Suffer Little Children

NY Times Published: NOV. 20, 2014
By Paul Krugman

The Tenement Museum, on the Lower East Side, is one of my favorite places in New York City. It’s a Civil War-vintage building that housed successive waves of immigrants, and a number of apartments have been restored to look exactly as they did in various eras, from the 1860s to the 1930s (when the building was declared unfit for occupancy). When you tour the museum, you come away with a powerful sense of immigration as a human experience, which — despite plenty of bad times, despite a cultural climate in which Jews, Italians, and others were often portrayed as racially inferior — was overwhelmingly positive.

I get especially choked up about the Baldizzi apartment from 1934. When I described its layout to my parents, both declared, “I grew up in that apartment!” And today’s immigrants are the same, in aspiration and behavior, as my grandparents were — people seeking a better life, and by and large finding it.

That’s why I enthusiastically support President Obama’s new immigration initiative. It’s a simple matter of human decency.

That’s not to say that I, or most progressives, support open borders. You can see one important reason right there in the Baldizzi apartment: the photo of F.D.R. on the wall. The New Deal made America a vastly better place, yet it probably wouldn’t have been possible without the immigration restrictions that went into effect after World War I. For one thing, absent those restrictions, there would have been many claims, justified or not, about people flocking to America to take advantage of welfare programs.

Furthermore, open immigration meant that many of America’s worst-paid workers weren’t citizens and couldn’t vote. Once immigration restrictions were in place, and immigrants already here gained citizenship, this disenfranchised class at the bottom shrank rapidly, helping to create the political conditions for a stronger social safety net. And, yes, low-skill immigration probably has some depressing effect on wages, although the available evidence suggests that the effect is quite small.

So there are some difficult issues in immigration policy. I like to say that if you don’t feel conflicted about these issues, there’s something wrong with you. But one thing you shouldn’t feel conflicted about is the proposition that we should offer decent treatment to children who are already here — and are already Americans in every sense that matters. And that’s what Mr. Obama’s initiative is about.

Who are we talking about? First, there are more than a million young people in this country who came — yes, illegally — as children and have lived here ever since. Second, there are large numbers of children who were born here — which makes them U.S. citizens, with all the same rights you and I have — but whose parents came illegally, and are legally subject to being deported.

What should we do about these people and their families? There are some forces in our political life who want us to bring out the iron fist — to seek out and deport young residents who weren’t born here but have never known another home, to seek out and deport the undocumented parents of American children and force those children either to go into exile or to fend for themselves.

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But that isn’t going to happen, partly because, as a nation, we aren’t really that cruel; partly because that kind of crackdown would require something approaching police-state rule; and, largely, I’m sorry to say, because Congress doesn’t want to spend the money that such a plan would require. In practice, undocumented children and the undocumented parents of legal children aren’t going anywhere.

The real question, then, is how we’re going to treat them. Will we continue our current regime of malign neglect, denying them ordinary rights and leaving them under the constant threat of deportation? Or will we treat them as the fellow Americans they already are?

The truth is that sheer self-interest says that we should do the humane thing. Today’s immigrant children are tomorrow’s workers, taxpayers and neighbors. Condemning them to life in the shadows means that they will have less stable home lives than they should, be denied the opportunity to acquire skills and education, contribute less to the economy, and play a less positive role in society. Failure to act is just self-destructive.

But speaking for myself, I don’t care that much about the money, or even the social aspects. What really matters, or should matter, is the humanity. My parents were able to have the lives they did because America, despite all the prejudices of the time, was willing to treat them as people. Offering the same kind of treatment to today’s immigrant children is the practical course of action, but it’s also, crucially, the right thing to do. So let’s applaud the president for doing it.

November 21st, 2014
Social Media Bots Offer Phony Friends and Real Profit

Screen shot 2014-11-21 at 11.07.33 AM
Jason Raish

NY Times Published NOV. 19, 2014

I am the ruler of worlds. Let me rephrase that: I am the ruler of one very small world of social media bots.

