Provincetown and Thoughts on Art




Various Locations

Provincetown, Massachusetts


Any trip out of your normal loop yields opportunities to view art that is new to you–even when the subjects are familiar. 




A recent trip to Provincetown afforded some viewing pleasures. I spent part of a rainy morning at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM). It’s a compact facility with a small permanent collection and relies on special exhibits to fill out its tourist season. The exhibits come and go, but I saw a now-closed photography show that’s emblematic of the sort of below-the-radar programming done by PAAM and analogous vest pocket museums. It featured the work of Rowland Scherman (b. 1937), one of the first Peace Corps shutterbugs. He is best known, though, for album covers, music shots, and images from the 1960s.




I admit to having mixed feelings about the sudden spate of images pertaining to the 1960s for what they imply about an overemphasis of Baby Boomer expression in American culture, but there’s no denying Scherman’s eye or his crisp darkroom work. Scherman captured the changing of the guard heralded by the exuberance of The Beatles in their mop top phase, and the contrast between the youthful visage of John F. Kennedy and the rumbled, thinning-hair gaze of Lyndon Johnson. It’s how we always think of them–JFK the kid and LBJ the old man, though Johnson was only 9 years Kennedy’s senior. Scherman shows how the camera can document, as in an iconic shot of the Washington Monument looming over the Reflecting Pool crowd as Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Yet Scherman also shows how the camera can mislead. He also made Pete Seeger look youthful, though he was just two years younger than Johnson. It’s all how you frame it, friends.




The PAAM had a few familiar artists on display, like Jaspar Johns and Robert Motherwell, but I enjoyed seeing works from those whose names were new to me, such as Agnes Weinrich, Nanno De Groot, and Charles Hawthorne, and a handful whose names are lost even to the staff. Alas, it’s not unusual for wonderful artists to work in near or total obscurity. Just ask 

Vincent Van Gogh! 


Agnes Weinrich  

Charles Hawthorne          

Nanno De Groot




P-town is also a great place for public and street art. I’ve posted Alice in Wonderland and other fanciful images in the alley beside Shop Therapy before, but here are a few others that caught my eye. The moral of the story is keep your eyes peeled when away from home. You never know what you’ll stumble upon.





Rob Weir   


The Card Counter: Disturbing and Brilliant



Directed by Paul Schrader

Focus Features, 112 minutes, R (language, nudity, violence, drinking, drugs)





This is a brilliant and stylish film seen by few. It is disturbing and reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s 1976 masterpiece Taxi Driver. That’s not coincidental; Paul Schrader wrote the screenplay for Taxi Driver and Scorsese is the executive producer for The Card Counter. The latter is also violent and has rough language, nudity, and substance abuse, but that’s not why audiences avoided it. Word got out that it committed a far greater sin by taking down cherished American myths.


The first of these is that Americans are global good guys; the second is American soldiers are heroes. Abu Ghraib provides the deep background for a film that is also about games of chance. The odds are much better, though, for William Tell who sees cards, remembers them, and calculates odds with computer-like probability. It’s illegal to count cards in casinos, but Tell knows that the key to avoiding scrutiny is to balance losing a little and only winning modest amounts. Do that repeatedly and you can make a lot of money.


Schrader both directly and indirectly blows the cover off another myth. When things go awry, many find it comforting to pretend all is well, but bad people take advantage. In Schrader’s world, we reap what we sow. Once upon a time, the only place one could “cheat” a casino was Las Vegas. Then came Atlantic City and the opening of the floodgates. Tell stays off radar screens by never staying in casino hotels and working casinos from coast to coast. He and others like him aren’t gaming the system; the system created them.


How does one learn to count cards? It helps to have a lot of time on your hands and “Tell”–actually William Tillich–spent 8 ½ years in a military prison and came to enjoy its regimen. His crime? He was one of the guards at Abu Ghraib whose faces were caught in photographs. They were the ones who were charged when the shit hit the fan instead of being smeared on Arab bodies. The officers who gave the orders and egged them on got off scot-free. When World War Two ended, numerous lower-ranked Nazis claimed they were just following orders. That didn’t fly, but Tillich/Tell can identify. He was selected by Major John Gordo (Willem Dafoe) to break Abu Ghraib prisoners and became so expert at torture and “enhanced” interrogation that he too was broken and became a monster.


