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Posts from — August 2012

Kari Polanyi Levitt / Politics-Interview

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Kari Polanyi Levitt, photo from her website

Politics in Motion – Karl Polanyi

and my chat with his daughter,

Professor Kari Polanyi Levitt

by James Palombo, Politics Editor

In 1957, Karl Polanyi’s book, The Great Transformation, was published by Rinehart and Company. Its focus was on interpreting the changes in the world by referencing the implications of the market-capitalist system that was in intricately tied to and dominating the political and social exchanges of the day. In describing the book, R.M. MacIver writes in the Foreword: “Here is a book that makes most books in its field seem obsolete or outworn. Here, at a crucial hour, is a fresh comprehension of the form and meaning of human affairs. We stand at a new vantage point, looking down after the earthquake, on the ruined temples of our cherished gods. We see the weaknesses of the exposed foundations – perhaps we can learn how, and where, to rebuild the institutional fabric so that it may better withstand the shocks of change. So the message of the book is not only for the economist, though it has a powerful message for him; not only for the sociologist, though it conveys to him a deepened sense of what society means; not only for the political scientist, though it will help him to restate old issues and to evaluate old doctrines – it is for every intelligent man who cares to advance beyond his present stage of social education, for every man who cares to know the society in which he lives, the crisis it has passed through, and the crises that are now upon us.”

The masterwork received its due consideration when released as it referenced, among others: regulated and unregulated market concerns; labor issues; the struggles between economic and social man; war; and importantly, the primacy of society. (This “primacy” was an important component as it presented an economic analysis in a way different from Karl Marx, especially in that it presented a view more in terms of societal evolution than economic revolution.) In short, it was most complete and informative in its nature, especially given the fact that the world, particularly the Western world and particularly given the post WWII state of affairs, was indeed in ‘transformation.’

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“There is a crying need for creative thinking and new initiatives to protect the gains of development from devastation by financial hurricanes fed by institutional investors who freely move funds in and out of countries at the tap of a keyboard with no responsibility for the impact of their operations on host countries.”

 From Reclaiming The Right To Development by Professor Kari Levitt, www.ianrandlepublishers.com 2005

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Now fast forward to today, with the issues of the market, labor, social welfare, war, etc. on the table and the nature of ‘globalization’ being what it is. For anyone involved with political, economic and social issues, at either micro, mid and macro levels, it would make sense to think that Karl Polanyi’s work  would be widely referenced in terms of framing and discussing contemporary issues. As I can attest to, it seems “a must” for these purposes. (Granted, the world appears to be moving away from Western frames of thought, i.e., “transforming” in a more Easterly direction than in Polanyi’s time. And the effects of the Technological Revolution, although similar to those of the Industrial Revolution, may be a bit different. But it is hard to argue that the elements for consideration as well as the manner in which they are framed in Polanyi’s work are not as important now as they were then.)

Yet, as I continued to read various compelling and significant treatises on the difficult problems of the day, in particular, Michael Moran’s The Reckoning (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), Thomas Byrne Edsall’s The Age of Austerity (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012) and Nobel Prize Winner Michael Spence’s The Next Convergence (Random House, 2011) I noticed a strange lack of note to Mr. Polanyi’s work. **

Of course, having been significantly impacted by this work, particularly in my travels to different parts of the world and my writings tied to what I experience, this happenstance made me want to inquire why this was so. Could it be that these individuals, even at their expert levels, were not versed in his work? This of course seemed hardly likely, especially in that they noted, in similar fashion, many of the same concerns that Polanyi raised in terms of the transformation (globalization) that was happening. Could it be that they were aware of his work but refuted his analysis? This might be the case, but this would have certainly warranted some comparative mention.

Or could it be that, like with others (most notably Karl Marx), Polanyi was seen as somehow anti-American, someone implying that rather than the advanced democracy that many U.S. experts tend to rely on, it is rather an advanced capitalist system, one that by the consequences of its own devices actually infringes upon the ideals of democracy? In other words, even though Polanyi’s analysis might be of value when discussing the American “experiment,” he could certainly be considered an uncomfortable partner, perhaps even implying that the authors were tied to some form of “radical” ideological thought. Could this be the case – despite that this omission would seem short-sighted or even misleading?

In sorting through my thoughts on all this, I decided to look further into Polanyi’s personal history, looking for someone who might offer some better insight into what had and hadn’t happened with his work. And it didn’t take long before I discovered that he had a daughter, an important thinker, scholar and author in her own right, Kari Polanyi Levitt, Professor Emeritus of Economics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. I proceeded to contact her and as luck would have it she graciously agreed to have a chat with me about things connected to both her and her father’s work. So what follows is a review of what she and I discussed.

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 “We have to take into account the real value of human effort and work, and that is very different from its market value. We have to protect nature and our social and cultural heritage. People do not like to be valued and respected only for the income which they can earn, and to be totally disrespected if they are not able to earn income for whatever reason.”

From Development and Regionalism:
Karl Polanyi’s Ideas and the Contemporary World System
by Professor Kari Levitt, www.blackrosebooks.net 1990

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I started our conversation by asking about one of her own books, Silent Surrender (Carleton Library, 1970), which I had just recently reviewed. This was an interesting starting point for her, in that the book, which described her country then as being in a state of national disintegration and losing its sovereignty primarily due to U.S. influence and ownership of Canadian industry, seemed not particularly relevant in current times. Although it had been re-released in 2002, her reasoning was that many of the thinkers of that day had left or no longer participated in the field, so that most people no longer attached to what she offered. For her, this was coupled with the fact that Canada had become so infected with the “virus of consumerism” (which included for her the dismantling by the Canadian government of the social protections that had previously existed) that her analysis and points raised therein seemed out-of-date in terms of public policy considerations.  In short, she felt that Canada had now become the country she feared it might.

Of course, the nature of this “looking back” led me to inquire about her father’s work, offering my observations and thoughts on the lack of attention to his work. In essence, I had to ask her whether this might have been what happened to her father’s analysis as well.

She expressed that her father’s work had indeed been receiving more and more attention over the past decade, but that most of it was coming from Europe, Asia and the “other” Americas (Latin, Central and South) but not from the United States. She was in fact well aware of his absence in the economic and political dialogue coming from the States. On this point, I asked her what she thought might be the reason for this. She referenced the idea of a certain “backwardness” in the context of U.S. dialogue, an almost “mindless acceptance” of the frames of reference concerning particular economic and political issues and concerns.

She indicated that along with the educational processes that might not focus on more broad-based considerations, the U.S. media had its part in this circumstance, as well. In particular, she had her doubts as to what extent media players (save a few like Chris Hedges and Bill Moyers) might actually be examining issues consistent with the notion of helping the public understand the difficult problems being faced by the U.S. – prompting a situation where emotion and speculation continually trump reason.

Her comments, not always easy to hear, nonetheless made sense. Her points had been ones of immediate concern for me as well, especially in the context of asking how it could be expected that we move beyond the “business as usual” without discussing what that “business” might entail.

As we talked more about what is occurring in other parts of the world, with the economic crisis in Europe and the differing growth models being offered in countries like India, China and Brazil, it was clear from our discussions the U.S. has a lot on its plate. In fact, it seemed that – given its fortunate history, and the cultural instincts developed in the context of its history, especially its successes tied to economic/market conditions, and the information that was and wasn’t being disseminated/discussed – it was uncertain whether Americans could gather the will to seek out, then internalize, then respond to what may need to be done in terms of stabilizing the country and moving on in the world accordingly.

In the end, I asked Professor Polanyi how she might perceive the world by 2050, and if she had any advice she could provide to the young people headed in that direction. In terms of the former, she made it clear that she has her worries, that even with the different and seemingly more advanced growth models developing, the burgeoning middle classes may become too enamored with the “brand-names and misspent resources” that have now debilitated the Western processes. She also noted that as countries develop their resources, more and more regional blocks will most likely develop around those resources (like in South America), which may spell trouble for efforts that speak to “unifying” global concerns. For her, the choices and policies that develop will depend to a significant extent on how much the economic side of the “economic versus social man” balance gets weighted as the world continues to turn.

As to the latter, like with many of us who have toiled with contemporary issues, she expressed hope that future generations will “slow” the tendencies toward economic growth, that they will “pull back” from consumerism to make market choices and policy more “social/society friendly” with what could be considered “sustainable growth.” This should be the way of the “new world” – as both her and her father would encourage.

I can’t say that I categorically agreed with all that Professor Levitt said.  But there was no doubt that her points referencing both her and her father’s work were provocative and resonate in terms of   contemporary challenges. Suffice it to say, this was one of my most engaging interviews. Professor Levitt not only provided some great food for thought but, in her easy yet thoughtful manner of speaking, she gave rise to hope for the kind of dialogue that we need more of. On that note, I trust that she and I will continue our exchanges. And you can read more about her, her writings and her current endeavors at her website – www.karipolanyilevitt.com.  Of course don’t hesitate to send along your thoughts to me as well. As always, we can’t go wrong by talking with each other, especially in regards to the problems we are all currently facing.

** In terms of the three books by Moran, Edsall and Spence, I want to stress that although Karl Polanyi’s work was not of note in their work, each of them presented a significant interpretation of the matters at hand, especially in the context of global market considerations. I would also like to emphasize that each one of the authors stressed a sense of urgency – that given our perilous circumstances in the U.S. we need to move away from the “business as usual” syndrome that seems to have stunted both our people and processes. Professor Levitt was also clear on this point, so I wanted to be sure that this concern was underscored – even though I know most everyone already realizes its importance. 

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About the interviewer:

Jim Palombo is politics editor of Ragazine.CC. He is founder of the Campaign for an Informed Citizenry. He makes homes in Endicott, N.Y., and San Miguel Allende, Mexico. You can read more about him on the “About Us” page.

 

August 25, 2012   Comments Off on Kari Polanyi Levitt / Politics-Interview

Nikolai Buglaj / End-running the Art World

Template for Violence | graphite | 20“x30” | 1992

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The Artist Who Refuses to Show

by Dr. José Rodeiro, Art Editor

When the startling idea for this unusual article first appeared, regarding writing an art historical Ragazine critique on contemporary Polish-BelarusianAmerican, artist, Nikolai Buglaj, it was Mike Foldes, the Founder & Managing Editor of Ragazine, who initially and astutely suggested that it bear the provocative, unique, and novelesque title: Nikolai Buglaj: The Artist Who Refuses to Show.  The paradoxical and ironic nature of this title is instantly evident to anyone living in Manhattan (over the last five decades), who has consistently attended urban art openings in and around New York City, whether attending to see the art and meet the artist(s), or merely trolling metropolitan-area art galleries, museums, and other art exhibition venues in order to imbibe the opening receptions’ delectable refreshments.  Thus if you have been a habitual attendee of art openings from the 1960s until today, Nikolai Buglaj (a.k.a “The Artist Who Refuses to Show”) was/is cheekily a “person-of-interest,” one of the usual suspects: a constant, visible, flamboyant and mercurial fixture at thousands of metropolitan-area “run-of-the-mill” humdrum gatherings, as well as thousands of dynamic, seminal, and earthshaking art openings.

