Teen Opens Pawn Shop for Sneakers

Screen shot 2015-01-15 at 5.50.37 PM

Associated Press
January 15, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — A 16-year-old sneaker-loving teen is using the footwear to get a different kind of kick — he’s opened a pawnshop that uses high-end athletic shoes as collateral.

Chase Reed and his father, Troy Reed, opened Sneaker Pawn on Lenox Avenue in Harlem looking to capitalize on America’s multibillion-dollar athletic footwear market and the high prices sneakers can get being re-sold.

The idea started close to home, when Chase would ask his father to borrow money after Reed had spent a few hundred dollars on sneakers for his son. Reed would hold onto a pair of his son’s shoes until he had gotten his money back.

“My son said, ‘Dad, you’re actually kind of making me pawn you my sneakers,’” Reed said during a recent interview at the store. “Once he said that, a light bulb went off.”

He told his son, “You don’t have no money, but you got all these sneakers. Imagine how many other kids got all these sneakers and probably need cash.”

The duo decided to renovate the space in Harlem, where they had been living before moving elsewhere, into a retail location. And to pay for it all, Chase sold his own collection, bringing in about $30,000.

“My father told me, certain things you have to sacrifice,” Chase said.

Basketball sneakers can sell and re-sell for hundreds of dollars, depending on the shoe model, how limited the production run was, and how easy it is to find a pair in good condition. Sneaker Pawn carries shoes with price tags of more than $1,000.

The shop, which opened about six months ago, offers different options. People looking to just unload their sneakers — specifically basketball shoes — can offer them to the Reeds to be bought outright, or on a consignment agreement which nets the Reeds 20 percent of the final sale price. Those looking to pawn their sneakers have two months to redeem them for the amount of money the Reeds forwarded them plus a storage fee. Shoes that are being pawned are held in storage and not displayed, until the owner either gets them back or gives them up.

Chase, as the sneaker aficionado, has the final say on whether they buy a certain pair from someone, and what prices they sell the shoes at. He also customizes sneakers with his own art. Since he’s still in high school, his father handles the running of the store during the weekdays.

Fourteen-year-old Harlem resident Chaise Mack shelled out a couple of hundred dollars for a pair of Air Jordan sneakers released in 2012 that sell online for at least twice the price that he paid.

The store, he said, “is amazing. You can’t really find sneakers like this downtown. Most of the sneakers here are not in retail.”

It’s been a learning experience for Chase, who’s had to put aside the rebuilding of his own collection.

“Sadly there are a lot of size 14s that come through the store,” he said. “The nicest sneakers on Earth that come through the store and the first thing I do is sell them.”

He’s philosophical about it. I “can’t let my sneaker high get in the way of me making money, me being a businessman,” he said.

January 15th, 2015
El Capitan’s Dawn Wall Climbers Reach Top at Yosemite

Screen shot 2015-01-15 at 3.13.12 AM
Caldwell led the last pitch of the Dawn Wall as Jorgeson belayed. Credit Max Whittaker for The New York Times

By JOHN BRANCH
NY Times Published: JAN. 14, 2015

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — On the 19th day of their climb, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, both now bearded, reached the summit of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall, completing a quest that included years of planning and that many considered the most challenging rock climb in the world.

Dozens of family members and friends greeted the climbers when they reached the top at 3:25 p.m. Wednesday, a cloudless day. After Caldwell hugged his wife and Jorgeson hugged his girlfriend, they were given sparkling wine. Jorgeson sprayed his. “That’s the first shower you’ve had in a while,” Caldwell’s wife, Rebecca, said.

Jorgeson said of their feat: “I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall, if you will. We’ve been working on this thing a long time, slowly and surely. I think everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day, and maybe they can put this project in their own context.”

It was the first ascent of the 3,000-foot Dawn Wall in a single expedition with the use of only hands and feet to pull climbers up — a challenge long considered impossible. Ropes were merely safety devices to break the occasional fall.

The sunset view at the top was stunning. What was less clear was just what Caldwell and Jorgeson had achieved.

El Capitan is hardly unassailable. Its face was first rock-climbed in 1958, and it has been crisscrossed by countless climbers using roughly 100 known routes. With its summit a mere 7,569 feet above sea level, it is no Everest or McKinley. Thousands of visitors from around the world hike the eight steep miles to its top each year, including several who left before daybreak Wednesday to greet the climbers.

But that was part of what made this expedition monumental — El Capitan’s familiarity. It is one of the best-known pieces of granite in the world, majestic and monolithic, causing crane-necked, open-mouthed gawkers to stand at its base and drivers in Yosemite Valley to veer off the road.

That accessibility was key to building fascination with the quest.

“I think the larger audience’s conception is that we’re thrill seekers out there for an adrenaline rush,” Caldwell said. “We really aren’t at all. It’s about spending our lives in these beautiful places and forming these incredible bonds.”

The entire climb was visible to anyone who wanted to watch through binoculars or long camera lenses while standing in a nearby meadow. And in recent days the assembly grew, some bringing camp chairs and nibbling on meats and cheeses, as history unfolded high above. From the wall, the climbers communicated through text messages and social media. Fans cheered success, and the climbers could hear it a moment later.

That was the magic that turned the quiet quest of two quiet men into a worldwide spectacle — an event both unimaginable and watchable. There was no mystery, but there was plenty of suspense.

“This is just amazing, really beautifully amazing, like a four-minute mile or a sub-two-hour marathon or Tiger Woods destroying every single major for a year or something, just off the charts awesome,” Will Gadd, an elite mountain sports athlete, said in an email message Tuesday.

For Caldwell, a 36-year-old from Estes Park, Colo., it was a goal that he could not shake since he first seriously conjured the idea a decade ago. It became his life-bending quest, a personal Moby Dick. Could every inch of the blank, vertical face of the Dawn Wall be climbed with nothing more than bare hands and rubber-soled shoes? He was not sure. He never was, really, until Wednesday.

“From the outside it was starting to look like a Hemingway novel or something, an unresolvable quest,” said Gadd, who has known Caldwell for many years.

Jorgeson, 30, from Santa Rosa, Calif., learned about Caldwell’s vision in 2009 and asked if he wanted a partner. Each year since, the two have spent weeks and months, mostly in the fall and winter, attached to the Dawn Wall, scouting holds, practicing pitches, imagining how to do it all in one push from the valley floor.

El Capitan is the height of three Empire State Buildings stacked atop one another, but with many fewer, and smaller, things to hold on to on the way up. The climb was divided into 31 pitches, or sections, like way points on a dot-to-dot drawing. When one pitch was successfully navigated, the climbers stopped and prepared for the next. Much of the work was done in the cool of the evening, when hands would sweat less and the soles of their shoes had better grip.

Some pitches were well over 100 feet straight up the rock, while others were sideways shuffles to connect two vertical pitches. One required a dyno, a jump from one precarious hold to another. Falls were not unusual; Jorgeson needed seven days and 10 attempts to navigate the horizontal traverse of Pitch 15, unexpectedly slowing the expedition, which was blessed by an uncharacteristic stretch of dry weather.

Two pitches were rated at 5.14d on climbing’s scale of difficulty, making them among the hardest sections of rock ever climbed. Nearly all were rated at least 5.12. To many rock climbers, completing one such pitch would be a career highlight. Few can fathom the difficulty of stringing together nearly three dozen of them without returning to the ground.

The Dawn Wall, sometimes called the Wall of the Early Morning Light, was first climbed in 1970 by Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell (no relation to Tommy). But their ascent was a virtual siege, using more than 300 bolts and hundreds of feet of rope to pull themselves up over 27 days.

Storms pinned them to the wall for long stretches, but the men refused rescue attempts, dropping notes to the valley floor and, at one point, greeting would-be rescuers on the wall with an offer of wine. When the men reached the top, they were greeted by a crowd of 70 and enjoyed champagne and fried chicken.

Their assault was widely criticized by those in the climbing community who preferred a quieter, more minimalist ascent. Royal Robbins, a rival of Harding’s, went up the Dawn Wall and cut many of the bolts sprinkled up the rock.

Few, if any, thought the Dawn Wall could be free-climbed, using just strength and guile — not ropes and equipment — for upward propulsion. Earlier attempts by Caldwell and Jorgeson had been aborted by bad weather, injuries and an inability to get past certain pitches.

Not this time.

When Harding reached the top of the Dawn Wall in 1970, he was asked why he had done it and said, “Because we’re insane!”

“For me, I love to dream big, and I love to find ways to be a bit of an explorer,” Caldwell said. “These days it seems like everything is padded and comes with warning labels. This just lights a fire under me, and that’s a really exciting way to live.”

Jorgeson said the Dawn Wall “was the biggest canvas and the most audacious project I could join and see to the finish.”

“Like Tommy,” he added, “I don’t know what is next.”

After a summit celebration, they were eager to return to the valley floor for a bigger celebration, and the chance to soak in both a warm shower and whatever adulation awaited once they returned to the view of anyone who wanted to watch.

Soon, they would be back over the edge, headed down, and the top of El Capitan was alone and quiet again.

January 15th, 2015
Climber Yearns for the Summit, and a Shower

JORGESON1-articleLarge

“I’ll always remember that battle,” Kevin Jorgeson said of his 10 failed attempts at the sideways traverse of Pitch 15 before he was able to make it through that portion of the climb. Credit Tom Evans

By JOHN BRANCH
NY Times Published: JAN. 12, 2015

SANTA ROSA, Calif. — Inside Kevin Jorgeson’s living room, his smiling, bearded face popped up on the screen. His hair, two weeks since a shampoo, stuck straight up.

He spoke as if it were just an ordinary day and an ordinary circumstance.

He said hello to his girlfriend, Jacqui Becker, and his mother, Gaelena Jorgeson. But his eyes shifted uneasily as his portaledge, a hanging tent hooked halfway up El Capitan, lifted and swayed in Sunday’s gusty winds.

In a few days, he hoped, he would be home through the front door, not through FaceTime.

Jorgeson, 30, and his climbing partner, Tommy Caldwell, 36, are trying to become the first to free-climb El Capitan’s Dawn Wall, a 3,000-foot vertical route of barely dimpled granite in Yosemite National Park. Their quest has been years in the making, and they last touched horizontal ground on Dec. 27. With good fortune, they will reach the summit this week, having ascended to climbing lore.

After it happens, or even if it does not, Jorgeson will return here. He was born and raised in Santa Rosa, about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, four hours to the heart of Yosemite. He has a deep family connection there; a great-grandmother worked for the concessionaire in Yosemite a century ago, and the family has a photograph of her standing on the famed “diving board” atop Yosemite’s Half Dome in 1916. (She hiked, not climbed, in a skirt.)

While he is perched on the face of El Capitan, Kevin Jorgeson still drops in on his girlfriend, Jacqui Becker, via FaceTime. Credit Max Whittaker for The New York Times
Jorgeson showed an early aptitude for climbing. His parents learned that when their toddler seemed to vanish, they should look up. At 3, he climbed most of a two-story ladder at an aunt’s house before he was spotted. As he grew older, he often disappeared into the garage rafters or was found atop the chain-link backstop at a baseball field.

“It probably scared other parents more than us,” his father, Eric, said.

Eric Jorgeson worked for Santa Rosa’s Recreation and Parks Department and had a love for the outdoors that he passed on to Kevin and his younger brother, Matt. Kevin Jorgeson’s first exposure to climbing came at a wall inside a Santa Rosa sporting goods store. When Vertex Climbing Center opened shortly after, when Jorgeson was about 11, his father gave them both beginning lessons.

“It got him hooked,” said Eric Jorgeson, who, divorced from Gaelena and remarried, now lives in Idaho. “And it told me that it wasn’t the sport for me. But it got him through the teenage years without any of the typical teenage problems.”

By 16, he was competing in international climbing contests and had his first sponsorship, from Marmot, the outdoor apparel and equipment maker founded in Santa Rosa and now based in nearby Rohnert Park. He took his wall-climbing pursuits outdoors.

