Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Guggenheim on Wheels

Whoosh at Last! AAbq Jew has often mentioned (see January 2019's The L Train and The Jews) - he loves The New Yorker. Always has. Since he was a kid, just looking at the cartoons in his psychiatrists' offices.

Yes, every now and then David Remnick & Co turn out (what Abq Jew considers) a dud issue. But - 'way more often than not - there's a few articles (yes! they publish articles!) and several cartoons that brighten and/or inform Abq Jew's week.

The New Yorker

So let's take a closer look at the issue
of May 8, 2023. The one with not-yet-crowned-when-published King Charles III on the cover. But first - we've gotta talk about the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

Guggenheim Musem NYC

The Guggenheim

Wikipedia tells us - 

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, often referred to as The Guggenheim, is an art museum at 1071 Fifth Avenue between 88th and 89th Streets on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City. 

It is the permanent home of a continuously expanding collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions throughout the year. 

The museum's building, a landmark work of 20th-century architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, drew controversy for the unusual shape of its display spaces and took 15 years to design and build; it was completed in 1959. 


It consists of a six-story, bowl-shaped main gallery to the south, a four-story "monitor" to the north, and a ten-story annex to the northeast. 


The main gallery contains a six-story helical ramp
that extends along its perimeter, as well as a
central ceiling skylight. 

Here is a video - featuring Sara Gore! - that provides a memorable introduction to the museum: 

Now, Abq Jew does not wish to speak condescendingly to you, his loyal readers. (That means 'talking down' to you.) But Abq Jew must tell you (he must! he must!) that all New Yorkers already knew this.

That's because all New Yorkers then (1959) living, all New Yorkers ever born, and all New Yorkers ever to be born gathered near Mount Sinai Hospital right after Shavuot and learned all about The Guggenheim. And we all wondered - 

What would it be like to
skateboard down the ramp?

Abq Jew fondly recalls that day (yes, just one day) in August 1968, just after the Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia, when Abq Jew (figuratively, not literally) put on his roller skates to visit Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory at The Louvre.

But that was different.

Winged Victory

Winged Victory

As Cole Louison so trenchantly describes in that May 8, 2023 issue of The New Yorker. Published with the headline 


And which Abq Jew now displays in its entirety, in complete violation of an entire plethora of US copyright laws, UN resolutions, and international conventions. 

Please, copyright lawyers, consider this fair use - or even a free promotion!


Illustration by João Fazenda

Skating the Gnarliest Ramp of Them All: The Guggenheim

The six-story spiral tempted would-be shredders for six decades, until the museum finally allowed the skateboarder Alexis Sablone in for a night.

At any given time, the Guggenheim may host Kandinskys, Picassos, Pollocks, Mondrians, or af Klints, but the first thing that any visitor who isn’t too boring to admit it thinks about is the ramp, and how much fun it would be to roll down. Frank Lloyd Wright imagined the museum’s six-story helix as 

“a curving wave that never breaks.” 

The building opened in 1959, the same year that the Roller Derby Skate Board débuted. And yet, for the next six decades, perhaps owing to a sense of decorum, or to a competent security crew, no one skated down the ramp.

“A ramp like that—it’s breathtaking,” 

the professional skateboarder Alexis Sablone said the other evening. 

She was standing on the museum’s ground floor, a board at her hip. Converse, one of Sablone’s sponsors, had persuaded the Guggenheim to allow the company to shoot a film, promoting Sablone’s signature shoe, using the ramp. 

The talks took nearly a year; Sablone was kept in the dark. 

“They surprised me,” she said.
“I thought they were going to walk me
into Times Square and unveil a billboard.” 

She looked around, dropped her board, and popped an awkward ollie.

Sablone grew up in New England, where she skated parking lots and garages. As a teen-ager, she starred in “Wonderful, Horrible, Life,” a gritty skate film shot on handheld cameras around Boston, where skateboarding is banned on public property. She is now thirty-six, with short black hair, and lives in Crown Heights. 

In addition to skating (she placed fourth in the street classification at the Tokyo Olympics), she’s an artist and a designer, with a master’s in architecture from M.I.T.; she recently made a 3-D model of the Guggenheim on her computer. 

“A spiral is hard to describe,” she said.
 “The rise and run. A lot harder than a stair.”

The plan was to shoot Sablone in black-and-white sailing down the ramp. “The building is a simple idea,” the director Jeremy Elkin, who wore an orange shirt and a black cap, said. “The piece has to reflect that. That ethos.”

Workers were humping several trucks’ worth of gear up the ramp: lights, tripods, sandbags, Spidergrips, an Arri Alexa camera, an Easyrig that looked like a mechanical giraffe. The walls were bare; the art works had been stored in crates on the ground floor. 

The oculus was dark. Sablone warmed up, landing a few kickflips. She slipped while doing a Nollieheel, landing on her butt, then lay back, looking up. Far above, a camera peered over the railing. Elkin’s radio crackled.

 “O.K.!” he said. “Let’s go!”

