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Trying to Calm



Today, I am posting an older image from several years back. It’s called Portrait of Calm and I am trying to pull some of that sense of calm from it for myself.

I wrote another post, long and profanity laced, that I don’t think I can post without a cooling off period. I am tired this morning, having only slept a few hours last night after a day of wrath. But I am also tired of the sheer evil awfulness of Donald Trump.

That is a given. But I am even more tired of those people who enable him, who try to rationalize away his awful deeds, who turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to his lies, all 30,000+ of them, so long as they somehow benefit from his ill-considered actions. Those same people who act shocked when what took place yesterday comes to be when it was obvious for years that it would eventually come to this. I have been expecting this for years.  

These are same people who shrug off the 350,000+ deaths from a pandemic and a tragically bungled response. Nearly 4,000 died yesterday while the first coup attempt took place.

They are the same people who probably think that this is all over now, that the worst is past. 

It isn’t. Not even close to being over.

Yesterday’s insurrectionists aren’t going to fold up their tents and simply go back home. They are emboldened by the ease with which they broke through the lax defenses of the Capitol. No, they are just getting started. Four died yesterday and no doubt more will die in the coming days. Maybe in the Capitol, maybe in a statehouse or a local courthouse. 

But it won’t be over until these treasonous traitors face real consequences.

And for what? Ridiculous conspiracies perpetrated by political wolves who know the reality of it but are willing to spin webs of falsehoods and disinformation in order to further their own ambitions? To die for a man who loves nothing but himself? What do they really think they are gaining?

These brainwashed fools are in a death cult that has them thinking they are dying for America when in fact they are dying only for Donald Trump. And Donald Trump is not worth dying for. 

He is not in any way worthy of that.

He is only deserving of our scorn and our hatred.

He, along with his enablers and apologists, certainly has mine.

I am going to just look at the painting before I say something better left unsaid.

Be careful out there.

 

 

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Voice of America

 

Jasper Johns- “Flag”



America

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

–Walt Whitman



I am on the road for the first time in many months, taking some paintings out to my good friends at the Kada Gallery in Erie. It’s such a familiar thing, something I’ve done for close to 25 years, but it feels a bit strange and disjointed in this oddest of odd years. But yesterday provided a bit of balm in the form of the clarity and assuredness finally provided in our national election.

It will certainly make for a much better ride this morning knowing that the voices of America– closing in on 80 million– rose up against a president*** who aligned himself and his party with the uglier aspects of this country–white supremacy, the belittling of science and knowledge, an outright hatred towards the others of this world, a burning need for retribution, Machiavellian evangelism, and an unrivaled sense of selfishness. The party, as he led it, transformed itself into one of outright racism, voter suppression and an anti-democratic vision for the future.

There was never an attempt to appeal to the better qualities that we have always felt exemplified us– our openness, our generosity, our protective sense of others, our desire to do and be better, and so many other positive attributes. These are things that we have long sought as a nation and have often come up short. But, even so, they have always remained the goal. 

Until this administration. It only responded to our darker side and turned a deaf ear towards the voices of the many.

Yesterday confirmed the strength and number of those voices and it appears that his failed term will soon come to an end.  The words Uncle Walt wrote above so many years ago seem possible once more.

A dark chapter may finally close. But it ain’t over ’til it’s over so keep your ears and eyes open.

Gotta go. Have a good day and be careful out there– I’m on the road.

Here’s some Simon and Garfunkel just for the appropriate atmosphere.



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Wretched

 


Wretched are those who are vindictive and spiteful.

-Pope Francis


I am not going to talk about the two competing town halls that took place last night. If you watched, you were able to clearly witness the contrast in tone and substance between the two candidates. One calmly discussed policy with facts and details while the other raged, whined, make incoherent statements and lied many, many times. As he always does. You don’t need my input beyond that.

But I have to mention the first news item I saw this morning upon coming into the studio. It concerned a request for federal disaster relief from the state of California for the record-setting wildfires taking place there, much of it on federal lands.

This administration of this president*** denied the request without comment or note. 

Now, this can only be interpreted as an act of vindictiveness aimed at hurting a state whose voters he knows will not choose him in November. It is as clear an act of dereliction of duty as one can witness. Rather than acting as the caretaker for all the citizens of this nation, he** picks winners and losers, punishing those who don’t show proper deference to his regal fat ass.

We saw this through the early days of the pandemic when he and his gang decided that the plan they had devised to combat the situation could be thrown aside because the virus was only really hurting the Blue Democratic states at that time. In their infinite wisdom, they somehow didn’t understand how a pandemic works, that it wouldn’t be contained in geographic blocks.

