Artist Douglas Coupland 3-D scanning and printing Canadians for 4-year project

Douglas Coupland
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Vancouver, British Columbia artist Douglas Coupland is visiting Simons department stores across Canada, scanning and 3-D printing customer volunteers for an art project that will be unveiled in 2019. The project will be shown in conjunction with the opening of a new Simons location in Yorktown, Ontario. Commissioned by Peter Simons, CEO of the Canadian chain of department stores, the work intends to emphasize the chain’s ongoing support of the arts.

Titled 3DCanada, Coupland’s project will be a collection of miniature busts of the individuals who are scanned during his tour. He plans to scan around 1,200 people in total over the course of his tour. Each finished bust will be roughly five centimeters in height, and the artist plans to apply gold leaf to the white plastic in the final piece. Coupland’s idea for the project began when he purchased his own 3-D printer and began offering personalized busts to house guests.

The artist is known for his work with technology and speculative futures, having achieving wide-spread recognition for his 1991 novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. Waxing existential on the subject of the 3-D printed objects, Coupland notes that the idea of 3-D printing seems to hang between the 2nd and 3rd dimensions. Each bust is effectively a mirror that can be viewed from all angles.

Coupland plans on continuing his tour until 2017, visiting a total of six Simons locations. His visits will take place on Saturdays during regular business hours, allowing roughly 100 people per visit the opportunity to be scanned. The scans are free and each volunteer will receive a bust which will be ready for pick-up the following week. The next two scanning sessions will take place at Simons locations in Vancouver, BC and Mississauga, Ontario.

The Globe and Mail

Montreal Gazette

Transmissions from The Bunker: The Best of Alan Savage 2010-2015 – A Review

Transmissions from The Bunker: The Best of Alan Savage 2010-2015
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Alan Savage was a part of Middlesborough-based new wave experimentalists Basczax in the late seventies, frontman of 80s new romantics The Flaming Mussolinis, and in more recent years has been spotted languishing on a Malaysian beach. With news appearing that Savage is set to return to the UK, Seraglio Point Productions have released this teenies compilation of the songwriter’s best work this decade.

‘Transmissions…’ is the absolute definition of a grower. The kind of vineyard Lit rock these songs represent is unique, carefully honed vessels, pored and agonised over until just right. Futuristic, chromatic tales such as opener ‘Sexy Robot’ and instrumental stomper ‘Crocus Licker’ bookend more reflective, time-worn beauties such as ‘Velvet and She’ and the sublime, Roy Orbison-fronting-New Order loveliness of ‘Lonely Eyes’.

The entire central section from ‘Flare Stacks’ to ‘…Eyes’ is frankly wonderful – the kind of segment the much overused phrase ‘classic album’ was invented for. All complex music should be listened to at least four times to give it time to percolate through to the soul; on the fifth the listener will be hooked for a lifetime. The aforementioned ‘Flare Stacks’ is utterly perfect; half-forgotten memories of Brian Eno’s ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’ rising up a hillside to meet Mercury Rev coming down.

Alan Savage is a new wave survivor of the finest vintage, honing, refining and never letting an intelligent radio pop hook escape without sinking it deep into the consciousness. ‘Patricia Wants Everyone To Know’ that not only does she keep her post-op penis in a cigar box, but that her creator has also come up with one of the finest collection of songs of the decade so far.

Album available at Seraglio Point Productions.


Lord Garlic

Central Park Statue Fund seeks to honour historic women

Central Park Statue Fund
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Of the current 22 historic figures who have been memorialized as statues in New York’s Central Park, none are women. Now several residents of New York have started a fund in order to raise money for statues of notable female figures.

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund is helmed by President Pam Elam, Vice President Coline Jenkins and Vice President Dr. Miriam Miedzian. The quest to include more women among the park’s memorials effectively began in November 2014, when Jenkins addressed NYC Parks Department Commissioner Mitchell Silver during a talk by the latter at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. Jenkins announced to Silver that there were no statues of women in the park; Silver admitted that he was unaware of the issue. Jenkins is the great-granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a noted suffragist and women’s rights activist.

