Archive for October, 2020

Even if it weren’t Halloween today, there’s plenty enough scary stuff taking place. And, unfortunately, it won’t end with the passing of this day of normal tricks and treats. I am just hoping that there are more treats than tricks in our near future.

But today I am just sticking with Halloween and playing a song that kind of aligns with the day. It’s Season of the Witch from Donovan from way back in 1966. Great sound. One of my favorites, Richard Thompson, does a good cover but I am sharing the Donovan original.

The video that accompanies the song below is from a landmark 1922 Swedish silent film made by Danish filmmaker Benjamin Christensen  titled Häxan which was called Witchcraft Through the Ages in its English release. It has truly remarkable and sometimes disturbing imagery, sometimes seeming as though it were pulled directly from a Hieronymus Bosch painting. I have written here about my admiration of the silent films around this time who were realizing the visual potential of the medium and this is certainly one of those films that come to mind. I have included a trailer for the film below the song’s video.

There was also a rerelease of the film in 1968 which was shortened and featured a narration from author William S. Burroughs and a jazz score featuring violinist Jean Luc Ponty. It’s interesting but I don’t think it has the same impact as the original.

Anyway, have a safe Halloween. Be careful because, as we are seeing, there are a lot of witches and devils out there. Hoping we can exorcise some of these demons on Tuesday. Have a good day.

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Yeah it’s just what you need when you’re down in the dumps
One half hillbilly and one half punk
Big long legs and one big mouth
The hottest thing from the north to come out of the south
Do you understand? do you understand?

The Cramps, Garbageman

Okay, it’s just about Halloween. Between a deadly pandemic and the looming election, most likely many of you are already sufficiently spooked. But since those other things will still be hanging over our heads for a while, I thought we’d head towards more typical Halloween fare today. 

Well, a little more typical.

In a couple of prior years here on the blog, I have played a couple of songs from The Cramps, a now defunct band that emerged the legendary punk scene in NYC in the late 1970’s. The Cramps had their own look and schtick, a brand of macabre psychobilly that just made them a perfect fit for Halloween. Their first album in 1980, Songs the Lord Taught Us, had a host of weird but wonderful songs like I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Zombie Dance, The Mad Daddy, and TV Set, which is a gruesome but highly singable ditty about a cannibalistic serial killer.

I bought the album it on vinyl when it came out and have really enjoyed it periodically through the years. I say periodically because I believe a steady diet of it might be detrimental to my overall state of mind. That would no doubt please The Cramps.

One of my favorites from that album is Garbageman. It’s a song I revisit quite often when I want to get my engines revved a bit. I seem to always end up stomping around the studio, yelling, ” Do you understand? Do you understand?”

I thought I’d share it along with a great cover of it from the legendary rock vocalist William Shatner. Who can ever forget his cover of Rocket Man? He did this version of the song with The Cramps on a single whose cover, shown above, that employs the iconic artwork style from the cover of their greatest hits album, Bad Music For Bad People.

Actually, the Shatner version is not bad. A lot of kitschy fun. And in these weird and wild days, can’t we all use some of that?

Enjoy. And try to have a good day. And be careful — a lot of weirdos out there!

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“A Time For Reckoning”– At the West End Gallery

Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.

Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember


I think the hardest part of the last four years has been the lack of unified joy in this country. This void comes from the top where we have a president*** who lacks whatever gene is responsible for finding joy in this world. The closest thing to joy is the pleasure he finds in the obsequious praise of toadies. In fact, he is annoyed by the joy of others. Have you ever heard him praise anyone without somehow trying to take part of their success for himself?

He is, as the late Mr. Rogers might have said, disabled in that way.

And while our joy should not be incumbent on his behavior, it sets a tone that has seeped through our society. His way of crudely dismissing the joy and potential of others is becoming the prevailing sentiment. He doesn’t look at a person and see their story of what they have went through or what they may become. He see’s only what they can do for him. Those voters in their red hats and American flags with his face adorning it are only valuable for the time being as voters and a fawning chorus.

They will never find joy through him or his hollow lies. Only his bitterness and his eventual dismissal of them as well when they are no longer useful.

His disability will become theirs.

The poet Elaine Griffin Baker put it very well with her observational lines below on the last few years of this president***. As she writes: We are rudderless and joyless.

