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Archive for October, 2019

Game 7 of the World Series last night.

What was there not to like?

For me, the shocking victory by the underdog Washington Nationals over the Houston Astros seemed like the universe was setting things right in a karmic sense.

The Nationals, the oldest team in major league baseball with the youngest superstar in Juan Soto, made an improbable run through the later part of the regular season and into the playoffs, becoming the first team to win all of their World Series victories on their opponent’s home field. That in itself goes against all the odds.

Just like the odds in May from the bookmakers in Las Vegas that had the Nationals chances of winning the series as 1.5%.

Maybe it was a gift from karma for them getting rid of Bryce Harper?

Or maybe it was a nod from karma for the Nationals crowd loudly booing the president* both at his appearance in game 5 and at a viewing party at Nationals Park in the rain last night?

I believe that was just a case of the crowd adhering to the old baseball adage that says: I calls ’em like I sees ’em.

And they got that call right.

Or maybe the karma came in the fact that the pitcher who got the final three outs was the Nationals’ Daniel Hudson and not Robert Osuna, the controversial Astros closer.

Hudson missed an earlier playoff game so that he could be with his wife as she gave birth and Osuna was arrested last year for domestic violence for beating the mother of his child. He was passed over by a number of teams but the Astros picked him up.

But the karma payback might have come in response to the Astros’ earlier defense of one of their executives, Brandon Taubman, who, in the clubhouse after the Astros won the American League pennant, taunted some female reporters, one who had written about domestic violence in sports, with an expletive filled rant that invoked Osuna’s name. The Astros’ management at first defended Taubman and said that it was totally misrepresented in the public accounts. But the Astros were later forced, after several witnesses to the event came forward, that they had been wrong and fired Taubman.

That might have been too late for the Astros– karma was already in motion.

My faith in humanity might not be fully restored yet but my faith in baseball and karma certainly has returned. It makes me believe that karma is now ready to move on from baseball and clear up some other pressing matters.

And it’s coming with a heavy hammer…

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GC Myers- A Small Serenity*******************************

We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing? 

― Swami SatchidanandaThe Yoga Sutras

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The painting above, created a couple of years back, recently came back to me which was a surprise because it really spoke to and pacified me from the moment it was finished. It was painted as a reaction to the darker nature of the time in which it was painted and was meant to serve as a hopeful guide forward. Given that the darkness of that time has only deepened, I believe its message is even more necessary today. 

To give an example, during the drive to visit my father who is a resident in a nursing facility suffering from Alzheimer’s related dementia, I find myself more and more aggravated these days by the people I encounter on the road. Some days I arrive at the facility seething and tense. But walking in, I try to smile and say something, a simple “hello” or “how are you?,” to the folks I meet on the way. That simple act and the occasional return of a smile or greeting from the other person has a profoundly soothing effect on me. My mounting misanthropy fades away for those moments.

And maybe that’s what I hope for this piece.  I don’t know. Anyway, here’s what I wrote about this piece a few years back:

I call this tidy 6″ by 12″ painting A Small Serenity. It’s a small and simple piece but it has a lovely feeling of tranquility in it, one that far exceeds its humble size. If anything, its dimensions enhance its sense of serene quietness.

And perhaps that is how a contagion of serenity begins, as a small seed within ourselves. A tiny feeling of peaceful tranquility that grows then bursts from us, radiating outward to infect those around us and hopefully through them to others.

And on and on and on.

The cynical part of me knows that such a plague of placidity is improbable but looking at this little painting for a moment gives me the serenity to hope and ask,“Why not? What harm could be done in being kind and calm or in wearing a smile? As the late Swami Satchidananda says above, a smile costs nothing.

So, let’s start this plague today.

Shouldn’t we all feel free as birds?

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I am prepping for my annual two day workshop next week in Penn Yan at the Arts Center of Yates County. Below is a post I wrote just before the first workshop. I have to say, after the first four years, they have been both a lot of fun and pretty stressful for me. Every year, I am not sure I can do another one. But I keep coming back, mainly because of the kindness of the folks that come, the many laughs we share, the fact that I think they are taking away some small bits of knowledge, and the hope that they getting more than they expected when they signed up for the workshop. So far, I think that has been the case.

