Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: By the Book

NY Times Published: JUNE 1, 2017

The basketball star and author of “Coach Wooden and Me” says he looks forward to anything written by Walter Mosley: “I’d be very happy if he wrote a novel every week.”

What books are currently on your night stand?

“Lives of Master Swordsmen,” by Makoto Sugawara, furthers my interest in martial arts that began shortly before Bruce Lee became my teacher. The book explores the swordsmen of medieval Japan and the influence they had on the country. For me, the book is about the convergence of art and athleticism, and its effect on politics. I’ve always been fascinated by people who push themselves to become the best they possibly can be at something that combines intellect and movement. And how their achievements affect their society.

I’m also rereading a favorite novel from when I was in high school, “Dem,” by a great but often overlooked African-American writer, William Melvin Kelley. This satire peels back some uncomfortable layers of how the races see each other and is just as relevant today as it was in 1967, when it was published.

What’s the last great book you read?

“Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. A great book helps the reader see the world in a way they haven’t before, or it helps the reader articulate thoughts and emotions they already have but not yet put into the right words. Coates’s intimate analysis of race as it relates to our physical being, identity and existence really touched me, infuriated me and inspired me.

What are your favorite books on sports?

I’ve loved boxing ever since my dad and I watched it together when I was a kid. Whether it’s basketball or boxing, there’s something exciting about being in a confined space and time with people trying to impose their will on you while you not only fend them off, but impose your will on them. It’s pretty much the essence of life. My two favorite boxing books are “Joe Louis: My Life,” by Joe Louis with Edna and Art Rust Jr., and “Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson,” by Wil Haygood. These were boxers who, because of their color, were forced to do as much fighting outside the ring as in.

Baseball was my first sports love, and my favorite baseball book is “Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend,” by Larry Tye. Satchel Paige was an inspiration not only because of his battles breaking the color barrier in major league baseball, but because he was an ancient 42 years old when he led the Cleveland Indians to the World Series.

And, as an Arthur Conan Doyle fan, what’s your favorite Sherlock Holmes?

Since my novel and comic book series about Mycroft, Sherlock’s brother, I get asked this question a lot. I’m especially fond of “The Red-Headed League,” because it was the first Holmes story I read. I picked it up when I was a sophomore in high school, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It opened up a whole new way of thinking analytically to me and made me want to read everything and know everything so I could be as smart as Sherlock.

Having read all the works now, I also really like “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” which was written after Conan Doyle had apparently killed Sherlock in “The Final Problem.” I like the complex plot and Sherlock’s intensity in solving the case. A recent novel, “IQ,” by Joe Ide, does a terrific job adapting the novel with a black Sherlock-like character set in the black community in Long Beach with a very scary hound.

Do you like to read other detective or crime fiction? Which authors in particular?

I love detective fiction because the mystery element appeals to my puzzle-solving instincts while the plot of someone noble trying to set right an injustice appeals to my humanity. There are so many that I like I can only give you a partial list: Martin Cruz Smith, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Walter Mosley and Elmore Leonard are a few of them. One of my favorites is Chester Himes (“Cotton Comes to Harlem”), who began writing while in prison for armed robbery in the 1930s, but eventually became an expat in Paris with James Baldwin and Richard Wright.

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

I look forward to every Walter Mosley novel. I’d be very happy if he wrote a novel every week. His Easy Rawlins series, set in post-World War II Watts, is my favorite, but I’m also devoted to his Fearless Jones, Leonid McGill and Socrates Fortlow books. His writing is not only entertaining but provides piercing social commentary about race, class and American ideals.

What’s the most interesting thing you learned recently from a book?

I learn something interesting from every book I read, whether it’s about swordfighting in medieval Japan or race relations in America, so it’s hard to say which is the most interesting. I often think of that quote attributed to science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein: “Ignorance is curable, stupid is forever.” I feel lucky that after all these years of reading and living, there’s still so much more that I find interesting.

How do you like to read? Paper or electronic? One book at a time or simultaneously? Morning or night?

I like paper, because the physical act of carrying the book, opening it, turning the pages, creates a visceral relationship with the story. The effort is an important part of the joy of reading. Usually I read one book at a time, and it’s not uncommon for me to read a book straight through without stopping, even through the night and the next day.

How do you organize your books?

First by subject, like fiction, black history, science, and so forth. Then within each category by author.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Veterinary books on the care of horses. I used to own and breed a dozen Arabian horses. There’s a lot that goes into caring for them, and I wanted to learn everything I could about it.

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?

A friend of mine, Mario Argote, gave me “But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz,” by Geoff Dyer, and it’s become one of my favorite books. The book is made up of fictionalized stories about several jazz greats, like Chet Baker and Thelonious Monk, in which he reveals insights into the men as well as their music.

