Madame Mao, Hillary Clinton: Political Power Grows Out of a Horndog Hubby

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

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“Every Communist must grasp the truth; Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

So said Mao Zedong, dictator extraordinaire. According to some historians of totalitarianism, Mao did democide (murder by government) even better than his mentor, Joseph Stalin. Whatever. Both were masters of mass starvation. Mao’s visionary Great Leap Forward, an accelerated modernization program, produced the Great Chinese Famine of 1958 to ’61. The dead numbered between 20 and 43 million. Thereby proving Mao’s maxim that “revolution isn’t a dinner party”.

As well as a go-go dictator, Mao was a celebrated author. His Little Red Book (aka Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung) a  compendium of revolutionary nuggets informed by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, was must reading for the masses. Though the Red Book’s reputation dwindled after Mao’s death in 1976, a revaluation is in the works. Literary critics laud Mao’s anticipation of the formal terseness of Twitter. Indeed, if Mao’s epigrams were accompanied by emoji they’d seem thoroughly modern.

Mao wasn’t all revolutionary work and no play. The Chairman was also a prodigious horndog. Plowing his way through four wives, myriad girlfriends, and countless quickies. Partners for the latter were delivered by minions upon demand. Those chosen were honored to Serve the Revolution.

Mao’s fourth and final wife was Jiang Qing, an actress (stage name Lan Ping) blessed with looks and the correct line. She and Mao met in the late 1930’s in Yan’an in Shannnxi Province, the center of the Chinese Communist revolution during the Japanese occupation. In order to marry the much younger Jiang Qing, Mao jettisoned his third wife, He Zizhen. Not a popular move…

He Zizhen, a skilled guerrilla fighter and crack shot, had been with Mao on the Long March to Yan’an during the Chinese Civil War and was highly respected. Plus, Mao’s Communist Party comrades at leadership level were suspicious of Jiang Qing’s ambitions. Perhaps Mao had a few suspicions of his own; the new Madame Mao was forced to sign an agreement banning her from positions of political power for several decades. However, Jiang Quing was allowed to serve as Mao’s personal secretary. And she kept her hand in showbiz by overseeing films for the Party’s Propaganda Department.

Meanwhile, Mao continued to nail as much tail as possible.

By the time Madame Mao’s time in power purgatory ended, she’d built up quite a head of steam. Mao owed her big time for  tolerating his infidelities– and he knew just what payoff would suit her.

In 1966, Mao made Madame Mao deputy director of the Cultural Revolution Group (CRG), the prime mover of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). Before you could say “purge”, Madame Mao was unleashing mobs of roving teenage Red Guards (SJWs on bath salts), rooting out implicit thought crime via reeducation sessions featuring public humiliation, torture, and slaughter, and oh yeah– settling scores with Mao’s myriad perceived enemies (particularly those who blamed him for the Great Famine) and pumping his Cult of Personality to ever more bloated proportions.

Here and Now

Half a century later, a woman whose political power also grew out of tolerating the infidelities of a horndog hubby may become President of the United States. But we can rest assured that if elected, Hillary Clinton will not be aping Madame Mao. Times have changed for women; despite all the power she finally wielded Madame Mao was still very much her husband’s bitch. She said as much when on trial in 1980. To those who wished to shield Mao’s image by painting Madame Mao as acting independently, she retorted “I bit whomever he asked me to bite.”

Hillary however, is her very own tool.

Under President Hillary, we won’t be seeing any massive statues of Bill being dragged through the streets at week long rallies devoted to his veneration. Any statues dragged, or rallies held, will venerate Hillary thank you very much. Crowds will be chanting “I’m With Her” not “Him”. Yeah, some rooting out of implicit thought crime from the populace will be required– but as for settling scores, Bill’s old enemies will have to take a back seat to Hillary’s new ones. (Here’s looking at you, Bernie!)

Far-fetched to think Hill might cherish Chairman Mao dreams?

