from a recent visit to Arnold Arboretum

the administration building

in the Linden (Tillia) collection

Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora ‘Quickfire’

Clerodendrum trichotomum the deliciously fragrant Harlequin Glorybower

grove of Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Symplocos paniculata

Clethra barbanervis

Acer tartaricum

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Photos on Display

I was recently invited by Kristen Ellsworth-Wing to contribute some of my photos to the staging of a new home in Edgartown.  It offered a rare opportunity to see some of my images in an actual living situation and to get some unsolicited response to my work.


Gaff Rigger Race ’17


Philbin Beach – Aquinnah ’18 (off season)


the Fairy, rigging in the morning light and

Euphorbia and Camassia mandala in Victorian frame




Philbin Beach again, for scale

I haven’t actually heard back from anyone about the pictures. I’m satisfied at any rate, I think they look great.


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photographs installed at Attune Health in Beverly Hills

Dr. Swamy Venuturupalli invited me to install a range of images from my book, “Morning Light” in his newly opened clinic on Wilshire and Robertson in Beverly Hills. 

A fantastic opportunity to see this series in print and in a completely different environment.

We also chose to place several images from my recent experiments/sketches in reflected modules, “Mirror Series”.

A bold decision on Dr. Swamy’s part since we don’t know where this inquiry will lead. 

For the most part we’re happy with the work in the space. Only time will tell.

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moving days

moving. again. 

it’s been a pattern of life for me, as much as I seek to reform.

I should take as my emblem a hermit crab, reclusive yet restless, adapting to change through assimilation. 

in times like these I’m exposed and vulnerable. maybe tomorrow I’ll be safe, this is my faith. 

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Robert Armstrong and Sylvia Byus Wedding Photo

Robert Armstrong and Sylvia Byus Wedding Photo

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TCM Classic Movie Festival Premier

The Third Annual Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival opened Thursday  with a grand Red Carpet event outside the fabled Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.

  Held over four days in the heart of historic Hollywood, the TCM Classic Film Festival is a place where movie lovers from around the world gather to experience classic movies as they were meant to be seen: on the big screen, in some of the world’s most iconic venues, with the people who made them. The Festival presents multiple, simultaneous film screenings and events starting early in the morning and going into the late evening. All official venues are within walking distance along star-studded Hollywood Boulevard.  

The opening event was a premier screening of the brand new, digital restoration print of Bob Fosse’s award winning 1972 film, CABARET.  In attendance for the event were the stars, Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey and Michael York.

The festival drew an astounding range of stars from both the past and the present. You couldn’t help but wonder at the arrival of Mickey Rooney for one. There with Ms. Minnelli, daughter of his co-star from the hey-day of classic Hollywood, Judy Garland. I mean, how many times, for so many years, had Rooney tread those same steps outside that theatre, the very ones that hold his hand and foot impressions in concrete? We’ve seen the footage of the premiers from the 30’s and 40’s with Judy and Mickey arriving tux’ed and bejeweled with the searchlights scraping the skies and flashbulbs popping. Old, but spry, what must have been going through his head as he soaked up the adulation of the crowds cheering his arrival?

And the stars just kept on coming! The Hitchcock Blondes were there, Eva Marie Saint of NORTH BY NORTHWEST, (not to mention ON THE WATERFRONT with Marlon Brando) Tippi Hedren of THE BIRDS and MARNIE and, although she was not on the Red Carpet for this premier, Kim Novak of VERTIGO will be introducing and leading discussion and other films in the festival. These girls are still working, most have films in production still, amazing!

But that wasn’t the half of it. Peggy Montgomery who if you look her up on IMDB you will find had died in 1984! Well, I guess not ’cause there she was, the child star actress from the 20’s who was most likely the character model for Bettie Davis’ role of Baby Jane Hudson in the 1962 suspense-drama with Joan Crawford, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE.

There was the cast of the original TV series DALLAS, Larry Hagman (also of I DREAM OF JEANNIE), Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray, interesting because the new re-do of DALLAS just premiered on TNT which is a Turner channel. Debbie Reynolds was there, Barbara Rush (of the original Payton Place TV series), Jerry Mathers (The Beaver!) and Robert Wagner (IT TAKES A THIEF and countless other roles…).

It wasn’t just the old-timers though, Rose McGowan (GRINDHOUSE and an occasional host on TCM), Illeana Douglas (CAPE FEAR), Reid Ewing (MODERN FAMILY), Jennifer Grey (DIRTY DANCING) who, it turns out, is the daughter of Joel Grey, Colin Cunningham (THE 6TH DAY, BEST IN SHOW) and too many more to count.

