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Posts from the ‘Art & Culture’ Category


#NF Dawn of the Belle Epoque

Alfred Sisley:  Fog, Voisins (1874)



Dawn of the Belle Epoque The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends by Mary McAuliffe by Mary McAuliffe Mary McAuliffe

Finish date: 17 January 2022
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: A

Bad news: No book is perfect…but I had to think very hard to find a minus point in this book.
It was long (400 pages). That is a lot to cover in 2 days. I have the next book on my reading list but will have to wait until I digest this one. Rightly Ms McAuliffe touches on the politics and science (..few pages about Mme Cure) in the Belle Epoque. Honestly, I’ve read about – seen movie about The Dreyfus Affair so felt I could skim these pages. Also George Clemeanceau and all his band of merry men…don’t interest me. Also…there were not many illustrations in the book so I had to depend on Wikipedia/Google.

Good news: Now the real reason to read this book is the world of literature, art, music and engineering! 75% of the book is about the wonderful world of French painters who dazzeled the world. We all know the list of names but I fell very much head over heels reading about Pissarro. He tends to fall into the back round when you think about Van Gogh, Renoir, Degas, Manet brothers and Monet. But Camille Pissarro was the father figure who nurtured and held these men together! PS: Did you know Pissarro was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands?

Good News Having read bio’s about B. Morisot and V. Hugo I could quickly get through the first chapters. Also I’ve read all 20 of Zola’s Rougon-Macquart books….so references to Nana or L’Assommier, L’Oeuvre were familiar characters to me. I knew nothing about the great 4 composers Claude Debussy, D’Indy, Ravel and the wonderful Saint-Saëns. If you do anything listen to his Carnival des Animaux on Spotify…just breathtaking. This book contains tidbits of information that have slipped between the cracks of Wikipedia!

Good news: There were interesting chapters about the history of
the Pantheon in Paris (…..Victor Hugo thought is a wretched copy of St. Peter’s in Rome!) Statue of Liberty – Eiffel Tower. There were…steamy love affairs: between Debussy and older Mme Vasnier (married). Another affair between Claude Monet and Mme Alice Hoschedé (married) was very touching…they stayed devoted to each other for life! Loved the back round information about Rodin’s famous sculpture “The Kiss”…was it inspired by his affair with Camille Claudel or Dante’s Inferno 2nd level Francesca en Paolo?

Good news: Auguste Escoffier shook-up the world of haute cuisine and created Pêche Melba for Australian singer Nellie Melba and Fraises Bernhardt for Sarah, the great French actress. He was just as revolutionary as anything Rodin, Seurat, Debussy or Gustave Eiffel were doing! He looked at restaurant meals from a woman’s point of view….as every chef should!

Good news: Did I learn something I never heard about? Sarah Bernhardt was not only an actress but also a sculptor. I got a peak at the installation plans for the Statue of Liberty and Tour Eiffel. Learned about the uproar the controversial sculpture The Bronze Age by Rodin created. The model was a Belgian soldier and so lifelike no one believed it was not made with a plaster caste of the body! What a body! (see Wikipedia)

Personal While reading this book I had Spotfy to listen to the music of the composers and Wikipedia to have the many works of art (don’t forget the beautiful Art Nouveau illustrations by Alphonse Mucha….beautiful!) by the painters at my fingertips. It is the best way to read this book. Finally after having collected dust on my TBR for 5 years…I discovered this gem!


JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters 

“History would be an excellent thing if only it was true” (Leo Tolstoy)

  • Author:  J. Douglass, Pete Larkin
  • Title:  JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters  (518 pg)
  • Published: 2008
  • Genre:  non-fiction
  • Challenge 2020
  • Monthly plan



  1. This book still haunts me.
  2. I feel in the 1960s that I have been taken for a fool.
  3. Warren Report about the Kennedy assassination?
  4. You can just shred it and use it in the kitty litter box.
  5. Worthless.



