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The 1915 Armenian Genocide and its Russophobic Origins

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Johann von Bernstorff (German ambassador); “The way the Armenian problem was solved was hair-raising. I can still see in front of me Talaat’s cynical expression, when he emphasized that the Armenian question was solved.”1

Einar af Wirsén (Swedish Diplomat) “When I kept on pestering him about the Armenian question, he once said with a smile: ‘What on earth do you want? The question is settled, there are no more Armenians'”.2

Henry Morgenthau (American Ambassador (He was Jewish)); “Whatever crimes the most perverted instincts of the human mind can devise, and whatever refinements of persecution and injustice the most debased imagination can conceive, became the daily misfortunes of this devoted people. I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared with the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915.”3

On May 30th 1915 Talaat Pasha issued the Tehcir Act, which on paper was a security measure the Turks put forth to prevent a Russian-Armenian revolt by forcibly relocating the nationals of Armenia to Mesopotamia and Syria.4 This was the story the Young Turks told the world to avoid and minimize any public disapproval or foreign resistance. The relocations involved disarmed Armenians being forcibly marched to camps in the inner deserts of Anatolia and Syria, and these camps were not stocked with necessary supplies for survival.5 The properties of these people were confiscated and sold to new arrivals, the men were often singled out to be killed first, and the women were often enslaved and raped en masse.

The accusation of Russian-aligned rebellion was used as justification and cover. American Ambassador Henry Morgenthau frantically remarked;

“Have you received my 841? Deportation of and excesses against peaceful Armenians is increasing and from harrowing reports of eye witnesses it appears that a campaign of race extermination is in progress under a pretext of reprisal against rebellion.

Protests as well as threats are unavailing and probably incite the Ottoman government to more drastic measures as they are determined to disclaim responsibility for their absolute disregard of capitulations and I believe nothing short of actual force which obviously United States are not in a position to exert would adequately meet the situation.”6

A confession is considered as valuable only if it contains some true and verifiable details of the crime the investigator did not know of. This rule of criminal investigation was observed in the controversial telegram transcriptions written in The memoirs of Naim Bey.7

On March 25, 1915, Talaat states: “It is the duty of all of us to effect on the broadest lines the realisation of the noble project of wiping out the existence of the Armenians who have for centuries been constituting a barrier to the Empire’s progress in civilization.”8

What events led to these horrific genocide and near destruction of the Armenian people, and why are the Armenian people important for European history?

Armenians are an ethno-linguistic-religious group distinct from their surrounding neighbors. They have their own church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, which was founded in the 1st century CE, and became in 301 CE the first branch of Christianity to become a state religion. They have also their own alphabet and language which is classified as an independent branch of the Indo-European language family. The historical homeland of the Armenians sits north of the Fertile Crescent, a region of substantial importance to modern human evolution. Genetic and archaeological data suggest farmers expanding from this region during the Neolithic populated Europe and interacted/admixed with pre-existing hunter-gatherer populations.

Furthermore, Armenia’s location may have been important for the spread of Indo-European languages, since it is believed to encompass or be close to the Proto-Indo-European homeland (Anatolia or Pontic Steppe) from which the Indo-Europeans and their culture spread to Western Europe, Central Asia and India. 9

The Holocaust of the Armenian people wasn’t simply stopped at the borders of Turkey; Ottoman troops by the Young Turks insistence had also invaded Persia. During this invasion Christian Armenians and Assyrians alike were slaughtered. In fact, approximately half of Persia’s Christian Assyrians alongside about four-fifths of the Christian Assyrian leadership were killing during this time by Turkish and Kurdish invaders.10

Two months after the (largely Jewish led) Bolshevik revolution the new Russian government began withdrawing Russian troops from the Caucasus. This withdrew the only ally the Armenians had and put their remaining people at risk of extinction. At this time the last refuge for these people was the small remaining unconquered land of historic Armenia centered around Mount Ararat.11

Mount Ararat is traditionally the Christian-accepted location of Noah’s Ark in the Book of Genesis. Armenia was the first Christian country in the world. The Armenian language is the most ancestral, oldest Indo-European Language left since the extinctions of its Indo-European predecessors Anatolian and Tocharian. It’s hard to overstate the ethnocultural significance in this event threatening complete extermination of the most ancestral Indo-European speakers and also the most ancestral Christians. Much of the Armenian highlands were lost; Western Armenia was renamed “Eastern Anatolia” by the invaders. With the survivors and refugees concentrated in Caucausia the impending invasion threatened complete annihilation.

