05 October 2009

I have so much soup on my spoon I'm uncertain I'm holding it.

19 August 2009

Ana Belén - 'Pequeño vals vienés' (Nochevieja 98')

In Vienna there are ten little girls
a shoulder for death to cry on
and a forest of dried pigeons.
There is a fragment of tomorrow
in a museum of winter frost.
There is a thousand-windowed dance hall.
Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Take this close-mouthed waltz.


23 July 2009

Honduras update

The US media is reporting in its headlines that 'ousted' President Mel Zelaya rejected the latest 11-point proposal, when in fact both parties did so. Zelaya had accepted the previous 7-point proposal which was rejected by the coup regime. The 11-point proposal was an attempt to placate the coup regime by introducing bizarre provisions like ominously asking the public not to protest the upcoming election results and allowing the coup regime to successfully curtail Zelaya's presidential powers.

In what was presented as Secretary of State Clinton's first conversation with coup leader Micheletti, she told him that the pressure was on him to make a deal in what was essentially an international conference call but for the fact that we didn't hear it, as it was recounted to us by her underlings. Micheletti didn't feel much pressure. The talks have had the following, easily anticipated effects:

1. Giving the coup regime legitimacy by treating it as a partner in negotiations;
2. Buying time for the coup regime to consolidate its power. During this time they've suppressed the media and gained the recognition of the newly elected president of Panama, a friend of Micheletti's. By buying time and moving up elections, they can cripple the opposition with arbitrary arrests, disinformation, and most probably ballot fraud.

Mediator and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, after agreeing with Zelaya on the earlier 7-point plan to restore his presidency, has given up, saying the mediation should be handled by the Organization of American States. The reason for that is obvious: working for Hillary, there was no clear parameter that Zelaya's return to the presidency was essential to any agreement.

Zelaya is going to return to the country soon which will entail trying to unite himself with protestors on his behalf. The coup regime has promised to arrest him which would take the conflict to a new level.

The EU has cut off all aid, but the problem with sanctions is they presume the leaders care about the national interest. The coup leaders are afraid that if they step down, they will have to answer for their human rights violations in criminal court.

This is a case of the US covert right wing, which includes Cuban exiles and old Reagan officials, hoping they can force the issue and make Obama blink and Obama blinking. Obama's commentary on the matter has been silenced after the first days of what's nearing a one month coup. Obama has made a career out of making everyone think he's their guy, and not only does he want the corporations with links to the coup regime to like him, he wants the left and the 'world outside FoxNews' to blame Hillary and pin its hopes on him. That's why he surrounded himself with Washington establishment figures who'll do anything rather than activists who might quit in disguist over Obama's policies. There's no question Hillary has helped the coup regime create a monster that will force the president to either show decisiveness or let another Contra war in Central America happen on his watch. The US media has been tested and has proven it can toss journalistic ethics aside and cover up human rights abuses as it did in the 80s.

19 July 2009

New on DVD

Two musical treats, neither of which I've seen..

Konkombe: The Nigerian Pop Music Scene... an hour in which Fela invites you into his pad to discuss politics and the lyric, plus King Sunny Ade's juju, traditional, Afro-European, etc.

Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer.. described by Variety as "a natural for.. DVD distribution" emphasizing her performances while not covering over biographical details, with good sound quality.

Honduras update

Zelaya has reportedly accepted a deal which would grant immunity for the repression during the coup and moves up the elections a month to October. There would be power sharing which is currently vaguely defined. The deal has been reportedly rejected by representatives of the coup regime but there is news that they are reconsidering. Arias thinks he has a deal.

17 July 2009

Honduras update

There’s talk now that Zelaya is returning to Honduras and that the US State Department is against it. After Obama said initially "we are very clear about the fact that President Zelaya is the democratically elected president," the State Department is now saying that the democratically elected president’s presence in the country he’s supposed to be governing is "not helpful," lacking in commitment to the "process" of the Arias mediation.

