Beautiful Sound: Bang and Olufsen Opens High End Store for Wealthy

Danish flagship launches with champagne in richest zip code

Space age design combined with transcendent clarity

Design to mollify wives and fit sky high apartments

No doubt you, a discriminating high end consumer, already miss Rizzoli, as we do. That marble and polished wood bookstore on 57th Street just East of Fifth temporarily closed last week, because its brownstone will now be replaced by yet another nondescript steel and glass tower with, we presume, a Duane Reade on its ground floor.

Keeping up the standard: an Aston Martin parked outside struck a suitable note as it prepared to show off its BandO player.

But since we are talking of vanishing traditional luxury stores for the aesthetically discriminating, how about a new one reborn from that otherwise bygone era of music when you could actually see and touch high end audiophile equipment (aaah yes…turntables! cartridges! shelves of LPs! giant woofers! six foot tall Magnepan speakers! divorce!)?

Denmark’s storied Bang and Olufsen is not only still around with its space age styling and exquisitely clear sound but the company’s presidents (US and Copenhagen) cut the red ribbon last night on a new US flagship on 58th Street, suitably located just across from another toystore, FAOSchwarz. Parked outside was a shiny maroon Aston Martin fitted with with a Bang and Olufsen sound system.

Monica Gartner occupies virtual reality overlooking an assortment of small BandO phones and radios as the press waits for the inaugural speeches

Slim blonde Monica Gartner head of PR welcomed the packed press preview crowd as they scoffed their tiny turkeyburgers and chocolate strawberries with champagne amid internet age designs both tiny (earbuds, earphones, ultra small speakers) and vast, but somehow still fairly discreet (sculptural speakers, inch thick black wall screen TVs, wirefree woofer on floor). She introduced tall, bronze, dynamic Kathy Thornton-Bias, newly the US president poached from running MOMA’s retail side.

Cutting the ribbon to launch a new era of living space sound in the richest zip code in the country

US president Kathy Thornton-Bias chatted to the press after cutting the ribbon to open her new "baby"

Kathy said the new store felt like her new baby and was designed so that passers by would be helplessly intrigued by the sight of the minimalist sonic hardware and come in to hear and touch it. She introduced Tue Mantoni, BandO’s equally ectomorphic CEO who had flown over specially from Copenhagen, who said that once customers touched and heard his sonic artwork they were sold.

Tue Mantoni flew over from Denmark especially for the occasion, facing the press with no sign of jet lag

The tall Dane stepped aside for a speaker showoff which met with spontaneous applause when the final pair of the largest reproducers magically emerged like spiky golden and silver servants of sound from dumb waiter doors in the black side wall and genuinely impressed the crowd with their extraordinary clarity.

Kevan Pickens of The Golfer and Stephen Robson of Kuberan Capital were among the distinguished guests

Kevan Pickens of The Golfer and Stephen Robson of Kuberan Capital were among the distinguished guests

Scott Foreman a salesman said that a typical audio set up might cost around $25,000, which certainly fits in with current economic trends whereby the middle class is joining the lower classes in penury leaving the rich as the only consumers available to support economic expansion.

Headphones to allow access to the same sound quality at a more modest fee were $400.

Circles and planes are emphasized as design elements by BandO's Scandinavian designers and give their minimalistic equipment an enduring space age look

Circles and planes are emphasized as design elements by BandO’s Scandinavian designers and give their minimalistic equipment an enduring space age look

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Italian Prisoners Revive Crushed Spirits Through Acting – Photos by Clara Vannucci

Remarkable portraits by young Italian photographer at Italian Cultural Institute

Roles in Theater Liberate Hardened Criminals in Enlightened Program

Free To Roam Cafes Before Performance, None Flee

Clara Vannucci’s images record the spiritual liberation accorded Italy’s Volterra prisoners when they play different roles on stage

What’s the best way to rehabilitate hardened criminals? A striking set of portraits of Italian prisoners on show at the Italian Cultural Institute this month may hold the answer.

Photographed by a young Italian from Florence, Clara Vannucci, 29, the series focuses over the last seven years on an innovative program, the Compagnia della Fortezza, that is rehabilitating prisoners in one of Italy’s toughest prisons by giving them roles in a theatrical production which tours the country.

The exhibit opened last night (Feb 21 2014) as “Crime and Redemption Theater” curated by Veronica Santi at the Italian Cultural Institute. The well attended event included many young Italian friends of Vannucci, and there was even a local ex-prisoner of Rikers Island in attendance. It will run through March 13 weekdays from 10am-4pm.

Changing through acting

clara_vannucci_2 tattooed in mirrorWhen she started the project in 2007 at age 22, Vannucci said, she had come from a sheltered background and had no idea why the prisoners were incarcerated or what life was like behind the thick walls, or even whether the program was successful. But while she interned in New York at Magnum she shot inside Rikers Island before going back to Italy to continue with the Volterra project.

The hard core “lifers” of Tuscany’s 15th Century Volterra fortress prison, equivalent to Sing Sing or Folsom prisons in the US, value the opportunity to act on stage so highly that while they roam unguarded through towns and cafes before their performances, none have attempted to escape. They are housed overnight in the local prisons. As one told Vannucci, “Why should I run? Where would I go? Twenty years I have lived in prison. Now I have something to live for. Life has meaning.”

Sympathy for the ravaged

P1550737

Since the company was founded in 1988 by playwright Armando Punzo, the experience of adopting different roles and lives on stage and collaborating in a production reportedly has had a powerfully restorative effect on actor-inmates worn down and toughened after as long as twenty years or more in cells.

The faces in Vannucci’s sympathetic and often close up portraits seem to show both the ravages of long term imprisonment and the spiritual release of the opportunity given them to present themselves on stage differently from the harsh daily role they have been assigned by society for so long. She will continue with the project, she said. “I think I will never be finished.”

The prisoners involved leave Volterra able to rejoin society at a professional level, that of an actor. “They become like stars”, says Vannucci. One former Mafia killer, Aniello Arena, won the Palme d’Or for his role in Reality, a film at Cannes in 2012. Still in prison after two decades serving a life sentence for murder, he acted a fishmonger obsessed with winning a reality show.

Gourmet dining in the fortress

But then, Italian society has surely traveled far from the cruelty of the Coliseum in the past 2000 years, its appetite for violence and war notoriously diminished compared with other nations today. Prisons in different regions are coming up with similar projects, though none have a theatre project like Tuscany’s Volterra.

At Volterra they now have a second initiative which bespeaks the essential warmth and kindness at the heart of the modern Italian soul, and the national reluctance to cast criminals into the darkness of abandonment and despair notoriously suffered by inmates in the US.

The ancient fortress is now the site of a gourmet restaurant operated once a month on Fridays where tourists who have been checked by security dine by candle light on vegetarian meals prepared by chef prisoners. Call 39-055-234-2777 to reserve.

P1550740Sixty more photos of the opening see Photocalendar Talk In New York:Feb 21 Fri 6-8pm ICI – Photos by CLARA VANNUCCI – Italian Prisoners Redeemed Through Theater.

See also Maximum Security and a Starring Role

.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Salvatore Gitto Plays Romantic Sonatas at Italian Cultural Institute

SALVATORE GITTO combines aristocratic elegance with musical warmth in Romantic recital

SALVATORE GITTO combines aristocratic elegance with musical warmth in Romantic recital

Sicilian prizewinner wins hearts with warmth, passion

Music for the audience, not the ego or the critic

Blessed relief from modern focus on technical triumph

The prizewinning 27 year old pianist from Sicily, Salvatore Gitto, who performed for a select audience at the Italian Cultural Institute last night (Feb 10 Mon), not only ran through a quartet of palatable sonatas by post Beethoven 19 Century composers with Beethovian impetus and conviction but clearly had the engaging intention of playing directly for the audience, rather than with self conscious introspection for himself or for critics.

Gitto’s generous spirit and flair for melodic messaging was the kind of approach which lulls and absorbs the listener into the music as a full partner of the performer, and his style, bred in his native Sicily with further studies in Rome, seemed in the context quintessentially Italian, a matter of playing with social feeling where the listener is brought into the work as it unfolds with not the slightest distraction from technical difficulties or bravura.

Here it was the music that was played and irresistibly conveyed rather than the notes, contrary to the preoccupation of too many young pianists for the past half century in America, as technical accomplishment has become ever more dazzling. Gitto’s winning grasp of the music was more along the lines of the great Romantics of the piano such as Corot or Rubinstein who would sacrifice a wrong note to the right music without a second thought, a tradition evidently still respected in Messina by Gitto’s well known teacher and mentor, Gaetano Induco.

Spirit of the composer

But Gitto was not inaccurate. On the contrary, given the fact that the piano clearly had its faults – it began clicking in unison with the keys at one point – his strong fingered control was all the more admirable for being no issue at all. If he wished for a more subtle keyboard response in reflective passages, it was not apparent to this listener. The always romantic and intriguing Mendelssohn, Schumann and Schubert sonatas and even the occasionally more jagged Prokofiev flowed both forte and pianissimo with uninterrupted concentration into the ears and the hearts of the audience. It is rare to hear such Romantic works played with such dedicated and energetic musicality that the listener is carried along by the life and meaning of each bar, with both performer and audience taken by the spirit of the composer.

It may have helped that Gitto though not tall looks quite the romantic charmer in the 18th Century manner, his features harking back to the Naples which under Bourbon rule sacrificed the flower of its nobility to a shortlived revolution. There is something aristocratic about his longish sideburns and receding hairline (even if not brushed forward in the Napoleonic manner) which is reminiscent of portraits of Napoleon and the Enlightenment nobles that Admiral Nelson ruthlessly executed. Suitably one of his recent recitals was for King Albert II of Belgium and Queen Paola of Liége in September.

But there was nothing aloof in Gitto’s modest manner, and his playing was full of the warmth and vigor of his Sicilian heritage, shining through a keyboard mastery and a musical momentum undeterred by the recalcitrant piano. For this the setting was ideal. The intimate and very personable hospitality of the Italian Cultural Institute – Gitto was introduced by Fabio Troisi the Attache for Cultural Affairs as part of his ongoing hosting of young Italian musical talent – was enhanced by the many members of the audience from the same Mediterranean background, including Salvatore’s Roman born American aunt, with whom he was staying, his cousin Jean Paul, a composer of electronic music, and their friends. “I am not an expert and I don’t know the technicalities, ” his aunt, Mafaldo Cento, a painter, said, confiding that she had last seen Gitto when he was 13. “But I love his music. He is very warm, very passionate.”

Gitto himself afterwards said it was unusual for him not to select some Liszt to play. “I like Liszt so much, ” he said. “He is a fighting horse.” The noted Sicilian born mosaic craftsman Anthony D. Schiavo, a friend of his aunt, said he admired Salvatore’s technical grasp, especially since he and his wife had found the ICI hall so cold they had to go back down the curved staircase to retrieve their coats and gloves before he began.

Playing with heart

Photographer Frank Santoro, at whose home in Brooklyn Gitto had played the previous evening, said “Last night he played in my house. We invite him over. He played Mendelssohn. We were about ten. (“We had our own private recital!” said his wife. “And it was nice and warm!”) I just bought the piano – it’s a year old Yamaha. And you know what? I enjoy it more and more and more.” He laughed expansively. “I love music. I love music! I come from the same place, Sicily. Italians play with heart. Because music has to be felt. Actually felt. I took music lessons many years ago and that’s what they used to tell me. You have got to feel music. Same thing with dancing. If you feel the music when you dance, then you are better than the next person.”

In the US for the first time, Gitto was due to play an audition the next day at Carnegie Hall competing for a featured performance later, and then return to his Sicilian home in Milazzo, the seaside village outside Messina. Told that he seemed to leave technicalities behind to devote his playing to communicating the music, the young pianist said that “for me, that is the best report I can receive. It is my objective. I want to reach the people. To connect. Otherwise it is a failed mission.”

Salvatore Gitto has “it” – the ability to share his concentration on the music, to pull the listener in to hear and feel nothing but the music

For Background Info Click Here

The Italian Cultural Institute is pleased
to invite you to:
SALVATORE GITTO
PIANO RECITAL
Monday, February 10th
6:00PM
Italian Cultural Institute
686 Park Avenue
New York
RSVP

Winner of numerous prizes in more than twenty national and international piano competitions achieving success with audience and critics, Salvatore Gitto performed in important Halls and Festivals all over Italy. In September 2013 he was invited to give a concert in honor of King Albert II of Belgium and Queen Paola of Liége. He worked with composers Carmelo Chillemi, whose some piano works he gave the premiere in 2012, and Giuseppe Azzarelli, whose original scene music Gitto performed in collaboration with the famous stage director Eugenio Monti Colla at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
PROGRAM:
Fantasy op.28 FELIX MENDELSSOHN
Drei Romanzen op. 28 ROBERT SCHUMANN
Sonata op. 120 D-664 FRANZ SCHUBERT
Sonata op. 14 n. 2 SERGEY PROKOFIEW

Biography

Sicilian pianist born in Milazzo (Messina) in 1986. He grew up artistically in the pianistic school of Gaetano Indaco at the Conservatorio “A.Corelli” of Messina, where he passed the Level II Academic Diploma for piano interpretation-composition with top marks and a special mention.

In 2013 he took the Master Course for piano at the prestigious Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome with Sergio Perticaroli and Stefano Fiuzzi.

A significant contribution to his artistic formation the meeting with the musicologists Francesco Scarpellini Pancrazi and Mario Musumeci. They let Salvatore analyze the lisztian repertoire presenting as degree theses “Saggio di traduzione specializzata dall’inglese in ambito musicologico: Liszt: Sonata in B Minor by Kenneth Hamilton” and the essay “The devil in music and the epic of Faust: thematic metamorphosis and visionary rhetoric in Mephisto-Walzer”.

He won numerous prizes in more than twenty national and international piano competitions achieving success with audiance and critics. The concert career has seen him perform in a lot of Halls and Festivals all over Italy such as Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, Sala Laudamo and University in Messina, the Roman Festival Musicale delle Nazioni at Teatro Marcello and Villa Torlonia, Taormina in Musica, the Festival Eolie in classico (Aeolian Islands), for Dolomites Unesco Foundation, Rotary International Sicily – Malta, “Giuseppe Verdi” foundation in Milan, Festival Internazionale Dino Ciani in Milan and Venice.

Salvatore debuted young as soloist with the Orchestra Giovanile di Messina playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto KV 414. He was also the winner of the Special Prize “Piano and Orchestra 2010” at XV Premio Benedetto Albanese in Palermo for the best execution of Mozart’s Piano Concert KV 467 allowing him to perform with the Orchestra Giovanile Mediterranea.

In september 2013 he was invited to give a concert in honor of King Albert II of Belgium and Queen Paola of Liége.

In 2012 he realized with pianist Silvia Tessari the musical twinning “Vette e vulcani su un pianoforte”, a successful concert tour among Unesco World Heritage sites of Dolomites and Aeolian Islands, in the presence of the Italian Minister of education Francesco Profumo.

In 2012 he gave the premiere performances of Sicilian composer Carmelo Chillemi’s piano works, as Atmosfere op. 25/C, Est mihi in animo op. 36/C, Rapsodya op. 69/C and the symphonic poems Angelica e Medoro op. 75/C and Anno Domini 2010 op. 76/C.

He has collaborated with the famous stage director Eugenio Monti Colla performing Giuseppe Azzarelli’s original scene musics directed by Simone Genuini at Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.

During his studies he took part to several masterclasses and international piano meetings with acclaimed Professors as Nathalia Trull, Violetta Egorova, Andrea Lucchesini, Sergio Perticaroli, Stefano Fiuzzi, Vsevelod Dvorkin held at Villa-Medici Giulini in Milan, Accademia Pianistica Siciliana and Accademia Bartolomeo Cristofori in Florence.

More photos and info at Talk In New York Photocalendar

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kent Mitchell Talks of his Giant Art at Molly Barnes’ Roger Smith Salon

Molly Barnes with Kent Twitchell: Is Los Angeles a big enough canvas for his art?

Huge depictions of Hollywood stars on walls of houses and highways of LA

Assertion of bright eyed human individuality amid modern urban wreckage

Vandalized or destroyed, but repainted; a court suit won

Kent Twitchell’s vast depictions of actors’ and friends’ faces and figures on the bare walls of Los Angeles buildings take as long as nine years (in one case) to carry out with the help of volunteers, and their effect is stunning. They boldly trumpet the spirit of human individuality by placing idealized giants amid the detritus and destruction of the petty commerce and car riven culture that has grown willy nilly over the sun laden landscape of Southern California and the City of Angels.

Molly Barnes the Los Angeles based gallery owner, art appreciator and all round modern reincarnation of Peggy Guggenheim presented Kent at her intermittent ongoing personal salon for art world insiders at the Roger Smith Hotel yesterday (Nov 7 Thu 2013), where the artist showed off and talked about slides of his striking accomplishments.

Kent in the sky: Mount Rushmore next?

His extraordinary images are not the work of a supersized ego, as perhaps one might expect, but of a man who has the internal humility of a genuine artist surviving among the helium balloon personae of Hollywood megacelebrities to depict his friends among them in enormous size outdoors, which has the curious effect of focusing one’s gaze on their – and our – vulnerable human spirits otherwise so magnified in the media to a dazzling size by the glamor industry.

It is art’s triumph over commercial artifice, ironically using the same dimensions as the billboards of the movie industry.

“I was just a pair of brown shoes amid tuxedos” says Kent of his own overly modest feelings when he found himself at a gathering of other celebrated artists. And of a moment when he played with toys on the floor with one of his famous subjects and heroes, he says, “we acted like children. (Pause) Of course, all artists are children!”

His unspoiled spirit was born with his feet on the ground of the mid-West, which may be why the faces he chooses to depict have the rugged handsomeness of that part of the country, adding to cultural myth.

Celebrating the stature of the individual amid commercial blight


Envious desecration

On an artistic level his portraits are so good looking and connect so well with the viewer that it is astonishing that passing barbarians occasionally deface them with competing wall graphics, otherwise known as graffiti, and even more disgusting that real estate developers have erased them, at least until in one case the extreme vulgarian was sued and lost $1.1 million over his outrage.

As Mark Twain once observed, it takes education to reduce the free floating resentful aggression of those without understanding. “Learning softeneth the heart and breedeth gentleness and charity” (The Prince and the Pauper).

It’s all in the eyes

Click here to our photocalendar for several hundred photos of Kent and his work slides

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bard: Magda Salvesen, Expert Guide, Shows Us Rousham Garden by William Kent

The Bard Graduate Center is celebrating the work of William Kent, whose skilful and artistic hand designed much of Georgian Britain’s buildings, garden landscapes and furniture, with a small exhibition; and last night (Oct 31 Thu) Magda Salvesen, the garden and art historian at NYU who is the curator of her late husband the prominent painter Jon Schueler’s works, gave a lengthy, step-by-step slide tour on Rousham Garden titled Sitting in and Sauntering through a Pleasure Ground.

Kent is the man of whom Walpole said, he “was a painter, an architect, and the father of modern gardening. In the first character he was below mediocrity; in the second, he was a restorer of the science; in the last, an original, and the inventor of an art that realizes painting and improves nature. Mahomet imagined an Elysium, Kent created many.”

magda salvesen pic – for talk rousham

As Salvesen wrote in her flyer “the landscape at Rousham in Oxfordshire offers not only “still” views, but continually shifting perspectives. Walking through the varied topography where the cultivated and natural landscape intermingle, visitors experience the plantings while registering the lightness of the designer’s touch and his embrace of historic allusions in the structures and the sculpture.” She focused on Kent’s innovations of the late 1730s but also drew upon his other garden designs, highlighting similarities as well as significant departures.

Prize guide to North East gardens

Magda Salvesen's Exploring Gardens is  a glossy, detailed and expert guide to the top gardens of the northeast US

Magda Salvesen’s Exploring Gardens is a glossy, detailed and expert guide to the top gardens of the northeast US

Salvesen is the author of the unique Exploring Gardens and Green Spaces: From Connecticut to the Delaware Valley (Norton 2011), the handy but handsome full review of 148 gardens along the northeast corridor of the US, including formal parks, estates and arboretums. Prettily laid out and lavishly illustrated on glossy stock with more than 300 photographs and 29 maps, the guide’s detailed entries equip the visitor not only with Savesen’s expert writeup of each viewing destination but provide all the data you will need, including nearby places to eat and visit, to round out a day’s outing.

Kent exhibition

The Kent exhibition is in the BGC Gallery at 18 West 86th Street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.

William Kent – Design for Isaac Newton Memorial in Westminster Abbey newton memorial design

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Demos’ John Schwarz Says Key to Economic Future is a Return to a “Common Credo”

John Schwarz urges a return to more liberal shared values to enable a way forward to a viable economic future for the US

Restoration of lost values key to a better future, writes Demos fellow

But would his economic prescriptions save the day?

The small but well connected think tank Demos is one of the last places where the values of the last century still survive and liberal is not a dirty word, but a proud banner. One of their most thoughtful fellows is John Schwarz of the University of Arizona (jes@u.Arizona.edu 520-882-9847).

P1430533A thinker whose moral compass seems to point in precisely the opposite direction to those of the robber capitalists who currently steer the US, Schwarz has written a book, Common Credo (Norton), which nails the deplorable state of the US economy and society as it hurtles towards a Marxian divide between haves and have nots.

He suggests a way forward might be found by reclaiming the values of the past where red and blue, rich and poor were all members of the same system of political and social morality.

Going beyond that, Schwarz maps some practical measures which might help this return to firm ground, though whether his scheme would work in practical terms is a matter for more careful readers of his rather labored $30 book to decide.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Free US Open Tennis Next Week

FREE US OPEN TENNIS Aug 20-23 11am on

New York’s Top Freebie: Time to take a break, and head out to the US Open qualifying matches next week, where the titans practice and future racket royalty will play a few yards away from your nose and your camera as you wander from court to court along with other native New Yorkers in the know about this great week of free top tennis, this year in perfect weather throughout.

http://2013.usopen.org/index.html

A fine photo by Tim Clayton, but can you recognize her?:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Women Workers in Italy Fight For Their Real Lives

New Doc at Workers Unite Festival Wins Top Prize

Females Occupy, Outlast Capitalist Neglect

Last Line of Opposition to Global Insanity?

A striking new film won first prize at the recent (May 10-17th) Workers Unite Festival at the Cinema Village, at 12th ST and University Place.

A movie with little overt action, Women Workers War celebrates tenacity and patience when outrage has nowhere to go in modern capitalism

“Women Workers War” broke all the rules of movie drama with its slow paced recording of a 550 day workers resistance event, one without much real action at all. Most of the action, in fact, takes place in the heads of the women it puts on the screen, and in the heads of the audience.

Yet so strong is its theme – the oppressive and depersonalizing effect of modern production attitudes on the hearts and minds of workers – that it ended up the most admired work among an extensive selection of sometimes very dramatic, even heart wrenching entries, such as American Winter.

Time to think

Directed by Massimo Ferrari, the film, which premiered at the Festival, is a very slow paced, reflective study of 18 women workers in a tent factory in Italy who are laid off without back pay by a hands off owner who lives elsewhere. In a burst of resentful solidarity they occupy the premises for what turns out to be the longest such takeover by women in Italian history, 550 days of tedium and anxiety.

Amid the deserted sheds which house silent machinery they come slowly to realize how poorly they were treated even while they were at work, their skills and labor the only thing that interested management and owner. Their example becomes a cause celebre for women in Italy, who it turns out are often as badly treated as Third World workers, their humanity neglected by their managers and their social lives circumscribed by long hours and low pay.

As the women of the Tacconi Sud factory in Latina survive month after month of judicial delay and isolation they find a strong supporter in a businesswoman, Margherita Dogliani, who owns a biscuit factory in Carrara. She has already implemented policies in her own company to enhance the cultural and social lives of her workers.

A drama of ideas and ideals

The moviemaker caught up with the occupation only after it had started, and there is little overt excitement in the story he tells. Most consists of interviews with the leading player, Rosa, shots of Margherita visiting Rosa, and interested parties standing outside the bankruptcy court in Latina.

Really the only overt drama occurs at a couple of points where Rosa breaks down in tears, exhausted by the endless legal delays and the interminable hours spent in a deserted and dead factory inside its manager’s office, taken over for the duration. Children visit, but continually ask “Why can’t we go outside?”

A year and a half of looking out of the window at the bleak landscape of abandonment

Yet with the help of Rosa’s words drawn from a Facebook diary, or expressed in tearful interviews, the film tells an important story with global implications. Italy, long a nation where family life was strong and guaranteed a high level of social and moral integration, is now being corrupted by the same forces of extreme capitalism that are tearing the social and political fabric of the US.

The hapless group occupying Tacconi Sud are members of a much larger group of Italian women workers on factory floors and in other humble occupations that have been relegated to a slave status not much better than the workers of Bangladesh apparel companies, the film testifies.

A War Against Neglect

Dramatizing what is essentially a inaction movie would be a difficult task unless the film penetrated the battleground of ideas and ideals behind the standoff, but this it does. All Rosa’s complaints have wider relevance to the depredations of 21 Century capitalism in Italy and around the world.

Ferrari’s very lack of interest in dressing up his story with action sequences in the manner of news reporting serves to focus the mind on the political and philosophical lessons evoked by Rosa and her new friend Margarita.

These substantial yet devalued women who address business politics with their hearts as well as their heads knit a rich moral drama with their poignant hopes and unjust disappointments, naive assumptions and newly informed blame, and the rich rascals such as Berlusconi who evade responsibility and escape blame.

If capitalism off the leash threatens to take down Western civilization, as it turns much of the population into a domestic Third World, these women are sounding the warning.

A sad note is struck as Rosa points out that photographs of them when the plant was started show them as 20 year old. For these women, work has been the major investment of their lives – they have spent more time at the factory than at home. “Work means everythng to me”, says one, “I spent more than 20 years of my life here.”

