Category Archives: Art

New Orleans evicts its Confederates monuments

We begin with a cartoon from the Baton Rouge Advocate, depicting the imminent removal of Robert E. Lee from his towering six-story marble pedestal in the heart of the Crescent City:

Walt Handelsman: Monumental change

Eviction of the military commanders who fought for slavery has been a long time coming.

The Confederate Flag has become the unofficial banner of the GOP, sported brazenly at so many Trump rallies.

As just as Robert E. Lee and his brothers in arms fought for the right of plantation owners to keep humans in chains, so the modern bearers of the Confederate battle flag are all about keep black folks down in today’s America, save for the occasional token like Ben Carson.

Lee Adelson of the Advocate reports on the removal of the last obstacle to the landmark [literally] move:

Confederate heroes Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard will soon be decamping from their prominent pedestals in New Orleans, more than a year after the City Council declared their statues to be public nuisances that should be taken down.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously cleared the way Monday evening for the monuments to be removed, issuing an opinion that criticized groups seeking to keep the statues in place for arguments that “wholly lack legal viability or support.”

With what is likely the last legal hurdle the city faces removed, the statues are expected to come down quickly. Tyronne Walker, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said the city will start seeking bids Tuesday to remove the statues, and a contract will be awarded 25 days later.

The opinion by Judges Patrick Higginbotham, Jennifer Walker Elrod and Stephen Higginson lifted a temporary order they issued last year that had prevented the city from moving to take down the statues that have stood for many decades at Lee Circle, Jefferson Davis Parkway and the entrance to City Park.

How killing the NEA threatens America’s museums

Robert B. Ekelund, Eminent Scholar and Professor of Economics Emeritus at Auburn University, is both a classically trained pianist as well as a passionate collector of art.

He’s also a world-renowned economist.

In an analysis for The Conversation, an open source academic journal written in conversational English, Ekelund tackles an item up for the chop in Donald Trump’s first budget, abolition of the National Endowment for the Arts [NEA].

The NEA is one of three cultural institutions proposed for elimination, the others being the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

While Trump says he wants to build up infrastructure, the only improvements he wants are those related to commerce, including the roads, tunnels, and bridges we used to commute to and from those corporate jobs.

So what does it all mean for folks like us?

From The Conversation:

Some politicians have never made a secret of their desire to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as its companion agency the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Each of these agencies have traditionally been regarded as bastions of “liberalism,” making them prime targets for conservatives in the culture wars.

While I would dispute that characterization, opponents’ ostensible reason for killing off the NEA in particular is equally flimsy: cost savings. Costing taxpayers US$148 million in fiscal year 2016, the NEA made up a minuscule fraction of the $3.9 trillion the U.S. government spent. (If you add in the other two agencies on the chopping block, the total was still just $741 million.)

At the same time, NEA opponents tell those who worry their local communities will see arts funding dry up, don’t worry, private sources will emerge to make up for the difference. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

That’s because it’s the government funding itself that often drives the donations in the first place by energizing private philanthropy. And since privatization of arts funding is one of the supposed reasons for killing off the NEA, the argument begins to fall apart.

If we focus on the allocations to museums in particular, my particular focus, the proposed cuts could lead to a reduced financial health of all museums, especially smaller museums in the middle of the country.


Where the money goes

The NEA’s budget of $148 million is divided up among 19 different categories, including arts education, dance, music and opera. (The NEH gets a similar allocation of $148 million, while the CPB – which funds National Public Radio and PBS – gets $445 million.)

The loss of funds to each arts category would be unfortunate, but I would argue the museum funding cuts would be especially damaging. A closer look at the impact on museums is also illustrative of the deleterious effect of eliminating the NEA for American arts more generally, which generated $704 billion in economic activity in 2013. Another study showed that each dollar of investment in nonprofit cultural institutions creates $1.20 to $1.90 in per capita income.

Continue reading

Scenes from a walk in downtown Los Angeles

Thursday was a family day as esnl [behind the lens], daughter Jackie [left] her spouse Krys [right[, his mom, and granddaughter Sadie Rose [melting our heart with s a smile] hit the bricks for a day on the town, starting with a visit to the Broad Museum:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 1250, 4.3 mm, 1/250 sec, f3.3

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 1250, 4.3 mm, 1/250 sec, f3.3

Right across the street from the Broad is downtown LA’s most striking architectural feature, architect Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall.