Especially with no plan of action. Especially without meaningful and comprehensive action.

This story about denying this request for disaster relief won’t get much air. In the chaos in which this creature** exists, a lot of atrocity goes by the wayside and gets completely overlooked. But make no mistake, this is an atrocity. A punishment for the citizens of California that will be repeated time and time again against those who he** feels aggrieved.

It’s California this time. Next time it could be your state, county or city. Or your business, school or organization. In his twisted mind, you are either with him or against him. 

I would like to say he rewards those loyal to him but there is little reward with him. Oh, there’s always a promise of a great payoff coming just a short time in the future, usually two weeks, kind of like that incredible, super duper healthcare plan that has been promised to the American public for the past four years. 

But there’s never a payoff, never a reward that is fulfilled. He treats his loyalists and the rest of us like the contractors that he would beat down on price or terms as a real estate developer.

He is always just trying to buy two more weeks. without having to do anything or spend any capital of his own.

So, if you’re with him, you get little to nothing. If you’re against him, you get less than that. 

Pope Francis was right: Wretched are those who are vindictive and spiteful.

And this creature** is surely wretched.

On November 3, let’s put that poor wretched beast out of its misery. 

Or should I say, out of our misery.

Hey, now get out there and have a great day!

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It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. . . .

–The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald


I came across the bit above and immediately knew that I was going to use it to illustrate the effect of the current president***, someone who has crashed every aspect of his  life with reckless abandon and carelessness. He always leaves behind a trail of destruction — and now, death– in his wake and like Tom and Daisy Buchanan, lets other people clean up the mess he has made.

This sense of hubris and selfishness was in clear focus yesterday as the covid-19 virus swept through their ranks, finally taking hold in the Oval Office.

He** and those around him have known the risks longer than any of us, even as they tried to downplay the danger of it as over 210,000 Americans died from it in a little over 6 months. They have been told by the highest authorities how to best combat the spread of this virus. They have incredible access to information and resources– medical equipment, testing, doctors and treatments– that would be unavailable to almost all of us. They have the ability to control their environment and reduce risk factors in a way most of us cannot.

Yet, with all of this, they practically thumbed their nose at it all. They refused to wear masks. Refused to stop gathering in groups or maintain any social distancing. Many refuse to quarantine properly. And with the virus running through their ranks, they continued to go out among the voters.

The sheer selfish disregard for others and the willingness with which they put others in peril is astonishing.

As one Secret Service agent who has put their lives on the line in protecting this person** stated, “He’s never cared about us.”

That’s a quote that should remain in the minds of the voters when they go to their polling places or mark their mail-in vote.

He’s never cared about us.”

Like Tom and Daisy and others like them, he** only sees people as resources to be used for his own benefit and pleasure.

Folks are seen as either as steps to climb up or obstacles to be kicked out of the way.

Kindling to be burnt to keep him warm.

So, as he** remains in Walter Reed getting better care than any of us could ever expect, excuse me if I don’t show a great deal of compassion for his plight. If our situations were reversed, he wouldn’t go out one inch out of his way to express concern.

If I were on fire on the side of the road, he** wouldn’t stop to piss on me to put it out. That is, unless there was something in it for him.

And you know why? 

He’s never cared about us.”

So, don’t ask me to care about his health now.


Maybe that sounds a little bitter this morning. Well, it probably is. My dad’s death and how our response to it has been tempered by the virus, the sheer folly of the covid outbreak at the white house, the recent surge of covid cases in my local area– these things and so many more have me a little on edge. Plus, the first thing I saw this morning was an announcement of the death of my greatest childhood hero, Bob Gibson, at age 84.

A legendary pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, Gibby was it for me. He was always the toughest guy out there on any field, a smoldering force whose competitive fire bordered on sheer hostility toward any opponent. With Gibby, it wasn’t that you were trying to best him a game. It was more like you were trying to take something from him. Every inning was an existential exercise. And he most often prevailed. He was so dominating as a pitcher that baseball changed the mound height because they felt the hitters needed help since he was practically unhittable.  I read his early autobiography, From Ghetto to Glory, numerous times and that made him an even bigger hero to me. He was eloquent and college-educated, a rarity for ballplayers of that era, and his story was compelling. He spoke out about issues of the day with intelligence and passion, like two of my other great childhood heroes, Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali.

And as the case with these three, Bob Gibson remains a hero.

Rest in Peace, Gibby. And say Hey! to my dad if you see him around. He’s new there, as well.

Have a good day.

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Dad

 

My dad passed away last night.

Please don’t send messages of sympathy. They are not required or expected. Instead, do something decent for someone you love and let them know you care. That will do much more for the world and yourself than sending me a message. I will be happier knowing you did that.

