Thursday, February 22, 2018

"Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now" by Thomas L. Friedman

Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now
Thomas L. Friedman | FEB. 18, 2018

Our democracy is in serious danger.

President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.

That is, either Trump’s real estate empire has taken large amounts of money from shady oligarchs linked to the Kremlin — so much that they literally own him; or rumors are true that he engaged in sexual misbehavior while he was in Moscow running the Miss Universe contest, which Russian intelligence has on tape and he doesn’t want released; or Trump actually believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he says he is innocent of intervening in our elections — over the explicit findings of Trump’s own C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. chiefs.

In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history. Russia is not our friend. It has acted in a hostile manner. And Trump keeps ignoring it all.

Up to now, Trump has been flouting the norms of the presidency. Now Trump’s behavior amounts to a refusal to carry out his oath of office — to protect and defend the Constitution. Here’s an imperfect but close analogy: It’s as if George W. Bush had said after 9/11: “No big deal. I am going golfing over the weekend in Florida and blogging about how it’s all the Democrats’ fault — no need to hold a National Security Council meeting.”

At a time when the special prosecutor Robert Mueller — leveraging several years of intelligence gathering by the F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A. — has brought indictments against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups — all linked in some way to the Kremlin — for interfering with the 2016 U.S. elections, America needs a president who will lead our nation’s defense against this attack on the integrity of our electoral democracy.

What would that look like? He would educate the public on the scale of the problem; he would bring together all the stakeholders — state and local election authorities, the federal government, both parties and all the owners of social networks that the Russians used to carry out their interference — to mount an effective defense; and he would bring together our intelligence and military experts to mount an effective offense against Putin — the best defense of all.

What we have instead is a president vulgarly tweeting that the Russians are “laughing their asses off in Moscow” for how we’ve been investigating their interventions — and exploiting the terrible school shooting in Florida — and the failure of the F.B.I. to properly forward to its Miami field office a tip on the killer — to throw the entire F.B.I. under the bus and create a new excuse to shut down the Mueller investigation.

Think for a moment how demented was Trump’s Saturday night tweet: “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”

To the contrary. Our F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A., working with the special counsel, have done us amazingly proud. They’ve uncovered a Russian program to divide Americans and tilt our last election toward Trump — i.e., to undermine the very core of our democracy — and Trump is telling them to get back to important things like tracking would-be school shooters. Yes, the F.B.I. made a mistake in Florida. But it acted heroically on Russia. What is more basic than protecting American democracy?

It is so obvious what Trump is up to: Again, he is either a total sucker for Putin or, more likely, he is hiding something that he knows the Russians have on him, and he knows that the longer Mueller’s investigation goes on, the more likely he will be to find and expose it.

Donald, if you are so innocent, why do you go to such extraordinary lengths to try to shut Mueller down? And if you are really the president — not still head of the Trump Organization, who moonlights as president, which is how you so often behave — why don’t you actually lead — lead not only a proper cyberdefense of our elections, but also an offense against Putin.

Putin used cyberwarfare to poison American politics, to spread fake news, to help elect a chaos candidate, all in order to weaken our democracy. We should be using our cyber-capabilities to spread the truth about Putin — just how much money he has stolen, just how many lies he has spread, just how many rivals he has jailed or made disappear — all to weaken his autocracy. That is what a real president would be doing right now.

My guess is what Trump is hiding has to do with money. It’s something about his financial ties to business elites tied to the Kremlin. They may own a big stake in him. Who can forget that quote from his son Donald Trump Jr. from back in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets.” They may own our president.

But whatever it is, Trump is either trying so hard to hide it or is so naïve about Russia that he is ready to not only resist mounting a proper defense of our democracy, he’s actually ready to undermine some of our most important institutions, the F.B.I. and Justice Department, to keep his compromised status hidden.

That must not be tolerated. This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.

Link to the original piece in the New York Times:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"I've Seen That Face Before" by Grace Jones

It's Diva Wednesday--and if that isn't a thing, then it should be!

I've loved this Grace Jones song, "I've Seen That Face Before (Libertango)" (a reworking of "Libertango", a 1974 Argentine tango classic written by composer and bandoneonist Astor Piazzolla with an added New Wave-reggae arrangement by legendary music duo Sly and Robbie, and new lyrics penned by Jones with Barry Reynolds) since it was released on her iconic album "Nightclubbing" in 1981.

The video was conceived and directed by Jean-Paul Goude, a French artist-photographer-designer-director who helmed Jones' image during this period (they also have a son, Paulo, from their time together). They were both working with ideas of performance, fashion, art, and music and this video--the last video of her film "A One Man Show"--references the 1916 Dada nightclub Cabaret Voltaire and artist Hugo Ball's famous cardboard suit.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

BEAUTY: Installation--Miguel Rothschild

Argentinean artist Miguel Rothschild clearly has a fascination with the ocean and waves. He creates some stunning installations that recreate the movement of water and the play of light on the waves.

Currently on view until March 30, 2018 at the St. Matthäus Church in Berlin is his lovely piece De Profundis consisting of a print of ocean waves on fabric and fishing line. The filaments end up looking like rays of sun shining down...

In a similar vein, Rothschild's Elegy is a study of the ocean surface with a little surprise beneath the waves. Taken from Albrecht Dürer's 1514 engraving Melencolia I, an emaciated dog lays under the water. This could be an extension of the idea of Dürer's original, commenting on what melancholy feels like...

Rothschild's installation includes a nearby framed print of Melencolia I with a shattered glass frame.

His simple The Treasure of the Nibelung is a C-print of light reflecting off ripples of water but he highlights the glints with actual rhinestones on the print itself, lending a sudden, startling realism to the static image.

