Call and Response

I’m disappointed that I will be missing this current exhibition at New York City’s magnificent Morgan Museum and Library. Betye Saar: Call and Response is based on Los Angeles–based artist Betye Saar who emerged in the 1960s as a major voice in American art. Part of a wave of artists, many of them African American, who embraced the medium of assemblage, she is known best for incisive collages and assemblage sculptures that confront and reclaim racist images. Saar brings to her work a remarkable sensitivity to materials. Her imagery is drawn from popular culture, family history, and a wide range of spiritual traditions.

This exhibition, conceived in close consultation with the artist, looks at the relationship between Saar’s finished works and the preliminary annotated sketches she has made in small notebooks throughout her career. In addition, the show will include approximately a dozen of Saar’s travel sketchbooks with more finished drawings and collages—often relating to leitmotifs seen across her oeuvre—which she has made over a lifetime of journeys worldwide. Selections will cover the span of her career, from the late 1960s up through a sculptural installation made specifically for this exhibition.


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Teeter Totter

Although it only lasted for less than an hour, the Teeter Totter Wall created by Rael San Fratello with Colectivo Chopeke made international headlines when it was installed in July 2019, and has now been launched back into the spotlight at a the perfect time. The project, which allowed children on both sides of the US-Mexico border wall to play together via pink seesaws, has been awarded the Design of the Year prize 2020, on the final day of the racist, autocrat wannabe Trump presidency.


Rael San Fratello had been developing the idea for the seesaws over a decade as part of its ongoing work focusing on the border wall. The project was intended as a symbol of trade and labor relationships between the two countries, aimed to demonstrate that actions taking place on one side of the border have direct consequences on the other, viewing the boundary as a “site of severance”. “Mexicans throng to the US to find work, but often long to live comfortably in their own country,” studio Rael San Fratello states on its website. “US industry and agriculture is dependent upon immigrant labor pools, yet the Department of Homeland Security, Border Patrol, and Immigration and Naturalization Services have made it increasingly difficult to attract foreign labor. The Teeter Totter Wall demonstrates the delicate balances between the two nations.”

When it was first built, studio co-founder and professor of architecture at the University of California Ronald Rael said the realization of the project brought “joy, excitement and togetherness at the border wall,” and that the wall “became a literal fulcrum for U.S.-Mexico relations and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side.”

Upon winning the design prize, fellow co-founder Virginia San Fratello, an associate professor of design at San José State University, told The Guardian: “I think it’s become increasingly clear with the recent events in our country that we don’t need to build walls we need to build bridges.”


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Tableaux Vivants

Due to Covid curfews, a group of French librarians used their free time to recreate book related paintings in a series of amusing tableaux vivants. très drôle

The entire album can be viewed on Calameo .


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No Book Deals For Traitors

Author Barry Lyga has posted an open letter signed by more than 250 authors, agents, booksellers, and publishers supporting their opposition to any publisher signing up President Donald Trump or members of his administration for any further book deals.

“Traditionally, members of an outgoing administration can—and do—rely on the cushion of a fat book contract with a healthy advance. In the case of the Trump Administration and its history of outrages, lies, and incitement to insurrection, we cannot allow this to stand. No one should be enriched for their contribution to evil,” Lyga wrote in an email to PW.

Titled “No Book Deal for Traitors,” the letter reads, as follows:



We all love book publishing, but we have to be honest — our country is where it is in part because publishing has chased the money and notoriety of some pretty sketchy people, and has granted those same people both the imprimatur of respectability and a lot of money through sweetheart book deals.

As members of the writing and publishing community of the United States, we affirm that participation in the administration of Donald Trump must be considered a uniquely mitigating criterion for publishing houses when considering book deals.

Consequently, we believe: No participant in an administration that caged children, performed involuntary surgeries on captive women, and scoffed at science as millions were infected with a deadly virus should be enriched by the almost rote largesse of a big book deal. And no one who incited, suborned, instigated, or otherwise supported the January 6, 2021 coup attempt should have their philosophies remunerated and disseminated through our beloved publishing houses.

“Son of Sam” laws exist to prevent criminals from benefiting financially from writing about their crimes. In that spirit, those who enabled, promulgated, and covered up crimes against the American people should not be enriched through the coffers of publishing.