You can see that I have been open-minded about the mediation as I thought it would defer influence and accountability to Latin America which is unanimous in its opposition to the coup. There have been those sympathetic to Zelaya and skeptical of the US who have said the mediation is only a way to buy time for the coup regime to consolidate power. Clearly, the word "process" used here is code for "American authority," as in "this mediation was our idea and you enter the country when we tell you to." It is also clear that during the mediation there has been an attempt by the coup regime to violently eliminate dissent which has not drawn criticism from the US State Department.

Nikolas Kozloff reports today that Attorney General Eric Holder represented Chiquita (formerly United Fruit Company) in 2007 when it was the first company in US history convicted for terrorist dealings. Holder negotiated the 25 million dollar settlement and prepped CEOs for the 60 Minutes interview. Chiquita has publicly criticized Zelaya’s hike in the minimum wage.

16 July 2009

Honduras update

“The Committee of Family Members of Detained and Disappeared in Honduras published a report today detailing more than 1155 cases of Human Rights violations committed by the coup regime since June 28, 2009. Of those, there have been 4 political assassinations, 6 gravely injured, 16 threatened with death, 59 injured, 13 media outlets closed or censored, 14 journalists detained, of which the majority have been expelled forcefully from the country, and 1046 arbitrary detentions.”

But the talking point in the US papers today, at the prompting of the coup leadership, was that the popular resistence to the coup might do something violent. They have no actual violence to report, since the public is peaceful and disciplined, but they’re not going to report the 1155 human rights violations, so they’re going to go to press with ‘the public might do something violent.’

The popular resistence has blockaded the roads going into Tegucigalpa. I intended to drive down there once but I moved too slowly and had to turn north after a while, but there’s really only two main roads that intersect the capital. This in addition to the fact that all of Honduras’ neighbors have cut off trade, in accordance with the wishes of every other Latin American country.

There’s still the airport, of course, and if the military junta can restore Honduras as the shipment point for Colombian coke then the military aid freeze is pocket change. I’ll admit that’s an area where Hillary has plenty of foreign policy experience.

14 July 2009

Honduras update

The coup regime has expelled all journalists not loyal to them which means there’s still some Reuters reporters there. As there are no more journalists left to kill, they have turned their attention to killing opposition leaders, with the assassinations reported this week of Roger Bados and Ramon Garcia. The coup is doing everything in the area of threats, detentions, and communications sabotage to keep all inconvenient information from getting out of the country, and Reuters has not reported any of the assassinations this month.

In fact, Reuters is changing the results of published polls to bolster the coup. A CID-Gallup poll conducted in Honduras showed the public opposing the coup 46-41. The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, and Reuters didn’t like that result, so they all changed the 46 opposed to 28. None of those newspapers retracted their figures. Gee, it would be a shame if people stopped reading those papers.

Eva Golinger reported yesterday that after the coup regime hired old Clinton friends Lanny Davis and Bennett Ratcliff to lobby on their behalf, Secretary of State Clinton has approved a set of mediation demands on behalf of the coup regime including amnesty for what’s happened this month and shared governance. In the end, Obama is the Commander-in-Chief and has to be held responsible for rewarding political killings and suspensions of civil rights and constitutional democracy, as well as being held responsible for selecting a Secretary of State with a well-deserved bad reputation in the hemisphere and a foreign policy resume which was falsified from start to finish.

As Clinton’s support of the coup raises larger questions of the extent and nature of the effort to reverse the left turn of Latin American democracy by covert action, Hugo Chavez caused a stir by saying he has information that there are coups being planned in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. The Guatemalan president has denied any knowledge of such a threat to his governance, but he has been the subject of what seems to be a frame-up for the murder of attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg. As John Ross says:

Perhaps the most likely proscenium for a Honduras-like "golpe" remains coup-prone Guatemala where military gorillas thrive, right-wing death squads enjoy unbridled impunity, and the civil society is weak. History, in fact, points in this direction - Alvaro Colum is the first president to be elected from a left-wing party since Jacobo Arbenz who, 55 years ago, was forced to flee Guatemala in his underwear.

