Friday, December 24, 2010

Post Commentary Sparks Revisionist Art

The Washington Post published a commentary by Phillip Kennicott in today's Style Section that got me thinking about the recent art/censorship/gay controversy surrounding a video created by the artist David Wojnarowicz, and subsequently removed from the National Portrait Gallery exhibit, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.

The dustup was sparked by Bill Donohue, president (and apparently the only member of) the Catholic League who vehemently attacked Wojnarowicz's video A Fire in My Belly as being anti-catholic. His real agenda appears to be to stoke the tiresome culture wars that continue around homosexuality in this country, and Mr. Donohue is quite successful in that regard. He set an anti-gay trap for the exhibition and for the Smithsonian, and R. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian walked right into it.

And R. Wayne Clough just kept right on walking. He's been silent on the issue ever since he made the decision to remove the video. The controversy (air quotes), the anti-catholic message (ironic air quotes) of the video stems from an approximately eleven second segment which shows ants climbing over a crucifix. Donohue took this segment completely out of the context of the remainder of the video, and denounced the whole piece as being anti-catholic. And Mr. Clough went along for the ride, feeling that it was better to appease the Catholic League, then to let museum goers make up their own minds.

Mr. Kennicott in his commentary calls for Mr. Clough to resign his post as Secretary. Kennicott further states that the curators of the exhibit should honor AA Bronson's request to have his work, Felix, June 5, 1994, removed from the exhibition in protest over the censoring of Wojnarwoicz's video. Indeed, the huge blank wall at the end of the exhibition would bear mute testimony to something, but I'm not sure to what. I have a better idea.

The curators should remove Felix, June 5, 1994 from the exhibition. Then they should nail R. Wayne Clough to the wall in its place. It serves the catholic need of Mr. Donohue, and it certainly is Roman in its application of justice. It will also please the masses.

R. Wayne Clough after the exhibition curators added him to "Hide/Seek"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Closet

Who thought peanut butter could be so deadly?
The flattened, nearly headless mouse lay stiff
the trap sprung, but not a lick of Jif remained.
What peanut butter peril enticed the rodent there
to release the bale that bloodied hair, what pain.
Did it see stars before the end? Was it instant death?
Or were there seconds of nervous charge elapsed
a crashing synapse, broken neck, and matted pelt
a terror, a sharpened, sickened moment's motion
a squeal before no air could pass the esophagus?

The mousetrap sits on the drainboard drying.
Scrubbed clean of fear-soaked blood and urine,
ready to bring another mouse to ruin in the closet.
Reset with peanut butter and returned downstairs.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

When my Mother Died

In the weeks after the funeral,
The widows came to the house
Corningware, Tupperware, Rubbermaid.
The doorbell rang; each dish accepted,
acknowledged, and refrigerated.

Jello eight ways. Three kinds of macaroni.
Spaghetti and meatballs in a metal bowl.
Four tossed salads with five different dressings.

Three molds, five glass baking dishes, four casseroles,
washed, dried, and returned.

December, January, and February.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mysterious Mother

O Mother

O Mother with your burning heart,
Sursum Corda on your lips,
Betrayed, the blade wedged in your valve.
Your skirted smile scarce hides your sorrow.
A golden crown can't salve your loss.
The lily's fragrance masks the stench
of death, of lost tomorrows.
O Mother's son sprained on the cross
O Mother's heart broke from the loss
A world quickly walks on by
lost in talk, concerns, and bills.
Your lips are closed to words expressed
that might explain your open breast,
spread apart with bleeding flames,
a heart afire that fans your pain.
O Mother, I can hardly stand to watch.
Not a wrinkle or a blemish on your face,
and yet you tear a hole in my own chest
That connects your picture frame to mine.

O Mother with your burning heart
Betrayed, that blade wedged in your valve.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

No Knead Bread, but I only heard about it last Sunday

I'm a fan of Lynne Rosetto Kasper's Splendid Table, and I was listening to it as background noise last Sunday. One of her guests was Jim Lahey, owner of the Sullivan Street Bakery, and the inventor of No Knead Bread. He was making claims on the show that this is a chewy, wonderful rustic bread, just the kind I've been looking for.

Of course, I was off Googling the Internet for No Knead Bread recipes, and they all came back to Jim's basic recipe, a recipe so simple that even I could make it. It has four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and water. You stir them together in a bowl, cover it, and let it sit for the next 18 - 20 hours. Then you (minimally) shape the loaf, let it proof for another couple of hours. Finally, you really crank up the heat in the oven, and bake the loaf. It's baked in a covered, heated dutch oven, then the loaf is uncovered, and the baking continues until the top of the loaf is browned.

This isn't to say that other recipes aren't out there. They are, but they acknowledge Jim's genius, and they use his methods and recipe proportions. The method was published in 2006, but as the old joke goes, I only heard about it yesterday. Even Martha Stewart has her version of No Knead Bread. She uses olive oil to grease the mixing bowl, and to grease the top of the bread dough while it's rising. The oil is not necessary.

I like this bread for several reasons: it is simple. It heats up the kitchen when it's cold outside. The loaf really is a rustic loaf. The texture is crusty, chewy, and holely. The gluten forms during the long rising, and the flavor is distinct - a slight sourness rounded out by the salt, with a smoky aroma. Although the crust is singed in places, the loaf does not taste burnt. The loaf looks like and tastes like it just came out of a wood-fired oven.