The Neanderthal Inside Us

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In 2012, Dr. Paabo and his colleagues took samples from this thigh bone to search for DNA. To their surprise, it held a number of genetic fragments. Credit Bence Viola/Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

NY Times Published: OCT. 22, 2014
By Carl Zimmer

Scientists have reconstructed the genome of a man who lived 45,000 years ago, by far the oldest genetic record ever obtained from modern humans. The research, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, provided new clues to the expansion of modern humans from Africa about 60,000 years ago, when they moved into Europe and Asia.

And the genome, extracted from a fossil thighbone found in Siberia, added strong support to a provocative hypothesis: Early humans interbred with Neanderthals.

“It’s irreplaceable evidence of what once existed that we can’t reconstruct from what people are now,” said John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin who was not involved in the study. “It speaks to us with information about a time that’s lost to us.”

The discoveries were made by a team of scientists led by Svante Paabo, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Over the past three decades, Dr. Paabo and his colleagues have developed tools for plucking out fragments of DNA from fossils and reading their sequences.

Early on, the scientists were able only to retrieve tiny snippets of ancient genes. But gradually, they have invented better methods for joining the overlapping fragments together, assembling larger pieces of ancient genomes that have helped shed light on the evolution of humans and their relatives.

In December, they published the entirety of a Neanderthal genome extracted from a single toe bone. Comparing Neanderthal to human genomes, Dr. Paabo and his colleagues found that we share a common ancestor, which they estimated lived about 600,000 years ago.

Recently, Dr. Paabo and his colleagues got an opportunity to test their new methods on an exceptional human bone.

In 2008, a fossil collector named Nikolai V. Peristov was traveling along the Irtysh River in Siberia, searching for mammoth tusks in the muddy banks. Near a settlement called Ust’-Ishim, he noticed a thighbone in the water. Mr. Peristov fished it out and brought it to scientists at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The Russian researchers identified the bone as a modern human, not a Neanderthal. To determine its age, they sent samples to the University of Oxford. Scientists there measured the breakdown of radioactive carbon and determined the bone was about 45,000 years old — making it the oldest modern human fossil ever found outside of Africa and the Near East.

In 2012, Dr. Paabo and his colleagues took samples from the bone to search for DNA. To their surprise, it held a number of genetic fragments.

“This is an amazing and shocking and unique sample,” said David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the new study.

The researchers used the DNA fragments to create a high-resolution copy of the man’s complete genome. A Y chromosome revealed that the thighbone belonged to a man.

The scientists then compared the genome of the so-called Ust’-Ishim man to those of ancient and living people.

They found that his DNA was more like that of non-Africans than that of Africans. But the Ust’-Ishim man was no more closely related to ancient Europeans than he was to East Asians.

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He was part of an earlier lineage, the scientists concluded — a group that eventually gave rise to all non-African humans.

Homo sapiens, our own species, appeared in Africa around 200,000 years ago. Previous studies, both on genes and on fossils, have suggested that they then expanded through the Near East to the rest of the Old World.

The Ust’-Ishim man’s genome suggests he belonged to a group of people who lived after the African exodus, but before the split between Europeans and Asians.

Dr. Paabo and his colleagues also found that the Ust’-Ishim man had pieces of Neanderthal DNA in his genome, just as living non-Africans do. But his Neanderthal DNA had some important differences.

Fossils indicate that Neanderthals spread across Europe and Asia before becoming extinct an estimated 40,000 years ago. Today, the Neanderthal DNA in each living non-African human is broken up into short segments sprinkled throughout the genome.

Dr. Paabo and his colleagues have hypothesized that this arrangement is a result of how cells divide.

During the development of eggs and sperm, each pair of chromosomes swaps pieces of their DNA. Over the generations, long stretches of DNA get broken into smaller ones, like a deck of cards repeatedly shuffled.

Over thousands of generations, the Neanderthal DNA became more fragmented. Dr. Paabo and his colleagues predicted, however, that Neanderthal DNA in the Ust’-Ishim man’s genome would form longer stretches.

And that’s exactly what they found. “It was very satisfying to see that,” Dr. Paabo said.

By comparing the Ust’-Ishim man’s long stretches of Neanderthal DNA with shorter stretches in living humans, Dr. Paabo and his colleagues estimated the rate at which they had fragmented. They used that information to determine how long ago Neanderthals and humans interbred.

Previous studies, based only on living humans, had yielded an estimate of 37,000 to 86,000 years. Dr. Paabo and his colleagues have now narrowed down that estimate drastically: Humans and Neanderthals interbred 50,000 to 60,000 years ago, according to the new data.

The findings raised questions about research suggesting that humans in India and the Near East dated back as far as 100,000 years ago. Some scientists believe that humans expanded out of Africa in a series of waves.

But Christopher Stringer, a paleoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum, said that the new study offered compelling evidence that living non-Africans descended from a group of people who moved out of Africa about 60,000 years ago.

Any humans that expanded out of Africa before then probably died out, Mr. Stringer said.

Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

October 24th, 2014
Mark Grotjahn | Two Masks

Dewalt-Mask-M33

Extended through October 28, 2014

South Willard Shop Exhibit

October 22nd, 2014

October 22nd, 2014

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October 22nd, 2014
Are Women Better Decision Makers?

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JooHee Yoon

By THERESE HUSTON
NY Times Published: OCT. 17, 2014

RECENTLY, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said that if we want to fix the gridlock in Congress, we need more women. Women are more focused on finding common ground and collaborating, she argued. But there’s another reason that we’d benefit from more women in positions of power, and it’s not about playing nicely.

Neuroscientists have uncovered evidence suggesting that, when the pressure is on, women bring unique strengths to decision making.

Mara Mather, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Southern California, and Nichole R. Lighthall, a cognitive neuroscientist now at Duke University, are two of the many researchers who have found that under normal circumstances, when everything is low-key and manageable, men and women make decisions about risk in similar ways. We gather the best information we can, we weigh potential costs against potential gains, and then we choose how to act. But add stress to the situation — replicated in the lab by having participants submerge their hands in painfully cold, 35-degree water — and men and women begin to part ways.

Dr. Mather and her team taught people a simple computer gambling game, in which they got points for inflating digital balloons. The more they inflated each balloon, the greater its value, and the risk of popping it. When they were relaxed, men and women took similar risks and averaged a similar number of pumps. But after experiencing the cold water, the stressed women stopped sooner, cashing out their winnings and going with the more guaranteed win. Stressed men did just the opposite. They kept pumping — in one study averaging about 50 percent more pumps than the women — and risking more. In this experiment, the men’s risk-taking earned them more points. But that wasn’t always the case.

In another experiment, researchers asked participants to draw cards from multiple decks, some of which were safe, providing frequent small rewards, and others risky, with infrequent but bigger rewards. They found that the most stressed men drew 21 percent more cards from the risky decks than from the safe ones, compared to the most stressed women, losing more over all.

Across a variety of gambles, the findings were the same: Men took more risks when they were stressed. They became more focused on big wins, even when they were costly and less likely.

Levels of the stress hormone cortisol appear to be a major factor, according to Ruud van den Bos, a neurobiologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands. He and his colleagues have found that the tendency to take more risks when under pressure is stronger in men who experience a larger spike in cortisol. But in women he found that a slight increase in cortisol seemed actually to improve decision-making performance.

Are we all aware when our decision making skews under stress? Unfortunately not. In a 2007 study, Stephanie D. Preston, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Michigan, and her colleagues told people that after 20 minutes, they would have to give a talk and would be judged on their speaking abilities. But first, they had to play a gambling game. Anxious, both men and women initially had a harder time making good decisions in the game.

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But the closer the women got to the stressful event, the better their decision making became. Stressed women tended to make more advantageous decisions, looking for smaller, surer successes. Not so for the stressed men. The closer the timer got to zero, the more questionable the men’s decision making became, risking a lot for the slim chance of a big achievement.

The men were also less aware that they had used a risky strategy. In the last few minutes of the game, Dr. Preston interrupted each person immediately after he or she had just lost money. She asked people to rate how risky each of their possible choices had been, including the unsuccessful one they had just made. Women were more likely to rate their losing strategy as a poor one.

In one interesting study, a team led by Livia Tomova and Claus Lamm, of the University of Vienna, found through three experiments that under stressful conditions, women became more attuned to others. In one, people reached through a curtain and touched something pleasant, like a feather or a cotton ball, or something unpleasant, like a slimy mushroom or a plastic slug. Each person could see a picture of what he or she was touching, and what another person was touching a few feet away, and had to rate the pleasantness of their respective experiences. Typically, people merge the other person’s experience with their own — if I’m touching something pleasant, then I’ll rate your slug-touching experience as nicer than I ordinarily would.

WHEN women were stressed, however, from having to give a public speech, they actually found it easier than usual to empathize and take the other person’s perspective. Just the opposite happened for the stressed men — they became more egocentric. If I’m stroking a piece of silk, that cow tongue you’re touching can’t be all that bad.

Of course, just because it works this way in a lab doesn’t mean the same thing happens in the messy real world. Do organizations with women in charge actually make less risky and more empathetic decisions in stressful circumstances?

Some evidence suggests they do. Credit Suisse examined almost 2,400 global corporations from 2005 to 2011 — including the years directly preceding and following the financial crisis — and found that large-cap companies with at least one woman on their boards outperformed comparable companies with all-male boards by 26 percent.

Some might assume that there was a cost to this as well, that boards with women must have been excessively cautious before the financial crisis of 2008, as was the case with the balloon experiment. Not so. From 2005 to 2007, Credit Suisse also found, the stock performance of companies with women on their boards essentially matched performance of companies with all-male boards. Nothing lost, but much gained.

If we want our organizations to make the best decisions, we need to notice who is deciding and how tightly they’re gritting their teeth.

Unfortunately, what often happens is that women are asked to lead only during periods of intense stress. It’s called the glass cliff, a phenomenon first observed by the University of Exeter professors Michelle K. Ryan and Alex Haslam, who is now at the University of Queensland, in which highly qualified women are asked to lead organizations only in times of crisis. Think of Mary T. Barra at General Motors and Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, who were both brought in only after things had begun to fall apart. If more women were key decision makers, perhaps organizations could respond effectively to small stresses, rather than letting them escalate into huge ones.

We can’t make the big jobs in government or business any less stressful. But we can ensure that when the pressure rises, there’s a better balance between taking big risks and making real progress.

October 20th, 2014
Neil Young: Musician, Writer and Painter

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The musician reflects on life on the road, his car collection, his music-service startup Pono and the problem with digital music. Photograph by Matt Furman

By ALEXANDRA WOLFE
Wall Street Journal: Oct. 17, 2014

Over the past year, Neil Young has played a number of different roles: science-fiction writer, painter, tech entrepreneur and, of course, musician. Relaxing in one of his tour buses before a show in Philadelphia, Mr. Young, 68, says that lately he is seeing the world differently.

He means it literally: A friend gave the colorblind Mr. Young a new pair of sunglasses that allows him to see red and green. “Things jump out that didn’t jump out before,” he says excitedly. “I’ll be driving along the highway looking out, and I’ll see a green lawn, and I’ll say, ‘Wow!’ ”

Mr. Young’s new memoir is “Special Deluxe,” the story of his life and career through the lens of the countless cars he’s bought through the years. Each chapter is illustrated with one of his own watercolors. On Nov. 4, he’ll release his next album, “Storytone.” Next up? He’s writing a science-fiction book. “I’m all over the map,” he says.

Would you ever go into politics?

“You don’t need to go into politics to educate people. I don’t have an agenda. I’m not working to be a politician. I’m working to go through my life having done something worthwhile. So with my notoriety or fame or whatever you want to call it—I don’t like to call it celebrity since that’s not how I think of myself—I think that there’s a responsibility to do something…whether they disagree or agree with things [I say], they can talk about them.”

Do you ever worry about how your albums will be received or what people will think of them?

“I just keep doing what I want to do. I don’t spend much time trying to figure that out. It really doesn’t help, because then all you’d try to do is just spend all this time trying to figure out how to do the same thing again. As soon as you do it again, you’re pretty well finished. I’d rather do something else and make something happen.”

In his personal life, he recently separated from his wife of 36 years. He also plans to sell the bulk of his car collection—he has bought dozens over the years, he says, too many to count—marking another major turnaround for the lifelong auto enthusiast. His new book serves in part as a tribute to that collection. “I gave myself cars as rewards for finishing specific projects,” he says. “Not expensive, but [I bought them] mostly for the way they look. They’re like pieces of art.”

In some cases, he turned the cars into something new. He hired a team to turn a 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible into an electric car, for example, to prove that existing cars don’t need to be powered by gas. The car was the largest, heaviest and most luxurious he had in his fleet. He had the car, now called the LincVolt, made to bring attention to climate change.

He came up with the idea to build the LincVolt when he started learning more about the idea of global warming a decade ago. “I looked at my own habits and saw that I was probably a huge contributor to the problem,” he says, thanks to his car hobby. “So I tried to figure out how can I take what I like and keep it and make it so it’s really clean, because I don’t think you can change people by taking things away from them.” Instead, he says, you have to give them what they want. “Americans like big cars and stuff, and there’s no reason they have to be dirty,” he says.

