Chicago Science March 2017

My daughter and I participated in the science march on Saturday with three of our friends. There were a lot of people, mostly young and white, quite a few baby strollers and a few dogs. Everyone was pretty quiet- scientists aren’t chanters? At one point someone even chanted “Somebody start a chant!”

So we tried, “Who speaks for the trees? WE SPEAK FOR THE TREES!”

and  “Who speaks for the bees? WE SPEAK FOR THE BEES!”

and “Any thing you do SCIENCE AFFECTS YOU!”

and “GET UP, GET DOWN, CHICAGO IS A SCIENCE TOWN!”

and “TURTLE! TURTLE! TURTLE!” which was in response to a “Yertle the Turtle” sign with the heads of the turtles as Trump and his advisers, with “GRAVITY” written on the back.

There were a lot of signs, but many I expect will be recycled to next week’s “People for Climate” march next week, examples “There is no Planet B”, and a picture of the earth with an arrow pointing to the planet saying, “I’m with her!”

I couldn’t get an idea of how many people there were because where we were marching (along Columbus Ave) was flat. There were a few helicopters overhead. Afterwards, when I tried to find footage from the Chicago march, all they would show was the helicopter footage of the  marchers for Chicago. There were marches all over the world, but since we were walking through a big park (three city blocks long) and they could get the helicopters in to film us, that was all that was shown for Chicago. I am one of those blips down there. The police estimated there were 40,000 who marched. I don’t think anyone was arrested. We were described as “cheerful”.

These are some pictures from the march at the STREET level:

Some additional signage that didn’t take good pictures:

“So bad even the introverts are here.”

“There is no vaccine for stupidity.”

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate”

“I’m just here to study the effects of clever signs on the science community.”

And our sign:

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Planning the Science March

Last night we sat around the dinner table discussing the science march. The date has yet to be determined, but my husband is convinced it will be as carefully planned as a grant submission.

Much to my disappointment, my husband immediately shot down my angriest ideas for poster display:

“Trump Makes Me Gag”

“GOP Proofs: Trump’s Mandate and Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction”

Instead, he made me read an Op-Ed piece from the New York Times by a geologist who argues that the Science March is a bad idea. I was ready for another scientist ‘head in the sand’, dodge your civic obligation argument, but it was nothing like that.

I disagreed with one of the geologist’s conclusions, I don’t think the developers would have changed their course of action because they ‘knew’ him as a person and scientist. Look at all those mafioso types who always say, “It’s not personal, it’s business” just before they shoot their friend in the head. Money interests want their own way above any other consideration.

However, the article did bring up a very important point: what is the point of the Science March? Who is the target audience? Are scientists doing this for themselves, to show they have solidarity with like-minded people (ala the Women’s March)? Do they want Trump to pay attention to them (and what is the likelihood that he would)?

My husband, after reading the New York Times Op-Ed, wants the march to be non-partisan. He wants the scientists to show the world that science does not have to ‘take a side’, that either political party can and should use science to form good policy decisions for the country.

I said that if the scientists want to reach out to the Trump voters, then they need to show them that some scientists believe in God. They need scientists out there holding signs that say they are Christians, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc. My Evangelical Christian, Trump-voting neighbor always feels much more at ease with me knowing that I, too, believe in God. She is fine that we are from different religions, she respects the differences and likes that we are honest that there are differences. If the marching scientists only proclaim they are angry atheists, then that parks the march back in the Echo Chamber lot.

The kids agreed that if the scientists want to get apathetic people interested in science, then the scientists who are marching need to be diverse. They can’t be a bunch old, white men. We need women, minorities, LGBTQ- the whole rainbow out there showing that the common goal of science allows tolerance for all. Maybe if Americans can see scientists being tolerant, then they can be less divisive with their fellow citizens.

The protest posters that did pass the new standards are:

“Proud Muslim American Molecular Biologist”

“Proud German Scientist”

“Grrrl Science Power!”

A big list of “Scientists Who Were Refugees” which will be compiled from here and here.

 

When the march gets finalized, I will let you know and also as much as I can about which cities will be sponsoring marches of their own.

 

 

Empirical Analysis: Tabloids

Since I have a family of eaters, I go to the grocery store every week and in the check-out line I typically scan the weekly magazines and tabloids perched around the cashier. I had noticed that throughout the elections, the grocery store tabloids (National Enquirer, Globe, National Examiner) were virulently anti-Hillary.

