Robert Rapson | Ships


Rattoello, no date
ceramic and glaze
13 X 3 X 3 inches

June 27 through July 28, 2015

Organized by Steven Baker

In Partnership with Creative Growth

Robert Rapson was born in 1951 in Wellington, New Zealand. Growing up, Rapson spent time observing passenger liners coming and going on the wharves where his father worked. He enjoyed the rituals of travel by sea; friends gathering to wave their goodbyes, musical groups playing on the wharfs as the ships left the harbor for parts unknown. In his late teens, he sailed to Europe on an Italian liner, the “Angelina Lauro”. That experience cemented his love of boats and the sea and thus began a lifelong obsession.

After losing his job in the 1980’s and fearing as he put it, “sitting around doing nothing”, be began to experiment with ceramics at age 40. Living with clinical depression, the process of making these boats at a community arts center helped give his life meaning. Rapson says he sees his art as “an evolution of my managing depression and growing older and something of an obsession”.

-Steven Baker

South Willard Shop Exhibit

June 27th, 2015
Hey California, Justice Scalia discovers the 10th ring of hell, and we are it

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 3.48.25 PM
Hippies at the Rolling Stones concert in Altamont, Calif., in 1969. (Associated Press)

The Los Angeles Times: June 25, 2015

As the United States of America evolves, slowly becoming a more tolerant and inclusive nation, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is getting left behind, and now he’s taking out his wrath on California and hippies.

It’s not hard to understand why Scalia has worked himself into a lather. This has been a horrible week for him, as he voted with the losers on two landmark court rulings: Obamacare and gay marriage.

He began with a somewhat rational dissent on Obamacare, hand-wringing over the “discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.”

But then he went from hand-wringing to knuckle-dragging on the gay marriage decision, arguing that the court was patrician, pretentious, egotistical and out of touch with America because its justices are successful lawyers (would we want otherwise?) who went to elite schools and grew up in either the elitist East or the wifty West but not the heartland or the South.

“Not a single Southwesterner or even,” Scalia wrote, “to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner. (California does not count.)”

Do you hear that, Californians?

We are so peculiar that Scalia put us in parentheses, like we had to be quarantined. (Is there any coincidence that the swing vote came from a California native, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy?)

We are west of the West, chiseled off the map and sent floating out to sea in our flip-flops and board shorts, an island of the lost and irrelevant.

I’m not sure how the vast millions who live in the solidly conservative inland and valley empires of California feel about being told they are not true Westerners, here in the state that gave the nation Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.

But apparently in Scalia’s world, they are off the scales like the rest of us. That might not seem entirely rational, but we’re talking about Justice Scalia, after all, who still seems to be twitching over the hippie movement a half-century after it happened. In mocking a majority opinion reference to intimacy and spirituality, Scalia wrote:

“Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.”

I don’t know what hippies have to do with it, but we’ve got plenty of them in California, and no shortage of carnal malefactors of all sexual persuasions.

Justice Scalia has discovered a 10th ring of hell, and we are it.

There’s only one thing to do, California.

I say we tear our clothes off, fill the streets and party like hell.

June 26th, 2015
flat world

Peter Halley
Rectangular Prison with Smokestack, 1987,
acrylic, fluorescent acrylic, Flashe, and Roll-a-Tex on canvas,
2 1/4 x 124 1/2 inches (183.5 x 316.2 cm)

Organized by Karma, New York

Richard Artschwager
Tauba Auerbach
Will Boone
Jeff Elrod
Robert Grosvenor
Peter Halley
Lee Lozano
John Mason
Charlotte Posenenske

Opening reception: Friday, June 26, 2015, 6:00-9:00pm

David Kordansky

June 24th, 2015
No Time to Be Nice at Work

NY Times Published: JUNE 19, 2015

MEAN bosses could have killed my father. I vividly recall walking into a hospital room outside of Cleveland to see my strong, athletic dad lying with electrodes strapped to his bare chest. What put him there? I believe it was work-related stress. For years he endured two uncivil bosses.

Rudeness and bad behavior have all grown over the last decades, particularly at work. For nearly 20 years I’ve been studying, consulting and collaborating with organizations around the world to learn more about the costs of this incivility. How we treat one another at work matters. Insensitive interactions have a way of whittling away at people’s health, performance and souls.

Robert M. Sapolsky, a Stanford professor and the author of “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” argues that when people experience intermittent stressors like incivility for too long or too often, their immune systems pay the price. We also may experience major health problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and ulcers.

Intermittent stressors — like experiencing or witnessing uncivil incidents or even replaying one in your head — elevate levels of hormones called glucocorticoids throughout the day, potentially leading to a host of health problems, including increased appetite and obesity. A study published in 2012 that tracked women for 10 years concluded that stressful jobs increased the risk of a cardiovascular event by 38 percent.

Bosses produce demoralized employees through a string of actions: walking away from a conversation because they lose interest; answering calls in the middle of meetings without leaving the room; openly mocking people by pointing out their flaws or personality quirks in front of others; reminding their subordinates of their “role” in the organization and “title”; taking credit for wins, but pointing the finger at others when problems arise. Employees who are harmed by this behavior, instead of sharing ideas or asking for help, hold back.

I’ve surveyed hundreds of people across organizations spanning more than 17 industries, and asked people why they behaved uncivilly. Over half of them claim it is because they are overloaded, and more than 40 percent say they have no time to be nice. But respect doesn’t necessarily require extra time. It’s about how something is conveyed; tone and nonverbal manner are crucial.

INCIVILITY also hijacks workplace focus. According to a survey of more than 4,500 doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel, 71 percent tied disruptive behavior, such as abusive, condescending or insulting personal conduct, to medical errors, and 27 percent tied such behavior to patient deaths.

My studies with Amir Erez, a management professor at the University of Florida, show that people working in an environment characterized by incivility miss information that is right in front of them. They are no longer able to process it as well or as efficiently as they would otherwise.

In one study, the experimenter belittled the peer group of the participants, who then performed 33 percent worse on anagram word puzzles and came up with 39 percent fewer creative ideas during a brainstorming task focused on how they might use a brick. In our second study, a stranger — a “busy professor” encountered en route to the experiment — was rude to participants by admonishing them for bothering her. Their performance was 61 percent worse on word puzzles, and they produced 58 percent fewer ideas in the brick task than those who had not been treated rudely. We found the same pattern for those who merely witnessed incivility: They performed 22 percent worse on word puzzles and produced 28 percent fewer ideas in the brainstorming task.

Incivility shuts people down in other ways, too. Employees contribute less and lose their conviction, whether because of a boss saying, “If I wanted to know what you thought, I’d ask you,” or screaming at an employee who overlooks a typo in an internal memo.

Boors in the Workplace

These are the rude behaviors by bosses most often cited in a recent survey, in descending order of frequency.
• Interrupts people
• Is judgmental of those who are different
• Pays little attention to or shows little interest in others’ opinions
• Takes the best and leaves the worst tasks for others
• Fails to pass along necessary information
• Neglects saying please or thank you
• Talks down to people
• Takes too much credit for things
• Swears
• Puts others down

These are the rude behaviors people most often admit to seeing in themselves.

• Hibernates into e-gadgets
• Uses jargon even when it excludes others
• Ignores invitations
• Is judgmental of those who are different
• Grabs easy tasks while leaving difficult ones for others
• Does not listen
• Emails/texts during meetings
• Pays little attention to others
• Takes others’ contributions for granted
• Belittles others nonverbally
• Neglects saying please or thank you

Source: A survey by the author of 605 people in 17 industries.

Customers behave the same way. In studies I did with the marketing professors Deborah MacInnis and Valerie S. Folkes at the University of Southern California, we found that people were less likely to patronize a business that has an employee who is perceived as rude — whether the rudeness is directed at them or at other employees. Witnessing a short negative interaction leads customers to generalize about other employees, the organization and even the brand.

Many are skeptical about the returns of civility. A quarter believe that they will be less leader-like, and nearly 40 percent are afraid that they’ll be taken advantage of if they are nice at work. Nearly half think that it is better to flex one’s muscles to garner power. They are jockeying for position in a competitive workplace and don’t want to put themselves at a disadvantage.

Why is respect — or lack of it — so potent? Charles Horton Cooley’s 1902 notion of the “looking glass self” explains that we use others’ expressions (smiles), behaviors (acknowledging us) and reactions (listening to us or insulting us) to define ourselves. How we believe others see us shapes who we are. We ride a wave of pride or get swallowed in a sea of embarrassment based on brief interactions that signal respect or disrespect. Individuals feel valued and powerful when respected. Civility lifts people. Incivility holds people down. It makes people feel small.

Even though a growing number of people are disturbed by incivility, I’ve found that it has continued to climb over the last two decades. A quarter of those I surveyed in 1998 reported that they were treated rudely at work at least once a week. That figure rose to nearly half in 2005, then to just over half in 2011.

Incivility often grows out of ignorance, not malice. A surgeon told me that until he received some harsh feedback, he was clueless that so many people thought he was a jerk. He was simply treating residents the way he had been trained.

Technology distracts us. We’re wired to our smartphones. It’s increasingly challenging to be present and to listen. It’s tempting to fire off texts and emails during meetings; to surf the Internet while on conference calls or in classes; and, for some, to play games rather than tune in. While offering us enormous conveniences, electronic communication also leads to misunderstandings. It’s easy to misread intentions. We can take out our frustrations, hurl insults and take people down a notch from a safe distance.

Although in surveys people say they are afraid they will not rise in an organization if they are really friendly and helpful, the civil do succeed. My recent studies with Alexandra Gerbasi and Sebastian Schorch at the Grenoble École de Management, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, show that behavior involving politeness and regard for others in the workplace pays off. In a study in a biotechnology company, those seen as civil were twice as likely to be viewed as leaders.

Civility elicits perceptions of warmth and competence. Susan T. Fiske, a professor at Princeton, and Amy J. C. Cuddy, a professor at Harvard, with their colleagues have conducted research that suggests that these two traits drive our impressions of others, accounting for more than 90 percent of the variation in the positive or negative impressions we form of those around us. These impressions dictate whether people will trust you, build relationships with you, follow you and support you.

The catch: There can be a perceived inverse relationship between warmth and competence. A strength in one can suggest a weakness of the other. Some people are seen as competent but cold — he’s very smart, but people will hate working for him. Or they’re seen as warm but incompetent — she’s really friendly, but probably not very smart.

Leaders can use simple rules to win the hearts and minds of their people — with huge returns. Making small adjustments such as listening, smiling, sharing and thanking others more often can have a huge impact. In one unpublished experiment I conducted, a smile and simple thanks (as compared with not doing this) resulted in people being viewed as 27 percent warmer, 13 percent more competent and 22 percent more civil.

Civil gestures can spread. Ochsner Health System, a large Louisiana health care provider, implemented what it calls the “10/5 way.” Employees are encouraged to make eye contact if they’re within 10 feet of someone, and say hello if they’re within five feet. Ochsner reports improvements on patient satisfaction and patient referrals.

To be fully attentive and improve your listening skills, remove obstacles. John Gilboy told me about a radical approach he took as an executive of a multibillion-dollar consumer products company. Desperate to stop excessive multitasking in his weekly meetings, he decided to experiment: he placed a box at the door and required all attendees to drop their smartphones in it so that everyone would be fully engaged and attentive to one another. He didn’t allow people to use their laptops either. The change was a challenge; initially employees were “like crack addicts as the box was buzzing,” he said. But the meetings became vastly more productive. Within weeks, they slashed the length of the meetings by half. He reported more presence, participation and, as the tenor of the meetings changed, fun.

What about the jerks who seem to succeed despite being rude and thoughtless? Those people have succeeded despite their incivility, not because of it. Studies by Morgan W. McCall Jr., a professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California, including those with Michael Lombardo while they were with the Center for Creative Leadership, have shown that the No. 1 characteristic associated with an executive’s failure is an insensitive, abrasive or bullying style.

