Art from Philip Ma

The Ring

Italy Cathedral

The Rocker

Escape from Traffic

Philip Ma offers the following artist’s statement:

Ever since I was a kid, I was fascinated by Disney’s cartoon characters and dynamic stories. I could spend hours drawing and painting human and animal characters in the imaginary world and had so much fun in it. I started more formal artistic training in a private art studio where varieties of art medium and subjects were introduced and learned. I began to realize that art can be presented in many forms and aspects.
My vision has been continuously expanded as I explore more artistic venues in Academy of Art University, San Francisco since 2007. Surrounded in the busy lives in this exciting city, I am more and more inspired by the exploding energy of people around me. Each gesture and movement can represent diverse emotion among us human beings and animals and intrigued me completely. With the injection of colors and different techniques, these subject matters can bring out their unique expressions and feelings toward life.
In addition to the mundane daily life of human and animals, I also love storytelling through animation in both 2D and 3D. The beauty built by fine arts can add more stimuli to our lives with animated stories and visual effects. I believe both traditional arts mediums such as paper, brush, and paints and technology tools such as Adobe Photoshop and Creative Suite can work hand-in-hand together to push our art expression to a different level. My artwork in blending fine arts and film arts has demonstrated such belief.

Performance review: Randle Aubrey on San Jose Opera’s production of Die Fledermaus

Thanksgiving is an awkward holiday. Being a reasonably well-educated, inquisitive American, I’ve been more than aware for some time now of the true story of Europe’s bloody occupation of the New World, from the initial “colonization” efforts by the Spanish in Central America to the near-extinction of Indigenous Peoples through the hostile actions of an imperialist American agenda. If there’s anything we should be thankful for, it’s the fact that there’s not enough of them left to stage a bloody uprising and take back what is rightfully theirs.

Now before you start foaming at the mouth and plunking out some ridiculous diatribe about what a hateful, racist bastard I am, hear me out. Imagine if you lived in a time and place where a race of people your budding nation felt they had the God-given right to force out of their land, rape, murder, pillage, lie, cheat and steal from decided they had had enough of your bullshit and rose up in the tens if not hundreds of thousands and return the bloody favor? In the reality that is our present world, bloodthirsty savages aren’t likely to bust down my front door at any moment, drag myself and my loved ones out into the street, and chop off their scalps while leaving the bodies in the street as a warning to potential future residents of my apartment that they better check their skin tone before signing the lease, and yes I am thankful for that, thank you very much. Most of us have it pretty good in this country, compared to the millions of Native Americans that were slaughtered to forge this nation, and the tiny population that remains in the squalid, horrifying conditions we have afforded them.

Needless to say, this isn’t exactly the best Thanksgiving dinner conversation, or the greatest context under which to talk about an opera. But as my deadline looms and yet another Thanksgiving Day draws to a close, I can’t help but wonder which traditions are worth the time of honoring: the entire sum of those of a nearly extinct race of people slaughtered at the hands of my ancestors, or those of a comparatively tiny, yet culturally significant subset of Western classical music?

San Jose Opera’s rendition of “Die Fledermaus” was wonderful, of course. They’re not ones to screw around with a production. The hair, makeup and costumes were top notch, and the set involved a simple backdrop that was easy to transform with a few props and set pieces into the various locations in the plot. And of course, the performances were marvelous. Elisabeth Ross positively stole the show as Adele, and Rebecca Krauner’s rendition of Prince Orlofsky was both sublime and ridiculous. Alexander Boyer gave a commanding performance as Eisenstein, bringing a Ralph Kramden-esque demeanor to the role, with Cecelia Violetta Lopez’s portrayal Rosalinde every bit the Alice, with a touch of Lucille Ball thrown in for good measure. Round out the lineup with devilish performances from Michael Bailey (Alfred), Jo Vincent Parks (Dr. Falke), Isaiah Musik-Ayala (Frank), and Michael Mendelsohn (Dr. Blind), and you’ve got yourself one hell of a show on your hands: it’s campy, absurd, and elegant, old-world sentiment mixed with classic screwball Broadway antics. My first operatic experience, I’m glad I got to witness something so fun and light, rather than inaugurated via tragedies such as “La Traviata” or “Carmen”. Not that I’m not one for heavy subject matter – my most recent read, “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter” by Carson McCullers, left me both breathless and achingly unfulfilled – but comedy often brings more to the table than just laughs: it brings happy endings, which have enormous potential to hold the attention of a wide body of philistines like myself, who are thankful to have the opportunity to not only do so at the behest of their cohorts, but to then have the opportunity to spit out a few hundred words upon the subject for publications such as this one. Let us not also forget that at the heart of this story lies a crooked and immoral investment banker who is allowed to skip a portion of his incredibly lenient prison sentence just to be the victim of a ridiculously overpriced prank(likely at the expense of an underprivileged populace), one perpetrated by the highest annals of both Swiss and Russian governments, all to satisfy the petty vengeance of the clearly defunct shrink (physician, heal thyself!) with which this banker had an incredibly unprofessional and obviously destructive relationship. Let us all be thankful that we don’t live in such an imperialist society dominated by such petty squabbles, shall we?

Hold on a second…

“On Recent Events: Ours Is a Nation!”: An essay by Ayk Afowolokoyasire

Ours is a nation where a report is ‘rubbished’ for admitting its limitations. And it leaves one to ask: was the commissioner expecting the reporter to portray his report as the proverbial cure for all ills? For, as every learned person knows, every method has its limitations, as does every recommendation; and as every wise man knows, the cure for all ills is death. One can only hope that the commissioner does not administer the latter to the report he has now claimed is ailing.