While statues in Central Park currently include fictional characters such as Alice from Lewis Carrol’s “Alice in Wonderland” and Juliet from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” representations of real women remain notably absent from the park’s grounds. Previous plans have brought up the possibility of erecting commemorative statues of women such as Brooke Astor and Princess Diana, though none have made it to the construction phase. This seems especially odd considering the relative obscurity of some of the male figures in the park – for example, a large equestrian statue of 14th century Polish king Jagiello.

In May 2015, the fund gained the approval of the parks department for placement of the statues near the 77th Street entrance to the park. Thus far, all of the statues installed in Central Park have been funded privately, rather than through city commissions. The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund is now collecting donations, noting that it will have to raise as much as a million dollars to cover the design, installation and ongoing maintenance of the statues.

By Dallas Jeffs

NY Times
Central Park Where Are The Women

Maroon 5 banned from China after Tweets to Dalai Lama

Maroon 5 banned from China after Tweets to Dalai Lama
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In the latest of China’s celebrity bannings over support of Tibet and the Dalai Lama, Maroon 5 has had two upcoming Chinese shows cancelled following a Tweet by the band’s guitarist well-wishing Tibet’s exiled leader, who is considered a separatist terrorist by the Chinese government.

China has banned many notable celebrities and musicians for their support of Tibet, including actors Brad Pitt for his role in the 1997 film Seven Years in Tibet, Richard Gere for his activism, Harrison Ford for a speech in front of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sharon Stone for a quip about a Chinese earthquake having had something to do with China’s accumulated karma.

Bands already on China’s blacklist include Bjork, Oasis, and Bob Dylan, all due to the Chinese government’s concern over the band’s support of Tibet.

The latest addition to the blacklist, Marroon 5, followed keyboardist Jesse Carmichael’s Tweet around the Fourth of July and the Dalai Lama’s birthday:

“Happy Birthday America (and The Dalai Lama too) sang happy birthday to his holiness today.”

The Tweet was later deleted, but a cached copy remained.

The musician also attended a birthday party for the Tibetan leader in Los Angeles July 4, reportedly.

No explanation has been provided by either the Chinese government or the band, but both the upcoming Shanghai and Beijing concerts were suddenly deleted from the band’s Asian tour webpage.

By Andy Stern

USC’s Roski students call for removal of dean

Roski students
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In an ongoing saga of controversy over changes to the MFA program at the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Art and Design, a petition has been started with the goal of removing Erica Muhl from her current position as dean of the program.

This comes roughly two months after the entire first year MFA class dropped out of enrollment at the school due to changes that were made to the program without their prior knowledge. Among the changes was a notable reduction in the amount of paid teaching experience that the seven students expected to receive, along with unexplained changes to core faculty. These apparent cuts to the MFA program came despite a recent $70 million gift to the school from music industry giants Jimmy Lovine and Andre Young.

On July 14, the former MFA students posted the petition on, addressing USC president Max Nikias and board of trustees provost Michael Quick. The description on the website includes accusations that Muhl and other school administrators are being overcompensated at the expense of students, and that the dean has acted unethically in refusing to adequately discuss changes to the program. Three days after its posting the petition had over 300 signatures, with 500 as the goal.

To date, Muhl has responded to the controversy by suspending recruitment for the MFA program, noting that the 2017 program had accepted only one applicant. The dean admitted that outrage and subsequent media attention has negatively affected recruitment for the Roski MFA program, though she maintained that the changes are relatively minor and would not have interfered with the experience of the students who dropped out.

By Dallas Jeffs

LA Times

Chi-Signs Festival 2015

Chi-Signs Festival 2015
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Early rumours are unnerving. Baritone Chichester legend and Chi-Signs Festival opener Mike Fry is apparently lost on some lonely Sussex highway, destined not to perform or compere as scheduled due to unforeseen technical difficulties – his car suffered an internal haemorrhage on its way. The omens are bad and the crowd are restive, until the anticipatory throng witness the charming and eccentric Emily Cotton bounce onto stage.

With her proud golden red locks and assured picking, Cotton breezes through her half hour set with dainty confidence. English baroque folk treasures such as her own ‘Lost’ and ‘Blame’ sit easily alongside half-rapped, half-sung contemporary pop standards, until with a coy wink she’s off, having seduced and intrigued in equal measure.
Ominously named The Crashing Bores are indeed sedate and reflective, but never tedious, as you suspect they well know. Les Black’s plaintively sung tales of loss and beautiful dejection are sensitively accompanied on acoustic guitar by enigmatic sidekick Steve Roche, subtly highlighting the sepia tones of Black’s stateliness. The Chi-Signs II compilation standout ‘Birds’ is achingly tender in the mid afternoon sun.

