Robert L. Peters

27 January 2009

A nod to Heartfield…

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Berlin, Germany

John Heartfield (Helmut Herzfeld) was a German artist whose politically charged photomontages were banned in his home country during the Nazi regime (John changed his name in part as a way to protest the rabid nationalism and anti-British sentiment of World War I)—during the Weimar period he became a member of the Berlin Dada group. He was rediscovered in the German Democratic Republic in the late 1950s… since then his activism and work has influenced generations of artists and graphic designers.

Image: The cross was not heavy enough; collage.


26 January 2009

Gung Hei Fat Choy! Sun Leen Fai Lok!

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Best wishes to all on this Chinese New Year’s Day—the Year of the Ox.


25 January 2009

Robbie Burns at 250… forever young.

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Scotland and beyond…

Today is Robbie Burns day, as well as the famous Scottish bard’s 250th birthday—around the world, Scots, honorary Scots, Scots-by-marriage and wannabe Scots are celebrating with banquets and toasting with single malts in honour of Scotland’s 18th-century versifier, a poet “who has mysteriously acquired a celebrity in death that vastly outshines the public reputations of other great poets.” Burns’ lyrical voice rings true across the centuries, and he has been lauded as the “authentic representation of the romantic spirit of the common man.”

Here’s one of my favorites of Robbie’s poems, a piece penned in 1785 (with a glossary to help decipher archaic terms in the poem here—just click on the underlined words):

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To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,

O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

Thou need na start awa sae hasty,

Wi’ bickering brattle!

I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,

Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,

Has broken nature’s social union,

An’ justifies that ill opinion,

Which makes thee startle

At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,

An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;

What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!

A daimen icker in a thrave

‘S a sma’ request;

I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,

An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!

It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!

An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,

O’ foggage green!

An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,

Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,

An’ weary winter comin fast,

An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,

Thou thought to dwell-

Till crash! the cruel coulter past

Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,

Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!

Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,

But house or hald,

To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,

An’ cranreuch cauld!

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,

In proving foresight may be vain;

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men

Gang aft agley,

An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me

The present only toucheth thee:

But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.

On prospects drear!

An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,

I guess an’ fear!


23 January 2009

Dada da-day…

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Yes, it’s been a Dada kind of da-day…

Images above: Typical Vertical Mess as Depiction of the Dada Baargeld, 1920, by Johannes Theodor Baargeld (Alfred Emanuel Ferdinand Greunwald), German, 1892-1927; Kleine Dada soirée Haagsche K.K. [lithographic proof], January 1923(?), by Theo van Doesburg (Christian Emil Marie Küpper), Dutch, 1883-1931; ABCD (self-portrait, photomontage from 1923-24), Raoul Hausmann, Austrian, 1886-1971.


22 January 2009

National Film Board films… now free online.

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Ottawa, Canada

The National Film Board (NFB) of Canada has launched a new project to allow Canadians (and others) to see its films through online streaming, at NFB.ca. Part of a $1.3-million project to digitize the NFB’s collection of historic films, the site starts with 700 classics and with plans to add 10 new films a month online (from the archived collection of 15,000+ NFB productions). A great use of our public funds, in my opinion—visit the site here… and enjoy!


21 January 2009

Please say it isn’t true…

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Winnipeg, Canada

As if the black ice and freezing fog en route to the office this morning were not disconcerting enough… it also seems I’ve been commuting with Der Führer! Anybody else need a ride (besides Adolf)?

Poster by Weimer Pursell, 1943 [Printed by the Government Printing Office for the Office of Price Administration, NARA Still Picture Branch (NWDNS-188-PP-42]. Find more World War ll propaganda posters here.


19 January 2009

Corporate Connection

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Interesting patterns emerge when one begins to map connections…

“What is the connection between 3 celebrities, 35 corporations, 40 subsidiaries and more than 300 brands?
 Global business interests make up a complex network of connections between corporations from around the world. 
Corporate Connection intends to shed light on ‘who owns what’ in the global marketplace and on the intricate nature of the world wide ‘business web.’”—Zohar Manor-Abel describing what started as a student project, here.

Zohar’s map reminds me of the beautifully programmed They Rule, created in 2004 as a starting point for research about powerful individuals and corporations. It “aims to provide a glimpse of some of the relationships of the US ruling class and takes as its focus the boards of some of the most powerful U.S. companies, which share many of the same directors. Some individuals sit on 5, 6 or 7 of the top 500 companies. It allows users to browse through these interlocking directories and run searches on the boards and companies. A user can save a map of connections complete with their annotations and email links to these maps to others.” Check it out here.

(thanks for the link to Zohar’s map, Gregor)


16 January 2009

Shigeo Fukuda | 1932-2009

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Tokyo, Japan

It’s been a very sad day… I have just learned that the great graphic sensei, Shigeo Fukuda, has passed on. Japan’s consummate visual communicator, Fukuda-San is known around the world as a playful prankster, a modern-day Escher, and an imaginative creator who “dramatically shattered cultural and linguistic barriers with his universally recognizable style.” Perhaps Alan Fletcher described him the best (in Masters of the 20th Century): “Shigeo Fukuda is a star in the design firmament—on second thought, maybe he’s more of a comet.” Fukuda-San—there’s no doubt that you’ll continue to light up our heaven…

Image: Shigeo Fukuda alongside his famous poster titled ‘Victory 1945,’ a bitingly satirical commentary on the senselessness of war. 


13 January 2009

Twenty years ago…

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…in Durban, South Africa (remember apartheid?). Though the road may seem long and winding at times, many of us still hope for an end to racism—in every corner of the global village.


12 January 2009

Behind the wall…

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The Gaza Strip

A headline in today’s New York Times states: “Few in U.S. See Jazeera’s Coverage of Gaza War.” In a conflict where Western news media have been largely prevented from reporting from Gaza because of restrictions imposed by the Israeli military, Al Jazeera suddenly has had a distinct advantage—it was already there with six reporters in Gaza (two working for Al Jazeera English and four working for the much larger and more popular Arabic version of the network). Well, a valuable alternate source for news and opinion (from an Arab point of view) is now readily available to anyone at aljazeera.net.

I am very bothered by what’s happening in Gaza. It’s somewhat predictable, very troubling, yet not inevitable that the oppressed become oppressors (just as abused children often but not always become child abusers themselves—if they are unable to break the chain of violence). As Israel’s war in Gaza intensifies, it’s also not surprising to see the increased frequency of shock-value comparisons drawn in the media and the blogosphere between the plight of Gaza’s Palestinians today and the horrors experienced by Polish Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto and ensuing Holocaust nearly 70 years ago. (When) will we ever learn?

Political cartoons by Carlos Latuff


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