Aviary Photo_130785573080453379

“Here I am! I promised I’d be ba- “

Hello? HEY! Hello!



” Hey! I SAID I’m back! Wait! Don’t you want copies of my press release… check out my statement on Twitter!” 


Andrew Reynolds, thanks a bunch for your generous cat  advice.You were right – Julio is almost twice as old as I thought he was, and thus didn’t make front page news. He’s evidently  not a WILD BEAST, but merely an adolescent, just as you diplomatically suggested.

VALERIE DAVIES – no, not you…move over, lady..yeah, YOU; thank-you, dear friend for hearing the distress call of a fictional cow seperated from a fictional herd on the other side of the planet.

Your  ears got so sharp from listening via your heart.

Oh I can’t find your email adress: can you send it to me?



ELLEN HAWLEY: You should get a medal for your patience. Please forgive me – I had no Internet acess at all. I’ll write soon!

Rosaliene Bacchus, Robyn Jambo, Derrick J. Knight, Stuart Bramhall, Ashi Akiri, Lens 1: thanks so much – and please everyone else – please forgive my haphazard brain for not listing all the rest of you dear lunkheads.

I have more notes for the rest of you lot, so please come by soon, and I’ll be over your way ASAP. (I’m still looking for lost files!)


“Claire’s files are up..there. Somewhere….I think..”


New York City,1978 / Kevin Cummins
You will see us coming, V formation through the sky.
Take arms. Take aim. Be without shame:
No one to bow to, to vow to, to blame.
From ‘Til Victory, “Easter”, 1978
ChelseaΘHotel, NYC, Θ1968, Robert Mapplethorpe
There must be something I can dream tonight.
All the fire is frozen, yet still – I have the will.
Trumpets, violins, I hear them in the distance –
and my skin emits a ray,
But I think it’s sad, it’s much too bad
that our friends can’t come back to us today.
From Elegie, “Horses”, 1975
 1977, NYC, Robert Mapplethorpe
1990/ No photo info
” You just keep doing your work because that’s what you are called
to do. No artist can expect to be embraced by the people; even if it seems like no one notices us, we must always keep working.  We must do this for ourselves, but we are never creating just for ourselves – never, because it’s so beautiful and important to work for the people, to embrace and be embraced by the people. But you see, that is true for everyone – every person needs to do important work and every person can, if he isn’t prevented from doing it.”
Patti Smith, Louisiana Literature Festival, Denmark, 2013
Across the country, through the fields –
You know I see it written in the sky:
People rising from the highway
And war is the battle cry.
From Ask the Angels, “Radio Ethiopia”, 1976
“Yes, we anticipated Punk, so did other people, so did the Stooges, so did the Ramones… but we never wanted to be a punk band, and never thought of ourselves as one. I mean, I’m with the grunge kids and the hip-hop kids and country music as easily as I was with the punks, because it’s not about the particular style, it’s about what’s being expressed.
I’m first and and foremost an artist, and that means I place myself outside society, which is a very deliberate choice I make every day.I really don’t give a shit what society thinks of me, and I never gave a shit about being famous or making money. After almost sixty-three years, I still care about the same two things. One is creating good work – and the other is love.”
Netherlands television interview
2004  Radio Baghdad / Google Images
All the world revolved around a perfect circle:
Oh Baghdad, Center of the world!
City of Ashes, with its great mosques
Erupting from the mouth of God,
Rising from the ashes like
a speckled bird, splayed against the mosaic sky.
Oh, clouds all around. We created the zero.
But we mean nothing to you. You would believe
that we are just some mystical tale, we are just a swollen belly
that gave birth to Sinbad, Scheherazade.
But we gave birth – oh, oh, to the zero. The perfect number!
We invented the zero and we mean nothing to you.
2015 / Google Images
Oh, in Mesopotamia aloofness ran deep.
The face of Eve, turning. What sky did she see?
What garden beneath her feet? The one you drill?
You drill. pulling the blood of the earth,
little droplets of oil for bracelets. Little jewels.
Sapphires. You make bracelets
around your own world. We are weeping tears,
rubies, we offer them to you.
We are just your Arabian nightmare.
We invented the zero, but we mean nothing to you.
Your Arabian nightmare, City of Stars,  City of Scholarship
and Science,  City of Ideas and Light.
City of Ashes that the great Caliph walked through.
Where his naked feet formed a circle, they built a city.
A perfect city of Baghdad in the realm of peace
And all the world revolved, and all that we invented
mean nothing to you. Nothing.
resizePatti Smith in an Iran War Protest, NYC 1975.
Excerpts from Radio Bagdhad,  “Trampin”,  2004

Patti Smith on singing at the Vatican: ‘Anyone who would confine me to an old line is a fool’

Why is Patti Smith, who opened Horses with the line ‘Jesus died for someone’s sins, but not mine’, playing a gig at the Vatican?