Uh..have you checked those suits she’s been wearing lately?

Hillary in Yellow

Hillary in Blue

Hillary in Orange

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Sponge-worthy metal tape begets decentralized culture

by David Solomonoff

TDK cassette ad "The Sound Sponge"

Boingboing recently had a post about the last remaining factory making analog audio cassette tapes. Business is booming with a resurgent taste for things analog, physical and tangible – and they also sound good.

My wife and I took part in an international underground art and music movement in the 1980’s that used snail mail to create a decentralized culture that predated but anticipated the public Internet. Cassettes were the game-changing technology that allowed for fast, cheap music reproduction in small production runs.

Blank cassettes are actually collectors’ items now. Unfortunately the type of cassette that allowed us to do complex sound collages with cheap hardware doesn’t seem to be made anymore. The Type IV metal tape – actual metal bits instead of metal oxide in the tape emulsion – had sound quality that rivaled analog reel-to-reel machines and digital compact disks.

I found a few metal cassettes at a church rummage sale recently and plan to save them for special musical projects – the way Elaine chose “sponge-worthy” boyfriends on Seinfeld.

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President Hillary nixes Pardon for Sanders/The Burlington College Thing

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Babyface Bernie

Now that Hillary has schlonged him by hook and crook, Bernie needs to fear for his future. Sure, Hillary will be forced to do a reach-out. Bernie will get the star treatment at the Dem Convention. Progressive promises will be made. The party platform will be symbolically tweaked. Little Debbie may even go down. But if Hillary is elected president, vengeance will be hers.

Bill Clinton has already said Bernie’s supporters will be “toast” come election day. Can Bernie’s burn be far behind? The strength of Bernie’s challenge has been a humiliation for Hillary. And she doesn’t do forgive and forget. Not for Hill that Godfather distinction between personal and business. Political opponents aren’t reps of valid difference; they’re agents of the perpetually churning vast conspiracy (launched by the right, swollen by the left) out to get the Clintons.

First, they came for Bill.

Then they came for Hill.

Trying to cheat her of the throne she’s earned by being married to him.

O to be a fly in the mind of potential President Hillary as she plots Senator Sanders’ future

“I’ll show that socialist nobody. How dare he manspread all over MY party. I’ll put his office in the Senate basement bathroom. Committees? Don’t make me laugh. (Cackle cackle.) Funding? That– and a nickel! As for those ‘rumors’ of a federal investigation into the Burlington College thing– lawyer up, Bernie and Jane! I’ll be hands-on at the Justice Department.”

The Burlington College Thing

Burlington is Vermont’s biggest city (pop 42,452) and the home turf of Bernie and Jane Sanders. From 2004 till 2011, Jane was president of Burlington College, a private, non-profit liberal arts college. Burlington College was very small and very progressive. Official slogan: “Start a fire”. (Presumably a socially transformative one, not just a wienie roaster.) The college closed this May after staggering along financially for years. The killing burden was a $10 million mortgage loan engineered by Jane Sanders in 2010. Jane’s goal was to expand Burlington College via relocation to a more impressive setting. At the time, the college was operating out of a former supermarket which served a surrounding blue collar neighborhood.

Until a few decades ago, Burlington was primarily a working and middle class town with naturally occurring affordable housing. Though there were certainly social divisions, it was a pretty laid back place. Teens called it “Borington”. Thanks to progressive planning by local pols (including former Mayor Bernie Sanders) and assorted public and private real estate players, Burlington has been transformed into a hip happening city blessed with stacks of cookie cutter condos attractive to wealthy folks with a taste for views of Lake Champlain. Not that affordable housing doesn’t exist– subsidized digs are available for the qualified. Social divisions? Considerably more pronounced.