At around 11 p.m., Sablone rode the elevator to the top floor (Wright didn’t want visitors to walk up) for a test shot, a simple left-to-right roll through the frame. The shot looked nice—a series of black, white, and gray horizontal curves, from which Sablone emerged like a fin—but there were issues. 

Sablone didn’t want to look down.

 “It would make me dizzy,” she said.
 “The only flat surface is the ground,
so you have no reference points
for where you are in space.” 

She’d also discovered that the ramp was coated in a layer of what she likened to “Masonite dust,” which stuck to her wheels. The skating was fast; the ramp was surprisingly steep.

 “The amount of curvature, the only thing you
can compare it to is a parking garage,
honestly,” she said. 

During the test shot, she’d almost rammed a protrusion. 

“I don’t want to be the first skateboarder to skate
the ramp and the first skateboarder
to break the museum,” she said.

Elkin repositioned the crew and made a new plan. Sablone would start at the top and roll down to the next floor for a full orbit, but stop at the balcony. Then the production would move down a floor and start again.

Sablone bounded back up and retook her starting place. Elkin called, 


Sablone stepped on her board and started rolling. The rotunda filled with a humming buzz that grew louder as she picked up speed. She leaned like a surfer.

Elkins got the shot, and the crew trudged down the ramp to repeat the drill. They wrapped at around 7 a.m., as the oculus was filling with light. Sablone, damp with sweat, was limping slightly.

 “I grew up skating in the nineties,” she said, smiling.
“I never, ever would expect to be here.” 

Nice Commandments

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Shavuot 5783

Counting and Counting: Several thousand years ago, all Jews then living, all Jews ever born, and all Jews ever to be born gathered beneath Mount Sinai to hear God speak to us. 

We celebrate this wondrous event every year on the Holiday of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, exactly forty-nine full days (which are, as we know now, seven full weeks) after the Holiday of Pesach.


And we recongregate to celebrate Shavuot just one week after we all celebrated Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day).

Shavuot (שבועות‎) occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan. This year, Shavuot begins on the evening of Thursday, May 25. The festival days are Friday and Saturday, May 26-27.

Hag Sameach, Albuquerque!
Good Yontif, New Mexico!
Hag Sameach & Shabbat Shalom, Israel!

Hebrew Calendar

About The Calendar

This year, Shavuot Day 2 falls on Saturday, May 27. But in ארץ ישראל (The Land of Israel) - Shavuot ends when Shabbat begins, on Friday night. So in Israel, they'll be reading Nasso on Shabbat, while we in חו״ל (Outside The Land) will be reading Shavuot Day 2.

Which also means that thereafter, the Parsha of the Week will not be the same in Israel as it is elsewhere; Israel will be one week ahead. And it will stay ahead until Saturday July 8, when we join up again for Pinchas.

This, in turn, puts us in sync for שׁבּת חזון, The Sabbath of Vision, so we can observe תשׁע בּאב (Tisha b'Av) together as one.

Hebrew Calendar Facts

In the meantime, Facebook's 
Hebrew Calendar Facts is proud and probably correct to tell us:

This year, Shavuot is on the Friday before Memorial Day (in the US), leading to a 4-day weekend. This has previously happened twice since Memorial Day was established as a federal holiday on the last Monday in May (in 1971): in 1982 and 1996. After this year, it will happen again in 2026, 2050, 2053, 2077, and 2080.

The configuration we've seen more in recent years is Shavuot starting on the Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend (and continuing through the Monday for 2-day people), which happened in 1985, 2012, and 2015, and will happen again in 2039, 2042, 2066, and 2069.

The extra-rare one is when Shavuot starts on Sunday night, so (the first day of) Shavuot is on Memorial Day itself. This happened in 1974 and 2001, and we won't get it again until 2099 and then 2123. This is rare because Monday is the rarest day of the week for Shavuot (out of the days of the week that are possible).

And one person commented: In 2025, Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) will fall on Memorial Day.

This year, Memorial Day closes our four-day weekend. 

Memorial Day

Memorial Day
Not just sales, barbeques, and pool parties.
Real sacrifice for real freedom.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Midge Maisel Mockingbird

Marvelous! Bathtubs Over Broadway! Need Abq Jew mention that he is (so very) often ahead of his time? 

First: In March 2019, Abq Jew published Fall River Now and Then - about Lizzie Borden (of course); about the Chad Mitchell Trio (of course); and then about Michael Brown (wait - who's that?).

Next: In September 2019, Abq Jew published The Night The Well Ran Dry - about Bathtubs Over Broadway (surprisingly); about Harper Lee (surprisingly); and also about Michael Brown (wait - him again?).

Mrs Maisel

Now: We approach the wonderful yet almost-forgotten Holiday of Shavuot (see May 2013's Preparing for Shavuot, et al). And Abq Jew has read Mira Fox in the Forward!

That industrial musical in ‘Mrs. Maisel’ wasn’t a fever dream — it was history

Products like cars and mouthwash inspired song-and-dance numbers that were a staple of American business

It seems like a fever dream. In episode four of the new season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge Maisel is at an industrial exposition. Clad in coveralls, she narrates a musical featuring tap-dancing garbage men and a singing trash heap.