Below it is an effective reading of a large part of it by Bruce Springsteen.

Have a good day.

Vote. Vote so that we might someday soon find joy again. Just vote.

“I’ve been wondering why this entire country seems to be under a cloud of constant misery.
Why we all seem to be Russians waiting in line for toilet paper, meat, Lysol.
Hoarding yeast and sourdough starter “in case we can’t get bread”,
Buying stamps so that one of our most beloved institutions might survive.
Why we all look like we are in bad need of a haircut, or a facial or a reason to dress up again and go somewhere. Anywhere
There is no art in this White House.
There is no literature or poetry in this White House. No music.
No Kennedy Center award celebrations.
There are no pets in this White House. No loyal man’s best friend. No Socks the family cat.
No kids science fairs.
No times when this president takes off his blue suit-red tie uniform and becomes human, except when he puts on his white shirt- khaki pants uniform and hides from Americans to play golf.
There are no images of the first family enjoying themselves together in a moment of relaxation.
No Obama’s on the beach in Hawaii moments, or Bushes fishing in Kennebunkport, no Reagans on horseback, no Kennedys playing touch football on the Cape.
I was thinking the other day of the summer when George H couldn’t catch a fish and all the grandkids made signs and counted the fish-less days.
And somehow, even if you didn’t even like GHB, you got caught up in the joy of a family that loved each other and had fun.
Where did that country go? Where did all of the fun and joy and expressions of love and happiness go? We used to be a country that did the ice bucket challenge and raised millions for charity.
We used to have a president that calmed and soothed the nation instead dividing it.
And a First Lady that planted a garden instead of ripping one out.
We are rudderless and joyless.
We have lost the cultural aspects of society that make America great.
We have lost our mojo. Our fun, our happiness.
The cheering on of others.
The shared experiences of humanity that makes it all worth it.
The challenges AND the triumphs that we shared and celebrated. The unique can-do spirit Americans have always been known for.
We are lost.
We have lost so much
In so short a time.”

Elaine Griffin Baker






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Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.

― Abraham Lincoln

The US Elections Project anticipates that this year’s election could see a turnout of 65% of eligible voters casting ballots. That would be the highest turnout in well over a hundred years, going back to 1908.

That’s great news. 

But it raises a burning question: Who are those 35% who won’t cast a vote?

Think about that. We’re having a crucial election that could well dictate our whole way of life in the coming years. The pandemic has shown that who leads this country can make a crucial difference in our everyday life, in how we react and recover from adversity. Or how we avoid it altogether.

Yet a third of the citizens of the nation don’t care enough who heads our government and won’t vote. They are willing to let others make that choice for them, willing to go with whatever the others want.

Do these people live their whole lives this way? 

Voting is literally the least a citizen can do to participate in the affairs of the nation. It can make the difference between leading a nice, quiet life or furiously fighting an out of control fire for years to come. 

Heed old Honest Abe’s words: Don’t turn your back to the fire.  

Do your duty.


Oh, and my personal suggestion is that you VOTE BLUE.

Note the blue waves in the painting at the top. 

But do what you will and just vote.


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And what sort of lives do these people, who pose as being moral, lead themselves? My dear fellow, you forget that we are in the native land of the hypocrite.

–Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

The stakes are very high right now, folks. Couldn’t be higher. You must get out there and vote. Though I have no right to ask nor any sway on your actions, I urge you to VOTE BLUE up and down the ballot. But I suspect that if you still read this blog, you probably at least lean that way anyhow.

This election finds this nation at a very sharp fork in the road that leads to our future. Both will be extremely rough going, one simply from trying to recover from the atrocities committed over the last four years and to somehow recover from a pandemic that has been allowed to run wild by a government without a real plan to battle it. 

The other is a path whose course has been set to take us into some form of authoritarian state. Maybe even a fascist police state.

With the hypocritical and illegitimate approval and elevation of a Supreme Court Justice and the dissembling of the Justice Department under an Attorney General who views presidential power as absolute, we are primed to go dangerously wander further from the path of democracy than in any time in our history. 

To further illustrate this point, in an underreported move, the president** last week signed an executive order that would sweep away the civil service protections of tens of thousands of government employees who are in their jobs because of their expertise, not their political leanings. These are people who serve the nation, not a party or individual.

