Friday, October 19, 2007

Get ready. Oh-ate is coming.

Geoff Halber, one of Dwell magazine's senior designers spoke at the AIGA's 2007 design conference in Denver recently. Given only 60 seconds to present, and working under this year's theme, "Next," Geoff decided to put out a call to designer friends and friends-of-friends to make an '08 symbol. Geoff turned 60 designs into 60 frames. (Sorry about the ads at the end.)

The Black Bloggers Emerge or SILENCE IS NEVER GOLDEN

Attorney Wayne Bennett is representative of the growing group of black bloggers who speak a truth that may singe your white or, even, black ego. His blog The Field Negro is tough and honest. In today's post he is articulating his thoughts about the failure to override SCHIP. On Wednesday he gathered his thoughts about conservative blacks, "The Talented Tenth Wannabes."

"You can't be against a minimum wage increase or a fair living wage for workers. Not when some poor single mother is working at Wal Mart and earning $6 an hour, and Sam Walton's fucking daughter bought a 30 million dollar painting at some art auction in New York. You can't just blindly follow the NRA and their strict interpretation of the second amendment when kids are getting slaughtered in our streets on a regular basis. You can't support free enterprise and a total deregulation of businesses when environmental racism is killing your people in places like South Texas, and Mississippi. You can't oppose affirmative action programs, and minority business set asides, but turn around and rip black folks for not starting businesses in their own neighborhoods. ( You benefited from the same affirmative action programs that you now conveniently want to get rid of. I know I know, you guys are the smart ones, you didn't need affirmative action.) You can't oppose strong voting rights enforcement, but rip your own people for not being involved enough in the political process. And finally, you can't support the death penalty when you know that more than one innocent person has been put to death by the state because of a fucked up justice system."

At other times he addresses everyday quandaries and insult.

"Black people can we talk?" he wrote in May. "Why the. . . do you all talk so loud during movies? Seriously! If I drop 30$ to see a movie (I am adding the concessions in the mix) I want to watch that. . . in peace. I really don't want to hear your kids crying, your cellphones ringing, and exactly what you will be cooking for dinner when you get home."


"I swear, white people love their pets more than they love people. Seriously, they have clothes for their pets, gourmet food for their pets, exercise schools for their pets, they take their pets in their cars with them, they have pet hotels. . . . Ten people were shot to death this past weekend in Philadelphia, but that was still page two news here. Now I guarantee you, that if there were ten dogs shot all across the city, white people would be losing their. . . minds."

It is worth reading this LA Times article if you're interested in diversity on the web.

What to do with grief and sadness.

I picked up this quote from T.H White's Once and Future King. It is the wizard Merlin, who is speaking to "Wart", the future King Arthur, about what to do with his sadness.

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then--to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you. Look at what a lot of things there are to learn--pure science, the only purity there is. You can learn astronomy in a lifetime, natural history in three, literature in six. And then, after you have exhausted a milliard lifetimes in biology and medicine and theocriticism and geography and history and economics--why, you can start to make a cartwheel out of the appropriate wood, or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to beat your adversary at fencing. After that you can start again on mathematics, until is it is time to learn to plough."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The smack of irony

Secretary of State in a pensive moment w/flags.

Does anyone else enjoy the irony in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's condemnation of Putin and his ransacking of the Russian government?

"In any country, if you don't have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development," Rice told reporters after meeting with human-rights activists.

I think there is too much concentration of power in the
Kremlin. I have told the Russians that. Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the Duma," said Rice, referring to the Russian parliament."

She has "told the Russians that." Do they care?

This McClatchy Report quotes Michael McFaul, of Stanford's Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, a center for international studies, that is consistently conservative (Richard M. Schaife, a billionaire, Clinton tormentor, sits on the Executive Committee): "Bush and his aides grossly misjudged Putin..." One of Bush's aides is none other than Condi Rice, known academically as a "Russian expert." Being criticized by her own University must be painful. You have to wonder, though, how can they get everything so wrong?

Remember 2001 after his first meeting with Putin? Bush famously said he'd looked in the Russian leader's eyes, found him "trustworthy" and "was able to get a sense of his soul." If this omniscient insight weren't so gravely in error, it could be funny, instead it is just recklessly psychotic.

General Disgust

Tanks in the streets, Thailand Military Coup
19 September 2006

Fortunately for the United States, we have a loyal military. That said, am I the first to wonder just how close we may come to a military revolt, dare I say, coup, of sorts? Lt. General Ricardo S. Sanchez airs his thoughts. Snachez joins 19, other retired Generals who have blasted the government. I think this certainly constitutes, at the least, a revolt.

“There has been a glaring and unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders,” he said, adding that civilian officials have been “derelict in their duties” and guilty of a “lust for power.”

Things are feeling a little "brinky", aren't they?

Nobel Fashionista

Milan - Gucci - 2006

I needed some light hearted diversion today. I am grateful to my west coast stringer who alerted me to this wonderful LA Times parody. Writers Patrick Day and Todd Martens poke some gentle fun with a "Hit or Miss" fashion review of our 2007 Nobel Laureates. It makes me giddy to see the words "Nobel" and "fashion" in the same sentence. Hence the good fun. Enjoy.

All our hearts must be broken.

Relatives and loved ones of 12 U.S. soldiers attend a group burial with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The 11 men and one woman died in a helicopter crash in Iraq. (Getty Images / October 12, 2007)

I can't look at this picture without crying. There is so much I feel I can't control right now. But, this war on Iraq seems out of everyone's control. It just goes on wasting lives, cursing families. The grief will reverberate for decades in the lives of the families whose loved ones have died so miserably in a foreign land.

