Monthly Archives: December 2007

A Universe

Image: A Universe, Tullio Francesco DeSantis, pen and ink drawing, 2007

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WEEU Holiday Festival of Sound

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A Friend Indeed

Whether you are an artist, curator, gallery director, promoter of the arts, or a member of the regional audience, you are aware of Ron Schira. He has regularly reviewed art and culture events for Reading Eagle Company since the early 1990s. Ron is also a visual artist who has worked creatively in this region for decades. He recently launched a YouTube site that brings to a global audience the work of creative artists in our city, our community, and our region as well as that of other well-known artists who execute and perform artwork here.Writers on art are often taken for granted. We expect to encounter their words, opinions, and views on a regular basis. Artists anticipate reviews of their gallery shows. Gallery directors look forward to a mention of their current offerings. Museums and cultural institutions expect their exhibits to be discussed in the press. Behind all these occurrences, the writer is kept busy giving exposure to the constant stream of noteworthy people and events that constitute an area’s contemporary culture. Art writers are typically paid very little for their work and their words. Let’s put it this way, most of us do not make a living wage from these endeavors. Often, we are also artists, craftspersons, teachers. We may do free-lance work – that sort of thing. In many instances we’ll take a job to pay the bills just the same as everyone else must do. The extra measure of risk we take as artists, writers, promoters of art has to do with the desire to make a difference in the world, our passion for culture and the arts, and the satisfaction of giving something of unique value back to the community. And Ron Schira is one of the most significant contributors to our cultural landscape.*I’ve known Ron since my return to Berks County in the 1980s. He has never asked for help – yet he has helped us all. But now, we have a real opportunity to lend a hand. As I write this, Ron is a patient at the Reading Hospital. He is fighting and winning a battle against pneumonia and other illnesses. He is not covered by disability insurance and he has used up his sick time at work from the serious heart problems he had earlier in the year. It will take him many weeks to recover.The arts community is beginning to respond to Ron’s situation. Peg and Glen Spiers of Gallery 908 are helping to spread the word and artist Nancy Sarangoulis is collecting funds. If you are in a position to assist Ron and give back to him something that reflects the positive things he’s given us over the years, please send a donation to Nancy Sarangoulis at 328 Carsonia Avenue, Reading, Pa 19606. You may also call Nancy at 610-779-0708.*And while we are at it. Let us have the most positively creative holiday season ever!*Image: self-portrait of Ron Schira

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Now I'll be famous

The mall shooting in Omaha on December 5th raises important issues that sadly are not new but are becoming ever more crucial. Outrageous statements regarding earning fame as a result of his monstrous acts pepper the shooter’s suicide note. We are again compelled to consider the effect of the cult of celebrity that strangles our society.What follows is a matrix of ideas related to the contemporary mindset.The shooter was a depressed 19-year-old male who spent most of his time in his room using alcohol, smoking pot, exhibiting addictive behavior using computers, video games, DVDs, and music – all jammed with ultra-violent content. That environment is not the real world – it is a frequently encountered media-induced psychological space that has much more in common with medieval conceptions of Hell than it does to external reality.*The modern era of total mass population control began with the Third Reich – public spaces saturated with signs and slogans of intimidation, fear, and hate alternating with stirring images of strong motivation, simple commands, commonality of purpose, and misdirected unity. Thousands of posters and banners with stirring words and phrases accompanied by repetitive radio-propaganda broadcasts displaced the daily real-life environment through amplification and diverted attention. Ultimately, an entire society was entranced into abject submission by a technology-enhanced spectacle that included astonishing displays of military-industrial power. Overwhelming threats of fear, violence, dominance, and submission were spread throughout the population. Citizens were manipulated into attending spectacular events in which sound, vision, and thought itself were focused upon a leader who represented the apotheosis of total and complete power and control over their lives. The ultimate cult of personality, celebrity worship, and dystopian iconography had been created. The techniques used to promulgate these paradigms have only become more powerful in the ensuing years. *Today we are saturated with compromised and corrupted media more than at any other time in human history. To believe that single individuals or parents can withstand the total media pressure of decades of billions of dollars of public and private research directed toward gaining psychological advantages over citizens by the world’s most sophisticated techniques of influence, suggestion, and behavior modification is naïve to the nth degree.Additionally, our very self-images are molded into synthetic versions of ourselves by the inculcation of desire for a plethora of products without which we are influenced to feel inferior, substandard, and valueless.We are infatuated by the cult of manipulated personality to the degree that the desire for wealth, fame, and celebrity replace other life goals for an ever-increasing number of our young people. A most corrosive effect of this self-image formation and celebrity worship is the destruction of our ability to make competent character and value judgments. We are more and more unable to function in healthy ways and increasingly susceptible to continuing manipulation.The transparently defensive stance we must assume as regards these realities is to deny the scope and scale of their deleterious effects so that we may retain some semblance of a sense of control over our lives and our destiny, both individual and collective. We need to be able to say that most of us, especially our children, remain well adjusted even while we acknowledge the destructive effects of a culture gone mad. It is only the maladjusted people who have extreme emotional and mental issues who may be pushed to such acts of mass violence as public slaughter of the citizenry.Perhaps. But how many mentally and emotionally maladjusted 19-year olds, who abuse illegal substances, play too many violent video games, watch horrible movies, and listen to abusive music are out there among us? A thousand? Ten thousand? Are we really ready to accept an army of such deranged individuals in our midst? What price do we pay on a daily basis for upholding the dangerous ideals of freedom and free expression exercised with no sense whatsoever of concomitant social responsibility? * digital image manipulation, TFD, 2007

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