November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Posts from — June 2014

The Awareness Vaccine/Fred Roberts


Source:  Opening of SCTV, 1981

* * * * *

The Awareness Vaccine:

A Review of Mitchel Davidovitz’s

Window of Normalization

by Fred Roberts
Contributing Editor

In 1987, I made the experience of moving to Germany, leaving behind the vast American infrastructure of media, network television, cable TV, early talk radio. I never felt like I was trapped image1inside a propaganda system but after some months, I noticed that some ideas that for many become unchallenged assumptions, were no longer echoed daily from various sources around me: Americans are special, American lives are worth more than non-American lives, free market capitalism is good, universal healthcare is bad, humanists and communists are evil, the world would be a much better place if our European partners would do everything the President wanted them to. Surrounded by so many divergent perspectives, the world gradually felt more objective. On subsequent visits back to the States, I saw the media from the outside, and much more critically than I had before. It was unsettling to notice how strong the influence of the media was on the general public, how the unchallenged assumptions worked their way into conversations and seemed resistant to rational argument.

Years later, I discovered an insightful work by Norman Corwin published 1983 under the title Trivializing America in which he described how mediocrity was seeping into all aspects of public life, film, television, sports, the public discourse, the election process, etc. etc. He saw it as a real danger to our democracy. We were losing our critical ability, our ability to make informed decisions. If the trends continued, we would no longer be in a position to elect responsible political representatives. In fact, the only predictions of his that have not come true were the optimistic ones. He saw a glimmer of hope in the creation of 24 hour TV news networks, that these could report on substance, giving daily scorecards of how our senators and representatives voted, etc. The book was a wake-up call that went under in the wave of events of the subsequent decades. Gulf war. Clinton impeachment hearings. Y2K hysteria. Theft of the 2000 election. 9/11.


Fast forward to 2014 and a work by Mitchel Davidovitz, Window of Normalization. It is a terrifying snapshot of modern pseudo-reality as formed and reinforced by the visual medium of television. The project is based on a statement by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman:

The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.” (2002)

A compelling aspect of the project is that it begins with a definite idea and follows it through to its logical conclusion. If the statement by Chomsky and Herman is accurate, how could the media pull it off? What Mitchel did was to monitor during a one week period the average amount of hours a typical American viewer would see (34 hours).  Out of this 34-hour period he collected a sample of 6500 images, as well as audio samples – in part guided by the expectations of themes described in Manufacturing Consent by Chomsky and Herman and Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges, but also attempting to capture any other recurring themes that became apparent.

Out of the 6500 images, Mitchel grouped a reduced sample into twelve category grids which serve to show exactly which belief systems the mass media support. The results did not surprise me. They matched my impressions of television in recent visits to the States, an idea of a constant state of war. It goes beyond the news, with themes of terrorism working their way into series like Homeland and NCIS, thereby reinforcing the belief of an omnipresent terrorist force that can only be held in check with increased surveillance and security, and ultimately with a curtailment of individual liberties. Witness also TV shows like Castle in which total surveillance is depicted as an effective means to solve any crime.


A five part audio opus complements Mitchel’s visual findings, sound collages which are a nightmarish synthesis of Big Brother and Brave New World. Altogether this is a document of modern dystopia, an endless chain of images, soundbites and conditioning to keep the masses in a constant state of stupor. The real problems, approaching climate catastrophe, the absence of political influence of the 99%, the looting of the resources of our and other nations by out of control financial and corporate entities, will never be discovered by watching the major U.S. networks which only continue the stupefying bombardment, and for each real issue, manufacture and present instead a multitude of distractions.

The one aspect of the work that surprised me is its brevity, a reduction of a week’s television viewing to twelve images and five audio collages. Was there more that could have been captured? Were there positive grids that might have been compiled? On the other hand, the themes are indisputable and the brevity intensifies the frightening idea that maybe this is all there is, that this is the essence of our media today with TV sets everywhere, in McDonald’s, in waiting rooms, often set to FOX news. The accompanying research paper gives an excellent description of the audio and visual components of the project.

To the question of how a manipulation to this extent could be perpetrated, it is seen as the result of the concentration of media into just nine international conglomerates, with a top down consensus of what should be seen. There may not be a literal guideline to show three 9/11 reminders per hour, but the tone is set from above, with hand-picked editors down the line making all the decisions. As such, a study like this cannot prove cause and effect. One might alternatively claim it is a public mood that perpetuates a media giving the public exactly what it wants. Still, the media are in a position to break that cycle but since they do not, it becomes our responsibility to do so ourselves. It would be interesting to do similar studies in countries where the media is more diverse. One thing the study does not address is the question of how effective the control mechanisms are. As protest and dissent do exist, we can thankfully conclude that the mechanisms are not infallible, although they may be effective enough.

Here is the conclusion of the project in its own words:

“The influence of television is massive. Americans, on average, spend 34 hours a week in front of television screens (Nielsen 2013). Through means of cultivation, television is able to literally alter the minds of those who view it. The values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that are presented on television and imprinted on the audience overwhelmingly benefit power structures and hegemonic control over the populace. The propagandist nature of television is quite evident. It is a tool used by the powerful to prevent civil unrest, promote mass distraction, spread lies and misinformation, and diminish and belittle radical thought. Window of Normalization allows the audience to reflect on the current state of the televised mass media system by arming and empowering them with a new perspective and knowledge. With these new realizations, the audience may choose, if they deem necessary, to break free of television’s power, refuse to subject themself to it, and demand a more righteous press, source of information, and means of entertainment.”

The project is documented at Please have a look at it to judge the findings for yourself. The key to inoculation is awareness. Turn off your televisions and follow the alternative, independent media wherever you may find it. A good starting point is which presents a comprehensive selection of current headlines that see through all the smoke and mirrors of everyday American media.

About the author:

Fred Roberts is a contributing editor and music editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us. 


June 29, 2014   1 Comment

Robert Soffian/Artist Interview

The Ringmaster's Diary

 The Ringmaster’s Diary, by Robert Soffian


Robert Soffian:

The Melody of Shape & Color

with Michael Foldes


Q) When did you know you would become an artist?

A) I do not remember.  If you mean painter, I knew I always wanted to paint. However, for many years I wrote poetry, plays and directed.  So I didn’t really have time.  I was surrounded by art all my life.  My parents collected art.  I studied art history when I was kid at University of  Florence.  Also I was exposed to many artists growing up.  I had friends whose parents were artists. Mostly Greenwich Village in the early 60’s.  People like Jack Levine, Leon Golub.  In theatre, one is involved with design, lighting and period all the time.  So being informed about art styles and movements is just part of the package.  Also directing is really moving shapes inside a frame…composition, making pictures etc. I also designed lights for many productions: dance, plays, even music groups. So I was painting with light… I was pretty  good with this and always had a sense of liquid and  melody of shape and color. The truth is…one day my wife and I got into a small argument about what I would do after my life in theatre.  And I said “paint of of course.”  And she said “really…I don’t believe it.”  So you might say it was my answering her question.  This was   many years ago.  Funny out of this came a joint exhibition we did in San Francisco!) Also my sister, who is five years older…was a painter. And I watched her. I like to paint because it is so obviously personal and doesn’t involved lots of stuff…like making theatre.  It called to me.

Q) Were any of your family members instrumental in your artistic pursuits?

A) My father loved Shakespeare and poetry.  MY parents always took me to museums and plays.  My sister painted.  My mother loved Kandinsky’s work. I was surrounded by art in the house. It was rare in the 1950’s and 60’s..but my parents loved to collect.  And the walls of our house were were packed like  a salon.  It was odd.  But the images drilled themselves into my mind.  Art was valued. And the people who made art were respected.

Q) Why the intense colors, and not more figurative work?

A) Great question.  The truth is that I see my work going backwards into more figurative practice. I really view myself as a kind of figurative painter.  My abstraction is not pure.  I enjoy all kinds of art and technique.  Really I often work in a simple palette.  But I feel the vibrancy of my way of seeing requires the reflections of their colors.  There is short hand also.  They are sexy, fertile, fecund. Hues and pigments mirror the natural world and less conscious truths.  They are obvious and hidden.  Vivacity.  I often vacillate between a wildness with line and color and austere paintings.  I enjoy contrast.  Contrast creates focus. White and black even.  Some shapes just require their voice.  And if they are figures/they have a real colored shape. One can eat color. Make love to color.  Sense its shape.  Ride its destiny.  Cheap fun if you can get it.)

Q) Do you paint for a living, and if so, how long have you been fortunate enough to make a living as an artist?

A) It is a living.  I could be a very rich artist if I lived in The Congo!)  But yes I do sell my work.  Also the world of art is dominated by trends and what’s hot or currently hip and goes in cycles . Always new artists imitate their teachers and the paradigms they swam in.  I will keep any ideas to myself.  I do not think that one art can explain another well. The painting speaks for itself..   I have been working as an artist for less than twenty years.  One hopes to find a few collectors who value your work and understand its practice and support your efforts through its myriad phases.  I think I operate from a place of security when I am producing work which is honest and dynamically valid.  That is important.  I guess I have confidence in my vision.  Of course, just making art is a challenge of beautiful cruelty.

Q) What artists have had the greatest effects on you as a person, and your work as an expression of your perceptions?

A) I am drawn to all art which is good.)  For me it doesn’t matter what school or style or concern they express.  I think I have a sharp, trained intuition.  In general, I gravitate to the Modernists.  Picasso, Miro.  The energy and freedom of Abstract Expressionism  is compelling.  I enjoy Tintoretto.  Rauschenberg of course.  The other great innovator…Duchamp.  For me, it really is an unfair question. Artist search for expressive forms in their own epoch.  Van Gogh, Michelangelo,etc.  I am thrilled by the magnetism of ritual art:  New Guinea, Alta Mira.  One should learn from all the great teachers.  Steal what you can.  The main thing is not to imitate.  One might try to see if you could try to understand how something was accomplished, some techniques.  Or see beneath the technique and begin to empathize with the practice and concerns of the sincere efforts of all artists who create authentically.  The main thing is to discover who you are and what you needed to do. Yes, it is a conversation with the past and even some contemporaries.  We just move on.  Who doesn’t admire Rembrandt or Beuys?)  One ought try to avoid comparisons. Let others say what  they see it to be or its influences.  Goya, Praxiteles…Matisse…

Q) Where did you grow up, and did you find a receptive audience in your early years  that reinforced your desire to paint? Or did you spend a lot of time swimming upstream?

