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When it comes back around you’re gonna get what’s coming.
You sit on your fence and you scream about justice.
Between the have and have-not’s only one feels the difference.
And when it comes back around you’re gonna get what’s coming.
When it comes back around you’re gonna get what’s coming.

Rival Sons, Get What’s Coming

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This is a little raucous for a Sunday morning but I think that’s just the way it has to be this morning. Just warning you.

Over the past few years, we have been subjected to reports of constant wrongdoing by this administration, ranging from ridiculous amounts of lying about things both monumental and trivial to corruption and abuses of power to actual atrocity.

This administration knows no bottom.

There is just so much wrong taking place that it’s hard to keep track of all the wrongs without losing sight of some.

Take for example, this week reports surface that the number of children detained by this administration is upwards of 70,000 now and that babies born to women in ICE detention are taken away without any way for independent child welfare observers, or the mother for that matter, to know their whereabouts.

Is this what we want to be now?

Or take another example, the president* grants a pardon to a soldier who is accused of war crimes, killing innocent non-combatants. This pardon goes against the advice and wishes of the Pentagon and its internal justice system. Nine members of this criminal’s own company testified against him and none backed him up in any way for his actions. This gives this nation and the military a black eye and makes the job of our troops even more dangerous.

Is this what we want to be now?

Or in Syria, reports last night of massive attacks against the Kurds, our longtime allies who we abandoned with little notice. There are reports of U.S. military officials expressing that they are ashamed and sickened by our treachery. While we have prided ourselves as being the “good guys” to the rest of the world, we are quickly becoming the “bad guys.” Our word is no longer our bond. Why would anyone trust us now, especially when being asked to sacrifice, to fight and die on our behalf?

Is this what we want to be now?

I could go on and on. Wrong after wrong after wrong after wrong, ad infinitum. Countless lies and deception. Abuses of power and a twisting of our laws and the Constitution. Massive amounts of corruption and self-serving. Every act seems designed to punish the public in general in some way while only benefiting those with great wealth or power.

Is this who we want to be now?

I don’t think it is. There have been points in these past three years that have been depressing and deflating, where it looks like we won’t be able to stop the fast slide we are on into real authoritarianism or at least a system of where wealthy connected oligarchs run everything behind a wall of sham democracy. Some of those days, the present and the future has looked very dark especially when you see family and friends eagerly accept the lies and deceptions without actually giving any real thought to future repercussions.

But there are signs that it does not have to go that way, that we can regain our footing once again. That we can be the nation that we want to be, the nation that we believe we are. There are cracks forming and the recognition by the general public of the great wrong before is starting to take hold.

Karma, my friends. What goes around, comes around. And those who know better, who knowingly are complicit to the corruption and deceit that has and is taking place, to the disassembling of the American system of governance and justice, had better either have a come to Jesus moment soon or brace themselves for a hard fall.

Because when it comes back around you’re gonna get what’s coming.

And it’s coming back around soon.

Okay, here’s the song for this Sunday, an electric Get What’s Coming from Rival Sons.

Brace yourselves.

And have a good Sunday.

 

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I’ve mentioned here before that my father is in a local nursing facility, suffering from Alzheimer’s related dementia. Visits with him have become shorter and shallower, barely any conversation outside of a short script of repeating questions he asks that remain embedded in his fading mind. Most of the time, he sleeps now. It’s a strange thing seeing him now. He seems a faint echo of his prior self. Many of the facets of he personality I knew as a kid are not recognizable in him now.

I sometimes sit there for a bit and look at him, trying to remember him in different times, with his good points and his bad. I often think of him with his friends at a few local bars, the environment where he seemed to me to be most comfortable and at home. There was a lot of easy laughing and a warmth extended to his comrades, many of which were guys he’d known for most of life, that I didn’t see anywhere else, even at home. It was a true facet of who he was, one that only showed itself in the safety found in the dark, smoky closeness of those old bars. 

At those moments, looking at him in this way, I always go back to a favorite song, one that I used in the post below from several years ago that deals with this same subject. Here it is:

GC Myers-Tree Waltz smIt’s the last Sunday of June and I sit in my studio early this morning surrounded by new work in varied states of completion that is headed to the West End Gallery for my show there at the end of July. There are paintings on easels and on chairs, some propped against the walls, on ledges above the fireplace as well as leaning against the hearth– everywhere I turn they’re facing me.