Ours is a nation where the President forever salutes his intelligence agents, yet the Boko Haram menace that was not nipped in the bud has not been chopped off its roots, let alone grubbed out of its origins. One then wonders: who is deceiving whom? Is the President deceiving us or is he himself being deceived by those who would not admit their flaws and limitations, who would sing All is Well atop the burning house that our North has become? Or is he deceiving them, publicly promising them his support while secretly limiting their independence and hindering their progress? If not, what exactly is the problem; who will explain?

Ours is a nation where people live for the sake of today, and only today. Where people forget that today’s action (or inaction) inevitably becomes tomorrow’s history. Where the masses at the base cannot trust the apex, the government, it is surpassingly heavier than. Where everyone puts himself first. And where the poorer you are, the more children you have: the gateman has six children while his boss has three. Yet all these things brought us here, and here we are.

The Boko Haram would that we, the rest of Nigeria, worshipped them; that to speak against them was sacrilege. The Boko Haram would not apologise to all the innocents they killed but would that we, the rest of Nigeria, paid them compensation, an apology. The Boko Haram would not desist from bombing us but they would that we, the rest of Nigeria, desisted from hunting them. The Boko Haram would that we, the rest of Nigeria, recognised their religious peculiarities but would not recognise that God created life and diversity, that diversity birthed religions, that variety is the spice of life.

The Boko Haram would that they were the first of all and forget that we, the rest of Nigeria, could not be the least of all. The Boko Haram would that they lived in peace and surplus, yet they put us, the rest of Nigeria, in shambles and scarcity, in pains and panic, the aftermath of their (reckless) bomb blasts. The Boko Haram would that they had plenty children, perhaps unaware of the Yoruba saying, Omo beere, òsì beere; plenty children, plenteous poverty. The Boko Haram would that they eradicated Western education, yet backwardness cannot be enviable in this modern age of ours, and freedom is for all.

But…
The Boko Haram would that they could trust our government and not seek safety in Saudi Arabia for dialogues. The Boko Haram would that the government listened to the voice of the masses rather than the blast of its bombs. The Boko Haram would that government did not hush us or shush our labour leaders, or let out our military on us. The Boko Haram would that they saw the dividends of democracy:
accountability, where’s our subsidy?
bread, where’s our food?
construction, where are our good roads?
debate, when will we ever confront you?
equity, we are just as important as you.
finance, what’s happening to our Naira?
governance, cut your spendings and save our economy!
honesty, who is who in Nigeria?
integrity, if you cannot perform, commit for there!
justice, who will pay for all these crimes?
knowledge, do you really know what you’re doing?
liberty, can I really express myself?
…undoubtedly, things we, the rest of Nigeria, also long to see and have and own; and issues our government yet fails to address properly, if at all.

Seeing as we, the masses of Nigeria, are in agreement on these few, and perhaps some more, to the Boko Haram, I therefore say: As a part cannot truly hate that which makes it whole, we love you, we
feel your pains; we do not live in a different Nigeria, after all…
Put down your arms;
Harm us no longer.
This is the voice of reason,
To maintain your poise is treason.
…for Ours is a Nation where Nigeria must come before all–the leader as much as the led–and together we, the masses of Nigeria, will prevail together,
In love and honesty to GROW
And living JUST and true
Great lofty heights ATTAIN
To build [ONE] nation where PEACE and justice shall REIGN.

I remain yours,
Ayk Midas Afowolokoyasire,
OOUTH Sagamu, Ogun State
A Nigerian youth.

Poetry Review: Kat Merriweather on Janine Canan’s Ardor: Poems of Life

Review of Ardor: Poems of Life by Janine Canan

by Kat Merriweather

This collection features earlier submitted works of poetry from other books and journals. I found Ardor very spirited. Ardor contains free verse, koans, commentary on modern life, verses on women as goddesses, a few translations, prayers to deities, and, quirkily, some poems that the author is self-aware about writing poetry. Some poems were very simple (only a few lines at best). It appears as if the poems are meant to be read, not spoken, as it would sound quite awkward listening to its uneven meter.

Interestingly enough, the poems about poetry made me laugh. One in particular, “Imposters,” slams other “poets” who are nothing but mechanics and vampires. At least Canan isn’t “strangling language” to get her message across and does have something to say or praise. Canan has been writing poetry for a very long time, evident by her writing credits.

Readers who are into Eastern mysticism, Goddess worship, and female empowerment will enjoy this book.

Poetry from DanaLynne Johnson

TUMBLING
By DanaLynne

 

TUMBLING down into
Daylight, trying to land with
Aplomb, with courage,
And not to stagger,
Reach groundward, gracefully,
Arriving from darkness,
Having been evicted
From night for too much laughter,
Not enough silence.
When I land, feet first,
Knees bent, all the stars applaud
A safe arrival.

