Whitepine mitigation in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 7.40.02 AM.png                                 UDOT avalanche mitigation of Whitepine

Many of you know that near-record snowfall occurred in the Wasatch Range about ten days ago that dropped 72 inches of snow at Alta in three days–and some storms continue. Roads in both Big (Brighton-Solitude) and little Cottonwood Canyons (Alta-Snowbird) were closed altogether while avalanche control crews dealt with the hazard. The link shows the effect of one control shot into upper Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Rick Reese

In ‘Birds Of Passage,’ A New Lens On The Narcotrafficking Drama ~ NPR

In a hypnotic opening dance between two would-be lovers, the new film Birds of Passage immediately establishes that it is in no way a typical Colombian drug-war epic.

A young woman named Zaida, wearing a billowing red dress that stretches to resemble wings, is engaged in an elaborate courtship ritual with a suitor named Rapayet. As a crowd looks on in a tiny village, they charge toward each other, exchanging glances, dancing a sort of ballet. The scene is set against a vast, arid landscape in one of the most remote regions of northern Colombia, and among one of its most rarely seen indigenous communities known as the Wayúu.

Film critic Monica Castillo says that U.S. films depicting Colombia’s devastating drug war tend to focus on the high-stakes world of narcotrafficking — on powerful gangsters like Pablo Escobar. These films and television series themselves traffic in sex, drugs and tropical heat. It is precisely this kind of gangster movie that Oscar-nominated filmmakers Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego wanted to subvert.

Birds of Passage is set in and told from the perspective of the deeply insular and traditional Wayúu community of Colombia’s La Guajira region. Culture writer and film critic Manuel Betancourt, who was raised in Bogotá, says their world is so remote that it is as unfamiliar to most Colombians as it is to an international audience.

“They are a very specific group … that really were never colonized by the Spanish, and that’s different from many of the other indigenous communities that are alive with us in Colombia,” Betancourt says. “The Wayúu maintained a level of insularity that really protected all those traditions. … You’re really seeing a community intact that has not been tainted, and the movie tracks when they’re coming to terms with the modernity that’s encroaching around them, and the history that’s about to explode.”

For filmmakers Guerra and Gallego, the drug war started a process that devastated the fragile cultures of indigenous communities. The booming demand for marijuana created a culture defined by greed and individual success, which fundamentally challenged the values and spiritual beliefs of tight-knit communities like the Wayúu.

In the film, Rapayet is desperate to raise money for the dowry to marry Zaida, and begins helping a friend supply American Peace Corps volunteers with marijuana. It grows into a booming family business — soon, there are planes flying in and out of the desert filled with drugs.

Amid the mushrooming riches, it is the women in the film who sense that something is wrong. The Wayúu are a matrilineal society, and in dream sequences and natural omens, only the women foretell the impending chaos.

One of the key omens are the birds of the film’s title, which often appear on screen, silently walking through a room or landing on a branch in hypnotic, unexplained moments.

“The Wayúu have a strong relationship with birds and what they symbolize,” Gallego says. “When a certain bird appears, it’s bringing news, certain omens. They’re the messengers of what’s to come. … We wanted to speak also to the arrival of the planes, because they are birds made of metal … and also, in the ’50s in Colombia, pajaros[birds] were used to refer to people with guns, people who brought violence with them.”

The film might be described as a blend of a classical Greek tragedy of a family torn apart and a Latin American magical realist novel. Guerra and Gallego say the great master of Colombian literature, Gabriel García Márquez, was deeply influenced by Wayúu traditions — and that they are indebted to his legacy.

“When we started working on this world, we realized that the code of magical realism — and specifically of the world of One Hundred Years of Solitude — was written in the ‘key’ of Wayúu, because García Márquez was educated by Wayúu,” Gallego says.

The novel became a guiding light to the filmmakers. They say that García Márquez was wrestling with many of the same questions about cultural identity and progress.

“[One Hundred Years of Solitude] also has to do with the arrival of modernity, and the arrival of the 20th century and all its transformations, in a place that, in some ways, is outside the laws of the modern world,” Guerra says. “We thought the inspiration that surges through the novel was fitting for the story we wanted to tell.”

Birds of Passage premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, and was Colombia’s official entry to this year’s Oscars. Guerra and Gallego’s previous film Embrace of the Serpent, which Guerra directed and Gallego produced, was also set in one of Colombia’s indigenous communities (this one deep in the Amazon jungle). It was a commercial and critical success, and was one of the nominees for the best foreign language Oscar.

