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.