Once Trump got elected president, all the tabloids were unilaterally flattering to the Trumpacy. Two weeks before the inauguration, the National Enquirer featured on its cover “The Presidential Family- Things you didn’t know!”, with captions under the photos such as “secret philanthropist”, “party planner”, “job creator”. The following week featured a cover of the Trump daughters, “He’s strict- no boyfriends, lots of homework, no parties on school nights!”. When the scandal erupted that Putin and his Russian hackers had deliberately divulged secrets of the Clinton campaign in order to swing the election in Trump’s favor, the tabloids reassured their readers, that “Trump and Putin meeting secretly to disarm Iran’s nuclear program, put an end to North Korean aggression.” At this point I was pretty certain that the best way to determine how Trump was doing with his base/puppetmaster was to watch the tabloid headlines.

I was very surprised to see the headlines this week. Only one on Trump, “The secrets of Trump’s advisers that you don’t know.” Now granted, perhaps inside the weeklie a reader would find the advisers are ‘secret philanthropists’ and “party planners”, but I didn’t bother to do the research. I had expected that the tabloids would be all about how the Muslim Ban/Extreme Vetting was “keeping America safe” and “foiling terrorist plots”, but no tabloid said that this week.

Well, perhaps they will change their mind next week, once the opinion polls have been tabulated and the puppetmasters have been consulted . Let’s see how they spin their webs next week.

When the Puppetmaster pulls the strings…

Two hours after the uber-libertarian ultra-rich Koch brothers declared that the “authoritarian” route of banning all immigrants, including Greencard holders, was “counterproductive” to business and the “American” way, the White House spokesman declared that Greencard holders would NOT be included in the ban. Guess it would be difficult for the unemployed 60-year old, Trump-voting steelworkers in Ohio to take the place of Greencard holding computer programmers, engineers, doctors, professors, and other professionals.

When the puppetmasters pull the strings, the puppets must dance.

Refugees and Visa holders aren’t being detained at the American airports because the airlines aren’t even letting them board the airplane. The airlines don’t want to have to pay to send them back to their country of origin. The more stomach turning fact is the USA created many of these refugees in the first place and refuses now to take responsibility for them.

In a phone conversation on Sunday, Angela Merkel took time out to school Trump on the specifics of the Geneva Convention and how all countries that sign it agree to take on refugees. Since she is a former physics professor, she probably feels an obligation to educate the ignorant.

And let’s think about that plastic word “safety” and what other definitions may spring to mind….

 

 

Ten Days of Trumpacy

Gray, rainy days for over two weeks now. The only time the sun came out was the day of the Women’s March. I took that as a sign that God was with the women.

I’ve decided to break my long silence because I need to tell my story and how politics has become personal for us.

On Monday January 23, the first working day of the Trumpacy, all scientists working for the United States government were put under a gag order. They are not allowed to speak to the press or the public about their research without first getting approval from the President. The gag order is under effect for forty days, but could be extended. This kind of thing has never happened before. The agencies affected include the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, the FDA, the Center for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health and Human Services, and the National Park Agency. If there is an outbreak of a strange virus or a contaminant in a food or medicine, the CDC and FDA will have to get permission from their boss to speak about it. In response, the scientists working at these agencies have set up rogue Twitter accounts. The one for HHS uses the Rebel logo from the “Star Wars” movies. These scientists tweet at risk of losing their jobs. The research is not classified, the Trumpacy just wants to control their speech.

Why the gag order? The official reason is the Trumpacy does not want to be questioned while in the ‘transition’ period. They were badly embarrassed by their attempt to identify climate change scientists, didn’t like the public backlash and criticism. Now they can round up whomever they wish without fear of reprisals. Some say the gag order started when someone from the Parks Service showed the photo of the Obama inauguration versus the Trump inauguration. The Trumpacy didn’t like being embarrassed by being caught in a pictorial refutation of their braggart claims.

Day 1: The scientists can’t speak freely about non-classified research.

