Interview on “Black Widow in the Garden of Eden” painting


What is this imagery about?

This is a photo on one of the Black Widows,Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, aged 17 at the time of the metro attacks in Russia. The husband Umalat Magomedov had been killed by Russian special forces the year before in 2009.  The widow joined the Black Widows, an underground Chechen guerrilla force to seek vengence.  Her attack killed 40 people and injured 100 other subway travellers in Moscow.

 Why did you get inspired to paint this theme?

Well, I was going to originally do a painting on the Boston Bombings, but saw that attack as really a displaced anger of the historical battle between Russia and the Chechens.  At that point I was drawn into this story of such a young couple drawn into a pact to fight for their country and die at such an early age of youth.

Why do you have “Wolverines” in the background?

One of the insights I had was that the 1984 movie “Red Dawn” used allusion to the growing Chechen wars against the Russians.  In the movie, US youth retreat to the mountains to stage guerrilla warfare against a Russian/Cuban invasion of central United States during the Cold War.  They used the high school logo of Wolverines as their guerrilla name spray painting after attacks.

reddawn2 wolverines

In the Chechen wars, the Chechens would retreat from cities to the safety of the mountains and attack the Russians. In the mountains, the Russians would not be able to use tanks, but only helicopters and troops, similar to the movie “Red Dawn”

 chechen mountains1

attack helicopters

Why are the Chechens so vicious in their attacks?

 If you look at how the Russians have treated the Chechens over the 200 years they have tried to rule the area, you would not be surprised.  They repeatedly have rounded up Chechen men and have them executed in ethnic cleansing operations.  Below are men about to be shot by Russian special forces.

chechen massacre

Do you see the Chechens winning at some point?

Who knows? During the breakup of the USSR, Chechnya was independent for a short time.  Then Russia invaded in the first Chechen War, which the Chechens won and declared full indepedence as the Republic of Ichekeria.

 Later during the 2nd Chechen War, Russia succeeded in reconquering the territory under Putin’s bloody counter insurgency.

 putin chechen

 Why do you think Putin is obsessed with winning in Chechnya?

 Besides Russia having conquered them for 200 years, it is kind of redemption of the losses in Afganistan in the 1980s.  The US had a similar reaction fighting in Iraq War 1 getting over the ghosts of the lost war in Vietnam.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Review of “Red Dawn” 1984 movie


Why do you like this movie?

It captures the heart and fear of the Cold War in the 1980s in the US and is an adventure where kids become warriors to defend their country.

Isn’t the concept preposterous?

Yes, an invasion of the US at that time or now is preposterous, but in the distant future it will be a reality simply based on historical patterns of rise, maturation, decline and finally conquest of empires.  Even the Romans fell after 1500+ years of rule.  I would say the US is currently at its apex of power, so definitely no threat of conquest in our lifetime or even our grand children’s lifetime.


Rome: 200-300 AD


Rome: now

 Were there any historical truth in the movie?

 That’s an interesting question.  At first, when I saw it as a teen I just glossed it over as a big movie take on the 80s Cold War between USSR and the US.  Recently, I have discovered references like the Chechen wars that are referred to symbolically in the movie.


From the movie, Wolverines are the local High School team mascot.  I believe the director chose this as a reference to the Chechens, who were fighting for independence for over 200 years from Russian and later Soviet rule.  Additionally, the Chechens retreat after battle to the mountains and then later raid the plains villages and towns held by Russian rule. In the movie the children, regularly return to raid their own town in defiance of the foreign Russian rulers sent to bring them “freedom” and reeducate them.


Are there more modern takes on the Chechen war for independence?

Unfortunately, when Putin came to power he decided to consolidate his power by crushing recent Chechen rebellion, which helped him “win” elections, but later led to mass Chechen terrorism against the Russian population in Russia proper. In 1999, the Chechens bombed an apartment building killing 300 civilians.

apt bombing

In the US, we recently had the Boston Bombing coming from a Chechen youth visiting his homeland and getting radicalized hatred from the repressive treatment of his people in Chechnya.  He came back to Boston and injured 264 runners and wathers and killed 3 by bombing the Boston Marathon.

Explosion at Boston marathon

Why are the Chechens so vicious in their attacks?

Primarily, it is the treatment they received at the end of long Russian rule.  The worst case was when Stalin decided to have the 700,000 Chechens deported after rising up when the Nazis were close to taking the region. Besides deportation, the Stalin government waged war with the remaining warriors killing about 170,000+ people or close to 1 in 5 of the whole population.  So there is a long history of bitterness and rebellion in the Chechen population that will take decades to settle.

stalin giant

So are you painting on the movie itself? 

Stay tuned.  I will have a work dedicated to the Chechens and Red Dawn out soon.