They would now be subject to loyalty tests from the administration and could be dismissed for simply telling the truth. 

There is an interesting short article in the online magazine Government Executive that outlines the potential ramifications and dangers inherent in this executive order. I urge you to read this article because as is pointed out out in its last paragraph: The executive order’s implications for the government’s ability to perform —and for citizens’ trust in government’s impartiality—could not be greater. This is a very, very big deal.

I couldn’t agree more.  This is a very, very big deal.

So, as we come to that fork in the road, please use your vote with thought and care. It has never been more incumbent on you to participate.

We all have to choose.

And it is, as I have pointed out in the past, a binary choice even though there are other parties and candidates on the ballots. To choose to vote for third party candidate this year means that you don’t see that there is a stark difference between the two parties at the top of this ballot and that you don’t care who actually leads us ahead. It is a cynical and childish move, in my opinion.

There is no moral high ground in throwing away your vote with an insignificant protest vote, especially in this year of all the years that have seen us voting as a nation. There are many folks out there who desire to have real third party movements across the nation. I would love to have other options as much as anyone. But this year’s vote might actually determine whether there is even a two party system going ahead, let alone third or fourth parties.

As I wrote above, the GOP is attempting to bend the will of the government to serve its primary movers and not the whole population. They have a shrinking base that is already over represented because of their machinations and if they can, they will use further underhanded tactics to diminish the ability of the opposition party to retaliate in any way. They will use their power to expand the power of the president** and the executive branch. They will further suppress the vote. We will become perhaps a soft police state because though they have the reins of power they do so with the minority of the populace behind them.

Elections could become show elections like we see in autocracies around the world, engineered to provide the desired results.

Third party? Hell, there wouldn’t be much of a second party.

So, the stakes are sky high. Pick a side and let’s have at it.

I ask you to VOTE BLUE.

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“Light and Wisdom”- Currently at the West End Gallery

“If outer events bring him to a position where he can bear them no longer and force him to cry out to the higher power in helplessness for relief, or if inner feelings bring humiliation and recognition of his dependence on that power, this crushing of the ego may open the door to grace.”


“Every test successfully met is rewarded by some growth in intuitive knowledge, strengthening of character, or initiation into a higher consciousness.”


“The source of wisdom and power, of love and beauty, is within ourselves, but not within our egos. It is within our consciousness. Indeed, its presence provides us with a conscious contrast which enables us to speak of the ego as if it were something different and apart: it is the true Self whereas the ego is only an illusion of the mind.”

― Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton

I was surprised to find I have never mentioned Paul Brunton here. I came across his work many years ago in a moment of serendipity at perhaps the lowest point in my life. I don’t think I am exaggerating in saying that without that encounter with his books, I most likely would not be sitting here this morning, writing this blog. Might not be an artist.

Might not even be. Period.

Paul Brunton (1898-1981) was a British writer who traveled to India in the aftermath of his service in World War I and encountered Hindu/Buddhist mysticism for the first time. He wrote several best selling books on his experiences that more or less brought Hindu/Buddhist to the west for the first time.

His magnus opus was published series of 16 of his notebooks, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, containing observations and experiences. These were the books of Brunton’s that I first came across. As I said, I was at my bottom at that point and my mind was spiraling. I opened one of his notebooks and immediately found something, a short paragraph with his observation on the ego, that seemed to describe where I was at that point, something that I could latch onto.

That simple moment was a huge spark of hope. A beam of light.

I looked at the title page and saw that it was published by a organization located not too far from where I live now, my home area. I was across the country at that time and it was as though these words and that address near my home were telling me that what I needed, what I sought, was at hand, was inside me all the time.

That’s the short version of the story and it will have to suffice for today. I just thought Paul Brunton deserved a mention. He’s part of my path, my story, and when I look at pieces like the one at the top, Light and Wisdom, his words often jump to mind for me. I know that when I get spinning out of control, his words are gentle reminder of where I am now, where I have been in the past and what I was, what I am and what I want to be. 

Was, Am, Will Be.

Just keep trying and have a good day.