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain?

My favorite hero is Walter Mosley’s P.I., Easy Rawlins. He’s smart, tough, relentless and honorable. Most important, he’s cool without trying. My favorite villain is Jabba the Hutt from “Return of the Jedi.” I like how much he enjoys his villainy and the benefits they bring. As he sees it, he’s having the time of his life. He reminds me of some of the street gangsters in Harlem who always behaved as if they couldn’t believe their good fortune. If you’re going to be a villain, that seems the best attitude to have.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

I loved adventure books that transported me to a time and place where heroes vanquished villains. I was a voracious reader, and because of it I was way ahead of other kids at school. My favorite authors were Rudyard Kipling (“The Jungle Book”), Robert Louis Stevenson (“Treasure Island”), Alexandre Dumas (“The Three Musketeers”) and Sir Walter Scott (“Ivanhoe”).

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

I don’t think any book would make a difference to this president, who claims his favorite book is the one he wrote, and the Bible, which he clearly has not read. But let’s imagine a moment when he realizes that he’s unpopular for a good reason and, rather than skate through the next four years on the coattails of his daughter and son-in-law, decides he really, truly wants to change the country for better. That guy I would hand a copy of James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time.” Not just because it would give him a better understanding of race relations in America and why it is urgent we do something to address the disparity, but because in understanding that one aspect, he will better understand the needs of all Americans who are valiantly struggling to be happy, safe and stable.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

If I wanted just to be entertained by sheer wit and satirical barbs, it would be Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde and Noël Coward. Watching them try to outwit each other would be priceless. However, if I wanted to hang out with writers I wanted to learn more about, the three would be Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Raymond Chandler and Cicero. I’d love to hear Coleridge expound on the intricacies of writing “Kubla Khan” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” I’d ask Chandler about the evolution of Philip Marlowe, who is very different in “The Long Goodbye” than he was in “Farewell, My Lovely.” Cicero, the great Roman orator and politician, was one of the biggest influences on language throughout Europe. His letters are said to have influenced the Italian Renaissance and the 18th-century Enlightenment. America is a direct result of his writings. I’d want to know his take on where we are now.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

The two books that come to mind are Tom Wolfe’s novel “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and A. Scott Berg’s biography of Woodrow Wilson, “Wilson.” I know that “Bonfire” was a huge best seller and loved by many critics, and its themes of race and social class are topics I’m interested in. But I just couldn’t get myself to care about anyone in the novel. With “Wilson,” I just didn’t find Woodrow Wilson that interesting.

Whom would you want to write your life story?

The first author that pops into my head, improbably, is Mario Puzo. Not sure why. Maybe because he made “The Godfather” so riveting I figure he could do the same with my life. More practically, I would say Ron Chernow, who wrote the excellent biography “Alexander Hamilton.” He’s thorough in presenting details but insightful in showing what they mean.

What do you plan to read next?

The great thing about being an avid reader is that I’m always excited about the next book. I don’t really stack them up in anticipation. I like finishing a book and then going to the bookstore to browse through the new-arrivals table. Going to the bookstore, picking it out and carrying it home forges a bond between me and the book. The effort adds to the experience. It’s all part of the fun of reading for me.

June 1st, 2017
Our Disgraceful Exit From the Paris Accord

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
NY Times Published: JUNE 1, 2017

Only future generations will be able to calculate the full consequences of President Trump’s incredibly shortsighted approach to climate change, since it is they who will suffer the rising seas and crippling droughts that scientists say are inevitable unless the world brings fossil fuel emissions to heel.

But this much is clear now: Mr. Trump’s policies — the latest of which was his decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change — have dismayed America’s allies, defied the wishes of much of the American business community, threatened America’s competitiveness as well as job growth in crucial industries and squandered what was left of America’s claim to leadership on an issue of global importance.

The only clear winners, and we’ve looked hard to find them, are hard-core climate deniers like Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency and the presidential adviser Stephen Bannon, and various fossil fuel interests that have found in Mr. Trump another president (George W. Bush being the last) credulous enough to swallow the bogus argument that an agreement to fight climate change will destroy or at least inhibit the economy.

Mr. Trump justified his decision by saying that the Paris agreement was a bad deal for the United States, buttressing his argument with a cornucopia of dystopian, dishonest and discredited data based on numbers from industry-friendly sources. Those numbers are nonsense, as is his argument that the agreement would force the country to make enormous economic sacrifices and cause a huge redistribution of jobs and economic resources to the rest of the world.

