Wednesday, April 27, 2011

US report card



In a Tit for Tat world, China gives the USA an F on Human Rights Record.


Following are some facts and figures from the report:

-- In 2009, an estimated 4.3 million violent crimes, 15.6 million property crimes and 133,000 personal thefts were committed against U.S. residents aged 12 or older, and the violent crime rate was 17.1 victimizations per 1,000 persons.

-- In 2009, weapons were used in 22 percent of all violent crimes in the United States, and about 47 percent of robberies were committed with arms.

-- More than 6,600 travelers had been subject to electronic device searches between October 1, 2008 and June 2, 2010, nearly half of them American citizens.

-- By 2011, America will have more than 1.7 million men and women in prison, an increase of 13 percent over that of 2006.

-- On June 24, 2010, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs approved the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, which will give the federal government "absolute power" to shut down the Internet under a declared national emergency.

-- The U.S. unemployment rate edged up to 9.8 percent in November 2010, and the number of unemployed persons was 15 million in November, among whom, 41.9 percent were jobless for 27 weeks and more.

-- A total of 44 million Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009, four million more than that of 2008. The share of residents in poverty climbed to 14.3 percent in 2009, the highest level recorded since 1994.

-- 14.7 percent of U.S. households were food insecure in 2009, an increase of almost 30 percent since 2006.

-- The number of families in homeless shelters increased 7 percent to 170,129 from fiscal year 2008 through fiscal year 2009.

-- The number of Americans without health insurance increased from 46.3 million in 2008 to 50.7 million in 2009, the ninth consecutive annual rise, which accounted for 16.7 percent of the total U.S. population.

-- Out of 6,604 hate crimes committed in the United States in 2009, some 4,000 were racially motivated and nearly 1,600 were driven by hatred for a particular religion.

-- 90 percent of U.S. women have suffered some form of sexual discrimination in the workplace; some 20 million women are rape victims in the country; One in four women is a victim of domestic violence.

-- Nearly one in four U.S. children struggles with hunger; every year over 3 million children are victims of violence reportedly and the actual number is three times greater.

-- More than 93,000 children are currently incarcerated in the United States, and between 75 and 93 percent of children have experienced at least one traumatic experience, including sexual abuse and neglect.

-- At least 109,000 people were killed in the Iraq war, and 63 percent of them were civilians from March 2003 through the end of 2009; the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops had caused 535 Afghan civilian deaths and injuries in 2009.

-- During the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the record on November 5, the United States received a record 228 recommendations by about 60 country delegations for improving its human rights situation.



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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Strange Pilgrims

If not me, who? And if not now, when?

Mikhail Gorbachev



Welcome to Mockba

With the peculiar name of Domodedovo, a 600 year old town on the outskirts of Moscow is home to one jumbo international airport. With so many Russians living in Miami, there are now direct flights weekly. The 747 air-busses are flying at half occupancy so no need to pay first class as there is plenty of room in coach to stretch out for the 12 hour ride to the other side of the world. Though so far away, Moscow today is not so different than any other major city. The lines of cultural distinction are blurring faster than you can say domodedovo.



Spudnik Moment

Yes, you will have a time deciphering the alphabetical characters and there are plenty of signs to challenge your linguistic dexterity and amuse your sense of the foreign. There is also plenty of unmistakable proof that you are in the former USSR.



Here, obvious yet awesome are the places where tourist are drawn to congregate and like Infante's Three Sad Tigers, me and my new friends made a perfect trio of horse's asses while GPS'ing our gringo selves towards the ramblings of Red Square.


Up n Down Infinitum

With winters that make Canada seem like Cancun and years of proletariat development, it is no wonder that the subway system of this bolshevik beehive is often more magnificent and palatial than our little Trump towers. The network of subterranean tunnels are resplendent and crowded with a multitude of mole-like locals performing the ebb and flow of a well rehearsed commuter ballet.



Drabkitecture

For each example of drab and dull monolithic boxes with windows, there is another absolutely outstanding edifice of distinction. From ancient places of worship to bewildering modern marvels, the cityscape is an architectural aficionado's paradise.



Commicontrast

The Juxtaposition of old and new is everywhere, a striking mix of classlessness that is rich and richer.


Red Energy

To light up this mega-metropolis takes kilowatts and lots of them. Stack of billowing productivity tower above a blanket of Eastern European charm.



Yes Parking Anytime

Boots on the ground, pedestrians beware. When is Moscow, the motoring public rules the street. Yet it warms my illegal butt to see that locals can park for Free just about anywhere in this busy city. In other words, sidewalks are fair game. It appears the one rule is to not obstruct traffic. On the downside car congestion slows traffic down to the speed of cold molasses.



