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Posts Tagged ‘Winston Churchill’

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Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.

Winston Churchill

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The solitary tree has been a vital part of my work from the beginning. Actually, the word vital understates its importance.

I couldn’t find the image of a painting from a number of years ago that I wanted to see again. This sent me on a search through a maze of files and images from over the past twenty years. I probably spent more time doing this than I should have but it became one of those obsessive things.

Shuffling through these images, one after another, that form of the lone tree just jumped out at me. I say jumped because of the way in which it surprised me. I, of all people, know that the single Red Tree has been important and prevalent in my work. There is no getting around that fact. I have literally been called the “Red Tree guy.”

I understand its symbolism and meaning very well.

But it just seemed different, more away from me personally.

There were many that had slipped my mind that made me stop to look closer. I wasn’t seeing myself anymore in those pieces but found myself admiring the character they taken on in the time they had been absent in my memory. There was a strength and dignity in them that was palpable.

They had somehow expanded in the time I had lost track of them.

They were no longer me. They were them.

It was as though my forgetfulness had made them grow in solitude and they, out of necessity, had grown stronger as a result. Much like the words above from Churchill, which were written in a letter to his mother in 1899, a few years after his father had died.

I may have been the symbolic father of those works, those many Red Trees, but their strength was their’s alone, obtained in their solitude. I felt bad that I had lost track of them but was so pleased at what they had become.

They were beyond me.

Which is all I could hope.

 

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The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.

–Winston Churchill

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For many of you Breaking Bad fans out there, the term half measures immediately brings to mind a pivotal episode in the series where Walter White realizes that when you’re dealing with deadly people and things, half measures have no place and will most likely get you killed.

And that is what we have been witnessing in the efforts to combat the coronavirus, so far as the steps taken by the president** and his gang of yes men– half measures.

Even yesterday, with the virus constantly gaining more and more footholds, cases and deaths mounting, the markets plummeting, and the experts warning that the most extreme steps must be taken, he stood before the nation and said that while he had signed the order for the Defense Protection Act, which gives the government tremendous powers to compel private companies to produce materials necessary supplies for this effort, he was not implementing it. He said he wanted to keep it for when we really needed it.

That’s like having a new rope in your hands and there’s a person drowning in the water near you and saying, ” I don’t want to use this now because I might need it later.”

That kind of holding a little back for later is fine under normal circumstance but when someone is in dire need it amounts to a half measure.

Now is not a time for half measures, not a time to let some folks drown while you still have that rope in your hand.

I can’t really explain why he won’t commit to full measures at this point other than to say that by doing so he commits to taking responsibility for those actions. It would assert the powers of the federal government and that would take away his ability to lay off blame on the many governors who have been the real leaders in this effort.

The whole thing would become his baby. And there is no way he can accept that sort of responsibility. Not now. Not ever.

But what he fails to understand is that in this sort of situation, the more he tries to evade his duty and responsibility, the more it becomes solely his baby, whether he likes it or not.

You might think I am being unfair in my criticism of the president** because of my intense dislike of him on almost every level, something I will not deny. You might think I should keep my mouth shut and give him a chance, especially in such a time of crisis.

To that I say, “That’s crazy.”

This has nothing to do with my dislike of this person. I am basing it not on that but on the fact that he is in the driver’s seat and I’m just a passenger in a speeding bus as he steers it toward the edge of steep mountain road. He is distracted (texting furiously as he steers) and doesn’t seem fully committed as we hurtle toward the precipice.

Yeah, I’m going to speak up. The time for patience, of waiting to see how he’s doing is past. I want someone to jerk his ass out of the driver’s seat and start steering this thing in a responsible manner, away from that deadly edge.

If you watched his briefing yesterday, I don’t see how you would view it much differently. If you watched him and were not disturbed and a little frightened or you somehow found comfort in his tirades and over the edge rambles, often about his own woes, I fear we are lost. He is a half-step from wearing a uniform with a chestful of medals and ribbons, demanding that the obsequious flunkies around him call him Generalissimo.

The time is now. Not later.

It is time for this person to fully commit to doing everything in the many powers given to him in his position to take this on for the benefit of all the people and not himself, his family or his cronies. It is time to act like there is no tomorrow and throw away the idea of half measures. ‘

As Churchill states in the words at the top: we are entering a period of consequences.