I propose that every newspaper and magazine in America produce one supplement every week that includes only photos of every military burial that took place that week for soldiers who have died in Iraq (and Pakistan). As a country we are shamefully passive about the destruction of the lives of Iraqi's who now number in the hundreds of thousands. It seems this knowledge alone would move us to revolt, but, it doesn't.

Maybe, if we could see the compounding of death to just our own soldiers, we might get up in arms---an American insurgency against this nightmare. But, these images of burials are few. We are protected from this suffering. We need many, many images, over and over, day after day until the hardened American heart breaks open---until an American insurgency takes root. We must stop this war. This warring. This mindless, unconscionable waging of death.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Autoerotic Mishap

The Rev. Gary Aldridge
I apologize. I cannot not post this.

Mission Accomplished

Jim Holt, a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine and the New Yorker, has written a piece in the London Review of Books. It nails the Iraq oil theory nicely (he must have been reading my blog!). Holt cogently lays out the middle east stew pot. He sums up why the administration must feel, behind closed doors, that it has been wildly successful. The US now sits on one quarter of the world's oil reserves. Now, if only everyone would cooperate. A worthwhile quote that sums it up:

"Iraq has 115 billion barrels of known oil reserves. That is more than five times the total in the United States. And, because of its long isolation, it is the least explored of the world’s oil-rich nations. A mere two thousand wells have been drilled across the entire country; in Texas alone there are a million. It has been estimated, by the Council on Foreign Relations, that Iraq may have a further 220 billion barrels of undiscovered oil; another study puts the figure at 300 billion. If these estimates are anywhere close to the mark, US forces are now sitting on one quarter of the world’s oil resources. The value of Iraqi oil, largely light crude with low production costs, would be of the order of $30 trillion at today’s prices. For purposes of comparison, the projected total cost of the US invasion/occupation is around $1 trillion

Who will get Iraq’s oil? One of the Bush administration’s ‘benchmarks’ for the Iraqi government is the passage of a law to distribute oil revenues. The draft law that the US has written for the Iraqi congress would cede nearly all the oil to Western companies. The Iraq National Oil Company would retain control of 17 of Iraq’s 80 existing oilfields, leaving the rest – including all yet to be discovered oil – under foreign corporate control for 30 years. ‘The foreign companies would not have to invest their earnings in the Iraqi economy,’ the analyst Antonia Juhasz wrote in the New York Times in March, after the draft law was leaked. ‘They could even ride out Iraq’s current “instability” by signing contracts now, while the Iraqi government is at its weakest, and then wait at least two years before even setting foot in the country.’ As negotiations over the oil law stalled in September, the provincial government in Kurdistan simply signed a separate deal with the Dallas-based Hunt Oil Company, headed by a close political ally of President Bush."

Sunday, October 7, 2007

China to the rescue.

Chinese police train at a military base in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province August 30, 2005.
By Herman47 at Flickr, August, 2005

The Washington Post exposes, yet, another humiliation for this Bush administration. Iraq is buying arms from China because we can't produce them quickly enough. The article could be used by some MBA study group as the foundation for a critique of all the ways a delivery system failed.

Meanwhile, General Patreaus has again insisted that Iran is providing Iraqi insurgents with arms. But, according to the latest count, 190,000 American-provided weapons are missing from the Iraq rosters. It looks to me like the primary provider of weapons to the insurgents is...the United States!

As far as China selling $100 million in arms to Iraq, maybe we could join the Iraqis and also purchase our arms from China. Since we are unable to arm our own troops in a timely fashion, let's get some help from the Chinese. They are more than happy to be of service. We'll just outsource everything.

By the way, where did Iraq get the $100 million for their arms purchase? Think about that for a moment.

Oil again.

The kiss of death

I feel compelled to keep posting about the oil situation in Iraq, since, as you may know, some people think that may be what the Iraq invasion was all about. It seems from this BBC news article that the Kurds went off the reservation. They have begun signing oil deals with western countries.

The "surge" was really about giving the government time to sign the legislation that would govern the Iraq oil industry and offer protections for investments. This agreement would serve to mandate how oil profits would be distributed between Sunni, Shia and Kurds. It would also stipulate that the oil industry would be privatized (taken from the Iraqi government) and run by western oil powers. So far the Bush administration can't get the Iraq government to sign it.

The bizarre complication of the Kurds signing oil deals without Iraqi approval or governing rules is just one more insane event in the Iraq debacle. Worse, one of the companies that the Kurds have signed agreements with is Hunt Oil of Dallas, Texas.

This CBS News article provides interesting background. Ray Hunt, the CEO of Hunt Oil, and a powerful conservative, is on the Board of Halliburton, is a key Bush fund raiser and sits on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. If anyone would know what a disaster it would be to have the Kurds independently signing away Iraqi oil it would be this insider, Ray Hunt. So WHAT is going on? Stay tuned.

No escape from the modern world

I am trying to catch up with some things I found interesting. This post by Audrey Tempelsman over at Dwell blog---always a great place to visit---is a few days old, but who cares?

Tempelsman's post concerns an exhibition that opened in London called Psychic Vacuum. The artist is Mike Nelson, a British sculpture. Sculptors do the damnedest things lately! It might just shake you up, and, as Tempelsman suggests, isn't that what modern art is all about? Sometimes I wonder.

Don't miss the slide show of eerie spaces in the exhibition. You'll have to cursor down the page to find the link. It is an amazing and deft construction.

Herbert Muschamp Dies.

Photo:Robert Maxwell for The New York Times
Herbert Muschamp in October 2006 in New York.

