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    Jennifer Senior plucks up this quote from Wittgenstein in her review of Madeleine Thien's Do Not Say We Have Nothing (NYT, 10/23/16), "the strength of the individual is wasted through the overcoming of opposing forces & frictional resistances." Thien's novel concerns the plight of classical musicians during China's Cultural Revolution, but the Wittgenstein quote is timeless. If only Donald Trump had read it before he started to go on about "rigged elections." One can only bemoan the fact that Wittgenstein and Donald Trump are unlikely bedfellows. It's fine to swim against the current, but sometimes you're caught in a rip tide.Think about all the times when you could have better spent your resources on productive activities than those which were destined not only to go nowhere, but drain you of energy and leave you with a fundamentally negative attitude about human existence. Hindsight is 20/20, but experience, which should be a guide, often fails to be instructive due to that nasty little troll, otherwise known as the unconscious need to fail. Daniel Kahneman has dealt with this in books like Thinking: Fast and Slow, where he discusses irrational drives which influence decision making. The Freudians have a term for this, Fehlleistung or "faulty achievement" which is the tendency to delight in doing things that are bad for us. If only there were a crystal ball which could reveal whether it was the wrong move to embark on the five volume biography of Milton Berle, modeled on Leon Edel's canonical homage to Henry James.

    {This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}

    photo of Milton Berle

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    "Kissing can be so many things...a way of connection that is purely about recognising another person's humanity, divinity and essence." Meet artist Wura-Natasha Ogunji, who sees performance as a way to witness and transcend the flaws of human nature.

    Wura-Natasha Ogunji's performance "The Kissing Mask" shown in this film riffs off a drawing loved by the artist in which two people kissed. The drawing's title "Who are you kissing when you kiss a mask?" became the starting point of Ogunji's own work as she pondered the question. The mask is used to interrupt the viewer's expectations - a break with modes of interaction we know and recognise. It provides "these separate, other worldly, non-sanctioned experiences that opens a space within regular ways of interacting," the artist explains.

    Wura-Natasha Ogunji (b. 1970) is a Nigerian-American performance and visual artist, who works in a variety of mediums from work on paper to performance art and video. Ogunji often uses her own body to explore e.g. homeland, identity and the presence of women in public space in Lagos, Nigeria, and is part of a movement of first-generation artists of the African diaspora, who have chosen to relocate their art practice to the home country of their parents. She has received several awards, including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2012), and has performed at prominent venues such as Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis. She divides her time between Austin, Texas and Lagos, Nigeria. For more about her see:

    Wura-Natasha Ogunji was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen in connection to the Art Alive festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark in May 2016.

    Camera: Kris Tait and Klaus Elmer
    Produced and edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen

    Supported by Nordea Fonden

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    "Love what you do. Because it's not easy. It's not easy to make art." Watch as the iconic video and performance artist Joan Jonas advises her younger colleagues to enjoy what they're doing as you never know how people will respond to your work.

    Moreover, it's important to have a circle of friends that you can spar with: "Art is about communication. Art is a dialogue with art, a dialogue with other artists, a dialogue with the past, with the future, and it's an important dialogue to have."

    Joan Jonas (b. 1936) is an American artist, who works with combinations of video, performance, installation, sculpture and drawing, often collaborating with musicians and dancers. Her cutting-edge 'Mirror Pieces' (late 1960's) featured performers carrying mirrors on stage, slowly rotating them and thus transforming the audience into an image on glass. Jonas has had a number of solo exhibitions at prominent venues including Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, MoMA in New York, Tate Modern in London and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid. Moreover, she has been represented in dOCUMENTA in Kassel, Germany, six times since 1972. Among numerous honours and awards, Jonas is the recipient of a 'Lifetime Achievement Award' from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (2009). She lives and works in New York and Nova Scotia, Canada. For more about her see:

    Joan Jonas was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg at Malmö Konsthall in Sweden in November 2015 in connection to her exhibition 'Light Time Tales'.

    Camera: Jakob Solbakken
    Produced and edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg
    Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

    Supported by Nordea Fonden

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    By Don Adkins, ZEALnyc Managing Editor, November 1, 2016

    They say "laughter is the best medicine," and if this is true, then the pharmacy is wide-open with the arrival of this year's New York Comedy Festival on November 1-6. Now in its thirteenth year, the New York Comedy Festival is produced jointly by Carolines on Broadway in association with Comedy Central. The range and scale of performers participating is enormous, as well as the variety of venues involved in hosting. You may catch some of your favorite comedians everywhere from Carnegie Hall and Broadway theaters to Madison Square Garden, along with all the familiar comedy clubs across the city -- they all will be shaking with laughter during this six-day festival.

    The performers scheduled encompass the veritable "who's who" of comedy, with special call-outs to Bill Maher appearing at Madison Square Garden, Tracy Morgan and Tig Notaro at Carnegie Hall, Patton Oswalt, Tim Minchin and Trevor Noah at the Beacon Theatre, and Fred Armisen and T.J Miller at Town Hall, among many, many other performers and venues (check the event website for complete listings).

    "We're thrilled to have such an amazing group of talented comedians this year," Caroline Hirsch, founder and owner of the New York Comedy Festival and Carolines on Broadway, said in a statement. "The festival continues to present the performers at the forefront of comedy, while giving audiences an opportunity to enjoy these great artists in many of the city's most iconic venues; and with the presidential election taking place the week after the festival, I'm sure there will be no shortage of hilarious commentary on all of the political happenings."

    Some of the highlights for the week include:

    THURSDAY, November 3

    PATTON OSWALT -- 7:00 PM -- Beacon Theatre
    ERIC ANDRÉ - 7:30 PM - Carolines On Broadway (through Sunday, 11/6)
    BRIDGET EVERETT - 8 PM -Town Hall
    TIM MINCHIN - 9:45 PM - Beacon Theatre

    FRIDAY, November 4

    CHRIS D'ELIA - 7 PM - Beacon Theatre
    MARC MARON - 8 PM - Carnegie Hall
    CAMERON ESPOSITO - 7:30 PM - NYU Skirball Center
    DANE COOK - 9:45 PM - Beacon Theatre

    SATURDAY, November 5

    TIG NOTARO - 7 PM - Carnegie Hall
    TREVOR NOAH - 7 PM - Beacon Theatre
    BILL MAHER - 8 PM - Theater at Madison Square Garden
    T.J. MILLER - 8 PM -Town Hall
    TRACY MORGAN - 10:30 PM - Carnegie Hall

    For a complete list of performances and venues that are part of this year's Festival click here.

    Don Adkins, ZEALnyc's Managing Editor writes on arts, cultural and lifestyle events.

    More from ZEALnyc below:

    Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the movie theater...

    'Love, Loss, and What I Wore' for one-night-only with Carol Kane and Rosie O'Donnell

    'Puffs' Leaves Muggles Laughing In Their Seats

    For all the news on New York City arts and culture, visit ZEALnyc Front Page.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    Like many of you, I feel frustrated, embarrassed, and exhausted by the political theater of our current Presidential campaigns. My natural inclination is to retreat, as often as possible, to my comfort zone -- to museums and galleries, where I can hide away with the art blanket over my head. Yes, nice try...


    Picking up the New York Times on Monday, I chose not to start with the front page, but instead went for safety to the Arts section, only to be greeted by the devastatingly funny 1970s caricatures of Richard Nixon by the great Philip Guston. Just take a look. Artistically and politically, his commentaries are as relevant today as they were almost half a century ago. One wonders what Guston would make of today's politics.


    So much of the great art that we admire today has been inspired by the tragedies of the past. Think about the devastation of the Spanish Civil War, without which Picasso's Guernica wouldn't exist. And Leo Tolstoy wouldn't have written War and Peace if not for Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812.


    One of my favorite paintings on permanent display at the Getty Museum is the monumental composition Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889 by James Ensor (1860-1949). Standing in front of this painting created more than 100 years ago, one still hears the noise of the massive crowd and feels shocked by its grotesque figures and faces -- many of them wearing frightening carnival masks. Hidden deep in the crowd is a small figure of Christ, resembling Ensor himself. Is Christ the subject of celebration, or of mockery? It's up to us to decide. Ensor is obviously referring to the deep cultural, religious, and ethnic issues dividing his country.


    Due to bitter cultural divisions between French and Flemish speakers in Belgium, the country failed to acquire this major masterpiece, which allowed the Getty Museum in 1987 to make the courageous, even ballsy, decision to add this "scandalous" image to its collection of Old Master paintings. Belgian newspapers jokingly referred to this event as "the Entry of Christ into Malibu".