As another says, this is not just a problem of wages, profit and GMP, but one of “the human condition.” Unlike the US, Italy is an old civilization, and if even there the rich have forgotten to look after their neighbor, we are in the global soup.

Sisterly solidarity

Marguerita,who comes to visit Rosa in a spirit of sisterly support, runs a family biscuit factory in Carrara. She has already introduced changes in the treatment of her own workers, after she was horrified to discover that they had no cultural or political life at all. Every summer her parking area is transformed into a cultural festival where as many as 300 actors, musicians and other performers have introduced them to their own national culture.

Traveling to the Latina tent factory she plans to brief them on the law and other practical matters, but immediately finds herself discussing the “human condition of women”. Together, she vows, they will change Italy, and the two start to address meetings and the media on the topic of releasing women from labor bondage.

A professor of labor relations visits the factory to expand Rosa’s understanding of the philosophy and politics of his field, but seems to be yet another patronizing male. He is anxious to warn her that she might wear a halo at the moment, but whistleblowers tend to suffer a sad fate. He compares her to the architect of Pharaoh’s pyramid, who was killed to ensure that he didn’t divulge the layout of its chambers.

She explains to him the root cause of failure of the company – they flourished with military orders but when these dried up and they had to face the tough competition of the private sector, they gave up.

In the film’s languid tale, we learn that the company’s hand made tents involved hard and skillful work. Rosa spends much time staring out of the window, underlining the inactive torpor the obstinate little group brave for so long. The suffering of Rosa extends to sleepless nights, with only two or three hours rest even with pills. She breaks into sobs on camera. The longer they are waited out, the more likely it is that they will break. Doubts gather: “Maybe our occupation is useless”. Rosa’s simplicity is part of her charm, and it is also evidence of her need for the paternal, responsible leadership which in earlier times used to be the noblesse oblige of the European upper classes. The US has lost this sense of accountability, the recognition of a moral and social obligation to look after workers, for the most part. Now it seems it is vanishing from Europe, as conscienceless corporatism overwhelms even the highly socially integrated society in Italy.

Rosa’s own motivation has never been heroic, she acknowledges. It seems she was driven to action from desperation, without any alternative if her self respect was to survive. Or, even, the validity of her life. The bad apples among the men in charge steal lives, not just labor, it must be acknowledged. Her sheer powerlessness of the individual in the face of the modern business system, and also the court system, where their case is postponed and postponed yet again, sees her break into tears again in front of her group of occupiers, who commiserate and encourage her: “Rosa, we are still here…”

As the bankruptcy court keeps postponing its decision, the pressure increases, with Rosa again in tears in front of her group, the people that she now feels responsible for. The truth is that as a leader she is highly vulnerable, and so are her followers. Her main vulnerability is her ignorance. Where the professor feeds her trite analysis and philosophy along the lines of comparing her with Pharaoh’s architect and tells her her halo is temporary, she laps it up like a sophomore hungering for advice. Such is her ignorance of the wider world, and her fears, that she is grateful for any confirmation from outside that her direction is justified.

Viewers might reasonably be asking themselves by the end of the first half hour of this film, Is there any action in this movie? Is there anything to take it beyond an interior monologue, something to justify it being a movie and not an article, say. Thus the film imposes something of the frustration and tediousness experienced by its subjects, especially when shown amid the urgent bustle of a New York City where the pull of competing attractions and errands is always felt. We are trapped in the Hurry up and Wait atmosphere of the sit in in our turn.

The imposed frustration of the film as experience is magnified by a subtitle translation which is often wanting, sometimes unfathomable, in the blithe Italian manner, though the gist is clear. Dreary and tearful in its portrayal of the pressure and damage perpetrated on the women over many months, the tale nonetheless celebrates the solidarity and humane sociability of their own inclinations. The core group is eventually joined by more women, some bringing their children, who play in the background. Thus family values are set against business values. The onlooker is tortured in turn by the slow turning of the spit on which they are impaled, but also uplifted by their human spirit, which survives .

Margherita, the businesswoman owner, as the more educated and sophisticated of the pair of revolutionaries articulates the issues best in her public talks. She frames resistance in terms of preserving rights and maintaining relationships, which is hard amid “a lack of trust in politicians, a lack of passion in politics and an economic crisis, all leading to a gradual impoverishment in the quality in human relations – a grey world. What is still wonderful in this grey world? Our lives. Our lives are wonderful, every life is wonderful, mine, yours, ours.”

Their call for valuing and respecting the lowly females on the production lines of her factory and other plants is heard around Italy, and many of these oppressed step up to express their gratitude for their growing realization that they deserve dignity and to share their successes with others at work. “I have learned that every single honest worker man or woman deserves respect” says one who comes to the microphone at a meeting. Margharita has successfully turned her own labor force into a family, it is clear. They revel in the expansion of self expression and the knitting together of their social fabric, so now they can share their interests and their sorrows. Work is more meaningful and rewarding, and they thank her for it.

Meanwhile back at Tacconi Sud, the women stare at the passing trucks and cars whizzing past on the road outside, and the slow takeover of the exterior of the plant by Mother Nature. The tedium overwhelms them so that they are unable to study or use the endless time constructively.

Rosa goes to visit the professor who runs a college to train people in how work changes and how they must learn new skills throughout their work life. He talks pap at her about how her new job when it comes will be a new experience for her, and she is in a fragile period where she must find the motivation to change. At this point the film begins to read a little like a satirical farce, but Rosa politely listens after her “Yes, but..” is brushed aside. The professor prefers to pontificate rather than listen to her, another example of how her supposed betters behave badly.

Finally, we hope, the dolorous lethargy, where the residual action consists of Rosa walking from room to room, and the deserted factory floors are revisited once again, is broken by news that there will a second Bankruptcy hearing on Feb 9 2012 in Latina. Rosa leaves her “sinking ship” hoping there will finally be a resolution, said to be expected in a week or two. She goes to visit Carrara and Margharita’s factory for the first time. She is delighted to find a working atmosphere where people not only work but “talk, stop and think.”.

While she is there a phone call from the lawyer. The court met and decided on bankruptcy. “We won,” she says calmly, her inflection hardly changing from its usual note of sadness. But she smiles, at least. The keys are put into a tray for the “new owner”. The camera follows her shoulder as she walks away talking of her new politics. “We have came to understand that there is nothing better than participating into our own lives here and now; than the awareness of sharing a common space where the others are not different in their needs, in their human condition. It is important to believe in law enforcement and o have our own rights protested, to take part in the political life of our country, no matter what our role or responsibility..our Republic is founded on the value of work. Now I know the meaning of the word ‘Resistance.’…the more they are attacked the more those values you are striving for must be defended and maintained.,”

According to the final notice on the screen, after negotiations with the union the women were reinstated in their jobs – another instance typical of the film, of how throughout we are never shown any action images of what the factory is like when it is working, either before or after the “war”. Moreover what is entitled a “war” is in fact a long drawn out study of inertia where all the action is internal. As it turns out this so called movie is not so much a film as a tract, with the words of Rosa quoted from Facebook or occasionally spoken in front of the camera serving as the teller of the tale. The effect is rather like shooting up and down a queue for fresh chicken in some Communist country post war and then failing to include the final rush into the store when it is opened.

Unfortunately, this matches exactly the feminine passivity that Republican capitalist barbarians of the new empire of economics probably count on, inviting just the kind of exploitation that the women are fighting. In the modern battleground where winners take all and the law and government stand ready to bail them out if they fail, if they are big enough, this pacifist, maternal social enlightenment which the film portrays probably appears as simply a matter of victims “asking for it”, in the minds of the people who exploit them.

But that reality is of course the mark of the civilization which we have lost, and which they are asking us to reclaim.

The trailer to the movie can be viewed here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Javits Book Expo – Paradise for Information Seekers

Books Get It On – Still Best Source Out There

Early Views of Key Science, Current Affairs Tomes

Three Picks From New Titles

David Caron Publisher of Toronto’s ECW Press holds Tyler Hamilton’s Mad Like Tesla, a winning collection of breakthrough ideas he published in September 2011

Even with the galloping advance of e-books, the gigantic Javits Book Expo America 2013 next week remains the most important annual event at that venue, where the continuing supremacy of the physical book is celebrated. The trade event is for booksellers to meet authors, with some tickets available for consumers on Saturday, and is essential for editors and reviewers of books in every field.

Supremacy of the printed book

As anyone who works seriously with any area of research and scholarship knows, the physical book remains the finest source on almost any topic, an invaluable storehouse of the best ideas and data available.

There are two main reasons for this continuing reign, we suggest. Authors put their heart and soul into their books, and happily take personal responsibility for their quality and usefulness. The result is that printed books have higher quality content than other media in terms of breadth and depth of research and independent perspective on important issues.

Printed books also tend to be more novel and original in their approach and inhabit the cutting edge of their topics more often than group discussions on stage or television, where the demands of politesse and reputation – not to mention media politics – discourage too much novelty and difference in views.

Crowd sourced and group serviced Wikipedia entries do well enough if they are well maintained. Even so, Wikipedia entries may be up to date on basic information but rarely as new, comprehensive and well thought out as a book, which is almost always more than a collection of Wiki entries.

At Javits last year Chicago Review Press displayed this excellent guide to the chemical reactions of cooking, offering some of the best simple explanations of this newly burgeoning science/living topic, which they published in Nov 2011

Why books are still best

Needless to say, the information in a physical book is far easier to manage mentally except for searching for an individual name or phrase, the one thing for which electronic versions are ideal. The main thrust of an author’s determination is to produce a physical book, which the serious reader will prefer for reading, review and reference for myriad reasons.

One is that the hands on mode not only aids the memory enormously with its tactile and visual cues but also it enables markings of important or beloved portions with pencil, Post-It or a real movable and often pretty Bookmark which allow reference faster even than electronic search, in fact instantaneously.

Vast market though science boom fading

This manageability is undoubtedly why the printed book is not fading away in favor for the e-book but is still vast in terms of sheer numbers in most categories. Despite a huge falloff in the business of reprinting public domain titles the number of printed books from traditional publishers in the US rose in 2011 to about 350,000, according to Bowker, though the gain of 6% was entirely caused by the boom in self publishing. Self-published books totaled 211,269 in both ebook and printed form while traditional houses maintained print output level.

Sadly, science books declined 13 per cent in 2011 but nonetheless we found many exceptional titles at the BEA last year in finished or proof form, heralding the bumper crop of bestsellers in the present season. We expect the same this year, when the BEA runs from Wednesday May 29 to Saturday June 1st, with exhibits displayed from Thursday May 30 and accommodating consumers on the final day.

Titles in the pipeline

Here are three stellar picks from the proofs pipeline:

    Breakpoint: Why The Web Will Implode, Search Will Be Obsolete, and Everything Else You Need to Know About Technology is in Your Brain, by Jeff Stibel (Palgrave Macmillan Jul 23)

Stibel is a brain (neuro) scientist and chairman of BrainGate which uses chips to allow the disabled to control electronics with thoughts. He predicts that all networks reach a breaking point and collapse, like MySpace, and that will include Facebook and Google. Stibel (also CEO of the Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp and on the board of Brown’s Entrepreneurship program Tuft’s Gordon Institute and USC’s Innovation Institute) seems the right, realistic guide to the creative destruction of the Internet, and he makes some intriguing predictions, such as the emergence of megabrains fueled by crowdsourcing, all inspired by his study of ants and termite colonies, among other things which point the way to a future where networked quality will replace quantity.

    Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection by Ethan Zuckerman (Norton, June 17)

One of Foreign Policy’s top 100 Global Thinkers, Ethan Zuckerman is the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media, and an Internet activist who blogs at a high level on policy and trends. He maps the current state of the Internet and explains why it has yet to form a truly connecting community and what we have to do to establish one worldwide. Early blurbs by friendly colleagues include ““Weaving a rich tapestry of stories, data, and theories, Rewire challenges many of our core assumptions about globalization and connectedness and how the Internet affects us. It is a book well worth reading.” and “No one is in a better position than MIT and Harvard’s Ethan Zuckerman to confront the Internet’s failure to connect us across cultures. Zuckerman’s astounding range, careful reasoning, and superb storytelling make Rewire an essential and urgent read,” but our copy indicates that his enlightened and wide ranging survey is a little long winded and its final conclusions too general to please an impatient reader.

    The Science Delusion: Asking the Big Questions in a Culture of Easy Answers by Curtis White (Melville May 28 2013)

White is a novelist and essayist and social critic stretching from Harpers to Playboy, whose previous book The Middle Mind was praised by the wide ranging literary bright light David Foster Wallace as acute, beautiful and true. He tilts at those who have rejected religion in favor of science as the answer to all questions on morality, creativity and the origin of life and existence, which he feels ignores the riches of philosophy that emerged in the 18th and 19th Centuries, and urges that we miove away fronm “scientism” and its material reductionism and take up Romanticism as something our technology obsessed society desperately needs.

Whether this is a justified argument for more humanity in our lives or whether it strays into the usual liberal confusion between the internal and external world in urging that we use our imagination more for solace and community remains to be seen, but the title is attractively provocative. Scientists have been known for a long time to be emotionally truncated, like doctors, in the service of their profession. Luckily emotions have entered the analysis of studies from economics to psychology over the last half century and even scientists now seem to generally understand that we share with other animals a brain body connection that can never be separated, and in fact should be emphasized and celebrated.

It is not easy to see that Curtis White goes beyond this truism from a cursory look at the proof, which demands a careful read to capture its gist. But he is billed as urging more poetry and philosophy in our public discussions, and no one educated would argue with that in an era where cost cutting is erasing the arts in many schools across the US.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Andrew Tilson’s Workers Unite! Film Festival Chronicles Capitalism’s Inhumanity

Catastrophic Spiritual Consequences of New Economic Exploitation Made Painfully Clear

Global Film Parade includes World Premiere of “Women Workers War” from Italy

“American Winter” by Harry Gantz Shows Brave Hopes Dashed, Families Shattered in post 2008 Economy

Docs on Fluoride, Food Reform, Porn Workers Coming Up

Two gentleman of the Social Enlightenment: Harry Gantz and Andrew Tilson, of American Winter and the Workers Unite! Film Festival, respectively.

Walk into the Workers Unite! Film Festival (at Cinema Village until Friday, when it moves to the Brecht Forum at Bank Street and the West Side Highway) and you enter a different world from the commercial insanity that grips much of US society today.

This is the second time the tireless Andrew Tilson with the able help of his wife Rose has mounted this exceptional tribute to the human spirit, which is now under assault from those who run late phase capitalism. Those ruthless bosses seem to value the ordinary worker and now even the middle class jobseeker less than ever before, and there are many tales of their predatory blindness in Tilson’s parade of our system’s obscenities.

Suffering of redundancy

One film chosen to illustrate this moral disaster is American Winter, a bitter saga which documents the panic and despair felt by families who until recently had no idea they would ever be unable to find work before their unemployment and savings ran out, leaving them and their children to starve if they didn’t have the blessing of food stamps and the fortitude to dwell in unheated garages or in their cars.

Sometimes it all begins when their credit rating is bust by the stratospheric cost of illness after they fail to pay their insurance premiums, or even when they do, and that failing alone will prevent them from getting a job of any kind, even at minimum wage.

The invisible millions

These and other films at this unique festival are the stories of the Second World, the people who form the invisible but growing portion of rich societies around the world who cannot ever escape poverty, because their wages aren’t high enough to allow savings. The competition of ultra cheap labor from the Third World means that once unemployed they lose the chance to get any job above minimum wage, and may not get that.

Such is the insanity of those inside the corporate fortress that they cannot see far enough outside their hermetically sealed windows to understand that paying labor decently is the only way to ensure there are enough consumers for the products they make. The health and success of the US economy has been founded on this principle for a hundred years, ever since Henry Ford made the first Model T and paid his workers enough that they could afford to buy one.

But this practicality, which argues that it is actually in the self-interest of the rich to pay the poor and the middle class more than the bare minimum of economic slavery, is ignored as boards and CEOs often pay themselves obscene sums even while their businesses founder. Meanwhile, some forty nine million Americans live below the poverty line, including over 18 million children.

It is more than economic logic which is being flouted. As the documentaries in this festival make clear, when societies are over commercialized and even art and education are increasingly matters of price rather than value it is the human spirit which suffers, and its humanitarian values are lost.

Where is the kindness?

Those values include such things as kindness and goodwill towards others, and a willingness to serve rather than exploit the weak. Despite the claims of such self satisfied Randians such as John Mackay of Whole Foods, who claim to balance their capitalistic role as owners by offering health insurance to their hard working staff, genuine communal concern is not widespread among the one per cent. Even the amiable Warren Buffett, who recognizes that his secretary shouldn’t pay a higher rate of tax than he does, merely hands over his excess riches to Bill Gates to dispense, rather than take his own time to help the needy.

The spirit of the Workers Unite! festival is precisely that kindness, however, as is pretty clear when you encounter Andrew Tilson and his wife Rose who run it. The photo above may show what we mean, since we believe that the faces of both Andrew and the filmmaker Harry Gantz, the co director of “American Winter” exhibit the kind of good humored, relaxed and gentlemanly quality we have in mind, which is becoming so hard to find among the wealthy and their highly paid managers, and other cogs in the capitalist machine.

Participants in the festival will enjoy the relief of this oasis in the City of Mammon which this spirit of kindness and concern brings, since it is the spirit in which most of the films to be shown are made, the spirit which seems to have mostly left US capitalism.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Web Viewable Times Conference on Future of City Energy Tomorrow

Remarkable high quality Web video streaming of Energy for Tomorrow

Building Sustainable Cities theme key note film “Trashed”

Jeremy Irons Discusses Options in World Garbage Crisis with Andrew Revkin

Jeremy Irons is depressed by his world tour of garbage and how its attempted disposal is adding to the horror, but he hopes that grass roots movements will turn the trend around before dioxins become a standard kitchen ingredient

Tonight (April 24) Jeremy Irons presents his new film on the global garbage crisis to attendees of the New York Times Energy for Tomorrow conference held at the Times building tomorrow. The public is invited to occupy any additional seats which may be available (55E59 St).

The film is presented by the actor in a measured voiceover as he tours the sites of horrors ranging from the huge beachfront dump that now decorates the seaside of a Lebanon city to the maimed and deformed children in Vietnam who still suffer from the effects of Agent Orange fifty years ago used to defoliate the jungles hiding the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters in Vietnam and Cambodia.

The film, as the increasingly weary sounding Irons suggests, is a guide to the abysmal future in store for us if the mountain of plastic and toxic refuse continues to build worldwide, poisoning the whole food chain including human fetuses, as the gathering volume of autism allergies and other symptoms may indicate is already happening in the US.

Tomorrow the Times Conference at the Times building on Energy for Tomorrow: Building Sustained Cities will gather experts from cities around the US and the world to discuss new ideas in the field.

An impressive aspect of the $800 event will be that it will be streamed in high definition video accessible for free worldwide. Go to this link for the video either real time streaming or post conference reference.

Among the speakers will be Mayor Bloomberg, his Transportation CommissionerJanette Sadik-Kahn and Columbia professor Klaus Jacob.

http://www.nytenergyfortomorrow.com/#

UPDATE April 25: STreaming and playback operating perfectly today, save for one problem: the strip which allows going back and repeating is missing even on some filed videos.

THE PROGRAM (Click the + tab)
APRIL 24 EVENING
(THE EVE OF THE CONFERENCE)
7 – 9P.M.
SCREENING OF THE DOCUMENTARY “TRASHED”
The documentary feature film “Trashed” highlights solutions to the pressing environmental problems facing us all. Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons has teamed up with British filmmaker Candida Brady to record the devastating effect that pollution has had on some of the world’s most beautiful destinations. The screening will be followed by a conversation with Irons.
Confirmed speakers:
Jeremy Irons, actor and executive producer, “Trashed”
in conversation with David Carr, media and culture columnist, The New York Times

Throughout the day, we will be conducting networking and discussion sessions (via smartphones and BlackBerries) to gather, as well as to submit questions to the panel
7 A.M.
REGISTRATION AND BREAKFAST
7:45 – 8:45 A.M.
BREAKFAST DISCUSSION
SMART VEHICLES ARE HERE: CAN GOVERNMENT KEEP PACE?
The pressures are building for safer and smarter vehicles on our roads, raising questions about the national, state and local policies that will emerge. Several states are already early adopters of legislation to enable the use of autonomous vehicles. But every law is different, no national policies exist and innovations are unfolding rapidly. With the evolution of connected vehicles, intelligent roadways and cloud-based technologies (first maps, soon much more), there will be a host of choices for consumers and governments.
Moderated by Gordon Feller, director of Urban Innovations, Cisco Systems; founder, Meeting of the Minds

Confirmed panelists:
Anthony Levandowski, manager, Google autonomous vehicle project
Sen. Alex Padilla, California State Senator
Jim Pisz, corporate manager, North American business strategy,
Toyota Motor Sales Inc.
Dan Smith, Senior Associate Administrator for Vehicle Safety, NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
Bryant Walker Smith, Fellow, Stanford University Center for Automotive Research

9 – 9:30 A.M.
OPENING ADDRESS
Michael Bloomberg, mayor of the City of New York and chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group

Introduced by Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher, The New York Times

9:30 – 10:15 A.M.
THE MAYORS’ PANEL: HOW DO WE REINVENT OUR CITIES FOR THE THIRD INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION?
The city of 2025 could be crisis-ridden if the world doesn’t create more sustainable models of urban development. Research says that our cities will continue to expand and increase in population, while their populations will bring rising consumption and emissions. Alongside these huge challenges, there are also opportunities for businesses: electric vehicles, new low-carbon means of cooling, and energy efficient buildings. We ask a group of mayors to outline an urban planning strategy for 2025.
Moderated by Bill Keller, Op-Ed columnist, The New York Times

Confirmed panelists:
Jaime Lerner, former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil
Stephanie Miner, mayor of Syracuse
Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia
Greg Stanton, mayor of Phoenix

10:15 – 10:40 A.M.
COFFEE BREAK
10:40 – 11 A.M.
COLUMNIST CONVERSATION
Jeremy Irons, actor and executive producer, “Trashed”
in conversation with Andrew Revkin, Op-Ed columnist and author, Dot Earth blog, The New York Times
*Please note, there is a screening of “Trashed” on the eve of the conference. Seats are limited and the screening will be open to the public. Confirmed conference participants will get priority.
11 – 11:30 A.M.
PLENARY: THINK NATIONAL, BUT POWER LOCAL
A sustainable city will use a high proportion of renewable energy, but there is a Catch-22: sites that generate renewable electricity – wind farms, solar farms and tidal generators – tend to be far away from urban centers. How can we create grids that get renewable energy from the places it is made to the hundreds of millions who will use it? Meanwhile, how can we increase and incentivize localized power generation and supply? Options include district heating and cooling, and buildings producing their own power through solar powered roofs or single wind turbines, and then sharing that power through a smart grid.
Moderated by Thomas L. Friedman, Op-Ed columnist, The New York Times

Confirmed panelists:
Sabine Froning, C.E.O., Euroheat and Power
Patricia Hoffman, assistant secretary, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, U.S. Department of Energy
Kevin Burke, chairman, president and C.E.O., Consolidated Edison, Inc.

