August 16th, 2001

Atacama

Bird-label

The Lingenfelder riesling was, by the way, nothing short of phenomenal. It's pretty clear that the winemaker is pals with Randall Grahm; he apparently helped out with the (incidentally very cute) label for the wine, and it tastes suspiciously like Bonny Doon's own Pac Rim riesling. Wonder if the German component of the Pac Rim is a Lingenfelder-grown wine? Anyhow, it was wonderful, it was tasty, and dammit, I would want another glass if it weren't 9 in the morning.

I've only walked into two wine shops so far - an Oddbins near Kew and the local Waitrose grocery store - but man, there is some interesting stuff lurking around here. My only complaint is that the UK seems to heavily tax sparkling wines; the same Segura Viudas cava reserva that cost $6 in California is £6.39 here in London. Not fair! If I hadn't already purchased an entire case of other wines from Majestic, I would certainly have tried Grahm's "Ptomaine des Blagueurs" at £3.99 (it's a French grenache with bizarre labelling to get around EU laws), etc. I've even spotted the Australian liqeur muscat that Dan, Matthew, and I enjoyed so much when we were here last November.

Anyhow, I'm not sure what I'm doing today, and that's fine. I think I'm going to just sit around reading until I get the itch to get up and move somewhere else. Yesterday, I bought a year's membership to Kew, so I can always hop the train there and then spend an hour or two walking around the gardens. Hampstead Heath is also very close by, so perhaps I'll check out the bathing ponds (it looks like it'll be warm enough to swim again today!). Who knows? It sure is nice to have the free time...

I'm also slowly getting ready to take off for Tbilisi on Monday. Yikes! I'm excited but also vaguely concerned that it's going to be a fiasco of some sort or another. Will the tour operator try to hire me prostitutes? Will I have spent $2,400 only to get virtually nothing in return? Will it be physically incredibly uncomfortable? Or will it in fact turn out to be one of the most remarkable trips I've made? I can't wait to see the run-down Black Sea resort of Batumi, actually, and its botanical gardens and tea and citrus plantations... but right now, I'm more concerned that I won't even be able to get a visa at the airport!
Atacama

Sweet young thing...

Waiting at Bond St station for the train to Southwark, I stopped at random along the platform to find myself staring at a Very Serious yuppie kind of person holding an overly full glass of white wine. "He's not as sweet as he used to be," the text ran; "neither are we." That's right, your friends at the German wine export advisory board or whatever the sixteen syllables of its name might translate to are out to get you to Start Swilling German Wine, Already. Yes, you may have gotten drunk on tooth-rottingly sweet Liebfraumilch when you were 19, but now it's time to own up to the hair loss, wear a smart sweater handcrafted by a Socialist crofters' cooperative on East Putney, and drink the new, "modern" German wines that are NOW ON OFFER at your local stockist's.

So... I popped in the Oddbins on the corner to have a look-see at what they had on offer. Lingenfelder Bird-label Riesling, 4.99. Dry, perfect, wonderful, but I repeat myself. And four other bottles of stuff that was either probably sweet (Kabinett, etc.) but overpriced, or not sweet (Spaetlese trocken) but from a German wine region I hadn't heard of (this was from someplace in the middle of the country I'd never heard of).

Nice that they have ads and all, but what's the point if you can't buy the stuff in an ordinary wine shop? For comparison, they had about ten New Zealand sauvignon blancs alone, and at least a dozen South African chenin blancs.

Oh well. If you'd like to check out their Web site, help yourself...
Atacama

Tank, check. Basketballs, check.

You'd never believe it, but not only was the Tate Modern crowded today, but much of it was inaccessible. Specifically, two workers were having a hell of a time trying to figure out how to assemble what (I think) must have been a Jeff Koons piece. They'd cordoned off an entire gallery, and off in the corner you could see an empty fish tank, three basketballs, and a metal cart with ten containers of liquid. Now, if it's formaldehyde, it's probably Damien Hirst, but if it's Koons, I don't know what it is. Grappa that's been passed by Cicciolina? New York City tap water? Whatever was in the containers, I'm sure that you had to somehow add it to the tank, and then do something with the basketballs. Now, I'm no art historian, but shouldn't most modern art come with detailed instructions for reconstruction when parts wear out? When Koons delivered his vacuum cleaners, neon tubes, and Plexiglas cases to the gallery, did he thoughtfully include spare dust filters for the vacuum cleaners? Spare neon tubes? Or did he just drop it off and say, voila, now you may deal with it? Do these people expect the eventual decay to be part of the thing itself, or do they want you to inflate the basketballs to a preordained PSI at regular intervals?

Speaking of decay, has anyone bitch-slapped Richard Serra recently? The Kroeller-Mueller Museum proudly noted that it had a Serra piece in its gardens, and lo and behold, it was yet another completely fucking ugly piece of rusting metal that had all the charm of the stench of piss in your average Greyhound station - what gives? Haven't people gotten tired of rusting pieces of metal? Has Serra ever done anything else? Sol Lewitt's tower thingy just down the path was much more interesting because I'd just spent ten minutes staring at a painting he'd done at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam just the day before... because I was so taken with the quality of his painting, I at least felt compelled to look at the shingled tower for a while, but Serra? Jesus Christ already.

If anyone would like to take on the taste of compiling a list of one-trick artists, I'd be delighted to see it. There should of course be a special section for one-trick artists who wound up being able to do other, equally impressive work later on (cf. Mike Kelly, rag dolls, and Tender Button).