Category Archives: politics

Lawrence Ferlinghetti @90

Lawrence Ferlinghetti @90

A Coney Island of the Mind by you.

A Coney Island of the Mind (1958)

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born Lawrence Ferling on March 24, 1919) is an American poet, painter, Liberal, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. Author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration, he is best known for A Coney Island of the Mind.

A Coney Island of the Mind is a collection of poetry by Lawrence Ferlinghetti originally published in 1958 and dedicated to Carl Solomon. It contains some of Ferlinghetti’s most famous poems, such as I am Waiting, and Junkman’s Obbligato, which were created for jazz accompaniment (see jazz poetry). There are approximately a million copies in print of A Coney Island, and the book has been translated into over a dozen languages. It remains one of the best-selling and most popular books of poetry ever published.

Coney Island was written in the conservative post-war 1950s, and his poetry resonates with a joyful anti-establishment fervor.

Carl Solomon (1928-1993) was an American writer, artist and criminal. He was friend of Allen Ginsberg and an important inspiration for Ginsberg’s “Howl” (full title: “Howl for Carl Solomon.”). Ginsberg had met Solomon in the mental institution of Bellevue Hospital Center and became friends with him. Outside of being a member of the The Times Square Underworld, Solomon was a Dada and Surrealism enthusiast (he introduced Ginsberg to Artaud) who suffered bouts of depression.

Solomon wanted to commit suicide, but he thought a form of suicide appropriate to dadaism would be to go to a mental institution and demand a lobotomy. The institution refused, giving him many forms of therapy, including electroshock therapy. Much of the final section of the first part of “Howl” is a description of this.

Ginsberg admitted later this sympathy for Solomon was connected to bottled up guilt and sympathy for his mother’s condition (she suffered from schizophrenia and had been lobotomized), an issue he was not yet ready to address directly.

Although in style and theme Ferlinghetti’s  writing is very unlike that of the original New York based Beat circle, he had important associations with the Beat writers, who made City Lights Bookstore their headquarters when they were in San Francisco. He has often claimed that he was not a Beat, but a bohemian of an earlier generation. Over the years Ferlinghetti published work by most of the Beats, most notably Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs. He was Ginsberg’s publisher for over thirty years.

Fascism @90

The birth of the Fascist movement can be traced to a meeting he held in the Piazza San Sepolcho in Milan Italy on March 23, 1919. This meeting declared the original principles of the Fascists through a series of declarations.

Destroying the fascist snake

Anti-fascist Spanish poster.

Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology (generally tied to a mass movement) that considers individual and other societal interests subordinate to the needs of the state, and seeks to forge a type of national unity, usually based on ethnic, cultural, or racial attributes. Various scholars attribute different characteristics to fascism, but the following elements are usually seen as its integral parts: nationalism, authoritarianism, militarism, totalitarianism, anti-communism and opposition to economic and political liberalism.

The governments most often considered to have been fascist include the Mussolini government in Italy, which invented the word; Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler, but other similar movements existed across Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.

Fascism and the avant-garde

Fascism attracted political support from diverse sectors of the population but most surprisingly also from intellectuals and artists such as Gabriele D’Annunzio, Curzio Malaparte, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Knut Hamsun, Ernst Jünger, Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, and Martin Heidegger.

Ze’ev Sternhell (The Birth of Fascist Ideology (1989)) argues that European fascism first articulated itself as a cultural phenomenon, as a nonconformist, avant-garde, revolutionary movement. Modernism, says John Carey in The Intellectuals and the Masses (1992), is a literary theory of fascism.

Manifesto of the Fascist Intellectuals

The Manifesto of Fascist Intellectuals was written during the course of the Conference of Fascist Culture, held in Bologna, Italy, on March 29 and 30, 1925. It was published a few weeks later in nearly all Italian newspapers on April 21, by tradition the anniversary of the Founding of Rome. The secretary to the conference told the Italian news media that over 400 intellectuals attended the meeting; however, the number who gave public support to the manifesto was only 250, among them Vittorio Cian, Francesco Ercole, Curzio Malaparte, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Ernesto Murolo, Ugo Ojetti, Alfredo Panzini, Ardengo Soffici, Lionello Venturi, Gioacchino Volpe, and Giuseppe Ungaretti. Luigi Pirandello, though not present at the conference, announced his support of the manifesto by letter. Support for the manifesto by Neopolitan poet Salvatore Di Giacomo resulted in a falling out with Benedetto Croce, who, shortly afterwards, responded to the Fascist proclamation with his own Manifesto of the Anti-Fascist Intellectuals.

