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Still image from video: BBC Hindi
This is Jyoti Kumari, a 15-year-old who cycled more than 700 miles from New Delhi to her village, transporting her injured father, a migrant laborer, on her bike.

Some kids take on a lot of responsibility really fast. That was the case of a girl from a poor family in India who told her mother she would bring her injured father home even if she had to bike halfway across India. There are many such children who never get a media spotlight, but for those that do, good things may follow.

As Jeffrey Gettleman and Suhasini Raj reported at the New York Times, “She was a 15-year-old with a simple mission: bring papa home. Jyoti Kumari and her dad had nearly no money, no transport, and their village was halfway across India. And her dad, an out-of-work migrant laborer, was injured and could barely walk.

“So Jyoti told her dad: Let me take you home. He thought the idea was crazy but went along with it. She then jumped on a $20 purple bike bought with the last of their savings. With her dad perched on the rear, she pedaled from the outskirts of New Delhi to their home village, 700 miles away.

‘Don’t worry, mummy,’ she reassured her mother along the way, using borrowed cellphones. ‘I will get Papa home good.’

“During the past two months under India’s coronavirus lockdown, millions of migrant laborers and their families have poured out of India’s cities, desperate and penniless, as they try to get back to their native villages where they can rely on family networks to survive. Many haven’t made it. …

“But amid all this pain and sadness now emerges a tale of devotion and straight-up grit. The Indian press has seized upon this feel-good story. … And a few days ago, the story got even better.

“While resting up in her village, Jyoti received a call from the Cycling Federation of India. Convinced she had the right stuff, Onkar Singh, the federation’s chairman, invited her to New Delhi for a tryout with the national team. …

“Reached by phone on Friday in her village of Sirhulli, in Bihar, one of India’s poorest states, Jyoti said in a scratchy voice barely above a whisper, because she still sounded exhausted: ‘I’m elated, I really want to go.’ …

“Her father, Mohan Paswan, a rickshaw driver from a lower rung of India’s caste system, was injured in a traffic accident in January and was running out of money even before the lockdown. … Jyoti came out from their village in Bihar to care for Mr. Paswan. She had dropped out of school a year ago because the family didn’t have enough money. Things got even worse after the lockdown, with their landlord threatening to kick them out and then cutting off their electricity.

“When Jyoti came up with the escape plan, her father shook his head.

“ ‘I said, “Look, daughter, it’s not four or five kilometers that you will drag me from here. It’s 12-, 13-hundred kilometers. How will we go?’’ ‘ he said in a video broadcast by the BBC’s Hindi service.

“The two bought a simple girl’s bike for the equivalent of about $20. On May 8, they set off, Jyoti at the handlebars, dad sitting pillion on back. Jyoti was pretty confident on a bike, having ridden a lot in her village.

“Many days they had little food. They slept at gas stations. They lived off the generosity of strangers. Jyoti said that except for one short lift on a truck, she pedaled nearly 100 miles a day. It wasn’t easy. Her father is big, and he was carrying a bag. …

“After they arrived in their village last weekend, her father went into a quarantine center. … Jyoti’s mother convinced village elders to let her quarantine at home. .. Then, a few days later, on Thursday morning, she got The Call.”

Read more at the New York Timeshere.

 

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Photo: Walter McBride/ Getty Images
Using drones to clean theaters could have long-lasting effects. Here’s Broadway’s Richard Rodgers Theatre with no people.

The other day, in my friend’s yard (six feet apart), we were discussing whether there were any positive things that would come out of the coronavirus — you know, like people washing their hands more and coughing into their elbows more and hence fewer colds. On this blog, we’ve seen lots of ideas from the arts community that could also continue in some form.  And what about more widespread appreciation of nature and healthy family relationships?

Changes in the way some companies do business may survive, too, but whether they will be positive remains to be seen. I’d be sorry to think the drone in today’s story would put anyone out of work. But as a curiosity, it’s something to talk about.

Marc Hershberg writes at Forbes, “As Broadway executives debate different strategies for reopening theaters following the COVID-19 pandemic, a Buffalo-based start-up company named EagleHawk has developed drones to spray disinfectants in Broadway theaters. …

“The disinfectant is stored on the ground, and pumped through a hose to the hovering drone, which then spreads it throughout the theater. Meanwhile, another drone drifts underneath it to make sure that the hose does not get tangled in any of the seats. …

“ ‘A Broadway theater could be disinfected by a drone in less than an hour, and without putting people on the front line,’ [Will Schulmeister, EagleHawk’s chief operating officer] said.