Herbert Muschamp, architecture critic for the New York Times, died October 3, at the age of 59 of lung cancer. He was an erudite man and an inspired writer and thinker. Here is the obituary providing some insight into Muschamp and quotes from his writing. I found his comments, included in the obituary, on his visit to the concentration camp in Dachau, uniquely evocative and moving. Here, also, is an Op Ed piece by Verlyn Klinkenborg offering appreciation for Muschamp. A quote from the Klinkenborg Op Ed:

"A lot of people argued with Herbert about his take on the world, and their argument with him often boiled down to the proposition that taste is not morality. I suspect that if you were talking about an ideal world, Herbert might agree. But in his own life, he saw that there was an Orwellian connection between taste and morality — that bad faith nearly always means bad buildings and that bad faith in our society is endemic."

For people who care about design, it was so helpful to have someone writing about it who was committed to it and actually addressed the value and the ethics of design without a slant toward political correctness. You might disagree with Muschamp, but you couldn't, ever, doubt his good faith. Just that, helps.

What to do?

I just found this list in my sticky notes. I can't remember where they came from. Perhaps someone else saw these and will remind me from whence they came. Until then, despite their occasional sentimental quality, I think they can help to refocus the wandering mind---the one that likes to get lost in trivial pursuits and those meandering narratives. Questions 16, 17 and 18 were probably submitted by Sally Fields, don't go there. Some are a little redundant. So OK some suck. Just pick one and work with it. Focusing, matters. Paying attention, matters. I'm just tellin' ya.


1. What do I want to accomplish today?
2. What is the most important thing I need to do today? (Do it first!)
3. Is this the best use of my time right now?
4. What am I trying to accomplish right now?
5. What can I cross off my list by deleting or delegating? What is not important?
6. What can I do right now to take the next leap instead of the next step?
7. Who can I learn from today?
8. Who can I thank today?
9. What am I grateful for?
10. How can I eliminate distractions right now?
11. What are my top 3 current goals?
12. What is most important to me in life?
13. If the my world was going to end within one year, what would I be doing right now?
14. What will I do today towards my major goals?
15. What action can I take instead of worry right now?
16. Who should I thank today?
17. Who needs some love today?
18. How can I be a kinder person today?
19. How can I have more compassion today?
20. What can I do right now to release negative energy in a positive way?
21. What can I do to let go of my anger?
22. How can I put worry on hold right now?
23. How can I choose happiness right now?
24. What can I do to slow down today?
25. What am I learning right now?
26. What beneficial routines can I start today?
27. What will I do, see, explore, or experience today that is new?
28. How and with whom can I partner today to make 1+1=3?
29. How can I be more compassionate today?
30. What will I celebrate today?
31. Where did I find Joy today?
32. What did I learn today?
33. How will I “pay it forward” today?
34. How will I make today great? How do I define great?
35. What can I stop holding/clinging to help me break free?
36. How can I let go with peace?
37. Who can I help today?
38. How can I add Peace to the world today?
39. What’s the most powerful thing I can do right now, today to increase my business?
40. What have I been avoiding that I can do today?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Bad, sad day.

Marion Jones confesses. After lying to her public and to federal investigators for over three years, Jones tells the truth, sort of. She still insists that she didn't know her trainer was giving her banned performance enhancing drugs. She thought it was "flax seed oil." Jones faces a jail term of six months. One could assume that she probably, finally, confessed because to continue to insist she is innocent in the face of overwhelming evidence, would mean a longer jail sentence. There seems to be little redemption in this one.

It is hard to sympathize given the scope of her fabrications. She even sued Victor Conte, founder of Blanco, the performance enhancing drug company, for millions of dollars, claiming slander and defamation. He testified that he saw here inject herself with the drugs. She has now dropped the suit. But, how devious of her.

It is hard not to feel sorry for her. However, I am afraid that four years of denial, when it was pretty clear there was a serious problem, stretched everyone's trust. She has few supporters remaining. It is very bad and sad.

Can someone please tell me how an athlete can be a doper and NOT get caught? Why does an Olympic athlete take these drugs? Aren't they always tested and found out? It seems to be a gamble with zero chance of success. I continue to be baffled.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Anthropolgizing the Military

What took so long?

Glenn Gould Anniversary

Just this video will give you some sense of Glenn Gould's amazingly touching understanding of the music he performs. There he is, bent over the piano, murmuring to himself in a state of wonder. He is playing Bach BWV 828 - 3 - Courante. Go to YouTube and play everything Gould. Buy his Goldberg Variations. Listen religiously.

Glenn Gould died 25 years ago at the age of 50. He remains the classical genius of the century. Here is a wonderful piece by jazz pianist Jessica Williams on Gould along with her thoughts on "dead music." Her appreciation of Gould helps to illuminate the broader understanding of his importance and gift.

Then there is this from Toronto, Gould's home town. "Could there ever be another Glenn Gould?" It is hard to imagine. And then, I offer again my own April post on Gould and that adorable picture of him at the piano with his teacher. This post helps to explain some of the techniques Gould used.

Recent conjecture that Gould had Asperger Syndrome, explaining some of conditions that might relate to his curious eccentricities, does nothing, in my judgment, to diminish the full wonder of his talent. Genius is funny stuff. Try as we might, there is no way to fully understand it. I have to believe that genius does not arise from the norm, but, rather, from the ability to escape the norm. Most of us are trying so hard to be normal, we haven't a chance at being a genius. It may be that an innate disregard, for whatever reason, of the worth of being normal holds the most promise for a stab at genius. Gould had no fear of his oddness, but neither did he champion it in any way. He just was who he was.

All of this is not to say that the mystery of genius or Gould is simple. It is baffling. But when genius is manifest, one doesn't think about its origins, just its presence and astounding poise.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Why Don't They Like Us?

Yesterday in the Washington Post Anne Applebaum offered an interesting conclusion as to why USA prestige in the world has declined. Hint: it has nothing to do with our bully tactics and arrogance.

"If you're really worried about Iran, do you want to put your faith in the United States, the country that bungled Iraq? If you really care about Islamic fundamentalism, do you want to be led by the country that, distracted by Iraq, failed to predict the return of the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan?