 

TRANSCRIBER OF DREAMS
By DanaLynne

 

One word
Uttered on high
And I, a seed,
Exist:
Amoeba or
Zebra.
The power of 
Creation lies
Beyond me,
And I, unaware,
Take up space
Set aside just for my body,
My spirit, my
Mind.
From the mind,
Through intervention, comes
This parade,
Idea 
After idea.
Unlike my own origination,
The invention of me,
The thought of me,
The sounds and visions
That fall from my lips,
Stream out of my fingers,
Are only the result of
Being the transcriber
Of dreams,
The artist struggling
To find just the right palate,
Just the right weight of words
Before I can place them
Gently, lovingly upon
The page
*******
*******
SEVEN BILLION

by DanaLynne Johnson

here on this
spinning blue-green
ellipse,
I share air and water
with seven billion
paper dolls-
so tall, so thin,
varied colors,
and yet
our worlds
are separated
by language:
I don’t understand–
not completely–
the vocabulary of vision:

 

when someone
describes
a place,
a face,
a fleeting gesture,
I am left
in a void.
what is crimson, really,
but a word.
azure? emerald? Baby blue?
forest green
is just a succession of letters
as far as I’m concerned.

 

I don’t speak vision: i talk sound.
I talk touch, smell, taste,
all because of atrophy,
a fracture of a connection
between eye and brain,
between here and there,
between day and night,
black and white,

 

I can describe
the texture of brick,
its weight
the softness of feathers,
the weight of stones,
the sound–the sensation–
 of water
rushing,
falling,
dripping,
the click of a lock,
the slam of a door.

 

I can hear anger
in a voice,
hesitation that might
as well announce a lie.
I hear words
behind other words–
secrets behind spoken,
spilled syllables.
once they fall, it’s
impossible to gather
them back up,
put them back–
no unrung bell.

 

seven billion paper people,
cardboard cities,
flat earth,
steam-roller universe:
I know it isn’t real:
I can touch,
I can experience
all three dimemntions.
height is real.
width is real.
depth is the question only
two hands can prove
convincingly,
irrevocably.
I don’t shake hands
with paper people.
I don’t enter–
I don’t exit–
cardboard facades.

 

I eat
real food, I drink
full-figured water.
the world goes through
my fingers one reality
at a time, one
lesson–
one truth–
at a time.
questions find their
counterparts, compatriots
as days sweep  through
and carry me relentlessly,
ruthlessly,
captured in
the current.
I am not alone.
I am one of seven–
seven billion:
seven billion–
and counting.

Poetry from Kamilla Bøgedal

 

Answers are imminent

What happened to loyalty what happened to truth?

What happened to just being you?

Why does beauty strive so far, why does love now own the ability to mar?

Are we changing our course for a negative outcome, is this the end to man?

Will we ever again become fearsome or have we emptied out our jar of sand?

Do you believe or do you only understand when I tell you,

This is not the way our destiny was planned.

 

Depression with a rhyme-scheme

I long to live out my dreams,
but reality is as reality seems,
it’s hard work and occasional breakdowns
usually it just feels like acting silly in front of clowns..
I guess the true story is;
It will probably always be like this.

 

This view

I’ve never realized how glorious a view can be

It grabs and takes holds of us

 

It’s a thing you can’t compare

To anything, anywhere

 

White dots in the frizzled silver

And though humanity made its mark

A reason to wonder it can always deliver

 

Creamy beads of spring

Dancing not to care, if they would they could sing

 

A restless never-ending sea

Always searching

And I come to believe it was all made

Just for me

The Great Escape: Excerpt from a novel by Richard Gigax

CHAPTER ONE

I woke up to the sounds of screams and gun shots. Of course I knew that this was just a small group trying to rebel against the government. I also knew that the government would win. You see, the government is very strong. They control almost everything about our lives. How we drive, what things we see in the media, and what we learn in school to name a few.

Sometimes there are small rebellions. Rebellions like this one tonight. A group of teenagers go guns blazing against some police officers and then they die. Some rebellions actually do some damage. But those ones require money and planning. They also require assistance by employees of the government who know a lot about how the government works. Even with money and planning these rebellions barley work. They might cause some damage. Like one time where a few undercover generals blew up a government building and killed many officers. The government of course put that rebellion down.

I stood up and looked around my room. My room is quite large for a 17 year old. The only reason why it’s large is because my father works for the government. My father, a person I truly hate, gets nearly 350,000 thousand gintos. (The currency of our country) a year. It’s amazing he makes that much. All he has to do is to go to an office and spy on everyone in the city. He uses a system that is able to look through walls and stuff. That’s all he does.

My bed is located on the southern wall. I have two book cases on the sides of my bed. There is a large window on the wall on the right side of my bed. The entire left side is covered with a large panoramic of the city. My father wanted me to be fooled into liking the government. He thought that if he put a picture of what the government has done I would like it. He is wrong of course. I could put thousands of pictures of starving people. People that have been oppressed by this government. The only reason why I don’t do it is because I would get in so much trouble. There is a door that leads out into the main hall on the left side too. There are two doors on the northern wall. These doors lead into my bathroom. My bathroom has white marble tile everywhere. The northern wall has a grand Jacuzzi and a walk in shower that has three spouts from where the water falls. The northern wall also has two doors that lead into the walk in closet. The walk in closet is as big as the bathroom and my room combined. It has sections where I put my underwear, socks, shoes, shirts, pants, etc. My mom had this room installed when we moved in. She said that I would need a large closet to house the most extravagant clothes of the country. She says that I need to make “a great first impression” and that “the first impression can make or break you.”

I stood up and walked over to the window. I opened the blinds and looked out. What I saw was way different then a normal rebellion. There were several tanks and several trucks all lay out on the street. There were at least 46 troops walking around. There were also several dead bodies lying on the ground. This is what I hate most about the government. They do not care about people. They could drive over them for all they care.

