Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Farewell Drue Heinz

Farewell Drue Heinz, grand lady of letters, founding publisher of Antaeus Magazine and Ecco Press, former publisher of The Paris Review, a woman of taste. She was not just the most important patron of letters in the second half of the 20th century, she was The Real Thing. Also generous to artists and museums, and had the good sense to listen to Paul Bowles when he put her on to Daniel Halpern, the brilliant editor who had the notion in 1970 or so to found the superb magazine Antaeus

A friend just mentioned her venturing out to his reading last year in Edinburgh… when she was only 102.  She made it to 103 and what a blessing she was to American literature… and British too.

I have many memories of her from editorial meetings at Paris Review, from lunches (or “funny lunches” as George Plimpton used to call them), etc… mostly to do with her extraordinary curiosity, her energy, and her astute and (surprising this, in so cultivated a person) almost animal instincts.  Here’s another one:

Years ago, in Paris for the Salon du Livres, I was standing on a street corner near the Institut du Monde Arabe with Drue Heinz, the poet John Ashbery and my Paris Review colleague Daniel Kunitz. It was 7 PM on a spring night and we were at loose ends, without a reservation. Ashbery said "Well, I haven't lived here in thirty years, but there used to be this place... I wonder if it’s still around.” And so to Moissonier on Rue Fosses St Bernard. As our group hovered outside the restaurant door, Ashbery, abashed, hesitated. "Golly, we'll never get in, but I used to eat here every Tuesday night. Haven't been in thirty years…”

Just inside the door, the hostess without missing a beat said, "Good evening, Mr. Ashbery, so nice to see you again. Will you be joining us this evening?” Ashbery... after he stopped blushing... had the bavette, Kunitz and I had the daube. Drue went for the pied du cochon, an enormous thing, semi-charred, with carafes of the house red.  Table talk was about the French novel, the state of criticism, the French poet Pierre Martory and (as ever) the Paris-based literary power couple Philippe Sollers and Julia Kristeva.  I wouldn't say she absorbed what others said but instead she listened with a discriminating intelligence... or with just a great bull-shit detector.  Mid-meal Kunitz asked Drue how was her pied du cochon. "Delicious," she said, then... having seen earlier his eyes shift to her plate... she added with a fierce look, "and you're not getting any of it!"

Supper finished, she said, "Where should we go next?!”  I’d like to say it was the jet-lag after a trans-Atlantic flight… whereas she had only come from London… but quite simply the spring chickens couldn’t keep up with her.  I was told that in the 1970s, in Tangiers, Morocco, when Paul Bowles used to take her around to meet the writers there, the storytellers, the charmers, it was just the same.  She loved writers, always made time for them, hated cant, had boundless curiosity, and had those extraordinary instincts.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Screams from the Sun send Greetings from Tottenham Court Road

Spotted last evening at Tottenham Court Road tube station, London. 

It's only a cover but a darn good one, especially for a man singing behind a balaclava. So this, via Screams from the Sun, whoever they are... "Sex on Fire."

Video recorded on an iPhone 6S

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Future of Bitcoin

A friend asked my opinion recently about the future of bitcoin.  Given that he is a banker, and my areas of expertise are literature and film, this seemed an odd request.

Nevertheless, let's consider...

The purpose of a currency is either as 1) a means of exchange or 2) a storehouse of wealth.  

Apropos 1) For now, as far as I can tell, there are not enough actors in the legitimate economic sphere using bitcoin regularly for it to be a widely-accepted conventional means of exchange.  If in the future there are instances of currency restrictions on international exchange it could become useful but would presumably constitute flouting of some rule or another.

Apropos 2) Given that there is nothing tangible supporting the value of bitcoin (not commodity, nor treasury, nor even a "final guarantor" such as taxpayers) bitcoin would not seem an attractive long-term storehouse of wealth.

Whether it can, in purely speculative terms, be a profitable short-term play is an entirely different matter.  Other than its inability to flower, how is a bitcoin different from a tulip bulb?  I am sure that in the 17th century Dutch tulip mania there were some who safely stored their wealth in tulip bulbs, recognized the developing bubble, transferred their wealth into property (which many in Amsterdam at that time likely predicted would soon be literally under water) and then got out in time.  This is not to knock speculation during a market rise, it's just that very few ever get out in time.  And this is not to knock tulips.  They're beautiful.  If the Dutch treasury had figured how to modulate tulip mania and let the air out of that speculative bubble, things might have worked out okay and tulip bulbs would still be an alternative means of exchange in Northern Europe.

In any case, given their intricacy, a better comparison for bitcoin might be to Native American wampum belts.

How might a bitcoin bubble develop?  Here's one possible scenario: China right now has a problem of too much debt, and probably too much bad debt. I believe they will work through that challenge okay, with some pain along the way.  That said, this week S & P lowered China's credit rating.  It could be that a crowd of Chinese investors, while enduring a market shock, grow less enamored of their currency, and also of the dollar and the pound, and see bitcoin as an alternative store of wealth.  That could be a mistake.  But who knows.

Here's hoping for smooth sailing. 

More about the S&P downgrade HERE.

About tulip mania HERE.

About wampum belts HERE, via the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Stansted Farm Shop

The new Stansted Farm Shop, near Rowlands Castle, Hampshire, UK, has opened and it is splendid.

The shop offers locally-sourced produce, fish, beef and game.  The also do a mean wood-fired pizza.  TMP loves this place.

Stop in for lunch or a coffee and do a shop for all your specialty items.
The Stansted Farm Shop website may be found HERE.

(Photo: James Linville @ The Main Point blog)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hammers Down at Christie's South Ken

Last Wednesday saw the last auction at Christie's South Ken, London's premiere middle-market salesroom, a venue that stood for 42 years at the center of London's art and antiques scene.

Nic McElhatton, CSK's chairman, knocked down the last sales.  Buyers, sellers, and dealers kindly offered The Main Point their observations, and McElhatton made a moving farewell speech.