Art by committee.

I’m about to put the Vietnam Veterans Memorial back in my attic-brain, but before I do, I want to consider monuments and memorials a bit longer. What happened to the wall in its early years — the addition of the two sculpture pieces and the flags — is probably nothing new in the grand scheme of commissioned art, but it might have been the opening shots in the Great Representation Wars of the latter years of the century.

When the monument to Franklin D. Roosevelt was in its design stages, the wheelchair question was batted around vigorously. Wikipedia provides a sketch that seems in accord with my memory of the time:

The statue of FDR also stirred controversy over the issue of his disability. Designers decided against plans to have FDR shown in a wheelchair. Instead, the statue depicts the president in a chair with a cloak obscuring the chair, showing him as he appeared to the public during his life. Roosevelt’s reliance on a wheelchair was not publicized during his life, as there was a stigma of weakness and instability associated with any disability. However, many wanted his disability to be shown to tell the story of what they believed to be the source of his strength. Other disability advocates, while not necessarily against showing him in a wheelchair, were wary of protests about the memorial that leaned toward making Roosevelt a hero because of his disability.
The sculptor added casters to the back of the chair in deference to advocates, making it a symbolic “wheelchair”. The casters are only visible behind the statue.

I’m trying to imagine being the artist saddled with this albatross of a commission, the weekly calls from the committee. Casters? My office chair has casters. So does yours, most likely. I guess that makes it a symbolic wheelchair, but (smacks forehead). It reminds me of a story I did once upon a time, about an artist in Fort Wayne. The guy worked as a school custodian on the graveyard shift and spent his days painting. He favored large canvases and photorealistic scenes, and worked slowly on his creations; it took him months to complete one. He also liked to paint in public places, and that, coupled with his easygoing, genial, not particularly artistic nature, made him a welcome guest in most of them. At the time I wrote about him, he was working in the library, but he had also done a stretch in the lobby of a local company.

If I’m remembering this correctly, that piece, the one done in the lobby, was of a night scene — the lobby at night, in fact. It was a commission from the company’s art acquisition committee, and in the months it took to complete, provided entertainment to the workers as they passed through. Late in its execution, he added a figure to the canvas — a janitor vacuuming the carpet. Suddenly, everyone was an art critic, but particularly the art committee. They began making subtle suggestions; are you sure you want that guy there? Does he have to be a janitor? Would you consider another sort of worker? The pressure built until someone floated the idea that the commission might be at risk if he insisted on keeping a janitor in this otherwise lovely scene of their lobby. The guy shrugged and said OK, I’ll just return your deposit and clear out, then. The committee backed down. Which goes to show you a lot of things, the main one being: Art by committee isn’t really art at all.

Getting back to the Vietnam memorial, I was struck then and am still struck by the stridency with which these groups push their agenda — the three-soldiers addition to the complex was carefully crafted for ethnic diversity, but didn’t satisfy the women who served, so they got their own sculpture, and…feh.

The Vietnam memorial has to have been an influence in the makeshift-memorial trend of recent years. The number of soldiers who came to leave dogtags, boots, photos and other mementos at the wall has to be a moving force behind the people who go to fatal-accident sites to leave flowers and teddybears. Or maybe there are huge gaps in my cultural-knowledge base, but my parents had a friend who was killed in a car crash, and they did their mourning at the cemetery.

OK, a little bloggage:

Jon Stewart — or his staff, anyway — earn their money yet again. Actually, they all deserve a raise for, well, click through and see.

Via Jeff TMMO, a fine Timothy Egan rant in the NYT, wondering if it’s time to put up the barricades. Well, actually that’s my reaction, but he’s dead-on.

Good gravy, this woman is a bleeping moron. Larry King finally grows a pair, and drives Jesus Barbie away.

And now, work begins. For me, anyway. You folks, keep surfing the internet.

Posted at 10:55 am in Current events |

89 responses to “Art by committee.”

  1. mark said on November 12, 2009 at 11:19 am

    I think you inadvertently channelled your inner Howard Roark. Maybe the integrity of your custodian/artist acquaintance inspired you. I enjoyed his story.

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  2. Peter said on November 12, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Wow, I don’t know who’s the real idiot – Larry, Carrie, Sarah, or me for watching that videotape. Paging Bob Greene – there’s a goldmine of vapid columns for you…maybe the first one is how Carrie should guest dot script Ohio…

    As for the memorial being a moving force – it sure has when it comes to the makeshift memorials, some of which are quite moving, but as for the roadside memorials, I think that inspiration has come from many places. I know in Eastern Europe people put crosses up on the roadside where there have been fatal crashes, both as a memorial and a warning…

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  3. Sue said on November 12, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Re Jon Stewart: Hannity acknowledged and apologized, which I never expected. Classy and appropriate, I thought.

