Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Daniel Ellsberg, the original whistleblower, on transparency, politics, and civilization's future

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 10:39 AM

Daniel Ellsberg
  • John Amis
  • Daniel Ellsberg
For a man who once faced life in prison, Daniel Ellsberg has a surprisingly good sense of humor. Right now the 83-year-old whistleblower is unwinding after a packed lecture at Georgia State University by chatting with his wife over the phone. Earlier in the lecture, in a rare moment of humanizing folly, Ellsberg accidentally answered his wife’s phone call and her greeting of ‘Hi, Darling!’ was broadcasted to a packed audience. “I think I was a little funny afterwards, fortunately you didn't say ‘hey, shithead!’ or something like that,” he jokes to his wife.

His hotel room resembles the backseat of a college freshman’s car. Miscellaneous papers, binders, magazines, and books litter his room as if a tornado had just passed through. Ellsberg appears stressed as his wife tries to get his passport in order for his upcoming trip to Russia where he hopes to meet with whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Ellsberg’s release of a massive, 7,000-page cache of classified documents known as the Pentagon Papers showed the extent to which the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations deceived the public about the Vietnam War. At the time of his trial in 1973, Ellsberg was certain he would be convicted. Now, American history has smiled on Ellsberg, but many in the current administration have condemned his successors such as Snowden and Chelsea Manning.

Ellsberg’s age shows only in the wrinkles of his face as he talks urgently about the state of U.S. surveillance, methods for increasing government transparency, and the twilight of civilization.

Do you worry about being surveilled?

Oh, I'm sure I’m surveilled in terms of credit card, cell phone, and email, as is everyone. They collect everything but it doesn’t mean they collect it in real-time. They want to record it. I’m sure it includes content as well as meta-data. When they want to find out about somebody, they just dial it in like Google and they'll get someone’s whole life. By the way, they can listen to you via your iPhone when it's turned off. And of course the location is traceable. In short, they are more interested in me.

Now that it’s come out that I’m going to see Snowden, I imagine they’ll be a lot more interested in me. I don’t expect to take any computers or thumb drives or anything with me because they would probably confiscate it right away.

Atlanta was recently given a failing grade for spending transparency. How can local governments ensure that their expenditures and legislative processes are truly open to public scrutiny?

The big effect that whistleblowers can have is to alert the public that there is a real problem and a real abuse going on. It doesn’t solve it, but at least it alerts the public. Without that, they will say there’s no problem. They will say, ‘yeah we're not transparent, but we're doing things in your best interest. Trust us.’ And people either believe that or they don’t. Unfortunately, too many believe it, especially if it’s the president. I don’t know if that’s as true in the city. The answer is you want local sunshine laws and FOIA requests to get at the information to increase the transparency.

That actually has happened. Lots of states have done relatively well and far as I know cities could do it too, counties, any government could make it more possible and convenient to get at their records.

City councils can do it or not. If the public wants it, they’re more likely to get it - if they act. Somebody told me tonight that there was a case just now in Atlanta for a judge who tried to enjoin a newspaper from printing some information. He said the judge was embarrassed to find that what he was trying to do was unconstitutional as a result of the Pentagon Papers case. That what the county couldn’t do, he couldn’t do. And he didn’t know it. That could be changed and should be changed.

There are secrets that should be kept indeed at every level. But there’s always a risk when you do that because you have to take steps to keep it in bounds. That’s where people learn to be very discreet. Sometimes they learn to be too discreet because in order to keep the goodwill of their colleagues, bosses, agencies and fellow citizens, most people will keep their mouth shut unless they themselves need the info out for their own benefit. But if it’s for other people’s benefit, I’m sorry to say that humans can keep their mouth shut about abuses even when an enormous number of lives are at stake, when wars are at stake and when the climate is at stake. That's actually normal behavior. It’s toxic, murderous, and it’s a kind of obedience.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

'Fuck it, I'm feminist': SuicideGirls' Missy Suicide talks beauty and burlesque

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2014 at 9:05 AM

Missy Suicide
  • Missy Suicide

When SuicideGirls started 13 years ago, Missy Suicide “had no idea that it would get so popular,” says the photographer born Selena Mooney who co-founded the site with Sean Suhl in 2001. This was pre-social media, mind you, and alt-porn’s corner of the Internet was much smaller and more dimly lit in comparison. “People sharing their lives online was still a very novel concept, and then to pair that with boobs,” she laughs, “‘What? No! Nobody’s gonna do that.’”