My Twitter bots resemble real people, with photos for avatars and bios. Meet Fabiola Shaffer: She is pretty, has long brown hair, is a writer and researcher in New York and loves chocolate. Karri B. Segal is a sophisticated woman in her mid-50s, works in advertising in New York and likes Etsy. Rick Engbarg is a tuxedo-wearing rocket scientist who freelances at SpaceX and lives in San Francisco.

Never mind that they don’t exist (and their accounts have since been suspended), figments of a few lines of computer code. I can command them to retweet certain topics (like chocolate or Ebola), favorite a tweet or follow anyone who follows them. Compared with most bot collections, which number in the tens of thousands and are often called bot farms, my enclave of 20 bots is more like a bot petting zoo.

We’ve known about bots for some time (I wrote about them earlier this year, and how anyone can buy a few thousand “friends” for $5). But making these fake accounts used to be difficult, requiring lots of programming deft. Now, even I can make my own — and trust me, my programming skills are minimal.

As a result, a giant pyramid scheme has emerged on social media, where fake friends now command real money.

Here’s how the pyramid works: With minimal effort, I downloaded a piece of software called Twitter Supremacy. For $50 for a six-month license, the software (which violates Twitter’s terms of service agreement) lets me fabricate an unlimited number of friends.

Furthermore, I can program these fake accounts to tweet, retweet and follow others automatically, as if they were living, breathing users. (There are dozens of similar services that do this for Instagram, Vine, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and Facebook.)

With an army of fake friends at my disposal, I can now charge people who want to increase their number of followers or promote certain tweets. One bot creator I talked to (who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because his work violates user agreements with social media sites) said that he manages hundreds of thousands of Instagram bots and makes a good living by pushing posts to the app’s popular page. He can also manufacture all kinds of engagement, including following accounts and commenting on photos.

Who pays for these services? The bot creator said that his clients include well-known celebrities and brands, along with everyday people who want a social media ego boost. (The bot maker wouldn’t let me share whom he works with, but the list includes A-list celebrities and a fast-food chain.)

This is where the real money is exchanged. Consider, for example, that a celebrity like Kim Kardashian, who has 25 million Twitter followers, has been paid $10,000 to tweet about ShoeDazzle. Or that Charlie Sheen, who has 11 million followers, was reportedly paid $50,000 to tweet about

What if many of their followers are fake? Numerous reports have found that celebrities, politicians and companies often buy fake followers to enhance their perceived importance online.

The practice is so widespread that StatusPeople, a social media management company in London, has a web tool called the Fake Follower Check that it says can tell how many fake followers a person has. According to that tool, 6 percent of Ms. Kardashian’s followers are fake, as are 12 percent of Mr. Sheen’s. Mr. Sheen did not respond to a request for comment. Ms. Kardashian, speaking through her publicist, said she was has never purchased followers.

(It should be noted that celebrities and other users often have no control over the number of their fake followers. Bot farms will often follow big-name celebrities, regardless of whether a celebrity is a client or not.)

Yet it doesn’t seem to matter. For a single tweet, Facebook update or Instagram photo, brands will pay $1,500 to $2,500 to lower-tier celebrities like Marlon Wayans or Holly Madison, and up to $50,000 to upper-tier celebrities like Ms. Kardashian and Mr. Sheen.

Social media companies are well aware of this. Each year, Facebook has said it finds 67 million to 137 million fake accounts on its service. Twitter said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that 5 percent, or around 24 million, of its accounts are bots. And Instagram is littered with millions of bots that copy people’s profiles, share their photos and leave comments on images.

But in general, social media sites are more concerned with eradicating malware and viruses than with eliminating bots that tweet about boy bands.

What’s striking about this pyramid scheme is just how simple it is. The bot creator I spoke with said that the software is so easy to use that teenagers are getting into the act now as a way to supplement their allowance.

It also taps into the hunger of advertisers to reach consumers on social media. “This all points to social media advertising being one giant bubble,” said Tim Hwang, chief scientist at the Pacific Social Architecting Corporation, a research group that focuses on bots. “Everyone is really happy to say, ‘Look at the numbers that we got, it must have been successful,’ even though the retweets and favs are inflated by bots.”

