Wednesday, April 3, 2013

ARTBLOX (continued)

This is the second installment of ARTBLOX I have made for the Mary Lou Zeek Gallery, in Salem (Oregon). There is no money involved and the people who buy them do so by buying a $10 token and dropping it into a reconfigured cigarette machine. I have had a lot of fun with this project and have pretty much taken it seriously as a way to make a social comment or a statement on art.

Mary Lou liked the first "Girls Who Smoke" ARTBLOX so much, I decided to make a second, but I switched out the back for another photo from the series by photographer Frieke Janssens of children smoking. I added a stoma to the girl on the front.

This one was designed as a statement on world population, which, truth be told,
came to me 
after thinking the dimensions of the block would lend themselves
to a visual of a can of sardines. 
The sides all have population factoids.

This one was actually inspired by a Lily Tomlin skit I saw her perform years ago.

This seemed like an obvious successor to the Art/Soup and features Andy Warhol's banana from the first Velvet Underground record and a photograph I took on W 11th Street, 
in Portland. I inadvertently positioned the photo upside down, but it is kind of hard 
to tell. If you happen to get it from the ARTBLOX machine, let me know and I'll 
replace it... or consider it a real collector's item, like that upside down biplane stamp. 

Botticelli is one of my favorite artists, and the Birth of Venus is one of my favorite 
of his paintings. This was actually a re-do, where I cut and reconfigured the painting up a little, to better conform to the dimensions of the block. 

"Ceci n'est pas une bloc de l'art"

"Ceci n'est pas une pipe"

Having fun with René Magritte.


Mary Lou Zeek has come up with a great way for artists to help other artists and have a heck of a lot of fun in the process. The Mary Lou Zeek Gallery has a refurbished cigarette machine, retooled to dispense, instead of cigarettes, original works of art. People are encouraged to buy a $10 token (or two) and let chance take its course. You don't know what you're going to get... a lovely painted block, an assemblage or collage, or in my case, photos and digital photo-mointages wrapped around the block. I just brought seven completed blocks to the gallery yesterday and told Mary Lou how much fun I had doing them. As a 2D designer and photographer, I found creating three-dimensional pieces challenging and, like I say, a lot of fun. Proceeds of the sales go toward the Artist Relief Program, assisting local artists in case of personal financial emergencies. Mary Lou Zeek's gallery is at 335 State Street, in Salem. Participate or purchase! Who knows? You may end up with an original Shapiro!!! 

Natalia among the Ruins (from a digital montage)


Girls who Smoke (1)
Doctors Recommend Smoking

El Gallo esta Muerto

These two ARTBLOX were an attempt to turn a couple of my landscape photographs into three dimensional art pieces. It was an interesting experiment and compelled me to look at my work in a different way... to "walk around the image" as it were

Friday, March 22, 2013


Note: this was originally posted on on July 14, 2012

Every morning when I get up, I read the obituary page. If my name's not there, I shave. George Burns.

I've been subscribing to Mr. Burns' philosophy for wuite some time. Once, years ago, I saw my name in the obits in the Los Angeles Times as I was waiting to board a plane. You can bet I visited the Mutual of Omaha kiosk before boarding.

* * *

For over five years, I have cut out obituaries from The Oregonian (and, in the instance of two of the finished montages, from The New York Times). What I found fascinating is the way the deceased–or their family members–choose to be remembered. The obituaries that catch my eye are the ones the feature a photograph from the person's prime. 

At about the same time I began clipping and scanning the obituaries, I took a half dozen or so close-up photographs of stapled and nailed surfaces of the wooden power poles along Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland.

They stood on their own, as studies of tactile surfaces converging in graphic compositions. I cannot say what compelled me to bring the obituaries and power pole close-ups together.

The first montages were more a visual/graphic experiment, developing the integration of the various elements in a cohesive composition. As the process unfolded, it revealed a direction — a relationship between words and images—a narrative on both the life of the subject and the way we choose to remember loved ones and how they want to be remembered.