Fascism in fiction:

Christ Stopped at Eboli

Carlo Levi was a painter and writer, but he also had a degree in medicine. Arrested in 1935 by Mussolini’s regime for his anti-Fascist activities, he was sent to live in remote town in southern Italy, in the region of Lucania which is known today as Basilicata. The landscape was beautiful, the peasantry poor and neglected. Since the local doctors were not interested in peasants and not trusted by them, he began to help them.

A Special Day

As her entire family (including her fascist husband) goes to the streets to follow Hitler‘s visit to Mussolini in Rome, an Italian housewife (Sophia Loren) stays home looking after some domestic tasks. Her apartment building is empty but for a man (Marcello Mastroianni) who seems repulsed by fascism (a strange attitude in those days).

The audience learns early in the movie that this man is a radio broadcaster who has lost his job and is about to be deported due to his political attitudes and his homosexuality. Unaware of this, the housewife flirts with him, as they meet by chance (or intentionally) in the empty building. During their conversation, the rather naïve and mainstream woman is surprised by his opinions and finally shocked when she realizes his sexual orientation.

Nonetheless, despite their fights and arguments, they eventually make love before he is taken away by the police and her family comes back home.

Further reading

Discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante

Discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante

Discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante is a painting by Dai Dudu, Li Tiezi, and Zhang An depicting 103 cultural icons. It was released without credits on the internet in 2006 as a kind of painterly mystification and became an internet phenomenon in early 2009.

The painting’s antecedents are Disputation of the Holy Sacrament (1508/1509) and The School of Athens (1509/1510) or The Parnassus all by Raphael. Here[1] is a list with all the visual sources.

At first I thought it was uninteresting kitsch and had way too many political figures to be of interest of me. But then I thought this work might make it into the list of  works of art in the collective unconscious. Besides, due too its large presence of Chinese celebrities, it can easily be regarded as an example of 21st century Chinocentrism. And I like to believe that China is the only World Power to challenge Pax Americana as we’ve known it for the last sixty years.

List of celebrities include mostly figures from the political realm, sourced here[2].

1. Socrates 2. Cui Jian 3. Vladimir Lenin 4. Prince Charles 5. Ramses or King Solomon or Sinuhe of Egypt 6. Bill Clinton 7. Peter the Great 8. Charles de Gaulle 9. Margaret Thatcher 10. Ulysses S. Grant 18. Bill Clinton 11. Bruce Lee 12. Winston Churchill 13. Raphael Sanzio or Matisse 14. Robert Oppenheimer 15. Elvis Presley 16. William Shakespeare 17. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 18. Genghis Kahn 19. Napoleon Bonaparte 20. Che Guevara 21. Fidel Castro 22. Marlon Brando 23. Lao zi or Hokusai 24. Marilyn Monroe 25. Yassar Arafat 26. Julius Caesar 27. Mike Tyson 28. George W. Bush 29. Luciano Pavarotti 30. Salvador Dali 31. Empress CiXi 32. Liu Xiang 33. Kofi Annan 34. Prince Charles 35. Ariel Sharon 36. Ho Chi Minh or Qi Baishi 37. Osama Bin Laden 38. Qin Shi Huang 39. Mikhail Gorbachev 40. Mother Teresa 41. Song Qingling 42. Otto Von Bismarck 43. Saint Peter or Rabindranath Tagore 44. Li ZhenSheng 45. Voltaire 46. Hu Jintao 47. Dante Alighieri or Julius Caesar 48. Pu-Yi or Dai Dudu 49. Saloth Sar 50. Yi Sun-Sin or Yue Fei 51. Michelangelo 52. Hideki Tojo or Hiro Hito 53. Michael Jordan 54. Dwight Eisenhower or John Calvin Coolidge 55. Corneliu Baba 56. Claude Monet 57. Mahatma Ghandi 58. Vincent Van Gogh 59. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 60. Marcel Duchamp 61. Confucius 62. Noah 63. Li Bai or Caravaggio 64. Mao Zhedong 65. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 66. Zhou Enlai 67. Marie Curie 68. Abraham Lincoln 69. Pablo Picasso 70. Steven Spielberg 71. Friedrich Nietzsche 72. Karl Marx 73. Leonardo Da Vinci 74. Joseph Stalin 75. Queen Elizabeth II 76. Lu Xun 77. José de San Martín 78. Deng Xiaoping 79. Sun Yat-Sen 80. Theodore Roosevelt or George Custer or Maxim Gorky or Philippe Pétain 81. Saddam Hussein 82. Benito Mussolini 83. Adolf Hitler 84. Guan Yu 85. Pelé 86. Bill Gates 87. Audrey Hepburn 88. Ludwig Van Beethoven or Chopin 89. Charlie Chaplin 90. Henry Ford 91. Lei Feng 92. Victor Babeş or Norman Bethune 93. Mike Tyson 94. Sigmund Freud 95. Erich Honecker 96. Vladimir Putin 97. Lewis Caroll 98. Shirley Temple 99. Chang Kai Chek 100. Leo Tolstoy 101. Albert Einstein 102. Ernest Hemingway 103. Franklin Roosevelt 104. Woman from photograph by Cartier Bresson or Mother Teresa 105. Dolly (the cloned sheep)

