Sunday, January 07, 2007


Hieronymus Bosch’s Hell was of interest to Surrealist painters—and fascinates and puzzles viewers today. An essay by University Professor Larry Silver answers questions about one of Bosch’s most intriguing works. “Hieronymus Bosch, Tempter and Moralist” is one of those surprising must-read pieces that turn up on the net. This one is in Per Contra.

“But the Hell panel would have been the most unsettling element for the nobility viewing the Garden of Delights. Many of its dangerous or threatening elements allude specifically to prosperity and power.

For example, in the lower right corner, all of the trappings of property and possessions are undercut. There a pig, the animal of Gluttony still in Pieter Bruegel’s drawing (1557) for the Seven Deadly Sins series of prints, wears a nun’s habit and embraces a nervous and naked man while pressing a quill pen into his hand for signature of a legal document, marked by a pair of bright red seals. In front of this unequal couple a crouching monster with a bird’s beak crouches within a large knight’s helm and holds the ink and quills. Behind the figures a human messenger bears additional sealed documents; however, his golden badge is surmounted with a toad (Bruegel’s animal in his 1556 drawing of Avarice, London, British Museum), thus revealing his infernal purposes. All of these elements point to the wealth and status of the naked man. Indeed, they are the same worldly possessions to be found, again held by demons, at the foot of the bed in Bosch’s Death of the Usurer (Washington).
Specific references to money appear in the opposite side of the Hell panel. One group of individuals at left are surrounded by the instruments of games and gambling: dice, cards, and a strikingly modern-looking backgammon board. …”

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Is David Duke Free for Tea?

Is it true that one should keep one’s friends close, and one’s enemies closer? If so, I ought to send a wee note to David Duke to see if he’d like to have a cup of tea upon his return from Iran, where he is among his good friends.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

May These Words

Nigerian poet, Tanure Ojaide, now teaching at the University of Charlotte in North Carolina writes powerful poetry.

“To the Janjaweed”
in Per Contra is addressed to those responsible for executing the ongoing massacres, tortures, and rapes, their villages sacked,—in the Darfur in Western Sudan. The victims are also subject to starvation.

In Ojaide’s poem the Janaweed and those in power in who choose to support their actions are both culpable:

"May the fire you spread gleefully this way
scorch you and your family at the other end

may your patrons in government corridors
become dead vultures to the entire world"

The rest of the poem is equally strong.

Food Supply Safety

Recent e-coli incidents have dramatized what some folks have been saying for years: that the food supply in America is difficult to protect. And these incidents have nothing to do with an attack on America by terrorists.

Time to re-read Frank Norris' The Jungle. Or watch Willy Wonka.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Not Propaganda, but Art with a Purpose

When new media pioneer Lynn Hershman Leeson makes art, it has a purpose, but that doesn’t make it propaganda.

In her interview with Miriam Kotzin in Per Contra, Lynn Hershman Leeson talks about a number of her works—including her feelings about her Roberta Breitmore performance. [The work was ended with an exorcism.]

“MK: You went to some trouble to establish a separate identity for Roberta; did you expect that the project would be as sustained and complex as it became?
LHL: Absolutely not. Had I known I don’t think I would have done it, but she needed the time to flesh herself out in the real world, and that took a good part of a decade.
MK: How did your relationship with that performance change over time?
LHL: It was more Zen-like as I watched things happen to her and understood more deeply the alienation that single women in our culture suffer from.”

The current project on which she is working is a documentary. She says, “The story is about freedom of speech, first amendment rights and the growing erosion of autonomy in our culture.” But based on the complexity of her other works, I’d wager that it’s not propaganda.

Monday, September 25, 2006

It's Art Not Propaganda

In a recent interview in Per Contra, Eric Fischl responded to a question about art and politics.

PC ":The poet Shelley said that poets were the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Does this go farther than you expect artists to go? Can you articulate the line between art in the service of an ideal and propaganda?

EF: To paraphrase James Joyce who said of pornography ( and this applies to propaganda as well ); Pornography is anything that tries to sell you something.

Art does not try to sell you anything."

The interview with Eric Fischl also touches on his bronze sculpture, in response to 9-11, "Tumbling Woman."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Capitalism, Not Terrorism is Motive, They Say

The three men recently nabbed buying hundreds of cell phones and accused of plotting to destroy a bridge in Michigan claim that they were simply buying phones for resale at a profit.

Sex Offender?

Congratulations to JUSTIN ENGEL from The Saginaw News who included lots of details about the arrest and the men involved: two brothers, Adham Abdelhamid Othman, 21, and Louai Abdelhamied Othman, 23, and their cousin, Maruan Awad Muhareb, 18.

"One suspect admitted to a criminal background.

Adham Abdelhamid Othman said Texas courts charged him with a felony count of indecent exposure seven years ago, forcing him to register as a sex offender.

The Texas Department of Public Safety's online sex offender database shows a photo record of a Adham Jacob Othman -- with similar features and a matching birthdate -- who took his latest photo for the Web site June 29.

Authorities in Mesquite -- a community in Dallas -- convicted Othman of "Indecency w/child sexual contact" involving a 5-year-old female."

Perhaps you'd like to check the the Texas State record with a recent photo and see for yourself?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Explosives Ring a Bell

Today's revelation that a number of persons--make that suspected terrorists--were arrested in England, thus short-circuiting their plot to blow up a number of airplanes was the biggest news of the day. The discussion of explosives in this case pointed to use of relatively easily obtained materials. "Nitroglycerin and similar explosives have become much harder to slip by aiport security today than they were a decade ago thanks to "sniffer" machines that can detect trace amounts of explosives residue on luggage and passengers.

Partly for that reason, terrorists have increasingly turned to peroxide-based explosives such as TATP, which was used in last year's London subway bombings. Production of the explosive has been perfected over the past several decades by Palestinian bomb-makers who produce it using bleach, drain cleaner and acetone paint thinner."

The media have been discussing Richard Reid (known as the shoe bomber)--but I haven't read much today about the student who died in an explosion outside the stadium of the University of Oklahoma on October 1, 2005--an explosion that took place within 100 yards of a stadium filled with a crowd of more that 84,000. Descriptions of that incident included varying reports about the material used. Jack L. Allen wrote about the incident. There have been conflicting reports about the explosion. One, which I repeated in my October 7 article, said the bomb was made of TATP, supposedly the same material used in the London subway bombings. I don’t know what TATP is, but The Oklahoman has since quoted the youth’s father, Joel Hinrichs Jr., of Colorado Springs, as saying the FBI told him the bomb was made of hydrogen peroxide..."

Allen's column summarizes speculations after the incident concerning the Joel Hinrich III's association with Islam.

Many articles explore the incident. For example, The Oklahoman, in March, "A Norman police bomb expert said Tuesday he does not believe University of Oklahoma student Joel Henry Hinrichs III committed suicide by blowing himself up outside a packed football stadium. "I believe he accidentally blew himself up," Sgt. George Mauldin said. Mauldin said Hinrichs, 21, an engineering student, had two to three pounds of triacetone triperoxide, commonly known as TATP, in a backpack in his lap when it exploded Oct. 1. ..."

As one of America's now venerable novelists wrote in quite another context, "And so it goes."