Category Archives: Arts -Visual

Quote of the Day — Lincoln & Emancipation: The First Version

On this day [Sept. 22] in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, a document that put the Confederacy on notice of his intention to free their slaves. They had until January 1, he said, to lay down their arms; after that, any slave within a rebelling state would be “then, thenceforward, and forever free.”

Although he didn’t make a point of it, his proclamation — both this preliminary one, and the official one he made at the first of the new year, when the deadline arrived — did not free all slaves; those living in border states, for example, would remain enslaved. Nor did Lincoln have, of course, any way to actually enforce a liberated slave’s freedom; other than promising to no longer aid in the capture of fleeing slaves, his promised emancipation relied entirely on the Union eventually winning the war.

But continuing to fight was exactly what Lincoln hoped to avoid with his announcement. Continue reading Quote of the Day — Lincoln & Emancipation: The First Version

On the Brink of Autumn: Quote of the Season

 

Joe Biden, 09/15/2022, United We Stand Summit, at the White House:

George Floyd mural, Minneapolis

“Too much hate that’s fueled extremist violence [has] been allowed to fester and grow.

Heather Heyer, spontaneous memorial, Charlottesville

You know, as a result, our very own intelligence agencies — our own intelligence agencies in the United States of America, have determined that domestic terrorism rooted in white supremacy is the greatest terrorist threat to our Homeland today.

I’ve been around a while.I never thought I’d hear that or say that.

Enough.”

Hunter Biden’s Laptop

From New York Magazine — Sept. 12, 2022

The Sordid Saga of Hunter Biden’s Laptop

The most invasive data breach imaginable is a political scandal Democrats can’t just wish away.


Imagine the entirety of your digital existence
plotted out before you: your accounts and passwords; your avatars; your contacts; every exchange of written dialogue; the full history of your logged interests, banal and forgettable and closely held; the note where you scrawled once-urgent word fragments that now make zero sense to you; the rabbit holes you fell down or the minor obsession or the thing that connected to the thing that led you to decide to do another thing that became a part of a part of a part of who you are, or a part of who you are to some people, or a part of who you are only to yourself, barely recognizable in the light of day. Your selfies. Your sexts. Your emails. Your calendar. Your to-do list. Your playlists. Your tabs.

Now imagine that you are both the son of a man running for president and a lawyer and lobbyist accustomed to mixing with powerful people and doing business overseas premised on your proximity to those powerful people, and that you are in the throes of a divorce and a midlife catastrophe brought on by the early death of your older brother and that, in your distortion field of grief, on a hell-bent drug-and-alcohol binge, you have been making even more horrible choices, taking up with your brother’s widow and, while in considerable financial debt, hiring prostitutes and zoning out with camgirls and staying awake for days at a time on crack cocaine and generally hurting everyone in your life who is trying to help you with your cruel and idiotic behavior.

And imagine that, in the middle of all of this, you lose control of 217 gigabytes of your personal data: videos in which you have sex; videos in which you smoke crack; bleary-eyed selfies; selfies that document your in-progress dental work; your bank statements; your Venmo transactions; your business emails; your toxic rants at family members; analysis from your psychiatrist; your porn searches; your Social Security number; explicit photos of the many women passing through your bedrooms, photos of your kids, of your father, of life and death, despair and boredom.

Imagine revealing this kaleidoscopic archive of all your different selves to anyone else. Now imagine it’s not just anyone but the same political opposition that has already sought to destroy your father’s candidacy by improperly pressuring a foreign leader to offer up dirt about your (sketchy, for sure) business dealings. Imagine, in a country with toxic and broken politics, how explosive this collection of data might appear to your enemies in the days leading up to a presidential election, and how valuable it might become after their defeat, as they seek to overturn and then undermine the results. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call this nebulous cloud of data a “laptop.”

