Monthly Archives: March 2007

Chocolate Savior

The chocolate sculpture of Jesus which had aroused the ire of so many will not now be displayed in the Lab Gallery at New York’s Roger Smith Hotel. The Catholic League’s blustery head honcho, Bill Donohue, has apparently succeeded in blowing it away — although when Matt Semler (the gallery’s creative director) referred to Donohue’s statements as a “Catholic fatwa” he was only succeeding in highlighting the difference between Donohue’s verbal objections and the kind of actual fatwas that would be issued in the Muslim world were it Mohammed who was being represented by an anatomically correct confection.

Semler’s contention that it was only a coincidence that the display was to take place during Christians’ Holy Week is also laughable, especially considering the fact that the final exhibition was to be between midnight and 1 a.m. on Easter Sunday — i.e., the very first hour of the day on which Christians believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and defeated death for everyone.

All that said, I’m not sure that having the exhibit would have been such a bad thing. Now, I have no personal understanding of the artist’s intentions. It would seem naïve to think that Cosimo Cavallaro was seeking anything other than to shock and generate the kind of notoriety that he has in fact generated. Nevertheless, it’s not impossible to view the idea of presenting a chocolate Jesus during the Easter season as a commentary on the lamentable way in which bunny rabbits and chocolate eggs have drowned out the whole point of the holiday. Just as Santa Claus and commercialism fight to overwhelm the story of Jesus’ birth at Christmas-time, here we have another secular myth competing in parallel with what Christians consider the crucial truth of Christ’s sacrifice and triumph for the sake of mankind. Cavallaro’s rendition of the crucified Lord in milk chocolate pales beside the perpetual effort of the culture-at-large to substitute candy and consumerism for the Christian story of salvation. It’s not that anyone should be obligated to pay attention to the Christian story if they don’t want to — but that is the story of Easter, after all. Having this fluffy substitute just confuses and misleads Christian kids and gives anyone who might pause to consider what the Christian holiday is actually about a pretty good reason to just sneer and disregard it.

Is this what Cavallaro’s art work was saying? Instead of trying himself to defile what should be sacred to Christians, was he simply trying to make us think about the degree to which it is already mocked by chocolate eggs, big-eared bunnies and fancy bonnets?

I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder. I’m shedding no tears for the artist or for the hotel in question, but I know that the absence of this particular exhibit does little to abate the underlying and relentless hostility of so many areas of our culture towards basic Christian beliefs. I’m not issuing any fatwas against the New York Times or NBC or the BBC or James Cameron or Dan Brown or Cadbury’s or anyone else. I’m just sayin’.

Addendum: In addition to the above-mentioned work in chocolate, the artist Cavallaro has previously created substantial exhibits in cheese — as when he covered a house in Wyoming in 10,000 pounds of cheese.

This produces an irresistable temptation to include a Dylanological reference. The following is a pretty hilarious passage from Bob Dylan’s first book, “Tarantula.” (Pardon the French at the beginning of the extract — I cannot of-course censor Mr. Dylan.)

look you asshole — tho i might be nothing but a butter sculptor, i refuse to go on working with the idea of your praising as my reward like what are your credentials anyway? excpt for talking about all us butter sculptors, what else do you do? do you know what it feels like to make some butter sculpture? do you know what it feels like to actually ooze that butter around & create something of fantastic worth? you said that my last year’s work “The King’s Odor” was great & then you say i haven’t done anything as great since — just who the hell are you talking to anyway? you must have something to do in your real life — i understand that you praised the piece you saw yesterday entitled “The Monkey Taster” about which you said meant “a nice work of butter carved into the shape of a young man who likes only african women” you are an idiot — it doesn’t mean that at all … i hereby want nothing to do with your hangups — i really dont care what you think of my work as i now know you dont understand it anyway … i must go now — i have this new hunk of margarine waiting in the bathtub — yes i said MARGARINE & next week i just might decide to use cream cheese — & i really dont care what you think of my experimenting — you take yourself too seriously-you’re going to get an ulcer & go into the hospital — they’ll put you in a ward where you cant have any visitors — you’ll go right off your nut — i really dont care anymore i am so bored with your rules & regulations that i might not even talk to you again — just remember tho, when you evaluate a piece of butter, you are talking about yourself, so you’d just better sign your name … see you, if you’re lucky, at mrs. keeler’s cake festival
Snowplow Floater
p.s. you’re my friend & i’m trying to help you

O’Donnell jumps the shark

Actually, it’s more like Rosie O’Donnell has eaten the shark, including eyes, fins and entrails. The fact that her loud delusional rants are being broadcast on a major American TV network to millions of people is quite disturbing. Here, she signs on to the poisonous and completely debunked 9/11 conspiracy theory (part of the same one previously referenced here).