We are writers, editors, journalists, agents, and professionals in multiple forms of publishing. We believe in the power of words and we are tired of the industry we love enriching the monsters among us, and we will do whatever is in our power to stop it.

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Sometimes You Need To Keep Going


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across those borders where only teachers travel


Bill Manhire

Children are building their teacher a coffin.
There it is in the paper, somewhere in Holland,

a good plain coffin made of many parts,
and two of the children

call each day and talk to the teacher
to keep the teacher posted. Is she happy?

She is ill but quite contented.
What will they give her to take with her

into the earth at last, or across those borders
where only teachers travel? There is dark energy there

and multiplication tables, and many children are in a room
with chisels and planes and spirit levels.

They must be making something wonderful.
Everything needs to be straight.

I made a boat, a tie-rack, a wooden spoon.
The boat sat on a mantlepiece in several different houses.

It was happy with its yellow funnel,
somewhere it is sailing. And everywhere children are waving and working hard.
They are building their teacher a coffin.

I first discover Bill Manhire’s writing when I visited New Zealand last year. He is a prize-winning poet and fiction writer, and has won several New Zealand Book Awards, a number of significant fellowships, and he was the 1997/1998 New Zealand Te Mata Estate Poet Laureate. Manhire was also honored with the 2007 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement. Manhire is the director of the International Institute of Modern Letters, centre for Creative Writing at Victoria University of Wellington. He has coordinated several bestselling anthologies, and his poetry and fiction is published in New Zealand, the UK, and the USA. His most recent poetry collection is Some Things to Place in a Coffin (Victoria University Press, 2017).


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Amsterdam Says No To Overtourism

Amsterdam has long been one of my favorite cities in the world, but on recent visits I have been put off by the sheer volume of tourists. The notoriously tolerant residents of the city seem to have finally had enough of drunken, littering, short-term visitors and are enacting regulations to stem the tide of overtourism.

With a resident population of less than 875,000, Amsterdam has been overwhelmed by a flood of close to 20 million tourists a year. And if you’ve ever been to the city you know that the vast majority of visitors stay and congregate in the picturesque, old historic heart of town. Many of those tourists come from other European countries for long weekends or very brief stays. They frequently book the cheapest accommodations and cram extra people in hotel rooms or Airbnbs.

In recent years, the municipal government has attempted to limit the number of nights per year that homes can be rented for short term occupancy. It has also cracked down on loutish tourist behavior with stricter city ordinances. Now the city is looking at the impact of cannabis tourism.

Last year, Mayor Femke Halsema commissioned a survey of visitors which included questions on their relationship to coffee shops. The survey revealed that 57% of foreigners visiting the center of Amsterdam say that visiting a coffee shop is a “very important reason” for their visit. When asked about whether or not they would return if they were unable to access coffee shops, 34% of tourists from overseas said that they were unsure, while 11% said that they would not.

Mayor Halsema has proposed regulations which would limit access to cannabis coffee shops to Dutch residents. thereby reducing the attraction of legal drugs to tourists and making tourism in the city easier to manage. The new ordinances are expected to come into effect in 2021. Personally, I’m happily planning to return to an Amsterdam that resembles the city that I’ve loved for decades.

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Seems Like A Good Idea

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Talking Books

I have an on-again, off-again interest in podcasts. When I’m traveling, I tend to catch-up on the podcasts that I’ve been meaning to listen to for a while. Since I’ve been stuck at home, my podcast consumption has been limited. That is until I discovered the new website created by David Wilk. is a podcasting website that curates a collection of podcasts for readers, authors and publishers. In addition, Livewriters provides news and resources about podcasting for the book community, a forum for industry discussion, access to podcasting and audio experts in the field and more. Livewriters officially launches tomorrow, January 12, with new features to be added to the site over the next several weeks.



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National Parks

Hiroshi Yoshida (吉田 博Yoshida Hiroshi, September 19, 1876 – April 5, 1950) was a 20th-century Japanese painter and woodblock printmaker. He is regarded as one of the greatest artists of the shin-hanga style, and is noted especially for his excellent landscape prints. Yoshida travelled widely, and was particularly known for his images of non-Japanese subjects done in traditional Japanese woodblock style, including the Taj Mahal, the Swiss Alps, the Grand Canyon, and other National Parks in the United States.

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