Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats

Greek Orthodox Church or Mosque: Ground Zero


On September 11, 2001, over 3,000 Americans were taken from us by the evil acts of Islamic extremists bent on destroying our freedoms. Amid the thick smoke and choking ashes of that fateful day, the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was reduced to dust.

Since 1922, St. Nicholas Church had stood as a quiet sanctuary of prayer and reflection amidst the tumultuous and bustling crossroads of commerce. For the past nine years the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey has used bureaucratic obstacles and false promises to hinder the rebuilding of the St. Nicholas Church.

This must end and it must end now!

What an outrage that our government has put roadblocks in the path of its own citizens trying to rebuild their beloved church destroyed by Islamic extremists, while Saudi Arabia, a nation that prohibits people from even wearing a cross or the Star of David, now provokes the families of those who lost loved ones by apparently funneling money to build a mosque at the same location.

As your congressman, I will always remember that our constitutional freedom of religion starts with respecting our own sacred Judeo-Christian heritage. Now is the time for the Port Authority to stop hiding behind its bureaucracy and to facilitate the rebuilding of the St. Nicholas Church that was taken from us on that quiet September morning nearly a decade ago. The former St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was destroyed when the World Trade Center fell on it.

George Demos is a Republican candidate for New York’s First Congressional District…

Picasso – The Mediterranean Years

Gagosian Gallery, London (Until 28 August 2010)

Following the success of “Picasso: Mosqueteros” in the spring of 2009 — an exhibition heralded by The New York Times as one of the best shows in the city since the turn of the century — Picasso biographer John Richardson will again partner with the artist’s grandson Bernard Ruiz-Picasso to curate “Picasso: The Mediterranean Years (1945-1962)” at Gagosian Gallery Britannia Street in London.

In the post-war years, Picasso began to spend more and more time in the South of France, marking a return to the Mediterranean heritage that had nourished some of the most important stylistic changes in the past. A vibrant social scene including bullfighters and poets, an international cast of friends and admirers, the return of Cocteau as his poet laureate and a renewal of family life with the birth of Claude and Paloma (with Françoise Gilot) joining their siblings Paulo (his son with Olga Khokhlova) Maya (his daughter with Marie-Thérèse Walter) and the love of Jacqueline Roque and her daughter Cathy provided the Mediterranean setting and the work produced there with new life.

Besides pitting himself against Delacroix, Manet and Velázquez and painting some of his most challenging works, in the 1950s Picasso revolutionized sculpture and ceramics and pushed boundaries in lithography, linocuts and other graphic techniques. At Vallauris, where he transformed a disused perfume factory into a series of studios, at La Californie, his great fin de siècle villa, and Vauvenargues, his magnificent château on the slopes of the Mont Sainte-Victoire, the work of the most widely-known artist in the world was reborn.

Including important portraits of Françoise , Claude, Paloma and his last great muse Jacqueline, linocuts, ceramics and several iconic sculptures (La guenon et son petit, 1951, Petite fille sautant à la corde, 1950, La femme enceinte I, 1950, and Sylvette, 1954), “Picasso: The Mediterranean Years” will be organized around generous loans from members of the Picasso family of works that have come to be known as Picasso’s Picassos. The exhibition will be installed in galleries transformed by architect Annabelle Selldorf and accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with new essays by John Richardson, Professor Elizabeth Cowling and Jean Cocteau biographer, Claude Arnaud.

With a focus on Picasso’s most intimate works, “Picasso: The Mediterranean Years” will provide an important contrast to Tate Liverpool’s exhibition “Picasso: Peace and Freedom.” Between these two exhibitions, visitors to Great Britain in the summer of 2010 will have an extraordinary opportunity to explore the public and private faces of this peerlessly multi-dimensional artist in the 1950s.