Jorgeson became one of the world’s best at “highball” bouldering, which features extremely difficult, relatively short ropeless climbs. He was the first to ascend Ambrosia, near Bishop, Calif., one of his favorite climbing areas.

Beyond his physical abilities, Jorgeson seems wired for climbing blank faces of rock, where precision and patience are as important as strength and flexibility.

“It’s a mental thing — he’s really good at memorizing sequences,” his father said, recalling Jorgeson’s ability to rehearse taekwondo moves or the best moves down a river in a kayak. “I bet after this climb, if you sat with him and said, ‘What’s the fifth move on Pitch 12?’ he could tell you. That may be an exaggeration, but he probably could do it for Pitch 15.”

Yes, Pitch 15. Should Jorgeson complete the free-climb ascent in the coming days, his struggle with the sideways traverse of Pitch 15 will be the heart of the story.

“I’ll always remember that battle,” he said.

Over the course of a week, he fell on 10 attempts, always on the same spot, shredding the skin from his battered fingers as he clung desperately, and vainly, to sharp, pebble-size holds on the wall. Caldwell made it past Pitch 15 and continued checking off pitches up the wall as Jorgeson lagged behind.

After Jorgeson failed on several attempts in the middle of last week, he texted one word to Becker, his girlfriend: “Devastated.” His next text said he did not want to be known as the man who almost climbed the Dawn Wall.

He rested his fingers, waiting for his skin to heal over two days, before embarking on another attempt on Friday afternoon. In the back of his mind, he knew that if he failed again, he would most likely end his quest in deference to Caldwell.

“That would have been my call,” Jorgeson said Sunday. “It definitely crossed my mind briefly, but I didn’t linger there too long. Answering that question wasn’t going to help me.”

He added: “I’m not going to lie. I did feel a lot of pressure that day.”

By then, Jorgeson had studied footage of each of his failures — how he pinched the rock on this hold, how he cocked his wrist on that one. He found that each fall had to do with a single foot placement.

“A millimeter change in the angle of my right foot on the exact same piece of rock,” Jorgeson said. “Before, it didn’t match the contour of this tiny little pebble I was trying to step on.”

It worked.

“It clicked,” he said. “I reached this balance where I could do this pivotal move and unlock the next sequence.”

Jorgeson made it past Pitch 15 as a crowd in the El Capitan meadow cheered in the chilly twilight. By Saturday night, he was through Pitch 17. After a rest day on Sunday, he reached the top of Pitch 20 on Monday, pulling alongside Caldwell on the ledge of the Wino Tower.

From there, the final dozen pitches, extremely difficult by rock-climbing standards but not as difficult as what Caldwell and Jorgeson have completed, might be done in two days of climbing.

And then Jorgeson will come home.

“A shower,” he said of the first thing he wants after more than two weeks hanging on El Capitan. “There’s so many things. I can’t let my head go there yet, though.”

Jorgeson and Becker met at a resort in Anguilla three years ago. Jorgeson knew the manager, who had an opening for a fitness and climbing instructor. Becker was living in New York and teaching hula-hoop lessons as an executive for a fitness company. Friends called them “Hoops and Rocks.”

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
Jorgeson contradicts the “dirtbag” reputation of climbing, showing that the sport’s credibility need not stem, in part, from a vagabond, grungy devotion.

Becker quickly recognized that Jorgeson was different from any stereotype. “We had a meeting with clients, and he was dressed up and sophisticated and had a killer taste in whiskey,” she said. “It caught my attention.”

Part climber, part businessman, he started a company called Pro Climbers International to represent climbers and expand the sport through training, workshops and events.

But there were times in the past few years, as he devoted months to the Dawn Wall, that Jorgeson wondered whether he was being selfish — spending too much time on an individual goal and not enough doing things that would promote the broader climbing community.

As it turned out, the Dawn Wall push in the past couple of weeks, and the attention it received, forwarded both goals more than he had imagined.

The idea of free-climbing the Dawn Wall — using only hands and feet to move upward, relying on ropes only in case of falls — belonged to Caldwell, dating back a decade. In 2009, Jorgeson asked if he wanted a partner.

Since then, for several months each fall and winter, Jorgeson has been consumed by the task of the Dawn Wall when he could have been expanding his business. Both men admitted that it often dominated their daily lives, filling their thoughts when they woke and keeping them awake at night.

Two years ago, after a 17-year wait, Eric Jorgeson finally received a permit to raft through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. Kevin Jorgeson anguished over whether to go with his father or meet Caldwell at the Dawn Wall. He eventually chose the 19-day raft trip, afraid he was letting Caldwell down.

The quest has taken an emotional toll, not only from the implausibility of the pursuit but also from the loss of friends to climbing over the years. Most haunting to Jorgeson was the loss of Brad Parker, a top climber also from Santa Rosa, who fell to his death in Yosemite in August.

Jorgeson had a deep conversation with Caldwell about it in September, and Caldwell opened up about the hurdles he had faced — a kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan and a divorce among them. Jorgeson committed to at least another year on the project. Maybe the next attempt would be the one.

In August, Jorgeson and Becker rented a small house outside Santa Rosa. A pair of sheep live in a field outside, and a 17-year-old cat, Monkey, clambers about inside. The living room includes Jorgeson’s childhood piano, a wood-burning fireplace, hula hoops and a large mirror used as a message board. (“House needs” include four stools, a kitchen island and “art for walls.”)

They considered moving to more familiar climbing meccas — Caldwell lives in Estes Park, Colo., at the doorstep of Rocky Mountain National Park — but Jorgenson preferred to be close to home, within reach of the ocean.

While there are no rocks to climb within view of his home, his quiet getaway is less than an hour away — the above-the-ocean climbs of Goat Rock at Sonoma Coast State Park. His postclimb plans with Becker include swing-dance lessons, furnishing the house and a trip to Europe.

Those must wait. Jorgeson is still a bit tied up.

“This is pretty awesome to watch,” Gaelena Jorgeson said to her son on Sunday. He was hanging on El Capitan; she was hanging out in his house. “You’re awesome.”

He smiled through a shaggy beard. He said he would see everyone soon.

January 13th, 2015
DOROTHY IANNONE

DI-Secret-Blossom

JANUARY 17 – FEBRUARY 10, 2015
Opening January 17, 18–20h

Peres Projects

January 12th, 2015
Robert Hudson | New Works

DOG LOOP Robert Hudson
Dog Loop, 2013-2014
(kinetic sculpture: top rotates on a point)
steel, steel magnet, stainless steel, cast iron dog,
found objects, acrylic paint coated with clear enamel
10 X 12 inches

Opening Reception: Sunday, January 11. 3-5PM
January 11 through February 15, 2015

South Willard Shop Exhibit

January 10th, 2015
The Curve

MP-16
Matt Paweski, Notch (Double) 2014
Euro – beech hardwood, birch plywood, steel, copper rivets, enamel, wax
Two parts/each 6″ x 6″ x 19″
Pedestal – 10″ x 22.5″ x 37″

Jan Groover
Kristen Jensen
Zachary Leener
Rebecca Morris
Monique Mouton
Matt Paweski

January 9 – February 14th, 2015
Opening reception Friday, January 9th from 6-8pm

Wallspace

January 8th, 2015
Among the Disrupted

By LEON WIESELTIER
NY Times Published: JAN. 7, 2015

Amid the bacchanal of disruption, let us pause to honor the disrupted. The streets of American cities are haunted by the ghosts of bookstores and record stores, which have been destroyed by the greatest thugs in the history of the culture industry. Writers hover between a decent poverty and an indecent one; they are expected to render the fruits of their labors for little and even for nothing, and all the miracles of electronic dissemination somehow do not suffice for compensation, either of the fiscal or the spiritual kind. Everybody talks frantically about media, a second-order subject if ever there was one, as content disappears into “content.” What does the understanding of media contribute to the understanding of life? Journalistic institutions slowly transform themselves into silent sweatshops in which words cannot wait for thoughts, and first responses are promoted into best responses, and patience is a professional liability. As the frequency of expression grows, the force of expression diminishes: Digital expectations of alacrity and terseness confer the highest prestige upon the twittering cacophony of one-liners and promotional announcements. It was always the case that all things must pass, but this is ridiculous.

Meanwhile the discussion of culture is being steadily absorbed into the discussion of business. There are “metrics” for phenomena that cannot be metrically measured. Numerical values are assigned to things that cannot be captured by numbers. Economic concepts go rampaging through noneconomic realms: Economists are our experts on happiness! Where wisdom once was, quantification will now be. Quantification is the most overwhelming influence upon the contemporary American understanding of, well, everything. It is enabled by the idolatry of data, which has itself been enabled by the almost unimaginable data-generating capabilities of the new technology. The distinction between knowledge and information is a thing of the past, and there is no greater disgrace than to be a thing of the past. Beyond its impact upon culture, the new technology penetrates even deeper levels of identity and experience, to cognition and to consciousness. Such transformations embolden certain high priests in the church of tech to espouse the doctrine of “transhumanism” and to suggest, without any recollection of the bankruptcy of utopia, without any consideration of the cost to human dignity, that our computational ability will carry us magnificently beyond our humanity and “allow us to transcend these limitations of our biological bodies and brains. . . . There will be no distinction, post-Singularity, between human and machine.” (The author of that updated mechanistic nonsense is a director of engineering at Google.)

And even as technologism, which is not the same as technology, asserts itself over more and more precincts of human life, so too does scientism, which is not the same as science. The notion that the nonmaterial dimensions of life must be explained in terms of the material dimensions, and that nonscientific understandings must be translated into scientific understandings if they are to qualify as knowledge, is increasingly popular inside and outside the university, where the humanities are disparaged as soft and impractical and insufficiently new. The contrary insistence that the glories of art and thought are not evolutionary adaptations, or that the mind is not the brain, or that love is not just biology’s bait for sex, now amounts to a kind of heresy. So, too, does the view that the strongest defense of the humanities lies not in the appeal to their utility — that literature majors may find good jobs, that theaters may economically revitalize neighborhoods — but rather in the appeal to their defiantly nonutilitarian character, so that individuals can know more than how things work, and develop their powers of discernment and judgment, their competence in matters of truth and goodness and beauty, to equip themselves adequately for the choices and the crucibles of private and public life.

This gloomy inventory of certain tendencies in contemporary American culture — it is not the whole story, but it is an alarmingly large part of the story — is offered for the purpose of proposing an accurate name for our moment. We are not becoming transhumanists, obviously. We are too singular for the Singularity. But are we becoming posthumanists?

No culture is philosophically monolithic, or promotes a single conception of the human. A culture is an internecine contest between alternative conceptions of the human. Which culture is free of contradictions between first principles? This is no less true of religious cultures than of secular ones, of closed societies than of open ones. Popular culture may be as soaked in ideas as high culture: A worldview can be found in a song. Wherever mortal beings are thoughtful about their mortality, and finite beings ponder their finitude, at whatever level of intellectual articulation, there is philosophy. Philosophy is ubiquitous and inalienable; even the discourse about the end of philosophy is philosophy. A culture may be regarded as the sum of all the philosophies, all the reflective approaches to living, that are manifestly or latently expressed in a society. It is a gorgeous anarchy, even if it contains illusions and errors. There are worse things than being wrong.

Within a culture, however, some views may come to prevail over others, for intellectual or social reasons. The war between the worldviews has winners and losers, though none of the worldviews are ever erased and there is honor also in loss. In American culture right now, as I say, the worldview that is ascendant may be described as posthumanism. We have been here before, and not too long ago, but for different reasons. The posthumanism of the 1970s and 1980s was more insular, an academic affair of “theory,” an insurgency of professors; our posthumanism is a way of life, a social fate. An important book, a brilliant book, an exasperating book has just been written about the origins of that previous posthumanist moment. In “The Age of the Crisis of Man: Thought and Fiction in America, 1933-1973,” the gifted essayist Mark Greif, who reveals himself to be also a skillful historian of ideas, charts the history of the 20th-century reckonings with the definition of “man.” Strangely, he seems to regret the entire enterprise. Here is his conclusion: “Anytime your inquiries lead you to say, ‘At this moment we must ask and decide who we fundamentally are, our solution and salvation must lie in a new picture of ourselves and humanity, this is our profound responsibility and a new opportunity’ — just stop.” Greif seems not to realize that his own book is a lasting monument to precisely such inquiry, and to its grandeur. “Answer, rather, the practical matters,” he counsels, in accordance with the current pragmatist orthodoxy. “Find the immediate actions necessary to achieve an aim.” But before an aim is achieved, should it not be justified? And the activity of justification may require a “picture of ourselves.” Don’t just stop. Think harder. Get it right. (Why are liberals so afraid of their own philosophy?)

