29 February 2012

Joan Jeanrenaud

Over the years here, I've revealed my fascination with the cello and those who play it. Last week The New York Times ran this story about Jeon Jeanrenaud who was, for many years, cellist for the Kronos Quartet. I going to hunt down some of her recent work.

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The Politics of Eggs

Over the past several weeks npr has run two stories - here and here - on the politics of eggs (not human embryos which is too common a topic in politics, but chicken eggs). More specifically, these are stories on the coalition of the Humane Society and the industry group United Egg Producers, lobbying on the same side for Federal legislation that would mandate markedly improved conditions for the raising of chickens. It reminded me of the sort of oddly unexpected coalitions that Rebecca Solnit celebrates in her Hope in the Dark. And while Solnit is concerned more with popular movements, I doubt she'd complain about this DC centric beyond thinking, perhaps, that it doesn't go far enough. She'd surely acknowledge that small steps and indirect consequences, though, open possibilities. Today, I came across this Op-Ed by philosopher Peter Singer noting the implementation of similar standards in the EU. Yes, the Europeans are ahead of us on this too. And the image of Singer and his classmates leafleting all those years ago seemed to seal the case.

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28 February 2012

Yoga and "Libidinous Surprise" or, "Could It Be Satan?"

Here is a brief, scandalous genealogy of Yoga in the west.
"The rites of Tantric cults, while often steeped in symbolism, could also include group and individual sex. . . .

Hatha originated as a way to speed the Tantric agenda. It used poses, deep breathing and stimulating acts — including intercourse — to hasten rapturous bliss. In time, Tantra and Hatha developed bad reputations. The main charge was that practitioners indulged in sexual debauchery under the pretext of spirituality.

Early in the 20th century, the founders of modern yoga worked hard to remove the Tantric stain. They devised a sanitized discipline that played down the old eroticism for a new emphasis on health and fitness.

B. K. S. Iyengar, the author of “Light on Yoga,” published in 1965, exemplified the change. His book made no mention of Hatha’s Tantric roots and praised the discipline as a panacea that could cure nearly 100 ailments and diseases. And so modern practitioners have embraced a whitewashed simulacrum of Hatha."
How is that for a description of a practice being disciplined? Talk about docile bodies!

I came across the passage in this report from The New York Times in which we learn that many pooh-bahs of Yoga, present and past, are not only (as a quick skim of the plentiful adverts in any recent issue of Yoga Journal will document) pretty venal, but pretty horny. Both vices are predictable. After all, there are buckets of money at stake in the Yoga-industrial-complex*; hence, the more or less irresistible urge of Yoga celebs to be proprietary. It turns out as well that the erotics of the enterprise apparently have a physiological basis. As the title to The Times story announces: "no surprise."

That is not to say that there are no ethical issues involved in the situations The Times reports. But it is funny how those caught up in thoroughly sublimated varieties of Yoga can so readily work themselves into paroxysms of puritanical moralism. Unfortunately, this is something I've witnessed myself on multiple occasions. It brings to mind the strictures to which the church hierarchy expects devout Catholics to hew. And the shock we find expressed in the article - that a Yogi could be led astray by "partying and fun" - reminds me of nothing so much as Dana Carvey's Church Lady on the old SNL. In the picture I've lifted above she is taking a pose (asana) that I'm not familiar with. If I had to guess, I'd say this is the sort of asana practitioners might adopt as they seek to "think themselves into states of sexual ecstasy." Look everyone, no hands!
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* Most recently, this urge to profit from enlightenment has created (pun intended) some strange bedfellows [link].