In recent years, Gagosian Gallery has partnered with the most distinguished scholars in their field to present critically acclaimed exhibitions at the galleries in New York and London, including the International Association of Art Critics award-winning “Picasso: Mosqueteros” (New York, 2009); “Manzoni: A Retrospective” with Germano Celant (New York, 2009); “Isabel and Other Intimate Strangers: Portraits by Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon” with Veronique Wiesinger (New York, 2008); “Francis Bacon: Triptychs” (London, 2006); “Cast A Cold Eye: The Late Work of Andy Warhol” (New York, 2006); and “Willem de Kooning: A Centennial Exhibition” (New York, 2004).

Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga, Spain in 1881 and died in France in 1973. Recent exhibitions of his work include “Picasso: Challenging the Past,” National Gallery, London (2009); “Picasso et les Maîtres,” Galeries nationales du Grand Palais (2008/2009); “Picasso and American Art,” Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2006); “Picasso: Tradition and the Avant-Garde,” Museo Nacional del Prado and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2006).

Marie-Antoinette, the grace of tragedy

Rarely fate was also mixed. The young Dauphine Marie Antoinette began by seducing. When she became queen, she will be unpopular. Not without awkwardness, will eventually recover. But it was the Revolution and the ultimate test, faced with dignity, for this woman, this wife and this mother is admirable.

Le Figaro Magazine (English Translation)

In May 1770, when Madame la Dauphine appeared in France, it was a stroke of lightning réciproque. Nimbée a crown of blond hair, the girl’s face smiling at the innocent people who saw her as the queen that she had dreamed. She came into the glorious kingdom of Europe, secure the bright future that her marriage with the heir to the throne  she foreshadowed. Her mother, Empress Maria Theresa, had chosen her fate to seal the alliance of Austria with France that she considered the masterpiece of her policy.

Marie-Therese had not seen her go without some concern. Certainly, moral training of her daughter was perfect and she knew the uses courtly, danced and played the harpsichord and pleasantly spoke French, the language courses, but she thought only of fun and had never shown the slightest interest in the study. Father Vermond, sent by Louis XV to perfect this neglected education, acknowledged that she had a fair trial, she listened willingly “when he showed bright ideas,” but she refused to go deeper.

The prince quickly fell in love with the Archduchess, because that little person exercising a real seduction. “God has showered so much grace, such sweetness and docility that everybody must love you: it is a gift from God, it must be preserved, not to glorify you, but keep for your own happiness and that of all those who belong to you, “he wrote his mother on 1 November 1770, the eve of the 15th anniversary. This charm unspeakable, Marie Antoinette held until the end of her life through the centuries, it still holds sway today.

Her new family is his sensitivity to the test. Louis XV shows her kindness touched, but her husband flees. “My little son is not affectionate,” recognizes the monarch. The Dolphin, which has never known a woman, is too intimidated by the foreign pledge of an alliance that his late parents criticized. Aunts, daughters of the king, embittered and spiteful, see the young Austrian woman as an intruder. They observe no indulgence, pretending to show him affection. Affection is what is missing in the Dauphine, still “well child”, as said the king: she does not think that loneliness is his lot.

As she grows nostalgic Viennese experiencing attachment increasingly hard for those she will always consider as truly his own. She waits for her mother’s letters overflowing with tips and questions. The old sovereign wishes to consolidate its diplomatic work thanks to his daughter, while fearing that she is not in keeping with the role she wants him to play.

Marie-Therese not hesitate to resort to emotional blackmail with her to try to get what she wants: to be a future Queen Service Officer Habsburg on the European stage. The Empress gave him a mentor in the person of his ambassador, Count Mercy d’Argenteau, which Marie Antoinette never hesitate to share. She often asked her advice on what to do. His warnings are always wise when it comes to how to deal with her husband, the king, princes, princesses and courtiers; will make a difference in politics.

Frustrated in her emotional life and love, the Dauphine feels no respect for the king who displays his liaison with Madame du Barry. She tries to tame her husband, but patience and resignation he will always be foreign. She takes refuge in his friendship for the Princess de Lamballe and revolts as a spoiled child stamping her feet to find her place. It is a rebellion against the label binding, a marked disdain for older courtiers, held a sometimes overlooked, the desire to ride like a man instead of quietly riding a donkey, as the respectable ladies of his retinue.