“While Broadway theater owners might be afraid of allowing the machines to flutter around their landmarked venues, the executives at EagleHawk insist that it is safe to operate inside. … The technology has been tested in several large venues, including KeyBank Center, the arena of the Buffalo Sabres professional hockey team. …

“While following the government guidelines for cleaning surfaces to get rid of pathogens like SARS-CoV-2, ‘we can control the liquid spray enough to not over-saturate the seats and still meet disinfection requirements,’ Schulmeister stated. …

“ ‘I could see the new drone technology being a good choice for arenas, stadiums, and large performing arts centers with thousands of seats,’ commented Susquehanna University theatre professor Erik Viker.

“While the leading Broadway theater owners declined to discuss their plans for cleaning seats after the pandemic, some facilities folks do not think that using the drones would fly.

“ ‘Actors are super hyper-sensitive to anything sprayed in the air,’ recognized a former theater executive. It is possible that the chemicals used to sanitize the seats might irritate some performers and affect their vocal abilities, much like dust and mildew. …

“Some smaller theaters have been experimenting with other possible alternatives, such as wands that emit ultraviolet light and machines that make antibacterial fogs. ‘We’re spending money on things to make the audience feel more comfortable,’ commented one small theater owner in Florida.” More at Forbes, here.

What coronovirus effects do you believe will last, if not cleaning by drone? More sense of community? More individualism and self-sufficiency? Sourcing food locally?

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Photo: Nelson Atkins Museum of Art
Staff wondered what kinds of art these Humboldt penguins from the Kansas City Zoo would gravitate toward when given leave to wander in a museum.  

You’ve probably seen as many invitations as I have to tour closed art museums online, and maybe you’ve already accepted an offer. I myself needed the extra nudge of touring a museum in the company of penguins.

Sarah Rose Sharp writes at Hyperallergic, “As reported by Time, three art-savvy Humboldt penguins from the Kansas City Zoo were given leave to wander a couple of the galleries at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art earlier in May.

“A video produced by the museum shows the little fellas wandering the marble floors and pausing to look at Impressionist and Baroque master paintings in galleries that were carefully checked to ensure the safety of both the works of art and their avian visitors.

“ ‘We’re so happy to welcome our colleagues from the zoo,’ said Nelson Atkins Executive Director Julián Zugazagoitia, in the video, ‘and they’ve brought special friends, and actually, we’re seeing how they’re reacting to art.’ ” More.

Back at Time, Tara Law wrote that Zugazagoitia thought the penguins “would be most interested in the works by Claude Monet, because they are ‘soothing’ and resemble water. However, the waddling visitors seemed to be most engaged with the Baroque works, including those by Caravaggio. …

“ ‘They stop, and look and wonder. … It really brought us joy, and I think it brings the community together when the love of animals and the empathy we feel for them is also reinforced by the love that we feel for art.’ …

“Although the museum has not yet announced a reopening date, Zugazagoitia says it has been working to keep its community engaged, including by migrating its festival celebrations online.” More at Time.

I sure do like people who have ideas. Although the Duchess in Alice in Wonderland insisted, “‘Tis love, ’tis love that makes the world go ’round,” I can’t help thinking that inventiveness, playful and otherwise, is pretty important, too.

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No one gets to avoid death, but whether death occurs in war or in peace, some happen too soon and too cruelly for the survivors. Let’s do what we can to prevent untimely loss.

This poem is by Wilfred Owen, who died young in World War I.

Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke once the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?

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Photos: Shelter in Place Gallery
Shelter In Place is a miniature, coronavirus-inspired gallery. It was launched by artist Eben Haines, who built the maquette and invited artists to submit works to scale.

If I didn’t believe that for most of us the lockdown would last a lot longer than the current “opening up” stuff, I’d write a post about happy I am to read books to grandchildren again and how sorry I am to see artists abandon their wildly inventive pandemic pursuits.

But I’m pretty sure most of us will still be self-distancing for many moons and enjoying the output from creative people that might never have happened but for coronavirus. I love following @covidartmuseum on Instagram, for example. Some of the submissions are a little too weird for me, but most of them make me laugh out loud. Another great source is the arts website Hyperallergic, where I recently learned about a miniature gallery called Shelter in Place.