Last but not least, the host to most of the films shown on TCM, the film historian Robert Osborne. This guy has taught us all so much about the history of “the Industry” from his introductions to the movies from the TCM archive. If you haven’t seen it, TCM produced a series called Moguls & Movie Stars: A History Of Hollywood, under his direction which is a must see!

The festival continues, tonight we’re going to a screening of CHINATOWN introduced by its producer, Robert Evans and writer, Robert TowLiza surrounded by adoring fansne really!




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WRATH OF THE BULLY’S The Weinstein Co. vs. MPAA

WRATH OF THE TITANS, in IMAX 3-D, sequel to CLASH OF THE TITANS, opens this weekend.

Also opening this weekend is BULLY, the new documentary by Lee Hirsch about the increase in, and increasingly vehement, incidents of bullying among young people.

The release of BULLY has been embroiled in a very public controversy between the ratings agency MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), and The Weinstein Co., Harvey Weinstein in particular, who is distributing the picture.

The MPAA has given the brutally honest documentary an ‘R’ rating which means that kids under 17 can’t go see it without their parents. It Is the kiss of box-office death to any film to loose that audience, but in this case the concern of the filmmaker is that it restricts the target audience from benefiting from its educational value.

The story of WRATH OF THE TITANS (Warner Bros.) directed by Jonathan Liebesman, is drawn directly from Bullfinch’s Mythology (paraphrased from the production notes);

Perseus (Sam Worthington) the son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), is living quietly as a village fisherman and the sole parent to his 10-year-old son, Helius. There is a struggle for supremacy raging between the gods. Weakened by humanity’s lack of devotion, the gods are losing hold of their immortality, as well as control over the imprisoned Titans and their ferocious leader, Kronos, father of the long-ruling brothers Zeus, Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Poseidon (Danny Huston). The three brothers had overthrown their powerful father long ago, leaving him to rot in the gloomy abyss of the Underworld. Perseus cannot ignore his true calling as Hades, along with Zeus’ godly son, Ares (Edgar Ramirez), switches loyalties and makes a deal with Kronos to capture Zeus. The Titan’s strength grows as Zeus’ remaining godly powers are siphoned… and hell is unleashed on earth. Enlisting the help of Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), Poseidon’s demigod son Agenor (Toby Kebbell), and fallen god Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), Perseus bravely embarks on a treacherous quest into the Underworld to rescue Zeus, overthrow the Titans and save mankind.

WRATH is a perfect story archetype, well suited to a rollercoaster ride through a 3-D/CGI amusement park. Look not here for great acting or sparkling dialogue, no, this is entertainment on a stadium seating, IMAX scale. While it may lack subtlety, it does carry a strong message, albeit wrapped in soft and fluffy spectacle.

BULLY, on the other hand is a documentary about bullying in schools at the center of a controversy over its rating for release to theaters.

From the Hollywood Reporter: “Despite vociferous protests from the film’s distributor, Harvey Weinstein, as well as powerful advocacy groups, the MPAA has refused to budge from its ‘R’ rating on Bully, which is likely to go down among the organization’s more asinine decisions. Lee Hirsch’s affecting documentary offers personal evidence against a scourge that afflicts vulnerable children and youths across the globe. That makes this a potent social-outreach tool that deserves to be seen as widely as possible.”

Lee Hirsch, the director of Bully, released a statement Monday regarding the MPAA decision. “The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the ‘R’ rating is there because it’s real. It’s what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days. All of our supporters see that, and were grateful for the support we’ve received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it’s up to the theaters to let them in.”

Back in the 30’s the equivalent of the current ratings system was called the Hays Code with the MPAA as the enforcement arm. They imposed stiff restrictions on what could be on the screen, basically, censorship. Writers and directors quickly found ways around the imposed restrictions and in most cases made better movies as a result, through innuendo, like the kiss between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in NOTORIOUS for example.

Over the years, the restrictions have become eroded and the ratings are being used more like a weapon wielded by the gods in WRATH. Weinstein along with the AMC Theatre franchise have managed to finesse their way around the code by screening it as ‘un-rated’.

Now, I can remember when this rating system was instituted back in the 60’s when going to an ‘R’ rated movie was like achieving the holy grail. Eventually it was more like, if it wasn’t rated ‘R’ it wasn’t worth going to. This probably just followed my ageing process, but it’s also to the point, we’ve grown, as a society, and the rules have not.