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Reflections on War Reporting

At The New York Times today there is this long thoughtful essay, part lament, part eulogy, part professional reflection, prompted by the recent deaths of journalists, killed covering the government repression in Syria. The author, Stephen Farrell, does an honest job of laying out the predicaments facing journalists and photographers trying to report on conflicts abroad. I think he does not quite face up to the systemic limits that emerge when we get the bulk of our information from embedded perspectives. I've commented on that in an intermittent series of posts here before. (I will note that the predicament of access and perspective posed by embedding system that has emerged in recent U.S. military adventures is really no different than that which exists among, say, the White House press corps. That point? Simple. Journalistic endeavors are structured by their interactions with government more or less regardless of where they take place. So, being sanctimonious about the embedding in military settings is unhelpful.) That said, Farrell provides insight into the predicament and poses the real question: If you don't like embedding, what is that alternative? Given the terms of war these days, it might be described as sending reporters out on suicide missions.

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26 February 2012

Passings ~ Sergio Larrain (1931-2012)

Chilean photographer Sergio Larrain has died; you can find an obituary here at The Guardian.

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Fairey Pleads Guilty to Lying

It has been some time since I've posted about Shepard Fairey, mostly because the matter of his dishonesty was wending its way through the judicial system. I noticed this story at The New York Times reporting that Fairey has indeed plead guilty to - let's be gentle - lying to cover up his use of a copyrighted image as the basis for the famous Obama campaign poster. The nice folks at The Times hew to their time-honored propensity to hide behind euphemisms, saying that Fairey "pleaded guilty Friday to a charge stemming from his misconduct in trying to bolster claims in a lawsuit." Nice. With luck this will be the final time I ever feel the need to write anything about the man.

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25 February 2012

A Weekend Digest

At Rolling Stone, Matt Tiabbi on the Electric Conservative Paranoia Acid Test . . . Jared Bernstein on Adam Smith and Occupy the SEC in The New Republic . . . A typically smart assessment of OWS and violence at TomDispatch.com by Rebecca Solnit . . . Diane Ravitch in the NYRB on Finland - a country that has created an admirable system of public education mostly by flaunting the dogmas of the Global Education Reform Movement . . . and finally this report on the breakthrough of political scientist Melissa Harris-Perry onto big time cable TV.

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24 February 2012

Passings ~ Rémi Ochlik (1983-2012)

Photographer Rémi Ochlik, very accomplished and very young, has died in Syria. You can find a report here.

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23 February 2012

Best Shot (195) ~ Judah Passow

(222) Judah Passow ~ Waiting for the Ferry, Banjul, Gambia, 2006
(22 February 2012).

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21 February 2012

Local Event ~ Larry Towell at Visual Studies Workshop

Larry Towell at George Eastman House, 2008.

Magnum photographer Larry Towell will be "speaking" (loosely put) at the Visual Studies Workshop tomorrow evening (7 pm) - the VSW web page seems to be out of whack, but you can find details here. I heard Towell perform his photography a couple years back and highly recommend that you go if you can.

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20 February 2012

Bill Moyers, Rita Dove and a Bunch of "Young" Folks

Well, it turns out that Bill Moyers simply couldn't stay away and has launched a new TV show. By way of calling attention to it I link to a item on his web page - this set of recommendations by past Poet Laureate Rita Dove about "young" (under 40) American poets. I've not had time to track any of them down yet, but surely will.

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19 February 2012

Passings ~ Lillian Bassman (1917~2012)

Photographer Lillian Bassman has died. You can find an obituary here at The New York Times and another here at The Guardian.

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18 February 2012

Occupy the SEC

Here is a slice from this recent, longish interview Paul Krugman:
PLAYBOY: Many complain that the Occupy Wall Street movement doesn’t have a clear message. What do you think?
KRUGMAN: I think OWS has done a great service. We didn’t need 10-point proposals. We needed someone to declare that the emperor was naked. The conversation has shifted since the protests began, and that’s good.
I think that Krugman is pretty much right on target here. The OWS folks changed the conversation from right-wing obsession about long term deficits to the immediate problem of economic inequality and its attendant hardships.