Greif’s book is a prehistory of our predicament, of our own “crisis of man.” (The “man” is archaic, the “crisis” is not.) It recognizes that the intellectual history of modernity may be written in part as the epic tale of a series of rebellions against humanism. Humanism has been savaged by theists and atheists, conservatives and progressives, fascists and socialists, scientists and philosophers, though it has also been propounded by the same diversity of thinkers. Who has not felt superior to humanism? It is the cheapest target of all: Humanism is sentimental, flabby, bourgeois, hypocritical, complacent, middlebrow, liberal, sanctimonious, constricting and often an alibi for power. The abusers of humanism, of course, are guilty of none of those sins. From Heidegger to Althusser, they come as emancipators. I think we should emancipate ourselves from their emancipations.

But what is humanism? For a start, humanism is not the antithesis of religion, as Pope Francis is exquisitely demonstrating. The most common understanding of humanism is that it denotes a pedagogy and a worldview. The pedagogy consists in the traditional Western curriculum of literary and philosophical classics, beginning in Greek and Roman antiquity and — after an unfortunate banishment of medieval culture from any pertinence to our own — erupting in the rediscovery of that antiquity in Europe in the early modern centuries, and in the ideals of personal cultivation by means of textual study and aesthetic experience that it bequeathed, or that were developed under its inspiration, in the “enlightened” 18th and 19th centuries, and eventually culminated in programs of education in the humanities in modern universities. The worldview takes many forms: a philosophical claim about the centrality of humankind to the universe, and about the irreducibility of the human difference to any aspect of our animality; a methodological claim about the most illuminating way to explain history and human affairs, and about the essential inability of the natural sciences to offer a satisfactory explanation; a moral claim about the priority, and the universal nature, of certain values, not least tolerance and compassion. It is all a little inchoate — ­human, humane, humanities, humanism, humanitarianism; but there is nothing shameful or demeaning about any of it.

And posthumanism? It elects to understand the world in terms of impersonal forces and structures, and to deny the importance, and even the legitimacy, of human agency. It certainly does not mean, as Greif correctly notes about antihumanism, a “hatred of the human.” There have been humane posthumanists and there have been inhumane humanists. But the inhumanity of humanists may be refuted on the basis of their own worldview, whereas the condemnation of cruelty toward “man the machine,” to borrow the old but enduring notion of an 18th-century French materialist, requires the importation of another framework of judgment. The same is true about universalism, which every critic of humanism has arraigned for its failure to live up to the promise of a perfect inclusiveness. It is a melancholy fact of history that there has never been a universalism that did not exclude. Yet the same is plainly the case about every particularism, which is nothing but a doctrine of exclusion; and the correction of particularism, the extension of its concept and its care, cannot be accomplished in its own name. It requires an idea from outside, an idea external to itself, a universalistic idea, a humanistic idea. Asking universalism to keep faith with its own principles is a perennial activity of moral life. Asking particularism to keep faith with its own principles is asking for trouble.

Aside from issues of life and death, there is no more urgent task for American intellectuals and writers than to think critically about the salience, even the tyranny, of technology in individual and collective life. All revolutions exaggerate, and the digital revolution is no different. We are still in the middle of the great transformation, but it is not too early to begin to expose the exaggerations, and to sort out the continuities from the discontinuities. The burden of proof falls on the revolutionaries, and their success in the marketplace is not sufficient proof. Presumptions of obsolescence, which are often nothing more than the marketing techniques of corporate behemoths, need to be scrupulously examined. By now we are familiar enough with the magnitude of the changes in all the spheres of our existence to move beyond the futuristic rhapsodies that characterize much of the literature on the subject. We can no longer roll over and celebrate and shop. Every phone in every pocket contains a “picture of ourselves,” and we must ascertain what that picture is and whether we should wish to resist it. Here is a humanist proposition for the age of Google: The processing of information is not the highest aim to which the human spirit can aspire, and neither is competitiveness in a global economy. The character of our society cannot be determined by engineers.

“Our very mastery seems to escape our mastery,” Michel Serres has anxiously remarked. “How can we dominate our domination; how can we master our own mastery?” Every technology is used before it is completely understood. There is always a lag between an innovation and the apprehension of its consequences. We are living in that lag, and it is a right time to keep our heads and reflect. We have much to gain and much to lose. In the media, for example, the general inebriation about the multiplicity of platforms has distracted many people from the scruple that questions of quality on the new platforms should be no different from questions of quality on the old platforms. Otherwise a quantitative expansion will result in a qualitative contraction. The new devices do not in themselves authorize a revision of the standards of evidence and argument and style that we championed in the old devices. (What a voluptuous device paper is!) Such revisions may be made on other grounds — out of commercial ambition, for example; but there is nothing innovative about pandering for the sake of a profit. The decision to prefer the requirements of commerce to the requirements of culture cannot be exonerated by the thrills of the digital revolution.

And therein lies a consoling irony of our situation. The machines may be more neutral about their uses than the propagandists and the advertisers want us to believe. We can leave aside the ideology of digitality and its aggressions, and regard the devices as simply new means for old ends. Tradition “travels” in many ways. It has already flourished in many technologies — but only when its flourishing has been the objective. I will give an example from the humanities. The day is approaching when the dream of the democratization of knowledge — Borges’s fantasy of “the total library” — will be realized. Soon all the collections in all the libraries and all the archives in the world will be available to everyone with a screen. Who would not welcome such a vast enfranchisement? But universal accessibility is not the end of the story, it is the beginning. The humanistic methods that were practiced before digitalization will be even more urgent after digitalization, because we will need help in navigating the unprecedented welter. Searches for keywords will not provide contexts for keywords. Patterns that are revealed by searches will not identify their own causes and reasons. The new order will not relieve us of the old burdens, and the old pleasures, of erudition and interpretation.

Is all this — is humanism — sentimental? But sentimentality is not always a counterfeit emotion. Sometimes sentiment is warranted by reality. The persistence of humanism through the centuries, in the face of formidable intellectual and social obstacles, has been owed to the truth of its representations of our complexly beating hearts, and to the guidance that it has offered, in its variegated and conflicting versions, for a soulful and sensitive existence. There is nothing soft about the quest for a significant life. And a complacent humanist is a humanist who has not read his books closely, since they teach disquiet and difficulty. In a society rife with theories and practices that flatten and shrink and chill the human subject, the humanist is the dissenter. Never mind the platforms. Our solemn responsibility is for the substance.

January 8th, 2015
image search

unnamed-15
Francis Picabia, Masque, 1949, Oil on canvas, 23 1/2 x 28 3/4 inches, 60 x 73 cm

IMAGE SEARCH: Francis Picabia, Sigmar Polke, Jörg Immendorff, Albert Oehlen, John Stezaker, Rita Ackermann/Harmony Korine, Michael Williams, Raphaela Simon; selected by Parinaz Mogadassi

Opening Reception January 10, 6-8 pm
January 10 – February 28, 2015

Hannah Hoffman

January 6th, 2015
Michael Rey

MR_2014_Banilla C_View1_BF_WEB
‘Banilla C’
2014
Oil on plasticine clay on panel
54 x 40 x 1.5 inches, 137.16 x 101.6 x 3.81 centimeters

January 10 – February 21, 2015

Cherry and Martin

January 3rd, 2015
alma allen

AAL6_2
Not Yet Titled, 2014
Bronze
7 3/4 x 16 x 8 in.

January 10 — February 28, 2015

Blum and Poe

January 3rd, 2015

January 2nd, 2015
Two Architects, Two Visions, One Diptych of Early Modernism

Screen shot 2015-01-01 at 3.25.12 AM
A bedroom in the exhibition, designed by Adolf Loos in 1903.
Photograph by Peter Kainz

Screen shot 2015-01-01 at 3.24.30 AM
A bedroom in the Vienna exhibition, designed by Josef Hoffmann in 1902.
Photograph by Georg Mayer

By ALICE RAWSTHORN
NY Times Published: DEC. 31, 2014

VIENNA — Take two bedrooms, each designed in the early 1900s by a different ambitious young architect for an apartment here. Both are modestly sized and furnished with a bed, dressing table, wardrobe and night tables. But the similarities end there.

One room was the work of the architect Josef Hoffmann, who designed it in 1902 for his clients Johannes and Johanna Salzer in warm shades of brown, with beautifully made wooden furniture sharing the geometric motifs of the carpet and curtains. The other was devised as a dreamy spectacle by Mr. Hoffmann’s archrival, Adolf Loos, in 1903 for himself and his wife, Lina. The bed, draped with a white silk sheet, appears to float over an opulent white fur rug, and white linen curtains mask the walls. The only color that is not white is the azure blue of the carpet.

Despite their differences, both rooms would have been recognized at the time as looking unmistakably Modern. They have now been reconstructed as the centerpieces of “Ways to Modernism: Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos and Their Impact,” an exhibition that runs through April 19 at MAK, the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art in Vienna, and illustrates their designers’ conflicting visions of modernity at a time of renewed interest in their work.

The exhibition, which was organized by Christian Witt-Dörring and Matthias Boeckl, begins by charting the birth of consumerism in Austria from the start of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, as manufacturers vied to appeal to the new middle classes. Many of those companies used recently invented materials and techniques, including pressed glass and varnished papier-mâché, to produce furniture, wallpaper and ornaments in a dazzling array of historic styles, sometimes combining them in, say, a table with a Baroque top and a Gothic base.

By the late 19th century, the architect Otto Wagner had mounted an assault against what he and fellow progressives regarded as pointless kitsch by developing a Modern style of designing buildings and their contents, distinguished by efficiency and clarity. “Something impractical can never be beautiful,” as he put it.

The stunning aluminum and glass facade devised by Mr. Wagner in 1902 for an office of the newspaper Die Zeit in Vienna is reconstructed at full size in the show. Humbler works, like his exquisitely simple aluminum lights, are equally eloquent expressions of his beliefs.

Mr. Wagner’s success paved the way for Mr. Hoffmann and Mr. Loos to emerge as leaders of the next generation of Viennese designers in the early 20th century. Both men were born in Moravia, now part of the Czech Republic, in December 1870, and both moved to Vienna in the 1890s, when it was one of the world’s biggest cities and the heart of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Each embraced the city’s dynamic cultural life and shared Mr. Wagner’s determination to define a new design style, but with contrasting results.

Having moved to Vienna to study under Mr. Wagner at the Academy of Fine Arts, Mr. Hoffmann rooted himself in its artistic community. Working with friends, including the designer Koloman Moser and the artist Gustav Klimt, he was a founder of the Vienna Secession in 1897 as an alliance of like-minded artists and designers.

He and Mr. Moser subsequently opened the Wiener Werkstätte, where artisans produced meticulously fabricated objects in the discreetly decorative Modern style of the Salzer bedroom. Mr. Hoffmann refined that style in increasingly imposing architectural projects, including the Palais Stoclet, a private mansion in Brussels.

Mr. Loos arrived in Vienna after completing his education in Germany and traveling in the United States for three years. Immersing himself in an eclectic circle that included the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the composer Arnold Schoenberg, he developed his approach to design not only as a practitioner but also as a writer. Mr. Loos believed that architects and designers should empower people to express themselves by creating neutral settings for their lives, instead of designers imposing their own aesthetic choices on them, and that there was no need to create objects if suitable ones existed.