As with the majority of my photography, these digital montages celebrate impermanence. I often refer to my photography as “fugitive,” and so it is in focusing on the end of one’s life. For what is life if not fugitive?

* * *




The Salem Art Association (in Salem, Oregon) has sponsored what they call "Project Space" for four of the last five summers, utilizing a vacant storefront downtown for studio, exhibiting and performing artists. I have been involved each year of its operation. In fact, I exhibited the first obituary compositions at the first Project Space, during the summer of 2008. For the 2012 Project Space, the theme was "works in progress." Of the two proposals I submitted, the obituary project was chosen. For the exhibit, I showed the following six photo-montages, along with other unrelated montages. Other than the emphasis on the narrative, there is another big difference between these pieces and the original two, shown five years ago. I did Internet searches on each of the subjects. All of the searches revealed some additional information, but none so comprehensive as for Maggie St. James...

Maggie St. James

Maggie’s obituary revealed a fascinating story. When I researched her, it was her mother, who kept coming up. Ruth was a legend in Portland, having been an abortionist, performing over 40,000 illegal procedures. I certainly did not want Ruth’s notoriety to overshadow her daughter, who is, after all, the subject of the piece. The style was dictated by the choice of words available and the wording determined the size and relationship of images. It was influenced in part by film noir and pulp fiction, particularly, James Ellroy’s LA Confidential.

The two Lina Romays

The Two Lina Romays began with the obituary of the Mexican singer/actress. A Spanish gore/porn actress took the name, one of many she had used in her life and career. I found the juxtaposition fascinating.

Elena Mimi

Elena Mimi Casals was a Cuban poet and songwriter. Grace, Tessa and Molly led more private lives. Faces in a crowd, a family picture... or an old snapshot staring up at you from the obituary page of the paper.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

An Inconspicuous Absence

I haven't posted anything here in almost a year. There are a couple of excuses for the absence. Neither of them are very good. The second is that Google has changed blogspot a little and I have been having a hell of a time trying to sign on, let alone post anything. That excuse is only slightly less lame than the first excuse: Facebook.

Most of what I have posted in the past have been political rants. They were invariably very similar to many, many other blogs of political rants. Facebook allows me to rant in haiku style. A sentence or two along with a cute visual usually suffices. And all my "friends" get to read my opinion and like them or ignore them... here I was writing what amounted to columns and no one was reading them. I will continue ranting on Facebook. Even though the president just won reelection, there is still quite a bit to rant over. I will also continue to post photographs on so stop over there and check out the latest. As for here... time will tell. Twice a year hardly substantiates the rationale behind having a blog. How is this? If I have something to say that I think is worthwhile and entails more than a sentence or two, I will try to post it here, if I solve the second excuse...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


In a poll conducted by ABC in July, 2006, 83% of Americans identified themselves as Christians. 13% indicated they have “no religion.” That leaves just 4% for all non-Christian religions combined—Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and others.

It was not specified what percentage of the 4% were Jewish. But clearly, I am in the minority. Whether or not that counts as being among the “Chosen Few” is another matter altogether.

While nearly 40% of all the Jews in the world reside in the United States, they only make up a little over 2% of the population.

I know I am a minority. Perhaps a minority within a minority. But it hasn’t hit home with such bludgeoning force as when I hear some of the Republican Presidential candidates speak. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and especially Rick Santorum have continually referred to the America that the “founding fathers” created as based on Christianity. And, if they had their way, they would go on to define Christianity with the prefix, “fundamentalist.” This is just not true.

According to George Seldes’s The Great Quotations, (Secaucus, New Jersey Citadel Press, 1983), Thomas Jefferson wrote, in a letter to Horatio Spafford in 1814, “In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer for their purposes.”

In “Notes on the State of Virginia,” Jefferson said, “There is not one redeeming feature in our superstition of Christianity. It has made one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites” (quoted by newspaper columnist William Edelen, Politics and Religious Illiteracy, Truth Seeker, Vol. 121, No. 3, p. 33).