Now he is a calm man who lives an aesthetic life and bilks casinos and poker players. Two unexpected individuals come into his life, the first a slacker named Cirk Baufort (Tye Sheridan), who finds Tillich because he served with his father at Abu Ghraib, before becoming a druggie and killing himself. Cirk wants Tell to help him take revenge on Gordo. Till has other ideas, mainly saving Cirk from himself and rescuing him from his rootless lethargy. Till is also spotted by the alluring La Linda (Tiffany Haddish) who knows he’s a card counter. She runs a “stable” that wagers money fronted by wealthy backers who use gamblers as a low-risk way to increase their riches.


The Card Counter has been called a “revenge” film, but that’s way too simple. It could just as easily be called a redemption film, or one poised between salvation and perdition. Schrader pulls out lots of Taxi Driver stops: people caught up in things bigger than they, wet streets and lights that dissolve into pixels on steroids, moral ambiguity, the glitter-disguised trappings of seediness, neon piercing nighttime skies, and time fragmented via a mix of torpid scenes and those at time-lapse speed. When Abu Ghraib memories are spliced in, they are made more nightmarish via fisheye lenses and hazy shots that give the illusion they’ve been captured by spy cameras. Schrader also interjects subtle propaganda, like a Ukrainian poker player whose gang chants “USA! USA! USA!” whenever he wins.


I won’t try to tell you that The Card Player is anything other than a tough film. I will say, though, that feeling shattered is redemptive if you cogitate upon the moral lessons Schrader is trying to convey. We’d like to believe all broken things can be fixed. Maybe.


Rob Weir


Verity is Truly Bad!


VERITY (2021)

By Colleen Hoover

GCP Hachette Group, 314 pages.




Verity is the sort of book you rip through but feel guilty for liking. My conscience is clear. I hated it! It’s what you might come up with if you pulped Jane Eyre in your blender with some trashy 21st century Harlequin romances and Fifty Shades of Grey. You could, though, amuse yourself by enumerating the number of contrivances and cliches that appear upon its pages. 


An unknown writer, Lowen Ashleigh, is called upon to “collaborate” with Verity Crawford, a hugely popular author. Like that would happen. The collaboration is a ruse as Verity lies in a vegetative state in the Vermont lakeside home she shares with her husband and their son Crew, their only surviving child. Their twin daughters died in separate accidents and Verity is probably brain dead from a car accident. Or, is she? What’s true and what’s not lies at the heart of the book.


Well... maybe that’s not right either. Much of the book is devoted to what appears to be an autobiography/confessional from Verity unearthed by Lowen. A lot of it consists of graphic descriptions of Verity’s sex life with Jeremy. She’s apparently quite adept at oral sex and Jeremy has such porn star endurance that Verity’s teeth marks are on the master bedroom headboard. Which, of course, is why a grieving father/husband would invite a stranger to use that space as a guestroom as she seeks out notes Verity might have left behind concerning the next three installments of her book series. Lowen—an unknown, I remind you—has a half million good reasons to do a good job. That’s her payout if she delivers Verity-like novels before the world discovers Verity is actually a potted plant.


Still another device: Lowen is a mess who has been evicted from her New York City apartment, lacks self-confidence, is a recluse, and spends her days imagining it is she who is enjoying Jeremy’s sweaty bod. Oh, and she’s a city girl in Vermont and during her time in the Crawford home is so out of place that she welcomes a trip to McDonald’s. (For the record, both Grubhub and DoorDash know where Vermont is located.)


During Lowen’s time in the Green Mountain State she never writes so much as a sticky note. She does, however, have either a very vivid imagination or something exceedingly creepy is happening in a McMansion that really ought to have a few Queen Anne turrets, preferably one or two scorched by lightening bolts. Lowen has a history of sleepwalking because, of course, she does. She is sure, though, that she has seen Verity out of her bed staring at her, once with a knife. Lowen is also sure that Verity offed one of the twins.


I’ll bet you know what happens between Lowen and Jeremy. Was this book approved by the American Dental Association? Are headboards particularly good for incisors? Maybe. Seems to work for beavers.


The novel’s central mystery hinges on whether what we read is what happened or merely a novelist’s exercise called antagonistic journaling. Everything is revealed in a from-the-grave letter. If you’re curious, you could easily skip the entire book and head for that last chapter. Short of recycling, I’d recommend that.


Hoover’s style practically begs for descriptors such as histrionic, overwrought, implausible, and prosaic. The book blurbs tell us that Hoover is a New York Times #1 best-selling author. From this we can only deduce that New Yorkers aren’t nearly as sophisticated as they think they are.


I’ll give Verity credit for one thing, though; it has high camp value. But if it’s ever assigned in a literature class it is my fervent hope that the professor is denied tenure.


Rob Weir