Of course many Americans think that the OWS crowd is a bunch of unhygienic, ignorant, lazy hippies who need to grow up and get a job. Even people who initially supported the movement seem to have grown impatient with it (take Bill Maher, for instance). There are problems with such criticism, of course. Not the least of those problems is that those who articulate them don't really know what they are talking about.

With that in mind, I have to say that this report at Mother Jones and this one at The Nation really sparked my interest. I have not read through the entire 300-plus page comment that the Occupy the SEC group just has filed with the SEC, FDIC, the Federal Reserve as part of the agencies' deliberations on how to implement the Dodd-Frank legislation meant (however halfheartedly) to address the regulatory problems that contributed mightily to the ongoing economic crisis. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Occupy the SEC is a group of concerned citizens, activists, and financial professionals with decades of collective experience working at many of the largest financial firms in the industry. Together, we make up a vast array of specialists, including traders, quantitative analysts, compliance officers, and technology and risk analysts. Like much of the 99%, we have bank deposits and retirement accounts that are in need of protection through vigorous enforcement of the Volcker Rule. Our experiences working inside the financial industry have informed our answers to the questions proposed, making us well-suited to understand and anticipate how the proposed implementation, should it stand, will affect us and the rest of the general public.

The United States aspires to democracy, but no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power.4 Accordingly, Occupy the SEC is delighted to participate in the public comment process for the implementation of Section 619 of the Dodd-Frank Act by the SEC, Federal Reserve, OCC and FDIC (“the Agencies). This country’s intention to protect the people from the widespread banking abuses and excesses of the recent past. We believe the Volcker Rule is important to the future of the banking industry and, if strongly enforced, will help move our financial system in a more fair, transparent, and sustainable direction. Prohibiting banking entities from engaging in proprietary trading and banning their sponsorship of covered funds are key elements to regulating the financial system and giving force to the Dodd-Frank Act. At its core, the Volcker Rule seeks to make sure that if a banking entity fails, it does not bring down the whole system with it. We appreciate the momentous challenges that the Agencies continue to face in effectively implementing the Rule, and we present these comments to assist them in their task.
What follows is a detailed, expert commentary on the rule-making process. It is not, as Krugman suggests, a 10-point proposal. It does, however, attempt to inject expert knowledge and commentary into an especially opaque the democratic process in a particularly important way. This is impressive. (Sure, there may be room to criticize, but that is not the point here.) And it is a shot across the bow of those who dismiss OWS as a bunch of naive, undisciplined nutters.
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P.S.: After finishing the post I discovered this piece in The New York Times. It is relevant, both as mainstream media coverage of the movement and because it helps make a point that animates this post. The story quotes Bill Galston, sanctimonious center-right political theorist and self-proclaimed expert on political strategy, as saying of OWS: “They’ve gotten the people’s attention, and now they have to say something more specific.” I'm wondering if the Occupy the SEC filing is specific enough for Bill.

I also will note that the report hints at the sort of continuities between OWS and ACT UP that I have noted here before. This latest intervention in the rule-making process underscores those continuities.


P.S.2: (added 3/3/2012):
You might find this column at The Nation useful in understanding what is at stake in these rather arcane discussion.

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Catholic Hierarchy Doubles Down

Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan of New York was elevated to
cardinal on Saturday at the Vatican.
Photograph © James Hill for The New York Times.