I looked over to my door when I heard steps coming up from the hall. The door opened and my mom walked in. She comes walking in at me from the door.

My mom is short, maybe 5 feet 4 inches. She has short dirty blonde that hangs just right above her shoulders. She is strong. She has bigger then average muscles for a woman of her age and her calves are the size of a watermelon. They are even bigger then mine. She is a fairly smart woman. She is a college graduate ofHastinUniversityin the old city in the east called Roggers. In college she studied how to be a writer. She is currently an employee of the Daly Star. She rights about sports. Sports is the only topic that the government does not lie to us about. Her name is Karlie.

She stopped at my bed and looked at me. “Go back to bed Ren.” (Ren is my name)

“What happened outside?” I asked.

“A small petty rebellion.” She looks at the window and says, “It’s just a small group of anarchists who want to change us forever. I am glad that our government can protect us from fools like that.”

“But mom what if they are right?”  I said. “Maybe our government abuses its power too much?”

“The government is the only thing that keeps this world in order. Without it we would fall into anarchy. For thousands of years this planet would be under constant war. Trust me Ren. This government is not as bad as you make it to be.”

“I am not tired mom. Can I go watch a movie?”

“No.” she says abruptly. “Go to bed.”

“But I am not tired mom!” I yell. “Can I please go downstairs and watch a movie?”

“Well I guess since it’s Saturday you can.”

“Thank you mom,” I replied and kissed her on the forehead.

I got up from my bed and hurried through my door.

I walked down the main hall. This hall runs down my entire house. It has red carpet and there are pictures all throughout the wall. There are several doors that lead into bed rooms, offices, libraries, and bathrooms.

I walk until I reach the stairs. There are two stairs leading downstairs. The stairs are located in the half point of the house. The stairs curl down to the right or left depending on where they started. The carpet on the stairs is red too. The stairs lead into an opening room. This room is about 25 feet tall. There is a huge, round, and gold chandelier that hangs on the ceiling. This room also has white marble tile and pictures that can go back to the early revolution years. (It is 2023. This government was established 754 years ago after a huge revolution that took out a democratically elected government. The rebels argued that this government is and will never be strong enough to handle tough challenges. If you ask me about that government I would tell you that I would love to live there, not here.)

I walked down the stairs. I counted each stair as I walked.

I then proceeded to walk slowly to the basement. I had to walk through the rest of the opening room, passing pictures that showed the glory of our government. (Yeah right!)

The stairs that led to the basement were under the stairs that lead upstairs. They were red also. I walked down slowly into the darkness. As soon as I got downstairs I turned on the light switch. The basement is the worst place in the entire house. It reminds me of all the government’s power. It reminds me of this fact because it is the host of many different expensive products paid for by the government. For example, we have a 70 inch plasma TV, a pool table, and a lot more that I could care less to go into detail about.

I walked right up to the TV and turned it on. The channel I turned it to shows governmental proceedings at the capital. The only person who is interested in this kind of stuff is my dad. I do not know why. In my opinion, this channel is the worst channel you could get. I hopped over the storage area where we house the DVDs. I pick out one about the times before the revolution. I could always count on this movie to be entertaining. I popped it into the DVD player and waited for it to play. I plopped myself on the couch and lay down.

 

CHAPTER TWO

I found my self on a couch downstairs. All I knew from last night was that there was a small rebellion and the fact that I watched a movie. I didn’t know when I fell asleep or what movie I watched. I was completely disoriented. I stood up and looked at the round silver clock on the wall. 9:50 in the morning. I looked around. No one was in my sight, but I did hear noises coming from upstairs. I jumped up and slowly walked to the stairs. When I got to the stairs I look up them and heard people arguing.

“Just give me three more weeks please damn it!” I heard my father yell.

“The rebellions in the east are taking a toll on us,” a soft, smooth voice replied.

“Yes. They are,” a loud, rough voice said. “We need to make an example that this nation is not to be trifled with. When we say we mean business we mean business.”

“I just do not want my friends and family to get hurt,” I heard my father say.

So the rumors were right. There was a rebellion in the east. The government does not want to say there is. They think that if we know we will join them.

I was hungry. I wanted some breakfast. I started to walk up the stairs when I heard a bang. “Bang…Bang…Bang…” I ran up the stairs and saw a small man lying on the ground with a bullet in the head. Blood was squirting out of his head. A large blood puddle formed around him. This man was short and stout. He had a round face with a round noise. He was almost bald. I knew him from somewhere. I always saw him on TV, speaking about the defense department. Then his name popped in my head. He was Defense Secretary Sir Gara Sitoni.

“Go Ren!” My dad yelled from across the room.

I could not go. I was petrified of what he had done. He has just killed the Defense Secretary. This was a Federal crime to the highest degree because the Defense Secretary was 4th in line to the throne. I was petrified too because I knew of the consequences. If you have are tried and are guilty of a Federal crime to the highest degree you will be punished by death. Not your death. Your friends or family’s death. I knew that could mean that I would die or that my mom would die because of this. I finally got out of my trance and I fully sprinted up the stairs, down the hall, and into my room.

I spent 5 hours in that room. I knew that my fate was locked in the moment he killed the defense secretary. I was going to die. There was no point for me to live know. My fate was always to die. It could have been in a war or an execution.

I then heard a knocking on the door and I said, “Come in.”

