Shoe Sculpture Tossed Out

A bronze-colored fiberglass shoe sculpture erected in front of a children’s orphanage in Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit, Iraq has been dismantled and thrown out a day after it was erected. The Salaheddin Provincial Joint Coordination Center ordered its removal.

Salaheddin Deputy Governor Abdullah Jabara told CNN, “We will not allow anyone to use the government facilities and buildings for political motives.”

The sculpture, which was about 12-feet high, was erected to commemorate the insulting action taken by an Iraqi journalist. During a press conference last December, the reporter took off his shoes and threw them at President George W. Bush, shouting, “This is from the widows, the orphans, and those who were killed in Iraq.”

The orphans helped to build the sculpture. “Those orphans who helped the sculptor in building this monument were the victims of Bush’s war,” said Faten Abdulqader al-Naseri, the orphanage director. “The shoe monument is a gift to the next generation to remember the heroic action by the journalist.”

Like the American Left, Mr. al-Naseri chose to use the term “Bush’s war” to describe the United States Military’s action to liberate 25,000,000 Iraqis from the despotic grip of a murderous thug. Now that the children have accomplished the work of erecting a monument to ingratitude, they can meditate on the gift of freedom that enabled them to express themselves in this way. They can also give thanks to “Bush’s war” and the US military for the provincial elections being held in their country on January 31, 2009.

See Also:
Bush shoe sculpture ‘taken down’ (BBC News; January 30, 2009)
Officials Remove Iraqi Shoe Monument (AOL News; January 30, 2009)

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Brandeis University to Shut Rose Art Museum

Brandeis University will close its Rose Art Museum this summer and sell off about 6,000 pieces from its collection. The museum, which opened in 1961, has suffered from a drop in its endowment in this economic downturn, exacerbated by the machinations of alleged fraudster, investment broker Bernard Madoff.

Mark Williams, a Boston University senior lecturer specializing in risk management, said, “It’s like a one-two-three punch: the economy tanks, they overbuilt at the peak of the market and their largest donor was hit dramatically by the Madoff scandal.”

The museum’s contemporary art holdings include works by Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Morris Louis, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Marsden Hartley, Thomas Hart Benton, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg, Matthew Barney, Helen Frankenthaler, Nan Goldin, Robert Motherwell, Max Ernst, René Magritte, Anri Sala, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, and Jackie Windsor.

According to Michael Rush, Museum Director, the collection is valued at around 350 million dollars.

See Also:
Brandeis to Close Rose Art Museum as Endowment Slips (Bloomberg.com; January 27, 2009)
Hit by economic slump, US university to sell prized art collection (AFP; January 27, 2009)

Obama to GOP: Frost Limbaugh

In a meeting on Friday, January 23, 2009, with Republican Congressional leaders to discuss the Democrats’ proposed trillion-dollar economics-of-excess plan, the President warned the lawmakers, “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done.”

Whatever President Barack Obama meant by that admonition, the GOP does not take orders from Rush Limbaugh, the popular syndicated radio talk-show host. “Our plan is rooted in the philosophy that we cannot borrow and spend our way back to prosperity,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH). “Unfortunately, the trillion-dollar spending plan authored by congressional Democrats is chock-full of government programs and projects, most of which won’t provide immediate relief to our ailing economy.”

The Minority Leader went on to cite examples from the House version of the proposed spending spree. According to the International Herald Tribune, the Democrats’ bill includes $600 million for the federal government to buy new cars, $650 million for digital television coupons and $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts.

“All told, the plan would spend a whopping $275,000 in taxpayer dollars for every new job it aims to create,” said Congressman Boehner.

President Obama’s warning against listening to Rush Limbaugh is reminiscent of President Richard Nixon’s infamous memo that became known as the Enemies List. The memo, actually written by White House Counsel John Dean, contained the names of 20 people whom Mr. Nixon regarded as political enemies.

This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly—how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.

The list included Los Angeles Times editor Ed Guthman, CBS reporter Daniel Schorr and columnist Mary McGrory. It also included actor Paul Newman. In a 2006 interview, Mr. Newman said “Being on president Nixon’s enemies list was the highest single honor I’ve ever received. Who knows who’s listening to me now and what government list I’m on?”

Starting off a new administration with an announcement of an Enemies List probably isn’t the smoothest move ever made in Washington, D.C., but perhaps can be seen as reflective of President Obama’s inexperience in a national leadership role.

In his radio broadcast on Monday, January 26, 2009, Mr. Limbaugh commented, “there’s no outrage that a private citizen has been singled out by the President of the United States.”