A) My childhood was spent in the East Coast..Philadelphia/New York.  But I have done a fair about of traveling and working in many states and countries. The various locales and experiences, of course influence one’s perceptions and way of being.  So I have lived in Wisconsin, Virginia, and for the last 30 plus years in California…Far northern near MT. Shasta, San Francisco and now LA.  When I was younger I lived in Europe for many years.  Mainly in Amsterdam.  But I have spent time in India, Bali, Greece, Argentina, on and on. Every place has a smell, a palette, a special light.  The light in Budapest was almost like Paris!  and  Greek light just explodes.  The contrast between that and the sea is elixir. The water greatly inspires me.  The way the colors integrate with the rhythms of the sea.  I think, unless one is a genius or extremely lucky, mostly artists go through a similar trail.  At first, even you doubt your efforts.  Then a few friends begin to notice what you are doing. Then other artists who you respect offer critique and encouragement.  And then you find some buyers, then maybe galleries, then collectors. Nothing is easy.  What is one’s goal?  Fame? Money?  For me, the freedom to explore was what drew me to painting. In the beginning I allowed myself to make any mistake possible.  Now as I know a little more, one forgets that mistakes are what we are after.  To watch something come alive through informed accident and the logical systems of the subconscious.  If I have a practice it entails the rigor of time, repetition and the ability to allow myself the honestly to be privately Universal. My basic feeling is intoxication and analysis.  One’s lover will find you…I know the purpose of what I am doing.  It takes time for some people to hear the drums.))  But when they do it should feel good.



Robert Soffian

Soffian gallery with interview, V10, N4

The Spine of the Matter
The Spine of the Matter
X-Ray Man
X-Ray Man
The Alley of Poplars
The Alley of Poplars
The Duchess Out of Hamburg
The Duchess Out of Hamburg
Susanah and the Elders
Susanah and the Elders
Ten Screen
Ten Screen
State Power
State Power
Sunrise Guests
Sunrise Guests
Pasiphaes Dream
Pasiphaes Dream
Serial Face
Serial Face
Jeune Fils 2013
Jeune Fils 2013
Jump Forward
Jump Forward
Little Shiva
Little Shiva
Gardener Wirth Green Bird
Gardener Wirth Green Bird
Have a Ball 2
Have a Ball 2
House of Spirits 1
House of Spirits 1
Five Screen
Five Screen
Downtown Alphabet 2013
Downtown Alphabet 2013
Fight at a Nightclub
Fight at a Nightclub
Dance Static 2
Dance Static 2
Dawn Patrol 2
Dawn Patrol 2
A Couple, 2013
A Couple, 2013
Barktree, Bark Bark
Barktree, Bark Bark
Bird and Guillotine
Bird and Guillotine


Q) In your website bio, it says you discovered the Violent Femmes. Just how did that happen?

A) In the late 1970’s I ran a multi-purpose theater in Milwaukee called The Metropole. There I produced all genres of performances. Acts that were local and National: Theatre, dance, punk, ballet, performance art, film and many genres of live music etc. This was a time  when eccdentric acts toured specialized venues, a kind of circuit…the Kitchen in New York, Name in Chicago, Walker and places in LA and SF. Anyway I held auditions, open mikes regularly. Brian  was my friend and worked at the theater and he played bass in my pal Jerry Fortier’s band…”The Ruthless Acoustics.” One evening I was holding an open mike and Gordon Gano then a  waif showed up and sang a couple songs. I liked his performing and introduced him to Brian and they formed the group with Vincent who was an actor before a drummer. Not long after both The Ruthless and Gordon opened for Nico at the Metropole. She was staying at my house sort of hiding out. Wonderful concert. But she was consuming quite a bit of vodka. Nico was a dear person.  She played solo with her harmonium that night. The Violent Femmes and I have been associated ever since then. Brian was a good janitor also!!  He lives in Hobart Tasmania now and curates a weird museum of art and music events.

Q) You have a very eclectic background, a chain of links stretching across many media, which to me is evident of a mind that seeks and a body that follows. So, looking back on it all, what possesses you when you make a life-change from one thing to another. For example, from archaeology to theater to art… I don’t see how you can really leave any of it behind. In fact, when you talk about color in light and pigment, it’s evident nothing has been left behind, only transformed as it became the foundation for moving on, or in another direction.

A) I think the creative impulse just wants to be involved to make things. It seems to me as I look back a bit that I have been interested in trying to understand the differences between how the aesthetics differ from one thing to another. It’s all a type of psychical discovery. This moving from one art world to another. It is also about epistemology…searching for knowledge. I am just fascinated by the various ways our mind must work within each discrete form. Also I get bored. I believe in hard work. I like to get deep into a discipline. In fact I think there is jealousy between the arts. Also often  I need to express myself this way not that way. Still I have found that combining interests and skills is what I always like. I enjoy collaborators. Even within myself. There is a process of discovery. Those eureka moments when the possibilities of each field astound and engulf you! You have to have confidence to travel even if the confidence is self invented. All the answers are wrong or so opaque that searching is the only fun. I really think everything is consistent and logical since I am following what I know I must do. I say I must try this. I can do this. Failing is interesting. Look  I learned something! I have a strong sense of being lead by my subconscious. If such an entity really exists. I am inclined to follow it. I like the history of things.  I see it is my  forte to attempt connections. I wish I had more time to do more.) I think backwards also.  That helps. I know where I went, now I just need to find how I got there! In general once you begin to suss out the limits of each realm one can begin to investigate things creatively. It’s the limits that really create! And truly all knowledge is transferable across disciplines. They just look different because they use tools from a special kit, Unified Field Theory of Aesthetics. Some paths are corporeal some just ethereal some textural some visual or aural. Some are New. But the best are really really old.  Because everything repeats. Does this help? On the other hand: I am Adventure Averse. But I am attracted to what appears an innovation. That is until I recognize it’s original status.

Q) You mentioned you were dyslexic. Was there a point you can recognize when the right and left sides of your brain suddenly meshed and you were moving forward in high gear?

 A) Never. I just learned how to use it. To see it as a gift rather than a deterrent. I learned to see blocks of words, pages all at once instead of each word.  I FOUND OUT THAT BY PRETENDING I could stop stuttering when I was 13 years old. I realized that gibberish can make sense.  I discovered that liquids and colors communicate sense memory. I found out that something about how I process things let me see things clearer. It helped me see the cosmic jokes abounding in paradigms. It let me find friends and co-conspirators who also recognized the shibboleths and pomposity of certainty. I learned to interpret myself. There is an acting exercise I use called “Go Left by Going Right.” That about sums it up. When at a loss get more lost!  To really find something one has to NOT look for it. I go fast up there. But my mind feels it is slow so it just works out fine….I am not quite sure the brain works that way. But I will say that Art is my saving Grace. Because I always saw things in a different light. And thus I knew I had to share my vision.  So in that way I knew it was correct to be me. Doubt is very specific in art. It is often pointing out what does not work. Editing and cutting away the “wrong for this moment” thing and then seeing what remains. Absurdly the via negativa is the most positive.

Q) Do you have siblings, and are –or were they – as adventursome as yourself?

A) My sister was a painter. Now she is a classical scholar. My mother taught. My dad was an attorney who loved Shakespeare and poetry. I am the black sheep. We always were expected to travel and appreciate the arts. I don’t know why. Our parents encouraged us to learn. Their lives were full of poignant life events: illness, stress, drink, frustrations and surviving The Great Depression. They did not have the luxury to be artists they thought. But we had a large library. We talked about politics, and crime and whores and boxing and the horses. The world of the inner city was ever-present as many of my dad’s clients were poor and black. And of course there was The Mob too! However I think they never expected me to really do creative things.  Family is the basis of all drama. Each one is an adventure. I think it is impossible to understand how and why and what notions our families really entertain. I am sure my children hardly understand who I am and I certainly only know them as a father. Every life is an adventure if our thought dreams could be seen…I think I was a product of the 1960s. I really believed that change was imminent. In terms of who I was to become… I learned that I could communicate and inspire some. Every person senses the power and draw of the erotic force of creating. However only time reveals who actually stayed until the game got going in earnest. The crucible is eternal. Perhaps the one who does nothing embraces the most adventure. I am not that person. I could be him. But I did not allow myself to be. Instead I like to make expressive things that satisfy and trouble me. But eventually we all will have the same adventure.

Q) How did you happen to go abroad, to Italy, at such an early age? Did you go alone, or with relatives?

A) I often marvel at what I was allowed to do!  When I was 13 years old my father and mother were spending summer in France. They arranged that my sister take me to Florence to study at the University. I imagine she was my chaperone and my presence offered  a little stability to the situation. In actuality she was a lovely blonde 18 year old who wanted adventure and I was a little nerdy kid who she probably regretted knowing. Anyway the classes were all in Italian. We tried to learn Art History and Italian. The lecture halls were hot and sweaty and brimming with infatuation! We traveled there on what were then called “student ships” which were really Italian freight transports converted to haul college students to the Continent. What a blast!.  The year was 1960. My sister and I lived in a pension…Pensione Panoramica Angelica/ 60 Via Cavour. She often left me there in the evening to zoom into the Tuscan hills on a Vespa with one dark boy or other. Luckily for me in the neighboring room lived an ethereal French girl close to my age…so I was never lonely. I think I learned many things that summer. I have three grown children and I am still amazed that my straight parents encouraged us to do things like that! I am probably more protective than they were. Funny isn’t it? They were always doing things like that. What were they thinking?  Perhaps this was their vicarious adventure. I had few restrictions. But I was a good kid. They could trust me. At least for awhile…. I think that travel/ traveling alone is a wonderful growth opportunity. It instills self-reliance and opens one up to many mechanisms that will be useful during one’s lifetime. It’s sometimes scary but very invigorating. And of course one quickly realizes that the world behaves in many ways you never expected. That they are many right answers!

Q) At the time, what was the most important thing you thought you were bringing away from your work in Greece, and does that remain so today?

A) Greece remains today my most sacred place. The light is bright and bold and shattering and clean. The sea is fresh. Cretan Blue.  The cicadas never stop sounding. The past is present. The ruins are proud and sad. I get dark there. Everyone thinks I am Greek. I love to swim. I feel at home. The year I graduated from High School my parents arranged for me to work on a dig there through the University of Pennslyvania. My sister knew the program and the archaeologists. I worked there for about 4-5 months before I started college. I was the youngest member of the expedition. My job was to do scale drawings with rapidograph pens of the numerous shards which were uncovered. I meticulously drew the rims and bodies of graceful jars, amphorae, oil lamps, small broken heads of sculptures… whatever. My work station was a small table under a canvas drop. I think in later years I saw where one or two were actually published in some schorlarly journal! This was miraculous considering I was just learning what graph paper was and struggled to create each piece perfectly. This was a laughable experiment but I was treated kindly by everyone. Before I started to work I was sort of marooned in Athens at the American School of Classical studies because the lead professor was delayed. I had little money. But I was lucky to find a couple who showed me how to explore back roads of Greece using the Guide Blue. So I spent a month taking buses and donkeys up and down little trails viewing sites, sleeping outdoors and being free. Greece in those days was quite primitive. Not the bustling destination of today. One was able to investigate ruins with hardly anyone around. No one had money. Everyone hated the Germans! I wrote my first full chapbook of poetry that summer.  Later, I returned to Athens with hardly any money but somehow the residents of a nearby whorehouse took pity on me and allowed me to sleep in a shed on their roof. Very idyllic. I read all of The James Bond books, ate pistachios and  became friends with the girls. But boy when they fought you didn’t want to be around! I also grew a mustache. I still have a beard. So that stuck. I go back to Greece every so often. I always feel welcome. Later I studied Ancient Greek. So I learned to love the meter and melody of Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, Sappho, Herodotus, et al. That classical education ( I also studied Latin) has allowed me to understand English better and developed in me a great love of the Humanities.

