November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Category — Review

September Americana Releases/Music

AmericanaValerie Brown photo

Good Morning


September Americana Releases
By Fred Roberts

Contributing Music Editor

In my voracious thirst for music I followed nearly every genre I stumbled upon, but had a blind spot for the “local” American genres as interpreted by non-American musicians: country, folk, bluegrass, etc. It was my way of limiting the amount of music to follow, and perhaps a snobbish idea that no non-American band could do justice to “our” genres. But more and more I’ve encountered artists that have caused me to rethink that idea. A selection of these are presented here in a set of four releases from the month of September. The ladies: Kristina Jung and Rose Brokenshire. The gentlemen: Emmett and Filip Johansson.


Kristina Jung

Kristina Jung – Into the Light that I Have Known (Woodland Recordings)

Kristina Jung hails from Rostock, Germany. On her EP Into the Light that I Have Known she presents us with five songs and an incredible range of voice talent, a voice that is rich and regal. At times she is a troubadour of medieval times (King with no Throne), a classic folk singer of the 1960’s (Show Me Where You Hide Your Longing), or a voice of remarkable gospel-blues sensibilities (It’s the Wind). The latter track makes me wonder if Janis Joplin accompanied by John Fahey on acoustic guitar would have sounded much differently. The fourth song of the set Wish You Were a Hunter is my favorite, weaving a spell that transfixes, the longing voice and sparse accompaniment combining into magnificence. Five songs. Highly recommended. 


Rose Brokenshire

Rose Brokenshire – WEND

Wend is an old English word meaning to wander, to explore. The EP WEND presents five songs loosely collected around this concept but with meaning on multiple levels. Rose Brokenshire, singer-songwriter from Toronto, Canada sings with crystalline clarity. Her songs are for a quiet mood, building their magic out of the nuances of simple elegance. The first four songs of WEND are like a slow dance that breaks down all resistance. The stunning finale To My Dreams is musical poetry. To those who seek sanctuary and escape from the dissonances of the day, they may follow one into the dreams. The song ends as slightly and subtly as a dream. If you find yourself wanting more, her EP Seeds You Grow is the next stop.



Filip Johansson

Filip Johansson – Since We Were

Seven Songs for an introspective mood, superbly arranged alternative folk-pop is what Filip Johansson presents with his EP Since We Were. This is Filip’s solo project. His band Dear Sasquatch, reviewed last year at Ragazine, is already something of a legend. That project is on hold while Filip pursues a solo career in London. The EP’s opening track Autumn Leaves really does have an autumn feeling to it, singing of a relationship gone by, just like the passing of the seasons. Song to Eileen and Naive Song continue the legacy of the Dream Academy in sound and spirit, though this could be said of the entire album. Filip’s songs are intimate, honest, unassuming expressions of emotion, emotions we might be hesitant to bare to another person for fear of rejection. It’s difficult to single out a favorite song of the album since the tracks support each other as a complete work. My current favorite is the note on which the album ends, I’m Just a Man with the powerful line “I’m standing here / I’m standing proud / my dreams are loud.” My only complaint about the album is that it isn’t longer.



Emmett – This is Emmett’s New Record

Emmett is Elias Bjerstedt (vocals and acoustic guitar) and Samuel Johansson (backup guitar). Their music transforms me back to my childhood to songs like Take Me Home Country Road and Rocky Mountain High, to the feeling of driving through Kentucky and Tennessee on an odyssey to the Smoky Mountains. I have to keep reminding myself that Emmett are from Malmö, Sweden! Elias has a soulful voice two parts John Denver and one part early Bob Dylan. The accompaniment is gentle. It’s music for a warm summer night, sitting on the back porch with family and friends – Emmett’s Youtube channel is filled with back porch sessions! Trying to select the “best” song is impossible among 11 highlights, but my favorites are Montana and the epic seven minutes long Friends. Forget the city and take a drive through the Appalachian mountains, to another time, to songs of substance, before the genre of folk-country became overloaded with kitsch.


About the author:

Fred Roberts is a contributing editor and music editor of Ragazine.CC.  He is an American living in Hamburg, Germany. You can read more about him in About Us. 

October 31, 2014   Comments Off on September Americana Releases/Music

FILM REVIEW: La Moustache (2005)


La Moustache review

In and of Itself:

La Moustache

by Fred Russell


La Moustache (2005), directed by Emmanuel Carrère and adapted from his own novel, is an intriguing film. Call it surrealistic. But what is surrealism? Is it pure and meaningless fantasy, or is it anchored in reality like the dream? I’ve seen it a couple of times and it has stayed with me as few films do.

Marc shaves off his mustache, or so it seems, for no one takes any notice of his new look. This is exasperating, but when he confronts his wife she insists he never had one, and his friends claim he hasn’t had one for 15 years, though he finds a recent picture of himself wearing the mustache. Marc now finds a message from his father on his answering machine but his wife tells him that his father has been dead for a year. She also insists that she doesn’t know who their two best friends are though they had just visited them. Marc then overhears his wife talking to another friend about having Marc committed, for clearly he is delusional, she says. He tries to see his mother but cannot find his childhood home and the familiar telephone number does not exist. Marc now retrieves his passport, which shows him with a mustache, and flies to Hong Kong, where he regrows it after spending some time in a Chinese village. When he returns to his hotel he finds his wife in his room as though they had been vacationing together all the while. She then asks him to shave off the mustache so that she can see what he looks like without it. He does so and she is pleased.

No one has really succeeded in deciphering the film. Some have called it symbolic. Some find the theme of identity in it, and there is indeed something to be said for an interpretation that revolves around the idea of the tenuousness and circumstantiality, the fragility, of human identity, which can be lost in an instant. I think, however, that the film is more in the mode of Alain Robbe-Grillet, that is, meaningless outside its own reality and reference points. In effect, it obliterates the time of the world and demonstrates its disjunction vis-à-vis inner time.

For clearly the film plays against the idea of time. Marc and his wife inhabit two different temporal universes, even parallel universes. In Marc’s universe he shaves off the mustache that he has always worn and his father is still alive. He inhabits a time that has passed, with a link to the present via the people who surround him. When he communicates with them it is from out of this earlier time. In reality, however, such a condition cannot exist unless someone really is delusional. This is not the film’s intention. Marc is not crazy and his wife is not out to drive him crazy. Not being able to find his childhood home underscores the fact that he has stepped out of reality. His time is not really linked to any reality. It is residual in that it bears with it traces of an earlier time but not all of it.

Linear time, however, is not the only time there is. It is the time of the physical and historical world, but it is not the time of the inner world. The mind invokes temporal events in whatever order suits it, or associatively in a subconscious process. This is lateral rather than progressive or chronological time, where all events have equal temporal value. Surrealism never seeks to explain itself. It creates worlds that are extensions of what we consider the real world and follow their own logic. La Moustache is such a film, intriguing only insofar as we wish to know what it means, but in and of itself it is nothing more than a demonstration of how two discordant systems of time are tenuously embedded in human consciousness.


About the reviewer:

Fred Russell is the pen name of an American-born writer living in Israel. His novel Rafi’s World (Fomite Press), dealing with Israel’s emerging criminal class, was published in Feb. 2014 and his stories and essays have appeared in Third Coast, Polluto, Fiction on the Web, Wilderness House Literary Review, Ontologica, Unlikely Stories: Episode 4, Gadfly, Cultural Weekly, In Parenthesis, etc. A second novel, The Links in the Chain, a thriller set in New York with an Arab-Israel background, is also due out in 2014.

October 31, 2014   Comments Off on FILM REVIEW: La Moustache (2005)

Hamburg’s Music Subculture/Fred Roberts

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Club Golem

Photo: A scene at Club Golem

Underground Hamburg

When I look back at all the events I’ve seen in Hamburg in the past year I feel the awe expressed by the replicant Roy in “Blade Runner” just before he expires:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the darkness at Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain.”

I’ve never journeyed through the galaxy, but I’ve taken the s-bahn to places like the Golden Pudel Club, a Hanseatic version of CBGB, and across from the Fischmarkt, that venue called Golem, with its secret doorway behind a wall of antiquarian books, down to a crypt and subterranean cinema. Or Hasenschaukel in St. Pauli with its unbelievably rich repertoire of events, not to mention a dozen other tiny venues all within a five minutes’ walk from the Reeperbahn but nevertheless entirely unknown to the waves of tourists one leaves behind in the main street. The real secret in Hamburg is HFBK, the University of Fine Arts, with its end of semester parties, a broiling fusion of exhibits, music and performance art. These are the places in Hamburg where I’ve collected my most memorable cultural impressions.




Artist-musician Tellavision (Fee Kürten) sounds like Björk on quaaludes. She weaves dreamscapes out of loops and samples, increasing their complexity with a fine sense of balance and detail until one is hopelessly captivated. It’s like waking up into an aural hall of mirrors behind the usual realm of sleep. One leaves the self behind and follows the alluring voice and sounds into a seductive infinity. Her voice is deep and soulful and would be right at home singing a blues standard, yet here it is exploring the surreal. There’s a strong positive quality about her music, as if she were a sorceress of sound casting white spells of mystery and wonder. These are my impressions after seeing her perform twice and listening to her albums.

Fee is a student at HFBK. My first time seeing her perform was at Golem this February, as part of a larger program Stimmen (Voices). Students of Felix Kubin presented their audio projects, an evening of fascinating sound experiments, lectures and demonstrations. The program concluded with a short set by Fee. I was astonished at the intricate and layered wall of sound she conjured out of nowhere. Afterwards I explored more of her music, well-represented at bandcamp. I started with Music on Canvas and We Love the Omniscient Narrator adding them to my loves. I learned she played often in underground clubs in Poland, where she is enthusiastically received. Concerts in Hamburg are scarce, but I finally saw her perform again at an art exhibit, in a darkened cellar below the main activity, standing before the projection of an abstract painting of hers. The empty basement filled quickly after she began playing. It seemed unplanned, but she gave us an encore, her own interpretation of the 1963 Ronettes’ number Be My Baby. That was greatness.

Some while ago Fee sent copies of her first album Music on Canvas into the world and heard back from the label Feeding Tube Records in Northampton, MA, which released it on vinyl last year. In September she begins a visit in Boston including plans to tour with ZEBU! Her newest album, Funnel Walk, will surely be a part of that. It continues where her previous releases left off, a surreal nightscape with sounds of shadows dancing festively, and always her engaging voice guiding the listener to secret corners of imagination.

Next shows:

October 14th @ Retirement Home @ SoPro, Northampton/MA
October 19th @ Whitehaus, 10 Seaverns Ave., JP/Boston/MA
November 8th @ Hassle Fest Extension, Aeronaut Brewery, 12am-ish, 14 Tyler St, Somerville, MA 02143
November 18th @ Midway Cafe with BATHAUS and BLK BX

* * *

Schnipo Schranke

Schnipo Schranke


Schnipo Schranke are two sweet girls singing about sex. There’s more too it than that, of course, but when they came to Hamburg this January it was quietly, under most everyone’s radar. Last summer (2013) they played three concerts, opening for Nuclear Raped Fuck Bomb and HGicht, with Rocko Schamoni credited as having discovered them. Now they shared a bill with Mary Ocher at the Golden Pudel Club. I had never heard of Schnipo Schranke before, so had a look at their Youtube channel to find several undiscovered gems: Mein Leben als Imperator (My Life as Imperator), a  hip-hop rap of Star Wars meets street wit. A love song to Harry Potter that winds up taking him to bed. And a song about fuck buddies (Fickbuddy). Schnipo Schranke are like the Fugs, Tom Lehrer and your favorite 1960s’ girl band rolled into one.

