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Posts Tagged ‘Covid-19’

Arnold Bocklin- Isle of the Dead



I was working in the studio yesterday with the television on in the background. Born Yesterday, the 1950 film that featured the Academy Award winning, tour-de-force performance of Judy Holliday as a ditzy mobster girl friend who discovers she has a brain was playing. It’s a great film to work by, easy to follow without watching closely thanks to great writing from Garson Kanin and the very distinct voices of its main  characters– Holliday’s snorts, squeaks, and honks, Broderick Crawford‘s rough barks and William Holden‘s smooth, educated eloquence.

I have seen the film several times over the years but had missed, or at least overlooked, one part that jumped out at me yesterday. It was  scene where Holden, who is a journalist paid to educate Holliday so that she can better mingle with the DC power crowd that mobster Crawford is looking to buy into, recites a portion of a famous essay from orator Robert G. Ingersoll. This caught my ear this time because I have recently become aware of Ingersoll and have wrote about his once celebrated but now fairly forgotten life here, back in September.

Ingersoll interested me because, for one thing, his childhood home and a museum dedicated to his life is not too far from me. Once this pandemic is in the rearview I look forward to visiting it. But I am also interested in people who are widely celebrated and have great influence in their own time but seem to fall into the darkness with each new generation. Ingersoll certainly falls into that category.

This particular essay, After Visiting the Tomb of Napoleon, was wildly popular in its time. It was written in 1882 and was recorded via the new technology of voice recording– invented by Thomas Edison, a big Ingersoll fan– by Ingersoll himself and other famed public speakers. It was sold on gramophone recordings so that families could hear the words of Ingersoll in their homes, a wild concept at the time.

It goes a s follows:



After Visiting the Tomb of Napoleon
by Robert G. Ingersoll, 1882

A little while ago I stood by the grave of Napoleon, a magnificent tomb of gilt and gold, fit almost for a dead deity, and gazed upon the sarcophagus of black Egyptian marble where rests at last the ashes of the restless man. I leaned over the balustrade and thought about the career of the greatest soldier of the modern world.

I saw him walking upon the banks of the Seine contemplating suicide; I saw him at Toulon; I saw him putting down the mob in the streets of Paris; I saw him at the head of the army of Italy; I saw him crossing the bridge at Lodi with the tricolor in his hand; I saw him in Egypt in the shadows of the pyramids; I saw him conquer the Alps and mingle the eagles of France with the eagles of the crags. I saw him at Marengo, at Ulm and Austerlitz. I saw him in Russia, where the infantry of the snow and the cavalry of the wild blast scattered his legions like winter’s withered leaves. I saw him at Leipsic in defeat and disaster, driven by a million bayonets back upon Paris, clutched like a wild beast, banished to Elba. I saw him escape and retake an Empire by the force of his genius. I saw him upon the frightful field of Waterloo, when chance and fate combined to wreck the fortunes of their former king. And I saw him at St. Helena, with his hands crossed behind him, gazing out upon the sad and solemn sea.

I thought of the orphans and widows he had made; of the tears that had been shed for his glory and of the only woman who had ever loved him pushed from his heart by the cold hand of ambition.

And I said I would rather have been a French peasant and worn wooden shoes. I would rather have lived in a hut with a vine growing over the door and the grapes growing purple in the kisses of the autumn sun. I would rather have been that poor peasant with my loving wife by my side, knitting as the day died out of the sky, with my children upon my knee and their arms about me. I would rather have been that man and gone down to the tongueless silence of the dreamless dust than to have been that imperial impersonation of force and murder known as Napoleon the Great.

And so I would ten thousand times.



The essay talks of visiting Napoleon’s grave and recalling all the highpoints of his celebrated life. But after taking it in, including all the human suffering that took place due to this man, Ingersoll decides that he would rather live the life of a French peasant that lived a poor life but one that had love and family in it.