So there you have it. If you want to make a little extra cash, and a lot of fake friends, there’s plenty of room on the social media pyramid scheme. You can have your bots become friends with mine. They’ll even follow you back.

November 21st, 2014
Mike Nichols 1931 – 2014

November 20th, 2014
elves’ faire

Screen shot 2014-11-19 at 1.26.01 PM
Acorn Man, 2013

Saturday, November 22, 2014, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Pasadena Waldorf Elves’ Faire

November 19th, 2014
Lunch with Agnes

The New Yorker Published July 14, 2003

Agnes Martin, the Saskatchewan-born Abstract Expressionist painter—a contemporary of Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Barnett Newman—whose tranquil paintings are in the Whitney, the Guggenheim, moma, and other museums, abandoned New York a good three decades ago to live spartanly and to work, somewhat reclusively, in New Mexico. Now residing in Taos at the age of ninety-one, she was due the other day to be called on at the small bungalow she lives in near the big Taos Mountain, by her friend and neighbor Tony Huston, in his white pickup truck. He is a master falconer and a screenwriter (of, among other movies, a film of James Joyce’s “The Dead” made by his father, John Huston).

“Every now and then, I get to have lunch with Agnes,” Huston said. “There’s such solidity in her presence. She’s not wobbly. She occupies all the space given to her. In 1997, she was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale. The next year, President Clinton gave her the National Medal of Arts. Her paintings sell for millions, her dealer says. She spends a lot of time just sitting, painting in her head.

“She finds serenity and power in the Taos Mountain, as so many of us here do,” he went on, driving bossily over a sun-blinding, narrow dirt road leading to Martin’s home. “Either the mountain likes you or it doesn’t, and I’m sure the mountain likes Agnes.”

He turned off the dirt road into a circular enclave called Plaza de Retiro. A spotless white E320 Mercedes was parked in front of her place. “Her car’s here,” he said. He knocked on the door and peered into the window. “But she’s not home. She probably got a ride to her studio.”

Not long after, he found her, in her studio, in a three-hundred-year-old adobe cottage half a mile away. The studio has white walls, a skylight, and a small window with shutters, and inside it was arranged simply: a work table with paintbrushes and three rulers; a couple of chairs. Hanging on a wall was a painting in progress—a five-by-five-foot white canvas with one blue stripe at the top.

Agnes Martin has a full, strong, sun-browned face that looks as if it belonged on Mt. Rushmore. She has gray hair, cut straight with bangs, in what used to be called a Buster Brown style, and she is muscular and full-bodied, with large, strong, thick-fingered hands. She was wearing black sneakers, bluejeans, and a blue tunic of thick Guatemalan cloth, with four engraved silver buttons going down from the neckline. “The silver buttons come from Tony Reyna’s shop on the Pueblo reservation—no tax,” she said. “I want to get more of these silver buttons.

“Tomorrow, I’ll drive myself over here,” she said. “I have twenty-twenty vision. A policeman just gave me the driver’s test. He said I was a good driver.”

Huston and Martin started talking about painting, and he asked whether she allows her dealer’s opinions to influence her work.

“No, I paint to myself,” she said. “It comes from outside. I don’t believe in that inner stuff. You sit and wait. I’m always painting in my imagination. They go so quickly in your imagination. I only work three and a half hours a day. Painting is hard work. It’s very hard to paint straight. You paint vertically, but the paintings hang horizontally—there are no drips that way.”

The happiest part of making paintings, she continued, is “when they go out the door and into the world. They go straight to my dealer, Arne Glimcher, at Pace Wildenstein. It used to be simpler. They used to fly and get there in one day. Now they have to be in fancy crates, and they go by truck to New York. Takes five days.”

It was well before noon. She had eaten breakfast, she said, at her routine time, 6:30 a.m., in the communal dining room at her enclave.

