Model Mad, Masterpiece

Roy Lichtenstein’s “Masterpiece” (1962). Credit Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

This isn’t the first time our Model Mad series has intersected with the Art World, but it may be the first for leveraging Art into action for social justice.  Channeling Pop Art speech bubbles we have to say, “You Go, Girl!”

Agnes Gund Sells a Lichtenstein to Start Criminal Justice Fund

In January, rumors swirled that the art collector and patron Agnes Gund had sold her prized 1962 Roy Lichtenstein “Masterpiece” for a whopping $150 million, placing it among the 15 highest known prices ever paid for an artwork.

Ms. Gund is confirming that sale now, revealing that she parted with the painting (for what was actually $165 million, including fees) for a specific purpose: to create a fund that supports criminal justice reform and seeks to reduce mass incarceration in the United States.

This new Art for Justice Fund — to be announced Monday at the Museum of Modern Art, where Ms. Gund is president emerita — will start with $100 million of the proceeds from the Lichtenstein (which was sold to the collector Steven A. Cohen through Acquavella Gallery).

“This is one thing I can do before I die,” Ms. Gund, 78, said in an interview at her Upper East Side apartment, where the Lichtenstein used to hang over the mantel, along with works by Jasper Johns and Mark Rothko. “This is what I need to do.” Continue reading

Model Mad, Mayors

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Mayor Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh, left, and Mayor Ann Hidalgo, of Paris, are outspoken supporters of the Paris climate accord. Credit Justin Merriman for The New York Times (Peduto); Christophe Ena/Associated Press

She has been featured in these pages due to her creative approach to governance more than once. We are happy to see Ann Hidalgo again, this time providing another example of the “don’t just get angry–do something with creative ferocity” ethos implied in these constant observations of model mad. And we are especially grateful for the joint commentary with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who we hope to see more of:

…Though separated by an ocean and a language, we share a desire to do what is best for our citizens and our planet. That means putting aside parochial politics and embracing the global challenge of fighting climate change. In doing so, we can create a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous world for Parisians, Pittsburghers and everyone else on the planet. Continue reading

Keep This Place Out Of Bounds

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The letters come amid fears that the Trump administration will favor the powerful mining lobby, increasing the risk, particularly, of uranium contaminating water flowing into the Grand Canyon. Photograph: Stephen Yelverton Photography/Getty Images

Arizona officials, sensing an opportune moment, are using one of the most iconic places on earth to make a point. And the point is at one with the reason given for the USA pulling out of an environmental treaty, that every last buck to be raked out of the earth is more important than the earth as a whole, or a particular spot on the earth, or those living on the planet generations from now. The headline and story below fail to shock. This is how things are lately. Getting numbed to it is not an option. Arizona officials have made their point clear, but the point cannot be conceded. Boundaries still exist and must be protected. Thanks to the Guardian for its vigilance in its This is Your Land series:

Grand Canyon at risk as Arizona officials ask Trump to end uranium mining ban

Exclusive: Powerful regional officials to ask administration to end 20-year ban, saying it is unlawful and inhibits economic opportunity Continue reading

Leadership On Climate Change Is Alive And Well

California Gov. Jerry Brown talks with Sharon Dijksma, Netherlands Minister for the Environment, during the joint Netherlands and California Environmental Protection Agency conference called, “Climate is Big Business,” at the Presidio Wednesday, May 24, 2017, in San Francisco; Photo: Eric Risberg, Associated Press

The news yesterday that the USA is exiting the Paris climate accord was in a font size the New York Times only uses at times of true tragedy–i.e. big news. Editorials accompanying that headline on the front page were proportionately big with invective:

Our Disgraceful Exit

Trump’s Stupid and Reckless Climate Decision

Brooks: Trump Poisons the World

Krugman: Trump Gratuitously Rejects the Paris Accord

All consistent with the implications of the news. There is no discounting the scale of that tragedy, so it is possibly not the right moment to look for silver linings. But that is what we do here, so here goes. In the model mad series we linked to a story about California Governor Jerry Brown, who has been making a stand during decades of public service, and he clearly has no intention of slowing down. The governors of California, New York and Washington on Thursday announced a new “alliance of states dedicated to fighting global warming and urged others to join them”.

“California will resist,” Brown told journalists on a conference call, going on to say that  the administration may well create the exact opposite of what is intended –

an aroused citizenry — and an aroused international community — who will not tolerate this kind of deviant behavior from the highest office in the land.”