Mr. Loos often attacked Mr. Hoffmann, condemning his work as unnecessarily ornate and materialistic. The reticent Mr. Hoffmann, who would hide in a specially designated room if anyone he disliked approached his office, tried to ignore him. The exhibition illustrates the gulf between them by displaying Mr. Hoffmann’s luxurious furniture and his architectural drawings of sumptuous mansions on one side of a gallery, and the anonymously made antique chairs favored by Mr. Loos on the other, with the two bedrooms facing each other in the middle. Another elegant touch is the choice of paintings of the designers’ respective clients: Mr. Klimt’s flattering portraits of Mr. Hoffmann’s patrons, and Oskar Kokoschka’s brutal depictions of Mr. Loos’s.

Their differences became even more marked from 1910 onward, when Mr. Loos joined a group of architects and designers dedicated to providing decent housing for workers. His radicalism — and that of his followers, like Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, whose 1926 Frankfurt kitchen defined the design of the Modern kitchen, and Bernard Rudofsky, who became a powerful force in North American design as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York — ensured that Mr. Loos was hailed as a visionary by the increasingly influential Modern movement long after his death in 1933.

Mr. Hoffmann had prominent supporters, too, including Josef Frank, whom he mentored in Vienna before Mr. Frank established himself as one of Sweden’s most prolific designers. But Mr. Frank also admired Mr. Loos. And to most Modernists in the mid-20th century, Mr. Hoffmann, who died in 1956, seemed too stolid, conservative and eager to appease his rich clients. “Ways to Modernism” demonstrates this in another face-off, between the speculative space that Mr. Hoffmann designed as a famous actress’s luscious boudoir for a 1937 exhibition, and the frugal, utilitarian apartment devised by Ms. Schütte-Lihotzky for a working woman in 1928.

Yet the exhibition ends by redressing the balance and demonstrating how the reputations of both adversaries have risen in recent years, showing work by other designers that bears their influence. Having been feted in the 1980s by postmodernist architects and designers, including Hans Hollein and Ettore Sottsass, Mr. Hoffmann is now benefiting from the revival of interest in craftsmanship. As for Mr. Loos, he continues to inspire latter-day radicals, from the architect Rem Koolhaas to young design activists.

January 1st, 2015
sergej jensen

35a62afc9029babc109a9d93d35373a3
Untitled
2014
Acrylic on linen
115 x 95 inches (292.1 x 241.3 cm)

Through January 24, 2015

Regen Projects

December 30th, 2014
Water Source for Almonds in California May Run Dry

SUB-ALMONDS-articleLarge-v2-1
Shane Tucker walking among his almond trees last week in Davis, Calif. In times of scarcity, a federal water project must consider the water needs of salmon, too. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

By FELICITY BARRINGER
NY Times Published: DEC. 27, 2014

SACRAMENTO — California’s almond orchards have been thriving over the past decade and now provide an $11 billion annual boost to the state economy. Covering 860,000 acres, they account for 80 percent of world production. But the growth coincides with another record development here — drought — and the extensive water needs of nut trees are posing a sharp challenge to state water policy.

Farmers in the area where almond production has been most consistent have relied on water from a federally controlled project that draws its supply largely from the Sacramento River. But that source is less reliable because of legal requirements that in a time of scarcity, waterways that nurture California salmon must also get available water flows.

Growers, some very wealthy, tried to get Congress to change those rules but failed. Also, new state groundwater legislation may eventually constrain farmers’ well drilling.

Almonds “have totally changed the game of water in California,” said Antonio Rossmann, a Berkeley lawyer specializing in water issues. “It’s hardened demand in the Central Valley.”

Farmers are planting almonds because, as permanent crops, they do not need to be replanted after every harvest. They have been steadily taking over from cotton and lettuce because they are more lucrative. “That’s the highest and best use of the land,” said Ryan Metzler, 45, who grows almonds near Fresno.

The problem is that not only do almonds and pistachios, another newly popular nut, need more water, but the farmers choosing permanent crops cannot fallow them in a dry year without losing years of investment.

Now the state is putting new controls on the groundwater that has gotten many farmers through the brutal drought — which still looms over the state, despite recent rains — and there is no certainty that the future of almond and pistachio orchards in areas like the western San Joaquin Valley is secure.

So almond growers are determined to be granted the water they need to keep their crops from dying, particularly in the Westlands Water District in the San Joaquin Valley, where 15 percent of the fields are covered with almond trees, up from 5 percent about 15 years ago. They chafe at the rise in the 1990s of environmental restrictions designed to help the survival of salmon species threatened by two generations of water diversions.

“We’ve had 20 years of a regulatory approach that has not improved the fishery,” said Jason Peltier, the chief deputy general manager of the Westlands Water District, which serves some of the richest growers in the state. “The reality is that their regulatory methods have failed on every measure” of the health of salmon species. His hope for the next Congress is that “they will take a look at the social and economic damage that the regulatory environment has created”

The assertion that environmental laws hurt farmers and farm laborers has proliferated during three years of searing drought, when federal water allocations were almost completely cut off. The claims infuriate opponents who feel that satisfying Westlands’ demands would hurt other more valid claimants.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
“They are hurting other farmers, people, communities and industries,” said Representative Jared Huffman, a Democrat whose district along the north coast includes many fishing interests. “There are big-time winners and big-time losers here.”

The proposals in the failed legislation — which was sponsored by Representative David Valadao, Republican of Hanford, in the southern San Joaquin Valley agricultural heartland — “would upend a whole number of laws” and long-established priority rights to surface water, said Kate Poole, a water expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

She added, “We have clearly exceeded the ability of our water supplies — including surface and groundwater — to meet the demands we’re putting on it. We have to change, stretching how much we can get out of each drop through expanded urban and agricultural efficiency.” But, she said, “the Republicans in Congress seem to want to go in the other direction and upend the centuries-old priorities and give water to more politically powerful wealthy interests.”

Almonds are thriving not just in the western San Joaquin Valley, but across the state. Dino Giacomazzi, a fourth-generation dairy farmer in Hanford, is changing the makeup of his land. About 40 percent of his acreage — currently used for pasture or for alfalfa and other crops to feed cows — is being converted to almond fields.

Almond trees are far more difficult to plant than field crops like alfalfa, Mr. Giacomazzi said. “It takes 40 guys a day to do 20 to 40 acres” of almonds. One man plus a tractor can plant 100 acres of alfalfa, he said. The diversity of agricultural efforts will make his business more secure, he believes. “The trees and dairy can support each other at different times,” he added.

A new almond farmer to the north is Shane Tucker, who is 54 and started out in the business of financing agricultural enterprises. Then, with an eye to raising his young children in the country, he decided to start farming in Davis in Yolo County.

He started with walnuts. About five years ago, he figured that water constraints would limit almond expansion in the drier San Joaquin Valley, and “prices were going to go up.” Northern almond growers, he believed, would have a leg up. He planted almonds in 2013; he expects his first crop next year.

Mr. Tucker predicted that “irrigated surface water is going to become less available” in areas south of the delta that lie just east of San Francisco Bay. “The economic impact on almonds is going to be significant,” he added.

Growers in the drier parts of the San Joaquin Valley use federal or state water projects that date to the mid-20th century. The drought forced these project managers to make draconian cutbacks in 2013 and 2014, prompting anger among growers, particularly those with almonds and pistachios.

“They do believe it’s their right to have access to water,” said Mr. Tucker. “Yeah, they are angry. Potentially their livelihoods are threatened.”

December 28th, 2014
Tidings of Comfort

NY Times Published: DEC. 25, 2014
By Paul Krugman

Maybe I’m just projecting, but Christmas seemed unusually subdued this year. The malls seemed less crowded than usual, the people glummer. There was even less Muzak in the air. And, in a way, that’s not surprising: All year Americans have been bombarded with dire news reports portraying a world out of control and a clueless government with no idea what to do.

Yet if you look back at what actually happened over the past year, you see something completely different. Amid all the derision, a number of major government policies worked just fine — and the biggest successes involved the most derided policies. You’ll never hear this on Fox News, but 2014 was a year in which the federal government, in particular, showed that it can do some important things very well if it wants to.

Start with Ebola, a subject that has vanished from the headlines so fast it’s hard to remember how pervasive the panic was just a few weeks ago. Judging from news media coverage, especially but not only on cable TV, America was on the verge of turning into a real-life version of “The Walking Dead.” And many politicians dismissed the efforts of public health officials to deal with the disease using conventional methods. Instead, they insisted, we needed to ban all travel to and from West Africa, imprison anyone who arrived from the wrong place, and close the border with Mexico. No, I have no idea why anyone thought that last item made sense.

As it turned out, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite some early missteps, knew what they were doing, which shouldn’t be surprising: The Centers have a lot of experience in, well, controlling disease, epidemics in particular. And while the Ebola virus continues to kill many people in parts of Africa, there was no outbreak here.

Consider next the state of the economy. There’s no question that recovery from the 2008 crisis has been painfully slow and should have been much faster. In particular, the economy has been held back by unprecedented cuts in public spending and employment.

But the story you hear all the time portrays economic policy as an unmitigated disaster, with President Obama’s alleged hostility to business holding back investment and job creation. So it comes as something of a shock when you look at the actual record and discover that growth and job creation have been substantially faster during the Obama recovery than they were during the Bush recovery last decade (even ignoring the crisis at the end), and that while housing is still depressed, business investment has been quite strong.

What’s more, recent data suggest that the economy is gathering strength — 5 percent growth in the last quarter! Oh, and not that it matters very much, but there are some people who like to claim that economic success should be judged by the performance of the stock market. And stock prices, which hit a low point in March 2009, accompanied by declarations from prominent Republican economists that Mr. Obama was killing the market economy, have tripled since then. Maybe economic management hasn’t been that bad, after all.

Finally, there’s the hidden-in-plain-sight triumph of Obamacare, which is just finishing up its first year of full implementation. It’s a tribute to the effectiveness of the propaganda campaign against health reform — which has played up every glitch, without ever mentioning that the problem has been solved, and invented failures that never happened — that I fairly often encounter people, some of them liberals, who ask me whether the administration will ever be able to get the program to work. Apparently nobody told them that it is working, and very well.

In fact, Year 1 surpassed expectations on every front. Remember claims that more people would lose insurance than gained it? Well, the number of Americans without insurance fell by around 10 million; members of the elite who have never been uninsured have no idea just how much positive difference that makes to people’s lives. Remember claims that reform would break the budget? In reality, premiums were far less than predicted, overall health spending is moderating, and specific cost-control measures are doing very well. And all indications suggest that year two will be marked by further success.

And there’s more. For example, at the end of 2014, the Obama administration’s foreign policy, which tries to contain threats like Vladimir Putin’s Russia or the Islamic State rather than rushing into military confrontation, is looking pretty good.

The common theme here is that, over the past year, a U.S. government subjected to constant bad-mouthing, constantly accused of being ineffectual or worse, has, in fact, managed to accomplish a lot. On multiple fronts, government wasn’t the problem; it was the solution. Nobody knows it, but 2014 was the year of “Yes, we can.”

December 26th, 2014
Religion Without God

NY TImes Published: DEC. 24, 2014
By T. M. Luhrmann

THIS Christmas our family will go to church. The service is held in a beautiful old church in the charming town of Walpole, N.H., just over the border from Vermont. The Lord’s Prayer hangs on the wall behind the sanctuary. A lectern rises above the nave to let the pastor look down on his flock. The pews and the side stalls have the stern, pure lineaments suited to the Colonial congregation that once came to church to face God.

Except that this church is Unitarian. Unitarianism emerged in early modern Europe from those who rejected a Trinitarian theology in preference for the doctrine that God was one. By the 19th century, however, the Unitarian church had become a place for intellectuals who were skeptical of belief claims but who wanted to hang on to faith in some manner. Charles Darwin, for example, turned to Unitarians as he struggled with his growing doubt. My mother is the daughter of a Baptist pastor and the black sheep, theologically speaking, of her family. She wants to go to church, but she is not quite sure whether she wants God. The modern Unitarian Universalist Association’s statement of principles does not mention God at all.