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  4. Jeff Borden said on November 12, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Well, that clip from Larry King is the ultimate “not ready for prime time” performance. Princess Jesus Boobies comes off looking like a spoiled snot and King sounds incredibly old and pathetic with his half-assed apologies.

    Perez Hilton was the best thing that ever happened to the beautiful bigot. She’ll have a nice little career on the rubber chicken circuit of anti-gay, pro-life, Christian, tea partying groups from coast-to-coast, where her vapid commentary will be given great weight.

    It beats working.

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  5. ROgirl said on November 12, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Good Lord, she’s dumb.

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  6. Sue said on November 12, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Nancy’s story reminded me of something I couldn’t verify with an internet search. Wasn’t there a famous artist who ran into something similar as a student (or maybe he was just starting out)? I thought it was Whistler. He painted a landscape and included a couple of figures, and there was an objection. So he took out the figures and added a couple of gravestones. I seem to remember that it was three things he was supposed to do, but I only remember the figures and the gravestones. Does this ring a bell with anyone?

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  7. John said on November 12, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    West Point Trivia:
    James Abbot McNeill Whistler, the future painter, got booted in 1854 for being too impudent in engineering drawing class. Assigned to draw a bridge, he insisted on drawing three boys fishing from the side of it; when ordered to erase them, he then drew three little headstones by the river bank. (Interestingly, while everyone has heard of the painting “Whistler’s Mother,” few know that Whistler’s father was a distinguished USMA graduate who was commissioned by a Russian czar to build the first railroad from Moscow to St. Petersburg.)

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  8. nancy said on November 12, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    The thing that made the artist’s story so galling was that HE was a janitor at his other job, and the art committee was so tone-deaf about asking him to paint the janitor out of the picture. He really was impervious to any sort of economic pressure, though — I used to see him pedaling his bike around town, towing his art supplies in a trailer, in even the coldest weather.

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  9. coozledad said on November 12, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Sue: The only thing I remember with Whistler was his picture of fireworks, and Ruskin? getting his knickers in a twist. “He’s flung a pot of paint in the public’s face” or something.
    Then there’s Dickens, getting mad at one of the Pre Raphaelites because they painted Mary as a poor old woman around the time of the crucifixion. I thought that was the idea.
    I really think I could do television, at least with a hair transplant. And especially if someone sponsored a set of tits.

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  10. nancy said on November 12, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Interestingly, while every one has heard of the painting “Whistler’s Mother,” few know that Whistler’s father was a distinguished USMA graduate who was commissioned by a Russian czar to build the first railroad from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

    Not in Fort Wayne, however. Maj. John Whistler was stationed for a time at the original military post, and is routinely part of the re-enacting cast there.

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  11. mark said on November 12, 2009 at 12:39 pm


    Not what you were referencing, but the Rockefeller/Diego-Rivera mural dispute is pretty famous and interesting.

    Integrity all around, if you ask me. Rivera refused to change the mural. Rockefeller destroyed it, but after he paid the bill. Rivera used Rockefeller’s money to produce something similar.

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  12. Jeff Borden said on November 12, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Anyone could do television better than Carrie Prejean. What is so striking is how little she seemed to learn from her pageant days. I thought contestants were supposed to be able to handle a simple interview and would be able to slip questions they did not want to answer.

    One of my public speaking students was a veteran of the teen pageants in Texas and she was one of the smoothest speakers I’ve ever taught. If she lost her place in a speech –which I could tell by following an outline– no one else ever knew it. She had perfect presentation skills.

    Princess Jesus Boobies was performing at a far higher level in the pageant industry, but she apparently did not pick up much from the experience, aside from her new chest, of course.

    The funny thing is, I’m willing to bet this clip will be part of her press kit, underscoring how hard it is for a good Christian woman to be heard in a world of nasty, secular humanistic TV hosts with ugly suspenders.

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  13. Sue said on November 12, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Thanks guys! Speaking of art, here’s some Christmas house art you may have already seen; it’s been making the email rounds lately. I’m guessing these neighbors are either best friends or sworn enemies, no in-between.

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  14. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 12, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    [whistle] Calling a penalty box violation on Carrie Prejean, 15 minutes in the lane violation; technical foul . . . yer outta here, ma’am. G’bye.

    IMHO, Egan (NYT essay) is calling for a New Bull Moose Party — huzzah!

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  15. jcburns said on November 12, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Not sure I can put the words “classy” and “Hannity” together, especially after listening to his whiny “okay, okay, you got us, this once” tone. (Or does he sound like that the whole show? I never watch.)