The last time this issue flared was a couple of years ago with the beautiful film, THE KINGS SPEECH, also released through Weinstein Co. MPAA gave it an ‘R’ for the scenes when Lionel Logue (Geoffery Rush) the diction coach, has King George VI (Colin Firth) say ‘fuck’ out loud repeatedly to help him get over his inhibitions. It was another case where the rating board would not consider the context and intent before committing their sentence, and a sentence it was. The roll out was frustratingly slow for the financiers of the film, but then Weinstein didn’t have such a good relationship the agency and perhaps they were teaching him a lesson.

Revenge, they say, is best served cold and the reaction was swift. By releasing BULLY without a rating, the PTC (Parents Television Council) board says that it compromises the whole rating system.

“This move, regardless of intentions, sets a precedent that threatens to derail the entire ratings system,” said PTC head Tim Winter, “If a distribution company can simply decide to operate outside of the ratings system in a case like Bully, nothing would prevent future filmmakers from doing precisely the same thing, with potentially much more problematic material.”

Maybe that is what is needed.

What has slipped through the cracks in this system, and the argument, is that even on TV, gratuitous violence, violence and misogamy against women, ignorance, greed, hateful stereotypes and just generally bad behavior is glorified and are often the weapons that inform and drive bullying in schoolyards.

Now, bullying is part of human nature, we have examples throughout history. So too is language wielded like a bludgeon, or a sword. How it is dealt with is much of its purposefulness within the tribe. I think of Dargelos in Jean Cocteau’s mythologizing of his own youth in LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES and of my own family’s stories about young Abraham Lincoln coming to blows with Uncle Jack Armstrong only to end up shaking hands and becoming lifelong friends.

Ideas of strength and vulnerability, of what is good and what is evil, have remained fundamentally unchanged over millennia, however the methods of expression and thresholds of tolerance have changed. For one thing, we don’t live in such tightly knit communities as we did even fifty years ago. Ironically, the same ‘protect our children’ attitudes that have resulted in restricting teachers from intervening in schoolyard scuffles have led to issues with bullying becoming more widespread.

Hirsch is right to say that the language in question is nothing that these kids don’t hear every day. “The MPAA said they wouldn’t drop the ‘R’ rating unless this language was removed, but nothing can remove it from the halls and playgrounds of schools, where bullied students hear it each day, except education and exposure.”

So what I kept hoping would happen in WRATH, that Perseus would not just take the beating but do something clever or unexpected to slay the monster, Weinstein and AMC Theatres are doing. Rather than just let the old gods control through unreasonable inflexibility, they’re pulling a side-move that may just undermine the gods’ very existence.

Where the willow bends with the wind, the ridged mighty oak snaps and breaks.

The gods of WRATH OF THE TITANS have faded into dust, largely due to their neglect of the needs of their people, so too aged institutions must either reflect the change they helped shape or fade into obsolescence.

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Talk of the Town! 14

kkurman, on the backbeat.  9 March’12

          Its all LORAX right now. Well, Dr. Seuss anyway. It was just his birthday on March 2nd. He was born in 1904, so he would have been 108, he died in ’91. To bad he couldn’t be here to see how he has been embraced by the Main Stream. THE LORAX is riding high as number one box office, first weekend out with $70 million in ticket sales. I wasn’t able to go because I was attending the Huntington Middle School’s opening night of SeussicAL-The Musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty in San Marino, CA. How flattering, the light of enthusiasm! I’m not one for live, musical theatre but its difficult to find fault with a bunch of kids putting on such an ambitious production. (My niece was a high-profile back-up vocalist!)

But THE LORAX is really the big news. Released by IMAX (HUGO, AVATAR, HARRY POTTER…) with Illumination Entertainment (HOP, DESPICABLE ME) production, and a great line-up of voice characters, Danny DeVito, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and Betty White, how could it go wrong?  I’m going check it out at a local theatre next week and will let you know…

Its good to see ACT OF VALOR holding its own at the box office this week, having made around $47 million so far on a $15 mil budget. Not bad for an ‘art’ film.

There is great concern, especially over at Disney Studios, that JOHN CARTER is tracking for a slow first weekend release, as though its not going to be able to compete with THE LORAX. Really?  Could it be that it was written, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, over a hundred years ago, or that the title role, played by Taylor Kitsch, is a relative unknown? Maybe, but I wouldn’t put much faith in the projections of bean counters. It might be a little soft on its opening weekend but I predict it will grow legs and run strong.

