RIP Robert Downey Sr.

RIP Robert Downey Sr., 1936-2021

RIP to filmmaker Robert Downey Sr. who died today at 85. While probably most famous for being the father of Robert Downey Jr. (which kinda sorta necessitated the adding of “Sr.” to his name), Downey was a prolific writer, director, cinematographer, and actor. His most lasting work is the 1969 absurdist satire, Putney Swope. (You can watch the film here for free.) His 1972 surrealist Western Greaser’s Palace is also worth tracking down. (It’s playing free here as of now.)


I first learned about Downey’s films through the director Paul Thomas Anderson, who championed them. Downey had bit parts in PTA’s Magnolia and Boogie Nights (Anderson also named Don Cheadle’s character in that film “Buck Swope” — and lifted a chunk of Putney Swope for the Alfred Molina/ “Sister Christian” scene in Boogie Nights).

I’ll close with this clip of Downey talking riffing on films in the Criterion closet. I wish it was much longer:

Posted in Art

Sleeper — Michaël Borremans

Sleeper, 2008 by Michaël Borremans (b. 1963)

So, then, you noticed in a newspaper that If on a winter’s night a traveler had appeared, the new book by Italo Calvino

An excerpt from If on a winter’s night a traveler


Italo Calvino

Translated by William Weaver

So, then, you noticed in a newspaper that If on a winter’s night a traveler had appeared, the new book by Italo Calvino, who hadn’t published for several years. You went to the bookshop and bought the volume. Good for you.

In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn’t Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written. And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too. Eluding these assaults, you come up beneath the towers of the fortress, where other troops are holding out:
the Books You’ve Been Planning Top Read For Ages,
the Books You’ve Been Hunting For Years Without Success,
the Books Dealing With Something You’re Working On At The Moment,
the Books You Want To Own So They’ll Be Handy Just In Case,
the Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer,
the Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves,
the Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified,

Now you have been able to reduce the countless embattled troops to an array that is, to be sure, very large but still calculable in a finite number; but this relative relief is then undermined by the ambush of the Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Reread and the Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them.

With a zigzag dash you shake them off and leap straight into the citadel of the New Books Whose Author Or Subject Appeals To You. Even inside this stronghold you can make some breaches in the ranks of the defenders, dividing them into New Books by Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for you or in general) and New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown (at least to you), and defining the attraction they have for you on the basis of your desires and needs for the new and the not new (for the new you seek in the not new and for the not new you seek in the new).

All this simply means that, having rapidly glanced over the titles of the volumes displayed in the bookshop, you have turned toward a stack of If on a winter’s night a traveler fresh off the press, you have grasped a copy, and you have carried it to the cashier so that your right to own it can be established.

You cast another bewildered look at the books around you (or, rather: it was the books that looked at you, with the bewildered gaze of dogs who, from their cages in the city pound, see a former companion go off on the leash of his master, come to rescue him), and out you went.

You derive a special pleasure from a just-published book, and it isn’t only a book you are taking with you but its novelty as well, which could also be merely that of an object fresh from the factory, the youthful bloom of new books, which lasts until the dust jacket begins to yellow, until a veil of smog settles on the top edge, until the binding becomes dog-eared, in the rapid autumn of libraries. No, you hope always to encounter true newness, which, having been new once, will continue to be so. Having read the freshly published book, you will take possession of this newness at the first moment, without having to pursue it, to chase it. Will it happen this time? You never can tell. Let’s see how it begins.

Interiors (Skull) — Pavel Tchelitchew

Interiors (Skull), 1944 by Pavel Tchelitchew (1898-1957)

Late America 2 — Eric Fischl

Late America 2, 2020 by Eric Fischl (b. 1948)

Conceptual — Julio Larraz 

Conceptual, 2020 by Julio Larraz (b. 1944)

Seventh Cervical Vertebra — Matsui Fuyuko

Seventh Cervical Vertebra, 2007 by Matsui Fuyuko (b. 1974)

Reverie — Edgard Maxence

Reverie, c. 1918 by Edgard Maxence (1871-1954)

Compulsive Reader — Pablo Gallo

Compulsive Reader by Pablo Gallo (b. 1975)

The Beauty — Leonor Fini

The Beauty, 1974 by Leonor Fini (1908-1996)

The Last Song — Dragan Bibin

The Last Song, 2020 by Dragan Bibin (b. 1984)

Vision — Odilon Redon

Vision, c. 1883 by Odilon Redon (1840-1916)

Freedom 7 — Olivier Bonhomme

Freedom 7 by Olivier Bonhomme (b. 1986)

The Paleontologist — Paulina Olowska

The Paleontologist, 2019 by Paulina Olowska (b. 1976)

Wally’s Height — Terry Powers

Wally’s Height, 2018 by Terry Powers (b. 1987)

“All Things Decay and Die” — Robert Herrick

Interior, Sunlight on the Floor — Vilhelm Hammershoi

Interior, Sunlight on the Floor, 1906 by Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916)