Q) I see elements of indigenous imagery in your work, e.g., in the Femme and Genetics and of course, in Went Native… What informs these pieces that’s different from what informs you as a stage lighting director?

A) In Light Design color, hue is form and movement. One is creating an illumined environment where action happens and bodies inhabit. It is a very old thing to do. Lighting a fire. Making a shadow. Revealing something mysterious. Those paintings you mentioned are also about the movement of life. In the days I did those I was interested in archetypes. I made a whole series on motifs from Micronesia and stone age cultures. Procreative things.  Pre-verbal. Light is sub verbal. So there is some connection. Lighting is very elemental. Fire light.

Q) You mention Miller and Burroughs and I wonder, did you know them, meet them, work with them? What was their influence on you – and are we talking about the same (Henry) Miller and (William) Burroughs?

A) Never met Henry Miller. sure would have loved to though.  However In the early ’60s I went to a camp for the children of leftist artists and bohemians.  It was called “Lincoln Farm Work Camp.”  It got its name from the Lincoln Brigade of Anarchists who fought against  the Nazis in Spain during the Civil War there.  There I became friends with the kids of Jack Levine, Arthur Miller, Leon Golub, Burroughs and many many more.  Funny place. Pre-hippie . Our week was eight days long…etc.  Great topic for a book.  As it happened about ten years later I was a sort of hanger-on at London’s New Arts Lab.  This place in Camden Town housed a theater, gallery, and was also the home of the London Filmmakers Cooperative.  There Burroughs put on a small show of his recent paitntings.  He was hanging out in London in those days.  These paintings were the ones he made by shooting or throwing things at balloons filled with pigment.  I helped hang the show and got to know him a bit. Pleasant, Mandarin, funny/ arch/arcane and everyone whispered around him.  He was trying to kick.  Unkle Bill! That period introduced me to some good theater. The People Show for one.  Later we took “experimental” films up to Stockholm….Bailey, Ron Rice, Carolee…I was just a kid wet behind the ears. 

Q) What is your earliest memory?

A) I am about three years old. I am at our house on the Jersey Shore. Near the beach. My mother wants me to eat eggs for breakfast. I DO NOT WANT TO EAT EGGS! I am wearing a striped blue or yellow shirt. I have curly blonde hair and blue eyes. I ran out onto the porch. There are many many  red bricks steps down to the pavement. My grandmother comes out of the house. She is a big Russian woman with pendulous breasts. She is wearing a housecoat. She takes me up in her arms and cradles me. “He doesn’t have to eat eggs.” She says to my mother. I stop crying. The wind blows her hair.  My mother agrees.

Q) What obstacles to working have you found over the years, and how did you get over them? Something along the lines of writer’s block… did you ever experience painter’s block?

A) For me, if I am not creating something I usually feel out of sorts. or “Neurosis is cool/Neurosis is Hot “)  So I try to be involved in a CREATIVE ENDEAVOR as much as possible.  There is a compulsion to that.  But so be it. I will just start something to get the line alive without a plan if need be.  Also I am convinced that the more one does the better one gets.  I have done this directing plays, writing and now painting.  I try to paint every day.  I work without present judgement.  Judgement happens within the practice moment by moment and after.  But I just like to work.  ” Work on What has been Spoiled” as the I Ching hexagram says..  .sometimes on several paintings at once.  My hand gets more limber too.  I like to work at night but also in the morning. I like it quiet.  I talk to myself though.  This is a deep concentration better than any drug.  I love to watch how my brain works.  The hours between 3 and 6 or 7 pm are usually fallow.  Nap and rest.  Of course, sometimes I don’t work.  It bothers me.  Because it takes a lots of gas to build up the speed and get the mistakes out.  Similar to writing strategies where the first things one writes is usually garbage…but one must clear the pipes!  Then there comes the time when an idea or technique or material has been tried in a series of paintings.  And I just need to stop and regain a type of balance and perspective.  However If I had a choice I  would never stop.  Because in my view the mind gets freed up and all the messages get clearer.  I conjure that how I work best is accepting the signifiers from inside and below my rational self and then trapping them and organizing them in a very conscious effort.  In other words I enjoy how the rational and  illogical cooperate.  Another way of saying this is that the illogical is just as valid and prevalent as the opposite.  You may turn the corner and meet your true love.  Or who is to say what sperm what hit the mark? If I am not working creativity I feel I am not doing my destiny. weird.  I like white wine. and I drink Drambuie on the rocks. My sense of humor  is an acquired taste.  So is what I make.  But I convince myself I have the confidence to go on.  Isn’t this what we are supposed to do?  The main difference between an artist of any genre and a person who just loves to express herself (himself) and perhaps does it well…is that the artist never stops.  While the most graceful amateur( literally “lover of art” ) does it on Mondays and Holidays!  I am lucky to have had children and relationships that centered me.  And a way to make a living.  Those platforms have given me a grounding to pursue my passionate obsessions and desire to say something.  To add something to the stew.  The fun is in the journey. It is a path I treasure.

Q) What other creative outlets do you have? Do you play an instrument? Write? Go hiking in the Sierras?

A) Well I have always written poetry.  So I do that. Sometimes I will write dramatic texts.  Of course, I used to teach theater and film…so that occupied much time.  I direct a play if something really excites me. I prefer new plays. I usually say I can play every instrument poorly.  My favorite is the SAX.  Contrary to what people think (about artists)…I like sports.  So I play and watch baseball(my favorite and Packers football)!  I read mostly poetry and  biographies and new plays.  This year I translated a small book of Italian poems written my(friend) Esther Grotti.  That was hard and great fun.  I have two cats.  I really love to travel if the opportunity arises.  Of course I go to galleries. and Museums.  The beach is good.  I really enjoy cooking. mostly sea food.  My two sons live nearby so I get to hang with them every week or so.   I like science, mostly physics.  I stare out the window.  My partner, Cynthia, is a musician and songwriter so I go to her concerts.  And I watch how she creates.  We talk about practice and process.  I think about art.  I try to get my older friends to work with me on projects and convince them that communicating is worth the effort.  I read their novels. I visit North Beach in SF.  I worry about the direction of compulsive materialism.  I stay in contact with old friends.  I frequent the haunts of young people to see what I am missing and what I should know.  That is an impossible and mostly invisible task.  I mean they do not generally see me.) I try to motivate myself to invent things to do.  I marvel at the stupidity of war.  I dwell on the zeitgeist and motif of social media. I remind myself there was once something called “The Jet Age”. so that gives me faith.  I swim sometimes.  I eat chocolate and drink Earl Gary.  I pretend I am a comedian and play my jokes in my head.  I try to contact my intuition.  I dance around the shimmering membranes between Universes.  I think about meaning and lack of meaning.

Those Ionian Philosophers were really smart!  I hustle and promote and hide out.  Mostly I watch and receive…and I like to talk about all this stuff!

Q) What would you say is the direction of art today, and what will the influence of technology be on the more classical media such as drawing, painting and sculpture?

A) I tend to think that artist will  always adapt to new materials and technologies.  That is a given. And also the most vital things contain their negation.  And yet I always feel and hope that the hand and body will retain its prominent place.  The last century was the time of Light.  In fact we are still experiencing ourselves through new light…cinema, video, lasers , computers, the 01010  on and on. the nuclear world/the quantum space.  I think often about the Eternal Return.  Things will proceed and morph.  Consciousness will grow.  We will become alienated by our inventions. We will return to the essentials.  Personally I am not a very intellectual person.  Many if not all of the current ways of viewing things seem to bore me.  Whatever is believed is suspect.  Most paradigms appear humorless, inflated and conflated with bad nonsense. Fun is good.  Sly Fun. SEX The Death Machine is a good game.  I try not to say this.  Perhaps this is the province of dumb age?  I prefer things that can include raw satire.  I am not sure about the pretended brilliance of popular culture critiques.  Nor do I understand so much irony. It’s like casting a play.  A good director just is able to tell who is right for each role.  A bad diretor never does.  Let’s hope we can recognize the most potent works of art sans belief system.  A good creator is either in the time or beyond the time.  Show Me do not tell me what things mean. Please!  Recently I have been assembling lots of archival material.  So I begin to understand something about the relevance of archiving things, events, ephemera.  Many of the things I see which combine media and seem new are really just modernized  versions of things done decades ago with better equipment.  Does this sound harsh?  i hope not.  The Eternal Return.  Certainly the ubiquity of phones with cameras, You-Tube Channels etc asks and goads everyone to pretend to be artists.   To record to watch to work for The Paris Match in your head.  Yes it democratizes expression.  It tries to destroy elites.  But how will it actually affect the humane thoughts.  We don’t know.  It scares us.  I am sure the Renassiance was scary.  The Industrial Revolution was shattering.  But not as momentous as THE ICE AGE!  I am an optimist… in geologic time.  To be specific  ART IS NOT HOMEWORK.  Do Not look for a good grade from society.  Things that are expressed  with intention resonate.  Shit!  What do I know?  Is there a new story to tell.  It seems to me we live in our own science fiction  novel.  On the other hand things evolve in flashes.  Where is the next Cubism?  Find it and buy it cheap. Now is the time.


About the interviewer:

Michael Foldes is founder and managing editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.

This interview was conducted by email in March and April 2014. 

June 28, 2014   Comments Off on Robert Soffian/Artist Interview

Now & Then/Steve Poleskie


Steve Poleskie & his Pitts Special bi-plane.

The Ultimate Responsibility

by Steve Poleskie

A reader of my previous columns wanted to know about the time I saved Peter O’Toole from being kicked out of a New York City artist’s bar. The majority of comments I got, however, were about my aviation opinions, so I will continue with that topic and save saving Peter for another time.  Several people remarked that I had come down too hard on the pilots when, after all, a flight is rather a team effort. I couldn’t agree more.

An airline captain is not unlike the quarterback of a football team, who often takes the heat for a loss, even though he was sitting on the bench when the defense blew the game. One of the captain’s problems is that he often lacks information, some of which he is not given, or he has no access to, which is oftentimes vital to the completion of his flight. Nevertheless, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) it is the “pilot in command” who bears the “ultimate responsibility” for the safety of the flight. Unlike many general aviation pilots, the term applied to non-commercial aviation pilots, who often own their own airplane and therefore might have some “hands-on” experience, the airline pilot probably has little or no knowledge of the aircraft they are flying. How could they? An airliner is a vast and complex machine that requires many skilled, licensed mechanics to maintain.

When I took a course to prepare for my Air Transport Pilot written examination we studied for a test based on flying a Boeing 727 airliner. Many of the questions were about things like how many life jackets one should have on board. We were warned that one of the questions on the test, a weight and balance problem, did not have a correct answer in the multiple choices. If you got this problem on your copy of the exam, you should check the answer we were given and should not bother trying to figure it out. I got the question, and could not believe that the FAA would be so stupid as to give out a wrong answer, so tried to work out the correct answer. I could not come up with any of the numbers among the listed possibilities, so chose the one closest to what I had computed. This was incorrect. I scored a 98 on the exam.