And it goes on. A little research reveals that, despite attempts at revising history in the matter of George Washington’s faith, he never received communion and indeed, was merely accompanying his wife when he attended church services. In fact, it was General Washington, as chief of American Armies, who visited the first synagogue in the United States (in Truro, Rhode Island) and issued a written proclamation, protecting the right for the Jewish Congregation to worship freely and without persecution. (“To bigotry, no sanction, to persecution, no assistance… ”)

In 1785, when the Commonwealth of Virginia was considering passage of a bill "establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion," James Madison wrote his famous "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments" in which he presented fifteen reasons why government should not be come involved in the support of any religion.

There were Jews in America before there were founding fathers… even before the Mayflower. Joachim (Chaim) Gans arrived in Roanoke Island, North Carolina in 1585, as part of Sir Walther Raleigh’s expedition. Reportedly, there were Jews on Colombus’ expedition to the New World. The first Jewish community was set up in New Amsterdam (what is now New York… surprise!) in 1654.

Former Senator Rick Santorum is particularly troublesome to me. His campaign espouses “Faith, Family and Freedom.” His platform statement begins by stating, “Rick Santorum believes that to have a strong national economy, we must have strong families. America’s government must recognize this and help create a positive pro-family environment for our families, our communities and our businesses.” Under the sub-head of Champion of Faith & Families, “During his time in elected office, Rick Santorum fought for the preservation of the traditional American family and for the protection of the most vulnerable in our society. Rick was the author of legislation outlawing the heinous act known as partial-birth abortion and he championed the fight to pass the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act” and the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act.” He also authored legislation to advance adult stem cell research, so that ethical research could take place to fight debilitating diseases without the moral implications associated with embryonic stem cell research that destroys human life.”

"Please prevent me from taking control of myself."

Personally, I have issues with men dictating to women what they can and cannot do with their bodies. As much as I philosophically detest women like Phyllis Schafly, et. al., I do think she and her ilk are more qualified to speak of women’s rights and related decisions of what they can and cannot do with their bodies than I do a man—any man, including Rick Santorum.

What, precisely is the “traditional American Family?” Inadvertently, my mind always returns to a pivotal and socially accurate scene in the movie, “Annie Hall.” It shows the contrast between dinner at the Hall family table and that of the Singer’s. The Hall family’s dinner table is quiet—no talking, no noise other than the muted clatter of cutlery over each plate. The Singer family table, in their apartment under the roller coaster at Coney Island, is a cacophony of noise and activity—people screaming over one another, reaching over for serving plates, trying to be heard or at least seen.

A dirty comic and a clean comic.

And so it is with Jews and Gentiles. Lenny Bruce had related insight into why Jews are “dirty” comics and Christians are clean comics. The mores are not necessarily better or worse in one socio-religious group… they are different. One is, shall we say, more liberal than the other. Is a criterion of the traditional American family to “be fruitful and multiply?” Certainly, with dictates against birth control and abortion, one would think so. Evidently, having as many children as physiologically possible is also one of the criteria—physiologically possible, as in as long as the subjugated and called-upon wife’s uterus holds out. Having a gazillion children is not the exclusive domain of Christians. Orthodox Jews, for example, are encouraged to spread the religion through prolific procreation. But again, Jews—all Jews—make up a little more than 2% of the population. Their offspring are but a mere drop in the bucket. In the meantime, I haven't seen a TV reality show about a Jewish family with a dozen or so kids. I thought the Octo-Mom was bad (and, Lord knows, she is shamelessly bad), but the Duggars? 19 children. Or what is it they taunt America with? 19 and counting! Look at them, for Chrissake... patriotic lemmings.

How do they find time for music?

There was an old woman
who lived in a shoe
she had so many children
her uterus fell out

By the way, did I mention, my wife and I have no children?