As it happens, this kind of God-neutral faith is growing rapidly, in many cases with even less role for God than among Unitarians. Atheist services have sprung up around the country, even in the Bible Belt.

Many of them are connected to Sunday Assembly, which was founded in Britain by two comedians, Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans. They are avowed atheists. Yet they have created a movement that draws thousands of people to events with music, sermons, readings, reflections and (to judge by photos) even the waving of upraised hands. There are nearly 200 Sunday Assembly gatherings worldwide. A gathering in Los Angeles last year attracted hundreds of participants.

How do we understand this impulse to hold a “church” service despite a hesitant or even nonexistent faith? Part of the answer is surely the quest for community. That’s what Mr. Jones told The Associated Press: “Singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people — and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. Which part of that is not to like?”

Another part of the answer is that rituals change the way we pay attention as much as — perhaps more than — they express belief. In “The Archetypal Actions of Ritual,” two anthropologists, Caroline Humphrey and James Laidlaw, go so far as to argue that ritual isn’t about expressing religious commitment at all, but about doing something in a way that marks the moment as different from the everyday and forces you to see it as important. Their point is that performing a ritual focuses your attention on some moment and deems it worthy of respect.

In Britain, where the rate of atheism is much higher than in the United States, organizations have now sprung up to mark life passages for those who consider themselves to be nonbelievers. The anthropologist Matthew Engelke spent much of 2011 with the British Humanist Association, the country’s pre-eminent nonreligious organization, with a membership of over 12,000. The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, a prominent atheist, is a member. The association sponsors a good deal of anti-religious political activity. They want to stop faith-based schools from receiving state funding and to remove the rights of Church of England bishops to sit in the House of Lords. They also perform funerals, weddings and namings. In 2011, members conducted 9,000 of these rituals. Ceremony does something for people independent of their theological views.

Moreover, these rituals work, if by “work” we mean that they change people’s sense of their lives. It turns out that saying that you are grateful makes you feel grateful. Saying that you are thankful makes you feel thankful. To a world so familiar with the general unreliability of language, that may seem strange. But it is true.

In a study in which undergraduates were assigned to write weekly either about things they were grateful or thankful for; hassles; or “events or circumstances that affected you in the past week,” those who wrote about gratitude felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the coming week. There have now been many such studies.

Religion is fundamentally a practice that helps people to look at the world as it is and yet to experience it — to some extent, in some way — as it should be. Much of what people actually do in church — finding fellowship, celebrating birth and marriage, remembering those we have lost, affirming the values we cherish — can be accomplished with a sense of God as metaphor, as story, or even without any mention of God at all.

Yet religion without God may be more poignant. Atheists trust in human relations, not supernatural ones, and humans are not so good at delivering the world as it should be. Perhaps that is why we are moved by Christmas carols, which conjure up the world as it can be and not the world we know.

May the spirit of Christmas be with you, however you understand what that means.

December 25th, 2014
THE MEMPHIS GROUP

TheMemphisGroup_InstallationView_detail5_300dpi-500x700
Ettore Sottsass, Del Diavolo Mirror, 1986, Massa Carrara marble, 82 x 5 1/4 x 45 in (208.3 x 13.3 x 114.3 cm)

December 18, 2014–January 31, 2015

Koenig and Clinton

December 22nd, 2014
Los Angeles, as a Pedestrian

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 1.32.14 PM
Rudolph M. Schindler’s House and Studio (1922)
“Sometimes,” said one, “I just sit out here and smoke my weed and pray.”

By STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM
NY TimesPublished: DEC. 19, 2014

Had I been driving I would not have stopped here. But I was lured from the sidewalk by an open gate and the mysterious buildings beyond. There was a Moorish structure with a minaret, another was Italian with a loggia, a third had a fleur-de-lis on a chimney. It was as if a snow globe village had been dropped onto Sunset Boulevard. At the back of the hushed lot, a stone statue, naked to her hips, stood sentry.

I would later learn that this is where a Jazz Age gangster named Charlie Crawford was murdered. In 1936 these fanciful buildings, commissioned by his widow, became Crossroads of the World, the first pedestrian outdoor shopping mall in Los Angeles. In the 1940s it was recast as an office complex, attracting such tenants as Alfred Hitchcock. Today, the complex calls to mind the scene in “Big” where Tom Hanks returns to an abandoned fairground in search of a wish-making machine. There’s magic in the air, even after the carnival has come and gone.

Visit Los Angeles as a solo traveler and you’ll find few better ways to unmask the city’s hidden-in-plain-sight history, meet other people and imbibe responsibly than to be car-free. (And consider the money you’ll save on gas and valets.) This is not to scorn the car, which offers its own pleasures. It’s a symbol of freedom and, at its most inspired, art. The poet Gary Snyder has written of “the calligraphy of lights on the night freeways of Los Angeles.” And, as Reyner Banham put it in “Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies,” the city’s freeway system is “one of the greater works of Man.”

But driving can complicate a solo trip, and those who would rather not brave Los Angeles traffic should know that they need not see the city from behind a wheel to relish it. Some of its most beloved citizens, including the author Ray Bradbury, never drove. And while walking is common downtown and in Venice Beach and Santa Monica, in cooler months one can just as easily traverse Los Angeles between West Hollywood, Los Feliz, Miracle Mile and Larchmont Village by putting one foot in front of the other (with help now and then from mass transit and Uber). In fact, local tourism officials are encouraging people to do just that.

Last year the City of West Hollywood’s marketing arm posted “Walkable WeHo” tours on its website after being named the most walkable city in California by Walk Score, a company that ranks cities and neighborhoods by their pedestrian friendliness. On West Third Street, home to design boutiques like OK and Plastica, banners promote the area as “a walkable shopping & dining district.” And in March, the California Department of Transportation reported “a dramatic increase in walking trips” among residents, saying they nearly doubled to 16.6 percent of trips by 2012, up from 8.4 percent of trips in 2000.

Granted, strolling Los Angeles can be anything but picturesque. There are wide, noisy boulevards with scant shade. If you’re a woman, men in cars may greet you with “Yowza!” as they whiz by. Sometimes, to borrow a phrase from Shel Silverstein, the sidewalk ends.

But just when you think walking these interminable avenues is for East Coast chumps, something makes you smile. Take the white Tudor-style building that caught my eye on an otherwise humdrum stretch of North La Brea Avenue. A second glance revealed a trompe-l’lœil image of a grinning Charlie Chaplin leaning on a cane. From there my gaze traveled up the building to a 12-foot-tall Kermit the Frog tipping a bowler hat atop what turned out to be the Jim Henson Company, formerly Charlie Chaplin Studios (hence Kermit’s “little tramp” get-up).

Walk east on Franklin Avenue and you’ll be rewarded with postcard views of the Hollywood sign over your left shoulder, or the French-Normandy-style 1920s hotel Château Élysée (now the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International) rising above the trees near Tamarind Avenue. Walk long enough and you realize that here in this megalopolis of cars are quiet wonders, like the surprisingly ubiquitous sight of hummingbirds hovering around storefronts and terraces.

When you’re car-free and solo, one of the easiest places to nest is West Hollywood. There’s plenty of shopping, dining and night life, and the central location makes it a great base for jaunts to other neighborhoods. Hotels dot the Sunset Strip (once the stamping grounds of numerous larger-than-life personalities including members of the Doors and Led Zeppelin) and a walk from here to the La Brea Tar Pits is a mere three miles.

For a tranquil morning stroll past bungalows and Mediterranean-style homes with cactuses in the yard, turn off Sunset onto Sweetzer Avenue. Make your way to the Farmers Market on West Third Street, a casual, affordable maze in which solo travelers will be at ease sampling an array of cuisines, and dining alfresco. A chocolate caramel nut doughnut from Bob’s Coffee & Doughnuts goes with everything. (There for lunch? Try Loteria Grill.)

From there head south to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Hancock Park and the La Brea Tar Pits, a grassy landscape punctured by the occasional black gooey pool, where paleontologists have unearthed fossils of everything from snails to an American mastodon. (Incidentally, the Tar Pits, which have been oozing since the last Ice Age, are filled not with tar, but natural asphalt.) Yes, it’s a tourist destination, but for those who have never been, it’s an offbeat adventure. For a greater sense of discovery, enter at the corner of West Sixth Street and South Fairfax Avenue rather than the parking area off Curson Avenue. You’ll pass Michael Heizer’s 340-ton boulder artwork, “Levitated Mass,” before reaching the Observation Pit.

At the yawning Lake Pit, where fiberglass mammoths evoke their unlucky predecessors, the smell of asphalt hangs in the air; on the other side of the fence, cars fly by on Wilshire Boulevard, seemingly invincible.

If you’d rather gawk at shop windows than tar pits, stay in West Hollywood, where you can walk North Robertson Boulevard past the little red awnings of Christian Louboutin; Sur, the restaurant and bar staffed by badly behaved reality television stars; and the original Kitson boutique where boldface names stock up on essentials like rhinestone-encased pepper spray. The most satisfying strolls, however, are to be had on the side streets.

Dorrington Avenue between North Robertson Boulevard and North San Vicente Boulevard is too lovely to resist: hydrangea, azaleas, bird of paradise, cottages in Mediterranean and Spanish bungalow styles — and not a car in sight. You could spend hours weaving up and down the surrounding tree-lined streets, where front lawns are small but lovingly manicured.

Among the succulents and roses, security and video surveillance signs bloom on stakes. As an Uber driver jokingly put it to me: “If you look at a tree too hard, they’re going to prosecute you.” Consider it a Hollywood seduction: As much effort is put into making you want to look as it is in keeping you at bay. One afternoon I momentarily paused on the sidewalk and a man ran up to me. He kept asking if I had a ticket. I kept looking at him blankly. “I’m just ­ standing,” I finally said. It took a minute for it to dawn on me that he was a valet and for him to realize that I was — of all things, a pedestrian. I was reminded of Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Pedestrian,” which takes place in the year 2053, when people no longer stroll. The protagonist embarks on an evening walk and is swiftly arrested and taken to the Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies.

Among the joys of walking is refueling. At Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant that’s been a popular dinner ticket since it opened early this year, I nabbed a table at lunchtime without a reservation near the open patio doors, sipped a Purista margarita and savored a “bowl” that was as filling as a beef tortilla: romaine lettuce, brown rice, black beans, guacamole, tempeh chorizo, pico de gallo, cashew crema.

The Gracias Madre team is also behind the vegan fare at Cafe Gratitude on Larchmont Boulevard, about a three-mile walk from West Hollywood. And grateful is what you’ll be for the food, especially the savory Bonita breakfast taco plate: brown rice and quinoa, black beans, salsa fresca, avocado, cashew nacho cheese and pumpkin seeds. (Ask for the toasted coconut “bacon” flakes.) Or order a Grace smoothie — coconut milk, almond butter, dates, vanilla bean — to take with you on a walk through the village shops.

But back to West Hollywood. The boutiques on Melrose Place are polished, yet those on a budget are better served on Santa Monica Boulevard at places like the $2 Clothing Store. Inside, women were sitting on the floor gleefully fishing sweaters from waist-high heaps of clothing. For some, this is heaven. For me, heaven was a mile and a half away at Book Soup, where spirited (and occasionally naughty) staff recommendations are written on cards tucked into shelves, helping you discover everything from classic fiction you always meant to read to coffee table books like “Houses of the Sundown Sea: The Architectural Vision of Harry Gesner.” As a staffer named Amelia wrote: “Mr. Gesner is my new favorite architect! Apparently an awesome guy too — he’s 89 and surfs everyday: check out the boat houses on pg. 90!”