The set at Pudel Club began with Fritzi Ernst on drums (and flute) and Daniela Reis on keyboard – halfway through the set they switched places. The texts were well-written, dealt openly with sexuality and were hard as hell for a non-native speaker of German to follow, at least on first listen. My favorite song of the night was Cluburlaub, a song about an “extremely enriching” vacation experience. Bits and pieces from the lyrics: my psychiatrist killed himself last week, booked a ticket to Panama, self-service ha! – everything is brought to me, flat-rate at the cocktail bar, vodka and soda, gangbang with the tour guides, topless at the cocktail bar, naked at the cocktail bar, and so on. My other favorite, Intensiv was played in the style of an early rock and roll ballad with lines like “Baby, dein Sperma schmeckt so intensiv” and “Küss mich da wo die Sonne nicht scheint” which I leave for the interested scholar to translate. Describing more of the relationship (my translation) “come in my arms / come in my mouth” and the end of the story, “I was so in love with you, you were so into me.” Outrageous, ironic, but kernels of truth. That describes their texts.

At that time they didn’t have a cd or record with them. They apparently hadn’t recorded anything at all except their Youtube videos. In April a song of theirs appeared on the label Staatsakt, on the Keine Bewegung sampler. Their contribution was Pisse (Piss), a standout breakup song which become a sensation over the summer. Most of the album reviews singled out that particular song. The alternative Internet station played it twice in a row on one of their broadcasts. No one can listen to it just once! The song is remarkable for the unbelievable rhymes and for putting to words what no band has ever done, a breakup as viewed through the nuances of oral sex. The official video for Pisse was banned on Youtube and had to be moved to Vimeo (see links below).

Their next concert in Hamburg was in June at the small bar Strandgutfischer in St. Pauli, by invitation of the owner. Word of mouth and Facebook filled the entire venue.Two weeks later they appeared at Golem before another full, enthusiastic house, including an introduction by Rough Trade artist Frau Kraushaar. Triumphant gigs, each of them. By this time they had a set of self-made EPs along with them, with individual polaroid photos and three songs, Pisse / Schranke, and a different, completely unknown demo on each. I have four of them by now. One of the demos was Vorhang (When the curtain goes up), about the “first time,” in quite a number of variations, yet sounding so innocent. The first lines:

When the curtain rises, the first time always hurts a little
When the curtain rises, there’s no turning back, because it’s too late
And when it’s happened, you start to write songs, shine with that certain glow
Hey, it’s totally normal the first time
It hasn’t happened yet, but today I’ll say goodbye to my virginity…

As the ultimate subversive prank this song must be smuggled into a purity ball for that special father-daughter dance. Musically it fits perfectly, and afterwards if someone listening understands German the story would go viral. I feel certain that Schnipo Schranke will continue to take the underground cultural scene by storm, even if mainstream radio never plays a single song of theirs.

* * *


Thernst Band

Katherina Messer is a woman of dark personas. Known also as SKEWOLF, Miss Anthropy, or Werewolf Sucker she is an artist-filmmaker who studied at the Offenbach Academy of Art and Design as well as HFBK in Hamburg. A few years ago I somehow landed on the mailing list for her Misanthropy Lounge events in which she DJed a varying range of genres such as punk, grindcore, black metal, death metal, industrial, military pop, wave, noise and neofolk, and more. The accompanying posters were terrifying as they were titillating. Skinned corpses in passionate embrace, crucifixion art, bloody ejaculations along with occasional self-portraits blurred and defaced.

Thernst PosterOne day Katharina’s mail announced a live concert of her band THERNST, a contraction of “The Ernst” also a play on words with the German word for earnestness or severity. Not knowing entirely what to expect, I went. The concert was held at HFBK during one of the semester parties, in a fairly large lecture hall. Purple-green hues projected onto a screen behind the band painted an eerie mood. The first number set the pace of the band. Rumba Oma (Rumba Grandmother) – electronic, primal and minimalistic, swirls of Neue Deutsche Welle, noise, industrial and death wave. The lyrics could have been an homage to a song by Palais Schaumburg which repeated calls of “Telefon, Blumenhalter” over and over.

Katharina was dressed in black, wearing sunglasses and a deadpan expression, operating the controls. Next to her stood bandmate Taeckgo Goldt on keyboard, like a robot out of Kraftwerk. Patrick Baumeister delivered vocals that morphed from emotional detachment into a manic extreme. Another number Ping Pong Match – Tennis Turnier was wonderfully audacious, a funeral march played in the style of the early computer tennis games. Hundewelpen auf Ebay (Puppy dogs in Ebay) was equally audacious, with yelping dog samples, and strangely sweet.

As the evening progressed, the combination of low key music, irreal lighting and serious personas developed into a powerful mesmerizing force. Students began projecting shadows and shapes onto the screen, contributing a sense of of de-evolution, of dissolving into the noise. Towards the end of the concert Stefanie discarded her emotionless veneer and vivaciously shouted into the audience, “You want more?” She went on to play the keyboard with her entire body. This was as underground as it gets, music for the dark caverns of Hamburg, where oblivion is master.

THERNST has played subsequent concerts around Hamburg, including at B Movie and coming up in September at Nachtasyl. See them if you have the chance.

About the author:

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

Photos by Fred Roberts, except Thernst, by Thernst.

August 29, 2014   4 Comments

Feeling Chapbooked

Three Good Ones

Reviews by Robert Joe Stout


Elegiacs in a Closed Room, Carol Frith. Gribble Press, 2012

Varian, Ellen LaFlèche, Dallas Poets Community Press, 2010

If They Have Ears To Listen, Terry Lucas,Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2012


Small volumes and chapbooks of excellent poetry appear and disappear, read by friends, colleagues, other poets but seldom getting the readership or the acknowledgment that they deserve. Three such small but impressive offerings are Varian, by Ellen LaFlèche, Elegiacs in a Closed Room by Carol Frith and If They Have Ears To Listen by Terry Lucas.

LaFlèche’s curt testimonies of a woman dying of cancer are stabs in the gut. The poems are short, evocative: The reader is in the room with Julia, with her friends, her lover, her son, gasping at the intrusions, the lucid ironies, the moments of despair. In “Knit One, Purl One”

the black stitches unravel in her lap

like cat-gut sutures, each loop

tugging at the next

like the loosely knitted

scar on her belly.

and in “I Organize my Own Memorial Service so I Can Be There to Enjoy It”

The banquet room is a pretty

preview of hell—hot red walls

and ceiling. Red

candles in mirror cups,

the charred wicks writhing like sinners.

LaFlèche handles an intricate and delicate balancing of life and death with near surgical precision, evoking emotion without catering to it. An excellent read.

Frith’s Elegiacs observe more than participate: observe in ways that bring the reader into the colors, tastes, movements. In “Imaginary Nude in Enamel Bath”

She has waited,

watching as the artist draws her bath,

lowers her to water,


her fractured, glowing skin a kind

of common sense against the sad

uncluttered motion of the dark.

Images flow through the poems: “sky is like a scarf make out of silk,”

memory “is like salt on watercolor/like warm apples on the tongue,” “The red part/of each apricot blossom glows like a small/tired sun.”

Fruit filled, flowers filled, thought filled poems. A fine reading experience.

In “If They Have Ears To Hear” Terry Lucas, narrator, story teller, active participant in everyday life, links the reader to events at first glance ordinary—unpoetic—that details, descriptions, movements make meaningful, enjoyable and insightful. Coins clatter into a cash register as “contralto quarters, soprano dimes,” dates end with engines “cooling down with the ticking sounds/of shrinking metal, re-buckling of belts, re-hooking of bras,” prayer meetings prompt “women to rest foreheads in palms, men to crouch on the scuffed linoleum floor/Grip the back of a gray metal folding chair as fiercely as a child steadying a wooden ladder…”

Commonplace, but commonplace touched with magic, viewed with awe. Wrens, Corningware, goldfinches, Luke’s Café, Abboud suits web the reader in experiencing life the way it is: curious, quirky, laughable and—quite often—profound.


About the reviewer: 

Robert Joe Stout is journalist and freelance writer living in Oaxaca, Mexico. His forthcoming book Hidden Dangers details obstacles facing Mexico and the United States on various fronts, including drug commerce and immigration. His most recent book of poetry is A Perfect Throw(Aldrich Press).

August 29, 2014   Comments Off on Feeling Chapbooked

Allison Berkoy/Art Review


* * * * *

Pleasant Company Excepted:

Allison Berkoy’s Installation

at Harvestworks

Review by Barbara Rosenthal


Exhibition Venue:
Harvestworks Digital Media Arts Center
596 Broadway, Suite 602
NY, NY 10012
Exhibition Dates: May 2 – 4, 2014

Enter a sparsely furnished parlor alone or with friends. Strangers may enter and leave around you, but one figure is certain to dominate the space, the conversation and all possibility of self-determination. You’re a good sport?! You try interacting on normal, polite, social terms, choosing your words carefully, but thwart thrust stab, you are under the spell of a character pinned as bas-relief, high on the wall. You are in the “company” of Allison Berkoy’s strikingly mummy-gauzed electronic female figure with animated video-projection face, directing you in no uncertain terms.

Allison Berkoy, with degrees in Theater from Northwestern, Performance from NYU and Electronic Arts from Rensselaer, creates original, personal, visceral hidden-high-tech installations which invite participation and self-reflection by viewers at galleries, stages and unusual spaces. Harvestworks, long a NY technological resource, presents works by artists alone or in collaboration with their in-house Technology, Engineering, Art and Music Lab (T.E.A.M.).

Keeping company with this personality-from-Hell, observing you through her hidden camera, reacting to your own body language and words, then speaking to you through her moving mouth, is a test of everything you hope will and will not be the upshot of meeting anyone. And thus Berkoy’s point is driven home: that when we are in anyone’s company, we are en garde, facing ego-piercing lances every minute. And the more personalities in the interaction, the more dangerous is the field.


Contact information:


About the reviewer:

Barbara Rosenthal is a New York artist and writer of existential themes. Four of her books have been published by Visual Studies Workshop Press. 

August 29, 2014   1 Comment

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

A Night at Bar 227 – By Fred Roberts

Local Heroes:

Germany’s Battle of the Bands

by Fred Roberts
Contributing Editor, Music


In January we saw Saskia Maas playing a “fireside concert” at the literary cafe Mathilde in Hamburg: 20-30 people in a cozy room, with a wood furnace emanating its warmth, and Saskia before us, sharing her songs. It was just Saskia, her voice, her guitar and some kind of magic. The encores lasted nearly as long as the original set, and her adaptation of a Hermann Hesse poem to music was impossible to resist. She played that twice. And it made us believers. A few weeks later on the last day of March, Alexandra and I followed Saskia to Bar 227. She appeared there in a qualifying round of the band slam contest “Local Heroes” and there was no question of our showing up to support her.

The Local Heroes event is a yearly band contest throughout Germany, with local chapters in major cities. Bands compete with each other in qualifying rounds, semi-finals and then a finalist event. The rules of the voting are simple. Each visitor is given an official event ballot. After all the bands have played, the ballots are returned, with visitors selecting their two favorite bands. On this night the two bands with the most votes would move into the semi-final event coming up in June.

The host of the event, Bar 227, is a tiny venue with a couple of sofas, a few arm chairs, and standing room. Seat cushions are scattered in an alcove off to the right of the stage. We took two cushions and sat up close to get the best view of the coming events. We ordered a round of fritz-kolas from the bar and snuggled in for the evening along with around 40 other guests.