Clearly, throughout those decisive years in New York City “gallery hopping” fall/spring seasons (from 1960s until today), Buglaj was always a conspicuous presence in New York City’s contemporary art scene (“art world”) demimonde, often attending with a coterie of prominent and amusing art-shaping friends like Oscar Nitzchke (1900-1991), Sari Dienes (1898-1992), John Cage (1912–1992), Salvatore Tagliarino, Malcolm Morley, John Baeder, and other respected “art world” figures.   Yet, despite his fascination with metropolitan area galleries and his powerful contacts in the art world, Buglaj has consistently refused to show.   The significance of this bold contrariness and defiant stance is not so much a confrontation, nor a challenge (nor a gauntlet thrown-down) against the art world; instead “refusing to exhibit” represents (for him) a unique and clever strategy, for carefully out-maneuvering (i.e., brilliantly doing an end-run – or running “the wild-cat” around) the gallery/museum exhibition-matrix (“the art scene”) by focusing, as an alternative, his full attention on universal (omnipresent) print-promulgation and online-promulgation of his incredible and inimitable graphite-pencil images, ingeniously having them appear in major world-class art historical publications (that are universally stocked on bookstore-shelves  from New Zealand to Scotland and back), as well as establishing a strong online footprint.  Thus, instead of “only” and “simply” exhibiting within galleries, he is slyly putting all his “art-public”/“art audience” eggs in a hefty “print-publication and online-publication” basket.

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Class Illusion |Pencil & Colored Pencil |11”X17” |2012

In fact, Buglaj has appeared in several Pearson/Prentice-Hall publications that are read throughout the world, e.g., Henry M. Sayre’s A World of Art, Pearson-Prentice Hall (in all seven editions from 2004 to 2013); Henry M. Sayre’s Writing About Art, Pearson-Prentice Hall (in all editions from 1999 to 2009); Sandy Brooke’s Drawing as Expression, Technique, and Concept, Pearson-Prentice Hall (2007), and his art is included in Pearson-Prentice Hall’s digital archives.  Plus, other publications incorporate his thought-provoking “cultural illusions” including: Nicomedes Suárez-Araúz’s Amnesis Art, Lascaux Publishers, 1988, as well as appearing in Arts Magazine, in a review by Paul Stitelman, February, 1973, and Project Studio 1/ Postcard Series 1, Book 7, The Institute for Art and Urban Resources, PS-1, 1979, and having his image on the cover of Translation Review, University of Texas at Dallas, 2000; as well as appearing in numerous current or pending hardcopy or online publications.

For example, in July 2012, an updated 7th Edition of Dr. Henry M. Sayre’s A World of Art hit the bookstores.  Over the last 16 years, throughout the English-speaking world, Sayre’s insightful text has become one of the top baccalaureate art appreciation course books.  Sayre’s contributions to world art do not only include unearthing new and vital artists like Buglaj, but also doing everything possible (on a grand-scale) to place art “front-and-center” for millions of people to appreciate.  Thus, in this effort, in fall of 1997, Sayre obtained a $1.2 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation (along with support from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting) to create (with his wife Sandra Brooke) a multimedia teaching package for art appreciation that included a highly successful ten-part PBS television series, titled Works in Progress.

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Race-ing Sideways | Pencil & ink | 30” x 20” | 2001

In the “new” 7th Edition of Sayre’s A World of Art, Buglaj’s hyper-conceptual graphite “cultural illusions” (a term coined by Sayre to define Buglaj’s art) fit well into the textbook’s chronology, spanning pre-history (BCE) to the present (CE); across every part of the earth.  Along with Buglaj, the “new” 7th Edition offers images by a multitude of notable artists that were carefully selected for inclusion in the text.  On page 112 in the section entitled: “CONTRAST: LIGHT & DARK,” Sayre presents his “audience” with a graphite and ink piece by Buglaj entitled Race-ing Sideways, which provokes stimulating analysis into the inherent “culturally-inspired” nature of racism.  The text includes Sandra Brooke’s critical insights into Buglaj’s Race-ing Sideways from her text: Drawing as Expression, Technique, and Concept. 

Revealing the malevolent nature of racism is not the only “Cultural Illusion” Buglaj assails throughout his work.  In actual fact, his attacks on stereotypical conventions go even deeper; they are more penetrating, wily, and comprehensive – moreover his sights are often aimed directly at the very nature of ART itself, the notion of being an artist, the nature of human creativity, as well as zeroing-in on what is wrong with the entire global multi-billion-dollar art industry conglomerate.  Thus, there is more to Buglaj than meets the eye; because he sees art as a continuum, in this, he agrees wholeheartedly with his hero Ad Reinhardt (“The Black Monk”), who affirmed that, “Art is only art as art; and, everything else is everything else.”  It is out of this straightforward Reinhardtian abstract and conceptual nexus that Buglaj’s overriding reluctance to exhibit precipitates, buttressing his disinterest in selling art commercially in galleries or even clamoring for space on museum walls.  Like his hero Reinhardt, Buglaj does not approach “art-making” as an ego-laden one-and-only creation of a specific “end-all-&-be-all” salable commodity or objet d’art with a “fixed” monetary, “art historic”, or emotive “worth”.   He maintains that people hunger too much for art– they need art desperately; and so, Buglaj adamantly refuses to participate in the gallery/museum system in order to preclude the art world’s mounting disturbed state-of-desperation, which he believes stems from visual art’s “finished-product” concept that wrongly overshadows each artist’s working-process – thereby, putting the proverbial “cart before the horse.”   By placing the process (“the working”/”the doing”) first, he concurs with Benedetto Croce, Carl Jung, Harold Rosenberg, Joseph Beuys, who advocated against the inane aesthetic overemphasis on finished products (“works-of-art”) as being superior to the inherent exertion of labor within the creative process: “the actual work.”  To quote Buglaj, “The finished product merely hangs on the wall; whereas in contrast, the working process (the activity/the action) is what actually matters to the working-artist.”

In Buglaj’s refusal to exhibit, there is something akin to the great Czech writer Franz Kafka’s ingenious short-story, A Hunger Artist (“Ein Hungerkünstler“), wherein the hero does not refuse to eat from lack of  hunger.  Rather, he refuses to eat because he never found a food that was worth eating.  Similarly, Buglaj has rarely found a gallery or museum that is worthy of his ouevre.  This might be due to the fact that in his work Buglaj consistently strives to circumvent and avoid all sentimentality, romanticism, and anything that reeks of “artiness” in art (even the idea of “ART” is suspect for him), as well as anything poetic or redolent of “poetry” per-se.   Hence, in his visual work, he tries to avoid “ART” and “artiness,” along with all artistic conceits, e.g., the art world’s overweening emphasis on “vision,” “visual illusion,” “visual perception,” and “visibility.”  In a way, Buglaj’s contempt for “most” archetypal works of ART echoes Plato’s virulent attack(s) against mimetic, imagistic, and empirical art. As in Reinhardt’s final “Black Paintings” (a.k.a. “Ultimate Paintings”), Buglaj’s extraordinary graphite-images challenge paltry and deceptive visual-perception. For example, whenever viewers view his art (whether online, or in publications, or in person), they often imprudently focus simply on what is merely visible, unwisely over-examining each meticulous detail in his image(s); fixedly scrutinizing Buglaj’s technical mastery of drawing.  Ultimately, this above-described approach to “seeing” is unacceptable to him; because he demands more from his viewers; he wants them to put aside obvious perceptual illusion in order to see the subtle transparent cultural illusions that permeate his art.  In each piece, Buglaj’s subtle transparent cultural illusion is layered– consisting of veiled “social illusion,” “economic-illusion,” and what Duda Penteado (the contemporary Brazilian artist) has coined: “political illusions.” 

For example, consider one work (Buglaj’s “Canaletto Bronx”) via this context of several hidden layers of illusion that transparently unfold, appear, or manifest.  “Canaletto Bronx” is an image that directly alludes to Reinhardt due to its faint shifting gradations of gray-tonal architectural values, which differentiate between two separate “class” concepts. The tough, assertive poverty of NYC’s inner city is simultaneously and shockingly fused and contrasted with Venice’s fragile, ornate, delicate, and elegant decaying Grand Canal, connoting infinite shades of grey within the context of contemporary urban-blight, revealing  parallel facets of urban wealth and urban poverty.

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CanalettoBronx | Pencil on Paper | 26′ x 40”| 1994

 Consequently, his audience (whether online, or in publications, or in person) are often overwhelmed by his “expert” draughtmanship; they ill-advisedly concentrate too much of their visual attention on “mere” perceptual illusions; thereby inadvertently ignoring the dominant abstract-conceptual cultural illusion implicit in his work.  Thus, each of his works provide intricate perceptual illusion(s), which don his surfaces with heavily-detailed and elegant optical obfuscations, obscuring or averting  “appropriate” visibility of  deeper, veiled, and hidden cultural illusions, which signify what ought to be perceived –  but, is generally not.

Throughout his oeuvre, perceptual illusions inhabit Buglaj’s art, veiling or concealing the underlying “cultural illusions.”  These hidden cultural illusions embody the crux, the core-concepts, which are often masked within his art. As a consequence, these cultural illusions are frequently overlooked by the majority of his viewers, who merely “see” without truly “looking.”   All of this relates to Jasper Johns’s brilliant statement: “We see things only when they call attention, or are removed, or hiding.”

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Racial Optical Illusion | Pencil & ink | 30” x 20” | 1997

In Buglaj’s “Racial Optical Illusion” image, three men are in a room – a white man, a brown man, and a black man.   All are drawn in varying-shades of graphite.  All three are of equal size and are seen striding in the same pose toward the same goal. Yet, because of the image’s acute diagonal “one-point” perspective, the white man appears always larger; additionally, the room’s staged perspective incorporates the U.S. flag (“Old Glory”).  In Writing About Art, Henry M. Sayre was the first significant critic to astutely notice the socio-political economic implication(s) in the piece, as a clear manifestation of “Cultural Illusion,” as well as noticing the dramatic “push/pull” confrontation (in the work) between “Perceptual Illusion” and “Cultural Illusion.”  How “Cultural Illusion” must either defeat or obscure “Perceptual Illusion” to be seen.

In 2011, the great Renaissance art historian, Barry Katz commented on Buglaj’s “Racial Optical Illusion,” stating that, “[It] is a clever ‘play-on-words’ (play-on-image).  The single image receding into space goes as far back as Pisanello’s Louvre drawing, ‘Study of Figures in a Vaulted Room’ from the middle of the fifteenth century.  A foundation piece of Western corpus, used in entry level studio courses to this day, it clearly delineates the manner in which a single figure diminishes, plane by plane, into the reticulated space of Renaissance illusion.  But, Buglaj’s variation, the placing of the frontal figure before the space and identifying him as singularly Black carries a critical message: the Afro-American, though identical in size to his lighter cohorts, is denied the on-going cultural context of the American flag and inclusion in its space, thereby isolating him from the lighter figures while diminishing him in size.   The other two figures dramatically increase their importance and dominance as they whiten.  Throughout, and this is critical, the figures differ solely in their color.”   What Katz has demonstrated (above) is precisely what Henry Sayre called: “Cultural Illusion” within Buglaj’s iconology, indicating how it furtively manifests with far-reaching socio-cultural commentary and manifold hermeneutics, moreover triumphing mightily in Buglaj’s work despite all the heavy iniquitous camouflage, subterfuge, and pretense of “Perceptual Illusion,” as well as triumphing over a malevolent, vile, and blind gallery/museum “art industry” leviathan that somehow foolishly allowed this Polish Belarusian-American genius to heroically escape its green ink-stained grasp.

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An Interview with Nikolai Buglaj, by Dr. Jose Rodeiro:
http://old.ragazine.cc/2012/08/nikolai-buglajartist-interview/

For more about Nikolai Buglaj: < http://nikolaibuglaj.com/Nikolai_Buglaj/Welcome.html >.