We were fortunate in that all traffic to the area had been blocked off because high school students were enjoying a day with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, giving us the rare opportunity to shoot with any traffic:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 160, 4.4 mm, 1/640 sec, f4

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 160, 4.4 mm, 1/640 sec, f4

Another shot, taken from the entrance of the Broad looking across Second Street:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 100, 4.3 mm, 1/2000 sec, f4

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 100, 4.3 mm, 1/2000 sec, f4

Inside the Broad, we toured Creature, an exhibit of the monstrous captured by artists in both it florid and it’s more mundane forms. Sadie Rose found herself smitten with an Andy Warhol take on Bella Lugosi’s Dracula [she’s in her “I love monsters” phase].

We were drawn to a couple of Jeff Koons sculptures. the first, a delightful rendition of America’s greatest comedian of silent screen era, Buster Keaton:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 250, 4.3 mm, 1/60 sec, f3.3

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 250, 4.3 mm, 1/60 sec, f3.3

And there’s this rendition of the ambiguous Michael Jackson and his pet chimp, Bubbles:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 320, 4.3 mm, 1/125 sec, f3.3

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 320, 4.3 mm, 1/125 sec, f3.3

After lunch we took a stroll, giving us the opportunity of shooting two murals adorning walls adjacent to downtown parking lots.

First, a work entitled Who Will Guard the Guards Themselves?, a translation of that famous line from the Roman poet Juvenal, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 100, 4.3 mm, 1/200 sec, f4

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 100, 4.3 mm, 1/200 sec, f4

Another mural offers a more optimistic perspective:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 100, 4.3 mm, 1/500 sec, f4

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 100, 4.3 mm, 1/500 sec, f4

For our last two shots, we with to black and white, a perspective that allows us to capture the basic form of architectural features, as in this image of architecture detail atop a seven-story building:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 100, 11.7 mm, 1/500 sec, f4.9

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 100, 11.7 mm, 1/500 sec, f4.9

And finally this image of a century old medallion adorning the top of the six-story Homer Laughlin Building, home of the city’s famous Grand Central Market:

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 200, 86 mm, 1/500 sec, f6.4

Panasonic DMC-ZS19, 17 February 2017, ISO 200, 86 mm, 1/500 sec, f6.4

Headline of the day: Say adieu to public television

Along with art and humanities programs. . .

From the New York Times:

Trump Budget Hit List Has Programs Long in G.O.P. Sights

  • The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AmeriCorps and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities could all be eliminated under President Trump.
  • Most of the programs cost under $500 million annually, a pittance for a government that is projected to spend about $4 trillion this year.

A ‘1984′ book giveaway is fueled by protest

A bookstore in San Francisco’s famed Haight-Ashbury district is in the news because of a gift from an anonymous donor, a contribution that has some people reading and other folks coughing up money for more giveaways.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

George Orwell’s “1984″ is required reading for most high school students, and in recent weeks, the classic dystopian novel has been selling out at bookstores across the nation.

On Friday night, a “mysterious benefactor” purchased 50 copies of the book to be given away free at Booksmith in Haight-Ashbury. According to store owner Christin Evans, the generous citizen lives in the neighborhood.

The free books were accompanied by a sign that said, “Read up! Fight back! A mystery benefactor has bought these copies of ‘1984′ for you if you need one.”

Copies of the novel were snatched up within a couple of hours, but another benefactor soon stepped up to purchase copies of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts” for the public.

The independent bookseller recently made headlines for refusing to stock copies of Milo Yianopoulos’s book upon customer request.

Evans called the book donation a “fruitful, constructive form of resistance,” and said that multiple other benefactors had already expressed interesting in purchasing books to give away at the store.

Were we rolling in flighty lucre, we add another to the giveaway pile, Terry Southern’s The Magic Christian,  a superb satire on the darkest traits of American culture and a big, arrogant blowhard who uses his fortune to get folks to do insane things.

Quotes of the day: Stephen King TrumpTweets™

A compilation of Tweets from America’s acknowledged master of horror [making him perhaps the most qualified critic of all when it comes to the Bulbous Beast of Pennsylvania Avenue]:

Welcome to the age of plunder, bluster, and empty rhetoric. In other words, to the Age of Dumb. If you voted for him, you’re responsible.

Breaking News: Sean Spicer is an idiot.

Imagine a hooligan pouring sugar into the gas tank of an expensive and well-maintained car. Trump is that hooligan. America is that car.

If only Donald Trump was 5% as good at governing as he is at firing people of conscience. His presidency is a joke. Sadly, we’re the butt.

Trump’s view of fake news explained: “If it runs counter to what I believe or say, it’s fake. The facts are irrelevant.”

How about some extreme vetting of Donald Trump’s tax returns?

