A Theater of Manners: Portraits of the Wealthy, Social Nobility and Politically Powerful

Jim Dow, “The Dining Room, Morgan Library, New York City” (1999 / 2010)

Jim Dow, “The Library, Metropolitan Club, New York City” (1999 / 2010)

Jim Dow, “The New York Society Library, NYC”

Annie Leibovitz, “Queen Elizabeth II” (2007)

Martin Parr, France. Paris, “Haute Couture” (2007)

Daniela Rossell, “Paulina with Lion, Mexico”

A Theater of Manners: Portraits of the Wealthy, Social Nobility and Politically Powerful

Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures is a collection of photographs showing the seldom seen hidden lives of the wealthy, social nobility and politically powerful persons of our times. The collection is currently on exhibition at The CCCS, Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina, Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, in Florence, Italy. The images portray the representatives of a social class that normally exercises careful control over the circulation of pictures of its members, whether in the form of family photographs or of official portraits.  The photographs unveil the game of social roles and attitudes conducted by the subjects, a veritable Theater of Manners, which demands enough sensitivity on the viewers’ part for them to focus on those details in the pictures that render hidden and non-immediately obvious features visible.

In addition, many of the photographs present an authentic and rare view of the architecture, furnishings and frameworks of some of the most exclusive private circles of New York City, circles that have a long and significant history, such as the renowned Metropolitan Club. Though there are over twenty such circles of this kind in New York City, outsiders will very seldom notice their presence. Presently, an increasing number of politicians and businessmen are choosing to meet in these secluded rooms, which public opinion often perceives as places of intrigue and the setting for various kinds of secret appointments. The photographs give a face to these exclusive meeting places, inviting viewers to  admire the timeless opulence of their rooms.

Portraits and Power: People, Politics and Structures

Slide Show: Theater of Manners/Portraits of the Wealthy, Nobility and Politically Powerful

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Green to Blue: A Modest View of a Serious Problem

Green to Blue: A Modest View of a Serious Problem

Green to Blue is an animated short, which was named to the Top-Ten Shortlist of Friends of the Earth’s 2008 one-minute film competition. Green to Blue is a stop-motion animation that was made to promote global warming awareness. Elizabeth Klein, the film’s creator, explained that, “I made this stop motion to promote global warming awareness. Sometimes the simplest messages are the most powerful, so I’ve tried to present a child-like view of a serious problem.”

Green to Blue: A Modest View of a Serious Problem

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AIG Greed Redux: John Law and the Mississippi Bubble

AIG Greed Redux: John Law and the Mississippi Bubble

A national outcry of public outrage has forced the Obama administration to take action on the large bonuses that AIG has given to a group of its executives. The bonuses that AIG has distributed went to the very group of employees whose risky trades brought the company to the brink of collapse. “It’s hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses, much less $165 million in extra pay,” Obama said at the outset of an appearance to announce help for small businesses hurt by the deep recession. “How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat,” the president said.

The whole debacle of the greed displayed by AIG, as well as by some large banks that recently received large sums of bailout money from the government, is reminiscent of the simultaneous collapse of both the French trading arm and royal bank in the early 1700s. That collapse has been described as “John Law and the Mississippi Bubble.” John Law was a Scottish economist who believed that money was only a means of exchange that did not constitute wealth in itself and that national wealth depended on trade. During the reign of Louis XIV, John Law set up France’s Banque Générale Privée (“General Private Bank”), which developed the use of paper money. Many have considered Law to be little more than a colorful con man, responsible for the Mississippi Bubble and the chaotic economic collapse in France.

Richard Condie’s 1978 animated short film, John Law and the Mississippi Bubble, offers up a history lesson about that sensational get-rich-quick scheme, which took place in France over 200 years ago. The film won the Best Film Award at the 1980 International Short Film Festival in Tampere, Finland. With economist John Law at the helm, the plan was to open a national French bank and exchange bank notes for gold at wildly inflated share prices to mask the fact that the country’s gold had been depleted in the building of Louis XIV’s palace. In the film, when the inevitable rush to cash in the notes takes place, poor John Law is left broke and broken-hearted.

It was one of the most sensational get-rich-quick schemes heard of in a long time, but it eventually burst over the head of its originator, John Law. This “rags to riches to rags” story, in which the plan was to open a bank and exchange banknotes (paper!) for gold at wildly inflated share prices, ends when John Law, having been cleaned out as a result of a rush to cash in the notes, is left broke and broken-hearted.

John Law and the Mississippi Bubble

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Pure Detroit: When Old Things Get Broken

Pure Detroit: When Old Things Get Broken

Pure Detroit is a short film by Ivan George with gorgeous cinematography, but also one which confronts the viewer with dramatic images of the effects that rapid economic and social change can have upon urban life. The impact of the film has been described as somewhere between heaven, hell and quiet meditation. While Pure Detroit is a beautiful visual mood piece, it’s also incredibly sad. The film reveals so much about the rapid changes we’re encountering in our world right now, how the old things gets broken much faster than new things are put in their place. Pure Detroit serves as a powerful reminder of what the old things breaking down can be like for so many of us.