Hearing and reading this brought two things to mind. The first was a conversation I had while walking down King Street in Alexandria with another artist, many years ago now. This artist was much more celebrated than me, his work selling for much higher sums than mine which made it appealing to those in power, both in government and in the corporate world. He rubbed elbows with that crowd much more than I. As we walked, he talked about the proximity to power there in Alexandria, how you could almost feel it in the atmosphere.

He asked if being that close to it made me wish that I could access that kind of power. I didn’t even think a bit about it, answering no immediately. I knew that I was an artist for just that reason, that I didn’t want to feel the weight of responsibility that I knew I would take on in such a position. If I were to change people’s lives it would have to come on my terms, as a gentle influence and not with the power of force and will that has the potential for death and destruction in the lives of others.

To the best of my knowledge, my painting has never killed anyone nor caused anyone to lose their homes or livelihood. That sounds like a goofy thing to say but it has great comfort for me. I already worry about so much that to add the wellbeing of a whole constituency would be a burden I couldn’t bear. 

My answer surprised my companion who seemed much more open to the idea of having power. This morning, this memory along with the Ingersoll essay made me think about the 500,000 Americans who have died in the past year due to covid-19. It’s a figure that is most likely at least 10% higher when you consider excess mortality figures and take into the fact that the mitigation efforts put in place for covid-19 have more or less eradicated deaths normally seen from the seasonal flu.

But even if the figure is right, half a million folks dead and half a million families affected is a sobering thing. To be somehow responsible for even a portion of those lives would be a burden I certainly would not want to bear. I think of the former president** and his administration’s laissez-faire response and it rings a bell similar to those lines from Ingersoll. To have such a thing take place under one’s watch and to only selfishly concern yourself about one’s own desires– the cold hand of ambition as Ingersoll called it– would be Napoleonic, to say it one way.

Criminally cruel and negligent is another way.

No, I wouldn’t want the life of Napoleon or our former president. I would rather gladly live the life of a French peasant with wooden shoes. Or a simple artist painting away as the snow fell outside his studio  in the woods. 

And I would ten thousand times.

Have a good day in whatever position you are.

 

 

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What a diff’rence a day made
Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain



It’s almost over.

Just a few more hours and a dark period in our nation’s history begins to fade into the background. The dustbin of history where those who formulated and did the dark deeds over the past four years along with those who enabled them will be given the harsh judgement they so deserve.

Oh, it’s certainly not over by any stretch of the imagination nor will it be easy going forward but already there is a palpable change in tone and attitude. For example, last night the President-elect presided over a moving ceremony on the National Mall that paid tribute to those Americans who have lost their lives to covid-19.

Over 400,000 citizens.

Actually, the count is most likely at least 10% higher than that, more like 450,000 or even more, when you factor in the excess mortality rates that are well above that number and the fact that the number of deaths we normally experience from the seasonal flu and the common cold is almost non-existent due to the mitigation efforts put in place for covid-19. 

In that short ceremony in the evening before he would actually take on the mantle of the presidency, Joe Biden provided comfort and empathy for the for the 400,000 families who suffered loss as well as the whole of the American people. It was far more than his predecessor ever even attempted during this past horrific year. 

Yes, the change of tone is evident.

We have endured thus far.

Thank you to those who resisted, who spoke out against the many wrongs that were being perpetrated. It was not an easy choice for most folks, many who are not used to speaking up, who in other times might just shrug and go about their business. But the time demanded it and without those gathered voices, their tireless efforts at organizing and affecting change, we might be looking at a whole different scenario and future on this very morning.

That scenario would most likely make the chaos of the past few weeks seem like a cakewalk.

So, thank you to all who spoke up, who took to the streets in peaceful protest, who volunteered, who stood in long lines to votes— all 81,200,000 of you! Thank you to those who knew that we could be better than what we were witnessing if we simply came together. Thank you.

And to those of you who gathered behind the flag of this corrupt and malevolent wannabe dictator, we now fully know who you are.

We see you.