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About the author:

Dr. José Rodeiro,  is the Coordinator of Art History, Art Dept., New Jersey City University. He is a Contributing Editor, Art, for Ragazine.CC. Find out more on the About Us page, and http://www.rodeiro-art.com/

August 25, 2012   Comments Off on Nikolai Buglaj / End-running the Art World

Todd Smith / Photography

©Todd Smith

NYC’s Canal Street-1978

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Photography today vs 1970’s

 

©Todd Smith

Coney Island-1970’s              |      Edisto Beach, South Carolina-2012


Todd Smith takes a look back

Street photography in the ’70s with a twin lens Rolleiflex was a fundamentally different experience from today’s digital photography.  Knowing I had only five rolls of Kodak Plus-X film in my pocket meant no “grab shots.” (For that I used a 35mm.)

Working with the Rollei was all about finding the perfect tension between composition and narrative.  Editing was integral to the creative process of shooting. Thus, the aesthetic of my early work is more formal than my current style. The idea that I could “waste” a picture on a simple gesture or intriguing pattern or color juxtaposition did not enter the equation. Each black and white frame was composed deliberately. Even the idea of cropping the image in the darkroom was non-existent.

A less casual approach to my subjects meant not only more detail-awareness, but also some personal interaction.  Therefore, most of the people in these early photographs are conscious of being photographed and show some part of their character to the camera.

There was also a kind of alchemy to the whole process of developing film and examining the negatives on the light box, not to mention the craftsmanship of producing a good print. I don’t miss it. The alchemy is gone but the tools for producing good photographs are powerful and abundant. What is missing is a kind of quiet subtlety that comes with the necessary time spent considering the details of the process rather than getting quick results. This is the trade-off in our culture (are we having fun yet?).  I am (having fun) when I’m in that space of being open to something I haven’t pre-envisioned.

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Photographer Todd Smith / NYC

Photographer Todd Smith photographs of New York City between 1966 and 1977.

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Photographer Todd Smith / Coney Island

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 The New York City and Coney Island photographs were taken between 1966 and 1977 with a twin lens Rolleiflex camera.

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Using a Rolleiflex and fine grain film, I took thousands of black and white street portraits. In addition to the better resolution, I liked the indirect viewfinder in my twin lens Rollei. (I owned 3 or 4 over the years.) It not only helped me frame the composition more precisely but also provided a less intimidating way of relating to the subject. Today I use a variable angle LCD Canon that accomplishes the same result.

For years I used my own darkroom to process negatives, but later, when I could afford it, let Modernage do all my processing. Printing was done with an Omega D2 enlarger and Agfa Portriga paper in my darkroom. Today, of course I have the luxury of scanning the original negatives and “dodging” and “burning” in Photoshop.

The ’70s was a pioneering decade for photography-as-fine-art. I exhibited in several galleries during that time, notably Harold Jones’ LIGHT Gallery on Madison Avenue, and a one man show at Robert Gurbo’s 10th Street Photo Gallery in the East Village.

Although I like to think my aesthetic vision is unique, I was, of course, influenced by other photographers such as Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, and August Sander.

Digital technology has certainly not dampened my enthusiasm for street photography. It just means  that I spend more time editing and “Photoshopping,”  and less time loading film and smelling darkroom chemicals. I had a hard time selling my old Rollei. But I was young and in love.

– Todd Smith, August 2012

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Todd Smith attended Pratt Institute from ’64-’68, then went back for an MFA in ’72. He majored in photography and minored in printmaking.  After a career as a commercial photographer and graphic designer in  NewYork City and Concord, New Hampshire,  he and his wife Debbie moved to  Asheville, North Carolina. There they created a greeting card company, Masala Cards (www.masalacards.com), which, Smith says, “… is largely an excuse to reproduce some of my more humorous or blatantly ironic photographs, and to provide some income.”

You can see Smith’s current work at:   https://picasaweb.google.com/109507058306711900453/

August 25, 2012   Comments Off on Todd Smith / Photography

Summer Nights and Happenstance/Music

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Uh-Oh, Those Summer Nights

(I’ll Tell You More About Two of Them)   

By Jeff Katz
Music Editor

Fiona Apple

Ithaca, N.Y., June 19 – It was fitting that the State Theater was a pressure cooker, because Fiona Apple was burning. On a night that was 90 degrees outside and about 150 degrees inside, artist and audience were a sweating melting soup. It made for a powerfully tasty dish. Apple was everything that night – gangly and graceful, weird and sweet, sexy and awkward. Her dancing was a convulsive series of wind milling arms and spastically flailing legs. Her voice ranged from trilling highs to Lennon-like primal therapy screams. She was as sexually magnetic as a Homeric siren and as hopelessly vulnerable as a little girl lost in a supermarket aisle crying for her mother. That’s a lot for one person in one show, but it all worked in spades and her performance was the stuff of legend. Her command at the piano, on fewer songs than one would have expected, was dominating. When she sang “fucking go,” in “Get Gone,” it was electrifying. The first time I heard that, on When the Pawn… , I was stunned at the rawness of it. Fiona is nothing if not an exposed nerve.

Her breakup songs are terrifying. As a guy, I can tell you that her willingness and enthusiasm in exposing the flaws and frailties of her exes scares the shit out of me. Man, you do not want to break up with that girl! The new album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, is off the charts brilliant and she represented it well, playing most of the new cuts. Stranger than even a standard run of the mill Fiona Apple album (as if there was such a creation), the new offering comes with Native-American chanting, oddball word choices like ”periphery,” and self-harmonies that sound like Morticia Addams’ sister Ophelia. Idler Wheel may not be as much fun as her others and is at times a very tough listen, but it’s the best album of the year to date. Nothing else comes close. And, for one night in Ithaca, Fiona Apple put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

Wilco

Cooperstown, N.Y., July 28 – Brewery Ommegang, located on the outskirts of Cooperstown, produces fabulously good Belgian ales. Because of them I’ve had more beer in my 9 years living in Cooperstown than I did in all my years before. Ommegang has added a café, which is top notch, and this year, has gone full blown into music – Cake, Death Cab for Cutie, Lyle Lovett, Darius Rucker and Bon Iver. But foremost on the list was Wilco. I opened our house to all my Binghamton alum pals who wanted to go to the show and we were pretty filled up, with seven friends coming from as far as Chicago.

Wilco did not disappoint, but first a bit about Lee Ranaldo. Ranaldo opened the show with an immensely satisfying and solid set of tunes worthy of a founding member of Sonic Youth. I forget who had told me that Lee also went to Binghamton.   I was standing by the security railing, still a front row kinda guy, waiting for Wilco when I felt a tap. “Are you the Mayor of Cooperstown?” I turned. It was Lee. I was dumbstruck. “Yeah, I am.” “I’m Lee Ranaldo. I just played. Did you go to Binghamton?” “Yeah, I’m here with a bunch of people from Binghamton too.” We had a pleasant chat. Lee was Class of ’78, six years earlier than me.  He said he’d love to visit Cooperstown with his kids, I gave him my card and, who knows, a budding friendship may have been formed. I couldn’t figure out how he became aware of my presence until my friend, Ben, told me he was talking with Lee and told him the Mayor of Cooperstown was both present and a fellow SUNY-B student  and pointed my way. For the rest of the night I was a minor in-crowd celebrity, having spoken to the great Ranaldo.

Wilco kicked ass as expected. A great set list, 25 tunes strong, that kept the crowd going through an early downpour. Nels Cline’s sputtering short phrase solo in “Impossible Germany” was a real highlight. Leader Jeff Tweedy was quirkily charming, as usual. He explained why we were the best crowd to date: we stood through the rain, kept a positive attitude, were a little tipsy and sang along. All other audiences on the tour were now dead to him. That was until the audience proved itself to be rhythmically challenged. After a botched group hand clap, Tweedy noted our poor time keeping, but commended us for laughing about it. “Most audiences get offended if you tease them. ‘Oh, my stars and garters’,” he mock-protested. Lots of fun, lots of laughs.

 

And then there’s … happenstance:

Melt Alaska

Our esteemed founder Mike Foldes lets me do whatever I want. I like that about him. He never tells me I’m dwelling too much on the arcane, or that maybe an article about how to properly file your records is, well, a tad obsessive-compulsive. No, he leaves me be. That’s not to say he won’t gently suggest I listen to a particular artist. I take that in stride. He’s no George Steinbrenner ordering me to fill my lineup card according to his whims. Usually I have mixed feelings about what I hear and, even when I like something, I never seem to find an angle that makes it worth writing about.

Then I downloaded Melt Alaska’s latest EP, and, I do declare, I was won over. Matthew Lohan and Alexander Richichi are a recently formed duo that nailed it with their five song debut. It’s folky, singer-songwritery, and fits into a nice tradition, reminiscent at times of ex-Byrd Chris Hillman’s solo work, but without the banjo blue grass sound. It’s spare to be sure; acoustic all the way, guitar, bass, not much else. The lack of instrumentation and occasional Radiohead-like vocals won me over from the opening, “Crumbled Empire,” to the close, “Lemon Verbena” (which has a most enjoyable harmony). Very good stuff.

Their website, http://meltalaskamusic.com/, says there’s a full-length album coming in August. More on that in a later issue.

…and don’t forget

 Daisy Jopling

Having proved his worth with that suggestion, I figured Mike was on a roll and I most willingly went to Daisy Jopling’s website. With the exciting burst of violin and beat box amidst a wash of orchestration, (the song that greets you at the cyber-door is “Winter” from 2009’s Key to the Classics) I was intrigued. This is not what I usually go for, but it’s a nice sort of rock/classical hybrid, ELO without the pop sound. Upon further investigation, I found Daisy’s straight takes on classical equally riveting. Daisy’s not new. She’s played Royal Albert Hall (when she was 14), and has recorded since the ‘90s. But she is new to me and I dare to say, to you, too. Her website is like a child’s pop-up book. Take a visit. http://www.daisyjopling.com/

 

or, “dance floor music” from:

Shoot the Lobster Recordings

Here’s how Grayson Revoir describes the first two tracks, the ones he produced, from Shoot the Lobster Recordings, the new release from the label of the same name: “’Spackle’ is like sharp cheddar; ‘Get Stolen’ sweats like Monterey Jack in the sun.”

Here’s how I describe them: “Spackle” is a dark throbbing headache, but hypnotic and enjoyable. “Get Stolen” is similar to the first track except for extended water gurgling sounds that made me want to pee. I don’t know what the cheese references mean. I don’t detect much dairy here.

The third track, “One on All Times (walk track), was produced by Max McFerren. He describes it thusly: “I want this track to sound like a Mobile tank yacht with Panorama Bar on the top floor. Like rust under an electron microscope; ethereal and hard at the same time; smoky but not weed. This song is the devil’s dance. I want it to rattle your bones.”

Do all dance floor producers make up for the sameness of the style with extra imagery and hyperbole? I guess. McFerren’s tune had distinguishing marks, some verbal intonations and a bit of a New Order-y beat.

I’m not a dancer; I can barely shuffle around these days, but I imagine these songs work in the proper club setting, strobes flashing, appropriate amounts of Ecstasy ingested. In that context, Shoot the Lobster Recordings is a resounding success.

STLR’s inaugural release is currently available for digital download at:
http://soundcloud.com/shoot-the-lobster

12” LPs of the recordings, pressed on 150g vinyl, are forthcoming.

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— Jeff Katz is music editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in “About Us.”

