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Still Standing



Well, we’re still standing.

It was a historic day that gave us examples of those who see themselves as being part of something bigger and doing what is necessary even though it may not be expedient. It also gave us a view of those who represent us in the worst light– narcissistic and self-serving– letting us know that there are still difficult days and more repercussions ahead of us.

But, all in all, it was a good day for democracy. 

Amidst the hoopla of the impeachment hearing and vote there were images that really brought the gravity of the moment home for me. They were mainly of the National Guard troops who were summoned to the nation’s Capitol to defend it against the insurrectionists and seditionists that  stormed it last week and threaten to do it once more.

Troops were bivouacked there for the first time since the Civil War. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, scattered through the Capitol hallways and public spaces as they tried to find space to sleep on the marble floors there. Their presence stood in stark contrast to the desecration of the building perpetrated last week by the rioters. There were numerous shots of the troops taking in the statues and artifacts displayed, many with deep reverence as they looked.

I thought the shot below of black troops posing respectfully with the statue of Rosa Parks created the greatest amount of contrast to the violent and destructive images from last week.

These troops were there for the right reason, out of duty to country. The insurrectionists of last week were there for the wrong reasons, that their prejudices and beliefs in unfounded and illogical conspiracy theories somehow entitled them to attack and destroy the very foundations  of our democracy. 

There is a reckoning ahead in this country. We must rid ourselves of the toxic stench of white supremacy that has long plagued this nation. There can be no unity so long as those who preach hatred and intolerance of others are allowed to roam the halls of our nation’s capitol. There must be a stand made against the bigotry and intolerance so openly on display.

There can be no tolerance of the intolerant.

I refer you to a blogpost from a few years back that I wrote on Karl Popper and his theory of the Paradox of Tolerance. It basically says that, even in an open society where free speech and belief is the rule, if you don’t stand up to those who champion intolerance at some point, if you tolerate those who would harm or take away the liberties and rights of other citizens, then you risk being destroyed by your tolerance by the intolerant.

That might be where we are right now, where are tolerance of the intolerant is at an end, that they have went beyond what we, as a free and tolerant society, can accept.

We shall see in the days ahead.

Stay safe and have a good day.



National Guard Troops Posing with Rosa Parks Statue

Reaping the Whirlwind



For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.

Hosea 8:7



‘Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences’

— Robert Louis Stevenson



I don’t usually use Bible quotes to open my blog but this was such an obvious equivalent in meaning to the Robert Louis Stevenson words above that I originally intended to use that I decided to go with it in conjunction with the other. 

Actually, the Stevenson quote is not a sentence he has ever put to paper or spoke, to the best of my knowledge. It’s one of those online citations that catch on and become forever attached to a personality.  This misquote is, however, distilled, from words that Stevenson really did write, this from an 1887 essay, Old Mortality.

This is the bit from which the misquote is derived:

Books were the proper remedy: books of vivid human import, forcing upon their minds the issues, pleasures, busyness, importance and immediacy of that life in which they stand; books of smiling or heroic temper, to excite or to console; books of a large design, shadowing the complexity of that game of consequences to which we all sit down, the hanger-back not least.

In the essay before this excerpt he speaks of an older man walking through a graveyard, looking at the monuments, wondering if that was all that remained of a man’s life when he was gone, the only shadows of lives lived. He then above points out that our creations are the real shadows of our lives, that they speak better and with greater complexity of the part we play while alive. The part where he points out that nobody is exempt from participating in that game of consequence called life. Even those who try to stay in the shadows, the hanger-backs as he calls them, are engaged in this game.

Through the years, Stevenson’s game transformed into a banquet which is basically saying that we must eat the meal we prepare.

We reap just what we sow.

Actions have consequences.

And today we may witness a singular day of great historical consequence. The actions of the past four years, the past year, and the past few weeks may come to a head this day, bearing the consequences of the actions of this past period of time.

It may not be an endpoint and it will no doubt have actions that will have consequences of their own but for now a mighty wind has been sown and its whirlwind approaches.

The banquet table may be finally set and we must eat the meal we have put together.