    A couple of years ago, the Getty held the exhibition "the Scandalous Art of James Ensor". You want a shock? Here you have it. There was a small, hand-colored etching Doctrinal Nourishment (1889), depicting royal and religious figures of authority with their pants down, squatting and... yes... defecating over the large crowd beneath them. Here's a thought. To grow beautiful roses in your garden -- to enjoy their sweet aroma --- what do you have to put in the soil: honey or horse manure?


    Now that I see you pinching your noses, let me invite you to visit the Guggenheim Museum in New York and to have the unique opportunity to satisfy nature's call by going to the museum's humble fifth-floor restroom -- where famous Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan installed "a fully functional, solid 18-karat-gold copy of a Kohler toilet". (That's how it was described in a New York Times article last month.) The article says that "[the artist] hopes people do not see the toilet sculpture as a joke ... Its title, 'America', is so loaded it seems to weigh more than the toilet itself".

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    Victor Frankenstein spent "nearly two years" digging through graves and working in his laboratory, collecting perfect pieces of the human body to animate into his superhuman creation.

    And when he was done, when he beheld his creature, he was so horrified and disgusted, he ran away and locked himself in his bedroom.

    I take a bit of morbid delight in connecting this moment of horror with the writing process. I retell this story often, especially to anxious students about to workshop their essays. "It's okay," I say, "to be terrified at the thought of showing others your rough draft, to feel like what you have printed in front of you is completely disconnected from what you had wanted to say. Mary Shelley's story tells us that a lot of creators feel the same way!"

    My students look at me with uncertainty, as I'm sure you would too. Bear with me.

    Victor had dreamt that one day he would be credited for the creation of superhumans, that "a new species would bless [him] as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to [him]." It was all going to be amazing. He would be more than a father, like a god.

    But when Victor faces the actual creation, his dreams are gone, and he sees only "catastrophe." The creature is a disgusting mess. Victor goes into great detail explaining just how disgusting he is: there is "yellow skin," "dun-white" "watery eyes," a "shriveled complexion," and "black lips." Even the "pearly-white teeth" and "lustrous black hair" only serve to highlight the disturbing decay of the creature's other features.

    I feel for Victor. My writing is always perfect in my head, ideas fully formed with evocative imagery, natural and intuitive transitions, one thought building upon the last beautifully. But somehow, when I'm actually writing, the diction is vague, the syntax is awkward, and what I've written has little to do with what I had planned to write. And then of course this ill-defined bit of prose is out there, being shared and reviewed and critiqued, and I can actually feel a physical pain in the pit of my stomach at the thought of someone reading what I had written. I too want to run and hide.

    It is the stuff of nightmares.

    Anne Lamott describes similar feelings of revulsion and anxiety in "Shitty First Draft":

    "The whole thing would be so long and incoherent and hideous that for the rest of the day I'd obsess about getting creamed by a car before I could write a decent second draft. I'd worry that people would read what I'd written and believe that the accident had really been a suicide, that I had panicked because my talent was waning and my mind was shot."

    This is my favorite moment in Lamott's piece. She fears a car accident, not because of the accident itself, but because someone may read her terrible draft and think that was all she had to offer.

    It is reassuring to know that I am not alone, that if what I have created makes me run screaming in horror, it's okay. There's no reason to be ashamed. I'm not suggesting you chase your murderous creation to the far reaches of the arctic in order to conquer your fears and redeem yourself for past sins. The Frankenstein metaphor can only take you so far.

    The point is to accept your draft as potentially monstrous, messy, and disgusting, to overcome the fear and shame associated with sharing it with others. And if facing your flawed creation doesn't horrify you, then maybe you are already way ahead of the rest of us who are still deep within our laboratories, toiling in front of computer screens.


    Many thanks to Project Gutenberg for the e-text of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley's 1818 novel.

    "Shitty First Drafts" appears in Anne Lamott's 1994 book Bird by Bird.

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    Not unlike his music, Ludovico Einaudi's career has been unique and slowly building up in intensity. The Italian composer has straddled the world of classical and pop music for about 20 years, building a following outside the usual "star-making machinery" of the music business.

    On his latest, Elements, Einaudi has created a suite of songs that surround his impressionistic piano with percussion and a range of instrumental colors - from electric guitar to cello.

    In a recent interview during his US tour, the composer said the origins of the album came from a venture into playing with only piano and percussion.

    "The first step was an interesting session of experimentation with different sounds; throwing ideas in a container, very freely, without having to consider anything but trying things, exploring sounds," he said.

    He then began to explore a range of fields outside of music with an inchoate goal of finding the form in the chaos of the world around us. As he explored his own unified field theory, he read Kandinsky's writings on art, as well as about Euclidian geometry and biology; then slowly found musical elements to pull everything together.

    "There was always the question of how the human being in the history of the world has been trying to understand the complexity of the world," he said, "to find an answer, to give an order to the chaos...this was the source of my inspiration."

    "Sometimes the process was really chaotic," he continued. "Sometimes clear, sometimes not at all clear....I just enjoyed the freedom of starting things and exploring different textures and sounds," noting that at one point he incorporated the sound of a metal sheet played as it was submerged in a water tank. "It's a project that could continue for me forever."

    With his piano at the sonic center, Elements moves from evocative scene to scene, sometimes building to intense crescendos, sometimes lying quiet and lovely.

    His latest project (with close to 2 million views on YouTube) was one with the environmental group Greenpeace - a video of him playing his "Elegy for the Arctic" on a manmade float resembling a sheet of ice, with the goal of calling attention to climate change.

    With his Larry David-ish encirclement of white hair and glasses, the 60-year-old Einaudi hardly looks like a rock star, yet he has built up an avid following in unlikely places over the years. With little commercial radio or television exposure, Einaudi has found listeners from soundtracks, commercials, Spotify playlists, pop star tweets as well as his albums. He has close to 700,000 followers on Spotify and 2.5 million monthly listeners there. His gently flowing, meditative songs have been passed around as soothing study aids by grad students as well as sampled by Nicki Minaj, so he regularly sells out shows filled with fans half or a third his age.

    His evocative music has been tapped for Olympics commercials as well as for many soundtracks, including collaborations with Clint Eastwood and Darren Aronofsky.

    "In a soundtrack, you are in a way always relating with...a combination of different languages," he said. "It has to have the same path and same rhythm. Sometimes it's a polyphony of languages that have to work together in some way."

    "With musical projects alone," he said, "you can be more free. In a way, it is nice to create for yourself a structure, a frame that is not necessarily a cage."

    Einaudi was born in Turin to a prominent Italian family. His grandfather was the president of Italy after World War II, and his father was the founder of a prestigious publishing company. Raised in rarified surroundings, he studied classical music, but also was in love with the rising experimental rock of the 1960s.

    He said that his 1996 album Le Onde (BMG), based on the Virginia Wolff novel "The Waves," was the first where he felt he was able to capture the music that he was pursuing. He then began to experiment with adding sounds to his solo piano, even working with musicians from other cultures, such as Mali on Diario Mali.

    Several years ago, Einaudi began to explore music that was both foreign and related to his own culture: taranta, the ancient ritual trance music from the southeastern Italian region of Salento. The result was a sprawling, border-crossing work called The Taranta Project, which featured players from the Italian band Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, as well as Gambian ritti player Juldeh Camara, British guitarist Justin Adams and the Turkish ney player Mercan Dede.

    "You can learn and enrich yourself through the process of knowing a different musical culture," he observed. "[Each collaboration] was a chance for me to understand different musical approaches and musical visions. With every musical project, I ended up feeling more enriched by the experience...You relate with your creativity with a world that is already full of dimensions and history and people who are keeping the traditions alive."

    Get out some tissues to watch this one: Einaudi music from a touching (though corporate) 2012 Olympics ad directed by Oscar winner Alejandro González Iñárritu

    Einaudi's Greenpeace collaboration "Elegy for the Arctic":

    "Four Dimensions" from Einaudi's album Elements

    The Taranta Project (with archival footage of taranta ceremonies)

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    Despite his tough guy exterior as Nick Massi in Broadway's Jersey Boys, actor Matt Bogart is all smiles as he greets me in the hallway outside his dressing room. Matt's fun-loving demeanor is infectious, and he takes pride in showing me around the theater, pointing out along the way the good-humored picture wall full of "embarrassing pictures", as he puts it, including one of him in a Broadway Jockey Ad from 1998 (although I think that women are thanking him for that picture!).

    We ultimately get settled in his dressing room, which is flanked by photos of his wife, actress Jessica Boevers Bogart, and their two young children, and launch into a conversation of how he got his start.

    What was your childhood like?
    I grew up in a little town outside of Dayton, Ohio, on an eighty-acre horse farm. At one point, we farmed it ourselves, but that took too much time since my dad had a full-time job as an engineer, and also felt it was too dangerous to have his four kids doing that as farm accidents do happen. My dad is still racing and breeding horses on the farm though.