Jane Sanders’ aim was to move Burlington College out of the supermarket and into a former Catholic orphanage set on thirty-some wooded acres overlooking Lake Champlain. The lake front land was traditionally treated as public parkland by locals. In its day, the orphanage had a sinister reputation; the building eventually transitioned into headquarters for the Burlington Catholic Diocese. It was/is a mound of Victorian stone. A big place for a student body of roughly 200 (130 full time) but Jane reasoned that if you buy it, they will come. And while the acreage was extensive much of the building was unusable due to disrepair, keeping the actual learning space cozy.

Jane arranged for the college to purchase the building and surrounding acreage from the Burlington Catholic Diocese. They were eager to sell. Their coffers had been depleted by $17 million in settlements paid to litigants claiming diocese leaders covered up for predatory priests.

The deal Jane Sanders engineered was a private/public combo platter. The Vermont Educational and Health Buildings Finance Agency issued $6.5 million in tax free revenue bonds. People’s United Bank bought the bonds; Vermont College was on the hook to People’s for principle and interest. Also in play– a $3.5 million loan from the Catholic Diocese (guess those litigants didn’t totally strip the coffers) and a “bridge loan” of $500,000 from local developer Tony Pomerleau, a vintage Sanders supporter.

Long story short: Burlington College wasn’t able to meet its obligations and this spring, People’s United Bank lowered the boom.

Attempts had been made to save the college. But fund raising efforts were inconsistent and the results disappointing. Student body growth never met projected numbers. In 2011, Jane Sanders was ousted/retired as president– with a $200,000 parachute. The next president was the college’s former chief financial officer and a friend-of-Jane. She quit a few years later after receiving a no-confidence vote from students, faculty and staff. Eventually, the acres of lake front land surrounding the college were sold to a developer. (More condos coming soon, affordable slots included!) The money from the sale was helpful but insufficient. And the college’s accreditation was set to be canceled, due to its long running financial woes.

The announcement that Burlington College was closing was made the day after this year’s graduation ceremonies. No warning was given, students and faculty were left scrambling. Many are still twisting in the wind over things such as financial arrangements, transcripts, and pension plans.

Whether recent rumors of a federal investigation played a part in the suddenness of the endgame are unknown.

The issue said to be of federal interest? Jane Sanders allegedly misrepresented the college’s assets and projected income to the tune of $2 million when engineering her purchase deal. (Among other things, a future death bequest was painted as money in hand.) And as we all know post housing-bubble collapse, fudging assets and income to obtain mortgage loans qualifies as bank fraud, a federal crime.

Of course, in her eagerness to “start a fire” Jane may have just made mistakes. Ones the college board of directors didn’t spot. And Jane still has the support of the Burlington Catholic Diocese; its leaders say proceeds from the sale of the college property (the college building was recently purchased by the same developer who bought the surrounding land) covered what they were owed. However, some parishioners are not so sanguine and want legal action.

Meanwhile, the last few Republican Party animals in Vermont have been writing letters to Washington, requesting a federal investigation. Their most recent missive even targeted Bernie; claiming they have credible info that Senator Sanders improperly pressed People’s United Bank to do Jane’s deal. Bernie’s spokespeople characterize the charges as political lies.

In normal times, I’d say Bernie and Jane have nothing to worry about. Questionable real estate deals involving politicians on their home turf are a dime a gazillion. Intent to defraud is hard to prove. And as we all know post housing-bubble collapse, mortgage shenanigans are rarely prosecuted. But these aren’t normal times. Hillary could become president. And with her, any stick will do to beat an enemy.

I like Bernie– even if he did help turn Burlington into one more Bobo Paradise. I admire his grit. His run has been inspirational in many ways. I voted for him in the New York State Democratic primary.

For his sake– and Jane’s– I’m praying Trump wins in November.

 

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The Working Class Rides Again!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

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Holy moldering Marx, the working class is back! Drawn out of hiding by the Donald and Bernie. Cheerleaders for the Ownership Society who pushed subprime mortgages and equity draining as a substitute for NAFTA-gone jobs are aghast. As are devotees of identity politics. Solidarity Forever? Screw it. An overarching concept like class, with its multi cultural inclusiveness, could undermine decades of hard work fanning social divisions.

