MURALS AT SAN FRANCISCO SCHOOL SHOULD STAY FOR NOW, JUDGE SAYS ~ NYT

In response to a lawsuit, a judge says an environmental review must take place before any action is taken to remove or hide the Depression-era murals that some consider offensive.

A part of “The Life of Washington,” by Victor Arnautoff, at George Washington High School. A judge has ruled that the artwork should stay.
A part of “The Life of Washington,” by Victor Arnautoff, at George Washington High School. A judge has ruled that the artwork should stay.Credit…Eric Risberg/Associated Press

By Carol Pogash

Published July 29, 2021

A California court this week ruled that Works Progress Administration frescoes depicting the life of George Washington cannot be removed from a local high school without an environmental review, thwarting the San Francisco Board of Education’s plans to cover up the hotly debated artwork.

Painted in the 1930s by Victor Arnautoff, a onetime assistant to Diego Rivera, the “Life of Washington” murals dominate the entryway to the school and have been the subject of debate for years. Critics, including parents and students, have said that high school students should not be forced to see the racism in the murals’ portrayal of enslaved African Americans and Native Americans. They wanted the frescoes painted over. Mural supporters, who included art historians, said that destroying them would be equivalent to book burning.

Arnautoff, who was a Communist, was born in Russia and taught at Stanford University. His murals depicted the first president as a slave owner and the young country as being responsible for the killing of Native Americans. But the American Indian Parent Advisory Council and other organizations at the school said that students should not be forced to see that history.

“When I as an Indigenous Pacific Islander look at the mural, I am hurt and offended,” wrote Faauuga Moliga, vice president of the San Francisco Board of Education, in a text. “I am certain most people of color who have viewed the mural at Washington feel the same as me.”

In October 2019, the George Washington High School Alumni Association then sued the board and the school district over their decision.

On Tuesday, a Superior Court of California judge, Anne-Christine Massullo, said that San Francisco officials must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, which was “enacted to protect California’s environmental and historical resources,” and that the school district would not be allowed to remove the murals without first conducting an environmental impact review.

Public officials have to follow those procedures “before a decision is made,” Judge Massullo wrote in her ruling.

The judge said members of a committee organized by the school board to consider the future of the murals had made up their minds before organizing public meetings. “A PowerPoint presentation,” she wrote, “did not contain one reference to keeping the murals.”

The order came in response to the lawsuit by the alumni group, which for years has sought to save the work of art, arguing that the murals provide an immersive history lesson.

Lope Yap Jr., vice president of the George Washington High School alumni association, said he knew the committee appointed by the school board “was predetermined to take down the murals.” He continued, “I’m thankful the judge agreed with that perspective.”

Mr. Moliga said that he supports the environmental review, and that as part of it, the feelings of students and their parents should be considered. “I want analysis done on how the students and families at Washington are impacted by the mural’s inclusion in the school environment.”

When reached for comment, Laura Dudnick, a school district spokeswoman, said the school is getting ready for the fall semester and that since the judge just issued this ruling, “we haven’t had time to review it thoroughly.”

La película del viernes ~ Hearts of the West

If you are a Rancho Delux cultist then this film is for you. rŌbert

Hearts of the West is a 1975 American comedy film starring Jeff BridgesAndy GriffithBlythe Danner, and Alan Arkin. Set in 1930s Hollywood, the story revolves around a wannabe Western writer who finds himself cast as a leading man in several B-movie westerns.

In 1933, Lewis Tater (Jeff Bridges), an aspiring novelist who harbors dreams of becoming the next Zane Grey, decides to leave his family home in Iowa to go to the University of Titan in Nevada so he can soak up the western atmosphere. He arrives to find that there is no university, only a mail order correspondence course scam run by two crooks out of the local hotel. He tries to spend the night at the hotel, but is attacked by one of the men in an attempted robbery. He escapes his attacker, grabs his suitcase, and steals their car to get away, but after a while it runs out of gas. He looks in the car trunk, and finds a toolbox containing a revolver and ammunition. Afraid the two crooks are still in pursuit of him, he takes the tool box and his suitcase and walks off into the desert.

Wandering and exhausted, the next morning he happens upon a threadbare film-unit from Tumbleweed Productions grinding out a “B” western. Later that day, he catches a lift with the cowboy actors to Los Angeles. After applying for work at Tumbleweed, he is referred by crusty old extra Howard Pike (Andy Griffith) to the Rio, a western-themed restaurant. While washing dishes at the Rio, he is called by Tumbleweed, where Howard mentors him to be an actor. After proving himself as a stuntman, unit manager Kessler (Alan Arkin) offers him a speaking role. Tater then falls in love with spunky script girl Miss Trout (Blythe Danner). Meanwhile, the crooks trace him to Los Angeles to retrieve the safe-box containing their money that was in the car stolen by Lewis.