Later this month, Mr. Young will launch a digital-music device and download service that he’s been working on for three and a half years, called Pono. The word is “Hawaiian for righteous,” he says. “It’s a very positive oneness of the most pure essence,” he says. (Translation: It’s meant to play music the way it sounds live.)

Current devices, especially mobile phones, play only a limited range of a song’s true sound, he says. Pono is meant to serve as an alternative to compact discs and digital tracks from services like iTunes. The $399 Pono device, with a triangular shape like a Toblerone bar, will play high-resolution tracks downloadable from the associated online store. Pono has raised $6.2 million on Kickstarter, making it the third most funded project in the crowdfunding site’s history.

Mr. Young compares digital recordings today with Xeroxes of artwork—the difference between seeing the “Mona Lisa” up close and seeing a copy. For one thing, he says, it’s harder to play music loudly using today’s compressed files. “Music doesn’t sound good on speakers anymore,” he says. “It hurts and didn’t used to hurt.” He laments the way people on the street look like they’re living in their own world while they’re “listening to something greatly depleted.”

His affinity for new technology only goes so far. Mr. Young says that he doesn’t spend much time on social media. “I use it as a tool to announce I have a new project, but I’m too well-known to be up there on social media,” he says. “It’s a waste of my time.”

Mr. Young was born in Toronto. His father was an author, and his mother edited his father’s books. He has three grown children, who regularly join him on tour—particularly his son Ben, a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy whom he calls “our spiritual leader.” Mr. Young currently lives along the coast of California, on his 101-year-old Baltic Trader, a sailboat he bought in 1975. His second home is his tour bus on the road, where he feels most comfortable. “I like moving around,” he says. “I’ve done it my whole life, and it makes me feel good…It makes me feel at home.”

On this October day, his two tour buses are parked in a Radisson hotel parking lot in Trevose, Pa., about 20 miles outside of Philadelphia. He liked the middle-of-nowhere location.

Mr. Young rarely stays in city hotels; he prefers staying away from the crowds. (That’s one reason his managers say they tend to bring their own food on tour.) “We don’t want to deal with it. It doesn’t do anything for us. It’s a waste of our time,” he says of the crowds.

He prefers the anonymity of suburban parking lots. “We go where everybody doesn’t go, and we’re not there very long.” He shrugs and says that he and his crew may not even stay in the same parking spot that evening.

Mr. Young has most of what he needs on the road anyway. Our interview takes place in the bus that serves as his gym. Inside is an elliptical machine and a massage table. Hockey jerseys hang on the walls, along with Native American dream catchers.

Despite all the change in his life, Mr. Young says that he’s still not tired of touring. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I still like doing it,” he says, as long as he keeps trying new things.

With his latest album, “Storytone,” he played a few songs with a 92-piece orchestra, something he had never done before. Still, on tour, he mixes his latest material with classics like “Heart of Gold” (1972), “Old Man” (1972) and “Ohio” (1971), which he wrote and recorded in 1970 when he was part of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Mr. Young says that he plans to spend the rest of his life trying to fight climate change—and having a good time. “I’m enjoying life and trying to emulate the joy I see in the animals—the frolicking birds and dogs running around playing,” he says. “I think why we were put here on Earth is to have a good time and to love one another.”

To do that, Mr. Young says that he is going to spend more time with people whom he makes happy and who in turn make him happy. “I just made up my mind that that’s what I’m going to do because it works,” he says. “Happiness is the valuable commodity, and that’s what makes life good.”

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‘1954 Monarch Lucurn’ NEIL YOUNG

October 19th, 2014
Strangers in Our Homes

by Susan R. Johnson, MD, FAAP
May 1, 1999, 2007 (revised)

TV rots the senses in the head!
It kills the imagination dead!
It clogs and clutters up the mind!
It makes a child so dull and blind.
He can no longer understand a fantasy,
A fairyland!
His brain becomes as soft as cheese!
His powers of thinking rust and freeze!

An excerpt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, 1964

As a mother and a pediatrician who completed both a three-year residency in Pediatrics and a three-year subspecialty fellowship in Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics, I started to wonder: “What are we doing to our children’s growth and learning potential by allowing them to watch television and videos as well as spend endless hours playing computer games?” I practiced seven years as the Physician Consultant at the School Health Center in San Francisco, performing comprehensive assessments on children, ages 4–12, who were having learning and behavioral difficulties in school. I saw hundreds of children who were having difficulties paying attention, focusing on their work, and performing fine and gross motor tasks. Many of these children had a poor self-image and problems relating to adults and peers.

As a pediatrician, I had always discouraged television viewing, because of the often violent nature of its content (especially cartoons) and because of all the commercials aimed at children. However, it wasn’t until the birth of my own child, 6 years ago, that I came face to face with the real impact of television. It wasn’t just the content, for I had carefully screened the programs my child watched. It was the change in my child’s behavior (his mood, his motor movements, his play) before, during and after watching TV that truly frightened me. Before watching TV, he would be outside in nature, content to look at bugs, make things with sticks and rocks, and play in the water and sand. He seemed at peace with himself, his body, and his environment. When watching TV, he was so unresponsive to me and to what was happening around him, that he seemed glued to the television set. When I turned off the TV he became anxious, nervous, and irritable and usually cried (or screamed) for the TV to be turned back on. His play was erratic, his movements impulsive and uncoordinated. His play lacked his own imaginative input. Instead of creating his own play themes, he was simply reenacting what he had just seen on TV in a very repetitive, uncreative, and stilted way.

At age 3-1/2 years, our son went on a plane trip to visit his cousins near Boston, and on the plane was shown the movie Mission Impossible. The movie was right above our son’s head making it difficult to block out. Earphones had not been purchased, so the impact was only visual, but what an impact it had on our son. He had nightmares and fears about fires, explosions, and bloody hands for the next 6 months, and his play was profoundly changed. One of my colleagues told me I just had an overly sensitive child, and because I had not taken him to see a movie or let him watch much TV, he was not “used to it” and that was why he was so disturbed by the pictures he saw. All I could think was—thank heaven he was not “used to it.”

Later that year, I assessed six different children from ages 8–11 years at the School Health Center who all had similar difficulties with reading. They couldn’t make a mental picture of letters or words. If I showed them a series of letters and asked them to identify one particular letter, they could do it. If I gave them no visual input and just asked them to write a particular letter by memory, they couldn’t do it. All of these children watched a lot of television and videos and played computer games. I wondered what happens to a developing child placed in front of a TV set if they are presented with visual and auditory stimuli at the same time. What is left for the mind to do? At least with reading a story or having a story read to them, the mind can create its own imaginative pictures.

A question arose and I immediately called up my colleague and asked: “Could television itself be causing attention problems and learning difficulties in children?” My colleague laughed and said just about everyone watches TV—even my child does—and she doesn’t have Attention Deficit Disorder or a learning disability. I thought to myself: “Are we spending enough time with our children and looking deeply enough into their development and souls to notice the often subtle changes that occur from spending hours in front of the TV set?” Maybe some children are more vulnerable to the effects of television because of a genetic predisposition or poor nutrition or a more chaotic home environment. I wondered about the loss of potential in all our children, because they are exposed to so much television and so many videos and computers games. What are the capacities we are losing or not even developing because of this TV habit? I then started to read, attend lectures, and ask a lot more questions.

Television has been in existence for the past 80 years, though the broadcasting of entertainment shows didn’t begin until the 1940s. In 1950, 10 percent of American households owned a TV set. By 1954, this percentage had increased to 50 percent, and by 1960, 80 percent of American households owned a television. Since 1970, more than 98 percent of American households own a TV and currently 66 percent of households own three or more TVs. Television is on almost 7 hours per day in an average American home. Children of all ages, from preschool through adolescence, watch an average of 4 hours of TV per day (excluding time spent watching videos or playing computer games). A child spends more time watching TV than any other activity except sleeping, and by age 18 a child has spent more time in front of a TV than at school.

There have been numerous articles looking at the content of television and how commercials influence children’s (and adults’) desires for certain foods or material goods (e.g., toys), and how violence seen on television (even in cartoons) leads to more aggressive behavior in children (Fischer et al. 1991, Singer 1989, Zuckerman 1985). Concerns have been raised about who is teaching our children and the developmental appropriateness of what is presented on TV to toddlers, children, and even adolescents.

Miles Everett, Ph.D., in his book, How Television Poisons Children’s Minds, points out that we don’t allow our child to talk to strangers, yet through television we allow strangers into the minds and souls of our children everyday. These “strangers” (advertising agencies), whose motivations are often monetary, are creating the standards for what is “good” or developmentally appropriate for the developing brains of our children. More importantly, several investigators (Healy 1990, Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998, Winn 1985) have drawn attention to the actual act of viewing television as even more insidious and potentially damaging to the brain of the developing child than the actual content of what’s on TV. So what are we doing to our children’s potential by allowing them to watch television?

Question: How does a child’s brain develop and how does a child learn?

Joseph Chilton Pearce in his book, Evolution’s End, sees a child’s potential as a seed that needs to be nurtured and nourished in order to grow properly. If the environment doesn’t provide the necessary nurturing (and protections from over-stimulation), then certain potentials and abilities cannot be realized. The infant is born with 10 billion nerve cells or neurons and spends the first three years of life adding billions of glial cells to support and nourish these neurons (Everett 1992). These neurons are then capable of forming thousands of interconnections with each other via spider-like projections called dendrites and longer projections called axons that extend to other regions of the brain. It is important to realize that a six-year-old’s brain is 2/3 the size of an adult’s though it has 5–7 times more connections between neurons than does the brain of an 18-month-old or an adult (Pearce 1992). The brain of a 6–7 year old child appears to have a tremendous capacity for making thousands and thousands of dendrite connections among neurons.

This potential for development ends around age 10–11 when the child loses 80 percent of this dendritic mass (Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998). It appears that what we don’t develop or use, we lose as a capacity. An enzyme is released within the brain and literally dissolves all poorly myelinated pathways (Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998). In the developing child, there is a progression of brain development from the most primitive core (action) brain, to the limbic (feeling) brain, and finally to the most advanced neocortex, or thought brain. There are critical periods for brain development when the stimulus must be present for the capacity to evolve (for example, language). There is also plasticity in brain development so that even adults can make new dendritic connections, but they have to work harder to establish pathways which were more easily made in childhood.

The core (action) brain is dedicated to our physical survival and manages reflexes, controls our motor movements, monitors body functions, and processes information from our senses. Along with the limbic (feeling) brain, it is involved in the “flight or fight” response that our body has to a dangerous or threatening situation. Humans react physically and emotionally before the thought brain has had time to process the information (Buzzell 1998). Our limbic (feeling) brain wraps around our core (action) brain and processes emotional information (e.g., our likes/dislikes, love/hate polarities). Our feeling brain gives meaning and value to our memories and what we learn. It influences behavior based on emotional feelings and has an intimate relationship to our immune system and capacity to heal. It is involved in the forming of our intimate relationships and emotional bonds (e.g., between mother and child) and is connected with our dreaming, subtle intuitive experiences and the daydreams and fantasies that originate from the thought brain (Healy 1990). This feeling brain connects the more highly evolved thought brain to the more primitive action brain. Our lower action brain can be made to follow the will of our thought brain or our higher thought brain can be “locked into” the service of the lower action-feeling brain during an emergency that is real or imagined (Pearce 1992). The action and feeling brains can’t distinguish real from imaginary sensory input. It is a survival advantage to react first and think later.

Finally our thought brain, the neocortex, represents our highest and newest form of intellect. It receives extensive input from the core (action) brain and limbic (feeling) brain and has the potential of separating itself and being the most objective part of the brain. It connects us to our higher self. However, the neocortex needs more time to process the images from the action and feeling brains. It is also the part of the brain that has the most potential for the future, and it is the place where our perceptions (experiences), recollections, feelings, and thinking skills all combine to shape our ideas and actions (Everett 1997). The thinking brain is “5 times larger than the other brains combined and provides intellect, creative thinking, computing and, if developed, sympathy, empathy, compassion and love” (Pearce 1992).

There is a sequential development (a progressive myelination of nerve pathways) of the child’s brain from the most primitive (action) brain to the limbic (feeling) brain and finally to the most highly evolved thought brain, or neocortex. Myelination involves covering the nerve axons and dendrites with a protective fatty-protein sheath. The more a pathway is used, the more myelin is added. The thicker the myelin sheath, the faster the nerve impulse or signal travels along the pathway. For these reasons, it is imperative that the growing child receives developmentally appropriate input from his/her environment in order to nourish each part of the brain’s development and promote the myelination of new nerve pathways. For example, young children who are in the process of forming their motor-sensory pathways and sense organs (the action brain) need repetitive and rhythmical experiences in movement. Children also need experiences that stimulate and integrate their senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Their senses need to be protected from over-stimulation, since young children are literally sponges. Children absorb all they see, hear, smell, taste and touch from their environment since they haven’t developed the brain capacity to discriminate or filter out unpleasant or noxious sense experiences.