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Why does one not hold on to what one has, like the doctors or engineers; once a thing is discovered or invented they retain the knowledge; in these wretched fine arts all is forgotten, and nothing is kept.

Vincent Van Gogh, Letter to his brother Theo 1888

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When I read this quote from Van Gogh, I flashed back to a conversation I had several years back with an artist friend who was urging me to begin filming my painting process. He said that a deer could jump in front of my car going home from the gallery that night and nobody would ever know how my  paintings came about. He thought would be a loss.

That made me think but I still didn’t follow his advice and protected my process, except for small glimpses here and there, for years like an alchemist greedily withholding their found knowledge. It was one of several reasons for my lack of enthusiasm for teaching.

But time normally changes all things. I began to realize that it was a fool’s mission in keeping my process to myself. The  process was simply a tool for expression– it was not the expression.

An artist often has individual expression that transcends subject, material and technique. For example, an artist painting exactly like me– same trees and process– would produce work that would be different than my own. It would have a different soul, if it had one at all. If this artist’s purpose was mere copying, it would not. I can say this because I’ve seen this before.

So, after a bit, I came to understand that showing or teaching my process would not diminish my work in any way. In fact, I began painting the way that I do because I initially wanted to see paintings that I wasn’t seeing anywhere else. Wouldn’t it be great to spur that same thing in others?

To that end, as I announced earlier, I am teaching my first two day workshop,  September 17 & 18 [2015],  at the Arts Center of Yates County in Penn Yan, NY.  It’s a lovely town sitting at the end of scenic Keuka Lake, one of the Finger Lakes, famed for their beautiful vistas and multitude of wineries.

I am pretty excited about this and am starting to put together just how I want to teach this. I don’t want to spend any more energy hiding my process and I plan to fill each of the two days with as much info as I can get across while still making it entertaining and educational. So if you want to spend a couple of late summer days in a beautiful setting learning a form of expression that might spur other good things for you, contact the Arts Center of Yates County.

Hope to see you there.

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Paradise

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“The dead can survive as part of the lives of those that still live.”

Kenzaburō ŌeHiroshima Notes

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I didn’t post anything yesterday. That’s kind of unusual because I have been posting a song every Sunday for the past decade without missing a week that I can remember. But I spent yesterday with two of my cousins in a local nursing facility at the bedside of our Aunt Norma. She had been battling a rare esophageal melanoma that blocked her airway and didn’t allow her to eat solid foods for the past several months.

A few day ago she went, at her request so as not to be a burden on her extended family, into a nursing facility for the end of her life. Her journey ended last night around 6 PM.

I am not going into a long story here about Norma. She had seen a lot of life, both good and bad. You have a lot of ups and downs in 93 years. She had outlived most of her siblings, longtime friends, two husbands and a single son who died many years ago, drowning in the Chemung River at the age of seven. The last decade of her life was spent in a an apartment building primarily for the elderly and she thrived in that environment, making tons of new friends with her warmth and sharp mind and wit.

For our family, Norma served a lot of purposes. For some, she was a surrogate mother. For others she was a doting aunt who was always willing to sit and talk, giving you her whole attention which, for that short time, made you feel special, like you were really being heard. It’s a small but precious thing, a gift that you hate to lose.

She was a touchstone to the past, both my own and the family as a whole. She linked to and had memories of ancestors that passed away long before my time. She had a great memory and provided a lot of insight and context to family events from the past. She had sharp memories of the funeral her grandmother, my  great-grandmother, who had drowned in an Allentown, PA canal in the days shortly after my father was born.  She sometimes described the farm in St. Regis Falls of my great-grandfather who was a pioneer in the early logging of the Adirondacks.

And so much more.

She was warm of heart, funny, self-effacing, and generous and gentle of spirit. There was no cruelty in her at all. Everything you would want in an aunt. She was loved and will be missed by many. She leaves a big hole in our little world.

Been great knowing you, Nornie. Say hi to everyone for me.

Here’s a belated bit of Sunday morning music. It’s Paradise from Bruce Springsteen.

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Obstacles

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Joy is of the will which labours,

which overcomes obstacles, which knows triumph.