“I don’t eat supper,” she said. “And I never watch television. I have no television. I have no radio. For news, I read the headlines on the local papers. I listen to music. On CDs. Beethoven’s Ninth. Beethoven is really about something. I go to bed at 7 p.m. I go to sleep when it gets dark, get up when it’s light. Like a chicken. Let’s go to lunch.”

At Huston’s truck, she hoisted herself nimbly into the front seat for the drive to a restaurant, close to the Taos Mountain. It had grown cloudy. There was a distant rumble of thunder. At the restaurant, a waitress poured water. Martin drank almost a full glass. “This water is so good,” she said. “I’ll have the mushroom-filled ravioli. Yesterday, I had bratwurst and sauerkraut.” Huston asked whether she ever missed New York.

Without skipping a beat, she said, “They tore down my wonderful studio there. They put a Chemical Bank in its place. I worked for thirteen years in that studio. A sailmaker’s loft, on Coenties Slip. It was right on the East River, so close I could see the expressions on the faces of the sailors. That’s when I was friends with Barney Newman. We’d talk about Picasso, who was a good painter because he worked hard. But he had a lot of goofy ideas. I liked Andy Warhol, but I was afraid to go visit him because of his friends. Barney would do wonderful talk with me. He’d say about painting, ‘It’s transcendent.’ A lot of people didn’t believe him. But I did. It has to be about life. Barney and the other Abstract Expressionists gave up defined space, and they gave up forms. They all liked my paintings. I feel as though I owe them a debt. Barney hung my shows. Too bad about Barney. The doctor told him to stop, to give it up. Because it’s hard work. So he gave it up, but he started again, and he died of a heart attack.” She drank another glass of water. “This water is so good,” she said again.

Thanks to Sam Sweet

November 19th, 2014

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356 Mission

November 16th, 2014

November 15th, 2014
‘Selected by…’

magdalena tiger 2014
Magdalena Suarez Frimkess
Untitled Tiger, 2014
6 x 4 x 3 inches

Opening Saturday 22 November 2014, 3 – 5pm

Through Saturday 20 December 2014

‘Selected by…’ Michael Marriott and Jesse Wine is a group exhibition of ceramic-based work.

Caroline Achaintre / Alison Britton / Lubna Chowdhary / Viola Frey / Magdalena Suarez Frimkess / Ryan Gander / Tom Gidley / Jim Gladwin / Cassie Griffin / Ineke Hans / Tony Hayward / Tom Humphreys / Pontus Lindvall / Jean Marriott / Nao Matsunaga / Ian Mcintyre / Emily Jane McCartan / Ian McChesney / Kate Owens / Richard Slee / Renee So / August Sorenson / Jackson Sprague / Frauke Stegmann / Hans Stofer / Ricky Swallow / Francis Upritchard / Jesse Wine / Bethan Wood / Dawn Youll


November 14th, 2014
Don’t Ask How to Feed the 9 Billion

NY Times Published: NOV. 11, 2014
By Mark Bittman

At dinner with a friend the other night, I mentioned that I was giving a talk this week debunking the idea that we need to grow more food on a large scale so we can “feed the nine billion” — the anticipated global population by 2050.

She looked at me, horrified, and said, “But how are you going to produce enough food to feed the hungry?”

I suggested she try this exercise: “Put yourself in the poorest place you can think of. Imagine yourself in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example. Now. Are you hungry? Are you going to go hungry? Are you going to have a problem finding food?”

The answer, obviously, is “no.” Because she — and almost all of you reading this — would be standing in that country with some $20 bills and a wallet filled with credit cards. And you would go buy yourself something to eat.

The difference between you and the hungry is not production levels; it’s money. There are no hungry people with money; there isn’t a shortage of food, nor is there a distribution problem. There is an I-don’t-have-the-land-and-resources-to-produce-my-own-food, nor-can-I-afford-to-buy-food problem.

And poverty and the resulting hunger aren’t matters of bad luck; they are often a result of people buying the property of traditional farmers and displacing them, appropriating their water, energy and mineral resources, and even producing cash crops for export while reducing the people growing the food to menial and hungry laborers on their own land.