  1. The assassination of JFK left an indelible mark on me.
  2. I came home from school and heard on th TV as Walter Cronkite
  3. announced, with tears in his eyes, that  JFK was dead.
  4. The nation mourned, the world mourned.
  5. Who killed JFK?
  6. It is no secret now
  7. …it was the CIA
  8. …it was a coup d’etat.
  9. Lee Harvey Oswald was only a product of a fake defector program run by CIA
  10. …and groomed as a despensible scapegoat for the killing of a presdent.
  11. The tapestry of President Kennedy’s killing is enormous.


  1. This is an encyclopedic work that covers a vast amount of research.
  2. While elements of organized crime and Cuban exiles were very likely
  3. recruited to the ‘Big Event’ the plotters came from
  4. the military – big business – CIA – FBI – Secret Service – LBJ
  5. That is why the cover-up persists today.
  6. The book also mentions several people who ‘died mysteriously’
  7. shortly before and after the assassination.
  8. This brought me to a book published in 2013
  9. ….that has not gotten much
  10. attention on non-fiction reading lists:


  1. Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation into the
  2. …Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination.
  3. Also Crossfire by Jim Marrs (1989)  and
  4. Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy,
  5. Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace (2013).
  6. #MustReads if you want to know more about 22 November 1963.


Last thoughts:

  1. After fifty-six years, the official spin
  2. remains of a  the lone nut assassin.
  3. When will this lie finally be eradicated?
  4. So devastating to read how so many people’s lives were ended
  5. because they knew or saw too much.
  6. The prostitute ‘Sharlee’ thrown out of bar the Silver Slipper.
  7. She ends up in hospital 2 days before the assassination and
  8. announces that Kennedy will be killed in Dallas!
  9. She was killed in 1964.
  10. A man’s life is ruined because  he gave Lee Harvey Oswald a lift while
  11. …he was carrying a package of curtain rods
  12. …a few days before 22 November 1963.
  13. He told his story and ended up in a prison and mental institutions  for 11 years
  14. …he was clearly not stable according the ‘powers that be.’


  1. The US government consistently and intentionally
  2. misrepresented and lied about what really took place
  3. in Dallas on 22 November 1963.
  4. You cannot deny it….US government is corrupt.
  5. Like Rome before it ….America is indeed burning.
  6. Now when I watch the US news
  7. ….I think “what is REALLY going
  8. ….on behind closed doors in The White House?
  9. President Donald Trump blocked the
  10. …release of an unknown number of documents,
  11. saying he had “no choice” but
  12. to bow to national security concerns of the FBI and CIA.
  13. The deadline for releases was on 26 April 2018.
  14. Who knows what we will learn when the last 1% is released.
  15. I hope I live to hear  the truth!
  16. Essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest
  17. in the assassination, and, of course, for every history major.
  18. #MustRead





Brett Whiteley Australian Artist

  • Author: Ashleigh Wilson
  • Title: Brett Whiteley: Art, Life and the Other Thing
  • Genre: biography
  • Reading time:  13 hours 25 min (audio book)
  • Published: 2017
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly plan
  • Trivia: #ABIA 2017  short list (Australian Book Industry Awards)
  • @ashleighbwilson
  • @artgalleryofNSW
  • @ABIAs_Awards



  1. Of all the Australian painters who emerged during the mid
  2. 20th century Brett Whiteley  was the (Wikipedia link for more info)
  3. most mercurial, the most ambitious
  4. to make an impact on the world at large.
  5. I had NEVER heard of Brett Whiteley
  6. …and realize it was my loss.
  7. Delighted to discover this brilliant
  8. biography by Ashleigh Wilson.


Brett Whitely:

  1. Born in Australia, Whiteley moved to Europe in 1960 determined to make an impression.
  2. Before long he was the youngest artist to have work acquired by the Tate.
  3. With his wife, Wendy (1941), and daughter, Arkie (1964-2001), Whiteley
  4. then immersed himself in bohemian New York.
  5. Despite many affairs…Brett proclaims that
  6. he and his wife Wendy “We’re lifers.”
  7. His art depended on his relationship to Wendy.
  8. It had been that way since his early abstractions.