Not so nowadays. And with 5 million unique visitors logging on to view its photo sets of 2,700 models, SuicideGirls is alt porn’s grande dame. The success of the site has spawned coffeetable books, documentaries and feature films, and the 27-city Blackheart Burlesque Tour, which relaunched a couple of years ago after a five-year hiatus. Scheduled to stop in Atlanta this month, the show mixes the art of striptease with geeky pop culture references that run the gamut from Star Wars to “Game of Thrones.”

But the expansion of the SuicideGirls’ empire hasn’t come without pains. During a conversation with Missy Suicide in preview of Blackheart Burlesque’s Atlanta stop at the Masquerade on Thurs., Nov. 13, we talked about past controversies and criticisms — like the flack she caught a couple of years ago after calling herself a feminist — as well as why she thinks the brand continues to flourish in a world where sexting nude pics is the new norm.

Now that tats and piercings aren’t nearly as alternative as they were 15 years ago, do you ever worry about SuicideGirls losing its alt-cred?

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Daniel Fuller takes curator role at the ACAC

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 8:17 AM

BETWEEN THE LINES: Daniel Fuller is ACACs new curator.
  • Bryan Graf
  • BETWEEN THE LINES: Daniel Fuller is ACAC's new curator.

After four years at the Maine College of Art, Daniel Fuller will join the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (ACAC) as curator on Dec. 1. As director of Maine College's Institute of Contemporary Art, Fuller diversified and grew the exhibition program to attract new audiences. Previously a curator in New York and Philadelphia, Fuller is looking to engage the Atlanta arts community inside and out of the Contemporary walls.

“I could not be more pleased to share the news of Daniel’s appointment as Curator,” says Julie Delliquanti, ACAC’s executive director. “Daniel is lauded for his commitment to artists as well as his intelligent, ambitious, and inventive approaches to expanding the reach of contemporary art to new audiences. I am confident that Daniel’s leadership and curatorial vision will make a significant impact on our community.”

Creative Loafing caught up with Fuller to find out his plans for the Contemporary and what drew him to Atlanta.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

America Martin on exploring 'Themes of Humanity'

Posted By on Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 3:40 PM

HUMAN NATURE: American Martins Women and Trumpet Flowers
  • America Martin
  • HUMAN NATURE: American Martin's "Women and Trumpet Flowers"

L.A.-based artist America Martin used to be a child actor, but art was always her first passion. “Growing up in Hollywood, acting was a life choice that offered itself to me,” Martin says. “But I fell in love with art when I was nine years old, and by the time I was sixteen, I knew that fine art was all I wanted to do.”

Her work features broad lines and bright colors on canvas and has been shown around the country in California, Texas, Maine, among others.

“Heritage is like a thumbprint,” says the Colombian-American artist whose vibrant paintings often reflect the aesthetic and indigenous motifs of the South American country. “You never really think of it, but it is there, making you the individual that you are. It's inherent in all the subtleties of taste and choices in life.”

Themes of Humanity, Martin’s new exhibition at Tew Galleries, examines human form and experiences in that aesthetic. A favorite among collectors, Martin talks to Creative Loafing about growing as an artist, her creative process, and surrendering to her consciousness.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

A conversation with designer Simon Chang

Posted By on Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 11:00 AM

BUCK TRENDS: Simon Chang (left) says: I’m encouraging women to find things that are unique.
  • Nicholas Buck
  • READY TO WEAR: Designer Simon Chang says, "I’m encouraging women to find things that are unique."

Canadian-born women's clothing designer, Simon Chang, made a stop in Atlanta recently, at the Blue Dangles boutique to launch his fall 2014 collection. Chang and shop owner, Tracey Freund collaborated for the in-store event in an effort to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). During Chang’s visit, a percentage of sales were donated to LLS and the shop quickly turned into a makeshift catwalk for regular clientele. Freund, a fourth generation fashion retailer, has maintained a notable presence in the business with the help of her family’s internationally acclaimed women’s boutique, which has influenced and gained significant prominence in Montreal, Canada since 1953.

Where Chang has found success is in the idea that style is conversation. “People are moving, and they’re moving fast," Chang says. "They will come up behind you and you better be ready to have something to say with fashion.”

Chang and Freund have known each other since the latter was born, and while visiting Blue Dangles the internationally renowned designer took some time to talk about the problem with trends, Atlanta’s seasonal advantage in the fashion game, and encouraging the creative spirit.

