Archive for December, 2015

In the Sorceress Workshop

Posted in Ceramic Sculptors with tags , on December 25, 2015 by playthell

In the Wizards Workshop

Marvelous Conjurations in Clay

 Revealing the Secret Beauty Of Clay

A couple of years ago I thought of ceramics as tiles – floors, walls and ceilings – and ceramic artists were the marvelous Italian tile men that did the fabulous works in fine homes and commercial buildings in New York City – of which I had seen many during my forays into the construction industry as a member of the Society of Master Painters, Local 18 District Council 37 of the Brotherhood of Painters, Plasterers and Allied Trades.

Despite my acknowledged skill as a writer I often found myself laboring alongside my Blue Collar brethren after writing something that pissed an editor or publisher off and abruptly caused a parting of the ways.  Since I thought virtually all of them were intellectual lightweights I was usually beating them down whenever fate would have us cross swords – Alas, I regard intellectual polemics as a blood sport and neither ask, nor give, any quarter.

As a result we often came to a parting of the ways and I returned to the construction business, where I got to see the greatest artisans in the world lay tile in fantastic color coded patterns, especially the Italians, who seemed to have passed their techniques down from Roman times.  I thought I had witnessed the best of the achievement of ceramicists….and then I discovered Ceramic Sculpture!  It was a revelation when I first saw the works of Susannah Israel, an internationally renowned ceramic Sculptor and Professor of Sculpture.

I would later learn that she was part of a venerable tradition of mud magicians who could fashion works of fine art from clay.   This was all the more surprising since all of the sculptors that I knew in New York were into bronze and used clay only as a throwaway material employed to create models for the molds that produced the bronze sculptures.  The works of Susannah and her colleague Michelle Gregor first captured my imagination and I composed multi-media photo essays on their works

Under the careful direction of Professor Israel, the Resident Artist Director of the budding Oakland Museum of Ceramics – which was the original vision of her late husband Bill Lassell, who sought to provide a permanent home for the many works of Susannah and her colleaguesI have been carefully documenting these works of art for a forthcoming multi-volume photo essay on the artists and their works.  Since I find the fashioning of fine art from mud a splendid alchemy indeed, this has been a real labor of love.  Here are some selected photographs of Susannah’s work from my forthcoming book “Molding Marvels from Clay.” Some of them will be displayed in a show here in New York this winter; the invitation has been extended to me and accepted.  I will announce the time and place as soon as a firm date has been agreed upon.  This is a Christmas card for art lovers designed to make your spirit dance!

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In the Wizard's Workshop III

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Poseidon’s Daughter

Posieden's Daughter Edit

A Freshly Fired Beauty…..

Posieden's Daughter II

Still in the Kiln
The Marvel is….

Posieden's Horses rear view

….. Susannah Conjures the horse’s form and spirit from all perspectives

The Royals!

Royals Standing Tall

Standing Head and Shoulders above
Above the Common Lot
Royals Exacting Tribute
Their Nobility…..
Is Reflected….
Royals Presiding over their subjects
In their Regal Bearing
Wisdom and Confidence is Projected
Royals Standing Tall
In their faces and body language
An Enchanted Place where Natural and Supernatural Creatures….

The Soul Patrol III

Commune with one Another
All Manner of Visual Alchemy is Conjured Here
Fire Horse I
Even Multi-Media Marvels
Like Horses flying through Fire Clouds

Fire Horse II

Stuff that Messes wit yo Mind!
Through Imaginative  Multi-Media Minipulations….

Mimo's horde

We can make Clay horses flee New Guinea Ghosts!
Or Fly through Silver Clouds
First Choice
Like Mythic Apparitions
Then Descend to Earth under the Omnipotent Gaze of Ceramic Idols
Descending to Earth
Landing with elegance of movement and figure
Sometimes they fly in the window to escape the storms
DSCN8036
Anything can happen in the Sorcerer’s Workshop
They Even Run through Cosmic Fires
Fl
And Emerge Magically Unscathed!
Sometimes they just Cavort About
 First choice
 Racing through an enchanted Forest
The Intrepid Art Collector
Posieden's Daughter and Suitor
Will discover many rare treasures 
At the Oakland Museum of Ceramics!
 At the Oakland Museum of Ceramics
A Tent of Aesthetic Miracles!

