habitat for artists

25Jan/15Off

Engagements With the World: Art and Progress

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This week's Engagements is a bit long-form'ish. Happily so!

We at HFA are trying to deal with the concept of progress, in art, in society. When so much in the news is going wrong--or what we, here in much of the Industrialized West think is wrong--out in the world, it's hard to think that beyond a measure of material and technological change in some account of public welfare over the last 150-odd years, we haven't covered very much ground. Put another way, we've come very far, but for what?

So, this week, among other works, we've been working through an excellent article in Orion magazine from a few years back by the environmental activist and writer Paul Kingsnorth, entitled Dark Ecology.

On the moribund state of the Green Movement, now taken to neo-liberal views on activity, including progress, and whether that works with an ethic of community-grounded engagement, Kingsnorth's view:

These are the things that make sense to me right now when I think about what is coming and what I can do, still, with some joy and determination. If you don’t feel despair, in times like these, you are not fully alive. But there has to be something beyond despair too; or rather, something that accompanies it, like a companion on the road. This is my approach, right now. It is, I suppose, the development of a personal philosophy for a dark time: a dark ecology. None of it is going to save the world—but then there is no saving the world, and the ones who say there is are the ones you need to save it from.

And:

There is always change, as a neo-environmentalist would happily tell you; but there are different qualities of change. There is human-scale change, and there is industrial-scale change; there is change led by the needs of complex systems, and change led by the needs of individual humans. There is a manageable rate of evolution, and there is a chaotic, excitable rush toward shiny things perched on the edge of a great ravine, flashing and scrolling like sirens in the gathering dusk.

We've been working through a similar account in Leon Wieseltier's majestic essay in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, an account not so much about the state of environmentalism, but about culture, and about whether technological disruption is somehow fundamental to the progress in, and of culture. It's a really lovely, and fantastically curmudgeonly account. We should all be so stylishly, so morally curmudgeonly that all a reader remembers from the engagement is that there is a lot at stake here, and the Barbarians at the Gate might well be those who peddle the newest toys out in the market. On that:

 

It's not at all obvious how we'd go about setting the world aright, in whatever way. It is, however, important that we look hard at the problems that beset us, and examine critically the solutions that are being offered. Only then should we pull at our shirt-sleeves, roll 'em up and get to work.

19Jan/15Off

Engagements with the World: The Living Wage in the Artisphere

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This week the artisphere was all-a-blogging about how artists today either can't make a living through their work or can't make their art work in New York. Same old, same old? Perhaps. But there was a particular urgency to the conversation, and it was partly triggered by art writer Scott Timberg's new book Culture Clash, reviewed here in Slate. Writer and editor Evan Kindley's take:

As a precariously perched culture worker myself—and one just five years shy of 40—I don’t want to pretend that there’s nothing at stake here, or that Timberg’s concerns are completely overblown. He argues sensibly for more “middle-class protections” for the creative class (though the policy details of this are left sketchy—one suspects he just means protections for the middle class generally), and worries that the “only people who will be able to work in culture will be those who don’t need to be compensated—celebrities, the very rich, and tenured academics.” This is a reasonable thing to worry about. But it’s not a new thing to worry about, and despite the dewy nostalgia on almost every page of Culture Crash I’m not convinced that we have ever had a society that did very much better on this score. If you want a world where creativity is a viable life pursuit, the way is forward, not back. The dream of the ’90s is not enough..

The Guardian recently published an illuminating piece about artists and their income across different countries, including countries where governments arrange subsidies or fees for artists to live/work. The piece delivers a strong endorsement for more government action to support artists and their work. That bit isn't particularly noteworthy. What is noteworthy is the different ways different governments support artists and the ways helping that along might help artists and art along too,.

Is fair and proper payment for artists an ambition for governments to action? Or should it be left in the hands of arts agencies? Perhaps it’s best championed by advocacy bodies such as a-n (a U.K. based art organization). Of course, it is the responsibility of all of these, but if good practices in the arts are to be sustained over the long-term, the responsibility for placing a value on artists’ contribution to society should be shared more widely still.

Debate and action needs to be taking place as a matter of urgency among current and future audiences for artists’ work – in and among rural and urban communities and with children in schools. It’s these children who need access to viable role models on which to base their own careers, and to be able to see for themselves that professional artists can come from any walk of life, not just the middle classes.