Ashleigh Wilson:

  1. He has been a journalist for almost two decades.
  2. He received a Walkley Award for his reports on unethical behavior
  3. in the Aboriginal art industry, a series that led to a Senate inquiry.
  4. He has been The Australian’s Arts Editor since 2011.
  5. Wilson follows the chronological order of Whiteley’s paintings:
  6. Early works
    Bathroom series (sensual sketches of Wendy)
    John Christie (serial killer)  & London Zoo
    Lavender Bay, Australia
    The studio & late works



  1. Brett Whiteley (1939 – 1992)
  2. died from a drug overdose.
  3. He was an heroin addict.
  4. The deeper problem was that his
  5. dependency was entwined with his art.
  6. Like many addicts he found it hard to imagine life sober.
  7. Heroin provided stability...
  8. …and to live without it was like to peering into darkness.
  9. It was one thing to be clean for his health
  10. …but what would it mean for his art?
  11. He was found dead at the Beach Motel, Thirroul Australia.
  12. This expansive biography
  13. Wilson gave the essential details about the death.  (ch 22)
  14. Chapters 1-21 concentrate on the
  15. …richness and variety of Whiteley’s work
  16. …and the many exhibitions he held and  prizes won.
  17. #ExcellentBiography
  18. Worth your reading time!


Strong point:

  1. Ashleigh Wilson Wilson takes the reader through a
  2. virtual art gallery describing and assortiment
  3. …of Brett Whiteley’s paintings.


Portrait of Patrick White (Brett Whiteley)

  1. Photo in frame….Emmanuel George “Manoly” Lascaris
  2. Look at White’s eyes and
  3. ….Centennial Park in the backround.


Portrait Vincent van Gogh

  1. On the table….a candle, a pipe, a letter to Theo and a razor.
  2. Two arrows:
  3. towards the right = good, light and sanity
  4. towards the left = evil, darkness and madness

Portrait of Gauguin

  1. Gaughin on the eve of his attempted suicide
  2. We see ‘The Tree of Knowledge, photograph of Van Gogh and a woman’s body.
  3. Brett had extended the right side to an ear shape with a bottle with a white substance
  4. labled ‘Arsenic’.

Portrait Wendy (wife)

  1. Brett Whiteley was a master draughtsman.
  2. This sketch reveals his command of line.
  3. The way Brett could capture the essence of his
  4. subject with only a few simple sweeps.


Henri’s Armchair

  1. This is Brett Whiteley’s debt to Matisse.
  2. He painted the interior of Lavender Bay where the
  3. …water can be seen through the window
  4. …frame at the end of the room beyond the arches.
  5. It is a domestic workmanlike scene.
  6. Two legs  on the couch and used matches
  7. …are scattered on the coffee table.
  8. There is a vase and notebook on which is written the title of the painting.
  9. As in the works of his historical model, Matisse,
  10. ….there are notes of domesticity:
  11. bed, open fire, and several works of Whiteley in the room
  12. …a sculpture, a nude drawing and an erotic drawing.
  13. There is a deep red brown color in the house
  14. …but the blue is all around.


My Armchair

  1. This was the most expensive painting in Brett’s
  2. September 1976 Australian Galleries exhibition.
  3. This painting’s was priced for 10.000 dollars.
  4. This was a companion piece for “Henri’s Armchair”.
  5. The blue soaked canvas inside Brett’s studio including
  6. pictures (B/W = ‘Inside an Avocado Tree’), sculptures
  7. …a view out to the Sydney Harbour and the chair in which
  8. …he sat to reflect on the art around him.



Another way of Looking….Vincent

  1. Whiteley pays homage to Vincent van Gogh and
  2. …the profound influence this Dutch post-impressionist
  3. painter had on Whiteley throughout his career.


  1. I had to include some of the most beautiful sketches/paintings of birds!
  2. Whiteley first came to notice the captivating beauty of birds
  3. …in July 1969 during a blissful five-month stay in a small cottage
  4. in the village of Navutulevu, about eighty kilometres from Suva in Fiji.
  5. The couple, with their five year-old daughter Arkie,
  6. lived simply and happily and enjoyed their
  7. island paradise after the turmoil and bustle of New York.
  8. Wendy Whiteley summed the period up well: ‘We really did live in Paradise there.”