Marie Antoinette eagerly seek distractions. They are neither reading or singing lessons or harpsichord that pull his melancholy. It will allow the king to follow the hunt on horseback, and especially to go to Paris without ceremony she finds a kind of joie de vivre. She discovers an unknown world that gives the illusion of starting a new life. She returned to Versailles intoxicated by his discoveries and the love of Parisians who show him a real fervor. In the capital, it becomes a desired woman, is his way of being filled. The love of the people against the love of a prince, is his revenge.

Brief honeymoon! At the accession of Louis XVI after the death of Louis XV, May 10, 1774, Marie Antoinette was not yet 19 years old and her husband just 20. The king dream happiness of his subjects and the queen is willing to support her husband, she deals with “poor man”. However, the first emotion was over, she feels drunk with a freedom she never knew, without knowing the dangers that threaten it. In France, the role of the queen is not clearly defined.

Her duty is to give heirs to the kingdom and her conduct must be above suspicion. Marie Antoinette does not then the image of the perfect wife of the monarch. She rarely opens her room to her husband (maybe did a few apologies for that) and flees into a perpetual holiday. At Versailles, the royal mistresses were the stars shining with Louis XIV and Louis XV. The roles are now reversed. Lacking charisma, Louis XVI, who will never seeded or not shining by her presence or by his spirit. In all the splendor of her youth and her beauty as queen claims the leading role of the court with her husband willingly.

She wants a court young, fashionable, where we have fun. Surrounded by a few favorites, does not bother to show representatives of the old courtyard, and even the king’s aunts, they belong to a bygone world. She refuses to live in perpetual representation, like the queens that preceded it, and wishes to conduct her private life hidden from view.

During the day she retired to her apartments, received her friends in her Trianon Palace, Bagatelle in part to his brother the Comte d’Artois, bet on horses racing on the plain of Sablon and sometimes goes all night at the opera ball without the king. She dazed to deceive the void in her heart and spent the least time possible with her husband, who condones this disconcerting hyperactivity. Some men make her heart beat a little faster, but she knows she has no right to love, and her crazy friends to Madame de Polignac, a lot of talk.

Soon Marie Antoinette becomes a fickle queen and too extravagant. What is she doing for days on end in his area of Trianon, where the king himself comes only guest? What about his nights in Paris? It’s Versailles leave the gossip that quickly become songs, and pamphlets denouncing the misconduct of the wife of the ruler, which is now considered a cuckold helpless, unable to control his wife and therefore incapable of governing France.

When Marie Antoinette gives birth to her first child in 1778, the rumor that Louis XVI was not the father. It will be the same at the birth of her three other children. Her romance with the people has been completed for a long time. However, despite the unbearable lightness, Joseph II, her elder brother, who is without sin of indulgence, can write, after a long stay at Versailles: “A head-to-wind which is driven all day run of dissipation. She thinks only of fun. She feels nothing for the king. She is a kind and honest woman, a little young, ill-considered, but has a base of honesty and virtue. “

The emergence of Count Fersen in her life monotonous by futility, upset. She answered the call of her heart and followed the mysterious link that calmed down more than her motherhood. In 1785, she became aware of his unpopularity in the affair of the necklace. She released from its chrysalis. This is no longer the carefree princess, but a woman battered, morally supported by a man she loves, and who looks anxious about the future of their children.

While Louis XVI fell into depression, she prepares to defend the monarchy threatened. Marie Antoinette has never yet had a taste of power. She had only mixed with intrigue without measuring gravity, which had attracted much criticism.  She was especially criticized for her overt support  to Austrian claims on behalf of the sacred covenant. Her extensive interviews with Mercy Argenteau, her scenes in Vergennes, the foreign minister, had helped to discredit her, though the king had never yielded to his will. The damage was done: the nickname of “Austrian” became an insult. His new role as head of state still further increased his unpopularity. “The queen governance”, such was the public outcry which contempt competed with hatred.