No, there is no apparent outrage. Perhaps there is simply nostalgia. On January 22, 2009, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its Oscar nominations for the 81st Academy Awards. Frost/Nixon, the dramatization of Richard Nixon’s post-presidency interviews with broadcaster David Frost, received five nominations:

  • Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Frank Langella
  • Achievement in Directing: Ron Howard
  • Achievement in Film Editing: Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
  • Best Motion Picture of the Year: A Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and Working Title Production, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Eric Fellner, Producers
  • Adapted Screenplay: Screenplay by Peter Morgan

See Also:
In effort to build support, Obama details stimulus plan (International Herald Tribune; January 25, 2009)
Hollywood legend Paul Newman dead at 83 (AFP; September 27, 2008)
Obama: Quit Listening to Rush Limbaugh if You Want to Get Things Done (Fox News; January 23, 2009)

War Crimes, Entertainers and Anti-Semites

Wouldn’t you know it? Amnesty International is calling for the investigation of Israeli soldiers for possible war crimes in the wake of Israel’s defensive military actions in Gaza. Israel is prepared to defend its troops against any charges, should they be brought. In fact, according to Bloomberg.com:

During the offensive, Israel deployed lawyers to advise commanders on the front lines, dropped leaflets and made phone calls in steps intended to save civilian lives and avoid war-crime charges. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said Jan. 11 that officials were preparing for a wave of international litigation following the offensive.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for accountability on both sides of the conflict. After viewing some of the devastation in Gaza, he said, “I have seen only a fraction of the destruction and suffering. These are heartbreaking scenes.”

But on a visit to the southern Israeli town of Sderot, which has been the target of Quassam rocket attacks launched by Hamas terrorists from Gaza since 2000, Mr. Ban said he was appalled. “You live every day with the threat of a rocket falling from the sky. No human being can live for long in a state of fear in such a way,” he said of the people of Sderot, Israel.

We are Hamas

We are Hamas

There has been no call from Amnesty International (AI) for an investigation into Gazan war crimes, although their rockets exclusively target civilians. There has been no call from AI to investigate Gazan use of women and children as human shields. Where is the call for a war crimes investigation against Hamas for using private homes, schools and community centers as launching pads for their rockets against children in Sderot?

Annie Lennox, former singer with the pop-music duo the Eurythmics, and a handful of other entertainers led a crowd of thousands in London on January 3, 2009, marching in solidarity with Hamas. Ms. Lennox and her friends were marching in support of an organization that has these words in its charter:

The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.

Whether or not Ms. Lennox would self-identify as a Jew-hater or an anti-Semite, she has joined the cause of an organization whose founding tenet is not only the destruction of Israel, but also the murder of all Jewish people.

Here is another passage from the Hamas Covenant of 1988:

There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.

Golda Meir, Israeli Prime Minister from 1969-1974, once said, “We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”


See Also:
UN chief calls for accountability on both sides during Gaza, Sderot visits (Jerusalem Post; January 21, 2009)

Czechs Unplug Bulgarian Toilet

The Czech Republic shook things up on the Continent earlier this month, when Czech European Union presidency spokesman Jiri Potuznik, commenting on Israel’s military operation in Gaza, stated, “At the moment, from the perspective of the last days, we understand this step as a defensive, not offensive, action.”

Entropa

Entropa

On January 1, 2009, the Czech Republic took over the 6-month term of the rotating presidency of the European Union (EU) from France. To commemorate this transition, they commissioned Czech “artist” David Cerny to create “Entropa,” a large-scale installation (25×25 yards) for the EU headquarters in Brussels. The commissioned work stirred up more controversy than the EU Presidency’s official support of Israel’s action against the Hamas terrorist organization.

Mr. Cerny’s “artwork” was supposed to portray an iconic “map” of each of the 27 member nations of the EU, with 27 artists participating in the creation and construction of the project. Instead, Mr. Cerny collaborated with three of his countrymen, and ended up producing something that offended just about every nation depicted.

Perhaps the country registering the loudest complaint was Bulgaria, which was represented as a Turkish “squat” toilet. According to the Irish Times, “The exhibit depicts France with the word “strike”, Sweden with an Ikea box stuffed with the wing of a fighter jet (a reference to its weapons industry), the Netherlands is under water with several Islamic-style minarets poking through, while Italy is represented by….” well, let’s just say Italy was depicted showing football players holding strategically placed footballs. In a play for the triad of attributes of tastelessness, stereoptype and cliche, Germany was a network of motorways forming a swastika.

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra has apologized. In a governmental cover-up that was universally welcomed, a black drape was placed over the tacky display.

As for Mr. Cerny, he has achieved his personal goal of attaining notoriety. In an empty gesture, he offered an apology to Bulgaria and Prague, and said he would repay his $65,870 (euro50,000) fee to the Czech government. Instead of stopping with “sorry,” he went on to say that his purpose was to find out “whether Europe can take a laugh at itself. If I wanted to insult somebody, it’s [President] Vaclav Klaus. Because Klaus insults Czechs.”

President Klaus personally wrote a letter of apology to Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov. “I consider it necessary that the government publicly distance itself from this unfortunate event and apologize to our partners – representatives of the Bulgarian Republic and its public at first place,” Klaus wrote in a letter to Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek.