Headline of the day: Explain Trump? Let George do it

From CNN:

Publisher printing more copies of George Orwell’s ‘1984’ after spike in demand

  • The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell’s dystopian classic “1984” in response to a sudden surge of demand.
  • On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon’s computer-generated list of best-selling books. The list reflects hourly book sales.
  • The 68-year-old novel appeared on the list on Monday, hovered around the #6 spot for much of the day, rose to #2 by Tuesday afternoon and then hit #1.

The reason for the sudden surge?

Perhaps this clip from north of the border adds context.

From CBC News:

Donald Trump’s ‘alternative facts’

Program notes:

Trump’s press secretary scolds media for allegedly lying about the crowd size at last week’s inauguration, CBC’s Paul Hunter reports.

Headline of the day: A Rocky road ahead

From the London Daily Mail:

EXCLUSIVE: Rocky goes to Washington! Trump taps Sylvester Stallone for top ‘arts’ role

  • President-elect Trump has approached the veteran actor for a top arts-related position in his administration, has learned
  • The Rocky star, a long-time fan of The Donald, is said to be pumped over the job
  • The likely position would be Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency that doles out funds to aspiring artists and creative projects
  • If Stallone is formally offered that job, his appointment will have to be approved by Congress
We have exclusive footage of his acceptance:

Mr. Fish: Through a Looking Glass Darkly


From Clowncrack, his blog of autogenous autognosis, where he writes:

I received a note this morning from a fan who reminded me of an illustration that I did almost 4 years ago.  He correctly suggested that the image might have greater relevance now than when I originally posted it, which is unfortunately true.  So, in the interest of forcing our collective faces back into the instructive commentary offered by the deep dark truthful mirror, I present this cartoon, not as proof of our defeat at the rope-burned hands of bigots and soulless automatons of institutionalized bigotry and hick paranoia, but rather as a battle cry calling to action the hearts and minds of better men and women poised and ready to fight peaceably for a kinder and more tolerant future.

The image itself is an homage, itself through a glass darkly, to a self-portrait by Norman Rockwell, the late master imagist of everyday America:


Florence says no to McDonald’s, then gets sued

The Italian city, famed for its magnificent medieval and Renaissance arcitecture and art decided against letting the fast food giant open an outlet in their most revered public space, the Piazza del Duomo.

A 360-degree panoramic of the Piazza del Duomo, via Wikipedia.

A 360-degree panoramic of the Piazza del Duomo, via Wikipedia.

The story from RT:

McDonald’s has filed a $20 million lawsuit against Florence, Italy, for blocking its plans to open a restaurant on the iconic Piazza del Duomo, one of the most visited places in Europe.

The US fast food chain told AFP it was claiming some €17.8 million ($19.65 million) in damages, saying the suit was being filed with the administrative court which arbitrates in governance disputes in Italy.

The Piazza del Duomo, located in the heart of Florence’s historic city center, is a gem of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Its buildings include the domed Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, the Giotto bell tower, the Opera del Duomo Museum, and the St. John Baptistery.

Florence’s mayor, Dario Nardella, rejected McDonald’s application in June, saying “McDonald’s has the right to submit an application, because this is permitted under the law, but we also have the right to say no.”

A Facebook campaign launched to oppose the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant on the historic plaza received more than 17,000 likes.

Perhaps the best single comment on the Facebook campaign page comes in the form of a Photoshopping of Florence’s most famous public artwork, Michelangelo’s David, supersized and holding a burger:


And, via Wikipedia, the pre-Big Mac David:


And now for something completely different. . .

And that would be another delightful animation from the National Film Board of Canada.

Today’s offering is a creation of artist Emmanuelle Loslier, who combines live action, origami, stop action animation, and a pun to create an imaginary world on a real Montreal street.

Inspector Street

Program notes:

This short animation begins with a newspaper, discarded on a public bench, whose headlines warn of unusual phenomena. A gust of wind animates the paper’s pages, conjuring strange and fantastical creatures: a bridge that becomes a caterpillar, a steeple turning into a bird, a dome transformed into an octopus. Elemental forces have been unleashed. Skilfully wielding paper cut-outs, origami, and a healthy dose of humour, filmmaker Emmanuelle Loslier plunges us into a fantastical world in which Montreal’s urban landscape has never been so alive.

Studies reveal music’s big impacts on growing brain

We’ve always been passionate believers in the value of music and art ecducation starting at the earliest years.

Gowing up in Kansas in the 1950s, we were the beneficiary of musical education that started in elementary school, where we participated in both singing and band programs, acquiring a love of music that has lasted throughout these last seven decades.