I am a lapsed Catholic, having had the faith literally beaten out of me over the course of too many years in Catholic elementary schools. It is not that I want to advocate atheism - a self-defeating project, if there ever was one. And I surely didn't expect anyone in the church to take note of my earlier remarks about the unconscionably old, pale, male character of the hierarchy. But this report at The New York Times (from which I lifted the above, confirmatory image) suggests that the Pope and his underlings simply do not get it. As the reporter notes of the group of twenty-two newly elevated cardinals in the Church:
"With Saturday’s ceremony, there are now 125 cardinals under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote for the next pope.* As a result of the new appointments, the group of cardinal-electors is now more than half Italians and Europeans, strengthening the Western voice at the church’s highest levels even as it grows most rapidly in the global south. Only three of the new cardinals hailed from newly industrialized nations, from Brazil, India and Hong Kong."
In other words, Catholics have a hierarchy reinforcing itself, with the Pope elevating voting members who will surely elect someone as his successor who is old, pale and male to impose moral and political standards on a constituency that primarily is none of those. I find all that stunning and am glad I escaped when I did. All I can do is repeat variations on questions I've posed before: Does this doubling down Sound like a reasonable plan to you? Is there any wonder why the 'morality' the Catholic church preaches to its own flock and pushes on others is so exclusionary and oppressive?
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* The report focuses on newly elevated Cardinal Dolan of NYC who, at a mere 62, apparently is a spring chicken among his colleagues.

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17 February 2012

J4JA! Justice for Jazz Artists

Two of my ongoing concerns - unions and jazz - intersect on this one. Here is the letter from the J4JA! (Justice for Jazz Artists) campaign. Sign on ...
Dear jazz musicians and listeners,

We need your help. Our country has recognized jazz as a "national treasure", yet in many cases, prominent and well-established jazz artists spend their retirement in poverty -- or never retiring at all.

Two years ago in New York, Justice for Jazz Artists! (a project of AFM Local 802) succeeded in getting a tax break passed, benefiting NYC jazz clubs like Birdland, the Blue Note, Iridium and the Jazz Standard. The savings were supposed be directed into pension payments for the musicians that perform at these clubs.

In other words, at NO COST to the clubs, musicians can receive pension contributions for retirement.

Unfortunately, despite early support for the tax break, the club owners have since refused to even discuss the issue with the J4JA! campaign.

Visit the website below and SIGN OUR PETITION to force the clubs to sit down and discuss how to put this money to its proper use -- pension payments to jazz musicians.Dear jazz musicians and listeners,

We need your help. Our country has recognized jazz as a "national treasure", yet in many cases, prominent and well-established jazz artists spend their retirement in poverty -- or never retiring at all.

Two years ago in New York, Justice for Jazz Artists! (a project of AFM Local 802) succeeded in getting a tax break passed, benefiting NYC jazz clubs like Birdland, the Blue Note, Iridium and the Jazz Standard. The savings were supposed be directed into pension payments for the musicians that perform at these clubs.

In other words, at NO COST to the clubs, musicians can receive pension contributions for retirement.

Unfortunately, despite early support for the tax break, the club owners have since refused to even discuss the issue with the J4JA! campaign.

Visit the website below and SIGN OUR PETITION to force the clubs to sit down and discuss how to put this money to its proper use -- pension payments to jazz musicians.
http://justiceforjazzartists.org/

Thank you,

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PETA Follies

In the past I have repeatedly criticized PETA for their stupid advertising campaigns and for their moralistic "politics." Here is a smart essay from The Guardian on the latest PETA idiocy. This conveys the general tone of the essay:
"There is nothing wrong with using sex, shock, or footballers' balls in a marketing campaign per se. The key, however, is to maintain an optimal effectiveness/offensiveness ratio. This requires a degree of intelligence, and is thus difficult to achieve when your marketing department is populated by people with tofu for brains. . . . Honestly, Peta's ads make me so angry I could stamp on a kitten. While eating a Big Mac and wearing chinchilla."
The tone is deserved - prompted by the unsubtle reference in the current PETA ad campaign to how becoming Vegan gives boys so much sexual prowess that they inflict physical damage on their girlfriends. Stupid. Period.