    But yes, I agree, the possibility of discourse continues when at least there’s some sort of acknowledgement of what folks are saying to and about each other.

    And Nance, yeah, we saw a very large number of roadside monuments, and, stranger, lots of the back-glass-of-a-pickup-truck “In memory of” dedications on our big ol road trip. What, “I’m so sad about a loved one’s death that I’ll dedicate, uh, let’s see, this piece of auto glass to their memory?”

    [edit] And oh, by the way, can we retire the word ‘makeshift’? It’s really becoming one of those usages where people say it because they’ve heard it, not because they understand it. [/]

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  16. Jeff Borden said on November 12, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    A Teddy Roosevelt would be most welcome today.

    By the way, how can someone who describes themselves as mild-mannered riff off the lyrics of “I Want to Be Sedated” so quickly? Do you secretly wear a Mohawk, Jeff?

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  17. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 12, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    It’s the Ramones, dude. How can someone claim to be culturally literate and not know their oeuvre?

    [insert winking emoticon here]

    No Mohawk. But i don’t wear a high and tight anymore, either.

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  18. ROgirl said on November 12, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Cooz, that Whistler painting is in the Detroit Institute of Arts. Whistler sued Ruskin for libel, and I think he was rewarded a few cents.

    Mark, Edsel Ford commissioned Diego Rivera to paint a set of murals for the DIA in the 1930’s. To this day, the Rivera Court is a remarkable set of images that the museum and the community are justly proud of.

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  19. nancy said on November 12, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Wasn’t there a dustup over some Thomas Hart Benton paintings in…(spinning hard drive)…the Missouri state capitol? One scene showed a lynching? Upset the legislature? They came thisclose to painting over them, or maybe they did?

    There’s a T.H.B. mural at I.U., too. And I believe a throwaway sketch he did is in the erotic art collection at the Kinsey Institute.

    Oh, and j.c., I think I recall reading somewhere that roadside and auto-glass memorials are a Latino thing, so it would figure you’d see a lot of them in the southwest. Ask the resident archaeologist.

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  20. Sue said on November 12, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Jeff Borden, can I change your sentence to:
    ‘A Teddy Roo­sevelt [who doesn’t say things like “I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one”] would be most wel­come today’? Love the man, but he had way too much fun playing in the military sandbox.

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  21. jcburns said on November 12, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Well, yeah, we concluded that, but we were seeing even more of them in Very White places, i.e. Idaho. And here in the south. I think it’s somehow crossed over into the generic Christian culture.

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  22. Jeff Borden said on November 12, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Jeff TMMO,

    I always wear a suit and tie when I teach. I’m bald and my beard is now almost totally gray. In short, I look like Methuselah to the students. So, I’m packing up my stuff after class and students from the next class are strolling in including a woman with pink and green hair, many facial piercings and two iPod buds squeezed into her ear. I ask her what she is listening to and she responds, “You wouldn’t know them.” I press on. She says, “The Morlocks.” So I started quoting the lyrics to their song “Get Outta My Life,” which is on my iPod shuffle. She seems shocked. I remind her it’s not always a good idea to judge a book by its cover.

    So, we’re set to trade some itunes stuff next week. And this is why I love teaching at Loyola.

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  23. coozledad said on November 12, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I read something about a Benton painting of a lynching the other day. He and Grant Wood were apparently close friends, or drinking buddies. They both did some work with the WPA. At least as lecturers.

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  24. Jeff Borden said on November 12, 2009 at 1:29 pm


    I was thinking more of the trust-busting, outdoors-loving TR, not the warrior TR. Your point is taken. He did play that machismo stuff pretty hard. Guess he never got San Juan Hill out of his bloodstream.

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  25. moe99 said on November 12, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    I love the Whistler Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery in D.C.:

    Ruskin was an unquestioned arbiter of taste during his day, as evidenced by my great grandmother, who copied his preface to the Boston Cooking School cookbook (by Fannie Farmer) and gave it to her 3 daughters, all of whom had it framed and hanging in their kitchens. I have my grandmother’s copy. My great grandmother, good Christian that she was, took out the references to the classical figures, but the original reads:

    “Cookery means the knowledge of Medea and of Circe and of Helen and of the Queen of Sheba. It means the knowledge of all herbs and fruits and balms and spices, and all that is healing and sweet in the fields and groves and savory in meats. It means carefulness and inventiveness and willingness and readiness of appliances. It means the economy of your grandmothers and the science of the modern chemist; it means much testing and no wasting; it means English thoroughness and French art in Arabian hospitality; and, in fine, it means that you are to be perfectly and always ladies — loaf givers.” John Ruskin

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    • nancy said on November 12, 2009 at 1:36 pm

      That room was originally in Freer’s house in Detroit. He used to have people over for art-appreciation parties. Everyone would gather in the drawing room and a butler would bring in a canvas and set it up on an easel. All would look upon it, appreciating it, and after a while the butler would take it away.

