Lunch with Felix Salmon, and then Gretchen Rubin

Or was it dinner?  He let me order and we ate at the excellent Sichuan Gourmet, on 39th between 5th and 6th.  Felix asked me who were the three greatest living contemporary artists.  Although we had never discussed this question before (and we had barely met before), we agreed immediately on picks #1 and #2 and required only a short while before settling the more difficult question of who should be #3.

Can you guess our picks?  I'll leave it to Felix to decide if and when to offer up our answers, whether on his blog or in the comments section here.

I also had an excellent lunch with Gretchen Rubin, covering the strengths and weaknesses of Judith Harris's The Nurture Assumption, people who have a "relentless" writing style, and what sells books and what doesn't. 

I have never once met a person whose blog I like and then been disappointed.  Never.


I worked on the same block as Sichuan Gourmet for two years and never ate there -- the menu doesn't meet my tastes. There's a great Iraqi place on 38th b/w 5&6 (Olympic Pita) which you should try next time you are in that area.

I will say that Sichuan Gourmet is significantly more excellent when Tyler orders than when he doesn't. I do hope he'll share his tips for ordering Chinese food in a situation like this one.

"greatest living contemporary artists": if they are living, how can you know that they are greatest? And what do you mean by "contemporary"?

I think the fact that you're both academics will dramatically change your answers, but given that the two of you agreed so quickly, and how popular classical music is among academics, I'm going to guess Yo-Yo Ma was one of them. I think you two were probably thinking along the lines of a very narrow definition of artist. Sculptors, painters, musicians, vocalists, actors, directors, and possibly comedians or architects. I doubt you considered fashion designers, costume designers, chefs, playwrights, makeup artists, dancers, acrobats, jugglers, marketing executives, animators, story board artists, cinematographers, promotion managers/planners, set designers, audio engineers, record producers, etc., etc. Needless to say, trying to pick a top 3 is nearly impossible when you have never even heard of the leading artists in 90% of artistic fields.

Two guesses: Jasper Johns and Gerhard Richter. Though that probably reflects my biases better than guesses at your choices.

1. Gerhard Richter
2. Jasper Johns
3. Kiki Smith

In that area, I think you would have done much better to go a few blocks south to 32nd and hit one of the great Korean places. The kim che jeon at won jo is well worth the trip.

As far as art, the best are less well known. Merrill Wagner and others have produced works
that I find much more powerful and durable than others mentioned here, such as Johns.

1. Mary Engelbreit
2. Sandra Boynton
3. Jasper Johns

Richard Serra should be on the list, if sculptors count. Banksky is also an interesting phenomenon.

Oh, how I wait with baited breath to know....please, please don't keep me at the edge of my seat any longer, Tyler. My god this blog is becoming little better than Tyler's love affair with himself and others like him. What's next: The five most under-rated Nepalese films? The top types of tweed? Which are the best five urban areas in each continent? It's getting nauseating in its pretentiousness.

I found Gretchen Rubin's blog through this one and read it for a while, but eventually found it tediously repetitive.

Do blogs have a natural lifespan? Is it better to update frequently even if that means you're repeating yourself, or to update only occasionally, when you have something to say?

mandelbrot should be on the top 3 best list independent of what the list is.

You do realize how foolish a question it is. I hope.

If you'd phrased it as "best known" or "most in demand" or "best marketing and promotion" it would make sense. But phrased as you have? No.

"I have never once met a person whose blog I like and then been disappointed. Never."

Sounds like somebody doesn't have RE...

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