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Young Americans for Puritanism

Back in the old days it was Young Americans for Freedom, right? Now it appears Puritanism is - sort of - on the agenda. The image above, lifted from Gawker.com, is of Ann Coulter, a mid-40-ish right-wing-ranter speaking at CPAC 2012. She is dressed, as you can see in a butt squeezing mini skirt and ugly boots.* But wait, here is a blog post from one Melissa Clouthier, apparently a young conservative ranter, complaining that her peers don't dress appropriately for events like CPAC ... and blaming their poor fashion choices on their moms. (Whatever happened to defending family values?) I don't get why Melissa doesn't have the brass to call out Ann for her lack of fashion sense. After all Melissa feels free to follow the great tradition of conservative thought and list multiple non-sequitors that follow on how young women dress: "Yay! Let’s promote STDs, drunken debauchery, casual sex, and by extension, the inevitable unwanted pregnancies and abortions that result." Melissa? Ann?
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* To be clear, I don't care how Ann Coulter, or any other woman chooses to dress. Not my business. I'm just pointing out the idiocy of conservative life.

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16 February 2012

Economists on the Stimulus

The nice folks at the Booth School of Business (U Chicago) run a weekly expert poll (expert = hot shot economist) and put one item on the agenda. This week the panel was asked about the (1) initial effectiveness and (2) overall cost/benefit of the 2009 Obama/Bush economic stimulus. [You can find the results here.] As you'd expect, support hardly is unanimous or unqualified, but support for the program is remarkably strong nonetheless. And, unsurprisingly, all the Republican Presidential hopefuls have been running hard against the policy!

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House Oversight Committee Lives Up to Its Name

This image, published here by The Washington Post, but widely circulated on the internet by Planned Parenthood and Emily's List among others, shows the initial panel of witnesses called for hearings today by the House Oversight Committee as the majority members try hard to amplify religious bigotry over birth control. The Oversight Committee, controlled by the majority Republicans in the House of Representatives, didn't consider it an oversight to invite only old men from religious organizations. That says something about the Committee Republicans. But the fact that every single person here is male says something too about American religious institutions. You make the inference.

I have come across two blog posts recently that put this matter - the notion that somehow, requiring institutions owned by religions to treat women equally by arranging to provide birth control as part of insurance for employees - into some perspective. You can find them here and here. It turns out that Catholics try to draw exceedingly fine distinctions about which Church directives they must follow and which they can ignore.

P.S.: I recommend this short post by Gary Wills over at the NYRBlog too! Right on point.

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15 February 2012

Best Shots (194) ~ Boris Mikhailov

(221) Boris Mikhailov ~ Yesterday's Sandwich Plate No 48
(15 February 2012).

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13 February 2012

Advice for Photographers from the Friendly Folk at the ACLU

I've come across this material from the ACLU on your rights as a photographer on several of the blogs I visit and figure it won't hurt to amplify the message. Bottom line? Law enforcement types generally have no legal basis to prevent you from taking pictures in public places or to confiscate your equipment if you've been taking pictures:
"Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties."

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12 February 2012

Occupy! at fovea (Beacon, NY)

This group exhibition, actually a slide show curated by Nina Berman, opened last night and runs through March 4th.

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Artists for the NHS

Graphic © Ryan Gander (2012)

"This blog is about the Health and Social Care Bill which will return to the House of Lords next week. It is produced by people who aren’t medical or political specialists as there are plenty of excellent blogs and outlets out there which have that expert knowledge. We don’t. Instead, this blog is produced by artists, a curator and an arts journalist.
Many people are concerned that the Health and Social Care Bill will irrevocably change the NHS, turning a tax-funded service that is publically provided and publically accountable into a market-driven service. And those feelings of deep misgiving are shared by amongst others, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nurses, the Royal College of Midwives and the majority of GPs in this country. It’s also shared by us.

So over this month, this blog will feature contributions from a number of artists. And it will have bits of text that hopefully look at the Bill in a way that doesn’t involve two middle-aged blokes shouting at each other on the Today Programme about PCTs."

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11 February 2012

Simon Norfolk on Politics & Photography

"I can't stand the kind of news photography that's coming out of Afghanistan - photographs of 'our boys' bravely defending our interests despite the fact they don't have enough helicopters. It makes me really angry. The thing I love about photography is that it gets me out of the house and looking at the world, but that's the thing I hate about it too - it makes me look at the surface of things and how they look.