The filmmakers are drawn to threatened traditions, but they are themselves at the forefront of a Latin American new wave. Film critic Manuel Betancourt says theirs is a deliberate project to widen the lens of Latin American cinema to indigenous voices.

“It’s a choice to go to the Amazon or La Guajira, wanting to move away from the urban centers that dominate Latin American and Colombian cinema in general,” Betancourt says. “It speaks to the kind of cinema they want to create, but also to the jobs they want to create for different communities, the types of stories they want to offer the world … it seems very intentional and I love that about their work.”

For Birds of Passage, Gallego says 30 percent of the crew came from the Wayúu community: “They were constantly correcting us on how we represented them appropriately,” she says. It was always welcome, she says, because the collaboration as equal partners was key to avoiding the traditional colonial gaze of the outsider looking in.

“When we talk about cinema about the indigenous community … we’re often thinking about a type of distant ethnographic approximation, one that doesn’t identify with the community, but rather, exotifies it,” Guerra says. “For us what’s been interesting with these last films was getting close to these communities and telling the story from within … generating relatability and emotion in a way that is interesting for an audience that isn’t used to seeing these kinds of communities on the big screen. They can identify with them, they can be moved with them. And the cinema has that power to generate that empathy — that connection.”

Jasper Johns, American Legend ~ NYT

The artist’s work has managed to speak both to and for the country’s consciousness for the last 60 years — and he’s not done yet

A photograph of Johns’s studio. Every detail inside the studio seems intentional, as if each object were a clue about the man himself. Credit Joel Sternfeld

JASPER JOHNS LIVES on a sprawling estate in Sharon, Conn., a rural town in the Berkshires with a population of about 2,700 people. The property is stark and hilly, made up of a series of small barnlike structures, one of which houses Johns’s studio. Every detail inside the studio seems intentional, as if each object were a clue about the man himself. There’s the unframed poster, pinned to a wall, of Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of “Ginevra de’ Benci” (circa 1478), with whom Johns occasionally shares an intense, unsmiling gaze; there are the silver cans that hold his brushes; there is the model of the human skull on a table.

In a 1977 interview with the author Edmund White, Johns described his experience of meeting Marcel Duchamp, one of his artistic idols, who, with the Cubist paintings and ready-made sculptures he began making in the years leading up to World War I, helped drag art into the 20th century in much the same way that Johns would recalibrate the priorities of painting and sculpture at the end of the 1950s. “Just his physical presence was impressive,” Johns said of Duchamp. “I suppose all the mythology sensitizes you, prepares you to be impressed, to feel awe.” This is an apt description of Johns himself, who has, for much of his adult life, cultivated the aura of an enigma.

At 88, Johns remains physically imposing: He is barrel-chested, and his once boyish face has weathered into a craggy atlas. When I visited his home, he showed me the mostly bare walls of his studio before leading me upstairs, into an informal gallery room, with windows that looked out on the surrounding landscape, which felt, with the naked trees on the horizon, vast and lonely in the early December chill. Even his gait as he climbed the stairs had a meaningful vigor, as if he was trying to prove to the steps that he could still conquer them. Johns is a solitary figure, among the final survivors of an era, and for the better part of 60 years, he has declined to offer any easy explanations about his work, or to be a spokesperson for postwar American art, though people would like him to be. He has been one of the primary architects of the contemporary art world, and has also opted out of its social trappings entirely. For decades, he has divided his time between quiet towns along the East Coast and a remote retreat designed by Philip Johnson in St. Martin. Now, he rarely leaves Connecticut. The curator John Elderfield has called him “the hermit of Sharon.”

The next years will be busy ones for Johns. His first show of new works in five years is currently running at Matthew Marks Gallery in New York. He has been the subject of numerous surveys, and in the fall of 2020, he’ll have the largest one to date, split between two institutions — the Whitney Museum of American Art, where he had a retrospective in 1977, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which he started visiting in 1958 to view the museum’s collection of sculptures by Duchamp. The show will run simultaneously at both museums, which the Whitney’s Scott Rothkopf, the co-curator of the show along with Carlos Basualdo in Philadelphia, described as “unprecedented.”

