Posts from 18th April 2004

Apr 04

Amory (Mississippi) Railroad Festival, April 15th-18th

Pumpkin Publog3 comments • 1,946 views

Amory (Mississippi) Railroad Festival, April 15th-18th

1. Barbecue sandwich, Working for my Lord Ministries: well-smoked meat pre-mixed with too much store-bought sauce. Not enough slaw.

2. Chicken fillet plate, First United Methodist: Terrible chicken (overcooked, then dried out under a heat lamp), but great fries.

3. Chicken on a Stick (St. Helen’s Catholic) with Abner’s sauce (1st Methodist): Where I come from, CoaS is a skewer of boneless chicken chunks dipped in a spicy batter and deep fried. This was grilled, no seasoning, overcooked, skimpy. Thank God, or at least the Methodists, for buying several gallons of the secret-recipe sauce at Abner’s in Oxford every year and selling it for 20 cents per generous squirt.

4. Barbecue pork plate, Greater Love Outreach Church: The best ‘cue of the festival. Coarsely chopped, plenty of crispy edges included, better than average sauce. Nondescript fries and slaw, but excellent slow-cooked baked beans.

5. Barbecue pork plate, Meadowood Chapel: Decently smoked ‘cue, but very few tasty exterior pieces, and all of it minced far too finely. Very good homemade vinegar-based sauce, a rarity in these parts. Decent slaw, fresh hot fries.

6. Taco Salad, Trace Road Baptist: Good proportions to ingredients, no skimping on the beef, but too salty.

7. Ribeye steak sandwich and onion rings, Meadowood Baptist: absolute crap. Slices of steak almost indetectable in the sandwich; stone cold onion rings.

8. Catfish plate, 1st Methodist: Excellent even by pro standards: hot fresh fish fillets, ditto fries, exceptionally good hushpuppies with plenty of onion.

9. Apple puffs, 1st Methodist: Constructed like apple wontons in puff pastry, deep fried and served with ice cream. Winner.

10. Apple fritters, Bethel Apostolic: Golf-ball-sized frybread with chunks of apple. Rolling them in confectioners sugar straight out of the fryer produces a tasty messy glaze.

11. Catfish sandwich, Bethel Apostolic: Hot fresh fish, well-seasoned cornmeal crust, cooked through but barely. (The tendency toward overcooking was everywhere this year.) Hot flaky catfish contrasting with cool crunchy coleslaw inside the bun ‘ beautiful.

12. Barbecue sandwich, St. Andrews United Methodist: Awful. Dry pork, no smoke flavor, all flavorful exterior bits trimmed away, no slaw, bottled sauce. Prison food.

13. “Funnel Cake,” Nettleton Pentecostal. If you’ve never had one, I can’t explain it. The best use of prepackaged pancake mix ever devised by man. Looks like a fried pastry Celtic knot drawn by a blind drunk with the DTs. But tasty.

Noted but not tested, the best/worst marketing ploy of the festival: Nettleton Pentecostal was selling bags of freshly cooked pork rinds under a sign that said “LOW-CARB MEAT SKINS, $3.00”

Research assistants: Judy Crump, Sarah Crump.

Private Life Of A Masterpiece

Do You SeePost a comment • 249 views

Private Life Of A Masterpiece

I was delighted to see that this BBC2 show on April 17th was to focus on the Hokusai print generally known as The Great Wave: it’s among my favourite works by one of my favourite artists, but also because I have a great interest in Japanese art, and it doesn’t get a lot of coverage or exposure.

But what an irritating show. They manage to discuss ukiyo-e without using the term, skimming the sexual content without explaining it, let alone showing it (this was a mid-evening show), which was an important and often central part of this major strand of Japanese art. They try to half-explain the physics that could produce such a wave, as if it is realism (and as if that would provide added value to the work!), which ignores Hokusai’s body of work (was his octopus raping a woman supposed to be realism?), the way Japanese landscape painting has always worked (landscapes did not have to represent a real site) and indeed the fascinatingly different notions of realism and the way art is seen to relate to the world in Japan. They waffle a bit about fractals, as if noticing things that are now explained thus is something extraordinary, whereas everyone has noticed self-similarity in nature countless times. Even when analysing the composition they do a weak job, including missing the significance of the shape of the clouds, admittedly only clear in the better quality prints.

It also tries to suggest an ancestry for the work, pointing at an earlier painter who produced a beach painting with a wave, and stating that Hokusai may have seen this work. Of course he may have, but the wave bears no resemblance at all to Hokusai’s, and the fact that Hokusai painted the very same beach is highlighted as significant without mentioning that this beach was a common setting painted by many artists. They also touch on the Impressionists’ love of Japanese art in the most superficial way, completing missing (or missing the point of) some major influential aspects.

So much is missing. Hokusai was one of the most original and interesting figures in art anywhere, anytime, and there are lots of extraordinary anecdotes, almost none of which get a mention here (apart from the famous deathbed prayer, at the age of 90, for 10 more years in which to become a true artist). I also think that the fact that this is part of his great set of 36 prints of Fuji is something worth discussing – examining this as a single work strips away another special feature that means this requires, I think, a different way of thinking from the usual Western paintings. I guess the phrase ‘missed opportunities’ sums up my feeling about this messy programme.

Outlaws by George V. Higgins

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 218 views

Outlaws by George V. Higgins

I’ve read negative reviews at times of books that seem to swing into entirely different directions towards the end, as if it’s a failure of the book, but it’s something I like. Aristotle’s unities are all very well, but artistic rules are made to be broken. The second half of Sam Delany’s Triton is not at all what the first half is setting up (there is ample strongly based criticism of this, I admit – it feels rather like a loss of interest, but I like the surprise); and I love the Dostoyevskian bleakness of the ending of Jim Thompson’s The Getaway, up to then a fairly straightforward crime novel.

Outlaws pulls a similar switch in its last tenth or so. Up to then, it’s been about a bunch of spoiled lefty wealthy kids getting into crime, and the investigations and trials around their activities. This is told with his usual technique, that is almost entirely in dialogue between involved parties. He writes the most convincing naturalistic conversation as I’ve ever seen.

Then at the end we suddenly find ourselves with an almost wholly different cast of characters. The mother of two of the youngsters, hitherto seen as a distraught and rather helpless figure, is revealed as someone utterly different, and we are in a very different world, and the plot is concluded in a way that is surprising and that our previous characters never really understand. The reason this works, rather than feeling like a deus ex machina cheat, is that there are strong implicit thematic parallels with what has been shown earlier: characters feeling they are above the rules, that they can make their own choices without regard for law: most of the novel is about rogue upper class kids, justifying their actions with student-lefty rhetoric; the last part moves us into a world of FBI agents and embassies, behaving at least as badly and with their own unconvincing justifications. It’s a risky game, this kind of flip, and can come as a betrayal of the expectations the author has built, but this is masterfully pulled off.