    So you must be a big animal lover.
    I am, but I don't own any at this time. I have two little kids, ages 5 and 7, so that's enough for me right now!

    Looking at you, I would think that you would have played football growing up.
    I played a myriad of sports - baseball, soccer, football, track, basketball. But I also auditioned for the show choir, and the glee club, and the musicals. My mom was a bit musical, and did community theater herself, so I was influenced by her as she put me in piano lessons and singing lessons. And then, later on, I played one year of football at Baldwin Wallace college up in Cleveland while I was majoring in musical theater in the conservatory. But it was a bit of a conflict of interest, not just with the schedule, but in my heart of hearts as well.

    You ultimately transferred to the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, where you met your wife Jessica.
    Yes, we were long-time friends but we didn't start dating until about seven years after coming to New York City. It's great now, in retrospect, to have had a long-term friendship with someone I've made a life with.

    How did you get out of the friend zone?
    We were both dating other people and, every once in awhile, we would take each other to events that our significant other couldn't go to. At some point, I asked her to come to an event with me and we both happened to be single and looked at each other and said "hey why not?!" and the sparks flew from there!

    What's the key to a successful marriage while being in this profession?
    It's ultimately about having the same philosophy in life and how you want to live.


    You've been starring as Nick Massi in Jersey Boys since 2008. In preparing for the role, what did you need to understand about Nick Massi as a person?
    To me, Nick was a musical genius, but also someone who tried to keep the band together so he could have that in his life. Outside of the band, he struggled with addiction and drinking, and keeping his family together. These are things that a man wouldn't want to admit to, but I think its really important in order to find the vulnerability underneath the facade of the man who tries to put out an image of keeping himself together. All of that is boiling inside of him, which is covered up by these nice suits and shiny hair. He knows that he looks good on the outside but inside he's hurting.

    The cast of the Four Seasons has such great chemistry on-stage.
    Everybody has their own thing to bring and you never know what's going to be thrown at you. You are passing the ball back and forth and you have to figure out how to catch it and throw it right back as best as possible. And when we meet someone new, like Mark Ballas, we all go out and grab a beer and get to know each other on that level, but we also have rehearsals together and we figure out all the dynamics we are going for.

    How has it been having Mark Ballas in the cast as the final Frankie Valli?
    It's been great. Wonderful attitude. Incredible dancer, of course, but also a really stylish singer. I think everyone's going to be pleasantly surprised.

    I'm sure you've met Frankie Valli several times.
    I have. He's a producer on the show and part writer really, because this is his story. He's kind of quiet and reserved at first, but when he's in a room where he's comfortable he will open up. And he has fascinating story after story to tell about his life.

    What has being in Jersey Boys taught you?
    To commit to one role for eight years has been quite a lesson in stamina and figuring out how to be as consistent as possible. In an eight year period you are going to go thru every phase you can think of. It's been a great journey with Jersey Boys.


    If you were to meet Nick Massi, what would you say to him?
    I'd say "I hope I've done you well". But I'm not sure, though, that this is Nick's story. I wonder what story he would tell. It's hard because you have three band members telling his story, and as we say at the beginning of Jersey Boys, "If you ask four different guys, you get four different stories about how we came together."

    Jersey Boys ends its run on Jan 15, 2017. It's kind of an end of an era for you.
    Definitely. I've had the good fortune of working with almost everyone that has come along to replace other people in the show. And I've had the pleasure of working with the three who've been here the entire time - Mark Lotito, Sara Schmidt and Peter Gregus. What a great show to be part of if you're going to do a long-running show. The audiences love it; there's the automatic enthusiasm for it. I've been very lucky and very blessed.

    You've done some television work, as well. Any experience stand out?
    It's so different than theater, but so great. Vinyl for HBO was especially wonderful. I was on set for four days altogether, and Martin Scorsese stopped by the day we were shooting my scene. He watched the shoot and signed off on me, and that was really cool, as well as taping the song I sang at Electric Lady Studios which was Jimi Hendrix's studio. And I got to hang out with Ray Romano and Bobby Cannavale all day long - it was a great time.

    What's up next for you?
    As a follow-up to my first CD, Simple Song, I'm releasing, around Valentine's Day, a new CD called Sky Above Manhattan. It's musical theater composers of my generation. I'm very excited about it. The orchestra can be anything from a couple of pieces up to twelve. It's a very artistic album as it's a lot of music you may not have heard but was produced in a show. And I'm also co-producing an album, so I'm working on that too.

    Find out more about Matt right here.

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    Opera is one of the oldest forms of artistic expression and has changed very little throughout the centuries. Though it remains one of the few constants in the world of fine art, there are several innovators who are evolving the craft while keeping its tradition alive. "Dolce Ardor," which translates to sweet fervor in Italian, is a multi-sensory experience combining the elegance of 18th century classical music with the modern psychedlia of blacklights, trip-hop and electronica.

    While this sounds like an unlikely pairing, creators Andrea Saenz (singer, lead actor, producer, director) and Dave "DTO" Kemp (artist, music producer) have elegantly balanced an aria composed by Alexander Gluck in 1770 with Kemp's modern electronic music production. Together they meticulously curated this multimedia artform with a solid cast and crew that includes Matthew Jackson (co-director, producer), John Hafner (director of photography), Lana Chromium (makeup artist, body painter), Casey McDonald (costume designer) and Tara Alexis (editor) with guest guitarist John Ziegler.

    The result is an unfolding narrative paired with captivating visuals that won the Award of Merit for the Best Shorts Competition and was officially selected by the London International Short Film Festival and Music Video Competition for Other Venice Film Festival. Just in the beginning of its journey, "Dolce Ardor" is an evocative story of discovery, passion, disintegration, rebirth and freedom.


    The voice and face of "Dolce Ardor" is Andrea Saenz who has been classically trained since the age of 16. She is now based out of Los Angeles where she has taken up acting, dancing, and singing, a trifecta reminiscent of Hollywood's golden age. Kemp is also a classically trained musician having started piano lessons at age five and discovering composition at age ten. Throughout high school and college he played in concert and orchestral groups, continually honing in on his skills as a musician. While both Saenz and Kemp are lovers of all things classical, they also desire to evolve these crafts into something that is as innovative as it is traditional.

    Saenz and Kemp combined minds in the recording studio and after hours of collaboration, "Dolce Ardor" was conceived. It began as a song melding Saenz's voice with Kemp's production and a few months later evolved into "Dolce Ardor: An Electronic Opera Music Video." Opera has always been equal parts aural and visual so it was only natural that "Dolce Ardor" progressed in that direction. What they have created is a beautiful anachronism that resurrects the enduring art of opera while appealing to a modern audience with the physical potency of electronic music.

    "Dolce Ardor" will be hosting two premiere parties for their video in San Diego on November 5th and in Los Angeles on December 3rd. There will be a live "Dolce Ardor" show, live body painting by Lana Chromium, and a special Q&A with the cast and crew after the performance. Electrifying and divine, "Dolce Ardor" is an inter-dimensional exploration into the elegance of the 18th century, the evolution of music, and the psychedelic journey. This team of creative masterminds and musical architects are reshaping classical music with their intoxicating, and truly one-of-a-kind, "trip-hopera."

    Website | Facebook | Soundcloud

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    London--Ragtime, the musical billowed by Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens from E. L. Doctorow's 1975 novel, is the great American musical of the 20th century's end. The truly good news is that, under Thom Southerland's direction at the 263-seat Charing Cross Theatre, the brilliant theater piece is receiving nothing less than a magnificent revival.

    Doctorow's intention, fully realized in his enchanting and enchanted prose, was to take a tale of how the melting pot that is America melted with difficulty. He presents a successful upper-middle-class New Rochelle family as it mingles increasingly with African-Americans fighting for equality and with immigrants (here exclusively from Europe) attempting to gain a foothold on the continent.

    McNally has adapted Doctorow with understanding, and composer Flaherty and lyricist Ahrens have supplied songs of surpassing emotional beauty. (The score here is shy at least one Flaherty-Ahrens song.) Southerland and choreographer Ewan Jones have turned the smallish Charing Cross Theatre stage into a turbulent and frothy world where commoners of every stripe mingle with Booker T. Washington, Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, Evelyn Nesbit, Harry K. Thaw and Harry Houdini.

    What any theatergoer needs to know, particularly in 2016, is that this Ragtime--stressing, among other things, the contributions immigrants make to the land--may be more necessary now than ever. With any luck, Southerland's brilliant reminder will be imported to the States. Let's hope so, anyway.
    As his mysteries attest, Georges Simenon is cool in a French manner. David Hare decided to be cool, almost frosty, in another way by adapting the Simenon novel, Le Main (The Hand), as The Red Barn, which is set in Lakeville, Connecticut, where the revered mystery writer lived for 10 years.