There’s a lot of hard work ahead and accountability for the misdeeds of the past must be part of it. But the President-elect will most certainly not be obsessed with the retribution and revenge we would expect from his predecessor. No, it’s a different perspective coming into the White House.

You might not agree with everything he does- I doubt that I will- but you can rest assured that he will believe that what he is doing is the best course for us as a whole.

And that is a breath of fresh air.

What a difference a day makes.



I wasn’t going to write anything this morning but felt I wanted to comment on the transition to the presidency. I was planning on just playing a song and at first songs with a little snark came to mind– Ding Ding The Witch Is Dead, I’ll Be Glad When You Dead You Rascal You, or Hit the Road Jack, which was played by one of the military bands yesterday as they rehearsed in front of the White House. A classic bit of thrown shade as ever there was. [Late addition and apology: Later discovered that the video showing the band playing “Hit the Road Jack” was a doctored piece of film with another song actually being played.  I bit. My bad.]

But I decided not to go with snark and decided to go with the cool and brightness of What  a Difference a Day Makes from the late, great Dinah Washington.

I am tired of being angry and disgusted. A change in tone is what we all need right now.

Be well on this historic day. And keep up the good work.



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“Keep Your Distance’– Now at the Principle Gallery, Alexandria, VA



If I cross your path again,
Who knows where,
Who knows when
On some morning without number,
On some highway without end
Don’t grasp my hand and say
“Fate has brought you here today”
Oh fate is only fooling with us, friend

–Richard Thompson, Keep Your Distance



Yesterday was a good day in that the first covid-19 vaccine hit the streets. A glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel, but we still got some distance to cover before we get out of it. It is important that we don’t relax and begin to think that the answer is here , that we’re all suddenly safe. It will be months, possibly 6 or 8 months, before the vaccine has hit enough people to begin to think we’re in the clear.

And in that time there is still peril. So, we must keep doing whatever we can to mitigate the risk. And that mainly comes from wearing masks and keeping your distance. It may not be convenient or to our liking but it’s not too much to ask, in the big scheme of things. Let’s do it for a little longer and not drop our guard when the end may be in sight.

In this spirit, I thought I would revisit a painting is currently at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria. I first showed it here the morning after I completed it, on the day March when the reality of the pandemic hit and everything began to shut down. Not more than an hour or two after I ran a blog entry about this painting, I visited my dad for what would end up being the final time before his nursing facility shut down. 

The painting is called Keep Your Distance and is an homage of sorts to my earlier work, especially that from around 1997 to 2001. It was in that timeframe that the Red Tree first emerged and my compositions often revolved around a solid block of color dominating the foreground separated by a thin line of unpainted surface  from a large sky. It is a simple composition that whose depth and emotion is modulated within its color, texture, and the subtle positioning and interrelationship of its forms.

Sometimes, it is the simplest compositions that I believe display the truest emotions and the greatest depths. But it takes emotional commitment to instilling those things within few forms that make up a simple composition. Even the seemingly empty parts of the composition have to carry some emotional value.

In other words, simple ain’t always so simple.

And I think that is what I like so much about this piece. It speaks reams of meaning to me without hiding it behind excess detail. It wants to be read, to be heard, to pass on whatever individual message it holds for the viewer. 

I named it Keep Your Distance. We were just learning the intimate details of the virus and the idea of social distancing was taking hold. This piece had a feeling of distance and isolation within it so it felt right. Actually, it’s a title that I may have used without the events of the time.

The title comes from a favorite Richard Thompson song of the same name. I have played that song here several times over the years but I thought today I’d play a cover I hadn’t heard until this morning. It’s from country artist Patty Loveless. Though traditional country music is in my wheelhouse, I  am not a huge modern country music fan. But I have a lot of respect for Patty Loveless.

