This Week in Photography: Feeling Lucky

 

Here’s a little secret: Donald J. Trump is a fake tough guy.

A fugazi.

 

 

I understand he’s tall, and tall guys have a different path in life, so that must have gone to his head.

But given his obesity and age, many of us could beat the shit out of him, if he didn’t have all that Secret Service protection.

He talks like a tough guy, and squints like a tough guy, but like many a bully before him, it’s all bark, no bite. (Assuming he doesn’t launch a Civil War between now and January 20th.)

 

Now that he’s lost, few things will give me more pleasure than not having to write about him all the time.

Or think about him.
Or talk about him.

With any luck, he’ll fade from the media firmament, allowing the rest of us to focus on more important things, like saving the planet, or discovering the perfect show on Netflix. (The Queen’s Gambit?)

Frankly, I think just like Trump was playing a successful business executive on TV, he’s spent his presidency pretending to be Clint Eastwood, circa the 70’s.

I love Clint Eastwood, sure, and his Spaghetti Westerns are some of the best art of the 20th Century. (Though he owes a lot of that to Sergio Leone, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, and Ennio Morricone.)

As to the “Dirty Harry” films, the ones that obviously inspired Trump, (as did those of Charles Bronson,) they are far more problematic, when seen from a 21st Century vantage.

I like them, (though I saw them ages ago,) but the overt racism, and denigration of the counter culture, make Old Clint look like a white-guy-marauder, swinging his big gun around liberal San Francisco, cleaning up the mess on behalf of respectable society.

Take his most famous clip, for instance.

“You’ve got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do you punk?”

Everyone over 40 knows that quote, but how many of you have seen the scene?

Big Clint stands over an African-American criminal, (with a nefarious mustache,) and threatens to shoot him, if the prone man reaches for his shotgun.

Clint has his 44 Magnum, of course.

But the big question is whether he has any bullets left, after the broad daylight, while-eating-a-hot-dog, shootout in downtown SF.

Does he?

Did he shoot five, or six shots?

So the African-American criminal is laying there, being threatened with having his head blown clean off, and he has to wonder?

It is worth the risk?

5 or 6?
6 or 5?

One number is lucky, the other means death.

So he decides NOT to take his chances, surrenders, and only then does he get Clint to admit it was a bluff.

The gun was empty.

All talk.

(Sound like anyone we know?)

Was he actually lucky then? By rolling the dice on staying alive, he wins, right?

Or was he unlucky to get shot in the first place?

How do we define luck, given that we all supposedly know what it means?

Just last night, on Twitter, I described #2020 as a kick in the balls, which it certainly has been.

But the early stages of the pandemic, with its attendant lockdown, allowed me to figure out my wife had clinical depression, and now, 9 months later, she’s healthier and happier than she’s been in years?

Was it good “luck” that the world fell apart, so I could save my family?

I really don’t know how to answer that question.

Is luck just chance by another name?

Was I lucky today, when I decided rather than opening a new book box, to stare at my book shelf and see if anything jumped out?

Because I plucked the very yellow “El Libro Supremo De La Suerte,” by Rose Marie Cromwell, published by TIS books in 2018, and it was just right for today.

Why is that luck?

Well, I’ve tried to review this book no less than 4 times before, as I met Rose at a festival in Virginia in 2010, and respect her artistic practice, but each time, I couldn’t sort it out.

The project was shot in Cuba, between 2009-16, and even though Rose is bilingual, and did lots of good work with youth in Panama over the years, it still read like a “Cuba” book to me.

Maybe a bit weirder than the norm, but there is so much “Cuba” out there, and we all know it.

So why today?

What changed, other than my luck?

I guess I figured the book out this time, which I wasn’t able to before.

And as you might have surmised from the book’s title, and my generous-length lede, it’s a book about luck, as the subject is a form of lottery that is played in Havana, called La Charada.

The book explains that in the hand-written-font-opening-statement, but previously, I blew past that and just saw Cuba.

Not this time.

The book is broken into sections, each matching up with a lottery number, and the subject to which it is attached. (Like old whore, or dark sun.)

The book, which is creatively constructed, (in addition to its noticeable cover,) with plenty of half-pages, feels non-linear.

Poetic.

Maybe even just the slightest bit occult, with the chicken feet, dark corners, and sense of ritual. (Like the two men buried in the sand, intertwined.)

Obviously, I got lucky today, as I needed a book to write about, and this presented itself. In the past, I wasn’t up for the challenge of understanding it, so I chose to pass, trusting that only 5 bullets had been discharged.

Thankfully, I got over myself, stood tall, and was able to appreciate this cool project for what it has to offer.

To purchase “El Libro Supremo De La Suerte,” click here 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please contact me directly at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by women, and artists of color, so we may maintain a balanced program. 

Jonathan Blaustein

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