11:30 – 12 P.M.
COLUMNIST CONVERSATION
Shaun Donovan, United States secretary of housing and urban development
in conversation with Thomas L. Friedman, Op-Ed columnist, The New York Times

12 – 12:40 P.M.
GAMECHANGERS: THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION
Cutting-edge technology is helping cities cut down on energy and resource use and this innovation is occurring at both a micro and macro level. Can we innovate quickly enough?
Moderated by Joe Nocera, Op-Ed columnist, The New York Times

Confirmed panelists:
Stephen Kennedy Smith, president, Em-Link LLC
Judi Greenwald, vice president for technology and innovation, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
Adam Grosser, group head and partner, Silver Lake Kraftwerk
Neil Suslak, founder and managing partner, Braemar Energy
Steven E. Koonin, director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP)

12:40 – 2:05 P.M.
LUNCH AND BRAINSTORMING, URBAN FOOD SUPPLY
Lunch will take place in the Hall downstairs; during lunch we will host a brainstorming discussion featuring expert panelists on the urban food supply.
Moderated by Mark Bittman, Op-Ed columnist, The New York Times

Discussion leaders:
Will Allen, founder and C.E.O., Growing Power
Dave Wann, president, Sustainable Futures Society
Dan Barber, chef and co-owner, Blue Hill at Stone Barns and director of program, President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition

2:05 – 2:40 P.M.
DISCUSSION: GREEN BUILDINGS AND URBAN DESIGN
Sustainable cities need energy-efficient buildings and the current symbol of urban architecture – the glass and metal skyscraper – scores badly in this regard. What kinds of building should be the centerpieces of new sustainable cities? Are current green building codes leading us in the right direction? Nearly half of the world’s new megacities will be in China and India: how can their leaders ensure that the millions of new structures in these cities use energy sparingly and follow sustainable urban planning?
Moderated by Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic, The New York Times

Confirmed panelists:
David Fisk, co-director of the BP Urban Energy Systems Project and Laing O’Rourke Professor in Systems Engineer and Innovation, Imperial College London
Hal Harvey, C.E.O., Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology LLC
Katrin Klingenberg, Passivehouse Institute, USA
Jonathan Rose, founder and president, Jonathan Rose Companies
Martha Schwartz, professor in practice of landscape architecture, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and co-founder, Working Group for Sustainable Cities, Harvard University

2:40 – 3:15 P.M.
DISCUSSION: TRANSPORT AND TRAFFIC
An effective and energy-efficient transport network is the skeleton of a sustainable city, allowing residents to move from home to work with a minimum of congestion, pollution or emissions. The solutions are different for old cities and new cities, and for rich cities and poor cities. But the traditional model of urban expansion followed by new roads has created a vicious spiral where new roads beget more cars, which beget the need for more roads. New, more sustainable ideas for city transportation not only reduce emissions, but also improve quality of life.
Moderated by Joe Nocera, Op-Ed columnist, The New York Times

Confirmed panelists:
Walter Hook, president, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
Peder Jensen, head of programme, governance and networks, European Environment Agency
Anna Nagurney, director, Virtual Center for Supernetworks, Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts
Naveen Lamba, intelligent transportation lead, IBM
Janette Sadik-Khan, NYC transportation commissioner

3:15 – 3:30 P.M.
COLUMNIST CONVERSATION
PLANET-WARMING EMISSIONS: IS DISASTER INEVITABLE?
Klaus Jacob, adjunct professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University in conversation with Joe Nocera, Op-Ed columnist, The New York Times

3:30 – 4:15 P.M.
NETWORKING DISCUSSION:
Participants will be split into two concurrent sessions to brainstorm two issues on the sustainable agenda. Led by a member of The Times team, and with an expert panel to comment and shape the discussions, participants will brainstorm ideas together. The results of the brainstorming — including suggested actions — will be released after the event.
DISCUSSION 1: TRANSPORT
Ingvar Sejr Hansen, head of city planning, City of Copenhagen
Ari Kahn, policy adviser for electric vehicles, New York City Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability
Bruce Schaller, deputy commissioner for traffic and planning, New York City Department of Transportation
Greg Stanton, mayor of Phoenix

DISCUSSION 2: GREEN SPACES
Kai-Uwe Bergmann, partner, Bjarke Ingels Group
Steve Caputo Jr., deputy director, New York City Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability
Susan Donoghue, senior adviser and assistant commissioner for strategic initiatives, New York City Parks
Deborah Marton, senior vice president of programs, New York Restoration Project
4:15 – 4:35 P.M.
COFFEE BREAK
4:35 – 4:55 P.M.
COLUMNIST CONVERSATION
Carol Browner, senior counselor, Albright Stonebridge Group, and former energy czar in conversation with Bill Keller, Op-Ed columnist, The New York Times

4:55 – 5:45 P.M.
CLOSING PLENARY
DEALBOOK: INVESTING IN THE CITY OF TOMORROW
The challenge is to reinvent and retool the cities and urban life in a guise that is more sustainable – and to do it fast. Some of the best minds in the developed and developing worlds are trying to address this global issue. Architects, urban planners and engineers are drawing up plans. Business consultants are looking for new business opportunities as these sustainable cities evolve. The World Bank is trying to figure out how to finance their growth. How can we finance the creation of the city of tomorrow?
Moderated by Andrew Ross Sorkin, columnist/editor, DealBook, The New York Times

Confirmed panelists:
Alicia Glen, head, Urban Investment Group, Goldman Sachs
William McDonough, chairman, McDonough Advisors

5:45 P.M.
CLOSING AND RECEPTION

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Annabella Gonzalez Dance Theater – Movimiento Spring Series

Three premieres in evening of rhythm, striving, laugh out loud satire

Adam and Eve retold; New York runners mocked in comic anthropology

Heart and strength in varied program by talented troupe

Annabella Gonzalez’ well established dance troupe outdid itself on Saturday night (Mar 23 2012) with a program of dance numbers ranging from evocative abstractions to highly readable riffs on themes as familiar as Adam and Eve, though always with new twists as in the finale, a fine amusing satire on New York runners warming up.


Path - Premiere ((alt text))
The audience was immediately stirred at the outset by the premiere of Path, a rhythmic study by a group of four dancers (Lucia Campoy, Jorge Fuentes, Marcos Emanuel de Jesus and Carolina Santos Read) in purple in a kind of conga line jerking and swaying their broad shoulders and pleasingly rounded bottoms to a warm and catchy Latin beat (specially composed by Peter Sivalia) while intermittently breaking apart to perform interactive dance sequences of uplifting, joyous spirit as they proceeded along their journey.

Three more essentially music driven pieces followed, the first in sharp emotional contrast, a solo by Ms Gonzalez herself in a reprise of her Tableau from 1985 which struck a more introspective note, as she emerged, to the music of a string quartet by Elzbieta Sikora, first toe and finally whole body from behind one of a pair of Japanese screens to portray internal anguish under pressure from without, a punishing struggle to stand up never quite achieved before quietly giving up and reaching stillness on the floor.

Pastoral Latino - 2012The premiere of Talk Back, created by choreographer-dancer Jinah Parker, gave us a couple (Shauntee Henry and Carolina Santos Reid) in broad black tops and bottoms accompanied by an ominous soundtrack (by Justin and Jade Hicks) of drumming music with hummed and growling words seemed to pursue the same escape from oppression of some kind, perhaps from each other, before the essentially abstract depiction gave way to Pastoral Latino (2012) with three couples (Campoy, Juan Echazarreta, Fuentes, de Jesus, Heather Panikkar and Parker) that suggested much the same search for substance amid turmoil, accompanied by a soundtrack of unresolved modernist rumination (a sonata for two cellos and piano by Seymour Barab), both dance and music without obvious narrative framing but rewarding as a sequence of interesting explorations of possibilities.

From Adam and Eve to Central Park, through guilt to fun

Genesis  (1979 3 pieces combined)Post intermission, metaphor was reasserted with Genesis, a highly readable version in three parts of Adam and Eve and the Fall, where the lights turned up to reveal a large red bean bag all alone on the stage resembling a huge tulip from which emerged Eve (Panikkar), her struggle (to music by pre-Colombian instruments) to be born ending at her waist, until a naked Adam (Echazarreta) appeared. When he managed to strip away this concealment of her nether regions, their joyful dance (to bird songs arranged by Panikkar) was interrupted by an apple, plucked by Adam from the tree projected on the back wall of the stage, handed to Eve and finally rolled across the ground to Adam. The sequence culminated with Eve pulling Adam off stage left in gleeful anticipation of sexual mischief. After a minute, they appeared from stage right rear, parted, and then an unexpected turn – a solo Adam exploring the red bag, heaving it on his shoulder and staggering off stage with its heavy burden of puritanical guilt.

A brief performance by the often intriguing choreographer Maxine Steinman of her premiere of Upon the Air, where dressed in a loose cream top and long black pants she twirled lightfooted to Thai flavored gong music in a dance to the idea of floating in air on a ray of light, was followed by the piece de resistance of the evening, Joggernot, from 2005, the company’s irresistible study of a group of New York runners warming up, and occasionally even speaking up, as they humorously flounced and postured through a set of satirical routines fondly exaggerating the behavioral tropes of their subjects to a level of foolery that had Whitney, a suntanned young dancer sitting in the front row next to me, giggling and even bursting out in a laugh at one point.

P1460338 - Copy

Joggernot (2005)This irreverent riff on runners in New York assembling, stretching, and interacting with a view to finding partners came unexpectedly with snatches of spoken script from the dancers (Campoy, de Jesus, Fuentes, Panikkar, Parker), in what is always a stimulating departure from conventional art dance. A superb Bach-like violin and harpsichord sonata (String Quartet #1 by the exquisite 17 Century composer Elisabeth Jaquet de la Guerre) played a continuous lively background as dancers briefly standing in a group stretching and chatting (Lucia Campoy coquettishly extended her straight leg over the shoulder of Jorge Fuentes from behind, provoking a hilarious level of exaggerated appreciation from that comic master) made remarks like “Where are you from?”, “Arkansas!” or even – a male to another using a cellphone – “Use text! You’re so in the past!”

Not only was it amusing satire as dancers pretended to wobble or flay their arms when they fast walked or stretched in splits far wider than possible for most real runners, but there was much about it that had the visual flavor of a Feiffer cartoon, a comparison we had noticed earlier – Ms Gonzalez’s earlier emergence from behind a screen into angst on the floor, and the hand of Eve slowly emerging from the red bean bag, had something of that witty cartoonist’s vein of observation about them. That sociological comment can be implied in an art of purely physical expression, even as in this case with voice added, is always illuminating, even if the anti-war The Green Table blazed this trail eighty years ago.

A key satisfaction of the last piece came from the paradoxical placement of poised and athletic performers in a context where they ape the clumsiness and dating distractions of the deskbound as the latter go for their daily run around the Central Park reservoir, a contrast in the physical realm which pointed up how beautifully dance tunes the bodies of those who dedicate themselves to the art, especially those with the heart and strength of these dedicated young performers.

Hard to describe effectively in words, this fine entertaining finale can be sampled in an FZ35 video excerpt of some six minutes (Talk in New York Photocalendar Mar 23 Sat Video #53) which conveys pretty well why such departures into full mimicry and voice from the conventional silent restraint of standard stage dance promise much for the art as it is expanded to touch musical theater, and even musical comedy.

Dance as essential art

P1460365After prolonged applause from the packed theater Ms Gonzalez and the dancers greeted all in the foyer where at one point we asked Carolina Santos Read what kind of description she would like for her dancing. “Dynamic, fearless artistry, and character driven!” she replied in a burst of enthusiasm characteristic of the company as a whole.

All in all, an evening of continuing achievement for a perennially young and talented touring group that may be limited by time and money from equaling the biggest international companies but who embody the dedication and passion for the art that allows them to work at a high level to inspire the same satisfactions and joys in their audience, and serve as a model of how important it is that dance remain a lively and productive element in schools and in society.

The Program (click to display)
The Program:

ANNABELLA GONZALEZ DANCE THEATER
PRESENTS
MOVIMIENTO
Spring Series
March 22 & 23, 2013

PROGRAM
Principal Choreographer: Annabella Gonzalez

Path – Premiere
Dancers: Lucia Campoy, Jorge Fuentes, Marcos Emanuel de Jesus
and Carolina Santos Read
Music: Rhythmic Study by Peter Sivalia
Costumes: Elena Comendador

Tableau – 1985
Dancer: Annabella Gonzalez
Music: String Quartet No. 1 by Elzbieta Sikora

Talk Back – Premiere
Choreographer: Jinah Parker
Dancers: Shauntee Henry and Carolina Santos Read
Music: Justin and Jade Hicks

Pastoral Latino – 2012
Dancers: Lucia Campoy, Juan Echazarreta, Jorge Fuentes,
Marcos Emanuel de Jesús, Heather Panikkar and Jinah Parker
Music: Sonata For Two Cellos and Piano by Seymour Barab
Costumes: Jorge Fuentes.

INTERMISSION

Genesis links and completes three earlier pieces from 1979.
Part I – Exit – Heather Panikkar
Part II – The Fall? – Jinah Parker and Juan Echazarreta
Part III – Innocence Lost – Juan Echazarreta
Music: Part I, Mexican pre-Columbian instruments,
Parts II and III – bird songs arranged by Jon Panikkar
Costumes Parts II, III: Benjamin Briones/ubcostumesdancewear.com

Upon the Air – Premiere
Choreography, dance, music design and costume by Maxine Steinman

Joggernot – 2005
Dancers: Lucia Campoy, Marcos Emanuel de Jesús, Jorge Fuentes,
Heather Panikkar and Jinah Parker
Music: String Quartet No. 1 by Elisabeth Jaquet de la Guerre.

Annabella Gonzalez Dance Theater (AGDT), founded in 1977, has
eighty abstract, theatrical and comedic dances with highly varied music
ranging from classical American and European music to Mexican pre-
Columbian instruments and nature sounds. Critically acclaimed by
major newspapers, AGDT appeared at the Brooklyn Academy of Music,
Carnegie Hall and in prestigious festivals including Joseph Papp’s
Latin Festival in NY and Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors. It led a US State
Department program in the Dominican Republic. It has performed and
taught dance locally and nationally. Educational programs uniquely are
available in English, Spanish and French. AGDT videos can be viewed
at Lincoln Center’s Performing Arts Library. It has been awarded repeat
grants by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New
York State Council on the Arts, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council,
and important foundations and corporations. It participated in the First
National Encounter of Artists & Creators in Chihuahua (Mexico, 2008),
and performed at Chihuahua’s 2009 Palomar International Festival,
National Autonomous University of Mexico and Museo del Templo Mayor
(Mexico City, 2010) and San Luis Potosí International Lila López Dance
Festival (2011). Awards include an ACE Quintero and a Mayor Bloomberg
Proclamation.

PROFILES

Annabella Gonzalez (Founder & Director), born in Mexico City,
performed with Atelier de Danse in Geneva, Switzerland, and co-directed
The New Choreographers Ensemble in NY before launching AGDT. She
studied ballet with Vladimir Dokoudovsky and Dick Andros, modern
dance with Bertram Ross, music with Ted Dalbotten and acting at HB
Studio. Annabella holds a B.A in Art History from the University of
Minnesota, three language degrees from the University of Geneva,
Switzerland, and an M.A. in Dance Education from Columbia University
Teachers College where she created and taught Traditional Mexican
Dance. She has choreographed for Repertorio Español and other theater
companies and lectures nationally on Mexican dance and masks. Her
work has been presented in the United States, the Dominican Republic and
Mexico.

Lucia Campoy (Dancer) has danced with AGDT since 2005. She is from
Murcia, Spain, where she began dancing at the age of eight. Thanks to
the great teachers and choreographers who encouraged her education and
gave her the opportunity to grow as a versatile artist. Special mention to
Annabella Gonzalez for her constant support. Lucia is also a Feldenkrais
practitioner, a new career she is very excited about and that she practices
at City Center Theater. All her love to her husband, family and friends.

Jorge Fuentes (Dancer), a native of Tamaulipas, Mexico, attended Booker
Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts where he
performed the works of renowned choreographers Robert Battle, Adam
Hougland, Donald Byrd and Jessica Lang. He received honorable mention in
choreography, folklorico and modern from the National Foundation for the
Advancement in the Arts. Jorge has performed as a guest dancer throughout
the US. He has danced for the New York Baroque Dance Society, Calpulli
Danza Mexicana and Akjun Ballet Theatre. He joined AGDT in 2010.

Juan “Nacho” Echazarreta (Dancer) joined AGDT ten years ago. He began
dance training in Mexico and studied modern dance at Bates College where
he performed with the Bates Modern Dance Ensemble and had the privilege
of working with Mark Morris, Doug Elkins, Katiti King, and Michael Foley,
among others. New York credits include Dance Conservatory of NY, Staten
Island Ballet, Orange County Ballet, Ballade Ballet and Eglevsky Ballet. Juan
holds an M.P.A in Nonprofit Management and Policy from NYU.

Marcos Emanuel de Jesús Wille (Dancer) returns for his sixth season
with AGDT. He is an alumnus of the UW-Milwaukee dance program, the
Ailey School, the Graham School, and “La Escuelita” Don Rafael Cepeda in
Santurce, PR. Other dance credits include Errol Grimes Dance Group, and
NDTTV Arts. Marcos is active in arts ministry (trinitylutherannyc.org), and
his musical projects are unfolding at guaguaelectrica.com. He offers his thanks
to the community that has supported him and all praise to God.

Shauntee Henry (Dancer) was born in Panama and raised in Brooklyn where
she began dancing at the age of eight. She has worked with the Alpha Omega
Theatrical Dance Company for several years and is very happy to have the
opportunity to work with AGDT. Special thanks to Jinah Parker.

Heather Panikkar (Dancer) currently performs and teaches in New York
City and has toured nationally and internationally. She has performed works
under the direction of Chet Walker, Derik Grant, Charles Moulten, Rhonda
Miller and J.T. Jenkins. Other credits include Carousel, Rigoletta, Giselle,
Hansel and Gretel, The Little Mermaid, The Nutcracker, Norwegian Cruise
and Texas the Musical. Companies include The Illinois Ballet, Notes in
Motion, Steps Ensemble and Kimberling Dance. She joined AGDT in 2005.

Jinah Parker (Choreographer & Dancer), a Buffalo native, has an M.A. in
Dance Education from New York University. She received a B.A in dance
from The University at Buffalo, Phi Beta Kappa. Prior to her graduate studies
at NYU, She was a member of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company 2,
Lehrerdance, and presently performs with Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance
Company. She participated in regional productions of AIDA and Beauty and
the Beast. Jinah is a full time teacher with the NYC DOE and launched jewelry
company Collage. She joined AGDT in 2010.

Alt textCarolina Santos Read (Dancer) A graduate of the Fordham University with
Alvin Ailey BFA in dance program, Carolina has performed with the Eastern
CT Ballet and Ballet Hispanico’s ensemble. She was in the musicals “Evita”,
“The Producers” (ensemble), “Home for the Holidays”, Gifford’s Circus
“Yasmine! A Musical” UK tour, “La Revolucion,” “Moctezuma” and “50
Shades! The Musical parody (Off Broadway). She has performed in “Canto
Flamenco” with Melinda Marquez dancers and solo “Flamenco Nuevo” in
the 2012 Provincetown Dance Festival. Carolina appeared with AGDT in
2008. www.CarolinaSantosRead.com.

Maxine Steinman (Choreographer & Dancer) has danced with Eleo Pomare
and with the José Limon Dance Company in the LINKs Program, as well as
other NY companies. She has been teaching, performing, and presenting her
work in numerous festivals and venues in the US and abroad for over 20 years
with awards from the O’Donnell-Green Music and Dance Foundation and the
92Y Harkness Dance Festival. She teaches at The Ailey School, Montclair
State University, Hofstra University and Marymount Manhattan College. She
has a B.F.A from Adelphi University, an M.A from Columbia University
Teachers College and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin Peck School
of the Arts. Maxine has collaborated with AGDT since 1995.

Ulric O’Flaherty (Lighting Designer) has worked in New York, regionally,
nationally and internationally. He has designed the lighting for many AGDT
Spring Series since 2002.

Seymour Barab (Composer) has a long and distinguished career. Born
in Chicago, he began his professional career as a church organist at age
thirteen. His proclivity for musical theater has led to his operas being the
most performed of any American composer, although he has written for every
concert medium. He has been on the faculties of Rutgers University, Black
Mountain College and New England Conservatory of Music. His work has
been commissioned by the New York City Opera, Charlotte Opera Theatre,
Detroit Opera, Manhattan School of Music and Adelphi Orchestra, among
others. Mr. Barab composed “4 for 20” for AGDT in 1996.

Peter Sivalia (Composer), born in Syracuse, studied music at Onondaga
Community College where he played in the OCC Jazz Ensemble and,
later, taught himself jazz and modern compositional techniques. Peter has
composed various pieces for modern dance companies in various parts of the
world, including Nicholas Andre Dance Theater in NY, Mariana Bekerman
Dance Company in NYC, and TILT Dance Company in Hawaii. His work
mostly focused on rhythmic drum and percussion music using current
technologies. Peter also plays jazz guitar at cafes and restaurants. This is his
first collaboration with AGDT.

Production Staff
Founder & Director: Annabella Gonzalez
Consultant: Ellen Ryan
Photographer: Richard Grimm
Graphics: Sharon Klein Graphic Design
Lighting Designer: Ulric O’Flaherty
Technical Director: David Ojala
Special thanks to Sharon Klein and Rachel Neville.

Board of Directors
Annabella Gonzalez
Lutecia Gonzalez Quintanilla
Richard Grimm
Sidney B. Joyner
Wanda Ruggiera
Vincent Samat

MOVIMIENTO Patrons
Lutecia Gonzalez Quintanilla
José and Maria Teresa de Lasa
Kirby and Mark Grabowski
Helen McNaughton Grimm
Richard E. Grimm
Sidney Joyner
Moore Brothers Wine Company
Colleen Noall
Wanda Ruggiera
Vincent Samat

Advisory Council
Ana Maria Hernandez
Manuel Peña
Patrick Reed
Carolyn Sanchez

MOVIMIENTO Friends
Michael M. Biggers
Meredith Boylan and
Bob Hubbard
Chobani Greek Yogurt
Deborah Carroll
Michaele B. Elliot
Ana Maria Hernández
La Palapa Cocina Mexicana
Carolyn Sanchez

MOVIMIENTO is supported, in part, by public funds from the New
York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City
Council; and by The Harkness Foundation for Dance, The Mexican
Cultural Institute of New York and Friends of AGDT.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Revelatory Drawings: Morgan Shows Basic Drafts of Surrealism

Disturbing Grotesquerie, Nightmarish Dreams, Varying Techniques

Stunning, Rich Collection, Launched by LA Museum, A First for New York

The Morgan Library is the supreme treasure house and exhibitor of the finest drawings in the US, but it seems that Leslie Jones, curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was apparently the first to come up with the idea of an important show of the drawings of the surrealists, which played a major role in the development of the strikingly provocative movement of the early 20th Century.

Whether that curatorial priority be the case or not, the Morgan’s Isabelle Dervaux, Acquavella Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings, has fortunately brought the LACMA show (which ran from October to early January) in all its variety to New York with only a few changes. It is a stunning and rich exhibition. The 175 works form a revelatory account of how the seeds of Surrealism sprang up in the minds of its major practitioners. Drawings clearly took the lead in pushing the boundaries of conventional art and essaying new approaches and techniques in this Freudian, mystic, symbolic movement exploring the unconscious.

Love or loathe it, or both, at first sight, or simply find it as we do, after extended acquaintance, simultaneously intriguing and uncomfortable (and remarkably lacking in sanguinity – were these Parisians and others self-censorious in publicly excavating their innermost responses? there are not many provocative images of eroticism or lust in this collection), but always fascinating in its attempt to let the unconscious speak first without controlling mediation, this viewing is seminal.

One of its striking revelations is how far and wide the movement spread from Paris. Sheets from Eastern Europe, Tokyo, the US and Latin America are included. Works from the Morgan, LACMA, Tate Modern, the Pompidou Center and the Menil Collection join a number of items from private collections rarely accessible to the public.

There are over 160 works by Dali, Ernst, Magritte, Miro and many others in this must-see show which will run only from tomorrow till April 21 this year. Just how intriguing these are can be gathered from the pics in this post (either from the Morgan or from our Panasonic FZ35 in low exhibition light) which can be clicked to enlarge, or double clicked to super-enlarge for enormous detail. Additional pictures may be seen at Talk In New York Photo Calendar – Fabulous Morgan Surrealism

Meanwhile the Times today calls the show “sensational”, as indeed it is, repaying close attention endlessly with its extraordinary variety store of unexpected, stirring, often alien dissections of the strange unconscious visions which these artists might persuade us are always informing our emotional life:

==========================================================================

The New York Times (Pics added by AL)

January 24, 2013
Squiggles From the Id or Straight From the Brain
By ROBERTA SMITH

Surrealism was very, very good to drawing. Or maybe it was the other way around. In any case, shortly after a young poet named André Breton issued his first Surrealist Manifesto in 1924 the movement and the medium — aided and abetted by a large cohort of talented artists and writers — joined forces, to extraordinary mutual benefit. That art continues to reap the fruits of this union is one of the many lessons of “Drawing Surrealism,” a sensational exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum.

Drawing was an ideal art form for the Surrealists, with their initial opposition to painting as bourgeois, cumbersome and requiring too much skill. (Nearly anyone, after all, could make a decent drawing, or a few; several by the writer Georges Bataille, possibly scratched out during therapy sessions around 1925, are among the show’s high points.) And being the art medium connected most directly to the brain, it also fit with and furthered the Surrealists’ wide-ranging interests in the id, dreams and language; chance, speed and fun; and disturbing juxtapositions.

The Surrealists, like this show, defined drawing very broadly. They invented or breathed new life into drawing techniques like frottage (pencil rubbings) and the game of exquisite corpse. They commandeered collage and took it places the Cubists never dreamed of. They also tended to crossbreed such techniques (as well as photography) in all sorts of enriching ways.

But despite drawing’s centrality to Surrealism’s many explorations, there have been very few exhibitions devoted exclusively to Surrealist drawings. The Morgan’s survey is the largest yet, and also the most international. Organized by Leslie Jones, curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it had its debut last fall, and Isabelle Dervaux at the Morgan, the show is somewhat smaller than the Los Angeles version, with several substitutions because of the fragility of paper. Even so, it contains 165 works by 70 artists from 15 countries, and is accompanied by a handsome catalog with an especially informative essay by Ms. Jones.


If some of the inclusions on view serve historical clarity more than visual scintillation, the show as whole nevertheless provides plenty to occupy the eye. The stage is set with four works by important precursors of Surrealism, all from before 1920: a dreamlike drawing by Giorgio de Chirico, a poem-drawing by Apollinaire and two collages that Jean Arp arranged using chance. After these the largely chronological show is arranged according to techniques, which changed and expanded over time as more artists joined the cause and as Breton’s edicts endorsed, dismissed and reratified various methods.

P1420059 - CopyThis approach makes “Drawing Surrealism” a great introduction to the movement and a valuable break with the fashion for thematic displays. It serves as a reminder that few things are more important to an artwork’s ultimate effect than the way it is made, while also giving the show a variety and briskness unusual to exhibitions of drawings.

(Click to continue)
Breton’s first manifesto was directed at writers, but its call for “pure psychic automatism” whether “by writing, or any other means,” which would take expression beyond reason and “all aesthetic or moral preoccupation,” was general. Drawing, clearly, was another means, and within months André Masson, Yves Tanguy and Joan Miró were experimenting with automatic drawing. Still, the several works by them here suggest that absolute automatism was rarely achieved, if it was even desired.

Surprisingly (or maybe not), the most convincing example here is by that epitome of fussy drawing, Salvador Dalí. An untitled ink drawing from 1927, three years before he descended on Paris, is a superb tangle of lines and splatters that looks like nothing so much as an early Pollock. Also good is the fusion of sense and nonsense achieved in two drawings of Henri Michaux, with their lettucy rows of illegible cursive and symbols.

The show makes clear the importance of Max Ernst’s ingenuity to Surrealism. For example, he set in motion frottage, another way of introducing chance and avoiding conventional skill. Drawings were made by placing a paper on a textured surface — leaves, a wood floor — and rubbing it with graphite. Even before meeting Breton, in 1921, Ernst began using images from 19th-century store catalogs, medical textbooks and popular science magazines to fashion collages of Victorian interiors fraught with all kinds of disorienting warpings of space and behavior.