Valentina Di Liscia wrote, “In the past month, a Boston gallery has managed to mount 15 exhibitions of brand-new works, with a rigorous program still to come. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, arts institutions around the globe shuttered one after the other; meanwhile, Shelter in Place Gallery [@shelterinplacegallery on Instagram] was not only founded during the crisis but continues to thrive.

“Of course, there’s a catch. Shelter In Place is a miniature gallery, measuring 20 by 30 inches and exhibiting scaled-down works in a model structure created using foam core, mat board, balsa wood, and plexiglass. Artists can submit works at a 1:12 or one inch to the foot scale, allowing them to create and show even ambitious, seemingly large-scale pieces — a romantic, suspended latex installation by Mary Pedicini; wall-to-wall canvases by B. Chehayeb — while traditional exhibition spaces remain closed. With high ceilings and skylights that flood the space with sunshine, the condensed gallery is impressively lifelike, giving artists room to get particularly creative. …

“The brilliant concept was devised by Eben Haines, a painter and graphic designer for exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston.

‘With the ongoing shutdowns and lockdowns across the globe, artists are having to stay home … So I’ve built SIP gallery as a new platform for Boston Artists (and eventually from all over) to allow for large scale artworks to be made at a desk or dining room table.’ …

“The idea first came to him back in 2018, long before the pandemic, when Haines was asked to participate in a group show at the Porch Gallery in Minneapolis titled Art Fair. The concept was simple: each artist received a 10-by-10-inch, white-painted MDF box that would serve as an ersatz fair booth where they could show scaled work. …

“Months later, as a rainy day project, he decided to create his own 1:12 scale model to house maquettes for large-scale works that he could not produce in his studio due to space or financial constraints. ‘But then the weather got better, and the more or less abandoned model stayed tucked away in my studio,’ he said.

“Enter the current crisis. Haines was one of more than 300 workers furloughed from the MFA Boston, which closed its doors in March … Haines dusted off the gallery model from years back and began making miniature paintings, initially as a strategy to continue working in his reduced studio space, which had shrunk from 400 square feet to a mere 10. But it dawned on him that other artists might be in a similar predicament, confined to less-than-ideal work conditions and aching to share their creations in a meaningful way. …

“All of the works on view are original, and it prioritizes new pieces as opposed to small copies of existing ones. Digital copies are all but prohibited. … So far, all works have arrived ready to be hung, which has made installations easier. …

“Haines emphasizes the project is not commercial; instead, any sales inquiries received are rerouted to the artists themselves, or to their galleries. Nicole Duennebier’s exhibition, for instance, nearly sold out before they could deliver the mini-paintings back to her gallery, 13FOREST. …

“Said Haines. ‘One of my ambitions for this project, besides urging people to step outside of their crisis mode for a little bit, is for artists to be able to use their submission proposals and photographs of their installed work to send to galleries, residencies, or grant programs, and have some momentum when the country opens back up. …

” ‘We’re honestly so busy with the local response we’ve had that it seems daunting to open it up, but once going to the post office gets a little safer and easier, I’d love to be able to show work from outside Boston,’ said Haines.”

Read the whole article at Hyperallergic, here. The pictures are amazing.

Wilhelm Neusser, “Untitled Bog Painting” (2020), oil on linen, a miniature.

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Photo: Dean’s Beans
Dean’s Beans and Peru’s Pangoa co-op offer coffee that’s carbon neutral.

I really love Dean’s Beans, and you’ve heard me talk about the company before. Not only do they have a delicious array of coffee beans from around the world and ship your order fast, but their nonprofit mission is a really big deal to them. They help the communities where they buy beans become increasingly self-sufficient, and they work to protect the environment.

An email that Dean sent out for Earth Day highlights one coffee that I buy in the French Roast decaffeinated version.

He wrote, “First, we want to extend our best wishes for health and safety to you during this time of COVID-19. Even though our beanery has (fortunately!) remained open, our new normal – masks, social distancing, split shifts, constant vigilance – is taking some getting used to. But we’re doing the best we can to take care of each other.

“Today, on the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, it is important to us that we still celebrate, and send some hope and positivity your way.