An abrupt change of pace as Southampton’s Pondlife bring their coruscating, surf twang buzz punk to The Chichester Inn. Adrian Edmondson lookalike frontman Jules Faux is a stage-right rock as his merry bunch politic and bounce through a loose but edgy six string Chi-Signs Festival 2015noise, clattering through joyous versions of ‘Knife In Your Back’, with its euphoric backing vocals, and the fantastically sweary ‘Stupid Song’, and it’s all over before it seems it’s even started.

An hour’s filmic space now as the line up re-orientates itself for the evening session, and the hypnotic washes of Ettuspadix (Beautilator) soothe the audience into a surreal trance. Found sounds here, a glacial synth stab there, all brought together in the understanding that Ettus never plays anything twice, and he’s controlling the whole sound from under an umbrella in the sun-baked garden while smoking a pipe.

Young Chi bounds in, as surprise guest and multi-instrumentalist Chris Cox rattles through a brief clutch of impassioned, perfectly executed covers of the likes of Ben Folds Five and Stevie Wonder, before getting behind the drums for the electrifying Open Plan Panic Room. The thinking indie fan’s favourite of the day, frontman ‘Sexy’ Paul Dickson charms the cameras and the ears via gems like ‘Something To Keep’ with the band’s Foos meets QOTSA discipline – and the female contingent of the crowd duly swoon.

Discipline is cheerfully tossed off for demented chaos as The Wrong Uns bring their ramshackle, energetic racket to possibly the biggest cheers of the day. Irrepressible and possibly sectionable frontman Johnny Wrongun certainly lives for the moment, as Clash and Jam covers compete with a dysfunctional iPad for attention. The Wrong Uns are many things, but boring is not one of them, and at least Johnny left his famed blow up doll at home (this time).
New Tropics are worthy heirs to local Fatcat-signed heroes TRAAMS, and within their insular unit and rigidly focussed, be-afroed frontman Tom Herrington, they rip a twenty-minute new one in the Chiinn. At The Drive-In meet Lightning Bolt in a Milton Keynes shopping centre via their blisteringly intense, blink and you’ll miss it set.

Dusk falls over the South Downs, and a besuited gentleman twirls an imaginary moustache, strikes a 50s muscle man pose and gives the audience a suave wink. Mikey Georgeson (otherwise known as The Vessel from David Devant and his Spirit Wife) is Lit rock personified, artfully balancing on a high wire taut between postmodern glam and chamber pop. Echoes of Ed Harcourt, James Cook and Rufus Wainwright are all heard in his Wildean chicanery, whether by guitar, electric piano or mandolin. A post ironic man about town, his wonderful ‘Industry’ charmed the festival…with only his bona fide classic ‘My Heroine’ tantalisingly left out of an intrigue-filled set.

Ex-cohort of Chrissie Hynde, the New York Dolls, Sid Vicious and charismatic bearers of brilliantly colourful tales, the Steve Dior Band bring the sleaze rock to town. Americana, swamp blues and classic punk fuse together through Dior’s formidable band, the Ladbroke Grove via CBGB’s legend himself resplendent in open red military jacket, lean buff tan and crazed blue-steel stare hypnotizing an enthralled crowd. Recent single ‘Song For The Wicked’ is followed by perfectly executed riff after ecstatic harmony, until the SDR drift into the high summer night, bottle of Turkish red under arm, swaggering towards who knows where.

After this roots epiphany, another kind of rootsiness approaches as local brass funk heroes Beatroot, with what looks like about fifty members onstage. Their perfectly oiled machine effortlessly bumps and grooves the night to its conclusion, rushing the nearly spent craniums of the audience with late night sax, trombone, sunglasses and hats. A warm and wonderful finale to a day-long festival of wildly oscillating colour. See you next year…

By Sean BW Parker

Impassive aesthetics: Lou’s frigid vignette of color

Impassive aesthetics Lou’s frigid vignette of color
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It is rare to come across something so aesthetically pleasing that it requires one to stop staring so as not to strain the eyes from the sheer glaring, doleful beauty found in the pulchritude of its aesthetics. Yet this seems to be the case with the work of the B.C. artist who goes by the pseudonym of “Lou.” Imperceptible, yet still stinging with colors and abstractions, Lou manages to establish the most vain formats of photography and materialize allurement.