Both these developments reverberate and mutate throughout the exhibition. (The show includes works by two early adapters of Ernst’s old-fashioned images, Joseph Cornell and the Peruvian artist César Moro.)

The other echoing influence is the refined technique of Dalí, who single-handedly reversed the Surrealist aversion to meticulous realism and the old masters. His “Study for ‘The Image Disappears’ ” of 1938, in which the form of a beautiful woman doubles as the features of a bearded man, is echt Dalí. But the real gem is “Les 50 Secrets,” whose malformed creatures are seamlessly added to a page from a children’s reading manual.

The game of exquisite corpse offered new ways to embrace chance, downplay skill and avoid a unified style. This show has a clutch of the aberrant figures produced by the game, in which two or more players take turns drawing on paper folded so that most of what came before is invisible. Especially striking is a pink elephant head with a highly sexualized torso, boxy feet and a wandering tail, contrived in 1926 by Breton, Marcel Duhamel, Max Morise and Tanguy. Soon collage was added, with more hard-edge, mechanistic results.

A large 1930 charcoal by Miró merges aspects of the exquisite corpse and automatic drawing. Fringed with polyps, this gangly biomorphic creature concludes with a large toenail. It was inspired by the contention of Bataille (an early dissident, who disagreed with Breton’s idealization of the unconscious) that the big toe was the basest part of the body, farthest from the brain, closest to the dirt and often, as here, more than vaguely phallic.

A fertile bedlam prevails in the second half of the show, as techniques continue to be discovered and grafted, and other countries are heard from. The British artist Eileen Agar adds an automatist figure to a large photograph of a nude woman in a 1939 work that presages Sigmar Polke. The Japanese photographer Kansuke Yamamoto riffs on Dalí with photographs from around 1938 that combine drawing, collage and rephotography. Jindrich Heisler, a Czech artist, does something similar in 1943, but with softer, charcoal-like results.

In 1935 the Spaniard Oscar Dominguez started using decalcomania, which involves spreading ink over a sheet of paper that is then pressed with another sheet. When they are separated, strange, often geological textures result, inviting further fiddling. Proof positive of its rich potential comes in a beautiful, pink-spotted work from 1936 by Georges Hugnet, who also effectively merged frottage and collage.

In the mid-1930s both the Chilean Roberto Matta and a little-known British artist-psychiatrist Grace Pailthorpe created hairy landscapes that are a little too solidly fleshy in ink. Nearby Frida Kahlo dashes off a dense constellation of her motifs in pencil.

Soon we start seeing the early glimmerings of both Abstract Expressionism and its discontents: strong works by Pollock and Arshile Gorky; dissenting figuration by John Graham and Alfonso Ossorio (the latter presaging Mad magazine’s vehemence); and febrile strangeness from the delicate Wols, alone here in his debts to Klee and Bosch.

Among the surprises is a maplike drawing by Leonora Carrington that evokes Ree Morton and a fluffy yet glowering orb of black lines by Lee Mullican. It brings us full circle, back to Dalí’s automatist outburst.

“Drawing Surrealism” is on view through April 21 at the Morgan Library & Museum, 225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street; (212) 685-0008, themorgan.org.

Here’s the press release from the Library:

========================================================================
The Press Release (see end for Talks, Film, Dance program)(Pics added by AL or from PR disc):
===================================================================
SURREALISM AND THE ART OF DRAWING IS THE SUBJECT OF A MAJOR EXHIBITION AT THE MORGAN LIBRARY & MUSEUM

OVER 160 WORKS BY ARTISTS SUCH AS DALÍ, ERNST, MAGRITTE, AND MIRÓ OFFER EXCITING, NEW PERSPECTIVES ON THE IMPORTANCE OF DRAWING TO THE SURREALIST MOVEMENT

Drawing Surrealism January 25–April 21, 2013
**Press Preview: Thursday, January 24, 2013, 10–11:30 a.m.**
RSVP: (212) 590-0393, media@themorgan.org

New York, NY, December 14, 2012—Few artistic movements of the twentieth century are as celebrated and studied as surrealism. Many of the works of its best known practitioners—including Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, René Magritte, Joan Miró, and Leonora Carrington—have become touchstones of modern art and some of the most familiar images of the era.

Critical to the development of surrealism was the art of drawing. For those involved in the movement, it was a vital means of expression and innovation, resulting in a rich array of graphic techniques that radically pushed conventional art historical boundaries. Yet the medium has been largely overlooked in visual arts studies and exhibitions as scholars and institutions have focused more on surrealist painting and sculpture.

Now, for the first time in New York, the central role drawing played in surrealist art will be explored in a large-scale exhibition at The Morgan Library & Museum entitled Drawing Surrealism. The show will include more than 160 works on paper by 70 artists from 15 countries, offering important new understanding of surrealism’s emergence, evolution, and worldwide influence. The exhibition is co-organized with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and will be on view at the Morgan from January 25 through April 21, 2013.

(Click to continue)
Occupying two of the Morgan’s largest galleries, Drawing Surrealism will be presented chronologically with interwoven thematic sections devoted to the surrealists’ principal drawing techniques and to international developments. Important drawings will be shown from countries beyond the movement’s Western European geographic roots, including sheets from Eastern Europe, Japan, the United States, and Latin America.

Drawing Surrealism includes works from the Morgan, as well as from the collections of LACMA, Tate Modern, the Musée national d’art moderne at the Pompidou Center, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Menil Collection. It also includes drawings from a number of major private collections in the United States and abroad, which are rarely accessible to the public.

“Because the Morgan’s collection of works on paper is of such international renown, one of the principal goals of our exhibition program is to present new insight and fresh perspectives on the medium of drawing,” said William M. Griswold, director of the Morgan. “Drawing Surrealism is an example of just such an exhibition. The show breaks new art historical ground by demonstrating the fundamental importance of drawing to the surrealist movement on the worldwide stage.”

ORIGINS OF SURREALISM

Surrealism emerged as a literary movement in Paris in 1924 with the publication of André Breton’s First Manifesto of Surrealism. Inspired by Freud’s theories of the unconscious, nineteenth-century mysticism, and Symbolist art and literature, surrealists sought to liberate the imagination through an art that involved chance, dreams, and the unconscious, as well as the play of thought itself.

Almost at once, the movement’s proponents realized the potential of the visual arts for expressing the imagery of dreams and the unconscious mind. The practice of drawing, which offers the advantages of immediacy and spontaneity, became the most fertile medium of expression and innovation among the surrealists, allowing them to bypass the conscious mind and produce new ways of seeing.

AUTOMATIC DRAWING

Central to the exhibition will be examples of the diverse drawing techniques that the surrealists used in their efforts to bypass the conscious mind and access the subliminal realm. The first graphic process adopted by the surrealists was automatic drawing. In this technique, inspired by André Breton’s definition of surrealism as “pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express . . . the actual functioning of thought . . . in the absence of any control exercised by reason, beyond any aesthetic or moral concern,” the artist simply allows his hand to meander across the sheet. According to André Masson, who was the first to develop the process, “the hand must be fast enough, so that conscious thought cannot intervene and control the movement.” Afterwards, however, Masson would alter his drawings according to suggestions emanating from the original web of lines. Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, and Yves Tanguy also practiced a form of automatism that combined chance with a more deliberate approach.

DREAM IMAGERY

Denouncing the passivity of automatism, a few surrealists relied on more traditional techniques to create dreamlike images and express their fantasy. Chief among them was Dalí, who sought to materialize his “delirious phenomena” and dream imagery with the utmost detail in the academic style of the old masters.

This illusionistic mode was predominant in American surrealism of the 1930s, notably in the work of Federico Castellon, one of Dalí’s most successful followers. Artists seeking to express the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and World War II also often adopted this style to create images as disorienting and destabilizing as the atrocities they represented.

FROTTAGE

Max Ernst was the main surrealist to explore the technique of frottage, which consists of rubbing graphite or other drawing media on a sheet of paper placed over a textured surface, such as a wood floor, strings, or leaves, in order to reproduce that texture on the paper. For Ernst, frottage was equivalent to automatic writing because of the mechanical and unconscious way in which the imagery surfaces. Several frottage drawings by Ernst will be on view, including Le Start du Châtaigner (The Start of the Chestnut Tree), 1925, recently acquired by the Morgan, which belongs to the first series in which the artist systematically explored this technique. Ernst later adapted the frottage technique to canvas in what he called “grattage.”

EXQUISITE CORPSE

Some of the most striking surrealist drawings were exquisite corpses, a game that involved collaboration and chance. In the game—the name of which derives from a sentence created when the surrealists first used the process to write poetry: The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine—each participant made a drawing on a section of a folded sheet of paper without seeing the others’ drawings. The resulting hybrid creatures generated by the game influenced surrealist imagery, reappearing in artists’ individual works, as can be seen, for instance, in the strange anatomy of Victor Brauner’s figures on view. While the earliest exquisite corpses were drawn in graphite, ink, or colored pencil on ordinary writing paper, later examples could be in pastel or tempera on black paper. Beginning in the mid-1930s, collage was also used.

DECALCOMANIA

In the mid-1930s artists developed new automatic techniques to bypass the rational mind in the creative process. One of the most popular was decalcomania, which involves applying a wet medium (ink or gouache) to a sheet of paper and then pressing it against another sheet. When the sheets are pulled apart unexpected patterns appear on the transfer image. Originally a decorative technique—used notably in nineteenth-century ceramic design—decalcomania was rediscovered in 1935 in the context of surrealism’s exploitation of chance effects by Spanish artist Oscar Dominguez. Nearly ten decalcomania drawings by Dominguez and other surrealists who employed the technique—including Yves Tanguy, Georges Hugnet, and Marcel Jean—are included in the exhibition.

COLLAGE

Although collage was used earlier in the twentieth century by the cubist and dada artists, the technique took on particular importance with the surrealists. The odd juxtapositions and dislocated imagery it produced were particularly effective in conjuring a dream world or suggesting the irrationality of unconscious desire. Miró, Ernst, Ei-Kyu, Breton, and Arp are among the many artists whose works are featured in this section of the exhibition.

INTERNATIONAL IMPACT

The 1930s marked surrealism’s growing internationalization. Artists outside of Paris approached and adapted surrealist drawing techniques to their respective cultural and political contexts, and active surrealist centers developed in London, Prague, Tokyo, and Mexico. Although surrealism was envisioned as an international movement, rarely have works by these artists been presented alongside their European cohorts centered in Paris.

On view will be drawings by such masters as René Magritte of Belgium, Roland Penrose and Eileen Agar of England, Gunther Gerzso and Frida Kahlo of Mexico, Toyen and Jindřich Štyrský of the Czech Republic, Federico Castellón, Arshile Gorky, and Kay Sage of the United States, Cesar Moro of Peru, and Yamamoto Kansuke of Japan.

LATE SURREALISM

In the 1940s automatism played a major role in the elaboration of new forms of lyrical abstraction. In Europe, Henri Michaux and Wols created fluid images in washes and watercolor in which barely recognizable shapes suggest a visionary world. In the United States, stimulated by the presence of European surrealists in exile during the war, artists such as Arshile Gorky, William Baziotes, and Jackson Pollock explored freer techniques to make drawings that fuse visions of nature and of an interior universe. These works on paper laid the groundwork for what would become abstract expressionism.

Although surrealism as a movement lost its vitality at the end of the forties, its tenets remained a springboard for several postwar developments, as can be seen in Ellsworth Kelly’s abstract compositions based on chance and Louise Bourgois’s expression of subconscious psychological states through symbolic imagery.

RELATED PROGRAMS

DANCE
Inner Landscape: Martha Graham and the Surreal
Thursday, February 7, 7pm
The Martha Graham Dance Company will perform three of Graham’s masterworks that touch on surrealism and demonstrate how the choreographer made the workings of the mind visible in dance. Every Soul is a Circus (with Katherine Crockett performing the lead), Satyric Festival Song, and “Moon” from Canticle for Innocent Comedians will be featured with commentary by the Company’s Artistic Director, Janet Eilber. Drawing Surrealism will be open at 6pm especially for program attendees.
Tickets
$20; $15 for Members
www.themorgan.org/programs; 212-685-0008 x560
This program is supported in part by Alan M. and Joan Taub Ades.

FILM
L’Age D’Or
Friday, February 22, 7pm
(1930, 60 minutes)
Director: Luis Buñuel
Directed by a master of Surrealist cinema and co-written with Salvador Dalí, this avant-garde surrealist comedy is a gleeful fever dream of Freudian unease, bizarre humor, and shocking imagery. Starring Gaston Modot and Lya Lys, and the famed surrealist painter Max Ernst.
Free

FAMILY PROGRAM
Leave It to Chance: Surrealism 101 for the Family
Saturday, February 9, drop-in from 2–5pm
In a combination of games and art projects, artists and educators Nicole Haroutunian and Lisa Libicki will introduce the entire family to the most playful side of surrealism. Families will explore automatic drawing, frottage, collage, decalcomania, and collaborative chance drawing, all techniques made famous by Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Salvador Dali, and many others represented in Drawing Surrealism. This workshop is limited to families with children. There is a limit of two adult tickets per family. Appropriate for ages 6 and up.
Tickets
$6; $4 for Members; $2 for Children
www.themorgan.org/programs; 212-685-0008 x560

GALLERY TALK
Drawing Surrealism
Friday, February 1, 7pm
Isabelle Dervaux, Acquavella Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings, leads this casual tour of the exhibition she co-curated.
Free with admission

TOURS
Between the Lines
Saturday, February 2, 11am
8
Saturday, March 2, 11am
Written or drawn, lines are to be read and interpreted. In this new series of interactive gallery conversations, a museum educator will lead participants in a forty-minute discussion based on a selection of works from Drawing Surrealism.
Free with admission

Stroller Tours
Wednesday, February 6, 10:30am
On the first Wednesday of each month, docents lead lively one-hour tours of the museum and current exhibitions for new parents and family caregivers and their children. In February, participants will explore Drawing Surrealism. For parents and family caregivers with children 0–8 months. Single strollers, tandem strollers, and front carriers are welcome.
Free with admission

ORGANIZATION AND SPONSORSHIP

Drawing Surrealism was organized at the Morgan by Isabelle Dervaux, Acquavella Curator of Modern and Contemporary Drawings. At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the organizing curator was Leslie Jones, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings. The exhibition was on view at LACMA from October 21, 2012–January 6, 2013.

Lead funding for this exhibition is provided by the Ricciardi Family Exhibition Fund and by the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, with further generous support from the Sherman Fairchild Fund for Exhibitions.
The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

The Morgan Library & Museum

The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, one of the preeminent collectors and cultural benefactors in the United States. Today, more than a century after its founding in 1906, the Morgan serves as a museum, independent research library, musical venue, architectural landmark, and historic site. In October 2010, the Morgan completed the first-ever restoration of its original McKim building, Pierpont Morgan’s private library, and the core of the institution. In tandem with the 2006 expansion project by architect Renzo Piano, the Morgan now provides visitors unprecedented access to its world-renowned collections of drawings, literary and historical manuscripts, musical scores, medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, printed books, and ancient Near Eastern seals and tablets.

General Information
The Morgan Library & Museum 9
10
225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016-3405
212.685.0008
www.themorgan.org
Just a short walk from Grand Central and Penn Station
Hours
Tuesday–Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; extended Friday hours, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. The Morgan closes at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Admission
$15 for adults; $10 for students, seniors (65 and over), and children (under 16); free to Members and children 12 and under accompanied by an adult. Admission is free on Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is not required to visit the Morgan Shop.
=================================================

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Crack Reporter’s Glugg Party in Rich’s Rooftop Palace

Cute kids, football players, dynamic blondes in real estate crowd Rich’s pad

Celia Farber concocts “glogg” on the spot to enhance Holiday cheer

Toy Santa marches up ladder, Giants thrash New Orleans as our party virtually drinks on the field

This inveterate partygoer rolled over to the Upper West Side last night at the invitation of famed investigative reporter Celia Farber to one of the sturdiest old apartment buildings in Manhattan in the eighties for a fine Christmas glogg and football party at Chris’s penthouse bachelor pad with its 50 inch flat HD screen on which football played all afternoon and evening and Sam, a pit bull almost the size of a St Bernard, rested quietly in a large bird cage on the floor, safe from humans of the smaller variety of which two were present in the early phase of the party. The parents chatted about how the school on 85th Street is the one dissonant note in an area which all is harmony, fecundity and parental love, since the kids attending there are becoming rowdy and have taken to making remarks as strollers pass by in the street.

Amid the glowing Christmas decorations which festooned the shelves in bright red and green and blue bulbs a knee high toy ladder was placed on the floor on which a small Santa Claus marched up and then marched down all by itself,while in the kitchen further supplies of a Swedish recipe for Christmas punch was being brewed up and bottled by Celia, continuing a Swedish family tradition handed down through the centuries, a drink which you could also take home if you liked for future festive imbibing in the wine bottles she was filling and labeling “Sod lul! Ulla’s Glogg: Authentic Recipe Handed down through generations — Serve hot with blanched almonds and love — Burgundy wine vodka cognac honey (something else faded into illegibility) sugar cloves cinnamon oranges.”

(Click to continue)

The secret of sales success

This rare item priced at one Andrew Jackson a throw could have departed at an even higher rate if Celia had remembered to inform guests of the possibility before they came without the requisite species, but Celia happens to be one of the most talented wordsmiths in the nation and it is a known fact that the higher the literary quality of output the less motivated an author is to engage in the relatively mundane process of actual selling, since the feeling is that fine writing sells itself, and no writer worth her salt likes to engage in the business of hawking product. That is what agents are for. Luckily however she had invited Abdul, a robust gentleman from Senegal, who though inclined to a more creative pursuit had had to resort to selling thousand dollar suits at Brooks Brothers for the moment, at least, and was willing to share his hard gained expertise. We asked him what the secret was to success in clothing sales and recorded the answer on video (see second video at end of strips). He said – and Gina agreed – that the secret was to tell them how fabulous they look.

Meanwhile while admiring what appeared to be the most delightful one year old on the Upper West Side we chatted to Barbi, the dynamic blonde mother of Spence, the seven year old who was as equally modest and charming as the babe, who explained that after her divorce she had been obliged to take employment currently in an office selling the services of an Australian limousine service called Mango to stars of stage, screen and the corporate hierarchy, which after being in jobs in show business was she said a bit more difficult to reconcile with her motherly responsibilities. But as a supremely good saleswoman she was confident she could sell bottles of Celia’s branded “Ulla’s Glogg” to a teetotaler.

When goal kicks go in the wrong direction

By this time the room was full of dynamic blondes and robust men who looked as if they had all been footballers in their youth, and all kept their eye on the game on the vast screen as the New York Giants thrashed New Orleans, which was easy to keep up with even as one was carrying on a conversation because it was almost as if the entire party was on the field with the players, although it must be admitted that the overwhelming HD screen expanse also had the odd effect of actually making the players seem less realistic, in a sense, because they were so excruciatingly well defined, far better in fact than in real life.

We chatted to Chris who is an important figure now in sports and concert production (“I gave away four tickets to this game!” he told us) having played tight end in his earlier days, when he was the designated kicker for his team, apparently a reliable one, since when we asked him if his kick had ever gone awry he told us no, he could remember only one time, when a high wind had toppled the ball before his foot could reach it and it had gone sideways. The referee had insisted against his indignant protest that it didn’t need to be repeated. His most memorable positive sports achievement was in baseball, he said, when he had batted a ball so powerfully that it had risen up and over the heads of the crowd to hit the scoreboard smack in the middle with a resounding crash that had echoed round the stadium.

Two hundred friends on the roof

We also chatted to another of the dynamic blondes, Colby, who came with Gina, both also talented in marketing. Colby was the one it turned out who had rescued the pitbull from an animal shelter and given it to Rich, our tall, athletic host. She informed us that she liked to keep her own apartment clean and clear even of books, for although she had read many, once she had done so she made sure she gave them to a suitable friend. By comparison Rich’s cosy hideaway might have seemed a little crowded especially with so many guests but outside it boasts an enormous rooftop patio in two directions, broad enough to accommodate two hundred. That’s about how many people turn up to his summer festivities, he said, and “I don’t have two hundred friends!”

(More photos and videos at http://www.onlygoodphotos.com/Parties/Celia/DEc-9-12-Celias-Glugg-Party-at/27002678_fdQm9m#!i=2263947116&k=rm6D9CC)

Posted in Treib | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Art of the Beautiful: Patricia Treib at Tibor de Nagy

Gallery Continues Tradition of Gifted Female Artists

Decorative Appeal Underlaid With Substance

Nell Blaine’s Summer Works Form Joyful Backdrop

When we left Magda Salvesen’s opening of her late husband Jon Schueller’s deeply felt, beautifully subtle abstracts from Scotland on Thursday night (Sep 6 Thu), at the David Frindlay Gallery at the 8th Floor of 724 Fifth (West side between 56th and 57th Street), we didn’t leave the building, but went up to the 12th Floor for another rewarding opening at the long established (fifty years old, fifteen years at this Fifth Avenue address) Tibor de Nagy gallery.

There on the same night, Fashion week’s celebratory Thursday, there was a show, Pieces (September 6-October 13), by the elegant and highly alert young woman painter and teacher at Brooklyn College named Patricia Treib, who has lived in Brooklyn for five years (in New York City for eight years) after studying at the Art Institute in Chicago, which followed her graduation with an MFA from Columbia In 2006, where she studied with Charline Von Heyl.

Bold, decisive flourishes

We found her work, on show September 6-October 13, 2012, uplifting in the largely sanguine tradition of the Tibor de Nagy (pron. NAHJ) gallery from its start sixty years ago, and decisive in composition in a line she has pursued for the last two years of big bold flourishes with the soft brushed look of watercolor.

At the show’s opening were her painter friends, such as Katie Loselle, and students who since they were all equally good looking, suggested to us that whereas in the days of yore the prettiest and most lively girls might crowd classes in the History of Art nowadays they choose to practice art, thus probably doubling the amount of talent coming into the arena. Two we spoke to – Beth Rush and Lizzette Bonfante – complimented Treib in unison for her encouraging support in allowing them to freely explore their own style and subject matter before offering facilitating suggestions.

Nell Blaine’s Decorative Joy

The youthfully happy atmosphere of the gallery was already suffused with color and beauty, in fact, since gallery co-owner Andrew Arnot (who has been there since 1993 with Eric Brown running its shows of a roster of artists that continue a tradition of decorative but meaningful work without much angst that began with Helen Frankenthaler and Larry Rivers and Jane Freilicher and even combination presentations of artists and poets, some of whom the gallery has published in notoriously imaginative print format) was simultaneously featuring an even more upbeat show by Nell Blaine (1922-1996), another uplifting female brush wielder long on the gallery roster who favored flowers and landscapes and other light and colorful representations of summer joys (A Glowing Order, Paintings and Watercolors, also runs from September 6 to October 13, see background of above pic).

Fashion Week Party Night Complements Upbeat Feel

Downstairs and outside and just as gay in mood, along 57 Street and up Madison Avenue, the last party night of Fashion Week was a glorious dressed up parade of crowds moving from one party to another or simply showing off to each others cameras on the sidewalk. When, after chatting to us, a female vision of bronzed skin and white embroidered cotton got off our bus at 64 street and Madison to go to Oscar de la Renta’s bash we regretted not going with her. The evening was carnival throughout.

For the complete set of photographs see OnlyGoodPhotos.

History of the Gallery

See New York Social Diary’s Jill Krementz visits Tibor de Nagy Gallery for the early history – “amorous, rivalrous and incestuous” according to the Times story When Art Dallied With Poetry on 53rd Street by Holland Cotter – of this storied gallery, which started off in the quarters of a marionette theater in a nearby brownstone. Notably, the gallery was showing female painters from its very beginning.

Posted in Opening, Painting, Treib | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carolina Performing Arts’ Emil Kang Bakes Rich Centenary Cake for Rite of Spring’s 100th

Raucous rhythmic explosion of 1913 revisited with panoramic celebration

Eleven works to be premiered, two conferences scheduled in grand tribute to music’s modernist breakthrough

Distinguished artists from Yo Yo Ma to NYC’s Brooklyn Rider Quartet will dazzle onstage

Le Sacre du Printemps danced by the Bejart Ballet Lausanne (photo by Francette Levieux)

It’s a hundred years since May 29, 1913, when Serge Diagilev, Vaslav Nijinsky and Igor Stravinsky mounted a ballet performance of the Rite of Spring at Paris’ Theatre des Champs Elysees which ended with fisticuffs in the audience and the police being called to quell the riot. The music scene was never the same again: modernism had broken through the railings of Romantic harmony and regularity to include blaring dissonance, unresolved harmonies and jerky, unpredictable rhythms in its repertoire of expressive effects:

On opening night, the very first notes hinted at the avant-garde masterpiece that was to follow. The introductory melody, adapted from a Lithuanian folk song, featured a bassoon playing at the very top of its register. The unlikely timbre of the instrument caused composer Camille Saint-Saens to exclaim, “If that is a bassoon, then I am a baboon!”

The curtain rose and the music continued, without a melody but with a loud, pulsating, dissonant chord with jarring, irregular accents. Dancers emerged dressed as primordial pagans from ancient Russia, performing an “anti-ballet” with heavy steps, bodies pulled downward and a focus on the movements of the human form rather than the elegance normally seen in a Romantic ballet.

One dancer recalled this shockingly new choreography “With every leap we landed heavily enough to jar every organ in us.” The ballet’s narrative was a raw, violent story based on pagan rites of sacrifice.

The audience, comprised of traditionalists and modernists, was moved passionately by what they saw on stage and the provocative music they heard. Some called for the ballet to be stopped or shouted at the dancers. Meanwhile others yelled back, defending the work. Diaghilev flipped the house lights on and off in a vain attempt to quell the angry crowd. Nijinsky leaned onto the stage to call out beats for the dancers who couldn’t hear the music over shouts and arguments echoing throughout the theater.