* * *


Saskia at Bar 227

Saskia Maas

Saskia Maas was up first. I’d found out more about her in the time leading up to the contest. Saskia is a young singer-songwriter finding her way to a powerful voice. Judging by the list of shows at her website, she has taken every opportunity to hone her craft and gain experience, playing extensively around Hamburg in the last two years as well as participating in any kind of contest or slam event. She released a CD in 2012 “Wonderland” with songs mostly in English, but has since increased her repertoire with German texts, her native language. A new CD is scheduled for release in May this year.

Her songs are generally about moments and emotions, snapshots of life that for me bear a direct relation to the lost forms of poetic and allegorical literature in Germany such as Stefan Zweig or Hermann Hesse. As she played her set, we noticed again the remarkable synthesis of text, the warmth and depth of her voice and the harmonic, folk-influenced music. We were entranced from start to finish. A few of the highlights included the Herman Hesse piece “Die Welt unser Traum” (The World of Our Dream) and her song “Wonderland,” a rare example of positive inspiration, in the sense of Steve Wynn’s song “Believe in Yourself.” She closed the eight-song set with the stunning “Für einen Moment,” an embodiment of Erich Fromm’s idea of being and having, a magical moment of experience that she’ll not trade for any money in the world. Applause all around. It was obvious that her songs had connected.


* * *


Lion’s Waltz performs at Bar 227

Lion’s Waltz

The next band was Lion’s Waltz. I did some research beforehand and discovered a heavy metal hardcore noise band founded 2011. The Facebook page had 20 likes and very little activity, even from the band itself. Then again, maybe these are not the kind of fans who hang out in facebook clicking “like.” Google searches found a few scattered references to gigs in Hamburg. There was nothing in Youtube. I had high anticipation for Lion’s Waltz, as hardcore is a genre I know little about, having only heard it occasionally on university stations mixed into alternative sets.

Lion’s Waltz is a four man combo. They arrived with a small circle of fans that must have comprised about a third of the guests. The band was announced and the microphone handed to the lead singer, probably not more than 18 or 19 years old, who introduced the group with the understated words, “We’re Lion’s Waltz”. After a round of applause they broke into their first song. It was hard core, with charm. The lead singer, wearing a woolen cap, growled his vocals directly into the microphone, while pacing up and down in front of the stage, much like a lion in a cage –  the band grinding out a blend of metal riffs, steady rhythm, and noise.

Their fans, of the same age group, were sincerely enthusiastic, and the set had a certain innocence to it, played as if this were the only genre to exist. I have one hardcore track in my collection, a contribution by the Meat Puppets “Hair” on Monitor’s self-titled debut (1980), and that’s what Lion’s Waltz sounded like. Between songs one of the contest hosts kept requesting “Summer of 69” from the band, suggesting some kind of inside joke. The band declined, saying they didn’t play that anymore. They completed their set and enthusiastic applause followed. It looked a lot like first place.


* * *


Äläx at Bar 227



Äläx was the next band up, so-dubbed because the two members of the guitar and drum duo share the first name Alexander. A few days before the concert I had a glance at their Facebook presence to discover a  space-themed band. “Interstellar Explorations” is the title on their page. Scrolling down I saw a photo of the band preparing their self-made concert banner, the band’s logo along with a ringed planet on a black cloth. We watched as they put up the banner, as meaningful and effective as $100,000 stage scenery in setting the scene. Before long they were introduced and began playing. The set was a pleasant surprise, spacious sounds and galactic motifs cruising somewhere between rock and jazz, all instrumentals. “Reise nach Andromeda” (Journey to Andromeda) was a wonderful, nearly ten minute sound excursion.

I used to listen to Chopin on repeat while reading Kafka. Now I could imagine reading my favorite science fiction authors Robert Sheckley or Clifford D. Simak while playing this music on endless cycle. If you ask me, a non-musician, how to capture  a sci-fi mood in an instrumental delivery, I wouldn’t have a clue of how to do it. That’s what made their sound all the more amazing to me, that it so overwhelmingly succeeds. This is indeed the music you’d listen to on the way to a distant galaxy. The audience response was as enthusiastic as by Lion’s Waltz and all the time I wondered why I hadn’t heard of Äläx before.


 * * *


Photo: Metamorphonia by Sonja Brüning


Metamorphonia is a dark pop singer-songwriter duo of Denis Scheither (piano) and Christiane Schmidt (vocals), as stated on their Youtube channel. I watched one of their videos “Ten Months” before the concert, and it looked promising to me. Now Denis and Christiane opened the set with a medley of two covers: Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” and Rammstein’s “Sonne.” I thought the vocal part was engaging and Denis’ accompaniment thoughtful. The next song, “Dissonance” began with the words “Why must the flower slowly fade away” and goes on to become even more somber and pessimistic, about the dissonance that develops in a relationship. Next, Alex Dietz replaced Christiane on stage. Alex and Denis played two songs, including a piece Alex had written following the death of his father. To me it was something too precious to share in such a profane setting as a band contest. The three of them then joined for the remaining songs.

Altogether the set did not like me. It was more like three bands instead of one: Christiane and Denis, Alex and Denis, then all three together. Each constellation was a different kind of sound and feeling, with no real chance to catch on. I’m not sure I heard right, but at one point during the set Denis wondered aloud to the audience, “Why does everyone think we play sad songs?” He invited everyone to visit the band’s Facebook page and to write, even if with constructive criticism, so I am hoping that my words here are not too harsh, and maybe somewhat helpful. I think Metamorphonia should decide in which line-up they want to play, and then develop their sound with that in mind. Judging by the applause, the audience seemed not to share my reservations.


The Voting

The emcee announced it was time to vote, thanking the bands in the order they had played. Saskia Maas, Lion’s Waltz, Äläx and Metamorphonia. Saskia’s applause was the least loud of all, but that may have been an effect of being announced first. The second time an audience responds it is usually louder because everyone wants to outdo themselves. Still, it made us nervous as to the outcome. Judging by the levels of applause, it still looked as if Lion’s Waltz had won the evening.

It took a few minutes for everyone to write in their votes. Alexandra and I both voted for Saskia, and we agreed on our second vote as well. I won’t reveal which band it was, but in the end, that second vote appears to have made no difference. When the audience was finished dropping their ballots into the cardboard box on the bar, the contest hosts took the container into the back room to count out the ballots. The two bands with the most votes would go on to the semi-finals. Ten minutes later they returned to announce all the band names again, the same levels of applause as before – not a good sign for Saskia – then called the bands on stage for the announcement of the results.

They drew it out as long as they could, telling us there had been one overwhelming winner. “Not a band, but a project,” as they put it. What could that mean? Finally they told us, it was Äläx. Enthusiastic applause. Now it was time to announce the second band to move on into the semi-finals. But something unusual had happened, they said. A tie for second place. After some consideration, the hosts told us, they had decided that both of these bands would go on to the semi-finals. The first of these, was not a band, but a project, they continued, drawing it out for all it was worth. Lion’s Waltz, they finally revealed. This meant that Äläx and Lion’s Waltz and one other band were still in the contest. That band was…… Saskia Maas. We were happy that she had made it to the next level. In the end, though, I don’t think it is fair to pit such diverse styles against each other. Each band was good in its own way.


Local Heroes contest winner: Äläx


The largest concert I’ve been to was Pink Floyd in Dortmund, in the late 1980s, a mass event in a major arena holding the population of a small town. It was unforgettable. But it is not always the mass events that bring us the most joy or the most vivid memories. These can be found in the small venues with bands as yet unknown to the masses. It is the feelings and the moods that music evokes in us that we remember, intensified by intimate surroundings and reinforced by a far more personal connection to the artists.


If you’re in Hamburg the next weeks and would like to support the bands, the semi-final events are:

June 20th, 7PM, MarX/Markthalle (Äläx, Lion’s Waltz)
July 5th, 7PM,  Marx/Markthalle
July 18th, 7PM, MarX/Markthalle (Saskia Maas)
July 25th, 7PM, MarX/Markthalle

Best of luck to everyone!

Complete line-ups and additional events:


April 28, 2014   2 Comments

Whitney Biennial/A Quick Look


Elijah Burgher, Bachelor machine, from behind and below (Guyotat version), 2013, color pencil on paper, 14” x 17″.
Collection of the artist and Western Exhibitions, Chicago, © Elijah Burgher, Courtesy of the artist and Western Exhibitions, Chicago

* * *

Looking at the 2014

Whitney Biennial

By Mary Gregory

It’s that time again. The Whitney Biennial, the signature exhibition for the museum and the best known, most influential survey of contemporary American art opened on March 7th and runs through May 25th, 2014. With over 100 artists and artist-collectives, it’s packed to the rafters, but there are so many great pieces, it’s worth taking it all in.

There are lots of biennials these days, but there’s still only one Whitney. This will be the 77th exhibition in a series that began in 1932. The Whitney Museum of American Art was founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a passionate supporter of American artists. When the 1913 Armory Show catapulted European modernists to fame in the United States, the spotlight turned away from American artists. The Whitney Museum and the Biennial sought to change that.

The Whitney Biennial has never shied from controversy or risk-taking. Over the years it has been at the forefront of introducing new artists and presenting new media. The 2014 Biennial is inclusive in ways that even previous biennials haven’t been. Artists who cross genres are a notable element. There are works by poets who paint, photographers and painters acting as curators, there are artists presenting archives of other artists, there’s even a piece by novelist, David Foster Wallace.

The Whitney, as an institution, and the Biennial, as an exhibition, has long been open to artists of every conceivable description, but has often focused on young and emerging artists. That’s changed in this Biennial.  The artists this year include many accomplished, though possibly under-recognized artists in their 50s and 60s, all the way up to their 80s.

Courtesy: Cheim & Read, New York

Louise Fishman, Ristretto, 2013. Oil on linen, 70 x 60 in. (177.8 x 152.4 cm)
Private Collection; courtesy Cheim & Read, New York, Photographer: Brian Buckley

Sheila Hicks, a ground-breaking artist known for enormous woven sculptures rich with texture and metaphor and Louise Fishman whose energetic, bold abstractions fill canvases twice her own size, have powerful works on display. As in the past, time-based art, such as performance, video, sound art, dance and music are included, along with installations, drawing, sculpture, photography and a surprising amount of painting.

This year, three curators from outside the Whitney were invited to curate the exhibition, each  given a floor of the museum. They are Stuart Comer (Chief Curator of Media and Performance Art at MoMA), Anthony Elms (Associate Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia), and Michelle Grabner (artist and Professor in the Painting and Drawing Department at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago). Each brings a different perspective, grounded in distinct training and diverse geographical areas. Their visions and their personal points of view come through in their selections. Grabner, a painter herself, has included much more painting than has appeared in recent years, particularly abstract works by under-recognized artists, mostly women.

It’s hard for an 82 year old to stay fresh and new, but the Whitney Biennial is doing it, once again. And while there’s no shortage of biennials, triennials and art fairs presenting wide swaths of contemporary art, the experience of a Whitney Biennial can only be found at the Whitney.



Zoe Leonard, Sketch for 945 Madison Avenue, 2014. IPhone photo, 3 x 4 in. (7.6 x 10.2 cm)
Courtesy of the artist. Copyright Zoe Leonard


Another thing that can only be seen at the Whitney is Zoe Leonard’s room sized camera obscura, capturing in a weird but familiar upside-down way all the activity of Madison Avenue below. It’s as site-specific as a work can be, and makes the most of the possibilities of the space.

2014 may be the last chance to see the Biennial in the famous Marcel Breuer building on 75th and Madison, before the Whitney moves downtown.