I saw her perform back January of 2002 at Radio City Music Hall when she was part of the Down From the Mountain tour that came out of the film O Brother Where Art Thou? It was just months after the attacks of 9/11, another time of crisis in this country, and I remember how strangely quiet the city was at that time. Traffic was light and car horns were almost nonexistent. It felt like a bizarro world version of NYC. I remember having the doorman at the hotel sincerely thanking us for staying there as it was pretty lightly occupied.

But it was a great show and Patty Loveless did herself proud. Around that time, she had released an album called Mountain Soul that was a return to her traditional mountain music roots which melded well with the rest of the artists on that bill. I came away really impressed with her voice and her stage presence. So, I was pleased when I came across this version of a favorite song. It’s a little more countrified than the original but, like all great songs, it works in many genres.

Give a listen and have a great day. But remember to keep your distance, okay?



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“Real Power”- At West End Gallery



I was just going to post a song as I do every Sunday and be done with it this morning. Then I came across this post on Twitter from a longtime RN working in a small Plains community that both broke my heart and angered me. Her name is Jodi Doering and she is from Woonsocket, South Dakota, a state which saw an almost 70%  Covid-19 positivity rate this past week. This is what she wrote last night:

I have a night off from the hospital. As I’m on my couch with my dog I can’t help but think of the Covid patients the last few days. The ones that stick out are those who still don’t believe the virus is real. The ones who scream at you for a magic medicine and that Joe Biden is going to ruin the USA.

All while gasping for breath on 100% Vapotherm.

They tell you there must be another reason they are sick. They call you names and ask why you have to wear all that “stuff” because they don’t have Covid because it’s not real.

Yes. This really happens. And I can’t stop thinking about it.

These people really think this isn’t going to happen to them. And then they stop yelling at you when they get intubated. It’s like a fucking horror movie that never ends. There’s no credits that roll.

You just go back and do it all over again. Which is what I will do for the next three nights. But tonight. It’s me and Cliff and Oreo ice cream. And how ironic I have on my “home” Hoodie.

The South Dakota I love seems far away right now.

It made me sad because I so appreciate the work done by nurses and aides in the healthcare system. It is difficult, crucial, and dangerous work that often comes without thanks or any acknowledgement of appreciation. They are under fire, putting their own lives at risk every day while helping others, from this pandemic and their task is only going to get more difficult in the coming weeks as the cases pile up. These huge numbers we are seeing across the nation will be followed a few weeks later with equal jumps in deaths and hospitalizations. The fact that these folks in healthcare are facing such dire prospects just breaks my heart. I have read and seen numerous such testaments of nurses crying as they suit up with their PPE to head into work. The emotional toll being paid by these people is yet to be seen.

But it also made me angry because of the sheer selfishness and stupidity of those people who refuse to believe that this pandemic is real and that they have any obligation to take any measures at all to protect themselves and others. They are part of a large segment of our population that has chosen to reject any objective reality that doesn’t suit their own desires or beliefs.

This is not an organic thing that just happened. It was originally fostered as a political tool that preyed on low information voters, bombarding them with falsehoods, misinformation and disinformation. It was so effective that they could create complete fields of belief and disbelief in the people that were targeted. But once this wave of selfish stupidity is unleashed, it becomes unmanageable and irreversible.

Kind of like putting the toothpaste back into the toothpaste tube. 

My anger stems from the utter irresponsibility of those who sought to enable and profit from this behavior. It also extends to the danger that this irresponsibility has wrought. It has created dangers for us in so many ways. It imperils our health, both physically and mentally. It imperils the validity and credibility of our electoral system.

Jodi Doering, like so many other healthcare workers sharing similar experiences, is a real person who is shouldering a great burden. Not a bot spreading disinformation. The pandemic is a real and deadly threat that we cannot pretend doesn’t exist. Nor can they ignore the very real results of our election. You cannot simply wish away these things away. If that is inconvenient to you or upsets you, that is simply too bad right now.

This selfish stupidity must come to an end. I don’t know how and that makes me crazy because of the fear and anxiety it creates in me because I know this group can be made to believe anything and accept any form of behavior.