The Peeps

Enough of the inanimate. Let's get to the proud people of this populated place of 11 million inhabitants.


Shepard's Herd

People are people wherever you go. Graffiti is like consumerism, it was invented by civilization. Here we find a very good example of cave-painting circa 2011.


Zen of Stuff

Materialism has arrived in Bearland and permeated a culture that has resisted owning stuff for centuries but not without the secret individual yearnings for more stuff.


Koh Incidence

The ominous and profound has been packaged. Like the t-shirts adorned with Che sold in Havana, a visit to the tomb of the diminutive giant father Vladimir Lenin was not without trinkets and luxury items for sale just across the square at a super-mall laden with un-essential consumer products.


Brother from Another Planet

What trip to the titanic of totalitarianism would be complete without one of those famous 'doll in a doll in a doll' thingies. There is one available with the US presidents, but after opening the first doll with likeness of Obama i just about barfed up my borscht so I opted for the more apropos puzzle of the russian royalty.


Haves n Have Mores

Affluence and unapologetic flaunting of riches is commonplace today. From the Ritz Carlton adorned with four kinds of marble to this gold-chromed car, evidence of this economic power-house are abundant.


Next Stop, Garage CCC

Some say that art and science are disciplines founded on our vises. I will not argue with that. But vise does not exist without virtue and materialism will not flourish without spirituality. This is where my host, the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture exists as the definitive place where a new age of collaboration among those who understand that Art is the most powerful force on earth.


With All Due Respect

To his credit, Roman Abromovich may be the Medici of Moscow. I may get a visit from the KGB for this candid photo of one of the richest men in the world, but it's not exactly a state secret that it takes the likes of Roman to move mountains and build bridges for cultural understanding.



Borscht Festival

The Beetroot Soup at the Garage Cafe is only second best to a bowl from Veselka in NYC East Village.


Santa Che

Enough with the introduction, let's get to the meat and potatoes of the art exhibitions.
But before we survey the main course permit me a few words on the Cuba photography show organized by ICP and coincidentally on view during my visit there.

Now, those rabid cuban-american republicans in miami might want to change the channel because although i am no fan of castro and his island museum of a failed system , I am also not so much of a neanderthal as to forfeit the gold-plated opportunity to soak in art that you will never see in miami. With tremors of tantrums i sucked in my cuban complexity to gather whatever this album of black and white vintage photos could deliver. Of particular interest was photographer Korda's contact sheet from where his now iconic image of Che Guevara was obtained. Unassuming as it was at post-card scale, that freeze frame is now forever etched on the global psyche of the revolutionary spirit. I also was morbidly drawn to a room featuring photos of Guevara's corpse and evidence of his fate at the hands of the CIA in Bolivia. Good riddance and pass the rum. The rest of the show just reminded me of the family feud that is Castro and the Diaz-Balarts; a crapy mexican novela. BTW, revolutions are not supposed to last 50 year.



Time to Make the Donuts

The New York Minute Show was a round the clock extravaganza. From the minute i arrived, preparations were well under way. Crates were being opened, logistical staff was on full throttle, armies of installers in white gloves were puzzling over instructions, walls were moving around cavernous spaces, artists were busy making their messes and people in general were getting acquainted for the sole purpose of delivering one kick ass art show. I am old now and have been behind the scene at countless institutes where all manner of seemingly life-or-death productions are built but this place was like an aircraft carrier preparing for an invasion. The excitement was contagious.


Spring Loaded

Like a welcoming pharmaceutical, the approach was a calculated and calibrated obstacle course garden of swirling mandala turbines powered by an unapologetic arsenal of oscillating fans. Ara Peterson's temporary elegance leaves an indelible and tranquilizing after-effect of prisma-colored satisfaction.



Begin with the End in Mind

This large Rosson Crow painting of inspired reverence to dear departed pal Keith Haring encapsulated the gist of this curatorial endeavor by Kathy Grayson to resuscitate a very significant period of art history by presenting a sincere and unabashed sampling of its continued influence on contemporary art from the ground zero mega petri dish that is NYC.



Pop Goes Surreal

Likewise the signature piece of the show, the wild and wonderlust painting and sculptures by DearRainDrop are an apostolic manifestation of the continued influence of wunderkind Kenny Scharf whose Closet #16 was featured. Kenny and I build the thing some 18 years ago right here in North Miami and it has been in cold storage in Germany until its timely excavation today.


