Thursday, October 29, 2009

Iranian Halloween: A Monster Mash!

I knew it - the Ayatollahs have created a monster...a truly ghoulish Halloween!

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Anne Carson: Autobiography Of Red

Anne Carson blends genres and styles to create fascinating works of literary prowess that manage to reveal hidden truths lying just beneath the surface of our collective unconsciousness. She's also a painter of volcanoes, those geological formations often appearing along faultlines that explode into life when new substances arise from the earth's core...

Carson's Autobiography of Red is a seductive and deceptively simple "novel in verse" about the Greek mythological figure, Geryon. It's a modern retelling of his story with Herakles acting as an older mentor and eventual boyfriend to this self-confessed "monster." This is how the brilliant French illustrator Gustav Doré imagined Geryon in Hell:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lawless State: Uighur's "Disappeared" In China

It's happening again. The Chinese authorities are flouting their own laws in an effort to stamp out minority dissent. According to a brand new Human Rights Watch report, "'We Are Afraid to Even Look for Them': Enforced Disappearances in the Wake of Xinjiang's Protests," 43 Uighurs have disappeaed in the wake of last July's protests. China always seems to cut off its nose to spite its face and undermines any credibility by using such extreme and unlawful tactics against its own citizens. As Brad Adams, director of Asia Human Rights Watch said:
"The Chinese government says it respects the rule of law, but nothing could undermine this claim more than taking people from their homes or off the street and ‘disappearing' them - leaving their families unsure whether they are dead or alive."

The above graphic is from the New York Times and shows the areas in China where the minority population is at least half something other than Han. Roughly 8% of China's total population belongs to one of its 55 recognized ethnic groups.

Here's a cop enforcing the rule of law in Urumqi:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

News Alert: Heil Hitler Gnome Innocent!

From Ottmar Hörl's website:

"The garden gnome whose arm is raised in a “Heil Hitler” salute has been found not guilty of being a Nazi. The gnome in question is one of about 700 that were featured last year in an exhibit entitled “Dancing With the Devil,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports. Found on display in a Nuremberg gallery, the gnome was being investigated by authorities after a viewer complained that it breaks German laws forbidding the use of Nazi symbolism."

"Hörl, a professor at Nuremberg’s Academy of Fine Arts who has created other, friendlier interpretations of the traditional German figure in the past, argued that the piece was clearly mocking the Nazis, who likely would not appreciate being depicted as an army of garden gnomes. Authorities agreed, and dropped the case."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Frank O'Hara: Grace To Live Variously

"Mothers of America
let your kids go to the movies!
get them out of the house so they won't know what you're up to"

Frank O'Hara had his ear to the heart of Manhattan during its golden era of the 50s. From his post at the Museum of Modern Art's front desk he would watch the sparkle and twist of life's sweet parade, capturing the rhythms in his beatific verses.

"I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love."
That's not too much to ask, is it? Frank stood against the academy and was all for going "on your nerve." Listening to him read is a wonderful experience - he's got a swing-time exuberance to his tone and in fact was an accomplished piano player.

The Lunch Poems are brilliant little morsels, street eats caught on the run between the subway and desk or on the way to the library from the gallery's cafe. If they were an album it would be Richard Hell & The Voidoids' "Blank Generation."

"Now when I walk around at lunchtime
I have only two charms in my pocket
an old Roman coin Mike Kanemitsu gave me
and a bolt-head that broke off a packing case
when I was in Madrid the others never
brought me too much luck though they did
help keep me in New York against coercion
but now I'm happy for a time and interested"

- from Personal Poem

Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama's Nobel: A Call To Action

Que? How can this jive novice even qualify for the Nobel Peace Prize? What were they thinking??

Well, from outside the US it's easy to see; Obama has changed the world. Less than a year ago it was smothered in the clutches of a boffin-headed doughboy from Wyoming and an ignoramus whose only claim to leadership was his pedigree. Bush and Cheney pushed all of us to the abyss. From where I sit in Hong Kong, the rump of China, the world looks and feels a hell of a lot better than it did only 11 months ago. The fact is, Obama's tone and efforts to roll-back the reactionary, fear-based diplomacy and policies of the last 8 years are well worth recognizing with a Nobel.

Pundits are already doing everything they can to turn winning into losing and are undermining this achievement. They can't recognize the transformation because they're too busy reporting on death-panels and Iranian nukes to notice the ground beneath their puny feet has shifted. These jerks don't know what a good thing they've got.

Sure, Obama has given a lot of speeches, said a lot of words. But a speech is more than words when the most powerful man in the known universe delivers it. His speeches in Prague, Cairo, Accra, and in the United Nations Security Council were bold actions that cost him political points domestically (such is the pathetic state of affairs in the US). They moved people in ways that bombs, bullets or a dynasties will never. Obama has steered spaceship earth back on course. And that takes more than words - it takes action, it takes hope.

Andrew Sullivan has it right:

"I see this prize as an endorsement of his extraordinary reorientation of world politics, and as an encouragement to see it through. In the midst of our domestic battles, and their ill-temper (from which I have not been immune lately), this is an attempt to tell us: look up for a moment, see how far we've come in pivoting away from global conflict, and give this man a break for his efforts and the massive burden he now bears.

And, in the darkness that still threatens, know hope."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Obi-Lama: Lost In The Robes

Why do it? Why not simply arrange a tryst on the forest moon of Endor rather than kowtow to the dark side? Has the Force forsaken him?

Okay, I know Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama has been postponed, but it's the first time since 1991 that he's come to Washington and not met with the president. He even has the best interests of the US at heart, as well - about the huge gap between the rich and poor he said:

"This is unhealthy. You have to take it seriously about those less priviledged people. If they can get happier, then the whole American people will get benefit."

And Beijing dimisses him "a wolf in monk's robes"...

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Last Days of the Incas: Struggle and Resistance

The Last Days of the Incas is an absorbing play-by-play account of the Spaniards haphazard conquest of Incas in what is today modern-day Peru. While horses, armor and gunpowder were huge advantages for the conquistadors, the Incas mounted an effective and deadly counter insurgency and that was responsible for claiming many lives.

It's a captivating read that upsets many assumptions about the conquest. During the first few years the Spanish were bickering among themselves and almost divided the empire while Manco Inca, the emperor, was attempting to push them into the sea.