The sense of touch is especially crucial since our culture and its hospital birth practices (including the high rate of C-sections) and, until recently, its discouragement of breastfeeding, deprive infants of critical multi-sensory experiences. The stimulation and development of our sense organs is the precursor to the development of part of our lower brain, called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS is the gateway through which our sense impressions coordinate with each other and then travel to the higher thought brain. The RAS is the area of the brain that allows us to attend and focus our attention. Impairments in motor-sensory pathways lead to impairments in children’s attention span and ability to concentrate (Buzzell 1998). Over-stimulation and under-stimulation of our senses and poorly developed fine and gross motor movements may lead to impairments in attention. By age 4, both the core (action) and limbic (feeling) brains are 80 percent myelinated. After age 6–7, the brain’s attention is shifted to the neocortex (thought brain) with myelination beginning first on the right side or hemisphere and later joined by the left hemisphere.

The right hemisphere is the more intuitive side of the brain, and it particularly responds to visual images. It grasps wholes, shapes and patterns and focuses on the big picture rather than the details. It directs drawing and painting and monitors melodies and harmonies of music. It is especially responsive to novelty and color and is the dominant hemisphere when watching TV (Healy, 1990, Everett 1997). The left hemisphere dominates when a child reads, writes and speaks. It specializes in analytical and sequential thinking and step-by-step logical reasoning. It analyzes the sound and meaning of language (e.g., phonic skills of matching sound to letters of the alphabet). It manages fine muscle skills and is concerned with order, routine and details. The ability to comprehend science, religion, math (especially geometry) and philosophy relies on abstract thinking characteristic of the left hemisphere.

Even though we emphasize which functions of learning are performed by which hemisphere, there is a crucial connection between the two hemispheres called the corpus callosum. It consists of a large bundle of nerve pathways that form a bridge between the left and right hemispheres. It is one of the brain’s latest-maturing parts. The left and right sides of the body learn to coordinate with each other by this pathway. Gross motor activities like jumping rope, climbing, running, and circle games and fine motor activities like form drawing, knitting, pottery, origami, woodworking, embroidery, and bread-making are crucial to myelinating this pathway and lead to more flexible manipulation of ideas and a creative imagination. This pathway provides the interplay between analytic and intuitive thinking, and several neuropsychologists believe that poor development of this pathway affects the right and left hemispheres’ effective communication with each other and may be a cause of attention and learning difficulties (Healy 1990).

We myelinate our pathways by using them. Movements of our bodies combine with experiences of our senses to build strong neural pathways and connections. For example, when a toddler listens to the sound of a ball bouncing on the floor, tastes and smells the ball or pushes, rolls and throws the ball, neurons are making dendritic connections with each other. When a toddler examines balls of varying sizes, shapes, weights and textures, a field of thousands (and possibly millions) of interconnecting neurons can be created around the “word” ball (Pearce 1992). Repetition, movement, and multisensory stimulation are the foundations of the language development and higher level thinking. The toddler’s repetitive experiences with an object like a ball, create images or pictures in his/her brain. “The images of the core limbic brain form much of the elemental “food” for the remarkable and progressive abstracting abilities of the associative high cortex [neocortex]” (Buzzell 1998).

Question: What is so harmful to the mind about watching television?

Watching television has been characterized as multileveled sensory deprivation that may be stunting the growth of our children’s brains. Brain size has been shown to decrease 20–30 percent if a child is not touched, played with or talked to (Healy 1990). In addition, when young animals were placed in an enclosed area where they could only watch other animals play, their brain growth decreased in proportion to the time spent inactively watching (Healy 1990). Television really only presents information to two senses: hearing and sight. In addition, the poor quality of reproduced sound presented to our hearing and the flashing, colored, fluorescent over-stimulating images presented to our eyes cause problems in the development and proper function of these two critical sense organs (Poplawski 1998). To begin with, a child’s visual acuity and full binocular (three-dimensional) vision are not fully developed until 4 years of age, and the picture produced on the television screen is an unfocused (made up of dots of light), two-dimensional image that restricts our field of vision to the TV screen itself. Images on TV are produced by a cathode ray gun that shoots electrons at phosphors (fluorescent substances) on the TV screen. The phosphors glow and this artificially produced pulsed light projects directly into our eyes and beyond affecting the secretions of our neuroendocrine system (Mander 1978). The actual image produced by dots of light is fuzzy and unfocused, so that our eyes, and the eyes of our children, have to strain to make the image clear.

Television, like any electrical appliance and like power lines, produces invisible waves of electromagnetism. Last June, a panel convened by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences decided there was enough evidence to consider these invisible waves (called electromagnetic fields or EMFs) as possible human carcinogens. In the article it was recommended that children sit at least 4 feet from TV and 18 inches from the computer screen (Gross 1999). Our visual system, “the ability to search out, scan, focus, and identify whatever comes in the visual field” (Buzzell 1998), is impaired by watching TV. These visual skills are also the ones that need to be developed for effective reading. Children watching TV do not dilate their pupils, show little to no movement of their eyes (i.e., stare at the screen), and lack the normal saccadic movements of the eyes (a jumping from one line of print to the next) that is critical for reading. The lack of eye movement when watching television is a problem because reading requires the eyes to continually move from left to right across the page. The weakening of eye muscles from lack of use can’t help but negatively impact the ability and effort required to read. In addition, our ability to focus and pay attention relies on this visual system.

Pupil dilation, tracking and following are all part of the reticular activating system. The RAS is the gateway to the right and left hemispheres. It determines what we pay attention to and is related to the child’s ability to concentrate and focus. The RAS is not operating well when a child watches television. A poorly integrated lower brain can’t properly access the higher brain. In addition, the rapid-fire change of television images, which occurs every 5 to 6 seconds in many programs and 2 to 3 seconds in commercials (even less on MTV), does not give the higher thought brain a chance to even process the image. It reportedly takes the neocortex anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds to engage after a stimulus (Scheidler 1994). The neocortex is our higher brain, but also needs a greater processing time to become involved. All the color combinations produced on the television screen result from the activation of only three types of phosphors: red, blue and green. The wavelengths of visible light produced by the activation of these phosphors represents an extremely limited spectrum compared to the wavelengths of light we receive when viewing objects outdoors in the full spectrum of reflected rays from the sun. Another problem with color television is that the color from it is almost exclusively processed by the right hemisphere so that left hemisphere functioning is diminished and the corpus callosum (the pathway of communication between the brain’s hemispheres) is poorly utilized (i.e., poorly myelinated).

Reading a book, walking in nature, or having a conversation with another human being, where one takes the time to ponder and think, are far more educational than watching TV. The television—and computer games—are replacing these invaluable experiences of human conversations, storytelling, reading books, playing “pretend” (using internal images created by the child rather than the fixed external images copied from television), and exploring nature. Viewing television represents an endless, purposeless, physically unfulfilling activity for a child. Unlike eating until one is full or sleeping until one is no longer tired, watching television has no built-in endpoint. It makes a child want more and more without ever being satisfied (Buzzell 1998).

Question: Well, what about watching Sesame Street? Isn’t it educational for our children? Doesn’t it teach them how to read?

Jane Healy, Ph.D., in her book, Endangered Minds wrote an entire chapter entitled “Sesame Street and the Death of Reading.” In addition to the concerns already mentioned about watching television, Sesame Street and the majority of children’s programming seem to put the left hemisphere and parts of the right hemisphere into slow waves of inactivity (alpha waves). Television anesthetizes our higher brain functions and disrupts the balance and interaction between the left and right hemispheres.

Brain waves can be measured by an EEG, and variations in recorded brain waves correspond to different states of activity in the brain. In general, reading produces active, fast beta waves while television watching leads to an increase in slow alpha waves in the left hemisphere and at times even in the right hemisphere (Buzzell 1998). Once again, the left hemisphere is the critical center for reading, writing and speaking. It is the place where abstract symbols (e.g., the letters of the alphabet) are connected to sounds (phonic skills). The pulsating fluorescent light source of television may have something to do with promoting slow wave activity. Our brain “wakes up” to novelty and falls asleep or habituates to repetitive, “boring” stimuli. Advertising agencies and many children’s shows (including Sesame Street) have had to counter children’s tendency to habituate to television by increasing the frequency of new images, using flashing colors, closeups, and startling, often loud, sounds. These distracters get our attention momentarily but keep us operating in our lower core and limbic brains. The lower brain can’t discern between images that are real or created on TV, because discernment is the function of the neocortex. Therefore, when the TV presents sudden close-ups, flashing lights, etc., as stimuli, the core-limbic brain immediately goes into a “fight or flight” response with the release of hormones and chemicals throughout the body. Heart rate and blood pressure are increased and blood flow to limb muscles is increased to prepare for this apparent emergency. Because this all happens in our body without the corresponding movement of our limbs, certain TV programs actually put us in a state of chronic stress or anxiety. Studies have shown atrophy of the left hemisphere in adults who are chronically stressed and only functioning from their core-limbic brain. Even as adults, what we don’t use, we lose.

Finally, when our brain is simultaneously presented with visual (images on the screen) and auditory (sound) stimuli, we preferentially attend to the visual. A dramatic example of this phenomenon was illustrated when a group of young children (6–7 years old) were shown a video show where the sound track did not match the visual action, and the children, when questioned, did not appear to notice the discrepancy. Therefore, even in Sesame Street, studies have shown that children are not absorbing the content of the show (Healy 1990). Maybe the most critical argument against watching television is that it affects the three characteristics that distinguish us as human beings. In the first 3 years of life, a child learns to walk, to talk and to think. Television keeps us sitting, leaves little room for meaningful conversations, and seriously impairs our ability to think.

Question: What’s wrong with using television as just entertainment?

I enjoyed watching Disney films like Snow White. Television seems to have a profound effect on our feeling life and therefore, one could argue, on our soul. As human beings, we become detached from the real world by watching television. We sit in a comfortable chair, in a warm room, with plenty to eat and watch a show about people who are homeless, cold and hungry. Our hearts go out to them, but we do nothing. One could argue that reading a book could promote the same sense of unreality without action. The phrases “turn off the TV” or “get your nose out of your book” and “go do something” have meaning.

Nevertheless, while reading a book (that doesn’t have a lot of pictures) the child’s mind creates its own pictures and has time to think about them. These thoughts could actually lead to ideas that inspire a child or adult to action. TV does not give time for this higher level of thinking that inspires deeds. Television projects images that go directly into our emotional brain. It is said that the words we hear go into knowledge while the images we see go into our soul. Pictures that elicit emotion are processed by the limbic system and the right hemisphere of the neocortex. If no time is given to think about these emotional pictures, then the left hemisphere is not involved. Once again, watching television often eliminates the part of our brain that can make sense of, analyze and rationalize what we are seeing. We don’t forget what we see. The limbic brain is connected to our memory, and the pictures we see on TV are remembered—either consciously, unconsciously or subconsciously.

For example, it is almost impossible to create your own pictures of Snow White from reading a story if you have seen the movie. It is also true that often one is disappointed when one sees a movie after reading the book. Our imagination is so much richer than what can be shown on a screen. The problem with television is that children get used to not using their imaginative thinking at all, and they don’t exercise that part of the brain (the neocortex) that creates the pictures. Children are not reading enough, and we aren’t reading or telling them enough stories to help their minds create pictures. Creating pictures is not just entertaining, but the foundation of our dreams and higher thoughts (intuitions, inspirations and imaginations). We dream, think and imagine possibilities of the future in pictures.

Finally, the heart is now seen as an organ of perception that can respond to a stimulus and release a hormone-like substance that influences brain activity. This phenomenon is referred to as our heart intelligence (Pearce 1992). Interacting with human beings is essential for the development of this intelligence. When we stand face to face and look into another person’s eyes, we meet soul to soul and we get a sense of who they really are (Soesman). We get a sense of whether they mean what they say—in other words, whether they are enthusiastic and passionate about their subject. We experience their non-verbal language such as how they move, the tone of their voice, and whether their gaze shifts around when they talk. This is how we learn to discern consistency between verbal and non-verbal cues and, therefore, truth.

Television can’t give us this intelligence of the heart. It can shock our emotions, and we can cry, laugh or get angry, but these emotions are just reactions. When human beings speak on TV, children are often doing homework, playing games, and talking to friends while watching TV. These activities help save their visual system from the effects of TV, but the underlying message is that you don’t need to listen when another person speaks or comfort anyone if you hear crying. If the heart, like the brain and probably the rest of our body, gives off electromagnetic waves (Pearce 1992, Tiller 1999), then there is a form of subtle energy that only can be experienced between human beings by relating to each other in the same physical space. This subtle energy can’t be experienced by watching human beings on television. Just as we must use all our senses to construct higher level thoughts or pictures of an object, empathy and love for others does not develop from seeing human beings as objects on TV, but by actively relating, face to face, with each other.

Question: What can we do to help our children’s brains develop?