Our paternal grandmother was an elementary school teacher in Abilene, Kansas, and music was a critical part of her daily teaching. After her death in 1959, we received a letter from one her colleagues, telling us that one of her students had written that he still found inspiration in songs he had learned in her first and second grade classes.

The pupil was Dwight David Eisenhower, then serving as President of the United States.

Music and fine arts programs slashed as testing rises

But today, in classrooms across the country, education is music and the fine arts has fallen prey to a combination of budget cuts and the relentless imperative of the standardized test, a regime designed to turn out cogs in the machine rather than well-rounded, independent-minded individuals.

As the journal of the National Education Association reported in 2014:

Across the nation, the testing obsession has nudged aside visual arts, music, physical education, social studies, and science, not to mention world languages, financial literacy, and that old standby, penmanship. Our schools, once vigorous and dynamic centers for learning, have been reduced to mere test prep factories, where teachers and students act out a script written by someone who has never visited their classroom and where “achievement” means nothing more than scoring well on a bubble test.

“NCLB [No Child Left Behind] has corrupted what it means to teach and what it means to learn,” explains NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Teachers have to teach in secret and hope they don’t get into trouble for teaching to the Whole Child instead of teaching to the test.”

A Google search for the words “music education elementary schools eliminated” turns up more than a million hits, a tragic litany of stories reporting slashed programs across the nation and throughout much of the Western world.

Musical training improves standardized testing scores

Ironically, music education actually improves children’s test scores, as the Children’s Music Workshop notes:

Music education programs increase children’s cognitive development. Also, research shows that “preschoolers who took daily 30 minute group singing lessons and a weekly 10-15 minute private keyboard lesson scored 80 percent higher in object assembly skills than students who did not have the music lessons,” as reported in a 1994 study by Frances Rauscher and Gordon Shaw at the University of California, Irvine (Harvey, 1997). It is clear that music education programs dramatically stimulate a child’s learning capacity, as shown in drastic increases in the scores of children who participated in music programs. Music education programs can begin as early as preschool and should continue for the greatest results.

When music education is sustained throughout the elementary years, children continue to learn better through the clear connections between music and other areas of study. For instance, a 1999 study presented in Neurological Research reveals that when second and third-grade students were taught fractions through basic music rhythm notation, they “scored a full 100% higher on fractions tests than those who learned in the conventional manner.” This study shows that the students who learned about the mathematical concept of fractions related their music knowledge of the relationships between eighth, quarter, half and whole notes in order to fully understand the material.

Students in music programs consistently score better on tests, as also exemplified in the 2001 study compiled by Music Educators National Conference, which exhibits that “SAT takers with coursework/experience in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 41 points higher on the math portion than students with no coursework/experience in the arts.” It is obvious that when students have experience in music education in both the elementary and high school level, they perform considerably better in other important subjects as well. Music education programs in the elementary school level are necessary for the future success of students in all subject areas.

Musical training reshapes the brain

A major study by scientists from Harvard and McGill University and published in the Journal of Neuroscience [open access] used brain imaging to map changes in children’s brains resulting from musical study concluded with this summary:

M]usical training over only 15 months in early childhood leads to structural brain changes that diverge from typical brain development. Regional training-induced structural brain changes were found in musically relevant regions that were driven by musically relevant behavioral tests. The fact there were no structural brain differences found between groups before the onset of musical training indicates that the differential development of these brain regions is induced by instrumental practice rather by than preexisting biological predictors of musicality. These results provide new evidence for training-induced structural brain plasticity in early childhood. These findings of structural plasticity in the young brain suggest that long-term intervention programs can facilitate neuroplasticity in children. Such an intervention could be of particular relevance to children with developmental disorders and to adults with neurological diseases.

And yet another study proves the power of music. . .and dance

And now comes yet another study revealing the direct impact of education in music and dance on the brains of growing children.

From Concordia University in Montreal:

Endless hours at the barre. Long afternoons practising scales. All that time you spent in piano lessons and dance classes as a youngster may have seemed like a pain, but new research now confirms what your parents claimed: it’s good for mind and body.

In fact, a recent study published in NeuroImage ($35.95 to access] by a team* of researchers from the the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research, proves that dance and music training have even stronger effects on the brain than previously understood — but in markedly different ways.

The researchers used high-tech imaging techniques to compare the effects of dance and music training on the white matter structure of experts in these two disciplines. They then examined the relationship between training-induced brain changes and dance and music abilities.

Continue reading

Emperor sans clothes: A sculptural protest

First, the artworks in question, via INDECLINE:

The Emperor has no balls

Program notes:

Artist: Ginger

Original Score: Ryder Reynolds

And the story from the Associated Press:

It’s Donald Trump like you’ve never seen him before.