The sunrise, Japanese: Good morning




Bookcover: (self-portrait)


#AusReadingMonth 2019 Madeleine O’ Dea


Madeleine O’Dea:

  1. Madeleine O’Dea is a journalist and foreign correspondent.
  2. She has been an eyewitness for over 30 years to the rise of China.
  3. She has witnessed the explosion of China’s  contemporary art.



  1. Madeleine O’Dea tell us the personal stories
  2. of nine contemporary Chinese artists.
  3. The Phoenix Years shows how China’s rise unleashed creativity
  4. and sparked tensions between the individual and the state.
  5. The book reveals…
  6. the difficult compromises artists and others
  7. have to make …to be citizens in modern China.



  1. The artists in this book were reared in the post-Mao Zedong era.
  2. They are known to avoid  the overly political themes of previous generations.
  3. They concentrate  on merging classical Eastern modes of art-making
  4. …with contemporary issues.


What makes this book so unique?

  1. Ms. O’Dea explores how the
  2. past weighed down on China
  3. …and what is happening now
  4. …in modern China (muscular government).
  5. But she does this while investigating the question:
  6. “Where were the artists in all this?


Strong point:   I was introduced to many contemporary Chinese artists:


Huang Rui  (1952) (plays a prominent role in this book)

  1. Huang experienced firsthand the Cultural Revolution (1966–76).
  2. As a teenager,  he was sent from Beijing to Inner Mongolia
  3. to work on a farm under Mao Zedong’s reeducation campaign.
  4. Upon Mao’s death in 1976, which led to the end of the revolution,
  5. the political climate loosened and a wave of cultural ferment swept the nation.
  6. He experimented with Impressionist, Cubist and Fauvist styles.
  7. Stars (group of artists)  disbanded in 1984, with several of its
  8. practitioners moving overseas.
  9. Huang, who married a Japanese woman the same year,
  10. then entered the first of two periods of self-exile in Japan.
  11. He didn’t return to Beijing to settle down permanently until 2002.


Cao Fei  (1978)

  1. She Cao taps into popular culture and draws from
  2. classic arcade games to show how the notion of escapism.
  3. She was born in 1978 in Guangzhou  on the
  4. Pearl River and the manufacturing center of China.
  5. She grew up absorbing the various influences
  6. that flooded her hometown and focused on
  7. creating art that examined China’s economic boom.


Guo Jian (1961)

  1. He migrated to Australia in 1992 working as a house painter, brickie.
  2. Today the  National Gallery of Australis, GOMA and White Rabbit are among
  3. the Australian institutions that have collected his work.
  4. Guo Jian has been creating photographs he took in China on the piles of
  5. rubbish that are obliterating the landscape of his youth. (Rubbish Culture)


Zhang Xiaogang (1958)

  1. He is a Chinese symbolist and surrealist painter.
  2. He is famous with his Bloodline series, where mostly monochromatic,
  3. stylized portraits of Chinese people are presented as
  4. part of the artist’s exploration of the ‘family’ concept.
  5. He reconciles China’s choppy recent history in art
  6. …and is one of the most important painters working in China today.
  7. Here is a great link “Zhang Xiaogang explained in 5 paintings


  1. Ms O’ Dea’s book combines information about
  2. Chinese economic transformation
  3. and what was happening in private lives.
  4. Core message: how closely intertwined process of artistic
  5. …and economic awakening were for China.
  6. I had difficulty following all the names
  7. mentioned until I discovered that at the
  8. end of the book is glossary of all artists.
  9. Look at their photographs b/c it is
  10. easier to follow if you can connect a name to a face.
  11. The book pivots in chapter 6!
  12. The narrative is more personal and
  13. we follow Ms O’Dea back to China in 1993.
  14. She shares what she feared she would find.