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Poll Dancers

I was going to write this morning about the death of singer/songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker yesterday at the age of 78. He was an upstate NY guy, born and raised in Oneonta, who moved to and became synonymous with the state of Texas. Most of you will no doubt best know him for his song Mr. Bojangles. Sad to see another favorite pass away.

But I feel compelled this morning to comment on the remarkable turnout taking place at polling locations around the country. Huge enthusiastic crowds lined the streets of nearly every city and town offering early in-person voting. Records for voter turnout are falling everywhere. Even in my home county, the lines yesterday on the first day of early voting in NY were well over an hour long.

I read of a guy who rolled by one such line of waiting voters in his pickup truck and yelled out his window to another guy standing near the end of the line.

“How long you been waiting?” he asked.

“Four goddamn years!” the fellow in line responded as the other people in line responded with loud applause.

I can’t tell you how heartening this turnout and enthusiasm is for someone has long decried the political indifference of so many in this country. This is the dream of democracy, to have the vast majority of people engaged and passionate.

Unfortunately, there are those out there who try to suppress the vote and make voting much more difficult than it was ever intended to be. They reduce the number of polling locations, shorten the hours, use archaic rules for disallowing votes and disenfranchising potential voters and just plain try to stop people from voting. They even try to sabotage the US Postal Service.

Nobody should have to wait four. six, or eight hours to vote. You have to ask why they so want to keep voters from voting. They do not seem to desire a true representative democracy.

But the more they try to suppress the vote, the more it hardens the resolve by those affected to overcome this callous disrespect for them and our system.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

People are getting out there. They wait and wait, sometimes for hours in rain and wind. They bring seats and snacks.

And some bring the music and the fun. At a line in Philadelphia it was pure joy as the crowd and one particularly exuberant dancer moved to Mississippi Cha Cha Slide from DJ Slide. A group from Philly, Joy to the Polls, is providing music and entertainment at polling sites around city. There’s a short clip below of them in action.

And in the one below it, a marching band is providing some stirring entertainment for voters at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Just great stuff.

Like I said, it’s heartening to see such response at a time when it is so necessary. So, if you find yourself in line today or sometime this coming week waiting to vote, keep the joy up. There’s some Mississippi Cha Cha Slide at the bottom for you to have on hand if you feel like dancing a bit.

Have a good day and don’t let up, folks.

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I have always had a passion for the beautiful. If the man in me is often a pessimist, the artist, on the contrary, is pre-eminently an optimist.

—Jules Breton (1827-1906)

Just a short one today. I’ve used the quote above from artist Jules Breton once before here but it was with another of his paintings. The piece above of his, Le Soir (The Evening), is in the permanent collection of our local art museum, the Arnot Art Museum. It was an important painting for me, really one of the first real pieces of art with which I interacted as a kid.

In junior high school, I would sometimes ride home after school with my father. The junior high I attended was just down the street from the Sheriff’s Department where he worked and the museum was just one block over from that. So, between the end of the school day and my dad’s shift, I had an hour or two to explore a little, trying to stay out of trouble as best I could. Not always successful on that front but I won’t go into that part of the story right now.

Most days I found myself at the Steele Memorial Library which was at that time housed in a beautiful old Carnegie-endowed building. It had such warmth and was a great place to spend several hours at a time searching the stacks. Some days, however, I found myself at the Arnot Art Museum which was not yet expanded. It’s collection wasn’t large but it was quite good, with plenty of classic European paintings from well known artists of the mid and late 19th century. It was the type of work that a wealthy collector of that time would acquire on his yearly sojourn to the continent.

This piece from Jules Breton then dominated the front parlor of the museum, as it still does today. I knew nothing of art then, had only been in one museum at that point. Well, two if you count the Baseball Hall of Fame. But even with that lack of knowledge, this painting spoke volumes to me. The glow of that sun going down behind that far horizon. The tired laborers getting ready to head home from a long day in the fields. The gorgeous blend of colors that made up that sky. 

And the sense of space. It was simple and elegant. Quiet but forceful.

It was the first painting that spoke to me, the first that offered me possibilities beyond my own meager knowledge and limited opportunities. It made me think. And feel.

It remains an important piece for me. So, to see the words of Breton and whole-heartedly agree with them as an artist feels almost like coming full circle back to this painting and the small spark it kindled in me as a kid. It took a while for the spark to grow but it was always there after that.