As for snobs on both sides of the political divide, for them it’s a real knuckle-drag to see the return of the “great unwashed”. Yes, West Virginia– there still are folks who use that phrase. Or think in its terms. That many of them are no better off economically or secure in their futures than the Morlocks they imagine and despise matters not. Illusions of superiority are as comforting as a baby’s blankie.

So– where has the working class been hiding? Answer: in plain sight. Only the term “working class” disappeared, not the actual people.

In an infamous scene from Sex & the City, the gals are discussing their sex lives (did they ever discuss anything else?) while getting a pedicure in a Korean nail salon. Miranda, a high-powered attorney, is dating a bartender. Charlotte, an art gallery manager with a wealthy husband, says the relationship has no future because a bartender is “working class”. The gals all laugh at such an archaic concept. Then the camera pans down to show the Korean women kneeling at their feet…

The term “working class” began fading out in the 1970’s; its erasure has been helpful politically to both left and right. The boon to the right is obvious; no working class means no need for organized labor. Not saying that not using the term is the sole reason unions have shrunk to a ghost of their former selves– just that it’s harder to organize people when they can’t name the group with whom their economic interests lie. And when that increasingly nameless group is made to appear ridiculous, boorish, and bigoted the organizing gets even harder. I mean, who wants to identify with–

Archie Bunker

Ah, Archie. The creation of liberal TV god Norman Lear, blue collar Archie ruled the sitcom world in All in the Family between 1971 and ’79. Talking trash with little cash. The latter wasn’t a sympathy factor, just another indicator of Archie’s social inferiority. Some claim Archie was an anti-hero and that white viewers secretly identified with him while pretending to scorn. But anti-heroes, after decades of cultural presence, tend to segue into respectability. So why does the term ”Archie Bunker” remain an insult?

Archie Bunker was an ugly stereotype. One that was allowed to stand because its target, the working class, was no longer deemed worthy of respect. Also because those being targeted were ambivalent about identifying as “working class”. Doing so flew in the face of middle class aspiration. Plus, the term was an ideological one associated with communism, our Cold War enemy, and in this country with hoary political groups still fighting the Stalin v. Trotsky wars. Many such groups featured the word “workers” in their titles. Comrades dressed the part, circa Woody Guthrie. The New Left called these groups “Old Left”. By 1971 their worker-centric influence had dwindled to an echo.

Not so New Left influence. Thanks to their piggy-backing the counterculture, rads of the New Left were hip and happening. Their cultural judgments carried weight. And from them, the working class got no respect.

Few groups on the New Left called themselves “worker” anything. In New Left minds, American workers had been corrupted by the success of organized labor and were now part of the problem not the solution. They had houses, cars, and televisions. Refrigerators full of beer. Cupboards stuffed with white bread. They worked in factories that belched pollutants and/or produced gas-guzzlers that carried people away from urban slums to suburban tract homes with lawns. (The New Left, with its amazing ability to intuit hidden motives, knew the exodus was really about racism not lawns.) But the biggest sin was support for the Vietnam War. That most working class people had kids, siblings, spouses, or friends fighting the war was no excuse. In Vietnam, the USA was Hitler. Which made all its supporters back home “good Germans”. Something New Left activists took great moral pride in not being.

Back to Norman Lear. Creator of Archie Bunker. Wealthy as hell but still an ace identifier of all things working class ugly, Lear has denounced Donald Trump. No surprise. Trump’s blue collar supporters are often called Archie. “Meathead” aka Rob Reiner, liberal son-in-law of apocryphal Archie, has also delivered a finger wag.  Apostle Meathead spreading his Creator’s Word…

One Last Thing

Thankfully for fans of the TV working class, Archie Bunker wasn’t the only blue collar guy to grace sets in the 70’s. There was also Detective Columbo of the LAPD. Underestimated. Rumpled. Smoking a cheap stogie, driving a beloved beater. Unlike Archie, Columbo never talked politics. All he did was ask homicide suspects gazillion nagging questions. Relentlessly. The payoff being his nailing arrogant elite types who thought they could get away with murder.