JOHN CARTER has it all, perhaps that’s the problem. Its a wild adventure ride through the Time-Space continuum that could only have come from the imagination of someone writing before Albert Einstein de-mystified the whole thing, combined with a technological prowess that could only come a hundred years, and tons of money ($250 million est. budget), after. First off, the digital 3-D medium is much less tiresome to watch than the old (as in, last year) analogue, blue/red goggles. Second, as the producer Jim Morris says, the reason Disney has held off production this long is that the technology just wasn’t there to make it “believable”. For whatever reason, this movie has found its moment.

JC benefits from everything that has gone before, from spaghetti-westerns to HBO’s ROME to early episodes of STAR TREK. Burroughs’ serialized story has been marvelously adapted by writer/director Andrew Stanton (TOY STORY, WALL-E etc…) and his team, and everything in Nathan Crowley‘s (BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT, THE PRESTIGE) production design is just spectacular. Taylor Kitsch has an unusual look to him, and for all his coming out of nowhere, manages the physicality, the empathy and the campiness with ease in equal measure. Texas native, Lynn Collins (X-MEN ORIGINS, TRUE BLOOD) is gorgeous as the princess/warrior/scholar, you can easily believe her seducing the emotionally damaged time/space traveler. Strong performances from Dominic West (THE WIRE), Mark Strong (BODY OF LIES, SHERLOCK HOLMES) and Ciarán Hinds (ROAD TO PERDITION, HARRY POTTER, DH pt2, ROME) add to the overall luster of the film. It all comes together in the end and wow, I’d even go see it again!

HBO‘S GAME CHANGE is kicking up quite a stir over here. I’d be very interested to hear what y’all think of it.

That’s it for now, every day brings a new adventure so ’till then,

See ya’, salam alikum!, iyi aksamlar!

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Preview Event

West Hollywood


The Press Release for the launch of MAGIC CITY, a new TV series produced for the Starz network, opens, “In 1959 Miami Beach, nothing is what it seems…” That pretty much says it about that time in America between the end of WW2 and the Civil Rights movement. I approve of the study of history in what ever form it takes. Dramatic fiction, set in a particular point in time and place, provides a reference to appreciate how far we’ve come, how much we’ve changed. History is the subtext of MAD MEN that gives that show it’s tension and it works the same magic here.


The fictional, dramatic story of MAGIC CITY revolves around Ike Evans, played by the fiendishly handsome, Jeffery Dean Morgan and the posh Miramar Playa Hotel he went to great lengths to build and is having to go to even greater lengths to hold on to. The setting focus’ on Miami’s proximity to Cuba which is about to be taken over by Castro’s rebels and how the Miramar Playa is the playground of everyone from the Kennedy’s to mobsters, the CIA and hookers. It is a perfect place and time to reflect on how far we’ve come in social and worker’s rights and how little we’ve changed in terms of power and corruption. Ike is a “man with the dream, but everything comes at a price.”


The comparison to MAD MEN will be inevitable and it could well be riding on MAD MEN’s popularity, but MAGIC CITY is a completely different creature. Both are character driven dramas set in the turbulent times of the late 50’s – early 60’s and they both feature glamorous, good-looking people with complicated, sketchy pasts, but the comparison ends there. Underneath the mid-century styling and the expositional necessities of setting up the time and place of the story, MAGIC CITY explores a seething core of real human emotion, of people living their lives under exceptional circumstances and dealing with the consequences of their actions.


The Red Carpet preview screening was held at The Directors Guild Association (DGA) on Sunset Blvd. There was a full-on Red Carpet arrival spectacle before the screening which was then introduced by the writer/producer Mitch Glazer. Glazer talked about how growing up as a kid in Miami was the inspiration for the story and how long and complicated the process was in getting the series produced.

The DGA was designed to be the ultimate screening experience and even though I had already watched the early release screener, it was a revelation to see the unique effects achieved by cinematographer Gabriel Beristain on the big screen. Beristain, among his many credits, has the exceptional distinction of having worked with Derek Jarman and Ken Russell, both visionary British filmmakers. Glazer described how Beristain’s experience and creativity contributed to capturing the feeling of being in this special moment in time.

