Pablo’s Parting Gifts

The press is reporting that 271 previously unknown Picassos have been discovered in the possession of a retired electrician and his wife.  The electrician, who performed work for Picasso and his wife, says that he received the artwork as gifts from Picasso’s second wife.  Others are skeptical of that story and think the pieces may have been wrongfully acquired.

Russell's bedroom wall portrait of PicassoThe new discoveries include drawings, sketches, lithographs, cubist collages, and portraits.  The pieces apparently were created during the period from 1900 to 1932.

Picasso was famously quirky, so maybe he and his wife did decide to part with his artwork as appreciation for good electrical wiring work.  In any case, it’s interesting to think that so many previously unknown works could be uncovered more than 35 years after Picasso’s death.  I’m sure Picasso experts are eager to get a look at the new pieces.  And, perhaps most importantly, this story gives me a welcome reason to post Russell’s colossal painting of Picasso’s head, which appeared suddenly on the wall of Russell’s bedroom here at the house one day and has been like part of the family ever since.

Federal Pay Freeze

President Obama has called for a two-year freeze on the salaries of some federal workers.  If the proposal is approved by Congress, it is estimated that it will save $5 billion during that two-year period.  Unless a freeze is approved, federal workers would automatically get a pay increase (!) as a result of a 1990 law.

Everett Dirksen

Republicans have said that the President is just hopping on board a proposal that Republicans made months ago, and others are criticizing the pay freeze as a drop in the bucket when compared to the budget deficit.  I don’t care who gets credit, I’m just glad to see that the President is focused on deficit reduction as a worthy goal, and I hope Congress agrees.  And as for the size of the savings, I’m hoping that the pay freeze proposal will be the first of a long series of deficit reduction initiatives that will include things like actually cutting the head count in the federal workforce, eliminating unnecessary agencies and departments, lopping off programs that we can no longer afford, eliminating ill-advised subsidies, limiting the size of congressional staffs, restricting congressional travel, and many, many others.  (I’m simply mentioning these as examples; I think there are lots of places where cutting should occur.)

When it comes to deficit reduction, I’m a big proponent of the wise words attributed to former Senator Everett Dirksen:  “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money.”  We shouldn’t throw up our hands because no one bit of belt-tightening will result in a balanced budget.  Instead, the focus should be on taking a number of spending reduction steps that will cumulatively have that ultimate desired effect.

Goodbye, Frank

Actor Leslie Nielsen has died at the age of 84.  It is a real loss for anyone who enjoys movie spoofs and broad comedy.

Neilsen had a long career as an actor that included playing a stalwart astronaut on Forbidden Planet and the captain of the ill-fated cruise ship in The Poseidon Adventure.  He really didn’t come into prominence, however, until he was featured as the doctor in the classic Airplane! In that role — where he spoke the memorable line “And don’t call me Shirley!” — Nielsen perfected a deadpan comedic style that was well suited to the parody-type movies that made him a star.  He went on to star in the TV series Police Squad! where he first played Lieutenant Frank Drebin.  After the series was canceled, Nielsen played Drebin in three excellent Naked Gun movies.  Thanks to Nielsen’s deft comedic timing and talent for physical comedy, Drebin became an iconic character who was a kind of combination of Buster Keaton and Inspector Clouseau.  Although Nielsen went on to make many more movies, none returned to the level of Airplane! and the Naked Gun films.

Airplane! is now generally regarded as one of the best movie comedies ever made, but my favorite Nielsen movie is The Naked Gun 2 1/2:  The Smell of Fear, which featured Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson, and Robert Goulet as the bad guy.  The clip below aptly captures both Nielsen’s comedic skills and the nuttiness of the series.  Leslie Nielsen will be missed.