The Christian leader Catholicos Gevorg V ordered Church Bells to peal for six days as all classes of Armenian people were called to take up arms with the women and children readying supplies and the entire survivors of the nation prepared for total war.12 The President of the Armenian assembly stated “If we are to perish, let us perish with honor.”13

In the battles of Sardarabad, alongside Abaran and Karakilisa, the outnumbered Armenians managed to defy the odds and fight off the Turkish invaders. Historian Christopher Walker remarked that with a loss at Sardarabad “it is perfectly possible that the word Armenia would have henceforth denoted only an antique geographical term.”14

The Destruction of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire resulted by most estimates with 1.5 million of the 2 million Ottoman Armenians being exterminated.

The history of Armenia is intertwined with that of Europe and Russia especially. Russia had generally had an Armenian presence through its history but after the Russo-Persian wars in 1828 Russia annexed parts of the historical Armenian nation. Since that time Russia has generally defended the rights of Christian minorities in the Ottoman lands. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is perhaps the most visible example of a Russian Armenian given that he was born to an Armenian father.

But the Armenians had, for the most part, been very well integrated in the empire as well. Armenians were formerly dubbed the “loyal millet”.15 The Armenians opportunities in the region arguably increased with the transition from Greek Byzantine rule to Ottoman rule. Armenian villages traditionally had a high degree of autonomy as well. Any sort of separatist nationalism would seem unviable, and the main Armenian conflicts with the Ottoman Muslims were based about regional autonomy and protection from bandits. The primary Armenian political organizations with public protests were advocates pushing for autonomy such as the 1890’s Kum Kapu demonstration.16 These requests were quite reasonable as the Armenians had suffered various attacks and murders from Muslim Kurds and other bandits who, by the Ottoman empires laws, held legal superiority in court.

During this time the Sultan Abdul Hamid II attempted to shed the “sick man of Europe” label his failing Ottoman Empire had by encouraging a modernization of the Empire, which required a stronger and more centralized government role in citizens affairs. Abdul Hamid II was attacked in the British press as the “Red Sultan” for various atrocities committed against minorities such as Armenians and for all intents and purposes was the perfect archetype of a Tyrant.17

The Young Turks who sought to overthrow him by contrast were revolutionaries. They shouted their slogans of “Hürriyet, Musavat , Uhuvvet” inspired from the French “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” meaning “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. Turkish ethnicity is often described as a “melting pot” of all Anatolian people ranging from the gene pools of the Balkans, Anatolia, and parts of Asia.”18 The Young Turks were also rationalists following a materialist ideologies like positivism which they prioritized over religion; The Islamic authorities the Ulama even denounced them as “trying to change Islam into another form and create a new religion while calling it Islam”.19

The Ottoman Empire was historically a place where Jews could live without fear of persecution according to one of the Erdogan aligned newspaper the Daily Sabah.20 Indeed this tolerance extended into the post-Sultan era of the Young Turks, as the Encyclopedia Judaica noted that various Zionist groups were hopeful in 1908 for opportunities to press their interests; “the absence of antisemitism in Turkey made the idea [Jewish settlement in Palestine] possible”.21 Talaat specifically was very open to these ideas;

“Four years later Talaat even propagated the fantastic idea of a ‘Muslim-Jewish Alliance.’ The Balkan wars had plunged the Ottoman Empire into financial ruin and Talaat, who became a key member of the CUP’s ruling triumvirate following the military coup of January 1913, expected the Zionists to link the empire with the fabulous wealth of ‘world Jewry.'”22

Knowing this background of the states historical pluralism, alongside the progressive and secular motto of the new government and its noted tolerance of Jewish minorities, one has to ask how a genocide could have even been possible. How could such a progressive government proceed to horrifically genocide many of the states indigenous Christian populations?