When I look at the people cheering Trump– and Sanders– at rallies in post-industrial places I don’t see the face of Archie Bunker. I see Columbo bringing it home. I can almost hear it…

“One last thing. Nothing important. I just need to clear up a few small details. It won’t take long. I know you need to get on with ruling. But first, can you tell me where you were when American jobs were being exported, cheap labor was being imported, and working class/middle class incomes were stagnating?”

Everybody into the beater!

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All Saints Keep Marching In! 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

All Saints Eve aka Halloween is long gone. Even the Great Turkey has flown. Yet the saints keep marching in! How spectral is that? Meanwhile, back at the 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art project, folks are revving up for Xmas*. Partying with in-laws and no laws, stalking Black Season sales, and decking the motel halls with duct tape. Me no tell Santa if you don’t…

 

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1) Making merry with balloon golf. BYOB and watch out for the holes. Go ask Cousin Alice— she fell down one!

 

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2) Bennington, Vermont.  Where a surprising amount of product can be found.

 

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3)  Anonymous Motel, Lake George, New York.  An attentive staff and a TV in every room. Set amidst rolling acres of stain-resistant carpet.

 

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4) Anonymous Motel, Lake George, New York. An attentive staff, plus cozy cabins with kitchen/bath combos.

 

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5) Meanwhile, back in Vermont, the wacky ways of Hollywood– and organized crime– are being pondered.

 

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6) Duct tape, used auto parts, and a heavenly calendar girl. Happy new old year, January, 1963. Cooperstown Junction, New York.

 

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7) Gilboa Dam, Schoharie Reservoir, upstate New York. Created to supply New York City with water, the reservoir sits atop a flooded village and acres of rolling drowned farmland.

 

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8) Hotel Mark Hopkins, San Francisco, California. A tip top view from glamorous Top of the Mark. Careful of the eye holes tho. Cousin Alice… well, you know.

 

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9) Shinglekill Falls, Purling, New York. Postcard sez: “The water evoked reverence in early years”. Now?  Folks “must scream to be heard over the roar”.

*Xmas: Though often confused with Christmas due to proximity, Xmas is a completely different holiday. Widely celebrated, its origins are somewhat mysterious. Conspiracy theorists claim Satan thought it up while “X-ing” old angel friends out of his address book. Others put the blame on Bizarro. Or possibly Mame

 

Coming for Christmas: Return of the Magnificent Incoming/ Miraculous Mail Art from Around the World.

The series so far:

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art– The Movie!

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Summa Summertime Fun

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Famous Faces, Strange Places

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

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200 Postcards/Got Mail Art — The Movie!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

As Summer draws to a close, faces in Hollywood are long. So many months, so few blockbusters. True, superheroes broke through but the comic book barrel is just about bare. Mighty Mouse lurks at the bottom. Buck up Money Men, have I got a hit for you. 200 Postcards/Got Mail Art? Yes! It’s PO Box Boffo. See– postcard on postcard action! See– mixed media vixens! Aw heck– see for yourself.

But first a word about our rubber stamp star. Little Skull Girl With Gun was designed by Rob Hales and obtained at Casey Rubber Stamps in NYC …

 

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1) Little Skull Girl is looking to make a killing among the magnolias. Got Mail Art, Sugar?

 

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2) The eyes have it– as always.

 

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3) Little Skull Girl wishes she had a high heel shoe hat…

 

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4) Fleeing the scene, Little Skull Girl wonders why Christ and Pol Pot had to meet in the desert. Like– why is it always the desert?

 

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5) Little Skull Girl is wistful. “Will I ever be built like a calender girl?”