August 25, 2012   Comments Off on Summer Nights and Happenstance/Music

Eric Schafer / Music

Records I Want To Hear

or, “You Know That It Can’t Be True

But You Want It Anyway”

by Eric Schafer

 As a profoundly underpaid writer here at ragazine, I, along with my colleagues, labor for an earnest editor (read: whip cracker) who recently became Mayor (read: member of the establishment) of Cooperstown, one of the most beautiful and important small towns in these United States of America. Despite his heavy civic schedule – keeping the people happy, giving the police force something to do, pardoning political prisoners, etc. – he has managed, through great personal effort, to bring into being the first panel discussion (read: group of desperate music writers) ragazine article: a comparison of the Beatles’ magnificent yet flawed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Beach Boys’ magnificently flawed SMiLE. Not that I’m opinionated. In the midst of enjoying the editing and leadership job he performed, we were also shamed by him into getting on the “hoss” and turning out our own pieces, which we’d sworn to do when we enlisted (read: got coerced) into this venture. …

I felt so guilty I nearly didn’t sleep through the humid, rainy Ha Noi night. Anyway, I slept fine but when I awoke I had the idea for my piece: I pulled out some notes I’d been scribbling and over a breakfast of French Toast and sludge-thick iced coffee with an inch of condensed milk at a nearby café on Church Street (or, Pho Nha Tho – Foe Nyah Taw) so named because there’s a church in the middle of the street (…even though Viet Nam is Communist, thereby denying the existence of God and hence no need for churches…but it probably remains standing because it’s a good draw for tourists…even though I’m not a tourist) I put this work together.

Inspired by my editor’s magnificent if occasionally flawed rock journalism series Maybe Baby, or, You Know That it Would be Untrue (undoubtedly the best idea in the trade over the past 20 years…well, 22 years) in which he wrote rock history as if he could dream it, I created “Records I Want to Hear, or, You Know That it Can’t Be True But You Want it Anyway.” Whip-cracking member of the establishment that he is, he’d damn well better like it.

The premise is simple, though oh so impossible: You match wonderful artists with wonderful songs that you not only would love to hear, but which truly are suited to their talents. They make the record of your dreams (desperate music writers all always use the term “record” – meaning vinyl – they never use the term CD or MP3; to us, a recording of a song is a “record” – always has been, always shall be) and you spend years in reverie listening to it. As you can tell, this is impossible because some of these artists are no longer with us. In fact, many passed away before the songs I dream of hearing them perform were even written. Some of these artists are in retirement (or rehab) and no longer perform or record. Others, perfectly capable of recording these songs, would encounter too many copyright and royalty hassles to make it worth the effort. After all, what is rock and roll these days without lawyers? No matter; I can dream.

There is no need to describe the songs or the artists – if you’re reading this piece, you know them well. So follows my list, and I hope that our dear readers take a few minutes to genuinely consider my dreams and realize how wonderful it would be if they were to come true. In addition, as our ragazine assignment is to create a panel discussion, this is an open-ended piece: my colleagues can add their own lists and complete it for us all. And so, my dreams.

• I want to hear Elvis Presley – who well knew how to choose and interpret great songs – sing Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue.”

• I want to hear Buddy Holly sing Led Zeppelin’s “Down by the Seaside.” Pull out Physical Graffiti and listen to this lovely song once again – the key and tone are perfect for Buddy.

• I want to hear Counting Crows sing Buddy Holly’s “Listen to Me.” The notes and tenderness are perfect for Adam Duritz’ wonderful voice. While we’re with them, I’d also like the Crows to amp up and do the Rolling Stones’ “Child of the Moon,” a perfect tune for them.

Speaking of great voices that need to be matched to great songs, I want to hear Alicia Keys sing The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” That would be truly devastating.

Back to Zeppelin (for some reason they’re on my mind this week), I want to hear Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers perform “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” – perfect for those Gainesville lads. And The Who – I mean, The Who of Moon, Entwistle, Daltrey and Townshend circa 1973 – I want them to do Zeppelin’s “In the Evening.” Scorcher.

• I want to hear Robert Johnson – specifically, with a 1956 Gibson Les Paul with P-90 pickups and a Fender Vibro King amplifier – and a full band – perform The Rolling Stones’ “All Down the Line.” After all, if not for Johnson, they wouldn’t have written it.

• I want to hear Smokey Robinson sing Steven Van Zandt’s “Forever.” Steven was so clearly influenced by Smokey that the song would be perfect for him. Ethereal.

• I want to hear Stevie Wonder sing Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Ethereal, part 2.

• I want to hear Tony Bennett sing Bruce Springsteen’s “Happy.” Ethereal, part 3.

• I want to hear Bob Dylan with his Highway 61 Revisited band in the summer of 1965 sing The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

• I want to hear Bob Marley sing Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Right, Ma, I’m Only Bleeding.”

• I want to hear The Clash sing their cover of Vince Taylor’s “Brand New Cadillac” with Brian Setzer dueting with Joe Strummer on lead vocals and dueting with Mick Jones on lead guitar.

• I want to hear Elvis Presley sing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” with Buddy Holly on lead guitar.

• I want to hear Corazon Rebelde – Chilean rebel rock band in exile – sing The Clash’s “Let’s Go Crazy” – in Spanish.

• I want to hear Rod Stewart with his 1971 Every Picture Tells a Story studio band – essentially, Faces – sing Ray LaMontagne’s “Jolene.”

• I want to hear Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers circa 1978 sing The Buzzcocks’ “Autonomy.”

• I want to hear The Undertones circa 1981 sing The Buzzcocks’ “Orgasm Addict.”

• I want to hear The Rolling Stones – right now – sing The Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks.”

• I want to hear Horace Andy sing The Clash’s “Ghetto Defendant” – with Allan Ginsberg’s poetic accompaniment, of course.

• I want to hear John Lennon sing The Clash’s, “White Man in Hammersmith Palais.”

• I want to hear Black Uhuru – the 1980 Black Uhuru of Michael Rose, Puma Jones and Duckie Simpson, with Sly Dunbar on drums and Robbie Shakespeare on bass – sing The Clash’s “White Man in Hammersmith Palais.”

• I want to hear The Clash sing Black Uhuru’s “Youth of Eglington” in 1980.

• I want to hear John Mellencamp sing my own song “Mustang.”

• I want to hear Bruce Springsteen sing my own song “A Promise.”

• I want to hear Bob Dylan sing my own song, “Like Nothin’ I’ve Ever Seen,” in 1989 with Daniel Lanois producing – in New Orleans. I sang it fast; I want Bob to sing it slow.

• I want to hear Hank Williams sing Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire.”

• I want to hear Bob Dylan in his Nashville Skyline voice sing Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”

• I want to hear The Kinks in 1966 sing The Who’s “Happy Jack.”

Hell, I want The Kinks’ Dave Davies in 1969 to record and tour The Who’s Tommy on second guitar and backing vocals. For that matter, I want Jimmy Page to produce Tommy in 1969.

• I want to hear Bob Dylan sing The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun” in his Blonde on Blonde voice.

• I want to hear The Police sing The Who’s “Did You Steal My Money?” in 1981.

• I want to hear The Beach Boys sing The Who’s “Daily Records” in 1967.

• I want to hear Paul McCartney sing 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love” in 1973.

• I want to hear The Rolling Stones do Bruce Springsteen’s “Night” in 1965 just like they played “Get Off My Cloud.”

• I want to hear Carbon/Silicon do a Big Audio Dynamite version of The Clash’s “Somebody Got Murdered.”

Ok my friends, take all the bed box people and the opera lights/London town is yours tonight/it’s over to you and goodbye from me/I’ve been your guide for the ride/Sightsee M.C!/now it’s time for you breed/ to come on board and finish this screed…

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About the author:

Eric Schafer is a writer from New York who has spent most of the last decade in Viet Nam, writing books and advertising copy. He is the author of the short story collection The Wind Took It Away – Stories of Viet Nam, as well as two children’s books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. A musician and formerly a music columnist with the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin, this is his first article for Ragazine.CC.

August 25, 2012   1 Comment

Jeff Katz / Memoir

 

“Really, It Was a Miracle”

Autistic & Artistic

By Jeff Katz

To walk into the Leonard Tourne Gallery around 2:30 on Thursday, June 7, was both real and fantasy, an in-between world where my wife Karen constantly said “pinch me.” On the walls were the work of Nate Katz, artist. It was impossible to process. Most artists go a lifetime without a New York opening.

It’s impossible to express in less than book form the journey we’ve taken. Nate is our oldest child, nearing 22 years old. When he was three-and-a-half years old he was diagnosed with hyperlexia, a form of autism marked by precocious reading skills but limited comprehension. Nate’s diagnosis put a name on our worries and gave Karen and me something to work with, peeling away the mystery of this son of ours who was consumed by useless language, a non-stop stream of movie dialogue, snippets from his favorite books, and random sounds. Until that moment, we hadn’t known how to connect with this boy, who lived in his own private place, like Alice’s caterpillar surrounded by words, words made not of smoke, quick to evaporate, but a solid wall of words blocking our way. What would become of our Natey?

Flash forward to 2012. Nate is both a college graduate, having gained his Associate’s Degree from SUNY-Cobleskill in May after majoring in Graphic Design. He is talkative, though not skilled in conversation, but most certainly involved in our world. And he’s got real talent that comes out in the most interesting ways. One of his obsessions is drawing Illinois strip malls, the shopping malls he loves and has missed ever since we relocated from the Chicago suburbs to Cooperstown in June of 2003, to begin a different life, a life where I could give up my 20-year career in options trading and find greater fulfillment by devoting much of my time to Nate, helping him, despite his frequent opposition, to succeed in school and advocate for him wherever, and whenever, I could.

Some of Nate's strip malls.

Nate’s strip malls drawings, done in colored pencil and faux-laminated with Scotch tape, caught the eye of one of my pals, Doug Miller. Doug is a partner in a fossil digging enterprise, Green River Stone Company, and has an artistic eye. He marveled at Nate’s work and was an immediate fan and collector. Doug thought the gallery he’s associated with through his fossils, the aforementioned Leonard Tourne Gallery, might be interested in Nate’s work. With much hesitation, Nate allowed Doug to take a few pieces down to New York. Before we knew it, the wheels were in motion, an opening date was selected and Doug and Karen were experimenting with custom cut Plexiglass frames. Nate’s pieces, like Nate himself, are hard to fit into prepackaged sizes and store bought frames were not an option. His work ranges from shopping center signboards drawn on magazine subscription cards, to 11 foot long monster pieces that, like a panoramic photo of a high school senior trip that takes so long to shoot that some people end up in the picture twice, start and end at the same place. That’s how we found ourselves on Broome St., smack dab in SoHo, on a sweltering June afternoon.

Nate walked into the room, checking out his work with great pride and attention. We stood amazed, jaws dropping as we met Javier, the gallery owner, and his staff. Their reaction gave it the imprimatur we need: this is really art, not a favor to a friend or charity case. They see the value in Nate’s art and, as a result, so do we. It would remain to be seen whether others would.

The opening started at 5, and after cruising around the galleries and music stores in the area, we were back at the gallery, waiting for the hoped for crowd. Although we had told Nate that, as the artist, he needed to answer questions and not growl (as he does with us), he retreated up the narrow staircase, apart from the main room. He did come down once things got rolling.

Among the first to show were my cousins, who found it all unbelievable. They know Nate, and have seen his work, but in that setting, with those prices, it was all hard to process. My cousin Alan trekked upstairs to see Nate, who had yet to come down. He said how proud he was of Nate, Nate said thanks, and it was all very normal, very familiar, until Alan gave Nate a peck on the cheek.

