Monthly Archives: May 2008

Recalling Magritte

I love Paris. It’s my favorite city after New York. When I was there about a year ago, I saw this flyer hanging in a window and had to capture it. The glare is a problem, but at the top it says, “Ceci n’est pas un hopital.” Translation: “This is not a hospital.”

The sign is practical. It hung in the door of a medical research clinic, and the folks there didn’t want the place to be mistaken by a hospital, especially, I assume, for someone on the brink of death who needs medical attention.

But, the real fun comes when you think back to the artist Rene Magritte. He was the surrealist who would paint a pipe and write beneath it, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe [This is not a pipe].”

I love it!

For those who do not believe that art plays a daily role in our lives, it’s time to wake up. At my day job, when I’m feeling a bit fried, I’ll walk the floor and check out the artwork hanging on the walls (we have some good stuff). When I’m tired of that, I turn to books with photos of work by Magritte and Francis Bacon. I have a few more to haul in when I get the chance: Escher and Kandinsky. Having art in your life makes a real difference.

New York Painter Fights Rising Art Prices

Artist Nelson DiazThis is from my most recent article on

Nelson Diaz, an artist in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, has announced that he will auction a series for paintings with starting bids of a $1 each. Beginning June 15, 2008, the prominent painter will put “Self Portrait with Pipe, 2008,” rendered in his signature mathematical style, on eBay with the goal making art affordable and widely available.

Diaz made this decision shortly after seeing a painting by Francis Bacon fetch $86 million at an auction conducted by Christie’s in New York on May 14, 2008. With art prices getting out of control, Diaz has decided to fight back.

Read the full article>>

Pretty Excited

My new travel column at is about to launch. I have submitted my first batch of articles, and I’m eager to see them come together. Once its up, you’ll see updates weekly. These are the sorts of trips you would only dream of taking.

Tom Vu for President!

The real estate mogul steps up to the podium, twitching with anticipation. Seriously. He has the head-twitch-thing happening, and it’s pretty bizarre. But, the presidential hopeful seems undeterred. He isn’t even bothered by the feedback that he causes while adjusting the height of the microphone. Twitches and feedback and accent and everything else, the man is committed to delivering his message.

            And he’s happy not to have to pay for air time!

            The candidate begins his stump speech, and it is strangely familiar. I’ve heard it before. I just can’t place it.

            “When I came to this country, I have thirteen cent in my pocket. Thirteen brother and sister.” He pauses and then resumes with a big smile, “Look at me now! I have many nice car. Big boat.” Another pause. The candidate’s entourage flanks him at the podium. “Surrounded by beautiful women!”

            The audience roars, as if getting the joke at the same time. The candidate smiles from ear to ear, and the connection sinks in.


            As a young teen, I would stay awake late into the night, hoping to find some illicit programming while my parents were soundly asleep upstairs. I kept the television’s volume so low I could barely hear it. I didn’t want to wake my parents up with the debauchery I expected (but never succeeded in) finding.

            By 2 AM, my masturbatory fantasies were fueled by the candidate’s hired harem of hotties. I endured broken lectures about buying houses from the dead and divorced, waiting for the infomercial to loop back to the candidate on his yacht. The models looked horribly bored and had no interest in hiding it, but the candidate was undeterred. “Look at me!” he would exclaim, “Surrounded by beautiful women!”

            Even today, those words with the candidate’s Vietnamese accent cause a tingling in a place I’d prefer not to mention.

            I struggle to regain my composure, and the candidate continues. “It work for me, and it can work for you!” He punctuates his confident claim with a finger thrust at the audience. They go wild.

            The candidate glosses over the real estate deals that have made him wealthy, stopping from time to time to let the audience know that if they call today, they can learn the secrets that have made him the man he is today. They can cruise the obituaries, just like the candidate did, for real estate bargains. They can capitalize on the inability of two people to make a marriage work. Just like Tom Vu.

            The candidate wraps up his speech exactly at the 12-minute mark with one more exhortation to “Call today!” Signs are lifted overhead begging, “Tom Vu for President” and “If it worked for you, it can work for me, too!” The latter is particularly large, held aloft by three deeply committed souls.

            The applause dies down, but the candidate is still on stage. Periodic shouts of “I’ll vote for you!” and “He’s the American dream!” keep silence from falling completely. The candidate does not react. The twitching reappears; the smile emerges.

            “When I came to this country, I have nothing …”

            And I realize it’s time to give up and go to bed.