Carl Van Vechten, an American writer and photographer, was at the performance and later wrote of his experience

“The young man seated behind me in the box stood up during the course of the ballet to enable himself to see more clearly. The intense excitement under which he was laboring betrayed itself presently when he began to beat rhythmically on the top of my head with his fists. My emotion was so great that I did not feel the blows for some time.”

All decorum had left the Théatre des Champs-Elysées as fistfights broke out in the aisles, duels were being called and people fled the ensuing chaos. Police were called to quell the riot that had now spilled out into the street.

Roman Vlad, a composer, pianist and musicologist, later wrote, “Never had an audience heard music so brutal, savage, aggressive, and apparently chaotic; it hit the public like a hurricane, like some uncontrolled primeval force.”

A century later, Stravinsky’s daring may seem tame compared with the discomforts of Schonberg or Berg that followed, but musicians and composers are still exploring the new universe that Le Sacre du Printemps’s wormhole sent them through to, while keeping a sometimes tenuous hold on the eternal verities of traditional music’s original forms. The balance between the two, old and new, is as challenging and fruitful as ever, and the Rite of Spring remains its quintessential starting point.

As to the music itself, it plays as well as ever, though some may find the attempt to shock the bourgeoisie out of its unimaginative complacency circa 1913 a bit dated in the Internet age, at least as far as the mythic and rather horrid theme of Le Sacre Du Printemps goes (a young pagan girl ritually dances herself to death). In fact it seems probable that most of the outrage was directed against Najinsky’s heavy footed choreography, rather than Stravinsky’s threatening discords. But the music as well as the theme has enduring appeal for its gathering mix of triumph and tragedy, harmony and dissonance, or as Bernstein once put it, “it’s got the best dissonances anyone ever thought up, and the best asymmetries and polytonalities and polyrhythms and whatever else you care to name.”

Definitive celebration

Bad Boys of 1913: Serge Diaghilev, Vaslav Nijinsky & Igor Stravinsky

Now the University of North Carolina’s Emil Kang and his Carolina Performing Arts have prepared what looks to be the definitive celebration of this musical Bastille. Their “The Rite of Spring At One Hundred” festival will run from a world premiere by Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble on Sunday Sept 30 at Memorial Hall to a finale on April 27 by the Bejart Ballet Lausanne (see photo above).

In between, there will two conferences, one in Moscow, and a glittering parade of new inspiration in music and ballet by well known performers: nine world premieres and two US premieres, in fact, played by the Mariinsky Orchestra of St Petersburg conducted by Valery Gergiev, (Oct 29 and 30), Brooklyn Rider with Gabriel Kahane and Shara Warden (Nov 16), the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and SITI Company (Jan 25 and 26), Vijay Iyer and the International Contemporary Ensemble (Mar 26) the Nederlands Dans Theater (apr 3) and Basil Twist, puppeteer, with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s (Apr 12 and 13).

The size and scope of the celebration is remarkable, especially since all performances will take place in Chapel Hill. That’s only “an hour away” from Manhattan, say the sponsors, but given so many performances and the expense in energy, time and fare in getting there, one can only keep one’s fingers crossed they get the audiences they deserve. For those interested in this remarkable watershed in musical history and its enormous influence on music since there can surely never be such an opportunity again.

(See our photo bank at OnlyGoodPhotos:Emil Lang’s Rich Cake for Rite of Spring for more pics or The Rite of Spring At 100 for more pics and tickets, with relevant videos of most of the performers at work ).

Posted in Ballet, Dance, Music | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New York Historical Society Shows How City Busted Smallpox

Documents Include George Washington Order to Vaccinate Troops

Grotesque Scourge Ended With Resolute City Wide Action

Mystery of Why it Worked in Original Form Unsolved

The current wave of rebellion against vaccinations doesn’t seem to show any signs of weakening, but the new exhibition starting today drawing on the rich collection of New York City artifacts at the New York Historical Society might give adherents pause. It recounts how mass vaccination scored one of the greatest triumphs in medical history.

The documents and photos, along with models of the ghastly results of smallpox, also show that resistance to this public health measure is not new, but has plenty of historical precedent, although this City was the first to apply it in such gigantic numbers. Over six million were vaccinated against smallpox in 1947 in little over a month – that it became the first battle won in the complete eradication of that disease worldwide.

“Be Safe! “Be Sure” Be Vaccinated!” was the City propaganda theme at the time, and the Society has borrowed the title for a show about the progress of vaccination here from the eighteenth century till today, which pairs illustrative models of the grotesque symptoms of the once rampant disease with photos, portraits and letters of prominent people in the City and country who championed and in some cases resisted the antidote.

One paper is the order of George Washington in 1777 to inoculate all the soldiers of the rebel army, when he found he was losing more men to this debilitating and often fatal scourge than to the guns of the British. The rural Americans who made up the bulk of his army had rarely been exposed to a malady which the British had often survived, and they were felled as frequently as the North American Indian tribes who were also being decimated by the new biological threat to which they had no immunity.

The disgusting ailment left its victims permanently scarred, if they were lucky enough to survive it.

One remarkable fact the show records is that in the earliest days of do it yourself vaccination the method was to rub some of the pus from the pustules covering the skin of a victim into an open wound of the person to be protected. Why this direct blood infection didn’t result in a full blown case of the dread disease but only a mild infection is not explained. Considering the ailment was transmissible by mere contact with a sick patient, it seems inconsistent that a more direct method involving a high dose of the germ merely yielded a mild form of the disease.

While we intend to research this points further, the show can be recommended to all as a vivid historical reminder of how this appalling and disfiguring infection ruined the appearance of many prominent figures in history, including the great English author, literary critic and dictionary maker Samuel Johnson, who caught it as a babe in arms from his nursemaid.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Annabella Gonzalez’ Dance Theater Charms in Spring Festejo

Shifting Moods and Open Ended Interpretations

Robust Dancers Accomplished and Personable

Imaginative Troupe Is Enduring Family

Scores of worthwhile artistic events in New York City these days seem to suffer from lack of publicity oxygen, simply because the Times has difficulty finding time or space even to list them, let alone review them. Amid this month’s “feast of riches”, as a Times headline over a Claudio Rocco notice labeled it, one of them that got lost was last night’s Festejo (Celebration), the latest Spring modern dance program of Annabella Gonzalez‘s close knit young troupe, who continue a series of accomplishments this Manhattan art performance choreographer has built up over thirty five years, a troupe survival anniversary more than three times as long as most modern dance companies in New York.

The Times was informed but didn’t list on Friday the three performances they scheduled – Friday 8pm, Saturday 3pm and 8 pm, at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center at 248 W. 60th, which is far West across Amsterdam just before West End Avenue. We went to the matinee, which was not as well attended as the opening night, possibly because of an unusually sunny March afternoon. Both evening performances were packed, with Bravo!s resounding at the close.

Gonzalez’s Mexican City heritage which goes back to the 16th Century always leads us to hope there will be some sparkling Latin American vein of cultural ore she will mine this time around, especially under the heading Festejo, but whatever mariachi vigor she carries in her bloodstream she currently has tamed in the cause of higher art, preferring to lift matters onto a higher plane, often with advantage.

Thus the second number, My Interpretation, was a 1976 solo tribute to the flamboyant gestures of flamenco, drawn from the 19th Century operatic zarzuela mix which was lighter in character than flamenco proper. With one or two hand claps included, it was danced with graceful poses by Heather Panikkar in a lavish ankle length crimson quasi Andelusian dress with hanging forearm sleeves, the staccato rhythm of castanets and foot stamping quite banished from the imagination by the peaceable Prelude to the celebrated La Revoltosa by Ruperto Chapi, the late nineteenth century Spanish composer.

This calm translation of the quintessential gypsy posturing of flamenco into a more sedate and thoughtful choreography was a relief after the modern dissonance of the introductory Descent/Ascent, where Lucia Campoy, one of Gonzalez’s nerviest dancers, shared marches, jumps and gestural poses in unison with Juan Echazarreta, Marcos Emanuel de Jesus and Jorge Fuentes, in an abstract embodiment of the relentlessly anxious Elegia by Max Lifchitz.

Clouded interpretation

No sooner was Pannikar offstage, however, than we were plunged back into a deeper chasm of angst in the premiere of Cumulus, danced by the guest choreographer herself, Maxine Steinman. Seemingly a relentless series of representations of grief and despair it began under the beat of what sounded like helicopters overhead when we first saw her crouching figure – or was it machine gun fire? – and though it soon segued into Pergolesi’s Quando Sorpus Morietur, it closed with a reprise of the helicopter blades beating overhead, producing a seriously ominous effect.

Judging from the hesitant clapping, we were not alone in feeling the oppressive impact of almost Bosnian level anxiety portrayed so effectively that it was hard to enter into the lively comic spirit of Mozartmania, the next of the four remaining works. We would find later, however, that this darkness of the spirit was an unintended consequence of a lack of program notes for each piece.

For Steinman afterwards explained that in her mind she was concocting three stages of a journey of sorts involving images of cumulus building up and then releasing energy of the earth, “floating freely and then grounded, and then pulling myself away from the earth to this beautiful music,” with the sounds bracketing the Pergolesi intended to be “more of a train sound”. But Cumulus was a work in progress, and not meant to be specifically descriptive: “I’m still investigating the piece, and you are free to get what you want out of it,” she said, laughing at my mention of Bosnia.

Mozart inspired foolery

Set to Mozart’s Six German Dances, Gonzalez’ lively Mozartmania is a satirical play on the uncertainties of partnership in classical ballet corps with mixing and matching among five contenders beset by accidents and fumbles – a hat dropped here, a collision there – replete with comic grimaces directed at the audience, all of which should have felt lighthearted and upbeat as a liberated cock o’ the snoot at classic dancers and their intramural competitiveness and snobbery. But though the plumes in the headbands of Marcus and Jorge struck a jolly note from the beginning, we found Alas! we were too weighted down by the freight of Cumulus and its heavy blow to our equilibrium to readily feel what was intended.

We recognized the source of Mozartmania’s making fun of the arrogance and mutual disdain within high powered corps de ballet, however. More than most companies, the spirit of this little dance group is far from the competitive intensity of ballet corps; it is plainly one happy family, whose dancers have been with it as long as ten years, one whose widely traveled (52 countries) choreographer and mother hen is capable of saying (as she did afterwards when talking of Mozartmania) “we are a family, we love each other and Mozart is my God!”

Liberating audience imagination

A conversation in intermission with the barrel chested singer who was acting a usher raised an interesting point. He said he preferred the open ended interpretations offered by theatrical performance to the firm framework of the story lines followed in movies. From that point of view this dance program was likely to satisfy, since it varied between works with a recognizable theme to ones which aimed at an abstract, open ended and painterly interpretation of the music.

As it happened the next performance was a Gonzalez signature piece, The Fall, part of a series she wrote in 1979 and had just revised, specifically on the story of the Garden of Eden, where Eve is born fully and fetchingly made struggling free from a large red rosy bean bag, dances with Adam in circles and finally rolls a red apple across the stage to him. He takes his fatal bite before they dance off stage.

Treating this as a quasi feminist folk tale rather than a religious parable, Jina Parker and Juan Echazarretta led us through with clarity, balance and vigor in a poised traversal of the narrative sequence, dovetailing smoothly as they complemented each other with elegant integration. Control and a sensitive muscularity seem to be a characteristic aim of the dancers in this company, projecting a robust reliability however slim their physique and serving their choreography well.

Freed from limitations

Gonzales herself soloed next in a reprise of her Window from 1987, a heartfelt acting out of liberation dedicated to all women, rooted in her growing up in a Mexico City where she says “wives were men’s sweet little dolls” and she was told she could never be an artist because “only men create.” Her portrayal climaxed in throwing off her outerwear and hurling her pearl necklace to the floor, as in Get Me Outa Here!

The finale came in the form of the premiere of Pastoral Latino, an abstract account of the Sonata for Two Cellos and Piano most recently given Gonzalez by Seymour Barab, the well known opera composer and teacher. Here three couples (Lucia Campoy, Marcos Emanuel de Jesus, Jorge Fuentes, Juan Echarreta, Heather Panikkar and Jinah Parker) worked through a composition whose artistic meaning remained as undefined and subjective as the usher would have liked, another “work in progress,” according to Ms Gonzalez, but one which nonetheless served again to show how versatile and consistent her performers are in portraying her work. One reason for this sense of successful group integration may be that she tries to work with them like a good director works with good actors, listening to their suggestions and allowing them to include and perform their own ideas in carrying out her plan.

As she put it in her introduction on stage, “we are a family” and this organic feel permeated all of these diverting and solid performances by a group of dancers of considerable accomplishment throughout. – AL

(Click the photos to enlarge. More photos and short video clips at Only Good Photos)

Posted in Ballet, Dance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Douglas Walla Appears at Molly Barnes’ Salon

Distinguished Kent Gallery founder now torn between his artist brood and his own two children

Worries that Internetworked art world is losing texture, time for ripening

Art Fairs are “speed dating”

The invitation only art salon of the well connected Molly Barnes today (March 9 Fri) presented the quiet spoken, silver haired Douglas Walla, the widely respected author (Entre Chien et Loup) publisher and founder and president of the distinguished Kent Gallery, founded in 1985 and now at 541 West 25th at 11th ((212) 365-9500), reviewing his long career finding artists of distinction whose typically cerebral work treats such issues of political and social significance as “architecture of amnesia, issues of conscience, emotionally urgent subject matter (both personal as well as public in origin), and obsessive, compulsive personal undertakings”.

These include recently the remarkable Vienna Biennale project of 27 year old (in 2007, when she started it) Emily Prince to make a drawing of every one of the military fatalities of Iraq and Afghanistan, of which she has completed more than 5,500 so far. For fear of them being “torn down”, he said, only reproductions were exhibited at first, but the display this summer at the University of Chicago will be the originals.

Walla did not bring slides, but simply sat in an armchair and talked, in a voice as quiet as a soft slipper, prompted by Molly every now and then. “Tell us why you don’t like Art Fairs!” she burst out at one point, to which he replied “I don’t like speed dating. I work with people who are more socially conscious, whose work derives from a real place. I don’t think for me it is worth throwing away $30 or $50,000 to have a booth at a fair. But I do go to them as an art professional to see what my clients see. I do try to be open minded about change though I find it harder and harder as I get older! Someone told me that they like fairs because things get done faster, but I am not sure things should be done faster in the art world. Why? Think about it. I’m just an old dog, I guess. “

The Internet certainly saved time, he allowed, but “I miss the tactile nature of being shown slides by an artist. It may be my age. The Web has been invaluable in the last two years but at the same time it is a disaster. I used to be sorry for the artists because calling up galleries and going around showing work was fundamentally demeaning, I knew. I always felt compassionate. But now one can often see that artists who point us to their Web site have never walked into my gallery and have no idea what we show.

“I think that the long time it took to become established in the old days was not a bad thing. One of our artists worked at the Met as a guard for ten years. So many are starting their career too young now. De Kooning had his first show when he was 42 years old. I remember Cindy Sherman when she had her show at the MOMA being in tears, saying ‘I really don’t deserve it!’”

Art world tough, unpredictable, so big now

“How do you keep up?” asked Molly. “I read a lot,’ said Walla. “Now I have two small children and I have to commute, and it is not so easy. At Marlborough we had hundreds of artists a month walking in with slides, and now we have Web sites, so it does go faster. But really the way it works is that I hear about people from people I respect. For example, John Brill was recommended to me. It’s really hard for an artist, I know. Some luck into becoming a brand very fast, but for most people it is hard.” The art world is so much bigger, now, he said. “When I was starting out I tried to walk into every gallery space of about 250 and get a sense of what they were about, but nowadays that would be impossible – there are so many. I have only 12 artists to deal with and even so I choke on the adequacy of doing a really good job.”

The current exhibition at Kent is by Heidi Fasnacht of her studies of “landscapes of cultural destruction” including the Nazi theft of art, which is one way of interpreting the way the Holocaust was triggered, said Walla, in that Hitler was busy “raiding the homes of Jews and stealing the art and it wasn’t going fast enough”. Her work points up calamitous episodes in the past which in the current political climate post 9/11 are rarely faced. At least one institution (Art Institute) proved unwilling to show the work in the aftermath of the Twin Towers catastrophe. It includes, for example, the Hamburg and other bombing by the Allies in World War II which resulted in epic devastation – up to 600,000 killed and four million homeless – but which has been so long out of the public eye. “Three Holocaust survivors who came up from Washington were blown away”, he said.

Clearly Walla is a supportive gallery owner. Jazz drummer and composer turned artist and teacher Charles Gaines, who lost twenty years of his work when his previous dealer went bankrupt and hid it away in a warehouse, where it could not be retrieved without receipts which the artist had never been given, was fortunate to have Walla’s encouragement to move on and produce new work.

The beauty that was Tanning’s

One remarkable painter he has long represented is the famously delightful and imaginative surrealist Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012), who just died at 101. In 1942 she was visited for the first time by Max Ernst and took up playing chess with him for a week before they ended up in bed and divorced their respective spouses. Ernst’s wife was Peggy Guggenheim, the great patroness who was a prime mover in transplanting the energy of modern painting from Paris to New York in the mid 20th Century, who rescued Ernst from a French internment camp. He always felt, said Walla, that she had “blackmailed” him into marrying her.

“Max walked into Dorothea’s studio for the first time and saw Birthday on the easel,” he recounted, describing how the relationship was sparked. The barebreasted self portrait of Tanning costumed in tangled vine-wrapped skirt and sleeves and standing over a winged blackhaired gryphon/puppy as open white doors recede into the distance is now celebrated as one of Manning’s great works.

Since there were no slides those unfamiliar with this masterpiece had to find it in a small book which Walla had brought with him, the “Dorothea Tanning” by Charles Stuckey and Richard Howard, one of 40 or more art books published under the Kent gallery imprint, with a photo of Manning on the cover and other black and white photos inside, that confirmed just how beautiful she was and how gifted.

So it was a sad story that Walla told of a dealer (Lee Miller) visiting Manning later on and warming her up to the idea of a mutually beneficial relationship, but then, when she gave her assent to him buying a few paintings right there and then, he only chose works by Ernst.
(More photos at Only Good Photos)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elixir of the Gods Tops Javits Travel Show

Pierde Alma offers celestial mexcal – for a price

Oaxaca Yankie director Jonathan Barbieri obsessive purist, makes labels from agave pulp

“I call this Vitamin M”


Amid the cornucopia of 500 or so booths and counters at the bustling New York Times Travel show at Javits this weekend, representing everything interesting in destinations from peaceful, eco friendly Costa Rica to Turkey, now the thriving alternative to Greece, we stumbled at the end on a suitable finale to the workday – a counter with bottles of pure, transparent liquid being imbibed by a small but merry crowd of samplers who seemed impressively satisfied by the very small amount of the liquid they were offered in clear plastic water cups.

The taste test turned out to be administered by Laura Gonzales and Philippe Petalas, the young reps of an idealistic company called Pierde Almas which produces what might just be the finest mexcal in the universe, a liquid of innocent transparency but fiery nature (it hovers around 48% alcohol in strength) prepared from high altitude agave with excruciating discrimination and care in Oaxaca, the center for mexcal, which is a refined, superior form of tequila.


This elixir of the Gods is thought to have been first produced by the Conquistadores when their original hard drink supplies ran out, since there is no record of it earlier. They married the copper distillation machine (one they had inherited from Persia via the Moors when Queen Elizabeth of Spain kicked those Arab conquerors out) with the local sacred plant agave. Essentially the still consists of a vessel with a sealed top in which boiled or fermented vapor passes through a tube over to a second, cooler vessel in which it condenses and collects.

Into this “alembic” or still they fed baked hearts of maguey, which is a species of agave, the sacred plant of the local culture, and the result was mexcal, a word drawn from “ovenbaked agave”. Its effect is so beneficial that an Oaxacan saying has it that “para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también” (for everything bad, mezcal, and for everything good, as well).

No comparison with tequila

Mexcal is not tequila, it seems, far from it. Tequila is a form of mexcal produced by the blue agave plant, primarily from the city of Tequila, according to the man behind Perde Almas, Jonathan Barbieri, its tall, square jawed Director who went to live in Oaxaca and fell in love with mezcal. “It’s thanks to mexcal that I speak what little Spanish I do!” he said, popping up alongside Laura and Phillippe to emphasize that, unlike his purist brew, tequila involves “cutting corners and adulterating the drink with flavors, additives such as glycerins to make it go down smoother, deodorants and caramel, which are all in tequila.”

His expensive bottles form six different varieties drawn from agave under the names Espadin, Dobadaan, Tobala, Tobaziche, Pechuga, and Conejo, of which the third and fourth are from wild agave rodocanthus and kawinski. Using these agaves and only these agaves they are double or even treble distilled in a copper alembic and naturally fermented in pinewood tubs in the village of San Baltazar Chichi, which is 6000 feet high up, “which results in cold and slow fermentation and an acidic fruitiness,” Barbieri enthused.

We tried the wild agave Tobala, $115 a bottle at any one of nearly fifty outlets stocking this pricey novelty in Manhattan, ranging from reBar to the Blue Donkey Bar to the Rosarito Fish Shack. It tasted a little smoky and put us in mind of fuel for a swinging lantern, but the fifty per cent alcohol had no unpleasant bitter kick to spoil the discreet flavor (described poetically in the brochure as “floral”, “green” with “anis” and the “smell of heath after a rain), and our gulp went down very smoothly, and kept our capillaries dancing quietly for several hours afterwards, we would find.

We then raised the stakes and tried the second to top of the line Tobaziche, $120 a bottle in Manhattan. It is also made from wild agave brought down from the mountains by burro (trucks cannot go where it grows). The taste is promised in the brochure as strong tones of agave flesh laced with aromatic woods, with traces of quince and anis fading to floral and wet clay, but we can’t say we immediately detected these subtleties. It just seemed as smokily interesting and not so very different to us, but we can imagine a connoisseur would know better. The effect was certainly equally pleasant – it warmed the heart without interfering with cogitation in the slightest, as far as we could tell. Since our photos did all turn out as well as we thought, however, this may have been an illusion. As the Oaxaca saying implies, fine mexcal does raise one’s confidence considerably.

Standards, not standardization

The top of the line Conejo, with “the saddle of a rabbit” added to the avocado and fruit hung in the path of the distilled juice, according to Laura, didn’t seem to be on offer, sadly enough, possibly because it is high priced at $300. Only eighty bottles are produced a season, said Barbieri. This prize mexcal is distilled two or three times over avocado with seasonal fruits as well as the rabbit’s saddle.


Unlike other mexcal Pierde Almas is aged in pine not whisky barrels, and even the labels are handmade from the maguey pulp and other fibers in use since pre Columbian times, including coyuche, cornhusk, banaleaf.

The company is driven by the honest idealism of a purist who disdains the lowering of standards involved in large volume commerce. Tequila used to be a good mexcal 150 years ago, Barbieri informed us, but now it is a very different grade despite all the propaganda which supports its sales after all the corner cutting and adulteration. “It is like Wunderbread compared with farm bread,” he says, “like tortillas made from the true process where the corn is soaked in lime overnight until it is soft and then ground up, compared with commercial tortilla mix from which they remove all the proteins to make corn oil before they use it for tortillas.”

“Or you could say it is as different as organic coffee from Nescafe, from instant coffee”, he suggested. What kind of hangover was in prospect, we asked. “There is no hangover!” he assured us. “You get up ready to populate the world!” If this effect is reliable, we told him, that would make it better than Viagara, which is only effective about half the time, according to studies.

Posted in Drink, Luxury, mexcal, Mexico, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tiny Studio Cram-Decorated

How much can be done with 250 square feet?

Gray Burton lives in mini-Versailles

Champion hoarders, this is what to show your wives

Astonishing item tomorow in the Real Estate section p4 where Constance Rosenblum in Living Small, Decorating Large details the remarkable studio apartment of one Gray Burton, 25, who says he is delighted to pay $1350 a month for a tiny studio apartment on Ludlow Street directly above the Darkroom, a nightclub of some sort which sends up floor pounding rhythms and noisy revelers in the street to lull him to sleep.

Burton is happily ensconced amid glittering bric a brac and furnishings fit for a royal palace, which he has somehow jammed into a space of 250 square feet, which arithmetic indicates is a rectangle of 16 x 16 ft, or equivalent. “Oh it’s small”, exclaimed his grandmother, who slept on the couch with the skinny whippet Milkshake also in residence, while his parents, visiting at the same time, slept in his bed, while he curled up under the oak table.

Burton is a skilled cabinetmaker who put together a large mirror from Ikea mirror tiles and a frame he made, and built a pair of end tables from walnut, ash, cocobolo and padauk, steam bent into curly multicolored strips like taffy.

So what does the future hold for Gray? Presumably he will get claustrophobia at some point, but when? Where will his collecting find storage space now, if it continues? He deserves a larger place, no doubt about it.

For the moment, though, he stands supreme as having proved that even a tiny Manhattan studio can express a fantasy of over the top glitter, and that hoarding can be sublime.

Living Small, Decorating Large
By CONSTANCE ROSENBLUM
AS a child growing up in Hillsborough, a historic community in the heart of the North Carolina tobacco country, Gray Burton slept in a lime-green bedroom beneath a bright purple comforter. Mardi Gras beads dangled from the headboard and African masks stared balefully from his walls. (His older brother, who went on to become a professional fisherman, outfitted his room with the stuffed remains of the turkeys, deer, ducks and bobcat he had shot.)

During Mr. Burton’s years at the Rhode Island School of Design, from which he graduated in 2008, his apartments in Providence were more notable for his collection of chameleons than for glitz. But soon after moving to New York four summers ago, he began creating a remarkably vibrant environment in the 250-square-foot space on Ludlow Street that he rents for $1,350 a month.

“Phenomenal, no?” said Mr. Burton, who is 25 and a publicist for Gilt Groupe, a Web site that caters to luxury-seeking bargain hunters. “I’ve been here nearly three years, and I still can’t believe what a great deal I have.”