The essence of the creative is brought out through most of Lou’s work, who while at times dealing with gelastic settings, at others captures the essence of the people that surround her. In every photograph she manages to blend colors with cold forms of emotional detachment while still keeping a sense of warmth in the rhythm of color and, I dare say, even in absurdity.

Her work, although it could be interpreted by some as astute to the vanity of humans, is in fact just that, but more so an expression of a part of everyone’s character. In other words, we all enjoy “eye candy,” and to deny this truth is to go against the most innate part of human nature. The desire to be exposed to beauty in all its forms is a desire we all hold, which is perhaps one of the reasons why Lou has amassed a decent following around the world, some even as far as Russia.

Lou, who during the day goes by Mary-Jolene Scott, has been heavily immersed in photography for the past three years, where she has been involved in shoots with numerous fashion and clothing designers in the Lower Mainland. Her most recent work with designer Jennifer Williams led to a series of extravagant shots in what seems to be the dead center of some far-off desert. What is most interesting however is that Lou puts a great deal of effort into the design of her sets, with a methodical preciseness in lighting. When one looks at her photographs it is not hard to see that magnetism comes infallibly with exactitude.


In a phone interview with The Speaker, when asked why she creates, she answered: “I just do it because I can,” which prompted this journalist to seek no further truth, and even lead him to realize that the congruence of her character is very much in tune with her work. Although aloof and cold, it is still alluring. One does not need to go even beyond the artist-name she has picked for herself — which was based on Lou Reed — to understand the image she is trying to convey.

Her work, detached, even dispassionate, might give a sense of a lack of emotion, yet that is the very point to which she aspires. Still, the process by which one comes to such impassive aesthetics is not in fact one devoid of emotions but of a work ethic and passion for her art that is required to produce such work. As mentioned before, although a great deal of her photography deals with gaudy character-types and settings, a more refined anecdote is the fact that she takes photos of people in her community, and sometimes they even pose in her shoots. The social aspects that are very much left behind in Lou’s work do play a salient role in its creation.


One of her most alluring works, in my opinion, is the sliced golden apple with transposed lines at the cores. The feeling is that of disunion but not in some sort of “deep” or “metaphorical” manner; rather in the pure character of the apple itself. In other words, lines, forms, and shapes transpire to create a portrait of defined colors captured by a 35mm lens. It is a dichotomy therefore of the reality captured by photography, and the surreal — namely the lines and shadows which seem hypnagogic yet are still very much part of the “photographic” canvass.

In another piece, where the body of what seems to be a female covered with intent by a flaccid mask and decorated with bright flowers, we find again very much an example of the detached, almost Millais-styled “truth to beauty” that Lou tries to portray in her work. The individual body is present, yet its identity is concealed by a material cover. I dare say that behind the mask lies a frigid stare, although that is not for the viewer to experience but only to ponder.

LouAlthough photography is sometimes decried as a medium for the mediocre, Lou shows that creativity is not in fact so bleak of a course when it comes to snapping images that have depth to them and even delicacy. Her work is therefore proof that design, photography, fashion and art are innately linked to each other — in a Dalaunay fashion — and that together they form Lou’s vignette of color.

When asked where she sees herself in five years, she promptly responded: “famous,” giving again an impression of confidence that is parallel with the cheek of her photography.

Critique by Milad Doroudian.
Photographs by Lou
Model: Coco Clark

Jeff Koons’ retrospective in Paris – Review

Jeff Koons
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Jeff Koons’ retrospective exhibition: expectation, contrast and disappointment

After having been exhibited in New York City, “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective” is now in the Centre Pompidou in Paris until April 27, 2015. Jeff Koons is one of the most controversial contemporary artists. This retrospective, with Scott Rothkopf as exhibition curator and Bernard Blistène as curator of the Paris show, comprehensively presents Koons’ work at various stages of his 35-year career. Located in the influential contemporary art institution in Paris, alongside Atelier Brancusi and the remarkable retrospective of Marcel Duchamp, could Koons’ exhibition and artworks live up to the high expectations?

