Thought For The Day

February 27, 2009


Too Rich For Good Taste

February 22, 2009

hadid_pics1America is going broke.  Prisons are being closed and inmates released to save money.  Government workers are forced to take unpaid days off each month.  Hundreds of thousands of workers are being laid off each and every month.  Millions of homeowners face foreclosure or at least uncertainty about their homes.  The stock market hit a 10-year low.  Banks are failing every week.  It is a disaster out there.

But no worries if you are Mr. Mohamed Hadid, Los Angeles real estate developer.  He claims to have spent more than $59 million constructing his 48,000 square foot mansion in Bel Air.  Now he is selling the estate with an asking price of $85 million.  For that you get 10 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms, a whole bunch of other rooms, a huge infinity pool, and 280 degree views over Los Angeles.

Just a few days earlier Iris Cantor put her own 35,000 square foot Bel Air mansion on the market for $53 million.  And it is not even her main residence.

This really is just too rich.  I’m a great believer that people should be able to do with their money whatever they want.  But this seems to me to be rubbing everyone else’s noses in it.  If these folks were hurting and needed to unload their properties to pay bills, that’s fine.  But these are not firesale prices looking for a quick return.

The details and the pictures are from The Real Estalker.

Family At The Beach

February 22, 2009


Family At The Beach” (2009).  Steveston BC.

Thought For The Day

February 19, 2009


Waazubee, Where Is Your Edge?

February 18, 2009

There was a time at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one when I spent my time on the Drive divided between Waazubee and Fet’s.  In each one, I would spend many hours watching, writing, reading, just enjoying the flow of the people.  I could spend so much time there because in both restaurants I enjoyed the atmosphere, enjoyed the staff, knew the owners, and enjoyed the food.  I was a genuine regular in both, and I always like that feeling.

We enjoyed WaaZuBee so much that back in the day we had our wedding reception there, in the raised area at the back.  Waazubee was edgy, played industrial trance all day, and was a fun hangout.   However, when we moved from around 1st avenue to this end of the Drive, Waazubee became a little less convenient and we went less.  We used to still frequent WaaZuBee for Saturday brunch but, if truth be told, it has been a couple of years or more since I was last there.  Until today, when we decided to go for lunch.


Nothing really has changed, environmentally or gastronomically, except it all seems softer and somehow older.  The decor is the same — the old Portuguese dance hall murals looking tattier than I remember — but the featured artwork was weak.  The old carpet was lifted years ago and I’m sure that nothing else has changed physically since the late 1990s.  The music seemed soft and deliberately unobtrusive, and unfortunately the food was equally forgettable.

I had the Huevos Rancheros.  I guess I had no reason to expect a chile-based dish, but the sad mild mushiness of fried eggs on baked beans (notwithstanding the tortilla between) was an unplesant shock.  There was nothing wrong with it — I finished it down to the bare plate — but it wasn’t anything sparkling as I had hoped.  My best gal had the Waazubwich chicken, a favourite of hers for many years.   She had the feeling the chicken wasn’t quite right and asked me to try it.  So I got to taste another entirely bland concoction, different from mine but just as unexciting.

Anyone can have a bad day, and maybe this was theirs.  But it was all so depressing.  Especially when compared to Fet’s, which has changed both physically and in its menus over time without losing the essence of what it always was.   It is a real shame because I really like Benny and the folks at WaaZuBee, but I’m not sure I’ll be back, at least for a while.

Abandoned, Puerto Vallerta 2008

February 7, 2009


Happy Birthday Bob!

February 6, 2009

It is Bob Marley’s birthday, and Reggae Week in Jamaica.

A Mixed Result At Sotheby’s

February 3, 2009

Today’s Impressionist and Modern Art sale at Soetheby‘s in London went off with mixed results:  the total for the sale was well below minimum expectations ( £32 million v. £41 million), but many of the pieces sold above their weight.

degasThe main item at the sale, a beautiful Degas statue of a dancer, sold for £13.2million, well above the high estimate of £12million.  In addition, a Miro sold for £2 million, double its high estimate, a Picasso went for 50% above top asking, and a Magritte at £747,000 was well above the anticipated return. Most of the other pieces lay perfectly comfortably within their ranges.

However, a number of big pieces were withdrawn — a Modigliani ( £8m high estimate), a Leger ( £6m.), another Degas ( £4.5m) and a Pisarro ( £3m.)  It was these failures to sell that brought down the aggregate total of the sale, rather than the prices fetched by those items that did get purchased.

It will be interesting to see how Christie’s does tomorrow.  As I mentioned elsewhere, I prefer the Christie’s list to what was on offer today.

The Day The Music Died

February 3, 2009

A long, long time ago…
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while.

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.


You have to be almost as old as God herself to remember this, but 50 years ago today Buddy Holly, Big Bopper and Richie Valens died in a snowy plane crash at Clear Lake , Iowa.  I, too, learned about it from the headlines I read during my paper route the following morning.  It’s a long, long time ago.

Can We Change Culture But Keep Shopping?

February 1, 2009

When I put together my earlier post on the Mall of America, I had not yet read Benjamin Barber’s “A Revolution In Spirit” from last week’s The Nation.  It reads like a comparison piece, repeating the debate over the obvious dichotomy:

Economists and politicians across the spectrum continue to insist that the challenge lies in revving up inert demand. For in an economy that has become dependent on consumerism to the tune of 70 percent of GDP, shoppers who won’t shop and consumers who don’t consume spell disaster. Yet it is precisely in confronting the paradox of consumerism that the struggle for capitalism’s soul needs to be waged.