It is hard to think of a single living individual who has experienced as total an annihilation of digital privacy since our devices became extensions of our consciousness. A suite of executives and thousands of employees were victimized by the Sony hack. In the iCloud hack known as “the Fappening,” nude photos of dozens of celebrities ended up on Reddit and 4chan. The 2016 hack of DNC servers and John Podesta’s Gmail exposed the private communications of a major political party. But in terms of the vastness of the data breach, the narrowness of its target, and its capacity to be deployed as a political weapon, none of those compare to the exposure of Hunter Biden’s entire virtual life.

Hidden inside the laptop, according to those (almost exclusively on the right) who have reviewed the data or who trust the word of those who claim they have, is a corruption scandal that implicates not just Hunter but other members of the Biden family, including the president. The laptop details Hunter’s involvement with a Ukrainian natural-gas producer that paid him millions of dollars to serve on its board — the relationship at the center of Donald Trump’s first impeachment. It shows how a Chinese energy company directed millions of dollars in consulting fees to Hunter and his uncle. It reveals White House meetings and slush-fund dinners and wheeling and dealing, from Romania to Monte Carlo to Cafe Milano. Most important, these people claim the laptop contains proof that, despite his denials, Joe Biden — allegedly referred to in emails as “the big guy” — was fully aware of, and looking to profit from, his son’s business activities.

The most serious allegations remain unproved. The White House has whistled past the issue, with ritual “no comments” on the occasions it is questioned about matters related to the laptop. (In response to a request from New York, a White House spokesperson said, “You can say the White House declined to comment for the story.”) Without a counterargument from the White House or the Biden family, and with mainstream political reporters only now trying to catch up to the tabloid coverage and the ideologically motivated actors who have been advancing the story, Democrats in Washington simply don’t know what to say. There has been no penalty for silence while they’ve been in power, just the vague assumption that it does seem like there’s something to the story, if only anyone credible would bother to check it out.

But the present stalemate, in which one side treats the subject with polite indifference while the other side foments and fundraises off it, is unsustainable. Maybe it will be broken by the Justice Department, which is reported to be conducting a wide-ranging criminal investigation into Hunter Biden, examining whether he violated various tax, money-laundering, and lobbying-disclosure laws. In July, CNN reported that the Justice Department had “debated the strength of the case for months,” as it faced an unofficial September deadline to file charges ahead of the midterm election. Biden paid off a large tax liability with the help of a loan from an entertainment attorney (one of at least three lawyers on his team) in an apparent attempt to head off a potential indictment.

Even if the DOJ doesn’t bring charges against Hunter, Republicans may gain control of at least one chamber of Congress — and, with it, subpoena power — in November. If they do, they have vowed to start their own investigations, which would lead to months or years of manufactured drama. (The laptop has already been entered into the Congressional Recordon a motion by Florida Republican Matt Gaetz.)

When you look at it as merely a political object, the laptop may not seem all that remarkable. But the implications of what happened to Hunter Biden go far beyond politics. Whether or not he turns out to be the perpetrator of a crime, he is certainly the victim of a violation — an invasion of privacy that is staggering in its totality. Even the people who are responsible for disseminating the laptop admit that, on a human level, what happened to Hunter is horrifying. “A lot of stuff I do, I don’t feel great about,” says one of them, Steve Bannon. “But we’re in a war.”

[NOTE: there’s about 10,000 more words of this story, much more than would fit here. It detais among otherthe many copies and alterations that have been made to the purported laptop, and the manic marathon of rightwing efforts to get it into the center of public attention. They see it as the keystone of a Trumpist tower of scandal that, some believe, would fall on and bury Joe Biden.
But the chain of custody and the handling of its files are likely to be a nightmare for actual prosecutors (and a billing goldmine for defense attorneys). One evidence specialist said the laptop hard drive was like a crime scene which police had left littered with burger wrappers. Not a good look in a real court.

But meantime, we’ll close with the article’s last glimpse of Hunter, post-rehab, married again, parenting a toddler and keeping busy with a seemingly very profitable business selling his original paintings and other artwork.