Rabbit and the Inflatables

Koons’ initial inflatable work, “Inflatable Flower and Bunny,” displayed at the entrance of the exhibition was echoed by the silvery “Rabbit” one third of the way in. The two share similar forms, but the features of the plastic toy disappeared in “Rabbit’s” smooth and reflective surface. “Rabbit” was described in the caption next to the artwork as “one of Jeff Koons’ most iconic works,” — although such importance is not signified with any special treatment of its display in the exhibition. On the other hand, it recalls Bracusi’s refined shiny bird sculpture, “Leda” (1926), which was created decades before the Koons work. While the former’s perfect surface relates to the infinite and indefinable, Koons’ subject matter does not depart far from popular culture and Pop Art aesthetics, despite the change of materials.

“Inflatable Flower and Bunny”, 1979
“Inflatable Flower and Bunny,” 1979
“Rabbit”, 1986
“Rabbit,” 1986


Not far from the rather subtle “Rabbit” stands the attention-seeking “Ballon Dog.” A magenta version of the 3-meter orange painted stainless steel “Balloon Dog” sold for $58.4 million last year, a record price for a living artist. This oversized “Balloon Dog” is placed in the center of the exhibition section of the “Celebration” series, surrounded by the large blue “Moon” and red “Hanging Heart.” However, there does not seem to be any dialogue among the works except for reflecting one another from their surfaces. From “Rabbit” to “Balloon Dog” — both iconic — the link is obviously Koons’ gesture of “exaggerating the aura of cheap, ordinary things, aggrandising them into works of art in increasingly expensive materials.” These point us to the ready-mades of Duchamp. While Duchamp’s “Fountain” was an act of anti-market and anti-authorship, Koons has diverted to commodification of art in capitalist art market.

“Moon”, 1995-2000, reflecting “Balloon Dog” and the exhibition hall
“Moon,” 1995-2000, reflecting “Balloon Dog” and the exhibition hall
“Hanging Heart” displayed side by side with “Moon”
“Hanging Heart” displayed side by side with “Moon”
Jeff Koons' Retrospective in Centre Pompidou, Paris with the iconic "Balloon Dog", 1994-2000
Jeff Koons’ retrospective in Centre Pompidou, Paris with the iconic “Balloon Dog,” 1994-2000

Gazing ball

This latest series of Koons’ in the last part of the exhibition shows classical sculptures replicated in plaster, each with a sharp blue balloon-like sphere. The classical beauty of the sculptures is placed against representation of American popular culture by the modern blue mirror balls which come from suburban ornaments in his home state of Pennsylvania. Koons is trying to address the future decorative nature of artworks. The plain and dull texture of the plaster is contrasted by the shiny reflective gazing balls which catch viewers into the artwork. However, when one searches to find something deeper out of such contract and reflection, one can still only find the externalized image of oneself. There is then a sense of narcissism, not something surprising from Koons’ art. David Zwirner, the art dealer for Koons, quoted Koons saying that, “If you’re critical, you’re already out of the game.” One critique replied to this, “His narcissism makes him incapable of self-editing.” Indeed, it seems not obvious how the choice of each sculpture model could give either a different message or a higher artistic value, except for the selling of one more piece of decoration. In this sense, it might be painful to claim them as descendants from Duchamp’s ready-mades in which the act of choosing and the choice of the objects is the notion.

“Gazing Ball [Farnese Hercules]”, 2013
“Gazing Ball [Farnese Hercules],” 2013
“Gazing Ball [Ariadne]”, 2013
“Gazing Ball [Ariadne],” 2013

Viewing these three major iconic series from Jeff Koons three and a half decades of work, the progression of time does not generate any greater surprise or insights from Koons’ works. The New Yorker’s Peter Schjeldahl, reviewing the Whitney show, called Koons “the signal artist of today’s world,” claiming that, “If you don’t like that, take it up with the world.” In this regard of generalizing and externalizing his artworks to the responsibility of the contemporary world, it might seem that if one is disappointed by the exhibition, such disappointment should be directed to the wider world. However, it is doubtful that this is the case when we just turn our eyes to Duchamp or Brancusi next door, whose art is still giving much profound meaning to our world besides money and market.

