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Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Watching the news and I can feel my blood pressure rising as I sense both my dread and rage. I am not going to vent here.

What’s the sense in that? You have eyes and ears. You’re witness to a new dark chapter being written in our history. If you read it as I do, you feel the same dread and anger. If you’re pleased with what is happening, then most likely you’re not reading this nor would my words mean anything to you as your version of what you believe is the truth no doubt diverges from my own.

Lately, I keep coming back to a passage from a 1995 book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, from scientist Carl Sagan.  The book was a defense of science and rationality and an indictment of pseudo-science and religious extremism. He had a premonition for the future and it appears that the pattern he was seeing at that time is coming to bear now.

“Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance”

A celebration of ignorance.

That may be the defining term for this age.

I’m going to let you chew on that while I try to calm myself with a little music from a long time ago. It’s Itchycoo Park from the Small Faces in 1967. The frontman for the band at that time (pre-Rod Stewart) was Steve Marriott. Probably not a name many of you know but he was highly influential in the history of modern rock and roll. For example, Robert Plant was an ardent Marriott fan sometimes errand boy for the band. He and Led Zeppelin owe a lot to the stylings of Marriott, who died at the age of 44 in 1991.

Anyway, it’s a favorite song and one that eases my mind a bit on days like this. Give it a try for yourself.

 

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“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.

“So it is.”

“And freezing.”

“Is it?”

“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”

― A.A. Milne

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The reactionary part of me has me feeling a bit like Eeyore this morning.

It’s a morning filled with way too much reactionary behavior from both sides for something of which almost everybody still has little, if any, knowledge. The facts are still unclear and there are many,many questions to be answered and loose ends still to be tied up before any of us should be too optimistic or pessimistic. For now, refrain from gleefully high-fiving or angrily punching holes in the wall.

So, while I am feeling a bit gloomy like my friend Eeyore this morning and feel that it can only get worse, I also know this is only a short summary by a biased reader at the end of one chapter in a long story still waiting to be told.  We can’t close the book now thinking we know how it will all end when there are so many pages and chapters ahead.

We must be patient and wait, hard as that is, for the story to unfold.

 

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“Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.” 

Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451

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I have completed a number of paintings in my Multitudes (or Masks or Faces or whatever the hell I am going to call them) series in the past couple of months and I still can’t quite put my finger on what they truly are or what purpose they serve for myself. As I’ve said, many of these faces have lived with me for most of my life.

They are absolutely familiar. Maybe even going to the base of the word, they seem like family.

The overall effect from these pieces for myself is not a stirring of one single emotion. They are a compendium of feelings. Some are benign and some are very kind faces. Some are worried and fearful. Some seem lost in thought and some just seem lost. Some are angry and some even contain a bit of menace and hatred.

The massing of them tends to balance the emotions for me.

This seems less so in the piece shown above, an 18″ by 18″ canvas that I originally called The March. It’s a piece that I find very appealing in so many ways, especially in the glow its colors produce in any kind of light. The colors, especially the orange/red of the flags, seem to pop off the surface and at a glimpse it seems almost festive. Maybe a celebratory parade?

But the more I look, the more it frightens me, seemingly capturing some innate dread of mine. I see in it a reflection of some of the craziness that is in great abundance around the world at this juncture in time. Waking this morning to hear of the 49 people slain by a white supremacist as they worshipped in their mosques in New Zealand only reinforces this sense of dread and looking at this piece, I see in it the willingness of people to join in, to sacrifice self and sense to become part of a mass movement to march under a banner that divides more than it unites.

The joy and snap of the banners that I first saw in this painting have become something else. They now represent a emboldened expression of feelings and beliefs that is sanctioned by the crowd. Most had been rightfully restrained in shame for decades and centuries but have now been unleashed. They now seem to me like banners of ignorance and stupidity, of racial hatred and blind allegiance to dead ideals.

It was never intended to be so. I just painted it as it came to me, delighting in the colors and forms as they came together. It came easily and freely, giving me great pleasure and joy as I painted it.

But now when I look at the faces and bodies with their uniform shade of color, I see a parade of old white men marching to protect that which they see as their god given sense of entitlement. Even the poorest among this crowd believes that the earth is their’s alone, that they reign supreme over all races and species. In it I see this crowd as believing this is their last ditch effort to maintain this imagined supremacy. That now is the time to take this world back.