Whitney Biennial 2014, Mar 7–May 25, 2014
Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street
New York, NY 10021
(212) 570-3600


About the author:

 Mary Gregory is a writer and reviewer. She lives in New York, and frequents galleries and auction houses that set the backdrop for her stories. 

March 9, 2014   Comments Off on Whitney Biennial/A Quick Look

Food, Art & Hemingway


Raúl Villarreal, Papa Hemingway, 2013, Oil on linen, 48” x 36”


and A Moveable Feast

by Raúl Villarreal

In 1950 Ernest Hemingway wrote to a friend, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Hemingway started to write what would eventually become the book with that title in the autumn of 1957 and finished the manuscript, as the preface indicates in 1960, at his estate, the Finca Vigía in San Francisco de Paula, Havana, Cuba. The book was published posthumously in 1964 and to this day it is one of Hemingway’s most beloved works by scholars and aficionados alike. A memoir of Paris in the 1920s, where Hemingway writes about other expatriates and luminaries, such as Gertrude Stein, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, his first wife Hadley, his infant son Jack (Bumby) and Pauline Pfeiffer, Hadley’s friend, who would eventually become the second Mrs. Hemingway. It was during this time in Paris and visits to the Louvre when Hemingway “was learning something from a painting by Cézanne that made writing simple true sentences far from enough to make the stories have the dimensions that I was trying to put in them” (A Moveable Feast, 13). Hemingway’s brilliant prose evokes the mood, the unquenchable and wild enthusiasm of a group of artists, of whom Gertrude Stein referred to as Une Generation Perdue (The Lost Generation).

Ernest Hemingway lived in many different places, but it was in Havana, Cuba, where he lived the longest. He first rented La Finca Vigía with Martha Gellhorn in 1939, purchased it in 1940, and lived there until 1960, when he left the island for the United States en route to Spain, never to return to his Cuban paradise. In the late summer of 1961, Mary Hemingway, the author’s fourth wife and recent widow donated the Finca Vigía to the Cuban people. The house and most of its contents tell a story of a certain writer whose experiences as a young man were to define him and his work for generations to come.

Fig. 1, Raúl Villarreal, La crisis de la abundancia, 2012, Oil on linen, 48 x 60 ins.

Raúl Villarreal, La crisis de la abundancia, 2012, Oil on linen, 48 x 60 ins.

During his two decades in Havana Cuba, Hemingway’s beloved Paris was present at the Finca. On a wall of his workroom, between two large windows hung El guitarrista (The Guitar Player), a large painting by Juan Grís. It was one of Hemingway’s favorite paintings, which evoked much nostalgia from those Paris years. Hemingway would often contemplate the painting between writing and at times laugh and talk to himself. There were other works of art, which reminded Hemingway of Paris, such as The Farm by Joan Miró and The Jungle by André Masson. Besides the art there were also books by his favorite French authors such as Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo and others. There were also visitors from all over the world who came to spend time with the man they fondly called Papa. Charles Ritz, the owner of the Ritz Hotel in Paris, visited Hemingway at the Finca Vigía in 1954 and two years later in Paris, Charles Ritz mentioned to Hemingway that there was a trunk with some of his papers stored in the hotel, which Hemingway brought back to Cuba in 1957. Those “Paris Stories” eventually became A Moveable Feast.

There was the time when Hemingway was away from Cuba for almost one year. It was 1953-54, Hemingway and his wife Mary went to an African Safari. Hemingway had been contracted to write an article with expenses paid by Look Magazine. During that time a very close friend of Hemingway, Evelio Mustelier, also known in the boxing world as Kid Tunero (aptly nicknamed because he was from Las Tunas), stayed at the Finca as Hemingway’s special guest. Mustelier had had a brilliant boxing career in Cuba and in Europe, however the ultimate pinnacle in the pugilistic profession, a world championship, had eluded him. Kid Tunero, a strong and fast middleweight,  had defeated three former world champions but never for a belt. Hemingway saw his friend’s last fight against a much younger, stronger and heavier class opponent in Havana and was saddened by the experience. Hemingway later wrote an article for the Associated Press comparing Evelio Mustelier’s courage to that of Cuba’s Titan de Bronze (The Bronze Titan) El General Antonio Maceo, one of the foremost heroes of the Guerra de Independencia of Cuba against Spain.

Evelio Mustelier had most of his boxing career in Europe, eventually marrying in France and raising a family. However, in the mid-1950s, he was back in Cuba after some fights in South America trying to raise funds to get back to France to reunite with his family. Mustelier decided to invest what little money he had in France in the export of good French wine into Cuba. Upon Hemingway’s return to Cuba in 1954, he found out about his proud friend’s financial situation and purchased most of the shipment of French wines from Mustelier. A couple of Hemingway’s wealthy Cuban friends purchased the rest of the shipment and Evelio made enough money to return to his family in France.

These anecdotes told by my father, René Villarreal, are the kind of stories found in our book Hemingway’ Cuban Son, which was published by the Kent State University Press in 2009.

As the theme for the exhibition “A Moveable Feast” came about, Dr. Ginny Butera and I thought of such Hemingway anecdotes and the Paris connection at the Finca Vigía. Hemingway enjoyed his French wines with certain meals. He was very specific about that, just like his taste for Chinese food at the Finca, as well as in one of his favorite restaurants in Havana’s Chinatown.

Ginny Butera had seen my painting The Crisis of Abundance at an exhibition in New York City over a year ago. The piece has its inspiration from another work by Hemingway, “The Old Man and the Sea.” There is a lot of symbolism in the work with the nine King Mackerels (a fish that migrates), hoisted by the two fishermen (one old and one young), who seem to be going in opposite directions. The fishermen are inside a deteriorated and decrepit room surrounded by the ocean waves. The piece symbolizes migration, entrapment, but above all it speaks about perspectives. The perspectives and needs of a young person are different than that of an older person.

My father has often told me that his favorite work by Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, has meant something different each time he read the book at various stages of his life. “As a young man it meant something different than now when I am in my eighties,” he has said to me, “because our perspectives and priorities change.” For me, The Crisis of Abundance also speaks about having “too much” and having the knowledge or experience of dealing with an overabundance. Are we taking too much from Mother Nature? When is too much really too much? The presence of the ocean represents Yemaya, the sea deity, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the prayers, laments, songs, drums and hearts and beliefs of millions of African slaves, who were forcedly uprooted from their homeland and brought over to the Americas.  In the African beliefs, Yemaya is the mother of all and without her there is nothing. She punishes those who abuse her good nature.



Ernest Hemingway in the dining room at the Finca Vigía. Havana Cuba. Ca. 1957 (Collection of Raúl Villarreal)

Ernest Hemingway enjoyed the numerous countries in which he lived, traveled, and wrote. He was one of the most recognized and adventurous global citizens of his time. This is evident in his works. He took notice of the local customs, food and drinks that his characters consumed in their time and place. For example in the Old Man and the Sea, the old fisherman enjoys drinking Hatuey beer, having a café in the morning, eating rice and beans for dinner in his shack, and also the raw fish that he eats to maintain his strength as he battles his brother— the big fish in the Gulf Stream. However, no other work by Hemingway compares as such a brilliantly written memoir of a very unique epoch and place as does A Moveable Feast.

 Ragazine Interview with Raul Villarreal:



Fig. 2, Roberto Marquez, El Mapa de México, 2013, Encaustic and oil on wood

Roberto Marquez, El Mapa de México, 2013, Encaustic and oil on wood

A Contemporary Moveable Feast

by Virginia Fabbri Butera, Ph.D.

A Moveable Feast: Art, Food and Migration, is an exhibition currently on view through May 4, 2014, at the Therese A. Maloney Art Gallery at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, NJ.  The show examines ideas about imagery in today’s art that were triggered by the intersecting cultural events I studied while developing an interdisciplinary course, “The Art of Salsa Making: The History of Hispanic Heritage in the Americas,” with my colleagues, food historian Sonia Hartunian-Sowa, Ph.D. and language professor and cultural historian, Christine Guedri Giacalone, Ph.D., with input from the exhibition’s co-curator, Raúl Villarreal, MFA, who was a guest speaker in our course. What became clear during the course was how food and related artistic subject matters have been affected by the mixing of cultures in the Americas during the last six centuries. This was reinforced when Prof. Villarreal showed an image of his painting, The Crisis of Abundance (above), to our class, and explained its cultural references as he does in the above article, “Hemingway and A Moveable Feast.” Subsequently, Prof. Villarreal and I decided to investigate how art today continues to reflect the effect of travel and migration on the imagery of food in art.

The forced merger of North, Central and South American native foods such as avocado, beans, cacao, chiles, corn, potatoes, squash and tomatoes with the 16th century Spanish conquistadores’ imported preferences of beef, garlic, onions, pork  and wheat, meant that travel, conquest and migration resulted in a profoundly changed cuisine in both the “New and the Old Worlds.”[i] Each continent incorporated, willingly or not, these different ingredients and developed many kinds of foods we eat here and in Europe today.  The food choices brought by the Spanish during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries also possessed cultural and socio-hierarchical meanings in the art both in Spain and the “New World.”[ii] When we examine the food that is represented in paintings of those periods created on both sides of the Atlantic, we sometimes find not just the imported comestibles themselves, but new kinds of plates, vessels and utensils which signal a subtle but clear history of travel, migration, adaptation and socio-economic status. [iii]

MOVEABLE FEAST V10N2 March-April 2014

First of two galleries posted in the article, Food, Art & Hemingway, V10, N2

One result of the 16th century Spanish conquest of the New World was the mixing of tomatoes and chiles (New World) with onions and garlic (Old World) to create “salsa,” now the number one condiment in North America. Here “salsa,” the chopping and mixing of ingredients, as well as the lively music and dance styles that bear its name, stands as the continuing metaphor for the food-related experiences of Americans from all different groups when they eat at home or abroad.  The current exhibition reveals markets, restaurants, food, utensils and eating habits that define high and low culture and that signal the history, desires, realities, amusement and horrors that are part of the contemporary eating experience.

Throughout the history of art, food, like fashion, reveals a multitude of cultural traditions and implications. Visible in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings, food was meant to be available for the deceased in the afterworld. In ancient Greek and Roman vases and wall murals, depictions of foodstuffs could reveal a painter’s skill as well as document the dining customs of the wealthy. Still-life oil paintings, the rage in late 16th and 17th century Italy and Holland, focused on the realistic depiction of food as well as its metaphoric implications, from the sensuality of bunches of grapes in  Michelangelo da Merisi Caravaggio’s c. 1593, Boy with a Basket of Fruit ( to a reminder of death suggested by worm holes in the fruit or a dead rabbit on the buffet table as in Fran Synders, Still Life  (  By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the inclusion of food in art was no longer considered a subject matter secondary to history painting or portraiture as it had been until that time. Paintings of apples by 19th century French painter Paul Cézanne refer to classical Greek myths, Adam and Eve, female sensuality and fertility while still functioning  as everyday subject matter and a vehicle for his dramatic new style of post-Impressionist painting ([iv] American Pop Art pieces of the 1960s: Andy Warhol’s silkscreen images of soup cans ( , Claes Oldenburg’s food sculptures including hot dogs and hamburgers sewn with fabric ( and Wayne Thiebaud’s lusciously layered oil painted desserts (  pointed to consumerism, street culture and the growing affluence and self-indulgence of Americans where everyday life literally and figuratively became art.

A Moveable Feast: Art, Food and Migration includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, mixed media collages, videos and installation works where food and its rituals have an even greater multiplicity of meanings and purposes in our contemporary, globally-aware society than in prior times. When people move or travel, they often “take” their cuisine with them, sometimes dreaming of it as Roberto Márquez implies in his work, El Mapa de México.