The space, on the second floor of a century-old tenement, retains its original molding, not to mention what appears to be the original shower, and the location places Mr. Burton in the throbbing heart of the Lower East Side club district. His apartment sits directly above the entrance to Darkroom, and down the block are Pink Pony and Max Fish, a celebrity magnet whose patrons have included Lady Gaga and Jake Gyllenhaal.

“I never go to those places,” Mr. Burton said. “But up here in my little crow’s nest” — he invariably describes his apartment this way — “I feel the energy. When I go to bed, I can feel the beat of the club downstairs.” The sound of revelers milling outside his window lulls him to sleep.

When Mr. Burton arrived, the apartment resembled a bare white box. But like a squirrel hoarding nuts for the winter, he had been preparing for this moment for years, stashing furniture and decorative items in his parents’ house and in friends’ apartments, and carting family heirlooms from place to place. He also shopped obsessively, trolling eBay and secondhand stores for crystal goblets, bone china, candelabra, chandeliers and much more, all the while awaiting the perfect setting in which to showcase his acquisitions.

“When I moved here from Williamsburg, where I’d been renting an apartment,” he said, “I literally pushed a cart over the Williamsburg Bridge about 20 times in a week to move all of my breakable crystal and china, because I didn’t trust movers.”

Entering his apartment is like stepping into a Fabergé egg. Call it shabby chic, call it bohemian elegance, but whatever name you choose, visitors invariably blink and catch their breath, dazzled by the glitter.

Many pieces come from the John Derian Company in the East Village, a decorative arts shop where Mr. Burton worked shortly after moving to New York. The store is the source of wall hangings of skeletons made of Mr. Derian’s signature decoupage; a butcher block so heavy that five people were needed to lug it up the stairs; and an armoire from Eastern Europe. Its owner likes to think that the initials M and B carved on either side of the doors stand for Mr. Burton.

EBay has yielded especially rich treasures, among them Baccarat crystal goblets for every drink imaginable — port, old-fashioned, Scotch, Champagne, red and white wine — that light up a cabinet in the living room. Shelves hold an impressive collection of flow blue china, made by 19th-century English potters and named for the way the glaze blurred or “flowed” during firing.

From Mr. Burton’s parents back in North Carolina came a chest that was a wedding present and the plump red armchairs from their sitting room. His beloved Aunt Sue, his partner in antiquing who died last year, was a special inspiration. He has the miniature blue teacups that sat on her sun porch and her set of Lenox china — dinner, lunch and salad plates for 12 — in the delicate blue autumn pattern.

Lighting is a particular passion. Mr. Burton is proud of his flickering Edison bulbs and describes himself as obsessed with his chandeliers and candelabra. “I’ve always been a candle person,” he explained. “And I spent $1,600 for a Baccarat candelabra — a month and a half rent.”

A black iron candelabrum was a gift from Aunt Sue, who bought it with him in North Carolina and stored it for a time in her house so as to hide the purchase from his mother.

Along with high-end pieces, the décor includes oddities, among them a fox skin mounted near the door (someday, perhaps, to be made into an overcoat for Milkshake, Mr. Burton’s Italian greyhound puppy); a weathered steel rug beater as handsome as a piece of sculpture; and a ball of red fluff that he snagged in Macy’s when it fell off a woman’s hat.

In making this minute space work, it helps that Mr. Burton is flexible. He brushes his teeth in the shower and uses the one dollhouse-size sink for both shaving and washing dishes. It helps, too, that he is immensely handy. He enclosed a checkerboard of reflecting tiles from Ikea in a wooden quilting frame to create a mirror that seems to double the size of the living room. He made the dust ruffle that hides the stuff under the bed. He combined an old board and a typewriter stand to create a bar atop a radiator.

A skilled cabinetmaker, he built a pair of end tables from walnut, ash, cocobolo and padauk, steam-bent into curvy multicolored strips that look like pieces of luscious taffy.

Mr. Burton’s apartment has proved surprisingly elastic. “Oh, it’s small!” his grandmother exclaimed when she and his parents paid a visit in December. But she gamely shared the couch with Milkshake while Mr. Burton’s parents slept in his bed beneath throws made of Indian saris, and he curled up under the oak table that was a gift from his boyfriend, a onetime Goldman Sachs banker turned talent agent.

Mr. Burton’s grandmother remained a presence even after she headed back home, thanks to a photo of her wearing a jaunty red beret and another of her with her twin sister. The two wear matching shirtwaist dresses they had made themselves. And his parents are still bragging about their son’s apartment to friends in Hillsborough. “My parents said that knowing me, it was everything they expected,” he said.

Email: habitats@nytimes.com

A “shirtwaist dress” is a blouse with buttons down the front.

So here we have a prize specimen of hoarding done in a manner which serves as an example to all subject to the syndrome (most people who live for more than a few years in New York City without a house to put things in ie a small apartment not built to accomodate the life of a grown up) that they can quote to others who complain that they are following in the steps of the Collyer brothers.

To them of course their collection is a museum of objects whose value may only be apparent to the knowledgeable ie them rather than scornful wives who think only of how they will throw things out when they (their husbands) are not looking.

Steve Hartman of CBS News did an amusing On The Road clip on February 24th this year (2012) when he went over the mementos he had kept in his basement with his pretty new wife whose automatic Throw It Out attitude was predictable, and undented by the fact that he discovered that a Toledo Mud Hens football jersey he had acquired in 1986 was worth money, owing to the success of the Oscar nominated movie Moneyball with Brad Pitt wearing the same number 26 and name Billy Beane, a failed player who went on to become the Oakland A’s general manager and “changed the whole philosophy of the game”.

His wife Andrea was unimpressed, however, so that even though he had the jersey farmed he still had to keep it down in the basement.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

In Kathleen Stein’s Wake

Wide ranging OMNI editor turned author dies on trek

Longtime companion Douglas plays Faure

Niel Sloane mathematician and Susanna visit

At OK Harris’s opening today (3pm-5pm, Saturday, Jan 29. 2012), we ran into noted ex-Bell Labs mathematician Neil Sloane, rock climber and sphere packer extraordinaire, attending Mark Chester’s slice of the latest gallery serving, a display of Chester’s well composed parallels, double displays of two photographs in one frame of well wrought images which share a common, often whimsical visual theme.

Neil’s wife, the poet Suzanna Cuyler, told us shocking news – two months ago, Kathleen “Kathy” Ellen Stein, OMNI Magazine’s remarkable interview editor and author of The Genius Engine, a 2007 book from Wiley studying the strange ways of the prefrontal cortex, had been killed in a fall into a deep ravine while hiking in wooded Pennsylvania with her longtime companion Douglas Stein.

They invited me to join them in visiting Douglas at Kathy’s Bowery loft, where he was engaged in packing up and moving the grand piano to a new residence in New Jersey, so after saying Goodbye to K, I went along Spring Street to the Bowery, crossed amid the evening traffic clogging the street and faced a metal door, where a light on the fourth floor of the building suggested Douglas was in.

After a wait, Douglas finally opened the door and, tall and silhouetted against the light of the hallway, recognized us with surprise after more a decade since our last meeting. We both served as interviewers for OMNI Magazine’s legendary Q and A section, which Kathleen Stein edited for years. He led us up three long stairs back to the apartment with its floor painted red where Kathy had lived and worked, still graced with the brown grand, with Faure’s Nocturne #4 on the music rest, the $2000 large size iMac on the work table, the nine feet tall potted plants, and the shelved and stacked books of science and poetry, including one precious author’s copy of The Genius Engine: Where Memory, Reason, Passion, Violence, and Creativity Intersect in the Human Brain still present.

A fatal fall

Placing the mail on the table under the Tiffany lamp – the latest subscription copy of the National Association of Science Writers “Science Writers” – the still shell shocked Douglas told me the story of what had happened, the event which had suddenly ended Kathy’s life and with it, most of his own, he said. “She was my life”.

The New York Times carried the obituary on Dec 4:

——————————————————————————————————————————
“STEIN–Kathleen Ellen. Born June 9, 1944 in Chicago. Died November 13, 2011, age 67, from a fall while hiking in the Delaware Water Gap. Stein lived in New York City most of her life. Preceded in death by mother Margaret Bruce Stein and father Benjamin F. Stein, M.D., of Sarasota, Fla. Survived by longtime companion Douglas Stein of New York City, sister Julia Long (Randy) of Weekie Wachee, Fla., and brother John F. Stein (Beth) of Nashville, TN, niece Kim Long and nephews Jonathan Long (Jaime) and Tyler Stein. Stein received a B.A. from Bard College with extensive PhD work at Rutgers University, where she taught literature and writing. She began her journalism career covering rock music for Circus, Creem and others before joining Omni magazine as a founding editor and writer. Former Omni editor and friend Keith Ferrell writes, Stein, during her long tenureat Omni, became one of the very best writers on science, and particularly neuroscience, in the country. Her stewardship of the magazine’s legendary interviews is the prime reason they are legendary. She followed science with the assiduousness of a good reporter, and pursued its explication for general audiences with the enthusiasm of an evangelist. A widely published science and technology writer, Stein wrote for the New York Times, Biotechnology Newswatch and UPI, among others. Her book, The Genius Engine, on the complex role of the prefrontal cortex of the human brain was published in 2007. It received praise as a laudable work. A tremendous effort brought out with natural ease and Stein for her ability to present technical information in understandable terms, without being pedantic or overly simple. In addition to her love of writing, reading and good conversation, Stein was an avid hiker and accomplished sailor. There will be a memorial service at a later date. The family requests memorial donations be made to The Nature Conservancy, Bard College English Department or Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).”
———————————————————————————————————————-

Douglas explained that they had both set off separately in the morning at 9.30 am, because Kathy’s recent problems with her feet had made her even less willing than usual to suffer the awkwardness of holding back her athletic partner from his natural pace. A painful bunion among other damage had compounded the lameness which marked Kathy’s life since at the age of 12, when she had fallen from a palm tree into too shallow water, resulting in a foot dragging gait which she had refused to allow to compromise her life in any way.

When she didn’t return, he went in search of her, following along the route he supposed she had taken, but in vain. He had called in the Park Rangers, who had eventually found her hat at the edge of a steep cliff abutting the nearby stream, and finally her body face down in the bottom of the ravine.

A musical link

When Neil and Suzanna arrived, Douglas invited us to rescue what we could from the books and other possessions of Stein’s which he was going to have to abandon in her apartment, and after we did so he sat down at the piano and with a gentle touch played the Faure Nocturne #4 in E flat Op 36 in a poignant farewell to Kathy and all that they had shared for some thirty years.

He broke off his playing before the virtuoso middle of the piece to talk some more, of Faure – “I think his stuff is underrated…” – and how this Nocturne seemed designed for Kathleen. “Let me see if I can play the end.”

He played to the end, only for the second time ever, he said, and he thanked us for it. “That happened! That actually happened! Thank you!”

” So you can see why I wanted play it, ” he said. He gently closed the lid. ” A number of times when I was practicing it, she was just, so present…” he said.

There was sadness in Suzanna Culyer’s voice too as she gathered her things, and declaimed:

“She will always be present in our memories. Anybody who knew Kathleen Stein took to her, and she took… as you said…if Kathy Stein liked you, you were in like Flynn. She had an uncaring knack for friendship and she was a wonderful, wonderful laconic woman, private, interesting and she will live in our memories beyond, long beyond others.”

“Yes”, said Douglas. “Exactly.”

“Maybe it was best, “said Susanna. “I mean you know, I think it is better. I mean if she was a 90 year old woman…. I mean she had a very, a very full life for 68 years.”

“So glad you could come. Great,” said Douglas.

“Glad you played, ” we said.

“Sometimes you can play it,” said Douglas.”I kind of got it at the end, it wasn’t there… but I wanted to play the end, because it was so like her.”

Much later, going through old copies of OMNI to catalog them, we found that the first issue of that remarkable science magazine, which first infused science writing with the emotional color that the female of the human species is unafraid to include, had a piece by Kathleen Stein.

Dated October 1978, its title was Some Of Us May Never Die.

(More images, and a video of the above performance, are at Onlygoodphotos: In Memoriam Kathy Stein)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Claudio’s Siege Holdout Ends Last Day

Claudio makes final appeal to judge in vain

But writing was on wall: new shop already prepared

Neighborhood pitched in to aid one of its own

As we have noted earlier, Claudio “The Barber” Caponigro has to vacate his storied East Harlem premises before the New Year, according to the agreement he signed last July, after his new Chinese landlord reduced his rent increase from $1650 to $1200, still double the rent that Claudio had been paying before his little building extension on 116St off First Avenue was taken over, unbeknownst to him, a year and a half ago. But yesterday he made a last ditch effort to stay longer, which failed.

The neighborhood rallied round and helped him move his stuff to his new premises, a frontage basement owned by a Mt Sinai surgeon, Alex Greenstein, who bought a nearby house recently on the same side of 116St but nearer the center of the block. A local carpenter and other neighbors helped undo the mirrors from the wall that had been dowelled there 110 years ago, when the barber ship first started up, eventually to become a gathering place for the wise guys of the neighborhood when it was mostly Italian.

Claudio came across from Italy when he was 19 63 years ago and two years later was working at the shop, which eventually became his when his partners retired. He has never shown the slightest desire to leave, his loyalty to his premises, his neighborhood and his clientele as high as that of his customers. It is not just that he has kept his price at the pre 1980 level of $10, clearly, but that he liked his way of life and became rooted in it.

After all, he was king of all he surveyed, in his territory. He could close down and sleep in his armchair during the day if he wanted; he could refuse and sometimes did refuse customers he didn’t like, sending them around the corner on some pretext that his scissors needed sharpening or somesuch. He could leave and come on his own terms, without having to coordinate with other barbers using other “chairs” in the same shop.

He formed his connections throughout the neighborhood and further, as the Italians started leaving for the suburbs, but would return for their haircuts as they checked in with other old friends. The network crossed generations, too, as fathers brought in their children as early as age one.

And given that the place became a social node for the East Harlem version of the Godfather, this led to an embarrassment – best forgotten as far as Claudio is concerned – of the Feds insisting that he identify from photos the customers who were involved. When he naturally claimed the professional privilege of barbers to keep the confidence of their clients as much as psychiatrists and priests they then included him in the trial, a dastardly act which resulted in Claudio standing his ground and being convicted and out on probation for standing in the way of law enforcement.

All in all, it seems that Claudio the Barber’s chief character virtue is immovability, and faithfulness to his past, a trait which has resulted in him becoming an oasis amid the tawdry landscape of cheap storefronts that have taken over his neighborhood, including a number of unisex hair salons where the tool of choice is the machine clipper rather than the skillful use of scissors. In this regard it seems clear that Claudio has now become one of the very few people in Manhattan outside a few hotels who knows how to give a man a decent, layered but conservative cut, suitable for people of high station such as bank presidents and Wall Street.

Add that to his anachronistic price and it is clear that his appreciative clientele will remain loyal even after the moves to his new, smaller, basement level but newly painted and cleanly installed and outfitted premises. But it didn’t prevent Claudio from making a last ditch attempt yesterday to save himself from moving from his current shop with its window sign in attractively traditional font visible from a hundred yards in any direction, even though even the huge candystick spiral red CKCK and white pole outside his door had been dug up and prepared for reinstalling along the street.

According to Tommy the owner of the pet store next door and also of Italian heritage, when Claudio returned from his trip downtown yesterday, he was “a beaten man.” After five hours, including a three hour recess taken by the judge before he would hear the case, Claudio pled his case without a lawyer and it was summarily rejected. He had already signed his agreement to move, and he didn’t know any lawyerly tricks to extend his time in his old place. Parking cost him $40, and eh spent $25 for lunch, and he lost all his afternoon business. But as Tommy advised him, he could now accept his fate, secure in the knowledge that he had done everything he could.

Today, we found Claudio in a much more cheerful mood. Charles Rangel had come by in support and to enjoy a last haircut in the old place before it was turned into a Chinese takeout, to join the 15 or so Chinese takeouts within striking distance (though opinion in the neighborhood is that its quality may be higher than the rest). Local news crews and reporters from NY1 and Channel 7 Eyewitness News had come and interviewed him at length, as well as the good surgeon who will be his new landlord (at $1050 a month, less than he is now paying).

He greeted us with a glad cry (having accompanied him uptown after his first cpourt appearance, we earned his undying respect and gratitude by showing him the Lexington subway Canal Street stop, which he realized would save him driving down and paying a parking fee (yesterday Alas he was unable to save because he had to carry a passenger down in the form of the customer who encouraged him to make a final stand). Would we like to see his new place?

He took us up the street and unlocked the grill (which will be done away with) and we took pictures of him with Felix, a young man who uses him every one or two weeks to keep his hair length the absolute minimum. Claudio, shorn of his space and some of the convenience of his location, will nonetheless stay in business until he decides for himself when enough is enough, and a man in his eighties, though young in spirit, perhaps doesn’t want to stand on his feet for ten hours a day.

But till then, he has been rescued by the neighborhood he served for so long.

ABC Eyewitness News Video and Transcript

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Herbert J. Gans nails our economic problem: More and more workers unwanted

Nice Op Ed piece in the Times today (Nov 24) by Herbert Gans (No, that’s not Herman Kahn) who points out that the old ways of getting rid of surplus workers in this extreme capitalist economy – wars, poverty, disease, prison, and other useful institutions – are not doing their job these days, as more and more activities need fewer and fewer workers, particularly in this country as more and more jobs flow overseas.

This is fits in with the contempt banks seem to have for the ranks of average depositor, who get more fees than interest whatever account type they choose, unless they have $10,000 or more to spare to sit getting the lowest interest rate possible short of zero.

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
The Age of the Superfluous Worker
By HERBERT J. GANS
Published: November 24, 2011

AMERICA, like other modern countries, has always had some surplus workers — people ready to work but jobless for extended periods because the “job creators,” private and public, have been unable or unwilling to create sufficient jobs. When the number of surplus workers rose sharply, the country also had ways of reducing it.

However, the current jobless recovery, and the concurrent failure to create enough new jobs, is breeding a new and growing surplus pool. And some in this pool are in danger of becoming superfluous, likely never to work again.

The currently jobless and the so-called discouraged workers, who have given up looking for work, total about 15 percent of the work force, not including the invisible discouraged workers the government cannot even find to count.

In the old days — before Social Security, welfare and Medicaid — poverty-caused illnesses killed off or incapacitated some of the people who could not find jobs. Even earlier, some nations sold their surplus workers as slaves, while the European countries could send them to the colonies.

In addition, wars were once labor-intensive enterprises that absorbed the surplus temporarily, and sufficient numbers of those serving in the infantry and on warships were killed or seriously enough injured so that they could not add to the peacetime labor surplus.

The old ways of reducing surplus labor are, however, disappearing. Decades of medical and public health advances, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, have reduced the number of poverty-related deaths. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have left many more service members injured than killed.

Over the past quarter-century, one very costly way of decreasing the surplus has been the imprisonment of people, mostly dark-skinned men, for actual and invented offenses. Felons are not often hired when they leave prison. Many, at least those who do not become recidivists, become surplus and then superfluous labor. As incarceration becomes less affordable for financially strapped states, inmates will reach surplus or superfluous status at a younger age.

Meanwhile, new ways of increasing surplus labor have appeared. One is the continued outsourcing of jobs to low-wage countries; the other is the continuing computerization and mechanization of manufacturing and of services not requiring hands-on human contact. Continuing increases in worker productivity add yet more to the surplus. So does the unwillingness of employers to even consider hiring people who have been unemployed for a long time.

When the jobless recovery ends and the economy is restored to good health, today’s surplus will be reduced. New technology and the products and services that accompany it will create new jobs. But unless the economy itself changes, eventually many of these innovations may be turned over to machines or the jobs may be sent to lower-wage economies.

In fact, if modern capitalism continues to eliminate as many jobs as it creates — or more jobs than it creates — future recoveries will not only add to the amount of surplus labor but will turn a growing proportion of workers into superfluous ones.

What could be done to prevent such a future? America will have to finally get serious about preserving and creating jobs — and on a larger, and more lasting, scale than Roosevelt’s New Deal. Private enterprise and government will have to think in terms of industrial policy, and one that emphasizes labor-intensive economic growth and innovation. Reducing class sizes in all public schools to 15 or fewer would require a great many new teachers even as it would raise the quality of education.

In the long run, reducing working time — perhaps to as low as 30 hours a week, with the lost income made up by unemployment compensation — would lead to a modest increase in jobs, through work sharing. New taxes on income and wealth are unavoidable, as are special taxes on the capital-intensive part of the economy. Policies that are now seemingly utopian will have to be tried as well, and today’s polarized and increasingly corporate-run democracy will have to be turned into a truly representative one.

Whatever the costs, they would be a small price to preserve America as a healthy society. A society that has permanently expelled a significant proportion of its members from the work force would soon deteriorate into an unbelievably angry country, with intense and continuing conflict between the have-jobs and have-nones. America could become a very sick society, just when it needed to be stronger than ever to flourish in the global economy.

Herbert J. Gans, an emeritus professor of sociology at Columbia, is the author of “Imagining America in 2033.”

Who is Herbert Gans?

Herbert J. Gans (from Amazon)
Herbert J. Gans (born May 7, 1927) is an American sociologist who has taught at Columbia University since 1971, retiring in 2007. One of the most prolific and influential sociologists of his generation, Gans came to America in 1940 as a refugee from Nazism and has sometimes described his scholarly work as an immigrant’s attempt to understand America. He trained in sociology at the University of Chicago, where he studied with David Riesman and Everett Hughes, among others, and in social planning at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied primarily with Martin Meyerson. Although Gans views his career as spanning six fields of research, he initially made his reputation as a critic of urban renewal in the early 1960s. His first book, The Urban Villagers (1962), described Boston’s diverse West End neighborhood, where he mainly studied its Italian-American working class community.

How precisely the corporations of this world are expected to stay in business when the consumers they seek are jobless, homeless, and bust is hard to fathom, especially since the great boom of the 2000s and earlier was based mainly on extreme spending by the same economic animal, which since their real incomes were more or less flat for thirty years were only enabled by ballooning credit card debt and massive borrowing against their houses, most mortgages of which are now underwater.

Do the rich plan to sell only to the rich?

Further reading: Herbert Gans Imagines America in 2033 (BroadStreetReview)”>

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The great Lynn Margulis dies from a sudden stroke at 73

One of the most forceful personalities and minds in science was suddenly taken from us by a stroke today (Tues Nov 22 2011). Lynn Margulis was an unusually strong character and for a biologist she had an unusually muscular mind, and her early marriage to Carl Sagan was the least of her accomplishments. She was very young when she began to demonstrate the lame inadequacy of the standard idea of how evolution works and the origin of species, which is that random tiny mutations are converted by Darwininian competition to emerge as dominant features if these are advantageous to survival, and even give rise to new major forms or species if they are particularly helpful.

Margulis was one of the few scientists who immediately see that this theory is conceptually inadequate at the fundamental level and not much more than a silly biological version of modern capitalist thinking a la Ayn Raynd where nature is entirely a jungle where only the strongest survive, and that evolution at the level of creating new species (which standard Darwinism utterly fails to explain) was far more likely a cooperative venture of some kind.

This revisionism took shape in her ideas about symbiogenesis where at the most basic stratum of life in which single celled forms existed at the beginning, it was likely that such cells merged, and that explained the appearance of cells with a nucleus of which most larger life forms are now made up, including ourselves. From the Margulis point of view we are all essentially agglomerations of cooperating bacteria, and that explains also how new species can arise – from the merging of disparate cells which thus form new living entities with more powerful survival processes than either progenitor.

This obituary in the Times suggests that the details of her thinking are still obscure to the average Timesman and other non specialists, but it is very clear in giving her the credit she deserved after years in the trenches fighting for her truths. No less a fellow heretic than Richard Dawking famously complimented her highly on her determined resilience in the fact of the standard hostility and envy of lesser minds who occupied higher positions in the ruling system when she started out as a young woman of originality and superior sense.

In other words Margulis was a heretic of great ability who could be counted on to guide lesser mortals as to other heretics in science and which were or are bone fide future Nobelists and which are fueled by too much imagination. In this respect she was one of the first to recognize the distinction of one of the most eminent naysayers in science, Peter Duesberg of Berkeley, who has been subjected to political attacks for a quarter century for pointing out from the beginning that as the putative cause of AIDS HIV is in fact a non starter, as every year that passes confirms.

Margulis saw immediately that Duesberg’s analysis was correct and that HIV/AIDS is a nonsense from every point of view, and she had no compunction in saying so. How rare is her kind of unrestrained seeking after better truths in science and how sorely we need more of it was never better shown than in her life of great achievement in the face of mass conformity and political resistance in the new world of institutionalized and now corporate science that has grown into an almost immovable pyramid since the Second World War.

Now we have lost one more rare voice of skeptical creativity.

Lynn Margulis, Evolution Theorist, Dies at 73
By BRUCE WEBER
Published: November 24, 2011

Lynn Margulis, a biologist whose work on the origin of cells helped transform the study of evolution, died on Tuesday at her home in Amherst, Mass. She was 73.

She died five days after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke, said Dorion Sagan, a son she had with her first husband, the cosmologist Carl Sagan.

Dr. Margulis had the title of distinguished university professor of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, since 1988. She drew upon earlier, ridiculed ideas when she first promulgated her theory, in the late 1960s, that cells with nuclei, which are known as eukaryotes and include all the cells in the human body, evolved as a result of symbiotic relationships among bacteria.

The hypothesis was a direct challenge to the prevailing neo-Darwinist belief that the primary evolutionary mechanism was random mutation.

Rather, Dr. Margulis argued that a more important mechanism was symbiosis; that is, evolution is a function of organisms that are mutually beneficial growing together to become one and reproducing. The theory undermined significant precepts of the study of evolution, underscoring the idea that evolution began at the level of micro-organisms long before it would be visible at the level of species.