That has been amply demonstrated.

There’s way too much toothpaste out of the tube now.

Okay, I have vented. I wish I had more answers than concerns for you.

Let’s hear a song. I am going with a song from AC/DC. Well, a version of an AC/DC song. It’s Thunderstruck, one of the biggest hits from the Aussie rockers. But his version is from Steve’n Seagulls, a Finnish– yeah, from Finland!– bluegrass group that has made a name online for themselves with their quirky videos set in a rural Finnish setting of their covers of hard rock classics. For example, this video has over 112 million views so maybe you’re already aware of it. But it’s a great, energetic way to kick off this Sunday, especially given what I wrote above.

If you can cure selfishness and stupidity, please do. For the rest of you, have the best Sunday you can muster.



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“A writer – and, I believe, generally all persons – must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.”

Jorge Luis Borges, Twenty-Four Conversations with Borges: Interviews by Roberto Alifano 1981-1983

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Marilee Shapiro Asher

Interesting article in the Washington Post yesterday about DC artist Marilee Shapiro Asher who at age of 107 is successfully recovering from a rough bout with covid-19. It was so rough that her doctor called her family saying that she would most likely not last twelve more hours. But the doctor underestimated Marilee and probably wasn’t aware she had already beaten another pandemic, having contracted the Spanish Flu in the Pandemic of 1918 at the age of 6.

That’s a great story in itself but for me, I was as interested in the fact that Marilee is still working as an artist at age 107. She began her artistic career as a metal sculptor in her 20’s and had her first show in 1938–82 years ago. Over the years she has worked in sculpture, painting, photography and now in digital art. In her late 80’s, when the physical demands of working with the large metal sculptures she was known for ( she has work in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian) became too much for her she enrolled in a digital art program. Her fellow students were almost all in their early 20’s.

She had her last show of her sculpture at the age of 100 and is looking forward now to a possible new show of her digital creations. At 107.

It’s obvious that art gives her a purpose that fuels her drive to live. It’s not an unusual story. I have encountered a number of stories of artists who have seemingly prolonged their lives through the purpose they find in their art, many productively working into their 100’s.

I find this encouraging.

Marilee had someone in the family to follow in taking up her late interest as a digital artist. Her mother, Bonnie Harris, took up painting at the age of 79 and worked at it until her death at age 92. Self taught, her folk art paintings garnered much notice and are in the permanent collection of several museums, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Smithsonian National Collection of American Art, The Phillips Collection and the Folk Art Museum.

Like I said, I find this encouraging. And these days, when there is so much happening that want to make you worry, it’s nice to know that these artist found purpose in their work and used lives that spanned the awfulness of pandemic, war and social upheaval as the inspiration and raw material for their work.

Get well, Marilee, and keep on working. Thanks for the inspiration.

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There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the virtues of capitalism and the free market versus the perceived downsides of socialism. The free market is always put forth as some sort of beacon of purity that allows the market to determine which businesses fail or succeed.

Survival of the fittest. The perfect maxim for the view we take of ourselves as rugged individualists.

But the big boys, the huge corporate entities, don’t really practice this form of capitalism. No, it’s not really the free market if whenever there is a crisis– be it natural or self-inflicted or as in this case, a mix of he two– they always have a safety net to cushion the fall. Bailouts by the bushel and the sorts of extravagant handouts that would make a socialist blush keep the big boys afloat. Hardly a string attached and, in many cases, they don’t even have to touch the huge warchests of cash they have amassed in the past decade or so.

As it has been said, too big to fail. Hardly adhering to code of the free market.

As this crisis has once again shown, there is only one real free market in this country.

It’s right there on Main Street in every village and city in the country. Small merchants are the bravest people in the business world, operating in the real world in real time without safety nets of any sort. Added together, the numbers of true small businesses make up a huge chunk of our economy and are the businesses that most of us deal with more on a day to day basis than the big boys, either in dealing with them or in working for them.

