Sunday, April 24, 2011

Josip Broz Tito's Unusual Art Legacy

Tito's iron hand on the former Yugoslavia left behind more than the usual brutal and bloody Communist legacy.

Crack Two has a gorgeous posting of 25 or so of these rather futuristic public art works done in the 1960s and 1970s. Check them all out here.

The key site to learn more about these brutal massive sculptures is this one.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Mother of All Rock Fights

For about five or six years now I've been working on writing down my memories of my early childhood in Cuba, which is where I was born and lived my early years before my family escaped to the United States in the 60s. I hope to one day pitch it to some publisher. The below piece is a second peek at a chapter draft somewhere in the middle of the book. It is titled "The Mother of All Rock Fights," and feedback, suggestions and criticism is welcome!

The Mother of All Rock Fights

Depending on who you believe, the mother of all rock fights started with either a push, or a slip into the dirty, sewage waters of the Guaso River in Guantanamo, Cuba.

Even now, nearly forty years later, it stands out as vividly, as spectacular, as surreal and as immensely impossible, as on the day that it happened.

Sometimes in the early 1960’s a new baseball stadium was built in the outskirts of Guantanamo. At the time, to us local children, it was beautiful new place, a shrine to the love of baseball that all Cubans have. We didn’t notice or care, that all seats were made of cement, and that it was a grim, stark and bare bones space.

But at least to us boys it was a wonderful, beautiful place, where once in a while even the Orientales, the provincial team that represented our honor in the national baseball leagues (and always seemed to lose to the hated Havana teams), played.

My father also loved baseball, and he was the un-official baseball escort for all the boys in the neighborhood, and often he would lead a dozen of us ruffians to a game at the stadium, which was named Van Troi, in honor of a shadowy slain North Vietnamese guerrilla fighter who had been killed in the Viet Nam war.

Why name a baseball stadium after a man who probably never heard of baseball was also a mystery to us, especially since we all knew the names of all the real baseball gods, both Cuban and Americans. But more on baseball later.

As I said, Van Troi Stadium was a few miles outside of the city, and we all usually caught the bus that stopped at the bottom of Second Street, directly across from the side of our house that ran downhill through that street. We took that bus to the edge of the city and from there we all walked, usually with hundreds of other people, to the Stadium.

From Guantanamo the trek to the Stadium could be made via two different routes. The longer and safer route was through the metal bridge that spanned the Guaso River. Crossing this bridge was always a thrilling adventure to me. The bridge was a metal arch, and the walkways on either side were made of metal grilles that allowed you to see the river below you as one crossed the bridge.

Because the bridge was – at least in my eyes – just a few feet above the rushing water, there was always a sense of immediacy – and danger – from the fast flowing Guaso River rushing underneath your feet. It was also quite a wide crossing, as the Guaso was a rather wide river at that point and often, when augmented by tropical rains, as when the Flora hurricane passed through Oriente province in the early 60’s, would flood the city. In fact, the metal bridge of my memories may have been a "new" bridge built after Flora, which may have wiped out the older bridge.

Anyway, the bridge crossing was adventurous, and I would always plan it ahead at the beginning of the crossing. I always had a strategy in case I fell off the bridge or in case the bridge collapsed while I was in the middle of it. This always demanded knowing exactly where on the bridge I was, and which direction (backwards or forwards) was the shortest path to land.

Once we crossed the bridge, the road to the Stadium was through a slightly hilly unpaved street, almost a country road, and sometimes we would stop and rest at a house where my father was friends with the family who lived there.

There we would always buy a bottle of pru, which is a homemade Cuban soft drink. We would usually bring the drinks along the rest of the walk to the stadium and sometimes carry extra bottles with us to drink later.

Once, my cousin Cesar had the task of carrying all the extra bottles, and when we arrived at the Stadium, we discovered that he had drunk all of them on the way to the ballpark.

As pru is actually some kind of a fermented non-alcoholic drink, and being homemade, possibly not the purest of drinks, he immediately developed a tremendous case of diarrhea halfway through the game and never made it to the stadium’s bathroom, and managed to shit all over his pants, much to his embarrassment and our delight.

In any event, this route was the safer, but the longer of the two ways to get to Van Troi Stadium. The second route was a short cut that involved crossing the river though a series of rocks that had been strategically placed at a narrower portion of the river, about half a mile downriver from the bridge.