Subsequent days: the promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but with no legislative replacement on the horizon. The executive order to build a wall (actually a fence) between the United States and Mexico, which will cost more than the entire budget of the intelligence agencies. Mexico refuses to pay for this. I guess we are taking away people’s health care so we can build a wall. Feeling like I am in a bad Kafka novella. Trumpacy also gives regular policemen the right to ask anyone about their immigrant status and can deport them if they so choose.  Trumpacy orders all reproductive aid and sex health screening to international agencies kyboshed because they might destroy a sacred zygote. Millions of women and their families put at risk, but I guess it doesn’t matter because they all live abroad and we won’t see them or the consequences of these policies on their lives.

The weekend kicker- on Friday night Trumpacy signs an executive order that all immigrants from 7 Muslim majority countries are to be denied entry into the United States, regardless of their immigration status. This includes refugees, Greencard holders, and people with H1 and other visas ie people that Congress and the State Department have approved of for having legal working residence. The executive order also states that the president can add other countries at his whim. In my family, my husband holds a German passport, he is not a US citizen. But, his country of origin is Pakistan, and for the Immigration officials, they only look at country of origin. If the Trumpacy decides that they don’t want people from any Muslim majority countries to enter (remember, this was one of his campaign promises, to kick the Muslims out), then my husband would be denied re-entry. It’s a nice loophole the Trumpacy has found. They can’t kick out American citizens or round them up in camps in the USA, that is against the law, but they can refuse re-entry to non-citizens and break up families.  On Saturday the executive order goes into effect. Americans stage protests at major airports across the USA: New York, Boston, Dulles (Washington DC), Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco. The international terminals are blocked. An emergency order by a judge a 9 pm grants a stay for some of those detained- they cannot be deported until their case is tried in court. Immigration Officers who support the Trumpacy say they will disregard the decision of the federal judge and they will continue to detain and deport those who they deem a threat. One way they assess threat is to demand access to the detainee’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. If they have posted anti-Trump messages or tweets, they are deemed a threat. My family watches the demonstrations Saturday night on Twitter feeds, following their progress. We are heartened by the demonstrators and the ACLU lawyers working feverishly for haebus corpus for the detainees.

That night my spouse and I discuss our options. How long before the Trumpacy goes after us? Is it safe to go on our family vacation to Germany? Should we cash out of America now, before it is too late? Should he take that job in Canada- should we move? How much will we lose on our house (our biggest asset) if we sell now? The world seems in flux. Where will my children go to school? Where we will go?

Sunday morning I get into a fight with my father. He supports Trump, he feels Trump is doing the right thing and he feels safer. He asks my husband if my husband thinks it is ok for ISIS to kill Americans, because my husband, by questioning Trump’s policies, might think it is ok. My husband says that for my father to ask him this must mean, after a +20 year relationship, that he doesn’t really trust him. He passes the phone to me. The look on my husband’s face is heartbreaking.  I tell my father that I know what sorts of news he listens to and what they say about me and my family. I tell him the Trumpacy policies have consequences, that they don’t just affect other people, they affect him. Everything that I feared would happen is starting to happen. My father says, “Well, just keep in touch.” And we hang up.

My oldest son asks me what is going to happen. What should he do? I tell him to just focus on his schoolwork. I promise him that we will keep him safe. I say we may need to move, but we’re not sure yet. I tell him that there is always going to be a core group of people 30-40% in ANY country who are most concerned about their personal safety and they will go after a leader who tells them he will keep them safe. These people are cashing into short term safety, but history always judges them as cowards and bullies. No one wants to have to admit they have a Nazi grandfather. We just have to remember what is important, we have to stand up for what we think is right, and we have to think about what part of history we want to be identified with.

At noon time the Trumpacy cabinet says they are considering adding Pakistan to the list.

 

If you didn’t vote for Hillary, I understand that. If you voted for Trump, fine. But if you donated money to the Trump campaign, I think the very least you should do is add a matching amount to the American Civil Liberties Union. Think of it as an investment, it may become more personal than you think.