But nobody is throwing big wads of cash at these people now or, in the limited cases where there is some relief, making it easy for them to access it. No, they are out on the line by themselves, along with their employees, acting like true free market warriors.

So, what I am asking you today is to make sure that you make an effort to support your local businesses at this time of crisis, when they are teetering on the brink. If you have the financial ability at this time, please help the little guys in your town by ordering some take out, buying gift cards or shopping their online sites. For some, especially the restaurants which employ tons of people and are especially hard hit, this is their only lifeline during this crisis.

In this region, for Corning’s Market Street/Gaffer District merchants, have a wonderful program currently operating called Buy Now, Shop, Later. If you go to their page by clicking here, you can access a menu of all the shop, restaurants and galleries in the Gaffer District that are offering gift cards. The money from your purchases of each gift card goes immediately to that merchant. And to make it even sweeter, Corning Enterprises, a subsidiary of Corning Inc dedictaed to nurturing local small businesses, is making a matching donation to each merchant during this crisis.

For example, if you buy a $50 gift card to the West End Gallery ( obviously a favorite of mine and one that you could says employs me) you would receive a $50 gift card to be used anytime, now (they have a website!) or later , and the West End would receive a payment of $100. That additional bump is an enormous help to any small business. especially those that run on a tight budget but are still serving the public and paying as many employees as possible.

In Alexandria, VA, where another favorite of mine, the Principle Gallery is located, a group representing the many great restaurants of that beautiful city, Alexandria Restaurant Partners, is offering gift cards to many of those restaurants. 50% of gift card sales will be donated directly to a dedicated employee relief fund. And as a special thank you for your support, all gift card purchases of $25 or more will receive a 20% bonus gift card that may be used for food or drink purchases at any ARP restaurant.

So, buy a $50 gift card and you’ll receive that $50 card, a $10 bonus card and $25 will go the relief fund for restaurant employees who have been affected by the many closures. You can access their site by clicking here.

This only highlights what you can do to help in two areas. But there are loads of great restaurants and shops in every area that are holding on right now and need and would greatly appreciate your help, if you have the ability to spend a few dollars now.

Think of it as a bet or, better yet, an investment. By doing this small and simple thing, buying a few gift cards, you are showing faith that they ( and you!) will still be there on Main Street (or Market Street or King Street) with open doors and smiling faces when this damn thing passes.

Now, that’s free market thinking.

 

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“In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence… In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.”

Laurence J. Peter, The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong

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For those of you too young to have been around back then, The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong was a book from Dr. Laurence J. Peter that came out in 1969 and was a huge bestseller. It was one of those books and ideas that became ubiquitous in their time. It seemed like everywhere I looked back then, that book cover was staring out at me from book racks in every grocery store, card shop and bus station.

Maybe the universe was trying to tell me something, even then.

In the book, a blend of practical business management principle and mild satire, Peter described every organization as a pyramidal hierarchy in which each member was eventually promoted up the pyramid to a position where they would be proven to be incompetent. The real work of the organization was always done by those within the pyramid who had not yet risen to their own personal level of incompetence.

Those not yet proven to be incompetent were like the mortar that strengthened and bonded the blocks of the pyramid.

It was one of those ideas that seemed so simple that it was hard to believe that nobody had voiced it in that way before. And just looking around at almost any organization, private or public, seemed to offer ample proof of its validity.

Why am I talking about this? I think anybody who has been closely following the US government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis could easily see it as the principle in action.

It is one of the first things that jumps to mind when watching the daily press briefings lately. They are maddeningly difficult to watch with their evasions, lack of information, blame placement, contradictions, empty promises and self-congratulatory puffery often along a raft of outright lies.

Not a shred of reassurance anywhere to be found. For me, it almost always brings on an unpleasant mix of disgust and rage combined with dread.

The dread can be explained by another line from Peter’s book: “Any government, whether it is a democracy, a dictatorship, a communistic or free enterprise bureaucracy, will fall when its hierarchy reaches an intolerable state of maturity.” 