Humans naturally adopt flavors, sauces, ingredients, spices and beverages from a new locale or entice the natives to enjoy their transferred cuisine as Bette Blank illustrates in a Madison, NJ, restaurant scene, Sushi Palace (Fig. 3). The exhibition, named after a book by Ernest Hemingway (and visualized by José Pardo’s painting of the same name, Une Fête Mobile) recognizes the allure of other cultures’ food, drink, and new experiences, ones that Hemingway had in France, Spain, Cuba and other places which also found their way into his writing. This internationalism is also reflected in the sophisticated, multi-layered, multi-cultural canvas, Tapas, by José Rodeiro (Fig. 4).

Laura L. Cuevas references the expulsion from paradise as the ultimate entwining of eating, the Divine and forced “migration,” in her collage, Each day had no limits. From birth until death, human beings are preoccupied with sustenance made visible in Formula by Bob Richardson (Fig. 5) and Carrie’s Recipe or Dad Feeding Mom by Judith Margolis. Fresh food markets, our own version of “paradise,” exist around the world in a variety of settings, in front of contemporary architectural structures painted by Kathleen Migliore-Newton (Fig. 6), on a barque in Kashmir, India, by photographer Jay Seldin or in front of a train stopped in Myanmar photographed by Sue Zwick. Shopping lists are made (Jacquelyn Stryker), recipes collected (Marilyn Walter), and feasts with family and friends are celebrated by Aliza Augustine (fig. 7), Barbara McElheny (fig. 8) and Zwick.  Villarreal and Davide Luciano in his photograph, Tossed (Fig. 9) note with irony the problem of abundance and waste even as many in the world have little or nothing to eat.

MOVEABLE FEAST II V10N2 March-April 2014

2nd of 2 galleries posted in Food, Art & Hemingway, V10,N2

Maria Lupo’s canvas, Migration (Porca) (fig. 10) alludes to the fact that when the Spanish brought pigs to the New World, this “food source” inadvertently became agricultural destroyers, ruining Native American fields and crops, causing a problem that still exists in the southern United States today because of descendant wild pigs.[v]  Nelson Alvárez and Jane Dell (fig. 11) also reference environmental troubles caused by factory manufactured food while Alan Alejo, Barbara Brill, Emily Tumbleson ( and Alan Walker (fig. 12) document our around-the-world fast food “addictions” to McDonald’s, pizza, take-out Chinese, vending machine snacks and soft-serve ice cream respectively. Coffee, beer, soda or juice boxes appear in works by Linda Stillman (fig. 13), Tracy Miller and Luciano although an upscale bottle of red wine completes the scene in works by Pardo and Larry Ross. Cakes and cookies by Asaya Dodina & Slava Polishchuk, Lori Larusso, and Lupo look scrumptious but watch out for the one by Gabriel Navar (fig. 14) which, with all its sugar, may be “eating” you. Adel Gorgy, abstracting imagery of Warhol’s soup cans some fifty years later, reflects the loss of simplicity and signals the distortion and multiplicity of food choices available in the U.S. and around the world.[vi] And yet, a contemporary video performance, Metabolism of Forms ( by Greek artist, Filippos Tsitsopoulos, where his head is covered in fish, shrimp, oysters, vegetables and other foods harks back to the work of the 16th century Italian Mannerist painter Arcimboldo, now perhaps a contemporary portrait of “you are what you eat/wear!”

The show represents a contemporary slice of how artists have blended food and drink into their art works which bear little resemblance to centuries-old still life paintings. Instead, in our sampling, food signals how “invasions” and “conquests” are no longer necessarily waged on the battlefield, but rather in the farmers’ markets, fast food shops from all countries and high-end dining establishments where we can travel around the world without even leaving our neighborhood.


About the author:

Virginia Fabbri Butera, Ph.D., is the Director/Curator of the Therese A. Maloney Art Gallery, a Professor of Art History and the Chairperson of the Art and Music Programs at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, NJ. She has been a curator for over thirty years, organizing exhibitions for museums and galleries around the country including The Contemporary Arts Center (Cincinnati), National Gallery of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Yale University Art Gallery.

The foregoing article, copyright by Virginia Fabbri Butera, Ph.D. No part of this article may be reproduced without permission of the author.

[i] See the general, beautifully illustrated, introductory essay in, Jane Milton, Jenni Fleetwood and Marina Filippelli, The Complete Mexican, South American & Caribbean Cookbook, New York: Barnes & Noble, 2007, 6 – 81.

[ii] Rachel Laudan and Jeffrey M. Pilcher, “Chiles, Chocolate, and Race in New Spain: Glancing Backward to Spain or Looking Forward to Mexico?,” Eighteenth-Century Life 23, 2 (1999): 59 -70; accessed February 17, 2014,

[iii] Byron Ellsworth Hamann, “The Mirrors of Las Meninas: Cochineal, Silver, and Clay,” Art Bulletin XCII, 1-2 (2010): 6 – 35.

[iv] Meyer Schapiero, “The Apples of Cezanne: An Essay on the Meaning of Still Life,” in Meyer Schapiro, Modern Art: 19th and 20th Centuries, Selected Papers, New York: George Braziller, 1978 , 1 -38, accessed February 18, 2014,

[v] Frank Bruni, “Malicious but Delicious,” The New York Times,  April 22, 2013; accessed February 20, 2014,

[vi] Mary Gregory, “Adel Gorgy:Traces of Pollock, de Kooning and Warhol…Abstract Photographic Works at Able Fine Art NY Gallery,” Ragazine (November-December 2013),  accessed February 20, 2014,


March 1, 2014   Comments Off on Food, Art & Hemingway

Finding “Darshan”/Fred Roberts


Patrick McMahon

and the Spirit of Music:

Darshan (1983)

by Fred Roberts

My path to the music I share in this article is as meaningful to me as the music itself. In 1980, my last year of high school, I took Mrs. Wilson’s “World Literature” class. It made quite an impression on me. Mostly we read ancient literature: Greek classics, Persian poets, Omar Khayyam, the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest writings, and others. It showed the universality of human drama and passion and sparked an interest that I began to deepen after high school. I read Homer’s Odyssey and the Iliad. I began reading Tolkien, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and especially the Silmarillion, written in the best tradition of Classic literature. I haunted my school library, the public library, and various bookshops around town. Aquarius Bookshop, on Main Street in downtown Cincinnati, is the place I invariably drifted to.


Aquarius Bookshop was a new age bookstore at a time when the term was new to many people, and sometimes suspect. Entering the shop was a mystical experience, a step out of the fast-paced life of 20th century America into a microcosm of peace. The wooden floor, the aroma of incense, the soft sounds of music, never obtrusive, intertwined to form an indelible impression. In the center of all this, at the register, stood the store’s owner. His thoughtful manner of speaking, his enlightened expression, and total lack of negativity were unmistakable facets of the man. He glowed with serenity. I thought he might be the Buddha himself.

My days at the university were full and hectic and included a 75-minute bus ride each way, transferring in downtown Cincinnati. Sometimes I used the opportunity on the way home to stop by Aquarius. It was always like entering a sanctuary. I went to browse the shelves in a far side of the shop filled with a selection of books beyond the usual commercial offerings. There was ancient literature, philosophy, esoteric works and writings on the world’s religions. I might stand before the shelves an hour or longer, reading the back covers and introductions of various volumes before deciding on the one I wanted to buy. I don’t know if the shopkeeper ever noticed me. I assume he didn’t. I rarely spoke with him when I was in the shop, being generally shy. But I was conscious of him, usually as he was in conversation with one of his other customers. The shop seemed never to be empty. Virgil’s Aeneid, The Song of Roland, and translations by Professor Tolkien of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and of Pearl are a few titles I found there that engrossed me from the first word to the last, and that I still have today.

There was more to the shop than the books. It was adorned with American Indian artifacts, artwork, crystals, and a stand with record albums. In 1984, when I finished my studies and before moving to upstate New York, I took note of the records. There were several issues by a band with the curious name of Blacklight Braille, which I had never heard of. Blacklight Braille is best described as the Amon Düül II of the parallel universe, but that’s a topic for another article. I selected their first album Electric Canticles. Another album caught my eye: Darshan, by Patrick McMahon, of whom I also had not heard. The cover was a photograph of a virgin seashore, of the tide, of the light of a sun behind the horizon just about to engulf the world in light. It was a picture of peace and serenity, the kind I had felt while browsing in Aquarius. The music on that album has stayed with me the last thirty years and is as fresh and as timeless to me now as it was the first time I heard it.


Darshan is music from another age and place, a reflection of eternal beauty, contemplation, introspection, simplicity, innocence, all the aspects of life that have different meanings for every single person and that are so impossible to define. It slows life down. It quiets storms. It is an early, quintessential New Age album, without really belonging to that category. For all the countless times I have listened to Darshan, I still don’t know how best to describe the experience. The seven tracks feature Patrick McMahon’s vision of music as expressed via various flutes and other wind instruments. He is supported by Dan Murphy, soft accompaniment on acoustic and electric guitar as well as on electric piano. Despite the use of these modern instruments, the music sounds astonishingly ancient, originating even before time. The compositions and interpretations remain blissfully unaware of modern styles.

The first track, Divine Awakening, might be a call to prayer at an ancient temple. It is a duet on two flutes, both parts intertwining and mingling, calling and answering. The next track, Dharma (Righteousness) – flute, acoustic guitar and electric piano – is the sound of innocence and wonder, a Garden of Eden, eternal Spring, chirping birds, but without a serpent. After that, Cave of the Ancients, is slightly dissonant. The single flute, representing perhaps the Spirit of the Wind as it sounds out the spaciousness of the caverns, calling into the depths, is the essence of that composition. The next piece, Shanti (Peace) conveys a nostalgic mood, and reminds me most of the spirit and sanctuary I felt in Aquarius Bookshop. Side two of the record begins with the sound of the ocean, of the waves crashing onto the shore, the eternal rhythm that precedes the existence of music and out of which music was born. It is joined by the sound of chimes and the dissonant-harmonic cries of the gulls as they relate an enigmatic story. This is the title track Darshan (Vision of Light). Prema (Love) is a melodic composition whose expressive variations on flute evoke the image of the eternal musician. Sathya (Truth) concludes the album with bass flute, played as a deep-whisper. The album is so grand and unique in all its points, that I have no idea of what to compare it to. As a rough point of reference I can only think of Eden’s Island (Eden Ahbez).

                                Patrick McMahon1                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

                                                       I listened to the music of Darshan many times. I listened to it alone, and it brought me home, to times so familiar. I listened with a girl who was dear to me and it sheltered us from the stresses and pressures of life, bringing us closer together. One time, in 1989, I returned for a visit to Cincinnati, and stopped by Aquarius Bookshop. It was still there, the same shopkeeper in attendance. There were fewer books, and more native American artifacts and art. I told him about the album I had found there and how much it had come to mean to me, asked him who Patrick McMahon was and if there was anything more by him. He began talking about the artist’s later releases, on cassette tape. I asked more and more questions about the music, and the shopkeeper continued to answer, appearing to know quite intimately the artist’s intentions, almost too intimately, at the same time appearing slightly embarrassed. It finally became obvious.“Well, it’s me,” he admitted. In that awkward, but beautiful moment I sensed the modesty of a grand spirit.