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  26. coozledad said on November 12, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Moe: Was Jo Heffernan the model for the painting in that room?

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  27. coozledad said on November 12, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Nancy: Imagine the thrills they’d have gotten from a GAF Viewmaster.

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  28. Connie said on November 12, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Barbara Kingsolver’s newly released book The Lacuna has a large segment set in Diego Rivera’s Mexican household during the Leo Trotsy days. Our main character starts his work life as plaster mixer for Rivera’s murals, and ends up his cook and secretary. It send me to Wikipedia to read more about Trotsky’s last days in particular.

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  29. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 12, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    JeffB – are you in the Lewis Tower across from the Water Tower? (Is that the name of that bldg?)

    I will admit to being hobbled in my appreciation of TR by the portrayal, once delivered by yrs truly, in “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

    “Bully! Now, time to dig another lock for the Panama Canal . . .”

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  30. Julie Robinson said on November 12, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Confession time: #1 I always thought the Thomas Hart Benson murals in the IU Auditorium were…ugly. #2 I have heard of the Ramones but don’t know any of their music. I grew up on a steady diet of classical and show tune music. I promise to use my son’s Napster account and explore their music as soon as I finish my bleepin’ sermon, which I will now resume writing.

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  31. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 12, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Julie, you’re clearly ready for some Ramones.

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  32. moe99 said on November 12, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    C’dad: Jo Hiffernan was a red haired beauty. That model appears to have brown hair. There’s a Whistler portrait of Hiffernan in this article:

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  33. Sue said on November 12, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Oh my! Why didn’t anyone tell me they’ve made Fantastic Mr. Fox into a movie? And apparently a good one too, true to Roald? Yay!

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  34. Jeff Borden said on November 12, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Jeff TMMO,

    This semester I’m teaching at the Information Commons on the Lake Shore Campus, which is less than two years old and a splendid piece of architecture. The east and west walls are entirely glass with Lake Michigan just yards away.

    Last semester, they gave me a work station in Lewis Towers, but I taught at 25 E. Pearson, which is maybe 10 or 15 years old. They do hold classes in Lewis, but increasingly, they are relocating them to the newer structures.

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  35. crinoidgirl said on November 12, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Our president signed a new unemployment extension. And I have an interview next week. I don’t believe in God, but thank God!

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  36. Dexter said on November 12, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Jesus, I’ll be pondering this the rest of the day: Why did I leave almost all my war mementos at The Wall but never would consider leaving flowers or stuff at a fatal crash site?
    I will admit here what I never have mentioned to anyone. My grandkids sometimes asked me something about the war and I wished I had kept that stuff to show them.
    Leaving those little mementos at The Wall was not my idea, of course. All the newspapers were running stories on how the vets were unloading their stuff there and it was going into a big warehouse in D.C. for cataloging. I thought that was a good idea. Guess what? It was a stupid fucking idea. Don’t mean nuthin’.
    There now! I feel better!

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  37. crinoidgirl said on November 12, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    And thank you all for the phrase, “Jesus Boobies”. I will remember that until the day that I die. In a good way.

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  38. crinoidgirl said on November 12, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Cooz, I’m not sure what you look like, but I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to see you with a hair transplant and tits.

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  39. Jeff Borden said on November 12, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I don’t recall where I read Princess Jesus Boobies the first time. Maybe Tbogg? I didn’t coin the term, though I wish I had.

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  40. Dexter said on November 12, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    JeffBorden: I laughed out loud all by myself at that clip of “Jesus Boobies”.
    That was better than the little South Carolina girl pontificating about “the Iraq”.

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  41. crinoidgirl said on November 12, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Dex –

    Your stuff is in a box in D.C. They collect it, they don’t throw it away.

    Geez, can you tell that I’m happy?

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  42. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 12, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    It’s right next to the Ark of the Covenant, Dexter! So you’ve got *that* goin’ for ya . . .

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  43. ROgirl said on November 12, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Thomas Hart Benton doesn’t do much for me: his folksy style veers into cornpone territory. An interesting factoid about him, however, is that he taught art in New York, and one of his students was Jackson Pollock.

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  44. coozledad said on November 12, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    crinoidgirl: The hair transplant is optional, but I’m afraid the moobs are standard.

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  45. LAMary said on November 12, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    If you’re out there Danny, let me know if you want tickets to How The Grinch Stole Christmas at the Old Globe. My friend is playing Max the Dog and he can get me tickets.

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  46. crinoidgirl said on November 12, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Oh, Cooz. I was afraid of that. Man boobs.