Every one of us.

We will get through this. 

Here’s song from Rival Sons that is basically paraphrasing both these quotes as far as karmic hammers go. It’s Get What’s Coming. It might be  setting the tone for today and the coming weeks for those who will be called on to answer for their actions: When it comes back around you’re get what’s coming.

Pay close attention. It’s going to be a day.



In the Beginning…



In the beginning
You really loved me, oh
I was too blind
I could not see, now

But now that you left me
Ooh, how I cried out, I keep crying
You don’t miss your water
‘Till your well runs dry

You Don’t Miss Your Water, William Bell



The painting at the top is a new piece, 9″ by 12″ on canvas, that is headed to the West End Gallery for next month’s annual Little Gems show, which opens February 12. After it was completed, I was really looking deeply at it as I tried to discern what it held so that I could title it. I felt that the scene in it was from the dawn  of the day, the start of the new day.

I normally see this time symbolically as a beginning filled with great potential and optimism, brimming with energy. But there was something else in this piece that didn’t seem to be looking forward. Instead it felt almost remorseful, looking back. For me, I sense this in the Red Tree’s posture toward the rising sun and in the tone and density of the sky’s color.

It’s like the character represented by the Red Tree is trapped between the duty of the coming day and lure of the past and what has been lost.

The feeling of this piece brought to mind a favorite song of mine from Otis Redding, You Don’t Miss Your Water. The first verses are at the top and the first 10-15 seconds of the recording, after the distinct opening chords when Otis first sings “In the beginning,” always sends chills down my spine. Glorious chills.

That’s where the title for this painting originated for me.

The song was originally written and recorded for Stax Records by William Bell in 1961, four years before the Otis version. Bell’s version is wonderful but Otis took the song to another dimension. Interestingly, Bell wrote the song in NYC and it was actually more about his homesickness for his Memphis home than lost love.

And maybe homesickness and the remorse for what is lost in the past plays a part here in this painting. I can’t say for sure and only time will reveal it’s true meaning. Maybe it will take on a whole new demeanor as time passes, as sometimes happens.

That’s the way of art. It is often never fully one thing forever.

But in the beginning…

Anyway, here’s the immortal Otis Redding and You Don’t Miss Your Water.

Have a good day. Keep hope alive.



Compound Interest



Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity



Good and evil both increase at compound interest.

Think about that for a minute.

Think about examples from your own life that you may recognize.

Speaking for myself, I will admit to having made both good and bad decisions in my life. The good ones lifted me higher and allowed me to experience the better things in my life– the victories as Lewis puts it. The good decisions generally came from looking outward, from considering someone other than myself. The good decisions began an upward spiral.

On the other hand, the bad decisions almost always resulted from selfishness ego, and anger.

I spent much of the first half my life making bad decisions. And it did indeed compound. The plummet on the downward spiral quickened and each level lower was worse than the one above it. It seemed as though there was no way to stop it. It was dark and awful in those times and places.

Without going further into my personal experience, I believe we are seeing a group of politicians and their followers who make up a substantial portion of the public who are in the midst of a downward spiral, one that is increasing at compound interest. 

I watched the newly released video yesterday showing the crowd on the steps pulling a DC Metro Police Officer from the doorway and dragging him down the stairs by the back of his helmet. A photo from the attack is above. He was tasered and beaten, one attacker pounding on him with the flag pole holding an American flag. Fortunately, that officer survived the attack.

I don’t know how anyone could watch that video and not be shocked or infuriated. It shook my day.

It was evil at compound interest– naked and pure.

It was based on absolute lies and bad decisions, from the very highest levels to those at the bottom with blood on their hands. 

And unfortunately, we are all– ALL— still trapped in this dark downward spiral because there are politicians and their followers still unable to recognize that they are making one bad and evil decision after another. And like my personal bad decisions, theirs are also based in selfishness, ego, and anger, with little thought as to where their actions might ultimately take them. 

They don’t see that they are the very antithesis of patriots. They don’t understand that they are the spearpoint of a movement that would result in a fascist dictatorship that would ultimately eat them as well. A fascist dictatorship that will ultimately fail and fall as they always do, often in a bloody purge brought on by disillusioned adherents of the movement. 