If we take a closer look at the killings we come across many disturbing disparities in the treatment of these minority groups. After all in the Great fire of Smyrna catastrophe of 1922 the Christian Armenian and Christian Greek sections of the city were destroyed while the Jewish and Turkish sections were not.23 In 1918, three years after the passing of the Tehcir law, Talaat Pasha made a Turkish Balfour declaration equivalent expressing support for the establishment of Jewish Palestine.24 Clearly it is a strange sort of nationalism the Western world is unfamiliar with when the Jewish minorities are spared.

The Armenian Holocaust was not only unexpected by the victims but in fact it is still to this day denied by the perpetrator state Turkey. And until recently, the execution of the genocide itself was only known by third party observers, with the state of Turkey claiming the genocide was really just a civil war. The only direct evidence of intentional genocide were in translated telegrams written in the 1921 published The Memoirs of Naim Bey which lost much of the source material telegrams.

In October 2016 however Prof. Taner Akçam found archived Ottoman telegrams confirming the legitimacy of various events from The Memoirs of Naim Bey and confirming that they were not mere fabrications for propaganda.25

This legitimacy was confirmed further when the “smoking gun” of April 2017 was discovered, an original telegram directly inquiring over the murder of Armenians. The official Young Turks government telegram asks directly if the deported Armenians are being killed or “merely sent off and deported”.

Are the Armenians who were deported from there being liquidated? Are the troublesome individuals whom you have reported as having been exiled and expelled been eliminated or merely sent off and deported? Please report honestly.”26

This is a telegram with an Ottoman letterhead and with the Ottoman coding system acquired by an Armenian Catholic priest, Krikor Guerguerian. He held the evidence in a private archive wherein it was secured by his nephew. The issue being re-raised has re-opened conflicts between Turkey and the international community. During the Western progressive-leftist worlds drama over President Donald Trumps Holocaust remembrance statement of “11 million”, an angry and emotional response from the Jewish Telegraph Agency made some very interesting admissions on the Jewish Holocausts history.27

The “5 million” has driven Holocaust historians to distraction ever since Wiesenthal started to peddle it in the 1970s. Wiesenthal told the Washington Post in 1979, “I have sought with Jewish leaders not to talk about 6 million Jewish dead, but rather about 11 million civilians dead, including 6 million Jews…”

I said to him, ‘Simon, you are telling a lie,’” Bauer recalled in an interview Tuesday. “He said, ‘Sometimes you need to do that to get the results for things you think are essential.’”

Bauer and other historians who knew Wiesenthal said the Nazi hunter told them that he chose the 5 million number carefully: He wanted a number large enough to attract the attention of non-Jews who might not otherwise care about Jewish suffering, but not larger than the actual number of Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, 6 million.

With the newly opened international drama of the Armenian Holocaust denying Turkish government, we can find some interesting admissions of the origins of the Young Turks revolution. The Young Turks Revolution broke out in Salonica. Salonica was the largest Jewish city in the world at this time with Jewish people constituting over half the population. According to a prominent Turkish Newspaper in a very recent article on October 13th 2017; 28

“The most prominent financier and mentor of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), which seized the government in 1908, was a Jewish banker of Italian origin from Salonica, Emmanuel Carasso. When Greeks, who had held a privileged status up until then, fell into disfavor after the Constantinople massacre of 1821 targeting Greeks, Jews were hoping for a second chance.

However, with their art facilities scattered around Anatolia, Armenians came in first thanks to their capital surplus. As a result of the Jewish lobby’s recommendations, the Young Turks government removed Armenians from Anatolia in 1915. Hence, the economy of the country was left in the hands of Jewish capital.