There are other factors, of course: As I (and many others) have written before, we've been bad at looking after our allies over the past five years, bad at thanking them or compensating them for military contributions to Iraq, bad at maintaining very basic aspects of public diplomacy, such as student-exchange programs. Still, NATO will not fall apart because our president has been rude to his German counterpart or a few Britons don't get scholarships. NATO will fall apart, however, if its American leaders are perceived as inept. And even if the surge works, even if the roadside bombs vanish, "inept" is a word that will always be used about the Iraq invasion."

The word for this American decade: inept. Which is putting it mildly!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Arms Sales to Deveoping Countries

The United States of America, bringing peace to the world, one gun at a time.

Monday, October 1, 2007


A closer inspection of this map here spurs many interesting thoughts. Primary among them, for me, was the realization that Iran's GDP is equivalent to the economy of Alabama! Alabama! Not to disparage Alabama, and for god's sake the Clemson Tigers, but, Alabama?

Isn't Iran the country that is going to become an unstoppable military power that is about to devour the Middle East? Isn't this the terrifyingly, powerful force that the administration feels it must carpet and fire bomb, now, before it becomes the new Germany/Hitler state of no mercy? How will Iran define the new world order with the budget of Alabama?!

Just imagine those 'Bama boys producing a massive armament program destined to change the world order on the back of their State economy. Evidently, Governor Bob Riley, who just announced that October is "Alabama Food Products Month," is unaware that October should be "Militarize Alabama Month." If he tried to militarize his state, according to the Bush/Cheney Better Business Evaluation Institute, Riley has the funds and brain power to do it. I guess he just lacks the Ahmadinejad chutzpah. If Riley dared to get that hairy-cheeked, Bush/Cheney Co would bomb Alabama back into the stone ages, which is where everyone thought Alabama damn well was.

Remember what we found in the Soviet Union once the walls came tumbling down? Nothing. That big fearsome RED giant, the communist terror that threatened our very existence, day after day, was impotent...a big bag of wind. The Soviet Union turned out to be a mediocre, blustering idiot.

How can we ever get to a reality-based world perspective? There are so many political purposes obscuring reason. Alabama? Oh, for gods sake.

She wins hearts and minds.

The NYT provides a glowing review for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Marin Alsop conducted the BSO for the first time this weekend in her role as Music Director. This review from the Times puts Baltimore even more assuredly in the upper tier of wonderful cities to live in.

Ms. Alsop has lived to survive the denigration and icy welcome from the BSO musicians, who wanted someone of higher caliber (male?) to lead them. What a joke. What chutzpah!

Baltimore is witnessing the rise of one of the great world conductors. I thank the gods for this magnificent, musical blessing for this dear city. Welcome Ms. Alsop!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The white myth.

My west coast stringer sends me this east coast lead. The Sackler Museum in DC has opened and interesting exhibition entitled "Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity." I have often heard that classical architecture and sculpture was vividly painted and breathtaking. Finally, two scholars have managed through UV light technology to recreate some of those classic pieces in their original colors. The sculpture of character Paris above is pretty dazzling. No?

"The sculpture and architecture of the ancient world was, in fact, brightly and elaborately painted. The only reason it appears white to us is that centuries of weathering have worn off most of the paint.

So entrenched has the association become between classical art and the look of white, unblemished marble, that the idea of an Athenian acropolis as colorfully painted as a circus wagon is difficult to imagine if not downright blasphemous. But now an exhibition at the Sackler Museum can help us envision what a color-drenched classical world might have looked like."

I think we moderns are going to look, by comparison, rather drab. The exhibition is opened until January 20, 2008. Go forth, colorfully.

Burman - Aung San Suu Kyi

Here is some background from the BBC and a biographical timeline from, on Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced "sue chee"), the leader of the Democracy Movement in Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi has been held in prison or under house detention for 11 of the past 14 years for her part in leading the Democracy Movement. She was winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Her story is compelling. Her equanimity, powerful.

If Burma had oil...

This from Burma.

"Security forces there have restricted the movement of Buddhist monks and locked most of the monasteries, "effectively barring the Buddhist clergy from marching on the streets in protest, the report said... In response, monks chanted words of "loving kindness," the report said." (Emphasis added.)

Loving kindness, metta, is the Buddhist's response to suffering.

Here are some photos from demonstrations around the world in support of Burma's Democracy movement.

If Burma had oil, the US would be in there in 24 hours. These people organically and spiritually identify with democratic governance, but we offer only words in their defense. We have not protected people who democratically elected a government that was subsequently imprisoned or murdered by the military junta. Instead, we are in Iraq where democracy is anathema, but oil is the prize. The hypocrisy of Bush's intention to spread democracy and freedom is heartbreakingly clear. For this administration, blood is shed only for a good capitalistic cause.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mass MoCA Mess

Of all the information I have read and comments I have received, this response from Tyler Green at Modern Art Notes sums up the Christoph Buchel and Mass MoCA dispute best. In brief, two wrongs make one big wrong. Here's my post in August, if you would like a little background.

Citizen's Quiz - Are YOU the right stuff?

In the event you want to prove your worthiness for citizenship, here in the left-hand column are ten of the most challenging questions on the redesigned naturalization questionnaire. Try them first. No cheating. After that encounter, look at the third choice in the left column. It is the full "Civics Test" with all the questions and answers. No yawning.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Burma and Metta

I was elated to see these words in this Burma photo today, and in English, no less. Monks, nuns and followers of Buddhist teachings repeat these words, or some version of them, throughout their day, throughout their lives. It is called metta. The closest definition of this word is "loving kindness." (See the link for a more thorough explanation.)