Poverty isn’t the only problem, of course. There is also the virtually unregulated food system that is geared toward making money rather than feeding people. (Look no further than the ethanol mandate or high fructose corn syrup for evidence.)

If poverty creates hunger, it teams up with the food system to create another form of malnourishment: obesity (and what’s called “hidden hunger,” a lack of micronutrients). If you define “hunger” as malnutrition, and you accept that overweight and obesity are forms of malnutrition as well, than almost half the world is malnourished.

The solution to malnourishment isn’t to produce more food. The solution is to eliminate poverty.

Look at the most agriculturally productive country in the world: the United States. Is there hunger here? Yes, quite a bit. We have the highest percentage of hungry people of any developed nation, a rate closer to that of Indonesia than that of Britain.

Is there a lack of food? You laugh at that question. It is, as the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler likes to call it, “a food carnival.” It’s just that there’s a steep ticket price.

A majority of the world is fed by hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers, some of whom are themselves among the hungry. The rest of the hungry are underpaid or unemployed workers. But boosting yields does nothing for them.

So we should not be asking, “How will we feed the world?,” but “How can we help end poverty?” Claiming that increasing yield would feed the poor is like saying that producing more cars or private jets would guarantee that everyone had one.

And how do we help those who have malnutrition from excess eating? We can help them, and help preserve the earth’s health, if we recognize that the industrial model of food production is neither inevitable nor desirable.

That is, the kind of farming we can learn from people who still have a real relationship with the land and are focused on quality rather than yield.

The best method of farming for most people is probably traditional farming boosted by science. The best method of farming for those in highly productive agricultural societies would be farming made more intelligent and less rapacious. That is, the kind of farming we can learn from people who still have a real relationship with the land and are focused on quality rather than yield. The goal should be food that is green, fair, healthy and affordable.

It’s not news that the poor need money and justice. If there’s a bright side here, it’s that it might be easier to make the changes required to fix the problems created by industrial agriculture than those created by inequality.

There’s plenty of food. Too much of it is going to feed animals, too much of it is being converted to fuel and too much of it is being wasted.

We don’t have to increase yield to address any of those issues; we just have to grow food more smartly than with the brute force of industrial methods, and we need to address the circumstances of the poor.

Our slogan should not be “let’s feed the world,” but “let’s end poverty.”

November 14th, 2014
Big Bank Hank dies at 57; founding member of Sugarhill Gang

LA Time Published: November 11, 2014

Henry Lee Jackson, one of the founders of the pioneering New Jersey rap trio The Sugarhill Gang whose 1979 single “Rapper’s Delight” proved that hip-hop could have mass-market appeal, has died. He was 57.

Jackson, who recorded as “Big Bank Hank,” died Tuesday of complications from cancer at a hospital in Englewood, N.J., said David Mallie, business manager for the two remaining members of the original Sugarhill Gang.

In a statement released by Mallie, Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien and Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright mourned Jackson’s death.

“So sad to hear about our brother’s passing. The three of us created musical history together,” the statement said. “We will always remember traveling the world together and rocking the house.”

Jackson was born Jan. 11, 1957, in the Bronx. He first planned on a career in oceanography, earning a degree after being inspired by the films of Jacques Cousteau. Jackson was working as a bouncer and a waiter at an Englewood pizza joint and rapping at local parties when Sylvia Robinson, a singer and label owner interested in documenting the nascent hip-hop music and party subculture in New York, found him after her son Joey Jr. pitched him as a rapper.

With his large physique and vivacious charisma, Jackson was a natural performer. Jackson free-styled some lyrics for her over a cassette tape in a car outside the pizza shop while two other rappers — O’Brien and Wright — also vied for the job. Robinson decided to sign all of them and form a group. Though few rap performances had ever been professionally recorded at that point, she booked them a session where they riffed over a 15-minute instrumental track borrowed from Chic’s dance single “Good Times.”