Carasso, who was a part of the committee that informed Abdülhamid II of his dethronement, was the closest confidant of Talat Pasha, the figure responsible for the deportation law. In fact, when Talat Pasha escaped abroad in 1918, he entrusted his entire estate to Carasso. To take an active role in the foundation of the Ankara government, Carasso returned to his homeland before his death.”

The allegations of the Armenian Holocaust denying Erdogan-aligned newspaper are very important and need to be explored in depth, as these allegations may help to uncover background historical interactions between Jewish groups and European/Christian groups in a multicultural environment.

In his book Banality of Indifference, Yair Auron alleges that the Jewish citizens of Turkey during this time were apathetic to the murdered Armenians. Regarding the attitude of the Jews towards the Armenians, he wrote:

“A slight grimace on their lips, a short heartfelt sigh, and nothing more. The Armenians are not Jews, and according to folk tradition the Armenians are nothing more than Amaleks! Amaleks? We would give them help? To whom? To Amaleks? Heaven forbid!”29

During the 1922 great fire of Smyrna, in which the Greek and Armenian portions of the city were burned down while the Turkish and Jewish sections were spared, the accounts of Jewish teachers alleged that either the Greeks or Armenians started the fire themselves.30

This apathetic and dismissive attitude has even been shown in the Jewish “Anti-defamation league” which as recently as 2007 campaigned against the American governments recognition of the Armenian Holocaust.

Foxman finally acknowledged the Armenian Genocide in his remarks. It was an encouraging development given that ADL’s only formal statement on the genocide is worded in such a way as to actually circumvent the intent required for a finding of genocide by the UN Genocide Convention.”31

That statement, issued in 2007, said that the “consequences” of the Turkish massacres of Armenians were “tantamount” to genocide, implying it was not a planned extermination. This statement was widely censured, but calls for an unambiguous confirmation were rebuffed by ADL.”

It needs to be noted here that the American ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau was himself a Jew, and quickly became of the fiercest advocates for recognition of this genocide, and even demanded American intervention to protect the Armenian victims. But of course exceptions don’t break the rule.

The post-WW2 world has served to served to center all discussions of prejudice on nomadic minority ethnic groups. The topic is very well studied with any and all possible ethnic and political roots examined. By contrast, prejudice and oppression of Indo-European nationalities and their culture or religious practices are not widely discussed. While these events are minimized in the social/academic spheres of the Western world, Christophobia and Europhobia have not only happened historically but continue to happen today.

This lack of study for this sort of prejudice is very problematic for the modern “multicultural world” especially as anti-European/Christian prejudices are increasingly apparent and ignored by the mainstream media/academia.

This lack of study needs to be adequately addressed. The future and survival of European Christendom is depending on it.


1   A., Bernstorff (2011). Memoirs of Count Bernstorff. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1-169-93525-7.

2   Avedian, Vahagn (21 May 2008). “The Armenian Genocide 1915: From a Neutral Small State’s Perspective: Sweden” (PDF). Uppsala University. Retrieved 17 June 2016.

3   Henry Morgenthau, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, Page 119, Blackmask Online

4   Akçam, Taner (2006). A Shameful Act. New York: Holt & Co. pp. 165, 186–187.

5   Mikaberidze, Alexander (2015). “Tehcir Law”. In Whitehorn, Alan. The Armenian Genocide: The Essential Reference Guide. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1610696883.

6   http://origins.osu.edu/milestones/april-2015-armenian-genocide

7   https://er.anca.org/akcam-the-authenticity-of-the-naim-efendi-memoirs-and-talat-pasha-telegrams-2/

8   Naim Bey., . (1920). The memoirs of Naim Bey: Turkish official documents relating to the deportations and massacres of Armenians. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

9    http://www.armradio.am/en/2015/02/26/armenians-have-a-high-genetic-affinity-to-ancient-europeans-new-study-reveals/

10   Baumer, Church of the East, at 263. The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity, Christoph Baumer, I.B. Tauris, 2006.