My dad walked in. My dad is really tall. About 6 foot 6 inches. He has a square face with a square nose. He always wears one outfit. An outfit made by the government for government workers. This outfit is grey and it has the badges that my father has been given. He does this because he thinks it will protect him. No one would ever dare kill or try to injure a government worker. His name is Mr. Janz Hardy.

“You do not need to worry-“

“-Why shouldn’t I worry? You know what they are going to do to me. The will kill me!” I yelled.

“I will protect you,” he says but I could tell that he is lying because he is looking away from me.

“I need you to tell me the truth. I only have a few months left. I want to know what is happening in the east.”

He sighs and says, “Alright. The city of Roggers in the east is fully controlled by the rebels. They are trying to take the entire eastern seaboard.”

“Who are they?” I ask.

“They are a large group of rebels. They all are from the eastern part of this nation. I think they formed 5 years ago. We do not know how to find where they start to form groups. We do not know who to look for. We also think that they could be here, in the city.”

“Have they had any progress?” I ask. Of course I want them to win. If they win I could have a chance to be saved.

“They only have the city of Roggers, but that does not mean they are not winning. Sources say they have infiltrated different cities across the nation. We believe that they will start using guerrilla warfare.”

“Would they ever attack here?”

“This is the capital city. Security is off the charts here. I do not know if they would ever dare to do it, but I would not be surprised if they did.”

We both looked at each other then. It was like we instantly connected to each other. I finally believed that he was good. I thought for some reason that he wanted to rebels to win.

“What were you guys arguing about downstairs?”

“We were talking about the rebellions in the east. They said that the solution was to have a mass execution of school kids. They thought that if they did this they could get the rebellion in check.  I said that I did not want to do this because it could harm you.”

“Thanks dad, but did you realize that by shooting the defense secretary you would harm me?”

“I am so sorry about that Ren. I do not want you to be killed. I will do everything in my power for me to be harmed, not you.”

“It’s ok dad. I was going to be executed anyway.”

He got up and said, “Rest a little bit. I will be up in a few hours with some food.”

Instead of resting a decided to go into my Jacuzzi. I got up and walked over to the bathroom. I went strait into the mirror. I looked just like my dad. I am not as tall as my dad though. I am 5 foot 7 inches. I looked at my muscles. I am not as strong as a bodybuilder but my muscles will do. I have a square face like my dad but my chin is a little pointy. I have a small round nose. And I have dirty blonde hair.

I went over to the Jacuzzi and turned on the water. I then took off all my clothes and walked right into the hot water. I stayed in the Jacuzzi for over 3 hours. I though about a plan. I could escape. I could make a ruckus and have all the government confused on where I was. I could try to fight them. Or I could just die.

I father walked in with a ham sandwich and a drink. He put it down on a table that swings out in front of me with a touch of a button.

“Enjoy. I will be downstairs figuring out a way for you to survive. Since it’s Sunday I want you to do your homework. Get out in 20 min.”

After about 20 minutes I got up and put on some of my “extravagant” clothes that my mother got for me. I walked out into my room and sat down on my bed with my backpack. I got out some math homework that I wanted to do before tomorrow. I then walked out of my room into the hall and into an office space. I sat down and finished every single peace of homework that I had.

It was 9:45 when my mother walked in.

“I think you need to get to bed. Tomorrow will probably be a hard day for you. I recommend that you do not tell anyone what happened.” Then she walked out.

I packed my homework, got up, and walked into my room. I then walked into my bathroom, brushed my teeth and washed my face, and went to the bathroom. I then jumped onto my bed and quickly fell asleep.

Art Review: Randle Aubrey on James Irvine Taylor’s exhibition at the CAP Gallery

The Community Arts Program (CAP) gallery and workshop is situated on a grimy corner of the SOMA district in San Francisco, about a mile south of the city’s towering monument to consumer excess, San Francisco Centre. Standing in the shadow of the glitz and polish shining proudly off of central SOMA’s fine art galleries, high fashion boutiques, and expensive hotels and restaurants, CAP is sandwiched, stubborn and proud, amongst a hodge-podge of liquor stores, strip clubs, sex shops, and various other peddlers of cheap gadgetry and fast gimmicks in the heart of the Tenderloin. A mixed bag of sidetracked tourists, vagrants, shoppers, and local businesspeople line the streets, hurriedly going about the affairs of the day with scarce a thought to the small, cramped workshop tucked away amongst a morass of commerce and vice. But to the more than 250 destitute, desperate artists of the Tenderloin who frequent CAP annually, it’s a sanctuary, a sacred place where they can bring their dreams to life and add some color and light to the dark, dreary world in which so many of them live.

Started by Central City Hospitality House in 1969 to give the poor and underprivileged residents of the Tenderloin access to creative resources that would otherwise be unobtainable to them, CAP believes that “these materials are the tools that provide an often-neglected outlet for creative freedom and, subsequently, they serve to enhance self-esteem and ambition.” As such, they offer the use of all of their supplies and materials free of charge, giving people like James Irvine Taylor, whose current exhibit “Futurists Utopians” is on display at the gallery, a chance to express themselves and find safe haven in a community of shared creativity and strife.

Brightly colored, well-defined, and full of hope, James’ work is a stark contrast to the realities of his everyday life. An unemployed, somewhat agoraphobic resident of a single-occupant housing development in the Tenderloin, James is an elderly man who shuns modern conveniences like e-mail, television, and even the telephone, mostly preferring the solitude of his small studio apartment where he can create his colorful Utopian futures in peace, rather than face the rigors of the everyday world. James rarely makes appearances at the gallery itself, according to Ivan Vera, CAP’s program manager, and as such I was not able to speak with him directly. But the man’s work clearly speaks for itself, and his clarity of vision is both immediately accessible and undeniably powerful.