Last thoughts:

  1. This book was amazing.
  2. Once I discovered the structure of the narrative
  3. it was all smooth reading.
  4. Ms O’Dea introduces the artists in chapters 1-5
  5. and we meet them again 20 years
  6. later at the end of the book.
  7. Buckle up for a wonderful ride
  8. …through modern China that you don’t find on Wikipedia!
  9. #Bravo

#Valentine’s Day 2019


Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs (1864)

  1. …is a painting in the National Gallery of Ireland
  2. …by Irish artist Frederic William Burton (1816-1900).
  3. Based on a medieval Danish ballad about the ill-starred love between
  4. Hellelil and her bodyguard, Hildebrand,
  5. …it features the lovers sharing a fleeting moment of intimacy.
  6. Things don’t go well for them.
  7. When her father discovers their attachment he orders
  8. ..that her seven brothers should kill Hildebrand.
  9. But the bodyguard turns out to be a formidable adversary.
  10. He has killed  six of the brothers and Hellelil’s father.
  11. Hellelil  intervenes to save the life of her surviving sibling.
  12. Hildebrand succumbs to his wounds and
  13. …she decides she cannot live without him.
  14. #Breathtaking

Cast of Characters: Golden Age of The New Yorker

Wolcott Gibbs, Dorothy Parker, James Thurber

  • Author: T. Vinciguerra
  • Title: Cast of Characters: Golden Age of the New Yorker
  • Published: 2016
  • Trivia: #NonFicNov
  • Trivia: List Reading Challenges 2017



  1. The New Yorker has and still is beyond rivalry to a
  2. position of supremacy among American magazines.
  3. It has attained this  by its the quality of writing.
  4. Of course, aspects of the New Yorker have always irritated people
  5. …its arrogant elegance.
  6. Raymond Chandler wrote:
  7. “Beyond the superficial sophistication the whole attitude of the
  8. New Yorker seems to me to have that same touch
  9. …of under-graduate sarcasm. (Ouch!)  (pg 206)


  1. But I have not lived a day of my life without the magazine.
  2. It was in our house in 1950’s.
  3. I adored the cartoons of Charles Addams as a child.
  4. I am still  addicted to the short fiction and profiles pieces.
  5. Book and movie, theater reviews?
  6. The New Yorker is my ‘first go-to source’.
  7. Hilton Als  is the current theater critic.
  8. He  has been awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.
  9. Hilton Als never disappoints
  10. His reviews are literary works of art, magnificiant!
  11. He introduced me to some new  American Theater playwrights
  12. who are  serious, original, and deeply ambitious.
  13. Here are only a few worth reading….
  14. Annie Baker, Thomas Bradshaw, Lucas Hnath, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins,
  15. ,….Richard Maxwell, Sarah Ruhl, and Young Jean Lee.


  1. I have had a subscription to the New Yorker
  2. …for more than 40 years here in The Netherlands.
  3. It is my most treasured ‘link and contact’  to the old country.
  4. I’ve read a biography of Dorothy Parker,
  5. What Fresh Hell is This
  6. Collection of Essays by E.B. White  and
  7. …many books by James Thurber.
  8. But I knew nothing about the abrasive Wolcott Gibbs.
  9. He was the  theater critic from 1938 until his death in 1958.
  10. Wolcott wrote  some of the magazine’s most remembered pieces.
  11. Wolcott Gibbs is by far the central character in this book
  12. .…followed by
  13. E.B. White, James Thurber, A.J. Liebling, Harold Ross, William Shawn
  14. …Charles Addams and Katherine White.
  15. Curiously…there was very little mention of Dorothy Parker
  16. …and Richard Bentley!
  17. If you love the New Yorker this is a …
  18. #MustRead



The New Yorker 24 July 2017

Cover:  “Grounded”  by Barry Blitt

This week we read about  Barry Blitt (1958) . He is a Canadian-born American artist. Blitt creates his works in traditional pen and ink, as well as watercolors.

He won first prize best cover of the year 2006 depicting President Bush being flooded in the Oval Office after Hurricane Katrina It is  entitled “Deluged”  and appeared on the Sept. 19, 2005 issue

President Barack Obama chose one of Blitt’s New Yorker covers to hang in the White House. The cover depicts the President picking the family dog at the same time as he is vetting candidates for his national security cabinet.