1. Keep the television turned off as much as possible. One author recommended avoiding television as much as possible for the first 12 years of your child’s life and then encouraging your child to always read the book first before seeing the movie. It helps to cover the TV with a cloth or store it away in a closed cabinet or closet. Out of sight really helps the child keep the TV out of mind (Large 1997). Remember that what we do serves as a role model for our children. We can’t really ask our children to stop watching TV if we keep doing it—that will eventually lead to power struggles. When the television is on, then try to neutralize its damage. Select the programs carefully and watch TV with your child so you can talk about what you see. Keep a light on when the TV is going since that will minimize the effects of the reduced field of vision and provide a different light source for the eyes. Try to sit at least 4 feet from the television and 18 inches from the computer screen. Plan to go outside (to the park, woods, or beach) after viewing television.

2. Read a lot of books to your children (especially ones without lots of pictures) and tell your children lots of stories. Children love to hear stories about our lives when we were little or you can make them up. Bedtime and riding in the car provide good opportunities for telling stories. Telling our children stories helps to stimulate their internal picture making capabilities.

3. Nature! Nature! Nature! Nature is the greatest teacher of patience, delayed gratification, reverence, awe and observation. The colors are spectacular and all the senses are stimulated. Many children today think being out in nature is boring, because they are so used to the fast-paced, action-packed images from TV (Poplawski 1998). We only truly learn when all our senses are involved, and when the information is presented to us in such a way that our higher brain can absorb it. Nature is reality while television is a pseudo-reality.

4. Pay close attention to your senses and those of your child. Our environment is noisy and overstimulating to the sense organs. What a child sees, hears, smells, tastes, and touches is extremely important to his or her development. We need to surround our children with what is beautiful, what is good, and what is true. How a child experiences the world has a tremendous influence on how the child perceives the world as a teenager and adult.

5. Have children use their hands, feet and whole body performing purposeful activities. All the outdoor activities of running, jumping, climbing, and playing jump rope help develop our children’s gross motor skills and myelinate pathways in the higher brain. Performing household chores, cooking, baking bread, knitting, woodworking, origami, string games, finger games, circle games, painting, drawing, and coloring help develop fine motor skills and also myelinate pathways in the higher brain.

Finally, the future of our children and our society is in the protection and development of our children’s minds, hearts and limbs. What we are aiming for in the thoughts of our children is best summarized in this fine verse from William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence”:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

via

October 18th, 2014
Brunch Is for Jerks

11brunch-master495
Tim Lahan

By DAVID SHAFTEL
NY Times Published: OCT. 10, 2014

It’s over. I’m through with brunch.

It’s gone way too far. Saturday and Sunday mornings in New York’s West Village, where I have lived for nearly 20 years, used to bring an almost pastoral calm. Now they’re characterized by the brunch-industrial complex rumbling to life. By late morning, crowds of brunchers — often hung over and proudly bedraggled — begin to assemble, eager to order from rote menus featuring some variation of mimosas and eggs Benedict.

But discontent is simmering. In an interview last month in GQ magazine, when pressed for an answer on why he left New York City for an unnamed “upstate” locale, Julian Casablancas, the lead singer of the Strokes, said, “I don’t know how many, like, white people having brunch I can deal with on a Saturday afternoon.”

His statement was picked up by New York’s tabloids and made headlines in London, signs of a percolating brunch backlash that comes not a minute too soon: The meal has spread like a virus from Sunday to Saturday and has jumped the midafternoon boundary. It’s now common to see brunchers lingering at their table until nearly dinnertime.

And for what? In his recent book “The Trouble With Brunch,” Shawn Micallef, a Canadian writer and academic, writes that the meal brings out the worst in restaurants and their patrons. “Chefs bury the dregs of the week’s dinners under rich sauces, arranging them in curious combinations,” he writes. “Brunchers treat servers uncharitably and servers, in turn, view them with contempt.” It’s as if everyone feels entitled to wring as much out of this bad deal as possible.

I admit that I’ve found myself among the hordes on plenty of occasions. A particularly memorable fondue brunch in Chelsea that began at noon and broke up in a dive bar 15 hours later comes to mind. And there was the hedonistic all-day affair in Dubai, where I topped off courses of Japanese, Chinese and Lebanese food with a full English roast beef dinner, all consumed while hovering above the desert in an air-conditioned five-star hotel restaurant and guzzling a jeroboam of Veuve Clicquot. Nor am I immune to doing a little brunch legwork — I’ve been known to travel great distances for well-prepared grits.

But now that I have a young daughter, brunch is completely impractical. By noon I’ve been up for hours and am ready for an actual lunch — although that meal is an increasingly endangered species on the weekend. For most restaurant owners, serving brunch is mandatory. It’s a revenue stream that also exposes restaurants to diners who might become regular customers. Even our local Thai restaurant insists on topping every dish with a poached egg on weekends and offering an ambiguously Asian mimosa.

There’s something more malevolent at work than simply the proliferation of Hollandaise sauce that I suspect comes from a packet. Brunch has become the most visible symptom of a demographic shift that has taken place in our neighborhood and others like it. As rents have gone up, our area has become unaffordable to much of the middle class, and to young families who want more than two bedrooms — or can’t even afford one.

This leaves an increasing number of well-off young professionals who are unencumbered by children — exactly the kind of people who can fritter away Saturday, Sunday or both over a boozy brunch. Our once diverse neighborhood now brims with the homogeneity of an elite university. (Julian Casablancas, I imagine, will be disappointed to discover the same crowd of white people brunching in Phoenicia, Hudson or Beacon upstate.)

“Brunch,” said Mr. Micallef, the author, over the phone, “is a visible sign of the changes that sometimes feel out of our control.”

For me, having a child — and perhaps the introspection that comes with turning 40 — made me realize what most vexes me about brunch: Once the domain of Easter Sunday, it has become a twice-weekly symbol of our culture’s increasing desire to reject adulthood. It’s about throwing out not only the established schedule but also the social conventions of our parents’ generation. It’s about reveling in the naughtiness of waking up late, having cocktails at breakfast and eggs all day. It’s the mealtime equivalent of a Jeff Koons sculpture.

In neighborhoods like mine, where everyone seems to be from somewhere else, people are increasingly alienated from their extended and nuclear families. While Sundays were traditionally reserved for family, we now have crowds of unfettered young(ish) people with no limitations on their pursuit of weekend leisure, who seem bent on making New York feel like one big rerun of “Friends” or “Sex and the City.” Here, and many other places, friends have become family and brunch the family gathering.

The friends aren’t the problem, of course. Brunch is. Seasoned with the self-satisfaction of knowing the latest and hippest brunch boîte and the pleasure of ordering eggs Benedict made with jamón Ibérico and duck eggs, something so fundamentally conformist can seem like the height of urban sophistication. Worse than adolescent, it is an adolescent’s idea of how adults spend their time.

I recently saw a man in my neighborhood wearing a T-shirt that read “brunch is for” — well, the last word was an epithet more forceful than “jerks.” In a piece about Mr. Casablancas’s statement and stance, The Guardian called brunch, which the British invented but Americans took to another level, “a symptom of the soulless suburban conformity that is relentlessly colonizing our urban environments.”

Mr. Micallef suggested in our conversation that a growing brunch backlash was an early indication that brunch was falling out of fashion, comparing it to “an old pair of bell-bottoms.”

I’m getting out, too. It would be unreasonable to say that I’ll never again eat a meal that blurs the lines between breakfast and lunch (especially if grits are involved). What I can’t do anymore is live the brunch lifestyle, which has become a parody of itself. Now that I see brunch for what it is — conspicuous consumption disguised as urbanity — I can’t enjoy it.

And I know how to poach an egg at home. It’s just not that hard.

October 16th, 2014
owl chapman and dick brewer 1972

October 14th, 2014
Germany: We’re not Luddites. We just don’t like cowboy capitalism

By ANNA SAUERBREY
NY Times Published: OCT. 10, 2014

BERLIN — These days Germany is known for being many things: a leader in clean technology, a manufacturing powerhouse, Europe’s foreign policy center. But increasingly, it seems to have taken on yet another stereotype — as a nation of Luddites.

And truth be told, Germany is not a great place to be a big tech company these days. Günther H. Oettinger, a German official and the European Union’s incoming commissioner for digital economy and society, has assailed Google for having too big a presence in Europe, and speaks of “cuts” in the company’s market power. In Berlin, Sigmar Gabriel, the vice chancellor and economics minister, is investigating whether Germany can classify Google as a vital part of the country’s infrastructure, and thus make it subject to heavy state regulation.

Google is often spoken of in dark terms around cafes and biergartens. People regularly call it the Octopus. Even a figure as dominant in the global economy as Mathias Döpfner, the chief executive of Springer, Germany’s largest publishing house, said he was “afraid of Google.”

Google isn’t the only target of Teutonic ire. A few weeks ago, a German court prohibited Uber from operating in the country, reasoning that the company was violating federal licensing laws for professional drivers. And Amazon is entangled in a long and wearying battle over working conditions and pay with Verdi, one of Germany’s most powerful unions.

To outsiders, this all seems like just another instance of collective German angst. In this view, Germany is the neurotic bystander of the digital revolution, shaken to the bone by its fear of everything new and its distrust of everything American, a secretive society still traumatized by its Stasi history, overestimating the importance of data privacy.

But this caricature misses the point. Germans don’t fear technology. Nor do we dislike America. On the contrary: Whenever Apple debuts a new product, our media goes bananas and people line up in front of Apple’s flagship stores. Most Germans use Google and Facebook on a daily basis, without ever getting sweaty hands when typing in a search term or answering a friendship request.

In politics, Silicon Valley is a magic phrase. It’s what Berlin wants to be. It’s where our representatives and business leaders go when they want to look really cool or snoop around for ideas. Speaking at a rollout for a new book on Silicon Valley, Mr. Gabriel’s eyes turned dreamy when he told the audience how he strolled the streets of Palo Alto on his first visit there in the late ’90s, looking around for the Hewlett-Packard garage, feeling the magic of innovation in the air.

What gives? How can Germany be both afraid of and in love with technology, and the companies that make it? The key is to look beyond those things, to the corporate model they represent.

The true origin of the conflict lies in the economic culture innate to those former Silicon Valley start-ups — now giants — that are taking the European markets by storm. To create and grow an enterprise like Amazon or Uber takes a certain libertarian cowboy mind-set that ignores obstacles and rules.

Silicon Valley fears neither fines nor political reprimand. It invests millions in lobbying in Brussels and Berlin, but since it finds the democratic political process too slow, it keeps following its own rules in the meantime. Uber simply declared that it would keep operating in Germany, no matter what the courts ruled. Amazon is pushing German publishers to offer their books on its platform at a lower price — ignoring that, in Germany, publishers are legally required to offer their books at the same price everywhere.

It is this anarchical spirit that makes Germans so neurotic. On one hand, we’d love to be more like that: more daring, more aggressive. On the other hand, the force of anarchy makes Germans (and many other Europeans) shudder, and rightfully so. It’s a challenge to our deeply ingrained faith in the state.

The German voter-consumer will always trust the state more than he will any private company, no matter how ardently it insists on being a good guy. Trust in “the state” is hard to measure; polls vary greatly depending on the current government’s performance and personnel, among other factors. However, Germans regularly report much higher levels of trust in the leading state institutions — the federal legislature, the courts and the police — than Americans do.

No major party, right or left, calls for shrinking the size of the state; the only party to do so, the Liberal Democrats, is too small to have a seat in the Bundestag, and is fighting for its life in state-level elections. Unlike in America, where trust in the state tends to dip during hard times, in Germany it rises. When problems appear, we look to “Vater Staat” — the Father State — to protect us.

That includes challenges by “disruptive” business models, like those coming out of Silicon Valley. Indeed, the reason politicians like Mr. Gabriel — who has said “we must tame Silicon Valley capitalism”— go after Amazon and Uber is that it is a surefire way to get votes. Even politicians who are normally pro-deregulation, like Mr. Oettinger, know it’s smart to come down hard on tech companies.

If it wants to succeed here, Silicon Valley needs to comply with the particularities of the German and European market. We love technology, but we want it delivered on our terms. In Germany, cowboys should remain in the movies.

October 14th, 2014
empire of the sun

BN-ER873_mag101_J_20140924133335A minimalist pool house in Ando’s signature refined concrete offers shelter from the Oaxacan heat. Photography by Nicholas Alan Cope

By ELISA LIPSKY-KARASZ
Wall Street Journal Published: Oct. 2, 2014

THE ROAD TO CASA WABI runs from the sun-beaten town of Puerto Escondido along a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, where surfers try their luck on the 10-foot curl of the punishing “Mexican Pipeline.” As it veers northwest toward Acapulco, half-finished construction projects loom on either side before giving way to fields of mango and papaya trees and lily-pad-choked ponds. In Hidalgo, a village of cinder block and corrugated-metal houses, it turns onto a pitted dirt track. And just before reaching the waves, the track dead-ends into a massive wall that cuts parallel to the ocean across the dunes. From end to end, the barrier, made of silky gray concrete, is nearly as long as three football fields.

This is Casa Wabi, a series of structures governed by the utopian principles of its owner, Mexican-born, Brooklyn-based artist Bosco Sodi. Sodi sees the complex—which is set to open at the end of this month and features an 8,000-square-foot art gallery and several studios—as a creative refuge for fellow artists, an educational facility for the local community and a temple to the minimalist designs of one of his heroes, the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, who designed everything from the swimming pool to the furniture.