Deity of Destruction

Here is a detail of the day-glow interior depicting the ravages of a post-nuclear day. Like king Tut's tomb, the embellishment is crisp as the day it was minted albeit with a very musty aroma.


Blessings and Babushkas

Rasputin would be confounded by the hypnotizing spectacles of Terence Koh. This unassuming fella had the uncanny audacity to attempt a trial rehearsal of his Red Burka performance in Red Square one day prior to this procession at the opening. Not surprisingly, at Red Square version, we were quickly descend upon by secret service and prompted to disperse or face certain detention. We complied. The initiation of the show at the Garage was allot more well received.



I find television very educating.

Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

Groucho Marx



Lady of Knottingham

Not all works are elaborate and complicated. The whimsical sculptures of Martha Friedman offered visitors the elasticity of contemplation to enjoy the simple elegance of a knot. Made from giant rubber bands, the array of an everyday pop object delivered Oldenburg comfort.


After Before After

The french Burka police would get their panties in a knot from this reconsideration of anonymity by Brendan Lynch where he take tie and die out of the closet and into the garage.



“Russia will not soon become, if it ever becomes, a second copy of the United States or England - where liberal value have deep historic roots.


Vladimir Putin



Gee! Mr. McGee

You couldn't meet a nicer guy than Barry McGee. It is no wonder then that his mastery of popular style and motif are a fitting compliment to his people skills.


Nobody Knows My Name

The fact is lost in this freeze-frame of our slim vandal, he is actually an automaton with an articulated arm that stokes the can seemingly not quite frozen in the final stages of executing a sanctioned piece. He is so cool that he is cold, but it warms my heart to see old-school graffiti on display.



Drain-O!

Swamp's very own Jim Drain was a site for vodka eyes as we were both unaware that we'd both be there. Jim is the quiet type until he gets to work. With one foot in Miami and another in NYC, Drain is the jolly multicolor giant. When Burrows talks about the 'one all-purpose blob' as metaphor collective of man, Drain hammers the point with spontaneous orgasmic cellular communion.


Thin Blue Line

Spencer Sweeney is dedicated to community service. His NYC police cruiser come dance floor light show ceiling is suspended overhead daring gazers and inadvertent wanderers with the uncertainty of illusion. Relax, Sweeney serves and protects with authoritative reassurance, and some expert rigging.



Snow Gets in Your Eye

If you were part of the polaroid generation, Dash Snow's enlarged arranged images of everyday life will be familiar. What's powerful about this narrative is just how real real can be when it is all said and done. For the post-polaroiders the originals carry tremendous allure and curiosity.



I Like Simple

Patrick Griffin delivers button-size slogans with deep clarity. Proponents of NO are quick to cross the line of censure where others will lean towards the Yes of things tolerant. To wear sentiment on your lapel is a small but effective instrument for revolution.



Angels with Dirty Faces

The are several other works of equal strength included but this has gone way past the cardinal rule of keeping blog posts short and to the point. Of the myriad of characters encountered, Jack Donoghue must be mentioned as he somehow encapsulates the embodiment of New York Minute. Like the contemporaries of my young adulthood in the 80's, the flash of spirit from NYC is a constant. Only the faces change.


Strange Pilgrims

Damn it you're good enough. So where do the travel weary art assistants go to get their batteries charged? They go to the oldest Russian bath house in Moscow. Being at the Sanduny Bath House was like the perfect final act of a short story by Garcia Marquez, a happy ending for this strange pilgrim from the swamp.


The art of any propagandist and agitator consists in his ability to find the best means of influencing any given audience, by presenting a definite truth, in such a way as to make it most convincing, most easy to digest, most graphic, and most strongly impressive.

Vladimir Lenin


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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Moscow Bound



Back in the old USSR, things were rather bleak with regard to contemporary art.
In fact relations with the creative spirit were so bad after the Cuba missile crisis that I grew up with the misconception that the evil empire of the Cold War was as real as Ronald Reagan was an actor.

But thanks to Gorbachev's Perestroika and Glasnost the end spelled the beginning for warmer relations with other superpowers.


Russian history is as big and awe inspiring as the amount of land it occupies. A primer on Eastern European history is a worthy lesson as yet unlearned by many of us here in the "new" world. But that is changing.


If we know anything about Russia today it is that Moscow is a very big and modern metropolitan destination for any traveler, but to go there, you will want to get an invitation.

The Garage CCC and Dasha Zhukova have invited Swampthing to visit Moscow Russia.


I'll be there to participate in an exhibition titled "New York Minute" which will feature works by my pal Kenny Scharf and others. You can see Kenny's Cosmic Caverns at the Wynwood Walls in Miami, at the MOCA in LA and of course in NY where it all began.