In truth, the agreement does not require any country to do anything; after the failure of the 1997 Kyoto Accord, the United Nations, which oversees climate change negotiations, decided that it simply did not have the authority to force a legally binding agreement. Instead, negotiators in Paris aimed for, and miraculously achieved, a voluntary agreement, under which more than 190 countries offered aspirational emissions targets, pledged their best efforts to meet them and agreed to periodic updates on how they were doing.

Paris did not, in short, legally constrain Mr. Trump from doing the dumb things he wanted to do. Which he already has. In the last few months, and without consulting a single foreign leader, he has ordered rollbacks of every one of the policies on which President Barack Obama based his ambitious pledge to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 — most prominently policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants, automobiles and oil and gas wells.

But if withdrawing from the agreement will not make Mr. Trump’s domestic policies any worse than they are, it is still a terrible decision that could have enormous consequences globally. In huge neon letters, it sends a clear message that this president knows nothing or cares little about the science underlying the stark warnings of environmental disruption. That he knows or cares little about the problems that disruption could bring, especially in poor countries. That he is unmindful that America, historically the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, has a special obligation to help the rest of the world address these issues. That he is impervious to the further damage this will cause to his already tattered relationship with the European allies. That his malfeasance might now prompt other countries that signed the accord to withdraw from the agreement, or rethink their emissions pledges.

Perhaps most astonishing of all, a chief executive who touts himself as a shrewd businessman, and who ran on a promise of jobs for the middle class and making America great again, seems utterly oblivious to the damage this will do to America’s own economic interests. The world’s gradual transition from fossil fuels has opened up a huge global market, estimated to be $6 trillion by 2030, for renewable fuels like wind and solar, for electric cars, for advanced batteries and other technologies.

America’s private sector clearly understands this opportunity, which is why, in January, 630 businesses and investors — with names like DuPont, Hewlett Packard, Pacific Gas and Electric — signed an open letter to then-President-elect Trump and Congress, calling on them to continue supporting low-carbon policies, investment in a low-carbon economy and American participation in the Paris agreement. It is also why Elon Musk, chief executive of the electric vehicle maker Tesla, was resigning from two presidential advisory councils after Mr. Trump announced the withdrawal from Paris.

Yet Mr. Trump clings to the same false narrative congressional Republicans have been peddling for years and that Mr. Trump’s minions, like Mr. Pruitt at the E.P.A. and Ryan Zinke at the Interior Department, are peddling now (Mr. Pruitt to the coal miners, Mr. Zinke to Alaskans) — that environmental regulations are job killers, that efforts to curb carbon dioxide emissions will hurt the economy, that the way forward lies in fossil fuels, in digging still more coal and punching still more holes in the ground in the search for more oil.

As alternative realities and fake facts go, that argument is something to behold. In actual fact, emissions of carbon dioxide in this country fell nearly 12 percent in the last decade, according to some estimates, even as the overall economy grew by about 15 percent over the same period. Under Mr. Obama’s supposedly job-killing regulations, more than 11.3 million jobs were created compared with two million-plus under Mr. Bush’s antiregulatory regime. It’s true that the coal industry is losing jobs, largely a result of competition from cheaper natural gas, but the renewable fuels industry is going gangbusters: Employment in the solar industry, for instance, is more than 10 times what it was a decade ago, 260,000 jobs as opposed to 24,000.

Therein lies one ray of hope that the United States, whatever Mr. Trump does, will continue to do its part in controlling greenhouse gas emissions. Market forces all seem to be headed in the right direction. Technologies are improving. The business community is angry. A Gallup poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans are worried about climate change, and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that almost 70 percent of Americans wanted to stay in the agreement, including half of Trump voters.

And some states are moving aggressively, including New York. On Wednesday, the State Senate in California, always a leader in environmental matters, passed a bill that seeks to put California on a path to 100 percent renewable energy by midcentury. On the same day, Exxon Mobil stockholders won a crucial vote requiring the company to start accounting for the impact of climate change policies on its business.

These messages might be lost on Mr. Trump. Hopefully, not on the world.

June 1st, 2017
Trump Gratuitously Rejects the Paris Climate Accord

By Paul Krugman
NY Times Published: JUNE 1, 2017

As Donald Trump does his best to destroy the world’s hopes of reining in climate change, let’s be clear about one thing: This has nothing to do with serving America’s national interest. The U.S. economy, in particular, would do just fine under the Paris accord. This isn’t about nationalism; mainly, it’s about sheer spite.

About the economics: At this point, I think, we have a pretty good idea of what a low-emissions economy would look like. I’m sure that energy experts will disagree on the details, but the broad outline isn’t hard to describe.

Clearly, it would be an economy running on electricity — electric cars, electric heat, with internal combustion engines rare. The bulk of that electricity would, in turn, come from nonpolluting sources: wind, solar and, yes, probably nuclear.