See Also:
Bulgaria insists on veiling part of Czech EU art exhibit (Irish Times; January 21, 2009)
Bulgaria toilet art covered up (ABC News Australia; January 21, 2009)
‘Bulgaria toilet’ art covered up (BBC News; January 20, 2009)
Bulgaria Covered with Black Cloth on Czech Insulting Art Piece “Entropa” (Novinite, Sofia News Agency; January 20, 2009)

Stars Aligned for 44

Sheryl Crow showed up in high heels and a dress to sing at the Midwestern Inaugural Ball for Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States on Tuesday night, January 20, 2009. “I’m doing it for the new president. Just my way of serving my country,” said Ms. Crow.

It’s a comfort to know that Ms. Crow was willing to make the sacrifice.

Entertainers on hand to celebrate with the Embodiment of Hope-Change included Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Shakira, Sting, Faith Hill, Mary J. Blige, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Bon Jovi, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Springsteen, Muhammed Ali, Leonardo DiCaprio, Stephen Spielberg, John Cusack, Magic Johnson, Val Kilmer, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon. “(President Obama) is a community organizer like Jesus was,” said Ms. Sarandon.

Samuel L Jackson, Don King, Oprah Winfrey, Kanye West and Denzel Washington were there, as were Marc Anthony and his wife Jennifer Lopez. The day before at the Latino Inaugural Gala, Ms. Lopez remarked about Mr. Obama, “He is the biggest star here, even though it’s chock-full of celebrities.” Her husband added, “Washington’s never had a bigger rock star at the helm.” (Someone please remind me again why that is supposed to make me feel good….)

With all of those Hollywood entertainers at the Inauguration, is it clear why you couldn’t get a ticket?

And this just in. Everyone is seeing stars. You might not have heard of Johnny Wright yet, but you may get to know him soon. Mr. Wright, First Lady Michelle Obama’s hairstylist, has signed a deal with 44 Blue, the realty-tv producers that provides realty and documentary shows for cable networks including Style, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and PBS.

Mr. Wright styled Mrs. Obama’s hair for the Democratic National Convention and an upcoming Vogue cover shoot. 44 Blue executive Stephanie Drachkovitch will pitch the show to the cable networks. “There aren’t many people of color doing makeover and beauty,” she said.

It could be that 44 has the Wright number.


Jennifer Lopez Starstruck by Barack Obama (People; January 19, 2009)
On sidelines or stage, celebrities out for Obama (AP, January 20, 2009)
Barack Obama inauguration: Hollywood out in force for real-life epic (Telegraph.co.uk; January 20, 2009)
Michelle Obama’s hairstylist – Johnny Wright – signs deal with 44 Blue for a reality show (NY Daily News; January 21, 2009)

Barack Obama: Air and Simple Gifts

Just before Barack H. Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced musicians Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Anthony McGill (clarinet), Gabriela Montero (piano) and Itzhak Perlman (violin). This illustrious quartet performed a new piece, Air and Simple Gifts, written by American composer John Williams. Mr. Williams is best known for writing the film scores for motion pictures including Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jaws, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Schindler’s List, for which he won both an Oscar and a Grammy. Both Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman frequently perform in collaboration with Mr. Williams.

Yo-Yo Ma, born in Paris, France in 1955 to Chinese parents, moved to the United States as a young boy. In 1963, when he was seven years old, the child prodigy played his cello in a performance for President John F. Kennedy. He was one of the 2001 recipients of the the National Medal of the Arts, along with artist Helen Frankenthaler, actor Kirk Douglas, singer-songwriter Johnny Cash, filmmaker Mike Nichols and others.

Violinist Itzhak Perlman, born in Israel in 1945, was also honored with the National Medal of the Arts. He received the award in 2000. That same year the recipient list also included artists Claes Oldenburg and Chuck Close, and dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov. Mr. Perlman was a soloist in John Williams’ score for Schindler’s List in 1993.

Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero, 38, makes her home in Massachusetts with her two daughters and her mother. She is known for her improvisational style, a technique that is more closely associated with jazz than with classical music. “Because improvisation is such a huge part of who I am, it is the most natural and spontaneous way I can express myself. I have been improvising since my hands first touched the keyboard,” she said.

South Side Chicagoan Anthony McGill, 29, is now principal clarinetist with the New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. His former teacher, Barry Elmore, founder of the Chicago Teen Ensemble, sees similarities in the lives of President Obama and Mr. McGill. “They both worked hard all their lives, they’ve achieved much in their life over a short time, so there are those parallels,” he said. Mr. McGill also talked about the parallels. “As Obama says he did, I tried to just work hard when I was the only black person in the room; that’s the important thing. It wasn’t any odd-man out type of focus…. You’ve got to have your eye on the goal, not on your idea of the barrier.”


See Also:
The John Williams Web Pages
National Endowment for the Arts Lifetime Honors
Biography of Itzhak Perlman
Clarinetist delivers the day’s other breakthrough performance (Chicago Tribune; January 20, 2009)
Gabriela Montero (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)H