That maturity is the point when most of the level of the hierarchy have been filled with incompetents and this administration has spent much of the last three-plus years removing apolitical professionals who had been competently handling many important positions within the pyramid. These are the people who had yet to reach their own level of incompetence, people were doing the real work that kept the governmental pyramid standing. In their place, they inserted political lackeys, people ill-equipped to handle even the most mundane requirements of their posts let alone a global crisis that requires the ultimate in competence from every level of the pyramid.

Watching closely as I have, it sure feels to me like every position in that pyramid is so packed with incompetence that there is little, if any, room left for the still competent to do the dirty, real work required to keep the pyramid standing.

Thus, the dread.

Here are a couple of other little snips from The Peter Principle that one might think were written solely for the here and now:

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”

“Incompetence plus incompetence equals incompetence.”

“If two wrongs don’t make a right, try three.”

I know that writing this doesn’t accomplish anything. But it’s something I have to do once in awhile if only to try to organize what I am seeing in a way that I can comprehend so I can figure out how to look to the future.

And I do still look to the future, even with a little hope. But that hope is my own and owes nothing to the efforts of these incompetents who sit atop the crumbling pyramid.

Hey, have a great day! And be careful out there.

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I am going to be hopeful this morning. But first, let me make share one short analogy about the current situation. After looking at the charts that show the projected curves for this pandemic, I see that most show us not reaching our peak infection rate until sometime in June or July.

That means we are still in the opening phase of this whole episode. It’s unfolding, not like 9/11 where within hours our world was shocked and forever altered, but in slow motion. We are left to wait and for those among us who are young and feel healthy, or just feel young and healthy, the idea of having to put these lives on hold seems ludicrous in the face of what seems a like crawling threat. Why shouldn’t we go out to the bars and restaurants? Why should we do anything differently?

Here’s the analogy: It’s like the hours before a tsunami, when the ocean waters begin to recede to gather further off shore. Those on shore who recognize the danger that’s ahead react. They begin to move away from the shore toward higher ground. But those who are sitting in the oceanside cafes sipping drinks with umbrellas and chunks of pineapple in them, seem not to notice.

They see the waters pulling back and they think that the sea is simply calm today. They can’t understand why those people are running away from the shore. They ask their waiter, who is heading out the door himself to run inland, what the problem is, why is everyone reacting this way? The waiter says that the tsunami is coming and they should move.

Some will move. Others, will after a bit grudgingly and slowly move inland. But others will say that this is ridiculous. The water is fine, the sun is shining bright, my drink is tasty, and I am young and healthy. What could possibly happen? You others are just crazy.

But the waters are coming back. Lots of water. It’s not a matter of if but when and how many of us get swept away. Maybe it won’t be as large a tsunami as we fear. Maybe. But to stand on the shore in ignorant defiance simply because you can’t yet see its approach is a fool’s gambit.

Alright. That was a little longer analogy than planned but hey, what else do I have to do?

here’s the hopeful part. Ten or twelve or fourteen days ago, I was putting out some sunflowers seeds for the birds that feed outside our house. I tossed a handful and realized I had almost pelted a small goldfinch that was standing on the ground only a few feet away. This was unusual as most birds retreat to the surrounding trees until I am done. But his little guy, its drab yellowish coat telling me it was a female though it could be a nonbreeding male, just stood its ground. I spoke to her for a moment and she stayed put, pecking at the seed that surrounded her. Looking closer, I could see that something was amiss with one of her wings.

We watched her from the window for quite a while and she couldn’t fly. She hopped well and kept feeding throughout the day, staying in place even though all the other goldfinches had flown away for the day. The next morning I located her in the woods just behind the feeder resting in a small dip in the snow. I went towards her and she stayed in place, not trying to fly away so I left a little seed just a foot or so from her.