It was just astonishing, it really was something ‘new’ formally. It created a dividing line between what came before it and what came after.
– Bill Adler, hip-hop critic, on the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”
The song was a lighthearted, boast-filled track inspired by the freewheeling tradition of trading lyrics over DJ sets at block parties and nightclubs. It was soon selling 75,000 copies a week and cracked the Billboard charts, peaking at No. 36 on the Hot 100. But its influence was even wider. “Rapper’s Delight” proved that the hip-hop genre wasn’t just a regional flash in the pan, but a larger musical and aesthetic sensibility that could have broad appeal.

“There’s no way to overstate it. It was one of the first rap records ever made, and it was just gigantic,” said Bill Adler, a hip-hop critic and the original publicist for the hip-hop label Def Jam Records. “It was just astonishing, it really was something ‘new’ formally. It created a dividing line between what came before it and what came after.”

The song was the breakthrough release for the Robinsons’ Sugar Hill Records. The new label would go on to release records by Grandmaster Flash and Grandmaster Melle Mel that would become genre classics.

The “Rapper’s Delight” single did generate some controversy in hip-hop circles. Jackson’s verse on the song was widely believed to have borrowed lyrics from another local MC, Grandmaster Caz, who had lent Jackson his book of rhymes as a favor to the novice musician. Jackson even left in the portion of the lyrics where Caz spelled out his hip-hop alias, Casanova Fly. But as a first record taken from hip-hop’s communal party culture, it was an appropriate origin.

“I did not think it was conceivable that that there would be such a thing as a hip-hop record,” said the rapper Chuck D in Jeff Chang’s history of hip-hop, “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.” Then, “Bam! They made ‘Rapper’s Delight.’ … It was a miracle.”

Sugarhill Gang’s achievement was to capture hip-hop’s live, spontaneous essence in the studio and introduce audiences outside New York to the culture of rapping. The trio never replicated the top-40 chart success of “Rapper’s Delight” in America, though other singles including “Apache” and “8th Wonder” made the Hot 100 and became popular in Europe and in U.S. nightclubs.

The group’s original lineup dissolved in the early 1980s, though Jackson continued to tour as Sugarhill Gang with Joey Robinson Jr. as “Master Gee.” The Grammy Hall of Fame added “Rapper’s Delight” to its catalog in 2013.

Jackson is survived by his wife, Valerie Jackson; his children Alea Ramsey, Thomas Washington and Keshah Washington, and a stepdaughter, Jacquelle Ramsey.

“He was such a humble person, he would call from the road and say he’d had a good show, but he never talked much about his music,” his wife said. “He would have been amazed at how many people truly loved him.”

Thank to Jonathan Maghen

November 12th, 2014
julia rommel

Screen shot 2014-11-09 at 7.37.37 PM
Friday Night, 2014
Oil on linen,
17 x 15 inches


Sorry Were Closed

November 9th, 2014
Living Life Secondhand

Jun Cen

NY Times Published: NOV. 8, 2014

“LIFE is an ecstasy,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in an essay called “The Method of Nature,” a founding document of American transcendentalism. Life is also electricity, as our minds’ synapses and heart muscles would testify if they could.

Living molecules bear a charge and thus can intersect with others of their kind, as molecules of rock do not. We marveled at electrical displays plunging from watery clouds in the sky as perhaps divine until we finally learned to manufacture and wire electricity ourselves, lighting the dark, then muzzling it for mundane use, to the point of blotting out the sky.

To forgo seeing the firmament, as many of us do, for Netflix and the blogosphere, is momentous — nature “unfriended,” enjoyment less impromptu than scripted.

Does life become secondhand when filtered through a tailored screen? Text unenriched by body language or voice box timbre, film omnivorously edited. Is our bent straightened or warped more deeply? That’s our choice in what we Google, but in the meantime, will we notice the birdsong diminishing?