11   http://www.panarmenian.net/eng/details/179324/

12   Bobelian, Michael (2009). Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 34. ISBN 1-4165-5725-3.

13   Akçam, T. (2006). A shameful act: The Armenian genocide and the question of Turkish responsibility. Macmillan.

14   Walker, Christopher J. (1990). Armenia The Survival of a Nation, 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press. pp. 254–255. ISBN 0-7099-0210-7.

15   Dadrian, Vahakn N. The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus. Oxford: Berghahn Books, 1995, p. 192. ISBN 1-57181-666-6

16   “Fighting In Constantinople.; The Armenian Patriarch Mobbed – Soldiers And Rioters Killed”. New York Times. 29 July 1890.

17  “Abdulhamid II | biography – Ottoman sultan”. Retrieved 2015-09-29.

18   The Ottoman Peoples and The End of Empire by Justin McCarthy (2007), p. 200-205

19   Hanioğlu, M. Şükrü, The Political Ideas of the Young Turks.

20   http://archive.is/LHJkH

21   Roth, C. (Ed.). (1972). Encyclopaedia Judaica (Vol. 15). Encyclopaedia Judaica. P. 544

22   E. Karsh, Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789-1923.

23   Clogg, p. 98.

24   https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/2017/12/the-ottoman-balfour-declaration/

25   http://archive.is/8gpWZ

26   http://archive.is/dzIvs

27   http://archive.is/ZINFw

28   http://archive.is/LHJkH

29   Ya’ir Oron, The Banality of Indifference:Zionism and the Armenian Genocide, Transaction Publishers, London, 2002, p.126.

30   The Post Magazine and Insurance Monitor, Volume 85, Issue 2 (1924), Buckley Press, [2] p. 2153

31   https://archive.is/WS7eA

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Sonny Barger, founder of Hells Angels, dies at 83 | USA

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Hells Angels founding member Sonny Barger in 1979.
Hells Angels founding member Sonny Barger in 1979.Janet Fries (Getty Images)

Sonny Barger, the founding member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, died on Thursday in California at the age of 83. Barger was the face of the biker gang that became one of the main counterculture movements in the United States in the 1960s. Barger’s family confirmed his death in a message on Facebook. “Please know that I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer,” the message stated.

Sonny Barger – whose real name was Ralph Hubert Barger – was born in northern California, and taught himself to ride a motorcycle when he was 11 years old. It was an American-made Cushman scooter. From that moment on, he tried to only assemble motorbikes with parts made in the US, a task that became increasingly difficult as the world became more open to international trade.

In 1957, he founded the Hells Angels chapter in Oakland, California. This chapter was founded nine years after the first one opened in Fontana, in the same state. Barger was the national president of the Hells Angels, a group that became notorious for its links to violent and organized crime. Barger was arrested more than 20 times and spent 13 years of his life in prison for different crimes. In November 1992, for example, he was released from federal prison after spending four years behind bars for organizing to kill members of the rival Outlaws Motorcycle Club. When his parole came to an end in 1994, 700 bikers came out to celebrate the news.

Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969.
Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969.

But the darkest chapter of the Hells Angels took place on December 6, 1969. That night, the biker members were hired as security guards at the Altamont Free Concert in California, where the Rolling Stones performed. Representatives of the band reportedly offered the Hells Angels $500 worth of beer in exchange for providing security. Members of the biker gang had worked without incident as security at concerts for bands such as The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. But at the Altamont Free Concert, which brought together 300,000 people, the situation became violent. During the Rolling Stones’ performance, fights broke out in the audience. Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old concertgoer, was stabbed to death by a member of the Hells Angels after approaching the stage. The incident was caught on camera and became a central scene in the Maysles Brothers documentary Gimme Shelter, in which Barger admitted the bikers did not have the training to do security work. A few days after the concert, in a call to a local radio station, he said: “I ain’t no cop. I ain’t never gonna police nothin.’”