I thought that she surely couldn’t last long sitting in the snow with a broken wing. But we decided to give her a little time. Late that day she was back around the feeder hopping a bit and pecking at seed. Still no sign of being able to fly at all.

The next day she was gone. We kept looking and couldn’t locate her. Perhaps she had been swooped up by a hawk or owl or some other nocturnal predator. A fox? We just hoped that she was safe.

But  a few days passed and as I was putting out seed one morning, I almost threw seed on a goldfinch in another feeding spot across the yard. But his finch lifted up and haltingly flew away, bobbing up and down as its injured wing tried furiously to lift it. I went inside and we watched  her for a while. It was our goldfinch. She was able to fly just enough to get up into the trees and onto the feeder where she would sit for hours at a time., eating seed every so often and basking in the sun.

She’s here every day now. Her flight is still limited but it’s better and he moves with confidence. She stays on a nearby limb when we are putting out seed. I smiled like a fool the other day when she retreated from me and flew awkwardly  but competently high up into the white pines, some 50 or 60 foot above me. I think she knows she’s safe and has a pretty good gig even with her little wing.

That’s my little bit of hopefulness. Here’s Jimi Hendrix and his classic Little Wing. It’s surprisingly hard to find an original version online so if the Amazon Music box doesn’t appear I have included a version from Sting that I also like. It ain’t Jimi but there times when you have to make do with what you have, right?

Have a good day and be hopeful. And be careful.

https://music.amazon.com/albums/B003BG4KHE?trackAsin=B003BG2JZ4&ref=dm_sh_5e5d-9800-dmcp-c176-c13ea&musicTerritory=US&marketplaceId=ATVPDKIKX0DER

 

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“Life” is of course a misnomer, since viruses, lacking the ability to eat or respire, are officially dead, which is in itself intriguing, showing as it does that the habit of predation can be taken up by clusters of molecules that are in no way alive.”

― Barbara Ehrenreich, Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth about Everything

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It’s interesting how things reveal themselves to you in different ways.

The painting above, The March, was painted about a year ago and was part of my Multitudes series. It’s a piece that always made me uneasy and even a little frightened. There was something ominous in the massed figures and the way they were marching forward.

It was not a parade of celebration.

No, it had a purpose and intent that felt to me like it was skewing toward the darker side of our nature. It was like it portrayed some evil force marching towards us. In fact, when I wrote about this piece last March, I used a line from the Ray Bradbury book, Fahrenheit 451, as the introductory quote: “Our civilization is flinging itself to pieces. Stand back from the centrifuge.

And looking at this piece this morning, I stand by those initial feelings but they seem even stronger and more prescient given the march of the Covid-19 virus around the globe. I look at this painting now and see the faces and green coats as personifications of infection. There is a zombie-like pallor to the faces, the color of death. And as author Barbara Ehrenreich points out in the quote at the top, viruses are not truly living organisms. They are undead predators waiting for a host to further their march.

So, this painting has become more focused and narrowly defined for me personally. It’s like it has been waiting for the proper moment to reveal itself and its meaning. It doesn’t make me feel any better but at least I know what I see in it now.

It’s a scary time, these late winter days in March. There are certainly rough times ahead, both from the virus and the hardships created by it that we are going to face. I would like to say that I have confidence in those people who we have entrusted to lead us through times like this. But we are led by a person who lacks all empathy and is only concerned with his own situation. He has greatly weakened the agencies needed to face these situations, slashing budgets and even dismantling the Pandemic Response team back in 2018. He has filled his administration with inept and corrupt political lackeys, not with capable professionals in their fields who would dispassionately respond to crises like this. They would act with the public’s best interests foremost in their mind, without having to first worry about offending the childish sensibilities of the egomaniac in charge.

We are not confronting this with what we would consider an A Team leading us.

I am worried. Worried for my family and friends, Worried for my nation. Worried for this world.

And as the month of March slogs forward, the viral march moves on, as well, with an orange faced idiot in a red hat acting as the drum major.

Be well, my friends. Good luck to us all.

 

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