I had difficulty reading through this issue of The New Yorker.

It seems my favorite (…perhaps the best) writers are lounging on a beach somewhere.

Fortunately there were three writers  that did capture my attention.

Danielle Allen : Personal Historya political theorist and the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard. Danielle Allen is an academic and gives us a rivieting story about her cousin. “My cousin became a convicted felon in his teens. I tried to make sure he got a second chance. What went wrong?”  This was a very good article about Allen’s struggle to save a beloved cousin from sinking into the swamp of LA South Central criminal world. (photo: Sharon Renee Hartley)

Hua Hsu: Book critic –  contributor to The New Yorker. He is currently an associate professor of English at Vassar College.   This article was very informative…as I did not know much about Bob Marley. He  became a model for how artistic legacy has turned into an industry of its own.

Amazing:  2016, Forbes calculated that Marley’s estate brought in twenty-one million dollars, making him the year’s sixth-highest-earning “dead celebrity,”…”



Hilton Als : Theater critic –  Hilton Als, a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1994, has been awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.
Hilton Als never disappoints….his reviews are literary works of art,   magnificiant!
He mentions some American Theater playwrights in this review  who are  serious, original, and deeply ambitious. Perhaps their plays might interest you:
Annie Baker, Thomas Bradshaw, Lucas Hnath, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Richard Maxwell, Sarah Ruhl, and Young Jean Lee.
This week Hilton Als reviews:
Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau is an American playwright.
Morisseau grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Her mother’s family is from Mississippi.
Her father’s family is from Haiti
Morisseau is on the list of Top 20 Most Produced Playwrights
in America 2015–16, with 10 productions of her plays being produced

A mother’s hopes for her son clash with an educational system rigged against him in PIPELINE.  This looks like an explosive play to read or if you are lucky

….to watch at The Lincoln Center in NYC.

This is a deeply moving story of a mother’s fight to give her son a future — without turning her back on the community that made him who he is.

Playwright: Dominique Morisseau      #MustRead play   Pipeline



James Wood:  Book critic – staff writer and book critic at The New Yorker since 2007.

Moving Kings    by  Joshua Cohen

  1. I always look forward to reading book reviews….but cannot for the life of me
  2. ..enjoy James Woods’ comments.
  3. His Book review  lacks a certain sensitivity that makes the article work.
  4. You have to be careful to write at the level of ALL the readers in the audience.
  5. This is not always an easy task.
  6. Unfortunately I went through Woods’ review asking myself:
  7. “Really, what does this mean?
  8. Am I crazy? Why can’t I figure out what this means”
  9. I will close with a few examples of phrases I had difficulty with:
  10. — his fiction displays the stretch marks of its originality
  11. What does this mean? Typical phrase to confuse instead of clarify!
  12. — sentences are loaded with the refuse of the real,
  13. with ….informational surplus of postmodernity. (sigh)
  14. sentence is also a micro-adventure in abundance!
  15. — ..David’s Jewishness has been atavistically reflexive… (hugh?)
  16. –unpersuaded by Cohen’s thematic ambitions, by this stabbing at similitudes
  17. I rest my case.
  18. This is the last review by James Wood I’m ever reading!


Moving Kings

The New Yorker 03 July 2017

Read:  09.07.2017 –  Yes  I did it! Read The New York the same week it arrived!


  1. This week’s cover is by Kadir Nelson.
  2. I think this video clip (5 min) will give you and idea
  3. who the man is behind some of the greatest paintings by an African-American.


Fiction:  Italo Calvino short story “ The Adventure of the Skier

  1. Calvino at the time of his death in 1985  was the most translated contemporary Italian writer.
  2. The collection ‘Difficult Loves’ was first translated in 1985 but
  3. 4 short stories were missing from the original book (1970).
  4. This short story is one of them.
  5. It is published  in this issue of the New Yorker here for the first time in English.


  1. Amit Majmudar: The Beard
  2. Chana Bloch: Dying for Dummies
  3. I will read and review  short story and poems later.
  4. Truth be told…after reading the complete issue I’m
  5. to exhausted to concentrate on  literature (story, poems).