I couldn't give a stuff about how things look, I want to know why things happen, and why they happen again and again. The photojournalists who go to Afghanistan may be very brave, and their photographs may be very good, but I think their politics suck." ~ Simon Norfolk

Afghan Police being trained by US Marines, Camp Leatherneck (2010).
Photograph © Simon Norfolk.

Norfolk is right to want to know why things happen and why they recur. And he is right to think that photography can help us ponder such questions. But, if that is so, he is merely being polite about the other photographers he mentions. Insofar as their work remains at the surface, it cannot be "very good," not for contingent political reasons but for basic photographic ones. In other words, if it simply tells us how things look, it fails in the basic task of depicting reality and so of inducing reflection. Photographs that remain on the surface may illustrate, but they will not amplify our ability to see and imagine and so dampen our political capacities. This is not a contingent matter but is central to the task of depicting.

Norfolk won third place in the "portrait" category of the World Press Photo competition for his series Burke + Norfolk: Photographs from the War in Afghanistan by John Burke & Simon Norfolk in which, as he points out in the same interview from which the above remarks are drawn, he is "trying to make people think about British Imperialism." He pursues this by contrasting his own images of Afghanistan with images made of the same country by the 19th Century British photographer John Burke. A quick look at Norfolk's larger project will make one wonder how, at least absent Procrustean measures, it falls within the "portrait" genre. This is terrific work, giving revised meaning to the notion of collaboration.

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10 February 2012

Uses of the Pietà ~ Criticisms of World Press Photo Award

A woman holding a wounded relative during protests against president
Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen October 15, 2011. Photograph © Samuel Aranda.

This is the image that has been named 2011 photo of the Year by the folks at World Press Photo. No offense to Aranada, who is a talented photographer, but this selection is yet another disappointment. Let's set aside the multiple versions of the Pietà (from, say, Michelangelo to Sam Taylor-Wood) scattered across the history of painting and sculpture in the west.* The winning image is derivative if we focus just on the recent history of photography. Consider these two prominent examples:

A boy experiencing severe pain from TB meningitis is comforted by
his mother at Svay Rieng Provincial Hospital, Svay Rieng, Cambodia.
Family members provide much of the personal care at hospitals in
the developing world. Photograph & Caption © James Nachtwey/VII.

Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath (Minamata, 1972).
Photograph © W. Eugene Smith.

I've posted about these older images here before. My complaints, however, are not simply to note the "not again" feeling I had when the jury announced its selection. Consider the motto splashed across the bottom of each page on of the WPP web site:

We exist to inspire understanding of the world through quality photojournalism.

What I really would like to know is how the winning photo advances that mission. There are at least three deep problems that I see.

First, the image, according to remarks by jury members, is meant to call attention to the "Arab Spring" which is admirable enough. Yet this image reduces the public and the political to the intimate and the personal. The Arab Spring is centrally a broad, ongoing struggle to throw off dictatorship. Where does that primary theme go in this image? It is nowhere to be seen or inferred. This is de-politicization by convention. As such it is what, too often, photojournalism seems drawn to do almost irresistibly.

Second, the jurors too note the crucial role that women have played in the Arab Spring. They are right to do so. But they then turn around and select an image that reinforces traditional gender roles and neglects the real active role women have played. Here the woman provides care and solace to a man who has been injured, presumably out in the public world of political conflict. What about all the women who played a direct role in the resistance, not as care givers, but as strategists and organizers and spokespersons? Women across the world have been making trouble all year, not just cleaning up the mess or mourning it.

Finally, how does this image encourage "understanding" of the complex politics of Islam? Not only does it reduce politics to the personal, it does that by assimilating the stereotypical burka-clad woman to deeply Christian iconography. We don't even get universal humanism here. We here in the west are encouraged not to appreciate the realities and particularities of another world. Instead we are encouraged to see others as essentially just like 'we Christians.'