    Why Connecticut for a Hare play debuting at the National's, as so many Hare works have? Is it because Simenon's and Hare's take on American mores coincide? Perhaps. Hare certainly doesn't think favorably of the Simenon characters he's lifted. Nor, in Simenon's celebrated way, does he overtly think unfavorably. Like Simenon, he simply presents them for consideration. He presents Donald Dodd (Mark Strong, light year's different from last year's Eddie Carbone), as as a man who has everything. That includes wife Ingrid (Hope Davis), a woman who also appears to have everything.

    In the cool telling, Hare suggests that having everything might be a form of having nothing and does so in a plot where, traveling to their remote Connecticut retreat in a severe storm, Donald and Ingrid lose guest Ray Sanders (Nigel Whitmey), Ray being a man whose everything is even more ample that Donald's. (Tim Reid designed the terrifying storm projections.) As a result, Donald and Ray's widow Mona (Elizabeth Debecki) find each other.

    The development is their threesome's eventual undoing in an atmosphere directed by Robert Icke with cool deliberation on Bunny Christie's limited-palette set and costumes of black, grey and beige. (The only color here is in the title.) It isn't that Hare has composed a bad play. It's that he's written an intriguing play subtly undone by the off-putting calculation with which it's been mounted. It will be interesting to see what other directors make of the raw material here.
    Ronald Harwood put himself on the map in 1980, when he transformed his theater experiences as dresser to the flamboyant Shakespearean actor Donald Wolfit and called it, appropriately enough, The Dresser--but not, noticeably, The Actor and the Dresser.

    When Harwood wrote about an acting company touring the English provinces during World War II to bring the Bard to the Blitz-weary, he was already remembering time past. These many years later and in its revival at the Duke of York's, The Dresser is a piece of nostalgia.

    Nevertheless, its depiction of the relationship between Sir (Ken Stott, fulfilling every demand of the role) and dresser Norman (Reese Shearsmith, whose thesping wiles are super) is rich with the never-changing give-and-take between the powerful and the less powerful attempting to assert some power in any way they can.

    Harwood places one fateful night's action in Sir's dressing room and in the wings from which the audience can watch parts of that night's attraction, King Lear--the connection not being lost between Lear and his fool and Sir and the cunningly cosseting Norman. The shifting, evocative set is by Michael Taylor, as are the just-right period costumes.

    Accompanying the fulminating Stott and the craftily obsequious Shearsmith under Sean Foley's clean direction, are, most prominent among others, Harriet Thorpe as Her Ladyship, who's fed up with the road and wants Sir to quit it, and Selina Cadell as Madge, who's been Sir's stage manager for years and through all that time has been hoping to be more. As the '40s adjective has it, they're both swell.
    When it comes down to verbal genius and the deliciously devious, no one is the last 30 or 40 years really has anything on Tom Stoppard, for whom, like Vladimir Nabokov, English is a second language. With those elements no play of his surpasses Travesties, which is now receiving a first-class revival at the intrepid Menier Chocolate Factory. The irresistible Tom Hollander (last seen on the telly in The Night Manager) plays Henry Carr, a British consul in Zurich during 1917.

    That year was quite a turning point in global history, and Stoppard seizes every opportunity to make something of it by having Carr hobnob with Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (Forbes Masson), James Joyce (Peter McDonald) and Tristan Tzara (Freddie Fox).

    Whether Carr actually did rub elbows with those headline grabbers, all of whom stopped in Zurich at about the same time, isn't the point, and Stoppard, keen as he habitually is, gets around that by having the doddering, memory-challenged diplomat recall the possible incidents in flashback.

    The point Stoppard presses as Lenin, Joyce and Tzara--with his Dada pronouncements--carry on is that between politics and the arts there's an habitual link: madness. The master playwright gets that message across even as he weaves in a salute to Oscar Wilde's Importance of Being Earnest by way of ministering young ladies Cecily (Clare Foster) and Gwendolen (Amy Morgan). Incidentally, these two even indulge in Stoppard's rewrite of an old Gallagher and Shean vaudeville routine.

    If there's anything off-kilter in Patrick Marber's production, I missed it. What I didn't miss was noticing that the battered straw hat Carr sports in his dotage is meant to be the same snappy straw hat he donned as a dapper youth. That's just one of the clever touches Marber and creative team apply.
    Stephen Jeffreys saw John Wilmot, the randy Earl of Rochester, as an intriguing emblem of Charles II's Restoration era and pegged The Libertine to him. Now Terry Johnson is showing off, and showing up, the Earl again in a revival at the Haymarket on Tim Shortall's good-looking set, enhanced by associate director Adam Lenson's projections.

    Disdainful of everything he saw going wrong around him, Wilmot (Dominic West, issuing male pheromones throughout) decides he'll play the cynical game better than anyone else, does just that and thereby eventually does himself in. The last straw is the play he writes at Charles's request and for it includes such 17th-century taste-testers as a song about dildos. There's a moral here on pushing the envelope too far, and it's sharply vivified by the thoroughly adept cast in Shortall's classy costumes.

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    Certain sensations produce feelings of pleasure, but it's purely personal. As a child you may remember dreading liver or Welsh rarebit and loving fried chicken and hamburgers. You may have been one of those kids who hated school regardless of how you performed and loved vacations. But things change. School can become a remarkably friendly place, especially if you're in your later years and voluntarily enrolled in a continuing education course which fills you with ideas say about Dostoevsky that make you feel youthful again. You may even have developed a taste for liver and Welsh rarebit while finding yourself particularly disinclined to greasy fried foods. One of the many pitfalls of age is of course the dulling of the senses that runs hand in hand with the lessening of libido and desire. However some general rules and problems seem to apply no matter what age you may or may not have attained, with those activities that are less pleasurable actually turning out to be easier to handle. No one likes an invasive procedure, like a root canal or colonoscopy. If there is any pleasure associated with such activities it lies in getting them over with. Blatantly pleasurable activities pose a totally different problem to the extent that they end. What's the point if gobbling down a delicious meal if it has to be over? What's the good of a wonderful sexual interlude if it has to come to an end, hopefully with mutually mind blowing orgasms for the participants. You want pleasurable activities to go on forever and they're unfortunately characteristized by an intrinsic finitude. The last lines of W.B. Yeats's "A Man Young and Old" may be applicable when it comes to the conundrum of pleasure:

    "Never to have lived is best, ancient writers say;
    Never to have drawn the breath of life, never to have
    looked into the light of day;
    The second best's a gay goodnight and quickly turn away."

    photo of W.B. Yeats by Alice Boughton

    {This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}

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    The Spanish Street Artist Hyuro again features the uncovered breast of a female form in her public mural. The news here in Barcelona is that it is not news.


    Hyuro. BCN Transit Walls Festival. Barcelona, Spain. September 2016. (photo © Lluis Olive Bulbena)

    Four years ago at a mural festival in Atlanta, Georgia the Argentinian artist was embroiled in a local "controversy" for painting a mural that depicted the nude female form. The monochromatic film-frame presentation across a long wall showed the incremental metaphorical shedding of wolves clothing to that of a human, then back to a wolf - or something like that. It's open to your interpretation and not painstakingly explained by the artist, as is often the case.

    Most viewers didn't find it to be an eroticized presentation and some thought it had religious undertones actually. Alexandra Parrish, a principal organizer of the mural explained to the Huffington Post at that time that it was "a portrait of transformation, the mural reflects the teachings of the church."


    Hyuro. BCN Transit Walls Festival. Barcelona, Spain. September 2016. (photo © Lluis Olive Bulbena)

    Regardless, the high-minded Atlantans who rallied to have that painting destroyed could only see that the mural presented naked lady parts parading in public, which could potentially light loins afire. Presumably none of those people were in attendance with more than 50,000 Beyonce fans this September at Atlanta's Georgia Dome, since it was essentially two hours of women strutting in high heels and highly revealing, even erotically inspired, costumes across enormous screens for everyone in attendance, including children, to ogle.

    Here in Barcelona Hyuro doesn't report any negative commentary coming her way for this mural painted with BCN Transit Walls in conjunction with La Mercè, Barcelona's largest cultural, musical arts and communities festival. Named after the Virgin of Grace (Mare de Déu de la Mercè), the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Barcelona, you may think that the vision of a bared breast may cause a firestorm here.