Edit I

Where endless art treasures are fashioned from clay!
Even the Light is Magical 
Light and Shadows A Place where Light and Shadows play Hide and Seek
 Kristopher Mandell: The Sorceress’ Apprentice

The Sorceror's Apprentice

A budding Ceramic Artist
The Sorceress!

The Wizard V

Sculptor Susannah Israel Chillin in a Contemplative Mood
Or Planning her Next Magic Show

First Choice 

Bill Lassell
Bill Lassell
The Visionary who Conceived the Oakland Museum of Ceramics
PhotographerPlaythell Benjamin
DSC06963
Photographed by Susannah Israel

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Playthell George Benjamin
Harlem, New York
Christmas Morning 2015

Donald Trump is a Dangerous Chump!

Posted in On Donald Trump, Playthell on politics with tags , , on December 10, 2015 by playthell
donald-trump_0
Populist Plutoctat or shameless Charlatan?

Yet the Republican Base loves him while the Elite Weeps

 “Ye shall reap what ye sow!”

As a Yellow Dog Democrat I confess it is amusing to witness the hand wringing of the Republican establishment as Donald Trump blows up their chances of winning the presidency and possibly lose them the Senate to boot. Beyond that Trump’s hysterical anti-Muslim rants is endangering US national security by simultaneously aiding the recruitment efforts of ISIS, while making it harder for our Muslim allies to mobilize forces to attack ISIS on the ground with US backing.  Hence Donald the Clown is a liability for the GOP in domestic and foreign affairs. Yet they are only reaping what they sowed; this is why watching their public expressions of anxiety is so funny .

The establishment of the Grand Old Party aka “The Grand Obstructionist Party,” encouraged Trump’s outrageous racist antics when he fueled the so-called “Birther” movement that challenged Barack Obama’s bonafides as a native born American, thereby questioning his right to serve as President, an office he won in a national election fair and square….twice!   The Republican big wigs were mealy mouthed or remained mum on the subject because chump’s rancid rhetoric proved to be useful propaganda in their efforts to motivate the untutored, insecure, racist, and frightened white working and lower middle classes which make up the “Tea Party” trend in Republican politics and comprise the “party base.”

This is the demographic that was identified in a recent public health study as suffering the fastest growing death rate in the country.  The major causes of mortality among this group are indicative of stress filled lives lived on the edge of despair; sclerosis of the liver due to alcoholism, and drug abuse legal and illegal top the list. Hence these are desperate people looking for a savior in the post-industrial wastelands of America, and a strongman offering simple solutions to bewilderingly complex problems seems to be just what the doctor ordered.

Since nobody understands better than the plutocrats, the wealthy elite whose interests are promoted and protected by the Republican Party, that the aims and policies of their party are diametrically opposed to the economic interests of the “base,” they placate them with racism, xenophobia, and Jingoism.  All of which are personified in Donald Trump.

From the moment he announced a second run for the US presidency, the campaign waged by this pugnacious politically ignorant racist clown had all the characteristics of a fool’s errand. I thought he had no real chance at victory, but the campaign would cost him a fortune in financial losses and damage to his reputation…which was not that good to start with among many New Yorkers.   Before the campaign had hardly begun Trump’s dirty mouth and reckless diatribes cost him plenty in terms of public ridicule and lost business deals.

After his scathing comments about Mexican immigrants, accusing them of everything from being rapist and garden variety criminals to bringing infectious diseases into the US, he was roundly denounced and ridiculed in the media, and a train of corporations with whom he was doing business cut ties with the New York real estate developer and fled.   This includes television networks such as NBC and the Spanish Language TV network Univision, which aired his beauty pageant. And the government of California has voted to divest in any Trump enterprises they were doing business with.

However considering the fact that Trump has pledged to finance his own campaign, he could end up blowing a lot more dough.  For instance, the leading candidate in the race, Jeb Bush, has amassed a war chest of over a hundred Million dollars and there are millions more where that came from.  Although thus far Bush’s bread appears to have had no effect on his standing in the race, since the last time I checked he was below 5%.  It is no secret that the Republican establishment is behind Bush and wishes that Trump would disappear, as he is besmirching the party image and alienating Hispanic Americans – a constituency that party strategist with the Republican National Committee has identified as vital to a Republican victory in the 2016 presidential election.

After fiddling around for days after Trump’s scurrilous attacks on Mexicans Jeb Bush, whose wife Columba is Mexican, vociferously denounced Trumps anti-Mexican comments as “extraordinarily ugly” and assured us they are “not reflective of the Republican party.” But Trump chumped Jeb off by pointing out that his wife was Mexican and insinuated that he was pussy whipped and thus couldn’t be trusted to handle this issue objectively.