We should pay special attention to his words of warning because, more than ever, they apply at this moment in time.

Now is the time for full measures.

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They who have been bred in the school of politics fail now and always to face the facts. Their measures are half measures and makeshifts merely. They put off the day of settlement, and meanwhile the debt accumulates.

–Henry David Thoreau

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“The price of greatness is responsibility.”

― Winston Churchill

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I saw an idiot* on television yesterday say, “The buck stops with everybody.”

Inspiring stuff. A new chapter in Profiles in Courage.

But, even though this pains me to say, the moron* was right.

Well, right in a way, not in the instance of which he was speaking, where he was trying to relieve himself of all responsibility for the particular situation in which he finds himself. No, the fool* is the primary bearer of the responsibility for that.

I am saying the buck stops with us all right now. We have allowed and enabled this whole ugly situation to take place. We have willingly given a looter a flamethrower and we are now witnessing how much damage can be done as he flees the scene.

And he* is very much a looter.  Think about it.

A looter comes riding in on a wave of chaos and confusion, grabbing whatever he can as he runs through the mayhem. He thrives on the bedlam taking place around him because his only concern, his only focus, is on himself alone. He carelessly pushes people aside to get where and what he wants. Not a bit of care for the damage being done or the losses suffered from his actions. Not a single thought for those hurt as he tramples through.

And when it looks like the authorities are closing in, the looter* uses his flamethrower and sows even more confusion. When the whole city is ablaze, you focus on putting out the fire. The looter* focuses only on moving himself to safety.

It is now time for us all to understand that this is our responsibility to end this chaos, to extinguish the fires and take the flamethrower out of the tiny hands of the looter*. We must make our presence felt and our voices heard. Hit the phones and keyboards. Take to the streets and do it now. We can’t depend on anyone else doing it for us.

It is our responsibility.

If we want to continue to be considered a great nation, this is the price we must now pay. Because as Winston Churchill states above, responsibility is the price for greatness.

Or as a reality TV show nitwit* once said, “The buck stops with everybody.”

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The Life and Death of Colonel BlimpI’m taking a small break from talking about my show that opens Friday to mention a film that is showing today on Turner Classic Movies.  They’re showing several films of the great director Michael Powell and finish up with The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp from 1943.

It’s probably not a movie many of you know and that’s a great shame.  Colonel Blimp was a popular comic character in the British papers of the 1930’s, an older, round British officer who was a throwback to the Boer War, always recounting his exotic exploits in the far reaches of the Empire in a doddering, foolish manner.  The movie begins in WW II Britain and the main character, Clive Candy, is an older officer who has become the very embodiment of Colonel Blimp.  The movie traces his life and shows, sympathetically, how he came to be such a character.  It was a very controversial movie in wartime Britain because of the presence of a German officer who was portrayed as a sympathetic character.  Even though he was anti-Nazi, the portrayal of any German officer in such a favorable light drew the ire of Winston Churchill and the British government.  

Visually, like all Michael Powell films, Colonel Blimp is stunning and has the beautiful saturated color that are present in all of Powell’s color films, like The Red Shoes or The Black Narcissus.  There is a short sequence at the films beginning that could easily be the first example of the modern music video.  It consists of a group of troops on motorcycles speeding through the English countryside to the sounds of rollicking big band music.  The filming is sharp with daring shots and gives you the sense of the speed and power of the bikes as their movements were in sync with the crash of the music.  When I first saw it I was thrilled.  It had such a modern feel, something I wasn’t expecting in a film from 1943.  I wonder how many filmmakers had seen that short segment and been influenced to further highlight a scene with music.  It’s only about a minute long so if you want to see what I’m talking about watch the film below.  The segment I refer to starts at about 2:25 or so.

I don’t usually like to recommend movies for much the same reason I don’t like to recommend specific art.  Film, like art, is a really personal preference.  Totally subjective.  What I may see in a film or piece or art may elude you and vice versa.  But if you get the chance see Colonel Blimp or any of the other Michael Powell films.  They are visually beautiful and greatly interesting.  His eye for composing the image that you see reminds me of the way John Ford put his scenes together.  Both have a truly artistic feel, adding an elegance and magnificence to almost every shot.  There is nothing mundane in any of their work.  Good, good stuff…

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