By Rickovia Leung

Lit-rock now

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Since the Blair-raped turn of the millennium, British music has seemed like it’s in a seamless, anonymous, tepid, regurgitated stream. That the music produced were bad would be something to talk about, but the rise of Tech, social networking and old-fashioned politeness have coincided with music that across the board is all right, not bad, take it or leave it. Long gone are the media-created hypes of Britpop, rave, punk or Beatlemania, and all their cross-bred cousins.

The old school media rivers have turned into an endless digital delta. Where once David Bowie putting his arm round Mick Ronson would electrify staff rooms and playgrounds the following day, now thirty likes under a funny meme will suffice (at least they’re your friends and they love you, right?) or a garbage right-wing politician gaffs again and gets a few hundred thousand YouTube hits.

Clocks Go Forward album coverClocks Go Forward album coverClocks Go Forward album coverClocks Go Forward album cover
Clocks Go Forward album cover

There is another, subtle, powerful movement at work though. There is a strain of literate, socially conscious, super-aware creatives who are as far away from Liam Gallagher or Jay Z’s money and celebrity-worshipping ethos as it’s possible to get. You could call it the postmodern left, or you could realise that it’s decency and depth that unites them, as they are no less in thrall to classic pop magic and showmanship as Oasis or the Bling d-evolution. There’s also nothing elitist about them, as listening to the songs themselves will bear out.
The “forefathers” of these artists might be identified as Nick Cave or Luke Haines of The Auteurs, to name but two – songwriters who cherish the nuanced word as much as the perfectly deployed bass riff. The Godfather of Lit Rock as is now though is Ed Harcourt, gently laying multi-layered music over coruscating wordplay solo for over fifteen years, and inspiring others through his reversion to the rules of nature while keeping common decency intact. Often with a pocket watch and in tails.

James Cook
James Cook

These are people who love tunes, rock mayhem, and the crowd togetherness that is the hallmark of great music. Ageism and locationism have been disregarded, thanks to the mighty, gently tyrannical hand of Silicon Valley. Following Harcourt’s lead come the brilliantly wry Everything Everything, combining perfect British pop tunesmithery with oblique lyrics conjured up to keep you guessing for weeks, without being able to shake the tune you heard them set to. Dapper man-about-town, regular on The Mighty Boosh and Michael Palin lookalike James Cook brings his own brand of knowing razzle-dazzle juxtaposed with Joe Strummer’s social ire to the dancefloor.

Record labels Seraglio Point Productions (soon to release Alphabet Saints, Scalaland and Catwalk mainman and legendary writer Chris Roberts’ new record, Clocks Go Forwards “A Generation of Rain”) and Rocket Girl have unknowingly brought these artists together, not under any particular plan other than a tenuous link between London and Chichester. The Cure producer Dave M. Allen’s The Magic Sponge, Holland’s De Staadt, experimental musician Ettuspadix and even Thomas Truax and Ariel Pink can find themselves in good company, copious booze and deep thought finding themselves as comfortable alongside sex, drugs and rock n’ roll as at a TED lecture. Ex-Boo Radley songwriter Martin Carr, and Chi’s own Fonsleberry and The Wolseys also deserve a place at the table.

As much as any other just-bubbling-beneath-the-surface collective, this Lit Rock set knows something is up, and something is to be done about it. Social networking has funnily enough had the effect of making everyone better writers, and aren’t we all writers now. Well, not really, and this lot are showing the world how it should be done. Reading and listening are as important as screwing and fighting, and a lot closer than most like to admit.

By Sean Bw Parker

Made By Raffi – A nontraditional theme, published worldwide

Made By Raffi
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“Made By Raffi” is a children’s book, by Craig Pomranz, inspired by a true-life incident, about a boy who is bullied by his classmates for being different and who becomes a hero for his skills, which are traditionally feminine. The nontraditional theme puts the book into a somewhat narrow classification.

What may come as a surprise is that the book was just published in Mandarin and in Korea. Moreover, a publisher in Turkey has expressed interest. In contrast, Southern U.S. newspapers have been reluctant to promote the book in southern Texas and Louisiana, saying that they felt it would not be accepted by the public.

What makes this book acceptable and potentially acceptable in former Communist and developing dictatorship regimes, and at the same time, not considered an option in a Democracy such as the U.S.? Some publishers have wondered if Raffi’s nontraditional gender role and the rainbow on the front cover of the book symbolize something more about his difference, hinting at him possibly being gay. That question is not answered.