Now, these weren’t (by any stretch of the imagination), large, flat rocks, but a series of mossy, slippery rocks that sometimes even demanded a slight jump from rock to rock, rather than just steps. In fact sometimes, one could actually step from rock to rock, while other times you needed a synchronized ballet to jump to a small rock, and use it as a spring to the next, larger safer rock, as there was no room in the small rock to actually land and stabilize one’s body. It was a dangerous and almost incredible risk, and yet at the time it seemed as natural as crossing the bridge.

The choice was always based on the availability of the rocks themselves. If the river was too high, then we took the bridge, if the river was low and the rocks exposed, then we’d all cross the river at the rock crossing. Hundreds of people, usually all men and boys and all heading to the game through the river shortcut.

To add an ever greater sense of danger to this crossing, was the repugnant fact that the city’s raw sewer lines came out somewhere between the bridge and the rock crossing.

And this was completely untreated, raw sewage at its most luxuriant stage of smell and visibility. The river, which was clean and clear when we looked at it from the bridge, became shit brown and foul by the time it arrived at the rock crossing and turds floated like brown torpedoes all around you as you gingerly made your way across the rocks.

It never occurred to us why the rock crossing had been built after the sewage lines, rather than before it – who knows, perhaps it pre-dated the sewage lines, but the immense danger of crossing the river by skipping across slippery, mossy rocks was multiplied by a million when one considered what would happen if one had the misfortune to slip and fall into the shitwater.

And it did happen quite often! Someone would be a little too cavalier in the crossing, or sometimes someone too tipsy from drinking too much beer at the games, lose concentration, slip and fall, to the cheers and laughter and applause of the rest of us. And falling near the riverbed was the worst, as the shit tended to concentrate there, while the river current, although faster and more dangerous in the middle, tended to keep the middle of the river cleaner.

The edges were absolutely gross. A luxuriant, rich, thick mixture of shit and mud demanded strict attention and concentration. In response to this, whoever had originally placed the rocks to build the crossing, had thankfully placed larger rocks at the edges, some of which actually could accommodate several persons at once. This had an indirect cause in the overall accumulations of tiny events that all led to the greatest rock fight in history.

I always recall the crossing of the river at this point as a true adventure. Sometimes I was a pirate, usually Emilio Salgari's El Corsario Negro, getting away from the Spanish soldiers; at other times I was an astronaut discovering another planet. But I was always in a high state of concentration, always ensuring that I never slipped and always focusing on the next rock, especially when we neared the edges, and the river became a mass of mojones, which is what we called turds, and birds eating all the gross insect life that lived amongst it.

Sometimes a particularly spectacular mojon would float by, or a fleet of mojones, to the delight of us kids crossing the river. We would shout in unison and point to the mojones and exaggerate their sizes and speed. The word mojon is an interesting one, and I’m not sure where it comes from, or if it is a Cuban slang or a true Castilian word. It literally means someone or something that is wet, and has no relation that I can think of to the Spanish word for shit, which is mierda.

Regardless, the river at this point was full of mojones, and stinking of mierda and we would always be alert and I never recall any of our gang falling into the river.

Until the greatest rock fight in history. Truly the mother of all rock fights.

On that particular day, we had all trekked to the stadium not to watch a baseball game, but to watch something different in our perception of sports, at least to Cubans: a soccer match.

While soccer is a big thing in nearly all Latin American countries, in fact nearly a religion in most, it was and probably still is, a curiosity and ignored as a sport by most Cubans.

This arises from the fact that soccer – like bullfights – was a "Spanish sport" enjoyed by Spaniards in Cuba, and thus disliked immediately by Cubans, who wished to remove all things Spanish from the young republic. Spaniards like soccer and bullfights while Cubans preferred baseball and cockfights; Spaniards drank wine, Cubans drank beer and rum, etc.

Anyway, on the day of the greatest rock fight in history, there was a soccer match staged at Van Troi stadium, and as most of us had never seen a soccer match before, a curious crowd of several thousand local men and boys made the trip, either through the bridge or through the rock crossing, and congregated at the ballpark to watch the game.

It was a disaster.

One of the teams had traveled from Havana, and was on a nationwide tour to help spread soccer among Cubans. The second team was made up at the last minute from Guantanamo men from the Institute (the local junior college) or local baseball players who had not been selected for any of the national league teams. I bet that for some of the locals, it was the first time that they had ever actually played soccer.