I take a moment and just sit back and take them all in, just letting them meld together as a collective group. For a moment, there’s a disconcerting feeling like looking at mirror that is shattered but still in place, a hundred different angles of myself staring back at me. But there is a quick adjustment, like my eyes coming into focus, and they’re no longer images of myself. Oh, I’m in there and I am part of what they are but they are more like a group of friends surrounding me, each with their own life but still maintaining a close relationship with me. I know them well, know their secrets, know what they mean to me. And they know me, hold my secrets and share a past with me.

In that moment, there’s a feeling like I am in a room full of friends and it is warmly reassuring. I’m not sure I can do justice with my description here. It makes me think of a favorite song of mine, Feeling Good Again, from Robert Earl Keen. Whenever I hear this song I am reminded of the time in my youth spent with my father, especially after my brother and sister were gone and I alone remained at home.

On many Saturdays we ended up at the horse track and before heading out would stop at a beer joint in town. It would only be about 9 or 10 in the morning but the place would be busy, with some guys drinking their morning coffee and some their first of many beers for the day. When we walked in, there would be shouted greetings and smiles from around the bar. Everyone knew each other and there was a terrific sense of friendship and camaraderie in their banter. Looking back, I can  see how that place was a safe haven for a lot of tough, working class lives and how those friendships, though maybe not deep, were reassuring, a connection they often couldn’t find in other parts of their lives.

They might struggle through the week but for s few short hours, they had a kinship that made it tolerable. Those times had them feeling good again.

Feeling Good Again is the name of this song from Robert Earl Keen. When I hear this song, I am transformed again to one of those Saturday mornings, a thirteen year old kid drinking a coke while my old man joked around with his buddies and looked over the Racing Form with his cup of coffee.  Have a great day.

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YCAC Student Work 2019

Well, my annual workshop up in Penn Yan has come and gone for the year.

Phew!

I don’t know why but afterwards I inevitably feel like I have been beaten with a sock filled with nickels– bone tired and a little achy. Most likely it’s because running around, talking and painting, in front of a group of people all day is way out of my comfort range. I am not used to that much interaction with people without a break. I think I told the group that  my normal day was actually not far from standing on the lawn of my studio and shaking my fist and hurling profanities at an empty sky.

So having to rein that in and be a civil human who is trying to assist someone takes some effort.

But this year’s group, like every group, has been absolutely wonderful. They were (and are) kind, smart, humorous, generous of spirit and outgoing, though there is a bit of shyness about their painting sometimes. They make my job much easier than I think it is. By that I mean they would probably be just as happy if we accomplished half  of what we do in those two days.

And we do a lot in those 12 or so hours of painting which is remarkable for a group that has many folks who paint maybe once year and have little, if any, experience with painting. Plus, they are learning a pretty idiosyncratic style that requires the touch and understanding of the materials that can only be obtained with long periods of practice and repetition. It can seem pretty frustrating for them at points in the two days. My job, as I see it, is to impart what knowledge I have and to help them in any way to make them feel less frustrated, with the hope that they will try to keep going on their own after the workshop ends.

This year’s painting could have easily brought about a great deal of frustration. It was a fairly complex composition with multiple beds of flowers that required lot of intense painting. It was a whole bunch of work for such a condensed period of time.

And they did absolutely great with task. It took a torrid afternoon session on the second day but their work really popped and each painting made it to a satisfying completion. I am always amazed at how well the work comes out and how, though they share the basic composition and color selections, there is a great deal of individuality to each piece.

I am proud of their work and I certainly hope that they are equally as proud. They should be. If not, they fooled me because they seemed happy enough when they left.

And though I am tired and will no doubt soon regret the decision, I have already agreed to return next year, this time returning to the wet work with inks that marked my earlier work. Sounds lie a lot of work with new materials but most of this year’s attendees are already planning on coming. I have no doubt that it will be fun.

So, thank you to each and every one of you folks who came and worked so hard. Thanks for your efforts and your welcoming spirit. I could not possibly appreciate it any more. Hope you’ll come back again.

And with that, let’s listen to a little Long John Baldry with, of course, Come Back Again.

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“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

― Carl SaganThe Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1995

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Earlier this year, I used another passage from this same book by Carl Sagan that decried the dumbing down of America and the celebration of ignorance that he was witnessing at that time, in 1995. As most of us have noticed, if things have changed at all, this celebration of ignorance has only grown.