Reaching into both the past and the future to achieve his vision, James mixes graceful and stately art deco sensibility with the neon glare and wild imagination of sixties-era sci-fi to create a vast, angular landscape of order, glory, and freedom. Graceful, androgynous figures dot the landscape, beckoning with promises of a bright, utopian future, while rigid lines and hard edges bring a stained-glass quality to nearly every piece, merging form and function with a designer’s eye and a philosopher’s heart. UFOs and automobiles feature prominently in his work, getaway vehicles offering promises of adventure and liberty out among the stars and planets scattered across a great number of his pieces. Throughout all of James’ work lies an undeniable sense of innocent wonder and defiant hope that, if you just keep dreaming and building, you can reach a better tomorrow.

To learn more about James Irvine Taylor and view his work, please visit the following link:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cchh_cap/sets/72157631848187082/with/8121181317/

Poetry from Michael Dickel

 

ANTHONY, THE SCISSORS-GRINDER

pushes his cart down Glen Ellyn streets—

bells call on faith, ring his path, haunt him.

They peal the small farm and lumber business

he left behind in Italy. Coming here?

 

The worst mistake I ever made. These rich people,

fah! They sharpen more than anybody,

they just don’t hear me. Steel strikes bronze,

calling out as he pushes on.

 

FALSE PROPHECY

Beware false prophets of war. Disquiet permeates the land. Two shadow armies have taken command, their soldiers drifting in and out of our daily lives barely noticed while their officers send dispatches of despair breaking across all fronts. Wave upon wave, these armies send dutiful servants into battle. They crash upon every shore. Sometimes they carry the day with them. Sometimes, we must give way to the rising tide of sorrow. Drowning, Arnold, stands remembering at Dover Beach, lacks resistance—all about despair, depression—one army from east, one from west, each beast, none rest. Shadow armies. Ashcroft in the night. Governments’ secret armies of terror. Panetta’s hidden delight. Armies of secret evidence, reliable reports, and covert actions. Contested and embattled, our identities attempt to unite around more than America (us) as the transnational identity (them) of with us or against us Bush. Exceptional America the tainted beauty. Ah, Mr. Hughes, let America be America again.

 

SALT SEA

We are ocean: in our blood, within our cells, around

each cell; sea salts ripple through, life to tide pools.

Each molecule, every atom, fertile ground,

floating in water, suspended in the rise and fall

as on a raft, but for the body, so many sounds call.

And I reach down to touch below, us, this living mud-mound.

Those who swim against the rip-tide become fools.

 

From the bottom of the Salt Sea that some call Dead,

round clusters of salt rise like hale from a great thunder storm.

Crystals blaze light, a thousand reflections that cannot be read—

some sand caught in a mud mold, nearly colored gold.

Squares of chemicals bonded into spheres of wonder, bold

harmonies of light transparent, translucent, seemingly led

in overtones to sing alongside confused melodies, the warm

sea lifting us to weightlessness under the stars. Voices whisper.

 

Many languages from many tongues, many tongues per nation,

the choirs’ songs a caterwauling call of difference, exclusion,

inclusion, collaboration, competition, cooperation,

jazz, folk, classical, religious, secular, avant-garde, new

cacophony of naked, starving, crazy minds that flew

dancing and crashed in the physicality of some sensation

that might be called communication. Each lover’s verb fusion,

each child’s adjective an aspect of the whole that we cannot form,

ein sof,” that is, without end. “Sof sof.” Finally. Finally, no rules.

 

THE WATCHMAKER’S SHOP

The bus slugs along modern highway number one,

but the path echoes back to a time of flint tools

and—where once groups of newly terrestrial bipeds

climbed down from the Baka’a ridge to the sea

and caravans wound through rock to markets—

grumbling diesels struggle up the mountains

with old cargoes of rock and timber and new

goods, hidden in steel boxes, for new markets.

 

I visited the watch repairman again last week.

His lumpy hands dexterous with tweezers that pop

watches open and reveal their inner works, he

checks the battery—it works, but the watch does not.

The clocks on his wall each tell a different story,

some refusing daylight savings time, some stopped

at an idiosyncratic moment, some on time and ticking.

The old man behind the counter wears his hours on his face

 

but his eyes show an inner working, iconoclastic as

the visages of stopped clocks. What sort of watchmaker

lets a clock stop and others rebel against industrious light?

How can each clock show its own time, some running,

some holding still as though waiting to tell something

no longer quite remembered? Only one of the three watches

I took to him runs again. I left with a new watch, though.

Time is slippery in the watchmaker’s world.

 

The other day I watched you reading. This morning

I saw your same face sleeping. Once, right after we made love,

your eyes shone with secret seasons. I recall on our first

evening together leaning on a railing speaking of much

and nothing to jazz music, somewhere near the Baka’a ridge.

An elderly poet gave me flint tools from that ridge.

You and I found a flint tool ourselves last week, or the week

before. Each stopped clock tells its story, eventually.

 

All time lumbers like this bus, up and down hills, unwinding

the paths others used to walk. Each stop holds a memory dear

to someone, somewhere. The watchmaker knows his craft:

Each clock, its own statement. Time carries us at an unreliable pace.

 

OR THIS A BIT CLOSER PERHAPS

penetrated. tumultuous. prism.