13 July 2009

A pic of me (left) as Rembrandt can only mean one thing: my Amsterdam page, with some commentary on Dutch art which may be of interest on an armchair, is up. Tell Ward Churchill I had no input into my brother's costume.

12 July 2009

I saw Alain Sechas' installation Suspects a few years back and was mesmerized for a myriad of reasons including its utilization of Alfred Schnittke's arrangement of "Silent Night." It's hard to find a copy of this arrangement so, alas, you'll have to watch the video accessed on the quicktime link over and over...

07 July 2009

the Honduran coup

Reading these missives on Google Reader or a similar program not only enables you to get content instantly after I don’t post for a while but also read what I post impulsively and then take down. Included in that category was a post I wrote about the Honduras coup on the day it happened. My reason for taking it down is that it characterized Obama’s response immediately and I wanted to wait a bit to see what shape it would take.

I note that the nations of the world have reacted to the Honduran coup with an unequivocal respect for democracy, human rights, freedom of the press, and international law that has necessitated their withdrawal of ambassadors, and the US response lacks this unequivocal respect for those values, but overall I also note that the Obama response is a clear break from the bipartisan policies of past presidents towards the hemisphere. Obama’s response also suggests clearly to an analyst of circumstantial evidence that his circle had no part in the coup and has sought to respond to it in a way that strengthens the role of the Organization of American States while minimizing the inevitable partisan attacks and distortions of corporate journalists that will inevitably accompany any refusal to support death squads.

The corporate media pouts about how no one wants to pay to be lied to any more and then, instead of reporting that journalists in Honduras are being killed, assaulted, threatened, and arrested, writes Op Ed pieces about how Zelaya isn’t such a good president in their view, how lame he is for being arrested in his pajamas, how he must be a failure because he didn’t land his plane, etc. These columnists establish themselves merely as the entity that replaces a free press, and therefore don’t view the journalists being assaulted as colleagues because they’re much too honest to survive where they work.

What I’m most concerned about is the integrity of the elections in Honduras in November, since Zelaya is only going to be president for a few more months and the election, if administered fairly, will inevitably be a public referendum on what has just transpired between the two major parties there. Obama’s decision to pass this problem over to Costa Rican President Oscar Arias serves this end, as Arias will be forced much more than a US politician to abide by the wishes of a unanimous group of neighbors in Central and South America, expressed through the OAS, to hold fair elections.

Hugo Chavez suggests that US officials may have been involved in the coup after initially suggesting Obama may have been involved (a view which I never shared). Without question, the fact that a lobbyist group tied to McCain held a press junket today for members of the coup government and the compliance of the media suggested that at some point the ‘old guard’ of hemispheric operatives took to the cause of the coup. The US ambassador is a holdover from the Bush administration.

There may have been some correspondence at the beginning, but the coup seems to have sprung from a quickly developing, interpersonal struggle (like the Iran conflict) that suggests it was initially home grown and not hatched by the Otto Reich set. Defenders of the coup hoped that Obama would either be pressured to adopt their position, adopt a position that they could characterize as radical, or make a political blunder that they could attack. Obama’s response minimizes all three of those scenarios.

My guess is that if the elections are administered fairly, the conservative party will pay a major price for what they’ve done.

After a campaign which frequently invoked ‘change,’ this is the most significant change of the administration. Fuel efficiency regulations and other policy initiatives have been window dressing. The reason for this is that this change involves Obama expending little or no political capital, sacrificing little, and mustering a minimum of courage, while the indication that he is not going to use his authority to obstruct progress in Honduras and, previously, in El Salvador is nonetheless historically monumental.

Update 7/9: "...the Obama Administration will cut military aid to the Honduran government... the political value of this shift in U.S. policy is enormous. Some will try to interpret the Administration’s acquiesence to popular demands (elites never admit to responding to pressure) thru the foggy lens bureaucratic process. But anyone with any political sense knows that the cutoff of military aid would not have happened without the actions-phone calls, letter writing, protests, marches and other pressures... those of us opposed to the coup, those who are helping the Obama Administration do the right thing, should take at least a brief moment to breathe in a deep appreciation of our work. Despite a media blackout, despite opposing the policies of an extremely popular president, the workings of popular hemispheric power continue. And though we should continue actions, we should should continue them in the knowledge that these actions have an impact. Yes We Will. (Roberto Lovato)"

30 June 2009

I have recently registered the blog spots for eight Ian Guides to cities and hope to get the time to fill them out, which sadly may mean a break from internet BBQ writing. At times my compulsion that people going somewhere don’t miss important things gets awkward, as with two occasions when people going to Paris for a few days got 16 page emails, so by putting this online I don't assign an itinerary burden to one recipient.