Hunter Biden, a hot-selling artist?

Well, why not? Picasso was a dissolute scoundrel too; among other greats who filled up canvases. And Gauguin, as the The New York Times art critic pointed out, was a stockbroker. If you don’t believe Biden’s work is real, join the club . . . .

New York: As for Hunter, the oldest living child of the president now resides in Malibu, at the top of a hill, in a place of sublime beauty. He lives in a sunlit home of modest size and modern style. The Secret Service, ever hovering, has a house next door.

[NOTE: The three paintings here were part of Biden’s one-man show in New York City last year.]

He tries to dodge the paparazzi, not always successfully. He looks different today, at 52, than the man on the laptop. His face is fuller. His teeth, once rotting and crooked, have been restored to gleaming condition by a Manhattan cosmetic dentist (at a cost of $69,977, according to records cited in Laptop From Hell).

He has given up practicing law as he awaits a long-delayed decision from the U.S. Attorney in Delaware, who has continued the probe of his finances. He spends his days making art in his garage. Last year, he had shows in New York and Los Angeles. (Several pieces sold at a reported price of $75,000 each to undisclosed buyers.) He follows the work of the researchers closely. At first he thought Trump’s defeat might provide a definite end point to his troubles, that his father’s adversaries might move on to other obsessions. Like so many Americans, he has since learned his hopes were misguided.

He deals with his violation in his own way. He paints still lifes of flowers; portraits of Catholic martyrs; paintings of birds done in alcohol ink, which creates a ghostly effect.
In one series, according to someone who has seen them, Biden has made a number of self-portraits, based on the photos in the tabloids, the ones that show him in the depths of his despair. . . .

 

Guest Post: Profile of A Renegade Quaker Artist – Edward Sorel

[NOTE: Friend Gary Sandman, of Roanoke Meeting in Virginia, has long been collecting and distributing short articles about artists and performers who are Quaker, or Quaker adjacent.
His latest profile is of the longtime illustrator and artist, Edward Sorel. It was so appealing that with his permission, we are re-posting it here, with some addenda we found online.]

GUEST POST: Gary Sandman on EDWARD SOREL

Edward Sorel (b. 1929) is an American cartoonist and writer.  His work usually focuses on political topics, though occasionally it touches on other subjects, and it is enlivened with his sardonic humor. 

The cartoons are pen-and-ink sketches, filled out with watercolors and pastels.  The best of them, in his words, are “spontaneous drawings”.  Among the numerous magazines in which his work has appeared are The Nation, The Village Voice, Esquire and Vanity Fair.  
Sorel has published children’s books, Hollywood histories and autobiographies, in collaboration with others or on his own, including Johnny-on-the-Spot, Superpen: the Cartoons and Caricatures of Edward Sorel and Profusely Illustrated: a Memoir. He is also known for his mural at the Waverly Inn in Greenwich Village.  
Sorel has exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, the Art Institute of Boston and Galerie Bartsch & Chariau.  His honors include the Auguste St. Gaudens Medal for Professional Achievement, the Page One Award and the National Cartoonist Society Advertising and Illustration Award. 

Sorel began attending Morningside Meeting in New York City in 1963.  After he separated from his first wife and lost his job, he went through a long dark period. Ed Hilpern, his therapist and a member of the Meeting, recommended that he explore Quaker worship.  

Sorel’s sketch of Morningside Meeting circa 1965. Morningside then gathered on folding chairs in a room at Columbia University. On that morning, Sorel (at far left) noticed Nancy Caldwell (far right). After meeting, Sorel introduced himself, and one thing led — well, Sorel gives details below.

He met Nancy Caldwell, the love of his life, at the Meeting, and they were married there in 1965.  (Above is a cartoon of the Sunday morning they met).  

Sorel participated in anti-Vietnam War marches in Washington DC with Friends and joined with them when they walked across the Peace Bridge at Rochester to deliver medical supplies for North and South Vietnamese civilians to Canadians Friends, who had agreed to forward the supplies.  