Life-size naked statues of the Republican presidential nominee greeted passers-by in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Cleveland on Thursday. They are the brainchild of an activist collective called INDECLINE, which has spoken out against Trump before.

In a statement, the collective said the hope is that Trump, the former host of “The Apprentice” reality TV series, “is never installed in the most powerful political and military position in the world.”

The statues were created by an artist in Cleveland. They are of a stern-faced Trump with his hands folded over a bulging belly. Some parts of male genitalia are visible while others seemingly are missing.

“It is through these sculptures that we leave behind the physical and metaphorical embodiment of the ghastly soul of one of America’s most infamous and reviled politicians,” INDECLINE said in its statement.

Trump’s campaign declined to comment on the statues.

White Boy Privilege: An Atlanta youth nails it

A 14-year-old student won the poetry slam at his private school in Atlanta, Georgia, with a devastating take on the privileges inhering in the simple fact of being born white and male.

To be fair, Royce Mann is a talented professional actor who has appeared in feature films and acted on stage. He also writes, produces, and directs.

From Sheri Mann Stewart:

Royce Mann, Age 14, “White Boy Privilege”, Slam Poem

Program notes:

Royce Mann, 8th grader from Atlanta, GA, USA, wrote and performed this slam poem as part of a competition. He ended up taking home first place.

And the story, from U.S. Uncut:

Royce Mann, a white eighth-grade student and rising acting star, recently brought the house down in a passionate slam poetry performance about white privilege that is spreading like wildfire.

Mann’s poem, “White Boy Privilege,” is about awakening to the fact that the world has set the 14-year-old up to succeed while stacking the deck against women, people of color, and immigrants. In the poem, he at first celebrates his privilege, saying he “loves it” that he has innate benefits as a white male in American society, but later comes to the conclusion that his privilege wasn’t created by his generation, calling on other young white males to reject their privilege and actively demand the privileges afforded to them be shared with the rest of society.

Read the poem in its entirety:

Dear women, I am sorry.

Dear black people, I am sorry.

Dear Asian Americans, dear Native Americans, dear immigrants who come here seeking a better life, I am sorry.

Dear everyone who isn’t a middle or upper-class white boy, I am sorry.

I have started life at the top of the ladder, while you were born on the first rung.

I say now that I would change places with you in an instant, but if given the opportunity, would I?

Probably not. Because to be honest, being privileged is awesome.

I’m not saying that you and me on different rungs of the ladder is how I want it to stay,

I’m not saying any part of me for one moment has even liked it that way,

I’m just saying, I fucking love being privileged and I’m not ready to give that away.

I love it, because I can say “fucking” and not one of you is attributing that to the fact that everyone of my skin color has a dirty mouth.

I love it, because I don’t have to spend an hour every morning putting on makeup to meet other people’s standards.

I love it, because I can worry about what kind of food is on my plate, instead of whether or not there will be food on my plate.

I love it, because when I see a police officer, I see someone who’s on my side.

To be honest, I’m scared of what it would be like if I wasn’t on the top rung.

If the tables were turned, and I couldn’t have my white boy privilege safety blankie to protect me.

If I lived a life by what I lack, not what I have, if I lived a life in which when I failed, the world would say ‘Told you so.’

If I lived the life that you live.

When I was born, I had a success story already written for me. You, you were given a pen and no paper.

I’ve always felt that that’s unfair, but I’ve never dared to speak up because I’ve been too scared.

Well, now I realize that there’s enough blankie to be shared.

Everyone should have the privileges that I have. In fact, they should be rights instead.

Everyone’s stories should be written, so all they have to do is get it read. Enough said.

No, not enough said.

It is embarrassing that we still live in a world in which we judge another person’s character by the size of their paycheck, the color of their skin, or the type of chromosomes they have.

It is embarrassing that we tell our kids that it is not their personality, but instead those same chromosomes that get to dictate what color clothes they wear, and how short they cut their hair.

But most of all, it is embarrassing that we deny this, that we claim to live in an equal country in an equal world.

We say that women can vote? Well, guess what? They can run a country, own a company, and throw a nasty curveball as well. We just don’t give them the chance to.

I know it wasn’t us 8th grade white boys who created this system, but we profit from it every day. We don’t notice these privileges though, because they don’t come in the form of things we gain, but rather the lack of injustices that we endure.

Because of my gender, I can watch any sport on TV and feel like that could be me one day.

Because of my race, I can eat in a fancy restaurant without the wait staff expecting me to steal the silverware.

Thanks to my parents’ salary, I go to a school that brings my dreams closer instead of pushing them away.