Should you happen to be an architecture buff, find your way to the nearby Schindler House, described by its curators as “the birthplace” of Southern California modernism. Located on a peaceful residential street, it’s easy to inadvertently walk past the driveway of this low-slung 1920s house, whose rooms often serve as galleries for art exhibitions. I was the sole visitor on a November afternoon, wandering freely from room to room and into the modest but verdant backyard, fancying what indoor-outdoor California living might be like.

As I was heading back to reality, a couple of local men at the foot of the driveway were remarking on the peaceful breeze moving through the trees.

“Sometimes,” said one, “I just sit out here and smoke my weed and pray.”

When the sun disappears, there are plenty of clubs, lounges and theaters in which to while away the night. Or maybe you just want to thumb through CDs and LPs at Amoeba Music, a warehouse of new, used and rare albums — hip-hop, electronica, underground rock — on Sunset Boulevard. Jazz and classical music lovers will want to retreat to the back room where they will also find $1 records.

As for me, I was two and a half miles west, at the intimate, candlelit Tower Bar in the Sunset Tower Hotel. A piano and bass duo played in the dark as I nursed a Tower Smash: tequila, fresh basil, lemon and ginger on the rocks. Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe were but a couple of the celebrities who once walked the halls of this turn-of-the-century-style hotel. The music played on. Through the windows, the faraway lights of homes in the Hollywood Hills twinkled.­

The air becomes fragrant near the corner of Fern Dell Drive and Los Feliz Boulevard on the edges of Griffith Park, the largest municipal park with an urban wilderness area in the United States. The whir of traffic — which I’d been walking amid for four miles — faded, and soon all I heard was the brook as I entered the woods, stepping on fallen sycamore leaves, yellow with pointed lobes, like stars on the Walk of Fame.

Near the top of the trail to the Griffith Observatory (James Dean fans may recall the “Rebel Without a Cause” scene shot here) there’s a rocky shortcut, which I began ascending in delicate French sneakers. It wasn’t long before I was sliding back down. A woman in gym shoes bounced past me like a gazelle. “You’re almost there!” she shouted over her shoulder as she reached the summit. “Thanks!” I said, on my hands and knees, clutching a small boulder. “I wore the wrong shoes.”

The view at the top took the sting out of my ungainly arrival. Hawks circled and plunged toward the enormous silver city basin. In the distance, the ocean beckoned.

I will not recount how I began skidding down yet another shortcut off the Mount Hollywood hiking trail, but suffice it to say that when it came time to leave, I wanted the most direct, not the scenic, route out. And I thought I was on it as I followed the sidewalk down from the observatory parking lot. Alas, the sidewalk eventually disappeared, and I was suddenly darting Road Runner-style from one curve to another to ensure I would be seen and not hit by oncoming cars. Lesson 1: Wear proper footwear. Lesson 2: Know when to summon Uber.

Continue reading the main story
Uber has had plenty of clashes with California regulators (not to mention with those in other states and countries) and is facing safety concerns. Nonetheless, it’s convenient in sprawling Los Angeles as well as surprisingly affordable. And as a solo traveler I was delighted to have drivers who shared their favorite haunts (note: they are also willing to stop at drive-throughs) and asked questions that encouraged me to reflect on my travels.

“What’s the best thing you saw inside?,” said the driver who picked me up at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

As it happened, I was at the Getty for more than three hours before looking at a single painting. With works by Monet, van Gogh and Rembrandt, it’s easy to forget that the ivory and honey center, designed by Richard Meier, along with the gardens, are works of art in their own right. The museum offers free walking tours of both. “This,” said an architecture docent as we stood amid the Santa Monica Mountains peering down at what looked like rows of toy cars, “is the notorious 405 freeway.”

And what a contrast it was to the ancient travertine stone on the Getty facade, harvested from the same Roman quarry that provided travertine for the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain.

By 11:30 the center was bustling and about 10 of us were descending toward the maze of azaleas in the Central Garden.

“On the walk down I’m not going to talk to you because I want you to really enjoy the experience,” said our guide for the garden tour.

We zigzagged across teak bridges, over a stream toward bougainvillea and the pungent scent of society garlic.

There were no tiny signs with the names of the plants and trees we passed, and our group agreed that this was something of a relief. “If all we want to know is the name of the thing,” said our guide, “then we’ve really lost the experience.”

Looking into the bowl of the garden is not unlike observing the orchestra from the balcony of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where I decided to spend a Friday night.

Reserve a seat in the center of the last row, the best spot to admire the hardwood-paneled auditorium and pipe organ, designed by Frank Gehry. It’s also convenient if you want to let your eyes drift close as I did during Elgar’s “Enigma Variations.”

It’s worth spending time downtown in the surrounding streets, eating in the Grand Central Market, checking out the Victorian court of the 1893 Bradbury building, Little Tokyo, and the opulent Spanish Baroque-style Rendezvous Court inside the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. (If I had more time I would have explored downtown landmarks on one of the Los Angeles Conservancy walking tours.) A stop at the Last Bookstore is a must. What at first blush appears to be your run-of-the-mill shop reveals its darker corners bit by bit, like an old mansion. Among the spookiest spots for those with vivid imaginations is near the children’s section; a dimly lit, windowless room through a vault door. But whatever you do, do not miss going upstairs to the aptly named Labyrinth.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said a man holding his phone up to an illuminated tunnel made of books as we inadvertently photo-bombed each other.

Up here books are not just read; they are used to make art installations, walls and portholes. You’ll find a smattering of little art galleries along with tomes for $1 and weird fare like “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”

If you can tear yourself away, you’re not far from discovering the roots of this town.

Across the road from Los Angeles Union Station, completed in 1939 when such majestic stations would soon become a thing of the past, you’ll spot a Mexican marketplace. Look beyond the stalls hawking colorful trinkets to the historic buildings. On Olvera Street, there’s Avila Adobe, the oldest existing house in Los Angeles, built in 1818. I walked up the porch into the dark, thick-walled adobe (admission is free), and was greeted by a knowledgeable guide who talked about the ranchero family that once lived here as I peeked into the handful of rooms.

Afterward I sat on the porch overlooking the market, imagining what life was like before the car was king.

Yet as rich as this area is, any car-free tour of Los Angeles must, at some point, lead to the beach.

When the sun shines on the soft, fine sand of Santa Monica, everything shimmers. In the white-blue light of morning, I passed sea gulls and surfers with boards tucked under their arms.

It is here, after a $20 Uber ride from West Hollywood, where I end my trip, listening to the comforting thunder of waves, walking east, without a destination.

December 19th, 2014
Putin’s Bubble Bursts

NY Times Published: DEC. 18, 2014
By Paul Krugman

If you’re the type who finds macho posturing impressive, Vladimir Putin is your kind of guy. Sure enough, many American conservatives seem to have an embarrassing crush on the swaggering strongman. “That is what you call a leader,” enthused Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, after Mr. Putin invaded Ukraine without debate or deliberation.

But Mr. Putin never had the resources to back his swagger. Russia has an economy roughly the same size as Brazil’s. And, as we’re now seeing, it’s highly vulnerable to financial crisis — a vulnerability that has a lot to do with the nature of the Putin regime.

For those who haven’t been keeping track: The ruble has been sliding gradually since August, when Mr. Putin openly committed Russian troops to the conflict in Ukraine. A few weeks ago, however, the slide turned into a plunge. Extreme measures, including a huge rise in interest rates and pressure on private companies to stop holding dollars, have done no more than stabilize the ruble far below its previous level. And all indications are that the Russian economy is heading for a nasty recession.

The proximate cause of Russia’s difficulties is, of course, the global plunge in oil prices, which, in turn, reflects factors — growing production from shale, weakening demand from China and other economies — that have nothing to do with Mr. Putin. And this was bound to inflict serious damage on an economy that, as I said, doesn’t have much besides oil that the rest of the world wants; the sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine conflict have added to the damage.

But Russia’s difficulties are disproportionate to the size of the shock: While oil has indeed plunged, the ruble has plunged even more, and the damage to the Russian economy reaches far beyond the oil sector. Why?

Actually, it’s not a puzzle — and this is, in fact, a movie currency-crisis aficionados like yours truly have seen many times before: Argentina 2002, Indonesia 1998, Mexico 1995, Chile 1982, the list goes on. The kind of crisis Russia now faces is what you get when bad things happen to an economy made vulnerable by large-scale borrowing from abroad — specifically, large-scale borrowing by the private sector, with the debts denominated in foreign currency, not the currency of the debtor country.

In that situation, an adverse shock like a fall in exports can start a vicious downward spiral. When the nation’s currency falls, the balance sheets of local businesses — which have assets in rubles (or pesos or rupiah) but debts in dollars or euros — implode. This, in turn, inflicts severe damage on the domestic economy, undermining confidence and depressing the currency even more. And Russia fits the standard playbook.

Except for one thing. Usually, the way a country ends up with a lot of foreign debt is by running trade deficits, using borrowed funds to pay for imports. But Russia hasn’t run trade deficits. On the contrary, it has consistently run large trade surpluses, thanks to high oil prices. So why did it borrow so much money, and where did the money go?

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
Well, you can answer the second question by walking around Mayfair in London, or (to a lesser extent) Manhattan’s Upper East Side, especially in the evening, and observing the long rows of luxury residences with no lights on — residences owned, as the line goes, by Chinese princelings, Middle Eastern sheikhs, and Russian oligarchs. Basically, Russia’s elite has been accumulating assets outside the country — luxury real estate is only the most visible example — and the flip side of that accumulation has been rising debt at home.

Where does the elite get that kind of money? The answer, of course, is that Putin’s Russia is an extreme version of crony capitalism, indeed, a kleptocracy in which loyalists get to skim off vast sums for their personal use. It all looked sustainable as long as oil prices stayed high. But now the bubble has burst, and the very corruption that sustained the Putin regime has left Russia in dire straits.

How does it end? The standard response of a country in Russia’s situation is an International Monetary Fund program that includes emergency loans and forbearance from creditors in return for reform. Obviously that’s not going to happen here, and Russia will try to muddle through on its own, among other things with rules to prevent capital from fleeing the country — a classic case of locking the barn door after the oligarch is gone.

It’s quite a comedown for Mr. Putin. And his swaggering strongman act helped set the stage for the disaster. A more open, accountable regime — one that wouldn’t have impressed Mr. Giuliani so much — would have been less corrupt, would probably have run up less debt, and would have been better placed to ride out falling oil prices. Macho posturing, it turns out, makes for bad economies.

December 19th, 2014
charles ray

"Baled Truck", by Charles Ray at Matthew Marks Gallery, Los Ange
Baled Truck
2014
Solid stainless steel
33 x 50 x 118 inches

Through December 20, 2014

Matthew Marks

December 16th, 2014
holiday art sale


Jason Meadows, 2014
Unique Bronze Ice Cream Cone Paperweight
5 1/4 X 3 X 3 1/2 inches (Approximate)
Bronze

IMG_7840
Magdalena Suarez Frimkess, 2014
Guy in Popeye’s Gang (Tropical)
Glazed Stoneware
9 1/2 X 5 X 3

IMG_78661
Kelly Marie Conder, 2014
Untitled Basket Vessel #10
Glazed Ceramic
24 X 14 X 4 inches

IMG_7827
Peter Shire, 2014
Sake Pot #1
Ceramic
6.5″x8″x1.5″

IMG_7388
David Korty, 2014
Untitled Ceramic Jug
9 1/2 x 8 inches

Screen shot 2014-12-15 at 11.11.20 AM
Torbjorn Vejvi, 2014
Untitled Lamp #1
14 X 10 inches
Turned Maple Wood and Paint

IMG_7859
Lauralee Pope, 2014
Untitled Ceramic
4 X 3 X 3

IMG_7205
Roger Herman, 2014
Untitled 2
Ceramic and Glaze
10 x 12 x 11 inches

IMG_7813
Bruce M. Sherman
Untitled #2, 2014
Glazed Stoneware
11 X 5 inches

Screen shot 2014-12-15 at 11.17.23 AM
Peter Callas, 2014
Untitled (mq408)
wood fired stoneware
12.5 x 7 x 6.5 inches

Screen shot 2014-12-15 at 10.53.23 AM
Kyle Mcculloch, 2014
Acoustic Amplifier
made of US made parts
pvc pipe, fittings and funnel

Screen shot 2014-12-15 at 11.01.38 AM
EXP by Peter Shire, 2014
Espresso Cups
Mugs
New Jumbo Mugs

Screen shot 2014-12-15 at 10.51.39 AM
Dewey Nelson, 2014
Melted Coin Silver

Through December

South Willard Holiday Art Sale

December 14th, 2014
Is It Bad Enough Yet?