When he and his family moved upstate in the early 1970’s, they attended Bulls Head-Oswego Meeting.  A gleeful atheist, Sorel is known for his anticlerical cartoons and has sat on the board of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  He felt, however, that he could become a member of the Friends because of Quaker social witness.

I have always loved Edward Sorel’s cartoons.  I first saw them in Ramparts magazine in the mid-1960’s and enjoy them still in The New Yorkermagazine.And I was delighted to see the cartoon above.  I had worshiped at Morningside Meeting several times when I lived in New York City.

A quote from Sorel about his first Friends Meeting for Worship:

“What I remember best is the silence.  It seemed to charge the room with a connectedness of yearning”.  

Gary Sandman

[ Gary has published an extensive collection of his artist profiles in a book titled QUAKER ARTISTS. Copies can be ordered (hard back or e-book) through his website, at: http://garysandmanartist.com/ ]

Continue reading Guest Post: Profile of A Renegade Quaker Artist – Edward Sorel

New Quaker Arts Journal Issue: “Types & Shadows”

NOTE: I’ve been a member of the Fellowship of Quakers in the arts since the late ’90s. It’s a small, scattered and anarchic network [confirming its Quaker character], which has done a lot with a little, and should be better known. Here’s an intro to its newest journal issue (online for free; but consider joining), from FQA member and noted guitarist, Keith Calmes.

Issue #92, front cover

Friends—
The new issue (#92) of “Types and Shadows,” [a journal of Quaker-connected art published by the Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts], Summer 2022, is now available electronically on our recently revamped website:
www.fqaquaker.org
I hope you enjoy seeing what many fellow Friends are up to in the arts in this beautiful issue. Many other Quakers are doing art. We’d love to heer from you and, as way opens, share your work.

While I have your attention: have you explored our website? There are many opportunities for Friends to share their work, events, opportunities, and connect.
Be well,
Keith Calmes

[FQA Board member Keith Calmes is a classically trained guitarist, educator, composer, and author. He has transcribed several works for Mel Bay Publications, including Guitar Music of the Sixteenth Century and The Eight Masterpieces of Alonso Mudarra. Click the link below for a sample of his music.]

FQA-Why “Types & Shadows”?

Why Types & Shadows? by Esther Greenleaf Mürer, writer and editor of the first years of T&S. This article is excerpted from the first issue published in 1996. The theology is hers; the philosophy is Plato’s; the name is ours:

Quaker lore does not exactly teem with pithy phrases about the arts–at least not the sort calculated to encourage artists. Our title–more fully “Types, figures and shadows” is perhaps the kindest term our ancestors might have used. It comes from the Epistle to the Hebrews, a book beloved of early
Friends.

The idea was borrowed from Platonic philosophy, which posits a realm where the ideal forms of everything that exists are kept. Somewhere there is, say, an ideal balloon of which all earthly balloons are but pale copies or shadows. (At the age of two my daughter Phoebe really began to believe this.)

The writer of Hebrews gives the Platonic idea a Jewish twist. For him the forms, events and institutions of the Old Testament are antitypes which prefigure or foreshadow the coming of Christ, the true Substance which makes the types and shadows obsolete.

From Types & Shadows in 2005, Friend Elizabeth Hallmark performs.

For early Friends the idea of the primacy of “Christ the Substance” came to mean a near-total rejection of sensory means of grace, and of symbolism. The immediate experience of God was the goal, and symbols were felt as obstructions.

And yet, as Thomas Kelly writes in his essay “Quakers and Symbolism”, immediacy cannot be communicated to others except through the mediation of symbols. A symbol by definition points to something beyond itself. If I point to the sunrise, I mean you to look at the sunrise, not at my finger.