    Hyuro. BCN Transit Walls Festival. Barcelona, Spain. September 2016. (photo © Lluis Olive Bulbena)

    Like many of her public pieces the Hyuro's mural is a series of frames that collectively can create a sense of motion when viewed in quick succession. This series depicts a woman opening her garments to expose her breast and give it to her nursing infant.

    These are not erotic images but in a society that again is increasingly equating women's worth with their their physical appearance and sexual availability, devaluing their intellects, and otherwise objectifying and sexualizing them in media and advertising imagery, a simple loving and nurturing act like this can be perversely, stunningly, misinterpreted.


    Hyuro. BCN Transit Walls Festival. Barcelona, Spain. September 2016. (photo © Lluis Olive Bulbena)

    We often say that Street Art and Public Art are a mirror; a reflection of a society back to itself. Our extensive experience observing art in the streets has taught us that certain images are allowed by the greater culture to stay up while others are destroyed quickly. It is a fair measuring device for the opinions, mores, political leanings, and popular tastes of a locality.

    Spanish passersby at this transit hub do not appear to find objection with this mural, but Hyuro might have to think twice about a mural like this in many American cities, where reports of shaming and bullying of breastfeeding mothers are still common.


    Hyuro. BCN Transit Walls Festival. Barcelona, Spain. September 2016. (photo © Lluis Olive Bulbena)

    Not surprisingly perhaps, the candidate for the highest office in the US this year whom has not been a mother reportedly told an attorney that she was "disgusting" for requesting a break to breast-pump milk for her baby. She also may have been "nasty".

    Whether the female form is entirely sexualized in your mind or not, for the record, US federal law permits breastfeeding in any public area where you happen to be when your baby gets hungry and laws in cities like New York actually permit women to be topless in public at any time. It may take a while for popular tastes in art to reflect this in certain areas, and when it comes to legal mural festivals visiting artists are always wise to consider the audience.


    Hyuro. BCN Transit Walls Festival. Barcelona, Spain. September 2016. (photo © Lluis Olive Bulbena)

    Our sincere thanks to photographer Lluis Olive Bulbena for sharing his images with BSA readers.


    Please note: All content including images and text are ©, unless otherwise noted. We like sharing BSA content for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit the photographer(s) and BSA, include a link to the original article URL and do not remove the photographer's name from the .jpg file. Otherwise, please refrain from re-posting. Thanks!

    A version of this article is also posted on Brooklyn Street Art here.
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    By Annika Andersson, ZEALnyc Contributing Writer, November 2, 2016

    When the 2016 Margaret Mead Film Festival celebrated it's 40th Anniversary October 13-16, the festivities included a first-of-it's-kind virtual reality documentary lounge and a closing night Cuban salsa party. The main draw though, of course, was the 44 documentary and ethnographic films from 50 countries, illuminating the history, complexity and diversity of human cultures across the world.

    One such film was the opening night U.S. premiere of A Revolution in Four Seasons, directed by Jessie Deeter. The documentary follows two women in Tunisia, secular journalist Emna Ben Jemaa and Islamist politician Jawhara Ettis, in the years following the Arab Spring.

    The revolutionary wave known as the Arab Spring was sparked by Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation, protesting police corruption and ill treatment after his fruit wagon had been confiscated in December 2010. Demonstrations, protests, riots, coups and civil wars spread from Tunisia throughout the Arab world. We are still seeing the devastating effects, such as the largest refugee crisis in modern times with 4.5 million people having fled Syria since the start of the conflict.

    But the film doesn't bring us in to the battle fields. Instead, we follow the events through the eyes of Jemaa and Ettis, who both appear to lead somewhat privileged existences. Jemaa is a celebrity blogger, who's marrying a software engineer during the course of the movie. Having spent many years working in the U.S., he has returned to participate in shaping the new Tunisia, and the couple appears to live a very comfortable, modern, upper middle-class lifestyle.


    A scene from Jessie Deeter's 'A Revolution in Four Seasons,' recently screened at the 2016 Margaret Meade Film Festival.

    Ettis' family stems from generations of nomads, who are now permanently settled in countryside villages. They live in multi-generational households guided by traditional values, where religion plays a large part. Etti is a teacher who works for the Islamist party Ennahda, aiming to create a new Tunisia guided by Islamic principles. Jemaa's vision for Tunisia is inspired by France and Sweden, while Etti's future Tunisia resembles Turkey.

    When a documentary follows subjects like this, through visits over the course of a few years, time will tell if the cause of events will be interesting or not. While history is being written with the Arab Spring uprisings, we are too far removed from them to be emotionally affected. When Jemaa describes the danger of participating in a demonstration, and how someone got beaten up with blood on his face, it appears somewhat innocent to the American viewer, who's exposed to much worse at home with all the recent cases of police brutality and mass shootings.

    Instead, we follow the parallel lives of the two women, and what's interesting is perhaps to challenge our ideas of how a secular lifestyle in Tunisia looks compared to an Islamist one. Etti has a higher education, and represents her whole village as a member of the constituent assembly. She gives fiery speeches to promote female education, and wants to find ways for the opposite sides to meet and find commons grounds when writing the new constitution.

    Etti continues to work after getting married, throughout her pregnancy, and even brings her infant daughter to the parliament afterwards, when she has to. She and her husband agree that her work comes first, and he stays home with their daughter in an arrangement similar to what you find in Sweden. Jemaa, on the other hand, leaves politics to her husband after their daughter is born. And at the film's opening night, when the two protagonists appeared on stage afterwards, Jemaa brought her husband while Etti came alone, ready to answer questions with more strength and passion than ever.

    The 2016 Margaret Mead Film Festival is over, but the journey of the films have only begun. While no opening dates have been set for A Revolution in Four Seasons at this time, two of the other films shown during the festival is coming to theatres soon, and a third film is available online:

    Best and Most Beautiful Things by Garrett Zevgetis, opens in theatres December 2, 2016.
    A coming of age tale about Michelle Smith, legally blind and diagnosed on the autism spectrum, handling her label as an outsider. For Festival information click here. For future ticketing information click here.

    The Price of Peace by Kim Webby, available on Amazon Video now.
    The film follows the case of Tame Iti, an Indigenous activist from the Ngāi Tūhoe community of Ruatoki in New Zealand, on trial for alleged terrorist activities, while at the same time representing the relationship between Māori communities and the government of New Zealand. For Festival information click here. For viewing information click here.

    Underfire: The Untold Story of Pfc. Tony Vaccaro by Max Lewkowicz, an HBO Documentary Film, opens in theatres October 28, 2016.
    A film about the life and personal journey of American G.I. Tony Vaccaro, from photographing the day-to-day life of soldiers on the battlefield during WW2, to becoming a 93-year-old pacifist. For Festival information click here. For ticketing information click here.

    For more information on the Margaret Mead Film Festival 2016, click here.

    Cover: Panel discussion at opening night premiere of Margaret Mead Film Festival; (l. to r.) co-producer Sara Maamouri, Emna Ben Jemaa's husband (name unavailable), Emna Ben Jemaa, Jawhara Ettis, Jessie Deeter and Sevanne Kassarjian (Margaret Mead's granddaughter); photo: Annika Andersson.

    Annika Andersson is a Contributing Writer for ZEALnyc and writes about film and related events.

    For more features from ZEALnyc read:

    Library Lions Gala to Honor 50th Anniversary of Truman Capote's Black & White Ball

    Get Ready to Laugh -- this year's New York Comedy Festival will be November 1-6

    'Love, Loss, and What I Wore' for one-night-only with Carol Kane and Rosie O'Donnell

    For all the news on New York City arts and culture, visit ZEALnyc Front Page.

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    The following review first appeared in The National Book Review

    The recent publication of Frantumaglia: A Writer's Journey, a collection of letters by, and interviews with the pseudonymous writer Elena Ferrante, brought me back to a moment inside a Milanese bookstore a decade ago. I can still recall my pure delight in spotting the only copy of the original Italian edition and grabbing it with the greedy fingers of a child upon the last piece of party cake. Even though the slender canary-colored paperback was beyond my Italian language abilities, nothing could interrupt the sweetness I imagined awaiting me.

    This excitement was the product of having stayed up all night on the plane ride to Milan reading The Days of Abandonment, the first Ferrante novel to be published in America. The book minutely details the unraveling of a woman whose husband leaves her, and their two children, for someone younger. The protagonist's fury, hearkening back to those famous women of ancient tragedy, unnerved me, but the book offered more than a piercing examination of the psychic wounds of marital betrayal. The birthplace of Ferrante's protagonist was southern Italy, the homeland of my maternal and paternal grandparents, and the novel suggested that the legacy of poverty and illiteracy doesn't quietly disappear; rather remnants pass through the veins of its descendants like Vesuvius's lava, seemingly dormant but smoldering in times of anguish.