That misguided yet evil spearpoint is still there. They are still plotting, making evil decisions as they are shielded and egged on by their cohorts in power who still believe they can somehow ride and selfishly profit from the wave their riotous followers are creating.

That is yet another bad and evil decision by the power hungry.

Our peril as democratic nation compounds so long as there are no consequences, no accountability, for these people. There can be no unity or move forward until this happens. Those who incited and enabled this must be removed from their positions of power now. There is no shrugging this off and just moving on as though this were a mere aberration, a blip on the screen.

No, there must be accountability and action now to stop further compounding of this evil.

Now.

They hide behind the shield of politics but this is not political. This is life and death, right and wrong.

Good and evil.

I have intimately known good and evil. I choose good but know that we must first rid ourselves of this evil before we can move upward again.

Be careful out there and think about your decisions. Do some good in your own lives, please.

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



We’re barely ten days into the new year and it’s already fed us a heaping helping of the darkly dramatic.

We’ve had elections with enormous ramifications, a seditious president*** booted from nearly all social media, a coup d’etat in our National Capitol that left five dead, and, to top it off, an out of control pandemic that is crushing our health system in some parts of the country. Hard to believe something that is killing 4,000 US citizens a day– and will most likely hit 5,000 in the coming weeks– has been under our radar in recent days.

Such is 2021 this far.

There are ten days until the Biden inauguration.

Ten days. Ten days that may test this nation in a way it has not been tested in anyone’s living memory. 

I do believe we’ll make it through. It won’t be pretty and we won’t come out the side with all 340 million of us holding hands and singing Kumbaya. But we will persevere.

There have been calls for unity from some of the very people who fed into– and profited from– the madness of the insurrection effort that took place this week and still still remains a threat in the coming days. They are somehow demanding from one side of their mouth that it is incumbent on the incoming President to unite us while still trying to push their lies and conspiracies with the other. 

It can’t work that way. You can’t have two contrasting sets of perceived facts, especially when one is grounded on baseless, wild conspiracies and outright lies.

Plus, even if you wanted to appease these insurrectionists, what could you give them that make them willing to unite?

I have absolutely no idea what they want, other than the overturning the results of an election that has been deemed by state and local leaders of both parties across the land as being as fair and transparent an election as we have ever conducted. But other than that, what do they want? They have no discernible ideology. It’s not about gaining rights or righting real wrongs or grievances. 

Their only grievance, the only way they seem to have been wronged, seems to be that they didn’t get what they wanted and won’t accept the fact that there are many more people who don’t hold their opinions.

Honestly, I don’t think they could tell you what it would take to make them happy. I don’t think they know. They just have a blind anger and a sense of grievance that is constantly being fed by leaders who profit from it, both financially and politically.

Look at the people who have fed these conspiracies. They have no ideas, no plans, nor cares for the betterment of all the people of this land. They have blind ambition and a craving for money and pure power. They will say anything, they will outright lie, they will spread any falsehood and conspiracy in an effort to gain and maintain power. No act of blatant hypocrisy is beyond these people.

Unity requires honest discussion based on common sets of facts. You cannot have unity with these kind of leaders* on the other side of the table. Disagreement with one another is acceptable when you can trust that both sides are being genuine in their arguments. But when one side is disingenuous and still spouts lies to incite their followers, unity is impossible.

And that’s a sad and dangerous thing. For all of us.

Sorry. I had no plans to write this this morning. I was simply going to play my normal Sunday Morning Music selection but this just fell out.

Getting back to regular business, here’s a new song from John Fogerty that speaks to the sadness of the moment. It’s titled Weeping in the Promised Land. It’s a pretty powerful song and video.

Pharoah keep a-preachin’ but he never had a plan…

Be careful out there.



A Machiavellian Deal

 



“A prudent man should always follow in the path trodden by great men and imitate those who are most excellent, so that if he does not attain to their greatness, at any rate he will get some tinge of it.”

― Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince



Character matters.

I have written this before. The words, the actions, and the manner of the leader of a nation are tremendously important. They shape the words, actions and manner of the nation.

Think of the great and revered leaders of our past. Abraham Lincoln. FDR. JFK. MLK. Even LBJ in those moments that mattered. All were fallible men with human flaws, yet for the most part all spoke in aspirational terms, for the betterment and elevation of all people. Their words, their actions, and their manner gave us a template for behavior.

What we are experiencing now is the result of the words, the actions and the manner of a person unfit to lead this nation, a man who does not seek to elevate all the citizens of this land. He and his apologists and enablers, especially those in power who take their cues from him, have set a divisive tone, one that pits us one against another. 

His ugly manner, his crude behavior, his hateful words, and the embrace of lies and lurid conspiracies with no basis in reality have taken hold in his followers. This along with his selfish and narcissistic behavior have become the template for his followers. They exhibit the same selfish, illogical and uninformed thinking as their leader.

I have asked how those who have stood behind the president can justify their support for a man who deals exclusively in lies and hate speech. I have been told that while they don’t particularly his “style,” they endorse his actions. 

This is a justification I have never understood. This Machiavellian bargain is totally unacceptable because, for those who lead nations, “style” matters. Style comes in the form of their words, their actions and the manner in which they treat the totality of their citizens. It is character.

You can’t accept his actions without accepting the whole of his character. He and the wreckage he has produced are a result of those who thought they could pussyfoot around his style, that they could somehow rationalize away those many ugly parts of  his character in exchange for a few things that they coveted for their own benefit. 

Well, it doesn’t work that way, folks.

It’s a package deal. 

In for a penny, in for a pound” as the saying goes. 

Everything in his character, including his racism and acceptance of white supremacy, belongs to those folks now.  

Some will say they never saw this type of thing coming, that nothing pointed to this sort of thing happening. 

My response to that, as our next president likes to say, is Come on, Man!

It has been in the open and in plain sight since long before he was first nominated to be the Republican candidate in 2016. It was written in his words, his actions and his behavior in the years he has been a public figure. Nothing in his character suggested he would be anything but a disaster as the leader of this country.

He even pointed out plainly that this time was on the horizon for this nation under his leadership. In his inaugural address in 2017, he promised us American Carnage.

That is truly the one promise he made good on.

Character matters.

Once you accept the deal to overlook the character of your leaders, your own character becomes attached to theirs. It goes to the quote at the top from The Prince, the classic written in the 1530’s by Niccolo Machiavelli that gave the world the phrase The ends justifies the means. While there are many who hold this as a principle, Machiavelli advised people to try to follow great men so that they might attain at least a tinge of that greatness for themselves.

Conversely, we are tinged and marked as well by our bonds to the horrible and the evil. 

We know what this man is– a cheap gold-plated shell filled with lies and hatred.

Those who were attracted to appearance of his shiny surface in the past now carry his tinge.

Those who support him going forward have adopted his character.

And character matters.



“The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.”

Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince



 

Yikes



Well, the first week of 2021 is behind us.

Yikes. 

The horror show that was 2020 lasted for what seemed ten years. 2021, thus far, seems intent on carrying on that legacy.

So much craziness has taken place in such a short span of time that things that have momentous ramifications get thrown aside. I mean, I can hardly believe that it has only been five days since the now notorious hour long phone call from the president*** to the Georgia Secretary of State was first revealed. It seems like it was a month ago.

The elections in Georgia that swung the balance of power in the Senate and opened up the field for what is possible by the incoming Biden administration took place Tuesday, a mere three days ago. Three days! 

And it was just the day before yesterday that the incited insurrection took place at the Capitol where five citizens died, including one law enforcement officer. 

And yesterday, amid the ever increasing calls for the resignation or impeachment of the president*** of this country,  over 4,000 Americans died from covid-19. 

4,000 souls. 4,000 families. In one awful day in a week that did it’s best to outdo the high bar set by the year 2020.

I don’t know what the coming week or weeks will bring but I am more than a little apprehensive.