Okay, that’s enough for today. Maybe too much.

Have a good day. 

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“To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities—I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not—that one endures.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power

I paused a little bit before using this quote from Nietzsche this morning. The use of anything from a philosopher whose work, and the book from which this excerpt has been taken, had been appropriated and distorted to justify their own ends , by the Nazis is a little risky, especially in this time of rising authoritarianism here and around the world. For many of us, just the title, The Will to Power, immediately conjures up imagery of invading Nazis goose-stepping through conquered cities in their quest for more and more power.

People naturally assume that that the power to which he is referring is ultimate power, ruling power to be  exercised over others. That is how the Hitler and his ilk interpreted it. But Nietzsche was talking about two separate forms of power which are expressed in German as the words Kraft and Macht. Kraft refers to brute force, both physical and mental, while Macht refers to true power. Kraft is the animal force, that primal element that is possessed in all of us. Macht, on the other hand, is the power to control one’s own kraft and use it in positive ways.

Macht is the overcoming and controlling of the kraft within us.

And that’s where we are now. We have two elements within this nation, one who see the power of this nation as pure animal power, and another who recognizes our power– our kraft— but understands that it cannot solely guide our actions and future. It is unsustainable. History shows that clearly. 

So, the question is how do we emerge from this? Do we have the fortitude to endure this tug of war between these two concepts?

Though I have my doubts on some days, in the long run I think we do have the ability to endure, actually.

And as Nietzsche expresses above, perhaps this struggle is just what we need to really move forward. Maybe we need some real hardship and suffering to understand the responsibility of our power. Maybe we need it to finally recognize that we must at some point sacrifice something of ourselves to a greater good, that our bounty does not come without a price.

Many of us have never had real hardship. I am not talking about normal loss and suffering that comes with being a human being. I am talking about widespread hurt that runs through the nation and touches most every citizen. Most of us have never had to sacrifice much for anyone.

Maybe we need the hurt and the humbling. While nobody wants to willingly take on great suffering, there are lessons to be learned from it. Perhaps that one can overcome and endure great hardship is the greatest of these. That and allowing more of us to develop a greater sense of empathy with those who continue to suffer around us.

Maybe we need to simply learn that we can endure.

Maybe then we can cross the divide between us and work together for some greater good.

Let’s hope, okay? 

Hey, here’s some old Canned Heat from about 50 years back with a fitting message for any time. It’s Let’s Work Together. Now, have a good day.

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“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it—just as we have learned to live with storms.”

― Paulo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra

I wasn’t planning on writing about angst this morning. I think most of us are all worn to nubs from the anxiety of this time so unless I have come up with some sort of therapy or special salve that will take it away, my words will have little effect.

Might even make it worse.

But an item popped up on my alerts that piqued my interest and it had to do with angst. Well, angst in the form of one of my paintings. I clicked on the link and there was YouTube music video with a painting that was very recognizable to me as the image illustrating it.

It was from Lithuanian-born musician/composer Žilvinas Smalys for a short composition of his called Growing Angst For 2 Bassoons. It was written and recorded on October 11, 2020 so it is most likely his take on the anxiety of this time in his part of the world.

Angst knows no boundaries.

I am not surprised that he chose this particular painting, The Angst, to accompany his composition. It is one of my personal pieces, a keeper, that has been with me for the past 25 years or so. Whenever I show it, it gets a lot of attention. It was even used in a college level textbook a few years back. It even shows up on the Google search for “angst paintings” right under Munch’s The Scream.

And it works well with this compsotion.

Žilvinas Smalys is a performer, teacher and composer who was, as I wrote, born and raised in Lithuania. His training as a classical musician throughout Europe has been extensive and he has played with orchestras around the globe. He currently resides in Santiago, Chile, serving since 2008 as the principal bassoonist at Teatro Municipal de Santiago as well as being a professor of bassoon and chamber music at Universidad Mayor de Santiago

Smalys has a nice YouTube page that features many of his compositions. I urge you to take a look. His music is lovely. Below is Growing Angst and another short piece, Lament For 2 Bassoons.

Hopefully this will help free up your own angst and you can move on to have a good day.

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