The new Paris guide is up and I declare it an instant classic to be printed out for the plane or the familiar armchair. My personal incentive for writing this can be found in the Montparnasse section.

The classic works of travel memoir have created a caste system in which function is assigned a lesser value. The Norton Anthology of Travel, which includes only English language essays without noting this criteria for omission, says in its introducton by Paul Fussell, whose ignorant pomposity can be seen in his criticism of Alice Notley: "Guidebooks belong to the world of journalism, and they date; travel books belong to literature, and they last."

Setting aside the fact that any Blue Guide is eternally more interesting than anything Fussell will ever write, we see why the omission of Ezra Pound's "Europe or the Setting" essay from Guide to Kulchur is necessary - it contradicts Fussell's narrow-minded assessment. The narcissistic arithmetic that so often guides the travel essay lacks the earnest insistence to let the reader see for themselves:

"You have a concentration of treasures that will need al your calf muscles, all your ankle resistance. Perugia, the gallery of the Palazzo Publico.. Ravenna, mosaics.
If any man or young lady will first get his eye-full, this ideogram of what’s what to why some great works of art are from it omitted.
Goya, yes, Goya. The best one I know is in New York.
How to see works of art? Think what the creator must perforce have felt and known before he got round to creating them...
A fugue a week for a year wd. teach even a bullhead something.
Loathe the secolo decimonono. What was good from 1830 to 1890 was a protest. It was diagnosis, it was acid, it was invocation of otherness. Chopin carried over precedent virtue."

I declare both forms infinite. We cannot map the cultural geography of the world with microscopes. I like to drink caffeine in the morning reading rail schedules for places I'm not going. I go to cities because I don't live in one and so I go to gather the new.

22 June 2009

New on dvd

Tuesday: Last Year at Marienbad. Some of you may have been hoping it'd never come out on dvd, but at long last Criterion has issued a two disc set of the screenwriting of that glorious dead end of literature, Alain Robbe-Grillet. If you wonder how much Robbe-Grillet needs Resnais' direction, how much he was indebted to Surrealism, or generally want to lose respect for him, suffer through La Belle Captive. It's also amazing how many great films Delphine Seyrig is in. Can't wait to see the snappy new print.

also: Waltz with Bashir: haven't seen it and I don't like cartoons, but this uses the format to recover historical memory, so I hear.

Last week: Scott Walker: 30th Century Man. Haven't seen it. Not a long time Walker fan, but I have listened to his recent The Drift more than a few times which is like Ray di Palma writing lyrics for a depressed Prague Rock band. That's a recommendation, in case you're wondering.

Bergman Island: Did catch it this past week and enjoyed it, although if you don't like Bergman there's no reason to bother. Candid interview near the end of his life and a limited tour through his abode. What I liked was how he had a Russian fireplace which had a crevice to lie down to the side of the fire, in which he would stare out at the sea and snowstorms. Near the end he attempts to wrap up his spiritual meditations, coming up with something resembling Tibetan Buddhism: he believes in the divine in living things revealed in great art and music.

20 June 2009

(Ferdowsi square, June 2009)





Learn through Cuba's independence how
to prevent in time United States from
taking over the Antilles and from forcibly
subjecting to their rule countries in the

-Nicolás Guillén, 1973, The Daily Daily, tr. Vera Kutzinski

16 June 2009

08 June 2009

Amazon Watch: Eyewitness Reports Accuse Peruvian Police of Disposing the Bodies of Dead Indigenous Protesters ...

