Category Archives: Art

Mike Sandoval: The two faces of a president

An emblematic magazine cover featuring Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto gets a makeover from artist/illustrator Mike Sandoval:

BLOG Penatoon

Farewell Mike Nichols, a uniquely American artist

Mike Nichols is gone. Comedian, writer, actor, writer, playwright, director, and producer, he left an indelible mark on the American performing arts.

From his obituary in today’s New York Times:

Mike Nichols, one of America’s most celebrated directors, whose long, protean résumé of critic- and crowd-pleasing work earned him adulation both on Broadway and in Hollywood, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 83.

His death was announced by James Goldston, the president of ABC News. Mr. Nichols was married to the ABC broadcaster Diane Sawyer. A network spokeswoman said the cause was cardiac arrest, giving no other details.

Dryly urbane, Mr. Nichols had a gift for communicating with actors and a keen comic timing, which he honed early in his career as half of the popular sketch-comedy team Nichols and May. An immigrant whose work was marked by trenchant perceptions of American culture, he achieved — in films like “The Graduate,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Carnal Knowledge” and in comedies and dramas on stage — what Orson Welles and Elia Kazan but few if any other directors have: popular and artistic success in both film and theater.

An almost ritual prize-winner, he was one of only a dozen or so people to have won an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy.

But it is for his earliest success as partner with Elaine May in one of America’s greatest ever comic duos that we will forever remember him fondly.

So with that, here’s a repost of an offering from 22 January 2013:

Mike Nichols & Elaine May: Comedy that stings

For a kid growing up in small town Kansas in the 1950s, television ushered in a new world, full of both terrors and delights.

As a member of the very first wave of what became the Baby Boom, we arrived before the boob tube’s presence became ubiquitous, and when Dad brought home a pair of boxes, one cubical and the other long and narrow, our world paradigm shifted dramatically.

The cube contained a black and white television set, and the oblong box an antenna kit.

Dad cobbled the antenna together inside attic of our two-story home, running the lead down through to wall to the living room two floors down.

Our neighbors, a reclusive elderly couple, had been forced to put up a tall steel tower reaching up about 50 feet before they could grab a decent signal, but somehow Dad’s inspiration worked, and we had television that night.

Our life was never the same.

The fears came through the endless news stories about nuclear bomb tests and the latest Cold-and-growing-hotter War confrontations.

The delights came in the form of brilliant and mostly Jewish comedians, offering a view of the world that zeroed in on the same insanely macabre contradictions we had just begun to discover at the ripe old age of six.

Sid Caesar and his troupe were the reigning stars [how could they not be, with a crew of writers that included the likes of Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart, and Carl Reiner]. The show’s cast was legendary. And to top it all off, they did it every week live in prime time.

From Your Show of Shows, Caesar appears with Carl Reiner and Howard Morris [“Uncle Goopy”] in a parody of one of television’s earliest hits, This is Your Life, where an unsuspecting audience member was plucked from obscurity and bombarded with people from her past. In this parody, the show takes the unexpected turn every kid secretly hoped would happen.

“This is Your Story”:

While Caesar and his crew painted in a broad brush with roots in vaudeville and the Catskills, two other comics brought a rapier wit and an edgier, more cerebral nightclub tone. And their targets were typically institutions, and they targeted their most corrosive effects.

Mike Nichols and Elaine May were simply brilliant, both witty and masters of the secrets of timing. It’s not surprising both went on to direct. While Caesar brought the pure catharsis of the belly laugh, Nichols and May left you thinking after the laughter had subsided.

Here they tackle a subject brought to the national attention by East Bay writer Jessica Mitford in her searing 1963 expose of the American funeral industry, The American Way of Death. The venue is The Tonight Show, then hosted by Jack Paar.

“The $65 Funeral”:

And here’s a subject near and dear to our own heart of late.

“At the Hospital”:

Finally, Nichols and May bite the hands that feed them in this wonderful little sketch they presented at the 1959 Emmy awards:

And now for something completely different. . .

And that would be the Theremin, the instrument you play by keeping your goshdarn hands off it!

Invented in 1928 by Lev Sergeyevich Termen [Westernized to Léon Theremin], a largely self-taught Russian electrical engineer and inventor, the theremin is played by moving your hands closer and farther away from two antennae, one regulating frequency and the other amplitude or volume.