Emily Nussbaum: Television critic – Pulitzer Prize winning critic

  1. Emily Nussbaum (Pulitzer Prize winning TV critic)
  2. Her review of the new series ‘GLOW” and “CLAWS” is fantastic.
  3. She is the best writer in this issue.…no one comes close to her
  4. literary pyrotechnics !


Masha GessenLetter From Moscow Russian/American journalist, author

  1. This is a shocking story about people from Chechnya
  2. who survived detention and torture (gays).
  3. They are now living undercover in Putin’s Russia.
  4. Chechnya is a state within a state, run by Kadyrov,
  5. He is supported by Vladimir Putin.
  6. Kadyrov’s Chechnya is a more extreme version of Russia.


James LasdunAppointment with Death –  British writer, teaches creative writing in NY

  1. Adultery, false identities, and a lethal sedation….
  2. This is a  recap of  a baroque courtroom drama
  3. that unfolded in upstate New York.
  4. The Kingston dentist who was acquitted last year of
  5. …killing his lover’s husband was sentenced on January 31 2017  to a
  6. maximum of seven years in state prison for numerous unrelated charges
  7. Lasdun explains to us the murder…and unrelated charges!
  8. This was an excellent…and very amusing article!
  9. Lasdun writes beautifully, but others have found his books lacking
  10. the qualities readers value most: ability to sustain their interest
  11. for anything longer than a long short story.
  12. Well, at least this short story kept me reading!


Jeffrey ToobinFeeding the Beast – American lawyer, legal analyst The New Yorker.

  1. I just loved this article.
  2. David J. Pecker is the Chairman and CEO of American Media (publisher).
  3. Pecker has been alleged as serving as a sycophant to Donald J. Trump.
  4. Pecker is eager to use his media empire to help his friends,
  5. especially Trump, and unabashedly boasts about doing so.
  6. Pecker’s magazines have no subscribers and is dependant on
  7. ‘impluse’ buyers (325.000 per week)  at the check-out counter.
  8. His most famous tabloid in the National Enquirer.
  9. What sells?
  10. Younger generation looks for:
  11. – Kelly Ripa, Jennifer Aniston, Brad and Angelina. (J-Lo does not sell.)
  12. Older generation looks for:
  13. – Dolly Parton and the Kennedys
  14. Headlines that sell:
  15. …“sad last days” –  “six months to live” – What she’s hiding!” – “Packs on 40 pounds!”
  16. Subjects that sell:  revelations about plastic surgery and a criminal past.


Amy Davidson – Health Care Bill – staff writer 

  1. I try to understand the health care system in America…but fail miserably.
  2. In The Netherlands…Dutch residents are automatically insured by the government.
  3. Everyone has to take out their own basic healthcare insurance.
  4. Those under 18 who are automatically covered under their parents’ premium.
  5. Period.
  6. In America the health care rules  just keeps changing.
  7. Amy Davidson wrote  an article  in this issue
  8. …that I can finally understand. (new health care bills in progress)
  9. The House and the Senate bills both allow the
  10. states to waive the essential-benefit requirements.
  11. In America, the category of the vulnerable is a broad one.
  12. Many  people led middle-class or even affluent lives,
  13. until their savings were consumed by the cost of residential care,
  14. which is not covered by Medicare.
  15. Nearly two-thirds of nursing-home patients are on Medicaid.
  16. This is just the introduction….
  17. …we shall wait and see how the government votes!


Alex Ross: –  Departures….. He is  staff writer for The New Yorker, music critic

  1. Ross recaps the opera season at The Met in New York City.
  2. Sadly I read that one of my favorite singers, Renée Fleming, may soon retire.
  3. I was able to see her once in Londen, what a voice!
  4. Puccini’s Madame Butterfly
  5. ….skin shivers when she hits the high notes!

Opera goers have changed:

  1. Very few voice geeks who could identify transpositions, cuts, and optional high notes.
  2. Rising ticket prices have made habitual attendance harder.
  3. You hear less informed buzz around you.
  4. You see more people sneaking looks at their phones.