It seems so kitschy that it’s hard to believe that shows like this actually existed. But it turns out that the episode is just another example of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s commitment to history; industrial musicals were very real. 

There were entire productions about Xerox machines, Listerine, Johnson & Johnson sunscreen and diesel engines. By the ’60s, they were so common that even products like spark plugs and blank keys had shows. 

Whatever product you can think of — food, machinery, appliances — if the brand existed half a century ago, it probably had a musical. 

You should read Mira


Mira should read

The Night the SWell Ran Dry
The Night the Well Ran Dry

OK. So here is what Abq Jew wrote:

Do you remember Abq Jew talking about the Chad Mitchell Trio and Michael Brown (see A Song For The Right and Fall River Now And Then)?

Well, before Michael Brown hit fame with the Trio, he made a very nice living, thank you (his and his wife's generosity gave Harper Lee the time to write To Kill A Mockingbird), by writing industrial musicals.

There is now a documentary film about such writers of industrial musicals.

Bathtubs Over Broadway premiered on April 21, 2018 at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. The film's director, Dava Whisenant, won Tribeca's Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director. 
Comedy writer Steve Young’s assignment to scour bargain-bin vinyl for a Late Night segment becomes an unexpected, decades-spanning obsession when he stumbles upon the strange and hilarious world of industrial musicals. 
Tribeca Jury: “The winner of the Best New Documentary Director goes to a film that we chose for many reasons. The story, the specific subject, the journey into a world we never knew existed. This film also has an element every great film, doc, and story needs...heart.” 
Described as "the most feel-good film event of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival," the premiere featured post-screening live performances, including a duet about motion-activated faucets that reunited the stars of American Standard's cult favorite industrial show The Bathrooms Are Coming!

You can watch the Bathtubs Over Broadway trailer here; or visit the film's website here. You can now stream Bathrooms Over Broadway on Netflix, too - which is how Abq Jew discovered it.

Yes, Abq Jew does indeed love bathrooms. Always has. And because he suspects that - secretly or openly, covertly or overtly - you, his loyal readers, may love bathrooms too, Abq Jew proudly presents -

My Bathroom

Created for New Year's Eve 1958.
Recording of My Bathroom is from an industrial musical called 
The Bathrooms are Coming, produced by the American Standard Company
in 1969 and included in the book and accompanying CD, 


Which brings us to

Michael Brown

Michael Brown

OK. So here is what Abq Jew wrote:

Don't know much about Michael Brown? Neither did Abq Jew. So Wikipedia tells us:

Michael Brown (14 December 1920 – 11 June 2014) was an American composer, lyricist, writer, director, producer, and performer. 
He was born in Mexia, Texas. His musical career began in New York cabaret, performing first at Le Ruban Bleu. 
In the 1960s, he was a producer of industrial musicals for major American corporations such as J.C. Penney and DuPont. 
Several of his songs have entered the American repertoire, including "Lizzie Borden" and "The John Birch Society," which were popularized by the Chad Mitchell Trio. 
Children know him best as the author of three Christmas books about Santa’s helper, Santa Mouse.
Michael Brown in 1977. He and his wife, Joy, gave Harper Lee
financial support while she wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

But here is Abq Jew's favorite Michael Brown story - and it will likely become yours, too. From the wonderful 2014 obituary that Margalit Fox wrote for The New York Times:

It was the modest windfall from ... an industrial show — a musical fashion show for Esquire magazine in the fall of 1956, Joy Brown recalled last week — that let Mr. Brown and his wife help usher “To Kill a Mockingbird” into being. 
The Browns had met Ms. [Harper] Lee through her friend Truman Capote. Mr. Brown had contributed lyrics to a song in the 1954 Broadway musical “House of Flowers,” with a book by Mr. Capote and music by Harold Arlen. 
By 1956, Ms. Lee, an Alabama native, was living in New York. Her longed-for career as a writer was stymied by the need to pay the rent, and she was toiling away as an airline reservations clerk. 
That Christmas, visiting the Browns, she spied an envelope with her name on it in the branches of their tree. 
I opened it and read: 
You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.
Ms. Lee recalled in a 1961 essay in McCall’s magazine in which she did not identify the Browns by name. 
“It’s a fantastic gamble,” Ms. Lee, in the words of her essay, told Mr. Brown. “It’s such a great risk.”
Outside, snow was falling, an odd event for a New York Christmas. I went to the window, stunned by the day’s miracle. Christmas trees blurred softly across the street, and firelight made the children’s shadows dance on the wall beside me. 
A full, fair chance for a new life. Not given me by an act of generosity, but by an act of love. Our faith in you was really all I had heard them say. I would do my best not to fail them. 
Snow still fell on the pavement below. Brownstone roofs gradually whitened. Lights in distant skyscrapers shone with yellow symbols of a road’s lonely end, and as I stood at the window, looking at the lights and the snow, the ache of an old memory left me forever.
Harper Lee