“Whoa,” said Nate. Even though he knows Alan, Nate never “really” knows most people and, at the moment of impact, probably wondered, “Who is this person giving me a kiss?”

Gale Gand, a dear friend for many years, and a celebrity chef, flew in from Chicago for the opening and brought a couple of friends with her. Her friends made history: they were the first buyers of an original Nate drawing of a Hilton Garden Inn Plaza.

When we saw that Javier was processing the sale, and putting a red dot on the label, there was a buzz that could be felt throughout the room. These folks didn’t know Nate, but something in the work struck home. The female of the couple often stayed at these Hiltons when she travelled. The picture meant something to her.

And that’s what is valid in Nate’s art. He sees these strip malls that we all scorn and dismiss as beautiful things, deserving of respect, without a hint of irony. There’s beauty there. Most of the rich and famous people in the country didn’t start out that way, and have fond memories of a family trip to a Hilton, or the first time they visited a Barnes & Noble Superstore, or a high school dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s. These places have value in our memories and Nate taps into that, unknowingly.

I think it’s unknowing. It’s hard to truly grasp what’s going on in his mind, but his art lends itself to criticism. Why does he see such joy in these places? Why is he obsessed? His details are fascinating. In some pictures he’s got little men, ant-like black silhouettes, who are doing work on ladders, putting up signs. He has notes to himself, or the viewer (though I’m not sure these works are made with a viewer in mind) that the five yellow-facaded stores are the former outline of a now defunct K-Mart location.

He also has timelines reminiscent of Donovan’s “There is a Mountain.” In these, Nate lays out the evolution of a site, from car dealership to vacant lot to new Wal-Mart. The things we see as permanent he knows are transient, and when laid out step by step, are somewhat sad and touching. All the hopes of a business dashed, then forgotten.

The room began filling up. More friends came in from Chicago and New York, some strangers, some gallery invitees. Erin Cox, my agent, was there, as were many college pals.

Nate was now amongst the crowd, checking in with me as the night went on, wondering if he had money. Nate finally bought into the whole “selling his art” theme once I told him he could use the money he made to fix his bathroom. Bathrooms are another obsession of his. I told him yes, not to worry, and pictures began to sell. Rick, a dear Chicago friend, bought a huge drawing, one of my favorites from Vernon Hills that was featured on the postcard mailing. Gale bought one, and so did a few others.

It’s one thing for friends to show up. It’s another for them to buy. Doug, who curated the show, explained to me that it’s a leap for people to buy art, even when they know you. Watching Javier walk the room, running credit cards through his handheld, was beyond belief, but not more so than Nate’s behavior.

Margrethe Lauber, Nate’s professor/adviser/guru, had told us that Nate should wear his “C boy” shirt. We are working on a business called “Alpha Folks,” which will produce and sell t-shirts and other products based on Nate’s original designs. These designs create character faces out of a single letter. Though still in its inception, the gallery opening was a great chance to market and show off the idea. I’d told Nate to have a picture of all his work on his iPad, ready to show. He dutifully saved aMission of Complexblog post with all the faces and he presented them throughout the night. People would come up to me commenting on how great they were and which ones they wanted to buy.

So there was Nate Katz, former uncommunicative autistic boy, showing his work to friends and family, some he knew, some he didn’t, and some he did know but couldn’t place. That led to one of my favorite moments.

Paul, another college friend, came in and I brought him to Nate.

“Nate, do you remember my friend Paul? We went out to eat once.”

“That was the Old Town Bar.”

“No Nate, that was with Paul Lukas,” I said. Paul L., UniWatch founder and ESPN.com columnist, was in attendance. “It was a Mexican restaurant.”

“Baby Bo’s?”

“No Nate, that was with Jason and Bethany,” my cousins, who were also there. “It was in Albany.”

“El Loco?”

That was it. I loved that Nate categorized everyone based on where we shared a meal.

Nate has a hard time socializing, but Karen and I witnessed something that was, if possible, more shocking than the gallery show itself. At one point, Nate began taking people by the arm and leading them to works of art, schmoozing and trying to sell. I wondered if his input made it easier or harder to lock down a deal. I think easier. At one point I’m sure I heard him say, “Oh, here’s a picture you might like.” At least that’s what I want to believe he said.

By the end of the night, I had a conversation with one of the gallery patrons, who told me that, as a mother of two, her eyes grew watery seeing Nate’s work. She wants to carry his “Alpha Folks” shirts when they are ready, as the gallery is looking at products to sell. How about that? Not only a show, but a potential SoHo outlet for his design work. That’s where are sights are set, getting “Alpha Folks” off the ground. Since the show ended, Nate has created a total of 104 individual works and we seem to be on our way. Just another in a series of unbelievable events.

There was a transformation that took place night, a change sometimes obvious and sometimes subtle. Look at this face:

Nate: Shining with success

That is not an expression we’re used to seeing, pleasure mixed with joy and pride. It’s the best picture of Nate I’ve ever seen, natural, real, beautiful. He’s on his way to success. We all feel it deeply. It’s happening already.

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About the author:

Jeff Katz is the music editor of Ragazine.CC, mayor of Cooperstown, N.Y., and blogs at http://missionofcomplex.wordpress.com/. You can read more about him in “About Us.”

 

August 25, 2012   Comments Off on Jeff Katz / Memoir

Photo Editor’s Choice / Sept.-Oct., 2012

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 Pádraig Grant 

©Pádraig Grant

‘Smiling Boy, Juba, South Sudan 1989’ 

In 1989 I got my first taste of Africa. I was a green and enthusiastic photographer, just 21 years old, and trying to cut my teeth as a photo-journalist. The conflict and consequent humanitarian crisis in south Sudan was the biggest story around. To get in I took advantage of a temporary UN aid corridor and flew, on a Hercules laden with emergency provisions, to the besieged city of Juba.

Juba’s population had swollen tenfold with displaced people seeking shelter from the ongoing strife. Makeshift tented camps sprung up. Local people and foreign aid workers shared rations with and distributed shelter to these poor souls. But aid was only now beginning to arrive after months of horse trading between the warring parties and the UN.

As always it was the weakest ones, the young and the elderly, that succumbed first to their travails. A humanitarian crisis was in full swing. Amid the crisis a certain normality of life remained constant with the local population; hucksters continued selling, hospitals still operated and kids still attended school. One day I was stopped by a boy and quizzed, as schoolboys learning English often do, as to where I was from, what was I doing there and “can I help you sir?”

He told me what his ambitions were, “I want to work as a doctor”, he stated. He beamed his smile and politely wished me a “good day” before heading off back to school.

Nearly every day for the past 23 years I think about this smiling boy and what has become of him. I am grateful to him for making my picture.

This picture was shot on 35mm film; Kodak Tri-x processed in Microdol-x. It was published in my first book ‘African Shadows’ (North East Africa 1989-1994) .

www.padraiggrant.com 

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Michael Biach

©Michael Biach

“Roma boy with accordion” (Bratislava, Slovakia)

I met this boy in Bratislava while I was photographing Roma in the streets of Slovakia’s capital. He was playing his accordion in several locations across the city, always only for a limited time to avoid being picked up by Slovakian police. He seemed very busy, acting like a grown-up businessman. He was not irritated by me taking photographs of him, nor was he very interested in what I was doing.

As I met him again in an alleyway in the center of Bratislava I took this image, which shows a melancholy, young, little boy. In contrast to the romantic picture of an accordion-playing child, one should never forget that begging in this age is just another form of child labor and that this boy is working in the streets all day rather than playing with his mates in the playground or visiting school. –

michaelbiach.wordpress.com

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Aaron Joel Santos 

©Aaron Joel Santos 

Young child along the road, Ha Giang, Vietnam

This image was taken in Ha Giang, which is the northernmost province in Vietnam. It kind of juts into China, and it’s a land of intimidating mountainscapes and harsh, black rock strewn fields. Ha Giang has long been considered Vietnam’s Final Frontier–a place of epic landscapes and hill tribes still living lives untouched by modern times. It’s a time capsule of sorts, devoid of the cities, traffic, noise, and pollution that have come to characterize the rest of the country.

But while its remoteness has saved it from becoming part of Southeast Asia’s well-worn tourist trail, it has also kept many of its residents – 90% of whom are ethnic minorities – largely cut off from the rest of the world. Here they continue to harvest crops on rocky mountainsides and tend to vegetables on arid, hardly arable fields: modern currency for a plot of peace and serenity in a developing nation.

This young boy was standing at the edge of a mountain, resting during his long walk home from the fields.

www.aaronjoelsantos.com

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Alessandro Gaja

©Alessandro Gaja

Happiness, Jambiani, Zanzibar

Jambiani, Zanzibar, a place where happiness can be to run with a rolling bicycle tire.

I was hanging around the beach with my camera: few shots but nothing really interesting. Suddendly the boy came from the right side with the tire, he was really enjoying this game, the light was fantastic and the shutter speed enough slow to give the idea.

Africa can be so poor, but the people always smile and enjoy what they have.

I think I was lucky to catch such a moment.

www.gajaphoto.com

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For  submissions, query first to: chaupt@me.com or editor@ragazine.cc

 

August 25, 2012   Comments Off on Photo Editor’s Choice / Sept.-Oct., 2012

Galanty Tweets

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Writer, professor, social networker, humorist Scott Galanty Miller sends along a collection of his latest tweets aimed at whoever is still listening. Did someone just say something? Would you like to share it with the class?

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By Scott Galanty Miller

 Basically, the Ten Commandments were the world’s first ten Tweets. I have a lot of trouble with short-distance relationships. 3000 people competed in our town’s local marathon. In other words, 2999 losers competed in our town’s local marathon. Strangers are just ex-girlfriends you haven’t met yet. I have a 2nd Amendment right to do whatever I want (… because you can’t stop me because I got a gun.)  1969: “We put a man on the moon!” 2010: “We created Instagram!” Yup, America has seen better days. Maybe I’m being overly patriotic, but I still believe that our country is the world leader in Kate Hudson rom-coms. I take one-third of the Bible literally, another one-third of the Bible figuratively, and the other one-third I just ignore.  None of my friends are lactose intolerant. That’s because I don’t waste my time with intolerant people.  Do you realize there are people alive who were born after 2008?! Damn that makes me feel old.  Amongst my top ten best friends are about 5 or 6 acquaintances.  If I could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, I would pick Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson.  People ask me, “What’s your best joke?” I say, “I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” They don’t understand THAT is the joke.  I’m one of only about 400 people in the world who was born without an astrological sign. Scientists still can’t explain it.  #1 on my “Bucket List” is to come up with a bucket list. I don’t have a #2 yet.  I hate confrontation. And when I confront people, I’m always secretly hoping the other person backs down & walks away.  I did nothing to stop Whitney Houston’s death. This is something I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life.  There is not a doubt in my mind that I could get away with murder. In fact, let’s just say I know for a fact that this is true.  I’ve never voted in any political election that was decided by 1 vote- which makes every vote I’ve ever cast completely pointless & meaningless.  I think it’s unfair that it’s so hard for aging actresses in Hollywood to find good roles in the Transformers movies.  “The Green Hornet” now available on HBO No-Demand.  Did you read about the Cave Dweller who suffered a heart attack ack ack ack ack?  I heard the National Triathlon is replacing “swimming” with “resting.”  The Farmers Almanac is predicting that Global Warming will come early this year.  Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are now 100% gluten-filled.  Middle America is finally starting to reflect Hollywood’s lack of values.  A new Saudi Arabian law makes it illegal to abort a fetus in cases of rape unless it’s to kill the life of the mother.  “People will never stop renting their movies from video stores, like Blockbuster.” (one of the many wrong predictions I made last week)   The Barnes & Noble Nook is a great way to get kids interested in video games.  Do you know what’s even MORE convenient? ACQUAINTANCES with benefits.  During “Thanksgiving,” it’s important to take some time out to remember all the people who have nothing to be thankful for.  Taylor Swift’s new fragrance smells like getting dumped by your boyfriend.  Hunters claim they HAVE to kill deer in order to control the deer population. So then why don’t they hunt rats?  OMG It just occurred to me that graduate school was a huge waste of time.  I went out to watch the marathon this morning. The runners were passing out, throwing up, falling down, giving up… and then the race STARTED!  Well if the Dalai Lama won’t follow me on Twitter, then *I* won’t follow HIM. Two can play at that game.

