Obama on Banks

July 15, 2014

Ophoto (2)ne hundred years ago, in the summer of 1914, Karen and Bror Blixen had just planted 1,500 acres of coffee in British East Africa when the war broke out, and today as Jeffrey Gettleman reports from Kenya, corruption and terrorism is worse than ever. There are only the rich and the poor, fancy high rises in Nairobi next to Kibera the worst slum in the world and complex tribal arithmetic.

Obama’s father was of the Luo tribe which bred generations of civil servants but when he returned from America he could not find a job because the Kikuyu were in power, the descendants of those Kikuyu we saw in the bucolic idyll, Out of Africa.

Comedic Relief: Kenya, Nigeria, the UAE elite and you mate, can learn how to run a country house, fire staff, write a Christmas card, fold a towel correctly, or make tea in the etiquette school in London, the English Manner (dot com).

brantRight next door to our dwelling on Astor and Banks, Obama entered the tented-over side door to the Polskys now living in Jamie Dimon’s old house (still looks like a funeral parlor) then a week or so later the corner is named for Ruth Edelman a great courter of the press. We were lunch mates with Mary Ella Smith when Harold was mayor.

Printer’s Row Book Fair was a shove-fest by ten on Saturday but we showed up earlier when the booksellers (that odd tatterdemalion lot) were setting up. We scored a first edition,1941, of Churchill’s  Blood Sweat and Tears for a fiver, a physical icon of the past with sturdy leatherette cover, gold embossed lettering, sumptuous paper.

The last sentence is his plea to Roosevelt to join the war effort, “Put your confidence in us. Give us your faith and blessing, and, under Providence, all will be well. We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, not the long-drawn trial of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.” Such oratory unheard today.

If you are in London this summer head over to the Tate for Kenneth Clark: Looking for Civilization (Good Luck!) Some of you may remember the fulsome television series he hosted about the Western tradition of art. For an enchanted view of an Edwardian childhood read  Another Part of the Wood.

In the Garden

In the Garden

China is a land of superstitious peasants. Last year in Switzerland, in contrast to the polite Japanese, they were loud and offensive in public spaces. They are also the force behind the loathsome ivory trade, rhino decimation, and now destruction of snow leopards. The brand new Donggou, a massive theme park with reconstruction of world heritage sites, has a full sized replica of the Sphinx, in reinforced concrete. The Worst! Go see the bloody wall if you must but we’ll stick with Hadrian’s.

By the way, Bravo to Mexico City for barring circus animals! Let Chicago be the next to banish animal cruelty of this dimension.

The Food Network’s Pioneer Woman reminds us there is a big Other America out there on the hard-working farm where folks constantly say ‘yes sir’ after every ‘yup’ and ‘golly’, frequent church basements for pot luck casseroles (killers for urbanites) and abound in good lookin cowboys.

John Maynard Keynes secured 16% annual returns as a money manager from 1922-46. His portfolio included hedge funds and long term value stocks.

Of Nabokov’s Speak Memory Joseph Epstein writes it is, “a reminder of what good luck it is in life to love one’s mother and father”. Indeed! Would that Frances Mayes had heeded that in her recent memoir. The author of Under the Tuscan Sun savages her southern parents in order to create a Faulknerian “Gothic” feel. Shudder.

Karen and Bror Blixen

Karen and Bror Blixen

One gets the distinct feeling Barnes and Noble will soon fade into dust with non buyers treating it like a library, scouring magazines to kill time. We usually skim The Nation and the National Review, very left and very right, both wanly preaching to the converted, knowing their days are numbered.

The Lucas Museum is as unChicago as Trump Tower’s sign which thumbs its nose at Hicksville, and reminds us the coastals think the city is the metropolis in the cornfields.

Pugs, the exclusive London club, recently blackballed homely, abusive ad man Charles Saatchi and the singer Jay Zee. They were however admitted into the T&C 50 Most Powerfuls in the World,(good grief) where the mayor and carpetbagger Lucas also made the cut.

TakiMag takes frequent potshots at the Flyover State as in demolishing the painfully hip Write Club where local scribes compete for audience laughs in “funky” bars.  We like Bunky (yes another one) Mortimer’s “Black Tie for Dummies” and his other offerings.

It took a decade to get to Milwaukee to see Calatrava’s Quadracci Pavilion and breathtaking Brise Soleil. Oh that we had a suave new art palace instead of the Ode to Weimar. The MCA gets uglier each time we see it.

kandinskyThe Kandinsy at MMA, a retrospective organized in conjunction with the Centre Pompidou,  is weighted heavily on his last phase in Paris, 33-44,  when mired in theory- heavy Constructivism he created rather sterile works. His earlier works from Nabi to Blaue Reiter exquisite.

Bierstadt’s Wild River Mountain, Nebraska, 1862, and William Merritt Chase’s Gathering Wild Flowers of the time were a refreshing air filled contrast to the claustrophobic cartoonish Pop art collection.

Local restaurant notes: The Pump’s transformation in the New World Order of paranoid darkness and starkness never fails to remind us of the gaiety of Essie and Irv in white leather Booth One with a white telephone on the table.

Art Lovers

Art Lovers

Fred’s was empty at lunch; Nico’s louche crowd very Rush Street; Le Colonial a crowded railway station in Orlando/Saigon;  make a point of avoiding Brisciola on Damen and dreadful Hema’s on Devon where we had lunch with Susie Kealey and Vikki Jackson after searching for those nifty white men’s cotton Nehru jackets and trousers.

The Sun Times marketed Roger Ebert’s Pulitzer to the max. We know a half dozen recipients of the prize who never created into such a huge brand.

In the TCW issue featuring the 100 most inspirational women in the city we counted only 10% owing their success to fathers or husbands though there probably are a few more lurking beneath the figures.

Waiting for Obama

Waiting for Obama

Candy Spelling is still mad at the late Dominick Dunne for his Vanity Fair piece implying she had an affair with a county commissioner later jailed for extortion. The old gossip also wrote about Gary Condit and Chandra Levy’s murder for which he was sued. That still stung when we had over drinks at the Four Seasons when Nick was in Chicago to visit Conrad Black just about to enter the hoosegow.

Maureen Dowd’s show-offy ‘I Have a Way-with-Words’ columns seem composed by leagues of graduate students. She blamed Cheney and W, easy targets, for 9/11 when in fact it was Clinton who was asleep at the wheel, wink wink nudge nudge, when the debacle being planned.

David Pollock on the success of Bob and Ray, the funny men of olde (now on uTube), which came down to “how to seem lusty and purposeful when less than nothing is going on.” We know exactly what that means.

If you haven’t seen the Faberge egg of a movie The Grand Budapest Hotel do so. Divinely ersatz MittelEuropa the ancestral home of the Budapest Bombshells, Eva ZsaZsa and Magda, the Kardashians of their day.

Consumer Reports: a $2 nail polish, Sinful Color, beats Chanel ranked the worst at $35 based on wear.

Do you ever read www.secondcitycop. blogspot.com? It gives us updates on the “Rahm and Gary Show” and insights into wildings and other local phenomena.

The Duke of Northumberland had three of the five best sales at Sotheby’s disappointing Old Masters auction such as Gilbert Stuart’s Mohawk Chieftain Thayendanegea, AKA Joseph Brant from 1786.

Sorry for photo quality; WordPress has fiddled with the mechanics of blogging again.

A bientot

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