Interview on “Charlie and the Agent Orange Factory”

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Why the crazy title on this work?

The title came to me as I thought of the human carnage in the Vietnam war and its last impacting on the civilian population.  The interplay of colors from intense orange to baby sea blue reminded of this climate as well.

What were the human after costs of the war? 

Obviously, one of the largest costs in terms of human life happened from the war itself with modern attack helicopters, bombing raids and on the ground troop actions.  One of the lasting results of the bombing raids was children born from mothers suffering the effects of Agent Orange.

What was Agent Orange?

Basically, the US Army requested chemical manufacturers a way to clear out the jungle so the army could fight a traditional tanks and troops battle like in WWII.  The Vietcong were very successful at making underground tunnels and just traveling with infantry only, which made their advances hidden to the complete US air domination.  Of course, this made over flights to see troops basically useless.  The US companies involved in these chemical agents were Dow Chemical, insecticide maker and Monsanto, the maker of Roundup.  Likely, Roundup is a child of the products used on the Vietnamese jungle and civilian population.

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To quote from Dow’s website: “We have a diverse portfolio of leading-edge insecticide, herbicide, fungicide and fumigant technologies for customers around the globe.”

To quote from Monsanto’s website: “Developed in 1974, Roundup brand agricultural herbicides continue to be a perfect fit with the vision of sustainable agriculture and environmental protection.”

How many were effected by their products during the war bombings?

The US air force dropped 20 million gallons of “Agent Orange” in Vietnam from 1962-71.  One of the first impacted were farmers, who had to abandon destroyed crop lands leading the Vietnamese cities to swell from 2.8M to 8M with 1.5M ending up in city slums.  Another impact were 500,000 birth defects from spraying. About 1M total people were disabled as a result of exposure.  Below you can see why it was called Agent Orange:

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The US government told the soldiers the chemicals were harmless to humans.  Of course, the handlers of the chemicals also had similiar health issues and miscarriages resulting from the exposure.  The Veteran’s Affairs only compensated 486 veterans for exposure out of 39,000 exposed or a little over 1 in 100.

How do we avoid such catastrophes in the future?

Unfortunately, governments will always stock chemical weapons.  One of the recent examples, was the US government selling Saddam Hussein WMD (ie. chemical weapons) in the 1980s to help in the war against Iran, who held US hostages one year.  

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What was the impact in that war?

At least 1M killed in combat. From pure chemical weapons standpoint, 50 thousand Iranians suffered from the chemical weapons supplied by the US government.  Hence you could understand why the US is considered the Great Satan.

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Ironically, in the Gulf War II the US invaded Iraq to find WMD, but the weapons had decayed or been destroyed over time to prevent the US invasion.  

Review of “Catching Fire” movie

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How would you rate the movie?

I think for a followup movie, they did a very good job of keeping the excitement of the original while driving in new elements.  As far as seeing it without the first movie, it has the elements it needs to make sense.  Although I think some of the training elements maybe should have been a bit different.  In the book, there are numerous scenes of studying Haymitch in his winning of the games previously that they skipped on.  Although this likely was a good decision as the younger fans would more enjoy the focus on Katniss and Peeta characters. Additionally, this would have dragged out the train tour scene visually.

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How well do you think they followed the book?

In each adaptation of a movie from a book there are shortcuts taken to focus on the key scenes.  Do I think they got that right?  Very close.  They did eliminate some foreshadowing of District 13, which probably made sense in that the ending becomes a complete cliff hanger if you haven’t read any of the books.

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Another section they slice off is the electrification of the fence and the finding of the house to retreat to in case of the revolution coming.

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What do you think are the successful factors?

The whipping scene is very strong and captures the brutality of an authoritarian regime.  There are historical parallels in modern society with slavery.

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Are there modern regimes using brutal methods?

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Sure, look at the Sudan where they publicly whipped a woman for adultery under Islamic fascist-style governments.  In Saudi Arabia they stone women.  Below is a photo of stoning in Somalia, again by a Islamic extremist group.

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As with the book, the structure of the Hunger Games changes over time and there are surprise plot twists.  This is a classical must-have feature for a sequel to have long-term success as the audience will bore of the same plots repeated as is common in many serial novels.

Because of the cover-up of some of the foreshadowing of the ending, the ending is very strong and comes to the audience in a blast.