The last is up first, Ben Davis' piece in artnet, "Why I Believe New York's Art Scene is Doomed""

Somewhere, some new set of artists is inventing a new, very different way of being that will also look to have been inevitable in 50 years. In a very speculative way, I would say that Carlo McCormick's ArtNewsarticle last year on the rise of the “hickster"—about artists leaving the city altogether—is a better hint of the future in a generation or so than Galapagos's move to Detroit, which seems just a stop on the way.

Leave aside the bit about the "hickster", Davis' piece is a flip on the whole real-estate, costs and income grounded piece that assert that you'd best "hipsterize the Hudson River Valley", or "the Hudson Valley art scene is dead/alive".

Also, maybe because school is starting out soon, but everyone's talking about how art picks out real value in education and therapy. Just a selection, from an NPR sister site, here,  and National Geographic, here.

 

Image courtesy: Faheem Haider

14Jan/15Off

Lost and Found: Recovering Art from Elitism

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? --T.S. Eliot

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Aphrodite Braschi, Glyptothek Munich

Art is an ethereal imagined space within our minds. It doesn’t exist in the way we believe whole objects exist or even how we ourselves exist; it is rendered within the electrical impulses of the brain as a series of abstract associations and visual-spacial constructs that re-imagine the straight-forward reality of what Jacques Lacan referred to as the ‘real’. Lacan suggested the Real is an impossibility because it exists in a natural state outside of language, and perhaps art attempts to evince this idea. Even more tenuous is the fact that art is dependent on the constraints of a ‘viewer’, even if that viewer is the creator herself. This makes art and the attempt to structure it philosophically through aesthetics fraught with contradictions. How are we to talk about art if it functions as a wholly imagined space? How can we observe and assign purpose to a functionless exercise that imbues us with a disregard for our own sense of reality?

It is precisely this contingent space between acquired experience (our interaction in the moment with our surroundings) and imagined experience (our creative or hallucinatory expression that transforms direct experience) that makes art so difficult to define, talk about and often interact with. Even though the formal practice of art-making is changing due to the expanding options available in the digital realm, it is still largely viewed within a gallery or museum setting, what is referred to as the ‘white cube’. After we teach to draw as children our creative practice dissipates unless we seek out professional practice. Even then, a large number of college educated artists pursue more lucrative and constrained practices like graphic and industrial design, compared to the relative few who wish to follow the traditional fine art practices of painting, sculpture, music, poetry or photography. Another select group of graduates will follow the path of craftsmanship which blends a different set of formal tools — ceramics, printmaking, metals, and glass blowing — with conventional applications such as utilitarian objects and/or the creation of functionless art objects. Few artists pursue a practice outside of post-secondary education, so there mostly remains across disciplines, a residue of influence because of the nature of the bureaucracies that support arts continuation. That residue of influence leaves a mark of distinction that creates a natural barrier between an uneducated viewer and the artist—a permanent hindrance against arts wider appreciation—leaving the door open to politicians, pundits, and loudmouths to espouse ignorant expose’s against artistic practice that falls outside their narrow understanding of the world. Therefore, often and especially in America, the very structure established to foster art-making becomes its own worst enemy. So how, might we escape this creative caduceus?

Robert Rauschenberg, Monogram

One gateway to a better understanding and appreciation of how creative practice can be experienced by all, not just an elitist few is through what is called Found Art. Objet trouvé, a term attributed to the French artist Jean Dubuffet, is art that uses found materials or objects, man-made or natural in their unaltered state as part of another work of art. A similar but distinctly different concept called the Ready-made, coined by Marcel Duchamp in the early 20th century, suggests that an object can exist as a work of art simply by calling it art and displaying it as such. The most famous example of a Ready-made work, attributed to Marcel Duchamp, but now thought to have been created by Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, was a urinal placed on its side in a gallery and signed R. Mutt. Found Art on the other hand, leverages the rediscovered objects to be combined in order to make new work that changes their original state or photographed to remove the context of its original meaning. Robert Rauschenberg used stuffed animals, cardboard, tires, and many more found objects in combination during the 50’s and 60’s to create original works of art. The sculpture, Alexander Calder used kitchen items and utensils to create his Mobiles. More recently the artist Vic Muniz has even used human garbage to create collages. Found Art then becomes a vehicle for human imagination that steps outside the formal constraints of traditional art tools such as clay, bronze, pencil, pastel, and paint, to reveal the expansive opportunities available to us within our minds. In business, this is referred to as innovation and the overused cliché ‘thinking outside the box’. In reality, creative thinking is hard wired into our brains and we all practice it continuously in our lives without even realizing it. A better shorthand is problem solving. As tool-making mammals we have developed an innate sense for devising creative solutions to challenges we encounter in our daily lives. Art practice simply uses this innate ability for creating without a direct application. The problems being solved in art, are the formal problems of color, light, and shape rather than attempting to solve some specific problem. And here is how Found Art might provide us a pathway toward a better appreciation for that kind of thinking, by demystifying the practice of art-making itself.