So tune in to get the latest updates from Russia with swampy Love...
if i could only figure out which are the Enter/Exit signs.





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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Erasing Eyebrows


To Tell The Truth

A select few live in a secret underworld where they play the deadly game of intrigue and espionage. The stakes are high but the reward is silent glory. The top secret world of sensitive international intelligence is often portrayed in the most glamourous way on film and news from the iconic James Bond 007 to the down right mundane characters like Alger Hiss and Robert Hanssen.


Eye Bro

In the movie The Recruit, Collin Farrell aptly hammers the 007 mythology with his signature eyebrows reserved for NOC's only. But the truth of the matter is that although the spy game is positively sexy, the shady characters that inhabit this dark place are most likely ugly as a drone.


Gather 'Round

The inner circle of surveillance and analysis is a very crowded place. Today the secret america we have is comprised of countless agencies and a list of private contractors that sustain our economy with super paranoid intent. With every conceivable acronym, the amount of energy that goes into gathering information and making sense of it all is mind-boggling. The crazies are the only ones who take delight in what is happening.

Here is just one recent example of the cost of endless war:

The Pakistani government would like the CIA's aggressive drone campaign "suspended" and only resumed under "new rules" and "formalized terms," according to a Pakistani military official familiar with discussions between the two nations.


Relations between the CIA and Pakistan's military intelligence agency, known by its initials ISI, became "strained" says the Pakistani official, following the incident when CIA contractor Raymond Davis shot and killed two men in Lahore, Pakistan, in late January.


On March 17 -- the day after Davis had been released from a Pakistani jail following the payment of more than $2 million in "blood money" to the two victims' families -- a CIA drone strike killed as many as 45 people in Pakistan's tribal areas.



Moscow Miss

But not all is lost in this unsavory stage of rotten apples. Every so often a story breaks that makes the whole mess seem worthwhile . Obviously we now all now know who Anna Chapman really works for. And who can forget the charm and elegance of Valerie Plame and hubby Joe Wilson when they hit then VP Cheney with a big dirty YellowCake pie.



Hive of Drones

Yet most of the dirty, some say worthy work takes place just above most heads or under the cover of cover on top of cover. From the guy in the cubicle at AIPAC to the lady on the computer at the Miami News , Do we really know who's who?



The Anticastro

These are the eyebrows of a real life spy. These are the eyes of a mad terrorist that was just released from prison. Posada must have some very good dirt on his old pal Bush Sr. because he is a wanted criminal all over the world but has found safe haven in Miami.

This from the one n only Amy Goodman:

Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative best known as the suspected mastermind of the deadly 1976 bombing of a Cuban airline jet, was acquitted Friday. He wasn’t facing terrorism charges, but 11 charges of perjury, immigration fraud, and obstruction of justice. Although the U.S. government believes he is an international terrorist, Posada Carriles was freed on Friday. Will the Obama administration let him walk the streets of Miami?

Posada is an old man now but his story sets the example for the next generation of rabid individuals willing to kill innocent civilians for ideological gains. I don't really care what team they are batting for, in the crazies deadly game, we all loose.

MIAMI, May 17, 2005 - Immigration officials arrested Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile suspected in a deadly airplane bombing and other attacks, on Tuesday, weeks after he slipped into the United States and shortly after he withdrew an application for political asylum.

The Bush administration, which had been mostly silent about Mr. Posada's presence and until Tuesday denied knowing if he was even in the country, faced growing pressure from Cuba and its ally Venezuela to extradite him. Critics had questioned why the United States would not root out a suspected terrorist, even one hailed by Cuban exiles as a freedom fighter against Fidel Castro.



Generation Why Not

Yoani Sanchez, totally caliente blogger trapped in Cuba, has been a regular read for millions of exiled patriots and human rights watchers. Her intellect and heart cut to the core of what is so Effed up about the power struggles of countries at odds with their people.

Jimmy Carter, God bless him, could not gain the release of one of our own spies who was caught in Cuba recently. The saga of mench Allan Gross is a little reported story because it does not have a happy ending.


Mr Gross, a development worker with experience in many countries, was arrested in late 2009 while working for the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

His project involved distributing mobile phones and laptops, and helping improve internet access for Jewish Cubans, reportedly so they could communicate with other Jewish communities around the world.



Stelph Stuff

You know, in the film The Recruit, Al Pacino said one very curious truth when he told the class that there is good and bad in the world. But he neglected to elaborate on who's what.


Tight Lipped Float Social Media Tsumani

I would dream about being a spy but my lips are too loose.

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