 

Reading List for 2017

  1. “The Story of a New Name” by Elena Ferrante
  2. “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay” by Elena Ferrante
  3. “The Story of the Lost Child” by Elena Ferrante
  4. “Middlemarch” by George Eliot
  5. “The Waves” by Virginia Woolf
  6. “Norwegian Night” by Derek Miller
  7. “Daniel Deronda” by George Eliot
  8. “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichte
  9. “Purity” by Jonathan Franzen
  10. “The Burnout Society” by Byung-Chul Han
  11. “The Way We Live Now” by Anthony Trollope
  12. “The Forgetting Time” by Sharon Guskin
  13. “Pym” by Mat Johnson
  14. “The Shelf Life of Happiness” by David Machado
  15. “Beauty” by Roger Scruton
  16. “Doctor Thorne” by Anthony Trollope
  17. “The Golden Egg” by Donna Leon
  18. “The Sympathsizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  19. “Strangers on a Train” by Patricia Highsmith
  20. “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman
  21. “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving
  22. “Contagious” by Jonah Berger
  23. “The Burglar in the Rye” by Lawrence Block
  24. “The Sirens of Titan” by Kurt Vonnegut
  25. “The Country of the Pointed Firs” by Sarah Orne Jewett
  26. “A Personal Matter” by Kenzoburo Oe
  27. “The Light of the World” by Elizabeth Alexander
  28. “The Turner House” by Angela Flournoy
  29. “Perparation for the Next Life” by Atticus Lish
  30. “The Meursault Investigation” by Kamel Daoud
  31. “The Apple Trees at Olema” by Robert Hass
  32. “Dead Girls Don’t Lie” by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
  33. “Only Time Will Tell” by Jeffrey Archer
  34. “Wonder Boys” by Michael Chabon
  35. “Sweet Lamb of Heaven” by Lydia Millet
  36. “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins

 

Artists, Collectors, and the Art World, Oh My!

This past year I tried to watch movies about artists, the collectors who purchase their work, and the art world (gallery dealers, museum curators, restorers, insurers, etc). The following represents a synopsis of my viewing history + pithy observations.

Artists

It is very difficult to make a balanced film or documentary about a currently living artist. If the artist (or the artist’s estate) is going to cooperate with the filmmaker, then usually the film dips into hagiography. On the plus side, you get to see the artist’s original work in the film. The downside is the sugar-coated story leaves a lot of unexplained questions because the answers might damage the legacy that is so stridently being preserved. The better artist films are typically those where the artist has been long dead and there is no estate to contend with. Unfortunately, most of these artists had a huge factory of workers and assistants helping them with their work, and you never see these people being mentioned, which I find frustrating. Nevertheless, the artist bio films do provide a good introduction to many artists I had never heard of before.

  1. Goya’s Ghosts (2006) Drama. Points out Goya’s importance in the transition from the traditional age into modern. Unfortunately, film gets bogged down on the soap-opera-esque side stories.
  2. Bomb It (2007) Documentary. History of graffiti art (using spray cans) in USA and around the world. Interesting to see how culture affects presentation (ie. NYC vs. Berlin vs. Cape Town vs. Barcelona)
  3. The Time Being (2012) Drama. Artist does commissioned work to gather source material for dying artist.
  4. Cutie and the Boxer (2013) Documentary. The complex and competitive world of two artists married to one another.
  5. My Kid Could Paint That (2007) Documentary. Art fraud or child prodigy? You be the judge.
  6. Beautiful Losers (2008) Documentary. Street artists and graphic designers of the 1990s, the importance of having a sympathetic gallery for artistic synergy
  7. The Universe of Keith Haring (2008) Documentary. Mostly hagiography, but lots of his original art. I found it interesting that they wanted him to paint LESS so that his art would increase in value!
  8. Little Ashes (2008) Drama. The early years of Federico Garcia Lorca, Salvador Dali, and Luis Brunel and their complex relationships- not much art work shown.
  9. The Mill and the Cross (2011) Drama. Multiple re-enactments of Bruegel’s most famous works- nearly no talking.
  10. Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon (1998) Drama. The life of Francis Bacon, not flattering, NONE of his original artwork shown, although models and inspirational reflections are in abundance.
  11. Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World (2014) Documentary. Giger looks very frail throughout, lots of his artwork and domicile shown.
  12. Big Eyes (2014) Drama. Tim Burton’s tribute to one of his favorite artists, Margaret Keane and her bug eyed waifs.
  13. Our City Dreams (2008 ) Documentary. Mini bios of five different women artists (Caledonia Curry, Ghadee Amer, Kiki Smith, Marina Abramovic, and Nancy Spero) at very different points in their lives.
  14. One Bad Cat: The Reverend Albert Wagner Story (2008 ) Documentary. Life of Albert Wagner, but like Giger, he is very frail and old in the movie in contrast to the majority of his controversial working life.
  15. Turner (2014 ) Drama. Life of the British father of impressionism.
  16. In the Realms of the Unreal (2004) Documentary. Chicago recluse Henry Darger provides the definition of “outsider art”, but fortunately for him, his landlord had connections to the art world.
  17. Rivers and Tides (2001) Documentary. A look at the environmentally ephemeral art of Andy Goldsworthy. Absolutely beautiful, with interesting observations on the impact of sheep on the environment.
  18. Manufactured Landscapes (2006) Documentary. A look at the locales (mostly Asia) and philosophy of photographer Edward Burtynsky.
  19. Here is Always Somewhere Else (2007) Documentary. The enigmatic life of conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader. Also a good lesson on ‘curating’ someone else’s work.
  20. Guest of Cindy Sherman (2008) Documentary. Cindy Sherman’s boyfriend comes to grips with the housewife’s reality of being the person in the room no one wants to talk to. Features the celebrated photographer’s many shows.
  21. Helvetica (2007) Documentary. The birth of a type face in excruciating detail. With critique, also excruciating.
  22. Ai Weiwei Never Sorry (2012) Documentary. The controversial Chinese artist, his shows, and his run-ins with Chinese political leaders and police chiefs.
  23. Finding Vivian Maier (2013) Documentary. Chicago recluse photographer Vivian Maier who spent her life snapping photos while earning a living as a nanny. “Discovered” after she died. Had me wondering about the nature of art- she herself never edited her work- she just hoarded it and her ‘discoverer’ was the one who decided what’s what.