One example that appears to be universal throughout the world is the act of tossing a pair of sneakers tied together by their shoelaces over power lines. There seems to be no origin to this urban exercise in impromptu creative expression but it is clear that it happens all over the world. As documented in this short film The Mystery of Flying Kicks, there is no one reason why people have chosen to toss sneakers over power lines. What is consistent is it is a creative form of expression. The power line itself acts as horizontal line set against a blank backdrop and over it hanging shoes create an abstract break in what otherwise goes largely unnoticed. There is also a subversive quality to Shoefiti because of course power lines are supposed to be left unaltered due to their purpose. Power lines are representational of central infrastructure, government and bureaucracy, so to throw sneakers over them subverts their intent by making them a platform for personal expression. It is this gentle subversion mixed with a dose of the irrational expression that is the seedling of artistic exercise. To experience it on a personal level even with something as playful as tossing sneakers over a power line is a beginning to bridging professional artistic practice with a greater societal appreciation of art and its importance to our psychological well being.

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Habitat for Artists, with ecoartspace

Found Art plays a significant role in the foundation of Habitat for Artists. The sheds are constructed largely of found materials and act as a partial artistic expression in and of themselves. Often the artists who occupy them transform the sheds exterior with paint, bits of found objects, old paintings, etc. in order to both personalize their own occupancy but to engage the public. When I first saw Simon Draper assembling a habitat structure he finished off the shed with what he called ‘riffing’ which was his personal expression using odd bits of wood off-cuts that he had either sawn or found from previous artworks and structures. The end result was a shed wall that began to resemble more of a brightly colored Louise Nevelson sculpture mashed up with an abstract expressionist painting than the exterior of an artists temporary studio. The wall of course was not intended to be an artwork itself, hence the term ‘riffing’ but rather a visual bridge between viewer and practitioner, a playful gesture that says “come on over and find out what this is all about.” There is much preciousness in art even when the art looks quite literally like somebody’s trash. Works on display come replete with docents who are really guarding the work as much as acting like a guide. Most artwork is isolated from any tactile interaction let alone proximity. Many times there is very good reason for this due to the fragility of the work or people’s tendency toward vandalism, but this aversion away from interaction has been extended to a universal idea of isolation that in affect has separated viewer from the experience. The psychological barrier is nearly as potent as the physical one.

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Arlington Club Restaurant, NY

I feel a more useful model for 21st century art viewing is the restaurant. We all need to eat just like we all need art but the difference between entering a gallery or museum and that of a restaurant couldn’t be more different. Many museums in fact have their own restaurants embedded which conflates the relationship rather than appropriately balancing it. Restaurants are essentially a form of theater. When done right, a great restaurant has all of the elements of great art because it leaves you with a lasting resonant experience that makes you wanting for a return visit. Nearly every gallery I’ve visited in the course of my life with a handful of exceptions, provides no guidance at all toward its contents. The receptionist/gallerist is often cold and distant and only offers information when asked. Prices are deliberated hidden from view and often must be asked for or are neatly typed on a list with little red dots indicating those works that have already sold. The walls are white, mostly, and the floor is plain. The lighting is uniform spotlights sometimes mixed with skylights. Essentially the experience is akin to entering a chalky cave in Greece or a vineyard’s wine cellar—cold, austere, and unwelcoming. There is an intentional cast to this design and it is pure prevarication. The logic goes that mystique insinuates value and those who feel the need to obtain objects of value wish their experiences to be wrapped in obfuscation. Why not have the theatrical underpinnings of a restaurant instead where you are warmly greeted and attended to during your visit? Let’s have the pricing up front as well in a menu anyone can pick up at the entrance. Perhaps better flooring and experimentation with colored walls? And, equally important, lets start putting galleries in the suburbs and upper middle class neighborhoods. Revolutions start with the middle class and if we can’t provide a vehicle for the middle class to access art then art is doomed to a narrow elitist enterprise.

Erik Odin Cathcart is a member of Habitat for Artists. He is an artist, writer, and a thinker committed to green construction and development, and green resilience.