Patrick McMahon2                                                                                                       


For a feeling of Patrick’s music:

Cape Breezyhead (with Blacklight Braille), a continuation of the spirit of Darshan

About Patrick McMahon:

On Reverbnation:


About the reviewer:

Fred Roberts, contributing Music Editor.  A native of Cincinnati living in Germany since 1987, Fred enjoys subverting the arbitrary commercial process in which great works often go unrecognized.  He is creator and designer of, an award-winning AI system. His interests include literature, film, photography and discovering all the well-kept secrets Europe has to offer. You can read more about him in About Us.


March 1, 2014   Comments Off on Finding “Darshan”/Fred Roberts

Jeff Edstrom/The Everly Brothers

“Now and Forever…”

by Jeff Edstrom

I was only seven when the Everly Brothers broke up in 1973. I wasn’t too familiar with their songs other than hearing short snippets of “Wake Up Little Susie” and “Bye Bye Love” on commercials selling K-Tel “best of” records during commercial breaks during The Monkees and Three Stooges afternoon reruns. I was too busy listening to The Bee Gees, The Beach Boys, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and The Beatles red and blue albums.

When Phil Everly died, I thought about the first time they really caught my attention: their reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1983. You could tell that they were enjoying themselves immensely, rediscovering the magic of their harmonies. The concert was lively and had a tone and energy that was beyond a normal oldies concert.

Then came the encore. Don sang lead, as he usually did, but the camera focused mostly on Phil. “Let It Be Me” begins with them looking at each other while singing harmonies that inspired the singers I grew up listening to. Phil and Don seemed oblivious that there was an audience in front of them.

I bless the day I found you
I want to stay around you
And so I beg you
Let it be me

Don’t take this Heaven from one
If you must cling to someone
Now and forever
Let it be me

Then comes the moment for Don to sing solo.

Each time we meet, love
I find complete love
Without your sweet love
What would life be?

As Don began singing the solo, Phil stepped back to give him the stage. The camera focuses on Phil watching his brother sing with Don in profile. You can see a look of almost sheer joy and disbelief on Phil’s face. The brothers had built a successful career and were worshipped by some of the greatest artists in the world, but spending most every day of over 30 years together took its toll.  Each had personal troubles and grew weary of the other. Can you know who you are when your whole success is not yours alone?

You can see Phil as both a participant and audience member. You sense that feeling of chemical emotion that comes down in a wave from the top of the brain down when something is so affecting.

When Phil came back to the microphone to rejoin his brother, they weren’t just harmonizing; their voices were becoming one. You can almost see Phil physically wrapping his voice around Don’s in the space between them.

So never leave me lonely
Tell me you love me only
And that you’ll always
Let it be me

Phil almost staggers back to watch his brother take the lead again.  He has a faraway look in his eye like he’s remembering everything that brought them to that moment in two lines.

Each time we meet love
I find complete love

A half smile goes across his face as Don sings “Without your sweet love” and he’s brought back to the stage and he slowly steps back to the microphone.

Without your sweet love
What would life be?

There’s an effortlessness of the final lines of the song. They needed that time apart to find their own voices and lives.  They still had their differences, but seemed to come to appreciate that perfection that when those voices came together.

So never leave me lonely
Tell me you love me only
And that you’ll always
Let it be me

Phil later said the concert was the most memorable moment of his career. And you could see it in that one song.


About the reviewer:

Jeff Edstrom is a Chicago-based environmental consultant. He is married and has a son and a daughter who keep most of his free time occupied. When he can, he gives tours of the Monadnock Building, the world’s tallest masonry frame office building, as a docent with the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

March 1, 2014   Comments Off on Jeff Edstrom/The Everly Brothers

Source & Language: 3 Book Reviews




Distinctive Layers 

of Source and Language

Review by Miriam O’Neal

Mary Szybist’s 2013 National Book Award winning book, Incarnadine, from Graywolf Press, is one of those rare collections whose verses weigh simultaneously and on the heart. Everything moves in these poems; Mary folds laundry, a woman crosses an ancient square toward a mutilated man, sunlight sifts through the branches of a pear tree in leaf. Annunciation is the ground and the air of the poems. Szybist re-sees the story of Mary’s visit from the Angel Gabriel, then relocates the story both in time and perspective. We see Mary from Gabriel’s point of view and Gabriel from hers. Mary emerges from kitchens, laundry rooms, offices, and other locales of contemporary life. And there are other stories as well.

In “Another True Story,” (the title suggesting we accept stories of saints and angels as true), we read about the Jewish/American soldier in Florence in 1945 who was adopted by a pigeon. For several days the bird perches on the soldier’s shoulder as on a branch of a tree. The Florentines begin to believe he must be a new sort of Saint Francis.

There are time lapses that matter, as in “Too Many Pigeons to Count and One Dove,” in which the stanzas are organized concretely on the page so that the reader experiences the quickly shifting gaze of the speaker trying to count how many birds are in a particular tree. The poem also includes a timeline down the left side of the page, each verse represented by a passage of seconds or minutes; 3:21, 3:24, etc. Until time stands still, arrested at 3:33, which is we experience the speaker’s anxiety, rising out of her inability to distract herself by bird counting any further, from her heart’s efforts to forget someone.

She cannot move forward.

-3:33 ……..
I am tired
of paying attention. The birds are all the same

-3:33 to me. It’s too warm to stay still in the sun leaning
over this wood fence to try to get a better look
into the branches. Why

-3:33 do pigeons gather in this tree
or that one, why do I miss you

-3:33 now, but not now,
my old idea of you, the feeling for you I lost
and remade so many times until it was

-3:33 something strange as your touch
was familiar. …..

Szybist understands the value of risky play. Her poems take on a variety of shapes. Besides the stagger of “Too Many Pigeons…” there is the star burst shape of “How (Not) to Talk of God,” Lines radiate from a central, empty space on the page, each line listing ways God is referenced: “who is enough, who is more than enough/ who should be extolled with our sugared tongues///who know the scent of dust, the scent of each sparrow/ whose shadow does not flicker under streetlights/ who can feel without exaggerating anything….”.
The empty space formed by spokes of the lines has its own sound, and the closed circle of ‘who’s at the core cause a kind of radiation or shimmer on the page. In “It is Pretty to Think,” a poem in the form of a diagrammed sentence, while clearly ‘built’ reads as organically as the many other poems that rely on familiar couplet, tercet, and other traditional stanza forms.
Many of the poems in Incarnadine present visible, distinctive layers of source and language. “Annunciation in Byrd and Bush” uses excerpts of speeches by both Senator Robert Byrd and George W. Bush made just prior to the final decision to invade Iraq in 2003. But the words are spoken to a young woman reading: “at the far end of a meadow…”.

The president goes on. The president goes
on and on. Though the senator complains
The language of diplomacy is imbued with courtesy…

Who can bear it? I’d rather fasten the words
to a girl, for instance, lounging at the far end of a meadow,…..
She yawns, silver bracelets clicking
as she stretches her arms—

her cerulean sky studded with green, almost golden pears
hanging from honey-colored branches.

In her blue dress, she is just a bit of sky,
just a blank bit
fallen into a meadow.

The stranger speaks from the leafy shade.
Show uncertainty and the world will drift
toward tragedy—
Bluster and swagger, she says,

He steps toward her.
She pulls her bright scarf tight.
For this, he says, everybody prayed.
A lot of people. He leans on a branch,
his ear bluish in shadow.

Each time I read this poem I discover another layer inside the obvious layers. It works like some kind of strange, word trifle presented in a clear, glass cylinder. The president; stranger; angel of the annunciation takes on a bluish tone; becomes, perhaps the snake in the grass of Eden? The girl reading her book becomes the vessel, but of what? Is she the repository of truth or the well of our own denial to see truth? Or is she what will be left? What history cannot unmake— a girl in dappled shade, her finger holding the place in a book that she will pick up again when all of this is over?

In recent conversation with a friend who has no background in the Christian shape of faith, I wondered if a large part of my love of this collection rose out of my knowledge of the gospel story of the Annunciation and my inculcation from childhood in all things “Mary”. I’ve come to the conclusion that though the poems speak a certain language to me for that reason, Szybist’s work here remakes those stories to address a contemporary desire for both contemplation and revelation, no matter our relation to the original stories. If we know anything of our human history, we know it is strewn with actions resulting from the will to believe something, even if that something is, there is no god or there are many gods or god lives inside us, etc. In her poem, “The Cathars,” a woman watches the return the village’s men, all of whom have been blinded and have had their lips cut from their faces for speaking heresy against the Catholic church. She considers what she sees:

I am one of the women at the edge of the hill
watching you stagger magnificently,
steadily back.

All of your faces tender with holes
starting to darken and scab

and I don’t understand how you could
believe in anything that much
that isn’t me.

And who is that woman? Perhaps she is God incarnate,
or Mary,
or mother,
or all, or any one of us.


Incarnadine: ISBN 978-1-55507-635-4
Mary Szybist
80 pages, 7.5”x 9”, paperback, full color ($15.00)
First Edition 2013

Graywolf Press
250 Third Avenue North, Suite 600
Minneapolis, MN 55401

About the reviewer:

Miriam O’Neal has published poems and/or reviews in AGNI, Marlboro Review, Louisiana Literature, Birmingham Review, and The Guidebook, as well as elsewhere. Her translation of Italian poet, Alda Merini earned her a Beginning Translator’s Fellowship from the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) in 2007. Her manuscript, We Start with What We’re Given is currently looking for a home.

* * * * *


On Her Own Path

 Review by Diana Manole

Flavia Cosma’s On Paths Known to No One (Červená Barva Press, Somerville, Massachusetts, 2012, ISBN 978-0-9844732-6-7) is a wonderfully crafted collection of poems that spans two continents and brings together some of her defining themes and stylistic traits, attesting to the artistic path she has carved in her work. The book opens with George Elliott Clarke’s “Introduction,” an excellent poem in its own right, which points a visceral male gaze at a more delicate feminine collection of poems. It identifies Cosma as the “honest poet… as diligent as hunger” but also as “a Dickinson seduced by Plath” who shows that the light has “the consistency of shadows,” “Eden hosts angels—and maggots,” and love “just doesn’t suit pretty words.”

Indeed, Cosma’s vision is defined by complementary attitudes, which unwrap a world hidden under “layers of silence” (62), without spoiling or cheapening its raw beauty. On one hand, she uncovers the humanity of the natural landscape through surprising anthropomorphic details. The evening is “a brave maiden” (6) and the “rock’s heart / Full of longings, / Sighs” (5), while the “sun-baked stones” (22) get old. Even traces of human spirituality are integrated into the natural medium, such as the “white crosses / Carved into rocks” (21).  On the other hand, most of Cosma’s lyrical characters gradually regain their primordial natural aspects and eventually dissolve into the surrounding landscape. A “man fancies he is / Both a bird and the sky” (19), a boy has the “steel of the sea in his gaze” (40), and two young lovers, with “weeping, willow-like arms” eventually “melt into each other, gently turning into / A fragile young tree with soft branches” (29).

Combining the two perspectives, Cosma excels at offering glimpses of reality, highlighting wonders of the everyday life most of us take for granted. A “waft of barbecued fish” (13) immediately places us on the shore of the Aegean Sea, where everything seems at the same time familiar and ritualistic:

The heat wave opens its arms and forgets

The savage embrace of the day past […]

A mother leads her daughters by the hand,

Clothed in wall-like white […]

Temporary, silence returns,

Frights disappear. (13).

But the poet also finds her way to “the land of the unseen and the unknown,” of the nymphs, satyrs, and “men-fish”, “wild eyed sirens with tresses flouncing in the wind” (16), “wicked fairies [who] moan, yelp, throw themselves against walls” (31), “Large flocks of ghosts [that] lie in wait / Through endless oozing hours” (67).