The book initially focuses on the “normalcy” of Raffi’s life, showing his relationship with his mother, father and dog. It goes on to describe that he feels apart from other children, uncomfortable with loud interactions and horseplay, and content to sit quietly alone during recess.

However, Raffi questions his difference, asking why that might be. He then finds meaning in his separateness when a teacher teaches him how to knit as the other kids are playing on the playground. Raffi’s parents are very supportive of his interest, giving him the tools he needs to succeed.

book review
Raffi’s parents support him by buying him yarn for knitting.

Initially Raffi is teased by classmates for nontraditional gender expression. But in a turn of events, Raffi becomes a hero for his class when his fine motor skills of knitting – and sewing – are needed for design of a prop for the class play.

“Made by Raffi” has been published worldwide in seven languages and distributed in ten countries – in England, Australia, the U.S., Norway, Denmark, Italy, Taiwan, Korea, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The book has received accolades for promotion of appreciation across differences, beginning with the very young. According to Pomranz, his publicists “are always looking to find publishers around the world – those who will help to promote the book and its nontraditional theme.

“A publisher in Turkey loves ‘Made by Raffi,’ but said ‘The concept of childhood gender nonconformity is not a popular subject in Turkey.’” Nevertheless, he said he was passing it on to another publisher he thought might be doing more controversial books. In Taiwan, the focus became encouraging children to develop their interests. They added some activity pages towards this aim.

It should be noted that the book was published in Taiwan – not Mainland China – and in South Korea – not the North. North Korea was the subject of a report by the United Nations last year, which claimed that the Republic’s actions towards its citizens were comparable to those of the Nazi regime. At the time, China – North Korea’s closest ally – told the U.N. to “mind its own business.” Still, South Korea is a traditional and homogeneous society, and acceptance of Made by Raffi indicates a wind change, even if ever so slight.

Contemplation of the book’s publication in Turkey is significant in contrast to last year’s ban on the use of Twitter in that country. That prohibition brought a statement by the U.S. State Department about book burnings during the Nazi regime and the increasing isolation of Turkey. At that time, Turkish lawyers stated that this block was against the law and a direct confrontation against freedom of speech.

book review
Author Craig Pomranz

A question is raised as to whether southern Texas will have a change of heart regarding publicizing “Made by Raffi.” This is because Texas has lately seen a change on matters regarding gender and traditional roles. Known for its conservatism, Texas in 2005 approved a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. The amendment campaign included a rally by Ku Klux Klan members. The decision was made by 76 percent of 17 percent statewide voter turnout. The result was reversed last year by a federal judge, stating that disallowing gays and lesbians to marry discredits their relationships.

“Made by Raffi” is a heartwarming tale of accepting differences. Despite its nontraditional theme, the book is gaining support in unlikely places for publication throughout the world. Perhaps the acceptance of Raffi’s interests – by his teacher, his parents, and eventually, his classmates and teacher – help to normalize nontraditional gender roles for children, and this is contributes to its universal appeal.

By Aliza Baraka

“Made by Raffi” (book), published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Bks (July 29, 2014) and illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain
Personal interview with Craig Pomranz
North Korea as Bad as Nazis Says UN and China Says to Bug Off
Turkey Twitter Ban Recalls Books in the U.S. and Google in China
Texas LGBT Community Hopes for Big Win

Never Mind the Generation Gap – The War on Music in 2015

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You don’t have to look far on social networking or in the pub to find an old punk bemoaning the fact that the kids “have nothing to say these days.” He’s well aware that it’s not the summer of 1976 anymore, but what disturbs him more is that his kids are embarrassed by his somewhat pacified antisocial aggression.

The punks are now parents and the hippies often grandparents. And that’s ignoring the majority who were listening to ABBA or The Carpenters as opposed to the somewhat more media-stoked Jimi Hendrix or The Sex Pistols at their respective times. With a dynamic online petition to stop Kanye West playing Glastonbury as the most recent of many, it’s HIS fans who are in fact upping the social ante, unbearable as he is.