Inexperienced, ignorant of the realities of the kingdom, the Queen trusts her instinct alone, in hopes of saving the monarchical system as she designs, immutable and absolute. She discovered in her a strength she did not know to defend its ideas and, later, to save her life and that of her husband and those of her children. The trouble intensifies its energy, the energy of despair. It takes initiatives, plays a dangerous game with double Mirabeau later Barnave to try to save the Crown.

On August 10, 1792, the day of the fall of the monarchy, she would remain in the Tuileries, but must yield to the will of the king who prefers to take refuge with the family in the Assembly. A prisoner in the Temple, she inspires compassion of the jailers. The horror of her captivity, the separation from her children, the enormity of the charge of incest during  the trial grow. Climbing the stairs of the scaffold, she became a legend. It is a tragic heroine, sacrificed to the manes of the republic, a executioner brandishes her head before the crowd, October 16, 1793.

The blade of the guillotine made to Marie-Antoinette the majesty which her enemies had stripped and was transfigured into the holy of the Monarchy. She became “Queen martyrdom” of those courtiers who devoted themselves to public obloquy of her heyday and still criticized emigration, dark days of the Revolution. Therefore, they camouflage memories he might have been indecent to mention. Suspecting some weakness wife of Louis XVI returned to commit a crime against the monarchy. The devout royalist tradition continues today, while the revolutionaries and Republicans have continued to weave the black legend of the “wicked queen.

We rewrite the history of this tireless woman sensitive and reckless, nothing prepared to assume such a fate. The images show an overlap Princess radiating charm, fashion victim by lack of love, by frivolous idleness and a caring mother and a discreet lover, a sovereign of the ancient regime indiscriminately defending the principles of absolute monarchy, but also a queen humiliated as a woman, as wife, as a mother. Its fall and the misery of ordinary people closer, and his admirers, always numerous, would show her the love she has not received.

* Evelyne Lever is a historian. Author of Marie Antoinette was (Fayard, 2006) and Marie Antoinette. Diary of a queen (Tallandier, 2008).

‘Eat Pray Love,’ a guilty pleasure

By ROGER MOORE – The Orlando Sentinel

The generations of American women who have grown up with, identified with and love Julia Roberts may relish her star turn in “Eat Pray Love,” one woman’s journey in search of herself and other things.

“Looking in all the wrong places,” she admits to her guru.

“Looking for what?” he asks.


But “Glee” writer Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir isn’t anything as remotely deep as that. It’s a travelogue about an impulsive, self-absorbed travel writer who ditches her admittedly flighty husband (Billy Crudup) with a single line.

“I don’t want to be married.”

He eventually has a comeback for that — “That’s just QUITTING.”

Even though she has supposedly lost everything in her divorce, she has the cash for a year off — traveling the world, seeking something to fill the void in her 30something arrested-development soul.

She spends months in Italy. I am woman. Watch me eat. And buy fat jeans afterward.

She stays on an ashram in India.

She studies with her “medicine man,” a quirky, toothless little fellow (Hadi Subiyanto) who conveniently lives in Bali, aka “paradise on Earth.”

And along the way, before and after the eating, she meets a dreamy young actor (James Franco) who turns her on to his yogi, a crusty Texan who berates her into “doing the work” at the ashram (Richard Jenkins), and a sultry Brazilian (Javier Bardem) whose great gift seems to be holding his tongue about her shallow self-absorption.

This “Sex and the City” with Carrie shopping for spirituality. And it’s damn near as insufferable as Gilbert’s very popular book.

But Roberts — who, like Carrie Bradshaw, narrates Liz’s quest — makes most of the two hours and 15 minutes of eating, praying and loving pleasant enough. The Italian scenery dazzles, India impresses and Bali will make you swoon.