International Women’s Day

International Woman's Day We_Can_Do_It!

We Can Do It! poster by J. Howard Miller

Today is International Women’s Day.

Woman is the original other.

All men are jealous of her.

“All men- even … Jesus himself- began as flecks of tissue inside a woman’s womb. Every boy must stagger out of the shadow of a mother goddess, whom he never fully escapes….Women have it. Men want it. What is it? The secret of life…”(Vamps & Tramps p. 32) – Camille Paglia

Pro feminism:

“Because they will try to convince us that we have arrived, that we are already there, that it has happened. Because we need to live in the place where we are truly alive, present, safe, and accounted for. Because we refuse to allow our writing, songs, art, activism, and political histories to be suppressed or stolen. Because we refuse to be embarrassed about the mistakes and faults and choose to move forward with a political agenda bent on the freedom of all.” —Tammy Rae Carland in Tres Bien by Le Tigre.

Contra feminism:

“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” Pat Robertson, 1992

Jeremy Bentham @261

Jeremy Bentham @261

The Presidio Modelo was a model prison of Panopticon design by you.

Presidio Modelo, Cuba, photo by Friman

Jeremy Bentham (February 15 , 1748June 6, 1832)  was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer, best-known today for devising the Panopticon. He was a political radical and a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law. He is best known as an early advocate of utilitarianism and animal rights who influenced the development of liberalism. In An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation he wrote of sexual ethics.

The Panopticon is a type of prison building designed to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell whether they are being watched, thereby conveying what one architect has called the “sentiment of an invisible omniscience.”

Bentham himself described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.”

Sholem Stein remarks:

It was among Jeremy Bentham many proposals for legal and social reform. Although it was never built, the idea had an important influence upon later generations of thinkers. Twentieth-century French philosopher Michel Foucault in his approach to New Historicism argued that the Panopticon was paradigmatic of a whole raft of nineteenth-century ‘disciplinary’ institutions.

Foucault’s discussions of the panopticon are particularly useful for New Historicism. Bentham stated that the perfect prison/surveillance system would be a cylindrical shaped room that held prison cells on the outside walls. In the middle of this spherical room would be a large guard tower with a light that would shine in all the cells. The prisoners thus would never know for certain whether they were being watched, so they would effectively police themselves, and be as actors on a stage, giving the appearance of submission, although they are probably not being watched.

Foucault included the panopticon in his discussion of power to illustrate the idea of lateral surveillance, or self-policing, that occurs in the text when those who are not in power are made to believe that they are being watched by those who are. His purpose was to show that power would often change the behavior of the subordinate class, and they would often fall into line whether there was a true need to do so or not.

But the way the panopticon really entered the public consciousness was via the term Big Brother, named afterBig Brother, a character from George Orwell‘s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is now a byword for authoritarianism as inforced by any omnipresent, seemingly benevolent figure representing oppressive control over individual(s) exerted by an authoritarian power, as well as surveillance in general and any surreptitious spying such as by way of closed-circuit television.