It was the most boring sports spectacle that I recall ever witnessing, played on a baseball field, with the pitching mound still in place, and soccer lines marked at the last minute with white chalk lines.

I recall the entire game consisting of the ball being kicked from one extreme end of the field to the other, with little of the precision and foot skills that only experienced soccer players can display. One just can’t show up one day and decide to dribble with your feet – it just doesn’t happen, and it showed.

And Cubans are just not culturally designed to play soccer, which demands precise teamwork and strategy, as opposed to individualism on the field, which is what the inept soccer players on the soccer pitch, I mean baseball field turned soccer pitch for that day, attempted to do.

The crowd was bored and delighted us by hurling insults at the players, and booing throughout, and only applauding when a fight broke out on the field, which was practically every few minutes, when aggressive, inept Cuban men kicked each other’s shins in futile attempts to get to the ball.

The soccer experiment was a boring disaster, and when the game ended, scoreless as I recall, the crowd was in a dark mood as it left the Stadium and headed back to the city, most of us through the river rock crossing.

And this mood was the second ingredient in the recipe for the chain of events that led to the greatest rock fight in history.

Here is what happened.

I had just crossed the river, and along with my father behind me, begun the slight climb from the river slopes towards the streets above it. At that point, one had a great view of the river and I recall turning around to see the long line of people, like ants, crossing the river, jumping rocks and making their way back to the city.

And then it happened.

Monguito fell into the shitwater; not the middle, cleaner part of the river, with fast moving water and smaller rocks, but near the banks of the river, with turgid, stagnant mud and shit.

Whether he slipped or fell is a matter of debate. As I said before these bank rocks were larger and thus "safer" than the smaller, middle-of-the-river rocks, and Monguito claims that as he was standing on one of these rocks, Gustavito, who lived in the house directly below our house on Second Street, and who was a perennial enemy of the Monguito brothers, pushed him from behind.

Gustavito, who was a feisty (and always ready to pick a fight), scruffy, short bulldog of a boy, with a flat top blonde haircut, and he looked like a miniature of his father, who was a professional boxer, has always denied pushing Monguito, claiming that he was nowhere near Monguito when Monguito fell or was pushed in.

Anyway, Monguito emerged from the river completely covered in shit and mud and looking for revenge. The people who were still on the rocks were dying of laughter as he made his way up the banks of the river, and the crossing momentarily stopped as the elder of the two Monguito brothers emerged from the muck.

And he turned to face his laughing tormentors, and he was looking for revenge.

He then spotted Gustavito, still on a rock on the river, also laughing and in fact doubled over with laughter. And in Monguito’s mind, somehow, it became clear that his archenemy had some hand in his fall.

And he picked up a rock, and with the brilliant aim of someone with a thousand previous rock fights of experience, lobbed it in a long arch towards Gustavito, who was too lost in laughter to notice the incoming missile as it hit him and made him fall into the river.

Now the other river crossers really exploded in laughter – this was too much! Two falls in one crossing – this alone was worth the boring experience of the soccer game!

But Gustavito, who had not seen who had thrown the rock, emerged from the river also looking for revenge, and incredibly enough began picking up rocks from the river itself and pelting the crowd with shit covered missiles.

And suddenly pandemonium broke out as people began to fall into the river and more rock throwers were added to the battle. From our safe side on the land, we all joined in to try to nail those still clinging to the relative safety of the rocks.

Some tried to turn back and head to the other side, colliding with crossers coming over and more and more people fell into the water, creating several water battles as men fought each other in the water, on rocks and on the shore. And the people already on the banks of the rivers were also good targets for us, as we were higher above them on the streets that ran parallel to the river.

And thus, from the relative safety of those streets above the river, we were on a superior position to rain rocks on all of those unfortunate souls below us while being able to dodge all incoming rocks; all except Pepin, who as usual got his head cracked open by a rock, even though he was with us on the streets, desperately, from his superior position, trying to help his brother Monguito below.

And for a glorious ten minutes or so, the greatest rock fight in history went on along the shitty shores of the Guaso River, involving perhaps one hundred men and boys of all ages, with the distinct advantage to those on the shore, many of whom were covered in shit, having at one point been on rocks and knocked off either trying to avoid a rock, or being hit by one or pushed by another person attempting to cling to the rock.

If the latter was the case, then it was a matter of honor to get to the shore and attempt to knock off your pusher by nailing him with a rock.