Dear white boys, I’m not sorry. I don’t care if you think that feminists are taking over the world, or that Black Lives Matter has gotten a little too strong, because that’s bullshit.

I get that change can be scary, but equality shouldn’t be.

Hey white boys, it’s time to act like a woman. To be strong and make a difference. It’s time to let go of that fear.

It’s time to take that ladder and turn it into a bridge.

And just for the fund of it, here’s another take on the privileges of being born white and male from comedian Louis C.K. presented in 2014 at the 3% Conference:

Louis CK “White Male Privilege”

Map of the day: Working artists and writers in EU

BLOG Euroart

The details from Eurostat:

In 2014, according to Eurostat estimations, 6 million persons were employed in the cultural field in the European Union [EU], or slightly less than 3 % of the total number of persons employed. 6 out of 10 persons in cultural employment had tertiary education.

Of the almost 2 million artists and writers in the EU, nearly half [49%] were self-employed, a share much higher than that reported for total employment [15%].

Highest share of cultural employment in Luxembourg, lowest in Romania

At Member State level, the highest shares of cultural employment were observed in Luxembourg [5.2%] and Sweden [4.1%], followed by Finland and the Netherlands [3.9% each] as well as Denmark [3.8%]. At the opposite end of the scale, the lowest share was observed in Romania [1.1%], followed by Slovakia [2.0%], Bulgaria [2.1%], Portugal [2.2%], Greece [2.3%] and Cyprus [2.4%].

Share of women in cultural employment generally higher than in total employment

On average in the EU, women represented just below half [47%] of persons employed in the cultural field, just above the share of women in total employment. In most Member States the share of women in cultural employment was higher than the share of women in total employment, in particular in the Baltic Member States Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, followed by Bulgaria, Poland, Croatia and Romania. In seven Member States there was a lower share of women in cultural employment than in total employment: Austria, the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Malta, France, Spain and the Netherlands.

More persons with tertiary education in cultural employment than in total employment

In all Member States the share of persons with tertiary education was much higher in cultural employment than in total employment. The percentage point difference was highest in Luxembourg, Spain, Lithuania, Poland and Germany and lowest in Malta, Sweden, Ireland and Denmark. At EU level 60% of persons in cultural employment had tertiary education, a share almost double that in total employment.

Dan Adel: The faces on Mount Trumpmore

Vanity Fair commissioned painter/illustrator Dan Adel to offer his take on the faces that would logically accompany The Donald on American’s iconic sculptural peak.

While we concur that Tricky Dick and Dubious Dubya are good mount mates, we disagree with his pick of Herbert Hoover, both because two men with backgrounds in a tiny minority religion are one too many [both Nixon and Hoover were raised in Quaker homes], and because there’s another Republican who’s a better choice.

Yep, Calvin Coolidge is our pick for the fourth man.

Yes, Coolidge was considerably more quiescent than The Donald, earning himself the sobriquet of “Silent Cal.”

But there’s another reason, too. Hoover, like Nixon and Bush, were notoriously monogamous, while Trump is certainly not.

And that brings us to our pick of Coolidge, who is best known to today’s younger Americans not as the businessman he was, like Trump, but for the Coolidge Effect, a trait Trump personifies:

BLOG 4 Trumpmore

And now for something completely different. . .

The late Ryan Larkin [and previously] was an enormously talented and deeply troubled Canadian artist and animator who lived his life on the streets.

For today’s ANFSCD we bring you two of his musical animations for the National Film Board of Canada, the boundless font of visual wonders.

First up is a 1971 animation from Greek mythology with a solo flute accompaniment:


Program notes:

Borrowing from classical mythology, this very short film illustrates the story of Syrinx, the nymph who attempts to escape the goat-god Pan’s amorous advances by fleeing to a nearby river for help, only to be transformed into hollow reeds. Syrinxis the first film by Ryan Larkin, an Oscar®-nominated director who began his animation career in Norman McLaren’s student group. The technique employed is charcoal sketches on paper; the accompanying music is Claude Debussy’s “Syrinx” for solo flute.

Directed by Ryan Larkin – 1965

Our second offering, from 1972, features members of the community he called home, the streets.


Program notes:

Visual improvisation on music performed by a popular group presented as sidewalk entertainers. The illustration is by a young film artist and animator who sees life with an amused and imaginative eye. His take-off point is the music, but his own beat is more boisterous than the musicians. He ranges from the most convoluted of abstractions to caricature of familiar rituals, including the bath. A film without words.

And now for something completely different. . .

Would you believe a bicycle that walks?