Of course, sometimes the wind doesn’t blow or the sun shine when people want power. But there are multiple ways to deal with that issue: a robust grid that can ship electricity to where it’s needed; storage of various forms (batteries, but also maybe things like pumped hydro); dynamic pricing that encourages customers to use less power when it’s scarce and more when it isn’t; and some surge capacity — probably from relatively low-emission natural-gas-fired generators — to cope with whatever mismatch remains.

What would life in an economy that made such an energy transition be like? Almost indistinguishable from life in the economy we have now.

People would still drive cars, live in houses that were heated in the winter and cooled in the summer, and watch videos about superheroes and funny cats. There would be a lot of wind turbines and solar panels, but most of us would ignore them the same way we currently ignore the smokestacks of conventional power plants.

Wouldn’t energy be more expensive in this alternative economy? Probably, but not by much: Technological progress in solar and wind has drastically reduced their cost, and it looks as if the same thing is starting to happen with energy storage.

Meanwhile, there would be compensating benefits. Notably, the adverse health effects of air pollution would be greatly reduced, and it’s quite possible that lower health care costs would all by themselves make up for the costs of energy transition, even ignoring the whole saving-civilization-from-catastrophic-climate-change thing.

The point is that while tackling climate change in the way envisaged by the Paris accord used to look like a hard engineering and economic problem, these days it looks fairly easy. We have almost all the technology we need, and can be quite confident of developing the rest. Obviously the transition to a low-emissions economy, the phasing out of fossil fuels, would take time, but that would be O.K. as long as the path was clear.

Why, then, are so many people on the right determined to block climate action, and even trying to sabotage the progress we’ve been making on new energy sources?

Don’t tell me that they’re honestly worried about the inherent uncertainty of climate projections. All long-term policy choices must be made in the face of an uncertain future (duh); there’s as much scientific consensus here as you’re ever likely to see on any issue. And in this case, uncertainty arguably strengthens the case for action, because the costs of getting it wrong are asymmetric: Do too much, and we’ve wasted some money; do too little, and we’ve doomed civilization.

Don’t tell me that it’s about coal miners. Anyone who really cared about those miners would be crusading to protect their health, disability and pension benefits, and trying to provide alternative employment opportunities — not pretending that environmental irresponsibility will somehow bring back jobs lost to strip mining and mountaintop removal.

While it isn’t about coal jobs, right-wing anti-environmentalism is in part about protecting the profits of the coal industry, which in 2016 gave 97 percent of its political contributions to Republicans.

As I said, however, these days the fight against climate action is largely driven by sheer spite.

Pay any attention to modern right-wing discourse — including op-ed articles by top Trump officials — and you find deep hostility to any notion that some problems require collective action beyond shooting people and blowing things up.

And if all this sounds too petty and vindictive to be the basis for momentous policy decisions, consider the character of the man in the White House. Need I say more?

June 1st, 2017
David Korty | Ceramics

IMG_2675
Untitled #5, Untitled #6, 2017
Stoneware and Glaze
10 X 5 1/2 inches, 10 X 5 inches

May 27 through July 6, 2017

South Willard Shop Exhibit

May 27th, 2017
It’s all about contempt

By Paul Krugman
NY Times Published: MAY 26, 2017

A man in Welch, W.Va., with groceries from a food bank that supports local families, many of them in the coal industry. Credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images
For journalists covering domestic policy, this past week poses some hard choices. Should we focus on the Trump budget’s fraudulence — not only does it invoke $2 trillion in phony savings, it counts them twice — or on its cruelty? Or should we talk instead about the Congressional Budget Office assessment of Trumpcare, which would be devastating for older, poorer and sicker Americans?

There is, however, a unifying theme to all these developments. And that theme is contempt — Donald Trump’s contempt for the voters who put him in office.

You may recall Trump’s remark during the campaign that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Well, he hasn’t done that, at least so far. He is, however, betting that he can break every promise he made to the working-class voters who put him over the top, and still keep their support. Can he win that bet?

When it comes to phony budget math — remember his claims that he would pay off the national debt? — he probably can. We’re not talking about anything subtle here; we’re talking about a budget that promises to “abolish the death tax,” then counts $330 billion in estate tax receipts in its rosy forecast. But even I don’t expect to see this kind of fraud get much political traction.

The bigger question is whether someone who ran as a populist, who promised not to cut Social Security or Medicaid, who assured voters that everyone would have health insurance, can keep his working-class support while pursuing an agenda so anti-populist it takes your breath away.

To make this concrete, let’s talk about West Virginia, which went Trump by more than 40 percentage points, topped only by Wyoming. What did West Virginians think they were voting for?