The sea gets special treatment in the first section of the book, “Songs at the Aegean Sea.” It births young though ancient-looking statues (7), caressing them with quiet, dancing waves (6). Like “a blue lung, [it] breathes noisily” (15), while the fish “congregate for prayer / Lighting coral candles / In deep, subterranean churches” (38). Cosma’s relationship to the water reaches intensely erotic tones, as in an act of bitter-sweet consummation: “This gentle lover / With its slippery body; / I drink its green tears and once again, / His bitter, salty kiss / Inebriates me” (20). The sea eventually seizes and carries the poet away, releasing her from her burdening humanity: “My burning skin, / The stony breasts, / The frightened heart, / Writhing in my chest” (14).

In contrast to the solar grace of the Aegean poems, Cosma’s rendering of the Argentinean “vast artificial Paradises” has a darker, though still delicate feeling of time and nature, as well as a paradoxical sense of order and symmetry. Her walks bring her to a cemetery, “a village with rectangular streets”, where she glimpses “flowery, lily-white bones, / Quietly resting in small boxes” (82). As she sees it, the Museum is also “a kind of cemetery” where “Colourless images still testify / About societies, schools and communes” that disappeared, “swept by time’s waters” centuries ago (83). In “Sunset Reflections,” the combination of mythical and consumerism is overwhelming: “And old artisan shapes shinny knifes / With handles carved from mighty antlers, / Prehistoric scales and large bird’s claws. / Anything goes for a dollar” (84). Cosma’s sensibility allows her to see an Argentinean world “built of cardboard” where “nothing happens, /Life moves forward only in dreams” (94), but the dreams actually belong to the “long lost people” (90).

Cosma’s love lyrics are, however, the most jarring, melting together the collection’s main themes and stylistic characteristics. The poem that lends its title to the entire collection is a painful expression of longing for the loved one. When taking a walk in a place where they once were together, nature alleviates the pain: “I would howl, / I would cry, / But the sea does it better, / While, bit by bit, the sun slackens / This unbearable craving of you” (115).  The last lyric, however, ends the book on an optimistic note. In a world that has been technologically reduced to a manageable scale, the heart finds new means to heal and be reborn: “A new love awaits me in every airport, / Replacing an old one / With delicate petals, / Broken off from a star” (128).

On Paths Known to No One reveals Cosma as a highly sensitive artist, overwhelmed by a world where “victims turn into butchers” and the “crutch of the one-legged assassin / Beats its drum closer and closer / To the door of my mind” (68), foreshadowing imminent death. Hurt, she tries to hide among “thinner book pages,” wishes to become “a silvery silk thread,” and to “find a quiet hiding place / High in the clear sky / High in a dream” (68). Her lyrics do exactly that, attempting to defeat the unavoidable passing of flesh but also counterbalance ugliness and violence by masterfully imagining a parallel world “out of a few words, / Or a fleeting smile”  (98).

On Paths Known to No One (ISBN 978-0-9844732-6-7)
Flavia Cosma
128 pages, 6”x 9”, paperback, full color ($14.00)

First Edition 2012
Červená Barva Press
Somerville, Massachusetts

About the reviewer:

Diana Manole, PhD (University of Toronto), is a Romanian-Canadian  stage and TV director, award-winning writer, and scholar. She has published eight collections of poems and plays and several academic articles and book chapters, while teaching courses in Cultural Studies, History and Theory of Theatre and Performance, Film Analysis, and Directing at several universities in Ontario, Canada.


 * * * * *


Architectural Precision

Review by Grayson Del Faro

An Honest Ghost is more than one book: in a sense, it is both two books and five hundred books. The novel is delicately collaged from sentences appropriated from hundreds of sources and has been published by Jaded Ibis Press in two formats: one interactive and digital, the other traditionally printed and bound. Each edition of the novel creates a drastically separate but equally innovative read. In it, author Rick Whitaker guides you through both his life and his own library, curating the words read and yet allowing the reader to curate their own knowledge of the sources; throughout, the reader must make the decisions of when to disrupt the careful narrative of the tapestry to peek behind the individual curtain of each sentence.

With architectural precision, Whitaker builds the story of a man teetering between surprise parenthood, mercurial romance, literary influence, and the indelibility of memory. Beginning with a short paragraph quilting together Walter Benjamin, André Gide, Hart Crane, Rob Stephenson, and Susan Sontag, respectively, the author draws himself as close to narrator as the sentences to each other:

I am unpacking my library. I have been able to start work again on my novel. It is growing very slowly. There are limits to what can be said. Life lived by quotations.

Regardless of the edition, this library of attributions to the novel is equal parts body and concept. In the interactive book for iPad, the sources bubble up from the sentence itself at the will and touch of the reader, a system envisioned by the author over the eight years the book was under construction.

While this digital edition was the intended format of the novel, the print edition offers a different sorting of the same library. The list itself comprises almost one third of the total pages in the book and must be frequently and frantically flipped to, adding heavily to the book’s presence as a physical artifact. This also causes the novel to be read not from beginning to end, but from front to back and back again and again. The effect of these names and titles stacked together creates visions of the shelves of Whitaker’s personal library from which each was borrowed. After reading a disarmingly elegant sentence, you may flip to the source only to find it was taken from your favorite author and wonder why there was no sense of déjà vu. Sometimes there is déjà vu. Scanning a page, you may be shocked to find three sentences in that chapter from different works by E. M Forster, or one from that book sitting still unread on your nightstand. Perhaps you open to the list thinking there is no way that line is not from Proust to be shocked by the name you find there instead. To any reader as bibliophilic as the author, this list is a literary lottery. Each reader’s personal taste plays a powerful role in reading the novel. Three separate times, I found a sentence so popping with charm that I searched out its origins only to find each had come from the exact same book, a copy of which I quickly found. As I placed it on my bookshelf, I pictured it in Whitaker’s, introducing me to a unique kind of literary kinship.

The prose itself rollercoasters through the narrative, combining words originally hundreds of years and genres apart into compounds almost chemical. Some sentences flow into the next like breath into air; others spark, fire and gunpowder. When combined, certain sentences create the strikingly cerebral dissonance of the white space in poetry. Others knit together so tightly, a reader may wonder how those sentences were written, let alone published, without each other’s company. Some of them baffle while many delight, yet all fit. At times, happenings are as vague as feelings.

The titles from which the words are drawn are more diverse than the selections from the first paragraph of the book suggest. The narrator’s 9-year-old son, who arrives suddenly at the doorstep beginning the story, speaks both Camus and Fitzgerald. His outrageous mother, Eleanor, is pulled from histories of Eleanor of Aquitaine more than once. David, the narrator’s young, rich, and troublesome lover is often melodramatically Victorian, and alternatively, bursts from a contemporary nonfiction text on parenting adopted teens. (This is an autobiographical Easter egg—the author’s actual son was adopted as a teen.) The narrator himself is frequently disillusioned in the bitter words of D. H. Lawrence.

The author’s unusual resolve to preserve the tense and punctuation of each appropriation forces the reader’s attention, almost to the point of obsession, while simultaneously nurturing a healthy puzzlement. Both reader and narrator are questioned, characters have said and say within a paragraph, and the occasional slash of a line break cuts through the lilt of narration:

Again I had to confess my ignorance. “I’ll be right over,” I said. “But you’re not in New York, are you?” O Mary, go and call the cattle home / For I’m sick in my heart and fain would lie down. “The arrangement,” David notes laconically, “sounded very promising, so we decided to go. There was a man there called a folk-singer,” says David with venom, “and, naturally, everybody had to hear some folk songs.” At dinner he didn’t realize the girls sitting at the next table were boys. “And this guy says, ‘I don’t care if it’s the fucking queen of England!’”

“A poet, I dare say.” It is two o’clock in the morning. I have nothing to say.

Through the various editions of the book, much of what is left unsaid is shown. While only the print edition has the text laid over an atmospheric background image repeated on each page, the text in both editions is interspersed with spreads of dreamlike images created from internet videos photographed and pixelated by publisher Debra Di Blasi. In them, human figures jump, scream, and remove clothing floating before cool and textural sea- and cloudscapes. These enigmatic intermissions enrich the characters’ uncertainties and darknesses occasionally lurking around the corners of Whitaker’s deft phrasing and exploding wit.

An Honest Ghost is as dually dark and pithy as the play by Shakespeare from which it takes its name, although unlike Hamlet, it contains only a single abrupt death. Sorry to spoil it, reader. More subtly so, however, the literally and figuratively Joycean end to Whitaker’s book proves it is one novel worth five hundred.

An Honest Ghost (ISBN 978-1937543389)
Rick Whitaker
210 pages, 5.9” x 8.9”, paperback,
black and white edition ($16.99) – full color illustrated edition ($49.00)
Jaded Ibis Press
first edition

About the reviewer:

Grayson Del Faro’s poems have appeared in Fragments, Ellipsis Literature and Art, and The Evergreen Review, among others, as well as in an installation at the Seattle Art Museum. His comics were serialized weekly in The Cooper Point Journal from 2011 to 2012. He lives in Cascadia.





March 1, 2014   Comments Off on Source & Language: 3 Book Reviews

DIY Best Music List


One of Many Small Labels Producing Great Music

* * * * *

Free Will at Work:

Blaze Your own Trail

by Fred Roberts

It is that time again when everyone writing about music comes out with their list of top ten best releases of the last year. There are so many of these articles, in fact, the next step would be to start compiling lists of the best lists, and then lists of the best lists of the lists, and so on. If you had a dime for every year-end retrospective you could power a jukebox for a decade. By their nature these selections are arbitrary because no one person could ever honestly appraise all of the thousands of releases done in the period of a single year. And even the highest calibre musician may tour extensively for years and still not break into the critics’ consciousness. A year-end list also encourages passivity. Give a man a fish and he will eat for day. But I say, teach him to fish and he will find the next Trout Mask Replica all by himself.

Most everyone has noticed how the Internet has brought us closer together, made specialized culture available to a worldwide audience and opened up new ways to discover music. Naturally there are numerous sites that make it easier for bands to present their music and some that give random suggestions based on some unspecified algorithm, such as who paid the most for promotion, but even if not that cynical, do we want our musical discoveries to be guided by an inscrutable algorithm? It is a modern application of the free will vs. destiny discussion. You can slip past all that to take a proactive role in blazing your own trail through the musical realms. Consider these steps:

1) Notice and follow chance occurrences involving music, a song you overhear, an interesting album cover you see, an intriguing blurb in a magazine, a mention by a friend, anything.
2) Visit the Website of the label behind the band you have found.
3) Explore the various artists at the label, listen to sample tracks – (Many small labels allow listening to complete albums via bandcamp or soundcloud).
4) If you fall in love with some music you find, support the artist by ordering a record, cd, digital download or attending a concert.
5) Share your experiences with your friends. Chances are good they will not know about the great music you found. Most people never look beyond the obvious.

Why does this work? Most small labels are run by people who feel passionate about music, and want to present the highest quality selection possible. It is more about art than about commercial enterprise. It is hard not to find good music in an environment like that. Below are some “case studies” based on my own experiences.


This year a spontaneous coincidence led me to the music label Ljup Musik in Sweden. Visiting a friend at a gig in Bremen we saw the band Club K of that label and loved their music. Back home after the concert I explored the Ljup Website. It is a small label in Kristianstad run by Joel Andersson, Christina Källstrand and Patrik Jönsson. They say of themselves “Ljup musik is an independent, small and personal label that deals with music that sometimes means a lot to many people, and sometimes means a lot to only a few.” The Website is mostly in Swedish, but after some random exploration I found the essential sections: “AFFÄR” leads to a bandcamp page where you can listen to and purchase all of the releases.

