/or the perception arises that there is a need for either party to acquire or reserve money for another round of marital negotiations.

Who better to enforce a contract than the lawyer(s) who wrote it, and what better test of the value of a pre-nup than the divorce for which it was intended? To test a contract's viabilty before the court, to have the opportunity to defend one's own work and get paid for doing it, all of that makes a sweet package indeed. So, if a pre-nup is the prelude, then the marriage may well turn out to be a fugue, because enforcement (or rescission) is just around the corner.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Salman Rushdie, Jane Austen and Vogue

SR with his beauteous wife, Padma Lakshmi. Picture from
About a year ago, addressing a gathering in Kolkata, Salman Rushdie said:
"Jane Austen’s career... is more or less exactly contemporary with the Napoleonic wars. And yet, there’s essentially no mention of the Napoleonic wars in the novels of Jane Austen, except that soldiers show up at balls and look cute. The function of the British army in the novels of Jane Austen is to look cute at parties, and defeating Napoleon was a side-issue. The reason that she can do this - I’m not criticizing her - is that she can fully explain the lives of her characters without a reference to the public sphere. The public sphere was remote from private life in that time.

What’s happened, I think, as time has gone on is that space - the space between the public and the private — has shrunk and shrunk and shrunk. Now the public and the private smash up against each other every single day...."

Not quite!

Anyone who ever gave Jane Austen a good read knows that she would of course turn her back on the Napoleonic Wars - how, after all, to find anyone solidly marriageable inside or even near that whole fracas?
Jane Austen's picture is from

As to soldiers, in terms of J.A.'s world view, she does gives them their due. What's not to like, decor- atively
about a
flock of
men in white
and short
jackets/tailcoats with plenty of sashes and epaulets and as much passementerie as any curtains by Mésangère? They're good for ballrooms just like they're still good for Quality Street toffee tins.

Quality Street toffee tins to be seen at

Otherwise, J.A. dishes them the almost-silent treatment, and rightly so. After all, the odd officer may have been a pretty fellow, but his slender means had obviously been swallowed up by his commission, bad enough on its face. Then, if you cared to look a little closer once in a while, as J.A. made it very clear she did, soldiers are dangerous rakes - smart in their white britches and all, but rapscallions on the run nevertheless, always taking advantage of hapless young women wherever they happen to be passing through, and then leaving for Lord Knows Where, and possibly To Whom, likely never to return. According to J.A.'s canon - or, rather, as per certain of her
'The Elopement'
from characters' failure to abide by that canon - only the very silliest girls, destined to come to a sorry end in some godforsaken hole-in-the-wall, ever ran off with soldiers (Pride and Prejudice). And, it can't be said too often, whom to marry - and conversely, whom not to marry - is entirely J.A.'s area of concentration and expertise.

This is not to say that J.A. failed to integrate the major goings-on of the day out in the larger world, what with all the new-fangled princes in her modern fairy tales. For her purposes, it was far preferable to look in the opposite direction from the shores of Napoleonic France in those naughty times, and to focus on those hardy English-born fellows who had made their fortunes in the Triangular Trade. Leaving aside whatever else they might have done that must be shuddered at and set aside (most famously, in Mansfield Park per Edward Said), at least they were coming home with impressive quantities of cash and well developed immune systems - which their wives might develop too, if they were sporting and went to sea along with their husbands (Persuasion).
click here to see enlargement of map from national

This meant that
a) these guys wouldn't be carried off by one good sneeze, the way lesser men and landlubbers might, and
b) they could easily keep a girl in muslins and phaetons for the long haul...............................
If they were good men - in terms of women, that is (also Persuasion ) - they could be relied on to police their brethren in life on the high seas and tropical isles, including the baddies who abandoned their hapless wives in Bath, the better to romance their Carib mistresses. Sometimes the best of these better men could even correct those Stoneleigh Abbey montage (above)
weaker men's failures posthumously. It could be said that a lot of J.A.'s social and political awareness is concentrated on either making these fast-rising, sometimes Admiralty-bound types completely respectable through marriage into the upper gentry or lower nobility, or on showing that these men could easily buy out the wastrels among the landed classes - in a heartbeat and with apparent grace as well, if the opportunity arose --no problem. J.A. had close access to both kinds of people among her array of relatives, knew the score, had her loyalties, and could spin a really good yarn to prove her point.

Not sure about any of those screenplays...
Jane Austen's house (left)

And yet......
in detecting the existence of a gap, or the absence of a point of contact or connectivity, S.R. is definitely onto something. I'm guessing that while the breach - or is it a chasm? - does exist, it is neither temporally nor spatially distant, but rather, it is ongoing and conceptual and upon us even now - viz., while the current private-public-smash-up scenario S.R. suggests is in fact playing out on all the screens in our homes and offices and iPods in these times of war, winter, and consequent exhaustion, here's Vogue's advice for February:

"One of fashion's strongest currents this spring is a folkloric, homespun individualism that operates as a kind of antidote to the larger, grimmer trends in world affairs. You'll get the picture in Steven Meisel's "Coat Check," which showcases the statement coats of the season -- and these statements are all about quirkiness, intriguing details, and articulating private narratives of femininity. Likewise, Tim Walker's breathtaking portfolio of gloriously full-bodied, domestically-inspired lace dresses argues for a humbler and more charming approach to cocktail dressing. Even rock'n'roll about incorporating whimsical, almost baroque touches into the classic skinny, boyish silhouette. There's a lot of attitude, but no aggression."

Great photos, anyhow...