(fract(a(ll)ure)d) perspective (pre)viewed(post)

reified atom. sphere probability.

distributed. (in)equal(ity). particulate

(con(sum)ption) conspicuous absence

((dis(covered)un)likely). (hood(ed)).

reptile brain. monkey mind    .   sing-

(u)larity quant(um(atativ(e))quality)

fingered e=mC square(d). (root of

i). hemolytic. e(motion)al (v(amp)(pyre)).

fun(e)real erotica. (p(last)ic)ized.

battery acid. free (pa(pyr(e))us). sc(roll)

inserted. numismatic mnemonic

m(ark)er. m(ask) (dis(guise)d) of.

stretch.ed (fun)icular. (fun)iculus.

moment to (mo(me(a)nt)). annum to annum.

to empty. final. breath. exhaled. into.

night sky. (kaleid(o(colloid(collide

(a)scop(e))ic))). nacreous. time.

echoes. spinal. slippage. Into

 

Michael Dickel’s prize-winning poetry, stories, & photographs have appeared in journals, books, & online—including: SketchbookZeek, Poetry MidwestNeon Beamwhy vandalism?, & Poetica Magazine. He lives and works in Jerusalem at the moment. His latest book of poems is Midwest / Mid-East: March 2012 Poetry Tour ( http://www.amazon.com/Midwest-Mid-East-March-2012-Poetry/dp/1105569136).

“A Babe”: A poem by J’Rie Elliott

 

“A babe”

We celebrate in the winter—

Though he was born in spring.

We give gifts and greeting cards,

And of his greatness sing.

A child born of a virgin womb—

A gift blessed upon the earth.

A baby sent to save our souls,

Redeem us with his worth.

A guiding star did light their way,

And brought them by his side.

A lovely mother with her baby boy,

Sent from heaven to guide.

He gave us faith,

And gave us hope,

And walked upon the waves.

He turned our world from hopeless black,

And eternal lives he gave.

Celebrate this Christmas Day,

Sit around the tree.

Always remember to hug your child—

‘Cause it was babe who set you free

J’Rie Elliott is a mother, wife, daughter, and accomplished horseback rider from Alabama, USA. She can be reached at dixiepoet@gmail.com

The Propaganda Machine: Don’t Get Fooled Again (An essay by Randle Aubrey)

The other day, I stumbled across an article on the news site PoconoRecord.com regarding President Obama’s recent signing of the FAA Reauthorization Act, the appropriations bill for the Federal Aviation Administration. The focus of the article was on a section of the bill regarding unmanned aircraft systems, better known to most of the general public as “drones”. The rather ominous title of the article is “Attack Of The Drones”, and begins as follows:

“If you thought 1984 sounded bad, look overhead. Congress quietly passed a new law in February that could result in as many as 30,000 unmanned drones plying [the] nation’s skies by 2020.

The measure was part of the FAA Reauthorization Bill, which President Obama just as quietly signed. A component of the bill calls for the Federal Aviation Administration to develop regulations…by 2015.

Government doesn’t even have rules in place, yet our elected officials passed a bill that will increase surveillance…of just about anybody, anytime, anywhere?”

I’m sure you can imagine this author’s alarm after reading the first few paragraphs. The article goes on to describe how privacy advocacy groups are concerned about the bill’s implications, and the potential dangers to personal security if/when the usage of drones reaches the private sector. It closes with another reference to Orwell’s 1984, praising his prescience in seeing the future of surveillance, and an entreaty to the public to “demand that guidelines be in place before any more licenses are issued” in order to “avoid a floodgate of abuse and the disappearance of even the expectation of privacy at home.”

Scary stuff, right?

My knee-jerk response to this was highly typical of many of my peers on the Left: I freaked the fuck OUT. I immediately posted this to my Facebook feed, making some wisecrack about the President being a peacemaker, then issuing a digital scream heard far and wide…

“WHEN ARE YOU PEOPLE GOING TO WAKE THE FUCK UP?!?!?”

Well, someone did wake up as it turns out, and that someone was me.

About an hour after posting this, one of my friends on my Facebook feed responded to my call for alarm with some rather surprising information. It turns out that The Pocono Record is owned by Dow Jones Incorporated, the marketplace for some of the world’s largest textile and manufacturing companies(you’ve heard of the Dow Jones Index, right? Yeah, it’s those guys), which was until recently owned by none other than the Bancroft family, one of the wealthiest families in America and a textbook example of some of the worst the 1% has to offer.

He then went on to cite the specific text in the bill regarding unmanned aircraft systems, which makes no mention of the actual usage of the craft, only the requirement to establish regulations to do so by the aforementioned deadline.

The signing of a rather innocuous bill regarding FAA funding and safety compliance has been blown out of proportion by the ‘liberal media’, and turned into fodder for the propaganda machine. And #ThaPink was completely fooled.

As someone who rallies hard against the dangers of propaganda and the imminent hysteria contained in both the liberal and conservative echo chambers, you can imagine my surprise and shame at being so completely hoodwinked. Upon rereading the article, all of the fallacies and absolutist demagoguery contained within it quickly became glaringly obvious, further fueling my indignation:

-The arbitrary figure of 30,000 drones that cites no external reference

-The InfoWars-esque condemnation disguised as a question: “Government doesn’t even have rules in place, yet our elected officials passed a bill that will increase public and private electronic surveillance of just about anybody, anywhere, anytime?