Symbols, of course, easily become idols–ends in themselves. Our gestures become ever more mannered, the sunrise is forgotten. The danger is ever-present that I may become obsessed with “My Ministry” not because it heals, not because it speaks truth, but because it’s mine.

This is a pitfall for any ministry. Are artists more prone than others to fall into it? Certainly it’s harder to avoid the trap when the possibility that one’s art might be ministry is not acknowledged in the first place. What if early Friends, instead of shunning the arts, had recognized art’s healing and prophetic powers and had sought ways to help artists grow in the spirit?

Roses, thorns, and more Roses. By Jennifer Elam.

The realm of sense and symbol–of “types, figures and shadows”–is where we, as artists, live. This is as it should be. The Truth which we as Friends are called to publish can never be anything but fragmentary, for we cannot publish Truth-in-general any more than we can speak language-in-general. We must speak a specific language, work in a specific medium. And however great our skill, the nature of the medium will set bounds to our ability to convey our vision.

And yet we must go on trying to convey it. For as Thomas Kelly said, “Where there is no impulse to communicate the good news, there it is doubtful whether there is any living good news to share.”

Our types and shadows are needed. If we are faithful, they may provide islands of unity and meaning  in the jangling sea of cynicism and discord which surrounds us. If we can point others to the sunrise, we do not labor in vain.

Monumental, Yes — But Is It Art, Mr. Oldenburg??

The Guardian:

Claes Oldenburg Obituary
 A photo gallery of some of his most memorable works is HERE

Pop artist famed for his ‘soft sculptures’ and outsized monuments to everyday objects

Had the ideas of Claes Oldenburg been realised, Piccadilly Circus would have had as its hub not a 19th-century sculpture of Eros but a cluster of 8m-high orange lipsticks or a skyscraper-sized pair of women’s knees. Both projects were imagined for the site by the Swedish-American artist and sculptor, who has died at the age of 93.

In London in 1966, Oldenburg found himself captivated by what he called the “paradoxical combination of masculine voyeurism and feminine liberation” bound up in Mary Quant and the miniskirt. Neither London Knees nor Lipsticks made it past maquette stage – the postcard collage Lipsticks in Piccadilly Circus, London (1966) is now in the Tate collection – but if the works had been created, they would have raised the same questions about civic art that Oldenburg’s sculptures were to pose everywhere from Minneapolis to Münster.

In the event, a variant of the second piece was to appear not in London but in New Haven, Connecticut, outside a library at Yale University, Oldenburg’s own alma mater. Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks (1969) was made as a satire on America’s involvement in the Vietnam war, and rolled surreptitiously into place by students under cover of night. “I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something more than sit on its ass in a museum,” Oldenburg said. Although acute enough to sense trouble in the work’s merging of feminine reference and phallic shape, university authorities wisely left Lipstick (Ascending) alone. It was eventually moved to another Yale site, where it still stands.

Claes Oldenburg and one of his soft sculptures, Shoestring Potatoes, Spilling from a Bag 1966, at an exhibition in Cologne, 2012.
Claes Oldenburg and one of his soft sculptures, Shoestring Potatoes, Spilling from a Bag, 1966, at an exhibition in Cologne, 2012. Photograph: Dpa Picture Alliance Archive/Alamy

This same sexual elision would be at the heart of Oldenburg’s best-known body of work, the so-called “soft sculptures”. Sculpture has, since Phidias, been hard. To make sculptures that wilted or drooped – that were fabricated from vinyl and kapok rather than marble or bronze – was to invite unflattering comparison with the flaccid male organ.

Sculptures were inherently masculine; Oldenburg’s were not, and their duo-sexuality was more than just skin deep. If the thinking behind the early soft pieces was his own – Floor Burger, Floor Cakeand Floor Cone were shown in a Manhattan gallery in September 1962 – the sculptures themselves had been stitched by his then wife, Patty Mucha. This co-operative practice would continue with his second wife, the Dutch art historian Coosje van Bruggen, who Oldenburg met when installing a retrospective of his work at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1970.