The crisis in global capitalism demands a revolution in spirit–fundamental change in attitudes and behavior. Reform cannot merely rush parents and kids back into the mall; it must encourage them to shop less, to save rather than spend. If there’s to be a federal lottery, the Obama administration should use it as an incentive for saving, a free ticket, say, for every ten bucks banked. Penalize carbon use by taxing gas so that it’s $4 a gallon regardless of market price, curbing gas guzzlers and promoting efficient public transportation. And how about policies that give producers incentives to target real needs, even where the needy are short of cash, rather than to manufacture faux needs for the wealthy just because they’ve got the cash?

Barber’s main point is that Obama and his team has inherited the opportunity to change the culture of live today and pay tomorrow (or better, let someone else pay tomorrow).  Will they have the courage to move ahead, or will they merely try to fix what we have today?

A Death Triggers Memories

February 1, 2009

My Dad loved boxing, and he passed that delight along to me.  We listened to the fights on the radio when I was small, and later watched tham on a tiny black-and-white TV.   During my away at school years, I took a transistor radio to bed with me and listened to fights on American Forces Radio.  The static and the in-and-out quality added to the pleasure of the experience.

One of my proudest memories is of taking my Dad and grandfather in 1985 to third-row seats at the Barry McGuigan-Eusebio Pedroza fight when the Clones Cyclone took the World Featherweight Championship by knockout in the 7th round.

200px-ingemarjohansson_2My Dad and I watched and listened to a lot of British boxing in the 50s and early 6os:  Jack London, Henry Cooper, Freddie Mills, Randy Turpin were familiar names in my youth.  But we also managed to follow the American scene.  World Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson was one of Dad’s favourites and we eagerly looked forward to listening as Swedish champion Igemar Johanssen challenged him.  We were as amazed as everyone else when Patterson went down seven times in the third round and the referee stopped the fight.  Europe had the title for the first time in decades!

For each of the next two years, Patterson and Johanssen fought a re-match.  In 1960, Patterson became the first man to regain the title when he knocked out the Swede in the fifth.  The following spring, Patterson once again knocked out Johanssen.   These were the Swede’s only two losses in his entire professional career.

Outside the ring, Ingemar Johanssen was known as a charming bon vivant.  His death yesterday at age 76 triggered these memories of sitting around the radio with my Dad, imaging what these grand fights looked like.  Tempus fugit.

The Fading Affair: America and The Mall

February 1, 2009

Regular readers will know that I have a continuing fascination with shopping malls, their rise and recent fall.  So I was interested to read this New York Times piece and its accompanying video about America’s Love Affair With Malls.


A fine synopsis of a basic problem:

We are reliably informed that whatever part of the economic crisis can’t be pinned on Wall Street — or on mortgage-related financial insanity — can be pinned on consumers who overspent. But personal consumption amounts to some 70 percent of the American economy. So if we don’t spend, we don’t recover. Fiscal health isn’t possible until money is again sloshing into cash registers, including those at this mall and every other retailer.

In other words, shopping was part of the problem and now it’s part of the cure. And once we’re cured, economists report, we really need to learn how to save, which suggests that we will need to quit shopping again.  So the mall we married has become the toxic spouse we can’t quit, though we really must quit, but just not any time soon. The mall, for its part, is wounded by our ambivalence and feels financially adrift.

The article focuses on the Mall of America:

Eleven thousand people work at the mall in this suburb of Minneapolis, a five-minute ride from the airport. Forty million visitors arrive here each year, which, according to the mall’s promotional material, is more than visit Disney World, the Grand Canyon and Graceland combined.  The mall has a seven-acre theme park with 24 rides, an aquarium with hundreds of sharks, an 18-hole miniature golf course, 20,000 parking spaces and 520 retail stores.

The mall has its own security force and a holding cell, which is run by the Bloomington police. There are 250 video cameras spread around the mall, which Darcy Kwyla, a security systems controller, monitors in a hushed room. “You see everything,” says Ms. Kwyla, as she flips from camera to camera with a control panel on her desk. “Sex in the parking lot, a naked guy on drugs walking through the mall, thefts, fights. You name it.”

There are 71 Mall of America package tours from 32 countries. And there are special events, like the “Spirit of America” cheerleading competition, which unleashes a couple of thousand cheerleaders in the mall.

It’s an altogether fascianting read for those who appreciate the cultural value of shopping.

The Art Market: The Next Act

February 1, 2009

Next week we will have the first chance since the November Sales to see what further effect the the deepening economic crisis is having on the high-end fine art market.  Both Sotheby’s and Christies have important Impressionist and Modern Art auctions in London.

vandongenSotheby’s goes first on Tuesday 3rd, but to my mind their show is less attractive than the Christie’s show the next day.  The minimum estimates at Sotheby’s are £41m and the high estimates total £60m, with a Degas sculpture and a Modigliani painting at the top end.

At Christies, the show’s minimum estimate is £46m, maximum £66m, not including the top-rated Monet for which the estimate is private.  Another Monet is also in the top five, along with a Toulouse-Lautrec, a Modigliani, and a Vuillard.

I believe my favourite piece in the two shows is this “La cuirasse d’or” by Kees Van Dongen.  Estimate range is $2.1 million to $3.5 million.