New York Times

Pop Culture meets history

IMDB: The Day After

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Interview of “Misty Masses and Merciless Mao” painting

So why did you decide to paint a second time the June 4th “incident” as the Chinese government calls it?

tiananmen square crowd

I thought about what might have gone through the heads of the leaders rolling tanks over civilians as a way to restore order.  It was just insane that that happened while in Eastern Europe they threw off the shackles of Communist leadership.

Here you see that the square was full. This square is 109 acres and is the 4th largest city square in the world.  If this were farmland, it would take 109 ox to plow it all day long or 61 soccer fields.  In other words, the protest was a serious challenge to the leadership holding onto power.

What were the symbols of the citizen protest?

lady liberty lady liberty in tiananmen

Besides mourning a popular leader dying, which then led to protests about democracy, Lady Liberty was the symbol of the stomped out revolution.

Did any popular leaders side with the students?

ccp leader with crowd

Actually, a CCP leader tried to calm the situation down on the ground so there wouldn’t be a massacre.  He was later purged of the party in full dishonor for trying to avoid civilian bloodshed, but more for this one photograph.

Most of the leaders were teachers and other leaders close to the student body and aware of the popular protest such as Liu Xiaobo.  Liu spoke to the crowds and help disperse the public before the tanks rolled over the remaining students. He likely saved thousands from an all out massacre of large scale.  For this he was rewarded with prison time.  20 years later he was sent to prison again for writing a Bill of Rights for Chinese government reform called Charter 08.

liu 2

How does the CCP government like to portray the event?

Well the current wife of the Chinese appointed president Xi Jinping was in fact part of the “mop-up” tank brigade operation.  She sang to the “heros” of the square that ran over students fleeing for their lives.  This photo that was once published in a military magazine is now banned on Chinese internet.

xi wife at tiananment

Another thing they like to do is have multiple military parades now to show they still are in power.

tanks in tiananmen military in tiananmen military parades tiananmen

They need an all powerful image to sell to their citizens and outside world. No one believes it, but they think it sells.

ccp propaganda

They want to forget this ever happened…

victims 1989

What are the images in your painting?

I have military flags used in the Song dynasty era that spell out 1 9 8 9 with chinese poetry in the background. I thought it would call out the brutalness of the “popular” unelected regime and their mindset of power at all costs.

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Wikipedia 1989

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Interview on “Killer Cowboy Clouds”

So why did you decide to paint the Marlboro man?

I had smoked 13 years previously and thought it would be an honor to Marlboro cowboy billboard ads that got me hooked. My father and brother both smoked.  My father got throat cancer from smoking 15 years.  I think my brother may die eventually of some cigarette related cancer.

Why did you choose Marlboro man vs. Joe Camel or other famous cigarette ads?

Well, Marlboro had essentially 1% of the market, selling only to women, moved to dominate the market place as number one after the cowboy billboard ads.  Later as the governments started to ban most forms of advertising, this just allowed Marlboro to be unchallenged for number one.

Camel Joe is an interesting image as well since most children can readily identify him instantly.  This suggests Camel may come to dominate in the near future the next generation of smokers.

Which brand dominated before Marlboro man came along?

I believe it was Lucky Strike

What about the surge of vapor smoking?

I think the Marlboro, Lucky Strike and other traditional cigarette brands are in possible deep trouble since there is no limit on vaper smoking indoors and the advertising as well.  The worst advertising is one you cannot compete against say on TV and radio.  Additionally, this type of smoking is a bit healthier since they eliminate the tar and is mostly nicotine.

So what happened to the original Marlboro man?

Four of the real cowboys that starred as Marlboro man died of related smoking diseases.  This led to the name “Cowboy Killers”.

Why do you have other people in the background?

Besides tobacco companies, many other groups promoted smoking and profited it from it.  One of the obvious pairings was Hollywood from James Dean to Marilyn Monroe to Madonna to Jack Nicholson to Schwarzenegger to Sharon Stone.

Other groups include musicians like Snoop Dogg and Bob Marley:

We even have fine artists behind the trend:

But beside blaming the music industry, Hollywood and pop artists, politicians are a major driver of encouraging smoking:

Some of the worst part of the political connection was the politicians passing a draft and then encouraging soldiers to smoke with free tobacco and lighters.  The tobacco industry got tobacco included in soldier rations:

Before the knowledge of the connection of smoking to disease and government regulation, cigarette makers like Lucky Strike used doctors and dentists to recommend smoking:

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Lucky Strikes

Interview on “Charlie and the Agent Orange Factory”


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.


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:


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.  


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.


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



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.


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.


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.


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.


Are there modern regimes using brutal methods?


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.”  


May the Odds be Ever in your Favor


Interview on “Equality 7.2521″ painting


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.


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.




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”.


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.

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:


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.


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


Party worship


Ghettos lead to Death Camps


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.


Confiscate Palestinian Land and Property

Form a country wide ghetto

Border crossing like caged animals