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Scott Galanty Miller is a contributing writer for The Onion News Network and Us Weekly Magazine’s Fashion Police. Follow him on Twitter at #GalantyMiller and on his website at www.scottgalantymiller.com.

August 25, 2012   Comments Off on Galanty Tweets

Mark Levy / Casual Observer

Nadja Asghar Illustration  Sept-Oct 2012 V8N5 Casual Observer

Another Medical Breakthrough

by Mark Levy

I visited one of my many doctors a few weeks ago. He is my main doctor; what those in the health industry call my primary care physician. At this point, all of my doctors are younger than I am. In fact, I graduated from law school at about the time my primary was learning the complexities of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

But I don’t call these medical youngsters by their first names. I call them, “Doctor.”  They seem to appreciate that and it really doesn’t take much to keep them happy. All I have to do is stay sick but, of course, not too sick. The game is over if I die. This is my responsibility: to linger as long as possible, helping them in a small way to put their kids through college and make their car payments.

My primary physician has an office that curves around a bend on the fourth floor of the hospital I visit. Inside the curve are nurses’ stations. (You don’t need to know that, but one of my listeners wanted more detail in my stories. Hope you’re happy now, Marge.)

“Your tests are back, Mark,” he said.

I could tell he was pleased. “I’ve been taking my meds faithfully, Doc,” I said. “How am I doing?”

“Actually, quite well. Indicators show your stress level is much lower. Your blood pressure is down. How are you sleeping?”

“Great,” said I.

“Digestive issues?”

“Not anymore.”

“Headaches? Memory loss?”

“Not that I can remember,” I said. “Everything’s improved. That prescription you gave me must be working, huh?”

“I have to confess something to you,” he said.

I learned forward in my seat. It’s not every day that a doctor confesses something. This was going to be good. I was so excited, I might have rubbed my hands together.

“The medication I prescribed was a placebo.”

Well, whatever it is, I think I should take a higher dosage. It’s really working.”

“No problem at all,” Doc said. “It has no medical viability. It’s an inert sugar pill to fake you out into believing it causes a reduced stress level.”

I was astonished. What a revelation. My primary was playing with my head, manipulating me to believe something that wasn’t true. And I bought it. Was I that weak-minded?

Now that I’ve thought about it, I guess I am. I’m very susceptible to TV ads, for example. That tells you something. If one of those luscious pizza ads appears on TV — you know the ones that show such a crusty crust, creamy tomato sauce and melted, stringy cheese, you can almost smell it in the room – I cannot go to sleep without ordering a pizza.

So I went home and Googled “placebo.” Here’s what the online dictionary said: “a usually pharmacologically inert preparation prescribed more for the mental relief of the patient than for its actual effect on a disorder; any dummy medication containing no medication and prescribed to reinforce a patient’s expectation to get well.”

The placebo worked so well on my health, I decided to try it out on my car.

When  I ran out of windshield wiper fluid recently, I opened the hood of my car and found the reservoir and I went through the motions of adding fluid to it. But the container I used was empty. Then I slammed the hood down with a flourish, so my car would think all was well.

Need air in my tires? Not so fast. A quick trip to the gas station, removing the air fill cap, and a fake pump of the compressor and hose and I was on my way, my car no wiser for the experience.

Back left blinker light bulb out? You got it. Just a removal of the lens and a tweak of the same old, burned out bulb would do the trick.

And so it goes.

Yesterday, my car limped into my car dealer’s service center for its 20,000 mile checkup. The manager came out half an hour later and for a minute I honestly thought he would give my precious automobile a clean bill of health. But no, he had an impressive list of things he had found and an estimate of $540 to fix them all.

Now you might think I would have been upset, but remember, my stress level is down. I toyed with the idea of unleashing another set of placebos but I think my car has begun to catch on.

I figure the repair bill is still cheaper than a trip to my primary. Now if only I can get my health insurance carrier to cover it.

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About the author:

Mark Levy, Ragazine.CC’s “Casual Observer,”  also occasionally contributes “Feeding the Starving Artist,” pro bono legal advice for working artists. You can read more about him in “About Us.”

August 25, 2012   Comments Off on Mark Levy / Casual Observer

Klaus Gerken / Poet-Interview

Klaus Gerken with cats of Parliament Hill

The Voice of Ygdrasil

by Mike Foldes

The following interview began as a quick question on Facebook and developed into an e-mail dialog.

Hi, Klaus,
How did you happen to start the (Ygdrasil) Journal?

K.G.) Thank you for your interest. From the Facebook site:

The genesis of Ygdrasil is Clayton Eshleman’s 60/70s magazine Caterpillar. I experimented with proto version in the 70s and 80s. But they never went anywhere. The on-line version came into being after my two explosive years a moderator of several on-line Poetry Networks between 1990 and 1993. After they were shut down because of their controversial content, Paul Lauda, myself, Evan Light and Igal Koshevoy (later Pedro Sena – son of Jorge Sena – national Poet of Portugal joined) decided to create our own network (by 1993 carried through the BBS system by more than 23 countries world-wide). In the spring of 1993 I created Ygdrasil and Igal put us on the internet one year later, and the rest is history – so they say.

Over the years we have had many important writers and Poets associated with the magazine (Martin Zurla – director of the Rand Theatre in New York; Michael Collings – Dean of Literature at Pepperdine University; Oswald LeWinter – Poet, whom T.S. Eliot called the greatest Poet of the 20th Century; Mois Benarroch – one of the finest Israeli poets and editor of our Spanish issues; Jack R. Wesdorp – one of the finest American poets in the tradition of Ezra Pound and John Berrymann, and many more in the background – Clayton Eshleman, Maria Jacketti, Jorge Etchevarry and of course not to down play the importance of Heather Ferguson who has been an inspiration ever since I met her in 2003 and who introduced me to the Ottawa literary scene and who has edited several Ottawa issues over the years).

While I may be the publisher and editor, none of this I could have been done alone. Ygdrasil is International in scope, and delights in helping emerging poets find a voice, and of course also showcasing more established poets. We have published Poetry, Plays, Short Stories, essays, and even one or two novels. Since 2000, Ygdrasil has been archived monthly by the Library Archives Canada – indeed, it is not just the magazine that is archived but the whole site. Which means any books published in the Book Rack are also archived, along with any photographs and Art work the site features. I hope this provides a bit more information and highlights the dedication of the people and writers who support this project.

Q) Klaus, what was the controversial content that got your program shut down?

A) The use of the F word mostly. And the occasional poem about sex. A few political poems also got them going. When I took over the conference, only quality, not censorship was on my mind.

Q) May we turn this into an interview for Ragazine?

A) If you like. 

There also is this interview which gives a bit more detail. If you have specific questions, just ask. I’ll see if I can answer them for you.  

http://www.artvilla.com/plt/poetnewsAug99.html

Q) I read through the interview in artvilla… what is it that you had to unlearn from Pound, and why, then, would you send students back to him to ‘learn’? And then, would you have them unlearn, too?

A) I had to unlearn first being intimidated by him, then to stop imitating him, then to start learning from him. Pound is somewhat like Sgt Pepper, first you are in awe, then you try to emulate and then, once you distance yourself you can get behind the music and really understand what is happening. Pound had that very same effect for me. You have to get outside the woods to see the forest.

Q) Would you say you had to unlearn Dylan, Ochs, Cohen, in somewhat the same way?

Klaus J GerkenA) No, they spoke to me on a different level. I wasn’t out to become a singer / songwriter, I needed to be a poet. I could listen to Dylan and revel in his magical imagery; I needed to understand Pound – it was intrinsic in finding my own voice. While Dylan, Ochs, etc., may have opened my mind, I studied Pound and Eliot on a much higher level. Cohen, of course, was a much different experience since I first read him as a poet. And yes, he did infiltrate my psyche in all the wrong ways. I was caught up in his aura, as I suppose everyone was in those days. But he influenced my own songs, not my poetry. I could live with that. I could not live with Pound’s voice dictating my poetry though, so I had to shake him off to eventually be able to learn from him.

Q) What do you think is new in the literary styles and thought being expressed today in poetry and song?  art?

A) I am really not interested in “literary styles” as  I evaluate each work for itself.  I have seen, and still see, too much bad poetry put forward as  this new style and that. It means nothing.

Q) Who or what should younger writers be taking into account when they sit down to write? Are there big poems that have yet to be written?

A) Be true to themselves. I can have no better advice than to quote Andre Gide: “Do not do what someone else could do as well as you. Do not say, do not write what someone else could say, could write as well as you. Care for nothing in yourself but what you feel exists nowhere else. And, out of yourself create, impatiently or patiently, the most irreplaceable of beings.”

As to “big poems” yet to be written? Of course there are. And there will be. Whether mainstream publishers will be interest is another matter. Ygdrasil certainly does not shy away from “big poems”, “Rose Lucinde” by Jack Wesdorp, “Joie De Vivre” by Henry Avignon and “The Organ Grinder” by Chris Watts, being just a few recent examples. I still consider “The Teachings of Baraka” by Mois Benarroch the first great poem of the 21st century.  And of course Jack Wesdorp is known for his epic poems, ten of which have already appeared in Ygdrasil. And in the July issue of Ygdrasil we have just published the first five sections of Michael Annis’  ” from psyche, this labi’a’(star)te”, an ongoing project.

Q) x. j. kennedy declined to offer a poem to ragazine.cc because the poetry he found here is not the structured type of “rimed and metrical stuff” he writes. Actually, we publish all kinds of work, tight and loose, so to speak. What’s your take on structure, i.e., rhyme and metre?

A) I have no problem whatsoever with “rimed and metrical stuff” as long as it meets the criteria of a good poem. Jack Wesdorp only writes in structured rhyme and it brings an added dimension to his poems. But that is only because he has the vocabulary to pull it off. Rhyme for the sake of rhyme has no useful purpose. Now, metre can be an endless debate. I find all good “free verse” has an internal “structured metre”, a flow, based on breath and accent. Prose broken into lines is not poetry, however pretty it might be.

Q)  Where do you think the most vibrant poetry and inventive literature is coming from these days, and why?

A) It comes from everywhere. One just has to be open to it. Too many journals restrict themselves with themes or types. I don’t subscribe to that. I like to be  surprised. If someone can come up with something that I have not read or experienced before then I am delighted! And that pertains to poets who submit the same thing over and over again. You progress. I love publishing young writers who have potential. They bring something new to the game. But if they haven’t advanced the next time they submit, they will have no place in Ygdrasil. I need to see something happening. The reader needs to see something happening. The next poem may be a faltering, but if it’s a good faltering I am all the more delighted. The web, open mic venues, it’s everywhere, but, you also need to get through the muck to get to the gems, and then you have to recognise them. Even something that pleases might not be worth the effort where the advancement of good poetry is concerned. If I can’t perceive the person in the poem, I can’t perceive the poem in the person. True originality is exuded, not copied.