The courtship between artist and architect began with faxes. While undertaking a residency in Tokyo in the mid-2000s, Sodi became a fan of Ando’s brutally poetic concrete structures, as well as the wabi-sabi philosophy that inspires them—a Japanese way of thought that prizes humility and austerity and finds beauty in imperfection. Sodi asked if Ando would consider designing a studio for him. “We are very busy,” came the response from the architect.

As he shuttled between Berlin, Barcelona, Mexico City (where his wife, Lucia Corredor, runs a mid-century design boutique called Decada) and Brooklyn (where their three children attend elementary school), Sodi continued to petition Ando—who typically will not decide on a commission until he’s met with the potential client in person. Then, in 2006, his father, Juan Sodi, a chemical engineer and property developer, came across this 90-acre plot of land—a rough stretch of deserted beach, wedged between the ocean, farm fields and the craggy mountains—where Bosco could envision a Zen-like respite from the competitive, fast-paced contemporary art world, as well as a retreat for his family. In an effort to convince the architect to take on the project, he trekked to Los Angeles—along with a mutual friend, gallerist Kazuhito Yoshii—to present his plan (as well as aerial images and photographs) to Ando. At last, the architect was intrigued.

“The site presents a very grand contrast, with the endless beach view on one side and the mountain view on the other,” says Ando, 72. “This project was rich in identity despite its many challenges.” Undaunted by the lack of local infrastructure and the remoteness of the site, Ando instead found the prospect of working with Oaxacan traditions and the striking landscape appealing. “I am always seeking new challenges and want to create something unique with each project.”

For Sodi, the monastic compound and the arts foundation are a manifestation of wabi-sabi. (The word wabi, which inspired the compound’s name, translates roughly as “humility,” while sabi means, essentially, a patina.) The simple, open design confronts the natural elements of sun, sky, water and land, encouraging visitors to lapse into Thoreau-like reflection. The compound is intended to gradually change over time as the small sculpture garden accumulates work and visitors interact with the environments, which also include a botanical garden showcasing local species as well as two studios for visiting artists. Ando himself doesn’t view this project as particularly wabi-sabi, however, saying that his structure will be defined by visitors’ individual reactions.

Whatever Ando’s reasons for accepting, Sodi is thrilled to be working with him. “As much as Ando wants to build, I am trying to support it,” says the 43-year-old artist, grinning.

Since he was a teenager, Sodi has visited the countryside near Puerto Escondido, where he has ancestral ties, and which is now known mainly for its strong surf, lush landscape and the laid-back types that both attract. The location provides inspiration and material for his artwork—three-dimensional, wall-mounted pieces that incorporate thick strata of vivid green, blue and red pigment mixed with sawdust from indigenous trees. “There is a special energy and a sense of fulfillment when you are here,” says Sodi, who is currently preparing for upcoming shows at Brooklyn’s Pioneer Works gallery and Galería Hilario Galguera in Mexico City as well as a sculpture installation at the Bronx Museum of the Arts and the publication of a retrospective of his work.

Of the four million residents of the state of Oaxaca, an underdeveloped region that scrapes by on a modest tourist industry, more than half live in poverty. Apart from bringing world-class contemporary architecture to an area where it’s in short supply, Sodi envisions a radical, immersive educational program flourishing at Casa Wabi. “The children in these communities have no contact with art. The idea is to bring them to see the studios, the nursery, the gardens and to open their understanding of life,” says Sodi, who anticipates receiving classrooms of students from kindergarten through university age as well as women from regional cooperatives to explore the grounds, partake in a film program and interact with artists. “I want them to see a Daniel Buren sculpture and think, ‘Why is this art?’ And then they might think, ‘I can do this.’ ”

Along with Patricia Martín, an independent curator who is running the foundation, he is in the process of securing state funding, in addition to sponsorship from companies including Deutsche Bank. (He is paying for Casa Wabi’s construction and the daily expenses of running the compound himself.) He will ask the artists he hosts to participate as well. “I’m a true believer, without sounding romantic, that one has to give something back. Now that artists are doing well—we are very lucky guys—we should do something,” says Sodi, whose canvases sell at auction for more than $100,000.

“The program will bring together two worlds that don’t usually coexist: renowned artists and members of developing communities,” says Martín, whom Sodi hired on the recommendation of his friend, contemporary art collector Eugenio López Alonso. (Martín managed López’s Mexico City–based Colección Jumex for eight years.) “The hope is that it will become a relevant community center where the learning experience goes both ways. This will be a social project carried out through art.”

ON A SCORCHING MIDSUMMER DAY, with the opening date fast approaching, the main palapa roof over the living quarters has yet to be built (rain-swollen rivers delayed the necessary tree trunks from being floated down from the mountains), and the main gallery, which will open with a Buren exhibition, is still a tangle of rebar. Even the kitchen does not yet exist. Sodi, in scuffed sneakers, a T-shirt and soccer shorts, is alternately pacing, giving orders to workers climbing rustic scaffolding and fishing drinks from a cooler while his children, wife and mother, Loti, paddle in the immense pool situated perpendicular to the waves just yards away. Two Pointer puppies and a Westie dash past a volcanic rock sculpture coated in red glaze that was the result of an experiment in a kiln—”I wanted to see if the stone would explode,” says Sodi. (His friend Damien Hirst has five such glazed rocks by Sodi in his personal collection.) The family is virtually camping here so that Sodi can personally oversee the final stages of construction to Ando’s exacting standards. (Alex Iida, Ando’s project manager, has already visited five times from Japan since the project began in 2011, and Mexican architect Alfonso Quiñones relocated from Mexico City to act as on-site supervisor.)

“Ambitious doesn’t cover it,” says Marc Glimcher, president of Pace, Sodi’s New York gallery. “Frankly, I thought Bosco was nuts at first.”

The architect’s most striking gesture is the 341-yard-long wall that bisects the terrain between the dunes and the foot of the mountain range, effectively dividing the public and private spaces and punctuated only by a couple of doorways and small openings that evoke medieval-style arrow slits. Its span serves to emphasize the ocean horizon and the dramatic mountaintops. Using concrete to sublime effect is a trademark of Ando’s work, whether the Richard Serra–esque walls of his Water Temple on Awaji Island, Japan, or the circular sweep of designer Tom Ford’s riding ring at his ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (The length of this particular wall prompts Corredor to joke, “It’s like going to the neighbor’s house to pick up the kids. We might need walkie-talkies.”)

On the beach side, the main living quarters and a great room open on one side to the pool and, beyond that, the water. Facing the mountains are the studios as well as a to-be-completed art gallery and Sodi’s own studio. There is a circuitous path that leads visitors to the botanical garden showcasing indigenous species like the red-barked papelillo tree and the cactus-scattered sculpture garden. Two one-room meditation structures, which look like sculptures themselves, reveal naturally illuminated interiors that recall Ando’s magnificent Church of the Light, in Ibaraki, Japan.

Six individual villas hugging the edge of the Pacific will house the artists (the program is already booked through May 2015; residencies will last up to three months). In order to encourage visiting artists to “get the soul-searching of the place,” as he puts it, Sodi requested that Ando make their living quarters as ascetic as possible. Accordingly, the one-room structures are furnished sparingly with mid-century pieces from Corredor’s store and custom-made teak furniture she created in collaboration with Ando’s team—the placement of which, like similar furniture in the main quarters, was approved by Ando.

Work by friends, such as a pair of antlers by sculptor Michael Joo, already populates the compound. Joo will also be attending the residency program, along with Mickalene Thomas, poet James Fenton and Teresita Fernández. “I am looking forward to experiencing the unique balance of nature and incredible architecture that is being created there,” says Joo. “I’m planning to let the place dictate [what I work on].”

“Bosco is a social innovator who sees the big picture,” says another friend, artist Ugo Rondinone, who has visited the site. “With the Casa Wabi project, he is presenting a challenge that brings people together around a shared sense of purpose.”

Although Sodi’s artist peers applaud the program, establishing the center has been a dance of diplomacy with Casa Wabi’s neighbors. “The people around here are suspicious of outsiders,” says Sodi. “So many promises have been made to them over the years.” In response, he and Martín have waged an ad hoc marketing campaign, meeting with local leaders to explain their ideas.

Sodi’s passion for the project seems to be part of what is winning everyone over. “I really admire his determination,” says Eugenio López Alonso. “Nothing will stop him. He is putting all his money into this project and creating something that will be significant for years to come.” (Sodi created a so-called bulletproof trust ensuring that his children will not sell Casa Wabi and must continue the foundation’s work.)

To further integrate the new foundation into the surrounding communities, Sodi and Martín have commissioned a study of all the artisans within a 60-mile radius. Their hope is that visiting artists will work with local craftsmen, spurring symbiotic innovation.

Already, Ando and his team have juxtaposed local palapa roofs with his über-modern structures. “I used palapa in order to preserve the identity of the local culture and the local landscape,” says Ando, who had never worked with the material before, but points out the similarity to kayabuki, traditional Japanese thatching. Even the concrete is fundamentally native: “It’s the result of the nature that surrounds the house,” he says. “All the ingredients are from local areas; it is mixed on site by local hands and carried bucket by bucket to pour it into the framework. The proof of the passion from every single worker who was involved is evident.”

The workers’ imprint can also be seen in perhaps the most wabi-sabi element at the compound—a nearly 30-foot-long dining table crafted from a single, giant trunk of a local parota tree. Sodi, who believes deeply in the value of the Mexican practice of sobremesa—convivial hours spent philosophizing, joking and talking after a meal—designed the table himself with that in mind. “Artists are often very solitary and must be forced to come together,” he says. Prior to its move inside Casa Wabi, it was set up under a makeshift tent on the construction site for all to use. “I wanted it to have its own history, not be a perfect, varnished table,” explains Sodi. “At the end, this is more than a house. It’s an art piece.”

Thanks to Eric Jussen

October 13th, 2014
Zero: Chasing Newness

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“Blue Sponge”(1959) by Yves Klein. Klein’s solo show of monochromes in Dusseldorf in 1957 influenced Zero’s Formation.

By ROBERTA SMITH
NY Times Published OCT. 9, 2014

In the wake of World War II, many European artists felt an urgent need to start from scratch, but few summed up the ambition as succinctly as three young German artists who called themselves Zero. The word, denoting a location somewhere behind square one, was selected in 1957 by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene, painters who had met at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. They were shortly joined by Günther Uecker, although he didn’t formally become the third and final member until 1961.

Their goal was to sweep aside familiar modes of gestural painting and pictorial sentimentality, most prominently exemplified by Abstract Expressionism and Tachisme. But Zero was not, as Piene would write in 1964, “a Dada-like gag.” It was “the incommensurable zone in which the old state turns into the new.” From 1957 to 1970, the small Zero cohort assiduously expanded this zone of innovation through exhibitions, publication and alliances with other artists across Europe and beyond.

Scholars have recently begun calling their fluctuating cast of fellow travelers the Zero network, and its extent is the subject of “Zero: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s-60s,” a multimedia sprawl of about 180 artworks, including some motorized sculptures, that currently fills the Guggenheim Museum’s spiral. About half of the pieces are by the Zero nucleus, with the rest by an additional 37 artists, from Europe, Japan, South America and the United States, who at some point partook in the Zero network. Their efforts have been assembled by Valerie Hillings, a Guggenheim curator and Zero devotee since graduate school.

This show is alternately dazzling and a bit thin: an essential walk-in history lesson that both reconfigures well-trod terrain and ventures into some new areas. It vividly captures the urge for innovation that generated both Zero and the network, and contains early glimmers of performance art, earthworks, interactive art and the dematerialization of the art object. But it is also a timely comment on the limits of newness as an artistic goal, especially when primarily achieved by new materials and processes.

By the time you reach the top of the museum’s spiral, you may feel that you’ve experienced a surfeit of newness for newness’s sake. There are a few too many instances of shiny metal, moving parts, glowing lights and their concomitant special effects.

Elsewhere, it may seem that established conventions — especially the Modernist monochrome — have been simply retrofitted or embellished with unusual materials, like nails, barbed wire, soot, polystyrene or bread, not all of which are aging well. You can feel caught between objects whose futuristic sheen is devoid of meaning and works with a more antique, hand-wrought mien, accentuated by conventional titles like “Venus of Willendorf” (a 1963 soot painting by Piene) or “White Bird” (Uecker’s undulant cluster of nails spray-painted white, from 1964).

Numerous objects point up the emptiness of quite a bit of current abstraction — specifically, zombie formalism — while several environmental works foreshadow the onset of art as perceptual spectacle, a staple of large international exhibitions these days.

There is frequently a strong sense of déjà vu, too, since many of the artists are better known for their affiliations with other movements, including Nouveau Realism, Arte Povera, Minimalism, Op Art and Kinetic art. Towering figures not generally associated with Zero are on hand, notably the Italian avant-gardists Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni, and Yves Klein, the French artist whose solo show of monochromes in Düsseldorf in 1957 influenced Zero’s formation.