“She talked a lot about the importance of micro-organisms,” said her daughter, Jennifer Margulis. “She called herself a spokesperson for the microcosm.”

The manuscript in which Dr. Margulis first presented her findings was rejected by 15 journals before being published in 1967 by the Journal of Theoretical Biology. An expanded version, with additional evidence to support the theory — which was known as the serial endosymbiotic theory — became her first book, “Origin of Eukaryotic Cells.”

A revised version, “Symbiosis in Cell Evolution,” followed in 1981, and though it challenged the presumptions of many prominent scientists, it has since become accepted evolutionary doctrine.

“Evolutionists have been preoccupied with the history of animal life in the last 500 million years,” Dr. Margulis wrote in 1995. “But we now know that life itself evolved much earlier than that. The fossil record begins nearly 4,000 million years ago! Until the 1960s, scientists ignored fossil evidence for the evolution of life, because it was uninterpretable.

“I work in evolutionary biology, but with cells and micro-organisms. Richard Dawkins, John Maynard Smith, George Williams, Richard Lewontin, Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould all come out of the zoological tradition, which suggests to me that, in the words of our colleague Simon Robson, they deal with a data set some three billion years out of date.”

Lynn Petra Alexander was born on March 5, 1938, in Chicago, where she grew up in a tough neighborhood on the South Side. Her father was a lawyer and a businessman. Precocious, she graduated at 18 from the University of Chicago, where she met Dr. Sagan as they passed each other on a stairway.

She earned a master’s degree in genetics and zoology from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of California, Berkeley. Before joining the faculty at Massachusetts, she taught for 22 years at Boston University.

Dr. Margulis was also known, somewhat controversially, as a collaborator with and supporter of James E. Lovelock, whose Gaia theory states that Earth itself — its atmosphere, the geology and the organisms that inhabit it — is a self-regulating system, maintaining the conditions that allow its perpetuation. In other words, it is something of a living organism in and of itself.

Dr. Margulis’s marriage to Dr. Sagan ended in divorce, as did a marriage to Thomas N. Margulis, a chemist. Dr. Sagan died in 1996.

In addition to her daughter and her son Dorion, a science writer with whom she sometimes collaborated, she is survived by two other sons, Jeremy Sagan and Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma; three sisters, Joan Glashow, Sharon Kleitman and Diane Alexander; three half-brothers, Robert, Michael and Mark Alexander; a half-sister, Sara Alexander; and nine grandchildren.

“More than 99.99 percent of the species that have ever existed have become extinct,” Dr. Margulis and Dorion Sagan wrote in “Microcosmos,” a 1986 book that traced, in readable language, the history of evolution over four billion years, “but the planetary patina, with its army of cells, has continued for more than three billion years. And the basis of the patina, past, present and future, is the microcosm — trillions of communicating, evolving microbes.”

Further reading: Dick Teresis (ex OMNI editor) talks to Margulis, a neighbor in:
Discover: April 2011 issue; published online June 17, 2011

Discover Interview:
Lynn Margulis Says She’s Not Controversial, She’s Right
It’s the neo-Darwinists, population geneticists, AIDS researchers, and English-speaking biologists as a whole who have it all wrong.
by Dick Teresi; photography by Bob O’Connor

A conversation with Lynn Margulis is an effective way to change the way you think about life. Not just your life. All life. Scientists today recognize five groups of life: bacteria, protoctists (amoebas, seaweed), fungi (yeast, mold, mushrooms), plants, and animals. Margulis, a self-described “evolutionist,” makes a convincing case that there are really just two groups, bacteria and everything else.
That distinction led to her career-making insight. In a 1967 paper published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, Margulis suggested that mitochondria and plastids—vital structures within animal and plant cells—evolved from bacteria hundreds of million of years ago, after bacterial cells started to collect in interactive communities and live symbiotically with one another. The resulting mergers yielded the compound cells known as eukaryotes, which in turn gave rise to all the rest—the protoctists, fungi, plants, and animals, including humans. The notion that we are all the children of bacteria seemed outlandish at the time, but it is now widely supported and accepted. “The evolution of the eukaryotic cells was the single most important event in the history of the organic world,” said Ernst Mayr, the leading evolutionary biologist of the last century. “Margulis’s contribution to our understanding the symbiotic factors was of enormous importance.”
Her subsequent ideas remain decidedly more controversial. Margulis came to view symbiosis as the central force behind the evolution of new species, an idea that has been dismissed by modern biologists. The dominant theory of evolution (often called neo-Darwinism) holds that new species arise through the gradual accumulation of random mutations, which are either favored or weeded out by natural selection. To Margulis, random mutation and natural selection are just cogs in the gears of evolution; the big leaps forward result from mergers between different kinds of organisms, what she calls symbiogenesis. Viewing life as one giant network of social connections has set Margulis against the mainstream in other high-profile ways as well. She disputes the current medical understanding of AIDS and considers every kind of life to be “conscious” in a sense.

Margulis herself is a highly social organism. Now 71, she is a well-known sight at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she is on the geosciences faculty, riding her bike in all weather and at all times of day. Interviewer Dick Teresi, a neighbor, almost ran her over when, dressed in a dark coat, she cycled in front of his car late at night. On the three occasions that they met for this interview, Teresi couldn’t help noticing that Margulis shared her home with numerous others: family, students, visiting scholars, friends, friends of friends, and anybody interesting who needed a place to stay.
Most scientists would say there is no controversy over evolution. Why do you disagree?

All scientists agree that evolution has occurred—that all life comes from a common ancestry, that there has been extinction, and that new taxa, new biological groups, have arisen. The question is, is natural selection enough to explain evolution? Is it the driver of evolution?
And you don’t believe that natural selection is the answer?

This is the issue I have with neo-Darwinists: They teach that what is generating novelty is the accumulation of random mutations in DNA, in a direction set by natural selection. If you want bigger eggs, you keep selecting the hens that are laying the biggest eggs, and you get bigger and bigger eggs. But you also get hens with defective feathers and wobbly legs. Natural selection eliminates and maybe maintains, but it doesn’t create.
That seems like a fairly basic objection. How, then, do you think the neo-Darwinist perspective became so entrenched?

In the first half of the 20th century, neo-Darwinism became the name for the people who reconciled the type of gradual evolutionary change described by Charles Darwin with Gregor Mendel’s rules of heredity [which first gained widespread recognition around 1900], in which fixed traits are passed from one generation to the next. The problem was that the laws of genetics showed stasis, not change. If you have pure breeding red flowers and pure breeding white flowers, like carnations, you cross them and you get pink flowers. You back-cross them to the red parent and you could get three-quarters red, one-quarter white. Mendel showed that the grandparent flowers and the offspring flowers could be identical to each other. There was no change through time.
There’s no doubt that Mendel was correct. But Darwinism says that there has been change through time, since all life comes from a common ancestor—something that appeared to be supported when, early in the 20th century, scientists discovered that X-rays and specific chemicals caused mutations. But did the neo-
Darwinists ever go out of their offices? Did they or their modern followers, the population geneticists, ever go look at what’s happening in nature the way Darwin did? Darwin was a fine naturalist. If you really want to study evolution, you’ve got go outside sometime, because you’ll see symbiosis everywhere!
So did Mendel miss something? Was Darwin wrong?

I’d say both are incomplete. The traits that follow Mendel’s laws are trivial. Do you have a widow’s peak or a straight hairline? Do you have hanging earlobes or attached earlobes? Are you female or male? Mendel found seven traits that followed his laws exactly. But neo-Darwinists say that new species emerge when mutations occur and modify an organism. I was taught over and over again that the accumulation of random mutations led to evolutionary change—led to new species. I believed it until I looked for evidence.
What kind of evidence turned you against neo-Darwinism?

What you’d like to see is a good case for gradual change from one species to another in the field, in the laboratory, or in the fossil record—and preferably in all three. Darwin’s big mystery was why there was no record at all before a specific point [dated to 542 million years ago by modern researchers], and then all of a sudden in the fossil record you get nearly all the major types of animals. The paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould studied lakes in East Africa and on Caribbean islands looking for Darwin’s gradual change from one species of trilobite or snail to another. What they found was lots of back-and-forth variation in the population and then—whoop—a whole new species. There is no gradualism in the fossil record.
Gould used the term “punctuated equilibrium” to describe what he interpreted as actual leaps in evolutionary change. Most biologists disagreed, suggesting a wealth of missing fossil evidence yet to be found. Where do you stand in the debate?

“Punctuated equilibrium” was invented to describe the discontinuity in the appearance of new species, and symbiogenesis supports the idea that these discontinuities are real. An example: Most clams live in deep, fairly dark waters. Among one group of clams is a species whose ancestors ingested algae—a typical food—but failed to digest them and kept the algae under their shells. The shell, with time, became translucent, allowing sunlight in. The clams fed off their captive algae and their habitat expanded into sunlit waters. So there’s a discontinuity between the dark-dwelling, food-gathering ancestor and the descendants that feed themselves photosynthetically. 

What about the famous “beak of the finch” evolutionary studies of the 1970s? Didn’t they vindicate Darwin?

Peter and Rosemary Grant, two married evolutionary biologists, said, ‘To hell with all this theory; we want to get there and look at speciation happening.’ They measured the eggs, beaks, et cetera, of finches on Daphne Island, a small, hilly former volcano top in Ecuador’s Galápagos, year after year. They found that during floods or other times when there are no big seeds, the birds with big beaks can’t eat. The birds die of starvation and go extinct on that island.
Did the Grants document the emergence of new species?

They saw this big shift: the large-beaked birds going extinct, the small-beaked ones spreading all over the island and being selected for the kinds of seeds they eat. They saw lots of variation within a species, changes over time. But they never found any new species—ever. They would say that if they waited long enough they’d find a new species.
Some of your criticisms of natural selection sound a lot like those of Michael Behe, one of the most famous proponents of “intelligent design,” and yet you have debated Behe. What is the difference between your views?

The critics, including the creationist critics, are right about their criticism. It’s just that they’ve got nothing to offer but intelligent design or “God did it.” They have no alternatives that are scientific.

You claim that the primary mechanism of evolution is not mutation but symbiogenesis, in which new species emerge through the symbiotic relationship between two or more kinds of organisms. How does that work?

All visible organisms are products of symbiogenesis, without exception. The bacteria are the unit. The way I think about the whole world is that it’s like a pointillist painting. You get far away and it looks like Seurat’s famous painting of people in the park (jpg). Look closely: The points are living bodies—different distributions of bacteria. The living world thrived long before the origin of nucleated organisms [the eukaryotic cells, which have genetic material enclosed in well-defined membranes]. There were no animals, no plants, no fungi. It was an all-bacterial world—bacteria that have become very good at finding specialized niches. Symbiogenesis recognizes that every visible life-form is a combination or community of bacteria.
How could communities of bacteria have formed completely new, more complex levels of life?

Symbiogenesis recognizes that the mitochondria [the energy 
factories] in animal, plant, and fungal cells came from oxygen-respiring bacteria and that chloroplasts in plants and algae—which perform photosynthesis—came from cyanobacteria. These used to be called blue-green algae, and they produce the oxygen that all animals breathe.
Are you saying that a free-living bacterium became part of the cell of another organism? How could that have happened?

At some point an amoeba ate a bacterium but could not digest it. The bacterium produced oxygen or made vitamins, providing a survival advantage to both itself and the amoeba. Eventually the bacteria inside the amoeba became the mitochondria. The green dots you see in the cells of plants originated as cyanobacteria. This has been proved without a doubt.
And that kind of partnership drives major evolutionary change?

The point is that evolution goes in big jumps. That idea has been called macromutation, and I was denigrated in 1967 at Harvard for mentioning it. “You believe in macromutation? You believe in acquired characteristics?” the important professor Keith Porter asked me with a sneer. No, I believe in acquired genomes.
Can you give an example of symbiogenesis in action?

Look at this cover of Plant Physiology [a major journal in the field]. The animal is a juvenile slug. It has no photosynthesis ancestry. Then it feeds on algae and takes in chloroplasts. This photo is taken two weeks later. Same animal. The slug is completely green. It took in algae chloroplasts, and it became completely photosynthetic and lies out in the sun. At the end of September, these slugs turn red and yellow and look like dead leaves. When they lay eggs, those eggs contain the gene for photosynthesis inside. Or look at a cow. It is a 40-gallon fermentation tank on four legs. It cannot digest grass and needs a whole mess of symbiotic organisms in its overgrown esophagus to digest it. The difference between cows and related species like bison or musk ox should be traced, in part, to the different symbionts they maintain.
But if these symbiotic partnerships are so stable, how can they also drive evolutionary change?

Symbiosis is an ecological phenomenon where one kind of organism lives in physical contact with another. Long-term symbiosis leads to new intracellular structures, new organs and organ systems, and new species as one being incorporates another being that is already good at something else. This major mode of evolutionary innovation has been ignored by the so-called evolutionary biologists. They think they own evolution, but they’re basically anthropocentric zoologists. They’re playing the game while missing four out of five of the cards. The five are bacteria, protoctists, fungi, animals, and plants, and they’re playing with just animals—a fifth of the deck. The evolutionary biologists believe the evolutionary pattern is a tree. It’s not. The evolutionary pattern is a web—the branches fuse, like when algae and slugs come together and stay together.
In contrast, the symbiotic view of evolution has a long lineage in Russia, right?

From the very beginning the Russians said natural selection was a process of elimination and could not produce all the diversity we see. They understood that symbiogenesis was a major source of innovation, and they rejected Darwin. If the English-speaking world owns natural selection, the Russians own symbiogenesis. In 1924, this man Boris Mikhaylovich Kozo-Polyansky wrote a book called Symbiogenesis: A New Principle of Evolution, in which he reconciled Darwin’s natural selection as the eliminator and symbiogenesis as the innovator. Kozo-Polyansky looked at cilia—the wavy hairs that some microbes use to move—and said it is not beyond the realm of possibility that cilia, the tails of sperm cells, came from “flagellated cytodes,” by which he clearly meant swimming bacteria.
Has that idea ever been verified?

The sense organs of vertebrates have modified cilia: The rods and cone cells of the eye have cilia, and the balance organ in the inner ear is lined with sensory cilia. You tilt your head to one side and little calcium carbonate stones in your inner ear hit the cilia. This has been known since shortly after electron microscopy came in 1963. Sensory cilia did not come from random mutations. They came by acquiring a whole genome of a symbiotic bacterium that could already sense light or motion. Specifically, I think it was a spirochete [a corkscrew-shaped bacterium] that became the cilium.
Don’t spirochetes cause syphilis?

Yes, and Lyme disease. There are many kinds of spirochetes, and if I’m right, some of them are ancestors to the cilia in our cells. Spirochete bacteria are already optimized for sensitivity to motion, light, and chemicals. All eukaryotic cells have an internal transport system. If I’m right, the whole system—called the cytoskeletal system—came from the incorporation of ancestral spirochetes. Mitosis, or cell division, is a kind of internal motility system that came from these free-living, symbiotic, swimming bacteria. Here [she shows a video] we compare isolated swimming sperm tails to free-swimming spirochetes. Is that clear enough?

And yet these ideas are not generally accepted. Why?

Do you want to believe that your sperm tails come from some spirochetes? Most men, most evolutionary biologists, don’t. When they understand what I’m saying, they don’t like it.
We usually think of bacteria as strictly harmful. You disagree?

We couldn’t live without them. They maintain our ecological physiology. There are vitamins in bacteria that you could not live without. The movement of your gas and feces would never take place without bacteria. There are hundreds of ways your body wouldn’t work without bacteria. Between your toes is a jungle; under your arms is a jungle. There are bacteria in your mouth, lots of spirochetes, and other bacteria in your intestines. We take for granted their influence. Bacteria are our ancestors. One of my students years ago cut himself deeply with glass and accidentally inoculated himself with at least 10 million spirochetes. We were all scared but nothing happened. He didn’t even have an allergic reaction. This tells you that unless these microbes have a history with people, they’re harmless.

Are you saying that the only harmful bacteria are the ones that share an evolutionary history with us?

Right. Dangerous spirochetes, like the Treponema of syphilis or the Borrelia of Lyme disease, have long-standing symbiotic relationships with us. Probably they had relationships with the prehuman apes from which humans evolved. Treponema has lost four-fifths of its genes, because you’re doing four-fifths of the work for it. And yet people don’t want to understand that chronic spirochete infection is an example of symbiosis.
You have upset many medical researchers with the suggestion that corkscrew-shaped spirochetes turn into dormant “round bodies.” What’s that debate all about? 

Spirochetes turn into round bodies in any unfavorable condition where they survive but cannot grow. The round body is a dormant stage that has all the genes and can start growing again, like a fungal spore. Lyme disease spirochetes become round bodies if you suspend them in distilled water. Then they come out and start to grow as soon as you put them in the proper food medium with serum in it. The common myth is that penicillin kills spirochetes and therefore syphilis is not a problem. But syphilis is a major problem because the spirochetes stay hidden as round bodies and become part of the person’s very chemistry, which they commandeer to reproduce themselves. Indeed, the set of symptoms, or syndrome, presented by syphilitics overlaps completely with another syndrome: AIDS.
Wait—you are suggesting that AIDS is really syphilis?

There is a vast body of literature on syphilis spanning from the 1500s until after World War II, when the disease was supposedly cured by penicillin. Yet the same symptoms now describe AIDS perfectly. It’s in our paper “Resurgence of the Great Imitator.” Our claim is that there’s no evidence that HIV is an infectious virus, or even an entity at all. There’s no scientific paper that proves the HIV virus causes AIDS. Kary Mullis [winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize for DNA sequencing, and well known for his unconventional scientific views] said in an interview that he went looking for a reference substantiating that HIV causes AIDS and discovered, “There is no such document.”

Syphilis has been called “the great imitator” because patients show a whole range of symptoms in a given order. You have a genital chancre, your symptoms go away, then you have the pox, this skin problem, and then it’s chronic, and you get sicker and sicker. The idea that penicillin kills the cause of the disease is nuts. If you treat the painless chancre in the first few days of infection, you may stop the bacterium before the symbiosis develops, but if you really get syphilis, all you can do is live with the spirochete. The spirochete lives permanently as a symbiont in the patient. The infection cannot be killed because it becomes part of the patient’s genome and protein synthesis biochemistry. After syphilis establishes this symbiotic relationship with a person, it becomes dependent on human cells and is undetectable by any testing.

Is there a connection here between syphilis and Lyme disease, which is also caused by a spirochete and which is also said to be difficult to treat when diagnosed late? 

Both the Treponema that cause syphilis and the Borrelia that cause Lyme disease contain only a fifth of the genes they need to live on their own. Related spirochetes that can live outside by themselves need 5,000 genes, whereas the spirochetes of those two diseases have only 1,000 in their bodies. The 4,000 missing gene products needed for bacterial growth can be supplied by wet, warm human tissue. This is why both the Lyme disease Borrelia and syphilis Treponema are symbionts—they require another body to survive. These Borrelia and Treponema have a long history inside people. Syphilis has been detected in skull abnormalities going back to the ancient Egyptians. But I’m interested in spirochetes only because of our ancestry. I’m not interested in the diseases.
When you talk about the evolutionary intelligence of bacteria, it almost sounds like you think of them as conscious beings.

I do think consciousness is a property of all living cells. All cells are bounded by a membrane of their own making. To sense chemicals—food or poisons—it takes a cell. To have a sense of smell takes a cell. To sense light, it takes a cell. You have to have a bounded entity with photoreceptors inside to sense light. Bacteria are conscious. These bacterial beings have been around since the origin of life and still are running the soil and the air and affecting water quality.
Your perspective is rather humbling.
The species of some of the protoctists are 542 million years old. Mammal species have a mean lifetime in the fossil record of about 3 million years. And humans? You know what the index fossil of Homo sapiens in the recent fossil record is going to be? 
The squashed remains of the automobile. There will be a layer in the fossil record where you’re going to know people were here because of the automobiles. It will be a very thin layer.
Do we overrate ourselves as a species?

Yes, but we can’t help it. Look, there are nearly 7,000 million people on earth today and there are 10,000 chimps, and the numbers are getting fewer every day because we’re destroying their habitat. Reg Morrison, who wrote a wonderful book called The Spirit in the Gene, says that although we’re 99 percent genetically in common with chimps, that 1 percent makes a huge difference. Why? Because it makes us believe that we’re the best on earth. But there is lots of evidence that we are “mammalian weeds.” Like many mammals, we overgrow our habitats and that leads to poverty, misery, and wars.
Why do you have a reputation as a heretic?

Anyone who is overtly critical of the foundations of his science is persona non grata. I am critical of evolutionary biology that is based on population genetics. I call it zoocentrism. Zoologists are taught that life starts with animals, and they block out four-fifths of the information in biology [by ignoring the other four major groups of life] and all of the information in geology.


You have attacked population genetics—the foundation of much current evolutionary research—as “numerology.” What do you mean by that term?

When evolutionary biologists use computer modeling to find out how many mutations you need to get from one species to another, it’s not mathematics—it’s numerology. They are limiting the field of study to something that’s manageable and ignoring what’s most important. They tend to know nothing about atmospheric chemistry and the influence it has on the organisms or the influence that the organisms have on the chemistry. They know nothing about biological systems like physiology, ecology, and biochemistry. Darwin was saying that changes accumulate through time, but population geneticists are describing mixtures that are temporary. Whatever is brought together by sex is broken up in the next generation by the same process. Evolutionary biology has been taken over by population geneticists. They are reductionists ad absurdum. 
Population geneticist Richard Lewontin gave a talk here at UMass Amherst about six years ago, and he mathematized all of it—changes in the population, random mutation, sexual selection, cost and benefit. At the end of his talk he said, “You know, we’ve tried to test these ideas in the field and the lab, and there are really no measurements that match the quantities I’ve told you about.” This just appalled me. So I said, “Richard Lewontin, you are a great lecturer to have the courage to say it’s gotten you nowhere. But then why do you continue to do this work?” And he looked around and said, “It’s the only thing I know how to do, and if I don’t do it I won’t get my grant money.” So he’s an honest man, and that’s an honest answer.
Do you ever get tired of being called controversial?

I don’t consider my ideas controversial. I consider them right.

Insofar as the so-called AIDS virus HIV has been shown by Nancy Padian to be utterly uninfectious, and yet HIV/AIDS researchers happily produce surveys and studies year after year which use infectiousness as a premise and seem to show it as a result, in changing rates of infection, Margulis is the only major HIV skeptic who has come up with a possibility in syphilis as a cause which accounts for this phenomenon, which otherwise has to be explained by the wide ranging cross reaction achieved by multiple versions of the HIV test.

But though everything else she believed about HIV/AIDS was quite right according to our own research in the literature over a quarter decade, we never quite saw her point on syphilis as being the best answer as to what causes AIDS, since although it might be sufficient it wasn’t necessary, ie the symptoms of syphilis were not as far as we know common to all or even many AIDS patients. Nor has AIDS ever shown any sign of being infectious in the general population. Now at least we have her public answer to this objection, in this exchange.

We congratulate Teresi however on making sense of her ideas in his interview, which we would have liked to do ourselves, and planned to do, but Alas found Margulis too preoccupied on more important research when she visited New York, research which was changing biological theory as she did it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blues Blast at Lucille’s Grill

Monday night bash hottest in New York

Amy Madden, Steve Holley back virtuoso bluesman Jon Paris

Venue is perfect scale, crowd is select

Open mike adds talent and surprise

The hottest spot in New York on Monday night is a well kept secret from all except blues aficionados, and the few tourists lucky enough to stumble upon it deep in the underground space of the great 42nd Street jazz/blues/rock/reggae/dance club B.B.King‘s (www.bbkingblues.com 237 West 42St 997 4144), between 7th and 8th Avenue on 42nd.

Amid the garish daylit power of the neon extravagance of this modern mall, whose central 42nd street strip between Broadway and Eighth Avenue might well seem to hold nothing but tawdry tourist attractions and services, from the sparkling Macdonalds housed in an old cinema to the Hard Rock Cafe to skyscraper hotels to the fast moving news announcement necklacing the central Times Square tower, a funfair long abandoned by the New York Times to its noisy crowds, we found a slice of blues paradise.

The blues mountain peak found amid these cultural lowlands is the Lucille Grill. Running into bass guitarist and blog virtuoso Amy Madden (www.writerless.blogspot.com) last night on the crosstown bus on 96th, and being apprised that her famous Monday session was going to be in full swing from 8pm to 1am at BBKing’s intimate Lucille Grill, I dropped down to Times Square at 20 min past eight, walked through the surging crowds and down the stairs to the Lucille Grill, briefly visiting the main stage space to watch Yellowman performing on the big stage, his standard dancehall post reggae loud enough to cover a nuclear explosion. But a few steps across the way and down was a blues paradise.

A mighty blast from a musical locomotive

With an $8 beer I commandeered a ringside seat for what proved to be a mighty blues blast that was still going strong when I left three hours later. Endlessly rolling locomotive blues had warmed the crowd into a slow frenzy by the time a late open mike drew vibraphonist Charles Thompson (845-249-9064) whose miniature silvery notes cut clear thru the roar of drum and guitar, along with a hot guitarist straight out of the current TV ad featuring the caveman, namely the great Joe Berger (646 537 1569), a Monday evening regular, and a splendidly round youthful Big Mama belting out the blues with the best of them – all together, in the finale which climaxed my evening.

As an unexpected American Idol moment the open mike session was led off by a young black singer from Rochester, Josh (585 503 8996) 23, singing “Falling in love with you is the best thing that Happened to me”, his own tribute to a love lost to death. He afterwards grabbed mid-Western Erica for a nice demo of jive loops and turns.

Blues super trio pulses

But the great and reliable star talent at Lucille on Mondays is the house trio. Alan Child’s seasoned, generous drumming and Amy Madden’s throbbing, warming bass render endlessly satisfying propulsion for Jon Paris’s guitar and harmonica riffs which Paris, it seems, can take as far out as Hendrix’s riffs if he feels like it, yet without ever leaving the firm ground of classic blues forms.