Brown and his counterparts, Jay Inslee of Washington and Andrew Cuomo of New York, announced that they would join forces in a United States Climate Alliance, a coalition of states committed to upholding the goals of the Paris agreement.

The three states, combined, represent more than 20 percent of the U.S. population and at least 10 percent of the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the governors. Continue reading

Dams, Development & Destruction

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Munduruku people demonstrate in front of the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy, calling for the suspension of construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant. Photograph: Lunae Parracho/Reuters

Thanks to John Vidal and the Guardian for this coverage in Latin America:

The rains had been monumental throughout April 2014. By early May, the operators of the 219 MW Cachoeira Caldeirão dam being built in Brazil’s remote Amapá state knew that levels on the Araguari river were dangerously high. If some water was not released fast, the whole thing might collapse. There would be no danger to people because any run-off would be absorbed by two other dams downstream, the hydropower company thought.

But communications failed and no one warned the small town of Ferreira Gomes, nestled on the banks of the Araguari nearly 50km away. Continue reading

Model Mad, Mechanism

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In this era, when saying no in creative manner has been raised to an art form, we remain on the lookout for model mad; but it does not have to be creative or novel. If there is an established machinery to utilize, utilize it! Here is an example. We are not surprised that, when asked, people say they want their environment protected, nonetheless we are pleasantly surprised that the “system” such as it is continues to even ask:

Public To EPA On Cutting Regulations: ‘No!’

As part of President Trump’s executive order to review “job-killing regulations,” the Environmental Protection Agency last month asked for the public’s input on what to streamline or cut. It held a series of open-mic meetings and set up a website that has received more than 28,000 comments, many of which urge the agency not to roll back environmental protections. Continue reading

Thank You Nebraska!

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We have refused to give up hope because there continue to be a trickle of stories like this, thanks to the Guardian. Bruce Springsteen dedicated a whole album to Nebraska, and this short news via video reminds us of that state’s great people:

After Trump’s revival of the Keystone XL pipeline project, some communities along its route are getting ready to fight back. Others see the US president keeping his promise to ‘make America great again’. The Guardian drove along the proposed route of the pipeline, through three red states – Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska – to hear what those who will be affected have to say about it

Model Mad, Down Under

John Church in Hobart in September 2010. He is known internationally for helping to bring statistical and analytical rigor to longstanding questions about sea level rise. Credit Peter Boyer

We continue to keep our eyes open for stories that offer inspiration even in the face of apparent adversity.

A Parable From Down Under for U.S. Climate Scientists

HOBART, TASMANIA — John A. Church, a climate scientist, did not look or sound like a man who had recently been shoved out of a job.

Speaking softly and downing coffee at an outdoor cafe in this old port city, he sounded more like a fellow fresh off a jousting match. “I think we had a win — a bigger win than I ever anticipated,” Dr. Church said in an interview last month.

Australian climate science went through an upheaval last year, one that engaged the press and the public in defending the importance of basic research. In the end, Dr. Church did indeed lose his job, but scores of his colleagues who had been marked for layoffs did not. Some of them view him as having sacrificed his career to save theirs.

What happened in Australia shows the power of an informed citizenry keeping watch on its government. And it may turn out to be a precursor to an attack on fundamental climate research in the United States.

Continue reading

Keystone Continues Calling

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Thanks to the Guardian for keeping attention where it is due:

Life on the Keystone XL route: where opponents fear the ‘black snake’

Part one: In Montana, Native Americans fear a leak could destroy their way of life, but local politicians worry about the threat of protesters above all else

Words by Oliver Laughland, photos and video by Laurence Mathieu-Léger

“)ur people call it the black snake because it is evil,” says Tressa Welch, as thunder clouds steamroll the blue sky over the plains of Wolf Point. “And like snakes they come out of nowhere, they slither and strike unknown.” Continue reading

Historians Do Not Get Mad, They Give Perspective

ian-frazierNormally we clip short excerpts and link to full articles, or whatever it is we think worth sharing from a third party source. The exception is, on rare occasions, with important news that should be read in full at once, such as a public service announcement. Here is one of those, in our estimation. We suggest you read it to the end, now. Ian Frazier, a staff writer at The New Yorker, has avoided the sap, but treads close to the heartwarming notion that folks in a divided, tense situation might be able to listen to one another, with the help of a mission-driven historian:

Patricia Limerick, well-known historian of the American West, gave a talk at the community center in the town of Burns, Oregon, one evening not long ago with her heart slightly in her throat. Limerick belongs to the small category of historians who are occasionally recognized on the street, and she gives talks all the time. What made this one different was that Burns is the county seat of Harney County, home of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the site, last year, of a six-week takeover by armed protesters, who demanded that the federal government return the land—though to whom was not exactly clear. One of the occupiers was killed in the standoff. Limerick knew that her audience, about seventy-five county residents, included both supporters and opponents of the protest. The mood in the room seemed congenial, not tense, but she couldn’t be sure. A local man had told her about a past confrontation between the two sides in which many had likely carried firearms. He said he thought that if someone had dropped a book people might have started shooting. Continue reading

Model Mad, Painter

Mr. Bradford surveying the rotunda of the pavilion replica. Joshua White

We appreciate Mark Bradford’s concern about how he can represent the United States when he no longer feels represented by his government. Many of us on this platform are trying to find ways to express the same concern without resorting to nihilism, dystopic or other forms of hopelessness.

It takes an artist like Mr. Bradford to remind us of how we can creatively address this concern. It has the true ring of the same core concern driving others in the arts we have been pointing to in the model mad series. Thanks to Jori Finkel and the Arts section of the New York Times for An Artist’s Mythic Rebellion for the Venice Biennale:

LOS ANGELES — Mark Bradford, one of America’s most acclaimed painters, could not figure out what to put in the grand rotunda.

This artist, who is set to represent his country in May at the 2017 Venice Biennale, found an unusual way of working long-distance. In a warehouse in South Los Angeles, not far from where he grew up, he created a full-size model of the Biennale’s United States pavilion, a stately building with echoes of Monticello. Continue reading

Breaking Rules When The Result Is Worth It

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The strawberries at Harry’s Berries, grown in Oxnard, Calif., are harvested only once every five days, to give the fruit time to reach its peak flavor. Credit Amy Dickerson for The New York Times

Renegade behavior in the abstract attracts us almost always. We admit to favoring examples, cases, histories that point to unusual choices that we think provide a model for others to follow to solve problems. However, sometimes there is no choice but to point to the downside of renegade behavior, aka breaking the rules on which society depends. And there are plenty of lousy renegades we read about but do not foul up these pages with. Today, it’s coming up strawberries. Thanks to Rick and Molly and to Karen Stabiner for bringing this story forward:

Red, Ripe and Renegade: Berries That Break All the Rules

“This one should be O.K.,” he said, sounding not quite convinced. Then again, his definition of ripe is more stringent than most. Continue reading

Osage Nation’s Reign Of Terror

20253bbcb2dd6c45dd81207b5472e853c352bbd3Many of our links to the too many stories of injustice perpetrated against Native Americans in the last year had to do with pipelines.  Some stories focus on the positive, but there remains plenty of negative. The only time we have noted the Osage Nation in these pages, it was under the happier circumstances of someone doing the right thing by them.

David Grann’s new book is being reviewed, and he is being interviewed, just as one of his earlier articles has become a powerhouse cinematic experience. He is our kind of sleuth, and so it is strange that we have not linked to his work before. Thanks to Theodore Ross in the New Republic for bringing this to our attention:

…In the early 1900s, the Osage were among the wealthiest people in the United States, after a large oil reservoir was discovered beneath the barren Oklahoma scrubland they had been driven to by white settlers and the federal government. Then tragedy: a string of murders, each following close on the heels of the next, as a bloody plot to separate the Osage from their money and land unfolded.

Grann tells the story of these murders, the conspirators, and the new breed of lawmen from the FBI who hunted them down. He also reveals a far worse scheme, one that encompasses America’s institutional racism and violence, and the exploitation of Native Americans… Continue reading

If You Eat Canned Tuna, Consider This

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We check in with EcoWatch regularly, and from time to time Greenpeace has a surprising piece of content featured, like this 20 Canned Tuna Brands Ranked: How Sustainable Is Your Brand?

StarkistWarn.jpgWhat is surprising to me is this pop up call to action, which echoes back at least three decades for me to the first time I heard of Greenpeace, which was also the first time I heard of any issues related to canned tuna, which was also the first time I looked on a map to see where the Gulf of California, and Baja California Sur were situated. It is surprising because on the ranking above, this same tuna is not the absolute worst of the worst. Even more surprising, in its own way, is that Trader Joe’s is even worse in this ranking. Go figure. Anyway, thanks to David Pinsky, Greenpeace, and EcoWatch for this: Continue reading

Letters to Young Farmers

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY THE DAILY BEAST

The reference of the title isn’t lost on us, for the “everyday act of creation”, of coaxing bounty from the soil, is a form of poetry. We applaud both the advisors and the ears on which the advice falls.

