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.

 

The Tribe Gifts Us with Meaning

“(This book)…is about why-for many people-war feels better than peace and hardship can turn out to be a great blessing and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations. Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it, what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.”

-Sebastian Junger in Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

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. “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins
  7. “Sweet Lamb of Heaven” by Lydia Miller
  8. “Purity” by Jonathan Franzen
  9. “The Burnout Society” by Byung-Chul Han
  10. “The Way We Live Now” by Anthony Trollope
  11. “Strangers on a Train” by Patricia Highsmith
  12. “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman
  13. “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving
  14. “Tempest-Tost” by Robertson Davies

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!

Done and Undone 2016 Reading List

I got through nearly all of my reading list for 2016 with a few exceptions.

Excuses:

  1. After being severely underwhelmed by Dave Eggers’ “How We Are Hungry”, I decided not to read his “Hologram for the King”.
  2. Decided to relax with Louise Penny mysteries instead of John Grisham’s “The Racketter”. May read it this year, once I get through the Three Pines series.
  3. “Why Does the World Exist?”- Couldn’t motivate myself to power up to the philosophical stratosphere.
  4. “What is Islam?”- never bothered to buy the book.
  5. “Telling Lies for Fun & Profit”- read the first few paragraphs and it didn’t grab me.
  6. “Standing by Words” only read a few of the essays, started to disagree with author.
  7. “Secret Life of Pronouns”- got too boring and repetitive, wasn’t able to finish

 

Supplemented to 2016 List and I did finish:

  1. Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam series “Oryx and Crake”, “The Year of the Flood”, and “MaddAddam”
  2. “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood
  3. “Fates and Furies” by Lauren Groff
  4. “A Case of Exploding Mangoes” by Mohammad Hanif
  5. “Cat’s Eye” by Margaret Atwood
  6. “The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce
  7. “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline
  8. “American Qur’an” by Sandow Birk
  9. “Did You Ever Have a Family” by Bill Clegg
  10. “My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrente
  11. “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahnuik
  12. “Washing the Dust from our Hearts” collected poems of Afghani women
  13. “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides
  14. “The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles” by Martin Gayford
  15. “Drinking: A love story” by Caroline Knapp
  16. “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton
  17. “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara
  18. “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders” by Daniyal Mueenideen

Plus a few more books, but these are the best ones I would recommend.

Next up: reading list for 2017!

 

 

 

mosaic ala knife

mosaicreflectingpool
Reflecting Pool                                               oil                                             8 x 10

It is painting with friends day and in my rush to get to the place,  I forget my paint thinner. No where to be found in my bag of tricks. How am I going to clean my brushes? Answer: don’t use brushes. Use a palette knife and clean knife by wiping off paint with paper towels. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Complementary Colors

Trying to take a piece of the original representational painting:

mortonmaymeadow
spring meadow           oil             11 x 14

and render a portion of it abstract:

complementary
offering                    oil       11 x 14

Rather a lot of orange and blue in this one. I think the Cubs winning the World Series was too much on my mind. We are a product of our environment.