The rewriting history to make the founding fathers fundamentalist Christians who envisioned the country they were creating to be a Christian one certainly should not be seen as racist. Indeed, of the 83% of Americans who claim to be Christian, there are many who are black and Hispanic. No, it seems, from all outward appearance, to be dogmatic exclusionism, if such a term exists. Certainly the term, “exceptionalism” exists, as former Senator Santorum uses it in the context of the country. Santorum, according to a piece on Slate in April, 2011, promotes “the belief that it (America) is a unique moral force in the world, promoting freedom and fighting evil…” His belief in American Exceptionalism is not an inference. He has stated it explicitly and has even used the term and concept in an exclusionary way when discussing the differences between him and President Obama. Evidently, the president does not share Santorum’s premise that America is exceptional and with that distinction must be the world’s bearer of morality and freedom. In essence, because of our place of power in the world, we have a responsibility to spread and maintain the Christian-based standard. It is important to state here that the term “Christian” that Santorum applies is not exactly the same as the poll used. The poll used “Christian” as a generic umbrella, under which Catholic, Baptist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Evangelicals, etc. And, despite the fact that the fundamentalists reject the notion that Mormons are Christians as see the sect as a “cult,” they are also included under the umbrella. Santorum and his ilk refer to Christianity in a much narrower, more subjective way. When he talks about faith and family, he does not call to attention the fact that he is a Roman Catholic. Indeed, he let’s others draw the conclusion that, in his heart, he is evangelical… that kind of Christian. It seems he doesn’t correct the misperception, either. From Huffington Post, January 11, 1012, “Rick Santorum may technically not call himself an evangelical but he is definitely one when it comes to social issues, so don't get too caught up in the title of ‘Roman Catholic,’” David Brody, chief political correspondent for Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, wrote after the Iowa vote. “Santorum is an evangelical at heart.” Santorum’s stance on same-sex rights and marriage, birth control, abortion and teaching intelligent design” seem to blur the borders between Catholicism and Evangelicalism.

But, to get back to issue at hand: It is the Evangelical Christians who feel their God is a better God than other Christians’ God and certainly, better than the Jewish God. Their membership in the Judeo-Christian World is both tenuous and one of both convenience and selective benefit. At the core, Evangelicals believe first that they are exceptional and then the country their forefathers founded is exceptional. Ultimately, their validation is in their exclusivity.

I can simply not vote for Rick Santorum. I can support someone else, which goes without saying. But, the conversation has been raised, as have the implications. We know what America in general believes that all Muslims are terrorists. As for Jews, well, there are volumes written and spoken regarding anti-Semitism in America and the world. The crimes and the atrocities committed in the name of God are innumerable. And most of them have been justified, as they are today, in the name of “faith, family and freedom.”

* * *

And then, there is the other statistic. The big one. The one that started all the noise in the fall. The 1% and the 99%. The have’s and the have not’s. The millionaires and the rest of us.

“Corporations are people, my friends,” he said with that smarmy smile of his. Willard “Mitt” Romney. A man of the people… if the people you are referring to are filthy rich and have no idea what a gallon of gas costs or what house wine is.

President Barack Obama wrote a book called The Audacity of Hope. Romney is working on one simply called Audacity. The fact of the matter is, I do not begrudge Mitt for being stinking rich. Most presidents have been rich… or they got rich on the way to the office. I certainly don’t fault, say, Franklin Delano Roosevelt for being rich… because of what he did. In the same way, I cannot fault John, Robert or Edward M. Kennedy for their inherited wealth when all three brothers fought for equality and dignity for what used to be called the common man. Mitt Romney is out of touch and vows to remain so. This week, the topic of Mitt’s taxes came up. He said that he pays a tax rate of about 15%, which is a lot less than if it had been for earnings and wages and not investment dividends and gains. He also that he received money from speeches before announcing his candidacy for president last year, but “not very much.” Mitt considers $374,327.62 not very much money. AP reported, “That amount alone would place his income among the top 1% of all Americans… ”

And then there’s the man trying to wrest Mitt from his most-likely position: Newt Gingrich. Another man of the people. Yeah, right. Between the Tiffany’s account and Calista’s Greek Isle Cruise plot, Newt is bought and sold. Just ask Sheldon Adelson, eighth richest man in America and the bucks behind Newt’s Super PAC. He pretty much single handedly sported the bill for Newt’s anti-Mitt movie that, by the way, has been pretty badly reviewed. As an aside, I worked for Shelly Adelson when he was still a Democrat and couldn’t have card less about Israel. But that’s another story.