The incident stained the image of the Hells Angels and Barger – who had the name Hell’s Angels Oakland tattooed on his right shoulder – struggled for several years to change the gang’s violent reputation. “Catholics probably commit more crimes than we ever thought of,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1994 after being released from prison on parole. “Probably politicians commit more crimes.”

Writer Hunter S. Thompson compared the biker gang to the student protesters of the 1960s, who paved the way for civil rights in America. “The difference between the student radicals and the Hells Angels is that the students are rebelling against the past, while the Angels are fighting the future. Their only common ground is their disdain for the present, or the status quo,” he wrote in his book Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.

The Hells Angels were one of America’s most striking subcultures, and their influence can be seen in many areas of society. In one of his books, Barger claims that Harley-Davidson – the motorcycle brand favored by the group – adopted the gang’s ideas into its models. Barger played himself in the 1967 film Hells Angels on Wheels, where he appeared alongside Jack Nicholson. He also had a small role in the TV show Sons of Anarchy.

Barger was a difficult character to define. He got up at 4.30am to feed his dogs and horses, then worked out for three hours, doing weights and going jogging. By 8am, he was on his motorcycle and driving down an off-beaten track. Unlike the stereotypical biker, he wore a helmet that covered his entire face. This was due to the fact that he had his vocal cords removed in 1982 after suffering from throat cancer.

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Art fakes: Disputed ‘Basquiats’ seized by FBI shake the US art world | Culture

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While New York surrenders once again to the genius of Jean-Michel Basquiat with an exhibition of unpublished work curated by his family, in Orlando (Florida), there is considerably more controversy over the work of the artist who died at the age of 27. An exhibition at the Orlando Museum of Art dedicated to the former close friend of Andy Warhol, entitled Heroes & Monsters, has cost the head of that gallery his job, while the FBI investigates the authenticity of 25 of the works, not to mention the threats made by the director against an expert who had been commissioned to evaluate the authorship.

Although the scandal began to take shape in February, when the exhibition opened, the FBI raid took place last Friday with the seizure of the paintings with a contested attribution to Basquiat. Aaron De Groft, director and chief executive of the museum, has relentlessly defended that these are genuine works, while emphasizing that it is not a museum’s role to certify the authenticity of the works it exhibits. “[The paintings] came to us authenticated by the best Basquiat specialists,” he told the local NBC television station in February.

De Groft had for months championed the importance of the paintings, asserting that they are worth millions of dollars, until an expert showed up who’d been hired by the owners of the paintings and she began to question his version of events. The director was fired on Tuesday, just two business days after agents seized the 25 suspicious works. The museum’s board of trustees met for hours that day, but not before warning employees that anyone who dared to discuss the matter with journalists would suffer the same fate as De Groft. Hence, it is impossible to know the version not only of the former director, but of any worker at the center. Nor can any information be gleaned at the New York exhibition, a mixture of unpublished work and memorabilia, where organizers are fearful of the devaluation caused by the Orlando scandal.

FBI agents during the seizure of the dubious Basquiat paintings at the Orlando Museum of Art on June 24.
FBI agents during the seizure of the dubious Basquiat paintings at the Orlando Museum of Art on June 24.Willie J. Allen Jr. (AP)

“It is important to note that there is still nothing that makes us think that the museum has been or is the subject of an investigation,” Emilia Bourmas-Free told the local chain on behalf of the art gallery. Cynthia Brumback, chairwoman of the museum’s board of trustees, expressed itself in similar terms in a statement, saying that the board of trustees is “extremely concerned about several issues related to the exhibition Heroes & Monsters,” including “the recent revelation of an inappropriate e-mail correspondence sent to academia concerning the authentication of some of the artwork in the exhibition,” as reported by The New York Times.

The statement refers to a disparaging message sent by De Groft to the specialist hired for the expert opinion, cited in the FBI investigation as “Expert 2″ but who the New York Times has confirmed is Jordana Moore Saggese, an associate professor of art at the University of Maryland. This expert, who received $60,000 for a written report, asked the museum not to have her name associated with the exhibition, according to the FBI affidavit. Angry, De Groft threatened to reveal the amount of the payment and share the details with her employer, the university.