I suppose if this leads to some credible figures coming on to the show to carefully and thoroughly explain how World Trade Center 7 collapsed after the unprecedented events of that day, then some good might be done in terms of dissipating the poison. However, no amount of explaining is likely to convince someone with Rosie’s mindset — she will just turn to another level of conspiracy.

Addendum 03/31/2008: Here is the response from Popular Mechanics magazine which specifically addresses O’Donnell’s pernicious ravings regarding the collapse of World Trade Center 7.

Number One

You can’t make this up. A curious and arguably disturbed web-surfer found this site today by searching Google for nude pictures of Bob Dylan. Yes; is currently the top result for that particular search expression, for reasons that are not entirely clear to me.

Heck, it’s not exactly at the Britney Spears level, but around here we take our traffic any way that we can get it.

The 9/13 Republican

This is making the rounds in the blogosphere (and thanks to RS for originally alerting me to it): It is Evan Sayet speaking to the Heritage Foundation and giving his own incisive angle on what he now perceives about the way that modern liberals think. Who is Evan Sayet? Heritage says:

Evan Sayet has been a top Hollywood writer and producer for more than 20 years. His credits range from “The Arsenio Hall Show” to “Politically Incorrect.” After the Sept. 11 attacks, Sayet decided to step from behind the camera and speak out in his own voice — that of one of the nation’s top political satirists. At Heritage, his entertaining yet quite serious lecture will examine the modern liberal “mindset” and how it can lead to siding with evil over good and behaviors that produce failure rather than success.

According to himself:

I call myself a 9/13 Republican. I grew up a liberal New York Jew — you don’t get much more liberal than that, though it was lowercase “l”, not what’s considered liberal today. Graduated from high school knowing one thing about politics; basically that Democrats are good and Republicans are evil.

Click on this link and you can choose between listening to the talk on mp3 or watching the video.

A standout quote, in my view:

Imagine being in a restaurant with an old friend, and you’re catching up, and suddenly he blurts out: “I hate my wife.” And you kind of chuckle to yourself because he says it everytime you’re together and you know he doesn’t hate his wife — they’ve been together for 35 years, he loves his daughters and they’re just like her — no, he doesn’t hate his wife. And you’re having some dinner and you look out the window and you spot his wife out the window, and she’s being beaten up, and you grab your friend and you say, “C’mon, c’mon, let’s help her, let’s help your wife!” and he says, “Nah, I’m sure she deserves it.”

In that moment it dawns on you: He really does hate his wife.

Well, that’s what 9/11 was to me.

Some might dismiss this talk as the ravings of a newly-minted zealot. I wouldn’t. Although it is very strongly stated, I think that it is also in its way very empathetic. Check it out if you have the time.

Stockholm etc.

As people checking Bill Pagel’s website would be aware, Bob Dylan’s European tour kicked off last night in Stockholm, and continued tonight in that same city. The news at this stage is that Dylan played guitar (electric) on the first seven numbers at the initial gig, and then on the first five numbers at the second gig. He played keyboard on the remaining tunes (I haven’t heard yet whether he’s using the “piano” or the “organ” sound, or maybe something else like “mellotron” this time around).

In other Dylan news: Academics gathered at the University of Minnesota for a four day symposium. I like this quote from Christopher Ricks:

“I should think people need to explain themselves if they’re NOT intrigued, enthralled and obsessed with Dylan,” Ricks said during a lecture at the symposium. “Those of us who are, we don’t have any explaining to do.”

The people behind the film “Factory Girl” continue to take advantage of the Bob Dylan angle for free publicity, as in this story: Dylan’s anger put director in a spot.

Bob Dylan’s hissy fit over Sienna Miller’s new film Factory Girl – about the abrupt life of Edie Sedgwick, with whom Dylan is rumoured to have had an affair – was awkward for the film’s director George Hickenlooper.