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  47. moe99 said on November 12, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Fingers crossed for you, crinoidgirl…

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  48. Rana said on November 12, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    For the TR fans out there:

    (I’ve always liked the man, and the president – my work’s in environmental history and the American West, so I pretty much have to – but have to balance that like with the awareness of his racist machismo side – very much a complex man, Mr. Roosevelt.)

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  49. Deborah said on November 12, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Designing for a committee – welcome to my world. That’s what I do every workday and now on nights and weekends too. What fun you can’t imagine. I have one client that sits at the conference table where I’m presenting like a dismal cloud of woe, just waiting to call out some detail that she must pontificate on and change insignificantly to her liking. Someone please tell me why I am still in this business?

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  50. brian stouder said on November 12, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Some­one please tell me why I am still in this business?

    Chuck Barris mode ON: “Because I LOVE IT! ‘Course, I like rope-burn.” Chuck Barris mode OFF.

    And now, work begins. For me, any­way. You folks, keep surf­ing the internet.

    What are you trying to say, huh?

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  51. Vince said on November 12, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    For a look at how Maya Lin managed to achieve what she did in spite of enormous public pressures (as a college student no less) I highly recommend this documentary: Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision.

    It won the Academy Award in 1995.

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  52. mark said on November 12, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    General Motors now answers to government, rather than to shareholders, and satisfying 535 new bosses is an impossiblity, but making making the effort is the umbilical cord to the treasury.

    It is, in effect, design by committee, with many of the committe members having no interest in cars. Make them: green, electric, hybrid, safe, small, union-manufactured, high domestic content, family-friendly, inexpensive, stylish, durable, sporty, fun, popular, distraction-free, drunk-proof and profitable. The products and the business will fail but the enterprise will continue so long as Congress can use it to funnel a little something to the folks back home.

    And on Major Hasan, it seems like the time for “withholding judgment” is nearing an end.

    The business card is a classy touch that might catch on with degreed jihadists everywhere. If the tragedy was not so great I could almost appreciate the absurd humor in this craziness.

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  53. Jeff Borden said on November 12, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    And I still will want a 1970 Firebird Trans Am with the 455-cubic-inch HD engine. White with blue detailing, please, and the famous Pontiac “bottle cap” mag wheels.

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  54. Jason T. said on November 12, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Yes, Mark @ 53, because General Motors’ cars were such roaring successes before the government rescued the company.

    If only we could get GM back to building great cars like the Cadillac Catera and the Pontiac Aztek. Damn you, Nancy Pelosi, and your meddling!

    If you know anything about the giant GM bureaucracy — at least before the bankruptcy — it’s clear that the entire company has been run by committee for decades, dating at least to the 1960s. (See also, “On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors.”)

    So what changed?

    Of course, if the federal government had let GM go toes-up, then we could complain about that: “It’s too bad B. Hussein Obama doesn’t care about American jobs,” and blah blah blah.

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  55. Sue said on November 12, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Coozledad and Crinoidgirl:
    So in Cooz’s case, it wouldn’t be “Jesus boobs”, it would be “Jesus! Boobs!”.

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  56. mark said on November 12, 2009 at 4:01 pm


    In our old age, we will look back and count ourselves among the lucky few who lived during that brief period of time when 455 cubic inch engines shared the earth with man and lived in passenger cars.

    And Jason T, you are right. Which is why it should have been allowed to die, with the few remaining parts of value harvested and transplanted elsewhere, rather than being kept alive by artificial means.

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  57. Jason T. said on November 12, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    I’ll let the employees of Irvin Works here in Pittsburgh know.

    Rather than making coil steel for GM plants, they should have gotten on with their lives’ work as Subway sandwich artists!

    Sorry to be so sarcastic, but the casual way we say, “Well, let’s throw away America’s remaining manufacturing base!” leaves a lousy taste in my mouth.

    But I have been told before that I have an attitude problem.

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  58. Dexter said on November 12, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Track Back #43: Jmmo: Wow…does this mean Harrison Ford will someday try on those old tire-soled black sandals and kick through that other money and junk I left there? Oh wow, man!

    Maya Lin overcame the mighty VFW, too, whose leadership lobbied hard to push her aside. I get their magazine. I remember they were really having a fit. There probably is a lot about this online but I can’t find anything right away. I mostly recall the angry letters from vets, who wanted more of an Iwo Jima type memorial. I wonder if those old coots are still pissed off.

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  59. Jean S said on November 12, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    on the roadside memorial thing, I think someone did a book (photographs) of the memorials in New Mexico awhile back..

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  60. MichaelG said on November 12, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Good luck, Crinoid Girl. We’re with you.