They are, after all, residents of a poor state that benefits immensely from federal programs: 29 percent of the population is on Medicaid, almost 19 percent on food stamps. The expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare is the main reason the percentage of West Virginians without health insurance has halved since 2013.

Beyond that, more than 4 percent of the population, the highest share in the nation, receives Social Security disability payments, partly because of the legacy of unhealthy working conditions, partly because a high fraction of the population consists of people who suffer from chronic diseases, like diabetics — whom Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, thinks we shouldn’t take care of because it’s their own fault for eating poorly.

And just to be clear, we’re talking about white people here: At 93 percent white, West Virginia is one of the most minority- and immigrant-free states in America.

So what did the state’s residents think they were voting for? Partly, presumably, they supported Trump because he promised — falsely, of course — that he could bring back the well-paying coal-mining jobs of yore.

But they also believed that he was a different kind of Republican. Maybe he would take benefits away from Those People, but he would protect the programs white working-class voters, in West Virginia and elsewhere, depend on.

What they got instead was the mother of all sucker punches.

Trumpcare, the budget office tells us, would cause 23 million people to lose health insurance, largely through cuts to Medicaid — remember, the program that benefits almost a third of West Virginians. It would also lead to soaring premiums — we’re talking increases on the order of 800 percent — for older Americans whose incomes are low but not low enough to qualify for Medicaid. That describes a lot of Trump voters. Then we need to add in the Trump budget, which calls for further drastic cuts in Medicaid, plus large cuts in food stamps and in disability payments.

What would happen to West Virginia if all these Trump policies went into effect? Basically, it would be apocalyptic: Hundreds of thousands would lose health insurance; medical debt and untreated conditions would surge; and there would be an explosion in extreme poverty, including a lot of outright hunger.

Oh, and it’s not just about crucial benefits, it’s also about jobs. Coal isn’t coming back; these days, West Virginia’s biggest source of employment is health care and social assistance. How many of those jobs would survive savage cuts in Medicaid and disability benefits?

Now, to be fair, the Trump budget would protect West Virginians from the ravages of the estate tax, which affects around 20 — that’s right, 20 — of the state’s residents each year.

So many of the people who voted for Donald Trump were the victims of an epic scam by a man who has built his life around scamming. In the case of West Virginians, this scam could end up pretty much destroying their state.

Will they ever realize this, and admit it to themselves? More important, will they be prepared to punish him the only way they can — by voting for Democrats?

May 27th, 2017
lesley vance

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 12.57.17 PM
Untitled, 2017, oil on linen, 31 x 24 x 3/4 inches

May 19 — July 01, 2017

David Kordansky

May 19th, 2017
judith hopf

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 12.48.30 PM
Brick–Foot, 2016
Bricks, cement. 12 1/4 x 30 11/16 x 13 in

Opening May 20, 2017

Hammer

May 19th, 2017
A Season of Regret for an Aging Tribal Expert in India

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The anthropologist T.N. Pandit at his home in New Delhi. In the 1960s, be began working in the Andaman Islands, an Indian archipelago. Credit Poras Chaudhary for The New York Times

By ELLEN BARRY
NY Times Published: MAY 5, 2017

NEW DELHI — At 82, the anthropologist T. N. Pandit passes his days in the gentle occupations of old age: poetry, a Buddhist study circle, a daily walk in the park. It is rare for anyone to ask him about the years he spent with the hunter-gatherer tribes of the Andaman Islands. Only with difficulty can he locate a single copy of the slender book he wrote about that time.

Somewhere in a drawer, though, there are photographs, capturing Mr. Pandit as he made contact with some of the world’s most isolated people.

In these photographs, faded and curled with age, his face wears an expression of more or less pure joy.

Mr. Pandit, the pale-skinned son of a Kashmiri professor, reaches to pass a coconut to a group of naked, dark-skinned young men who have waded waist-deep in water to greet him. He sits companionably beside a dark-skinned young woman, whose hand rests casually on his thigh. Film shot in 1974 shows him — a reserved Brahmin — dancing exuberantly with a bare-breasted Jarawa woman.

It took Mr. Pandit and his colleagues more than two decades to persuade the tribes known as the Jarawa and Sentinelese to lay down their bows and arrows and mingle peacefully with the Indian settlers who surrounded them. The process was grindingly slow, involving trips into remote jungle areas to leave gifts for people who would not show themselves. In each case, though, there was an exhilarating breakthrough.

In India’s Andaman Islands, these encounters occurred two centuries after indigenous populations in the United States and Australia had been devastated by disease and addiction, leaving no doubt of the dangers of unregulated contact. Mr. Pandit found himself entrusted with the future of tiny groups believed to have migrated from Africa around 50,000 years ago, described by a team of geneticists as “arguably the most enigmatic people on our planet.” India would do it better, he promised himself.