Power can force compliance. But insensitivity or disrespect often sabotages support in crucial situations. Employees may fail to share important information and withhold efforts or resources. Sooner or later, uncivil people sabotage their success — or at least their potential. Payback may come immediately or when they least expect it, and it may be intentional or unconscious.

Civility pays dividends. J. Gary Hastings, a retired judge in Los Angeles, told me that when he informally polled juries about what determined their favor, he found that respect — and how attorneys behaved — was crucial. Juries were swayed based on thin slices of civil or arrogant behavior.

Across many decisions — whom to hire, who will be most effective in teams, who will be able to be influential — civility affects judgments and may shift the balance toward those who are respectful.

Given the enormous cost of incivility, it should not be ignored. We all need to reconsider our behavior. You are always in front of some jury. In every interaction, you have a choice: Do you want to lift people up or hold them down?

June 24th, 2015

Linda Stark
Fixed Wave, 2011
Oil on canvas over panel
36 x 36 x 3 inches (91.4 x 91.4 x 7.6 cm)

JUNE 26 – AUGUST 15, 2015


Thomas Duncan

June 22nd, 2015
How California’s drought could spur an ecological rebirth

By Brandon Keim
The Guardian Published: 21 June 2015

Jennifer and Lawrence Kesteloot like to begin the day with breakfast in their San Francisco backyard garden. For the last several months, they’ve had guests: iridescent green-and-red Anna’s hummingbirds, drawn by wildflowers planted to replace what had been dead brown turf grass and concrete.

The Kesteloots hadn’t considered hummingbirds when imagining their garden. Mostly they were concerned about not using much water amidst the deprivations and uncertainties of California’s drought.

The ecologically rich plantings, the beds of California poppies and wild lilacs, were the idea of a local garden company, which is part of a burgeoning industry that offers landscaping that is both water-efficient and biodiverse.

“Most people still look at their backyards as an aesthetic. They don’t think so much about the science of it, the activity and the life,” said Elisa Baier, owner of Small Spot Gardens, which designed and installed Kesteloot’s garden.

But as homeowners and property managers replace their water-hungry turf, increasingly many are finding that the moment is ripe to revegetate — paying attention not only to water, but to nature. With drought may come rebirth.

Now, says Jennifer, the hummingbirds are a source of daily delight and her backyard is a striking example of the future’s lush possibilities.

To the Kesteloots’ credit, they’d been content to let their turf patch go brown rather than watering it for the sake of appearance. In California – and indeed throughout the drought-stricken south-western United States – few sights are so environmentally inappropriate as bright green turf grass.

Closely cropped bright-green landscapes are a powerful cultural fixation, but attitudes continue to harden against them.

Environmentalist Michael Pollan has likened lawns to littering and public urination, and California governor Jerry Brown pledged in April to replace 50 million square feet of lawn with drought-tolerant landscaping. That figure amounted to slightly less than two square miles, or .04% of all California turf, but it signified the future direction.

But if lawns are to go, what will replace them? Drought-tolerant plants save water, but they’re not necessarily nature-friendly. Many non-native plants support few insects and animals. They’re green but barren, and some landscapers servicing the growing demand for low-water yards have been criticized for using non-natives with low habitat value.

Worse yet, some simply cover lawns with crushed granite or mulch, replace them with astroturf, even paint dead brown grass green. Which might not have occasioned much lament, had the drought happened a few decades ago – but urban nature is blossoming, with scientists and nature-lovers celebrating the bounty of life possible in cities and suburbs.

“Obviously having drought-resistant plants, whether they’re native or not, is good,” said Peter Bowler, an ecologist at the University of California, Irvine and director of the school’s arboretum. “But why stop there? Why not go the extra step and focus on native plants that benefit the whole ecosystem? I think this is a positive opportunity.”

At the arboretum, Bowler worked with the Tree of Life nursery, a native-plant specialist, to plant more than twelve acres of turf with drought-tolerant native coastal species, including cacti and buckwheat and sage. There’s a state-owned wildlife sanctuary near the arboretum.

Pacific pond turtles and roadrunners now nest in the sage scrub, said Bowler. So do threatened Pacific gnatcatchers. Songbirds stop to forage on their migrations from South America to the Arctic and back again. “It’s helping sustain intercontinental biodiversity as well as local biodiversity,” said Bowler, and campus-wide native plantings now save 750,000 gallons of water per year.

Some California municipalities now offer turf-replacement rebates, but the greatest obstacle to nature-friendly cities is cultural. Urban ecology is popular, but many people are just starting to learn what’s possible in everyday environments. “Lots of my clients go on nature hikes. They love to have a guide say, ‘Look at that bird! And this plant used by Native Americans!’ But they don’t yet think that way about their backyards,” said Baier. “With a little assistance, they could.”

Baier, of Small Spot Gardens, is less rigid than Bower about non-native plants. What matters most, she said, is picking species that insects and animals use. Ultimately the patchworks of gardens and parks will become rich regional habitats in what had been nature-impoverished.

The benefits are not restricted to biodiversity: plenty of studies describe nature’s positive health effects, from psychological well-being to lower rates of autoimmune diseases. But wildlife provides human benefits, too.

For Kesteloot, who has a particular interest in insects, her backyard is now home to a menagerie that includes monarch butterflies, Jerusalem crickets, bumble bees and honeybees. Watching the bees is another source of satisfaction, she said — though the hummingbirds, known for acrobatic aerial displays, remain her favorites.

“The boys go way up in the air, then nosedive straight down and make a little chirp noise,” she said. “You know they’re showing off for the ladies. It makes us so happy.”

Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

June 22nd, 2015

June 19th, 2015
We avoid the word terrorism when the victims are black – not just when the killer is white

By Jamiles Lartey
The Guardian Published: June 19 2015

Terrorism, at least in our national imagination, springs from an ideology of insurgence. Terrorism is radical. It seeks to upset and overturn a society, and to shake it to its foundations. But in America, there are few ideologies less insurgent than the doctrine of white supremacy.

Dylann Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder and one charge of weapons possession after the horrific shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday night, and has reportedly said that his shootings were intended to start a race war. Since then, much has been made about the semantics of whether to call the massacre an act of terrorism, a hate crime or a mass shooting – and whether any of these terms are mutually exclusive.

On Thursday night, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart – perhaps the closest thing there is to the voice of liberal white America’s collective conscience – unqualifiedly declared the shooting an act of terrorism and skewered “the disparity of response between when we think people that are foreign are going to kill us and us killing ourselves.” Stewart is right, of course: if Roof had brown skin and a Muslim-sounding name, there would be no national conversation about just what to call the Charleston shootings.

But the rush to pin some people’s unwillingness to call the killings an act of terror on a subconscious bias towards or against the individual who committed the act obscures another important factor in how we choose to interpret, and in turn, identify them.

Roof’s alleged acts were, by all indications, driven by a violent and extremist interpretation of an ideology that is as old as America itself. The murder of nine innocent black people because of their race doesn’t cut against the American grain in the same way that the spectre of Islamist terrorism does – it rides the grain all the way to its logical conclusion.

Roof’s reportedly declared motivation – that black people “rape our women” and are “taking over our country” – are some of the most durable rhetorical pillars of America’s centuries-long entanglement with the doctrine of white supremacy. After emancipation and the end of the American civil war, the competing mythic caricatures of the black male as a violent rapacious “buck” or a docile “sambo” collapsed violently into the former. The lynching era, which claimed thousands of black lives, was predicated predominantly on the notion that white femininity needed to be protected from the threat of hypersexual black males.

And during reconstruction as blacks struggled to gain and use the franchise, whites began to feel keenly the political implications of having outnumbered themselves with human chattel property. Nowhere was this more true than South Carolina, where blacks made up 57% of the population, according to the 1860 US census. Charleston was one of several southern cities – New Orleans, Norfolk and Atlanta were others – where throughout the 1860s, threatened by the prospect of becoming a minority to an “inferior” black population, whites rioted and invaded black neighborhoods to attack men, women and children. Only in the largest incidents have history books even bothered to record the damage, like the 48 murdered and 166 injured in New Orleans in 1866.

That same year, when a band of whites killed 46 black people in Memphis, the Memphis Avalanche opined that, “the late riots in our city have satisfied one thing: that southern men will not be ruled by the negro … The negroes now know, to their sorrow, that it is best not to arouse the fury of the white man.”

It’s unknown, as yet, whether Dylann Roof planned his attack to coincide with the 193rd anniversary of Denmark Vesey’s failed 1822 slave revolt in Charleston, or with Juneteenth (the celebration, on 19 June, of the emancipation of America’s last enslaved people), or if both are a mere coincidence. Vesey’s role in founding the Emanuel AME church, certainly seems to hint at a connection with the former. What we can tell from the patches on his jacket celebrating apartheid in South Africa and the minority-white ruled, defunct state of Rhodesia, is that Roof clearly felt some connection to a time and place in which white power over black people was near-total and understood as natural. He may have felt that the wholesale slaughter of nine black people was the way to act on that feeling; he allegedly intended to use that slaughter to start a larger war.

That’s terrorism any way you slice it – but in the long view of American history, it’s certainly not insurgent, revolutionary or new. Using the word “terrorism” to describe violence exclusively against America’s non-white people is a historical first, but the terror visited exclusively upon America’s non-white people is not.

Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

June 19th, 2015

June 13th, 2015
Ornette Coleman 1930 – 2015


NY Times Published: JUNE 11, 2015

Ornette Coleman, the alto saxophonist and composer who was one of the most powerful and contentious innovators in the history of jazz, died on Thursday morning in Manhattan. He was 85.

The cause was cardiac arrest, a representative of the family said.

Mr. Coleman widened the options in jazz and helped change its course. Partly through his example in the late 1950s and early ’60s, jazz became less beholden to the rules of harmony and rhythm, and gained more distance from the American songbook repertoire. His own music, then and later, became a new form of highly informed folk song: deceptively simple melodies for small groups with an intuitive, collective language, and a strategy for playing without preconceived chord sequences. In 2007, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his album “Sound Grammar.”

His early work — a kind of personal answer to his fellow alto saxophonist and innovator Charlie Parker — lay right within the jazz tradition and generated a handful of standards among jazz musicians of the last half-century. But he later challenged assumptions about jazz from top to bottom, bringing in his own ideas about instrumentation, process and technical expertise.

Challenges to the traditions of jazz were the hallmarks of Ornette Coleman’s long career. By Erica Berenstein on Publish Date June 11, 2015. Photo by Martial Trezzini/European Pressphoto Agency.
He was also more voluble and theoretical than John Coltrane, the other great pathbreaker of that era in jazz, and became known as a kind of musician-philosopher, with interests much wider than jazz alone; he was seen as a native avant-gardist and symbolized the American independent will as effectively as any artist of the last century.

Slight, Southern and soft-spoken, Mr. Coleman eventually became a visible part of New York cultural life, attending parties in bright satin suits; even when frail, he attracted attention. He could talk in nonspecific and sometimes baffling language about harmony and ontology; he became famous for utterances that were sometimes disarming in their freshness and clarity or that began to make sense about the 10th time you read them.

Yet his music was usually not so oblique. At best, it could be for everybody. Very few listeners today would need prompting to understand the appeal of his early songs like “Una Muy Bonita” (bright, bouncy) and “Lonely Woman” (tragic, flamencoesque). His run of records for Atlantic near the beginning of his career — especially “The Shape of Jazz to Come,” “Change of the Century” and “This Is Our Music” — pushed through skepticism, ridicule and condescension, as well as advocacy, to become recognized as some of the greatest albums in jazz history.

His composing voice, and his sense of band interplay, was intact by 1959, and this was the moment when he caught the ear of almost every important jazz musician in the world. He wrote short melody sketches, nearly always in a major key, which could sound like old children’s songs, and, in pieces like “Turnaround” and “When Will the Blues Leave?,” brilliant blues lines. With the crucial help of the trumpeter Don Cherry, he organized his band to act like separate hearts within a single organism.

Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman was born in Fort Worth on March 9, 1930, and lived in a house very near one of the many railroad tracks crisscrossing the area. According to various sources, his father, Randolph, who died when he was 7, was a construction worker and a cook, and his mother, Rosa, was a clerk in a funeral home; both, he liked to say, were born on Christmas Day. He attended I.M. Terrell High School — the same school that three of his future bandmates, the saxophonist Dewey Redman and the drummers Charles Moffett and Ronald Shannon Jackson, would later graduate from. Other graduates from the same school included the saxophonists King Curtis, Prince Lasha and Julius Hemphill; the clarinetist John Carter; and Red Connor, a bebop tenor saxophonist with no discographical trail who, Mr. Coleman often said, influenced him by playing jazz as “an idea,” rather than as a series of patterns.

Mr. Coleman’s melodies may be easy to appreciate, but his sense of harmony has been a complicated issue from the start. He has said that when he first learned to play the saxophone — his mother gave him an alto saxophone when he was around 14 — he didn’t understand that because of transposition between instruments, a C in the piano’s “concert key” was an A on his instrument. (He also seems to have believed that when he was reading CDEFGAB, a C-major scale, he was playing the notes ABCDEFG.) When he found out the truth, a lifelong suspicion of the rules of Western harmony and musical notation began.

In essence, Mr. Coleman believed that all people had their own tonal centers, and that “unison” — a word he often used, though not always in its normal musical-theory sense — was a group of people playing together harmoniously, even if in different keys.

“I’ve learned that everyone has their own moveable C,” he said to the writer Michael Jarrett in an interview published in 1995; he identified it as “Do,” the nontempered start of anyone singing or playing a “do-re-mi” major-scale sequence. During the same conversation, he remarked that he always wanted musicians to play with him “on a multiple level.”

“I don’t want them to follow me,” he explained. “I want them to follow themselves, but to be with me.”

Learning by ear, he played alto and then tenor saxophone in rhythm-and-blues and society bands around Texas, backing up vocalists and practicing the honking, gutbucket style that made stars out of Illinois Jacquet and Arnett Cobb. But he had already become entranced by the new kind of jazz known as bebop, and by Parker’s heady, imaginative phrasing.

In 1949, he joined Silas Green From New Orleans, a popular traveling minstrel-show troupe on its last legs. He was fired in Natchez, Miss., he said, for trying to teach bebop to one of the other saxophonists.

In Natchez, he joined the band of the blind blues singer Clarence Samuels. While on tour with the group, he said, he was beaten by a gang of musicians outside a dance hall in Baton Rouge, La., for playing strangely; as the climax of a story he would repeat ever after in variations, they threw his saxophone down the street, or down a hill, or off a cliff.

Soon after the Baton Rouge experience, he moved to Los Angeles in 1953 to play with the R&B bandleader Pee Wee Crayton. In 1954, he married the poet Jayne Cortez, with whom he had a son, Denardo. They divorced in 1964. Mr. Coleman’s survivors include his son, who played drums with him on and off since the late 1960s, and a grandson.

Also in 1954, he bought a white plastic alto saxophone, which became a visual emblem of his early years. He stayed in Los Angeles for six years, finding a core group of musicians who were not only interested in playing his music but also helped define it, including the trumpeters Mr. Cherry and Bobby Bradford, the drummers Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins, and the bassist Charlie Haden.

These musicians were the exceptions; during his Los Angeles period, many wanted nothing to do with Mr. Coleman, a long-haired Jehovah’s Witness dressed in clothes made by his wife. In Mr. Cherry’s description, he “looked like some kind of black Christ figure, but no Christ anybody had ever seen before.”

In early 1958, Mr. Coleman made his first album, “Something Else!!!! The Music of Ornette Coleman,” for the Contemporary Records label. In a six-week run at the Hillcrest Club in late 1958 with a quintet — Mr. Coleman’s group now included Mr. Higgins on drums, as well as the pianist Paul Bley, and some of the music exists on tape — Mr. Haden’s style quickly reoriented itself around the bandleader, and there is no recording of Mr. Coleman that holds closer to the model of Charlie Parker. But he adhered less to a strict rhythmic grid than Parker did: Operating on his own sense of time, he raced and flagged and played his own proud blues lines, diatonic runs, and plump, raw, crying notes.

Mr. Coleman made one more record for Contemporary, “Tomorrow Is the Question!,” with Percy Heath and Red Mitchell on bass and Shelly Manne on drums — and, significantly, nobody on piano; the lack of a pianist to root the music in chords would characterize the sound of Mr. Coleman’s music for a long time thereafter. Then the Ornette Coleman Quartet — with Mr. Cherry, Mr. Haden, and Mr. Higgins — recorded six numbers for Atlantic in May 1959. (John Lewis, the pianist for the Modern Jazz Quartet, had championed Mr. Coleman to Nesuhi Ertegun of Atlantic Records.)

This session was released as “The Shape of Jazz to Come.” This was the first great Coleman band, built entirely of musicians empathetic with him; the record’s great swing and harmonic freedom, its intuitive communication between Mr. Coleman and Mr. Cherry, and its remarkable ease with nonstandard ways of playing jazz made it a classic. But it was not released before a few other events made Mr. Coleman notorious.

Later that year, Mr. Coleman was invited to the School of Jazz in Lenox, Mass., a summer institution run by John Lewis. He played in an array of concerts and workshops, fascinating some of the teaching musicians there and alienating others. He had an impact. “I believe that what Ornette Coleman is playing will affect the whole character of jazz music profoundly and pervasively,” the critic Martin Williams wrote upon hearing him at Lenox.

Then, with his quartet, he hit the Five Spot Café in Manhattan in November 1959 for his first New York gig, a two-week engagement that stretched to two and a half months. (In an unusual move, critics were invited for an early preview on the first night.)

It suddenly became fashionable that winter for journalists to ask established jazz musicians what they thought of Mr. Coleman’s jolting music. Many said, essentially, that he was unformed but promising. John S. Wilson of The New York Times heard him at the Five Spot and wrote a few months later that he had found his playing “shrill, meandering, and pointlessly repetitious” — although by that time Mr. Wilson had already begun revising his opinion. The trumpeter Roy Eldridge did his due diligence on Mr. Coleman before forming an opinion. “I listened to him high and I listened to him cold sober,” he said. “I even played with him. I think he’s jiving, baby.”

In the quartet, Mr. Coleman and Mr. Cherry could be soloing together harmoniously, yet very loosely, sometimes clashing and sometimes flying together; Mr. Cherry described it as playing as if every note were the tonic note, the home note of a song’s key. Mr. Haden helped the music cohere by creating a strong tonal center, and the front-line musicians were only loosely tied to the pulse of the drummer. (Later, Mr. Coleman would coin a term for the music’s guiding principles: “harmolodics,” a contraction of harmony, movement and melody. He claimed to have been working on a book about harmolodic theory, but it was never completed or published.)

In a little under two years, the group made enough music for nine records with Atlantic, including “Free Jazz,” made with a “double quartet” of four musicians in each audio channel. It was not quite “free jazz,” though. Despite the great harmonic mobility among all the musicians, Mr. Coleman relied on polished written melodies to cut the piece into episodes; rhythmically, Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins swung hard, and not in free rhythm.

Mr. Coleman’s music had such a force that even John Coltrane said, in 1961, that 12 minutes he had spent on stage with Coleman amounted to “the most intense moment of my life.”

Around this point Mr. Coleman’s group began to rupture. Disaffected with the normal business practices of jazz, Mr. Coleman started seeking more control for his music and better pay; raising his price brought his bookings down to a dribble in 1961. Mr. Haden was hospitalized for heroin addiction; Mr. Cherry, needing work, joined Sonny Rollins. In 1962 Mr. Coleman rented the Town Hall, the New York performance space, to play with his new trio, which featured David Izenzon on bass and Charles Moffett on drums, and on one piece, with a string quartet.

It was the beginning of Mr. Coleman’s public career in classical music, a much more dissonant and self-consciously European-modernist body of work. He retreated from performance and did not return until 1965, thereby separating himself from the emergence of New York’s free-jazz scene.

When he reappeared, at the Village Vanguard jazz club, he was playing trumpet and violin as well as alto saxophone. He wrote music on a well-paid commission for “Chappaqua,” a movie about drug addiction by the Avon cosmetics scion Conrad Rooks. Mr. Coleman’s work was rejected by that filmmaker, even though the music, for jazz quartet and orchestra, was eventually released by Columbia Records.

In 1966 he made the album “The Empty Foxhole,” with Mr. Haden on bass and his son on drums. Denardo Coleman was 10, and it sounded as if his influences might have been free jazz and his own prepubescent limbic system.

In the late ’60s, Mr. Coleman bought an industrial building in prefashionable SoHo, on Prince Street, and began his do-it-yourself life in earnest, calling his building Artists House and producing concerts. He formed a new band that included Dewey Redman on tenor saxophone; among its albums, for Blue Note and Columbia, were “New York Is Now!” and “Science Fiction.”

In the early ’70s, Mr. Coleman began writing a concerto grosso called “Skies of America,” eventually recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1972. It was the purest demonstration of his harmolodic principle, with parallel lines for orchestra members to play as written, rather than transposing to fit their instruments’ home keys.

In 1973, he traveled to the Rif mountains of Morocco to collaborate with the famed musicians of Jajouka; a short recording of these encounters, with the Jajouka reed players’ untempered approach, confirmed his belief that the “concert key” system of Western tonality was misguided, appeared on his album “Dancing in Your Head,” released in 1977.

It was that album that marked the beginning of Prime Time, Mr. Coleman’s first electric band (it included two guitarists), and a new chapter in his music. Loud, jagged and densely woven, it took few cues from rock; nonetheless, it had an influence not only on the outer circles of jazz but on what would later be called post-punk, the sound of late-’70s bands like the Pop Group and the Minutemen.

Meanwhile, Mr. Coleman was releasing records with Prime Time on his own Artists House label, founded in 1977 with the record producer and lawyer John Snyder, and on A&M Records at the same time. He appeared on “Saturday Night Live” in 1979, one of the few jazz artists to do so. He moved his base of operations to a building on Rivington Street on the Lower East Side, made his son his manager, and worked with Caravan of Dreams, a new performance center and record label based in his hometown, Fort Worth. For his performances there to open the club in 1983, he was given the key to the city.

In 1985, he collaborated with the guitarist Pat Metheny on the album “Song X”; in 1987, he released “In All Languages,” a double album with Prime Time on one disc and his original acoustic quartet on the other. And in 1988 he released “Virgin Beauty,” a Prime Time album with the Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead on board at times as a third guitarist. In 1991, he played on Howard Shore’s soundtrack to the film “Naked Lunch,” based on the novel by William Burroughs.

By this time Mr. Coleman was the avant-garde establishment. He was awarded a National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master fellowship in 1984, and was made a MacArthur Foundation fellow in 1994; he had reached old-master status on the jazz-performance circuit, and gave regular concerts — again with a white saxophone, but metal, not plastic — that were well publicized and well attended, if sometimes curious or outrageous.

He played for four nights at Lincoln Center in the summer of 1997, presenting “Skies of America,” conducted by Kurt Masur; his old quartet music; and a strange show called “Tone Dialing” (after his 1995 album of the same name), with dancers, video, circus performers walking on nails and broken glass, and Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson.

Mr. Coleman formed a new quartet in 2004, with two bassists and Denardo Coleman on drums, and started a new record label, Sound Grammar. In 2007, the same year he won the Pulitzer Prize, he received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award and performed at the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee. To the alarm of the audience, he passed out from heat stroke, recovering at a nearby hospital.

His performing schedule became more sparse in his last five years; his final public performance was at Prospect Park in Brooklyn in June 2014, as part of a tribute to him organized by his son.

“One of the things I am experiencing is very important,” he said in his Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech. “And that is: You don’t have to die to kill and you don’t have to kill to die. And above all, nothing exists that is not in the form of life because life is eternal with or without people, so we are grateful for life to be here at this very moment.”