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Author Murray Farish's anthology is a book of the times

Posted By on Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Murray Farish’s debut collection of short stories, Inappropriate Behavior, presents the author’s take on what’s been going on in America over the last half-century. Spanning the humorous, the dark, and the darkly humorous, these stories are a snapshot of American life, filtered through different people, places, and periods. Rounding off the nine-story collection, the title story follows the Putnams, a St. Louis family with a young son who compounds his parents’ mounting debt and declining savings with behavioral issues. Farish, an English professor at Webster University in St. Louis, will appear at A Cappella Books tonight, at 7:00 p.m., where he will discuss and sign his book with readers. The author spoke to Creative Loafing about the stories in the collection, what they mean to him, and where he sees this big experiment in constitutional democracy heading.

  • Milkweed Editions

I see that some of these stories have been published previously. At what point did you begin thinking about collecting them into a single book?
I was working on the last story, the title story, for a long time. It’s a big story. It’s a long story. It’s the longest story in the book. That story took me a long time. But at a certain point, I started to realize that “Inappropriate Behavior” was sort of an idea that all these stories could be categorized under. I hesitate to call it a theme, but it’s kind of the thing that keeps coming up in each one of the stories. I think this term, “Inappropriate Behavior,” is a very American euphemism. We use it as sort of a blanket term to refer to anything that we — whoever “we” is — don’t approve of. Or whatever makes us uncomfortable, I think, is maybe the better way to think of it. That to me is what I want each one of these stories, and really probably everything I do, to do. I don’t want anybody comfortable for a moment, not the characters in the stories and certainly not the reader. I want the stories to be a bit unnerving for everyone involved. Not all my stories made the cut for this book, but all the stories that are in there do seem united under this idea of discomfort that we are trying to express when we use that term, “Inappropriate Behavior.” Again, it’s very American. I don’t think the French are running around, talking about people’s “Inappropriate Behavior," or the Russians. I don’t know that, but it seems to me like a very homegrown idea.

Even though these stories cohere along this line, they still come from different points in your life. So do you have a favorite story in this collection?
That’s a tricky question. The story I think I’m proudest of is the title story, not just because I think it really does bring the collection together but because it’s the last one that I finished, and it seems to me that it’s doing things that kind of mark a direction I want to go in my future work.

I’m not necessarily saying that a novel is next. I don’t know what’s going to be next, but it felt big. And if I have one literary ambition that I will cop to, it’s that I wanted to write a big American book. I wanted to make something that wasn’t set in just one region. There are stories set all over the country in this book. I wanted to write about different times in American history, and I did that. I wanted to try to put everything that I knew at that point about this country, as much as would fit between those covers, in that book. “Inappropriate Behavior” is a big story, not just in its length but in the kinds of things it covers. It deals with trying to live a life in post-Great Recession America with a child who is difficult, then setting that situation up against the situation of America as a whole, trying to figure out how we’re supposed to live in what seems to be this new reality — high unemployment, massive underemployment, and pretty endemic unhappiness with employment — and trying to figure out in a lot of ways what’s left of the American Dream, what can we still accomplish.

That’s a good way of putting it.
I think one of the things the story’s trying to say is that one of the things that got us into this mess is just a general lack of imagination in the commonwealth, in the people who are supposed to be running things. I’m talking about the administration. I’m talking about you and me — us. This lack of a common vision for how things can be different or how things can be better than the way they are right now. The story is set in St. Louis. I believe that lack of common vision in the country hits places like St. Louis and other Rust Belt cities especially hard. It hits small towns especially hard, places where people grew up with one idea about what their future is going to be, and then all of a sudden that thing’s not there anymore, whether it’s a factory, or a particular industry that left town, or the family farm. Those things are gone. We can either figure out a way to get them back or we’ve got to figure out something to replace them with. We can’t just tread water the way we’ve been for the last, I would suggest, several decades.

That’s a pretty long-winded answer to your question. Do I have a favorite? No, I’m proud of all these stories. The other thing is, with writing a book of short stories, I didn’t want this just to be the last eight or nine stories I published. I wanted it to be a book. I wanted one story to feed into another story. I want readers to see the interconnectedness between stories, even though they don’t share characters or plots or frequently even settings. I hope the reader finds a sensibility to these stories that helps to sort of interlace them and hold them together.

This just occurred to me, but have you read or seen Gone Girl?
No, I haven’t.

It takes place in a post-recession era Missouri, and you just mentioned how you view that part of the country as exemplifying what America is experiencing now.
Yeah, have you seen the film yet, Andrew?

No, but I read the book over the summer.
Did you like it?