10Jan/15Off

Engagements With the World: On Racism and Free Expression

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Last Wednesday the offices of the French satirical magazimne Charlie Hebdo were attacked. 12 individuals, cartoonists, editors and writers, as well as police officers protecting the magazine's staff, were killed by two brothers, French, of Algerian descent. At least 10 more people were wounded in that attack. And then 6 more people were murdered in related attacks, bringing up the number of dead in Paris to 17 from one and many more attacks.

These events have been a national tragedy in France, and we mourn these deaths across the world. Artists and writers seem to have jolted by these events: freedom of expression and speech have been put up as targets, or it seems, and the offenders here are those who would quelch foundational beliefs about the political in Western culture.

On the other hand, many have rightly questioned the limits of expression when the target of that expression, say a cartoon, say a piece of satire (stand-up?) happens to be those out of power, the oppressed. Is it a piece of satire to mock the radical, and the terrible in ways that track a history of oppression? What seems to float to the top, conversation on conversation, is contested definitions of racism. What do we mean when we say some cartoon, or another, is racist? And at what institutional level do we place the charge of racism? (The individual? the corporate? the Statist?)

So, here, pushing on those conversations, are five of the best accounts of how we might understand the tension between the freedom of expression, power and race. I've quoted liberally below from the pieces lay out the different views that, together, might point to some new view on the matter:

Two of the best accounts I've read in this time, are Adam Shatz's  view published in the London Review of Books that contests the clarity of the doctrine that Islamism, its militant accounts, and its public reaction triggered the attacks on Charlie Hebdo:

In laying exclusive blame for the Paris massacres on the ‘totalitarian’ ideology of radical Islam, liberal intellectuals like Packer explicitly disavow one of liberalism’s great strengths. Modern liberalism has always insisted that ideology can go only so far in explaining behaviour. Social causes matter. The Kouachi brothers were products of the West – and of the traumatic collision between Western power and an Islamic world that has been torn apart by both internal conflict and Western military intervention. They were, above all, beurs, French citizens from the banlieue: Parisians of North African descent. It’s unlikely they could have recited more than the few hadith they learned from the ex-janitor-turned-imam who presided over their indoctrination. They came from a broken family and started out as petty criminals, much like Mohamed Merah, who murdered a group of Jewish schoolchildren in Montauban and Toulouse in 2012. Their main preoccupations, before their conversion to Islamism, seem to have been football, chasing girls, listening to hip hop and smoking weed. Radical Islam gave them the sense of purpose that they couldn’t otherwise find in France. It allowed them to translate their sense of powerlessness into total power, their aimlessness into heroism on the stage of history. They were no longer criminals but holy warriors. To see their crimes as an expression of Islam is like treating the crimes of the Baader-Meinhof gang as an expression of historical materialism. And to say this is in no way to diminish their responsibility, or to relinquish ‘moral clarity’.

Teju Cole's view places the attacks in a historical context of war, and Statist violence:

The killings in Paris were an appalling offence to human life and dignity. The enormity of these crimes will shock us all for a long time. But the suggestion that violence by self-proclaimed Jihadists is the only threat to liberty in Western societies ignores other, often more immediate and intimate, dangers. The U.S., the U.K., and France approach statecraft in different ways, but they are allies in a certain vision of the world, and one important thing they share is an expectation of proper respect for Western secular religion. Heresies against state power are monitored and punished. People have been arrested for making anti-military or anti-police comments on social media in the U.K. Mass surveillance has had a chilling effect on journalism and on the practice of the law in the U.S. Meanwhile, the armed forces and intelligence agencies in these countries demand, and generally receive, unwavering support from their citizens. When they commit torture or war crimes, no matter how illegal or depraved, there is little expectation of a full accounting or of the prosecution of the parties responsible.

Juan Cole's piece in The Nation lays out the strategic dimension of the attacks, and, I think offers the most compelling causal account of the events of the last few days. He advises his reader to be cautious of how this story is understood, and to hold steady away from the Islamaphobia to come:

The operatives who carried out this attack exhibit signs of professional training. They spoke unaccented French, and so certainly know that they are playing into the hands of Marine Le Pen and the Islamophobic French right wing. They may have been French, but they appear to have been battle-hardened. This horrific murder was not a pious protest against the defamation of a religious icon. It was an attempt to provoke European society into pogroms against French Muslims, at which point Al Qaeda recruitment would suddenly exhibit some successes, instead of faltering in the face of lively Beur youth culture (French Arabs playfully call themselves by this slang term). Ironically, there are reports that one of the two policemen they killed was a Muslim.

Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, then led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, deployed this sort of polarization strategy successfully in Iraq, constantly attacking Shiites and their holy symbols, and provoking the ethnic cleansing of a million Sunnis from Baghdad. The polarization proceeded, with the help of various incarnations of Daesh (Arabic for ISIL or ISIS, which descends from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia). And in the end, the brutal and genocidal strategy worked, such that Daesh was able to encompass all of Sunni Arab Iraq, which had suffered so many Shiite reprisals that they sought the umbrella of the very group that had deliberately and systematically provoked the Shiites.

Katherine Cross' stirring account in Feministing takes seriously the ways expression/speech are can be folded into racism as a motivating principle of expression, in some quarters:

There is no sin in debating an artistic creation, and I use the term “sin” advisedly here. When I spoke on this issue on Twitter yesterday one man accused me of justifying the murders, falsely claiming that I’d argued that the slain writers and cartoonists “had it coming.” This sort of bad faith was compounded by the same individual spreading Islamophobic propaganda; free speech for him, but not for anyone who treats Charlie Hebdo as anything less than pristine (something I suspect their irreverent staff would have found quite laughable). And certainly no free speech for Muslims who are loudly expected to do nothing but “condemn” this atrocity, and then make no other meaningful contribution to this discussion.

To question this narrow reading of free speech is, indeed, to find one’s self with no right to speak whatsoever, ironically. But you do no honor to those who made their lives creating and criticizing if you then make them “sacred” and untouchable.

Finally, Joe Sacco's provocative cartoon, published yesterday in The Guardian:

The acclaimed graphic artist and journalist Joe Sacco on the limits of satire – and what it means if Muslims don’t find it funny

 

Image courtesy: Tom Toles, The Washington Post

5Jan/15Off

Engagements with the World: Art Attack

 

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Happy New Year, everyone!

This week's engagements is the best of art, and the worst of art:

The best of art, a series of the best of pieces of art-writing that have as much to do with art and writing as with art writing, published with great care and great wit, at Artnet:

The excellent critic Ben Davis' opening salvo:

It was an eventful year for art writing, with plenty of shifts in the landscape, as new publications opened (including this one), or popped up, or reinvented themselves. But beneath all the institutional shuffles, what were the ideas that got people excited? To try to answer that question, I polled colleagues, but the final selection below is obviously a personal one. It reflects the world around me, and is weighted towards pieces that reflect my own location and my own sense of this year's troubled qualities

The post, wide-ranging, interesting, and a wonderful cross-section of the richest arguments in, and for art, will occupy your time for some time to come. Do look into each one of the essays linked.

And because it's good to have a steady hand to take on the disreputable and the repugnant in your world and mine, here's this past week's piece in the New York Times magazine about collector of the young, and their work, Stefan Simchowitz.

It's easy to think that Simchowitz' is an absolutely predatory model for fostering art, or at least the objects surrendered by artists. And you'd be right, but that's no reason to skip this piece. You can't critique what you don't know, right? So, here, please get to know Simchowitz and his work, and try to devise in your own ways an art world that can function modestly, kindly, well, without him and his ilk.

 

Image courtesy: Faheem Haider

31Dec/14Off

Engagements: At the End, and Before the Beginning

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This is a time for lists. Lists of things to do, and things left undone. Things categorically used, and abused. The best of this, and the end of that.

So, I'll try my best to avoid the list-categorization, and say this year consisted of two ways of looking at art.

1. Art and its contexts:

2. Art and its commitments to political action.

In the first account, you have your takes and take downs of the cult of celebrity, as figure and as artists. You have your Jeff Koons shows, your Kiefer cult of melancholy-remembrance and some account that the world is annoyingly Kuhnian and you can't go back to your yesterdays. Though, yes, you might plausibly do that, too.

Add to that, the circus that is the Marina Abramovic show. The art of feeling, and experience taken to views that, weirdly, seem to require loads of money, and in terms of other things that'll never come around, time. In many ways HFA is sympathetic to the account of art as experience, but only if there are some real questions asked about both the art and the world. And if the artists should find a way of addressing both issues, so much the better. So much the best.

The second account is that of art as political activity. The simplest way to think about this is the powerful memes sent off in the wake of Ferguson, and during the recent Climate March in New York. Social media and its networks moved stories we had to share in a way no word of mouth could plausibly have done. Art and its associated networks reported on art's political commitments in the world through the real world and its ether shadow. At the same time, social media became its own prison, as it became more and more apparent that the best of the year image/videos were rendered entirely without context. Context mattered this year, and it mattered in the right way. It mattered that the context of the state's conduct with its citizens mattered; that the context of racialized politics in art, as well as in life, mattered.