    My father used to be an instructor at Loyola back in the 50’s. He taught most of his classes at Lewis Towers. That would be the 1950s.

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  61. Jeff Borden said on November 12, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Lewis is a nice old building and its position overlooking Water Tower park pretty much ensures it’s going to stay there for a long time. Loyola keeps trying to modernize it, here and there, so that the bathrooms no longer look like something out of the Roman coliseum, but the heating and cooling issues of an older structure like that are considerable. You can walk from the frigid North Pole, past the steaming equator, and down to the icy South Pole on one floor.

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  62. LAMary said on November 12, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    When I was in college in the 70s (that’s the 1970s) the foreign students from Iran or Saudi Arabia had a thing for Firebirds. If someone started a conversation with, “you know that Iranian guy in our physiology class..” the reply would be, “you mean the one who drives a Firebird and has a mustache?” Black Firebirds with the bird decal in gold on the hood.

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  63. Julie Robinson said on November 12, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Like Mary, I was in college in the 70s and the Saudis who lived across from me ran their air conditioner all winter. Never figured that one out.

    Sermon’s done, 11 minutes, alleluia.

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  64. Jeff Borden said on November 12, 2009 at 5:53 pm


    I saw a fascinating photo story within the past year on the Tehran Firebird/Camaro club. They looked just like American guys posing with their cars except for the Arabic license plates. And, of course, they were all Persians with great hair and big moustaches, just like you remember.

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  65. crinoidgirl said on November 12, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Hell, fingers crossed for YOU, moe…

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  66. Jolene said on November 12, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Chiming in late on a few things —

    I, too, was underwhelmed by Hannity’s apology. For an apology to count as an apology, the apologizer has to be, you know, sorry–not sorry to have been caught.

    Roadside memorials were common on in AZ when I lived there in the late ’80s. Seems like I particularly saw them while driving through the Tohono O’Oham reservation. But they were not the excess of teddy bears and candles that one now sees at the scene of urban shootings. White crosses and plastic flowers is what I remember.

    Jeff B: You are inhabiting my old stomping grounds. I worked as a research associate for a prof at the Lake Shore campus of Loyola for two years while writing my dissertation at Northwestern, lo these many years ago. Lived across Sheridan Road on Albion Avenue. Had a pretty nice apartment for a grad student. Croatian landlords who’d fled the Balkans and did a nice job of taking care of the place. Missed hearing what was on TV, though, when the El went by–at least if the windows were open.

    And, as to joining the pitchfork brigades, I am getting close. For me, the first target would be Congress. My message: Grow a spine! Pass health care legislation! Move on to climate change, financial reform, updating the air traffic control system, improving our IT infrastructure, and on and on. Deal with the facts; ignore the lobbyists. Stop wasting time and money. Do the right thing!

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  67. Sue said on November 12, 2009 at 6:34 pm
    Buried in this article is a reference to legislation Sen. Schultheis voted against, requiring pregnant women to be tested for AIDS. If you know beforehand that a mother has AIDS, you can deliver the baby in such a way that it is not infected. He did not vote against it for privacy rights or anything like that. He voted against it because, as he said, “What I’m hoping is that, yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that. The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity and it may make a number of people over the coming years begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior.”
    Ok, we have an elected official who is wishing AIDS on babies. BABIES. Have we reached the bottom of the barrel yet?

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  68. crinoidgirl said on November 12, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Sue @56 –

    My partner was just wondering while I was laughing at the cheeseburgers I’m cooking.

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  69. moe99 said on November 12, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Sue, I bet Schultheis doesn’t want them aborted. He embodies pernicious evil similar to John Huston in Chinatown.

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  70. Jolene said on November 12, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Chris Matthews just played the Hannity apology again. It wasn’t so bad, I guess. Not great, but not bad. I’m sure you were all dying to know what I thought on this pressing topic.

    And, yes, Jesus boobs vs. Jesus! Boobs! Funny.

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  71. crinoidgirl said on November 12, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Jason @55 –

    I haven’t read that book in eons, and just ordered an interlibrary loan on it.

    For a book written 30 years ago, it’s amazingly popular – multiple copies out and being transferred between libraries (means other people have holds on it, too). Of course, this IS the Motor City, where you can shove dump trucks out the side of the old Packard plant… (where else can you do that!)

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  72. brian stouder said on November 12, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Sue, you scared me; I’d never heard of Senator Schitheds, and was thinking that I must have schit for brains. But upon learning Schitheds is a state senator, I heaved a sigh of relief. Still – what a moron.

    Julie – I’d say “break a leg” or “knock ’em dead” – but neither seems to really fit; So – amen!