Dylan objected to a character played by Hayden Christensen – a singer who “wears a leather coat, uses a harmonica brace and performs solo”. Dylan feared the portrayal falsely implied he had contributed to Sedgwick’s suicide.

It landed Hickenlooper in the glue, as he’s friendly with Dylan’s eldest son, a director. “I know his son Jesse well,” Hickenlooper says. “I haven’t spoken to Bob about it and I probably won’t. I think he’s portrayed favourably in the movie, so I don’t know why he’s angered.

Well, perhaps Dylan doesn’t share Hickenlooper’s standard for what a “favorable” portrayal is. Hickenlooper does confirm, with that quote, that he was doing nothing other than deliberately trying to portray Bob Dylan, despite the dodge of using a different name for the character and putting out stories that it was a “composite” of several people. It would seem in any case that Dylan and his legal people decided that making noise about it only enhanced the film’s box office potential. The box office to date appears to have been extremely underwhelming.

Prayer for Tony Snow

White House spokesman’s cancer returns.

“He said he’s going to beat it again,” Perino said in an emotional morning briefing with White House reporters. “When I talked to him, he was in very good spirits.”

Snow spoke with President Bush early today to deliver the news.

“It is hard news for us,” Perino said. “President and Mrs. Bush and the whole White House team has him in our prayers.”

Blood tests and a PET imaging scan had come back negative for cancer. Snow had announced Friday that he had opted to have the growth removed “out an aggressive sense of caution.”

It is unclear if or when Snow will return to his duties. Perino, the White House’s deputy press secretary, is leading the news briefings in his absence. She said she talked with him Tuesday morning and “he was helping me with talking points,” said Perino, who broke into tears when she announced Snow’s condition.

Perino said Snow also gave her some instructions to pass on to reporters: “Tell them not to bug me.” He also thanked reporters and others for the outpouring of good wishes he has received.

Snow and his wife, Jill, have three young children.

May you build a ladder to the stars

RWB has no idea what this is about, but the TV show “Battlestar Galactica” included a version of All Along The Watchtower in the final scene of the final episode of the current series, and it is earthshaking news for some. Read about here, here, here, here and here, if you want, and many other places besides. I gather that in whatever part of space and time where this drama takes place, there are not supposed to be any Bob Dylan songs, and the writers are fastidious about things like that. Therefore the inclusion of a song from planet Earth must have some significance … but no one is going to know what it means at least until the show resumes again in January of 2008. I guess it’s a cliffhanger of sorts.

YouTube has the scene here.

Trust the dog

From Canada’s National Post:

An Ottawa woman is recovering after becoming violently ill after eating some of her dog’s food, in a case likely related to the tainted pet food that has killed several dogs and cats and sickened dozens more across North America.


After adopting one-year-old Missy six weeks ago, Ms. Larabie discovered the little dog refused to eat anything but table scraps.

“I was trying to get her to eat,” Ms. Larabie said, but Missy’s protest continued. Desperate, Ms. Larabie tried “just a little bite” of the Iams dog food to make the terrier think it was people food, then gave Missy the rest.

“I said, ‘It’s not going to kill me to take a little bite’ … but I guess it could have,” said Ms. Larabie, who notes the trick worked.

“When I would take a bite, she’d eat it,” Ms. Larabie said.

The mealtime routine continued for about two weeks, until both dog and master became sick on March 17.

Absent the trips to the hospital for both woman and beast, this would be a story to initiate delight in the boardrooms of the pet food manufacturers. I mean, here you have a woman willing to eat dog food in order to break her dog of its own preference for eating regular or “people” food. The indoctrination is complete.

Potpourri of popery

Thanks to Sue for this link to an interesting article on the Benedict/Dylan/John Paul story by Bill McGarvey:

In retrospect, although I was raised a Catholic, I now realise that my first religious experience came through music. I had no illusions that any of the artists who moved me were “prophets”, much less gods. I did however have a sense that through them I was able to catch some refracted ray of truth — something universal that can be hinted at only in great works of art.

Fortunately for many of us whose faith journeys don’t follow a script, Pope Benedict’s new book doesn’t carry the same weight as the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), which so wisely and eloquently stated in its preface: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age … these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.”