The after-party was across the street at the fabled Chateau Marmot. The Latin-American period mood, set by the screening, was carried over to the historic venue with a live Cuban band, Mojito cocktails, Cohiba cigars and passed Latin-themed hors d’oeuvres that reminded me of ‘Nipples of Venus’.  The stars mingled easily amongst the guests that included the likes of Andy Garcia and Bill Murray who had worked with Glazer on LOST IN TRANSLATION. Hollywood royalty like Danny Huston, who plays mob boss Ben Diamond ‘The Butcher’ in the series was there. As we were introduced, he laughed when I admitted that I was too intimidated to approach him ’cause he was so convincingly evil in the show. Christian Cooke, who plays Danny Evans, the ‘good son’ was the most fun, I was surprised to hear in his accent that he was British, you’d never guess it from his pitch-perfect performance.  All the ladies were ravishing in their evening gowns especially Olga Kurylenko, who plays Ike’s wife, Vera Evans, stunning in her deep red Todd Lynn slashed sheath.


The atmosphere was especially high-spirited because, even though the first episode hasn’t even aired yet, the series had just been given the nod for a second season. It was surprising news since Starz has been facing a lot of heat from their regular subscribers over having canceled its popular series CAMALOT after only one season and is struggling to recover from having lost their leading man, Andy Whitfield, of SPARTICUS due to his untimely death last year from cancer.

I was happy for the announcement of the second season because I can easily see where this show has great potential. The story lines run deep and there is a lot yet to reveal about these characters and where they’re headed. Let’s wish them luck as they head into 1959!



23 March ’12




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MAD MEN is back.

kkurman 15 March 2012

It has been a long hiatus, 17 months, but MAD MEN hasn’t skipped a beat. In the two-hour season opener we are drawn right back in to the inter-office politics and Don Draper’s complicated charade of a personal life, both of which being stand-in’s for the metaphorical, mid-century American modern, time in which it is set.

The premier of the MAD MEN Season 5 opener was screened last night at the historic Cinarama Dome Theatre on Sunset Blvd. It was a glittering, Red Carpet occasion but really, you are better off seeing it on TV. In this case, bigger was not better. Not only physically, the Panavision screen made straight lines curved, but one of the devises used to create that special, other worldly feel that characterizes the show, its timing, was amplified to an annoying degree. The slow and deliberate pace that allows the story to unfold magically on the small screen became a little tedious in the grand scale of a movie theater.

Aside from that, I was happy to be back at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Over the two hours, the un-finished sentences from last season finally get their punctuation and this season’s dynamics are well established and, boy, something’s got to give. We were begged not to be spoilers so I will bite my tongue, but let me just say, the atmosphere on Madison Avenue is taut with anticipation. With the firm, SCDP, crawling its way back to the top after having lost the Lucky Strike account, Don is wound way too tight and the ‘natives’ are restless. Peggy is looking particularly trim and ambitious and Joan is feeling a little hemmed in. Megan, Don’s new wife, reveals some charms that even Don couldn’t have been aware of, and… ‘nough said. The production design and writing are impeccable, as one would expect from the first series to win four consecutive ‘Best Drama Series’ Emmy’s ever.

The reception was held across the street at Boulevard 3, one of my favorite Hollywood venues. The building used to be the old Hollywood Racquet Club so it has that classic ‘Golden Age’ architecture with an easy indoor/outdoor flow. At the door, we were served a perfect Manhattan and the DJ was spinning classic, early 60’s style lounge-Jazz, it really set the mood. The entry court has a long low reflecting pool down the center with an open fire at the far end. Along the outer walls are curtained cabanas in which, last night, the cast members were trapped like specimens at the zoo, poor things. I felt sorry for them, but they managed it in good spirits and it offered an opportunity to chat easily with each of our favorite ‘characters’.

                  Jon Hamm is just, such a gentleman. He was there with his lovely companion of more than 15 years, Jennifer Westfeldt, an accomplished writer/producer in her own right. Jon confirmed, in a noncommittal way, my suspicion that Don looked like he was about to snap, “We’ll just have to see…” he added. John Slattery in person is a lot like the charming wiseacre he is as Roger Sterling. I asked him why he gets all the good lines, he said its because he’s the best one to deliver them, of course! He was happy to demonstrate his smooth dance moves.

I can only imagine how hard it must have been for Matt Weiner to just full-on quit when AMC was trying to cut his run time and manage his characters just to save production costs. “…I did not feel that it was worth going back to work to make a show that was not the show I’d been making.” he said at the time. In the end he got his way and un-quit, he was beaming last night, like the proud father/producer he is.

MAD MEN is back.

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