June 11th, 2015
richard rezac

Untitled (14-03)
painted maple wood and cast bronze
27-1/2 x 19 x 3 inches

Through June 20, 2015

Marc Foxx

June 10th, 2015
Exploring the Roots of Grayson Perry and His Varied Artwork

Screen shot 2015-06-06 at 9.10.15 PM
The installation “Provincial Punk” contains over 50 works dating to 1981. Credit Stephen White

NY Times Published: JUNE 3, 2015

MARGATE, England — A blond homemaker in heels and a skirt suit walks past a road sign that has been vandalized and marked with the words “bungalow depression.” Moments earlier at her suburban house, she waters the plants and dusts the television as Lou Reed sings “Walk on the Wild Side.”

The housewife in the video (“Bungalow Depression,” 1981) is played by Grayson Perry, the cross-dressing British artist who won the Turner Prize in 2003 for his outlandish ceramic pots and has since broadened his practice to an array of disciplines. The film is being screened in his new solo show, through Sept. 13, at Turner Contemporary, a gallery in the English sea resort of Margate.

Mr. Perry, 55, is known today as much more than a ceramicist. He’s a maker of etchings and tapestries satirizing Britain, a radio lecturer and author on the art world, and a presenter of award-winning sociological television programs in which he makes tapestries, pots and sculptures of individuals he meets. He has just designed a fairy-tale-like house in Essex (available as a vacation rental) that’s a shrine to an imaginary Essex woman.

Mr. Perry in 2011-12 curated an exhibition at the British Museum that included some of his own works (“Grayson Perry: The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman”), and has shows this year at the Pera Museum in Istanbul and at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney. His works can fetch as much as 450,000 pounds, or about $687,000, according to his dealers, the Victoria Miro Gallery. Yet Mr. Perry’s eclecticism has led some critics to assert that his talks, writings and public appearances are more interesting than his creative output. In a scathing review of the Margate show, for example, Jonathan Jones of The Guardian wrote, “Grayson Perry would be a very good artist if he never made any art.”

Wearing a T-shirt and paint-splattered trousers, Mr. Perry said in a recent interview at his studio in London that he never reads reviews of his exhibitions.

“I love the way it grates on some people,” he said. “They have a set of criteria that I don’t measure up against very well.”

Mr. Perry said his multipronged pursuits had much to do with “always having enjoyed interaction with the media.” When he started out, he said, it “was seen as vulgarizing, the idea that you would hanker after attention.”

“Now,” he added, “it’s the most valuable currency of all in the age of the Internet: clicks is what we’re all after.”

The Margate exhibition, which Mr. Perry has dubbed “Provincial Punk,” contains more than 50 works dating as far back as 1981.

The show’s curator, Fiona Parry, said, “We felt that this was a time to revisit the whole practice of an artist who is now an extremely well-known figure, and see where some of his ideas and interests come from.”

The gallery’s director, Victoria Pomery, said that Mr. Perry was a “perfect fit” because he was originally from Essex, an area close to Margate, and that his art was accessible. “A lot of our visitors have never been in a museum or gallery in their life,” she said.

The exhibition consists of roomfuls of Mr. Perry’s pots, etchings and wall-length tapestries. These are interspersed with his earliest creations: primitive vases and plates in muddy tones; wild painted sketchbooks, filled with motorcycles and nude women; and grainy films.

The pots touch on aspects of Mr. Perry’s youth in Essex. As he recalls in his 2006 autobiography, “Grayson Perry: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl,” he grew up in a family that was torn apart by his mother’s decision to leave his father for the milkman, literally. Young Grayson was forced to cohabit with a physically aggressive stepfather, and created a rich imaginary world to escape to.

One personal piece in the exhibition, a golden vase with delicate floral motifs, is titled “Football Stands for Everything I Hate” (1996). It features rows of soccer shirts bearing mordant messages such as “working class and proud,” “pub bores,” “cockney” and “my stepfather.”

“I was a lot angrier and more black-and-white then: I might not make that pot now,” Mr. Perry said with a loud chuckle. “It was just before I went into therapy.”

What about his stepfather?

“He’d still be on it now,” Mr. Perry deadpanned.

After art school, he took up ceramics and soon turned what was an archaic medium into a vehicle for raw self-expression. By then, he was a cross-dresser, and today he still appears as Claire, his female alter ego, at receptions and openings, where he is sometimes accompanied by his wife, Philippa Perry, a psychotherapist, and their daughter, Flo, now 22.

Contradictions abound in Mr. Perry’s art, too. The array of vases in the exhibition’s opening room, displayed in individual vitrines, look like delicate antiques from afar. But up close, they’re contemporary and crude, juxtaposing, for example, prim catalog ads for ladies’ waistcoats with graphic depictions of women in bondage. Some of the other pots in the room look more humdrum, perhaps because there are nearly two dozen of them. Much more absorbing are the prints and tapestries in the next sections: products of Mr. Perry’s draftsmanship.

Charles Saumarez Smith, secretary and chief executive of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the 247-year-old artist-run institution to which Mr. Perry was elected in 2011, said he viewed Mr. Perry “more as a graphic artist than as a potter,” describing him as “a first-rate printmaker of extraordinary invention and imagination, with a great deal of intelligent social commentary.”

The etching “Map of Nowhere” (2008), on view in the show, is a self-portrait where Mr. Perry hovers, God-like, over a meticulously drawn medieval landscape. At his heart are patches of territory marked “despair” and “doubt.” Elsewhere on the map of his body, philosophical landmarks such as “mortality” and “the limits of reason” sit near prosaic ones like “kidults,” “Internet dating” and “trendy wine bar.”

Mr. Perry’s graphic skills are further showcased in his giant tapestries, which he draws on a computer and then has woven. “The Walthamstow Tapestry” (2009) shows a man’s trajectory from cradle to grave past a cornucopia of brands: from Woolworth’s, Coca-Cola, Mercedes and Chanel to Prada, easyJet, Ikea, and Marks & Spencer.

Is the work an indictment of modern-day consumer society?

“Not in such a clear, progressive, public-service” way, Mr. Perry said.

The angry and provocative denunciations of Mr. Perry’s youth have given way to milder forms of satire, exemplified by his witty new book on the art world, “Playing to the Gallery.”

Mr. Saumarez Smith said Mr. Perry ultimately represented “that very anarchic streak of independent-mindedness” characteristic of British art, describing him as “this generation’s Hogarth.” He was referring to William Hogarth, the 18th-century painter, printmaker and satirist, who was viewed in his day “as a slightly oddball artist, but of huge contemporary significance.”

June 6th, 2015
Bill would limit efforts to recoup Medi-Cal costs from patients’ estates

The state of California sued Linda Conder in March, seeking $120,000 her mother held in a bank account when she died in 2010. Medi-Cal had paid that amount to cover her mother’s care between 1999 and 2003. (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Times Published: June 5, 2015

The state’s Medi-Cal program has long looked to the estates and heirs of deceased Californians to recoup public money spent on their healthcare in the last years of life.

But the practice — including suing survivors and filing liens against the homes of poor families — is coming under attack in Sacramento.

On Thursday, the state Senate approved, 33 to 0, a bill by state Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) to order major changes in the Medi-Cal recovery program. It now goes to the Assembly.

If signed into law, Senate Bill 33 would limit the state’s ability to go after homes “of modest value,” allowing survivors hardship exemptions for homes with fair market value of 50% or less of the county average. It would also prohibit seeking money from the estates of surviving spouses.

The bill targets California-specific provisions of the recovery program, which are more aggressive than required by federal Medicaid regulations.

Hernandez took interest after learning that many poor families were reluctant to sign up for Medi-Cal because they didn’t want the state collecting after they died. Taking from estates and heirs “needlessly prolongs poverty,” he said Thursday.

“Californians shouldn’t be forced to put their house on the line in order to receive basic healthcare services,” he said.

Since 1993, California has recovered more than $1 billion from Medi-Cal recipients’ estates — and that number could swell as thousands more low-income people sign up for Medi-Cal as part of the Affordable Care Act. Almost a third of all Californians get some kind of assistance from Medi-Cal.

The $1 billion seized came from the estates of Medi-Cal recipients who died leaving behind assets, often their homes. If heirs do not voluntarily pay off the Medi-Cal debt, or win hardship exemptions, California officials file lawsuits to collect the debt in court.

The state’s recovery efforts take many survivors by surprise. Linda Conder, a 67-year-old Whittier woman, said she had no idea she could have taken steps to protect her mother’s assets from collection.

The state sued her in March, seeking $120,000 her mother held in a bank account when she died in 2010. Medi-Cal had paid that amount to cover her mother’s care between 1999 and 2003.

“If you’re wealthy enough, you can set it up in a certain way” to avoid collection, she said. “We didn’t know that. We don’t have attorneys working for us. That’s not the way everyday America works.”

Proponents of national collection efforts note that Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California) was intended as a last resort for people with no means to pay for healthcare — not a way to preserve assets they hope to pass down to heirs.

“Medicaid has been and should be the program of last resort for people who really have nowhere else to go,” said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Assn. of Medicaid Directors. “For people who do have options, for people who do have means, you really shouldn’t be relying on Medicaid for long-term care coverage.”

This year, the state also sued the five children of Trinidad and Maria Acosta to collect the $160,000 that Medi-Cal paid for the couple’s nursing home stays before they died. The Acostas left behind one asset, their home in the Cypress Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The immigrants from Guadalajara, Mexico, had worked hard to reach that goal — Trinidad as a welder, Maria a seamstress. One day, they thought, the two-bedroom home would be passed down to their five children: Maria, Juan, Rigoberto, Francisco and Gabriela.

But after the Acostas died, the state Department of Health Care Services sued their children, seeking more than $160,000, money that could come from only one place: the 1,056-square-foot home in which they were raised.

Federal law requires states to recover from the estates of deceased people who received Medicaid assistance for long-term medical care, including nursing homes. But California takes it one step further, collecting for nearly all medical services for people 55 and older covered by Medi-Cal.

There are exceptions. The state doesn’t collect if the person who died has a child under age 21, or a child who’s disabled. If there’s a surviving spouse, the state holds off until that spouse dies.

When Trinidad Acosta died in 2000, the state didn’t collect the $72,000 that Medi-Cal had spent to cover his stay in a nursing home because his wife was still alive. But after Maria Acosta died in 2011, the state put in a $162,000 claim against her estate — for the $90,000 Medi-Cal spent on her health coverage, plus the money it had spent on her husband.

The couple’s daughter Maria Villegas said the only way they can pay that bill is to sell their parents’ home on Arvia Street. It’s a shame, she said, because her parents had worked hard to pay off the home.

“I saw my parents struggle to buy that home and pride they had in keeping that house,” Villegas said. “It was a legacy they left to us.”

Selling the home to pay the Medi-Cal collectors would not be easy; two of her brothers live in the home and are unemployed, she said.

“God willing, they have a lot of years ahead of them. Where will they go? They’ll be homeless,” she said.

Margaret Hoffeditz, chief of the recovery branch of the state Department of Health Care Services, said the state will not evict heirs from a home. Rather, the state would place a lien on the property and collect only when the home is sold — even if it’s decades later.

“We’ve never forced the sale of a home…. We’re not in the business of tossing people out onto the street,” Hoffeditz said.

The department also allows heirs to make hardship claims and will, in some cases, reduce or forgive Medi-Cal debts, she said. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, the department granted more than 100 hardship claims, agreeing to reduce or eliminate the debt.

The state’s compassionate collection efforts are of little comfort to Anne-Louise Vernon, a 60-year-old unemployed woman who said she was forced to choose Medi-Cal when she signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act because she did not make enough money to be eligible for other policies.

Now, the premiums that Medi-Cal pays for her policy with Kaiser Permanente — about $600 a month — are accumulating as a bill that will be collectible from her estate, which would include a home in Campbell, near San Jose.

“Remember, now it’s against the law not to get health insurance,” Vernon said. “To be forced into a debt against your will, it’s ugly.”

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill from Hernandez last year, citing financial considerations. Limiting Medi-Cal estate collection could cost the state about $25 million a year, by some estimates.