Here, from a Soviet film, is a performance the inventor himself via vlogger slonikyouth:

Leon Theremin playing his own instrument

We first because aware of the instrument though its presence in the sound tracks of the science fiction films and space operas we loved as a kid. In those pre-digital synthesizer days, only the theremin could produce those otherworldly sounds so appropriate to otherworldly films.

Here’s a thermin-scored clip from a 1951 film we loved, The Day the Earth Stood Still:

And here’s the composer of that score in a 1956 appearance on the Johnny Carson Show [not the Tonight Show, but an earlier talk show Carson hosted], via theremin artist Peter Pringle:

Johnny Carson Plays THEREMIN

Program notes:

This is an appearance that thereminist Dr. Samuel Hoffman made on the JOHNNY CARSON SHOW in 1956. The 1929 RCA theremin you see in this clip is currently in my collection.

And here’s Pringle himself, playing a theremin featuring a truly magnificent [speaker that we’d just love so have for ourselves]:

Mozart Theremin Concerto

Program notes:

This is the main theme from the “andante” movement of Mozart’s piano concerto #21 in C major (K. 467). The theme was used in the soundtrack of the 1967 Swedish film, ELVIRA MADIGAN, and since then it has been called “The Elvira Madigan Concerto”.

This is a theremin transcription of the theme played on the Moog Ethervox.

Here’s another latter-day theremin artist, Randy George, in a dimly lit performance of a work by Claude Debussy:

Clair de Lune – Randy George, theremin

Program notes:

Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy. Randy George, theremin.

For a higher quality viewing and listening of this video, I made a download available. I remastered the audio and video in March 2013 and compressed a higher resolution mp4. download it here (106MB):

My Facebook Page:

If you are new to the theremin, please discover it in more depth. It is the most fascinating musical instrument in the world (when played as it was originally intended).

The theremin entered my life seven years ago. It has been a tremendously challenging journey, but it is immensely rewarding. The theremin is absolutely deceptively difficult to play with musical precision and finesse.

Clara Rockmore introduced the theremin to the world as a serious musical instrument. Over the course of recent music history, this expressive voice was forgotten.

I feel it’s definitely time to reconnect with the roots of the instrument. With these classical theremin videos, I hope to light the way back home.

Finally, to take things to an absurd extreme, from Japanese vloogger mandarinelectron, a mass performance by nearly 300 folks who play theremin bulk to look like those nesting Russian matryoshka dolls:

“Symphony No.9, Boogie” by Matryomin ensemble “Da”

Program notes:

Recorded at auditorium of Jiyugakuen Myonichikan in Tokyo on 22 Jan. 2011.

MexicoWatch: Names, images, cops, protest

A short post today because the media attention has slowed for the moment.

We begin with a graphic from the Tumblr of Ni, a 20-year-old journalism student:


And the names of the 43:

  • Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz
  • Luis Ángel Abarca Carrillo
  • Marco Antonio Gómez Molina
  • Saúl Bruno García
  • Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño
  • Abel García Hernández
  • Carlos Lorenzo Hernández Muñoz
  • Adán Abraján de la Cruz
  • Felipe Arnulfo Rosa
  • Emiliano Alen Gaspar de la Cruz
  • César Manuel González Hernández
  • Jorge Álvarez Nava
  • José Eduardo Bartolo Tlatempa
  • Antonio Santana Maestro
  • Christian Tomás Colón Garnica
  • Luis Ángel Francisco Arzola
  • Miguel Ángel Mendoza Zacarias
  • Benjamín Ascencio Bautista
  • Alexander Mora Venancio
  • Leonel Castro Abarca
  • Everardo Rodríguez Bello
  • Doriam González Parral
  • Jorge Luis González Parral
  • Marcial Pablo Baranda
  • Jorge Aníbal Cruz Mendoza
  • Abelardo Vázquez Peniten
  • Cutberto Ortiz Ramos
  • Bernardo Flores Alcaraz
  • Jesús Jovany Rodríguez Tletempa
  • Mauricio Ortega Valerio
  • Martín Getsemany Sánchez García
  • Magdaleno Rubén Lauro Villegas
  • Giovanni Galindo Guerrero
  • José Luis Luna Torres
  • Julio César López Patolzin
  • Jonás Trujillo González
  • Miguel Ángel Hernández Martínez
  • Christian Alfonso Rodríguez
  • José Ángel Navarrete González
  • Carlos Iván Ramirez Villareal
  • José Ángel Campos Cantor
  • Israel Caballero Sánchez