Bagua, Peru (June 8, 2009) – In the aftermath of Friday's bloody raid on a peaceful indigenous road blockade near Bagua in the Peruvian Amazon, numerous eyewitnesses are reporting that the Special Forces of the Peruvian Police have been disposing of the bodies of indigenous protesters who were killed.

"Today I spoke to many eyewitnesses in Bagua reporting that they saw police throw the bodies of the dead into the Marañon River from a helicopter in an apparent attempt by the Government to underreport the number of indigenous people killed by police," said Gregor MacLennan, spokesperson for Amazon Watch.

"Hospital workers in Bagua Chica and Bagua Grande corroborated that the police took bodies of the dead from their premises to an undisclosed location. I spoke to several people who reported that there are bodies lying at the bottom of a deep crevasse up in the hills, about 2 kilometers from the incident site. When the Church and local leaders went to investigate, the police stopped them from approaching the area," reported MacLennan.

"Witnesses say that it was the police who opened fire last Friday on the protesters from helicopters," MacLennan said. "Now the government appears to be destroying the bodies of slain protesters and giving very low estimates of the casualty.

President Alan Garcia is being widely criticized for fomenting a climate of fear mongering against indigenous peoples by drawing parallels to the brutal Shinning Path guerrilla movement of the 1980s and early 1990s, and by vaguely referring to external and anti-democratic threats to the country.

The Amazonian indigenous peoples' mobilizations have been peaceful, locally coordinated, and extremely well organized for nearly two months. Yet Garcia insists on calling them terrorist acts and anti-democratic. Garcia has even gone so far as to describe the indigenous mobilizations as "savage and barbaric." Garcia has made his discrimination explicit, saying directly that the Amazonian indigenous people are not first-class citizens.

01 June 2009

George Tooker's Waiting Room II. A three dimensional version would make for a good installation in the Capitol building. Unlikely, but walk around town a little and you'll see it all.

31 May 2009

Review: Gallery shows

Sigmar Polke's later work has predictably become more scientific and less psychedelic, more expensive in conception, more theoretically grounded. The series at Michael Werner (4 e 77th, til June 19) relates to a commission to place a sculptural installation in the Reichstag which documents the infinity of differing perspectives based on a treatise on optics by 17th century monk Johann Zahn. It doesn't get any more established than that, but that commission, inconceivable in America whose legislative building is a neo-classical tourist trap effectively controlled from the suburban Pentagon and Langley, represents along with the Reichstag's glass exterior intractable goals towards transparency and cooperation in a nation purged of its own self-sustaining military monstrosity.

Polke's and Gerhard Richter's Capitalist Realism movement of the 60's, presumed to be a pun juxtaposing aesthetics separated at the time by a wall, was in my humble opinyun borne of phenomenological strategies while French movements, abstract expressionism (effectively invented by Ernst, a French denizen with a German name, identity, and passport), and Pop grew out of ontological strategies. Badiou's comparison of Deleuze and Heidegger gets right to the point of these disparate traditions: "It is impossible to overemphasize this point... Deleuze purely and simply identifies philosophy with ontology .. for Deleuze, Heidegger is still and always too phenomenological." (B's Deleuze 19-20) Sartre, of course, attempted to reconcile these traditions and Badiou has recently mustered as much.

This conflict pervades every act of representation, including the portrait, most recently practiced inventively by Giacometti and Dubuffet: are you painting the subject or the act of seeing the subject? The answer to Freud, Pearlstein, Katz and Close is ontological, as if cubism never happened. Polke's figures fluctuate from what comes from his imagination and the 'found' representation: old engravings, newsprint pointillism, cartoons, etc., with found representation usually painted over an abstract background. While the personae wrested from his imagination are seemingly infinite, we don't see a consistent creation of a 'world' that we come to associate with a Miro, Tanguy, or Matta. The found representation usually represents an ideology as well, sometimes Romantic or Arthurian, sometimes from advertising, etc. Lots of etcs when pinpointing his strategy. Parataxis in the German tradition is as present in Hölderlin as it is in Grosz's streetscapes, Beckmann's group shots and Schwitters' collages, and these juxtapositions set forth the relation between the subjects within a painting in a manner different than in Picasso, Matisse and Leger.