Yeah, I did. I think what I liked about it is something that’s a point of overlap with your story. Both stories address that misery that accompanies unemployment, that feeling of worthlessness, that feeling of being emasculated by the recession.
Yeah, you know, one of the questions that gets asked at the end of “Inappropriate Behavior” is ‘What do you expect us to do?’ I never really have understood [what people expect others in that situation to do]. You’ve got unemployment benefits, and all of a sudden they run out, and you haven’t gotten a job yet. What do people expect people in that situation to do? Are they just supposed to disappear? This has really been one of the most fascinating things to me about watching this so-called recovery from the Great Recession, that there are entire swaths of the country, entire areas of people, who have just disappeared, who have been forgotten about. You’ll hear that "Unemployment is down to this," "Unemployment is down to its lowest in six years," "Unemployment has reached pre-recessional levels" — though I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet — but still, you see so much suffering. Or if you’re watching the media, you’re not seeing that suffering. They’re just acting like it isn’t there. But it is.

It’s very frightening to me to think that our country has gotten too big or our country has gotten too callous. What I really think it comes down to is that our country has gotten too nervous to look out for each other. We’re so concerned that we’re going to be the next person to lose their job, we’re so concerned about constantly being in competition with each other for what we see is a diminishing pie, that we can’t see past that day-to-day competition with one another to extend anybody a hand. We don’t seem to see the ways in which — or maybe we see too poorly the ways in which this could be us. So rather than try to make someone’s life better or to argue publically for ways to improve people's lives, we just keep our heads down, and we worry about or own selves.

I’m not a communist, Andrew. I swear I’m not. I sometimes feel like I sound like one when I go off on these kinds of speeches, but I believe deeply that it has been the long-term project of whatever we want to call it — “corporate America” — to place the individual in competition with the corporation, and then to place the individual in competition with one another, where we’re atomized, and alone, and afraid. The tremendous amounts of household debt, student loan debt, the constant concern over health care — these are ways to keep us in line, to keep us in check, and to ask us in a lot of ways to pay obeisance or deference to corporations in ways that I will contend, as long as I’m here, are essentially un-American. The kind of subservience we pay, day in and day out, to these entities is not who we’re supposed to be. On the other side, I’m not suggesting that we can take a Jeffersonian approach and all move back to live off the land. But there’s got to be a way for companies and citizens to coexist, and I think a lot of it is going to start with us demanding that these companies, these corporations, become better citizens. If they’re people, if they have the same rights as individuals, then they’ve also got the same responsibilities as individuals.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Muta'Ali and Ruby Dee explore family matters in 'Life's Essentials'

Posted By on Wed, Oct 22, 2014 at 2:30 PM

When Ruby Dee’s grandson, Muta’Ali Muhammad, told his grandmother that he wanted to make a documentary about her life with Ossie Davis, she was hesitant at first.

“People had approached them in the past [to make] documentaries,” says Muta’Ali, “and they’ve always pointed out that there are more important things to put their energy towards than just talking about themselves.”

You can find out how he convinced his grandmother to change her mind in this week’s CL preview of the resulting documentary, Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee. In this extended Q&A with Muta’Ali, he reveals how the intimate conversations between he and his grandmother in the making of the film helped him come to terms with his own internal questions over career pursuits, community responsibility, and the viability of open marriage in a lifelong commitment.

Do you remember when you first started to realize that your grandparents were a big deal?

Muta'Ali: I think it was going to the premiere of [Spike Lee’s] Jungle Fever. I forget what year that was but I was very young. Patrick Ewing is there and Stevie Wonder and everybody’s loving up your grandparents. I’m like, obviously this is something special.

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Eduin Rosell: Exploring the pros and cons of chalk art

Posted By on Wed, Oct 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM

STREET CANVAS: Eudin Rosell working on a piece in 2013.
  • Eudin Rosell
  • STREET CANVAS: Eudin Rosell working on a piece in 2013.

Eduin Rosell may not seem like your typical artist. He works full time in information technology and has a LinkedIn page that could make any technophile green with envy. Yet in his spare time, Rosell takes up an art form that many find intimidating: chalk art.

“As a chalk artist, you have to understand that your art — no matter how much effort you put into it — is going to disappear,” the Cuban-born Rosell says.

Rosell was one of dozens of chalk artists who was in town for the annual Marietta Chalkfest. Creative Loafing spoke with Rosell about the difficulties and magic moments that come with using chalk as an artistic tool.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Elevate 2014: Abby Joslin's bringing theater to MARTA

Posted By on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 9:43 AM

Aerialist Abby Joslin's the type of creative who doesn't mind being in a room with all of the lights turned off. Joslin explores the concept of light and darkness in her forthcoming Elevate 2014 performance, Hours of the Darkest Night. While some of the acts were previously performed during this year’s Atlanta Fringe Festival, Joslin expanded on her original show, make it into a ground and aerial performance that will take over the amphitheater atop Five Points MARTA station. “We did it surrounding the Winter Solstice so it’s going to be spooky and dark,” Joslin says.