NY Times Published: December 13, 2014
By Mark Bittman

THE police killing unarmed civilians. Horrifying income inequality. Rotting infrastructure and an unsafe “safety net.” An inability to respond to climate, public health and environmental threats. A food system that causes disease. An occasionally dysfunctional and even cruel government. A sizable segment of the population excluded from work and subject to near-random incarceration.

You get it: This is the United States, which, with the incoming Congress, might actually get worse.

This in part explains why we’re seeing spontaneous protests nationwide, protests that, in their scale, racial diversity, anger and largely nonviolent nature, are unusual if not unique. I was in four cities recently — New York, Washington, Berkeley and Oakland — and there were actions every night in each of them. Meanwhile, workers walked off the job in 190 cities on Dec. 4.

The root of the anger is inequality, about which statistics are mind-boggling: From 2009 to 2012 (that’s the most recent data), some 95 percent of new income has gone to the top 1 percent; the Walton family (owners of Walmart) have as much wealth as the bottom 42 percent of the country’s people combined; and “income mobility” now describes how the rich get richer while the poor … actually get poorer.

The progress of the last 40 years has been mostly cultural, culminating, the last couple of years, in the broad legalization of same-sex marriage. But by many other measures, especially economic, things have gotten worse, thanks to the establishment of neo-liberal principles — anti-unionism, deregulation, market fundamentalism and intensified, unconscionable greed — that began with Richard Nixon and picked up steam under Ronald Reagan. Too many are suffering now because too few were fighting then.

What makes this an exciting time is that we are beginning to see links among issues that we have overlooked for far too long.

In 1970, after spending a year in New York absorbed by concerns seemingly as disparate as ending the war, supporting the rights of Black Panthers to get fair trials (and avoid being murdered) and understanding the role of men in the women’s movement, I — and others — had conversations like this: “Let’s make people understand that all of those issues, plus poverty and racism and the environment and more, are all part of the same picture, and that fixing things means citizens have to regain power and work in their own interests.”

Of course we failed, as others did before and since. But these same things can be said now, and they’re being said by people of all colors. When underpaid workers begin their strikes by saying “I can’t breathe,” or by holding their hands over their heads and chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot,” they’re recognizing that their struggle is the same as that of African-Americans demanding dignity, respect and indeed safety on their own streets.

And of course it’s the same struggle: “It’s the same people,” says Saru Jayaraman, the director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. “Young people working in fast food are the same people as those who are the victims of police brutality. So the Walmart folks are talking about #blacklivesmatter and the #blacklivesmatter folks are talking about taking on capital.”

The N.A.A.C.P.’s Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a leader of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, captures the national yearning this reflects. “I believe that deep within our being as a nation there is a longing for a moral movement that plows deep into our souls,” he writes. “We are flowing together because we recognize that the intersectionality of all of these movements is our opportunity to fundamentally redirect America.” (The full text of Dr. Barber’s email is on my blog.)

“All of these movements”? Yes: The demands of the fast-food workers movement — $15 minimum wage and a union — have helped to unite movements among airport workers, hospital workers, retail workers and more.

There are already results. Two years ago, there was talk of raising the minimum wage to $10; now $15 per hour is seen as the bare minimum. Seattle and San Francisco have already mandated this, Chicago’s City Council voted to gradually increase to a $13 minimum by 2019, Oakland will move to $12.25 in March and a proposal is being considered in Los Angeles. (And although the amounts were woefully inadequate, four red states voted to approve minimum wage increases last month, showing that the concept resonates across party lines.)

Meanwhile, the credibility of those who argue that employers “can’t afford” to raise pay — McDonald’s paid its C.E.O. $9.5 million last year — is nil. For one thing, there are examples of profitable businesses that treat their employees decently, and even countries where fast-food workers can make ends meet. And for another, underpaying workers simply shifts the cost of supporting them onto public coffers. As Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont says, “In essence, taxpayers are subsidizing the wealthiest family in America.” That would be the Waltons. (Incredibly, many Republicans still want the working poor to pay more taxes.)

The initial Obama plan is encouraging but lacking, and that’s all the more reason to keep demonstrating. (What good are body cameras, by the way? The videotape of Rodney King’s beating was seen around the world yet resulted in acquittals; Eric Garner’s choking death, viewed millions of times online, didn’t even lead to a trial, even though police chokeholds are banned in New York City.) Besides, as Sanders says, “Even if every cop were a constitutional lawyer and a great person, if you have 30 percent unemployment among African-American young people you still have a huge problem.”

I have spent a great deal of time talking about the food movement and its potential, because to truly change the food system you really have to change just about everything: good nutrition stems from access to good food; access to good food isn’t going to happen without economic justice; that isn’t going to happen without taxing the superrich; and so on. The same is true of other issues: You can’t fix climate change or the environment without stopping the unlimited exploitation of natural and human resources (see Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything”). Same with social well-being.

Everything affects everything. It’s all tied together, and the starting place hardly matters: A just and righteous system will have a positive impact on everything we care about, just as an unjust, exploitative system makes everything worse.

Increasingly, it seems, there’s an appetite and even unity to take on the billionaire class. Let’s recognize that if we are seeing positive change now, it’s in part because elected officials respond to pressure, and let’s remember that that pressure must be maintained no matter who is in office. Even if Bernie Sanders were to become president, the need for pressure would continue.

“True citizenship,” says Jayaraman of Berkeley — echoing Jefferson — “is people continually protesting.” Precisely.

December 14th, 2014
morgan fisher

MP-FISHM-00003-A-072-2

Ilford Selochrome 120 September 1954
archival pigment print
40.6 x 50.8 cm
2014

24 November — 25 January 2015′

Maureen Paley

December 13th, 2014
JP Munro

_thumb_Verdugos-from-Altadena-JM14-246_jpg_1000x750_detail_q85
The Verdugos from Altadena, 2014
Oil on Panel
20 x 16inches (50.8 x 40.6cm)

Through December 20, 2014

China Art Objects

December 12th, 2014
This Is Your Moment

NY Times Published: DEC. 10, 2014
By Charles M. Blow

I was born in 1970, on the heels of the civil rights movement. I didn’t witness my parents’ struggles and their parents’ struggles before them. What I knew of darker days I learned in school, read in books or saw on television. Therefore, as a matter of circumstance, there existed a space between that reality and me. It was more pedagogical than experiential.

As a young man, I could connect my current circumstances and present societal conditions intellectually to previous ones and form a long-arching narrative of undeniable progress from slavery to Reconstruction to Jim Crow to mass incarceration to me. But that narrative was developed in the mind. Not, more innately, written by personal tribulation or authored by the shock and horror of real events happening in real time — my time — so that the mind and spirit could unite in moral outrage and the voice lift in anguished outcry.

That changed when I reached a series of racial-justice maturation moments, two of which are particularly relevant to our current cultural discussion in this country.

One came in 1991, when I was 20 years old. Rodney King was savagely beaten — on video — by Los Angeles police officers. The video showed “officers taking turns swinging their nightsticks like baseball bats at the man and kicking him in the head as he lay on the ground early Sunday,” as The New York Times put it at the time.

Earlier in the day, before the beating, one of the officers who participated had typed a message on a computer terminal in a squad car, referring to a domestic dispute among blacks this way: “Sounds almost as exciting as our last call. It was right out of ‘Gorillas in the Mist.’ ”

One of the officers reportedly said of King and the beating during an internal affair interview: “It’s like he’s looking at me, doesn’t see me, he’s just looking right through me,” reasoning that King was under the influence of PCP. (Testing of King showed no PCP.)

This is reminiscent of the dehumanizing language used by Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson,Mo. Wilson testified about Brown: “He looked up at me and had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”

The four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of assault.

Six years after those acquittals, a black man named James Byrd Jr. was attacked by three white men, beaten, urinated on, tied by the ankle to the back of their truck, dragged on the asphalt and decapitated by a culvert.

After that, I was acutely aware of what W. E. B. Du Bois, in “The Souls of Black Folk,” called the “double consciousness”:

“One ever feels his two-ness, — an American, a Negro; two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

After that, all innocence inculcated and nurtured by the distance of history and the dreamy visions of perpetual progress melted. A new, harsher sensibility and an endless searching for social justice formed in its place.

I knew then that whatever progress might have been made in previous generations would not continue as a matter of perpetual momentum, but rather as a matter of constant pushing.

So I deeply understand and appreciate the feelings of the protestors — particularly the young ones — who have taken to the streets with outrage and outcry in cities across this great country over the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases.

I even understand the sentiments, recorded by recent polls, that a majority in this country believe race relations are getting worse and that more than a third think police-minority relations are getting worse.

Obviously, in the long sweep of history, no one could make such a claim. Race relations are certainly not worse than they were 50 or 100 or 400 years ago, but there is nagging frustration that things haven’t progressed as fast as many had hoped. And change, rightly or wrongly, is often measure relative to the recent past rather than to the distant one.

Furthermore, for young people in their late teens or early 20s, like my children, whose first real memory of presidential politics was the election of the first African-American president, any seeming racial retrenchment is jarring, and for them, over the course of their lifetimes, things can feel like they are getting worse.

This is their experiential moment, that moment when the weight becomes too much, when the abstract becomes real, when expectations of continual, inexorable progress slam into the back of a slow-moving reality, plagued by fits and starts and sometimes prone to occasional regressions.

It is that moment when consciousness is raised and unwavering optimism falters, when the jagged slope of truth replaces the soft slope of fantasy, when the natural recalcitrance of youth gathers onto itself the force of purpose and righteousness, when we realize that fighting is the only way forward, that equality must be won — by every generation — because it will never be freely granted.

This is a moment of civic awakening and moral maturing for a generation, and they are stepping boldly into their moment. Yes, they are struggling to divine the most effective way forward, but they will not accept being dragged backward. It is a profound moment to which we should gladly bear witness.

December 11th, 2014
It’s Not the Old Days, but Berkeley Sees a New Spark of Protest

JP-BERKELEY1-articleLarge
A protest on Monday night against police violence blocked traffic in both directions of Interstate 80 in Berkeley, Calif. Credit Noah Berger

By ADAM NAGOURNEY, CAROL POGASH and TAMAR LEWIN
NY Times Published: DEC. 9, 2014

BERKELEY, Calif. — This is the college town where the Free Speech Movement was born 50 years ago, spreading across the nation with sit-ins, marches, demonstrations and arrests. So at first glance, the demonstrations against police conduct in Ferguson, Mo., and on Staten Island that gripped Berkeley over the past few days should be no surprise.

But the University of California campus here today is nothing like the one that became the symbol of student activism in the 1960s, with its demonstrations for civil rights and protests against the Vietnam War.

Large-scale activism here is mostly the nostalgic cause of the aging Berkeley graduates who never really left and who talk of the “F.S.M.,” in-the-know shorthand for the Free Speech Movement. A small number of them showed up in October for a subdued and decidedly gray 50th anniversary rally marking the arrest that started it all.

Now, Berkeley is again racked by protests, fueled in part by the student body here. On recent nights, protesters have come out in force — more than 1,500 were estimated to have taken part in Monday night’s demonstrations, in which 159 people were arrested, an Amtrak train was stopped in its tracks, a central freeway was closed down for hours, and the BART system was halted.

On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council — fearful of threatened disruptions — canceled its regular meeting.

Students were certainly among those joining the marches that have swept across the campus, and they were a particularly noticeable contingent on Monday night. The sight of them gave heart to older Berkeley denizens who had despaired — in a “whatever happened to the good old days” kind of way — over what they described as the student spirit of their era giving way to careerism.