“So, let’s talk about our Carbon Neutral Coffee! You might remember this coffee better as ‘NoCO2,’ but this newly rebranded and re-named coffee is the same sweet, smooth Peruvian launched back in 2007 as the World’s First Carbon Neutral Coffee. The coffee was part of a massive reforestation program at Pangoa Cooperative in Peru. The goal? To offset all the carbon emitted throughout the entire supply chain from this coffee — from seed to cup!

“We calculated the entire carbon load from planting to drinking our Peruvian coffee, and neutralized it with native hardwood plantings. One tree planted for every 17 pounds of Peruvian coffee sold – enough to sequester 50 pounds of CO2 annually per tree! Fast forward almost 15 years — after 350,000 trees planted, this program has not only offset the entire output all Peruvian coffee sold, but all our coffees put together! We realized this unique reforestation program makes us a totally carbon negative company!

“The Pangoa Cooperative reforestation efforts don’t stop at carbon sequestration! Turns out, planting native hardwoods makes for superb migratory bird habitat. So, in 2016, we partnered with the coop and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center to help Pangoa obtain official SMBC Bird-Friendly certification for their coffee (it would bring the coop an additional premium for the coffee as well!) …

“To take care of each other is to take care of the Earth. If you’ve been following us on social media, you may have seen our COVID initiatives to help bolster our community and look out for one another. Between thousands of tin ties for DIY masks, coffee donations and support for school meal programs, we’re continually looking for ways to help. We’re in this together.” More here.

A 2016 post I wrote about Dean’s Beans is here. And here’s one describing how Dean’s Beans is supporting health care for Mayan women. If you want to know more about the Peruvian reforestation efforts that provide families with some extra income while protecting the birds, check this post from 2017.

The English National Opera (ENO) is rethinking how to stage productions for the current self-distancing environment. A lot depends on when driving restrictions might be lifted.

Mark Brown writes at the Guardian, “English National Opera (ENO) has announced plans for what are thought to be the world’s first drive-in opera performances.

“Planned for the first three weeks of September, the idea is to stage live performances in the grounds of Alexandra Palace, north London, with musicians and singers spaced out to conform with physical distancing guidelines. If successful, ENO hopes to roll out the ‘Drive & Live’ concept to other parts of the UK.

“Stuart Murphy, ENO’s chief executive, told the Guardian it was part of the company’s mission of ‘opera for everyone.’ He said: ‘It is a bit of an experiment and if it works it might be a way of bringing the art form to people in a totally different and authentic way.’ …

“The idea is that the audience would be in 300 cars, with the bigger vehicles at the back. People on motorbikes and pedal cycles would also be allowed. Then windows go down and the audience watches the live performance unfold on a specially constructed set.

“The audience reaction could be interesting, Murphy said. ‘Instead of clapping or shouting “bravo,” it might be that people flash their lights or honk their horn. As long as it’s authentic, we’re not going to force it.

“ ‘I think it could attract a whole new generation to opera, people who love their car, see it as an extension to themselves.’ …

“Murphy said if the concept worked, then he could see drive-in operas being staged at racecourses or historic properties. ‘We’ve also had a couple of really productive conversations with international opera houses who think we’re on to something. It is an attempt to square the circle and let people have a big collective moment while staying safe.’

“The first 12 performances will be a shortened 90-minute version of Puccini’s La Bohème and a one-hour family-friendly version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

The first show will be free for National Health Service and frontline workers. …

“Murphy, who joined ENO in 2018 after a career in TV [said] all arts companies needed now to be ‘nimble and quick’ and react to circumstances, but at the moment ENO was not planning for seats being empty. …

“Some countries have allowed drive-in cinemas to remain open during the lockdown. Germany, for example, has two year-round operations, in Essen and Cologne. According to the Hollywood Reporter, both have sold out for every screening since Germany’s lockdown was declared. Makeshift drive-ins are also popping up around the country.

“In the US, the spiritual home of the drive-in, fewer than 25 of the nation’s 320 drive-ins are reportedly open for business, but that could change. The New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, said [in April that] he would consider allowing drive-ins to reopen. ‘Where is the public safety issue? It’s a drive-in theatre. You’re in the car with the same people,’ he said.”

Photo: Donald Cooper/Photostage
An English National Opera production of
The Magic Flute in the Good Old Days of 2019. Today ENO operas must take Covid-19 and social distancing into account.

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