Patti Smith

Patti Smith: ‘I’ll do what I want.’
Photo, Claire Hatfield, 2014


 Asked  how she felt about unsettling her fans with her Vatican performance, Smith responded with customary fire. “I’m not playing to the Pope,” she snapped.“He may not even be there! But I expect there’ll be a bunch of cardinals …” (Audience applause, laughter.)

” I’ll do what the fuck I want, especially at my age … oh, I hope there’s no small children here!”


 1958 or 1959/ Smith family photo/Google Images
Patti Smith will soon celebrate her 70th birthday.


Originally posted on Eléctrica in the Desert:

I can’t remember how many times I’ve stood on a street corner in an American town, waiting for a parade.


The parades I go to have never marched in River City. They would have nowhere to put 76 trombones. They assemble along hundreds of Main Streets, far away from important places, throughout the constellation of small towns that dot America’s vast interior.  These are parades that march for their own communities, which very often feel invisible to the nation, and very often are.  But that’s not the defining story of these towns!  They know they’re not invisible.  Ha!  Far from it.


 Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah… not only do towns in these regions have parades, they have a lot of parades. There is always the  Fourth of July, Homecoming, some kind of Fall Harvest, a Christmas Lights Parade, and various high school, county fair, Volunteer Fire…

View original 602 more words

The Last Days of the Colony

2015-04-5--10-44-12 Claire O’Brien / 2015

Nobody wanted to bowl.

The court jester’s efforts were desultory, if not grim, and the tour buses kept breaking down in the desert. An abundance of vegetation sprung up where none had grown before, historic buildings sloped sideways, and tourists found themselves trapped in luxury hotels.   2015-04-5--10-44-12 Meanwhile, Love fluttered around like an anxious butterfly without a map, looking for a place to land, Yet, in the midst of it all, the three little girls beamed. 2015-04-5--10-44-12 Art by Claire O’Brien / 2015

We won’t serve in the IDF

We were soldiers in a wide variety of units and positions in the Israeli military—a fact we now regret, because, in our service, we found that troops who operate in the occupied territories aren’t the only ones enforcing the mechanisms of control over Palestinian lives. In truth, the entire military is implicated. For that reason, we now refuse to participate in our reserve duties, and we support all those who resist being called to service.

The Israeli Army, a fundamental part of Israelis’ lives, is also the power that rules over the Palestinians living in the territories occupied in 1967. As long as it exists in its current structure, its language and mindset control us: We divide the world into good and evil according to the military’s categories; the military serves as the leading authority on who  is valued more and who less in society—who is more responsible for the occupation, who is allowed to vocalize their resistance to it and who isn’t, and how they are allowed to do it. The military plays a central role in every action plan and proposal discussed in the national conversation, which explains the absence of any real argument about non-military solutions to the conflicts Israel has been locked in with its neighbors.

The Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are deprived of civil rights and human rights. They live under a different legal system from their Jewish neighbors. This is not exclusively the fault of soldiers who operate in these territories. Those troops are, therefore, not the only ones obligated to refuse. Many of us served in logistical and bureaucratic support roles; there, we found that the entire military helps implement the oppression of the Palestinians.

Many soldiers who serve in non-combat roles decline to resist because they believe their actions, often routine and banal, are remote from the violent results elsewhere. And actions that aren’t banal—for example, decisions about the life or death of Palestinians made in offices many kilometers away from the West Bank—are classified, and so it’s difficult to have a public debate about them. Unfortunately, we did not always refuse to perform the tasks we were charged with, and in that way we, too, contributed to the violent actions of the military.

During our time in the army, we witnessed (or participated in) the military’s discriminatory behavior: the structural discrimination against women, which begins with the initial screening and assignment of roles; the sexual harassment that was a daily reality for some of us; the immigration absorption centers that depend on uniformed military assistance. Some of us also saw firsthand how the bureaucracy deliberately funnels technical students into technical positions, without giving them the opportunity to serve in other roles. We were placed into training courses among people who looked and sounded like us, rather than the mixing and socializing that the army claims to do.

The military tries to present itself as an institution that enables social mobility—a stepping-stone into Israeli society. In reality, it perpetuates segregation. We believe it is not accidental that those who come from middle- and high- income families land in elite intelligence units, and from there often go to work for high-paying technology companies. We think it is not accidental that when soldiers from a firearm maintenance or quartermaster unit desert or leave the military, often driven by the need to financially support their families, they are called “draft-dodgers.” The military enshrines an image of the “good Israeli,” who in reality derives his power by subjugating others. The central place of the military in Israeli society, and this ideal image it creates, work together to erase the cultures and struggles of the Mizrachi, Ethiopians, Palestinians, Russians, Druze, the Ultra-Orthodox, Bedouins, and women.