I like Gene Kelly dancing in the rain as much as anybody, and geniuses from Mozart to Fellini on call 24/7, but has electricity become part-Frankensteinian, a force for segmented myopia? Not a fist, it’s an explosion, hurling society toward Brownian motion, and coalescing Roman Catholicism with yoga. Fusion yet fission: Email is a fine way to query experts in your field en masse, but for somebody feeling suicidal it’s no substitute for a hand on the shoulder and the voice of a friend.

And that friend who might hurry over to comfort you may have difficulty in distinguishing the tenor of your texting from the spaghetti of other people’s commentary. Blather is precious in natural amounts: Like lubrication, it greases the gears, yet in excess can gum up the works.

I live on a mountain without utilities for a third of every year, so for nearly half a century I’ve swung back and forth to and from electrification. In the summer, living by the sun couldn’t be simpler. There’s more daylight than I can use, and I revel in the phases of the moon, the conversation of ravens, owls, yellowthroats and loons. The TV and phone calls resume before winter, though life itself does not seem richer than when I listened to the toads’ spring song or watched a great blue heron fish, amid the leaves’ ten-thousand-fold vibrancy.

The difference of course is that leaves, heron, loon and toad would not remain as glories when I returned to electricity. They are “electrifying” only when Vermont is temperate. I appreciate the utility of power in the winter, but many people seldom see a sunrise or sunset nowadays; they’re looking at a screen. What will this do? The Northern Lights, the Big Dipper — are they eclipsed like the multiplication tables? There was a magnetism to aurora borealis or a cradle moon, to spring peepers’ sleigh-bell sound or spindrift surfing toward shore under cumulus clouds, that galvanized delights in us almost Paleolithic.

Are we stunted if we lose it, a deflation associated with migrating indoors to cyberspace, Facebook instead of faces? It’s lots of fun, but will ecstasy remain in play in front of a computer screen? With microscopes and telescopes we are able to observe unscripted reality, or (if you prefer) Creation.

“The cloud” is not a cloud, however. Wild animals are filmed in Africa but edited in New York for nature programs, although the glistening tree trunks — raindrops trickled down the collar of the cameraman — become invisible. Online, does one even have a neck? Electricity brings us the joy of music performed elsewhere, and sports heroics, but the happiness of lying on one’s back in a summer meadow flowers in us like photosynthesis, perhaps, and as innately as hugging a child. Will cyberspace sidetrack us from not only outdoor but direct experience?

November 9th, 2014
Takuro Kuwata

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 8.15.57 AM

November 14 — December 13, 2014

Pierre Marie Giraud

November 8th, 2014
chris martin

A spiritual tradition: an untitled work by Chris Martin.

NY Times Published: November 6, 2014

Chris Martin’s first solo show at Anton Kern feels like a breakthrough, although he’s been painting for decades. Big, glittering and ethereal, the canvases were made upstate last summer, and they have the sun-drenched, baked-on look of the desert, a frequent touchstone in Mr. Martin’s work. Many include a shimmery dusting of glitter, and not just any glitter: the holographic kind used by showgirls in Las Vegas, whose living depends on transfixing their audience.

Mr. Martin (who has a concurrent show at Half Gallery on the Upper East Side) traffics in a different kind of transfixion: the slower, seismic kind that painting affords. Among the works on view here are blatantly geometric paintings that hark back to modern precedents, as well as to vernacular practices like quilting. Virtually all of the paintings, even the ones with batik-looking skeins of paint swirling across their surfaces, have a geometric substructure that anchors the composition. Others include sinuous shapes and forms that rise from the bottom of the picture plane, like plants or stalactites. Mr. Martin can go too far, though. “Space is the Place,” in the back gallery, is excessive in its application: a glitter blackout that’s like too much frosting on a cake.

Mr. Martin continues the abstract tradition of artists like Forrest Bess and Paul Feeley, but also the spiritualist-abstract one of Hilma af Klimt, Lee Mullican, Agnes Martin and Helmut Federle. He’s not just painting, but searching for a way to “be” painting, to experience rather than understand the medium; to be a medium himself.