Pure Detroit: When Old Things Get Broken

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Dogged Fameball Ego-Blobber Julia Allison Airs on Most Obscure TV Channel Ever!

Dogged Fameball Ego-Blobber Julia Allison Airs on Most Obscure TV Channel Ever!

Gawker reports that the never-ending ego-blobber Julia Allison has just informed them of some amazing, breaking world news: Her videoblog, TMIweekly, has been picked up by NBC’s New York Nonstop. Now, this turns out to be highly appropriate, because New York Nonstop is certainly as close as it gets to the edge of internet obscurity, while still letting one claim to be on television. This makes it quite a suitable perch for the vapid, irrelevant musings of Allison, an inappropriately well-known dating columnist for Time Out New York, and her two cohorts, Silicon Valley heiress Meghan Asha Parikh and vapid handbag designer Mary Rambin. The episodes of TMIweekly, Allison’s videoblog, have featured the goofy trio blathering on and on about totally uninteresting aspects of their lives (just imagine very bad Twittering, only videotaped).

It’s all part of their faux-business called NonSociety. Allison recently reported that NonSociety had taken in revenues of $60,000 during all of 2008. Calculating with an advanced business metric known as earnings before expenses, that would give NonSociety’s three pseudo-socialite Foundresses a living-level that’s just slightly above minimum wage. Now, whatever NBC is paying Allison for her 24×7 filler, it’s certainly too much, as NBC’s own officials seem to realize! Meredith McGinn, Senior Manager of Special Products for NBC4, explained to the New York Daily News: “You’ll get your meat, your news, weather and headlines-every 15 minutes. In between those 15 minutes, you may have a two-minute segment, a two-minute pod, a five-minute pod. So the shows we’re looking at are in little bits, not your traditional half-hour newscasts.”

So the news is the meat, which makes TMIweekly what, exactly? Shredded lettuce? Mayo? Anything, surely, except relish. So rather than force-feed you to watch even one awful episode of Julia Allison’s TMIweekly, here’s Gawker videographer Richard Blakeley’s much funnier parody-spoof, Welcome to NomSociety:

Julia Allison and Cohorts: Welcome To NomSociety

Thanks to Gawker.

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Picture du Jour: Springtime for Limbaugh

Picture du Jour: Springtime for Limbaugh

Cartoon by: Steve Brodner

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Krazy Cupcake Dayze: Everything from Epicurean Blather to Fancy Cupcake Explowgions

Krazy Cupcake Dayze: Epicurean Blather, Cake Waltzing and Cupcake Explowgions

Nowadays, writers have been talking about cupcake-lovers as a foodie-cult, about how some kind of cupcake-craze has swept across most parts of the nation. In The Atlantic, Corby Kummer has written that even in the too-too au courant New York City, cloyingly cute little cupcake shops may seem like they’re passé, but they still continue to thrive there. Moreover, new ones seem to be opening across the land by the month, even though they’re often disappointing and downright silly. Nevertheless, according to Corby Kummer, the craze is worth keeping, if only, like the opera audiences at La Scala, to keep applauding until the performers finally do better.

In keeping with these Crazy Cupcake Dayze, I’ve put together this little article composed of three takes showing different viewpoints about this “fairycake” fad: the first is about faux haute-cuisine blather; the next is a frivolous illustration of silly cupcake capers; and finally, the morbid voice of cupcake-doom, which visually pronounces that the cupcake “plague” is a downright horrible, stinking calamity. The three different takes on our krazy cupcake dayze are entitled, respectively: Frosting on the Cake; Silly Kultured Kupcakes: Doing a Ditzy Dancing Waltz Thingee; and Demise of The Very Fancy Cupcake Kids: Huge Explowgions!

In The Frosting on the Cupcake, Atlantic Magazine’s Corby Kummer holds forth at length on the cupcake craze and demonstrates how one should properly perform a gastronomically correct cupcake taste test. Silly Kultured Kupcakes: Doing a Ditzy Dancing Waltz Thingee is a stop-motion animation created by a fellow who ruined a batch of cupcakes. Rather than throwing them out, he made the dilapidated cupcakes repent by doing a bit of dancing (waltzing, to be specific). Now, most of us would sigh and just toss the ruined batch of forlorn cupcakes out, but these little cupcakes got a second chance, even if only just long enough to perform their schmaltzy-waltz for this short-animation. No doubt, someone out there is asking, “What’s next, krumping cupcakes?

The last piece is the voice of cupcake-doomsday, Demise of The Very Fancy Cupcake Kids: Huge Explowgions! Specifically, it’s the visually macabre account of a legend about how some fancy, luscious cupcake kids were living the carefree good life, famously enjoying their little tasty selves in what was left of a still dangerous part of earth, most of which already had been destroyed by years of awful war. But, according to legend, a big worrisome question still remained about these fancy little treats: Would they be able to survive? Or have cupcakes always just been too delicately fancy and sshhtuupid?

Epicurean Blather: The Frosting on the Cupcake

Silly Kultured Kupcakes: Doing a Ditzy Dancing Waltz Thingee

Demise of The Very Fancy Cupcake Kids: Huge Explowgions!

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