A SON OF GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ TENDERLY RECALLS HIS PARENTS ~ NYT

Gabriel García Márquez and his wife, Mercedes Barcha, in Stockholm in December 1982, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Gabriel García Márquez and his wife, Mercedes Barcha, in Stockholm in December 1982, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.Credit…Ibl/Shutterstock

By Miguel Salazar

  • July 24, 2021

A FAREWELL TO GABO AND MERCEDES 

A Son’s Memoir of Gabriel García Márquez and Mercedes Barcha

By Rodrigo Garcia

As dementia gripped Gabriel García Márquez, the writer known for his depictions of memory and time was on the verge of losing both. “Memory is my tool and my raw material. I cannot work without it,” García Márquez would repeatedly plead to his son Rodrigo Garcia. “Help me.”

In short, fragmented chapters, Garcia, a television and film director, provides an intimate portrait of his father as he has never been portrayed: forgetful, frustrated, despondent. García Márquez’s despair is agonizing to witness. He becomes unable to write or recognize familiar faces, and he loses the threads of his conversations as they are happening. He attempts to reread his own books — an act he previously avoided — and upon finishing them is surprised to encounter his face on the book jackets. He once asked, puzzled, “Where on earth did all this come from?”

Even as his dementia advanced, Gabo, as García Márquez was affectionately known, retained his wry humor: “I’m losing my memory,” he remarked, “but fortunately I forget that I’m losing it.” He was still able to recite poems from the Spanish Golden Age from memory and sing the lyrics to his favorite vallenato songs, his eyes beaming “with excitement at the opening accordion notes.” At one point, García Márquez asked to return home to his childhood bed in Aracataca, Colombia, where he slept on a mattress next to the bed of his grandfather Col. Nicolás Márquez, the inspiration for the beloved Col. Aureliano Buendía in “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

Then there is Mercedes, Gabo’s tireless co-conspirator, his “last tether.” Garcia recalls her tempered reaction at the moment of her husband’s death, when she worked swiftly with the nurse to prepare his body and let out only the briefest of cries before recomposing herself. She was fiercely independent: After Mexico’s president referred to her as “the widow” during a memorial service for García Márquez at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, she threatened to tell the first journalist she encountered of her plans to remarry. Even in the days before her death in August 2020, Garcia recalls, she remained “frank and secretive, critical and indulgent,” sneaking cigarette puffs despite suffering from respiratory problems at the end.

Garcia’s account is honest — perhaps to a fault, given the strict division his parents imposed between their public and private lives. In 1957, a full decade before the publication of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” García Márquez destroyed all records of his correspondence with Barcha. Even with his father’s blessing — García Márquez told him, “When I’m dead, do whatever you want” — Garcia describes the disappointment and shame he feels of riding his father’s coattails: “I am aware that whatever I write concerning his last days can easily find publication, regardless of its quality.”

“A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes” is in large part carried by anecdotes about García Márquez’s life, but it is most telling when Garcia is prompted to reflect on his own, and reckon with his insecurities. Over the course of writing the memoir, he becomes aware that the wall his parents constructed around their private lives also extended, in part, to him. He spent 50 years not knowing that his father had no vision in the center of his left eye, and learned only toward the end of his mother’s life that she had lost two siblings as a child. “In the back of my mind is the preoccupation that perhaps I didn’t know them well enough,” Garcia writes. “I didn’t ask them more about the fine print of their lives, their most private thoughts, their greatest hopes and fears.”

At the memorial service in Mexico City commemorating his father’s life, Garcia recalled one of his father’s sayings: “Everyone has three lives: the public, the private and the secret.” As he watched the mourners assemble, he wondered whether any were from his father’s secret life. Life, García Márquez once wrote, is not what one lived but how one remembers it. Some of those memories will forever remain beyond reach.

WANT TO HATE SOMEONE?? … rŌbert ~ The New Yorker

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How the Head of the N.R.A. and His Wife Secretly Shipped Their Elephant Trophies Home

The couple had their names removed from the shipment, and placed an order for the animals’ feet to be turned into “stools,” an “umbrella stand,” and a “trash can.”

By Mike Spies

July 29, 2021

Two elephant feet turned into bar stools.
After Susan LaPierre killed an elephant in Botswana, video shows, she touched the creature’s feet and said, “A podiatrist would love working on him.”

