XIX. Mere surmise slurs

not a vas deferens either (Brian E. Moore)

My friend the filmmaker/pathologist Dr. Brian Moore sent me, apropos of nothing, a quote attributed to Kojiro Tomita, a famous curator of Asian Arts at Boston’s MFA:

“It has been said that art is a tryst, for in the joy of it maker and beholder meet.”  ~Kojiro Tomita

I wrote him back this terse not terribly clever slur:

I came I saw I concur

Meaning I agree with Mr. Tomita’s statement (which was new to me; HE was new to me) and I thought referencing the idea of going to a museum and seeing (or trysting, as the case may be); and referencing the famous “I came I saw I conquered”.

It reminded me, perhaps perversely, of the bit in Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man” in which Gopnick accuses his student of cheating and the student replies “Mere surmise sir.” (its funny, at least to me, because the professor doesn’t hear him properly; he hears “mereser mizer?” or something equivalently non-sensical). The Coen’s are playing on racism and cultural differences although they claim to be doing so conscientiously, if that is possible.

A lot of Jews hated the film and thought it was “self-hating” (which would make their reaction redundant) but I thought it was great. Not that that excuses their feeble and perhaps unkind depictions of Asians (think also of the guy in “Fargo” who admits his breakdown to Frances McDormand).

It also reminds me that at the gallery show (I wrote about below, at Nina Dresden Gallery) I ran into a recent acquaintance the Mexican poet, writer and professor Juvenal Acosta and he said the Michele King’s work “was a nicer price.” They were about $3,000 each for her paintings, but since we had been discussing a $110,000 painting at a gallery across the street, that would be “nicer” meaning within reach of more people, perhaps even Juvenal or myself. What he actually said was that he had met Michele previously and liked her as a person and was relieved that he liked her work likewise; it was a “nice surprise.” I told him this story, my mistake in hearing. (Juvenal’s English is appreciably better than my Spanish. His Spanish I’m certain is better than my English).

Jumping to last night, Terry and I were debating the merits of checking out a “Charlie Chan” movie at the Stanford Theatre and we opted against it. Boris Karloff plays the Chinese-American detective. Is it playing because this is Halloween weekend? I.e, a European actor playing an Asian is good programming because we can think of it as his costume? Charlie Chan is Dead, guys!

Meanwhile, the Chron today had an item about the 1935 filming of “The Good Earth” starring Paul Muni and Louise Rainer, and 500 Asian extras, filmed hereabouts.


I was also mentally riffing on Jeremy Lin in the NBA, the film “Ping Pong Playa” by Jessica Yu and the fact that a Chinese computer company now claims the world’s fastest supercomputer (using chips by Intel and Nvidia) and the even odder oddity that that article in Friday’s Chron was next to a legal notice by a Joseph Lin (but not Jeremy’s brother) abandoning his fictitious business name of “Joe 88 Construction” — who in the world could possibly notice or find meaning in these things besides moi?

(I also remember thinking the other day while watching a rerun of “The Office” that I am one of the few people in the world who saw Mindy Kaeling in “Matt and Ben” AND saw Nathan Ford play catcher in the CCS Championship game for Palo Alto High — the show had Rainn Wilson pretending to be a Cornell guy and namedropping Ford who was a two-sport star for the Big Red)

Somewhere in here I wonder about the shard of porcelin vase that Yoko Ono handed out to the crowd at Stanford a couple years back — she said that we should all meet up again and rebuild the vase, like the Jewish concept of “tikkun olam”.

This blog entry is a chop-suey of topics, but not a kama sutra.

edit to add, two years later: for what its worth, someone deems it important enough to post transcript of the scene:

Messages, Professor Gopnik.
Yes, thanks for coming, Clive. Have a seat.
We had, I think, a good talk the other day,
…but you left something…
I didn’t leave it.
Well, you don’t even know what I was going to say.
I didn’t leave anything.
I’m not missing anything.
I know where everything is.
Well then, Clive…
Where did this come from?
This is here, isn’t it?
Yes, sir. That is there.
This is not nothing.
This is something.
Yes. That is something.
What is it?
You know what it is, I believe.
And you know I can’t keep it, Clive.
Yes, sir.
I’ll have to pass it on to Professor Finkle,
along with my suspicions about where it came from.
Actions have consequences.
Yes. Often.
No, always! Actions always have consequences!
In this office, actions have consequences.
Yes, sir.
Not just physics,
And we both know about your actions.
No, sir. I know about my actions.
I can interpret, Clive I know what you meant me to understand.
Meer sir my sir.
“Meer sir my sir”?
Mere surmise, sir.
Very uncertain.