    I was hooked with just one book; I felt that Ferrante's Italian story offered clues to interpreting my Italian-American story and I wanted to shout her (pseudo) name from the rooftops. Frantumaglia, a dialect word that Ferrante's mother used meaning a jumble of fragments, promised more - a window, or even a single pane, into someone who kept her identity a mystery, asserting that a good book speaks for itself. Where was the "sheer egoism," the trait that George Orwell listed first among authorial motives in his essay "Why I Write"?

    I awaited Ann Goldstein's translations of Ferrante's Troubling Love and The Lost Daughter (I gave up the hard work of translating La Frantumaglia about twenty-five pages in). I told my friends about Ferrante, but considered my passion a private one, hungering for her southern Italian protagonists - all educated and cultured women, yet battling class barriers and character traits mapped by geography and genetics.

    What a difference a decade makes.

    After producing three novels, all slender gems, over two decades, Ferrante feverishly penned the brilliant four volume Neapolitan series, published in America between 2012 and 2015. New Yorker critic James Wood praised her fiction and shortly after "Ferrante Fever" set in, resulting in 2.6 million English copies of the tetralogy now in print. This sweeping 1600-page narrative of girlhood friends growing up in postwar Naples even gave Hillary Clinton momentary respite from the campaign trail. When recently asked about the last book she had read, Clinton cited the first volume, My Brilliant Friend, describing it as "hypnotic," and adding that she had already begun the second novel.

    Ferrante's publishers decided to re-release La Frantumaglia in English, renaming it Frantumaglia: A Writer's Journey and doubling its size with an additional thirteen years of reflections and interviews. It should have been a celebratory moment, but the book has arrived at an awkward time. Ferrante's legions of fans are outraged and depressed after Italian journalist Claudio Gatti claims to have revealed the author's true identity, offering compelling evidence that she is Anita Raja, a translator based in Rome and former director of the European library of the Goethe Institute. Gatti, who works for the financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, traced a large spike in payments to Raja from Ferrante's publisher after the Neapolitan Quartet became an international success, as well as real estate purchases by Raja and her husband, Neapolitan novelist Domenico Starnone, around the same time.

    The international outrage over this large-scale invasion of privacy was nearly universal, and Ferrante's long-held assertion that her anonymity supplies the creative space essential to her work has left readers wondering why Gatti would act so boorishly, a kind of literary Donald Trump in an assault against a gifted woman writer. Under these circumstances the publication of Frantumaglia suggests a temporary balm while readers await what's next.

    Frantumaglia, however, is an imperfect book for an American audience introduced to the writer through the Neapolitan Quartet. The first several hundred pages discuss the three early novels, works with which a majority of American readers are unfamiliar, and the worthwhile passages require some wading through to reach. Even the most devoted Ferrante reader loses interest in the pages of suggestions to director Mario Martone about his screenplay of her novel Troubling Love, a film that was never released in America.

    And better to skip the testy exchange with a journalist, the first of many, as Ferrante chides a reporter about requesting an interview with her a year after Troubling Love was published. She asserts that his belated interest is only because her book is being made into a film and lectures him about how the media treats literature as film's stepchild. Ferrante initially decides not to send her reply, but then publishes it in La Frantumaglia. The savaged journalist reads the missive and sends a follow-up note included in this new edition explaining that he didn't have a job as a cultural reporter when he first read the novel and therefore had no venue in which to write about her work. Never mind.

    With perseverance, however, delightful and engaging nuggets emerge. Ferrante describes the fiercely self-scrutinizing protagonists of her early novels as women who practice "a conscious surveillance on themselves." Her observations about this surveillance -- their "watchfulness, vigilance" -- evoke the ruminative, essayistic quality of her prose that lures readers into falsely believing the work is autobiographical. She includes passages from earlier versions of her manuscripts, offering a glimpse into her writing and editing process; and she offers comfort to struggling writers everywhere, admitting she discarded several manuscripts she deemed unpublishable in the ten years it took to produce her second novel.

    One of the most enjoyable sections occurs about two-thirds of the way through, a freewheeling discussion with Ferrante's publishers about her body of work and how frantumaglia, the jumbled fragments of memory, eventually find their fictional form. The nuanced final exchange with Italian novelist Nicola Lagioia about the interdependence of the characters in the Neapolitan Quartet - creating neighborhood ties that Lagioia sees as an antidote to solitude and Ferrante ultimately rejects as "confining and harmful" - offers a fascinating commentary on contemporary Naples.

    The most problematic aspect of Frantumaglia beyond its repetitive format is its autobiographical untruthfulness - if we accept Gatti's claim. Several times Ferrante recalls a remark by Italo Calvino, "Ask me what you want to know, but I won't tell you the truth, of that you can be sure." This warning seems a justification for answering journalists' questions about her background with fictional answers. Ferrante includes lengthy descriptions of her mother's work as a seamstress in Naples; Raja's mother was a teacher, born in Germany to a Polish Jewish family. Ferrante describes Naples as the city that defined her childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood - the city that she, like her protagonists, eventually chose to flee; from the age of three Raja lived in Rome. Ferrante writes about a sister (Raja has no sisters) with whom she gets lost in Naples in the rain, a story that will find its form years later in her novel My Brilliant Friend.

    One can argue that fictional truths are grounded in falsehoods, that literary truth is, in Ferrante's words, "released exclusively by words used well." But in an age when facts are viewed as optional, when tragedies of history are denied, to purposefully lie in a nonfiction format is jarring. Why not simply remain in the silence of a chosen anonymity?

    Throughout Frantumaglia, Ferrante's understandable frustration with journalists' obsession about her identity grows, turning at times into hostility. Gatti's crude actions are inexcusable, but sadly, one feels that this lengthy game reached its inevitable conclusion. After decades of journalists' sniffing catnip, the laws of nature took their course -- the cats (yes, the meaning of gatti in Italian) pounced.

    Elena Ferrante's readers are also the victims of this chase. We filled in the author's absence with the Elena Ferrante of our fantasies, and Gatti's disclosure forced her disintegration from that imaginative space. Most disheartening is the thought that Elena Ferrante may no longer publish, a possibility that makes us excuse the imperfections of Frantumaglia and treasure its fragments of illumination.

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    Artist Manu Saluja exhibits a body of work depicting the New York City subway system in ​her solo exhibition Passage: ​Paintings of Urban Life. She paints figures well, but the paintings that leap out at me include no people at all: they are closeups of details of the weathered stations themselves.

    Blue II, 12" x 12" , oil on canvas

    Such scenes are easily recognizable to anyone with experience in New York's corroded subways: peeling paint on rusty metal beams. It might once have been easy to dismiss them as ugly. Now one is just as likely to reflexively describe them as beautiful. Either flippant answer applies too little thought to these images. Photography as well is nearly futile - in this case, it acts all too easily as a thoughtlessness of the eye.

    In confrontation with a snowy mountain, a broad canyon, a beautiful sunset - a green field, an unusual bird, an iridescent beetle - we feel redeemed by the sights we see, and if we think a little bit, we also feel our sight redeems a world which, though beautiful, might be mute and senseless without us. It is more difficult to locate this reciprocal redemption in the meaner works of man, in structures designed to serve engineering purposes, devoid of intentional aesthetics. And yet these works perhaps require such care most of all. They are what we have made, they are us. We need to find the majesty in them to remember it in ourselves. These derelict urban structures beg to be parsed by the eye, mind, and hand of an artist.

    Red I, 44" x 36", oil on canvas

    Look at the delicate wonders Saluja catches in this girder. Most obviously, she celebrates the tapestry of colors in the bare metal, the frail and lacy edges of the chipped-away paint. But consider those ten bolt-heads. Each has a specific and distinct character, a slightly different shape and surface. Any skilled painter depicting this view would have portrayed ten individual bolt-heads. But only Saluja cared enough about them to do it. She applied the profound rule of art to these humble bolt-heads: learn to see that each thing is itself, and nothing else. She refined her consciousness with the many tools of art, and gave her consciousness to these bolt-heads. They passed through her mind, and because she elevated them to art, they pass through our mind. By this means, the urban landscape is given back to us, and we to it.

    Green II, 30" x 36", oil on canvas

    Look at how the white of that unwashed wall bumps up against the dark shadows of the streaked green paint! Who takes the time to contemplate such things? What would we discover if we made a practice of it? There is something that Philip K. Dick wrote - or if he didn't write it, it is like something he wrote, and I am remembering it incorrectly - that we would find messages from Christ in the configurations of trash by the side of the road. This is a formulation of Dick's madness, a species of apophenia, or finding pattern in the random and meaningless. But it is also a generous way to see. It is sight as a child has it, without a hierarchy of what is more meaningful or less, what is worth studying or not. It is all meaningful, Dick says, all worth studying. It is indisputably true that if Christ had a message, there was a configuration of trash which revealed it one time. The only reason we do not sit around looking at trash is that we haven't the time to contemplate it all. But we confuse this shortage of time in our lives with a shortage of value in the trash. The trash is part of the world. Therefore it is invaluable, as all Being is, and the meaning of all Being can be found in it, as it can be found in any other fragment of the world.