“You want us to put out there you got $60,000 to write this?” wrote De Groft, according to the affidavit. “Ok then. Shut up. You took the money. Stop being holier than thou. Do your academic thing and stay in your limited lane.” The board said it has launched an official process to address the matter. The scandal was precipitated a few hours after the closing of the exhibition, which had originally been meant to travel to Italy.

Facade of the Orlando Museum of Art, with the promotional poster of the exhibition dedicated to Basquiat, on June 2.
Facade of the Orlando Museum of Art, with the promotional poster of the exhibition dedicated to Basquiat, on June 2.John Raoux (AP)

The mystery of the cardboard box

But how did the paintings get to the Orlando Museum? The museum and its owners maintain that the paintings were found in a Los Angeles storage unit in 2012. The New York Times reported that questions arose over one of the paintings, made on the back of a cardboard shipping box with FedEx lettering in a typeface that was not used until 1994, six years after Basquiat’s death, according to a designer who worked for the company.

Both De Groft and the owners of the paintings maintain that they were made in 1982 and that Basquiat sold them for $5,000 to a famous television screenwriter, now deceased, who deposited them in a storage unit and forgot about them.

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Ramón Estévez regrets his name change to Martin Sheen | Culture

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At the beginning of the sixties, Ramón Estévez was desperate. His first steps as a television actor had gone well, but he felt stuck in that medium and wanted to get into theater and film. However, at the time, his name held him back: there were few successful Latinos in the United States. “Whenever I called for a position, whether for work or for an apartment, they answered me hesitantly when I gave my name, and when I arrived, I found the position already filled.” He said in 2003. And so, Ramón decided to create an artistic name by merging the name of Robert Dale Martin, the CBS network’s casting director, who had helped him in those essential appearances on the small screen, and that of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, who, as Estévez’s little sister Carmen recalls, “regularly appeared on TV.”

This is how Martin Sheen came about, and owing to his great talent, he triumphed first in theater and, later as an actor in the movies, notably: Badlands, Apocalypse Now, The Departed, and Wall Street. However, the identity of Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez did not disappear: this name remains in all of Sheen’s official documents (passport, driver’s license and marriage license)… and in the actor’s soul. Last week, in an interview with Closer magazine, he confessed that one of the great regrets of his life was his change of name. He speaks with pride of the obstinacy of his son Emilio, who kept it despite “his agent’s advice to change it”. In relation to his own decision, he reflects: “Sometimes they convince you, when you don’t have enough insight or even enough courage to stand up for what you believe in, and you pay for it later.”

Martin Sheen in 'The West Wing' reunion, last October.
Martin Sheen in ‘The West Wing’ reunion, last October.

Over time, Sheen recovered his Galician roots, the land where his father, Francisco Estévez Martínez, was born. His father was an immigrant who left Parderrubias, in Salceda de Caselas (Pontevedra), for Cuba at the age of 18 in 1916. He left with no Spanish, a language he learned on the Caribbean Island. In the early 1930s, he emigrated to the United States to a modest Irish neighborhood in Dayton (Ohio), where he married another immigrant, Mary-Ann Phelan.

Martin Sheen’s life has been profoundly marked by his childhood. His father worked at NCR Corporation, an industrial conglomerate that began manufacturing cash registers. Shortly after his marriage, the company sent him to the Bermuda Islands where his first children were born. Sheen was the seventh of ten children (nine boys and one girl), and the first to be born in Dayton, in 1940, after the family moved to the US. His left arm was clasped by forceps during birth, leaving it three inches shorter than his right arm. As a result of this, the character that Sheen interprets in the series The West Wing of the White House, President Josiah Bartlet, puts on his jacket with a strange twist of the body. As a child, he suffered from polio which kept him bedridden for a year, and at the age of 11 his mother died. Thanks to the support of a catholic charity and his own father’s efforts, the family remained united against the distribition of children to orphanages or foster homes, a common practice at the time.