The Neumarkt Galerie shopping mall, Cologne: “Oldenburg’s hamburgers and ice-cream cones are far from the easy things they seem. Their sly anti-heroism makes them among the most steelily intellectual of postwar American artworks.”
The Neumarkt Galerie shopping mall, Cologne: “Oldenburg’s hamburgers and ice-cream cones are far from the easy things they seem. Their sly anti-heroism makes them among the most steelily intellectual of postwar American artworks.”
Photograph: Joern Sackermann/Alamy

Van Bruggen was not a keen seamstress; her contribution to her husband’s sculptures was to be more cerebral than Mucha’s had been. This led to accusations of interference in Oldenburg’s work, which the couple firmly denied. Theirs, they said, was a partnership of equals: all Oldenburg’s sculptures after 1981 would be signed by them both. Van Bruggen later admitted that she had liked neither the artist nor his art when she first met him; it took her husband-to-be six years to win her round. When Oldenburg and Van Bruggen installed a newly reworked sculpture called Trowel I at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, in the Netherlands, in 1976, he shyly confessed that he had made the piece for her. “It is not for me and I don’t like it,” Van Bruggen snapped. They were married a year later.

Although the subject matter of his work inevitably meant that Oldenburg was classed as a pop artist, his hamburgers and ice-cream cones are far from the easy things they seem. Their sly anti-heroism makes them among the most steelily intellectual of postwar American artworks, shaped by a mind that was sharp, cultured and patrician. Oldenburg was born in Stockholm to a diplomat father, Gösta, and his opera singer wife, Sigrid (nee Lindforss); the couple were based at the time in New York, and the heavily pregnant Sigrid took a ship home so that her son would be born in Sweden.

Mother and infant returned to America six months later, and the family moved to Chicago in 1936 when Gösta was made Swedish consul general there. Claes was educated at the Latin School of Chicago and studied literature and art history at Yale, before going to the Art Institute of Chicago from 1952 to 1954. His younger brother, Richard Oldenburg, would also become an art world high-flyer, for more than 20 years the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

It was a move back to New York in 1956 that set Claes Oldenburg on the road to stardom. The city was then in the grip of the abstract expressionists, against whose macho norms younger artists reacted. Oldenburg began his New York career by making what he called “brushy paintings”, but soon gave these up for happenings – impromtu performances staged by his own Ray Gun Theater company.

Out of these grew a series of installation pieces, whose parts were not merely abstract but pointedly literal and prosaic. In December 1961, Oldenburg launched The Store – a month-long “environment”, housed in a rented shop in the Lower East Side and stocked with sculptures of consumer goods including items of clothing and food. His first floppy hamburger followed the next year.

Claes Oldenburg’s Fagend Study, 1975, at the Frieze sculpture park, Regent’s Park, London, 2016.
Claes Oldenburg’s Fagend Study, 1975, at the Frieze sculpture park, Regent’s Park, London, 2016.Photograph: Guy Bell/Shutterstock

Softness was not his only stock in trade. As well as being hard, monuments, before Oldenburg, had largely been monumental. If he reversed the first of these sculptural tendencies, he magnified the second. Now entirely ignoble things – clothes pegs, toothbrushes, electric plugs, rubber stamps – might be memorialised, in steel and jaunty polyurethane enamel and on a vastly blown-up scale.

For a time, his sculptures were both outsized and soft: Giant Soft Fan, for example, which dominated the US pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal. Later works, such as the much-loved giant aluminium and stainless steel Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985-88) in the Walker Art Center’s sculpture garden in Minneapolis, were built to last.

As a child, Oldenburg had invented an imaginary kingdom called Neubern, over which he ruled. “I drew everything that was there, all the houses and all the cars and all the people. We even had a navy and an air force!” he later recalled, adding, “I spent a lot of time drawing.” At least part of the appeal of works such as Spoonbridge and Cherry is their Alice-like ability to shrink the viewer to childhood. While deeply intellectual, Oldenburg’s work has a tenderness that makes it popular in a way that pop art as a whole is not.