Occupy Museums came out in a big way, and that's very much to the good. Art should flourish in all its accounts. But now the critique of the way art flourishes also matters. That's been a long time coming.

And maybe next year, a Change is Gonna Come.

Happy New Year, everyone! (Yes, I made a list but I hope that's okay, because we're going to start off the New Year with loads of good stuff.)

 

Image courtesy: Faheem Haider

 

22Dec/14Off

Engagements with the World: Defracked!

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You know the biggest news this week on the enviro-front: On December 17th Governor Andrew Cuomo, a New York Democrat-- and a legacy at that-- banned hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in New York State. This is a huge victory for both the environment and the numerous movements that, together, are plumping for a sustainable environment. And given the outsize media attention New York and New Yorkers get, as long as the story about fracking and its real costs stays alive, Cuomo's move will run through our networked world with forceful life.  This story isn't over yet.

The politics: On the one hand, Cuomo's decision shows that concerted collective action (protests, significant voice in media, art) can move a contested issue up to the top and in the right direction. Public pressure and local moves helped nudge Governor Cuomo to ban fracking. This is unquestionably true. But, it's also true that Cuomo is a Democrat and it's good to have a Democrat in the Governor's Mansion when setting up for a collective action move of this sort.  It also helps to have a Governor in office who's got ambitions for greater things and higher offices and who needs to repair his relationships with the liberal wing of his party. It's not unlikely that Zephyr Teachout's recent primary candidacy helped move things along. So, yes, there are plenty of accidents waiting to happen in plenty of good places, and now we know how to go about winning our next round of successes.

There's no doubt that Governor Cuomo's decision sets precedent. New York State sits atop large reserves of natural gas, and the Governor's move leaves that reserve just where it is. The ban shows both that we can live without fracking, and that, despite whatever electoral politics New York probably will do better without fracking. A lot of New York's economic growth is pegged to New York City and the Metropolitan area up North and up to Albany, and messing about with fracking might well up end that. And the fact that much of the publicly proffered reasons for banning fracking have to do with public health (and, weirdly uncertainty that fracking is unsafe!) implies that other states looking into fracking will move in New York's footsteps. After all, the public health reasons are the same for all 50 states, no?

But this ban can be lifted by future governors. So, let's consolidate this victory legislatively while we still can.

Friends, the only other thing I'll suggest this time around is that you look into Samuel Johnson's lovely little book, Rasselas.  This holiday season if you're looking out for the next turn in your path, Rasselas will do you good. Here's a lovely little piece in Harper's blog by Scott Horton, that lays out Rasselas against the better known Candide and convincingly argues the case that Johnson's Rasselas is the one, between the two, you need to read.

A lovely holiday to all from all of us at HFA. Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah!

 

Image Courtesy: Bloomberg

14Dec/14Off

Engagements with the World: American Elsewheres

Spill, StainIt's been a really tough week. The Torture Report drawn up by the Senate Intelligence Committee has knocked us about. What does it mean to be an American? The massive storm out on the West Coast has been a drop in the bucket to set aright the drought that's been killing the area.

It seems more people of color are getting killed everyday by the state and its agents, though really it's rather that we now know there's a problem there, and we're savvy to it.

I won't belabor the issue, but I won't turn away from it either. The very best take on the Senate Intelligence Committee's report is this one by Spencer Ackerman writing in the Guardian. It's heart breaking stuff. Also, we've been detaining (and probably torturing) innocent people according to the New York Times.

Justice does not run parallel to the law, but you'd think the law would touch upon justice from time to time.

An oil spill off the Sundarbans in Bangladesh is promising to devastate the wildlife, and the entire habitat there, the world's largest mangrove, and a UNESCO heritage site. It's a smaller spill that the BP Gulf spill, but it's got the goods to do disproportionately more devastating damage.  By the way, did you know that oil spills in Nigeria dwarf the Gulf Oil spill?

Finally, here's a juicy piece about how artists are dealing with and, in many cases, leading the frontier push in developing new technologies. I'll have some thoughts on the piece soon.

Yes, it's been a tough couple weeks here in America, but I hope the next few weeks ahead people own up to the proper, vital spirit of Christmas: radical modesty, attention to communities and other lives, and, yes, sacrifice and resilience.

 

Image Courtesy: Faheem Haider