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Been raining for a couple of days now, often in loud and long downpours. Looking out from my studio, I can see the run-off creek that runs through my property, normally dry at this time of the year. It’s gushing brown now, nearly overtopping the large culvert into my studio, and has a roar that fills the woods.

Down the length of the long driveway into my property, the water runs on it like it’s a newly minted stream while beside the driveway the creek rushes well outside its banks, meeting the driveway water and merging into a mass that covers everything. The end of our drive looks like a  large, moving pond.

There are a few younger deer playing in the now hard rain, running through the heavy, muddy overflow coming off my pond. The ground is soft and giving underfoot, like walking on a sponge.

We’re fortunate in our location. High enough to avoid real flooding and far enough away from the water coming out of the creeks and run-offs that run through the property. A lot of other folks won’t be so fortunate and will most likely have to face a long clean up after the flash flooding that is taking place. A day or two more and we might be into heavy river flooding and that’s real trouble.

Hopefully, tomorrow will bring some sun, some relief. But for now, I’ll watch the water run brown with the deer splashing through it. A bit of a watered-in day, as my friends in Texas might call this.

Here’s a great version of the Bob Dylan song Down in the Flood from the bluegrass legends, Flatt and Scruggs. Enjoy and stay dry.

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It’s gray and rainy this morning. It’s the same forecast for the next several days here and I am kind of happy about that. While it may put a damper on tourists and sun-seekers, the rain refreshes the pond and cools the forest floor. The vegetation perks up with the greens getting a bit brighter and vibrant. After reading about the many temperature records being broken around the globe in recent weeks (over 90° above the Arctic circle and the highest temp ever recorded on the African continent!) I am all for anything that cools it down for a while.

I though for this Sunday morning’s musical selection I would choose a piece called Oslo from a contemporary Norwegian jazz musician, Mathias Eick, that sounds kind of cool. For me, when I hear the name Oslo I imagine snow and a chill in the air. I may be mistaken in that assumption as I find after checking that it’s near 80° there at the moment.

But I will still cling to my misguided assumption for the moment if only to feel an illusion of coolness. I threw in a new painting at the top, Cool Rising, that is part of my current show at the West End Gallery, to complete the illusion.

Have a cool Sunday…

 

 

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For some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, I have been humming this tune since sometime yesterday afternoon. Maybe if I look closer at the lyrics, I can figure it out.

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Pull the string and I’ll wink at you, I’m your puppet
I’ll do funny things if you want me to, I’m your puppet
I’m yours to have and to hold
Darling you’ve got full control of your puppet
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Pull another string and I’ll kiss your lips, I’m your puppet
Snap your finger and I’ll turn you some flips, I’m your puppet
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Listen, your every wish is my command
All you gotta do is wiggle your little hand
I’m your puppet, I’m your puppet
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I’m just a toy, just a funny boy
That makes you laugh when you’re blue
I’ll be wonderful, do just what I’m told
I’ll do anything for you
I’m your puppet, I’m your puppet
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Pull them little strings and I’ll sing you a song, I’m your puppet
Make me do right or make me do wrong, I’m your puppet
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Treat me good and I’ll do anything
I’m just a puppet and you hold my string, I’m your puppet
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Darling, darling, pull the strings, let me sing you a song any day
I’m your puppet baby, you can sing for me all night long
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Yeah, that kind of reminds me of something I saw recently.
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Of course, I am having a little fun. It’s all I can do to not go into a rage after watching yesterday’s press conference in Helsinki. It was one of those events that will resonate forward through history and not in a good way. As presidential historian Jon Meacham said this morning, we are in the middle of this now, not at the start nor the end, and there is another shoe yet to drop. Yesterday shows that we have long passed a tipping point and it the only thing protecting our future now is our own action.
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Be a real citizen and don’t just take up space– pay attention. Ask your congressmen and senators questions and let them know how you feel. Make sure you are registered to vote and hit the polls hard. Encourage others to do the same.
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Speak up at every opportunity because it may be your last chance. I seriously mean that.
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The song, of course, is I’m Your Puppet from James and Bobby Purify back in 1966 , written by Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn.

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We would rather be ruined than changed

We would rather die in our dread

Than climb the cross of the moment

And let our illusions die.

 

–W.H. Auden

Epilogue, The Age of Anxiety

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These words were written by poet W.H. Auden in the aftermath of World War II in his Pulitzer Prize winning poem The Age of Anxiety, a work that later was translated into music in the form of a symphony by Leonard Bernstein  and ballet by Jerome Robbins. I didn’t know much about this work when I stumbled across this short passage and I don’t suppose that its acclaim or history have much to do with the the thought it provokes.

Reading these four lines immediately brought to mind the transitional phase we’re moving through. It is a time fraught with fast moving change and many of the ideals and beliefs that we held onto as absolutes seem fragile and illusory now, if not completely destroyed. It probably felt much like this to many of those who lived through the war years of the 30’s and 40’s. It must feel as though you were attached, with no control at all, to the back of an angry beast who is rampaging. Beliefs are shattered and all you have to hold onto is your fear.

It seems like many of the groups vying to gain power over the direction of the rampaging beast that is this nation lend credence to the words above. They fear and despise the idea of change, even inevitable change, and would rather see the whole shooting match go up in smoke rather than alter their illusions of what we once were or what we could be in the future.

I know this sound somewhat cryptic and I don’t want to blurt out the obvious here right now. Just a thought that rose from the four simple lines above.

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Stay Human

 

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“If you can feel that staying human is worth while, even when it can’t have any result whatever, you’ve beaten them.”