The erroneous weight and balance was the only question that I got wrong. I did learn a few things about the Boeing 727 which made me never want to go on one. Most startling was the matter of how the pilot should use the “bleed air” function. It seems that when the 727 was being designed the FAA still allowed airplanes with only two engines to venture out across vast bodies of water. But in the middle of things the rule was changed. And so the designers hastily added a third engine, the one you can see stuck up on the tail. All well and good, except during the take-off.  As the aircraft is rotated, just when it needs all the power it can get, the fuselage blocks the airflow to the engine mounted in the center. This is the time when the pilot should turn on the “bleed air” to suck a little oxygen from those two engines on the sides of the fuselage—hoping that there is enough to go around.

A few casual observations from the special course I went to in Norfolk, Virginia to prepare for the Air Transport Pilots exam. On the first break it was apparent there were three distinct groups here, ranked in their own order of perceived importance: the military pilots, airline pilots and finally general aviation pilots. There was also a group of black pilots wearing that knock-off casual wear that indicated it did not come from the country it was supposed to: for example “Brooklyn Yankees” jackets. As this group always seemed to keep to themselves, I decided to venture over and start a conversation. One of the men told me that they were captains for a Nigerian airline and flew from Lagos to London. Since they were in a class preparing to take the ATP exam, I asked how they could be captains without an Air Transport Pilot Rating. I still remember the man’s answer — told with a big smile, so I am not sure if he was putting me on or not: “Well, we were all co-pilots, and we had a big revolution in our country, and all the captains, they all supported the side that lost, so they were killed, and we became the captains, now we are here to get the proper license.”

Incredibly, for a group of high-time pilots who were about to become captains, I found some of the questions asked in the discussion periods rather basic. The kind of thing I picked up many years ago, when I was a model airplane builder. I have owned five airplanes in my life, but never more than two at a time. I’ve always worked on my airplanes, of course supervised by a licensed mechanic as required by the FAA. This is not unusual for an owner pilot. I am not saying that knowing how to fix an airplane makes you a better pilot, but it is helpful to know how things work. The airplane I used to fly airshows and aerobatic competitions, a Pitts Special bi-plane, I totally rebuilt myself, after buying it from a well-known stunt pilot in Nebraska. A fabric-covered airplane, I took it down to the bare structure, replaced the engine, propeller and other worn parts, recovered and repainted the components, and then reassembled and re-rigged the airframe, being overseen by a licensed mechanic of course, and having it passed by a FAA inspector.

Few people have experienced the sensation of going aloft for the first time in an airplane you have put together yourself. You wonder about the hundreds of bolts and screws, some in very key places, that you have installed with your own hands. In the air now, I proceed carefully. The takeoff and climb out were uneventful. Let’s try a few shallow turns; all well and good. Things are proceeding normally, but this is supposed to be a stunt airplane.  I try a few rolls, beginning with a simple barrel roll. Next comes some aileron rolls: regular, slow, four-point, and eight-point. The airplane seems to be doing okay, but my timing is off, not having flown my Pitts Special since I began rebuilding it six months ago. Let’s try a loop. I line up with the runway, in this case Zeuhl Field, a private airport outside of San Antonio, Texas, which has a zone approved for aerobatic flight.

I can see about a dozen or so people standing outside the hangar where I assembled my airplane, some of whom helped me with it. They have come to see the test flight.  Diving the airplane slightly to pick up speed, I watch for 140 MPH and haul back on the control stick, pulling about 4Gs. I want an easy loop, no sense ripping the wings off just yet. The airplane goes vertical and then over on its back. In the inverted position I relax the stick pressure so the loop will not seem egg-shaped. I play around a bit, doing Cuban-eights, Immelmans, and other maneuvers, feeling happy to have my bi-plane back in the sky. But the real test is yet to come — the spin.

I climb for more altitude. It is best to begin this maneuver high enough so you can use the parachute you’re wearing to bail out if the airplane won’t come out of the spin. Now a well-rigged aircraft should recover from a spin on command. But who put this airplane together? Me. I retard the throttle to fast idle, while gently pulling back on the control stick to raise the nose above the horizon. The airplane slows to stall speed, that speed at which the wings can no longer generate lift. I feel the stall buffet; this airplane has no stall warning horn like airliners do. Holding the ailerons neutral, I boot in full left rudder. The right wing comes up and the nose drops and the biplane falls off into a left rotating spin. The aircraft is pointed at the ground and beginning to revolve around its horizontal axis with increasing velocity.  I only want one turn, so pop the stick forward and apply opposite rudder. The thing stops on a dime. Relieved, I climb back up to altitude and try a whole series, left and right, two and three turns, but I am not yet confident enough in the airplane to try inverted spins. I will save this for another time. I land, a little bouncy as I am out of practice, then taxi slowly up to my hangar and cut the engine. My friends greet me — they are as happy to see me as I them.

 * * *

About the author: Stephen Poleskie is a writer, artist and former aviator.  He has flown in numerous airshows and aerobatic competitions and has a trunk full of trophies in his garage to show for it. He has held an Air Transport Pilot license. His artworks are in the collections of numerous museums, including the MoMA and the Metropolitan in NYC. His writing has appeared in journals in Australia, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, UK, and the USA. He has published seven novels, the most recent being Foozler Runs. He lives in Ithaca, N.Y., with his wife the author Jeanne Mackin. Web site:  

June 28, 2014   Comments Off on Now & Then/Steve Poleskie

Connecting a Few Dots/Politics

Arctic Region Reference Map with place names from the UT Perry-Castaneda Library

Arctic Region Reference Map with place names from the UT Perry-Castaneda Library

Religion, Politics,

Oil & Gas

by Jim Palombo

In watching the Sunday morning news on BBC, CNN and FOX, I was once again struck by how important it is for our public to understand a broad range of topics in order to understand what is happening in the country and the world. Simultaneously I was again reminded of the rather poor job that is being done by our educational system in this regard, with not much help given by the political and media-based dialogue that fills the air.

Be that as it may, the three networks were referencing the problems in the Ukraine which included the divide between Western and Eastern Christianity, vis a vis the forceful historical differences among Catholics and Orthodox Christians, as well as the differing market interests at work in the region, best symbolized by the potential competition between the German-directed European Union and the Eurasian Union concept (the USSR reborn?) being proposed by Russian leader Vladimir Putin. It seems that for those so inclined to think about the situation, the religious and market differences are being used to fuel each other in ways that may not be the most beneficial to the actual people.

In short, the elements involved make the situation in that part of the world extremely complicated, chaotic and combustible. And although it seems we in the U.S. must do something, it appears highly unlikely that our involvement, diplomatic or otherwise, will have any appreciable, long-term impact. (Do the contemporary Middle East conflicts, ongoing for more than 50 years, come to mind?)

In any event it just so happened that I was watching these broadcasts in a coffee house in Queretaro, Mexico with a friend of mine who is a lawyer-lobbyist from Alaska. As we sat and listened and then chatted about how geopolitical conflicts seemed to be popping up everywhere, our focus shifted to talking about somewhat related situations tied to his work. Noting that it might come as a bit of surprise to most, he began to tell me about what was occurring in regards to the Arctic Summit and Arctic University – two organizations I had theretofore never heard of. And as I listened to his comments, and later proceeded to investigate them a bit more, I couldn’t help but want to pass along what I think are some very intriguing considerations.

First, the Arctic Summit represents a gathering of players from across the Northern part of the globe, including Russia, China, U.S./Alaska, Mongolia, Canada, Norway and Finland, all of whom are interested in the development of the resource rich Arctic. As one might guess, these interests have been tweaked by the ever-growing access to oil and mineral resources as the region thaws due to climate change. In essence, and amid conversation about environmental concerns, the situation represents a grand example of business/profit motive efforts capitalizing on a social concern, while trying not to be overly insensitive to what happens as a result.

The Arctic University is a loose knit cooperative network of universities and colleges with many of the same Summit players involved. Through university research endeavors, the objective is to keep developments in the region beneficial to the indigenous population. This of course sounds admirable but when coupled with the Arctic Summit efforts, it tends to make one wonder a bit about what might be seen as “beneficial” to the people who may actually find themselves at odds with the potential financial gains on the table.

Now what caught me off guard about all this was not so much that this was going on, but rather how little I knew of it. In short, it seems at times that there is a world of interests moving around the globe that is operating at another level from that which most of us are involved. And this of course lends itself to the idea expressed by many who when challenged that we need to better understand the world (as I tend to do) remark “what difference does it make anyway.”

In short, it was an afternoon of talking about how the world is changing, how interests are being aligned, how a geopolitical fog seems to have developed over the goings-on of big business and what the bulk of the population actually knows or doesn’t know, and if indeed this really matters. So this piece was offered not only in the sense of reviewing a few current events, but to also point out that we seem, at many turns, in a real knowledge pickle – almost as if we are damned if we do know and damned if we don’t. As always, your comments in this light are most welcomed.

** As two other follow-up “dots” – Alaskan Public Media reported that John Kerry announced the appointment of a special envoy/counsel/ambassador to the Arctic region, out of concern over potential environmental problems. Clearly there will be environmental problems but one has to wonder to what extent our government’s action is more about our lessening control over global financial interests and what may come from the on-going economic development of oil and mineral resources in the Arctic. (Keep in mind that Russia is the major supplier of oil to China. What develops via the Arctic Summit could well fuel even more power in terms of this relationship. ) And Joshua Keating’s article in Slate magazine highlights what is occurring in the Antarctic, with its estimated 203 billion barrels of oil, the third largest reserve in the world. The gist of Mr. Slate’s piece is that although there are international restrictions in place in terms of actually developing the Antarctic resources, research stations with their obvious link to future economic development, are permitted. And although countries like Britain, Argentina, Australia, France and the U.S. have research stations there, it is China that outdistances them all, with four already in place and a fifth on the way. As the current developmental restrictions come up for review in 2048 this obviously raises a number of speculative possibilities. Certainly speculation, but given what is happening in the Arctic, it appears that it’s left to the public to connect the dots accordingly.

About the author:

Jim Palombo is the politics editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.

June 28, 2014   Comments Off on Connecting a Few Dots/Politics

Jonathan Alpeyrie/Photographer Interview

Local Ukrainians buried after gun battle

©2014 Jonathan Alpeyrie

April 22, 2014, Aleksandrovka, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine: Three men from the small village of Aleksandrovka are being buried after a ceremony at the main church of Slavyansk after they were killed during a gun battle at a checkpoint near their village. Here, family members of Sasha, the youngest man killed in the gun battle, are seeing his dead body for the first time. The circumstances of their deaths are unclear, though Russia and Kiev are trading blame on the incident, hence further escalating tensions in the Donetsk region.




the Conflict in Ukraine

with Mike Foldes

Born in Paris in 1979, Jonathan Alpeyrie moved to the United States in 1993. He graduated from the French high school of New York City in 1998, before going to the University of Chicago to study medieval history. Jonathan started his career shooting for local Chicago newspapers during his undergraduate years. He did his first photo essay in 2001 while traveling in the South Caucasus. In addition to Ukraine, he has photographed conflicts in South Caucasus, East Africa, Nepal, Mexico, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. Alpeyrie is a staff photographer for Polaris Images. His work has been published in Paris Match, Aftenposten, Time, Newsweek, Wine Spectator, Boston Globe, Glamour, BBC World, Popular Photography, The New York Times, VSD, American Photo and ELLE. A photography book about WWII veterans with Verve Editions is in the works, and scheduled to come out next year. 