In the early fall of 2013, an export company in Botswana prepared a shipment of animal parts for Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, and his wife, Susan. One of the business’s managers e-mailed the couple a list of trophies from their recent hunt and asked them to confirm its accuracy: one cape-buffalo skull, two sheets of elephant skin, two elephant ears, four elephant tusks, and four front elephant feet. Once the inventory was confirmed, the e-mail stated, “we will be able to start the dipping and packing process.” Ten days later, Susan wrote back with a request: the shipment should have no clear links to the LaPierres. She told the shipping company to use the name of an American taxidermist as “the consignee” for the items, and further requested that the company “not use our names anywhere if at all possible.” Susan noted that the couple also expected to receive, along with the elephant trophies, an assortment of skulls and skins from warthogs, impalas, a zebra, and a hyena. Once the animal parts arrived in the States, the taxidermist would turn them into decorations for the couple’s home in Virginia, and prepare the elephant skins so they could be used to make personal accessories, such as handbags.

The LaPierres felt secrecy was needed, the e-mails show, because of a public uproar over an episode of the hunting show “Under Wild Skies,” in which the host, Tony Makris, had fatally shot an elephant. The N.R.A. sponsored the program, and the couple feared potential blowback if the details of their Botswana hunt became public. Footage of their safari, which was filmed for “Under Wild Skies” and recently published by The Trace and The New Yorker, shows that Wayne had struggled to kill an elephant at close range, while Susan felled hers with a single shot and cut off its tail in jubilation. Plans to air an episode featuring the LaPierres’ hunt were cancelled.

Records obtained by The Trace and The New Yorker show that Susan leveraged the LaPierres’ status to secretly ship animal trophies from their safari to the U.S., where the couple received free taxidermy work. New York Attorney General Letitia James, who has regulatory authority over the N.R.A., is currently seeking to dissolve the nonprofit for a range of alleged abuses, including a disregard for internal controls designed to prevent self-dealing and corruption by its executives. In a complaint filed last August, James’s office asserted that trophy fees and taxidermy work “constituted private benefits and gifts in excess of authorized amounts pursuant to NRA policy to LaPierre and his wife.” The new records appear to confirm those allegations. The N.R.A.’s rules explicitly state that gifts from contractors cannot exceed two hundred and fifty dollars. The shipping and taxidermy of the Botswana trophies cost thousands, and provided no benefit to the N.R.A.—only to the LaPierres. In the complaint, James’s office alleged that the LaPierres also received improper benefits related to big-game hunting trips in countries including Tanzania, South Africa, and Argentina. The attorney general declined to comment further on the details of the case.

Taxidermy work orders containing the LaPierres’ names called for the elephants’ four front feet to be turned into “stools,” an “umbrella stand,” and a “trash can.” At their request, tusks were mounted, skulls were preserved, and the hyena became a rug. The episode represents a rare instance in which the gun group’s embattled chief executive is captured, on paper, unambiguously violating N.R.A. rules; the e-mails show that Susan directed the process while Makris’s company, Under Wild Skies Inc., which received millions of dollars from the N.R.A., picked up the tab.

~~~ MORE IF YOU CAN STAND IT ~~~

29 JULY WAS EARTH OVERSHOOT DAY | WE’RE LIVING BEYOND OUR MEANS ~ Cool Earth

Global Earth Overshoot Day was July 29 this year, the earliest ever to be calculated.

What is Earth Overshoot Day?

This date marks when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can regenerate in that year. And over just the past 20 years, the date moved forward three months to July 29. It’s the earliest ever to be calculated.

Overshoot is a blunt reminder that we are consistently depleting our natural capital, compromising the planet’s future. It means globally, humanity is currently using natural resources 1.75x faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. That’s equivalent to using 1.75 Earths this year. 

We don’t have 1.75 Earths, we only have one. We’re living beyond our means until December 31st. 

Why does it matter?

Healthy, self-sustaining ecosystems such as oceans and forests are indispensable to keep our planet livable by regulating the climate and absorbing carbon emissions. But from rapid deforestation to intensive food systems, we are using resources unsustainably and forcing more carbon into the atmosphere than can be naturally sequestered.

Overshoot Day highlights the huge disparity between the exploitation of Earth’s resources and the social, environmental and economic impacts faced by people as a result. 

An individual country’s overshoot day is the date on which Earth Overshoot Day falls if all of humanity consumed resources like the people in this country. In 2019, Papua New Guinea’s overshoot day falls on December 7. Compared to the UK, this is nearly a whole 7 months earlier. 

But despite their minimal ecological impact, rainforest and coastal communities in Papua New Guinea are already seeing the detrimental impacts of sea-level rise and increased extreme weather events from climate change.

“The rainforest’s stability is an insurance for my life irrespective of where I live on the planet. That is why supporting Cool Earth is such an important climate action.”

-Professor Dr. Johan Röckstrom – Co-author of the “Hothouse Earth” theory

What can we do?

~~~ MORE ~~~