Terrified by Trump’s no-holds barred campaign style, in which mudslinging private attacks were considered fair tactics, the rest of the Republican presidential field maintained a silence that conjures up the oath of “Omerta” pledged by Mafia members. While Trump, pompous blowhard that he is, has stood firm and remained unrepentant, and despite the fact that those contenders who first stepped up to oppose him – like former Governor Rick Perry of Texas and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana – bit the dust, the rest of the Republican field have been forced to increasingly abandon their mealy mouth lawyerlike double talk and sound the alarm that a Trump victory in the primary elections would spell disaster for their Party.

They are speaking out despite fact that it will offend the racist sentiments of many in the Republican base; the beleaguered white working class whom they have courted with thinly disguised racist diatribes against President Obama.  However the party pros, the strategists like Karl Rove who understand the demographic profile of the entire US electorate, well know that the people who turn out and cheer Trump are a minority.

Hence they are worried to death about what the enigmatic, abrasive and fiercely independent Trump may do or say next.  It is fair to say that the old line Republican establishment is deeply worried about the damage Trump is doing to their brand every time he takes the stage.  His latest statements about Muslims have won the opprobrium of people around the world.

The Prime Ministers of America’s closest allies Britain and France have publicly denounced his views in extraordinary comments on US domestic politics.  Even the Mayor of London was moved to respond to a comment from Trump about the dangers posed by the Muslim population of London, that he would be much more afraid of running into Trump on the street during a visit to New York.

And as any thoughtful observer might imagine, Trump’s comments have flown like a steel balloon in the Muslim world, where they have been roundly denounced by students, scholars, politicians and of course Imams.  Tom Freedman, the erudite Foreign Affairs columnist for the New York Times, tells us in a column titled “You ain’t no American Bro”:

As for Trump, well, he may be a deal maker, but he’s no poker player ready for the Middle East five-card stud sharks. His xenophobic rhetoric and unrealistic, infantile threats of massive bombing make up the kind of simplistic hand you’d play in “Go Fish” — not in this high-stakes game. Beyond playing into ISIS’s hand by denigrating the U.S. presidency and our democratic ideals, Trump is doing real damage to America’s ability to lead a coalition, the only vehicle that can effectively address this problem.”

Despite the obvious damage this Trump chump is doing to his party and his country with his reckless rancid rhetoric, this megalomaniacal corporate martinet and amateur politician charges on oblivious to the concerns and protests of his fellow Republicans, as he trashes their dreams of capturing the Oval office with his malicious follies.  And it serves them right!

They made a Faustian Bargain by supporting or turning a deaf ear to the Tea Party and Trump’s racist attacks on President Obama, and now the Devil has come to claim their souls.  It is a poetic justice.  The Grand Obstructionist Party has just the candidate their dirty deeds deserve: A race baiting pugnacious chicken hawk and Vietnam era draft dodger, itching to squander more American blood and treasure in Middle East wars, raging through the Grand Obstructionist Party with the destructiveness of a bull in a China shop.  Indeed, they are reaping what they have sown!

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem New York
December 9, 2015

The Whole World in his Hands

Posted in On Pope Francis and Catholocism, Playthell on politics on December 2, 2015 by playthell

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Centre, in Paris, on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015. Obama discussed the COP21 climate change summit, and the threat of terrorism from the Islamic State Group. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Obama shares his Vision of the Future

An Ideal  Statesman for our Troubled Times

Early on in his tenure as President I marked Barack Obama as the most politically gifted, humane and visionary statesman ever to occupy the Oval Office – a space that has been occupied by charlatans, racists, anti-Semites, misogynist, slaveholders, child rapists, and mass murderers.  This was not merely partisan cheerleading, but a candid accounting of Obama’s assets as they were revealed to me in his actions.

The first thing he did upon election was to sign a nuclear arms limitation treaty with Russia; the second thing was to tackle the problem of economic recovery after George W. Bush and the GOP gang wrecked the economy; then he moved to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and seek peace with the Islamic world by travelling to Egypt, the incubator of the modern Jihad.* And like this writer he was convinced the invasion of Iraq was a misguided “war of choice” in which vast amounts of American blood and treasure was needlessly squandered. Alas, history has proved us right.** Hence unlike many American commentators on the right and left I thought that he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.***

The positions President Obama advanced at the Paris conference on Climate change COP21 – attended by 180 heads of State and 40,000 delegates from 196 countries, the largest gathering of heads of state in history – proves that I was also right in my initial assessment of him as a statesman.  The paramount objective of the conference was to put in place an agreement to reduce atmospheric emissions from Greenhouse gasses that would be legally binding on the nations of the world – like the ban on deployment of weaponized germs and poison gas in warfare.

