Thursday, May 16, 2002

The chinstroking, hand-wringing cultural grasshoppers are out in force in New York City. For all the obvious reasons (9/11, the economy, stupid! etc. etc.) the city is looking at a deficit. Cuts are being made in budgetary line after budgetary line - including the one that covers grants and subsidies to cultural institutions. During the fat years, these institutions spent every nickel that came their way. Huge, successful fund drives brought in tons of cash that was promptly disbursed for expansion. Now those facilities are underpopulated and the cash register chimes with a low tinkle rather than a lusty tintinnabulation. One sound unheard during the fat years was the ringing of fresh cash dropping into piggy banks. And so now the museums etc are wailing about closings etc.
Well, excuse me! How about dipping into principal to plug some of these holes. Or sticking with essential services?
And how about the city doing its part by selling off, say, the glorious, glamorous Tweed Building as a World Headquarters for some ambitious civic-minded global enterprise - which might bring in $200 million-$300 million and stanch a further significant outflow for operating costs, not to mention eliminate endless costly bickering about who's going to use it.
I haven't blogged in a couple of weeks. Getting the final NY Observer withdrawal toxins out of the bloodstream, I guess. Typically, the paper started arriving again once I quit. My sense is that Arthur Carter has lost interest and that his focus is now on making art, which in his case amounts to the equivalent in welded metal of the Prince of Wales's watercolors. Perfectly competent but if you've seen the real thing, not all that mouth-watering. The NYO has reached the limits of the market for its present editorial product - and that market just doesn't produce the revenues needed to break even.
A couple of points seem worth reflection. One is this business of relative stock market values. PEs, it is pointed out, are still high by historical norms. But the business cycle no longer seems as vicious as it once did, so maybe some mark-up in the base PE level is warranted. Just asking. Also the drop-off, in terms of price, from peak (over)valuations seems easily as drastic in the recent correction as in any I can recall: end-60s-70s, end-80s.
Of course, the dollar remains the big question. For over five years, I campaigned in the NYO for the view that the greenback's hegemony was the basis for the Roaring '90s - not the New Economy. Now everyone's buying into that. Fortunately, until the economies behind the yen and the euro start to look like serious challengers, the dollar will reign, if only thanks to an absence of alternatives. But keep a wary eye.
Having for five years labored on a novel called NOBODY'S FAULT in which the "inciting incident" - as certain Hollywood types say - is the spur-of-the-moment adultery of a suburban homemaker named Connie, I couldn't resist going to see "Unfaithful," the new movie that's based on the same premise. It's not very good, and the crime-solving skills on offer would cause Briscoe and Green/Curtis/Logan to turn in their badges. But Richard Gere is terrific, conveying a personality that is completely at odds with the way his character is depicted by the critics.
I also saw "Spiderman." It's OK, especially the human parts, but when the computer animators crank it up, it goes flat. I have acrophobia. I can't walk across a bridge of any height (couldn't handle the span over Route 27 at the last Shinnecock Open) but airplanes don't bother me because I can't triangulate myself to the ground. Computer animation's like that. It lacks the vital connection.