We all participated, on one level or another, in this ideology and took part in the game of the “good Israeli” that serves the military loyally. Mostly our service did advance our positions in universities and the labor market. We made connections and benefited from the warm embrace of the Israeli consensus. But for the above reasons, these benefits were not worth the costs.

By law, some of us are still registered as part of the reserved forces (others have managed to win exemptions or have been granted them upon their release), and the military keeps our names and personal information, as well as the legal option to order us to “service.” But we will not participate—in any way.

There are many reasons people refuse to serve in the Israeli Army. Even we have differences in background and motivation about why we’ve written this letter. Nevertheless, against attacks on those who resist conscription, we support the resisters: the high school students who wrote a refusal declaration letter, the Ultra orthodox protesting the new conscription law, the Druze refusers, and all those whose conscience, personal situation, or economic well-being do not allow them to serve. Under the guise of a conversation about equality, these people are forced to pay the price. No more.

Yael Even Or

Dalit Baum

Roi Basha

Liat Bolzman

Lior Ben-Eliahu

Peleg Bar-Sapir

Moran Barir

Efrat Even Tzur

Tal Aberman

Klil Agassi

Ofri Ilany

Eran Efrati

Dalit Baum

Roi Basha

Liat Bolzman

Lior Ben-Eliahu

Peleg Bar-Sapir

Moran Barir

Yotam Gidron

Maya Guttman

Gal Gvili

Namer Golan

Nirith Ben Horin

Uri Gordon

Yonatan N. Gez

Bosmat Gal

Or Glicklich

Erez Garnai

Imri Havivi

Gal Chen

Shir Cohen

Gal Katz

Menachem Livne

Amir Livne Bar-on

Gilad Liberman

Dafna Lichtman

Yael Meiry

Amit Meyer


When America had reporters

How Nellie Bly changed journalism forever

Nelly Bly

More than a half-century before “gonzo journalism” was a figment in Hunter S. Thompson’s imagination, newspaper writer Nellie Bly was living it. Today is Nellie Bly’s 151st birthday, so it’s a fittingly unique day to celebrate her. She reformed an insane asylum by getting committed for 10 days, she described the world on a whirlwind trip, and she reported alongside chorus girls and factory girls with equal vigor.

Bly was a Victorian superstar who created media sensations week after week. She was groundbreaking, too — she traveled the world alone 31 years before women were allowed to vote. But more than just making hits, she usually had a purpose: her work advanced the cause of people few others were willing to defend.



 A woman from coal country becomes a star New York City columnist

Nellie Bly in 1890.    Myers/Library of Congress


Nellie Bly’s career started when the incorrigible young woman named Elizabeth Cochran turned an angry letter into a job.

It began when she read an 1885 column titled “What Girls Are Good For,” which argued that working women were immoral. Eighteen-year-old Bly wrote an anonymous letter to the paper, passionately arguing that women could help support a family in need. (She herself had grown up near Pittsburgh caring for her family of three brothers and her widowed mother.)


Instead of being upset, the paper’s editor put out an ad for the “Lonely Orphan Girl” who’d signed the letter (Bly called herself an orphan because her father had died). “She went to the office,” says Brooke Kroeger, author of Bly’s biography,Nellie Bly: Daredevil, Reporter, Feminist. “And the legend is that the editor says, ‘She’s got no grammar, she’s got no spelling, let’s bring her in.'”

In that unlikely way, Bly’s newspaper career began in Pittsburgh, and she quickly caught up to everyone else (after taking the pseudonym Nellie Bly, after a Stephen Foster song).

It was at a time when women journalists were incredibly rare, but that didn’t stop Bly. There were still a lot of obstacles — Kroeger says that though Nellie tried to find big news, she lacked the access to break stories. As a foreign correspondent in Mexico, she was largely relegated to reporting local color (though some of her commentary was ahead of its time: “American food is insipid in comparison,” she wrote).

Her difficulties reporting hard news drove her from Pittsburgh to New York City, where she had another uphill battle. “The way she tells it,” Kroeger says, “she shows up at the offices of the World, talks her way past the guards, and proposes the insane asylum assignment.”

Suddenly, Nellie Bly was one of very few women reporters in New York City — and her first assignment was to get committed.

Nellie Bly fakes insanity to investigate an asylum

Two images from Nellie Bly's book about an insane asylum.Nellie Bly/University of Pennsylvania


Two images from Nellie’s book about an insane asylum.

“Could I pass a week in the insane ward at Blackwell’s Island? I said I could and I would. And I did.”

That’s part of the opening paragraph of Nellie Bly’s investigative report into insane asylums,which was initially published in the New York World and later collected in the 1887 book Ten Days in a Mad-House.