Martin Sheen abd Francis Ford Coppola during the recording of 'Apocalypse Now'.
Martin Sheen abd Francis Ford Coppola during the recording of ‘Apocalypse Now’.

He was the eccentric of the family: he decided to go into acting. Against his father’s objections, Ramón, the most reserved son only enjoyed the theater and decided to study acting. “You don’t know how to sing or dance!”, his father told him, to which his son replied: “You love westerns and in those nobody sings or dances”. “But you don’t ride a horse either!” was his father’s comeback. Despite this discouragement, he moved to New York, following in the footsteps of his idol, James Dean.

In the mythical episode Two Cathedrals of The West Wing, he explains how the character President Bartlet reflects the experiences of his own childhood and adolescence. Estévez/Sheen: a practicing Catholic and relentless campaigner against global warming, a man in favor of civil and immigrant rights, he was arrested several times during demonstrations outside the White House. His activism began when he was just 14 years old in a golf club where he worked. He led a strike of caddies, protesting against the club members’ use of bad language in front of children.

Actor Martin Sheen takes part in a "Fire Drill Fridays" protest calling attention to climate change at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
Actor Martin Sheen takes part in a “Fire Drill Fridays” protest calling attention to climate change at the U.S. Capitol in WashingtonJOSHUA ROBERTS (Reuters)

And then there’s the Spanish context. Francisco Estévez did not teach his children Spanish, but the Estévez family went back to their roots. Francisco was able to return to his hometown in Galicia in 1967 (just as Sheen landed his first big role in In the Custody of Strangers), where he began building a house, while making regular trips back to Dayton. He would never see this house finished. He died in Dayton in 1974, and was buried with his wife and son Manuel, who had died in 1968. His only daughter, Carmen, ended up working as an English teacher at a school in Madrid, where she married. For years people in Madrid have bumped into Sheen during his visits to his sister. Carmen finished building her father’s house and inaugurated a river promenade dedicated to his memory. Indeed, she has kept the memory of the Estévez alive in Salceda de Caselas.

The Camino de Santiago, a dream come true

In the early years of the 2000s, Sheen, his son Emilio Estévez and his grandson, Taylor, walked the Camino de Santiago. In Burgos, the grandson met a girl, and at the end of the walk he decided not to return to Los Angeles, but to remain in the Castilian city, where he got married. Influenced by that experience, Sheen and Estévez made the film El camino (2010), in which both co-starred and the latter directed. A few months ago, Sheen spoke proudly of El camino, a great success, and a faithful portrayal of his spirituality. During filming, at a lunch under huge pergolas at the back of Burgos cathedral, Sheen explained: “I am a Catholic, and a lot of that spirituality is in this movie. I have had an extremely happy life, with the normal highs and lows of a career. I have survived disease and my family is wonderful [his four children, including Charlie Sheen, are actors]… I believe in a church that does incredible work in the Third World. Other things, like some of the pronouncements from the Pope [at that time, Benedict XVI], are more difficult for me. I live my faith, and it is between God and I.” A few meters from Sheen and the journalist, at the long tables, was a strange group that didn’t not look like actors: “That’s my wife, that’s my sister and her husband, that my best childhood friend… I’ve invited them to come and have a good time with Emilio, Taylor [who worked as an assistant] and me”. Taylor Estévez currently works as a stunt coordinator in California.

Martin Sheen at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral with his sister Carmen, 2009.
Martin Sheen at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral with his sister Carmen, 2009. Andres Fraga

Carmen Estévez says that for decades the family did not understand their father’s deeply Galician sense of humor, until they realized that for much of the time he was not being serious. This sarcasm was inherited by his son Ramón/Martin, and he made a display of this in Burgos. In response to a question about his career, he said: “With my resume full of bad movie titles, what can I say. I’m an actor and that’s how I’ve supported my family. But I’ve been in about 10 films that I can be proud of…” at which point he dropped his cup of coffee and blurted out: “See? For gloating over my career. Divine punishment”.

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