An important point is that no one is excluded from this idea, this giving. It is unconditional. All living beings and creatures are included. What I also appreciate about metta is that at anytime of the day or night there is some Buddhist somewhere in the world repeating some form of this simple phrase, sending out metta to everyone. I find this comforting and hopeful.

The practice of repeating the metta phrase also brings calm to the one saying it. Its repetition is intended to open one's heart to the suffering inherent in being human and bring the heart to peace. It is a hard practice, metta, simply because no one is excluded. Even your enemy, or maybe, especially your enemy, is offered metta. Offering loved ones and friends metta is easier. Picturing someone who is difficult for you and offering them this powerful "wish" takes practice. This simple way of being loving can actually be pretty arduous. Think about it the next time someone cuts you off on the highway and offer them these thoughts: "May you be well and happy. May you be free from harm and anger. May you be peaceful."

So the Monks, revered and loved, walked and repeated this phrase as they walked. They offered these words for everyone, including their hate-filled junta. As they were beaten, they were also repeating these words for those who were striking them. They offered these words because there is little else of importance. This kind of humility is hard for us to imagine, let alone accept.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Soothing the Soul

This is Krystian Zimerman playing two Gershwin preludes for an audience in Japan. I picked this up at Jessica Duchen's UK classical music blog. The blog is pretty wonderful.

Evidently, before KZ played Gershwin, he had a few words to say about the US and Iraq. We are doing so well internationally. Always referenced.


It is hard for me to write about the monks in Burma who are confronting the insane military junta. They are spiritual heroes to me and to all who follow Buddhist teachings. It is unimaginable that anyone would harm a Buddhist monk or nun. They practice only compassion. Here is a first person report on what is happening.

For me the monks are the epitome of gentleness and honesty. To imagine that they are threatened by the perversity of the junta is too, too difficult to imagine. That they are leading the Resistance movement means so much. They, like the monks in Vietnam in the 60s, are willing to sacrifice their lives for the well being of others.

The western world cannot begin to understand the purity of this commitment to others.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Capital Gains

This strange and creepy article featured in the NYT Travel section gave me a case of hee-bee-gee-bee, hilarious, nausea. Attached to this article is this multimedia show illuminating the most outrageously priced clothing a person could wear in any city. The clothing is worn by surreal models who truly capture the look of this stiff, humorless, deathly administration. Washington, the article coos, is now "hip." Read Bush RICH. (By the way, what's with the Louboutin shoes? Is there no end to the obscenity of luxury items? $1,245 for the "Bling-Bling Peep-toe shoes"?) With Bush, shopping is patriotic. And big shopping is very patriotic. I think this article, coupled with the multimedia show is an effective slam on the whole Washington aristocracy of Bush/Cheney Co. War fashion. The fashion of War.

Put this together with Glenn Greenwald's excoriation of Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and you have the full flavor of the loss effected by the slide into the sludge of privilege. Have I said enough? Enough.

Modern Architecture Fans meet MIMOA

Captioned: "Blink and Miss it" from MIMOA

MIMOA was started by two women in Holland, Mieke Vollings and "Naomi." It is an amazing offering for the modern architecture fan traveling in Europe. Everyone is familiar with the big names and big buildings. But these women wanted to exploit that delicious experience one has when they accidentally stumble upon smaller projects that move the spirit. So MIMOA was formed to provide a place to register and map your modern architectural finds for others to savor.

"It is the best source of information for your city trip in Europe with all Modern Architecture in one view. MIMOA shows Europe’s Modern Architecture on a map with the address and all additional information you need to actually find and visit interiors, parks, public places, buildings and bridges."

If modern architecture spurs your creative juices, and you are traveling to Europe, here's your best source for scouting. (Oh, yes, the big buildings are listed, too.)

Time for some serious thought.

OK, this video has partisan overtones. OK, it is a little dumb with the hip-hop sound bite. OK, using the same footage at least three times weakens its effect. OK. But, when you get to the end of the video and learn that Blackwater mercenary troops were disbursed to New Orleans to "fight crime" in the aftermath of Katrina (take note that this seems to be the only thing immediately and effectively organized before, during or after Katrina), you begin to think about this a little differently. Blackwater troops are being disbursed in American cities? Shout this question out your windows!! By Whom? Under what laws? Folks this is serious.

This administration came into office with a fierce agenda for privatization---schools, prisons, hospitals, highways, social security, health care, etc. If corporations are in charge in the privatized world, who is in charge of this privatized military? Apparently not our military. Put it all together and things look a little scarier...even.

I have found two definitions of "blackwater:" 1) any of several human or animal diseases characterized by dark urine resulting from rapid breakdown of red blood cells and 2) domestic wastewater containing human wastes. I'll leave you with that.

Time for some fun.

"Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) rebel Gabriele Pauli arrives for the New Year reception of the Bavarian government in Munich January 12, 2007. Bavaria's most glamorous politician -- a flame-haired motorcyclist who helped bring down state premier Edmund Stoiber -- has shocked the Catholic state in Germany by suggesting marriage should last just 7 years. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle."

the article about this jazzy dame.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This is What Democracy Looks Like

(image: Elaine Thompson/AP. Via YahooNews.)

I hadn't seen this photo anywhere. Here's the caption:

"A police officer begins to lift a weapon toward protesters as a presidential limousine drives past behind Monday, Aug. 27, 2007, in Bellevue, Wash. President Bush arrived Monday afternoon to headline a fundraiser for Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., just hours after the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez."

I found this photo over at BagNews, a site that analyzes the language and messages of current photography, particularly political photography. It is a cogent site that provides a means for evaluating photos in the news.