Speaking of which, uncertainties, I read thru the self-comments below — and those early days of “Plastic Alto” I would footnote via the comments section rather than “edita” — I could not recall Pauline Yao “the new Tomita” – not that I had retained Tomita, either — and the link had collapsed, but when I re-search-injuned it I saw a picture of said Yao with Stephanie Syjuco, who Terry and I met at Montalvo.

edit to add, more than a year later: check back and eventually there will be an addendum here, apropos of re-blogging this (or “self-reblogging” a first for me) in honor of the Tara Donovan show at PACE Gallery of Menlo Park, across the street from Guild Theatre showing the Gia Coppola James Franco vehicle “Palo Alto” — about 2,000 words, bounces around way too much, even for “Plastic Alto”; I am not sure I am making progress even 600 posts onwards. I could summarize the long list of name-checks and shout-outs, many of whom have links. Even links, unless you have susses thru a bunch of them are somewhat gratuitous, as if the reader did not know HOW?! to speak to the Search-Injuns —and by the way, by neologism “search-injun” is sort of a Claes Oldenburg reference, according to Jed Perl. RIYL: Claes Oldenburg, Jed Perl, James Franco, Gia Coppola, Tara Donovan, Stephanie Syjuco, Pauline Yao, Yoko Ono, Rainn Wilson, Mindy Kaeling, Nathan Ford, Joseph Lin, Jessica Yu, Jeremy Lin, Louise Rainer, Paul Muni, Boris Karloff, Juvenal Acosta, Nina Dresden, Michele King, Kojiro Tomita, Brian Moore, ….back up to John Arrillaga et al, Tara Donovan, Rachel Kushner, Elizabeth Sullivan, Terry Acebo Davis, Diego Romero, Enrique Chagoya, Miho Morinoue, Kara Maria, Alexander Calder, Bradley Leong, Laurel Nakadate, John Yao,

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player, and blogger; he also sang in local choir, fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32 Reads 'Howl' and owns a couple musical instruments he cannot play
This entry was posted in art, brain, ethniceities, film, jazz, math, media, music, Plato's Republic, sex, sf moma, this blue marble, words and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to XIX. Mere surmise slurs

  1. Mark Weiss says:

    Warner Oland (a Swede) here and later Sidney Toler (an American of European phenotype) played the lead, Karloff is off course the villain. I am indebted here to first Dao Strom and then Terry Acebo Davis for my reference to Jessica Hagedorn’s compilations of modern Asian American writings, “Charlie Chan is Dead.”

    Jetsetters may be interested to know that the Chan novel, by Earl Derr Bigger, “The House Without a Key” takes place at the Halekalani Hotel in Waikiki. I believe there is a plaque on the patio to that effect.

  2. Mark Weiss says:

    I did see the last showing of “Charlie Chan at the Opera” and can borrow from the script to say it’s like chop suey in that its a mystery but for $6 is a swell dish.

  3. Mark Weiss says:

    According to Halliwell’s there is also a “Charlie Chan at the Olympics” from 1937 which would be interesting to me in the same vein in that it not only toes the line of being offensive to Asians but I wonder how they handle the white supremacist agenda of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

  4. markweiss86 says:

    “The Whole Farrago” — Perhaps this would fit better if the movie “Red” were about Indians and not aging spooks, but I was impressed by Anthony Lane’s mini-review in the recent New Yorker, specifically his use of the word “farrago” meaning “confused mixture or jumble.” (As in”Mary-Louise Parker, in the role of an innocent clerk caught up in the whole farrago, ” is great) It made me think of the Coen’s break-through “Fargo” and how the title is probably also a pun (and not just a cold town in North Dakota). By the way, their “Burn After Reading” covers the same ground much better — funny DC in-crowd, with guns — and got there first. BTW2, my new word “farrago” could apply to the non-linear texture of this blog, I admit. “RED” in the case of the new film is an acronym for ex-CIA agent Bruce Willis being “retired, and extremely dangerous.”

  5. markweiss86 says:

    The Roman numerals labeling this the nineteenth blog entry — XIX — is temptingly some would say inscrutabll close to the name of my favorite faux Asian rock band, Jamie Stewart’s Xiu-Xiu.

  6. “My Left Vas” would be a great title for a movie. Maybe we can get Daniel Day Lewis to star.

  7. markweiss86 says:

    See also today’s post (part of a mini-series on cellphone-photographs) on “Strontium” by Gerhard Richter which is a large blow-up of a molecule (SR 38).

  8. Mark Weiss says:

    Today Rob Syrett happened to run into me at the post office and then helped me open the too-well-packed tube I was claiming. (He works in an arts supply store and carries a box cutter). I said I was excited. Indeed what I got in the mail was a parcel from the PS 1 MOMA annex in Long Island City. I had ordered a signed poster from a Laurel Nakadate film called “The Wolf Knife” or something I don’t even know. I recall having a nice talk with Allie from Artbook who runs the gift shop there but are also publishers of museum catalogs and the like. When I opened the poster it depicts two rather young women (teens) in swimsuits at the beach. I said “I’m not sure either of them is Laurel Nakadate, or that they are women.” (I guess he said “Is one of those women the artist?”) She is like a cross between Cindy Sherman and Sugimoto. Her name is even slightly confounding, like the word “shitake.” This interview sheds more light on this dangerous subject. (I am sort of afraid to click on any of her images here at the Palo Alto Public Library where I frequently check my mail). I have about three clippings on her work from the NY Times, including the one with the middle aged fat guy; I think that piece is called “I want to be the one to walk in the sun.”
    I am afraid to write her a fan letter lest I end up in one of her pieces.
    I should stick to reading “Just Kids.”

  9. Mark Weiss says:

    Pauline Yao is the new Kojiro Tomita:

  10. markweiss86 says:

    Reblogged this on Plastic Alto with Mark Weiss and commented:

    Mere surmiser

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