Opera The Met (NYC) facts:

  1. Attendance at the Met has been generally poor of late
  2. The Met now brings in only 67% of its potential box-office revenue.  (1990′  was it 90%)
  3. The capacity of The Met 4000 meaning that
  4. to fill the house the Met must sell around  900.000 tickets each season.
  5. The Met is trapped in its behemoth house (Lincoln Center, NYC)
  6. …a relic of a culturally ambitious America that no longer exists.




Passagère du Silence

  • Author: Fabienne Verdier
  • Title: Passagère du Silence
  • Published: 2003


In 1985, at 22, Fabienne Verdier left for China to study at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Chongqing. She devoted 10 years of her life in China to follow the ardous study needed to master calligraphy.
This book takes the reader on her journey trying to ‘fit in’, making herself heard (language barrier) and finally learning from her maître Huang not only the essence of painting…but of  life.
“Nourish your spirit not only through ‘book knowledge’ (connaissance livresque)…but more importantly. Nourish your spirit through
the reality that surrounds you, your dreams your memories.”
After becoming the first foreign woman to be awarded a post-graduate diploma in fine arts by the institute, Verdier began to create her own new abstract painting.

Desk where she works in solitude to prepare her paintings.


She uses large Chinese brushes to draw, that are mounted to an iron beam that hangs from the ceiling high studio 12 meter. The brushes are made by horse’s tails and they absorb a large amount of color. It is a real body dance where all the movements are smooth and graceful.



  1. This book is about an amazing woman who dared to achieve her dream.
  2. Calligraphy is a passage of silence.
  3. In Verdier’s quest for silence she attempted to
  4. …find the fundamental unity of the universe and mystical beauty. (ch 12)
  5. The training was rigorous. Her maîtres were demanding.
  6. She spent months just drawing horizontal lines.
  7. When she asked to paint with color….she was told no.
  8. She must first learn that in monochrome, ‘l’encre de Chine’ there are
  9. a million and one lights of the universe.
  10. After I finished this book …I slept a deep, deep sleep.
  11. It was the strangest effect the book had on me.
  12. I have struggled for many years to learn French, reading and reading for hours.
  13. One piece of advice maître Huang gave
  14. …Fabienne Verdier resonnated in me:
  15. Stop thinking, wanting, calculating. Don’t force yourself or try to extract something
  16. out of yourself (master the French language, in my case…) at all costs.
  17. Go outside, talk to a bird, regret nothing…that should be your inspiration.
  18. Then and only then…will you create art.



  • Author: H. Janssen
  • Title: Mondriaan
  • Published: 2008
  • Table of contents: 285 pages


  1. It has taken me many years but I finally have learned
  2. about Piet Mondriaan’s paintings.
  3. Mondriaan was convinced that art is
  4. not instinctive – continuing evolution in art
  5. but intuitive where the artist leads art to its purest form.
  6. All the paintings and drawings by Piet Mondiraan (1872-1944)
  7. in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag (The Hague) are discussed.
  8. Mondriaan was a firm believer that
  9. ….everything evolves towards the positive, the good.
  10. His art progressed from beautiful landscapes
  11. to combinations of curved, vertical and
  12. ….horizontal lines to capture images of nature.
  13. Mondriaan’s greatest work of art is the jewel in the crown of
  14. the museum in The Hague: Victory Boogie Woogie (1942-1944)
  15. I learned by reading about Mondriaan’s art the each work
  16. had an objective side, the beauty of the painted object
  17. and a subjective side, the expression of  Mondriaan’s emotions.
  18. Mondriaan was a complex man.
  19. He loved jazz, the tango and cafés
  20. ….but struggled with his Dutch puritan backround.
  21. He suffered from everything that he thought was beautiful.
  22. He loved the sun
  23. but wanted a house built without windows.
  24. Here are some of my favorites….
  25. Borderij bij Duivendrecht  (farm)
  26. Duin (Dune)
  27. Chrysant
  28. Victory Boogie Woogie

Piet Mondriaan (1872-1944)

MONDRIAAN zelfportrait b865bf31ae61fac2b13cd56368506d5863fdc63d