Theo Jansen [previously] is a Dutch physicist-turned-artist, a creative mind who has fabricated kinetic sculptures, including a remarkable assemblage he calls the Strandbeest.

Here’s one example, a wind-powered version from his Strandbeest Workshop:

Amazing, no?

But what other possibilities exist for Jansen’s remarkable idea?

Well, Blaine Elliott and a group of creative friends in Santa Barbara, California, picked up the basic concept and applied it to the bicycle.

From Blaine’s Blog:

In late 2014, two friends and I decided to begin building a bike based on the Strandbeest. The Strandbest is a walking machine created by Theo Jansen in the 1980s. Imagine this machine below, scaled down to the size of a bike, where the back wheels of a bike are replaced with legs. That is more or less what we set out to do. The process involved 3 people, took 6 months and 1000 man hours to complete.

As complicated as this machine may appear to be, it can be simple when broken down. The Strandbeest is a series of Jansen’s linkage’s. Each Jansen Linkage imitates the motion of a leg. A leg by itself is trivial but when they function together, you get something much more complicated.

Our idea was to leverage the concept of the Jansen Linkage to construct a bicycle that has rear legs instead of a rear wheel. In this blog I’m going to review the various work that was involved in order to make that idea a reality. By this point, most of the bike is done. There’s some painting and fine tuning to do. I’m pleasantly surprised with the results. We had a lot of confidence this bike would work and it wasn’t until maybe 70% through the project we we really able to unit test it.

And here’s the result, from his vlog:

Riding the Strandbeest Bike

And that, dear reader, is something completely different. . .

Oh, and if you’re visiting Northern California this summer and interested in seeing more of Jansen’s creations and learning more about the artist, the Exploratorium is currently featuring through 5 September an exhibition, Strandbeest: The Dream Machines of Theo Jansen.

The Vaquita, threatened by distant appetites

Marine biologist Barbara Taylor of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla is passionate about saving the world’s endangered cetaceans, and her focus in recent years has been on the Vaquita, a recently discovered porpoise in the Sea of Cortez now facing imminent extinction.

Taylor’s passion for saving the rare mammal extends beyond the laboratory and field research to the other passion of her life, art [she has her own gallery where you can purchase her graphics and jewellery featuring the Vaquita]. Here’s one example:

BLOG Taylor

What’s driving the extinction of the Vaquita is the same thing driving the extinctions of so many other endangered creatures: Chinese hunger for the organs of rare animals alleged to possess magical powers, most frequently, as with the horn of the rhinoceros and the penis of the tiger, those alleged to restore virility to aging Asian wangs.

But it’s not lust for the Vaquita that’s driving its extinction; rather it’s the hunger for part of another, similarly sized inhabitant of those same waters, with the Vaquita die-off only a matter of collateral damage.

From Newsweek:

A small fiberglass boat rocks on the surface of the water a few hundred yards from shore about 100 miles down Baja California from the U.S.-Mexico border. Two men in yellow slickers and rubber boots stand in the boat, pulling a loosely woven net from the water with their hands. Tangled in the gillnet are four dull silver fish about 5 feet long, each weighing more than 100 pounds. Known as totoaba, these fish live only in the upper Gulf of California and are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Mexico and the U.S. Since 1976, their trade has been prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora since 1976.

And yet the fishermen cut open each fish, remove the swim bladder—a gas-filled organ that helps the fish control its depth—and toss the rest overboard. They may harvest 100 totoaba bladders tonight and earn anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000, depending on current market prices.

Buyers dry these bladders and ship them to markets in Hong Kong, where the price for the flat, yellowish, dinner-plate-sized organs sometimes goes as high as six figures. The Chinese buy them as gifts to cement business relationships, for use in traditional banquet dishes or to eat for their supposed medicinal and nutritional benefits. Totoaba bladders are a substitute for those of the giant yellow croaker (aka Chinese bahaba), which was fished nearly to extinction decades ago.

The imminent loss of the Vaquita has drawn the attention of wildlife conservation organizations, including one formed specifically to save the small cetacean. is a seven-year-old collaboration on the part of activists from several nonprofits, including the Cetos Research Organization, Save The Whales, the Monterey Bay chapter of the American Cetacean Society, ACS National, the Oceanographic Environmental Research Society, the Muskwa Club, and V-Log.