 

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The fact that they focus on the results of the slow burning uprising really enhances how the general population of Panam is rising up.  Visually, its actually stronger than the sense you get in the book, which is trickier.  In the book, you have to describe the uprising and keep it top of mind.  In film, you can show the crowds getting more and more extreme, so it is burned into your retina memory much faster.

Why do you think this series touches such a nerve in the population?

One of the themes is a domineering political center, the Capital, stealing all the resources in abandonment ways of splurging while the rest of the population is starving.  Historically, this happened as the Nazis rose to power in Germany and as the war progressed, but also recently you can see similar trends in the US government. You saw this as a troubled teen took on the Boston bombing or the hacker group Anonymous beginning to challenge all different power groups worldwide.

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Boston Bombing and Police 2012

Are you saying the US is becoming Nazi Germany?

No, not yet.  What I mean to qualify is that you do see a militarization of the police to an extent never seen before in US history.  In my lifetime, I have seen AK47s wielded by the Polish Communist police, but now we are seeing the US police, SWAT and all other police forces carrying machine guns to protect us from terrorism.  A great example was the police response to the Boston bombing in 2012.

Another example is the response to the JFK assassination in 1963 and the 2013 women who rammed the white house road blocks.  In one case you have lax police protection, which allowed the opportunity of assassination.  In the other hand, you have a dental practioner with her child in the car gunned down by over zealous DC cops protecting the White House. This is major upset from likely too few cops to too extreme cops in 5 decades.

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Have you done any artwork on this theme?

Yes, I did do an artwork on the Hunger Games and will likely just leave it at one work for the entire series of books and movies.  My painting focuses right on the time when Katniss decides to volunteer in District 12 and show self-sacrifice to preserve her own sister while Effie, representing the Capital powerful elite excess, draws out her name with a beautifully decadent accent.  She then tells the reapees that “May the odds be ever in your favor.”  

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May the Odds be Ever in your Favor

 

Interview on “Equality 7.2521″ painting

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So why did you paint this piece?

It is based on a small novella that Ayn Rand wrote as she took a “break” between writing her two larger novels “Fountain Head” and “Atlas Shrugged”.  This painting is based on the novel “Anthem”, which deals about a pure socialist future world where one individual rediscovers individuality, creativity and electricity.  She was addressing the encroaching socialism under the FDR administration in the 1930s.

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How is this relevant today 70 years later?

Well, recently we have seen the spectacular failure of socialization of medical insurance under ACA aka Obamacare.  You are seeing a failed running of massive bureaucracy, consumer fraud rising, doctors kicked off insurance plans and consumers faced with less choice.  All basically less liberty and freedom of choice vs. forced government care or tax penalties.

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100s of Gulag sites in USSR

Why was Rand so anti-socialist in the 1930s US?

Well, originally Rand grew up in Russia pre-revolution and actually witnessed the descent into Communism.  Her family lost their pharmacy business to be run by the state and she fled the country. Millions were executed by Lenin and then Stalin in state purges while they set up slave labor prison system called the Gulag with 100s of prisons all over the USSR.  After seeing the misery, poverty and cruelty under state socialism she made it her mission to write against it and form a philosophy called “objectivism”.

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What is Objectivism?

Basically, she said laissez-faire capitalism with minimal state intervention was the base of social morality.  In essence, when you buy a good or service, you are free to choose the vendor and whether to buy it at the price stated.  You can bargain if possible and both parties transact at a price both parties agree to.  She also believed no individual owed her fellow man anything except via voluntary charity.  Governments sole role was to dispute arguments arising between individuals or arrest thieves.  Socialism was actually like letting the thieves run government as it is based on forced wealth redistribution: social security tax, estate tax, etc.

There is a fabulous interview on the Phil Donahue show, which really exposes her mindset and how the TV show hosts of the time really wrestled with her very solid positions that some thought extreme.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzGFytGBDN8

Part 1 of 5 Interview

How would Ayn Rand have interpreted Obama as a leader?

I think she would point out his socialist tendencies.  One statement that came out that she would ferociously argue against is his statement:

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Obama was trying to talk about the good of the government and its positive influence on society, but also saying the workers more than the owners of the original ideas were responsible for that business.  This is an extreme falsehood.  Only the original founders and idea creators of a business cause it to thrive.  Hence she would defend the creator’s right to most of the profits because the workers had the choice to work there or elsewhere.

Another point she may make is about charges of racism of their opponents like the tea party.  This is classic demonization of the opponents to grab more power.

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See any parallels here?

Do you think socialist capitalism could slide into autocratic socialism?

