In dealing with my health insurer, the NYC Parking Violations Bureau, and an English bank today, it comes as no surprise to anyone that these bureaucracies are designed not to do things, but to prevent things from happening. Usually, they are given a revenue stream that is operated by highly efficient and often officious individuals. On the back end, the crew that are supposed to help in times of need, that is to give service, these people are often handicapped by their superiors who teach them not to answer any question until it is properly asked of them. Their purpose is to prevent the revenue stream from being breached in any fashion and for profits to be maximized. It works.

How did we get into this predicament? I don’t want to blame Wal-Mart just because they are big (although my daughter had an interesting run in with them on Sunday about a prescription) but the larger a corporation becomes, the dumber the employees are allowed to act. Even Einstein knew how to act dumb, so it is not as if these people are stupid. But when intelligence is not engaged in a job, why think? Consequently, we have a dumb boundary or the moat for the modern day thane, laird or whatever you want to call Mega-Huge Corporation of today. With dumbness, you can discourage people as my manager had to call the health insurer three times before she knew the right question to ask, I had to hold for 15 minutes for the Parking Violations Office who had overcharged me and finally, the bank who told me that it was after hours and I should call tomorrow. After all, I only had an unauthorized transaction on my debit card. If I have spent a million pounds by tomorrow, it isn’t my fault. Or is it?


Our political system is extremely interesting to me. It seems as if all of the candidates are forced, given the nature of the news media, to perfect a delivery that is acceptable to their base. It is sort of a one note delivery. Stray off message and the media makes a federal case out of how the message is not what the candidate meant all along.

How complex is it being the president of the U.S.? Actually, I would say it is very complex. Are we any clearer at this point in time of how any of these candidates would fare in facing the bureaucracy of America which seems incapable of dealing with all sorts of things from bridge collapses to Defense Department overbilling to infrastructure meltdown to education and health reform? I don’t think we are.

What is really interesting is how the Republican candidates are trying to appeal to the Christian right, the Karl Rove innovation that got Bush elected in 2000. The Democrats, on the other hand, are trying to unify but by the time the candidate is chosen, they will be at each other’s throats. A Republican candidate is not that far fetched given this factor.

Would that we had a system that focused on policy.


A friend who visited Art Basel in Miami told me that he did not understand contemporary art but that he felt it was the fault of his own ignorance. “Once I know the context of a painting within the artist’s work, I can start to get a handle on at least one painting.”

My counter to this assertion is that context should not matter at all. Context only matters when talking about value, but it does not matter in the assessment of aesthetics. Van Gogh painted some so-so pictures and they are almost never what one thinks of when Van Gogh is mentioned. Are they still good pictures? To my way of thinking, if I like them, they are, but if I don’t then they are not. Guess what this type of assessment does to value? It tanks it.

I have never liked Frank Lloyd Wright furniture. It is uncomfortable to look at and sit in. I love Greene and Greene furniture. One company was a furniture company designing furniture to live with and admire and the other company was making props for an architect. Isn’t this obvious to everyone?


WNYC had a program on fakes Saturday morning featuring the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas Hoving. Hoving is grating because he is like the little kid who knows it all and has to tell you that he does. The arrogance is very annoying.

Having said all that, he is also very smart. He is smart because he looks at works of art with a common sense that asks, why does that piece exist? It may sound too elementary a question for many curators who immediately try to insert a piece into an historical and stylistic continuum, but it is the best question to ask when first looking at a work of art.

Faking is not the problem of English antique furniture. For the most part, the primary issue is quality and the interpretation of age. As the 18th century was the apotheosis of great craft and great style, it has been re-interpreted often, all through the 19th century as a matter of fact. Some of these pieces look superb and it is often a matter of individual experience that recognizes that they are not 18th century made. Having said that, many of the pieces are obvious reproductions and there seems to be a willing confluence of dealers and buyers that want to believe they are older and better than they are.