So it is notable that now, when he looks back on his life’s great achievement, he does so with an unmistakable sadness.

Mr. Pandit arrived in Port Blair, the capital city of the island chain, in 1966. Anthropology was such a new field in India that when he was offered a spot to study it at Delhi University he had to look the word up in the dictionary. His first government posting came as a disappointment: the Andaman Islands, an archipelago so remote that the British used it as a penal colony.

He found, to his surprise, that the place suited him. His head was full of the romantic phrases of A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, a British anthropologist who studied the tribes at the turn of the century, describing them as “brave, valiant and very clever people.” He was dismayed to find their descendants begging for alms, teased by the local children.

But there were other tribes, he learned, that had hardly changed since the days of Radcliffe-Brown. One group lived alone on a 20-square-mile island called North Sentinel and had barely been seen at all. The other group, known as the Jarawa, were fearsome archers, known for hiding in the treetops and neatly impaling with arrows outsiders who encroached on their territory. Government policy toward the Jarawa fell to the Bush Police, who were armed with rifles and kept careful records of casualties on both sides.

Mr. Pandit was openly contemptuous of this martial approach, which dated back to the British Raj. In 1967, he managed to join a “gift-dropping” expedition to North Sentinel Island, where the police dropped off coconuts and bananas while the members of the tribe, known as the Sentinelese, hid in the forest.

“They were watching us carefully, and they must not have been happy, because they picked up their bows and arrows,” he said. “This whole encounter was so amazing, because here is civilized man facing primitive man in its extreme state, living very simply.”

In 1968, Mr. Pandit had a stroke of luck. Three Jarawa teenagers, captured raiding a village, were kept in prison for a month, so Mr. Pandit had a chance to study them at close range. He showed them airplanes and cars. He scribbled down words in their language. After a month, the three young men, loaded down with gifts, were released back to the forest.

There was a silence. Then, six years later, for reasons Mr. Pandit could never explain, a group of Jarawa greeted him on the beach with song and dance. He visited, after that, every two weeks or so. They would strip off his clothes, poke fingers in his eyes, pocket his spectacles.

He recalls these days, even now, with a kind of reverence and delight.

“I have seen a Jarawa girl,” he said. “I can never forget her face, though it was many years back. She sat in the boat watching us as if she was Queen Victoria, with such dignity and such poise. You see, then I realized one doesn’t need clothes and ornaments and crown to make you dignified. What comes spontaneously, your inner self, you can project your personality that way.”

Mr. Pandit’s campaign worked. By the 1990s, the Jarawa were so at ease with outsiders that they began to roam the neighboring settlements, where they found food that required neither hunting nor gathering.

It is difficult to identify the precise moment when contact with the Jarawa came to be viewed as a problem. They began to fish and weave baskets in exchange for money. Sometimes they snatched food from market stalls. Video clips show Indian tourists tossing food to Jarawa on the roadside, crudely ordering the women to dance. Babies fathered by Indian settlers were born to Jarawa women.

Activists concerned with the tribes increasingly described contact missions as a kind of cultural destruction, introducing rot from within. Governments in Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia were adopting “no-contact” policies, and India followed suit. Gift-giving expeditions to the Sentinelese stopped in 1996, and the Indian Navy now enforces a buffer zone to keep curiosity-seekers away.

In 2004, the central government formulated a new policy toward the Jarawa, with the primary goal of protecting them “from harmful effects of exposure and contact with the outside world.”

Mr. Pandit and his colleagues were able to socialize with the isolated Jarawa tribe after a breakthrough. Here, in an image from the 1980s, members of the tribe visited a ship anchored off their land.
But the process of integration, once begun, was impossible to stop, said Samir Acharya, a local environmental activist, with a touch of bitterness.

“Now they have gotten infected,” he said. “They have been exposed to a modern way of life they cannot sustain. They have learned to eat rice and sugar. We have turned a free people into beggars.”

A faction of anthropologists continue to defend the practice of controlled contact, saying that humans are by nature social animals, longing to interact. As one put it recently, “There is nothing particularly attractive about living in an isolated tribe on the slow road to extinction.” But their protestations have a weary tone, as of one losing an argument.

Mr. Pandit has followed these developments from the hushed apartment in New Delhi where he lives with the third of his four daughters.

It is nearly impossible for him to discuss his work in the Andaman Islands without thinking of his wife, Roshi, who died in 2015. Roshi would sit with him and endlessly discuss the tribes. His loss remains so painful that he has tried to train his mind not to dwell on it. He struggles, he says, to come to terms with the fleeting quality of human experience.

“Nothing is permanent,” he said. “What has gone on in the past looks like having been a dream.”

in the end, Mr. Pandit agrees that the Jarawa were hurt by putting down their bows and arrows.