Johns has assiduously avoided his public throughout his career, and yet he has also managed to consistently speak to what it is to be alive in America at any given moment. From his iconic paintings in the mid-50s of the American flag, which seemed to embody the fallout of Red Scare nationalism, to the modish apathy of his bronze sculptures of banal objects like flashlights and light bulbs, to his almost compulsive return in his later paintings to a holistic system of ambiguous symbols like galaxy spirals and cartoonish stick figures holding exaggeratedly large paintbrushes, he has been in a constant state of reinvention. He is the rare artist whose work has never become stale, who in his 80s is still creating strange and mysterious images that could be looked at endlessly and never fully reveal themselves. Whether Johns is actually about anything (or nothing) in particular has been the central question of his work, and yet it is ultimately less important than his endless search for meaning itself — the mere act of the lone artist entering the studio every day and deciding to continue. His constant presence is defined mostly by self-erasure, which has made him an artist who has disappeared almost entirely into his work. There is a sense that he’s been here forever, and that no one will replace him once he’s gone.

Jasper Johns, in Images

Jasper Johns, “Flag,” 1954-55, encaustic, oil and collage on fabric mounted on wood (3 panels), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art/licensed by Scala, NY/Art Resource, NY © 2019 Jasper Johns/licensed by VAGA at ARS, NY


I CAN’T SAY that my encounter with Johns did much to upend his reputation as an impenetrable figure. He had a remarkable ability to cut off a conversational thread with a single look. When asked if there were any younger artists he admired, he said, “Mmhmm.” Asked for specific names, he responded with an unsmiling, “No.” His speech was punctuated by long, powerful silences during which he stared out into the distance, looking at nothing in particular but doing so with such a sense of purpose it was as if he were searching the hills for the words he wanted to say before emerging with a full-paragraph answer. When we sat upstairs — a book of paintings by Edvard Munch, with whom Johns shares a morbid sense of symbolism, between us — there was a certain amount of negotiation regarding my recording our interview. I told him it was the only way I could know that I’ve quoted him accurately. “That’s what I’m worried about,” he said grimly before relenting.

Yet there was also a great warmth to him. He would frequently laugh at the things he said, his eyes brightening. He spoke with a mid-Atlantic accent that recalled Cary Grant, but when the conversation turned to his childhood in South Carolina, a southern lilt announced itself. In these moments, he could be surprisingly forthcoming, almost avuncular. I asked him why, unlike most artists who achieve the level of acclaim he has, he has never taught at a university. “I wouldn’t know how,” he said. Then he told me a story. When he was in basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina in 1951, he became friendly with a woman named Augusta Burch, who was in charge of the base’s service club, where soldiers would go to listen to records and write letters. Learning that he aspired to be an artist, she asked him to make a mural based on the work of Charles Dickens for the service club’s stage. Later, she started a culture center at Fort Jackson devoted to the study of music and art, and when Johns finished his basic training, she helped get him transferred there. He was supposed to give art lessons to other soldiers. “But I certainly didn’t teach,” he said. “I just watched what people did.”

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

You might think you know Frida Kahlo, but you’ll never understand her pain ~ The Washington Post

 “Frida with Idol,” 1939. Carbon print. (Nickolas Muray Photo Archives)
Art critic

There is a shame for any serious artist in being understood. Many artists cultivate a mystique precisely to avoid being explained away. But a resistance to being too well known comes into conflict with a desire to communicate and express oneself, to belong, to be loved.

Frida Kahlo. “Self-Portrait with Monkeys,” 1943. Oil on canvas. (The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of 20th Century Mexican Art and the Vergel Foundation/Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust/Artists Rights Society)

Frida Kahlo, one of the 20th century’s great artists, gives us occasion to think about this paradox. We know her. We love her. The exhibitions keep coming. And, inevitably, we think we understand her.

We don’t.

Kahlo’s life and work are addressed, engrossingly, in “Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving,” at the Brooklyn Museum. A second, smaller show, “Frida Kahlo and Arte Popular,” opens shortly at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The Brooklyn show is not just about how Kahlo made herself visible and known. It is as much about how she sought to avoid the ignominy of being too well known. It is, in short, about mystique.

Organized for the Brooklyn Museum by Catherine Morris and Lisa Small and based on an exhibition curated by Claire Wilcox and Circe Henestrosa at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum last year, the show hinges on 10 Kahlo paintings from the well-traveled Gelman Collection. It is filled out with dresses, jewelry and ephemera — much of it never before displayed in the United States — and there are dozens of photographs. So it’s as much about Kahlo’s fashioning of her persona as it is about fashion, painting or photography.