At some point in the battle, even flying turds were being lobbed, to the horror of some of the participants, already covered in shit, who were now being pelted by flying turds and mud.

I cannot remember how and when the greatest rock fight in history ended, perhaps the militia or the cops showed up, but I do recall walking back all the way from the edge of the city to our neighborhood, because there were three in our group completely covered in shit: Monguito, Gustavito and Cesar, who somehow had ended up in the river as well, and Pepin covered in blood from his head wound.

Because of shit and blood, the bus driver would not allow them in, and my father couldn’t leave them to walk alone from that far. It was quite an interesting trek, and we made them walk downwind behind us, only stopping once in a while to break up the occasional fights between Monguito and Gustavito.

When we got home, my grandmother gave my father hell over his supervision of us, and Elba, Pepin’s mother, swore blue murder at my father for not taking Pepin directly to the hospital.

My grandmother then took Cesar to the back garden, where he was hosed down with the garden hose, while the rest of us, less the other two who had fallen in, and Pepin who was on his way to the hospital for his usual visit to stitch up his head, climbed to the roof of the house to watch Cesar being scrubbed clean from head to toe while we drank cold lemonade that my mother had just made.

Thus truly ended the greatest rock fight in history.

Friday, April 22, 2011

For your Cinco de Mayo

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Connie is 100

My great uncle (or is it great great uncle), Conrado Marrero is 100 years old today.

And that makes him the oldest Major League Baseball (MLB) player alive! He played for (where else?) the Washington Senators from 1950 to 1954.

He started playing baseball rather late, making his debut as a pitcher in Cuba when he was 27 years old. In 1950, when he was a Senators MLB rookie, he was 39 years old! A year later he was selected to play in the 1951 All Star Game.

By the time he finished his professional baseball career, he had 367 professional baseball wins (including 97 shut-outs and 39 wins for the Senators) and 197 losses (40 of them with the hapless Senators).

Coming next month

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Judith H. Dobrzynski on the Hirshhorn

The Hirshhorn Museum sent me an email a while back that boggles the mind. It was an invitation to buy tickets to the Apr. 29 "After Hours" event, running from 8 p.m. to midnight. The picture looks, to me, more like a rave than anything to do with art, but that's not the topic I'm taking up here. It's not even the high ticket price of $18.

What's most bothersome about this invitation is the statement about members: "Members get in free and have access to VIP area."

You can see that line for yourself in the picture at left.

"A VIP area"? At a public museum, an arm of the Smithsonian Institution?

For years, museum officials have been droning on about the need to dispel the notion that art museums are elitist. To me, it's more of a museum image problem than anything real: some people think that they have to dress up, have a college diploma, or have other so-called elite attributes to feel welcome. Mostly, that's pure fantasy -- or an excuse.

And now, the Hirshhorn -- no doubt in an effort to raise money (the lowest level of membership costs $100 to $249 a year ) -- is creating a VIP lounge within an already questionable activity?
Read the whole piece (and see the image) at Real Clear Arts here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Yesterday I had the honor to deliver a presentation (as a guest lecturer) to a Literature class at American University (my second time around for this class).

When I got to AU I was fine, then I started sneezing like crazy, obviously allergic to the myriads of flowers blossoming all over the place (or perhaps the trees).

Handkerchief in hand I started talking and somehow the drippy nose and sneezes went away and at the end I got a round of applause.

Makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

New gallery to open in DC

Heiner Contemporary is launching in DC on May 20th with an exhibition of new work by Brooklyn artist Elizabeth Huey. The opening reception will be from 6-8pm that evening.

Heiner Contemporary is located at 1675 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007 in Georgetown and we all welcome them to the DMV art scene and look forward to many great shows.

Video Meet Drawing: Experiment II

Here is where you can read the process where last year I began the concept of marrying video technology with traditional drawing. And here is where you can read some of the initial reactions to the first piece during some of the art fairs in Miami.

Sanctus Guevarus Castrum Canis

SANCTUS GUEVARUS CASTRUM CANIS. Charcoal on paper, electronics, video player and video. 27.5 x 27 inches. Circa 2010 by F. Lennox Campello

So that was my first video drawing... a good success, if I may say so myself. I then asked several museum collectors and two of the top video collectors in the world: "Have you seen or know of anyone who is marrying drawing with video?"