The binoculars by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, 1991, at the entrance to Frank Gehry’s offices for Google in Venice Beach, California.
The binoculars by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, 1991, at the entrance to Frank Gehry’s offices for Google in Venice Beach, California. Photograph: J Albert Diaz/Associated Press

Van Bruggen died in 2009. Oldenburg continued to live and work in the five-story ex-propellor factory in west SoHo that he had bought in 1971. If a broken hip in 2016 left him less mobile than before, his mind was undiminished. A show, Shelf Life, at the Pace Gallery, New York, in 2017 reprised, on a small scale, the art that he and his wife had collaborated on for 32 years; although Van Bruggen had died eight years previously, the work was billed as by them both.

Long a collector of ephemera – “I guess I was always an archivist,” Oldenburg said – he now began to archive himself. In 2011, the artist Tacita Dean filmed him in his studio, tenderly sorting and dusting the objects that filled his shelves. The resulting film, Manhattan Mouse Museum, took its name from an installation piece that Oldenburg had first made in 1965.

Oldenburg was married to Patty Mucha (nee Muchinski) from 1960 until their divorce in 1970, and to Coosje van Bruggen from 1977 until her death. His brother Richard died in 2018. He is survived by his stepdaughter, Maartje, and stepson, Paulus.

Claes Thure Oldenburg, artist, born 28 January 1929; died 18 July 2022

Raising American Girls?

I’m not an expert, but I’ve been involved in raising several American Girls: daughters, granddaughters & now great granddaughters. And I hope I’ve learned a thing or two.

Here’s one: several of the American Girl doll characters were very valuable for one of them, and me, at the turn of the millennium.

I never bought any of the dolls, which were made to resemble girls from different eras in American history: great idea but too pricey, I discovered the series, and one character, at the library, in an associated audiobook. It was Addy Walker: an enslaved girl, who escapes from sun-baked southern tobacco fields to freedom. In six connected stories, her family begins to cope with the opportunities — and hardships — of a free life in a still unequal American society.

In those years I often traveled with my oldest granddaughter, driving us for hours to family and Quaker events. Good books on tape held our attention and helped pass many miles. They also promoted the appeal of reading, one of my goals for her.

Addy was an audio and read-aloud favorite for me. My granddaughter is multiracial, and Addy’s stories were mulch for the continuing task of nurturing and navigating her growing identity in our somewhat more free but still unequal world.

They also dealt, delicately, with class: For instance, Addy’s family goes to work in a dressmaking shop run by a Quaker businesswoman. This owner is no mere saintly icon. She’s on the side of freedom, but is an unsentimental demanding boss, pressing for efficient, quality work that can be sold for a hefty profit. Nothing wrong with that! Continue reading Raising American Girls?

The Colors of Courage: Underground Russian War Protests:

Art of dissent: How Russians protest the war on Ukraine

They risk jail, stigma and fines. But Russian protesters are finding creative ways to get their message out.

Washington Post: By Robyn Dixon, Mary Ilyushina and Natalia Abbakumova — July 7, 2022

It was 4 a.m. on Moscow’s second ring road. Early light bathed the empty street.

Lyudmila Annenkova and Natalia Perova remember stepping out of a taxi, draped in blankets to hide white dresses splashed with red paint, like blood. They were terrified of arrest, they said, so they worked quickly.

They flung off the blankets, posed, held hands and gazed into a smartphone lens. Snap, snap, snap. Three photos and they fled. The images went viral on independent and activist Telegram channels and social media pages.

Russia’s antiwar movement has found creative ways to express dissent despite President Vladimir Putin’s hard line crackdown.

Protesters are arrested for crimes as trivial as holding up a blank sheet of paper, merely implying opposition to the war.

“You have about 30 seconds to show what you want and then you will be arrested,” said Annenkova, a photographer.

