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Robert Schonfeld

Member Since 15 Mar 2004
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Topics I've Started

Weighty Matters

05 February 2007 - 01:44 AM

I lost a good deal of weight in the months after college. There was a girl involved. I've kept it off ever since, more than 35 years. When I quit smoking cigarettes, just a couple of years after the weight loss, ten pounds went back on in a flash. These were lost in a separate, brief campaign. Since then, those ten pounds have come back several times, usually as the cold weather approaches, like a bear getting ready to hibernate. Right now, I am near the end of one of those ten pound losses. Annoying, but no big deal.

I think of myself as a recovering fat person. I use this description to refer just to myself, no offense intended to anyone else. The fat cells will always be there. If I feed them, the weight will go back on. Regular, vigorous exercise, is essential. With this routine, and a little common sense (stop eating after the tenth latke), I can maintain my weight and basically eat whatever I want. But the memory of looking and feeling the way I once did keeps me vigilant.

I know there are a few people out there right now dealing with weight loss. Sincere good luck. It's not a diet; it's a change of life. And remember, some form of regular exercise is essential. I once asked a friend at the gym why we continue to do it, when we don't, and never have, enjoyed it. "Simple," he said. "Fear."

Share your thoughts if you like.

Major BBQ Destinations from Austin

18 January 2007 - 12:06 AM

We will be visiting Dallas over the Memorial Day Weekend. We would love to go to Austin and to visit some of the legendary bbq places later in the week.

But, we will not have a car. I guess we could take the train from Dallas. The question is this: are any of the top places accessible by taxi or hire car of some kind? Alternatively, maybe someone familiar with the area could suggest a bbq strategy from a Dallas base. I am willing to go to somewhat unreasonable lengths for a chance to eat some great 'cue while we're down there.

Landscape Design

15 December 2006 - 04:18 PM

Dreamers of garden dreams on a grand scale should search out the November issue of House & Garden, which has a feature on a 26 acre garden on a Swiss estate made by Jacques Wirtz, the Belgian who is best known in recent years for his work in the Caroussel gardens adjacent to the Louvre. Or take a look at his web site here. A master.

Annie Leibowitz in Brooklyn

28 October 2006 - 10:50 PM

I have been down and up and down again with Annie Leibowitz. At first, very early, I thought she was just another celebrity photographer, no better than Linda McCartney. Then she did the John and Yoko picture, which I thought was brilliant. Later came the American Express campaign, which showed her to be very adept at straight portraiture. Wonderful portraits piled up, lots of them.

Now comes an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum bookended roughly by the years 1990 - 2006 and carrying, I think, a subtitle along the lines of "a life in photography." The problem with this is that it lets the artist loose on family, travel, landscape, gardens and all sorts of stuff for which she has a good deal less talent than she does for portraiture. With this inadequate thread, the portraits start to look pro forma. Too many bodies on beds, or bent into couches too short. Of course, there are notable exceptions. Daniel Day Lewis looking like an American 19th century gentleman and, imo, a real masterpiece, Jim Carey on a stool, howling at the gods that made him the way he his.

Leibowitz acknowledges her debt to Avedon. She also points out a crucial difference on the lable of a small picture of one of her children. She talks about just wanting to look at her subjects, rather than engaging them, as Avedon did, with the intent of eliciting a reaction and/or an expression. (See, for example, Avedon's picture of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, where he has tricked them into the expressions you see in the picture.)

It is true that in most of Leibowitz's best portraits, the subject is looking at the camera, although I wouldn't call it "just" looking at the camera. For me, she is at her best when the subject is foursquare, three quarters length or more, and set in an environment (although there is a fine picture of Chuck Close on seamless.) Maybe the best example of this is a picture of a woman, not a celebrity, described, iirc, as a "dishwasher (or the like) and philanthropist". This is in contrast to her pictures of Colin Powell and Schwarzkopf, which are not as penetrating as Avedon's terrifying series of the power elite for Rolling Stone.

Considerable attention is also given to Susan Sonntag. These, and her family pictures and her travel pictures, are interesting the way the off topic work of a talented photographer is interesting, which is to say, not very, unless the subject itself is of interest. One exception is her portrait of her mother, whom she treats as a client in this case.

So I'm down again, if only because the strength of her real talent is diluted in this exhibition by a rather indulgent curatorial approach.

New Russel Wright Website/Exhibition

07 September 2006 - 09:54 PM

Interested parties are invited to look at this new site, which supports a new exhibition on the work of the seminal American designer Russel Wright. Mazal and I have lent to the exhibition from our collection of spun aluminum, and I have contributed an essay on Manitoga, the Wright property in Garrison, New York, now a National Historic Landmark.

Anyone with an interest in 20th century American design would enjoy a visit to Manitoga, a very easy day trip from the city.