The answer came back no. I'm not sure of this, but as far as I am concerned, if a few top notch museum curators have never heard of someone integrating video with drawing, and (more to my taste) two of the folks who regularly make it to art magazine lists of one sort or another concur, that makes me feel confident that I could be breaking new ground here and making Lennon and McCartney look bad.

So (in honor of Charlie Sheen... not really) here's Part Deux.

In a few weeks I will be in NYC at the AAFNYC art fair. The same folks who bring you Pulse. Over the years, I've had a spectacular sales record at this fair, and I wanted to show both Sanctus Guevarus and the new video piece there.

In my head, I've been playing with deciphering a series of these marriages of highly accomplished (what was it that Kriston Capps described me as... draughtsman? The first time that I read this Capps Police description of my work I thought of beer, which is a good thing) drawings together with videos related to the drawings' subjects.

The first series that came to my head was a series of video drawings on Latin American icons - each drawing showing them as an icon, with a little flavor of ancient Rome in the presentation of the iconic image with a few drops of human venom dropped in for good - in the video part.

With the serial murderer known as Che Guevara it was easy. That "historic first ever video drawing showed Che as a saint while the video exposed a documented firing squad ordered by that Argentinean psychopath.

For the second one, I wanted to approach the artistic love of my life, Austrian-Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (heh, heh... see what happens when we apply labels to people?)

Che and Frida are the two most iconic faces of the 20th century, and both seem to have very few degrees of separation from me; and both interest me tremendously.

Thus Frida Kahlo de Rivera is the second video drawing.

It all started with the drawing (note to self: next time start with the video).

Ave Frida, sans video
Then I inscribed it with a Latin inscription, as icons tend to have, which proclaims: "Ave Frida, Nulli Secunda."

"Hail Frida, Second to None."

That was finished about six weeks ago. Then I struggled with the technical aspects of the video part. I wanted to have a good-sized screen play a video relating to Kahlo.

One lesson learned from the first drawing was the size of the screen, so I shopped around for larger (and more affordable) screens which could play videos. Then I bought several of them, tried them all out, wasted precious hours trying to decipher their badly translated manuals so that I could learn how to actually play a video on their machines, and eventually settled on a model. Most of the wasted hours also related to the software that I was using to convert the native video format of my camera to the MPEG-1, 2 and 4 that the digital player said it could play. In the end, it was all the fault of the conversion software, which was a commercial software. I discarded it, tried a free version that I found online, and not only was it super-easy to use, but it also worked great.

The drawing was finished, the custom made, hand-carved frame was done, and I had a video machine screen ready to go. Now all I needed was the video.

Add tons of hours researching Frida Kahlo videos. Did I mention that I wanted to show a Kahlo "home movie" as the video? Did I mention that I wanted an eye-catching Kahlo video? Did I mention that I wanted a controversial movie playing in my drawing?

So then hours looking for reference materials, which soon led me to three sources. I then purchased copies of all three biographical documentaries on Kahlo, and the one done for Mexican television was the one that yielded copies of rare footage of Frida.

I shot the video, did a little basic editing and tried it out. I then realized that I would have to install the video screen upside down, otherwise the remote control wouldn't work as there was no space left on the drawing to cut out a little hole for the infrared sensor. So I had to re-shoot all the videos, this time upside down, and re-edit them all.

The venom in this video is this short clip of a very feral Kahlo about to devour an intensely scared young girl. Was this a set up? Was Rivera filming the young offering that he had brought his wife? At the end of the clip, Kahlo says something to the camera person:

There is a word for this in Spanish: "escalofriante" (chilling).

I then cut out Frida's heart out of the drawing. This will be the window into her soul and the window into the scant "moving pictures" references of her life. It is a feral heart, armed with sharp fangs that bite huge chunks of life out of life.

Here is the drawing with the shape of the heart window which has been cut out of it:

Frida Kahlo's heart
And here is the drawing with the video screen playing the video. This will be fitted behind the drawing.

Frida Kah

And here it is with the video aligned behind the feral heart window and playing in her heart.

Ave Frida, Nulli Secunda

And here is a close-up of the window in her heart:

Ave Frida Kahlo

And here is what the final piece will look like once matted, framed and assembled:

Ave Frida, Nulli Secunda

AVE FRIDA NULLI SECUNDA. Charcoal on paper, electronics, video player with remote control and video. 27.5 x 27 inches. Circa 2011 by F. Lennox Campello

Now to assemble it and frame it.

WaPo picks critic

The Post has selected a replacement for their art critic vacancy from "in-house" - did I call it or what?