Also present are much less well-known affiliates, like Jan Schoonhoven, a Dutch artist whose white reliefs have the stillness of Mondrian, fitting Piene’s description of Zero as “a zone of pure silence,” and Dadamaino, an Italian who is one of three women in the show and is represented here by black-and-white paintings of biomorphic shapes created more with scissors than with brushes.

The sensibility of Hermann Goepfert, a German artist who died in 1982, lives on in the 1961-62 “Optophonium,” a mesmerizing choreography of shadow, light and sound that centers on a 7-by-9-foot white surface punctuated with small metal protrusions. Jan Henderikse is represented by a re-creation of his 1962 “Bottle Wall”: a barrier built of dozens of neatly stacked crates of bottled beer that would look completely at home in any number of Chelsea art emporiums or in a contemporary auction catalog.

In her catalog essay, Ms. Hillings painstakingly diagrams all kinds of interactions, collaborations and debates: when which artists met, began to correspond or were invited to take part in shows. A straightforward chronology would have clarified these developments, as would brief biographies, an especially frustrating omission, given the number of participants.

The exhibition has a wonderful opening act near the rotunda’s ground floor. Here, Ms. Hillings has staged a partial reunion of the works and artists of “Vision in Motion — Motion in Vision,” an important early exhibition (1959) at the Hessenhuis cafe in Antwerp, Belgium, which evidently included black walls, paintings hung from the ceiling (sound familiar?) and the artists’ last names stenciled on the floor.

In this reunion, Mr. Mack is represented by gently optical paintings, whose pulsating grids and patterns were created with special comb-like tools. An interest in visual vibration would soon lead him — and us, farther up the ramp — to textured aluminum discs rotating behind sheets of ridged glass, like glamorous saw blades.

At the same time, Piene was using stencils to texture bright monochrome surfaces with little beads of paint, but was soon using soot to create penumbral targets and lunar spheres. Mr. Uecker’s small white painting, bristling with rows of nails, introduces but one of his many applications of this ubiquitous element. Used in various sizes and quantities, the stencils provide some of the show’s strongest moments. He also shot arrows into canvases, resulting in jutting, pick-up-stick compositions.

The opening display also includes kinetic works by Jean Tinguely and Daniel Spoerri; a vivid abstract film by the American artist Robert Breer; and an untitled sculpture from 1959 by Dieter Roth that consists simply of a large open circle of steel, painted white and strung back and forth with twine, that viewers were once able to rearrange.

In the final gallery, at the top of the ramp, another restaging brings together seven kinetic sculptures by the original three Zero artists that were presented at Documenta 3 in 1964 as a homage to Fontana, but the results are not quite so felicitous. The two large collaborative works seem especially forced. They have gone the way of many artworks, becoming period pieces to be cherished primarily by true believers.

Whether or not you think the Zero network should become the defining phrase for postwar Eurocentric modernism, this exhibition is, in the main, an extraordinary accomplishment, from its fresh art-historical thesis to its demanding, impeccably executed installation. The determination to be new is hard-wired into most artists and art movements of any note. To better understand both the past and the present, it is valuable periodically to see this desire in such urgent, idealistic, if sometimes naïve, form.

October 10th, 2014
Medieval Morocco

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Silk and gold-thread fabric at the Louvre in the exhibition “Medieval Morocco: An Empire From Africa to Spain.”

By EVE M. KAHN
Ny Times Published: October 9,2014

“Medieval Morocco: An Empire From Africa to Spain,” an exhibition that opens next Friday at the Louvre (organized with the Moroccan government’s new National Museums Foundation), reunites scattered pieces of Islamic textiles that were made into European clothing.

Medieval Europeans bought and stole metallic fabrics from Muslim lands and sewed them into royal robes, church vestments and wrappings for saints’ dried body parts. Quran verses are woven and embroidered into the cloth. Slices from a 12th-century crimson fabric, patterned with peacocks and Arabic blessings, have turned up in a Toulouse church and at museums in London, Paris and Florence. No one knows why they were separated for sale, probably around 1890, through the Paris dealer Stanislas Baron, a former wine merchant. Baron sold artifacts to J. Pierpont Morgan, among other clients, and was not averse to raiding tombs.

Yannick Lintz, the Louvre’s Islamic art department director, said that textiles in the show needed further scrutiny, to compare dyes and stitching patterns. Other little-known Muslim fabrics are stashed away in religious buildings around Europe. “We have to do a real inventory of the smaller churches,” she said.

Next year, Yale University Press will publish a book, “Symbols of Power: Luxury Textiles From Islamic Lands, 7th-20th Century,” by Louise W. Mackie, a curator at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Barbara Karl, a textiles curator at the Museum for Applied Art in Vienna, is also publishing writings about Islamic treasures, specifically in Hapsburg collections. Arabic writing had little effect on a fabric’s desirability. “It’s a matter of good quality, of splendor,” she said.

October 10th, 2014
harrison Mcintosh at 100

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Lidded Jar, 1998

HM100: A Century through the Life of Harrison McIntosh

Through October 26, 2014

AMOCA at Claremont Museum

October 8th, 2014
Coast Guard rescues man trying to run to Bermuda in inflatable bubble

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Reza Baluchi planned to travel from Miami to Bermuda in an inflatable bubble. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued him Saturday. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

By Lauren Rabb
LA Times Published: October 6, 2014

A man who planned to run from Miami to Bermuda in an inflatable bubble was rescued this weekend off northern Florida, three days after the Coast Guard asked him to call off his trip, officials said.

The Coast Guard said it received a report Wednesday that Reza Baluchi was seen in his bubble, disoriented and requesting directions to Bermuda. The agency said it sent a boat out to Baluchi, “conveyed the dangers of his voyage” and requested he stop because he didn’t have enough supplies, but he refused.

He had protein bars, bottled water, a GPS device and a satellite phone, the Coast Guard said.

On Saturday morning, Baluchi was suffering from exhaustion and activated his locating beacon, the Coast Guard said. Crews retrieved him 70 nautical miles east of St. Augustine, Fla., it said. That was more than 300 miles from Miami, but nowhere near his intended destination.

According to Baluchi’s website, the runner designed his own bubble, which he called a Hydro Pod. It says that the bubble is made of plastic 1/10 of an inch thick and that its interior can reach temperatures as high as 120 degrees. The plan for his journey to Bermuda, it says, included catching fish to eat, sleeping on a hammock inside the bubble and jumping into the ocean to avoid overheating.

October 6th, 2014
White Magic: Robert Ryman, Rudolf Staffel

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Through October 25, 2014

David Nolan

Thanks to Bruce M. Sherman

October 4th, 2014
Smelling Liberal, Thinking Conservative

NY Times Published: OCT. 4, 2014
By Arthur C. Brooks

I JUST learned that I suffer from cognitive-olfactory dissonance. I don’t smell the way I think.

Social scientists from Brown, Harvard and Penn State recently conducted an unusual study. Seeking to examine the biological cues that influence attraction, the researchers taped gauze pads to the skin of 20 subjects, retrieved them 24 hours later, and kept them in their lab. They asked 125 volunteers to smell each sample, rate how attractive they found each odor, and to guess at the political orientation of the person with whom it originated.

The researchers found evidence that people are instinctively attracted to the smell emitted by those with similar ideologies. In one memorable instance, a female participant asked the scholars if she could take one of the samples home, describing it as “the best perfume I ever smelled.” The scent came from a man who shared her political views. Just before, a different woman with the opposite views had smelled the exact same sample, declared it “rancid,” and urged the researchers to throw it out. Ideological like-mindedness exerts a biological pull on our attraction, it seems — and deep disagreements can really stink.

These results suggest that our beliefs have a strong biological component. But what if our beliefs conflict with our aromatic state of nature?

This is not a trivial question in my household. Based on my youth and the beliefs I was instinctively drawn to, I have to assume my own natural scent is Conventional Seattle Progressive. That of my wife, Ester, is the irresistible fragrance Barcelona Hard Left. This must have made for a good combination, because we spoke no language in common when we met, achieving real communication fluency only after the first few years of marriage. Scoff if you will, but 23 years and counting smells pretty sweet to me.

There was little political dialogue in our early years, but our progressive views were unquestioned and predictable, growing up as we did. This is not too surprising, as social scientists consistently find that parents’ political attitudes have a huge influence on their children’s opinions. And this is not merely a result of one’s upbringing. Research that looks at identical twins consistently finds that genetics plays a large role in forming our worldviews.

But for Ester and me, odor wasn’t destiny. When we finally were able to move from smelling to talking, we built a mutual interest in politics and policy, and set out on a quest together to figure out what we believed. This involved a lot of reading and study, and intimate dinner conversation themes ranging from the fairness of capitalism to the nature of God. Fun couple!

After a few years, we were shocked to discover that our minds no longer matched our old instincts — or, apparently, our noses. We chose new views on a host of issues from the economy to national security. We ended up as enthusiasts for the free enterprise system, and believers in the notion that America is fundamentally a force for good in the world. These were manifestly not the views we had held all our lives.

On economic issues, a little knowledge of supply and demand can go a long way. But our beliefs have deeper foundations that are more subjective and personal — even primal. Indeed, scholars find that some of the most elemental differences between liberals and conservatives occur on the moral plane. In his now famous research, New York University’s Jonathan Haidt interviewed hundreds of people and surveyed tens of thousands more about their moral biases. He told outlandish stories (one involved a family eating its dog) and gauged his subjects’ immediate moral reactions. The differences were stark.

Basically, Dr. Haidt found that conservatives are from Mars and liberals are from Venus. For example, while conservatives generally have a strong instinct for respecting authority, most liberals simply do not — and they find the conservative view utterly baffling. This difference lurks behind many controversies. For example, it helps explain why so many conservatives see flag-burning as profoundly outrageous, while many liberals see it as, at worst, inadvisable.

True to our roots, Ester and I are natural authority resisters. We find ourselves innately on the liberal end of Professor Haidt’s moral compass. But does that necessarily mean we must be political progressives? Of course not. How you feel viscerally may be highly correlated with where you start out ideologically. But in a bespoke life, your philosophy should be your creation. Venus may be where you were born, but you are free to be an ideological immigrant and move to Mars if you please.

The technical name for this phenomenon is “thinking for yourself.” Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean starting out on the left and moving to the right. Many people have done the opposite. Others have made a thorough and honest examination of their inherent beliefs and wound up back where they started. Congratulations, fellow freethinkers!

But beware the great swindle of modern life. Too often, the media and academia assiduously stamp out ideas that are pronounced anathema according to prevailing fashion. Go against the preponderant views of your demographic group? Get ready to be dismissed as a sellout, or “self-loathing,” or worse.

This is the intellectual equivalent of closing the borders. And like closing actual borders, it is both unfair and unwise. We owe our moral worth to people who escaped the iron cage of their culture to rebel against such evils as slavery and racism. We owe our prosperity to crazed entrepreneurs who had no patience for what everyone else knew to be right. We need ideological immigrants who infiltrate our society with new and subversive ideas. As Ester — an American by choice — reminds me, that is our nation’s unique strength.

Our instincts and preconceptions are where our thinking begins. They shouldn’t be where it stops. Our noses may lead us to true love. But only our brains and our will can lead us to true freedom.

October 4th, 2014
fire

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 2.39.53 PM
Sterling Ruby, Sandal, 2014
Ceramic, 11 X 20 X 25 1/2 inches

Through November 1, 2014

Venus over Manhattan

October 3rd, 2014

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Mark Grotjahn | Two Masks South Willard Artforum Critics Picks

Artforum Critic’s Picks

October 2nd, 2014
Do You Have Time to Read This Story?

By ANNA NORTH
NY Times Published: OCTOBER 2, 2014

Everyone with an Internet connection has ways of navigating the enormous amount of reading material that connection provides — we can focus on specific topics, on favorite writers or on what our friends like on Facebook. But readers of sites like Slate and Medium also have another option: They can navigate based on time. These sites include small captions with stories, telling us how long they’re going to take to read. And if such timers catch on, they might change the way we consume the news.

“This is the new currency of the realm when reading online,” Arthur D. Santana, a communication professor who has studied online reading, told Op-Talk. “It may not be content anymore, but rather time. How much time am I going to need to spend on this?”

Not everyone approves of the idea. At The Guardian, Bob Garfield offers a somewhat unflattering comparison:

“It’s like those disclaimers on the pharma commercials. If you want relief from depression’s pain, ask your doctor about Cymbalta, but be advised that your liver will probably explode. You wish to learn about the GOP’s ‘women strategy’? Fine, but prepare for the chrono-consequences.”

But Mr. Santana thinks consumers in general will likely warm to the timers. “I think the reader wants cues as to the story’s length,” he said. We get such cues when reading in print, in the form of page numbers, but they were largely absent online until the advent of the read timer. “I think it’s a new component readers probably will like,” he added.

“Some readers like it, some are slightly befuddled by it,” the Slate editor in chief, Julia Turner, told Op-Talk of that site’s read timer feature. “Our goal in launching it was trying to address something that I think has been an issue for sites across the web, which is the distinction between a blog post and an article is diminishing.” And, she noted, “the signposts that help you figure out, ‘what sort of reading experience am I about to have’ are fewer on the web” than in print. Calculating reading time — which Slate does based on word count, without regard to complexity — was one way of offering such a signpost.