Watch the rich guy-- he's either going to pull out a .38 or his checkbook.

They, like Santorum, do not represent me. I guess I’ll stick with that “hopey-changey” stuff… for now.

Stand by the Man.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Year in Review

Hard to believe it’s been over 3 months since my last post. Time flies while global shit is hitting the fan. My absence has neither been due to a lack of subject matter nor a lack of interest in said. The fact that I couldn't get up for the game to rant about Greece or Syria, Hamas or Newt is testament to information/bullshit overload. I mean, what can you say when the quote/unquote objective report says it all. You don't have to read into it. The bizarre and If you have read any of my posts then you know one of my fall-back tenets is that I can’t make this stuff up. I am constantly finding myself in awe of the pitiful state of America’s politics and economics, which are inextricably connected.

My temptation is to not recount the events of the year. Unless the media and the government have completely seized your brain, you lived through the year and know what happened. I hate to dwell on the bad and the ugly, so I won’t. Like I say, you know what happened. I don’t have a top ten of news stories. I don’t have a top ten list at all. I didn’t see ten movies this year. The music I listen to is mostly ten years old and I barely watch commercial television. And not in that effete way, like I am above it all... I've just lost interest.

The bottom line is, I agree with Time magazine, who named the Occupy Movement as “person of the year.” I don’t particularly agree with the direction the movement took. I don’t think shutting down our ports. I watched the movement evolve into turning the consciousness into encampments for the homeless, although I do think it is high time there is attention given to the homeless problem. More than anything else , the movement brought attention to the disparities between the haves and have-nots in the country. Personally, I find the adulation that the unwashed masses show toward anything and everything that relates to wealth is grossly unhealthy. I can’t blame Robin Leach for doting on the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Like Billy Joel sang, he didn’t start the fire. But things have gotten so far out of control.


While Republican politicians and phony religious zealots preach family values, Kim Kardashian covers every tabloid and gossip rag in the country. In a country where half the children go to bed hungry, there is a certain level of obscenity when a talentless, pneumatic woman becomes a celebrity by allegedly being herself, along with the rest of her talent-deficient family. Where said woman gets married for $15 million, sells the rights to the event to People Magazine and separates from her new husband 72 days later. Basic math reveals that the amount of money spent could have put an average of 300 more teachers to work.

A convergence of collagen and cleavage.
Baby-dolls in public?

At the beginning of this past Christmas shopping season, one of the more popular viral videos showed a woman pepper-spraying other shoppers so she could get the latest gadget for her ADD addled, malnourished child. Last week, near-riots broke out as predominantly African-American shoppers literally fought to be among the first to buy a pair of $180.00 Air Jordans. They have bought the dream on layaway. The payments go on way past their misbegotten goal has been tarnished and torn.

Disillusioned words like bullets bark

As human gods aim for their mark

Make everything from toy guns that spark

To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark

It’s easy to see without looking too far

That not much is really sacred

It is sad and ugly to watch people shed their dignity like a slithering serpent crawling out of last season’s skin. How much proof does one need that our priorities have become so distorted and ultimately self-annihilating? Can I tell you something between just you and I? I used to go after that gold-toned brass ring. Hell, that was how I was brought up. I wanted the latest, newest, shiniest, coolest. But that drive has passed. It is not like I am not motivated. It is that my priorities have shifted. Last week, my wife and I went to a town in California’s central coastal region that has evolved into a wine growing Mecca. I literally got sick when I looked at the menu at a restaurant we went to with our friends. The prices were so stupid expensive, I had what could only be considered a panic attack. I just can’t do that anymore.