Update: Stop emailing me asking who it is! The WaPo will announce it soon (there's already an internal memo) - my guess is that the chosen one is that guy who does all the "cultural" writing and architectural criticism... I can't think of his name now... ah... Philip Kennicott. My second guess, if "in-house" also means their new freelancers since Jessica Dawson left, is Kriston Capps.

Art and Taxes

You've just gotta read this.

(Thanks Mike)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Waiting for his Muffuletta

Anderson Campello at Mena's Palace in NOLA
Anderson waiting for his Muffuletta sandwich at Mena's Palace in New Orleans.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


You should see the damned good video drawing that I finished today while listening to this song over and over and (in the process) driving my wife and Little Junes out of the house...

Free artwork

British artist Lando Jones is launching a program of giving away free art prints of his work. Jones lives in Bristol, England, but he tells me that he will post them anywhere!

You can see the details here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

MPArtFest Call for Artists

Entries are now being accepted for the 5th annual MPAartfest, presented by McLean Project for the Arts, which will be held on Sunday, October 2, 2011 in McLean Central Park. Due date for submissions is June 1.

MPAartfest is a one-day juried fine art and craft festival that transforms McLean Central Park into a lively landscape of mini art galleries showcasing and selling the work of a diverse group of 40 juried artists from the mid-Atlantic region. MPAartfest includes activities to captivate art-lovers of all ages and draws thousands of people. Stroll through the Children’s ArtWalk to experience the work of young artists from McLean area schools. Budding artists may create their own works of art at the Children’s ArtTent and the Gazebo Stage will feature a variety of live performances throughout the day.

McLean Project for the Arts is located at 1234 Ingleside Avenue in the McLean Community Center. For more information and the MPAartfest Call for Entries form, please visit or call 703-790-1953.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Little Junes in New Orleans

Anderson Campello with New Orleans below him


A new "forever" stamp that was supposed to show the Statue of Liberty actually features a replica outside a Las Vegas casino...

Read all about it here.

Copyright Workshop

Do you have creative work that you'd like to copyright? Come learn about the basics of copyrights at this presentation and Q & A session from the Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 7 pm
Copyright Basics Workshop at Finnegan

Registration required - so register here.

Opportunities for Artists

Deadline: April 30, 2011.

Call for Entries: The Graceful Envelope Contest - Artists everywhere are invited to participate in the 2011 Graceful Envelope Contest, conducted by the Washington (DC) Calligraphers Guild under the sponsorship of the National Association of Letter Carriers.

There is no entry fee.

This year's theme is "Time Flies," so design an envelope that explores good times, quality time, the times of our lives, time travel, or any other idea you have time to develop.

Address the envelope artistically to:
The Graceful Envelope Contest
Washington Calligraphers Guild
P.O. Box 3688
Merrifield, VA 22116.

This is the contest's 17th year. The Smithsonian Institution's National Postal Museum created and administered it until delegating responsibility to the Washington Calligraphers Guild in 2001. The National Association of Letter Carriers exhibits the winners, which are also exhibited online at The complete Call for Entries (including categories for children) is posted on the Washington Calligraphers Guild website or you may contact contest coordinator Lorraine Swerdloff at

Check's in the mail

Being one of the lucky 53% of Americans who actually gets the honor to pay federal income taxes, I mailed my check today and tip my hat to the 47% of you who actually pay no federal income tax.

Having paid income tax since my very first job ever at age 13 (after school vacuum cleaning several stores along Pitkin Avenue in Brooklyn and also cleaning their bathrooms after they closed), I've managed to pay income taxes every year since that year and this past year was the most brutal tax year ever for me, even out-shocking last year's eye opener of a tax burden.

I'm one of those persons who is a social liberal and a fiscal conservative.

As such, it has also always escaped me the fairness of having about 1% of US households pay about 40% of all taxes collected in this nation and the other top 9% of US households combine to pay almost 75% of all taxes collected.

The reason that most European nations and especially the new democracies from the former Soviet empire adopted either a flat tax system or a Value Added Tax (VAT) system is simple: "It's simple!"

Every nation in Europe that I've lived in had a flat tax, except for the UK, which has a VAT (17.5%).

But here, the tax laws are so complex, and the loopholes so many, and the tax load so disparate and so huge, that we need an army of IRS folks to enforce them and an even bigger army of accountants and lawyers to interpret them.

Makes my head hurt; check's on the way.