DAY N NITE: Performers from Abby Joslins Hours of the Darkest Night will take over the Five Points MARTA station.
  • Abby Joslin
  • DAY 'N' NITE: Performers from Abby Joslin's Hours of the Darkest Night will take over the Five Points MARTA station.

Following the same improv concept as the Fringe Festival, the Hours of the Darkest Night leaves some of the choreography to the creativity of the performers, making each performance different. Despite her disappointment at not being able to play with fire this time around, Joslin talks to Creative Loafing about the challenges of putting an improv show together, working with Elevate, and performing in new places.

Tell me a bit more about the show and what's going be going on when you guys perform at Elevate.
We originally performed the show back at the Atlanta Fringe Festival in June. What we are doing this time around is adapting what we did at the festival and expanding it. The show explores the disappearance of light from the world and the unknown in general. What if the night just goes on forever and daylight never returns? And yet, without that long night and lacking that context, how can we properly appreciate the light? They are kind of important and make us human in a lot of ways. That's the show, in a nutshell. We are putting together a mixture of ground and aerial performances for this. Sadly, we are not allowed to play with fire so there will be no fire. I was pretty sad about that. We are not 100 percent sure yet, but we are creating a giant spider web out of ropes so we can climb around it and play with it as part of the performance.

With people in the air and on the ground, how will the performers interact throughout the show?

We will be bringing a portable aerial rig. Assuming that we will have the spiderweb installation that I mentioned before, we'll be able to use that as an aerial structure and also use the rig for some aerials as well.

The performance will be in a [MARTA station], not a stage. How do you feel about that?
I think it's going to be fun. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we will not have any lightning because we are going to be on a gigantic metal rig. But, I've done this with other places Downtown and we have [had] really good experiences with performers and we are working with musicians as well. We aren't focused on having highly structured choreography for each second of the show.That's the best thing about this type of production, it's very collaborative and also this is something performers are creating together. We have a storyline and what we want to happen, but it's up to the people making it happen. The musicians are very important to this. We are lucky enough to have fantastic musicians. We are not sure exactly which ones will be at Elevate yet because of the nature of improv, whoever is available will show up. So, it's the same improv concept as the Fringe Festival. We will look into things we want to explore and we'll play around with it ahead of time too. That was one of the fun things about doing the Fringe show is that every show we did over five days was different, [using] different music. The performers will show up and we know for the most part about the musicians, it's just a question about whether they suddenly become unavailable or something happens. I'm not concerned about people not showing up to make it happen.

How was working with Elevate?
I've been constantly amazed by depth of palate that we have in the art community. We actually do have an amazing amount of talented artists and performers and people that are really quietly making a pretty huge difference in their community. To me, that's one of the best things about doing Elevate. It gives the chance for those people to say "Look, here's what I made" or "come get involved in the Atlanta arts scene." There are so many opportunities and it's really exciting to get to do whatever I was working on and go to a different part of town and do performances in places that you don't necessarily think as art places. In my ideal world, every public place should be an art space.

Hours of the Darkest Night. Wed., Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. Five Points MARTA station amphitheater, 30 Alabama St. S.W. www.elevateatlantaart.com.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Elevate 2014: Romy Maloon's 'Calibrate' gives Downtown the floral treatment

Posted By on Wed, Oct 15, 2014 at 9:16 AM

FLOWER GIRL: Romy Maloons Calibrate will cover the front facade of a vacant building in the Fairlie-Poplar district.
  • Romy Maloon
  • FLOWER GIRL: Romy Maloon's "Calibrate" will cover the front facade of a vacant building in the Fairlie-Poplar district.

An ode to old televisions before the era of HD and thin LCD panels, artist Romy Maloon’s installation for Elevate 2014 is modeled after the color block calibration that would show up after the channels went off the air. Nostalgia aside, Maloon’s large-scale installation "Calibrate" reflects on Elevate’s "Social City" theme and its goal of re-imagining downtown Atlanta. Made with synthetic flowers placed on large panels, Maloon, a 2014-15 Walthall Artist Fellow, crowdsourced her labor through the local art community, hosting large knitting sessions around town. Her often-dramatic work has been seen previously at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, and Art Basel in Miami. Maloon spoke to Creative Loafing about working with others, knitting parties, and helping revitalize downtown Atlanta.

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