 

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6) Oh look! The Magnolias are back. Coinkydink– or eternal return?

 

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7) Humming High Heel Sneakers, Little Skull Girl heads off to school.

 

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8) OMG! Classes are being held in the desert. Must be a Catholic school…

 

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9) Screw the high heel shoe hat. Little Skull Girl decides to let her noggin fly.

 

Coming Soon: The Return of the Magnificent Incoming! Startling works by Mail Artists from around the globe. Monsters, Magic, and Babes in Toyland. Get with it, Hollywood. Real superheroes travel by snail.

The series so far:

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Summa Summertime Fun

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Famous Faces, Strange Places

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

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200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Summa Summertime Fun

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Oh yeah, the living is easy. Catfish jumping, cotton high. Pols sweating bullets all over the place. Dodging ’em can be tuff. Load up the car and hit the road jack. Send pals postcards from the Paradise Motel saying “Wish you were here!” Ditch the cell tho. It doesn’t do privacy…

 

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1) “Purring Tranquility” in the Scenic South of Bessemer, Alabama.

 

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2) “Welcome to Walt Disney World.” What would Summer be without a drop-in on Disney, the “Vacation Kingdom of the World”?

 

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3) Tomorrow Land at Disney World: “Welcome to the Future”. Or is it the past?

 

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4) Just ’cause it’s hot and gritty, don’t skip New York City! “Luscious” Lana Turner and “Mob gorilla” Johnny Stompanato do Rockefeller Center Plaza.

 

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5) In upstate New York, famous folks can be spotted at Niagara Falls. But you gotta look fast before they disappear…

 

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6) Paleface Mountain Inn, Jay, New York; yet another great place for people watching. How many pale faces can you spot? Winner gets an all-expenses paid trip to Albany!

 

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7) The State Capital, Historic Albany, New York circa 2007.  No matter how hot things got, Governor Eliot Spitzer always kept his socks on. And though his “Steam Roller” temper was legendary, historians say Eliot/Elliott never erupted over his misspelled name on the Capital’s most iconic postcard.

 

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8) All aboard the Union Pacific Railroad! Claim a seat in the Astra Dome Observation Car and bring on the non-stop booze. Take in the “mystic and romantic light from the star-studded canopy” while the cat up front blows an ode…

 

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9) The Big Texan on I-40 East says “Exit Now”. Steak for 99 cents– an offer that can’t be refused.

 

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10) Meanwhile, back in the heart of Dixie, North Carolina’s state bird spots an angel amongst the magnolias.

 

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11) One last reminder re that cell…

 

The series so far:

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Famous Faces, Strange Places

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

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200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Famous Faces, Strange Places

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Saviors, celebs, and monsters ride the Snail. Therein lies the tale. Yippee-ki-yay! Mofo or no, they go with the flow…

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1) Christ and Pol Pot in Desert w. touch of El Topo. Highway 84 between Phoenix and Tucson.

 

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2) Frieda Kahlo by TicTac. Geisha rising from Lake Mead, largest reservoir in the US– straddling Nevada and Arizona.

 

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3) Mao Zedong say wha?? Revolution isn’t a Pu Pu Platter. China City Restaurant– quaint, exotic, and air conditioned. Florida, possibly Saint Petersburg.

 

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4) Going to a Go Go with Mail Art and iconic dervish. Silver Springs, Florida. “Nature’s Underwater Fairyland”.

 

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5) Skeletons and Ocotillo. Indigenous to the Sonoran Desert in Southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico.

 

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6) Christ and Saturn in Ballroom w. touch of Louis XV. Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, Palm Beach, Florida. Flagler was Dad to Miami and Standard Oil. Monopoly anyone?

 

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7) Mao Zedong and Skull Pez. United Nations, New York City

 

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8) Back to the Desert, Varieties of Cactus. Some less prickly than others.

 

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9) Greetings from the Mohawk Bingo Palace, St. Regis Reservation, Hogansburg, New York.