Next, another fine report from New Mexico State University’s Frontera NorteSur:

43 Faces that Move the World

On a frigid November night, candles illuminated the photos of 43 missing young men laid out on the patio of the Mexican Consulate in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A man crouched on the ground, reading out the names of the disappeared: “Leonel Castro Abarca (18), Mauricio Ortega Valerio (18), Felipe Arnulfo Rosa (20)…”

“Presente!” roared back a crowd of about 100 people as each name was read off.  Mixed in ethnicity and age but with a heavy representation of young people, the demonstrators sang, chanted and spoke out about the murdered and forcibly disappeared students of the Ayotzinapa rural teachers’ college in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero.

“Justice! When do we want it? Now!” demanded the protesters.  The November 13 Duke City demonstration was among numerous actions that swept the globe in recent days as outrage swelled over the police/cartel killings and forced disappearances of 49 students and civilians in Iguala, Guerrero, last September 26 and 27.

For Cipriana Jurado, the atrocities of Iguala are far from new. A longtime labor and human rights activist from Ciudad Juarez who participated in the Consulate protest, Jurado was granted U.S. political asylum following threats and the killings of her friends from the Reyes Salazar family in the Juarez Valley during 2010 and 2011.

“We’ve suffered other massacres like those in Juarez and Tamaulipas, but Ayotzinapa is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Jurado told FNS.

Finally, a trigger happy cop faces charges, via the Latin American Herald Tribune:

Mexico City Government Charges Officer in University Shooting

A police officer involved in a shooting that wounded a college student over the weekend in Mexico City’s Ciudad Universitaria will face abuse of authority and other charges, Federal District Government Secretary Hector Serrano said.

Officer Luis Javier Aguinaga Saavedra, who used his firearm during Saturday’s incident, will face criminal charges, Serrano said.

The shooting ratcheted up tensions between students and police in Mexico, where numerous protests, some of them violent, have been staged since the disappearance of 43 education students nearly two months ago in the southern state of Guerrero.

From RT, another protest takes a fiery turn:

Mexico protesters attack party offices, throw Molotov cocktails

Program notes:

Protesters attacked the Oaxaca state office of Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party on Monday in anger over the disappearance of 43 students who went missing in September.

Al Jazeera America covers a complication confronting potential witness is search of a refuge north of the border:

US asylum laws endanger Mexican victims of drug gangs

  • US refusal to recognize collusion of Mexican public officials with drug cartels imperils asylees, say legal experts

The Obama administration’s refusal to recognize the Mexican government’s complicity with criminal groups is making it nearly impossible for Mexicans fleeing violence to apply for asylum in the United States, according to legal experts.

Mexican asylum requests have skyrocketed in recent years, quadrupling to 9,206 in 2012 from 2006, when the Mexican government, in conjunction with the U.S., launched an offensive against criminal drug gangs. Despite the gangs’ reign of terror, more than 90 percent of asylum requests from Mexico are denied, according to Carlos Spector, a Texas-based attorney who has represented hundreds of asylum seekers.

In order to be granted asylum, an applicant must demonstrate persecution or a reasonable expectation of persecution based on the categories of nationality, race, religion or belonging to a social group, as well as show that persecutors are either foreign government agents or part of a group that a foreign government is unwilling or unable to control.

And from Bloomberg, hardly surprising:

Vetting Failed to Cull Mexican Cops Accused in Student Kidnappings

“The Pena people dropped the ball on pushing ahead with police reform,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, who investigates drug-war conflicts for the Brookings Institution in Washington. “Often they would simply want to shove security issues under the rug. Focusing on deep economic issues was important, but could have been combined with attention to security.”

The national center that vets police has been without a presidentially-appointed director since October 2012, about three months after Pena Nieto won election. He took office in December of that year.

While the federal government says all police have undergone background checks, the reviews fail to probe financial records that might uncover ties to criminals, said Causa en Comun, a non-profit group that tracks law enforcement and has a seat on the nation’s public security council.

Finally, a striking image from the Tumblr of photographer Raúl Fernando:

Part of a protest that took place in front of the government palace of Chihuahua, México, against the state crime in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, and all the feminicides that take place regularly in the country.

Part of a protest that took place in front of the government palace of Chihuahua, México, against the state crime in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, and all the feminicides that take place regularly in the country.