If ever there was an artist who spoke to the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of the men of this age — an artist whose heart has echoed deeply with all that is genuinely human — Bob Dylan would be it.

And thanks to Joe for his e-mailed thoughts on the same subject:

I think that one reason why Pope Benedict was/is leery about pop music & Bob in particular is that he was in (West) Germany in the ’60s where the social upheaval was just as bad as in the US & he probably feels rightly or wrongly, that Bob’s music was one of the major forces behind the upheaval. Pope John Paul II on the other hand was behind the Iron Curtain & felt that the major problem was Communism/Marxism & probably “got” Bob a bit better.


Speaking of new arrangements, it is being reported that Dylan and the band just finished five days of rehearsals in Poughkeepsie, New York, preparing for their European tour which begins next week. The rehearsals took place at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House — the same venue where Dylan and the band practiced arrangements for Modern Times just over year ago.

Dylan spent Tuesday through Saturday at the former Vaudeville theater, playing to a closed house as he rehearsed for an upcoming European tour, Silva said. Dylan and his touring band rehearsed about four hours a day, with the former Woodstock resident entering the theater, each day, heading right to the stage and leaving as soon as the band was done.

Dylan’s week of rehearsals comes a little more than a year after he spent a week at the Bardavon, rehearsing and writing songs for his latest album, “Modern Times,” which was released last August. Silva said the same band backed Dylan both times.

Silva said Dylan played acoustic and electric guitars and keyboards. Silva watched every rehearsal and said song standouts included “Cold Irons Bound” and “Nettie Moore.”

The tour begins this Tuesday in Stockholm, Sweden, at a venue with a capacity of just eight hundred people.

Endless highway

Highway 61 Revisited is one of only a few genuine staples of Bob Dylan’s live sets, I suppose. He obviously enjoys rearranging it for each new tour, and I have to say I don’t get tired of hearing each new spin on it (which I wouldn’t say to the same extent about every song — doubtless because I’m spoiled). It’s always a barn burner, and I think that Dylan and his various bands have always done great in playing with the internal dynamics of the piece.

There’s a version here from 1993 — a June 19th performance in Beersheba, Israel, with John Jackson, Bucky Baxter, Tony Garnier of-course, and Winston Watson. Say what you like: I guess I get a certain kick out of the idea of Bob Dylan singing this particular song in the Holy Land.

Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61.”

Dylan also closed this show with a very sweet version of It Ain’t Me Babe.

The Sheen is off

Extremely off, as should be obvious by now. Still, after his public remarks some time ago about his suspicions that the World Trade Center was destroyed in a “controlled demolition” on September 11th, 2001, you would think that someone who cares about him would have sat Charlie Sheen down for five minutes and straightened him out. Apparently not. From today’s NY Post:

CHARLIE Sheen has confirmed our exclusive story that he’ll narrate a feature version of the stupid YouTube video “Loose Change,” which claims that shadowy U.S. government operatives used explosives to bring down the World Trade Center. “It’s a story that needs to be told. It’s a story about the truth, and the truth needs to be exposed,” the “Two and a Half Men” star told “Extra.” “It’s not just me, not just the Hollywood community [who] is standing up saying what you have given us doesn’t make sense. We just want better answers.” The video pushes the widely debunked “controlled demolition” theory which claims that the Twin Towers and 7 World Trade Center were blown up from within. It alleges the jet-fuel fires inside the towers weren’t hot enough to melt the buildings’ steel beams. The video, written and directed by Dylan Avery, has been scoffed at by the makers of an opposing video, “Screw Loose Change.” Its claims were also soundly refuted by Popular Mechanics magazine, which shot down every single assertion made by the conspiracy theorists.

The Loose Change garbage is easily findable on YouTube. The extraordinarily patient and thorough answering of the offensively stupid questions posed by the makers of the video is available at Popular Mechanics.

Hot Air also has links to a televised debate between the two sides. Again, the Popular Mechanics people are to be commended for their incredible patience. Lies, no matter how mind-numbingly ridiculous, need to be answered. Yet, somehow, there will always be people like Charlie Sheen, who are so utterly seduced by the sanctimonious satisfaction they receive from “questioning authority,” and are at the same time utterly uninterested in listening to and understanding the answers that are right in front of their faces.