Those attending the talk by Herbert and Dorothy Vogel at the Seattle Asian Art Museum on February 4 might have wondered exactly what local art the Vogels had seen while in town. Here was a couple who for 40 years had been building a huge collection of nothing but the most challenging minimalist and conceptual art (on the salaries of a postal worker and a librarian, no less), and at the lecture, Mr. Vogel couldn't stop talking about how he can't understand the art here, that it's so cutting-edge it leaves him in the dust. Seattle art "cutting-edge"? It's almost an oxymoron. Turns out, the Vogels didn't see any local galleries on their visit. They did go to the Henry, which had the Surrogates show of figurative art by the likes of Tony Oursler and Bruce Nauman, and they also visited the home of local former gallery owner Linda Farris that day. Ms. Farris recently dropped a lot of money on young female artists working with issues of coming-of-age and sexuality, including Sam Taylor-Wood and Vanessa Beecroft. Herbert Vogel was pretty "buzzed" about the work, reports Farris, "so he might've been referring to that." Of all the art Vogel saw, only two Seattleites were represented--usual suspects Gary Hill and Josiah McIlheny. But I'm reassured to know that Herbert Vogel's compliments weren't inspired by, say, Dale Chihuly.

The recent hoohah about selling prominent placement on its website to publishers has been well chewed over in local and national publications. I'm actually proud of the company for finally finding a way to sell something and make money on the transaction, something they can't do when they discount most best-sellers 30 to 40 percent. It's odd that the most feared company in bookselling has yet to post a profit. According to The Economist, by the way, Amazon's net worth (the number of shares times the share price) was, in January, before its recent plummet, larger than Texaco's. It was also larger than all other publicly traded bookstores--including Borders and Barnes & Noble--put together.

The heights of idiocy to which well-intentioned machine-age modern architects ultimately ascended has never been more apparent to me than it was during last week's lecture by UW visiting professor Jeffrey Schnapp on the Italian architect Gaetano Ciocca. Working in the midst of the fascist era, this designer of stadium-sized theaters and visionary self-guided public transit systems (Seattle Weekly's Eric Scigliano, who's obsessed with a similar idea for monorails, would've loved him), later turned his attention to animal husbandry: pig farming, to be specific. Decrying pigs raised in the normal manner (wallowing in their own filth, eating all kinds of garbage whenever they want) as "flabby art deco buildings," Ciocca wanted to transform them into buildings by Le Corbusier. So he designed a "rational" pig sty, with individual stalls, feeding troughs which limited the pigs' food intake, and even toilets, which he forced the pigs to use. Only problem was, come slaughter time, his lean, elegant pigs only weighed about 130 pounds, some 90 lbs. less than the deco pigs' average of 220.

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