It already has.  In the 1930s, Germans voted in socialists to pass laws on social security, elder assistance, socialized medicine, etc.  In many ways, Germany was leading the world in socialism within a capitalistic society.  Paired with the debilitating WWI debt and economic collapse, this led to the rise of Nationalist Socialists ie. Nazis.  They were elected in to solve the problem of a non-functioning socialist democracy with autocratic methods.  After they were in power, the Nazis slower dissolved any democratic feedback into the system which led to war, euthanasia, medical experiments, demonized minorities, robbed minorities and eventually drove the Holocaust with 6 million dead.

Rise to power

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Party worship

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Ghettos lead to Death Camps

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Do you see any other societies falling into the terrible demonization of minorities?

Troubling enough, if you look at Israel, which was founded as a refuge after the Halocaust and specifically to defend against its recurrence, you see signs of extremism.  The state is founded on religion with little Palestinian input.  You see the power of the fundamental Jews gain more and more power.  The whole of Palestine was put into a massive Ghetto via the wall.  Now you see strict separation of the two peoples driving more racism and brutality and even theft of property of the Palestinians over time.

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Confiscate Palestinian Land and Property

Form a country wide ghetto

Border crossing like caged animals

Interview on “Ying Yang Bang Bang” painting

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What drove you to paint this painting?

I was browsing the Internet and stumbled upon the tragedy of the one-child policy in China.

Why would that policy concern you?

While its noble to try and limit child birth to save humanity from overpopulation, there are dire consequences of the law.  For one, traditionally China has favored male children for heriditary rights and avoiding high dowries marrying off girls.  With this policy, couples have chosen to use abortion as a gender selection issue since they can only have one child.  Additionally, the state even forces women to have abortions even though they want to birth the child.  Many doctors have been coming forth on this atrocious act.

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Are there other follow-up consequences to this favoring of male children?

Yes, there are now approximately 121 boys born to 100 girls.  As you likely know, the natural birth ratio is 105:100 with 5 boys not making it to mating age and a 1:1 ratio is kept in balance.

Why is this balance so important?

In China, this rising trend after 2 generations of the one-child policy in effect has led to a scarcity of brides to marry.  Older, richer men tend to get the brides, so this further

exacerbates the scarcity of brides for young males.  Additionally, the old culture of multiple mistresses arose as well with top leaders having numerous girlfriends.  This in turn drives increased protests, violence and prostitution among these frustrated males.  Additionally, criminal gangs kidnap women from the border areas of China for forced marriages or into prostitution.  You could say this is completely corrupting the state from within.

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Prostitution ring

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Li Guagnian and his 18 yr old mistress

Are there other countries with this imbalance?

Unfortunately, yes.  In India there is also a drive to birth male children over females for reasons of high dowry payment for daughter marriages.  India weddings last a week, so you can imagine the exorbitant cost for a family.  So in India, poorer families are also using abortion to sex select their kids.  

One bizarre twist in the West is that couples can now sex select via spinning the sperm around to increase the chances of a girl or a boy leaning slightly more females than men.

Do you see a long-term effect for these imbalanced sex countries?

Well, you can see with the higher proportion of males, they tend to have more in power and use violence on a mass scale ie. war.  With India and Pakistan, you can see multiple nuclear tests going head to head as well as spiraling terrorism out of Pakistan.  In China’s case, you can see the increased beligerance to all its neighbors as it increases its military might.  Perhaps in the coming decades we will see a massive regional war from this extended testosterone.

Do you see a one child policy coming to the West?

Likely, we will not since there are elections to bring up the issues and most people will see the folly of a state-ordered medical policy.  Although we have seen extreme examples of socialism rise in Germany, such as social medicine before the rise of the Nazis.  Under this dictatorship, they started to practice euthanasia, genocide and medical experiments.  Some would say that the inefficiencies in a socialist state led up to a dictator taking power to “get things done”.  As you may realize, we just forced all Americans into health care. Over time these bureaucrat decision making may go in a bad direction if the public is not watchful.

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What symbols do you have in the painting?

For one, I have the 121:100 ratio.  The other obvious symbol is ying and yang, which is the symbol of the balance between male and female in Asian cultures.  In the background, I have three fertility goddesses of the ancient world and continents.  Before the advent of farming, humans had no inkling of the connection between sex and child birth and worshipped the female as the creator.  After farming came with domesticated animals, humans learned the connection of sex to child birth and then started to value the male as creator.  This trends lasted into today era.