Hernandez said he is optimistic about the bill’s chances this year. “Gov. Brown has the power to stop estate recovery,” he said Thursday, “either through the budget or by signing this bill. I trust that he will make the right choice this year.”

June 5th, 2015
California Farmers Dig Deeper for Water, Sipping Their Neighbors Dry

A field of drought-stricken almond trees in the Central Valley await the chipper. Scarcity of water has always been an issue in the valley, which gets only about 10 inches of rain a year. Credit Chad Ress for The New York Times

NY Times Published: JUNE 5, 2015

Early one morning in late April, Parvinder Hundal stood beside a hole in the ground at the edge of his almond farm near Tulare in the Central Valley of California. The hole, which was about the size of a volleyball and was encased in a shallow block of concrete, was the opening of a well, one that went hundreds of feet into the earth. He had paid $100,000 to have it drilled, but it wasn’t producing water. Mr. Hundal was hoping that if he cleaned out the well, the water would start flowing again.

On the nearby trees, some leaves had turned yellow and the almond husks appeared smaller than usual. In February, Mr. Hundal received emails from various water districts, informing him that, because of a historic drought that has left reservoirs nearly dry, he would most likely get no surface water to irrigate his 4,000 acres of crops this summer. Not one drop.

Mr. Hundal watched as his nephew, his right-hand man, prepared to lower pipe into the hole. “We’ll have water by the end of the day, I hope,” Mr. Hundal said.

Mr. Hundal is an optimist. An immigrant from Punjab in northwest India, he arrived in California in 1986 with little money and, through a combination of borrowing and shrewdness, he managed to make a small fortune through farming. But he’s also a pragmatist. Since he can’t count on the virtually unlimited surface water he’s been allotted in the past, he’s been looking for water underground. This year, Mr. Hundal spent $300,000 to hire a contractor to dig three new wells, including the one in Tulare. Those didn’t pan out. So he wired $670,000 to a broker in Texas to buy his own used drill. No water, no problem. Mr. Hundal will drill when he wants.

There’s a well-drilling boom in the Central Valley, and it’s a water grab as intense as any land grab before it. Drilling contractors are so swamped with requests that there is a wait of four to six months for a new well. Drilling permits are soaring. In Tulare County, home to several of Mr. Hundal’s almond farms, 660 permits for new irrigation wells were taken out by the end of this April, up from 383 during the same period last year and just 60 five years ago — a figure rising “exponentially,” said Tammie Weyker, spokeswoman for Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency.

The new drill that Mr. Hundal ordered from Texas should be up and running in a few weeks. He says it can push 2,500 feet into the ground, tapping new aquifers and making way for wells that can produce thousands of gallons of water a minute. He plans to drill at least six new wells on his various farms across the Central Valley: Four of them are in Tulare, and two are on property 100 miles north.

“It’s about survival,” he said. “Everybody is pulling water out of the ground.”

“Nobody is bothered,” he added. “The neighbors aren’t bothered. Everybody is doing what they’ve got to do.”

It turns out, though, that some people are bothered — very bothered — and are growing hostile. That’s because the drilling has serious side effects. Rampant drilling causes underground water levels to fall. When shallow farm and domestic wells that serve residences dry up, the underground bounty goes to those who can afford to dig deeper.

When it comes to drilling for water, there are few rules and no boundaries. Generally, farmers who follow a set of modest regulations can drill on their own land.

California passed stronger regulations last year that are intended to govern underground drilling. Details of the rules are still being worked out. But even then, the rules won’t have any real effect for 25 years or more, says Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“You drill a well on your property, you draw it out, even if it means you draw from under your neighbor’s property,” he says. “You’re drawing water from every direction.”

Underground water supply isn’t fenced or restricted; it is moisture held in the soil, rocks and clay, and drawn through wells like soda through a straw.

In a normal year, Mr. Famiglietti says, 33 percent of California’s water comes from underground, but this year it is expected to approach 75 percent. Since 2011, he says, the state has lost eight trillion gallons from its overall water reserves, two-thirds of that from its underground aquifers.

“We can’t keep doing this,” Mr. Famiglietti says.

The draining of the aquifers creates another hazard aboveground. As water is pulled from the spongy layers below, the ground above collapses, creating what is known as subsidence. Where subsidence is the worst, the land can sink as much as a foot each year.

Water scarcity and buckling land have neighboring farmers eyeing one another warily. Relations are fraying, with the drilling threatening to revive tensions that have been subdued for half a century or more, when farmers last relied so heavily on groundwater, says Gary Sawyers, a prominent lawyer on water rights in the region. But now, with the expansion of agriculture in the Central Valley and the planting of thirsty, year-round crops like almonds, the demand for water is much greater.

“It’s the same situation as 60 or 70 years ago,” Mr. Sawyers says, “but squared, or on steroids.”

Worth More Than Gold

On Aug. 18, 1962, President John F. Kennedy landed in a helicopter near an enormous dusty bowl in the northern Central Valley. He had come for a groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of the San Luis Reservoir, which would eventually store hundreds of billions of gallons of the water from the Sierra Nevada to the north.

Speaking from beneath an ornate tent to hundreds of sunbaked listeners, President Kennedy said that coming to the area, he could see “the greenest and richest earth producing the greatest and richest crops in the country, and then a mile away see the same earth and see it brown and dusty and useless — all because there’s water in one place and there isn’t in another.”

The construction in 1963 of the California Aqueduct system changed all that. Before it was built, farmers had relied on wells for their water, which led to the land collapsing. The surface water irrigation meant less pumping and led to “widespread groundwater recoveries, and subsidence essentially ceased in many areas,” notes Michelle Sneed, a senior scientist at the United States Geological Survey.

Continue reading the main story
Scarcity of water has always been an issue in the Central Valley, which gets only about 10 inches of rain a year. A German immigrant named Henry Miller, who was a pioneer in the region in the latter half of the 1800s, developed a system of canals and founded the region’s first irrigation company for farmers. A legend, he was called the Cattle King of California, and he “realized early on that water was ultimately of higher value than gold in California,” according to a biography edited by the German Historical Institute.

The value of water has become acutely real to Mr. Miller’s great-great-great-grandson Cannon Michael, who is the president of the Bowles Farming Company.

Tall and well spoken, Mr. Michael is the product of an elite boarding school and the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in English. After 15 years working at Bowles — which has $25 million in annual sales, about 15 percent of that profit — he became president of the family enterprise just last year.

It wasn’t the easiest time to take charge.

Sitting at a conference table in his ranch-style offices, Mr. Michael displayed a Google Earth map on a large monitor on the wall. The map showed the area in and around his 10,500-acre farm, not far from the San Luis Reservoir, in the northern part of the Central Valley — much closer to Silicon Valley than to Los Angeles.

On the map, some areas were yellow, others red. Yellow areas, he said, had suffered moderate subsidence. Red meant real trouble — in some of those red areas, the land had been dropping nearly a foot a year, on average, since 2008.

“That’s our diversion point,” Mr. Michael told me.

Sack Dam is the place on the San Joaquin River where surface water finishes its long journey from the north and is diverted onto the farms of Mr. Michael and his neighbors. Because Mr. Michael’s farm is a parcel from the Miller farm, established in 1858, he has high-priority access to surface water. That is particularly important now, because in times of scarcity, these senior water rights holders — generally, farms established before 1914 — get their water allotment before farms with lower-priority rights, like those owned by Mr. Hundal.

But now there’s a problem for all the farmers, no matter what rights they have to surface water: Heavy drilling by farmers near Sack Dam is causing the land to cave in so much that the water is having trouble taking its normal path. Further subsidence will make it hard for water to get through Sack Dam to Mr. Michael’s farm and those of his neighbors.

“Water traditionally flowed with gravity,” as Mr. Michael put it. “It isn’t going to run uphill.”

One of the hundreds of farms in the Sack Dam area belongs to Mr. Hundal. He and Mr. Michael have never met, so in one sense, there’s no particular connection between them. But like all the farmers in the region, they are connected by water.

This year, thanks to his senior status, Mr. Michael will get surface water, about 50 percent of his usual amount, a hardship that means fallowing about 2,500 acres of wheat, cotton, alfalfa and tomato fields. By happenstance, the water that he and his neighbors get this year comes from a source that historically supplied the lower-priority water rights holders in Tulare. Those farmers, including Mr. Hundal, won’t get any water.

Another connection between these farmers has to do with subsidence, as Mr. Michael showed on his map. He found Mr. Hundal’s farm, about 20 miles northeast of Sack Dam. It was colored yellow and red to signify heavy subsidence, and the stream of color connected all the way down to Mr. Michael’s diversion point.

Mr. Michael doesn’t rebuke Mr. Hundal or others for drilling. “You take away a guy’s surface water,” he said, “and he’s going to do what he has to do to survive.” But his tone hardened when he talked about what could amount to a $10 million bill to install a pump to push the water uphill at Sack Dam if the subsidence worsens.

“We could make a legal case that these folks are causing the issue,” he said of the farmers who are drilling near the dam.

Chase Hurley, the manager of the San Luis Canal Company. “Based on current California law,” he said, “you can dig as many holes as you want.” Credit Chad Ress for The New York Times
That sentiment is shared by a number of the senior water rights holders, says Chase Hurley, the manager of the San Luis Canal Company, which manages water for about 45,000 acres, including Mr. Michael’s land. Mr. Hurley says the farmers with senior rights have been rumbling about a way to “get this thing straightened out” or else go after the other farmers in court. They are focused on drillers within about five miles of the dam.

Mr. Hurley tells them they don’t have a very good legal case. “Based on current California law,” he says, “you can dig as many holes as you want.”

Besides, he adds, which landowners would they sue? Farmers whose land borders Sack Dam, or those a few miles out, like Mr. Hundal?

Geology isn’t neat, and the underground aquifer is like a giant earthy sponge, explains Ms. Sneed of the United States Geological Survey. And not all the holes in the sponge connect; sometimes, drilling in one well might drain a hole at a distance and not affect one nearby. There is no simple way, she says, to trace a crater to the particular well that sucked the groundwater out of it.

Mr. Hundal, 57, drove me around his farms in his Ford F-250 pickup truck and described growing up on a farm in India, getting a college degree and immigrating to San Francisco. Seven years after he arrived, he had a master’s degree in agronomy from Chico State and 20 acres. Then, a few years later, he bought 90 more acres — “that was a really risky step,” he said. He smiled at the audacity. He said he borrowed the $650,000 for the new land and grew almonds, long before it was common to do so.

Possible solutions to the water shortage, like using pipes to connect farms so they can share water more efficiently, could take years to put in place. Credit Chad Ress for The New York Times
Now he takes in $14 million in sales from his collection of farms, mostly almond orchards. He hires 25 farmworkers from February through October, but still tends to a lot himself, using a jury-rigged tractor to plant almond and cherry trees. He and his wife recently bought a second home at Pebble Beach for $8 million.

At one of his farms in Tulare, he stopped at a rectangular reservoir six feet deep and a quarter of the size of a football field. “When we get water, we put it here,” he said. It was, on that April day, a dusty bed, with patches of green.

I told him about Mr. Hurley’s concerns about the heavy drilling.

“That’s just baloney,” Mr. Hundal said. “I don’t think it’s causing problems.” He said the subsidence could be caused “by heavy ground.” (His is not a position supported by science.)

Besides, he said, “They take our water and don’t want us to drill.”

Mr. Hurley driving beside a canal managed by his company. Credit Chad Ress for The New York Times
I told him that some of the farmers with senior water rights have talked about suing farmers drilling near the dam — not Mr. Hundal necessarily, but maybe ones closer to Sack Dam.

“They can do that,” but it would be a “waste of time in court,” he said, kicking a cloud of dust. Mr. Sawyers — who works for farmers on both sides of Sack Dam — says that a lawsuit over subsidence could be the first of its kind. He couldn’t recall another. But neither has there been such a drought in recent history. “The current circumstances,” he says, “may give rise to all kinds of new lawsuits.”