Q: In a recent statement that appeared in L’Oeil de la Photographie, you wrote, “The Western press does not understand the nature of the conflict: I was more appalled by the lack of understanding by the Western press who was convinced that Russia was the enemy, and furthermore, that the Western powers were right to intervene. As always the reality on the ground is different from what the general public is being fed by the mainstream media.”Can you please explain “the reality on the ground”?

A)The reality on the ground is, first and foremost, a historical one. In 988 AD, Rus king Vladimir the Great of Kiev converted, and his people, to Byzantine Orthodoxy in the region, creating a Christian state in what is now Eastern Ukraine. Today, for locals, this historical founding moment is still of great importance as it unifies the Slavic civilization. Therefore, a division within this entity is indeed a very difficult notion to accept for many Eastern Ukrainians and Russians alike, as it would be seen as truly illogical proposition.These historical implications cannot and should not be discarded by Western powers, and the ever powerful mainstream media. It is, in fact, an oddity to think that they both are willing to put aside these considerations, as Western Europe as well as the United States are also Christian nations.This lack, and this unwillingness to understand the past, especially for the US government and most of its media, has lead to much misinterpretation of what Russia is, and what it is trying to become. As it is true for the United States, Mr. Putin defends his country’s interest, and its place in the world. What would the United States say and do if Russia would today, directly challenge America’s zone of influence in Asia, like Japan or the Philippines, or even challenge its hegemony in Mexico, right on its border? I assure you, the United States would not allow it. Well, the situation in Eastern Ukraine is no different: the Eastern Ukraine was shaped by Russia. Not the West.Though I fully understand that geopolitical logics are in place in this crisis, and the US, aided by its smaller less significant ally, Western Europe (maybe with the exception of Merkel’s Germany, who is a close ally to Russia), I am also appalled by the mainstream media’s lack of seriousness, let alone its inability to remain neutral. Though it is safe to say that most mainstream media leans on the political left, which by essence proves its illegitimacy as an impartial entity, it also copies from each other most information spread around by social media and incompetent reporters. I will say it again, a journalist with no historical understanding of the region he works in, makes him a bad journalist. And there are many.


V10N4 Jonathan Alpeyrie

Portfolio of photographs from the conflict in Ukraine, 2014. Copyright Jonathan Alpeyrie. Courtesy of the photographer and Polaris Images.

005_Kiev Standoff
005_Kiev Standoff
010_Kiev Protest
010_Kiev Protest
007_Women of the Revolution
007_Women of the Revolution
009_Donetsk Breakup
009_Donetsk Breakup
008_Donetsk Breakup
008_Donetsk Breakup
016_Ukrainian Burial
016_Ukrainian Burial
003_Ukraine Breakup
003_Ukraine Breakup
008_Donetsk Breakup
008_Donetsk Breakup
020_Donetsk Breakup
020_Donetsk Breakup
009_Ukrainian Burial
009_Ukrainian Burial
004_Ukrainian Burial
004_Ukrainian Burial
001_Donetsk Breakup
001_Donetsk Breakup
007_Donetsk Breakup
007_Donetsk Breakup
011_Donetsk Breakup
011_Donetsk Breakup
014_Donetsk Breakup
014_Donetsk Breakup
018_Ukrainian Burial
018_Ukrainian Burial


I have experienced on many occasions events which have made me doubt the legitimacy of the press world when it comes to world affairs. After covering over a dozen wars, I have never been confronted to such spreading of misinformation directed to the public, who after all, does not need to be influenced in one way or the other when it comes to current affairs: it is for the reader and the viewer to decide for himself. Dictatorships begin in such ways. History has proved many times over. During my four weeks in the Dombass region covering the crisis there, over 90% of foreign journalists were openly against Putin’s Russia, and therefore agreed with the Maidan movement. Not only is it not the role of these journalists to put forward their personal preferences, it is their role to let the readers decide. Furthermore, I was also very surprised to see that a lot of information taken by the media came from Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets. Because of its nature, and its propaganda use, social media should never constitute a valuable source of information for any major media. Every morning, Tweets and pro-Maidan Facebook posts, as well as pro-Russian hashtags, influenced the way the crisis was being perceived in the Western world, and often mainstream media outlets took this information and published it! For instance, one morning it read from Twitter: 30 dead in clashes between pro-Keiv and pro-Russian troops. It happened that I was there during the gun battle, and only three people died. The pro-Kiev faked the number in order to show that pro-Russians were killing countless innocent civilians, while pro-Russians used the same casualty count to show that Kiev was also killing left and right. In this crisis, it is mostly a war of information in order to influence one side, while demonizing the other. Too many times the media fell into that trap while reporting false information, which can still be read on the web, on their websites. I once called my contacts at the BBC to retrieve information that was false, which had been reported by a BBC journalist who was not even on site when the event happened, but was reporting from Kiev! The press should not be a tool for propaganda, which often favors government foreign policy, but a force meant to debate and engage in conversation. It seems that the main stream media has forgotten its primary purpose, and many journalists should remember that important fact. The Ukraine is a perfect example of that. From the beginning the Maidan movement was pure and fair, while Russia was evil and wrong to even pretend to exercise its power. Not once there was a discussion about Russia’s legitimacy and its historical connection to the Ukraine. Russia is not an enemy, and quite easily Mr. Obama and his administration could have come up with a deal that would have made everyone happy. Instead, the US administration has increased its sanctions, further humiliating the Russians. I cannot help to make the comparison between the humiliation suffered by the Germans after the end of WWI with the treaty of Versailles, which is a direct consequence of the looming next world conflict. Russia is a powerful nation, with a deep sense of history and pride. This needs to be respected.

Q) How do you respond to those who say the contemporary historical reference is that Ukraine (and Crimea) were legally established and internationally recognized as independent states upon dissolution of the USSR, and their status should remain as such? And, if Putin’s Russia and the EU are co-existing, why would there be such resistance for Ukraine to strengthen economic and political ties with EU?

A) Again, history and demographics are what we should be looking at. Ukraine was reconquered by the Red army from German forces in 1944. Furthermore, an estimated 60% of the 2.7 million inhabitants are Russians, and about 26% are Ukrainians. And finally, Russia has had military bases long before the Ukraine became independent. Therefore it was, de facto Russian land. The international community did not dispute the annexation for all of the reasons stated above. Besides, there was no military contest coming from the Kiev government. It is only the Western part of the Ukraine that wants to join the EU. Historically, Western influence, like Poland, has had a big impact in that part of the Ukraine, formatting a very different mentality in the region. The East has always looked toward Russia, not Europe. One has to remember that the Maidan movement represents a small minority of people, not a majority like the press and some Western government would like us to believe. However, I certainly do not understand why there should be a divide between the West and Russia. We are all Christian nations with a common history and destiny. Mr. Putin wants nothing more than to allow a great Northern alliance to finally take shape. Though it is true that Europe has reached a post-Christian era, for the Russians, however, religion and traditions still matter.

Q) So, you are putting this into the context of a religious conflict, and not the result of economic difficulties, oil interests, or strategic geography?

A) All of the above are true. However, the interesting thing about the religious aspect is the view these Eastern Ukrainians have of us, modern Westerners. For them, it is hard to understand what we have become, both morally and religiously. During my time in the region many pro-Russians perceive the West as a decadent society, a post-Christian society, where old traditions which had once found common ground between Europe and Russia, are quickly disappearing. For locals, these old Christian traditions with the belief of God, and family, are setting apart these two worlds: Religion and all its implications do matter enormously in the region. Religion is one vector which opposes these two worlds, one that has moved away from its Greek/Christian roots, while the other still sees itself has a religious entity defined by the Orthodoxy.

Q) You began by saying that reporters who have no historical knowledge or perspective should not be allowed to report on important issues as these. What can networks and news agencies do to make sure their people on the ground — and their editors back in the office — get things objectively correct?A) I do believe that it is crucial that reporters on the ground have a strong sense of history, not only in the region where they work, but also in general. Historical knowledge brings sensitivity to the journalist and a sense of neutrality needed to remain objective: Bashing the Russians and Putin constantly will not help in that regard. One has to remember the trauma lived by Russians and their neighbors during WWII: An estimated 25 million dead were suffered during the great patriotic war of 1941/45. We cannot blame the Russians for their mistrust towards the West, though it was more then 70 years ago, these events are still very present in people’s minds.

Jonathan, thank you very much!


All photographs courtesy of Jonathan Alpeyrie.

Find out more:


About the Interviewer:  Michael Foldes is founder and managing editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in “About Us.” The foregoing interview was conducted via e-mail in June 2014. 


June 26, 2014   Comments Off on Jonathan Alpeyrie/Photographer Interview



Isabelle Collin Dufresne, photo by Helene Gaillet

Isabelle Collin Dufresne
aka, Ultra Violet

By Helene Gaillet deNeergaard

June 20, 2014 – New York City

Isabelle Collin Dufresne, also known as Ultra Violet, died a week ago, on the morning of June 14th, 2014, after a battle with cancer. This devastating illness did not stop her from working on her ART even from her hospital bed during the last weeks of her life. She was the ultimate creative artist to the end.

Isabelle was just about my oldest friend, the person I have known the longest in my life, aside from my family. We were 19 years old when we first met in New York City at a cocktail party on Park Avenue and discovered we were practically twins. Born only three months apart in France in 1935, she arrived in September in Grenoble and I appeared that December in Blendecques near Calais and the Belgian border.

Our circumstances growing up were vastly different as she was well protected from the Occupation in Grenoble while my family and I were thrown into the fires of the German invasion and lived a terrifying exodus during the four years of WW II. By the time we met in New York we had both grown up through a wide variety of experiences so that it was easy for us to find common ground to share in the world of creativity we had already embraced.

Over the past 60 years, our lives have been intertwined many times, in painting, writing, theater and movies, while we sometimes would not see each other for several years.

Reconnecting was always a joy as we had much to compare. She became an Andy Warhol Superstar, wrote a best seller Famous for 15 minutes: My Years with Andy Warhol , appeared in some 20 movies and threw herself into creating ART, while I became a well established Professional Photographer, published in many books, magazines and newspapers, culminating in the acquisition of my archives by The Hillwood Art Museum, LI, New York. My memoir of WWII, I Was a War Child, will be published in September 2014.

Her loss creates a sorrowful void for she cannot be replaced by anyone or anything anytime soon.

The attached picture was taken in her studio October 4, 2013, the last time I saw her. So sad.

By: Hélène Gaillet de Neergaard, New York.

Photo Credit: © Hélène Gaillet de Neergaard
Author “I WAS A WAR CHILD” in progress “BOAT BOOK” & “Nautical Terms & Abbrev”


June 21, 2014   Comments Off on ULTRA VIOLET/In Memoriam

Ultra Violet Interview

Buy the book!

Interview with Ultra Violet

Isabelle Collin Dufresne

6 September 1935 – 14 June 2014 … 

by Mike Foldes
Originally published August 28, 2011.