I have never seen a photograph of Kahlo that isn’t captivating. The Brooklyn show is filled with them, dating from early childhood to her final decade, and reminds us that she fascinated people even before she began painting her indelible self-portraits.

Kahlo became a celebrity when she was just 22, after marrying the already-famous Diego Rivera. She spent the rest of her life in his shadow. “The conclusion I’ve drawn,” she later wrote to him, “is that all I’ve done is fail . . . I live with you for ten years without doing anything in short but causing you problems and annoying you. I began to paint and my painting is useless but for me and for you to buy it, knowing that no-one else will.”

How painful this is to read, knowing that Kahlo was the better artist. She was better not because she happens to be more popular now nor because she was more talented or prolific than Rivera. She wasn’t. She was better because her art has an urgency and a specificity that his almost entirely lacks.

Rivera’s art is like political speech: In trying to apply to “the masses,” to everyone, it doesn’t actually apply to anyone. Kahlo’s is emphatically about herself, with results so jewel-like, compressed and beguiling that we are all, helplessly, interested.

Nickolas Muray. “Frida in New York,” 1946. Carbon pigment print. (Brooklyn Museum/Copyright Nickolas Muray Photo Archives)

Frida Kahlo. “Self-Portrait with Braid,” 1941. Oil on hardboard. (The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of 20th Century Mexican Art and the Vergel Foundation/Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust/Artists Rights Society)

Kahlo’s early fame put her on a strange trajectory. She was photographed for Vogue and Time and Vanity Fair by the most famous photographers alive: Edward Weston, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham. They were interested in her because they were interested in Mexico and Mexican politics; because they were interested in Rivera; and because when you see tiny Frida standing next to hulking Diego . . . well, how could you not be interested?

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

A British Perspective


Best analysis yet: from a Brit.

Exactly what I was thinking,but was too polite to say 😉
Someone asked “Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?”

Nate White, an articulate and witty writer from England, wrote this magnificent response:

“A few things spring to mind.
Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.

For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed.
So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.

Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever.

I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman.

But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.
Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.

And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.
There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.

Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront.
Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.
And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist.

Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that.

He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.
He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.
And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully.

That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.

There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.

So the fact that a significant minority – perhaps a third – of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think ‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:

* Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.

* You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss.

After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.

God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.
He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart.
In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.

President Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) takes questions at press conference. Saturday Night Live


Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 8.04.42 AM.png

~~~  WATCH  ~~~


“Saturday Night Live,” not surprisingly, took on President Trump’s meandering news conference declaring a national emergency at the southern border of the United States.

“Wall works, wall makes safe,” Alec Baldwin’s Trump said. “You don’t have to be smart to understand that — in fact it’s even easier to understand if you’re not that smart.”

SNL kicked off its version of the news conference with Trump embellishing the results of his recent physical: “I’m still standing 6′7, 185 pounds — shredded,” Baldwin deadpanned before making the case for a wall along the southern border.

“We need wall, okay. We have a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country from the southern border — or the brown line, as many people have asked me not to call it.”

“You all see why I gotta fake this emergency, right? I have to because I want to,” he added. “It’s really simple. We have a problem. Drugs are coming into this country through no wall.”

“I’m basically taking military money so I can has wall,” he explained before offering a breathless vision of what might happen as the result of his national emergency declaration:

“I’ll immediately be sued and the ruling will not go in my favor and then it will end up in the Supreme Court and then I’ll call my buddy [Brett] Kavanaugh and I’ll say ‘it’s time to repay the Donny,’ and he’ll say, ‘new phone, who dis?’ And by then the Mueller report will be released, crumbling my house of cards and I can plead insanity and do a few months in the puzzle factory and my personal hell of playing president will finally be over.”

The spoof mirrored other elements of Trump’s actual news conference. Baldwin’s Trump declared his love for tariffs and told a reporter to “sit down.” And he declined to answer a questions from an NBC reporter, while praising ABC — only in SNL’s version, Trump said he liked ABC because the network airs “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.”

One reporter, played by Heidi Gardner, asked a question that began much like one that was asked during the real news conference: “In your remarks today you said you were too new to politics earlier in your administration,” she said. “Is that an admission that you are, in fact, just kind of winging it?”

“Come on doll. I’m learning,” he said. “Let’s not forget, technically, this is my first real job.”

Trump thought back to the time “Obama explained president” to him in the Oval Office as SNL focused its bite on a few familiar targets.

“I thought Obama was joking,” he said. “Had I known then what I know now, I would have told Putin to just give the job to Hillary instead. Next question!”