And in the world outside this painting, I sense the same. It is a worrisome and dangerous time. We must be vigilant against this parade of fools. And after writing this this morning, maybe that is what the title should be.

Parade of Fools– that will be its title, after all.

Funny how the perception of a piece can change with time and circumstance.

 

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President’s Day

A few presidential quotes to celebrate Presidents Day:

However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion. 

– George Washington

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If national pride is ever justifiable or excusable it is when it springs, not from power or riches, grandeur or glory, but from conviction of national innocence, information, and benevolence. 

John Adams

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To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed. 

– Theodore Roosevelt

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The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.

-Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

-John F. Kennedy

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I don’t care. I believe Putin.

-The 45th President* of the United States

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The last one here is significant because it is one of the very few times on record that the current placeholder has actually spoken the truth.

Happy Presidents Day?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sail

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“He in his madness prays for storms, and dreams that storms will bring him peace”

― Mikhail Lermontov  (1814-1841)

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Maybe you didn’t see it yesterday and if not, good for you. It was an awful and uncomfortable thing to behold.

Witnessing madness always is. And that is what we were watching and experiencing.

It brought to mind the line above from the 19th century Russian (fitting, I guess) poet, Mikhail Lemontov, speaking of the sailor who believes that since the calm always follows the storm that the calm only comes because of the storm.

That’s the sort of logic with which we are dealing. One that believes that chaos brings order.

Hopefully, we can ride this storm out safely until there is calm.

Or until someone capable can wrest the wheel from the hands of a mad captain who seems bent on continuing to ride into storms.

The line above is actually a translation from the Russian that is often attributed to Leo Tolstoy since he included it in his The Death of Ivan Ilych. I believe a character was quoting the Lermontov line and people over time have come to believe that Tolstoy originated the line.

The line comes from a Lermontov poem, The Sail. There are many translations and not all use the exact wording though the meaning is much the same in all. Here’s one tranlation:

 

The Sail

Gleams white a solitary sail

In the haze of the light blue sea.—

What seeks it in countries far away?

What in its native land did leave?

 

The mast creaks and presses,

The wind whistles, the waves are playing;

Alas! It does not seek happiness,

Nor from happiness is fleeing!

 

Beneath, the azure current flows,

Above, the golden sunlight streaks:—

But restless, into the storm it goes,

As if in storms there is peace!

 

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Loving Truth

Blaise Pascal Death Mask

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Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.

–Blaise Pascal

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We live in a time of falsehoods. It is a time where some choose to deny the obvious truth and instead believe the desired lie.

Their opinion, their own sense of belief, has more value to them than all the mountains of truth and evidence that could be stacked against them.

How do you change such people? How do you make them see truth where they see only falsehoods?

You don’t change them.

You can’t change them.

You can only maintain a love for truth and continue to shine a light on it.

Then you must use that truth to defeat those who believe in the current false reality.

No persuasion will ever convert these people.

It must be defeat. Complete and devastating defeat.

A defeat so absolute that some will, in time, begin to understand how far they had veered off the path of truth and reality.

Some will never see the truth and will forever see themselves forever as victims.

Victims of a conspiracy. Victims of circumstance.

Always victims.

How this defeat comes about, well, that is yet to be determined.

But defeat must come.

Sounds harsh, I know.

And in the end, it may turn out to be harsh.

But to let truth be obscured by falsehood, to accept and live in a world completely based on lies, would prove to be far more severe and brutal.

The truth must continue to be loved and spoken.

Truth must prevail.

Amen.

Thus ends today’s sermonette.

Thanks for letting me vent and special thanks to French mathematician, theologian and general brainiac Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) for today’s quote and all of his various and many contributions to truth and the betterment of mankind.

 

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‘Nuff Said

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“he had nothing to say and he said it”

― Ambrose Bierce

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Take that any way you wish. But for those of you who endured that tortuous hour or so last night, you know what I am talking about.

‘Nuff said.

And just to make this post worthwhile, Ambrose Bierce may be one of the greatest American writers that that is unfamiliar to most of us. He was a renowned journalist, prolific short story writer– his An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is considered one of the best ever American short stories–and a pioneer in the genre of horror writing. His The Devil’s Dictionary is one of the classics of humor. He disappeared in Mexico around 1913-14 while traveling as an observing journalist with Pancho Villa’s rebel forces. Pretty fascinating character that is worth the time to look into a bit further.

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