In a 2005 essay built around the conceit of a conversation between Buddhism and Painting, Mr. Martin admiringly described Richard Tuttle’s work: “One does not imagine him actually making the paintings,” he wrote. “Rather he steps aside and allows them to pass through to us.” Clearly, this is the plane on which Mr. Martin is operating, and he wants us to join him there.

Thanks to Matt Connors

November 7th, 2014
Triumph of the Wrong

NY Times Published: NOV. 6, 2014
By Paul Krugman

The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet midterms to men of understanding. Or as I put it on the eve of another Republican Party sweep, politics determines who has the power, not who has the truth. Still, it’s not often that a party that is so wrong about so much does as well as Republicans did on Tuesday.

I’ll talk in a bit about some of the reasons that may have happened. But it’s important, first, to point out that the midterm results are no reason to think better of the Republican position on major issues. I suspect that some pundits will shade their analysis to reflect the new balance of power — for example, by once again pretending that Representative Paul Ryan’s budget proposals are good-faith attempts to put America’s fiscal house in order, rather than exercises in deception and double-talk. But Republican policy proposals deserve more critical scrutiny, not less, now that the party has more ability to impose its agenda.

So now is a good time to remember just how wrong the new rulers of Congress have been about, well, everything.

First, there’s economic policy. According to conservative dogma, which denounces any regulation of the sacred pursuit of profit, the financial crisis of 2008 — brought on by runaway financial institutions — shouldn’t have been possible. But Republicans chose not to rethink their views even slightly. They invented an imaginary history in which the government was somehow responsible for the irresponsibility of private lenders, while fighting any and all policies that might limit the damage. In 2009, when an ailing economy desperately needed aid, John Boehner, soon to become the speaker of the House, declared: “It’s time for government to tighten their belts.”

So here we are, with years of experience to examine, and the lessons of that experience couldn’t be clearer. Predictions that deficit spending would lead to soaring interest rates, that easy money would lead to runaway inflation and debase the dollar, have been wrong again and again. Governments that did what Mr. Boehner urged, slashing spending in the face of depressed economies, have presided over Depression-level economic slumps. And the attempts of Republican governors to prove that cutting taxes on the wealthy is a magic growth elixir have failed with flying colors.

In short, the story of conservative economics these past six years and more has been one of intellectual debacle — made worse by the striking inability of many on the right to admit error under any circumstances.

Then there’s health reform, where Republicans were very clear about what was supposed to happen: minimal enrollments, more people losing insurance than gaining it, soaring costs. Reality, so far, has begged to differ, delivering above-predicted sign-ups, a sharp drop in the number of Americans without health insurance, premiums well below expectations, and a sharp slowdown in overall health spending.

And we shouldn’t forget the most important wrongness of all, on climate change. As late as 2008, some Republicans were willing to admit that the problem is real, and even advocate serious policies to limit emissions — Senator John McCain proposed a cap-and-trade system similar to Democratic proposals. But these days the party is dominated by climate denialists, and to some extent by conspiracy theorists who insist that the whole issue is a hoax concocted by a cabal of left-wing scientists. Now these people will be in a position to block action for years to come, quite possibly pushing us past the point of no return.

But if Republicans have been so completely wrong about everything, why did voters give them such a big victory?

Part of the answer is that leading Republicans managed to mask their true positions. Perhaps most notably, Senator Mitch McConnell, the incoming majority leader, managed to convey the completely false impression that Kentucky could retain its impressive gains in health coverage even if Obamacare were repealed.

But the biggest secret of the Republican triumph surely lies in the discovery that obstructionism bordering on sabotage is a winning political strategy. From Day 1 of the Obama administration, Mr. McConnell and his colleagues have done everything they could to undermine effective policy, in particular blocking every effort to do the obvious thing — boost infrastructure spending — in a time of low interest rates and high unemployment.

This was, it turned out, bad for America but good for Republicans. Most voters don’t know much about policy details, nor do they understand the legislative process. So all they saw was that the man in the White House wasn’t delivering prosperity — and they punished his party.

Will things change now that the G.O.P. can’t so easily evade responsibility? I guess we’ll find out.

November 7th, 2014
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