A couple of years ago Hélène Gaillet suggested a Ragazine interview with her friend, Ultra Violet, one of the Superstars of Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory troupe. It took a long time to finally make the connection, and when we did, Ultra didn’t want to talk about the old days. “Read my book,” she ordered. “It says everything.” Instead, she moved the conversation to what’s happening now, and said what she’d said, in so many words, when we spoke on the phone: “I want to talk about tomorrow. Tomorrow is important.”

Ultra’s Chelsea studio is in one of the larger converted factory buildings on West 26th Street in New York City. When we visit the crowded space late afternoon on April 30, she is contemplating a move to a larger studio that had come available in the same building. The 26th Street space appears to be more of a place to show her work, than to make it.  Many of her pieces are one-off or short runs made at her direction by artisans in shops both in and beyond New York. There’s no way she could produce some of the pieces on display here in such a space without means of production. When asked the extent of her participation, she asks pointedly, “I don’t have a shop to bend metal. Do you?”

Most of the recent pieces in the room reflect Ultra’s commitment to understanding and explaining the cause and effect of the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center, and on America as a nation.  “American naivete,” she says with a French accent, for she is, in fact a French-born heiress who ran away to see the world — and did. “American naivete, it died that day.”

Ultra, born Isabelle Dufresne in 1935, comes across as self-confident and energetic. In the studio, she’s in her element. Her friends, acquaintances and lovers comprise a pantheon of some of the 20th century’s most famous and accomplished artists, writers, politicians and business people, as well as many more unseen stars who will never be seen, heard of or heard from ever again.  I mention to a friend we’ll be doing an interview with Ultra Violet. “Who?” he asks. “One of the Warhol Superstars,” I say. His wife remembers her this way: “She was famous for being famous.”

That was then. This is now. Ultra Violet is who she was, and more. Today she’s serious about leaving a mark, focused on seeing that her art becomes a constant message to audiences of tomorrow of what 9-11, and its lessons, mean for all of us.


Ragazine: Are you done with the 9-11 series?

Foldes, Ultra & IX-XI sculpture. Maya Photo

Ultra Violet: No no no, the other day I did a performance, a 9-11 performance. No, I’m not done…. No, I’d love to do a chess game; I’d like to do an hour glass, a huge hour glass. No, I’m not done, I don’t know when I’ll be done with it.


R: Do you take breaks and do other things in the meantime?

UV: Well, I do. I just came back from the Dallas Art Fair premiering a movie… I do other things, but 9-11 is a very important subject …

R: Where did you live when that happened?

UV: I was in Manhattan, on the Upper East Side.

R: We were wondering when we came over here whether you lived in your studio.

UV: No, no, you can’t live here ….

R: Once we saw the building it was pretty obvious….

UV: No, no, you don’t live here.

R: How many pieces do you have in the 9-11 series so far?

UV: The other day I had a show, a wonderful show. They counted 25 pieces; actually I have more, but some of them they didn’t want to show…. Like the nuclear terrorism after 9-11, they didn’t want to show this one, because they thought maybe it is irreverent. (Ultra points to a painting of an angel Mickey Mouse). It’s a very touchy subject, they thought maybe it would be irreverent…. Or something.

R: This is the gallery in Brooklyn?

UV: Yes, it was a great show. You know some people might take offense to this, though I can explain this. I’m not trying to be funny or irreverent.

Mickey Mouse represents the American naivete, or good humor, you know, and that day I think that he got nailed. Actually I wrote a story that he died on that day, that’s the meaning of this. But some people, some 200 people or whatever, might take umbrage to that.

R: I don’t understand why people would take umbrage to that.

UV: They would, because the idea to mix Mickey Mouse, which is “Ha ha ha ha,”  with a tragic event, you know,  to some people…. You know, they are in touch with some commission people they want to bring to the studio and I am going to hide this.

R: You mentioned on the phone you didn’t want to look back, that you like to look forward, to what’s happening.

UV: I do, I still do. Usually the press asks you about the past, and I’m not interested in the past, I much prefer tomorrow. What I might do tomorrow. A lot of what’s in the past has already been recorded.

I mean, you might say 9-11 is in the past, but it’s the very near past. It’s just about 10 years, and I think it was such a blow to the American nation that I don’t think people have yet digested it, if you know what I mean, absorbed it, and oh, and plus, a marking of time….

This is a marking of time. It’s really the official date of the Terrorist Era. Terrorism has existed before, I am aware of it. The word terror was created in the French revolution and in Roman times the Zealots, but you know, as we know it now, terrorism… this is the official date. And it will never go away. Terrorism. Unfortunately. So, that’s why I think that marking of time, which is what I am doing with my “Woman of Miracles” (Ultra gestures absently toward another sculpture in the space), matters a lot for people, and I think I was able to do it in a very elegant way.

R: It is, it’s really clean. When I was looking at pieces on the web, they were very clean and seeing them here they’re very clean lines, and to see how smooth they are. Do you do this, or do you have people working with you?

UV: Do I have a factory that bends metal? I don’t …

R: So this is steel?

UV: Aluminum.

R: When did you do the mirrors in the glass frames?

UV: Oh, the glass.  Those are fairly old,  maybe three years or so, and it’s a baroque frame cast  in acrylic.  I think the frame is absolutely phenomenal, and it took me at least a year to decide what should go inside. I tried things, you know, paintings, portraits, blue, green, yellow, and it finally dawned on me to do a mirror, and to do a self-portrait, which I think is pretty nice. (Laughs.)

When you look into it, it must be a self-portrait, but you must think of it. This is a very expensive work. If I could do this very, very cheap… I looked for (a way to do) it, but I couldn’t find it. You know, they used to make mirrors in metal, and they also used to make frames all in plastic, plastic molded, and I was looking for a very cheap $10 mirror that would look good in this. We used to find things on Canal Street, and now Canal Street is all Americanized.

R: Chinese-ized. When you’re working on 9-11 projects, do you conceive of other things, films, or things based on what you’ve done it the past?

UV: Oh, I do. Yesterday I did an interview with a television show with, I don’t know, and the interview was about tarot reading. Why? Because someone created a tarot card (deck), and each card is designed by an artist and I designed one.  The deck is going to premier at the Andy Warhol Museum, and they asked me to do a tarot reading there. I said I would if it only lasted 15 minutes each, and they said “OK”. So, they did that interview for television, and so I spoke about tarot and I did a reading, totally improvised.  I mean I’ve never read the tarot.

So, you know, I do other things. Not all in the studio.

We have a short chat about Helene Gaillet, about Ultra updating her website, and whether Ragazine will ever be in print. “Not likely,” is the answer, but you never know. Ultra continues:

I met a lady at the Invisible Dog (the gallery where her recent show took place) who was doing a thesis on 9-11 … and what she did, she Googled “artist” and “9-11”, and she had a whole list, and she asked “How come you’re not listed?”

(She turns to Martin, an assistant who is doing a time lapse photograph of one of her pieces, and who is also working on the update of her web site.)


Martin you’re supposed to work on this, remember?

M: I’ll do some SEO.

UV: Did you do this? Am I listed?

M: Probably not.

UV: Well I would like to be.… And she found me by chance, because someone told her I am doing work on 9-11. Ah, I guess it’s the new way of the world. You have to deal with it.

R: It used to be video, and before that it was Polaroids. Things change.

UV: Two days ago I was on a panel of Andy Warhol –  since you mentioned Polaroids. The subject was the influence of his artwork today and the influence of the Factory today, and on the panel was Bob Colacello. Do you know him? And then a famous photographer, Berger…. I think he works for Vanity Fair, and then a vice president of the World Foundation who resigned now …. I forget his name…

(Jumping to another subject ….)

Can you take that piece of paper there … the building once a year does an open house, and it’s this weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I have to sell things. Martin, you still need the white cloud?

M: I do until nine o’clock…

UV: What are you doing exactly?

M: I’m doing a time lapse with the cloud in the background.

UV: Then I can’t walk over there …

R: When did you do your clouds?

UV: About two years ago. Much of my work is luminous. This is luminous (points to a neon piece on the wall), and the rainbows are luminous. I was saving…. I can turn them on, but you know all these things have a lifespan. They have a lifespan. The neon, I don’t know if it lasts forever…. And ever.

R: I have a bar down the street, and it has neon in it that’s been there for years.

UV: Well How do you know they didn’t repair it? (Laughs…)

This is neon (points to a neon sculpture on the wall), at the Invisible Dog.   I have this one and another one in black light, ultraviolet light,  and the owner of the place bought it, and he just sent me an e-mail, he said your neon, 9-11, one of the letters is not lit. It never happened to me before.

R: Who does your neon?

UV: There’s a place in Brooklyn called Technolux. I will have to bring it back to them.

I have more in boxes here. We did not unpack everything. I have a series of Windows in the World, it’s a series of 20 little windows on the world, with sky, sky, and after that the sky is crying, and after that the sky is no longer a sky, and I turn it on when I have to but I don’t leave it on all the time. And it flickers. I don’t know how long they last.

R: What’s that piece? (I point to a piece high on the wall, written in Arabic.)

UV: Can you read it?”

R: I can’t.

UV: It’s 9-11 in calligraphy, Arab calligraphy…

R: 9 being the top number?

UV: Well apparently there are many ways to say it, whether you say it nine one one, or n-i-n-e-e-l-e-v-e-n or phonetically, or whatever. So I inquire at Islamic school and they always send me different interpretations, because this one is not exactly the same as this one, and this one I worded to say this way, and left a mirror below.

You know they’re doing a 9-11 memorial in London and the purpose of it is mostly centered for better understanding between the Muslim world and the European world. I don’t want to say it’s invaded, but it’s really not the same civilization…

R: What interests me is that in France, fundamentalist Muslims don’t seem to be very well accepted, these days. (Referring to French law against women wearing the chador).

UV: Yes, and a lot of French people regret it, regret that the laws are so strict….

R: Where do you live in France?

UV: In nice, in the south, you know….

R: Do you have pieces in the show, the 9-11 exhibition that’s coming up?

UV: No, not yet, but I might …

R: How much time do you spend in France.

UV: I don’t spend any time… I just happened to be there a little while ago because I have a show in Paris, and I give a talk in Paris at New York University, and I was signing a very big art project, so I went to Nice for one week….

R: Do you go in the summer?

UV: No, I will spend the summer here, because I have lot of projects planned. One of them is very nice, it is visual and sound and in the project is Bob Dylan and Becky Smith and John Giorno, and it is coming out in August at the Jackson Pollock Kassmer House in the Hamptons. It’s produced by Sony, so it should be lots of fun.

R: So it’s a film?

UV: No, no, it’s a box, and inside the box, you have a visual. My visual happens to be 9-11, and some recordings, probably a DVD. In my case, I excavated a chant, very classical, which I recorded in 1973 for Capital Records, so I’m happy that’s coming out.

R: You mentioned one of the Warhol projects you’re working on, has to do with the influence of Warhol’s ….

UV: Oh, that was a talk two nights ago…



Several of these photos are from Ultra Violet's web site. Others were taken at the studio during the interview. More of Ultra's work can be seen at:


R: So that doesn’t have anything to do with any upcoming projects….

UV: No, no, that was a panel that was organized in Soho by a company that makes furniture, and Bob Colacello was there, and after the talk he signed his book. He has a new book out called OUT, and he was just signing OUT. It was a photography book, mostly of ‘60s photos, and it was organized by these furniture designers, the New Traditionalists, it was at Broadway and Spring.