My "read" of this photo is the sense that we are just one trigger-happy police officer away from martial law. Because of the tenor of this administration, there is a 24/7, fear/hate mongering atmosphere. "If you're not with us, you're a traitor." It is hard to imagine what prompted the officer in Bellevue, WA, of all places, to raise his enormous gun (I read that it is actually 40mm grenade launcher, often used a a tear gas gun). When an officer raises his gun, isn't there the implication that the situation warrants severe action, that an officer doesn't raise his gun unless he is getting prepared to shoot. Otherwise, the gun stays at rest. And look at his eyes.

Here are some quotes from the comments section under this photo at BagNews:

"Not only are the "unfriendly" citizens not admitted to public events, to ask questions or even to be present in "unfriendly T-shirts or wearing a wrong color," but even in the streets the police protection of the ruler is following the rule, that these are not the times to protest, to raise voices, time to shut up!"

"I grew up in Bellevue. Last time I checked, it was so Republican that the NYT does not even offer home delivery. Had this shot been taken in Baghdad, it would more understandable."

Darcy Burner, Democratic candidate for this seat, narrowly lost in 2006. To match this fund raising visit by Bush, there was a huge online effort to donate to Darcy's campaign. Also, Darcy held a Virtual Town Hall, with this video invitation:

No doubt, the Secret Service et al. thought that might mean some sort of threat on the ground as well. The caption reads "protesters" but they are not shown.

YouTube has a number of videos, and this one by AuntBee09 captures the variety of law enforcement groups as well as protesters. Midway through it, as the Presidential motorcade speeds by, the police dispatcher says "The package is en route" several times."

What an iconic photo!

Turn, Turn, Turn.

This YouTube video of The Byrds singing "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better (When You're Gone)" on Hullabaloo in 1965, is a swift reminder of just how much the world has changed. Or maybe it's a good reminder that one cannot know when great change waits just ahead, when you are about to go over the brink into the unimaginable.

Look at those Go Go Dancers! Look at that choreography! Look at the whole stage set shaking! Look at them doing The Pony! Finally, I can say it: I do not miss this!

But, I must admit this period was one, wonderful, wild step into a new creative exuberance. Nothing compares to that brief, window of creative and optimistic energy. It was so unsophisticated, so unselfconscious in a surprising way. Look at it...the beaming, goofy energy of those dancers on black and white TV. They almost glow. The following year President Kennedy will be assassinated and the innocence will ebb from all those bobbing bodies. Then MLK. Then JFK. Then Vietnam. And worse. So when I think of that era, it is in comparison to where it all went. How dark it would get. How changed we would all be. Where we would arrive, today.

The Byrds biggest hits: Pete Seeger's Turn,Turn, Turn and Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man. Then there was the, at the time, controversial Eight Miles High. The Eight Miles High psychedelic video is hysterical. I believe you can select it from the thumbnails after the above video concludes.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Reports of seizures and vomiting.

OK. Already there are reports of seizures and vomiting when this design was unveiled. Here it is, yet another hideous design catastrophe: the London 2012 Olympics logo. I would have thought we could have trusted the British, the home of Pentagram Design and all. But, no. A disaster of this sort, causing not only seizures, but stink, comes too late in the history of design to be acceptable, or forgiven. If design were a government project, this would be the result. However, this design is not of the civil service. It is of commerce. May it rot.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Architecture as a force.

Interview Room, Secret Service Headquarters, Los Angeles

Richard Ross, a Professor at the University of California, has published a book entitled Architecture of Authority. Ross examines a spectrum of places that provide the visual expression of authority. The photos are powerful and some are gut-wrenching. In speaking of his photographs, with interviewer Nicole Palsuka, Ross says the following:

"I hope they all ask the viewers to judge where they exist and view themselves as potential participants. I hope the next time a person walks into the DMV or the principal’s office, or a police station, they understand how spaces are overtly constructed to socialize, herd, conform, or coax a certain behavior or obedience."

Follow this link to a sample of his photographs and scroll down to read his interview about the book. All images © Richard Ross.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

For the love of nuns.

The nuns are getting support by an astonished public.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Don't Ask!

It use to be that reporters called up government sources and asked questions of them and received answers. Here's the new way, in La Plata, Maryland:

"1. Submit your questions, in writing, preferably via e-mail, to Judith Frazier, La Plata's town clerk.

2. Frazier will forward your questions to the appropriate town official. She also will notify the mayor and all council members of the media inquiry.

3. By the next business day, Frazier will send the official's prepared response via e-mail.

If your question is prompted by something discussed during a Town Council meeting, don't think about asking an official when the meeting ends. Instead, send an e-mail to Frazier, and she will "strive to send the responses the following business day."

I guess this is the state of journalism in the Republican Age. Heaven forbid that an elected government representative would have to answer questions on the phone, or worse,directly at a Town Council Meeting. For this town in Charles County, Maryland with 8,500 residents to have a pompous little press policy of this nature is baffling. Maybe the city officials are just incompetents, unaware of or unable to communicate exactly what it is they are doing. They have to put their heads together with every question and come up with an answer! Tough work.

Can't anyone just say something any more? Must the press refrain from asking a question after a Town Council Meeting? What is a Town Council Meeting FOR? Does even this little town need to prepare "filtered" comments to the press? Is this going to spread?

If you have answers to any of the above questions, please submit them in writing to me no later than the next business day. (My staff prefers duplicate, hard copies. No email.) Please clear your answers through your press / marketing/ communication / executive / campaign staff prior to submission. Thank you and let freedom ring.

She's home!

Haleh Esfandiari at Evin prison, in Iran, shortly after her release.
She was reportedly quite sick at the time.

Readers know I have been following the imprisonment of Haleh Esfandiari in Iran. Esfandiari was imprisoned for over 100 days and then released to house arrest. Lee Hamilton, former Democratic Congressman and member of the Iraq Study Group, and now Director of the Woodrow Wilson Institute, where Esfandiari is Director of Middle Easter Studies, sent a letter that somehow moved the government to release her. Why his appeal worked, where others did not, is still a mystery.

