Tuesday, August 15, 2017


The Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is observed on 15 August in Bavaria and the Saarland, although not in the rest of Germany. With what solemnity and artistic mastery is the ascension to heaven of Mary, body and soul, depicted by Tizian.

And yet must we not ask whether we are dealing here with Fake NewsMary's presence at Pentecost is the Bible’s last reference to the mother of Jesus, scripture is silent about what happened to her thereafter. And yet since the fifth or sixth century the Assumption has been celebrated. In furtherance of what agenda, I wonder? An attempt to co-opt the long-established Roman Feriae Augusti and give them Christian re-branding? After all, turning the festival of Saturnalia into Christmas worked quite well for the spin doctors of old.

Hauser and Wirth

Iwan Wirth was recently judged in ArtReview magazine’s “Power 100”, to be more influential than Charles Saatchi, Christie’s chief, François Pinault, or the million-dollar-a-canvas painter Gerhard Richter. Wirth opened his first gallery in his hometown of Sankt-Gallen while still in his teens, selling Le Corbusier drawings and Miró prints, and in 1992 teamed with wealthy Swiss collector Ursula Hauser and her daughter Manuela (whom he married a few years later) to deal on the secondary market in Zurich.

In the English county of Somerset, Hauser and Wirth bought Durslade  Farm when it was a picturesque ruin. Renovated it provides art-exhibition and education spaces, film screenings, a two-acre landscaped park and a world-class restaurant and bar. Durslade Farmhouse was recently awarded Art Hotel of the Year 2016 by Leading Culture Destinations. The gallery’s onsite restaurant, Roth Bar & Grill, supplied directly by the Wirths’ farm, is included in the Michelin Guide 2017. The heart of the project is an ambitious artist-in-residence program, which has already started with a year-long visit from Pipilotti Rist, along with her ten-year-old son.

'Everything is going to be alright' in Scotland, too. The Fife Arms hotel in Braemar is currently undergoing extensive restoration and expected to reopen in 2018. 

When I was a wee lad in Braemar and we had occasion to go for tea to the hotel, probably invited by one of Pa's parishioners, I wonder if in 1944 we had to take our ration books with us!

Monday, August 14, 2017

¡Ay, caramba!

A high-society wedding in a country far away would not normally elicit from me any comment. In this instance, however, I've met very briefly the handsome bridegroom, a very visionary young entrepreneur in the crypto currency game, Bitcoin and Etherium and such arcane innovations in the booming 'FinTech' sector. I have the feeling that Daniel will go far.

As for his lovely bride, I have known her since her birth! I treasure the photo embedded below, of both Dominique and Jessi as babies and I was trusted with the task of feeding the girl who married at the weekend.

Certainly D&D make a handsome couple and I wish them every happiness.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Happy holidays

Yeah, just 57 degrees Fahrenheit! It doesn't seem to me much like high summer. Although this year it doesn't bother me as much as it might have done years ago. I am now very much an ancient stay-at-home pensioner. It used to be that I'd do shopping outings on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This implied an outlay of between EUR 16 and 20 per week for beer-and-espresso breaks. Saving that amount makes a lot of sense when there is a dearth of paid freelance work.

It also seems to me that this is a summer which is notably uninviting, with forest fires threatening holiday beaches and unregulated hordes of tourists turning city sightseeing into a full-contact endurance sport.

In the meantime this summer I'll settle for getting my fresh air via the door to my little balcony, not a glamorous holiday destination, although much enhanced on the rare warmer days whenever Jessi is visiting Auld Da in Munich! 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

28 flavours of nostalgia

Howard Johnson’s restaurants in no less than a thousand locations across the United States had their cultural peak in the early 1960s, four years after I made the notes above, excerpted from an address to my high school assembly and recounting my impressions of our family's arrival in New England a year earlier. Howard Johnson’s served more meals outside of the home than any entity in America, except for the U.S. Army. Probably already forgotten by most people under 50, it would be impossible to overstate the impact that Howard Johnson’s had on mid-century American culture and dining. Its vision of consistency, reasonable pricing, and quality food, replicated ad infinitum by franchisees along the highways from coast to coast, established the blueprint for the modern chain restaurant.

Today my sister Pippa, who in 1955 had been equally amazed, alerted me to the fact that only a single Howard Johnson’s remains and is for sale. Surely a Wolfgang Puck, a Nobu Matsuhisa or a Ludo Lefebvre should pay a tribute, with at the very least a 'pop-up' HoJo serving food that inspires, recalling the American icon and the memories of a generation that grew up passing time on road trips by spotting orange roofs?

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The New Normal

In the last half hour, Twitter has advised me that this is so not the moment for me to go shopping at Netto, my local discount supermarket.
"Incredibly large police presence at U-Bahn station in Munich. Trains cancelled and rumors of a shooting. Police keep coming... at least 20 cars now, plenty of whom are heavily equipped. All wearing bullet proof vests."

It could, of course, be a storm in a teacup. But I guess it's comforting to see how quickly the Munich police are able to respond.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017

Moreau and Miles

The passing of Jeanne Moreau at the age of eighty-nine reminds me how important the film by Louis Malle, Ascenseur a l'Échafaud, was for me back in the day, when I was working at the Fine ArtsTheatre in Dallas. Introducing new narrative and editing techniques, the film is considered an important work in establishing the Nouvelle Vague. I wonder how often I watched it spellbound. Its score by Miles Davis, and the relationship the film establishes between music, image and emotion, were also considered ground-breaking.The musical cues for the film were released as a ten-inch LP album in 1958. Jean-Paul Rappeneau, a jazz fan and Malle's assistant at the time, suggested asking Miles Davis to create the film's soundtrack, possibly inspired by the Modern Jazz Quartet's recording for Roger Vadim's Sait-on jamais  released a few months earlier in 1957. Wiki confirms what Rappeneau told us when I met him in Budapest. There in 1990 his lavish Franco-Hungarian production Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Gérard Depardieu, entered the record books as one of the most expensive French films ever produced. My sorely missed friend André Szöts handled the Budapest end of the project. 

At the time of recording the Elevator to the Scaffold score Miles was playing at the Club Saint-Germain on rue Saint-Benoît, premises which later housed the supper club le Bilboquet. And it was there that in 1968 we filmed a segment of our documentary Filmcentre Europe.

I never met Jeanne Moreau although I almost met Miles Davis,  but that's another story. I'd still be spellbound watching the very first of Louis Malle's twenty feature films.