Q) Can you tell us a bit about the cats of Parliament Hill?

A) I first discovered the cats in 2001 and began helping Rene Chartrand in 2002. They are a true Canadian Treasure. As far as we can tell, cats were utilized in Parliament until the mid 1950s for rodent control. After that they were replaced by chemicals and were fed by various employees on the Hill until Irene Desormeaux fed them in the area where the colony is now established. When Irene died, Rene Chartrand took over and built permanent shelters to house the cats. In 2004 Brian Caines and I put together a volunteer support team to help Rene (now in his 90s). I did the weekend and holiday shifts. Rene retired in 2008 and I retired because of a chronic bad back in 2010. The cats are famous all over the world, and thousands of tourists come to see them each year.

Don Nixon has written a book called “The Other Side of the Hill”  with a chapter dedicated to the cats. The book is available at Lulu.comThere is even a Facebook page, The Cats of Parliament Hill, dedicated to them.

Q) Is there anything you would add to this short interview that we may not already have covered?

A) We can leave it at that.

Q) Thank you, Klaus.

A) Thank you!

* * * * *

The following are by Klaus Gerken, including extracts from “A Night With Yoric,” “an Epic series of poems now about 35 thousand lines (and growing), encompassing my own world from birth to death and everything learned between.”

*

Song:
Wei City
The morning rain settles the light dust
on the road to Wei city

Green is the colour
of the new willows – green
Again I urge you to drink
One more cup of wine with me
For When you leave Yang pass
no old friends will follow.
Wang Wei (c 750)

Trs. Klaus J. Gerken
31 July 2010
***
From A Night With Yoric I_4
from wild oats
and huts
shamans and kings
the bread is broken
and the wine spilled
and a crumbling painting
on a wall miraculously spared
by bombs dropped randomly
there is no chalice
a dish
a loaf of bread
and the hand
pointing to the sky
a definitive gesture
of definitive authority
Michelangelo has God
‘s finger almost touching Adam’s
almost
dark clouds billowing
a conception in a storm
not in peace
Leonardo
has a finger pointing
to the sky
to God?
to the Universe?
to something we can’t comprehend?
is there a key?
a gate?
a path to follow leads us where?
some scrap of parchment?
some sign chiselled in stone?
what authority does this gesture represent?
who’s authority granted / claim?
perhaps Quazimodo knows his madness
past redemption
condemned for claiming honour
by daring to touch beauty
through his ugliness
the crowds like romans
want a show
appease their hunger for the
bloodlust in them
the guillotine
a far far better thing
than old women knitting
keeping score
this is society in stability
always complain about the violence
news
as long as it’s them
not us
it’s a business
else control the mob
providing entertainment
and sell stuff by the side
make some cash
fleece the poor
the rich are never touched
but when they are
they lose nothing
or do they?
I doubt the rich
get threatened of over a 38 dollar phone bill
payment late…even though the company
makes money on the late charges…

there is them
and there is us
so it stands
but maybe not
the mountain may not crumble
but sure a lot of avalanches
keep the fleece at bay
Right Apollo?
Where are Hera, Zeuz and Artemis today?
untouchable on their mountain
or untouchable in our minds?

***

From A Night With Yoric IV_1
4 A.M, Thoughts…(after being up all night)

Nothing’s real, it’s all made up,
We are just the rim around a coffee cup.
I know there is an answer,
Just don’t know what it is;
If you help me through the evening,
I’ll betray you with a kiss.
So life is pretty normal,
The spring is mighty hot,
We are proud to slay the dragon
In a dirty parking lot.
When they find us in the morning
It’s too late to see the stars
That formed upon our eyelids
In a carousel of art.

20 March 2012

*

C.P. Cavafis

The City

You say: I’ll explore other lands,
And conquer other seas foretold,
To find a city that confides
A better life for me to hold!
Yet all my struggling here compounds
The destiny that I have found:
My heart (so like a watchman’s lamp)
Surrounds itself with this grave’s damp.
How long, I ask, with subdued pride
Must my old ghost herein reside?
I look around, as far as I can see,
Surveying life’s insufferability:
The structure of my life’s relay
Is darkness, mildew, and decay,
Where I have wasted many years
Walking into empty tears.

But don’t believe it: you’ll not go
To other lands, or seas you know!
The city pulls you to your knees,
And you will struggle in the same
Streets that gather life’s disease.
Greeting neighbours by their name
And waking each and every morn
In the same structures you were born.
Instead of leaving you’ll return
Without a shred of hope to burn,
To build that boat you’ve striven for
To carry you away once more.
You are interned, is there no hope?
You always did the best to cope –
And through a window, closed too soon,
The world is mastered from your room.

Translation: 23/05/86 by Klaus J. Gerken

 

* * *

Fame

In 1971 a critic said to me
If you die now
I can make you the greatest poet
Who ever lived

I said I have
No intention of
Dying He said
Too bad

You will never
Be known

* * * * *

Read more in Ygdrasil, A Journal of the Poetic Arts, at http://www.synapse.net/kgerken/

 * * * * *

August 25, 2012   1 Comment

J. Barrett Wolf / Poetry

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A Sad Day

I have given up on deities.
A world that serves us
Napalm and Dahmer
In the same hot breath
As the exquisite turn of your thigh,
Is clearly run by the committee
For a swift return to Bedlam.

This camel of a life that was
Once a sturdy draft horse,
Now proves that evolution
Moves with ease in either direction.

This is a commonplace world,
Where the furnace is grinding
Through the last of the oil
On the other side of a sheet rock wall.

Yet, I still strive. Want. Beg
For the light to choose sides
In the blue-gray civil war of your eyes.

The day we learn that
Worship only works on gods,
is a sad day.

Ourselves and Others

You are speaking a poem.
Your corseted chest rises, falls
Wrought and overwrought,
Disconsolate with love and spears
Of words that leave cuts
On your audience.
There is scraping pain in the story
Of heartless eyes and skeletal hands
Dragging you toward violation
Of a once holy life.

You retreated to the island of reproach.
The place of penance for the sins of others,
Where gentle river pools reflect debasement
Just as Narcissus once saw his own face,
Though no one, least of all you,
Falls in love, here.

One day, we were driving toward the shore.
You explained sensuous horizons –
How a landscape of stone and moon
Behind your eyes and in your fingertips
Could stir your body to homecoming.
Then we walked the jetty,
You showed me your lighthouse, your beaches,
Your water, your wind, your world.
Words drew us closer,
But you blanched at the very threat of touch.

All your trespasses,
Sins both real and imagined
Are a million bad horror films
Playing in the theater
You carry around in your head.

And the men you meet, the ones
Looking to rescue the damsel
Walk like idiots into the dark,
Toward the suspicious noise.
Funny how it never seems to end well…

I was no threat. I bear no guilt
For the wickedness of others.

One day you will stop being a reflection.
You will grant yourself a pardon
Expunge the record of your
Felonious self-doubt,
Place the evil on the shelf of memory
Among the gross misjudgments
And the lesser mistakes.
Then you will sail back into the world,
Leaving this most distant island.

When you get home,
Please send me a postcard.
It will be so much lonelier here
Without you.

Good Day

I follow the light
At the edge of your eyes
past the soft lines that
telegraph a history of
your disappointments
until I come to the place
where now resides.

You glisten
with a gentle willingness
to trust our moments,
Through the night, weightless
in that gigantic bed
until a single bird
announces the day
in the simple language
Of motion and sky.

Coffee, tea, steel-cut oats
Run out for milk.
Grab the trash on the way.
It hardly matters except
the sun is shining you
through the door
and what is pouring
from your eyes
isn’t disappointment.

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About the poet:

J. Barrett Wolf has been writing poetry for over forty years and has been chosen for ten anthologies as well as numerous journals. In 2010, he was commissioned to write a poem for the tenth anniversary of the Broome Public Library. He received a 2011 Broome County Arts Council grant to produce poetry shows in the Binghamton area. He was recently awarded First Place in the Performance Poets Association’s annual contest for his poem “Antschul”. His first book, Stark Raving Calm, was published in 2011.

August 25, 2012   Comments Off on J. Barrett Wolf / Poetry

Simone Kearney / Poetry

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Contents

The road is squeezed into something the width of a thumb,
say. And though it’s a sin to see the authorized articulation
of compression, why don’t you come in, make yourself at home —
here’s a triad of dumb waiters for you to rest your moustache on.

Forget about how beauty walks a razor thin edge, how gravel
is a common ingredient of roads, or that too much economy
can lay waste to the layers. Since I’m drunk, I must tell you
that your bank book isn’t my kind of bank book, and even

though you make good guacamole, I don’t love you, I love
my housemaid whom I abandon late evenings by the western
wing of the western pool where the willow has a good hollow.
Bloated navels under the arches of a dancer’s taut foot, little

shoulder blades cutlets nicely sent towards my tongue, I imagine
it all as mine. And how long can I keep looking at this side
of your face? Are you your mother or your father? Litigious?
Religious? Prestigious? Regardless, please share this pie with me,

I know it’s a stretch, but now that you’re tangled in the heap
of my voices in concrete, you might as well take my arm, confuse
me with this road’s profile, size reduced by half and half again
in the  mirage — profile in the profile between the roads. Watch

the cracks condense, bald spots in the middle where the root
used to be, the obvious tendrils to make me stop dead in my tracks.
Still, I keep waffling in the same sound of your forehead swaying
side to side, or remember when you woke up on my armchair, my legs

in your lap, a lash on a cusp taking precedence over the stories I’d
concocted? Forget the one about the flood that got broken in two,
tho floods can’t break that way as a big old bell bangs out some phrase
like “What is the cause of this clamor?” or “Who among us did this?”

The Nature of It

I write about you as I would Nanking,
your self-propelled intelligence, your
insubstantial neck denied a collar,
your elbows with touching sleeves.
I think that hut-shaped hair induces
a kind of unfazed boredom in a damp
articulate suburb of your head.

As technology advances, you’re more
a mail-order bride’s flawless hem,
a good title stowed away in drawers.
The reverberating, foreseeable future
waffles before you in dream-mode,
little modules of foliage, a half-eaten
pork pie — it stands in for you, love.

You like inland vacations and girders,
gum-like structures, a flurry of ostridges,
hermetic lakes. It lies before you in this
easy-to-manage box all wrapped up.
Though you lack warmth, put a mirror
to your face so that it leans, as it would,
off one of those high bourgeois balconies.

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About the poet:

Simone Kearney’s poems can be found in Post Road Magazine, Elimae,
Maggy, Sal Mimeo and Supermachine. She was a recipient of the Amy
Awards from Poets & Writers Magazine in the fall of 2010. She works as
a lecturer at Rutgers and Pace University, and writes for the
Thierry-Goldberg Projects gallery in the Lower East Side. She is also
a visual artist, and lives in Brooklyn.

August 25, 2012   Comments Off on Simone Kearney / Poetry

Lauren Tursellino / Poetry

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NIGHT STAR

The roof was empty and dark

As if all the stars had died,

And let their souls breath black.

I couldn’t’ dream of the exhaust

That would undulate from their explosion

Eradicate the pipes they smoked

Just to confirm they existed.

Not knowing, of course, something had won.

For before I made it inside, there was one,

Planet or star, I did not know,

And it did not matter,

Because being bonded,

With a handkerchief tying my mouth,

With my body ready to wither,

My soul wanting to escape,

I made it mine; the light was not in my hands

But pretended to be, and seeing it

Through a mirror, I knew this was I,

Nature does not lie except in kindness,

It’s the cruelty it supplies that puts

Every breath, on a pedestal with limp legs,

On the verge of making a fake precipice.