    But trash, and engineered things, worn tools, cracked pavement, scratched subway windows, scuffed seats: though these are things of the world, they are special because they are places where we took the raw materials of the world and made things that we thought we wanted or needed. They bear the traces of our ingenuities and hopes. How different are they, in their ruin and their transformation, from the one bit of trash that specifically did carry a message from Christ, that veil Veronica used to wipe the sweat and blood from his face? An image of his face was formed on the cloth - or, to rephrase, matter half-transformed for a utilitarian purpose - the veil - completed its transformation into art - the image. Art is a new world created by conscious intent using the matter of the old world. There is no categorical difference between a madman who stops to look at candy bar wrappers in the gutter, and Veronica pressing her rag to the brow of Christ on the Via Dolorosa, and Saluja in her studio using canvas, brushes, and oil paints to make pictures of forgotten bits of subway stations. In each case, matter once harnessed to human purpose yearns to complete its journey toward art, and in each case, consciousness is lent to that matter, enlightening the matter and itself.

    Transfer, 34" x 42", oil on canvas

    There is no more potent balm for the anomie of modern life than taking the time to learn from Saluja to see as she sees.


    Passage: Paintings of Urban Life

    November 5- December 6
    opening reception November 5, 6-8 p.m.
    Hersh Fine Art at the Long Island Academy of Fine Art
    14A Glen StreetGlen Cove, NY 11542

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    Rachel French in Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes"

    Launched under the title Café In, the exhibition marches not only through the history of coffee, first used as a medicine for gout and glumness well into the 18th Century, then includes its role
    in the art of seduction, the creation of art, its transformation in 19th century France (and later America) as the name for small bistros where people came together to gossip and philosophize,
    --Jean-Paul Sartre at Café de Flore, Paris
    its intractable connection to cigarettes, its geography of exploitation north from Ethiopia toward the Arabian peninsula, Constantinople, Venice and eventually to Mexico, the French Caribbean and Brazil, currently the world's largest coffee producer.
    --Workers in Ethiopia sorting fresh coffee beans called "cherries"
    Co-curator Michel Djin, president of the Fondation Malongo, the allied coffee producer that co-produced the show, likes to call coffee and cafés "a marriage not only of commerce but of passion." That passion, needless to imagine, carries dark chapters in its history, notably under French Carribbean Portuguese Brazilian slavery, without which its place in the lives of urban trendies in Europe and America might never have developed.
    --Slave Whipping in Brazil

    The show is immense, even including science, hygiene and agronomy as well as a month long of shows and seminars throughout this month in cafés, halls and clubs concentrated in central Marseille minutes away from the MuCem, yet again illustrating the MuCem's mission of linking art to popular life.
    --Women at the Cafe Wepler, Paris by Albert André

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    For good or bad populism is holding sway. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both presided over uprisings against the leadership of their respective parties. The same may be said about data. With the advent of Google (which provides the mechanism by which anyone can become a blogger) and Amazon (where anyone can self publish), Thoreau's "mass of men" no longer need "lead lives of quiet desperation"; information has become like a dam which is in danger of overflowing and flooding the farmlands it was formed to irrigate. Take news for example. There was once a news business presided over by respected entities which represented varying poles of the ideological spectrum. Back in the 50's a Hearst publication The Journal American represented the right and Dorothy Schiff's New York Post, the left. In between were The New York Times and The Herald Tribune. You still have major papers, albeit fewer ones, in most areas of the country. But now the populace is no longer ready to defer to Jimmy Olson, the star reporter for The Daily Planet. You join Facebook and suddenly you're a chronicler of the era. The internet is flooded with all kinds of sites that have been created by self-appointed primary sources. Few are ready to stand down or defer to the authority of those with more experience in the field. If you cross the Turkish border and find a way to keep your head on your shoulders (literally), then suddenly you're as good as AP or the old UPI. If you take picture you're Magnum. Who's to stop you? This leveling or democratization of information naturally has its positive side. For instance no recent election has created as much interest as that between these two widely detested candidates. But the downside is that there's no possible way to parse out all the input. The result of everyone having been given a voice is deafening roar.

    {This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}

    photo of Harry Truman by Byron Rollins (AP)

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    Roger Hodgson has been at it for a long time. The ex-Supertramp member and über-talented multi-instrumentalist has been touring North America to the delight of fans everywhere.

    I discovered Hodgson's music at an early age. (As a kid, my first four albums were Rush's Moving Pictures, Genesis' Abacab, Styx's Paradise Theater, and Supertramp's Breakfast in America.) Since the time that he departed Supertramp, I have enjoyed his solo material.

    Today I have the honor of speaking with him about his current lineup and tour, future plans, and the music industry.

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    Check out one of his clips here:

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    Chareau in his Paris apartment at 54 Rue Nollet, c. 1927. On the wall behind him are works by Picasso and Lipchitz. photo by Thérèse Bonney, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

    The Jewish Museum retrospective of the work of Pierre Chareau, a 20th -century designer who has been somewhat eclipsed by his design contemporaries (Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier, Eileen Gray, Marcel Breuer) comes at an interesting time.


    Pierre Chareau's business card

    The work of these modernists (and their Italian colleagues) has formed the basis of a serious market in mid-century design. Prices at auction have gone sky high, and dealers like Larry Gagosian have taken them on. But pieces by Chareau are very scarce (a search on First Dibs turned up a few sconces and chairs) and most of his architectural and interior work is not extant. He does not have the same name recognition. The Jewish Museum aims to change all that in a retrospective opening this week. And as in their Roberto Burle Marx exhibition, they have largely succeeded.


    An elegant Chareau vanity set

    Chareau, who was Jewish and had to flee the Nazis in France in 1940, is primarily known for his sumptuous interiors, the elegant finishes, and in the end, for the home he designed for the Dalsace family, the Maison de Verre, in Paris.


    The Maison de Verre, Paris

    But Chareau, who was not a licensed architect (though he did design a few buildings) but primarily an "ensemblier" or interior designer, had other qualities for which we must recognize him. He was the center of a salon that encouraged collaboration in the decorative arts. He revered his fellow artists, and was the first to actually collect and hang work by Leger, Picasso, and Mondrian qua art as more than décor. He was stimulated by many of the same inspirations as they were: Africa, the machine, textiles.


    Left to right: Pierre Chareau, telephone fan table, c. 1924, wood. Private collection, New York; Pierre Chareau, Two high-backed chauffeuses (fireside armchairs), c. 1925, wood and velours, with tapestry upholstery by Jean Lurçat, reupholstered 1968. Private collection. Photo: Will Ragozzino/

    Even as he was creating marvelously intricate wood pieces, however, he resisted the more opulent ornamental flourishes of the 20's and 30's. Instead, he explored the use of metal and movement in furniture and partitions. He designed film decors and collaborated with some of the leading film directors of the day in addition to his collaborations with architects like Robert Mallet Stevens.


    Ensemble installation view, Chareau furnishings, including Coat and Hat rack designed for the Maison de Verre, 1931
    Photo: Will Ragozzino/


    Study designed by Chareau for a Lord and Taylor exhibition, 1928

    As guest curator Esther da Costa Meyer says in the sumptuously illustrated catalog, "design was never simply a matter of disposing furniture pieces in a given room. Rather it was about shaping space itself..." Chareau sought perfect integration of design and architecture and was a master of contrast: soft/hard, textiles/paintings. In effect, he inhabited some of the schizophrenia of the time--looking back to the hand, and forward to the machine.


    Louis Dalbet, a virtuoso ironsmith, responsible for the beautiful wrought iron seen in Chareau's furniture and in several interiors, including the Maison de Verre with his sons.

    Chareau's piece de resistance, (along with even more unsung collaborator, Dutch engineer Bernard Bijvoet), the Maison de Verre,is in the 7th arrondissement of Paris off the Boulevard St Germain. It's notable first for its use of glass block, but inside for its marvelous embrace of exquisite design and technology. It embodies all of the influences Chareau was able to finally synthesize. Chareau was not Le Corbusier. He was not designing machines for living. That's not to say he was not fascinated by the possiblities of new technology. But the house, shoved into the lower part of an old 18th century mansion because they could not get rid of the upstairs tenants became instead became the much admired, well-used, familial center of an intellectual salon and the locus of lectures and concerts and the medical office of its doctor-owner, Jean Dalsace.