How can I help eradicate the issue?

In India the group 50 Million Missing campaign is trying to change the mindset of the Indian culture.

 

Interview on “303 Signatures” Painting and Charter 08

Why did you paint this massive piece?

I was attracted to the story of Liu Xiabo and the creation of Charter 08.  This goes back to the terrible tradegy of 1989 and how the Communist Chinese government decided to literally run over the unarmed civilian protesters with tanks rather than reform.  At the same time I had seen the peaceful transition of Poland from communism in 1989.  

Why was Charter 08 written?

In the events of the 2008 Earthquakes and the scandals of collapsed children’s schools, people started to investigate the scandals of corrupt politicians and builders colluding for profit at the expanse of children’s death.  Ai Weiwei was one of the principal independent investigators into this tragedy.

He created a massive display of backpacks construed into a mural.  The backpacks represented the 5000 children that perished in the earthquakes and shoddy schools. The mandarin in the work talks about the feelings of the mother of a victim.

“She lived happily for seven years in this world”

How did the government react to Ai Weiwei’s investigation and show?

Well, typical of the single-minded task of the CCP, they bull-dozed his $1 million studio in Beijing. They claimed he didn’t have a permit to the building code.  Its ironic that the CCP chose to actively destroy his studio while covering up their complicity in shoddy building destruction leading up to children’s deaths by mother nature.

How did other intellectuals respond to the Earthquake disaster?

Several writers gathered and produced the document called Charter 08.  This document was based on similar historical documents like the Bill of Rights and Charter 77.  Charter 77 was written by reformists in Communist Czechoslovakia that led eventually to the regime’s collapse in 1989. The Bill of Rights in the US was to balance the powers of the state, federal power and the individual.  

Liu Xiabo was one of the principal writers and signers of the document.  Originally signed by 303 people and then presented to the CCP ruling party.  The document asked for the following reforms:

Amending the Constitution

Separation of Powers

Legislative democracy

Independent Judiciary

Public control of public servants

Guarantee of  Human Rights

Election of public officials

Abolition of Hukou System

Freedom of Association

Freedom of Assembly

Freedom of Expression

Freedom of Religion

Civic Education

Free Markets and Private Property Protection

Financial and tax reform

Social Security

Protection of the envronment

A federated republic

Truth in reconciliation

Each of these 19 main points of the document are in the painting.  There are a total of 76 characters, which symbolically refers to the US liberation of 1776 as well.

How did the Communist party respond?

They immediately rounded up Liu Xiabo and several signers.  Liu Xiabo was eventually sent to prison for “inciting subversion of state power” for 11 years.  So fearful are the authorities of these 19 points of written reform.

How did the world respond?

Liu Xiabo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.  All representatives of Liu were blocked from attending and accepting the award on his behalf.  Over 10,000 people have signed online the Charter 08 since the original 303 signed.

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Have other winners been blocked by their governments from accepting the Nobel Peace Prize?

Yes in 1935 Hitler kept Carl von Ossietzky in prison. In 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi was kept away by Burmese military government.  This gives you an idea of the type of government Chinese people live under.

How long did it take to paint this work?

Yes, it took up to 6 weeks.  My wife almost had a heart attack saying, “it’s blocking all the light!” continually.  I started with the red layer representing the strong red of traditional Chinese painting and pot paintings.  Then I painted a gigantic 303 in gold.  Then I painted the whole thing in black and eventually formed abstract shaped over the painting.  My next stage was to cut out each of the red characters.  My final stage was to paint most of the 303 signatures, over 900 characters, around the entire frame of the painting.

Are there other symbols in the painting?

Yes, the characters line up into 8 rows and 10 columns. In China, the year 08 for the Olympics came to represent the pinacle of luck as known in chinese numerology.  The tragedy of the 08 Earthquakes wiped out the good PR from the Olympics to expose the political corruption under the surface.  This painting hopes to capture the meaning of Charter 08 and the hope of Chinese people to reform their government into a modern democracy with respect for human and individual rights.

 

Interview of “Techtonic Turbulent Tide” painting

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Why did you decide to paint this theme?

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On March 2011, this massive tidal wave overwhelmed the coastline of Japan. The cause was the massive 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan that caused the massive ocean swells.  

As the event unfolded, I knew I had to paint this tragic site unfolding on TV.  The impact was multiplied when the nuclear plants on the coast, the worst being the Fukushima plant.  