Thus, white punk rebellion, somewhat away from its Trotskyite/anarcho roots has filled out, sat down, and had to accept that only about 10 percent of the movement’s output was listenable in the first place. The rest of it was simply the sound of fury, replaced less by The Arctic Monkeys or Fat White Family and more by Skrillex or Eminem. Punk spirit wears Gucci and Puma, and headbutts you in a Wetherspoons for spilling its pint or looking at its bird.

Johnny Rotten’s main target in 1977 was the older generation, when the music industry was powerful enough to take aim at other demographics or other artists, and thus to become its own media outrage industry. Blur and Oasis’s feud in the mid nineties was the dying ember of this music press flames fanning technique. Now, with digital having decimated the traditional recording industry and deadened neighbours having music venues closed up and down the country, the enemy of music has changed. The enemy is now the lack of imagination of the consumer.

The enemy now is also the corporations who insist on their logos swamping festivals; record company focus groups who insist on legacy artist reissues; a generation of musicians who see it as a career, and think the apex of artistic success is Noel Gallagher; and a public who are so dumbed-down in their listening tastes that a new Muse album is greeted with wild enthusiasm.

The parents and grandparents are more outrageous and rebellious than their progeny, and their ‘cultural revolutions’ didn’t so much fail, as were co-opted into parody. Clever. It’s a relief that Thatcher’s years are gone, sure, we’re just left with the smiling fallout – and that this century’s version of anti-war sentiment is met with Daily Mail choruses of ‘traitor’ for somehow demoralising troops in the middle-east. There is an enemy all right, but it’s not mum and dad – they’re despairing for the passivity, apathy, ignorance and politeness of youth. As long as they’re not chavs. The enemy of music and spirit is big business collaborating with the government, validated by mainstream consumers. Ever get the feeling you’ve been pacified?

Sean Bw Parker

Madrid is a city of experimental art

Madrid is a city of experimental art
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A new photo exhibition opens this week

There is a new photo exhibition running in the centre of Madrid. It is sponsored by El Arpa English academy and the idea of the event is to showcase photos taken on smart phones. The subject matter can be anything and everything and it takes in the urban and the rural, the personal and the panoramic, the morning and the night. It is these transitions which give the exhibition its name, “Transiciones.”

The blurb expounds on this by saying “less is sometimes more” and continues its hymn by saying:

“See images that have been captured as they lurked incognito to the naked eye as the photo was taken… see the indistinct matte of colours that bleed into each other and the sharp relief of building and nature against the light, a light that affects the image as day transitions into the night and, as it does, the filter that affects the image changes with it.”

In an interview with Maria, a tall and stunningly attractive archaeologist by trade, she explained, that as the event coordinator, the exhibition was part of a larger theme. “Last year we had a poetry exhibition in Diego de Leon and it was called “En Transito.” The theme was of poetry that was scribbled or written while on the go and the articles upon which poetic musings were inscribed included napkins, metro tickets, magazines, tissues and an assorted mix of things that are usually stuffed into pockets or bags. This exhibition is a spiritual successor and its function is to celebrate how the tool defines the art but also, more importantly, to make art accessible to everyone.

Over 30 budding artists have made submissions. In addition, some photographers gave details regarding where, why and how the photos were taken. Rachelle Toarmino, one of the submitters told this interviewer about how, on the Santiago route, the light was astounding that the image looked like it had been taken on a real camera while another photographer, Samuel O’Neill simply put a pair of red sunglasses in front of his camera and the results are spectacular. It is this kind of low tech approach that this exhibition is keen on.

Jonathan Kates, another submitter, added about one of his photos:

“Taking photos at nightclubs with cell phones is very hard but this one was sheer awesome luck, and was taken at Mondo Disko in February during an epic Maceo Plex extended set. It’s hard to capture an entire night in a single frame but the composition and the outstretched hands really highlight the mood.”

Madrid is currently in the throes of Easter processions and the marching of men in pointy hats that are there simply to bring the wearer just that little closer to heaven. Madrid is also passing deeply unpopular laws that have caused the United Nations to sit and baulk from their headquarters in New York. Quite simply, Madrid is a city of multifarious events. But if there is one event that that cannot be missed, it is the photo exhibition in Taberna San Jose. It runs for the next two weeks and the friendly bar keep Jorge will assist you with artistic or alcoholic replenishment.

If you wish to see the exhibition, it is in Taberna San Jose, metro Banco de España.

By Enda Kenneally