From Viva Vaquita’s Thomas A. Jefferson:

Clearly, despite the tremendous efforts of Sea Shepherd, and the dedication of Mexican authorities, illegal gillnetting continues to thrive in the upper Gulf.  The fishermen appear to have learned how to fish in secret, by operating mostly at night, and this makes ones wonder if this was going on even when so many eyes were on the gulf last autumn (eyes are not good at seeing in the dark!).  Enforcement efforts to date have not been nearly enough to stop the slaughter…

The good news is that Mexico recently announced that it will be stepping up patrols, including some night-time enforcement.  This is certainly an improvement, but one must wonder whether these increases can overcome the tremendous economic incentive that the Chinese markets are providing to encourage illegal gillnet fishing for totoaba.  We can only hope so, and we must continue our efforts to bring the vaquita’s plight to the world before it is too late.

Remember, Saturday 9 July is this year’s International Save the Vaquita Day.  We plan to have more venues than ever, with the addition of some new locations, and also the addition of new attractions, such as live music this year!  Mark your calendar, and tell all your friends about it.  Also, keep your eyes open for an upcoming story about the vaquita on CBS’s 60 Minutes!  And the new abundance estimate for the vaquita is in the works and should be released some time this spring.  I am sure we all hope that the numbers are not as low as we fear they might be.

This is shaping up to be the “make or break” year for the vaquita.  If rampant illegal gillnetting is not completely stopped very soon, it is likely that the species will reach a point of no return in the next 12 months or so.

Also calling for immediate action is the World Wildlife Federation:

Mexican authorities must immediately and indefinitely close all fisheries within the habitat of Mexico’s critically endangered vaquita porpoise – or we will lose the species forever.

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico, referring to data from the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), said on Friday that only around 60 vaquitas remained in the upper Gulf of California — the only place the species exists — as of December 2015. This is a nearly 40 per cent decline from the 97 vaquitas that remained in 2014.

“We can still save the vaquita, but this is our last chance,” said Omar Vidal, CEO of WWF-Mexico. “The Mexican government must ban all fishing within the vaquita’s habitat now and until the species shows signs of recovery. Anything else is just wishful thinking.”

So what is the Vaquita? And what are its prospects? And why should we care?

For answers, a video featuring Barbara Taylor from University of California Television:

Net Loss: New Abundance Estimate Reveals That Mexico’s Vaquita Faces Imminent Extinction

Program notes:

Barbara Taylor of the National Marine Fisheries Service Southwest Fisheries Science Center, who participated in the last effort to save the recently extinct Chinese River Dolphin, or Baiji, gives a detailed chronicle of her involvement in documenting the decline of earth’s most endangered marine mammal, the Vaquita, found only in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. Their primary threat is death in gillnets, which until very recently supplied shrimp to the U.S. market. The catastrophic 80% decline since 2011 results from illegal sales of endangered totoaba swim bladders to China.

And now for something completely different. . .

Would you believe a trio of entertaining videos, two with political themes and a third that’s just delightfully unexpected.

First up, from Mike Diva [the creative name of self-styled MAKER OF VIDEOS/MUSIC/MEMES/DREAMS Mike Dahlquist], a faux Japnese Doald Trump campaign commercial.

From his YouTube account:

Japanese Donald Trump Commercial

Program notes:


Directed by: Mike Diva

Shot by: Jan-Michael Losada

Starring: Chloe Doan

Next up, the best eight grade commencement speech we’ve ever heard, via Claudia HD:

8th Grader Impersonating Donald Trump , Cruz , Obama , Hillary & Sanders

The explanation from NBC Chicago:

Jack Aiello is a young teen with big dreams ahead of him — and potentially a slot on “Saturday Night Live” or in the White House.

The Arlington Heights middle schooler has quickly garnered Internet praise for his hilarious graduation speech, which included impersonations of the 2016 presidential candidates.

Aiello’s entire roughly 350-student graduating class was tasked with writing a graduation speech as part of an English assignment. The speeches were then evaluated by teachers and staff before three finalists were selected.

“He was hands down No. 1 because it was going to speak to the kids,” principal Brian Kaye said.

Finally, just an impromptu moment of beauty from the streets of Italy via Assad Baransi:

Palestinian tourist dancing in Italy

Program notes:

This is the stunning moment a proud father encourages his daughter to dance with a street entertainer – with a beautiful end result.

The video shows the Palestinian family watching the man playing the violin before a man’s voice begs the girl to join in.

And it doesn’t take much encouragement before the girl, dressed in a floaty grey dress, agrees to her father’s suggestion and begins dancing to the music.

Passers-by stopped to watch, enthralled by the spontaneous performance.

More from MON ÉVASION:

Rima Baransi, a Palestinian tourist wandering the streets of Italy till she stopped to the playing of Yann Tiersen’s “Comptine d’un autre été: L’aprés-midi” and with the encouragement of her father, she danced ballet to the melody like a butterfly.