This is not to say a lawsuit is imminent or even likely. Mr. Hurley, who runs the water management company, has helped the farmers with senior water rights try diplomacy. Their group has spent $250,000 to help the districts to the east study how to fix the subsidence. Farmers on both sides of the dam have talked of jointly developing an underground reservoir that would be replenished with floodwaters. But floodwaters, even under normal climate conditions, are released only about every four years, Mr. Hurley says. Other possible solutions, like using pipes to connect farms so they can share water more efficiently, could also take years.

Many farmers in the Central Valley agree on a collection of nemeses that includes the news media, regulators and environmentalists. But now there are new tensions. Chris Hurd, a farmer in the region for three decades, still contends that environmental interests and regulators are most to blame for water scarcity, but he notes that comity among farmers has started to fray. “The infighting that’s going on is going to get real bad,” he says. It’s “one year at a time,” he explained of farmers’ mind-set. “Most guys can make money if they can figure out how to get things wet the next 120 days.”

“Guys are overdrafting right next to each other,” he says of the water drilling, adding that he recently saw one farmer’s wells go dry just days after a farmer half a mile away put in a deeper well.

But “what’s going to drive it to the forefront,” he says, is not farmer losses but “when a lot of domestic wells will go dry this summer.”

The Race to Drill Deeper

What’s bad for California farmers is turning out to be good for Michael Higgins. He owns Summit Power & Supply, a company in Austin, Tex., that buys and sells drilling equipment, for water and oil wells. He gets six calls a week from Golden State farmers, up from one every two months just two years ago.

“They’re getting frantic,” Mr. Higgins says.

When Mr. Hundal went to Texas to shop for drills, he discovered something remarkable: Mr. Higgins’s customers were familiar names. “I knew everybody,” Mr. Hundal says. “It was amazing.”

Mr. Higgins has delivered drilling rigs to Bakersfield, Goleta, Madera, Orland, Porterville and other places in California. Two of the drills he sold went to a contractor in Los Banos, and in late April those drills were used to put new wells on the Bowles farm run by Mr. Michael.

For all his concerns about drilling, Mr. Michael decided he had no choice but to join the drillers as a long-term “insurance policy.” Plus, with reduced surface water this year, he says he needs to pull the water from somewhere. He says he’s drilling wells — costing $100,000 each — that go only a few hundred feet deep, above the layer that seems to cause ground collapse.

Two simple, if contradictory, themes have emerged among farmers: One, we’re all in this together. Two, it’s every man for himself.

Steve Laird, who has a small farm in the area, puts it this way: “When it comes down to it, it’s either mine or yours. You do what you have to do to survive.”

Mr. Hundal’s new drill arrived from Texas in the middle of May. Then another challenge arose: He had reached a handshake agreement with a licensed driller to operate the drill, but the driller, Mr. Hundal said, started “dragging his feet.”

Mr. Hundal suspected the reason. “He wants big money. He smells that,” he said. “I can’t drill without a license.”

As he waited to start drilling a new well, Mr. Hundal discovered that his neighbor was also drilling across the street, just 100 feet away. Mr. Hundal thought it was possible that the neighbor’s well would suck up his water.

“It’s crazy, but I can’t tell him to drill away from me,” Mr. Hundal said. “It’s his land, not mine.”

If his well goes dry, Mr. Hundal said, “I’ll have to drill another one and go a little deeper.”

June 5th, 2015
Alice Mackler

glaze, clay
10 x 5.25 x 4.9 in
25.4 x 13.3 x 12.4 cm

Through June 21, 2015

Kerry Schuss

June 2nd, 2015
Our Water-Guzzling Food Factory

Fritz Durst farms 12 crops and raises cattle on 6,000 acres in Zamora, Calif. This irrigation canal has been dry since 2013. Max Whittaker for The New York Times

By Nicholas Kristof
NY Times Published: MAY 30, 2015

LET’S start with a quiz.

Which consumes the most water?

A) a 10-minute shower.

B) a handful of 10 almonds.

C) a quarterpound hamburger patty.

D) a washing machine load.

The answer? By far, it’s the hamburger patty. The shower might use 25 gallons. The almonds take up almost a gallon each, or close to 10 gallons for the handful. The washing machine uses about 35 gallons per load. And that beef patty, around 450 gallons.

The drought in California hit home when I was backpacking with my daughter there recently on the Pacific Crest Trail, and the first eight creeks or springs we reached were all dry.

The crisis in California is a harbinger of water scarcity in much of the world. And while we associate extravagant water use with swimming pools and verdant lawns, the biggest consumer, by far, is agriculture. In California, 80 percent of water used by humans goes to farming and ranching.

That’s where that hamburger patty comes in.

I grew up on a sheep and cherry farm near Yamhill, Ore. I worked for a year for the Future Farmers of America, and I still spend time every year on our family farm. But while I prize America’s rural heritage, let’s be blunt: It’s time for a fundamental rethinking of America’s food factory.

A mandarin orange consumes 14 gallons of water. A head of lettuce, 12 gallons. A bunch of grapes, 24 gallons. One single walnut, 2 gallons.

Animal products use even more water, mostly because of the need to raise grain or hay to feed the animals. Plant material converts quite inefficiently into animal protein.

So a single egg takes 53 gallons of water to produce. A pound of chicken, 468 gallons. A gallon of milk, 880 gallons. And a pound of beef, 1,800 gallons of water. (Of course, these figures are all approximate, and estimates differ. These are based on data from the Pacific Institute and National Geographic.)

You can also calculate your own water footprint at National Geographic’s website.

Our industrial food system produces food almost miraculously cheaply. In 1930, whole dressed chicken retailed for $6.48 per pound in today’s currency, according to the National Chicken Council; in real terms, the price has fallen by more than three-quarters. And, boy, is the system good at producing cheap high-fructose corn syrup!

Yet industrial agriculture imposes other unsustainable costs:

• It overuses antibiotics, resulting in dangers to the public from antibiotic-resistant diseases. About four-fifths of antibiotics sold in the United States are for livestock and poultry — even as 23,000 people die annually in America from antibiotic resistant infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

• Farming overuses chemicals such as pesticides, some of them endocrine-disruptors that have been linked to possible cancer, obesity and reproductive disorders.

• Factory farming is often based on treating animals, particularly poultry, with ruthless cruelty.

To this indictment, we can add irrational subsidies and water engineering projects that have led to irrigation in areas where it doesn’t make sense. Today, California, despite the drought, is effectively exporting water (in the form of milk, beef, walnuts and produce).

Most of agriculture’s irrationalities aren’t the fault of farmers but arise from lax regulation and mistaken pricing, and that’s true of water as well. Traditionally in the West, water was mostly allocated on a first-come basis, so if you acquired water rights more than a century ago you can mostly still access water for uses (two gallons per walnut!) that no longer make sense in an age of scarcity.

As for the foolishness of agricultural subsidies, until recently, the federal government paid me, a New York journalist, $588 a year not to grow crops in Oregon. I rest my case.

Let’s be clear that it’s unfair to blame farmers for the present problems. We’re the ones eating those water-intensive hamburgers, and we’re the ones whose political system created these irrationalities.

Like most Americans, I eat meat, but it’s worth thinking hard about the inefficiency in that hamburger patty — and the small lake that has dried up to make it possible.

Maybe our industrial agriculture system is beginning to change, for we’re seeing some signs of a food revolution in America, with greater emphasis on organic food and animal rights. Just a week ago, Walmart called on suppliers to stop keeping calves in veal crates and hogs in gestation crates.

Something good could come from the California drought if it could push this revolution a bit further, by forcing a reallocation of water to the most efficient uses. But remember that the central challenge can’t be solved by a good rain because the larger problem is an irrational industrial food system.

May 30th, 2015

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Chris Martin, For Paul Thek (Lobsters), 2008-2012, Oil, spray paint, collage on canvas 45 x 37 inches (114.3 x 94 cm), CM0115



Richard Telles

May 29th, 2015
The Insecure American

NY Times Published: MAY 29, 2015
By: Paul Krugman

America remains, despite the damage inflicted by the Great Recession and its aftermath, a very rich country. But many Americans are economically insecure, with little protection from life’s risks. They frequently experience financial hardship; many don’t expect to be able to retire, and if they do retire have little to live on besides Social Security.

Many readers will, I hope, find nothing surprising in what I just said. But all too many affluent Americans — and, in particular, members of our political elite — seem to have no sense of how the other half lives. Which is why a new study on the financial well-being of U.S. households, conducted by the Federal Reserve, should be required reading inside the Beltway.

Before I get to that study, a few words about the callous obliviousness so prevalent in our political life.

I am not, or not only, talking about right-wing contempt for the poor, although the dominance of compassionless conservatism is a sight to behold. According to the Pew Research Center, more than three-quarters of conservatives believe that the poor “have it easy” thanks to government benefits; only 1 in 7 believe that the poor “have hard lives.” And this attitude translates into policy. What we learn from the refusal of Republican-controlled states to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government would foot the bill, is that punishing the poor has become a goal in itself, one worth pursuing even if it hurts rather than helps state budgets.

But leave self-declared conservatives and their contempt for the poor on one side. What’s really striking is the disconnect between centrist conventional wisdom and the reality of life — and death — for much of the nation.

Take, as a prime example, positioning on Social Security. For decades, a declared willingness to cut Social Security benefits, especially by raising the retirement age, has been almost a required position — a badge of seriousness — for politicians and pundits who want to sound wise and responsible. After all, people are living longer, so shouldn’t they work longer, too? And isn’t Social Security an old-fashioned system, out of touch with modern economic realities?

Meanwhile, the reality is that living longer in our ever-more-unequal society is very much a class thing: life expectancy at age 65 has risen a lot among the affluent, but hardly at all in the bottom half of the wage distribution, that is, among those who need Social Security most. And while the retirement system F.D.R. introduced may look old-fashioned to affluent professionals, it is quite literally a lifeline for many of our fellow citizens. A majority of Americans over 65 get more than half their income from Social Security, and more than a quarter are almost completely reliant on those monthly checks.

These realities may finally be penetrating political debate, to some extent. We seem to be hearing less these days about cutting Social Security, and we’re even seeing some attention paid to proposals for benefit increases given the erosion of private pensions. But my sense is that Washington still has no clue about the realities of life for those not yet elderly. Which is where that Federal Reserve study comes in.

This is the study’s second year, and the current edition actually portrays a nation in recovery: in 2014, unlike 2013, a substantial plurality of respondents said that they were better off than they had been five years ago. Yet it’s startling how little room for error there is in many American lives.

We learn, for example, that 3 in 10 nonelderly Americans said they had no retirement savings or pension, and that the same fraction reported going without some kind of medical care in the past year because they couldn’t afford it. Almost a quarter reported that they or a family member had experienced financial hardship in the past year.

And something that even startled me: 47 percent said that they would not have the resources to meet an unexpected expense of $400 — $400! They would have to sell something or borrow to meet that need, if they could meet it at all.

Of course, it could be much worse. Social Security is there, and we should be very glad that it is. Meanwhile, unemployment insurance and food stamps did a lot to cushion unlucky families from the worst during the Great Recession. And Obamacare, imperfect as it is, has immensely reduced insecurity, especially in states whose governments haven’t tried to sabotage the program.

But while things could be worse, they could also be better. There is no such thing as perfect security, but American families could easily have much more security than they have. All it would take is for politicians and pundits to stop talking blithely about the need to cut “entitlements” and start looking at the way their less-fortunate fellow citizens actually live.☐

May 29th, 2015
Jon Stewart, Iraq War Critic, Runs a Program That Helps Veterans Enter TV

Jon Stewart with veterans who attended a job fair at the studio for “The Daily Show” this month. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

NY Times Published: MAY 25, 2015

During the surge in Iraq in 2008, Nathan Witmer led an Army scout platoon in a thicket of villages rife with insurgents and roadside bombs. What he really wants to do is direct.

Or maybe write — or produce.

“Anything with movies was always the dream,” said Mr. Witmer, who left active duty in 2010.

Like many troops leaving the military, he was steered instead toward jobs in government agencies that offered referential hiring or with big corporations that recruited veterans, and he assumed his hope of working in show business would remain only that.

But after selling medical equipment for two years, he had the chance to join a five-week industry boot camp designed to bring young veterans into the television business. To his surprise, it was run by one of the Iraq war’s fiercest critics, Jon Stewart, the longtime host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

“It was actually inspirational,” said Mr. Witmer, who went on to work at Fox News and then found a job as a “Daily Show” associate field segment producer. “We hear ‘Thank you for your service’ all the time, but here was concrete action, people working to really make a difference. And it changed lives. I’m proof of that.”

“The Daily Show” developed the program over the last three years without publicizing it, but now, because Mr. Stewart is preparing to leave the show, he has taken it into the open, urging other shows to develop their own programs to bring more veterans into the industry.

“This is ready to franchise. Please steal our idea,” Mr. Stewart said in an interview at his Manhattan studio recently. “It isn’t charity. To be good in this business you have to bring in different voices from different places, and we have this wealth of experience that just wasn’t being tapped.”

Veterans are less likely to struggle to find work after war — their unemployment rate has been lower than the comparable civilian rate for years — but few land in the entertainment industry, according to the industry group Veterans in Film and Television.

Karen Kraft, a board member of the group, which tries to draw more veterans into the industry, said the small number of military veterans in show business was partly because military service supplanted the years of internships and entry-level jobs often required to establish a beachhead in the industry. The phenomenon may also be connected to a cultural divide that has kept quirky, left-leaning Hollywood and the high-and-tight world of the military from connecting.

“Sometimes people want to apologize for being in the military out here; it’s so misunderstood,” Ms. Kraft, a former soldier who became a producer in Los Angeles, said of Hollywood. “It’s a creative industry, and they tend to see military people as a bunch of rule followers.”

Efforts to bring veterans into the field have included workshops by the Writers Guild of America and projects by big-name producers and directors, among them Bruce Cohen and Judd Apatow, that involve young veterans.

Mr. Stewart may at first seem an unexpected bridge for a Hollywood-military divide. For years the host built his audience by playing straight man to the often absurd truths of the global “war on terror,” serving up scathing satire on American involvement in the Middle East in his longstanding segments “Mess o’Potamia” and “Crisis in Israfghyianonanaq.” At the same time, though, he has been an advocate for troops, visiting the wounded at hospitals, visiting Arlington National Cemetery and in 2011 doing a comedy tour of bases in Afghanistan.

“I knew I had very strong opinions about what we were doing over there, and I wanted to visit the individuals who were part of the effort to gain a perspective on it,” Mr. Stewart said. He added: “Most of all, I realized it was unbelievably hot, nothing but sand. I knew we were nation-building there. I didn’t realize we were nation-building on Mars.”


Justine Cabulong, a former Marine lieutenant who served in Mongolia and Afghanistan, now warms up the audience before “The Daily Show” begins. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times
In 2013, American Corporate Partners, a mentoring nonprofit group, asked Mr. Stewart to take a veteran under his wing and help find that person a job in television, which involved making a few calls.

“Jon said he wanted to help, but wanted to do more than just drop his name,” said Sid Goodfriend, who runs the program.

Instead, the staff of “The Daily Show” developed an intense five-week immersion program to give veterans a crash course in their business, with behind-the-scenes looks at areas including talent booking and editing.

They put out word to veterans’ groups but did not mention that the boot camp was at “The Daily Show,” an attempt to weed out fans and focus instead on veterans who really wanted to work in the industry.

“There are well-worn channels into this industry that are closed off to veterans,” Mr. Stewart said. “You get into the television industry generally by going to certain colleges known for having good television programs, getting internships and getting to know people who work in the industry. A lot of veterans never had that opportunity because they were busy at war. This is a way to give them that chance.”

He added that the veterans he had hired had been assets and “way less whiny” than most of his hires.

“The Daily Show” created a program to offer the benefits of an internship — experience and connections — in a form that veterans working full-time jobs could accommodate. Each class of 24 meets once a week in the evening. The program ends with a career fair that has landed a handful of vets jobs in television.

One of them is Justine Cabulong, a former Marine lieutenant who served in Mongolia and Afghanistan and is now a production coordinator at “The Daily Show” — a job that among other things includes a brief comedy routine before the show that warns audience members that if they don’t remain seated and keep their phones turned off, they “will be detained.”

“I feel like the Marines was a good preparation for ‘The Daily Show,’ actually,” she said. “The show is high tempo; it’s pretty chaotic; you have to work together. We might be on the road, not be getting much sleep. But at the same time, it’s not a war zone here. No one is shooting at us. Yes, the printer might have just died, but we can call the printer guy.”

May 25th, 2015
Billy Al Bengston | A Tribute to Craig Kauffman


MAY 24 THROUGH JUNE 25, 2015






South Willard Shop Exhibit

May 20th, 2015
Errors and Lies

NY Times Published: MAY 18, 2015
BY: Paul Krugman

Surprise! It turns out that there’s something to be said for having the brother of a failed president make his own run for the White House. Thanks to Jeb Bush, we may finally have the frank discussion of the Iraq invasion we should have had a decade ago.

But many influential people — not just Mr. Bush — would prefer that we not have that discussion. There’s a palpable sense right now of the political and media elite trying to draw a line under the subject. Yes, the narrative goes, we now know that invading Iraq was a terrible mistake, and it’s about time that everyone admits it. Now let’s move on.

Well, let’s not — because that’s a false narrative, and everyone who was involved in the debate over the war knows that it’s false. The Iraq war wasn’t an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong. America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war. The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that. We were, in a fundamental sense, lied into war.

The fraudulence of the case for war was actually obvious even at the time: the ever-shifting arguments for an unchanging goal were a dead giveaway. So were the word games — the talk about W.M.D that conflated chemical weapons (which many people did think Saddam had) with nukes, the constant insinuations that Iraq was somehow behind 9/11.

And at this point we have plenty of evidence to confirm everything the war’s opponents were saying. We now know, for example, that on 9/11 itself — literally before the dust had settled — Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, was already plotting war against a regime that had nothing to do with the terrorist attack. “Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] …sweep it all up things related and not”; so read notes taken by Mr. Rumsfeld’s aide.

This was, in short, a war the White House wanted, and all of the supposed mistakes that, as Jeb puts it, “were made” by someone unnamed actually flowed from this underlying desire. Did the intelligence agencies wrongly conclude that Iraq had chemical weapons and a nuclear program? That’s because they were under intense pressure to justify the war. Did prewar assessments vastly understate the difficulty and cost of occupation? That’s because the war party didn’t want to hear anything that might raise doubts about the rush to invade. Indeed, the Army’s chief of staff was effectively fired for questioning claims that the occupation phase would be cheap and easy.

Why did they want a war? That’s a harder question to answer. Some of the warmongers believed that deploying shock and awe in Iraq would enhance American power and influence around the world. Some saw Iraq as a sort of pilot project, preparation for a series of regime changes. And it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that there was a strong element of wagging the dog, of using military triumph to strengthen the Republican brand at home.

Whatever the precise motives, the result was a very dark chapter in American history. Once again: We were lied into war.

Now, you can understand why many political and media figures would prefer not to talk about any of this. Some of them, I suppose, may have been duped: may have fallen for the obvious lies, which doesn’t say much about their judgment. More, I suspect, were complicit: they realized that the official case for war was a pretext, but had their own reasons for wanting a war, or, alternatively, allowed themselves to be intimidated into going along. For there was a definite climate of fear among politicians and pundits in 2002 and 2003, one in which criticizing the push for war looked very much like a career killer.

On top of these personal motives, our news media in general have a hard time coping with policy dishonesty. Reporters are reluctant to call politicians on their lies, even when these involve mundane issues like budget numbers, for fear of seeming partisan. In fact, the bigger the lie, the clearer it is that major political figures are engaged in outright fraud, the more hesitant the reporting. And it doesn’t get much bigger — indeed, more or less criminal — than lying America into war.

But truth matters, and not just because those who refuse to learn from history are doomed in some general sense to repeat it. The campaign of lies that took us into Iraq was recent enough that it’s still important to hold the guilty individuals accountable. Never mind Jeb Bush’s verbal stumbles. Think, instead, about his foreign-policy team, led by people who were directly involved in concocting a false case for war.

So let’s get the Iraq story right. Yes, from a national point of view the invasion was a mistake. But (with apologies to Talleyrand) it was worse than a mistake, it was a crime.

May 18th, 2015
Arthur Ou

An Arthur Ou image of Moyra Davey, on view at Brennan & Griffin. Credit Courtesy of the artist and Brennan & Griffin

NY Times Published: MAY 14, 2015

In the preface to his “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,” from 1921, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein writes, “Perhaps this book will be understood only by someone who has himself already had the thoughts that are expressed in it — or at least similar thoughts.” The same might be said of Arthur Ou’s current exhibition, which features 14 black-and-white images of contemporary photographers reading passages from the “Tractatus.”

One reason is that the book, a landmark of 20th-century Western philosophy, proposed a picture theory of language in which statements or propositions allow us to visualize things, helping to form the basis of our reality. One could argue, however, that in our image-saturated world, pictures have actually taken over. (The Czech philosopher Vilem Flusser, another Wittgenstein fan, called this “the photographic universe” — a term borrowed by Mr. Ou for recent photography conferences at Parsons.)

Yet our notions of reality and pictures have changed radically since Wittgenstein’s time, and this is particularly true of photography after the digital revolution. The fact that Mr. Ou used an analog view camera and a darkroom to develop these photographs is significant. And the checklist tells us that Mr. Ou’s sitters — James Welling, Moyra Davey, Joachim Schmid, Anne Collier and other noted artists of the Conceptual clan — are reading specific passages from the “Tractatus,” mostly relating to images, objects, thought and the world, but also, presumably, to their own work.

Mr. Ou’s whole project is very inside-photography, perhaps too much for some viewers. But Wittgenstein also states in his preface that his book’s “purpose would be achieved if it gave pleasure to one person who read and understood it.” Mr. Ou’s exhibition succeeded for me, though claiming to fully understand its debt to Wittgenstein would be unwise.

Brennan and Griffin

May 17th, 2015

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May 16th, 2015
Fraternity of Failure

NY Times Published: MAY 15, 2015
By: Paul Krugman

Jeb Bush wants to stop talking about past controversies. And you can see why. He has a lot to stop talking about. But let’s not honor his wish. You can learn a lot by studying recent history, and you can learn even more by watching how politicians respond to that history.

The big “Let’s move on” story of the past few days involved Mr. Bush’s response when asked in an interview whether, knowing what he knows now, he would have supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He answered that yes, he would. No W.M.D.? No stability after all the lives and money expended? No problem.

Then he tried to walk it back. He “interpreted the question wrong,” and isn’t interested in engaging “hypotheticals.” Anyway, “going back in time” is a “disservice” to those who served in the war.

Take a moment to savor the cowardice and vileness of that last remark. And, no, that’s not hyperbole. Mr. Bush is trying to hide behind the troops, pretending that any criticism of political leaders — especially, of course, his brother, the commander in chief — is an attack on the courage and patriotism of those who paid the price for their superiors’ mistakes. That’s sinking very low, and it tells us a lot more about the candidate’s character than any number of up-close-and-personal interviews.

Wait, there’s more: Incredibly, Mr. Bush resorted to the old passive-voice dodge, admitting only that “mistakes were made.” Indeed. By whom? Well, earlier this year Mr. Bush released a list of his chief advisers on foreign policy, and it was a who’s-who of mistake-makers, people who played essential roles in the Iraq disaster and other debacles.

Seriously, consider that list, which includes such luminaries as Paul Wolfowitz, who insisted that we would be welcomed as liberators and that the war would cost almost nothing, and Michael Chertoff, who as director of the Department of Homeland Security during Hurricane Katrina was unaware of the thousands of people stranded at the New Orleans convention center without food and water.

In Bushworld, in other words, playing a central role in catastrophic policy failure doesn’t disqualify you from future influence. If anything, a record of being disastrously wrong on national security issues seems to be a required credential.

Voters, even Republican primary voters, may not share that view, and the past few days have probably taken a toll on Mr. Bush’s presidential prospects. In a way, however, that’s unfair. Iraq is a special problem for the Bush family, which has a history both of never admitting mistakes and of sticking with loyal family retainers no matter how badly they perform. But refusal to learn from experience, combined with a version of political correctness in which you’re only acceptable if you have been wrong about crucial issues, is pervasive in the modern Republican Party.

Take my usual focus, economic policy. If you look at the list of economists who appear to have significant influence on Republican leaders, including the likely presidential candidates, you find that nearly all of them agreed, back during the “Bush boom,” that there was no housing bubble and the American economic future was bright; that nearly all of them predicted that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to fight the economic crisis that developed when that nonexistent bubble popped would lead to severe inflation; and that nearly all of them predicted that Obamacare, which went fully into effect in 2014, would be a huge job-killer.

Given how badly these predictions turned out — we had the biggest housing bust in history, inflation paranoia has been wrong for six years and counting, and 2014 delivered the best job growth since 1999 — you might think that there would be some room in the G.O.P. for economists who didn’t get everything wrong. But there isn’t. Having been completely wrong about the economy, like having been completely wrong about Iraq, seems to be a required credential.

What’s going on here? My best explanation is that we’re witnessing the effects of extreme tribalism. On the modern right, everything is a political litmus test. Anyone who tried to think through the pros and cons of the Iraq war was, by definition, an enemy of President George W. Bush and probably hated America; anyone who questioned whether the Federal Reserve was really debasing the currency was surely an enemy of capitalism and freedom.

It doesn’t matter that the skeptics have been proved right. Simply raising questions about the orthodoxies of the moment leads to excommunication, from which there is no coming back. So the only “experts” left standing are those who made all the approved mistakes. It’s kind of a fraternity of failure: men and women united by a shared history of getting everything wrong, and refusing to admit it. Will they get the chance to add more chapters to their reign of error?

May 15th, 2015
Barbara Kasten

Photogenic Painting, Untitled 21, 1975, cyanotype, 30 x 40 inches.

Through August 16, 2014


May 14th, 2015
Neighbors Drought-Shame Celebrities For Lush, Green Lawns

Screen shot 2015-05-11 at 7.03.53 PM
The green acres of Kanye West and Kin Kardashian in Calabasas. According to one official from the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which supplies water to many in the affluent northwest area: “70 percent of the district’s water is going to the lawn maintenance of about 100 manicured estates.”

By Danny Jensen
LAIST Published: May 11, 2015

Celebrities around Los Angeles are taking heat from their neighbors for wasting water on lush lawns in the midst of a serious drought. But chances are that drought shaming and $100 fines from the city won’t change most of their watering routines.

From almond farmers to bark beetles, there’s been a lot of drought-related finger-pointing lately. And now the neighbors of Kimye, JLo and Barbara Streisand are drought-shaming the celebrities for maintaining giant, well-watered estates in the wealthy cities in Northwest Los Angeles, including Calabasas and Hidden Hills.

While new state mandates will require that the water-happy residents will have to cut usage by 36 percent next year, comments from neighbors and aerial photos of their properties from Page Six, suggest most aren’t taking the drought too seriously. Especially considering the overusage fees for water under the new guidelines will top out at $100.

“The Kardashian flowers and hedges are right in our face. It’s disgusting. You walk by and you can smell the freshness,” one vocal Hidden Hills neighbor told Page Six. “Let them drink dust!”
The green acres of Kim and Kanye reportedly includes two vineyards, two pools and ‘sprawling outdoor space.’

A spokesperson for the two celebrities, on the other hand, counters that: “Kim takes this drought seriously and has made some amendments to the property [since buying it]. She has no problem letting her grass go brown.”

Other celebrities in the area and elsewhere in Los Angeles who are drawing the ire of there neighbors for their thirsty, lavish lawns include Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, Barbara Streisand and Hugh Hefner.

According to one official from the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which supplies water to many in the affluent northwest area: “70 percent of the district’s water is going to the lawn maintenance of about 100 manicured estates.”


May 11th, 2015

1995, 2014
41 5/8 X 53 1/2 INCHES

May 14 – 17, 2015

Matthew Marks at Frieze NY

May 10th, 2015
Still Tingling Spines, 50 Years Later

Phil Spector, one of the songwriters for “Be My Baby,” with the Ronettes.
Photograph by Ray Avery.

NY Times Published: AUG. 16, 2013

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys estimates that he’s heard “Be My Baby,” by the Ronettes, more than 1,000 times. The very first listen, 50 years ago this month, still haunts him.

“I was driving and I had to pull over to the side of the road — it blew my mind,” Mr. Wilson said, repeating a story that has become something of a legend. “It was a shock.” Just 21 and already frustrated with his band’s basic surf music, he bought the single and set about deconstructing its arrangement and production.

“I started analyzing all the guitars, pianos, bass, drums and percussion,” he said by telephone. “Once I got all those learned, I knew how to produce records.”

Those records, many fans would contend, weren’t half bad, but if you ask Mr. Wilson, they still don’t stack up.

“I felt like I wanted to try to do something as good as that song and I never did,” he said. “I’ve stopped trying.” Mr. Wilson added: “It’s the greatest record ever produced. No one will ever top that one.”

The Wall of Sound, that dense and dramatic signature style of the ‘60s wonder boy Phil Spector (who wrote the song with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich) can still shake you up with its plinking pianos and castanets, its echo-chambered vocals and massive drums, but it no longer shocks. Today “Be My Baby” is as ubiquitous as a pop classic gets.

The song’s true bona fides may be found in its sustained usefulness. What once astonished Mr. Wilson now produces a reaction so reliable that film and television producers deploy it as a Pavlovian trigger indicating that things are about to get exciting. It’s even been used as a cover in a TV commercial for the erectile dysfunction remedy Cialis.

Martin Scorsese used “Be My Baby” to open his 1973 film “Mean Streets.” The song’s sweetness and angst were the perfect counterpoint to his noir vision of a city of spontaneous violence and hot tempers. Charlie, Harvey Keitel’s tormented character, wakes up alone in a dark room with a crucifix on the wall, a siren blaring outside and a storm in his head. He rises, looks in the mirror and then goes back to bed. When his head hits the pillow, those drums kick in.

In 1987 “Be My Baby” made a splash in the March 31 episode of the hit comedy “Moonlighting,” when Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd finally answer the question of “Will they or won’t they?” They insult each other. She slaps him and says “Get out.” He grabs her arm and … those drums kick in.

“When they finally go to bed,” Mr. Barry said proudly, “they do it to ‘Be My Baby.’ ”

Yet it may be the title sequence of “Dirty Dancing,” released that August, that best reflects the song’s lasting ability to enchant a viewer. “We were on a tight budget and we never shot an opening sequence,” said the film’s producer, Linda Gottlieb. A sepia-toned “scratch tape” of clinching partners surging back and forth in eroticized slow motion was assembled and approved. “We thought, that looks pretty good,” Ms. Gottlieb recalled. “But what music can we use?”

So she and the director, Emile Ardolino, and the screenwriter, Eleanor Bergstein, sat down in front of an old Moviola editing bay and watched the scene while dipping into an assortment of around 400 available songs. “Nothing worked, but the minute we put on that boom-ba-boom,” she said — imitating the opening six-note drumbeat devised by Mr. Barry while slapping a metal filing cabinet in Mr. Spector’s office and later immortalized by Hal Blaine, a member of Mr. Spector’s Wrecking Crew of studio musicians — “we had gooseflesh. Suddenly it was magic. It said, something exciting is going to happen.”

“Be My Baby” is not cheap. “We paid more for that song than any song in the movie, and I think it lasts 45 seconds,” Ms. Gottlieb said. “My recollection is it was something like $75,000, which was beyond comprehension for a film with a total budget of $4.5 million. But it was so worth it.”

Sony ATV Music Publishing, the company that has handled copyright deals related to the song since a 2007 agreement with Mr. Spector, would not comment on current pricing.

But those who splurge for it evidently think it’s worth it. Take “Ninth Grade Man,” a 1990 episode of the TV comedy “The Wonder Years.” Fred Savage’s Kevin is tempted by an attractive new student who briefly leads him away from his true love, Winnie. When he regains his senses and meets Winnie for a soda at Woody’s pizza place, guess what’s playing on the jukebox. “When you’re 14, you can’t always put words to life,” the adult Kevin says in the show’s signature voice-over.

“Be My Baby” can even function as a sort of punch line, as when it plays over the closing credits of “Baby Mama,” the 2008 fertility-themed buddy comedy starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

The song has thrived on radio for the last 50 years as well. Barbara Cane, vice president and general manager of writer-publisher relations for the songwriters’ agency BMI, estimated that it has been played in 3.9 million feature presentations on radio and television since 1963.

“When a BMI song of an average length of three minutes reaches one million performances,” she explained, “it has been broadcast at least 50,000 hours, which equals more than 5.7 years of continuous airplay.” That means it’s been played for the equivalent of 17 years back to back.

The song has been covered by everyone from John Lennon (in a Spector production) to Maroon 5. It’s been honored by the Library of Congress and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and Mr. Spector, the Ronettes, Mr. Barry and Ms. Greenwich are all in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “Be My Baby” even had a second life in the ‘80s, when its hook was incorporated into “Take Me Home Tonight,” a Top 5 duet between Eddie Money and Ronnie Spector, Mr. Spector’s ex-wife and the song’s original lead vocalist.

“It had that double chorus,” Mr. Money said. “I knew the song was going to be a smash.” The song’s popularity gave Ms. Spector, then retired, a second life as a touring and recording artist.

Paradoxically, one place you will not hear “Be My Baby,” is in “Beyond the Beehive,” Ms. Spector’s touring theatrical production of songs and stories. “I’m not allowed to sing ‘Be My Baby’ and ‘Baby I Love You’” — another Ronettes hit — “in my show because Phil said no,” Ms. Spector said in a telephone interview. “He owns the publishing.”

But she is allowed to sing the song in concert, she said, and often closes her club shows with it. (Mr. Spector is currently in prison, serving 19 years to life after his murder conviction in the 2003 death of the actress Lana Clarkson, yet his hold on the song is intact.)

Ms. Spector suggests that innocence is part of the song’s sustained power. She recounts being flown out to Los Angeles as a teenager from Spanish Harlem to record the song at Gold Star Studios. She was then known as Ronnie Bennett. She belted out her vocals in the sound booth while staring down a young but no less odd Mr. Spector.

“I was so much in love,” she said. “That energy comes back to me every time: when I’m singing ‘Be My Baby,’ I’m thinking of us in the studio.”

The soapy darkness now associated with their subsequent marriage (Ms. Spector’s 1990 memoir, also titled “Be My Baby,” recounts wild jealousy and feeling threatened by a gold coffin in the basement of a castle turned de facto prison) informs the song’s myth.

At its heart, “Be My Baby” is as much about power and control as it is about romance. Lyrically it also marks a bold moment in pop music, when a woman makes a play for a man while infantilizing him. Usually the reverse was the norm.

Mr. Barry said: “I consider myself to this day a feminist. I was picturing a shy guy. A guy who just needed a little nudge.”

The song’s protagonist sings, “For every kiss you give me, I’ll give you three.” We never find out from the lyrics whether her offer is accepted.

“I always wanted to believe when the song was over, there’s a happy ending,” Mr. Barry said. “He came around, and they hooked up.”

May 10th, 2015
matt connors

MC Poster_WEB

Opening Saturday, May 9, 6-8pm

Cherry and Martin

May 8th, 2015
erica vogt

Screen shot 2015-05-08 at 1.06.00 AM

May 10 through June 4, 2015

Simone Subal

May 8th, 2015
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