I’m going to be at the Houston Art Fair in September.

R: Do you take pieces ….

UV: I don’t show it. The gallery takes a space at Art Fair. In this case, the gallery in Houston does that.

I was well positioned, sandwiched between Indiana and Warhol, and there will be a premier of a film which they’ve never seen, that I introduce ….

It’s interesting. The photographer Bill Kennedy, who photographed people before they were famous, in the ‘60s, during the love years… I just happened to be there, and a few others. The photographs have been buried for about 50 years, and now they are just coming to surface, and they interview Indiana and me and a few others…..

R: Indiana, he is still alive?

UV: Yes, he’s alive, he‘s in Miami, Florida. He’s about 70.

R: What’s your routine like when you’re working?

UV: Routine?

R: When you work, do you have a routine?

UV: Well it varies, with some freelance, it depends a lot on appointments. When I have an appointment here and when I stay the day, depending, and I work a lot from home. I have a nice Mac and a lot of my information is there. I work between home and here… No set time… Saturday or Sunday , noon to six… Actually, I met a guy who works with architects, and he knows about my 9-11 and likes it, and I want to put my 9-11 in a situation… For example, I might put it down around Ground Zero. I met the architect that designed Ground Zero, Michael Arad, and I might send that to him, so … It takes time… time.  Time is the issue, time is limited. I am limited, too.

R: Who’s working today whose work you like?

UV: Oh, a lot of people. I like Cristo and Jean Claude. I like James Turel. I like, there are some good people…. There’s a lot of trash, but there are good people, too.

R: Has it always been that way?

UV: No, more so now, because of the art market. Everybody wants to be an artist and cash in, they read the   prices which are phenomenal and they want to cash in. There are a lot of artists now, which makes it very hard to make it, and to break into it (the art market)….


There’s a knock at the door. It’s the agent who will be showing her the other space where she will be able to hang her large paintings of Ground Zero. The interview is over. It will take several weeks before it’s transcribed, edited and placed on the page. In the end, it doesn’t look the way it sounds.

See more of Ultra Violet’s work at

June 15, 2014   1 Comment

Union City Poems

OASIS: Music & Poetry

at  William V. Musto Cultural Center 

Union City, NJ 

The following poems were read by the poets at the recent exhibition in Union City organized by LaRuche Art Contemporary Consortium’s director, Roberto Rosado.



Two-Minute Salvation

Although life exhales but one poetic line,
the market place is crowded and the stands are sagging with words
syllables go tumbling over unrhymed syllables,
verse climbs over verse
and you get but 2 thin minutes or less to unpack and sell your wares;

2 thin minutes to diagnose and cure the ills of the universe plus dissect
your soul and hang it out for everyone to see the bloody mess,

2 minutes to lie on the altar where your heart is torn out and tossed
into the shredding machine for the lack of sacrificial fire
on the cool foreheads fencing you in

2 minutes to shove your metaphor into the mouth gaping at you
and reach all the way down into the stomach to turn it inside out

2 minutes to strip off the clown costume and play a naked violin
standing on the ceiling
2 minutes to get your s.o.s across an ocean of suffocating clichés
2 minutes to douse yourself with rhymes and look for matches
2 minutes to give away eternity wrapped inside a hyperbole
2 minutes to steal a pearl into the eyes before you
2 minutes on the judge’s bench
2 minutes in the dock
2 minutes on the butcher block
2 minutes on the rack
2 minutes on the soapbox
2 minutes on the cross

but 2 minutes can also be the age of the universe if you have
a well-honed secret tucked away in a pocket of your verse
and if your frantic meter doesn’t cause it to sink before
you reach a sunny shore of applause
hanging on to the 2 minutes refrain
just 2 more minutes please
and then you can shoo me off into nevermore.





DOOMSDAY: 12/21/12

Bleached blonde, black eyebrows —

In case of fire break glass —

Emergency flashers —

Recessed lights inside skull —

Bullfrog cello with sore throat —

Knocks at the door —

Paper gown removed, vitals checked —

Verbs & adverbs braided like scorpions —

Cellphone in wheelchair —

Lies about love↔angry love —

Christmas tree with red gauze, golden cones
& white blinking lights, hisses like a possum
in darkest corner of coffin —

Small white dog with pink skin, cataract
about to bloom —

Detroit gangs fake each other’s deaths —

Greektown serves shell casings
& steamed mussels for lunch —

Clouds of magnesium —

Helium kisses —

Sunglasses the size of sunflowers —

Roman numeral X on wall clock leaps
to its death —

Raining mercury in Estonia —

Raining ashes in Cincinnati —

Raining bicycles in Berlin —

Raining gramophones in Bangladesh —

Raining mustaches in Pittsburgh —

Raining reindeer in Iraq —

Plastic roses at Italian bistros die
of liver cancer —

Snow plow scrapes electrons into wall of cocaine
in suburban mall parking lot —

Drones in your shower, drones in your
underwear, drones in your anus —

Just saying —


(First published in Skidrow Penthouse)







Cool dew on grey-green grass.
A painted warrior waits,
excitement wells within,
adrenaline erupting, as
expectations of survival wither.

A shiver undulates through the wood,
returns a shot on leaden wing;
now there is no bad or good,
now there is no hesitation,
the time to strike is here.

Neither victory nor defeat
will shed a tear, a coin can tell
as well whose body will resign,
add compost by its posture
to the land. No failure this,

but simply chance, and grace,
as foul scent escapes a bloody shell.
Would they have done as well
to not be born than duly waste,
forgot by name, uniformly

borne to rest on guilt or fame,
a tragedy or wonder one
can only know by what awaits
beyond the tethered tides
dreamless sleep capitulates.



sal headshot


 The floating Earth in space is a living

Icon for our presence here.

And we, like vermin, are busy eating

Holes and tunnels inside the very wood

That holds the divine image present.

Suffering is a mystery of human existence

Death is a mystery of life

But self-inlicted suffering and death

Rape, murder, pillage, theft, wars, and

Terrorism are no mystery.


I have seen the sunrise again.

The arcs of my spirit’s space, vault.

Inside my cheeks, I smile.

In the east churns a universe of foam

Over the green waters, waiting the next tide

White sea birds feed on fish

As man eats time.

The gray clay beach lights the broken stones

In morning light, the gauge of time’s clock.

The mind turns and sets my hour on the earth

Holding all things together

As I sit in fear of immense life.

Holding me once in its womb, it

sends me now to sit inside a greater self

That holds unseen stars as its limits

And the smallest cells as its base.

So must I not necessarily breathe?

For breath is drawn from me

But then, I draw breath as air breathes wind.

Since my part is a prelude for the fugue

Completed in every sound.


The earth spits up again

A soul.

Spewing up sands

Uncounted polyphony of

Colliding boulders,

Microscopic collisions

Well within their universe

Of small space.

The sand grains infinite distance

Between each member,

Uncounted souls hold individual

Volume within a infinite distance.

A sun moves on

A star in space.

* * * * *

For more information about the event, see:
(You may have to scroll down!)

* * * * *

June 11, 2014   Comments Off on Union City Poems

Writers & Artists of Val David IX

IMG_2950 (2)

Participants in the Ninth International Festival at Val-David gather for a group photograph at the end of the conference. Conferences take place twice a year.


Palabra en el Mundo/

Words in the World

 by Eva Halus

International residency for writers and artists of Val David

The International Festival of Writers and Artists held for the ninth time at Val David at the International residency for the lovers of poetry and art was certainly under the influence of the nine Muses, number that celebrates both the birthday of this Festival and Poetry and Art in general. The festival was directed by Flavia Cosma, a well-known writer whose poetry, prose and children literature is published in English, French and Spanish, as well as her native Romanian. She welcomes at her residency, year after year, new talents from all corners of the world. With more than 30 books published, Cosma shows not just a tremendous creativity, but also the big gift of sharing the poetical-artistic experience with other fellows through festivals where poetry and prose readings, book launches, conferences, round tables, improvisations, music and exhibitions are giving poets and artists of all ages and styles an opportunity to perform and share their work in the languages of participants, most frequently English, French, Spanish, Romanian and Ancient Greek.

The festival takes place in a beautiful ambiance set by virgin forests that spread right from the backyard to the horizon, punctuated by the so called Agapes fraternelles, gatherings on the terrace of the residency with plenty of food and wine and high-spirited conversations.

This year, for the ninth edition of the Festival, the Residency welcomed more than 30 poets and artists from Argentina, France, Romania, U.S.A., Tasmania, Peru, Armenia, Serbia and Canada (Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and the Laurentian region).

The stage is set on the upper part of a double living-room, lighted by two big chandeliers and flanked by an old style fireplace, and one by one the participants are taking turns in reading, declaiming or singing, by the side of a small table, looking at the audience over a huge bouquet of Italian roses, freshly cut from the rich soil of Val David.

Although it is almost a pity to describe the work of these poets and writers just in a few words, for the lack of space, a complete list of the festival`s program, more details about them and about the festival and residency are available on the website of the International Residency of Writers and Artists, Val David.

Saturday, the 31st of May welcomed writers and poets including Felicia Mihali (Romania-Montreal), Claudia Caceres (Peru-Montreal), David Brême (France), Nicole Davidson (also the mayor of Val David, Qc) and Luminita Suse (Romania-Ottawa, ON).



Participants and events at Val David.

Participants at Val David IX
Participants at Val David IX
Participants at Val David IX
Participants at Val David IX
Participants at Val David IX
Participants at Val David IX
Participants at Val David IX
Participants at Val David IX
Participants at Val David IX
Participants at Val David IX


Felicia Mihali, Romanian-born writer, presented her new book, The Second Chance, a novel that appeared this year after the big success for publishing The Darling of Kandahar, (her first novel written in English that was selected among the top 10 best novels of Québec writers in Canada). Her new book tells the story of a married man that can`t recover his memory after an accident.

Claudia Caceres, a literature scholar from the Catholique University in Peru, with a diploma in Audio-visual communications (2001) and Quebec University in Montreal, read from her latest book Retorno hacia el Antiguo Sur, published in 2014.

David Brême, from France, read recent poetry. He defines himself as a self-taught philosopher, with love for gardening, agriculture and apiculture. His proverbial words are: I am a flame that burns, wishing to become a beacon.

Nicole Davidson, the mayor of Val David and an always present figure at the festival due to her love for poetry and art, read from her latest poetry creations. President of the “Cities and villages of art and heritage,” she`s a big friend of the festival..

Luminita Suse is the author of two tanka poetry books, A Thousand Fireflies (Petites nuages Editing House, 2011) and A hint of Light (together with Mike Montreuil, same editing house, 2013). She read from the above-mentioned books.

The program continued after a well-attended pause where delicious food, beer and wine sparked interesting discussions and expressions of different points of view.

After the break, Hugh Hazelton, poet and translator, presently the co-director of the International Center of Literature Translation in Banff and an honorary teacher of Spanish at Concordia University, read from his poetry book Antimatter, which is also available in Spanish.