We are, of course, saddened. But more than that, we are relieved that his suffering here is at an end. These last several months have been a real ordeal for him. And for us in that we weren’t able to visit or truly witness his condition’s progress.

His skin cancer had metastasized and he was experiencing a horrible infection on the side of his head. I asked for photos of his head last week and the nursing facility hesitatingly forwarded them to me with a warning to brace myself.

They were right as I actually gasped and said Oh, my god! when I opened the photo. It was a horrifying sight made all the more awful by the fact that it was on someone I loved. It was like looking at an autopsy photo of a family member.

I only describe it now so that you can understand when I say that we are somewhat relieved. Nobody wants their loved ones to endure such agony, such indignity, especially as his dementia clouded his perception of what was happening to him. It was the best outcome in the minute.

We saw him one last time the other day, all masked up and trying to protect ourselves as best we could from the covid 19 virus that had recently been identified on his very floor, making it a de facto quarantine unit. That sense of contamination along with his deeply medicated condition made for a sad goodbye.

For now, that is the image of him I will carry. Hopefully only a short while. I would rather remember him in more vibrant times like the photo above.

Here’s a post that I have ran a few times about that photo followed by a song that he often sang when I was in the car with him as a kid. He would laugh at it now as he did then. He liked to laugh and could say some pretty funny things. I can still hear him interjecting a Hey! at the end of every line of the chorus of this song.

So, don’t be sad at my own sadness. Have a drink today, eat a nice meal, hug your kids, and do something good for someone else.

That’s so much better than being sad or worried or fearful. Rest in peace, Pops.

The photo above is a photo from back in 1963 or 64. We were living in an old farmhouse on Wilawanna Road, outside Elmira, just on the NY side of the border with Pennsylvania. You could walk over the hill behind our house and be in Pennsylvania. It’s a place that played a large part in my formative years.

We had a large chunk of yard to one side of the house that became a ballfield, a place where many of the kids on our road came to play baseball regularly and where Dad would often pitch to us or hit soaring fungoes that we would run under, pretending to be Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. Dad is standing near home plate in this photo. That’s my brother, Charlie ( Chuckie back then), in the background.

I love this photo. When I think of images of my father this one is always first in line in my head. It was a Sunday morning, Easter if I am not mistaken but time has fuzzed that detail a bit.

It show my father at about 30 or so years of age, as strong and powerful as I would ever know him. I was four or five years old and he was larger than life to me then, could do no wrong. My protector, my boon companion, and still my hero at that point. This view of him sums that all up.

The pose has a bit of the pride and arrogance of youth in it, still brimming with the what-if’s and what-can-be’s of potential. It’s not something you’re used to seeing in your parents and witnessing it is like seeing a secret glimpse of them, a side you know must have been there but remains hidden from you in your day to day life with your parents. Maybe that’s why I like this picture so much. It seems like a marking point between his youth and ours, his kids.

I don’t know. Like many personal things, it’s hard to explain. All I know is that when I see my Dad in my mind now, the image of this photo is never far from my mind.

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The Partisan


In the last week or so, I have featured a few songs of resistance from the past century. The song we’re looking at today, The Partisan, is a song most often associated with the late Leonard Cohen and his 1969 recording of the song. It has come to be seen as one of his songs but it has an interesting history.

The Leonard Cohen version is actually an early 1960’s adaptation and translation into English of an earlier French song from songwriter Hy Zaret, who is best known for writing the huge hit Unchained Melody for the Righteous Brothers.

The songs origins however go back to World War II France and the Resistance fighters battling the invading Nazis there, the Free French Forces. The song was originally composed by Anna Marly, who is an interesting case.

Anna Marly, born in 1917, was the daughter of a Russian noble family whose father was executed by the revolutionaries in the aftermath of the October Revolution of 1918. Her family fled first to Finland then settled in France, part of the White Russian exile community there. As a youth she was aballet dancer in Monte Carlo and was also taught music by fellow Russian exile, composer Sergei Prokofiev, best known for his Peter and the Wolf. By the time she was 17, she had changed her Russian name to Marly and was performing her own songs in the Paris cabarets.

She fled to England in 1940 when France fell to the invading German forces. There she began to communicate with members of the rebel FFF, the Free French Forces. A leader of the group heard her singing her song, Chant des Partisans, in Russian in a London club while there in 1943. He asked two French writers accompanying him to translate the song into French with the intention that it might become a replacement for  La Marseillaisethe French anthem banned by the occupying Germans. The translated song soon became the new anthem for French resistance and the two writers, Joseph Kessel and Maurice Druon, were credited for many years as the writers of the song. It wasn’t until quite a few years later that Anna Marly was credited as the writer of the song.