And the TV-trained Murphy peppers the screen with oddball bit players who come on, deliver some withering little bon mot and fade into the background.

“Americans know entertainment, but you don’t know pleasure,” an Italian lectures.

“Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”

“You want to get to the castle, you’ve got to swim the moat.”

And the kicker, the best in this collection of bumper sticker snippets — “God dwells within you as you.”

Murphy indulges in a little glee of his own when it comes to music, seasoning scenes with too obvious pop tunes — Sly Stone’s “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin,” and Neil Young’s search song, “Heart of Gold.”

“Eat Pray Love” isn’t a bad movie — just a spiritually dead one, wearing and wearying. The cute supporting cast (Viola Davis is the wise-cracking best friend) tosses off cute one-liners and Roberts smiles broadly and tries to pretend the journey she takes isn’t rendered hilariously pointless by the finale.

It is a much better movie, one hour in, when Jenkins shows up. His character’s no-nonsense bluntness, labeling the indulgent Liz “Groceries” because here she is in a spartan spiritual retreat in the middle of India and all she does is eat, and his vulnerability, suggest a deeper but still amusing movie that might have been.

For a film about a woman whose motto is “I’m through with the guilt,” Roberts and Murphy & Co. have delivered a guilty pleasure. It’s great to see her in something this light again, looking much as she did 10 years ago. “Eat Pray Love” allows Roberts’ longtime fans to travel the world, and back in time with her. If only we all could eat until we pop and age in reverse and still have the glow of amber backlighting.

Flannery O’Connor: the writer vs. the believer

The Library of America

There’s a lively debate currently energizing the posts at Big Questions Online over whether a letter Flannery O’Connor wrote in 1958 to a friend troubled about his faith—especially the lines “You don’t serve God by saying: the Church is ineffective. . . Your pain over its ineffectiveness is a sign of your nearness to God”—provides a persuasive counter-argument to the reasons Anne Rice gives in her recent public announcement on Facebook that she is “quitting Christianity.”

Many readers find it difficult to reconcile O’Connor’s devout Catholicism with the dark often horrific comedy of her fiction. Brad Gooch, author of Flannery: The Life of Flannery O’Connor, addressed the question in an exclusive 2009 interview with The Library of America:

LOA: Your biography closely chronicles what a devout Catholic O’Connor was: a daily communicant who enjoyed reading and discussing scholarly theological treatises. Yet she didn’t entirely discourage writers who took contrarian readings of her works. For instance, you recount her telling John Hawkes that she “liked very very much” his essay “Flannery O’Connor’s Devil” in which he finds her “authorial attitude in itself in some measure diabolical . . . that is, ‘the disbelief that we breathe in with the air of the times’ emerges fully as two-sided or complex as the ‘attraction for the Holy.’” Was it her aim, do you think, to create works that could be interpreted in antithetical ways?

Gooch: O’Connor forever crossed wires in her life and work. Conan O’Brien wrote his senior thesis at Harvard on O’Connor. One night on The Charlie Rose Show he put the riddle succinctly: “You’d think it was this bitter old alcoholic who’s writing these really funny, dark stories. Then you find out that she’s a woman and that she’s devoutly religious. It’s the opposite of what you would expect.” She definitely designed her stories to be read in a world not as given as she to literal belief in God or the devil. Such a trick was not easy and took a while to develop. While at Iowa, she sought guidance from a local priest: how could a Catholic girl be writing about snarly types like Haze Motes, who calls on a town prostitute. The priest told her she didn’t need to write for 15-year-old girls. She slowly parlayed this advice into a more sophisticated apology, borrowed from Thomas Aquinas by way of Jacques Maritain: art is a habit of the practical rather than the moral intellect. As she put it: “You don’t have to be good to write well. Much to be thankful for.”