    Glass Plate Negatives of the Maison de Verre, 1932, photos Georges Thiriet

    This is not the first time that the Maison de Verre has been discovered. Rather it seems to happen generationally. There was a previous retrospective in the 90's at the Pompidou which owns the bulk of his collected archive. But prior to that, Richard Rogers, co-architect of the Pompidou Center, had studied the building and was impressed most of all by its exposed technology which is also expressed in his museum. His wife, chef/restauranteur Ruthie Rogers' ob/gyn, Dr. Pierre Vellay, took over the practice after Dr. Dalsace, and it was here that she was looked after while she was pregnant with her first son. Imagine being in stirrups in the Maison de Verre!


    Maison de Verre doctor's office, photo by Michael Carapetian 1966

    "We were living in Paris where Richard was working on he Pompidou, said Rogers, "when I became pregnant in 1974. Richard had done his thesis at Yale on this building so it became an added incentive to go to the monthly appointments. I remember Dr. Vellay saying ' and now you will hear the heartbeat of your baby ' but Richard had wandered into the next room looking at the ceiling detail."

    Chareau, who was known to be very sensitive to women, had designed the house to be both a work and a living environment, two distinct spaces, but the features of one certainly bled into the other. I remember exploring the house with Ruthie one night in semi darkness, the sophisticated nooks and hidden crannies in contrast to the rustic bolts and beams. The whole notion of exposure and obstetrics, and really all of daily life, was marvelous and daring. Dr. Dalsace had been a confirmed leftist, an advocate of birth control, a follower of Lacan and Freud, a polymath. It was a marriage of client and designer in the best possible way.

    Adam Gopnik begins by calling Chareau a "minor French interior decorator" in 1994 in his wonderfully discursive The New Yorker piece (which to my mind gives a better sense of Chareau and the house than the essay in the catalog), and which then goes on to certify him as a genius. The Gopniks were invited by the family to stay in the house but were defeated by it according to Gopnik. In searching for why, he says they felt trapped and cold instead of warm and wonderful; he came slowly to understand the house is neither a machine nor a temple but "theater". Gopnik attributed this to Chareau's longer experience with set design than building buildings. In that way, he suggested, it had fulfilled its destiny best as an empty, cult object.

    But I understood it differently. As much as I loved crawling around its ambitious and charming spaces, I missed its inhabitants. It needs its players, its intellects, even its fashionable patients. What I craved from the Glass House, indeed what I always crave from domestic architecture, is the ability to contain smart people gathered around a table near a fragrant kitchen communing with each other and with life. My guess is that the Gopniks should have had a dinner party!

    Today a wealthy couple, the Rubins, have bought and are faithfully restoring the Maison de Verre where necessary. They have left the medical suite as is but had to replace the kitchen appliances. In photographs, the house looks burnished but not betrayed.

    I've been looking at Glass Houses this year, The Farnsworth by Mies van der Rohe outside of Chicago for a spinster doctor who became entangled with it and him emotionally, the Philip Johnson Glass House which he built for himself, and Sanaa's new Grace Farms building/church in Connecticut. Glass towers are still being constructed all over the world as a symbol of wealth, home to corporations and billionaires who value the privacy and security only being high--and still surrounded by glass--can afford them.



    Motherwell House, Easthampton

    Chareau spent the last years of his life in exile in New York where he had a apartment that did not rival his art-strewn home in Paris; in fact, it was the art that "saved' them according to his wife Dollie when they had to flee France and had no funds (their collection is partially re-united in the exhibition) and were forced to sell most of it off to survive. Robert Motherwell hired him to build a house in Easthampton and, possibly stimulated by a view of an Oscar Niemeyer house, Chareau kitted out an old Quonset hut for the painter. Motherwell only ended up living there for four years, and then sold his house to 28-year old Barney Rosset, publisher of racy literature through his Grove Press, who then modified it where needed to make it livable. Norman Mailer shot a cult film there which alas contains few views of the house itself. It was then sold in 1980 and torn down a few years later for a Hampton mega-dwelling.


    Interior, Motherwell House

    The elegant exhibition has been designed by Liz Diller (is there anyplace that the Diller eye has not been called upon in the last decade?) and her firm Diller, Scofidio, Renfro, and allows an excellent accounting of the areas of new scholarship curator Meyer wished to emphasize: Chareau's Jewish roots; his other persona as a collector with his wife Dollie (whose own role has been undervalued)and the experience of the Chareaus in exile in New York. It makes much out of the precious little of Chareau's work that survives, as Diller herself admits, as one could not replicate the unusual spaces of the Maison de Verre. Instead, Diller, who wanted to remain "neutral", used other more modern technologies to accept the challenge of one architect displaying another, and "lots of things that swing". And she does indeed capture the yin yang, the vintage-meets-tech Chareau aesthetic. She used scrims as exhibition dividers instead of walls and shot footage of actors in domestic spaces onto them to give a sense of life. (Diller says she eventually wants to make a feature film--and you can see that coming) They also used VR, a bit of overkill in my mind as it trusts nothing to the spectator's imagination, but the excellent lighting design does make the furnishings much more dramatic and important. A digital "experience" film of the Maison de Verre mounted on tracks similar to the ones Chareau used in the Maison de Verre is clever and must have been hugely expensive to mount in its very theatrical installation.


    Elizabeth Diller, exhibition designer, Esther da Costa Meyer, exhibition curator, Claudia Gould, Jewish Museum director, the troika that has brought Pierre Chareau to life

    The Jewish Museum is also to be commended by continuing to bring to our attention the work of 20th century design masters whose impact has largely been far from our own shores.

    The Jewish Museum exhibit of Pierre Chareau is open until March 28, 2017

    The Maison de Verre is now privately owned and can only be visited through special permissions but you can glimpse the outside at 31 rue St Guillaume. If you haven't seen the Mallet Stevens or Le Corbusier's houses in the 16th arrondissment of Paris also put these on your Paris bucket list

    Adam Gopnik's piece for the New Yorker is archived, but archives of the New Yorker are accessible only to subscribers

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  • 11/03/16--13:08: Montauk In Autumn
  • 2016-10-31-1477922747-1166411-001mikemelliamontauk.jpg

    I have early childhood memories of visiting Montauk during summers of the mid 1980's. I must have been five or six years old, and what stayed with me to this day was the impression of wilderness surrounding this town. I remember giant waves violently ripping a tiny surfboard from my innocent hands, and later running with my younger brother through weeds that towered well over our heads. In those days, Montauk was more than just a place to escape oppressive New York City summers; it was someplace magical where man went to battle nature, the turbulent oceans, the freezing summer nights, and the wild terrain.

    I returned to Montauk during the winter with my own daughter, Aria, in a bid to reclaim some of the magic from thirty years earlier. To my excitement, the town was almost completed desolate, save for a few local fisherman. The spillover crowd summering in the Hamptons was nowhere to be seen, and it was practically impossible to find someplace to eat that wasn't closed for the season. The magic was back.


    My mother often reminisces that her parents would summer in Montauk from the mid-1950's through the early 1960's, and that what I found in Montauk during the winter was as close to the real experience as what is left. Run-down diners with terrible coffee, boarded up restaurants, completely wild surf and winds, and surly fishermen. Montauk in the winter harkened back to Montauk in the 1950's- something gritty and unspoiled by commercialism. For at least a few months of the year.


    My wife Laura, my daughter Aria, and I arrived at a cabin, surrounded by forests and tall weeds, where I began making acquaintances with small snakes, deer, and raccoons. This type of wilderness was only a few miles from the main street of beaches usually overwhelmed by Hamptons vacationers. I was looking for an adventure and something real and I had found it. I started chopping some firewood before deciding to adventure back towards the ocean and its beaches.


    What we found on the beaches that winter was something from another era. As the harsh bitter wind whipped against my face, I realized there was not a soul in sight except for a dozen fishermen lined up along the beach carrying 20-foot fishing poles. This was the real Montauk experience. They wore knee-high rubber boots attached to waterproof overalls as they literally dragged dozens of fish along the sand and later throughout the paved streets of town.

    The sheer determination to conquer the oceans despite all types of weather is what kept them coming back day after day. Meanwhile, hundreds of seagulls swarmed, cried, and flocked as sea salt sprayed everywhere. The wind and the waves showed no mercy. My face felt like it was stung like a thousand bees and I loved every minute of it.














    I wondered what the fair-weather vacationers would think about this Montauk. I wondered what my grandparents were up to back in the 1950's. I wondered what my daughter would think about this wild place when she grew older. I wondered how long next summer would last so that I could come back again next winter...

    Follow my travels at or on Instagram


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