I wanted the light to talk,

To say that Oscar and Goethe had it right.

The endless tears would cease,

And there was holiness to their banter.

But I knew, walking inside,

This conversation could only last so long,

Because life does want to die

And death is its reflection in a clear pool.

Where every undulation,

Every little wave, puts me, it,

And Narcissus together in a trinity of ghost.

I did not want to be the body,

I only wanted it to reach out its light

And Christen the night, and even

The rood upon which I bleed.

Nothing ceased when I went inside,

Except my forgetting to say,

There is more life in frozen light

Than there could ever be in the voice

That does not melt; not hearing all it said,

I bore no conscience in the words that fled.

 

SNOW

The white mirror breaks into pieces,

Unnumbered, not cumbered by the red sun

Who would rather it were falling,

And not just beyond the horizon,

But spreading its shrapnel everywhere,

Where shadows ignite, break their smiles,

And all the gallows of the air in black light

And shallow roots, flower in despair.

 

Still then the swan would fall,

From the mirror’s broken glass,

In feathers and eyes and beak and song

Would color Leda with its dead volcano,

And sever the roots sleeping deep in birth,

Flowering her – to flower itself – in the frozen earth.

 

EGO DOMINUS TUUS

I peel your rind away, and hold it up to the black sky. The moon is no longer white, for I cover it with your orange skin. Your body is exposed to the dark light of shadow; the last time it will feel the zephyrs that have traveled so far, just to envelop it. And maybe get a taste of blood: your blood, the cold acid that will not burn, but to destroy itself.

But I am the one who destroys you. I take your pieces away, not to eat. I let them fall in the grass, until they’re gutted. And I want them to rot. To feel the grass, the dirt, and moon envelop them, until they each have their own new rind.

There is no logic to the time it takes for this rind to set a shroud of air around your body. But your body is no longer your body. You are a ghost of another body. And when the rain falls, its shrapnel pelts my skin, but tears at your host, the rind that would protect your ghost, and turns you into dirt.

Still you are armed, with your own shrapnel, to violate the earth, seeds that would grow, if planted. But I let your first rind slip. So it would fall, and be eaten. And the moon is white again. And the rain has stopped. And the sky is an obsidian sheet, scarred with white lights.

And my shadows overwhelm the grass, and the zephyrs nestle like bees seeking their perfect flower. And I have to let you go. The stars look upon me; I don’t know if they think I’m right; to take the night, and cast an orange shroud around it, and dream of the body that was, the ghost that was, now becoming a root deep in the earth.

If I take another body, after daybreak, and peel its rind, and hold its orange against the sun, I’ll be blinded. But at night, when the moon shines white, I am bound, to the body that was. For I can see, in the darkest night, the light of shadow, the seeds I didn’t plant, the ghost that didn’t become, but still made a body, for me.

A star wants to grow, not to be brighter, but to illuminate the black surrounding it. Torn from a greater body of light, that imploded into white shadows. Its rind is now a root of obsidian. So when I look up, I do not see, as it were, the black or white. But the orange rind, the light I held against the moon, that couldn’t be held forever.

Still it becomes forever. No longer a ghost, it hosts the bodies that follow, gives them its own dream of body and rind and ghost. And if I catch my reflection in a pool of water, I dare not hope, but know, you will be staring back.

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About the poet:

Lauren Tursellino has an MA and BA in Literature. She’s published in The North Shore Sun, The Improper, College Bound Magazine, The North Shore(ian), and The Abiko Annual. Her literary and artistic influences include Federico Garcia Lorca, Rilke, Keats, Baudelaire, Joyce, Wilde, Bruno Schulz and H.D. She has been living with SLE (Systemic lupus erythematosus), the most recent manifestation involving her kidneys. Still, she abides by Wilde’s affirmation in De Produndis: “where there is sorrow there is holy ground,” and will always attempt to approximate beauty in her words. She believes, at heart, beauty is at best elusive and is its own design.

August 25, 2012   Comments Off on Lauren Tursellino / Poetry

Alone With the Terrible Universe / Book Review

Alan Britt/Cover art by Dr. Jose Rodeiro

With Time To Remember

Review: Alan Britt’s
“Alone with the Terrible Universe”

by Paul Sohar

The political – and by now historical – repercussions of the shockingly successful 9/11 attack by Al Quaeda on New York’s Twin Towers, a symbol of American technological power, has been analyzed and exhaustively debated all around the world.  Less has been said about the longer-term emotional affects of the event on a personal level. Family members of the victims have been interviewed and allowed to vent their anger in the media, but few average Americans – have expressed their innermost reactions; most were either stunned or allowed anger to muffle more subtle emotions.

Clearly, the occasion called for poets, the masters of language, to verbalize their own and the communal state of mind. But, instead of focusing on personal reactions, the poems that soon flooded journals and anthologies on the subject were not any more sophisticated than the public reaction, which swung widely from one extreme (we got what was coming to us), to the other (they’ll get what’s coming to them). The meaning of the pre-apocalyptic clash between transcendental and hedonistic/existentialist civilizations got lost in the hot air of empty slogans.

Worse yet, the pall cast by the persistent vision of the burning Towers over every soul and the minutiae of the slowly resumed everyday life was soon turned into fodder for reprisal for the hawks and the sign of doom for the ideologues. Alan Britt was among the few who kept treating it on the personal level, a part of his life, a part of the images of his garden where he seems to find  so much of his inspiration.

The dog’s ears,

            dark flames.

            Not the fire,

            surely,

            but angry as

            smoke that spirals

            from the tips

            of burning leaves.

Smoke, even as a metaphor brings back frightening images of the destruction. The pall continues to haunt even his glass of red wine, the constant companion of his late afternoon meditations.

The poet enjoys the last drops

            of dark matter

            rolling like sweat

            down Magdalena’s waist.

Alan Britt is an exception. He compiled a volume of poems written in the one-year period immediately following the event, some directly commenting on the tragedy but most of them mood pieces whose tone is dominated by the dust cloud that hung over the site for a week physically, and at least a year psychologically.  Alan Britt is ideally suited for the task, gauging and reporting on the way 9/11 continued to affect the way we saw life and the world (the terrible universe); he’s a master of capturing and reproducing fleeting emotional reactions and relating them to a bigger theme that they might suggest and, beyond that, to the human condition, without, though, forcing on them a moral, a lesson to be learned. In a few of these poems his deep concern for the human community and his involvement in it do come to the fore, and although he does have a few lines that could be delivered from a soapbox, they never degenerate into diatribe.

The US, the oil

            sucking giant,

            removes its dipstick

            from the starving

            throats of Afghan refugees,

            whose necks

            like hungry birds

            extend from

            canvas huts.

He let that year’s crop of poems ferment for almost ten years before he deemed them ready to see print: Alone with the Terrible Universe.  Samples from it are making their way into foreign literary journals in  translation, but they  can only give a hint of the substance of  this unique  volume of poetry – which deserves publication in every language so the world will have a more realistic view of the American reaction to 9/11,  and know that not every American reacts to foreign affairs by first reaching for his gun.

* * * * *

 
Alone With the Terrible Universe
CypressBooks
Rio Rico, AZ, USA
Copyright © 2011 by Alan Britt

Cover painting by José Rodeiro:  “9/11”…Oil-on canvas (2001)…36” x 48”
Collection of the artist…www.rodeiro-art.com
Cover painting photograph by Charles P. Hayes

ISBN-10: #0-9647754-7-6
ISBN-13: #978-0-9647754-7-3
* * * * *
About the reviewer:
Paul Sohar ended his higher education with a BA in philosophy and took a day job in a research lab while writing in every genre and publishing seven volumes of translations. Now a volume of his own poetry (“Homing Poems”) is available from Iniquity Press. Latest is “The Wayward Orchard”, from Wordrunner Press: www.echapbook.com/poems/soharonline. His prose work: “True Tales of a Fictitious Spy”, Synergebooks (2006). Magazine credits: Agni, Gargoyle, Kenyon Review, Rattle, Ragazine, Salzburg Poetry Review and Seneca Review.

August 25, 2012   Comments Off on Alone With the Terrible Universe / Book Review

Art and Poetry at Ground Zero

Empire State Building, 1 WTC, Chrysler Building ©Sacha Webley, 2012©2012 Sacha Webley

Empire State Building, 1 WTC, Chrysler Building 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 At Ground Zero,

a convergence of the arts

by  Dr. José Rodeiro
Contributing Art Editor

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work.

— Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1855

On April 30, 2012, a rare convergence of the arts occurred in and around Ground Zero, as 1 WTC surpassed the Empire State Building as New York City’s tallest building. This architectural triumph garnered worldwide attention for the building itself, those who built it, and the project’s primary consulting architect, David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP. Taking place simultaneously was a poetry reading organized by Meriam Lobel, curator at Tribute World Trade Center’s Visitor Center (TWTC-VC), and involving among others, poets Alan Britt and Peter Messana, student Emma Kuby-Vasta, photographer Charles Hayes and students from William McKinley Intermediate School 259, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Elysian Charter School, Hoboken, N.J. Art exhibits and more – all in memory and honor of the victims and heroes of 9/11.

@ Charles Hayes Photo 2012

Meriam Lobel

But an additional historical take on that day makes 2012 something special, as 2:00 p.m., April 30, took it’s place in New York’s architectural foot-race. This was not the first time the Empire State Building contended to be NYC’s tallest building. During the Great Depression, art was – amidst deep economic fears and afflictions – generally regarded as unessential – perhaps, a bit like today’s post-2007 Great Recession. Then, as now, several gargantuan architectural projects materialized.  In 1930, the Empire State Building withstood a height challenge by the Chrysler Building’s planners, especially its principal owner, Walter P. Chrysler. As 1930 unfolded, both Art Deco edifices went head to head striving to become New York City’s Tallest Building. In the end, the Empire State Building won by adding a lightning rod at its peak, to reach a height of 1,454 feet, while the Chrysler Building topped out at a mere 1,046 feet.

In 1972, until its demise in 2001, Minoru Yamasaki’s original World Trade Center twin-towers challenged and surpassed the Empire State Building, to take the title of New York’s tallest buildings.  In light of this spirited history, completed 1WTC will reach 1,776 feet,  honoring the year of the signing of America’s Declaration of Independence, and earning it the nickname Freedom Tower.

 

Alan Britt and audience at Tribute Center poetry reading.©2012 Charles Hayes

Alan Britt and audience at Tribute Center poetry reading.

So, while construction workers added steel according to blueprints, in order to guide architectural ideas to fruition, the force of human imagination revealed itself in poetry, art and song.  In A Defence of Poetry, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley argues that civilization owes its genesis to art.  As Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based architect Frank Gehry said,  “In the end, the character of a civilization is encased in its structures.” With this in mind, Lobel wisely encourages young people from area schools to utilize The Tribute WTC Visitor Center as a place to experience human creativity, especially the resurgence of art and life after 9/11.

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About the author:

Ragazine.CC’s contributing art editor, Dr. José Rodeiro, is Coordinator of Art History, Art Dept., New Jersey City University, Jersey City, New Jersey.  You can read more about him in “About Us.” His painting is the cover illustration for Britt’s book of poems about 9/11, Alone with the Terrible Universe, reviewed elsewhere in this issue of Ragazine.CC by poet and author, Paul Sohar.

 

August 25, 2012   Comments Off on Art and Poetry at Ground Zero