There are few players who can match Paris’s feel for and mastery of this heart rending and gut shaking music, which hand in hand with America’s other classic form, jazz, endures as America’s greatest contribution to world culture (www.jonparis.com).

And all you have to do to hear this supremely entertaining soul food is to drop down to the Lucille Bar any Monday night. No cover, no minimum, beer from $8 and food good enough if you’re hungry. And a stage, bar and table layout of the perfect scale and shape for blues listening – and a bit of dancing, if you feel like it, see below.

The dancers are Josh the a capella singer and Erica, whose favorite drink is a Mabylene (pictured), which at the Lucille bar is Absolut Wild Tea Vodka, St Germain eidenflower liqueur and Rose’s Lime Juice.

Other visitors from faraway included anaesthiologist Augstein Svedahl and neurologist Kanna Svedahl from mid-Northern Norway, who like Erica had stumbled across this little musical paradise more or less by serendipity, in the form of a recommendation to visit BBKing’s, with no special instruction to make it Lucille’s Grill.

But that’s the free ticket to look for at BBKing’s, at least on Monday nights. While the food is more heartwarming than fine dining, it goes with beer and blues for a perfect New York experience, the Svedahl’s agreed. In other words, a little corner of blues heaven.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Hitler Could Have Won – Andrew Roberts

Excellent British author on WWII again

Rose asks pertinent questions

Charlies Rose had a fine British type on tonight, Jun 16, an amiable military historian and author so well versed in his topic that his voice never rose above the cheerful reasonableness of his pleasingly Oxbridge patrician background. That’s what one discerned, anyway, as Andrew Roberts answered some very good questions from Charlie, who was either very well briefed or, it seemed more likely, a student of the topic himself who knew the key questions to ask – such as Could Hitler have won the War? Who was the greatest general of the War? (the brutal Marshal Zhukov, who defeated the Germans, killing four out of the five the Allies killed in total). Did Hitler resent his failure as a painter? Enormously, it seemed.

The key question is why after his early successes, including the Blitzkrieg across to the Channel which put France out of the War in six weeks, which Hitler approved of despite the reservations of most of his generals, did Hitler end up failing, primarily by opening the Eastern front, his big mistake? According to Roberts, whose The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War, is obviously a fine guide to the best thinking on the topic, because he kept putting his ideology first rather than the best military strategy. In the early phase, there was every reason to believe he would have won.

If he had just left the Russians, and the Jews, alone, he would have, it seems clear. One wonders what on earth Europe would have looked like today.

Here’s Robert Service in the Observer:

It is a safe bet that at any given moment there is someone in the United Kingdom writing a general history of the Second World War. Andrew Roberts’s latest offering is a sparkling addition to the groaning shelves. The British have almost a monopoly in the subject. Go into any bookshop in Italy and there are always plenty of publications about the fighting in the Apennines. In Warsaw, the same is true of the Soviet massacre of Polish troops in the Katyn forest. Russian military historians produce an annual stream of books on the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk. American authors write endlessly about FDR, Patton and even Churchill. But it is in this country that most accounts have appeared about the war as a global phenomenon from September 1939 right through to the Japanese surrender in August 1945.

There is an obvious reason for this. Once Hitler had invaded Poland, it was the British and the French who opened hostilities against him. In less than a year, France had fallen. The United Kingdom fought on alone against Germany and Japan (sic – corrected later) at a time when the USSR had a near-alliance with the Third Reich and American internal politics prevented Roosevelt from entering the conflict. This changed in 1941 after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union and the Japanese air force attacked the American fleet in Pearl Harbour. Immediately, the “Big Three” – America, the Soviet Union and Britain – came together to smash militarist imperialism west and east. Russian rulers to this day have dealt with their country’s less than glorious history before Operation Barbarossa by focusing on the “great patriotic war” of 1941-1945 to the exclusion of the years of collusion with German power.

Roberts offers refreshing judgments on the politicians and commanders in lively prose and his denunciation of the murder of millions of Jews is as measured as it is moving. His pride in the British national performance is frequently on display, but he is not shy about puncturing the bubble of reputations. General Montgomery’s foibles are exposed alongside his virtues as a field commander. Roberts also freely acknowledge the importance of the American military contribution without failing to point out the scary vanity of General Patton. He also refrains from the conventional praise for Marshal Zhukov, instead highlighting how brutally he and fellow Soviet commanders treated their troops.

The thread binding the book together is the question of historical contingency. Roberts indicates how often Hitler would have done better, and even won the war, if he had made different choices. This is not an original thought, nor is it claimed as such. No one in 1940 needed to tell Churchill that the Germans stood a good chance of crushing the United Kingdom. In the long summer of 1941, as the German armies streamed as fast as their tanks could carry them towards the outskirts of Moscow and Leningrad, it was the belief of nearly every Soviet citizen that the USSR was on the brink of complete defeat. Such was Roosevelt’s feeling that the Third Reich was about to gain definitive victory in Europe that he twisted arms in the Washington political establishment to send food and armaments to the United Kingdom even before America’s entry into the war.

Hitler as a military leader was Stalin’s blood twin. He accepted only forward movement from his generals and regarded tactical withdrawal as a shameful betrayal of the Fatherland. When advancing, he often lost his sense of strategic realism. Thus he foolishly fiddled around with the planned distribution of his forces on the Eastern Front in August and September 1941, when a more sensible idea would have been to amass German strength for a decisive thrust against Moscow. If Stalin had had to evacuate his capital, the damage to Soviet morale, communications and industrial capacity would have been tremendous.

Then there was Hitler’s disastrous handling of operations around and in Stalingrad. His insistence that Paulus’s army should fight on and die rather than save themselves and their equipment by effecting a temporary retreat consigned hundreds of thousands of Germans and their allies to their graves or to the gulag.

As Roberts emphasises, Churchill could not resist poking fun at “Corporal Hitler” for his ineptitude. Hitler had form as an inflexible commander. When Rommel, outnumbered in men and tanks, wanted to undertake a strategic withdrawal in North Africa in 1942, he got short shrift from the Führer. Large quantities of experienced German and Italian soldiers fell into captivity who could otherwise have fought the enemies of the Third Reich in Italy.

Hitler also damaged his cause through his political management. The book makes the interesting point that German Jews would probably have fought patriotically in his army if only he had not spurned them. A feeling that Germany, after the Versailles treaty of 1919, deserved to expand its territory again was not peculiar to the Nazi party. The scientists who invented the American atomic bomb included several Jewish refugees from the Third Reich. It is also well known that many Ukrainian villages in 1941 greeted the German invaders with the traditional welcome of bread and salt. The Germans allowed churches and private shops, closed under Soviet rule, to be reopened. For a while, it looked as though the Third Reich was exploiting “the national question” in the USSR to great advantage. But Ukrainians soon learnt the truth about Hitler. Grain requisitioning by the Germans was as ruthless as under Stalin. Young, able-bodied people were conscripted for labour service in German factories. Mass executions of Jews, Roma, communists and other suspect groups became a routine affair.

Whether it would have been possible to govern Ukraine gently while continuing to impose a brutal occupation of neighbouring Poland is not clear. But Roberts makes a strong case that Hitler’s interventions turned eastern Europe against him. He puts the same arguments about the Japanese army in the Asian territories it conquered from the north Pacific down to Burma. Colonial peoples who might have welcomed them as liberators from white imperial rule were savagely suppressed and exploited.

The British, French and Dutch did poorly in the initial stages of the war in the east. But American manpower, technology and guts proved greater than anyone in Tokyo or Berlin had imagined possible. After Pearl Harbour, Roosevelt had little difficulty in carrying his people with him in aiming at a total triumph over Japan and its ally Germany. Although his health declined in 1944-1945, he never lost sight of this objective. He made mistakes, especially by failing to deal more robustly with Stalin, but he played a crucial role in enabling Britain to survive its ghastly isolation in 1940.

The central character in the book’s drama, inevitably, is Hitler. Roberts’s suggestion seems to be that he could only have won the war if he had not allowed it to spiral into a global struggle. Hitler missed his chance to knock out the USSR early on and provoked the US into entering the ring on the side of the opposition. He may have won the war if he had kept it as “the First European War”; the gamble that did not pay off was to make it global.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jazz Royalty Holds Court at Whole Foods

Reuben Wilson, Billy Kaye and Kevin McNeal form star trio to surprise and delight crowd in Friday jazz series

Only in New York!

When Dave Colding, the scheduled performer at this week’s Whole Food’s Columbus Avenue weekly Friday jazz session from 5-7pm couldn’t make the gig, a remarkable trio of exceptional musicians arrived in his stead, including two old timers who might have stepped down from jazz heaven, given their renown and the laid back panache with which they played.

Both jazz elders were very much alive personally and musically, for sure. On keyboard was the princely giant (in both senses) blues-jazz organist Reuben Wilson, whose warm cool and effortless imagination was joined and encouraged by the nobly great (though considerably shorter) drummer Billy Kaye, now 80 years old.  These two familiar names from the pantheon of jazz formed in the first half of the 20th century were ably complemented by the younger but equally resourceful guitarist Kevin McNeal, clearly very happy to be in the company of the two old timers.

It was quite a pleasant shock for all.  Suddenly those lucky enough to be there who weren’t friends of the performers – or otherwise been alerted to this unique occasion through the grapevine – found themselves in a sizable though casual space with front row seats at a concert which they would have been happy to pay $100 for in a formal setting, if they could afford it, a ticket price which would have been no more than the players deserved.

What they heard for two hours was the beating heart of classic organ jazz trio with its fresh melodic explorations played not only by consummate musicians familiar over decades with the greatest stages and the hippest clubs of jazz history – Billy Kaye was playing in London, he told me, before Ronnie Scott even had his club – but jazz royalty in a relaxed mood whose emotional warmth and casual joy in their shared, easygoing creativity passed their graceful mood right along to the delighted audience, who sent their love right back with rhythmic clapping, finger snapping and, as one lady who came up to Reuben when the music was over put it, heartfelt thanks for “a very good time!”

Hear two numbers right now!

We captured two numbers on video and you can find them along with a few stills at OnlyGoodPhotos at  http://www.onlygoodphotos.com/Music/Jazz/Reuben-Wilson-and-Friends-Jazz/16162468_8gv3Z#1213909167_V4Yxg.  Unfortunately the FZ35 proved to have deficient bass so this most important part of jazz organ needs to be turned up when playing them. but they give some sense of how Reuben Wilson’s long fingers on a keyboard typically created a bluesy rolling 4/4 bass walk underpinning melodic riffs to intrigue, satisfy and cut through to the heart of the matter in Henry Mancini’s Days of Wine and Roses and Ellington’s Satin Doll.  These familiar classics were fully accounted for in about eight minutes each, but when they were followed by Ellington’s Take the A Train for a fine finale our too full camera card ran out of space before it could preserve the moment.

“Hey that was great, Reuben” said Kevin McNeal as they were packing up. “We’ll have to do that again sometime!”

Their listeners should be so lucky.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

At Roger Smith, Mark Grindeland with Donna Marie Antoniadis briefs biz how to occupy Facebook and Twitter

Social Media Week talk tips Brand Content Managers how to play the biggest game on the Net

Style not as salesmanship but “conversation” to win friends and influence people

How to avoid pushback and placate regulators by being upfront as brand soldiers

Following the shift of the center of Web crowd activity to social media sites, the biggest overall trend on the Web right now is the corporate invasion of personal social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.     Corporations have discovered that it is more important and effective to have a Facebook page than to draw customers to their own site.  Some worry that the commercial invasion is destroying the original nature of the sites.

In this connection the key talk of Social Media Week (http://socialmediaweek.org/newyork) in Manhattan had to be yesterday’s (Feb 10 Thu) lesson in “Content Management” given on the top floor of the Roger Smith Hotel by Mark Grindeland, chairman of She’sConnected. (http://www.shesconnected.com/) and co founder of that Facebook rival “site for busy women” with Donna Marie Antoniadis, its CEO.

What Mark told corporate minions was exactly how to do it.

Social media mushroom cloud

The stats of the vast blossoming of social activity on the Net quoted in slides by consultant Mark to introduce his topic  were staggering.  The pace of expansion is so fast that we had to update some just writing this post.

Facebook now claims it has hit 620 million users worldwide, up from 500 million only two or three months ago.  300 million are logging on daily, 150 million of them using mobile devices to do it.   The average user is posting content 90 times a month, for a total of 30 million tips shared each month with 130 friends.

Twitter has nearly 200 million registered accounts and is adding 15 million a month, with users.posting 110 million tweets daily.  During the final moments of the Super Bowl, fans sent a record 4,064 tweets per second.  YouTube passed 2 billion views a day in May last year, 1 in 10 on mobile devices, and 46 years of YouTube video are watched each day on Facebook.

Added to this mushroom cloud of social activity, blogs are still booming.  133 million blogs have been indexed by Technorati with 15% of bloggers spending more than ten hours each week and the rate of blog updates is most commonly 2-3 times a week.

So now “CEOs are starting to see they can make money from social media”, Mark explained.  Corporations are rushing in to join the party with their own Facebook pages and display ads  on You Tube rose tenfold last year.  Many brands are starting to get more traffic on their fan page than their main website.  By last August Starbucks for example had 12.7 million fans on Facebook and was adding 90,000 daily.  Coca Cola had 10.7 million, Victoria’s Secret had 4.6 million.

How companies can join the party

Dividing up this pie and explaining how to eat it was Mark’s task at the session crowded with young and aspiring “Content Managers” which is the term in use by consultants such as Mark for staff assigned to lead the Panzer assault into this once foreign territory.

Apparently there is a job category of Community Manager where Content Managers can hire you to work two to four hours a day  to “engage in dialogues” on sites in one of the active roles – creators, critics, connectors – ordinary participants play.   Operating 24/7 these brand driven contributors can seed content by blogging, posting comments and pictures, videos and bookmarks and can “drive SEO” ie optimal search engine placement for a brand by “listening, engaging, and building buzz” to stimulate conversation and drive communities.

Not interlopers, helpful facilitators

Meanwhile those who deploy them can attend to connecting with the marketing, product development, public relations, market research, customer care and competitive intelligence departments of their company by feeding data to and fro.  A complaining customer may be turned from hostile to enthusiastic if referred to the right customer care staff, for example.   Potential customers bewildered by the demands of credit cards can be enlightened and reassured, or directed to “cool offers or contests”.

For anybody concerned that there might be a pushback from users who resent contributors who might be viewed as wolves in sheep’s clothing, Mark hurried to emphasize that the corporate motivation was not to sell but to inform ie to increase understanding of and connection with a product.

“If you are at a party and someone starts to sell you something that might be objectionable,” he agreed. “But this is conversation.”   Moreover, all brand promoters were upfront about their jobs and affiliations.  If they weren’t regulators would clamp down.

In the audience, in fact, was Kirsten Gronberg, Community Manager at CMP.LY, a company which specifically helps corporations ensure they act on the Web only in line with the regulations which ban underhand strategies.

Psycho-sociological dangers seen

Of course, some might still view the underlying motivation as impossible to deny and the invasion as just one more example of how commerce takes over every element of social life in America sooner or later if it possibly can.  To some Europeans it appears that Americans spend more time selling themselves and their ideas and products to each other than any other nation, both in public and in private.  Since the advent of TV even small children have been subject to a barrage of sales claims daily, and now we have the Internet growing more commercial every second.

In this jaundiced view the penalty we pay for this long time creep of salesmanship into every aspect of life  - which admittedly probably predates the Internet by about 300 years – may be the longstanding complaint of lack of authenticity in social relations in our great democracy.    And given the cut throat social values of so many corporations today do we really need their influence in social media? they ask.    One example is how even senior employees are treated when they are “let go”, which reportedly is now often a matter of  them being kicked out of the building with barely enough time to collect their family photos from their desks.   The days of three months notice and generous severance pay – in other words, mutual personal loyalty – are long gone

In this regard it is perhaps ironic that Mark and Donna are the founders of a social media site which offers Facebook facilities to women but with a huge additional advantage. Subscribers to shesconnected.com can have two separate personae where their business data is fenced off from their personal data, rather like the two screens on a Nokia E71.  In other words, they benefit from a firewall of privacy between business and personal.matters.

On the other side, CEO Donna explained, the all female base at this social media site is much more willing to converse about every detail of their buying and consuming than men generally are.

Finally, though, escape from voice mail jail

Whatever reservations some people may have to this corporate social buy-in,, which seems to promise to turn social media into corporate playgrounds without much room for those who want to keep them unsullied by Mammon, the final outcome seems inevitable, given the array of weapons portrayed in Mark’s expert analysis in his slides.  Just as happened with eBay, business will become a major player and perhaps dominant on Facebook, a site which was originally started by Mark Zuckerberg to get Harvard men dates, as well as Twitter, which has given us all direct access to the sometimes trivial chatter of VIPs..

On the positive side, the entry of business is certainly empowering for consumers who have been used to rarely dealing with corporate executives directly, and who are tired of impossible wait times on Customer Care(less) voice mail.

The best example of this, according to Mark, is Cadbury which  discontinued a chocolate product called Wispa until 22,000 fans petitioned them to bring it back, when they sold out 40 millions new bars in 18 weeks, or 4 per second.

Coming soon, a solution for all of us

Could be, moreover, that Mark and Donna have something very useful to consumers themselves, if they ever get around to it.  After the session, Donna, who seems to carry around not one but two iPads, explained that just as they have systematized the strategy for corporations to share in social media space, they have also worked out a system to keep up with the deluge of email, posting, monitoring, meetings, lectures and other demands of their work, and also have time for family and other non-work life.

A while back they even initiated a web site for others to put the system into effect, called Social Media Makeovers (http://www.socialmediamakeovers.com).  If this works out, it will solve what has become the paramount problem for all busy contributors on the Web, whether Tweeters, bloggers, researchers, consultants, or corporate workers: finding time to get it all done and have a life besides.

The problem is that the site is still in beta, it turns out, with the last news update a month old.  Could it be that Mark and Donna have been too busy delivering paid services to have any spare time to help the rest of us?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

DT: Barbara Brussell sings, Jon Weber swings, and Aldon James talks up arts as vital as oxygen

On the sleetiest, slushiest day ever the hardiest Dutch Treat members and their guests turned out Tuesday undaunted for a good lunch (salmon after superb Vichysoisse, open bar), lively songs with wit and feeling from the brave Barbara Brussell with Jon Weber at his bouncing keys, and finally, cheerleading for the arts in education from the speaker, Aldon James of the National Arts Club, where the lively weekly gathering of arts performers and lovers has found its home for the past decade.

In the videos of Barbara singing you may see the extraordinary way in which her face reflects the emotions in her song, very like the clouds or the sun reflected in the surface of a lake.

All  pics and videos are at  this link http://photogenie.smugmug.com/Clubs/DutchTreat/Dutch-Treat-Jan-18-11-Aldon/15506305_xih6Q#1161453028_CtcWX

You can also glimpse in video her high energy acting out and the sheer vivacity of her presence on stage, well complemented by Jon Weber’s vigorous and  inventive backing, and all the more winning because it showed no trace of the heavy burden of the double bypass that felled the Sacramento lass for much of last year.  In an interview afterwards (see same SmugMug pages) she tells how she recovered her momentum in eight months, helped by massage which so helped to reinvigorate her that she took up the training herself.

After this rousing and moving introduction Aldon assumed the lectern to give a hooray for the arts as the vitamins of culture and in particular their vital role in our schools, too many of which have responded to budget pressures by cutting them out entirely.   Acknowledging the contributions of the Dutch Treat and many present from Nobles Lowe, one of our older members at 98 last September, to the sculptor who fashioned the fountain in Gramercy Park outside its front doors, now the only private park in the City, Aldon presented a film by Carol Wilder about Malcolm Sidney, the black pug bequeathed to the Arts Club by her film star owner, who immediately became a fixture at social events even though the aging canine had extreme difficulty in mounting the stairs (see clip).

Against the neighborhood trend exemplified by the Zeckendorf conversion of the Salvation Army building into a tall condo in which the real estate magnate planned to reside, Aldon vowed that the Club would remain its own master and always “only belong to the National Arts Club”, and remain dedicated to “educational and cultural purposes.”

Steve Downey, husband of KT Sullivan the DT president, wondered if the original promise of provincial chapters of the Arts Club could be realized as a way of fighting the trend to remove art teaching from schools . “Couldn’t we have state chapters?”   he suggested, and Aldon allowed that “You’re right. We do need to expand and reach out.  We were never intended to be a Lincoln Center.  It’s the immediacy that counts here. We are here to enable our committees to do what they do. We had motorcycles here before the Whitney had them, we had tattoos done in front of 300 people, we had the Art of the DJ”.

A new committee has been formed on Art and Technology, Aldon added, and “this year we will be at Burning Man!”  The Burning Man’s founder Larry Harvey has appeared at the Club, which has held benefits for the uniquely way out, participant driven California desert arts costume dance and sculpture bash. (Ten minutes of Aldon’s talk can be viewed in the SmugMug link pages.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

OK Harris Shows Elke Albrecht, Richard Hanson, Bruce Thurman, Ken Morgan, Matthew Murray

Sat Jan 15 2011:  OK Harris rounded up five artists for its New Year show, which opened yesterday afternoon as crowds thronged Soho streets.   If any wondered what the name of the gallery meant, the answer is nothing more than a label for the legendary gallery: it was pulled from the air by founder Ivan C. Karp of Leo Castelli in 1969, when he founded what has long been Soho’s most notable showcase.

************************************************************

POST PUBLICATION UPDATE:  THIS ARTIST OFFERING COURSE AT FARMINGTON VALLEY ART CENTER APRIL 13-15:

NEW this Spring! ‘The Process of Abstraction’ illustrated by Elke Albrecht

Understand abstraction in a personal way then identify and communicate with emotional responses to subject matters.  Be guided to explore your own abstract aesthetic and create a clear visual statement with your work. Learn to create in a critical yet generous and productive way.Teaching privately  her entire career, Elke currently works with acrylics and favors layered brushstrokes, often in subtle contrast of whites.  Her work has  been exhibited at OK Harris Gallery, New York  City, Ceres  Gallery  and the Uta Scharf Gallery, New York/Berlin.  Her work has  also been included worldwide in many private collections  including The Owings Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
Lecture – Drezner Gallery, Wednesday, April 13, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Workshop – Thursday and Friday, April 14 & 15, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
TUITION: $240. Materials NOT included. Limited seats available.
Farmington Valley Arts Center FVAC 25 Arts Center Lane, Avon, Connecticut
860.678.1867 Additional information:FVArtsCenter@gmail.com
UPDATE: These classes came off well, as AvonPatch reported: http://avon.patch.com/articles/abstract-artist-advises-be-radical

*************************************************************

We found Elke Albrecht‘s ultra subtle abstracts particularly compelling, with her rows of four small red and white tiled collages against a grey background and framed, and of eight or nine large white canvases, emanating a palpable aesthetic force from their subtle, sotto voce variations.   All of them spoke for the nature of this artist as one driven (“impelled” in the word of gallery owner Karp) by an ineluctable inner force to create these external voicings of her intriguing psychological interiors.   The delicacy of the light grey and white tones of the row of larger canvases proved hard for a small camera to capture with the right white balance and contrast against the white walls of the gallery (click to enlarge for a slightly improved viewing).

Here is Elke standing in front of one of her larger canvases, which need to be mouse clicked to enlarge the image and discern the details of the canvas, though barely:

At the opposite extreme were the disturbing scenes of incipient gun violence disrupting the domestic lives of Iowa farm workers in Richard Hanson‘s bold watercolors, whose vibrant, realistic textures enhanced compositions which started out as posed photographs acted by himself and his son.   As we imagined, Richard, a tall, ruddy cheeked Iowan who teaches art in his home town of 25,000, and paints on a table rather than an easel, confirmed that his own family life and sanguine temperament bore no relation to the intense dramas  that sometimes arise from his palette (the theme of this selection was chosen by the gallery) .  How did the gallery learn of his work?  He sent it in, he said – and got a phone call next day.

Here’s another striking domestic nightmare by Hanson, featuring his son Rob emerging from a clothes closet, gun in hand (click to enlarge):

Bruce Thurman chose an ingratiating form to work in with his latest compositions in collage binders, mounted in a row on the wall each with one stiff page loose  on the metal rings for viewers to turn.

The corridor was crowded with friends and well wishers of the sociable artist. Unlike many others, Thurman told us, he does not keep his friends at arms length to preserve his artistic independence or exploit them ruthlessly in the Picasso manner, but draws on his friendships for stimulation and support. His studio is on Wall Street with a window looking out at the New York Stock Exchange.

For all 89 images of the event – including more of Thurman’s vivid action watercolors, such as those above and below, go to Photogenie at SmugMug or click this link:  http://photogenie.smugmug.com/Art/OK-Harris/OK-Harris-Sat-Jan-15-2011/15465154_mBtPg#1157867652_Q6uWK Feel free to take whatever pictures you wish by copying directly from the site, or if you wish to avoid the dollar or two charged by SmugMug, email Anthony@OnlyGoodPhotos.com

Ken Norman continues his work after suffering a stroke two years ago with a wall full of ink drawings and four larger works of mixed media on paper hung separately on the facing wall of the major gallery space.

Matthew Murray presented a striking collection of photographs of crumbling industrial and theater architecture and other relics of a past age, in his series Abandoned America:  Dismantling the Dream, which evokes nostalgia for a time when products we used and spaces we inhabited were intelligible in hands-on, real time where material shape and tactile experience were part of work and recreational activity, a sense texture now increasingly lost as work and play moves into the virtual realm of the Internet.

(Special note: This blog is in beta and theme and layout may change).(Apologies for the image corruption, if you see it,  which is apparently not caused by the WordPress hosting (the originals in the blog gallery are intact) but by the blog display.  Remedies are being sought)

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments