Albert Oehlen

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 10.35.45 AM
Raum, 1984
Oil, varnish and mirror on canvas
260 X 260 cm

Through August 16, 2015

Kunsthalle Zurich

July 28th, 2015

Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

July 27th, 2015
How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS
NY Times Published: JULY 22, 2015

A walk in the park may soothe the mind and, in the process, change the workings of our brains in ways that improve our mental health, according to an interesting new study of the physical effects on the brain of visiting nature.

Most of us today live in cities and spend far less time outside in green, natural spaces than people did several generations ago.

City dwellers also have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centers, studies show.

These developments seem to be linked to some extent, according to a growing body of research. Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.

But just how a visit to a park or other green space might alter mood has been unclear. Does experiencing nature actually change our brains in some way that affects our emotional health?

That possibility intrigued Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University, who has been studying the psychological effects of urban living. In an earlier study published last month, he and his colleagues found that volunteers who walked briefly through a lush, green portion of the Stanford campus were more attentive and happier afterward than volunteers who strolled for the same amount of time near heavy traffic.

But that study did not examine the neurological mechanisms that might underlie the effects of being outside in nature.

So for the new study, which was published last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mr. Bratman and his collaborators decided to closely scrutinize what effect a walk might have on a person’s tendency to brood.

Brooding, which is known among cognitive scientists as morbid rumination, is a mental state familiar to most of us, in which we can’t seem to stop chewing over the ways in which things are wrong with ourselves and our lives. This broken-record fretting is not healthy or helpful. It can be a precursor to depression and is disproportionately common among city dwellers compared with people living outside urban areas, studies show.

Perhaps most interesting for the purposes of Mr. Bratman and his colleagues, however, such rumination also is strongly associated with increased activity in a portion of the brain known as the subgenual prefrontal cortex.

If the researchers could track activity in that part of the brain before and after people visited nature, Mr. Bratman realized, they would have a better idea about whether and to what extent nature changes people’s minds.

Mr. Bratman and his colleagues first gathered 38 healthy, adult city dwellers and asked them to complete a questionnaire to determine their normal level of morbid rumination.

The researchers also checked for brain activity in each volunteer’s subgenual prefrontal cortex, using scans that track blood flow through the brain. Greater blood flow to parts of the brain usually signals more activity in those areas.

Then the scientists randomly assigned half of the volunteers to walk for 90 minutes through a leafy, quiet, parklike portion of the Stanford campus or next to a loud, hectic, multi-lane highway in Palo Alto. The volunteers were not allowed to have companions or listen to music. They were allowed to walk at their own pace.

Immediately after completing their walks, the volunteers returned to the lab and repeated both the questionnaire and the brain scan.

As might have been expected, walking along the highway had not soothed people’s minds. Blood flow to their subgenual prefrontal cortex was still high and their broodiness scores were unchanged.

But the volunteers who had strolled along the quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health, according to their scores on the questionnaire. They were not dwelling on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they had been before the walk.

They also had less blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex. That portion of their brains were quieter.

These results “strongly suggest that getting out into natural environments” could be an easy and almost immediate way to improve moods for city dwellers, Mr. Bratman said.

But of course many questions remain, he said, including how much time in nature is sufficient or ideal for our mental health, as well as what aspects of the natural world are most soothing. Is it the greenery, quiet, sunniness, loamy smells, all of those, or something else that lifts our moods? Do we need to be walking or otherwise physically active outside to gain the fullest psychological benefits? Should we be alone or could companionship amplify mood enhancements?

“There’s a tremendous amount of study that still needs to be done,” Mr. Bratman said.

But in the meantime, he pointed out, there is little downside to strolling through the nearest park, and some chance that you might beneficially muffle, at least for awhile, your subgenual prefrontal cortex.

July 22nd, 2015
Frances Stark on Sturtevant

studiolandscape_FS_800px
Frances Stark, photo by Bobby Jesus

Frances Stark’s multimedia practice mines our image-saturated, technology-driven culture to investigate and question constructions of power, sexuality, and lived experience. As part of the museum’s new Artists on Artists series, she discusses the work of Sturtevant, an artist who was among the first to examine the relationship between high art and information technology.

Based in Los Angeles, Stark has exhibited and performed nationally and internationally at venues including MoMA PS1 and The Art Institute of Chicago. UH-OH: Frances Stark 1991-2015, the most comprehensive mid-career survey of the artist’s work to date, opens at the Hammer Museum this fall.

THURSDAY, JULY 23, 2015, 7PM
AHMANSON AUDITORIUM

MOCA GRAND AVENUE

July 22nd, 2015
Sonia Delaunay

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.53.49 AM
Simultaneous Dresses
(The three women) 1925

Through August 9, 2015

Tate

July 21st, 2015
Matt Paweski

MP_Compressed_Panels_Two_Tone_Detail1_RVD_OtherWEB
Matt Paweski
‘Compressed Panels (Two Tone)’
2015
Euro-beech hardwood, birch plywood, steel, copper rivets, enamel, wax
58 x 32 x 16 inches, 147.32 x 81.28 x 40.64 cm

MATT PAWESKI AND ANDREA SALA
July 18 – August 15, 2015

Cherry and Martin

July 17th, 2015

Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

July 17th, 2015
Barbarian Days

By THAD ZIOLKOWSKI
NY Times Published: JULY 13, 2015

Most canonical accounts of surfing, from Captain Cook to Tom Wolfe, are written by nonsurfers who tend to wax gooey about the sport’s joys while getting its mechanics and ethos laughably wrong. Yet when surfers themselves began to write about it, in the 1960s, what they produced was usually bad in other ways — pretentious, semiliterate, purple or merely slight. It came to seem that surfing, like some pagan mystery cult, might simply defy literary representation, remaining properly understood only by initiates who were too busy surfing to learn to write.

Then, in the summer of 1992, there ­appeared in The New Yorker a long, two-part article by William Finnegan titled “Playing Doc’s Games” that was instantly recognized as a masterpiece. A wise, ­richly atmospheric account of riding the gelid, powerful gray waves of San Francisco while negotiating the demands of a fanatical surfer-oncologist named Doc Renneker, “Playing Doc’s Games” ­combines the deep knowledge of a widely traveled hard-core surfer, the observations of a born ethnographer and the wry aplomb of a New Yorker staff writer. The theme is Finnegan’s growing ambivalence about surfing, his conviction, set off against the foil of Renneker’s unwavering zeal, that he has given more than enough lifeblood to this sport or “path” or whatever it is. For Finnegan, a great deal of whose identity is bound up with surfing, this ambivalence amounts to a personal crisis; but it is also the crucial literary prerequisite, providing the critical distance that allows Finnegan to see surfing with unparalleled clarity.

“Playing Doc’s Games” frequently ­alludes to other chapters in Finnegan’s storied surf life — Hawaii, the South Pacific, Indonesia — but in the nearly 25 years since its publication, there have been only rumors of the memoir that seemed an inevitable outgrowth of the article. With “Barbarian Days,” we finally have that ­extraordinary book in full, including, largely unchanged, “Playing Doc’s Games.” It is in many ways, and for the first time, a surfer in full. And it is cause for throwing your wet-suit hoods in the air.

Raised in Southern California during the 1950s and ’60s, Finnegan learned to surf there and in Hawaii, where his father, who worked in television, moved the family for two stints of work when Finnegan was in early adolescence. The depictions of his humiliating treatment as a haole (white) student in a Hawaiian middle school are harrowing and characteristically droll and psychologically insightful. He fares considerably better in the water, where he wins the respect of the locals; has his first, terrifying taste of big waves; and finds himself fully bewitched: “I did not consider, even passingly, that I had a choice when it came to surfing. My enchantment would take me where it would.”

Where surfing took Finnegan was around the world. The post-“Gidget” boom of which he was a part made the sport an iconic, global phenomenon, but it also caused breaks from Malibu to Pipeline to become miserably crowded. As a consequence of this ruination, and the era’s broader idealism, adventurous surfers like Finnegan went in search of solitude and the perfect, prelapsarian wave. Along the trail, he and his travel companion found themselves carrying the weight of more than just their backpacks and surfboards. On the one hand, “chasing waves in a dedicated way was . . . dynamic and ascetic, radical in its rejection of the values of duty and conventional achievement.” On the other, “being rich white Americans in dirt-poor places where many people, especially the young, yearned openly for the life, the comforts, the very opportunities that we, at least for the seemingly endless moment, had turned our backs on — well, it would simply never be O.K. In an ­inescapable way, we sucked, and we knew it.” In other words, once it emerges from the ­adolescent-rebellion stage of its development, surfing presents itself as a problematic passion, and it is one of this book’s many great strengths that it unflinchingly addresses the various forms this problem takes as Finnegan grows up, commits to a career as a journalist and has a family.

Yet find the perfect, empty wave Finnegan did, back in 1978, off a tiny island in Fiji. The moment of revelation is the surfing equivalent of Keats’s “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer”: “We turned and trained our binoculars on the tiny island across the channel. We were looking straight into the wave. . . . It was a long, tapering — a very long, very precisely tapering — left. The walls were dark gray against a pale gray sea. This was it. The lineup had an unearthly symmetry. Breaking waves peeled so evenly that they looked like still photographs. . . . This was it. Staring through the binoculars, I forgot to breathe for entire six-wave sets. This, by God, was it.”

Now among the most renowned in the world, the Fijian break is one of perhaps a handful in its class that Finnegan has intimate, masterly knowledge of. Indeed, if the book has a flaw, it lies in the envy helplessly induced in the armchair surf-­traveler by so many lusty affairs with waves that are the supermodels of the surf world. Still, Finnegan considerately shows himself paying the price of admission in a few near drownings, and these are among the most electrifying moments in the book.

There are too many breathtaking, original things in “Barbarian Days” to do more than mention here — observations about surfing that have simply never been made before, or certainly never so well: the postsurf moods of “pleasant melancholy” or “mild elation”; the “charged and wild inclination to weep” that comes in the wake of unusually intense rides or ­wipeouts; the unlikely facial expressions actually worn by a surfer in the act of riding a demanding wave; and ­visionary descriptions of oceanic beauty occasionally met with in surfing but seldom done justice: “It was midday, and the straight-overhead sun rendered the water invisible. It was as if we were suspended above the reef, floating on a cushion of nothing . . . . Approaching waves were like optical illusions. . . . And when I caught one and stood up, it disappeared. I was flying down the line, but all I could see was brilliant reef streaming under my feet.”

But a particularly remarkable feature of “Barbarian Days” is the generous yet unsparing portraits of competitive surf friendships that make up a major share of the narrative. As Finnegan writes: “Surfing is a secret garden, not easily entered. My memory of learning a spot, of coming to know and understand a wave, is usually inseparable from the friend with whom I tried to climb its walls.”

That perfect wave in Fiji now has a resort that costs about $400 a day. No matter — the wave is as sublime as ever, as the 60ish Finnegan discovers when he surfs it again as a paying guest in the final ­pages. The compromises and corruption on shore fail to contaminate or alter the joy-drenched, adrenalated play in the ocean. Wave and surfer are ageless. For surfing is a pagan mystery cult after all. And “Barbarian Days” is its “Confessions.”

BARBARIAN DAYS
A Surfing Life
By William Finnegan
Illustrated. 447 pp. Penguin Press.

July 15th, 2015
Larry Johnson

picksimg_popup
Untitled (Achievement: SW Corner, Glendale + Silverlake BLVDS.), 2009
color photograph, 28 x 40″

On Location
11 June to 9 August 2015

Raven Row

July 13th, 2015
How to Cut Children’s Screen Time? Say No to Yourself First.

By JANE E. BRODY
NY Times Published: JULY 13, 2015

Parents are often at fault, directly or indirectly, when children and teenagers become hooked on electronic media, playing video games or sending texts many hours a day instead of interacting with the real world and the people in it. And as discussed in last week’s column, digital overload can impair a child’s social, emotional and intellectual growth.

This sad conclusion of many experts in child development has prompted them to suggest ways parents can prevent or rectify the problem before undue damage occurs.

“There’s nothing about this that can’t be fixed,” said Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Harvard-affiliated psychologist. “And the sooner, the better.”

As Susan Stiffelman, a family therapist, put it in The Huffington Post, today’s parents are unprepared “to deal with the intense pull and highly addictive nature of what the online world has to offer. As parents, we have an opportunity to guide our kids so that they can learn habits that help them make use of the digital world, without being swallowed whole by it.”

Two experts at the Harvard School of Public Health, Steven Gortmaker and Kaley Skapinsky, offer a free guide, “Outsmarting the Smart Screens: A Parent’s Guide to the Tools That Are Here to Help,” as well as healthy activities to pursue to counter the weight gain that can accompany excessive screen time. Young children should not have their own cellphones or televisions in their bedrooms, they say, adding that even with teenagers it is not too late to set reasonable limits on screen time.

Dr. Steiner-Adair, author of “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age,” cited two common parental behaviors that can strongly influence a child’s tendency to abuse electronic media. Some parents are perpetually tuned into their own devices, responding to every ping of their cellphones and tablets, receiving and sending messages at times that would enrage Miss Manners. Other parents fail to establish and enforce appropriate rules for media engagement by their children.

Young children learn by example, often copying the behavior of adults. I often see youngsters in strollers or on foot with a parent or caretaker who is chatting or texting on a cellphone instead of conversing with the children in their charge. Dr. Steiner-Adair said parents should think twice before using a mobile device when with their children. She suggests parents check email before the children get up, while they are in school, or after they go to bed.

One girl among the 1,000 children she interviewed in preparing her book said, “I feel like I’m just boring. I’m boring my dad because he will take any text, any call, any time, even on the ski lift.” A 4-year-old called her father’s smartphone a “stupid phone.”

Dr. Jenny S. Radesky, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center who with two colleagues observed 55 groups of parents and children at fast-food restaurants, noted that 40 of the adults immediately took out mobile devices and used them throughout most of the meal. Often more attention was paid to the devices than to the children.

The researchers also found that when parents were absorbed in their own devices, the children were more likely to act out, apparently in an attempt to get their parents’ attention.

Dr. Steiner-Adair is especially concerned about parental failure to pay full attention to their children “at critical times of the day, like when taking children to and from school. This should be a cell-free zone for everyone — no Bluetooth for parents or devices for the kids. The pickup from school is a very important transitional time for kids, a time for them to download their day. Parents shouldn’t be saying, ‘Wait a minute, I have to finish this call.’  ”

Likewise, she said, when parents come home from work, “they should walk in the door unplugged and use the first hour they’re home as time to reconnect with the family. Kids hate the phrase ‘just checking’ that parents frequently use to justify a very rude, infuriating behavior.”

Nor should parents or children be using devices when the family dines out, the psychologist said. “The art of dining and the connection between delicious food and nourishing conversation is being lost, not just in restaurants but at home as well,” she said.

Dr. Steiner-Adair attributes a recent 20 percent increase in accidental injuries seen in pediatric emergency rooms to caretakers’ failure to pay full attention to those they are supposed to be watching, like infants and toddlers in the bathtub or children on the jungle gym. “Your reaction time and attention is not the same when you’re texting or talking on a cellphone,” she said.

Ms. Stiffelman, author of “Parenting With Presence,” realizes that attempts to change digital behavior can meet with resistance. But, she said, it is important to be fearless and decisive, and to avoid negotiations.

“Acknowledge your kid’s upset without delivering long lectures about why they can’t have what they want,” she said. “Children grow into resilient adults by living through disappointment. It’s O.K. for your kids to be mad, bored or anxious about missing out on what their friends are up to online.”

She and other experts urge parents to establish device-free times of day, like the first hour after school and the hour before bed. Cellphones and tablets should not be allowed at the dinner table.

Ms. Stiffelman suggests parents “make time for real-life activities with your kids that let them know that they’re worth your time and undivided attention. Do things together that nourish your relationship.”

As for controlling the time children spend on digital media, the Harvard guide states emphatically that it is the parents’ responsibility: “Since the devices can be turned on anytime, you as a parent need to monitor their use, keep track of time, and then make sure the agreed upon rules are followed.”

July 13th, 2015
The Laziness Dogma

By Paul Krugman
NY Times Published: JULY 13, 2015

Americans work longer hours than their counterparts in just about every other wealthy country; we are known, among those who study such things, as the “no-vacation nation.” According to a 2009 study, full-time U.S. workers put in almost 30 percent more hours over the course of a year than their German counterparts, largely because they had only half as many weeks of paid leave. Not surprisingly, work-life balance is a big problem for many people.

But Jeb Bush — who is still attempting to justify his ludicrous claim that he can double our rate of economic growth — says that Americans “need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families.”

Mr. Bush’s aides have tried to spin away his remark, claiming that he was only referring to workers trying to find full-time jobs who remain stuck in part-time employment. It’s obvious from the context, however, that this wasn’t what he was talking about. The real source of his remark was the “nation of takers” dogma that has taken over conservative circles in recent years — the insistence that a large number of Americans, white as well as black, are choosing not to work, because they can live lives of leisure thanks to government programs.

You see this laziness dogma everywhere on the right. It was the hidden background to Mitt Romney’s infamous 47 percent remark. It underlay the furious attacks on unemployment benefits at a time of mass unemployment and on food stamps when they provided a vital lifeline for tens of millions of Americans. It drives claims that many, if not most, workers receiving disability payments are malingerers — “Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts,” says Senator Rand Paul.

It all adds up to a vision of the world in which the biggest problem facing America is that we’re too nice to fellow citizens facing hardship. And the appeal of this vision to conservatives is obvious: it gives them another reason to do what they want to do anyway, namely slash aid to the less fortunate while cutting taxes on the rich.

Given how attractive the right finds the image of laziness run wild, you wouldn’t expect contrary evidence to make much, if any, dent in the dogma. Federal spending on “income security” — food stamps, unemployment benefits, and pretty much everything else you might call “welfare” except Medicaid — has shown no upward trend as a share of G.D.P.; it surged during the Great Recession and aftermath but quickly dropped back to historical levels. Mr. Paul’s numbers are all wrong, and more broadly disability claims have risen no more than you would expect, given the aging of the population. But no matter, an epidemic of laziness is their story and they’re sticking with it.

Where does Jeb Bush fit into this story? Well before his “longer hours” gaffe, he had professed himself a great admirer of the work of Charles Murray, a conservative social analyst most famous for his 1994 book “The Bell Curve,” which claimed that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. What Mr. Bush seems to admire most, however, is a more recent book, “Coming Apart,” which notes that over the past few decades working-class white families have been changing in much the same way that African-American families changed in the 1950s and 1960s, with declining rates of marriage and labor force participation.

Some of us look at these changes and see them as consequences of an economy that no longer offers good jobs to ordinary workers. This happened to African-Americans first, as blue-collar jobs disappeared from inner cities, but has now become a much wider phenomenon thanks to soaring income inequality. Mr. Murray, however, sees the changes as the consequence of a mysterious decline in traditional values, enabled by government programs which mean that men no longer “need to work to survive.” And Mr. Bush presumably shares that view.

The point is that Mr. Bush’s clumsy call for longer work hours wasn’t a mere verbal stumble. It was, instead, an indication that he stands firmly on the right side of the great divide over what working American families need.

There’s now an effective consensus among Democrats — on display in Hillary Clinton’s planned Monday speech on the economy — that workers need more help, in the form of guaranteed health insurance, higher minimum wages, enhanced bargaining power, and more. Republicans, however, believe that American workers just aren’t trying hard enough to improve their situation, and that the way to change that is to strip away the safety net while cutting taxes on wealthy “job creators.”

And while Jeb Bush may sometimes sound like a moderate, he’s very much in line with the party consensus. If he makes it to the White House, the laziness dogma will rule public policy.

July 13th, 2015
About Face

unnamed

Curated by Kristina Kite and Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer

Artists: Joan Brown, Brian Calvin, Maria Lassnig,
Dianna Molzan, Christina Ramberg, Diane Simpson

July 18 – August 29, 2015
OPENING Saturday July 18th 7-9pm

Kayne Griffin Corcoran

July 9th, 2015
akio nukaga

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 10.26.53 AM

Opening Saturday July 11, 2015. 6PM

Heath Los Angeles

July 8th, 2015
Lucie Rie: A Retrospective

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 10.42.49 AM
Bowl with pink stripes (c. 1980)

BY AYAKI KIMURA
The Japan Times
JUL 7, 2015

‘Lucie Rie: A Retrospective’
CHIBA CITY MUSEUM OF ART
July 7-Aug. 30

To commemorate 20 years since the death of Lucie Rie, one of Europe’s most renowned studio potters of the 20th century, the Chiba City Museum of Art is presenting her creative legacy through a retrospective of her work.

Recognized internationally, Rie proved particularly popular in Japan, where collections of her pieces have been displayed at many shows. This exhibition brings together approximately 200 items, spanning the course of her career and the development of her brightly colored, modernist yet delicate works.

Included among the exhibits will be some pieces from her collegiate years, which were recently discovered by the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art, and are being shown in Japan for the first time.

Chiba City Museum of Art

Thanks to RS

July 7th, 2015
Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children

By JANE E. BRODY
NY Times Published: JULY 6, 2015

Excessive use of computer games among young people in China appears to be taking an alarming turn and may have particular relevance for American parents whose children spend many hours a day focused on electronic screens. The documentary “Web Junkie,” to be shown next Monday on PBS, highlights the tragic effects on teenagers who become hooked on video games, playing for dozens of hours at a time often without breaks to eat, sleep or even use the bathroom. Many come to view the real world as fake.

Chinese doctors consider this phenomenon a clinical disorder and have established rehabilitation centers where afflicted youngsters are confined for months of sometimes draconian therapy, completely isolated from all media, the effectiveness of which remains to be demonstrated.

While Internet addiction is not yet considered a clinical diagnosis here, there’s no question that American youths are plugged in and tuned out of “live” action for many more hours of the day than experts consider healthy for normal development. And it starts early, often with preverbal toddlers handed their parents’ cellphones and tablets to entertain themselves when they should be observing the world around them and interacting with their caregivers.

In its 2013 policy statement on “Children, Adolescents, and the Media,” the American Academy of Pediatrics cited these shocking statistics from a Kaiser Family Foundation study in 2010: “The average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day.” Television, long a popular “babysitter,” remains the dominant medium, but computers, tablets and cellphones are gradually taking over.

“Many parents seem to have few rules about use of media by their children and adolescents,” the academy stated, and two-thirds of those questioned in the Kaiser study said their parents had no rules about how much time the youngsters spent with media.

Parents, grateful for ways to calm disruptive children and keep them from interrupting their own screen activities, seem to be unaware of the potential harm from so much time spent in the virtual world.

“We’re throwing screens at children all day long, giving them distractions rather than teaching them how to self-soothe, to calm themselves down,” said Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Harvard-affiliated clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling book “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.”

Before age 2, children should not be exposed to any electronic media, the pediatrics academy maintains, because “a child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” Older children and teenagers should spend no more than one or two hours a day with entertainment media, preferably with high-quality content, and spend more free time playing outdoors, reading, doing hobbies and “using their imaginations in free play,” the academy recommends.

Heavy use of electronic media can have significant negative effects on children’s behavior, health and school performance. Those who watch a lot of simulated violence, common in many popular video games, can become immune to it, more inclined to act violently themselves and less likely to behave empathetically, said Dimitri A. Christakis of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

In preparing an honors thesis at the University of Rhode Island, Kristina E. Hatch asked children about their favorite video games. A fourth-grader cited “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” because “there’s zombies in it, and you get to kill them with guns and there’s violence … I like blood and violence.”

Teenagers who spend a lot of time playing violent video games or watching violent shows on television have been found to be more aggressive and more likely to fight with their peers and argue with their teachers, according to a study in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Schoolwork can suffer when media time infringes on reading and studying. And the sedentary nature of most electronic involvement — along with televised ads for high-calorie fare — can foster the unhealthy weights already epidemic among the nation’s youth.

Two of my grandsons, ages 10 and 13, seem destined to suffer some of the negative effects of video-game overuse. The 10-year-old gets up half an hour earlier on school days to play computer games, and he and his brother stay plugged into their hand-held devices on the ride to and from school. “There’s no conversation anymore,” said their grandfather, who often picks them up. When the family dines out, the boys use their devices before the meal arrives and as soon as they finish eating.

“If kids are allowed to play ‘Candy Crush’ on the way to school, the car ride will be quiet, but that’s not what kids need,” Dr. Steiner-Adair said in an interview. “They need time to daydream, deal with anxieties, process their thoughts and share them with parents, who can provide reassurance.”

Technology is a poor substitute for personal interaction.

Out in public, Dr. Steiner-Adair added, “children have to know that life is fine off the screen. It’s interesting and good to be curious about other people, to learn how to listen. It teaches them social and emotional intelligence, which is critical for success in life.”

Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important, a trait critical to the deep thought and problem solving needed for many jobs and other endeavors later in life.

Texting looms as the next national epidemic, with half of teenagers sending 50 or more text messages a day and those aged 13 through 17 averaging 3,364 texts a month, Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Research Center found in a 2012 study. An earlier Pew study found that teenagers send an average of 34 texts a night after they get into bed, adding to the sleep deprivation so common and harmful to them. And as Ms. Hatch pointed out, “as children have more of their communication through electronic media, and less of it face to face, they begin to feel more lonely and depressed.”

There can be physical consequences, too. Children can develop pain in their fingers and wrists, narrowed blood vessels in their eyes (the long-term consequences of which are unknown), and neck and back pain from being slumped over their phones, tablets and computers.

This is the first of two columns on electronic media use by children and adolescents. Next week: Parents’ role in children’s use of electronics.

July 7th, 2015
Perfect Likeness

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 9.36.38 AM
Annette Kelm
First Picture for a Show
2007. Chromogenic print. 6 1/4 × 7 3/4 inches

Through September 13, 2015

Hammer

July 5th, 2015
The Man that saw America

05frank2-blog427
Robert Frank Credit Katy Grannan for The New York Times

By NICHOLAS DAWIDOFF
NY Times Published: JULY 2, 2015

Last May, Robert Frank, the world’s pre-eminent living photographer, returned to Zurich, the orderly Swiss banking city, cosseted by lake and mountain, where he grew up. When an artist who made his reputation by leaving returns home, mixed feelings are inevitable, and that was especially true for Frank, whose iconic American pictures are notable for their deep understanding of human complication. ‘‘I know this town, but I certainly feel like a stranger here,’’ he said.

As he walked through the immaculate Zurich city center, with its many statues, gilded shop signs and fountains, Frank was ‘‘just amazed how well organized everything is, how perfect everything is.’’ The Swiss, he explained, do not throw coins into fountains, because ‘‘they have everything they need. They don’t believe in wishing wells. Only the poor have to hope.’’ Deciding he wanted to ride a streetcar, Frank surveyed the different lines. ‘‘I usually don’t get a ticket on the tram,’’ he explained. ‘‘This town is rich enough.’’ He said he never worried about being caught by inspectors, and he didn’t seem worried. He seemed the way he typically did — fully present and yet filled with personal mystery. ‘‘I don’t know where that one goes, so we’ll take it,’’ he said, and was soon bound for a working-class district of the city.

Frank has always been a picture-maker unconcerned with his own appearance, and sitting quietly beside the streetcar window, he wore the usual faded work shirt, frayed pants and one too many mornings of stubble. A sturdy man who never uses socks, a winter hat or gloves, Frank is now 90, and in the cool Swiss air, he had on a new blue down coat. His melancholy eyes rarely betray anything, but as he gazed out at the city of his youth, there was the sense of a man wary, defended, skeptical, yet willing to be engaged. In his pocket he carried an Olympus camera.

Frank had come to Switzerland to receive the Roswitha Haftmann Prize for lifetime achievement, Europe’s most lucrative fine-arts award, though he doesn’t need the money. His photographs command steep prices, and nothing about his current way of living is much different from his days as a young man, when, he says, ‘‘I decided if I swore off socks, I had more money for books.’’ Several years ago, Frank sold the paintings given to him in the 1940s by an impoverished friend, Sanyu, who became a renowned modern Chinese painter. Frank received millions of dollars, but wealth so discomfited him he used it to create a foundation and gave it away.

Acclaim was likewise anathema. By the 1960s, just as his work was gaining a following, Frank abruptly moved on from still photography to become an underground filmmaker. Ten years later, with all the glories of the art world calling to him, Frank fled New York, moving to a barren hillside far in the Canadian north. Over the years, when museums asked to exhibit his work, when universities like Yale sought to award him honorary degrees, he would think, Let someone else have it, and decline. ‘‘He never crossed over into celebrity,’’ says the photographer Nan Goldin. ‘‘He’s famous because he made a mark. He collected the world.’’

The tram entered a scruffy immigrant neighborhood not far from where Frank’s father, Hermann, had his business importing radios and record players, for which Hermann himself designed cabinets that Frank describes as ‘‘horrible.’’ Frank carried two rolls of film, but all the way out he only gazed out the window. He could have been anybody. Back in the 1950s, when Frank was making what amounted to private photographic studies in public places, one of his skills was remaining inconspicuous in casinos, restrooms and elevators. Here, near the end of the tram line, suddenly the camera appeared. There was a single click. Nothing beyond the window looked unusual. Then Frank pointed to a construction crane, its boom passing below a church steeple clock. ‘‘This is Zurich,’’ he explained. ‘‘The crane. The clock. The church. Functional.’’ It was the one picture of the day.

Sixty years ago, at the height of his powers, Frank left New York in a secondhand Ford and began the epic yearlong road trip that would become ‘‘The Americans,’’ a photographic survey of the inner life of the country that Peter Schjeldahl, art critic at The New Yorker, considers ‘‘one of the basic American masterpieces of any medium.’’ Frank hoped to express the emotional rhythms of the United States, to portray underlying realities and misgivings — how it felt to be wealthy, to be poor, to be in love, to be alone, to be young or old, to be black or white, to live along a country road or to walk a crowded sidewalk, to be overworked or sleeping in parks, to be a swaggering Southern couple or to be young and gay in New York, to be politicking or at prayer.

The book begins with a white woman at her window hidden behind a flag. That announcement — here are the American unseen — the Harvard photography historian Robin Kelsey likens to the splash of snare drum at the beginning of Bob Dylan’s ‘‘Like a Rolling Stone’’: ‘‘It flaps you right away.’’ The images that follow — a smoking industrial landscape in Butte, Mont.; a black nurse holding a porcelain-white baby or an unwatched black infant rolling off its blanket on the floor of a bar in South Carolina — were all different jolts of the same current. That is the miracle of great socially committed art: It addresses our sources of deepest unease, helps us to confront what we cannot organize or explain by making all of it unforgettable. ‘‘I think people like the book because it shows what people think about but don’t discuss,’’ Frank says. ‘‘It shows what’s on the edge of their mind.’’

On a trip upstate, Frank visited a Fourth of July celebration in rural Jay, N.Y., and photographed two girls in white dresses skipping beneath a huge, diaphanous American flag. ‘‘Something I really like is a big flag,’’ Frank says. ‘‘Here, people are so proud of it. In other countries you don’t feel they’re so proud of their flag.’’ Like most things with Frank, that cuts two ways. Foreign, uncompromisingly independent, Frank loathed the provincial prevarications of nostalgia. At closer inspection, the flag is torn, while along the photograph’s edge is the only visible face: a sneering boy. That the flag is transparent means that in ‘‘The Americans,’’ a reader looks, in effect, through the cloth to the image on the next page — to segregated New Orleans, where Frank made his best-known picture.

Frank passed through the city in 1955 and took a photograph of a row of passengers on a Canal Street trolley — whites in front, blacks in back. In the moment, life stilled into such clarity that Frank’s shutter needed to move only once. What he says attracted him then was something filmic: ‘‘Five people sitting, each occupying a frame.’’ But it’s a black man, his forehead creased, whose complex expression makes the picture. ‘‘He’s looked at that street many times,’’ Frank says. Plenty of photographs were taken during Jim Crow. Frank’s gift was to transcend reportage and tell you something about the condition — how oppression felt.

When Frank began his expedition upriver into the heart of American ambivalence, photography remained, as Walker Evans said, ‘‘a disdained medium.’’ Only a few American art museums collected photographs. Most of the published images portrayed figures of status. One notable exception was the work of Dorothea Lange. Frank respected her compassion but considered her Dust Bowl pictures maudlin — triumphalist takes on adversity. ‘‘I photographed people who were held back, who never could step over a certain line,’’ he says. ‘‘My mother asked me, ‘Why do you always take pictures of poor people?’ It wasn’t true, but my sympathies were with people who struggled. There was also my mistrust of people who made the rules.’’ That impulse seems particularly potent today, during our charged national moment — our time of belated reckoning with how violent, enraged, unbalanced and unjust the United States often still is. To look again at the photographs Frank made before Selma, Vietnam and Stonewall, before income inequality, iPhones and ‘‘I can’t breathe,’’ is to realize he recognized us before we recognized ourselves.

Frank grew up in ‘‘a sad household.’’ In the 1930s, Zurich radio was full of Hitler. ‘‘That voice cursing the Jews,’’ he says. ‘‘You couldn’t turn off the voice.’’ Hermann Frank had been an excellent Sunday photographer, but securing the material comforts of Persian carpets and fine goose liver was his priority. ‘‘My father married my mother because of money. It became the most important thing in order for them to feel good. If my father had a good day, dinner would end and my father would take out his wallet and give my mother 100 Swiss francs.’’ Frank was repelled: ‘‘I was driven by negative influence. I wanted to get away.’’

In 1947, family friends who lived in Queens met the boat that carried Frank to the United States. The next day, they showed him Times Square: ‘‘The crowd! The crowd! I never was used to such a big crowd, and they were so enthusiastic about being there. It was America! Those big signs!’’ At a coffee shop, Frank encountered a waitress who flung everyone’s silverware onto the table. In that moment of democratic informality, Frank knew New York was where he wanted to be. ‘‘In Paris you’d see African people on the subway, and they were African. Here in America they are Americans. There is no other place like this.’’

The sheer diversity and scale of the United States thrilled Frank. ‘‘It’s a big country,’’ he says. ‘‘Coming from Switzerland, it’s vast.’’ Because there was such freedom of mobility, he could go many places, and in all of them he saw heightened experience — including, to his surprise, the masses of people who ‘‘looked desperate.’’ Some, like him, were getting by, but for many others the American promise never took. Early on in New York he met a former soldier who ‘‘would wear his uniform from the Marines every day. Even though he was not in the Marines anymore. He asked me to rent a place with him. I did for a few months. He didn’t have a job. Nice man. Lost. They get lost.’’

Over the years, ‘The Americans’ would follow the trajectory of experimental American classics like ‘Moby-Dick’ and ‘Citizen Kane’ — works that grew slowly in stature until it was as if they had always been there.
Frank got commercial photography assignments from magazines like Harper’s Bazaar while also roaming around New York, following ‘‘my own feelings.’’ His way of living resisted convention —‘‘I never worried about insurance’’— as did his work. For American photographers at the time, the professional apotheosis was Life magazine. Henry Luce, the publisher, favored linear, neatly partisan narratives, and Life’s editors repeatedly rejected Frank. Frank’s photographs suggested life was more fraught: ‘‘I leave it up to you,’’ he says. ‘‘They don’t have an end or a beginning. They’re a piece of the middle.’’

Frank was also passed over by Magnum, the elite consortium of photographers led by Robert Capa: ‘‘Capa said my pictures were too horizontal, and magazines were vertical.’’ The photographer Elliott Erwitt knew Frank then and says, ‘‘It was the beginning of that kind of photography that Robert did, seemingly sloppy, but not — and very emotional. The acceptable pictures then were sharp and technically excellent. But the pictures of Robert Frank were very different.’’ To Frank, the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s idea of a ‘‘decisive moment’’ in photography seemed reductive. Frank was in search of ‘‘some moment I couldn’t explain,’’ and periodically went off on his own to make pictures of Peruvian farmers, Welsh miners and French street children. His unwillingness to compromise led to breaks with friends like Erwitt. ‘‘I became a professional doing what people expected from me,’’ Erwitt says. ‘‘We all respected Robert’s talent and ability and knew he was difficult and fought with everyone — could be quite vindictive with some. We just dissolved the friendship. I felt he felt I’d gone the wrong way, the nonartist way.’’

In the late 1940s, Frank met a teenage dance and art student named Mary Lockspeiser, whose pale eyes and luminous complexion were perhaps especially compelling to a man who saw the world in black and white. ‘‘She was young, but I thought, Why not?’’ says Frank, who was nine years older. ‘‘She was alive for everything.’’ They married, and had two children: Pablo, named, he says, after the cellist Pablo Casals, and Andrea — ‘‘She was named for a boat that sank.’’ His sense of humor is just black enough that you wonder when he’s joking.

The family lived, as Mary put it in an interview with the Smithsonian Institution, ‘‘very chaotically in every way.’’ They scavenged the sidewalks for furnishings and inhabited desolate, formerly industrial downtown neighborhoods. The Franks were young artists, and struggled as parents; Pablo and Andrea were often left to themselves. ‘‘I felt we weren’t made for it,” Frank says. Mary was ‘‘a young woman who wanted to work, and I was running after my career,” he says, adding that ‘‘it was very, very hard, almost impossible to live with me.’’

Frank absorbed artistic influences all over New York. Edward Hopper’s moody office-scapes, restaurant interiors and gas pumps were not in fashion when Frank discovered the painter: ‘‘So clear and so decisive. The human form in it. You look twice — what’s this guy waiting for? What’s he looking at? The simplicity of two facing each other. A man in a chair.’’ Frank’s creative day to day was informed by the Abstract Expressionist painters he lived among. Through his window, Frank studied Willem de Kooning pacing his studio in his underwear, pausing at his easel and then walking the floor some more. ‘‘I was a very silent unobserved watcher of this man at work. It meant a lot to me. It encouraged me to pace up and down and struggle.’’ He also saw the downside of an artist’s life: ‘‘I used to watch de Kooning work, and then I’d walk down the street and see him drinking and lying in the gutter. Somebody’s bringing him upstairs. You drink because you have doubts. Things seem to crumble around you.’’

Since there ‘‘weren’t so many artists in photography to meet,’’ Frank says, he became interested in the work of only one photographer: Walker Evans. Evans’s images of battered roadside prewar America were, as the photographer Tod Papageorge writes, Frank’s ‘‘sourcebook’’ for his own rendition of the American scene. Frank sought Evans out, and soon the older man was inviting Frank to his Upper East Side apartment to help him photograph objects like tools arranged on a table. ‘‘If I put a piece of cheese on the table and said, ‘Photograph it,’ ’’ Frank says, ‘‘his would be different from my piece of cheese. His pictures were more careful. I was fast. Hurry! Hurry! Life goes fast.’’

Evans wore English shoes and patrician airs. Frank had become close to raffish Beats like the poet Allen Ginsberg, and when Evans was hospitalized, he asked Frank not to bring ‘‘any of those friends of yours up here.’’ Frank believed that despite the humanity in his pictures, Evans ‘‘felt he was better than other people. That was something I couldn’t stand.’’

Evans admired talent, and he became Frank’s champion, encouraging him to complete a Guggenheim application to support the photographic journey that would become ‘‘The Americans.’’ Evans wrote him a recommendation, calling him ‘‘a born artist,’’ and helped plan his itinerary.

Frank left his family behind in 1955 and went off to see Miami, Los Angeles and 10,000 miles in between through the windshield of a black Ford Business Coupe. He packed two cameras, many boxes of film (kept in a bag to protect them from the sun), trunks, French brandy (‘‘Sometimes you need a little drink; it changes your attitude’’), AAA road atlases and one book, which was really a map of another kind, Evans’s ‘‘American Photographs.’’ Evans and others had suggested destinations like the Gullah communities of the south Atlantic coast, but Frank was often spontaneous.

The first destination was Michigan. ‘‘I went to Detroit to photograph the Ford factories, and then it was clear to me I wanted to do this. It was summer and so loud. So much noise. So much heat. It was hell. So much screaming.’’

As Frank searched for pictures, he stayed in cheap motels: ‘‘You’d always find them down by the river.’’ The first stop in a new town was usually a Woolworth’s department store. His favored shooting settings were public — sidewalks, political rallies, drive-ins, churches, parks. He wanted to find the men and women others would consider unremarkable, as well as the symbols and objects that defined them. Falling into a place-to-place rhythm, he took pictures of bystanders, vagrants, newlyweds, Christian crosses, jukeboxes, mailboxes, coffins, televisions, many cars, and those many flags.

It was an investigation, and in every frame there is pent-up atmosphere, pressure in the air, a sense of somebody’s impending exposure — maybe Frank’s. ‘‘Photography can reveal so much. It’s the invasion of the privacy of the people.’’ Accordingly, there was an element of tradecraft. ‘‘I felt like a detective or a spy. Yes! Often I had uncomfortable moments. Nobody gave me a hard time, because I had a talent for not being noticed.’’

He was neither tall nor short, did not appear to maintain regular relations with razors, scissors or blankets and dressed in a way that brought to mind the bottom of a suitcase — ‘‘I didn’t change clothes too much.’’ The Ford fit the man. ‘‘I loved that car. It was like any car, inconspicuous,’’ he says. ‘‘I called it Luce — the only connection I ever had with Mr. Henry Luce.’’

Years later, the photographer and curator Philip Brookman learned just how committed Frank was to making pictures. The two men were visiting Frank’s troubled son Pablo on Thanksgiving at a psychiatric hospital. Many families were there. At one point a patient sang a very clear and beautiful song she called ‘‘Sad Movie.’’ Brookman, moved, crept his hand toward his camera, but he worried that taking a photo would be inappropriate. As the moment passed, he heard a familiar, gruff voice: ‘‘You should have taken it.’’

When Frank raised his camera and shot, the process was blurry quick, meaning he could capture what he saw as he perceived it. People, Frank says, ‘‘don’t like to be caught in private moments. I think private moments make the interesting picture.’’ It says something about Frank that his favorite ‘‘Americans’’ photograph shows the only people who caught him in the act. A black couple resting on the grass in a San Francisco park looks toward the lens in outrage. Beyond them are white city buildings. What is conveyed is how it feels to be violated wherever you go.

Frank says he was most drawn to blacks: the bare-chested boy in the back of a convertible; the woman relaxing beside a field in sunny Carolina cotton country; the dignified men outside the funeral of a South Carolina undertaker, who uncannily bring to mind the day President Obama eulogized Clementa Pinckney. At first, the South was to him ‘‘very exotic — a life I knew nothing about.’’ Then, in November 1955, Frank was traversing the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River, ‘‘just whistling my song and driving on,’’ as he says, when a patrol car pulled him over outside McGehee. The policemen’s report noted that Frank needed a bath and that ‘‘subject talked with a foreign accent.’’ Also suspicious were the contents of the car: cameras, foreign liquor. Frank was on his way to photograph oil refineries in Louisiana. ‘‘Are you a Commie?’’ he was asked.

from Kerouac’s never-finished play, ‘‘The Beat Generation,’’ into a proto-‘‘Seinfeld’’ shaggy-dog story, indie cinema before the idea existed. Credit John Cohen/L. Parker Stephenson Photographs via Getty Images
Ten weeks earlier, Emmett Till was murdered a hundred miles away. ‘‘In Arkansas,’’ Frank recalls, ‘‘the cops pulled me in. They locked me in a cell. I thought, Jesus Christ, nobody knows I’m here. They can do anything. They were primitive.’’ Across the room, Frank could see ‘‘a young black girl sitting there watching. Very wonderful face. You see in her eyes she’s thinking, What are they gonna do?’’ Because his camera had been confiscated, Frank considers the girl his missing ‘‘Americans’’ photograph. Around midnight a policeman told Frank he had 10 minutes to get across the river. ‘‘That trip I got to like black people so much more than white people.’’

Coming to America after growing up listening to tyranny on the radio, Frank had been foremost a grateful émigré, and early pictures suggested it. Now, through a lens, the country darkened, and Frank became, the photographer Eugene Richards says, ‘‘a loaded gun.’’ Four days later, in New Orleans, Frank photographed the line of faces looking through the trolley windows. Once he saw that girl in McGehee, he says, he knew what to look for.

As he drove, Frank was in the grip-flow of his imagination, finding pictures everywhere, so many pictures that he now says of the period: ‘‘You don’t have it that good all the time. I was on the case.’’ Occasional hitchhikers advised Frank where to go next and spelled him behind the wheel while he slept in the back seat or quietly raised up and snapped their pictures, as he did on U.S. 91 outside Blackfoot, Idaho. Sometimes he gave people rides — workers, prostitutes — but Frank did not seek personal connections. ‘‘The people in ‘The Americans,’ I watched,” he said, adding, ‘‘I wanted to take the picture and walk away.’’

One ‘‘Americans’’ photograph came from a dimly lit New Mexico gutbucket: ‘‘It was a tough bar. You had to shoot from your hip.’’ In Elko, Nev., Frank photographed the play at a gaming table: ‘‘It’s very seldom you get a picture of people gambling. The management and the gamblers don’t want you to take pictures because they have wives. Or mothers! Or grandmothers! Or daughters!’’ At political gatherings, where credentials were required for admission, Frank was not above filching some from a stranger’s jacket.

You could operate that way if you were on your own, but Frank was married, and those years were hard on the family. In photographs from the 1950s, the children are inevitably bright-eyed, Mary is distantly aglow and Frank grim. From the road Frank wrote to Mary, ‘‘Your letters are often sad.’’ When they all met up in Texas and drove west for a few weeks, Frank found it ‘‘stressful. You go out, you’re gone. You come back, you’re tired. You’ve hunted for pictures. You want peace.’’ His family became the subject of his book’s wistful last photograph. Taken from in front of the car through the windshield, weary, overwhelmed faces and half the Ford are visible. ‘‘It’s personal, it’s melancholy, it’s sentimentality — all the things you try to stay away from. Also, I’m the person who’s not there. This is what it takes, the picture says.’’

Frank took more than 27,000 photographs. Returning to New York, he sequenced the best 83 into what he thought of as a film on paper. Walker Evans wrote him an introduction to help place it. But who would publish images of groping teenagers, drifters, cross-dressers, poor blacks, a harassed mother? At first, only Robert Delpire in Paris would. Frank’s inability to find an American publisher frustrated him. He came to feel he needed a more like-minded advocate. So, Frank says, ‘‘I turned to Kerouac.’’

It was early September 1957 when Frank heard about ‘‘On the Road,’’ a novel that had just been praised in The New York Times as ‘‘the most important utterance yet made by the generation.’’ Frank ‘‘liked the speed of it, taking you back and forth across the country, his descriptions of the landscape in the morning, the little towns, which he describes with such exquisite beauty — the love for America.’’

He found Kerouac ‘‘at a New York party where poets and Beatniks were. Some painters. Everything happened downtown.’’ When Frank showed the writer his pictures, Frank says he was empathetic. ‘‘Kerouac personified what I hoped I’d find here in America. He was interested in outsiders. He wasn’t interested in walking the middle of the road.’’ Seizing the moment, Frank asked if Kerouac would introduce ‘‘The Americans.’’ ‘‘Sure,’’ Kerouac said. ‘‘I’ll write something.’’

His family became the subject of his book’s wistful last photograph. Taken from in front of the car through the windshield, weary, overwhelmed faces and half the Ford are visible.
One reason many other artists believe, as Nan Goldin says, that Frank ‘‘has never taken a false step’’ is that Frank always puts art above sentiment. ‘‘I try to get out of sentiment’s way when it comes near me. A few steps backward and to the left and don’t look back.’’ Frank says there was no hesitation about jilting Evans for Kerouac, but informing his mentor that he was forsaking him for Kerouac ‘‘was a difficult moment.’’ He says Evans’s essay was ‘‘too flowery and made no sense,’’ adding, ‘‘The friendship survived, but that was it. Never mentioned again.’’ Their relationship became ‘‘colder and more distant.’’

Frank admired Kerouac’s propulsive methods: ‘‘He lay on the floor all evening long. He’d write 20 pages about it the next morning.’’ Introducing ‘‘The Americans,’’ Kerouac told a reader nothing about Frank’s biography. Instead, he supplied an ecstasy of overture: ‘‘With one hand he sucked a sad poem of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world.’’

Yet ‘‘The Americans’’ was initially unappreciated in the United States. The editors of Popular Photography derided Frank’s ‘‘warped,’’ ‘‘wart-covered’’ ‘‘images of hate.’’ That the photographs were blurry, asymmetrical, shot at oblique angles and deliberately informal attracted more screeds. The problem was, as the critic Janet Malcolm would later explain, ‘‘no one had ever made pictures like that before.’’

At first, it was other American artists who were enthralled. Out in Los Angeles, Ed Ruscha was sitting in an art-student cafe when a classmate brought in a brand-new copy of the book. Suddenly ‘‘there weren’t enough chairs for everyone; we were craning our necks, looking at it page by page. It’s like — You know where you were when John F. Kennedy was shot? I know where I was when I saw ‘The Americans.’ ’’ For Ruscha, in Frank’s hands the camera became a new kind of machine. ‘‘I was aware of Walker Evans’s work. But I felt like those were still lives. Robert’s work was life in motion.’’

Frank was not yet well known, but he and Mary were a glamorous couple at the crossroads of the New York arts scene. He personally was a camera, a tough, sensual receptor with an enticing remove that made others draw near. The people Frank admired were judgmental, unpredictable artists who satisfied his need for heightened experience. The jazz musician Ornette Coleman ‘‘didn’t like many things — a very hard critic,’’ while the filmmaker and musicologist Harry Smith lived to insult people, lit fires, yelled ‘‘Heil Hitler’’ in Jewish restaurants and yet was ‘‘the only genius I ever met. He was open to how people could reveal something for other people,’’ Frank says. ‘‘He lived uptown like a hermit, all alone with all his windows closed.’’

Among photographers, Frank considered Diane Arbus ‘‘a special woman! I went to her house. She was eating something. She said, ‘Do you want some?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ I took a bite. Almost impossible to eat. She said, ‘Yeah, I put too much salt in.’ She wanted to see my reaction. Why not? I liked her work. You could say, This is Diane Arbus.’’

Frank was closest to Ginsberg, Kerouac and their circle, and says he was inspired by Ginsberg’s relationship with the poet Peter Orlovsky: ‘‘Of course they were lovers, but he learned a lot about freedom from Orlovsky. They could live on the edge of society, the edge of American behavior. They made me want to be freer.’’ Frank would sit clothed in a room full of naked, stoned men as Ginsberg read from poems like ‘‘Kaddish.’’ ‘‘It’s wonderful to fall in with a group like that. You watch them live, and it’s so different from what you’d seen. Their art, their sexual lives, what truth they believed and preached and wrote. Ginsberg was a real prophet. He saw a different, more accepting America.’’

Frank once chauffeured Kerouac and his mother from Florida to Long Island; the author of ‘‘On The Road’’ didn’t drive. ‘‘It’s a better way to find out about the world if you don’t. He was true talent. He had a sad end. He couldn’t handle his fame. It drove him into a corner, made him drink, want to forget.’’ Frank found closer personal understanding with James Agee than he did with Evans, Agee’s collaborator on ‘‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,’’ and yet, Agee, too, was ‘‘always sweating and drinking, always a bottle close by. He was one of the saddest people I met, one of the suffering men.’’

When he wasn’t interested in someone, Frank could be pitiless. ‘‘I’m friendlier now. I had no patience.’’ He roiled with brutal standards: ‘‘In Provincetown, a guy showed me his pictures and asked me what I thought. I tore them up. Now I hate myself for that. Then I had to.’’

One day the painter Mark Rothko invited Frank to his studio for a talk. It was a dark space with only a row of windows on the ceiling because, Frank says, Rothko ‘‘liked the light to come in different colors. He had a daughter he worried about. He asked for advice on young people. I said I couldn’t help him.’’

Being an artist, husband and father continued to be arduous for Frank. During the ’60s, he seemed tired, angry and beaten-down to friends like the filmmaker Jonas Mekas, who recalls Mary once stopping him on the street to ask if she could borrow a dollar for groceries. The marriage struggled. But at the same time, Frank’s achievement was slowly becoming understood, a momentum that continues. The best photographers today, like Paul Graham, consider it still revelatory that someone could shape the endless onrush of American experience into a full portrait of the country. Frank’s book, Graham says, ‘‘expresses a yearning in us all to find meaning and a pattern, a form to life.’’

Among the many qualities that enabled Frank to achieve something so ambitious was his profound ambivalence. He was always that way personally, and it was how he could locate the full spectrum of any given feeling in the inscrutable faces of strangers. Critics like W.S. Di Piero believe his genius for expressing emotional complication came from an artistic innocence, the ability to look at the world as a child does — without the intrusions of experience. When June Leaf, Frank’s wife of 40 years, discussed with me this way of her husband’s seeing, she described being shown by his aunt a picture of Frank as little boy. ‘‘I looked at it, and I thought to myself, That’s exactly the same expression he has now: ‘What is going on here?’ That’s the secret of his perception of the world. And that’s ‘The Americans.’ That marvelous perception comes into the room. It’s ‘What is going on here?’ None of us know until he takes a photograph. Other than the photograph, he doesn’t know what is going on.’’

Over the years, ‘‘The Americans’’ would follow the trajectory of experimental American classics like ‘‘Moby-Dick’’ and ‘‘Citizen Kane’’ — works that grew slowly in stature until it was as if they had always been there. To Bruce Springsteen, who keeps copies of ‘‘The Americans’’ around his home for songwriting motivation, ‘‘the photographs are still shocking. It created an entire American identity, that single book. To me, it’s Dylan’s ‘Highway 61,’ the visual equivalent of that record. It’s an 83-picture book that has 27,000 pictures in it. That’s why ‘Highway 61’ is powerful. It’s nine songs with 12,000 songs in them. We’re all in the business of catching things. Sometimes we catch something. He just caught all of it.’’

As ‘‘The Americans’’ thrived, Frank’s success weighed on him. In the early 1970s, his friend the photographer Edward Grazda received a piece of mail from Frank written on a scrap of ledger paper. The postmark was the remote mining village in Nova Scotia where Frank and his new companion, Leaf, had escaped the admirers clamoring outside his New York door. ‘‘Ed, I’m famous,’’ it read. ‘‘Now what?’’

Rare is the great figure — Marcel Duchamp, Jim Brown — who departs at the top of his game. That the man who made ‘‘The Americans’’ would leave photography was such a shocking decision that people in the arts still speculate about it. ‘‘He was painfully compassionate,’’ Peter Schjeldahl says. ‘‘Maybe he didn’t want the pain anymore.’’

Frank put it this way in 1969: ‘‘Once respectability and success become a part of it, then it was time to look for a new mistress.’’ He says now that the issue was creative fulfillment: ‘‘I didn’t want to repeat myself. It’s too easy. It’s a struggle, such a struggle to make something good, to satisfy yourself. That was relatively easy for me in photography. It’s immediate recompense. You’ve achieved what you set out to achieve.’’ The composer David Amram, a friend of Frank’s, says, ‘‘The last thing he wanted to be was what Miles Davis called a human jukebox — always be what made him popular.’’

Introducing ‘The Americans,’ Kerouac told a reader nothing about Frank’s biography. Instead, he supplied an ecstasy of overture: ‘With one hand he sucked a sad poem of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world.’
In 1959, even as Barney Rosset, the American publisher of literary renegades like Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence, released ‘‘The Americans,’’ Frank decided to ‘‘put my Leica in the cupboard’’ and began filming a silent movie with his downtown neighbor, the painter Alfred Leslie. ‘‘Pull My Daisy’’ adapts a scene from Kerouac’s never-finished play, ‘‘The Beat Generation,’’ into a proto-‘‘Seinfeld’’ shaggy-dog story. A railway brakeman and his artist wife host a church bishop for dinner, which is disrupted by a visit from a group of fizzed-up hipster impresarios who settle in to riff the night away.

Leslie’s loft was used as a set; their friends were the actors: Ginsberg, painters like Larry Rivers and Alice Neel and a cameo for the adorable Pablo Frank. Amram, who composed the music, recalls the shoots as ‘‘an insane party; everybody being juvenile and nuts. Leslie was a hostage negotiator — ‘Allen, if you’d please put your pants back on!’ ’’ Frank remembers Kerouac filling up on applejack and carrying on until he fell asleep. Later he ad-libbed the narration in three increasingly inebriated takes.

‘‘Pull My Daisy’’ was indie cinema before indie existed, the pure underground. There was scarcely any budget; the paychecks are still in the mail; only college students and avant-garde cineastes knew the film existed. But it endures as a cultural document — here were the Beats — and because nobody had ever seen anything like it. ‘‘If that came out of ‘The Americans,’ that’s a giant step,’’ Ed Ruscha says. ‘‘It’s almost totally different. I felt like it was guys on a hijinx. Films were usually professional enterprises done in Hollywood. This was choppy and crude and gutsy.’’ When Frank invited friends to a screening, he says, ‘‘they were happy somebody looked at the world in a different way.’’ Viewers still feel similarly, which pleases Frank, ‘‘especially because people didn’t really like my later films.’’

Across the next 40 years, Frank would release 31 mostly short, genre-eluding, quasi-documentary movies that met with even less success than ‘‘Pull My Daisy.’’ He says that working outside the studio system, operating ‘‘completely against the rules of how you made a film,’’ was challenging. And yet he filmed work that was, Jonas Mekas says, ‘‘very important. Same as Andy Warhol, he comes with his own world, his own sensibility, his own style.’’ The projects attracted a range of actors (Christopher Walken, Joseph Chaikin, Joe Strummer) and co-writers (Sam Shepard, Rudy Wurlitzer). Frank’s subjects were recondite: a book signing for a writer who never turns up; a day in the life of a country letter carrier. Another, about indigenous American music, strayed and became a film about Frank. As Laura Israel, Frank’s longtime film editor, says, ‘‘He’s all about the detour.’’

Frank also made a series of jagged, strangely absorbing personal films about friends and family that were so unlike anything preceding them that collectively they constituted a small documentary wave of their own. Three were about Pablo, a fragile, tortured adult whose life was increasingly derailed by schizophrenia. Another film, ‘‘Me and My Brother,’’ began as an adaptation of Ginsberg’s poem ‘‘Kaddish’’ and then, following the familiar digressive pattern, became an account of Peter Orlovsky’s relationship with his schizophrenic brother, Julius. Frank explains that he was always drawn to extremes: ‘‘There can be good extremes, but I had more connection with the other half.’’ And Julius, Frank felt, ‘‘was on the edge of something. I felt he would calm down and tell what it was like to be in this place.’’ Frank considered his filmmaking career ‘‘a failure,’’ because ‘‘often I don’t want to reveal. But because it wasn’t going well it kept me going.’’ Defeat perversely encouraged Frank; he liked what he couldn’t do. Except that he could.

Frank’s most celebrated turn as a filmmaker came in 1972 when the Rolling Stones, in Los Angeles completing their album ‘‘Exile on Main Street,’’ invited him to photograph them for the cover. The musician who most influenced Frank’s work was Bob Dylan, who so frequently reinvented himself: ‘‘Dylan has the talents to move on.’’ But Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and the rest of the Stones were the world’s most celebrated outsiders, unregenerate avatars for collecting transgressive impulses into hits. At a fleabag Los Angeles inn, Frank recalls, they were instantly themselves. ‘‘Jagger said, ‘Let’s rent a room.’ I sat them down in chairs and made them use hotel furniture. That’s their life. Hotel rooms. Hotel rooms and polish.’’

The band was soon to go on tour, and they invited Frank and his Super-8 along. In the resulting film, ‘‘[expletive] Blues,’’ the band and its entourage are becalmed travelers ordering room service, gargling, masturbating, getting it on with drugs and groupies, moving through places they have no connection to, looking for ways to overcome lethargy and longueur. Frank now says of the experience: ‘‘I didn’t care about the music. I cared about them. It was great to watch them — the excitement. But my job was after the show. What I was photographing was a kind of boredom. It’s so difficult being famous. It’s a horrendous life. Everyone wants to get something from you.’’

Frank showed Jagger a rough cut. ‘‘He looked at it and then he said, ‘Richards came out better than me.’ Probably was right.’’ Richards agrees, of course: ‘‘One of Mick’s hangups is himself. Robert made the better man win! It’s a very true documentation of what went down.’’

a collaborator and friend. Frank and Seymour were photographing each other. Credit From Raul Van Kirk
The Stones’ lawyers worried that the explicitness would create problems and forbade screening it unless Frank was in attendance. As a result, the all-but-unavailable ‘‘Blues’’ is a celluloid apparition. The novelist Don DeLillo watched a cheap bootleg reproduction. He’d admired Frank’s photographs for the way they ‘‘imply a story or a sociology,’’ but the film, De­Lillo thought, was different. ‘‘There’s nothing behind it. There’s something pure.’’ In DeLillo’s ‘‘Underworld,’’ as characters view the film, De­Lillo describes at length its crepuscular, edge-of-time feeling.

Since the 1970s, Frank’s subversive approach has made him a godfather to young filmmakers. ‘‘The strength of his films is in what he says is problematic,’’ Jim Jarmusch says. ‘‘The beauty is they don’t satisfy certain narrative conventions.’’ Out in Texas in 1995, Richard Linklater was just beginning his film career when he staged a Frank retrospective at a theater in Austin. ‘‘If Robert Frank weren’t so acclaimed as one of the most influential photographers of all time, he’d have a much larger profile as an American indie filmmaking icon,’’ Linklater says. ‘‘It seems our culture struggles with the idea that someone could be that groundbreaking in more than one area. If it were just the films, I think he’d be credited as a founding father of the personal film.’’ He adds: ‘‘Beyond that, there’s this tremendous range of a restless, searching artist pushing the boundaries of the documentary, experimental and more traditional narrative forms.’’

During his 1969 short documentary, ‘‘Conversations in Vermont,’’ Frank portrays Pablo and Andrea confronting their youth spent growing up with a mother and father who put their art first. ‘‘You always said you wanted normal parents,’’ Frank challenges his children. That same year, Frank and Mary separated and Frank immediately began life with Mary’s friend June Leaf.

Overwhelmed in New York, craving ‘‘peace,’’ Frank asked Leaf to go to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to find them a home. It was winter. She bought a pair of thick boots and flew north: ‘‘He knew I’d do anything for him,’’ she says now.

‘If Robert Frank weren’t so acclaimed as one of the most influential photographers of all time, he’d have a much larger profile as an american indie filmmaking icon.’
They moved to Mabou, where the March wind was so strong you had to walk backward. They knew nobody, and the house they’d purchased overlooking the sea was, in the local expression, ‘‘after falling down.’’ As a young woman, Leaf was given a prestigious Paris studio to work in, and now in Mabou, she found she had sufficient inner creative stamina to make art in what her husband calls ‘‘a sad landscape’’ where ‘‘the sheep ate all the trees.’’

Rebuilding the house became their creative collaboration. ‘‘You learned a completely different rhythm of life,’’ Frank says. ‘‘It has to do with keeping warm and getting your food. That occupies most of your time. It’s severe. With time we found two friends.’’

Soon came devastation. Frank’s daughter, Andrea, aspired to become a teacher and a midwife. She was radiant, with flashing, dark eyes that infatuated Frank’s young photographer friends. Leaf likens her to Frank himself: ‘‘marvelous, like him. She intimidated people because she made everybody want her to love them. She was so similar to him — stern, critical, sexy, tough. Very tough. She was interested in life!’’ In 1974, Andrea died in a plane crash. She was 20.

Frank went immediately to the United States, leaving Leaf alone and wretched on a Nova Scotia island in winter, frightened that Frank would no longer love her because she could not fully share his grief.

Within a year of Andrea’s death, Pablo had cancer as well as schizophrenia. ‘‘Pablo,’’ Leaf says, ‘‘was a bird, a butterfly. The drugs he later took and the death of his sister pushed him over the edge into illness. That changed Robert incredibly, slowly, agonizingly. He became a sweet father to Pablo, where before he’d been explosive. Very critical, dictatorial, authoritarian, like many European fathers. Pablo was so ethereal, funny, charming, sweet. The illness made Robert a better father. He had to be.’’

For many years after leaving New York, Frank remained relentlessly productive; he made films and resumed taking photographs, personal images of a very different style from street photography. In 1972, a Japanese first-time publisher named Kazuhiko Motomura collaborated with Frank on ‘‘The Lines of My Hand.’’ An expanded American edition was published in 1989, and became a book crucial to American photographers. Jim Goldberg describes it as ‘‘a road map for the rest of us.’’ Many of the most powerful pictures are of Pablo, his face ravaged by illness. Photographs are distressed, dripping with tears of paint, rived with scratched-out messages. Of his son, Frank writes: ‘‘What a hard life we have together. I can’t take it.’’

In and out of institutions, Pablo committed suicide in 1994. ‘‘Robert was always attracted to mad people like Julius Orlovsky,’’ Leaf says, ‘‘because he had nothing of that in him. So it’s fate, isn’t it, Pablo.’’ Eventually, Frank gave in to grief. ‘‘It takes concentration for me to work and the wish to succeed,’’ Frank says. ‘‘I didn’t have it anymore.’’ With such loss, he said, ‘‘you have to cope every day, and it doesn’t go away. You try hard to find some peace and acceptance.’’

Frank dislikes talking about any of it: ‘‘It’s not good to look back too much. It’s often sad. Better to look forward.’’ I felt I should ask him about Leaf’s descriptions of his children. He didn’t disagree with anything she’d said. Then he sighed: ‘‘I could’ve helped him. He would’ve needed another family. A real mother, a real father to take care of him. I think about that too often, because it’s too late.’’

Frank and Leaf now live most of the year in a building off the Bowery that has open hearths and rough surfaces and feels like a vertical farmhouse, a Manhattan version of Mabou. In a neighborhood now awash in tony boîtes and boutiques, Frank and Leaf are remnants of vanished bohemian New York. In Frank’s musty basement studio, amid a jumble of contact sheets, Camus novels, toy crocodiles and checkerboards, ‘‘EAT’’ is scrawled on the wall in yellow. ‘‘Patti Smith wrote that,’’ he says.

Visitors are always stopping by. Leaf receives them bright-eyed — ‘‘I’m a bouncy!’’ Frank watches warily, but with an eyebrow raised. ‘‘He’s always waiting for something extraordinary,’’ Leaf says. Frank and Leaf married in 1975, while passing through Reno, Nev., an echo to the eloping couple in ‘‘The Americans.’’ Over the years Leaf has developed what she calls ‘‘a bad habit of studying Robert.’’ Once she asked me, ‘‘Do you think Robert’s elusive?’’ Instead, Frank answered: ‘‘I used to be. I didn’t like to explain anything.’’

‘‘You still don’t,’’ she said, ‘‘and you don’t like things to be explained, and I’m a great explainer. It’s a miracle we lasted this long!’’ At 85, Leaf has a grave, mystical face that resembles Georgia O’Keeffe’s. She sees her husband clearly — ‘‘You have no idea how mean Robert can be’’ — and with delight. In Philip Brookman’s 1986 documentary on Frank, ‘‘Fire in the East,’’ Leaf says: ‘‘He goes through life in this wonderful secret way, in the water, under the water. And things just come to him. So he’s like a fish, a beautiful fish in the dark, lighting up the water.’’

Although Frank still retains a certain Swiss civility, he enjoys provocation in others. He refers to the French celebrity photographer Francois-Marie Banier, notorious for insinuating himself into the affections of wealthy older women, as ‘‘the bad-man friend of mine.’’ Onstage at Lincoln Center, when his chosen interviewer, Charlie LeDuff, asked about the state of Frank’s rectum, Frank was amused at the general mortification.

Some days Frank is a steel door; others he is impish, a trickster. Not long after he renounced his Leica, word circulated among other photographers that he was entering photo contests under assumed names and winning. Ask him how he is, and Frank may reply, ‘‘Fifty percent!’’ What does that mean? ‘‘If it goes below 50 percent, my red light goes on!’’ One day, he loves crowds. Another day, crowds are ‘‘impossible.’’ A third pass, and the dark eyes gleam, and there’s nothing like ‘‘a medium-size crowd.’’ His terse style of speaking sometimes produces epigrams: ‘‘It’s the misinformation that’s important.’’

‘‘Take that seriously,’’ warns Brookman, who has known Frank since the 1970s. ‘‘He loves misleading people.’’ When Frank is feeling affectionate, his puckish banter is seductive to younger artists — especially photographers. Many men have felt for a time like a second son to Frank, only to abruptly find that some sort of personal fission has occurred, the focus of Frank’s guarded eyes has moved on and they’ve been purged. His longtime gallerist Peter MacGill has grown accustomed to offering consolation: ‘‘Robert hurts the people he’s closest to.’’ One photographer, in an anticipatory gambit, stopped talking with Frank for more than two years. When I met MacGill, he warned me, ‘‘Everybody who knows him gets periodically fired.’’

‘‘It’s that you’re not a contestant anymore for something extraordinary,’’ Leaf says. ‘‘We all fall short. It’s the way a man desires a woman. This is the one! He’s always hoping somebody will change the view of the world.’’ The personal quality Frank perhaps values most is autonomy, and when others want too much from him, he gets prickly and feels exploited; it’s time to leave. ‘‘It was always important to him to remain independent of Switzerland, his family, Life magazine, Cartier-Bresson, Evans and go forward, keep pushing,’’ Brookman says.

There have been unbroken bonds. Sarah Greenough, senior curator of photographs at the National Gallery, says Frank and Motomura always ‘‘were devoted, even though Robert didn’t speak Japanese and Motomura didn’t speak English.’’ Another person on whom the door has never closed is Peter Kasovitz, the gregarious owner of K&M Camera in New York. Many in Frank’s community wonder why Kasovitz should be spared. Frank, whose father sold electronics, says Kasovitz is the consummate independent operator: ‘‘He doesn’t go by others’ rules. He just runs things in a way he believes.’’

For decades, Frank refused honors and exhibitions. He once skipped a private celebration for the Museum of Modern Art’s new photography curator because he wanted to test the set of tires he’d just acquired for his Subaru. But lately, he attends his openings; this summer he accepted an honorary degree from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

Frank retains the spontaneous enthusiasm of a much younger man. In his tenth decade, he is still a free-form outsider seeking untried situations, fresh leaps — and nothing pleases him more than picking up on the scent of something exceptional. Last year, after receiving intriguing letters postmarked North Carolina from an itinerant laborer named Gustavo, Frank set off to find him. He discovered Gustavo in Winston-Salem painting a house, he says, but ‘‘I was disappointed in him. He was ordinary. He seemed not to be possessed by anything. He just drifts.’’

A more satisfactory result came after an unannounced knock on the door from a California family. The father, Leaf says, ‘‘was a junk collector looking for a masterpiece.’’ Recently he’d purchased three pictures. ‘‘One looked like it was from Woolworth’s, and he thought it was a Boucher. The second was the worst thing you ever saw. He thought it was a de Kooning. The third, somebody tells him it’s a Sanyu. He looks it up and sees Robert knows him.’’ So the family crossed the country by car to show Frank the painting possibly by Sanyu. ‘‘You don’t have to open your eyes to see it’s not a Sanyu painting,’’ Leaf says. ‘‘He doesn’t mind. He’s a speculator! He’s happy!’’ Eventually, Leaf and Frank had to go out. ‘‘What do you want to do?’’ Leaf asked their visitors.

‘‘Nothing,’’ came the answer. ‘‘We came to see you.’’ The family made their hosts tortillas from scratch and drove off for Louisiana to surprise an aunt.

Frank found all of this immensely satisfying. ‘‘I liked his directness. Completely direct. I could tell them about Sanyu. They had no interest in June or in my photographs.’’ And so Frank decided that the father should have his masterpiece after all. ‘‘I sent them two of my photographs. I wonder if they found out what people pay for a print like that.’’

July 4th, 2015
Bernie Sanders’s Revolutionary Roots Were Nurtured in ’60s Vermont

04Sanders-web-01-blog427
Bernie Sanders held his son during a meeting in 1971 with colleagues from The Vermont Freeman in Burlington, Vt. Credit Frank Kochman

By SARAH LYALL
NY Times Published: JULY 3, 2015

BURLINGTON, Vt. — When he came to Vermont in the late 1960s to help plan the upending of the old social order, the future presidential candidate Bernie Sanders brought with him the belief that the United States was starkly divided into two groups: the establishment and the revolutionaries. He was a revolutionary.

“The Revolution Is Life Versus Death,” in fact, was the title of an article he wrote for The Vermont Freeman, an alternative, authority-challenging newspaper published for a few years back then. The piece began with an apocalyptically alarmist account of the unbearable horror of having an office job in New York City, of being among “the mass of hot dazed humanity heading uptown for the 9-5,” sentenced to endless days of “moron work, monotonous work.”

“The years come and go,” Mr. Sanders wrote, in all apparent seriousness. “Suicide, nervous breakdown, cancer, sexual deadness, heart attack, alcoholism, senility at 50. Slow death, fast death. DEATH.”

Chalk some of this up to being young and unemployed. Mr. Sanders, now 73, has had a steady, nonrevolutionary job for quite some time now. His current workplace, the United States Senate, is not exactly known for its thrill-a-minute dynamism. But through his long evolution from outraged outsider to mainstream man in a suit, Mr. Sanders has remained true to his original message: sympathy for the downtrodden, the impoverished and the disenfranchised in the face of the rich and the powerful.

Back then, he was part of a crowd of like-minded young people who converged on Burlington at a time when America seemed to be rewriting its history on the spot. Students, hippies, labor organizers, trust fund kids, urban escapees, impoverished anti-Vietnam War campaigners and environmentalists yearning to be closer to the land — they came because they believed that change was coming and that they had found the right place for a revolution.

Mr. Sanders was barely 30, full of restless energy, with wild curly hair, a brash Brooklyn manner and a mind fizzing with plans to remake the world. Short on money but long on ideas, he found employment where he could, supporting himself through odd jobs like carpentry work.

“Freelance journalist” has always been on the list of things he did before he began running for statewide office, futilely, as a Liberty Union Party candidate in the 1970s. But the description is a bit of a stretch. A look through his journalistic output, such as it was, reveals that he had perhaps a dozen articles published — interviews, essays, state-of-the-nation diatribes — most in The Freeman.

part of the author Greg Guma’s collection. Credit Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist for The New York Times
They provide a useful insight into the formative thinking of the man who would go on to become Burlington’s first socialist mayor, then a senator and now a presidential candidate who is drawing crowds in the thousands with his unapologetic leftist message. The writings also reflect the particular mood in this one little spot in Vermont in an era of extraordinary turmoil in America, when the social fabric seemed in danger of ripping apart over issues like the Vietnam War, race and poverty.

Among Mr. Sanders’s efforts was a 1972 essay on sexual politics, “Man — and Woman,” which drew unflattering attention recently after Mother Jones magazine included it in an article about him. Its opening passage, which deals with men’s sexual fantasies, is meant to be satirically provocative but comes across as crassly sexist. (Mr. Sanders’ underlying point, expressed less feverishly farther down in the article, is that men and women should rethink how they deal with one another.)

Another essay mocked what Mr. Sanders felt to be the soul-destroying nature of conventional education.

“If children of 5 are not taught to obey orders, sit still for 7 hours a day, respect their teacher, and raise their hands when they have to go to the bathroom, how will they learn (after 17 more years of education) to become the respectful clerks, technicians and soldiers who keep our society free, our economy strong, and such inspiring men as Richard Nixon and Deane Davis in political office,” Mr. Sanders wrote, referring to the president and the Vermont governor at the time.

People in Mr. Sanders’s circle back then remember visiting the future senator at his small apartment in Burlington. “It was subsistence living,” said Greg Guma, the author of “The People’s Republic: Vermont and the Sanders Revolution.”

Mr. Guma knew the young Mr. Sanders as a kitchen-table fulminator and political organizer, not as a writer. At their first meeting, he recalled, Mr. Sanders “kind of berated me” when Mr. Guma asked who he was.

“He said he was unimportant and it was all about the movement, and then it kind of escalated. ‘If you don’t support the movement, I don’t want your vote,’ ” Mr. Guma said. “Obviously he’s become more adept at cultivating voters.”

Mr. Sanders’s articles in The Freeman were consistent with the newspaper’s ethos. The paper, which had humble production values and cost $10 for a year’s subscription in 1971, was founded in 1969 by Roger L. Albright, a former minister, as a place for like-minded leftists to opine in outraged tones about the issues of the day. Often, apparently, they did it for free.

“Pay? You’ve got to be kidding — I don’t recall ever getting paid,” said Marvin Fishman, now 77, who wrote about prison issues for the paper. (He had spent a year in prison on a marijuana charge.)

“We were broke, they were broke, everybody was broke,” said Frank Kochman, who was recruited for the paper when Mr. Albright rescued his stranded Volkswagen bug from a snowbank, and who was its general manager and co-publisher from 1971 to 1973. “If we had a little money, we’d try to pay something.”

Mr. Sanders contributed only sporadically. He interviewed a “labor agitator” and an old-time farmer, and he wrote some articles about health, including one in which he cited studies claiming that cancer could be caused by psychological factors such as unresolved hostility toward one’s mother, a tendency to bury aggression beneath a “facade of pleasantness” and having too few orgasms.

“Sexual adjustment seemed to be very poor in those with cancer of the cervix,” he wrote, quoting a study in a journal called Psychosomatic Medicine.

One article, to observe the 10th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, argued that despite its many failings, Cuba had made great progress in health care and education. “The American press and mass media have been stepping up their usual distorted and inaccurate reporting,” he wrote.

In “Reflections on a Dying Society,” he declared that the United States was virtually going to hell in a handcart. Its food was laden with chemicals; its environment was being ruined; the threat of nuclear annihilation or “death by poison gas” was increasing; people were suffering from malaise and “psychosomatic disease”; citizens were being coerced and duped by the government and the advertising industry; and the economy was based on “useless” goods “designed to break down or used for the slaughter of people.”

“The general social situation, to say the least,” he wrote, “does not look good.”

Later in the 1970s, Mr. Sanders took a steady job with a Liberty Union colleague making filmstrips about important events in American history, many from the colonial period, and selling them door to door to schools. (He also made a half-hour film about his hero, Eugene V. Debs, the labor organizer who ran unsuccessfully for president five times.) They worked on a shoestring out of Mr. Sanders’s house, said the colleague, Ron MacNeil.

“I think our motivation was that we were interested in American history,” Mr. MacNeil said.

But that was after Mr. Sanders had run, and lost, various statewide races as a Liberty Union candidate. By 1972, when he ran as the party’s candidate for senator and governor (he lost both races by very wide margins), he had begun publishing The Movement, an occasional newsletter.

He put together the whole thing himself, said Doris Lake, another early Liberty Union candidate, and focused on the issues that were consuming him. One edition included a letter Ms. Lake had written to her supervisor, and had shown to Mr. Sanders, complaining about working conditions in the eyeglass-lens factory where she worked the night shift, Ms. Lake said.

But for Mr. Sanders, everything was about ideas to make the world better, both in real life and in The Movement.

“I believe there was a lot of editorializing on philosophy,” Ms. Lake said. “At the time, we were thinking that the important thing in politics was to educate people, to get them to understand what was happening in the world, rather than to get elected.”

July 4th, 2015
Europe’s Many Economic Disasters

By Paul Krugman
NY Times Published: JULY 3, 2015

It’s depressing thinking about Greece these days, so let’s talk about something else, O.K.? Let’s talk, for starters, about Finland, which couldn’t be more different from that corrupt, irresponsible country to the south. Finland is a model European citizen; it has honest government, sound finances and a solid credit rating, which lets it borrow money at incredibly low interest rates.

It’s also in the eighth year of a slump that has cut real gross domestic product per capita by 10 percent and shows no sign of ending. In fact, if it weren’t for the nightmare in southern Europe, the troubles facing the Finnish economy might well be seen as an epic disaster.

And Finland isn’t alone. It’s part of an arc of economic decline that extends across northern Europe through Denmark — which isn’t on the euro, but is managing its money as if it were — to the Netherlands. All of these countries are, by the way, doing much worse than France, whose economy gets terrible press from journalists who hate its strong social safety net, but it has actually held up better than almost every other European nation except Germany.

And what about southern Europe outside Greece? European officials have been hyping the recovery in Spain, which did everything it was supposed to do and whose economy has finally started to grow again and even to create jobs. But success, European-style, means an unemployment rate that is still almost 23 percent and real income per capita that is still down 7 percent from its pre-crisis level. Portugal has also obediently implemented harsh austerity — and is 6 percent poorer than it used to be.

Why are there so many economic disasters in Europe? Actually, what’s striking at this point is how much the origin stories of European crises differ. Yes, the Greek government borrowed too much. But the Spanish government didn’t — Spain’s story is all about private lending and a housing bubble. And Finland’s story doesn’t involve debt at all. It is, instead, about weak demand for forest products, still a major national export, and the stumbles of Finnish manufacturing, in particular of its erstwhile national champion Nokia.

What all of these economies have in common, however, is that by joining the eurozone they put themselves into an economic straitjacket. Finland had a very severe economic crisis at the end of the 1980s — much worse, at the beginning, than what it’s going through now. But it was able to engineer a fairly quick recovery in large part by sharply devaluing its currency, making its exports more competitive. This time, unfortunately, it had no currency to devalue. And the same goes for Europe’s other trouble spots.

Does this mean that creating the euro was a mistake? Well, yes. But that’s not the same as saying that it should be eliminated now that it exists. The urgent thing now is to loosen that straitjacket. This would involve action on multiple fronts, from a unified system of bank guarantees to a willingness to offer debt relief for countries where debt is the problem. It would also involve creating a more favorable overall environment for countries trying to adjust to bad luck by renouncing excessive austerity and doing everything possible to raise Europe’s underlying inflation rate — currently below 1 percent — at least back up to the official target of 2 percent.

But there are many European officials and politicians who are opposed to anything and everything that might make the euro workable, who still believe that all would be well if everyone exhibited sufficient discipline. And that’s why there is even more at stake in Sunday’s Greek referendum than most observers realize.

One of the great risks if the Greek public votes yes — that is, votes to accept the demands of the creditors, and hence repudiates the Greek government’s position and probably brings the government down — is that it will empower and encourage the architects of European failure. The creditors will have demonstrated their strength, their ability to humiliate anyone who challenges demands for austerity without end. And they will continue to claim that imposing mass unemployment is the only responsible course of action.

What if Greece votes no? This will lead to scary, unknown terrain. Greece might well leave the euro, which would be hugely disruptive in the short run. But it will also offer Greece itself a chance for real recovery. And it will serve as a salutary shock to the complacency of Europe’s elites.

Or to put it a bit differently, it’s reasonable to fear the consequences of a “no” vote, because nobody knows what would come next. But you should be even more afraid of the consequences of a “yes,” because in that case we do know what comes next — more austerity, more disasters and eventually a crisis much worse than anything we’ve seen so far.

July 4th, 2015
Sonny Madrid 1945 – 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 10.09.42 AM
The cover of the first Lowrider Magazine from January 1977.

By JON CARAMANICA
NY Times Published JULY 1, 2015

Sonny Madrid, who as a founder of Lowrider magazine helped spread Chicano political activism by pairing it with coverage of the tricked-out cars that found popularity among Mexican-Americans, died on June 22 in San Jose. He was 70.

The cause was prostate cancer, his son Mario said.

Car customization took off after World War II, especially in East Los Angeles, where returning Mexican-American veterans applied their skills to old cars, modifying them so that they would almost scrape the ground. Early lowrider cars were optimal for slow cruising. They became a tool of cultural pride — enthusiasts began forming car clubs in the early 1950s — and differentiation from the mainstream. When Lowrider first appeared, in 1977, it became the scene’s bible.

“What Sonny wanted to do was change the image of the lowrider, so people could see they were normal, hard-working individuals like everybody else,” his sister Gloria Flores said.

Mario Manuel Madrid was born on Jan. 19, 1945, in Yuma, Ariz., and moved to San Jose, Calif., as a teenager. In the summers, like many Mexican-Americans of his generation, he worked on farms. An admirer of Cesar Chavez’s work with the United Farm Workers, he became politically active.

He was one of a group of young Mexican-Americans who agitated for change at San Jose State University, whether by working to establish minority scholarships or bringing speakers like Reies Lopez Tijerina, a controversial leader of the Chicano rights movement, to campus. He did not graduate.

Mr. Madrid was also fascinated by cars. By the 1970s, lowriders could be elaborate affairs, with artwork painted on the exteriors, lavishly reupholstered interiors and hydraulic systems giving them lift and bounce. They became a kind of Chicano folk art, and Mr. Madrid understood their power as a potential unifying force.

Each of the three founders of Lowrider magazine — Mr. Madrid, Lorenzo Gonzales and David Nunez (who died in 2011) — contributed $1,500 to help get it off the ground. About 1,000 copies of the first issue, dated January 1977, were put together with a mimeograph machine and a saddle stapler.

Mr. Madrid was Lowrider’s “light bulb, the idea guy,” said David Gonzales, creator of the Homies toy line, who got one of his early breaks doing a regular cartoon strip for Lowrider.

The magazine was originally distributed by hand, sometimes using Mr. Madrid’s 1954 Chevy panel truck. The magazine was sold from the trunk during car events or community parties, or placed in Mexican-American grocery shops and liquor stores. The founders made trips to Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles, the main cruising strip for lowriders, to spread the word, eventually opening an office there.

Lowrider also began promoting its own car shows, including the 1979 Supershow at the Los Angeles Convention Center, which drew 20,000 people.

Inspired by activist magazines like Con Safos and La Raza, the earliest issues of Lowrider were not just an appreciation of “motorized sculpture,” as Mr. Madrid called the cars in a 1998 interview; the issues also included articles about media representation of Mexican-Americans, prisoner rights and police abuse and misconduct.

Mr. Madrid wanted a publication that could serve as a collective memory for the Mexican diaspora across the American West and Southwest. “We used the vehicles as a medium to bring in the people,” Lorenzo Gonzales said. “The ex-con, he felt part of the magazine; the guy with the nice car, he felt part of the magazine; the young Chicano college guy, he felt part of the magazine.”

Despite circulation increases, tied in part to the bikini-clad models on the covers — still a feature of the magazine — Lowrider suffered financial losses, and in 1985 the owners lost control of it. It was eventually brought out of bankruptcy by Alberto Lopez, who had worked in marketing and advertising on the initial run, and who reintroduced the magazine in 1988 with the help of Lorenzo Gonzales and others.

“Sonny set the template,” Mr. Lopez said. “We just made it bigger.”

By the 1990s, lowrider culture had grown exponentially, even internationally, thanks in part to the prominence of West Coast hip-hop, whose stars would often feature lowrider cars in their videos. For a time, Lowrider was the best-selling automotive title on the newsstand.

After parting ways with Lowrider, Mr. Madrid lived mostly in Visalia, in California’s Central Valley, occasionally helping a political candidate or a Chicano musician or young publishing entrepreneur.

In addition to his son Mario and his sister Ms. Flores, Mr. Madrid is survived by his longtime partner, Linda Camargo; another son, Lennon; and four other sisters, Sylvia Rodriguez, Irene Morales, Eleanor Barraza and Evelyn Aguilar.

“He was the Myspace of his time — connecting all the kids from all the different neighborhoods,” said Gilbert Chavez, publisher of Streetlow, a magazine based in San Jose for which Mr. Madrid occasionally wrote and which will devote a coming issue to his legacy. Lowrider, he added, “was like a yearbook,” and Mr. Madrid, “was in parks, at local events, in neighborhoods taking pictures of regular people. That’s the heart of lowriding.”

July 2nd, 2015
What Nerve!

39292_R_013
Robert Hudson
Diamond Back
c. 1960s
Welded steel with paint
72 x 52 x 40 inches

What Nerve!
Alternative Figures in American Art,
1960 to the Present

July 8 – August 14, 2015

Focusing on four groups of artists practicing away from the cultural capitals of New York and Los Angeles, What Nerve! presents an alternative history of American art since the 1960s. As the exhibition’s curator, Dan Nadel, has written, “When confronted with a system that seems impenetrable, outsiders tend to band together.”

The Chicago-based Hairy Who exhibited together from 1966 to 1969. Its members were Jim Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca, and Karl Wirsum. Funk Art took root in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s and 1970s and is represented in the exhibition with works by Jeremy Anderson, Robert Arneson, Joan Brown, Roy De Forest, Robert Hudson, Ken Price, Peter Saul, and Peter Voulkos. In Ann Arbor, Mike Kelley, Cary Loren, Niagara, and Jim Shaw formed Destroy All Monsters as students in the 1970s. Forcefield members Mat Brinkman, Jim Drain, Leif Goldberg, and Ara Peterson, active in Providence from 1996 to 2003, created fictional personas complete with pseudonyms and elaborate garments.

This exhibition reassesses the artists associated with these four groups, providing a new understanding of their influence on contemporary art history. Distinct as their artworks are in style, period, and place, the artists all share a common set of concerns. Inspired by a wide array of influences including folk art, advertising, primitive art, comic books, and fetishism, they all favor figurative imagery that diverges from the predominant artistic style of the time.

The groups presented here emerged from close collaboration and, in the case of Destroy All Monsters and Forcefield, experimental living arrangements. All of them embrace alternate aesthetics and unconventional media. Lawn chairs, purses, comic books, chain metal shrouds, and a video installation join rarely seen paintings and drawings.

Matthew Marks

July 2nd, 2015
Robert Rapson | Ships

IMG_9026

IMG_9027
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)

By STEVE LOPEZ
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

unnamed-1
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

By CHRISTINE PORATH
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
CALISTHENICS

stlip11001
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)

CURATED BY MATT PAWESKI
JUNE 26 – AUGUST 15, 2015

STEVEN BALDI, JULIE BEAUFILS, CAMILLE BLATRIX, POL CHAMBOST,
KATE COSTELLO, MATTHEW DARBYSHIRE, NANCY DE HOLL, LILY LUDLOW,
BRUCE M. SHERMAN, LINDA STARK, CAMILLA WILLS, B. WURTZ

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
· Next