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Why do you think the authorities were slow to release data to the public?

At the time of the disaster, the plant managers thought they had the plant under control.  Then the US embassy released a danger zone for the plant much larger for than the Japanese authorities that caused panic for the public there. 

There was also a slow release of the number of victims that died in the tsunami.  This was a cultural difference in that Japan they only release statistics once the bodies have been confirmed.  

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What has been the cultural impact of the disaster?

Historically, Japan has always been hit by tsunamis resulting from massive earthquakes, so there is a large historical connection to this disaster in art. Here we see the famous Great Wave woodblock print in the 1830s with Mount Fuji in the background. 

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The Great Wave off Kanagawa – Hokusai

Are there popular artworks related to nuclear disaster?

Yes, since the US dropped the atomic bomb twice on Japan at the end of WWII, there have been fear stories related to the effect of nuclear contamination.  The best known are Godzilla and other giant beings movies of the 1950s

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What is the text in your painting?

The lettering says “Tsunami” in Japanese and the background is Chinese paper.  It would have made more sense to use Japanese paper, since no Japanese nor Chinese would by a cultural combination like this.

 

Interview of “I’m CEO… Bitch!” painting

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How did you come to paint it?

Well, one of the ex-employees of Facebook saw the painting of my “This… is… Google!” painting and wanted to commission me on to do a Facebook version.

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“This… is… Google!” painting

What is the Google work about?

I learned of the debate with Google senior ranks of the hacking against political rights activists into gmail accounts by the Chinese government.  Then Google decided to move its operations out of mainland China to Hong Kong site only to avoid having to censor their own users for the Chinese government.  I was floored by their decision to “do no evil” by sacrificing profits for good will.

Why did you use such a wild title?

As stated in the movie “Social Network” about the formation of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg had his first business cards actually printed with the text “I’m CEO bitch!”  I verified this account as well. It really captures the wild days of the foundation and honesty of Facebook in the face of rigidity of social preconceptions as well.

What exactly are Facebook Stories?

These are the amazing stories of how long lost relatives found each other on Facebook, people founded great organizations via Facebook and other amazing discoveries.  Its kind of a bragging rights site, but truly shows the amazing power of Facebook in people’s lives to make a difference for themselves and empower groups.

What are each of the scenes of Facebook about?

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In the F letter, we have Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and face of the company founding.  There are conspiracies of the power of Facebook that people speculated about in its founding from DARPA to the CIA.

A and C Letter

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In the second letter of A, we have the battle in the internet of the new social media sites, competition and partners of Facebook.  The big one being Farmville game, which challenged Facebook’s patience at one point with all the invites.  Similarly, Candy Crush likely is testing the patience as well of current users.

In the C letter, we have the political rise of power using Facebook, namely in the historic campaign of Barack Obama in 2008 and the famous Hope Poster of Shephard Fairey.  Another important feature of Facebook and other social media was the impact in the Arab Spring with Time Magazine and the Protester cover image.

E Letter

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In the E letter, we have the mothers milking controversy of Facebook with mothers posting pictures of naked breast feeding.  There was an internal battle whether this violated the policy of Facebook with the users strongly influencing the decision to let them stay.  I playfully put in the corporate “Got Milk” ad campaign, since this is a competitor to mother’s milk.

B Letter

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In the B letter, we have one of the most popular Facebook web pages of South Park.  This cartoon in its self is very inflammatory testing society’s level of acceptance and hypocrisy. 

O Letters

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In the first O letter, I took on the topic of breaking the barriers of hate via Facebook.  I posted an amazing ad by Benettonthat was pulled the same day it went up! The company was pressured by the Vatican itself to pull it.  It has the Pope kissing an Imam, which tears at the tenants of religious hate and the issue of religious views on LGBT relationships as well.  It is also a remake of an historical event of the USSR General Secretary Brezhnev kissing the Eastern German President at the time at 30th anniversary of Communism in East Germany in 1979.  Below is a Berlin Wall cynical painting in 1989 of that historic kiss.

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“My God help me survive this deadly love” painting

In the second O letter, we have the maps of the greatest users of Facebook pared with the countries of highest levels of censure against Facebook.  

K Letter

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In the K letter, we have the initial beginnings of Facebook predecessors like Hot or Not and Facemash, which led to Mark Zuckerberg deciding to take the company to the next level.  Of course, you have to have the famous Like button as well included.

Is this work for sale?

No, the work is in a private collection currently.