As I've done with Lari Pittman, a comparison to Picabia's dark figures is in order. Here's our fuzzy futurist friend:

Here's Polke's Paganini, from 1982:

and then Daniel Richter (no relation), heavily influenced by Polke:

Picabia's and Richter's figures are unified with the other figures in time, while any relation in the Polke tableau - historicized by swastikas - is purely subtextual. This opposition should be kept in mind when viewing Rauch's figures, another of D. Richter's influences.

In the middle you have Belgium, of course, home to figures subject to alienation somewhere between Matisse's dancers and Beckmann's lineups. Magritte:


Ensor, who's influenced D. Richter:

As the scientific focus of Polke's series allows him to make the theory behind it simpler and more forceful, it interests me visually as a reflection of his more curious, playful youth. I've only looked at the thumbnails up to now but I will try to see the works in person.

Picasso at Gagosian til the 6th on 21st Street. John Richardson's auspicious advisory arrangement with the gallery sidetracks the curatorial bureaucracy of the museums, placing the Andalusian master back in the warehouse district with the new kiddos. Though Pablo's contemporaneousness predictably holds its own, most visitors don't give themselves the frame of reference because they get out of a cab to see just this show and then leave Chelsea altogether when they're done with it. It's crowded, so a weekday is best, early in the morning or right before close on a weekend.

Right next door is Sophie Calle at Paula Cooper also til the 6th. Her boyfriend sent her an email saying 'it's over' and Sophie therein stages the ultimate artistic revenge: instead of attempting the decipher the gesture by sharing the missive with a few friends, she contacts women the world over and makes a major installation of the various responses. Well worth seeing. The boyfriend will call next time. Without unleashing my adjectives on this display, I'll say that my own initial reaction to 'it's over' was that related to something historical or theoretical and not a relationship.. don't read too much into that.

Even though Abel Admessedmed at Zwirner was for me the most powerful of recent shows, Gagosian has, judging by force of spectacle, 'won the spring' hands down. Drawing people's eyes from the other contenders on 24th Street are the giant pumpkins of Japanese veteran painter/sculptor Yayoi Kusama (ending June 27), well worth seeing for yourself. Though the pumpkins can be witnessed sufficiently in a crowd, it's best to arrive at an off-peak time to ensure that you will be given ample time to stand in her "infinity room." It's also good to go in a group of 2-4 people, which the guards tend to be deferential to when deciding whom to kick out when. For me, the "infinity room" evokes the candlelit boats on Lago Patzuaro on the night of the Day of the Dead, but the interpretive possibilities are.. you guessed it. Uptown they have an all-star group show of the figure.

Also worth seeing:

22nd Street: Stephen Shore at 303 Gallery.. revolutionizer of the road trip photo essay.
13th Street: Malcolm Morley. I'm not a Morley fan but it's always something to see. Nascar and cycles I hear.
19th Street: Zwirner's using all the wall space for Alice Neel, with the nudes uptown. A new building has already covered the South side of Shigeru Ban's Metal Shutter Houses across the street but architects live by the sword and..

Oh yeah: Francis Bacon at the Met. Another one you're going to want to see several times weekdays or first thing on a weekend morn. They also have a show of the Pictures Generation - the 80's artists which you and I have varying opinions of, a public hanging that the Met curators are uniquely cut out for as it's their backyard. I should say that when I first saw Robert Longo years ago it was inevitably the isolated mosh pit yuppie shtick (compare to Flemish figures above) which came off as boring brat pack icons back when I had pimples. The recent show at Metro Pictures - it just ended this weekend - was GREAT!! you missed it! it truly was so from a standpoint of draftsmanship chops, and has made me look over his whole career again. I wish he had varied his gaze more and in a way he did if you get past the iconic works that get put up in permanent collections and group shows.

07 February 2009

Feb 7

I am pleased by the increased enthusiasm for declaring Dilla's Birthday a national holiday.

18 January 2009