But most of the demonstrators involved in the protests over the weekend, some of whom wore bandannas over their faces, appeared to be older and not necessarily from Berkeley. And students who participated said they were soured when the activism veered into civil disobedience.

“We were with the protests all the way to the highway entrance,” said Sameer Abraham, a senior. “Police were blocking the entrance to the highway, and we got the sense that this would either be the end or that something would happen.”

“So we came back to campus,” he said. “We do not approve of violence.”

These days, there is a cultural divide between the city of Berkeley, still civically dominated by the older people who came out of the antiwar and civil rights movements, and the campus that put it on the map. Students are known for being involved in local causes, and there is the occasional demonstration over, to name one example, tuition increases.

On Tuesday night, a smaller crowd of protesters wandered the streets, stopping in front of the Police Department and a darkened City Hall, where they mocked the City Council for canceling the meeting.

“What a beautiful picture I see before me,” Councilman Kriss Worthington said on the steps of City Hall. “I see people I’ve never seen before at a demonstration.”

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
For all the historic lore of this city, few political issues have galvanized students as much as the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, both of them unarmed black men who were killed by white police officers.

In one sense, the seeming complacency here reflects the relative lack of activism on college campuses across the nation. But it also offers insight into the changing demographics of Berkeley, one of the most competitive universities in the nation; only 17 percent of the 73,771 applicants were admitted to this year’s freshman class.

Back in the day of Mario Savio, the best-known leader of the Free Speech Movement, the student body was overwhelmingly white and most of the leaders of the movement were men. Today, just 29 percent of the student population is white; 39 percent is Asian, 13 percent Latino and 3 percent black.

In the 1960s, tuition at Berkeley was almost free; today, it costs $12,000 a year for Californians and $35,000 for nonresidents — and the Board of Regents just voted to raise it again, a decision that some people suggested had helped feed the protest.

A walk across Berkeley 50 years ago would find clumps of students demonstrating, a food co-op, and scribbled signs on bulletin boards advertising meetings of Vietnam War protesters and the early glimmerings of the feminist movement. A stroll through campus most mornings these days would find students, head down, rushing to class.

By contrast, the city is, by any measure, as liberal and activist as ever. In November, its voters defied a national trend and a barrage of spending by the soda industry to pass an initiative imposing a tax on sugary sodas and drinks. This was the first city to boycott South Africa, and pioneered bans on smoking in public places and plastic food containers. That spirit clearly is fed by the campus at its heart.

“The faculty has a lot of touchstones that go back to the ’60s,” said Bruce Fuller, a professor of education here. “If you search for the phrase ‘social justice’ in our course listings, scores of things would pop up.”

Many of the former student radicals have settled in the Berkeley Hills, in costly homes with views of the San Francisco Bay. Although they may grow as excited talking about Chez Panisse, the Alice Waters restaurant that pioneered California cuisine, as about Edward Snowden, who leaked classified government information, there is no shortage of anguish over what they see as the absence of political interest on their campus.

“Protest is in our DNA,” said Nicholas Dirks, the chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, in a recent interview.

Several students interviewed here said they hoped these past few days marked a turn among their peers. “It seemed like a transformation in the movement,” said Pavan Upadhyayula, the student body president.

Students turned out in larger numbers on Monday — there are no classes this week, as students prepare for exams — but there were signs that they had different views on how to proceed from those of some of the more established demonstrators. At Sproul Plaza, students took to megaphones to urge for peaceful demonstrations. But Yvette Felarca, 44, an organizer from By Any Means Necessary, one of the groups behind the protests, said she thought “militant” actions were justified if necessary.

“Riots are the voice of the unheard,” said Ms. Felarca, a Berkeley alumna. “You can never replace the lives of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, but you can always replace broken windows.”

The Free Speech Movement Café sits at the center of the campus. About 30 students were assembled in front of the cafe on Monday afternoon, but the cause was hardly political: This was Hug-a-Pet time, in which a local animal rescue foundation and the University Health Services brought over dogs for students to pet as a stress reliever.

Still, the political reputation of this campus endures.

“I doubt it’s that important in attracting undergraduates, who come because it has long been ranked the best public university in the world and remains affordable,” said Christopher Edley Jr., a professor and former dean at the Berkeley Law School. “But once you are here, there are weird ions in the air.”

December 11th, 2014
The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World

116426
Richard Aldrich
Angie Adams/Franz Kline. 2010–11
Oil, wax, and charcoal on cut linen, 7′ x 58″ (213.4 x 147.3 cm

Forever Now presents the work of 17 artists whose paintings reflect a singular approach that characterizes our cultural moment at the beginning of this new millennium: they refuse to allow us to define or even meter our time by them. This phenomenon in culture was first identified by the science fiction writer William Gibson, who used the term “a-temporality” to describe a cultural product of our moment that paradoxically doesn’t represent, through style, through content, or through medium, the time from which it comes. A-temporality, or timelessness, manifests itself in painting as an ahistorical free-for-all, where contemporaneity as an indicator of new form is nowhere to be found, and all eras coexist. This profligate mixing of past styles and genres can be identified as a kind of hallmark for our moment in painting, with artists achieving it by reanimating historical styles or recreating a contemporary version of them, sampling motifs from across the timeline of 20th-century art in a single painting or across an oeuvre, or radically paring their language down to the most archetypal forms.

The artists in this exhibition represent a wide variety of styles and impulses, but all use the painted surface as a platform, map, or metaphoric screen on which genres intermingle, morph, and collide. Their work represents traditional painting, in the sense that each artist engages with painting’s traditions, testing and ultimately reshaping historical strategies like appropriation and bricolage and reframing more metaphysical, high-stakes questions surrounding notions of originality, subjectivity, and spiritual transcendence.

The exhibition includes works by Richard Aldrich, Joe Bradley, Kerstin Brätsch, Matt Connors, Michaela Eichwald, Nicole Eisenman, Mark Grotjahn, Charline von Heyl, Rashid Johnson, Julie Mehretu, Dianna Molzan, Oscar Murillo, Laura Owens, Amy Sillman, Josh Smith, Mary Weatherford, and Michael Williams.

December 14, 2014–April 5, 2015

MOMA

December 9th, 2014
Ruby Neri | Face Pots

IMG_7770
Face Pot 1, 2014
glazed stoneware
8 x 6 x 4 inches

Opening Reception: Sunday December 7, 2014. 3-5 PM

December 7, 2014 through January 2, 2015

South Willard Shop Exhibit

December 6th, 2014
Cataloging Berkeley’s Quirks

Screen shot 2014-12-06 at 8.26.29 PM
Jim Wilson/The New York Times

By MALIA WOLLAN
NY Times Published: DEC. 5, 2014

BERKELEY, Calif. — Tom Dalzell looks too strait-laced to be the arbiter of the eccentric.

Nonetheless, almost two years ago, Mr. Dalzell, 63, set out in his khakis and comfortable shoes to walk every street, alleyway and path and document this city’s material oddities on a website he calls Quirky Berkeley. “There is a tremendous diversity of thought here,” Mr. Dalzell said. “And one of the ways we express our lack of conformity is with the quirky things we put on our houses and in our yards.”

The rules are simple: no seasonal decorations, and all quirk must be viewable from the street.

So far, Mr. Dalzell has walked nearly 150 miles and shot some 9,000 photos of rogue garden gnomes who moon passers-by; a four-foot-wide peace sign outside a house long occupied by Wavy Gravy of Woodstock fame and his Hog Farm commune compatriots; dozens of colorful hard hats hanging from a front yard tree; a massive wolf sculpture made from old car parts; a menagerie of animal-shaped mailboxes; a giant metal orange that once served as a roadside refreshment stand but now sits in a wooded side yard; and a variety of wildly painted houses and sculptures.

Sometimes Mr. Dalzell uses the site to riff on the city’s culture and history. Introducing items filed under “Peace,” he writes: “I make the following claim: Berkeley is the peace symbol/flag/pole capital of the world. Go ahead, prove me wrong.”

Mr. Dalzell moved to Berkeley 30 years ago, after a stint working for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. He manages a labor union of gas and electric utility workers by day and moonlights as an author of slang dictionaries and a collector of idiosyncrasies.

On a recent afternoon, Mr. Dalzell stood on the sidewalk outside what he considers the crown jewel of Berkeley’s quirk: a strange, bulbous structure that locals call “the fish house” built on a block of low-slung, single-family homes on the city’s south side. “As Ken Kesey would say, this is ‘bull goose loony,’ ” Mr. Dalzell said.

The house is not, it turns out, modeled after a fish but rather a tiny, indestructible microcreature called a tardigrade, or water bear, which can survive deep freezing, boiling and 10 days in space. The architect Eugene Tsui — who said he was in the process of legally changing his surname to Tssui after a dream he had in China that involved Genghis Khan — designed the home for his parents, who had no idea what a tardigrade was but wanted an earthquake-proof home.

In a sign of the changes underway here, Mr. Tsui now rents it to four young men and their technology start-up.

Like most things in this city of close to 117,000 residents, the question of whether Berkeley is actually more bohemian in thought and yard ornamentation than, say, Denver, is the subject of heated debate. “All the assumptions about Berkeley are flat-out wrong,” Mr. Tsui said. “It is a myth that this is a liberal-minded, freethinking place; at its heart, it’s a conventional bedroom community.”

Mayor Tom Bates, for one, disagrees. The large state university here has long drawn creative types, and the city’s residents have always embraced “things that are different,” the mayor said. The city was a center of the antiwar and Free Speech movements of the 1960s, and has consistently passed laws that look left-of-center to much of the country, including most recently the nation’s first tax on sweetened sodas.

“One of the real joys of walking this city,” said Mr. Bates, who does not own a car, “is to come across a house or lot where someone has done something zany.”

After a year of meticulously inventorying and cataloging, Mr. Dalzell has settled on a few general theories of quirk. First, quirk begets more quirk. “If one person puts up an animal mailbox, you’ll often see other animal mailboxes pop up around them,” he said, describing a kind of keeping up with the Joneses, Berkeley-style.

Second, the density of quirk is thicker in the city’s traditionally lower- and middle-class flatlands than up in the hills, where the wealthier tend to live. Third, nothing (as the Buddhists say) is permanent. “Sometimes you’ll see something really interesting, only to go back a week later to find it gone,” Mr. Dalzell said.

Still, there are some who view the whole Quirky Berkeley enterprise more as a testament to its creator’s kookiness than its subjects’.

“We urban and architectural historians exhibit variants of this strange behavior in cities around the globe,” said Stephen O. Tobriner, a professor emeritus of architectural history at the University of California, Berkeley. Upon close inspection, he said, any urban area yields all sorts of evidence of curious human behavior — including, sometimes, an inhabitant’s desire to walk every city block.

Even in the era of Google Street View, walking each mile of a city has become something of a fad. A woman finished walking every street in Berkeley in 2007. A man in his mid-90s walked over 300 miles of Sydney, Australia, before he died in 2008. It took three years for a Minneapolis woman, Francine Corcoran, to walk the 1,071 miles that make up the city. London has been walked, as has San Francisco.

And while the other walkers did not set off explicitly to round up wackiness the way Mr. Dalzell did, at a walker’s pace, they no doubt saw plenty of it anyway.

“When you walk a city block by block, you are forced to slow down and look at everything — you see more, you feel more, you get into the rhythm of the neighborhoods,” said William B. Helmreich, a professor of sociology at City College of New York who wrote “The New York Nobody Knows,” a book about walking every street — some 6,000 miles — of the city’s five boroughs.

“In urban areas, you often don’t feel like an individual, which makes you want to put your stamp of uniqueness on something,” Professor Helmreich said, “even if it is just the paint on your house.”

December 6th, 2014
mathias poledna

poledna-eflux-draft-486x364

DECEMBER 07 – FEBRUARY 08, 2015

Renaissance Society

December 6th, 2014
Prev · Next