Waterfall is aptly titled, considering the filaments dripping from the image which is printed directly onto acrylic.

Monday, February 19, 2018

BEAUTY: Painting--Carlos Tárdez

I am feeling such tenderness for these baby chimps and their mothers and fathers in this touching series of paintings by Spanish painter Carlos Tárdez. They exude dignity, elegance,and innocence on simple color fields.

Top to bottom: Adan II; Adan; El Primo; Eva; La Herencia; La Hormiga; Madre; Miradas Cruzadas; Narciso; Primo

Sunday, February 18, 2018

"Blue Rose" by Amen Dunes

I am unexpectedly captured by this hypnotizing new song, "Blue Rose" from Amen Dunes (the nom de musique of musician Damon McMahon) from his forthcoming fifth album, "Freedom" released March 30.

McMahon says the song is a "teenage clarion call," about "growing up with an unpredictable father, fighting back with music, drugs and fantasy, and eventual escape from it all." I love how it does not have a traditional verse-chorus structure but seems more like a sung story, a tone poem.

His official website describes the album as a whole:
"On the surface, Freedom is a reflection on growing up, childhood friends who ended up in prison or worse, male identity, McMahon’s father, and his mother, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the beginning of recording.

The characters that populate the musical world of Freedom are a colourful mix of reality and fantasy: father and mother, Amen Dunes, teenage glue addicts and Parisian drug dealers, ghosts above the plains, fallen surf heroes, vampires, thugs from Naples and thugs from Houston, the emperor of Rome, Jews, Jesus, Tashtego, Perseus, even McMahon himself. Each character portrait is a representation of McMahon, of masculinity, and of his past.

Yet, if anything, these 11 songs are a relinquishing of all of them through exposition; a gradual reorientation of being away from the acquired definitions of self we all cling to and towards something closer to what's stated in the Agnes Martin quote that opens the record, “I don’t have any ideas myself; I have a vacant mind” and in the swirling, pitched down utterances of “That's all not me” that close it.

The music, as a response or even a solution to the album's darker themes, is tough and joyous, rhythmic and danceable; a true NYC street record."

I've got money because I work all day
Don't get down a mile away
When evening comes
I go call up the band

We play religious music
Don't think you'd understand, man
Well hear me call
I was ignorant

I'm the baddest, stoniest thing in town
Give me eighteen days
They speak another tongue
Well they left me there
But the dead man had no fun

Should stop my father
Yeah love came over me
If you love war
Then you've got war with me

They looked at me straight
And told me I'm in town
Now, now
Feel good son

Deep deep down
You'd stick around
For love
Son, I need you back now

Feel my god
I can hardly change
If you don't have that
You told me not to brag

But I said he gave me
He left me there
Fill me up when I'm down

Dear, he loved my father
Yeah love came over me
Dear, if you want war
Then you've got war in me

Well, I was brought up
And we were told things
Never to tell
Beat up, beaten down, stop
They don't know kid coming down
But I have no way out of heaven

Not now, not now

They said that I should move on from here
Combed out my hair and started out
And my dreams took half a drag
Yeah I can't catch a break

Said you weren't much a man to me
But you're the only one I've ever had

Saturday, February 17, 2018

BEAUTY: Installation and Sculpture--Jorge Méndez Blake

In his installation The Castle, Mexican conceptual artist Jorge Méndez Blake (who trained as an architect) shows how something like a massive brick wall (ahem) can be disrupted by something small like a book...or an idea. He used a copy of Franz Kafka's book THE CASTLE at the base of a mortar-free brick wall, which, like a grain of sand in an oyster, eventually proves to be a large, fatal flaw.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Lose yourself to all the love you have in you
No one knows exactly what you do
Lose yourself to all the love you have in you
And I will know exactly what to do

Monday, February 12, 2018

BEAUTY: Post-Photography--André Sanchez

I love this beautiful post-photographic (collage) series of the signs of the zodiac by Paris-based photographer and artist André Sanchez. Sometimes collage-based art can be a bit helter-skelter, but these hang together beautifully.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

BEAUTY: Installation--Beili Liu

Chinese-born, Texas-based artist Beili Liu (previously here) made her installation After All / Mending The Sky as an illustration to a lovely, ancient, Chinese creation story.

"After All / Mending The Sky [silk, cyanotype, needles, thread, wire, hardware, dimensions variable] is comprised of nine suspended, organic, cloud-like forms, each composed of translucent half domes crafted from raw silk fiber. These domes or 'stones' have been imprinted upon using Cyanotype process to lend rich indigo tones to their forms, from which hundreds of fine sewing threads descend. At each end of a thread, a sewing needle is attached.

The installation draws upon the ancient Chinese fable of Nüwa, goddess and creator of mankind. After a tear in the sky brings suffering and calamity to her creations, Nüwa undertakes the painstaking task of mending the sky, and returning order to the world. The installation draws a parallel between the goddess’ heroic act and the humble, domestic, women’s task of sewing—both endeavor to create and to mend."

Saturday, February 10, 2018

BEAUTY: Interiors--Nate and Jeremiah and Ricky and Jwan

The Los Angeles homes of actor/singer Ricky Martin and artist Jwan Yusef, and designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent via Architectural Digest.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Belle Enters The Beast's Castle

Belle enters The Beast's magical castle in a scene from the glorious classic film "La Belle et la Bête" by genius writer/poet/filmmaker/painter/artist Jean Cocteau (previously here). If you've never seen this stunning, legendary masterpiece of international cinema, I strongly urge you to do so!