But the issue of contrary readings of O’Connor’s fiction is compelling, and has never been raised more provocatively than by her friend John Hawkes during her lifetime. Borrowing a line of reasoning from Dr. Johnson when he claimed that Milton was “of the Devil’s party” because Paradise Lost loses its zing when Satan is offstage, Hawkes finds the “diabolical” to be the guilty pleasure in O’Connor’s work. Privately—not to Hawkes—she judged the theory “off center.” But Hawkes was not alone in the camp that felt O’Connor was not the best reader of her own work, and her theological gloss perhaps spin, whether conscious or not. Firmly planted in this opinion was her progressive friend Maryat Lee, who found dissonance between O’Connor the story writer and O’Connor the theologian. “The writing is one thing and the thinking and speeches are another,” she wrote to a mutual friend. “Jekyll and Hyde if you will. Perhaps.”

Read the entire interview here

No fault of mine


I didn’t follow very closely the strange death of the actor David Carradine, a little over a year ago in a hotel in Bangkok. I never watched Kung Fu, and if I liked Carradine it was chiefly because of his father, who played the aristocratic card-sharp in John Ford’s Stagecoach, and other unforgettable personalities. But I remember he was found hanging naked in a closet. The Thai authorities soon ruled out murder, since the video cameras showed no one entering or leaving his room (I find as I look up the reports).

Suicide was suspected, and the idea was seconded by one of his ex-wives, who spoke of his “depressive character.” Then there was an old interview where he had said he kept a pistol in a drawer, and often thought of blowing his brains out. He added that suicidal thoughts often came to him in five-star hotels (perhaps because he never stayed in lesser ones?).

The mechanics of his possible suicide seemed complicated. The cleaning woman found him in the closet “crouching, with a nylon cord, probably from the curtain, tied around his penis, and another around his neck.” Both cords were tied to the actor’s hands, behind his back, according to some versions. According to others, however, “one cord was tied to the neck, another to the genitals, and both to the closet.” No sign of struggle, the room closed from the inside, no bruises on the body.

The conclusion was that, in a bizarre masturbation session, the actor had miscalculated. The press noted that such “extreme autoerotic practices, where ejaculation is meant to coincide with a feeling of asphyxia, are more common than is generally thought,” and had already taken lives “in the British parliament,” and in the person of the singer Michael Hutchence of the Australian group INXS, in 1997. Be all that as it may, Carradine suffered a “sexual accident,” or killed himself, and no one else had anything to do with it.

But now I read that his widow, Annie Bierman, is suing for negligence the producer who had brought the actor to Bangkok, and that the suit has been admitted to procedure by a Los Angeles court. She maintains that on the night of his death the actor was to have  with the director of the film Stretch; and that the production assistant in charge of Carradine’s agenda and transport did not do his job properly. He called before the dinner, but Carradine did not answer, so he decided to go without him. Nothing would have happened, the widow says, “if the producer had treated him with the attention due to a star.”

I don’t know how far this lawsuit will go, but the fact that it is being considered at all is one more example of the attribution of absurd responsibilities, always to others, whenever anyone, acting on his own account, stumbles and falls and hurts himself. Others are supposed to be our babysitters — above all, the state.

“Why didn’t they stop me from stealing?” complains the failed bank robber. “Why didn’t they warn me that I couldn’t dry out the Pekinese in the microwave?” shrieks the distraught housewife as she removes the poor steaming little carcass from the convenient kitchen appliance. “How could they let me go into a war zone?” whinges the NGO worker as the guerrillas hold him hostage. “Why didn’t the police stop me when I went out on the road without chains on, in a snowstorm?” wails the driver from the bottom of the ditch.

“How is it that they didn’t call David Carradine ten times, when he didn’t pick up the phone? Why did the hotel have nylon cords in the room, when anyone could use them to hang himself?” In fact, I don’t see why the widow isn’t suing the hotel too. She has plenty of grounds for it given the prevalent lawsuit culture.

Sooner or later it will come to this: “They brought me into the world. It’s no fault of mine. My parents are responsible — and if they’re deceased, then the state has to pay.” And damn right too. After all, the state let them have children. It should have known better.