-A reference to “privacy advocacy groups”, again with no cited organizations

-Blatant fear-mongering statements like, “[some drones] are tiny, as small as birds. You won’t be able to go to the bathroom or have sex without risking a witness.”

-Twisting facts to support the evidence and cast the FAA in the role of “Big Brother”

-A direct appeal to the reader’s newly-created false sense of fear and moral outrage

It’s clear that this article was written as an attack against the President and the supposed dangers of the ‘big government’ he represents, in order to stir up people’s emotions and prevent them from making clear-headed decisions about various issues. And in my particular case, it worked all too well.


When There Is No Product, The Product Is You

Propaganda is a very real thing in our everyday lives: we are constantly bombarded with it from every angle, every hour of every day. From the 24-hour news cycles of Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC to the endless stream of videos, podcasts and newsfeeds all over the face of the Internet, the endless struggle between liberal and conservative ideologies has turned into an all-out media war, where pundits and demagogues lend fire and weight to polarized identities through the relentless application of propaganda upon the citizenry.

However, the propaganda of both Left and Right do have one thing in common: they paint a false picture of America is, as well as what they think it should be. Propaganda relies on extremities of ideas in order to send direct messages, which requires a deliberate disregard for integrative complexity on behalf of its creators. From the patriotic stirrings of America’s golden years on behalf of the Right to President Obama’s 2012 election campaign call-to-arms, the simple “Forward”, both sides work in conjunction to create a false reality of polarized ideologies, an “us versus them” world where the politics of the parties trump the will of the people, starting from within each individual.

Arguably, the Left’s perspective of what America ought to be is a much kinder, gentler one than the homogeneous, hive-minded worldview of the Right, but the unfortunate truth of the matter is that the Left’s ideology is, in the end, just as unrealistic. It stresses far too much mankind’s altruistic tendencies without acknowledging our innate selfishness, coupled with a deep distrust of authority figures and an excess of individualism.  The idea of a nation where everyone gets along, people are free to be whomever they like, and everything is genuinely “fair and balanced”, fails to account for the fact that some people are just not going to get along no matter how much you try and make them, and the lack of respect for that fact only serves to the detriment of this ideology, by keeping Lefties in a near-constant state of apoplectic moral outrage over the fact that people won’t accept their lifestyle choices.

This lack of pragmatism on the part of the Left is more than made up for on the Right, a party brimming with authoritarianism and individuals with a deep-seated need to follow and obey. The might-makes right, “free market” morality espoused by the majority of conservatives, where some people are “more equal than others” as Orwell so eloquently put it, creates a profound and tangible sense of “in-group/out-group” tribalism, where demonizing the “other” in order to preserve community integrity takes primacy over things like social justice and equality.

But propaganda cannot exist in a vacuum. It relies upon certain aspects of human nature in order to work properly: aversion to uncertainty and ambiguity, the aforementioned concepts of justice and fair play, and the need for closure, among other things. These are universal traits that transcend partisanship and reach directly into people’s core values, no matter the particulars of their ideology. Granted, the relevance of each to egalitarians and authoritarians alike varies between individuals and party affiliations, but without these fundamental human traits, propaganda would not exist, nor would its necessity.


The Ultimate PR Machine: The Brain

Acknowledging propaganda’s effect on the self requires understanding the relationship between your values and your ideology, a fact clearly misunderstood by a large majority of the populace to the benefit of the body politic. Both inform and shape one another in your decision-making process, and the disproportionate influence of either on the psyche is what allows propaganda to flourish.

Coming to this understanding is no simple task, however. It first requires a great deal of introspection about both your values and your ideology, which is seldom done by anyone without a great deal of initial resistance. Depth of introspection is not an innate survival skill, rather a learned behavior based upon a combination of personal experience and genetic predisposition. Everyone undergoes this process throughout their waking lives, but most often unconsciously and with little thought given to consequence. And it’s not necessarily their fault.

I hear a lot of talk these days from both liberals and conservatives about media “echo chambers”, where not only the same ideas are endlessly repeated, but the same reactions to them, as well. These are tangible manifestations of partisan tribalism, where the homogenization of ideas serves only to preserve the in-group and to suppress dissenting opinions out of fear for ideological safety. In short, the echo chambers are little more than cadres of yes-men and yes-women, surrounding themselves with party rhetoric in order to find shelter from the intellectual storm. In the echo chamber, you don’t have to think: others will do it for you.

To quote Orwell once again, this sort of “groupthink” is particularly dangerous, and has become a self-perpetuating propaganda machine of its own. In the echo chambers, you have to agree with the group or at least act as such, or else risk being ostracized by your peers. But at that point, you have to ask yourself: if my opinion is different than everyone else’s, are they actually my peers or just people I disagree with? Am I crazy for daring to be different, or are they crazy for failing to be?

Surrounding yourself with yes-men doesn’t make you smarter; it only keeps you safe. Unchallenged opinions created treacherous chasms in the intellect, where the tendrils of propaganda can take root and slowly corrupt rational thought. We owe it to ourselves and to one another to break free of the choking restrictions placed upon us by groupthink, and to strive together to form more personalized ideologies based upon a deeper assessment of our values through communication, honesty and respect for one another.

At the end of the day, we all want the same things, regardless of political affiliation: peace, security, and personal well-being. But only through the difficult process of reconciling our beliefs with our behaviours will we be able make ourselves immune to the machinations of the propaganda machine, and create the society we truly desire: not the one we’re told is acceptably desirable.