George Orwell, 1984

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I hate to say this and it seems hard to believe but I think we, as a nation, have a ways to go before we hit the bottom of wherever the current leader is taking us. But we will hit bottom hard at some point in the near future.

The question is: Will we care?

Or will we even notice? That’s hard to say with so many of us already dull-witted and hypnotized from the administration’s propaganda machine that seems right out of Orwell’s 1984 with their own Newspeak in the form of Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting and Doublethink in the form of their alternate facts.

The Thought Police are will soon emerge in some form, no doubt.

Something as seemingly innocuous as the leader’s wife wearing a slogan of apathy and dispassion– I Really Don’t Care. Do U?— on her jacket while on the way to visit immigrant children in traumatic situations takes on greater symbolic meaning in this environment. Some try to say it was just an overlooked fashion choice but that is disingenuous at best. These people know that their every word and action makes a statement. If not, then we are dealing with a stupidity and fecklessness that is beyond the pale.

Myself, I think it may have been the most honest expression yet of this administration.

They really don’t care.

They don’t care about immigrants, especially those who happen to be non-white.

They don’t give a damn about coal-miners or autoworkers or farmers or any of the many other group whose asses they pretend to kiss while begging for votes. They don’t about you or me or humanity in general.

They care only about power and all that comes with that power.

Orwell put it chillingly well in 1984:

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

The answer?

Care. Now more than ever, stand up and be a goddamn human and care.

 

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I have been thinking a lot about why I am an artist. On some days the idea of being an artist seems so abstract and ridiculous while on others it feels concrete and purposeful. Both have me asking why. I wish I had a simple answer as to the why of what I do but it never seems to show itself fully. Here’s a post from several years back that offers one possibility. It was written before the current state of affairs here in this country and the uncertainty I refer to is not the same as the chaos our current government is offering. Their chaos is based on their certainty and, as Voltaire says, that is an absurd condition.

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GC Myers- Twilight Wanderer

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Doubt is not a pleasant condition but certainty is an absurd one.

–Voltaire

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Much of my work has a journey or a quest as its central theme and the odd thing is that I don’t have a solid idea of what the object is that I am seeking in this work. I have thought it was many things over the years, things like wisdom and knowledge and inner peace and so on. But it comes down to a more fundamental level or at least I think so this morning. It may change by this afternoon. I think the search is for an end to doubt or at least coming to an acceptance of my own lack of answers for the questions that have often hung over us all.

I would say the search is for certainty but as Voltaire points out above, certainty is an absurd condition. That has been my view for some time as well. Whenever I feel certainty coming on in me in anything I am filled with an overriding  anxiety. I do not trust certainty. I look at it as fool’s gold and when I see someone speak of anything with absolute certainty–particularly politicians and televangelists– I react with a certain degree of mistrust, probably because I see this absolutism leading to an extremism that has been the basis for many of the worst misdeeds throughout history. Wars and holocausts, slavery and genocide, they all arose from some the beliefs held by one party in absolute certainty.

So maybe the real quest is for a time and place where uncertainty is the order of the day, where certainty is vanquished. A place where no person can say with any authority that they are above anyone else, that anyone else can be subjugated to their certainty.

To say that we might be better off in a time with no certainty sounds absurd but perhaps to live in a time of certainty is even more so.

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It’s Father’s Day and, quite honestly, it’s a bittersweet thing for me. My dad is still alive and spends his days and nights in a local nursing facility, as he has for the last couple of years. He has Alzheimer’s dementia but still recognizes me and remembers quite a lot most of the time so long as he isn’t under stress. He has little idea of time and place right now. When I visit him today he won’t remember if I was there yesterday and an hour after I am gone will forget I was there today.

Our conversations are short and feel almost scripted.

How long did it take you to get here?

How old are you?

How old am I?

You still driving the same car?

Where do you live?

What’s the weather like?

Is there snow out there?

That last one always makes me laugh as he has a large window in his room with a great view of the local hills and the city along with the river that winds through it and all of its bridges. He asked me that question yesterday after I told him it was going to be 80 degrees. He seldom gets up and looks out the window. He has little interest in anything outside his room.

I wish I could go off on a long description of all the things I got from my dad, pieces of advice and gems of wisdom, but there wasn’t much passed along directly. Sure, there is the swearing and a few other things that I would prefer to keep to myself. I am sure there are things I do that are direct reflections of him and his influence, some good and some bad. But it was never consciously passed along. Much of what I got from him came in the form of genetics and in object lessons where my observations often led me to avoid emulating much of his behavior.

But, even though he was flawed as a father and remains a faded shadow of the man he once was, he remains my dad.

For this Sunday, here’s song, All Around You, from Sturgill Simpson, accompanied by the Dap-Kings, the horn section that had previously backed soul singer Sharon Jones before her death in late 2016. I am not a fan of a lot of modern country music– so much of it sounds like formulaic 1980’s pop/rock to me– but I do like Sturgill Simpson. There’s a certain authenticity in his work that feels like it is in a natural progression from early traditional country music, even when he’s covering a Nirvana song such as In Bloom.

When things aren’t going well I sometimes find myself singing the chorus from his You Can Have the Crown. I won’t repeat the chorus here but it and the rest of the song always make me laugh. I think it’s a song my dad would like.

The song All Around You is about advice being passed on from a father to his young son, that there is a universal heart that contains a love with the ability to transcend the hatred, meanness and stupidity that currently surrounds us. The video is quite well done and makes quite a political statement for the times.

Take a look and have a good Father’s Day.


 

 

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