Letters to a Young Farmer is full of good counsel for the next generation from the likes of Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, and the noted novelist Barbara Kingsolver.

Dear young farmer,

Let me speak to you as a familiar, because of all the years I’ve cherished members of your tribe. Of course, I also know you’re only yourself, just as I remember the uniqueness of every intern, WWOOFer, and summer weed-puller who has spent a season or two on our family’s farm. Some preferred to work without shoes. Some were captivated by the science of soils, botany, and pest management. Some listened to their iPods, or meditated, or even sang as they hoed and weeded, while others found no music among the bean bee­tles. A few confessed to finding this work too hard, but many have gone on to manage other farms or buy places of their own. In these exceptional souls I invest my hopes….

Continue reading

Dismantling Protection, Effectively & Efficiently

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How is it that an Administration as disorganized as Donald Trump’s has been so methodical when it comes to attacking the environment? PHOTOGRAPH BY JOE RAEDLE / GETTY

I committed myself to not name the name, because it adds fuel to a flame that is already out of control. But if you have read any of the posts in our model mad series the name is clearly implied.  Plenty of others name so well that it is best just to link their work. One of the best namer of names when it comes to our environment, and failure to protect it, is Elizabeth Kolbert. She occasionally points out that we do not simply fail to protect, but willingly allow the named to dismantle critical protections. We are sadly impressed that Dame Doomsday doesn’t disappoint with her latest contribution:

Next week, millions of Americans will celebrate Earth Day, even though, three months into Donald Trump’s Presidency, there sure isn’t much to celebrate. A White House characterized by flaming incompetence has nevertheless managed to do one thing effectively: it has trashed years’ worth of work to protect the planet. As David Horsey put it recently, in the Los Angeles Times, “Donald Trump’s foreign policy and legislative agenda may be a confused mess,” but “his administration’s attack on the environment is operating with the focus and zeal of the Spanish Inquisition.” Continue reading

Family, Editorializing, Persistence

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A front page screen shot of Iowa’s Storm Lake Times, which has won a Pulitzer Prize. Photograph: Storm Lake Times

There seems to be a tradition in the field of journalism in the USA whereby one publication celebrates another’s victory in the Pulitzer awards race. Thanks to the Guardian for its shout out, from across the water, to this little publication. As a member of a small organization with multiple family members working together; an organization that editorializes about food as much as anything else; an enterprise that persists against the odds; I particularly like the David & Goliath ring of this:

Tiny, family-run Iowa newspaper wins Pulitzer for taking on agriculture companies

Art Cullen owns the 3,000-circulation Storm Lake Times with his brother John. His wife and son also work at the paper Continue reading

Model Mad, Podcast

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We, among millions of others, had to have a listen. It would be useless to comment on it, but we pass it along to the few people who have not yet heard about it. The only comment here, besides the advisory that it was produced for a mature audience, might be the conclusion that in the model mad series we have been running, this one takes the cake. Maybe with this one we need to close out that series. Until we see something better, that’s it.

Model Mad, Whitehouse

captured_finalWe have been suggesting that the model mad behavior in these particularly odd times is not to fight fire with fire, but to fight it with effective extinguishers. There are plenty of creative, as well as otherwise enlightened approaches you should consider. Here’s another. If what you hear out of the White House is infuriating you, consider what this Whitehouse has to say:

Sheldon Whitehouse is a politician with a great name, a bad haircut, and a pissed-off attitude. The second-term Democratic junior senator from Rhode Island has built his career around two seemingly unrelated issues—climate change and money in politics—and he’s just written a book to demonstrate how intimately connected they turn out to be. Continue reading

Rare Birds, Climate Change & Dialogue

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Jerry Taylor, founder of the Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank.

We like birds. We like rare birds. Jerry Taylor sounds worthy of attention. Thanks to Marc Gunther and Yale 360 for Climate Converts: The Conservatives Who Are Switching Sides on Warming:

It’s hardly being noticed, given the current political atmosphere in Washington. But a small yet growing number of Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians are starting to push for action on climate.

As liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans pull farther apart in the long-running, increasingly polarized debate over climate change, Jerry Taylor is a rare bird — Continue reading