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  73. Jim in Fl said on November 12, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    The roadside memorials are also popular here in Florida. But I never saw many auto glass memorials until after Dale Earnhart’s untimely demise. After his crash, just about every F150 down here had a memorial to Dale on it’s back window. Now you see also see many memorials for family members or friends.

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  74. Jeff Borden said on November 12, 2009 at 7:08 pm


    This particular creep in Colorado represents the super evangelical area around Colorado Springs, but even given his constituency, his viewpoint is appalling. He was in the news this week for Tweeting about how Obama was flying the American plane straight into the earth, ending with the two words, “Let’s roll.” Obviously, this is straight out of United Flight 93, but he says in his marginal apology he meant no offense.

    Paul Krugman had a very scary column about the GOP recently, suggesting the national party might soon be like the Republican Party in California. Though miniscule in number, they have been capable of grinding the Golden State into stagnation. Krugman says a national rump party, though unable to gather a majority of votes, could simply throw itself into the cogs of government machinery and keep us from getting anything done. Given the histrionics of the far right –Sarah Bernhardt would be embarrassed by their overacting– it’s a fairly reasonable scenario.

    I guess we’ll see soon enough in Florida. The governor is an extraordinarily popular moderate Republican who would crush the nominal Democratic nominee, but the mighty brains of the Tea Party Brigade have decided they would rather have the very far right Marco Rubio running for the seat. If they can bigfoot Charlie Crist out of the race, there will be a national purge of anyone who is not to the right of Attilla the Hun. Can there be an entire national party of truly stupid people? Are Michelle Bachmann, James Imhofe, David Vitter, Sarah Palin and Tom Tancredo really the GOP?

    Lord help us all.

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  75. coozledad said on November 12, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Sue: The moral theory of disease. It was the underpinning of the Tuskeegee syphilis experiments. It was Jesse Helms’ swansong (AIDS was visited on homosexuals by God).
    Any belief structure that carries that medieval baggage is contemptible.

    crinoidgirl:I’m glad my tits are finally good for something.

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  76. Jolene said on November 12, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Oh, and re the sermon. I’m sure you’ll do great, Julie. I’m no longer a churchgoer and never really was much of a believer, but, once upon a time, I belonged to a very liberal, politically active congregation in Evanston, IL, and I was one of the laypeople who sermonized while the minister was on vacation.

    Took me many hours to put the sermon together, but I look back on it as one of my best pieces of writing. Perhaps not surprising given the weakness of my theological stance, it was about doubt and what to do in the face of uncertainty re what it is we’re supposed to be doing here–on earth, that is.

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  77. Julie Robinson said on November 12, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Isn’t that what most sermons are really about, Jolene? The Bible lessons were about living in times of hardship and how, when we care for each other, we become shining stars of encouragement. It was perfect for a day celebrating all the ministries our women are engaged in, and once I got rolling I had to do some serious cutting to avoid listener fatigue. It’s been a good exercise in faith, prayer and Bible study; I’m never going to sit down and read Daniel on my own otherwise.

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  78. crinoidgirl said on November 12, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Jolene @67 –

    What the hell is wrong with you! You’re talking sense!

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  79. Jolene said on November 12, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Isn’t that what most ser mons are really about, Jolene?

    I’m sure you’re right, Julie. There are so many reasons to be doubtful, depressed, and discouraged. People need all the stoking they can get.

    On another topic: There are two new shows on CNBC this evening that might be interesting. A Q@A session w/ Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and bio of Gates–assuming you’re interested in the views and experience of super-rich tycoons/philanthropists, that is.

    On still another topic: Are any of you Google Chrome users? I just started playing w/ it a couple of days ago (after having spent a ridiculous amount of time configuring Firefox w/ just the right mix of add-ons), and I very cool. It is, as far as I can see, less configurable than Firefox, but it really fast, and I love the status bar search.

    Talking sense, crinoidgirl? I’ll try to keep it to a minimum. Am glad to hear you’ll be eligible for the extended unemployment benefits. I thought of you and wondered when I heard the news, as I thought I thought I heard someone on the teevee say that people whose benefits had expired wouldn’t be covered.

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  80. LAMary said on November 12, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    I’ll say it again. Colorado Springs used to be a nice city. The megachurches completely fucked it up.

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  81. alex said on November 12, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Wow, so much to chew on here.

    First I saw of roadside memorials was in New Mexico on the road between Santa Fe and Taos. Stopped to take a picture of a most spectacular one on a curve overlooking a sheer cliff. Also noted that their newspapers run anniversary obits (now there’s an idea for our cash-strapped midwestern dailies). When I moved back to Hoosiertucky I was astounded to see crucifixes festooned with flowers and toys all over the damned countryside. This was definitely not part of the landscape when I left for Chicago as a political refugee in 1986.