“The negative impact of close contact is inescapable, but it is sad,” he said. “What an amazing community, but it has been diluted in its outlook, its self-confidence, its sense of purpose, its sense of survival. Now they take it easy. They beg for things.”

This was not a surprise. He understood that his work would expose the tribes to the outside, with its dazzling technology, and that they would submit avidly. His aim, he said, was to control the process, to slow it as much as possible, so that they understood the value of what they were leaving behind.

“In the course of time, these communities will disappear,” he said. “Their cultures will be lost.”

Mr. Pandit last traveled to Jarawa territory in 2014, on a visit to a daughter in Port Blair. Since then, he has become more physically fragile and doubts he will make the journey again. He is left with the photographs — square black-and-whites from the 1970s, faded color from the 1980s — and with his thoughts.

“I see them sometimes in my dreams,” he said. “Just being with them and spending a little time. Not too long. Not frequently. Just once in a while.” And on those mornings, he said, he wakes up happy.

May 6th, 2017

static1.squarespace

May 7 – June 18, 2017

Opening reception Sunday May 7, 4-7pm

The Pit

May 4th, 2017
Mathias Poledna

inv-Poledna_Karte-1-1-352x500
Substance
3 May 2017 –
17 June 2017
opening reception on Wednesday,
3 May, 6-8 pm

Daniel Buchholz NY

May 3rd, 2017
Were humans were in California a hundred thousand years earlier than we thought?

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A boulder thought to have been used by early humans as a hammerstone.
PHOTOGRAPH BY THOMAS DEMÉRÉ / SAN DIEGO NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

By Alan Burdick
The New Yorker Published: April 26, 2017

In 1992, Thomas Deméré, a paleontologist at the San Diego Natural History Museum, and several of his colleagues were called in to inspect an array of bones that had been unearthed by highway workers building Route 54, just south of the city. What turned up was the Pleistocene. The site was rich with fossils tens of thousands of years old, including the remains of a camel, a horse, a dire wolf, a ground sloth, and, most impressive, a mastodon. Today, the area stretches with ranch homes and water-restricted lawns; way back then, it was a broad floodplain with a single shallow ribbon of water winding through it. “It was a very nice place to live, I’d think, not far from the coastline,” Deméré said at a press conference yesterday.

For years now, Deméré and his collaborators have been studying specimens from the site with mounting astonishment. In 2014, James Paces, a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, determined that the mastodon remains were a hundred and thirty thousand years old. On its own, this fact would not be so surprising, but a recent examination of the animal’s bones suggests that they were smashed open with large cobbles, most likely for the marrow inside. What seemed at first to be a paleontological site, in other words, could be an archeological one. If that’s the case, then it predates some of the earliest evidence of hominins in North America by more than a hundred thousand years. Eleven scientists, including Deméré and Paces, joined to publish their results today in the journal Nature.

“The scholarship over the earliest occupation of America is a battlefield,” John McNabb, an archeologist at the University of Southampton, said by phone. (Nature asked McNabb to independently comment on the paper and the team’s results.) “But those folks are arguing about differences of two hundred years here and there. This is an order of magnitude beyond anything that’s been talked about before.” McNabb, who characterized himself as “skeptical,” predicted that the announcement would be met by “an uproar—outrage, anger, utter dismissal.” Still, he said, “If it is true, it changes everything about the occupation of the Americas and the story of the movement of people out of Africa.”

Deméré, at the press conference, conceded that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” and argued that the study “provides conclusive evidence that this is an archeological site.” The sediment in which the remains rested, a fine-grained silt, was laid down gradually by a slow-moving stream, which would not have been powerful enough to shift big stones or rearrange large bones. The cobbles that served as hammerstones and anvils, then, could not have entered the layer by natural means. And the bones and rocks showed cracks, scars, flakes, and abrasions typical of repeated battering. Careful comparison with bones from other sites, the authors suggested, ruled out damage inflicted by trampling or the gnawing of carnivores.

Using rocks to break apart large bones, either for the marrow or to create hardy tools, is an old hominin trick, dating back at least a million years in Africa. To make their case, Deméré and his colleagues tried their hand at it. In one experiment, they attached a rock to a long wooden handle and used it to break apart the bones of a dead elephant that they had been allowed to dig up. (“It was extremely fresh and smelled extremely bad,” Deméré said.) The fragments and fracturing that resulted were virtually identical to what they saw on the mastodon bones in San Diego. They conducted a similar experiment in Tanzania on the femur of an elephant that had died along a road. The video of the activity, with two Maasai men looking on as two white scientists hammer away with a rock club, resembles a fun-house version of a nature documentary.