You say you’re sorry

For tellin’ stories

That you know

I believe are true

You say ya got some

Other kinda lover

And yes, I believe you do

You say my kisses are not like his

But this time I’m not gonna tell you why that is

I’m just gonna let you pass

Yes, and I’ll go last

Then time will tell who fell

And who’s been left behind

When you go your way and I go mine

Petra Ecclestone-- almost real

Ever read the New York Times Style section on Sundays? There lies the bastion of the idle rich for intelligent people to cluck their tongues at out loud but secretly envy. Have you ever heard of Petra Ecclestone? I never did until I read about her in said section of the “Old Gray Lady.” Now, there’s a piece of work. Admittedly not American, but included for buying a serious piece of it. She is 22 years-old, and, as far as I can figure, has never worked a day in her life. Well, that’s not really true nor fair. She has worked, as a model for Armani. But it is her diminutive father’s moolah that allowed her to buy Candy Spelling’s Holmby Hills estate for $35 million. She called the 57,000 square foot mansion a comfy little home.

The former Candy Spelling Residence... comfy

It is publicly known that she also has a $91 millon home in Chelsea, London for her five dogs. She reportedly has seven Rolex watches, each worth about $33,000 and ten Hermes Birkin handbags worth “upwards of $65,000.” And, how do you define obscene? How about this: in reaction to Paul McCartney’s proposal for meatless Mondays, Petra was quoted as saying, “I am not a veggie and I don't have much time for people like the McCartneys and Annie Lennox.” In all fairness to Ms. Ecclestone, she was launching her leather fashion line at the same time. Fashion line? Hmmm… makes me think of Paris Hilton and the Olsen twins.

Bernie Ecclestone, Petra Ecclestone, Slavica Ecclestone
A financial giant and human slug, with his wife and child
Where are your stilettos, Bernie?

I could never have imagined that an over-the-top Oliver Stone film (is that redundant?) would be so prescient. But the essence of his movie, Wall Street was right on. It hit the golden nail on the head. He pointed out, through the words of Gordon Gecko, that greed is actually not so good. That greed leads to really bad things.

* * *

Bottom line: if you want to find out what made the top ten lists, find it in the magazines and newspapers. Otherwise, cue up Blonde on Blonde, Beggar’s Banquet, Who’s Next and London's Calling, roll another joint and kick 2011 on down the road.

Thanks to Bob for the words, always.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The King's Speech and Mine-postscript

The Stuttering Foundation of America has gained a lot of traction with the movie, The King's Speech, and justifiably so. They are a wonderful organization focusing attention on a misunderstood and sometimes debilitating affliction. They raise awareness and urge those affected to seek help... any help is better than doing nothing.

As I wrote in the post, "The King's Speech and Mine (2/2011), I was a severe stutterer for the first 23 years of my life. I was fortunate enough to learn about and attend the Fluency Shaping Program at Hollins College, in Roanoke, Virginia. I will never say I was cured as no one is truly cured of stuttering, but when I arrived at the program, I was diagnosed as 33% fluent (which meant I couldn't be understood 2/3 of the time I spoke). When I left, I was 99% fluent. My life had changed. Literally.

The SFA ran a contest last month: What, if anything, are you doing differently since seeing "The King's Speech"?

This was my entry...

Let's see... I contacted some old acquaintances (pre-fluency) and, among other things, thanked them for their patience, friendship and understanding when I was at my worst, speech-wise. I put a call into Jane Fraser (Executive Director of SFA), who I have gotten to "know" over the years, but have never had the pleasure of actually meeting. I again offered my "pro-bono" services-- in the past, I have written and designed some ads for the SFA. I called Hollins to try to get in touch with some of the staff people who helped transform my life. And finally, I sat in with a monthly NSA support group meeting in Portland, Oregon and showed the attendees my "before and after" video from Hollins. For the most part, the people who were there were moderate stutterers--there was one man who was quite severe. What concerned me a bit is that, for the most part, the consensus among them was that I am "special" (because my speech improved so dramatically). I don't consider myself "special." I just took the Hollins Fluency Shaping Program as seriously as I could.

It's been over 38 years and I am, for all intents and purposes, fluent. As I have discussed with Jane, there are those who are almost contemptuous of the Hollins program and question their high success rate. I have always thought, if I can do it, anyone can do it. I also truly believe the line I wrote for one of the FSA ads: "There are many proven, effective ways to reduce stuttering. Doing nothing is not one of them."