In all three of these ways, Aranda's image - presented as the "photo of the year"** - seem to me to divert understanding, to make it more difficult.
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* The folks at Lens/NYTimes rightly remark on the "painterly" nature of the image.
** Here, again, I want to stress that I am not criticizing this particular image or the photographer who made it. I am criticizing the jury for its selection and rationale.

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09 February 2012

Aesthetics of Atrocity: A Public Program of Exhibitions, Films, Lectures

I am a tad late in posting this series of events at the Visual Studies Workshop here in Rochester.

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Best Shots (193) ~ Clare Gallagher

(220) Clare Gallagher ~ Just as I pressed the shutter, my son peeped
through the glass.
(8 February 2012).

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Catholic Politics

Well, the Catholic Bishops are at it again. On the drive home tonight I heard this report on NPR. Remember when they weighed in on health insurance reform? Now they are having a fit about the effort to uniformly apply a decade old standard for equal treatment of men and women in health care (for some background on the putatively "new" standard see this report in Mother Jones). The hypocrisy drips from this - and from the right-wing chorus proclaiming this an attack on religious liberty. Keep the church and its reactionary views out of politics. Religions are free to not run hospitals and clinics if they cannot recognize the equal protection of the laws.

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08 February 2012

Tyler Kopp (2000~2012)

This is a difficult post to write. Yesterday a young boy from Brighton (a close-in Rochester suburb) died after having been injured playing lacrosse. Tyler Kopp was 12 - by all accounts he was an accomplished athlete and all around great kid - and his death is so very, very sad. I did not know Tyler, nor do I know his family. But I know for sure just how crushing this tragedy is for them. I wish them peace.

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07 February 2012

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP

United in Anger is a new documentary produced by Sarah Shulman and Jim Hubbard, directed by the latter. You can find a link to the web site (with Trailer) here. The World Premier at MOMA (NYC) is coming up next week.

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03 February 2012

Left, Right and Ideology in American Politics

"Republicans have moved further to the right than Democrats to the left in the contemporary period."

"President Obama is the most moderate Democratic president since the end of World War II, while President George W. Bush was the most conservative president in the post-war era."

Those are two conclusions in this series of brief blog posts [1] [2] [3] by political scientist Keith Poole - who, I think it is fair to say is himself hardly anything resembling a liberal politically. Keith studies this sort of thing for a living. So, if you are searching for the source of our current political stalemates please look to the right. And when the red-staters try to paint Obama as a socialist or a radical the proper response is to laugh heartily and recommend clinical help.

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02 February 2012

Best Shot ~ Shirley Baker (192)

(219) Shirley Baker ~ Young Boy, Manchester Slum Clearances
(1 February 2012).

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Passings ~ Homai Vyarawalla (1913-2012)

Pioneering Indian photojournalist Homai Vyarawalla has died. You can find an obituary here at The New York Times.

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01 February 2012

Wisława Szymborska (1923-2012) . . . Not "hopelessly unphotogenic.”

Wisława Szymborska. Photograph © Joanna Helander.

The phrase at the end of the post title is from a description of the slow, solitary, quite work poets do that Wisława Szymborska offers in her Nobel Lecture. The portrait I've lifted here makes clear that the description hardly is true of the poet herself.

In November, drummer Paul Motian, perhaps my favorite musician, died. At the time I wrote that was difficult to express my admiration for the man or how much I owed to his music. Today Szymborska, another person in much the same category as Motian, died of cancer. You can find an obituary here at The New York Times.

Once again my debt is immense. Once again, words escape me. Some readers may know that my email address is zerosonetheloose. That is a compressed phrase from one of Szymborska's poems - "Possibilities" - the final lines of which have gotten me by on many days over the past half-decade. I never met Szymborska and regret having never had the chance.
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P.S. (2 March 2012): I just came across these reflections on Szymborska by Katha Pollitt at The Nation.

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