Good morning. Do you, as a former resident of New York City, miss the great headline-writing abilities of the staff of the New York Post? They have an editorial today about the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s Giuliani-opposed exhibition of young British artists headlined “One Stink-ular Sensation,” a reference, as I’m sure you know, to Chris Ofili’s use of elephant dung, among other media, in his painting of the Virgin Mary. This editorial asserts that “the greatest fear among cultured folk is that they will say something critical about a perplexing new painting, play, book, or novel that will, in a hundred years’ time, be considered a towering masterpiece.” I like to think that I’m as timid as any other member of the cultured folk, but my greatest fear is public speaking.
In a less catchily headlined article on the same event (“With Art Battle in Spotlight, Mayor Revels in the Glare”) the Times, reviewing Giuliani’s appearances on the Sunday-morning talk shows, quotes him as saying, in furtherance of the argument that he bases his position on principle rather than personal distaste, “Taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be on either side of this dispute. We can’t support religion. We shouldn’t support vicious attacks on religion, either.” I would like to say, flat-out, that it is not my fear of being looked down upon by the cultured folk of the 21st century that drives me, cowering, to say that the Ofili painting doesn’t to me look like an attack on religion, vicious or otherwise. In fact, it looks religious. But, to move to less disputed territory, although I haven’t had time to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art today to check, I have a distinct recollection that they have quite a few depictions of various religious images in their collection. Does this mean that Giuliani is going to pull the funding they receive from the city? I think if he’s going to be coherent in his aesthetic politics, he should give it a try. According to the same Times article, he rebuts the accusation that he is doing this just to get the Conservative Party nomination on the grounds that a New York Daily News poll shows that New York City residents oppose him 2-to-1 on this issue. Am I wrong in thinking that this rebuttal has nothing to do with the accusation? Since when has the Conservative Party picked its candidates based on their poll-based potential for winning? The Brooklyn Museum debate seems to me to be the epitome of the kind of issue on the shoals of which the contemporary Conservative Party always founders.
Elsewhere in the world of politics and culture, George W. Bush yesterday was reported by Maureen Dowd, in an unusually affectionate mood, to have not been to see a movie in five years. And why, indeed, should he bother putting down his 10 bucks to see people meet violent and untimely ends, when most weekends he can just drive out to wherever they do the lethal injections and see one that he himself sanctioned?
I feel that I haven’t given you anything to really start a fight about here, so I am going to close by saying that I really like the Backstreet Boys, especially Howie.