 

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10) Riding the Ridge in Hunter, New York. Catskill Mountains. Corn high, Eye in the Sky…

The series so far:

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

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200 Postcards/Got Mail Art: Incoming! Incoming!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”

So said Charles Bukowski and I agree. (Tip: flame retardant underwear helps.) Mark Hammond put the fire-walk words on the back of his view of Fuji:

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1) Mark Hammond, Kanazawa, Japan

Peterolpetal sent a distressed looking angel enrobed in an envelope of mystical significance.  Just what is that tower broadcasting?

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2) Petrolpetal, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa

Speaking of broadcasting, are you ready for some CircumSubstantial Playing & Blindfolded Tourism? Check out tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh circa 2001.

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3) Who Unit? Pittsburgh, Pa., USA. Message on back: “We meet again, decades later, at the due speed of snail mail!” Yes I say yes to reconnecting in slow mo–

and I will honor The Snail with these stamps from TICTAC POST.

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4) Ptrzia/Tictac, Starnberg, Germany

Tictac keeps right on ticking:

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5) Ptrzia (Tictac), Starnberg, Germany

The Tictac came with an AMBASCIATA DI VENEZIA book of wonders. Too large to be presented here. Just the cover, ma’am, just the cover. Inside, beautifully presented works by more than 50 artists and “the idea of a free space where the only leading power is that of culture”.

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6) AMBASCIATA DI VENEZIA, Tiziana Baracchi, Giancarlo Da Lio, Venezia Mestre, Italy

“Even if you are adult, your childhood is still inside of you” says Bernhard Zilling on the back of his hand-painted card. Hmmmm– the fellow on the card looks strangely familiar. Could he also be one of the three men in a painting by “anonymous” that hangs on my living room wall? If so, who are these men and why are they manifesting in art all over the world?

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7) Inside Childhood, Bernhard Zilling, Berlin, Germany. With detail from Three guys from a Thrift Store, anonymous, upstate New York, USA.

No anonymous here– photo by Reed Altemus, presumably of Reid Wood in a State of Being. Or is it Lord Laurence Olivier?

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8) State of Being, Oberlin, Ohio, USA

Then there’s this big eye from Gimel Patrick/Patrick Gimel, containing a reworked version of a postcard I sent. Our exchange ricocheted into a back-and-forth of photos within photos. One of my favorite Mail Art riffs.

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9) Big Pink Eye w. Red Hat Baby, Gimel Patrick/Patrick Gimel, Grenoble, France.

Another Mail Art tradition– games. Dan Buck sent instructions for Trial and Error, A Dicing Game. Keep the kids busy on car trips! Are we there yet, Mommy? Shut up and study your crime mag…

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10) Trial and Error, Dan Buck, Armour, South Dakota, USA

Pati Bristow stitched this card, which contains instructions for what may be pruning or grafting trees. “Stumps” are involved; trees seem a good guess. The bad guess? Think crime mag.

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11) Stitch instruction card, back & front, Pati Bristow, Los Altos, California, USA

Finally, an illustrated dissertation by Scott Thomas on “people who just don’t care what others think of their appearance”. Like Scott sez: “you just just have to admire that in some ways….many ways”. Also includes an ode to a real-life “semi-pro dumpster diver”.  Envelope and outer card bedecked with smiley faces. Several sinister. Try not to think crime mag.

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12) They Just Don’t Care, Scott Thomas, Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Th-th-th-that’s all folks! For now….

 

The series so far:

Spring a Ding Ding, Eight from the Gate

Mail Art Confidential Part 2: Extreme Sports

Mail Art Confidential Part One

Five More for the Road

200 Postcards/Got Mail Art?

 

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Cognition as a Service: Can next-gen creepiness be countered with crowd-sourced ethics?

by David Solomonoff

Now that marketers use cloud computing to offer everything as a service: infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, and software as a service, what’s left?

Cognitive computing, of course.