Mr. Santana believes the timers could draw readers to articles they might not have read otherwise: “If you’re aware that it only takes three minutes of your day to read a particular piece, we might see people starting to actually read more online content.”

An estimate of how long it will take, he added, “gives the reader one more choice in the decision of whether or not to read the piece. Traditionally in journalism it’s headlines, subheads, photos, an enticing lead, bullet points. All these things are traditional ways journalists draw in the reader. Now we have something new.”

But timers could drive readers away as well as drawing them in. Without them, Mr. Santana explained, we’ll often read through part of a story before deciding it’s too long to finish. But knowing exactly what we’re in for may convince us to pass up longer stories before we even start. And if that happens, “we might see a continued erosion of long-form narrative storytelling on the Internet.”

He argued that online readers already have little patience. “The Internet is a medium of distraction,” he said — it always offers things to buy, games to play and people to talk to in addition to whatever we’re reading. When we read online, we’re fully aware of that, “and we find ourselves growing very quickly impatient when we encounter a long story, far more so than if we were reading it in a print version.”

Will read timers just give rise to a new form of clickbait, enticing readers with ever-shorter stories? Will we see the dawn of the five-second read? And would this be worse or better than the status quo? In a 2013 Slate story, Farhad Manjoo reveals that most readers of Slate articles don’t actually finish them — even if they share them on social media. He expresses some frustration with their tendency to bail: “It may not be obvious — especially to you guys who’ve already left to watch ‘Arrested Development’ — but I spend a lot of time and energy writing these stories. I’m even careful about the stuff at the very end.” However, he says, he understands why they might be tempted to click away:

“Maybe this is just our cultural lot: We live in the age of skimming. I want to finish the whole thing, I really do. I wish you would, too. Really — stop quitting! But who am I kidding. I’m busy. You’re busy. There’s always something else to read, watch, play, or eat.”

Viewed in this light, maybe read timers are just realistic. Mr. Santana characterized their adoption by media outlets as “a big acknowledgment” that people read differently online than in print. Maybe telling readers exactly how long something’s going to take is just a way of recognizing and catering to readers’ micro-subdivided schedules.

Ms. Turner said Slate’s read timers hadn’t steered readers away from longer stories: “We haven’t found in our user testing that it has any real impact on user engagement.” And she saw them as part of a range of strategies for letting readers know ahead of time what they’re getting into, a range that includes special icons for audio and video posts. “I think we’ll see different websites and other innovators in the space playing with those hints in different ways,” she said. “I’m not sure that the minute total is necessarily here for the ages, but I think it’s a symptom of something that is an ongoing challenge for editors in the web space and that we will continue to see interesting responses to that challenge.”

Meanwhile, timers may be spreading beyond news. Mr. Garfield jokes about applying timers to works of literature — “Anna Karenina (21.5 MONTHS TO READ)” — but the website Personal Creations has done just that. According to their infographic, “Anna Karenina” will take 19.43 hours to read — much longer than “The Great Gatsby” (a mere 2.62 hours), but not nearly as long as George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” (98.33 hours, or about four days if you don’t sleep at all).

And, of course, telling us how long it takes to get somewhere has long been a feature of Google Maps and other mapping technologies. Timers, said Mr. Santana, are signs of “the Internet trying to be a little bit more intuitive” and “trying to tell us, ‘here’s what the future holds for you for the next few minutes.’” Telling us how long something will take to read is “one more step toward the Internet predicting a little bit of our lives.”

October 2nd, 2014
Lesley Vance

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9 October—15 November 2014

Xavier Hufkens

October 2nd, 2014
George Herms

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George Herms, 2011. Photograph by Sue Henger

Artforum Published: 09.30.14

LOVE is not just the word with which George Herms signs his work but an expression of a particular ethos. Well known in Beat generation poetry, art, and 1960s-era California Assemblage circles, he was also involved with Wallace Berman’s influential publication Semina. Herms speaks here about a series of recent collage works exhibited in “LOVE George Herms” at testsite in Austin, Texas, which are on view from September 7 to October 19, 2014, as well as the recent acquisition of his archives by the Getty Research Center.

IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE STORYBOARD—isn’t that how the Bible starts out? A collaboration with a fictitious artist who integrates film, video, installation, sculpture, drawing, original music, and performance. That’s what I do, but now that text becomes a found paragraph for discussing artists of our time. Artists don’t want to be boxed in, or at least I never wanted to be.

Within the work, I’m the boss; I know what’s happening. My technique is to look at magazines upside down, and if I find something I enjoy, I tear it out. I’m a tear-rrorist. Like panning for gold with scissors, I cut out whatever is interesting to me. Then those pieces begin to dance around and form collages. Generally, I work on a coffee table, so that’s my natural scale. Besides the rusty-dusty stuff, I have an interest in color, which comes from working with bright and vibrant printer’s inks via my independent LOVE Press.

Some of the collages in my current show at testsite are composed of pieces of my archives returned to me by the Getty. And so this is an autobiographical body of work. For example, there’s a document in one of these collages, a piece of paper where you can see a list of names on the reverse side. This is from when I was executing the facsimile edition of Semina, and those are the people that are in the first issue—Cameron’s there, and so is Walter Hopps.

For fifty years I never threw anything away, so there was five decades of junk mail, documenting every election and all that stuff. I was like a scientist recording what was going on that day. But once I got to the Getty Research Institute, things changed. I found out about archival categories, and they would put my things into different boxes: for example, letters and correspondence. If the letter had the date on it, the Getty didn’t also need the envelope to establish date. So they threw away all the envelopes; they were winnowing. We had a sign on the office wall, which I made, which read WINNOW, DON’T WALLOW. In that little office, there was a table and a camera aimed straight down on the documents. There was also a second camera pointed at me with a microphone on it and I went over every single piece of paper accumulated over those years. All told, it was about twenty boxes’ worth of envelopes and newspapers thrown away, and naturally I asked, “Can I keep them?”

After fifty years, I’m going through my own wastebasket and finding there’s more. It gets ridiculous, because the challenge is to make gold out of dross. The less interesting the thing is, the bigger the challenge.

— As told to Andy Campbel

October 2nd, 2014

Thanks to Sam Sweet and Steve Hadley

September 29th, 2014
Robert Heinecken

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 11.01.59 AM
Cybill Shepherd/Phone Sex
1992, Dye bleach print on foamcore, 63 × 17”

Opens October 3, 2014

Hammer

September 29th, 2014

Thanks to John Rubeli

September 27th, 2014
The Show-Off Society

NY Times Published: Swptember 25, 2014
By: Paul Krugman

Liberals talk about circumstances; conservatives talk about character.

This intellectual divide is most obvious when the subject is the persistence of poverty in a wealthy nation. Liberals focus on the stagnation of real wages and the disappearance of jobs offering middle-class incomes, as well as the constant insecurity that comes with not having reliable jobs or assets. For conservatives, however, it’s all about not trying hard enough. The House speaker, John Boehner, says that people have gotten the idea that they “really don’t have to work.” Mitt Romney chides lower-income Americans as being unwilling to “take personal responsibility.” Even as he declares that he really does care about the poor, Representative Paul Ryan attributes persistent poverty to lack of “productive habits.”

Let us, however, be fair: some conservatives are willing to censure the rich, too. Running through much recent conservative writing is the theme that America’s elite has also fallen down on the job, that it has lost the seriousness and restraint of an earlier era. Peggy Noonan writes about our “decadent elites,” who make jokes about how they are profiting at the expense of the little people. Charles Murray, whose book “Coming Apart” is mainly about the alleged decay of values among the white working class, also denounces the “unseemliness” of the very rich, with their lavish lifestyles and gigantic houses.

But has there really been an explosion of elite ostentation? And, if there has, does it reflect moral decline, or a change in circumstances?

I’ve just reread a remarkable article titled “How top executives live,” originally published in Fortune in 1955 and reprinted a couple of years ago. It’s a portrait of America’s business elite two generations ago, and it turns out that the lives of an earlier generation’s elite were, indeed, far more restrained, more seemly if you like, than those of today’s Masters of the Universe.

“The executive’s home today,” the article tells us, “is likely to be unpretentious and relatively small — perhaps seven rooms and two and a half baths.” The top executive owns two cars and “gets along with one or two servants.” Life is restrained in other ways, too: “Extramarital relations in the top American business world are not important enough to discuss.” Actually, I’m sure there was plenty of hanky-panky, but people didn’t flaunt it. The elite of 1955 at least pretended to set a good example of responsible behavior.

But before you lament the decline in standards, there’s something you should know: In celebrating America’s sober, modest business elite, Fortune described this sobriety and modesty as something new. It contrasted the modest houses and motorboats of 1955 with the mansions and yachts of an earlier generation. And why had the elite moved away from the ostentation of the past? Because it could no longer afford to live that way. The large yacht, Fortune tells us, “has foundered in the sea of progressive taxation.”

But that sea has since receded. Giant yachts and enormous houses have made a comeback. In fact, in places like Greenwich, Conn., some of the “outsize mansions” Fortune described as relics of the past have been replaced with even bigger mansions.

And there’s no mystery about what happened to the good-old days of elite restraint. Just follow the money. Extreme income inequality and low taxes at the top are back. For example, in 1955 the 400 highest-earning Americans paid more than half their incomes in federal taxes, but these days that figure is less than a fifth. And the return of lightly taxed great wealth has, inevitably, brought a return to Gilded Age ostentation.

Is there any chance that moral exhortations, appeals to set a better example, might induce the wealthy to stop showing off so much? No.

It’s not just that people who can afford to live large tend to do just that. As Thorstein Veblen told us long ago, in a highly unequal society the wealthy feel obliged to engage in “conspicuous consumption,” spending in highly visible ways to demonstrate their wealth. And modern social science confirms his insight. For example, researchers at the Federal Reserve have shown that people living in highly unequal neighborhoods are more likely to buy luxury cars than those living in more homogeneous settings. Pretty clearly, high inequality brings a perceived need to spend money in ways that signal status.

The point is that while chiding the rich for their vulgarity may not be as offensive as lecturing the poor on their moral failings, it’s just as futile. Human nature being what it is, it’s silly to expect humility from a highly privileged elite. So if you think our society needs more humility, you should support policies that would reduce the elite’s privileges.

September 27th, 2014
Recognizing a Vibrant Underground

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Karl Wirsum, Show Girl I, 1969
‘What Nerve!’ at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum

By KEN JOHNSON
NY Times Published: SEPT. 25, 2014

In 1962 the film critic Manny Farber published the provocative essay “White Elephant Art and Termite Art,” in which he distinguished two types of artists: the White Elephant artist, who tries to create masterpieces equal to the greatest artworks of the past, and the Termite, who engages in “a kind of squandering-beaverish endeavor” that “goes always forward, eating its own boundaries and, likely as not, leaves nothing in its path other than signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity.”

While White Elephant artists like Richard Serra, Brice Marden, Jeff Koons and a few other usually male contemporary masters still are most highly valued by the establishment, the art world’s Termite infestation has grown exponentially. They’re everywhere, male and female, busily burrowing in a zillion directions. They’re painting, drawing, doodling, whittling, tinkering and making comic books, zines, animated videos and Internet whatsits — all, it seems, with no objective other than to just keep doing whatever they’re doing.

Where did they come from? How did this happen? The history of White Elephant art is well known, that of Termite art much less so, which isn’t surprising given its furtive, centerless nature. So it’s gratifying to see a rousing exhibition at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum that blocks out a significant part of what such a history would entail. “What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present” presents more than 180 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs and videos by 29 artists whom Mr. Farber probably would recognize as Termites.

The show was organized by Dan Nadel, an independent curator, co-editor of The Comics Journal and author of books about comic-book history, in consultation with Judith Tannenbaum, the museum’s recently retired curator of contemporary art. In his introduction to the exhibition’s invaluably informative catalog, Mr. Nadel doesn’t refer to Farber’s zoological terminology, but he posits a similar set of oppositions. The show, he writes, “proposes an alternate history of figurative painting, sculpture and vernacular image-making that has been largely overlooked and undervalued relative to the canon of Modernist abstraction and Conceptual art.”

Specifically, the exhibition focuses on four groups of artists associated with as many different geographical regions: the six-artist group calling itself the Hairy Who, which exhibited in Chicago from 1966 to ’69; nine artists associated with the San Francisco-born trend known as Funk; the four art- and zine-producing members of the noise band Destroy All Monsters, which disturbed the peace in Ann Arbor, Mich., from 1973 to ’77; and Forcefield, a four-artist collective that made music, videos, sculptures, installations and colorful, knitted costumes in Fort Thunder, a former warehouse in Providence, R.I., from 1996 to 2003.