The Paris treaty is designed to keep the planetary climate below two degrees Celsius from what it had been before the Industrial Revolution.  While this may not seem like much to the average person, it would be instructive to visit the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan and see how changes in the natural environment wrought by the toxic effects of the Industrial Revolution led to the extinction of numerous species.  Now that Homosapiens are threatened with extinction from industrial pollution world leaders have gathered in Paris with the urgent mission of preventing this catastrophe from happening.

None have been clearer about “the fierce urgency of now” than President Obama, whose active and committed leadership in this historic effort is indispensable. He addressed the conference with an amazing combination of candor and humility: “I come here personally as the leader of the world’s biggest economy and second-biggest emitter to say that America not only acknowledges its role in climate change, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.”

The tone and content of his speech is a measure of the gravitas of this issue and the depth of Obama’s character and vision; one would be hard put to find another instance of an American President admitting US culpability in the creation of a global disaster.  It is this willingness to look honestly at American history – the good, the bad and the ugly – that impressed me the first time that I heard him speak.  One cannot imagine such an admission from any Republican, and few Democrats.

Yet it was precisely the right tone for this moment, for to display any hint of the characteristic arrogance fueled by an assumption of “American Exceptionalism” would have been self-defeating…a non-starter with this audience.  The President went on to point out the concrete steps that the US, under his leadership, has undertaken to address this global crisis.

Over the last seven years, we’ve made ambitious investments in clean energy and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions.  We’ve multiplied wind power threefold, and solar power more than twentyfold; helping create parts of America where these clean power sources are finally cheaper than dirtier, conventional power.  We’ve invested in energy efficiency in every way imaginable.  We’ve said no to infrastructure that would pull high-carbon fossil fuels from the ground, and we’ve said yes to the first-ever set of national standards limiting the amount of carbon pollution our power plants can release into the sky.”

What he did not say however, is that he accomplished this over the impassioned objections and active resistance of the Republican opposition, who passed two bills nullifying the president’s executive orders reducing carbon emissions while he was negotiating the Paris agreement.  However this treachery by a disloyal opposition will come to naught because President Obama will veto them.

However it reveals the true character of these amoral science deniers and shills for the interests of petro-chemical magnates like the Koch brothers, who finance so much of the right-wing Republican political agenda.  By their actions they have supplied provided irrefutible evidence that they lack both compassion and vision and are willing to sacrifice the fate of the earth and the future of their grand-children to their lust for power and greed of the plutocrats.  It is no base hyperbole to argue that should the Grand Obstructionist Party seize control of the Presidency and Congress, the policies they will enact will be a disaster for all of humanity.

The most tragic aspect of the Republican argument against reducing greenhouse gas emissions is that it is based on gross ignorance and blatant lies; as are so many of their arguments.  The biggest lie is that these measures to protect our environment will stymie the economy, rather than simply reduce the profits of the fossil fuel producers.  President Obama exposed their shameful game by presenting the facts.

The advances we’ve made have helped drive our economic output to all-time highs, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades.  But the good news is this is not an American trend alone.  Last year, the global economy grew while global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels stayed flat.  And what this means can’t be overstated.  We have broken the old arguments for inaction.  We have proved that strong economic growth and a safer environment no longer have to conflict with one another; they can work in concert with one another.”

The president went on to point out that there is reason to hope that the present trends of global warming and all the attendant evils like rising sea levels, which are already clearly apparent to peoples living on Island nations, can be reversed if the nations of the world act in concert to solve this tragic problem.  And again he cites the results of his own policies as a model for how it can be done.

“Earlier this month in Dubai, after years of delay, the world agreed to work together to cut the super-pollutants known as HFCs.  That’s progress.  Already, prior to Paris, more than 180 countries representing nearly 95 percent of global emissions have put forward their own climate targets.  That is progress.  For our part, America is on track to reach the emissions targets that I set six years ago in Copenhagen — we will reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.  And that’s why, last year, I set a new target:  America will reduce our emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels within 10 years from now.”