Bly began her investigative reporting experience as “Nellie Brown, the insane girl.” She walked down the street with a “far-away” expression and practiced seeming crazy. After staying in a group home for a night, she got herself taken to Bellevue hospital and then committed to the insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island (called Roosevelt Island today).

While there for 10 days, Bly reported on poor conditions and questionable treatment of both patients who were mentally ill and women who were effectively imprisoned there for no good reason. Her book prompted an investigation, more oversight, and increase in funds for the improved asylum.




Bly emerged from “mad-house” a hero

It also made her a journalistic superstar. After that, she became a jack of all trades, writing about numerous “day-in-the-life topics” like being a chorus girl, learning ballet, working on an assembly line, and doing other fantastically interesting things (there’s a great collection of her writing here). Her name was attached to all her articles — a rarity at the time — and she eventually showed up in the headlines, as well.

But Bly wasn’t just writing hits.

“She had a million imitators,” Kroeger says. “What was interesting about her work was that it always had a social justice angle.”

In addition to the stories Bly broke, implicit in her success was the proof that a woman journalist could do as much, if not a lot more, than her more numerous male competitors.

And all that set the stage for her biggest story of all — a trip around the world, in less than 80 days.

Nellie Bly races around the world — to prove a woman could do it

Nellie Bly's reception when she made it home.C.Bunnell/Library of Congress

A depiction of Nellie Bly’s reception when she reached home.

“No female reporter had ever been so audacious, so determined, so willing to sacrifice her own safety in pursuit of a story,” says Matthew Goodman. He wrote about Bly’s incredible trip inEighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World. A trip around the world wasn’t just considered difficult; it was considered unsafe for a woman. But for Bly, that was the point.

“The idea of sending a woman unchaperoned without a man was just unthinkable,” Goodman says. “On top of that, they believed a woman would never be able to do it because she’d have to bring so many clothes.”

Bly didn’t care about those arguments. As she wrote when her editor told her nobody but a man could make the trip:

“Very well,” I said angrily, “Start the man, and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him.”

After some back and forth (and some poor circulation numbers for the New York World, which was in need of a fresh publicity stunt), Bly got her choice assignment. She carried a single handbag with her and was off on November 14, 1889. She made it around the world in 72 days, beating the 80 days from the famous Jules Verne book that inspired her. The front page of the New York World was a triumphant boast — and had amazing sales.

Nellie Bly, close to home, and on the front page.New York World/Library of Congress

The front page of the World when Nellie Bly came back.

“She was already well-established,” Goodman says. “The trip around the world catapulted her to being an American celebrity.”

Though there were imitators of Nellie Bly’s style — Goodman’s book tells the story of a race against the equally fascinating Elizabeth Bisland, another woman tasked with traveling around the world at the same time — there was nobody as big as Bly. While some shirked fame, she embraced it.

Bly buys a baby, runs a company, and campaigns for the vote

After her race around the world, Bly went on to write more pieces exploring social issues. Just before her around-the-world trip she wrote “Nellie Bly Buys a Baby” (an exposé of the orphan market in New York), and she followed that up with articles about zoo cruelty and the homeless.


Bly temporarily retired from journalism at age 31, when she married a manufacturer named Robert Seaman (who was 42 years her senior), but she didn’t stop being active. She became president of her husband’s company, got a patent for a new type of milk can, and tried to run her company ethically after her husband’s death. (Kroeger says Bly’s tenure as sole owner, though admirable, was marked more by enthusiasm than acumen.)

When the company went broke, she got right back into journalism, writing for William Randolph Hearst, among others. She reported from Vienna during World War I and agitated for women’s suffrage (sample headline: “Suffragists Are Men’s Superiors”). She kept going nearly until her death. When she died of pneumonia in 1922, she was only 57.

Why Nellie Bly’s legacy lives on today

Once her career took off, Nellie Bly didn't just report the news. She was the news.New York World/Library of Congress

Nellie Bly didn’t just make news — eventually she became news.

Bly was an obvious trailblazer, but her legacy in death has lasted surprisingly long.

“This reputation survives and thrives off basically two and a half years,” Kroeger notes, when Bly had her most active period busting into insane asylums and traveling the world. So what turned Nellie Bly into a legend?

Part of her appeal is obvious: she had a relentless talent and a knack for a great story that never went away. “She knew how to pick the story that would thrust to the front,” Kroeger says.


But Bly’s trailblazing attitude and focus on others probably helped her stories endure long after the newspaper pages disintegrated. Goodman believes she always had a focus on the greater impact of her work: “Even in her trip around the world, which was kind of a stunt, she was also proving that a woman could do anything a man could do.”

“Whatever her circumstance,” Kroeger says, “she was trying to do the same thing. She was trying to make a difference. Was it off of self-interest? Sure. But at bottom, it really did have to do with doing right by someone.”

And ultimately, with many of the stunts forgotten, that’s the reason Nellie Bly remains fascinating today.