Many artists in “What Nerve!” have had nationally and, in some cases, internationally visible careers: the Hairy Who’s Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson and Karl Wirsum; from Funk, the ceramicists Ken Price and Robert Arneson and the painters William T. Wiley and Peter Saul (represented here by a wacky 1966 sculpture of a man in an electric chair, one of the few 3-D works he made); and Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw of Destroy All Monsters. Forcefield (the Rhode Island school alumni Mat Brinkman, Jim Drain, Leif Goldberg and Ara Peterson) was exceptional in that it achieved national recognition during its own lifetime when the group was in the 2002 Whitney Biennial.

The works in the exhibition, however, are from the times when the groups were active. (In the case of Funk, for which no self-selected group existed, Mr. Nadel picked pieces that were included in a 1967 show at the University of California, Berkeley, called “Funk,” which was organized by the curator Peter Selz.) This focus on early works catches the artists when they were young, feeding off the creative energies of their comrades and responding most nakedly to their historical times. It gives the show an exciting spirit of discovery that tends to fade when artists mature and peel off into their more individualized, professional careers.

Among the most poignant works are a set of finely made drawings of funny monsters on paperback-book-size cards by Mr. Kelley. These reveal his debt to Mad magazine, underground comics, the cartoonist Ed Roth (a.k.a. Big Daddy) and Mr. Nutt, whose bizarre portraits of imaginary characters painted on the reverse sides of plexiglass panels are also highlights. Mr. Kelley’s drawings show an intimate side of him that almost completely disappeared when he went on to his immensely influential career as a producer of conceptually and materially extravagant multimedia spectacles.

Mr. Nadel has added to the show works by six artists who didn’t belong to any particular group but who influenced or were influenced by the group-affiliated artists. These include a suite of mordantly comical prints called “See America First” by the woodworking genius H. C. Westermann, who was revered by almost everyone else in the exhibition. There are elegantly erotic paintings by the Chicago Imagist Christina Ramberg and ribald, brusquely painted cartoon pictures by William Copley. The painter Elizabeth Murray, who came out of Chicago, is represented by two of her exuberant, Cubist spins on domestic chaos. A series of semiabstract paintings on paper by Gary Panter — the underground comic artist and designer for the TV show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” — pertain to the extinction of the American buffalo. Most unexpected, there are Cubist-style watercolors portraying heroic imaginary characters and a complicated, panoramic picture of some kind of futuristic machinery by Jack Kirby, the comic-book artist who, along with the writer and editor Stan Lee, created the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and other popular superheroes.

Many more artists might have been included. R. Crumb has certainly been an inspiration for countless Termite-types. The Chicago painters Roger Brown and Ed Paschke would fit right in. San Francisco’s Mission School of the 1990s, which included Chris Johanson, Margaret Kilgallen and Barry McGee, would be another group worth adding, as would the collective around the video makers Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch. This is not to quibble, but to observe how suggestively the exhibition samples an extraordinarily lively history that’s been hiding in plain sight for half a century.

“What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present” continues through Jan. 4 at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum

September 26th, 2014
Ryosuke Yazaki

yazaki_Low-1

Opening reception: Thursday October 2, 2014. 6-8pm

Through October 19, 2014

Tortoise

September 26th, 2014

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Cameron
by Michael Duncan

THE REAL ARTISTIC INNOVATORS OF THE WEST COAST are only beginning to be recognized. Artist, performer, poet, and occult practitioner, Cameron (Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel) (1922-1995) is one of the most fascinating underground figures of mid century California. A maverick follower of the esoteric mysticism of Aleister Crowley and his philosophical group, the O.T.O. (Ordo Ternpli Orientis), Cameron was also an accomplished painter and draftsman and mentor to younger artists and poets such as Wallace Berman, George Herms, David Meltzer, and Aya.

Cameron’s works demonstrate refined draughtsmanship, formal command, and fantastic imaginative powers. Her sensitive drawings and paintings delineate a magical realm, of metamorphosis and protean transformation. Featuring symbolic creatures in imaginary landscapes, her delicately articulated artworks rival those by fellow surrealists such as Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Ithell Colquhoun, and Leonor Fini. They also seem fascinatingly prescient of fantastical works by contemporary artists such as Kiki Smith, Amy Cutler, Karen Kilimmck, and Hernan Bas.

Cameron’s most notorious role was as wife and spiritual avatar of scientist and mystical thinker, Jack Parsons (1914-1952), one of the founders of Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Lab and, until his violent death, a star pupil of Crowley and the O.T.O. But the Parsons years proved to be only part of Cameron’s story. A powerful personality, she led an exceptional and troubled life fraught with hardship and poverty.

Born in 1922 in Belle Plaine, Iowa, she was a cantankerous, rebellious child whose mystical, artistic nature went against the grain of her railroad worker father, church-going family, and small town neighbors. Graduating from Davenport High School in 1940 at the height of World War II, she enlisted in the Navy and was assigned the tasks of drawing maps and working in a photographic unit, jobs that she later regretted as her “karmic connection” to wartime deaths. Despite her success in these jobs, when, she learned that her brother, an Air Force tail gunner, had been injured in action, she fled to Iowa to see him. She was declared AWOL, court-martialed and confined to the base for the remainder of the war.

Upon her honorable discharge from the service in 1945, she moved to Pasadena where her parents were then living and where she became a fashion illustrator and perhaps attended art classes. Disillusioned with mainstream culture, she became an enthusiastic supporter of jazz, frequenting the black clubs on Central Avenue. Her life was forever changed, however, when an old Navy friend took her to the home of Jack Parsons. Instantly struck by Cameron’s dramatic red hair and intriguing looks, Parsons was convinced she was his “Scarlet Woman,” the incarnation of what he had been searching for in his “sexual magick” experiments.

Indoctrinating her in mystical lore, Parsons dubbed her “Candida” and the couple married in 1946. Cameron wavered in her devotion to the occult with sojourns to a Switzerland convent and, in 1948, to Mexico where she went to pursue her art. She settled for a time in San Miguel de Allende where she met artists Leonora Carrington and David Siquieros and the Los Angeles performers Renate Druks and Paul Matheson. During her Mexico period, Parsons sent Cameron a remarkable series of letters instructing her further in magical practices. In 1950 she returned to her husband who was working at that time in explosives research for Hughes Aircraft.

Parsons’ occult practices led to extended investigations by the F.B.I, and the termination of his government defense work. In 1952, the couple’s plans to leave the country for Mexico were tragically ended when Parsons was killed in a freakish explosion in his Pasadena garage laboratory caused by his dropping a container of fulminate of mercury. (His death has caused much speculation by occult conspiracy theorists.) After Parsons’ death, Cameron retreated to the desert of Beaumont, California for a kind of “vision quest,” living for a while in an abandoned canyon Without water or power. Returning to Los Angeles, she reintegrated herself with society by painting a series of works called the Parchments. She gave birth to a daughter, Crystal, in 1955.

Cameron’s romantic esthetic and commanding persona prompted filmmaker Curtis Harrington to commemorate her output as a visual artist in The Wormwood Star (1955), a lyrical short film recording the art and atmosphere of her candlelit studio. Most of the beautiful paintings and drawings documented in this film were later lost or destroyed. Paul Mathison and the actor Samson DeBrier introduced Cameron to film maker Kenneth Anger, who cast her in a leading role opposite Anais Nin in his film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1956), a fanciful depiction of an occult initiation rite as envisioned by Aleister Crowley. With fiery red hair and heavy eye makeup, Cameron played the Scarlet Woman wrapped in a Spanish shawl once belonging to Rudolph Valentine. Her striking presence steals the show from the rival Nin. Cameron enjoyed a tempestuous relationship with Anger for the rest of her life. She also played a key role alongside Dennis Hopper in Harrington’s lyrical feature film Night Tide (1961). In 1969 she appeared in an unreleased film filmed in Santa Fe, Thumbsuck, by artist John Chamberlain.

In the early 1950s, Cameron met the fellow LA artist and jazz enthusiast Wallace Berman who was fascinated by her artwork, poetry, and mystical aura. She later recounted that she was impressed by the fact that, shortly after they were introduced, he gave her a copy of Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf. Although steering clear of her occult activities, Berman was intrigued with her persona and, as she put it in her 1986 interview with art historian Sandra Starr, “He seemed to be interested in somehow promoting me.” In 1955 Berman used his photograph of Cameron as the cover of his literary and artistic journal Semina 1 and included in the issue a reproduction of a drawing she had made the previous year during her first experience with peyote, which she had taken after hearing a lecture by Aldous Huxley. The reproduced drawing became renowned when the Los Angeles Police Department cited it as “lewd” and shut down Barman’s 1957 exhibition of drawings, assemblages, and sculptures at Ferus Gallery. After this experience, Cameron, like Berman, refused to show her art in commercial galleries. She remained, however, a crucial figure in the Berman circle.

For the rest of her life, she devoted herself to writings and. artworks that explored the ideas of mystical transcendence she had learned from Parsons. In 1964 she published Black Pilgrimage (Baza Press), a volume of dark mystical poems and. ink drawings. A prose excerpt published in Sentinel Two is a kind of exhortation to her dead husband, invoking a spiritual power: “Rise up! I have surpassed the tomb you dreamed for me.” Addressed to Myrha (Smyrna) — who, in Greek mythology, developed an incestuous passion for her father and gave birth to Adonis-Cameron’s poem in Semina 8, titled June 2, 1962, offers no respite from the “dying world” except through the “grace and joy and sorrow” of a child. The kohl- eyed, wild-haired sphinx in the ink drawing accompanying the poem seems stolidly placed, incapable of providing solace.

Despite the grim fatality of much of her writings, Cameron’s artworks portray a fanciful, even wistful lyricism. Her many tender drawings of her daughter present Crystal as an extenuated ephebe or sprite, seemingly the embodiment of a mythological figure. In the early 1960s she corresponded with Joseph Campbell, citing her interest in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, as well as in the fiction of Hermann Hesse and Isak Dinesin. Consumed by myth, and the idea of protean growth, Cameron depicted the process of metamorphosis and transformation in hundreds of line drawings where ominous figures and landscapes emerge from uniformly striated, passionately articulated ink marks. Other gouache drawings and paintings depict mythic figures of her own creation engaged, in ritualistic, symbolic acts.

With a brief sojourn in Santa Fe in the late 1960s, Cameron spent her last decades in a small house in West Hollywood. In 1989 Cameron co-edited with O.T.O. leader Hymenaeus Beta an edition of the occult writings of Parsons. Also that year, Cameron’s artworks were surveyed in an exhibition at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery curated by Edward Leffingwell. Titled The Pearl of Reprisal, that exhibition included water-color, ink, and casein drawings from the series Anatomy of Madness (1956) and Pluto Transiting the Twelfth House (1978-1986). Cameron died of cancer at the Veterans Hospital in Los Angeles in 1995. A selection of her work was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition, Beat Culture and the New America 1950-1965 and in the 2005-2007 traveling exhibition Semtnd Culture: Wallace Berman and His Circle, organized by the Santa Monica Museum of Art.

September 25th, 2014
California surfers beat tech billionaire in fight over beach access

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Julie Graves, left, of Albany, Calif., and Chris Adams, second from left, of Berkeley, hold up signs Feb. 10 in support of a beach access bill that Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill introduced near Martin’s Beach in Half Moon Bay. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

By AMANDA COVARRUBIAS
LA Times Published: September 25, 2014

It was surfers versus a Silicon Valley tech billionaire, and on Wednesday, the surfers won — for now.

A San Mateo County judge ruled tentatively Wednesday that Vinod Khosla, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, had wrongly denied public access to Martin’s Beach, which for decades was visited by thousands of locals who picnicked, surfed and fished in its protective cove.

Surfer Mike Wallace of El Granada walks past a gate on his way to Martin’s Beach in Half Moon Bay on March 12, 2013. (Michael Short / Special to the San Francisco Chronicle)
The case resonated with some people because it reflected fears that tech billionaires were buying up coastal properties with the intention of keeping others out.

Joe Cotchett, an attorney for the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, which brought the suit, called Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach’s decision “a huge victory for all of the people of California.”

“This is a battle of David versus Goliath,” Cotchett said, “between the people who want to use the beaches and the wealthy who want it for their own private purposes.”

The previous owners granted beachgoers their only way to the beach by land, via a dirt road, and charged a small fee for parking. But in 2010, two years after Khosla acquired the property, his manager locked the gate, painted over a sign that had beckoned from California Highway 1 and posted security guards to ward off trespassers.

Khosla did so despite being told by county planning officials, the Coastal Commission and a different San Mateo County Superior Court in 2009 that he needed to seek a coastal development permit if any of his actions were to change the “intensity of use” of the water or access to it.

Mallach ruled that by padlocking the gate, hiring security guards and altering signs without state permission, Khosla had wrongly denied public access to the beach, violating the California Coastal Act.

Mallach, however, did not impose about $20 million in fines that the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation had been seeking — a total based on the maximum of $15,000 a day dating to the October 2010 gate closure.

Regardless, Angela Howe, legal director for the Surfrider Foundation, said the judge’s order means Kholsa must immediately “cease preventing public access to the coast.”

But the case may not be over.

Dori Yob, a lawyer for Khosla, said in an email: “We are disappointed with the court’s decision and will consider our options for appealing the ruling.”

September 25th, 2014
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