for 16 October 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Dear Terry: Not for the first time, your art has made the actual article redundant. "Get milked," indeed. You DID know that one of the cows in NYC has been labeled "This is not a cow." There's a damned good piece of graffiti art on a handball wall in NYC, just off the FDR drive in East Harlem. "Crack is Wack," it's called. It's rarely defaced and is cleaned almost immediately. Not all public art is worthless. Just most of it.
Alan S Kornheiser
Why is K such a prevalent and ominous initial for a doctor? Is it the Kafka association? There are so many 'K' or 'K'-sound doctors. In the movies alone we got Dr. Korvo, Dr. Kildare, Dr. Christian...
Anyway, thanks for writing in, even if only to let us k-now that the always excellent Kolon illustrations obviated the need for my words. Just for the record, I don't think all public art is worthless, although it's true that most of it is lousy. I miss Serra's Tilted Arc and wonder where the Riveras of today are hiding. I thought the Koons Puppy was good, too. But the cows are a trend that I can't abide. Too bad nobody asked me before they put them up!
Not all the Cows on Parade's progeny are corporate tourist-grabs. Chicago's Neo-Futurists put together a much more democratic, less publicly obtrusive version with squirrels.
Yeah, I know, as an aesthetic statement a squirrel isn't distinctly more evolved than a cow. The difference here is I got to make a squirrel.
Good piece tho. As you were.
Phineas X. Jones
Art squirrels are art animals just like cows are, as you correctly point out, my Neo-Futurist friend. I congratulate you on your efforts to thwart the art cows and their sponsors, however. I just hope all the money you raised went to charities that we can all agree are worthy of our support, and didn't go to pay the rent on your squalid apartments and to buy you people a lot of beer.
Does the "Neo" in "Neo-Futurists" mean that when you drive your car into a wall at top speed like the original Futurist Marinetti did, you do it with an airbag? That's cheating. And if you run over any squirrels while you're doing it, remember that they're not the ones who are supposed to suffer for art, you are.
Good to hear from your camp.
On our honeymoon to Chicago last October, my wife and I couldn't even leave the hotel without having to wrestle our way around a cow-gazing throng. It was hard to articulate my hostility at the completely out-of-context fiberglass cows, especially to the Chicago-area family and friends that talked about making special trips downtown to look at the cows. (The only contextual relationship to the city was really the slaughterhouse connection. Unfortunately, I don't remember seeing any Upton Sinclair cows.)
Your column crystallized what it is that bothers me about this crap, and particularly when it's described as art. (People standing around a goddamn cow across the street from the Art Institute, as well right next to the Museum of Contemporary Art, were my favorite mental images.) There's a whole world of extrapolation about inoffensiveness in there somewhere, right on up to presidential candidates. But in any case, you've given my anti-cow rantings some ammunition, and I thank you again for that.
Wow, I can't believe the suave pop genius who gave the world "Addicted to Love" reads Suck.com! And you're married now. Congrats! Did you tie the knot with one of those sleek black-clad automatons from the video? Those babes were so fly. I got your '80s revival -- right here!
You get that a lot, don't you, Rob? I apologize.
Anyone who makes a special trip downtown just to look at art cows needs to reprioritize. Are there no post offices in their neighborhoods where they can go ogle the new stamps? No video stores with life-size displays for Erin Brockovich? Paintball, anyone? Roller Disco? Slotcar Racing?
As for the Chicago slaughterhouse connection, the CowParade people played that up like crazy in their literature. (If the cows are art, I consider their p.r. literature.) They stopped short of comparing the citizenry to cows after doing so, however. Too obvious for them, perhaps, but not too obvious for me.
George Washington Lost Here
George Washington as Internet Economy CEO?
OK, I'll buy into the dream.
Well, if the trend continues for people to work as self-contained entrepreneurial units moving from task to task without the benefit of benefits, Washington's wooden teeth may become a powerful metaphor for us all.
40th Street Black
The Whys of Tammy Faye
Had He not wished them sheared, He would not have made them sheep.
Alan S Kornheiser
"My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains; from mountain to hill they have gone, they have forgotten their fold." -- Jeremiah 50:6
And it just gets worse from there, Alan!
40th Street Black
One item you bypassed in discussing the kitsch entertainment fad for Tammy Faye is her convenient stand against the Rev. Jerry Falwell as being "mean-spirited" and "intolerant," therefore buying her entry into the pop culture tent. The problem here is that, as always, a tolerant God is likely a nonexistent one.
That's a great point. You're dead-on about how the movie invokes Falwell, the monster heel of Christian pop culture, to garner sympathy for Tammy Faye. There's a fascinating section in the movie where Tammy Faye accuses Falwell of exploiting the Bakkers' PTL retirement package request by talking about it on the air despite it having been asked for by the Falwell-run PTL in the first place. Focusing on the political machinations which were certainly taking place neatly sidesteps any discussion of the unrealistic extravagance of the request.
As an aside, I've always wondered how much extra bad-guy status Falwell enjoys due to there being at least one Hollywood character actor who looks like him, making boo-hiss appearances from WKRP in Cincinnati (Gordon Jump defending John Lennon) to The People vs. Larry Flynt. If Fred D. Thompson didn't have that political career, I wonder if we'd have a lesser opinion of Billy Graham.
40th Street Black
I usually only read Suck on Wednesdays, but was bored enough today to give it a try. What a surprise. Your piece on The Eyes of Tammy Faye was great. I haven't seen the film, but I have seen both Nurse Betty and Almost Famous, and you are right about the rose-colored-glasses problem.
According to Mr. Showbiz, some Jewish leaders and organizations are protesting Jodie Foster's planned Leni Riefenstahl biopic. Let's hope the notorious director (Riefenstahl, not Foster) isn't made out to be another victim of poor judgment, surrounded by bad men.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for sending along a note. I was very cynical when I wrote the piece, but after recently sharing an airport courtesy van with Green Day and an impromptu Billy Ocean sing-along, my outlook's vastly improved.
I'm not sure how things are going to work out for the Riefenstahl movie, but if it tanks in spectacular career-destroying fashion, it sounds to me like you have the potential plot for the Jodie Foster biopic.
40th Street Black