Among many brilliant poets and authors who contributed to the success of this Festival, we should mention Flavia Cosma, whose poetry book Leaves of a Diary was accepted at the literature program of the Toronto University as a study material in 2007-2008. She received many prizes, including the Golden Medal of the House of the Peruvian Poets, becoming a honorific member since 2010. Also she received the Title of Excellency for the exceptional contribution for promoting and enriching the Romanian culture in Europe and in the Entire World (www.flaviacosma/Val David.html).

Others include: Carmen Doreal, a flamboyant poet and painter, of Romanian origins as well, is a member of the International Academy of Fine Arts, Quebec and the Circle of Artists and Sculptors of Quebec, Anna Louise E. Fontaine, poetess and artist from Montreal who enjoys summers in the Laurentian region,  Antoine Gravel-Bilodeau, the youngest poet at the festival, certified in literature from UQAM, who read from his ongoing project-a novel where themes like love and nature are explored, Traian Gardus, well-known poet, epigrams-maker and translator, who cheered the public with tonic epigrams. He read also from his latest published book, Sonnets, that saw the light in 2012.

A series of conferences on Sunday, included a discussion about the magazine Francopolis, a link in the francophone and Francophile poetry world from Quebec to France. Geturde Millaire spoke about  the magazine, the team behind it, the published authors and the echoes of their literary creations.

Luminita Suse presented the creation of two other fellow poets: Nicole Pottier (France) and Clelia Ifrim, accompanied by Zen images that came along with the Yohaku, a precise form of Haiku, followed by an open discussion: The Young poetry from here and everywhere, in English and French, with guest speakers: Claudia Caceres (Peru), Eva Halus (Romania-Montreal) and Nicola Smith (Tasmania), moderated by Flavia Cosma.

The afternoon started with a new series about great poets ignored during their life-time, mistreated and forgotten,  featuring Jacobo Fijman (Argentina) with readings from his poetry and a song about Jacobo Fijman, composed and interpreted by Luis Raul Calvo. An important poet from Argentina, Luis Raul Calvo was present virtually with poems from his latest bilingual book Breve Anthologie (French/Spanish).

Luise Dupré, well-known poetess who received The Grand Prize Quebecor of the International Poetry Festival in Trois-Rivières and the General Governor Prize of Canada for her acclaimed book Plus haute que les flames/Higher than the flames, published in 2010, launched her new book L`Album multicolore/The multi-colored album, followed by Ljubica Milicevic, a poet and artist from Serbia living in Montreal, and Louise Carson reading Jeremiah Wall, Quebec-based singer/songwriter and stalwart in spoken word production and performance, sang accompanied by Neil O`Connor, veteran of the British Punk scene from the late seventies.

Eva Halus, Montreal-based artist (poet, painter, photographer and journalist), born in Romania, read poetry from her newly published book Of me and you. It is her second book, following Fragments, published in both Romanian and French. She announced the third book, The well-composed Muse, that will see the light at the same editing house, Reflection Publishing in California. 

Frédérique Marleau, a slam artist from Montreal and organizer of  Fétichic! and other events, presented her co-production of la femme Phalique/The Phallic Woman,  a visual carnal poem that premiered in 2007. Her first poetry book Feu de l`Être/The fire of Being, was published by Guérin, in the collection Poésie d`Ici/Poetry.

Kate Kretler, a true Homeric scholar with an interest in performance and ancient philosophers’ interpretation of Homer, interpreted a passage from Homer, seconded by the English and French translations. Gordon Bradley, poet from Saint Adolphe de Howard, Qc., full of humour and ready to spread it, read some of his never-published creations and some haiku. He explained that the most important day in his life is almost tomorrow, explaining his altruistic visi scholaron.

The Festival ended on a high note with Sharl Dubé, author-composer from Québec, whose performances of the spoken word often include music, imagery, staging, more ideas and dreams, sensations and visions. among the artists present at the festival were Nicola Smith, artist in-residence from Tasmania who has a bachelor degree in Fine Arts from the National Art School in Sydney, Australia. She completed her Honors year at the University of Tasmania, Hobart. In the last five years her painting was inspired by the cinema, most recently by Quebec director Benoit Pilon`s film Ce u`il faut pour vivre/ What you have to do for living (2008).

Carmen Doreal, Elisabeth Whalley, Ljubica Milicevic, Eva Halus, Anna Louise E. Lafontaine  and a special guest from Holguin, Cuba, José Ramiro Ricardo Feria added a touch of color to the festival with their artwork . Feria is an Arts teacher, retired from the University of Holguin and is the president of the Artists` Union of Holguin. Since 2002 he exhibits also in Canada (Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal). He displayed several big half-tone engravings in sepia, green and other earth colors, homage to his native land Cuba and a neighbouring poet.

Paul Ballard, a painter, printmaker and papermaker, exhibited some of his works. Ballard lives in Ste Adéle and the Atelier de l`Ile, Val David, Quebec.

The International Residency for Writers and Artists will open its doors for the 10th Edition of the International Festival of Writers and Artists, next October 4 and 5.


— Eva Halus – 3rd June 2014, Montreal


June 8, 2014   Comments Off on Writers & Artists of Val David IX

Jim Palombo: On Race & Racism

The Bill of Rights

Library of Congress image.

Is there some semblance of sense
to the sensationalism of stupidity?

By Jim Palombo

 “America isn’t the same country anymore; it isn’t even America anymore. It’s become a goddamn pesthole for every crummy race from the other side.  A white man can’t walk down the street, or go in a restaurant, or do business, or do anything for that matter without having to mix up with these goddamn greasers from the other side.  Wops, Jews, Greeks, Niggers, Armenians, Syrians, every scummy race in the world. They’ve all come here, and they’re still coming, and they’ll keep on coming by the boatloads. Mark my words, you’ll see the day when a real American won’t have a chance to work and live decently in his own country, a day when ruin and bankruptcy will fall on this nation because all these damned foreigners will have taken everything over and made a holy mess of it.”

Characterization from Jack Kerouac’s “The Haunted Life”, 1944

It’s race and racism, the application of freedom of speech, and a few “expectation of privacy” issues that are on the table – it’s a big deal. Yet, it’s not like we haven’t been down these roads before.  Perhaps it’s the rather unique hauntedcombination of things, with a rather bizarre billionaire at the forefront who just happens to like certain type women, and who owns a basketball franchise in a major city, who happens to employ predominantly minority ball players on that team but who also apparently doesn’t cotton to their kind. Or perhaps it’s the “tailor-made for the press” tale –after all, they certainly know how to tell (and re-tell) a story, especially knowing how much we appreciate a good one.  Or perhaps it’s a good opportunity for the ever-growing number of sportscasters to join the late night pundits in demonstrating their acumen for understanding complex social issues – “educating the public” to important things, as one of them might say. And of course, perhaps it’s a chance for every public policy figure and politician, whether on one side, the other or both, to offer their input on what all of them consider an example of the misunderstandings rampant in contemporary America.

In essence, the “big deal” is that it’s telling us once again something about our current status, our collective self-identity, if you will. In short, it’s not so much what we know but what we don’t know, or at least how ineffective we seem to be in organizing our thoughts relative to our history and the contemporary issues that have followed from that history. After all this time, you think we would know better – that we would not be so eager to feed the Donald Sterling-like frenzies that seem to pop up a great deal more than they should.  So in regard to the current “flavor of the month,” here are just a few points to consider.

Talking about race does not imply racism. In other words, if one were to mention that race has its place when discussing both individual and societal properties, i.e., things like what motivates behavior, how biological characteristics might play themselves out in any particular circumstance, poverty, education, or whatever, this does not make that person a racist. In other words, talking about these variables could very well relate to one’s interest in understanding the complexity of human beings and how difficult human actions and relations can be. In simply considering any meaningful discussion involving the social sciences it’s clear that this type dialogue is relevant.  In this context, and rather than try to eliminate or even minimize the dialogue, especially in the face of its significance, our concern should be pointed at the public policy that could flow from what we might learn about racial differences. In other words, the fact that one race is different from the other should not be translated into policy that speaks to changing that race into something that it isn’t, or trying to deny individual opportunities based on race, or worse, trying to eliminate that race from the societal mix. (By the way, all of this applies to gender and sexism as well.)

Unfortunately, it seems that important conversations about race get run directly into racist lines via these public policy options.  Given this, it becomes important to understand what race actually is, that racial differences do indeed exist and that we need to be careful on how we approach these facts in sculpting just and fair public policy.  This would certainly go a long way in diffusing the tensions that seem to continually erupt in rather destructive fashion and overall help to ensure that we are attentive to having a sound, civic-minded society.

Obviously this entire suggestion demands that discussions of this type not only happen, but that they be held in a place where we can hope to develop a better understanding of our past, current and future struggles with the matters at hand. In short, the discussions should be happening throughout our educational processes. This of course would both reinforce the topic’s importance and it would also keep the public from spending its time attempting to untangle what is and isn’t, through the Sterling-type conflicts that tend to leave us with only a collective black eye.

With much the same logic in mind the 1st amendment’s guarantee of free speech is also a very complicated issue. In short, trying to balance what anyone can say, whether in a public forum or not or whether a public figure or not, in the context of having a civil, safe and progressive society is as difficult as it sounds.  Here again, given the importance of the concerns on the table, this should be an on-going discussion in our educational arenas.  And I would also suggest that the “expectation of privacy” issues connected to the 4th amendment’s search and seizure concerns also be given the same attention in the educational arena.  Here again, the notion of having the kind of society we want is in balance, so understanding the basics of what can, might and should be considered “private”, especially in our highly advanced, technological society, needs to be addressed in environments that speak to both education and civic dialogue.

Trying to hold Sterling accountable for his personal beliefs, especially in the context of his business ventures, which include the employment of a large number of minorities (at a rather high rate of pay), involves complicated concerns, and it’s not likely the result will be anything as punitive as the initial outcry implied. In any event, it would seem as important to focus energy in ways that might better service the public good.  In this regard, this piece opened with what could be considered a “sterling” example for the bigotry and racism that continues to this day. In reality not much can be done with this type of personal attitude, save to place it in its proper societal frame of reference. And we must stay vigilant in this regard.

So I’ll leave you with more of the same from another famous American’s writings, writings which might surprise some of you a bit. They, too, underscore that the complex dangers of race and racist dialogue have run across all levels of our society in all manner of ways.  Again, given what we see today, it’s more than questionable as to whether our attention to these dangers has been adequately focused. In other words, educational leaders take heed.

Henry Ford

“…the genius of the Jew is to live off people, not off the land, nor off the production of commodities from raw materials, but off the people. Let other people till the soil; the Jew, if he can, will live off the tiller. Let other people toil at the trades and manufacture; the Jew will exploit the fruits of their work. That is his particular genius. If this genius be described as ‘parasitic’, the term would seem to be justified by a certain fitness.

“Until the Jews can show that the infiltration of foreign Jews and the Jewish Idea into the American labor movement has made for the betterment in character and estate, in citizenship and economic statesmanship, the charge of being an alien, destructive and treasonable influence will have to stand.”

Excerpts from Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic rant “The International Jew”, published in 1921.


About the author:

Jim Palombo is politics editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.

June 8, 2014   Comments Off on Jim Palombo: On Race & Racism