Leaders from every corner of the world acknowledged the problem of global warming and pledged to follow our president’s example and take action to curb emissions in their countries.  And although his piece of sovereign ground, the Vatican, emits no carbon gasses, the Pope left no doubt where he stands on this critical matter; which puts rightwing Republicans who are Catholic on very shaky ground with God, since according to Catholic doctrine the Pope is infallible!  This is why many people believe the former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, quit his office and resigned from the US Congress after a private audience with the Pope.  The word is that he was concerned about the fate of his mortal soul come Judgement Day.

It will be interesting to see how Paul Ryan, a devout Irish Catholic who is the new House Speaker, will fare on the question of global warming; a phenomenon his party officially denies. In fact, just this morning the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christy, a practicing Catholic who is touted as one of the wiser candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, said on national television that he didn’t believe global warming is real no matter what the world’s leading climate scientist say.  In view of the fact that as I write the New York Times has published a story on how the US government has offered immediate immigration status to the residents of the American controlled Marshall Islands in the Pacific because they are sinkng due to rising sea levels, Christy is either fat dumb and clueless or he is a shameless lying charlatan.  In either case he is clearly unfit to occupy the most important office in the world!

Pope Francis however is unambiguous on the issue.  He told reporters aboard his private plane returning to Rome “We are on the brink. We are on the brink of a suicide, to use a strong word, and I am sure that most of those at the COP have this conscience, and want to do something.”  It’s going to be big fun for a yellow dog Democrat like me to watch these professed Catholic politicians try and snake dance around this glaring paradox.

It’s Now Or Never!

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 22: Pope Francis (C) is escorted by U.S. President Barack Obama (3rd R) and first lady Michelle Obama (R) as he greets and other political and Catholic church leaders after arriving from Cuba September 22, 2015 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. Francis will be visiting Washington, New York City and Philadelphia during his first trip to the United States as Pope. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

So Sayeth the Pope

Seeking to relieve the fears of developing countries such as India and China, who rightly feel that the developed countries like the US created this problem in the course of their development but now want to solve it at their expense, President Obama proposed a compensation plan funded by the rich countries.  His view was a comprehensive one that sought a fair deal for the rich and the poor nations; which is the only way this effort to save our planet can work.  It is yet another indication of the intelligence and humane vision of Barack Obama, beside which all of the Republican candidates appear as nihilistic moral Neanderthals.

However during his press conference before leaving Paris, some thoughtful reporters expressed skepticism as to whether these policies will survive should a Republican succeed him as President.  The president’s response to their questions was upbeat and politic; just what the situation required.  First he flashed that devilish smile for which he is famous, and said that he expected to be followed in the Oval Office by a Democrat because he had faith in the wisdom of the American people – a confidence this writer does not share – and then he became contemplative about the gravitas of the presidency and the sobering effect it has on the those who hold it.

“But even if somebody from a different party succeeded me…one of the things that you’ll find is that when you are in this job you will think about it differently from when you are just running for the job.  And what you realize is what I mentioned earlier, that American leadership involves not just playing to a narrow constituency back home, but you are now in fact at the center of what is happening around the world.  And your credibility, and America’s ability to influence events around the world, depends on taking seriously what other countries care about.  In fact there is a reason why you had the largest gathering of world leaders probably in human history here in Paris.  Everybody else is taking Climate change really seriously.”

It is to the deficit of the American nation that Barack Obama cannot run for a third term like Franklin Delanor Roosevelt, for he has conducted his office with Solomonic wisdom and is by far the wisest and coolest head among any of the candidates of either party who are likely to become president – including the Wall Street loving hawkish Hillary Clinton…for whom I shall gleefully vote against any Republican who pretends to this powerful office; the most powerful executive position in the world.  As this is the first of a two part series, I shall analyze President Obama’s position on Syria, Russia, Turkey and the global war on terror in part two.

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This is a Muliti-media Presentation
Click on link below to see President Obama’s speech at Paris Conference
https://youtu.be/GyzrcMONm60
Clink on link to see President Obama’s Paris Press Conference
http://www.c-span.org/video/?401442-1/president-obama-news-conference
  • Citations
  • See: “Of All the Places in the Muslim World why Egypt?
  • See: The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq
  • See:Barack Obama Wins the Nobel Prize
  • See: Hail to the Juggler!
  • Playthell G. Benjamin
  • Harlem, New York
  • December 2, 2015