Ayotzinapa: The art of Mexican anguish

From the Cat Astrophal Tumblr, a remarkable graphic call for collective action to rectify the structural injustices which led to the abduction and presumed murder of 43 Mexican students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa:. And do visit the site to see the graphic at full size:

BLOG Aytozinapa

Chart of the day II: The war to end all wars didn’t

The poppy was a near universal for adult males back during our childhood in the 1950s, sprouting from labels or buttonholes, and marking the peace that came, we were told, “on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918, ending the “War to End all Wars” an ironic phrase already given that an ever greater war had ended in 1945.

Still, every junior high student still learned the lines of In Flanders Fields, the poem composed by Canadian physician-soldier John McCrae, who had run a field hospital during the bloody Second Battle of Ypres in Flanders. He would die of pneumonia on 18 January 1918:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Margaret Shepardson, our seventh grade English teacher at Lincoln Junior High in Fort Collins, Colorado, made sure we all learned the belligerent words and so we could recite them the week of Armistice Day. She was one of those curmudgeonly sorts who somehow manage to win a fierce loyalty from students, who often came to visit her classroom as adults.

Later another poem from that war struck a deeper and more meaningful strain in our life.

Dulce et decorum est was written by Wilfred Owen, one of Britain’s finest poets, cut down by a German machine gun on 4 November 1918. The church bells back in Britain were ringing to celebrate the armistice when authorities brought word of his death to his parents:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Those final words, drawn from the odes of Horace, mean “Sweet and fitting it is to die for one’s country.”

This graphic from the Independent shows that World War I , the war to end war, was anything but. The size of the blossom indicates the number of causalities, with World War I the medium sized bloom on the left. The far larger blossom is World War II, and the other blooms represent the endless succession of smaller wars continuing to the present:


And now for something completely different. . .

Would you belief a television pilot written, produced and scored by, and starring Orson Welles?

From Dangerous Minds:

Orson Welles’ little-known TV pilot: ‘The Fountain of Youth’ is radical mini masterpiece

Orson Welles wrote, starred in, directed, art directed and even produced the music for “The Fountain of Youth,” an ingeniously devised and wryly funny half-hour that was made as a television pilot for an ill-fated anthology show that Welles developed for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s Desilu production company. Imagine a Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but with Orson Welles in the auteur/narrator’s role. The pilot was shot in 1956, but the The Orson Welles Show never happened. It ultimately aired on NBC’s Colgate Theater in 1958.

From the first minutes of “The Fountain of Youth” it’s very obviously different from any and every television show of that era, with a clever use of rear projection, consecutive photo stills, illustration, on-camera set changes, innovative sound editing, experimental narrative techniques and multilayered storytelling.

Welles’ script was based on a short story, “Youth From Vienna” by New Yorker writer John Collier. A scientist, Humphrey Baxter (Dan Tobin), searching for an eternal youth serum falls in love with a beautiful young Broadway actress named Carolyn Coates (Joi Lansing) but is forced to return to Europe to work with a distinguished older scientist. He’s gone for three years, and upon returning to New York, finds that his love has taken up with Alan Brody, a handsome tennis star (Rick Jason) closer to her own age. The spurned scientist gives the glamorous couple a single dose of the youth serum—it’s the only one in existence and it can’t be split 50/50 or it won’t work at all—for a wedding present. That’s when the fun begins…

From vlogger danielcaetano:

The Fountain of Youth (Orson Welles, 1958)

Program notes:

The Fountain of Youth is a 1956 TV pilot for a proposed Desilu TV series (with a tentative title, The Orson Welles Show) which was never produced, and was subsequently televised once, on September 16, 1958 for NBC’s Colgate Theatre. The short film was directed by Orson Welles,based on the short story “Youth from Vienna” by John Collier, and stars Joi Lansing and Rick Jason as a couple faced with an unavoidable temptation concocted by a scientist (Dan Tobin). Welles himself is also much in evidence as onscreen narrator. The show won the prestigious Peabody Award in 1958 after its single broadcast.


Dan Tobin as Humphrey Baxter
Joi Lansing as Carolyn Coates
Rick Jason as Alan Brody
Nancy Kulp as Stella Morgan
Billy House as Albert Morgan
Marjorie Bennett as Journalist (uncredited)
Orson Welles as Host / narrator