    Never went into the Lake Towers but used to work in the ‘hood at 750 N. LSD when it was leased by Northwestern to the American Bar Association. Best office view I had in that place was in an eighth- or ninth-floor atrium overlooking the lakefront immediately to the north of Lake Pointe Tower, where people anchored yachts and partied all day while us working stiffs worked. And some of them partied naked, much to the delight of all the office schlubs.

    I vaguely remember some controversy over a WPA painting in the IU Student Union that some people regarded as offensive and wanted removed. I thought it was located somewhere near the southwest entrance of the Union at the end of East Kirkwood. I don’t particularly remember the painting or what it depicted but I do remember it striking me as considerably less outrageous than the tone of the protests.

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  82. Dexter said on November 12, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    trackback #74: Jim in FL, I never saw a “Car 3” tribute on a Ford! However, damn-near every Chevy pickup still has a #3 Dale E. decal somewhere on it, usually the back window. I always resented NASCAR stealing the numbers for themselves.
    #3? That means Babe Ruth! #6? Mark Martin you say? I say Al Kaline and Stan the Man Musial .
    And #24? I know…Jeff Gordon to you, but to me, Willie Mays.

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  83. nancy said on November 12, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    The Firebird/Trans Am/Camaro was also the car of choice for Arab/Iranian guys at Ohio U. in the mid-’70s. The dealership must have been the first stop after clearing passport control.

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  84. crinoidgirl said on November 12, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    3D reconstruction of Sully’s landing in the Hudson (put it on full screen to get full effect):

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  85. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 12, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    I think you try to preach a vision that calls forth, that describes a new future that has just enough in common with today’s reality to make sense to people now, and looks ahead just far enough to keep people’s heads up and moving together.

    There’s a kind of chaplaincy that exhorts and shouts encouragement to those that run out ahead of the pack and lead the charge, which i think is real and important, but i’m more of the nudging sheepdog that would rather get the whole flock moving forward three steps than settle for getting three people up and over the next ridgeline a mile ahead.

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  86. Dexter said on November 13, 2009 at 2:58 am

    I loved the old Bicycling Magazine of the early 80s. Once they ran a poll regarding the worst, most discourteous drivers to cyclists. I remember calling my older brother who was an ultra marathoner and Paris-Brest-Paris (he’s on this YouTube from 1:03 to 1:08, trying on sunglasses)
    rider. We instantly agreed: young males driving Firebirds and Camaros, and especially Trans-Ams.
    I remember the results. Overwhelmingly, the poll indicated we cyclists should always be aware of the cars I mentioned, as they gave us little clearance and displayed nearly zero desire to share the road. That style of car still is the most dangerous to us.
    Best, safest, most courteous drivers were, hands down, women in vans or cars with small children in the car with them. A few years later when minivans became so popular I noticed that young mothers chauffeuring babies around were likely to be the only drivers to give a full lane’s clearance when passing on a road with little traffic. It’s still that way.
    The scariest drivers for me are old people who can’t see anymore but still drive ( I was slighty brushed by a rear view mirror once on SR 66 coming out of Defiance) and teenagers who don’t seem to care. Sadly, we lost two old gents in separate bike-car crashes in the past two months.
    I ride all year round, but of course the cold and ice curtail many rides in winter. It’s those months when I have the recurring dreams of cycling in Naples and Fort Myers and other Florida trails.

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  87. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 13, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Interesting parallel — who pulls over and puts on their lights in facing lanes when funeral processions go by. I “get” to sit in the lead coach quite often, with the funeral director driving and the guest of honor in the back, and the family in a car/s right behind.

    Said models of car can be counted on to do things like pass us on the right when we’re heading down a four-lane road getting ready to take the cortege through a left turn, or try to turn through us as we’re moving through an intersection, etc. Must note that young women in Miatas and little Firebirds (? not sure i have model right), especially red ones, are just as insensitively impatient.

    Pickups with single males and minivans/suvs with moms and kids are almost guaranteed to pull over to the side and slow or stop even when on the other side of a median as facing traffic. But we have to keep a sharp eye out for the Camaro bolting out from behind them, swerving towards our oncoming procession, and roaring past grimly looking straight ahead.

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  88. Dave said on November 13, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Posting late as I seem to do when I finally get to a computer to catch up, but there are roadside memorials all over southeastern Arizona, where my aunt and uncle have lived for many years.

    I think that the states of Idaho and possibly Montana, too, erected crosses anywhere along highways where a fatal accident had occurred. This was done by the state highway department. We were there on family vacations in the mid 60’s (yes, the 1960’s, a la LAMary) and I remember them being roadside. My father said when he was a small boy, they did that in Ohio but the state discontinued the practice.

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