I’ll get back to you on January 21, in what will most likely feel like several years from now.

Yikes.

Here’s a great tune from Alabama Shakes to let you know that we can get through the next few weeks. It’s Hold On.

Hold on, folks. We can get through it.



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.

 

 

Georgia on My Mind



Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still, in peaceful dreams, I see
The road leads back to you, to you, my beautiful Georgia
Georgia, no peace I find
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind

Hoagy Carmichael, Georgia on My Mind



Nothing more this morning but a sigh of relief and a big “thank you” to the good people of the state of Georgia. Here’s a strong rendition of the song Georgia on My Mind performed by a collected group of Broadway stars. Lots of talent here.

I was going to play the seminal version from Ray Charles, by far the best known and most powerful single performance of the song which was written in 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael. Willie Nelson also had a sweet quieter version of the song that went to Number 1 on the charts in 1978.

But give a listen and, if you’re so inclined, send out some psychic thanks to our friends in Georgia. 

Have a good day and let an old sweet song keep Georgia on your mind…



Shine a Light

“Exile on Main Street”- At the Principle Gallery



When you’re drunk in the alley, baby with your clothes all torn
When your late night friends leave you in the cold gray dawn
Whoa I just seen so many flies on you
I just can’t brush ’em off

The angels beating all their wings in time
Smiles on their faces and a gleam right in their eyes
Whoa, thought I heard one sigh for you
Come on up now
Come on up now
Come on up now

May the good Lord shine a light on you
Yeah, make every song you sing your favorite tune
May the good Lord shine a light on you
Yeah, warm like the evening sun, ah-nah-nah yeah

— Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, Shine a Light



I am in the beginning phases of my preparation for my annual shows at the galleries that represent my work. This is always a difficult period, trying to find a thread to grasp and follow. You never know where it will lead and what sort of work it will produce. That uncertainty is agonizing for me. Because so much of my livelihood depends on how these shows shake out, deciding what form the work will take is a big move.

I don’t gamble anymore but in some ways, it’s like placing a large bet. I am betting that my choice in moving ahead and the work it will produce will provide the income I need to live and will allow me to maintain my status as an artist deserving of future shows in the galleries that represent me. This decision puts a knot in my gut every year at this time. That awful feeling is the reason I don’t gamble anymore. This is the only bet I am willing to make now.

Getting to that point where I have decided what direction the work will follow is not really a process at all. It’s more like panicked examination of past work and new influences, trying to find something that grabs me, holds my limited focus and can perhaps inspire me. It can be maddening at times but it’s sometimes fun to roll back through the work from the past, to see what clicks as strongly now as it did then. There seems to always be something in doing this that reminds me of things, traits in my work, that I have put aside and no longer employ in my current work. That sometimes leads to revisiting those traits. Sometimes the results are enlightening, making me want to make it part of my process again, and sometimes I discover that the things I was doing then just don’t translate to the current moment.

That’s where I am. Seeking. Looking for a light that shines.

That brings me to today’s title.

While going through some past work, I noticed that one of my favorite pieces from the past year, Exile on Main Street, was still at the Principle Gallery. It was one of the cityscapes that were part of my annual show there, last year’s show being titled Social Distancing. I loved doing this work as well as the resulting pieces. This, as I said, was a favorite from that group. There is warmth and distance, Quiet and tension. Things I tend to see and look for  in my better works.

Naming it, I borrowed the title from the classic 1972 Rolling Stones album, Exile on Main Street. I thought a favorite song of mine from that album would fit my current process– Shine a Light. It’s credits list Mick Jagger and Keith Richards from 1972 as the songwriters but it was actually a collaboration with the late Leon Russell that came from 1968.

The song’s title was then (Can’t Seem) To Get a Line on You and dealt with the problems caused by the drug addiction of Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones. It was recorded as such for inclusion in a 1970 Leon Russell album but not released until the 1990’s. The Russell version (which included the Rolling Stones) is very similar and strong but the version from Exile on Main Street is more formed, more powerful.

I thought the song fit my process and also added a little more to the painting this morning. Give a listen and have a good day.



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