“We were very afraid. We had so much adrenaline,” Perova said.
The red splashes on white dresses symbolized the killings of innocent people, especially women and children. They held hands to send a message to Ukrainians “that we want to hold the hands of everyone who is there and who is in trouble now,” Annenkova said. Continue reading The Colors of Courage: Underground Russian War Protests:

Video Treat of the Week: “Song of Myself,” Stanza 5

From the far out West, up against the curling, capricious lip of the Pacific, comes a dispatch from our Coastal Ocean & Fire Correspondent, Mitchell Santine Gould.

With it is a stunning animated setting of Stanza 5 from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, a keystone of the poet’s classic Leaves of Grass.

Mitch is a longtime student and celebrant of Whitman, and as we’ll see, does not lack deep artistic talent himself. His work deserves more attention, and will get a small measure of that here.

Mitch animated this stanza, and one can only begin to imagine how fabulous future installments might be.

The animation is only three minutes plus.

Yet in those brief moments it evokes much of Whitman’s continuing appeal and mystery: his modest origins, comfort with nature in all its aspects,

unabashed sensuality, human warmth, and easy, encompassing untheological mysticism.

From Stanza 5:

Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valvèd voice.
If I may be pardoned a sectarian aside, Whitman overlaps at many points with Quakerism, though he did not join. As a youth he heard and was fascinated by the then-radical preaching of Elias Hicks; later, although not subject to the military draft in the Civil War, he spent many months doing an unofficial noncombat service in military hospitals, especially with gravely wounded and dying soldiers; he wrote essays in tribute to Hicks and George Fox; and more — which Mitch has been exploring and documenting for many years. (One small key chapter of it, from Quaker Theology, is here.)
And I can’t close without slipping in an unanimated addition, the next, sixth stanza of Song of Myself, which sticks in my memory perhaps more than any other:

Song of Myself 6

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them, soon out of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues,
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

[The full text of Song of Myself is here.]

Thanks, Mitch — send more!

Ukraine, War Notes: The End of Euphoria, A Shift in The Odds

Washington Post: Ukraine is running out of ammunition as prospects dim on the battlefield

Hopes that Ukraine will be able to reverse Russian gains are fading in the face of superior firepower

By Siobhán O’Grady, Liz Sly and Ievgeniia Sivorka

June 10, 2022 – ET
SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — The euphoria that accompanied Ukraine’s unforeseen early victories against bumbling Russian troops is fading as Moscow adapts its tactics, recovers its stride and asserts its overwhelming firepower against heavily outgunned Ukrainian forces.

Newly promised Western weapons systems are arriving, but too slowly and in insufficient quantities to prevent incremental but inexorable Russian gains in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine, which is now the focus of the fight.

The Ukrainians are still fighting back, but they are running out of ammunition and suffering casualties at a far higher rate than in the initial stages of the war. Around 200 Ukrainian soldiers are now being killed every day, up from 100 late last month, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky told the BBC on Friday — meaning that as many as 1,000 Ukrainians are being taken out of the fight every day, including those who are injured.

The Russians are still making mistakes and are also losing men and equipment, albeit at a lesser rate than in the first months of the conflict. In one sign that they are suffering equipment shortages, they have been seen on videos posted on social media hauling hundreds of mothballed, Soviet-era T-62 tanks out of storage to be sent to Ukraine.

But the overall trajectory of the war has unmistakably shifted away from one of unexpectedly dismal Russian failures and tilted in favor of Russia as the demonstrably stronger force.

Ukrainian and U.S. hopes that the new supplies of Western weaponry would enable Ukraine to regain the initiative and eventually retake the estimated 20 percent of Ukrainian territory captured by Russia since its Feb. 24 invasion are starting to look premature, said Oleksandr V. Danylyuk, an adviser to the Ukrainian government on defense and intelligence issues. Continue reading Ukraine, War Notes: The End of Euphoria, A Shift in The Odds