The passage at the top is an understandable explanation of those who still somehow, beyond all explanation, defend the behavior of trump- the unending lying, the blatant corruption, the sheer amorality, the rampant criminality and the traitorous disloyalty to the office and the nation.

They just don’t want to admit they were bamboozled.

They still believe there is some sort of redemption ahead, some move by trump that will miraculously explain the vast array of lies and corrupt actions that have rained down on us nearly every day for the past three years. Personally, I can’t point to any single moment, any words or actions, any evidence of any kind that has me asking myself if maybe this guy is being somehow unjustly persecuted.

No, he is getting what his actions warrant. That is, if the pillars of our democracy hold.

The bamboozle isn’t over yet. The charlatan is still at work.

For this Sunday morning music, I am presenting a different sort of bamboozlement. There are two videos below from Puddles, the 6′ 8′ clown with the Pagliacci manner and a beautiful baritone voice, and his Puddles Pity Party. He has taken two songs, Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues and the Who’s Pinball Wizard and mashed them together, switching the lyrics from one to the music from the other.

Both are terrific. It’s like two of  my favorite musical artists had weird but fun children. This should be the only sort of acceptable bamboozling.

Give a listen, hopefully enjoy and have a good Sunday.


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It is very dangerous to go into eternity with possibilities which one has oneself prevented from becoming realities.  A possibility is a hint from God.  One must follow it.  In every man there is latent the highest possibility, one must follow it.  If God does not wish it then let him prevent it, but one must not hinder oneself.  Trusting to God I have dared, but I was not successful; in that is to be found peace, calm and confidence in God.  I have not dared: that is a woeful thought, a torment in eternity.

–Søren Kierkegaard

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It is a shame to be afraid of trying to do big things, to envision and implement big ideas. To doubt and fear to venture beyond our comfort zones is a recipe for regret.

I know it in myself.

I dislike myself immensely when I fail to think bigger, when I have lost the confidence that I can overcome the failure that might come with risking much. I feel cowardly when I settle for being less than I know I can be. I feel weak when I rationalize away my own potentials for the sake of feeling safe, even though I know there is no satisfaction in that safety.

To stay the same, to deny possibility for the sake of the perception of security, is not a victory in any way.

The fear of risk outweighing the desire for what great good might be attained and the contraction of one’s potential to be less than one knows is possible is a grave danger for any person.

And I believe I sense it in this country.

Maybe that’s my own projection. What do I know?

Anyway, here is this Sunday’s musical selection. It’s from a favorite album of mine, Let It Be. No, not the one from the Beatles. It’s a 1984 album from The Replacements, a Minneapolis based band who was highly influential on bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam. This song is I Will Dare.

 

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Romare Bearden – Vampin’ ( Piney Brown Blues)

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The artist confronts chaos. The whole thing of art is, how do you organize chaos?

–Romare Bearden

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I think the beginning of this quote from the late artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988) is an important statement and observation.

The artist confronts chaos.

That really speaks to me. It better defines a bit the purpose and necessity of art, both in a general and personal sense.

Maybe the purpose of art is to bring clarity and order to the world that confronts us, to illuminate the hidden or overlooked elements of our existence.

I don’t know for sure but these few words and my own experience make me believe it to be so.

For me, art is a way of distilling the torrent of information and sensations that flow through each of us every day down to a single manageable expression. An expression that helps me better understand and tolerate the chaos before me.

For me, it usually boils down to familiar forms and expressive colors. Found order and harmony above the chaotic rhythm of the texture below.

Like hearing a language you don’t really know but seem to somehow understand and trying to translate it to others.

It is different for every artist, no doubt. The idea of organizing chaos might seem totally foreign to some. I can’t say for sure what drives every artist or what purpose they derive from their art.

I can only speak for myself. That, in itself, might be a valid definition for art.

To that, I answer with my mantra: I don’t know.

And that is undoubtedly the driving force behind art.

Here’s  Big Joe Turner and his Piney Brown Blues, the song that Romare Bearden references in the monotype at the top of he page. Have a good day.

 

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Man on the Moon

Good news– heard we are going to finally put a man on the moon!

Did someone miss something somewhere?

Feel like we’re on the Hindenburg just before it catches fire. Oh, the humanity…

 

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