“ARTISTER” gives detailed information about the bands, though not all in English. Aside from Club K and Dear Sasquatch, which I reviewed here at Ragazine, there was much more that impressed me. MOCO is the duo of Naoko Sakata (piano) and Casey Moir (voice) performing dadaistic, avant garde pieces, not traditional songs but vocal art along the lines of Kurt Schwitters and his “Sonata in Urlaute” accompanied by Satie-like piano work. But there was even more. The jazz group Pombo has a lovely album called “Hunden” which means dog in Swedish. That’s about all I understood of the lyrics, but the jazz is harmonic and pleasing to the ears. The vocals by Marie Hanssen Sjåvic make Swedish sound like the most beautiful and mysterious language in the world. Another gem on the label is Silence Blossoms, with poetry interpretations set to timeless jazz. It sounds like walking around the corner into a beat club in early 1960’s Greenwich Village, but with another foot in the new century. Have a look at the Website. What are your favorites after exploring?

lado abc

Lado ABC is a Polish label I recently stumbled upon, rich in modern-retro Slavic sounds. In their audio section you will find a selection of tracks by the various bands they cover, Polish hardcore to avant garde dissonant jazz. My favorites on the label are Alte Zachen and Mitch & Mitch. Alte Zachen stands out with hasidic surf instrumentals. The big band combo Mitch & Mitch succeeds in combining modern jazz with surf styles, as well as the cutting edge collaboration with Felix Kubin. The most unexpected surprise was the alternative folk band Paula i Karol, harmonic and upbeat compositions that would be at home in Ohio, rather than Warsaw. There is much more to explore at Lado ABC and I feel like this is the music I will be listening to in 2014.


The label Woodland Recordings is one I found purely by chance. Searching for a certain video clip at a Hamburg venue I came across a different band, Vivian Void, seven girls with loads of charm in minimalistic numbers like “High Heeled Shoes” or the epic “Love History”. The label’s mission statement “We make beautiful releases of music we love and organise concerts for artists” shows the passion behind the project. Stephen Burch (The Great Park) is label proprietor, a compelling singer/songwriter from England who has curated a variety of bands from around Europe and even in America. His own “Wöschnau Recording” with violinist Sophia Basler is magnificent. Recent Woodland releases center on folk and acoustic artists. The German musician Fee Reega, has an amazing trilingual release: “Wildheit / Salvajada / Savagery”, interpreting her songs in English, German and Spanish. The newest addition to the catalogue is Lucille Furr of Long Beach, California, dark folk songs on acoustic guitar, with lyrics that are simultaneously eerie and alluring. Her voice casts a twisting spell that doesn’t easily let go. That’s what I found at Woodland Recordings, but I have only begun to browse.

Do you see how it works? There are so many small labels in existence, and you have the power to explore them, to revel in the feeling of discovery, taking a chance turn and being the first to find something that none of your friends know about, and that could become personally meaningful to you for a long time after. I have a feeling that thirty from years from now, when mass culture has faded, that this will be the real story of music. Here is a list of some interesting European labels to get you started:

Alcohol Record Label: Strange, fun music label in UK. Tip: Ron ‘Pate’s Debonairs feat. Rev. Fred Lane – Raudelunas’ Pataphysical Revue

Beear Records: Russian indie label with music from Stalingrad (sic)

Blue Rose Records: Americana in Europe, alternative country. Tip: Chris Cacavas

Buback Tonträger: German punk, outsider label. Tip: Die Goldenen Zitronen

Crammed Discs: World-alternative music label in Belgium. Tip: Maia Vidal

Finders Keepers Records: UK label with exotic, obscure reissues

Gagarin Records: Sci-fi future electronic avant wave in Germany. Tip: Candy Hank

La Olla Express: Quirky, electronic-eclectica label in Barcelona. Tip: Florenci Salesas

Lado ABC: Polish jazz avant garde retro future. Tip: Alte Zachen

Ljup Musik: Alternative music from Sweden

Mik Musik: Bizarro electronic label in Poland run by Wojciech Kucharczyk

Surfin’Ki records: Italian psychedelic garage. Tip: Hangee V

Whatabout Music: Reflection of cultural melting pot Barcelona. Tip: Amanda Jayne

Woodland Recordings: Folk, singer-songwriters, acoustic, experimental.

Good luck on your journey of discovery. If you happen upon something that captures your enthusiasm, please take the time to share your experiences in a comment.


About the author:

Fred Roberts is a contributing music editor to Ragazine.CC. He lives in Germany. You can read more about Fred in “About Us.”

Contact him at:

December 31, 2013   Comments Off on DIY Best Music List

On Location/France


Renate Buser, My castle my home“,
Festival ARTORT , Schlossruine Heidelberg, September 2013


What Is the Essence of Time?

by Jean Paul Gavard-Perret

For Renate Buser, born in 1961 in Basel,  a fiction as such can be real. In her use of fiction there is always a Buserspeculative dimension: the possible possible and the not possible possible. The Swiss artist instrumentalizes fiction in constructed situations in the same way others paint apples. However, she does not invite the spectator who is in front of her large images to take part. They are there, but they are more spectators of themselves than of the image the artist proposes in  her specific protocol . She is not interested in making a spectacle, even if the landscape is suddenly different.  But such photographs and “curtains”  tend to intensify the presence of the image. In front of these photographs it is probably the experience of duration, the passing of time, that facilitates the conscious thought that occurs in the gap between perception and the formation of memory. Buser’s views of sunlit curtains offer the possibility of a clarion explication brought by light as well as the knowledge that  present follows past, as day follows night and spring follows winter. Buser’s work enables new ways of thinking, making the viewer aware of the way he moves temporally through the streets and houses accumulating memory, perceiving life as mystifying images.

— Jean Paul Gavard Perret

JPGP:  What makes you get up on morning?

RB: I love my work and my life- that makes me get up in the morning.

JPGP: What happened to your dreams as child?

RB: My childhood  dreams still keep me going today.

JPGP: What did you give up?

RB: I have given up the idea of having children.

JPGP: Where do you come from?

RB: From a place called Barmelweid, 800 m above sea level and the fog belt, in the hills of the Jura, Switzerland.

Buser 1

JPGP: What is the first image you remember ?

RB: I remember being about 6 years old…, my friend and I climbed out on the roof top of our house, which was, for our parents, very scary.

JPGP: That is what distinguishes you from other artists?

RB: The size of my photographs.


JPGP: Where do you work and how?

RB: I work as much as possible outside, in big cities or historical sites , and inside in my studio, for  conceptual work and the execution of the final pieces.

JPGP: To whom do you never dare write?

RB: I admire a lot of artists, filmmakers, writers, architects,the list is very long. Cindy Sherman is one of them.

JPGP: What music you listen while working?

 RB: I dont listen to music while working.

JPGP: What is the book you love read again?

RB: Slightly out of focus, by Robert Capa.

JPGP: When you look yourself in a mirror who do you see?

RB: Me

JPGP: What city or place has value of myth for you?

RB: Magnesia, in Turkey

JPGP: What are the artists you feel closest?

RB: The one’ s who surprise me, for example:  Omer Fast.

JPGP: What film make you cry?

RB: This film makes me cry  – and laugh: Short Cuts, by Robert Altman

JPGP: What would you like to receive for your birthday?

RB: A trip to the North of Canada to see the northern lights ( Auroris Borealis)


This interview with photographer/artist Renate Buser by Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret, took place 7.September 2013.  See also: Renate Buser, “Photography in Architecture, Photography of Architecture in Pavilions”, Art in Architecture,  Edition Le Bord de L’Eau-La Muette 2013,  ISBN: 978 2 35687 245 6


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 buser a

Marc Desgranchamps, text Eric Verhagen, Fondation Salomon;
2013, Alex, France.

The Marc Desgrandchamps Experience

 by Jean Paul Gavard Perret

“What do you expect an artist to be? An imbecile who has only eyes if he is a painter, ears if he is a musician? Quite the contrary, he is at the same time a political human constantly alert to the heartrending, scalding and happy events in the world, molding himself in their likeness.”

Those words of Picasso could easily have been spoken by Desgrandchamps. Both are inspired by examples from the past, but powerfully engaged in its own present.



Desgrandchamp’s very engaged body of work is one with the man’s deep, powerful sense of the human condition. The painter’s practice embodies the belief that “existence precedes essence,” and that man is condemned to be free. He always allows himself to say what he feels and thinks, and to say it in his painting. His control of his actions and even destiny, as well as the values he adheres to, keeps both the man and the work free from parasites, independent of anything thrown at them by fashion or “spirit of age.”

With Desgrandchamps, painting has always the last word. It reaches beyond both the beholder and the painter himself, moving continuously from one canvas to another, yet without constituting a story. It conveys a power whose history can be realized as the consequence of its flight and its freedom.



About the reviewer: 

Jean-Paul Gavard-Perrett writes about music and the visual arts. Born in 1947 in Chambery (France), he was a professor of communication at the Université de Savoie. He has published several essays, mainly about Samuel Beckett and painting, and short fiction, most recently “Labyrinthes,” Editions Marie Delarbre.

December 31, 2013   Comments Off on On Location/France

Rafal Karcz/Photography




“Not Been Done Before”

The Art of Rafal Karcz

By Ewa Russak

One of the artists from “Azzoro Group” once said that everything has been done. The work of Rafal Karcz (b. 1969, Krakow, Poland) proves different. He showed us that Polish contemporary art is not only created by well-known artists like Magdalena Abakanowicz, Roman Opalka or Tadeusz Kantor, it is also made by talented, unknown people who are ready to be discovered.

His art is quite different from what we can see today: rough brush strokes, form full of expression. We can almost feel the influence of Warhol’s pop – art and the romantic watercolors painted by Turner. Karcz represents a brand new approach to classical techniques: watercolors, acrylic, dark ink and soft lines of graphite. Although for many years the artist admired work of great painters from the past, in a way he managed to escape from the academic conventions. What is more, he used classical techniques and his knowledge to create an original style of his own. Though his artworks might seem realistic, on the second glimpse we can see that they can be classified, with equal ease, as avant-garde abstractions: visions painted on the old films, drowned in a fabulous spectacle of color. The association with photography emerges almost immediately.



Rafal Karcz


Nevertheless, Rafal Karcz does not paint freeze-frames taken from the city life. The artist, entrenched in post modernistic way of thinking, decided to face the very difficult task of painting a concept – condition of the contemporary human being. The characters on his canvas are, as in life, blended into the cultural background. They are also very diverse, often lost, and constantly seeking inspiration.

Karcz, through his art, shows his point of view. His artworks reflect not only the Polish presence with its baggage of historical references, but also ask questions about the mentality of the contemporary human being and the condition of his emotions. Those interesting paintings encourage us to stop and think for a second. They are the same as the figure of their creator: original and different from well-known stereotypes.

The forty-two-year-old artist with a diploma in art history and industrial design is definitely standing out from the crowd. Even though he is living and working in a small village in Poland called Bronowice, he does not consider himself as an outcast from the modern world. On the contrary, he is an extraordinary artist of the XXI century, with an interesting image and fresh ideas. While remaining in constant fight with the overwhelming mainstream, he chose to publish his artworks on various international websites connected to art and culture. Currently, he is creating a private collection of unusual paintings coming from the exchange with foreign artists who are quite similar to him – talented, still searching for their place on the demanding art market.


December 31, 2013   Comments Off on Rafal Karcz/Photography