Marly ended up moving to the USA after the war, living for some time in Richfield Springs, NY, not far from Cooperstown, near a Russian Orthodox Monastery there, the only such monastery in North America. She died in 2006 in Alaska at age 88.

But her song lives on in history and in some form today.

Here are three versions below. The first is an Anna Marly version in French from 1944. The second is an early 1960’s version of the Hy Zaret translation and the final is a performance from Leonard Cohen of his adaptation of Zaret’s version. All have their own feel and power.

 



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Virtual Talk Today!

There’s still time to register! 

You can still register via Zoom for the Virtual Gallery Talk taking place today at the West End Gallery.

It begins at 1 PM. 

Hope to see you there!!

REGISTER BY CLICKING HERE

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“True Opulence” Now at the the West End Gallery

A summer Sunday morning, the heat not yet fully realized. Quiet, not much stirring. A doe with her two fawns saunters through the shade of the yard and munches the tall unmowed grass, chewing as she lifts her head to survey the scene.

The world still feels intact in these moments. In rhythm. Sane.

But the heat builds. Noise intensifies. Animals fade into the cooler, quieter shadows of the forest.

Rhythm is lost and an air of tension fills the void.

I don’t know where I am going with this. Just an observation, I suppose.

Summer days in the time of pandemic.

These are the days when I need something to remind me of the possibility of this world. With that in mind, I am just going to go ahead and introduce this week’s Sunday morning music. It’s another new piece from composer Max Richter from his upcoming album, Voices. This piece is called All Human Beings and begins with Eleanor Roosevelt reading from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The music is set to a lovely film from Yulia Mahr.

Maybe it can keep the world, at least as I am seeing it, in rhythm for a bit today. Have a good, quiet Sunday.

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“The Solace of Light”- Now at the Principle Gallery

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… I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love

For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

-T.S. Eliot, East Coker, The Four Quartets

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Whenever I read this passage from T.S. Eliot, I am inevitably moved by his words. The interesting thing is that while my response is always strong, my my personal interpretation of it, how I relate it to my own experience and knowledge, sometimes varies wildly.

And I suppose that is much like looking at a work of art. The day, the moment, the circumstance and context in which we see it– these things and more often dictate our response and our relationship to art.

I find this true for the painting shown above, The Solace of Light, which hangs at the Principle Gallery now as part of my current show there. It seems as though each time I look deeply at this piece, my relationship with it changes or, at least, moves to a different place within me.

Sometimes it feels superficial as though I am responding solely to the colors. Other times, it is deeper and I feel drawn into the forms of the scene, barely recognizing the colors. I am in and of that place in those instances.

Closer to where I want to be. Or think I want to be.

Okay, off to work. Maybe I will get there today.

 

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Build a House

“The Quarantine House” – Now at the Principle Gallery

 

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Thought I’d just play a song from one of my most favorite artists, the super talented Rhiannon Giddens.  It marks Juneteenth, which was yesterday, and was written in the last week or so. She collaborates on it with the great Yo-Yo Man– from a distance, of course. The song premiered on YouTube yesterday. Enjoy and have a good day.

This is what Rhiannon had to say about the song: “This song came knocking about a week ago and I had to open the door and let it in. What can I say about what’s been happening, what has happened, and what is continuing to happen, in this country, in the world? There’s too many words and none, all at once. So I let the music speak, as usual. What a thing to mark this 155th anniversary of Juneteenth with that beautiful soul Yo-Yo Ma. Honored to have it out in the world.”

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Build a House

You brought me here to build your house, build your house, build your house
You brought me here to build your house and grow your garden fine

I laid the brick and built your house, built your house, built your house
I laid the brick and built your house, raised the plants so high

And when you had the house and land, the house and land, the house and land
And when you had the house and land, then you told me “go.”

I found a place to build my house, build my house, build my house
I found a place to build my house since I couldn’t go back home

You said I couldn’t build a house, build a house, build a house
You said I couldn’t build a house, so you burned it down

So then I traveled far and wide, far and wide, far and wide
And then I traveled far and wide until I found a home

I learned your words and wrote a song, wrote a song, wrote a song
I learned your words and wrote a song to put my story down

But then you came and took my song, took my song, took my song
But then you came and took my song, playing it for your own

I took my bucket, lowered it down, lowered it down, lowered it down
I took my bucket, lowered it down, the well will never run dry.

You brought me here to build a house, build a house, build a house
You brought me here to build a house. I will not be moved.

No, I will not be moved. No, I will not be, I will not be, I will not be moved.

Rhiannon Giddens

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