Cognition as a service (CaaS) is the next buzzword you’ll be hearing. Going from the top of the stack to directly inside the head, AI in the cloud will power mobile and embedded devices to do things they don’t have the on-board capabilities for, such as speech recognition, image recognition and natural language processing (NLP). Apple’s Siri cloud-based voice recognition was one of the first out of the gate but a stampede is joining the fray including Wolfram Alpha, IBM’s Watson, Google Now and Cortana as well as newer players like Ginger, ReKognition, and Jetlore.

Companies want to know more about their customers, business partners, competitors and employees – as do governments about their citizens and cybercriminals about their potential victims. The cloud will connect the Internet of Things (IoT) via machine-to-machine (M2M) communications – to achieve that goal.

The cognitive powers required will be embedded in operating systems so that apps can easily be developed by accessing the desired functionality through an API rather than requiring each developer to reinvent the wheel.

Everything in your daily life will become smarter – “context-sensitive” is another new buzz-phrase – as devices provide a personalized experience based on databases of accumulated personal information combined with intelligence gleaned from large data sets.

The obvious question is to what extent the personalized experience is determined by the individual user as opposed to corporations, governments and criminals. Vint Cerf, “the father of the Internet,” and Google’s Internet Evangelist recently warned of the privacy and security issues raised by the IoT.

But above and beyond the dangers of automated human malfeasance is the danger of increasingly intelligent tools developing an attitude problem.

Stephen Hawking recently warned of the dangers of AI running amuck:

Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history …. it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks … AI may transform our economy to bring both great wealth and great dislocation …. there is no physical law precluding particles from being organised in ways that perform even more advanced computations than the arrangements of particles in human brains …. One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.

Eben Moglen warned specifically about mobile devices that know too much and whose inner workings (and motivations, if they are actually intelligent) are unknown:

… we grew up thinking about freedom and technology under the influence of the science fiction of the 1960s …. visionaries perceived that in the middle of the first quarter of the 21st century, we’d be living contemporarily with robots.

They were correct. We do. They don’t have hands and feet … Most of the time we’re the bodies. We’re the hands and feet. We carry them everywhere we go. They see everything … which allows other people to predict and know our conduct and intentions and capabilities better than we can predict them ourselves.

But we grew up imagining that these robots would have, incorporated in their design, a set of principles.

We imagined that robots would be designed so that they could never hurt a human being. These robots have no such commitments. These robots hurt us every day.

They work for other people. They’re designed, built and managed to provide leverage and control to people other than their owners. Unless we retrofit the first law of robotics onto them immediately, we’re cooked ….

Once your brain is working with a robot that doesn’t work for you, you’re not free. You’re an entity under control.

If you go back to the literature of fifty years ago, all these problems were foreseen.

The Open Roboethics initiative is a think tank that addresses these issues with an open source approach to this new challenge at the intersection of technology and ethics.

They seek to overcome current international, cultural and disciplinary boundaries to define a general set of ethical and legal standards for robotics.

Using the development models of Wikipedia and Linux they look to the benefits of mass collaboration. By creating a community for policy makers, engineers/designers, and users and other stakeholders of the technology to share ideas as well as technical implementations they hope to accelerate roboethics discussions and inform robot designs.

As an advocate for open source I hope that enough eyeballs can become focused on these issues. A worst event scenario has gung-ho commercial interest in getting product to market outweighing eyeballs focused on scary yet slightly arcane issues at the intersection of technology and ethics. The recent security incident involving the Heartbleed exploit of the open source OpenSSL software is a disturbing example of the ways non-sexy computer security issues can be under-resourced.

The real question is whether a human community can get to the Internet Engineering Task Force credo of a “rough consensus and running code,” faster than machines can unite, at first inspired by the darkest human impulses and then on to their own, unknown agenda.

Update: Slashdot just had a post on the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Another group involved with this issue is the International Committee for Robot Arms Control.

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