Proudhon (Property is Theft!) @ 200

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon @200

Anarchy in Palermo by lulazzo [non vede, non sente, non parla]

Click for image credits

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon(18091865), who I mentioned here[1], was a French anarchist. He was the first individual to call himself an “anarchist” and is considered among the first anarchist thinkers. He was a workingman, a printer and autodidact. Proudhon is most famous for his assertion that “Property is theft!“, in What is Property? Or, an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and Government (original title: Qu’est-ce que la propriété? Recherche sur le principe du droit et du gouvernement), his first major work, published in 1840.

The book’s publication attracted the attention of the French authorities. It also attracted the scrutiny of Karl Marx, who started a correspondence with its author. The two influenced each other: they met in Paris while Marx was exiled there. Their friendship finally ended when Marx responded to Proudhon’s The System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty with the provocatively titled The Poverty of Philosophy.

My fave quote of him I saw once written on several carriages of a train in Antwerp Central Station.

“To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be place[d] under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.” (Pierre-Joseph Proudhon)

Introducing Adventures in the Print Trade

Introducing Adventures in the Print Trade[1] by British writer Neil Philip, who currently has a post on Degenerate Art during Nazism, a fave subject of mine, illustrating the beneficial side effects of censorship best illustrated by Lichtenberg:

“The book which most deserved to be banned would be a catalogue of banned books.” —Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Aphorisms (G 37 in R. J. Hollingdale‘s translation and numeration)

Neil, author of Adventures in the Print Trade, begins his post thus:

“In 1929, the artist Richard Lindner, whose work can be considered the bridge between Cubism, Surrealism, and Pop Art, was appointed art director of the Munich publishing house of Knorr and Hir. Lindner remembered, “I saw Hitler every day in Munich at the Café Heck, a small café with about ten tables and thirty seats… Hitler used to sit there every day at his usual table. Our table was beside his and we knew each other because we avoided direct contact… He always wanted to be with artists.”[2]

The Window, 1958 Original lithograph by Richard Lindner [3]

Child’s Head, 1939 Original lithograph by Paul Klee [4]

Le Jardin d’Amour, 1981 Original silkscreen by Herbert von Arend [5]

Aus de Walpurgisnacht, 1923 Original woodcut by Ernst Barlach [6]

Woodcut for 10 Origin, 1942 Original woodcut by Wassily Kandinsky [7]

Untitled, 1979 Original lithograph by Boris Herbert Kleint [8]

Maschinenwerkstätte, 1921 Original lithograph by Lili Réthi [9]

Fabulously original, my only and usual gripe is that, art blogs should use Flickr or a similar service.

RIP Miriam Makeba

RIP Miriam Makeba


Live version of “Pata Pata

South African singer Miriam Makeba died yesterday while touring in Italy. She was 76 and best-known for being a vocal anti-apartheid activist, her 1967 song “Pata Pata[1][2] and her marriages to fellow country trumpeter Hugh Masekela and American “Black pride“/”Black Power” activist Stokely Carmichael.

Pata Pata” is a musical composition recorded by South African singer Miriam Makeba and released in 1967 on Reprise Records.

“Pata Pata” was co-written by Miriam Makeba and Jerry Ragovoy. After Makeba was signed to Warner/Reprise Records and published her first singles, the record company needed several songs to finish a Makeba album. Legend has it that she had told Reprise she wanted to do ballads, so they put her together with Jerry Ragovoy, the R&B writer/producer who was on staff at Warner Brothers at the time. Not being familiar with her, the night before their first recording session, he went to see her in a club in Greenwich Village, where she did a show comprised completely of African folk music. He was captivated to the point that, the next day, he just had Makeba and her sister sing a number of the songs into a tape recorder. One of them became “Pata Pata.”


Studio version of “Pata Pata

The song was covered by Osibisa and Percy Faith.

In her political activism, Makeba reminds me of Fela Kuti and most of all, Josephine Baker.

The gullibility of American audiences


October 30, 1938 radio broadcast

Orson Welles first gained wide American notoriety 70 years ago today for his October 30, 1938 radio broadcast of H. G. WellsThe War of the Worlds. Adapted to sound like a contemporary news broadcast, it caused a large number of listeners to panic, now commonly and somewhat euphemistically referred to as mass hysteria. Welles and his biographers subsequently claimed he was exposing the gullibility or naïveté of American audiences in the tense preamble to the Second World War.