In all, Esfandiari spent eight months under siege by the Iran government. This article will bring you up to speed. She agreed to be interviewed by CNN and that video is here. Although the interview is typical CNN cheese, it is good to see Esfandiari alive, well and very happy to be in her home.

The imprisonment of Esfandiari has sent a chill throughout the community of middle-eastern scholars. The force of terror, on all sides, is narrowing the possibilities in people's imagination. The shut down is pervasive.

Priests $660 million, Nuns $0

My "Stringer," on the west coast alerted me to this recent travesty. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is supposedly selling 50 of its assets to cover the recently announced $660 million settlement to resolve the sex abuses of their pedophile priests.

For 43 years, the Sisters of Bethany convent has served the many poor and undocumented residents of their parish. The Sisters received a letter from their archdiocese (because a personal visit would have been a lot of trouble) informing them that they are being evicted from the small convent house because the convent house is one of the archdiocese assets that is being sold to raise funds to cover the multi-million dollar settlement.

The nuns, not being fools, realize what their work and their home are being forfeited for:

"We're just so hurt by this," Escalera, the order's local superior, said this week. "And what hurts the most is what the money will be used for, to help pay for the pedophile priests. We have to sacrifice our home for that?"

The three nuns have four months to move out. WWJD?!

Shift Happens

This is an interesting video composite of what is being referred to as "cultural shift." (The music is a little annoying, but you can turn it down.) Not only are things beginning to shift, but they are shifting at an unimaginable speed. If you combine a viewing of this video with a visit to this collection of commentary videos here, (click "Explore the MEMEbase" and then select videos) you will begin to grasp the enormity of the processes going on around us. Hold onto your seats!

Thanks to SL in NYC for the heads up.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Strange beings.

Isn't this just the strangest photo. Ok, it is nighttime and the three are being illumined by probably huge klieg lights. They have landed in Anbar province at the hugely fortified air base; it is, perhaps, the only place they could set down where they would not have to wear flack vests during their photo op.

There are the three of them, disconnected from each other, Condi and Gates staring at the ground. They look very unhappy to be there. Condi is wearing spiked heels for god's sakes, in the desert, among soldiers. Bush is in his Kennebunkport sport coat, his hands hanging like dead hams. Gates is in his usual funereal black suit, white shirt and tie. And, there's those Hummers all set up in the background. Bee-u-tee-ful.

I feel they are about to enter the Disneyland of Iraq, where Sunnis are now the best friends of the USA. The best pals of violence and terror, of its own virulent Iraqi nature. How do these three people go on with there lives knowing all they know? All those secrets. All that falsehood. All that death on their hands, their minds. The sheer magnitude of the disaster.

Monday, September 3, 2007

She's coming home.

American scholar, Haleh Esfandiari has been released by the Iranians after seven months in solitary confinement, followed by uncertain weeks of house arrest. The "bail" to get out of prison was the mortgage on her 93 year old mother's home in Tehran. This post from last month fills out the story.

It turns out that it may have been Lee Hamilton, President of the Wilson Center, former Democratic Congressman and co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, who helped liberate Esfandiari. His plea to the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei received a response and Khamenei's pledge of commitment to try to resolve Esfandiari's case. One wonders why a plea becomes THE plea that facilitates action. Her story when she returns will be fascinating. Although, I believe that she will not embellish the narrative, to insure her mother's continued safety in Tehran.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

What I ate on my summer vacation.

AA Gill, the London Times food critic, is the best writer. He is out of control and precise at the same time. I wish I could say as much for myself. This recent column is a great read, especially the letter from the Smith family on dining at La Fourchette Folle, in Rubia, France, on their summer vacation. "Roubia has a population of 500 during the holiday season, falling to a population of two old ladies and a stray dog in the winter."

But before you go to the Gill's column, here is Gill on fungi:

"The best things I ate this summer were cooked in a truck-driver’s home in Tuscany. The first was a mushroom soup: glossy and thick as a mink muff, and darkly cunning with the mulchy, crepuscular flavours of the wood. Fungi have the most complex and dissembling tastes. Born of corruption, they are smooth and pale and pristine, but always a hair’s breadth away from gut-twisting murder. These ones were wild ceps, gathered from secret places and damp clefts."

This description is bettered by the review of Yakitori, the Japanese equivalent of tapas. Food lovers rejoice, rejoice.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Gustavo Dudamel

If you have not heard this name recently, you soon will. Gustavo Dudamel, a 26 year old prodigy, was recently appointed Musical Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which some argue is the best orchestra in the country. Gustavo Dudamel grew up in poverty in the interior of Venezuela. It is a story full of faith and conviction that you must read.

This wild performance is conducted by Dudamel with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, a whole story in itself. These young musicians, like Dudamel, come for the most part from desperate shantytowns of Venezuela, not the conservatoires of Vienna or Berlin. They are performing Leonard Bernstein's "Mambo" from West Side Story in London. Each musician has come to his or her music through a Venezuelan national program referred to colloquially as El Sistema. El Sistema now harbors over 270,000 young musicians and 220 youth orchestras performing from the Andes to the Caribbean. These children have been spared the horrors of the violent barrios through a process that Dudamel describes as "music as a social savior." It is an auspicious story and another one of the continuing signs of hope.

In speaking of Dudamel, acclaimed British Conductor, Sir Simon Rattle calls him "the most astonishingly gifted conductor I have ever come across." His young orchestra has even bettered seasoned European ensembles to record for the world's most prominent classical-music label, Deutsche Grammophon. Their North American tour will hit Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and New York in November. Good luck on those tickets!