William Butler Yeats

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Klee/Art as Memory

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All art is a memory of age-old things, dark things, whose fragments live on in the artist.

Paul Klee

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When I need something to get me through periods of stress, something that engages me and makes me question myself while at the same time inspiring me, nothing serves me better than a dose of Paul Klee.

In his work I definitely feel like I am looking at the age-old memories of the artist. In fact, the attraction comes in the fact that I see his age-old memories and dark things as being my own.

A sense of familiarity.

Like being in an alien world and hearing a familiar language from some distance away. Words and phrases, bits of meaning, gleaned from a cacophony of unintelligible garble. It makes you alert and hopeful that there is a possibility of connection, of communication.

I can use a little Klee this morning.

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If the facts are against you, argue the law. 

If the law is against you, argue the facts. 

If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.

— Carl Sandburg

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Pound the table and yell like hell. That’s where the republican party of trump ( neither the party or the man deserve a capital letter) is at this moment in history. Facts and laws are not on their side so they turn to bluster and diversion.

They take us to the Theater of the Absurd.

Yesterday, a large group of republican congressman stormed a SCIF to disrupt a deposition taking place in the ongoing Impeachment Inquiry, brandishing cellphones and yelling. Now,  SCIF stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility which is a secured place where highly sensitive classified material is handled and personal electronics are strictly forbidden. To intentionally bring a cellphone into a SCIF would normally result in the offending party losing their security clearances and possibly their job. This is not a secret and all members of congress know the purpose and rules attached to a SCIF and the hearings that take place within them.

Their claim was that these hearings and depositions are being held in secret, suspiciously away from the eyes and ears of the public. That’s not completely untrue. These hearings are closed to the public just as criminal investigations grand juries are before charges are issued. This is an investigation, a gathering of evidence. It is not a trial.

These men– it was all white men, as an aside– all know this and are being intellectually dishonest in trying to attack the process to divert attention from the facts and law. In fact, about a quarter of those involved in this bit of guerrilla theater were part of the committee holding the hearing and could have been there, if they had chose to do so. They chose to pound the table and yell instead.

Some of these men were part of the Benghazi hearings from a few years ago. Almost every witness in this investigation gave depositions behind closed doors. There were over 100 of these secret depositions. Only one witness testified publicly. Hillary Clinton sat for eleven hours before the committee and ate their lunch. She had the facts and law on her side and didn’t pound the table and yell.

They wished they had kept her testimony behind closed doors.

In fact, the primarily republican committee addressed and defended the secretive nature of the investigation in the final Benghazi report. And during the hearings, a non-committee member, Darrell Issa, tried to enter the chamber and was escorted out by the sargeant at arms at the request of Chairman Trey Gowdy, who said, to his credit, there were rules to these types of inquiries that must be upheld.

The closed nature of this investigation is not unusual. These men know that. They can’t honestly argue against the facts that have come out or the laws that are potentially being enforced. They only want to create a shiny object to divert our attention, to change the narrative.

So, they act like the whiny babies they really are, pounding the table and yelling.

But wait, to add a layer to this weird theater experience, there was testimony in another yet trump lawsuit yesterday that was overlooked a bit by the press. His attorney, as a line of defense, attempted to convince a panel of Appellate Court judges that trump was exempt from having to provide his tax returns and other financial records and was above investigation or arrest of any kind.

He was forced to actually say that if trump shot a person on Fifth Avenue he could not be arrested or investigated until he left office.

He is literally above the law, according to his lawyers.

Absurdity.

And those are only two instances in one single day. You can add last night, at a rally,where trump boasted about a wall he is building in Colorado, much to the consternation of the folks living there. Or his ridiculous statements earlier in the day in trying to spin his complete betrayal of the Kurds and subjugation to the Russians and Turks in Syria.

Theater of the Absurd, folks.

Look past the table pounding and the yelling. Calmly examine the facts and the laws. Just because they are putting on a show with their absurdist company doesn’t mean you have to sit through it.

Oh, and stay off Fifth Avenue. Today just might be the day the demented fool attempts to prove his point.

God, or whoever is in charge of this runaway train, help us all.

 

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