Collectors

Who are the people who purchase (or steal) art? Well, they are an unusual bunch. In watching these movies, I began to seriously question the dogma that viewing art makes you a “better” person.

  1. The Best Offer (2013) Drama. An art auctioneer has his own way of amassing a collection of female portraiture until he meets his match.
  2. Herb & Dorothy (2008) Documentary. DIY collecting- he is a postal worker and she is a teacher. One salary is for living expenses, the other salary is for collecting art. Wait until you see how they store their collection.
  3. Art of the Steal (2009) Documentary. Despite the best laid legal documents of collector Dr. Albert C. Barnes, he could not control the destiny of his post-impressionist and modern art masterpieces after his demise.
  4. Woman in Gold (2015) Drama. What happens when a country steals your family art collection and markets it as a national treasure/tourist attraction?
  5. Rape of Europa (2006) Documentary. How the Nazis collected art, particularly Goering.

 

Art World

The movies about the museums are ok, but most movies about the art world generally portray the major players as unsavory, money-grubbing, unscrupulous, immoral manipulators. Sigh.

  1. Boogie Woogie (2009) Drama. Highly disturbing view of London art scene complete with gallery owners, collectors, and artists.
  2. Mickey Blue Eyes (1999) Comedy. This is a great comedy which features a mob intrusion into the art auction market. Hilarious- watch for the Chinese restaurant scene!
  3. Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock (2006) Documentary. A truck driver buys a painting from a thrift store and tries to prove it was painted by Jackson Pollock.
  4. Russian Ark (2002) Drama. If you have ever wondered what these European palaces turned into art galleries might have looked like in their heyday as actual working spaces, then this is the movie for you. Filmed in the Winter Palace of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersberg.
  5. National Gallery (2014) Documentary. Behind the scenes look at the National Gallery in London- but it is 3 HOURS LONG!

Hike at Point Lobos

I almost forgot to share my holiday photos. (Quick- run while you still have time!).

Being in a generous mood, I’ll restrict my photo essay to the family picnic and hike at Point Lobos.

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Whalers’ Cove north side
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Whalers’ Cove south side, parking lot with picnic tables behind. Site of whale slaughter.

We had our picnic in the Whaler’s Cove area.

Back in the old days, they had a dock built out over the black rocks. They would dock the boat and push the dead whale to the shore.Our picnic table in the parking lot was where they dismembered whales in the 1800s.

The whale business only ran a few years here, then the petroleum industry started up and whale oil became much less non-profitable, the cove was abandoned. Nowadays, it is occupied by shutterbugs.