Senator Larry Craig's Fallout

In the 90s I worked on a Senate staff. It was a tremendous, reality-based experience that I won't belabor here. My thoughts, over the impending Craig resignation, among other things, go to the junior staff. Junior staffers don't get paid much, so they struggle to get by while doing the work of their Member's bidding which ranges from significant (replying to constituent mail and requests) to embarrassing (picking up your Senator's cloths at the cleaners).

The young, junior staff, tend to live shoe-horned into apartments with four or five other people because the living space is so expensive in the District. The junior staff work ten to fourteen hour days with little recognition. Because of their schedules and poverty, they tend to eat poorly. Many meals are grabbed at evening social affairs thrown by lobbyists where food and drink is free. Juniors haunt these events in search of food, some of which goes into purses and pockets for the next day. It is a somewhat ridiculous life lived for the glory of being close to the power of politics.

To wake up to find that you will soon be jobless because your (now powerless) Senator has been arrested in a gay sex sting in an airport men's room is the final insult, not to mention, shock. Some staffers will stay to transition the next Idaho Senator into office. Their tenure is iffy, at best, as new Senators want their own staff at their side. Some will segue to a barista position at Starbucks, some will luck out and win a position on another Senate staff, some will head back to mom and dad's house to recoup.

There are thousands of these college grads working in Congress. They are the flotsam and jetsam of a Senator's or Congress person's entourage. They are as disposable as paper cups. They are as resilient as Styrofoam peanuts. They will all be fine, but it is a god-awful spot to be put in.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ballet Montage?

Ok. There is an 18 year old in Brazil who loves ballet and Caetano Veloso. S/he calls her/him self "thepraddo." S/he has found footage of Larisa Lezhina dancing Diana and Acteon, Pas de deux, composed by Cesare Pugni and choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev, and laid under the video Caetano Veloso (you know how I love this guy) singing Patricia. It is a funny and sweet. And it is astonishing how well the movements to the classical Diana work with the popular Brazilian hit Patricia. And then there are all those Nureyev leaps!

Two Years After Katrina

It is difficult to fathom the the mind-set of the Administration. We know its political thinking is based on the desire to flush government down the toilet and let market forces and the military determine the future of human life. But, it is the cruelty of their politics that infuriates. Here's what Bush said when he finally showed up in NOLA:

"Tonight I also offer this pledge of the American people: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives. And all who question the future of the Crescent City need to know there is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again."

The following is an excerpt from a post at The Daily Dish:

"Two full years after the hurricane, the Big Easy is barely limping along, unable to make truly meaningful reconstruction progress. The most important issues concerning the city's long-term survival are still up in the air. Why is no Herculean clean-up effort underway? Why hasn't President Bush named a high-profile czar such as Colin Powell or James Baker to oversee the ongoing disaster? Where is the U.S. government's participation in the rebuilding? And why are volunteers practically the only ones working to reconstruct homes in communities that may never again have sewage service, garbage collection or electricity?

Eventually, the volunteers' altruism turns to bewilderment and finally to outrage. They've been hoodwinked. The stalled recovery can't be blamed on bureaucratic inertia or red tape alone. Many volunteers come to understand what I've concluded is the heartless reality: The Bush administration actually wants these neighborhoods below sea level to die on the vine."

A report from the Institute of Southern Studies gives some details:

"Although it's tricky to unravel the maze of federal reports, our best estimate of agency data is that only $35 billion has been appropriated for long-term rebuilding.

Even worse, less than 42 percent of the money set aside has even been spent, much less gotten to those most in need. For example:

* Washington set aside $16.7 billion for Community Development Block Grants, one of the two biggest sources of rebuilding funds, especially for housing. But as of March 2007, only $1 billion -- just 6 percent -- had been spent, almost all of it in Mississippi. Following bad publicity, HUD spent another $3.8 billion on the program between March and July, leaving 70 percent of the funds still unused.

* The other major source of rebuilding help was supposed to be FEMA's Public Assistance Program. But of the $8.2 billion earmarked, only $3.4 billion was meant for nonemergency projects like fixing up schools and hospitals.

* Louisiana officials recently testified that FEMA has also "low-balled" project costs, underestimating the true expenses by a factor of four or five. For example, for 11 Louisiana rebuilding projects, the lowest bids came to $5.5 million -- but FEMA approved only $1.9 million.

* After the failure of federal levees flooded 80 percent of New Orleans, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers received $8.4 billion to restore storm defenses. But as of July 2007, less than 20 percent of the funds have been spent, even as the Corps admits that levee repair won't be completed until as late as 2011.

The fact that, two years later, most federal Katrina funds remain bottled up in bureaucracy is especially shocking considering that the amounts Washington allocated come nowhere near the anticipated costs of Gulf rebuilding.

For example, the $3.4 billion FEMA has available to recover local public infrastructure would only cover about one-eighth of the damage suffered in Louisiana alone. But this money is spread across five states -- Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas -- and covers damage from three 2005 hurricanes, Katrina, Rita and Wilma."

While George W. Bush celebrated John McCain's birthday, this administration left people to die in the days after Hurricane Katrina. Now it is leaving the city of New Orleans to die."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Brotherly Love

Medieval times are often referred to as the Dark Ages, although there is a considerable body of information developing that points to the period as being not so dark, with a generous amount of the period (11th to the 13th centuries) providing the civil society and creative energy that launched the Renaissance.

Allen Tulchin of Shippensberg University in Pennsylvania writes in the September Issue of the Journal of Modern History that there is historical evidence that during the Medieval period there existed the arrangement legally referred to as "affrerements" between men. These were sanctioned civil unions in which each man pledged "un pain, un vin et une bourse" (one bread, one wine, one purse) before a notary and witnesses. Here's the news.

One wonders, of course, what options women may have had. I guess that requires a further study...with the usual grim findings. I think we would find that the women had no "purse" to share and therefore could not, like the men, establish the security of a sanctioned union. Just my guess.