The scientists I spoke to who were not part of the Nature team were quick to praise the authors’ credibility and the quality of their research. “They’ve taken the best body of evidence and explored it in a very logical manner,” McNabb said. “They have tried to falsify all the possible natural explanations and come to a point where they can’t see any other interpretation than human habitation. It’s just a question of whether they really have excluded everything possible.” But, he added, with “something as big and important as this, you need absolutely incontrovertible evidence, and there’s too much here associated with a question mark.” For instance, he found it strange that the hammerstones and anvils weren’t accompanied by the smaller, sharper stone tools also typically found at prehistoric butchery sites. “Disarticulating the leg of an elephant isn’t easy,” he said. “If you’re going to break into the bone, you have to cut through the hide and flesh first.”

Ariane Burke, an archeozoologist at the University of Montreal, said she was also struck by the absence of knapped stone tools. (In January, Burke co-authored a study suggesting that the first North Americans arrived from Siberia about twenty-four thousand years ago, some ten thousand years earlier than the previously accepted date.) She added that she’d be excited to see the team compare the activity at the mastodon site with sites of a similar age in Eurasia where woolly mammoths were butchered by humans, to see how the physical evidence compares. “I still find the site puzzling—you can say ‘intriguing’ if you don’t want to say ‘puzzling’—for various reasons,” she said. “One, of course, is the date. A hundred and thirty thousand years before present is unprecedented; there’s nothing in North America to compare it to.”

The looming question is who, or what, might have dismembered this mastodon so long ago. “The simple answer is, of course, we don’t know,” Deméré said. The researchers found no human remains at the site. The generally accepted theory for the settlement of North America has modern humans, Homo sapiens, entering across a land bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska between about twenty-seven thousand and eleven thousand years ago. But the bridge was ephemeral; around the time the mastodon’s bones were smashed, it would have been underwater, as a warm climate melted glaciers and raised sea levels. Back then, humans were still a fairly new and remote species. Homo sapiens were believed to have left Africa in several waves, the first no earlier than a hundred and thirty thousand years ago. They made it to China between eighty thousand and a hundred and twenty thousand years ago and to Australia by fifty thousand years ago; a later wave out of Africa reached Western Europe by about forty-two thousand years ago. For humans proper, North America would have been a bridge too far, too fast.

But earlier members of the genus Homo, including the species that eventually evolved into Neanderthals, had already left Africa and populated Eurasia. At the press conference, Deméré speculated that they or another species of Homo might have entered North America, if not by land bridge then by boat. Burke doesn’t think the existing evidence is compelling enough; there is no genetic indication that Neanderthals ever reached this continent and nothing to suggest that they were sailors. “I would not push that boat out into the water,” she said with a laugh. Deméré also mentioned the Denisovans, a cryptic hominin species that inhabited Western Siberia sixty or seventy thousand years ago. “It’s premature to start invoking the Denisovans given how little we know about them,” Burke cautioned.

And if one or another of these hominins did make it to San Diego, what happened to them? Did they come this far only to fade away, like so many ill-fated colonists? “We can become locally extinct,” Deméré said. Even so, he added, there may well be more evidence out there to find. He encouraged archeologists to look in older deposits than they typically explore, and for paleontologists to reëxamine museum collections that might contain evidence of hominin—or human—activity after all. “I like to say that a lot of this evidence has fallen into the academic cracks between archeology and paleontology,” Deméré said. Another possibility is that there is nothing to be found. How do you prove that something doesn’t exist? As Burke put it, “The believers will continue to believe, the disbelievers will continue to disbelieve, and the rest of us will sit in the middle and say, ‘We’d like to see more data.’ ”

April 27th, 2017
ivan morley

invention_2013_oil_glass_24_x_30
Invention, 2012, Oil on glass, 24 × 30 inches

New Ivan Morley site designed by Jonathan Maghen

April 27th, 2017
David Korty

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 1.13.13 PM
Untitled (Greek Mask #2), 2017
Flashe, ink, paper on canvas
36 x 30 inches

DAVID KORTY
SLEEPER
APRIL 20 – MAY 21, 2017

Derek Eller

April 21st, 2017
Peter Shire: Naked Is the Best Disguise

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​Peter Shire, Scorpion, Black, 1996-2013, cone 06 clay and two part polyurethane with ceramic primer, and glazed lids with metal detail, 12 ¾ x 31 ½ x 12 in.

Friday, Apr 21, 2017
7pm – 9pm

MOCA Pacific Design Center
8687 Melrose Avenue West Hollywood, CA 90069

MOCA

April 21st, 2017
stanya kahn

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 5.31.12 PM“Stand in the Stream,” film still, 2017

April 14 – May 20, 2017

Susan Vielmetter

April 14th, 2017
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